Through the mad scramble, Harry tried to ignore the frightful racket and the random writhing limbs flailing all about him.
Concentrating solely on Ginny's legs as she shimmied ahead of him beneath the final table, Harry dodged feet, knees and chairs, desperate to escape a Valentine's feast gone slightly awry. Seeing his favourite redhead leap clear, feint past a couple of dozy-eyed snoggers, and break wildly for the exit, Harry whooped in joy.
Seeking to follow, Harry sprang out from beneath a gaggle of shrieking Hufflepuffs, got both feet beneath him and-
... found himself face to face with a slavering Millicent Bulstrode; his formal necktie looking tiny and sad, clenched in the Slytherin witch's meaty fist.
"Erm, didn't I hear Draco calling you?" Harry attempted a disarming smile, even as he strained to twist away from menacing lips that loomed like a large pink inner tube, glistening with still-fresh pumpkin juice.
What in the blazes is going on? Does Harry escape to the comforting company of the only other non-addled Hogwarts student? Is pumpkin juice a bad idea, in general, in any sober-minded institute of magical education?
The answers to those quandaries, or to your own far more interesting questions, await us all in Challenge 2018-2:
Tis the Valentines feast at Hogwarts, and something is odd. The pumpkin juice tastes suspiciously good, and all who drink it are behaving strangely. Uh oh.
Awards will be made for Most Humourous, Most Unexpected, Best Overall, and People's Choice. Completed stories must be submitted by midnight, July 15, in order for award announcements to be made on August 1.
Submissions must be stand-alone stories that are marked as complete by deadline; stories must be shorter than 20,000 words; R-rated stories are discouraged, and judges are not required to read them.
Please continue to cast your votes for the 2018-3 challenge topic. Additional suggestions are highly encouraged (the list could use some freshening) but prior vote-getters include:
- Years into their marriage, Ginny discovers something surprising about Harry. Tell us about it.
- Auntie Muriel announces that she will take her tea at the Burrow next Sunday. Excuses fly as everyone tries to avoid attending. Will anyone escape?
- A debilitating accident brings Harry's and Ginny's hectic schedules to a screeching halt. How will things change as the couple adjusts to a slow recovery?
- Harry has never been abroad before. His first trip is with Ginny. Where do they go, and why?
- Late at night, a hooded stranger appears at Harry's bed and casts a spell. Another does the same to Ginny. The mysterious pair meets in the Common Room. After a kiss, they whisper, "That’s done. Now, for the great adventure." What happens next?
- Times are tense at Grimmauld Place... until Sirius and Lupin start sharing tales of old Marauder Pranks. Suitably inspired, Harry and/or Ginny (you choose) decide(s) to liven things up with a bit of their own mischief.
Finally, it's been a blast, but I think we're heading toward a time when you'd likely all do best with some fresh new inspired management for the Challenges. Who would like to rise to the occasion and help enliven the SIYE creative spark? I'm comfortable either stepping aside after 2018-2 in deference to new talent, or coaxing things along through the end of this year -- whatever is the right fit for all.