Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter characters.
A/N: Sorry it's been a while, but have been working on a few projects at once. This one is a bit of fun before we start toward the story's conclusion. Hope you all enjoy and thank you for the many kind reviews. MK-ONE,"
Chapter 15: Frosty the snowman
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather ask someone else?" he asked uncertainly.
"You're my friend and I want you there." Neville returned firmly.
"I haven't been much of a friend, though Nev."
"You're more of a friend than I think you will ever know let alone give yourself credit for, Harry." Neville reassured bracingly, clapping a firm hand on his uncertain friend's shoulder.
"Friends don't let their friends think their dead."
"You only did that to protect yourself and the rest of us, probably more of the latter I'd wager?" Neville cocked a speculative eye brow at that, eyeing his friend pointedly.
Harry just shrugged by way of acknowledgement.
Neville didn't press it further he just surmised in a tone that would brook no further debate. "I want you and Ron to stand for me at my wedding. I want you there. Ginny wants you there. It's where you belong, it always has been."
"T-Thanks, Nev." Harry snuffled in agreement, surreptitiously brushing a sleeve across his suspiciously moist eyes.
"No,.. thank you, Harry." A grateful Neville patted his friend's back before adding. "Now, the only question is,.. who's to be your date for the wedding?" Neville chuckled at that, leaving his friend to ponder the answer, knowing full well the dilemma that presented as neither of the two witches that Harry was interested in were actually talking to him just now.
Obviously they were being unfair as Harry couldn't possibly have done anything that could in anyway be construed as offensive.
The week before…
"Just what do you think you're doing?" Susan admonished, hugging her arms around her waist to ward off the early December chill.
"Ice fishing." Harry answered calmly, flicking his line back down the hole in the ice he was seated next to.
"Ice fishing? What are you playing at? There's no fish in our pond, just a turtle or two and a few frogs.
"Show's how much you know?" he griped challengingly. He held up the wicker basket on the ice next to him pointedly. "I caught a half dozen nice sized perch already." He smacked his lips hungrily in anticipation of the fish fry he was planning.
Before Susan could argue further Harry's line pulled tight and he jumped up exclaiming excitedly.. "Oh, yeah! I've got you this time you great beast!"
He was shuffling around the hole fighting the pull on his line that had his pole nearly bent in half from the strain.
Goggling in surprise initially, Susan recovered enough to offer… "What can I do?"
"Take the pole, woman and don't let go, no matter what!" Harry barked, passing her his fishing reel whilst he scrambled to grab up the net at his feet.
"Oh,.. I've got it…I've got …it! Susan squealed in delight as she struggled to reel in the struggling fish.
"What the …Aiyeeee!"
Susan barely managed to scream in terror before a tentacle emerged from the hole, snaked around her leg and pulled her down beneath the ice.
"Uh, oh…." Harry gasped worriedly. He supposed he should have warned her that he'd initially stocked the pond with perch and trout as a source of food for the baby giant squid he'd managed to procure. Whilst nowhere near the size of the adults of the species, it still had a ferocious appetite and tended to play with its food. He and "nemo" had been playing this game of 'tug 'o war' since early this morning.
Crack- The ice erupted from beneath the far side of the pond.
"Spluttt" A gapping maw spit out a gooey Susan Bones, sending her flying through the air.
"Aiyeee…!" Susan screamed in terror, wind milling through the air.
Whumph- she plowed bodily into a mound of snow that he'd cleared away from the ice earlier so that they could skate and such on the frozen pond.
Harry raced across the pond, sliding to a stop in front of Susan who was gasping and trembling blank faced and wide eyed, appearing to be fighting going into shock from both terror and hypothermia.
"Whew,..I'm glad you're okay." Harry sighed in relief, grateful that she was still breathing after her ordeal. He hastily cast a warming charm over her to ward off the intense chill from the icy waters.
"It's a good thing the squid doesn't like warm blooded food, but he is a playful tyke." he commented, chuckling in relief at the disaster that was logically averted.
"Why y-you d-dirty bas…t-tur…b-bastard!" Susan was stuttering as her teeth chattered from the effects of the cold, but the charm at least provided enough feeling to enable her to try and hex the villain where he stood..
"Here now?" Harry barked in alarm, back peddling as she tried to free her wand from her sodden garments.
"Aiyeee!"Harry screeched, grabbing his bum, the victim of a high powered stinging hex.
Sploosh- a tentacle erupted out of the water, grabbing up Susan before she could get off another hex.
"Oh- No!" Susan managed to scream out before the tentacle dunked her down in the water several times and planted her back in the snow, obviously protecting its surrogate parent.
"It serves you right." Harry snickered from the other bank of the pond. He held up his basket of fish offering,.. "How about I fry us up some lunch.. let bygones be bygones and all of that?" he offered sportingly, just before another bright pink curse shot past his right ear.
Narrowing his eyes in irritation, he put his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill whistle across the pond.
A tentacle erupted again and snaked toward Susan Bones' shivering form.
"Aiyeee" Susan screamed and ran for the distant shelter of their manse.
That next day…
"This is stupid." Cho complained.
