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The Power Within
Chapter Four: Big Bob's Burger Bar
Rowena Ravenclaw turned to look at the poor boy that thought that hitting on her was a clever idea. She was physically and emotionally exhausted. She'd just spent an entire day in the highschool-from-Hell, and had not only been hit upon by 37 different males, including the Gym teacher, but had also discovered that her heir, Harry Potter, had no intention of ever accepting the super powers she and her fellow founders were attempting to bestow upon him. Needless to say, she pitied the poor fool who got in her way.
The brunette jock apparently didn't pick up on her foul mood. "Hey, doll, I'm talking to you. Whaddya say you and I ditch these loser friends of yours and go get busy somewhere?"
Wordlessly, Rowena raised her hand and smacked the boy full across the face, forcing him to stumble back in pain. Ignoring his roar of anger, too caught up in her own irritation at the world in general, Rowena proceeded to deliver a roundhouse kick to the jock's chest, sending him flying across the parking lot to land in a heap at the feet of a group of giggling cheerleaders.
"She's in a very bad mood," Harry observed as he watched Rowena kick the crap out of Ben Porter, Stonewall's Boxing Champion. He would never live this humiliation down, getting beaten up by a girl, and Harry, who'd been verbally assaulted by the jock many times before, frankly couldn't care less if Rowena decided to beat the boy into a bloody pulp.
All good things must come to an end, however, and this particular event ended when Ben, clutching his broken nose and sobbing, stumbled off towards the school, ears red from the humiliation he'd just experienced.
"Hmph," Rowena huffed, dusting off her hands, a job well done. "Perhaps next time that boy will think before using such vulgar pick-up lines on a woman of my status. 'Cutie'. Bah!"
"Is she always like this?" Harry asked as he, Godric, Rowena, Helga, and Salazar climbed into his rusty old Ford Anglia.
"Not always," Helga volunteered. "Only when she's extremely stressed. And after today, how could she not be? I think I've gained about five gray hairs, and I'm barely thirty!"
"I'm sure they'll make you look lovelier than ever," Godric said graciously. Helga blushed prettily and swatted at his arm.
"Honestly, Godric, you could make a nun blush."
"We didn't come this way this morning," Salazar observed suspiciously as Harry turned left rather than right coming out of the school parking lot.
"We're going to Big Bob's Burger Bar," Harry explained.
"Pardon, but did you say 'Big Bob'?" Salazar asked in disgust. "It sounds like some primitive tribal leader."
"And what on earth is a 'burger'?" Rowena asked in her never-ceasing quest for knowledge.
"Er . . . a sandwich, sort of. I work there, at Big Bob's." Harry explained, pulling into the strip mall parking lot. "People just call it BBBB; it's apparently easier than Big Bob's Burger Bar."
"True," Rowena agreed, having visibly calmed down from the day's ordeals. She had been fine up until the Humphrey incident, after which everything had gone downhill. There were no freak-encounters with the mysterious denizens of Stonewall high after that, but her nerves were already frayed from Harry's refusal to accept his powers, and just the daily stresses of high school nearly made her blow a gasket.
"What do you do there?" Helga asked as the five piled out of the car. Harry, locking up the car, or at least attempting to, as the key barely fit into the lock through the layers of rust, shrugged.
"I make burgers, mostly. Sometimes. When I'm in the mood."
"Doesn't your boss mind that you make… er… burgers only when you want to?"
"Not really. He's too busy giving motivational speeches to the staff, who, incidentally, do nothing as well. Come on in the BBBB and I'll show you. I'll even give you each a burger, free of charge. My manager won't mind. Come on."
"This should be interesting," Godric predicted as they entered the small, squarish gray building that was BBBB.
"Harry!" a boy wearing what was presumably the BBBB uniform called. "The boss is calling a meeting in twenty minutes, so be ready!"
"Thanks, Wally," Harry replied absently as he slipped behind the counter of the burger bar and pulled on a ridiculously bright orange apron that proudly bore the letters 'BBBB'. Turning to the puzzled founders, he slipped back out from behind the counter and led them to a nearby table. "I'll be right back with some burgers. You all must be hungry."
"Extremely," Rowena agreed as Harry headed back to the counter. "Isn't he going to tell us what is on the menu?"
Wally snickered. "This is a fast food place, Miss. The menu's behind us on the wall, and you come to the counter to order. We're certainly not going to spend our valuable time carting food right to your table!"
As Harry returned with four sloppily wrapped burgers, the stress was evident in his face. "You're lucky you're the Founders of Hogwarts," he said as he handed the burgers out. "I haven't done this much work in the past three months. The boss is going to turn this sudden burst of burger-making enthusiasm against me, you can count on it."
"Mmmm… these are very good!" Godric sighed happily as he bit into his burger.
