It was a usual morning weekday morning in the great hall as Tommy and Céildh walked blearily into the Great Hall.
Tom stifled a yawn as he and Céilidh sat down at the Gryffindor table.
"You were up late." Bill said with a laugh. "Long night of studying?" His eyebrow arched suggestively.
"If you must know," Tom said with sleepy grumble, "We were up late working on some new strategies for our game with Hufflepuff coming up."
"So that's what they're calling it these days." Bill grinned mischievously until Cee's foot connected with his shin.
"It's tay early fur ye tae be an arse." Céilidh snarled as she pored herself a cup of coffee.
"Okay, okay." The red headed prefect laughed as he rubbed his shin.
Danny strolled up and dropped into the seat next to Bill. "Guid mornin', cousin," He said, grinning at Bill. Looking over to Tommy and Céildh he added "Mornin' brother 'n' sister o' mines. How's hings wi' th' lions o' Hogwarts?"
Both Céilidh and Tom groaned in unison.
"They had a late night ." Bill said using air quotes. For his trouble he received another kick to the shin.
The Ravenclaw chuckled. "A'm sure thay wur putting thair time tae guid uise. Quidditch is a complex gam," he said with a wide grin. "A' that weaving in 'n' oot, in 'n' oot. Grabbing th' stick tight, trying tae pat th' quaffle in th'... OWCH!"
Céilidh had delivered another kick, this time to Danny's shin while Bill tried to stifle his laughter. Wisely, Dan decided to change the subject. "How's th' family, Bill? th' twins excited fur schuil neist year?"
"Ready to meet you and MacFoozle is more like it." Bill laughed. "Mum says I shouldn't have told them half the stories that I have."
"Ainlie hauf?" Orlando said as he sat down beside Cee. "Ye haven't bin telling thaim th' richt stories."
"Well I can't give them too many ideas." Bill laughed. "You haven't met those two."
As the assembled teenagers all laughed there was a rustling above them as the school's owls flew into the Great Hall dropping the daily mail for the students. Several shiny paper birds broke off from among the flurry of beating feathered wings. A formation swooped around and headed in the direction of Tom, Bill and the others. They glided gracefully, and as they dropped toward their recipients their wings folded in, leaving silver envelopes in the hands of all of them except Orlando.
Tom took his in his hands and turned it over. On the silver paper was bright green almost glowing writing. It read:
Master Michael Thomas Llewelyn
Turning the envelope over and opening it, he pulled out a folded piece of parchment and read it.
Dear Mister Llewelyn,
I would like to formally invite you to a social gathering in my office on Saturday night at seven o'clock. Please send your answer to me by Friday morning.
Prof. Horace Slughorn
Tom stared at the letter, reading it several times, before looking up at the rest. "Did all of yours say the same thing?"
"Social gathering?" said Foozle with a tone of piqued curiosity. He was looking over Tommy's shoulder. He looked around the table, each of the faces rereading their letters. "Wi Slughorn? Extrae credit fer potions?"
"I wouldn't think so." Holding the silver envelope in her hand, Rose pointed back to the Ravenclaw table where she'd been sitting until the dramatic delivery and then to the other house tables. "Look around. There's no possible way we all need extra credit."
"Nade, thare's nae wey ony o ye need ony special credit." He wagged a finger at the others around him.
From the large wooden doors, Nicolette walked toward her friends; a stack of books in one hand and a now familiar silver envelope in the other. Her eyes shifted across the room to the Slytherin table as several of its members fell silent and glared. Her slipper hushed steps quickened to join the safety of the others. "I thought this was from you at first." She took a seat near the Hufflepuff boy.
"Wha wad Ah try an trick ye intae gaen tae Slughorn's office?" His scarred brow peaked a little. "It's hardly the maist inneresting place in the castle tae visit."
"Because it was a bird." The girl laughed a little and rolled her eyes. "I knew that it wasn't when I read it."
