She left the collective murmuring of Professor Firenze's Divination class behind her, quickly making a beeline for the staircase at the far end of the hall. There was no time to waste; she'd resolved to go to the library and finish her half completed Potions essay, due that very afternoon.

The last thing she wished for was to give that vile Snape any excuse to berate her publicly. Though her marks in Potions had always been good, it wasn't because she'd found the subject particularly interesting, but more so because she was firmly determined to avoid the sinister teacher's infamous ire.

Blast Quidditch practice, she thought in frustration, quickly passing a slow-moving pair of first year Hufflepuffs as she made her way quickly down the hall. Had it not been for the lengthy sessions at the Pitch during the weekend she would've had her assignment completed long before now. As it was, she had barely an hour's grace before the paper became due, and she very much doubted that Professor Snape would be in any way charitable if she were tardy, even if she was Head Girl for her House.

She sighed as she exited the staircase on the upper level, the library door beckoning just a short distance down the corridor. She could see two students standing near its entrance, chatting amicably.

She stopped in her tracks, her grip on her books tightening subconsciously as she recognized the pair. She was only dimly aware of the lunch bell ringing in the distance as she watched Harry smiling at something Loony Lovegood was recounting with obvious enthusiasm.

Look at her, she thought, ingratiating herself to him like that...

She swallowed hard as her stomach twisted painfully. A couple of Slytherins also heading for the library passed by on either side of her, looking back at her curiously, standing as she was, as unmoving as Rowena Ravenclaw's statue in the middle of the corridor.

She took a deep breath and quickly decided to follow the black and green- clad students, hoping she would pass less conspicuously with them unknowingly acting as impromptu shields, of a sort. She wasn't even entirely sure why she felt the need to hide, but...

Still, she felt a strange burning sensation sweep through her whenever her eyes fell on Loony Lovegood. How had she, of all people, managed to slip into Harry's inner circle? The girl clearly craved attention, what with her absurd necklaces, oversized hats, and countless other ridiculous accoutrements. Couldn't Harry see that?! Why, oh why was he encouraging her??

She followed the Slytherins closely as she passed between Harry and Luna into the library, keeping her blank gaze firmly focused on the backs of her escorts, though her ears nevertheless strained to listen to the conversation in progress, managing to catch but a few of Loony's words:

"-- favorite food is turnips, you see? Daddy and I started growing some out back this past summer, so that when -- "

She frowned after the door closed behind her, snuffing out the rest of the conversation, the tightness in her chest easing only slightly. What on Earth had Loony been talking about? Since when had Harry been interested in horticulture, anyway?

No matter, she thought, forcing the notion aside as she felt her face becoming rather flush. If he wanted to waste his time yakking away with Loony Lovegood he was welcome to her.

She looked around for an empty table, finding a free spot in one of the aisles between the History and Political sections. She sat at the far end next to the rain-splattered window and set her books aside before unrolling her parchment.

Though her work was urgent, she found herself looking more often through the window at the distant rain-soaked pitch than at her assignment. Even though there was no one to be seen outside, sensibly enough, given the cold and constant drizzle that hadn't let up since early morning. Even so, she found it difficult to concentrate on her work, what with her mind drifting off into other matters.

What does he see in her anyway? she thought. It couldn't be for her personality, that was certain. The girl could only be one of two things: either a certifiable loon if she really believed in those ridiculous stories of hers, or a lying attention-seeker if she wasn't. Neither one was a very desirable trait, so far as Cho was concerned.

But then, what else was there? Her looks? Hardly. While pretty enough in a vaguely rustic way, she was no Fleur Delacourt, either. What's more, she had absolutely no presentation, no notion of fashion sense, other than a screwball penchant for legume accessories and mismatched garments. Cho was certain that the only thing keeping her from looking like a total clown was the school's uniform requirements. And to top it off, she had no colour at all, other than a slight natural blush in her cheeks. And that hair...

What a waste, thought Cho. What was the point of letting it grow so long only to do nothing whatsoever with it!

I mean, why bother?

Loony Lovegood had all the sophistication of a paper bag in a sea of silk purses, she concluded. Little wonder no one had asked her to the Yule Ball! What an embarrassment that would be, walking into the ball with that on your arm...

So given all these undeniable facts, why had Harry taken such an inexplicable liking to her? Sure, she'd accompanied him and his friends to that much ballyhooed excursion at the Ministry of Magic the year before, but what did that prove? Aside from her gullibility, that is?

