Band Candy Revisited
Spoilers: All BtVS. Up to OotP in HP.
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all recognizable characters belongs to JK Rowling. The world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters belongs to Joss Whedon.Chapter 4The D5
Harry had seen some awful things in his young life, the least of which was watching his Godfather die- unable to do anything but stare as he fell through that archway. Following that, he'd tried to torture the woman responsible, and that was not high on his list of accomplishments he was proud of. In fact, it would have been a regret, except Bellatrix Black had deserved it and much, much more.
As god-awful as that fateful day had been, at least people were not acting completely bonkers all around him. Well, except perhaps Ron, but he'd had a good reason. Far as Harry was concerned, there was no good reason for an elderly couple to grope each other in broad daylight. It was beyond a lascivious act, it was downright disturbing.
But the fact that it was the Headmaster and the Head of Gryffindor was so very worse.
Hermione and Harry stood, transfixed at the sight. It was not that they had any inclination to watch this fumbling display, quite the contrary. Harry was actually feeling rather nauseous. But there was something about it that arrested his brain- made it stall and freeze up, unable to even think, let alone convince his feet to move away.
It was something like catching your parents in bed, except more like catching your grandparents in bed. Actually, in Dumbledore's case, catching your great grandparent in bed.
"We should have figured that he'd eat some." It took a long time for Hermione's words to punch through the hazy fog surrounding Harry's frozen thoughts. "Oh- that's just not proper."
"McGonagall too," Harry added, rather unnecessarily. It was pretty obvious she had eaten some as well. That tight bun she always wore, the one that always looked about ready to tear her face in two- it was so tight- had been abandoned, and now the gray and brown fell nearly to her knees behind her. Then there was that thing she was attempting to do to the Headmaster, one Harry was pretty sure would always haunt his thoughts until he died.
Hermione tore herself away, taking Harry with her by the arm. Once the two were safely tucked away again, out of the rock concert going on around them, she was even more alarmed than before. Harry was still working on trying to get that damn image out of his head- and couldn't bother to worry about the repercussions on a larger scale then, 'Eeew'.
"Harry, what if all the Professors have had some? What if the students have as well?" She gripped both hands, twisting and pulling at them. It was the only sign of distress Hermione ever let show- other then what was plainly broadcast from her eyes. "It would be a disaster!" Her eyes widened then in absolute horror as yet another thing occurred to her. "Merlin- the lower years, Harry! Oh no!"
Harry blinked, Hermione's distress once more calling him out from the fog. He gave a mental shudder, banished and locked that damn display of the Headmaster and Assistant Headmistress away into a tiny file cabinet in the back of his mind that was to never- ever be opened again. Brain functioning, he regarded Hermione. "Lower years? They're back at Hogwarts, perfectly safe."
"Harry," she said to him with such a mortified look, "they're able to sell same as us. Remember the slips?"
Slips? Oh yes, the ones Dumbledore had handed out for them to send to their parents to see if they were interested in- he groaned. "Shite. They haven't sent the chocolate out yet, have they?"
"They have! That was last week! Oh! A lot of their parents work at the Ministry!" For the first time Harry could recall, Hermione looked as if she was moving into full-blown panic. "What if the Ministry is being affected too?! And the Professors behind at the castle!" Her hands began turning white from all the worried fumbling. "What are we going to do?"
She was imploring him to do something, to do anything. For a split second, he felt another irrational wave of anger roll through him. Why did everyone always look to him? He wasn't a brilliant wizard; he was just a kid with a scar. Did she expect him to wave his wand, know some incantation that she didn't, and make it all go away?
But Harry forced that anger back as he'd done often in the last year since his temper began swinging out of control. This was not the time to panic or loose his head. Someone had to be thinking clearly.
"Get the students and the Professors back on the Express," Harry began, his tone changing from just Harry to the Boy Who Continued Living. "We can't do anything for the muggles if we don't know what's going on. We have to find out, first."
