Title: Harry Potter and the Case of the Mind-Control Beam or Dumbledore's Last Hurrah
Disclaimer: If I were JK Rowling, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction for free, now would I? (Hint: no.)
A/N: Written in conjunction with my little brother, who demanded that it be DH compliant. Fie, I say, fie upon canon! Pre-epilogue, though. Also, I realized about a quarter of the way through that I don't actually know any American slang, but I kept going anyway(?) Oh well, my brother thinks it's funny at least!
Hogwarts, being a medieval castle, was never the most comfortable place on the best of days, but in the summer months, it got much, much worse. The heat from the sun seemed to sink into the stone walls and stay there, and what seemed like substantial drafts in the winter didn't translate into any significant air movement during the warmer months.
Pile on top of that the fact that it was dazzlingly beautiful outside almost every day, the kind of weather that made sitting in class feel criminal, and you got a very bad environment indeed for a summer school. Hermione wouldn't see it that way, of course. She maintained that she could see no fault in Headmistress McGonagall's decision to hold a summer session for all those who didn't get to finish out their seventh year due to the war. And maybe she did have a point – after all, the castle would get awfully crowded with all those extra students during the school year, especially with some places still blocked off for construction. But still.
Harry didn't like the idea of staying at Hogwarts over the summer as much as he always thought he would – maybe the fact that he now had an apartment with Ron lined up in Diagon Alley had something to do with that – and the pace at which they had to study in order to be ready for their make-up NEWTs was simply terrifying. Things were supposed to move slowly in summer; he was sure of it.
There was a thundering sound and Ron emerged from the stairway to the Gryffindor boys' dorm.
"Good morning, Ron," Hermione said as the three headed out the portrait hole. Harry nodded at him.
"'sup, guys," Ron said. Harry and Hermione shared a look behind his back.
"Ron's been acting a little strange, lately," Harry said to her in confidential tones, and she rolled her eyes. There was no explaining Ron when he started acting strange.
The trio didn't exchange more than a few words on their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. Due to the reduced number of students studying over the summer, only one of the long house tables was set up, and although McGonagall encouraged students to mix, the table's occupants had rigidly divided themselves by house.
Sitting down in the section the Gryffindors had claimed for their own and beginning to eat, it didn't take the trio long to notice that there was something a bit off.
"Hey, Harry, could you pass me the ki...those fish things?"
Harry looked at Ron oddly and pointed at the kippers. "You mean a k-" He frowned. "A kip-" Through tremendous effort, Harry managed to force out the first syllable of what he was trying to say, but could do no more. He gave up. "These fish things?"
Harry and Ron looked each other with wide eyes, and then turned to stare at Hermione. This was not normal.
"Hm?" Hermione felt their eyes on her and looked up; she didn't appear to have even noticed their stilted exchange of just a few seconds ago.
"Hermione, try saying something," Harry said.
"Something? Like what?" She looked at him askance.
"Anything!" said Ron.
"Ok...er, Harry, how come you're not having any tomatoes? They're hella good this morning!" She clapped a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. "That's not what I meant to say! What's going on here? This isn't something from your brother's joke shop, is it?" She narrowed her eyes at Ron.
"No, no, it isn't me! I swear!" Ron held up his hands.
"It's happening to all of us," Harry said. "Try saying 'k-' ...what that is." He indicated the newly christened fish-things.
Hermione almost managed it, but only with a lot of sputtering and redness of face. She narrowed her eyes again, only this time not at Ron. "I don't like this. Something is definitely up here, and we have to find out what."
Ron goggled at her. "Right now? But shouldn't you be more concerned about missing class?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "After class, Ronald. Obviously."
"Well, if we are going, then let's bounce. It's a long walk to the dungeons with that detour."
Harry raised an eyebrow, but he didn't even want to know what that one meant.
Their first class of the day was predictably Potions – Potions always seemed to comprise more than half of their course load, although Harry knew that logically this couldn't be the case. On the bright side, and it really was the only bright side, the dungeons were the only place in the castle that stayed reliably cool in the summer.
The students filed into the dank classroom when Slughorn opened the door, and took their assigned seats. Harry and Ron had a brief tussle over who got to sit farthest from Snape's second portrait, which he seemed to enjoy occupying during classes. In the end Hermione solved it by taking the end seat, leaving the boys sitting next to each other in the other two seats, out of the direct line of fire. The portrait also liked to offer commentary during class, aside from just watching, and Harry found it a bit spooky.
"Good morning, students!" Slughorn boomed. "We're continuing the potion from yesterday, so I trust there are no questions?"
There weren't, and they quickly picked up where they left off.
All except for Malfoy, apparently, who clearly found whispering with his Slytherin cronies preferable to starting in on his class work.
