"... but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler's mind."
Sequel to ‘The Great Towel Trick'; if you haven't read that, this will make no sense whatsoever. For Imogen, without whom there would have been no story, and Merecat who keeps me sane. Thanks to my Beta, Liz (even if she did change my spelling to American – purely by accident *grin*).
In memory of one of the greatest storytellers ever, Douglas Adams, whose quirky sense of humour has kept me in laughter induced tears since I first opened one of his books.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all affiliated characters do not belong to me. Except in moments when those other little voices in my head insist they are. Which voice would you trust?
"Those towels are driving me batty!" Ron flung himself dejectedly into his seat. "But I locked them in my trunk, so I should be free from them this lesson."
Harry looked worried. The ‘adesdum mantele' towelshad been following Ron around like puppies for the last few weeks, even showing up in the middle of a Quidditch match. The sight of the Gryffindor Keeper fighting off two fluffy white towels, while the Hufflepuff's managed to score three goals, had everyone in hysterics. Everyone, that is, except the Gryffindor Captain.
"Snape will skin you alive if they turn up out of the blue in the middle of Potions!" exclaimed Hermione.
"Not going to happen."
"What, pray tell, is not going to happen?" drawled Professor Snape, appearing suddenly behind Ron's left shoulder. "A Weasley get an-"
Whatever insult Snape had in mind was muffled by the two towels, which suddenly graced his neck and face, near strangling him in their rush to get to their owner. Wrestling them off his head, he slammed them down onto the table in front of Ron. "Twenty points from Gryffindor," he growled. "And I'll see you this evening at 7pm sharp for detention, Weasley."
As Snape turned to make his way to the head of the class, Hermione caught Harry's eye. "We need to do something about this!" she mouthed.
"He shouldn't have taken that many points away and given a detention," said Ron, crossly, as they made their way to Herbology. "After all, it was only a couple of towels."
"But wasn't Snape's face brilliant when he looked like he was going to be strangled?" Harry nudged Ron. "Almost up there with the bouncing ferret, I'd have thought."
"Hm, maybe in the top ten. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle covered in curses last year, comes in second, I reckon."
Harry snickered. "How about Hermione socking it to Malfoy? I'd say that might be number three."
"Oh, you two." Hermione exclaimed. "There's more to life than picking on Malfoy and his goons. Those towels, for instance, are creating far too much trouble!"
"And whose idea were the towels in the first place?"
Hermione flushed slightly and ignored Ron's comment. "Harry and I'll go to the library after dinner, while you're doing your detention. Hopefully we'll find something useful."
Seven o'clock was but a memory, and Harry sat bleary-eyed peering at yet another dusty book that Hermione felt might just hold the key to righting Ron's towel problems. Flicking over page after page, he sighed to himself. If it weren't for the fact that Ron was his best friend, and that all these points from Gryffindor were starting to add up, Harry would far rather have been daydreaming about Quidditch in the Common Room.
//Slam// Harry jumped as yet another weighty tome hit the table next to him.
"How could I have missed this?" exclaimed Hermione, pointing near the foot of the yellowed page with her finger. "It's so obvious!"
Harry squinted. The writing seemed smaller than the bottom line of an optometrist's chart - and for him, just as undecipherable.
Hermione sighed and tapped his glasses with her wand. "Macto paetum!"
Blinking slightly, Harry glanced down at the book. The lettering was now visible without any need to squint; in fact the print was fair leaping off the page at him.
"Brilliant, Hermione! You should do this sort of thing for a living."
"I wouldn't need to if you would just pay attention in Charms."
"Hey, but how would you feel if we didn't need you?" Harry grinned.
Hermione smiled in return, but her expression quickly changed to one of concern. "Just read, why don't you. We need to figure out what to do now."
Below what Harry realised were instructions for the towel trick Ron and Hermione had played on the twins, was a footnote.
To avoid a rare and permanent complication of this incantation, ensure the object you are enchanting holds no other lingering incantations. Failure to do so will see the object becoming permanently imprinted upon the owner, showing signs of what could even be considered ‘love'.
"Of course the Hogwarts towels all are enchanted to repel dirt." Hermione fretted. "So the House Elves are not constantly having to get all sorts of stains out of them. Otherwise, why on earth would a school have white towels?"
