Chapter 21: Happi Days are here again!
"Akane! Ranma! Wait up!" Cho quickly, but carefully, made her way across the snow and ice covered courtyard towards the Japanese couple. It was morning, before breakfast, and the Saotomes were outside jogging in spite of the winter season.
"Hey Cho." Ranma called out in greeting.
When she reached them and tried to stop, Cho's slick soled shoes slid on the ice. She would have suffered a painful spill if Ranma and Akane hadn't each caught an arm as she went flying by.
"Oh, thanks guys." She said, as she straightened herself out. "Have you heard the news yet?" She was practically shaking with pent up excitement.
It wasn't something they were used to seeing from the normally reserved Chinese girl. Most of the time she seemed to be laboring under a great burden, the innocence of childhood seemingly crushed beneath its weight. Not right now though, she was as excited as Newt had been when talk turned to Santa Claus during the week before Christmas.
"Uh, what news?" Ranma asked, exchanging puzzled looks with Akane.
"What news? Why the sign outside the Great Hall of course."
"What sign?" A look of fear suddenly took over Ranma's face. "They didn't move up breakfast did they? Have we missed it?"
"Missed breakfast, what…no, of course not. I'm talking about the announcement."
Akane explained their ignorance. "What announcement Cho? I'm afraid we haven't been by the Great Hall yet this morning."
"Oh, I thought you would have heard. I mean, everyone's talking about it."
"Talking about what?" Akane asked, dismayed by her friend's uncharacteristically spacey behavior.
"Apparition lessons of course. There's a sign outside the hall announcing that students who will turn seventeen this year can sign up for lessons."
"Wait," Now Ranma seemed to be catching her infectious excitement. "Apper-what ever, that's that appearing disappearing thing, right?"
"Apparition is the ability to magically travel without crossing the distance in between, seeming to appear and disappear, yes."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Akane was catching the excitement to. "Where do we sign up?"
Fifteen minutes later it was a more despondent trio that walked away from the Great Hall.
"I'm sorry guys, I didn't even think about you not having taken your O.W.L.S. yet." Cho really did feel bad for them.
Seeing the heavy expression of guilt on her friend's face, Akane tried to reassure the Chinese girl that it wasn't her fault. "It's okay Cho. I'm sure there are masters back home who know the secret. We'll just have to learn from one of them."
"Yeah, good luck with that." Ranma muttered. He was extremely disappointed not to be learning the new technique and it was making him even more obtuse than ever regarding Cho's feelings. "I'm sure the old pervert knows it, but he's not about to teach us."
Cho's face tightened up more and Akane gave her unthinking husband a dirty look in response. Without really thinking about it, she decided he needed a little payback for the pain he was carelessly causing the other girl. "Oh, I don't know Ranma, I bet you could convince him. Maybe if Ranko agreed to take the lesson wearing only one of his favorite bras. After all, it can't be any worse than some of the things you did to get Cologne to teach you and she had to worry about Jozeketsu law."
To be honest for just a moment, only a second mind you, Ranma actually considered it, before throwing the idea away as rubbish. "Cologne could get away with flaunting their laws because she was on the council of elders, and even then she only taught me because she wanted something. The old pervert figures he can just steal what he wants and what he can't steal I ain't gonna give him, not for no technique, not for nothing."
Akane actually felt bad for making things worse, but Cho grew excited as Ranma's words planted the seed of an idea in her mind.
"Wait, we have our own council of elders and one of them is right here in Hogwarts!"
"You have amazons?" Ranma wasn't surprised, for such an isolated village they seemed to crop up everywhere.
"No baka. They have their own council of wizard and witch elders."
Cho sometimes still found it hard to follow the couple's relationship, the back and forth from loving to adversarial, but it certainly was entertaining. "That's right, their called the Wizengamot, they serve as the Ministry's highest court and Headmaster Dumbledore is on it. If anyone can find a way for you to take Apparition lessons it would be him."
Akane and Ranma exchanged uneasy glances. Akane tried to explain their concern. "We're not exactly on Professor Dumbledore's list of favorite people right now." She told Cho.
Cho raised an eyebrow at that. "You're not referring to what happened to Professor Snape, are you?" Even now the memory of Snape dressed as a loli-goth brought an amused smile to her face.
Ranma started rapidly shaking his head no. "No no, that wasn't…I mean, that could have been anybody!"
Cho gave the flustered boy a mischievous grin. "Sure, it could have been anybody, but everybody knows it was you. Still, you shouldn't worry about that, I don't believe the Headmaster will hold that against you enough to impair your education. He considers Hogwart's mission as a school to be too important to allow personal feelings to interfere."
