May the Power Protect …the Quaffle?
Disclaimer: I wish I owned them but I don't; I'm just borrowing them for the duration. No characters were (permanently) harmed in the writing of this story.
Chapter Nine: After-Party at the Rockporium
Ginny and Harry flew back to Briarwood together on her broom. It was their team's way of giving them some alone-time. Even Ron had agreed (reluctantly!) that Ginny had more than earned it. True to her friend Luna's words, the red-haired Gryffindor had declined the personal glory of the final point, to let the game end in a tie.
Now she and Harry were enjoying the relative peace and quiet a thousand feet over Briarwood Valley. Their course was a nearly straight line from the pitch to town, with majestic Rootcore in the middle. As they neared it, she gave an exhilarated "Hang on, Harry!" Ginny spun them over several times, then swooped to weave in and out of the great tree's uppermost branches.
After their final loop, Harry gave her waist an extra squeeze, and breathed into her ear. "Much as I appreciate the rush, between my head and my bum, could we take the rest of the ride a little easier, love?"
Ginny pulled to such an abrupt stop, they were pressed indecently close together on the broom's cushioning charm. She found she didn't mind at all. She was already blushing from his initial comment so much, the added flush to her cheeks from his proximity was just a matter of micro-degrees.
"Ginny?" Harry asked quietly, worried by her sudden behavior. She slowly sighed and turned in his arms just enough to see him over her shoulder.
"Just … wanted to be able to hear you better, Harry," she murmured, leaning back against him just that little bit more … Her lips were millimeters from his when her broom dipped downward sharply, and brought her back to her senses. "&\ gravity anyway," she hissed, and set them on a beeline to the Rockporium roof, anxious to be out of the air and safely in her boyfriend's arms.
Zander and Chip popped out of the tree in front of the music store together, old Grisilda's punch cauldron slung between them. They hurried it inside to the refreshment table, which Leelee and her mother Nicki were busily filling with random party snacks from their café across the street. Most everybody else gave the steaming pot a wide berth, but Nicki leaned over and gave it an appreciative sniff when the guys plunked it down next to her.
"Aaaahh, nobody does up a proper good old party punch like Grisilda," the Queen of the Vampires sighed with relish. Her eyes flashed a glowing red for a moment. Chip hurriedly made a cross in front of himself with his morpher and the punch ladle, and Nicki laughed. "Relax, thunder-boy, I'm fine as long as this stuff's here. Grissi figured out decades ago how to make a beverage fit for a Queen."
"You knew her be-before?" Leelee asked haltingly.
"Of course, dear! Remember, we were only in there for the years it took you and Bowen to grow up, after all. I'd known Grisilda for decades. In fact, she once approached me to join our people. I'd still been deliberating the request when we were summarily locked away, unfortunately. I don't think she would appreciate the transformation nearly as much in her present condition …" Nicki trailed off at the expressions of shock on the three young adults' faces.
She was about to ask what they were so surprised about, when there was a low growl behind her. Whirling about, Nicki came face to snarling face with a furious Maddie Rocca.
"The enlightened Queen of the Vampirrres," the Blue Mystic Ranger growled. "All the time you werrre fighting us, all those people you trrried to converrrt by forrrce, including my sisterrr … you werrre deciding whetherrr to take volunteerrrsss?!" The last rumbled out in a bestial snarl, and Bill, Chip, Nick, and Vida all grabbed hold of Madison hurriedly from behind as her eyes shifted to lupine gold, and her canines visibly lengthened.
Necrolai backed up in alarm until she bumped into the snack table. Few things could harm the Queen of the Vampires permanently, but a raging werewolf could certainly make her immortal existence damned unpleasant in the short-term.
"Mom, why don't we get the rest of the food ..?" Leelee asked leadingly. Nicki nodded and edged her way towards the door behind her daughter, never taking her eyes from Maddie's. The two stared at each other until the permanently young woman was outside the Rockporium.
Maddie sighed raggedly, and Bill was the first to let go, followed by Chip, then Vida. Nick wrapped his arm tighter around his Blue sweetheart's and slowly turned her to face him. Bringing his other hand up to her face gently, he cupped her cheek, and she gave a noise somewhere between growl and purr as she turned her cheek into his caress.
"That's been a long time coming, hasn't it?" Bill asked quietly, as Fleur came up beside him now that the crisis seemed to be ending. She had her wand out, but stood calm and assured as he lay an arm over her shoulders and nuzzled her hair.
