"Did you hear?" gasped Hermione, seating herself down into the chair next to where Harry was quite cheerfully avoiding his Potions homework by polishing his broom.
"Hear what?" asked Harry, not looking up.
"Did you see?" demanded Ron, also breathless but strangely flushed in the face, as he plonked himself as far as possible away from Hermione.
This second inquiry made Harry look up and pay attention. "Hear and see what?"
"There was an escape—" "It's dead scary, Harry—" said Hermione and Ron in unison. They looked at each other and frowned, before saying — once more in unison — "Some Mad Mistletoe escaped from Greenhouse Two-and-a-half."
Harry frowned. Something about Greenhouse Two-and-a-half rang a bell. "Professor Sprout's experimental greenhouse?"
"That's the one," agreed Ron.
"So what's so bad about this 'Mad Mistletoe'?" asked Harry.
"Urgh!" said Ron in disgust.
Hermione threw a glare in Ron's direction. "It's not that bad!" she exclaimed. Then she paused. "Although I suppose it depends on who you get caught with…"
"Exactly," said Ron.
"I hate you, Ron Weasley!" yelled Hermione, springing to her feet. "I'm not going near you 'til they catch that plant!"
Harry watched in bemusement as Ron flushed three shades of red that clashed horribly with his freckles and hair as Hermione flounced off up the stairway to the girls' dormitories.
"So," he said casually, continuing to polish his broom, "what is this plant that escaped and why is it so terrible?"
"Mad Mistletoe," muttered Ron. "It suddenly appears above you and you have to kiss whomever you're with or else your skin goes all blue and you get green spots."
Harry was aghast. "So you could be with anyone and you'd have to kiss them?"
"Yeah," agreed Ron.
"Even another bloke?" demanded Harry.
"Erm…" said Ron. "I dunno. I don't think Hermione said when she explained about the plant to me."
"Hermi—" Harry began then coughed. "You don't mean to tell me that you and Hermione came across this plant?"
"Yes," said Ron gloomily.
Ron nodded once more.
"You and Hermione," Harry couldn't have sounded more surprised if he'd tried, "mouth wrestled?"
"Tongued it?" Harry was having a hard job getting around the thought.
Ron's hands began to clench.
"You planted (excuse the pun)…" said Harry as an aside, "a big one on Hermione?"
"Actually," ground out Ron, "she 'planted one', as you so nicely put it, on me! It seems the little peck on the cheek I tried was not enough to satisfy the bloody plant."
"Oh," said Harry. "Erm … how was it?"
"Harry!" Ron exclaimed.
"It was just nice to know that you and Hermione finally—" At Ron's sudden growl and glare, Harry broke off. "Well, you know, if you and Lavender weren't a couple, I'd have said it was a great—" Ron growled once more and Harry decided silence was the better part of valour. "Right, shutting up now."
He shook his head, barely noticing as Ron headed up the stairs to their dormitory, and went back to his broom. Gryffindor was playing Slytherin at the end of the week, and he wanted to make certain he had every advantage he could get. No way was he going to let Malfoy beat him to the Snitch. He looked up to find the trimmers so he could straighten the twigs and did a double-take when he saw Neville climbing through the portrait hole, his hair and clothing mussed and a dazed look on his face.
"Hey, Neville," Harry said. "How're you doing?" When he didn't get any response, he snapped his fingers and waved until Neville looked at him. "What's going on?"
Neville sank into chair nearest to Harry and started to smile, his grin getting bigger by the second. "Mad Mistletoe," he said simply.
"Ah." Harry nodded. "Hermione and Ron told me about it. I take it you got caught?"
"Oh, yeah. I got caught." Harry was bemused to see Neville blushing. "Hannah—"
"Hannah Abbott?" Harry asked. "Way to go, Neville!"
"I'd never really thought about her that way before, you know?" he said, "She's just a friend. But now I can't get my mind off her lips and her tongue and her hands in my hair and running down my—"
"Whoa!" Harry covered his ears. "Too much information, Neville. Really."
