Written for Christine's birthday...and in honor of The Grint's stoner hairdo.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by...
Harry hadn't taken his dad's old invisibility cloak out of the trunk for two years - not since Sirius had . . . died - but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Something was not right with Ron. He'd been acting so strange recently: spending all his free time alone in the Room of Requirement, sneaking out of Gryffindor Tower in the middle of the night, and so edgy one day and so spacey the next that Harry had started to think that someone must have been casting multiple Confundus spells on him in secret.
If Harry had been the only one to notice the change in his friend, he might have been able to stop worrying. However, with the way Hermione kept sneaking furtive glances at Ron whenever the three of them were together, he knew he wasn't alone in his concern, which was why he found himself huddled under his invisibility cloak and sneaking after one of his best friends at 3:00 in the morning.
His concern grew even greater when he saw Ron stop by the Hump Backed Witch, draw his wand, and slip through the narrow opening. What in the world was he doing? Unless he was planning on burglarizing Honeydukes for some weird reason, there was nothing to do in Hogsmeade at this time of the night. Plus, it was the full moon! Ron couldn't have forgotten that. No, Remus wasn't any threat - Ron knew that - but no one knew if there were other werewolves around who weren't lucky enough to have someone like the headmaster guilting a certain Potions expert into preparing a supply of Wolfsbane every 28 days.
Harry watched as the gap by the statue closed again, then he counted to twenty to give Ron enough of a headstart so that Harry could follow him without being heard. He was halfway through the opening when he felt a hand grab his shoulder. Damn! Which one was it? Filch or Snape? Either way, he was a dead man.
He slipped the cloak off his head and turned slowly around.
"Yes, it's me, you ridiculous boy," she hissed. "Don't you know that if you'd been caught by one of the staff instead of me, you'd probably be expelled."
"I wasn't thinking of that," he whispered. "I just had to see where Ron was . . . ."
"I know," she said quietly. "Me, too." Hermione nudged Harry all the way through the opening, then followed behind him and held him back until the gap closed again. "I'm really worried, Harry. You don't think he might be under Imperius or something, do you?"
Harry frowned. "I don't think it's an Unforgiveable, but something's not right with him. I just have to know, that's all." Hermione nodded, then she and Harry started walking down the long underground tunnel that led to Hogsmeade.
Despite the fact that they were walking in the dark, they were able to stay close to Ron, who was making no effort to keep quiet.
"What's that he's singing?" asked Harry softly.
"I don't know," Hermione answered. "I keep thinking I've heard it, but I don't know where. It's definitely not the Weird Sisters, though, and I thought they were the only group Ron listened to."
All at once the sound of singing was replaced by the clatter of trunks being opened and closed. Harry and Hermione stopped short in their tracks.
Hermione grabbed Harry's arm. "He's not opening the door to Honeydukes. What's he doing?"
"How should I know? We'd better wait until we can figure out what's going on."
They stood quietly, holding each other's hands. An odd, bittersweet smell of something burning drifted their way. All at once a loud shrieking noise pierced the silence, only to be followed by laughter.
Harry and Hermione turned toward each other in the dark. "We can't just stay here doing nothing, Harry. We have to see what's happening!"
Harry sighed. "I know. Do you have your wand?"
"Okay, on the count of three . . . one, two, three..."
"Lumos!," they both said together.
As soon as the tunnel was illuminated, they rushed up the last of the stairs and found Ron sprawled out on the ground.
"Ron!" Hermione said, "are you okay?"
Ron looked up at the two of them, his eyes bleary. He smiled. "Hey, cool . . . it's a party!"
Wide eyed, Harry and Hermione took in the scene before them. Their best friend, robe crumpled up on a step beside him and clothed in jeans and a tie-dyed shirt, was lounging against an amplifier, an electric guitar in his hand. Wedged into the strings between the second and third frets was . . .a joint? A plate of brownies sat in front of him.
"Sit down, you guys. Have something to eat while I . . . yeah, check this out."
Slowly they sat down, carefully avoiding the plate of brownies. Ron bent over his guitar, his ear to the strings, then he turned a dial on the amplifier and started to play.
"Dah. Dah. Dah. Dah dah, dah-dah. Dah. Dah. Dah. Dah-dah," Ron hummed along with the notes that blared out of the speaker. "It's called 'Smoke on the Water.' Cool, isn't it? I can do 'Freebird,' "Stairway to Heaven,' and 'Truckin',' too Any requests?"
Harry just stared, but Hermione was able to find her voice. "Yes, I have a request: that you tell us what the bloody hell you're playing at."
"Whoa," said Ron, flattening his palm over the strings. "Don't harsh my buzz!"
Hermione turned to Harry, but he just shrugged. He didn't have any idea what Ron was talking about, either.
"Come on, guys," he said. "Eklektical things don't work in Hogwarts, right?"
Hermione muttered something under her breath about letting people who couldn't even say the word electricity anywhere near a powerful amplifier, but Harry just smiled. Those brownies were looking pretty good. Maybe just one.
"...anyway, I was able to transfigure the guitar from a frog okay, but I had to . . . "
"A frog! Ronald Weasley, if you really mean a toad and Trevor turns up missing, you're going to be in such . . . ."
Ron started laughing. "No, a *frog*, Hermione. A chocolate frog."
"Oh. All right, then. So . . . you've been . . . ?"
"Training for my future! I know you're going to end up doing something swotty with Potions or Arithmancy, and Harry, well . . . he's a dead cert to be taken on as an Auror, isn't he? But it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do."
Harry reached over and took another brownie off the plate. "So, what'd you come up with, Ron?"
Ron beamed. "Sixties band cover musician!" he said proudly.
Hermione rolled her eyes, but Harry noticed that she'd taken a brownie from the plate as well.
"You guys aren't angry with me for keeping it a secret for a while, are you?" Ron said, a little nervously.
"Of course not, Ron. We were just worried that you were doing something . . . stupid," she said, her laughter all but muffling the last word. "All right, then . . . let's hear what you've got. I don't suppose you know 'White Rabbit?'"
Ron grinned and started to re-tune his guitar, while Harry stretched out on the ground between Hermione and Ron, his head cushioned by his invisibility cloak.
He was going to have to remember to ask Ron where he got a hold of those brownies.
Comments, critiques, chit chat: beth-h @ mrks.org