Angelina getting hit by lightning had been a bad enough start to Gryffindor's first Quidditch match of the year- but, watching helplessly as Harry plummeted, unconscious, from his broom, pursued by a swarm of Dementors, Oliver Wood was gripped with an intense feeling of horror and despair – as if his very will to live was being drained from his body.
He wasn't going to win the Quidditch Cup.
Also, Harry was about to die and there were soul-sucking monsters everywhere, which was probably bad as well.
Oliver's gloom persisted long after he'd left Harry in the Hospital Wing with what remained of his Nimbus 2000. He had tried so hard, and spent so long planning for his last Quidditch season – and all of those plans had hinged around what he'd thought was going to be an easy win against the duffers. It was coming up to curfew, but he was too trapped into his head to pay attention to the time.
Unbeknownst to Oliver (and to most people at Hogwarts, although Dumbledore had his suspicions), the castle was more than a little bit sapient, and always sought to help its students at the time of their greatest need in any way it could.
Unfortunately, the castle had some minor issues when it came to working out what constituted a worthwhile "time of greatest need", and therefore decided that it was going to do anything it could to help Oliver win the Quidditch Cup – anything at all. It should be noted that the last time the castle had tried to help one of its students, it had led Tom Riddle to the chamber of secrets – which just goes to show that there's no accounting for taste, especially when you're a million tonnes of semi-intelligent stone.
Oliver's unfocused gaze snapped to attention as he became aware of the grinding of stone against stone behind him – looking back, he was shocked to see that a doorway was clawing its way out of the wall, which – the castle having carefully manipulated its staircases to get him in the right place – was, conveniently, on the seventh floor, in front of the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and his ballet troupe of trolls.
Most students would, on the sight of a suspicious doorway, run away, possibly while remembering what had happened to poor Sally-Anne Perks (or, possibly, what was still happening to her, as she hadn't turned up yet). However, this was because most students were not Gryffindors, which is to say that Oliver had stuck his head inside the room before the handle had finished forming on the door that had appeared.
If Oliver had been a particularly delectable species of fly, the Venus fly trap that evolved specifically to catch him might have looked something like Hogwarts' manifestation of the Room of Requirement. A scale model of the Quidditch stadium, complete with tiny flying models, lay at the back of the room, which was tastelessly doused in red and gold; brooms hung on the walls, looking enticingly sleek and unbroken; and a very convincing replica of the Quidditch Cup sat in a cabinet in the corner.
All of this paraphernalia, however, was set aside in favour of the book which lay on the reading desk in the centre of the room. Its title, "Egregious Enhancements" interested him far less than the cover picture – a wizard sitting on a broom, each of his four arms holding a beater's bat. The answer to Oliver's problems became immediately clear, and he ripped open the book in excitement and began to read feverishly. His first set of gameplans might have failed, and he might have an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Quidditch Cup. But his first plan hadn't tried to incorporated any of the 'differently legal' rituals and potions he was reading about, and in retrospect that was clearly where he'd been going wrong.
The loss of his Nimbus still left Harry feeling numb almost a week after he'd been discharged from the hospital wing, though Hermione and Ron had been doing their best to keep his spirits up. He sat in the Great Hall, picking unenthusiastically at his scrambled eggs and feeling sorry for himself. He was not, therefore, prepared for Oliver Wood to plunk himself down right next to him, occupying far too much of his personal space, and promptly fell off his seat.
"Bloody hell, Olly!" He said indignantly, clambering up and retaking his seat to the sound of sniggers from across the table, where the Weasley twins sat. "Try warning me before you sit on top of me the next time, why don't you?"
Oliver just grinned back at Harry. "Ah, but you see, Harry, I've got some good news for you! And, more importantly, for The Team." (for Oliver, The Team was most definitely written with capitals.)
Harry perked up in excitement. "Have you managed to talk to McGonagall about getting me a new broom?" He asked hopefully.
This was actually something which Oliver should have already done, now he thought about it, and he promised Harry that he would get round to it. Instead, though, he took out a vial from his pocket, and plunked it down onto the table.
"This is the good news, Harry. Ever since that last game, I've been doing some research, and I discovered this potion, which I brewed for you to take. It'll fix your eyesight, and generally make sure that you can really keep an eye out for the snitch without your glasses causing a problem - I know they're not even the right prescription for you, anyway." He smiled in what he hoped would be a reassuring way at Harry, though he wasn't able to entirely keep the mad glint of ambition from his face; the overall impression was rather that of a shark sizing up a particularly tasty fish.
