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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 14 : Ravenclaw Vs. Gryffindor
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 8


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A/N This is the longest one so far. Hope you're all still enjoying it :o)




Chapter 14: Ravenclaw Vs. Gryffindor


Harry sat back down at the Gryffindor table and looked around to surreptitiously check everyone’s reactions. As expected, he found most of the girls talking excitedly in hushed whispers to one another, every now and then throwing a glance or a smile his way. The boys on the other hand were not so discrete, openly discussing Harry’s obvious flaws and the injustices of being turned down for him.

Harry shook his head, readying to leave, and he took note of something he had not expected. Cho sat at the end of the Ravenclaw table, oblivious to the discussions around her as she stared at her dinner plate. She was near tears, a look Harry was all too familiar with. As he crossed the hall, Cho caught his eye briefly and he saw hurt before she quickly looked away and left, herself. Harry felt terrible. He had made a point of telling Cho that he would not be attending the ball, and then hours before it began, accepted a date right in front of her and in front of the whole school. Why had he accepted? He didn’t even want to go to the ruddy ball, and especially not with Fleur. All she ever did was attract attention to herself, which undoubtedly meant that he would also be dragged into the limelight.

As he walked out of the hall, he tried to focus on the door upon noticing the menacing looks he was getting from a group of seventh year Ravenclaws. He made his way back to the common room still trying to figure out where he had gone wrong. He had not meant to say yes to Fleur, and yet he had felt compelled to. Then it dawned on him.

‘She used her Veela on me!’ he said aloud in outrage. ‘I cannot believe her!’

He stormed through the round room, not bothering to say hello to anyone, and thundered up the stairs to his dormitory, intent on staying there for the remainder of the evening. If Fleur wanted to play games, he could more than easily play along. Then he decided against it when he imagined the look of embarrassment on her face if she had to show up to the ball alone. After her display in the Great Hall, the entire school would be expecting him to show up with her, and he did not have it in him to make her feel foolish. He knew what that felt like.

The decision to go was soon followed by a plethora of others as Ron practically ran into the room and rushed toward his trunk.

‘Are you almost ready Harry? We don’t want to be late. Especially you since you have to pick her up early.’

Harry didn’t have any appropriate dress robes for the occasion and wasn’t sure what to do about it, so he grunted miserably instead. Those from the summer wedding were entirely inappropriate for a ball and the ones from his fourth year were far too short for him now. There was not nearly enough time to order a new pair.

‘Here, hold them up,’ Ron said. ‘I’ll show you a quick charm to lengthen them for a while. It’s not permanent but it will have to do until you can get a new pair.’

Harry pulled his wrinkled navy blue dress robes out of his trunk and watched as Ron waved his wand lazily at the bottom hem shouting ‘Engorgio Momentias!’ The robes lengthened several inches before Harry laid them down on the bed and tried his best to smooth out the wrinkles.

‘This is hopeless. The last time I took them out of the trunk was for the Yule ball in fourth year.’

Ron scrunched up his face at the memory, and then threw his robes over his head and let them drop into place. ‘Well, what do you think? Presentable?’

Harry looked over at him and smiled. He was wearing a new set of high quality forest green robes, just the right size, and clearly not a pair of hand-me-downs. ‘Yeah, those are great! Where did you get them?’ he inquired of the new robes with a small grin, knowing full well that the twins had purchased them for him with the Tri-wizard earnings he had given them.

‘The twins,’ Ron said with a look of disbelief on his face. ‘I don’t know why, but I’m glad they did it. Do you remember my old ones?’

Harry tried to feign ignorance, shrugging his shoulders and pretending as though they were not half as hideous as they actually had been.

‘Mind you, I do still think these ones will blow up on me or something. Probably right in the middle of the dance floor, leaving me starkers.’ Harry laughed at this, but the look on Ron’s face was grave.

The next step was for Harry to try and tame his hair. He knew that there was nothing that could be done to flatten it, but still he tried his best to hold it down with his hands as he brushed it. Finally satisfied, although the mirror was not, he left the washroom feeling as prepared as he could for an evening that would surely prove to be excruciatingly boring.

At half five, he said goodbye to Ron, telling him that he would meet up with him later, and that they should try to get seats at the same table. He was nearly in the common room when he realised that he had no idea where he was meeting Fleur. She had given him a time, but for all the galleons in the world, Harry would not know where to look for an assistant teacher in her down time. He ran back up to the dormitory and asked Ron if he knew where the teacher’s quarters were, perhaps having been told on becoming a Prefect.

‘No, sorry mate. I don’t think they want us knowing where they live,’ he laughed. ‘Could you imagine if the Twins had found out where Snape slept? It would have been disastrous!’

Harry laughed at the thought, knowing that they would have found some diabolical scheme to infuriate the greasy professor beyond all reason.

‘Why don’t you try the map?’ Ron suggested, and Harry kicked himself for not having thought of it on his own.

He pulled out the old folded parchment and quickly tapped it with his wand, staying ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’ Instantly the familiar hallways and classrooms began to appear on the yellowing parchment, along with hundreds of tiny labels. He searched quickly for any signs of professors grouped together, hopefully indicating their quarters. Unfortunately, they all seemed to be in their offices, or still down in the Great Hall helping with the preparations.

He was about to give up when he saw Fleur Delacour pacing back and forth in a small room on the sixth floor. Scanning the area, he found that Professor Sprout was present in a room just next to hers. He pocketed the map so that he could use it again if he got lost before making his way back out of the common room.

Harry found himself on the sixth floor much sooner than he wanted to be, and standing in front of a large stationary painting of Hogwarts’ Founders. ‘Should’ve known,’ he said to himself as he raised an arm and knocked loudly on the frame. A few moments later, he heard someone bustling from behind the portrait and was surprised to find Professor Sprout swinging it forward.

‘Forgotten the password again Filius-’ she stopped when she saw Harry. ‘Potter? What are you doing here? You’re not to know where the professor’s quarters are.’

