Black Bat Strut
by His lordship Chaos
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His lordship Chaos' answer to METMA Challenge #28 has been sponsored by: Goblin-Oh's, the breakfast cereal that eats *you* like a meal! (now with slime, snails or puppydog tails inside!)
This fanfic has been rated PG for much silliness, and magically-inspired sight gags. Warning: plot spoilers abound!
His lordship Chaos presents:
Something completely disavowed by J.K. Rowling!
(a.k.a. BLACK BAT STRUT)
It wasn't easy having a vampire for a roommate, as Ginny Weasley could attest to. Oh sure, some kids had an actual Bogeymen lurking in their closet, or a thing (not a monster or a beast, just a "thing" that defied all possible classification) hiding somewhere under their bed. Even Ron had the attic ghoul above his bedroom. But could she, the youngest child and only Weasley daughter, actually get a decent sort of creature skulking in her room?
Apparently the answer was no, and a rather pronounced "NO" at that.
The vampire in question, a somewhat precocious git who liked to call himself "Malibu" had moved into her room during her absence while she had been attending her 3rd year at Hogwarts.
He liked to brag about how he'd travelled the world, learned no less than half a dozen languages, dined at the best possible restaurants (and subsequently on the restaurant's best customers), stolen the moon during a lunar eclipse once about 400 years ago, knew the secret location of Atlantis (which he confided actually happened to be the pond in his backyard), and had earned himself the most impressive man-eating stamp collection this side of the globe.
When he had first appeared, he had assumed that Ginny automatically knew what exactly a vampire looked like. However, she was due to learn about vampires (along with other such dangerous mythical creatures like Erklings, Quintapeds and Bill Gates) in her fourth year, so as far as she knew, he was just an annoying neighbour who never bothered to try using the door instead of the window.
So what of his physical features? He looked like any other person mostly: shoulder-length brown hair, blue eyes, good body frame. Well...at first, Ginny thought it might have been that he had naturally pale skin, or a really pronounced Vitamin-D deficiency. That was quickly dismissed when Malibu mistakenly walked into a beam of sunlight one afternoon and burst into flame.
On the other hand, this suddenly explained why he had a habit of accidentally biting his tongue with his somewhat pronounced canines. (Ginny had first supposed he simply was in dire need of what Hermione referred to as a 'dentist' to get rid of his overbite.) However, he never did once try to go out of his way to bite her. According to Malibu, Ginny was not his type. Type A Positive, to be exact, and Malibu was in fact so elitist that he only dined on the rarer AB+ blood-types. In fact, as he put it, he preferred to dine alone and always felt over-pressured when having to snack in front of a crowd.
By now, all of you readers out there are probably asking yourselves, "If a tree falls on Rita Skitter in the forest, and no one's around, does anyone really care?" Barring that, you're probably also asking yourselves just why Ginny hadn't bothered to tell her parents or even one of her older brothers about this
unexpected vampire hanging out in her room. Or why Ginny hadn't bothered to just read up on vampires and then dispatch of Malibu herself.
Truth of the matter was that, for as annoying as he could be sometimes, Malibu was a complete pushover, if not a teddybear (albeit a blood-sucking teddybear). In fact, Ginny came to quite enjoy having her own personal vampire. He always hid from the rest of her family, was never in visible sight during the day-choosing instead to turn into a small bat and snuggle comfortably between the extra blankets on the top shelf of her cramped closet-and Ginny found it a bit of a thrill to have such a reputedly dangerous magical creature as her own ersatz pet. And threatening to either stake him or boot his bat-winged butt into the daylight always kept him in line.
In short, over the span of the summer, Ginny had domesticated Malibu.
The day before she was to board the Hogwarts Express along with Ron and the twins, Ginny trudged up the stairs. She quickly glanced down the hall to make sure no one was around to peek inside or unexpectedly barge in, and then slipped into her bedroom.
Malibu was sprawled across the ceiling, laying there as if it were the floor, a pillow cushioning his head and a book entitled, 'TheAcromantula & The Aardvark' in one hand. With a somewhat horrified voice he cried out, "Look out, Mister Aardvark, he's right around the corner-er, divine evening tonight, wouldn't you agree, Ginny?"
'The Acromantula & The Aardvark' was quickly tossed elsewhere, and replaced with the rather lengthy paperback novel 'Your Hungarian Horntail Can Moo, Can You?'
Ginny just sighed and rolled her eyes. At least he wasn't perusing another Playmuggle centrefold again.
She set out to pack all her belongings for her new year at Hogwarts. Their Mum always made sure her children's luggage was packed the night before they left for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. As it was, they had already visited Diagon Alley for their supplies and textbooks-and had been met with no less than
twenty-six flying rumours about how Voldemorte was back-how he was establishing a new sect of Death Eaters; how he had cursed the witch Ambercrombie by switching her nose with her thumb; and how he had done the most wicked thing of all, and sold his pride in exchange for top billing in a Vegas floorshow.
All her books, scrolls, quills and potions supplies sitting neatly with her cauldron inside a rather green steamtrunk, Ginny set out to get her wardrobe ready for transit. Something rustled behind her, and the shadows on the wall shifted.
Malibu was now standing upside-down on her ceiling, peering inquisitively down at her open suitcase. "Running away?"
"No," Ginny replied as she pulled her school robes from the dresser and began to neatly fold them on her bed.
"Thought not," Malibu sighed. "At any rate, if you were, I know this smashing little chateau down in Switzerland. Simply divine view of the lake from the balcony, and if you forget about the fact that some sort of lizard-creature's eaten about seven or so tourists since last summer, it's quite the enjoyable trip."
"I'm sure," Ginny absently agreed, setting her school robes aside. She began packing away a few sweaters in anticipation for the cold halls during the winter. "Look, Malibu, school starts tomorrow, so I'm going to be gone for the next few months. Think you can behave yourself while I'm away?"
However, Malibu eye's lit up not at the prospect of having her room to himself again, but at the idea of travelling to Hogwarts. "Can I come?" he asked.
For an umpteenth time since the beginning of the summer, Ginny stated in no uncertain terms, "Because you'd never last three days at Hogwarts, Malibu. You'd have to hide during the day while the sun's out, and there's a curfew at night so you'd have skulk around by yourself. Not to mention avoid being caught by Filtch or Mrs. Norris. And," she always finished with this notable point, "you are a vampire. Dumbledore might give you breathing room, but if anyone else saw you, most students would either demand our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher kill you, or they'd kill you themselves."
Malibu's face screwed up into an indignant, sulky expression, then with a haughty hmph he turned his back to her and snorted, "Tu madre."
Ginny rolled her eyes. For a vampire who claimed to be so well-versed in so many languages, it was rather odd that Malibu's only good comeback to anything was to say "Your mother" in Spanish.
Though she had to be honest with herself: working on getting Malibu to behave himself (and having him at her beck and call) was the best way for her to forget about all the rumours of Voldemorte's return. After the horrible ending to the Triwizard Tournament, everyone at Hogwarts had left feeling particularly depressed.
Ginny frowned at that. The last thing she wanted was Harry Potter (blush!) to mistake Malibu for an actual vicious vampire and stake him one night. Harry, her brother and Hermione were notorious for their late-night running around. Even worse, how could she explain to the three of them, let alone Harry (blush!) that Malibu was her pet-er, friend. Especially now with Voldemorte having returned, any monster of questionable virtue would be suspected as an agent of Voldemorte.
If only she was actually able to talk more with Harry (blush!) about things like this. She'd tried to write him by owlgram eight times this summer, and every time she crumpled up the paper and tossed it. She was thinking about Harry (blush!) all the time-whenever she wasn't contending with Malibu-but did Harry think about her? And in what ways? (BLUSH!!)
"Ginny, you're turning redder than your hair," Malibu remarked. With a sly grin he leaned closer to Ginny's ear and whispered, "Pervert."
Ginny shrieked at that. She spun around, grabbed Malibu by both ears and then yanked down as hard as she could. Malibu's feet left the ceiling, and he went crashing facefirst onto the floor, his legs bending over his head, one or two of his toes twitching painfully.
"Ow," came his muffled voice through the floorboards.
Suddenly realising what she'd done, Ginny's face turned a shade of red and she said, "Um...sorry about that, Malibu."
"Sure, everyone picks on the vampire, just because he's dead and technically doesn't feel a thing when his spinal cord is nearly broken in three different places," muttered Malibu.
Ginny helped straighten him out and uncurl him. Whereupon Malibu decided that just sitting back on the ceiling, and importantly out of Ginny's reach, was the best way to go. He idly grabbed at a moth orbiting Ginny's light, while below Ginny continued her packing.
"You know, while just telling me to 'sit' is a little bit degrading, it's certainly a lot less painful than that," Malibu sighed. He was gingerly rubbing the side of his neck, and every now and again a few pops from his muscles would be heard. "Though I definitely hit a nerve with you."
Ginny froze just as she was setting down her swimsuit and three pairs of socks.
"You weren't thinking about that Harry Potter guy again, were you?"
"I'll take that as a 'yes'," Malibu remarked as he noted Ginny's flustered reaction. "You know, if you've got that much of a crush on the guy, just bloody well go and ask him out. What's the worst he could do?"
In a very quiet voice, Ginny answered, "Say 'no'."
"You know," Malibu said. "Sitting around pining for the guy isn't going to get you anywhere. I mean, it's not like he's taken, is he? If he's not dating anyone, you might as well go and ask him. You're best friends with him, aren't you? Gives you the edge, I should think."
"It's a little more complicated than that," Ginny sighed. And that complication had a name: Cho Chang. How could she compete with someone like that, when Harry only saw her as more like a kid sister?
Naturally, Malibu being Malibu, he completely misinterpreted what Ginny had meant. "What, you mean Harry isn't into girls?" he said in surprise, gawking at her. "He's not going out with that Draco pouf you've mentioned before, is he?"
The notion was so ridiculously silly that Ginny burst out laughing and quite happily forgot about her angst. "Harry...and Draco?" she giggled. "Harry and Draco?!" Then she dissolved into fits of laughter and doubled over on the bed.
Malibu lifted one of his eyebrows. "Was it something I said?"
* * *
After considerable effort and some surprising tears, Ginny said her good-byes to Malibu before she left with her family...and then locked him in the closet since he had now decided he was going with her. It was the best thing, really, Ginny reflected as the Weasley family drove to the King's Crossing Station to meet with their train. A vampire in Hogwarts would be nothing but trouble.
And she'd already had her own fill of trouble, after having contended with Tom Riddle and his demon-possessed diary. She was now the only girl she was aware of in Hogwarts who didn't keep a diary or personal journal, not that anyone really questioned the matter. This year was no doubt going to have its fair share of surprises and adventures, both sought out and unwanted, but she was ready for anything.
Getting onto the platform went without incident, and there were many happy reunions and hair-toussling as she, Ron and the twins met up with Harry, Hermione and many of the other Gryffindor students. The ride became even more entertaining when Draco suddenly appeared inside their train car to glomp Harry and exclaim, "Oh, Harry-poo, I missed you so much! Give us a kiss!"
It was rather amusing to watch Harry frantically perform a charm to pry Draco off himself.
Ginny caught herself wishing that Malibu had been able to see that, and finally understand why she had giggled so much over what he'd said last night. But then again, Malibu was a grown-up vampire... even if vampires never really aged...and could take care of himself while she was gone. He'd been on his own in her room for part of last year anyways.
The Hogwarts Express pulled up to the castle, and everyone disembarked. What followed was the usual fun as they watched the new first years get sorted by the Sorting Hat, then devoured a sumptuous feast that Headmaster Dumbledore had materialised from seemingly thin air. After all that, the Gryffindors headed off to their room to celebrate, and eventually get some sleep for the next day's start of classes.
More than enough times Ginny and Harry caught each other's glances (blush!), and in the Griffyndor common room she bumped into Harry (blush blush!) after Fred and George unleashed their latest culinary trick-er, treat.
Although seeing Neville suddenly turn into a giant lobster and wave his pinchers about in frantic motions made for an incredible five minutes of laughter. Especially when George brought out the butter.
As the hour drew close to midnight, Ginny found herself tiring out, and joined Hermione & a couple of other Gryffindor girls to their room to unpack and get some sleep. However, there was still one more surprise patiently waiting for her. Just as Ginny opened her suitcase, out from the crack came a festive blow-out uncoiling and letting loose a small squeak of celebration.
The colour from Ginny's face drained away, and she stared at the partially open suitcase in disbelief. "It had better not be who I think it is," she muttered, loud enough for the culprit inside to hear her.
"Ginny, is something the matter?" Hermione asked from across the room.
Ginny spun around, smiling as innocently as she could while blocking her suitcase from view. "Nothing! Nothing at all."
When she was certain the other girls were engrossed with their unpacking, she whirled and glared into her suitcase. "Malibu, what are you doing in there?"
"Suffocating, mostly," came Malibu's voice. Out from between two sweaters her mother had knit for her, crawled a small furry bat gasping for air.
"You can't stay here!" Ginny hissed at him. She carefully turned her suitcase away from everyone else, so no one could see Malibu climbing out and hopping onto her bed. "If you get caught, they'll probably stake you on the spot. And if they learn I was taking care of you, I'll get expelled."
"No worries," Malibu said. Using his wings like stilts, he walked over her bedsheets. "Saaaay, these are pretty soft. Mind if I just curl up in them while you're away at classes tomorrow?"
Ginny quickly caught Malibu up in her palms and brought him right up to her face. "NO."
