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An Even Match by Sabrielle
Chapter 14 : 14.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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“What a great haul!” Ron said as they trooped back to the castle, laden with Honeyduke’s bags.


Everyone was in high spirits. The Great Hall was noisy with students talking about the day and showing each other their purchases.


Hermione admired her Sugar Quills (in a rainbow of colors) and loaded her plate up with roast potatoes and beef. She glanced unconsciously at the Slytherin table, and wasn’t surprised to see Malfoy sitting a bit apart from the others, staring at his full plate of food without any apparent intention of eating. She felt a small pang of concern, but shook it away immediately. He made it clear he wants nothing to do with me.


Her reverie was interrupted by Fred and George, who abruptly pushed between her and Harry. “How’s it going my fair friends?” Fred asked. “Just so you’re aware, you might want to act unaware (“– he means innocent,” George interjected) tomorrow morning. We’re planning a little…surprise… for our fellow Hogwartians.”


“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, looking askance at the two.


“Oh you know,” Fred said airily. “Just a little Sunday morning entertainment, courtesy of our favorite House.”


Ron and Harry looked at the twins gleefully.


Hermione tried to look disapproving, but ultimately failed. “As long as it isn’t harmful. And you don’t get caught!” she said.


“Bollocks, we never get caught,” George dismissed. “And it’s not harmful. That’s not to say it won’t be uncomfortable…”


The two left abruptly, chuckling and winking. Ginny rolled her eyes. “Those two, they’ll be the death of Mum, I swear…”


“They keep things exciting though, eh?” Dean said with a laugh.


“That they do.”


Hermione yawned and looked at the giant clock in the Great Hall. 8:30 p.m.


“I’m heading up. Going to get some reading done,” she said.


“We’ll go with you,” Ron said. “Harry, how about a game or two of chess before we hit the pillows?”


“Sure! Maybe I’ll beat you this time.”


Ron laughed. “Keep dreaming, mate.”


************


The next morning Hermione woke feeling none too rested. She’d stayed up far too late after finishing all her homework, still trying to translate the book on Dementors. She punched her pillow in frustration. She just could not crack that thing. She had managed to figure out (she hoped) that nigrum opalus was “black opal,” but she had no idea where to find one, or how to begin harnessing a Patronus into it. Rolling out of bed, she struggled into her clothes and swept her hair into a loose bun.


The Common Room was deserted but for Fred and George, who were huddled in the corner holding vials of a vivid purple potion. Ah yes, the prank…she thought.


“This must be the already-infamous Gaseous Rumpus potion?” Hermione asked with a smile.


They jumped at her voice. Fred recovered first.


“It is indeed! Today’s the day we put it to the test.”


He gave Hermione a worried look. “You’re not going to – to – mention anything about this, are you?”


She rolled her eyes. “I suppose not. What’s it do, anyway?”


George grinned wickedly. “You’ll find out soon enough. Just make sure you’re in the Great Hall at approximately 9 a.m.”


The two hurried out of the portrait hole. Hermione guessed they were heading for the kitchens.


She checked her watch, a locket hung on a long twisted silver chain. It was a gift from her parents for her 16th birthday. My parents. She bit her lip. Lately she’d been having nightmares (not very often, but often enough) about going home and finding her house in ruins, her parents dead…the Dark Mark hovering over it all…


She shook her head to clear it. Hermione had been meaning to ward her house, but hadn’t gotten the chance to get away from school yet. I don’t care how much work I have, I’m going to have to go next weekend. She wasn’t going home for Christmas this year because her parents would be skiing in the Swiss Alps, and Hermione hated skiing. With a tired sigh, she headed down to the Great Hall.


“Hey Hermione!” Harry said, sliding in next to her. The hall was finally starting to fill up. Hermione had been there for nearly an hour, sipping coffee and reading over her homework.


“There you are, we wondered where you’d got to,” Ron said with a yawn.


“Ready for the show?” Ginny asked from down the table.


“Yes!” Ron and Harry exclaimed at once.


As if on cue, Fred and George slipped furtively onto the bench in between Harry and Ron.


“How is everyone this fine morning?” Fred asked with a wink.