"Well look at it one way, Hermione. You and Ron won't need to buy any towels when you get married. They'll always be following Ron around. Of course, we‘d have to retrain one of them so it sticks with you and not Ron."
Hermione, whose glare had begun to rival that of Professor McGonagall on a particularly bad day, suddenly started. "You might have it!"
"Have what?" said Harry, mystified, sorting back through what he‘d just said. He didn't remember saying anything particularly brilliant, in fact most of it had been said to get Hermione riled.
"We'll retrain the towels - get them confused, so they don't know where they're going!"
"Do you think it'll work?"
"It better," said Hermione grimly. "We can't afford to lose anymore points, and I overheard Ron tell Ginny he'll get booted off the House Team if those towels turn up once more, practice or game."
"So who is the guinea pig? Me?"
"I think multiple subjects will be best."
"Multiple subjects?" Harry had visions of Hermione somehow cloning him. Multiple Harry's didn't sound that great an idea.
"You and Ginny, since you're hardly ever in the same place at the same time. So that'll be perfect - the towels won't know where to go. So hopefully they wont go anywhere at all."
"But Ginny is a girl!" Harry blurted out.
"I'm so glad you noticed, Harry!" Harry jumped as Ginny Weasley joined them at the table. "And all these years my mother thought she'd brought up seven boys!"
"B-b-but-" stammered Harry. "Hermione, Ron told me there was a bath. And undressing. And-"
"Harry, remember you're a Gryffindor."
Harry was feeling decidedly un-Gryffindor-like, no matter what Hermione might suggest. Getting into a bath, half naked, with a girl - even his best friend's sister - was far too much to ask from anyone, brave Gryffindor or not.
"It's all right, Harry." said Ginny. "I promise I wont look."
Harry thought this somewhat patronising. Sometimes he got the feeling Ginny and Hermione spent most of their time laughing at he and Ron. Why couldn't Ginny have remained the awestruck young girl of his second year?
"We'll go tonight after everyone goes to sleep," decided Hermione. "Just try and sneak out of your dormitory without anyone hearing you."
What Hermione had not factored in, however, were the Weasley ears for mischief. "Oy, what are you doing?" hissed Ron, pushing aside his curtains and peering into the dim moonlit bedroom as Harry pulled the towels from the trunk at the foot of Ron‘s bed.
"Shhh." Harry crept towards the door, gesturing for Ron to follow him down to the common room.
"Where are you lot going?" grouched Ron, seeing Hermione and Ginny already waiting. "And why wasn't I invited?"
"We thought you'd be too tired from cleaning all those cauldrons," explained Hermione in a whisper.
"Don't think you're changing the subject," snapped Ron. "Where are you three going?" He narrowed his eyes. "And why does Harry have his invisibility cloak?"
Harry looked down at his cloak in surprise. He hadn't meant to bring it - he knew it wouldn't cover Ginny and Hermione, as well as himself. The days of three people being able to fit under the cloak had truly passed. It amazed him how much they had grown since First Year. "Oh, force of habit, I guess." He shrugged. "The thought of sneaking about the school at night automatically has me grabbing it. Besides, it might come in handy."
Ron glared once more. "But that doesn't explain where you're going. Come on, spill."
"We found out something at the library," Hermione said, "and Harry had an idea, so we're going to try and fix the towels so they don't bug you or anyone else anymore."
"What has that to do with my sister?" Ron seemed to think Ginny belonged in the nursery, instead of sneaking around the school at night.
"Well, I'm going to redo the spell with the towels, but focus them on Harry and Ginny-" Hermione began.
"What?" Ron was incensed. "Ginny, in a bath with Harry? Over my dead body!"
"It might as well be your dead body; the rest of Gryffindor are going to lynch you if you keep losing points the way you have been. And don‘t you trust Harry, Ron?" asked Ginny.
"Of course I trust Harry!"
"Well that must mean you don't trust me. Afraid I'll seduce your best friend in a bath?"
Harry and Ron shared a glance. Girls always seemed to get the high hand in arguments, twisting words so they had no hope of winning. "Well," announced Ron, "I'm coming with you. Hermione seems to have a fetish for bathrooms, and besides she'll need me to lock the door against intruders."
Hermione spluttered indignantly at the fetish remark.
