Harry took a deep breath in, glanced down at his watch, then let out a discontented sigh.
One second until Hermione's charm would go off.
With Hermione in the office today, he was going to cut it as close as possible. Ever since the Climax Conference, she'd been getting more and more pent up and frustrated about trying to share some big idea with him-an idea he knew he wouldn't be interested in. So he'd decided enough was enough. She could try and lecture him all she wanted, but he wasn't going to waste a single second of his own time on it.
As soon as he apparated into his office, however, Harry held out his hand for his coffee only to be met with Hermione herself, standing there with her foot furiously tapping and a look of unadulterated annoyance on her face.
"Harry," she said, her eyebrows furrowed. "We need to ta-"
He lifted his coffee-less hand up. "Love to, but look at the time," he said, turning his arm over and giving an exaggerated glance at his watch. "Patients to see and all that. Can't leave the poor dears waiting."
Stepping past her, he strode toward the door. But before he could open it, a spell whizzed past him and locked it shut.
"You can't avoid this forever. I've spent far too long getting The Potter Institute for Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies and Endocrinology Clinic ready for this next big step, only for you to just-"
"Patients," Harry said after pulling out his wand and removing the locking charm. "I have patients to get to. After all the times you've lectured me on the patients coming first, I can't believe you, of all people, are trying to keep me from them."
Hermione looked momentarily caught off guard, and Harry took that opportunity to slide through the door and speed-walk towards the front.
"Tracey," he said, planting himself in front of her desk.
Without looking up from her work, she held out a coffee cup with a sticky note on top.
Sorry. I had no choice.
He looked between her and the cup but the sound of footsteps coming down the corridor made him move on. He could already hear the incoming lecture: 'If you have time to waffle about with Tracey, then you have time to…'
Bidding Tracey farewell, he quickly headed to the first exam room, coffee in hand. But as soon as he stepped foot in the corridor, he found Hermione standing in his way, her arms crossed, legs spread, and a look on her face that Harry knew all too well.
She was going to say something, and he was going to listen. Or else.
Sighing, he brought his coffee up and took a deliciously long and loud slurp of it...and then shut his eyes in disappointment.
It was that swill from Crinkly-Eyes again.
"If you're done being a child," Hermione said, less than impressed, "we need to go over our expansion plans. I can and will do it without you. But it would go a lot smoother if you'd just cooperate!"
Harry stared at her blankly and slurped his coffee again. If only Hermione would let them install that Breville Brushed Stainless Steel Oracle Touch Espresso Machine. This would be so much more bearable with spectacular coffee filtered through a patented triple extraction system, ensuring an impeccable brew every time.
"I've planned it so you'll only have to supervise-"
Whatever else Hermione was saying, Harry promptly tuned out. If she thought he was going to supervise some still-wet-behind-the-ears resident healers, she had another thing coming. And didn't she understand that refusing to allow him to have good coffee wasn't going to put him in the mood to listen or 'be reasonable' as she kept putting it?
He had no idea how she could think that he'd ever go for this, anyway. An expansion of his responsibilities and work hours?
Sure, he enjoyed what he did. And it was a nice benefit that he also got paid well to do it. Very well, to be sure.
But if Hermione thought she could throw a couple extra bags of gold at him and get him to agree, she was positively delusional.
If Harry wanted more money, all he had to do was go and sign one of the many, many, many endorsement offers he'd received. As Vanquisher of Voldermort and World Class Healer, he was more famous and popular than Dumbledore himself.
Hermione's tirade was mercifully coming to an end when the first exam room door opened and a familiar head of red hair popped out. "Doesn't the clinic start seeing patients at 9?"
Harry shook his head as he looked between Ginny in the doorway to Hermione in the corridor behind him. "What fresh hell is this?" he said.
They both glared at him in response, causing him to let out a deep sigh.
Deciding it was the lesser of two evils at the moment, he slipped into the exam room, causing Ginny to stumble back and let out a yelp of surprise. He then shut the door behind him with a snap, Hermione's muffled groan sounding loudly from the other side.
"What are you doing here?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Good morning to you, too."
"Cut to the chase, Ginny," Harry said, taking a seat on the stool. "Tracey knows better than to let you have the first spot of the day. Either you're dying, or she was coerced."
"I'm not dying," she said.
Harry stood up. "Wonderful," he said, making his way to the door and opening it for her. "I'll see you at the Burrow for dinner-"
"It's my sister-in-law," Ginny said, cutting him off. "Well...she was my sister-in-law. Jean-Jaques Pierre-Phillipe Babineau-Béliveau's younger sister."
Pausing with his hand on the knob, Harry looked over his shoulder. "Who?"
Her jaw clenched in response. "My deceased husband, you absolute arse."
"Oh...Bighead," he said, nodding in recognition.
Harry could see Ginny's normally proud posture unravel a bit at the mention of him. And letting his arm fall back to his side, he walked to the stool and moved closer to her.
"Bighead's sister?" he said after a moment.
Ginny looked up at him, her lips parting as she nodded. "Yes," she said. "She's...like the little sister I never had. I try to keep in touch with her still but...it's hard. Relationships change."
An image of him sitting at the Delacours' dinner table for Christmas flashed unbidden through Harry's mind followed by that of his empty flat.
"They do," he said before clearing his throat. "So...what's the problem with her, then? Is she dying?"
Giving him an exasperated look, Ginny shook her head. "No, but...there is something wrong," she said. "Not with her, though. With her...well...boyfriend. His name is Lupéęë."
Harry frowned at this. "You're telling me you came here because your deceased husband's little sister's boyfriend has a problem? Is he dying? Because someone better be dying."
"No one is dying!" Ginny said through clenched teeth. "I came here because I knew you wouldn't give me the time of day anywhere else. And I didn't send him because I knew you'd just dismiss his problems-"
"Which are...?" Harry said, cutting her off.
Ginny opened her mouth before shutting it again, as though she hadn't been expecting him to acquiesce so easily. "Er...right," she said, pulling herself back together. "Well, it's a bit difficult to explain. He has...memory issues. Specific memory issues. Only with one person."
Harry tried his best not to look intrigued. "What do you mean?" he said, twirling his wand casually between his fingers.
"He can remember everything just fine," she said, looking emboldened. "Except when it comes to his girlfriend. The first time they met, they hit it off perfectly. She thought for sure he was the one. But the second time they met...it was like he'd completely forgotten who she was."
Dropping the bored act now, Harry furrowed his eyebrows. "But he knew to meet up with her?"
She nodded. "Apparently he'd felt some unconscious pull to where he needed to be but couldn't remember why," she said with a frown. "He saw her, spoke to her...but it was like the first time. He couldn't remember her name or anything about their first meeting. And it's been that way every time since then. It's just a complete and utter fiasco!"
Letting out a soft hum, he considered her words. "Might be worth looking into. Then again, it might not," he said, hopping off his stool. "Send him in tomorrow and we'll see if Tracey can work him into the schedule."
"We both know she won't, I don't have anything more to coerce her with," Ginny said, standing up as well. "This is about my sister-in-law, Harry. She really loves him despite it all. Every time they meet, she falls more and more in love, and it kills her that he can't seem to remember her. Yet...somehow, he does. Or...his heart does, I dunno. I can't explain it. I doubt he could either."
Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Harry stared down at her. "I'm not interested in sentimentality, and anyway, he's probably just shy," he said, causing her to glare at him. "I'll see him tomorrow...if he shows up."
"He's coming for dinner at the Burrow tonight," Ginny said, following Harry as he walked out into the corridor.
"Good for him."
She rushed forward to match his pace. "You're joining us, as well, aren't you?" she said. "I thought it would be good for him to meet you first outside a clinical setting."
"You sure he'll remember to come?" he said over his shoulder.
"Yes, he's written it down in this journal they have," Ginny said. "He understands that something is wrong with him but he can't explain it. It's causing him a lot of anxiety."
Harry stopped abruptly in his step causing Ginny to turn back around to face him. "I told you I'd take the case," he said, opening the door and gesturing for her to leave. "I'll see you, Little Bighead, and Lupéęë The Fiasco at dinner tonight. Goodbye."
Muttering something under her breath, Ginny turned on her heel and exited, heading toward the waiting room.
Glancing around, Harry took in the mostly male crowd and had a hard time placing himself within the group. It felt like they were about to watch a show, but there were only two tables and four chairs set up with screens along the walls providing different viewing angles of each table.
"I thought we were going to a Quidditch convention or something."
Ron snorted. "I've told you over and over and over, we're at The International Triwizard Tournament," he said, turning to look at him. "Three top ranked players competing to face off against the world champion."
Harry's lips parted, and he quirked his head in thought. "The International Tri-wizard Tournament with four competitors?"
Shrugging, Ron stuffed his mouth full of kettle corn popcorn, watching as four competitors came out and sat in chairs on opposing sides of the two chess boards.
As the announcer walked onto the stage, Harry had a sinking feeling in the pit of his gut. "You bought these tickets under a pseudonym right?"
"Oh, yeah," Ron said, taking a bite of his Spanish-Portuguese Churro. "If they knew you were here, they'd have found a way to rope you in, too. It'd be like fourth-year all over again."
With a chuckle, Harry shook his head. "They'd probably rename it something stupid like Harry Potter and the International Triwizard Tournament and find a way to make it even more ridiculous."
Ron laughed along with him, popping several Sour Skittles into his mouth. He didn't say anything more, however, as the announcer began introducing the players, explaining the format, and highlighting the multi-day schedule.
