"As you know," beamed Dumbledore, "for many years, the Head Boy and Head Girl of Hogwarts have shared a room, a bathroom and a double bed. This is for the purpose of promoting team spirit and unity, and I have implanted a secret Watching Charm in their room to – er – make sure that unity is being promoted. Yes. I am sure you all approve of this effort to improve school morale.
"However, certain others," he went on with a sigh, giving a beady sideways glance at Dolores Umbridge, "have doubts, and have questioned the utility of our great team-building exercise. Therefore, I am most proud to be able to prove that the principle of cooperation extends to all areas of Hogwarts. Tomorrow, all the Quidditch teams will be sharing a bed as well!"
There was a silence so gargantuan that its vacuum sucked the entire universe into its ghastly depths. The twenty-eight unlucky Quidditch victims sat there buttock-eyed until it occurred to Harry that this arrangement might have some benefits.
"Erm – Professor," he called, "Is this all four Quidditch teams? In... together?"
"Most certainly not," said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. "A fine sort of team spirit that would foster! No, we've procured four tents, one for each house, which will be erected in the grounds tomorrow afternoon; and Professor Sprout has kindly agreed to sit up with the Hufflepuff team to, er, keep an eye on things."
"That'll make the Hufflepuffs' night," Ron said absently.
"In short, I'm sure it will all be excellent!" a beaming Dumbledore wound up. "Members of the Quidditch teams should please report to Professor Sprout for a list of things they are allowed to take into their tents. Now, you may eat your breakfast, and we'll all see the improvement in your Quidditch at the next match! Tuck in!"
"Ha!" Fred Weasley said exultantly, punching the air. "Now they'll see who's the best Quidditch squad! Should have put some girls in your teams, shouldn't you, boys?" he demanded rhetorically, leering at the Slytherins.
Harry was pleased to see that Malfoy indeed looked less than aroused at the thought of spending a night in Crabbe and Goyle's embrace.
"Er – what d'you mean, they should have put some girls in their team?" demanded Katie Bell.
"Well – y'know," said Fred with a sly but sheepish grin.
"All night in a tent," George said happily.
"Blokes and girls in together," continued Fred.
"Anything could happen!" exulted George.
"Like me and Katie might have a snog in the corner ON OUR OWN," said Alicia Spinnet.
"Oh," said Fred, crestfallen.
"Thing is," Fred muttered anxiously, "I'm not sure about this Watching Spell that Dumbledore says he's got up in the Head Girl and Boy's room."
"It sounds like a basic Panopticon Charm to me," Hermione said briskly as she knitted little babuskas for the house-elves. "You can disrupt it quite easily using the Occludus Hex, I'll teach you how, or alternatively you can use the Peepshow Charm to make him see things that aren't really there."
"You can?" said George, eyes wide.
"If he's really watching," Hermione amended. "I mean, if anybody's watching. If there's a charm, that is. I mean..."
"I always had him down as a pervert," muttered Ron.
"How are we to know if there is a charm on the tent?" Harry said doubtfully.
"Er... point your wand in the air and say 'Occludus'?" Hermione said feebly.
"Master Harry Potter!" the house-elf squeaked in surprise, peeping fearfully round the kitchen door as though anticipating a monster. "Is long time since we is seeing you here, Harry Potter, long time indeed."
"Yeah, hi, er-? What's your name?"
"Gongo, sir. Can I be helping you?"
"Erm, yeah, I wanted to talk to Dobby, if that's all right."
"Dobby is leading Sockalist Party meeting, sir," Gongo shouted happily, "but Harry Potter is welcome to wait half an hour, sir, then Dobby will be happy to serve him, yes, he will..."
"Right. I might just leave a message?"
"Certainly, sir, but be quick, Gongo wants to get back to common ownership of the means of production, sir."
"OK, excellent. Could you ask Dobby if he's seen my Sneakoscope, because I can't find it, and I'm sure I left it inside some socks..."
"...yeah, some socks that I gave him a while ago, and I need it for the Quidditch team sleepover thing tomorrow."
"Gongo will be happy to pass on the message of Harry Potter, the Seneschal of the Socks!"
Crack! "Harry Potter, sir! Dobby has your Sneakoscope!"
"Thank you, Dobby," whispered Harry, trying valiantly not to cast a quick Silencio to prevent the elf's waking the whole of Gryffindor Tower. "Well. Perhaps that should be, Thank you, Prime Minister."