"Wait." Tommy said realization, dawning on him. "I remember Benny saying something about Professor Slughorn inviting him to a parties with other students his fifth year before the he retired."
"Oi." Danny didn't look happy. "Ah'm nae shuir o' hiving a stuffy gatherin' wi' a perfesser."
Céilidh looked around. Of their group, Orlando was the only one who had not received an invitation to the Professor's party. She frowned, "Ah wonder whit th' criteria ur tae git an invite, seeing as it looks lik' oor mon in Hufflepuff seems tae be left aff th' guest list."
"Whit kin Ah say?" Foozle refilled his mug with steaming coffee from the carafe, "Ahm special."
"You certainly are." Tommy ruffled Orlando's hair.
"You guys got 'em to, huh? It was only a matter of time." Laun smiled knowingly as he came over to join his friends.
"You knew this was coming?" Tom questioned Laun.
"Well, you know that the Professor is an old pal of my folks... Well, more my dad, I don't think my mom knows what a mate is. Well, anyways; he's always telling me stories of his favorite pupils, his proteges and all the relationships he's cultivated. The parties are his ways of getting there."
"Soonds lik' fin." Cee rolled her eyes.
"Well, it means he thinks we have promising futures, that we have talent, he only picks those he thinks are gonna make it big." Laun grinned.
Rose frowned. "That seems awfully..." She paused, searching for a word to describe her thoughts now that she knew what her Hufflepuff friend had been left out of. "Short sighted. Orlando's just as promising as anyone here."
"Lando didn't get one?" Laun said wide-eyed, before catching himself, "Well he is old, he must be slipping." Laun smiled encouragingly.
The Hufflepuff Scot sipped at his steaming mug. His lip curled. "Ah lik tae keep ma potential hidden frae perfessers an the lik." Foozle shot Rose a wink from across the table. "Keeps expectations wee."
"Danny got an invite," she pointed out.
Danny shrugged. "My da is a Yank an' a diplomat." He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Ah'd guess Ah'm invited acause o' my connections, nae my potential."
"Who is he to decide who has potential or who'll be what? He good guy at heart but I mean he's not psychic... I think..."
"You're brilliant, Danny. But so is Orlando." Deciding that she didn't want to be too hard on Professor Slughorn while he was still a new face, Rose chewed on a curl until she found a positive light to shine on the conversation. "I'm sure the invites will change a little after Professor Slughorn gets to know us a little bit better."
"You're right Rose and until then, I'm pretty sure we're allowed to invite guests once in a while to these parties!" Laun smiled.
"He would be foolish not to. Exceptional people have exceptional friends." The girl dabbed her croissant with honey, paused a moment, and added a dollop to her tea as well.
"Whoa, whoa whoa." Foozle held up his hands. "Wha are we trying tae git Foozle tae a," he looked back down at Tommy's invitation from Slughorn, "social gaithering wi a perfesser again?"
"Cause we love you." Tom wrapped his arm around Orlando's neck and pulled him close.
Nicolette brandished her spoon at her cousin. "Hands off. Go fondle your own Scot. This one's mine."
"Yeah you're right." Tom said releasing Orlando from the hug. "Besides he's just so unexceptional."
"Aye, tha's Orlandae MacFoozle fer ye," he slipped his arm around the waist of his girlfriend. "Perfitly unexecptional." A little wink flashed at Nicolette. "In aw the richt weys."
Those playful silver irises rolled in exaggerated exasperation. "Unexceptional people don't find themselves in trouble a tenth as often as you do." Nic leaned into his side a little, poking him with the spoon she had used to threaten Tommy moments before.
"Trauchle?" The Scot wore a face of mock innocence. "Ah niver git intae trauchle. 'Trauchle free sin eighty-three, tha's whit thay say aboot me."
"Two thousand eighty-three, maybe." She peeled the crisp sticky outside from her pastry and stuffed it into the Scot's mouth.
Foozle's cheek stuck out like chipmunk. "Anlie a cannie, cautious wizard lik me shoud be sae jammy tae bide sae lang," replied the Hufflepuff.
