A/N: Just wanted to give a massive THANK YOU to all of you lovely people who have favorited this story and left reviews. Some of you have favorited me as an author as well and I can’t even tell you how spectacular that feeling is. It fills my heart with warm fuzzies. ^_^ Thank you for reading.
“This feels like a bad idea,” Delphine whispered in my ear. “We haven’t even been informed ahead of time about what we’re going to be testing, and I saw the fine print about risks on the bottom of those fliers. For all we know, this could be an initiation for some kind of evil gang.”
“Do you want Galleons or not?” I hissed in exasperation.
Her face puckered. “Well, of course I do –”
“All right!” George clapped his hands, beaming at the short row of people who had responded to the Weasley twins’ most recent fliers. Delphine and I, along with a pair of second year boys, were sitting on hard chairs in Moaning Myrtle’s loo. “Not a bad turnout, for the second week. You fine lads and ladies are going to be sampling a very new and very exciting product of ours.”
“Right,” Fred announced, walking briskly into the room. My stomach flipped. “The process is simple. Just do what we ask, answer a few of our questions, and you’ll get a Galleon each.”
“Why are we hiding in a girls’ toilet?” one of the second year boys piped up.
“Err –” George hesitated, and then resumed a deceptively reassuring grin. “Let’s just say that there’s a rather bossy Gryffindor prefect who will make our lives much more difficult than necessary if she gets wind of this.”
“Right,” Fred pressed on, rubbing his hands together. His eyes glittered with enthusiasm. “Let’s get down to it, shall we? Today you are going to be testing our latest invention – the Patented Daydream Charm. Well, it’s not quite patented yet. But it sounds much more official that way.”
“In essence, it is a top-notch fantasy come to life, available for your eye pleasure during otherwise boring moments you would rather not sit through – History of Magic, for example.” George plunged his hand inside a green and white striped Honeydukes bag that once held Peppermint Toads and withdrew four balls about the size of Trelawney’s crystal ones, each of them a livid purple color. I collected one from him and turned it over in my hands, realizing that it was designed similarly to those Muggle fortune toys where you’re supposed to ask it a question, give it a shake, and then a vague answer floats to the surface.
“You like it?” Fred asked me knowingly, grinning. “I’ve got to hand it to those Muggles – they’re really inspiring. You just give it a shake and your incantation pops up; and then you have to do a bit of wand-waving and it lasts for a predetermined length of time, always expiring as soon as you’re finished. And the beauty of what we’ve done here is that if someone steals it, it won’t work for them. It only gives you the incantation if it knows it’s been paid for – these ones excepted. Even if the thief knows the incantation from memory, it’s unusable unless the actual words are floating right-side up.”
“Exactly,” George cut in. “And once the time limit is reached, your incantation vanishes and you can’t use it again. You’ve got to buy a new one.”
“So if you could –” Fred began.
“Just give them a little shake –” George added.
“You’ll get your incantations,” they replied simultaneously. “Bottoms up!”
I did as instructed. The ball had a round glass piece fitted into the top, which allowed the insides to be visible. It was filled with a gaseous, smoke-like substance, curling and undulating and wispy blue in color. A small white triangle slowly made its way to the top, and I watched as the words Lucem Somno formed of their own accord. I recognized it as Fred’s handwriting.
“From the second you voice the incantation, the countdown to expiration begins,” George informed us.
I glanced uncertainly at Delphine and tapped the ball with my wand. “Lucem Somno.”
The room around me grew fuzzy, melting away my consciousness like anesthesia. Delphine and George wavered until they faded into a blurry wall of white; the only person besides myself who remained in the scenery was Fred, whose outfit had inexplicably transformed into baggy brown trousers and a puffy white shirt. Three buttons on his shirt were left undone, and a collection of necklaces with heavy gold medallions hanging from them spilled out. A dragon-hide pirate’s hat with gold-plated scales sat atop his head.
Behind him, an image was painting itself before my eyes – black, rolling clouds. Lightning. And the earth was moving under my feet…I was rocking back and forth, unsteady on sea legs. Quite suddenly, my surroundings made perfect sense.
“This way, Hollis!” he crowed, leaping over jagged holes gouged all over the floor of the top deck. We dodged cannons, laughing as we ran with our large trunk of gold and silver hanging between us.
“Give me back my treasure, you scoundrels!” Captain Frogface boomed, shaking her fist in the air. Her eye patch was askew and I could see that all the rumors weren’t without foundation – her eyes were as black as pitch – they were said to mirror the color of her soul. “Filthy stowaways! You’ll never get out of the Bermuda Triangle alive!”
“Watch us!” Fred hooted, his mouth spread in a devious grin.
I could scarcely hear him over the chaos. People were fleeing the ship in droves – diving overboard in every direction and trying to swim as far away as possible. I watched as whirlpools and gigantic octopus tentacles sucked them down into the sea. Frogface’s ship – Tarantallegra – began to creak and groan as it curved anticlockwise. There were wild cyclones spinning out at sea, screaming with wind circulating through fast-moving droplets of water. The shrieking sounded like banshees.
