George got himself locked in the boot of the car, first off.
Banging on the sides didn't seem to do much good and besides, he was starting to go deaf in one ear; there was a patch of mildew beside his head and he suspected it was moving. "Eugh," he said, and then layed back, amused - no one was going to hear him. "well, you've done it now," George stated.
He stared up at the lid (was the top of the boot called a lid? Ceiling? Percy would know), only faintly illuminated by his wand. It smelled in here.
It was, of course, Fred that found him, after he was done in the bath. George climbed out of the boot, covered in motor oil and looking disgusted. "Took you long enough."
Fred stepped away, hair wet and clean, as George shook himself off. He did wipe George's shoulder off though, brushing off cobwebs and dirt, and flicking away a luminescent green thing that was rapidly trying to burrow into George's ear. "What were you doing, having a nap?"
"It trapped me in." George leaned down, and caught the green thing in a glass jar. It scrabbled around for a bit, tapped the glass with one tiny antenna, then stared at them as if to ask, 'what'? As one, they turned to the car.
Ginny was the next one stuck in the boot, but she smartly tried unlocking it from the inside. It didn't work, of course, but the ensuing racket alerted Sirius - the only one available at the time since Molly had gone out shopping - that someone was in the never-used back shed. "Bit dangerous," as he helped her out. "What happened?"
Ginny's eyes flicked to the back window, and Fred and George nearly having a fit. Their mouths were clearly open but she couldn't hear their laughter, the house having all manner of boundaries. "Nothing," she lied.
Sirius's eyes looked up at the window, and his face cleared. "Ahhh."
She was just planning on putting a tray of custard or something down for when they Apparated into the same place in the loo they did every morning, and then swipe their soaps, but Sirius's face suddenly looked thoughtful. "Not very original," and he opened the back door for her. "Locking you in the boot. I would have made sure that the car was at least hovering, perhaps invisible. Maybe--" and he shook his head, as if to unlodge something inside it. "Nevermind."
But Ginny's eyes lit up. "What would *you* do?"
That was, undoubtedly, the start of it. No one else knew there was a magic Mini Coop in the moldy back shed; if they had, they would have ordered it immediately inspected and removed from the premises. It was dangerous to have a trackable vehicle sitting about. The registration for the car was buried in the Ministry's files somewhere, undoubtedly, and it could be traced back to this address.
There was another more pressing concern - or potentially pressing concern, that Molly certainly would have been most concerned about, hand pressed to her heart - and that was the possibility of someone *driving* it.
"We've decided," Fred announced, "that you'd be an even better teacher than old Lupin."
Sirius had just come into the kitchen; he was quite surprised to see the twins lurching over the table with a pile of forks spread out in front of them. "See," George declared, "Lupin was crackers at magic, and he made everyone work. Work? Study'n things. He was crackers at magic--"
Fred interrupted, "you said that already. He was a great teacher."
Sirius sat down, carefully out of the way, because the forks spread out couldn't be a good sign. "Have you two been *drinking*?" he asked sternly.
Fred and George looked at each other.
"Does your mother know?"
George let out a terrific snort, and Fred banged him on the back as he started choking on his own laughter. "Course not," Fred replied, only leaning a little to the side. "We're not *crackers*."
"Everything is crackers," and George frowned. "wait. No."
"As long as Molly has no idea." Sirius started poking in cupboards. His search yielded two broken cups, seven tins of anchovies, a can-opener, some canned Kneazle food - who had a *kneazle*? - and Crookshanks, who was technically sleeping in the drawer closest to the wood stove, rather than the cupboard. Sirius looked at the anchovies and sighed.
"what he means *is*," Fred declared, "that you'd teach us the things no one else *wants* us to know." he nodded to himself. "l bet you know all the tricky ways to get in and out of a car boot."
"We need to go shopping," Sirius commented, and stole a fork from George's front pocket while George was staring at his wand, a look of great concentration on his face. "Do you know where the bread is?"
Fred whipped his head around. "Grandfather clock."
"Ah." He retrieved it, stabbing the clock's hands as it tried to strangle him. George's face finally lit up, and he waved his wand around and stabbed Fred in the chest. Sirius went about laying anchovies between two slices, and asked, "Why were you in the car boot in the first place?"
"George was, not me." Fred whipped his head around again. "Hey, I had a beer around here somewhere."
"I got moldy," George told Sirius solemnly, then to Fred, "I drank it. Ginny howled for just ages," he said, lurching over a bit. "Couldn't get out either."
Sirius tilted his head, and made sure George didn't fall on his face off the chair. "Did she now." He looked at them for a long moment.
"Go on, a little more, a little --" and then Sirius put his hand over Ginny's mouth, suddenly, head perked up. It was uncanny how like his dog form he actually looked sometimes, especially in certain mannerisms. She could clearly picture Sirius the dog, ear cocked, listening for signs of trouble.
He relaxed, suddenly, and kept pouring the moldy flour. "It's just Moody."
"Won't he be, you know." Ginny held up the purple dyeing potion - found in an unused linen closet and souring from age - and then as Sirius shook his head, the turquoise. She added it carefully to the flour. "Angry?"
