A.N. Not much to blather about this time, but for the reviewer who asked, yes I am well aware that I haven't mentioned who Harry's other soul mate is, yet… I'm trying to create a little suspense here, help a guy out!
Also, got a paper due in Agricultural History a week from Monday on a book I haven't read yet. So it will probably be a couple weeks before the next installment of this little saga…
Disclaimer: I don't own it. If I did, Won Won and Lav Lav would have eventually ended up living in a trailer park in deepest darkest Alabama, with the rest of the white trash… Seriously? He ditched his buddy when his buddy was in a bind? More than once? And STILL got the girl? That s**t just ain't right, y'all….
The utter silence filling the Great hall of Hogwarts School was broken when the bravest of the Griffindor Lions extended his hand to the new transfer student. "Hi, I'm Neville, Neville Longbottom. Welcome to Hogwarts." Casey shook the extended hand with a grin. "Pleased to meet 'ya Neville! I'm Casey, and it's good to know a friend of Harry and Hermione here, they mentioned you a lot over the summer, said you were as tough as they come…" The cowboy leaned in to whisper loudly enough for half the table to hear "Did you really tell Hermione here that you wouldn't let her leave the common room after curfew in first year?" Neville flushed and nodded, with his eyes cast down, as a rapidly recovering Harry and Hermione smirked. "Then it's official." Casey said loud enough for anyone listening to hear. "Anyone who's willing to stand up to Hermione here when she's on a mission has got to be the biggest badass in this school, and you must have some cast iron huevos. Hope we can end up being buddies, Neville!" Casey clapped Neville on the shoulder while the young wizard looked confused. "Ummm… what exactly are huevos, then?"
Harry cracked up while Hermione tried and failed to keep her eyes from rolling slightly. "Neville," Harry said "Casey here is saying you have cast iron ones." He pointed towards Neville's waist. "Down there." Neville followed the imaginary line that Harry was making, looking towards his lower regions. "Oh… OH!" Virtually all who had been following the conversation to this point began laughing along with a red faced Longbottom.
One who was currently not laughing found himself sitting on Hermione's right, surrounded by the conversation, but confused as to why he was not part of it. Ron had been confused throughout the sorting ceremony, as it seemed that Harry and Hermione had simultaneously had a shudder pass through them, from which point on, the atmosphere in the room had been decidedly… chillier. Ron had no idea why this would be, but he was determined to find out. After dinner though, for food had begun to appear on the tables, and he realized that it had been more than an hour since his last meal. The mystery would still be there after dinner, the food would not wait.
As everyone began to tuck into their evening meal, Casey began to regale those surrounding the small group with tales of The American West ("yup, it's a cowboy hat, I learned to work cows and ride bucking horses in South Dakota, where I grew up."), his magical education to this point ("Naw, they have wands out there, but a lot of the magic is rituals from the Indians. My school did a pretty good job of mixing the native magic with stuff from over here in Europe."), to how he knew Harry and Hermione ("Bumped into Harry here in muggle London of all places. I'd just moved here with my folks, Harry and I literally ran into each other in a grocery store, got to talking, became friends faster than you can say 'spit on a skillet', then found out we were both magic. Damndest thing. Then of course he tells me I need to meet this friend of his, she knows damn near everything and is one of the nicest people I'd ever want to meet, so if I need help with getting squared away in England, she's the perfect go-to. Of course Harry was right, and Hermione's been a buddy since about the time we first shook hands."). The easy charm and relaxed smile he was giving off drew more and more listeners to the young cowboy's tales, while Harry and Hermione surreptiously held hands under the table and paid close attention to the stories- the better to verify their veracity if they were questioned alone, later. Harry noted the casual way that Casey was ingratiating himself to his housemates, while Hermione was observing the plausibility of the story, noting that everything he mentioned could have happened, so the likelihood of their being challenged on this apparently unlikely friendship was actually minimal. At least she felt that way until the self-appointed heir of Slytherin chose to reestablish the normal social order by nipping this disturbance in the bud.
