The Sugar Quill
Author: Madaline Fabray  Story: A Midsummer Night's Ball  Chapter: 2. Act II
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Harry and Luna sat in the Hogwarts library, huddled over a stack of books

Harry and Luna sat in the Hogwarts library, huddled over a stack of books. Luna sat cross-legged on her chair. A thick red-covered book, The History of Love Tonics, rested on her lap. She nibbled lightly on one of the butterbeer bottlecaps that made up her necklace. Harry’s elbows were propped on the table on either side of the book he was reading, The 25 Most Popular Mood-Altering Elixirs. Ron, who had managed to briefly escape Parkinson’s clutches, gave them a brief version of what happened and implored them to help.

 

"I never thought this would be so difficult," Harry grumbled as he closed his book with a discouraged snap. He waved his wand over the book and two others on the table, and they soared through the air and back onto the shelf. He Summoned four more books and started reading a slim, green-covered book, Arsenius Jigger’s Book of Quick Fixes for Botched Potions.

 

"This is interesting," Luna murmured.

 

"What? You’ve found something?" Harry asked eagerly.

 

"Before Erosin Clout discovered that frozen Ashwinder eggs were effective in love potions, wizards frequently used a combination of Tamarisk resin and the blood of a cuckoo bird."

 

Harry sighed in impatience. "That’s interesting, but it doesn’t help us very much."

 

"The problem was," Luna continued reading as if she hadn’t heard. "Love potions made with these ingredients had long-lasting effects, sometimes for a wizard’s lifetime. You know, that could be a problem if the feeling wasn’t mutual. That’s why most wizards prefer Ashwinder eggs."

 

"Simply fascinating. Now can we get back to the matter at hand?"

 

Luna and Harry continued reading for several moments in silence.

 

"Here’s something," Luna said.

 

Harry looked up, although with only a little of the enthusiasm he had earlier. "Yes?"

 

"Blood-red rose petals are, even today, added to potions if the maker wants a longer-lasting effect," Luna read.

 

"Luna!" Harry snapped his book shut and grabbed another one from the table. "Have you forgotten why we are here?"

 

"Usually seven or nine petals," Luna said. "When this tradition started, it was seven for the seven planets because Neptune and Pluto hadn’t been discovered yet. Now, sometimes a wizard uses nine."

 

"I’ll try to remember that," Harry said through gritted teeth.

 

There was another period of silence as they continued reading.

 

"Fascinating," Luna said, again breaking the quiet. "It says here that wreaths made of rosemary and rue are made and draped in the coffins of those who have died who were still under the effects of a love potion so that person wouldn’t become a ghost."

 

"Cheery thought," Harry said as he closed his book and sent it and Jigger’s book back to the shelves.

 

"I wonder if that really works?" Luna said, more to herself. "I’ve heard of using rue, but not rosemary."

 

"Luna, could we please get back to finding the antidote? Please?" Harry waved his wand to Summon more books from the shelves. "It’s nice outside, everyone else is having a holiday and…."

 

"So, where do you want to meet me before we go down to the ball?" Luna asked without looking up.

 

"I really, really don’t want to be here all … what did you just say?" The books Harry had Summoned hovered in mid-air.

 

"Where do you want to meet me before we go down to the ball?"

 

Clunk! "Ow!" Harry yelped, for the two books dropped to the table and landed on his arm. Then he stared at Luna. "What do you mean, ‘where should we meet?’"

 

Luna looked up at Harry, her silvery eyes gazing into Harry’s green one. "Well, we really should appear together at the ball, don’t you think?"

 

"We should?" Harry croaked out.

 

"You can meet me outside the entrance to the Ravenclaw tower," Luna said, and her voice took on a dreamy tone. Her eyes seemed to stare off into another place, far away. "That’s what my dad did when he and mum were dating. They had a few dances here when they went to Hogwarts, and he would meet mum outside the Ravenclaw tower. Then, he told me, she would come down, in her best robes. My mum was very pretty. My dad would take her hand, kiss it and say ‘You look divine tonight, angel.’ He said he always did that."

 

Harry suddenly felt nauseous.

 

"So, how about meeting me at seven outside the Ravenclaw tower?" Luna said.