"That never stopped Pineapple Head."
"Ranma, Dumbledore isn't Kuno."
"Really? I'll admit he's certainly saner, but he still seems to be gone a lot."
Cho felt the need to defend her headmaster. "It's just been this year that he's been gone a lot. In all of the other years I've been here Dumbledore has always been here, rarely leaving unless called by the Ministry."
Akane made an intuitive leap. "Is the Ministry calling him away now because of this Voldimort character?" It was only then she remembered that Voldimort killed Cho's boyfriend, and that bringing him up would probably cause the girl pain.
Fortunately the girl didn't seem to mind. "Well I don't doubt his absences have something to do with Voldimort's return, after all Dumbledore was one of his most adamant opponents in the past, still I doubt he is answering the Ministry's summons now." A shadow of regret fell over Cho's face. "Some things happened last year…when Cedric died…" She paused to gather her strength. "Dumbledore announced to everyone at school that it was Voldimort who killed him. The Minister of Magic, Fudge, was really angry at him for doing so. He didn't want anyone to know that 'you know who' had returned, so Fudge did his best to destroy Dumbledore, even had him removed as Headmaster for awhile." Akane, and even the normally oblivious Ranma, could tell that the whole period was not a pleasant one for Cho to remember. "It was a really hard time here at Hogwarts, for everyone, and there are still a lot of hard feelings against the Ministry about it."
Ranma was confused. "Fudge? I thought this Grimjaws dude was Minister?"
"That's Scrimgeour, and he is. After Voldimort attacked Harry at the offices of the Ministry in London it was impossible to hide from everyone that he was back and Fudge was sacked. Rufus Scrimgeour was head of the Aurors and he was elected to take Fudge's place, but I don't think he and Dumbledore get along. Hermoine told me that Scrimgeour visited Harry Potter at the Weasley's over Christmas and that whatever he said made Harry really mad. So whatever Dumbledore is doing, I doubt he's doing it for the Ministry."
Akane looked at Ranma and he just shrugged. "I guess it can't hurt to ask." He said.
Stopping, Akane called out for Lint and with a crack, the small elf appeared before them.
"You called Lint, Mistress Akane?" The small elf smiled in expectation, hopeful for the chance to help.
"Yes Lint, would you please see if Headmaster Dumbledore is in and if so, if we can speak to him?"
Lint was literally bouncing on her heels at the prospect. "Lint would be happy to." She told them, then disappeared with another crack.
Ranma, as always, had watched intently.
The Headmaster was in and it was only a matter of minutes before Ranma and Akane were back in his office. They were even more nervous than last time, then they had only faced expulsion, this time they were asking for a favor.
They didn't need to be so concerned. Since their conversation with the Headmaster, the Saotomes had joined Snape and Draco in a mutual game of 'I no see you' and Dumbledore, while he could have wished for better, was content with that as long as no more actions were taken to disrupt Hogwart's tranquility.
"Good morning Akane, Ranma, what can I do for you?" He asked with a smile. It was too early for tea or candy.
"Professor," Akane began after being nudged by a silent Ranma. "we wanted to talk to you about the upcoming Apparition lessons."
"Ah, yes. Is it safe to assume you both wish to participate?"
"Yes sir." Akane answered while Ranma nodded excitedly. "But, we haven't taken our O.W.L.S.."
"Ah, I see. Yes, normally successful completion of one's O.W.L.S is required, but the age requirement for actually taking the license exam is waved if the student will be seventeen before the next year. The Ministry's class does not confer an Apparition License, so I see no reason why we can't wave the O.W.L.S. requirement instead of the age one. You are both already seventeen so yes, you will be allowed to take the class. Mind you, this doesn't confer the legal right to perform Apparition in England, but I don't think that will matter once you return to your home in Japan."
"Thank You!" They both said with a bow.
By February the snow had melted leaving bitter cold and near constant rain in its wake. This did little to dissuade the Saotomes from their morning jog, though it did ensure Ranma enjoyed a lot of 'Ranko' time. Still, with the cold and rain there were few students to witness her running about the grounds with Akane.
Another consequence of the weather was that when Saturday morning and Apparition lessons arrived, the class was moved indoors.
Standing in the entryway of the room Ranma and Akane had never seen the Great Hall so loud and boisterous, at least not counting the one time that both desperately tried to forget. Following an almost herd like instinct, one common in schools the world over, the students had all gravitated to the outer walls leaving the center of the room empty. The tables and chairs had been removed to make a clear area for their lessons and all of that empty space really drove home just how large the room was. The rain lashing against the windows and the illusion of swirling dark clouds above added an ominous edge to the morning.