Cho was startled from her dark musings by the sudden sharp sound of a small sparrow striking the window just inches away. After a breathless moment or two to regain her senses, she leaned over and pressed her face up against the glass, hoping the little bird hadn't been gravely injured. For a moment she feared the tiny sparrow might have plunged all the way to the soaked grass two floors below, but it was with tangible relief that she saw it soar back up and away from the castle, watching it until it finally flew out of sight into the grey, rainy sky.

She sighed and turned back to her parchment. She blinked at it, suddenly realizing how little progress she'd made since she'd arrived.

Come on, get a grip, she thought to herself angrily as she dipped her quill determinedly in the inkwell. She held the tip of her gyrfalcon feather above the parchment, trying to force her Ravenclaw brain to come up with just one sentence to get her going.

Oh, even just one word, she pleaded to herself.

So concentrated on finding that elusive word was Cho that she hadn't noticed the drop of ink slowly seep from her quill until it splattered down in a big blot onto her parchment.

Oh for --

She brusquely set her quill back into the inkwell and drew her wand, holding it above the offending black blotch in the middle of her assignment.

"Scourgify," she voiced softly.

A brief yellow glow enveloped her parchment. She blinked, wide-eyed and horrified at the sight of the now completely inkless paper, realizing she'd just lost whatever slim chance she still had at submitting her assignment on time. She dropped her wand, hearing it clatter on the tabletop as she put both hands on her forehead in disbelief.

Oh, well that was absolutely brilliant, she thought hotly. Good going, Chang!

She abruptly stuffed the now blank parchment back into her bag. There was no point even trying to finish her assignment at this point, she thought angrily.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught a movement from the window, jerking her head around angrily to see Loony Lovegood walking serenely in the direction of Hagrid's hut, a small, tattered canvas bag in hand. With every few steps she would spin around with arms extended and gaze up at the drizzling heavens, though for what reason Cho couldn't possibly fathom. She hadn't even bothered to cast a water-repelling charm, she noticed.

Damn you, thought Cho furiously. If it wasn't for you –

"Look at her," a voice intoned from the other side of the bookshelves directly opposite Cho. "What a freakin' idiot! Makes you wonder what the Hat was thinking when it sorted her into Ravenclaw, don't it?"

Cho became still and listened attentively at the chuckled reaction.

"Well, she won't be dancing much after tonight," the second voice replied. "Ivan got the Veritaserum."

"No way! Seriously?" the first voice asked. "You're sure Snape won't notice?"

Cho strained to recognize the voice, thinking for a moment that it sounded a bit like Stewart Ackerly's. But whoever it was, she was going to have to report this. Veritaserum was a strictly controlled substance –

"Nah," the second voice responded, "he left a fake vial in its place. He'll take the real one back tonight. Don't worry, ol' Snape won't even realize it ever left his office."

Cho's eyes widened. What on Earth could they possibly be planning? She wondered - if she warned Snape, might he possibly forgive the tardiness of her assignment?

"He will if it's half empty," the first voice countered. "He might use some of it on us to find out who took it, and then it'll be detention for a week, at the very least...or expulsion, more likely!"

"Will you stop with the bellyaching?" said the second voice tiredly. "I'm not an idiot, you know. I read up on it, just tree drops of the stuff will make you spill your guts out. He'll never even notice."

There was a momentary pause. "Three drops? Wow, I knew it was powerful stuff, but – "

"Better believe it," the second voice answered. "Oh and we even got Peeves on board; he'll put the three drops into her drink at dinner tonight, and then the fun begins!"

"Hee hee," the first voice chuckled. "Ask her about those Tusked Snorkbacks she's always going on about!"

Cho blinked. They were talking about Luna, they had to be! It would be quite a sight, she mused, to see Loony finally admit publicly all the fabrications she'd been spewing out all this time. Even Harry would come to see her for the lying fibber she was. Even he couldn't be that blind!

"That's first item on the list," the second voice intoned. "But we won't have to try too hard. The moment anybody says anything to her she's going to make a right fool out of herself, mark my words."

"Cool!" exclaimed the first voice. "It's about time, too. She's been getting on my nerves for the longest time, with that my Daddy-is-perfect stuff of hers. It'll be great to finally get some payback!"

Cho felt a grin creeping into her features. Oh, how right he was! She quickly put aside any notion of warning the Potions Master; one botched assignment was a small price to pay to see Loony Lovegood finally put in her place, she decided.

"And that's just the start," the second voice stated. "Matt and I were talking with Orla and the others last night. You know how she always pretends nothing bugs her? Well we're gonna see just how long she can keep that little act up...we're going to keep it up till she cracks, just you wait. We've got a bunch of stuff planned already."

"Wicked!" said the second voice gleefully. "But hey – isn't she already cracked?"