"Hmph! Tu madre," Malibu sniffed indignantly, crossing his wings over his chest. "You never let me have any fun, know that, Ginny?"
"I do not want to hear about you snacking on any of the students, my friends especially," Ginny said. "Malibu, you are more than welcome to stay in my room at home, but just don't stay here."
"But I like it here," Malibu said. "It's fun where you are!"
Ginny groaned, and then hastily hid Malibu behind her back when Hermione glanced over in their direction. Once Hermione had gone back to her own unpacking, Ginny spun around and glared down at Malibu.
"All right," she stated. "You can stay. But I do not want to hear anything from you, okay? No getting into trouble, no drinking from the students, no getting chased around by teachers. As far as anyone's concerned, you're just another bat in one of Hogwart's belfries, got it?"
Malibu the bat grinned and stood up, saluting Ginny with one of his wings. "Mum's the word, Ginny my dear," he said. "You won't have to ever worry about me at all. It'll be like I was never here."
Ginny's worried expression, however, didn't display such confidence.
"Come on, this is Malibu here we're talking about," Malibu said, puffing out his small mammalian chest. "Trust me: what could possibly go wrong?"
* * *
The next day, poor Malibu came down with an acute case of rabies. Now while rabies is certainly not a good thing for animals or humans, vampires, however, are neither human nor animal. For a vampire, getting rabies is akin to how a person gets a really violent stomach flu.
"Oooh, I should have never had that second boar," Malibu groaned, clutching at his stomach as he tossed and turned on Ginny's bed. "Now I see why they call it the Forbidden Forest: everything in there will try to kill you if you so much as nibble on it! Alka- Seltzer! Alka-Seltzer!"
Ginny sat next to him, dabbing at his forehead with a damp facecloth. When Malibu had returned at sunrise, he'd been perfectly fine. However, the rabies had kicked in around lunch, and it was blind luck that Ginny had to fetch a book from her room and stumbled across him.
"Somehow whenever I think of a vampire," Ginny sighed, "the last image that comes to my mind is a small, moaning, sweaty bat who's constantly barfing on the bedsheets."
Skipping out on her afternoon classes just to take care of Malibu was going to earn her some sort of scolding. Ginny counted herself lucky that today she didn't have Potions; Snape would have wanted her head if she had missed that. Now all she had to do was think of an excuse that would satisfy Hermione, Ron and Harry (blush!) when she went down for dinner.
* * *
By the evening, Malibu's fever broke, but his recovery was still incredibly slow. With all the girls running in and out of the room now that classes were over, Ginny had to spirit Malibu away and hide him in a relatively unknown room she had discovered during one of the times Riddle had taken her over.
Once dinner ended and excuses about her own absence were made, she went to see Hagrid-not necessarily for advice or to develop a stomach of steel by drinking whatever it was he called coffee. Hagrid always found a way to cheer her up, and knowing him, he might have some recommendations on how to work with an ill vampire. This was also the first chance she'd have to meet him since glimpsing him on the train platform coming into Hogwarts.
As far as she knew Hagrid and Madame Maxim's envoy to the giants had met with varied success, and while the two had returned to their respective schools, they were sending owlgrams to each other at least once a day. Certainly, Hagrid was smiling a lot more these days.
With the weather still being quite balmy and pleasant, Hagrid's cabin door was opened a little bit to allow the cool autumn air in. Ginny paused at the door as she heard what was undeniably Hagrid's loud voice trying to be quiet.
"Not sure, really," Hagrid was saying. "Nothin's been stirring far as Remus knows, and he's been workin' wit' 'them' as it is fer a year now, whoever 'them' is. But he's been tellin' me that all their leads a' coming up dry. Not sure what You-Know-Who may be up ta. Ya have any ideas yerself?"
Ginny leaned against the door, curiousity getting the better of her, and she strained her ears to hear the conversation better. However, she hadn't quite expected the door to give way so easily, and it swung open as she put her weight against it. With a yelp, Ginny tumbled into Hagrid's abode, thoroughly embarrassed with herself.
There was a fair deal of scuffling as Hagrid rose and strode over to help Ginny back up. "Ginny!" he said happily, giving her a little squeeze...and still nearly popping her eyes out from the force of his bearhug. "Good to see yah! Didn't notice ya were there!"
"Th-thanks, Hagrid," Ginny coughed.
Hagrid showed her in, and offered her a seat on one of his enormous chairs. "It's good to see you again, Hagrid," Ginny said, making herself comfortable. "Say, who were you talking to a few minutes ago? I don't see anyone here but us."
Hagrid's eyes widened, then narrowed, and he nervously began to wring his hands together. "Er, that's ta say that, um-"
Saving him from stumbling over any explanation, out from behind his couch emerged a large, shaggy black dog, who looked pointedly at Hagrid before starting to wag his tail.
"Jes talkin' to mah new dog, Ginny," Hagrid said quickly. "His name's-"
Hagrid paused, and Ginny could have almost sworn she heard someone in behind Hagrid whisper something.
"Snuffles!" Hagrid finished. "Yeh, Snuffles 'n Fang are gettin' along great. So what brings yer here? Wantin' ta see good ol' Hagrid?"
"Um...yeah. There's this assignment I'm working on too," Ginny said, hoping Hagrid wouldn't be able to notice she was lying through her teeth. "It's for Defense Against the Dark Arts, and we're looking at vampires."
"Vampires, yeh say?" Hagrid said, beaming. "Ah, I've known many a' vamp in my day, Ginny. They don't like losing ter anyone else in a drinkin' game, that's fer sure. And yeh never want ter have then order a bottle a' wine for ya, 'cause it tends not ter be red wine!"
Ginny couldn't help but let out a nervous laugh. Just how much of this should she be hearing, since most of it was probably illegal? "Er, that's neat, Hagrid. But we're looking at vampire poisons, illnesses and potential remedies."
"Hm....them's vary depending on what yeh might be talkin' about, Ginny." Hagrid leaned back in his chair and thought hard as he stroked his thick beard. "Anythin' in particular?"
Ginny tried to give a very nonchalant shrug and said, "Rabies?"
At that, Hagrid let out a tremendous laugh. "Rabies?! Ha ha, good one, Ginny! Rabies is more an' embarrassment for a vamp than anythin'. They're supposed ta be good enough ter sniff out what meal's got rabies. Ha! Rabies...."
"So is there any easy way for a vampire to get over a case of rabies?"
"Lime juice," Hagrid replied with a grin on his face. He enjoyed being able to know so much about things most everyone else shied away from (namely because it was liable to tear their faces and arms off). "An' cupcakes. Soak a bit a' lime juice in a cupcake, mash it up an' spoonfeed it. Vamps may hate it, but they'll recover a lot faster. See, the cure is even more humiliatin' than the rabies itself! Ha!"
Ginny laughed with him, and part of it was genuine and not forced. She spent another half hour in Hagrid's company, daring to try some of his coffee (or was it the stuff that bog water was made of?) and chat about their summers and thoughts about the upcoming year. Hagrid was tight-lipped about his ambassadorial trip to the giants, but let it slip a few times that they'd met with partial success. Some clans were interested in what Dumbledore proposed, others would as soon stand back and let the wizards wipe each other out before lifting a finger of aid to either side.
However, Ginny knew that she should check back up on Malibu soon, so she politely excused herself and ducked out from Hagrid's abode. Hagrid said a hearty good-bye, gave her a friendly slap across the shoulder, apologized for sending her flying out the door from the friendly slap, then waved as she walked back to the castle.
Once she was out of sight, he gave a great sigh of relief. "Almost got caught there," he said, looking back into his cabin "You guys doin' okay? Best ter let you all out, in case this happens again."
There was a rustle of invisibility cloak, and the sound of 'Snuffles' padding his way over to the front door of Hagrid's cabin to be let out.
* * *
The next day, Malibu had recovered. A good 16 hours of sleep, some fresh blood (Ginny didn't ask where he'd acquired it) and the most peculiar combination of lime juice and a cupcake helped Malibu fight the rabies and get back to his abnormal, undead self.
Which in a sense, wasn't much of an improvement at all, as far as Ginny was concerned. She was still busy catching up from missing two of her first classes, and contending with this paranoia that somehow, somewhere, Malibu was up to no good.
But, mostly true to his winged word, Malibu stayed out of sight during the day, and popped up regularly at night, putting his youthful appearance to good use by posing as a random Hufflepuff student. (Ginny didn't ask how he'd managed to find some Hogwarts robes that fit him.)
September cruised by pretty fast for Ginny, filled with the usual homework, classes, more homework, and the intrigue that always seemed to follow after Harry (blush!) and his friends like a puppydog.
Then, at the start of October, a surprise announcement was made by Dumbledore during dinner one evening. The meal itself was sausages and potatoes, but being a connoisseur of Muggle foods, Harry had managed to show the entire Griffyndor table how to cut their Kaiser buns just so to create hotdogs. And procuring the usual condiments that always went with hotdogs was simple, since they knew where to go to ask the House Elves beforehand for the needed mustard, relish, ketchup, onions and so forth.
Ginny thought Harry was so cool for being able to make a boring meal so delicious (blush!).
As for the surprise announcement, Dumbledore cleared his throat after everyone had finished eating. "It is my pleasure to inform you all of a most unexpected but highly welcomed event being put on at Hogsmeade at the end of the month," he said. "In celebration of this being Hogsmeade's seven hundred and fourty-second anniversary since the village was built, a special festival is being put on, and those Hogwarts students in third year and up are all invited to attend. As such, we have rescheduled the next trip to Hogsmeade to coincide with the festival, and have extended the hours of leave.
"The celebration will be all day on October thirty-first, and for those of you students who regrettably cannot attend the festival, we shall be having our own impressive Halloween banquet here at Hogwarts on that night. To those of you third-years and up, I say this: enjoy the show."
No sooner had Dumbledore sat back down in his chair, the great hall was filled with a tidal wave of excited whispers. And high above the students' heads, hanging upside down from one of the floating candles, Malibu the vampire bat developed a very sly, impish grin on his face.
That grin suddenly turned into a horrified expression when his claws slipped from their grip on the candleholder, and he went plunging down right into one of the large bowls of gravy on the Gryffindor table.
"Hey, stop splashing there!" Fred exclaimed, flinching as gravy went in every direction.
"Wasn't me," George said. He fished around the bowl with a ladle, and managed to pull out a sopping wet Malibu, who was dripping with thick, brownish-grey clumps of gravy. "Hello, what have we here?"
"Looks like the ugliest, baldest owl I have ever seen," Fred said.
Malibu immediately flashed the Weasley twins a sincere smile. "Hoot hoot?"
George brought the ladle closer to his face. "Doesn't look like an owl at all, Fred. If I didn't say any better, I'd think it looked like a...bat."
A few seats down the table, Ginny looked up from her meal, and was horrified to see Malibu (covered on gravy? She didn't want to know) being scrutinized by her twin brothers. At this rate he'd be discovered, and if she was going to help get him out of that mess, she'd have to admit she let a vampire into the school!
Yet Malibu, being the quick thinker that he was, saw the look on Ginny's face and leapt off the ladle. He hopped onto Fred's plate, grabbed Fred's hotdog/sausage-in-a-bun, and with a mighty shout of, "FOOD FIGHT!!!" he unleashed the hotdog across the room.
For a small vampire bat, it turned out Malibu had not only a good arm, but fantastically ironic aim. The hotdog soared over the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables, descending onto the Slytherin table, and knocking Goyle's head right into his pudding.
There was dead silence as everyone sat there, stunned and not sure what to think.
Goyle's head lifted up from the pudding, and the entire Slytherin table glared at the Gryffindors. Yet the challenge had been sent: Goyle, Crabbe and half the other Slytherins were reaching for sausages and Kaiser buns.
Ginny inwardly groaned, then braced herself for what she was about to do. She grabbed as many hotdogs as she could in her arms, took up the battle cry, and started lobbing them in every direction.
That in turn caused all the Slytherins to let loose their own meals, and in two seconds flat the entire great hall was alive with the sound of food fights and flying hotdogs-er, sausages. The teachers lost control, Professor McGonagall shouting for them to calm themselves, while Professor Flitwick hastily erected a shield charm to protect the faculty table from volleys of mashed potatoes and sausage projectiles.
No one was safe as student cheerfully turned against student, and even Dumbledore casually fired off a lemon cream pie into the crowd-which happened to smack Harry right in the face.
Draco was more than happy to offer in helping lick the cream off Harry's face.
Harry promptly stuffed a sausage up Draco's nose.
* * *
"I can't believe you, Malibu!" Ginny hissed as she stormed through a corridor she knew would be deserted at this hour, Malibu the bat nearly crushed between her palms. "I can't believe me! What were you thinking when you did that?!"
Malibu retorted, "Oh, and would you have rather I just announced to your brothers, 'Wheeeee, look at me, I'm a vampire'? Saaay, this is good gravy."
All in all, the food fight (the first in Hogwarts' history since the infamous 1786 'Duel of the Turkey Drumsticks') had ended rather well, with every house earning themselves fifty demerit points. No one had really been able to figure out who had started it, and Fred & George had even gone so far as to drink a Veritasum serum to prove their innocence.
Of course...the downside was that now the faculty were going to be scouring the entire school for a small talking bat. By now, they had probably made the connection that the bat was in fact a vampire.
Malibu managed to squirm his way out from Ginny's iron grip, and quickly metamorphise into his more human form, complete with his Hogwarts robes. Just where he'd been hiding those robes despite being a tiny little bat, Ginny didn't want to know.
"Trust me on this, Ginny," Malibu said as he dusted off one of his shoulders. "I know exactly what I'm doing."