"We can't leave them this way," she argued, likely one of the few who would when Harry was taking charge of a situation. "They could get hurt, or worse."
"Can't do anything about the ones that already left, but I'll seal the doors and try to put up one of those anti-muggle barriers. That should keep them contained until we find some sort of solution," Harry decided.
"The trains?" she continued, fretting. "They come in from all over Britain. We can't just shut them down as well, the Muggles will suspect something."
Harry rubbed his scar, not because it was hurting, rather since it was familiar to do so in a stressful situation. Situations where it usually did hurt. "The Prime Minister has some sort of relation with the Minister of Magic, doesn't he?" At Hermione's nod Harry went on. "First we'll try to alert the Ministry- if they've all gone bonkers as well, then we'll have to contact the Muggle Government ourselves. Explain the situation, I suppose- but first we have to get back to Hogwarts. Can't leave the little ones alone if the Professors are acting like-" unable to think of a word, Harry motioned towards the mosh pit, "that."
"I'll round up who I can. Hopefully some of the other Prefects can help- but if they're in the same state..." Hermione left off with a shake of her head before heading away from their tiny section of sanity and into the station to find the others.
The word Prefect caused Harry to think of Ron, and instantly he was concerned for his friend's well fair. Deciding to keep an eye out for him too, Harry took a quick look before catching the nearest- safest- means towards the doors and striding forward- wand out.**
Hermione prided herself on always keeping a cool head, thinking clearly through any situation. In this case, however, she was dangerously close to panicking. It was utter madness- and it seemed to continually get worse.
She hoped there was at least one Professor unaffected, and so she began hunting them out first while keeping an eye open for any of the fifth, sixth, or seventh years. If Professor Lupin or Sprout were fine, then at least there would be someone more able to take charge. Not that she doubted Harry in the least, but the situation was rapidly becoming something that was extremely serious and with potentially far-reaching consequences.
She didn't know who was responsible, but rest assured the Ministry would have something to say to them when they were found. Provided there was a Ministry left, that was.Think of the best, prepare for the worst
, she told herself firmly, her father's good advice once more guiding her. After all, contrary to Ron's belief, not everyone liked chocolate. How many parents were actually going to purchase any? Besides, not everyone at the Ministry had children- Tonks and Mr. Shaklebolt for example.
Surely there were a few rational minded adults left, and they'd naturally take charge. The Concord of 1678 had a well-established series of plans in case of a disastrous event. She was likely blowing the whole thing out of proportion.
But she couldn't help remember how the muggles had kept returning for more, as if the chocolate were some highly addictive opiate. It bothered Hermione. They seemed drawn to it by the smell of the chocolate alone.
Catching up to Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster again, Hermione reminded herself firmly they were under some sort of jinx, before wrenching them apart. "Professors," she tried frantically, "you need to go back to the train, please. We'll be leaving soon."
While Dumbledore adjusted his spectacles, peering down at her with unmistakable anger in his blue eyes, Hermione swallowed nervously. "I don't want to! I'm the Headmaster, and I'll say when we leave."
"You tell her, Albus," McGonagall agreed, flinging her arms around his neck again and causing Hermione to cringe.
"Find someone else to boss around," the Headmaster then groused before returning his attentions to Professor McGonagall.
Hermione sighed. "I'm very sorry about this," she apologized to the both, who ignored her, before removing her wand from her pocket. "Stupefy!"
The red bolt of her spell hit both, who were so entwined with one another the two targets were- for all intents and purposes- one. She watched as the most powerful wizard in the world, and his Headmistress, slipped unconscious to the floor.
"Merlin help us if Voldemort realizes what's happened," Hermione muttered worriedly. Knocking out the Headmaster had been far too easy.
"Did you just stun the Headmaster?" came a familiar and dreamy voice from behind her.