‘I’m sorry Professor. Professor Delacour asked me to collect her for the ball,’ he said quietly, turning slightly red in the cheeks. ‘I didn’t tell anyone though,’ he added quickly, hoping this would alleviate her worries.

She took a step out and looked around behind him to ensure that no others had followed him.

‘Very well, come in quickly. I don’t want anyone else to see where we are. It’s the only peace we get you know.’

Harry followed her down a narrow but comfortable hallway lit by torches similar to those in the Room of Requirement. They stopped in front of the second door to the right and Professor Sprout told him to be quick about it, and not to tell anyone that she had permitted him to enter, before heading off to the next door and disappearing into her rooms.

Harry knocked on the door and waited nervously before hearing ‘Come een,’ and pushed the door open. He gasped when he saw Fleur’s quarter’s, deciding that they were rooms worthy of being attached to the Prefects’ bathroom.

His eyes wandered around the room, starting at the swirling marble floors and travelling up the tapestry adorned walls, and then finally landing on a magnificent crystal chandelier, hanging in what he assumed was her main sitting area. Everything was in shades of blue and bordered in silver, giving off an ethereal glow. He ought not to have been surprised, based on what he knew about Fleur. He found Fleur standing in the middle of the living area and having a conversation with a floor length mirror.

‘You look wonderful dear,’ it was telling her, but she refused to listen, opting to fidgit with the long violet sleeves of her dress robes instead.

‘Perhaps I should wear thee ozer one,’ she said finally, turning toward what Harry assumed was her bedroom at the back of the quarters. ‘I weel be right zer ‘arry,’ she called before closing the door behind her.

Fifteen minutes later, Harry watched from his new position on Fleur’s sofa, as the bedroom door opened and Fleur stepped out in an outfit like no other he had ever seen. He had been ready to tell her off for making him wait so long, but upon seeing her, his jaw went slack and his mind sort of fuzzy.

Fleur laughed at seeing this. ‘So you like eet?’ she said, fluttering her eyelashes.

Fleur had somehow turned a traditional pair of dress robes into an off the shoulder gown, fit for royalty. The flowing baby blue robes were held over her right shoulder with a large shining clasp, and left open in the front to expose a more figure fitting silver dress beneath. Harry continued to gape. He had never seen anything quite like it, and was certain that she would earn many appreciating gawks during the ball. It looked as though she had simply pulled her hair up loosely and pinned it with another silver clasp, yet it looked fantastic. Harry could not help but wonder why he had felt apprehensive about going with her. Then he remembered.

‘Fleur!’ he said firmly, ‘You have to stop this!’ He set a stern look on his face and looked into her sparkling eyes, now filled with confusion.

‘Stop what ‘arry?’ she sounded genuinely confused. ‘Do you not like eet? I can change eef you like?’

‘No, that’s not what I meant. I meant the Veela. I know it’s how you got me to say yes today in the Great Hall.’

Fleur’s smile instantly vanished, replaced with sadness. She looked crushed. ‘I deed not use the Veela ‘arry. I just asked you, just me,’ she said to him, turning her eyes away now.

‘You could have picked anyone else. There were plenty of other boys who asked you, and I watched you turn them down. Besides, what if I had already had a date, and you made me say yes to you in front of the whole school? Do you not think of anyone’s feelings?’ Harry said, the anger now evident in his voice.

‘I was waiting to ask you,’ Fleur said, quieter now.

‘I’m sure you were. I am the one person who could get you more attention!’ he said loudly, unconcerned by his own rudeness.

Fleur’s eyes were now filling with tears. ‘Zat is not why. I said no to thee othair boys because zey are attracted by thee Veela. You are not. I remember last time I was here. You barely even looked at me.’

Harry thought about this and realised that she was right. Ron had been affected but he had barely given her a second glance.

‘And I knew zat you deed not ‘ave a date, because I ‘ad Gabrielle ask you. I do not want to go to thee ball weeth someone under a spell. But I do not want to go weeth someone who zinks I need thee attention eethair. Goodbye ‘arry,’ she said with one last quivering word before turning back toward her bedroom.

‘No. Fleur, wait!’ he called and ran over to where she was. ‘I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have assumed that. It was wrong of me.’ He truly felt terrible. Everything she had said had been true. She had actually asked him because she wanted to, and now he had gone and accused her of being an attention seeking date stealer. ‘Please come to the ball with me. I don’t know what I was thinking, of course you were right.’

He thought about what an idiot he was around girls, especially the ones that seemed to like him. After a few more minutes of calming and coercion, to his relief, Harry and Fleur were walking down the sixth floor corridor and toward the Great Hall.

At the edge of the entrance hall, Harry spotted a large crowd of students outside the doors to the Great Hall, some wearing the traditional dress robes and some taking the more original choice of wearing Muggle style gowns. Professors McGonagall and Flitwick were standing at the doors being sure to mark off each student’s name on a list as they walked through the doors. Fleur held onto Harry’s arm as she walked gracefully down the stairs, and they both waved happily at Padma Patil and Colin Creevey where they queued outside the doors. In front of them, just going through the doors was Marc, a very excited looking Hannah Abbot hanging on his arm. Harry smiled. He had not thought to ask with whom Marc was going.

A quick glance around the entrance hall told Harry that his little outburst with Fleur had caused them to be the last ones to arrive.

‘Ahh, Mr. Potter and Ms. Delacour,’ Professor Fliwick said cheerily as he checked them off his list.

‘Everything looks wonderful, Fleur,’ McGonagall said, complimenting the decor of the Great Hall. ‘And you look lovely.’

‘Zank you, Minerva. You look very nice as well,’ Fleur said politely, and then dragged Harry through the doors.

As soon as they were through the large archway, people started to look their way, just as Harry knew that they would. He could also feel McGonagall’s eyes on his back, and wondered what she thought of all this. Surely it wasn’t an issue, otherwise any number of people would have spoken to Fleur before the ball. He tried to ignore the stares, but it was difficult as they were not so much looking, but staring at his date.

