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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 13 : French Kiss
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 12


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A/N Thanks to all those of you who have continued to read and review my story. Enjoy, and please review. : )




Chapter 13: French Kiss

Harry walked back to the Gryffindor common room with a smile plastered on his face and a lightness to his step. He was happier than he had been in a long time, for he was going to use his newly created Time Turner to visit the past and finally see what his parents were really like. He hung the newly formed treasure on the silver chain next to his and his mother’s pendants, where it now sat peacefully against his chest, hidden from the eyes of nosy onlookers or anyone who might try to take it from him.

He thought about whether or not he should share the news with Ginny, but decided against it as it would be much easier to visit the past alone. Today, however, would not be the day that he did any time travelling, as he only had a couple of hours to eat and finish his newly appointed Defence essay, this time on the effectiveness of using curses versus hexes, before he had to be out on the pitch for another one of Ron’s practices.

Katie had been joking when she warned Ron about becoming Oliver Wood, and it appeared he had not taken it to heart. He had augmented the training sessions from three times a week to four or five, depending on his Prefect duties, and was now running them through new formations every practice. While it was frustrating at times, Harry had to admit that he had never seen the Gryffindor team play so well together. The way they had all been playing, Ravenclaw stood little chance at winning during the first match of the year, and he was sure that the residents of the Nest would be thoroughly pleased with their efforts.

After a quick breakfast of toast and tea, Harry rushed back to the common room to write his essay. As usual, Marc offered his help and the pair completed the assignment in no time at all.

‘You sure do know your stuff when it comes to the Dark Arts,’ Harry commented as he started to pack up.

‘Yeah, well, my mum always makes me learn everything there is to know about them. Remember, I did go to Durmstrang because it’s where she had me enrolled. I wanted to come here, but she said that I would do well to go to the school that she had attended and that I would learn far more useful practical magic than Hogwarts could offer.’

‘At least you’re here now,’ Harry said, shaking his head at the thought of Marc’s mother judging a school she knew little about.

‘Yeah, but I have to admit she was right. There are tons of things I’m glad I learned at Durmstrang, because there’s no way I would have learned them here. Hogwarts is too focused on defence to teach such things as practical Dark Arts.’

Harry nodded his agreement. While he did not agree with all of Durmstrang’s teachings, he did wish he had some of Marc’s knowledge so that he would be better prepared when faced with the Death Eaters, many of whom came from Durmstrang.

‘Want to head to the pitch then?’ he said knowing that if they did not hurry, they would be late.

‘We’d better, or Ron might have us fly laps.’

This practice was no different from any of the others since Ron had become Captain. They started out with a brief meeting, something that neither Oliver nor Angelina had done, but that Ron called an essential part of the training. During these meetings he called upon anyone on the team to give any ideas that they felt would help improve the quality of training and essentially improve their success.

Although they hated to admit it, the meetings really did help to bring the team closer together, allowing the teammates to communicate to one another their opinions and suggestions in a non-confrontational setting. Of course it was Ron who gave most of the constructive criticism and suggestions, but surprisingly, Parvati also had a fair bit to share during every meeting.

Parvati turned out to be quite the exceptional Chaser. Ginny and Katie agreed that she played well with them and from what Harry could tell, the three girls had a technique more closely-woven and in sync then when Angelina and Alicia had been on the team. Despite her denials, it was evident to everyone - Gryffindors and other houses alike – that Parvati was loving her new found skill. At the end of every practice she could be seen running off to Lavender, who of course attended every practice, and would run through every move step by step while her best friend listened excitedly to her account.

Marc and Seamus also played wonderfully, although their techniques were different from that of the Weasley twins. Ron constantly congratulated them and told them that there would be less fouls on Gryffindor’s side because of them.

Today. Harry found himself hovering high above the pitch soon after kick-off and just staring off over the Forbidden Forest. The sun was shining brightly again, without a single cloud to mar the periwinkle sky. It had been a while since conditions were as nice as these, owing to the winter winds slowly creeping up on them as they neared November.

He watched as the trees in the forest stood tall and proud, one or two of them occasionally swaying from an unseen occurrence beneath the thick canopy of branches. He noted that while there were small disturbances around the edges, nothing was large enough to indicate the presence of a Giant, and he wondered what had become of Grawp over the summer. If Hagrid was not here, then who was left to care for him? Harry assumed that Hagrid’s half brother had most likely been removed from the forest, as the last time he had seen Hagrid, his face was not showing signs of a near death beating.

‘Harry!’ he heard his name called and turned to see that Ron was shouting at him from his position in front of the hoops. ‘Find the snitch already?’ he called up to him again, shielding his eyes with a hand to try and see the golden escape artist in Harry’s fist, but failing.

‘Not yet, Ron,’ he called back before sweeping his eyes over the pitch again and setting off to find it.

The practice lasted three hours today, and tired as they were, each of the team members were extremely relieved for an excuse to be out of the castle for such a long period of time. It appeared that everyone’s hectic schedules were starting to get to them.