"Sae," he snagged a few extra pieces of bacon from the platter between Rose and Tom. "onybody need an illicit trip intae in ogsmeade fer a nice new ootfit fer thair dinner?" He stuffed the strip into his broad grin. "Ah micht juist ken a lad."
Candle light flickered across the granite walls of Professor Slughorn's office. Trophies covered almost every inch of the small office. One wall was dedicated to pictures, but these weren't just any pictures, they were his most prized trophies. The pictures were of his collection of former students who all were successful, prominent people in the wizarding community. They all waived and smiled at the students as they filed in.
"The Professor sure does love his former students." Tom said with a bit of a laugh as he stared at the picture of Gwenog Jones.
Rose, who had gotten somewhat airsick watching Gwenog fly around the photograph, had turned to look at the group assembled in the office. "This is completely non-creepy, right?" She inched closer to Danny. "Professors do this... sometimes."
A wry smile flashed across Danny's face. "Ah've done a bit o' researchin' on oor Perfesser Slughorn. He's a knack fra finding unique talents... an' political connections."
"Oh." She nodded in understanding but decided that right by Danny's elbow was still the safest place to stand. "I just hope he has good food for us."
"He has good everything, food, clothes, houses, brooms, wine and what not, if its not completely expensive and simply the best, he doesn't own it." Laun laughed.
"If the Professor is looking for unique talents," Peter Porsblat snarled at Danny, "then what the hell are you doing here?"
Rose's green eyes grew frosty as she faced down the Slytherin boy. "What's he doing here? Let's see... an auror and the American Attache to the Mystery of Magic's Department of Magical Cooperation for parents. High marks on his OWLs. The inventor of those notebooks you see all over the school, not to mention many other creative inventions. A talented duelist. And, unlike some people, he's even nice to members of other houses. And oh yeah..." A little smile pulled at her lips. "He was Father Christmas. I think some of that might have impressed Professor Slughorn just a little bit."
"Aye, but aside frae my Da, aw that kin be said for Foozle, tae." Danny's continuance turned dark. "An' he wasnae invited."
The tiny blonde pinched him in the arm. "We're talking about you right now, and you're brilliant. So hush."
Peter stared at them looking like he was trying to form a snappy comment back. At that moment though, Another door opened on another side of the room. "Welcome one and all!" The Professor beamed from under his walrus like mustache. "I am thrilled to see you all made it. Please, please have a seat." He waived his hand at a table that took up almost three quarters of the office. "Food will be served soon."
"Thank you for inviting us, Professor." Tommy gave him a grin as he and Cee pulled into a seat at the table.
"No," the older man's eyes sparkled a little and he waved off the notion with a meaty hand, "no thanks at all needed." He pulled out a chair near what might have been the head of the somewhat round table. "I just like to get to know my students a little better."
"Over the years I've seen so many rise to such heights." He looked over to the part of his little office that was adorned with all of the photos. His chubby face beamed and his fingers folded across his large belly. "I like to think I'd had a little hand in helping them achieve their dreams. Well, or so they tell me, anyway. Just happy to do what I can."
He picked up a bottle and poured some of its contents into a goblet. "So much potential in Hogwarts. Just look around this room!" He passed the wine down to his left, "Why, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a future Minister of Magic sitting at this very table, eh Laun?"
Laun blushed. "That very well could be, sir. I mean we are all, they are all so talented."
"So I'm learning. And no need to be modest, my dear boy." The big man leaned over on his armrest and wagged a finger, "In fact my old student, Dorivan Groomb, is currently serving as High Assistant to the Minister herself, if you're interested I'm sure I could put the two of you together. You'll be graduating soon, never too early to start thinking about the future."
"You mean there's a chance I could actually meet her? The Minister herself?" Laun was practically drooling with excitement.
"Meet her?" His belly shook with laughter, "I'm talking about working for her! Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic positions are hard to come by, but Dorivan has always taken my recommendations quite seriously. He's a sharp young man." Horace took his wine goblet and drank, leaving a rosy shine to the lower bits of his great mustache. "I'll send him an owl in the morning, I think."