"How did you convince me to show up to a multi-day chess tournament, again?" Harry asked, groaning. He was going to be sitting here multiple afternoons in a row, listening to Ron provide in-depth analysis that was well out of his depth-not an entirely enticing prospect.
"A whole week of no clinic hours in the afternoon?" Ron said, unwrapping a dark chocolate almond bar.
"Ah, that's right," Harry said, slouching back in his seat and placing his hands behind his head. If anyone could make something as horrid as watching hours of chess seem appealing, it was Ron.
Feeling a bit more enthusiastic now, Harry tuned into the announcer's voice.
"Our first contestant needs no introduction, but we'll give one anyway! It is my immense pleasure to introduce France's representative...Fleur Felacouuuurrrrr!"
Harry's ears perked up. "Did he just say Fleur Delacour representing France?" he said, turning to Ron and feeling a bit panicked.
"Yeah, Fleur Felacour," Ron said, raising his eyebrow at Harry's reaction. "She's the top female chess player in the world. The best looking too, if I'm being honest."
Shaking his head, Harry watched her take a seat, a scowl on her pretty face as she focused on the board in front of her.
"Next, we welcome the teenage sensation from Bulgaria! Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce...Bictor Brummmmmmmm!"
"Bictor Brum? Really, Ron. Really?" Harry said, giving him a flat stare.
Giving him a look of confusion, Ron popped several Gushing Grape Gushers into his mouth. "He's a teenage sensation, weren't you listening? Coming out of nowhere, catapulting Bulgaria into the big leagues," he said, gushing. "He brings such an exciting, attacking style to the game, and even if he takes a bit of a battering, he's remarkable at finding a way to win against all odds."
Letting out a sigh, Harry ignored how closely Ron's words paralleled another former teenage sensation they saw before their fourth year. He just needed to remind himself that there was no Dumbledore, no magically binding contract, and no Goblet of Fire.
This was fine.
"And finally, for our third challenger, allow me to introduce England's own...the affable, charming Hedric Higgoryyyyyy!"
"Right," Harry said, glaring at Ron. "Of course. Because who else could it have been? I'm just shocked it wasn't Sedric Diggory!"
"Oh, come off it," Ron said, playfully shoving his shoulder. "Higgory has been a staple of England's Chess Team for the past several years. I've looked up to him since I was at Hogwarts. He was a few years ahead of us, don't you remember?"
With a scowl, Harry shook his head. "No. No, I don't."
With a shrug, Ron reached his hand into the bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. "You might have missed him. He was always off travelling for his chess tournaments."
Harry nodded and gave him a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I must have, yes."
"And last but certainly not least, allow me to introduce England's very own, and the current Chess World Champion... Larrrrrryyyyyy Lotttteeeeerrrrr!
"Explain that one."
Ron spluttered for a moment as he threw his arms up. "He's world famous," he said as if it were obvious. "From a young age, he was England's next chess sensation. The 'Next One' after Balbus Bumblebore himself! He's simply the best. They could pair him against all three of the contestants simultaneously, and he'd still find a way to win all three games."
Slamming his hands on the arm rests of the chair, Harry turned to face the contestants once more. "Ridiculous," he muttered.
Harry stepped out of the fireplace and into the sitting room of the Burrow, unsurprised to find it empty.
He was always the last to arrive save the few times Ginny was late coming from practice.
But he knew she'd be on time today, Little Bighead and the memory-loss-boyfriend in tow.
The case was intriguing, he had to admit. But deep down, there was a small, stubborn part of him that knew he would've taken it no matter the circumstances. He and Ginny were many things-many, many, many things-but above all, they were far too similar.
If Fleur had come to him with a problem, he'd have helped her in a heartbeat. Because that was what family did. And Fleur was the closest thing to family he had left, followed by the Weasleys.
Luckily, the idea of selective memory impairment was simply too delightful to turn away. And with only one person? The presumed love of this man's life? Much too fascinating to dismiss.
And as much as it might feel good to be an arse to Ginny, if there was even a remote chance that this was some type of malfunctioning soul bond, there was no way he'd walk away from this. Gabby would never forgive him.
He would never forgive himself.
With that thought in mind, Harry forced a smile on his face and walked out into the garden of the Burrow where the entire Weasely family sat with two new additions to the table.
"Afternoon, Weasleys," Harry said, making his presence known.
He was greeted with the usual jovial responses, a hug from Molly, a clap on the back from George, a nod from Arthur and Bill.
Ginny stared at him with a meaningful glance before nodding her head ever so slightly to the two people sitting beside her.
"Bonjour," the girl said, smiling up at him.
Harry came to an abrupt halt in front of her, lips parted as he stared.
There was hardly any resemblance at all. She had brown hair, green eyes, and a slightly bigger head. But something about Little Bighead...perhaps her voice...her small stature...made Harry feel a small ache in his chest that had absolutely nothing to do with the girl before him.
Shaking his head, he took a seat and nodded in greeting. "Hello," he said, before turning to look at her boyfriend.
He was tall and thin, around 6'2" if Harry had to guess. A kind face and blue eyes that twinkled pleasantly up at Harry. And when he spoke, it was with an accent.
"Hi, there!" the man said with a wave.
Tennessee, perhaps. A few years in Georgia. Definitely American.
"Harry Potter," Little Bighead said, drawing his attention back to her. "This is my-er, this is Lupéęë, my...friend."
The Fiasco turned to look at Little Bighead with a wide smile. "We met at a museum earlier today," he said, eyes filled with love. "And then we saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters. Basically the best day ever!"
Little Bighead smiled but even from a quick glance, Harry could tell it was tinged with sadness. "We didn't meet today, Lupéęë. We talked about this, remember?" she said gently, placing a hand on his.
A confused look came over The Fiasco's face before it melted into discomfort. "That's right," he said, not making eye contact with her. "I have the journal in my pocket."
Harry raised an eyebrow at this. "May I see it?"
They both turned to look at him, surprised he was listening in.
"It's okay, he's the Healer I mentioned," Little Bighead said quietly to The Fiasco. "Harry Potter."
The man nodded before turning to face Harry. "It's a journal we use to write down our memories. I...tend to forget things...I think."
"Yes, now hand it over, please."
"Harry!" Ginny spoke up. "I'd imagine that's rather private."
"I'd imagine privacy isn't the main concern here," he shot back, causing the couple to stare between the two of them.
"Hey!" The Fiasco said in surprise. "Ginny has been very nice to me since I met her last week. I won't sit here and listen to you talk to her like that."
Before Harry had a chance to respond, the man pulled out a large sign seemingly out of thin air with the word 'bully' written across it and a red X over it.
"No bullying!" The Fiasco said, waving the sign for emphasis.
But Harry had barely heard a word he'd just said, his mind still caught on one part of the man's words. "You said Ginny's been nice to you since you met her last week?"
He nodded. "That's right."
"So you remember meeting her last week."
The entire table turned to look at Harry, various expressions of confusion on their faces, not one person nodding in understanding.
"Come to my clinic tomorrow, 9AM sharp," Harry said, digging into his dinner at last. "And don't bring Little Bighead with you."
"Who?" several voices said at once.
Harry blew out a breath as he stared at his watch.
If Hermione was going to lecture him for a whole minute about being a fraction of a second late, then he figured he might as well skip a whole minute of today's lecture.
Seemed sensible and fair to him.
It had been an odd week, thus far. He'd found himself preferring to stay in the patient rooms rather than finding creative ways to avoid them. And he imagined today would be much the same.
Hermione had been yapping away at him ever since she'd come back from the Climax Conference which caused Harry to be more efficient in his job than he'd ever been before.
This was something he frankly could not tolerate.
If Harry became more efficient the more annoying Hermione was, then his life would quickly devolve into hell on earth. There was no way she could be allowed to nag him into being more productive.
With that dismal thought in mind, he arrived in his office, tensing his shoulders as he prepared for the verbal onslaught.
But as Harry looked around the room, he realized he was the only one there.
He stepped toward the door and was about to grab the handle when it turned from the other side, the door bursting open to reveal Hermione.
"Here," she said, shoving a cup of coffee toward him.
Harry clasped his hands behind his back and eyed her warily. "What is it?"
Scowling, Hermione strode past him and placed the cup down on his desk. "Coffee from Tracey," she said, biting the words out. "What else would it be?"
Raising an eyebrow, he moved toward the coffee and cautiously picked it up. As his hand took hold of it, a disillusionment charm faded to reveal a note attached.
Sorry. It was either you or me.
Crumpling up the note in his hand, he gave his drink a deep whiff. It did indeed smell heavenly.
"You need to be more responsible than this," Hermione said, no doubt beginning her usual early morning tirade. "When the Potter Institute for Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies and Endocrinology Clinic-"
"PIMMPLE," Harry said, cutting her off before taking a sip of his coffee.
Hermione spun on her heel and glared at him, eyebrows furrowed. She then recomposed herself and let out a huff. "You're going to have a whole team to look after and set an example fo-"
As she continued her verbal diarrhea, Harry began to wonder if there was an inverse correlation between the amount of words she spoke and how few he listened to when he finally responded.
No matter. All he had to do was escape and make a dash toward a patient room. Hermione was much too professional to barge in after him.
"Are you even listening?" she said as he stepped past her.