*

The pressures of daily life began to slowly weigh on Harry’s mind with each passing day. He found he was becoming deeply resentful of everything that had occurred, or worse, not occurred in his life to date. At the top of his list was the fact that he had lost both of his parents to a monster whom he was now supposed to kill, and still no one other than Dumbledore knew this. He wanted so badly to tell Hermione and Ron, but knew that they would not be able to handle such horrific news. Hermione would cry and always look at him pityingly, while things between he and Ron would most likely become strained as Ron realised that his best friend was either a murderer or a dead man.

As though this thought alone was not enough to cause stress for the raven-haired Gryffindor, Professor Black had now doubled the length of the assignments she issued him, and he seemed to have hit a dead-end in his animagus training sessions. Training with Dumbledore was extremely tiring as it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the old man out of his mind. During the last training session, Harry had just managed to cut him off as he reached his memory of the cave.

If it had been difficult to manage his schedule before Lupin had arrived, now it was practically impossible. The sandy-haired professor had him meeting in the Room of Requirement daily so that they could continue their lessons. While the lessons were extremely practical and would more likely than not prove useful, Harry had never felt so run down in his life. The only time he had left to himself was now allotted to quidditch practice, and he hated to admit it, but he did not receive the same thrill from flying that he once did. He was constantly daydreaming now, about nothing in particular, when Ron would catch him hovering with a glazed expression on his face and the snitch twittering just behind his ear.

With Harry’s new decision to no longer interact with Ginny over the next week, both Ron and Hermione noticed a significant change in his moods. He had always been a touch short-tempered and easily agitated to a certain extent, but now it took only the slightest of comments or actions to throw him over the edge. He was constantly snapping at his friends and losing concentration during quidditch; Ron was worried that he might need to substitute Ginny as the Seeker for their first match if Harry did not improve by then. The first and second years all left the common room whenever he would come in, worried that they might get a tongue lashing if they got in his way.

The last straw was on a Thursday night after dinner. Harry had so eloquently suggested to Colin Creevey where he might stick his camera after the younger boy had asked if he would like to play Gobstones. Colin had hurried off with a horrified and terribly wounded look on his face, prompting Hermione to speak up.

‘Harry! What do you think you’re doing?’ she shouted at him in the middle of the common room, clearly unconcerned about onlookers. If anything, they would probably agree and even support her. The few present in the room all stared in shock at the bushy-haired Prefect that was always sitting under the window working endlessly through her homework.

‘Colin did nothing wrong. All he did was ask you to play a game of Gobstones. It’s one thing for you to treat Ron and me like that, as much as we love it, but that was completely uncalled for!’

Ron and Ginny sat at the table under the window, Ron inspecting the window hangings with great interest and Ginny staring at the ceiling so not to catch Harry’s eye.

‘You’re acting as though,’ she paused for a moment and Harry could see the anger in her face, ‘as though you were Malfoy!’

Silence rang through the air for a second while everyone in the common room gaped at her. Ron’s eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline and he was staring at Hermione in shock. Neville and Marc were sitting in armchairs by the fire and were now openly gaping at Hermione as well. The only person to seem unopposed to this comparison was Ginny. She sat in her seat and looked blankly at the fighting pair. She had also evidently had enough of his behaviour recently.

Hermione was now standing in front of Harry with a faltering expression of anger on her face. It was evident that she regretted what she had said, and even more evident that she refused to take it back. Harry just stared at her for a moment in shock and let her comment sink in. His face contorted in disgust as he too stood up and stared her in the eye.

‘You take that back,’ he said in a slow drawl, not unlike Malfoy’s.

Hermione stood her ground and shook her head firmly, but her eyes betrayed her as they started to fill with tears. ‘You’re not acting like yourself, Harry. I’m worried,’ she said firmly, blinking back her unshed tears.

Harry looked around to his friends, knowing that Ron, Neville and Marc would surely back him up. He found that he was wrong as each of the boys slowly looked away, Ron looking sick to his stomach as he did.

‘Fine then!’ Harry said loudly and started to walk toward the dormitory stairs. ‘You want Malfoy, I’ll show you Malfoy.’

Hermione stepped forward and grabbed his arm to stop him, “Harry wait-’ But she could not finish because Harry whirled around and fixed an icy glare on her.

‘Get your hands off me, Granger.’

She gasped and let go quickly, and then the tears brimming in her eyes began to flow down her cheeks. He turned away from her and started up the stairs to his dormitory, knowing that what he had just done had probably been the worst insult Hermione had ever received from a friend. He cringed as he heard Ron trying to comfort her and the porthole slam shut as she exited the common room.

Harry lay down on his bed and pulled the hangings tightly around him, not wanting to be bothered by any of the people who called themselves his friends. He laid thinking for a while about everything that had happened to make him act the way he had. The worst part of it all was that he knew he was wrong, that Colin had not deserved to be snapped at, and that Hermione most certainly did not deserve what she got.

It was for the best though. He had decided that morning that it was what needed to be done. He did not like the idea of Ron and Hermione hating him, but at least if they were not his friends, they would not be hurt when the attacks began. It was only a matter of time before they did. Halloween was just over a week away, and Harry felt certain that Voldemort would soon make his move. He could not prevent the attack, but he could and would keep his friends out of the line of fire.

