As you can tell, I’ve been very busy not posting over the past few weeks.  This is due to many factors, the most important of which is that I have gone back to school, a move that I will write about at some point.

But not today.

Instead, today I am doing a follow-up to my Harry Potter and the Golden Sepulcher by posting the only other HP related work I’ve written, a short story called “Bare Bottomed Longbottom”.  In this funny little tale, much-abused Neville Longbottom finally gets a chance to hang out with the cool kids (or so he thinks) when he is invited to participate in a late-night run through the castle.  Naked.  What could possibly go wrong, you ask?

And I answer:  everything.

In addition to being a funny distraction, this story won the 2009 QuickSilver Quill Award from for “Best Humor Story”, to date my only non-academic writing award.  It’s more hooptedoodle, to be sure, but it was fun to write and, hopefully, you’ll find it fun to read.

“Bare Bottomed Longbottom”

I’m going to do this.  I’m going to do this.

Neville kept saying the words over and over inside his head.

I’m going to do this.

He stood alone in the Gryffindor common room.  Harry, who had fallen asleep in a chair by the fire with the cryptic golden egg sitting in his lap, had gone to bed a half hour before, after Neville had nudged him awake.  Only after Harry’s footsteps had faded did Neville begin to feel nervous.  He tried to sit, failed, then began to pace back and forth between the cushioned chairs.  His robe brushed against the fabric and occasionally snagged on a table corner, making him jump.

I’m not going to do this.

Neville veered off course and started for the stairs leading up to the dormitory.  He raised his foot to the first step, then heard noise above him.  Whispering voices.  He backed away, realizing he was too late.

“Neville!” Fred Weasley said as he emerged from the staircase.  He looked over his shoulder at his brother, George, and smiled.  “See, I told you he had it in him.”  They, like Neville, were dressed in their robes, each monogrammed with their initial so their owners could be identified.

“We’ll see, Fred,” George said.  “We’ll see.”

Lee Jordan, robed and with mouth open wide in a full yawn, followed the Weasley twins out of the staircase.  He plopped down into the same chair Harry had vacated a short while before.  “Let’s just get this over with so I can go back to bed.”

“You’ll never win with that attitude,” George told him.

The Weasley twins leaned against the back of a sofa and folded their arms over the chests in identical fashion.

“Are we . . . are we waiting for someone else?” Neville asked after a full minute of silence.

“Angelina and Katie are also competing this year,” Fred said.

George opened his mouth to speak, but another voice, this one from the stairs leading to the girls dormitory, spoke first.

“And we’re going to win.”  Angelina and Katie emerged into the common room.  They, too, were dressed in their robes, light blue and pink respectively, and Neville had to block out all thoughts of what was to come to keep from losing his nerve.

“Win or lose,” George said, “it will be worth it just to see you compete.”

Angelina raised an eyebrow, then smiled.  She looked around at Neville, as though seeing him for the first time, then back to the twins.  “This everybody?”

“This is it,” Fred said.  “Invitation only, and we only invited the best.”

Katie turned to Neville and gave him an appraising look.  She looked around as though expecting Harry or Ron, nearly as known for their nightly wanderings as Fred and George.  The twins had excluded their younger brother from the contest, they said, because he might tell their mother.  They also did not invite Harry, citing a full schedule preparing for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament.  Neville fought the urge to feel like a consolation, driving back the feeling with imaginings of himself winning the competition.

“Let’s get started,” Lee pleaded from the chair.

“Okay, then,” George said.  “First, the rules.”

“The object of this game,” Fred began, “is to be the first to capture his or her flag from the top of the Astronomy tower and come back here.”

“Anyone caught by a teacher or Filch,” George continued, “is disqualified.”

“Everyone will wear these to protect our identities,” Fred said, pulling out a canvas bag from inside his robe.  He reached in and pulled out several pieces of black fabric and began tossing them to the assembled competitors.  Neville reached for his, dropped it, and picked it up to discover it was a mask of black felt.  Following the lead of the others, he pulled it over his head, attempting in vain to line up the eye holes with the eyes they were supposed to serve.

“What does the winner get?” Angelina asked.

George smiled.  “Our undying admiration.”

“We already have that,” Angelina said.  “What else?”

“A champion’s dinner at the Three Broomsticks during our next Hogsmeade excursion?” Fred offered.  “During which, the losers must cater to the winner’s every need while dressed as house elves.”

Angelina gave an inquiring look to Katie, who nodded.

“Okay,” Katie said.  “Let’s go.”

Fred and George reached for the tied holding their robes shut, but Angelina interrupted them.

“No offense, boys, but we don’t want you to have an unfair advantage by making us laugh our heads off before we start.”  She pulled out her wand.  “Noctus vaporis!

A cloud of what looked like black ink spewed from Angelina’s wand.  It filled the space in between them like fog until Neville could no longer see his own hand when he held it up to his nose.

“Okay,” Fred’s (or George’s, he couldn’t tell which) voice cut through the blackness.  “Everybody ready?”

Everyone muttered their assent.  Everyone except Neville.

“Neville,” George (or Fred) said.  “Are you in?”

I am going to do this.

“Yeah,” he answered.  “I’m in.”

“Well,” a Weasley twin said, “let the game . . . begin!”