"That would be amazing sir! I'm honored!"
Cadyryeith Probert spoke up. "Professor, may I just say what an honour it is to be here. My parents send their regards."
"Ah yes, yes." Professor Slughorn said with a laugh in his voice. "How are those dear people? Your father helped cure me of a terrible case of Groiterborg last winter with his potion making talents."
Probert beamed. "He says he learned all he knows from you, sir."
Slughorn's smile belied much of his humbleness, "Well he's certainly come a long way since he was in my class."
The house elves had entered the room and went about the business of handing out pates. Horace seemed to pay them little mind as one slipped beside him to set his dinner before him. "Tell me, Cad, do you share your father's interest? I'm finding our dear Ambrosia is quite the hand at potions already."
The little blonde's cheeks colored. As nice as it was to take the attention away from Cad, especially after the way he'd pushed his way into Laun's conversation, compliments about her efforts in potions were not something she was used to receiving. "I found that as soon as I stopped telling myself that I really didn't like the subject, things got much easier. I had a similar revelation with Transfiguation." She smiled and easily shifted the conversation to someone more deserving of the professor's attention. "Of course, having a friend like Tommy doesn't hurt either. He's amazing. Did you read his article in Transfiguation Today?"
"Did you really?" Horace shifted his attention to Tom. "I confess, some of my reading has... gone slack in my retirement. Well, I can't say I'm surprised, Tom. I must say Professor McGonagall has lauded your praises since I arrived back at Hogwarts. Mind you, that's all without your achievement as an animagus," he laughed adding, "and such a young animagus at that!"
The potioneer took his fork and stabbed at a roasted, golden potato. "In fact, it's been a good twenty years since one was registered with the ministry and here we have not one, but three!" He ate cut it and ate a bite. "And all of them here at our table. Remarkable, you know."
Tom could feel his cheeks turn red. He gave the substitute potions master a polite smile "Thank you sir. If I didn't have a teacher like Professor McGonagall, I doubt I would have gotten this far."
"So, Tom," continued the Professor, "do we have further aspirations for publishing? Perhaps a career in the academics. It seems you're already quite the tutor."
Tom cocked his head to one side. "You know sir, I hadn't actually thought about that." Tom took a bit from his plate. "I had plans to go into healing."
The place went quiet for a few moments then Tom spoke up again. "Sir if I may?"
"Of course my boy, of course." He grinned.
"Why was Orlando MacFoozle not invited." Tom said as his eyes scanned his friends.
A few choked laughs flickered around the table. There was a barely contained "Seriously?" from Peter Porsblat. Cad rolled his eyes.
"Orlando Who now?" The professor's round head seemed to cock to the side curiously.
Quietly, as if easing into the whole public association between herself and the mentioned Hufflepuff, Nicolette Ainscough spoke for the first time during dinner. "The son of two extremely accomplished Aurors and rather accomplished in his own right. Definitely making waves in the wizarding community." The girl smiled as if at a private joke.
"He's also the grandson of Diane MacFoozle," Tom leaned forward his eyes murderously staring into Porsblatt, "one of the top Charms innovators of the twentieth century." Tom leaned back in his chair. "I'm sorry sir, I don't mean to show ill manners, but Orlando should have been invited."
Slughorn seemed unconcerned with any impropriety. He seemed to think on this. "Diane Magoon. A brilliant witch. Her passing was a great loss to magic, very sad. She shared quite a few of her spells with me while working on them." His brow furrowed as he took another drink of his goblet. "And you say her grandson is in my class?"
"Aye," Céilidh began, a slight edge creeping into her voice, "he's table-mates wi' oor laddie Danny, 'ere." She directed a venomous look first at Probert, then Porsblat. "'N' he's git mair talent in his pinky toe than some sittin' at this buird."