"And just what exactly are you doing?" Ginny inquired dryly.
The impish grin returned to Malibu's face, and he flashed her a smile that displayed his sizeable canines. "You think I've been fluttering around aimlessly the past month? When you're a bat hiding in the ceiling corner, you hear things. Took a number of afternoon naps in Dumbledore's office, a few in the faculty room. And there's this smashing little chamber somewhere in the West Wing where the entire room is upside-down, so I get to hang comfortably
off the floor!"
"The point, Malibu," Ginny sighed, growing more exasperated.
"Oh. Right. Well, my point is that I've been around Hogwarts or The Three Brooms almost every night; I've been hearing them talking about this Hogsmeade festival for the past month already. And I happen to know that the festival is going to feature a special live concert by none other than 'Shufflebump'."
"I don't think I've heard of them," Ginny admitted.
Malibu waved that aside. "Wouldn't surprise me, they're more for people two generations back. However, Shufflebump are notorious for their love ballads...not to mention the fact that they dress up like really creepy, gothic porcelain dolls. As for their love ballads, no one's sure how they do it, patented secret and all, but essentially when they sing about love, any couples listening seem to fall permanently in love.
"It's all a temporary euphoria, mind you, like listening to drunken Veela sing at an Irish pub, but more often than not the couples who get together during a performance stay together. Wizards and witches have been known to get married at their concerts. Apparently once there was this really strange combination where a harpy and a griffon...er, 'bonded' quite well."
Ginny could see the gears turning in Malibu's head, but was having trouble following what they were going to crank out. "And what does that mean for you, or for me?"
"It means," Malibu said slyly. "That all we have to do is get Harry to take you to this concert, and before Shufflebump's first chorus is over, he'll be putty in your hands. He'll be totally in love with you!"
Ginny gave him an incredulous look. "You want to make Harry fall in love with me?"
"Oh, as if you'd have a problem with that," Malibu huffed. "And I won't have to listen to you angst about him for hours on end anymore."
"But...what about me?" Ginny asked. "If listening to that will make Harry fall in love with me, how will I react when I see him, since I already like him a lot?"
Malibu shrugged. "Not sure, really. I could give some possible outcomes, but this fanfic is only rated PG, and there would be complaints."
* * *
The hotdog blitzkrieg not withstanding, Hogwarts was suddenly buzzing with more excitement than had been seen at last year's Yule Ball. All the students in their third year or above were talking about what they'd wear to the festival, what they were hoping to see or buy there, and if they were going to be taking a date with them. Girls were giggling and eyeballing some of the male students,
and a number of the guys were busy asking some young ladies to be their date to the festival.
Even the upcoming Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, which had Ginny anxious to no end since Harry & Cho would be playing close to each other (gulp!), took a backseat. And naturally, Malibu was appearing everywhere, trying to play cupid and get Ginny to ask Harry out to the festival, or the other way around.
Ginny finally snapped in her Potions class the Wednesday morning before the festival. Snape had yet to arrive in the dungeon, but most of the fourth-year Slytherins and Gryffindors had already assembled. Of course, all anyone could talk about was their expectations regarding the festival.
"I'm trying to see if Lee Jordan will ask me to go to the festival with him," one of Ginny's roommates said. "He's so cute, and I love how he gives the play-by-plays of the Quidditch games."
"It seems that everyone's turning this event into another Yule Ball," one Gryffindor boy sighed, shaking his head. "Why go through all this exasperation? We're just going to Hogsmeade to have fun, nothing more."
"Couldn't get a girl to say 'yes', could you, Sebastian?" a Slytherin chuckled.
Sebastian's eyebrow twitched. "Shut up."
"What about you, Ginny?" Everyone suddenly turned and looked at her, and Ginny shrank back a little. Her roommate was grinning from ear to ear in asking, "Do you have anyone you want to go to the festival with?"
Suddenly a voice directly behind her not-so-subtly coughed, "Harry!"
Taken completely by surprise, Ginny's cheeks went totally pink.
Just then, Snape, ever in his soured, scowling mood, breezed into the dungeon and the Potions class began with its usual dreaded assignments.
Ginny was still desperately trying to compose herself after becoming so flustered. It was common knowledge for most of her friends that she was head over heels in love with Harry (blush!), but no one had ever said it like that in public before! She was so embarrassed now! In fact, the only person she knew of who would brashly say a thing like that would be....
Ginny's heart sank as she felt something small, winged and hairy crawling onto her shoulder beneath her robes. A tiny, grinning bat face peeked out at her. "Miss me?"
"Malibu!" Ginny hissed. "What are you doing here? It's daytime, you'll get burned if you're caught!"
"Come on, you call this place cheery and sunlit?" Malibu said, gesturing with a wing to the rest of the dungeon. "Edgar Allen Poe wasn't as dark as this, my dear."
Ginny quickly scribbled another note down, trying to escape Snape's glare, and muttered, "Just what are you doing here?"
"Can't a vamp see what his friend does while he's usually napping?"
"Somehow I don't think you're here because you've missed me," Ginny said.
Malibu shrugged. "Point. Well, today I've been evaluating our lack of success in getting you and Harry together in time for the festival. We can't afford to have him with Cho or anyone else but you for Shufflebump's surprise concert. Sure, I was able to trick both of you into the Prefect's bathroom and lock you in there together...but I hadn't counted on that Ravenclaw girl to be bathing in there at the same time too.
"And then I tried slipping that mild love-at-first-sight elixir into Harry's cauldron during a Potions class. I was expecting that when he drank his potion for testing, the elixir would kick in about an hour later when you could be standing right in front of him, and he would ask you on a date to the festival."
Ginny glared at him. "I still can't believe you did that."
"Hey, how was I supposed to know that my elixir's Mungtung and his potion's Essence Of Kappa Named Bob were such explosive catalysts when mixed?" Malibu protested his innocence. "I mean, it's not like that fiery cloud of vapour permanently erased that scar on his forehead. It's reappeared already!"
"But his eyebrows haven't!" Ginny hissed, growing exasperated as she tried not to garner Snape's unwanted attention. As it was, Snape was starting to cast very annoyed looks in her direction. At this rate he'd be gravitating towards her cauldron to check up on her-and if he could, belittle her in front of everyone else.
Malibu rolled his eyes. "All right, I admit that plan had a few flaws, but at least we learned from it and decided against any further use of elixirs."
"What's this 'we' thing?" Ginny dryly asked. "You're the one who's conjuring up these schemes and going through with them!"
"And I've been busting my blood-sucking butt trying to hook you two up," Malibu said. "It's exhausting work, but we're getting closer to victory, I'm sure! I mean, look at when I spent all of last week whispering into Harry's ear while he slept, talking about how cute you were and how he should ask you to the festival...but apparently he just had weird dreams about playing Quidditch against submarine sandwiches riding brooms. Strange guy to be fluffing your cookies, you know that?
"Of course, there was also Saturday's failed attempt where I managed to conspire with Draco to stage a fit of jealous rage and kidnap you. We would have featured Harry dramatically rescuing you...but that backfired when Draco got jealous and kidnapped Harry instead, and we had to rescue him from Draco's...er, really flexible tongue....
"And who could forget about yesterday, when I tried perform that memory charm on him and block his feelings for Cho, but instead made him forget all about the letter 'o'-"
Ginny nearly snapped her quill in half. "Malibu, just forget it!" she hissed, on the verge of tears. "Yes, I like Harry, but there's no chance he's going to ask me to the festival! And the only thing you're doing is making me paranoid that if Harry ever finds out, he'll never speak to me again. As it is, he probably thinks I'm stalking him! Just drop it!"
Malibu looked at her, utterly surprised and confused. "But-"
"Go away," she said, trying to focus on her notes instead. "Just go away and stop trying to interfere with my life. I never asked you to come to Hogwarts anyways."
What followed was a moment of very unpleasant, strained silence. Then with a very subdued, "Tu madre", Malibu managed to climb down her back and take off, flapping his wings out of the dungeon. The second he was gone, Ginny felt horrible for snapping at him. But when she risked a glance over her shoulder, she couldn't see him anywhere.
"Are you paying attention, Miss Weasley?" came Snape's unimpressed voice.
Ginny jerked her head around and nodded, trying to focus on the lesson instead. She managed that with only mixed results at best.
* * *
Malibu was nowhere to be found after Potions class, and after a few hours of fruitless searching, Ginny glumly shuffled back into the Gryffindor common room. Now she felt twice as bad, because not only Harry (too depressed to blush) was probably thinking ill of her, but now Malibu was the same way.
However, not too many people noticed her forlorn expression, caught up in the Hogsmeade festival fervour. With the celebration being not three days away, on a Saturday night no less, most of the students were lucky to keep their minds on their studies.
"Zonko's is bound to have all sorts of new gags on display for this!" Lee Jordan sighed wistfully as he reclined back in his chair.
"And Honeydukes too!" Dean Thomas added. "I can't wait to wreak all sorts of havoc on everyone."
Sitting across from Lee and Dean, Ron grinned and chuckled, "You know, this reminds me of that time you put those Ashwinder eggs down Draco's pants last year, Harry, and they spontaneously combusted in the middle of Potions class."
"Serves him right," Harry said, shaking his head. He was sitting on one of the sofas, his legs on the coffee table. "Bet that's the last time he ever says his loins are on fire for me."
"Poor, poor Harry," Seamus Finnigan laughed as he sat down alongside Ron. "The only date you could even hope to get for the festival is Draco. That's scraping the bottom of the barrel, buddy! And last year it was only blind luck that landed you Parvati at the last minute for the Yule Ball."
Harry grew noticeably agitated at that, because now Ron was laughing along with the others. "I am not that pathetic when it comes to dating!" he protested. "Hey, I'm one of the most famous students here. I've fought Voldemorte-"
"-I've fought basilisks, and I did that whole Triwizard Tournament."
"And yet he can't get a date for something as simple as a local festival," Ron chuckled. He could only speak so smugly since he and Hermione had become quite the item not three weeks prior. "Face it, Harry, you're going down as the greatest single guy in Hogwarts history."
Harry's face grew even more flustered, and he glared at Ron. "If I wanted to-IF-then I could get anyone I asked."
Lee and Dean nodded their heads in mock agreement. "Sure, you could," they chorused.
"Hey, what's got ol' Scarface riled up?" George remarked as he and Fred strolled into the common room. He gestured to Harry. "Still mad about that eyebrow incident in Potions?"
Harry glowered at everyone in the room. "Believe me, that's the least of my problems right now."
"Oh, how so?" Fred asked.
Lee thumbed over to Harry. "He can't get a date for the festival. Pretty much everyone who's going to Hogsmeade this weekend is going in a group or as a pair. Either way, Harry here gets left out."
"Ouch. You poor sot," George said, patting Harry on the shoulder. "Well, can't win all the time. Fred and I would invite you to hang with us, but we're going out with Katie and Angelina. Don't mind, do you?"
"I can handle getting a date for the festival," Harry said, on the edge of going from annoyed to just plain irate. "So what if Cho happens to be dating that girl from Hufflepuff just to make Lavender Brown jealous? It's not a problem, I can get myself a date if I wanted to."
Fred, George, Lee, Dean, Seamus and Ron all smirked and gave Harry pointed stares, and he shrank back in his chair. Ginny just quietly stood to the side, wanting to jump in and defend Harry, but right then she just didn't have the enthusiasm to do anything aside from watch.
Harry looked from one grinning fact to the next, on the verge of panic. Just when he thought his best bet was to point behind everyone, shout, "Look out! It's Voldemorte!" and run while their heads were turned, he saw Ginny. A near deranged, hopeful smile appeared on his face.
"Ginny!" he exclaimed, waving her over. "I didn't see you there."
Ginny nearly choked on the air she was breathing, and dropped her satchel of books onto her toes. The other guys in the room slowly turned and looked at her pleasantly enough, but it was Harry's face (blush!) that was making her feel her ears turning pink. Very quietly she padded into the middle of the common room, staring at Harry (blush!) and trying to somehow hide behind the coffee table.
"You're a fourth-year, so you can go to Hogsmeade too, right?" Harry asked.
Ginny shyly nodded. (blushblushblush!)
Harry flashed her the most incredible smile she had ever seen. "Want to come with me to the festival-that is, unless you were going with someone else. But if not, we can make a date of it! What do you think, Ginny?"
"Ginny? Ginny? Um...Ron, maybe we should call Madame Pomfrey."
* * *
When Ginny came to again in the infirmary, she found her face was still as red as her hair...and she also found Malibu sitting at the foot of her bed, just out of reach from the beam of afternoon sunlight streaming through a nearby window. Still groggy and excited from what she could last recall, she wasn't able to say much.
"I was up in the common room chandelier; I saw everything," Malibu said. His voice wasn't harsh, but still colder than Ginny had ever heard it before. "So, looks like you and Harry are going to the festival after all. And you managed it without my help."
Ginny sat up in her bed. "Malibu, I-"
"No need to say anything, Ginny," he said, cutting her off. "I was probably out of line anyways. Besides, Hogwarts is starting to bore me. Nothing but a tedium of classes and homework, and you're all asleep during my best hours. No, I'll probably venture back over to New Zealand, go spelunking in some volcanic craters, wrestle Mokele Mobembe in the jungles and surf a few midnight waves. Been meaning to have something of a vacation to myself anyways. Just wanted to
let you know before I took off, so you wouldn't do something stupid like worry about me."
Ginny's eyes widened, and though she tried to get a word in edgewise, Malibu stood and continued without giving her the chance. "Well, best be off early now. It's going to be a long trip, so I really shouldn't dawdle around here with you kids. Later."