 

No way! "Ummm … sure," Harry said nervously. Now why did I just say that?

 

Just then, two wizards, a stocky, red-haired wizard of medium height and broad face and a slim, petite witch with bubblegum-pink hair tied up in a loose ponytail came in.

 

"Harry," the wizard said with a smile. "We were looking for you."

 

"Hi Charlie, Tonks," Harry said. Luna stared at the newcomers a moment before returning to her book.

 

"What are you doing in here?" Tonks said, and she wrinkled her nose. "On a holiday? You would never catch me in the library on a holiday!"

 

"Ermmm, it’s a long story, guys," Harry replied. "So why were you looking for me?"

 

"We wanted to warn you," Charlie’s good natured grin disappeared and was replaced by a concerned look. "We just heard…."

 

Ron suddenly burst into the room, out of breath and frantic.

 

"Hide me!" he said in a hushed, desperate tone.

 

"What the…?" Tonks started to say, but Ron dashed past her and dove under the table Harry and Luna were sitting at.

 

"Ron, what is it?" Charlie asked with a barely suppressed chuckle.

 

"Ron? My darling, where are you?" all of them heard just outside the library. "Please don’t hide from me! It’s cruel to keep yourself from me, who loves you with every fiber of my being!"

 

"Oh sweet Merlin," Harry whispered, his eyes wide. "She’s a persistent one, isn’t she?"

 

"Yes!" Ron whispered back, his voice panicked. "This is going to be the death of me… ack!" He gasped and hid his face in his hands as the girl in question came around the corner several feet away from them.

 

"Oh, it’s only you," Pansy said with obvious disappointment. "I thought I heard voices. Have any of you seen my Ronny?" 

 

Your Ronny? Harry mouthed, and he choked back a laugh. Luna continued reading her book as if nothing were happening.

 

"Errr … no," Tonks replied, and the corners of her mouth twitched. "Really can’t say I have seen him, not for a whioof!"

 

"Try looking in the kitchens," Charlie added as he poked Tonks in the ribs with his elbow. "He probably went down to grab a snack before tonight. If he heard they were making cheesecake tarts, he probably went to see if he could nick one, those are his favorites. Especially those with strawberries."

 

"Cheesecake tarts?" Pansy said with a huge grin on her face. "I will make sure my honeyboo gets some then, as many as he wants." She left the library practically skipping.

 

"Is she gone?" Ron whispered.

 

"Yes, Ron, you can come out now," Harry said.

 

"Honeyboo?" Tonks said, and she covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.

 

Ron’s head peered cautiously above the table. "Whew!" he heaved a sigh of relief and stood up. "Thanks, Charlie," he said. "By the way, are they really making cheesecake tarts? With stra…."

 

"Ron, even if they are, she will be down there!" Harry said, and he rolled his eyes.

 

"Oh, right."

 

"So what is going on, little brother?" Charlie asked in a parental tone. He crossed his arms in front of him, the scar on his one arm plainly visible. "Why has a snooty Slytherin suddenly taken such a shine to you?"

 

"Errrr…." Ron stammered, his ears going bright red.

 

Tonks looked at the titles of the books on the table. "Hmmm … The History of Love Tonics, Meddling with the Mind – Greatest Potions for Changing Perceptions, Ah, Amore! Most Potent Love Elixirs of the World   what are you two doing with this lot? Making something special for tonight?"

 

"Ahh," Harry said, and he glanced nervously at Ron.

 

Charlie’s parental stare intensified. "I heard McGonagall confiscated some forty bottles of love potion my joke-loving brothers concocted. Wouldn’t put it past them to have spirited away a few bottles, though."

 

"We’re not looking to make more, if that’s what you are implying," Ron blurted out.

 

"We’re helping him look for an antidote," Harry said, and he nodded his head towards Ron. "Some love potion was …ummm, accidentally swallowed by a couple of parties, one of them being Parkinson."

 

"Oh dear," Tonks said. "That explains a lot. You poor thing!" She cast a sympathetic glance at Ron.

 

Harry decided not to bring up Ginny and any details about what happened with Parkinson, nor the fact that Ron more than deserved what he was getting from the love-sick Slytherin.