"Thanks for the angst, Mads, but that fight's long over with," Vida told her sister. "Chip saved me already."
"Doesn't mean we should have let herrr be," Maddie bit out, glaring out the door again over her shoulder. Her eyes and teeth were still more wolf than human.
"Enfriar, mi pequeno Sirena,*1 she's on our side," Nick murmured soothingly. He brought her gaze back to meet his, and leaned in to nuzzle her nose. She sighed, and her golden eyes shifted slowly back to her normal brown. Bill chuckled as Fleur and Vida sighed, caught up in the tender moment.
"Hey, V ..?" Chip started to ask. He hadn't seen her display her girly side in years.
"Shut it, Mister Thorn," both Rocca sisters grumbled good-naturedly, as Maddie tilted her chin up to kiss Nick. Vida added an elbow shot to Chip's ribs when he continued to gawk.
"My work here ees done," Fleur whispered to her husband as she took Bill's arm and led him away to the Gryffindor table. The rest of the Heroes of Hogwarts were already sitting at it, except for their still-missing Captain and Chaser.
"I don't get it," Ron said, watching from his chair. He was closest to the standoff they'd all just witnessed, and turned to face Charlie and Bill as his oldest brother sat down with his wife. "Full moon's still a week away, right?" he waited until the two men (and Hermione) nodded. "So how come she looked like she was ready to change here in the store?"
"Maybe some difference in the American werewolf subspecies?" Charlie pondered, brow furrowed. Bill, who'd spent long hours talking his partial condition over with Remus Lupin before their Professor friend's demise, shook his head.
"No. It's more likely a reaction to her stress, and its connection to her magical core. I've met a couple other werewolves able to accomplish the same partial shift. One of them was Greyback. During that final fight at the school, Remus and I sought him out. We wanted to keep him too busy to wreck any more lives like he had … When we found him, he was in the thick of the fighting with the Inferii, using their plodding attack as cover for his own viciousness. Just before we took him down, he used his fangs to tear out the throat of Yancy Sparrow …"
Bill hung his head in sudden sorrow, and Charlie grunted. "I wondered what he was doing at the final fight. I saw his name on the memorial stones. He must have thought he could make a difference against the Dark Creatures old Voldy was bound to have recruited. Poor bloke. His marks in Care of Magical Creatures always were a touch higher than his Defense against the Dark Arts grades …"
"He was your friend?" Clare asked quietly from his left, where she was sitting next to the blissfully-snogging George and Angelina. Charlie nodded.
"Yancy and I were in the same year. He was in Hufflepuff, which he said meant he could afford to be friends with a Gryffindor. We were top of our year in C O M C, though whether that was through studying, or hanging with Hagrid all our spare time, I never could say." He and Ron traded grins. Ron was sure he would have failed everything without Hermione's help, but even he was the first to admit he'd actually liked Hagrid as a teacher … when the friendly half-giant wasn't endangering the classes' lives, anyway.
"When I heard about all the deaths you folks suffered through, I couldn't help but think how lucky we were," Clare sniffled. "I mean, none of our younger Rangers were lost, despite the Master's best efforts, and we actually managed to rescue one we thought long lost." She beamed tearily at her uncle Leanbow, standing in the far corner with her aunt Udonna and the Rockporium's owner, Toby.
"Make that two," Maddie countered, pointing quietly to their Quijudge, Daggeron. The others all turned to look at her at the verbal invasion, since she was still standing a good ten feet away in Nicks arms. "Sorry, I couldn't help overhearing," she added with her old, shy smile.
"Hey, why all de long faces?" Vida whooped in an outrageous Spanish accent. "Aren't we supposed to be havin' a fiesta?" She kicked her turntables on, and 'Livin' la Vida Loca' rang out. That got all the other Rangers laughing; they had just sat through 'Shrek' and 'Shrek 2' on DVD with Leelee, Clare, their three Mentors, and the Gryffindors, since they all had been way too busy with real life to catch the newer one in theaters. Vida started mixing and scratching, and spurred by the others' improved moods, grabbed up a bowl of fruit from a nearby table and started gyrating with it on her head as she worked.
"Oh no! It's Carmen Miranda's ghost!" Chip cried, and made an exaggerated crossing motion before bowing low before her mixing platform.
