Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all affiliated characters do not belong to me. My computer would be replaced with an amazingly updated model, and my socks would not have holes in them, if it did.
For Kara, even though there are no swords mentioned, and Emily, who politely restrained herself from mentioning my non-American spelling. Also, thanks to Stephen, whose Kingdom is the Realm of Commas and Grammar, whilst I am a mere peasant.
Note: This story has been rendered AU by the recent release of Book 5.
Near-winter Saturdays didn't get any better at Hogwarts. The sun shone, there was a Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match this evening (and most everyone agreed these were the two best teams to watch since grudge matches always produced the best flying), and the greatest miracle of all was that due to Professor Snape's off week, not one student had earned a weekend detention.
Most of the students were taking advantage of what might be the last sunny weekend before winter hit them full force, heading down to Hogsmeade. Those not lucky enough to be in third year or above could be seen relaxing in groups near the lake. Even the teachers were sitting in the shade under a particularly beautiful oak tree, its golden leaves fluttering down gracefully with the puff of each passing gust of wind. Hence the empty hallways.
Three fifth year Gryffindor students, however, were not amongst those checking out Zonko's for the latest in tricks, or stocking up on sweets. Harry, for one, was having a nap. Ron didn‘t begrudge him the nap; after all, he knew Harry had been suffering debilitating nightmares this year, and last night's had been a doozy, if the screaming emanating from behind Harry's curtains was anything to go by. Also, Harry needed to be at full fitness for this evening's match. But still - a nap? Ron hoped no one else knew about it. Especially Draco Malfoy, who would have great delight in teasing the great Harry Potter about such childish habits - most probably at a critical moment to put Harry off his game.
"Where are we going?" Ron whispered as Hermione led him along a corridor he didn't remember seeing before now.
"This better be good," he grouched. "The Chudley Cannons are playing, and Percy promised to owl me at half time, since he got tickets through work."
"It'll be good." Hermione smirked, and Ron could almost have sworn that she winked at him. Hermione winking? However, just then, the light from one of the multi-paned windows reflected off a prefect's badge where it was neatly pinned and centred beneath the Gryffindor crest on Hermione's robes. Maybe it had been that hitting him in the eye.
"Believe me, you'll forget all about the Chubby Cannons."
Yep, it must have been the light. Not even Hermione could wink at him one moment and insult his favourite Quidditch team the next. "Hey! They‘re not chubby! I'll have you know they work out at least 3 hours per day, and have the most -"
Ron's argument was interrupted as Hermione stopped at a door. "Here we are," she said with delight, and uttered the password, "Kiwifruit Kremes." The door opened a little, and she pushed it open further to proudly display... a bathroom.
"Er, Hermione. This is a bathroom."
Hermione looked slightly miffed at his lack of enthusiasm. "Yes, it's the prefects bathroom."
"Oh! The prefects bathroom." Mock awe dripped from Ron's tongue.
"So I take it you don't want to be in the bathroom with me?"
"Depends. What are we going to make? Polyjuice Potion?"
"Ron, I don't think about homework all the time. And we're not even at war with anyone at the moment, except You-Know-Who. And we‘re not about to change ourselves into him!"
Hermione sighed. Ron had heard that sigh many times over the last four-and-a-bit years. It usually meant he was about to be toast. "Does the thought of you, me, a bathroom, and just our towels mean nothing to you?"
Ron's ears went a little red. He shook his head. Nope, nothing rattling up there. No pops in his ears to show he might be hearing things. "Uh-" he managed to get out.
With another exasperated sigh, Hermione pulled him inside the bathroom and pointed her wand at the door. "N'entrez pas!" she exclaimed.
Hermione pushed her hair out of her face and glared at the door.
"What was that supposed to be?"
"A spell Victor taught me over the summer." She punctuated her comment with a frustrated kick at the door, and winced. "He got it from an French Canadian Quidditch player, and it's supposed to stop people being able to come in, even if they have the password."
