A Conspiracy of Cartographers

La Reine Noire

Story Summary:
A cautionary tale of four intrepid fifth-years and their quest to capture Hogwarts on parchment

Chapter 01


Dungeon Level N3 & N4 - Slytherin Common Room

It was, perhaps, inevitable that when the time came to map out the locations of the four House Common Rooms, the resident representative of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black, Toujours Pur, would be delegated to plumb the mysteries of Slytherin.


"No, common sense." James finished his circuit of the room and muttered, "Finite Incantatem." He handed Sirius the parchment he was holding, which had since produced a perfectly circular space labelled Gryffindor Common Room. "Do you honestly think they'd let me in? Or Moony or Wormtail? My family have been in Gryffindor for centuries now. They can probably smell it on me."

"And they'd welcome me with open arms? The Black Family Embarrassment?" Sirius was lying on the sofa, one arm thrown melodramatically over his eyes. "Very funny, Prongs."

"You still talk to your cousin."

"Oh, I see. So I ought to ask Narcissa nicely if she'll let me in to take measurements of the Slytherin Common Room? Very bloody likely."

"Can't you say you're supposed to see Slughorn about something? It can't be that far from the Potions room." James stuffed the parchment into his bag. "Stop being a prat. Who knows? Maybe you could leave Dungbombs under Snape's bed while you're there. That might be worthwhile."

"I'll make you a deal." Sirius peered out from under his arm. "I get the invisibility cloak for a week."

"This map is for all of us, Padfoot. Moony finished Hufflepuff in three hours--"

"It's Hufflepuff!"

"Beside the point. Wormtail says he should have Ravenclaw by the end of the month. He brought back enough Zonko's products last weekend to outfit their entire first year. So, that leaves you."

"Cloak. For a week."

"Why on earth do you need it for a week?"

"My business, not yours. One week, or no deal."

James sighed. "Fine. But if you lose it--"

"Guts for garters, etcetera." Sirius waved his hand. "Your concerns have been noted, Prongs, and you know better than to worry about it."

After making James promise to save him some chocolate cake, Sirius slipped out of the Great Hall and behind one of the suits of armour in the corridor leading towards the Potions classroom. He'd intended to follow the first group of Slytherins to depart, but found himself hesitating at the sound of his younger brother's voice.

"I'm not a child, Cissy!" Just beyond his hiding place, he could see Regulus jerking his arm away from Narcissa, whose Prefect's badge gleamed in the torchlight. "Leave me alone!"

"If you're not a child, you ought to know better," snapped Narcissa. "Or at least be discreet, Regulus."


"Bella wouldn't know discretion if it slapped her." They were very close to Sirius now, but he'd learnt long ago that James' invisibility cloak was the perfect disguise for any circumstance. "This is her doing, isn't it? Those excursions of yours during Christmas holidays?"

"That's none of your business, Cissy." It was strange how much his brother was beginning to sound like Bella. Or perhaps not so strange, in light of what Narcissa was saying. He was forced to admit he hadn't even noticed Reg's absences during Christmas holidays, but he had, admittedly, spent most of his time in his room, talking to James through the enchanted mirrors they'd pooled their money to buy from Diagon Alley before term began. "Stop following me around and stop telling me what to do. Even Mother doesn't mind."

"Aunt Walburga doesn't know--"

"She knows enough. Besides, better Bella than Sirius. That's what she says." Was it his imagination or was there a quaver in Reg's voice? They barely spoke these days. "I'm going to bed."

Leaving Narcissa watching, a frown pinched between her brows, Regulus stormed off down the corridor. Sirius -- who had planned in advance and worn slippers to dinner to mask his footsteps -- followed him at about five paces, close enough to keep an eye on him but not close enough to be heard.

Regulus turned the corner down an unfamiliar corridor and Sirius pulled the parchment out of his pocket. It took him several seconds to find the exact spot on the mostly-completed map and, resisting the urge to curse, murmured instead, "Eidetikos."