"Ah, Harry Potter is too generous!" whispered Dobby, for once in his life catching on and lowering his voice. "Dobby is not Prime Minister yet!"
"Mmm. You've got to start somewhere, though. Yeah, that's it, great – no, you can keep the socks. And... Dobby... what the?..."
Dobby was ecstatically brandishing a crate about three feet cubed. Harry wasn't even sure how he was lifting it, let alone what was inside.
"Dobby has heard about the Quidditch team sleepover thing, Harry Potter," he whispered, "so Dobby brought him a crate of Butterbeer, and some Firewhiskey too."
Harry opened his mouth to say that really hadn't been necessary, then suddenly realised what the Weasley twins would think. He smiled sweetly and said "That's great, Dobby. You're the best elf in the world."
This caused a minor whirlwind, as Dobby spun round excitedly, jammed the crate into the nearest window embrasure and shouted "Dobby does not forget his emancipator, Harry Potter! A place in Dobby's cabinet will be reserved for his Sockretary, and none shall ever harm him!" Crack!
"Thank god he's gone," moaned Ron.
"Sorry," said Harry, "but he did get us a crate of Butterbeer. Help me get it out of the window."
An odd procession of twenty-nine people made its way to the Quidditch pitch: eight happy-looking Hufflepuffs, seven sulking Slytherins, seven relatively cheerful Ravenclaws and seven cackling, over-excited Gryffindors.
At the front door they were, of course, stopped by Filch, who was armed with a Probity Probe, a Secrecy Sensor and a gleeful expression. Before long Crabbe, with the Probe still jammed up his nose, had been relieved of nine bottles of Butterbeer and a case of Dungbombs, and even some of the Ravenclaws had been found to possess contraband items; but when the time came to check the Gryffindors, Filch was infuriated to see that every member of the team swore earnestly that they had no hidden goods, with the Probe remaining quiescent in agreement. He turned all their bags out on the ground to relieve his feelings, but found nothing, and Professor Sprout eventually insisted that he give up so they could all get a move on. The Gryffindors marched happily off to the Quidditch pitch, Fred and George waving cheerfully at Filch, whose glaring face resembled a particularly unhygienic gargoyle.
Under Professor Sprout's guidance, the teams put up four tents, rather widely spaced, and built four bonfires. Harry stood with an armful of bracken, staring glassily at Cho Chang; he couldn't help wondering how she could be expected to sleep in a tent with six lads, and speculated hopefully as to whether she might be persuaded to sneak off with him instead.
"Sorry, mate," said George, grappling with a long birch branch. "Grab that end, will you?"
"Harry, I can't remember what you do with these ropes."
"They go in the ground and you hit them with a hammer. You must remember your dad doing it."
"Well, yeah. I mean, who could forget?... But you can't hit ropes with a hammer."
"They ought to have pegs, Ron."
Professor Sprout made a tour of the tents and pronounced them satisfactory, then conjured foam rubber mattresses and sleeping bags with a wave of her wand. The Gryffindors dumped their bags in the tent and charged gleefully outside to light their bonfire.
The sky was now dark amber and some of the other students had cast Light Spells to help them find their way about; they were visible as little blue nimbi at the other end of the pitch. This made for an extremely pretty scene, but, more to the point, was perfect for sneaking.
Lighting his wand, Fred whispered to Harry, "Wait until it's properly dark before you set off, OK? If anyone asks where you've gone, I'll say you've gone for a piss."
"Right," said Harry, then, "Fred – do we actually have any toilets?"
"Yes, Dumbledore conjured a little toilet block in the middle of the pitch."
"Oh. Thank god for that."
"Yeah," Fred agreed. "The next match might have been a bit messy."
The sun had set and it was sufficiently dark for the students to be visible only as groping myrmidons in the ultramarine gloom. Harry picked his moment and sneaked away to a clump of hawthorns to the west of the Quidditch pitch.
Even though he knew their wanton cache was there, it was quite unnerving to see the space between the hawthorns. He extended a hand and was relieved to feel the top of the Butterbeer crate. Whisking the Invisibility Cloak off it, he spread it over himself and started slowly lugging the crate back to the Gryffindor tent.
The campfire session, directed by Professor Sprout, was surprisingly good fun. Their scran included sausages on sticks, lumps of bread to toast, and the finest fire-related items from Honeydukes: Cinder-Toffee Salamanders, which crawled all over the bonfire until they were properly cooked, and Marshmallow Bombs, which when buried in the embers would eventually explode and spray floating marshmallows everywhere.
