Hermione had not been wrong. It took Harry about two minutes and barely five steps away from her to begin his reign of unmitigated chaos.
"Theodore!" he shouted across the station, to where Theodore Nott was about to step onto the train. "Can I have a word?"
Theodore looked utterly confused. He turned away from the train to fully treat Harry to his perplexed frown, which gave Harry the opportunity to dart away from Hermione and across the station to catch up with him.
As Hermione watched, Theodore's expression went from perplexed to shocked to amused as Harry spoke to him. A very familiar sense of dread snaked down Hermione's spine. Nothing good could come from this.
Well, she supposed, as she started making her own way onto the train, improved inter-house relations between Gryffindor and Slytherin could come of this, which would technically be a good thing, but somehow she didn't think that was Harry's end goal.
It wasn't as though she could run down the train and demand that Harry not attempt to befriend Slytherins, though, so she just headed to the Prefects' compartment and hoped that the train would actually reach Hogsmeade without incident.
She met Draco and Pansy there, though none of the other prefects had arrived yet. Ron, for one, was still trying to fend off his mother - she could see him, and Ginny, being fussed over relentlessly.
"Granger," Pansy said with a cordial nod.
"Parkinson, Malfoy," Hermione greeted. "Have a good summer?"
Draco rolled his eyes and ignored her in favour of the window, seemingly searching for someone.
Pansy shrugged. "Wasn't too bad. You?"
Hermione gave a strained smile and tried to ignore the twitching in her eye. "It was... eventful."
Pansy looked curious, but before she had the chance to ask questions, Draco turned abruptly from the window and interrupted with a scowl. "Pansy, I've lost track of Theodore again."
"Oh, already?" Pansy sighed. "I'm sure he can't get into that much trouble on his own, Draco, we haven't even left the station yet."
"He's not on his own, though," Hermione said grimly, drawing surprised looks from the two Slytherins. "He's with Harry, or was when I last saw them."
"Oh dear sweet Merlin no," Pansy moaned. "Theodore and Potter? That's the last thing we need!"
"You have no idea," Hermione said flatly. "No idea whatsoever what Harry is capable of. Or capable of talking other people into doing."
"And it wouldn't take much talking to convince Theodore to go along with whatever chaos Potter has cooked up," Draco said, scowling. "He thrives on chaos. He's probably been waiting all his life for this moment."
"Oh, that's just what we need," Hermione sighed. "Harry finding another accomplice for whatever havoc he plans to wreak over the course of the year."
"Well, you never know," Pansy said brightly, "Theodore might have ignored Potter and decided to do something else entirely. Or even talked him down into something more sensible!"
"Pansy, your optimism, while admirable, is completely out of place in this compartment."
"Well excuse me for not going immediately to the worst case scenario, Draco."
"I think where Potter is involved, worst case scenario is only to be expected."
"You're not wrong," Hermione admitted.
Once the other prefects started to trickle into the compartment, the subject of Harry and Theodore was dropped in favour of actual prefect business. The train departed at eleven on schedule, and Hermione almost forgot about Harry and his endless penchant for chaos as the entire trip to Hogsmeade passed with no more drama than Ron and Draco accidentally agreeing with one another in opposition to Michael Corner's genuinely terrible patrolling schedule (and the subsequent bickering to return to the natural order of things).
Hermione didn't even see Harry at Hogsmeade Station, though she assumed he was still with Theodore when she saw no sign of either of them. She did see a rather crabby Luna trailing after Ginny and Neville, who were both looking rather worse for wear.
She and Ron travelled in the same carriage up to the castle as Draco and Pansy, which was filled mostly with awkward silence. Ron and Draco spent most of the trip trying to out glare one another, but didn't dare speak.
Hermione was understandably short on patience after spending most of the day keeping the prefects meeting turning into a brawl, and she was also still twitchy after, well, the events of the summer.
So when she reached the Gryffindor Table and saw Harry sitting there, attempting to communicate with Theodore with not at all subtle hand signals, well, it rather struck a nerve.
"Harry James Potter I do not know what you are doing but I swear to Godric Gryffindor that if you do not cease immediately I will make you suffer."
"What?" Harry said, blinking at her, all wide eyed innocence and completely feigned sincerity. "I'm not doing anything, Hermione, what are you talking about?"
Hermione just looked at him, deeply unimpressed. "I will make you wish we had let Ginny have her way with you yesterday."
Seamus snickered across the table. Hermione glowered at him. After the moment it took him to sense that someone was potentially disrespecting his baby sister, so did Ron.
Harry ignored all of them and made one last complicated signal to Theodore before sitting back in his seat, looking too satisfied for Hermione's comfort.
Hermione finally sat down, scowling at Harry and just waiting for him to incriminate himself further.