Casey was in the middle of telling Neville and half the table a story about a misadventure between himself and the father of a Rodeo Queen in Colorado ("So I says to her Daddy 'Hey. She told me to kiss her or she was gonna kick my ass. What was I supposed to do?' Her old man didn't buy it, so next thing you see was me running across the fairgrounds in my underwear with him on my tail like fleas on a dog. Whole damn town was there, too. Good times."), when he saw the shadow descend over the table, and the scowls settle on the faces of those surrounding him. He looked at his tablemates curiously, then turned around to see a blonde haired boy in green trimmed robes flanked by two hulking boys in the same trim on either side. Casey looked between the three, reached over to the table for his glass of pumpkin juice, took a sip, and stared back at the three blank faced. "Can I help you, blondie?"
Draco Malfoy looked down his nose at the interloper to his domain, sneered ever so slightly then began the process of reasserting his authority. "Bad enough you have to be a bloody American, worse still that you are in Griffindor, but then you have to go and surround yourself from the very beginning of your time here with the very dregs. Mr. Tibbs, I would advise you to be well aware of who your betters are, and if you find yourself in the company of a squib, blood-traitor, half blood and-" He looked at Hermione with disgust "mudblood, then you will find that you truly are at the bottom of the heap here. Do yourself a favor and watch your step. After all, bad things happen to those who stick their necks out."
Casey listened to the scion of Malfoy impassively, appeared to think for a moment then looked up at Draco. "So you're telling me that I can either ditch my friends here, and keep my head down, or else you or somebody you know is going to make sure I regret it. Do I have that about right?" Draco smiled coldly. "You may be more intelligent than your current associations would lead me to believe, Mr. Tibbs." Casey again appeared to be reflecting, while silence began to settle on the Great Hall. Everyone could see the confrontation brewing, and while eyes were turning toward the group at the table, a Transfiguration Misstress felt a hand on her arm holding her in place, as a Potions Master was loosed upon the supposed sheep, unaware that some of those sheep had themselves recently acquired fangs.
Casey looked Malfoy up and down, then similarly surveyed his sidekicks, while Harry, Hermione, and Neville subtly reached for their wands. Ron assisted as well, but subtlety was not his strong suit as his wand appeared in his hand. At this point, the Potions Professor made his presence known.
"10 points from Griffindor for brandishing your wand, Mr. Weasely." Snape said with an oily cast to his voice. "And may I ask as to why you have my Slytherins over here to your table?" Harry and Hermione both bit their tongues, this was the Angel's play, and they knew interfering would only make it more difficult later. Besides, they had a good idea, based on their history with the cowboy, as to how this would end up.
"Well, Professor- Snape, ain't it?" The potions Master nodded with a scowl. ""Well Professor, here I was, just minding my own business, wasn't I, guys?" The rest of the table nodded on cue. "Yup, just settin' here, minding my own business, when these three gentlemen came over to the table, and they asked if what I had said was true, if I really did eat glass, and spit sand. Well, I was just getting ready to show them, when here you come, taking points and asking questions. So basically, nothing to see here!" Casey grinned disarmingly at Snape, who returned it with a cold smile.
"I for one would like to see the veracity of your story, Mr. Tibbs. Perhaps you would care to demonstrate here and now?" Snape's smile faltered when Casey's grin never wavered as he said "Okay!" and reached for his glass of Pumpkin Juice.
Casey drained the glass and smacked his lips as he eyed his glass speculatively, seeming unaware of the nervously supportive faces behind him, or the predatory faces before him. "I don't know about this pumpkin juice. Back home we drank yucca juice, and it wasn't quite as… pumpkiney. Reckon I'll get used to it, though. When in Rome, and all that… Oh, you guys in a hurry? You seem mighty anxious for some reason, so let's get this show rolling." Casey looked his glass over, then casually took a bite from the rim and chewed calmly, ignoring the gasps behind him, the nervous looks on the three young faces in front of him, or the growing apoplexy in the face of his Potions Professor.