"Isn't it your JOB to make burgers?" Rowena demanded.
Harry blinked. "Well, yes, technically, but mostly we 'empowered' employees of BBBB just sit around in meetings all day and let the Co-op students do all the work."
Rowena's eyes narrowed. "Explain."
Harry shrugged. "Co-op students are kids sent by the school to work here for free in order to gain valuable work experience that they can use in later life."
"So you're telling me the paid employees do nothing, while the volunteers slave away?" Salazar asked in interest. "That's an intriguing idea, you know. Perhaps we could set up something like that at Hogwarts-"
"Be quiet and eat your burger, Salazar," Rowena snapped. "It's like a humane form of slavery, and I will not have slavery at my school!"
"Well, if you're going to take that tone with me…" Salazar snarled.
"Tone? The only tone I hear is the one YOU are using, you… you rat!"
"RAT?" Salazar howled. "That's nothing compared to what YOU are…"
Harry sighed and retreated back behind the counter as the two began a furious argument over what disgusting animal they could be compared to. Beside him, Wally asked quietly, "Are they always like that?"
"Yeah," Harry replied gloomily. The fact that he could formulate such an opinion of the four after knowing them for only two days spoke volumes.
"Meeting time," a new voice announced, belonging to none other than Sasha Ramirov, Harry's friend/psychologist/study buddy. "Did you bring the donuts?"
"I've got 'em," Wally announced, pulling a box of two dozen assorted donuts from his bag. "Where are those blasted co-op kids?"
"I think they're cleaning up a spill by table five," Harry replied. "I'll go get them."
He sauntered over to table five, where two co-op students were laying sprawled on the dirty floor, unmoving. "Er… what are you doing?"
"Ramirov said that when something was spilled, it was our job to throw ourselves on the liquid before it spread," one of the students volunteered, shifting an arm so the spilled coke didn't seep into Harry's old, beaten up running shoe.
Harry blinked. "Oh. Well, er, good job, then. Keep it up, kids."
"Thank you, sir!" they chorused.
"Well?" Sasha asked once Harry had gotten back behind the counter.
"They're cleaning up table five," Harry replied absently. "I don't suppose you know who spilled the coke in the first place?"
Wally giggled. "I couldn't help it. It's just SO fun to see the fools fling themselves across the room just because we told them to. It gives you such a sense of power…"
"Meeting time," Sasha interrupted. "Let's go."
The trio abandoned the counter and headed into the back room, a.k.a. the Meeting Room. Taking their places around the un-necessarily large rectangular table, they turned in feigned interest towards their manager, known simply as The Boss. He was a large, overweight man with pointy hair and the most obnoxious voice you could possibly imagine, and his life was devoted to "motivating" his employees.
"It's our responsibility to locally restore interdependent paradigms and efficiently enhance competitive meta-services to stay competitive in tomorrow's world," he said by way of greeting.
"Did anyone understand that?" Harry whispered as he munched on a donut.
"Does anyone ever?" Sasha replied sarcastically.
"I don't think that was even relevant to our restaurant," Wally added.
"First on the agenda is the budget analysis," the Boss announced, ignoring his employee's whispering. "This is where you tell my why your special, BBBB-related project should receive funding, and I give you money according to how important you make your project sound. Wally, you want to start?"
Puffing out his chest, Wally announced, "My project is to discover the ratio between the amount of French fries produced per year, versus the amount of toxic waste in China."
"And why should I give you money?"
"Er… um... because," Wally stammered, "because if you don't, the world will... implode! And all the French poodles will die terrifying deaths! Plus, your wife will leave you."
The boss looked aghast. "I'd better give you funding, then. Unless you can top his proposal, Sasha?"
"Well," she began, "my project is to create a hamburger made of dirt."
"Sounds completely useless to our company," the Boss agreed, pleased. "Why should I give you money?"
"Because if you DO," she replied, trying a different tact, "you'll make millions of dollars, and become Supreme Ruler of the Universe."
'Impressive', Harry thought. 'The man loves power. But I've been researching this for day's, and I know exactly how to get one hundred percent of the funding.'
"My project is to create a no-fat, super-tasty donut that will kill anyone but managers who try to eat it."
The boss looked extremely impressed. "Finally, a donut all for ME!"
"And if you don't give me money," Harry concluded succinctly, "you'll DIE."
The boss turned white. "Right. Harry gets the funding."
Sasha and Wally directed furious glares at their lucky friend.
"Now," the Boss continued. "On to discussing why we haven't had more than ten customers in the past month."
"Good one," Sasha whispered to Harry with something akin to awe. "Combining the two most important things to him – donuts and life – into one presentation. Inspired."
"Self-preservation is a powerful thing," Harry replied. "Believe me, I know."
