Chapter 41 : Chapter 41:Tests
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“Son. Of. A. Bitch,” Michael growled, shaking his hand angrily.
“So that's…two, two?” Jeff asked, massaging his own hand. “Tiebreaker?”
Michael smiled a little as he impatiently wiped the blood from his right hand. “Of course.”
Michael and Jeff had recently found one of Professor Umbridge’s Blood Quills in the back of a drawer in the desk in the Defense Against the Dark Arts office. They were now playing what they called ‘Hardcore Tic-tac-toe.’ Harry had dismissed this with a shake of his head, and Ron had quit in the middle of his second game against Jeff.
Sarah and Hermione had a different view of this pastime, however.
They both marched into the Gryffindor common room as Michael let out a noise of triumph and pain as he drew a line across his three Xs. Michael and Jeff turned to look at them, both grinning.
“Hey, what's up?” Jeff said as they walked over to sit on the couch next to them. They were each clutching a thick stack of papers, Sarah looking determined, Hermione deeply uncomfortable.
“Sarah, Hermione,” Michael said graciously, nodding to them. “Want a game?” he offered, holding out the quill to them.
“No I don't want to play your damn game,” Sarah said snappishly. “But I suppose if you like you can use that quill for these,” she added, waving the papers in her hand in front of him.
“If they did, don’t you think that would make the tests completely unnecessary?” Hermione asked dryly.
“Good point,” Sarah said. “Never mind, no idiot quill.”
“For what?” Jeff demanded. He held out his slightly bleeding hand and Hermione rolled her eyes and placed the papers in it.
“For the test,” Sarah said, as Michael took his stack.
“What the hell is this?” Jeff said angrily. Michael looked down at the topmost paper and read the title: The Idiot Test, Age Twenty.
“The Idiot Test?” Michael repeated, narrowing his eyes at Sarah. “You want to explain this to me?”
“You want to explain that to me?” Sarah asked, pointing at his hand. Michael rolled his eyes.
“So we were having a little fun. Give us a break!”
“Michael, if you're going to get away with sending us on seriously deadly missions from Mozambique to Los Angeles, I’d like a little assurance you haven't completely lost your mind,” Hermione said patiently.
“Why the hell should I take this?” Michael demanded indignantly, glaring at the two girls, who stared right back.
“Because Luna will leave you if you don’t, she told me,” Sarah replied.
“Bullshit,” Michael said immediately.
Sarah nodded at Hermione, who smiled encouragingly at Michael. “Congratulations, you got one right.”
“What kind of stupid test is this?” Jeff said, flipping through the five pages of paper he was holding, scowling deeply at it.
“Idiot test,” Sarah corrected him glibly. “And we made this test, so get to it! Just fill in the bubbles on the answer sheet that correspond to your answer.”
Michael looked down at the paper again and read the first question. He snorted and read it aloud. “Question one: You and your friend walk into a Muggle store. You see a sign on the wall that reads ‘Cashier does not know how to open safe.’ You, A) Acknowledge that the sign is to protect against theft. B) See if you can get away with stealing it. Or, C) Laugh and say ‘That or do subtraction.”
Michael looked up at Sarah and Hermione, his brow furrowed in concentration. “You forgot one,” he told them. “What about option D? Pull out your wand and politely offer to teach him how to open it.”
“Oh God,” Sarah moaned, burying her face in her hands as Jeff laughed. Even Hermione smiled a little. “You're supposed to be our leader….”
“I'm not the one spending my time making standardized tests to pester my friends!”
Sarah and Michael continued to lock eyes while Jeff sighed and set to work.
“There,” Jeff grumbled twenty minutes later. He handed Sarah his test and stood up. “How’d you think you did?” he asked Michael as he stretched.
“All right,” Michael yawned, as Sarah joined Hermione at the table where she sat, looking over Michael’s test. “I'm at least pretty sure I got the one right about if your girlfriend says everything is ‘fine.’”
“That was on there?” Jeff asked interestedly.
“Yeah,” Michael said, narrowing his eyes at him. “Did you just skip that one?”
“Dammit, do you know how long this took me?” Sarah seethed at Jeff. She stood up and stormed over to them, her dark hair flying. “What the hell?”
“What did you do?” Michael asked exasperatedly. Sarah shoved Jeff’s test into his hand without a word. He immediately burst out laughing. “A smiley face? You just drew a smiley face with your answers?”
“Don’t I get points for creativity?” Jeff begged, tilting his head innocently at Sarah. She did not laugh. She did not smile. She would have just gouged out both his eyes, were her own daggers.
