Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the intellectual property of Not Me. There's a good chance Not Me will sue me if I should ever seriously claim the contrary, and since Not Me has lots of money and I would therefore be blown straight from court into oblivion, I am inclined to refrain from ever doing that. Doing so would also be morally wrong, but that's not really all that important nowadays. It's all about arbitrary laws that are so convoluted that they cannot be fully comprehended by those they are allegedly made for. Fun times.
Introduction: To returning readers – all five of them – I cordially wish to dedicate the following words: Collyflobbles. Widdershins. Flibbertigibbet. Mumpsimus. Thank you.
I published my last Potter story around here back in September 2013, which I shudder to realize was almost two years ago. Ever since then ideas kept forming, words kept flowing and pages kept piling up, and yet none of the multiple plots and stories both short and long(-ish) ever reached their much needed conclusion.
And so I have accumulated quite the mass (and mess) of unfinished, Potter-related material on my hard drive. There's a piece about a single match of Quidditch that I have been meaning to write for quite some time, of which I have about twenty pages of notes and less than 4000 words of actual story – approximately half of which will survive the mandatory revision. There's a story about feet and then this one about an armchair, and concepts and rough ideas for all the magnificent things in between the two. There's also wonderfully depressing stuff, which I'd like to get back to at some point, because there's only so much Happily Ever After you can take. There's really some dark and depressing and brutal stuff there.
So, romantic comedy, then. This one right here I'd personally estimate to consist of just about 95% fluff and 3% plot. Opinions diverge on what the remaining 2% are. Maybe stuffing.
I began writing it when I was basically stuck in everything else, and I was inspired to do so by a fictional armchair that I somehow keep mentioning in those other stories (both finished and unfinished). I thought the simple, straightforward concept would make for a nice 3x3000 words kind of story. It slowly turned into a 4x4000 words kind of thing. So, naturally, it's 20,000 words long now.
Anyway. Hope you enjoy; hope I get to finish some more Potter stuff soon.
If not, expect me in 2017 with a story about a coffee table.
The ultimate measure of a man, as it was once so eloquently put, is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. And indeed, who would dare deny the irrefutable truth in these wisely spoken words when it is nothing short of a fact universally acknowledged that in moments of comfort and convenience one does not usually stand at all. A somewhat less meaningful, though surely not entirely irrelevant measure of a man may therefore be seen in the exact manner he elects to spend his times of comfort and convenience in, and in what specific location he chooses to do so. While not generally the most profoundly illuminating reflection on a man's true nature, it may nevertheless serve to reveal a thing or two about secrets otherwise unspoken of.
Now, when your school is an ancient castle almost as breathtakingly palatial as it is in other parts endearingly quaint and rustic, picturesquely situated in the remote sprawling Highlands of Northern Scotland, and its principal faculty happens to be the arcane art of actual magic, it may be deemed impossible to find within its spacious confines a resting spot entirely immune against the accusation of possessing at least some degree of a certain extravagance. Relative to the levels of luxury achievable if desired and present on average regardless of one's desires in these most unusual surroundings, however, the personal preference of one particular student could be seen as fairly mundane, if not entirely modest, for all he wished for in his highly cherished times of comfort and convenience was one particular armchair in front of one particular fireplace.
There, in the caressing embrace of the crimson leather upholstery and amidst a fine selection of the softest of feather pillows and fuzziest of wool blankets, life was good. As if by magic, though not actually so, that four-footed refuge would reliably soothe his heart and mellow his mind whenever he needed it the most. And whenever his requirements did not take on quite such dramatic dimensions, it simply offered the best kind of physical comfort that could possibly exist in this world. And the best part about it? It was simple. All you had to do was to let yourself fall right into it, and it would always catch you and never fail to do so. It was there whenever you needed it. It had no demands, no conditions. The armchair was love, the armchair was life.
A late September week…
With his eyes calmly shut, Harry inhaled as much air as his lungs allowed, filling his inflating chest with the breath of the Earth and letting it flow through his being, imbibing every last one of its precious molecules. And then, when he felt he had truly absorbed its whole invigorating essence, he contentedly breathed it out over his parted lips with a sigh of bliss made audible.
"What is this?" a human voice suddenly cut right into his highly spiritual indulgence, every syllable a sharpened edge. It sounded indignant. Disapproving. Latently accusing.
Harry grudgingly opened one eye – and one eye only – to peek at the source of the unbidden disturbance.
And there she was. The perpetrator. The violator of peace. Sweet Hermione, standing but a few steps away from him. A single one-eyed look at her face was enough to tell him that she was not amused at all for some reason as yet unrevealed to him.