“Ok,” they chorused, searching the twins’ faces suspiciously.


The two ignored them and began helping themselves to toast.


“Weeeeeell,” the others demanded.


“Well what?” George asked archly.


“How did you prank the Slytherins?”


“What’s going to happen?”


“When’s it going to happen?”


The surrounding Gryffindors fired questions at Fred and George.


“Whoa, steady on there!” George smirked. “All in good time, all in good time. At least wait until the poor snakes have finished their pumpkin juice.”


Oh. It dawned on Hermione. So that’s where they’d put the potion. She watched the Slytherins shrewdly as they sipped their juice and talked. Most were at least halfway through, and some were already refilling their glasses.


So far, she couldn’t detect a difference. Malfoy was again poking at his food, having touched neither his toast nor his pumpkin juice. Hermione noticed Nott and Balthazar shooting him concerned looks from down the table.


Suddenly a Slytherin student Hermione didn’t recognize yelped and shot upward, clutching his behind. After that it was like popping corn; dozens of red-faced Slytherins got up and tried to dash out of the Hall, only to be propelled onto their faces by the explosive force coming from their backsides.


The rest of the Great Hall was in hysterics. Harry and Ron were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe, while Hermione and Ginny giggled uncontrollably.


“WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?!” Snape boomed from the Professor’s table. His black eyes were trained on the Gryffindors. Fred and George struggled to look innocent.


Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled at them over his spectacles, but he didn’t call them forward. “Now Severus, we could spend all day questioning every student from these three Houses, but that’s not the way I’d choose to spend my Sunday, would you?”


Snape looked as though he thought that would be a very valid way to spend time on a Sunday, but nodded stiffly. He marched after his students, shooting a smoldering glare at the Gryffindor table as he went.


“Whew, that was close, eh?” Fred whispered. Suddenly Dumbledore swept down from the high table and paused behind the twins. “You two, detention tomorrow evening I think. Filch could use some help cleaning the trophy room.”


Their triumphant faces fell comically. “Yes Professor,” they chorused dully.


“Very good. Oh, and one more thing…” Fred and George winced, waiting for what was coming. “That was a very – unusual – reaction. I assume you invented the potion yourselves?” Both boys nodded. “And what was the main ingredient that caused such an, ahem, explosive, quality?”


Fred and George perked up as they realized they weren’t going to be punished further. “We used a derivative of Blast Ended Skrewt venom, sir!”


“Aye, tested it ourselves, we did,” George grimaced. “And a right pain in the arse it was, too.”


“Undoubtedly.” Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes sparkled with humor. He winked at Hermione before leaving the hall.


“Dumbledore’s a good bloke, I like ‘im,” Fred said decisively. “Mind you, he didn’t have to give us detention,” he added.


“You’re lucky he didn’t give you a month’s worth of detentions, or turn you over to Snape!” Hermione laughed.


“Yep, you got off without a hitch, count yourselves lucky!” Ron agreed, finishing off his toast.


**********


Well, that’s one good thing about not having an appetite, Draco thought, bounding up a marble staircase to the Third Floor. It was embarrassing enough that Slytherin House had been pranked so easily. He was at least glad that Dareon and Pansy hadn’t been too affected. They’d barely had any pumpkin juice when the effects kicked in. ‘Poor Theo,’ he snickered. He knew he should be mad at the Gryffindors, but he just couldn’t be bothered. Plus, if he was honest with himself, it was kind of funny.


Let the rest of them figure out a payback. Draco had other things to worry about. His father’s trial was in two weeks, and more importantly, his mother had written him express the night before to say that the Dark Lord requested his presence. He shuddered, struck with sudden gut-wrenching fear. Sweeping his hand over his sweaty brow, he slumped heavily into a window seat. What did he want? Had Blaise said something…? But no, that couldn’t be it. “I haven’t done anything wrong,” he whispered aloud, to reassure himself. “Have I?”


He shook his head. 11 o’clock. That was when he was supposed to be in the Dark Forest. There’s no point worrying about it now. But he couldn’t help it. He tried to do his Arithmancy homework, but it was no good. There was nothing to do except wait, and wonder, and worry.




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