Harry took in his surroundings and admired the excellent job Fleur had done in decorating with only a day’s notice. The conventional house tables had all been removed and were now replaced by dozens of smaller round tables, each equipped to hold six couples. The enchanted ceiling was not depicting the overcast sky that could be seen outside but instead a slowly swirling navy sky, dotted with gleaming stars and a large blue crescent moon. Jack-o-lanterns hung in the air in the place of the regular candles, allowing a flickering orange glow to be cast over the many tables, and the house banners had been replaced by floating ice sculptures. Harry laughed when he saw Peeves stuck to one of them by his tongue.

Finally, Harry noticed Ron’s elaborate arm waving from a table in the middle of the room. He and Fleur weaved their way through the tables and found their seats at Ron’s table. Harry pulled out Fleur’s chair for her before taking a seat himself and taking in the people with whom they would be spending the evening.

So far he and Fleur would be sharing with Ron and Parvati, Lavender and Seamus, Marc and Hannah and to his dismay, Ginny and Dean. Two seats still sat empty, and Harry figured that Roger and Hermione would soon occupy them. He groaned at the thought of the evening becoming even more uncomfortable once Hermione showed up with the Head Boy. Not only did he not make up with her yet, but now he would also have to see the tension between her and Ron. Brilliant. Between that and the pointed glares he had been getting from Ginny all week, Harry was seriously beginning to regret this decision.

Hannah, the only student from a different house, decided to strike up a conversation. It was quite obvious that she did not mind sitting with the Gryffindor crowd and she laughed and joked with everyone around her.

‘So, why isn’t Hermione sitting with us? I thought for sure she would. I mean we saved seats,’ she said casually.

Harry looked to Ron before answering. ‘I’m sure she’s just running a little late. She should be here soon.’

‘What do you mean? She’s sitting right over there with Roger and the other Ravenclaws,’ Hannah said, pointing across the hall.

Ron whipped his head around quickly and Harry followed Hannah pointing finger across the room. Sure enough, there was Hermione, sitting next to Roger and laughing as he placed his arm around her bare shoulders. Harry could see the red in Ron’s face start to rise, but Parvati apparently did not take notice, as she was too busy staring at Hermione.

‘Wow! She looks really nice tonight. I wonder how she gets her hair like that?’ she said in awe.

‘We’ll have to ask her later,’ Lavender added in agreement.

Harry had to admit that she did look good. She had evidently bought a new Muggle gown in vibrant lilac, and Parvati was right to mention her hair. She must have asked Penelope how to do it, as it was almost identical to the bride’s; soft curling locks pulled atop her head with only a few glistening strands framing her face and falling down the nape of her neck.

He started to look away when he noticed with whom Hermione was speaking. He was shocked to see that she was having a civilized conversation with Cho, and that neither of them looked even the slightest bit uncomfortable or upset. He was about to point this out to Ron, but before he could, Professor McGonagall had stepped up to the front of the hall and was clearing her throat loudly to get their attention.

‘We will soon be starting the festivities,’ she said crisply, and instantly the students fell silent. ‘Before we start with the meal, I would like to compliment the wonderful decor and ask that you all give a warm thank you to Professor Delacour for organizing it.’ The students all clapped loudly for Fleur, who stood up and made a small curtsy.

‘Now to start the ball, Hogwarts has always had the same tradition, as most of the older students will remember. The Head Boy and Girl have always had the first dance, but I have been informed that for the first time in fourteen years, the Heads have not come together. In order to maintain tradition, we shall compromise. Would the Head Boy and Girl please take the dance floor with their dates.’

Everyone watched as Roger Davies and a blushing Hermione made their way to the center of the dance floor. Then eyes started to search for the Head Girl.

‘Is Miss Bell in the room?’ McGonagall’s voice was heard again.

‘Yes Professor, I’m right here,’ came Katie’s voice, and everyone turned to see her rushing through the great doors, her arm tightly wrapped around Neville Longbottom’s. Katie pushed onward, dragging Neville along with her while the entire hall watched their progress. Once in the center of the dance floor, McGonagall declared the ball commenced and with a flick of her wand an eerie Halloween ballad filled the hall.

Everyone watched as, though on cue, Roger and Hermione sprung into action, beginning a graceful tour around the dance floor. They seemed to have perfected this dance beforehand, and as soon as they had completed circling the floor, Katie and Neville joined them, repeating the same steps but this time both couples circled one another as they toured the room. All of the students watched in awe as the four students in front of them performed flawlessly under the warm glow of the many hovering jack-o-lanterns. The music slowed and both girls found themselves being dipped low by their partners. The end of the song was met with an eruption of cheers and most of the students stood and applauded for their friends.

If Hermione had been red before the dance, it was nothing in comparison to the deep scarlet that had taken over, and that in turn was very subtle next to Neville. Harry clapped loudly and Ron also stood and applauded, although his shouts were calling out to Neville and Katie. It appeared that he would not be letting up on Hermione any time soon, but he had at least stopped glaring at her. Unfortunately, as Harry, Ron and the others began to sit down, they found themselves once again upright at a new onslaught of cheers and catcalls. Harry saw why they were all cheering and grimaced as Ron looked over in time to see Roger Davies remove his mouth from atop Hermione’s.

For a moment, the look on Ron’s face was undecipherable and it went blank. There was no sign of anger or jealousy or even sadness. Harry was not sure what to think, but then he noticed something in Ron’s eyes, a small change. His regular brilliant blue had momentarily faded and the warmth usually found within them had vanished. Harry had seen Ron angry and extremely distraught, but it was nothing in comparison to what he was seeing now. Ron had shut down and completely given up. His eyes were empty.

He opened his mouth to say something but was cut off by Ron turning to Parvati and smiling bigger than Harry had ever seen.

‘I was thinking we could go and practice some new plays tomorrow? Do you have any plans?’