"Mr. Malfoy, may I enquire as to what you think you are doing?" Slughorn loomed over him, and Harry and Ron had to crane their heads to see the show.
"Dude, I'm just chilling with my homies! Lay off already!" He looked shocked for a second, but quickly schooled his features as if he had meant to say that all along. Hermione softly snorted back a laugh.
Malfoy opened his mouth, but then seemed to think better of it. "I was just getting started, Professor," he scowled.
"Five points from Slytherin for suspected insubordination," Snape pronounced from his portrait. "I don't know what a 'homie' is, but I don't like the sound of it."
Ron sniggered, and Harry whispered to Hermione, "Can he do that?"
"I don't know," Hermione whispered back.
"I don't care; look at Malfoy's face!" Ron expostulated in a low voice.
"And twenty-five points from Gryffindor for carrying on private convos during class," Portrait-Snape sneered.
Slughorn bustled over. "Now look here Severus, you know you can't do that! Portraits are not allowed to take off house points, even if they are of former Headmasters or heads of houses." Slughorn gave Snape one last glare and headed off to make a round of the room, muttering about not getting paid enough to have to deal with this sort of thing.
Everything went well after that until Ron and Hermione got into an argument over when to add the bubotuber roots.
"We have to do it right now, Hermione, or else we'll have to start over! Look!"
"No, it says to wait, can't you read?" Hermione knocked Ron's hand away from the cauldron mouth, but a few chunks of the root landed in their potion anyway. The next second, their table was engulfed in a bright pink cloud that quickly began emitting acid-green sparks.
"Wicked!" breathed Ron, from within the cloud. "Isn't it, Harry?"
Harry had to agree. "It's off the hook!"
Slughorn came bustling over, tutting at them. "Five points from Gryffindor, I'm afraid," he said, surveying their mess.
"And five more points from Gryffindor, for using those insufferable words," the Snape-portrait chimed in.
"Hey! That's not fair!" Harry exclaimed. "You can't take points off for what words we're using; we can't even help it! Can't we, Ron?"
Ron shook his head supportively.
"Be that as it may," Snape sneered from his portrait, "There is nothing to be done about it; I have already taken the points away from y'all and -" And at this he broke off, turned a rather oily shade of green, and disappeared off the side of his portrait.
Hermione was frowning deeply now. "Can we go see the headmistress, Professor?"
Looking slightly shell-shocked, Slughorn waved them off, and then quietly evanescoed their potions mess.
"I think I know what's going on here," Hermione said once they were out in the hallway on the way to McGonagall's office.
"Good, because I haven't the foggiest," Ron muttered.
Hermione largely ignored him. "Harry, what's your favorite dessert?"
Well, that was easy, everyone knew it. "It's t- mollassas pie," he said, his tone changing halfway through as he heard how it was coming out. "What the heck?"
Hermione grinned smugly. "Just as I thought! I think someone or some thing is trying to turn us into Americans."
Ron stared at her as though she had three heads. "What?!"
"Just think about it. All this weird new slang starts coming out; we can't say tr – or...Well, you know. The only thing I can't figure out is why it seems to be affecting some people and not others."
"Huh," Harry said, and they fell into a pensive silence.
A few floors later, Ron said, "Gosh, you know what would really hit the spot right now? A big, juicy, hamburger!" And then he immediately looked confused. "Erm, Hermione, what is a hamburger? I really want one all of a sudden, but I don't think I even know what that is." There was a slightly panicked expression around his eyes.
Hermione rolled her eyes again and said something under her breath that sounded like Wizards!
"It's what they eat in America, Ron. A hamburger is a ground meat patty eaten between two mass-produced, highly compressible rolls." She eyed him dubiously. "Honestly, how could you not have known that?"
But Ron was paying her little attention; his eyes were glazed and he appeared to be salivating. "Sounds ...so...good..."
Harry's own stomach was beginning to growl at the suggestion, and he couldn't really think of anything he'd want more, either. Just a hamburger, in all its mass produced, muggly glory...or preferably several.
"Here we are," Hermione announced as her stomach grumbled too They had arrived in front of the gargoyle that marked the entrance to the headmistress's office at last.
"What seems to be the problem?" asked Professor McGonagall when they presented themselves in front of her desk.
"We're having trouble talking, Professor, and I don't think it's just us. We can't say things like k, fish-things, or mollassas pie...I mean we can say that, but we can't say what it means..." Harry gave up trying to explain the situation, and McGonagall cocked an eyebrow.
"Yeah! And Snape's – Professor Snape's – portrait was taking house points off us!" Ron exclaimed indignantly. "He can't do that!"
McGonagall's other eyebrow joined the first. "Is he now? I shall have to have words with him." She pursed her lips distastefully; this was a task she apparently did not look forward to. "You are right, technically he is no longer allowed to deduct points. Though I may just have to do it for him if you keep addressing a professor in that tone, Mr. Weasley."
