Of Secret Passages and Pixies….
Hello – all enjoying our holidays? I do hope so. Here's a little piece I hope will amuse and entertain you – it's a one shot, but I was daydreaming & it sort of popped in there. No series out of it, sorry. I'm still resting!
A/N: If you haven't read my 'Veritas' series, you won't really know who some of the key players in this little romp are. Malcolm, Roarke and Annie Lupin & Griffin Black obviously have nothing to do with Rowling's universe. They are, however, key players in my little alternate reality of that universe. Theoretical physics does suggest that there are really multiple 'realities' sitting on top of each other and that…oh my, that's a bit much, eh? Let's just say I let Schrodinger's Cat out of the bag and had fun with the outcome…
Griffin Black & Annie Lupin have arrived for their first year at Hogwarts, and Malcolm Lupin, now a Prefect (for a good reason) works, in his own quiet and not to be underestimated fashion, to keep them from getting too caught up in their own cleverness…. Too bad we are not as bloody clever at 11 as we like to think! And I just have to say that Moaning Myrtle is one of my favourite characters, and I sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of her.
Katie Lupin was laughing so hard tears ran down her face and she could barely breathe. Her husband laughed just as much, but managed to regain his composure first.
"Now, Katie, love, I thought you had a strict 'I'm-not-laughing-I'm-livid' policy over owls from Hogwarts…." Remus grinned wickedly at her and raised an eyebrow.
"Remus.…" she managed to squeak, but then just shook her head and laughed harder, burring her head against his shoulder.
Remus continued to laugh quietly as he stroked his wife's back while she shook silently. Finally, Katie managed to stop laughing, and looked up at her husband with forced solemnity.
"Now, technically, I'm not laughing at the letter from McGonagal, am I? I'm laughing at Malcolm's letter. So my policy is intact."
"It is! Don't split hairs, love, it's not like you."
"I'm splitting hairs?"
"Remus …." The corners of her mouth were creeping up again as she shifted to wrap her arms around him. His grin widened and he pulled her closer, leaning down to kiss her lightly on the neck while she sighed, but continued to giggle.
"I'm still not sure why I'm laughing. You're quite right. Technically, I should be furious. At all of them,"
Remus chuckled. "Personally, I'm laughing at the thought of Annie's and Griffin's faces when they realized they'd been had."
"Liz is probably not going to be laughing; Sirius will, but that's no surprise."
Remus laughed out loud again and leaned back to look at his wife's face. He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and gave her another kiss. "Liz will laugh over this one, I'm sure of it. Malcolm did a first rate job of letting our youngest and Young Mr. Black know that they had better be damn careful in the future."
Malcolm eyed Griffin suspiciously with a faint smile.
"All right. I know it was you, but I can't prove it was you, so we'll let it slide. Honestly, Griff, give it a rest for a few weeks. Snape's dying to catching you out, and you go traipsing down to the Slytherin dorm. You're lucky McGonagal didn't ask very pointed questions. Take that as the warning she intended it to be."
Griffin Black didn't even bother to try and look innocent. He just stood in front of Malcolm Lupin, who was lying back casually in one of the large Gryffindor common room chairs, with a wicked smile.
"A few weeks? Malcolm…."
Malcolm sat up and gave him a pointed look. "Griff, I didn't ask to be made Prefect, but that's the fact of the matter. It's bad enough with Roarke running loose on me; now I've got you as well. Thank God Annie's in Ravenclaw."
"Hate being the oldest, don't you?"
"Not particularly; it has its advantages. Here's a tip, by the way; there's actually a hidden short cut down to the Slytherin common room from behind the really natty looking suit of armour outside the transfiguration classroom on the second level. But you never heard that from me."
Griffin stared at Malcolm for a moment, then leaded towards him grinning madly from ear to ear, his black eyes shining. "Is there? How d'you know that?"
"I've been here a while, haven't I?" Malcolm smiled mysteriously at Griffin and waved him off.
"Now shoo. I've got three essays to finish and can't spend the whole night telling you off. Go find something constructive rather than destructive to do with yourself. Promise me I get exactly two weeks free of worry." Malcolm turned his attention back to the book he was holding. Griffin frowned.
"Maaall-colm! I'm not the only one in this tower, you know."
Griffin sighed and visibly slumped. "Two weeks," he scowled. " Only because it's your birthday day after tomorrow."
Griffin turned to leave and Tarquin looked up at him.
"Bye, Griff!" Griffin stopped and glared at Tarquin, who looked immediately apologetic. "Griffin, sorry…."
"Later, Tarquin." Griffin sulked off to join his classmates on the other side of the room.
Tarquin kicked Malcolm on the foot to get his attention. "Why does he look like that if anyone but you calls him Griff?"
"'Cause he does. Griffin Black runs along to his own little drummer, and you'd better keep that in mind. He's going to have a lot of nervous energy to burn off after two weeks."
Tarquin chuckled and reached down to get something from his book bag. "He'll never make it."
"Oh, yes he will. Griffin always keeps his promises, first of all, and more importantly, he can never resist a challenge."