He could still see Regulus some twenty feet ahead of him and quickened his pace to catch up. As he walked, he could see black lines blooming across the parchment to match his steps. The spell was one he'd seen Narcissa use when studying for OWLs two years before, filling roll after roll of parchment with meticulously copied notes with a swish and flick of her wand. He hadn't realised its full potential until she showed him the spellbook where she'd found it, tucked in the back of the library at 12 Grimmauld Place in a book bound in green snakeskin with heavy silver clasps that gave him the shivers.

It wasn't a dark spell, he told himself. It just meant that the parchment would remember and record everything around it while the spell was in effect, including pathways, locations, and passwords.

Regulus came to a stop in front of a large iron door bordered in entwined serpents. As Sirius drew nearer, he heard his brother say what had to be the password, "Ourobouros."

It was, Sirius supposed, annoyingly predictable.

He waited just long enough before following Regulus into the wide, low-ceilinged room. It was almost completely empty, unsurprising since Reg had been one of the first to leave dinner. Sirius prowled the room from corner to corner so the parchment could record its size and shape. As he did so, various Slytherins wandered in, completely oblivious to the interloper in their midst. What would they do, he wondered, if Sirius Black were to suddenly materialise in the middle of their common room?

It was an awful idea, of course. But Sirius had always found those ideas the most tempting.

"That's an impressive cloak you've got there, Master Black."

He nearly jumped out of his skin at the voice, which seemed to be coming from behind him. When he turned, all he found was a small painting, seemingly forgotten. A closer look revealed that it wasn't a painting so much as an ancient sheet of parchment, half of which was taken up by an illustration of a stern-looking man in dark green robes seated in a book-lined study. Around his neck, a silver chain and pendant gleamed unnaturally bright.

"Haven't you guessed who I am?"

Sirius gulped, unsure of whether or not he ought to speak aloud. After all, most of the dinner crowd had returned by now and, as far as he was aware, invisibility cloaks had no effect whatsoever on hearing. "Salazar Slytherin," he finally murmured, after the small clutch of first-years had moved from the seats nearest him towards the dormitory stairs.

"Hmm, more perceptive than I'd have predicted from a Gryffindor. Tell me, how do you like spending your time surrounded by Mudbloods and blood-traitors?"

Sirius stiffened and bit his lip. He knew he ought to leave, that even James wouldn't understand getting caught in the Slytherin common room for talking to a portrait. Dungbombs under Snape's bed at least had discernible results. It was at that moment, however, that he noticed the book sitting on the desk in front of Slytherin. Green snakeskin with silver clasps, gleaming bright as the pendant around his neck. He swallowed convulsively.

"Useful little spell, isn't it? I had it off an Italian wizard who claimed Suetonius used it to write his Lives of the Caesars. A bit far-fetched considering his inaccuracies, but who am I to argue with legend when it's more interesting than the facts?"

It couldn't possibly be coincidence. Of course, his family had had ties to Slytherin House for time immemorial, so it wasn't impossible that they could have ended up with one of Slytherin's own spellbooks in their library.

"I trust you don't plan to abandon a perfectly useful spell simply on account of the fact that I used it." Slytherin's words positively dripped with disdain. "It is the sort of self-righteous, high-handed idiocy that Godric would advocate. But I hope you've got better sense than that."

"Gryffindors are not--"

"Idiots? Of course they are," Slytherin replied with a shrug. "You're better than that."

"How do you know?" he hissed, conscious of a group of girls seated some five or six feet away from him, chattering obliviously. "What do you know about Gryffindors anyway?"

"I know that bravery is overrated and intelligence dismissed. You're a clever young man--clearly, otherwise you wouldn't have got your hands on that cloak--but you Blacks always were. Knowledge is simply knowledge, neither good nor bad."

There was something both comforting and deeply disturbing about hearing the same advice from Salazar Slytherin that he'd heard countless times from his father. Sirius swallowed. "I think I'm finished here. I doubt you'll be seeing me again."

"How you Gryffindors close your minds to possibilities." Sirius could almost see a gleam of laughter in the painted eyes. With a start, he realised the vines along the border of the parchment were in fact snakes, and that they were moving, twining through one another. "Blood always tells, Sirius Black. The Hat may have botched your Sorting, but you'll prove yourself in the end. The brightest ones always do."