"Now now," Horace Slughorn waved his big hands a little, seeking to calm the mood around the table. "I like these dinners to be a place of support. Camaraderie, you know." He seemed a little concerned and his light green eyes shifted about the table. "Hogwarts is full of bright students. In the past I got to spend a little more time getting to know them before a dinner."
Feeling a little bit sorry that dinner wasn't going exactly the way their professor had imagined it, Rose spoke up and addressed the older gentleman with a soft smile. "You came to be our potions professor under unusual circumstances, to put it mildly. I think getting to know each other is a great idea, especially with the goal of unity. I know particularly in my own year, we have many strong friendships that cross between houses. The more time you spend with us, the more impressed you'll be. I'm sure of it."
"Very diplomatic. Tom whispered with a laugh in Rose's ear.
"You were making him feel bad," she whispered back with a little pout. "He's our host."
"For the record," his voice still a whisper, "I merely asked a question." He punctuated his sentence with a smile.
Between Danny and Laun, Nicolette was politely covering her mouth with her napkin to hide a quiet laugh while passing it off as wiping her mouth. Her house brother looked over with an almost casual curiosity.
Reading his expression she replied, "I have it on good authority that Orlando would be thrilled at being a topic of conversation over dinner here."
"That's wonderful to hear, Ambrosia." A smile had curled up under the bristly mustache that gave Horace Slughorn his walrus-like look. "Too much importance has been over houses in Hogwart's long years. Never here around this table though. I'd say many many long friendships were built here."
The sunny blonde beamed. "That's an impressive legacy to leave, Professor. Of course we'll remember what you teach us in class too," she added with a grin.
A snort came from Peter Porsblatt. He gave Rose a snarling smile as he picked up the golden goblet of wine that sat in front of him. He took a deep sip before speaking. "Finally found a way to be the teacher's pet to the potions master to, eh, Sheridan." He said with a mirthless laugh. "You must be pleased?"
"Don't be silly, Peter," she answered with an innocent familiarity that she knew would drive him crazy. "All teachers love me. Didn't you know that?"
The group around Rose all laughed.
"Yeah," Tom gave a wide grin. "You've met Rose before right?"
"Aye." Céilidh gave Peter an evil grin. "Tae ken Rose is tae loue her." She tilted her own gauntlet and gave Peter a wink.
The Head Boy's cheeks filled with angry burning color. His teeth gnashed behind his lips as his eyes burned into her.
"So," Slughorn coughed. "Miss Raven, tell me how are your wonderful parents? Her father Josef is a high ranking official in the Department of Magical Law, don't you know?" He turned and said to Laun who sat on his side, his moustache flapping from his breath as he talked.
"Oh they are wonderful." Mariella shot a simpering smile at the people across the table across from her and then back to Professor Slughorn. "As a matter of fact," her cold green eyes landed on Nicolette. "I just got an owl from him saying that there was a complaint over Christmas of some half blood kidnapping a pure blood girl from her home."
Nicolette stared at her plate, her eyebrows arching. She said nothing though.
"Some half blood? What does the alleged kidnapper's blood status have to do with anything?" Laun asked curtly.
Mariella made a tutting sound, "Laun." She said like a mother talking to a toddler. "Your mother must be ashamed. You almost belong in the Weasley family as much of a blood traitor as you are."
Cad and Porsblat both snorted.
Bill, who's cheeks turned an angry opened his mouth but was cut off by Laun.
"Well then dye my hair red and paint on some freckles! Because I loves me some muggles! Muggles, muggles, muggles!" Laun shouted, "Oooh scary isn't? I happen to hold no ill will towards fellow human beings who have done absolutely nothing to negatively effect my life!"
"And that is more than can be said of some people in this school." Nic finally raised her eyes and returned an unimpressed look to the three Slytherin across the table. She gave a polite smile to the Professor and poured herself a fresh cup of tea. "There are many gifted students who were not invited and several positively mundane students who were but you have to start somewhere." She dropped a sugar cube in her cup to punctuate her statement.
