A/N: The sequel Weeb Adventures is now live. Below are three episodes from Harry's years at Hogwarts that didn't make the original cut.
Ambling down a corridor, Harry eyed a boisterous group of fourth-years loitering by a classroom door. Most didn't pay him any heed, but some quieted down, their gazes tracking his passing. For once, it wasn't because of some ridiculous rumor, but because of the silver badge prominent on his lapel.
Humming a tune, Harry buffed it with his sleeve and turned a corner. Seeing the door to one of Hogwarts's finer facilities ahead, he made his way toward it. Catching wrongdoers and maintaining order would have to wait until he took care of nature's call.
Pushing the door open, he halted just inside the threshold. Five stooping boys clustered in a corner, their ties disclosing a healthy mixture of houses.
"Shit," hissed a pudgy Hufflepuff, and pushed down whatever his companion was holding to hide it from sight.
The boy whirled around before stuffing the object into his robes. "Gah, a prefect—"
"It's alright, it's just Potter—"
"He's the worst of the lot!"
Harry schooled his face into a stern expression and approached, while the flustered boys faced him, the one who had spoken last shifting nervously on his feet. "Alright, lads, you know the drill. Hand it over."
"Hand what over?" asked a Ravenclaw, crossing his arms.
Harry narrowed his eyes, vaguely recognizing him for Nigel what's-his-face, a third-year. Easy prey. "You don't want to play this game with me. Give it here before I start docking points."
"Can prefects even do that?" murmured the Hufflepuff.
"They can't," said another boy.
Harry grinned. "They can if it's from their own house."
Nigel chuckled nervously. "You wouldn't."
"Watch me. One point from Ravenclaw."
"Nice try, Potter."
Harry extended his hand, waited a beat, then raised his eyebrows. "Two points from Ravenclaw."
Nigel gulped. "Come on, that's not funny."
"Four points from Ravenclaw."
The other boys exchanged uneasy glances. "I'll tell your Head of House!" one yelled.
"That's—that's right," said Nigel. "I'll tell the seventh-years, it's their last chance at the House Cup—"
Harry wiggled his fingers. "Eight points from Ravenclaw."
"Stop! Are you nuts?" The younger Ravenclaw was beginning to look a little wild-eyed.
Harry grinned. "Ever heard of geometric progression, Nigel? Of course you have, you must be taking Arithmancy. Well then, care to guess what the next number will be? Sixteen points—"
Wide-eyed, Nigel stuck his hand into his inner pocket. "Alright, alright, here—"
"Don't, Nige, my brother will tear me a—"
"My housemates'll string me by the bollocks if I lose our lead against Slytherin!" Shoving his partner in crime away, Nigel produced a rolled-up poster and slapped it into Harry's extended hand.
Harry's smile wavered as he unrolled a black-and-white pinup of a young witch astride a broom hovering just above the ground. She would pull on the broom and sling out a fishnet-clad leg, causing her robes to hike up revealing her garters, before leveling out again. Noticing his attention, she blew him a kiss.
"That's... that's some depraved pornography. I'm very disappointed in you, boys." Harry struggled not to laugh. It was disappointing, if only because the contents were underwhelming given how hard the poor saps tried to hide the pinup.
"Get off your high Hippogriff, Potter," yelled a red-faced Hufflepuff, "everyone knows you're—"
"Shut up!" Nigel clamped his palm over the boy's mouth. "It's not your house's points he'll take!"
Harry looked on smugly. Ah, divide and conquer. Rolling up the poster, he deposited it into his pocket, then turned to leave. "I'll be confiscating this. Stay out of trouble, lads."
"Bloody wanker," a loud whisper reached him from behind.
"Can't believe he'd screw over his own house—"
"That was my brother's—"
Harry closed the door, shutting out the riled-up voices. A trip to the loo next floor up was in order; prefect or not, had he tried to relieve himself here, he would likely get a bucketful of water over his head or worse.
Tony had a good laugh when Harry told him the story and spread out his spoils atop a small table in the common room. The witch in the photo waved at them enthusiastically before returning to her usual routine.
"To be fair, those are very nice legs," Tony remarked.
Harry nodded appreciatively. "The way she gives just a peek of the garter is inspired."
The witch preened, tossing her hair back. Harry grinned before furrowing his brows. "I've been wondering for a while, but how do wizarding photos work, anyway? She does it a little differently each time."
"Mum says it's a bit of an art," Tony said, fixated on the witch's act. "The background, the personality of the model, even the intent of the photographer all factor in."
"Reckon we could get her to go further?" Harry tilted the pinup in the same direction the witch was yanking her broom, then poked her black-and-white shoulder. "Oi, lady, lift those higher."
Tony shoved his hand aside. "Dolt, you'll scare her away. I heard some Gryffs boast about sweet-talking a pinup witch into flashing her tits. Could be a lie, mind."