 

"Heh," Charlie said, his expression lightening some. "Well, good luck. There aren’t many antidotes, though, simply because most love potions only last a few hours anyway. You may be searching for a while."

 

"You know, you could ask Professor Snape," Tonks said brightly. Harry and Ron stared at her. "Oh, right. You don’t exactly get on well with him, do you?"

 

"Not really," Harry said bitterly.

 

"Tell you what," Charlie said. "We’ll ask in your behalf without going into too much detail."

 

"Would you?" Ron said, a wave of relief sweeping over him. "That would be swell, Charlie. This whole situation is a right mess!"

 

"You’re a mate, Charlie," Harry agreed, beaming, then his brow furrowed. "But what brings you to Hogwarts in the first place? And you said something about looking for us earlier."

 

"Oh, right!" Charlie said, and he laughed. "Almost forgot!"

 

"We’re here to provide security," Tonks said. "For the ball. The headmaster asked us to come."

 

"As to why we were looking for you," Charlie said, again serious. "We wanted to warn you. Dolores Umbridge escaped from St. Mungo's closed ward and rumor has it, she has a Dementor or two with her. She’s stark, raving mad, and she’s wanting revenge for that little thing with the centaurs."

 

"Oh no!" Harry exclaimed in horror.

 

"Keep a sharp eye out, Harry," Tonks said, her face serious as well. "She may be nutters, but she’s dangerous!"

 

"You don’t need to tell me that!" Harry muttered.

 

"Don’t worry about it too much, Harry," Charlie said. "Just keep a sharp lookout and don’t go anywhere alone tonight."

 

"He’ll be with me tonight," Luna said in her dreamy voice. She looked up briefly. "We’re going together."

 

Tonks, Charlie and Ron, their jaws gaping, stared at Harry and Luna.

 

"What’s this?" Ron asked incredulously.

 

"Umm … we’re going in together," Harry said, his face bright red.

 

"Really? Since when?" Ron asked, and he started snickering. "I didn’t know this!"

 

"Neither did I, until a few minutes ago," Harry said as he ducked behind a book. "Now bugger off, or I’ll sic Pansy on you!"

 

The snickering came to an immediate halt.

 

****

 

"I hope the house-elves don’t miss this lot," Fred said as he gripped the two bottles of butterbeer and bag of grapes.

 

"Doubtful," George said as he looked over his shoulder to make sure they weren’t being followed. He was carrying a small blue cloak. "Even if they do, they’ll just replace it somehow."

 

They were sneaking back into the forbidden forests to the brush that was concealing Ginny and the partly-transfigured Malfoy. It was around four in the afternoon, and the ball wasn’t due to start until about half past seven or so. Fred thought it might be a good idea to check on their sister and bring a cloak and snacks down in case an antidote wasn’t to be had in time.

 

The twins crept into the woods undetected and went over to the brush. They could hear a sweet, girlish voice singing as they came closer ….

 

"Sweetly sings the donkey at the break of day

If you do not feed him, this is what he’ll say…."

 

"Oh, crikey!" exclaimed Fred.

 

"Ewwww," George said, and his face contorted into a grimace.

 

"Hee haw! Hee haw! Hee haw hee haw hee haw!"

 

Ginny was curled up on the blanket, with Malfoy’s donkey head in her lap. The witch had made several daisy chains; one was around her neck and one on her head, and there were two daisy chains around Malfoy’s neck and a third hanging from his right ear. Even the pigs wore partial flower chains, although they had already half-eaten them. Ginny held a small bouquet of daisies in her hand.

 

"Sweetly sings the donkey at the break of day," Ginny sang again. "If you do not feed him, this is what he’ll say: Hee haw! Hee haw! Hee haw hee haw hee haw!"

 

With each "hee haw," Ginny gently tapped Malfoy’s gray muzzle with her bouquet.

 

"Hee haw!" Malfoy responded. He snuggled closer to Ginny.

 

"All this scene needs is cupids and pink hearts flying above them," Fred muttered. "Then it will be completely nauseating!"

 

"Please don’t, my stomach hurts enough seeing this," George almost whimpered.

 

"Hi, Ginny!" Fred called out. "All right?"

 

"I’m just fine, thank you," Ginny said primly. She obviously wasn’t happy that her peace had been interrupted.

