One Wizard Too Many
Lions and Lambs
Harry and Hermione held hands as they walked briskly through the corridors towards the Great Hall, their quick steps echoing off the stone walls. The soft footfalls were the only sounds audible, as the pair was currently enjoying a companionable silence. Their thoughts were quite active though, and dwelling on similar themes: the recent past and the near future.
Hermione appeared thoughtful and a bit subdued, a common appearance for the young girl. The reason for the passive demeanor had nothing to do with an Arithmancy or Runes assignment, which was typically the case, but everything to do with the moment she had just shared with Harry.
“I’m positive he was about to kiss me! Darn it! Why did Neville have to interfere?”
Their shared gaze, in her opinion, could have had only one outcome: frenzied snogging. Her irritation that they weren’t currently osculating with abandon was only slightly mitigated by the possibility of obtaining the means for a long and comfortable soak.
“I need that tub; and I will have that hot bath. A nice hot bath with Harry. Maybe that stupid egg too if we can remember!”
The subdued look morphed slowly into a dreamy smile on Hermione’s face. Hot baths and Harry were two of her favorite things, after all. Combining them was sure to be a treat.
Harry’s visage betrayed little, as he put on his ‘mask’ of indifference he usually kept up for the benefit of the majority of the student body. He’d found that a bland front paired with a reputation for violence tended to keep most irritants away. He’d tried to look insane, but the rolling eyes made him dizzy and the alka-seltzer he’d chewed to maintain the froth left an awful taste in his mouth.
“One day, when I’ve finished cutting little pieces off Bellatrix LeStrange, I’ll have to ask her how she does it.” His thoughts having taken a momentary aside to the very topic of his contrived countenance.
“Anyway, sure wished Neville could have held off for a few minutes or something!”
Harry was also not best pleased by the interruption, but as it was Neville who had broken their moment, he couldn’t be too mad.
“If it had been Malfoy, old Lucius’d have trouble finding enough Draco to bury!”
Harry fantasized briefly about disintegrating the blond ponce, but a squeeze of Hermione’s hand reminded him that much more satisfying daydreams were to be had; ones starring the thin and athletic brunette by his side.
Harry’s mask melted into a dreamy smile of his own.
Soon the duo found themselves nearing the Great Hall, and Hermione shuddered slightly as they passed a certain column in the anteroom.
“Ugh, that poor piece of masonry! Still, better that than some innocent student is subject to frottage from Ron Weasley!”
Suddenly, she had a brain wave. She stopped and gazed at the column for a moment. Harry paused and looked on quizzically.
Hermione looked over at him and grinned, before pulling her wand and casting a complicated spell.
The stonework in the column rippled for a moment, before forming into a life size human figure. She paused a moment, thinking hard, before waving her wand a few more times to complete the face of the statue-like object.
Harry was astounded. “Hermione, that’s brilliant! But why her?”
Hermione shrugged. “Maybe this’ll stop him from trying to hump the architecture next time Fleur wants to show off.”
She fired off another spell to give the statue voice and some movement.
Harry could only laugh.
“Oh, Ron’s going to love that! Seeing his mum before and after every meal! Priceless!”
The stone Molly Weasley opened her granite eyes and spotted the pair.
“Oh hello dearies! Off to study are we?”
“Yes Missus Weasley.” The pair replied without snickering overmuch.
Molly glanced around a bit and noticed Ron wasn’t there. Naturally, she inquired as to the reasons for his absence.
“I think he said something about a long nap before dinner.” Hermione replied. She neglected to mention it most likely would be taking place in the hospital wing. No need to worry the statue mum, after all.
Stone Molly huffed in exasperation. “That boy! If he keeps up his lackadaisical ways, I’m going to have to talk to Mister Filch about an internship program for him!”
Molly huffed again, and then carefully schooled her features into their usual pleasant demeanor.
“Well, don’t let me keep you. Happy studying!”
Harry and Hermione bid good bye to the animated architectural feature then entered the Hall to find Cedric.
“Hermione, have I told you how brilliant you are? Creating a statue of Ron’s mum out of the very column he molested is pure genius!”