Harry screamed in terror as the Ford Anglia rounded the corner at 120 mph, clipping a mailbox and nearly running over a plump gray squirrel. He honestly didn't know how he got into situations like this. First Godric had mentioned how nice Harry's car was, and before he knew it, the man was in the driver's seat, speeding along a residential road at almost the speed of sound.
"SLOW DOWN!" Harry bellowed as Godric zoomed down the road, just a few blocks north of Stonewall High. "The speed limit is 50mph! You're going to kill us all!"
"Nonsense," Godric replied calmly, twirling the steering wheel deftly to avoid running over the group of pink mohawk punks they'd encountered earlier. "This is elementary. If I can navigate a wild dragon through a magical storm, I am certainly capable of piloting this metallic contraption on this gray grass without incident."
"Road," Harry corrected, sinking back into his seat with a sigh. Why did he even bother? At least if Godric crashed and killed them all, the Founders might finally leave him alone.
"Oh, hardly," Rowena piped up from the back seat, where she was clutching Salazar's arm in a death grip, who didn't seem too pleased with the arrangement. "We've perfected the method of soul travel through the netherworld. Should we die, it would be a simple matter to locate you, rejoin your company, and spend the rest of eternity in your delightful presence."
"You'll never get rid of us, so deal with it," Salazar snapped, tugging at his arm. "For heaven's sake, Rowena, let go of my arm!" The brunette merely tightened her grip and shrieked as Godric pulled a 360, nearly killing an old lady in the process.
"STOP!" Harry screamed, but to no avail.
Godric increased the speed even more, and Harry realized that his end had finally come. He was going to die, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He only wished he'd had a chance to say goodbye to Hermione and Ron before the end.
Then, an unearthly sound permeated throughout the car, and it squealed to bone-shattering stop, somehow going from 150 mph to 0 mph in less than three seconds. Aside from the fact that such a thing was impossible, Harry discovered that they had stopped in front of none other than the Dursley's house.
"We're alive…" Harry whispered.
"I told you we'd be fine," Godric said smugly. "It isn't so hard to drive this thing. Maybe when we get back to our time, I could make one…"
"Absolutely not!" Rowena bellowed, bashing the bewildered man over the head with her backpack. "Of all the ridiculous things to do, driving a jar without a license!"
"Car," Harry corrected, helping a rather pale Helga out of the car.
"It could be a chicken, for all I care," Salazar snapped. "So long as I NEVER have to ride in one again!"
Harry's ears perked up. "Well, if you never want to ride in a car again, I guess you can't follow me to school anymore-"
"With Godric as the driver," Salazar finished, giving his heir a nasty glare for trying to slip one past him.
Harry sighed in defeat and trudged up the driveway, absently clicking the locking mechanism on the car's remote control. He wasn't quite sure why a car from the 1950's had a remote control, but there it was.
Bickering, the Founders hurried along behind him, their argument centered around which method of torture would be more successful in convincing Godric to never, EVER drive again. As Harry pulled open the front door of 4 Privet Drive, he was greeted with the abnormally large, purplish face of his Uncle Vernon, who looked severely displeased about something. Harry had a pretty good idea of what was troubling the man.
"Who are these freaks, Potter?" Uncle Vernon bellowed, gesticulating wildly at the four startled time travelers. "I thought you'd flunked out of your freak school! So why did you bring some wackos home with you?"
Salazar dispelled their glamour charms with a wave of his wand, and pulled himself up to his full, and rather intimidating, height. Glaring down at the pudgy man, Salazar informed him icily, "Should you ever insult myself, my acquaintances, or anyone else of wizarding persuasion ever again, you shall lose your tongue. If you ever insult my school again, however, you shall lose your head. Do I make myself clear?"
Uncle Vernon was clearly cowed, but obviously figured that since he outweighed the skinny wizard in front of him, he might stand a chance. "You have some nerve, sir, threatening me in my own home! Why, I've a good mind to call the police on you!"
Salazar smirked evilly. "Go ahead. I certainly won't stop you."
Expecting more of a struggle, the calm retort clearly threw Uncle Vernon. "Er… well then, I shall! And don't you dare try and stop me!"
Salazar blinked. "Did I not just… never mind…"
Uncle Vernon snatched up the phone and dialed the local police. It rang three times, and then a gruff voice said:
"Surrey Police Agency. Officer Murray, here. How can I help you?"
"…" said Uncle Vernon.
Harry exchanged a glance with Helga, who shrugged.
"Sir?" the Officer repeated. "Sir?"
"…" repeated Uncle Vernon.
"Must be a prank call," Murray decided, hanging up.
"…!" said Uncle Vernon.
"What's wrong with him?" Harry asked timidly.
Rowena smirked. "Salazar promised he wouldn't stop your fool of an uncle. He didn't mention anything about me."
Harry gaped at her.
