Honest Results by ficexchange
Merry Christmas, Chelle (afterthree)!
"—trouble. We're going to get in so much—"
"Shut it, will you?"
"—trouble! How did I let you two—"
"We didn't drag you here!"
"—con me into doing this? I must be mad. I should have gone home for Christmas with Peter!"
"Quiet!" James hissed, shooting a glare at the still fretting Remus before peeking out beneath the tablecloth. From his limited vantage point, all he could see were various pairs of shoes and the accompanying hems of each professor's robes. James dropped the tablecloth and tucked himself back underneath the table. Sirius's wand provided the only source of light besides the minimal crack between the stone floor and the thick cloth inside the tight confines of their hiding spot, but even the wand was cautiously hidden beneath James's Invisibility Cloak. James squinted down at the small vial of colourless liquid clenched between his fingers. In the darkness, it looked innocent enough.
James's eyes flicked to Sirius. "You going, or shall I? I think it's safe to say he's out."
"He's trying not to be expelled!" Remus snapped, his whispered voice bordering on hysterical. "I'm up for Prefect next year! Do you know what this could do? I'm already—"
"Who wants to be a Prefect?" Sirius scoffed, spitting the word out as if it were something distasteful in his mouth. "Bloody sticks-up-their-arses dictators, the whole lot of them."
"Evans wants to be a Prefect," James announced. "She told me so."
Remus's strained expression tightened in skepticism. "She told you?"
James hesitated. "Well, she told Snivellus. But I was standing right behind them. She saw me."
Sirius dropped his head in his hands. "You are such a wanker."
"I am not—"
"Can we just do this?" Remus cut in, clearly at the end of his frayed rope of patience. "You can rag him about Lily later. I want to get out of here before Dumbledore chucks us all out on our arses!"
Sirius snorted. "Dumbledore wouldn't do that. He likes us."
"Enough to overlook the fact that you stole a highly regulated potion out of Slughorn's office and intend to spike the staff room's eggnog with it?" Remus rolled his eyes. "Even I don't like you that much, Sirius."
"Don't be such a Hufflepuff, Moony," James said. "This'll be the greatest prank we've ever pulled!"
"With the most honest results," Sirius snickered.
Horace was the first to fall prey. Already quite far in his cups from a private celebration he'd held in his office earlier, Slughorn teetered his way towards the refreshments table almost immediately upon entering the staff room. As soft holiday tunes played amidst the quiet humming of staff chatter, the Potions professor barely glanced down at the bowl of eggnog as he ladled the creamy beverage into a glass, hoping that the house elves had been generous in their spiking this year. He lifted the glass to his lips, at first missing his mouth and burying the glass rim inside his overlarge moustache, before finally finding the proper mark and taking a hefty gulp.
His mind went hazy before he could put his finger on what exactly was wrong.
"He's gone earlier than usual," Irma Pince murmured to Charity Burbage, glancing at Slughorn's dazed face with obvious disdain. Finishing off the last of her punch, Charity glanced at the hawk-eyed librarian and then grinned.
"Oh, Horace!" she called, waving. The Potions Master turned towards her with a vacant expression. "You look a bit pale, dear. Have you drunk something rotten?"
"Yes," Slughorn answered monotonously, at the same time that Irma snorted.
"The problem is never what he drank, but how much of it. Ask him about that. How much have you had today, Horace? As if he would ever admit—"
"I sampled a bottle of gin, then finished off the Firewhisky I had intended to give to Filius," Slughorn answered in the same blank tone. "The scotch I'd started yesterday went into my flask. Then I had some eggnog."
He raised his glass of eggnog with one hand and pulled out the small, metal flask from the inner pocket of his robes with the other, as if for inspection. The two women stared in shock. Irma's mouth dropped open.
"What in Merlin's name—"
"Irma, Charity. Hullo!" Bathsheba Babbling gave the two witches a cheery smile that appeared only slightly strained as she strolled over towards the refreshments table with Cuthbert Binns floating along at her heels. As Bathsheba gave Horace a nod hello as well, Cuthbert barely halted in his dialogue.
