A/N: Not mine. If they were mine, I'd have a lot more than 20 bucks a week for lunch. Response to She's A Star's brilliant challenge.



The Last Laugh


It's bloody brilliant, Harry! Ron Weasley held up a small gold box emblazoned with-- Harry Potter wrinkled his forehead as he read.

Bertie Botts Flavourless Beans, Ron?

Ron said brightly, dropping three boxes of the aforementioned confection into his Honeydukes basket. Oh, Harry, look! he pointed a finger at the advertisment on his carry case. The Cannons are coming to Hogsmeade in a month!

Are you serious? Harry demanded, dropping several packets of Sugar Quills and diving for the basket-- scattering several third years and a beautifully stacked display of Chocolate Frogs in the process. he glanced up at Ron, grinning widely. And it's a Hogsmeade weekend, too! We'll be able to go!

Reckon that was their idea , don't you think? Ron asked quietly as they headed to over to purchase their sweets. I mean, coming to Hogsmeade. . . lots of kids from Hogwarts to come in. . . amazing, just what I'd expect from the Cannons. . . if only we hadn't gotten smashed by bloody Ireland's Seeker in the semi-final match, we might have actually gotten somewhere--

Just like if you hadn't gotten smashed' by Professor Snape's essay question, you might have actually done decently on the midterm? Hermione asked sweetly as she came round and dropped her arms around both the boys' shoulders. Enthralled as he was by the Cannon's Hogsmeade demonstration, Harry couldn't help noticing that the tips of Ron's ears had gone a shade of red a fire engine might envy.

Not that Ron would know what a fire engine was, of course. Still. It was something of an open secret that Ronald Weasley fancied Hermione Granger as much as he did the Chudley Cannons-- perhaps more. The only people who didn't seem to know, Harry thought bemusedly, were the happy couple themselves. They bickered as much as Professors Snape and Sinistra, respectively, and spent as much time sulking as they did speaking to each other.

Ron, what on earth ARE these? Hermione demanded, snatching the box of Every-- Flavourless Beans, Harry corrected himself. Speaking of which, Hermione had a point. What was the point of candy that didn't taste like anything?

Muggles have things like them, Harry offered helpfully. They're called diet sweets.

Just you wait, Ron said smugly. He took the box from Hermione's hand and winked at Harry. She narrowed her eyes at the two of them in a way that resembled McGonagall's glare in a rather uncanny way.

What just are you two up to? Harry only shrugged in response, while Ron smirked and tucked the boxes away.

Dunno. My guess is that Ron's got something planned for when the Cannons come next Hogsmeade weekend.

Oh, yes, I heard about that, Hermione said offhandedly. I suppose you're planning on going.

Planning on going? Ron repeated, aghast at her tone. We're first in line, Hermione. And you're coming, too.

I am? Hermione questioned loftily. Whatever makes you think that?

Do you really want to spend Valentine's Day with Lockhart loose? Ron questioned. Lockhart had a few snippets of his memory returned to him-- enough to render him a constant visitor to Hogwarts when he spent most of his time badgering Snape to his great personal risk. Hermione paused for half a second, considering, then sighed deeply.

I suppose you're right, she conceded grudgingly. But don't expect me to spend my time going mad over Wonky Faints and such nonsense-- I get enough of that from-- at this, she coloured and fell silent. Ron's jaw set, and he glared across the square at a hapless third year Hufflepuff. Harry knew that Hermione had kept up a friendly correspondance with Krum during this year. While he doubted that Viktor and Hermione would be anything but chummy pals, he also knew, and agreed with, Hermione's decision to shield that fact from Ron as much as possible.

It'll be fun, Harry offered tenatively, and Hermione turned a shy smile on Ron, which cheered him up immediately. Harry shook his head and dropped back a few feet (ostensibly to look at some Zonko's products, but he'd learned something from those Muggle romantic comedies Aunt Petunia always kept on the telly when Dudley was elsewhere) He sighed a little as he traced the window before him. He liked that Ron and Hermione fancied each other, but he missed the long, uninterrupted chats with Ron in the pre-Hermione days. Harry wasn't excluded-- but to be honest, he was becoming a bit bored with their constant game of flirting. And since the disaster with Cho the night they'd been a bit too friendly for their own good, he'd never been near another girl in that way.