“Start running,” she advised menacingly.
Jeff started to say something back, but then yelped and ducked as Sarah pulled out her wand. He sprinted for the portrait hole, dodging a spell as he went. Sarah followed him out, calling frighteningly softly, “Jeff…oh Jeff…where are you…?”
“Well, congratulations Michael, you're not an idiot,” Hermione said, sliding into the chair next to him. “Not on paper at least.”
“That's all I ask,” Michael grinned.
“You know, you really are a smart guy,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “I mean, you didn’t even have your seventh year, did you? So why do you act so…?”
“Dumb?” Michael supplied. He shrugged lazily. “I’ve got to have some fun, don't I? Life can't be all Dark Wizards and cursed artifacts. Unless you're Moody. I think he’s got a fetish.”
“I don’t get it,” Hermione said, possibly for the first time in her life.
“You don’t get it?” Michael repeated, sounding disbelieving. He sighed. “Well here, I guess I’ll have to show you…” He began to undo his belt. He got it completely undone before he stopped and looked up at Hermione, real confusion showing now.
“Are you not going to yell,” he imitated her voice, “‘Michael I do not want to see your fetishes!’?” Hermione just shrugged and raised her eyebrows. The grin slowly fell from Michael’s face. “Are you…being serious?”
“Well…” Hermione said sheepishly. Her face was a little red, she looked rather nervous. Most would say it made her look cute. “I've heard some…things…and I was wondering… ?” She bit her lip.
“Umm…” Michael looked at her in surprise. “You, uh, you do know I'm married to Luna, right?” Hermione nodded. “And you know what that entails, right?” She nodded again. “And you want to fool around with me?” Hermione nodded a third time, a bit more vigorously.
“Yeah….” Michael stood up and backed away a few steps from Hermione. “I'm gonna…I'm gonna have to say no on this one….”
“Thank God,” Hermione said, looking immensely relieved as Michael was about to draw his wand and try to force his way through the anti-Apparition wards.
“That was question one hundred and one,” Hermione sighed. “A beautiful girl offers you a no strings attached, no holds barred, wild sexual encounter. Sarah’s idea…do you say, A) Yes or B) No.?”
“Well…” Michael smiled again, “if it’s no holds barred?”
Hermione sighed again. “Come on, let’s go find Jeff and Sarah.”
“Wait, was that not part of the test?” Michael asked, scratching his head. “You didn’t plan that to get me alone?”
“No, actually,” Hermione said as they stepped through the portrait hole together. “The question was supposed to be “What if two beautiful girls offer you a no strings attached, no holds barred, wild sexual encounter?’”
“Well if that had been the case…” Michael joked. They reached the moving stairs and began to descend them. “So did anyone ever find anything in Snape’s house?”
“Nothing special,” Hermione replied as they jumped the trick step. “A few Dark things, but nothing he wouldn’t have been able to explain.”
Michael nodded silently. He had been hoping to find something at Spinner’s End that might lead them to Voldemort, who had somehow been able to keep the base he had been attacking from secret.
Michael pushed open the enormous oak doors and stepped outside into the sunlight. He took a deep breath of fresh air and looked around, squinting in the brightness.
He could see three people. Two of them he assumed were Ron and Harry were on brooms and streaking across the sky, Ron on his Icarus II, which his friends had bought him for his birthday. Michael knew the third person, who was soaking their feet in the lake, was Luna.
Michael and Hermione joined her by the waterfront; she smiled at them, though Michael thought she looked incredibly hot. Not as in being attractive – that was a given – but just sweaty and slightly out of breath. Overhead, Harry was flying at top speed to try to escape Ron, who was attempting me to catch him and pelt him with a Bludger.
“Hello,” Luna said happily, as they sat down in the grass. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Do you know where Jeff and Sarah are going?”
“Going?” Michael repeated with a laugh.
“Yes, they ran past here a little while ago,” Luna told them. “Sarah was running after Jeff, yelling some very angry things…I ran after them for a bit – I thought maybe they wanted to be silly for a little while – but think she was really mad at him.”
“You don’t say,” Michael said, smiling.
“Gosh, I wonder why?” Hermione laughed. “You know, the only reason Sarah, Luna, and I came up with that test was for Jeff…you were just collateral damage.”
But Michael had stopped listening far earlier in her sentence. He swiveled to look at Luna in shock. She wasn’t facing him, but staring out at the center of the lake.
