Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
Chapter Fourteen: Screwing with the competition
The two jiggled around each other sexily, so much so that the rest of the dance floor cleared to give them room as they and the rest of the club were transfixed on the pair. The dancing pair were oblivious to the rest of the club watching them in various states of distraction. For them only the other existed, the need to one up each other paramount, both taunting and enticing the other shamelessly.
Though the need to vex Susan Bones was wholly secondary, he would be lying if he didn't admit to himself that it held a place of distinct necessity within his mind's eye when the occasion presented itself.
For her; the need to rub it in Susan's face was a close second to her need to hold her partner's undivided attention.
However, neither was even remotely aware that Susan Bones was even in the present vicinity.
Cho's mother had laboriously instructed her daughters on the art of seduction, and though she hadn't appreciated it at the time; having indoctrinated herself to western beliefs of equality and liberality, she could now say a silent thanks to her mother as she understood now that there was no such thing as fair play where the heart was concerned.
She didn't know, per say, that Harry Potter was who and what she wanted to spend her life with, but until she did she was gonna be damned if she'd just let Susan Bones have free and unfettered access to arguably the finest specimen of man and, or wizard to be had on the entire continent.
She respected him as a valued comrade. She adored him as a person. She appreciated him as a friend. She was definitely attracted to him as a potential lover, but as far as being "in love" with him,.. she couldn't honestly say that she was or if she was just in love with the idea of being in love with him.
Until she knew for sure, she was leaving nothing to chance.
All she truly knew for certain was that she had been lost to despair. Battered, raped, defiled and left longing for a death that would not come as she endlessly prayed for it to do so. Eventually her prayers turned desperate, begging for hope and finally.. hope came. It didn't come in the form of an angel releasing her from her earthly torment, but in the form of a man doing just that and so much more. He did not see broken and worthless when she begged him to leave her to die. He saw only what could yet be. He looked into the soul and had told her he liked what he saw. He renewed her faith and with it she dared to hope once more. Her life was hers again and now she could see a future wherein once she only saw pain and emptiness. No matter what; she would do all in her power to love and appreciate this man as he deserved to be loved and appreciated. Even despite having known that she didn't currently love him; she hoped that she could if given the time to do so.
Blue eyes that were usually soft and gentle watched with a mixture of feral attraction and jealous ire.
Her friends, deciding she needed a break from the Harry Tug 'o War, had taken her out for a night of girl time. She might have known this occassion, like most of the rest of the last two months, would end up being another late round decision on the judge's cards in what was shaping up to be the battle of the ages.
The prize: Harry James Potter, ie.. the former boy of her dreams, now the man who held her every waking fantasy and all of her perceived hopes for future happiness.
He was the proverbial 'story book hero' in the flesh. Harry Potter was every girl's dream of the 'Handsome Prince'. At least he was for her.
As a boy his eyes had held her heart captive. The stories, gossip really, that she'd heard regarding his exploits had seemed too farfetched to be believed, but she, like the rest, had over looked the obvious; a champion had stood among them.
Their reconnecting could have been so perfect, that is, if she hadn't of lost her temper and ruined things from the get go.
She didn't know what infuriated her more, his having played her, albeit unintentionally, or the fact that she had made a complete and utter fool of herself because of it.
There she was, not two months ago, talking, pleading with that stupid duck in their pond. She was trying to get the confused bird to talk to her when the real object of her interest happened to pop out of nowhere and ask, albeit with real worry etched in his eyes,: "If she was feeling alright?"
It still raised her hackles to think about it. There she was gapping stupidly at him like a complete and utter fool with said "duck" quacking in both irritation and, if she didn't know better, amusement at her shocked embarrassment.
She had screeched to the heavens once she'd collected herself. That and she'd thrown every curse and hex his way that she could think of.
In retrospect, it wasn't perhaps the most viable method of garnering his interest, let alone his forgiveness for her past indiscretions.
What was it about Harry Potter that made her do all the wrong things when all she wanted to do was all the right things?
She wanted him. She knew that and it made her crazy knowing that he knew it too. That knowledge only gave him more power over her to make her even crazier, and he was taking advantage of that knowledge to the fullest.
Just like now.
He couldn't know that she would be here tonight, but by the same token, she was wholly sure that he could have found out and was now taking the mickey out on her like he'd done most of the last two months.
It started off so sweet; at least she'd thought so? He'd shown up the next day, (once she'd had a chance to cool down), after the duck incident. Anyway,.. he'd shown up at the Bones' mansion with flowers in hand apologizing for the unintentional misunderstanding of previous.
And she'd bought it?
