Warnings, disclaimers, etc.
- aaaaaaaa I suck at parties
Ch. 29 - Masquerade
Pockets full of candy, check.
Scar plastered with makeup and effectively invisible, check.
Glasses temporarily invisible, check.
Completely confused roomful of dormmates... well, if you didn't count Hiei, who wouldn't be freed from Pomfrey's clutches for another few days, then check.
A pink lawn flamingo slammed down between Harry and the mirror, hitting the nightstand with a hollow plastic thunk.
"What do you think, Harry?" Ron hooked his thumbs in the lapels of his Muggle tuxedo, puffing out his chest. (At least, Harry thought he was doing that; the disco-era ruffled shirt sort of hid any movement there.)
"Pretty good," Harry admitted. The flared brim of the hat managed to shadow Ron's hair enough to not clash with the pale blue of the suit, and the wide white band and flamingo-pink puff of... whatever it was, it looked a pair of furry pom-poms had taken up residence in the ruffled bow... somehow made the look work. If you were aiming for 'eccentric'. Or for Martin Miggs. "No one's going to miss who you are."
Ron grinned, then sobered a bit. "What about you, mate?" he asked. "You look... I dunno."
"Costume's not finished," Harry said. "Hermione's got to cast a couple spells first." A pointed glance at the dorm made it clear why she wasn't up here doing just that. Though most everyone was dressed by now, Neville's robe was still draped over his bed, a charmed monocle hopping lazily back and forth on one cuff while Neville searched for trousers in the depths of his trunk.
Ron just shook his head. "Better be some good spells," he said. "You don't look like anyone."
Harry grinned. "Come on." He tossed his brush onto his bed and headed for the door. "You'll see."
The stairwell was a river of brightly-colored togas and medieval dresses, a surprising number of crowns and tiaras sparkling among the gleam of helmets and halos. (On second thought, why was he surprised that it looked like half of Gryffindor had dressed as heroes of some kind?) At the base of the stairs, the first-years had bunched up before a dark-haired queen in a deep red gown, who was waving a wand over their pockets before letting them past. A pint-sized Batman was next to last in the group, and she grinned and waved him past before familiar eyes landed on Harry.
"Checking for contraband?" Harry asked, carefully not thinking of the contents of his own pockets.
"Of course," Hermione answered simply. She caught the last boy by the shoulder, wand flicking towards him, and caught the little bottle that came sailing out of his holster. "I don't want to know," she admonished the cop sternly, before sending him off to rejoin his friends.
Ron leaned over Harry's shoulder, grinning at Hermione. "Yes you do."
"Want to know." He reached for the little bottle, uncapped it, and sniffed. "It's not alcohol, at least."
Hermione snatched the bottle back. "Honestly! It's..." a careful whiff, "... Bubble Burps. Cute." She rolled her eyes and handed the bottle to Harry, pretending not to notice when he put it in his pocket instead of banishing it. "Well! Let's look at you," she said, eyeing Harry. "Perfect. Ron, care to step back, keep the kids from getting caught? I'd hate to ruin their costumes."
Harry grinned, feeling Ron move back up a couple steps, then stuck his hands in his pockets.
Hermione's wand tapped twice at Harry's shoulders. "Sommarmin Feste." She dragged the tip of her wand down from collar to stomach, then a flick at Harry's hemline turned the black robes to an eye-smarting fuschia, covered in teal and orange fireworks that fizzed and popped distantly. "Titiani." A second tap to the top of Harry's head, and the faint dark fringe of his hair at the edge of his vision went a vibrant red.
"Thanks," he murmured, before turning and throwing his arms wide. "Ickle Ronniekins!" he cheered.
Ron's jaw dropped. "Bloody hell."
The whole thing was worth it just for the look on Ron's face, Harry decided. He grinned more widely, watching Ron's face pale, then got out of the stairway and behind Hermione. That seemed to be a signal to the kids left behind Ron, for them to give him a shove to come stumbling down the stairs. Hermione quickly checked Ron's pockets, then the kids' one by one as they tried to pass. Each candy, potion vial, and firework got checked - most of them turned out to be mild noisemakers, with a few fairy lights and the like mixed in - and then Hermione turned them over to Harry 'for disposal'.
Eventually, finally, the crowd passed, and Ron managed to get over next to Harry. "You could've gone as anything," Ron said, sounding completely at a loss. "Why them?"
Harry shrugged. "They're fun," he said simply. Ron made a slight gagging noise deep in his throat, so Harry quickly added, "And recognizeable, which is pretty important in getting anyone to see the costume instead of the Boy-Who-Lived." That got a more startled noise. "And can you picture the teachers when they see this?"