"Oh Ron," Ginny rolled her eyes. "I know that spell. You taught it to me, remember?" But she didn't object further as they stealthily made their way to the Prefects Bathroom.
Harry glanced around the bathroom suspiciously. It looked just as he remembered it from his fourth year, when Cedric had told him the password and suggested he take a bath with the egg clue from the Tri Wizard Cup. "Myrtle?" he called, peering up the tap nozzle, wishing all the while that Hermione‘s magnification charm worked on bathroom fittings.
Ron looked at him incredulously. "What do you want Myrtle for?"
"I don't want Myrtle for anything, but she has a tendency to lurk in the-"
"No one ever wants me!" wailed Moaning Myrtle, emerging from the tap. "No one ever comes to visit me anymore. I might as well go live in the lake - all anyone does these days is flush me out there with the sewerage." Myrtle wrinkled her ghostly nose in what seemed excessive disgust, considering she voluntarily languished in toilets to begin with.
"Oh, don't be like that Myrtle. We‘ll come and visit you, just not right now. We need privacy."
"When?" she demanded.
"When will you come and visit me?"
"Um-" Harry tried to think frantically of something to say without committing himself.
"I see, you were just pandering to poor Myrtle, weren't you? No intention of really coming to see me. No one loves me. No one wants privacy in a bathroom to be with me! You just want to be with your girlfriend!" With a glare at Ginny and a sob of anguish, Myrtle flung herself down the plughole and disappeared. Hermione hurriedly put the plug in, and turned on the taps, in case Myrtle felt the need to come back and see how her departure had affected them.
Harry wasn't quite sure where to look. Certainly not Ginny - what if she got the idea he'd been talking to Myrtle earlier, and said something to make her think Ginny was his girlfriend?
"Well we better get started," said Hermione, adding something that smelled suspiciously like roses to the water.
Suddenly the spacious bathroom felt very crowded to Harry. Ginny had started taking her clothes off, and was showing altogether too much skin for his peace of mind. Or rather - actually that bit of skin now showing seemed rather... interesting. A quick elbow to the ribs from Ron was enough to make him realise he'd been staring at some of Ginny's more prominent attributes, namely in the chest region. Suddenly he didn't know where to look - down at his clothes as he stripped to his boxers seemed pretty safe, but his face flushed red as he heard Ginny and Hermione giggling. Obviously they'd noticed him. He felt like a geek; a skinny geek, with not a muscle to be seen. As soon as his clothes were off, Harry plunged himself into the bath.
He stayed under the water as long as possible, hoping that Ginny would be at least partially submerged when next he looked. His hopes were dashed. There she was, a toe in the water, chatting with Hermione, and looking not at all embarrassed about being semi-nude in front of her brother. Without his glasses on, Ginny was slightly fuzzy in outline, and her bra and knickers sort of blurred into nothingness with the skin around them, so it almost appeared she was wearing nothing at all. His head sank under water again. This was getting too much. Besides which, he was starting to turn into a prune.
Deciding nonchalance was the better part of bravery, he raised his head once more, shook his hair with studied casualness, and asked, "Are we going to do this or not?"
He didn't quite mean to create a mini tidal wave with his actions, but produce one he did. With fascinated horror he saw Ginny slip on the water and come tumbling towards him. Only the lightening quick reflexes that made him a great Seeker, allowed him to reach out and suddenly have his arms full of soft curves. Clasping her close to him, he looked down into her face in shock.
"My hero," she sighed, theatrically.
He grinned in return.
"You can put me down now, though."
"Oh. Yes. Sorry."
//Splash// Ginny pushed her wet hair off her face and frowned up at him. "I said 'put me down', not ‘drop me‘!"
"Well," said Hermione, "now that you are both in there, let's get going, shall we? Harry and Ginny, you need to hold hands-"
"Wait," Ron interrupted suspiciously. "Why do they need to hold hands?"
"Because we want to towels to be trained on them together, Ron." explained Hermione. "If they don't hold hands, one towel will attach itself to Harry, and the other to Ginny. And where will that leave us? Harry will just be fending off a towel instead of catching the snitch!"
"Oh. Right. But it's just hands they're holding, not anything else?"
Hermione treated that with the inattention it deserved.