“You had a part in this?” Michael demanded, pretending to be deeply hurt. “You Loon? Loon? Luna!”
For as Michael was speaking Luna had slumped over sideways. She fell over onto her side into the grass, eyes closed. Her breathing was quick and shallow.
Hermione and Michael jumped up and rushed over to Luna. Hermione rolled Luna onto her back and Michael stared at her. She was certainly paler than usual, and looked a bit dehydrated. Michael took a calming breath and once again his leadership qualities flickered on.
“Stay with her, do what you can,” he said quickly to Hermione. She nodded and drew her wand, at the same time, Michael sprinted off. He now very much regretted helping set up the new wards around the castle, which prevented even his flame Apparition from working. He would have to find Pomfrey on foot.
Within a few minutes Michael and Poppy were racing out onto the grounds. They found Luna lying in the same spot Michael left her in. Hermione was pouring cold, clear water into her mouth. She quickly stood up and stepped away, so that Madame Pomfrey could examine her.
After a long, heart racing moment, Poppy breathed a sigh of relief. She waved her wand over Luna and muttered a spell. Within seconds, Luna’s eyelids fluttered open.
“She's only fainted,” Poppy sighed. “I suppose from the heat, I can't think of what else –” She broke off and looked very closely at Luna, who was slowly sitting up. Poppy shook her head and patted Luna on the back. “How do you feel dear?”
“I think I'm all right,” Luna said shakily, wiping some sweat from her brow. She pressed a finger to her temple and looked to be in deep thought for a moment. She pulled away her finger and smiled. “Yes, I'm fine. I’m sorry if I worried you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Michael grinned, wonderfully relieved Luna was not suffering from anything worse. “Nothing some fun tonight won't fix, right?”
“Sounds good,” Luna sighed contentedly. Michael had been insisting more and more lately that all seven of them – plus Ginny – embrace their youth and devote their nights to alcohol and loud music and adult situations…when they weren’t out battling dark forces, of course. Luna believed this to be a rather shallow defense mechanism her husband was using to shield himself from the constant pressure he was under as one of the four main leaders of the Order, but it made him happy, so she said nothing.
“Everybody’s coming,” Michael commented, eyes on Hermione. “We haven't all had drinks together in way too long.”
“Didn’t we all go out last Wednesday?” Hermione scoffed. “That's way long?”
“Way too long,” Michael nodded. “Do you know I was at a party nearly every night I wasn’t on a mission when I was in STRIKE?”
STRIKE was proving…fairly cooperative, to put it very nicely. This basically meant that members of STRIKE would not immediately pick fights with Michael and his friends every time they saw each other on the street. This improvement was out of necessity for STRIKE however who had, since losing three of its best, suffered a string of failed missions against Voldemort. Faced with the overwhelming power of the Elder Wand, agent after agent fell to the Dark side. As a result, unnecessary confrontations with people like the Jacobs were temporarily put on hold.
“Wow, yeah, great, another STRIKE story from Michael!” Jeff said sarcastically, as he joined them. “You can tell us for the fifth time about the time you met the Junior Secretary of Transportation in Germany. And how he offered you a glass of cheap whiskey! But really, you okay Luna?”
“Yes, I'm all right,” Luna said. “What happened to Sarah? She looked like she might murder you, I was a little worried she might actually succeed this time.”
“Lost her in the greenhouses,” Jeff explained. “She's…not happy.”
“Well she will be,” Michael said. “We’re going out tonight.”
Jeff looked shocked. He dropped his voice and leaned in close. “You do know Luna’s standing right there, don’t you?”
Michael blinked. “Wow. WOW. I'm starting to think you seriously do need to take that idiot test.”
Luna’s head was still spinning a bit, but she laughed loudly at Michael's joke all the same. She was so glad that despite everything that had happened to them, as much as her husband had changed as they grew older, at his core, he was still the man she loved more than any other. While Hermione had found work in a small Diagon Alley apothecary after joining Ginny for her final year of official schooling, Jeff and Sarah had resigned themselves to living off Sarah’s parents’ goodwill and coin. They favored their “little princess” as much as Jeff often teased her about, but he was forced to stop the remarks when reminded they were the ones providing him a place to live while he dedicated his efforts to murdering Lord Voldemort.