"And you, my dear?" Their professor tried changing the subject with his question to the Ravenclaw. "How was your break? Your parents weren't at the Christmas party. I trust the alternative was enjoyable."
"Oh," she took a sip of her tea, "didn't you hear Mariella? Though, as you are sure to see reflected in her grades, she is terrible at getting facts correct." Her cup clinked against the saucer. "I was, in fact, rescued by a talented wizard." Her fingers gingerly touched the lace collar she had taken to wearing around her neck.
Professor Slughorn spluttered with nerves as he pulled his napkin up to his lips. "My word." His voice was barely audible and tittered nervously.
"Pay no attention to them, Professor." Cad smiled at the Professor that sat next to him. "Most of these others have quite a love of muggles and do not not understand the finer points of protecting their bloodline."
"It's not about protecting a ficticious bloodline Cad," Tom said with a look of disgust for the fifth year, "the simple truth is, it's about respecting all of humanity not just one little segment."
"It is interesting, Professor," Reagan said off handedly as she dabbed her mouth with a napkin, "in the United States, houses and especially blood don't matter as much as they do here in England."
"Weel," the Ravenclaw said with a smile. "That micht depend oan whaur yer. Mah ain family in th' States wis divided ower blood 'n' dark magic. An' Ah spent a summer in mah Da's auld schuil, whilk is segmented intae houses."
"That's right." Slughorn focused on Danny trying to get things back on track. "I've met your father, Mister DuMorne. Brilliant man in the realm of International Diplomacy."
Danny nodded. "He originally studied law enforcement wi' some guid success, planned tae be a Warden," he said, sitting his knife on his plate and fiddling with his fork. "He's a richt guid duelist tae."
"Too bad it wasn't hereditary." Cad smirked.
"Oh," Horace Slughorn turned toward Cad, "I've heard Daniel is quite accomplished in that area. Professor Flitwick is quite impressed. In fact quite a few the duelists in his competition have apparently exceeded his expectations. Most exciting!"
"An' some o' 'em were felled by ane spell," Danny said softly.
Not hearing Dan's comment, Slughorn lifted his goblet. "Could be quite a few talented aurors being born here. Of course there's much more involved than dueling."
This time Danny spoke loud enough for Slughorn to hear. "Aye, mah Da told me aboot combat apparation." He made eye contact with Todd and Céilidh. "Suppose tae be pernicketie"
The old man's brow furrowed beneath his bushy brow. "Per...?"
"Difficult and precise," Nicolette translated for the professor.
"Ah!" He nodded with a laugh. "Very. Beyond me even in my youth, not that I was of the mind, mind you. Not my cup of tea."
The evening went on, and Professor Slughorn kept the conversations going, speaking with each student in turn. He asked Probert to explain what his mother had been doing recently, then briefly asked Bill Weasly about his father's role in the Ministry's new Muggle Protection proposals.
During dessert the conversation began to wind down, and the Potions Master glanced at his hourglass. The sand was running very quickly, and the last grains began to trickle away. Slughorn announced that it was getting late, and the students said their goodbyes.
The night was over and Tom, Céilidh and the rest of the group marched out of Professor Slughorn's first floor office. As the rest of the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins headed toward their common rooms, the others with Laun in tow headed toward the main stairs.
"Well that was certainly interesting." Tom said as he loosened his tie. "Anyone else feel like they just went through a job interview at the ministry?"
The corner of Danny's mouth turned up as he took a seat on the bannister. "Ah just want tae kin wha told Slughorn aboot the spells Ah used in th' duel..." As if to punctuate his point about American magic, he tapped the banister with his wand and muttered "Upsidasium" which sent him sliding up the balustrade to the top of the stairs.
"Show off." Tommy called up to him.
"I still can't believe it..." Laun muttered to himself, "Millicent Bagnold herself!"
Danny shook his head. "Ye wid git that jab oan yer ain, Laun. Ye dinnae ony recommendation frae yin o' Slughorn's pet students."