McGonagall's head bowed back to the papers she was sorting through, and Hermione spoke up.
"But, Professor, what we're really worried about is this speaking problem. It seems like some sort of malicious magic is affecting the whole student body!"
"Wudduya mean?" McGonagall uttered, and then immediately clamped both hands over her mouth in an echo of Hermione's reaction at breakfast. "How – interesting," she said once she had composed herself. "It would appear that the student body is not uniquely affected."
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, although it came out garbled in the same way that McGonagall's utterance had.
"The same spell should not be expected to affect everyone in the same way. Very often it will depend on things like magical experience, or emotions. Adults generally have better control over both, so it would not surprise me in the slightest that the students are more strongly affected."
"Nifty!" exclaimed Ron. Harry caught his eye and they both snickered. "It might come in handy to save some of these for later, huh?"
"Yeah, this would be a lot funnier if we weren't being forced into saying them," Harry agreed, his stomach giving another grumble. Words could not express how much he wanted a hamburger at this point.
"But what should we do about it?" Hermione exclaimed, stamping her foot. It was enough to shake Harry momentarily out of his hamburger reverie, but Ron still had a distant look.
"Is it really that inconvenient?" McGonagall asked. "I'm sure the effects will wear off in a few hours or days; a spell this far-reaching will rarely last long."
"Yes!" said Harry, thinking that 'inconvenient' didn't really go far enough. "I can't even say treeaaaakaauughblpht," he said, making a monumental effort to say it anyway. "This can't go on!"
McGonagall sighed and folded her hands on her desk. "I'm afraid there's nothing to be done. Occasionally, Hogwarts simply likes to pull tricks like this, and I doubt that we could even so much as pinpoint the exact source if we wanted to."
"On the contrary, my dear woman," a sprightly voice chirped from the opposite side of the room.
All heads whirled around to see who had spoken, but Harry knew before he even saw the bright blue eyes sparkling out at them from the portrait. He would have recognized Dumbledore's voice anywhere.
"Indeed it is I, my dear boy!" Dumbledore seemed to have grown attached that phrase during his tenure as a portrait. "Lemon drop?" He offered them a painted candy from a painted bowl on a painted pedestal next to him, but Harry declined.
"Do you know where the spell is coming from, Professor?" Hermione asked, and Ron looked expectantly at the portrait too.
"Indeed I do!" the former headmaster twinkled. "It's coming from the americanizer." He indicated a spindly silver instrument that was happily whirring away on an equally spindly table.
"The – americanizer?"
"Indeed!" said Dumbledore. Harry wished he would find some other word to overuse.
"What does it do, Professor?" asked Hermione. Harry thought he could hear McGonagall tutting from behind her desk, but he didn't look around.
"It americanizes!" Dumbledore beamed. "Isn't it wonderful?"
"Sure," said Hermione. "But...but why?"
"Oh dear," said Dumbledore, stroking his beard. "I do hope that I haven't gotten the date wrong."
"What date?" McGonagall asked, rising from her seat behind them.
"The Fourth of July, my dear woman! Charming American holiday, it is! I thought we could use a little something to get us in the mood, before the celebrations start."
"The...celebrations?" Harry asked tentatively. He had a bad feeling about this.
"Why yes! There will be fireworks in the evening, and I've instructed the house elves to make us all hamburgers and fried chicken for supper."
"Hamburgers?" Ron perked up.
"Albus, how many times have I asked you not to plan celebrations without obtaining my approval?" McGonagall asked in a severe voice. "The Midsummer one was hard enough to clean up from, and it took Hagrid a week to clear all the dryads out of here! This is a summer session; now more than ever they're here to learn."
Dumbledore's portrait managed to look a tad rueful.
"And using a magical device on people without their consent! On students, no less!" McGonagall huffed.
Dumbledore looked a little bit more rueful. "But it wasn't dangerous..." he tried.
McGonagall huffed again. "How am I supposed to run this school with you constantly interfering?"
Hermione poked Harry in the ribs and looked pointedly toward the door. Harry nodded and caught Ron's arm as they hauled their freight out of there. It looked like McGonagall and Dumbledore were well on their way to rehashing an old argument, and the three didn't cherish any desire to remain in the office for its duration.
"At least it'll only last for today," Hermione said resignedly.
Harry hummed his agreement. "And we do get fireworks..."
"And hamburgers," Ron added, his glazed look lifting fractionally once they were out of the headmistress's hallway. "The only thing I wonder is – how did he manage to get that thing turned on? He's made of paint."
Review? Or else I'll make Dumbledore turn his reviewage-compulsion-ray on you, and you don't want to see what that does. This is the easy way, trust me.