"—the Goblin Rebellion of 1375—ah, Horace. Irma. Charity. Happy Christmas—was hardly wizard-led, though there was of course interference, which I suppose shouldn't be ignored—"
"Mm-hm." Bathsheba shoved indelicately past Slughorn as she quickly grabbed an empty glass and filled it to the brim with eggnog. It seemed as if the Ancient Runes professor could not get the liquid down fast enough. She emptied the glass's contents in a matter of moments and was already ladling more.
"—I see where your concerns stem from, of course, but the truth's all in the texts of the time. Wouldn't you agree, Sheba?"
"No. Not even remotely."
For the first time in quite some time, Binns's mouth closed. The ghost blinked. "Pardon?"
"No. Not even remotely," Professor Babbling said again. The repetition did not seem to make the sentiment any clearer to Cuthbert.
"B-but..." The History of Magic professor sputtered helplessly. He cleared his throat in an attempt to compose himself, though one could imagine that if ghosts were prone to color, Cuthbert's cheeks might have held a certain tint of red. "Well, yes. Your opinion, of course. However, I believed...you read 1375: The Year of Revolt, did you not? And with that—"
"I barely made it through a chapter before my eyes were drooping. I scanned a student's paper on it and then told you I'd done the reading myself."
For the second time in only moments, Cuthbert Binns went silent. As he stared in stupefied shock at Bathsheba and the nonchalance with which she was suddenly tossing out such confessions, Charity burst into a fit of ill-suppressed giggles, while Irma's pinched face grew sterner and more suspicious. Both Slughorn and Babbling remained stony faced. This was the scene upon which Argus Filch and Silvanus Kettleburn entered.
"Happy Christmas!" Kettleburn greeted, waving his good hand at the group. His other arm was caught up in a sling from a recent unfortunate turn during a third-year Care of Magical Creatures class involving a group of rabid Porlocks. "Ah, eggnog. My very favourite! Would you like a glass, Argus?"
"Yeah," Filch replied curtly, his normally sour disposition unaffected by the cheery holiday spirit. As Kettleburn went to the eggnog bowl to do some creative single-handed ladling, Argus made his way towards Irma. "Bloody rubbish music. Giving me a ruddy migraine," he muttered to her.
"Something is going on," Irma confided, her hawk-like gaze scanning the room and its occupants with clear distrust. Argus—of an equally naturally suspicious nature—instantly perked up at the prospect of punishing troublemakers, even if it was among the staff. He grunted in thanks to Kettleburn as he handed Filch a glass, then scanned the room for whatever trouble the librarian had hinted at. He took a large gulp of eggnog as he searched.
"I despise games," Irma muttered, "and someone is trying to play one! I can sense it! What are you thinking?"
"I love you."
"I think—" Pince's head snapped around. "Excuse me?"
"I love you." Though the words were ardent, Filch's tone could not have been blander.
It seemed as if the entire staff turned at the resounding sound of the slap.
"Argus Filch!" Irma shrieked, her face turning a furious (or mortified) shade of crimson. "How dare you!"
"You asked," was Filch's answer, still monotone, though he did lift his hand to his now quickly reddening cheek. He didn't say anything more.
"What's happened?" Pomona Sprout's squat little body hurried over towards the commotion, her head swiveling back and forth between Irma and Argus.
"She slapped me," Filch answered.
Irma let out an outraged huff. "B-because...he...he..."
"He said he loved her," came three flat voices.
"I did," Filch confirmed.
It was hard to discern which was more shocking—the blunt answers, or the simple, cool way in which they had been uttered. Either way, Pomona's eyes went wide. She gaped without sound, the words simply not there.
"What's this?" Minerva McGonagall strode over to the group with purposeful steps, regarding the ever-growing collection of staff members with suspicion, especially the still fuming Irma Pince and the speechless Pomona Sprout. Her sharp eyes took the scene in slowly.
