Hermione just barely managed to hide a smirk as her Harry led her onto the dance floor for the opening of the Yule Ball. The Pure-blood parents sneered at her in disgust while their daughters looked like someone had not only kicked their puppy, but was using it as bait for the giant squid as well. All thoughts of anyone other than her green eyed boyfriend fled however when Harry put his hand on her waist, and took her right hand in his left as the music started.
Maleficent Parkinson sat at a table bordering the dance floor, and ground her teeth in rage when she saw another mudblood on the arm of a Potter heir. She had always thought that James Potter would have made an excellent husband, but the bitch Evans had swooped in and stolen the prized stud out from underneath all of the much more deserving Pure-blood princesses. Now another mudblood had the audacity to cauldron block her daughter (and by extension the rest of her family) from accessing the Potter wealth.
With an expression somewhere between a sneer and a smirk, Mrs. Parkinson noticed how close the Gryffindor couple were dancing towards the edge of the dance floor. When they got close to her table, Maleficent stuck out her foot to trip the uppity mudblood. Much to her surprise, the girl Pansy had described as being a bumbling, awkward know-it-all easily stepped over her foot without missing a single beat.
Harry was torn between calling out the bitch who had tried to trip Hermione and simply dancing with the young woman he loved. His mind was made up when he saw Neville trying to catch his eye. The Longbottom heir subtly pointed to Mrs. Parkinson and then towards Luna who was having a quick conversation with one of the Hogwarts house elves. The house elf looked shocked at first and then very, very angry. With a single nod of its oversized head, the elf popped away.
On their next pass by the Parkinson table, Harry noticed that Mrs. Parkinson was looking very uncomfortable. She stood up awkwardly, and then left the Great Hall as quickly as proper decorum for upper class society would allow. Harry didn't bother to hide his smile when he saw Luna had tears streaming down her face, her shoulders shaking with laughter, and had a napkin stuffed in her mouth to keep herself from making too much noise. A very smug looking elf was standing next to Luna, whispering something in her ear.
The Dowager Lady Augusta Longbottom also noticed the byplay. As a member of Minerva and Filius' group of pranksters, she was curious as to what had befallen the wife of one of the "imperiused" Death Eaters. Using her cane (which usually got more use as a means of smacking the other members of the Wizengamot out of the way than for support or stability), Augusta got up from her seat. She made sure her hat with the stuffed vulture on top was sitting snugly on her head, and made her way to the table where her grandson sat.
"Greetings, Neville. Perhaps you would like to share the joke which has made you forget all of the lessons I taught you on how to behave in a setting such as this," Augusta asked in a tone that clearly said the request was more of a demand.
Before Neville could reply, his girlfriend beat him to it. Luna showed the eldest Longbottom a bottle of muggle super-glue she had concealed in her hand. "I pointed out to Hoddy what Mrs. Parkinson had tried to do, and explained that it was most likely due to Hermione being a first generation witch. Hoddy popped away and then returned to say she had dealt with the situation. She handed me this bottle and said that 'if the mean lady being acting like a stuck up bitch, then the mean bitch should have her lady parts being stuck up for reals'," Luna explained.
While Neville had seen the caring, warm, and sometimes even funny side of his grandmother in private, he had never seen her so much as smile in public. He was left speechless as Lady Longbottom's face contorted into countless odd expressions as she tried valiantly not to laugh. In the end a single snort escaped.
With the faintest of smiles still on her lips, Augusta said, "It's always good to see house elves stick to their belief of fair play." She allowed Neville a moment of shock to process her making a joke in public before speaking again. "Neville, would you be so good as to introduce me to this young lady?" she requested.
"My apologies, Grandmother. Lady Augusta Longbottom, I am extremely pleased to introduce you to my girlfriend, Luna Lovegood," Neville said formally. While had written to his Gran about Luna several times, this was the first time they had met in person.
Luna tilted her head to one side and then the other as she looked up at the vulture on Lady Longbottom's hat. Eventually she said, "While the vulture looks very pretty surrounded by the dried flowers, I don't think I can truly approve of the message it sends."
Augusta's eye narrowed and her lips were pressed into a thin line of displeasure. "And why would that be, young lady?" she stated, her voice cold.