"Where?" cried Toby. "I love Carmen!" He spun around to look, knocking over an Elvis Presley cardboard standup, which sent the copy of 'Elvis: Ones' it had been displaying in one hand flying.
The disc bounced off Zander's metal arm, making him cry "Hey!" and fall out of the chair he had been leaning precariously back in. The chair legs hit his table, sending his drink flying, which soaked the next person coming in the door. This of course was Harry Potter.
"Oy! I didn't order a soda to go!" the Chosen One yelled out, gaining everybody's attention.
"Wotcher, Harry!" George bellowed. "So … drinks're on you, eh mate?" The rest of the roomful laughed good-naturedly, which got louder when Harry grinned ruefully.
"What'd you do with our sister, Harry?" Bill asked, grinning also.
"She flew us the long way, for the scenery, and now she's helping Leelee and her mum with the food," Harry replied, stepping in just far enough he was on the doormat to drip.
Katie and Clare both hopped up to help him siphon off the rest of the soda. Katie and Harry were each working on one of his sleeves when Clare, who'd just finished with the back of his hair, clucked her tongue.
"I just remembered the spell Udonna used to use whenever I soaked myself with a potion accidentally," she said, eyeing the rest of his still-sticky frame. "Stand back, Katie." With a wave and a flick of her wand, Clare intoned, "Nominus … vestimenta … excisionis … Harry!"*2 Hermione was just standing to watch the unfamiliar spell, and Udonna was just turning around at the sound of Clare's voice, so neither of them was in a position to stop the seemingly innocuous spell when it went suddenly, horribly, wrong.
A concerted gasp went up, and Harry cried out wildly and grabbed the first things to hand to cover up with. His clothes had vanished in a purple puff of smoke, down to his shoes. He stood on the doormat with an LP over his nether regions front and back, blushing brighter than any Weasley's hair.
"Oh look, girls. Dinner and a show!" Nicki sang out from right behind him. She, Leelee and Ginny had come in unobserved as Clare was working her spell.
Ginny couldn't help it; it was her boyfriend's bum after all, just inches from her. She reached out with her unoccupied hand (she'd been the one holding the door for the other two, whose arms were full with canapés trays) and tweaked the album he was covering with ever so slightly.
"And what a show," she whistled, with a wink in Hermione's direction. The frizzy-haired witch almost dropped her wand at her boyfriend's sister's sheer cheek. Luna, watching it all from her stool behind the register, started giggling insanely.
"Ginnnn," the long-suffering teen hero whined, rolling his eyes over his shoulder at her. She winked back at him unrepentantly too, making her brothers groan and the rest of their friends laugh all the harder.
"Oops," Clare muttered belatedly. "Don't worry, I can fix this …"
"NO!" the Rangers and Harry all cried together. Not that Harry had any reason in particular (present predicament aside) to object to Clare's spellcasting. But he was suddenly reminded of Gilderoy Lockhart's spotty wand-work, and thinking of his personal runs of bad luck.
"I've got this, mate," Ron said, standing up he still had a huge grin on his face, despite his sister's proximity to his nude best friend. He apparated back to the boys' shared room at the Sleepaway Inn two streets away, and returned a minute later with a robe, a spare outfit, and two pairs of socks. He handed one pair to Hermoine sheepishly. "Er, he'll need new trainers, 'mione. That was his only pair."
"I could almost say thank you," Hermoine told Clare, transfiguring the extra socks into a pair of sneakers. "He's been in that pair a year too long. Another month, and they'd been walking on their own." The other guys all laughed, while the girls in the room scrunched up their noses in unison. Harry was too busy dressing under the robe behind the counter to retort.
"Please play more of that music," Luna said to Vida while they watched the Chosen One spinning in place trying to pull up a sock. Vida could never say no to a willing audience, and she started up a Ranger remix she'd put together of 'Mambo number 5'. She went on from there to a run-through of all the songs she and Toby could find with 'magic' in the title or lyrics, and the two teams of heroic teens and their mentors danced the last of the night away. Luna even tried her hand at mixing to the other Hogwarts students' laughing delight, so Zander could take advantage of having two hands again and pull V onto the dance floor. They all laughed even harder when they realized Luna was remixing Disney's 'Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo'.
It was the best Quidditch party Harry had been to yet.
*1 Enfriar, mi pequeno Sirena = "Chill, my little Mermaid."
*2 Nominus … vestimenta … excisionis … = "Named clothes destruction." (Clare meant to use exsiccare, which means "to dry out"!)