"Don't jinx it." Harry cautioned, watching the ring closely where it hovered over his friend's pregnant belly.
"It's just some old wives tale." Cho griped. "You can't tell the sex of the baby from a ring on a string, that's ludicrous."
"Shows what you know?" Harry complained right back. "Madam Pomfrey swears by this. She said you hang a ring on a string over the tummy of a pregnant woman and if the ring swings back and forth it's a girl, but if it swings in a circle than it's a boy."
Cho rolled her eyes at that. "Madam Pomfrey my arse? You just made this up to take the mickey…hey,..what's it doing?" Cho suddenly halted her tirade noticing the ring starting to sway of its own volition.
"It's starting to go back and forth." Harry acknowledge, somewhat disappointedly.
"Oh, a girl! I'd just love a little girl. Hey,..stop making it do that!" Cho bit off in irritation as the ring started to spin in a circle.
"A boy…oh that's so cool." Harry chirruped excitedly.
"You're doing that!" Cho accused irately.
"Are to.. wait.. yes.. it's swaying back and forth again.. it's a girl!" she cheered excitedly at the ring's abrupt change again.
"Ha-Ha-Ha" Harry laughed.
Cho narrowed her eyes. "What's so funny?"
"C-Congrats... it's triplets!" Harry managed to splutter before breaking down in guffaws at her panicked expression.
"Triplets?!" she shrieked in mortification, instantly sobering her companion.
"I can't possibly,.. triplets? How am I going to manage and feeding..?"
"That's the least of your worries." Harry waved off her concern as if inconsequential. , explaining.."you've got more than enough there for three."
Cho's face flamed at that as she self-consciously crossed her arms over her swelling breasts.
"Pity that." Harry sighed in disappointment at the loss of the view he had been enjoying. "Ah well there's always the backside at least." He commented appreciatively, salvaging the situation.
"Hey?" Harry barked in irritation after Cho's hand cuffed the back of his head.
"You just wait, you. I'm gonna floo Pomfrey and if she doesn't vouch for you and you're just pranking me again, then mister-you're gonna be sorry!" Cho threatened as she waddled toward the fireplace and made a grab for the floo pot on the mantle.
That's a fine attitude,.. me just trying to help and what with Christmas around the corner and all?" he complained, rubbing his aching head. "I'm gonna take your present back."
"I thought you said you'd only got something for the baby?" Cho paused, the floo powder still in her hand.
"Well, I have to get some more don't I? I wasn't figuring on the three of them. Haw-Haw-Haw" he guffawed at the stricken look on her face.
It took her a moment to recover from her shocked outrage before she proceeded to throw the floo powder in the fireplace and call out irately for "Madam Pomfrey?"
"Yes, what is it?" Pomfrey flaming countenance appeared in the fireplace. "Oh, Cho dear, How's the pregnancy coming, feeling alright?" she asked brightly, obviously thrilled to have something other than the usual school time injuries and ailment to treat.
"Fine thanks. Say, Poppy did you by any chance tell that git Potter to hang a ring on a string over my belly?" she questioned dubiously, one eye on thee floo waiting expectantly, the other glaring at Harry's smirking mug as she fingered her wand meaningfully.
"Oh, good… you gave it a try. How'd it come out then?" Pomfrey blurted excitedly in anticipation. Cho's eyes went wide in surprise.
"Well, it er.. swung back and forth and then a circle and then back and forth again.." she answered worriedly.
Poppy Pomfrey clapped her hands excitedly. "Triplets! Oh my stars, how wonderful. You're going to need lots of rest. It's a good thing you've got Harry keeping an eye on you- dear fellow that he is. You just listen to Harry as I've given him a bit of instruction to help prepare you for the blessed event. I'll see you this Friday for a thorough check up. Bye now." Before the healer ended her floo call completely she was already muttering .. "Can't wait to tell Minnie, she's going to have kittens…"
Cho slumped into the nearby loveseat staring blankly at the wall as she muttered despairingly to herself…" Three,.. how am I possibly going to manage three on my own….diapers and nap times and night time feeding…Merlin the feedings?!" Cho inadvertently had a reaction to her traumatized epiphany of the many arduous feedings that three hungry mouths would require.
Her breasts started leaking. Cho's hands shot to her breasts as she tried and failed to stop the flow, grumbling and whimpering despairingly in complete confusion over what she should do.
"Don't waste it!" Harry barked out in alarm as he conjured a bucket. "We got to start stock piling every last drop."
"GRRR.." her breasts forgotten as her wand came up and the hexes started flying his way.
After he beat a hasty retreat, well that and to go pay Pomfrey the bribe money of a dozen galleons for her having played along with is prank he decided to let bygones be bygones. After all, pregnant women tended to be so moody and emotional from all the hormonal changes.
"Flip a coin…? Is that what you two idiots decided.. flip a coin?!" Hermione's volume rose with her sense of outrage.
"All things being equal, it seemed like the fairest way to decide." Harry shrugged indifferently, adding conspiratorially with an evil grin.
"Don't you do it…?" Ron gasped warily edging toward the porch door.