 

"We … we brought you a snack and your cloak," George said, and the twins handed over the items they had brought.

 

"Thanks!" Ginny said, with a little more friendliness. "I think Draco was getting hungry." She started pulling off grapes and held them just above Malfoy’s head. Like a trained dog, Malfoy opened his mouth and Ginny dropped the grapes in.

 

"Ugh!" Fred and George chorused at once.

 

"Go away if you can’t stand the sight of a little true affection," Ginny retorted.

 

Fred and George only too willingly complied. As they started to leave, another song floated in their direction….

 

"Where the bee sucks there suck I,

In a cowslip’s bell I lie.

There I couch where the owls do cry,

on the bat’s back I do fly

After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily I shall live now, under the blossom that hangs on the bough

Merrily, merrily I should live now, under the…."

 

George shuddered as they walked through the woods on another, more roundabout path to the castle. "We have got to find that antidote."

 

"I’m hoping she won’t remember anything, though. Could be bad for us."

 

"Very bad, but chances are she won’t remember a thing. We’ll just have to keep anything from triggering her memory."

 

"And if she does remember anything, let’s hope a well-placed Obliviate will work."

 

****

 

Meanwhile, in another part of the dark forest near the castle, Dolores Umbridge, beady eyes gleaming, crept quietly towards the school.

 

"I’m going to get them now," she hissed between clenched teeth. "All of them! That Potter boy, especially, and that girl, that wretched girl." She turned to look behind her. "Come out, it’s safe!"

 

A dementor came out from behind a tree and floated over to where Umbridge was crouched behind a rock. Umbridge and the Dementor looked towards the school, which was still several hundred feet away and barely visible through the trees.

 

What now, mistress? The dementor asked.

 

"We wait here until the ball starts," Umbridge replied. "Then, I take my revenge! They will all wish they had never crossed me!"

 

Yes, mistress.

 

"Ugh! It’s disgusting how they conduct business here!" Umbridge said, her toad-like mouth twisting in revulsion. "I tried so hard to get it on track, to make it a school worthy of our kind, and how do they thank me? By locking me up with the basket cases in St. Mungo’s! Shameful, isn’t it?"

 

Yes, mistress.

 

"That Dumbledore has no control over the school," Umbridge continued to rant. "None! Look what has happened during his tenure! Do you know what has happened here?"

 

Yes, mistress, I do. You’ve told me.

 

Umbridge continued anyway. "A Basilisk! A boy who speaks Parseltongue! A werewolf! Letting an escaped convict slip through their fingers! Now, they have a centaur and a half-giant teaching classes! It’s outrageous!"

 

Yes, mistress.

 

"Imagine, thinking that creatures have the same rights as wizards do!" Umbridge said with a sniff. "That is a dangerous philosophy, dangerous, I tell you!"

 

Yes, mistress. This was said in an edgier tone than before, but Umbridge didn’t seem to notice.

 

"Half-breeds and Mudbloods at the school, beasts teaching classes," Umbridge snarled. "But I will get my revenge! I promise you that!"

 

If the dementor had eyes, it would have been rolling them by now. It had listened to this almost non-stop line of chatter from the short woman since she escaped the hospital three days ago. It considered lifting its hood and taking the short woman’s life force, putting her out of its misery. It held up a corpse-like hand. It would be so easy to do, grab her, overwhelm her … but… did it really want to touch something that loathsome?

 

The dementor hastily withdrew its hand.

 

"I’m going to get even tonight," Umbridge continued to rant, heedless of the momentary danger she had been in. "While they are busy having a good time, I’m …."

 

"What are you doing here?" thundered a voice.

 

Umbridge and the Dementor turned. Right behind them was a black-bodied centaur with wild black hair.

 

"And who do you think you are, creature?" Umbridge said haughtily, her toad-like mouth forcing itself to twist into a nasty smile. She balled her hands into fists so the creature couldn't see how they trembled.

 

The centaur snarled. "My name is Bane," he said coldly. "And you are trespassing! You and that fell creature of yours."

 

"Hrmph," Umbridge sniffed. "Trespassing? Are you claiming that you actually own this land?" She backed away without realizing it.