"Not particularly," he said, turning to face her while still backing up, his free hand reaching behind him. "Look, we made a deal when we started this place. Clinic hours and difficult cases. No more, no less."
Hermione clenched her fists at her sides. "I know," she said through gritted teeth. "But this is different! You'll have a team to look after, but-"
Having successfully twisted the door knob behind his back, Harry pulled it open. "Ah ah ah," he said, holding a finger up. "Anything you say before the 'but' is dragon dung, everyone knows that. And anyway, I'm just not interested."
As he slipped into the corridor, Harry realized too late that he still needed to get the patient chart. With a groan, he made a mad dash back through the door and snatched the charts off the nearest portion of Tracey's desk before making his way into the corridor once more.
But Hermione was still on his tail, and he'd have to duck around her to get to safety.
"For the tiny bit of extra work, we'll be able to double, even triple our net profits," she called from behind him. "Not Gross Profits. NET!"
That's how she was trying to convince him now?
It was like she didn't know him at all.
Ignoring whatever else she was saying, he slipped into the first room and let out a breath, thankful that this portion of his day was over.
Harry closed the door behind him with Hermione's voice still lingering down the corridor. He took a quick glance over the chart as he walked in and sat down.
"Right, what's wrong with you, then?" he said, not bothering to look up.
"Er...it's me, Lupéęë," a voice said. "We met yesterday?"
At this, Harry dragged his eyes up. "Right," he said, snapping the file shut. "You remember."
It was a statement rather than a question but the man still nodded in enthusiasm. "I remember everything just fine except when it comes to...well...my girlfriend."
"And I see you also remembered not to bring Little Bighead with you?"
"Why do you call her that?" The Fiasco said, reaching behind him. "It's not very nice."
Before Harry could respond, the man pulled out the same anti-bullying sign from yesterday evening and held it up.
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose before banishing it with his wand.
"What do you do to remember your girlfriend every day?" Harry said, ignoring him. "You had a journal yesterday, what was in it?"
At this, The Fiasco shifted a bit on the exam table. "Er...it's basically just a way to document our days. I read the first page every morning, so I can remember that I...well...have a girlfriend. There's photographs and other things in there as proof, too."
Harry let out a thoughtful hum. "Ginny mentioned you have some sort of unconscious pull as well."
The man nodded eagerly. "I'm a bit of an artist, you see," he said with a humble smile. "There was a month or so where my girlfriend and I went on a sort of...break after seeing each other every day for several weeks. And during that time, I kept having this vision of a beautiful girl with brown hair. I drew her. I kept drawing her and I didn't know why. Until...until she came back."
"And you recognized her?" Harry said, intrigued despite himself.
With a nod, The Fiasco pulled out a large drawing pad and proceeded to show Harry several pages worth of what was clearly Little Bighead's face.
The latter images were clear, anyway. The first few pages were merely stick figure drawings. And while they possessed a certain charm to them, the quality of the drawings definitely went up over time.
"You got better," Harry mused, his eyes lingering on a page where The Fiasco had painted Little Bighead with blonde hair instead of brown.
The Fiasco smiled in satisfaction. "I spent more time on them as the image of her became clearer in my head. At first, I didn't even remember her hair colour but then...the more I got to know her, the more the image of her got burned into my memory, I suppose," he said, looking down at his lap. "Whatever memory I had…"
Harry frowned as his gaze went back to the blonde-haired Little Big Head. "May I have that one?" he said before he could stop himself.
The Fiasco looked up. "For science?"
Clearing his throat, Harry shifted in his seat. "I'd like to pin it," he said, feeling the back of his neck heat up. "To the pin board in my office. For...science."
With a shrug, The Fiasco carefully ripped it out and handed it to Harry. "I also attended an artist's exhibition around that time and became inspired to hone my skills."
At this, Harry glanced up. "Oh? Which artist?"
"He goes by several names," The Fiasco said. "Zap, Zapt, Zapt dos, Zapt no-"
"Zapololology!" Harry said, unable to stop the wide grin from stretching across his face. "Yes, yes, we go back, me and him."
They both took a moment to share stories about their good friend Zap before Harry cleared his throat and got back to business.
"Right," he said, hopping off the stool. "First order of business. Testing your long-term memory."
The Fiasco frowned. "But there's nothing wrong with my-"
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Harry got up to open a large cabinet. "I'll need to test it as a control against your short term memory," he explained as he rolled out a large AV cart with a television and VCR sat upon it. "Specifically, memories from your childhood."
"Er...okay," The Fiasco said, looking confused by this turn of events. "I haven't seen one of those since elementary school. Definitely bringing back memories."
With a wave of his wand, Harry conjured two cinema-style chairs, including popcorn and drinks. He gestured for The Fiasco to come join him before pointing his wand at the light switch and dimming it.
"What exactly are we-?"
But The Fiasco was cut off by the sound of Bugs Bunny's voice blaring throughout the room.
"Bugs Bunny?" he said, glancing at Harry with uncertainty.
Through a mouthful of popcorn, Harry gestured at a blank parchment next to The Fiasco. "Write them down as we go," he said after swallowing. "We'll check the accuracy once we're done."
"Oh, well...okay," The Fiasco said, eyebrows furrowed. "And...you're confident this is going to help my problem?"
Harry put a finger to his lips and pointed to the screen. And the Fiasco dutifully quieted down and proceeded to watch.
"So, are they actually going to play today, or just do more exhibitions?" Harry said as he watched the four contestants come to the board.
Ron snorted and rolled his eyes. "Of course! This is the International Triwizard Tournament, after all."
"But they didn't do anything yesterday," Harry said, leaning back in his seat and rolling his head to the right. "I thought there'd be some action."
Licking the vanilla frosting off a Kimberly's Bakeshoppe® Red Velvet Cupcake, Ron shrugged. "There will be actual games today, I promise," he said, leaning forward as the host came onto the stage. "It's going to be so exciting to see in person."
Harry gave an exaggerated nod, feeling more than a little skeptical.
The host began his introductions then, giving a long-winded, repetitively repetitive, monologue that seemed to go on and on and on and on and on, for no apparent reason, other than to be long for the sake of being long, which the man did by using a veritably verbose vernacular with as abundant amusingly alliterative announcements as was possible.
But somehow, miraculously, nobody seemed to mind. The seats kept filling up, well beyond the expectations of the organizers, no doubt.
"They're going to get on with it eventually, yes?" Harry said in a politely scathing voice. "I'm not too impressed with the start."
Ron nodded without looking up. "You just have to get through the slog of a start, and then it gets better," he said, tossing several Dots Assorted Fruit Flavored Gumdrops into his mouth. "Once things get going, it's just so fun to be along for the ride."
Withdrawing his wand, Harry threw up a localized privacy spell. "Well, while we're wading through the slog...how are things with you? Got any prospects?"
Narrowing his eyes, Ron turned to look at him. "Prospects?"
"Yeah, you've been single for a while," Harry said, gesturing at his empty ring finger. "Thought you Weasleys loved to shack up and settle down with a wife and kids."
Ron let out a long breath, before taking a sip of his Mixed Blue Raspberry and Red Cherry ICEE Freeze Medium Slushie. "Yeah," he said, no enthusiasm in his voice. "Lavender keeps dropping in on me, but..."
"Not interested in being her Won-Won again?"
Giving him an unimpressed look, Ron leant onto the armrest. "She's pretty fun when she's not being annoying, I suppose. But...I don't want to settle," he said, a far away look in his eyes. "If I'm going to marry someone I want to be excited about it...madly in love."
"Not because it's what's expected of you," Harry said, glancing down at his hands.
"Right," Ron said as he absently unrolled a Betty Crocker Berry Tie-Dye Fruit By The Foot. "I imagine it's the same for you. After being soul bonded, every other woman probably just feels a bit...less."
Sighing, Harry attempted a smile. "Yeah...it's hard."
Ron rested his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We might not be bright-eyed Hogwarts students any longer but we're still young. This isn't it for us, mate," he said, conviction shining in his eyes. "We'll live to be as old as Dumbledore, beards down to our toes and enough kids and grandkids to fill out a Quidditch roster. Mark my words."
Harry was going to reply when the screen showing a massive chess board finally changed.
A small gasp escaped Ron's lips, and he leant forward against his knees. "Pawn to E4," he murmured to himself, his chin resting on his hand. "Pawn to E6."
Looking at the board, Harry saw that Fleur Felacour had the white pieces while Larry Lotter was playing black.
"Pawn to D4," Ron said before looking over at Harry. "She's going for The French."
Knowing it was a chess opening strategy but having no idea what it actually meant, Harry went with the obvious comment. "Typical, French woman playing The French."
"Pawn to D5," Ron said, just before Larry pushed his central pawn forward two spaces. "Now we'll see what she's come up with to beat Lotter."
"Can hardly wait," Harry said, feigning interest.
Remembering that he could either be here with Ron or back with Hermione at the clinic, Harry sat back in his chair and settled in. Chess was a dreadfully boring thing to watch, so he might as well get comfortable.
He watched as Felacour used her E pawn to take the black's pawn on D5. Without hesitation, Larry immediately took back on D5 with his E6 pawn.
"OH, COME ON!" Ron yelled out, the bag of Snyders Of Hanover Pretzels Mini Pretzels in his lap flying off as he stood up.
Harry quickly looked around and saw a number of others were upset, all flailing their arms and yelling obscenities.
"The Exchange French as white?" Ron said, barking out the words. "Grow up, princess, and try and win!"