Instead, he made a show of looking up at the staff table. "Hm, I wonder where Professor Dumbledore is?"
Hermione allowed his very obvious subject change and followed his gaze. Not only was the Headmaster missing, but there were no unfamiliar faces, which meant their Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was missing as well. Or...
"Do you think he's even hired anyone for Defence?" she asked with a frown. "He's probably off trying to convince some poor sap to take the position."
"I'm sure the Headmaster hired someone weeks ago," Dean assured her. "He wouldn't have left it this late."
"He was awfully busy this summer," Ginny said darkly. "He may not have had time, what with all those spells he had to cast."
Harry coughed. "Or, possibly, he hired a lovely gentleman by way of owl post and has perhaps, hypothetically, just today discovered that his Defence hire was in fact the construct of a rather bored teenage mind over the summer..."
"How did you manage that?" Ron asked, not even fazed.
"Hedwig likes to play dress ups, so she went in disguise."
"No wonder she turned to owl-cohol..."
The others fell silent, as Harry turned to look rather guiltily at Hermione.
"Are you telling me that you let Headmaster Dumbledore hire you to teach Defence when you know full well that our very grades rest on our having an actual professor?"
Ron coughed. "I mean, to be fair, we've done all right so far without decent professors most years..."
"Ron, don't help me," Harry said.
"Oh, let him, you're gonna need all the help you can get," Ginny said with a smirk.
"I'm sure Professor Dumbledore will have found someone, Hermione," Harry said. "He's very resourceful."
Hermione swallowed a strangled scream as Professor McGonagall led the first years into the Hall. She probably shouldn't traumatise the little baby Gryffindors before they were even Sorted. It could wait until tomorrow, at least.
Professor McGonagall frowned when she realised the Headmaster was still absent, exchanging glances with the other Heads of House before seeming to come to a decision. She gave a nod to the Sorting Hat.
The Sorting Hat promptly burst into a highly inappropriate song, cut short when Professor McGonagall grabbed it by the tip and yanked it off the stool. She held it up and regarded it with a scowl, then walked down the table to place it on Professor Snape's head.
Several moments of presumably stern thoughts later, Snape removed the Hat and returned it to Professor McGonagall. She placed it back on the stool, where it drooped in a particularly contrite manner before singing very short version of the same song it had sung in Hermione's first year. The Sorting then got underway, though the first years all looked quite perplexed (and a little alarmed, in a few cases).
Just after the last little Hufflepuff was taking her seat at her new table, the doors to the Great Hall opened to admit the Headmaster.
Professor Dumbledore was beaming at the students, avoiding the disapproving gaze of Professor McGonagall (and avoiding looking at one particular section of the Gryffindor table), and he was being followed into the room by a man holding a sandwich the size of his own head.
The sandwich, Hermione assumed, was cheese.
"Oh, hey, Kingsley's going to teach!" Ron said with a grin. "We might actually learn something!"
"Like how to make the perfect cheese sandwich?" Ginny asked tartly.
"Or how to unsuccessfully track a camel through a jungle, possibly," Ron replied.
Hermione just groaned and listened with half an ear as Dumbledore introduced Professor Shacklebolt, apologised for his tardiness, and welcomed them all to dig into their dinners.
And then the food arrived and she observed a distinctly unholy gleam in Harry's eyes. An unholy gleam in his eyes, and a slowly but surely growing pile of mashed potatoes and peas on his plate.
She looked across to the Slytherin table. Sure enough, the plate in front of Theodore was also mostly mashed potato, though specks of orange indicated carrot or pumpkin mixed through it.
"You know, I've always wondered how the House Elves know when to send dinner up," Seamus mused as he reached for a second helping of roast beef. "I don't think we've gotten it at the same time even once since first year!"
"Maybe the Headmaster has a bell he rings to let them know?" Lavender suggested.
"Or they can just sense it," Parvati said. "As part of their magic, you know?"
"Maybe it's a mind link," Ginny said with an arched eyebrow directed at Harry. "Is that where you learned it?"
"I have never learned any magic from house elves," Harry refuted. "Although, now that you mention it..."
"No," Hermione said flatly. "Absolutely not. I don't want to even imagine what you could learn from Dobby."
Harry just shrugged and grinned at her, turning back to his dinner. Hermione just kept watching him suspiciously as she ate.
It paid off. Harry had adapted to more subtle hand signals, but he was communicating with Theodore again.
And Theodore, looking gleeful, was speaking animatedly to his friends, waving his arms around - and the spoon loaded with mashed potato.
As Hermione watched, the glob of potato left the spoon and flew, with what had to be deliberate aim, to hit Blaise Zabini in the side of the head.
Before she could even register that she had moved, Hermione was standing on the other side of the hall with a death grip on Blaise's wrist.