"Mr. And Mrs. Saotome." A reedy voice intruded unexpectedly from the hallway behind them.
Turning about they found the almost ghostly Mr. Twycross walking up behind them, a faint smile upon his lips.
"Mr. Twycross." Akane greeted as she and Ranma both gave a shallow bow. "Are you going to be our instructor?" She asked.
Wilkie Twycross returned the bow with the nod of his head. "Yes" He answered. "I am here representing the Department of Magical Transportation as instructor in Apparition." A small grimace washed across his face. "In other words, 'I drew the short straw' as the muggles would say."
"Come on." Ranma's voice was filled with mild disbelief. "I saw you with Ryouga, you can't tell me you weren't enjoying yourself."
The older man gave a bemused smile and nod in concession. "I do admit that I enjoy my job, even take a great deal of pleasure when one of my students proves successful in following instruction, but as I am sure you yourselves have discovered teaching can be quite trying. In all truth, I would much rather continue my work with Mr. Habiki. A truly fascinating case, one worthy of entrance in the annuals of history if I do say so myself."
"Mr. Twycross," Akane began. "does Ryouga appirate, like you are going to teach us?"
"Oh no, I am afraid not. What Mr. Habiki does is actually quite unique and I suspect a hereditary trait, not one that can be taught, but that still leaves the possibility of making new discoveries based upon its study. I am moved to hope that one day, all witches and wizards will be able to travel to the far reaches of the world with the same ease we now travel to our local market. I foresee very exciting possibilities."
"What do ya know,…" Ranma nudged Akane with a smirk. "pig boy may change the world."
"Ranma, don't pick on him, and don't make fun of Akari, she's a wonderful girl."
'Akari?' Sometimes Akane not knowing about Ryouga's curse made talking to her confusing.
Not understanding the significance of either statement, though he had visited Akari's pig farm while traveling with Ryouga, Mr. Twycross reluctantly interrupted their budding argument. "Yes well, I'm afraid I had better straighten out this rabble. If you will excuse me, perhaps we can get together for tea after the lesson."
"We would love to." Akane answered enthusiastically while giving Ranma an unnecessary nudge with her elbow.
"Good, then I'll see you after class."
Mr. Twycross moved to join Professors McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick and Sprout at the front of the hall, while Ranma and Akane moved to join Cho among the students.
Once the house heads had wrangled some control over the students, Mr. Twycross introduced himself to the group. "Good morning, I am Wilkie Twycross and I shall be your Ministry Apparition instructor for the next twelve weeks. I hope to be able to prepare you for your Apparition Tests in this time…" The slight wizard was interrupted by Professor McGonagall reprimanding that annoying twit, Malfoy, but didn't allow it to disrupt him one bit. He was clearly used to such behavior. "…by which time, many of you may be ready to take your tests." He finished. With a brief gesture to their surroundings, he went on to explain; "As you may know, it is usually impossible to Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts. The headmaster has lifted this enchantment, purely within the Great Hall, for one hour, so as to enable you to practice." He went on to warn them that the wards outside the hall were still active, then called loose bedlam as he instructed the students to spread themselves out in orderly rows, five feet apart.
Ranma and Akane quickly fell in line, this being similar to what they were often called upon to do in the Japanese school system for group calisthenics. Their English counterparts on the other hand, were not used to it and made quite a row as they jostled and jockeyed for position until McGonagall and the other professors were required to take matters in hand. Once silence and order had been restored, with a wave of his wand Mr. Twycross caused rows of wooden hoops to appear before the lined up students. He then went on to explain the three D's of Apparating, a lecture the Saotomes had heard once before in Cassiobury Park when they introduced him to Ryouga. Still, they both wanted to learn this new technique so they paid avid attention to the little man. In spite of that they were no more successful than the other students and the first one to actually appirate was Susan Bones, with disastrous results as they learned first hand about spilching.
With the exception of Saturday morning Apparition class life returned to normal for Ranma and Akane, at least until Valentines Day.
Well, there was one little incident.
"Ah, Hogwarts!" Happossai said to himself, drawing a heady breath of the hormone laden air and stares from several uniform wearing students. "Such sweet memories…" he muttered to himself. Though he had never attended as a student, he had visited the castle several times in his youth. Back then the security hadn't been nearly so tight, but he was both older and infinitely wiser now, sneaking into the hallowed grounds of the school had proven to be child's play for the diminutive grandmaster of Anything Goes. What Happi wanted he got and what he wanted right now was to check up on his heirs. Though he certainly wouldn't pass up any sweet panties that crossed his way.