Even if it was only Luna Lovegood, Hermione still uttered a sigh of relief before turning around. Luna's bulbous eyes were fixed in that unsettling way on her, never wavering or blinking. She still had her wand tucked behind her ear, and those ridiculous radishes dangling from her ears. Her outfit was very odd, something out of the sixties- with a tie-dye shirt over a pair of loose jeans, and a necklace of shells- each one painted a different color- hanging from her neck.
"Luna," Hermione said as kindly as she could. "Are you, um, feeling alright then?"
"Fine," Luna said, her voice that slow monotone dreamlike thing it always was. "But the muggles are behaving rather strangely."
Coming from Luna Lovegood, that was really saying something.
"What about the students? Have you seen anyone else?" Hermione pressed.
Luna nodded slowly. "Oh yes. They're all fine. You know, I think a Cactar has gotten loose in the train station. Father says people do very odd things if they're sprayed by one."
Not even bothering to ask what in the world a Cactar was, Hermione shook her head. "Harry and I think it's the chocolate."
"Hmm. I suppose that's possible, but I'm sure it's the Cactar," Luna replied mistily.
Hermione reigned in her indignation, instead summoning a patient smile. "So the students all seem okay?"
"Yes, but they're all a bit nervous." Luna didn't look nervous at all, quite the contrary. "Lavender and Parvati were crying when I found them."
"Crying?" Hermione asked, alarmed. "Whatever about?"
"Professor Flitwick had been chasing them," Luna answered, eyes still staring at Hermione. "They said he tried to feel them up. I didn't believe it at first, Professor Flitwick is a bit too old for a mid-life crisis, he's ninety-seven you know, but when I spotted him chasing Cho for myself..." Luna let off with a shrug.
"Oh dear," Hermione breathed.
"I've heard Professor Hagrid as well." Luna went on like she'd never heard her. "He's hiding in the men's lavatory."
Hermione gave her a searching look. "What on earth were you doing in the men's room?"
"Someone put cherry bombs down all the girl's toilets, and I had to go to the bathroom," Luna answered breezily.
Hermione blinked in astonishment before waving her hand for Luna to continue. "You say you saw Hagrid?"
"No. I said I heard him." Luna pointed in the general direction behind her. "He was in the stall next to mine, mumbling about everyone staring at him, being too big in his clothes. I think he's very troubled. I asked him what was wrong, because I felt bad for him- he sounded very sad. He said everyone could tell. Refused to come out."
"Oh dear," Hermione repeated, becoming even more worried.
"It's almost like all the adults think they're teenagers again," Luna went on dreamily.
Staring at her in wonder, Hermione realized she was onto something. Now that Luna had mentioned it, and when Hermione looked around, it was perfectly obvious that's what was going on. As if they'd taken leave of their senses, acting out and disregarding any sort of responsibility- not to mention the sudden libido they exhibited. It would also explain why all the students, according to Luna, were unaffected. "You're right."
"I've never heard of Cactar urine causing that reaction, perhaps it's a new species off it," Luna wondered aloud.
Hermione's brow twitched, and then the girl sighed before motioning to the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall. "Could you see that they get on the train, Luna? And tell everyone you meet on the way that we're returning to Hogwarts?"
"Shouldn't we try to catch the Cactar first?" Luna asked, eyes still never blinking.
"Uh, perhaps later. First we really ought to set the Professors to right, don't you think?" Hermione tried.
Luna thought about it for a few moments before slowly nodding. "Yes. I suppose so. Professor Flitwick might get into trouble. I'm sure groping students is against school policy."
"Exactly," Hermione replied, moving past her. "Just use morbilicorpus on them, and you should be able to float them back to the train!" she called over her shoulder.
"I know the spell," Luna answered before performing it on them both. Hermione turned and went to find Hagrid while Luna took care of the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall.**
It was not every day a girl collided right into him, a pretty one with bright- intelligent- eyes and beautiful red hair. What was the first thing he said to her? What are you doing here?Brilliant, Sev. Just bloody brilliant.
