Author's notes:

As promised, a bit longer chapter.

Standard disclaimer: It all belongs to JKR. Thank you JKR for letting us play with your toys.

I will continue to use the occasional song lyric in the story and will give credit at the time when needed.

This is the fifth book in my Slytherin Harry series.

Book 1: Harry Potter and the Muggle's Daughter

Book 2: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Book 3: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Book 4: Harry Potter and the Blood Traitor's Daughter

Book 5: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

If you haven't read books 1-4 you won't know what's going on. But the bonus is you've got four completed books before you even get to this one!


HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

CHAPTER XVI

He's Likely to be Dead


Normally the students would have been going home the day of the ball and those not attending did so. As such, there were no classes. Harry and his friends took the day to just relax. They slept late and then met for the brunch that was being served. It was to be the only meal other than dinner at the ball. Harry wasn't sure how one meal was supposed to carry him from eleven till seven that night so he ate till he was practically sick. Neville and most of his male friends expressed the same sentiments and also stuffed themselves silly. They also piled a bunch of fried chicken wings and bread into a basket Cedric conjured up for a snack later on.

After eating they decided to go for a walk on the grounds. Hundreds of teenagers roaming around with all that snow on the ground could lead to only one thing, and the most epic snowball fight in the history of Hogwarts erupted when Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor launched a snowball into the back of Harry's head. She claimed to have been aiming for Cedric but missed. The way she was laughing and the fact she was possibly the most accurate shot in the school, Harry seriously doubted her earnestness. It didn't really matter though because the fight was on. It raged for hours and Harry was double-crossed and double-crossed himself so many times there really were no sides. Allies were convenient till they weren't and then you stuffed snow down their jumper and ran. He'd been a bit concerned when the Durmstrang delegation joined the fray but he and his friends made sure to stay on the main lawn under the watchful eyes of professor McGonagall as she surveyed the fray from the front steps. His cheeks were red with cold, his nose was running and he was sopping wet, but it was far and away the most fun he'd ever had at Hogwarts; quidditch included.

"Let's storm it," Ginny said.

Harry eyed the impressive snow fort Luna, Daphne and Hermione had magicked up. There were lobbing snowballs over the walls so fast that even with magic Harry wondered how they were doing it. "We'll get murdered," he said.

"CHARGE!" Ginny put her head down and ran. Harry blindly followed. The two were pelted with snowballs left and right but they kept going till they slammed into the walls of the fort and crashed through. Harry tripped over Ginny and sprawled face first into the snow. Ginny jumped on him. "GET HIM!"

"WHAT?" he cried.

"Hold his hands!" Luna cried.

"TRAITOR!" Harry bellowed. Daphne and Hermione pounced on him. Ginny sat on his legs and the others started stuffing snow up his jumper.

"ARRGHH! You'll pay for this, Witch!" A snowball was stuffed down the back of his pants. "BLOODY HELL!"

"YES" Daphne crowed. "AAAIIIEE!"

"I've got ya, Mate!" Neville bellowed. He grabbed Harry's leg and dragged him out of the pileup. Harry scrabbled to his feet. He pressed his back to Neville's while the girls surrounded them.

Harry locked eyes on Ginny. "You are so going to get it."

"Oh, look at that," she said brightly. "Time to get ready." She launched a trip jinx at him and by the time he was on his feet again she was long gone. The other three girls were only a few steps behind her.

"Cheater!" Harry bellowed. The girls didn't slow in their race to the castle. Harry turned to Neville. "It takes three hours to get ready?" he asked.

Neville shrugged. "Fine by me. Gives us time to eat some of that chicken.

The two boys trudged their way up the lawn, ducking a few snowballs along the way. "Thanks, by the way," Harry said.

Neville grinned. "I owed you for earlier."

Harry spun, swept Neville's legs and dumped him face first in the snow. He offered Neville a hand up when he rolled over. "Now we're even." He smirked.

Neville took his hand and pulled, launching Harry over his shoulder. Harry rolled and came to his feet. "Now we're even," Neville grinned. The two eyed each other warily. Neville's size did a lot to make up for the fact Harry was the far better fighter.

"You sure you wanna do this?" Harry asked.

"Bring it, Runt," Neville said.

Harry did.

Ten minutes latter Neville picked himself up for the fifth time. "You about done yet?" Harry asked.

"I can do this all day," Neville retorted. He bull charged Harry and tackled him into the snow. Harry twisted and squirmed and resisted elbowing Neville in the temple and it was his undoing. For one of the very few times Neville caught Harry in a submission hold.

"Argh… Give," Harry said disgustedly. Neville let him go and they lay flat on their backs in the snow. "I thought we were going to eat," Harry said.

Neville rolled over and climbed to his feet. "You dumped me in the snow."

"I should have dumped you over the cliff."

"You can do that tomorrow." He shoved Harry in the shoulder.

Harry knocked his hand away. "Next time I'm throwing the elbow."

"Elbow?"

"I was going to elbow you in the temple just before you caught me."

Neville smirked. "Sure you were."

Harry shoved him. "Watch your back, Longbottom."

"I'm best mates with you. I'm always watching my back."

Harry chuckled. "Or mine."

"That too." The two walked in silence for a minute.