The witch was pouting and rubbing her shoulder. Harry leaned closer. "Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you," he crooned. "You're very pretty. Why don't you lose those robes and show us the goods, hmm?"
Tony crammed a fist into his mouth to stifle his laughter. "Nice going. You sounded like my creepy uncle."
Harry felt heat rise in his cheeks. "You do it if you're so—hey, it worked!"
Tony turned to stare. "No bloody way..."
Gazing at them with upturned eyes, the witch toyed with the top button of her robes. She covered her mouth coquettishly, giggled, then blew them both kisses. A moment later, she returned to swinging her leg off her rearing broom.
Harry groaned. "Maybe if I try again..."
"Oh, I've got to hear this." Tony rubbed his hands gleefully. "Go on then, Casanova."
His brows furrowed. How could he compliment a woman without sounding like he wanted to get into her pants when he wanted to do exactly that? When the door to the common room swung open letting in Padma, he barely raised his gaze off the pinup to acknowledge her.
She approached the table. "What are you two up to?"
"An experiment," he murmured, still racking his brain.
Padma gasped. "What are you doing ogling bawdy photos in here?"
Harry looked up, raising his eyebrows at her abashed expression. "Relax, it's less than you'd see on a beach."
"It's not what she's showing, but how!" Padma averted her gaze, a blush darkening her cheeks. "You shouldn't have such a thing out in public."
"Seriously?" He rolled the poster up, eyeing Padma with bewilderment; her reaction appeared genuine.
Tony nudged him with his elbow. "Purebloods, eh?"
"Huh..." Putting the pinup away for further investigation, he rubbed his chin. "Is it just me, or did we stumble upon an untapped market?"
Harry leaned over the table to transfer more roast potatoes onto his plate, the coins in his inner pocket jingling merrily. Today's haul had been good, and he'd barely tapped the surface. He glanced around the buzzing Great Hall, mulling over which house to try and expand into next. The repressed snobs at Slytherin would no doubt prove a lucrative market, but approaching them posed a challenge.
A clink of a goblet cut through the din as though by magic—which likely was the case, come to think of it—drawing eyes toward the head table.
"Students, I have an announcement to make," McGonagall said in her no-nonsense voice. The noise died gradually as she skirted the table to stand before the ornate lectern, a thick paper envelope clutched in her hand. Her gaze swept over the gathered before she spoke. "It has come to the attention of the staff that a new type of pornographic material has been circulating through Hogwarts. One originating from the Muggle world, of all places."
The Great Hall erupted in hushed murmurs. Pursing her lips, McGonagall pulled a magazine out of the envelope and held it up with two fingers, revealing a full-color cover depicting a blonde woman with her chest and crotch blacked out.
"Such things can do untold damage to young minds, and anyone found with one of these in their possession will be punished severely. This is not to mention what will happen to the distributor, should we track them down."
Harry goggled at the girly mag in her hand, unmistakably one of the issues he'd gotten Dudley to owl him, then looked away quickly. Was it his imagination, or was McGonagall glaring in his direction?
"I urge every prefect to do their part," McGonagall continued. "Any copies you come across should be delivered to Mr. Filch, who has kindly volunteered to destroy them. Needless to say, the list of banned items has been expanded accordingly."
Harry scowled at his plate. Destroyed, his arse; Filch just wanted the mags for himself, the filthy hypocrite.
Harry rapped his knuckles on the door, and without waiting for a response, let himself in. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
Seated behind his diminutive desk, Flitwick looked down from an ornate badge he had been levitating. "Come in, Harry. Have a seat." Setting down his wand, he deftly snatched the plummeting badge from the air. "Let me get straight to the point. How would you like to be a Quidditch captain?"
Harry nearly missed the chair in surprise. "But I haven't played for years!"
"Yet you gate-crashed every tryout since you were taken off the team. This year, you flew circles around the other candidates until they teamed up against you, I'm told."
He shrugged, unrepentant. It was petty, sure, but showing the chumps what they were missing out on hadn't grown old yet. "I was flying my Firebolt."
"And Miss Chang switched to her new Nimbus, for all the good it did her." Flitwick turned the badge over in his hand. "She's a veteran, and a capable Seeker in her own right, so the captaincy would normally go to her, but... your little stunts didn't pass without consequences. As you're aware, Ravenclaw never managed to rise above third place in the past years, and after watching you in action, some players have begun saying that the former captain let his personal feelings get in the way of fielding the best lineup. Just between you and me, Messrs. Ackerley and Burrow have threatened to resign should Miss Chang be given the position."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Are you trying to guilt-trip me into this, sir?"
Flitwick's mustache twitched. "Is it working?"
He held out a hand and tilted it side to side. "Meh."
Flitwick sighed. "It was worth a try. Perhaps it's for the best you sit this year out. You must have your hands full with Severus's lessons as it is."