When he returned to the dormitory, he handed the cloak back to James. "Changed my mind. I don't need it after all." The series of pranks he'd planned now seemed hopelessly childish. He wondered what Reg had been doing with Bella--more probably, what Bella had been doing that poor Reg had to witness.

"Your choice, mate. How did it go?"

Sirius shrugged. "As expected." After a moment's pause, he glanced at James again. "Where did you say you found the invisibility cloak?"

"In our attic, believe it or not. I can't even imagine how long it must have been sitting there. My parents were having a party and we were all bored to tears so we decided to play hide-and-seek in the attic, out of the way. All the good spots were taken, so I decided to throw this cloak over myself and pretend to be a cushion or something idiotic like that. And they never found me. Point of fact, they all became convinced that I'd cheated and hid somewhere else, and locked the door behind them." James laughed. "It took Mum a full five hours to find me; she was scared out of her mind."

"I wonder..." Sirius frowned, eyeing the cloak warily. Why had Slytherin been so interested in the cloak? More importantly, how had he been able to see Sirius when none of the other portraits in the castle could do so? "Has anybody been able to see you when you were wearing it?"

"It's called an invisibility cloak for a reason, Padfoot," James said, eyes narrowed. "What's the matter? You were never so curious about it before."

Sirius flopped backward onto his pillow and stared blankly at the red-and-gold canopy above his head for a few moments. "Why do you think the Sorting Hat put me into Gryffindor, Prongs?"

"Because you belong here, mate. The Hat doesn't lie. Why would it?" James tossed the cloak into his trunk and settled onto his own bed. "Are you going to tell me what's going on? Was it your cousin? Your brother?"

Sirius shook his head. "Well, I saw them, but they didn't see me. Reg--I don't know what he's doing, Prongs. I do know he'd never listen to me, and he apparently won't listen to Narcissa either. It's something to do with my cousin Bellatrix, which is never a good sign."

"I'm sorry, Padfoot."

"He's a bloody idiot. There are idiots in Slytherin too."

"Of course there are idiots in Slytherin," James said, sounding surprised. "You'd know that better than anybody, being related to half of them."

Sirius smiled faintly. "You're right. We're well rid of them, aren't we?"

"'Course we are. And once this map is finished..." James grinned, "all of Hogwarts at our fingertips, Padfoot. Just think of all we could do."

"No good, certainly." Sirius sat up, his previous mood shoved to the corners of his mind. "It would be a shame."


"A disgrace to the memory of Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs--"

"--purveyors of magical mischief to the masses." James picked up the parchment from where Sirius had left it at the foot of his bed. "We ought to sign it, you know."

"Well, yes, eventually. But not yet. You know artists don't sign their work until it's finished. And this, Prongs, is a bloody work of art."

Grounds D18, E18, F18 - The Whomping Willow Passage

Remus had never seen the inside of the Shrieking Shack by daylight. The reality was something of a disappointment. All the furniture had been destroyed, as one might expect. A few scraps of upholstery, some wood fragments good for nothing more than kindling.

If he were honest with himself, he hadn't even needed to enter the Shack. Their mapping project ended at the borders of Hogwarts and the Shrieking Shack was, technically speaking, outside those borders. It was force of habit that had brought him here, to this sad, broken place meant only for monsters. Someone had lived here once. He couldn't help but wonder who that was; not that there were any traces left to lead him anywhere.

He was halfway down the stairs when he heard the voices outside.

"I can't understand why this eyesore is still standing. Does anybody even know whose it is?"

"No idea whatsoever." He recognised Snape's voice instantly and swore under his breath. "We should hurry, Rosier. Slughorn expects us back before sundown."

"Oh, no need to worry about dear Sluggy," drawled Rosier. "He's convinced the sun shines out of your arse, remember? Not to mention he's been angling for an introduction to my father for months now, ever since he found out we're related to the Blacks--"

"Not a recommendation, in my view."

"One bad egg doesn't spoil the basket, Snape." Remus could hear their footsteps moving closer and inched toward the trapdoor leading to the tunnel. "Hold on."


