Author's notes: Hello, this is my first long-term fanfiction project. So I hope it goes okay. Those of you who will review, will you please keep in mind that my Harry Potter books are in storage very far away? What I mean is, if you see errors, like someone's name is wrong, or I give a house the wrong school colors, please let me know so I can correct it. I don't have anything here to reference.
Also, everyone go read Wintermoon2's Blast from the Past. It kind of inspired me to write a long-term story, and she's letting me borrow plot devices from it when I get stuck. It's not going to be anywhere near the same story though, so don't even worry about getting redundant.
Thank you for reading!
XIXIX "The Winter Parade" XIXIX
Harry Potter waved his wand, adding a golden luster to the giant lion's head. Harry was working with the Gryffindor Quidditch team and a few other housemates to put the finishing touches on their float for the Quidditch Winter Parade that Hogwarts was holding this year. Each house was building a float for their team to ride before a school-wide assembly in the Quidditch field.
These floats were different from the ones Harry was used to, in the way that they actually did float, and the way that they shone with magic. He stood back to admire his work, when he heard an emphatic, "Brilliant!" ring out from behind him.
"Harry, that's great! Why didn't I think of that?!" shouted Ron Weasley, one of Harry's best friends, who like Harry was donning his Quidditch robes for the coming parade.
"Well, thinking was never really your strong suit, was it?" laughed another redhead.
"Shut up, Ginny."
"Ooh, good come back."
Harry smirked at the brother-sister argument. Such things were becoming a lot more commonplace now that Ron and Ginny were both on the Quidditch team. Their arguments were never mean-spirited, but they were quite frequent.
They weren't, however, nearly as annoying as Ron and Hermione Granger could get, thought Harry as he noticed his other best friend heading their way. The Gryffindor team excitedly crowded around her for the report.
"Did you see all the floats?" asked Ron.
"No, I couldn't find Slytherin's." A few of the team members moaned slightly. "But Hufflepuff's is no challenge. They've obviously put a lot of work into it, but there is no overall theme, so it looks kind of sporadic." She glanced over to the Griffyndor's float. "Ooh, nice glow. Anyway, Ravenclaw's is really sleek, though. Very sophisticated looking, but lacking in cheer if you ask me. So it's really only Slytherin's that could possibly be a challenge to us."
The best float in the parade would earn its house 100 points toward the House Cup. Gryffindor was already in the lead, after beating Ravenclaw and Slytherin in Quidditch. But Slytherin was a close second, having beaten Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
"I wonder where they're keeping it," mused Harry.
"No telling. I looked everywhere except under the lake. I don't know how hard they're working on their float, but they're sure working hard to keep it a secret."
"Are you sure no one saw you?" asked Christopher Billings, the new beater from third year.
With only a trace of a smile, Hermione answered smoothly, "Of that, I am certain. I only wish we had thought to spy earlier." She glanced at Harry whose invisibility cloak she had borrowed for the task.
"Well, we're not Slytherins, are we?" said Ginny.
"Too right," said Ron. "Well, Cap'n, is there anything else this float needs?"
Harry looked at the giant lion, bathed in Gryffindor colors. Its mane was flowing like water, its teeth bared and claws extended. It looked ready to pounce. Words danced around it, singing, "The Gryffindor Lions Protect the House Cup!" Broom sticks and snitches sped around and around the lion in fine circles.
Ginny and Hermione had worked on a roar for the lion. They had kept it quiet during test runs so as to make it a surprise, but a simple charm would make it ring through the bleachers during the parade.
Harry smiled and shook his head. "I think it's spectacular, but like I keep saying, I've never seen a wizarding parade before. What do you guys think?"
The Quidditch team and the spattering of other Gryffindors who had not yet made their way to the Quidditch field tried to look at the float thoughtfully, but they just grinned. "It's great," they said. "Don't mess with perfection."