"Um... that's amazing, Olly! But, and tell me if I'm wrong, aren't these types of potions illegal? I feel like I remember Professor Quirrel teaching us that in first year, although -" He scowled, reaching up to rub his scar with one hand, "- I could be remembering it wrong. He wasn't exactly the most engaging teacher."
Oliver frowned at Harry, tears welling in his eyes.
"I'm a Gryffindor, Harry, and I'm your friend. Would I ever do anything to hurt you?"
Fred (or George) scoffed from across the table. "What d'you call 4 a.m. practice then, you loon?" "Your idea of encouragement is telling us that pain is weakness leaving the body!" George (or Fred) continued.
Harry cut them both off, scowling.
"Alright, guys – Olly's gone to a lot of effort, and he's obviously not done something evil, even if he is a bit crazy sometimes. Should I just take it now, or -"
"Yep, now's fine. It'd go off if you left it a few more hours – so just pop the cap off, and down it in one, there you go-"
Harry swigged the vial, and shuddered at the taste; despite their heckling, Fred and George watched with interest, possibly to see if his eyes were going to fall out. A few seconds later, though, Harry gasped in surprise and joy.
"I don't believe it! I can see everything – down to the letter Angelina's writing at the other end of the tabl- oh, I shouldn't be reading that." He blushed a little, averting his eyes. "Is this what everyone's eyesight is like? I feel like I can see every tiny detail!"
Fred and George exchanged dubious glances, but Oliver quickly cut them off before they could express any doubts.
"I'm sure that you're just getting used to having better eyes, Harry – and yes, that sounds-" He kicked one of the twins viciously in the shin, sending them a stare that promised death if silence was not kept - "pretty normal, mate. Just make sure that you make yourself some glasses without a prescription so that Madam Pomfrey doesn't find out I've been practising medicine without her, yeah?" He laughed, and the others chuckled with him, though not entirely comfortably. "You just focus on getting used to the school broom you're using right now, Harry – I've got revision to do, though, so I'll see you all later."
As Oliver made his escape, he couldn't help the surge of elation which gripped him. He was clearly the best liar in the history of Hogwarts, and nobody had suspected any aspect of his story!
The potion which he had brewed for Harry had been surprisingly simple, and had hardly been a problem for a seventh year. In fact, it would have been an entirely innocent concoction, if it wasn't for the fact that a key ingredient was a pair of human eyes. Luckily for Ollie, the wonderful room, to which he was unerringly guided by the castle whenever he looked for it, readily provided him with a jar into which a pair had been decanted (formerly belonging to Alfred de Montfort, 1285-1302, unwitting victim of Goderic the Grimy, less successful brother of Emeric the Evil. Goderic's experiments in immortality had used copious body parts and had ended with him dying from an infection he'd caught from his unsurprisingly unsanitary working conditions).
The potion would augment Harry's eyesight far beyond that of normal people; the slight side-effect that he would gradually start seeing into realms beyond this one – realms abounding in tentacles, suffering, and madness – as he grew older was irrelevant, because the main effect was that he would be better at finding the snitch.
Oliver grinned to himself as he opened the book again, and started to riffle through it in search of his next innovation.
"One down, six to go." He muttered to himself, a manic grin lighting up his face. "And it'll have to be the twins next – they're just a bit too suspicious for their own good..."
The twins, in fact, were probably the most problematic part of Oliver's plan; as a rule, tricking tricksters tends to be a futile endeavour.
Fred and George's teamwork, unsurprisingly, was flawless; this was possibly because they were so in tune with each other, or perhaps it was just because twins were fundamentally sinister and strange. Either way, what Oliver needed – after some thought – was to make them hit bludgers at things harder. Things, in this case, meant people, broomsticks, Quaffles, other bludgers, and more people. Obviously, therefore, Oliver needed to make them stronger. Although there was technically nothing against giving each of them four arms, he suspected that McGonagall – spoilsport that she was – would ban him on the grounds of insanity and depravity.
Strength enhancement rituals, he quickly learned, were far easier than he'd thought they would be – and, like all rituals, they worked best when carried out on unwilling victims (at this point, the fact that the ritual literally listed fear, confusion, and despair as key ingredients barely fazed Oliver, who in any case used all three of them regularly to extort his team into doing more practice).
Unfortunately, the ritual had to be carried out under a new moon, and he'd just missed the last one – and the next would fall in the Christmas Holidays. Happily, this would give him time to prepare the rest of his plans, and to procure the ingredients which he needed for them. Perhaps he could target the chasers first instead?
I hope that you're well – I know that you're still shaken by the fact that we were sabotaged by Dementors in our last game, but I've had lots of new ideas since then, and I promise you that I'm going to win the cup, like you've always wanted.
