Harry sighed and rested his head on his hands. The final Hogsmeade trip before the holidays was quickly approaching. Harry had all but begged Severus to allow him to go but he had been resolute in his refusal. Though Harry knew it was to keep him safe, he was frustrated that he couldn't enjoy the last weekend before Christmas wandering about the beautiful, snowy white village with his friends. At least, that was how he pictured it, seeing as he had never been there. Harry sighed again without realizing it.
"Alright there, Harry?" Ron asked. They were at the Great Hall for dinner but Harry wasn't particularly hungry.
"Im just frustrated that Severus still won't let me go to Hogsmeade. I'd like to have a go at Sirius Black," Harry complained. "Maybe I'll just sneak out."
"You won't get more than fifty feet," George commented from a few seats down.
"Trust us, it's not like we've never tried," Fred said. "Plus I'd never go anywhere near the dementors."
"The dementors aren't an issue anymore," Harry said in an offhand comment. "It's just that I lost my broom, I can't go to Hogsmeade, what else is there to do around here?"
"Study," Hermione said instantly, nose in a book.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well, you guys have fun."
"Sorry, Harry," Ron said. "I'd help if I could."
"I know you would," Harry replied. "But I don't think anyone can."
As it turned out, Harry was wrong. On the day of the Hogsmeade trip, Harry, again, fell somber. He tried to smile and see his friends off but he couldn't hold back the thought of how badly he wished he were going with them. Trudging back up to his dorm, Harry sat by the window and looked out on the white expanse that stretched towards the wizarding village. He saw the dark, distinctive shapes of the dementors flying back and forth, searching for the one criminal who had escaped their grasp. Harry could only imagine what they would do to him once they caught him. And he would deserve it all.
If he could produce a strong enough patronus, perhaps he could get the dementors to let him through. He could take the cloak. Who would notice a small pair of footsteps in the snow? Hopefully no one. Harry smiled and a plan formed in his mind. But first, he had to have confidence in his spellwork.
"Expecto Patronum," Harry muttered, summoning up the same happy memory as last time. A blue arc formed in front of him. He cut off the spell. Harry sat for a moment, considering how the patronus had no shape. Severus had said that only powerful wizards could conjure corporeal patronuses."Expecto Patronum!" he cried, louder, putting everything he had into the spell. Still, it only formed the arc as before.
In a fit of fury, he threw his wand on the bed beside him. Harry ran his hands through his hair. If he was not powerful enough to produce a real patronus, how was he supposed to get revenge on Black? He was foolish to think he could get do anything against him. Severus was right. He was nothing; a useless child. Just like the Dursleys had always told him.
Harry took a deep breath. He had only been practicing the spell for a few weeks, surely it was normal to take a while to master it. Perhaps he was pushing himself too hard. He expected too much of himself and he was fully aware that he could not deliver to meet his expectations.
Harry picked his wand up once more.
"Expecto Patronum,' he said, blue arc forming at the command. The door opened.
Harry cut off the spell. "Oh, hey guys."
"Was that a patronus?" Fred asked, eyes wide.
"Yeah," Harry said simply. "What's up?"
"Harry, patronuses are like, NEWT level," George pointed out, ignoring Harry's question.
"Or higher, I'm not sure they're even on the NEWTs," Fred said, still astonished.
"Who taught you that?" George asked.
"Yeah, it'd be good to know in case we ever, you know," Fred hedged, "have to cross some dementors."
"Snape and I have been working on it," Harry said, a little embarrassed at how impressed they were.
Fred made a face. "It's not worth that."
George shook his head. "Anyway, we came to give you an early Christmas present."
"Oh?" Harry asked warily. "I hope you aren't giving it to me before break because it needs fed."
"Human blood only," Fred said looking serious.
Harry gazed at him, unsure of whether or not to believe him. "Uh, you are joking right?"
"Afraid not," Fred replied.
"Fresh, too," George added.
Harry looked between the two of them. Neither betrayed any emotion. Though he was rusty, Harry attempted to legilimize George. All he got was the impression that he was holding back a laugh.
Harry rolled his eyes. "You need to work on your occlumency," Harry said. "You're lying."
"Fine," Fred relented. "Here."
He handed Harry a piece of old, battered parchment."Er, thanks?" Harry replied, opening it to find it blank.