He first tried their improvised dojo, being on the ground floor and near an exit it was easy to find. It was early in the school day so he found the hall empty, his heirs were currently attending classes of their own. Even so, Happi spent nearly an hour just sitting outside the door admiring Soun's handwritten sign. A single tear of pride rolled down the old man's wrinkled cheek at the sight of his art's name proudly proclaimed within the halls of Hogwarts. It felt as if he had finally achieved one of his oldest and fondest dreams.
Filius Flitwick was having a good day. There was nothing special about it, it was just a good day and he was humming happily to himself as he made his way through the halls of Hogwarts. He was passing the Saotomes' dojo, a wonderful addition to the staff if you asked him, and what he first mistook for a large house elf standing in the hall. It wasn't until he drew closer that he realized the tattered and stained one piece outfit the other was wearing wasn't a cast off rag, but a true, if worn, article of clothing. He could now also tell that the figure didn't wear the emaciated flesh of an elf, but the thin, wrinkly skin of an old man, all be it an extremely short one. Shorter even than himself. It never occurred to him that the old man's presence was a reason for worry, after all if he wasn't supposed to be there the aurors never would have let him passed the front gate.
"Excuse me." He politely intruded on the old man's solitude. "Can I be of some help to you sir?"
For once it was Happi who was surprised by a sudden arrival. He had been so engrossed in Soun's calligraphy that he hadn't sensed the professor's approach and he nearly jumped out of his skin in fright at someone getting so close. When he got a look at who was interrupting his meditations, his eyes opened wide and he couldn't help but stare.
Filius was used to getting that look. With his height he often drew stares, if not always the obvious disdain of the pure bloods. He was used to it, but that didn't mean he liked or accepted it.
"Is there something wrong, sir?" He asked, ice in his voice. Something Happi totally missed.
"Wrong?" Happi asked, confused, before the lights went on. "Oh no, of course not. I just didn't expect to find someone of your stature and noble lineage in a wizard's school. What clan are you from?"
"Clan…" Filius was struggling with what the little man meant by stature, and wasn't following the conversation very well.
"Yes, clan. What craft did your forbearers practice?"
"Craft? I am a wizard and the Transfiguration professor here at Hogwarts." Filius was confused but he answered proudly.
To his continuing confusion, the small stranger's response was to pat him consolingly on the arm. "Wouldn't let you learn it either, eh? Those arrogant little pure bloods…Well, who cares?! You are a teacher at Hogwarts, easily as prestigious as being a sword smith, or cup hammerer, or whatever have you. Be proud of what you've achieved I say."
"Excuse me sir, I don't mean to be rude, but who are you?" The professor asked, having decided that their previous conversation wasn't worth trying to puzzle out.
Happossai drew up to his full, not so impressive height, before proudly declaring: "I am Happossai, Grandmaster of the School of Anything Goes. Ranma and Akane are my students and heirs. I came here to check up on them. Do you, by chance, know where I can find them?"
That fine fellow, Filius Flitwick, hadn't been able to tell Happi where Ranma and Akane were at the moment, he wasn't sure what class they would be in right now, but he was able to direct him to their rooms to wait. Happi didn't bother knocking as he knew no one was home. He also ignored the crotchety old lady in the painting across the hall. He originally just intended to wait in their front room, but couldn't resist checking to see if either of his girls had come into possession of any western style panties. They had, though sweet Ranma-chan's didn't look like they had even been unpacked after arriving at Hogwarts. There was a pretty little teddy in a box but it was cold and sterile, he could tell that it had never known the feel of a woman's delicate skin. He was about to give up in disgust when he found a bag shoved way to the back of the drawer. Drawing it forth in hopes of finding hidden treasures, he dumped its contents out on the bed. The first and heaviest object was a chocolate heart, equal parts dark and white, wrapped in waxed paper. He was about to help himself when his sharp nose picked up the sweet scent of a love potion left too long to mature. Giving it a more thorough examination he quickly recognized at whom it was aimed and couldn't hold in a lustful sigh. It was gratifying to know that at last his slow witted students were doing their part to ensure the future of his art. He promised himself that he would buy the boys a drink once he returned to Nerima. A smile on his face, he returned the heart to its wrappings and moved on to the other contents of the bag. He found a corked glass vial filled with a clear fluid, it looked like water with a tinge of some other oily liquid floating on top. Realizing that the two substances must have separated with time, Happi shook the vial, stirring its contents, before popping the cork for a sniff…nothing. Taking out his iron pipe, he poured a small measure into the bowl then heated it to a low boil with his ki. Studying the steam that rose from it, even going so far as to lick the air, a sly grin spread across his face. 'Now why…' he thought to himself, '…would Ranma and Akane bring something like this to Hogwarts, then just leave it sitting wasted in a drawer for months?' It was…well, it was a wrong that very much needed righting and he was just the master to do it.