Harry started to think of what tomorrow would be like, whether Ron and Hermione would hex him or perhaps ignore him all together, when he heard someone clearing their throat just on the other side of his hangings. He pulled them aside to reveal Neville, standing awkwardly at the edge of his bed, rocking his weight back and forth as he stared at Harry. There was no distinguishable emotion written on the blond boy’s features and Harry was unsure of what to make of him. This would be the first time he could ever remember Neville seeking him out at school to start a conversation.

‘Listen, Neville,’ he started calmly, ‘I’m sure you think I’m an idiot and hate me, and think I’m terrible for what I said to Hermione and Collin, but-’

‘I know what you’re doing,’ Neville interrupted him quietly. ‘And you’re right about it being terrible.’

‘What?’ Harry said to him, sitting up to see the boy a little more clearly.

‘I said I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to keep Ron and Hermione safe by pushing them away from you.’ He said this nervously but in a steady voice.

Harry just stared at Neville, unsure of what to say. How had he known?
‘It won’t work you know. Voldemort already knows who they are, and he definitely knows how much they mean to you. No matter what you do, they won’t be safe.’

Harry sighed and leaned back in his bed again. Neville was right; there was absolutely no way to protect his friends, and now he probably didn’t have any.
‘Neville, I’m sure you mean well, but you really have no idea what you’re talking about.’

‘Don’t I?’ Neville said in a firm voice now, an eyebrow raised. ‘You forget, Harry, that I too was born as the seventh month died.’

Harry sat up again and stared intensely at Neville Longbottom, the cowardly boy who would sooner hide in a broom closet than face his grandmother. Now he was quoting a line of Harry’s prophecy, every hint of uncertainty gone. How could he have known? Before Harry could question him, he began to speak again, this time with very little emotion.

‘There is one thing we agree upon though Harry. You’re friends are in danger no matter what. The problem is not that we care for you enough that we will stand behind you until the very end. It is that a war is coming, and it’s not just for you. There have been casualties along the way, and I’m sorry to say that you were not the only one left orphaned. This is our war and until you see that, I’m afraid I have to agree with you. You are an idiot.’

With that said, he turned on his heel and headed silently back down to the common room, leaving Harry sitting in the dark feeling more foolish than he ever had before.

*

The next morning, Harry awoke to unfamiliar surroundings. Everything was bright and clean and the sterile smell of cleaning spells and starched sheets lingered in the air. It took him several moments to remember that he had come to the hospital wing last night under his invisibility cloak. Not wanting to face any of his roommates, he decided that Madam Pomfrey would easily give him a Dreamless Sleep potion and he could worry about his friends, or the lack there of, the next morning after an uninterrupted sleep.

He got out of bed and looked around for any indication of what time it might be. He spotted a small clock on Madam Pomfrey’s desk and read half past eight. That left him plenty of time to get ready and get to Transfiguration in time. He thanked the stars that it was Friday and that he would not have Snape today, as he would most likely do everything in his power to worsen Harry’s situation.

He dressed quickly and explained to Madam Pomfrey that he was feeling much better, thanking her for the potion and heading toward the Transfiguration classroom. Upon entering, he found that he was the first one to arrive and did not like the idea of waiting in a quiet room for Ron and Hermione to enter and ignore him. Instead, he walked directly to the front of the room and struck up a conversation with Professor McGonagall, who still seemed to be grading the seventh year papers he had seen six weeks ago.

‘I’m not entirely certain of what might be causing the halt in your training,’ she answered him thoughtfully, as they tried to figure out what had caused the sudden lack of progress. ‘This has never happened before now, and suddenly it seems to be the trend,’ she mumbled to herself in frustration.

‘What do you mean the trend?’ Harry asked, not following what the tight-lipped professor meant.

‘That’s not important, Potter,’ she brushed the question away. ‘I just meant that for that last few sessions nothing has changed. Now take your seat before anyone catches on.’

Harry turned to find that most of the students had now entered the classroom and that Ron, Hermione and Neville were among them. Hermione looked pointedly in the opposite direction of where he stood, while Ron just seemed to stare at his desk. Neville on the other hand seemed to have an air of indeifference, pulling out his homework assignment and his text as though nothing had occurred between them the night before. Harry was thankful for this as he took his seat next to him and also removed his essay and wand for the lesson.

The lesson flew by today, even though it was a double period, as McGonagall had each student pair off and practice transforming a desk or cabinet into an animal. Harry and Neville in particular found the lesson to be quite entertaining as they both managed to complete the transformation by the end of lesson. Harry’s desk became a large tortoise and Neville’s cabinet broke into a group of small penguins. Even McGonagall had smiled when she had seen it. Other than them, only a handful of other students had managed to complete the task.

When the end of lesson bell rang, Harry started to clear up his things and told Neville that he would see him in Defence after lunch, but the blond boy would not allow it.

‘You can’t skip lunch too, Harry. Besides, Dumbledore said that there would be an important announcement during lunch today.’

Harry tried to protest but finally gave up when it was clear to him that Neville would not. They started to walk to the Great Hall after noticing that Hermione and Ron had already left, clearly not wanting to talk to him. On the way to lunch, Harry decided that he was in fact very lucky to have a friend like Neville, who could put his differences aside and understand what he was going through, even if he did not have the full story.