With that, he turned and made ready to depart. However, Ginny managed to stammer out, "B-But it's still daylight outside."
Malibu paused, then looked outside the window at the sunny afternoon. "Um...I knew that. Well, I can spend the next few hours psyching myself up for my night flight. Enjoy the festival with Harry, Ginny."
That time, Ginny was unable to say anything to stop him, and Malibu left the infirmary moments before Madame Pomfrey scuttled in to check up on her. Ginny knew she wouldn't have to worry about Malibu getting caught in the school anymore, or her being involved in another of his deranged plans. Finally, her fourth year could finally settle down and become relatively uneventful.
That still didn't make Ginny feel any better.
* * *
That night in The Three Broomsticks, Malibu the vampire, in a severe case of depression, had reverted into doing what he did best. Which was essentially talking for hours on end to everyone around him.
"I'm gonna get reprimanded for this for sure," he groaned, bonking his head against the tavern table repeatedly. On either side of him, Hagrid and Lupin were busy trying to act nonchalant. "All I was supposed to do was just watch her and make sure nothing out of the ordinary tried to sink its talons into her. Now she hates me! Last I checked, it's kind of hard to be an incognito bodyguard when someone hates you. So much for this year's Christmas bonus."
"Eh, don' let it get yer down," Hagrid said, slapping Malibu on the back-and sending Malibu right into a bowl of pretzels in the process.
"Who said I'm letting this get me down? I'm going to get drunk, and then worry about tomorrow whenever it comes!" Malibu said, raising his stein in the air.
"But that's mineral water yer drinking," Hagrid said. "Ya can't drunk on that."
"Actually, he can," Lupin sighed. "Mineral water for some vampires is like taking shots of what Muggles refer to as Tequila."
Malibu took a long swig from his stein. "At least this one comes with a little umbrella instead of a worm!"
Hagrid chuckled, ordered a blood-flavoured lollipop for Malibu, then asked, "So are yeh both workin' fer the Ministry a' Mystery, or what now?"
Lupin shook his head. "That's a secret, Hagrid, but feel free to believe whatever you want to if it'll make you feel better."
Hagrid chugged down his Butterbeer. "I'm na sure, really. I mean, you n' Malibu work fer the same guys. Don' know anyone who'd hire a werewolf and a vamp."
"Doesn't matter anyways," Malibu muttered. "I only took this bodyguard assignment because Wolfwood told me to. He and Dumbledore go way back. This was a personal favour between them."
"Malibu, once again you're saying too much," Lupin muttered, kicking Malibu's shin underneath the table. "I'd rather you just concentrate on getting drunk on the mineral water, rather than expound on our trade secrets."
Malibu sniffled and pushed aside his stein of mineral water. "Sorry. I mean, I know why Dumbledore might be worried about Ginny; she was exposed to that diary of You-Know-Who, so she could make for an easy target again. Who knows if there aren't any hidden after-effects from her time with Tom Riddle?"
"Should there be anythin' we need ta be worryin' about?" Hagrid asked, suddenly a little more wary than before.
Lupin's chin was propped up by his fist, his brow furrowed as he thought it over. "My associates and I can't find anything. This Hogsmeade festival would seem a ripe target, but as far as we know You-Know-Who's leaving it alone. Maybe because he knows we'd be automatically suspicious of it, and guard it closer than anything else."
"Didn't help much at the Triwizard Tournament from what I hear," Malibu sighed. "Damn, I'm out another pint. Rosmerta, more mineral water! And don't be stingy on the blood-covered beernuts!"
"Yeh sure it's all right fer him ta be like this?" Hagrid murmured to Lupin.
Lupin sighed and shook his head. "You should have seen him a year ago at that Irish pub over in Dublin. Drank too much Rum and O-Negative, then challenged every last leprechaun there to a rugby match...in the pub...and he was the only opposing team member."
Hagrid boggled, and stared back down at the vampire, who was currently trying to score a nibble on the nearby coat rack's neck. "What happened next?"
"Before or after Malibu got the two of us banned from Ireland later that night?"
"I don't think I wanna know, ta be honest."
Lupin nodded. "Wise choice."
The three of them talked strategies and tactics for a few more hours, and then parted ways. Lupin returned to the inn he and Sirius were staying at in the town (there would be no more full moons for another week at least), and Hagrid went back to Hogwarts. Malibu wasn't exactly sure how it happened, but before the night was out he had somehow lost his boxer shorts, wound up in Knockturn
Alley, and become the proud winner of sixteen galleons and a billygoat.
He stumbled into a random seedy bar, not entirely drunk but certainly nauseous after having consumed a few dozen pints of mineral water. More than anything, what he needed to do was use the bathroom.
"Well, I suppose I should be getting back to Ginny after this," he sighed.
For as awkward as it would be, he had an assignment and he wasn't about to forego that paycheque. He could just hang there from the ceiling shadows, and she wouldn't be any wiser. Best thing for both of them, really, Malibu thought. She had Harry for the festival, and he could have some peace of mind.
However, just as Malibu left the bathroom, he noted that one of the private rooms at the far end of the hall had left its door partially open. A thin crack of light was painting the wall, and the voices of whomever were inside seemed to be very lively. At first, Malibu was ready to dismiss this completely, having better things to do. Then he remembered that this was Knockturn Alley,
known for its disreputable clientele. If the people in that private room were up to something, the world would probably be better off if he knew what it was.
Malibu inched closer towards the door.
"I'm telling you, the Master's plan is nothing short of brilliant!" an excited, shrill voice exclaimed from inside the room. "No one involved with Dumbeldore knows what we've planned, and no one in the Ministry can prevent us from carrying this mission out. Our Dark Lord is assured victory!"
Malibu stifled a burp and pressed his back against the wall, listening intently. He'd had enough experience in the past to know exactly with whom he was dealing. Only a few people ever used such specific vocabulary words as 'Dark Lord' or 'Master', or hissed Dumbledore's name with that much spite.
"Death Eaters," he muttered to himself. Then he nearly gagged when he caught a whiff of his breath and discovered that he reeked of artificially enhanced, fruit-flavoured water.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, he quickly turned into a bat and hung upside-down next to the doorframe, where he was able to eavesdrop and peer inside the room.
No less than ten Death Eaters were seated at the circular table inside.
"Come now, I dare you to find a better way to take out an entire crop of Hogwarts' best and brightest," stated a voice so callous and cold, it could have only belonged to Lucius Malfoy. "No one knows we infiltrated Shufflebump and seized control of the band members. Hell, Nott has been performing with them courtesy of the Polyjuice potion for four months now."
"Certainly the Master showed incredible foresight in attacking Shufflebump before the festival was ever made public," another Death Eater said. Malibu couldn't see his face. "It would not surprise me to learn our Dark Lord himself helped arrange for Shufflebump to perform at the festival, just for this specific purpose."
"Then why do you look so pale and sweaty, Avery?" Lucius savagely asked.
Avery growled and said something that really shouldn't be repeated in a fanfic that's only rated PG. But suffice to say, it was rather unpleasant and involved multiple syllables. "It's happening too easily, that's what. I can't help but think Dumbledore's forces are simply biding their time, waiting for us to spring the trap."
"Bah, you give that grizzled old fart too much credit," Lucius snorted. He leaned back in his chair. "By this time three nights hence, every single Hogwarts student who goes to listen to Shufflebump will get a powerful Imperius curse instead of some sappy love-inducing ballad. Think of how many young wizards and witches we will have instantly recruited to turn against their
teachers; their parents; the very people who are trying to protect them."
Many of the Death Eaters nodded their heads in agreement.
Avery failed to be as impressed as his colleagues. "If it's so perfect," he countered, "then why is the Master not making an appearance himself? I hear that Potter boy will be there; it's a perfect chance to kill him. So why does the Dark Lord hesitate to show up personally?"
Right then, Lucius let loose his hand and slapped Avery across the face. "Snivelling coward," he hissed. "You dare to call yourself a Death Eater? I'll be sure to express your doubts to the Master when we finish this."
Avery paled considerably. "I...I didn't mean it that way, Lucius, no, not at all."
Lucius gave the man a very condescending look. "I'm sure you didn't." Abruptly he paused and took a deep sniff of the air. "Anyone else smell mineral water?"
Malibu's eyes widened, and he promptly clamped both wings over his mouth. The other other Death Eaters gathered around the table all tried sniffing the air for the scent, but in the end they decided it was just some aroma wafting out from the other side of the tavern.
"Well, doesn't matter," Lucius resumed. "Victory will be assured, and once more we will be feared as before. You all have your tasks to complete; from here on in, we work independent. Send no notices to each other, lest we be discovered. Sacrifice whatever you must to ensure your part of the plan is ready."
The Death Eaters murmured an agreement, then all made some ceremonial gesture and began to rise from their table.
"And remember," Lucius said. "We have only three days, so the hourglass sand is running."
Malibu remained very still as the Death Eaters walked underneath him, many disapparating or using special portkeys to vanish from the tavern without being detected. A few like Lucius strolled out to make a public appearance, and then left on foot.
Once he was certain the coast was clear, Malibu let go of the rafters, flipped over and transformed back into a vampire, landing perfectly on human feet. "Bugger me," he muttered, staring into the now empty private room. "So the festival is a trap after all. Well, they're not going to get away with it, that's for damned sure."
That said, Malibu dramatically spun around and exclaimed. "I've got to stop them! But first...I need to use the little vampire's room."
And off he shuffled to relieve himself of the gallons of mineral water he had consumed that night. After having a lengthy conversation with the local toilet stall, a somewhat refreshed Malibu re-emerged. "There we go, much better," he remarked, drawing in a deep breath of air.
That was immediately followed by a sharp blow to his head, which left Malibu crumpled and unconscious on the floor.
* * *
Once Malibu managed to regain consciousness, he found his hands tied behind his back, and his chest and ankles tied to the chair he was currently sitting in. The chamber was cool and damp, dimly-lit with scattered candelabra, and Malibu could hear water dripping all around. More than likely someone's dungeon or secret cave lair.
Why couldn't villains ever take their captured prisoners to a four-star hotel for interrogation?
"So, you've stumbled across our little plan, have you?"
Malibu turned his head as he saw someone shuffle into the candlelight. The guy was a Death Eater, no mistaking that given his distinctly-coloured hood and robes. He was short and skinny, his skin wrinkled and hanging off his face, and he had patches of greyish hair scattered on his head.
"Welcome," he said. His voice was low and somewhat scratchy. "I must confess, I've never tortured a vampire before. My name is McNair." He gestured to a hulking brute of a wizard suddenly standing behind him. "And this here is my assistant, Kitkat."
One of Malibu's eyebrows went up. "Kitkat? Oooh, I smell copyright infringement."
McNair paused for a few moments, then warily said to Kitkat, "Perhaps that was the scent Malfoy smelled earlier tonight." To Malibu he said, "And just what is this 'copyright infringement'? Some sort of Muggle cuisine?"
Malibu stayed deadpan. "Yeeeaaah," he dryly agreed. "It's food. Almost as good as an MLT: a Mooncalf, Lettuce & Tomato sandwich. If the Mooncalf meat is succulent and done just right, with a layering of garlic honey mustard, it's so...."
His voice trailed off as he noted the particularly sour expressions on McNair and Kitkat's faces. "Should I stop talking right about now?" he asked.
McNair nodded, reaching for a table displaying a wide assortment of surgical tools crafted from silver, spellbooks and wooden stakes. "YES."
Malibu shrank down in his chair. "Sorry. Just give me another chance; I'll be a better prisoner, I promise."
"Just shut up, and I will be happy," McNair stated. "Now then, where shall we begin, Mister...?"
"Malibu," Malibu said.
"Ah, Mister Malibu, is it?"
Malibu shook his head. "Um, no, it's just Malibu. Not a surname, not a first name. Just Malibu."
"I'm quite ready to call you cannon fodder, if you continue to annoy me like this," McNair said grumpily. "Now then, Malibu, it is necessary that we learn how much you know of our plans, and who you might have told them to. Not to mention the fact that the Ministry of Magic does not employ vampires, which makes us very curious as to what sort of agency you work for."
He pulled out a syringe, a thick plume of smoke wafting out from the tip of the needle. "We'll start with a liberal dose of Veritasum. Since drinking it does not affect vampires, as your digestive systems reject it almost instantly, I shall have to inject it directly into your blood, where it is guaranteed to reach your brain."
Malibu's eyes widened as he saw the candlelight reflect off the needle.
With a malevolent grin, McNair started towards Malibu. "Now this will probably hurt a lot, so Kitkat will hold you down. And then, my dear Malibu, you can tell us everything...."
* * *
Back at Hogwarts, the remaining weekdays before Saturday night's festival were a blur of classes, excitement and rampaging rumours for Ginny. Word of Harry asking her out to the Hogsmeade festival had spread faster than a strain of Butt-Belching Bumblewarts. Ever since, she had become both a much-beloved, envied and loathed celebrity.
All of her classmates were more giddy than she was, dreaming up all sorts of romantic scenarios that might get played out during the festival. Ron couldn't stop grinning. When she chanced upon Dumbledore in the corridor on Friday afternoon, he winked at her and said, "Be gentle with him, please. I do have plans on using him in the future." And when she asked Hermione for tips on kissing, after Hermione got over being tongue-tied for a few minutes, she
gave all sorts of detailed histories and techniques on kissing, complete with fully-referenced footnotes and diagrams.