"That was good, Nev."

Neville grinned. "Yeah, I know."

Harry glanced at him. "You know, I think I liked you better when all I had to do to make you wet yourself was look at you."

"Yeah, well, you're still the same arse you were back then. One of us had to change for the better." He shrugged. "Figured it was going to have to be me."

Harry laughed. "Git."

At quarter to seven Harry and Neville found themselves sitting in a replica of the front parlour of Hermione's parent's house. Earlier in the week both Luna and Hermione had expressed disappointment at having no one to help them get ready. Ginny and Daphne had invited them to come to their room and they'd all get ready together but immediately backtracked that that wouldn't work either. Obviously, Hermione and Luna, as they were each other's date, couldn't help the other get ready. The solution, as for so many things, had been the room of requirement. It had given them three separate rooms for them to get ready; one for the boys and two for the girls. The two for the girls were directly connected so Daphne and Ginny could go back and forth between Luna and Hermione, giving all four girls the chance to help each other.

Despite coming up an hour and a half after the girls Harry and Neville were well into their second game of chess. "Your move, Mate," Harry said.

"Gee, I hadn't noticed," Neville, said sarcastically. His pawn was now running about looking for its head. Neville picked the head up and placed it in the pawn's hands. "Here you go, Mate." The pawn set its head back in place. There was a bit of a bluish glow and the piece was whole again.

The pawn turned on Neville. It shook its fist at him. "I told you he was going to do that. Bloody moron!"

"Just get off the board will you?" Neville retorted.

"Just get off the board," the pawn jeered. "Why don't you learn to pay attention?" Neville grabbed the pawn and stuffed it in the bag. "Stupid oaf! How about you let his knight decapitate you next time." Neville stuffed the bag under a pillow.

"Your pieces are a bit tetchy, Mate."

"You try never winning and see how tetchy you are," Neville's knight muttered.

"I won the last match!" Neville complained.

"Even a broken clock is right twice a day," the knight said.

"Oh the hell with this," Neville grumbled. He swept the pieces up and stuffed them all in the bag. "What," he demanded when Harry just looked at him.

"Mate, you need to stop playing Hermione."

"Tell me about it," he muttered.

Upstairs Hermione called, "Ginny," stopping her as she was about to make her way back over to Luna's room.

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

Ginny smiled. "I'm not sure how much help I was. This girly stuff is Daphne's thing."

"Not for helping me tonight."

Ginny frowned. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"Luna's your best friend. You've been far kinder to me than I have to you."

Ginny moved back to Hermione and embraced her tightly. "I hurt you badly, Hermione. I'm sorry."

Hermione returned her hug fiercely. "I'm sorry I hurt you too."

Ginny gave her another squeeze before letting go. The two girls held hands, looking at each other with watery smiles. "How about we promise no more sorries between us?"

Hermione laughed through a sniffle. "I don't know if that's a good promise to make or not."

"We do both have trouble seeing straight in regards to them, don't we?"

"We do," Hermione agreed. "But you should know, I'd be very angry with Harry if he ever really wronged you as well."

Ginny smiled. "Thank you, Hermione. That means a lot to me."

"You really do love him, don't you?"

"I've never not loved him, Hermione."

"Then why?"

Ginny sighed. The truth was a long and convoluted mess she didn't really want to get into but she figured she owed Hermione something. "I was mess, Hermione. So bad I almost killed myself." Hermione gasped. "The short of it is, I didn't believe I even deserved to be alive. And even once I got past that I didn't believe I was good enough for Harry. Truth is, I thought Astoria was far more worthy of him than I was. And maybe she was. Daphne believes Harry could have nearly any girl in the school if he wanted… But he wants me. And I know it may not have always looked it, but there was never a time I didn't want him."

"Never?" Hermione asked.

"Don't believe me, ask Daphne how I reacted when she told me to snog someone else."

"She didn't!"

"She did. She was trying to beat sense into me when she did it. But the thing is, I really can't look away from him. I haven't from the day we met."

"You sound a bit like Harry now, believing your were fated for each other."

"You don't?" Ginny asked.

"I don't believe in fate."

"But you believe in the prophecy?"

"I believe Voldemort will never leave him alone because of it. But the idea that Harry is the only one who can ever defeat him, no, I don't."

"And Harry's vision of me?"

"There is such a thing as coincidence."

"Hermione, that vision, it actually happened." Hermione frowned. "I remember it like it was yesterday," Ginny went on. "That storm, it scared me so bad I didn't sneak out again for months. What's more, I swear, when I landed, I saw a pair of green eyes glowing from exactly the place Harry was watching from."

"That's…"

"The truth," Ginny said.

"You sound so sure. I thought the idea you were fated for him was part of the problem?"

"It was. Sometimes it still is." Ginny shrugged. "Honestly, it may always bother me a bit. But you know, you've struggled with the fact you like girls enough. And isn't that a bit like fate decreeing I was born to be with Harry? Can't you understand a bit about how difficult it is to have your freedom to choose taken away from you?"

"But you can choose to be with someone else," Hermione countered.

"I could," Ginny agreed. "But I'd be just as miserable as you would forcing yourself to be with a man."