Parvati grinned back in agreement and slipped her hand into his. Before Harry could say anything to his best friend, the golden plates and goblets in front of them filled with food, and the noise level of the hall exploded as the meal began. Their table waited a moment for Neville and Katie to join them before attacking the incredible food in front of them. To Ron’s delight, a small basket of his favorite golden fried potatoes appeared in the middle of the table, as well as a variety of other delectable finger foods.

The twelve friends ate and talked amicably for the next hour, each of them telling stories of their previous years at Hogwarts, Marc and Fleur of course being the exceptions. Marc chose to tell about what it was like where he had lived in Bulgaria, while Fleur described Beauxbatons castle and what it was like during Halloween. Even Hannah had several amusing tales about Hufflepuff house to which all of the Gryffindors listened attentively and laughed heartily afterward. The evening really was turning out to be more fun than Harry had expected. The general tension of sitting with a new teaching assistant faded nearly immediately, and the group was getting along famously with Fleur. Harry only wished he could have a word with Ron, as there was quite certainly something amiss with the redhead.

Finally, the food in front of them disappeared and Harry watched from the corner of his eye, as several couples made their way onto the dance floor, music once again filling the air. It only took a few moments before Hermione and Roger were among the dancers. Seconds later, Ron had asked Parvati to dance and Katie was once again leading Neville away from the table. Dean and Ginny were next to go, soon followed by Marc and Hannah. Now Harry and Fleur were sitting alone at their table, Fleur looking expectantly at Harry while he tried not to notice. If there was one thing he hated more than the stares he generally received, it was dancing while people stared.

‘So Fleur, how do you like working with Professor Flitwick?’ Harry asked, hoping to pull her attention away from the happy laughing people on the dance floor.

‘Eet ees alright so far. ‘e ees very nice to me and I am learning much from heem. How do you like the classes I teach ‘arry.’ she asked him now.

‘Er, they’re great!’ he told her with a huge smile on his face encouragingly. ‘I love going to them,’ he lied, not having enjoyed many of the Charms classes he had attended this year. After having pre-read his textbook during the summer, the course presented little challenge for him and he found it to be slightly boring.

Fleur smiled widely and her eyes shone brighter upon hearing this.

‘How long did you say that you and Gabrielle will be staying here?’ he asked now, trying to keep the conversation going.

A couple of seventh year boys walked by and all winked or called at Fleur as they did. She waved politely at them before turning back to Harry and rolling her eyes. Harry laughed.

‘Gabrielle should be feeneeshing all seven years at ‘ogwarts, and I shall stay near her. As long as Professor Dumbledore ees okay weeth it, and zer is a job.’

‘Won’t your parents want to see you at all?’ he asked now, still finding it curious that Gabrielle would be going to Hogwarts instead of Beauxbatons.

Fleur looked away from him now, a look of worry evident on her face while she searched for something to say. ‘Zey do not mind,’ she finally said. ‘zey will see us during the breaks, non?’ She was now twirling a finger in her hair nervously and Harry could tell that she was bothered. He decided to change the subject and not press the matter any further.

Harry managed to keep Fleur talking for the next twenty minutes without interruptions, and he was starting to find that he had been wrong about her. She was much more intelligent than he had first thought and she was actually a really nice girl. He found out that she had just turned nineteen at the beginning of October and that her middle name was Isabelle. Unfortunately, Fleur noticed when her favourite song started to play and Harry could no longer keep her mind off dancing. She got to her feet and held out her hand for him to take. He did, and the pair walked onto the dance floor.

About half of the students were now dancing to this song, and Harry was surprised to find Malfoy to be one of them. He was dancing quite happily with Pansy Parkinson wrapped around his neck. Then Harry noticed that Crabbe and Goyle had also elected to come to the dance, but they were once again dateless.

His attention was snapped back to Fleur as she placed one of his hands on her hip and grabbed the other in her hand. He blushed brilliantly and smiled nervously at her as they moved around the dance floor, similar to the way that the Heads had done with their dates earlier. They were careful not to hit any of the others and Fleur laughed a few times as he stepped on her foot or tripped over his own.

Harry couldn’t help but smile at this girl who, yesterday, he would not have even considered dating. Now he found that she was really quite fun and not near as arrogant as he had thought. Harry now hoped that he might spend some more time with Fleur, although without the pretense of a school ball, would that be allowed? The song ended and a slower one began.

Harry turned to make his way back to the table but Fleur wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer to her. He could feel the red in his cheeks start to climb again as they slowly danced and he placed his arms around her waist. He remembered having to dance with Parvati at the Yule ball, but it had been nowhere as nice as this. He had been embarrassed and clumsy. With Fleur, he felt comfortable and could tell that she was too as they continued to dance peacefully, her head now resting on his shoulder.

Harry looked up and noticed that Ginny was glaring at him from where she danced with Dean across the room. Then he saw that Cho was also looking quite upset with him as she silently danced with Michael Corner. Ron’s attention on the other hand was completely absorbed by Parvati and the pair danced closer together than Harry would have thought possible. They both wore forest green robes and it was difficult to tell where Ron ended and Parvati began. Harry noticed that Ron was smiling and that Parvati looked like she was in heaven.

The song ended and most of the students went back to their seat for drinks or to talk to the others at their tables. Harry found himself not wanting to go back so he asked Fleur to dance again and the pair started up the quick-paced trot around the hall. Hermione and Roger were also still on the dance floor with them, along with Malfoy and Pansy, and now Marc and Hannah.

The music picked up and the four couples did the same, all intertwining as they sped around the room excitedly. Katie and Neville joined in and the other students were now grouped around the dance floor cheering for their friends and watching intently as they each tried to keep up. As the evening went on, more and more pairs would join in, hoping to keep up with those that had started it.

When the evening finally came to a close, and McGonagall began to usher everyone out of the hall, Harry told the others that he would see them in a while and left with Fleur, deciding it would only be right to walk her back to her quarters. They continued to talk and laugh on the walk back to the portrait of Hogwarts’ Founders but Fleur paused before giving the password.