He scowled at the reminder, then eyed the badge Flitwick was rolling between his fingers. It could prove a good stress reliever if nothing else. "Hang on, I didn't say no."
Flitwick leaned forward eagerly. "You'll take up the captaincy, then?"
"Well..." The more he deliberated, the better the idea seemed. Those wankers wouldn't know what hit them. "If I'm to do this, I want free rein over the team. Roster, training, everything. And no promises on the results—sorting out this mess won't be easy."
"I only ask that you try." Smiling hopefully, Flitwick extended the badge toward him.
Harry grinned and rose to accept it. The smidgen of guilt he felt at duping his Head of House was nothing compared to his excitement. Shame Davies wouldn't be there to see him enact his final revenge.
Harry hovered high above the pitch, the air below swarming with Quidditch hopefuls haphazardly tossing the Quaffle, batting the Bludgers, and seeking the Snitch. Even the most skilled captain could hardly hope to gauge anybody's individual skill in this pandemonium of heated shouts, collisions, and general confusion.
Not that he cared in the least.
Taking a deep breath, he blew the awesome whistle Flitwick had given him, the sound ringing across the pitch. "Alright, people, excellent job! Get to the ground and I'll announce the results!"
"But it's barely been ten minutes—"
"We haven't gone through all the drills!"
"Was he even watching?"
Ignoring the protests with stoic grace, Harry landed and waited as people alighted in clusters before him, their attire a mixture of Hogwarts robes, Quidditch uniforms, and casual jumpers, their brooms ranging from battered Cleansweeps to top-of-the-line Nimbuses.
Pacing, he waved at everyone to line up, which they did after some shoving and swearing. He ran his gaze over the disorderly rows, his eyes lingering on the most endowed witches. Oh, he'd been watching, alright.
"First off, thanks for participating. I've seen a wide range of skill displayed up there, enough for me to make my decision." He grinned at the dubious looks. "There are going to be major changes to the lineup, but this is for the best, trust me." Pulling out a piece of parchment, he tried to match the names scribbled down on it with the faces before him; the younger kids in particular were giving him trouble. "Let's see... Anyone below third-year, scoot. Chop chop, try again next time."
With some perfunctory objections from the snot-nosed brats, the crowd thinned out. Harry fished a pencil out of his pocket and crossed out several names.
"Now for the regulars... Carmichael, Ackerley, Burrow, and Pincher."
"It's Fincher!" cried a blonde boy.
"That's what I said. I'm moving you guys to reserve for now." Not looking up from the list, he raised a palm at the loud backlash. "Keep improving and you can come back to being starters soon. You'll be replaced by Quirke, Brooks, Lutterworth, and..." Lifting his head, he sought out the curvy brunette who had caught his eye and pointed at her with his pencil. "And you. You'll be our new Keeper."
Ackerley piped up, "But she let in every shot!"
"She did?" He furrowed his brows, unable to recall if that was truly the case.
The girl shrugged, blushing at the attention. "I only tried out for fun. Quidditch is brilliant, but I'm not very good yet."
"Well, um..." Harry scratched the back of his head with the pencil. "You'll be a great asset to the team. I saw lots of raw talent in you, it just needs polishing."
She clasped her hands over her chest. "Really? I thought Stewart did much better than me..."
"Trust me," he said, nodding emphatically as he outlined the names of the four newcomers. That just left the three witches from the original lineup. "As for MacDougal, Cornhill, and Chang—"
"You'll be wanting your old spot back, I expect," Cho spat, her gleaming broomstick slung over her shoulder. "Get it over with, Potter."
"No, no, you definitely stay," he said, marking her name. He contemplated Cornhill—a mousy, heavyset girl—before doing the same for her and MacDougal. With her assets, MacDougal was a given. "All three of you."
Cho gaped at him before finding her voice. "Didn't you accept the badge so you could kick me out?"
Harry put a hand over his chest. "Would I do something that petty?"
More than one person opened their mouth. "Yes—"
"Rhetorical question," he said, rolling his eyes. "Unlike some, I don't let my feelings interfere with the good of the team—and you're too talented to let go." He tried not to leer as he spoke the last words.
Cho stared at him, then ducked her head and mumbled, "Thanks, Potter."
A chortle escaped his lips, drawing strange looks. He cleared his throat. "Don't mention it. Do your best at practice, and we'll get along just fine."
Lounging in his seat up in the Quidditch stands, feet draped on the backrest before him, Harry raised his hand into the air. One-by-one, the Ravenclaw team hurtled past, swiveling on their booms to high-five him. The Keeper was last, missing his extended hand by inches, her hair that she hadn't tied back trailing her like a banner.
He made a circular gesture, and the team looped around before zooming by overhead again. Grinning, he reclined to watch. It was a shame his idea of more aerodynamic (read: tighter) uniforms didn't garner much support—something about lack of protection—but he would take what he could get.