Misunderstanding her arse? If he had his way she'd still been out there talking to that stupid duck!
He seemed so sincere and genuinely apologetic that she'd bought into it hook, line and stinker!
Yes, she meant stinker, because that was exactly what he was.
The flowers, as she'd learned to her dismay, were some new crossbreed of Neville's creation that was designed for home defense.
An activation word, which he'd purposely enclosed in the card having guessed she'd read it out loud, had activated said botanical terror.
It seems that Devil's Snare and Snap Dragons produced a virulent breed of plant that not only ensnared its prey, but then proceeded to bite them mercilessly.
There she was reading the enclosed card when she came to the closing… "Love, Harry" she'd been so thrilled by those two words that she'd gasped them aloud. At her pronunciation of those two words- chaos ensued.
The damn thing sprouted tentacles that wrapped around her neck, pulling her in so that the snap dragons could give her a love bite that would make a cobra flinch in envy. Having "no teeth" as such, only soft petals for mouths; the snap dragons bite was more of an annoying tickle.. thousands of annoying tickles that eventually felt as if she was being pealed like an over ripe orange.
Her shrieks of despair had amused the villain no end as he laughed uproariously, snapping off pictures from a magical camera that she saw the evidence of which in the newspapers the next day advertising the plants for home defense, available through Weasley Wizarding Wheezes, of course.
To say the pictures were less than flattering would be an understatement.
He had pointed out that on the bright side; they'd sold out their entire stock of product that first day the advertisement was published. Then the clod actually had the audacity to ask if she considered modeling for the next advertisements?
… and the hexes started flying again. She didn't know why she bothered as this was the wizard who'd utterly destroyed Voldemort, but still, it made her feel better to at least try to curse the prat.
So what does he do for an encore.. chocolates, of course. Not just any chocolates, but a special handmade confectionary from Belgium with her in mind.
He must've thought she was a total idiot? Hello? This is the man that used to slip tracking devices into her pancakes. Merlin only knew what devious bits of humiliation were inside those chocolates.
So what did she do… she gave them to Mad Eye Moody, thinking he'd ferret out whatever poison Potter had laced the chocolates with and take retribution.
Then, she planned to take the results and fix his wagon, but good, in the form of a warrant for his arrest for malicious conduct.
Not only did it turn out that the chocolates were legitimate, but Mad Eye was now desperate to know the name and location of the confectioner as apparently he was rather addicted to the exquisite treats.
Not only had she given away what was probably a hundred galleons worth of the world's finest chocolates, but then she'd had to suffer Harry's tear filled accusing eyes at her having ungraciously re-gifted his heartfelt apology.
If he wasn't driving her insane, he was making her feel utterly mortified.
Despite his endless torment, which she knew that she deserved all of it and more, she still wanted him. She wanted him desperately. She didn't deserve him, no one truly did, though if she were honest with herself; Cho probably was as close as someone could get to truly deserving him.
She wanted to step aside and let Cho have her chance. She wanted to purely for his sake, but she couldn't.
She just couldn't!
Susan had begun to fall for him as a teenager before she'd done the unthinkable and made a typical teenage thoughtless remark that had produced devastating consequence She had been hurt and angry and .. and had ruined everything.
She hadn't thought she couldn't care anymore or at least didn't deserve to. Then Wraith had come into the picture, however unwillingly so.
She hadn't realized it until late, but she had begun to care, care very deeply.
Then to have it turn out to be Harry Potter was like an answer to a prayer; one that she had thought fruitlessly made thousands of times only to have been unknowingly answered.
She had begun to fall for him as a foolish teenager and had unwittingly fallen for him altogether as an even more foolish adult.
Now she was totally in love with him and she didn't have the faintest clue what, if anything, she could possible do about it.
Should she do anything? She knew she shouldn't as she'd made her mistakes and burned her bridges, but good.
All she knew was that she loved him and despite her many mistakes she would spend a lifetime trying to be worthy of him in any and every way possible given the chance.
Susan eyed her friends, particularly Hermione Granger, with a look that clearly stated this was a bad idea.
Hermione could only shrug helplessly defending logically-as always… "How was I to know he'd be out tonight and with Cho for that matter?"
Susan rolled her eyes at that. She wanted to take her friend at her word, but she was his friend too. And with Harry Potter there was no end to the man's desire to take the mickey.
She wanted to believe Hermione was completely innocent, but it was even more hard to do so when she commented suggestively: "Oh,.. my…" she fanned herself blushing as she took in her friend's current activities… "You've got to admit they're really something together aren't they?"
Susan's eyes narrowed to slits at that. Turning toward the dance floor her eyes went wide in spite of her current irritation.