‘I cannot geeve you the password ‘arry,’ she told him disappointedly.

‘Yeah I figured. Professor Sprout didn’t seem too happy when she let me in earlier.’ Fleur smiled at him. ‘Well, I had a really great time Fleur and I’m glad that you asked me to go. Sorry about being such an idiot before.’

‘I had fun as well,’ she told him with a small smile, then leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek again.

‘You had better not be using your Veela on me again,’ he joked and she laughed at this.

‘I would never dream of eet ‘arry. Besides, we both know zat eet does not work on anyone who eez not attrac-’ she was cut off as Harry leaned forward and kissed her.
*


The following week sped by as Harry continued his regular hectic schedule, but now with several minor changes to it. He still attended all of his lessons and quidditch practices, as well as his Occlumency with the Headmaster, but now he had asked Lupin if they could train every other day instead. At first, Lupin had not been impressed with the idea, but when he realised the reason behind Harry’s wanting the time off, he gladly agreed, slapping him hard on the back and smilng.

Harry was also pleased to be making such progress in his Animagus training as well. McGonagall could not explain the sudden hault or surge of abilities he was showing, but she was thoroughly pleased with his results. He had now almost completed the transformation. He was able to transfigure each of his body parts one at a time into those of a Mustang, but he had yet to do it all at once. McGonagall told him that he should be able to do it successfully by mid-November.

It was already Friday morning and almost an entire week had passed since the ball. Hermione was still not talking to either him or Ron, and Harry had still not had the chance to apologise to her. This was largely due to her never being in the common room anymore. She had abandoned her seat under the window where she regularly did her homework after dinner, and Harry had not been able to find her. After a couple days of this, he had looked for her on the Marauder’s Map and found that she had been in different places every night, but each time he checked she was with the same person: Roger Davies.

This morning the sun shone brightly in the clear sky. It had been a while since conditions like this had been seen, and Harry hoped that they held through to tomorrow’s quidditch match against Ravenclaw. He dreaded the thought of competing against Cho, now more than ever, since he had practically lied to her.

The great hall this morning was a cheery place to be, as the enchanted ceiling portrayed the sunny outdoors without the harsh October winds that were sure to be outside. The Gryffindors walked toward their table but Harry told them he would join them in a moment when he noticed that Cho was sitting alone at her table.

He decided it would be best if he apologised to her now, before it was too late and she hated him forever. He walked toward the Ravenclaw table and sat down across from her, once again being taken by surprise at the softness of the seats. Cho looked up at him as he sat down, and Harry noted the shock on her face before it became firm and her lips formed a thin line. She huffed loudly and then turned back toward her breakfast.

‘Cho, I’m sorry,’ he said. He noticed that he was apologising far too often these days. ‘I didn’t mean to make you feel bad last week. I really didn’t want to go to the ball-’

‘Then why did you?’ she said angrily and shot him a glare. ‘Is she that much better than me?’

‘Cho it’s not like that. I wasn’t going to go at all, but then she asked me in front of the whole hall. I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of the whole school. You have to understand,’ he pleaded.

She still did not look happy with him, but the glare was gone and she seemed to be more at ease. ‘I still don’t see why you wouldn’t go with me,’ she said. ‘I thought we had good times together,’ she added.

Harry raised his eyebrows at this.

‘Well, alright. Not good times, but alright times. I just didn’t think you were going to hate me because of it.’

‘I don’t hate you. I just don’t think we should date,’ Harry explained to her plainly.

‘Oh, but you’ll date her,’ She said a little more loudly nodding toward Fleur at the staff table.

Harry looked to the front and found Fleur waving from where she had been watching them over her breakfast with a curious look. Harry thought about how to answer Cho for a moment and decided that the truth was probably the best way.

‘Yeah, I will. In fact, I am. Since the ball.’ Cho started to turn away again. ‘But you have to understand, I didn’t plan it Cho. She asked me, and I only went so that she wouldn’t be embarrassed, but then it turned out she really is nice, and funny, and quite smart.’ The look on Cho’s face told him that he should probably stop there. ‘I just hope you won’t stop talking to me, because I really would hate that,’ he told her and started to stand up.

‘I won’t,’ Cho said and grabbed his wrist to pull him back into his seat. She tried to smile. ‘I’ll even try to be happy for you.’

‘You don’t have to be. I don’t think I would have been if you started dating someone.’ This made her smile and laugh a little. ‘Enough of that then. I’ll catch you tomorrow on the pitch,’ he told her.

‘Stay. Eat breakfast with me again. Remember we agreed last week that you would more often,’ she reminded him.

Harry looked over at his friends who were now staring oddly at him from the Gryffindor table, and then at the staff table where Professors McGonagall and Flitwick seemed to be once again discussing his being at another table. ‘Sure,’ he said and waved up at the staff table while he piled some eggs onto a plate. McGonagall and Flitwick both froze for a moment before going back to their meals as though nothing out of the ordinary had gone on.

‘So, how do you like being the captain for Ravenclaw?’ Harry asked her as they started to eat.

‘It’s been wonderful so far. I’m really glad Roger let me have it.’

Harry looked at her oddly for a moment while he thought about what she had just said. ‘That’s right, Roger was captain. Why did he give it up? He hasn’t left the team has he?’ Harry asked with concern, although he truthfully would not have minded if Roger was not playing against then tomorrow.

‘No no, he’s still with us, but since it’s his eighth year at Hogwarts and my last, he decided it would be fair to give me a chance at it, since it would have probably been me anyway if he had left,’ Cho explained.

‘Why didn’t he?’ Harry asked. ‘I mean, I know he’s really smart being in Ravenclaw so why didn’t he graduate?’

‘He did, but he wanted to take some extra courses before going on and Dumbledore allowed it. He wants to become a Demon Hunter for the Ministry, so he’s taking some extra Defence courses with Professor Black.’