Another set of high-fives later, Harry cupped his hands over his mouth to yell. "Alright, now let's do some evasive maneuvers! Twirls, right where I can see them!"
Some players exchanged glances and hushed comments, but sooner or later, everybody arranged themselves in the air before the stands and proceeded to twirl their broomsticks. Shielding his eyes from the sun, Harry barely resisted the urge to cackle.
"Dance, my little puppets, dance." Okay, he might've cackled a little.
A graceful figure broke the scattered ranks and drifted toward him. Harry glanced her way before returning to his observation of the practice.
"Potter," she said.
She hovered in silence until it became apparent that was all he would say. "How long are you going to make us do pre-game entrances and drills?"
"Until I'm satisfied... with your form, that is." He gave her a sidelong look. "Yours is one of the best, by the way. Good job."
She frowned at him as though trying to gauge his seriousness. "Aren't you going to join us in the air?"
"No point since I don't plan on playing. I'll devote my full effort to coaching." Coaching the starters, that is; Carmichael was putting the reserve team through their paces at a time he frankly didn't care to remember. Hooray for delegation.
Cho's slender fingers tightened on her broomstick. "Is that so? I can't help but notice that the team you're so eager to coach are all witches."
He didn't look at her as he answered, "Coincidence."
"You picked girls even if the boys did better during tryouts—"
"You can't look at dry statistics alone when evaluating a player," he explained patiently. "There's also team synergy, raw talent, and future potential to consider. Don't worry your pretty little head about it, it's captain stuff."
Harry could've sworn he heard Cho's teeth grind together. "Even if one of our Beaters can barely swing a bat, and our Keeper is a total klutz?"
"Don't be rude. They make up for it in other areas." He waved at the girls in the air. "Well done! Let's do some loops now!"
Cho threw up her hands. "More drills?"
"Bludger-dodging practice," Harry murmured, his eyes glued to their Keeper's Bludgers. "Whoa."
"I see how it is," Cho said, glowering. "To think, I almost changed my mind about you when you let me keep my spot. I'm reporting this to Professor Flitwick."
He grunted noncommittally, continuing to ogle the fliers.
"I'll fly straight to his office! Once he learns what you've been doing, he'll take away your badge!"
Trying hard not to grin, he turned to stare her in the eye. "Probably."
Cho's mouth opened and closed without a sound before she growled and took off in the direction of the castle. Harry trailed her with his eyes before settling back in to enjoy himself while he could.
"Oi, Keeper girl!"
A shout came from above. "I'm Sarah!"
"Good for you. Listen, do a Sloth Grip Roll for me! Like that, keep at it! Hehehe..."
A crowd formed around the end of the Ravenclaw table where Harry was seated, comprising mostly his lower-year housemates, but with stragglers from other houses mixed in. Everyone watched with bated breath as he made a show of tapping his clenched fists against each other and blowing on them in turn.
"Alright, where is it?" he asked, extending them over the table.
The gathered erupted in noise as a multitude of fingers pointed at both of his fists. Doing a quick count, he raised his left.
Most of the audience shouted affirmatives, drowning out the dissenters. Harry vanished the Galleon into his malletspace before opening his left palm. There were groans all around. Raising a finger for quiet, he slowly unclenched his right fist, showing it to be empty as well; the groans changed into cheers.
Grinning, he leaned over the table to address the little auburn-haired girl seated opposite him. "What's your name, again?"
"Rebecca," she said shyly.
"Alright, Rebecca, want to help me with this next part?" He waited for a nod. "Stay still."
The girl stiffened, her cheeks pink as he extended his hand to reach behind her ear. Materializing the Galleon, he pinched it between two fingers and drew it back to show it off. The crowd broke into applause.
"Wow," breathed Rebecca, her eyes wide. "When will we learn to do magic like this?"
"Probably never." Harry offered her a consoling smile. "Don't look so glum, not everyone can be as awesome as me."
Laying the coin atop his open palm, he clapped his hands together, then drew them apart showing it to be gone. He picked up an empty goblet and clamped his palm over it, depositing the coin inside. Lifting the goblet, he shook it with a clatter until vanishing the coin again and upending the goblet with a flourish. The audience went wild.
"Someone with a wand must've vanished—"
"Don't be daft, that's a goblin-minted coin—"
"Sleight of hand, it's gotta be," Ron Weasley said authoritatively. "Hiding stuff up his sleeves, I've seen my brothers—"
"I've seen him vanish fifty pounds of cast iron," Tonks—Helga—grumbled at Harry's side. "There's no hiding that."
Basking in the attention, Harry wiggled the goblet at the crowd. "Alright, folks, that's it. Make it worth my time and I'll show you something even more amazing tomorrow." His grin widened at the sound of Knuts as well as an occasional Sickle clinking into the goblet.