What Harry and Cho were currently doing could almost be described as obscene. If there was ever a case of passionate fore play on the dance floor than this was it.
In spite of herself, she too was blushing at their antics; the whole thing was perhaps the sexiest, most stimulating display she'd ever beheld.
Harry was circling Cho almost predatorily. His eyes were emerald fire, his chest glistening with perspiration.
Cho's hips were undulating, her ample bosom heaving as she shimmed in place luring him in.
Mouth hanging agape, Susan turned to her friends in both desperate need for distraction, as well as reassurance, though the way the rest of them were staring mesmerized by the couple owning the floor- reassurance wouldn't be coming anytime soon.
Hannah was licking her lips wantonly, Hermione fanning herself and Traci Davis looked ready to book a room for the night.
Blessedly, the music ended and the club roared in applause laced with catcalls and whistles of utter appreciation.
The entire joint was turned on, and how.
Eventually the lights dimmed and the music softened and couples nearly sprinted for the floor, suddenly eager to hold someone, anyone, close.
"How am I… How could anyone…. I can't compete with that?" Susan blurted out aghast, blushing furiously at even considering the prospect.
"Be yourself." Hermione pressed. "That's all Harry wants is for people to be themselves, er.. not that it wouldn't hurt to let go know and again?" she amended sheepishly.
Hanna snorted at that. Traci rolled her eyes this time adding… "There's letting yourself go and then there's reckless abandon? I think what we just witnessed qualifies as more of the latter."
"What we just witnessed doesn't even have a category." Hanna added, grabbing Hermione's menu card and now fanning herself with it, trying and failing to cool down her own rampant hormones.
Hermione smirked and proceed to hit the group with several high powered cheering charms before they had a chance to offer a word of protest.
The ladies eyes glazed over in bliss.
A few more strategically dress altering seamstress charms to give more of an ample view of one's finer attributes and Hermione led the group to the dance floor when the next upbeat song began.
They may not have reached the same level of abandon that Harry and Cho had, but they certainly had every male in the club's undivided attention, and many of the females too.
Harry tried to remain focused on Cho, despite the fact that she was acutely aware of who was currently holding court and was finding herself more distracted, than she would like to admit, as well.
He even went so far as to turn up his occulomency screens to a new high, but Susan swaying hips and jiggling breasts were breaking through his shields as no legillmens could ever have done. The mere fact that soft, gentle Susan Bones could even move like,.. well.. like that, was hard to even conceive of even in his most stringent of teenage fantasies.
This was one night he was going to relive in a pensieve many times over in years to come.
Neither witch was making his decision an easy one; a fact that he was both grateful for and utterly perplexed by.
Deciding, once the dance finished and the crowd again roared its approval, that discretion was the better part of valor, (he really must find out who said that), he and Cho decided it was time to leave.
That is they strategically retreated.
Watching the couple's hurried departure, Hermione pulled Susan close and whispered conspiratorially in her friend's ear: "The round goes to Susan Bones by a unanimous decision."
"That took a lot of courage." Cho commented after a lengthy pause as they walked along the lighted Thymes.
Harry glanced her way with a puzzled expression.
Smiling wanly, she clarified. "For Susan to work outside off the box like that. I could be wrong, but that was wholly unknown territory our sheltered Hufflepuff was exploring. She was way out of her comfort zone and it didn't show a wit,.. obviously so?" she chuckled lightly at her own and Harry's reaction to the display.
"You were utterly mesmerizing." Harry complimented honestly, choosing wisely to ignore his date's observation, however accurate said observation may be.
She smiled knowingly at that. "As were you,.. and may I say that was very well played, kind sir."
Harry smirked at that. "My comrades have given me a great deal of inadvertant examples of what not to do in their vast experience." he surmised sarcastically, referring to the bragging of his fellow Unspeakable teammates over their many supposed conquests.
She snuggled up next to him in both appreciation and affection. "What am I to do with you?"
"You seemed to know exactly what to do when we were dancing?" he teased.
She ducked her head into his shoulder to hide her blush.
"You make it easy for a girl to forget herself." she scolded, intending anything but.
"I like the way you forget yourself." He added, nudging her with a hip to press home his point.
"You're a regular obliviation spell you are."she flirted back.
Not to be out done he turned her toward himself, grasping her by the shoulders and holding her eyes captive… "Care for a bit of amnesia..?"
She barely let a gasp escape as his lips found their way to hers.
Initially startled, she soon surrendered and even opened her mouth to deepen the kiss. A low moan traitorously escaped her throat as her mind reeled in utter bliss.