Ron snorted. "You needed to go all the way to Bulgaria to learn a useless spell? I could have taught you how to do that. Been doing it since I was five, and Fred and George liked to come pour cold water down my neck when I was in the bath." Aiming his wand with studied nonchalance, he bellowed, "No entrarum!" To Hermione's annoyance, the door locked with a loud click. "See?" he said smugly.
Hermione glared. "Honestly, I should have done this with Harry instead. Well," she continued in a business like manner. "I guess we better get this over and done with. Everyone may start to come back in an hour, and we don't want to get caught - particularly by Fred and George."
"Get what done? And what have my brothers got to do with this?" Ron was truly mystified, and gestured wildly around the bathroom with his towel.
"The towel trick, remember?"
"Oh," Ron flushed slightly. Of course Hermione wasn't dragging him in here for a snog. She was a prefect after all. "I forgot."
"Honestly, Ron, I think I need to get Neville's grandmother to send you a Remembrall!"
"Well, it was two weeks ago that Fred and George put catnip in my robes. We should have got back at them right away!"
"You were in the hospital wing getting treated for severe scratches, remember? We should have known the Slytherins would treat their cats' claws with some sort of poison. And besides, it took me all this time to read up on the spell."
Ron glanced around, the white marble of the magnificent bathroom gleaming in the light of dozens of candles. "So what do we need to do?"
"Firstly, you need to strip. I'll start the water running in the bath."
"Er, strip, here?"
"Don't worry, I won't look!"
Ron almost wished Hermione had chosen Harry for this. But then the thought of Harry and Hermione half naked in a bathroom... he shuddered as he began taking off his robes. That was not something he cared to think about. It was almost as bad as thinking of Harry and Ginny in a bathroom together! No. No way. He was not even going to entertain the idea!
He stood there in his boxers, waiting for Hermione to finish filling the bath, his eyes falling on the blond mermaid in the painting. Her gaze smouldered and lips pouted as she surveyed his bare chest. Hurriedly, he wrapped his towel about himself.
"What scent do you want?" Hermione glanced over her shoulder at him.
"Anything but catnip," he said immediately.
She eyed him up and down as if taking his measurements. "Hmmmm, Jasmine, I think."
"Jasmine?" he exclaimed in outrage. "Do you want me to smell like a girl?"
His words might not have been uttered as Hermione's hands quickly turned taps on and off, bubbles and steam of every shape and colour came gushing out, and the air was filled with a heavy perfume. "In you get."
"I don't see why it has to be me that gets wet," grumbled Ron as he stripped off the towel and climbed into the pool-sized bath.
Hermione was surprised to see Ron wasn't as skinny as his tall lanky build suggested. Noticing that the painted figure above the bath was ogling, she glared until the mermaid turned her back and sat on her rock in a huff. "Because you can hold your breath underwater longer than I can. And besides," she said, wrinkling her nose, "I'm sure pheromones are a myth made up by males who can't be bothered bathing. I think I'll get you a nice aftershave and deodorant set for Christmas."
"What have fairy moans got to do with anything?"
"Just duck under the water with the towels and I'll cast the spell." She threw the second towel to him and watched as he sank below the water. Raising her wand she intoned "Adesdum Mantele!"
The effect was immediate. The water began swirling, bubbles radiated out from the maelstrom to pile up around the edge of the bath, and multi-coloured geysers erupted out of the bath, gleaming magnificent in the candlelight. The blond mermaid forgot she was feeling snappish and giggled in delight as the water danced. Ron could be seen beneath the raging water, the towels writhing about his body like two sea serpents.
Then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over.
Ron's red head appeared out of the water, a huge grin plastered across his face. "Wicked! Can we do that again?"
"He's your brother!"
"But he's your boyfriend! And besides, Harry's not my brother - what if he's not dressed?" Mild panic raised Ginny Weasley's voice a few semitones to hit almost - but not quite - the same pitch as a screech owl.