 

"This is the centaur’s land," Bane said, and he advanced threateningly. "I made a promise to the headmaster of the school that we would not harm those from the school who came here as long as they respected our territory. But you are not from the school. You…." Recognition suddenly hit Bane. "I remember you!" he said, his voice a low growl. "I have a score to settle with you…."

 

****

 

Fred and George were taking a meandering path back to the castle, in an effort to hide their trail, when they stumbled across Umbridge and the dementor.

 

"Umbridge!" George hissed. "What in blazes is that woman doing here? And with that … dementor?"

 

"I don’t know," Fred whispered as both of them dived behind a large oak. "Maybe they are having a romantic tete-a-tete."

 

George had to cover his mouth with his hand to keep from laughing out loud. "Heh. That would be appropriate. She’s evil enough."

 

"Oh bother!" Fred grumped. "They are blocking the most direct path! We’re either going to have to wait for them to leave or go back."

 

"Let’s go back a ways," George said. "We could make our own trail. Just hope we don’t run across any poison ivy."

 

"Wait," Fred said, and he snapped his fingers. "I’ve just had a thought!" He pulled out a small silver bottle and grinned nastily. "Do you suppose this works on dementors?"

 

George’s grin matched his brother’s. "I don’t know, but it might be fun to see, or we can just give some to Umbridge, make her fall for that thing."

 

"Heh. The dementor will poison itself if it Kisses her."

 

"Goody! That will take care of two problems in one stroke! You have your blow gun?"

 

Fred pulled out a small, wooden, cylindrical device made of wood. It fit neatly into the palm of his hand. Strapped to it were small, hollow wooden sticks that resembled toothpicks.

 

"Never leave home without it," Fred said, his eyes gleaming.

 

But as they were opening the bottle to coat one of the darts, they saw a large black-bodied centaur come into view. They clung closer to the tree.

 

"Blimey, but he looks cross!" Fred said as they watched the angry centaur as he talked to Umbridge. "About ready with that dart, mate?"

 

"Yes, here," George said, and he handed the dart to his brother.

 

Fred placed the dart into the blow gun, aimed at the Dementor and blew hard. But just as he blew, the centaur advanced towards Umbridge, fists raised. Bane, unwittingly, put himself in the line of fire.

 

"Uh oh," Fred whispered.

 

"Oww," the twins heard Bane exclaim in annoyance, and the centaur brushed a hand across his shoulder. Then he seemed to stagger and sway. Bane’s forelegs buckled, and soon he collapsed to the ground in a heap.

 

"You know," Fred said with a sigh. "If they would have hired us to be cupids, we wouldn’t last a day."

 

"I don’t think we’ve gotten an intended target yet," George said. "We’re rusty. It’s all that respectable work, I tell you."

 

Fred nodded somberly in agreement. "We are off our game." Silence. "You know, should we warn her not to do that?" Umbridge had started kicking at and shaking the centaur, all the while shouting in a loud, angry voice.

 

The twins looked at each other and shook their heads.

 

"Naaaaah!"

 

"Ouch!" George said as Umbridge planted an especially vicious kick to the centaur’s side. "That’s gonna leave a mark."

 

Bane started to stir. From their hiding place, the twins started to snigger.

 

"This is going to be good," Fred chortled.

 

"Almost wish we had popcorn," George added as he and Fred sat down to watch the show.

 

****

 

"Get up, you lazy creature!" Umbridge shouted, and she gave Bane a sharp kick to the back. "How dare you insult me, then lie down and take a nap! Up, you filth!"

 

Bane stirred and shook his head groggily as Umbridge continued to hurl insults at him.

 

"Useless, worthless pile of dung," Umbridge said as Bane slowly got to his feet and stared at the short, squat woman before him. "It’s about time you got up!"

 

"My fair lady," Bane whispered, and he grasped her hand and kissed it.

 

Umbridge was shocked speechless. Her eyes grew wide in dread as a smiling Bane grasped her other hand and knelt before her.

 

"Lovely flower in the wood," Bane said lovingly. "Speak, oh angel, even if it is just to insult me, for I love hearing the sound of your voice!"

 

"Wha … What???" Umbridge croaked out in horror.

