Where certain ginger prats are shown the wages of pestiferousness...
One Wizard Too Many
Breaking Down Barriers
“Hey, you’re getting good at this!”
“Well, I have a great teacher. That, and my natural grace and poise are beginning to tell.”
Hermione snorted at the almost-complement.
“It seems, Mister Potter, that you may not be as big a dunderhead as I had anticipated.” She said in her best imitation of Snape’s mournful tones.
He could only laugh as he twirled Hermione around the empty classroom to the sounds of a waltz provided by a wizarding wireless. Their dancing lessons had gone quite well and the two teens were enjoying themselves immensely. Hermione had even foregone the cushioning charms on her feet as Harry had become more proficient with his own footwork, and the pair had even graduated to dips and twirls.
The fact they had to hold on to each other throughout the lessons had helped their enjoyment too.
The song ended and the pair held each other tightly for a moment, enjoying the contact. Harry leaned in and gave her a kiss on the forehead as they parted finally.
“Thank you so much. I would be so lost without you.”
“Oh, nonsense. You could have managed this on your own.”
With a grin, he replied. “I don’t just mean the dancing, although it’s been brilliant too.”
He took both of her hands in his.
“Hermione, I want to ask you something.”
Harry suddenly looked very nervous, which sent Hermione’s mind into a whirl.
“Ohmygod! He’s going to ask me out! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Harry’s mouth opened, and Hermione went into a prolonged mental ‘squee’.
For a moment, everything was perfect as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
Suddenly, the door slammed open, surprising the heretofore happy couple. They jumped, but kept holding hands as a most unwelcome voice washed over them.
“Oi! Harry, been looking all over for you!” Came the dulcet tones of Ron Weasley.
Harry and Hermione both sighed in disgust.
“What do you want Ron?” Asked Harry tiredly.
“Do you have a date yet? You know, to the Ball?”
Harry just looked down at his hands, still clasped with Hermione’s. The significance of this should have been obvious. To anyone with a scintilla of intelligence, that is.
“Yes Ron, I have a date. I take it you do not, however.”
“Nah. Can’t decide which bird to take. Too many to choose from and all.” Ron’s eyes fell on Hermione. “What about you Hermione? Anyone ask you yet?”
“Yes Ron, I have a date as well. Was there something you wanted?”
Ron seemed surprised at this.
“You have a date? Who is it?”
Hermione kind of wanted to hurt the red-headed idiot, but wanted to set a good example for Harry.
Instead of pain, she just gave a significant look at her hands clasped with Harry’s.
“No really, who would ask you?”
Harry’s voice took on a dangerous tone.
“What do you mean by that exactly? ‘Who would ask you?’”
Ron just breezed on. “Well I mean, bit plain innit she? Somebody must be desperate!”
Harry couldn’t believe it. He looked over at Hermione, who seemed on the verge of tears, and he felt the anger building within him.
“This ginger idiot is somehow even more stupid than I gave him credit for. I find that completely amazing, considering I had him placed somewhere between a granite countertop and a lobotomized flobberworm! I kind of want to kill him, but I think I might feel bad about hurting someone so terminally stupid!”
Before Hermione could retort, Harry spoke.
“Ron, I’ll have you know I’m going to the Ball with Hermione. What’s more, I asked her a mere three minutes after I found out about the thing. Hermione is my first choice, my only choice, and if she for some reason had to cancel, there’s no way in hell I would even think about going with someone else. And for the record, ‘plain’ is just about the last thing I think of when I look upon Hermione.” He finished his speech with a warm smile for the girl.
She grinned back at Harry, warmed by his words and his quick defusing of her fears.
Ron just looked at the pair quizzically.
“If you say so, I guess. Hey! Let’s go flying or something, you’re not doing anything.”
“No Ron, go away.” Harry kept it short. The more he spoke to the prat, the greater likelihood that said prat would end up dead.
“Aw, come on! All you do is study with Hermione anymore!” The red-head whinged.
“Ron. Leave. Now.”
“But…” Ron was persistent. Dim, but persistent.