I really want to revise my potions and charms exams over the holidays, though, so could you get me some of the potions ingredients and enchanting receptacles which I'll list below? It's just for revision, though, I promise. The only thing I'm doing that's extracurricular is Quidditch, I promise! Nothing else. Really.
Lots of love,
Patricia Wood narrowed her eyes, and, her face twisted into a scowl, crumpled her son's letter into a ball, throwing it into the fire which burned merrily in the grate.
The ungrateful little brat! She thought, furiously. She knew her son well, and could tell that he was hiding something – and that secret was as clear as crystal. He was obviously planning on getting a (she shuddered) normal job, because he'd given up on Quidditch after losing his last game! Why else would he be asking her for potions ingredients, of all things?
"So, this is how it's going to be, is it?" She hissed, glaring at the wall. "After all those days I made sure you got up at three in the morning to practice, all those evenings I sat you down to watch Omniocular play-by-plays, all those times I dragged you along to Puddlesmere games even though you kept telling me that you hated Quidditch – was it just a lie when you told me that you'd finally realised how much you loved it and how much you wanted to play professionally like mummy never could?"
Once Oliver came home, she'd find out the whole truth – she had a small vial of Veritaserum that she'd been saving for a rainy day, and if her son was going to ruin her life by selfishly deciding not to play Quidditch, well, that was a full-blown storm as days went. She might have the wrong end of the stick – or she might have to start using the Imperius curse on him if he truly had strayed from the right path. Either way, she wasn't going to let Oliver's own selfish behaviour destroy everything she'd spent her life trying to create.
Reassured by his mother's sweet reply that she'd do anything for her son and would of course be more than happy to get him the supplies he was asking for, Oliver was certainly not expecting the stunner that caught him between the eyes when he emerged from the fireplace, having flooed from from King's Cross to his parents' apartment in Diagon Alley.
"Reenervate!" A voice cried from what felt like a long way away, shocking Oliver back into consciousness, whereupon he discovered that he had been tied to a chair in his kitchen, his mother staring down at him, a worrying grin stretched across what would otherwise have been a sweet and kindly face.
"Oh, my sweet little Oliver," she cooed, smile not leaving her face, "you've been very naughty indeed, haven't you?"
Despite the fact that this was a rhetorical question, Oliver found himself answering his mother that he had indeed been a naughty boy, before his eyes bulged in shock at his involuntary response. His mother's smile widened.
"My sweet angel – mummy will stop being so scary soon, I promise," she simpered, "but I just need you to tell me – what made you stop wanting to play Quidditch, you ungrateful little monster?" She slammed her hand down onto the table, having worked herself into a sudden fury, and almost missed his answer - "I've not stopped wanting to play Quidditch." which caused her to deflate in confusion intermingled with joy. Could she have been wrong? Were the compulsion charms she'd intermittently placed on Oliver every few years still holding after all?
"So... what's all this nonsense about potions ingredients, then?" She asked, having calmed herself down a little.
"I'm afraid that I'm not going to win the Quidditch tournament, so I've been planning rituals and potions to use on my team so that they'll play better." Although he couldn't stop the words spilling out, Oliver cringed internally – he knew that his mother was sweet and kind (or more accurately, he didn't know this, but she had a real talent for compulsion spells and memory charms), and would probably be calling his teachers to report him any second now.
Instead, Patricia's face lit up, and she hooted in delight. "My little boy's inherited his mother's competitive streak!" She waved her wand at him, undoing his restraints, and swept him up into a painfully tight hug, which he reciprocated, although not without some confusion.
"I'm sorry I doubted you, darling," she murmured disconsolately into his ear, "but never fear, I'm going to be helpful now – after all, we need to make sure that your team gets the Quidditch Cup!"
Across the country, the Gryffindor Quidditch team let out an involuntary shudder.
Christmas morning is, of course, a time of great rejoicing, where the aches and worries of life are swept away in favour of its seasonal jollity and merriment. Naturally, this means that the suspicions and concerns which might have characterised any of Alicia, Angelina, or Katie's reactions to the matching silver bracelets which all three received from Oliver for Christmas were largely swept aside, and each of them duly followed the simple instruction to 'Put this on!'.
Alicia had been wearing the bracelet for almost half an hour, and was about to give it up as a bad – and uncharacteristic – joke, when she was startled by a thought that wasn't hers.
Silly thing that it is, I don't get why Oliver would buy something like this – does he have a crush on me?! Oh, God, this is so embarrassing -
"Hello?" Alicia yelped, and then, feeling a bit silly – Hello? There was a pause, and then -
Who the hell's this – and how are you speaking inside my head? The voice spoke.