 

"Do not be afraid of me," Bane continued earnestly. "I adore you! I will worship the ground you walk on, I…." He suddenly pulled her closer and bent his face over hers.

 

"Hey!" Umbridge shouted. "Don’t get fresh with me! We were arguing, remember?"

 

"What between the heavens and the cosmos, between the earth and the sea, could we have argued about?" Bane said, his features rapturous.

 

"Help me out here!" Umbridge gasped out to the Dementor. But the Dementor just stood there as Bane tried to kiss her. "Why are you just standing there??? Help me!!!"

 

No, said the dementor, an amused tone creeping into his mental voice.

 

"WHAT???" Umbridge shrieked as she struggled to break free from Bane’s grip. "You can’t do that! I gave you an order! Now get over here and do something so he leaves me alone!"

 

You are the almighty wizard. I’m not even considered a beast. You can take care of yourself.

 

Umbridge looked ready to explode. "I’ll ask you one more time, get….urgh! Mrrrph!" Bane covered her mouth with his own. The dementor, meanwhile, flew away.

 

Umbridge managed to break free from Bane’s kiss long enough to watch in horror  as the dementor disappeared through the trees….

 

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

 

****

 

The twins started laughing uproariously as they saw Umbridge finally break free of Bane’s grip and bolt through the woods.

 

"That was excellent!" Fred wheezed out.

 

"Most excellent," George said. "Brother, this restores my faith in our skills. Well done, Fred!"

 

"Well done, George," Fred replied and the two shook hands.

 

"Yes, boys," said a stern third voice. "Well done, indeed."

 

The twins blanched and turned to see Professor McGonagall towering over them, her arms folded across her chest and with a glare that told them that they were in deep trouble.

 

The brothers looked at each other and sighed unhappily.

 

"It looks like the jig’s up," Fred said.

 

"Alas," George said. "And we were just hitting our stride."

 

****

 

"Tell me again why the headmaster thought this bloody ball was a good idea?" Professor Snape groused as he and Professor Urania Sinistra walked out of the Great Hall down the corridor. "That is the fourth dispute we had to resolve between the river trolls, goblins and house elves today!"

 

"Now, Severus," Sinistra said placatingly. "I think it’s nice to see the students laughing and enjoying themselves for once. This has been a rough year for everyone."

 

"Yes it has!" Snape said, and he scowled. "But why is it when the students get a holiday it means more work for us? I have confiscated four Bleeding Hearts, twelve Dungbombs and have given out five detentions for illicit spellcasting in the corridors. I know the headmaster has twice been to the dark forest to make sure the centaurs and other beasts don’t cause trouble tonight, but heaven knows if they’ll keep their word or if … Mr. Weasley! How dare you behave like that with a young lady!"

 

Ron managed to pry Parkinson enough away from him to look at the Sinister potions master in horror.

 

"But …." Ron started to protest.

 

"That will be twenty-five points from Gryffindor, and if you don’t learn how to control yourself, I will give you a detention!" Snape said in a threatening tone.

 

"Oh, Professor Snape!" Parkinson said pleadingly. "Don’t be too harsh on Ronnykins … he doesn’t mean to be a bad boy." She giggled and planted another kiss on Ron’s lips, muffling his protests.

 

"No…mo…rmph!" Ron continued to struggle against the Slytherin witch’s tight grip.

 

Snape’s eyebrows shot up as he watched two students from opposing houses snogging right in front of him – one of them rather reluctantly from his continued protests and his squirming.

 

The corners of Sinistra’s mouth twitched. "Oh my," she said.

 

"We should go find Dumbledore," Snape said in a hushed tone. "I suspect someone’s been toying with love potions. Again. This happens nearly every time they hold these idiotic fetes."

 

"I’m not sure why you are complaining," Sinistra said with a twinkle in her eye. "I heard you were quite the love potions brewer when you were a student here, and used it on more than one occasion to get …."

 

"May we please stick with the present situation?" Snape said nastily. "I have no interest in bringing up ancient history."

 

"Touchy touchy!" Sinistra said with a grin. Then her brow furrowed as they continued walking down the corridor. "But I thought McGonagall confiscated some forty-odd bottles of the stuff from the Weasley twins three days ago?"