This was nothing like the uncertain, hesitant boy she once kissed. This was.. was- WOW! Her mind exploded like fireworks as her hands snaked around his neck and pulled him in close, their bodied melding together, each acutely aware of how much the other was aroused. Their bodies giving themselves away whether they were ready to admit their own desire to themselves, let alone the other.
Finally he pulled gently back and her swollen lips trembled and she whimpered slightly at the loss of contact.
She both hated and was proud of the way she let her passion for him be known.
Her mother would be cross with her for ignoring her careful tutelage, but she couldn't let herself care. Merlin, what a man!
Eventually they walked on off into the night holding hands eventually stopping beneath a tree or in a darkened alcove to exchange tender, gentle kisses, but neither letting themselves go as far as previously, lest they find themselves forgetting all sense of decency and resort to rolling amongst the gathering fall leaves, tearing at each other's clothes.
They talked over little things, flirted a bit, even stopped for a cup of cocoa before he saw her home.
It was at this point that he should have expected it; the curse of being him reared its ugly head in the form of a gang of young thugs overwhelmed the café, pushing over chairs, flipping tables, brushing dinnerware onto the floor, in general; establishing their dominance in an attempt to intimidate the café owners and their clientele into fearfully and expediently handing over their every valuable.
Cho's smoldering gaze cooled slightly as Harry's arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders only to widen in surprise when he surreptitiously revealed his true intent in that he activated her emergency port key- transporting her instantly to Unspeakable's command center in the Hall of Mysteries.
"What the F… ?" Cho gasped in surprise before the light of sudden understanding hit in that Harry had removed her, or more pointedly, her unborn child to a place of safety whilst he dealt with the impending threat-alone.
"Oh for the love of Merlin?!" she raged indignantly, brushing aside an equally surprised dispatcher and manned the Command's com link.
"Emergency- priority one, to all available field personnel within the vicinity of London. Wraith, I repeat Wraith engaged on sight. Snatch and grab of approximately eight to ten hostiles- café corner of Reese and …."
Cho had barely disappeared from sight when Harry surged to his feet and confronted the roomful of miscreants with calm resolve.
"Gentlemen,… I suggest you cease and desist immediately. Withdraw from the premises in an orderly fashion and line up to the left of the building along the curb outside where some associates of mine will be along to collect your sorry selves forthwith." he suggested though the tone of his voice was one of command rather than any hint of choice on their part.
"Har-Har-Har.." a gruff voice barked incredulously. "Yah hear that Georgie, this bloke here suggests we turn ourselves into the bobbies what was it.."Fort wiff?" he attempted to mimic Harry's voice, chortling at his own joke in his guttural pronunciation.
"Does he now?" the leader of said riff raff sauntered up in challenge. He was an over muscular thug with several nasty facial scars that were indicative of having tried and failed to impose his will upon others.
He was about to get himself a fresh set of scars to add to the collection, though he mistakenly thought otherwise.
With a blur of motion a knife appeared in the youth's hand and shot toward Harry's unprotected chest.
If either assailant had been paying attention they would have seen the expectant, almost eagerly anticipated gleam in the eye of their 'would be' victim.
Harry's palm shot forward hitting the thug's forearm as it passed and deflected the knife into the ribs of Georgie's second who screamed in sudden alarm and pain.
"What the…" Georgie's surprise would go unanswered as he was shortly to be dealing with his own mortality.
Harry's fingers bent slightly and stiffened as he shot them straight into Georgie's exposed throat, right up to the third knuckle.
"Ugh-Ack-Gaaa!" the man grabbed his crushed throat and fell to his knees frothing and gagging as he began to asphyxiate on his own blood from a now ruptured larynx.
"Had the blue plate special-eh?' Harry chuckled darkly at the man's predicament. Eventually the man slumped to the floor next to his bleeding and mewling comrade who was currently pawing pathetically at the knife protruding hilt deep in his rib cage. Each halfhearted attempt his tentative hand made to dislodge the blade sent paroxysms of pain shooting through his torso, forcing him to immediately give up the attempt and flail uselessly in his misery.
Harry flowed forward into the three thugs heading hurriedly his way to both avenge and attempt to save their already doomed fellows.
A twist of the hips and a split second later, the edge of Harry's foot and heal connected with the side of the nearest thug's head sending him rocketing head first through the café's front window where he landed in a groaning heap of blood and glass, whimpering in pain over his many cuts and broken collar bone, before unconsciousness,(from the original kick), took hold and dragged him under into welcome oblivion.