After a long moment, Ron started to grin.
"Yeah, exactly." McGonagall would be funny enough, but Snape was going to be downright hilarious. Mostly because any attempt to punish Harry for the costume wouldn't stick. But that reminded him... "So let's hurry up, I've got some stuff to pass back before we get to the Great Hall and Snape spots me."
Ron nodded, and they rushed out to catch up with the rest of the House.
The stream of people grew larger on the fourth floor, where the turn-off to Ravenclaw was. A lot more magic appeared in the new flood of costumes. Light effects - like Keiko, in a tattered white-and-gold kimono with very realistic flames licking at the hems and long sleeves - flickered like Snitches in the corners of Harry's vision, catching his attention and making his head jerk.
Then Ginny darted by, her own costume using the same flame effect over red-and-gold feathers, and fell in step with a watery blonde in an oddly familiar, tight blue minidress and knee-high boots. Harry could've sworn he'd seen the outfit on the telly a few times, one of the few not-quite-normal programs Petunia allowed her Dudders to watch. Not that Dudley had liked it after he'd decided there weren't enough aliens getting shot.
Passing a few pranks to kids got Harry close enough to hear the blonde calmly telling Ginny, "... a Rodden Berry, you know; they bloom in the Muggle world on weekends..."
Then they passed through the door into the Great Hall, tiny parchment pegasi diving neatly into their hands, and stepped into what looked like nothing so much as a Greek ruin.
The invisible-ceiling charms had been lowered until they brushed the tops of the windows. Several walls and all the windows were invisible as well, leaving only the bare bones of the room outlined in uneven, bleached-white pillars that reached for the starry sky. The two fireplaces on each side wall had been opened up into simple stone braziers, violet bonfires burning merrily and making the pale stonework glow. The tables were gone as well, except for a long buffet where the professors' table usually sat, stretching between the furthestmost pillars and into adjacent ruins. With all of this dotted with small trees, and lush grass carpeting the floor in deceptively uneven little hillocks, there was no trace of the usual Hall.
Students milled about the room, murmuring in quiet awe as the crowd thickened and made the room grow ever-brighter. It was nearly impossible to tell who belonged to which House; silver and golden glows seemed to be the most popular effects, but soft whites were a close second, with a scattering of pastels mixed about. Harry was guessing the colors were for deity costumes, considering McGonagall had her own golden aura, and she was definitely some sort of Roman-or-Greek war goddess.
Several of the professors didn't have the auras, but fit in near the buffet with similar cheer. Hagrid dominated one end of the table in a freshly-white beard and red suit: a Santa only about a week overdue. Next to him, Harry could see the silver tassel on Flitwick's pointed blue hat, small silver bells trimming the edge of its wide brim. In front of the buffet's centerpiece (a mountainous construction of sugar-frosted fruits, glassy honey flowers, and meringues), Dumbledore presided in a surprisingly tasteful purple frock coat, jeweled rings flashing on fingers which seemed to have somehow gotten their joints reversed.
Att the other side of the room, past a bubbly Sprout in a leafy cloak, past Hooch in an oddly Muggle-ish leather cap and goggles, next to Sinistra in a jet-and-silver Eygptian collar and headdress, Harry could just barely see into the shadowy corner with Snape.
It took a long moment to recognize the man. He'd grown a scraggly beard, and his usual blacks had been exchanged for ragged greys. A small placard hung around his neck.
Harry jabbed an elbow into Ron's side. "Hey. Look."
Ron did. Then he made a little satisfied sound. "Knows where he belongs," Ron muttered, and that was enough for Harry to recognize the Azkaban uniform.
Two seconds later, Harry knew - KNEW - whose name was on Snape's prisoner placard. "I'll kill him."
"Snape," Harry hissed. "He's Sirius." As in the public's idea of Sirius, the evil dark wizard who'd love to murder them all in their own beds.
Ron stood shocked for only a moment. "That berk!"
Kurama gingerly entered the Great Hall on cloven hooves, just in time to see Neville and Hermione dragging two fuming Weasley boys over to a cluster of Gryffindors, both boys glaring at a ragged, smirking Snape near the buffet.
... No. One Weasley, and one red-headed Potter.
A familiar aura flared, then Hiei poked Kurama in the back, tugging lightly at the cord belting his short toga. "You got a goat tail under there?"