Hey, Harry! His gloomy train of thought interrupted by Ginny Weasley's appearance at his side. I was just inside-- want to check out Fred and George's section? They sent in loads of their stuff to Zonko's for a bit of publicity before the shop opens-- you wouldn't believe the stuff they've sent in, Mum must not have seen the final order!

Harry laughed, and let himself be pulled inside the shop by a furiously blushing Ginny Weasley. Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione looked back with knowing looks on their faces.

Talk about an open secret, would you? Ron sighed, disgusted with Harry's lack of iniative. Everyone knows he fancies her.

Everyone but Harry and Ginny, you mean, Hermione reminded him tartly. What was wrong with the two of them? Their constant flirting, the way Harry got quiet every time Draco ventured near Ginny-- what did people their age need to realize they liked each other?

Well, yeah, Ron said, as this was the most obvious thing in the world. Stupid prat-- reckon I'll have to smack him to make him discover it?

Hermione hissed. That's not funny! The last thing Harry needs is you fighting with him over Ginny!

Oh, come on, Hermione, Ron pleaded, a look of faint alarm crossing his face. You know I was joking-- look, want a bit of toffee?

The days to the next Hogsmeade weekend passed normally enough-- Dumbledore made a few cryptic remarks, Trelawny predicted Harry's death by drowning in large bodies of water twice before realizing that Harry was asleep-- Snape and Sinistra fought in between classes, and privately Harry thought that it wouldn't be long before they started owling each other with lists of insults-- ever since Professor Sinistra had assumed the Defense against the Dark Arts position, Snape had turned up the volume of attack considerably against their auburn-haired teacher.

The only off-colour thing was that Ron had started spending a good amount of time eyeing Hermione's plate and going down to the kitchens to quiz the house elves on something-- Harry hoped to high heaven that Ron wasn't trying to give S.P.E.W a boost-- that would just be too weird for words. He also kept sending Pig out and looking very pleased with himself when reading the return owl.

But Ron didn't show up to their meeting place outside the makeshift stadium Hogsmeade had constructed sporting any new badges, so Harry felt free to go consult Ginny on their seating arrangements.

Can you believe the two of them? Ron asked, staring after Harry's cheerful step towards Ginny. Hermione nodded her agreement, but Neville looked completely puzzled.

The two of them what, Ron? he asked.

Harry and Ginny, of course! Ron said impatiently. Can't you see how much they like each other? If it were possible, Neville only appeared more confused.

Harry and Ginny? he repeated. But that's. . . that's as impossible as. . .

Dumbledore and McGonagall, Ron suggested, losing sight of his goal in the face of unlikely couples. They all sniggered at the thought, although Hermione quickly transformed her smile into a frown.

Flitwick and Trelawny, Neville offered hesitantly.

Ahh, yes, Ron agreed in his patented Trelawny voice. I feel certain there is shortness in my future. . .

Even Hermione joined in on the laughter that time. A lot of uncertain looks were directed their way, but it only made the three of them laugh harder.

Ron nearly cried, holding on his ticket in an attempt not to lose control laughing. I've got one! Snape and Sinistra! Can't you see that one-- Snape sweeping Sinistra up in this great big kiss like that Vanished with the Wind--

Gone With the Wind, Ron, how on earth can you mess that one up? Hermione asked in between her giggles.

And saying--er, what's Sinistra's name?

Hermione offered.

Amalthea, how I love you! They were all so caught in laughing that they didn't notice the approach of a stealthy figure, who, unlike the rest of the orange-garbed crowd, was still dressed in solid black.

As amusing as that scenario sounds, Mr. Weasley, a cold, silky voice said from behind them. I suggest you direct your energies elsewhere. With that, Snape swept on, leaving three stunned Gryffindors behind him.