When the afternoon meal rolled around, Ranma and Akane joined the other professors at the head table. Sitting down, the young couple exchanged greetings with their older associates. They pointedly ignored Snape and he them, it was easier that way.
As the meal progressed and the food disappeared, attentions naturally turned to conversation.
All of which came to a screaming halt for the Saotomes with Filius' innocent words.
"It was my pleasure to meet your grandmaster Happossai today." He said lightly. "I trust you had a pleasant visit?"
Ranma nearly choked on his food, horror robbing him of his hard won Saotome eating technique. As he was struggling to cough up his errant food, it fell to Akane to ask the question neither wanted answered.
"Master Happossai was here, at Hogwarts?" She asked apprehensively.
"Why yes." Filius answered, confused by their reaction. "He said he was here to check up on you. Naturally I assumed you had seen him. I say, is something wrong?"
Ranma had finally succeeded in clearing his throat, and forgetting his manners he angrily set out to answer. "Is something wrong! You say the old freak is here and you have to ask if something's wrong?! I'll say…"
No one ever heard what the gender confused boy had to say for all were distracted when a powerful wind blew the great doors open. Reaching every corner of the room its swirling tendrils carried a light, gritty dust that had everyone blinking and coughing, helpless to prevent what was about to happi…I mean happen.
"Sweeto!" A high pitched voice cried out in unmitigated joy as Grandmaster Happossai bounced about the room, from table to table, without rhyme or reason, at last coming to a standing halt upon the table before Professor McGonagall; who was dismayed to see the little man holding a heavily laden bag over his shoulder with one hand, while the other was rubbing a particularly silky pair of French cut panties lovingly against his cheek.
"Oh madam!" He said to the scandalized teacher. "I commend you on your fine taste in panties! You could learn something from her Ranma my boy!" Turning towards the headmaster, he gave a brief "Albus.", before disappearing without a trace.
"Is something wrong?" Ranma muttered sarcastically, absentmindedly scratching his cheek, and then his other cheek, followed by the top of his head, then his neck and he wasn't the only one, all throughout the room both students and professors were beginning to itch and consequently scratch, until forgetting both food and dignity, everyone vacated the Great Hall in favor of the nearest bath. It wasn't their fault, the fine dust that had blown through the room was one of Happossai's proudest achievements, a little something he had invented to correct those times when the ladies side of the public baths were tragically empty.
By the time Ranma and Akane reached their rooms they were traveling at speeds few at Hogwarts could match. So great was their hurry that they didn't even think to close doors behind them, instead leaving a trail of discarded clothes from the front door of the sitting room, up to and including the door to the bath. Down to his boxers Ranma didn't hesitate to leap into the heated bath. Akane paused briefly, but the extreme discomfort of the itching powder quickly convinced her that it was perfectly okay for Ranma to see her in so little, after all they were married and it wasn't like he hadn't seen her naked before. Mind made up, she quickly slipped into the water wearing only her bra and panties (Happi had been so distracted by the beauties Minerva gave him, he hadn't made it to Akane).
After a harried rub down under the water, a much relieved Akane popped back up. With blessed release from the incessant itching came the embarrassment of being in the bath with Ranma, both in nothing more than their skivvies.
"Ranma…" She began.
Her bath companion turned towards her nervously. "Akane…It's not my fault! I mean, it was the pervert…" Ranma's voice trailed off, momentarily distracted from eyeing Akane's nearly naked body (and see through, wet, under things) when instead of the expected lines of anger, he instead found her brow furrowed with confusion.
"Ranma" Akane said again. "Why are you a girl?"
"Huh, I ain't no stupid girl tomboy. We're sitting in…hot…water…?" Now Ranma was confused for in spite of the fact his skin was telling him the water was hot, his eyes found two large some things floating in the water before him that verified that yes, she was a girl.
High pitched, feminine screams echoed down those esteemed halls of education, screams that did not come from the rooms belonging to the young martial artists.
There, another chapter. Sorry it's so short but now that Happi's take on Saotome revenge is done, disappointing as it may be, now hopefully I can actually write something.
I know I promised to deal with JWG's suggestion for Ranma and Appirating, but I'm afraid that was pushed back to the next chapter. I had forgotten just how long Appirating lessons went on and I didn't want it to feel rushed. Ranma learns fast, but inspiration doesn't always strike immediately.