Hermione cocked her head slightly. She looked like she might have something else to say but instead she pulled Ginny in tightly. "Thank you, Ginny. Thank you for helping Harry get the egg. Thank you for saving Remus' life and thank you for trying to answer questions I really have no right to ask." She pushed Ginny back and held her by the shoulders. "Not that you need it, but you are good enough for my brother."

A tear slid down Ginny's cheek. "Thank you, Hermione."

Hermione leaned in and kissed her on each cheek. "Sister," she said, pulling back.

Ginny hugged her tight. "I'd like that, Hermione."

"Ahem," Daphne cleared her throat. Ginny let Hermione go and turned to face her other friend. Hermione took her hand. Daphne smiled at them. "Luna's ready if you are. She could come in and we could all finish helping Ginevra."

Hermione blanched. She glanced to the mirror. They'd done very little at all to tame her hair. Daphne had convinced her to wear it completely natural. She'd argued against the blonde for a good half hour before Daphne had agreed to put just a gentle part on the top of her head. It was an Afro, plain and simple and Hermione was decidedly nervous about it. "You're certain?" she asked.

Ginny turned her back, taking both her hands. "Positive," she said.

Daphne came up behind Hermione and wrapped her arms around her. "You've never looked more beautiful." She kissed Hermione's cheek. Hermione took a deep breath. "I'm ready then."

"I can come in?" Luna called.

"Yes!" Daphne and Ginny answered. They let Hermione go and stepped behind her. Luna appeared in the doorway. She stopped dead in her tracks on seeing Hermione. "Wow," she breathed.

Hermione just stared at her girlfriend. Luna truly was a stunning girl, and all made up in a fancy dress with heels and her long blonde hair piled on top of her head, she was show stopping. At least Ginny thought so. Apparently, so did Hermione. Ginny nudged her. "Oh… Err…Whoa," Hermione stammered.

Luna beamed and crossed to stand in front of Hermione. "I shall take that as a compliment."

"You should," Hermione said. She fingered her hair. "You really like it?"

Luna licked her lips. "Can we just skip the ball and go somewhere private for the night?" Hermione blushed furiously.

"Luna!" Ginny cried.

"Don't even talk to me Miss Queen of the Love Bites," Luna countered. Ginny flushed. Luna took Hermione's hands. "You are stunning." She leaned in and gently kissed Hermione's lips.

"No Kissing!" Daphne said. "You'll mess up your lipstick." Luna paused, shot her a look and proceeded to thoroughly snog Hermione. "See how long your lipstick stays perfect tonight, Sister," Luna said when she pulled back.

Daphne rolled her eyes. "I was going to suggest we give the two of you a moment alone but I'm afraid we'd have to get you dressed again if we did."

"Daphne!" Ginny cried.

"What?" she demanded.

Ginny shook her head. "Harry's right, we've thoroughly corrupted you."

"Well I know I'd like to thoroughly corrupt my girlfriend," Luna said.

"LUNA!" all three girls cried.

"OI!" Harry's voice came from down the stairs. "You lot coming or am I going to have to take Neville to the ball?"

The girls all looked at each other. "Don't you dare," Ginny said, focused on Luna.

"You two go!" Daphne shouted back. "We've decided to have an orgy instead." Ginny's jaw dropped. Hermione inhaled sharply. Luna snickered and bit her lips.

Downstairs Harry picked his jaw up from the floor. He focused on Neville. His friend gave his head a shake. "One of you better get dressed and go to the ball with Harry," Neville shouted. "Cause I'm not dancing with him and that means he's likely to be dead by the end of the night." He focused on Harry. "What?"

"Thanks a lot, Mate."

"If I must!" Luna called back.

"LUNA!" Ginny shouted.

Luna collapsed in a chair. "Your faces," she gasped.

Ginny shook her head. "I can't believe I've been out crassed by Lady Greengrass," she muttered. She wagged her finger at Daphne and Luna. "You two are no longer allowed to spend time alone."

Daphne grinned maniacally at her. Hermione clapped her hand over the blonde's mouth. "Don't you dare."

"I'm going down," Ginny said. She quickly left.

Hermione pulled her hand from Daphne's mouth. "Ehh," she said when Daphne drew a deep breath. "Don't ruin their moment."

Ginny marched down the stairs and planted herself in front of Harry. "I blame you," she said. Harry simply stared at her. Her dreads, by now half black with her natural red at the roots had been piled on top of her head. The one streak of hair she'd died purple was a dread to itself and hung down the side of her face. Her neck and shoulders were completely exposed by her strapless gown and it was all Harry could do to stop himself from bending down and ravaging her neck right there. Ginny grabbed his chin. "Hey, eyes up."

Harry grinned at her. "Sorry, did you say something? I was a bit distracted."

Ginny glowered at him. "Do I need to cover up?"

"No," Harry said quickly. "Not at all. You're perfect just like you are." He reached up and played with her one dread. "You're beyond gorgeous," he said quietly. "And you look amazing in green."

"Good thing, that," she said. "It's my favorite colour you know."

Harry grinned and pressed his lips to hers. "Always," he whispered. He bowed his head against hers. She stayed there a moment before pushing back and looking him up and down. "Good choice, I made."

"Sorry?"

"Skipping the orgy."