Storry laughed and smiled at Malcolm. "Sounds like you've got him managed, then," she said.
Malcolm shook his head and went back to his book. "You must be barkers. I'd be going soft to say something like that. But he's not the only one around here with a family tradition to uphold."
Annie Lupin looked up and smiled as Griffin came over.
"Well, what happened?"
"Malcolm basically let me know he was on to us, but was turning a blind eye for the moment. But he made me promise to do nothing for two weeks in return."
Annie smiled mischievously, her grey eyes looking very amused.
"Think you can make it?" She teased in a drawling voice.
"Hey, I wasn't the only one out of bounds, Lupin. Of course I can. But he didn't say anything to you…."
"Um, I think he's about to."
Griffin turned to look over his shoulder as Annie nodded. Malcolm was walking up to them in his usual calm fashion with a faint smile on his face.
"Morning, Sis. Morning, Griffin."
"Good morning yourself, big brother. Can we do something for you?"
Malcolm sat down next to Annie and put an arm over her shoulders.
"Can't I just come say good morning to my little sister?"
Annie gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and laughed. "Does Roarke get this kind of personal attention?"
"Roarke's at Quiddich practice, and you know it. Now, I suspect that Griff wasn't alone in his adventuring last night. Not his style, don't you think?"
Grey eyes met brown eyes and Annie casually raised an eyebrow at him. "I've no idea what you're talking about. Black? Were you out last night?"
"Lupin, I can't imagine what you're speaking of."
"Please, both of you, this is me you're speaking to. The one who's known you and your bad habits all your lives? It's supposed to be an honour, you know, being made a Prefect, but I suspect McGonagal did it so I could keep a particular eye out. Not to catch you but to try and keep you down to a dull roar, you understand. If she'd wanted to punish you," he gave Griffin a particularly hard look, "she'd have made Nigel the Prefect. Ugh."
Annie seemed unimpressed. "What can I get up to, anyway? Now that Fitch has retired…and just before I got here, too."
"I suspect it's your and Griffin's arrival that inspired the retirement. I made him nervous enough, and Roarke about finished him. Mum's still livid about that little incident last spring. You two were the last straw."
Griffin scowled. "We are hardly the only problems in this school."
Malcolm laughed and stood up. "No. Not by a long shot. However, you are both my own particular concern. Good luck getting past me."
He stopped and looked back at them, a vague smile on his face. "Two weeks. I'm holding you both to it."
Annie sighed as Griffin groaned and laid his head down on the Ravenclaw table. "Well, you were right about that, at least."
A week later Griffin and Annie sat in the library, working on their homework and trying to come up with a plan to show Malcolm they weren't to be taken lightly, once their 'quiet time' was up. Griffin had shooed off Annie's Ravenclaw classmates and told Gary to bug off while he and Annie talked.
"We've got to figure out how to reveal that hidden passage to the Slytherin common room. Any ideas?" Griffin was chewing on his quill while he spoke, ignoring the fact that it was staining his lips and tongue green with ink.
Annie looked thoughtful as she sat with her arms crossed. "Well, obviously it won't be easy. I wonder if it's got the same password as the entrance in the dungeons? That should be simple enough to get hold of."
Griffin shook his head. "Too obvious. I wonder if Harry can help with this."
"Won't he spill the beans to Sirius, or worse Liz, if you ask him?"
"Nah. He'll just warn me to use dangerous information carefully. He knows all about this place; really, inside and out. He's promised when I get older he'll let me in on a few secrets. I mean, my dad and your dad probably know just as much but we can't ask them. Not unless they're in the right mood, of course…."
Annie shook her head. "Dad loves to help out playing pranks on Sirius, but he made it really clear that Mum would explode if she ever caught him helping us do anything at Hogwarts."
Griffin had to smile. "Interesting language. I notice Remus didn't say not to do anything at Hogwarts."
"Dad says try not to get caught, as it takes the fun out of the results, and don't break any bones. Other than that, he's mum on the subject."
Griffin stood up and, grabbing Annie's arm, led them out of the library. Once they exited, he went in the direction of the owlery. "Let's get a note to Harry. We'll use your bird, as Ginny would recognise Boinn, and Malcolm might notice she's gone."
"Why'd you get a cat, anyway? Not as useful."
Griffin shook his head. "Oh, yes they are, if you've got the right cat."
They went into the owlery and Griffin took a piece of parchment from the desk up there and wrote a quick note while Annie went to collect her owl.
Quick question; know anything about the passage on the 2nd floor leading to the S. common room?
Griffin gave the note to Annie's owl and they sent him on his way. Griffin glanced up at the other owls and saw that Boinn was eyeing them both rather sternly. He laughed.
Griffin smiled. "When Malcolm first came to Hogwarts, I remember dad saying he wished he could make Boinn talk, so she would tell him about the train ride to Hogwarts."
Annie raised an eyebrow and looked at her brother's owl, now openly glaring at them. "Good thing you can't do things like that. Could be a little inconvenient. Bye, Boinn."
Boinn shook out her feathers loudly and gave a small screech as they walked out and descended the stairs to the main school. Griffin sighed as he closed the door behind him firmly.