"See, the thing about eating glass," Casey commented between loud crunches- "is you gotta know yer tougher than it is. As soon as you wrap your brain around that…" Casey took a swallow to shocked gasps, and smiled a bright, white smile at his would-be tormentors, "the rest is pretty easy!" He held the glass with a bite removed from its' lip out toward Draco. "Wanna give it a shot?" Snape had seen enough.
"Twenty points from Griffindor, for destruction of school property, and another 10 for making threats against another student, Mr. Tibbs. I look forward to seeing you in my classroom, where I will have the opportunity to better teach you proper manners. Your… cowboy act… is already beginning to wear upon me."
Snape turned and stalked back to the head table, ignoring the halfhearted protests of Griffindors, while Malfoy smirked, secure in the knowledge he was still untouchable. "As I said, Tibbs, be cautious of the company you keep, parlor tricks will not protect you if you should happen to be caught in the crossfire."
He had turned and taken two steps back towards the Slytherin table when the bolt of lightning struck directly of him, unleashing chaos throughout the Great Hall and causing the scion of the house of Malfoy to scream in a noticeably girlish manner, while jumping backwards into Casey. As such, no one heard the cowboy whisper darkly into his ear as Malfoy stood trembling. "The next one is through your skull, and happens to you if a finger gets laid on any of my friends, do you understand me, bitch?"
Malfoy whimpered and nodded, as the puddle began to form at his feet. "Do not assume power you do not have, or fuck with things you don't understand, Draco Malfoy. The one you worship as a god has annoyed the One who is, and the time of reckoning is fast coming nigh. I am going to give you the same advice you tried to give me; Be careful of the company you keep, and be aware if you stick your neck out, it most likely will come back without a head attached. Are we very clear?" Malfoy mutely nodded, as Casey shoved him forward. "Then get back to your table, and stay out of our business."
As Malfoy stumbled forward, Dumbledore had arrived to the scene of the disturbance, eyes in full twinkle mode, and equanimity rolling off him in waves. "Ah, Messrs. Potter and Tibbs, Miss Granger, may I enquire as what you think may have just occurred here? Casey just shrugged his shoulders innocently, while Harry and Hermione exchanged a glance. Harry decided to start things off. "Actually, professor, I think I remember Hermione read something about strange weather phenomena happening in the Great hall in Hogwarts: A History. Hermione? Do you remember that?"
"Actually Harry, I do. It's said that while it occurs only rarely, from time to time the ceiling will accumulate an overload of magic which is released through weather phenomena. Typically this will take the form of rain, or some other form of precipitation, but more violent outbursts have been recorded, the last in 1796 when a student found herself swept out to the quidditch pitch due to a cyclone sweeping through the Hufflepuff table. The reason for this overload is not known, although there are several theories for the cause. Thank you for paying attention, Harry." Hermione blushed lightly, and ducked her head a tiny bit.
The Headmaster's eyes continued to twinkle, and the gentle smile continued to play across his face, covering the confusion he had experienced over his passive occlumency hitting three brick walls. He hadn't even bothered to ask Ron; his confusion was written on his face, making any probing an exercise in redundancy. "I see. Well then, Miss Granger, I am certain Professor Flitwick and I would both greatly enjoy seeing a report from you indicating your experience this evening, as well as your ideas on what might have been the cause, if you would be willing. Perhaps a fresh set of eyes and different perspective might shed new light on the matter? There will of course be extra credit assigned for such a report, in your Charms class. Now shall we all take our seats and continue our repast? I do have one or two more small announcements to make before we retire for the evening, and as entertaining as events might have been, we should conclude our meals."
The neutral look Harry and Hermione both held dropped to a pair of small scowls as Dumbledore turned and made his way back to the head table. While everyone settled down, Harry and Hermione both glared at Casey, who grinned back almost recklessly. Harry leaned forward and whispered so low he almost hissed.
