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Chapter 1: A distraction
When Harry and Luna got to Slughorn’s dispatch they found half the Gryffindor students of the sixth year there, except of course, for Ron. Harry really wished that Lavender hadn’t come in the way between Ron and Hermione. In this way, Ron would have come as Hermione’s date, hence making it easier for Harry to endure the party, for he really didn’t know what to talk about with Luna; he wasn’t in the mood for conversations involving narggles. Hermione would have been useful to distract himself; however, since she was mad with Ron and was also making him jealous with McLaggen, he preferred to avoid all the drama.
Nobody seemed to notice the arrival of Harry and Luna, which was a relief for Harry, for he had been teased more than enough about his date for the party.
“Everything looks pretty, don’t you think?” said Luna. Harry didn’t pay attention to her. He was looking for Slughorn. He was determined to get that memory at all cost tonight. Harry saw him standing next to the buffet table. He turned to Luna.
“I’ll be right back, I have to talk to Professor Slughorn” he told her.
“I’ll go with you. Is very rude not to say hi to the host”, said Luna, walking towards Slughorn. Harry followed her. Slughorn caught sight of them and made a gesture indicating them to approach.
“Harry, my boy! I’m glad you could make it!”
“I wouldn’t miss it, sir.” Harry smiled. “Listen, sir, I was wondering if we could-“
“But where are your manners, Harry?” Slughorn cut him “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” Harry looked at Luna, who never stopped smiling the entire time they were greeting each other.
“I’m sorry. This is Luna Lovegood, Professor” Slughorn and Luna shook hands.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lovegood” Slughorn smiled at her.
“It is nice to meet you too. I have heard much of your classes, Professor” said Luna.
“Oh, dear, do not believe all of it! It is not all true!” Slughorn laughed. “Well, enjoy yourselves”.
“Professor, wait!” Harry intercepted Slughorn’s way towards Professor Trelawney. “I was wondering if we could talk in private for a-“. But Harry could not finish his petition, for Slughorn had seen someone arrive to the party and greeted them.
“Ah! Miss Weasley! Mister Thomas! I’m glad you could come!” Harry’s heart startled. He turned around and indeed there were Ginny and Dean standing next to each other at the entrance of the dispatch, holding hands. Harry definitely did not want to stay to watch this, even though Ginny looked as beautiful and attractive as ever. However, Dean caught sight of Harry standing next to Slughorn and approached them, without letting go Ginny’s hand.
“Hi, Harry! Good evening, Professor!” greeted Dean. Ginny smiled at Harry and Luna.
“Good evening to you too! How are your parents doing, Mr. Thomas?” asked Slughorn.
“They are fine, thanks. Although a little worried but, what parents aren’t these days?”
Slughorn smiled at him.
“Indeed, my dear boy, these are hard times. But like I have said to Harry here, we must face what we must face, and overcome our fears and, most of all, be brave” He made a pause in which nobody said a word. Then Slughorn continued: “Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to greet some of my colleagues. Ladies” Making a head gesture towards Ginny and Luna, he departed. After he left, Harry wanted the earth to swallow him.
“So, Harry, how are you feeling these days?” asked Dean.
“What do you mean?” responded Harry, with a defensive tone.
“Well, you know, all that stuff about being the Chosen One…it must be a lot of pressure.”
“Dean!” reproached Ginny, giving him a hard look.
“What? I’m just trying to start a conversation.”
“Harry does not want to talk about that, right Harry?” said Ginny, looking at him. Harry could hardly look up at her.
“Right,” was all Harry was capable of answering.
“Oh, well,” said Dean with an apologetic smile on his face which Harry found idiotic, “Sorry, mate”.
“It’s fine” Harry said, but he didn’t smile back. At that moment, Hermione approached the little group. She seemed as if she was running away from something, or someone. Ignoring all the greetings from Dean, Luna, and Ginny, she grabbed Harry’s arm really hard. Harry tried to let go of her hands, but Hermione wouldn’t submit to this.
“I finally found you!” she said to Harry. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure,” said Harry, relieved to have an excuse to get away from Dean and Ginny. He followed Hermione to a corner of the room, where Hermione made sure that no one could see or hear them before speaking.
“I need your help, Harry” She would not stop looking nervously around her.
“What’s wrong?” asked Harry.
“I need you to help me to get rid of McLaggen.” She gave him a supplicant look, which did not fool Harry at all.
“Hermione, you invited him to the party.”
“I know! And that was very stupid and childish of me! I just can’t stand him! I thought I could endure a few hours with him tonight, but I just can’t! He keeps looking at me as if he wanted to eat me. What’s so funny, if I may ask?” She said annoyed, as Harry laughed.
“Well, nothing really,” he answered. “But, Hermione, you can’t deny that you deserve this. It was all your own doing”
“Are you saying that I should put up with him for the rest of the night? Harry, I just can’t! I know I was stupid but believe me, no one deserves this!” Harry could see that she truly regretted her decision of bringing McLaggen to the party. “Let’s just get out of here.”
“I just got here with Luna.”
“Oh, that’s right. I can’t ask you to leave her, it wouldn’t be fair for her”, said a consternated Hermione.
Harry didn’t reply. He thought he had seen something.
“Hermione, look!” He pointed towards the entrance of the dispatch.
“What?” said Hermione, suddenly scared and looking nervously around her. “Is it McLaggen?”
“No, it’s Malfoy!” Harry couldn’t get out of his astonishment.
“Malfoy? Are you sure, Harry, because it seems to me a little-“
“It is him, Hermione! Look! Snape is with him!”
“What are you talking about, Harry?” Hermione looked towards the direction Harry was pointing at. Effectively, there was Malfoy being dragged out of the room by an angry and severe-looking Snape.
“I wonder what he was doing here” Harry thought, out loud.
“Probably someone invited him to the party,” said Hermione. She was still nervously looking for McLaggen.
“If that was true, then what is Snape doing here, then?” said Harry, suspiciously.
“Oh, Harry, please don’t tell me that you’re thinking about-“
“Following them? Absolutely.”
“Harry, please, you have to understand that there is nothing going on with Malfoy. Don’t waste your time, you should be getting Slughorn’s memory, remember?”
Harry knew that she was right. However, there was something telling him that something was up. Malfoy was planning something, and Harry was sure that Snape was part of it, no matter how much he tried to hide it, and no matter how much Dumbledore trusted him. He would get to the bottom of this. Without saying another word to Hermione, he walked towards the door (not without making sure that neither Ginny, Luna, nor Dean could not see him), and followed the voices of Draco and Snape. They seemed to have gone upstairs. Harry followed. He could hear their voices, but he wasn’t close enough to understand what they were saying. They seemed to be arguing about something. Suddenly they came to a stop. Harry hid behind a statue to listen.