The two voices laughed softly as Cho found herself strangely tempted to join in. But no, she was Head Girl, after all, it wouldn't be appropriate. But nothing said she couldn't watch and enjoy the spectacle!

She quickly collected her things and made her way from the library. Now, at least, she had something to look forward to that evening!

* * *

A loud, echoing roar startled Cho from her dinner.

"Oh, Merlin's beard," said Marietta next to her, gaping at the shocking sight drifting into the Great Hall. Cho looked up from her Cezanne noodles and gasped.

There, drifting down the aisle before them was Luna Lovegood, looking typically dreamy as always. But her oversized Gryffindor lion hat had garnered everyone's attention; though its presence in the Great Hall was nothing new, its appearance this day was greeted with definite shock at the Cho's table, as next day's Quidditch match pitted Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw! She was openly siding against her own house, the traitor!

"Just look at her," intoned Marietta darkly under her breath. "Why doesn't she just transfer to Gryffindor, for Rowena's sake?"

The straggly-haired blonde made her way past the now forceful jeers and taunts to the Gryffindor table. What's more, Cho noticed with ever growing irritation, Hermione Granger, of all people, had saved her a seat! Even worse, that particular spot just happened to be directly across from Harry...

Look at him, with that grin painted on his face! thought Cho hotly. She's a liar and a traitor, Harry! Wake up!

"I can't believe Flitwick tolerates that," intoned Lisa Turpin from across the table, throwing down the remnants of her bun in disgust. "When was the last time she sat at her own table, anyone remember? Because I sure don't! And now look at her, rooting against her own House!!"

Cho felt her ire building up a head of steam right along with the others. Though she greatly admired Flitwick, it was true that he was frustratingly tolerant of Loony's antics, though she'd never really paid it much heed until now. She glanced at the High Table. The diminutive Charms teacher was currently engrossed in conversation with Professor Sinistra; either he hadn't noticed Luna's arrival (though how could he not?) or else he hadn't found her open support of a rival House at all objectionable, shocking as that was.

"Well we're going to get some satisfaction today, at least," said Cho. "Everyone's going to see her for the little fabricator she is."

"Eh?" said Lisa in confusion as Marietta looked on expectantly. "What's that? What's going on?"

"Just wait," said Cho, glancing up and down the Ravenclaw table, though it was hard to tell who else was waiting for the evening's opening act; most everyone's attention had been drawn to Loony's ridiculous lion hat. Cho wasn't sure if it was just her imagination, but the thing seemed to roar louder every time she wore it.

It was only a few short minutes later when Peeves suddenly materialized at Cho's table with a pop, Marietta and Lisa giving a start.

"Ooo, here you go," said Peeves gleefully, dropping an empty vial in Stephen Cornfoot's potatoes before flying off, cackling madly.

"Okay, I think that's it, get ready," said Cho, eyeing Loony Lovegood in anticipation.

"Cripes!" exclaimed Stephen in a shrill whisper, holding up the empty vial before his face, eyes wide in horror. "He used the whole bloody thing! I told him three drops! Criminy, Snape's going to have our heads for this – "

"Uh, what's that going to do, anyway?" asked Stewart Ackerly, seated across from him. "It's kinda more then we'd planned, ain't it?"

Stephen groaned and leaned forward, elbows on the table and holding his head in his hands. "Forget Loony, all right?" he said gloomly. "We're the ones who're going to get killed are we ever going to find another vial of this stuff now?"

"What did you guys do, exactly?" asked Marietta, eyeing them curiously. "What was in that thing, anyway?"

Stewart turned to her. "Well, Ivan swiped some – "

"Stuff it!" interjected Stephen sharply, jerking up from his despondence abruptly. "We're in enough trouble as it is! Oh, I knew we should never have trusted that blasted Poltergeist!"

"Why, what did – "

They were interrupted by a clatter of metal on stone followed by a loud shriek from the Gryffindor table. Cho snapped her head around to see Luna Lovegood standing ramrod straight up on the bench, arms outstretched, her oversized lion hat having fallen onto Hermione Granger next to her.


Most everyone at the Ravenclaw table was openly laughing and giggling with the exception of Stewart Ackerly, who was looking at the loudly ranting girl with a look of despair.

"Luna, have you gone completely mad??" asked Hermione Granger, pulling on the girl's sleeve as Harry, Ron, Ginny and Neville looked on, mouths agape. "Come down from there! What's gotten into you?"


"She's gone nutters," said Ron Weasley from the Gryffindor table. "I knew this would happen someday – "

Luna shook off Hermione's hold of her sleeve and climbed atop the table, knocking plates and goblets askew.