"I didn't let the wand get that close." Kurama turned an arch look on Hiei, meeting amused, hard eyes under a red brocade bandanna. "Don't you look festive," Kurama added, openly giving the shorter demon a once-over. Yukina had done very well in choosing clothes similar to Hiei's own: a flared, brick-red coat weighted with tattered gold braid at the cuffs and pockets, loose trousers tucked into Hiei's own scuffed boots, and a muddy green sash holding Hiei's sword at his side. His thin shirt would've laced shut, but the string was missing.
Hiei's chest was a little less defined than Kurama remembered. Two months' convalescence would do that to even the strongest demon.
Several students jostled past them, and Kurama shrugged the thought away, turning to look over the crowd. "Do you see the others?" Usually Botan's hair was beacon enough, but it seemed like every flash of blue was either a hat or a glow effect.
"We'll run into them eventually." Hiei did not look like he was looking forward to the prospect.
"True." And the longer it took to find Yukina, Kurama bet, the longer Hiei would stay at the party. Kurama unfolded the parchment that had slid into his hand at the entrance. "There's a contest for guessing people's costumes correctly. Well that's not stacked in favor of the British Muggleborns at all. A Galleon that Miss Granger wins."
"I'm not taking that bet."
Kurama smiled. "Who do you think would be sucker enough-"
A shower of blue sparks, clanging like bells, interrupted him. Dumbledore stood on a sheered-off pillar before the buffet, oddly sober-looking before the meringue-and-honeyflower mountain. "Welcome, welcome, to the New Year's Masquerade! I am delighted to see so many wonderful costumes. You have, dear students, quite outdone yourselves. Now, I am certain most of you wish to explore the delights awaiting you in tonight's expanded Hall... or, at least, those filling our buffet. A few pertinent announcements, first, though. As you may have noticed, there is a costume-guessing contest. The prize," and he flicked his wand, a gaudy paper gift bag floating up to hover next to him, "is this advance copy of Kildejoy Mockparts' Muggical Me: A Comedy, which is not due to be released until the thirteenth. There is also a raffle, with tickets for three Sickles each. The top prize for that is, I believe, a voucher to waive one homework assignment." (Oh no! a girl wailed up near the front.) "And, lastly, Professor Burbage has set up a... moo-vee?... corner, to show a selection of Muggle Portrait Plays beginning in half an hour. The schedule is posted by the fire to my left. I am quite looking forward to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, myself!"
"He would," Draco muttered from behind Kurama.
Kurama pretended not to hear him, musing aloud, "I wonder if the Weasley twins would like it?"
Draco snapped silent.
Kurama quickly lost him in the flow of the crowd as they descended upon the buffet. Plates of paper-thin china (likely smothered in Unbreakable Charms) sat in half a dozen stacks along the tables, evenly spaced between hors d'oeuvres and sweets, small bite-sized foods all leaping for the plates as soon as children grabbed them.
Kurama ducked a flying shrimp, overbalanced, and stumbled against a Chinese-robed, monkey-tailed Yuusuke. "I see Keiko picked your costume," Kurama said, snickering as he pushed himself upright. "You look positively classical, Monkey King."
"Laugh it up, toga-boy. All I gotta do is eat, sleep, and kick ass." Yuusuke's eyes dropped to Kurama's goat legs, then back up. "What about you?"
"Apparently, I'm meant to drink, sleep around, and be a bad influence on impressionable young boys." Next to him, Hiei snorted.
"Yeah?" Yuusuke's grin widened. "So how many of those are true?"
"Hm, in general or in the past decade?"
Yuusuke laughed and punched him lightly in the shoulder.
By the time Harry, Ron, and Hermione left the movie glen, the party was in full swing.
Ron still seemed a little dazed as they padded back along the grassy paths towards the buffet, passing by a group of first-years giggling and snatching candied fruit out of one of the violet fires. "Muggles did all that with clay?" Harry felt rather the same. He'd hardly ever seen a movie as it was, only snippets of Aunt Petunia's bland romances and Dudley's explosion-filled action flicks. Ron added, "But the skeleton! And the ghost dog! And-"
"It takes a lot of patience," Hermione said.
"I'll bloody bet!"
They came out at the edge of the dance floor, near a circle of giggling young Hufflepuffs doing the chicken dance.
Hermione looked over the crowd, then smiled and raised a hand. "Neville!"
Neville hurried over, and as he approached Harry felt a bit of concern. His dormmate looked a little ashen behind his smile, eyes a bit wild and spooked. "You okay, Nev?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm..." Neville pinked a little. "They're telling scary stories back there," he said, jerking his thumb towards the line of trees opposite the movies. "Really good ones. Effective, I mean. I think they said it's a Japanese cooling charm, actually. Hundred moaning gattery or something."