And she meeped, something like what a mouse would do trapped in Minerva's claws. Why not? He was holding her, gripping her more like. So what would any rational girl do when Severus Snape had a grip on them? Meep, naturally.
He pushed her away; allowing his hair to curtain most of his face as he did the only thing he could think of, glare. It was instinctive. But she, the little chit, was staring right back with big green eyes and a very open, honest face.
Her mouth opened, and another interesting string of noises emerged. None of the noises were, as far as he could tell, part of the English language- or any for that matter. Not until a squeaky, "hi," made it past the stranglehold she kept on her words.
He nodded curtly.
Her eyes darted around a bit more, transfixed momentarily on the Hogwarts Express, before regarding him again. "Willow," she said next, taking a deep breath after that.
Severus' head tilted slightly in question, squinting at her. "What?"
"My name," she added, pointing at herself. "Willow Rosenburg. That's a- um- big train you've got there."
"It's not mine," he answered automatically.
Then he mentally kicked his own arse. The brilliance seemed to keep on coming. It was troubling, he couldn't remember feeling this sort of shyness in front of a girl for a very long time. Tongue twisted tighter than a celtic knot, standing there like a first class idiot, unable to do anything but blurt out the first words that made it into his mouth.
He should be smoother and more refined. There should be a polish. Instead there was only this awkwardness that seemed to smother him.
He cleared his throat, glancing again at the train. "You didn't arrive on it," he said softly, indicating the Express with a jerky flick of his fingers. "I'd know."
"Oh, yeah- I came in on another one. You know. Other side of the," she paused, glancing over her shoulder in confusion, "wall. Ah, there a lot of walls that aren't really walls in England?"
"No," he replied shortly, pretty certain there weren't.
She nodded, apparently relieved with that answer. "That's good, 'cause it'd be awkward to keep falling through them."
"I suppose," he allowed, peeking through his hair at her again. She really was quite pretty- if you liked that nervous, about to run sort of look. Severus wasn't too great a fan of it himself, but on her it was captivating. He had the feeling she could be wearing a barrel and a jester's cap and still be captivating.
"No, I think it would be sort of dangerous. I mean," she smiled goofily, "what if one was to a bathroom? And you just- whoop- fell in? That would be awkward. More awkward than now, if you can believe that, and am I babbling?"
Severus lips quirked the slightest bit. "Just a little."
"Good because I can babble a lot. It's a thing I do- or used to do- but I'm not sure on the whole now and then thing. It's all kinda fuzzy. It happens around guys- or it did- but hey, looks like it's happening again." She peered up at him. "Can I see it?"
He blinked. It? What it? Did he have it? More importantly, did she want it? "See what?"
"The train?" She pointed towards the giant express, erasing his doubts with a fissure of disappointment. "I've only seen them in movies, or books. Steam engines."
"It doesn't run on steam," he informed her. There was something he could grasp onto- knowledge. As long as he could just hold onto what he knew about that train, things would flow easier. "It runs on magic. No conductor or any of that rubbish- works on a series of complex incantations and enchantments. Tell it where you want to go, and it takes you."
"Really?" she asked, eyes brightening even more. "That's neat. Fooled me with the whole steam coming out of the top thing it has going for it. So can I see it?"
He should say no. It was obvious she didn't belong here. Falling through the barrier must've been a fluke, but the eagerness tuned directly at him pulled an, "alright," from Severus before he could stop it.
And even if he managed to change his mind after telling her she could have a tour of the train, the way her face lit up chased away any resolve for saying 'no' he might have had. It was remarkable. He honestly hated people, could see nothing redeeming in anyone. Except this little thing had somehow managed to not only intrigue him, but appeared to have a measure of intrigue for him in return. For that, she could have anything she wished as long as it allowed him to bask in her continued presence.
What was the harm in it anyway? Not as if they were going anywhere any time soon. That bastard Dumbledore would make certain of that. He was always spoiling Severus' fun. Don't hex Harry, Severus. The boy is rather crucial to the war.