There were also three large jugs of pumpkin juice for each team. George handed them to Harry and stared at him meaningfully. Harry sneaked round to the back of the Gryffindor tent, Vanished the pumpkin juice and replaced it with Butterbeer.
Katie went innocently to get her first glass of pumpkin juice, gave a squeak of surprise and said "This is – " before suddenly shutting up.
Harry, Ron and the twins nodded and grinned like loons.
"It's what?" Angelina said suspiciously. "What have you two done to it, Fred? If you've put any of your weird inventions in it I'll – "
"Nah, Harry got it for us," Fred said happily.
"There's nothing wrong with it, Angelina," Harry assured her, hoping there wasn't. It was Dobbified Butterbeer, after all.
Angelina took a glass, took a mouthful with a most distrustful expression and underwent a sudden revelation. She smacked her lips, looked thoughtful and said "Nice work, Harry. Anyone got a pint glass?"
If Professor Sprout wondered why the Gryffindor team looked so much happier than the rest, she didn't ask.
Harry was reacquainting himself with the pleasure of having the front of his body toasted by the bonfire while his back grew cooler and cooler, then turning round. It was a Sassenachishly dry night and the stars were bright and sumptuous; watching the sparks fly up towards them gave him a warm, fuzzy glow, although that might have been the Butterbeer.
"Do wizards have bonfire night?" he asked Ron rather randomly.
"Nope," said Ron. "What's bonfire night?"
"Fifth of November?"
"Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about that. Well, the Muggles can be quite noisy, so we sometimes have a firework party to drown them out. Dad gets a bit worried about Muggles with fireworks, he says the Death Eaters might plant magical ones that kill people when they go off."
"We've been working on magical fireworks," Fred contributed. "Not the killing-people variety, though. Except maybe for Umbridge..."
"Wow! Could you let some off now?" Harry said enthusiastically.
"Oh, yes, Harry," Fred said, rolling his eyes, "because fireworks are such subtle and unobtrusive things, and there's no way Sprout or Dumbledore would notice."
"Sprout could supervise," Harry suggested hopefully.
"Doesn't matter, they're not finished yet," said George, arriving with yet more Butterbeer. "All they do so far is make rude noises and clouds of green smoke, so that rules them out. I'm not setting off Slytherin fireworks."
"Unless we put them out by pissing on them," Fred said with relish.
The Hufflepuffs had broken out the campfire songs, and the by then very jolly Gryffindors decided to so some of their own. Before long the pitch resounded to the tones of "Kumbayah", "Ging Gang Goolies" (an amendment made by Fred) and, of course, the Hogwarts school song, still sung in several different tunes. All these, however, were eclipsed by the hugely popular "Slytherin Are Losers", sung to the tune of the conga while performing the dance round their bonfire in a seven-person crocodile. This was highly successful and went on for some time, possibly because it provided an open goal for covert cuddling.
"Get your hand off my nips, Fred," yelled George at the front of the conga.
"That's nothing, you should see where Angelina's got me!"
"Harry," whispered Fred, "have you still got your invisibility cloak?"
"He doesn't look very invisible," observed George.
"Oi," said Katie Bell, "you needn't pretend we're not here, Fred. I can see you whispering to Harry. We can't very well improve the teamwork by you lot doing something secret that we can't join in."
"But we were going to suggest pushing the Slytherins in their bonfire, so you won't want to join in anyway," George said reasonably.
"Oh, yes, I will," said Katie, a manic glint appearing in her eyes.
"I've changed my mind," Fred said, eyeing Katie apprehensively. "She looks a bit too enthusiastic."
"Angelina! Angelina!" shouted Katie, capering off to the Butterbeer jugs where their mighty leader was topping up her glass. "We've got a plan to murder the Slytherins!"
"Really?" said Angelina appreciatively, rejoining the others and throwing her arm around Fred's shoulders (Ron looked away, aghast). "I hope it involves sending them to Uranus with strategically placed rockets."
"Nah," said Harry, "their fireworks don't."
"Harry, you had to tell her that," Fred said reproachfully. "You just wait till I see you trying to impress your girlfriend."
"Hell freezes over," mumbled Harry.
"Well, what do they do, then?" Angelina demanded.