"I can't wait to see this parade," squealed Hermione. "I saw a small one over the summer when I went to visit Victor. There was an announcer who did not stop talking, but it was in Bulgarian, so I didn't understand a word!"
"Oh, did Vickie take you to a parade?" asked Ron with mock interest.
"Don't call him that!" shot Hermione.
"Why not? Vickie's so sweet, and soooo good-looking," he added sarcastically. He cupped his hands under his face and adopted a girly falsetto, "Why, I want to date him myself."
A few of the others laughed. Hermione just glared. "Ron, you're sixteen. Grow up, already."
Ron opened his mouth, but Harry cut him off before their bickering could go any farther. "All right," Harry said authoritatively, "You lot get to the parade- I want Gryffindor to have the best damn cheering section ever! And thanks for all your work. There is no way anyone's going to beat us today." The few who weren't on the Quidditch team turned toward the field. Harry thought that he saw Hermione grin and wink at them as they scampered off. He was just about to ask Ginny what they were up to, when he heard her murmur a swear word.
"That's the Git's owl." She pointed up to a brown owl circling down toward them.
"Percy," muttered Ron, shaking his head. "What the hell does he want?"
Ginny held out her arm and Percy Weasley's owl landed deftly on it. Ron untied not one, but two letters from its feet. "One for each of us," he said dryly. The owl took off as they ripped open the parchment, grim looks on their faces. Harry looked from Ron to Ginny as they scowled down at the letters from their older brother.
"What a bloody arse!" snapped Ginny. She crumpled up the letter and shoved it into her robe. "I can't even look at this right now. I'll deal with it after we win Best Float in the Parade." She grinned at Harry, her eyes still dark, and made her way to the float with the rest of the team.
Harry looked at Ron. "What'd he have to say?"
"Same old, same old," said Ron, following Ginny's lead and shoving a crumpled letter of his own into his pocket. "It's not too late for me and Ginny to avoid getting drawn into your and Dumbledore's 'dangerous vigilante group', and that Fudge has everything under control so if we really want to help against You-Know-Who, we should join up with the ministry." He and Harry mounted their brooms to lead the float to their corner of the Quidditch field with the rest of the team. "Why can't he just admit he was wrong and say he's sorry for all the stupid shit he said?"
"Same reason Fudge can't, I suspect," said Harry.
Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic himself, had mounted a slander campaign against Harry and Professor Dumbledore last year, rather than believe them that Voldemort had returned to power. After seeing Voldemort for himself, Fudge stopped all legal action against Harry, Dumbledore, and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix, but in order to save face for a year of inaction, he still maintained to the media that the Order of the Phoenix were nothing but a vigilante group, and the wizarding community would be better put to support the Ministry of Magic than the Order. Harry was continually amazed by the lengths to which politics and pride could blind people to the truth.
The parade was about to begin. He shrugged off his thoughts about the ignorance of the people in power, and called out to Ron if he knew what Hermione and the others were up to.
"What do you mean?" Ron called back.
But before Harry could answer, sparks lit up the already darkening mid-afternoon winter sky. "Let's go!" he yelled. The team let up a roar of their own, and they led the float onto the field.
Hufflepuff's badger was indeed a sporadic cacophony of glitter, color, streamers and sparkles. It radiated with cheer, but it looked like every single person who worked on it had had their own vision in mind and set about decorating without discussing it with anyone else. The team soared around it in crazy spirals, sometimes narrowly missing each other.
Ravenclaw's eagle had a sleek blue-black shine to it. Its wings were spread, with an elegant banner flowing from wing to wing, proudly stating, "Ravenclaw is Number One." The team flew at its side, proud and refined.
But Harry's heart skipped a beat when he saw Slytherin's float. For a terrifying second, he thought they had led a real dragon onto the Quidditch field. It's wings flapped and its head moved from side to side, seemingly looking at the crowds, ready to attack. But then he noticed that the movements were too slow to be that of a real dragon.