"I thought I heard something." Remus froze. "Over there, Snape."

"Hmm. Interesting."

"What's this?"

Footsteps again. Remus squeezed his eyes shut, as if that would somehow help. "It's warded. And not just against Muggles. You must have triggered it."

"How bizarre. Who would bother to ward a wreck like this?"

Snape was silent for a long time. Remus opened his eyes and found himself facing one of the broken windows. Hogwarts Castle perched like a large, watchful bird on the hill above the Quidditch pitch. Breaking up this seemingly peaceful view were the writhing limbs of the Whomping Willow.

"Who, indeed." Snape's voice was heavy with meaning. Remus could feel his blood growing cold and sluggish, grateful beyond words for the Headmaster's caution while simultaneously wondering how long it would take Snape to discover his secret.

"We should get back," Rosier finally said. "You're right. It's getting dark."

"So it is."

Remus heard the footsteps fade in the direction of the castle gates and sank onto the steps, letting out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. The first thing to remember was that this wasn't his fault. In fact, it was an advantage. If he hadn't overheard Snape, he wouldn't have known of his suspicions. That was something, wasn't it? Of course, the question remained of what he ought to do about it.

Padfoot and Prongs would have ideas by the dozens, Remus knew. Most of them probably involved bodily harm or, at the very least, humiliation for Snape, neither of which Remus suspected would help allay those suspicions. And, besides, what could Snape do, really? Prowl about the Shrieking Shack during Hogsmeade visits? He couldn't get in. And the Whomping Willow passage was an exceptionally well-guarded secret.

Reluctant to face Padfoot and Prongs just yet, Remus emerged from beneath the Whomping Willow and, instead of returning to Gryffindor Tower, consulted the map for the most direct route to the lake. Rather to his surprise, he found himself looking at a small dot labelled 'Remus Lupin' hovering in the middle of the square labelled 'Entrance Hall.'

His first reaction was, irrationally, to glance upward, as if that would answer the question of how the map knew not only where he was, but also who he was. When he looked back down, he saw an illuminated path leading away from the Great Hall, towards the courtyard and the gardens beyond. Remus opened his mouth as if to say something aloud, before it occurred to him that it was perhaps not the wisest course of action to stand in the middle of the entrance hall of Hogwarts, speaking to a sheet of parchment.

"Lost your way, Lupin?"

Remus barely had time to stuff the map into one of the pockets of his school robes before turning to face Lily Evans. "Um. Lost in thoughts, I guess. Wool-gathering. You know."

The green eyes that sent Prongs into uncharacteristic raptures were regarding him sceptically. "Are you supposed to be somewhere?"

"Actually, no," he said, holding up his hands in a universal gesture of surrender. "I was on my way to the lake. I thought it might be nice this evening. Care to join me?"

"Me?" He was somewhat gratified to see surprise on her face. "Why me?"

"Because you're here."

"How flattering."

"You don't respond to flattery, Evans. You're driving poor Potter mad."

Her mouth twisted. "Oh, don't you even start--"

"I won't, I won't," he said, laughing. "Come on, then."

The sun was just beginning to set on the far side of the lake when they emerged into the garden, and there was a distinct chill in the air. Lily shivered. "I'd forgotten it was March, it was so lovely today."

Remus slipped the robe off his shoulders and held it out to her. "Don't refuse and then complain that chivalry is dead."

"I'll take it, thanks."

Too late, he remembered that the map was in one of the inner pockets. Of course she'd find it. He was just making his way through the litany of curses he'd picked up from Prongs and Padfoot over the years when she pulled the parchment out and squinted at it.

"Was this what you were looking at before, Lupin?"

There was nothing for it. "Yeah. It's nothing special."

Lily studied him, one brow raised. "And I'm the Queen of Elfland."

"They do like red hair."

"Shut up." She unfolded it to find the map of the ground floor blooming across the parchment in all its painstakingly detailed glory. "Wait, but this is..."

"Yes. Hogwarts."

"You've got to be joking!" Lily caught her breath. "It's gorgeous."

Smugness settled on Remus like a wave. "Yeah, I guess it is, isn't it?"

"Did you make this?"