Luna gave Augusta a hungry, vicious smile. "I don't believe Death Eaters deserve a warning after everything they've done, and your hat is a clear warning of what will happen to them if they mess you. Also, I seriously doubt that Death Eaters are smart enough to understand the warning in the first place," Luna explained. When Luna noticed that several Death Eaters were eavesdropping, she pointed towards the vulture. "Vultures are carrion eaters, literal 'Death Eaters'. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out you had killed that vulture personally before having it stuffed. You wear it out in public as a warning for all of the 'reformed' Death Eaters that if they should attack you or your family again, they will suffer the same fate. I'm not certain if your neck muscles are strong enough to support the weight of a full grown moron if you do so, perhaps you could use a shrinking charm on their corpses," she stated.
Augusta matched Luna's smile with a similar one of her own. "Perhaps, but giving the vermin a warning appeals to my sense of fair play. That said, I do approve of your blood thirsty nature, Miss Lovegood. I look forward to seeing you around Longbottom Hall this summer," she said primly. Augusta focused her attention on Neville. "Grandson, if you do something to lose this young woman's affection, I shall be most cross with you," she warned.
Neville looked fist at his Gran and then looked into Luna's eyes. "If I do anything to lose Luna's love, then I expect you to ship me straight to St. Mungo's, since I would have to have a massive wrackspurt infestation," he proclaimed.
The New Marauders and their dates gathered in an unused class room near the Great Hall a few minutes after the Yule Ball had finally ended. George raised his hand to get everyone's attention. "I call dibs on the Room of Requirement tonight. I want to make sure Angelina knows I'm not Father Christmas," he called out.
Hermione scrunched her brows in confusion. "Not Father Christmas?" she asked.
George smiled as he could always depend on Hermione to set him up with a straight line. "Yeah, everyone knows Father Christmas only comes once a year," he stated. Everyone groaned at the pun, with the loudest being Fred. "Et tu, brother?" George asked, slightly offended. Fred groaned even louder as he dropped down to one knee, holding his stomach in real pain. "Fred!" George yelled as he rushed to his twin's side.
Hermione pulled her wand out of one of her long dress gloves. With a series of jabs and whirls, she cast a diagnostic charm Professor Moody had taught them. A faint green shimmer appeared around Fred. "That's weird. The spell checks to see if someone has been poisoned. If they were, they should have a strong, bright green glow, not a faint one. The only thing I can think of is that it must be a fairly weak poison. Definitely not a life threatening one," she proclaimed.
Harry immediately snapped into his role as leader of the New Marauders even though no one's life was in danger yet. "Neville, help George get Fred to Madam Pomfrey. Luna, help Fleur provide wand support in case whoever did this is waiting to ambush us on the way there. Hermione, you find McGonagall and Flitwick to let them know what is going on. I'll go find Ginny. I'm sure she would want to know," he stated. No one was bothered in the slightest that Harry had excluded telling the youngest male Weasley.
While George and Neville each put one of Fred's arms across their shoulders, Harry pulled out the Marauders Map from his sporran. "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good," he stated. Once the map had unfolded, he used the search function Remus and Sirius had shown him to find Prof. McGonagall. All of the names disappeared except for Minerva McGonagall. A quick check for Flitwick had McGonagall's name disappear to be replaced by Filius Flitwick in the same classroom. "Hermione, McGonagall and Flitwick are both in her classroom," Harry said. Hermione gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before she followed everyone else out of the classroom.
Harry was glad the twins had already left when he did a search for Ginny. All of the Weasley brothers were overprotective to some extent when it concerned their baby sister. The map showed Ginny was in a broom cupboard on the third floor. "Mischief managed," he stated and then put the map back in his sporran.
Using a shortcut hidden behind a painting of several hippogriffs playing poker, Harry made it to the third floor in record time. Deciding discretion was the better part of valor, he knocked on the broom cupboard door rather than yanking it open. Hearing a feminine squeak of surprise, he asked, "Ginny, are you in there?"
"Harry?! What are you doing here?" Ginny exclaimed, her voice equal parts embarrassed and annoyed.
"We think Fred's been poisoned, well sort of. Hermione's scans showed it wasn't fatal, but I thought you would want to know," Harry replied.
