"An astonishing dishplay, Terry. A clash of –" Michael was cut off by a loud hiccup, and it dissolved into a fit of giggles that doubled him over for almost a full minute before he could catch his breath again, his face bright red as he wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. "Titans…our Highland Hercules and the…um…."
"Cornish Colossus," Terry offered, still sprawled on his back, ignoring the contest that had the rest of them fixated as he scrawled notes in the margins of one of the Room's many books.
"That," Michael nodded happily. "It's too bad the Death Eaters can't see this! Raw physical power on a level that…well, y'know. Ish 'mpressive."
Ernie laughed, leaning forward across the table until his face nearly touched Derek's over their interlocked fists. Both young men's foreheads were shining with sweat, Ernie's voice was still completely conversational, the only real sign of his exertion the tight pattern of veins and tendons against the muscles of his arm. "What do you think, Adams, time to end this?"
"If you want to call it a draw, Macmillan," Derek hissed between clenched teeth, "no thanks. I can hang in there."
"And that," Ernie's dimples appeared suddenly and deeply as he grinned, "is your mistake." The hazel eyes closed, he took a deep breath, and then the tension seemed to surge from his arm into his shoulders and down the heavily scarred lines of his back. Derek's eyes flew wide, and there was a split-second's comprehension before the back of his hand slammed into the table. "HAH!"
Ernie jumped to his feet, pumping both arms into the air as the cheers rang out, then his ruddy features fell abruptly white, and he sagged to his knees, grabbing his bicep. "Oh, Merlin!"
"How'd you do that?" Derek stared incredulously at his opponent, his arm still flat on the table. "I…"
"You let me set the rules," Ernie mumbled. "You could have had me in one big burst, but you let me make it about stamina, and you've never sheared sheep."
"Don't worry, mate," Seamus clapped Derek on the shoulder with a broad grin of his own, slightly lopsided through the half-healed bruises. "There's plenty Macmillan's done with sheep that ya can be glad ya ain't."
"Shut it, Finnigan, or I'll undo all that work Terry's done on your pretty face" Ernie snapped, but Michael stepped between them, arms outstretched.
"Now, now, fair's fair." He pointed to Ernie, then to the empty bottles at the far end of the table. "Adams picks what, but you're buying us 'nother round."
"You've already had more than enough, Mike."
He turned as he felt Terry's hand on his arm, but he shook it off with the best attempt at dignity he could manage, brushing the fringe back from his forehead. "I haffn't had haff what you haff."
"Alcohol is a depressant," Terry said with astonishingly crisp diction. "I have an excellent pre-existent tolerance."
"You're just better at hiding it," Stephen insisted, getting somewhat unsteadily to his own feet from where he had been rubbing Derek's shoulders. "Nobody can have that much tolerance."
Terry made a dismissive face, waving a hand grandly. "Incendio, Incendius, Incendior, Incendiate, Incendiavis…"
"What's he doing?" Neville frowned. "Those aren't all real spells."
"He's parsing," Anthony explained sagely. "Conjugating the base verb behind the spell."
"Proving, ergo," Terry said smugly. "That I am still perfectly sober."
"Parse all ya want. Like t'see ya touch your nose."
"I second Mr. Macmillan, Finnigan. Shut it."
Michael laughed again, then waved his wand, scooping the bottles off the table and into Neville's startled arms. "Go on, Commander! And bring back some food, too? Eat, drink, and be merry –"
Terry's laughter joined his, his wand opening the portrait for their leader as he took a deep bow, blue eyes glittering. "Nam cras moriemur!"