“This is going to get difficult,” Fred shouted. “But we didn’t hide for three weeks in a boiler cupboard to back out now! Run faster, my love!” Cannons fired away, knocking masts into other masts and sending cracked wood splintering down upon us. The cannonballs were like something out of a nightmare; instead of being little brown balls, they were enormous, jagged shapes. It took a moment for me to realize that they were people, their wrists and ankles shackled together to indicate that they were prisoners.
Frogface's mast was effectively pulverized, sending everyone into a panic. Alice the Evil let out a girlish scream and Fred heaved the stolen trunk of jewels up to his chest.
“If you have plans to leave me here and hoard all that treasure to yourself, I’ve got two fists that say otherwise,” I growled.
Fred laughed. “Cool your knickers. I’m only trying to give your arms a rest.”
The pack of bodies was suffocating, our weight pushing the boat further down into the water. We were revolving in circles, churning between cyclones. I watched one of them suck a pirate right off the boat and fling him into space. Fred and I held onto each other, propping ourselves up against wreckage while bodies continued to drop from out of nowhere, sliding down from the opposite end of the tipped boat to fly into the water below. Unfortunately, we'd made quite an error in the direction we'd chosen to flee.
Inferi appeared in thin air, ripping apart the boards of the boat to get at us. They began to engage in combat with the fiestier pirates while everyone else ran around with their arms flailing in the air, screaming nonsense. They were all floundering under pressure, succombing to the Inferi and their flesh-eating teeth; several shrieked from the direction of the cyclones, drowning. It seemed that everyone not clinging to debris for dear life, all balance thrown off by gravity, was drowning. I would never drown, of course. My swagger alone would keep me afloat.
“You no-good, low-down, two-faced snake!” I shouted, hoping he could hear me. “If it’s the last thing I do, Fred ‘Forbidden Love’ Weasley, I’m going to get revenge on you!” I scowled all around me, shoving everyone out of my way and even knocking a few of them to the ground. An Inferi reached out with one shaking hand and I round-house kicked it in the face, making it fly over the ship’s rail and into the water. “Yeah, and stay out!” I yelled.
I would get that damned treasure, one way or another.
Another of Frogface's cannons went off, exploding amid cheers that we'd knocked a huge chunk out of the opposing side's ship. One of Frogface's buccaneers, Four-Eyed Delphine, was manning the cannons and holding her head up high, back rigid and defiant. I was impressed (and slightly perplexed) that she was so determined to go down fighting, especially since she was the most ill-equipped of their lot to do so with both of her legs being wooden pegs and all.
“Scalawags!” Captain Frogface bellowed. A team of Inferi was strapping her to the underside of a life raft. “There are criminals on my ship! Stealing my treasure! After them, you nimrods!”
I caught a glimpse of Fred’s anxious face in the throng, searching me out. His hand still gripped one handle of the trunk, thank bloody goodness. Our eyes met and he raced toward me…
Just then, a raven-hued hippogriff swooped across the ghost of what had once been a mast, pawing madly. The crowd scattered – it was much thinner now, and I could see a tangle of limbs out at sea that indicated that people were now fighting against Inferi – and the hippogriff landed elegantly before us.
“Come on!” Fred hollered gleefully, waving at me.
I didn’t need telling twice. Fred flung himself and the treasure over the creature’s side and helped to haul me in front of him. We grasped the glossy black feathers and the hippogriff beat its hefty wings, rising over the steadily sinking boat. I could feel Fred’s arms around me – I turned my head to face him and he smiled widely.
“We did it!” I said triumphantly. “I never doubted you for a second!”
“With some help from S.S. George," he whispered in my ear. "What ship shall we sink next?” There was a softness in his eyes and he pressed a hand to my cheek, leaning forward…
A haze washed over the scene and dissipated, making my head wobble with vertigo. I refocused my vision and saw that Fred was examining my face. “Side effects are mostly normal,” he murmured, ticking off something on his checklist. “Vacant expression, mild slumping, and much more drooling than usual.”
“That was intense,” I said, turning to the others. “Very exciting.”
Fred knit his eyebrows in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“I thought it was perfectly wonderful!” Delphine sang. “You know, I was doubtful at first, but I really loved it. I could have stayed on that boat with Harry forever.” George took notes as she spoke. “There was a band singing for us and we fed the seagulls bits of our bread crusts.”
A feeling of deep unease rose from the pit of my stomach. I certainly hoped no one expected me to divulge who else starred in my daydream or what it was about – the mere thought of it made my stomach tighten up, queasy and agitated. I glanced down at my Daydream Charm ball, and noticed that the little floating triangle inside had drifted down to the bottom; the wispy blue substance had been replaced by inky black liquid. I sloshed the contents around, but the incantation did not reappear.
“Harry and I were just finishing our dinner,” Delphine reminisced happily. “It was such lovely weather, too. We had the entire top deck to ourselves and I was just saying that I fancied a walk to gaze at the stars when I snapped out of it.” She glared at George. “I want another one.”
“You can have as many as you can pay for when it’s available to the general public,” George declared. “It seems that we’ve got them about sorted, too – the rest of you saw similar images, correct?”