“It’s not a statue, Harry. It’s a load-bearing caryatid, as she’s still attached to the ceiling and floor. But thank you, and yes, you’ve mentioned my intelligence from time to time.”
Harry grinned. “Well, I’m going to say it again: you are easily the smartest and most beautiful person I know.”
Hermione grinned shyly and blushed. “Oh you. Let’s find Cedric and get this over with.”
The pair located the Hufflepuff champion busily studying at the table of Badgers, surrounded by several housemates. Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott were in attendance, as was Justin Finch-Fletchley for the fourth years, all talking quietly about their Charms essay. Other knots of black and yellow clad students seemed to be working closely together as well.
“This whole teamwork thing they have going on must be both extremely helpful and incredibly annoying!”
Harry could concede the obvious benefits of group study, but knew he wouldn’t be able to handle what he invariably saw as ‘interference’. Gryffindors were known to be fiercely independent, and Harry in particular was not known to ‘play well with others’.
As Harry and Hermione approached the table, several students looked up and registered mild alarm. A tall and angry looking boy arose from Cedric’s group and approached them.
“What do you want, cheater?” Asked the familiar looking boy in his annoyingly familiar voice.
Harry sighed tiredly.
“Flannigan, I presume?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
Harry looked over to Cedric. “Hey Ced! Call off your dog, will ya?”
Cedric looked up and nodded to Flannigan.
“It’s okay Ted, I asked him to come.”
Harry gave Ted Flannigan a smirk and shouldered on past the glowering boy to speak with Cedric privately.
Hermione had witnessed the scene, just as she had witnessed Harry’s last interaction with Mister Flannigan, and she was left with a few questions.
“Ted Flannigan? Hi, I’m Hermione Granger, Gryffindor Fourth year. Are you by any chance a Pureblood?”
Flannigan looked a bit surprised at the question, but nodded in the affirmative.
Hermione continued. “Do you by any chance recall your last meeting with Harry?”
The tall boy looked confused for a moment. “Er, it’s kinda vague. I just know I don’t like him a lot. Why?”
“You don’t remember anything from a run in you had with him under similar circumstances about a week before the First Task?”
“No, not really. What happened?”
“Mister Flannigan, would you say you may have been obliviated?”
Flannigan was beginning to get irritated. “Well I wouldn’t know that if I was obliviated, would I?”
“Well, I suppose that answers that. Flannigan, a few weeks ago you had words with Harry and tried to shove him. He broke your nose and kicked your stones in like a Brazilian winger at the World Cup. You collapsed and vomited all over yourself in a somewhat pathetic and disgraceful manner. Forgotten moral of an obliviated story: maybe you should leave Harry alone from now on.”
Flannigan looked appalled. He turned to a watching Susan Bones and asked. “Is that true?”
Susan looked a bit frightened as her un-altered memories of the day returned. Quietly, she replied. “Yes Ted, that sounds like how it happened.”
Ted looked angry. He glared at his housemates and demanded. “None of you guys could tell me about that?”
Hannah replied. “But you had yourself obliviated because you said it hurt too much.”
Justin added. “Yeah, what kind of friends would we be if we let you feel that kind of anguish?”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks for not telling me, I guess.” Stated a slightly chagrined Ted.
Hermione just closed her eyes and sighed. “Maybe the kind of friends who might let someone learn from their mistakes! Sometimes I think your ethos of nurturing and caring here in Hufflepuff does more harm than good! And Justin! You’re a muggle-born just like me. How in the world would purposefully forgetting a painful error possibly be helpful? Have you completely lost your common sense?”
Justin favored her with an indignant glare. “We help our own, Granger. If Ted wants to forget being savaged by your boyfriend for no reason, we’re going to back him up on it!”
Hermione glared back. “And you don’t think Ted here might have a valuable lesson to learn from getting his bits kicked into the back of his mouth?”
Susan answered. “Oh, we all already know Harry Potter is a dangerous psychopath, Granger.” She and Hannah triggered their Malfoy-furnished Tournament buttons.
“Yeah, he murdered that poor dragon with some beastly muggle weapon!” Said an unknown older girl.
“I heard he also beat up a bunch of Slytherin First years!” Interjected a younger boy.
Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes tightly for a moment.