 

"Obviously, our deputy headmistress missed a bottle or two," Snape replied sourly. "Those two Weasleys are more trouble than chizpurfles. Where is Dumbledore supposed to be at this time, anyway?"

 

"Last I heard, he was in the greenhouses consulting with Sprout on the topiaries they are going to use tonight."

 

The two professors rounded a corner and down a hall which led to a small wooden door leading to the grounds. But they took no more than six steps out into the late afternoon sun when they both stopped and looked around.

 

"Listen," Snape whispered.

 

"You heard it, too?"

 

"Heeeellllllp!"

 

"It sounds like it’s coming from the Quidditch pitch!" Snape said, and he held his arm out to his side, palm down. "Accio, broom!"

 

Sinistra did likewise, and within seconds two Nimbus 1500s zoomed into the waiting professors’ hands. They mounted the brooms, kicked off the ground and soared through the air towards the pitch.

 

As they drew near to where they could see the Quidditch hoops, Sinistra gasped and stared wide-eyed at the sight before her. "What on earth…." She whispered, and her broom slowed in the air.

 

Snape’s broom slowed too. "Merlin’s Beard!"

 

"Is that actually someone up there? On that middle hoop?"

 

"It’s about time someone came! Help me!!!" the tiny figure clinging to the ring of the hoop called. "Hurry!"

 

"Doesn’t that sound like Umbridge?" Snape asked, his brow furrowing. "How did she get up there?"

 

"What I want to know is why she is up there," Sinistra said, and they flew over cautiously. Both wizards drew their wands as they approached.

 

Why became apparent as they flew closer and heard a booming baritone voice singing from below the hoop.

 

"Little bird, little biiird, in the cinnamon treeeee…."

 

Snape’s jaw dropped. "If someone had told me about this, I would have thought them mad!"

 

"I think you were right about the love potion, Severus."

 

"Little biiird little biiiiird, have pity on meeeee….."

 

"Nothing else could explain this," Snape said. "My, my, but Fred and George Weasley have been especially active today."

 

"How do you know it’s them?"

 

"Little bird, little bird I love you sooooo!"

 

"Do you know anyone else who would pull such a stunt?" Snape made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "It looks like, as I suspected, the rubbish duty wasn’t strict enough punishment. I warned the headmaster and McGonagall, but no, they wouldn’t listen…."

 

"HEY!" Umbridge shouted. "Stop flapping your jaws and help me! Get rid of this mad creature!!!"

 

Sinistra sighed. "What the Weasleys did was wrong, but frankly I can’t think of a more deserving target!"

 

"Where’s your wand, Umbridge?" Snape said, his tone velvety. "Why don’t you take care of the big, bad centaur yourself?"

 

Even from the distance they were at, Snape and Sinistra could see Umbridge’s face turn purple. "I dropped it while the brute was chasing me! Now stop asking stupid questions and do something! Knock him out! Kill him, even! Just get rid of him!"

 

"Kill him?" Sinistra queried mildly. "That seems rather harsh."

 

"Quite," Snape said, his eyes glinting evilly. "In fact, I would think you would prefer his behavior now. Especially after what happened last year, when he tried to kill you."

 

"Mmm," Sinistra said with a thoughtful nod. "But it doesn’t seem very fair to Bane now, does it? He had no choice in the matter."

 

"EXCUSE ME!" Umbridge hollered. "But what part of ‘get-rid-of-that-stinking-beast-and-get- me-down-from-here’ do you not comprehend???"

 

"Hmmm, we could Stupify Bane, I suppose," Sinistra mused. "But aren’t centaurs resistant to such charms?"

 

"Yes, they are. I have a better solution," Snape said, and his lip curled into a sneer. "Stupifying Umbridge is tempting…."

 

"Me???" Umbridge croaked in alarm. "But I would fall to my death! And I’m not the problem here!"

 

"That is a matter of opinion," Snape replied, and he scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Wherever you go, you seem to create problems for others to clean up, so the thought of getting rid of you is an appealing one. But the paperwork would be such a bother, the Ministry is such a stickler about unexpected deaths."

 

"Yes, they’d expect everything in triplicate," Sinistra added. "It would take hours, even days. I’m not sure it would be worth it."