Hermione's eyes lit up. "Really? I'd love to see it-"
"Why would you need a cooling charm in winter?" Ron interrupted.
Neville shrugged, his monocle bouncing to the other side of his nose. "I think they forgot to mention that part to the headmaster. And you don't want to see," he told Hermione. "Hiei's way too good at scary stories. It's like he was there for them."
"Maybe he was," Harry said quietly. Who knew how much he might've seen around Kurama...? At Neville and Hermione's odd looks, he quickly busied himself scooping up punch. "Here," he said, holding a glass out towards his friends.
"Thanks," Hermione said. She took a sip, then paused and frowned at her cup. "I blame your brothers," she said to Ron.
"They are terrible, terrible influences. Try it, I think it's got Firewhiskey."
"How do you even know what Firewhiskey tastes like?!"
"I've lived through how many Quidditch victory parties?" Hermione asked pointedly. "And exams-are-over parties, and birthdays, and it's-Friday-or-Saturday, and Percy's-not-here-to-shut-us-down parties...?"
"Well if you put it like that..."
A blond Ravenclaw in a blue minidress drifted by, carrying a small handheld box with dials and bronze mesh on it. "Luna's Log, stardate 1997.0.0," she murmured to it. "I continue my observations of the multispecies calendrical celebration, in hopes of obtaining more readings of their unique insights into the laws of physics. I have yet to locate my captain or crewmates..."
The night wore on. By the time the tower bells began to strike for the New Year, Kurama was feeling nicely buzzed. He abandoned the Calvinball match and wandered over to the dance floor. Hm, who to dance with...?
Kurama looked over to see Kuwabara and Yukina circle into the fringes of the crowd. He hadn't seen either of them all night, and barely recognized Kuwabara. The taller boy's hair had been straightened and left to fall, instead of curled up into his usual pompadour, and had been charmed to a rich brown with only the barest traces of ginger-red. Kurama certainly couldn't have identified the black vest and gunslinger belt as any particular character, if Yukina hadn't been next to him in the iconic white robe and twin buns of Princess Leia.
"Come join us," Yukina said, even as Kuwabara got an arm around Kurama's back and hefted most of his weight off his feet. "Someone's cast a Roving Ice Charm on the floor," she added in explanation.
"You'll never stay up without a hand," Kuwabara agreed.
"Playing the part of the Force for me, then?" Kurama asked.
"We're a bit low on Jedi at the moment," Yukina said, smiling. "Hiei refused to be Luke for us." She took Kurama's free hand, and Kuwabara spun them into a clumsily-modified waltz of sorts. Very few people noticed: they were hardly the only dancers who weren't in a couple, and by now Kurama doubted anyone old enough to care was completely sober. "Where is my brother, anyway?" she asked, voice going even warmer over the word 'brother' as if it would never get old.
"Up in the rafters over the buffet," Kurama answered. "You can probably see him if-" Kuwabara spun them all again, and Kurama momentarily felt his hooves slip over the floor. He tipped his chin at the charmed walls, up where the ceiling turned invisible. "There, the lumpy shadow above the first pillar right of the moon."
Yukina peered over her shoulder and smiled. "It's nice to see he's feeling better."
"He won't be if he keeps stealing the fluffy sugar things off Tangerine Mountain."
The bell tolled out a final time, and... as the doleful sound faded entirely into silence... Kuwabara abruptly slipped on the floor, sending the three of them tumbling in a pile of elbows and pulled hair and scrapes. Kurama managed to untangle himself first, pushing himself partway up on the rough stone. Then he paused, and patted the floor under his hand. Rough stone.
"Kuwabara, the Roving Ice charm..."
"It's somewhere over there," Kuwabara replied, waving a hand off towards the far end of the dance floor. "Something's coming."
Kuwabara pushed himself up, eyes dark and pinned towards the southeast.
"Something," he repeated hoarsely, "is very, very wrong."
- Luna is in a Trek uniform. Harry vaguely recognizes it, because in the first book, "Dudley had never gone so long without blowing up an alien on his computer". Therefore, Petunia must tolerate scifi.
- I don't actually endorse underage or irresponsible drinking.
AND NOW A SAD ANNOUNCEMENT.
This series will probably not be completed. I've moved on from the fandom and the story, and cannot write any more of it. A synopsis of the remainder of the plot can be found in two entries at my livejournal, joisbishmyoga dot livejournal dot com slash 457869 dot html and joisbishmyoga dot livejournal dot com slash 458178 dot html
I'm very sorry. Thank you for all your kind comments over the years, and I hope you've enjoyed reading this work.