"Well..." demurred George. "Kind of make farting noises and produce green smoke."
"Well, we could let one off anyway in their tent," observed Katie, "but they just probably wouldn't notice anything unusual. I still reckon we should just – "
" – just shove them in the bonfire," chorussed the rest of the squad, great minds clearly thinking alike.
"It's a good thing Wood's not still on the team," mused Angelina. "We'd have had to tie him up or he'd actually have gone and done it."
"That is a good thing," said Alicia. "I haven't forgotten how many times they've fouled us."
"Maybe we could sneak up to their tent in the night," Ron said thoughtfully, "and find out if Malfoy really is bumming Crabbe and Goyle."
In the general storm of revulsion that followed, George said "That's the worst idea anyone's had since You-Know-Who's dad decided not to use a condom."
"Unless he's sneaked that Pansy Parkinson into his tent," said Angelina, her features acquiring a daemonic cast. "That'd be the right time to use one of your fireworks."
Harry wistfully contemplated sneaking off to the Ravenclaw tent and abducting Cho Chang, but the fantasy seemed rather faded. He decided he was actually enjoying this more.
George Weasley became bored, went to the toilet and came back with an enormous amount of bog roll wrapped round the top of his head. Grabbing Harry round the throat and shaking him gently back and forth, he yelled, "I am Professor Quirrell, and you die now, boy!"
"Right, I want all your tents ready to sleep in by nine," bawled Professor Sprout, trundling between the four bonfires. "Spread out your sleeping bags and get all your rubbish out of the way, I don't want anyone tripping over in the night and breaking their neck..."
"Does she really expect us to go to bed at nine o' clock?" complained Ron, who was checking the tent very carefully for spiders. Harry and Fred, meanwhile, were dragging the Invisibility Cloak over the whisky box and hiding it all over again. Professor Sprout peeped in, nodded in approval and sodded off.
"Is that it?" spluttered Harry. "We needn't even have bothered hiding the bloody thing it that's all she was going to do!" They lugged in the crate once more. Ron had carefully laid his foam rubber in the exact centre of the groundsheet, reasoning that this would keep him farthest from the spiders. Katie and Alicia, meanwhile, had set themselves up in a corner and were already snogging.
Harry detached his Sneakoscope from its socks and placed it carefully on top of the empty whisky crate, ready to spin lest Dumbledore should spy on them. Turning to Fred and George, he admonished, "Now, don't put beetles in anyone's soup, all right?"
"Especially mine," shuddered Ron.
George brandished a deck of cards and said happily, "How about Exploding Snap?"
Harry, Angelina and the Weasleys, lubricated by large amounts of Butterbeer, became ever more vehement in their pursuit of playing-card twindom. Fred, moreover, decided to seat himself in Angelina's lap. His snapping performance suffered accordingly.
"This has got to be the best idea Dumbledore's ever had," he announced, wobbling perilously backwards. "I reckon it was worth making the Head Boy and Girl suffer."
"Who even are the Head Boy and Girl?" asked Ron, trying not to look at where Fred's right hand was.
"Tight for them to have to share a bed," Angelina said absently. "Imagine if it was a Gryffindor and a Slytherin."
"What if I get made Head Boy?" worried Harry.
"Or Ronniekins," said Fred. "He's a Prefect already, so..."
"Take it and shove it, Fred," said Ron.
"You can't want Dumbledore to spy on your own brother," Harry said, disturbed.
"I hope he spied on Percy," Ron said vindictively. "Except it might traumatise him for life."
"Merlin," whispered Angelina, bursting out laughing, "Look at Katie and Alicia!"
Harry looked, and guffawed as quietly as possible. The Chasers had clearly availed themselves of the same hawthorn clump where Harry had hidden the Butterbeer; they had surrounded their corner with a wall of branches about three feet high, presumably to keep out unwanted males. Past the thorns very little was perceptible apart from lots of hair, a lone hand and occasional slurping noises.
"They're so sweet," Angelina said fondly to no one in particular. "They're really in love with each other. Don't it just bring tears to your little eyes?"
"Yes," Harry said glumly, contemplating his vacant love life.
"Snap!" shrieked Fred and Ron, blowing up the deck in Harry's face.