Bah. As if his efforts were nothing when compared to a kid with a scar on his forehead. Blasted Potter. Blasted Dumbledore.
"So... tour?" she pressed, taking his thoughts away from practicing Unforgivables on Potter and Dumbledore.
"Ah, y-yes, of course," he stuttered awkwardly. He cringed at the ineloquence of his words, before waving a hand towards the steps leading into the train.
She made another odd noise, this one of excitement, before shuffling past and bounding up the steps. Severus watched her ascend, and if anyone had spotted his expression they would have wondered why Professor Snape looked as if he had seen Venus herself rising from the sea.**
"It's no use, 'Mione. They all hate me," Hagrid moaned from behind the closed cubical door in front of Hermione.
The witch was quickly loosing her patience, and began rubbing at her temples hoping to relieve some of the stress building there. If she could have, she would have simply stunned Hagrid and floated him back to the train, but she would feel just awful about that. Not to mention he was half-giant, which led to the reason she couldn't coax him out in the first place.
"Don't be silly, Hagrid. No one hates you," she replied in a kind voice. "Harry, Ron, and I certainly like you. You're our friend. And the Headmaster is fond of you, isn't he?"
"He has ter like me," Hagrid's voice nearly wailed back. "I work fer 'im!"
"Now you know that's not true," Hermione went on patiently. "Professor Lupin likes you too, and you don't work for him."
"No he doesn', he's jus' bein nice is all," Hagrid retorted nearly petulantly. It was an odd tone for a sixty-some-year-old man to carry on with.
"Nonsense," Hermione replied, somehow managing to continue sounding calm. "Professor Lupin speaks very highly of you. Says he enjoys your tea times together."
"He jus' wan's me ter get 'im his critters," Hagrid continued stubbornly. "'Course he says he likes me."
"I've never heard any Professor say a bad word about you," Hermione tried.
"Snape," Hagrid immediately replied. "He don' like me."
"He doesn't like anybody," Hermione retorted sharply.
"He'll speak ter Professor McGonagall," Hagrid argued.
Hermione had the sudden urge to start knocking her head against the stall door. "Hagrid, does he speak to her all the time?"
"Well-" there was a lengthy pause, "no. I s'pose not."
"There, you see? I bet he tolerates her, because she's Deputy Headmistress. It's nothing personal Hagrid. The man despises everyone."
"I s'pose," came another morose remark through the stall door.
"And what about down in the Pub? Don't you have some friends there?" she continued.
"A few," he admitted.
"There, you see? People like you Hagrid. Why, Ron and Harry think you're the greatest. So do I. We always look forward to seeing you in September." Hermione tapped the stall door. "So please come out. We're needed back at Hogwarts. You're needed back at Hogwarts."
She waited with bated breath until the stall door eventually creaked open. Even though Hagrid's face was blotchy with fresh tears, Hermione gave him a brilliant smile. Hagrid lifted a humongous handkerchief and blew his nose a few times before finally offering a weak smile of his own.
"There. That's better," Hermione told him while she patted his arm soothingly. "Why don't you go back to your seat, and I'll make certain to get you some cold pumpkin juice from the trolley once we're off, alright?"
Suddenly she was enveloped into a hug so tight it pushed all the air from her lungs in one short whoosh of air. "H-h-Hagrid... I need to breathe!"**
Ron couldn't believe it. He just stood, staring down at his fourteenth empty box, one last candy bar in his hand, and felt excitement vibrating through him. One more sale and it would be his! The Thunderbolt! His!
"I've almost done it," he breathed in wonder, gazing at this lonely candy bar with awe.
His sister stared at him with narrowed eyes; treating him to the same sort of look he himself had often given Percy over the dinner table when he was prattling on about cauldrons. She could think him a nutter if she wanted to, but she'd sing a different tune once the Thunderbolt arrived in time for their first match. When he was out-flying everyone on the pitch, Harry included, they'd all understand.
