At one time, 'Drink and Bad Companions' used to be an acceptable defense in court...
A/N 2: Special thanks to Marius Darkwolf for the shout out. If you haven’t checked out any of his work, you are most definitely missing out on some high quality writing. Hope those stitches heal up soon!
One Wizard Too Many
The Perils of Demon Firewhiskey
Harry hated waiting.
The ability to be patient, to accept that some things happened in the fullness of time and according to their own schedules was one the young Mister Potter did not count among his virtues.
This particular period of necessary inactivity was one he was more than happy to endure, however, because he was about to escort Miss Hermione Granger to the Yule Ball.
He waited in the Gryffindor Common Room within view of the girl’s dormitory stairs, dressed in his formal dark robes with light blue trim and awaiting his soon to be descending goddess along with the other boys attending the Ball. He stood next to Neville, who was fidgeting in his usual manner. The two shared a companionable silence, as Neville was too nervous to frame a competent conversation, and Harry allowed himself to become lost in his thoughts.
Harry’s ponderings of the time in the Prefects Bath would surely warm his heart for all the years left to him. Hermione was so beautiful and so incredibly intelligent that he had difficulty believing she would actually consent to being his girlfriend. No one deserved to be that happy, least of all him.
Less pleasant were his remembrances of the Egg and the task it detailed. Harry regarded it as a threat to all he held dear, to abduct and confine the girl he adored above everything else in the world. He remembered feeling very scared and very angry at the thought of Hermione being held in some watery prison.
His mind whirled away to think of the preparations he and Hermione had made following that wonderful and terrible bath, for as much as he didn’t want to compete in this stupid mess of a tournament, he was bound to try. The magic of that goblet would allow nothing less.
The happy couple left the Prefects Bath hand in hand, giggling and whispering to each other as they strolled down the corridor in the direction of Gryffindor Tower. It was quite later than they had thought and curfew was approaching.
Hermione sighed. “Where does the time go? I thought for sure we’d have at least a little time to research underwater spells tonight!”
Harry grinned. “Time flies when you’re having fun, love. Besides, you look quite done in from that warm water.”
She yawned, and then grinned sleepily. “Yes, that bath did feel wonderful! Just the thing for these long Scottish winter nights. Of course, getting to snog the pool boy was nice too.”
“Pool boy? Is that all I am to you?”
She added a bit of leer to her grin. “Well, let’s see. Gorgeous and slightly dim younger male pleasures a sophisticated and erudite older woman in a pool like environment? Yup, that makes you the pool boy.”
He sighed. “You make me feel like such a piece of meat. What a shame that I kind of like it.”
She giggled. “What, no riposte over the ‘dim’ comment?”
“Hermione, compared to you, I’m lucky to be considered only slightly dim.”
She looked at him lovingly for a moment, and then hugged him. “That’s sweet. Thank you.”
The pair had reached the portrait of ‘The Fat Lady’, and gave the appropriate password for entry.
The Common Room was mostly empty at the moment, so the couple had a quick bedtime snog.
As they broke the last sweet kiss, Harry bid her a good night. As Hermione responded in kind, he replied.
“In a bit, love. I’m not tired yet and maybe I can get a hold of Remus tonight.”
She looked a bit concerned. “Harry, are you sure that’s wise?”
“Nope, it probably isn’t. But I know I won’t be able to sleep tonight unless I get some headway on the solution for this clue.”
“Well, let me come with you then.”
Harry patted her hand. “No, that’s okay. You’re knackered and I’m just going to floo them about what we’ve discovered. No trouble at all.”
Hermione didn’t look convinced about the ‘no trouble’ part.
“You’re sure? You’re just going to call them from the floo here in the common room? It’s a call-only floo. You know that, right?”
“Yup, no worries at all. Just a quick jingle, nothing more.”
“With you, Harry, I always worry.”
He chuckled. “Oh relax, I’ll be like five minutes.”
She looked at him dubiously.
He smiled. “Come on, you can trust me.”
She just rolled her eyes and huffed as she went up to bed. “Good night Harry. No mischief, you understand?” Her retreating form called from the girl’s stairs.