‘Demon Hunter? I didn’t know there was such a thing, or that it would be through the Ministry,’ Harry said in surprise as he pictured Roger fighting demons.

‘Yeah, you have to have top marks and experience with healing is dead useful. Roger’s also learning two nights a week with Madam Pomfrey,’ Cho told him.

‘Wow. And I thought he just came back to get another chance at Head Boy,’ Harry laughed. Cho looked down.

‘I was only kidding, but don’t you think there’s a disappointed seventh year Prefect somewhere who had been hoping to be Head Boy?’ This made Cho look even more upset. ‘What is it Cho? You can tell me,’ he asked her, completely bewildered by her actions.

‘Well,’ she said slowly and looked back up at him with tears in her eyes, ‘it would have been Cedric.’

Harry felt as though he had run headlong into a brick wall.

‘I am so sorry Cho. I didn’t mean to bring it up. I wasn’t thinking,’ he spluttered.

Cho wiped her tears away and laughed a little. ‘Don’t worry about it Harry. It’s not your fault.’

Harry tried to smile at her again, but found it hard as the image of Cedric’s lifeless eyes stayed in his mind.

‘Well, I should get going,’ Cho announced as she stood up to leave. ‘I have a quidditch match to win tomorrow,’ she said with a wink. ‘You had better be ready, Potter.’
*
Harry walked down the seventh floor corridor that evening toward the Owlery. He had finally written a letter to Dudley after dinner and decided to send it before he was too busy and forgot. He scrunched up his nose at the familiar smell of too many birds in one room, then lifted his arm and waited for Hedwig to come to him. She landed happily and nipped at his ear affectionately while he stroked her and reached into his pocket for some treats. It had been a while since he had sent or received any mail, so Hedwig had been on what could be considered an owl’s holiday for quite some time.

Harry tied the letter securely around her leg with difficulty as it was not rolled, but rather in a Muggle-style envelope he had gotten from Lavender so not to arouse suspicion at Dudley’s school. Once secured, Harry told her to bring it to Dudley at Smelting’s Academy and to make sure that she was not seen by any of his roommates. She hooted her understanding and took off through a window, soaring into the inky night sky as Harry watched.

He stayed in the owlery for a while, simply staring out at the night sky and wondering what it felt like to be Hedwig, flying free through the sky, not a care in the world. She had a good job and a constant supply of food and friends. He decided that he would not mind being an owl for a while if it meant escaping his life.

Ever since breakfast, Harry had been unable to rid his mind of thoughts he had thought were long since buried. He had finally dealt with Cedric’s death, but now it appeared that he was mistaken. He had cleared it so far out of his mind that he showed no sign of even remembering his friend. Instead he laughed and joked about Roger taking some poor envious Prefect’s place, as though he was not dead, but somewhere in Hogwarts living the good life.

Harry tried to calm himself on the walk back to his common room. He ought about all of the good things that had happened to him lately in place of the large list of bad. He was friends with Ron again. He smiled at this. Marc was a great new friend, and Neville had turned out to be as well. He was back on the quidditch team and hopefully tomorrow he would win another match. He and Cho were friends again. And then there was Fleur.

Since the night of the dance, they had been spending as much time together as they could. During his time off from Lupin every other day, they had gone on walks around the grounds and Harry knew more about her than he ever thought possible. It was as though they had known one another for ages. Day by day, Harry found that he grew fonder of the blonde girl and there was little that brought him down.

It was also clear to the school that he and Fleur were together, and most of the students had accepted it. Malfoy shot daggers at him every chance he got, commenting during meals on how he couldn’t believe a real Tri-wizard champion could ever see anything in a deluded scar-head. This suited Harry fine, because although Malfoy was a Prefect and had the power to punish him if he retorted, Fleur was a Professor in training and reminded him of this by taking twenty points from Slytherin and placing him in detention. The look on Malfoy’s face had been priceless.

Harry reached the portrait of the fat lady and gave the password ‘Doxy Dust’ before heading toward the staircase with the intention of getting a good night’s sleep before the match tomorrow. Before he could make it to the stairs though, he was called from near the fire by Ron.

‘Oh, good mate,’ Ron said to him, ‘I’ve been looking for you all night. Percy sent an owl and there was something for you too.’ He handed Harry a small wrapped box and beckoned for them to sit back down near the fire. Harry explained to him that he wanted to get some rest, and when he told him it was so that he might play better during the match, Ron practically shoved him up the stairs.

Harry unwrapped the small box from Percy and found an interestingly carved wooden box. Inside he found a small card and a handful of chocolates. Harry was surprised to hear that Percy and Penelope had not yet returned from their honeymoon. According to the card, they had stayed in Paris for several weeks before going on to Spain and then Belgium, where they had bought the chocolates. Apparently the couple would stay abroad until it was time to come home for Penelope to have their daughter. This reminded Harry of spending Christmas with all of the Weasleys and he got excited at the thought of staying with everyone at the Nest again.

He drifted to sleep quickly with thoughts of Christmas and Fleur floating in his mind, every last ounce of sadness and frustration leaving him for the night.
*
The next day was more hectic and charged with excitement than Harry could ever remember. All of the house tables, including Slytherin, had been chatting excitedly and even the teachers seemed to be eagerly awaiting the first match of the year.

Harry found himself talking to Cho for a while at lunch before dressing in his quidditch robes and gathering with the rest of the team in the Gryffindor changing room at three o’clock. Ron looked more excited and nervous than ever before and Harry could not help but smile. He had waited five years for this and finally it was his chance to show everyone he could stand out from his brothers and sister.

‘Alright! Now we all know that we have to crush these Ravenclaws. They’ve always been a fairly good team, but now it appears they’ve added a few new players and are stronger than ever. Chang is their new captain but Davies is still on the team, so chasers you’ll have to keep an eye on him because he certainly knows what he’s doing.’ Ron continued to explain all he could to his team before they had to face the Ravenclaws. ‘Harry should have little trouble catching the snitch, so he’s going to try and wait a while so that we can collect some points first. We don’t want to face the Slytherins with a very small lead.’