"I can't believe you're fleecing firsties out of their money," Tonks whispered.
"Hey, they love it." He extended the halfway-filled goblet toward her. "How about it, figure it out?"
"Not yet," she said glumly and fished a Sickle out of her pocket to drop it in. "I was thinking a hollowed-out ring with an Extension Charm, but you're not partial to jewelry, so there goes that theory." Her eyes narrowed. "Unless you're getting so bloody good at enchanting that you also managed to Disillusion it on top of everything."
"Heh, keep trying." Producing a drawstring pouch, he dumped the contents of the goblet inside before depositing it into his robes. At this rate, he would come out of Hogwarts richer than he entered.
"Couldn't you give me a hint? Pretty please?" she asked, her hand stroking his upper arm.
He turned to leer at her. "Maybe if—whoa!"
A large bundle of feathers hurtled past his head, flapping frantically to slow its descent. Landing smack middle in his greasy plate, the owl blinked at him, fluffed up proudly, and extended the leg with an envelope dangling from it.
"So unhygienic," he muttered, trying to untie the letter without touching the poop-encrusted foot.
The bird hooted, startling him, which made Tonks giggle. Glaring at the owl and his bodyguard in turn, he finally managed to liberate the letter, and immediately had to shield his face from the furiously beating wings as the damned bird took off.
Ignoring Tonks's continued laughter with the dignity befitting an adult, he tore open the envelope using his table knife and pulled out a scrap of parchment.
"Huh," he said, skimming the letter.
"What is it?" Tonks asked, trying to read over his shoulder. "Next time, let me check for curses first—my boss will have my hide if I let you get hurt."
Harry resisted the impulse to roll his eyes; after all, it was her job to worry about his safety. Well, that, and model for him. "Just some business partners requesting a meeting."
Having shaken off Tonks, who normally stuck to him like glue, Harry arrived at the third floor with five minutes to spare. He strode toward the statue of the One-Eyed Witch, taking out the Marauder's Map and activating it on the go. Fred and George's names were already moving along the hidden passage, and rather quickly at that; they must've taken on their animal forms.
Hearing approaching footsteps, he glanced over his shoulder. A seventh-year Hufflepuff boy was coming up, eyeing the map in Harry's hands curiously.
"Wayne, right?" Rolling up the map, Harry held up a palm. "Trust me, you don't want to go this way. There's been, uh, a gas leak."
Wayne frowned. "At Hogwarts? Nice try, Potter."
"Weasley had beans for dinner and washed it down with some weird potion on a dare," he said conspiratorially. "But hey, if you're feeling brave, go right ahead." He sidled aside.
Wayne blanched, sniffing the air gingerly. "Reckon I'll take the long way round. Cheers, mate."
"Don't mention it," Harry said, waving him off. He waited until the bloke turned a corner, then lifted his wand. "Cave Inimicum."
With a sensation resembling a slight pressure in his ears, the charm hid the span of the corridor from prying eyes. It wasn't a moment too soon, for the statue's hump ground open, and a shock of red hair poked out.
Harry glanced down at the map as the first twin leapt deftly to the floor. "Hey, Fred." He looked up at the identical bloke struggling to squeeze his broad shoulders through the gap. "George."
"Takes all the fun out of it, the darn thing does," Fred said, giving the map a fond look as he approached Harry and stuck his hand out. "Good to see you, old chap."
George clambered out, the contents of the satchel slung over his shoulder clinking as he landed. "Howdy, partner."
Harry shook their hands. "Alright, guys. So what brings you here? I don't think it's strictly legal for non-students to enter the grounds without permission."
"As if pesky things like rules ever stopped us," Fred said. "We wanted to deliver the product you got us to develop—the tsoo... tundr... well, you know the one—and discuss its success in the market, as it were."
He grinned. "How did it do?"
George deadpanned, "Early product trials show abysmal sales, customer confusion, and total branding failure."
"A what shows what now?"
Fred swatted his twin on the shoulder. "What my dear brother means to say is that no one buys them. Forgive him, he got into Muggle entrepreneurship books lately."
Harry furrowed his brows. "Well, have you tried—"
"No offense, Harrykins, but we know our business," Fred said. "No one wants the stuff, it's that simple. The only questions we get are about pronouncing it."
"Well, there was that one bloke," George said.
Fred grimaced. "Ah, yes, that one bloke."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Well, don't keep me hanging."
"Fat, greasier than old Snapey, constantly muttering under his breath," Fred said. "Classy hat, though."
"Would've chased him out were it not for him buying three packs. Fifty percent of the sales right there." George swung off the satchel, set it down on the floor, and forced it to regurgitate a large box brimming with colorful candy packets. "We brought the leftover stock; it was just taking up floor space at this point." He retrieved a bottle of swirling pinkish liquid. "The concentrated potion, too."
"We'll make more if you pay for the ingredients, but don't expect to turn a profit from this," Fred said.