"Besides, it was Ron's idea and he said there's legal precedent for it, much like a hand shake as being a form of binding agreement that flipping a coin was a fair way to determine division of property all things considered being equal."
Hermione's eyes narrowed to slits and her wand snapped into her hand like lightning.
"Mucosa…" she began before Ron bolted screaming in panic.. "No..Not the b-bat boogie…
"Argg!" Ron screamed as his hands went to his nose trying to fight off the flailing mucus bat wings that erupted from his nose. "No.. M-Merlin .. make it s-stop!" he rolled around on the floor screaming and jabbering as snot flew in all directions whilst he tried to subdue yet another of the disgusting bogeys he was producing at an alarming rate.
"Whoa,.. so that's what it looks like." Harry commented appreciatively as he stared transfixed at the spectacle. "That Ginny's a genius. That ought to be a mandatory offensive spell to learn in Unspeakable training. Does she have it patented?" he asked with such seemingly earnest curiosity that Hermione couldn't tell if he was truly serious or if he was just taking the mickey.
"Well,.. I don't know…?"Hermione hesitated as she considered his question from a legal standpoint.
"Make it stop…Make it stop!" Ron screamed as he thrashed about the floor.
Taking pity on her fiancé Hermione flicked her wand, canceling the spell. Ron sagged in relief, still whimpering and rubbing at his ruddy complexion gingerly.
"And you almost a lawyer?" Harry admonished. "You better get on it and protect her interest before someone less scrupulous like Raven or Stalker finds out about this. Those two are always looking for an easy way to turn a galleon."
Brushing at her skirt with fidgeting hands Hermione paused then hustled from the room to retrieve a pad and pen muttering as she went… "We'll need a New Spell form affidavit and a release of…"
With a snicker Harry turned his attention toward his still reeling friend… "You owe me one for saving your hide, you know?"
Ron harrumphed at that, shooting him a filthy glare. "Like you didn't set me up in the first place you great prat. I ought to…" Ron angrily reached toward his wand in threat.
"Uh-Uh-Uh…" Harry warned waving his finger at his friend. "Man who killed Wankermort-remember?"
Ron's fingers faltered a heartbeat away from his wand handle as he weighed the consequences, still wanting to curse his villainous friend in the worst way.
With a disgruntled snort of frustration, Ron wisely let his hand drop commenting derisively. "Gee it's great to have you back, Harry."
Smiling beatifically, Harry returned with feigned innocence. "Why thank you, Ron. It is good to be back among people who truly appreciate me."
"Yeah the Unspeakable's loss is definitely our gain." Ron shot back sarcastically.
Both snickered derisively at that. Once Ron had reseated himself and had a chance to fully recover. Harry flipped a galleon his way urging. "You do the honors."
"Why me?" Though suspicious, Ron easily caught the coin.
"Don't trust myself and anyway I don't want to be accused of hedging my bets one way or the other.
With a shrug, Ron flipped the coin in the air and followed it's trajectory with his eyes.
"Ronald-Bilius –Weasley! Hermione screeched angrily as she'd reentered the room.
"Gaa!" Ron gasped, and threw himself over the back of the coach to block any hexes coming his way. The coin hit the tile and rolled ominously into the kitchen and spun to a rest.
"Tell me you're not flipping a coin to choose which-witch Harry takes to Neville's wedding?" she tapped her foot impatiently.
"Was it heads or tails?" Harry inquired curiously before he broke out into side splitting laughter at the contemptuous glare she shot his way.
Just as she was bringing her wand to bear, he snorted a last guffaw at her expense and apparated away, leaving Ron holding the bag.
Preying on Hermione's sense of virtuous morality never got old.
"Something's got to be done?"
"But what?" Ginny finished the question in acknowledgement by asking the next question. "What can you do against a national hero who's got the entire country squarely behind him no matter how outrageously he acts within the public sector?"
"Don't forget we're talking about an arguably Merlin Class wizard here, who's a highly skilled Unspeakable field operative, not to mention a second generation marauder." Susan added warily.
The women in question had had enough of Harry Potter's incessant pranking. And we're more than willing, and ready, to turn the tables to their advantage.
"That's it!" Hermione cheered in triumph. "Susan, you're a genius."
"Of course I am, but why,.. particularly?" she asked , puzzled by Hermione's acknowledgement.
"What do we have at our disposal?" Hermione asked the group. All appeared confused until Ginny snapped her fingers in epiphany. "A marauder!"
"Exactly" Hermione nodded smugly in agreement. "Remus Lupin would help us, I know he would, especially in light of the fact that Harry hasn't gotten around to squaring things with Moony as yet. Dora said he's getting downright put out at the way Harry's avoiding him."
The next day, after a bit of tea and a chance to explain and, or plead their case.
"No! Oh, Hell no!" Remus abruptly cut off Hermione's plea before it had a chance to come to fruition.
"But Remus..?"Nymphadora began to protest in the beleaguered witch's behalves.
"Don't 'but Remus' me, Dora. It's a suicide mission and I don't have a death wish, thank you very much." He growled out in alarm, indignantly crossing his arms over his chest in a standoffish pose that clearly stated the matter was dropped.
