Chapter Notes: DISCLAIMER: I solemnly swear that I do not own the world of Harry Potter. It's all JKR's.
The fourth floor corridor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was eerily silent. It was almost curfew and most of the students had retired to the comfort of their common rooms. A chilly draft blew in from the open windows now and again, causing the candles to flicker dangerously. Apart from the hollow cackles of Peeves, the poltergeist, from somewhere above in the sixth floor and the occasional mewling of Mrs Norrris, the cat, nothing else could be heard.
Gargarus the Third let out a sigh of relief from his portrait that hung at the far end of the corridor and took up most of the space of the wall there. The day had been extremely hectic for him.
First thing in the morning, he had been rudely awakened by a bunch of rowdy cowboys that occupied the neighbouring portrait. Scowling at the noise and trying to shut his ears against their chatter (quite unsuccessfully) he had just managed to close his eyes, when a loud bang somewhere woke him up. Panicked, he had drawn out his sword only to replace it in annoyance when Peeves floated by, waggling his eyebrows and cackling madly. Why the Headmaster kept the nuisance in the school was something beyond the understanding of poor Gargarus. After that, sleep had been a distant dream. Classes had begun and the corridors kept teeming with students talking and laughing loudly. He had passed the whole day shaking his head in disapproval and scowling some more. The children seemed to be getting rowdier each year. “When we were their age, we were so disciplined,” he thought and again scowled. He sometimes feared that if he kept going at this rate the scowl would be permanently etched on his face.
But as all atrocities come to an end, his misery had an end too. He again let out a sigh and prepared to go to sleep. He adjusted his pillow and seated himself into a more comfortable position on his chintz armchair. It was very important that he take his beauty sleep. He had a date to attend the next day. With a silly smile plastered on his face, he lost himself in thoughts of the pretty witch in the third floor corridor he had come across the day before while he was on one of his rare strolls. By mistake he had entered her portrait and her beauty had left him awestruck. The pretty witch had also been extremely taken by his good looks and charms and had agreed to go to a date with him.
Suddenly, he was cruelly wrenched back from his musings by footsteps. Peering around the frame of his portrait he saw a boy, a Gryffindor sixth year, almost running. He seemed jumpy and was repeatedly looking here and there. He stopped near one of the pillars to catch his breath and the torch above illuminated his features. Gargarus could easily make out his mop of red hair, his freckled face and his terrified blue eyes.
He let out a snort of disgust, “Another Weasley,” he thought. “They are usually up to no good.”
He had still not forgiven the infamous Weasley twins for charming his blond locks red, attaching a white beard to his clean-shaven chin and pasting a Santa Claus hat on his head with a Permanent Sticking Charm one Christmas five years ago. It had completely ruined his date with Elizabeth of the portrait on the seventh floor when she had refused to recognize him, thrown a massive fit and chased him through several portraits (while their occupants had laughed their heads off) before he was able to escape to his own, physically unscathed. But his reputation had been tarnished. He knew that even now portraits sniggered when he walked passed and called him Gargaus behind his back.
Coming to the present, he decided that if one of their siblings was in distress, it was of no concern of his. Besides, he couldn’t afford to ruin his date the next day. (He would never admit it but it had taken a lot of persuasion on his part to get the pretty witch as his date for the day. If everything went well, he was considering asking her to accompany him to the Yuletide Portrait Ball too.)
Thus, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Ronald Weasley was terrified.
He hurried along the corridors of the school, up and down many flights of stairs, frequently looking over to his left, right and over his shoulder. It was almost curfew but he knew he couldn’t go back to the Gryffindor common room. He could only pray that he found someplace to hide for some time and that the old caretaker kept away from him.
The subject of his terror that day was none other than his girlfriend of three weeks, Lavender Brown.
When he had started his relationship with her, she had struck him as a bit annoying but he had thought that after living with his older twin brothers for almost sixteen years, he could handle her easily. But he was wrong. In the annoying department, Lavender had turned out to be the deadly combination of Fred, George, Ginny and Aunt Muriel taken together.
Therefore after three weeks, he had been reduced to hiding from her whenever he got the chance. That day, she was in a very particularly happy mood which meant that the annoying was going to be taken to a whole new level. And was he ready for that? Not at all.
So, he had been running around like a fugitive for the past hour trying to hide from her. His first choice, the Room of Requirement, was seemingly occupied by someone else and he was left stranded in the corridors.
Suddenly, he heard distant footsteps. His ears perked up and he could make out that the person was headed his way. Fearing for his sanity and his poor ears, he dashed into the nearest classroom, hitting the door with the most powerful locking charms and the Imperturbable Charm for extra protection, and slumped against the teacher’s desk.
No sooner had he taken a deep breath than he jumped. He had heard a rustle of cloth which sounded from somewhere within the shadows at the back of the class.
Taking out his wand, he muttered, “Lumos.”
“Shut it, Weasley,” someone snarled and the next instant he was tackled to the ground and the light extinguished.
Rubbing the back of his head, he squinted in the semi-dark room and came face to face with none other than Draco Malfoy.
“Malfoy?” he roared, “What are...?”
“I said shut it, Weasley,” the other boy whispered furiously, “Do you want to broadcast our whereabouts to the whole school.”