"Sorry, Harry," he replied. But Harry thought he didn't look sorry at all.
The mayhem continued for another two weeks. Every attempt to catch the plant was unsuccessful, and the students and Professor Sprout were getting desperate. No one was immune to the plant's power — teachers and students alike were caught and forced to lip-lock. Some pairings were definitely not happy about having to kiss — Snape and McGonagall were caught when on their way to the Great Hall their paths crossed — and they were forced to pash in front of all the students, which led to many wolf-whistles and applause, not to mention a few retching sounds. Other pairings were very happy … at being caught. All in all, it began to get a bit wearisome — even the ones who were fine with being caught were getting tired of the whole thing. Plans were hatched to catch the plant. Plans failed miserably.
Harry had seen the professor arrive at a run where only moments before two people had been snogging senselessly only to find the plant had gone to pastures — or passages — new. Professor Sprout was quite frustrated and had taken to lurking in wait around corners. This was quite nerve-wracking for everyone, as they never knew if they were suddenly going to have to smooch their worst enemy, or the boy they'd been fancying all term but didn't know they existed, or be pounced upon by Professor Sprout and a butterfly net.
The plant, on the other hand, was having as much fun as it was possible for a plant to have. It seemed to delight in matching mis-matched couples unawares, as Harry and Hermione found to their mutual disgust — both together and with others.
Hermione vowed never to speak of the unimaginable horror of having to share saliva with Pansy Parkinson. The only good things about kissing Pansy were, firstly, it hadn't been Draco Malfoy and, secondly, it made having to canoodle with Harry seem like the most romantic thing this side of a Mills and Boon novel.
"It was like kissing my sister," said Harry with a shudder to Hermione and Ron as they sat doing their homework one evening. "How are you at memory charms, Hermione?"
"You really shouldn't be even thinking about messing around with such things, Harry," began Hermione.
Harry held up his hands in mock surrender. "Joking, Hermione!"
"Blech," said Ginny as she climbed through the portrait hole and stomped over to the table, throwing down her books. "I need to go and disinfect my mouth. My brain could use a good dousing, too, for that matter to get rid of that memory."
"What happened, Ginny?" Hermione asked, ignoring the memory mention. "Was it the Mad Mistletoe?"
"Yes. I was heading to the library when I crossed paths with Malfoy. And guess what showed up at that very minute?" the redhead answered miserably.
"You mean," Harry said, grinding his teeth, "that that git kissed you?" Harry stood up, clenching his fists. "I'll kill him. I will kill him."
"Get in line, mate," Ron said, also standing and pounding one fist into the palm of the other. "I get first crack at the tosser."
"Both of you sit down and stop it," said Hermione, throwing the boys a look of disgust. "It's that dratted plant. It's not like Ginny wanted to snog Draco. Right, Ginny?"
"Oh, Merlin, no! I would rather kiss Ron than kiss that git. Trust me, he didn't enjoy it any more than I did. I am going to go upstairs, though. Clean my mouth and try to erase my memory. I'd give you each a kiss, but what with where my mouth as been, I doubt any of you would appreciate it." With a weak smile she turned and left. Harry thought he could just about have put up with Malfoy germs if it meant getting to snog Ginny.
"I'm still going to find ferret face and give him what he deserves," seethed Ron. "He'll think twice about kissing anyone else's sister after I'm done with him."
"I'll help you," agreed Harry, conveniently forgetting that he'd quite like to be smooching Ron's sister himself. "What are blue skin and a few green spots, after all?"
"About that, Harry…" Hermione began.
"What?" demanded Harry. "You're not going to defend the git, are you?"
"Well, it's that you don't just get blue skin and some spots," said Hermione, flushing a little. "I might have led you up the garden path with that."
"What do you mean?" asked Ron. "Is it only blue skin? No spots?"