As Harry heard the announcer say Slytherin, he shouted to Ginny, "NOW!" She muttered the incantation, and their own lion let out a roar so loud Harry thought his eardrums just might burst. But his plan worked. The crowd dropped their interest in the dragon float, and wildly applauded the huge lion whose fierce roar still echoed throughout the school grounds.
Then a group of Gryffindors, led by Hermione, released a bag of confetti colored red and gold. The other houses were also releasing confetti of their own colors, but Hermione had special ordered this confetti from Fred and George Weasley's joke shop. It spread all over the field, seeming to multiply every second. Soon it seemed the entire Quidditch field was bathed in red and gold.
Gryffindor won the Best Float in the Parade by a very narrow margin of staff votes. Slytherin was only one vote behind.
A great banquet followed the parade, and everyone ate heartily. There were two more weeks of school before winter break. It had actually been Ron's idea to have the parade two weeks before school let out. During a meeting of staff members, Head Girl and Boy, and the Prefects, Ron sensibly pointed out that if the parade followed the week of midterm exams, either no one would study because they were too busy working on the float, or else the floats would be shabby, because everyone would have been studying so hard.
Everyone in the meeting agreed, and now the student body was thoroughly enjoying a Friday of fun before they would really have to get to work on studying for their midterms.
The Gryffindor Quidditch team entered the banquet a few minutes late, to the cheers of the Gryffindor table, and boos of Slytherin. Harry, Ron and Ginny slid into the seats that Hermione, Neville Longbottom, and Seamus Finnigan were saving them. Seamus kissed Ginny lightly on the cheek. Hermione raised an eyebrow at Ginny, who pretended not to notice. Hermione whispered very softly into Harry's ear that Ginny said she was going to break up with Seamus a week ago. Harry also raised an eyebrow at Ginny. This time she shrugged and stuck her hands in her pockets.
"Damn," she said. "I forgot all about this." She pulled out Percy's crumpled letter.
"What's that?" asked Hermione.
"The Git wrote us again, trying to protect us from Harry's Vigilantes," said Ron.
"Really?" asked Neville incredulously. "Are the blokes at the Ministry still on about that?"
"They're fools, is what they are," piped in Seamus. "More'n half of the school is ready to join the Order of the Phoenix and follow Dumbledore's lead against You-Know-Who. Fudge doesn't have that sort of following here. He's a bloody fool not to embrace Dumbledore."
Ron nodded his head and gestured emphatically with his fork. "The Order's out there putting their lives on the line... the least Fudge and that Git could do is say, 'Oh, we're sorry. We were wrong. Thank you for all you're doing.'"
"We shouldn't be talking about this," said Hermione in her 'let's be sensible' voice. "Dumbledore says that so long as they're against V- Voldemort, they're on our side. We shouldn't join in their petty bickering. That's all politics. It's nothing personal against the Order."
"Yeah, well, when my brother-the-Git writes me saying that my parents are out of their minds to fight against that dark son of a bitch, What's-His-Name, it's personal to me."
Ginny could not bring herself to start calling Voldemort by his name, but did take to the more mocking 'What's-His-Name,' rather than the fear inspired 'You-Know-Who'. It always made Harry smile to hear it.
He let the others continue their debate about the Order and the Ministry, but in his silence, his own mood grew fouler. He had told Ron and Hermione about the prophecy he heard in Dumbledore's office six months ago that said he was the only one who could conquer Voldemort, but he hadn't told them the actual wording. He thought that the prophecy left something to be desired. Specifically, he wanted a sentence that clearly said he would be the victor. Instead, the words "neither can live" weighed heavily on him.
Further contributing to his foul mood was the memory of Sirius Black. He first heard the prophecy only a few hours after his godfather's death. The ominous words not only reminded him of the future that lay before him, but also the loss that lay behind.