Harry completed the twist of his torso from the kick, letting his elbow slam into the right ear of the next unlucky antagonist. The man's head pitched to the side where it met with the unwelcome company of another spin kick, this a hook kick. Harry's heal shot past the man's jaw and snapped back, connecting his heal with the under left side of the man's jaw, pitching him back. He crashed into a table and went down in a sprawl of broken dinnerware, half eaten food and even a few coins left in tip.
Hopefully he'd think to grab up the change as he was going to need the money to help pay his hospital bill for repair of a broken jaw and ruptured ear drum.
The remaining six stood transfixed as the most violently dominant of their troop went down in scant seconds without incurring the slightest injury on a single supposed victim.
Their eyes betrayed their half considered intention to make a run for it whilst they were still able. The rash movement of two younger members committed them, however. Emboldened by their younger, more foolhardy member's charge the rest came forward, albeit warily.
Harry waited for them with a grim smile of appreciation for that which he was about to receive.
One minute and forty three seconds later….
"This Griffin team reporting in on site to… Holy mother of …shite!"
There sat Harry atop a mound of broken bodies, furniture and dinnerware. He was enjoying a nice cup of tea whilst the objects of his previous interest moaned and groaned piteously.
"Evening boys. What say we get the aurors to sort what's what and we go out for something a bit stronger.. I'm buying."he offered in greeting.
"Well, if you're buying then I know of a nice spot not two blocks up Reese street ?" Stalker clapped his hands together, rubbing them bracingly in anticipation.
"I'm for that."
"Let's go see"
"The night's still young…
"and so are we!"
Laughing at their own juvenile antics, they made off for the indicated watering hole, calling back to their team leader to…
"Do catch up once you get this all sorted, won't ya, Griff."
With a growl of disgust, Griffin tapped the com link at his lapel. "This is Griffin, command. Area secured, send aurors and obliviators to my location A.S.A.P."
That done he tagged the wounded with port keys and left those beyond caring for the aurors' to process before jogging off lest his team wander away and leave him stuck with the tab for tonight's coming festivities.
"Where is he?!" Cho seethed her eyes nearly sparking in her anger.
"Who?"Griffin asked facetiously, daring the wrath of the pregnant woman.
Cho rolled her eyes irritably before snapping out-"Potter" not deigning to afford him the luxury of any informality on her part.
"Oh,.. um… say,.. look at the time?" Griffin glanced at his watch and disapparated like the street was on fire beneath his feet.
"Urggg!" Cho allowed herself a growl of frustration that became a tirade laced with expletives when the summoned auror detail arrived and stuck her with debriefing and reporting on tonight's altercation.
The next morning
"Oh, my freaking head!" one groaned out painfully.
"How the hell can Potter sleep after a night like that?" another grumbled incredulously.
"The man's not human. No single man can consume that much booze and live, let alone sleep so peacefully after a night like that, it's just not possible?"
"Shut up! Owe,..Oh, my freaking head."
"This is inhuman, I know my rights!" Chameleon barked out challengingly, just loud enough to be heard by the guard down the hall. "We're entitled to medical care ie.. an anti-hangover potion. Either that, or a swift execution!"
"Shut up down there or you'll wish for an execution." The guard yelled down the hall threateningly.
"Your just taking the piss because you washed out of auror training, Simmons, isn't it?" Chameleon groused, trying to annoy said guard. "What's next a promotion to crossing guard at the local preschool? Har-Har-Har !" Cam chortled at the guard's expense.
A tin water cup clanged off his bars, spraying him with its contents.
"Hey, Oh you'll pay for that, you will." he threatened impotently.
"Sure I will?' The guard sarcastically taunted.
Stalker walked up next to his friend and teammate. "Doesn't he have a sister, blonde, pretty, nice legs?" he asked with more than a unsavory interest, thumbing in Simmons direction.
"Yeah, nice bum and.." Cam took up the thread of the conversation, but was interrupted.
"You wouldn't dare?" Simmons growled defensively.
"Wouldn't I?" Stalker challenged enjoying the way the man visibly gulped in worry.
"Er,.. a round of Hangover remedies coming right up!" he offered hopping off to get the potions.
"Oh my freaking head.." Dozer whined again.
"It's coming." Cam smirked in triumph.
Six members of the famous/infamous,(depending on one's viewpoint),Griffin team littered cell twelve of the MLES detention facilities some three floors beneath the Ministry proper.
Griffin was sulking in the corner of the cell refusing to lower himself to his teammates antics which was his attempt to project an air of authority that was mostly wasted on this lot.
They'd been to hell and back and his ignoring them was a sad attempt to rein them in, and well he knew it, but it was the thought that counted.