Professor Binns sighed. "That seems to be the question."
"Too much holiday eggnog," Charity tried to joke. No one was laughing (though the tablecloth over the refreshments table did seem to flutter a bit).
There was a sudden fury of conversation and movement as the several strange moments that had just transpired were thoroughly discussed and dissected in overly loud voices. As Minerva struggled to discern one story from the next, Irma continued to shout at the school caretaker with Charity Burbage attempting to restrain the livid librarian from physically attacking the poor man. Cuthbert Binns had broken into yet another overlong diatribe on the Goblin Rebellion of 1375, which he was trying in vain to get the despondent Bathsheba to respond to with something other than, "No, I don't care, actually." Kettleburn had begun to answer the questions posed to him by the wireless ("...do you hear what I hear?" "Dunno. What do you hear?"), while Slughorn stood alone, drinking from his flask.
"—evil, vile, liar of a man—"
"—rebellion was really little more than—"
"—now, Irma! Violence is never the—"
"—suppose I hear what you hear—"
"—settle down! I can't understand what anyone—"
As McGonagall continued to shout for quiet and calm, Filius Flitwick dawdled over to stand next to Slughorn. He regarded the disorderly horde of his fellow staff members with bewilderment.
"Well, now, what a ruckus!" the tiny Charms professor cried, seemingly flummoxed by the commotion. "Reminds me of the last Quidditch match—a tough one, wasn't it, Horace? Slytherin's been playing well. What have you done with them, hm?"
"It's the brooms," Slughorn replied. "Charmed, every last one of them."
Flitwick was silent for a moment. Then he burst into a twittering laugh. He gave a friendly pat to Slughorn's back (the highest spot the short professor could casually reach).
"What a sense of humour!" he chuckled. "Good one, Horace. Good one."
Slughorn did not respond.
"Yes, well, you've yet to match my Ravenclaws!" Flitwick's small chest puffed out with pride. "We've got Darlene Diggs playing Keeper, you know. A brilliant player. What do you think of her?"
"She propositioned me for better marks once," Slughorn answered. A sudden smirk stretched across the Potion Master's face. "Considered it for a moment, but didn't think she was quite tempting enough to toss my salary for. It's higher than most of yours, you know."
When Slughorn didn't immediately begin some teasing laughter, Flitwick's own chuckles faded into loud sputters. The part Goblin looked as if he might be in the midst of a coronary.
"W-what? Darlene Diggs...propositioned you?"
"Yes," came two separate voices.
Flitwick glanced up to find that Kettleburn was nodding alongside Slughorn. Both men looked entirely impassive by their admissions.
Flitwick looked as if he might faint.
"Great Magical Merlin," McGonagall moaned. She covered her face with her hands. The sentiment seemed to be shared by most of the staff present.
"Is this some sort of holiday joke?" Charity asked.
"Argus doesn't joke," Irma snapped.
Binns looked pensive. "Well, the fact remains...not normal..."
"Perhaps they've been hexed!" Professor Sprout suggested, though even she looked dubious about such a thing. "Hexed to...make inappropriate claims?"
"This is no hex," McGonagall said, eyeing the affected staff members warily. Their blank expressions grated on her mind, though she couldn't quite place why that should be important. She considered drastic possibilities. "You don't think...Imperius..."
"No!" Binns cried.
"Why?" Irma asked. "And who?"
McGonagall shook her head. "Why make them say such ludicrous things? I haven't the faintest. As to who—"
"Well, it's not me!" Charity shouted.
Pomona rolled her eyes. "No one's blamed you, Charity. Though you were awfully quick to defend yourself..."
"What? It's not me!"
"It's not," Madam Prince agreed dryly. "Charity couldn't curse her own eyelids to blink."
Pince crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't need a curse to tell the truth."
As Charity turned on the librarian with an angry shout, McGonagall's face suddenly cleared.