"I'm only dating one Weasley brother, and there's three in the changing rooms. That outweighs your Harry card three to one." Hermione smirked. "Besides, don't you want to be the one who finally sets the record straight on whether the great Harry Potter has chest hair or not?"
Ginny could not have looked more unconvinced had she tried. "Have you not considered using non-human means?"
"Ginny Weasley! I am not perpetuating the slavery of House Elves by ordering them to..."
Ginny's eyes rolled in perfect imitation of her next eldest brother. "Owl. Cat. Take your pick."
"Oh." Hermione blushed. "Hadn't thought of them."
"Obviously not," Ginny commented dryly. "You were too focused on one of us copping a look. I'll go get Hedwig, what say you get Crookshanks?"
The steamy air of the Gryffindor changing room was charged with excitement. After a fantastic win against Slytherin, they only needed to win by 20 points against Hufflepuff and the Quidditch Cup would be theirs.
All the team were looking forward to a feast back in the Common room, followed by a gloating owl to Oliver Wood who had been sending messages regarding impending doom if the team did not follow the schedule he had written for the new Captain. Said Captain had had a ceremonial burning of the wad of ‘suggestions' when reaching the part emphasising the need for midnight practices in case of a solar eclipse during a match.
Through the mist, a snowy owl winged her way towards Harry and Ron as they sat putting on their shoes, grimacing at the twins out of tune singing coming from the showers. Harry looked at his owl in surprise. The last time he saw her, Hedwig had been safely down in the owlery, not out sending or receiving messages. Landing on the bench beside him, she hooted softly in greeting and held out her leg for him to remove the message.
Do as Ron says. D Day is now.
Don't forget to bring your towels!
"Not her best writing, is it?" said Ron, peering over Harry's shoulder at the note. "What‘s this D Day thing?"
"Muggle history." Harry continued to gaze at the note, puzzled. He turned it over to see if there was anything that made more sense on the back. Nothing. "What am I supposed to do?"
"How should I know? She‘s raving bonkers that one. Of course we're not taking our towels. We leave them here, it makes it easier for the house elves to collect them all from the same place. She knows that, she‘s the one that organised it."
"D Day. D Day." muttered Harry. "Something's happening. Something secret. An invasion? But what has that got to do with our towels?" He glanced at Hedwig for inspiration, but all she did was blink her eyes - owlishly.
"Something secret? Now?" exclaimed Ron. Racing to the door, Ron snagged the girls' towels out of the basket, wet from when they used the showers prior to the boys. "Grab your towel, Harry, we've got to go!"
A puzzled Harry followed him, not noticing that, as the door swung closed behind him, a large ginger cat nipped through the gap. Crookshanks was once again utilising his ‘foraging' talents.
"Where are my clothes?"
"George, what did you do with my clothes!" bellowed Fred once more, looking around as if he expected them to materialise. Which, seeing how they were at a school for Witches and Wizards, was not so unlikely.
"I didn't take your clothes, you numbskull, but where are mine?" George was also clad solely in his towel.
Fred and George looked at each other. "I wonder where the little blighter hid them?" said Fred as he started to search under all the benches.
"Hey, watch what you call Ronnikins. He's my baby brother too, you know."
"Ok, ‘blancmange for brains', if you prefer."
"Much better." George grinned. "You know, I think it must've been the house elves getting too enthusiastic - all the towels have gone as well. We'll probably get our clothes back tomorrow all clean and pressed."
"But what do we do now? Parade back to the tower dressed like this? The Slytherins will have a field day if they see us!"
"Undressed, you mean. And you just don‘t want Angelina to realise how much more of a stud I am than you are. Come on, let‘s get to the feast!" George took off, shoving his wand into his tightly tucked towel, with Fred running after.
The Fat Lady pursed her lips in displeasure as Fred and George skidded to a halt in front of the painting hiding the Gryffindor Common Room entrance. "Could you not even have dressed for the occasion?"