“Arseholes! I’m surrounded by arseholes!” The voice in her head sounded a little like Lord Helmet.
“Alright, you guys seem to have your minds made up about Harry. You think him dangerous and imbalanced. I disagree, but fine, for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re correct. Why then, in Merlin’s name do you lot seem to be going out of your way to piss him off?!?”
The Hufflepuffs were stunned into silence.
“If Harry really is a dangerous psycho, wouldn’t you say your behaviors are more than a little unsafe?”
Hermione gestured to Ted Flannigan. “You insult him, and then unsuccessfully try to physically dominate him, having your arse handed to you in the process. And now you almost tried to do it again!”
She waved her hand at Susan and Hannah. “You two also insult him. Yeah, it’s incredibly childish and moronic, but it’s still an insult.”
Her gaze fell upon Justin. “And you, who really should know better, have the gall to tell me that allowing a ‘friend’ to have his mind toyed with is something to be proud of! Allowing him to hide from his own failings and from the fact a Fourth Year embarrassed him in a physical confrontation!”
Hermione’s eyes swept over the group. “And the rest of you seriously need to check your facts! That dragon was trying to kill Harry! What would any of you have done? You can’t obliviate death away and hide from the pain of being roasted and eaten. And as for those ‘Slytherin Firsties’? It was actually Malfoy and his goons, and they shot first. Sure, they fought about as well as first years, but they still went first.”
She looked over and saw Harry and Cedric approaching, their meeting having ended. Ended amicably as well, as the two seemed to be sharing some sort of private joke.
She looked back at the quiet but angering Hufflepuffs.
“You know, you should go to Professor Sprout and have your mascot changed. Badgers are supposed to be brave and incredibly fierce. You lot look more like sheep to me.”
She took Harry by the arm when he came within reach and kissed him on the cheek.
“Get me out of here, love. The air seems to be choked with stupidity!”
He grinned and led her out of the Hall.
Outside the Hall and past ‘Stone Molly’, (who greeted them with a wave and an admonition to always don clean underwear should they ever have the misfortune to be transported to Saint Mungo’s), Harry managed to calm the angry Miss Granger with soothing words and a shoulder massage.
“What happened back there? It really looked like you were about to hex the lot of them!”
“Nothing important, just satisfying my curiosity and strengthening my cynicism.”
“Ah, well, a healthy dose of cynicism can be a good thing. One ends up surprised and appalled much less easily.”
“Good then, don’t be surprised and appalled if we aren’t invited to tea with the ‘Puffs any time soon.”
Harry grinned. “That’s too bad, I guess. Suppose I’ll have to schedule swimming lessons in the Prefect’s Bath with a gorgeous Gryff of my acquaintance instead.”
Hermione smiled. “Oh, I’ll be sure to tell Ginny to clear her calendar then.”
“That was mean, Hermione. Very mean. Expect a bill from my Psychologist for the nightmares.”
“Oh, don’t wet your knickers! I’m sure a hug from ‘Stone Molly’ will make it all better.”
“Okay, now that’s the Psychologist’s bill and an invoice for some brain bleach you’ll owe me.”
She laughed and stuck her tongue out at him.
“Anyway Harry, so I am to assume you were successful in obtaining the password from Cedric?”
“Yup, no cricket bats required. He told me I should ‘have a soak and think things over’. Didn’t even get pissy over the ‘cheating’ thing.”
She grinned. “Perhaps you are proving a wonderfully ‘corrupting’ influence on the young man?”
“Heh, more like a ‘large stick extracting from the arse’ influence.”
“Yes, quite. Too bad large sticks residing in arses seem to be a Hufflepuff distinction.”
Harry could see Hermione begin to become slightly annoyed from recalling the earlier confrontation.
Fortunately, he knew exactly how to diffuse this particular situation.
He was rubbing her shoulders and working out the kinks, so he didn’t have to lean in very far to whisper huskily in her ear. “How about we move this discussion slash massage to the Prefect’s Bath?”
She stiffened slightly and grabbed his hand.
“Yes, how about we do that very thing?”
The pair giggled as they ran off toward the secret baths.
A/N: I do apologize for the seemingly slow pace. The Ball is coming!