On Halloween night, the patrolling teachers and prefects were out until way into the night. They hadn't need to before five years ago. Before then all the myths and folklore about spirits and ghouls remained just that, even in the wizarding world. But then four young boys had begun roaming the halls, and on that Halloween every suit of armour in the castle floated up to the ceiling, and came crashing down at midnight.
After that the teachers felt it precautionary to put up extra security around the school on the 31st of October, but even then the young culprits evaded detection. This night was different. In the early hours of the morning when the halls were silent, four sixteen year old boys crept out of the Gryffindor Common Room. They closed the portrait carefully behind them to make sure the Fat Lady didn't wake up. James then pulled his invisibility cloak out from under his robes and swung it over he and his friend's shoulders. They had grown so much since they were eleven, they now had to crouch for them all to fit underneath.
Creeping slowly down the corridors, the four of them kept an eye out for Peeves the ghoul, who was most likely lingering near one of the dormitories to cause mischief for the morning. But they had checked Ravenclaw tower and the entrance to the Hufflepuff Basement, and still no joy. They had also not been able to catch a glimpse of the filthy caretaker’s patrolling cat.
The four of them lumbered through the Entrance Hall as they went to check the dungeons. Sirius tripped over one of Peter's surprisingly small feet and fell sideways into James, who clashed heads with Remus. The grunting and fumbling they caused would have been loud enough to lure both Peeves and Mrs Norris themselves. In the end, James pulled the cloak off.
“This is ridiculous!” he whispered. “We're not getting anywhere like this. Remus, you and Peter take the cloak. Sirius and I will use a Disillusionment Charm. You've got the map so you can find us when you need to.”
Remus shook his head as James thrust the silky fabric of the cloak into his hands. “But it's yours.”
He tried to hand it back, but James wouldn't take it. He pushed Remus' outstretched arm back towards him. “I mean it, you guys take it. It's not like you won't give it back.”
“Well why don't you use it?” Peter asked. “Why can't we use the Disillusionment Charm?”
“Because dear old Prongsie and I are less likely to get caught.” Sirius chuckled, snatching the cloak from Remus' reluctant grip and wrapping it around his neck. “Now get get gone before you wake up bloody McGonagall!”
Remus sighed, but didn't protest further. He took the cloak from around his neck and unravelled it before swinging it over he and Peter. It fit a lot easier now. Once they faded from view and scuttled off, Sirius and James grasped left hands and pointed their wands at each other with their rights.
“Defluo evanesco.” they muttered.
A cold trickling feeling like running water tingled down their spines. Looking up they each saw the other becoming grey-scale. The colour leached from them ending with their clasped fingertips, and they knew the charm had worked. They could only see one another now, and the rest of the world wouldn't know they were there. Nodding to each other to share in their triumph, they took off up the stairs again to continue their search.
Down in the dungeons Remus and Peter went prowling. It was a scary place to be especially at night time. The eerie green glow given by it's position under the lake made every drip in the distance more haunting, and every creak of hinges more ominous. The scuffling sound of paws on the stone floor meant the rats were lingering, so if Mrs Norris were out, this is where she would want to be.
“Filch isn't around, he's still asleep.” Peter muttered, the map open in his hands. “Urgh! Remind me to ask the others how to put animals on this thing. It would make this that much easier.”
“Shh!” Remus said, suddenly putting a finger to his lips. “I think I can hear something around the next corner.”
Peter refolded the map and the stepped more carefully still as they reached the corner. Remus whipped out his wand, intent on stunning the cat before she could screech for master, who would always come as if he could feel her pain. Turning the bend, they tiptoed through the darkness.
They checked everywhere until they reached the doorway to Slughorn's potions room, but there was nothing there. Sighing at their luck, they backed out, only for Peter to gasp as he trod on something which in turn gave out a loud yelp.
Remus' eyes widened in shock and anger when he saw the very creature they were looking for wailing at the top of her lungs accusingly at them. They both backed away although they knew there was no way the cat could see them until their backs were at the door. They couldn't very well step over her in the state she was in. they heard a door open and close above them and fast footfalls approaching.
“Oh no, Filch is up!” Peter mumbled urgently, having unfolded the map again. The little blip labelled 'Argus Filch' was now making its way hurriedly down the stairs into the dungeons. His senses returning to him, Remus raised his wand at the cat.
Mrs Norris stopped yelping immediately and froze, mouth still hanging open in a muted scream. Peter quickly scooped the animal up and got back under the cloak. They could hear the footsteps getting closer and more frantic now that the cat had been silenced. They got out of the doorway and jogged down to the end of the corridor, tucking themselves behind a suit of armour for good measure.