Grabbing onto Ron's arm, Harry got his attention. "It's just six moves in, why don't we see how this goes?"
Turning around, a scowling Ron looked at him. "You don't get it," he said, shaking his head. "When you have white, you go first and have an advantage. Felacour is married to Larry. She's either being a cowardly French person-as they all are-or she's Intentionally helping her husband by playing for a Draw, not a win!"
"Ah, of course," Harry said, patting his mouth as he yawned.
"But she's playing The French Defense, the Exchange French," he said, his voice filled with vitriolic disdain. "Bloody French."
Though Harry didn't actually know any of the opening move orders, he could surmise that the name came from the exchange of central pawns to start the game.
"It's just a garbage tier opening at their level," Ron said, continuing his tirade as he bit into an Original Peanut Caramel Taffy Apple and chewed in frustration. "He's going to castle queen-side and then try to destroy her. At best, she'll defend well and then trade enough pieces that it will be a drawn end-game."
"Wait," Harry said, his brain finally catching up to everything Ron was spouting. "They're married?"
"Yeah," Ron said absently as he narrowed his eyes to watch the next move. "Larry Lotter is married to Fleur Felacour, Natalia Navlova, and Haphne Heenhass."
Thinking that over, Harry shuddered. The poor sod, marrying three women. Must be a nightmare to try and plot out time for each girl.
"Should've known that she'd help her husband," Ron said, taking a bite of his King Sized Vanilla With Chocolatey Swirls Sundae Drumstick Cone. "Lose or draw against him, and then try to win against the other two."
Harry scowled at his watch.
Last night, his brain had supplied him with a new idea that was anathema to him.
Harry never arrived early. Everyone knew that. So if he did arrive early...nobody would expect it.
He could sneak into the office, get his coffee and then barricade his office from Hermione and her lecturing.
While it all sounded good in practice-and Harry thought it had a more than a reasonable chance of success-it also required him to, well...arrive early.
Huffing out a breath, he went over the pros and cons in his head.
It took a moment but he made his decision. He would try subterfuge this morning, and if it backfired, he'd make up the extra lecture time by showing up late next week.
With a final glance at his watch, he pinched his lips, nodded and then disapparated.
He appeared in his office with the softest of cracks that he was able to execute.
Scoping out his surroundings, he put his hand on his heart as he let out a relieved breath.
The room was empty, the initial stage was a success. But now came the difficult part:
Getting his coffee.
With as much stealth as he could manage, Harry crept out of the office and made his way towards Tracey's desk. Though, now that he thought about it, what if Tracey wasn't here yet? This would all be for nought!
Regardless, he pressed on, tip-toeing to the edge of the corner. Placing his hand on the wall, he peeked around it, moving no more than was necessary to catch a glimpse of the front. And as soon as he did, he pulled back swiftly, pressing himself against the wall with a soft exhale.
Tracey was there, his coffee was already awaiting him and, most importantly, Hermione was nowhere in sight.
Pushing off the wall, Harry adjusted his lapels and made his way to his coffee. But when he positioned himself in front of Tracey's desk, she didn't look up. There was a note attached to his drink again.
Harry's heart rate sped up, and he could feel the pounding in his chest as a cold shiver ran down his spine.
"Ah, good," came the voice he'd dreaded hearing from behind him. "I knew you'd come around eventually."
Turning around slowly, Harry crumpled the note and chucked it at Tracey, eliciting a yelp when it hit her in the back of the head.
"And good morning to you too, Hermione," Harry said, after taking a deliberately loud slurp of his coffee. "I just came in early to do a little resear-"
Clapping her hand over his mouth, Hermione cut him off. "Don't you dare finish that word, Harry James Potter!"
Harry attempted to glare a hole through her skull. He decided that if a hastily thought up excuse wasn't going to work, and stealth hadn't worked, then he may as well hear her out one more time before forcefully shutting the idea down.
Letting out a beleaguered sigh, he squared his shoulders. "Fine," he said, bringing his coffee back up to his mouth. "You have one final chance to convince me."
"Fine!" Hermione said, returning his glare with equal vigor. "The Potter Institute for Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies and Endocrinology Clinic-"
"PIMMPLE," Harry and Tracey said at the same time as if by reflex.
Hermione's eyes flashed with irritation but she swallowed it down. "For years, hospitals have struggled with a specific issue...one they couldn't solve."
"How to get paid without seeing patients?"
Letting a loud breath out her nostrils, Hermione continued. "They have patients that they can't do anything with. They just take up beds and frustrate healers," she said, her lips pinched together. "And when they try and find external help, other hospitals simply refuse."
Harry's mind supplied him with such cases he already knew of at Saint Mungos, namely Lockhart and the Longbottoms.
"We're ready to take the next step," Hermione said, almost bubbling over with enthusiasm. "We'll go from a small local clinic that takes the occasional specialized case to a clinic that accepts patients that have derogatively become known as the Cases You Shouldn't Take."
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Harry couldn't help but feel as though Hermione had blinders for this specific fault of hers. "Are you saying that you want The PIMMPLE to upgrade and take on CYSTs?" he said, shaking his head as he heard Tracey's poorly stifled laughter.
Ignoring his comment, Hermione crossed her arms over her chest. "You'll have a team that will work directly with you to diagnose and treat the Cases You Shouldn't Take from across the globe," she said, trying to inject him with her enthusiasm. "You'll get to hand pick the best of the best to assist you and select the patients you are interested in treating. What more could you ask for?"
"No clinic hours?" Harry said without hesitation.
With a lowered chin, Hermione scowled up at him. "Part of the deal is to allow for overflow walk-ins from other hospitals," she said, still scowling. "You and your team will have to complete clinic hours, though I made sure not to increase yours."
Harry paused to think about this for a moment, or he pretended to. In reality, he glanced down at his watch and noted that in ten seconds it would be time to see the first patient of the day. All he had to do was draw this out for a moment, and then he could make his escape.
Taking a deliberately long drink of his coffee, he counted down the seconds in his head. "What more could I ask for?" he said, repeating her earlier question. "Not taking on more responsibility, not taking on more cases. I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing."
He watched as his words caused her to clench her teeth together. "Can't you just grow up and be more responsible?" she said, her words filled with endless frustration. "This is a good thing, Harry. For the both of us!"
Harry opened the door to exam room one to see The Fiasco sitting on the exam table looking around in confusion. "Morning," he said with a short nod.
"Er...good morning," The Fiasco responded, shifting in his seat. "My name is Lupéęë."
The man stuck out his hand, and Harry stared down at it for a moment before glancing back up at him. "You don't remember me."
It was a statement rather than a question but Harry was definitely curious about this turn of events.
The Fiasco's face turned crimson in response. "Oh, no…" he murmured, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the journal Harry had seen at the Burrow. "I...I was told to...I mean I remember…"
Harry let out a soft hum before hopping off his stool and rifling through a bag on the floor. He pulled out a knight's helmet painted white with a mint green plume and tossed it to The Fiasco, who caught it deftly.
"What's this?" he said, looking at it with interest.
"Put it on," Harry said.
Without hesitation, he did as he was told, pulling the visor up so he could see Harry clearly.
"Huh," Harry said, pausing in his actions. "No defiance. I like you."
The Fiasco shrugged. "Why wouldn't I want to dress like a White Knight?"
"Fair enough," Harry said, pulling out a full body of armour next. "This as well. I'll give you a moment."
Once again, the man proceeded without fuss, stepping into the clunky armour before sitting back on the exam table noisily. "I assume this is going to help you diagnose me?"
Harry gave him a supremely serene smile. "One more thing…" he said, digging deep into his bag and grabbing onto the hilt of an authentic medieval Templar sword and pulling it out with a flourish.
"Oh wow, a real Templar sword!" The Fiasco said, gazing at it in awe. "Most people don't even know the difference between a longsword and a rapier. Filthy casuals."
Harry nodded along to his words, especially the final comment. "Got to hate when people or movies these days don't know what they're doing," he said. "Not like the classics such as The Princess Bride."
The Fiasco's eyes lit up in response, and he jumped off the exam table. "I love that movie!"
"Yeah?" Harry said, offering him the sword.
With a reverent expression, The Fiasco carefully took hold of the pommel, turning his wrist back and forth as though to test it out before crouching down into a fighting stance. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"
Raising an eyebrow, Harry stared at him for a moment but then shook his head. "So, anyway," he said. "You know why you're here today, then?"
The visor fell as The Fiasco nodded enthusiastically. "My memory issues with my girlfriend," he said. "I came to this clinic yesterday, but I don't believe we met. Are you Healer Potter?"
Rubbing his chin with his fingers, Harry narrowed his eyes at The Fiasco. "Yes...that's me," he said, slowly. "And the reason I've put you into this suit of armour is that it's lined with electromagnetic pulses infused with magic that when activated-"
The Fiasco held up a hand. "It's fine, I don't need to understand the how of it," he said with a pleasant smile. "Honestly, I wouldn't even mind if you just wanted me to wear this for pure entertainment. I've never felt cooler than I do right now."
Harry opened his mouth before closing it again. "Er...right, brilliant," he said, feeling a bit off-kilter despite himself. "And...you said you came to the clinic yesterday?"
"Do you remember what happened?"
The man tapped his metal gloved-clad finger against his helmet with an audible clink clink. "Honestly, it's a bit vague, but...I remember something with Bugs Bunny."
Harry grinned. "Excellent."
