"Harry, you have got to see this!"
Ron pulled him away from his perch against the corner table, with the excellent view of Mandy Brocklehurst's legs, and further into the library stacks, which had an excellent view of... books.
"What? What is it?" he said, trying not to stumble over the uneven floor as Ron tugged him away. "This had better be good."
"It's better than good," said Ron, "it's bloody unbelievable." He led Harry back into a nook with a narrow stained glass window and a small table. A guy could get in at least fifteen minutes of snogging back here before getting caught, Harry thought. There was a slim volume on the table, showing streaks in the dust on its cover where Ron had handled it. Ron paused and stared at it with obvious reverence.
Harry huffed with impatience. "Ron, what is it?"
"A book of pranks," he breathed.
"Pranks?" said Harry. "Pranks? Voldemort is gaining power and Megan Jones went up a bra size over the summer and you're thinking about pranks?"
"Not just pranks, Harry, pranks my brothers have never tried."
Harry's eyes did pop out a little at that. "There are pranks your brothers never tried?"
"And believe me, they would have done some of these if they'd thought of them." Finally Ron's paralysis broke and he scrambled to open the book again. "Look at this," he said, and stabbed his finger at a page that read 'Henry Hornshaft's Foolproof Virgin Detector'.
"No!" gasped Harry, glancing quickly over the spell. Better than a unicorn, it claimed. As discreet or public as you want, it claimed. Harry kept looking for a claim that it wouldn't backfire on its caster and in doing so lose him the respect of his peers, professors and potential dates. No such claim was forthcoming.
"Yes!" crowed Ron triumphantly. "And it's easy, too. Someone could be right there and wouldn't even notice you casting it. Well, unless they were checking you out, and if they were then that's a little more important anyway--"
"Right," he said. "So you can cast it on nearly anything, set it up to any signal you want. It's brilliant."
"What are you doing?" said Hermione, darting her head around the corner and sounding disturbing like Ron's mother. "Did you find the book I sent you back here for ages ago?"
Ron looked down wistfully at the prank book, then grabbed up a thicker volume next to it. "Right here," he told her, holding it up for inspection. "I was just cross-referencing with something else. I'll only by another minute."
Her look softened at the word 'cross-referencing' and she gave him a quick nod, disappearing again. Harry couldn't imagine what it was like, using five-syllable words as foreplay. No wonder Ron was learning his way around the library.
"We'd better go," he said ruefully. "She'll only come back again."
"Yeah, you're right," Ron admitted with a last, longing look at the book. "Better leave that here. She'll only want to see, and nothing good can come of that."
"She'd take it straight to Dumbledore and we'd never see it again," agreed Harry. "We'll come back for it when she's occupied."
Between Hermione's study drills and Wayne Hopkins's sleeveless shirt when he let his robe slide off onto the back of his chair, it was only when they were about to head back up to the common room that Harry remembered about the spell.
"I've got to get that book," he hissed in Ron's ear and dashed back inside, leaving Ron at his girlfriend's side, herding her away from the scene of the crime. But when Harry got there the book was already gone.
Harry was already seated in the Great Hall, mouth full of toast, when it started.
Sir Lamorak of Linsey, a usually-docile statue standing at the entrance to the room, burst into spontaneous and enthusiastic applause as a fourth-year Hufflepuff with pink nails swept into the room to get some breakfast.
"Huh," said Ron, looking only vaguely interested. Harry had to admit, compared to having spent the early hours of the morning with the rest of the sixth-year Gryffindor boys teaching the Fat Lady some Muggle profanity, it wasn't that shocking. "Never seen him get up to much before. What's the occasion, I wonder."
"Probably the five hundred and fourteenth anniversary of something or other," mumbled Harry. "It's always an occasion."
"Could do with a little less excitement around here, really," agreed Ron.
The statue ignored the next couple of students who passed, then gave a gaggle of first years a rousing round of applause, sending them scurrying to their seats. Probably worried that the statue was going to hop off its pedestal and chase them down. Harry couldn't say he blamed them.
Ron paused, the crust of his toast halfway to his mouth. "Harry," he said slowly. "Did anything about that seem odd to you?" Harry just stared at him. "I mean odd like... familiar."
"I can't say I recollect any other time that's happened, actually, Ron."