Harry approached the fireplace and re-lit the dying flames with a quick ‘incendio’. He then grabbed a handful of powder and threw it into the fire, calling out Remus Lupin’s address as he did so. The flames flashed green and he took the very unnatural step of putting his head into the emerald inferno. He was instantly treated to a green tinted view of the werewolf’s front parlor.
He tried calling out both Remus’ and Sirius’ names to the empty parlor, but to no avail. He did notice a number of firewhiskey bottles and empty pizza boxes strewn about the normally immaculate room. A glance at the window near the fireplace showed some sort of odd flashing going on every now and then. He then stilled for a moment and could hear the distant sound of explosions.
“Holy shit, they’re being attacked!” Harry said aloud to himself as he scrambled backwards from the fireplace and stood up. He thought for a moment, and then ran toward the boy’s dormitory stairs.
He rushed up the stairs and into his room. The other boys stopped their conversation at his abrupt appearance.
“All right there Harry?” Dean called to him. He had been watching Seamus about to land a ‘flying back flip elbow’ on a recently healed Ron, who was threatening the Irish boy with ‘a big can of Devonshire whoop-ass delivered by my completely awesome German Suplex’, in what seemed to be a magically assisted homage to professional wrestling. Seamus was currently standing on the foot-board to his bed and directing attention to his groin area through the use of extravagant gestures. Ron was standing in the middle of the circular room and trying to impress the ‘crowd’ with muscle poses. Dean had been commentating on the action and Neville was trying to read a book on Herbology and ignore the goings on around him.
All in all a typical Wednesday night in Gryffindor Tower.
Harry ignored the ruckus and Dean’s question as he quickly snatched up his invisibility cloak and the Marauder’s Map. He had work to do, and would not be distracted by the schoolboy interpretation of ‘sports entertainment’.
Ron looked over at Harry and seemed about to pose a question of his own. That question was to remain unasked as it was interrupted by one hundred and forty five pounds of formerly airborne Hibernian.
Seamus couldn’t manage the back flip, but the flying elbow seemed to work well enough.
As the Irishman was trying to pin the ginger prat and Dean announcing every dramatic moment, Harry scurried out of the ‘arena’ and towards the Common Room exit.
He had some uncles to rescue.
Harry flipped his invisibility cloak over his head and ran hard for the front doors to the castle. He knew the only accessible floo was in Hogsmeade, and he had little time to waste.
He ran down the stairs two and three at a time and sprinted through the straight corridors, skidding in the turns and nearly falling from a wet floor near Myrtle’s loo. The adolescent ghost had flooded the toilets again, most likely in reaction to what had happened in the Prefect’s Bath. Harry grinned in remembrance; if he was going to date a witch, why wouldn’t he choose one that had a corporeal form? And what a corporeal form it was, too.
He shook off the lustful thoughts, since it wouldn’t do to be distracted going into a fight.
He rounded the last turn and headed for the large doors. A simple unlocking charm performed on the run was enough to access the entry courtyard and the long road to the gates.
“Wait, the gates are probably locked. Like, really locked. Shit.”
Harry slowed to a jog as he pondered the latest problem. He had to get over, under, or through those gates to get to Hogsmeade. Which was about two miles away.
Harry then had a brainwave, followed by feelings of stupidity.
“Hermione had it right! I am dim. Why didn’t I think of that before?”
He drew his wand and cast an ‘accio firebolt’, then began to run again. A minute later, the speedy broom appeared from the general direction of Gryffindor Tower. He leapt and mounted it on the run, then sped off over the gates and towards Hogsmeade.
A few short minutes later he was zooming down the main street of the quiet village towards the brightly lit Three Broomsticks. He dismounted and hid his broom in an alley behind some dustbins.
He then jogged up to the entrance of the busy pub and entered quickly.
The tavern was bustling and full of good cheer as the mostly male patrons swilled their firewhiskeys, butterbeers, and other assorted wizarding beverages. Harry eased along the wall invisibly as he made his way towards the floo, trying to think of a socially acceptable diversion along the way.