"No…" Hermione bit her lip.
"Well, what is it, then?" said Harry.
"Maybe you should ask Michael Corner. Have you noticed he's been a bit … squeaky … for the past couple of days?"
Ron and Harry nodded.
"He's been telling everyone he did it deliberately, so that he could understand further the effects of the plant by undergoing the symptoms himself, but what really happens is that he refused to kiss Professor McGonagall—"
"Wait!" exclaimed Harry. "I heard about that. But I heard that he didn't kiss McGonagall out of respect for her position as his teacher."
"Yes, well anyway," Hermione continued, "it turned out that you don't get spots and blue skin. You … erm … oh, I can't say this."
Harry patted her on the shoulder, comfortingly. "It's all right, Hermione." As an aside to Ron he hissed, "Is she keen on Michael Corner, or something?"
Hermione glared at both boys. "I am not!" she exclaimed. "What I've been trying to delicately say is that you — boys, that is — end up singing soprano for a week after you refuse to kiss someone."
Ron and Harry both suddenly and simultaneously made astonishing imitations of codfish. "So what happens to the girls, then?" asked Harry. "Do they get the spots? That doesn't sound very fair."
"McGonagall hasn't looked spotty that I've noticed," said Ron.
"Nothing," said Hermione.
"Nothing?!" chorused Harry and Ron in disbelief.
"What a sexist bloody plant!" ranted Ron. "That is so—"
"I bet the plant was developed by a woman," Harry interjected. "She'd never been kissed, so she made any bloke that came near her have to pucker up or else."
"As if we're all just dying to kiss boys with nothing else on their minds but dung bombs and Quidditch," screeched Hermione. "Do you think anyone really wants to kiss some behemoth like Crabbe?"
"Be— what?" said Ron in confusion whilst Harry blushed and wondered where Hermione had heard about the spit-swapping he and Crabbe had done on the way to breakfast one morning.
Harry blinked as a sudden thought hit him. "So what happens if it's two boys who refuse to kiss one another? Do they both … you know?"
Hermione smirked and pointed up above the three of them. "Now's your chance to find out."
Ron and Harry looked at the dastardly plant in horror. "Not today," said Ron with determination. He looked steadily at Hermione and rose to his feet, holding out his hand. "Come here."
"And what on earth am I supposed to do?" demanded Harry. "I don't want my bits to shrink for a week, either!" He also stretched out his hand toward Hermione.
"Oh, dear," said Hermione, smirking at both boys. "Since you're both so keen to insist that this plant is 'bloody sexist', I think I'll just go on upstairs and let you boys figure out what happens when two boys don't kiss under it."
"Bloody hell, Hermione!" yelled Ron as Hermione gathered up her things. "Is that fair to your two best friends?"
Hermione stopped for a moment, thinking. "Yes," she answered slowly. "I think it's fair after all the times you two have been gits. Good night." She turned on her heel and headed for the stairs.
"Girls!" Ron bellowed. "Can you believe that? Can you believe what she did to me — to us?! I mean, come on! She left us to kiss!Us! Two blokes! Two very heterosexual blokes! I mean … what will people think?
"What choice do we have, Ron?" Harry said miserably. "It's either we tongue-tango or our goolies shrink. And I don't particularly want that."
"So, you're saying…" Ron started, looking aghast. "You're saying … that we … kiss?"
"Do you want to be singing soprano for the next week?"
"Are you barking mad? Of course not," said Ron. "But kissing you? Harry, don't take this the wrong way, but you're really not my type."
"Well, honestly Ron, you're not my type, either. I would much prefer to be snogging your sister instead of you. But—"
"I don't want to know that." Ron interrupted.
"But—" Harry went on, "—seeing that she's not here, and neither is Hermione, what choice do we have?"
Both boys looked upward at the offending plant. It had begun to shimmer and shake. "Quick," said Harry, "I think it's getting ready to cast its spell and move on."