"What the Bloody Hell are you doing here? We thought you would be checking in from time to time, not moving in!" The Death Angel winked back, and simply mouthed "Later" as he pointed to the Head Table. Harry turned, saw Dumbledore standing with arms held wide, and suppressed a groan.
"Damned tournament announcement" Harry thought to himself as he unconsciously reached for Hermione's hand, which had been seeking his at the same time. With carefully schooled features, they appeared to listen to the headmaster cancel the Quidditch season in return for an offer of eternal glory descending on one of the seventh years' head. Harry had to close his eyes for a moment as he remembered the "Eternal Glory" he and Cedric shared, and it was only the light squeeze of Hermione's hand in his own that pulled him out of that horrible memory. He glanced around the room, eyes settling on Cedric Diggory, who was paying close attention to the announcement. "Not this time, Cedric. If I have anything to say about this, you're going to be an old man telling your grandchildren about the Triwizard tournament and how stupid it was to get involved in that thing. Not they they'll listen any better than we do." Harry's thoughts were interrupted by Ron leaning over to whisper to him.
"Harry! Eternal glory and all those galleons! Think we can get the twins to help us past the age line? Harry shook his head while Hermione looked at Ron like he had just a second head.
"Mate, there is absolutely no way on this earth that I am going to try to get myself killed for money I don't need and fame I don't want. In fact.." Harry had an idea that might just help him out with his first friend in the coming days. "I swear right now on my magic that I am not going to attempt in any way to enter this damned tournament, and I am not going to encourage or help anyone who tries to enter me." The portion of the table that was listening had mixed reactions. Hermione kept her face looking calm while she squeezed Harry's hand tightly under the table, Neville and Casey both simply nodded in understanding, Ron looked scandalized.
"Mate! Fame, Glory, Money! Why would you just take yourself out of it like that?" His face was turning red from the emotion, but Harry tried to explain as patiently as he could.
"Ron, I don't want what this tournament offers, and people have died competing in this thing. I get enough of that already, why would I try to go look for it? Seriously, all I want to do is cheer on whoever the Champion is, and have a quiet school year." "And take out a few horcruxes, see how close I can get to killing off Riddle, bond with my other soul mate, and make Hermione's fantasy about 'kinky sex in the library' a reality." Harry thought to himself. "But still, isn't any sex in the library a little bit kinky? What is she going to want to do, get spanked with a copy of 'Arithmancy for the Mentally Incapacitated' or something? Do it on the main table in the middle of the day with nothing but a 'notice me not' charm over us? Guess we'll find out when the time comes…" Harry shook his head clear of his thoughts, and looked around to see Hermione's eyebrow slightly arched, and Casey's mouth split into a wide grin. "Great. Hermione is wondering which sex act we have planned I'm thinking about, and Casey's figured out I'm thinking about shagging Hermione, and oh Hell, soul mates and Angels are going to be the death of me." Features rapidly composed, Harry returned his attention to Ron.
"Mate, if you want to try for it, good on you, but I swore it and meant it, there is no way I will be willingly involved in this tournament. If I can do it, I intend to have a nice quiet year for a change." Ron looked perplexed.
"If that's the way you feel Harry, I suppose… hey, can I borrow your invisibility cloak?" Harry shook his head with a smile.
"If you want to try, sure. Just don't ask me to help beyond that." And with those words Harry noted that the announcements were ending, and students were beginning to rise from their tables to go their rooms. Harry and his group rose as well, with Hermione sidling casually between Harry and Casey with a smile on her face, and words that were designed to strike terror into the heart of all men. "Casey, Harry, when we get back to the common room, we need to talk, don't you agree?" Both young men visibly gulped, while Ron and Neville laughed. "Better you than me, mate!" Ron crowed as they made their way out of the Great Hall, and towards the Griffindor tower.