"But you haven't even given us a chance to fully explain, let alone come up with a reasonably equal prank to help take Harry down a peg or two? Level the playing field, so to speak." Susan Bones offered.
Remus rolled his eyes at the younger witch. "You'll level the playing field alright. I believe the priests call it "dust to dust-ashes to ashes" before they drop the dirt over your coffin. That's how you'll end up leveling the playing field." he scoffed.
"Oh don't be so dramatic?" Dora fanned her hands at her husband.
"I'm not being dramatic. Sirius and James started a prank war once after they had a bit of a tiff and the entire school was victimized shamelessly. Even Dumbledore couldn't put an end to it and mind… neither James nor Sirius, (strong wizards that they were), couldn't channel the type of power that Harry can and if Dumbledore couldn't effectively stop them…?" he left off worriedly, his intimation registering in the, now concerned, if not outright frightened eyes of his petitioners.
"But there must be something we can do?" Cho pleaded next. "He keeps stringing me and Susan along, dating the both of us, well, er not really dating so much as pranking or pitting us against each other. One minute he treats me like I'm the only woman in the world and the next I'm some buddy he's taking the mickey out on."
"At least he's dated you." Susan butted in sarcastically adding. " Me, he treats like I'm some baby sister who only exists to provide his endless amusement and, or torment as the case may be." She sounded both put off and put out at that admission.
Remus paused and eyed the two women calculatingly. Finally he spoke in a calm, analytical fashion that Hermione both appreciated and was puzzled by.
"Has he kissed either of you?"
"Remus?" Dora admonished, though she two was a tad intrigued by the answer to the question and where he was going with this.
"Um, n-no." Susan answered hesitantly, if not disappointedly.
"Yes" Cho answered somewhat proudly, though she blushed all the same.
"How does he treat you Cho?"
"Very gently, even when he's pranking me he tends to still be careful. He's a perfect gentleman, perhaps too much so." she threw in, flaming at that last.
Remus nodded at that before shifting his gaze to Susan, silently asking the same question.
"It's difficult to put into words?" she stalled trying to sort out her confusion over everything Harry related.
"Try" Remus prompted, adding.. "It's important."
Hermione could tell by the look in his eyes that he was assembling an emotional puzzle and that he was on to something.
"We'll we've never kissed or anything, but he has held my hand and looked into my eyes as if,.. as if… he was seeing something he had searching for, but then he.. I don't know he seems to get scared. I..I know that sounds ludicrous given that this is Harry Potter we're talking about, but sometimes I think he's frightened of me, terrified even. I want to hold him so bad and take away whatever that is, but he.. he just pulls back and before I know it the pranks start coming fast and furious."
Remus fell back in his chair, sighing in resignation. "He loves you, Susan. He sighed in resignation before hastily adding, "He loves you both."
"What..?" Cho began to argue, but he held up a hand to ward her off and let him finish. "He loves you, Cho,.. like a sister, or perhaps best friend." Cho's mouth worked silently at that, but Susan was in for the shock of the day.
"But Susan is the one I think he's in love with. He's most probably hopelessly, desperately in love, Merlin bless the poor fool." he added wistfully, saluting the two women with his tea cup before taking a sip of his cooling tea.
"How in the world could you have possibly arrived at those conclusions?" Hermione scoffed incredulously.
"Easily" Remus ventured. "Though he wasn't wholly raised by either, both Sirius and James' influences are there and have taken root. Both Sirius and I recognized it long ago. He's their son through and through and like them, Harry is only truly afraid of one thing-LOVE."
He paused and turned his attention to a suddenly worried appearing Cho Chang who appeared to be following his train of thought more quickly than the other witches.
"I'm sorry, Cho, but I feel I must be honest. I think he cares deeply for you, so much so, that he almost seems to be working toward or hoping even that he'll fall in love with you rather than face the fear of who he really has already fallen in love with. He's not a fool and he knows as well as any bloke with a pair of eyes and a half way intelligent head on his shoulders that there is no downside to falling for a girl like yourself. But for all of that, I think his heart has already made its decision and like all Potter men, once they fall- it's forever. People claim that Potter men are cursed to fall for red heads but it's more really to the point that when they fall it's just that once. I think he may have done so back in school already and is either unaware of it or has been fighting it ever since."
Cho snuffled despondently as she wiped away tears from her eyes with the pads of her thumbs, nodding her head dolefully in agreement.
"I know, or at least I guess that I suspected as much and really, if I was being honest with myself I too was hoping to fall in love with Harry. As much as I may have wanted to and fantasized about it even, I can't really say with all honesty that I have. He's just so… so…?" she was at a loss to describe the sum total of the man.
"Everything" Susan sighed, finishing that thought.
"He is." Hermione agreed, patting her friend's shoulder reassuringly.
Cho nodded her head and forcing a smile grasped Susan's hand in a show of support. Clearly letting the other woman know that there were no hard feelings on her part.
Cho rubbed her tummy affectionately as she breathed out…"I owe him so much."
Remus startled at that. "Do I even want to know?"
The ladies shared and cleansing chuckle at that.
