In the common room, later that evening.
"Harry, Harry," said George, shaking his head sadly. "We give you one of our most prized possessions and you allow it to slip from your grasp."
"He didn't allow it to do anything, somebody stole it," Ron retorted. "Who besides us knows what it is? Who knows you gave it to Harry?"
"You three can't keep track of anything these days, it looks like," Fred said, tilting his chin back and smirking. "Harry loses the Map, Ron loses his rat, Hermione's cat tries to take off with that letter from her boyfriend Astrophil - "
"Oh honestly," Hermione began heatedly, "for the last time - "
Ron's face was turning red. "I didn't lose Scabbers! Something came and killed him! No wonder Mum won't let you have pets, you two don't care about anyone but yourselves - "
"Deep breath, Ronnikins," said George. "Your beloved big brothers have the solutions to all your problems. Fred?"
With a theatrical flourish, Fred pulled a familiar yellow piece of parchment from the pocket of his robe.
Harry let out an enormous sigh of relief. For the last hour, thoughts had been racing through his head - who else had known about the Map, who could have stolen it unnoticed, why they wanted it, if he should tell Sirius, how he should tell Sirius, how he was going to survive Sirius's rage when he found out Harry had hidden something from him yet again. Silently, Harry swore to keep the Map with him at all times from now on. If he had to, he'd put an Impervius Charm on it and take it with him in the shower.
Ron still wasn't happy. "So you two stole it from Harry?" he demanded. "Why not just ask to borrow it back?"
"No, we didn't steal it," George told him. "We found Crookshanks wrestling with it at the bottom of the stairs to the boys' dormitories."
"Wrestling with it?" Hermione asked. "Do you mean he was playing with it? How can you wrestle with something that doesn't wrestle back?"
"Well, I suppose he wasn't really wrestling with it," said George, giving Fred a sly look. "He was wrestling with something else and the Map was sort of caught in the middle."
"Now I suppose we're meant to ask you what he was wrestling with," Ron snapped. "Well, guess what, I don't care. Why didn't you give the Map back to Harry as soon as you found it?"
"Because he wasn't here, Ron," said Fred. "We've got better things to do than sit around and wait for Harry to come back." He looked over at his twin. "George, Ron says he doesn't care what Crookshanks was wrestling with."
"Pity," George replied. "I guess we'll have to give it back to Crookshanks. Unless we want to keep it for ourselves?"
"We could," Fred agreed. "Or we could give it to Percy to feed to Hermes."
"You think Hermes would want it, though?" George asked, reaching for his bag of books. "I mean, it's sort of skinny and balding - "
As Harry watched with amazement, George opened the bag and Scabbers leapt out.
Scabbers looked terrible. It was hard to believe he had once been the "stupid, fat rat" Ron had tried to turn yellow on the Hogwarts Express; Harry could see his tiny heart beating wildly beneath his scrawny, hairless ribs. What little hair Scabbers had left was thin and dull. His eyes looked unnaturally large and his nose twitched frenetically. He was such a shrunken, sickly shadow of his former self that Harry was shocked he was still alive.
"Scabbers?!" Ron dropped to his knees and scooped up his rat. "Where have you been? I thought something had carried you off and eaten you, you git - don't worry, I'm going to get you all fattened up and healthy - "
"Don't say we never did anything for you, Ron," said Fred. "Let's leave these two to their joyful reunion, George."
Scabbers curled up on the palm of Ron's hand. "That's right, Scabbers, go to sleep and get some rest," Ron murmured. "I'm going to do everything I can to get you better, you dumb rat..."
Harry and Hermione's eyes met; though neither said a word, Harry could tell she agreed with him. Between Scabbers's advanced age and horrible health, he wasn't going to be getting better.
Ron tenderly tucked Scabbers away in his pocket. "I'm glad you've got him back, Ron," Hermione said softly. "I'll do what I can to keep Crookshanks away from him."
"Don't just do what you can," said Ron. "Keep him away from him, period! There's something weird about that cat, Hermione. Getting into Harry's trunk and taking the Map - "
"He couldn't have taken the Map, Ron, he's a cat! He'd have to lift up the lid of the trunk, dig through Harry's things, take the Map out - "
"Oh, he could do it," Ron said at once. "He gets in and out of rooms, in and out of Gryffindor Tower, shows up with weird old love letters - plus that whole twitchy ear thing - there's no way that cat is just a normal cat, Hermione."
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Harry cut her off. "Enough about that," he said. "I've got something important to tell you."
Ron and Hermione listened intently as Harry recounted the contents of Regulus's will. "But Sirius wants me to just study for exams and not go looking for Selene Harris - he says the Aurors will find her - "
"Write to Nymphadora," Hermione suggested. "She's named in the will and she's an Auror in training. Maybe she'll be able to tell you when they've found something."
"Imagine old Regulus falling for a half-blood," said Ron. "That's probably why Lucius killed him - two male Blacks left, Sirius didn't want kids, and Regulus was going to pollute the bloodline."
"But then why keep the envelope?" asked Hermione. "If Lucius knew Regulus wanted to marry Selene, why would he keep an envelope reading 'Estate of Regulus Black' in his house? Wouldn't he figure that Regulus would probably leave something to his fiancée? You'd think that if Lucius killed Regulus, he'd destroy the will so nobody would ever know that Regulus had wanted to marry a half-blood."
"Maybe they didn't know the envelope was in their house," said Ron. "Malfoy's house sounds like it's got a lot of stuff in it, with all those secret rooms. Maybe Regulus stashed it someplace in the house and Lucius never realized he'd done it."
"If Lucius didn't know the envelope was there, he wouldn't have been obstructing justice by not giving it to the Aurors," Harry said. "Just think if he gets convicted and sent to Azkaban for something he actually didn't do, instead of all the things he did do..."
Author's Note: Sorry it took me so long to update - I had a baby. :D