Fred and Angelina were spread out on one of the foam rubbers snogging devoutly, looking, Harry mused, like some sort of modern art sculpture entitled Legs II. George cast his twin occasional proud glances; Ron, meanwhile, was not amused, and had one hand held permanently to the side of his face to prevent his finding out whether they were doing more than snogging. After five minutes he cracked, settled down puritanically with his back to them, and announced that it was time to break out the Firewhiskey.
"What?" said George in amazement. "You sound so authoritative, my good man. I didn't know you'd ever even had a pint at the pub in Ottery."
"C'mon, George, everyone knows how to drink," said Ron, rolling his eyes. I can show you how if you want. You pour some in a bottle, then you open your mouth..."
"Or shut your mouth, in your case," said George. "And if you're not careful I'll tell Mum."
"Try," retorted Ron. "Like you're even allowed to drink either!"
"Ah, you won't tell anyone, will you?" said Harry, who rather liked the idea of christening his liver. "I mean, seeing as Dobby gave us it and everything, we might as well put it to good use."
"Well," mused George, "I see your point..."
The first thing they discovered was that Dobby hadn't included glasses, necessitating the consumption of Firewhiskey via empty Butterbeer bottle. Once George had explained to Harry that you didn't actually fill the entire bottle, this worked well. During this little speech, Ron seized the opportunity to cast a Dilution Jinx on his Firewhiskey; he wasn't opposed to mild merriness, but getting sloshed in front of Fred and George would be signing his own death warrant, humiliation-wise.
They clinked their bottles expectantly and all took a sip. There was a brief silence while George grimaced, Ron carefully copied him, and Harry gulped with tears streaming down his face and finally said "Quite strong, isn't it?"
"Now you WAIT A WHILE before you drink the next bit," George said firmly. "No – stop – Harry, you don't drink it like water!"
"I was thinking I'd get it over with," said Harry, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.
"I can see why it's called Firewhiskey," coughed Ron.
"Too strong for you?" leered George. "Aww, ickle baby Ron can't take his drink!"
"I can!" Ron said faux-indignantly, and took another glug, rejoicing that his ploy appeared to have worked. Harry and George promptly copied him. Harry was pleased, albeit surprised, to discover that the awful taste had mostly gone away.
Harry was sitting, or rather slouching, on the floor in a pose of total abandonment, giggling loudly.
"Oh god," groaned George, "Harry's a giggler."
"I am not!" said Harry, and giggled again.
"You're not much better," Ron said triumphantly. "I'm holding it better than you!" and he finished his bottle of diluted Firewhiskey with a flourish and poured himself some more, making a mental note not to drink too much of it.
"Yeah," said George with a regretful hiccup. "If I'd known you were such a tough little git I'd have made sure I spiked it."
Ron silently awarded himself the Medal of Magical Merit.
"This is blinding," giggled Harry. "Dumbledore should make us do it every night."
"Possibly not before a match, Harry," George said dryly, or, rather, the opposite of dryly. "I wouldn't want to take on the Slytherins with a hangover. Ron, I really shouldn't have any more of this, make me stop," he said, and took another beb.
Harry's Sneakoscope, which had been thinking about going off ever since Ron started faking his Firewhiskey, suddenly detonated with a painfully loud squealing noise. Everyone jumped. The two snogging couples cracked their heads together and swore; the drinkers spilt Firewhiskey everywhere.
"Dumbledore's looking in on us!" shouted George, running everywhere and waving his arms. "Come on, everyone, Dumbledore's looking in on us! Let's tell him what he can do!"
"Sod off, Dumbledore!" cried Alicia and Katie, not bothering to untangle themselves or move.
"TAKE THIS, DUMBLEDORE!" shouted George. "BEHOLD THE WEASLEY BUTTOCKS!" and with that his jeans dropped round his ankles to display his magnificent cleavage. He did a jumping war-dance all over the tent without even falling over, which was quite impressive in his state; from all around came shrieks of horror, cheers of congratulation, and helpless giggles. "Take that, you old sod!" he roared, pointing a skinny finger at random parts of the tent. "That'll teach you, you randy, mouldy pervert! Don't spy on the Gryffindors!"
When he eventually finished his peroration, he began to notice shouts of "Urgh", "Hey, George, what's that on your arse?" and "George, your boils, mate," and remembered his little problem. He blushed and covered his bum with his hands. Ron gave up trying not to puke and ran off for the toilets.
"Bugger me, George," Harry slurred, stifling his giggles (mostly) and crawling across the tent. "What the hell are those things? Are they warts?"