Once the potions were to hand, Cam handed them around the cell, pocketing Harry's for after when he finally woke up.
He proffered one to his team leader and oldest friend, good naturedly.
Griff just turned his nose up at the offer.
"It's like that is it?" Cam snorted in half humor half disgust.
"I'll take his, if he's too proud?" Dozer hurriedly offered and snapped up the extra dose and downed it in a single desperate go, followed by a sigh of immediate relief that the first dose had been unable to wholly procure.
"Hey?!" Griff protested.
"Oh, our fearless leader finally deigns to talk to his lowly subordinates?" Cam chastised.
"He wasn't so high and mighty last night after propositioning that nun." Raven chortled, getting snickers from the lot.
"Man,.. as long as I live I'll never forget Father Damien laying in to you. W-What was it he called you again?" Dozer pretended to not remember.
"An ..An a-agnostic swine..Ha-Ha-Ha!" The group broke down into side splitting laughter at that, that and the way that Griffin's face went beat red.
"I thought she was a professional girl, role playing ,.. ya know?" he whined in his defense.
"So then what.. Father Damien was her pimp?"
"Ha-Ha-Ha" This time they laughed so loud that they woke Harry up.
"Snort.. urp.. wha… Oh, my freaking head!" Harry snorted awake, immediately complaining over his pounding head.
"Here kid" Cam promptly pressed the hangover remedy into his trembling hand. He downed it and immediately sighed in relief, slumping back against the wall of his bunk.
Once oriented, his gaze fell on a sulking Griffin who he immediately teased… " How many Holy cards did you lose last night, Boss?"
Their pleasure was interrupted by not one, but three irate females making their presence known.
Harry shot to his feet and came to attention. "Here, sir" he snapped out.
Cho's eyes narrowed to slits. "Here, mam" she corrected in a low hiss of warning.
"Hey, Potter who's the leggy brunette with her ministerness?" Raven called out suggestively eyes a now fuming Hermione Granger.
Harry twisted around his friend to get a look. "Sorry mate she's taken by some ginger git whose name escapes me, but that's the infamous: Hermione Granger. Oh,.. and up until recently she didn't have brown hair." He amended with a snort that raised Hermione's ire and got a snort from the minister.
"Well, really?' she groused.
"She the one who supposed to know everything?" Dozer asked in speculation, eyeing Hermione.
"That's her." Harry chirruped.
"See if she knows the size of Stalker's…
'Here now?" Griffin barked in protest.
"Wand" Raven finished with a smirk, throwing a wink his friends' way.
Hermione was blushing a proper Weasley red, quite a feat for not yet a legal Weasley and all.
"You picked a fine time to take a 'holier than thou' attitude?" Harry reminded his team leader to which his friends all broke down in guffaws at his expense, leaving Griffin sputtering in embarrassment.
Minister Bones chuckled in understanding given that she had personally perused the complaints against her most reliable Unspeakable team and dismissed or settled most of the disputes herself personally. They were merely blowing off some steam and decompressing whilst bonding over some much needed downtime.
She would cover a hundred such occurrences, knowing that they wouldn't ever exploit such an advantage, nor would they ever cross the line and do anything even remotely harmful in their antics, no matter how intoxicated they got.
Besides there were far easier ways to rein them in and one such was female influence. Surprisingly, she had several such witches at her immediate disposal to deal with the most unpredictable of the lot.
As the Griffin team filed out, each thanking the Minister as one would expect doing so to a disappointed parent.
She left the last, and most hesitant of the lot, face his comeuppance.
"He's all yours ladies." she prompted waving her hand toward a sheepishly cowering, Harry Potter.
Before they could start in on him he called to his fellows.. "Same time- same place and we'll wipe last night off the books, right guys?"
Amelia Bones threw up her hands walking away muttering in exasperation at that.
Cho took the initiative; which is to say she was champing at the bit for said opportunity to cut in. "You're not going anywhere mister and about last night: Just where do you get off playing the valiant knight and sending off the "damsel in distress"?" She drew quotation marks in the air as she continued to berate the subject of her ire. "You could have gotten yourself killed taking on a group of thugs like that without back up!"
"He what?" Hermione gasped in shock.
"The clod took on eight armed delinquents after sending me off like some frightened school girl." Cho explained.
"Harry you didn't?" Hermione groused disappointedly.
"I did" he returned indignantly, adding smugly that.. "And for your information the queen plans to Knight me in a ceremony at the end of the month, so I'm well within my purview to "play the valiant knight" anytime I like."
Both women's faces darkened like storm clouds at that and he realized too late that his answer was perhaps not what was expected of him just now.