"Nothing to do now but wait."
"We've still got a week on Malcolm's little birthday treat anyway."
The next morning when the post arrived, Griffin was delighted to see that he had a letter with Harry's familiar scrawl on it in addition to his weekly letter from his parents. He checked to make sure that Malcolm and Roarke were busy with their own mail, as they would no doubt ask to read the letter if they saw it, and it would look suspicious if he didn't share it, per their custom. Roarke seemed to be arguing, as usual, about something with Malcolm, and Malcolm wasn't paying her much attention as he read a letter that looked like it was from Remus. Good; that'll keep him busy.
He opened Harry's letter and read it quickly.
Alright, pay attention, you. Remember this; Katie always likes to point out that usually the simplest solution is the right one. Opening spells can be very simple if you know how to think about them. If you try and think too far forwards then you might make a mistake and have to move backwards. Also remember that things work best in threes.
Miss you, you little terror, but it sounds like you're having fun. I won't mention you wrote to your mum and dad when I see them at dinner tomorrow, I think.
Say hi to the Lupins for me.
Griffin and Annie had retreated to a far corner of the library the next day to discuss Harry's note and what it meant to their plans. "So, I know he's given us what we need in this message. But now to figure out exactly how to do it. Any ideas?"
Annie shrugged and pulled her dark hair back so she could tie it up away from her face. "Well, what's the simplest way to open a door?"
Griffin shrugged and leaned back in his chair. "Grab the handle and push? Or pull, as the case may be."
Annie drummed her fingers on the table and gave him an impatient look. "Perhaps you need a little more clarification. What would be the easiest way to open a charmed door, idiot."
Griffin thought about that.
Griffin smiled and now slumped forwards, resting his head on his arms as he sat closer to her. "Honestly Annie, think about what Harry said. Most basic. I think he means no magic words, even. What do we do? Just tell the door to let us in? Or do we ask the door to show itself and then let us in?"
Annie shook her head. "I think we just ask it to let us in. That's the simplest thing, right? Asking it to do two things would be more complicated. When Mum says 'simplest thing' she means 'simplest thing'. And what about this 'forwards'/'backwards' business? That sounds like we need to say whatever we're going to say backwards to me. Doesn't it?"
Griffin gazed at the bookshelves towering over them, wondering if there might be a book on basic spells they could get their hands on to help out with this. He looked back at Annie, who was staring up at the books in an absent fashion herself.
"Think any of these books might help?"
"No. Not any more than Harry already has. We'll just have to start thinking of all the ways we can ask the door to reveal itself, I think, then write them down backwards, and find a way to test them…." She broke into a wide smile and leaned in to whisper in his ear, as three of their classmates suddenly started to come over to get them so they could go off to afternoon classes.
"I can do that. You start writing things down, and I'll start testing them tomorrow morning. See you later, Black." She jumped up and walked out with her Ravenclaw classmates while Gary Weasely waited for Griffin to pick his bag back up and join him.
"What are you two up to now?"
"Right. I thought Malcolm had a two-week rest as a birthday gift from you."
"I told you I'm not doing anything, Gary."
Gary just grinned. "Right. And my mum is quitting the Ministry to take up Quiddich."
"Really? I hope she plays for the Cannons or your dad might bung her right out the house."
Griffin wrote diligently all through History of Magic, but luckily Professor Binns never asked to see anyone's notes. Griffin spent the entire hour and a half writing down every phrase he could come up with that would get a door to open, and then writing them backwards. It was getting frustrating, as he never realised there were so many ways to ask such a simple question until he started thinking about it. By the end of class he had filled three sheets of parchment, and was totally frustrated.
Defence Against the Dark Arts was not a class he could work though, so he carefully folded up his suggestions for opening the door and put the parchment at the bottom of his bag. The sixth year Gryffindors had been in the session before him, and when he got to the classroom he saw that Malcolm was still talking with Professor Malfoy about something in low tones. They stopped and looked up as Griffin and Gary walked in to take their seats, followed by the other Gryffindors. Malcolm didn't actually say anything, but he smiled quietly at Professor Malfoy and left the classroom, offering absent sounding greetings to anyone who called his name. Griffin didn't give it another thought. DADA was Malcolm's specialty, and his talking with Professor Malfoy was hardly something to take notice of.
"Malcolm! That's a happy grin. Dare I ask what's up?"
"The game is afoot, Tarquin. Seems Griffin and Annie have taken the bait; Storry caught Annie testing out passwords to the secret corridor leading to the Slytherin common room this afternoon. Bravo. Also says she's pretty close to getting it, so now we wait…."
Tarquin laughed as Malcolm whistled merrily while getting ready for bed.
"You're awful. Aren't you worried about what they might do once they've figured out you've set them up?"
"Nope. Bring 'em on, Tarquin. Bring them on."
Griffin was startled when Annie grabbed him from behind and dragged him into the empty transfiguration classroom later that week.
"Black! I've got it! The door, I can open the door! It really is simple…."
"What's the spell then?"