"I got them as a side-effect of our experiments, if you remember," he said with maximum dignity. "I can't make them go away again. And Dumbledore might as well see them, as well," he added, bending over and waggling his bum at the ceiling.
"Urgh, they look horrible," Harry observed in fascination, poking George's arse.
Ron ran back in, shouted "Angelina, the Slytherins are trying to piss on our bonfire," and ran out again. Fred and Angelina immediately jumped to their feet and sprinted out of the tent. Everybody else was too drunk or too loved-up to move.
"OW!!!!!!" bellowed George as Harry's finger found a particularly painful boil.
"Sorry, George. Do they hurt?" Harry slurred earnestly.
"Yes, Harry, they do," George said between gritted teeth.
"You should try my Murtlap essence, I've got some in my bag."
"Try your what?"
Harry was rummaging drunkenly through his bag. "I know it's here somewhere..."
"OI! Malfoy!" Angelina roared, stamping out to the bonfire like, well, a very angry Angelina Johnson, which is a sight frightening enough to require no metaphor. "Get your dick out of my bonfire before you give it an STD!"
"You probably gave it the STD," Malfoy sneered, shaking off his penis and backing away from Angelina; he couldn't hit a bird, after all, and it was easier to just all stand around and laugh at her.
"The hell I did, you caught it from your dirty girlfriend. That's the one with the dirty mouth, and don't think I forgot what she said, because I haven't," she shouted, grabbing Malfoy by the collar of his robes and lifting him up to her eye level. "You're a sneery, snotty little bigot that needs his girlfriend to do his insults for him. You're a wimp, Malfoy, nothing but one, you're a wimp."
Angelina had had a few shots of Firewhiskey too, and a drunken Angelina was even scarier than one stone cold sober. Malfoy's lips went white, although he tried to cover up with a sneer and a defensive laugh.
"You're pathetic, the most pathetic team that's ever been at Hogwarts. All you're good for is sledging. The reason you spend so much time sledging is because you're no bloody good at nothing else," she roared at the Slytherins in general. "Big mouths are what Slytherins are good for, kids." Putting Malfoy down, she drove him further and further backwards with six jabs of a bony finger: "You got big MOUTHS, big MUSCLES, small DICKS, and small BRAINS. GOT IT?!"
Malfoy, realising it was him that was being made to look ridiculous, broke and ran, shouting "Cow!" over his shoulder. The remaining Slytherins fell into disarray and were easy prey for Fred and Ron, who grabbed flaming branches from the bonfire and chased them round the Quidditch pitch.
Harry, once again giggling helplessly, was kneeling behind George and massaging the Murtlap essence into his posterior. George had started off with yelps of shock, first because the liquid was cold and second because Harry was fondling his arse, but had by now assumed a litany of "Oh – yeah – aaargh! Yes – right there – that's it – Oh!"
"Do you two realise you sound as if you're having sex?" Alicia enquired drowsily from behind the lesbian barricade.
"I do," retorted George. "He doesn't, listen to him! OUCH!"
"I do," giggled Harry. "Ooh-hee-hee-hee-hee! Stop moving around."
"Is it working?" asked Katie with clinical interest.
"Oh yes – ha ha! – they're shrinking away," Harry assured her. "They've nearly vanished now."
"I – aargh! – I love you, Harry, you're a life saver," George said fervently. "I've tried everything to get these to go."
Harry, meanwhile, was rather less concerned with the medical aspects of the situation. "George," he giggled, entranced, "you've got a beautiful backside. It's all, like, smooth and white."
Katie and Alicia gave twins shrieks of horrified mirth. George spluttered.
"There's not even a freckle," said Harry, peering in awe at George's callipygian haunches. "It's really pretty," and he underlined this by kissing it.
Angelina discovered that if she stood in the same spot and waited, the Slytherins would eventually run round in a circle, chased by George and Ron, and come right back to her, enabling her to hex them one by one and chortle at the screams. Really, it was a pity they hadn't shoved them in the bonfire.
George was sitting on his sleeping bag with his back to the whisky box. Kneeling astride him was Harry, who was kissing him soundly on the mouth with an ecstatic expression. George wasn't quite sure there was anything sexy going on, because he was sure he'd seen that expression before when Harry was eating treacle tart; but it held such rapture he decided it would be rude to intervene.
"Wouldn't it be interesting to be one of the twins?" pondered Katie, snuggled up comfortably into Alicia and their conjoined sleeping bags.