Ron could almost feel the wind in his hair, against his face as he zoomed in front of the hoops. The sun would be shining down, his Quidditch robes flapping while he performed one spectacular maneuver after another on the field to a cheering crowd. Maybe even to a cheering Hermione.
Yes, he could almost hear her calling out, "Ron! You're so wonderful!"
from the stands. It nearly made him blush at the thought.
"Are you going to stare at it all day?" Ginny's irritation cut through his lovely daydream, and brought the reality of 'almost but not quite' crashing back to him.
Straightening his shoulders once more, he ignored his aching, tired feet and resolutely shook his head. "No. I'm going to sell it."
Ginny rolled her eyes, her own box carried next to her side almost empty as well and being knocked impatiently into her thigh. "I suggest you get to it, before you're in Lala land again."
"Oh shut up," he muttered spitefully before glancing around for a final customer. It was odd, there had been so many people rushing in and out of Kings Crossing earlier. Now there was no one outside on the steps. "Where did they all go?" he wondered aloud.
Ginny moved her hood up to cover more of her hair before stepping out past the overhang and into the rain. Ron watched from the safety of staying beneath the over hang as she looked up and down the normally busy street, now utterly empty. "Weird," she observed. "It's usually packed. Cars, people- but it's completely deserted."
"Huh," Ron wondered before scoffing and staring once more down at the only candy bar that stood in his way from achieving his dreams. "There has to be someone!"
"Wait," Ginny held a hand over her eyes to keep the rain from pelting her in the face as she stood next to the street, gazing down it. "I see someone."
"Alright!" Ron exclaimed, grabbing the smooth muggle paper from his raincoat and jogging eagerly down the steps to stand beside Ginny. "Remember, Comfuter lab."
"Why don't we just tell the truth? Muggles have choirs."
"Because they like comfuters. Some muggle in a suit-"
"Nearly all of them wore suits," Ginny pointed out to him.
"-said that it's important to bring the schools into the twenty first century, or something like that. I sold more once I said the school needed a Comfuter Lab instead. Some big thing with 'em."
"Oh, I think I know what they are," Ginny said excitedly as it occured to her. "Dad's got one in the shed, with those floppers, and the pecking board."
"Yeah," Ron nodded in agreement. "He's electrocuted himself twice on it now, hasn't he?"
"Four times," Ginny corrected absently. Her eyes then narrowed and her hand came up to shield her face again. "Uh- Ron?"
"I don't think that's a potential customer... I think it's Malfoy," Ginny told him, a definite edge of worry in her voice.
"Huh?" Ron's hand came up over his eyes as well, letting the water slide over the sides instead of down his eyes. He spotted the small, bobbing blonde head in the distance. It was Malfoy all right, and he was waving something frantically in one of his hands, something that looked a lot like his candy box. "What the hell is he doing that far from Kings Crossing? Professors told us to stay inside."
"We're outside," Ginny replied wryly.
"Yeah, and by the doors," Ron defended before squinting harder. "Hold on-- I think something's chasing after him."
Behind him, to Ron's perception by a few meters, were several smaller figures. Lots of them. Tons of them.
"Is he saying something?" Ginny asked, tilting her head to the side and cupping her other hand over her ear.
There was a slight hint of that snotty voice on the air Ron realized with a frown. "What the hell is he up to now?"
"Language," Ginny said absently, her attention focused on the Slytherin.
Soon they realized he wasn't just talking, but frantically yelling. The closer he came, the better view of him they had through the sheets of rain falling between them. He was running, and he was doing it as if the hounds of hell were snapping at his feet. Ron's eyes widened as he realized why.
"What did that git do
?" he asked, completely baffled.
The reason he asked that question was following Malfoy. It seemed the Slytherin Wizard had managed to, in this day and age, provoke a bonified angry mob into chasing him. Looked as if there were twenty or more muggles right behind Malfoy, who was running for his life, and screaming his bloody head off while he was at it.
