A/N: Well, welcome to the last chapter! Thank you for reading, everyone, and I'm glad some of you out there enjoyed it. :P
"He's dead," Neville moaned, as the sound of steadily raising voices became audible again. "He's dead, Harry's dead, Snape's gonna kill him…"
"Hermione, we have to help him!" Ron hissed, waving his wand at the door. "Who knows what Snape's doing to him!"
"There're wards up, Ron, we won't be able to get in!" Hermione hissed. Lavender Brown gave a shrill squeak of alarm as somebody yelled again inside the office.
Ron desperately looked around the classroom for something that might be able to break through the wards. Bugger it all, if only he knew the sorts of things his curse-breaking older brother did… His eyes suddenly fell on his incoherently stammering bracelet. "Hey!" he hissed. "Bracelet! There's a student in danger in that room! You have to get us in!"
"Get you in? Get you in? DO I LOOK LIKE A RUDDY GATE KEY TO YOU, YOU STUPID BOY? IT'S THAT SORT OF STUPIDITY THAT WILL GET YOUR THICK SKULL CRACKED SOMEDAY—"
"It was worth a try," Hermione said consolingly. "But it's not as though we could take on Snape—"
The entire classroom flinched as there was another yell and an explosion inside the office. One or two Slytherins began inching towards the classroom door.
"He's dead," Neville said with conviction.
When the silence held for another several seconds, Ron suddenly dashed around the work table in a surge of full-blown Gryffindor daring and made for the office door, ignoring the screeching of his bracelet. He got to within five feet of the door when a nearly inhuman howl of fury erupted from the other side.
A Firebolt could not have made faster time back to his workbench than did Ronald Bilius Weasley, spurred on by all his worst memories of werewolves and dragons and acromantulas. And a good thing too, because he'd barely made it back around when the door flew open and Harry Potter soared back into view, landing with a painful thud on the floor at the front of the classroom. The class, which had gone hastily back to pretending to brew potions, winced in concert, but Harry seemed much more concerned with scrambling backward as fast as was humanly possible. He hurled himself backward with no regard at all for physical comfort, staring back the way he had come with a look of the utmost disbelief and horror.
His hair, Ron noticed suddenly, was restored to its usual length and mussy black state.
Then Snape stormed into view, and the students abandoned all pretense of doing work. Knives clattered, flasks of ingredients toppled, and gasps were stifled. Hermione ducked behind her cauldron, making a sort of choking noise.
Severus Snape, besides looking as though he had accidentally Apparated into the lake, was sporting a head of shoulder-length red hair.
Harry's mouth was working, apparently in an effort to say something that would save his life, but no sound came. Really, Ron reflected with absurd calm, when a student messed with Snape's hair and then drenched him to boot, there wasn't anything to say. Harry was a dead man walking.
Snape leveled his wand at Harry, who froze in a half-crouch. His whole arm was trembling with rage. Ron froze, expecting the Potions Master to flatten his best mate with a Cruciatus Curse any instant—
"Thirty points to Mr. Potter for creative spellwork!" Snape screeched.
Every mouth in the classroom dropped.
Never in living memory had Severus Snape awarded thirty points to any House in any of his classes. He had certainly never awarded so many points to a single student at one go—and what was more to the point, he had never awarded even a single point to Harry James Potter.
"Full marks to all of you for the day! Five points to everyone! Class dismissed!"
With that further extraordinary pronouncement, the Potions Master stalked back into his office and slammed the door with almighty force. The entire classroom stared at the door as though Petrified.
"Teachers throwing tantrums," groaned Ron's bracelet. "I've seen it all."
Harry was still feeling very dazed indeed as he mechanically made his way out of the dungeons.
"Alright," he heard Ron mutter beside him. "Either I'm Confunded, or Snape's Confunded. Which is it?"
"Snape awarded me points," Harry said, voice devoid of expression. "Me. Thirty points. From Snape."
"Harry, what on earth happened in there?" Hermione demanded, hurrying up behind them. "It sounded like the two of you went to war! Did you—oh, you've got glass in your back!"
"Fell on a whole class' worth of potions vials," Harry explained dully. His back was probably supposed to hurt, but he couldn't pay attention to something that trivial after Snape had awarded him points. Hermione briskly whipped out her wand and went to work Vanishing glass splinters.
"You ought to go see Madam Pomfrey," she informed him. "You're bleeding, and who knows what you've absorbed into your bloodstream."