He was having a difficult time of it, as he didn’t usually do ‘socially acceptable’ as a rule.
Just as he was about to settle on repeating his previous M.O., which involved a few bludgeoning hexes and a massive bar fight, when he noticed a target of opportunity.
Rita Skeeter was there. Nursing a martini and looking over the crowd in an appraising manner. What she may have been looking for, Harry didn’t wish to speculate.
“Oh happy day! Hope someone has a camera!”
He quietly summoned her wand, and tossed it away in a corner. He then paused and drew breath.
Quickly, he spell chained a clothes banishing charm and an uncontrollable dancing hex on the middle aged witch.
Her shriek brought all conversation in the pub to a halt, to be replaced by laughter and wolf whistles as the not-terribly physically fit woman began dancing wildly to a tune no one could hear.
Her complete and slightly appalling nudity managed to completely divert attention from Harry quickly flooing from the horror show.
As it later turned out, several people had cameras in their possession that evening.
Harry landed on the parquet in his usual fashion: painfully and embarrassingly. He quickly dusted himself off and adjusted the invisibility cloak. The roar of battle was still coming from somewhere outside, and some terrifying green flashes could be seen from the window.
“The killing curse! It has to be! No other spell has that same bowel loosening green tinge!”
He ran for the back door and peered from a rear window. More flashes and a loud boom reverberated through the wall.
He wrenched open the door and ran toward the explosions, which seemed to be emanating from behind a line of trees. Sprinting into the copse, he pushed through the dead winter foliage and crouched, looking for a target.
He found two targets, actually. Targets for his ire, though, and not his wand.
Sirius and Remus were perfectly fine. They were also apparently having a bit of fun with a large quantity of muggle munitions.
Sirius was manning a large fifty caliber machine gun mounted on a tripod and wildly shooting green tracers into the air. His insane cackling was inaudible over the din of war, but visible all the same.
“Green! I thought it was the fucking Avada Kedavra! Damn them!”
The explosions were the product of Remus Lupin, who was a bit closer to Harry and was currently employing a World War Two-era mortar to fire off a mix of parachute flares and high explosive.
Down range the charred remains of several muggle lorries could be seen, one still burning merrily as its petrol supply flamed and crackled away.
Harry stood there grinding his teeth as he pulled his cloak off, exposing his irritation to the world. He stalked up to Lupin and tapped him on the shoulder.
The werewolf turned unsteadily towards him.
Harry cocked back a fist and punched the man right in the nose. Remus fell backwards in surprise and regarded the lad with wide eyes.
“Harry, what are you doing here?”
Harry just scowled and jerked his head over to his idiotic godfather, who was laughing hysterically as the large bullets he was firing tore up the ground around the lorries.
Remus sighed and shot a stinging hex at Sirius.
“Hey! What was… Harry? Is that you?”
“Yes it’s me! I tried to floo you two morons and somehow got the impression you were under attack!”
“Oh.” Remus looked contrite. Sirius just grinned.
“Yeah, ‘oh’! I thought someone was trying to put my uncles to the killing curse! Instead, after running my arse ragged to find a useable transport floo, I come down here to find a bunch of idiots re-enacting fucking Sword Beach!”
Remus looked at Sirius and muttered. “We forgot to turn off the floo.”
“Arrgh!” Harry yelled in frustration, before helping the werewolf up and catching him in a bone-crushing hug.
Sirius came over and patted the lad on the shoulder. “Not that we’re not glad to see you, but why are you here?”
Harry released Remus from the hug and answered. “Hermione figured out the clue from that egg, and I wanted to pick your seriously underemployed brains for ideas.”
Remus answered. “Well, let’s head on up to the house and discuss things over a cuppa.”
“Heh! Cup a firewhiskey maybe!” Sirius snorted.
As the trio walked through the copse of bare trees towards the house, Harry asked a question.
“So what in the hell were you guys doing out there?”
Sirius answered. “Well, you see Remus here had all sorts of stuff lying around that you didn’t need for the first task. We just thought we’d have a few drinks and ‘see if it still worked’ and all.”
Harry grinned. “Ah, couldn’t resist all the pretty explosions and loud bangs, huh?”