"Arrghh! Could Fred have any worse timing!" Ginny swore. "Give me a minute, I'll be right out," she said. After a moment, the door to the broom cupboard opened up just wide enough to let Ginny slide out. Harry wasn't surprised at all at her mussed up hair and slightly smeared lipstick considering where he found her. "Not a word, Harry Potter!" Ginny warned him, her embarrassed smile taking the sting out of her words.
"Let's go. Neville and George should have brought Fred to the infirmary by now. I had Luna and Fleur provide security for them on their way," Harry told her as he started to walk back to the hidden staircase.
"Wait," Ginny said as she grabbed his arm. "Do you think Fleur will still be with them when we get there?" she asked.
"I would assume so, since Fred and her are pretty serious about each other," he told her.
Ginny closed her eyes, sighed, and ran her hand through her hair. "Well that's just great!" she said sarcastically. "I'm still trying to build up my tolerance to her. As it stands now, I can only be in the same room as the Veela for a few minutes before I have to leave," she stated.
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. He would never have expected that type of bigotry from Ginny. "Ginny, I think if you give Fleur even half a chance, you'll find out she really is a great person," Harry chided her.
"You think I don't know that, Harry! Don't you think I would like to be able to spend more than a few minutes in the presence of my brother's girlfriend?" she snapped back. When she saw Harry's expression darken, Ginny realized she wasn't explaining things well. "Harry, I know Fleur is a bright, caring, all around wonderful girl. That's the problem. You see, Harry, I owe Fleur a lot and it's really frustrating that I can't tell her," she sighed dejectedly.
"I don't understand. What do you owe Fleur?" Harry asked.
Ginny blushed as she answered, "For one, she's willing to put up with Fred and I don't have to worry about him finding a girl. Two, she helped me realize that I'll probably end up playing for the Holyhead Harpies when I graduate."
Harry was now really confused. "Wait… how can you end up playing for the Harpies? They're all lesbi… oh," he said as he finally caught on to what Ginny was saying.
Ginny put a hand on her hip and gave Harry a mock pout. "Lesbi-ohs?" she asked.
Harry ran his hand through his messy black hair in embarrassment. "Wow, to hear you say it makes it sound like either a breakfast cereal or canned pasta," he admitted.
Ginny gave Harry a playful smirk. "Neither, obviously. Both of those are things you would have at your house, and everyone knows that the Harpies prefer to eat out," she told him. Harry chuckled and then looked at the broom cupboard, one eyebrow raised in an obvious question. "Even though that's none of your business, I would tell you except for the fact that my girlfriend isn't ready to come out of the closet," she told him. After a moment's thought she added, "Either literally or figuratively."
As Harry turned to leave, Ginny had one last thing to say to him. "In case you decide to use a certain map to see who was in the broom cupboard with me, it's only fair to warn you I developed a new version of the bat-bogey hex. I found out I can make the bat-bogeys come out of any orifice, not just the nose," she warned him.
Neville and George eased Fred onto one of the beds in the hospital wing while Luna ran to fetch Madam Pomfrey from her office. The medi-witch started casting diagnostic scans as soon as she reached Fred's side. After a moment, she let a rare smirk cross her face. "Well, Mr. Weasley, it looks like Karma has finally come back to bite you for all of you and your brother's prank candies," Pomfrey told her patient.
Fleur fought hard to keep her avian form from making an appearance and roasting the medi-witch. "Hermione said that he had been poisoned. I hardly think it's appropriate to say he deserves this," she stated.
"You would if you would have treated all of the patients that have been victims to either their pranks or their 'product testing'," Pomfrey countered. "As it is, Mr. Weasley has been poisoned, but only in the most broad of definitions. You see, he's suffering from magical food poisoning. He ate something he shouldn't have," she explained.
George frowned. "That doesn't make sense, Madam Pomfrey. Gred and I ate the same thing at dinner and I feel fine," he told the hospital matron.
"There must have been something he ate that you didn't or someone put one of your own products into just his meal," Pomfrey said.
Fleur snapped her fingers as she thought of something. "The beetle! Fred ate a beetle right before we went into the ball," she stated.
Pomfrey nodded her head. "Eating a magical bug would definitely fit his symptoms. Considering it's the middle of winter in Scotland, it would have to be magical to not be dormant," she said. Pomfrey patted Fred on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Mr. Weasley. I have a potion that will fix you right up. I'll go make it right away," she assured the young man who was still holding his stomach in pain.