"It's a long story…" Cho hastily added, letting the poor man off the hook. "He gave me the will to survive to go on after I was… we were…" she stifled a sob unable to finish.
"I'm sorry." Remus apologized in understanding.
"No,.. it's alright." Cho reassured him. "It's behind me now and my child is the future. Harry would have made a great father." She sighed disappointedly in afterthought.
"He still could?" Hermione suggested pointedly.
Cho nodded her understanding in that she was proposing to make him the child's godfather, but tentatively turned her attention to Susan in seeking her input.
"W-Would you mind, Sue?"
"Not in the least." her friend reassured her. "He'd make an exceptional Godfather. He's protective, kind, patient and thoughtful…"
"Mischievous, insufferable, unpredictable…" Hermione added sarcastically though they all laughed.
"I'm guessing we all have pretty much come to the conclusion on just who that Harry has , a least subconsciously chosen, as his romantic interest?" Remus asked knowingly, though the ladies all shared knowing looks and Susan found herself blushing on one hand and worried on the other.
"It's more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed, but it's still frightening too." she admitted worriedly.
"It always is, but there's a history there that you two need to resolve." Hermione pointed out.
Susan nodded dolefully. "I wish we could but he won't even give me a real chance to talk to him. I barely get two words out of my mouth before the 'prank of the day' starts enfolding around me."
"Cry" Remus suggested blandly, grimacing slihghtly at the suggestion.
"Huh?" Susan balked, not following the intimation.
"Cry" Remus reiterated, explaining his suggestion. "If it's one thing that James, Sirius and Harry have in common it's that they're hopeless when it comes to women, especially crying women." he explained, nearly scoffing at the show of weakness.
Dora cuffed him up the backside of the head adding. "So are you."
The women all laughed at that as Remus colored in embarrassment.
Once settled he went on to explain: "I'm serious though. If you want to get his undivided attention and take control of the situation at the same time then let it out and with it let the tears flow. You'll definitely have him at a disadvantage."
Hermione shot him a suspicious look. "Why would a true marauder betray one of his own?"
Remus smirked. "Technically he's not a marauder though one could argue he is by blood and association, but that's neither here nor there." He waved off the notion as inconsequential. "I'm not pranking him, just exposing a weakness that could be used to your advantage. As far as a betrayal, I have to disagree in that I believe his mother, Lily, would have given the same advice were she here to do so. I can think of nothing more important than helping Harry to help himself and by that I mean- learn how to love. I think he already knows how and knows how better than most of us. He just needs a bit of a push to get the ball rolling."
"Amen to that." Hermione threw in.
Remus smirked adding a warning. "I caution that it will never be easy to love a man like Harry, but I guarantee that if you stay the course it'll be a lifetime adventure.
Susan rolled her eyes in a show that she felt he was understating the obvious as Hermione added again.. "Amen to that too."
The room all shared a laugh at that.
The ladies were about to excuse themselves when Remus cautioned in parting. "A last word of caution in an already long list; be sincere. If he even suspects for a moment that he's being played in any fashion; his wrath will be as terrible as it is unending."
The women all shuddered at the possibilities of what a pissed off marauder with Harry's kind of power could unleash at their expense. So far his pranks had been relatively harmless, well, except maybe of the squid?
Remus smiled in grim satisfaction at their collective reaction to his warning. Either way, his work here was finished and now he would wait patiently for the show to get started. Whether romance or prank war, either way it was going to be a hell of a show; one that if he played his cards right he would be afforded a front row seat. James and Sirius would be so proud.
The ladies gone for the afternoon to plot there supposed strategy; Remus poured two glasses of fire whiskey as a side table reanimated into one: Harry Potter.
He stretched cracking his joints and working the kinks out of his stiff neck.
"Sorry about the length of time, it seems they had a lot of ground to cover."
Harry waved off the apology, adding with a smirk. "Probably Hermione's fault, she always over analyzed everything.'
He fished a small purse from his pocket and proffered Remus' pay forward for having played his part to perfection.
Remus shooed away the gesture asking only…"Just keep me in the loop is all I ask."
"Naturally, Moony.. You're the great uncle to my future children after all."
"All ready to marry and settle down then, are you?" Dora smirked condescendingly from the other side of the room, where she was perched at the window as a lookout.
"Hardly" Harry scoffed. "I feel I'm going to need a considerable amount of practice before I father a child."
Dora colored at that, whilst Remus chuckled, saluting him with his own and extending a glass of whiskey which Harry accepted with an appreciative nod, both for the laughing agreement and the whiskey.
"Not joining us for a glass, Dora?"he inquired with a suspicious gleam in his eye.
"N-No.. I can't I…" Dora colored slightly and appeared desperate to avoid answering the question as she busied herself with straightening a throw on loveseat.
"Apparently I was right about the practice thing- you old hound." He lifted his glass in toast to Remus.
Remus smirked and took a sip of his drink, smacking his lips appreciatively after. "What can I say,.. James and Sirius were a bad influence- depending on one's point of view, that is?"
They both laughed at that as Dora fled the room sputtering.