"So, hold hands, duck under, and Ron will throw the towels in." Harry felt Ginny's small hand clasp his. He gave it a bit of a squeeze and smiled at her before they both took a breath and went under.
The towels were safely re-enchanted, and a waterlogged Ginny and Harry were reaching for their newly dried towels, when a loud rap of knuckles was heard on the bathroom door. "Open this door at once!" an authoritative voice demanded.
"Snape!" gasped Ginny, glancing down at her wet underwear, as if Professor Snape could see her through the door.
"Quick, under Harry's cloak," ordered Hermione, kicking Harry and Ginny's clothes behind the door.
Harry snatched up his cloak, grabbed Ginny by the wrist, and pulled her close to his chest, wrapping the cloak around them both, then inching them behind the door to stand over their clothes.
An irate knock was heard once more. "Now, Ron!" hissed Hermione, and Ron released the magical lock, opening the door to confront a severely tetchy Potions Professor.
"Well, well," Snape surveyed the scene with smug condescension. "Mr Weasley. Miss Granger. What a singular lack of regard you show for rules, considering your position of authority. One hopes your... romantic... interlude won't prove you to be even more precocious and fertile than your parents, Weasely." Ron flushed with anger as Snape uttered the word ‘fertile', his tone conferring upon it a definition most foul.
Snape glanced at the bath and sniffed disdainfully with a pointed glance at Ron. "Not the most manly of scents. Still, I'm sure we can rectify that at your next detention. Say tomorrow night, 7 pm? Professor Sprout desires some aid in shovelling the manure Hagrid has kindly been collecting for her.
"As for you, Miss Granger, I have need of someone to copy directions for a contraceptive potion which the seventh years will be studying. For obvious reasons that is not a potion provided in the pages of The Standard Book of Spells. I'm sure you will agree that paying close attention to what you copy is in your best interests. Lack of ability in that area seems to be a family trait amongst those to whom you give your... favours."
Ron resisted the urge to wipe the selfsatisfied smirk off Professor Snape's face in retaliation for his insults, not to mention his inference that Hermione was a scarlet woman, of all things.
"Of course, fifty points each will also be taken from Gryffindor for being about the school after hours. Now, both of you, back to your separate dormitories immediately!" Snape gestured for them to precede him from the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind him.
Ginny made what Harry could only describe as a snort. He looked down at her in surprise. While Snape had been in the room and detection (followed quickly by detention, or even possibly expulsion) had seemed imminent, he had scarcely noticed her scantily covered breasts pressed against his bare chest. A second snort followed the first one, and then Ginny dissolved into giggles. And those giggles seemed to make Ginny move against him in an interesting and pleasurable way.
When looking back at that moment in the years to come, Harry couldn't ever think of what made him do it. It seemed right, somehow. Of course he tried to justify his actions by saying that he was keeping Ginny quiet. In case Snape came back. Or one of the prefects decided to come take a midnight bath. Or... Needless to say, thought and action were almost simultaneous.
He leaned down and kissed her.
It was as though the touch of her lips was the catalyst for a reaction waiting to happen. His heart sped, pounding as if he were doing the four-minute mile. She moaned and pressed even more tightly against him. Every inch of skin where hers touched his, sizzled. Suddenly it hit him - they were practically naked, and he was snogging his best friends sister, and - wait, wasn't that her tongue?
Harry settled back to the business of enjoying his first kiss with Ginny. The first of many, he hoped. His hands cupped her closer to him, stroking the wide expanse of skin exposed.
"That tickles!" she giggled, as his fingers found a certain spot just below her rib cage.
Harry's fingers froze. Harry's brain seemed to freeze as well. Which was just as well, or maybe he and Ginny would have need of that contraceptive potion Snape had been talking about.
Jumping back he pushed his shaking hand thought his still damp hair. He glanced at Ginny who was still leaning against the bathroom wall. Skin; lots of skin. Harry blushed and bent down to collect their clothes. "Here," he said, his gaze centred on the wall slightly past her left ear. If he looked at her, he might be tempted to really look.