‘Not that it matters!’ a voice shouted from the doorway.

The whole team looked up to find the twins, Angelina and Alicia walking in grinning.

‘Hey you guys,’ Alicia said waving at them.

‘So these are our replacements then?’ the twins said pointing at Marc and Seamus, both of whom looked slightly cautious to say anything back.

‘And ours?’ Angelina and Alicia said together and smiled at Ginny and Parvati.

‘I’m surprised, Parvati!’ Angelina said. ‘I never would have pegged you as a quidditch player.’

‘Neither did I,’ Ron said laughing and smiled fondly in her direction. The twins exchanged an odd glance.

‘Where’s Lee?’ Harry asked, looking toward the door for the third prankster.

‘Getting ready in the announcer’s booth. McGonagall wanted him there early so she could give him a lecture on what not to say during the match.’ Everyone laughed.

Moments later, Lee Jordan’s voice echoed over the pitch and Harry could hear the names of the Ravenclaw players being called before Lee announced Cho as the new captain. Now it was their turn.

‘With an incredibly reformed team, Gryffindor is back, stronger than ever with Bell, Potter, Weasley, Evans, Finnigan, Patil and Ron Weasley as the new team Captain!’ Roars of approval reached their ears form the crowded stands as they whipped around the pitch once and landed across from the other team. Madam Hooch waited with the quidditch trunk rattling at her side, the bludgers eager to be released. Cho and Ron stepped forward and shook hands, Cho wishing them luck and Ron returning the sentiment.

Both teams mounted their brooms and kicked off hard, hovering fifty feet in the air. The latches of the trunk were released and Madam Hooch stepped back as the bludgers whipped passed her head and up into the air. They were soon followed by the golden snitch that zoomed erratically past the players and disappeared into the sunshine. Madam Hooch announced that it had better be a clean game before throwing the quaffle into the air and blowing her whistle to start the match.

‘And it’s Bell with the first catch of the quaffle! She whips passed Davies and quickly sends it to Weasley, who dives under Corner and drops it to Patil. Patil dodges both bludgers and loops the second post before sending it through the first hoop! 10 points to Gryffindor!’ Lee shouted. ‘These girls know what they’re doing. I daresay they’re a better team than last year’s.’

Harry noticed Angelina and Alicia glaring hard at him form their seats next to McGonagall.

‘Now it’s Corner with possession. He’s flying low with the quaffle, avoiding a bludger. Passes it to Davies, nearly intercepted by Bell...oooh... gotta watch those bludgers Roger! Now it’s Weasley with the quaffle, weaving between the Ravenclaw beaters. She takes a shot and it’s- NO! It’s no good.’

Harry hovered high above the pitch, squinting in the sunlight to try and see the snitch somewhere but the sun was shining too brightly. He flew a little lower and tried again. He could see Cho on the other side of the pitch, also flying low to try and catch a glimpse of the golden escape artist.

Then he saw something glimmering gold in the sunlight. Before Cho could react he was speeding toward the spectators only to stop when he realised what the source of the shining was. Fleur was sitting in the Gryffindor stands next to Neville and Lavender, her hair held up by a familiar metal clip. Harry felt like an idiot as she waved excitedly at him and he waved back, before turning back to the match. Cho was still searching on the other side of the pitch without any luck.

‘Patil has caught the quaffle again and is heading straight for the Ravenclaw hoops. She passes it to Bell, no she moved out of the way! It goes to Weasley, and back to Patil. These girls are incredible! She shoots at the hoop and it’s good! Gryffindor scores! 20 points Gryffindor!’ The crimson and gold section of the crowd exploded with cheers once more.

‘The quaffle’s been picked up by Corner, and over to Davies.’

Harry’s heart suddenly sank when he heard a familiar chorus rising from the green and silver stands. ‘Weasley was born in a bin, he always lets the quaffle in. That’s why we raise our glass to him, Weasley is our king!’ Harry watched nervously as Roger Davies rushed toward Ron, whose eyes kept on travelling back to the Slytherin stands.

'Bell tries to intercept- OUCH! Great shot by the Ravenclaw beater. Davies continues to the Gryffindor goal post, letting go with one arm and letting it sail past the keeper. No, it’s saved! Weasley has stopped the quaffle. I haven’t seen a save like that since the ex-captain Oliver Wood’s fourth year! This team is certainly improving every year!’

The residents of the Nest were now standing on their seats next to McGonagall and shouting louder than ever. McGonagall sat next to them cheering as well – albeit more reservedly – and showing no signs of trying to reprimand the ex-students. The twins were going insane shouting support to their youngest brother and more importantly gesturing rudely to the Slytherins.

Harry watched the game for a second or two while he hovered high above the other players. So far they were ahead twenty points, and he was to hold off on catching the snitch until they were ahead by about fifty. He sighed, watching Cho whip passed him with a playful smile, and hoped he could either find it before her, or at least keep her away from it for long enough.

Suddenly Cho went into a dive, having obviously seen something near the ground. Harry reacted instantly, angling downward and speeding toward her, wind whipping his face as he quickly caught up. His eyes searched the ground in front of them and sure enough, the snitch hovered lazily about an inch off the ground, daring both seekers to try and reach it without snapping their necks. Cho reached out a hand in front of them, trying her best to stay steadied on her broom, while Harry pulled forward slightly, now only an inch or two behind her. At this rate, they were only thirty meters away and Cho would beat him to it. He tried to lurch forward again but it was no use, she had gotten too much of a head start.

The crowd had fallen silent as they watched the seekers barrel toward the ground, Cho with her arm reaching out and Harry right on her tail. Ten feet from the ground, Cho started to pull up, reaching even farter from her broom and Harry watched as her fingers started to wrap around the snitch.