Madam Pomfrey went back to her office to add the ingredients necessary to activate the special potion. When she returned, Pomfrey pointed over to the infirmary water closet. "Since the food poisoning has passed your stomach and entered your intestinal tract, you will need to take this modified purging potion. Instead of coming out both ends, you will only expel things from the southern route. It would be best if you were already sitting on the loo when you take it," she told Fred.
George and Neville helped Fred to the water closet and then left hurriedly after shutting the door. The last thing either of them wanted was to be in the same room as someone who had a date with an express train departure out of the bowels.
Fred pulled the cork out of the bottle, scrunched up his face in expectation of something horrible, and tossed the contents down his throat. His expression changed to one of pleasant surprise. "Wow! I was expecting this potion to taste like sweaty socks or something. I never imagined it would taste like chocolate," he called out to Madam Pomfrey.
Madam Pomfrey leaned back and looked at the empty package of muggle chocolate flavored laxatives sitting on her desk. "Imagine that," she murmured. "Oh wait! I forgot to tell you to fasten the seatbelt on the loo before you drink the potion!" she yelled out worriedly.
"Seat belt? Why would I need a seat belt" Fred asked before his backside made a noise somewhere between what one would expect from someone in his condition and a muggle rocket launching. Everyone winced as they heard a loud thud caused by something heaving hitting the water closet door. "Never mind, I figured out why," Fred moaned from the other side of the door. "Sorry about the floors, walls, and well the ceiling too," he apologised. "On the plus side, if you squint just right, the mess on the walls kinda look like headlines from the Daily Prophet," Fred added.
"Ooh, ooh… let me guess: Minister Fudge, is he as useless as the appendix? Or maybe: The sphincter - Light at the end of the tunnel, or just another arsehole?" George joked. Fred laughed at the joke and then moaned as he had another thrust inducing bowel movement.
Madam Pomfrey gave George a displeased frown. "Mr. Weasley, while I would agree that laughter is often the best medicine, it does not apply to explosive diarrhea," she chided him.
Hermione was still trying to puzzle out the results of her diagnostic scan as she reached Prof. McGonagall's classroom. She was so distracted, she forgot to knock and just opened the door. Hermione froze as she tried to process what she saw, her brain refusing to accept what her eyes were telling her. Prof. Flitwick was standing on a large step stool behind Prof. McGonagall. The part goblin teacher was naked except for a pair of leather chaps. For her part, Prof. McGonall was bent over her desk, equally nude. The transfiguration professor was only wearing a pink, furry collar with a large tag that read, "Fil's Pussy Cat".
The rhythmic slapping of flesh against flesh and grunts of pleasure from the two professors covered the sound of the door shutting as Hermione made a hurried exit out of the room. [I don't care how sick Fred is. Nothing is worth the embarrassment of speaking to those two right now,] Hermione told herself. She turned and made her way to the hospital wing, hoping that maybe Luna might be able to help her with a memory charm later.
Harry had just made it to the infirmary when the doors opened to let Hermione in. Madam Pomfrey took one look at the shell shocked expression on the young witch's face and had a fairly good idea what had caused it. "Minerva forgot to cast a locking spell on her door again?" she inquired. Hermione just numbly nodded her head.
Desperate to think of something else, Hermione asked her boyfriend, "Were you able to find Ginny?"
"Um… yes," Harry replied slowly. "She won't be able to make it because Fleur is here. Turns out Ginny will probably play for the Holyhead Harpies," he stated.
"What does a quidditch team have to do with anything?" Hermione demanded. Harry leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Oh, you mean like a university softball team. I can see why that would make things difficult. The last thing Fred needs right now is for his sister to try and jump his girlfriend," she stated.
"Did you find McGonagall and Flitwick?" Harry asked her. Hermione just nodded her head as her shell shocked expression came back. "Well, are they coming?" he inquired.
Hermione still had a thousand yard stare as she looked back towards the classroom. "By now, I'm sure at least one of them has, if not both. We'll just have to speak with them in the morning," she replied.
Neville cocked his head to the side, obviously perplexed. "I'm confused," he said.
Hermione shuddered. "I'm traumatized," she stated.
"I'm Luna," the perky young blonde added.