"What, mad?" Alicia said sleepily.
"Well, hyper and doing more or less everything at once."
"Yes. Mad!... It would be interesting, though."
"They always manage to pull, too. It's quite remarkable really."
"Considering they can both be arses. Well, yes."
"Don't mention arses!"
They both cackled for some time.
Harry was once again giggling, this time in rapture. He had persuaded George to lie on top of him, which had been a very good move. George had a very nice torso as well as nice buttocks, as far as he could figure out from feeling it through his shirt; at least, it was warm and squeezable and hard. He also had nice hair, through which Harry was running his fingers.
"You've got beautiful hair, George. You've got really beautiful hair."
"You've got beautiful eyelashes, Harry," George informed him, having examined them minutely over the preceding minutes.
""It's really soft and shiny, your hair. It's a really odd colour. I've never seen hair like that. It matches your eyebrows."
"Yeah, right. I'm a ginger," snorted George.
"You're a goooooorgeous ginger," Harry crooned. "Gorgeous Gorge. I mean, Gorgeous George. Hee hee."
A tired but happy Angelina and Ron marched in and started demolishing the remaining Butterbeer. "Bloody hell," said Angelina, "who's that snogging George?"
"It's meeeeeee," sang Harry, giggling again. "I love you, George."
Frowning, Angelina took a gulp of Butterbeer and said "I didn't know Harry liked him. Did you, Ron?"
"No," said Ron feebly, privately thinking that his eyeballs were going to spontaneously combust.
"I've always liked George," Harry said sleepily. "He's always been good to me, haven't you, George? Ever since you helped me on the train."
"You're a top guy, Harry," George assured him. He decided woozily that it was best not to get too sentimental, because in the morning Harry would probably be the most embarrassed person in the world. Still, for the moment things seemed to be going all right.
Fred had magically attached the blazing branches to his head and was standing topless in front of the Slytherins' bonfire, shouting, "I am the god of hellfire! And I bring you..."
While Ron and Angelina gave a rousing chorus of "Ten Butterbeer Bottles", and the Ravenclaws an equally lusty rendition of "Shut up!", Harry suddenly found himself more or less sober. Well, a bit more lucid, anyway.
"George, did I just tell you I loved you and you're my best mate about a thousand times?" he asked.
"Yes, you did," confirmed George.
"You won't let me pretend I didn't say it in the morning, will you?"
"It's true, I do love you. You've always helped me out."
"Of course I helped you out. You deserve it."
"And you make me laugh," said Harry, kissing him some more. "And you're gorgeous. And you're fit as a Hagrid's monster. And you're a great Beater. And..."
"Whereas you're just a great Seeker with a really cute face who gave me a thousand galleons, oh, and saved the world."
"That's never got me many girlfriends up till now," Harry mumbled.
"It still hasn't," George reminded him.
"Will you be my boyfriend?" Harry said hopefully.
"Not half," George said fervently, and resumed snogging. Harry snogged back like a vacuum cleaner. Ron, who had been watching the brother/best friend action with increasing queasiness, finally gave up and sneaked out of the tent.
Ron wandered through the dark and abruptly bumped into a soft, sweet-smelling obstruction that tumbled backwards and onto the ground with a yelp of surprise. "Sorry," he mumbled, embarrassed, and bent down to help the person up, which proved quite tricky in the pitch dark.
"Erm, it's Cho Chang," the mystery woman began. "Argh!"
"Oh. Ah! – I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to put my hand there. Er, hi, Cho."
"Oh, aren't you're Harry's friend?"
"Yeah. Ron. Hi."
"Well, erm, the rest of the Ravenclaws nominated me to come over and ask you – the Gryffindors, I mean – if you would mind keeping the noise down."
Cho giggled nervously. In the background, an excitable Fred Weasley chased Goyle round the Slytherin bonfire, waving a burning branch and whooping like a constipated owl.
"Right. Well," Ron said. "We can always, like, ask, but I'm not really sure they'll really listen to me, or you either, except Harry, obviously."
"Will Harry listen to me?" Cho said hopefully.
The answer was "If he's sober and has stopped snogging George". "Sure," Ron said uncertainly.