"What have you got in mind for Ms. Bones this time?" Remus asked curiously.
"Cry" Harry deadpanned.
"You certainly are." Remus agreed and they both laughed. "No, seriously?" Remus reiterated, getting back on track once collected.
Harry shrugged. "Why not? If it's kryptonite to Potters, maybe it's even more so for Bones'?"
"How's your acting?" Remus smirked cunningly to which Harry only smiled smugly by way of an answer as he reached forward to pour them both another round.
They spent the rest of the afternoon plotting his revenge on Susan Bones. In the end they decided on a wait and see approach to see what Susan would do, if anything and then work from that.
Hermione on the other hand…?
As far as they're plotting against him well, he just couldn't let that slide. It was the principal of thing. You let people get away with anything and it just encouraged more of the same and to increasing degrees.
It's the principal of the thing.
"Who could that be?' Hermione pondered as she had no sooner arrived back home from the grocery and the doorbell rang.
She opened the door surprised to find a post man waiting patiently.
"Telegram for a Miss Hermione Granger and a Mr. Ronald Weasley." He informed her.
"I'm Hermione Granger." She responded though she was already suspicious as her family would just call and wizards would send owl post.
"Sign her please?' The postman proffered a clipboard for her signature acceptance.
Her guard lowered at seeing the list of others who had signed for similar notification over the past several days.
The postman handed her a gold embossed, envelope that looked for all the world like an: "An engagement announcement?!" she blurted in surprise. She was about to scan the envelope with her wand, but her hand halted at her waist, remembering the muggle postman in front of her.
"Er, can you tell me who sent the telegram, please." She asked curiously itching to scan the card, but settling for a more mundane approach of investigation.
"A Mr. H. Potter and a Ms. Susan Bones.. They've had us quite busy today, sending out several announcements to friends and family I gather."
Hermione goggled at that. It had only been a few days since they had hatched their plan to rein Harry in, but could Susan have possibly…?"
Suddenly curious to the point of distraction she thanked the postman and closed the door, immediately tearing into the beautifully engraved post in eager anticipation.
"Oh, Noooo!" she barely had time to squeal as she felt the familiar tug behind her navel as the port key activated.
She awoke some time later to find herself handcuffed to a table with a bright light shining in her face and a shadowy figure looming in the background.
"What the.. where am I ? What's going on here?" she gasped tugging at her restraints irritably. She knew immediately that this was another one of Harry's pranks as she could think of no other explanation given the circumstances. What she couldn't believe is that she had made the foolish mistake of opening an unknown letter without scanning it for jinxes.
A match ignited, lighting up a heavily scarred face as it lit a cigarette. She was about to complain and demand further when the screaming began. A man was threatening impotently before his threats were cut off by gut wrenching screams. A woman, next door by the sound of it, was begging desperately as, what sounded like, her clothes being torn off; incensed her pleas rose to a heightened level of desperation and fear.
Though frightened, Hermione summoned her Gryffindor courage enough to assume.. "Alright Potter, you've had your fun, now let me go before you dig yourself in any further."
A world war two German SS agent stepped into view. He wore the trademark monocle on his left eye with a heavy scar running down his right cheek that pulled his lips into a sneer on that side. He dramatically puffed on a long handled extension for his cigarette as he leered down expectantly at her.
"Zer iz no Potter here, fraulein, only pain."
"Oh go on." Hermione rolled her eyes sarcastically in impatience.
"Go,..Fraulein, zer iz nowhere to go?" he returned with a puzzled expression, shortly adding with a cruel leer, "at least not until you anzer a few simple questions. Zen you may leave and zis will have been az nothing more zen a forgotten dream."
Hermione rolled her eyes again, prompting. "Alright Colonel Klink, ask away so we can both get on with our day."
The interrogator paused dramatically, pulling a long drag from his cigarette holder and proceeding to blow the smoke in Hermione's face, showing amusement in his beady black eyes as she coughed and sputtered.
"Tell me ze present location of one: Harold J. Potter?"
Hermione smirked at that. "I'd say he's about a foot away from me pretending to be a bad imitations of a Nazi stooge." She sniggered at her own joke.
The interrogator chuckled darkly, equally amused only for a different reason. "You vish to test my patience, goot,…goot."
He snapped his fingers and a black cloaked figure poked his hooded head into the room. "Sir?"
The interrogator's beady eyes held Hermione's as he sneered suggesting cruelly. "Ze fraulein is lonely; bring in ze ozzer fool so zat she may be reassured of her circumstances."
The hooded head nodded and left the room to follow his master's command in all expedience.
The defiant man from nearby began yelling again. "Get your filthy hands off me you bastards. I won't tell you where Harry is so go fu.. yourselves."
His outburst was followed by several harsh thumps and a low groan of pain.
Hermione's waning amusement fled when two dark robed figures with hoods dragged in Harry's teammate, Dozer, who was groaning beneath a battered face that trickled blood from the corner of his mouth.
"Zis one wishes to test his autonomy, but we are slowly amputating his enthusiasm. Soon he vill talk. He vill beg us to talk and zen he will beg us to let him die. Such a vaist, but.. ah well, zer are more fools in ze world-too many even."