"If you think you're going out carousing with that bunch of reprobates then you've got another think…" Cho began to lay down the law, but was cut off…
"Oh, did you want to go too? We're going to a club called "Merlin's Madhouse" they're putting on a show tonight and everything. It's supposed to be a smasher!"
With a jaunty wave he excused himself under the pretense. "Well I better get some rest and clean up before tonight. Meet you lot there, bring dates if you like, you won't be disappointed. They put on a great show." he chortled and apparated away right through the Ministry's wards.
"What.. of all the nerve?" Hermione complained.
"Meet him tonight, you better believe I'll meet him tonight and much as it behooves me I'll bring Susan along for backup!" Cho promised dangerously.
"There sure are a lot of people in here; it must be a really good show?" Susan commented off handily to her group.
Cho nodded, but Hermione remained skeptical. "There are, but doesn't it seem a bit odd that most of the patrons are wizards?"
Each glanced about, but seemed somewhat mollified when Cho pointed out that: "Yeah, but there are a few other groups of witches , they're just closer to the stage."
They must be trying to get the waitress' attention, waving money like that?" Susan agreed somewhat naively.
"Waving money… hey, you don't think..?" Hermione was about to hurriedly warn the others when the lights lowered and the announcer's voice filled the jeering crowd.
"Merlin's Madhouse is proud to present for you lucky wizrads and ..ahem.. witches.. in the audience: Magical Melinda and her Wanton Witch review!"
The sound of cheap bawdy jazz came over the speakers and the stage lit up to a bevy of scantily clad witches that were undulating proactively as the witches in the audience clambered forward to stuff currency in the entertainer's garments. No easy feat as they were already being discarded for the erotic pleasure of the jeering audience.
"Oh…MY…God!" A wide eyed Cho spat aghast as Susan ducked her blushing head down beneath her sheltering hands and Hermione paled dramatically.
Later that night…
Trembling hands tried and failed to keep her tea cup from clacking against her saucer as she took another tentative sip to try and soothe her jangled nerves.
"Well it's not like that was embarrassing or anything?" Hermione scathed sarcastically as Cho tired and failed to reassure Susan by rubbing her forearm supportively, all she succeeded in doing was putting the girl more on edge as she finally spilled the tea altogether.
"Sorry" Cho mumbled, pulling her hands up and away in a slow, nonthreatening gesture.
"He set us up." Cho grumbled, putting the blame where it was due for their current varying states of discomfort.
"No, you think?" Susan scoffed, regaining some sense of composure in her irritation.
"He couldn't have known you were going to be there, Susan." she lamely tried to defend.
"Couldn't he?" Susan disagreed, shaking her head uncertainly. "He's not like what you remember from school, Hermione. Granted I only know him as his alias: Wraith, but I can tell you that he's as cunning as they come and loves to take the mickey. Combine those traits with extensive training and shall we say a rather 'heightened magical prowess' and- viola! We've got a real problem on our hands now that Voldemort is no longer tops on his "to do" list." Susan drew quotations in the air to emphasize her point.
"What's next or should I say whom?" Cho guessed.
"It's who." Hermione automatically corrected.
"Whatever." both Susan and Cho snarled back at the same time, each sharing an approving smirk with the other for it.
The next day…
The object of previous inquiry was set up as a carnival "barker", drawing in the rubes.
He sported a handlebar mustache below twinkling emerald eyes that were filled with mischief. He was wearing a straw hat and a red and white striped shirt with garters holding up his sleeves as he tapped a bamboo cane to a side board in front of a white and red stripped tent that was blocking out the WWW shop behind.
He barked out enticingly. "Hurry-Hurry-Hurry and step right up folks for the wonder of the ages. Back by popular demand- here, live, now.. the DODO's. That's right you heard me folks not one, but two. Long thought extinct, but here live and for the first time available for your viewing pleasure; a pair of fresh caught DODO's." He emphasized the fresh caught with a mad gleam in his eyes. "I'm not talking just any DODOs either. I'm talking the rarest of the rare: the double orange crested DODOs."
The crowd gasped excitedly, though Ron and Ginny shared a look of trepidation.
"Uh-Oh…" Ron began worriedly.
"You don't think…?" Ginny added suspiciously.
"Just a sickle a piece folks. Step right up, step right up. Popcorn, peanuts, souvenir kewpie dolls for the kiddies…Come one…Come all!"
People were pushing and shoving their way forward whilst trying to pull sickles from their money pouches.
"Easy there, easy…" Barker Harry admonished… "There's plenty of room for everyone inside, no pushing mind. The show won't start until everyone's seated. There's a special firework display after, courtesy of Weasley Wizarding Wheezes."