Without another second's hesitation, he conjured two cinema style chairs. "First order of business. Testing your long-term memory," he repeated from yesterday.
The Fiasco frowned. "But there's nothing wrong with my-"
With a dismissive wave of his hand, Harry got up to open a large cabinet. "I'll need to test it as a control against your short term memory," he explained as he rolled out a large AV cart with a television and VCR sat upon it. "Specifically, memories from your childhood."
"Er...okay," The Fiasco said, looking confused by this turn of events. "I haven't seen one of those since elementary school. Definitely bringing back memories."
He gestured for The Fiasco to come join him before pointing his wand at the light switch and dimming it.
"What exactly are we-?"
But he was cut off by the sound of the Pinky and the Brain intro blaring throughout the room.
"Pinky and the Brain?" The Fiasco said, glancing at Harry in uncertainty.
Through a mouthful of popcorn, Harry gestured at a blank parchment next to him. "Write them down as we go," he said after swallowing. "We'll check the accuracy when we're done."
"Oh, well...okay," *The Fiasco said, eyebrows furrowed. "And...you're confident this is going to help my problem?"
Harry put a finger to his lips and pointed to the screen. And The Fiasco dutifully quieted down and proceeded to watch.
They sat there for a few hours after, going through various cartoons. Recess, Doug, Care Bears, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, Rugrats, Tintin, and Charlie Brown.
The Fiasco was able to identify each one successfully, tossing popcorn and sipping his drink through his metal visor throughout it all.
After a sufficient amount of time had been wasted, Harry pressed the stop button on the remote and banished the AV cart back into the cabinet. Hermione would surely be gone for lunch now, and Harry could head out to join Ron for the Tournament before she returned.
"I was able to retrieve a lot of good data today, thank you for your cooperation," Harry said, looking at The Fiasco. "See you tomorrow, same time?"
Taking off his helmet and running a hand through his now sweaty hair, The Fiasco nodded. A sombre look came over his face then as he began the process of taking off the armour, but Harry placed a hand on his arm to stop him.
"Keep it," he said.
The Fiasco looked up with a flash of excitement in his eyes. "Oh, no, I couldn't..." he said, holding the sword close to his chest.
Harry nodded. "You could," he said. "Believe me, I...have more costumes that do the same job. And frankly, no one has ever worn that White Knight armour better."
With a wide grin, The Fiasco thanked Harry profusely before heading toward the door. But he stopped to turn around as though remembering something. "Ginny told me to ask you if you'll be at the Burrow tonight for dinner?" he said. "I'm not sure why."
Rolling his eyes, Harry shook his head. "I won't be, no," he said. "Tell her she's free of me tonight. And best write it down in your journal so you don't forget."
Nodding, The Fiasco thanked Harry again before exiting the exam room.
"So...today's the big day, then?" Harry said, taking the seat to Ron's right.
It was the final day of the tournament. After a 'thrilling' build up, the contestants were all within a full point of each other. A full point was needed to win, while a half point would result in a draw. So, the tournament was wide open.
Or that was what Harry had understood from Ron's excited discussions during lunch.
How Ron could be so enamoured with The International Triwizard Tournament, he had no idea. It was too long, the whole middle bit seemed useless, and everyone knew Larry Lotter was going to win, anyway.
Ron stuffed his hand inside a tube of Pringles Wavy Fire Roasted Jalapeño Potato Crisps. "Lotter drew against Felacour's Advance French and then broke Brum's Berlin Defense. Brum's sharp play couldn't take out Felacour's Tarrasch French, and he got thoroughly trounced in the mid-game by Higgory's English after morphing it into The Reversed Sicillian, the Dragon."
Harry stared up at the ceiling before resigning himself to getting another long-winded, convoluted answer to something that could have been rather straightforward and direct.
"Higgory beat Brum, but he drew against Felacour. He never fares well against The French," Ron said, munching on a handful of Gustaf's Sugar Bears Dutch Licorice Assorted Candies. "So, that leaves Lotter and Higgory, the two Englishmen, with one and a half points, Felacour with a full point and Brum with half a point."
Rolling his eyes, Harry waved his hand in a 'get on with it' motion.
"Lotter is going to play Higgory, and if either win outright, then they'll be crowned tournament champion and winner of the vaunted Triwizard Cup," Ron said, opening a bag of Tostito Tortilla Chips and scooping up some CaJohn's Reaper Super Hot Salsa. "If they draw and Felacour wins over Brum, then she'll be crowned. But if Brum wins, he pushes it into three-way tie-breaks."
Rubbing his temples, Harry nodded. "Right, the speed games," he said, not wanting to get a full breakdown of how the tie-breaks worked, again. For the fifth time.
"Blitz games," Ron corrected as he dipped a Nabisco Chips Ahoy Chunky Cookie into his glass of Organic Valley Ultra Pasteurized Whole Milk. "It's where they each face each other. But if there's no winner after a round robin, then they'd have to enter Armageddon tie-breaks where-"
"Yes, yes," Harry said, cutting him off. "You've told me at least twelve times now."
Ron rolled his eyes. "If you didn't want to hear it again, you shouldn't have asked," he said, sulking over his glass of milk.
"I'm just trying to make small talk while we wait for this blasted tournament to end."
"Well, you could always reciprocate, you know," Ron said, looking sideways at his best friend. "I told you about Lavender, and you didn't say much the other day."
With a sigh, Harry shrugged. "Not much to say," he said. "There was Gabby, and then...every other girl after just wasn't...Gabby. I'll keep trying but I feel like it's an opposite coloured bishop endgame just without the 50 move limit to force a draw. I'm playing a drawn position and all I can do is blunder and find a way to lose."
Ron chuckled. "Look at you, throwing in more chess verbiage," he said, shaking his head. "Too bad it won't help you be any less pathetic at it."
Harry had given up trying to beat Ron during first year. He'd just always been rubbish at it. The way Ron talked about chess was like Hermione trying to talk advanced Arithmancy to him. He couldn't care less about either, but he'd still humor his two best friends.
"Speaking of pathetic," Harry said. "Me winning is about as likely as you finding another Hermione. You're not still pining after her, are you?"
Throwing him a scowl, Ron took an angry bite out of his Wonka Nerds Rainbow Candy Soft and Chewy 0.92 oz Rope. "We broke up years ago, " he said, trying to sound nonchalant despite the bitter undercurrent to his words. "She's married to her ambition, and I want a family. It'll always come down to that, no matter what we try. And we've tried a lot."
Harry nodded. It was something he'd heard from both sides over the years. Hermione didn't want to end up like Molly and was worried about Ron being overshadowed by her career. While Ron wanted to settle down, have a few kids and just enjoy life.
To him, Lavender had always made more sense for Ron. She still held a flame for him and would've happily settled down. But Ron had never really moved on from Hermione, even if he always claimed otherwise.
It almost made Harry feel guilty for yet another bedroom rendezvous with Hermione at the Climax Conference. But she was a grown woman and clearly knew what she was doing when bringing him to those types of events. He had no interest in the issues plaguing their profession, nor was he polite enough to give lip service to the puffed up peacocks fishing for compliments or opportunities from him.
Thus, if she was going to bring him along, it was going to be for some entertainment. He could always find a Generous Hips or Luscious Locks to cosy up with, but if Hermione wanted to provide the companionship herself then he wasn't going to complain.
They'd never work in a serious relationship, but he had no issues with her bedroom performance.
The only real complaint was that she kept trying to mess with his memories. Did she really think he couldn't handle a casual relationship? Aside from Gabby and Ginny, he'd had plenty of experiences with that.
And anyway, she should have known better. Harry'd had a mental connection to Voldemort for almost two decades. He'd had his mind brutally assaulted by Snape and had almost been in the bed that Lockhart permanently resided in at St. Mungos.
He was going to notice someone playing around in his head.
While he'd racked up achievements and accolades for being a healer, it was the Mind Arts where Harry possessed the greatest magical prowess. But it wasn't something he'd shared with anyone. He might've considered sharing with Ron and Hermione eventually, but that was clearly off the table now.
Gabby had known, though. And perhaps one day he'd tell Fleur just so she could laugh about it with him.
With a long sigh, Harry focused his attention back on the stage. He was surprised to find the matches had begun while he'd been lost in his own thoughts.
"The Symmetrical English," Ron said, pointing towards the screen that had Lotter and Higgory's game on it. "I should've known they'd play that on their home soil."
"Do they play anything else besides the openings for their home country?" Harry asked while he looked over to Felacour's game. He didn't need Ron to tell him she'd played The French again, as every game she'd played had started the same.
Everything to do with this International Triwizard Tournament was so utterly repetitive.
Why couldn't they have just played a couple blitz games on the first day and been done with it? It would have been much more entertaining if they paced this better and had made it more concise.
"You know...Hermione was the one that suggested I bring you," Ron said, not tearing his eyes away from the game as he conjured a Black & Decker Two Slice Toaster and placed two Frosted Cookies & Crème Pop-Tarts in it.
Harry frowned and considered that for a moment. Hermione encouraging the idea of him missing clinic hours? That didn't seem right. Though...he did wonder why she hadn't fought him on it when he'd told her he'd be gone from work every afternoon that week. "Why's that?" he said, turning to Ron.
"Mentioned you might need someone to talk to about some plan of hers or something," he said, leaning down to take out a Nostalgia 8-Ounce Chocolate Fondue Fountain, Wilton Bamboo Skewers, and a box of Driscoll's Strawberries. "Dunno what she wanted me to bring up though."
