Birthday fic for the lovely, wonderful and super talented LoveHGSS, Happy Birthday!
This is in 2 parts, the second will follow in a day or so.
Special thanks to the brilliant Clover Bay for looking this over for me, you're a star.
Hermione sighed and resisted the urge to bang her head onto the long wooden desk in front of her. The lecture theatre was stiflingly hot, and far too closely packed with people for her to reach her wand and cast a cooling charm on her person. Her discomfort was added to by the fact that the man on her right was sweating profusely, and from the smell of him had never come across either Muggle deodorant or freshening charms. To her left was a woman who reeked of cheap perfume, the scent of which was only marginally better than the stale sweat from the man on her other side. To make matters worse the woman had been sighing dreamily and squealing slightly for the entire hour and a half lecture.
All this may have been bearable if it wasn't for the fact that the lecture in question was absolute drivel. The title and summary on the conference timetable had been intriguing, and while the paper the lecture related to had been vague in places Hermione had assumed this was so that the writer didn't give too much of his ideas and work away. As it turned out it was because he seemed to know nothing about the complex, difficult and delicate task of utilising charms in potions. When done correctly they could enhance the potency of the brew, significantly lengthen the shelf life of potions and even offer huge short cuts in brewing time. However it was so hard to get right that hardly anyone used them, even the most experienced Potion's Masters ruined almost half of the potions they tried to charm. Since the process of charming potions was consuming all of Hermione's thought at present she had hoped for something that might trigger a thought process which would help lead to a breakthrough.
Instead she was suffering through terrible puns, lewd innuendo and no actual substance at all. Most Hogwarts third years could have given her the same information that she was getting from this lecture, and then she would've been saved the irritation of the speaker's extensive fan club.
It seemed that Hermione was the only person in the entire room who saw that the man was a fraud. Everyone else was fooled by his dark hair, bright blue eyes and Irish accent. Kieran O'Connell had risen to prominence with a breakthrough in the brewing of Wolfsbane, although there had been persistent rumours that he had stolen the research from a fellow apprentice. He had capitalised on the media attention by beginning a relationship with the daughter of one of Spain's most prominent Wizarding families, and since then had flitted from wealthy beautiful woman to wealthy beautiful woman. There had been talks and seminars and books, but for the most part the public wanted his face, not his mind, and the lack of actual intellectual ability had been ignored altogether.
All this had made Hermione wary of attending his session at the conference, but she had assumed that the most respected Magical Research Conference in Europe, if not the world, would only allow speakers who had some level of capability in their field and wouldn't fall victim to a pretty face and high media profile.
How wrong she had been.
Her irritation grew as they moved from O'Connell's terrible lecture to questions from the audience. Not one person asked an insightful or even relevant question about the lecture or his research, instead giggling fan girls sighed and asked about his love life and whether he used conditioner on his hair.
Finally she got to the point where she couldn't cope for a moment longer, and raised her own hand.
"Miss Granger, what would you like to ask Mr O'Connell?" the facilitator asked.
Hermione smirked slightly, grateful for once that she had one of the most recognised faces in the Wizarding world.
"I was wondering if Mr O'Connell would care to expand on the point made in both his paper and very briefly in his speech today about the method he has found which stabilises potions when they are being charmed, and led, so he stated earlier, to his being able to charm Wolfsbane so that it halved the brewing time, and being able to do this five consecutive times without ruining a single batch of potion, a previously unheard of achievement. While he states he has done this, there is no evidence, and Mr O'Connell remains rather coy about how he managed to get such incredible results. So I ask him, what is this method of stabilisation you have used?"
O'Connell flushed slightly, opening and closing his mouth several times.
"Well, you see, the correct way of stabilising means brewing in, no sorry, with. That is to say it is necessary for, um..." he tailed off, looking in desperation to the facilitator.
"Ahem. Yes, I'm terribly sorry Miss Granger but we've run out of time for questions. Mr O'Connell will be available after dinner to sign copies of his latest book How to Stir Your Cauldron. For now, I think a round of applause for Mr O'Connell."
Hermione sighed once more as the room burst into cheers and applause, her suspicions that O'Connell was Lockhart all over again sadly confirmed.
She made her way through the crowds of people and headed towards one of the bars, intending to get a glass of wine before dinner and hopefully find some decent conversation. Her progress was halted by a hand grasping her upper arm. Turning, she found herself looking into the blue eyes of Kieran O'Connell, a slightly seedy smile on his face.
"Miss Granger, it was such a shame I wasn't able to answer your question fully in the session. Perhaps we could continue the discussion over dinner?" He stepped closer to her, his eyes running the length of her body clad in a blue dress, his gaze lingering particularly on the cut of the sweetheart neckline, the shape flattering her figure and clinging to her curves. His hand had not released her arm, and he began to stroke his palm down her skin. "I think dinner in my suite would be ideal for our, discussion." His gaze swept over her once more, making her feel slightly nauseous. "There's also a wonderful view from the balcony. Would you care to join me?"
Hermione had opened her mouth to refuse when another voice spoke for her.
"Unfortunately Miss Granger has already promised to dine with me this evening."
Hermione and O'Connell turned to the new speaker as one, the almost identical looks of surprise on their faces betraying that Hermione knew no more of her supposed dinner plans than O'Connell did. She recovered quickly and smiled at her rescuer.
"Yes, I'm terribly sorry but I have plans." With that she placed her hand gently on the other man's elbow and allowed herself to be led away, leaving O'Connell gaping after her as his planned latest conquest walked off with none other than Severus Snape.