Draco, however, was thoroughly distraught that Harry chose Ginny over him, and made a point of sticking his tongue out at her every chance he could.
Malibu's disappearance wasn't on her mind very much, with everything else that was vying for her attention. In fact, while she did find herself missing him every now and again, it was a great relief for Ginny in not having to worry about him. Besides, he was the one who had left, so it was all on his shoulders. Yes, that's exactly what it was. So there was no need to worry about
Malibu at all, not when she had to worry about what she would be wearing for when she went to the festival arm in arm with...Harry!!
"I wonder what he's doing right now," Ginny quietly said to herself Friday night as she stared out one of the windows in the Gryffindor girls' dorm. She pillowed her head on her arms and leaned on the windowsill. "I hope he's all right...."
* * *
However, in truth Ginny had really nothing to fear, for Malibu had spent the past two and a half days...well, telling everything. And we do mean everything: every single little impressively, magnificently useless fact he had ever collected from his centuries of life experience. McNair and Kitkat were give excessively detailed accounts of Malibu's time working as a bodyguard during a
secret celebrity boxing match between the Loch Ness monster and the Ogopogo; of how Malibu accidentally broke the arms of the Venus de Milo one night when he was rummaging through a Florentine art studio for a snack; of when Malibu was paid to help a wizard in casting a popularity spell for some singing group called the Spice Girls; and so forth.
In fact, McNair was so fascinated by Malibu's relentless story- telling that he had completely forgotten about the whole 'torture' part of the interrogation.
"...and that is the real secret of how they get the caramilk into a Caramilk bar," Malibu finished.
McNair boggled. "You're serious? And here I thought it was some fancy part of the Muggle's chocolate manufacturing process."
Malibu shook his head. "Nope, it's all magic. Caramilk's got some temple filled with about three hundred Chinese monks personally apparating the caramilk into each and every Caramilk bar. It's quite the operation they have there. Say, you wouldn't happen to have the time, would you?"
Still bemused about the Cadbury's Caramilk secret, McNair pulled out a pocketwatch which had the large hand on the verge of pointing to 'time to implement evil plan'. "Um, it's almost time to implement our evil plan," he announced.
"Ah, thank you." With that, Malibu turned into a bat, and given his suddenly small size, the ropes tumbled to the floor, unable to hold him. "Now if you'll excuse me, I must be going now."
"Wh-What?" McNair exclaimed, jumping out from his own chair. "Since when could you transform into a bat?!"
"All vampires can," Malibu the bat replied as he flapped over McNair's head.
"I knew I had forgotten something when I prepared for this torture session," McNair muttered to himself. He quickly ducked as Malibu flew over his head towards the exit. "Hey, you can't escape yet, vampire! The interrogation's not over!"
Malibu the bat stuck his tongue out and raspberried McNair. "Tu madre!"
"You're not out of the dungeon yet," McNair said. "Kitkat, get that furry flying rodent and permanently ground him!"
However, since he had never been particularly interested in the conversation topic to begin with, Kitkat had long since fallen asleep, and not even poking him in the bellybutton with a wand tip could wake the hulking assistant up in time.
McNair roared as he saw Malibu fly out from the dungeon to freedom. He glared at Kitkat and hissed, "Useless lug! I should have hired your brother, Almond Joy, instead!"
McNair then kicked KitKat in the shins. This wasn't entire a good thing, since Kitkat had fallen asleep while standing up against the dungeon wall. Upon being kicked, Kitkat's entire body shook, then came crashing down right on top of McNair. There was just enough time for McNair's eyes to grow really really big...right before he was squished beneath the immense, sleeping henchman.
At the risk of stating the obvious, McNair will not be featured any longer in this fic due to being rendered two-dimensional. (Though critics of this story would argue his character was two-dimensional to begin with anyways, but who listens to them?)
* * *
Saturday morning crept slowly across Hogwarts, mainly because it was still recovering from the hangover Friday had left it with. While most of the students at Hogwarts wouldn't be up for a few hours yet, Hogsmeade had been bustling with activity all night. Witches and wizards had been arriving non-stop for the past few days, and every single inn and bed & breakfast was filled. Many had taken to setting up small campsites on the outskirts of the
village, which was in fact closer to where the festival was going to take place.
Even at mid-morning, the streets were crowded, and the restaurants were even worse. Which was exactly why Remus Lupin had opted to order room service and have a late breakfast delivered upstairs. It also allowed Sirius to have a decent meal as a human, without some witch shrieking in terror over recognizing his somewhat "wanted dead or alive-though preferably dead" face.
"Look at them all," Sirius remarked, sitting on a chair and looking out their open hotel room window. "You'd think it was another Quidditch World Cup."
"Get away from there," Lupin said. He was busy getting himself suited up for the day. "The last thing either of us need is someone seeing your face in the window, and notifying the Ministry."
Sirius snorted. "Please. Everyone's too busy to look up at me."
With a sigh, Lupin conceded and allowed Sirius to recline. It was fortunate that Sirius could transform into a dog; not only could he patrol the town in that form, but it also gave him hours outside of their cramped hotel room. Having been a fellow student boarding with Sirius, Lupin could attest to how easily Sirius would get what the Muggles referred to as "cabin fever". That tended to be one of the reasons why he, and the four of them back in the day got into so much mischief.
A witch came up to deliver their breakfast, and fortunately had the decency to knock before she entered. When she did, she saw Lupin and a playful black dog awaiting her. Sirius' presence as a dog did help explain why Lupin always ordered two meals, and had asked for a room with two single beds.
Sirius, or "Snuffles" as he was known to the rest of the inn (Lupin didn't want to ask just how Sirius' canine form had acquired that name), got a pet on the head and an extra doggy treat before the witch-maid left.
"You know," Sirius remarked, transforming back into his human self and returning to his chair by the window. He began to bite into the bone-shaped biscuit. "These dog treats of theirs are frighteningly addictive."
"I can imagine," Lupin absently agreed as he sat down on the edge of his bed and began to eat his meal.
Sirius noted the preoccupied expression on Lupin's face. "Still worried about him, aren't you?"
"Malibu tends to be an idiot savant most of the time, yes, but he's never been one to shirk his duties," Lupin said. "The fact that we haven't seen or heard anything from him since that night in the Three Broomsticks concerns me."
"Think there might be something going down at the festival after all?"
Lupin nodded. "The possibility of that has increased, definitely. But without further evidence or leads, we're stuck here."
"Well, might as well not let it spoil the day or our appetite," Sirius said. "Hand me my bacon and eggs, will you?"
Basking in the sunlight pouring down through the open window, the two enjoyed their quiet breakfast. Then most unexpectedly, a small bat, smoking and on the verge of exploding into a pile of ash, crashed right into Lupin's bowl of porridge. Lupin dipped a spoon into his now-ruined porridge and hoisted the bedraggled Malibu out.
One look at the feckless vampire bat prompted Sirius to ask, "What the hell happened to you?"
Malibu blinked a few times, wiped some porridge from his face and replied, "It's a long story, so don't ask; I don't think the Veritasum's out of my system yet. Hey, this is good porridge! Think you can order up another bowl for me, except switch the milk with some chilled AB Positive?"
* * *
Ginny was amazed that she had been able to sleep at all Friday night. The Gryffindor common room had become host to yet another spectacular party, which only ended when Professor McGonagall showed up at 4am and stated in no uncertain terms that some people in the castle were trying to sleep. She had also added something the dead quite literally being woken up by the ruckus, and about how the noise was scaring all the dank, nasty things in the Forbidden Forest.
Naturally, after such a late-night celebration, barely anyone was conscious let alone coherent by lunchtime. However, the prospects of attending the Hogsmeade festival and then sleeping in for all of Sunday drove many students out of their warm beds and into the showers.
Ginny could hardly keep her lunch down, which for her was a small helping of buttered bread and a bowl of soup. Her stomach was doing flip-flops, her heart pounding ferociously whenever she glanced down the table and saw Harry (blush!) trying to keep from falling asleep in his salad. She managed to catch his eye, and he smiled and waved at her. Much blushing abounded, plus a playful elbow in
her ribs from Seamus.
It was easy to see which students were third-years and above, and not merely because of their generally larger size. Everyone who could attend the festival at Hogsmeade were quick to devour their lunch and dart out to get ready and leave as soon as possible. The festival had been in full swing since Friday, but this was their only day to attend.
Ginny herself was blur of red hair and autumn dresses as she scrambled to primp. She wanted to look her best for Harry (blush!!!), especially since this was their first date.
(Trynottofaint! Trynottofaint! Trynottofaint!)
After an hour of frantic deliberation, second thoughts, countless doubts and dozens of encouragements from the other Gryffindor girls also getting ready, Ginny practically floated down into the common room. Her red hair had been combed out, one small section braided with a little silver bell hanging on the end, and Hermione had performed a shimmer charm that made it look as if Ginny's hair were like rippling waves of fiery water that changed hues whenever she
tuned her head.
She certainly did manage to turn a few heads in the common room too. Harry, standing there in his dress robes, was left speechless. Ginny blushed and did a full turn, letting him see her dress. It was nothing fancy, and was covered mostly by her Hogwarts school robes, but Harry didn't seem to care all that much.
Just before Harry approached Ginny to escourt her to Hogsmeade, Ron placed a hand on Harry shoulder and in a very brotherly voice said quietly to Harry, "Get fresh with my little sister, and I'm going to take a golden snitch and shove it right up your-"
Moving right along, Harry and Ginny (arm in arm, and both trying to act like they knew what they were doing) joined a large group of Gryffindors heading out to Hogsmeade. A large ferry, which made round trips every hour, was waiting to take them across the lake.
Ginny couldn't help but cling tenaciously to Harry's arm as they stood by the railing and looked down at the sparkling water. At first it was just out of sheer affection, where she was somewhat afraid that if she let go, he'd vanish. Then she really did cling tenaciously to him because the giant squid had decided to drag race the ferry, and it was all she could do to keep from being picked up by the wind and sent soaring across the lake.
"Well, that was certainly an adventure," George remarked as they disembarked. "Who'd have thought the squid would have had that last burst of adrenaline and overtake the ferry."
He glanced over her shoulder, where a somewhat drenched Ron was sulking mightily. "Oh come on, it's not like you're the first person who's had an entire bed of sea kelp hit him in the face."
"I still think you're cute," Hermione said, giving Ron a peck on the cheek. She wound up kissing a stunned kelp crab instead.
Not that the kelp crab protested, mind you.
Ginny continued to keep her arms wrapped around Harry's as the entourage walked the to Hogsmeade. They could hear the noise of the festival from the docks. Very soon they were able to see what all the commotion was about.
The road leading into the village had been transformed into an enormous open market and fairground. What awaited everyone was a labyrinth whose walls were comprised of side-by-side merchandise stands, concessions, game booths, and rides. At the far end of the grounds was a spectacular raised dais meant for the evening's concert performances.
At this point, it was every Hogwarts student for themselves, and most of the larger groups splintered into singles or pairs as everyone raced around. Ginny and Harry visited countless stalls selling food and sweets, and Harry blew away the competition at a Quidditch broom race. He also blew away the top to a private tent he passed over, which revealed Snape getting his back massaged by a
Snape immediately handed out demerit points to anyone who happened to be in sight...regardless of whether or not they were students. But lucky for Harry, he was able to hide behind a large inflatable troll and avoid getting caught.
Afterwards, he and Ginny visited petting zoo filled with small, cute and cuddly magical beasts amusing many a young child. And it also served to amuse many a nearby Hogwarts student when Draco tried to steal Harry away to a kissing booth, and Harry stuffed a sickle down Draco's robes...followed by a hyper-active Niffler.
On more than one occasion, Harry was besieged with ecstatic kids wanting his autograph. A number asked for Ginny's autograph too, when they found out he was her "girlfriend". (BLUSH!!)
It came as a bit of a surprise for Ginny when one minute the skies were clear and blue, and the next they were a deep violet and stippled with the reds and oranges of a setting sun. Had the afternoon passed by so quickly already?
Ginny looked up and saw Harry grinning and laughing at some wizard mimes pretending to be Muggles pretending to be magicians. She smiled to herself and blushed again. Regardless of how fast the day was going, she would never forget it.
Ginny was having so much fun at the festival and so much fun being with Harry, that the last thing on her mind was wondering if in fact this all might be some diabolical ruse being concocted by Can-You-Guess-Who? Likewise, far from her thoughts was the notion that Hogwarts' only hope rested in a wanted Animagus, a werewolf, and a vampire. Which is probably just as well; she might have just
surrendered to the Dark Side after thinking about that last part.
* * *
"You know," Malibu the vampire bat said, tucked inside Lupin's inner jacket pocket. "I wouldn't have thrown up back there if you didn't walk so jerkily, Remus."
"And whose fault is it for ordering two bowls of blood and porridge this morning?" Lupin retorted evenly.
For as much as Lupin had wanted all three of them to split up and search the festival separately, that was impossible for Malibu. Not until sunset, at least. So for the time being Malibu had to be content as a bat, stuffed into a pocket where the sunlight couldn't turn him into an impressive display of spontaneous combustion.
Currently Sirius (posing as "Snuffles") was out on his own, busy trying to sniff out Harry. If Harry saw Snuffles, he would a
t least know something was wrong, and that would give them one extra ally.
"Have you found where Shufflebump's dressing rooms are yet?" came Malibu's voice.
Lupin shook his head. "I think we've been over these fairgrounds three, maybe four times, and I've found nothing. At this rate, I'm starting to think Shufflebump is actually in Hogsmeade, and will apparate onto the stage when their performance starts."