They grinned. "You better thank us. It was difficult parting with it," George admitted.
"But you need it more than we do," Fred said. "After all, Hogsmeade is beckoning."
Harry's head snapped up. "What?"
George drew his wand and tapped the front of the parchment. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Ink bled into the parchment, forming words beneath the tip of his wand.
"Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs," Harry read aloud, "are proud to present the Maurader's Map."
Harry looked at the two of them. "What is this, exactly?"
"It's the key to our success-"
"The core of our wand-"
"The spice in our pumpkin juice-"
"The monster in our Chamber of Secrets-"
"The clabbert in-"
"Okay, okay, I get it!" Harry interrupted. He opened the map. He squinted at the tiny moving dots. "What are these?""Those show everybody in Hogwarts," Fred said.
"It shows what they're doing-"
"Where they're going it-"
"During every moment-"
"Of every day," Fred finished.
Harry gave them a look. "Will you please stop doing that?"
"Habit," George said.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Now you're just trying to annoy me. But thanks guys, this is really great. If it's Hogwarts though, how will it help me get to Hogsmeade?"
Fred stepped to his right shoulder. "We would recommend this passage. It brings you out in Honeydukes."
Harry grinned. "That's a better plan than braving the dementors."
"That's what we thought," George said. "Hence the map."
"When you're done, tap it and say 'mischief managed'," Fred instructed. The words melted away leaving nothing but blank parchment.
"Nice," Harry said.
"Don't forget that either," George said. "Without it, even Snape can read it."
"The horror," Fred said with an exaggerated shiver.
"Where'd you guys get this anyway?" Harry asked.
They grinned. "Some secrets must be kept, Harry. Though rest assured, mischief was involved," Fred said.
"Speaking of mischief, Fred," George began, "don't you reckon we have some to cause before everyone comes back?"
"I think we do," Fred replied. "Use it wisely, Harry."
"I will," Harry promised. "Thank you!" he called as they left the dorm room with a wink and a wave.
Harry looked down at his new possession. He was going to make excellent use of this.
Harry looked down at the map quickly to see if he was doing it right.
"Dissendium," he muttered quietly as he tapped the statue of the one eyed witch. It slid forward slightly, leaving a small hole that Harry judged he could fit through. He tossed down the small rucksack that held his money, cloak and scarf then jumped down the hole after it. Harry found himself in a small, dimly lit tunnel. He lit his wand with a lumos and crept along the dank corridor. The stone was slippery beneath his feet so Harry kept one hand on the wall as he walked. The cold seeped into his fingers and Harry had to resist warming them on his robes for now they were covered in filth. He though that the corridor would never end but at last, it did. The stone floor began to slope upward and led to a set of rickety wooden steps before a ladder.
Guiding his wand to his pack, Harry dug out his invisibility cloak. He was careful not to let it touch the walls as he draped it over himself. Harry extinguished his wand and climbed up the ladder. He gently pushed open the trapdoor that capped off the outside world. Open only a fraction of an inch, Harry could see stacks of boxes, barrels and bags. He did not see any feet, however. Carefully, quietly, he pushed it open the rest of the way and hurried out. Once firmly closed, Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Breaking the rules gave him a pleasant and exhilarating rush. Invisible, Harry grinned and moved to the wooden door that he hoped led to the main section of Honeyduke's.
Luckily, he was right and Harry blended easily into the bustling crowd. He had to hug the walls in order to avoid bumping into people. Harry spied Ron and Hermione in the corner rooting through a jar of fruit flavored sweets. Draco was not far behind examining peppermint strings. Harry looked around, appreciating his first glimpse of Honeyduke's. When he was forced to sidestep to avoid a collision and awkward questions, Harry's elbow bumped into a jar of licorice spiders. He grinned and slipped one under his cloak. Sneaking up from behind Ron, he placed the spider, which was almost as big as his fist, on his shoulder. Then, Harry tickled the side of his neck.
Ron's head jerked to the side as he reached up to scratch his neck. He let out a bloodcurdling scream as he found himself nose to nose with a spider.
"What the-" he began.
Hermione punched him in the arm, giggling. "Be quiet, Ron, it's only licorice."
His red face brought fresh rounds of laughter from Hermione and Draco.
"Did you do that?" he demanded of Hermione.