Harry began to shake in barely repressed anger. He really wanted to try and not hurt anyone, but they seemed dead set on begging for it!
Hermione saw the conflict in her would-be boyfriend and knew the only thing keeping Ron alive was Harry’s promise to her.
“Harry is so sweet! Trying to keep his promises like that.”
She decided to take control of the situation. She had noticed Ron positioned exactly between her and the door. Unfortunately, the door had closed during the course of their conversation. Well, unfortunately for Ron, at least. Hermione was unconcerned.
She drew her wand quickly and fired a strong banishing hex at the ginger moron.
The spell struck true and Ron found himself propelled into the closed door at a high rate of speed.
The door cracked, but held, leaving Ron a stunned heap on the floor.
“Drat! Thought that’d be enough to get rid of him.” Hermione hated being wrong.
Harry just goggled as Hermione levitated the red head in front of the door and quickly released the levitation and loosed another banishing hex.
The spell hit Ron in the back and threw him heavily into the splintering door face first. With a grunt, he went down again in a heap.
“Uh Hermione, what are you doing?” Harry asked.
“Perfecting a new type of battering ram.”
She levitated Ron’s insensate form in front of the door, and once again banished him into the beleaguered wooden door. This time, the door gave way, and Ron was propelled down the hallway in a cloud of wooden splinters.
Hermione looked over to a very surprised Harry and shrugged.
“Looks like the third time is the charm.”
“Hermione, that was brilliant and all, but I thought we weren’t supposed to do things like that.”
“No Harry, you aren’t supposed to do things like that. I never said anything about me.”
Harry laughed. “Oh that is so not fair! Nice form with the banishing hex, by the way.”
She grinned. “Thanks, I figured Ron’s dense skull must be good for something. Turns out its pretty good at breaking down doors.”
“I’m sure he’ll be overjoyed to hear that when he comes to.”
She grinned at his quip, and then changed to a meaningful gaze.
“Harry, I know it must be difficult holding back when someone is goading you.”
She gave him a light peck on the lips.
“Thank you for trying to keep your promise to me, it means a lot that you care about my feelings.” She smiled. “Now, I believe there was something you wanted to ask me?”
Harry tried to collect his thoughts; that kiss scrambled them something fierce!
“Uh, yeah. Hermione, would you…”
“Mister Potter! Miss Granger! What is going on here?”
Harry sagged in defeat. Professor McGonagall had come calling.
“Oh, come on!”
Hermione answered. “Yes Professor, is there something we can do for you?”
“Yes, you can start by explaining why Mister Weasley is lying in the middle of the corridor twenty five feet away in a pile of wood chips?”
Harry looked at Hermione and mouthed ‘twenty five feet!’ with a look of surprise. He was evidently impressed with her distance in the impromptu ‘Weasley Tossing’ competition.
“Well, Professor, it’s like this…”
“Yeah, sorry Professor. It’s champions business though. Highly classified. Very important to the tournament. You know the drill.” Harry commandeered the explanation and handed Professor McGonagall a business card with the pertinent tournament rule inscribed on it.
A few weeks before, Remus Lupin had gotten him a few dozen business cards printed up with the ‘get out of trouble free’ rule prominently displayed. He and Sirius loved the entire idea, of course, and wished they had had similar opportunities for causing mayhem. Harry then remembered a certain book he’d read about a serial killer in corporate guise and asked if the card was just plain white or ‘bone’. The marauders missed the joke, but Hermione had read her fair share of Bret Easton Ellis’ work. She felt it important to remind him that she didn’t care for Phil Collins, and if he chased her with a chainsaw, she would be very unamused.
Professor McGonagall was also markedly not amused by the brusque explanation.
“Mister Potter! I demand…”
Harry crossed his arms and shook his head emphatically.
“I’m sorry Professor, Champion’s Business. Mister Weasley sought to interfere with tournament preparation, and was consequently crushed like the bug he is. End of story.”
Minerva McGonagall’s face was a study in repressed rage.
“This is not over, Mister Potter!”
“Yes Professor, it is. Unless Weasley decides to wake up and interfere further.”
