Most Unusual

Standard Disclaimer Applies x2
Author's Plea:
So... took this in a different direction than I had originally envisioned, but I still think I might could pull it off. It's been, oh, two+ years since I last touched this, so please forgive me if I'm a bit rusty. Also... editing? What editing?

Fifteenth Chapter: Internal and External Influenza

The new-found peace between Hermione and Tony lasted much longer than any of their watchers had anticipated.

Of course, that was hardly to say that their friendship was a smooth one. Their frequent but good natured bickering over assorted issues was the main reason Harry didn't support Ron's theory that Hermione had finally been taken over by the spell of the kid's eyes.

"She seems pretty swayed to me."

"She was taunting him yesterday over his fear of heights. I doubt she'd do that if she were truly swayed."

"Then they're collaborating."

"Probably. But what are they collaborating about?"

Whenever Hermione and Tony overheard this oft repeated bit of logic, they would always share a smirk that perhaps only added credibility to the boys' theory.

In truth, they collaborated about very little. Hermione was still dead set against helping Tony on his class work outside of the study group, and Tony was very set against involving her in any Underground business. After all, he was only half certain she knew his origins, and he wasn't about to risk informing her if she didn't already know.

However, Tony was sure of one thing: the more time he spent with Hermione, the more he found himself enjoying her. Even her bits of insanity. Even when she was so very wrong about whatever they were arguing about. If anything, he found himself often blushing when she started really getting into her long monologues for whatever cause she was supporting that hour.

It confused him, and he found himself frequently writing to his parents to find out exactly what was going on. He thought his reasoning and writing very mature, but his mother only ever responded by gushing over how adorable his crush was.

His father gave better, though still useless, advice.

'Compliment her and control her, but only when she doesn't know or doesn't mind. She seemed remarkably similar to your mother, so you might also try singing. It doesn't always work the first dozen times, but she will eventually fall victim to your charms. You are my son.'

Tony tried complimenting her, but she stared at him oddly before telling him to stop saying such rubbish. He managed to start manipulating her study group schedule, but only by moving the Slytherin session back by fifteen minutes.

He didn't feel nearly confident enough to sing to her. He could --he was his father's son after all-- but there never seemed to be a good moment. Even if there was, he was fairly sure she wouldn't respond positively. If anything, she seemed to loath any sort of display, and continually commented on the vulgarity of so many celebrations and declarations of love made after the war.

"Did you know that, once the smoke cleared, Ron actually kissed me?" she said once, with disgust laced in her tone.

Tony hadn't known that, but he did know that he wasn't going to be lenient if the redhead ever belittled him ever again. Weasley may be the tall one of the two, but Tony found he was increasingly better at discretely taking down Seventh Years, Malfoy the most notable example.

"People were clapping! How ridiculous is that? There were people seriously injured and even dead, and all anyone could do was snog and congratulate those people snogging."

"What did you do?"

"Pushed him away, of course. Voldemort may have been dead, but there was still a lot to do. Hogwarts didn't rebuild itself, and the Headmaster certainly didn't do all of it himself."

He could only look at her with complete awe and think what a wonderful Queen she would make. The more he spoke with her and the more time he spent with her, the more he realized she was exactly what his father had spoke of those days when his mother was Aboveground: a girl who defied him, who enjoyed a challenge, and who could be counted on to do his ruling for him while taking none of the credit.

The more he knew her, the more he wanted to keep her. She was argumentative, strong willed, and completely insane sometimes, but he couldn't stop himself from growing envious and jealous any time she was away from him.

As a formerly only child, and a prince no less, he was by all means unaccustomed to not getting what he wanted. It pricked and prodded at his pride, and left him a happy, blushing mess when she was there, and completely inconsolable when she wasn't.

It wasn't long before all the work he'd put into befriending the school at the beginning of the year began to unravel. All the distrust that had first shown itself when his heritage was revealed took further root. For all that he had resumed the position of social pariah from when the Prophet article had first been published, he found he had no interest in correcting the situation.

In fact, Tony found there wasn't much that interested him. He kept up with his schoolwork only because it gave him an excellent excuse to spend time with Hermione. Otherwise, he put forth no effort into accumulating house points. Professor Snape even pulled him aside at one point to enquire menacingly as to why Slytherin was now loosing points instead of gaining. He couldn't give his Head of House an adequate response, but the dour man seemed to get the gist of it. At the very least, Hermione complained more often of being docked points in Potions.