“Never could, Harry. I think I might be addicted.”
Remus barked in laughter and Harry sniggered.
“Yup, ‘my name is Sirius Black, and I’m a boom-a-holic. I’ve been free from destructive blasts for about three minutes now’.”
“You always did get excited at the smell of napalm, particularly in the morning.” Remus said.
“Ah, smells like… good times.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “All right there Colonel Kilgore. Let me tell you about that damned egg, then let’s hear what you think.”
“Fire away, kiddo.”
The trio schemed for several hours and were quite satisfied with the outcome.
The second task wouldn’t know what hit it.
It was about two thirty in the morning when Remus apparated Harry back to the alley next to the Three Broomsticks.
When they had regained their sense of balance, Remus asked. “Okay, Snuffles and I will get the item from the Black vault and make the other arrangements. The inviting I’m leaving up to you.”
Harry nodded. “Got it. I’ll send Hedwig out first thing after breakfast. It might take a bit of sweet talking, but I know I can pull this off. It’s going to be great!”
“Good, I see you have things well in hand. Congratulations on your new girlfriend, by the way. When we have more time, we’ll have to tease you properly about it!”
“Tease me all you want. My love is as a shield to such petty mocking!” Harry grinned.
“I see corniness is a Potter birthright! James used to make pronouncements like that all the time.”
Harry gave the werewolf a hug. “Thanks for all your help, it means a lot.”
Remus smiled. “To borrow Sirius’ motto for a moment, no worries.”
He waved and apparated away.
Harry recovered his broom and donned his invisibility cloak, then exited the alley. To his surprise, the Three Broomsticks seemed busier than ever. There was a line leading up to the door, and a man was collecting a ‘cover charge’ to enter. He diligently ignored the fact the line was composed solely of older men, all of whom seemed eager to enter the establishment.
“Nope, didn’t see nuthin!”
He remounted his broom and sped off towards Hogwarts and Gryffindor Tower. Sleep would come easily to him after the day he’d had!
The days since the beginning of their relationship and discovery of the egg had flown by. Harry had sent the necessary correspondence via Hedwig, and received a positive reply. Likewise, Sirius and Remus had met all their goals, and were currently engaged in the second part of ‘The Plan’. Hermione was less than pleased at Harry’s visitation of his uncles, but had understood why he had gone.
His diversion involving Rita Skeeter had gone a long way toward easing her ire as well.
In fact, the following day’s headline announcing Miss Skeeter’s upcoming series of articles exposing the sleazy secrets of exotic dancers ‘from an insider’s perspective’ had first generated a questioning glance from the studious girl.
His explanation had at first produced laughter, followed by an extended snog in a nearby broom closet.
She was sure to inform him that her own vengeance was still pending, though.
Hermione was a bit less happy that Harry was withholding his plans for the task from her, but was mollified a bit when he promised to reveal the surprise very soon.
Just then, Harry looked up towards the top of the stairs. The vision he beheld made it difficult to breathe.
“My God!” Harry said aloud.
Hermione was standing at the top of the stairs. At his exclamation, she donned a huge smile.
Gracefully, she descended the stairs towards a stunned Harry, stopping just before him.
“You look completely amazing!”
“Thank you Harry, you clean up well too.”
Harry snapped out of his trance, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a jewelry box and opened it.
“Picked up a little something for you. Hope you like it.”
Her eyes widened at the sight of a diamond necklace on a delicate gold chain. It was very pretty and slightly understated, much like the girl herself.
He took it from the box and placed it around her neck, where it seemed to go perfectly with her light blue dress. She turned and kissed him gently on the lips.
“Thank you, it looks wonderful!”
He gazed at her. “I see something even more wonderful, but you’re welcome.”
She just blushed and smiled prettily.
“Shall we be off, good sir?” She asked.
“We shall, my lady.”
The happy couple departed for the Ball.
A/N: Okay, a middling size chapter here (at least by my standards!) I’ve gotten a few reviews asking that I pick up the pace a bit, but find that I need two to cover the Ball. Fear not folks, we’re getting there