 

"But think, though," Snape said thoughtfully. "Only a few days worth of hassle for a lifetime of peace…."

 

"WHAT???"

 

"But the again, we just had the turf on the pitch redone at great expense," Snape continued, and he gave an exaggerated sigh. "She would mar it horribly if we let her fall. I guess the only alternative is to acquire an antidote."

 

"I didn’t think they made antidotes for insanity!" Umbridge shouted, and she cast a withering gaze at the centaur below her.

 

"No, they don’t," Sinistra said, and she rolled her eyes.

 

"Alas," Snape said. "You would have been my first test subject, Dolores."

 

"Bane is not insane," Sinistra said as Umbridge visibly bristled and turned an even deeper shade of purple. "He seems to be merely a victim of some sort of love potion. We’ve already seen another example of a love potion being used today."

 

"Love potion!" Umbridge shrieked. "But how…?"

 

"I don’t know and I don’t care," Snape said. "And who is asking silly questions now? Come, we'd best leave, Urania. I have a potion to make, and it will take me a while."

 

"What!?!?!" Umbridge shouted, her eyes bulging. "What do you mean, make it? Don’t you already have some on hand???"

 

Snape fixed Umbridge with a cool gaze. "No, I do not. If I kept a supply of every antidote and cure that could come up, the castle wouldn’t hold all of the bottles. We don’t often see love potions in use because it is against school rules to make them here, and the effects seldom last more than a few hours anyway. We will be back when the potion is ready … in about three hours."

 

"NO!" Umbridge said. "It can’t take that long!!!"

 

"Are you questioning my knowledge of potions?" Snape said, his lips turning up into a sneer. "Very well, if you aren’t satisfied with what I can do, I can only reassure you that the potion should wear off by tomorrow morning." He turned his broom and started heading back to the castle, with Sinistra following behind.

 

"Nooooo! Wait! Don’t leave meeee!"

 

"I imagine the sunrise will be particularly striking from your vantage point, Umbridge," Snape fired back over his shoulder.

 

Bane, meanwhile, started another song, with Umbridge’s crying and cursing making a strange counterpoint….

 

"When first I saw thee, thou didst sweetly play,"

 

"Wretched, traitorous cads! You will pay….!"

 

"The gentle thief and stolest my heart awaaaay…."

 

"You can’t leave me up here! I forbid it!"

 

"Rend’r it again, or else give me thine own…."

 

The singing and swearing became more distant as the two professors flew back to the castle. Sinistra heard another, unexpected, sound and she turned and stared at the Potions master.

 

"Why, Severus!" She exclaimed. "Was that a laugh I heard from you?"

 

"I think you are hearing things, Urania," Snape said. But he couldn’t quite hide the almost mischievous gleam in his eyes and the trace of a smile on his lips.

 

"You really aren’t going to leave her there all night?" Sinistra added, her voice taking on a slightly scolding tone, then she sighed. "Although it is sorely tempting, after all she did last year…."

 

Snape sighed as well. "I suppose we shouldn’t," he agreed reluctantly. "Dumbledore would be inclined to let her go, even if we had the best of reasons for leaving her. He is far too merciful."

 

Sinistra gave Snape a knowing look. "I won’t say anything about your shady, colorful past, nor mention the number of times Dumbledore forgave you as a student."

 

"Hrmph," Snape said sulkily as they both touched down to the earth once more.

 

"By the way, does an antidote for a love potion really takes three hours?" Sinistra asked after they Banished their brooms and started for the door.

 

"It depends on the potion," Snape said, and the corners of his mouth again turned up slightly. "I’m reasonably certain that the Weasleys only used the Brevamare formula, which is the weakest type of love potion and the easiest to make in large quantities. Once I find the proper potions formula, the antidote itself should take less than an hour to make."

 

Sinistra laughed heartily. "You do have a sense of humor, despite rumors to the contrary!"

 

"If you try to tell anyone that, I will deny it emphatically. Such idle gossip could ruin my reputation."

 

"Ah, no one would believe me anyway."

 

"Hah hah, you are very amusing. Now, go find Professor Dumbledore. I’ll be down in my lab working on the antidote."

 

End of Act II

//
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