Their hearts skipped when they saw Filch appear with his lantern. Peter flinched a little but Remus put a hand on his shoulder to calm him. Filch shone his light into the darkness and, though both boys knew there was no way he could see them, it felt like he was looking right at them. He called out to his feline companion, but received no reply. He looked around once more, then retreated back towards the stairs.
“Thank God!” Peter sighed, still clutching Mrs Norris' frozen form in his arms.
“C'mon,” Remus said as he stepped out from behind the statue. “We should find the others and tell them Filch is on the loose. Where are they?”
Peter consulted the map. “James and Sirius are on the fourth floor. Filch is making his way up to the second.”
“Let's go. And don't drop the cat.” Remus warned as they moved speedily back up into the castle.
On the fourth floor, James and Sirius had made next to no luck in finding either of their targets. As they scoured the right hand corridors, they heard a wheezing and crackling coming from the girl's bathroom. James signalled for Sirius to be quiet as they made their way towards the door. It was the same bathroom Peeves had ratted them out for defacing the previous year. From inside they could hear gleeful singing.
“Four lickle Gryffindor's think they're so tough! But if they think they can beat me, they ain't good enough!”
Sirius glared angrily at the door. He and James crept up to it and stood on either side. A ghostly figure emerged through the fabric of the wood and drifted cackling quietly to himself as water leaked out from under the door frame. Sirius whipped out his wand. James protested silently, waving his hands and shaking his head.
“Oh, no you don't,” he whispered, muttering a jinx that sent the water back into the room. James shot him a warning look, his grey face solemn, but Sirius just smirked and held his own wand to his throat.
“Peeves...” an eerie deep voice, foreign to Sirius' came out of his mouth in a distorted whisper. Peeves halted in mid-air and turned to look for the source.
“Who's that?” he asked him his croaking, wailing voice. A proud grin glistened on Sirius' handsome face. James looked impressed.
“It isn't your concern who I am, Peeves, but I suggest you do exactly as I say.” Sirius' new voice growled menacingly. James was trying his hardest not to laugh. “If you disobey me, I will blast you right out of purgatory!”
Peeves flinched a little at the threat. “Oi! No one talks to me like that!”
“I believe I just did.” Sirius said coolly. “Now turn around. Slowly, that's it.”
Peeves cautiously did as he was instructed, his eyes still whizzing around for a sign of who was ordering him around. When he was facing them, Sirius told him to stop.
“Very good.” he continued. “Now, float slowly forward.”
James was astonished at the cunning of Sirius' plan considering he had thought of it on his feet. He couldn't help thinking if he put this much effort into his school work he might end up giving Lily and Marion a run for their money. Peeves leaned forward as if he was thinking about moving, but caught himself.
“No! No way!” he cried. Sirius rolled his eyes and put his wand to his throat again.
“Do it now or risk the termination of your existence!” he demanded, a little louder.
Peeves cowered, looking genuinely concerned, and did what was asked of him. He began carefully drifting towards them, his wide eyes rolling about in his head for a glimpse of anyone.
“That's it. Steady now.” Sirius cooed in order to keep him moving. He mouthed something to James, who nodded. He counted to three on his fingers so James could see.
“Petrificus totalus!” they both yelled, Sirius now using his normal voice. Peeves, who had made his way to right between the two boys, went rigid in mid-air and fell into a slightly transparent heap on the floor. James laughed out loud and smacked Sirius on the back cheerily.
“Where did you learn that voice alteration spell, Pads?” he inquired. Sirius shrugged.
“Eh, I heard some seventh years practising it in the Great Hall at dinner. I think they were going to tease some first years with it. I thought I'd give it a go.” he explained. James shook his head.
“I'm telling you, you're cleverer than anyone gives you credit for and – uh oh.” his face suddenly fell. He could feel a warm sensation tingling up his spine. Looking down at his feet, he saw his shoes were dark brown again. His jeans went back to blue. Looking up he could see Sirius was now returning to full colour as well. The charm had worn off.
“Oh crap!” James exclaimed. “Quick c'mere, gimme your hand. We'll have to do it again.”
As Sirius reached over to clasp his hand, they heard someone fast approaching. Before they had time to react, Filch had rounded the corner, spotted them, and started running over with a maniacal glint of satisfaction in his eyes.
“Oi, you! Potter, Black? Ha! I knew I'd get you before the year was – urgh!”
He flew backwards and landed on the floor facing up, his head lolling to the side. James looked wide-eyed at Sirius, whose wand arm was outstretched. He tucked it safely back into his robes as James glared at him.
“What?” he protested. “I only wiped his memory. Or maybe you wanted to get caught.”
Remus and Peter then burst into the hallway, Remus pulling off the invisibility cloak with Mrs Norris under his arm and Peter with the Marauder's Map still clutched in his hands. They saw Filch and Peeves unconscious and looked straight at Sirius.
“God, why do you just assume it was me?” he complained.