"Neim ocem tel. 'let me come in'; backwards, and split into three words. Three. That threw me a bit, but I got it. Did y'know Storry almost caught me the other day? That would have been interesting, getting caught my Malcolm's girlfriend. But she just sort of let it go. That worried me, 'cause Storry is no idiot, but Malcolm didn't say anything, and you know he's just dying to catch us not keeping to our promise."
Griffin could hardly contain his excitement. "This is too good, Lupin. So, now what? We can get into Slytherin, but we need something to do once we're in there. Something unique, that's never been done. God knows our dads let off enough dungbombs and the like. We need something new…."
Annie moved for the door. " Yeah, I'll think about it; but we're going to be late for the next class, so let's go. I'll see you at dinner."
Griffin Black glared at his breakfast. He was free from his obligations to Malcolm in exactly 24 hours, but he and Annie still hadn't come up with anything suitable to announce their re-appearance on the mischief-making scene. They had come up with one or two ideas, but they seemed old and not worthy of announcing that someone had discovered a really secret corridor. Sure, Hogwarts was full of them, but few could be so satisfying as one leading directly into the dragon's lair, as it were.
He didn't listen to Gary and Sara arguing over something, and barely paid attention to Malcolm, even, who was sitting next to him at the Gryffindor table. He sagged, head in hand, stirring at his oatmeal grumpily. Snap out of it, Black. You'll come up with something, or Annie will. For two seconds he considered asking his dad for an idea, but realized that was not on option. Nor was asking Remus, a thought he considered for exactly one second. Still running over ideas, he suddenly pricked up an ear to listen to Malcolm speaking with Tarquin and Storry.
"A dozen of them, can you believe it? What on earth were they thinking?"
Storry laughed. "I'd have loved to have seen the sight of them actually catching them. Let's be honest, catching 12 pixies is no mean feat."
"Well, Tevens and Mercutio had better watch it. Amazing act of courage or no, I shudder to think what would have happened if they had let the blasted things out. What a mess."
"Were did you put the pixies anyway?", asked Tarquin, helping himself to more eggs.
"I turned them in to Professor Malfoy this morning. He's going to keep them for a few days to study, then let them go."
Griffin could hardly believe his ears. Pixies. Perfect. He just barely managed to stop himself from jumping up and running over to Annie when he saw her leaving the Great Hall. He managed to wait a few minutes, then stood up and walked out as slowly as he could manage. He was so busy concentrating on looking casual that he missed Malcolm glance up at him, then turn to give Tarquin and Storry a very wicked smile indeed.
Griffin caught up with Annie finally at the Quiddich match that afternoon. She came to sit with him and Malcolm to cheer Roarke and the other Gryffindors on against Hufflepuff. Griffin, who cared little for Quiddich, focused more on trying to tell Annie about the pixies so that Malcolm wouldn't hear. Luckily, Malcolm was more focused on watching Roarke and her fellow beater dodging about wildly. Griffin shuddered and tried not to look too much; the very sight of them all racing about on brooms made him queasy.
"Lupin! Do y'know what I heard 'Colm talking about this morning at breakfast? Has he told you what he caught Tevens and Mercutio with?"
Annie gave him a quick glance before turning back to the game. "Come on, Sis!", she cried out, before leaning closer to Griffin so she could speak to him privately. "No; I haven't actually spoken to him. But I heard Storry say something about pixies to Bromwen."
"Exactly. Caught them with a dozen. Professor Malfoy's got them now. Says he's going to keep them for a few days, then let them go. Lupin, this is too perfect! Pixies!"
There was a loud cry from the collected audience and Griffin turned just in time to see Roarke managing to pull out of a nasty looking dive and shoot back up to the playing level at a terrifying speed. He closed his eyes and leaned against Annie who chuckled.
"Please, Black, it's Roarke. She's a whiz-bang on that broom, and will probably, to mum's carefully concealed horror, end up being a professional Quiddich player. Stop fretting."
Griffin refused to look back up, however. "Horrible sport. I can't believe dad's more upset by horses, who are safely on the ground. Thank god he never forced me…."
"Black," she chided quietly, "your dad, or your mum, would never make you do something against your will. They're much too splendid for that. Now, so what about the pixies?" Annie glanced at Malcolm sitting next to her, but he was too busy talking with Storry to pay them any mind.
Griffin sat up a bit and finally opened his eyes, but he refused to look at the players. "What say those pixies find their way into the Slytherin common room?" he whispered in her ear. He saw her grin, then quickly cover her mouth with her hand. Annie looked at him slyly with her grey eyes shining in amusement but she said nothing for a time. Finally she turned to whisper back, "Oh, Griffin – that's too good."
He grinned at her dangerously, but quickly turned his attention to the game as he saw Malcolm lean over to say something to Annie. Catch the snitch, already; there's mischief afoot….
Annie and Griffin were huddled in one corner of the library, finalizing their plans.
"Okay, Black, here's the thing. There's a girl's bathroom right on the second floor we can use to take the pixies into once we've got them out of Malfoy's office. It's haunted, but that shouldn't be an issue."
"A haunted loo? Ugh. That's a pretty nasty way to spend eternity."