"Oh, God, no. Not just me, I mean. I helped. It was Pr---Potter and Black and Pettigrew. The four of us."

"Potter?!" she practically squeaked. "I don't believe it."

"Believe it, Evans."

"But what's it for?"

Remus rolled his eyes. "What do you think, Evans?"

"You mean to say you've crafted this beautiful thing to..." she clearly had to fight to get the words out without spitting, "play pranks? Silly, childish, idiotic--"

"Not to mention hysterically funny."

She glared at him. "Not to everybody. You're a Prefect, Lupin. You ought to know better than that."

"Would it kill you to laugh every once in a while?" he asked, gritting his teeth against the chill breeze now cutting across the lake. "Bloody chivalry."

Lily laughed. "We can go inside if you'd rather."

"I think I might," he admitted. Reaching out, he took the map from her, folded it, and stuck it in the back pocket of his trousers. "Could I ask a favour?"

"Ask away."

"Could you...not tell anybody about the map? Please."

Lily sighed. "Tempting as it is just to see the look on Potter's face...oh, fine. The puppy eyes are too much."

"Puppy eyes?" Remus blinked. "They actually work?"

She swatted him on the arm. "No telling Potter that and you have a deal."


Seventh Floor H18, 19, & 20 - Hog's Head Passage ???????

Fresh from successfully mapping the Ravenclaw Common Room--all four finished now, and their own knowledge of Hogwarts' nooks and crannies improved--Peter had offered to map a passage he'd come across completely by accident a few weeks before that led directly to the centre of Hogsmeade. The near-identical expressions of surprise on Padfoot and Prongs' faces when he told them promised further balm to Peter's ego when he returned.

It wasn't that he needed it. Well, maybe a little. His OWL preparation had not been going as well as he'd hoped, and he had become completely convinced that he was going to fail Potions. His friends certainly couldn't whisper hints to him during exams.

He was out of breath by the time he reached the seventh floor. It was a patently illogical place for a passage leading out of the castle, but nobody had ever claimed that Hogwarts made sense. Their mapping project had only confirmed it. Rooms on top of rooms, staircases that shifted position, and corridors that existed one day and were simply gone the next...clearly the castle had been designed by a series of increasingly intoxicated architects taking bets on who could best defy the laws of physics.

Finally, he caught sight of the tapestry he'd been looking for, featuring several unhappy-looking trolls in tutus, practising ballet. After making sure there was nobody nearby, he ducked behind the tapestry and found, as expected, the small door leading to the room he'd been looking for.

Well, room was perhaps selling it short. It was a massive, cavernous space filled with junk, as if someone had taken the attic in Peter's mother's house and multiplied it by ten thousand. He opened the parchment, touched it with his wand, and pronounced, "Eidetikos!"

Black lines sprang to life on the parchment, detailing the seventh-floor corridor he'd just exited and the stairs he'd climbed. Without waiting for it to finish--having figured out early on that the map adapted to its surroundings quicker than was apparent--he darted through the teetering piles of abandoned textbooks, bottles, and unidentified debris to a door in the far wall barely taller than he was.

The passage began as a cramped, dusty staircase lit only by the end of Peter's wand. When he reached the bottom, it widened a little and he was able to move somewhat faster, wand held out ahead of him like a torch.

As he approached the far end of the passage, he could hear the sound of raised voices and glasses clinking. It was the noise that brought him to a standstill, recalling exactly how he had found the passage in the first place.

He could almost taste the fear in his mouth, that raw, metallic tang of biting his own tongue, the choking sensation in his throat as if his lungs were closing. He couldn't even remember how he'd ended up at the Hog's Head, only that he'd seen Antony Travers and Evan Rosier across the street and ducked through the nearest doorway to avoid them, never thinking they'd simply follow him into the dodgiest pub Hogsmeade had to offer.

"Well, well." In the dimness of the pub, it seemed to Peter as though Rosier's smile had too many teeth. "Little Peter Pettigrew. What a surprise."