Luna had spent the last two years writing a little, but primarily doing illustrations for her father’s paper. He was thrilled with her idea given that actual photographic evidence was often strangely elusive when it came to the creatures he wrote about. Harry and Ron meanwhile were nearing the end of their training and well on their way to becoming full-fledged Aurors. Scrimgeour had been more than happy to welcome Harry to the Ministry for public relations alone and Kingsley and Tonks’ recommendations had been enough to secure a place for Ron as well. Michael and Luna had both looked on this with some concern, but Michael had restrained himself from giving either of them any more grief than was due as a friend and Luna had simply begged them to avoid being pulled in to the dreaded Rotfang Conspiracy.
As happy as she was with her life and all their friends’ success, there was one unfortunate thing that occasionally fell on her mind in quiet moments. She could still remember clearly the day in July when she had told Michael so plainly she wanted to have children with him. He had been hesitant at first, but Luna knew he wanted it almost as badly as she did. They had been so happy to begin starting a family…yet it was not to be, at least not yet. After having no success despite ample attempts for a year, they had decided to put the idea on hold, partially due to the increased toll the war was taking on them – which Luna was fairly certain was the root of their conception problems – and due partially to the fact that they were running low on money these days. Michael wanted to find a day job, but Voldemort and Malfoy kept him going hard most days. This was why Luna didn’t begrudge him the occasional night binge drinking or a stupid game with Jeff. Her husband was beginning to look as if he might be run ragged, but Luna was grateful he was still Michael deep down.
Had it really been three years?
Michael woke up the next morning in his home and rolled over in the bed he shared with his wife – except he was alone in it. He squinted at the clock on the nightstand next to him. Seven o’ clock. Where was she?
As he swung his legs over the side of the bed and groped for his wand, he heard some God-awful noise coming from the bathroom attached to the bedroom. He found his wand and waved it, grabbing the holey t-shirt that flew from his dresser. He pulled it on and stood up.
The bathroom light was on and the door open. He kept his wand in his left hand and knocked on the doorframe as he called,
“Loon? Luna, you all right?”
There was no answer, but the noise started again. He walked inside and looked right, towards the shower, then left. Luna was leaning over the toilet, vomiting noisily into it. He walked over to her, his footsteps falling loudly, though Luna would never be able to hear it.
“Loon?” he said, concern swirling in his voice. “Loon, are you okay?” He pulled back her hair and held it above her head.
“I'm – I'm okay,” Luna said, wiping her mouth with her hand. She coughed painfully and stood up. She walked past Michael and turned on the sink and put her face under the tap, washing out her mouth. She turned off the water and looked up at the mirror, and seeing Michael’s worried face in it, smiled.
“But you didn’t even have anything to drink last night, did you?” Michael asked, his eyebrows scrunched together.
“No, I didn’t,” Luna replied. She composed herself and ran her hands though her hair, pointlessly. “I'm not hung-over or anything…actually, I don’t think I've ever been. Have I?”
“Do you feel sick?” Michael asked her, ignoring her question. “I mean like, stomachache or something like that…?”
“I…” Luna shook her head. “Yes, I don't feel so great…my head hurts pretty badly today.”
“Why don’t you just go back to bed then?” Michael suggested. He walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t bother coming in to training today, just sleep as late as you can, okay?”
“Yes, I think I’ll do that,” Luna said, nodding dreamily. “Maybe I’ll make some Pimpley Soup….”
“Sure, if it'll make you feel better,” Michael smiled warmly. “But in any case, it’s still seven in the morning so you go to bed, and I’ll make you some breakfast. Unless you don’t want to eat?”
“Jeff’s right,” Luna said unexpectedly, facing Michael with her huge eyes. “You are whipped.” She smiled. “Yay.”
Michael made a mental note to punch Jeff very hard in the throat.
At around eleven that morning, Michael took a last look at his sleeping wife, who was holding the covers tightly to her, then headed for the living room and stepped into the green flames . He spun into the ever burning flames of the fireplace in an empty classroom. He dusted himself off, turned the doorknob, stepped into the hallway, and strode off to the Room of Requirement.
He was accosted by Remus almost immediately upon entering.
“Michael,” he said quickly, holding up a hand to signal an end to his practice fight with Harry and Ron, “you have to put a stop to this!”
“Why?” Michael asked, almost smiling. He gestured around the room. “Everyone looks to be on top of things, or did Harry knock your knee out of place again?” Lupin swept away from the others and closed on Michael, wand still in hand.
“You know what I mean. You can't keep bringing people to the castle like this!”
“It’s not your castle,” Michael shrugged. He liked Lupin quite a bit, but it was too easy to resist having a little fun with him every now and again.