Annie nodded and shrugged. "Her name is Moaning Myrtle. Hermione told me all about her. She's an utter weed, but she shouldn't give us any trouble."
"Won't she turn us in?"
"Not if you're nice to her. Obviously she's lonely, so if we just, well, include her in the joke, I'll bet she'd be pleased."
"Sounds a bit risky for a Ravenclaw, Lupin," he teased her, smiling.
Annie just made a face. "Consider this; the bathroom is just down the hall from Professor Malfoy's office, where he is most likely keeping the pixies. It is also directly across from the staircase that goes directly to the Slytherin dorms. That's how I've been testing opening spells; I just excuse myself from class. Nobody else really wants to go into that bathroom because of Myrtle, get it? It's a simple matter of moving from the office to the bathroom to bunging those pixies down the staircase, where they will have nowhere to go but down."
Griffin thought about that for a moment. Then he looked back at Annie out of the corner of his eye. "Why not just go straight from the office to the corridor?"
"What if we get caught in the corridor with the pixies, Black? We're done for then. We need the bathroom as a 'launchpad' if you will. Plus, you won't have time to make it back to the Tower safely once the excitement starts; I certainly won't be able to make it back to the Ravenclaw dorms, as by the time I get down that direction the Slytherins will be out. So we lay low in the bathroom until we can slip through the confusion."
Griffin put his arm around her shoulders and gave a squeeze before standing up to go back to the Tower. "Ah, Lupin. I think we shall be excellent at upholding the family traditions, don't you?"
"My mum says they're not her traditions, and she's not amused."
Griffin shrugged. "So does mine, but let's face it, neither of them have ever really gotten that cross, now have they?"
The next day Griffin was trying to determine how he could in fact confirm that the pixies were in Professor Malfoy's office without raising any suspicions. He decided to just go down there and ask Professor Malfoy for 'clarification' regarding the latest homework assignment, but he wasn't sure if that….
Griffin looked up to see Malcolm walking down the hall from the other direction towards Professor Malfoy's office, eyeing him suspiciously.
"What are you doing down here?"
"I wanted to ask Professor Malfoy to clarify something on the essay I'm trying to finish." Malcolm didn't look even remotely convinced.
Before Malcolm could respond, however, the door to Malfoy's office opened, and Professor Malfoy stopped in the doorway when he saw them standing there. His cold blue eyes regarded them both calmly, and he smiled faintly.
"Mr. Lupin, Mr. Black."
"Good afternoon, Professor Malfoy," said Griffin, in a pleasant tone of voice.
"Mr. Black, I trust my essay on water demons is finished if you have time for roaming the halls?"
Griffin glanced up at him, and was about to say something about needing extra help when suddenly a flash of blue behind the professor caught his eye. It's true! He's got them in there! Griffin put on the most neutral face he could imagine and stepped back from Malcolm and Professor Malfoy.
"Nearly, sir. I'll just go finish that now. Goodbye."
Draco and Malcolm watched Griffin beat a hasty retreat. Once he had disappeared around the corner, Draco looked at Malcolm out of the corner of his eye and gave a faint smile.
"Mr. Lupin, I don't envy you your job."
"No, I doubt anyone does."
"I think he got an eyeful of your pixies."
"What's next for him?"
Malcolm gave a rather wicked grin. "Well, Sir, we'll just have to see, won't we?"
Malfoy laughed and turned back to his office. "I've got to finish grading these papers from the Hufflepuff fifth years. Keep me up to date. I haven't had this much fun in years."
"Where are they now?"
"Entry Hall – looks like Sis just left the Ravenclaw wing. "
"Think Sirius will be upset we're using his toy against his son?"
Malcolm had to grin. "Not a bit."
Tarquin watched the small dots moving about on the aged map Malcolm held carefully. "You're not going to give this thing to Griffin when we graduate are you?"
Malcolm chuckled. "No, I'm giving it to Annie."
"That's the same thing."
"I know, but I feel a little better giving it to her to keep an eye on. Why throw gas on an open flame?"
Malcolm sighed. "Honestly, Tarquin. It astounds me how you can be so ignorant of muggle.. wait, here we go."
Malcolm and Tarquin silently moved forward down the hallway towards the back staircase that would take them to the far end of the second level corridor Griffin and Annie were making their way towards. Malcolm was surprised when Griffin, who was usually very observant about these things, had not asked him where he had come from when they met up in front of the DADA office. Obviously pre-occupied, thought Malcolm with a smile.
They moved slower as they neared the entry to the hallway. Tarquin, in the lead, glanced back at Malcolm who carried the still open map. "Where's Professor Malfoy now?"
"He should be in his office. Blast, I can't see anything…. Here; yes, he's still in his office."
"How did you convince Malfoy to go along with this little game of yours?" Asked Tarquin, with a tone of vague wonderment.
"Officially he knows nothing about it. But he agreed that it would be better for Griff and Annie if they were caught after hours by him rather than Snape." Malcolm chuckled. "Although…."
Tarquin stopped near the bottom stair and carefully looked down the second floor hallway. Malcolm waited patiently, until Tarquin turned back, trying hard not to laugh.