Um – this is Alicia. And how are you speaking inside mine?
It's Katie! I got this bracelet from Oliver, and I was just wondering why he'd buy it for me, when I heard you say hello, and I just realised that we must be thinking to each other. Alicia's eyes widened in surprise.
That's incredible! Alicia thought back. And I bet he brought them so that we'd be more in sync in Quidditch games – I was wondering why he hadn't bought us something Quidditch related, like usual. Now we just need to wait for Angelina to try on hers, and we can surprise her!
Unbeknownst to the girls, Oliver's mother had – with the practice of years ensuring that her loving husband didn't question her feverish devotion to her son, Quidditch, and her son playing Quidditch – layered a compulsion spell onto each of the three bracelets to ensure that the girls would happily carry on wearing them without worrying about the increasing invasion of privacy which constant contact constituted. Oliver's own spellwork, carefully carried out in accordance with the Coniungus enchantment described in Egregrious Enhancements, was in fact one which had for a year and a half in the seventeenth century been a fashionable accoutrement to marriage, in which the rings which the couple exchanged were enchanted with the ritual, giving the newlyweds a direct line into each others' minds.
The problem with the spell was that the connection would continue to deepen as long as the rings were worn; initially, this had seemed romantic, until the day when a charming couple had, without warning, seamlessly transitioned from being a they (plural) to a they (singular), the distinctions between their minds having worn down to the point that they had become a single person living in two bodies – something which they (singular) hadn't been uncomfortable with, but their friends most certainly had been.
Although a few people subsequently became very excited at the variety of deviant opportunities which this might offer in the bedroom, they were very quickly drowned out by the rather more sensible majority that had pointed out the many problems with this, ranging from questions of legal status to the fact that one – or, depending on your definition, two – people had seamlessly been erased from being. The ritual had been banned on the grounds that it was a depraved and immoral assault on the right to independent existence.
Far more importantly, though, the mental coordination that interconnected minds would ensure that Oliver's chasers would play perfectly in sync, ensuring that the plays which, due to impossibility of orchestration, had previously only existed in his head could at last be made reality.
Unbeknownst to the three chasers, all of whom were by this time giggling at the conversation which they were by this time sharing in their heads (and to Oliver, who, in fairness, hadn't known about his mother's compulsion charm), the process had taken longer to manifest among married couples because even the closest partners tended to want a little privacy from time to time, and tended not to keep their rings on non-stop.
Unfortunately, the compulsion charm ensured that any burgeoning concerns about the magic involved in the bracelets were swept away; for the rest of the Christmas holidays, the chasers became closer and closer, until, by the time that they were on the train back to Hogwarts, it took some amount of effort for them to talk to Oliver out loud in the carriage that he joined them in. Oliver managed to deflect most of their enquiries about the "incredible magic" which the bracelets used – but he noticed, with some satisfaction, that the girls were communicating non-verbally even more than they usually would – and barely looked like they were making fun of his perfectly reasonable feelings about the greatest sport that mankind had ever created.
Oliver's good mood at the success of his plans escalated into full-blown euphoria by the time it came to the second game of the season against Ravenclaw. The two weeks of practice he'd managed to get the team to commit to had been excellent beyond his wildest expectations – Harry, on his miraculous Firebolt, had adapted his playstyle from the general Seeker attitude of 'looking for the Snitch in vain' to 'having eyes on the Snitch from minute one and distracting the other seeker from finding it until Oliver signalled that he was finally allowed to catch it', and the chasers were operating as a unit so seamless that they'd even started to improve on plans that just a few months ago they'd been telling him were impossible.
The only downside, he thought disconsolately, as he drifted from goalpost to goalpost, squinting at the action on the other side of the pitch, was that he'd only had to save seven goals in the hour and a half that the game had been going on – even though he'd only let one of those through, he was still getting a little bit impatient.
"And Gryffindor scores again!" Screamed Lee Jordan, as the crowd went wild again. "I don't know what Wood's been feeding his chasers – especially Johnson, who may I just say is looking particularly fine today – ouch, don't do that, Professor! - but it seems to be working, 'cause it's 140-10 and they don't show any signs of stopping soon!" In the headmaster's stand, McGonagall was scolding Lee, who did not look repentant in the slightest.
Oliver decided at that point that the game was probably one-sided enough that it was time to wrap things up, and signalled Harry, who had spent most of the game divebombing towers for his amusement and frustrating Cho Chang, who had exhausted herself pushing her broom to the limit as Harry feigned chases for the snitch which invariably began from the other side of the pitch.