“Was it you?” queried Remus with an arched eyebrow. Sirius rolled his eyes and huffed at them.
“Well he was gonna bloody catch us otherwise. I didn't see Prongs over here coming up with any good ideas.” he pouted. Remus sighed.
“Look me and you can take him back to his room. James, here, take the cat. You and Wormy sort things out here and we'll be back in a minute.” Remus said as he handed Mrs Norris over to James and walked over to Filch with Sirius, tugging at his limp arms.
“Bloody hell, this man is heavy.” Sirius moaned as he picked up his legs. “Where does he put it all?”
“Well you should have thought of that sooner.” Remus said strictly, though his voice was strained from the weight too. “If we levitate him someone could see. Peter, do us a favour and throw the cloak over us, will you?”
Peter obediently tossed the cloak over them before pulling some enchanted chain out of his robes and handing it to James, who was standing over Peeves' body and thinking of how best to move it.
“Had to steal this from my mum.” Peter squeaked, giving it to his friend. “But she says it works miracles transporting criminals to Azkaban. The more you pull, the tighter they get.”
“Brilliant,” James grinned, tying it around Mrs Norris' middle so it wouldn't choke her. “Nice one, Wormtail. Now I'll put a Disillusionment Charm on us and carry the cat. You levitate Peeves and if anyone does happen to see, it'll just look like him skulking around as usual.”
James and Peter moved everything into the entrance hall where there was the most space for it. The chain was now linked from Mrs Norris to both of Peeves' wrists. He was floating a few feet off the air in the middle of the room. Sirius and Remus then reappeared as they pulled off the invisibility cloak. Sirius looked less than happy.
“Filch?” James asked them.
“He's back in his bed, sleeping like a log.” Remus reassured calmly.
“Yeah, and snoring like an effing chainsaw!” Sirius grumbled, throwing the cloak back at James. “I'm surprised he can sleep through that noise. When you think about it, it's actually happening inside his head!”
“Get over it, Padfoot, don't put a dampener on this. I want to enjoy it.” James chuckled. “Now all of us squeeze under the cloak and hide in the corner. When people start flooding in we'll try and blend in.”
The four of them wedged into a crevice behind a suit of armour and covered themselves as best they could with the cloak. James, who was the closest to the outside, pointed his wand at the floating ghoul. The chain connecting him to Mrs Norris clinked a little as it swung.
Peeves roared back into life, waving his arms in the air and tugging at the chains, which in turn got tighter. Mrs Norris screeched at the violent jerking, and her panicking only made Peeves more anxious. Not knowing what else to do, he flew around in circles, screaming bloody murder into the echoing halls.
“Louder... louder...” Sirius urged under his breath. The sound of doors opening and the murmuring growing louder from the corridors was music to their ears. As a number of teachers and students flooded the hall at all entranced, they grinned at the spectacle. They slipped into the hordes of Gryffindor students spilling down the stairs in their pyjamas following Professor McGonagall.
Peeves and Mrs Norris were kicking up he biggest fuss any of them had even seen. James shoved the cloak under his robes and Peter hid the Marauder's Map as they mingled in with their house mates. A short distance away Sirius spotted Marion standing by herself. She wrapped her long silk robe tight around her to cover her short night dress. Sirius manoeuvred through the crowd until he was behind her.
“Nice dress, honey.” He whispered in her ear. She didn't jump. Turning around and looking him up and down, she smirked.
“And I can see that you aren't dressed for bed at all... honey.” she retorted cleverly. Sirius' face fell as he realised he and his friends were the only ones in the crowd not wearing pyjamas. Rookie mistake.
“Um... look, see here Preston-”
“Save it,” she cut across him. “I know it was you guys. Nice job, if I may say so. The entire school is here.”
Sirius looked her with a mixture of nervousness and gratitude. “You may say so.”
“Just relax, okay. I won't tell on you, I promise.” he half-smiled.
“Thanks, love.” he sighed with relief, throwing a mock punch at her shoulder.
“No problem.” she said, then she leaned in close so only he could hear. “But if you ever call me 'honey' or 'love' again, that will be you tied to Peeves... and you'll be naked.”
She pulled back again and smiled brightly at him before walking in the opposite direction to find Lily, Alice and Mary. As she walked away holding her thin robe tight to her body, Sirius couldn't help but admire the rather gossamer shape of her posterior. He was slightly impressed that she wore such skimpy clothes to bed, but he had to say he wasn't exactly surprised.
The mutters from the excited student was cut short by a stern outburst from Professor McGonagall.
A jet of blue light spurted from the end of her wand, and the enchanted chain tying the cat to the ghoul disintegrated. Mrs Norris ran straight into the arms of her master, who was pushing students to the ground to get near her. Behind him, Sirius heard Peter let out a small squeak.