"Snape ought to go see Madam Pomfrey," Ron muttered.
Harry, still incapable of believing his own words, told them the story as Hermione marched both of them into the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey fussed ferociously when she saw him. The bracelet cheered her on merrily as she repaired the cuts in Harry's back and checked him for absorbed potions.
"Well," she finally declared, "I suppose you're all right to go back to class this time. How's your arm, Mr. Weasley?"
"I thought you'd NEVER ask," the bracelet howled. "You'd not believe what this idiot boy's been up to! Never gave it a moment's rest! Waving that horrid stick of his around and hitting things and grabbing things and such AWFUL language, his mouth ought to be Scourgified from here to Sunday and back to Wednesday, and Merlin save me if he didn't actually throw HEXES at fellow STUDENTS—"
"Oh, Merlin's beard," sighed Madam Pomfrey. She marched over, and a mile-wide grin burst across Ron's face as she charmed off the bracelet. It promptly went silent. "My apologies, Mr. Weasley. I thought I'd thrown that one away."
Ron stared in amazement. "Isn't it supposed to carry on like that?"
Madam Pomfrey scowled ferociously. "Certainly not! It was tampered with. Of course, they claimed a Slytherin hit it with that modified Babbling Curse, and of course they claimed they didn't provoke him." She snorted. "As if I wouldn't know better after five years of James Potter and Sirius Black wreaking havoc on the whole school!"
Ron's mouth dropped, and then he fired an accusing stare at Harry. "I'm sending an owl off to Snuffles after Herbology," he declared. Harry just grinned a bit crookedly.
"Now," Madam Pomfrey said, unwinding the bandages from Ron's arm and giving it a once-over, "out of my hospital wing, the lot of you! I don't want to see your face in here again this school year, Mr. Potter!"
"You know, Harry, I reckon you haven't got to worry about You-Know-Who even if he does come back," Ron said rather glibly as they walked out towards the Great Hall in search of lunch. "If you can survive blowing up Snape's office, you can survive anything!"
Hermione gave Ron a rather arch look as they plopped down into their seats at the Gryffindor table. Fred and George were already there, and they both gave a bit of a start at the sight of Harry and his newly restored hair.
Fred whistled appreciatively. "You figured that out fast, Hermione."
"Of course," George added before anyone could get an explanatory word in edgewise, "I suppose you did have rather a lot of incentive."
At this mysterious comment, Harry decided that as bizarre as the story of Snape's office was, it could wait. "Yeah?" he asked eagerly. "What sort of incentive?"
Hermione turned on him hotly, saying something about how he ought to have learned to keep his nose in his own business by now, but the twins cut her off. "Well, you see, we've figured out what happened to your hair," Fred said brightly.
"Ought to have thought of it straight off, really," George agreed.
"We've still got to tweak the recipe a little, but the long and short of it is, the Lovability Lozenge worked after all!"
Hermione went pale.
"So," Harry said thoughtfully, "that hair wasn't just random…" Fred and George shook their heads simultaneously, faces adorned with identical grins of mischief. Harry regarded Hermione sideways, frowned for a moment, and then grinned even more wickedly than the twins as he remembered talking to McGonagall earlier…
"The Weasleys, then?"
"Professor, I don't know what you're talking about."
"Arthur and Molly have told me on more than one occasion that they regard you as a member of the family, Harry. You know that has nothing to do with appearances…"
"Well, tell us, Hermione," Fred said cheerfully. "It is me, George, or ickle Ronniekins?"
Ron spun around to Hermione. Harry could have flown a broom through his gaping mouth.
"I—no!" Hermione was blushing fiercely and wouldn't meet anyone's eyes. "You've got absolutely no right—"
"Oh," George said knowingly. "Percy, then!"
Harry, Ron, and Fred simultaneously discovered the inadvisability of snorting pumpkin juice out one's nose.
"You just leave off, George Weasley!" Hermione seized up her books, face red as Harry's hair had been, and extracted herself from the table and benches. She started to storm away, but suddenly stopped and turned around, leveling her wand at Harry.
"You're putting up S.P.E.W. posters with me tonight," she told him testily. "If I was you, I'd run back to Madam Pomfrey before then and make sure that wasn't a Switching Spell you did on your hair. It's looking rather greasy to me."
Harry felt his stomach lurch in horrified panic as Hermione marched triumphantly away. His hand flew up to his hair in raw dread. "Ron! It is my hair, isn't it? Ron! Check it! Fast!"