Harry grinned back at Oliver, and, taking a moment to scan the arena, sent his broom into a lazy spiral upwards, which Cho – occupied in scanning the pitch fervently – didn't immediately notice. By the time that she'd caught on to Harry and was turning her broom belatedly to aim for his position, he'd swung upside down, and, flinging an arm out, snatched the Snitch before it had even registered his presence.
The crowd erupted into cheers, or, from the Ravenclaw stands, groans of despair, and Harry was engulfed by the crowd which met him as he flew down to the pitch. Above the fervour, though, Oliver was frowning slightly. This had been a convincing win – and it had salvaged Gryffindor's place in the tournament rankings – but his plans were still being disrupted by the fact that Fred and George couldn't stop the bludgers from targeting the other players all the time – he himself had only let a goal in due to his failure to avoid one that had been sent his way. Clearly, he was going to have to advance his plans one more time if he was going to ensure Gryffindor's dominance in their final match against Slytherin...
As chance would have it, on the first day of the new moon, Oliver had just finished his preparations for the final ritual that he planned on carrying out when he was cornered by the twins after the rest of their team had left for breakfast after another early morning training session.
"Right, Oliver." One of them began. "You've got a lot of explaining to do, wethinks."
The other twin smirked menacingly at him, before continuing.
"You see, we knew that Alicia, Katie, and Angelina have been acting a little bit weirdly, but we figured that you'd given them some sort of pep talk or something."
"But this morning," Twin one carried on, "I asked Angelina how she was finding our charms work, and Alicia told me that she'd been having a few problems with animation spells!"
"Not to mention the fact that Harry's eyesight potion is definitely more than a little bit dodgy, pal." Twin two finished. "So, what in Godric's name is going on?"
Oliver paled as the twins began their accusations, but he rallied by the time that they finished . "Alright, you two; you're right, there are a few special methods that I've come up with which the girls have been using for Quidditch – but I promise you it's perfectly safe. If you don't trust me yet, just come to the seventh floor by the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and his balleting trolls tonight, and I'll explain everything that's going on, Okay?"
As the twins glanced dubiously at each other, Oliver put on his best despondent face, and sighed. "I understand why you'd feel a little worried – but, seriously, guys, would I ever really do something to harm you? I want you to win me games of Quidditch, and you know I need you all to be in the best condition you possibly can for that – I'd never hurt any of you, I promise." Truly, he had no shame.
Eventually, Oliver secured the twins' agreement and a promise that they'd meet him at the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and his troupe of trolls that evening at seven. Immediately after they'd left, he rushed to the Owlery and hastily scrawled a letter to his mother. He was going to have to do the ritual tonight – and he was going to need her help to make sure that it stuck.
When the twins arrived at seven, still somewhat apprehensive, Oliver made every effort to reassure them that nothing was wrong. He ushered them into the Quidditch room, which – predictably – astonished the both of them (not, as Oliver thought, through love of the sport, but by the fact that the room had never registered on the marauder's map), and spent a few minutes exhorting the wonders of the room and the miracles it'd done for his tactical abilities.
Fred (having self-identified which twin he was) frowned, dubiously glancing around. "Olly, I don't see how any of this gets you a potion to cure Harry's eyesight – which, by the way, is clearly illegal."
"Or," his brother chimed in, "teaches you to do whatever you've done to Angie, Alicia, and Katie."
"Ah, well." Oliver shrugged, surreptitiously retrieving his wand from his back pocket. "both of those were actually because of - Petrificus Totalus!" he hissed, his voice echoed by another from behind the twins, as both fell – in shock – to the floor.
As the twins stared at the ceiling in terror, another presence disillusioned itself, revealing Oliver's mother (who, having talked to them once, had slightly scared them with the depth of obsession she had with the travails of their Quidditch games.)
"Well done, Olly." she smiled at her son, another wave of her wand levitating the twins, whose immobile bodies followed her as she strode through to the adjoining ritual room which Hogwarts had helpfully manifested for Oliver.
Oliver wheeled a trolley full of equipment through to the room after his mother, and – as she set the twins down onto the floor – he dipped a mop into a bucket full of a pungent red liquid, which he began to daub onto the floor around the twins.
"Giant's blood." He explained, as he composed an elaborate pattern. "I took my time with the enchantment I used on the girls, but you two – oh, you two are going to have a very, very painful time." He smiled at the twins, who were staring up at him in wide-eyed horror, eyes swivelling in their sockets. Terrified victims, the book had told him, were the most responsive to changes.