Shaking his head, Harry couldn't help but smile at that. Some things never changed.
"An expansion at the clinic," Harry said, trying to recall anything he might've understood from her numerous lectures. "I get a team and difficult cases are referred to me from all over the world."
Watching carefully, Ron twirled the Driscoll Strawberry on the end of his Wilton Bamboo Skewer as a chocolate drip fell off. He then plunged it back into the Nostalgia 8-Ounce Chocolate Fondue Fountain before sticking a chocolate-covered strawberry in his mouth. "Doesn't sound so bad," he said, turning his head to analyze the knight being maneuvered by Brum.
"More responsibility and no reduction of clinic hours though," Harry countered.
Ron looked back at him with one eyebrow raised. "Wait," he said, taking out a Stainless Steel Teagan Dinner Spoon and digging into his Bottoms Up Brownie Irish Float With Burnt Irish Caramel + Hot Fudge Sundae. "I thought you didn't have clinic hours when you were dealing with difficult cases referred to you?"
Harry's lips parted in surprise.
Of course. How had he missed that?
"More solving cases, less clinic hours, and minions to boss around," Ron said, a bit of whip cream on his nose. "Dunno how you'd turn it down, to be honest..."
"Minions," Harry said, testing the word out before a slow grin stretched across his face. "Hand picked Minions."
With a chuckle, Ron opened up a 6 oz. bag of Planters Nuts and Chocolate Trail Mix Containing Roasted Peanuts, M&M's Milk Chocolate Candies, Raisins and Roasted Almonds before grabbing a handful and stuffing it in his mouth. "She would've had me at minions."
Harry nodded as he contemplated Ron's words. "Why couldn't she have just explained it like that?"
With a shrug, Ron turned his attention back to Lotter's game. "She doesn't speak 'bloke', I guess."
Humming, Harry couldn't help but agree with that "Oh, and did she tell you what these new referrals are called?"
Ron shook his head as he bit into a particularly tough almond.
"Cases You Shouldn't Take."
The almond flew from Ron's mouth as he immediately broke out into laughter. "PIMMPLE is getting CYSTs now?" he said, holding his belly and wiping a tear from his eye. "She can't name anything, can she?"
"No," Harry said, fighting off his own laughter. "No, she really can't."
With the matter now resolved, things turned towards chess talk once more where Ron continued to discuss how 'interesting' each move was, or brought up games where moves had been played before that he somehow still remembered. During all this, Harry found himself getting lost in thinking about his patient to pass the time.
The issue had to be between the ears. He'd run all the scanning equipment and subtly monitored The Fiasco's mental processes while they sat there watching television shows. There was no evidence of any physical pathologies involving his limbic system.
So, there was only one possible cause left:
But the real question was, what was causing his Intent issues?
The Fiasco was aware that he couldn't remember something of Importance, and the fact that he wrote down notes for himself showed that he wanted to remember Little Bighead.
Perhaps it was a commitment issue or even a traumatic experience?
Perhaps he'd truly liked the way things had gotten started, but something within his past triggered the forgetfulness, preventing him from getting close to her or building a real relationship?
"Oh, brilliant!" Ron said, pointing to Lotter's game as he pulled out a box of Honey Maid Honey Graham Crackers, a bag of Jet Puffed Marshmallows, a Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar, an Amerteer Roasting Marshmallow Stick with a 32 Inch Extending Roaster Made of Telescoping Stainless Steel, and a Mainstays Owen Park 28 inch Round Wood Burning Fire Pit before proceeding to make a s'more. "Up a pawn and an exchange now, he should be able to convert this. Just brilliant maneuvering, the way he set that all up."
Set that all up.
Harry scratched his cheek as he considered those words.
Perhaps that was it. The past setting up the future. All Harry had to do was shed light on that and The Fiasco could finally move on with Little Bighead. If all went well, Ginny would owe him a favour and he'd solve his case.
Harry stumbled out of the floo and into the Weasley's sitting room. Brushing the soot off his clothes, he headed towards the back door in a rush. He could already see the table of redheads through the window, and he pushed the door open and walked out into the garden.
"Thank you all for coming on such short notice," came Ginny's voice as she stood up and glanced around the table. "I wanted to share an announcement with you all..."
As Harry neared the table, he glanced around to see The Fiasco and Little Bighead staring up at Ginny with equally pleasant smiles. His gaze travelled over the other attendees and landed on Fleur, who was propping up her head with her hand, eyes glazed over and looking bored.
Her gaze caught Harry's, and she perked up a bit, giving him a small smile.
"Is this the same announcement you were supposed to share at the last announcement dinner?" came George's voice. "The one that you didn't end up attending in the end?"
Ginny cleared her throat loudly. "Yes, well...unfortunately other matters came up last time that needed attending to."
The sarcasm was not lost on anyone, and Harry rolled his eyes at her dramatics.
"The point is, we're all here again today, without a certain somebody," Ginny said. "And I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share-especially with my sister-in-law here-that-"
"Evening, Weasleys," Harry said, drowning out the rest of Ginny's words.
Turning around with a reddened face, Ginny glared at him. "No!" she said, pointing an angry finger at him. "What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here, I made sure of it!"
Shrugging, Harry conjured a chair and sat down. "I thought you wanted me to treat Little Bighead's boyfriend. And that's what I'm here to do."
"You have a whole clinic to do that!" Ginny said, slamming her hands down on the table. "Couldn't you just do it there?!"
Harry stared at her over his glasses. "Shall I leave, then?" he said, grabbing a couple slices of bread. "I mean I would, but Bill would probably call me a dickhead if I withheld the cure for Lupéęë The Fiasco's little problem."
"It's true," Bill spoke up, several others nodding along with him.
Frowning down at his partially prepared dinner, Harry scratched the back of his head. "Plus, I think there was something in that ethics class I didn't pay attention to about situations like this."
"Arrrrgh," Ginny said, throwing her arms up. "I just can't win with you, can I?"
Picking up a knife to spread butter across his bread, Harry quirked his head at her. "I thought our last time in Brazil was a pretty good win."
Ginny gazed off for a second before forcibly shaking herself out of the memory. "That's not the point," she said, her jaw clenched. "You always upstage me! Even when you're not supposed to be present. Even when you're not even present! So just...just get it over with."
Harry didn't look up for a second as he slapped a piece of ham onto his beautifully buttered bread. "My dinner? Guess it shouldn't take too long," he said before piling the rest of the contents on and closing the sandwich.
"No, I meant-just...just go on. Upstage me," Ginny said, sounding calm despite the bulging vein on her temple. "Solve the case. Play the hero that rides in on a unicorn and gets the couple together so they can live happily ever after."
Pausing halfway through his bite, Harry stared up at her incredulously. "Unicorns don't let males ride them," he said with his mouth half-full. "Everybody knows that, Ginny."
Everyone at the table gave murmurs of agreement.
Ron nodded. "Everybody who took Care with Hagrid does, anyway."
At that, The Fiasco looked around the table with a frown before producing a large sign out of thin air that Harry was intimately familiar with at this point.
"No bullying!" he said, holding it high above his head.
Ginny and Little Bighead beamed at him while several others, including Molly, booed him.
"Just get to the bloody point, Harry," Ginny said, taking a seat once more with her arms crossed.
With a shrug, Harry turned to The Fiasco. "What was your childhood like? Any traumatic experiences? Mummy and daddy get divorced?"
"What are you-I-no…?" The Fiasco said, timidly putting his sign back down.
"Someone enjoy the bottle too much?" Harry said, making a drinking motion.
The Fiasco shook his head.
Harry eyed the sign on the table, his brows shooting up. "Bullying!" he said, pointing a finger at him. "Ever get your head stuck down a toilet? Lunch money stolen? Fat lip from a bigger girl on the playground?"
"No, no, and no!"
"Scary uncle ever touch-"
"I think that's enough, Dickhead," Bill said, cutting him off. "You're clearly making Lupéęë uncomfortable!"
Fleur placed a calming hand on her husband's arm. "He was just trying to help," she said, before frowning at Harry. "He just got a little carried away, didn't he?"
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Harry leant back in his chair. "There must be some traumatic event that occurred in your life," he said, addressing The Fiasco once more. "You don't have to go into detail, just tell me something bad happened to you."
The Fiasco looked around the table before staring back at Harry. "Erm, okay, well…" he said, shifting awkwardly in his chair. "There was...one thing."
Harry perked up at this, unable to keep the grin off his face. "Yes, go on," he said, steepling his fingers.
Clearing his throat, The Fiasco gave Little Bighead a smile as she took his hand in hers. "One time...in band camp…"
With an encouraging nod, Harry gestured for him to continue.
"Well, see...I used to play percussion," The Fiasco said. "I chose it because I wanted to be different from my brother who played clarinet, and my other brother who played trumpet."
"Okay…" Harry said, nodding along and waiting for the traumatic punchline.
"So...one summer...we were playing this piece where percussion had to rest for 70 measures…" The Fiasco said, his face growing red as he continued to speak. "I counted...and counted...and counted my measures. I thought for sure, I was counting correctly."
He buried his face in his hands and shook his head, refusing to continue.
Little Bighead placed her hands on his shoulders for comfort, whispering encouraging words into his ear.