Harry snorted. "She actually shut me up."

"She shut me up," Ginny giggled. Harry pulled her to him, settling her back to his chest.

"You coming down or not?" he shouted.

Daphne appeared at the top of the stairs and like only she, or perhaps Fleur, seemed capable of, glided down to meet Neville. "Whoa," he said. She merely arched an eye at him. "I mean you look amazing, Daphne," he corrected. He reached for her hand and raised it to his lips.

She smiled. "Thank you, Neville." She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. Neville's face flamed. "You look quite smashing yourself."

"Have they ever kissed?" Harry whispered.

Ginny shook her head. "I think that may have been a first," she whispered back.

"You two can come down now," Daphne called. Luna and Hermione appeared and quickly moved down to join them.

Harry grinned at Hermione. "Looking good, Sis."

She beamed at him. "Thank you, Harry."

He focused on Luna. "Treat her right, don't do anything I wouldn't and have her back by midnight."

"Of course, that leaves a lot of room open and not a chance."

Harry smirked and pulled her into to a hug. "You look lovely, Luna."

She hugged him back and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Harry."

"Shall we then?" Ginny asked, latching onto Harry's arm.

"We shall," Daphne said and set off.

Upon reaching the entry hall, Harry and Ginny broke off from their friends to join the other champions and their dates in the anterior room. They were the last to arrive and received pointed looks from Maxime and Karkaroff.

"About time," Maxime sniffed. Harry bit back the retort on his lips. He was determined tonight, as much as possible, would be about Ginny and himself and wasn't going to let any of the fights he was involved with intrude on them.

"I believe Mr Potter and Miss Weasley are plenty early," Professor McGonagall said pointedly. Harry smiled at her. She had taken to putting Maxime and Karkaroff in their place when they attacked him for doing nothing wrong. She returned his smile. "Mr Potter." Maxime sniffed and left in a huff with Karkaroff following.

"Professor," Harry said. "You look nice this evening."

"As do you, Mr Potter. Miss Weasley, you are quite fetching. I do believe you make a lovely couple."

"Thank you, Professor," Ginny said.

"Would it be inappropriate to request a dance tonight, Professor?" Harry asked.

She smiled at him. "You are the flatterer, Mr Potter, but I am afraid the answer to that is yes."

"I thought so," Harry said. "Perhaps after I graduate?"

"I shall hold a spot on my card for you," Lord Potter.

"Excellent," Harry said. He caught Cedric watching them. "If you'll excuse us."

"Certainly."

Harry led Ginny over to Cedric. "Hello, Rowena," he said.

"Harry, Ginny," she greeted them.

Ginny stepped forward and hugged the older girl. "You look lovely."

"Thank you, Ginny. You're looking rather sophisticated yourself."

Harry stuck his hand out to Cedric. "I see she took pity on you."

Cedric chuckled. "I'm still not sure why."

"Well neither am I," Harry said. "Like I said, you're too damn ugly to be going with her."

"Back at you, Mate," Cedric said. Harry glanced at Viktor and Fleur. "I'm not sure if I'm surprised or not," Cedric said.

"Does he actually like her?" Harry asked.

Cedric shrugged. "No idea."

"Champions," Professor McGonagall said, "if you could take your places." Harry led Ginny over, positioning them so they would enter after Cedric and Rowena but before Fleur and Viktor.

"You know," Harry said quietly, "there is one good thing about being a champion."

"Oh?" Ginny asked.

"The whole school has to watch me walk in there with the prettiest witch in the world on my arm." He set off, pulling her along with him.

Blushing madly Ginny muttered, "Smarmy git."

Entering the Great Hall was a new experience. Between brunch and now the elves had been hard at work redecorating and Harry better understood why there hadn't been an afternoon meal. The house tables were gone, replaced instead by about a hundred smaller ones, all lit with ice lanterns. Garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossed the starry black ceiling. There were massive trees, some thirty feet tall hung with baubles and tinsel in the corners. One side of the room held a stage for the band for later and the other there was a huge ice sculpture of Hogwarts itself. An iridescent blue liquid ran across the surface, spilling over the cliffs into the loch below; punch for later.

"Whoa," Harry said.

"That's impressive," Ginny agreed. Harry led her along behind Cedric and Rowena to the head table. It was covered in a cloth of deep black embroidered with the crests of each of the three schools. Dumbledore, Maxime and Karkaroff, along with Mr Bagman were already at their places. Director Dewer though, was not. In his place was none other than Ginny's brother, Percy.

"What's he doing here?" Harry hissed.

"I've no idea," Ginny said icily. They reached the table and Harry could see spots had been held for each of the champions and their dates beside their headmasters. Cedric took the spot on Dumbledore's right, leaving him the one on his left; which placed Ginny next to her brother.

"Mr Diggory, Mr Potter," Dumbledore greeted them.

"Sir," they responded.

"Ginevra," Percy said stiffly.

"Percy," she returned just as stiffly.

They all took their seats. "Director Dewer had a family emergency. I'm filling in for him. In case you were wondering," Percy said.

"I hope everything is all right," Ginny said.

"I'm certain it will be. He's a great man, quite brilliant really. He's responsible for most of the arrangements for the tournament. It's a great honor to be asked to sit in for him."