"It's okay, though." Patricia continued kindly, as she leant down to stroke one of the twins' cheeks. "Because" (Oliver muttered a word, and the twins started to scream as best they could through frozen mouths) "the two of you aren't going to remember a thing..."
And just like that, the world faded to black as the pain became too great to bear, until suddenly-
George blinked, looking at Fred, who was slumped beside him.
"How long have we been waiting for someone to set off this paintbomb?" He asked his brother, who was himself blinking confusedly.
"I'm..." Fred looked around, a little dazed himself. "I dunno. Oliver explained everything to us, and then we tried to set a prank for Filch?"
"Yeah, that's definitely it." George agreed, relieved that Fred wasn't as out of it as he was. "And I'm glad that Oliver told us everything was fine."
Fred nodded furiously. "It was silly of us to doubt him, what a waste of energy." The two of them laughed, as the memory charm that Oliver's mother had placed on the two of them worked furiously to suppress the doubts that should have arisen at that moment.
"Merlin, I'm hungry though – we probably shouldn't have skipped dinner. Time for a trip to the kitchens, do you think?"
And, with that, the twins made their way down to the kitchens, where each of them put away nearly a day's worth of food in half an hour, as their metabolism worked to fuel the changes which Oliver's ritual had initiated, to the delight (and rapt attention) of the entire house-elf cohort.
Oliver beamed at the twins as they made their way out of the changing rooms to join the rest of the team. Although their changes had been relatively subtle for the most part, both Fred's and George's upper arms were noticeably swollen to the point that their uniforms no longer properly fit. Tutting, one of The Chasers (Angelina had told Wood that they were just as comfortable being called The Chasers, and he really didn't have to worry about names during games) drew her wand, and tapped each uniform, expanding it to fit the both of them, before asking the twins whether they'd put their unbreakable charms on their bats. Though they wouldn't realise it for another few years, the strength ritual that Oliver had put the twins through would carry on augmenting their strength as they grew older – the problem was that their fine motor skills would become less and less capable of managing that strength, an issue which was already manifesting through their inability to grip their bats without splintering them in their hands.
Finally, they all heard Lee begin to introduce the teams and Oliver turned back to face his squad.
"Now, listen, all of you. This has been a great year, and we're playing the best that I've ever seen us – but it's still going to be a tough match. Slytherin racked up a 160 point lead over us in their match against Hufflepuff, but this isn't about whether we can get the cup any more – it's about whether we can destroy them. Who's with me?"
And, with a cheer, the Gryffindors mounted their brooms and launched themselves into the arena for what would be the most embarrassing fifty-three minutes in the history of Slytherin House.
The Slytherin beaters had thought that it would be an excellent idea to try and target Harry in the early stages of the game; but they'd not been counting on the forcefulness of their Gryffindor counterparts. Consequently, twenty-eight seconds into the game, Graham Montague's attempt to knock a bludger at Harry was countered by Fred's furious swing, which sent the bludger careening into Montague's broom and through the shaft, breaking it clean in two and sending him tumbling to the ground, where a hastily cast charm limited some of the impact of the blow, though not enough to prevent him falling unconscious; he was hurriedly ushered away on a stretcher.
("Serves you right, you predatory pri- ow, professor, I wasn't going to swear!")
At this point, the Chasers had already put Gryffindor up 30-0, to the ecstasy of three quarters of the crowd (the Slytherins' boos largely drowned out by the other three houses) – so, sensing that their best chance of winning now lay in sabotaging Harry so that Draco could catch the snitch, the three Slytherin chasers abandoned any attempt at scoring goals, and started to shamelessly dive-bomb Harry, obstructing every attempt he made to get away from them.
("The dirty rotten cheat- I mean, interesting tactics from Slytherin, who've apparently realised just how inferior they are to the gorgeous trio of Gryffindor bombshells!")
This was not the smartest of tactics for a team with one beater down to undertake against one which had two excessively empowered ones. What the Slytherins had planned on being a brutal war of attrition quickly turned into a terrifying round of don't-catch-the-bludger for them, as Fred and George took it in turns to lazily thump bludgers whistling past the Slytherins' heads.
("Oh, this is rich! Dirty tactics getting their just reward, I see – just what the slimy Slytherins deserve! Sorry, professor – oh, you agree with me?")
By the time that Oliver got bored of his largely irrelevant duties as a keeper, Gryffindor were almost three hundred points ahead, and Slytherin had lost their keeper and a chaser to the unerring aim of the Weasley twins. He whistled to Harry, who caught his eye, and grinned.
Exhausted from their efforts, though by this point aware that the Snitch really did represent their only chance to win, Marcus Flint was shocked when Harry, who had largely been content to weave his way around the Slytherins' unsuccessful attempts to knock him off his broom, suddenly made to dive past Draco.