It couldn't have been past 5:00, but the ceiling of the Great Hall revealed a pitch-black night sky. Harry was glad when his group got up from the table to head back to the common room. He was now in an awful mood, and didn't want to be around people. Last year, his friends complained about how he was constantly ready to fight them. One thing that losing Sirius had taught him was how much he really needed and depended on his friends. He didn't want to push them away with his bad moods, so he found it was best to be alone when one hit him. They usually understood, and let him have his space. They were there if he wanted to talk.
A crowd at the Great Hall entrance slowed them. Harry kept his head down, avoiding eye contact, avoiding conversation, avoiding any interaction. But then he felt someone shove up against him, and heard a familiar snide drawl.
"Watch it, Potter," spat Draco Malfoy who, as always, was flanked by his large and menacing cronies, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.
"Sod off, Malfoy," said Hermione from Harry's side. She was apparently trying to keep Harry from having to deal with him right now, for which Harry was grateful. She knew him well.
"Stuff it, you filthy mudblood!"
Harry was looking down, so he saw when Malfoy moved to grab his wand. He was not about to let that arrogant prick hurt anyone he cared about. In a flash, his own wand was out. The crowd pressed forward, in, and away. Panic and confusion spread as the two dueled, shouting curses back and forth. Somehow, in the moving crowd, they both were able to dodge each other's curses. But others weren't so lucky.
Ten seconds couldn't have passed since they first pulled out their wands. But as Professor McGonagall stepped angrily between them, Harry saw that six people had been innocent victims of their duel, including Crabbe, Goyle, Seamus, Neville, and two Ravenclaw second years. Harry was furious and ashamed. He never should have engaged in a duel with so many people around.
Professor McGonagall ordered some of the surrounding students to help the wounded to the infirmary. Then she grabbed Harry and Malfoy by their robe collars, and dragged them to the front of the Hall.
"This behavior has got to stop! Look at you! Neither of you with so much as a boil on your nose, and sending SIX PEOPLE to the infirmary! 20 points from each house! And you will both serve a detention next week!"
"But we've got to study for exams next week," argued Malfoy in a defiant drawl.
"Very well, you'll both serve a detention tonight! You are to clean up the Quidditch field. And don't even think about reporting back to me until every speck of confetti has been cleared away!"
Malfoy glared from Harry to Professor McGonagall. But Harry just stared at his feet. He deserved this, after all. "Yes ma'am," he said, and turned to go.
"Stop!" They both turned back to her. "Give me your wands. I will not have you dueling while serving detention."
"No buts, Mr. Malfoy. I'll return your wand when the field is clean."
Malfoy stared at her in disbelief for a few seconds, but then they handed over their wands.
They had to stop at Filch's office to get garbage bags, which Malfoy had never even heard of before. Filch was overjoyed that two students were in trouble and would have to clean the field for him—and without magic, at that! His snide taunting did nothing to ease either of their moods.
They walked down to the field in silence, glaring at each other through the cold.
"Bloody hell!" said Malfoy when they got to the field. "This is going to take all night."
Harry just glared at him, thinking that at least the field was big enough for them to be able to avoid each other for however long this detention did last.
Harry was pulling out a garbage bag so he could get to work, when Malfoy spat, "Give me one of those rubbish sacks, Potter." The word 'Potter' was full of venom when Malfoy said it.
Harry tried to ignore him. 'Just get through the night,' he thought.
But Malfoy stepped into Harry's face, and grabbed the bags out of his hands. "I said, give me those!"
Harry snatched them back without a word. Malfoy grabbed them again and Harry shoved him. Anger flashed in Malfoy's cool blue eyes. He dropped the bags. "Who the hell do you think you are?" He shoved Harry back.
Harry looked away. 'I'm not going to fight him. This field is huge. We can avoid a fight.'