‘Er, Neville. I just wanted to thank you for what you did last night. I didn’t think about what I was saying and you’re absolutely right. I had no right-’

‘Don’t mention it,’ he said with a smile. ‘What’s the point of having friends if they don’t tell you when you’re being a prat?’ They both laughed at this as they entered the crowded hall and headed for the Gryffindor table.

Hermione had once again ensured that Harry could not sit anywhere near her by having the other Gryffindor sixth years fill the seats around her. To avoid causing a scene in front of the whole school, Harry quietly walked to the far end of the table and took a seat across from Gabrielle Delacour and the first year girl called Deidre. He wasn’t quite sure what to talk about with the first year girl that he did not as of yet know, but moments after introducing himself, Neville began speaking to her as though they were old friends.

‘So, how did Professor Sprout like your essay?’ he asked the small girl eagerly.

‘She loved it! I got an Outstanding, thanks to you,’ she cried and reached across the table to hug the older boy. She sat back down and flung her long golden curls over her right shoulder before continuing with her story. ‘Everyone in class just sat there amazed as I gave the history of the Devil’s Snare.’

‘Sprout even gave ‘er ten points for the information,’ Gabrielle said smiling broadly at her friend.

‘I told you that book would help you. I’m just glad you’re enjoying Herbology as much as you are.’

‘Tank-you for the book on ‘eestory of Magic as well, Neville. It ‘as ‘elped me to understand Professor Binns. I will steel need ‘elp with the essay if dat is alright?’ Gabrielle asked him.

‘Of course, and make sure you bring your essay, Deidre if you want me to look it over. Tell Sarah to do the same.’

Harry just sat in amazement as his friend surprised him again. Apparently he had not been off doing remedial everything, but helping the first years with their assignments. Harry wondered if he would ever fully understand Neville Longbottom. His thoughts were then interrupted when McGonagall stood at the head table and cleared her throat loudly to get everyone’s attention.

‘If you would all please listen for just a moment. After discussing it with your newest professor, the teachers have all agreed that you have all been working very hard this term. To reward you for your efforts, we have decided to throw a halloween ball in lieu of the first Hogsmeade trip. Professor Delacour will be in charge of this event, so please if you have any questions, direct them to her. As it is replacing the Hogsmeade trip, the usual rules will be extended to invite the third years on this occasion.’

There was a cheer from all of the third years and a small groan from the younger students as their professor sat back down to eat her lunch.

‘So, ‘oo are you going to ask?’ Gabrielle asked Neville with a smile. ‘And you ‘arry?’

Both boys looked at one another for a moment before shrugging.

‘I don’t know,’ Neville answered. “I haven’t even had a minute to think about it.’

‘Yeah, and I don’t think I’ll go,’ Harry told the girls. ‘I’d much rather stay in and relax, maybe play a game of wizarding chess.’

As lunch came to an end, Harry and Neville said goodbye to their first year friends and headed out of the Great Hall toward their last class of the week, Defence with Professor Black. Harry once again sat with Neville, and tried his best not to look at either Hermione, Ron or Professor Black, as she would probably make some sort of example of him. Unfortunately, the icy-eyed professor chose to punish a different Gryffindor today, and of all the people she could have chosen, she selected the one that made Harry feel worst.

‘Today we will be working on the Morsus Minoris curse. It is a far less painful version of the morsus Adficio curse, but is still extremely effective. I would like for each of you to read the curse over in your books once again, and then I will have a pair demonstrate it for the class. Remember, the goal is not to kill your opponent, but simply cause them enough pain to stop them killing you.’

The class gasped at the thought. The professor was actually going to let someone be harmed during the lesson. Harry looked over and noticed a large smirk on Malfoy’s smug face. After about half an hour of reading and reviewing the Morsus curse, Black called their attention to the front meaning that it was time to select the students who would act as examples.

‘Is there anyone who would like to volunteer?’

A soft chuckle swept the classroom as most of the students scoffed at the idea. Who would subject themselves to that? A lone hand raised at the back of the room.

‘Very well Mr. Malfoy. Since you are the only student brave enough to volunteer, you shall be administering the curse,’ she said with a small smile on her face. ‘And I think we can find a suitable Gryffindor to be your partner. They are after all the courageous among us, are they not?’ Now she stared at Harry without any trace of a smile on her face. Harry took a deep breath, knowing what was to come and started to hoist himself up. He stopped midway when she called another name.

‘Miss Granger. Please join Mr. Malfoy at the front of the room.’ Everyone in the room gasped again, some of them snickering, but most of them feeling terribly bad for her.

Harry watched as she gave Ron a nervous glance before planting a look of resolve on her face and walking to the front of the room. She stopped in front of Malfoy and very respectfully bowed the way she was taught to before a duel.

‘I’m sorry Miss Granger. You must have misunderstood. This is not a duel, and you are not to defend yourself in any way. In fact, could you please place your wand on my desk until the demonstration is over.’

Ron was now seething in his seat and started to visibly shake when he saw the firm look on Hermione’s face falter momentarily. She placed her wand on the desk and stepped back in front of Malfoy, completely vulnerable and unready to be cursed. Professor Black explained to the class what they would see, and while her back was turned Harry watched Malfoy clearly mouth the word Mudblood to Hermione.