"There they are."
Tarquin had to sit down now to put both hands over his mouth so no sound would escape. He sat there shaking with laugher for a few minutes while Malcolm calmly stood next to him, listening for any movement and glancing at the map in the moonlight every now and again. Finally he gave Tarquin a soft clip in the ear.
"Stop it. We're out of bounds ourselves, and I don't want to get caught, 'cause I still haven't finished my potions homework for next week and a detention would set me back another night. Professor Malfoy may be aware something is up, but if he does technically catch us, he's got to turn us in. Again."
Tarquin finally stood up and took the map from Malcolm to glance at it. "Hey, your girlfriend got us nabbed last time; don't get cranky with me."
Malcolm gave a small grunt. "You and Storry both got us nabbed. That's what happens when you change plans in the mid….Malfoy's just left!"
Tarquin quickly shut down the map and tucked it into his robes. He knelt down in front of Malcolm and they both peered carefully down the corridor, watching Professor Malfoy's retreating back. Malcolm looked down at Tarquin.
"Remember, don't make the cage disappear until they've got the door to the Slytherin's dorm open."
"Hoping a few might make it down there?"
Malcolm smiled. "Absolutely."
"Black! He's just left the office!"
Griffin and Annie were concealed in the girls' lav on the second floor. Annie was carefully balanced on Griffin's shoulders so she could see out the window over the door. She watched Professor Malfoy walk past them down hallway, then start down the stairs to the first floor.
"Let me down!"
Years of practice at this sort of thing paid off as Griffin deftly helped her jump down with hardly a thump as she hit the floor. He peered over his shoulder into the dimly lit room.
"So where's this ghost of yours?" he whispered rather anxiously.
Annie gave him an agitated glance. "She's here. I spoke to her yesterday. Look, we've got to move. Who knows how long Professor Malfoy will be out…."
"Yes," said a miserable voice. "Just run in here, do what you like, and then run right out again. Never mind nobody ever stays to talk."
Griffin raised an eyebrow at Annie who mouthed "Myrtle" at him, then turned to look back into the room.
"Myrtle? It's Annie. Look, my friend and I have to run out for a minute. But we'll be right back, okay?"
"Fine, I understand," came a very shaky and wet sounding voice. Annie rolled her eyes and motioned for Griffin to follow her. But she stopped before she opened the door.
"Now look, Black. This is all planned, so no fiddling about. No whims, no sudden ideas, none of it. Just in the office, nab the pixies, and straight back here."
"Are all Ravenclaws so bossy Lupin?"
"Don't see as many of us in detention, do you Black?"
"My mum says Ravenclaws don't get detention because they're far to boring to get caught up in such dangerous nonsense."
"Your mum is pulling your leg. She married your dad, didn't she? How can she be adverse to dangerous nonsense?"
Griffin had to suppress a laugh at that. "Point taken. Same can be said for your mum."
Annie grinned as she slowly opened the door. "I'd best steer clear of my mum's dangerous nonsense, Black. She can beat all of us with one hand tied behind her back."
"Don't I know it."
They silently slipped into the corridor, and crept to Professor Malfoy's office. Griffin looked up and down the hallway to see if anyone was coming while Annie put an ear to the door to make certain nobody happened to be in there serving a detention or helping Professor Malfoy with anything. With a glance at Griffin, Annie turned the door handle and very slowly pushed the office door open. Malcolm had once commented that it squeaked, much to Remus' surprise. He had said that after 17 years someone should have fixed that. God, can you imagine what it would be like if he was still the DADA professor? Talk about putting a damper on things. Still, it could have been fun to have him here….
Griffin stepped into the office behind Annie, not closing the door and keeping an eye out as she looked around for the pixies. They were in a metal cage, about one foot square, sitting on the table under the window. Griffin leaned into the hallway, double checking that Professor Malfoy was not coming back, then nodded at Annie, who leapt across the room and grabbed the cage with the pixies. They immediately started chattering and snapping at her. Giving them an angry glance, she waved her wand over the cage, saying a silencing spell. The chattering instantly died away, but the pixies were still hopping up and down and trying to bite her arm and hand.
Annie made a face as she came back to the door.
"Disgusting creatures. Move it, Black."
Griffin let her past and silently closed Professor Malfoy's office door before he bounded down the corridor and followed Annie into the bathroom. He closed the door, and then turned to look at Annie with an expression of triumph.
"Two weeks to the day I promised Malcolm to keep out of it. Now, we're ready to go!"
Annie set the pixie cage down on the sinks and looked at them carefully. She was about to say something when suddenly a ghost of a young girl leaned forward out of the mirror next to her and looked at the cage.
"Eww; you didn't say you were going to bring pixies in here."
Griffin assumed that this was Myrtle. Annie gave him an amused glance and turned to Myrtle. "Don't worry, we're about to take them right about again."
"Typical. Nobody comes in here for just ages and then when they do they mess the place up with pixies." She gave Griffin a particularly miserable look. Griffin smiled at her.