"Well," Harry said, "I'm sure it was difficult finding someone who could get their fork from the plate to their mouth without spilling; it's a complicated task after all, not like setting Anti-Summoning Charms at all."

Percy's jaw dropped. "Now see here—"

"Now, now Mr Potter, Mr Weasley," Dumbledore interrupted. "Let's not get into disagreements tonight."

Harry smiled pleasantly at a seething Percy. "Certainly, Sir."

Ginny added a last shot for him. "You wouldn't, by chance, know who was responsible for that, would you, Percy? I'd like to send them a note if you did."

Already red, Percy turned molten. "Th–that is still being investigated," he stammered.

Ginny smiled pleasantly. "Well do let me know."

"Miss Weasely," Dumbledore said, "perhaps you would care to order?" There was clear warning in his tone and Harry's skin crawled with the projection of the man's magic.

Ginny picked up her menu. "Certainly, Sir." She leaned into Harry. "What are you going to get?"

Harry leaned in to read the menu with her. "The beef wellington."

"I was thinking that too. But the chicken sounds good as well."

"You want to get one of each and switch half way?"

Ginny considered. "No, I think I want the beef as well."

She set the menu aside and spoke clearly over her plate. "Beef Wellington."

As quickly as she'd spoken, her plate filled with her order. Harry ordered as well and very quickly they were all eating. Harry picked the beets from his veg and offered them to Ginny. She took them and gave him her broccoli. "Thanks," he said.

"Best hope you never suffer a Borneo Borer," she teased.

"Too right," Harry agreed.

Down the table Viktor was conversing with Fleur. She had just finished telling him of Beauxbaton's castle and he was describing Durmstrang to her.

"Now Viktor," Karkaroff said with a laugh that didn't reach his eyes. "I know she's a lovely lady, but don't go giving away all our secrets. She'll know exactly where to find us."

"I thought that was the point of the tournament, Sir," Rowena said.

Everyone at the table stilled. "Sorry?" Karkaroff asked.

Rowena turned red but didn't back down. "Isn't the point of the tournament to foster relationships between our peoples?" she asked. "Are not, if this tournament is deemed successful, Durmstrang and then Beauxbatons in line to host additional competitions next year and the year after? How, exactly, are Hogwarts and Beauxbatons to send delegations to Durmstrang if you won't even tell them where the school is located?"

"A very good point, Ms Stone," Dumbledore said.

"Well," Karkaroff blustered. "I vould hardly consider the tournament to be a success thus far."

"That's beside the point," Harry said. Karkaroff glowered at him before abruptly turning back to his meal. He stabbed at a hunk of meat, shoved it in his mouth and chewed angrily.

"The point I think Headmaster Karkaroff is trying to make," Percy said pompously, "is we all have our secrets and isn't it right that we protect them?"

"I do not need you to speak for me," Karkaroff snapped.

"Read the charter of the tournament, Weatherby," Harry said at the same time. Percy was caught between trying to back track for attempting to speak for Karkaroff and outrage at Harry for insulting him.

"Mr Potter," Dumbledore warned.

Harry turned to him. "Sir?" Dumbledore glowered at him.

"I agree with Rowena," Ginny said. "The charter of the tournament specifically says it is supposed to foster closer ties between our nations in the hopes we view each other with less suspicion. We're to see our differences are not as great as we might first think and we're supposed to be encouraged to share our different knowledge with each other."

"Exactly," Cedric said. "The tournament was founded under the same dream Hogwarts was. Four different people came together and realized they were stronger as one then they were alone. The founders realized they could do more if they helped each other and shared their knowledge. The first tournaments were hosted under the same ideals. Durmstrang didn't used to be hidden away from Hogwarts and Beauxbatons. That only happened when Grindelwald rose to power."

Karkaroff threw his napkin on his plate. "I am finished." He stood, barked a few words at Viktor in Bulgarian and stalked off.

Harry raised his glass to Cedric. "Cheers, Mate."

Dumbledore closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "Just order your dessert, Messrs Potter and Diggory."

"Yes, Sir," Harry agreed.

Harry eyed his plate. "Cherry pie," he said. A large slice of pie, closer to being two slices appeared on his plate. He considered another second. "And strawberry shortcake." An equally large serving of strawberry shortcake appeared on another plate. "You gotta admit, the elves here are the best." Ginny rolled her eyes before ordering chocolate cake and a brownie for herself.

"How can you possibly eat all that and maintain your figure?" Rowena complained.

"It's the sole benefit of running five miles a day," Ginny answered and dug in.

"What about being built like a—" Harry trailed off when Ginny glared at him. "Erm, well what about being really fit?"

She smirked. "Nice save, Potter."

Harry grinned back. "I'm all about the save."

Dessert was rather quickly over and Dumbledore was standing. Harry figured the man was more than eager to get his two champions away from the others before it was only Karkaroff and Percy they upset. "If you will all please stand," he said. The rest of the students did. Dumbledore then put his hands together and quickly spread them wide. The tables all slid to the sides of the hall, clearing the dance floor. The band, Dumbledore had hired, The Weird Sisters, for the evening, had taken their places a short while ago and they now took up their instruments. "Champions, if you please."