Travers just drew his wand, his answering smile speaking volumes that Peter had no desire whatsoever to read. He'd heard stories about the Slytherins in their year, how they'd fallen in with a cult of dark wizards that nobody wanted to talk about. He knew Padfoot's cousin was involved somehow, the one he refused to mention---

His heart was thudding like drums in his ears, and he cast about desperately, wondering why none of the pub's patrons even seemed to have noticed.

That was when, miraculously, a barked word from the barman caught both Travers and Rosier off-guard, and Peter bolted for the back of the pub, where he saw, beyond a slightly askew painting, a door in the wall.

He was coming to that door now and, though he couldn't see beyond the painting, he could hear the low murmur of the pub's patrons. Peter swallowed and moved closer, suddenly wishing he'd brought Moony with him, at least.

"...three more last week, did you hear? Word is the first Aurors on the scene saw something in the sky. Some sort of mark. Don't look for it in the Prophet, though."

"This Dark Lord have a name, then?"

"Not that I know. Nobody's willing to say it aloud. And it's not just wizards he's got." After a brief pause, Peter heard the same voice murmur, "Rumour has it Fenrir Greyback has returned."

"You can't be serious."

"Best to hide your children, then. You know they're his favourite."

Peter shuddered and stepped back--only to tread on something that snapped audibly.

"What was that?"

He heard a crash from within the bar and, without thinking twice, fled back down the passageway as fast as his legs could take him. It was only when he reached the staircase and realised he wasn't being followed that he allowed himself to pause and let his racing heart finally slow down.

He all but collapsed upon returning to Gryffindor Tower, passing Padfoot and Prongs with barely more than a vague wave on his way to the dormitory. He'd just fallen onto his bed when Moony stepped into the room.

"What on earth happened to you?"

Peter looked down at his robes and realised he was covered from head to toe in dust and dirt. "Secret passage. I thought I'd map it. Surprise you all."

Moony grinned. "Fair enough. Evanesco!"

Peter muttered thanks under his breath and lay there for a few moments, letting his panic fully subside, before shrugging off his robes and tossing them onto his trunk.


"So, what?"

"What did you find?" He could hear the creak of the bedsprings as Moony sat down. "Will you at least tell me that?"

"Sure," Peter said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of his robes. "Map's in there. It's a passage that leads directly to the Hog's Head Pub, if you can believe it."

"You're joking. I wouldn't have thought the barman would allow it. According to Prongs, he's a regular old bastard who fancies goats." He could almost hear the shrug in Moony's voice. "Of course, this is Prongs, so who knows?"

"I don't mind him so much," Peter said, recalling how the barman had saved him from certain horrors at the hands of Rosier and Travers. "Find it yet?"

"I don't see anything, Wormtail."

Peter's eyes snapped open and he grabbed the parchment. Sure enough, there was nothing new. "But...that's impossible. I used the spell and everything. I know I did!"

"I don't doubt that, Wormtail, but it's not here."

"Bloody, bloody hell!" He threw down the parchment and sank back onto the bed, almost in tears. "I don't believe this. I went all the way there, and, dammit, they nearly saw me!"

"Who nearly saw you?"

"There were two men. I overheard them talking about some dark wizard named Fenrir Greyback..." He trailed off at the strangled noise and looked up to find Moony had gone very pale. "Moony? What's the matter?"

His friend had turned away, gripping the bedpost so tightly his knuckles turned white. "Fenrir Greyback isn't a wizard, Wormtail. He's a werewolf."

Best to hide your children. You know they're his favourite. Peter felt as though the pit in his stomach had widened into a gaping hole. "He's the one, isn't he? The one who..."

"The one who turned me."

"Oh, God, Moony. I'm so sorry. I had no idea."

"Of course you didn't." Moony swung back round, his mouth a tight line. "What did they say about him?"

"That he's back. And he's working for...they never said his name. They just called him the Dark Lord." At the title, Peter shuddered, wrapping his arms around himself. "What do you think it means?"

Moony shook his head. "No idea. But it's not good."

The map lay between on the floor. Peter looked down at it, something horrible suddenly occurring to him. "Moony, we can't just leave this lying around. What if someone were to find it? Someone...not here, someone out there." He swallowed. "It's a map of all of Hogwarts. Every passage in this castle--"

"--every entrance and every exit." Moony finished in a low voice. "You're right. You're right, Wormtail. But possibly we phrase it differently when we tell Padfoot and Prongs."