Taking a deep breath in, he nodded. "The entire band was silent," he said, peeking out over his hands. "You could hear a pin drop. I thought I counted 70 measures, but I was one measure short. I actually counted 69, and I came...much too early. I slammed that gong so loud, everyone turned back to look at me."
Several gasps sounded throughout the table, Arthur placing a hand over his mouth, Molly shaking her head and holding back visible sobs, Angelina outright fainting onto the ground.
Little Bighead hugged him close to her. "Shh, it's okay, Lupéęë. I wouldn't have blamed you," she said with a soft, deflating voice. "It could've happened to anyone."
"It could've happened to anyone..." The Fiasco whispered back, gazing up into her eyes.
As Harry stared between the two of them, waiting with baited breath to see if her reassurance would overcome The Fiasco's Intent issue, Ginny came forward, stepping over the still unconscious Angelina with her arms wide open, about to envelop Little Bighead in a hug from behind.
But just as she reached Little Bighead, The Fiasco grimaced and grabbed his head with both of his hands. A visible wave of magic then burst from his head, sending Ginny flying back into the muddy vegetable patch where several garden gnomes immediately swarmed and started pulling her socks and trainers off.
"Looks like they've added to their shoe collection," Arthur commented with a chuckle.
"I...it...it worked!" The Fiasco said, standing up and lifting Little Bighead up in the air before spinning her around. "I remember!"
Everyone that was still seated gasped and then broke out in cheers.
"I remember the first time we met," he said, placing her back on the ground and gazing lovingly into her eyes. "All thirty-six times."
Little Bighead bit her bottom lip. "Y-you do?"
"Even the second time when you cried because I couldn't remember you," The Fiasco said before placing a kiss on the top of her head as he hugged her.
"You really do," she said, sobbing into his chest.
The Fiasco let go so he could look at her properly. "I never completely forgot, you know," he said, tears in his own eyes now. "There was always a part of me that was trying to reach out for you. An unconscious pull, a vision in my dreams. You were there. You were always there."
As Harry took in the scene, he couldn't help but feel annoyed at how simple and downright ridiculous this whole case had been. "So...all this because you miscounted a ludicrous number of rests one time at band camp?" he said, crossing his arms. "That's it?"
The Fiasco gave a loving look to Little Bighead before turning to Harry. "No...no, that's not it," he said, hanging his head. "The other band kids kept bringing it up. Over and over and over and over."
"Is this where your aversion to bullying comes from, Lupéęë?" Fleur asked as she helped a now conscious Angelina back into her seat.
Pulling out his non-bullying sign, The Fiasco turned it around and pointed to the bottom right corner. "This was my art project that year," he said, his voice small. "The teacher gave me full marks even though we were supposed to paint a bowl of fruit."
Harry had dropped his sandwich by this point, staring at The Fiasco and Little Bighead with a frown. It was so disconcerting to him that he'd solved the case with such a ridiculous cause for it all.
Even the oddities were easy to explain. A part of The Fiasco's magic had always wanted to move on, leaving clues, not allowing everything to be fully blocked out.
Tonight seemed like such a colossal waste of time, aside from the great sandwich, but then he reminded himself that Ginny now owed him a favour. And that was always a great position to be in.
"The bullying stopped after you graduated?" Fleur asked, shooting him a hopeful yet sympathetic smile.
The Fiasco slowly dipped and then raised his chin. "It did. But...every time I started to develop feelings for a girl, the memories would resurface and the nightmares…" he trailed off as he shuddered.
Little Bighead pulled his head into her chest. "There, there, my love," she said, patting his head. "You've nothing to worry about. We'll take it slow and steady, I promise."
Sniffling, The Fiasco nodded before taking her hand in his and bringing it up to his lips.
At that, everyone stood up and cheered.
"So chivalrous," someone commented.
"A real knight in shining armour!" another voice shouted.
The Fiasco and Little Bighead stared lovingly into each other's eyes for a moment before he stepped away and pulled out his wand. With a small flourish, his clothes transformed into the suit of armour that Harry had given to him that morning, his longsword strapped to his waist.
Several oohs and ahh sounded throughout the garden. Angelina fanned her face as she took in the sight of the chivalrous knight before placing the back of her hand against her forehead and crumpling to the ground once more.
"You look amazing, Lupéęë! I love your rapier," Little Bighead said, eyeing his sword. "I can't wait to see it in action."
Silence fell across the table.
"Rapier?" Molly muttered. "That's a longsword, you casual."
"Filthy casuals," Arthur commented, shaking his head back and forth.
The rest of the Weasleys nodded, but The Fiasco and Little Bighead were currently lost in their own world.
"What do you say we finally go on a date we both can remember, huh?" The Fiasco said, taking Little Bighead's arm in his.
Little Bighead nodded in enthusiasm. "Where to, my knight?"
"The movies?" The Fiasco said. "I hear they're playing The Princess Bride tonight."
With a disgusted look, Little Bighead shook her head. "Oh...no thank you," she said with a giggle. "I detest that movie."
The Fiasco stared at her for a moment, his smile frozen in place. "Sorry...what?"
"I hate the Princess Bride."
Unlatching his arm from hers, The Fiasco shook his head. "Oh, no," he said, taking a step away from her. "Oh, no no no. That won't do. That will not do. I could've forgiven you for being a filthy casual and not understanding the difference between a rapier and a longsword-"
"A rapier is obviously a finesse weapon where you apply your dexterity!" Fleur blurted out, her fists clenched at her side.
Bill placed a loving hand on her fist as Arthur and Molly looked at their daughter-in-law with pride.
"But no girlfriend of mine can hate the Princess Bride," The Fiasco said, shaking his head, a sad smile forming on his face. "We'll need to break up."
Several gasps sounded throughout the garden in response.
Little Bighead nodded in understanding. "That makes sense," she said, leaning over to give The Fiasco a final kiss on the cheek. "You're a great man, Lupéęë. You're kind, loyal, always there to give a helping hand. The fluffiest knight I've ever met. I know one day you'll find the perfect woman for you. And you'll remember to ask her name right away, and never forget it."
They both smiled with tears in their eyes as they hugged each other one last time before Little Bighead bidded everyone farewell.
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd seen Ginny sneak off after everyone had cheered initially, and he wished he'd done the same now. He definitely needed a holiday after this-the warmth of the sun on his skin, the taste of orange juice in his mouth, and the occasional sound of gunshots in the background.
He could practically hear the gunshots around him now, feel them vibrating in his chest.
He could feel them vibrating in his chest.
A loud boom sounded above them, and everyone looked up to see the largest firework message that they had ever seen. Written in Weasley-red letters were the words: Welcome To The Family!
Ginny came bounding back to the table with an excited look, and everyone let out a loud groan.
"Good one, Gin," George said, pointing at The Fiasco and Little Bighead. The two of them had almost made it into the house, but now they were separated by six feet of pure awkwardness as they stared at the words. "Might have been a good idea to make sure they hadn't broken up first."
Clasping both her hands to her mouth, Ginny let out a gasp. "Oh my..." she said, breathless. "I am so-"
Whatever else she was going to say was cut off as her sister-in-law ran into the house, slamming the door loudly behind her.
"Wait," Ginny yelled, "come back!"
After dashing a few steps towards the house, Ginny suddenly stopped and then turned around with her head hanging low. "Oh, what's the point?" she said, looking dejected. "Every time I try to connect with Jean-Jaques Pierre-Phillipe Babineau-Béliveau's family, their big heads always manage to get in the way."
Giving her a sympathetic look, The Fiasco came over to put an arm around her shoulder. "Hey, if she doesn't like The Princess Bride, then she just isn't worth it."
Everyone nodded in unison.
"Well, what am I to do now?" Ginny said, looking at the man whose hand was still on her. "First, my announcement is ruined, and now so is my relationship with her."
The Fiasco frowned for a moment before perking up. "Hey! We could watch The Princess Bride together," he said, vibrating with excitement. "It always cheers me up."
Ginny looked at him for a moment before nodding thoughtfully. "Your place or mine?" she said, giving him a quick once over.
"We could do mine," he said with a kind smile. "I have a Disney Plus account on my TV."
"You have a what?"
He gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "Doesn't matter," he said. "Anyway, you up for it? Because I am."
Clearing her throat, Ginny raised her brows a bit and nodded. "Oh, well…" she said, flicking her hair off her shoulders. "As long as you're...up for it, then sure."
Nodding eagerly, The Fiasco took out his journal and wrote his floo address on a slip of paper for her.
Harry bit his fist, trying to hide a grin as he watched the disaster playing out before him.
"Great! Let me go pack my overnight bag," Ginny said, turning on her heel in excitement.
The Fiasco's jaw dropped at once. "Er, wait...what? I...that's not-!"
Ginny froze in her step before slowly turning back around. "You mean...you don't want to...you just…"
With wide, fearful eyes, The Fiasco shook his head. "I literally just wanted to watch The Princess Bride," he said. "I'm...I'm not Team Ginny, I'm sorry...I'm Team Coffee Girl."
Several pained ooh's sounded throughout the garden.
Gulping visibly, Ginny nodded and hung her head.
"Oh, honey," Molly said with a tragic look on her face, her hand on her heart.
"Right," The Fiasco said, looking around awkwardly. "I should probably go now."
He bid farewell to everyone, thanking Harry for his help before making his way back into the house.
After they all heard him leave through the Floo, Arthur cleared his throat. "Oh, Ginny," he said, shaking his head. "It might not have been the best idea to offer...that...when the man had just revealed the trauma that's been plaguing him to this day...about coming in too early."
