Disclaimer: HP isn't mine.
You can blame this on Dress-Without-Sleeves. She forced me to write this, so it's all her fault. But she did let me rip off her MWPP fic, Correspondences, and she beta'd this chapter, so I suppose I can forgive her.
Harry glowered at the Order resentfully.
He was supposed to be on a date with Ginny at the moment. Granted, she was sitting right next to him, but this was nothing like the evening out he'd planned. For one, there was no food. No footsie. No snogging. Not even flirtatious comments and innuendo, because Ron was on his other side and Harry didn't fancy being gutted.
After his not-so-triumphant return and the garlic breath fiasco the night before, he'd slept quite soundly on Ginny's bedroom floor until Mrs. Weasley had come in at about ten in the morning to wake her daughter up. She'd gotten quite a surprise when she'd tripped over him and landed on Ron. Her shocked scream and Ron's muffled shout of agony woke the entire house.
Harry had been hoping for some quality time with his girlfriend, but instead he'd spent an hour trying to get Molly Weasley to stop crushing him, Ron, and Hermione in steely-armed hugs, then another hour trying to get her to stop crying.
After that exhausting ordeal, Fred and George had seen fit to have a little talk with him about leading their youngest brother astray.
"Leading Ron astray?" Harry'd repeated incredulously, as he wondered how the two Weasley boys could seem more sinister and frightening than Voldemort and his countless Death Masticators. "It's not like I seduced him into a life of murder and mayhem, you know. We were saving the world!"
"That's what they all say," Fred had replied scornfully.
"And what about Ginny, eh?" George had asked, narrow-eyed. "You dropped her like an anchor - "
" - like a hot potato - "
" -a year ago."
"To keep her safe!"
"Oho, we've heard that one before, laddie," George scoffed.
Harry blinked, bemused. "You have?"
The twins glanced at each other, then shrugged in tandem. "Not really," Fred said, unashamed.
"It just seemed like the right thing to say at the time," George explained.
"Oh, bugger off, both of you."
They had, fortunately.
Unfortunately, Charlie had taken their place, apparently determined to give Harry a few pointers on how to properly treat Ginny. He'd tuned out his girlfriend's brother soon after the dragon-tamer started extolling the virtues of chastity belts.
Harry tuned back in abruptly when Charlie said, quite seriously, "Not many people know this, but the biggest side-effect of sex with my sister is castration. I'm hoping you value your balls more than your thrills, mate."
Pale-faced, Harry immediately protested, "I've only ever felt her up a bit!"
It wasn't the smartest thing he'd ever said.
Mr. Weasley had wanted to contact the Order as soon as Charlie had been persuaded to put away his wand and reattach Harry's hands, but Mrs. Weasley had insisted on feeding the wayward trio a veritable feast of a breakfast first, especially after she heard that they'd spent all of the previous day and most of the previous night traveling back to the Burrow.
"Oh, you poor dears!" she'd cried, and even Charlie hadn't looked quite so homicidal anymore.
And then the news that Voldemort was dead came out, though not of the closet, and Mrs. Weasley broke down in tears again. Charlie scrounged up a few bottles of firewhiskey in celebration, and before long he and the twins were riproaringly drunk and even Mr. Weasley'd gotten pretty sloshed.
Ron had tried to sneak a shot or two, but Mrs. Weasley's eagle-like gaze hadn't dulled over the past year. "You may be of age out there," she'd said testily, nodding towards the front door, "but not in this house."
"What, I'm old enough to save world, but not to have a bloody drink?" Ron had demanded indignantly. His mother and Hermione spoke simultaneously.
"Ronald Weasley, if I hear such language from you again..."
"Ron Weasley, you watch your tongue..."
Ginny had caught Harry's eye, and they'd both practically choked trying to hold back their laughter. Then Mr. Weasley, swaying slightly on his feet, cried, "My darlig-dalrig-darlinginging-dear Mollywobblesh, give ush a kissh," and everyone from Charlie down to Ginny had a sudden and violent coughing fit while Mrs. Weasley did a smashing job of imitating a tomato.
It was half past noon by the time they'd finally contacted Minerva McGonagall, the new Headmistress of Hogwarts and head of the Order. She'd promptly ordered them all to Grimmauld Place, where Poppy Pomfrey ushered the three prodigal Gryffindors into a bedroom and examined them mercilessly, running every test she could think of and a few Harry was sure she'd made up on the spot. And he really didn't think the Probity Probe was supposed to be used like that.