"He's got a point, Laun." Tom threw his arm around Laun. "You are an amazing wizard."
"I am, but so are you guys! Can you imagine us as the creme de le creme of Wizarding society?" The others could practically see the sparkles in Laun's eyes as he beamed from ear to ear.
Chuckling, Danny leaned against the lintel post and waited for the others to reach the top of the stairs. "Wha wants tae be th' creme de la creme?" he asked. "Ah'd ower be th' cratur de la whiskey."
"Well said." Tom nodded.
"Ah cuid uise some o' th' cratur richt noo." The red headed Gryffindor yawned as she trudged up the stairs.
"He barely spoke to me at all after he asked me what my parents did." Bill frowned as he followed Céilidh up the stairs.
"I wouldn't worry about that too much, William old man," Tom threw his arm around the red headed prefect, "I love you just the way you are."
"Watch it, Ginger," Danny said, handing a small flask to Céilidh, "Ah think Tommy haes his een oan anither rid heid."
"What can I say?" Tom laughed and planted a joking kiss on Bill's temple "I love red heads."
"At least they lou ye back." On the next landing Orlando was leaning against the bannister. He smiled down at them. "Ah heard a body say whiskey."
Céilidh's lower lip jutted out and she blew, forcing her bangs to fly up, "Aye, a wee nip a' aroond. 'N' by wee, ah mean a double. At least fur me..." The redhead waved her wand and conjured up several squat glasses that floated in the air. Unscrewing the flask that Danny had given her, Céilidh poured a generous measure of amber liquid into the glass in front of her before passing the flask to her Hufflepuff brother.
Foozle took the silver from her and plucked a glass out of the air. "Soonds lik ye haen quite the dinner." He filled the rocks glass up several fingers worth. He reached down and handed Danny's flask to Nicolette.
Brushing fingers in passing, Nic did the same as the others. Handing the flask off, The girl swept her wand over her glass and turned the brown liquid to a deep plum. Her eyes rolled back as she took a deep drink and sat on the floor. "I don't even know why I went."
Orlando came down a few steps. He stood at her side and Nicolette leaned against his leg, her head propped beside his knee. "Fur Ah ken whit wis oan the menue an the fairn wis gauntae be magic." He took the flask from her and passed it along to Tommy who in turn took it upon himself to fill the rest of the glasses. "An fer tis aye fin tae an opportunity tae stick in the craw o' a bas lik Porsblat or Probert or Raven."
"That's hardly the way it turned out." Nicolette sighed and closed her eyes. "Mariella felt the need to bring up my kidnapping."
"She wid." He reached down and gently stroked her dark black hair back across her scalp. "She's jealous. Ainlie the guards at Azkaban wid be innerested in kidnapping her."
"I don't think the dementors would even want that cow." Bill said angrilly as he leaned against the banister.
"Try being related to her." Tom laughed as he took a drink. "It's bloody torture."
"Elle est une chienne." The dark-haired Ravenclaw huffed, blowing her bangs up.
Orlando laughed. "Tae richt."
Céilidh tipped her glass back, draining it in two swallows. The heat of the previous hours was replaced by a wholly more welcome warmth. She smacked her lips and nudged Danny for a refill. "If naethin' else, th' forenicht wull surely mak' dueling Porsblatt th'morra a' th' mair interesting."
"Do me a favor "accidentally" mess up his face somehow during fight!" Laun winked and raised his glass.
"Houfer will ye tell?" Orlando smirked and drank a large gulp of his whiskey.
Smiling behind his glass, he caught the bobbing curls of gold rising up from the dark stairwell. "Still," he leaned on the bannister, "it coudnae been aw bad."
"It really wasn't bad at all," Rose answered, finally joining her friends on the stairs.
Danny looked down at Ambrosia and hopped on the bannister again, sliding down and hopping off beside her. "Brosia! Whaur ye bin?"