Harry picked up a packet and turned it over. The pink label read 'Tsundere Toffee: Cold and Hard on the Outside, Warm and Gooey on the Inside', and there was an animated smiley face underneath that alternated between glowering and looking away with a blush.
"These should be flying off the shelves," he said glumly. "Are you sure they work right?"
"Do they work right, he asks," Fred scoffed. "I'll have you know these cause worse mood swings than Angelina's when she's—"
"But does it get them to say the lines?" Harry asked impatiently. He looked around before tucking the box under his armpit. "Come on, I've got to see for myself."
Fred and George exchanged a look before following him along the corridor. They stood out conspicuously in their snazzy dragon-skin coats, but secrecy was the last thing on Harry's mind now. Leaving the perimeter of his charm, he trudged up to the main staircase and set the box down in an alcove. The classes were long over, so there wasn't much traffic, but he could see a lone Gryffindor girl making her way down from their tower.
He tapped his foot until she descended to the third floor, then stepped out, grinned widely, and extended a Toffee packet. "Hey, little girl, would you like some candy?"
She froze, her eyes darting around, then squeaked and rushed back up the stairs. Harry gaped at her retreating form until he heard laughter behind him. Turning, he glared at the twins, who stood clutching their bellies just inside the corridor.
"Damn it! You two have such a reputation, we'll never get anyone to eat these!"
"Our reputation, he says," Fred wheezed.
"Little girl... would you like some candy..." Taking one look at Harry's face, George broke into laughter again.
"Pricks," Harry muttered, crinkling the candy packet in his hand.
"Don't fret, mate," Fred said, wiping a tear from his eye. "We ran into the same—or should I say, similar—problem in the later years of our schooling. That's when we began researching alternate delivery methods."
"Sounded very smart there, brother," George said, regaining his breath.
"Thank you," Fred said solemnly. "Now, where was I... Ah, yes." He stooped to pluck the bottle of pinkish liquid from the box. "What say you, George? One last prank, for old times' sake?"
George tapped his chin. "If we no longer stock the product, they can't tie it to us. Let's go for it."
"Lend us the map, won't you, mate?" Fred said. "We'll send it back after we're done."
Harry looked from one twin to the other, sly grins gracing their faces, and wondered if perhaps he should stop them. Nah. What's the worst that could happen?
"What are you going to do?" he asked, proffering the map.
The twins laughed in creepy unison. "Let's just say we're going to give you a live demonstration. You'll know when you see it."
The Weasley twins' maniacal grins would've been enough to drive anyone to paranoia, and so Harry spent the next week carefully checking his food and drink by smell, taste, and what few detection spells he could use, each result coming back negative. Typically, it was when he started to relax that they struck.
Harry was polishing off his beef Stroganoff when the flapping of wings overhead announced the arrival of the winged menaces wizards insisted on using for communication. He stooped over his plate—Hogwarts owls weren't beyond nicking meat off the table—and continued eating without an upward glance. A blur of brown in the corner of his vision and a clap of air were his only warnings before a large tawny owl plunked down before him.
"Shoo!" He waved at it irritably. "Fan mail's supposed to go to my manager." God bless Colin Creevey, happily sorting through dozens of letters every day for a pittance.
The owl blinked its amber eyes, tilted its head, and stuck a leg out over Harry's plate. The roll of yellowed parchment suspended by a string dipped right into the sauce.
Ignoring the heads turning his way, he fished out the parchment and grabbed a knife, swiping it at the string dangerously close to the owl's foot. The blasted bird barked and nipped at his hand, causing him to yelp and cradle it to his chest, before taking off.
Seated opposite him, Tony guffawed. "Reckon you're getting better at dealing with them. At least this one didn't shit in your dinner."
Harry flipped him the finger, then funneled the sauce off the parchment, swearing under his breath all the while. He stiffened in recognition as it unfurled in his grip. The map.
"More mail?" Tonks asked, sliding onto the bench beside him. "I told you to let me screen it first."
"Nothing I couldn't handle," he said absently, concealing the map behind his lapel before vanishing it. Did this mean the twins were about to make their move? Had they already?
"What do we have for today? Smells good." Tonks began ladling the steaming beef stew and porridge onto her plate. "Pass me the pumpkin juice, would you?"
Picking up the jug, he filled her goblet, then his own, glancing around the table surreptitiously. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Lifting his goblet, he furrowed his brows. Didn't it smell a little sweeter than usual?
Tonks drank deeply from hers before digging in. "Cor, if there's one thing I miss in my adult life, it's Hogwarts food. Almost makes up for having to use my talents to entertain the most depraved VIP in the history of the Auror Office."
Harry chuckled, losing his train of thought. "Hey, you've only got yourself to blame. I've never met anyone that bad at Exploding Snap—and that's after you promised to humiliate me."