‘You may now begin,’ Professor Black gave the word.

Malfoy raised his wand and smirked as he prepared to do what he had wanted to since his first day at Hogwarts. ‘Morsus Minor-’

‘Expelliarmus!’ Malfoy was thrown back against the blackboard and his wand flew across the room where it landed neatly in Ron’s shaking fist.

‘Got yourself a girlfriend have you, Weasley,’ Malfoy sneered as he stood up and dusted himself off.

‘Mr. Weasley! That will be fifty points from Gryffindor for interrupting my lesson and attacking a fellow student.’

‘Yeah, before he attacked an unarmed student.’

‘That’s enough, Mr. Weasley! Ten more points from Gryffindor, and a detention tonight in my office at eight o’clock. You have a serious problem with authority and rule breaking. I’ll never understand how you became a Prefect!’ The Slytherins all laughed openly.

‘That might be so!’ Ron shouted at the professor in the middle of the room. ‘But at least I have the courage to attack someone with a wand and a little dignity! That’s more than I can say for you!’ With that he flung Malfoy’s wand at the professor and stalked out of the classroom, slamming the door behind him as he left.

‘MR. WEASLEY!’ Professor Black shouted after him at the top of her lungs. The classroom sat in silence as their petite professor shook with rage at being spoken to like that in front of the entire class. Her generally tight bun was now coming loose, and light cloloured strands of hair were openly falling into her face.

‘Very well,’ she said, slowly calming down and turning back toward the front of the room. ‘Mr. Malfoy, would you please continue?’ He picked up his wand and once again raised it.

‘No!’ This time Harry was standing. Professor Black smiled in triumph. Hermione shook her head no.

‘Yes Mr. Potter? Is there a problem?’

‘I’d like to take Hermione’s place,’ he stated, leaving little room for argument.

‘Very well, Miss Granger would you please take your seat. Another five points from Gryffindor for not completing your task.’ Malfoy looked as though Christmas had come early.

Harry walked to the front of the room and placed his wand on the professor’s desk. He walked up to Malfoy and bowed deeply while the class watched in silence. Even the Slytherins said nothing. In a second, Malfoy had raised his wand and slashed it downward crying ‘Morsus Minoris!’

Harry immediately felt white hot pain wrack his body. He let out a small grunt and fell to his knees. This was not a great feeling, but next to the Cruciatus, it was a walk in the park. Malfoy finally lifted his wand and ended the curse, looking extremely smug and satisfied with both himself and Harry’s reaction. Harry looked up to find Hermione with a hand covering her mouth and angry tears in her eyes.

‘Very good! You may both take your seats.’ Professor Black told the boys. ‘Ten points to Slytherin for the perfect execution of the curse.’

Of course he had perfect execution, Harry thought, his father probably taught it to him by age five.

‘And fifty points to Gryffindor for that incredible show of strength. Mr. Potter here is the first person I’ve ever witnessed not to pass out under the pain of the Morsus curse. It shows great strength and a will to survive. I congratulate you,’ she said in a firm but respectful tone. The entire class stared at her in disbelief. ‘Now, there will be no assignment, and do find yourselves dates by tomorrow night or Miss Delacour will have done all this work for nothing. Class dismissed.’

Harry stood at his desk as all the other students piled out of the room quickly, so that they could discuss what had just happened as soon as they were out of earshot.

‘Can I help you Potter?’ she asked as though she had not just subjected him to pain moments before.

‘You haven’t given me my essay topic yet,’ he said through a clenched jaw.

‘That will be fine Potter. I think you’ve done enough today to earn an Outstanding. I will see you on Monday, and do tell .Mr. Weasley to be here on time for his detention.’

*

That night at dinner, the news of what had happened in Defence class had spread like wildfire. Every student was discussing it, and it even appeared that the professors were interested in the matter as well. McGonagall did not look all too pleased with Professor Black this evening,

Harry once again sat at the end of the Gryffindor table with Neville and the first years, and they all had a great conversation about chocolate frog cards. It turned out that Neville had quite the collection since he started it eight years ago. Several times during the course of their meal, all of the students would look up and watch as yet another boy walked up to Professor Delacour and asked her to go to the ball with them. Harry laughed when he remembered their fourth year, the look on Ron’s face after he had asked Fleur to the Yule ball. He had not meant to, but the Veela in her inexplicably drew the males in the castle to her. It seemed that little had changed since the last time he had seen her. Fleur had always loved the attention, and today was no exception. Harry rolled his eyes.

‘I do hope dey give up soon,’ Gabrielle said in an annoyed voice. ‘I ‘ave already been asked by seven people seence my last class.’

‘But you’re a first year. You can’t even go,’ Harry said curiously.

‘I know, but dat has not stopped your friends,’ she said with a smile.

‘You mean sixth years are asking you out?’ he said in astonishment.

‘Just one. De rest were from fourt and fift year. You know one of dem no? Ernie, from Hufflepuff?’
Neville and Harry laughed at this, agreeing that they would have to make fun of their friend the next time they saw him.

‘You haven’t said yes to any of them, have you?’ Harry asked the small girl, who as they spoke, twirled her long blond hair with her finger and batted her eyelashes at the Ravenclaw table. She was going to be worse than her sister.