"MAAAAD MUUUUGGLES!" they heard Malfoy screaming at them. "MAAAAAAAD MUUUUUGGLES! RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIVES!"
Ron watched, jaw hanging open in a credible impression of a codfish as Malfoy tossed his box of chocolate carelessly in the air. What was amazing, however, was the way the muggles converged around it. It reminded Ron of a pack of wolves tearing at the flesh of their prey. Cardboard was flung all around, and he heard several furious shouts of 'None!' from the muggles before they started after Malfoy again, screaming for 'More!'
"RUN YOU IDIOT GRYFFINDORS!" Malfoy screamed again. He was drawing perilously nearer to the pair with the mob hot on his tail.
Ron was about to ask what the hell he did to them, thinking the Slytherin must have drawn his wand, but Malfoy's eyes bugged suddenly on the candy bar in Ron's hand. "GET RID OF THE CHOCOLATE!"
Ron's hand convulsively closed tighter around the last bar of chocolate- number seven hundred. There was no way he was going to toss it aside- toss his broom aside. "No way Git!"
"GET RID OF IT!" Malfoy screamed again, and before Ron could move, the Slytherin stooped low and suddenly threw himself at Ron.
Ron was a lot broader than Malfoy was, who was lithe and lean, but even all his weight tackling into Ron at full speed succeeded in knocking the larger boy down. As if everything was moving in slow motion, Ron watched the chocolate bar fly out of his hand. His eyes followed it as it flipped end over end through the rain, it's beautiful gold foil managing to glint in the dim light filtered through the dark storm clouds. "Nooooooooooo!" he yelled as it continued end over end in a long arc before finally hitting the street, bouncing, and then coming to a rest.
Ron scrambled over to his hands and knees, trying to crawl towards it, but Malfoy had his arms wrapped around Ron's waist, and was pulling him away. "Help me Weasley!" Malfoy shouted frantically at Ginny as the mob drew closer. "Unless you want them to rip your brother to pieces!"
She started before rushing over and grabbing one of Ron's arms, hauling him up to his feet with Malfoy's help. Time kept flowing at an agonizing pace, Ron shouted and fought them both, but the pair managed to pull him away from the lone seven-hundredth chocolate bar lying abandoned on the road.
As they wrestled him up the steps, he screamed no again when the muggles converged on the bar- the first that had bent for it being knocked down by the one behind. Soon all of them were full out street brawling for the chocolate prize.
With each piece of gold foil that fluttered away from the mob, Ron watched his dreams fly away with it. The Quidditch Cup, the Thunderbolt with its top of the line charms, the Head Boy badge, and Hermione all vanished before his mind's eye.
Then the station's large doors were slammed in front of his face, the rain no longer beating on his skin.
Ron shook both of them off, nearly knocking them over with the furious movement of his arms. He rounded on Malfoy, grabbing his buttoned collar, and slammed him into the door. "WHY THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT? WHY!"
Malfoy stared back with an icy, completely unrepentant gaze. "So this is the thanks I get for saving your moronic hide, is it?"
"It was the broom wasn't it! You didn't want me to get it! Didn't want me to win!" Ron knocked him into the doors again, ignoring Ginny's pleas to let Malfoy down. "You bastard!"
Malfoy winced with each bang, but levelly met Ron's eyes again. His face never loosing it's cool exterior that had been filled with panic moments before. "They went mad, Weasley. Those muggles would have trampled over you trying to get that chocolate. It's got nothing to do with that stupid broom!"
"AHA!" Ron called, eyes glinting again. "So you admit it! You are afraid of that broom!"
"Weasley, if I wanted a Thunderbolt, I could buy it," Malfoy hissed before bringing his hands up and prying Ron's off his collar. "I'm telling you, the muggles have gone mad!" He straightened his wet shirt- as if he was more ruffled by his un-groomed appearance then the fact there had been at least twenty muggles after him.