"I'm bound to win eventually," she muttered, blowing on a forkful of beef. "Alright, a bet's a bet. What will you make me wear this time?"
He swept his eyes over her. The broad-jawed face and thickly-braided hair of her 'Helga' guise weren't particularly flattering, but that could be changed in an eyeblink. "My, don't you sound eager?"
She snorted. "You wish."
"Not even a little bit?" He grinned, bringing the goblet to his lips. "You seemed pretty into the gothic witch look as far as I recall."
On the other side of the table, Tony's fork froze halfway to his mouth as he gazed off into the distance, a goofy grin on his lips.
"Some of the less-revealing costumes do have a certain charm to them, I admit." Tonks looked away, a blush creeping up her cheeks. "N-not that I enjoy modeling for you or anything."
It was fortunate Harry hadn't taken a sip yet, for he would've choked on it for sure. "Come again?"
"You heard me!" A look of confusion passed over Tonks's face before she huffed loudly and crossed her arms. "I wouldn't be caught dead wearing those getups if it weren't for our little game. Wipe that smug grin off your face."
"My god," he breathed. "It's everything I expected and more."
She gave him a sidelong glance. "W-what are you murmuring about now, you big dork?" She blinked. "And why am I stuttering?"
Harry laughed, tried to speak, then laughed even harder at her befuddled expression. Placing his fist over his mouth, he tried to get himself under control; he was starting to attract attention.
Further along the table, Padma left a cluster of upper-year witches and strode over to him. "Alright, what did you do now?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips. "Everyone's acting funny."
"They are?" he asked gleefully. "Er, I mean, I don't know what you're talking about. Why would you blame me if it's someone else acting oddly?"
"Because you're one of the few people here who has both the talent and the inclination to cook up schemes incomprehensible to any sane person." Averting her gaze, she toyed with a strand of her dark hair. "D-don't get me wrong, I'm not calling you talented. You just aren't entirely hopeless like most." Her eyes widened, and she pulled her hand away from her hair, staring at it in bewilderment.
Tony joined in Harry's laughter this time. "You didn't," he wheezed. "You did? How did you..."
Padma jabbed her finger at him. "I knew you did!" She furrowed her brows. "What did he do, exactly?"
McGonagall stood abruptly at the table. "I should very well like to know that myself, Mr. Potter. Are you the one behind this commotion?"
Harry winced—damn her cat-like hearing—yet failed to stifle his laughter. All around the hall, people were craning their necks in confusion or turning away in a huff to hide their flushed cheeks. Fred and George had outdone themselves this time.
"I take it by your amusement at the situation that you're indeed the culprit," McGonagall continued. "Perhaps helping Madam Pomfrey deal with magical mishaps for a month will impress the gravity of dosing the student body with untested substances upon you. Do take your final year of schooling more seriously, Potter—unless you plan on seeking employment in a joke shop, such hijinks won't be tolerated out there. N-not that I'm worried about your future, mind you." She blinked, opened her mouth, then closed it again, her cheeks coloring.
Harry doubled over and banged his fist on the table; he would no doubt pay for this later, but the mortified look on McGonagall's normally prim face was too much.
Glowering in his direction, McGonagall seated herself and leaned over to confer with Slughorn. The Potions professor poured some pumpkin juice into his goblet, swirled it around, and gave it a careful sniff. Drawing his wand, he tapped the rim, eyed the colorful lights dancing atop the liquid, then lifted the goblet and dipped his tongue in, smacking his lips thoughtfully.
"Mistletoe berry, is it? And I believe I taste hellebore... Unless I'm mistaken, that would result in a mild truth-compelling component, although it is but a part of the overall effect. Most fascinating potion work, and—no offense to Mr. Potter—well beyond his current abilities. Don't misunderstand me though, Minerva, I'm not particularly impressed." He straightened up in surprise, then chuckled heartily. "Dear me, it's quite potent too."
Tonks's deceptively strong hand yanked Harry by the collar, forcing him to look away from the spectacle at the head table. "What. Did. You. Do?"
He raised his hand defensively, snickering. "Weren't you supposed to protect me?"
"He made heaven descend to earth," Tony said reverently. "Not that I'm—"
"Quiet," Harry ordered, his smile fading. "I don't need you ruining tsunderes for me."
Tony clammed up and bobbed his head.
"What's a tsoondere?" asked a fifth-year boy a little ways up the table. He squirmed at Harry's glare. "I don't care either way. It was just idle curiosity on my part, stupid."
A shiver went down Harry's spine. "No. No, that's just wrong." He should've realized sooner that spiking the wizarding world's most popular beverage would affect everyone indiscriminately. Springing to his feet, he exclaimed, "All blokes are hereby forbidden from drinking pumpkin juice! Girls, drink your fill!"
To his dismay, most witches eyed their drinks suspiciously, Demelza Robins from two tables away going so far as to spit hers out. Several seats away from her, Ronald Weasley turned his way.