"What?" she snapped defensively. "He insulted our school! You're lucky we didn't turn him into a toad or something."
Helga, Godric, and Salazar nodded their agreement, while Uncle Vernon was getting more and more agitated about his inability to speak. He gestured furiously at Harry, who laughed at held up his hands innocently.
"Sorry, Uncle Vernon, but you know better than I that I can't do magic anymore. You'll have to ask my… er… friends for help with that."
Vernon Dursley seemed absolutely scandalized, as if the thought of asking for help had never occurred to him. He attempted to yell at Harry, but, of course, failed miserably. Finally, he turned to the Founders with a defeated glare and held his hands up as a gesture of peace.
Rowena smiled victoriously. "Right then. We shall remove your fatal curse on the following conditions…"
She paused, for at the word 'fatal', Uncle Vernon had staggered back a step, turned a deathly white, and collapsed in a dead faint. Harry winced, and rushed over to help the fallen man up. The man was family, after all, even if Harry despised every molecule of his body.
As soon as the obese man had returned to the land of consciousness, Rowena continued. "On the following conditions. Firstly, you will NEVER insult Harry, Hogwarts, and the wizarding world in general in our presence. Secondly, you shall treat us with respect and deference, as we deserve. Thirdly, you shall provide us with clothing, shelter, and victuals, until such time as we no longer require your assistance. Are these terms acceptable?"
Uncle Vernon gave them an incredulous look, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing, but he was met with harsh stares, and even he knew when to concede defeat. Shaking his great head miserably, he gestured his agreement to the terms.
"Excellent!" Helga bubbled, flicking her wand to release the silencing spell. She seized his hand and began dragging him off down the hall, completely ignoring his protesting. "It's wonderful doing business with you, Mister Dursley! Harry's told us SO much about you! We're going to have such a wonderful stay here with you! We can cook and tell jokes and play games, and…" The voices trailed off as they rounded the corner out of hearing range.
Harry sighed in relief and collapsed on the flower-patterned sofa. Rowena sat down beside him, while Salazar and Godric disappeared mysteriously. He gave her a long-suffering look, to which she favored him with a sympathetic smile.
"Surely our company isn't that taxing, Harry," she said reasonably, conjuring some Chamomile tea and placing it in Harry's hands. "You know you can accept your powers at any time, and we'll be gone in a twinkling."
"I don't want the powers, can't you understand?" Harry said, sipping the piping hot tea and nearly spitting it out as it burned his tongue. "Gah!… It's not that I don't like you and the, er, Founders, Rowena, I just don't want your powers. I don't want to be famous, I don't want to be the Boy-Who-Lived, and I definitely don't want to be a super powerful wizard! Why can't you understand that?"
"I do," Rowena replied quietly. "But the one thing you don't understand, Harry, is that as much as you don't want to be all those things, you can't help but be them, because it's WHO YOU ARE. You can't change that, anymore than you can change your eye color or height."
Harry blinked. "Aren't there color and height spells that could easily do that?"
"Well, YES," Rowena admitted crossly, "but that isn't the point. You were born to have our powers, just as you were born to defeat the Dark Lord. Why can't you understand and accept that?"
"I don't want to!" he bellowed, surprising even himself. Was he in denial or what?
"I'd certainly say you are," Rowena agreed, reminding Harry again of her irritating telepathic powers. "And that's why we are going to stick around and bother you until you give in and stop being such a stubborn mule about this whole business."
"You'll have to wait a long time," Harry told her. "I'm well known for my stubbornness."
"Oh, you don't have to tell me," Rowena said with an unladylike snort. "You're not the only stubborn one, you know. I've been living with Godric Gryffindor for ten years now, and even though I tell him every single day to leave my bedroom door closed in the mornings, guess what he does?"
"Opens it?" Harry guessed.
"Too true," she muttered ruefully. "But he'll come around, as will you, Harry. Now, what say we find Godric and Salazar and stop them from doing whatever horribly unadvised act they're about to commit?"
"Works for me," Harry agreed, gallantly helping the ancient lady up from her seat, and whisking her teacup away from her before she could put it away herself. Setting it down on the counter, Harry extended his arm to Rowena, who took it with a pleased smile.
Sure enough, as soon as they exited the house, they were treated with the sight of Godric and Salazar furiously chucking baskets at each other, each man balanced precariously on a red rubber ball. Harry couldn't help himself.
"What are you doing?"
"Playing Basket Ball," Godric announced, heaving a large metal basket at Salazar's head.
Harry groaned. He should have known.
To be continued…
A/N: Ta da! Another happy chapter! How'd y'all like the pun at the end, there? Heeheehee… cackles evilly I feel absolutely malicious for saying this, but I LOVE PUNS! I know they're the lowest form of humor, but they're just so… bad! Anyway, Read, Review, and all that jazz. I'll see y'all later!