Blaise, frozen in the act of pouring his pumpkin juice over Theodore's head, stared at her. "What the hell, Granger?"
"Don't you dare," she hissed, forcing his hand upright before more than a couple of drops touched Theodore's hair. "Don't let them drag you down to their level."
He still looked utterly bewildered (and not a little angry, as the mashed potato slid down onto his shoulder).
Draco sighed. "Loathe as I am to agree with Granger," he said, sneering only minimally. "I'd really rather you didn't enable Theodore and Potter to drag the entire student body into a food fight."
Blaise grimaced, realising that was exactly what he had been about to do. "Fair enough," he said, lowering his hand. Hermione let him go, satisfied that he wasn't going to get involved. "I'd really prefer not to wind up covered in food anyway. Well, any more than I already am."
"You guys are no fun," Theodore said, pouting.
Hermione shared a look with Draco that spoke volumes and ended in a grim nod of acknowledgement - they would have to pool their resources to keep Harry and Theodore from bringing the castle down around their ears.
Food fight averted, at least for the time being, Hermione returned to the Gryffindor table.
"A food fight, Harry?" she said as she retook her seat. "Really?"
"Why, Hermione, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Harry, your wide-eyed innocent look wouldn't fool Gilderoy Lockhart."
The expression dissolved into a vaguely sheepish grin. "All right, you caught me. I'm sorry. I definitely won't do anything like this ever again."
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "You know, if you weren't levitating your plate of potato over Ginny's head, I would have almost believed you."
Ginny whipped out her wand and took control of the plate from Harry. Harry's eyes gleamed. Ginny took a moment to take a deep breath, visibly restraining herself from banishing the plate directly into Harry's face, and instead set it down at the far end of the table.
Harry shook his head. "I'm disappointed in you, Ginny."
She rolled her eyes. "And I'm still holding a grudge over the sand, you'll have to forgive me for not playing along."
"Fair enough," he sighed.
"Can we just eat in peace, now?" Ron pleaded. "Just give me this one night."
"You haven't actually stopped eating this entire time, Ron," Neville pointed out.
"Well, no," Ron admitted. "But my appetite has definitely been affected. I don't even know if I can stomach dessert."
As if he had summoned it himself, the dessert dishes began appearing.
"I definitely can," Harry said, taking a full half of a chocolate tart. "I didn't eat much for mains."
Hermione groaned. "Gee, I wonder why."
She watched them carefully for the rest of the feast, but Harry and Theodore had clearly given up their first attempt as a failure (though Hermione had no doubts this would not be the last food fight she would have to thwart).
Dumbledore stood at the end of the Feast to give the usual start of term notices. There were the usual warnings about the Forbidden Forest, spells in corridors, and banned product lists in Filch's office (which had a note at the top of the list stating 'any and all products ever invented by any Weasley at any time' to be extra forbidden, which, if nothing else, cut down the number of named individual items immensely).
The trip up to Gryffindor Tower was thankfully uneventful, up until Ron gave the Fat Lady the first password of the year ('rainforest', which made Hermione and Ginny twitch with irritation), and the Gryffindors poured into the Common Room and several promptly began screaming.
Hermione pushed her way to the front, wand ready. Then she heard one of the second years yell "that's a bloody tiger!" and turned to face the rest of her House.
"All right, quiet!" she shouted, shooting sparks with a loud 'bang' to get their attention. "There's no need for panic, everyone is safe."
"But that's a tiger!" the same second year said, sounding almost hysterical. His friend elbowed him sharply, which seemed to calm him a little.
"Yes, I know," Hermione said with a sigh. "But he is perfectly harmless."
"Unless you happen to be a shark," Harry muttered in an undertone.
Hermione kicked him and continued. "This is Crookshanks, who up until this summer was a perfectly normal house-cat." Crookshanks yowled. "All right, a perfectly normal half-kneazle, anyway. However, he will be a tiger for the foreseeable future."
"But why?" Lavender asked.
Hermione explained the only way she knew how. "Harry did it."
Harry's protest that he hadn't actually cast any spells on Crookshanks was drowned out by the chorus of understanding 'ohhhh's (and a few older students promising the confused first years that they'd understand soon enough).
And with that sorted out, Hermione shooed the firsties up to the dorms, warned the rest of the Gryffindors not to stay up to late, left the seventh year prefects in charge, and went to bed.
Right, off we go then! While I won't guarantee any kind of update schedule (as I am Terrible), the good news is that the entire story is vaguely outlined and I'm a few chapters ahead. So, probably not another ten year fic.
I hope you enjoyed the beginning. Let me know what you think, I'd love to know.
In the Next Chapter: attempted murder and cheese sandwiches.