"What is what?" he queried in return, languidly so to some extent but with an undertone of annoyance in his voice.
She gruffly motioned in his general direction with her hands. "This," she said almost snootily, and for what surely had to be the first time ever in known history she disturbingly enough reminded him vaguely of his aunt Petunia, which was in itself enough to lessen his levels of comfort and convenience immensely and conversely increase his discontent in like amount and manner.
"This is me," he replied with a shrug that mostly made his arms twitch and barely reached his shoulders, "trying to enjoy my well-deserved time in this marvelous armchair right here."
"Well-deserved, he says." She scoffed dismissively. "This armchair right here. Unbelievable."
Watching her shake her head he in turn creased his face in confusion, his eyebrows almost shaking hands. "Would you care to elaborate at all on that, or can I go back to being at peace? I'm fine with either option, frankly."
She glowered at him with squinted eyes. "Well," she pointedly said, "since your ignorance appears to be genuine, I'm willing to exercise leniency and inform you soberly of the following fact: you are currently occupying not just any armchair, but most flagrantly so my armchair."
His eyebrows shot up to his hairline at that, their imminent convergence disrupted. "Oh, am I now? Your armchair, you say?" He glanced from side to side as if in honest search for something, then looked at her with his head cocked to the side. "I'm sorry, I must have missed the sign where it says 'Property of Hermione J. Granger'."
Hermione had drawn her wand so quickly that Harry hardly had time enough to be properly surprised, and already she flicked and swept it through the air with a few deft twists and turns of her wrist. He recoiled ever so slightly when a couple of thin luminescent tendrils of white sizzling energy shot past his ear, hit the right side of the backrest and shortly after manifested into what appeared to be a solid wooden sign, hanging from the chair on a braided cord.
Harry blinked once or twice, then twisted in his seat to see what it said, finding his expectation fully met – and in very neatly written letters, too:
Property of Hermione J. Granger
Brushing an imaginary speck of dust off his shoulder, he turned to look up at her once more. He heaved a burdened sigh, then made an important kind of pause. "Doesn't count."
She snorted as she crossed her arms, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. "And who gave you the authority on that, huh?"
"It's called common room for a reason, you know?" he retorted composedly. "You can't just go around and start claiming stuff. It's all common property. It's—it's communism in here, really. Ever noticed how red is the dominant color 'round here? It's legit."
Hermione tapped her foot on the rug as she listened to him, a frown burgeoning on her features.
"My claim is what's legit here," she all but snapped at him. "I'll have you know that I happen to come here every Tuesday first thing after my last class of the day to sit down and relax for ten minutes in that very chair before getting on with my day, and that I—I need these ten minutes for my day to be complete. The chair has always been empty when I arrived here, almost as if everyone but you somehow understood and respected that these are my ten minutes. You are disrupting my routine."
"Routine?" he asked with more than a pinch of disbelief. "We are not even in the second month of the term! How many Tuesdays can there have been? Like four? Including today?"
"So?" she gave right back. "I've been sitting in that chair on every single one of those Tuesdays at exactly this time. Excluding today."
"For ten minutes."
"You time your relaxation?"
"I just need a quick breather after a day's schoolwork," she said with a proudly lifted chin. "Ten minutes are perfectly sufficient for that."
"You time your relaxation."
"Honestly, that's hardly the point here…"
"Oh, but it is," Harry insisted. "You see, you don't even truly appreciate how special this armchair is. You're completely casual about it. Your feelings about this armchair are transparently superficial."
"While yours are—"
"I'm passionate about this armchair, okay?" He gave the armrest an affectionate caress as if to thereby prove his point. "This right here," and he motioned back and forth between himself and the chair with his forefinger, "this is real."
"Oh, please," she waved him off, unimpressed. "You don't even know what you're talking about. That heavenly manifestation right there, which you keep referring to as an armchair with such profound affection, that's nothing short of Elysium made palpable, okay? It's a slice of paradise. A corporeal semblance of perfection. A three-dimensional ode to joy." She paused. Most likely for dramatic effect alone. "And unlike you, I truly cherish it. It's an object of veneration to me. Because unlike you, I'm an armchair aficionado. I'm a connoisseur of the sedentary way of life. You, on the other hand, are an amateur. An imposter. Your philistine butt cheeks are unworthy of this empyrean tangency."
A significant silence followed in the wake of her words that was hardly broken even when a chatty group of other students of House Gryffindor passed them by without taking too much note of their exchange – peculiarity notwithstanding. Harry, meanwhile, tried very hard to remember what exactly he had felt so clever for just a few seconds before. Success proved elusive.
"Yeah, well," he aptly demonstrated his state of mind in consequence, though he would later insist that he had merely been addled by the unforeseeable thematization of his butt cheeks. Philistine, no less.
"Well?" Hermione most obligingly urged him on.
He shook off his mental entanglement as best he could. "Well… if it means as much to you as your lyrical effusion there would have me believe, then maybe you should make more of an effort to actually be here in time, no? First come, first served, eh? Strikes me as a reasonable rule here. Wouldn't you agree?"
There was a dangerous twinkle in her eyes as she glared at him, yet Harry met her gaze unwaveringly.
"Fine," she finally hissed, the word so sharp on her teeth it could very well have left a gash on her lower lip. "Have it your way. You'll live to regret this, Mr. Potter."
Already she made as if to leave, but Harry hastily asked her to wait before she had even accomplished a single step. "Uh, Miss Granger," he hesitantly began when she had turned to face him again. "Uh, despite our little row earlier today – which I am very sorry about, by the way – and despite, well, whatever exactly this right here was, you'll still help me study later, right? I'll be doomed in Snape's test tomorrow without you."
For a couple of tense seconds her face remained perfectly impassive, her features taut and her eyes directed elsewhere. Then her expression softened – minimally, but perceivably.
"Four o'clock in the library," she then tersely said. "The usual spot."
"Thanks," Harry replied with visible relief. "I'll even let you sit in the chair right now—"
"Don't bother," she stopped him short. "My ten minutes are almost up, anyway. But be advised to not delude yourself into believing that this issue is in any way resolved."
And before a smile could threaten to compromise her stern demeanor, Hermione turned on her heels with a rather dramatic swirl of wavy hair and billowy skirt alike and waltzed off with a lofty stride, determined to remain appropriately miffed for the time being.
Then again, she was not the one currently busy leaning back into the empyrean tangency.
One week later…
Oh, sweet taste of victory. Usually the comfort alone had been reward enough, but today the satisfaction of triumph was the perfect garnish and the divine cushions her rightful spoils of war. With relish and delight she stretched her arms and legs on her soft and splendid leather throne. Hugging a richly embroidered pillow to her chest, she propped up her legs on the appurtenant footstool and made herself as big as possible, which – frankly – was not very big at all. But the fact that just about three Hermiones abreast could have easily found a place on this magnificent armchair was no small part of its considerable appeal. It was a kingdom amongst seating accommodations. And, better yet, her kingdom.
After enjoying her throne regained for a while, she opened her eyes and watched the entrance attentively from her royal vantage point. The rapture of victory could, after all, not very well be considered fulfilled without the losing party's submissive acknowledgment of defeat. An awful lot of uninteresting subjects walked by before eventually, finally, the one she had been waiting for emerged from the portrait hole, and in perfect accordance with her insidious plan walked straight… past her?
"Excuse me," she spoke up loud enough to get his attention, fighting her way back out of the pile of pillows she had let herself be swallowed by so gladly just minutes earlier, "where do you think you're going?"
"Huh?" He slowed to a halt behind the large sofa that stood directly opposite of the hearth, and – once his eyes found her half-lost amidst her many pillows – looked at her in puzzlement. "I, uh, thought I was going straight to my dorm room to get changed."
"Just like that?"
He furrowed his brow, thereby further emphasizing his already apparent confusion. "Well, I usually don't tend to make much of a fuss about it, but if you wish to join me, perhaps, that should serve to mix things up a little."
She blinked a couple of times while her cheeks slowly but surely began to feel as if they were turning a slightly more vibrant shade of pink, which she resolutely chose to ignore. "Could you, at the very least, take cognizance of my unparalleled triumph here first?"
He stared at her without the faintest hint of cognizance of any sort in his green eyes.
"It's Tuesday afternoon," she impatiently tried to help him catch up to the obvious, "and I'm sitting in my armchair. My armchair." She pointedly tapped the wooden sign that still hung right where she had conjured it exactly a week ago, which was kind of noteworthy in and of itself since magically conjured objects were bound to dissipate eventually and not many a witch her age would be able to rival this feat.
His eyes followed the motion of her hand, then wandered back to meet hers.
"Oh," he then exhaled in long-awaited recognition. "That." He chuckled, and she didn't know what to think of that. Hardly an appropriate reaction for the defeated. "I completely forgot about that. I thought we had resolved our stupid row from that unfortunate morning."