Ron shook his head and stuffed the rest of the toast into his mouth, and couldn't keep his eyes off of the door. Not that he was the only one; even the head table had started to become interested. Lavender Brown was leaning so far over trying to see what was going on Harry could almost see down her robes.
Sir Lamorak seemed not at all interested in most of the seventh year students, but a pimply-faced fourth-year boy caught his eye as he slunk into the Great Hall. Obviously already trying not to call attention to himself, he seemed mortified by the attention.
"The book," Ron breathed when the boy -- what was his name, Douglas? Dougal? Harry should know -- was halfway to his seat. He might not have had much of a pretty face, but his backside wasn't half bad.
"What?" he said after a moment.
"Harry, the book."
The book? The book! "Do you think?" said Harry, but he already knew. He knew. "Bloody hell. Someone beat us to it."
Ron looked indignant for at least fifteen seconds, then grinned and reached for more toast. "Just as well, really," he said. "If they get caught out, we aren't the ones who'll get into trouble for it."
"Who do you think it was?"
"Who cares who it was?" said Ron, flailing his toast arm. Ron's arms had really got built up over the past year or two. "Just enjoy the show, Harry."
Draco Malfoy obviously thought the applause upon his entrance was a reflection on his breeding, and preened all the way to the Slytherin table. Especially when the statue was silent for Hermione Granger, who walked in behind him. She scowled at him, he smirked at her, Harry struggled not to laugh.
"Ron?" he said as she stalked toward them. "Anything you want to tell me?"
Ron just paled and seemed to lose his appetite as his girlfriend sat down and stole the toast out of his hand. "I can't believe I'm so late," she said, oblivious. "I thought I was finished that Transfigurations essay two days ago then I woke of this morning and of course I thought of something else I just had to add before we turned them in." She took a bite of the toast and handed it back, chewing and swallowing before going on. "What's the clapping about, anyway?"
"I have no idea," said Harry, managing a straight face.
The statue was silent for Neville Longbottom.
The statue clapped for Severus Snape.
"Well," she sniffed. "Whatever the reason, he clearly has poor taste. Would someone please pass the bacon?"
"Don't tell her you know!" Ron hissed at Harry when Hermione was looking the other way. "She'd kill me!" As if Harry would do that. Though he had to admit, that little tidbit gave him a bit of the bargaining power he usually seemed to be lacking.
The fact that the statue had no appreciation for Pansy Parkinson was not much of a surprise, and Harry let his eyes wander over the room. If he and Ron hadn't cast the spell, then who... there! Seamus Finnigan, hand over his mouth and face red from suppressed laughter. Really, Harry should have known.
"Harry," said Hermione, dangling a piece of bacon in front of his face. "Harry!" Harry snatched it up. "We're going to head back up to the common room. Ron hasn't finished his assignment yet and it's due first thing. Are you coming?"
Harry bit off a piece of the bacon and shook his head. "Still hungry," he said, and gave them a sheepish grin.
"Well, suit yourself," she said, hauling Ron to his feet. "That clapping is all so distracting."
"Bye Ron, bye Hermione," said Harry sweetly. "I'll talk to you after class, Ron." Ron looked back over his shoulder, eyes wide like Harry had just issued a threat and not a greeting. Harry thought this might turn out to be quite fun.
When they were both gone -- past a silent statue, much to Seamus's delight -- Harry chewed on his bacon and tried to come up with a way to get out of the room without passing Sir Lamorak, or at least stay put until someone took the enchantment off.
After all, it was really only funny when it was someone else.
"Every generation," said McGonagall, her lips drawn into a tight line, "seems to manage to find this book, no matter where we shelve it."
"I wouldn't be too hard on them, Minerva," said Dumbledore. "There's never any harm done."
She kept up the stern fašade for another moment, glaring at the book, then let her lips twitch. "I suppose you're right," she murmured. "Poor Sirius Black. James never did let him live that one down."
"I have no doubt Sirius returned the favour in his own way," said Dumbledore, slipping the volume between two much larger ones that looked as though they hadn't been touched in a century. "Those boys always did."
"They did indeed," said Minerva with a soft, sad sigh. "We should go, before any of the students see us."
"Until next time, then," said Dumbledore, giving the book a fond pat as he swept his robe around himself and followed McGonagall out of the library.