The Ravenclaw table was howling with laughter, though Cho felt a rather darker emotion coursing through her veins when Harry climbed up and took Luna by the shoulders as he spoke to her quietly and earnestly, trying desperately to get her to snap out of her delirious ranting.


Shut up, will you, thought Cho fiercely. This wasn't going like she'd hoped.

"Veritaserum?!" she heard Marietta whisper to Stewart as she looked at the raving Luna in horror. "A whole vial full??"

"I told you to stuff it!" whispered Stephen harshly. "Cripes, our only chance is if no one finds out – "

Some of the teachers were now making their way down towards the Gryffindor table, Flitwick in the lead. No one was bothering with their dinner any longer.

"Are you insane?" hissed Marietta. "Three drops is the maximum dose! Father works with it sometimes at the Ministry, he told me once that a spoonful that can induce coma in minutes, and you gave her a whole vial??"

"Blast it, both of you!" huffed Stephen through clenched teeth, his face turning red with fury. "It's that blasted Poltergeist! It's not my fault! Now for Merlin's sake, not another word or I concede tomorrow's match to Gryffindor!"

Marietta gasped and turned to Cho. "You have to remove him as captain, Cho, right now!"

Cho turned her gaze coldly back to the Gryffindor table. Luna suddenly stopped ranting, her silver eyes widening precipitously for just a moment before she abruptly collapsed with a crash to the table, spilling goblets and sending bowls tumbling to the floor just as Flitwick and McGonagall reached her. Hermione and Ginny Weasley both shrieked. "Cho!!"

She ignored her friend's strident plea, instead focusing her burning attention on Harry's frightened gaze as he knelt down over Luna and took hold of her hand in concern. Why couldn't he have shown even a fraction of that compassion with Cho when she'd tried to talk to him about Cedric?

Great time to get a conscience, Harry, she thought fiercely, now that I'm not in the picture anymore –


"What?!" she snapped harshly, turning on Marietta with fire in her eyes. "Look, I have no say about the Quidditch team, all right? Only Flitwick can make changes."

But at that moment the head of Ravenclaw was holding Luna's pale wrist between his fingers, his wizened face drawn with concern.

"Her pulse is very erratic," she heard him intone, looking up at an obviously worried McGonagall.

"She's taken a lethal dose!" whispered Marietta desperately, grabbing hold of Cho's hand. "We have to tell them!"

"No one's going to die," said Cho, pulling her hand back sharply and avoiding her friend's gaze, her eyes fixed on Harry's anguished face as she felt her insides burning. "There's the infirmary right here, and anyway, I'm sure they'll figure it out on their own without any help from us."

"Oh...I can't believe you!" said Marietta painfully. "We're talking about someone's life here!"

"Well it's not like the world is going to miss that loon any," said Stephen darkly. "And in case you get any ideas, I know you still have that book you 'borrowed' from the Restricted Section."

Marietta slowly shook her head, staring at him with disbelief. "'re a monster, is what you are...I can't believe this," she said hoarsely. "I just can't – "

"Headmaster," said Professor Snape as he drew near the Gryffindor table. "I believe I recognize these symptoms. I've seen them before – "

"Indeed, Severus," echoed Professor Dumbledore, he and the Potions Master having joined Flitwick and McGonagall at the Gryffindor table. "As have I, I'm distressed to say. We must convey Miss Lovegood to the infirmary at once." "Say something!" pleaded Marietta to Cho just as Harry gently lifted Luna's limp form from the table and made his way quickly out the Great Hall, carrying her in his arms all the way, his friends and the teachers following close behind. Cho looked on with very conflicting emotions.

Marietta looked desperately to Cho.

"Remember," warned Stephen ominousy. "One word and it's expulsion for you."

"I don't know you anymore," choked Marietta. "I can't believe you'd be so apathetic, even about Loony; if she dies you're going to be a murderer!"

"Will you keep it down?" hissed Stephen, waving a hand in a stifling motion. "She's not going to die, alright?"

But this hardly placated Marietta. "It'll be on your head if she does!"

With that, she rose from the table, face flushed with anger as she stormed out of the Great Hall.

Stewart leaned forward. "You don't think she might actually – "

"No," snapped Stephen abruptly, cutting him off. "Now drop it, all right?"

The Great Hall was now awash in murmurs and hushed conversation. Cho overheard a girl from the Slytherin table somewhere behind her.

" – she's faking it, I'm telling you. It's another one of her shows, you know how she is – "

"Maybe she's under the Imperius?" suggested another.

"No, it's an act, I'm positive."

"I think maybe Weasley hit the nail on the head for once," voiced another. "I think maybe she really is nutters!"

Cho smiled. Well, it hadn't been a total loss, at least...