"So now what?"
"I'm afraid I am out of ideas," Lupin sighed. An owl from the post office had already been sent to Dumbledore, though they had yet to hear back and time was already running short.
Abruptly, a wizard working with a Sonorus charm announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, in one hour, will everyone please gather near the stage for our special anniversary concert, featuring none other than the legendary Shufflebump!"
Now since Shufflebump's performance had been kept secret from most everybody save for the festival organizers and Hogwarts faculty, this announcement was met with a rousing, thunderous cheer. And not being able to see what was going on, Malibu began shrieking, "Earthquake! Earthquake! Quick, Remus, hide under a doorframe."
"We're out in the open, you twit," Lupin said. "The nearest doorframe is a ten minute walk to Hogsmeade. And besides, that was a cheer, not a tremor."
"Gotcha. You know, this mistake wouldn't have happened if someone had not stuffed me into his jacket pocket."
Lupin opened his coat and glared down at Malibu. "There's a silversmith right next to us, Malibu. Don't tempt me. What I don't understand," he added, "is why it took you two and a half days before you transformed into a bat and escaped."
Malibu let out a nervous laugh. "Oooh, that. Well, I just got on such a roll thanks to that Veritasum that McNair gave me, I forgot about doing that earlier."
"It's amazing you ever survived past the sixteenth century, you know that?" Lupin sighed, resuming his walk around the fairgrounds. "Well, at least I can rest easy knowing you didn't go spilling some great secret to the Death Eaters, like how Cadbury gets the caramilk into their Caramilk bars."
Malibu managed a nervous laugh. "Um...about that. It wasn't, like, really imperative that it stays a secret...right?"
"You told them the Caramilk secret?" Lupin groaned. "You might as well have broadcasted it across the Muggle news, Malibu. The Ministry is going to pitch a fit! I can't believe you let that slip."
At that, Malibu got rather huffy. "Well excuse me for being under the effects of Veritasum! You're just lucky I flew off before I told them about the time those naturalists tranquilized you while you were a werewolf, and you woke up the next morning the proud recipient of a tick bath and a homing tag."
"Shut up about that," Lupin said, his voice suddenly and uncharacteristically unpleasant.
"Right," Malibu agreed. "How long until sunset?"
"The crest is almost beneath the horizon line," Lupin answered. He scanned the crowds, but no familiar faces jumped out at him. "After that, all direct sunlight will be gone."
"What's the plan then?"
Lupin grimaced. "I'll let you know when I've figured that out."
* * *
Ginny's heart nearly jumped right through her ribs when she heard the announcement of Shufflebump's impending performance. Given the look on Harry's face, it was evident he had no idea who Shufflebump was, or even really cared. Ginny wondered if the rumours about the band's tendency to bring couples together in eternal love were true.
Or for that matter, was bringing Harry into this a good idea? Ginny suddenly had reservations, second thoughts about whether or not whatever she and Harry might experience (blush!) because of the concert would be true love.
However, that thought was abruptly driven from her mind as Fred and George happened to let loose a volley of exploding snaps from the statue of a dragon. Needless to say, when an otherwise inanimate statue starts spouting fire, the children who shriek and run from it tend to be outpaced by their shrieking and running parents.
Ginny was struck from behind by a panicked old hag, and sent toppling right into Harry. The two collided and Harry tumbled backwards onto the ground, Ginny falling on his chest. Once they caught their breaths and opened their eyes, the two started blushing furiously.
"A-Are you okay?" Harry stammered.
Ginny silently nodded.
Neither one moved for quite some time, and all that could be heard was the blood rushing to their already bright red ears. And somewhere off in the far distance, there was the sound of readers subsequently gagging on the WAFF levels in this particular scene. This was immediately followed by the author siccing a Hungarian Horntail to devour said readers.
So...anyone else have a problem with the saccharine this scene?
Anyhoo, eventually Ginny and Harry got up and awkwardly stared at each other, wondering just what to do next. Then, as if being pulled closer together by invisible strings of destiny, they slowly drew closer together. Their hands became clasped. Harry tipped his head down closer to Ginny's lips. Ginny closed her eyes and tried to ignore the fierce pounding of her heart.
Then, right when their lips were on the verge of connecting and creating a passionate kiss, the Muse of Magical Fanfiction showed up in the author's room and stated that he was contractually obligated to have any sort of scene with such romantic tension be interrupted. Not about to argue with a dwarf in a Sugar Plum Fairy tutu and brandishing a sword for a magical wand, the author
And that is why Ron and Hermione just happened to stumble across Harry and Ginny at that exact moment. "Hey, Harry!" Ron called out, seeing only Harry's back. "Isn't this a great festival?"
Harry jerked his head back, surprised and flustered all at once. Ginny was torn between stomping her older brother into the ground, and passing out from knowing that Harry had been *that* close to kissing her! (BLUSH!!!)
And appeased with the contractual obligatory interruption, the nice, psychotic Magical Muse dwarf in the tutu left the author alone.
Moving right along, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione spent a few breathless minutes catching up on how everyone had spent their afternoon. Hermione grumped about having to drag Ron from the Veela in the kissing booth, and Ron protested that it wasn't entirely his fault for being bewitched. Ginny told them about Snape getting the massage, and succeeded rather well at not blushing every time she glanced over at Harry. Harry meanwhile related the "Niffler in Draco's pants" incident, and Ron especially couldn't stop laughing for a solid two minutes.
"Hey, do you guys know what the big deal about this band they announced?" he asked Ron and Hermione. "Everyone else seemed to be pretty enthused about them."
"Oh, you mean Shufflebump?" Ron remarked, chewing on a chocolate frog. "Not sure, really. I think they were big in my Mum and Dad's time. Dress up like strange dolls in ruffles and lace don't they? Apparently the lead singer can belt out those love ballads."
Hermione could only shrug. "I've never really studied the pop or music culture of the magical realms myself. I have no idea who they are one way or the other. Does anyone here want to go see them perform?"
Before she could figure out what had happened, Ginny blurted out, "Yes!"
Harry, Ron and Hermione looked down at Ginny, somewhat surprised.
"I didn't know you were a Shufflebump fan, Ginny," Ron said.
Ginny knew her cheeks had to be the same colour as her hair now. She hadn't quite expected to be that enthusiastic about seeing the group...though for very different reasons than everyone else.
"If she's all for it, so am I," Harry offered. He gave Ginny a reassuring smile, then looked at Ron & Hermione. "What about you two?"
Ron shrugged, while Hermione agreed, "Why not? We should get moving towards the stage, then. I think the performing field's getting crowded already. Everyone else wants good a vantage point."
"Wonder if anyone's going to bodysurf," Harry wondered aloud as the four headed for the stage. Ron and Ginny gave him funny looks. "I saw it on television once. Give me a minute, I'll try to explain...."
* * *
"Snuffles" had resurfaced, though when Lupin carefully asked if he'd found Harry yet, the dog shook its head and gave a most human- like scowl. "It's going to get even harder to locate Harry too," Lupin said, scanning the growing audience patiently clustering in front of the stage. He glanced down at the dog. "Keep at it, Sirius. You may have better luck finding Harry's scent than I would in catching a glimpse of his face. If I see or find anything, I'll
send up a flare."
The large black dog nodded its head, then took off between the legs of a few dozen wizards and witches.
"It's going to become nothing short of a miracle if we can foil this," Lupin said gravely. He glanced down at the bat head peeking out from his jacket. "Yes?"
Malibu was flashing a fanged grin at the festival. "Impressive. Look at the crowds Shufflebump is attracting," he remarked. "Kind of makes me wish I was in a band again."
Lupin gave him the most incredulous look ever. "You? Sing?"
"Hey, I haven't lived seven centuries for nothing," Malibu huffed, indignant that he wasn't being believed. "There was a time where I was the most sought-after entertainer in all of Europe. Granted it's been a couple hundred years since I really worked on my voice. But at any rate, I'm still better than you, Remus. You can't even sing in the shower."
Lupin said nothing to that; he was watching the horizon. Soon enough the last bit of visible sun dipped beneath the darkened line. Almost instantly a series of torches and lanterns hung all around the festival grounds began to glow and shimmer. The area became almost as bright as it had been during the day, only now everything was being bathed in a very peaceful silver hue.
"You can come out now," Lupin announced to Malibu, reaching into his pocket and plucking out the bat.
Malibu spent a minute or so stretching his wings out, then make sure no one was looking while he transformed. In the blink of an eye, he was standing next to Lupin and dressed in one of the strangest Victorian-esque gowns Lupin had ever seen.
"There we go," Malibu said, adjusting the ruffles around his collar and the lace trims on at his cuffs. He quickly brushed the front of his red velvet jacket and struck a debonair pose. "Do I look nonchalant enough for the festival?"
One of Lupin's eyebrows went up. "Just how do you manage those costume changes, anyways?" he asked, scratching his head.
Malibu shrugged. "Long story. Have a few hours?"
"Definitely not. We've got perhaps a half hour left before Shufflebump is set to take the stage." Lupin tried taking in another sweeping view of the stage and the nearby booths and shops. "You said that the Death Eaters would be nearby to ensure there were no stragglers or escapees, right?"
"Yeah, pretty much," Malibu agreed. "That's what they said. Of course, they might have changed their plans after I showed up."
"They still think you're being tortured by McNair, if he hasn't already dispatched of you," Lupin countered. "As far as they're concerned, you've been taken care of. Odds are they're still proceeding as planned."
Malibu busied himself in putting his hair back in a ponytail, or as much of a ponytail as he could manage given its length. "So now what?"
Lupin turned to Malibu. "You try to locate Shufflebump. Try Hogsmeade if you can make it there fast enough; we've searched the festival at least half a dozen times already with no success."
"Gotcha. And yourself?"
Lupin's eyes slowly, suspiciously looked at some of the vendors of the nearby booths. "I'm willing to bet that if some of the Death Eaters aren't posing as random people in the crowd, then they've infiltrated the festival in other ways."
* * *
As the time for Shufflebump to appear grew closer, the crowds became restless. Many wizards and witches were excitedly sharing their own passions or memories of listening to Shufflebump's music. Others who'd already fallen under Shufflebump's notorious spell were living out an impromptu second honeymoon.
Ginny's own excitement was growing, but that was mainly because she was getting pushed closer to Harry. As it turned out, a large cluster of Hogwarts students had managed to secure a spot at the very front, so they had been able to join the group and get right next to the stage.
Unfortunately, this also put them right next to a few other more prominent, though less reputable wizards. "Well well," drawled Lucius Malfoy as he stared down at Harry and Ginny. "We meet again, do we, Potter? I didn't even know you enjoyed these sorts of things. Though you'd be out doing a bit more celebrity posing."
Ginny glared at Lucius and tried to think of any good insult she could throw at Lucius after he insulted Harry. (Grrrrrrr!)
Harry, though, failed to get riled up by Lucius' remark. "Read any good, forbidden diaries lately?" he scathingly inquired. He didn't even wait for the look of indignant anger to appear on Lucius' face. "Oh, that's right! You can't, not after I impaled the last one on a basilisk tooth!"
Lucius' hands balled into fists. He seemed perfectly ready to start a brawl right then and there, regardless of how many Hogwarts students would pounce on him if Harry was involved. But then he clutched at some degree of self-control, and sneered at Harry and the others. "Go ahead, boy, laugh all you want. But you'll find that all your fun and games will come to an end soon enough."
Lucius stormed off after that, elbowing his way through the crowds.
"He really needs to have his head examined," Hermione sighed.
"Yes, but that would require someone having to pull it out from his ass first," Ron agreed.
* * *
With five minutes left to go before Shufflebump's performance, Malibu had to admit he was at a loss for brainstorms. Even a braindrizzle or a mild shower would have been appreciated, but the vampire remained completely, totally stumped as to where Shufflebump's dressing rooms might be hiding. No one in Hogsmeade knew, or else if they did they weren't telling him.
"A bloody hour wasted," he muttered darkly to himself as he waded through the masses of wizards gathered at one of the lesser-known pubs. "Could have been there at the bar with a pint of frothy AB-Positive by now, but instead some stupid Dark Lord has to get some stupid bid for world domination in his head, and here I am wasting an hour of my time that could otherwise be spent with a pint!"
He let out a loud sigh...and then realised all this talk of frothy pints had really made him require the use of a bathroom. Feeling much drier and lighter after using the facilities, Malibu headed over to the sink to wash his hands.
After all, even the undead should wash their hands after using the bathroom!
There was an inherent advantage to using a bathroom mirror that never showed his reflection: while he was eternally paranoid about how well-groomed he looked, Malibu had come to rather enjoy always having and excellent view of a room through the mirror's reflection. He appraised the facilities-though there wasn't much to admire about the bathrooms of this tavern.
"Malibu, my friend," he said to his reflection that wasn't there. "You are getting too old for this. You should have retired to a beach in Acapulco long ago...if it wasn't for the fact an afternoon tan would render you into crispy vittles."
He pressed his palms on the counter and leaned forward, shaking his head. "Damn, it looks like we're going to lose. And now Voldemorte's going to turn everyone into his puppet minions, start a war, and probably win. This doesn't make for a decent children's story at all! Just what kind of a horrid, sadistic author is writing this fanfic anyways?"
Just then, he saw the reflection of two wizards dressed up as somewhat creepy-looking, gothic, porcelain dolls walk past him. Without taking note of Malibu, the wizards opened up one of the bathroom stalls and said "Toilet Duck." A secret passageway opened up in behind the toilet, and the two stepped into a hidden corridor.