“Oh, yes,” one of the boys gushed. “Matilda Clark and I were together at the railing and dolphins were jumping out of the water. It was great.”
Delphine rolled her eyes. I distinctly heard her mutter something about Matilda being a promiscuous buffalo.
“I was lying on the top deck, watching the sun set,” the other boy added. “It was really relaxing. That Ravenclaw girl in third year that I like was serving me iced pumpkin juice from a diamond-encrusted goblet.”
“Brilliant,” Fred replied, evidently pleased. He glanced up at me expectantly, and I could feel my face start to heat up. “So, Hollis, was your daydreaming experience satisfactory?”
“Ehh…it was….” I grappled for something to say. “It was nice.”
George chuckled. “I’ll bet it was. Care to share any details with us? Did the person your imagination brought with you retain all of his normal characteristics?”
I could have sworn I saw Fred’s eyes narrow slyly. I could feel warmth prickling my neck. In about two seconds, Delphine was going to say something embarrassing, I could just sense it. “You still have drool on your chin!” she cackled.
She never lets me down, that Delphine. I wiped at my face, shooting her the darkest look I could muster. “Well, actually, I didn’t daydream about anyone.”
Delphine gave a very loud snigger. “Anyone?” George repeated.
I chose to look at the wall, my neck flushing so furiously that it felt like I was burning. Even Moaning Myrtle was gazing at me strangely; Fred tilted his head to one side, skeptical. “I was alone,” I said lamely. “I was eating…mutton.”
“Mutton?” George was quick to pounce, his quill at the ready.
“Loads of mutton.” I nodded my head, trying to be casual. “Definitely. It was fabulous, I had a whole table of it to myself and everything. Yeah.”
“And you were completely alone?” Fred questioned, his eyes glinting oddly. “This is interesting, indeed.” He folded his arms. “We might have to try it again, then. Just to see if anything changes.”
“Err.” I looked from one twin to the other. “I forgot until just now – my memory was all foggy. But Montague was there.” I wasn’t even sure how that name had popped into my head – but the second it entered my brain, I spoke it aloud.
“Montague?” Fred choked. “You had a fantasy about Montague?”
“Sounds more like a nightmare,” George said lightly. “You’re supposed to experience a serene, peaceful cruise on a luxury ship with someone you find attractive. So as long as you can attest to witnessing that scenario, we unfortunately cannot judge you for your poor taste in men.”
I picked at my sleeve nervously. “There might’ve been one or two pirates –”
George’s eyes widened. “Pirates? Now there’s an idea!” He scribbled frantically on his clipboard, eyes alight.
“– and also a couple of dead people hanging around…”
“You’re sure it was Montague?” Fred interjected, studying me intently.
“Well, I want another one!” Delphine spouted. “As soon as possible. Only I thought it was too short. There wasn’t enough time for Harry and me to have a proper snog.”
Fred pretended to gag. “This prototype wears off loads quicker than the real version,” George explained. “So yours were only ten minutes long, because of the time restraint here. Speaking of which…” He examined his watch. “We’ve got to be going – we’re meeting with another group of testers in the Trophy Room in fifteen minutes and we like to be prepared.”
“So if any of you experience any side-effects later on, be sure to let us know all of the gory details,” Fred ordered sagely. They were both so businesslike that I wanted to laugh. “But take care not to mention this to…oh….say…Umbridge. Or anyone else, for that matter.”
“In other words, keep your traps shut!” George finished brightly. “Because we’ll just deny everything and then switch out all of your shampoo with Bulbadox Powder. And quite possibly replace your teeth with toadstools.”
One of the second year boys gave a tiny squeak.
George passed out a round of shiny Galleons. Delphine ran her expert fingers over her coin, determining whether or not it was a fake. When she was content that it was not, she pocketed it greedily and allowed her eyes to drift to my own Galleon, her face filled with deep longing.
Delighted with their spoils, the two second years left Moaning Myrtle’s toilet in fantastic moods. Delphine, although happy with her money, was still pouting because she couldn’t continue her star-gazing hallucination with Harry Potter. “Can’t I have just one more?” she pleaded with George, perched behind his shoulder while he packed the clipboards into his schoolbag. “Shouldn’t there be a discount for people who test your things? It’s a lot to ask of someone – trying a dodgy product when you don’t know all of the effects yet.”
“You just tried one for free,” George said tersely over his shoulder, “and we paid you for it!”
I turned away, facing the door, and discovered Fred standing very near to me. My heart thumped violently, and he leaned in and whispered, “It wasn’t really Montague, was it?”
I couldn’t answer. My mouth dropped open, frozen and stupid. Fred grinned. “I thought not.”
George joined him, briskly exiting the room. “Cheers!”
“Oh, look at this,” Delphine remarked, pointing at a wrapped sweet on the floor.
“Eww. It’s been on the floor in a loo.” I motioned toward the door. “Come on, let’s go.”
Astonishingly, she bent over and picked it up, sliding it into her pocket next to the Galleon. “If they won’t give me more of these daydream-y things, then I’ll just take one of their sweets,” she informed me happily. From behind her, Moaning Myrtle floated around one of the taps, smiling maliciously at the back of Delphine’s head.