Sirius snorted, and took Ginny's wand to stir the gloppy mess with. "He'll understand."
Moody did understand, especially when Ginny timidly suggested he stay in the kitchen for the next half hour, rather than try to go upstairs. Fred and George, however, did not, and found themselves the recipients of a quite inventive version of tar and feathering. That night, Ginny slept with the covers magically stitched closed, just in case.
"Molly," Remus said, and ducked as she swung her hand around to continue yelling, "there's no harm done, look." He demonstrated, using a simple charm to clean the stairs up. "It hasn't even stained the wood. The flour was rotten through, and why on earth would you want to save the last vestiges of the Black linen cupboard?"
She turned on Remus, eyes blazing. "That isn't the point!"
Remus carefully backed out of the hall, where Molly continued to shout at the twins loud enough for their neighbors to hear them, magically unplottable house or not.
It was at breakfast the next day that he realized what was truly going on, when Ginny and Sirius were the only ones up and laughing together.
"Good morning, you two."
It wasn't the eggs, or the toast. it wasn't the tea, or the sugar bowl or weetabix they were sharing. It wasn't even the slightly turquoise fingernails he could see on Sirius's hands.
It was the incredibly nonchalant expression Sirius presented him, coupled with Ginny's hand over her mouth, trying not to giggle. He recognised that look as the one that Sirius had tended to use on teachers at school, right before he was thrown into detention. Aaahh. Well, this wasn't at all fair. The twins were hopelessly outnumbered.
Remus and Sirius stayed home to clear out another fourth floor bedroom, with Molly and the rest of the kids. Ginny flicked a stray duster at George's head; George retaliated by slopping water at her, and hit Sirius. Sirius shut Fred in the closet, but Remus actually thought that was by accident. Molly screeched at them all, and then went downstairs to make some sandwiches.
Ron and Hermione were sitting in the corner, writing another letter to Harry, while the rest of the Weasleys were playing with a stray sock. Ginny had drawn a lightning bolt scar on it, as if to pretend Harry were there, and the twins were relating their adventures to it while Ginny made the puppet talk. Sirius looked most unhappy.
"He'll come soon enough, Sirius," Remus said, quietly, and glanced out the door, making sure Molly wasn't coming up the stairs or anything. "And I thought you tended to stick with pink when you turned things colors."
Sirius grinned, and something about it spelled absolutely no good. "That was James."
"Yes," Remus answered, thoughtfully. "They're quite clever, you know," meaning the twins. "But they don't have a sense, of,"
"style?" Sirius finished up.
"Yes," Remus said, thoughtfully.
This time, when Ginny was locked in the boot of the Mini, she had to endure the fact that the whole thing had suddenly been transformed into a rather warm yet still soggy swampland. At breakfast that next morning, before Remus went to guard duty, Sirius found Remus and the twins sitting, cooking bacon cheerily while Molly eyed them suspiciously. When Ginny came down to eat, she had a frog in her pocket, and held it out for Sirius's inspection behind her mother's back.
"just a little bit," and Sirius peered around the banister. "hurry up," because Molly had started inspecting the stairs at odd intervals, trying to catch someone in the act. As yet she'd met with utter failure, which amused Sirius in a vindictive way, and he didn't intend to break the pattern.
Ginny grabbed the lip of her tea cup, sloshing the stuff all over her hand and had to bite her lip, hard, to keep from crying out. Her hand started growing.
The now-engorged frog let out a terrific croak, and didn't need much coaxing to join several others in Fred and George's bedroom. They made sure that there was a nice pool of water for them to sit in, as well as a couple of lily-pad like leaves that Ginny had had to scrounge from the back garden, overgrown with weeds. Sirius closed the door carefully, and then turned to Ginny's swollen hands. "We'd better try and find an antidote to that. Does it hurt?"
Ginny waved the massive hand around - it was rapidly growing, doubling in size - and shook her head, looking puzzled. "Not really, but it feels so odd. like a balloon."
In the end, they had to put a little needle-prick in her index finger to deflate it, and it only partly worked. At dinner, Ginny had to eat with her left hand, cradling her right in her lap. Fred and George skipped the meal to try and deal with all the croaking in their bedroom. Remus didn't look at either Ginny or Sirius, which to Sirius's mind was a good thing - he wasn't sure he could have kept from croaking right there, and that would surely have incurred Molly's wrath, not to mention would make sure Remus would help Fred and George get them back.
Remus decided to help Fred and George get them back anyway.
He stayed home the next morning, after his stint at guard duty, and cheerfully washed windows on the second landing, while Fred and George were traipsing up and down the stairs carrying frogs. Since Molly was at the shops, it was the only safe time any of them had. "Good morning," he said to Sirius, pleasantly enough.
Sirius was some suspicious. It was well founded when, instead of Ginny's wardrobe, they found a door that lead to the boot of the Mini Coop in the yard. Both Sirius and Ginny peered in, and then were gobbled up by the wardrobe, to find themselves in the swamp.
Ginny sighed. "What now?"
Sirius crossed his legs, water soaking into his robes. "They're sure to have rigged the lock. I guess we wait." He stared around - one of their big frogs blinked at him from the shallows. So that's where Fred and George had put them. "At least we don't have to clean anything in here."