"After him, you idiots!" He screamed, dropping into a dive which his teammates quickly imitated. The four of them shot down after Harry, who must have been exhausted, because his broomstick was just a little slower than their Nimbus 2001s; Draco drew neck and neck with him, and smirked as he drew past Harry, reaching out his hand, until-
Four faintly audible thuds echoed across the stadium, which had fallen deathly silent, as Harry pulled up from the world's first ever four-man Wronski Feint, clasping the Snitch – which he'd caught half-way into his dive – firmly in his hand.
The stadium exploded, three Houses screaming in delight, and Harry smiled at Hermione and Ron, who were caught up in the wave of people that was rushing towards the pitch – Fred and George thudded into him, shortly followed by the Chasers, and the six of them flew over to Oliver, who was sobbing unabashedly on his broom, and engulfed him into a team hug. The seven of them slowly floated down to the surface, where they were borne aloft again, this time by the crowd which had flooded the pitch (coincidentally crushing the Slytherins into the turf, but their week of hospital care and physical rehabilitation's not relevant to our tale).
All was well.
Some time later, all was still well, although perhaps less sane than it would have been without Oliver's worrying ambition.
"Honestly, Harry. I don't know what you're talking about – I feel perfectly fine!" Hermione snorted, turning back to her book.
"The Nargles aren't the prettiest creatures in the world, are they?" the petite blonde in the corner of the carriage, who had introduced herself a few moments ago, turned to Harry, and smiled broadly. "I don't think I've met anybody before who can see them too!"
"You mean you can see the -" Harry gestured at Hermione's hair, which seemed to have been colonised by a horde of tiny grinning imps, all of whom were latched onto her, some of them whispering into her ears. One of them stared back at him, and gave him the finger.
"Oh, yes. I've always been able to see them, and I'm daddy's special correspondent for Nargle matters in the Quibbler." Luna passed Harry the magazine she'd been reading, indicating her latest article. She smiled as he tore it open, slightly panicked eyes scanning the page. "I think that you and I are going to get along very well, Harry Potter."
Draco shivered in apprehension as he watched his plan unfold from the corner of the pub. Having used the Imperius curse on Madam Rosmerta, he just needed her to get a moment to point her wand at Katie Bell when the chaser's back was turned, and – he willed her to cast the curse on Katie - she complied with a muttered "Imperio."
Instead of falling under the spell's grip and taking the cursed necklace, however, Katie spun around with a snarled "Expelliarmus!", knocking Madam Rosmerta from her feet and sending the necklace she'd been about to hand to Katie flying across the room, before it clattered down onto a table in the suddenly silent pub. Draco's eyes widened, and he made a hasty retreat – the necklace was discovered a few moments later, once Madam Rosmerta had recovered her wits and shouted that nobody should touch it, and was quickly disposed of by the force of Aurors that had been patrolling Hogsmeade that weekend.
Meanwhile, Alicia and Angelina consoled Katie, who was still a little shocked at the insidious creeping feeling that the Imperius had gripped her with, before her friends – her other thirds, she thought with a smile – had joined forces with her to throw its influence off.
The fact that Harry increasingly suffered insights into the world of eldritch horrors which had surreptitiously superimposed itself onto his own did not prove a major issue in his fight against Voldemort (although the Dark Lord, when he tried to see through Harry's eyes, couldn't help but be a little concerned by the fact that his enemy's vision was so... tentacled), and he, Hermione and Ron found their way to Hogwarts in time for a final showdown with Voldemort, just as they would have done if Oliver hadn't been able to make his changes to the Gryffindor team four years earlier. Horcrux hunting had been a rather more simple task (given that Harry now saw them as cloaked in a sickeningly filthy shadow, making them rather more difficult to conceal) but his occasional screaming fits about the "One which waits dreaming in his house" had proven enough of a distraction that they'd ended up at Hogwarts roughly on the same schedule.
Happily, though, the battle of Hogwarts proved to be rather less traumatic than it might otherwise have been.
Having deployed their entire arsenal of tricks to delay the Death Eaters' assault on Hogwarts, Fred and George had perched on a battlement with a pile of rocks, far from the battle that raged on below them.
"You know, I've suspected it for a while -" Fred paused to lob a stone at a masked figure, who was promptly bowled off his feet and stunned for good measure by his opponent - "But Olly definitely did something to us back in fifth year, oh brother-of-mine."