Hurriedly he started to dress. "We better get back to Gryffindor - who knows if Snape will tell McGonagall about Hermione and Ron. She might do a bed check. Or what about Filch? We might run into him!" Harry felt like kicking himself. Why was it he always started to babble like an idiot when Ginny was around? "And Mrs Norris is always skulk-"
Harry's lips were suddenly silenced by the warm press of Ginny's against his. "Don't worry, I'll hurry," she whispered, looking up into his stunned eyes. "But there's a reservation in our names for the third floor broom cupboard. We need to continue this. Tomorrow?"
Harry gulped. "T-tomorrow," he agreed, before covering them both with his cloak.
As they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower he was conscious of a warm hand firmly clasping his. It seemed that somehow, in the past half hour or so, he had become one half of a couple. He rather liked it. He gently squeezed her hand, and grinned at her as they stepped though the portrait hole. Stopping by the girls' staircase he kissed his finger and touched it to the tip of her nose. "Tomorrow."
"Night, Harry. Sleep well." Ginny responded, reaching up and kissing him quickly, before turning and making her way to her dormitory.
"Sleep?" mumbled Harry to himself, as he near floated up the boys' staircase.
Hogwarts Castle contained much that Muggle born students found curious. Secret passages and passwords were something many of them had only read about in Enid Blyton books, and portraits were likely to tell you that your hair really needed brushing before you went to dinner. The moving stair cases were amusing at first, but soon became more of a nuisance - particularly when one was suffering detention for being late to class, purely because the staircase decided to take you to the East Wing and Defence Against Dark Arts, rather than the Dungeon and Potions. And although there were ghosts aplenty, no one had ever before seen signs that the larger of the two broom cupboards on the third floor was haunted. Until now.
If the current volume of moaning emanating from within were anything to go by, someone had been most certainly been slaughtered in there. Particularly as the slaughter-ee kept giggling insanely after each moan.
One passing Hufflepuff first year nearly had kittens on the spot, as the contents of the cupboard were apparently thrown around in a fit of anger.
Students going along the corridor eyed the cupboard door in trepidation, sidling past as close to the opposite wall as possible, hoping whatever ghostly presence was there would chose not to come out.
One of the braver prefects attempted to open the door and confront whatever was within. But the doorknob rattled ineffectually, and neither the password nor ‘Alohamora' had any effect.
As he turned away in frustration to go get one of the Professors to deal with the situation, he failed to notice two white objects fly to the cupboard door and squeeze themselves through the crack underneath. All moaning stopped.
"Ugh, get it away from me!"
More crashing resounded.
"You know, this really is taking the phrase ‘cupboard love' to new levels." Harry grouched, glaring at the towels.
Ginny laughed as she exited the cupboard after him. "But at least now I know why some people are so reluctant to come out of the closet!"
"I better get to Divination," Harry looked anything but thrilled by the prospect.
"See you later," Ginny reached up to kiss him, and was near throttled by the enthusiastic bathroom towels who wrapped themselves around their necks as they got closer together.
Wrenching them away, Harry glared once more at the white fluffy banes of his existence. "Well that certainly killed the moment."
"Burning is too good for them." Ginny agreed.
Harry's eyes lit up. "Yes!" he exclaimed. "We'll have a ceremonial burning tonight. Meet me in the common room at midnight. Why on earth didn't Hermione think of that?"
"Probably because it wasn't written in some book."
Harry laughed, and turned around to head towards the North Tower. At least he had something to look forward too other than Trelawney's death of the week prediction. Maybe if she mentioned possible asphyxiation by haberdashery, he'd take more notice.
"Why. Wont. These. Towels. Burn?" choked Harry, fanning the smoke away and glaring out the pristine towels that refused to succumb to even a mere semblance of singe around the edges.
"Impervious incendere. The Ministry developed it to use on evidence against the Death Eaters, so no one could secretly burn everything before a trial." Ginny looked gloomy. "There's no counter charm. Mum started using it on all the clothing and stuff at home, when the twins went through their arson phase. Hogwarts must have decided it was a good idea for things here as well. I think we're stuck with towel chaperones for the rest of our lives."
"We could cut them up into small pieces!"
"We'd probably be bruised from all the pieces attacking us at once. How about unravelling?"
"They'd wrap us together like mummified Siamese twins." Harry sighed. This was trickier than he thought. "Got it!" he said. "We'll drown them!"
"But they'll just come back and find us. Besides, how can you drown a thing whose main function in life is to absorb water?"