"Myrtle, we promise we're taking them out right now. We're going to take them somewhere else, but we just need to make sure the corridor is clear before we go."
Myrtle glided up right in front of him, and Griffin had to resist the urge to shiver, because she made the air so cold. He just kept smiling at her. Keep her happy, Black, or she might do something truly awful like get Peeves.
"Are you playing a joke, then? Can I help? I haven't played a joke on anyone for a long time, you know."
"Could you look in the corridor and see if you see any teachers, please?"
Myrtle smiled, at least Griffin assumed it was a smile, and floated through the door into the corridor. Griffin looked at Annie, who winked at him, and picked up the cage. They stepped over to the door and waited. After a few moments, Myrtle's head came through the door to look at them.
"Well, there aren't any teachers about," she said, then vanished.
Griffin nodded and opened the door to let Annie past him. She handed him the cage and took out her wand.
"Ready." Griffin put a hand on the latch. As soon as Annie got the door open, he was going to open the latch, then throw the whole cage into the corridor. Then Annie would close the door, and that was that.
"Niem ocem tel", said Annie, pointing her wand at the wall behind the suit of armour. A door suddenly popped up and Annie stepped forward to open it. However, before Griffin got the latch up and could put the cage through the now open door, the unforeseen happened.
Inexplicably, the entire cage holding the pixies suddenly vanished.
Pixies seemed to fly everywhere, even though Griffin knew there were only a dozen in the cage to start with. Startled, he almost cried out as one bit him on the arm, then ran up over his shoulders and jumped off his neck near his ear. He smacked at another one who was busy ripping a hole in his robes, and it managed to bite him finger before he flung it off towards the far side of the corridor. Annie had her own struggles to deal with, as one particularly stubborn pixie clung to the hem of her robe, trying to climb up it at her. She finally managed to fling it off violently into a far corner of the bathroom. Annie grabbed Griffin and pulled him back into the bathroom, where they closed the door and listened to the sounds of the pixies in the corridor. They seemed to be muffled.
Griffin lost no time in grabbing a towel from the sinks and transforming it into a large wooden box with a latching lid.
"Were'd that pixie get to?" he hissed.
Annie turned her attention from the door to look at him, then raised her wand.
The pixie was more than a little startled to suddenly find itself lifted off the ground and flying through the air towards Annie, who caught it deftly and turned to close it inside the box Griffin had conjured. However, the pixie recovered from its shock before she managed this and, in a rage, bit her soundly on the thumb. She didn't quite let go of it, but she did let out a yelp of pain. Griffin quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.
Annie shook him off and threw the pixie in the box furiously. Then she glared at Griffin.
"How on earth are we going to get all of these little monsters gathered up before…."
"Gosh, what a mess you've made!" drawled Myrtle, sounding very pleased indeed at the current state of affairs. "Why, they're just going to destroy the corridor, aren't they? And then where will they go?"
Griffin finally had had enough of her attitude.
"Look, Myrtle, I don't suppose you could be of any help with any of this? Like you said you wanted to?"
"They're your pixies. Nasty, horrid little things. I can't see why you bothered…."
"Yes, thank you Myrtle, we got that. And thanks for nothing…."
Myrtle sulked and flew up to hover right in front of his face, her arms crossed. "You needn't be so mean you know….."
Griffin walked right through her and continued towards the door. "I'm not the one refusing to help someone who's asked them nicely for assistance."
Myrtle was furious. "You…you…you walked right through me! That's just rude you know! How'd you like it if you were dead and people just walked through you!"
But Griffin just turned from the door and put a finger to his lips, shushing her loudly. "Get off it, Myrtle!"
Griffin opened the door and looked out into the still mercifully teacher-free corridor. The pixies seemed to have retreated into the suit of armour. He could hear them banging about, their little nails scratching the metal as they clambered up and down inside. Annie appeared next to him, holding the box. They walked over to the other side of the corridor, closing the bathroom door behind them.
"We've got to get them all before…."
They both froze as they heard the unmistakeable sounds of footsteps coming up the stairs. They turned together and reached for the bathroom door.
It was locked.
Griffin let out a strangled gasp. "Myrtle!" he hissed, "Myrtle open this door; now!"
He could only hear muffled sobs now coming from inside the bathroom. Desperately he looked at Annie who closed her eyes and leaned her forehead on his back.
"You had to walk through her, didn't you?!"
Griffin managed to just resist the urge to kick the door, and instead glanced in the direction of the staircase. "Annie, we can just make it to…."
"Mr. Black, Miss Lupin; what are you doing?"
Griffin froze. Somehow he managed to straighten up slowly, with a little dignity, and turn to face Professor Malfoy. Annie was also looking at him with a very closed expression, trying to casually ignore the sounds of the pixie in the box she held, and the continued pings and bangs coming out of the armour across the corridor. Professor Malfoy simply stood there, arms crossed, watching them with a closed expression. If they had not been quite so mortified at that moment, they would have noticed that his eyes were twinkling with total merriment, and that might have made them feel a little better. However, this was not the case. They all stood there not speaking for a long moment until finally Professor Malfoy held out his hand. Annie dutifully handed him the box. He briefly glanced inside, and then looked at the suit of armour.