"I had no idea where you *were*," and Molly paused for breath, face going red as Ginny leaned against the stove and tried for all her life to look like kitchen tile. "You could have been missing. taken. Ginny, I cannot believe you put me through--"
and then Arthur peered around the corner, glasses slightly askew. "Dear," he said, and ducking his head, "I don't mean to interrupt, only Mrs. Black is screeching again about her--"
"yes, yes." Molly turned to the stove, flipping several switches and banged a few pots as she got them out of the cupboard. "This afternoon Ginny disappeared for over an *hour*, Arthur. I'm sure those sons of yours were behind it. Ginny dear, you can tell us--" but Ginny had already raced around her father and up the stairs to the third story landing.
"Did she figure out where you were?" Sirius asked, sitting on a little footstool they'd rescued from an enchanted writing desk earlier that week. It had been dumped on the landing when the rest of the drawing room was labelled as 'potentially very hazardous'.
Ginny leaned over the banister, making sure no one was coming up or down the stairs. "She's blaming Fred and George, I think," and Ginny tucked herself onto a corner of the footstool when Sirius made room. "Handy, that."
Sirius leaned against the wall, grinning wide. His grin was a bit unpredictable, in that sometimes it was so obviously a mask for horrible feelings that Ginny didn't know why he bothered trying to hide his pain at all, and sometimes it seemed so obviously psychotic - like about the frogs - that she didn't know why more people didn't suspect him of things. Sure, her mother yelled at him, but she hadn't seemed to clue in that the reason the herbal tea that Molly liked was always getting up and walking around itself wasn't, in fact, coincidence, but rather the little charm that Sirius had put on it so the box spontaneously grew hundreds of little legs.
"You know that thing you did to mum's tea?" she said, sitting up suddenly. "Does it work for anything?"
"Easier to do with light objects." He tilted his head, one eyebrow raised. "Why?"
Fred woke up abominably early. It was barely half-seven - whatever manner of demon had managed to get him up this early was going to *pay*. George was snoring, lightly, and Fred rolled over, intending to go back to sleep, which put his barely-opened eyes in view of the doorway. He squinted, rubbed his eyes, but the scene didn't change. All of his and George's possessions were crowding the half-open door, trying to escape on hundreds of little legs. His shaving kit was jostling with a box that Angelina had given him last christmas to keep chocolate frog cards or sugar quills - often both - in. The shaving kit won, being heavier, and scuttled out the door.
Molly yelled for an hour.
"and that's what you get for playing with magic - if I find any more *order* *forms* lying around I'm going to--"
Remus looked up sharply, as Ginny beat the third floor landing curtains out the open window. She was using the broom rather enthusiastically, really getting into the chore. Nothing at all was suspicious about her behavior, except instead of staring at the curtains, she was staring intently at the back shed. He peered around her; nothing seemed amiss. Everything in the garden was quiet. Remus was suspicious.
"Lots of little legs?" he asked. "Oh, yes, I know that one. We can track them just like--" and Remus did the spell. Fred and George took off after the little blue stream of light. Remus followed at a more sedate pace, looking here and there around his feet to make sure he didn't step on an animated toothbrush or something.
The trail led to Ginny's room.
Remus had been up all night on guard duty, or he never would have allowed Fred to open the door. He had been up on guard duty for three days straight, or he would have been fast enough to grab the back of George's robe as the wardrobe gobbled the twins' up. He had been up on guard duty for three days straight and had nearly lost an arm that night trying to scale a fence, or he would have been smart enough not to peer in after them.
Remus looked around. A disgusted looking George stared back at him; Fred said, "I don't suppose you remember how to trigger the door from the other side, do you?"
Remus surpressed a sigh. "We never mastered that part."
George pulled his outer robe off, stretching it out on the damp boggy ground. "Wonderful."
Sirius and Ginny were perched on the lowest branch of a tree not ten feet away. Ginny waved at him. Sirius dropped his face in his hands. "Let me guess," he called out to Remus, "you've forgotten the other half of the spell, too."
There was a stump, probably dry enough to sit on, and Remus tested it gingerly. Dry wasn't exactly accurate, but definitely drier than the ground. He looked around; the only thing that showed they were, in fact, still in the boot of the car was the metallic gleam off the lid, and the tantalizing hint of daylight showing from the crack around the little lock. It looked so simple, any of them should have been able to pry themselves out.
They were never, ever, getting free.
Ginny asked brightly, "anyone have a deck of cards?"
Of course, Moody found them all, wet and chastened and none too annoyed. "Serves you right," he growled, thumping back into the kitchen. "If such a simple trick takes you in--" and Ginny glanced at Sirius, George at Fred.
Remus shook his hair out - there were bugs in it, and little pieces of leaf from when Sirius rolled him into the swamp, headfirst, for winning the poker game - and watched a toothbrush wander past him with lots of little legs. He nearly said something, but first of all, Alastor was right. They were taken in by such a simple thing, they deserved to be damp and uncomfortable all through dinner.
Second, they were already to the back door, and Molly was in the kitchen.