McGonagall just huffed angrily and stalked out of the room, doubtlessly to assist an unconscious Ron to the hospital wing.
Hermione waited a moment before turning on him with no little concern.
“Harry! Why did you do that? I could have taken the blame! And why do you disrespect Professor McGonagall like that?”
“Hermione.” He rubbed her arms to try and calm the agitated girl. “I’m sorry I stole your thunder, but I took the blame because it won’t stick to me. Why should you have to sit through a detention just because you tried to teach Weasley something? Besides, I already have a history of violence, so why not?”
“Okay, I see your point. And I agree, your reputation as a psycho precedes you. But why do you have to give the Professor such a hard time?”
Harry sighed tiredly.
“Hermione, that question is much more complicated.”
He gestured towards a nearby couch and the pair sat down.
Harry threw an arm around her shoulders as he continued.
“Wouldn’t you think that as my Head of House, McGonagall should have been more involved in this whole tournament thing?”
“Well yes, but I’m sure she must have her reasons, right?”
Hermione so wanted to trust her favorite teacher. It was the last vestige of a trust born from a bullied bookworm who always could look to authority for safety.
“Hermione, McGonagall hasn’t said more than three sentences to me since this whole nightmare began. Sprout trains Cedric every day. Karkaroff and Viktor are constantly planning. Maxine and Delacoeur review strategy and research solutions all the time. What faculty aids me?”
Hermione sighed. “Okay Harry, I can see your point. By the way, the Head of Beauxbatons is Madam Maxime, not ‘Maxine’. You make her sound like a waitress in some Alabama tuck stop diner!”
Harry snickered at his slip. “Yeah, you have me there. Madam Maxime doesn’t seem the type to be toting coffee and creamed chipped beef sandwiches! But seriously, you see this too, right? McGonagall has been downright nasty where I'm concerned. It’s like she’s channeling Snape when it comes to me!”
“Yes Harry, Professor McGonagall has been somewhat less than forthcoming when it comes to helping you. So no, you’re not crazy for thinking that. That’s not to say you’re not crazy though.” She grinned impishly.
Harry feigned shock.
“A double negative, Miss Granger? I am appalled.”
“Two negatives equal a positive, prat.” She stuck her tongue out at him.
“So you’re saying I am crazy, right?”
“Ah duh. And I thought Ron was thick!”
“Oh, that was hurtful!”
The slight called for a good tickling, which he was only too happy to provide.
Down the hall, an approaching Neville could only smirk at the escaping sounds of mirth. If anyone needed some amusement and joy it was those two! Nevertheless, Neville had a message to deliver.
He had just reached the threshold of the destroyed door, and wondered briefly just what had happened to shatter the solid oak portal. He saw the couple had become quiet and were gazing at each other intensely at close range. Harry looked like he was about to say something important.
Just then, Neville stumbled over a baulk of wood torn from the ruined door. The noise caused the happy couple to jump in surprise. It also served to ruin their moment.
Harry spoke. “Yes Neville, what is it?” The annoyance was hidden, but still discernable.
“I’m so sorry to bother you guys! It’s just that Cedric Diggory urgently requested a meeting with you. If I’d known you were busy…”
“It’s okay Neville, you didn’t know.” Harry looked sadly at a disappointed Hermione for a moment, before rising and offering her a hand up.
To Neville, he continued. “Did Diggory say where he’d be?”
“He’s in the Great Hall for study hours. I really am sorry you guys.”
“No worries mate, Cedric better have something important to tell me though!” Harry softened his comment with a grin, showing his true ire lay with the Hufflepuff.
Neville nodded once to both of them, and left quickly.
“Well, my dear. Shall we see what Mister Diggory wants?” Harry curled his arm in hers and led them out of the classroom.
“Indeed, lets. There’d better be a password to the Prefect’s Bath somewhere in this little sit-down, though! I think we could use a little soak after today’s exertions.”
Harry tried to conceal his lecherous grin.
“I couldn’t agree more.”
A/N: Okay, okay, I’m getting to the Ball. Just like to develop the plot every now and then! Smacking Ron around a little is fun too…