‘No. Der would not be much point. Every boy asks me because dey cannot help it. Eet ees de Veela. If I go to a ball, I want eet to bee wit someone who wanted to ask me. I’m just glad my Veela ees not as bad as Fleur’s yet,’ she finished, and watched with a laugh as Colin Creevey made an embarrassing attempt at her older sister.

Harry also laughed at the look of disgust on Snape’s face every time a student walked up to the staff table. Dumbledore on the other hand seemed to find it quite amusing.

After dinner, Harry and Neville walked back to the common room with Gabrielle and Deidre, all talking about what it was like in Hogsmeade village. Harry realized that he would much rather have gone to see the twin’s joke shop than step on some poor girl’s feet at a dance.

Harry’s schedule was cleared this evening when he saw a notice cancelling quidditch practice. Apparently Ron would be attending his detention with Professor Black, leaving little time for him to plan a practice. Sorry that Ron would have to suffer whatever that foul woman had planned for him, Harry decided to get a start on his weekend assignments and then perhaps he could read through some more of his Animagus text to try and find out what was preventing him from completing the transformation.

He sat in one of the seats beneath the windows and methodically worked through his essays one at a time, frequently being disturbed by students asking each other to the ball and a small group of second and third year girls moaning about not being able to go. He found it quite difficult to concentrate as both Hermione and Ginny were sitting by the fire, chatting about their classes, and still completely ignoring him. Harry had listened intently when Hermione told Ginny of how Ron had earned himself a detention, and the way Ginny had smiled warmed him through.

He was just finishing his last assignment, an essay on the disillusionment charm for Professor Flitwick, when the porthole opened and an extremely disgruntled Ron walked through. Only he and Hermione were left in the common room, Harry at the table and Hermione in front of the fire with her Ancient Runes text.

Ron looked around the room and his eyes rested on Harry for a moment before turning to Hermione. ‘Uh, Hermione? Could I talk to you for a minute? In private.’

She started to get up but stopped when Harry stood up instead. ‘I can take a hint,’ he said, and collected his things before going up to his dormitory. Once there, he sat on the edge of his bed and chuckled at the lazy snores emanating from behind Neville’s hangings.

Harry concluded that he was not yet tired and looked around for something to do. Then he decided that he would not stay up here just because Ron wanted to talk to Hermione without him there. Grabbing his invisibility cloak, he headed back down the stairs, intending to go to the kitchens for a snack. All of the essay writing had depleted his energy and cheer; both things that he suspected could be improved by a slice of gooseberry pie and a butterbeer. He crept down the stairs slowly and emerged into the common room, completely covered by the invisibility cloak. He did not want the pair to think that he was watching them. He looked over and noticed that they were both sitting in front of the fire now and that Ron in particular looked extremely ill. He took a step closer, just to make sure that his best friend was alright.

‘I was just wonderin’ Hermione,’ Ron was saying in a shaky voice, ‘you know if maybe you wanted to, because it would be alright if you didn’t. Yeah it’d be ok. But if you wanted to go to the ball with me, that’d be alright.’

Harry just gaped at his friend. He had finally done it. Harry had known since his fourth year that Ron had liked Hermione, but he didn’t think he would ever get up the courage to do anything about it. And the way they always fought, well, Harry knew that Hermione must have liked Ron as well. He looked over to her and was shocked to see the look on her face. She now looked sicker than Ron had. A horrified expression lay on her features and her eyes darted around to try and find something to say.

‘Oh Ron,’ she started, ‘I would but I can’t. I’ve already said yes to someone else.’

Harry’s heart sank with a thud into his stomach. Ron would be crushed. He knew the feeling of being too late to ask someone to the ball. He had experienced the same thing with Cho in fourth year.

‘Oh. Well, that’s alright,’ Ron said, quickly standing up and starting to back away so that Harry could not see his face. ‘I said it was alright if you didn’t want to. I figured you wouldn’t, but I thought I’d ask anyway.’

‘No, Ron,’ Hermione said, looking more sorry than Harry had ever seen her look before. ‘If Roger hadn’t just asked me before dinner-’

‘Roger!’ Ron spluttered, and Harry could now see the look on his face. It was the look of someone who had been betrayed. Behind the anger, Harry could see that he was wounded far more than Hermione had been the night before, and it was not likely that he would get over it any time soon.

Ron turned without another word and ran up the stairway to the boys’ dormitory, leaving Hermione in front of the fire, her face glowing in the light from the fire, and tears in her eyes glistening as she tried to hold them back.

Harry shook his head sadly as he made his way for the porthole. He couldn’t believe what had happened. The trio was no more.

*

The next morning Harry awoke early to avoid facing Ron, especially now that he would probably be more depressed than he ever had been. He got dressed and went down to the Great Hall, hoping that there would be someone who didn’t hate him to sit with.

He found that many students had woken early this Saturday, and assumed it was on account of the ball being so near. Only Ginny and Dean were sitting at the Gryffindor table, and Harry decided that he didn’t particularly want to sit with them, so he turned around and started to head back out.

‘Harry!’ a girl’s voice called to him from his left. He turned to find Cho waving at him from the Ravenclaw table, where she sat alone with Luna Lovegood. ‘Come sit with us,’ she called again.