Hermione said finally. That was--

Neville finished. He bit back a shudder. And awfully lucky, too, that we weren't in class.

Of course, Hermione said grimly. Potions is going to be hell next time. Harry'll have competition for Snape's Most Hated Student.

They were very quiet on their way into the stadium.

It was five minutes before starting, though, that Harry realized that Ron's silence wasn't due to Snape's untimely appearance. His best friend had gone a pale milky-white and was clutching desperately onto a a small box. Harry, frowning, craned his neck to look at it. Was that the box of flavourless beans Ron had bought a few weeks ago? Weird snack to bring, too.

His train of thought was interrupted by the appearance of a familiar-- a too familiar figure, he thought, onstage. Gilderoy Lockhart had swept onto the small stage in robes--

Oh, no, Harry groaned. Lockhart was wearing pink. Honestly, just bring Voldemort out and have him kill Harry now. Save him the pain.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentleman, Lockhart said, gesturing grandly as his voice boomed through the stadium. Harry noticed Ron, if it was possible, went even paler. What was wrong with him, anyway?

My name is Gilderoy Lockhart, the famous four-- oh, thank you, Miss-- five time winner of Witch Bi-Weekly-- oh, what was that? Weekly-- er. . . . the Academy Awards, I believe. I'll be your hostess-- sniggers of laughter interrupted his speech, and he waited for a moment before continuing. On this afternoon's flight. Please keep your hands and arms inside the broom, and-- oh, that's right. I have a musical request before the demonstration begins.

Ron's colour had definitely gone the way of the Dudley's diet, Harry reflected, now looking at his friend with concern.

This song is dedicated to Miss Germione Hranger from Bonald Weasel, in hopes that Miss Stranger will accompany him out to dinner in Smeegog the next weekend they are allowed in.

Hermione was caught in the interesting dilemma of one who is trying to blush and go white at the same time, Harry noticed with an almost clinical interest as Lockhart began to sing. His voice wasn't bad. . . and luckily, half the audience hadn't a clue who the song was dedicated to.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, Lockhart sang cheerfully, doing some strange sort of dance onstage that had Ron in some stage of shock. When he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison reported sound. They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother, when they said that man could fly. They told Marconi, Lockhart's voice sang out, and it was clear where his post-Memory charm future lay, Harry thought, laughing a little at the thought. Wireless was a phony-- it's the same old cry!

Hermione hissed. Is this a joke?

Ron protested, turning from white to red in a quick moment. No, I really like you-- but he wasn't supposed to sing it, the git! He was supposed to-- oh, here, take these! He had shoved the box into Hermione's hands.

What are these? Hermione asked doubtfully.

They're-- they're Chocolate-Peppermint-Vanilla Beans. Bertie Botts designed it so you could make any flavour you wanted, and I-- oh, happy Valentine's-- he buried his face in his hands.

They laughed at me wanting you, Lochart continued, obviously proud that he was getting the words right. Said I was reaching for the moon. You came through-- now they'll have to change their tune!

Er, Ron, Hermione said gently, touching his back. He looked up at her, a bit pathetically. I, er-- she was blushing furiously now too. All right, I like you too! She popped one of the beans in her mouth. These are great, she offered, obviously embarrased beyond words. How'd you find what flavours I liked?

Just a bit of help, Ron said, grinning like a lunatic now that Hermione's hand had found its way into his own. He winked over at Harry as Lockhart finished the song.

They all said we'd never get together, darling, let's take a bow. Ho ho ho, who's got that last laugh, hee hee hee, let's at the past laugh, ha ha ha, who's got the last laugh now?

Lockhart finished with a flourish, and nearly everyone in the stadium was busy applauding-- with the exception of two otherwise occupied couples. Ron and Hermione broke from a very shy, very awkward kiss to see Professor Snape sweep Professor Sinistra up in a liplock straight from a romance novel-- and although Hermione would always deny it, Ron would swear to the end of his days that Snape looked straight over at them at the kiss's close, and mouthed--

Who's got the last laugh now?