"Tell the truth," she muttered softly. "Merlin, of course."
"—dare you insult my magical ability—"
"Pah! Ability is not the word!"
"Oh, in the name of Merlin, ladies—"
"...sleigh bells ring, are you listening?..."
"Yes, listening here!"
"Quiet!" McGonagall shouted, turning on the group of bickering staff members with a stern glare. Her eyes quickly skipped to one professor in particular. Slughorn was once again absently drinking from his flask. "Horace," McGonagall snapped, "is it Veritaserum?"
The gasps were instantaneous. The unaffected staff did not even wait for Slughorn's monotonous, "Yes."
"Veritaserum?" Binns gaped.
"Sabotage!" Irma shouted.
Flitwick sighed. "I think I need a drink."
The accusations began to fly. Irma finger instantly pointed towards Slughorn, the obvious choice for such a Potion calamity ("...or any calamity at all," she muttered), despite the fact that he himself was affected. Still fuming from the slur against her, Charity announced that Irma Pince had enough bitterness inside her bony little body to douse the entire school in Veritaserum—and still have a good cauldron full left over! Binns, in his usual fashion, was looking back to history in order to formulate his hypothesis as to the culprit, running through a series of Elvin compacts and Goblin rebellions aloud to find his answer. Flitwick was still fretting over the recent revelation about his star Keeper, while Professor Kettleburn continued holding conversation with the wireless. Professor Sprout was trying in vain to list off as many plants in her greenhouses that pertained to the Veritaserum antidote as she could remember, while McGonagall scanned the over-crowded staff room for Poppy Pomfrey, hoping the Healer wasn't stowed away in her Hospital Wing, taking all her vast antidote knowledge with her.
All the while, Slughorn continued to drink.
"This is madness," Minerva said, watching half her staff turn on one another while the other half stood dazed and unaware. "Can we perhaps forget for a moment who's behind this while we figure out how it was done?"
"Veritaserum," Charity stated, sending McGonagall a confused look. "We already knew that, Minerva."
McGonagall lifted her eyes towards the ceiling. "Yes, Charity, thank you. I was actually referring to how the Veritaserum got into their systems. I highly doubt that they found a series of vials and decided to try a taste."
"Oh." Charity blushed, while Irma let out a smug, "Hmph."
"They had to have drunk it, no?" Flitwick said.
"Yes," came the blank responses from all the affected staff within earshot. McGonagall ignored that and scanned the group. "Well, what did they drink?"
"What hasn't Horace drunk?" Irma muttered.
"Kettleburn doesn't indulge in spirits," said Professor Sprout. "He says the creatures grow antsy at the smell of alcohol."
"Not the wine, then," Binns said.
"Perhaps the punch?" Flitwick suggested.
"I had the punch," Charity said. "I'm fine."
An indelicate snort came from Irma's direction.
Everything happened rather quickly after that.
"That's it!" Charity cried, whirling on the librarian, her wand out. With a startled intake of breath, Irma jumped to the side as Charity let out a furious hex. The spell missed the librarian by an inch, moving through the crowd until it hit the refreshments table with surprising force. The table didn't even take the time to wobble as it swiftly overturned...revealing two snickering teenage boys.
The staff gasped in outrage as McGonagall—who up until this point had been carefully examining the dazed staff members and had quickly come to discover one similarity between them and the glasses they were all holding—burst out suddenly with, "The eggnog!"
One of the boys let out a muffled swear.
"Expulsion!" Irma cried.
"Should've known," Binns muttered. "History, you know."
"You two were behind this?" McGonagall snapped furiously.
"Three of us," Sirius Black corrected. He looked rather bitter as he muttered, "Except the third man's a bit invisible right now."
"This is no joking matter, Mr. Black!" McGonagall shouted. "Have you any idea how serious...what have you to say for yourselves?"
"Darlene Diggs propositioned me, as well!" Sirius proclaimed.
"Happy Christmas," James said.