Harry stood and offered Ginny his hand. "My Lady." Ginny smiled, took his hand and allowed him to lead her to the dance floor. Harry wove his fingers with hers and placed his other hand on her waist. "I've been waiting for this since the moment Mum told us there was going to be a ball," he whispered.

"Well, I hope I live up to your expectations."

"You do that just smiling," Harry said. The music started and he set off; gently guiding her about the floor in a slow waltz.

Ginny's eyes widened a bit. "I didn't know you could dance."

Harry grinned. "Can't be a musician and not know how to feel the beat."

"Who taught you?"

"One guess."

"It's either Mrs Tonks or your mum," she answered.

Harry raised her hand and spun her around. "My mum," he said. Other people were moving to join the champions now. The band played another slow song before moving into something faster. Daphne, Neville, Hermione and Luna joined them. They danced in a loose group for a while before Ginny said she was thirsty.

Harry, Neville and Luna went off to get drinks while the other three found a table to sit at. They rested for a short bit but the next slow song Harry asked Hermione to dance. Luna claimed Neville, leaving Daphne to dance with Ginny. Over the next half hour Harry danced with each of his female friends plus Rowena when Cedric asked for a dance with Ginny. Eventually though, he found himself with Ginny again.

"Hey there stranger," she said.

Harry pulled her tight. "I'm beginning to think I have too many female friends."

"Just imagine if the younger years could have come."

"Small blessings," Harry said. He kissed her crown. They danced through fast and slow songs for a while before Harry asked, "Would you like to get some air?"

"Sure," she agreed. He took her hand and led her out into the courtyard. The elves hadn't neglected here either. The various topiaries where all decorated with fairies blinking away in the dark. Making things even more magical was the light dusting of snow falling from the sky. Ginny snuggled into his side and he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"You're still the prettiest girl I've ever seen."

Ginny blushed. "You really think so?"

"Yes."

"Even with my hair like this and my face all scared?"

Harry stopped and turned her to him. He reached up and cupped her cheek, brushing his thumb against the smooth skin of her scar. "This only makes you more beautiful to me."

Ginny stared up at him. She bit her lip nervously. "Will you say it?"

Harry leaned down and ghosted his lips across hers. "I love you, Ginny Weasley."

Across the courtyard Daphne smiled at Neville. "Yes, you may kiss me."

Neville started to lean in when she suddenly jumped back from him.

"Eww!" she smacked a very large beetle off his shoulder. It bounced on the hard snow and lay there for a second.

"Gah," Neville cried. He picked his foot up to stomp it. Only he ended up stomping on Rita Skeeter's hand.

"Yeow!" she howled.

"What the!" Neville shouted.

"Oh!" Daphne gasped. About a million calculations went through Daphne's head in those brief moments. And then she smiled malevolently.

"Are you all right?" Neville asked, bending down to help Rita.

Daphne caught him by the collar and pulled him back. "Let me handle this."

"But—"

She held her hand up. "Ms Skeeter, how lovely to see you. Does the headmaster know you're spying on his students?" Rita glowered at the girl. She moved suddenly but Daphne was prepared for it. She lunged forward, grabbed the reporter's hand and twisted her arm behind her back.

"Hey!" Neville said. "What do you think you're doing?"

"How about I just hold this for right now," Daphne said. She pried the woman's wand from her hand.

"You'll pay for this," Rita hissed.

"Neville, would you be so kind as to hold her for me?"

Without a word he stepped in and took over holding the woman. Daphne moved in front of her. "So, now we have attacking not one, but two children of the sacred twenty-eight to add to your crimes. One wonders just why you would do such a thing…" Daphne paused. Rita glowered at her but said nothing. Daphne pulled her mirror from her pocket. "Code red," she spoke into it.

"What are you doing?" Rita demanded.

"Daphne?" her father's voice came back. "What's wrong? Are you in danger?"

"No, Father." Rita paled. "Not at the moment, but Neville and I have made a bit of a discovery we thought would interest you."

"Oh?"

"It seems Rita Skeeter is an animagus." Rita let out a soft moan. "Her form is that of a rather interesting beetle."

There was a pregnant pause before he answered. "I see. Is there anything else?"

"No, that would be everything."

"And you're certain you're in no danger?"

"I believe the danger has passed."

"Yes, I believe you are correct."

"Have a good night, Father."

"I shall. You as well… Mirror off," Daphne said. She eyed the reporter. "You can let her go now, Neville." He did so. Rita said nothing. "Is your hand hurt?" Daphne asked. "I'm rather skilled with healing charms if you would like me to look at it."

"It's perfectly fine," Rita snapped.

Daphne held the woman's wand out to her. Rita snatched the wand back. Neville moved to Daphne's side. She took his arm. "Have a good evening, Mrs Skeeter," she said pleasantly. She set off back to the castle.

"Daphne," Neville said when they turned the corner.

"Yes?"

"You're brilliant, you know. Scary, but brilliant."

Daphne pulled him into an alcove. "And don't you forget it," she said, and pressed her lips to his.

Harry was dancing, well, he was more just gently swaying back and forth with Ginny snuggled into his chest when there was a tap on his shoulder. "Excuse me, would you mind if I cut in?" Harry turned. Ginny's brother Ron was standing behind him. Harry glanced at Ginny.