Both the interrogator and his lackeys chuckled darkly at that.
The two hooded figures tossed Dozer aside like a piece of garbage and then the three left without further comment.
As soon as the door closed Hermione whispered urgently "D-Dozer? Dozer!" her voice increasing slightly in volume with each prompt as she was desperate to get the beaten man's attention, knowing instinctively that she was in a far darker predicament than what she previously surmised. This wasn't one of Harry's prank though she was fervently wishing just now that it was.
Her courage was fading with each moment, all but fleeing at seeing the broken heap on the floor.
This was the man who taunted Voldemort?! She remembered from the ministry how Dozer had goaded the dark lord without the slightest apprehension.
It was shattering to see him like this.
"N-No more.. the man begged piteously. He groaned and tried to roll over, finally making it onto all fours, his arms shaking with the effort to support his torso. He spit out a glob of blood, before breaking into hacking coughs that looked like each was causing him spasms of intense pain.
"D-Dozer it's me, Hermione Granger." Hermione struggled with her restraints trying to get closer to make eye contact with the injured man.
"G-Granger?"Dozer asked, his bruised eyes squinting at her, trying to make out her features.
"It's me." She reassured him. "What's happening? Why are we here?"
She asked desperately, looking for any possible leverage she might use to win their freedom.
Dozer's vacant eyes abruptly cleared as he barked out in warning. "Don't tell them anything. They're after Harry. They're trying to…trying to…urp." The man pitched forward with a last moan before passing out in a heap.
Her desperate thoughts of escape faded with his closing eyes.
It was some few minutes later that the two hooded figures and their leader returned. The interrogator waved his hand at Dozer's unconscious form and merely ordered: "Dispose of the wretch, he iz of no furzer use to us."
"What?!" Hermione gasped in sudden dread. "No you can't! Get away from him!" she kicked out at one of the figures but, her leg pulled up far too short from her intended target. The others chuckled in amusement at her helplessness.
"Send him back to his comrades as a warning- yes?" the interrogator suggested darkly. The other two snickered at that, dragging Dozer from the room.
Hermione's mouth opened and closed several times, words failing her in face of her own current predicament as she had no defiant epitaph of her own to hurl that would give these cruel men any pause.
"You are vishing to say something-ya? He goaded. "Perhaps you vould like to tell us about your Mr. Potter? His likes, his dislikes? Does he have any vices or weaknesses perhaps?" The man suggested intently, stressing the word weaknesses as if he were trying to find the chink in Harry's armor.
Hermione caught the inference and her eyes narrowed to mere slits as she scathed. "Oh..you dirty bastard!"
The interrogator loomed over her laughing evilly before falling back into a chair, holding his ribs and wheezing through his guffaws.
His glamours melted away until only Harry Potter was left giggling in a Nazi uniform whilst Hermione growled and groused as she struggled with her restraints wishing fervently for a wand to hex him into oblivion with.
"Oh, M-Merlin.. this h-hurts.." he continued to giggle hold through another spasm.
"You arse…you absolute berk." Hermione raged from the other side of the table. "I can't believe I fell for your cheap act. I was so scared I almost peed myself. She scathed hissing angrily in outrage.
Harry instantly sobered at that last admonition. "You have to pee?" he asked in sudden concern.
"Let me out of this so I can use the loo. You do have one somewhere around here, don't you?' she growled as she twisted and pulled at her restraints.
"Just outside, actually." he directed.
"Well?" she spat impatiently, shifting her eyes toward her restraints.
"Oh, yeah,.. right… sorry…" he hastily apologized as he set about removing her handcuffs. It never occurred to her that he was relenting far too easily compared to the lengths he usually went to meet out in instituting his pranks to the fullest.
No sooner free than she swatted his helping hands away and rubbed some feeling back into her aching wrists.
"You just wait til I get my hands on a wand, Potter." she threatened. "Now where's that loo?"
Harry fanned his hands toward the door reiterating: "Like I said, it's just outside."
Hermione growled at his again, shoving him impatiently out of the way and wrenched open the door.
"What the…?" she stood gapping at the sprawling forest before her.
"There's plenty of trees, just take your pick." Harry offered cordially, pushing her out the door and shutting it behind her.
She turned back quickly to vent her ire, but the door she had gone through was gone. Thinking it concealed by some visibility charm she splayed her hands outward searchingly, finding only empty air.
She huffed angrily stomping her foot at her predicament, vowing undying vengeance against one: Harry Potter, for yet another outrageous prank spared at her expense.
Later that evening…
Hermione stomped into the home she shared with Ron, whimpering and scratching at her reddened, rash covered arms. Twigs and bits of leaf were sticking out of her disheveled hair. Her robes were torn and soiled, her face smudged with dirt, cleaned off in streaks by fallen tears.
"M'ione?" Ron shot out of his chair in sudden concern. "What happened to you?"
"Oh, Ron…!" Hermione reached out for her fiancé, but he pulled back at the last second, eyeing her forearms suspiciously.
"I..I think that's poison ivy, luv" he cautioned, maintaining his distance.