George took aim, before launching his own piece of masonry at another Death Eater, who crumpled to the ground. "Seems pretty likely – I don't think being able to carry houses is a part of the Weasley bloodline, after all." His eyes widened, and – with a flash of his wrist – he hurled another chunk of rock at a heavyset wizard who had knocked Colin Creevey from his feet, giving the young wizard the chance to stun his opponent. "Not that I'm complaining, mind." He added as an afterthought.
Elsewhere in the castle, twelve Death Eaters were horrified to find that they were being stopped by three young women, operating practically as a single unit.
How is this even bloody possible? Walden McNair thought to himself, as he launched hex after hex at his opponents. None of them are even telling each other what to do, they're just following each other's lead perfectly!
He saw, from the corner of his eye, another of his men fall, as his second in command was blasted into the wall by a Reducto, making it six of his troops rendered useless in the space of a minute. Enough was enough for McNair.
"Retreat!" He cried, drawing up his strongest shield and beginning to back off. Some enemies, apparently, were just too much - even for monsters like him.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish." The Chasers snorted, using Katie's mouth to do so; their eyes flickered in thought for a few short seconds, before they turned to rush back to the Great Hall.
Oliver, of course, did exactly what he was good at during the battle of Hogwarts – which is to say that he sat on a broom and did his best to sow chaos among the ranks of the enemy, his mother cackling merrily as she did the same beside him. The more things change...
All in all, the Weasley twins' efforts, along with the Chasers' teamwork, saved the lives of twenty-two people that would otherwise have been slain in the battle at Hogwarts, Nymphadora Tonks and Colin Creevey among them (they were not, unfortunately, able to save Remus Lupin, who'd been ambushed by Fenrir Greyback outside the castle). Nevertheless, as Harry won his final victory over Voldemort (and fell to his knees, twitching maniacally as he kissed the floor of the Great Hall and whispered a prayer to the Elder Gods), it was hard to repress the feeling that – once again – all was well.
Nineteen Years Later
Hermione and Ron (having fallen in love after bonding over their joint attempts to keep Harry relatively sane in their sixth and seventh years at Hogwarts) urged their daughter, Rose, onto the train, sternly telling her that she was not to treat Harry's son like an outcast just because she thought that his father was terrifying. With a hug, they ushered their daughter onto the train, smiling fondly as she determinedly set off to find a carriage.
Behind this relatively normal scene, however, a far larger family burst onto the platform, children panting in exertion, as their fathers hefted luggage onto the train and their mothers fussed over the three eleven year olds.
It should not perhaps have come as a surprise to anyone that Fred and George had ended up marrying the conglomerate being which had once been Angelina, Alicia, and Katie. This might have been something of a confusing life for their children, were it not for the fact that all their kids had been raised with one mother (in three bodies) and two fathers (who were largely interchangeable in appearance, and were in any case basically the same person). Despite not quite constituting a nuclear family, in other words, the arrangement had worked out excellently, and their three daughters – Serena, Venus, and Cassandra – were wonderful kids, who'd already proved themselves to be more than capable of taking up their fathers' legacy at home – now all that remained was to see what trouble they'd get up to at Hogwarts.
Oliver, of course, was not to be found at the station. He was still keeper for Puddlesmere United, after all, and was on the brink of entering his twentieth consecutive season. Children were lovely, his mother often told him, but not important when you were still under fifty: wizards could live to be two-hundred, so (she insisted) he shouldn't hurry to start a family when he had a perfectly good career that he could focus on!
And further down the platform, Azathoth Potter tugged at his father's sleeve nervously as Harry Potter escorted him to the train.
"Dad..." He looked away nervously. "What if I end up in Slytherin? Do you promise you won't hate me? I don't feel brave enough to be in Gryffindor - and what if they make fun of my name? "
His father looked down at him, an insane giggle escaping him. He crouched down, manic eyes boring into his son's.
"Oh, my sweet Azathoth – you'll never need to worry about that. I know that there are things out there which are far worse than Slytherin – greater, and more terrible." He let out another involuntary giggle, and rose again, patting his son on the head.
"Besides," Harry added, "I'll render anyone who makes fun of you limb from limb, and then Luna will fix them right up again so nobody will believe them when they complain." Naturally, Harry and Luna had married in the years after the war, Ginny having sensibly declared Harry to be an "irredeemable basket case."
Heartened by this, Azathoth gave his father a hug and smiled tremulously at him, before turning to pull his luggage onto the train. Harry waved goodbye, before looking around, shivering, and, after steeling himself, apparating away. There were monsters to fight, after all – always more monsters...
AN: Thanks for reading! This one-shot was inspired by Jfoodsama's idea on Reddit; the insanity, I must confess, is my own.