She seemed just as shocked as he was but recovered quickly enough. "Harry, would you get me something to drink?"

"Sure," he agreed. He kissed her hand and passed her to her brother.

Ron didn't seem to know what to do with his hands and faltered a bit. "Oh come on, Ron," she said. "I know you've been taught to dance." She took one hand in hers and put his other on her waist.

"Doesn't mean I like it," he said. Ginny stumbled over his feet. "Or I'm any good at it."

Ginny laughed. "No, you're not." She pushed him back. "Just let me lead."

"Fine by me."

Ginny managed to steer him about, helping him out by counting steps for him. "There, you're getting it." She spoke too soon because he missed a step and stumbled. Ginny tripped over his foot and they both went down.

"Bloody hell!" they exclaimed together. There were a few snickers and then outright laughter at their misfortune. Ron turned scarlet.

"Are you all right?" Harry asked, bending down beside them.

"Fine," Ginny said. He offered her his hand and helped her up. Ginny straightened her dress.

"Thank you, Harry." Ron had climbed to his feet as well. A round of applause swept the hall. Ginny blushed, but then bowed. "Glad to be of service," she said. She focused on Ron. He was scarlet and obviously not handling the situation as well as she was. She stepped to him and hugged him. "Thank you for the dance, Ron." She let him go and looked up at him, smiling. "Really."

He studied her for a second, trying to decide if she was being earnest or taking the mickey. "Nice job, Ron," Fred taunted.

"Yeah, the girls will be lining up to dance with you now," George said.

Ginny whipped around to face her twin brothers. "Leave him alone," she hissed.

They backed up a step. "Easy," Ginny," Fred said, holding his hands up.

"And get the hell away from me."

"Ginny," George said. But Ginny had turned away and run after Ron.

Harry stepped in the twins' path when they went to go after her. "What is it with you two?" he demanded. "Couldn't stand the idea he was trying to be a decent brother to her so you had to fuck that up as well?"

"Easy, Potter," Fred said.

Harry stepped in his face. "I'm going to say this once. Stay – Away – From – Her."

"Look, Potter," George said, "we're sorry, all right?"

Harry turned on him. "Sorry?" he demanded. "After the shit you've pulled, and now you've ruined our night you're sorry… I swear to the goddess if we weren't surrounded by witnesses I'd put both your arses in hospital for a month." He turned and hurried after Ginny. Hermione was on the edge of the dance floor waving to him.

Fred and George watched him go. "Shite," Fred muttered.

"Yeah," George sighed. They turned and found themselves face to face with Neville and Daphne.

"I did warn you," Daphne said before the two hurried after Harry.

Ron was in the entry hall when Ginny caught him. She grabbed his arm. "Ron, wait." He turned angrily. "Thank you," she said.

"Wh–what?"

She stepped in and hugged him. "It was nice being your sister again." It took a few seconds before he awkwardly hugged her back. She gave him a squeeze and let him go.

Ron rubbed his neck. "Sorry about tripping you," he muttered.

"I thought it was me who tripped you."

Ron considered. "Maybe we tripped each other?"

Ginny grinned. "Maybe." They stood there for a second.

"I guess I'll see you around then," he said.

"I'd like that." He hesitated another second before turning for the stairs. Ginny watched him till he'd disappeared past the first landing. She turned. Harry, and the others were waiting for her.

"All right?" Harry asked.

She moved into his arms. "Yes."

Harry dropped a kiss on her crown. "Always." She squeezed him tight.


HPHPHP


Draco entered the library warily. He'd delayed as long as he dared in arriving. "Father," he said.

"Come, Draco, join me." Draco walked purposefully, but unhurriedly over to the sitting area in front of the roaring fire. "Sit." Draco did so. He remained still, holding his father's cold grey eyes. His father sipped from a tumbler of dark amber liquid.

"Will mother be joining us?"

"She is away."

Draco tried not to fidget. "When will she be back?"

His father set his glass on the table. "She and your brother will return when it is safe for them to do so."

"Safe?" his voice cracked slightly. "I don't understand. Surely there can be no danger for them here."

His father tipped his head slightly. Draco swallowed. His father smiled predatorily. "Truthfully, I'm almost impressed, Draco."

Draco frowned. "Impressed? I don't understand, Father."

"Ruthlessness, cunning, protecting what is yours… Did you honestly believe I was unaware you had read my father's journals?"

Draco paled. "Father, I can—"

"Silence," his father said softly. Draco clamped his mouth shut. His father watched him. "There is nothing that happens in this house I am unaware of, Draco." He picked his glass up. "You are dismissed."

Draco hesitated for a second before standing. "Yes, Father." He made his way across the library.

"Draco."

Draco turned back. "Yes, Father?"

"Dinner will be at seven."

"Yes, Father. Will that be all?"

"For now."

"Yes, Sir."


HPHPHP


At a loss for words, Harry sat on the couch staring at his mum and Bill.

"You're just telling us this now?" Ginny demanded.

"We wanted to tell you in person," Bill said.

"You've been at the school once a week since term started," Ginny snapped.