Malibu glanced up at the bathroom ceiling and huffed: "Well it's about time. You writers and your stupid dramatic tension!"
He muttered "Toilet Duck", let the hidden passageway be revealed, then raced inside. Sure enough, he was in the secret dressing rooms reserved for Shufflebump. The only trick would be trying to figure out which member had been switched with a Death Eater.
As it turned out, discovering that answer was far easier than Malibu would have guessed. For standing there in his private dressing room, the door left wide open, was not Avery...but Lord Voldemorte himself in front of the mirror.
On a nearby table was a ruddy old suitcase with a sign taped on it: 'Warning: Portkey for Shufflebump. Will appear on stage if used. Do not touch until 8pm.'
Voldemorte was chuckling to himself, each laugh sounding like a hiss of air escaping his lungs, holding up a vial of what had to Polyjuice Potion. "And now," he stated dramatically, drinking the potion. "The curtain shall open on a new era, where I take my rightful position as Dark Lord."
"You know," Malibu remarked from the doorway. "With a face like that, you'd be better suited to play the Phantom of the Opera."
Voldemorte whirled, dropping his vial. His features were rapidly changing into a 40-something wizard with long silver hair and an impressive complexion given the age. Upon seeing an intruder, he dove for his wand, which was sitting on the dressing room table.
Malibu moved faster, snatching the wand from the table first. He tossed the wand over his shoulder. "Ha! You're not so big and scary when you don't have your...hey, who's your tailor? I love that outfit!"
Voldemorte beamed and displayed his own jacket of velvet red, complete with its series of frocks, lace cuffs and frilly collars. "Well, actually, I acquired this at an auction about twenty years ago. It was such a smashing ensemble, I simply had to have it. So I cursed the auctioneer, turned all the other bidders into mindless slaves and took it for myself."
"I do like the ruffles," Malibu agreed. "Though the craftsmanship on the coat-tails is stunning!"
"Yours isn't so bad either," Voldemorte said. "Slight alterations on the lapels, and a fabulous frock to accompany it! Might I have the name of the designer?"
Suddenly it occurred to both of them that perhaps now wasn't the best time to be trading fashion tips. Not to mention that disenchanted Muse dwarf in the tutu had also reappeared in front of the author, stating that the author would be stuffed into a potato sack and mailed to the Isle of Drear if an obligatory fight scene wasn't added here.
So naturally, a fight ensued.
"I thought one of your lackeys was supposed to be posing as a Shufflebump member," Malibu managed to say as he put Voldemorte in a headlock and gave the Dark Lord a noogie.
Voldemorte wriggled free, and the two began circling each other again. "You think I would let one of those idiots handle such a vital part of my plan? Nott was eaten by Nagini, my pet snake, months ago. I merely told the other Death Eaters about Nott to keep my own cover safe. A perfect ruse, wouldn't you agree? I am the only one who can perform such a high-level Imperius curse disguised as a love ballad."
With that, he kicked Malibu in the crotch. "And besides, everyone knows that I'm one of the best singers the magical realms ever produced."
Malibu's face contorted horribly, though not because he had just been kicked in his undead bahooglies. "You, a better singer than me?" he rasped. "Surely, you jest!"
Malibu then drew his arm back, and unleashed a dreaded double purple-nurple on Voldemorte. Given his current physical appearance, the Dark Lord let out a shout of C# that caused the dressing room mirror to rattle. Malibu then followed it up with a poke to the eyes. Voldemorte retaliated with a kick to the kneecap.
They toppled over, and amidst the scuffling on the floor Voldemorte's hands closed over his wand. He pointed it at Malibu's face, and at point blank range exclaimed, "Avada Kedavra!"
Malibu was struck instantly, his head snapping back, his eyes wide in surprise. Then he blinked, and tipped his head forward again. "Ow! That really hurt!"
Voldemorte was shocked to say the least. "But...but I just killed you!" he protested. "No fair! You should be dead!"
"I'm a vampire," Malibu said. "I'm already dead. What were you going to do, kill me twice?"
Voldemorte glanced down at his wand-his wooden wand-and then with a diabolically gleeful expression, he looked up at Malibu's chest. "That's the idea."
Certainly it was the idea, and it just might have worked had Malibu not head-butted Voldemorte...much to both their displeasure. "I thought only you were supposed to get the headache," Malibu groaned, trying to overcome a sudden surge of nausea as his temples throbbed.
Holding Voldemorte by the collar with one hand, Malibu reached back to grab the nearest blunt object he could find to bonk the Dark Lord over the head with. However, the nearest blunt thing he happened to grab was in fact the Portkey.
There was a look of triumph of Malibu's face was he yanked it towards Voldemorte, which quickly changed to surprise. "HA HA...ha?"
The two suddenly vanished.
* * *
And reappeared right in the centre of the concert stage. Their entrance was accompanied by dozens of flashy explosions and plumes of coloured smoke, and a rousing, earth-shaking cheer from the audience. Rather stunned by the ovation, Voldemorte and Malibu paused in their melee long enough to wave uncertainly at the crowds.
Ginny, of course, being right at the front of the stage, shouted, "Malibu?!"
The other Hgowarts students around her glanced down at her in surprise.
"So you know that guy?" Harry asked.
Ginny mutely nodded as she gawked at Malibu. "He...he's my pet-er, friend."
"You're kidding!" Fred exclaimed. "Ginny, you know the lead singer for Shufflebump? Mum'll want you to get their autographs for sure."
George added, "She could supply us with a few hundred too. How much do you think signed photos would go for if we sold them?"
The initial applause from Voldemorte and Malibu's entrance was starting to die down, and now many of the wizards and witches were somewhat confused by there apparently being two lead singers and no rest-of-the-band to go with them. Plus the two guys onstage didn't seem to know what they were doing.
Voldemorte was swift to take the initiative, shoving Malibu aside and performing a Sonorus charm on his wand. A second chorus of cheers and screams of "I love you, Rufius!" abounded as he strolled to the front of the stage. Looking and sounding like the lead singer, no one in the audience had reason to fear or flee.
"Ladies and gentlemen, wizards and witches, distinguished guests and long-time fans," he drawled in Rufius' voice, gesturing to the crowd. "We welcome you all to the celebration of Hogsmeade's seven hundred and fourty-second anniversary!"
Loud cheers and foot-stomping abounded.
Voldemorte couldn't help but grin maniacally at his legions of unsuspecting victims. "You've all eaten and drank, danced and laughed, but that was merely a warm-up. Let's start the real celebrating now, shall we?"
Suddenly four more people appeared on the stage, accompanied by their own series of flares and bursts of coloured smoke. Malibu scrambled backwards on his hands and feet like a crab as a vast assortment of musical instruments apparated out of nowhere, the back leg of a grand piano nearly crushing his ribcage.
He turned and glared at Voldemorte.
The Dark Lord smirked and lowered his wand so no one else could hear but Malibu. "Only Rufius, the lead singer, couldn't apparate. The rest of the band doesn't need a Portkey. You should be flattered, vampire; you get front-row seats to witnessing my first great victory!"
Before Malibu had the chance to say or do anything, Voldemorte spun around and began to belt out the first verse of a Shufflebump classic, 'The Ballad of Clive Cthulhu and the Wayward Welsh Greens.' The rest of the band, all acting under the Imperius curse, joined in with their instruments and voices. Half the crowed began to sing along with the music, while the rest were simply content to
stand and listen.
Malibu slowly rose to his feet. "Tu madre," he muttered under his breath, tugging at the lapels of his jacket. "Don't underestimate this vampire, snake-boy."
The hairs on the back of his neck started to prick up.
Malibu's eyes widened as he started to feel the trappings of an Imperius curse be woven all around him. Being undead, he was more sensitive to a sort of "scent" of magic than even most wizards. The air was becoming saturated with the Imperius curse, and as he gazed out to the crowds, Malibu could see many swaying hypnotically to the music.
"Doesn't waste any time, does he," he growled, glaring at Voldemorte's back. He cracked his knuckles. "Well, I've got one way to disrupt this song...."
He charged towards Voldemorte, arm coiled back and ready to unleash a punch. However, three steps from Voldemorte, Malibu struck a barrier. The subsequent jolt felt like he had hit an electric fence, and Malibu was thrown backwards.
No one in the audience seemed to notice or care, too entranced by the Imperius curse register that something was inherently wrong onstage. However, two people did come to Malibu's aid. Elbowing his way through the near-catatonic people Lupin leapt onto the stage, "Snuffles" right behind him.
"Grab something, anything!" Lupin shouted, pointing at the various instruments strewn about the stage. "We've got to counteract his Imperius curse before the entire festival is enslaved!"
"And how do you propose to do that?" Malibu shouted back.
Lupin responded by tapping the tip of his wand, saying "Sonorus" and then tossing it to Malibu. "You keep telling me how good a singer you are, Malibu, now's certainly the time to prove it. Sing anything!"
Malibu caught the wand, glanced down at it and pondered its existence quite deeply. Then he turned to the enormous crowd awaiting them. Malibu drew in a deep breath. "Okay, guys, watch me for the changes and, uh...try to keep up!"
Malibu whirled to the stage, striking his best suave pose and into the wand crooned, "Hubba hubba zoot zoot! Eda hobba zud zud, a num num!"
"Let me rephrase," came Lupin's voice behind him. "Sing anything but that."
* * *
Meanwhile, Ginny was oblivious to anything that might have been happening on the stage. In fact, the stage was just a distant, foggy memory she didn't really care to try and recall in the first place. If this was what Shufflebump was known for, then she never wanted to leave this performance.
Her fears and worries about Harry were gone. There were no more rampant blushings. All that she knew was this warm, sweet voice telling her to submit. Just submit, and it would be the most wonderful feeling in the world. All she had to do was follow what the voice said, and it would be bliss. Ginny's eyelids closed, her eyes rolling back into their sockets.
A quiet buzzing noise that sounded oddly like, "Ginny! Ginny!" was echoing somewhere in the back of her mind, but she didn't care. She was going to submit. She was going to follow Shufflebump to the ends of the earth. They deserved her loyalty. They had earned her undying devotion.
"Ginny, wake up! Snap out of it!"
That annoying voice again. Why couldn't it just stop and leave her be? She liked it here. She liked basking in the warmth of this voice. Ginny felt like she was floating in an ocean of charismatic smiles and serpentine whispers of destruction. What better things were there in this world than serving those desires of her masters? She would sacrifice everything, even herself, for...for...not for Shufflebump, she suddenly realised. Someone else deserved her allegiance.
Her Dark Lord. Everything was for him.
Suddenly, she felt Harry kiss her. Hard.
The euphoric daze shattered into a hundred pieces and came crashing down inside her mind. Ginny's eyes widened, her dilated pupils refocusing as she realized that Harry's lips were pressed right against hers. There was an obvious moment of shock, followed by disbelief, happiness, and the question of whether or not now was an appropriate time to make use of her tongue.
However, Harry broke off the kiss and stepped back. "You back to normal again, Ginny?"
Her face flustered beyond compare, Ginny nodded. Then it occurred to her that she had in fact not been normal a few seconds ago. Something about pledging her devotion to somebody. A Dark Lord or something like that....
Ginny pressed a palm against her forehead, desperate to remember. "What happened?"
"You were nearly sucked in by an Imperius curse," Harry answered. "Someone's trying to cast it on everyone here at the festival."
"But how did you-?"
"I've had this done to me before," Harry quickly replied, scanning the stage. "Last year, when he was Mad-Eyed Moody, Crouch made sure I could resist Imperius curses. Even still, what he tried to cast on me was nothing compared to this. I almost didn't make it."
A chill ran down Ginny's spine, all the romance of the moment drained away. "Who would do such a thing?" she whispered.
Harry shook his head as they surveyed the stage. Shufflebump was performing to a (literally) mesmerized crowd. But in the back left of the dais, a peculiar trio was in the midst of their own performance. Lupin was on the piano, with "Snuffles" banging away a rhythm on the drum set, and Malibu belting out whatever lyrics happened to come into his head at the time. Currently it was a
fast-tempo, hard-rock tune called 'Speciesaurus.'
"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed, forgetting all pretences of secrecy. "And Lupin too!"
"Malibu," Ginny said, seeing the vampire for the first time again. "They're trying to block Shufflebump's Imperius curse!"
Harry's eyes narrowed as he took one look at the lead singer, and his scar began to sting. "That's not Shufflebump's curse," he stated. "That's Voldemorte on the stage. We've got to stop him!"
"How?" Ginny asked.
Harry gave no verbal response. He climbed onto the stage and wasted no time in pulling Ginny up after him, the both of them racing in behind Voldemorte (who was still concentrating on his spell) to Lupin.
"Harry, good to see you!" Lupin exclaimed. His fingers were dancing all across the piano keys, and Harry was amazed at his former professor's dexterity. "We're trying to disrupt the Imperius curse by drowning out You-Know-Who's sound. The more they tune into us, the less they'll be influenced by the Imperius."
"Leave him to me," Harry said, stepping towards Voldemorte.
Ginny panicked at the thought of Harry going up against someone like the Dark Lord, and grabbed at his shoulder. "Harry, you can't! He might kill you!"
"He's got a barrier around him, Harry," Lupin said, going into a quick trill. "By the time we break it, we'll be too late!"
"Okay, so then what do we do?" Harry snapped.
"The bongos, Harry!" Malibu exclaimed, gesturing to an eight-set of bongo drums. "Go for the bongos! And take it down an octave, Lupin; I can't sing as high as you're playing!"