"OK, let's ask," Cho said, and made off invisibly towards the Gryffindor tent. Ron hurried after her, trying to think of a way to get out of this, and, well, failing. Floundering around, he wished her hair wasn't so dark. He didn't see her clearly again until she drew back the tent flap and was silhouetted against the Lumos inside; the Lumosthat revealed, very clearly, Harry and George wrapped round each other, not to mention Angelina happily knocking back the Firewhiskey. Cho lowered the flap very quietly and crept away.
"Sorry!" Ron blurted out, running after her.
"I don't think I was supposed to see that," she responded in a clipped voice.
"I just couldn't think how to tell you!" Ron moaned, then, "I wish they'd stop."
"That other one's your brother, isn't he?" Cho said, now sounding rather more sympathetic.
"Yes," Ron said glumly. "I didn't even know he was gay!"
"I wish there was some way you could tell," Cho lamented.
"...before they start snogging in front of you, you mean," Ron concluded grumpily. Cho gave a small laugh.
"I don't mean to sound like a whiner and I hope they'll be really happy with each other and everything," she said, starting to sound bunged up, "but I chose one man who d-d-d-d-d-died and one who turned out to be gay, and it's making me wonder if there's something wr-wrong with me..."
Ron wasn't an expert at comforting crying people, but logic told him her belief in the Curse Of Cho Chang was ill-founded. "Cedric Diggory getting killed was hardly something wrong with YOU," he said firmly, "it was something wrong with Y-y-y... V-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-Voldemort."
Cho gave a gratifying scream, as though rather impressed by Ron's bravery. Encouraged, he forged on: "And Harry being gay isn't, like, wrong. Cos you know what they say, you know, gay people are like just the same as everyone else, only, well, gay. So you just need to find the right bloke for you. You're so pretty, you'll have no problem."
Cho gave a tremendous sigh and said "Yes, but... I'm so sick of people thinking I'm just an ornament. I hate being the only girl on the team. I wish I had a captain like Angelina..."
"She's a bit scary at times, you know," Ron warned. "You wouldn't like her quite so much at a morning training session in winter."
Cho laughed, and Ron felt rather impressed with his own wit. Now seemed like a good time to say, "I'm really sorry I said you weren't a proper Tornados fan."
"Oh, well, that's all right," she said. "There have been a lot of incomers since we topped the league."
"I don't know why I was so rude."
"Don't worry about it," Cho said playfully, and took his hand. "Let's walk round the bonfires."
Ron hoped Harry would forgive him for this, but reflected that, if the way he'd been going with George was any indication, he wouldn't mind much.
b 0:03am /b
"Isn't Harry sweet?" Katie whispered to Alicia now that the loud slurps and proclamations of love had finally died down. "It's really cute how much he loves George."
"Do you not think he was just pissed?" Alicia said more pessimistically.
"No... I assumed he must be one of those blokes who never realise they're gay until they get drunk and let their guard down."
"Well, we'll have to wait and see if they still like each other when they're not drunk."
"Oh, I hope they do."
"I never knew you were so romantic!"
"No, it's just because they're gay. I'd practically given up hope of ever finding any other gay people."
"I did too," agreed Alicia, "until I met you."
"Cue violins," agreed Katie, beginning the next kiss.
Fred Weasley wobbled vaguely across the pitch, supported by Ron, who had crashed into him on his way back to the Gryffindor tent.
"Ah, thish was a good idea of Dumblebore's," Fred announced to no one in particular. "Excellent night. Eh, Ron?"
"Yep," Ron agreed fervently, rubbing his neck. "A complete success."
Pacing round his office, Dumbledore cackled sinisterly. A team of beleaguered house-elves had spent hours editing all the data from his Panopticon Charms, sitting patiently through hours of sleeping Slytherins in search of the smut. He had watched Malfoy humping up against Crabbe with the greatest enjoyment, and been most intrigued by the sight of the Ravenclaw captain getting off with one of his Beaters, but to be honest he was most interested in what the Gryffindors had to offer. After all, they had three girls on their team, four if you counted Harry, and two were rumoured to be lesbians. Rubbing his hands in anticipation, he leaned over his Peeposcope and peered into the eyepiece.
Ten seconds later he was sprinting down the spiral staircase with a howl of horror and making for the nearest bathroom, desperate to wash away the image of a hundred naked house-elves shaking their booties at him. Dobby, who was listening in from the corridor, heard the screams and laughed maniacally. "None shall harm Dobby's Sockretary," he declaimed, and did a little celebratory dance before heading off to the kitchens to plan his next speech.