"Oh, Merlin, I hate this," Ron mumbled, as he stepped closer to Harry.
"Maybe we can make this quick?" Harry said lamely.
"At least the common room is cleared out."
Harry stretched forward and puckered up. He and Ron's lips met for a moment, and FLASH! Someone had jumped out from behind the sofa and snapped a picture.
"COLIN!" Harry and Ron bellowed at the same time. "What are you doing?"
"Well, I wasn't going to do it," began Colin, "but both Hermione and Ginny made me an offer I couldn't refuse, so I had to do it."
"We'll kill you, you git!" Ron yelled. "Then we'll get the girls, too!"
"Whatever we do," said Harry glancing upward, "we better wait until after we kiss properly. That thing is still waiting on us."
Ron uttered a few words that would have had his mother threatening him with an oral saponificate cleaning spell. "We better get this over and done with," he said in resignation. "But no photos this time, Colin!"
Just as Harry and Ron once more leaned towards each other, eyes closed so they wouldn't have the visual memory of what they were about to do, a hand stopped them. "How about we help you with this?" Hermione said.
Harry's eyes popped open. There, standing beside him and Ron, were Ginny and Hermione.
"You didn't think we'd really make you two have to kiss, did you?" asked Ginny. She tugged at Harry's hand, pulling him slightly to one side, before looping her arms around his neck. Harry blushed and looked at Ron to see what his reaction was. Ron, however, had other things on his mind and lips, the latter of which were engaged with Hermione's in what was the most passionate bit of tongue-wiggling he'd ever seen — and he'd seen a fair amount of it over the past couple of weeks. It certainly seemed as if Ron had got over thinking of 'Urgh' as a descriptive phrase relevant to him, Hermione, and the act of kissing.
Deciding that he and Ginny should probably get their kiss underway in order to save him from a fate slightly less worse than death, he turned back to look down into her mischievous brown eyes. "Where were we?" he murmured, and her arms tightened about his neck in anticipation.
"Not where you thought you were," came Ron's voice from beside his ear. "The plant has gone, and that's my sister you're about to manhandle."
Harry felt Ginny being tugged away from him, and couldn't believe his bad luck. Here he and Ginny were finally about to get down to it, and it all turned to custard. "Ro—" his voice cracked. He coughed experimentally. Had his voice changed since he didn't get a kiss? "Ron?" he tried once more, finding to his relief that his voice was in its normal register. "What's happened?"
"Hermione and I," Ron's ears turned their usual embarrassed-red, "took care of the problem."
Hermione signalled her agreement to this statement by elbowing Ron in the ribs. "The plant has gone," she said. "It only required one kiss, not that everyone who'd been under the plant had to kiss.
"That was some kiss," said Harry and was amused to see that Hermione and Ron were careful to look anywhere but at each other.
"So, anyway," said Ron, "you and Ginny don't have to kiss now. I'm sure Dean will be very relieved to hear that." He looked meaningfully at Ginny, who rolled her eyes.
Just then the portrait hole opened and Neville tumbled in, followed by a group of other Gryffindors. "They've caught the plant!" he exclaimed as Dean pulled Ginny into a celebratory hug.
"Professors Sprout and Sinistra cornered the plant," he continued. "They managed to wrestle it down to Greenhouse Two-and-a-half."
"We went to watch," put in Dean.
"They've put it in a specially-designed container and used every charm, hex and spell possible to make the container escape-proof." Neville carried on with the story. "You should have seen it! By the time they were through, the greenhouse was glowing a faint purply colour and Sprout and Sinistra were drenched in sweat."
Harry looked out of the corner of his eye at Ginny. They never had managed to be caught together by the thing. Too bad, he thought. It would've been a great excuse to snog her and not have Ron or Dean mad at him. But he wasn't worried. He knew the opportunity would present itself again some other day. He just needed to make sure he was ready … and to research those containment spells Sprout and Sinistra used.