"The children of today!" put in her friend Violet, covering her eyes. "Have you no respect for your elders and their sensibilities?"
"Is everyone here?" panted Fred. "We don't want to miss the food!"
"I'm sure you both will have time to dress for supper."
"Slartibartfast." George decided to cut off any lectures about ‘today‘s youth‘ with the password - they got enough grief about their attitude from their mother already. Not to mention every professor they had ever had at Hogwarts.
"Well, I never!"
"It's the password, Vi." The Fat Lady reluctantly swung open to let the boys through.
"Well you shouldn't let them use such obscenities then. How about something nice and civilised like those lovely Hufflepuffs choose. I was just saying last week how polite that house is. Manners far and away better polished than Gryffindor. Mind you, the Slytherins... that is another story all together. You should hear what one of them called me last week!" Whatever story Violet had to tell about the Slytherins was lost to their ears as the painting swung closed once more behind them.
Wolf whistles and a few admiring gasps were heard as Fred and George stepped into the common room.
"Nice pecs!" called Lee Jordan as Colin Creevey‘s camera flashed.
Katie Bell sauntered over, nudging her elbow into Angelina's ribs. "We should have made Gred and Forge strip for us!" she smirked, eyeing Fred and George up and down. "Then we'd have been able to tell them apart easily. You didn't tell me you liked the weedy ones, Ange."
George flushed slightly before his trademark grin came back into play. "I'll strip for you anytime, Katie. Just tell me when and where-," he said with a wink.
"How about now?" Ron was leaning casually near the portrait entrance, with Harry standing guard, blocking the other side. "Adesdum Mantele!"
The towels around the twins' waists suddenly came to life, whisking themselves off and flying toward Ron. Fred grabbed ineffectually, trying to pull the towel back towards him. George dropped into a crouch to pick up his wand, which had fallen to the floor when his towel flew off. "Accio towel!" A green, fake dragon popped out of the wand with a puff of smoke. Needless to say, George's towel remained firmly in Ron's grip. Standing back to back with Fred, his hands strategically placed in font of his privates, George hissed, "Fred, use your wand! Mine is one of our bloody fakes!"
"Accio towel!" Fred's wand likewise puffed smoke, but changed into a banana rather than a dragon.
The Gryffindor Common room had never before been so noisy. Not even on the day You-Know-Who had been defeated 14 years before had there been such a hullabaloo. Cheers and laughter abounded, while a few more outrageous of the older students demanded that Colin take another picture.
"No way!" he yelled, and then struggled as Lee tried to yank the camera off him. "I don't play on that team!"
"Oh, give over, ya cheesy sod!"
"Accio camera!" Colin's prized possession was now firmly in Hermione's hand. "I think your Mum will love these!" she grinned, patting the camera fondly. "I'm sure she'll put them pride of place over the kitchen fire."
"I'll put them in the fire if she does that-," muttered Fred, as he and George started to inch towards the stairway leading to the boys' dormitories, breaking into a bare bottomed run as they reached their goal.
"What was that?" gasped Harry, holding his stomach as if it pained him from too much laughter.
"'Come hither towel‘." grinned Ron. "Just a little something ‘Mione and I whipped up this afternoon before the match. About time we got the twins back for their cat claw stunt."
"I think that gets them back for every rotten trick they've played in their life time!" put in Lee. "Absolutely brilliant!"
"Yeah," sighed Ron happily. "And they've got another shock coming. Ginny put itching powder in their clean robes as well."
"Well," said Ginny. "Sometimes it takes one Weasley to get back at another Weasley."
"And a Granger!"
Ginny snorted indelicately. "She's practically a Weasley anyway."
Ron and Hermione flushed as once again the common room burst into laughter.
"Way to go, Ginny!" Lee whacked Ginny on the back appreciatively. "Three brothers in one day - a new Weasley record!"