Most of his Hermione-less time was spent plotting new ways of forcing her to spend time with him. He wasn't prepared to say it was a crush, or even that he liked her, but he did know that he wouldn't mind, and would actually prefer, if all his time was spent in her presence.

In true romantic comedy spirit, the crush was obvious to all who saw it and that was almost the entire school with the exception of the two most involved. Hermione continued to pat him on his shoulder when he did good and chastise him when he didn't, completely missing the way his cheeks filled with colour in her presence. Tony continued to grow increasingly fond of her and did all he could to stay in her good graces.

And their erstwhile stalkers continued to giggle at their antics even as they reinforced their stealth spells. The First Year wizard and Seventh Year witch were clueless when it came to the motivations of each other, but they could be downright frightening when it came to defence.

"I don't think we have to worry about them plotting world domination," Ron said one morning as he and Harry walked to Herbology. "She's still too worried about NEWTs, and I think he's far too besotted with her to do more than blush and stare right now."

Harry was almost impressed. It had only taken two months for the redhead to reach the same conclusion he had, but it was still commendable.

"I think you may be right," Harry replied solemnly.

"It's a bit disturbing, though," Ron said thoughtfully. "I mean, I've never really trusted the runt, but he gives us some pretty nasty looks whenever we're with Hermione. Not just nasty Slytherin looks either."

"He's eleven, Ron. How scary can he be?"

Ron still couldn't help but shiver a bit when he thought about the First Year. It wasn't just the glares. He was accustomed to glares. He could deal with glares.

But lately, he'd found his class work frequently missing and his shoe laces tied together. There were even a few blank spaces in his memory in which anywhere from seconds to hours were missing from his life. He could never pinpoint exactly when the child would have been able to do such things, or even how, but living with the twins had taught him nothing if not caution. Ron knew he wasn't always the brightest student, but he knew enough about life to know that appearances could be deceiving.

He also knew that admitting he suspected an eleven-year-old of unknown pranks would only be met with ridicule.

"I don't know... You could be pretty scary when you were younger," he said instead.

"Well, yes, but that was all Voldemort's fault," Harry responded.

They shared a look before chuckling heartily. Though neither boy would admit out loud that he understood what his friend was trying to say, they both knew and began to pay more attention to the increasingly bothersome antics of one Antonius Williams.

Draco Malfoy was miserable. Draco Malfoy was completely and utterly miserable. He was even beginning to have partially serious thoughts of possibly re-evaluating his life.

Since before his discovery of the Usurper's true identity, he'd been subject to ridicule and undeserved punishment. Even after his discovery, Draco had nothing but trouble. His father wanted him to do some damage control and befriend the young menace, but Draco thought this was one order he was damned well going to ignore. Even had he wanted to rebuild the burnt bridges, it seemed the brat was far more introspective lately and less likely to accept any extended olive branch.

There were simply no ways to Slytherin out of the treacherous situation. He had never felt this trapped before, not even during Voldemort's short reign. If anything, he felt he'd been given quite the reprieve during the whole Voldemort saga by whatever distracted benevolent god was controlling his destiny. He even sometimes had the distinct impression that said deity had skipped a step or two, making Voldemort's defeat ultimately far too easy. However, most of the time he took great care to ignore that Voldemort had ever existed, that his family had ever sided with the ungrateful maniac, and that Draco's childhood nemesis was credited with destroying the vapid and selfish man.

As a vapid and selfish young man himself, he found it surprisingly easy to forget almost anything even mildly inconvenient.

Unfortunately, this did not extend to present circumstances, especially when present circumstances were contrary to his happiness and even occasionally threatened serious harm. He was not going to buy for an instant that he had simply tripped after he'd so perfectly insulted Granger.

There were other forces at work here, forces that didn't appreciate him. In short, he didn't like it.

Still, hiding out in his dorm had spared him nothing. Running any time he saw the Williams brat also seemed to do little good.

No. The more he thought on his deplorable situation, the more he knew he had to be more active in changing it. As much as he hated to risk his own skin, it seemed as if he was risking it whether he did anything production or not. He might as well take steps towards his own liberation.

If he accomplished anything during his seventh year, he was going to get Antonius Williams out of Hogwarts.