"What?...oh, that bastard.. that dirty bastard!" she wailed, scratching at her raw arms in abject misery.
"Who?" Ron asked curiously, pulling his wand and casting a healing charm at each forearm, followed by a cooling charm to ease the irritation.
Hermione sighed in relief, just before catching herself and spitting out the answer to her fiancé's question. "Potter, who else. That swine pranked me and left me wandless in the middle of Sherwood Forest."
"Because , Susan, Cho and I went to Remus for help to get back at the son of a ..!
"M'ione" Ron interrupted her unfinished swearing.
"… son of a marauder." she amended, disappointedly, still wanting to go with her original thought.
Ron goggled at that, trying and failing not to snigger at his fiancé's expense. "That explains the alarmed floo call from Susan Bones earlier."
"What did she say?" Hermione inquired worriedly.
"Don't know really?" Ron scratched the back of his head in confusion. "Her teeth were chattering so bad I couldn't understand a word except for something about Harry and a, er.. snow man?"
Hermione gapped at that, puzzled herself except for the one obvious common denominator.
"That bastard.." she scathed, heading for her floo to call and check on Susan.
Susan Bones answered the floo call flustered and teary eyed.
"What'd he do?" Hermione asked without preamble.
Initially goggling at her friend's appearance, Susan went onto explain….
"I had been trying all morning to reach him but he didn't return my owl or answer the floo. I went to drown my disappointment in a cup of cocoa and there he was. He was outside the manor building a snow man. It was the most wonderful snowman I'd ever saw. He said he named it "Frosty". It had a corncob pipe and a button nose and.."
"Two eyes made out of coal?' Hermione interrupted facetiously.
"How did you know that?"
Hermione rubbed the bridge of her nose sighing in exasperation as she tried to ward off the coming headache.
"Then what happened?" Hermione asked in a withering tone.
"Well…" Susan drawled hesitantly. ""He said there was some magic in an old top hat he found because when he put it on his head…"
"He began to dance around." Hermione completed for her shaking her head in disbelief on how naïve wizarding folk could be to the ways, silly or otherwise, of the muggle world.
"He borrowed, what I'm sure ended being another prank at your expense, from a muggle children's Christmas tale about a magical snow man. It's a classic and I'm sure he took advantage of your ignorance to the story to pervert it in some fashion to humiliate you.
"H-How d-did you know?" Susan asked tremulously, still out of sorts from the ordeal.
Hermione just shook her head knowingly. "What happened already?" she wasn't even sure if she wanted to know at this point, but was too curious for her own good.
"Well it..it … it hit on me and it wouldn't take no for an answer." Susan blurted out, wrapping her arms protectively around her self.
"It what?" Hermione asked in stunned disbelief.
"It asked if I'd like to hold its broomstick and it took me a second to realize that it wasn't referring to the one it held in its mitten hands. Then it asked if I knew what the difference is between snow men and snow women were?"
Puzzled and more gullible then Hermione had ever thought herself, she asked without thinking. "What is the difference between snow men and snow women?"
"Snow balls!" Susan gasped in mortification, instantly covering her reddened cheeks in embarrassment.
Despite herself, Hermione started giggling at that. She had to admit that Harry always went that extra mile and paid attention to the details.
"It's not funny." Susan huffed indignantly.
"Sorry , Sue, but it is. Anyway,.." recovering herself, Hermione went on to ask…"What happened then?"
Well,..it… it…asked me if maybe we could go for a nice cuppa cocoa, maybe share a nice big marshmallow or two?" Susan 's tone mimicked the lecherous one of the snow man.
Hermione goggled at the implication, before she could ask, Susan smiled wickedly and offered.
"Initially I was outraged, but then I thought I'd turn the tables so I asked the frozen freak if he wouldn't mind coming into the kitchen and I'd make him a nice cuppa and we could get acquainted." Susan batted her eyes pretentiously at that and Hermione started to giggle.
"He bought it then?"
"Yeah, Harry didn't put much common sense into the thing and it glided right into the kitchen and up to the counter expectantly. Anyway, between the heat of the kitchen and the scolding hit cocoa, the git ended up a puddle of coal stained water with a pair of button eyes floating around a carrot."
"Good for you." Hermione cheered supportively , until Susan started to cry.
"What?" Hermione asked in trepidation.
"H-Harry… he.. well he came in and found what I did to F-Frosty and… and h-he.. he started to cry. Oh, Hermione…"she balled. "it was horrible, he was sobbing on his knees, clutching Frosty's carrot to his chest and hiccupping that I'd killed his best friend?"
Hermione rubbed at her temples. The head ache she'd been fighting had finally arrived and with it the knowledge that once a marauder always a marauder; Remus had sided with his own.
"I felt so horrible. I tried to apologize and comfort him, but he just sobbed harder and pushed me away. It was awful." Susan sobbed herself, having broken down completely at the memory.
"I'm sure." Hermione returned sarcastically before going on to explain that they'd been had again with the obvious assistance of inside information provided from one: Remus Lupin.
In retrospect, she had to begrudgingly admire the thought and effort that Harry pointedly put into his work, however despicable.