"I'm a MALFOY, Potter. What are you?" He shoved him again. "You're just a pathetic little orpha-"
But he didn't get to finish his insult, because Harry's fist was pounding into his jaw. Malfoy staggered back. For a second, the sixteen-year-olds just looked at each other, not really knowing what to do. But then Malfoy lunged at him, and the two tumbled to the ground, flailing against each other. They were a rolling mess of fists and elbows and knees, punching and kicking each other in the face, chest, stomach, legs, and arms—anywhere they could reach. They screamed curses and grunted, letting out all of the rage that had accumulated between them for the past six years.
Neither of them knew how long they fought before they simply lay on the ground, gasping deep the cold winter air into heaving chests that burned with each breath. They were worn out and covered with blood and bruises. Harry's nose had been bleeding, but it seemed to have stopped now. He wiped some of the clotted blood away and laughed. He felt... relieved, like all of his stress was washed away in the fight. He couldn't even remember the last time he felt so calm.
"What are you laughing at?" asked Malfoy, lying next to him.
"I don't know. My nose was bleeding and I thought it was funny." He looked over at Malfoy, who rolled his eyes. But then he started to laugh too.
They lay there for a few minutes laughing. Then Harry pulled himself into a sitting position. His whole torso hurt. "You okay, Malfoy?"
"Yeah, I think so," he said, pulling himself up. "You?"
"Yeah." Harry looked down and noticed that his robe was torn in three places. He looked back to Malfoy to tell him this, but only saw the blood on his face. Malfoy was trying to wipe blood out of his eye. A gash in his forehead was still bleeding pretty heavily. "Man, are you sure you're okay?" said Harry, alarmed.
"It was bleeding off to the side when I was laying down. I thought it had stopped, actually. It's really burning my eye."
Harry ripped off a section of the sleeve of his robe, and wadded it up.
"What are you doing? You'll ruin it!"
"Oh hell, Malfoy. It's already ruined." Harry smirked at him. "You have to put pressure on it, or it will keep bleeding."
"What are you talking about?"
"It's something muggles do when they bleed." He handed Malfoy the wad of cloth. "If you press this against your cut, the blood will clot faster." Malfoy looked at him blankly. "It'll stop bleeding. That way you won't have to go to McGonagall and tell her we've been fighting and you need to go the infirmary to be healed with magic."
"Okay," said Malfoy, unconvinced. He pushed the cloth against his forehead. "Regardless, though, I need both hands to pick up this confetti, so I might as well go in for extra punishment and get to the infirmary."
"No you don't," said Harry. He tore a longer strip of his robe, and tied it around Malfoy's head, holding the wad of cloth firmly in place.
"Potter! That's ingenious. Where do you come up with these things?"
Harry just laughed and stood up. "Come on, we'd best get started then." He offered Malfoy a hand up. They grabbed a couple of garbage bags and started to pick up the confetti.
"I don't get it," said Malfoy, after awhile.
"In six years we've done nothing but fight, and now suddenly, I don't hate you anymore."
Harry laughed. "Me neither. Weird, huh?"
"No, I mean, really. What's going on?"
"Well, I've seen in muggle movies that sometimes guys have to fight to become friends. I don't really get it either."
They continued their conversation as they cleaned for the next six hours. They talked about their classes and Quidditch, about girls they liked and teachers they hated. As they walked to Professor McGonagall's office, Malfoy said, "You know Potter, you're not that bad."
"Neither are you."
Professor McGonagall's eyes widened in horror and fury when she saw the state of the two sixth years at her door. "Have you two been fighting?!" she demanded.
They shook their heads.
"No, I fell," said Harry.
They were both shaking with the laughter they were holding in. Professor McGonagall stared at them, dumbfounded. She handed them their wands back, and said, "Mr. Malfoy, you need to report to the infirmary to take care of that cut on your forehead. Mr. Potter, you may return to your room."
"Thank you and good night," said Harry with a smile. He and Malfoy broke into laughter as they turned and walked down the hall.
At the end of the hall, they turned off in separate directions.
Professor McGonagall's jaw dropped as she looked after them down the hall. "For the love of Merlin, what is happening here?"