Harry thought about it for a moment, and finally decided that he was extremely hungry and that it couldn’t cause much harm. He strode over to the table and awkwardly sat down across from the girls. It felt so strange sitting at any table other than Gryffindor. He was surprised to find that a cushioning charm had been placed on the benches. Why had the Gryffindor’s never thought of that? Then again, the Ravenclaws were chosen for their cleverness.

‘Hello Cho, Luna. How are you?’

‘I’m good Harry, how are you? Are you finding the sixth year courses difficult to keep up with? I know my N.E.W.T.s are dreadful,’ Cho said as she took a sip of pumpkin juice.

‘They’re alright,’ Harry lied. ‘But I am a little tired,’ he admitted with a crooked smile.

‘I noticed,’ Luna said in her regular dreamy voice. ‘You’ve missed breakfast a few times in the past week.’

Harry laughed and gave her a curious look. He quite liked Luna and decided that perhaps he’d not given her enough credit as a friend. ‘I didn’t know anyone was keeping track.’ Luna said nothing but raised an eyebrow and went back to reading a copy of the Quibbler magazine upside down, her head bobbing back and forth as she did.

‘So, what’s new with you Cho?’ Harry asked, starting to pile eggs and bacon onto a plate in front of him. ‘Are you ready for the first quidditch match next Saturday?’

Cho smiled at him and chuckled. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to leave that alone,’ she said. ‘Yeah, I think we are. We have a great team and a great captain this year.’

‘Really, who’s that?’ Harry asked around a mouthful of hash browns.

‘Me,’ she said, and smirked as Harry choked on the potatoes and started to cough. ‘I’m not that bad,’ she joked.

‘No, no,’ Harry said. ‘I think it’s great. Congratulations! We have a great team this year too, and Ron’s captain. He’s doing a great job!’

They continued to talk and laugh for about half an hour until Harry noticed that most of the students had now entered the hall and many of them were staring oddly at a Gryffindor eating at the Ravenclaw table. Ginny kept looking over at him, and Malfoy seemed to have a keen interest as well. Harry wondered if perhaps he was breaking some age-old Hogwarts rule. Up at the staff table, Professor’s McGonagall and Flitwick seemed to be having quite the discussion about it, and the tiny professor repeatedly pointed his hand in Harry’s direction several times in a two minute window.

‘Well, I think I had better be going then,’ Harry said with a grin, and Cho looked around before grinning back.

‘Sounds like a good idea,’ she agreed. ‘Before you go though, Harry, will you be going to the ball?’

Harry froze. He had thought that Cho was over him, and he definitely didn’t want her to ask him out in front of the whole school. He had decided not to go, and now it looked like he would get stuck going with Cho.

‘Er, no. I don’t feel much like dancing today. I think I’ll stay in and read up on my transfiguration. Like you said, the course load is dreadful.’

Cho looked slightly disappointed but did not press the matter further. She said goodbye and told him that they should have breakfast together more often. Harry agreed and called a quick goodbye to Luna before heading off to meet Lupin for their next training session.

He walked down the seventh floor corridor toward the Room of Requirement, thoughts of Cho and the dance swirling through his mind. If he hadn’t said no to her, would she have asked him to go the dance? Perhaps he was simply being egotistical, and she had not intended to ask him out, but was just being polite and making conversation. She did seem far more collected than the last time Harry had been on a date with her. Perhaps she had finally dealt with Cedric’s death and was looking to move on ... with him.

Harry walked into the Room of Requirement, now looking exactly the way it had during his fifth year for DA meetings. Everything was back to exactly the way it had been, down to every last book and even the cracked foe glass that had hung in the imposter Moody’s office. Lupin sat waiting for him, an impossibly large text lying open on the table in front of him where he scanned its contents. He looked up when he heard Harry come in.

‘How are you today, Harry?’ he asked and walked over to join him in the middle of the room. Harry shrugged and pulled out his wand to begin. ‘Still haven’t patched things up with Ron and Hermione then.’ He said this as more of statement than a question.

Harry just stood with his wand outstretched and ready in his dueling stance. Taking that to mean it was not up for discussion, Lupin decided to start the session with a ‘Tarantallegra!’ that Harry easily avoided before sending back the Inverso jinx, and flipping Lupin onto the ceiling. The dueling continued for the next hour, both of them continuously besting one another until finally Harry called out Morsus Minoris and watched as Lupin dropped his wand and cried out in pain. He immediately stopped the curse and ran over to Lupin in panic.

‘Are you alright Remus?’ he asked in a worried voice, instantly regretting using the curse. ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.’

‘Where did you learn that curse?’ he asked him in a slow and laboured voice, turning his eyes up to Harry.

‘Defence class. Professor Black had Malfoy use it on me yesterday in class,’ he said plainly, thinking that everyone in the castle had heard about it by now.

‘She did WHAT!’ Lupin positively roared in the angriest voice Harry had heard him use.

‘It’s alright, it was for a demonstration. I’m not hurt,’ Harry told the hysterical man, who was now collecting his wand and his briefcase.

‘You can go now, Harry,’ he said firmly. ‘I have something to take care of.’ Before Harry could protest, Lupin had stormed from the room and the door shut behind him once more.