Mortified, Ginny glanced at her father before looking down at her feet. "Right, got it. Thanks, Dad," she mumbled.
"Can't believe it needs to be said to someone other than Potter," Bill said, looking at his sister with a disappointed frown. "But that was totally uncalled for, dickhead."
Harry nodded in agreement before standing up. "Right, well," he said. "On that highly embarrassing note...I'm going to head off on my holiday."
All the Weasleys gave a collective groan in response.
Ron looked up, his mouth full of food. "'oliday? You just had all week 'alf off!" he said, eyes flashing with jealousy.
Similar expressions met Harry as he looked around the table, but he merely shrugged. "Clinic is getting an expansion," he said as he tucked his chair in. "Got the whole week off, and a certain patio in Brazil is calling my name."
Fleur stood up and quickly closed the distance between them, wrapping him up in a hug. "Have fun, Harry, you earned it. And don't forget to write," she whispered into his ear. "Maman and I will be most displeased if you don't."
With a smile, Harry nodded. "I wouldn't want to make my two favorite girls upset with me now, would I?"
"Oh, you," Fleur said, kissing him on the cheek before letting him go. "Au revoir!"
With his goodbyes said, Harry strode towards the back door of the Burrow, hearing a faint 'dickead' from Ron, George, Bill, Arthur and Molly as he stepped over Angelina's body and made his way back into the house.
"So...this is the famous patio I've heard all about?" Hermione said as she swirled the ice in her glass of orange juice, soaking up the sun of the gorgeous Brazilian afternoon.
Taking a sip of his own fabulous drink, Harry scratched the back of his head. "Haven't you been here before?"
Hermione shook her head. "I'm fairly certain you've taken everyone but me."
"Not true," he said, pointing a finger at her. "Ron hasn't been here."
Rolling her eyes, Hermione let out a loud huff. "Well, you brought a plumber here before me, Harry," she said with narrowed eyes. "A plumber you'd just met."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Not any old plumber. My best friend, Zapolololology. And anyway, he's actually an artist now," he said before taking a sip of his drink. "He's got quite the little gallery in Diagon as a matter of fact."
"Whatever," she said, her lips pinched together. "You still should have brought Ron and me here before him."
Harry didn't bother responding. If they'd wanted to come, all they'd had to do was ask. She'd probably just avoided it so she wouldn't have to give him more time off.
"Speaking of Ron..." Hermione said, biting her bottom lip. "How did the International Triwizard Tournament end?"
"It looked like Larry Lotter had won but I left before the full resolution," Harry said with a shrug. "Didn't feel like I needed to stick around for anything after knowing he'd won."
"Wait," Hermione said, leaning forward, her mouth open wide. "You watched the entire multi-day tournament that spanned a whole week, just to play a few games of chess, and then you left without seeing it end properly? Shouldn't there have been like...a nice trophy presentation or some sort of resolution worth sticking around for?"
Waving a dismissive hand, Harry rolled his eyes. "After how bloody long that blasted tournament was, I couldn't bother," he said, letting out a rush of air through his nostrils. "If I want to know, I'll just read about it later."
"Anyway," Harry said, cutting her off, already getting annoyed but forcing himself to relax using the breathing exercises that Brazilian Beta had taught him. "I brought you here for a reason. There's no way I was ever going to listen to your plan while at the clinic, so I figured if we do it here, I could at least be relaxed. So go on, tell me what you've been dying to share. We're expanding, I'm getting Minions, less clinic hours, correct?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Less clinic hours as long as you have a Case You Shouldn't Take," she reminded him forcefully. "You still have full clinic hours, otherwise."
Ignoring her, Harry took another sip of his juice. "Where are we getting these Minions from anyway?"
"Do you know how many incredibly qualified healers there are that want to work with you?" Hermione said, glancing up at the sky. "Not that they'll want to once they actually start, mind you."
"But I get to pick my team, right?"
Letting out a deep breath, she nodded. "But only from the pool of candidates I approve."
"How is it even going to work?" Harry said, placing his juice down as he leaned forward. "Are you going to read through reams of parchment like you're studying for your NEWTs all over again?"
"No," Hermione said, crossing her legs as she sat back in her chair. "We've hired a highly qualified company to process and forward the applications to us. They're called SalTal Studios."
"The one based in Eucla?" Harry said, raising an eyebrow. "That amazingly awesome Aussie company that can only be contacted via fax?"
Hermione's eyebrows knit together. "Yes, well, it's going to be an online application this time," she said, a strong hint of smugness in her tone. "It's in the contract that they can't require candidates to fax them."
"Oh," Harry said, a smile blooming on his face. "That's how Tracey got hired, wasn't it? She was the only candidate to figure out how to fax the company and ensure they checked it?"
"Why do you think I've made sure to get rid of that requirement?" Hermione said with an exasperated look. "Anyway, they'll have to use an app called Discord to find the application and submit it."
"The Discord?" Harry said with a frown. "You want them to apply for a team on an app called...Discord? Sounds productive…"
Hermione let out a huff. "It's not what it sounds like. I've heard many people actually form wonderful communities there that even become like families. It's not about sowing discord at all. Rather...it's a bit like….Harmony."
Harry and Hermione stared at each other for a moment, a profound feeling passing through the air.
Shaking his head, Harry got back to the matter at hand. "Well, can't be any harder to navigate than a fax machine."
Hermione looked away. "It's not, it's dead simple."
"And when will the applications be sent out?" he said.
"They'll have to await further details," she said before gulping down the rest of her orange juice.
"More juice, ma'am?" came Brazilian Beta's Spanish-Portuguese accented voice.
With a loud scream, Hermione jumped into Harry's lap and hugged him as if by reflex.
But before either of them could register what was happening, yet another new voice joined the conversation.
"OMG, you guys look like such a harmonious couple. You go together like Taylor Swift and Great Music!"
Harry turned his head to see a familiar outrageously handsome man wearing a Yankees jersey with the number 26 on the back. He was slightly out of breath from jogging, and he paused in front of the patio, doing a few active groin stretches as he gazed lovingly at Harry and Hermione.
Letting out a disgusted sound, Harry pushed Hermione off him and shook his head. "No, mate, she's my sister," he said, repeating the line Hermione's memory modification would have had him spit out, if it had actually worked.
Swiftie Stan shrugged and continued on his jog.
Hermione looked down at the watch on her wrist. "Oh! I've got to go," she said, suddenly frantic. "I can't miss Natalia Pavlova's ballet performance after she sent such a lovely card with free tickets for taking care of her ankles the other week, again."
"Pffft, you can't fix cankles. I've been to her show, Princess Pansy is nothing special. Not that I watched it, of course," Harry said as he lifted up his orange juice. "And hey! You can't leave without saying cheers, first."
Looking down at her not-quite-empty drink, Hermione let out a breath and then picked up her glass. "What are we toasting, then?"
"To hiring Minions, of course."
Hermione shook her head, "To expanding The Potter Institute for Magical and Mundane Pathologies, Lurgies and Endocrinology Clinic."
"I'm not toasting to The PIMMPLE taking on CYSTs."
Turning her nose up at him, Hermione raised her glass. "To expanding our business, then."
"To hiring Minions," Harry said, raising his voice to be louder than hers.
"I'm not toasting to minions, Harry," she said, her nostrils flaring. "I don't care how loud you say it."
"It's Minions, capital M," Harry said, clenching his first. "And I can't be toastingo CYSTs and more responsibility."
A throat cleared behind Hermione as they glared at each other. "Couldn't you both choose your own thing to toast instead of balme-ing each other for your suggestions?" a Spanish-Portuguese accented voice said.
In a moment of perfect Harmony, Harry and Hermione looked into each other's eyes and then nodded.
"To Balme-ing Brazilian Beta?" Harry said, raising his glass.
"Cheers, I'll drink to that," Hermione said, clinking her glass with his.
First, we'd like to balme Nauze for using his Spanish-Portuguese accent to gush about the wrong fic, thereby forcing us to provide an ITT update within HH. If you want an ITT update then please fax STS 'Attn: STS HR - Balme Nauze' and a second complimentary Orange Juice will be posted to you upon reception of said fax, + 70 days, though it may be 69 days due to a counting error, because of the lack of availability of Orange Juice caused by the Scurvy-related-pandemic sweeping through the surrounding Euclean Peninsula.
Second, we'd like to thank Petrificus Somewhatus for being outrageously handsome, he is a true LeMahunk in his #26 Yankees jersey. It is through his inspirational and undying support as a diehard fan of Taylor Swift that we were able to dupe him once again into misinterpreting Nauze's Spanish-Portuguese accented gushing as well, and not catching on to the signs Sal and Tal so cleverly laid out before him.
Third, we'd like to blame Sal's work assistant for assisting him in his job and freeing up time for him to write this chapter. Please submit your resume via fax, STS is looking to hire. Due to your blame-worthy noble efforts, we'd also like to extend an invitation to join the STS Discord using the following link: discord. gg / hq5ZvYYMA7 (remove the spaces).
Fourth, we'd like to thank Lupy for being STS's true White Knight in shining armor. The STS Discord Server is a true Harmonious Family Whale save one particular Spanish-Portuguese man that continues to bully everyone in his wake. We ask you, Lupy, to please save us from this man and to continue streaming Disney + for movie nights so that we may keep boosting morale despite the unfortunate circumstances.
Stay Classy, Eucla!