Flushing crimson, Ron lowered his voice and repeated, “What are you doing here?”
“That’s none of your business,” Malfoy spat. “By the way, I can ask the same question to you.”
“And my answer is the same as yours: None of your business,”
“Goodness, Weasley. Now you are even copying retorts. I thought you only copied Granger’s homework and Potter’s stupidity.”
“And I never thought you could speak without your bodyguards around to protect you.”
“I don’t need protection from the likes of you, Weasley.”
“Oh, really? I thought...”
“You can think. That’s news to me. Someone call the Daily Prophet,” Malfoy exclaimed in mock surprise.
Ron went red with rage. He withdrew his wand but before he could do anything...
The sound came from just outside the door and he froze. She could not have worse timing than this. He silently prayed that Malfoy hadn’t noticed.
But it seemed that the Gods were out to conspire against him that day. Malfoy quickly lowered his wand and grinned at him.
“Won-Won?” he mouthed.
“So that’s why you were hiding, Weasley. Getting away from your girlfriend.”
Ron’s left eye twitched. With great calm, he managed to utter, “Sod off, Malfoy.”
“That’s no way to talk to your superiors, you know,” he drawled with an evil gleam in his eyes, “Anyway, I am a gentleman even though you are not. This means that in my books keeping a lady waiting is not at all appropriate. So I will just go out there and inform her about the whereabouts of her beloved ‘Won-Won’.”
Ron’s blood ran cold. He was truly terrified. Lately, Lavender had been giving spiders a tough competition in the race to be his greatest fear. He half-suspected that if he were faced with a Boggart now, it would turn not into a gigantic, hairy spider but a giggly version of his girlfriend.
Malfoy was slowly inching towards the door. If looks could kill, he would have been dead seconds ago. Ron took a step towards the door just as Malfoy put his hand on the doorknob.
But then something happened.
There were footsteps outside: a second set, and Lavender’s voice floated in, “Hey, Parkinson! Have you seen Ron anywhere?”
Malfoy’s grin faded and a look of abject terror flooded his pale face. Comprehension dawned on Ron and he felt a smirk creep up on his features.
Another voice floated in. “No, Brown, I haven’t. But have you seen Draco anywhere?”
“Umm...no,” Lavender answered.
“Okay,” Pansy answered and they started to walk away.
Malfoy put a warning finger to his lips and looked pointedly at Ron. To Ron’s utter amusement, Draco added his own locking and silencing charms to the door and slumped against the nearest wall.
“Well, I guess we are on the same boat, Weasley,” he said, his voice magically devoid of contempt.
To his bewilderment, Ron found himself agreeing to the blond boy.
“I think we should stay here a bit longer, just in case,” he suggested.
And then there was silence.
The two enemies remained in their positions: Ron perched on the teacher’s desk and Malfoy leaning against the wall. Seconds ticked by, followed by minutes and finally hours and neither of them moved.
Finally, Ron glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight. Constant practice had informed him that by this time, Lavender must have abandoned her search and gone to bed. He hopped down from the desk, and at the same moment Malfoy straightened himself.
“Umm... Weasley... I propose a bargain,” he began.
On Ron’s encouraging nod, he continued, “Let’s pretend the night never happened. You don’t say a word to anyone and I will also remain silent.”
Ron didn’t need to think twice. He grasped Malfoy’s proffered hand and they sealed their pact.
Without another word, he lifted the spells from the door, stepped out and froze. Malfoy, who had been right behind him, ran straight into him and both of them toppled to the floor.
“What the hell, Weas...”
But Draco was cut off by a feminine voice. “Well, it was about bloody time.”
With identical looks of horror, both boys looked up to find their respective girlfriends perched on the windowsill directly opposite the classroom they had been hiding in.
“Well, Gargarus the Third was right about their whereabouts, Brown,” Pansy said. “Great foresight to ask him, I must say.”
“Yeah,” Lavender agreed. “And you were right about the fact that they were bound to come out at some point of time.”
Both girls happily dropped off their perch and threw their arms around their boyfriends, chatting excitedly at the same time.
Ron’s head was screaming bloody murder.
Above Lavender and Pansy’s heads, blue eyes met grey and a silent understanding passed between the two enemies.
Gargarus the Third wouldn’t know what hit him.
Gargarus the Third reached the portrait of the pretty witch all the while wondering why other portraits were sniggering at him.
“Maybe they are thinking about the ‘Gargaus’ incident again,” he thought bitterly.
But he pretended not to notice them. He didn’t want to botch his date this time. It was the first since the incident five years ago. It had taken him a long time to pluck up the courage to ask another witch to a date. Thinking about how he had helped a couple of young witches to locate the love of their lives the last night, he reached his date.
One look at him and she started shrieking wildly. Confused but fearing for his life nonetheless, he turned to flee when he caught his reflection in the mirror.
A pair of raccoon eyes seated in an extremely blotchy face with crooked teeth looked back at him.
Students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were still bewildered for the next few days about why the formidable Gargarus the Third was seen running around yelling disjointed words like ‘WEASLEY’, ‘MALFOY’, ‘KILL’ and ‘REVENGE’.
As for the two prefects in question, they would just shrug and state that maybe the former knight had lost his marbles after all.
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