*

Neville spent the day helping the first year girls with their essays, leaving Harry with essentially no one to speak to. This suited him fine, as there were still several assignments and lessons that he could read ahead in and hopefully master some more of the wand movements. He also took his chance to apologise to Colin for his dreadful behaviour the other night. Colin was more than pleased to accept and started to ask if he wanted to play Gobstones before deciding that he better not press his luck. Harry just laughed at the boy, and told him perhaps later.

Hermione had once again spent the day in front of the fireplace, writing away feverishly at her essays and reading through text after text. She looked distracted and repeatedly looked over her shoulder whenever the portrait swung open to admit someone. As far as he could tell, Ron had not yet returned to the common room from this morning’s breakfast. Finally at about one o’clock, Ron, Parvati, Lavender, and Neville all came strolling through the porthole laughing and talking about Peeves’ latest gag: splashing out of the twins’ memorial swamp as students passed by, effectively coating them in thick green swamp sludge.

Neville immediately came to sit with Harry and told him how Hannah Abbot would most likely not be at dinner, because she would be too busy trying to clean her hair of sludge for the dance. Harry laughed with him before noticing that everyone was here except for one person.

‘You haven’t seen Marc in class have you, Colin?’ Harry asked.

‘No Harry, he wasn’t there after lunch again. Sorry, Harry!’ he said before turning to take a snapshot of the five first year girls all together.

Harry assumed that he had gone to visit his aunt again, and hoped that she was doing better. He would have to ask him why she was in St. Mungos.

Harry and Neville both watched with trepidation as Hermione got up from her seat and went over to where Ron was sitting with the other sixth years.

‘Ron, could I talk to you for a moment?’ she asked quietly and motioned toward the other side of the room.

‘Yeah, go on,’ Ron said, clearly not getting up to move anywhere.

‘Oh, well, I just wanted to tell you that Luna has agreed to go to the ball with you if you’d like.’ She said this with an encouraging smile and waited to hear his answer.

‘That’s nice Hermione, but I’ve already found a date,’ he said coolly.

‘With who?’ she asked incredulous, her hands now on her hips.

‘With me,’ Parvati said, standing and walking over to sit next to him. ‘He asked me this morning after breakfast. I didn’t think he’d ever ask.’

‘Well, I hope you two have a wonderful time,’ Hermione said tersely before storming up the stairs where everyone heard the door slam loudly.

That night, dinner had been moved up to four o’clock to allow for the set up of the ball. Harry walked down with Neville and Colin, discussing how much they disliked their Defence professor. Neville told Harry that Ron had heard about how he had taken Hermione’s place, and that he wasn’t truly angry with him anymore, but simply bothered that he would treat Hermione so terribly. They all sat down and started to eat while Colin talked about how excited he was to be going to the ball; he had finally asked Padma Patil, who had said yes immediately. He went on about how he hoped the hall would be properly decorated so that he could snap as many photos as was possible. Neville on the other hand said very little, and Harry got the idea that like him, he would not be attending.

Ron finally joined the table and for the first time in two days looked over at Harry and genuinely smiled. Harry smiled back and gave a small laugh, more out of relief than anything. It appeared that Hermione would not be joining them for dinner, as she was either getting ready for the ball or simply too angry to be near either of them. Harry chanced a quick word with Ron and said that he thought it was great that he was going with Parvati. Ron shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly but became bright red in the ears.

‘Who are you going with?’ he asked Harry, and waited for the likely response of Cho Chang. He looked surprised when Harry told him he was not attending.

Harry stood to return to the common room when he had finished eating and told Neville and Ron that he would see them later. They both waved him off and he started to make his way out, but stopped when he heard his name called out across the hall the way it had been this morning. He expected to find Cho calling him over and was surprised when he saw Fleur walking across the hall toward him. The hall had gone silent as every male in the room watched her progress toward the boy-who-lived.

‘‘arry,’ she said when she finally reached him in the middle of all the tables.

‘Hi, Fleur,’ he said, wondering if perhaps she needed help decorating the hall, or maybe he had forgotten to hand in a Charms assignment.

‘Are you steel not go-eeng to dee ball?’ she asked, and flipped a strand of her long silvery hair over her shoulder. Even the girls were watching them now.

‘Er, no. I didn’t find a date.’ He lied, not wanting to hurt her feelings. She had after all set up the whole affair.

‘Good. I was ‘oping you would attend wis me?’ she said matter-of-factly.

Harry just stared at her for a moment, unsure of what to think. Had he heard her correctly? Then, as though it was out of his control, he said yes.

‘Good, you can come and get me at a quarter too seeks.’ With that, she leaned up and planted a kiss on his cheek before turning and heading out of the hall.
Every head watched her as she left and then snapped back onto him once she had. He just stood there in shock. He held a hand to his cheek and stared over at Ron and Neville, both of who were now slack-jawed. Then they started to laugh, and he walked back to the table to find out what their problem was.

‘What exactly is so funny?’ he said, embarrassed that the whole school had witnessed Fleur’s display.

‘Oh, it’s nothing, Harry,’ Neville told him between chuckles. ‘Ron and I just discussed it, and it seems you’ve just received your first French kiss.’
 

 


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