“I do teach here you know,” Lupin said sternly. “And I don't think Minerva would be happy to know you use Hogwarts as some kind of party club when she's not around.”
“Let’s hope she doesn’t find out then,” Michael smirked. Lupin seemed to take that one more seriously.
“Michael I would think you would place a little more concern on the safety of your wife and friends –”
“They're Aurors, Remus,” Michael cut across him. “With a few exceptions,” he nodded at Tonks, “I don't care for the Aurors, but these new recruits seem to have worked the stick out of their asses, so I'm making an effort. An effort to integrate myself and the Order with them in case Voldemort ever goes really crazy and we need to help each other out. I know it’s not what Dumbledore wanted,” he added, “but Dumbledore’s gone. Instead I’m here and it’s my opinion its worth making nice with the Aurors since I don't think we can count on STRIKE for much help and because personally I don't want to have to face down Voldemort and his legions of evil with no one besides the people in this room, as good a fight as we’d likely put up. If you have a real problem with it, tell McGonagall and bring it up at the next meeting. Otherwise…take your wife out for a good time and join us! I promise I won't get you that drunk, Mr. Marauder.”
Lupin sighed, but his resolve broke almost immediately and he was forced to turn quickly away from Michael so that he wouldn’t see him grinning. He returned to referee an Animagus race between Sarah and Hermione.
Over morning workout with his six friends, plus Tonks and Lupin, he explained to them why Luna had not come in with him. Michael went over Luna’s symptoms loudly, as he and Jeff dueled. As he bobbed and weaved, out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw Hermione, Sarah, Tonks, and Lupin’s expressions change dramatically.
“What’s wrong?” he asked sharply, noting the looks of shocks. He distractedly swung his practice sword against Jeff’s, knocking it out of his hand and sending it skidding across the floor. “Do you know what's going on with her?”
All three girls looked at each other nervously. They put their heads together and began talking in a huddle. Lupin walked over to Michael and slapped him on the back. He let out a low whistle. “I hope you're ready for this one, Michael.”
Tonks pulled something like a thermometer out of her pocket and handed it to Sarah, who looked at her in surprise. Michael did the same; he had already been sure to check if Luna had a temperature.
“You just carry these with you?” Sarah asked, and Michael thought he heard the tiniest bit of humor in her voice. Tonks shrugged and shooed them away.
Sarah and Hermione walked very slowly over to Michael. Michael’s expression begged for an answer, so Sarah placed the item she was holding in his hand and nodded.
Michael looked down at it. His eyebrows shot up nearly to his hairline. He looked from Sarah to Hermione so rapidly he cricked his neck.
“You – you think –?”
Both girls nodded and without a word Michael tore out of the room, possibly faster than he had ever run. Within a minute he was back at the fire he had came from, diving through like an Olympian. Within two, he was back in his bedroom, roughly rocking Luna awake.
“Michael?” she asked dazedly. She rubbed her eyes and sat up, staring at him. “What are you doing back so soon? What's going on?”
Michael thrust the thing he was holding into Luna’s hand and looked her straight in the eye as he said it.
“You need to pee on this.”
Ten minutes later Michael, now accompanied by Luna, stepped back into the Room of Requirement, where everyone had abandoned any pretext and were simply bouncing about in place eagerly. Everyone turned at once to face them, excitement, nervousness, and confusion on all their faces.
Typically, Ron was the first to speak, though unusually, with few words.
“Well what?” Michael asked, feigning dumbness. Beside him, Luna was silent, but Michael could feel the radiant energy glowing around her. In truth, he was surprised it wasn’t visible.
“You know what!” Sarah snapped. Deciding on a different tactic, she turned to Luna. “So now you took a test. How’d you do?”
“Oh I passed,” Luna said, smiling mysteriously. Her tone gave nothing away.
“Which means…?” Hermione asked tentatively.
“It means I'm pregnant!” Luna burst out joyfully. Michael grinned; so much for the surprise. He probably would have ruined it any moment anyway.
Luna rushed forward and met the other three girls; Michael lost sight of her in the mass hug. At the same time, he found a number of hands on himself, as Jeff, Harry, and Ron embraced him too, yelling their congratulations in his ear.
The four men broke away and Michael turned to shake Remus’ hand. Lupin seemed as thrilled as anyone at the news.
“So what happened man?” Jeff asked from behind his back. He seemed to have been debating his question, and decided in the end to ask it. “I mean the Contraceptive Charm’s not exactly difficult….”
Michael continued to grin hugely as he turned and winked at him. “Oh, we know the Charm.”
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