‘Ahhhhhhh!’ Cho screamed out in pain as a bludger hit her hard on the wrist, causing her hand to open and the snitch to zip away quickly. She tried to stabilize herself on her broom, but her wrist gave away under the pain and she fell sideways off of her Cleansweep and fifteen feet down to the ground. The crowd all held their breath as they watched the Ravenclaw captain land in a heap on the ground. Professors Flitwick and McGonagall were on their feet and heading down toward the pitch. Both teams hovered in the air motionless, unsure of what to do. Madam Hooch blew her whistle and signalled that the match would continue, seeker or not, before heading across the pitch.

Harry was now hovering thirty meters up, after having pulled up form the dive knowing that Cho had caught the snitch. To his surprise she had been hit by a bludger and now lay in a heap on the ground. He looked over his left shoulder and saw the snitch hovering calmly in the sunlight, taunting him and waiting to be caught. He took a deep breath and turned away from it, rushing downward to the ground to help Cho.

The crowd all watched now in curiosity as the Gryffindor seeker dismounted from his Firebolt and reached out a hand to help the Ravenclaw seeker to her feet.

‘C’mon Cho, you can do it,’ he said encouragingly, and she grabbed hold of his hand and hoisted herself up.

‘What are you doing, Potter?’ she asked with a small smile on her face. ‘Why haven’t you caught the snitch yet?’

‘What’s the fun in that if my toughest competitor is hiding down on the ground?’ he said mockingly, before remounting his broom and waiting for her to do the same.

‘I hope you know what you’re doing, Potter,’ Cho warned him with a grin, ‘because now I really have to beat you!’

With that, both seekers kicked off hard and soared into the air, each going toward their respective sides. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Hooch were now standing at the edge of the pitch discussing what had just occurred, each of them with dumbfounded expressions on their faces.

Harry started to search for the snitch again, circling the Gryffindor hoops and checking near the ground before heading up toward the tops.

‘What was that?’ he heard Ron shout to him in exasperation. ‘I know you saw the snitch, Harry. Are you trying to lose for us?’ He sounded extremely put off.

‘Then I’m sure you also know that Cho was lying in a heap on the ground. You don’t want to win by default do you ... captain?’ Harry smiled as he saw the conflicted look in Ron’s eyes.

‘Fine, but don’t let it happen again,’ he said with what was meant to be a stern voice but turned out to be more of a laugh as his mouth turned upward in a grin.

Harry was about to retort but Ron was called away by the quaffle flying toward the middle hoop. He lunged toward it and just barely hit it away with the end of his broom. He really was getting good.

‘Another amazing save by Weasley!’ Lee boomed overhead. ‘Now it’s Patil in possession over to Bell, to Weasley, to Patil, ooh and she’s hit hard by a well directed bludger. Davies heading up the center toward the hoops, no one in his path to stop him. He’s lining up a shot, but what’s this? He’s passed it to Corner and Corner sneaks it through the far hoop! Ten points to Ravenclaw,’ Lee said disappointedly.

The game continued for another two hours, becoming one of the longest matches in which Harry had ever played. Gryffindor had moved up another hundred and twenty points but Ravenclaw had scored another seventy’s. It had been two hours and neither seeker had seen even a glimpse of the snitch. Harry was now circling the pitch again, trying his best to see through the bright sun’s rays, and then angling back down toward the ground. Cho was doing the opposite, now heading upward in hopes that Harry had missed something. Harry grazed the ground until he saw something gold twittering at the base of the Gryffindor goal posts. He tried not to get Cho’s attention as he continued calmly toward it, knowing he could easily beat her to it at this rate.

Unfortunately, the snitch had other plans and darted upward and directly toward where Cho was flying. Harry angled upward and gave a sudden burst of speed toward the other seeker. She looked up at him in confusion for a moment before realising what was headed toward her. She angled downward again and headed straight toward the two of them, her sore arm now reaching out for the snitch.

Both teams had stopped playing, all of the players eager for the match to be over as they watched their seekers barrel toward one another at ridiculous speeds. It was over in a flash as the seekers pulled away from one another, no one sure of what had occurred, and who held the snitch.

Harry watched Cho fly straight at him, both of their arms reached out in front of them, neither of them wanting to lose to one another. Both hands grabbed at the same time, Harry feeling his fingers close around the tiny golden sphere and Cho’s fingers wrapping around his. They pulled apart quickly and whipped back to their respective sides. Everything was quiet as everyone watched with wide eyes to see who had won, and the Gryffindors all burst into cheers when Harry held up his right hand to expose the struggling snitch.

‘Gryffindor wins!’ Lee shouted excitedly from the commentator’s booth and watched with excitement as the old teammates jumped for joy next to McGonagall, who herself looked extremely pleased.

The Gryffindor team all landed quickly and rushed over to tackle Harry. Ron was ecstatic as he wrestled with his best friend on the ground. The cheering continued as every one watched the Gryffindors celebrate on the ground. Harry stood up and saw Cho landing next to her team on the other end of the pitch. She looked disappointed, but smiled nonetheless and gave a small wave before turning to leave. Harry noticed that Hermione was walking alongside Roger as they left the pitch.

‘That was an incredible catch!’ Fred and George both shouted when they reached the team on the ground, closely followed by the other Gryffindors spilling onto the pitch. ‘And I think we have some competition in our replacements,’ Fred added, nodding toward Marc and Seamus.

‘It was nothing compared to those saves Ron made!’ Harry told them, grinning at his best friend. Ron blushed and swiped at the air as though it was nothing.

‘Don’t you be so modest!’ Parvati scolded, running up to him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and kissing him soundly in front of everyone. Shouts of approval from all the Gryffindors filled the air, and Ron looked more shocked and pleased than Harry had ever seen. He couldn’t help but laugh when Parvati stepped back.

‘And that my good Gryffindors,’ she said loudly in a singsong voice, batting her eyelashes, ‘is why Weasley is my king!’
 

 


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