"What did you do to them?" Ginny asked frostily as Ron continued seething.
"Me?" Malfoy seemed genuinely shocked over her accusation. "I didn't do anything to them!"
"Well they didn't just go barmy on their own," Ginny argued back. Her hands were set at a familiar stubborn angle on her hips, a pose that reminded Ron of their mother.
"Oh yes," Malfoy drawled at her, adding a mocking sort of nod to go along with the sarcasm dripping from his voice. "It's all part of my evil master plan, Weasley. To get torn apart
by a mob of insane muggles! Gee, should have listened to father and gone with the Hippogriff instead! Oh," he affected a considerate air, as if he had just recalled something, "that's right. MY FATHER'S ROTTING AWAY IN AZKABAN THANKS TO YOU!"
"It's where he belongs."
Malfoy whirled on his heels, coming face to face with Harry, who had come up from behind him. The two glared at each other, as was custom. "Yeah, and you should be dead, but I suppose things don't always go as planned, do they Potter?"
"Guess not," Harry answered back crisply. His face angled away from Malfoy, dismissing him as unimportant when he addressed Ginny and Ron. "It's the chocolate."
"Is that why they were chasing that Slytherin Git?" Ginny asked.
"I'm standing right here, Weasley," Malfoy groused, teeth grinding together.
Ron arched a brow.
"Don't know about that. So far, they're just acting..." Harry trailed off and pointed into the station.
Ron glanced over, and his eyes nearly boggled out of his head. He brought his hands up to rub at them, thinking he might have been seeing things, but when he looked again they were still there.
Somehow, someone had gotten Kegs into the building, and some sort of party was rapidly escalating. Ron even spied one muggle up on the grand chandelier, swinging from it and screaming wildly with his shirt off. The rest were rubbing up against one another, dancing. Ron's eyes then bugged as he realized one muggle's top was off, and her wares were on full display for all to see.
"Oddly," Harry finished dryly. "So are the Professors."
"All of them?" Malfoy asked, staring in awe at the same amply endowed chest Ron's eyes were also glued upon.
"Probably. The Headmaster and Professor McGonagall... er... you don't want to know. I saw Professor Lupin too. I had hoped he was okay, but then I caught him near the bar. He's pretty drunk, chatting with some fellow named Ripper."
Harry shook his head sadly, sighing. "When I told him what I was going to do, he just laughed and said, 'it'll be a long party then.'
I managed to get Neville to take him to the train. I've never seen Remus drink."
"Hmm," Malfoy hummed, tearing his eyes from the partying muggles and examining Harry speculatively. "What are you going to do to save the day then, Hero?"
He said the last with a derisive sneer. Harry ignored the hero remark, answering the question seriously instead. "I'm going to seal the doors, put anti-muggle barriers over them. Then we're going back to Hogwarts once everyone's on the train- try to figure out what was in the chocolate. Other than that, one step at a time."
Ron nodded, the loss of his broom a sharp pang, but seeing what he had helped create- he wasn't sure if he even wanted it any more. Not at this price. "Sounds good, Harry."
Harry gave him a fleeting smile. "I could use an extra wand."
"You got it," Ron answered, drawing his own out of the pocket of his jeans.
Malfoy sighed before pulling out his own. "I know the barrier spell. I suppose I've no choice but to perform it."
Harry stared at him for a long time, Malfoy returning it coolly, before finally nodding in agreement. "Fine. Just make sure it repels them- not hurt them."
Malfoy glared, insulted, before whirling around on his heel and stalking off towards the doors- head high in the air. Ron and Harry exchanged a glance, each saying to the other 'no idea' to the question of 'can we trust him?' Ron then turned to his sister. "Help make sure everyone's at the train, okay?" Ron asked.
"Alright," she answered before taking a route at the fringes of the party in the middle of the station.
Saying a last good bye to his dreams of glory, Ron followed after Harry and Malfoy for the doors to Kings Crossing.**