The sight of some unfortunate racing along a corridor with their tongue down to their knees was not nearly as unfamiliar to Hermione Granger as she might have liked. Being Headmistress of Hogwarts had had many positive aspects but the introduction of eleven year olds to the Weasley's product line had never been one of them. In this case, however, the victim was a young man and the corridor was one on the upper levels of Saint Mungo's.
The occasion was that of the one hundredth birthday of Severus Snape, now Director of the hospital. While Hermione had no great wish to attend the party, she did want a little chat with her daughter, Victoria; with regard to a meeting she had called to discuss certain medical aspects of techno-magical feasance and ethics. Unfortunately, Victoria seemed to have got wind of her mother's arrival and fled.
Decades of professordom cut in. Frequently, in such cases, the tongue swelled to such pythonesque proportions that it visited places that one might normally be dubious about putting one's hands, even in gloves. Then, as the muscles contracted, the layers of muck thickened until the victim was copiously sick. Sure enough, on opening the toilet door, she could hear noises generally associated with eructation. She went in.
'Talking to the Director,' the young man explained between heaves. 'Offered me . . . toffee . . . tongue all round the floor . . . utterly filthy!'
'Why?' she asked, having dealt with the unpleasantness. There was a long cut across his cheek and something about the victim's wild blonde hair and childlike expression reminded her of Colin Creevey. She helped him to his feet and out of the toilets.
'Don't know.' He shook his head miserably.
'I think you could do with a cup of tea.' If Victoria wasn't about, Hermione decided, her office was. It was important to discover who had been responsible for this outrageous display of muggle baiting and see that they were arrested. A little drop of something in the tea would help.
As she poured his third cup she thought that he might be up to talking about what had happened. 'My name is Hermione Granger,' she began.
'Oh, you're Headmistress of Hogwarts,' he said, brightening immediately. 'My daughters Chloe and Emma talk about you all the time.'
She sat up straighter. 'Mr. Dursley is it?
'Yes, it is. But . . ..'
'Harry's a friend of mine.'
'Oh.' He looked surprised. 'You know Great Uncle Harry doesn't talk much about himself at all. I'd no idea. So, how are Chloe and Emma doing?'
'They're both doing very well, Mr. Dursley,' she reassured him.
'Please call me John.' He fidgeted with his tea.
'So, John, what are you doing here? I trust that you are not unwell?'
'Well, no. Not really. Not before I arrived anyway.'
'This morning, we got a roc from Saint Mungo's.'
'That's an owl, Mr. Dursley.'
'It was delivering mail so, yes; technically I suppose it might have been. The bloody thing was enormous. Jumped all over me and then the neighbours complained to the RSPCA. I'm an accountant. The message was . . . an invitation to see the Board about Saint Mungo's finances at two o'clock. Instead, I spent the afternoon trying to persuade the police that I wasn't doing whatever it was they thought I was doing to the bird. As if.' He rubbed at the scar on his cheek. 'I didn't like to think what the Board would do if I didn't turn up, so I came anyway. Chloe got me in here, and then I met the Minister of Magic and he insisted that I stayed for the party.'
'Percy Weasley can be persuasive.'
'I couldn't get out. Chloe had gone off with some red haired lad. You wouldn't happen to know who he is?'
'I'm afraid that red hair is not a sufficient description,' said Hermione, thinking of the vast tribe of Weasleys, 'but I'm sure we can find her.'
'Fine. Anyway, since I'd missed the Board Meeting, Mr. Weasley insisted on introducing me to the Director of Saint Mungo's instead. Mr. Snape. I don't know if you know him?'
Tea wasn't cutting it, Hermione decided, pulling open a draw. 'This is where my daughter keeps the gin.'
She pulled out bottles, ice and a lemon and working methodically through the construction of a pair of stiff drinks before sliding one over the desk towards him. He accepted it gratefully and relaxed back into his chair.
'I believe that you have a younger boy as well?' said Hermione.