"We wanted to tell you together, Ginny," Lily said. Ginny glanced at her before returning her attention to Bill. She abruptly stood and stalked to the door. "Ginny," Bill called. "Firefly."

She turned back. "Don't make me choose between you," she said and was gone. The two stared after her before slowly turning back to Harry. He was still sitting on the couch looking like he'd been petrified.

"Harry?" Lily asked. "Harry?"

He snapped out of it. "This is messed up," he said, jumping to his feet. He hurried to the door.

"Harry," Lily called.

He turned back. "I never expected you wouldn't find someone, but couldn't you have picked someone other than my girlfriend's brother?" He was out the door before either of them could answer.

Bill slumped back on the couch. "Well, that went well."

Lily jumped up and started pacing back and forth. "Went well?" she demanded. "Went well? You think that went well?"

"I'm still alive, so yeah, pretty much."

"This isn't funny," she snapped.

"I didn't say it was."

"They're right. It was fucked up three months ago and it's fucked up now."

Bill reached out and caught her wrist. "It's not fucked up."

She stopped and glowered at him. "They're going to marry, Bill. You understand that, don't you? You'll end up your own sister's father-in-law. Tell me that isn't fucked up." Bill stared at her blinking. Her eyes narrowed. "I warned you what would happen if you fucked me over."

"You're the one who was just going on about how fucked up this was! Don't get mad at me because I hadn't quite got as far as marrying you yet."

She glowered at him. "Bloody hell you make me crazy."


Harry didn't necessarily go looking for Ginny but wasn't surprised to find she had retreated to the loft in the barn. She'd pushed the big door open and was sitting in the opening. He sat down opposite her. Neither said a word. Eventually she scooted over beside him to lay with her head in his lap. He looked down on her, reaching to trace his thumb across her jaw. She closed her eyes and leaned into his palm. Harry shifted, moving so he could lie down. She curled in at his side, her head on his chest and her leg slung over his hips. Harry kissed her crown. The cold wind swirled around them but she didn't feel it and the next time she opened her eyes it was morning.


HPHPHP


The day before they were due to leave for Zakynthos found Ginny with Tonks in Diagon Alley being fitted for her dress for Tonks and Charlie's wedding. "And that's you done, my dear," the proprietor said. "You can take it off now."

Ginny looked at herself in the mirror one last time before climbing down from the stool. Tonks followed her into the dressing room where she unzipped her. "There you go."

"Thanks, Tonks."

"You're welcome. Ginny quickly shucked herself out of the dress and grabbed her jeans. Tonks took the dress and handed it to the proprietor. "I shall have it ready a week from today for you."

"Thank you," Tonks said. Ginny pulled her jumper on and then her cloak and scarf. "Ready for ice creams then?" Tonks asked.

"Bet your arse," Ginny said. Tonks took her arm and pulled her from the shop. "Thank you," Ginny called over the jangling bells. The door swung closed and they were on the main thoroughfare of Diagon Alley. "I can't believe it's only a few months away," Ginny said. I'm so excited you're going to officially be my sister."

"I can hardly wait," Tonks agreed. The two made their way through the bustling crowds to Florean Fortescue's where Ginny suddenly stopped.

"Ginny?" Tonks asked. Ginny remained silently frozen. Tonks reached for her. "Ginny?" Ginny turned sharply with Tonk's hand on her arm. "Are you all right?"

Ginny glanced back at the storefront. "I…"

"We can go somewhere else," Tonks said gently.

Ginny glanced at her then back to the shoppe. "I'm fine," she said and started forward.

"Ginny."

"I'm fine," she snapped.

Tonks held her hands up. "All right." Ginny turned back to the shoppe and marched up to the door. Sighing, Tonks followed. Inside, Ginny's eyes darted around, falling on the table she'd first shared with Daphne that summer after Sandra had been killed. She made her way over and sat down. Tonks joined her, sliding in on the opposite bench. She said nothing and Ginny offered nothing, not speaking till their server approached and she ordered a bowl of mint-chip. They continued to sit in silence till their server returned with their orders. Ginny just stared at her bowl.

"Ginny," Tonks ventured, "you don't have to prove anything. You know that, right?" Ginny picked up her spoon and scooped up a large bite. She gagged the second it was in her mouth. Gritting her teeth she forced herself to swallow. She went for another bite but Tonks grabbed her wrist. "What are you doing?"

"Eating," Ginny bit out.

Tonks held her eyes. "You're not proving anything you know." Ginny's cheek twitched. "It doesn't matter whether you can eat ice cream or not."

"I love ice cream."

"Doesn't look like it to me." Ginny said nothing. "Some things just are, Ginny. Some things happen and they change us and we don't change back. It doesn't mean we're broken if we can't eat ice cream and it doesn't mean we're healed because we can.

Ginny glanced at her bowl. "I love ice cream," she whispered.

Tonks smiled sadly. "Come on, Luv, let's get out of here."

Ginny nodded. "All right." Tonks dumped some money on the table. She moved around and wrapped her arm around Ginny protectively as they made their way out of the shoppe.

Ginny paused in the door to look back at their uneaten treats. It seemed right, somehow, to have lost more than just Sandra when she died. "Goodbye, Sandra," she whispered and walked out the door.


HPHPHP


Author's notes: