Author's Note: Written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. I'm replacing Beater 2 on the Caerphilly Catapults.
Prompts: Polyjuice Potion. Optional Prompts: 4. (colour) Olive and 9. (closing sentence) That was for certain.
"We can't do it without Harry!"
"Yes, we can!" Hermione hissed back at Ron while they ate dinner in the Great Hall, kicking him under the table for good measure. "You know where he keeps the Invisibility Cloak, don't you?"
"Yeah, but… it just doesn't feel right. Not with Harry in the hospital wing like he is," Ron said. "Besides, it only takes a night for bones to regrow. We can go tomorrow night."
"No, we can't!" Hermione reminded him, "We already waited until the last night of the full moon to pick the fluxweed, so Harry could practice for the game. It has to be tonight, or we've lost our chance for another month."
Ron twisted his mouth as though he were thinking of arguing further, so Hermione added, "It's not as if we're going anywhere that's really forbidden. During the daytime, we go by Hagrid's gardens all the time."
Still, Hermione thought later that night, huddling under the Invisibility Cloak was not the same without Harry. Ron kept jerking the Cloak awkwardly to keep it from dragging on the ground and tripping them up, and Hermione held her breath at every corner.
She didn't know why, but without Harry, it felt as though the Cloak wouldn't be enough to protect them. Of course, that was silly. The Cloak worked whether or not Harry Potter was wearing it, and they took up less space without him, allowing them to hide in smaller corners.
This advantage came in handy almost immediately on their journey. The first time was when they passed Filch talking to Mrs. Norris in one of the halls. Filch was crouched down to pet Mrs. Norris' head as he talked to her, spanning almost the width of the narrow corridor, between the two of them. They didn't dare try to sneak past Mrs. Norris. The cat would likely hear them breathing, or feel the air of their passing on her long fur. So the two second-years flattened themselves out against the wall and carefully side-stepped past Filch. He was saying something peculiar to his cat, something about a boy who'd been where he shouldn't have, but before Hermione could really concentrate on the one-sided conversation, they'd slid by and were on their way again. The second time was not until they had completed their mission and almost returned to safety.
They pulled the door to the castle open far enough to squeeze through, a feat which took quite a lot of strength for two twelve-year-olds, and they were breathing heavily when they finally emerged into the night air.
"Can we take this off, now?" whispered Ron.
"No. Someone might see us out a window."
A heavy sigh came from the back of the Invisibility Cloak.
Hermione led them down the familiar path towards Hagrid's cabin. He had a patch of fluxweed growing there. It was a fairly common form of mint, and was used similarly. Hermione had noticed that it was definitely the most sweet-smelling ingredient for the Polyjuice Potion.
It suddenly occurred to her, as they drew closer, that they might not be the only ones who needed full-moon fluxweed, or that the crop had been completely harvested, but neither was the case. There was a nice patch waiting for them when they got there.
Hermione cast a Severing Charm on the plant, picking up the fallen stems and clutching them tightly.
"I've got them," she whispered to Ron, and they went to retrace their steps.
Ron managed to pull the door shut by himself, as Hermione's hands were full of fluxweed and she couldn't help him.
Filch was not where they had run into him on the way out. Their path was clear, until the very moment they were approaching the Fat Lady. Professor McGonagall was emerging from the portrait.
Hermione gasped, fumbling with the plant as she and Ron tried to move out of the way. They barely managed to squish themselves into an alcove housing a torch, a feat which would have been impossible with Harry under the cloak as well, when Hermione saw a trodden stem of fluxweed on the ground close to where they stood.
Professor McGonagall saw it, too, and came close enough to touch them, if she had known they were there. She picked up the plant and examined it. After a moment, she muttered to herself, "Fluxweed. This won't help at all." Apparently satisfied with her investigation, she placed the stem in one of her pockets and departed down the corridor.
By the time she had stowed the fluxweed and curled herself under the covers, safe in her dormitory once more, Hermione was glad that Harry had not accompanied them. To have been caught by Filch would have been bad, but Professor McGonagall was much more intimidating a figure. Who knew what she would have done had she found them out of bed yet again? A hundred and fifty points lost over Norbert the dragon had been more than enough, as far as Hermione was concerned.
"I wonder what McGonagall was thinking when she saw that piece of—what is it, again?"
"Fluxweed," Hermione supplied as she placed her portable waterproof flame in the bowl of one of the toilets in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
"Right," Ron agreed, lugging the cauldron over to be placed on top of the fire, its claws resting on the sides of the toilet. "What do you suppose she thought? Something about Colin?"
"It might have something to do with him," Hermione told him thoughtfully, "But fluxweed is a common herb. It's used as a flavouring, sort of like mint. She might've just thought someone was trying to cure a stomachache with fluxweed. Which wouldn't work. Give it here, please?" She held out her hand for their harvest of fluxweed and began counting the stalks.
She breathed a sigh of relief when she counted nineteen. The potion only called for sixteen. She set the bundle down and took a deep breath. "Are you ready?" she asked.
Ron swallowed and nodded. "Stir three times clockwise after the knotgrass," he recited.
Hermione nodded back at him, then dropped the three measures of fluxweed into the cauldron.
The response was immediate, and the clear water now turned olive green. Hermione was about to breathe a sigh of relief when they heard the door to the bathroom open. She and Ron exchanged a glance. "What do we do?" hissed Ron.
"Don't panic," she whispered back, "we don't know who it is yet."
"It doesn't matter who it is!"
"Shh!" Hermione put a hand over Ron's mouth, and carefully put an eye to the keyhole of the stall.
"It's me," Harry said, approaching the stall.
"Harry!" she exclaimed,"You gave us such a fright—come in—how's your arm?"
"Fine," said Harry, taking in the scene before him with what seemed like mingled curiosity and annoyance.
"We'd've come to meet you, but we decided to get started on the Polyjuice Potion," Ron told him, "We've decided this is the safest place to hide it."
"Look, I've loads to tell you," Harry said, "First of all, Colin's in the hospital wi—"
"We already know," Hermione interrupted him, "We heard Professor McGonagall telling Professor Flitwick this morning. That's why we decided we'd better get going—" she trailed off, a little too embarrassed to finish saying "even without you."
The boys didn't seem to notice, however. Ron was growling, "The sooner we get a confession out of Malfoy, the better."
If it was Malfoy, and Hermione couldn't think of anyone else it could be, Ron was right. And that meant that she had been right in insisting that they start the potion without Harry. Colin would not be the only victim. That was for certain.