"I do hope that the remaining eleven of these are in that armour, as the din they are making would suggest."
Griffin and Annie nodded mutely.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow at them.
"I had suspected that Mr. Tevens or Mr. Mercutio might come looking for these, not the two of you. May I ask what you were intending to do with them?"
Annie jumped in. "We were going to set them free, Sir."
Griffin and Annie felt their stomachs fall through the floor as the looked up to see Professor McGonagal walking up to them.
"Draco, I was coming to have a word. I am shocked to find the two of you here, after curfew and totally out of bounds!"
McGonagal seemed to suddenly notice the din behind her, and turned. Griffin felt a new wave of panic rise up. The door! We're absolutely done for…
But the door had vanished. Griffin couldn't believe his luck, considering everything else that had just gone wrong. He glanced at Annie, who, not surprisingly, kept the same blank expression on her face, but she did catch his eye for a second.
"Draco, what is making that racket?"
"I'm afraid it's a few pixies, Professor. They seem to have gotten out of their…box." Malfoy looked at Griffin, but offered up nothing else. Griffin looked surprised for a moment, then quickly looked back down at the floor as McGonagal turned back to them.
"Pixies? Why are they in the school? We haven't allowed pixies in here in years."
Malfoy smiled faintly. "That would be my fault, Professor. I was meaning to let them go tomorrow, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a look at them up close, as they are rather rare. Mr. Black and Miss Lupin, in a moment of compassion, felt that they should take it upon themselves to emancipate the pixies this evening." He held up the box for McGonagal to see. McGonagal glanced at the box, and then looked back at Griffin.
"In the corridors, Mr. Black?" she said, in a dangerous sounding tone.
Griffin had to look up now. "No, Professor. That was an accident." Well, that much is true.
"Fine. Since you are so concerned for the welfare of the pixies, for your detention you and Miss Lupin may accompany Hagrid tomorrow evening in letting them go, far from the grounds of the castle." McGonagal glared at them both. "Fifteen points from both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. Draco, take Miss Lupin back to her dorm, and then collect the remaining pixies."
Professor Malfoy took out his wand and muttered a spell at the suit of armour, then motioned for Annie to move on and get back to the Ravenclaw dorms. She gave Griffin one last 'oh well' shrug and walked off, followed by Malfoy.
McGonagal turned and started in the direction of Gryffindor Tower. Resolved to his fate, Griffin did an about face and started marching up the hallway, closely following McGonagal.
"Goodnight, Mr. Black," he heard Professor Malfoy call after him. Griffin couldn't miss the tone of amusement in Malfoy's voice. It was the same tone his mother had when she'd successfully put an end to whatever he or his father were up to that she didn't approve of.
They reached the Fat Lady. Griffin stopped and continued to stare at the floor, unwilling to look McGonagal in the eye.
"Gotcha," said McGonagal, in clipped tones. Griffin's head shot up, and he gaped at McGonagal, as the portrait swung wide.
"The Prefects have changed the password, Mr, Black. In with you. What a night; I'll be sure to let your father know how very compassionate you have turned out to be. No doubt, however, he is well aware of the fact." McGonagal's scowl did loosen a bit as she shook her head. "Impossible; the pair of you. I don't know how your mother does it." But she was, very faintly, smiling now. "Goodnight, Mr. Black."
"Goodnight, Professor McGonagal." Griffin went into the common room and stood there at the entrance to the boy's dorms for a few minutes, thinking about things. How on earth did the cage just vanish like that? Suddenly, a realization struck him. We've been had…Finally he started up the stairs, pausing only to glare at the door of the sixth years' room before going to his own room.
Griffin got back from detention very late and totally exhausted. If the forbidden forest is off limits, how come Hagrid gets to take us in there for detention?
The others were all asleep, but he smiled when he saw they had left him a bag of chocolate frogs on his pillow, with a note. He changed for bed, then flopped down heavily on his four-poster and reached for the bag. So what about my teeth…
He bit into a frog (Merlin again?), and then opened the note attached to the bag.
It was not from his roommates.
Malcolm 1, Griffin 0….
Griffin scowled, crumpled up the small piece of paper, and hurled it at the window. But it didn't have enough weight to make it much farther than the end of Griffin's bed, and fell with an almost imperceptible "shuck" on the stone floor.
Very funny, Malcolm. He sighed and stared at the top of the canopy. It's my own fault for underestimating him. Dad did warn me. So did Remus, actually. And let's face it, Annie and I both knew better to begin with….
A grin crept across Griffin's face. He jumped up and crawled to the end of the bed, looking down at the floor. He leaned out as far as he could looking for…suddenly he saw the small wad of parchment, where it had rolled just under his bed. He grabbed it and pulled himself back up onto the bed. Carefully he straightened the note out, smoothing it with his hands. Then he went over to his nightstand, where he had a picture of himself and Malcolm. He carefully opened the frame, and put the note inside against the glass at the bottom of the picture, closed it, and propped it up again next to the picture of him and his parents.
Right then. We're keeping score….