Not entirely sure what they were doing, or if it would succeed, Harry and Ginny found their own musical contributions to add to Malibu's peculiar lyrics. Harry took to the bongo drums, while Ginny hazarded picking up a harp and plucked randomly at the strings.
Malibu sang out the lyrics to a current magical realm favourite: 'Frisk Me Love Me Cookie.'
With the added instruments, Malibu and the others were soon putting holes in Voldemorte's otherwise flawless curse. Numerous wizards and witches were starting to blink and shake their heads as if coming out of an unexpected nap. Some started to sway to Malibu's beat. And many spectators were exclaiming, "Wow, can that dog play a mean drum set!"
"It's working!" Lupin shouted over the music. "Keep singing, Malibu!"
However, Voldemorte noticed how his hold on the audience was beginning to slip. He glanced back over his shoulder and shot his opponents an enraged look. Then he turned to Shufflebump, and made a gesture with his arm. Their current slow-paced song came to an abrupt end, and Shufflebump picked up the tempo with an infectious, upbeat melody. To that, Voldemorte began to sing even louder into
his wand, projecting an even more powerful Imperius curse through his lyrics.
The eyes of most of the crowd began to glaze over again.
"Malibu!" Ginny exclaimed, fear creeping into her system as she saw her friends and siblings slide back under Voldemorte's control.
"I'm trying!" Malibu said. "But Shufflebump's playing 'Fuzzbox Voodoo & The Paranoia Groove'-their number one hit ever! I can't compete, not even with a song like 'Eat My Acromantula'!"
The Death Eaters, fully garbed in their robes and masks, were beginning to filter into the edges of the audience. With their Dark Lord almost assured victory now, they were making their presence known and checking to ensure that no one was overcoming the effects of the Imperius. A few Stupefy and Crucio curses were unleashed as some non-compliant mages tried to resist and fight back.
"If those Death Eaters make it to the stage, we're going to have our hands full just fending them off," Harry said, going into a quick, manic bongo solo.
Ginny continued to pluck out a tune on the harp that somewhat matched what was being played by the others. "I don't want to become a Death Eater," she said quietly.
"Oh, I don't think we have to worry," Malibu remarked, tapping one foot as he let Lupin go into a piano solo. "Given our interference here, You-Know-Who's more liable to messily torture us and then kill us rather than turn us into subservient drones."
Voldemorte turned around and flashed them all a dark, vicious smile. "You're not going to win this," he laughed. "There's nothing in the world that can save you now."
Suddenly, a loud ball of green smoke exploded on the stage, and there stood Dumbledore, dressed up in an outlandish silver-sequined robe and wizard's hat, a pair of flashy and enormous gold sunglasses over his eyes. Malibu stared dumbfounded at the Hogwarts Headmaster...and then stared down at the enchanted electric guitar in Dumbledore's hands.
Dumbledore winked at his friends. "I had a feeling this might happen after I received Remus' letter," he remarked. "Mind if I jam with you?"
Not entirely certain just how Dumbledore knew how to use a slang term like 'jam', Malibu nodded. "Uh...sure."
Dumbledore drew out from his robes a guitar pick and then generated an incredible series of riffs that echoed across the fairgrounds. The effect was instantaneous: his enchanted guitar (no plug-ins or amps required) drowned out Shufflebump, and startled over half the audience out of the Imperius curse.
Voldemorte whirled, glaring at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore just smirked. "Oh, I also hope you don't mind," he added over his shoulder to Harry and the others. "But I decided to bring a few of my friends in for this."
As if on cue, three more explosive plumes of green smoke erupted onto the stage, and there standing next to Lupin's grand piano were Hagrid on the saxophone, Mundungus Fletcher on an enchanted bass guitar, and Arabella Fig as a back-up singer, holding her own Sonorus-enchanted wand. She smiled and quickly gestured for Ginny to join her.
"Now then," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling...or was it just the glitter on his shades that was doing all the twinkling? Anyhoo, Dumbledore strummed another series if riffs, and nodded for Malibu to sing.
Malibu grinned, and began to croon one of his own all-time favourite songs: 'Karaoke Vicious' by the illustrious yet enigmatic solo artist, Mr. Incognito.
What followed was quite possibly the most infamous and popular battle of the bands to ever take place in the world of magic. Not to be outdone, Voldemorte signalled for Shufflebump to change songs, the band switching to 'The Merry Melancholy Mix.'
When it appeared that the audience was starting to fall back under the Imperius curse, Dumbledore called out for Malibu to switch. Malibu in turn did an amazing cover of 'Lickalicious', with Ginny and Arabella surprising everyone with their fantastic choral voices. Shortly thereafter, Voldemorte and Shufflebump went to 'Sandsprawl', forcing Malibu and the others to switch to 'The Rune- Wyrm Goes Down To Denmark.' Then came 'Hard-Pressed and Heart-
Broken' from Voldemorte and Shufflebump, countered by 'Sorceress Sunset' from Malibu and Dumbeldore.
In the end, it came down to the wire between two songs: Voldemorte had Shufflebump play the tear-jerking 'Magical Miseria'; Malibu signalled for the others to play the incredibly complex song, 'Mauvecado.' For two verses, the two bands seemed evenly-matched, with the crowds half under the Imperius, half free from it.
Then Hagrid performed an incredible saxophone solo, with Harry picking up on the bongos and Lupin joining in on the piano. From there, "Snuffles", Dumbledore and Mungdungus added their sounds, and Ginny & Arabella giving all their voices could. And for the rousing finale, Malibu topped it off with by holding a two minute- long note, effectively impressing the entire audience...and turning his face blue from holding his breath for that length of time.
Voldemorte's Imperius curse crumbled, so much so that the Shufflebump members awoke from its control and stopped playing altogether. And the crowd went nothing short of wild, stomping their feet, clapping their hands and letting out a cheer that startled all the owls in Hogwart's owlery. Sensing their defeat, the Death Eaters turned and fled. Most were caught by the more
experienced wizards and witches who had begun to realise what was going on during this rather unorthodox performance.
Voldemorte turned and let out an enraged, incoherent shout at Dumbledore's troupe. He swept his cloak around him, and in a fury disapparated from the stage.
This event unto itself triggered thundering applause and cheers that took what felt like forever to die down. Many of the Gryffindors clamoured onto the stage, congratulating Harry, Ginny, Hagrid, Lupin and Dumbledore on their fantastic show. "Snuffles" found himself beset by a group of wizards marvelling at his canine skill, and a group of little witches who thought the doggie on the
drums was adorable to no end. The somewhat bewildered Shufflebump band members were besieged by fans wanting autographs. Even the otherwise unfamiliar faces of Arabella and Mungdungus were met with legions of compliments and warm embraces.
And as for Malibu...he accidentally got pushed off the stage by some over-excited Gryffindors, and wound up body-surfing the enthusiastic crowd.
* * *
Three days later, life at Hogwarts and Hogsmeade had yet to calm down. The subsequent rave reviews from the visiting Daily Prophet reporters, and word-of-mouth generated by all the first-hand spectators had generated a veritable juggernaut of publicity. The captured Death Eaters had led to a string of interrogations and arrests of Voldemorte's supporters-something Fudge, the Minister of Magic, was quick to take credit for.
Meanwhile, Hogsmeade was beset by dozens of sponsors and hopeful wizarding bands asking for spots in next year's festival. Shufflebump's popularity skyrocketed higher than ever before, which was amusing since the band members, now minus their lead singer, had to have the entire incident explained to them.
Everyone now wanted to attend Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class, just to ask him about his saxophone playing. He was also getting a lot of unexpected visits from students after classes, which made him grin from ear to ear.
Lupin had made a point of disappearing into obscurity, given the secrecy required for his current line of work. A number of people noticed his auspicious absence, but couldn't track him down. As a result, the mystery behind the impressive piano player gave way to all sorts of theories-Lupin was a secret agent working for the Ministry of Mystery; Lupin was a Patronus of some kind; Lupin was an ancient and powerful wizard who only showed up in times of great danger; and so forth.
Arabella Fig and Mungdungus Fletcher also managed to quietly slip away unnoticed, returning to Dumbledore's private employ as undercover guardians and agents.
Dumbledore took all his popularity in stride, using his sudden fame and fandom to make a few specific demands to the Ministry of Magic. Namely, demands that put precautionary measures into place to further prevent Voldemorte from gaining anymore power-such as open negotiations with the giants and removing the Dementors from Azkaban. Fudge grudgingly acquiesced.
A whole new line of stuffed animals and toys featuring "Snuffles" and his drum set appeared almost overnight, much to Sirius' disbelief and displeasure. There were even rumours of a new series of children's storybooks being created: "The Adventures of Snuffles." Sirius just snorted indignantly whenever he heard
mention of his canine alter-ego. He did, however, give Harry a signed "Snuffles" plushie.
Harry and Ginny had to contend with unprecedented celebrity statuses after giving their own accounts of the festival to the authorities. Having been swamped like this before, Harry was able to take most of it in stride, and avoid his newest legions of devoted fans-especially Draco, who had started up the official 'I Luv Harry' club and was its president and Member #001.
Ginny, on the other hand, was bewildered by the fact that all sorts of girls were admiring her, vying for her autograph, following her around, and asking her what it was like dating Harry. (Blush!) Not to mention dozens of boys were trying to ask her out and fawning all over her.
She had to take to being escourted to classes by Fred & George, whose clever pranks and gag food were able to keep most other students at bay and ensured she could arrive on time. The relative obscurity she had existed in before all this was something Ginny suddenly missed. To calm down, she took to a lot of late-night walks through the corridors, sometimes going hand in hand with
Harry, sometimes by herself.
Malibu popped up one night during her walks, about a week after the Hogsmeade festival. "Miss me?" he asked, flashing her a fanged grin.
Ginny laughed and raced towards him...bowling Malibu over in the process too as she hugged him. "Malibu! I didn't see you after the festival; what's happened to you?"
"Long story. You have a few hours to spare?"
Ginny nodded. "It's almost curfew, but we can probably avoid Mrs. Norris and Filch."
"That's the spirit!" Malibu agreed. "Now then, where to begin?"
They spent the next few hours wandering corridors that saw very little traffic ever. Malibu told of how he had been caught and interrogated by McNair, and how he was questioned by the Ministry of Magic after the festival. He didn't mention to Ginny how he had to carefully tailor his account to avoid a few secrets that might reveal his true profession. Yet he was in the public and
Dumbledore's good graces, so the Ministry really had no problems with a few odd parts of his testimony.
"What are you going to do now?" Ginny asked.
Malibu sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "I can't go back to my old line of work, that's for sure. My face and description has been plastered all over the magical world, so now everyone knows who I am and what I look like."
Oddly enough, a look of hope appeared on Ginny's face. "So...does that mean you can stay here with us? I don't think my Mum and Dad would have a problem if you lived with us in the summer, and my brothers really like you. You could stay here for the rest of the year and-"
With a gentle smile, Malibu rested a hand on her shoulder and shook his head. "Afraid I can't do that either. It's a temping offer, but you have your own life to live. Besides, from what I hear, you'd be spending more time with Harry than with me."
Ginny beamed, her face going red again.
"Anyways, I should probably get going," Malibu said. "I just wanted to come here and see how you were doing before I left."
"Will I be able to see you again?" Ginny asked.
Malibu smiled. "Of course! You can't get rid of a vampire that easily, let alone this one! You'll see me around, I'm sure. I'll write too. And I'll make a point of visiting you next semester. Sound like a plan?"
Ginny hugged Malibu again, then added, "I'm sorry about yelling at you in Potions class."
"Nah, it's cool," Malibu said, waving it aside. "Water under the bridge. You just have a good year, and be sure to visit me sometime during the summer."
"Deal," Ginny agreed.
* * *
A month later, Malibu walked into a dressing room located somewhere in London. The four remaining members of Shufflebump were already getting prepped for the first performance of their latest world tour.
The real Rufius had yet to be found after Voldemorte's disappearance. It was presumed by virtually everyone that he had been killed before Voldemorte took his place. Of course, this was a considerable problem for Shufflebump, whose popularity was at its highest ever-yet now their lead singer was gone.
Of course, they did find an unexpected, and equally popular & adept replacement. Namely, Malibu the vampire.
Malibu put on his red velvet jacket, adjusted the ruffles around his cuffs and collar, and made sure his coat-tails were straightened out. A wand with a Sonorus charm on it in his hand, He grinned at his new band members and reached for a Portkey. "Shall we?"
A few seconds later, the five members of Shufflebump appeared onstage before a sold-out crowd...and a few would-be vampire hunters, but since their aim was really off, there's no real point in mentioning them any further.
(There, now don't you feel enlightened?)
Author's Note: Help! I've been kidnapped by pixies, who are putting my hair into pigtails & burettes, and are ransoming me off for...let me see if I get this straight: 'the screwdriver is hungry and the butterfly who runs around my tummy. When the sacred cows roost in the living room, a carpet of platypus cookies skips happily to school. Beef? Beef sirloin?'
(Author's Mental Note: never get ransomed off by magical beings who are completely unintelligible to everything else on this planet)
Obligatory Disclaimer bit: Harry Potter and all its related characters, spells, locations, animals, monsters, et all, carpe diem and ipso facto are the property of J.K. Rowling, and should thusly be credited to her. With the exception of Malibu the vampire; I'm not sure anyone would want to take credit for bringing him into this world....
Comments, praises, bribes, Howlers and pre-paid subscriptions to Playmuggle
can be owl-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Mandy's note: I would just like to say that that took FOREVER to format!! GAHHHHHHHH!!!!]