Peter never asked why; just nodded. And when he mentioned it--with careful, feigned casualness--to Prongs, he pointed out that it might be worth putting some sort of protective spell on the map so nobody else would know what it was. Prongs, rather to his surprise, thought it a brilliant idea.

"Can you imagine what would happen if McGonagall found it?"

"I rather think Flitwick would be impressed," was Padfoot's contribution. He was eyeing Peter as though he could see right through to the roiling panic beneath. "But, no, that's a good point. Any ideas?"

"Passwords." Peter didn't realise it was his own voice until he looked up to find everybody staring at him. "Like the Common Rooms. You need a password to get in, and they change all the time. It can't be that hard, can it?"

Not for them. Not for Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs. He could almost forget that, outside the walls of Hogwarts, there were monsters in the dark.

Seventh Floor, D8 - Headmaster's Office

There was one room in Hogwarts that was, for all intents and purposes, beyond their reach. They knew where it was--everybody did--but there was no way to reach it. Even James balked at the thought of trying to follow Professor Dumbledore into his office, invisibility cloak or otherwise. But there was something tragic about leaving that one room undone, so he came to what seemed like a reasonable compromise.

After dinner, he made his way to the seventh-floor corridor and ducked round the corner past the large stone gargoyle that he knew guarded the entrance to the Headmaster's office. Throwing the cloak over his head, he waited.

Nearly half an hour passed before Professor Dumbledore appeared, humming something under his breath. In fact, the headmaster didn't even bother to check for spies before leaning close to the gargoyle and saying, in a voice rife with laughter, "Toothflossing stringmint."

With a low, grinding sound, the gargoyle twisted aside to reveal a staircase leading to the tower above. After it had shifted back to its place, James hurried back to Gryffindor Tower on legs screaming with stiffness. But at least he had what he'd come for.

He skipped dinner the next day, knowing it was the only time when the headmaster was guaranteed to be elsewhere for some length of time, and made his way once more--hopefully the final time--to where the gargoyle stood, looking distinctly bored. Pulling out the parchment, he tapped it once and murmured, "Eidetikos."

"Toothflossing stringmint." He almost believed it was a joke, that the headmaster could see through invisibility cloaks and was pranking him. But the gargoyle shifted aside to reveal the spiral staircase he'd seen the night before. With some trepidation, James made his way up the stairs, occasionally checking the parchment as it filled in his path in broad black strokes. At the top of the staircase was a polished, wooden door with a brass griffin knocker. After throwing the invisibility cloak over his head, James pushed the door slowly, and it opened with an audible creak.

"Who's there?"

He nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of a sharp voice from within the room. It didn't sound like Dumbledore, or any of the other professors, and he realised, upon entering, that it must have come from one of the dozens of portraits lining the walls. Directly in front of him was an enormous desk of polished wood and a high-backed chair. James swallowed and began to make a circuit of the room, suddenly worried that the portraits would notify Dumbledore that someone was prowling round his office.

"I asked, who's there?" the voice repeated. It seemed to be coming from the portrait of a grouchy-looking man in a curly wig. "I know you're in here, whoever you are."

He hadn't thought about portraits. He ought to have done, surely. They were everywhere else in the castle, and they were all notorious gossips. What if one of them told Dumbledore someone had been in here? At least he had the invisibility cloak. That was some comfort.

Under any other circumstances, he'd have relished the chance to look round the study belonging to the most powerful wizard in the world, but time was running out. James tapped the parchment, murmured, "Finite Incantatem," and started toward the door just as it opened to admit the headmaster himself.

"I say, Dumbledore, there's someone in here!" the man in the wig said, sounding vindictively cheerful.

James took the opportunity to dart past the startled headmaster. As he reached the stairs, he felt something grip the cloak just behind his head, and the hood fell back. He found himself face-to-face with Professor Dumbledore, who looked distinctly perplexed.