"Well, yes," she concurred, albeit perplexedly. "But I didn't take that to mean that our battle for armchair dominance was over. What has the one thing to do with the other? Our row was childish und unnecessary. This here, on the other hand, is serious business. But if you're surrendering already…"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Harry was quick to forestall any unwarranted conclusion. "Now wait a minute. I said no such thing. I merely wasn't aware that we were still doing this, okay? But if war is what you want… lady, you'll have it."
"Oh, bring it on, mister."
"Oh, it's on." He pointed a warning finger at her, at which she rolled her eyes.
"I'm trembling with fear."
"Yeah, you better."
Already he had made a couple of decisive steps toward the winding staircase that led up to his original destination, but then he turned on the spot and backtracked.
"You'll still come to our Quidditch match on Saturday though, right?"
"Of course," she replied without hesitation. She had yet to miss a single one of his games.
"Good," said he, grinning. "I'll be seeing you then."
"You'll probably see me again in about twenty minutes, too."
"And most likely multiple times a day before next Tuesday."
"But especially next Tuesday."
"Count on it, missy."
"Get changed, ye lousy muppet."
As Harry went his way with another chuckle, Hermione sunk back into her little Elysium with a contented smile stretched across her carefree features, and whether her armchair sovereignty was its sole cause or if maybe something far less obvious played into it as well – who could tell?
Being an exemplary student certainly has its advantages, not the least of which is of course the ability to get away with behaving in direct contradiction to it. On her way back to Gryffindor Tower, Hermione was feeling mightily spunky for having asked Professor Burbage to be excused from class a whole two minutes early. That she had also been fully prepared to deliver a false pretense if so required made her feel downright shady, and the fact that she had felt nothing but immense relief when the Professor had simply let her go without asking to hear a reason for her request – if only because the woman had been perfectly flabbergasted by this unprecedented event – did nothing to lessen Hermione's newfound daredevil self-conception. If Mario Puzo should ever get around to writing The Godmother, Hermione thought it might as well be about her. She was already considering moving to Sicily.
Walking with an adequate sense of urgency – yet refraining from running, for that would obviously have been silly – she arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady in due form and time. Classes had officially been dismissed barely a minute ago and she was well ahead of most of the other returnees. Some of the younger ones were frolicking about, but Hermione saw no one from her own year. Entering the common room with a healthy portion of satisfaction adding a certain bounce to her step, said satisfaction was instantly and most thoroughly wiped off her metaphorical plate when she raised her head halfway to her final destination.
"Bloody hell!" she exclaimed, standing aghast.
And there he was, sitting there like the king of the world with his hands entwined behind his head, the most complacent lopsided smile on his lips and a jolly twinkle in his vivid eyes. That smug bastard.
"And hello to you too, poppet," he was audacious enough to greet her with a playful wiggle of his eyebrows; then suddenly he turned serious and leaned forward with a concerned expression. "Hey, is something wrong with your lower jaw? Because it's just hanging there."
She closed her mouth, forcefully. "This is impossible!"
Harry casually leaned back in his chair. Her chair! "Denying the evidence because it doesn't suit your personal preference? Who are you and what have you done to Hermione Granger?"
Her cold gaze had become more of a vacant one, her eyes unfocused. "I left class two minutes early! I willingly missed out on two minutes of education! And it should've been enough!" She fixated him again, suspicion and accusation commingling in the withering look she gave him. "How did you do this?"
He gave a shrug. "Magic?"
"Seriously," she said with insistence in her voice. "How did you do it? Was Divination cancelled? Did that ruddy charlatan have one of her episodes again? Tell me!"
Harry took his time, savoring the moment while being just decent enough to try not to be too brazen about it. Nonchalantly looking at his fingernails and deciding that he would later cut them, he finally revealed with another shrug of his shoulder, "I ran."
Her lower jaw did that thing again where it just hung a little. "You… you ran?"
"Yeah," he confirmed with a nod. "It's like walking, but faster. You should give it a try sometime."
Now she clenched her teeth quite fiercely. It was all rather fascinating, even though Harry was beginning to wonder whether his wellbeing was at risk by now, and – more importantly – whether he cared enough to stop the teasing and the gloating. It was awfully enjoyable.
"You—you…" Hermione stammered, which was markedly uncharacteristic for her. She gave up whatever she had been searching for with an exasperated sigh. "Urghs, I should've run!"
"Yes," he said. "You should have. Then again, I'm still the faster runner between the two of us, so unless you can get maybe five minutes or more from Burbage, it would still be all for naught."
"Five minutes or more?" she asked with no small degree of indignation. "I'm not a flipping sloth, okay?" Suddenly her face changed as waves of contemplation washed over them, taking all the tautness of anger and frustration with them. "Wait a minute," she whispered pensively, scrutinizing him intently and therewith making Harry feel like a prisoner on the run who's caught in the searchlight. Her eyes widened with realization on an intake of breath. He gulped. "You have the shorter way back!"