Finally making it to the front of the cue, Hermione smacked her lips distastefully, asking… "Just what're you playing at, mister?"
Ignoring her, he asked the Dragon in a guttural cockney accent… "It's usually a sickle a piece, but what say we make it an even two galleons for this lot and I'll throw in popcorn and some souvenir kewpie dolls for the boids?" to which he threw a wink in Hermione's direction.
She caught the inflection and huffed indignantly whilst Ginny, Susan and Madam Bones just chuckled both at his antics and the ease with which he could wind, (the usually unflappable), Hermione up with.
"Sounds like a bargain." The Dragon chortled handing over the gold coins without further thought.
The Barker bit the coins suspiciously. Satisfied, he pocketed the coins and fished beneath his podium, eventually coming up with three dollies.
The one he gave Amelia Bones had strawberry yarn for hair, a little pink button for a nose and wore a silver-blue dress that immediately caught Susan's attention.
"Hey that looks like…?" she began to squawk out indignantly before her aunt interrupted by squeezing the doll and chuckling merrily when it squeaked in a high pitched semblance of Susan's voice… "Harry Potter…'O Harry Potter… 'O where fore art thou Harry Potter?" followed by the doll sighing wistfully.
"Of all the…" Susan began to grouse before the Barker hastily shoved a dolly into her hands.
"Hey, what the,…?" Susan stared down at the doll in her hands. It had black yarn for hair and a green sequin eyes and a lightning bolt scar on the right side of its forehead.
Curious, she squeezed it and Harry's youthful voice squeaked out: "Moldywort's grandmother rides a vacuum cleaner!"
Ginny sniggered at that, well,.. that and the doll she held with bushy brown yarn hair and a pinched face of displeasure.
It had a string pull cord at its neck and when she pulled it… Hermione's recorded voice admonished knowingly that…"Well, honestly… everyone knows you can't apparate from inside Hogwart's- Ronald. It says so in: Hogwart's a History!"
Ginny and Neville laughed like a pair of lunatics as they pulled the string and chortled as each new phrase it spurted out was Hermione to a tee.
"There's no such thing as Crumple horned snorckacks"… "You're getting to get us all killed, or worse… expelled!"… "Professor McGonagal…Professor McGonagal… could I ask just one more question?"
Hermione's mouth hung agape in outrage, only distracted when another doll was pressed into her hand.
This one had a pale face and golden yarn hair; wearing radish earrings and a butter beer cork necklace.
Hermione began to tear up, but in her curiosity she squeezed the doll and Luna's dreamy voice reassured her that…. "Death shall have no dominion over the stout hearted…."
She gasped and looked up expectantly, only now the Barker was gone and in his place a cue card that stated: Next show in five minutes!
She pulled Ron in her wake with the prized doll cradled lovingly in the crook of her other arm.
The inside of the tent had a sawdust floor, rows of fold up wooden chairs and a plank stage with a patchwork curtain hiding the back ground.
The anxiously whispering crowd hushed when the Barker returned, only now dressed in a tuxedo complete with top hat and tails. He sat down with a flourish on the bench of an upright piano perched off to the side of the stage and played a quick intro to gather the crowd's attention before announcing in a formal tone.
"For your viewing and listening pleasure,…Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the DODOs…."
The curtain went up and the Barker started plunking away a jaunty tune on the piano and out tap danced a pair of, indeed…Red Headed DODOs.
They looked like a pair of egg shaped Penguins with great bulbous beaks, (sprinkled with red freckles), and were all white except for a tuft of red feathers on the crowns of their head. They tap danced across the stage in perfect unison with both; one another and the music. When the pair twirled in place the crowd was rewarded with the view of a little sign across the back of each bird that proudly proclaimed their names: Gred and Forge.
The, up until now, stunned crowd roared in both approval and laughter at that. The Barker played faster and faster with a mad gleam in his eye as the birds webbed feet splat across the floor trying to keep pace.
They finished, collapsing in a cloud of feathers. The crowd applauded wildly and even more so, mixed with jeers, catcalls and barks of hysterical laughter. For when the feathers drifted away a pair of, now human, Weasley twins were left starkers for all to see. They shamefacedly tried to back away from view, covering their modesty with handfuls of feathers.
The Barker started up the same tune, however, this time the pair of DODO's beat a hasty retreat, but not before shooting a filthy glare Harry's way.
A sign dropped down after they bolted from the stage, proclaiming a big DODO sale at Weasley Wizarding Wheezes; a Double Orange-Double Offer sale.