"Says who?" he cried. "Just because you're famous d-doesn't mean I have to listen to you, Potter!"
"That's right," a lower-year Hufflepuff piped up. "D-don't get too big of a head, dummy."
"I won't drink it, Harry!" yelled Colin Creevey. "B-but not because you said so... I just don't like it in the first place, alright?"
"Shut up!" Harry backtracked along the aisle between the house tables, taking in the multitude of pink-faced students clamoring for his attention with growing horror. "Shut up and stay away, you freaks!"
"Mr. Potter!" McGonagall snapped. "You will stay and sort this mess out, or so help me god—"
"—don't get me wrong, I just happened to buy too much at Honeydukes—"
"—alright, mate? N-not that I care or anything—"
"—free tomorrow, right? I'll give you the honor of accompanying me—"
Harry clamped his hands over his ears to block the noise that was rising to unbearable levels and turned tail. While scientists had long since wondered as to what would happen if you stuck a bunch of tsunderes into one room, he didn't intend to linger and find out. For all he knew, the resulting implosion would destroy the universe—or at least the participants' dignity.
Barreling out of the Great Hall, he proceeded up the main staircase without slowing, only daring to unplug his ears a floor up. The pandemonium of hundreds of heated voices still drifted from behind. Dashing up the second set of stairs, he glanced at the ajar doors of the Great Hall below, then yelped as he crashed into something.
Staggering back, he caught himself on the banister. Before him, Filch was glowering as he rubbed his forehead.
"Watch where you're going, boy! You'll split your head open, mark my words." The caretaker suddenly looked away and poked his index fingers together. "I d-don't particularly care, mind, but you could hurt someone else."
"Aaargh!" Ducking around the fidgeting Filch, Harry raced up the staircase and was about to flee down the second-floor corridor, but a billow of black robes on its other end made him pivot on his heel. "God, anything but that!"
He didn't dare stop until the seventh floor, struggling to keep the pace as he gasped for air. Running down the thankfully deserted hallway, he skidded to a halt past the troll tapestry and began pacing.
"I need to hide... Somewhere they won't find me... A place no one goes to, please..."
A rectangular patch of stonework melted away to reveal a reinforced wooden door. Harry yanked it open, leapt inside, and slammed it shut. There was a thick bolt on its other side, which he slid into place with a relieved groan.
Turning, he eyed the dusty room. It appeared to be a cellar, if one could be situated on the topmost floor, with sturdy wooden shelves, cabinets, and a large cask lying on its side with the lid removed.
He walked the perimeter, pulling open the cabinet doors and shining a light into the oak cask to make sure he was alone. The inside was discolored, dusty, and smelled funny, but was blessedly empty of stuttering, flush-faced boys.
Without much thought, he dropped to all fours and crawled in, hunching to sit at the other end. He killed the light, hugged himself around the knees, and tried to calm his racing heart. That had been Snape on the second floor, he was certain. A tremble went through him; he'd barely escaped being scarred for life.
"It's safe," he murmured, rocking back and forth. "I'm safe."
He didn't know how long he stayed tucked away, but even after his limbs grew stiff, he didn't dare leave his dark nook. Who knew how long the twins' brew would last?
A sound of soft footsteps made him jerk and bump his head painfully against the rounded wall. As the steps drew closer, he pressed deeper into the cask and drew his wand, aiming it shakily at the open end.
"Stay away," he whispered.
Something loomed over the cask's opening, casting the insides into complete blackness, before an orb of light flared into being, making him shield his eyes and hiss. Hovering above a sleeve-covered palm, it lit up a pale young face framed by a curtain of black hair, a pair of violet eyes peering at him with bemusement.
"Oh, hello, H." He giggled hysterically. "Fancy meeting you here."
"What are you doing in there?" She sounded half-concerned, half-confused.
"Hiding." Letting out a shuddering breath, he reclined against the bottom of the cask.
Her eyebrows quirked up. "I gathered that much. What from?"
"Things. Terrible things." He shivered. "In my ignorance, I unleashed forces that weren't meant to be awakened. I only hope the others can make it through with their sanity intact."
"What are you talking about?" she demanded, frowning. "Have you finally lost what little wits you possessed?"
He gave a humorless laugh. "I came close—too close. A brutal reminder that I too am fallible." He met her eyes. "Let me stay awhile, please?"
As if taken aback by his sincerity, she drew away a little and crossed her arms. "Hmph. Stay holed up in there for all eternity if you like—see if I care."
Harry flinched. "Don't tell me... you drank the pumpkin juice too?"
"Eugh, no," she said, wrinkling her small nose. "It's not your mortals' finest invention to say the least."
Shaking his head, he chuckled weakly. "Don't ever change, H."
She snorted. "Not on a timescale you can comprehend, at least."