"Um. Sorry! Won't happen again!" Wrenching himself free, James all but tripped down the rest of the staircase and stumbled into the corridor, gasping for breath. He pulled the cloak back over his head and sprinted back to Gryffindor Tower.

A few nights later, they were preparing to work the spell Padfoot had found through a combination of pointed questions to Flitwick after class and a few trips to the Restricted Section of the library. Padfoot had run off to nick one or two missing ingredients from the garden--for some bizarre reason, the spell required sprigs of rosemary--and had told the three of them to come up with a password by the time he came back.

Easier said than done, James was quickly realising. It had to mean something.

"Something that sounds like a spell, maybe?" suggested Moony. "Tabula geographica--"

"Too clunky," James said, frowning. "I mean, nothing against spells, Moony, but you never know what else they might activate."

"Oh, good point."

"How about 'Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs'?" was Wormtail's contribution. "It would make sense."

"Yes, but it's boring." Wormtail's face fell. "We can use it if we can't come up with anything better, though. It's as good as most passwords, I guess."

But something was missing. Something he couldn't quite pin down...

"Oh, for goodness' sake, Potter."

The sound of Lily Evans speaking jolted him out of his thoughts quicker than cold water. "Evans," he said, cursing the quaver in his voice.

"Just make anyone who uses it promise they're up to no good. After all, that's the purpose of your map, isn't it?"

At least a dozen questions fell into James' mind at once, beginning with how on earth Lily Evans knew about the map he, Moony, Padfoot, and Wormtail had kept secret for months now--although, come to think of it, Moony was looking distinctly guilty. Wormtail was glancing back and forth between him and Evans, and eventually let out a nervous squeak of laughter.

"I rather like that, actually. Don't you, Moony?"

Moony mouthed, 'Sorry' to James before suggesting, "I promise that I'm up to no good?"

"Not quite, I don't think, but close."

"Really, Potter? Since when did you become so picky?" demanded Lily. "Well, I'll leave you to it. Just clean up after yourselves."

Padfoot returned a few moments later with several branches from one of the rosemary bushes. "What's going on? Have your brilliant minds produced something useful or do I need to do all the work?"

"We have a concept," Moony said. "We're still working on the intricacies of phrasing."

"Important, after all," added Wormtail. "You're the one who keeps saying this will be our legacy."

"Fair enough." Padfoot handed the rosemary to James and sat down. "Right, here we go. First, I need blood from all of you."

"You need what?!" chorused James and Remus. Wormtail just looked spooked.

Padfoot rolled his eyes. "It binds the parchment to us so that we're the only ones who can change it. Other people can use it, if they've got the password, but only we can alter it. Don't you think that's a useful thing?"

"I guess," James allowed, still frowning. "I don't like blood magic, though."

"Magic is magic, Prongs. What matters is how you use it." With that, Padfoot muttered something under his breath and traced a cut across his palm with his wand. Picking up a small silver dish he'd nicked from the Potions classroom, he held his bleeding hand over it. "Well? Are you doing it or not?"

James followed suit, wincing at what felt like a paper cut on his palm. Moony and Wormtail held out their hands soon afterward. Soon, they had a small pool of blood. Moony, who was the best of them all at healing spells, sealed up the wounds while Padfoot began to write on the front of the folded parchment, Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, purveyors of aids to magical mischief-makers--

"I like that. Well done," James allowed, still fiddling with the small, raised scar on his palm. "What should we call it?"

"The Prankster's Guide?" suggested Moony. "Although that doesn't quite roll off the tongue..."

"How about the Marauder's Map?" Quite to everybody's surprise, they found themselves looking at Wormtail, who shrugged. "Dorcas Meadowes told me to tell you to stop marauding about when she found me in the Ravenclaw Common Room. I only just remembered."

"---are proud to present the Marauder's Map," Padfoot said as he finished writing. "So, what's the password?"

"I solemnly swear--" James began.

"---that I am up to no good," finished Moony. "That works, don't you think?"

"Wands at the ready, then." All four of them pointed their wands at the parchment as Padfoot muttered several incantations in a language Prongs couldn't quite catch. "Ready?"

There was a moment's pause, a breath of anticipation.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!"