Yes, he's named Dudley. After his grandfather.' John swirled the ice in his glass. He seemed to be gathering his courage. 'When we first found out about . . . your world, my father and I visited Grandfather Dudley and told him about little Chloe. We tried asking about Harry, and he seemed to understand the question but, after all the alarms went off, the nurse threw us out.' He took another swallow. 'I hadn't realised someone so frail looking could be so strong. You know it took all three of us to get his hands from around my throat?'
Hermione said nothing.
'Too much to hope that ton tongue toffee thing means that bastard Snape won't be employing us?'
'I would think it unlikely. How did your company get mixed up with the magical world anyway?'
'Well, after Chloe got her Hogwarts letter, Harry turned up and introduced me to a few of his friends and my company, that's Dursley and Dursley, were taken on to sort out the 'Cannon's' finances. That's a Quiddich club.' Hermione didn't react at all. 'Sorry. Of course you'd know that. Apparently 'magicals' lack financial imagination, so my company was taken on to help sort out the club's accounts. So the 'Cannons' were able to employ some new players. We heard that they were doing rather well.'
'Doing rather well' was something of an understatement. They had used financial leverage to obtain almost all the best players and comprehensively trounced the other clubs until Hermione had been forced to make some highly pointed remarks with regard to level playing fields. This revelation explained from whence they had obtained the funds. 'They've won the cup for the last three years,' she said, wondering why neither her husband nor her best friend had thought to introduce her to someone so useful.
'Really? Well, in that case, I don't think I understand. Yesterday the company received a visit from Mr. Weasley; he's the manager of the 'Chudleigh Cannons? He said that they wouldn't be requiring our services any more. He didn't look well. Mr. Weasley, he was covered in . . . well they looked like raspberries and then they burst and things flew out and they flew off making . . . little raspberry noises. An extremely nasty thought seemed to occur to him. 'You don't think Snape poisoned that Weasley fellow, do you? The communication from Saint Mungo's with regard to my company's employment was pretty . . . erm . . . to the point.'
'Oh no.' Snape was far more subtle than that. 'That would be my husband's dear brothers testing out their latest product.' And in the meantime Snape had identified and snaffled a resource from under her very nose, almost certainly by means of blackmail, and with the assistance of Hermione herself. And it had been Victoria, her daughter and his deputy at Saint Mungo's, who had brought the anomalous situation regarding the players to her attention. Clearly a little chat with certain individuals was long overdue.
'Ronald Weasley. His brothers are the proprietors of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes.'
'My deepest sympathies.' He winced. 'Raspberry Ruffles?'
'I'm afraid so,' she sighed. 'So what did you talk about with Mr. Snape.? Have you any idea what you might have done to upset him?'
'Not the faintest.' he took a deep swallow. 'Because I'm a Muggle, perhaps? I hear there's a certain amount of prejudice.'
'No. I think if you'd been a wizard it would've been worse than 'Ton-Tongue-Toffee. Snape's not entirely unreasonable. You must have done something.'
John Dursley thought. 'The Minister of Magic said: "Don't talk about the war." I don't understand. Wasn't that the Order of Merlin Snape was wearing? Then, just before he sort of hid behind the curtains, he hissed "Don't talk about You-Know-Who". I know next to nothing about You-Know-Who. Some Moldewort chappie? We just talked about what Saint Mungo's wanted us to do and he asked how the company had got involved with . . .'
Hermione closed her eyes. 'Oh dear. You don't know much about our world, at all. Do you?'
'I read Chloe's school books. Can't say I made much sense of them, Arithmancy aside. And those Goblin Wars were pretty soporific.'
Hermione could hear her hair escaping from its bun. 'Not that You-Know-Who.'
'You've more than one? Look. I swear. Nothing controversial. I don't know enough to be controversial. I just asked him if he knew Uncle Harry.'
'You asked Severus Snape if he knew Harry Potter and you're still capable of speech.' She got up. 'Well, if you're quite alright, I think I'll go and have a word with the Director while he's in a good mood.'
RSPCA Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Extrapolation on a drabble for Possum132.