"No!" she laughed.
"You?" he asked Draco.
Draco shook his head. Ron gave them a suspicious glance and turned back to the candy table. Harry reached out and tickled the other side of his neck. Ron's head whipped around and he glared at them.
Draco's brow furrowed. "Jumpy there, Weasley?"
"One of you just tickled my neck," he accused.
Hermione and Draco looked at each other, genuinely confused.
"No we didn't," Hermione said.
"But I might have," Harry said from under the cloak.
Their eyes grew wide and they looked around to find the source of the voice. Harry tapped Hermione in the arm.
"Harry?" she hissed. "What in Merlin's name are you doing here?"
"Having some fun," he answered.
"Fun, yeah," Ron grumbled.
"Come on, let's go somewhere it isn't as crowded," Draco suggested.
"Good idea," Hermione said darkly. Harry could tell that she was planning out a nice lecture that would look odd if given to an invisible figure in the middle of a candy shop.
They left, Harry walking in the middle of the three so their footprints obscured his. Having never been in Hogsmeade, Harry did not know where they were leading him. After about five minutes of walking, they came out in a small clearing that held an unobstructed view of the Shrieking Shack. As soon as they were off the beaten path, Hermione walked up to where the last set of footprints were and ripped off Harry's invisibility cloak. She pushed him roughly onto a snow covered log.
"What on earth do you think you're doing?" she demanded. "Sirius Black, a mass murderer, is after you and here you are sneaking out of Hogwarts, unaccounted for! What if he found you before you found us? Then you could be dead and nobody would have the slightest clue where you went! This was awfully foolish and irresponsible and I expected more from you. I'm sure the people who risked everything for you would expect more too after they find out."
Harry stared at her for a moment then tried to look contrite. It didn't work. "Sorry. Besides, who's to say they'll find out?"
She gave him an intense, threatening look.
Harry stood up an moved towards her. "Hermione, no! Please don't tell Snape. He would kill me!"
"Better him than Sirius Black!" she snapped. Ron and Draco stood watching from a safe distance.
Harry glanced at the two of them.
"Help me out here, guys," Harry pleaded.
Ron backed up father. "Sorry mate. I'm not getting in the middle of this."
Draco shook his head, agreeing that it would be unwise.
Harry groaned. "Come on, Hermione. Let me have one fun day. It can be my Christmas present."
She maintained her glare. "You are not to leave our side. If you do anything the slightest bit foolish or out of line, I will go straight to Snape. And you have to promise never to do this again. Agreed?"
Harry considered it for a moment. "This is like blackmail."
The corner of her lip drew up into a slight smile. "Are you refusing? I'm sure Snape will have loads of sympathy if you told him it was to avoid being blackmailed," she said sarcastically.
Harry sighed. "Fine," he said.
"Promise never to come again, unauthorized?" she asked.
Hermione was just too thorough. "Fine."
Draco and Ron came back, relief showing on their faces.
"I thought she was going to rip your head off," Draco muttered so only Harry could hear. His lip twitched.
"How'd you get here anyway?" Ron asked.
Harry grinned. "A little gift from the twins."
Hermione's eyebrow raised.
"Don't you dare get them in trouble!" Harry said, pointing at her. "I can make you fail Potions."
"You wouldn't," she said but Harry saw the flicker of uncertainty in her eyes.
"Try me," he said confidently. She frowned.
"So many threats," Ron muttered. "I thought we were friends?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "Anyway, I'll show you once we get back to the castle. Right now, let's go somewhere where I can feel my hands. And my butt," he added quietly, shooting a glare at Hermione for making him sit on the snow.
She shrugged, unsympathetic.
"Anywhere in particular you want to go Harry?" Draco asked. "We've been just about everywhere."
"I need to get a Christmas present for Severus," Harry said. "Is there a shop like Flourish and Blotts up here?"
"There's Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop and Tomes and Scrolls that sell stuff like that," Hermione said.
"You would know," Draco commented.
"How 'bout for robes?"
"Gladrags," Draco told him.
"Let's go there," Harry said.
Draco paused. "I have to warn you though, Harry, they've got some pretty...outlandish stuff. Especially some really weird socks. I'm not sure that you'll find anything Snape's style. Maybe not even anything black."
Harry grinned. "Sounds perfect."