"You do!" She stared at him with her arms akimbo and both triumph and disbelief accentuating her features. "This is outrageous!"
"With that shorter way of yours!"
"I didn't make it shorter," he defended himself not unreasonably, as even Hermione had to grudgingly concede. "Besides, last time I checked the act of cheating required the existence of rules that can be broken, and I don't recall establishing any of those."
"First come, first served," she proudly recited his own words, if only because she couldn't help herself.
He perked an eyebrow. "And how's that working in your favor right now?"
"Well," she retorted, a bit flustered, "how am I supposed to ever come first when my way to the finishing line is longer?"
There was a pause of some vague significance between them.
"Anyway," she decided to treat the moment with sensible disregard, "this is clearly unfair. It's not a competition when it's practically impossible for one of the participants to win."
"Exactly," Harry readily agreed. "No competition at all. I'm glad we finally settled that."
Hermione pinched her lips so much they almost disappeared from sight completely, which Harry deemed generally regrettable. Eventually they returned, if only by necessity. "We have to agree on a set of rules that establish a symmetrical degree of difficulty for all competitors."
He gave her a dubious look. "Like what?"
"You're not allowed to run," came her answer with barely a second's delay.
Harry ejected a short burst of laughter at that. "Oh, but you are?"
"It compensates for the difference in distance."
"It's not that much longer!"
"But you're also faster."
"That's hardly my fault!"
"Then you are not allowed to take the shortest route possible."
"You want me to take a deliberate detour?"
He snorted. "I might as well come to your Muggle Studies class room after Divination and we'll start our race from there. Maybe Ron will volunteer to fire the starting pistol. Sure sounds like adequate behavior for prefects."
She tapped her foot on the rug in the unmistakable rhythm of disapproval. "So you are not at all willing to come to an accommodation?"
He gave an important kind of sigh as he meticulously flattened one leg of his pants with his hand. "Maybe we'll simply have to agree that the game is over."
"You're only saying that because you're currently enjoying the spoils," she accused him rather bluntly, then raised her chin a little. "Because you cheated."
"Listen," he said, and to Hermione's bafflement he rose from the armchair to stand right in front of her. She stiffened at the sudden closeness, but didn't flinch. "Since it's so important to you, I'll let you have it. Tuesday afternoon, after the last class of the day, your ten minutes of timed relaxation. Yours. And if I'm here first, I'll even hold it for you."
For a moment she was genuinely speechless, her tongue seemingly stuck to the roof of her mouth. Then, for an additional moment that coincidentally also prolonged her speechlessness, she was lost in myriad shades of green, and from the sincerity in his eyes she could tell that he was not teasing her at all. Obviously, there was only one thing to do here.
"Thank you," she therefore began, "for demonstrating so unequivocally how little this singular armchair actually means to you—" He tried to protest, but wasn't allowed to. "—and for your charming offer. Possibly patronizing, but charming nonetheless."
"I didn't mean it like that," he was able to interpose.
"Charming or patronizing?"
He made a face at her.
"Be that as it may," she continued, "at this point in time I have to politely refuse, because first there is a score to settle. For the love of the game, if you will. And so…" She put a hand against his chest, at which he looked puzzled – first at her hand, then back at her face where the presence of a faint, well-nigh mischievous little smirk bemused him even more. And just when he did the latter, she gave him a push, and offering no resistance he fell back into the cushions. "You just enjoy your transient sense of victory, as did I," she told him. "It's only fair. Even though you cheated. But next week we'll meet again, right here, and we'll be looking at each other with our perspectives once more reversed. And then we'll see how charming a mood you'll be in, Mr. Potter."
Harry looked up at her in disbelief joined by just a little bit of awe. "Wow," he exhaled quite accordingly. "This was like a scene from a movie or something."
She looked rather pleased with herself. "The godmother of all movies, to be sure."
He nodded slowly in absentminded and at best half-comprehending acknowledgement.
"By the way," said Hermione, "would you like to go for a cup of tea at Hagrid's later? He's returned from his trip to Iceland just this morning and I'm sure he's got a tale or two to tell."
"Sure," Harry answered, swiftly recovering from his slight daze. "Like, say, five-ish?"
And just like that it was settled, while other things, of course, still remained to be settled one way or the other. All in due time, however. All in due time.
Controversial convenience: The quotation referred to at the very beginning of the story stems from Martin Luther King, Jr.