"Yeah, right." He flopped down onto the couch beside Ginny, and they were soon cosy and snuggled together, wrapped in white towelling.
"I could get used to this," Ginny rested her head on Harry's shoulder. "Hey!" She shrugged her shoulders in an effort to divest herself her new ‘head scarf' which made her somewhat resemble the Virgin Mary in a Nativity play. "Why do these things always go for our heads?"
"You could be onto something," Harry said excitedly. "I've got an idea. But first, I'll need some of your hair..."
A certain aroma followed Ron as he climbed through the portrait hole the next night. Luckily most people had already gone to bed, so he was not offending the whole of Gryffindor with his presence. Hermione sat at her normal table, her bag dumped beside her, having obviously just arrived back from her detention.
"Eeew!" she exclaimed.
"Tell me about it. How do you think I feel, walking around stinking like this?"
"I'd have thought by now your sense of smell would have abandoned you."
"I think I'll go shower."
Hermione looked relieved.
A less smelly Ron rejoined Hermione at the table a bit later. "Better?"
Hermione wrinkled her nose and sniffed. "Much. Eau de Manure is not my favourite scent."
"You won't believe what I found in the bathroom."
"It was quite romantic, really. There they were, snuggled up together. It was actually rather sweet-"
"- til I tried to take one of them to dry me."
"Ron, what are you talking about?"
"The towels! Harry and Ginny's towels, I think. They just didn't want to be separated, so I had to use another one instead. Talk about fickle - yesterday they wouldn't leave me alone!"
"Well that was the point of redoing the spell..."
"And then I noticed the hair. All woven in, so you can hardly see it. I bet it was Ginny's idea - she always was the brains of the family, no matter what Percy might like to think."
Hermione wondered if the water had washed away any rationality Ron had left.
"But it's worked, I think. I wonder why they decided to do it, though?" Ron shrugged. "Still, at least they're happy, and not bugging anyone anymore.
"So how was detention with Snape? Did he really, you know, make you write out instructions for a Contraceptive Potion?"
"Yes," sighed Hermione, massaging her fingers, and deciding that really, perhaps it wasn't worth her sanity to try and work out what Ron had been rambling on about. "Here, I kept this." She reached down and pulled a piece of parchment from her bag.
Ron looked scandalised. "You took one?"
"Of course," Hermione blinked in surprise at Ron's tone. "I thought it might be useful for... someone."
"You thought a Contraceptive Potion might be useful?" Ron's eyes could not have bulged out any further. He grabbed the parchment out of her hand. "It takes two months to brew." he exclaimed. "That's longer than that Poly Juice one in second year!"
A freckled arm came from behind Ron's head and snatched the parchment from him. "What has little Ron got here?" said Fred.
"Wow," breathed George looking in awe at the parchment, before punching Ron in the shoulder. "I think you've superseded even Charlie in the field of romance! Our little Ronnie the Romeo."
"Mum will be pleased to hear," put in Fred.
The twins began to laugh in a manner that Hermione and Ron could only describe as evil. They eyed each other in concern. Mrs Weasely would have their guts for garters for sure.
Their fears were confirmed two mornings later.
"Ronald Weasely!" roared Mrs Weasley's magically magnified voice, drowning out the usual breakfast chatter. "Making Contraceptive Potions at your age? What may I ask were you going to be doing with that, and with whom? It better not have been that sweet Hermione Granger! What would her parents say? How could I look them in the eye again at Flourish and Blotts? And you better not have been sharing it around with your friends! Harry Potter better not get within an inch of my precious baby daughter or I'll skin him alive!"
Mrs Weasley's baby daughter, who had been sending smouldering looks towards said Harry Potter in hopes of enticing him into their favourite third floor broom cupboard, jumped in fright. Ron glared from Harry to Ginny and back again, his face looking as though he were about to vomit slugs, as he realised what had been going on under his nose.
"And another thing!" Everyone looked at the Howler in morbid anticipation. "You really can't trust just any old Contraceptive Potion. I'll make sure your father teaches you a good one when you get home." With that, the Howler disintegrated.
Glancing around at the mass of red headed Weasleys, Hermione was suddenly rather thankful she had kept an extra copy of Snape's potion. When perfection in potions was required, sometimes it really did pay to do things yourself.