The sunny blonde beamed at her friend. Without thinking about it, she put a hand on his arm to steady him... just in case he wasn't quite done sliding off things yet. "Oh, I told Professor Slughorn that two wands make light work and that my mom would be horrified if I didn't offer to help the host clean up. So he let me stay." She shrugged and gave a little laugh. "And I was able to reassure him that we all really did have a nice time but that some old... um... habits are hard to break."
"That's our Rose." Tom threw his arm around Rose and kissed her on the forehead.
The tiny Ravenclaw gladly returned the hug, snuggling into the crook of her friend's arm. "Well, he's fresh out of retirement. I didn't want him to feel discouraged."
"Naebody is gauntae be discourage wi' ye aroond, hen," Danny said with a smile.
Fighting back a blush, Rose returned her housemate's smile. "He was awfully impressed with you, you know."
"Because you're awfully impressive, silly,' she told him with a laugh.
"So does that mean we're all in for next time? Though that of course means interacting with those small minded twits again... while trying to eat..."
Tom shrugged. "I guess. I didn't see much of a point in it."
Leaning against the railing Danny felt Rose lean against him tentatively. "Mebbes," the Ravenclaw man began, "Mebbes it's a sort o' way tae get us tae meet people nae in oor own hoose." He looked around at the group and added, "Nae that we need it, but..."
There was a raspy mewing at Tom's feet as he was about to speak. All looked down to see the dreaded dust colored fur and skeletal body of Mrs. Norris. She turned her lamp like eyes up at all of them and mewed again.
Tommy swore under his breath as they could hear the wheezing and shuffling coming down the corridor.
"Students out of bed." Filch wheezed happily. "I'll have all of you in detention for sure."
"Mister Filch," Bill's voice rang out through the hallway, "we all just left Professor Slughorn's dinner party."
"All of you?" His eyes narrowed on Orlando. He pulled a list out of his pocket. "I don't see his name on my list." He pointed a bony finger at the Hufflepuff.
"Nae." Orlando shook his head. He crouched down and scratched Mrs. Norris on behind the ear. "Nae, Ah wis juist coming back frae tha big ruim wi aw the beuks. It gits sae quiet in thare tha A juist felled asleep in the corner."
Nicolette chuckled. "The Library."
Foozle snapped his fingers. "Tha's the ane. Missed dinner completely, Ah guess."
"A likely story," He sniffed heavily, "just like you and that other miscreant didn't blow up the Prefect's Bathroom last year." He sneered victoriously.
The Scot groaned, looking down into the cat's bright yellow eyes. "He still cannae let that gae, can he?"
"We wis aquitted, Mister Filch." Danny said with an innocent smile. "An' we were jes' headin' up tae oor beds."
His eyes sparkled as he threw his arm around the little blonde leaning against him. "Ah've e'en gat a Prefect tae escort me."
"Oh no!" Filch's sneer turned into a snarl. "I know you all are up to something. Turn out your pockets."
Rose looked around at their sizable group of friends. "We'd be happy to follow your instructions, Mr. Filch," she agreed brightly. "Naturally, you'll want to check all of our pockets. Then, of course, you'll want to walk all us back to our own common rooms so you can explain to the heads of our houses why we're getting back so much later than expected. Slytherin is closest, so you'll need to take us all there first. Then you can escort us to Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, and the Ravenclaw tower. I'm sure we'll all finally be safely in our beds in only an hour or so. Right?"
The old man's eyes narrowed on the blonde Ravenclaw. For a long time he considered the girl before talking. "Fine. This once. Get out of my sight before I take you in front of the Headmaster. Come on Mrs. Norris." With one more evil glare, the care taker hobbled away.
"Mr. Filch. Wait. Are you sure you don't want to escort all of us up to the Headmaster right now?" she called sweetly.
All the sixth years sniggered as Filch stalked away. "That was impressive, Rose. I say that deserves one last toast."
"Aye." Cee grabbed the flask and passed it around one last time. "May the hinges o frien'ship ne'er rust, nor the wings o' love lose a feather!"
Fly Falcons Fly!