“Mum's gonna kill me!” he muttered, but he was soon silenced. The look McGonagall gave the students was so horrifying Lord Voldemort himself would have curled up in fear.
“Who did this?” she snapped crossly. The students whispered amongst themselves, but no one stepped forward. The marauders were still enjoying the turn out to care too much about the aftermath. The longer no one said anything, the angrier McGonagall got.
“Enough!” she cried, and the students fell silent. “I want the perpetrators of this so-called 'practical joke' to come to my office and turn themselves in within the next 24 hours. The rest of you, if you know who it was, denounce them. I do not have the offenders by 6 o'clock tomorrow evening, each house will be docked 100 points. Now go back to bed, all of you!”
That's when the guilt set in. The boys couldn't understand why McGonagall was acting so harshly. It wasn't like anything got broken or anyone got hurt. It wasn't the most damaging prank they had ever pulled, but now she was going to take 100 points from every house.
In the morning at breakfast, the marauders were sitting awkwardly at the Gryffindor Table. They pushed their food around their plates feeling guilty. It wasn't like they felt much responsibility for what they had done, but it seemed to be such an unfair situation.
On the other hand, their prank had been a success. The whole school had seen it and it was all anyone within earshot was talking about. That is, it was until they heard something else; sharp steps that halted behind them. Looking up, they saw Professor McGonagall staring down at them in superiority.
“Hello, boys.” she said sternly. “My office, now.”
The boys got up and followed her with looks of horror. Being paraded down the hall behind McGonagall earned them stares from anyone they passed. Part of them liked it. They knew why they were in trouble. As they approached the office, McGonagall stood at the door until all of them were in, then locked it behind them. They sat at her desk and shuffled anxiously.
“Well then,” the Professor began, “are you going to try and pretend you don't know why you're here?”
The marauders just looked down at their own laps. “No, Professor.”
McGonagall raised her eyebrows haughtily. “I hoped not. How dare the four of you think that you had the right to pull something like that in this school?”
“Honestly, Professor,” Sirius said, “I didn't think it was the worst thing we pulled.”
“Shut up, mate, you're not helping.” James said harshly.
“I would have to agree with you, Mr Potter.” McGonagall snapped. “I am so disappointed that four members of my own house would do something so childishly precarious!”
Sirius looked up again. “All due respect, Professor, we didn't think it was all that precarious. No one got hurt, did they?”
“Is that so?” McGonagall inquired, her stare petrifying. “Have you any idea how many walls Filch's cat hit? How many paintings are now damaged. And beyond that, it was a blatant show of disregard for the rules that reflects badly on everyone in this school.”
“If you don't mind my asking, Professor,” Sirius spoke again after a pause, “how did you find out it was us?
“Sirius, shut up!” James hissed. McGonagall considered before answering.
“The denouncer wished to remain anonymous. I think you should know, however, that they expressed concern as to what would happen to you.” McGonagall huffed, “I believe the information they provided was something they overheard while you were planning this nefarious scheme. Now, I must impress on you how serious this matter is. You shall receive a week's detention, and Gryffindor shall lose 50 points.”
On the way back to the Common Room, Sirius didn't say anything. While the others complained about the unfair nature of the situation, he though about what McGonagall had said. There was only one person he could think of that could have told McGonagall about the plans they had made. When they walked through the portrait hole, he saw her sitting with her usual entourage on the scarlet sofas. He stopped in front of Marion, who was reading a book, and she looked up at him.
“You're kind of in my light, Black.” she chuckled, but her face fell when she saw his expression.
“Well then, it looks like everyone is doing things they shouldn't today.” he snarled. The other marauders looked astonished.
“What are you on about?” Marion asked, standing up to face Sirius and handing her book to Lily.
“Don't pretend you didn't see this coming, Preston. McGonagall as good as told us you are the one who ratted us out.” Sirius yelled. Everyone turned their heads. James, Remus and Peter's eyes widened.
“What?” she exclaimed. “I told her nothing!”
“Yeah, whatever. She told us someone told her they heard us planning it, and you and your douchebag boyfriend were right there! You promised you wouldn't tell!” Sirius bellowed. Marion looked hurt rather than angry.
“I would never!” she shouted.
“Don't even try it.” Sirius said, stone faced. Marion scowled and shoved him away before storming up the stairs. The echo of her door slamming made everyone look away ad go back to what they were doing. The furious marauders shook their heads and left too. A hand held Sirius back.
“I think you owe her a serious apology.” Lily sneered at him. She, Mary and Alice then followed Marion up to their dormitory.
Remus looked a bit remorseful. “Are you sure it was Marion?”
“What more proof do you need, Moony?” Sirius barked. “She knew it was us. She told me herself. It couldn't have been anyone else.”
James and Remus looked like they couldn't believe it, but they said nothing. The four of them retreated out of the Common Room with their heads hung.