Another two hours crawled feebly by, and he figured she wouldn't stop until she'd found something wrong with them, so he'd tentatively said, "Erm, I've a bit of a stomach-ache."
"Why on earth didn't you say so before? I've got a cream for that," she'd replied immediately, looking quite pleased that her services were needed after all.
"My head hurts," Ron offered, then added quietly enough that only Harry and Hermione heard, "thanks to you and your prodding, you sadistic beast."
"I've a cream for that, too," she said happily, and bustled off to fetch said ointments.
"Scary woman," Ron muttered once she was gone, then yelped when Hermione smacked him hard on the arm.
"Show a little respect, Ron," she said sternly.
"Show a little respect, Ron," Ron mimicked in a high, screeching voice that did sound eerily like Hermione's.
Her eyes went narrow and beady. "You are the most infuriating, mindless dunce - "
"You are the most infuriating, mindless dunce - "
"Ronald Weasley, stop repeating what I say!"
"Ronald Weasley, stop repeating what I saaaay!"
"You are such a child!"
"You are such a child!"
"Harry, make him stop!"
"Harry, make him stop!"
Harry glanced up at Pomfrey, who stood staring in the doorway, holding two clear jars full of pale goo. "They can be a bit immature at times," he said apologetically.
"Most teenagers are, Mister Potter," she replied. "I've been hoping to find a cream for that..."
Hermione's cheeks went crimson and Ron's ears went scarlet. A matching set, Harry noted in fond amusement.
They'd eventually escaped Pomfrey's fiendish clutches, only to become a textbook example of the 'out of the frying pan and into the fire' phenomenon. The entire Order had been called to Grimmauld, and every single member was lying in wait for the three teenagers, like hungry tigers awaiting dinner. Only without the orange fur or the fangs. Though Bill's incisors were looking pretty sharp...
All the better to rip my throat out for touching his sister, Harry thought, twitching.
But Bill hadn't had a chance to threaten Harry, because McGonagall had ordered everyone into the dining hall of Black Manor. The respite was only momentary, though, as all attention was again focused on Harry and his two best friends. Flattering as it was, Harry still would have vastly preferred a date with Ginny.
Of course, he'd prefer a date with Ginny to winning the lottery, but that was beside the point.
"Now," McGonagall said sternly from the head of the table, looking just as sharp and strict as ever, "we've been more than patient, Mister Potter. It's time for you to tell us exactly where you've been, and how V-V...You-Know-Who...Voldemort...died."
Harry glanced nervously to his left, where Ron was staring with apparent fascination at the freckles on his hands. He thought for a second that his best friend was just being bashful, when he noticed the glazed look in the redhead's eyes.
Really, Ron's attention span was even shorter than Dennis Creevey.
Hermione sat ramrod straight next to her boyfriend, and gave the impression of wanting to leap out of her chair and deliver an hour-long oration about their adventures over the past year in epic poetry style.
Harry slowly looked back at McGonagall, who was eyeing him impatiently. He swallowed nervously and wished he was anywhere else. He really hated being the center of attention.
Then Ginny reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezed it supportively, and said, "I must warn you, it's a rather torrid tale of passion and betrayal, of burning love and consuming hatred, of drugs and prostitutes and the dark lords who loved them."
Harry opened his mouth, paused, closed it, and shrugged. It was as good an explanation as any. And, except for the prostitutes part, pretty accurate.
There'd only been a single prostitute, after all. Nice girl, even if she'd been a bit too interested in his and Ron's...erm, bits.
Hermione hadn't much liked her.
"Miss Weasley, I don't believe your name is Potter. At least, not quite yet," McGonagall said dryly, while several of the Order members tried to look like they weren't holding back laughter at Ginny's interjection. Well, either they were suppressing merriment or they were all badly constipated. Harry assumed the former, mostly because he didn't really want to ponder their bowel movements or lack thereof.
He'd almost started to relax when, once again, the Headmistress' gaze returned to him.
"Mister Potter, you may begin."
Um. Sorry. Blame DWS. I won't ask if I should bother writing another chapter, because I've no doubt the Evil Sleeveless One will make me. And thanks for the reviews, everyone!