Just as a warning, this is a fairly long chapter in comparison to the previous ones. I think I got carried away.
A note to one of my reviewers, and it's probably better ALL readers read this. About school starting in September, I had completely forgotten, and I needed the Valentine Ball as part of the plot, and if I were to add that when it actually occurred, it'd be a little late. So if I suddenly mention the Christmas holdiays after Valentines, that's my explanation. It shouldn't be too disruptive to your reading.
The next day, Harry nearly slept in, that is, before Ron yelled and hit him with a pillow. 'Oy! Harry! Wake up! We've got Care of Magical Creatures in an hour! And I haven't eaten breakfast yet!' Ron ran out of the door and down to the common room.
Harry blindly reached for his glasses on the bed, grumbling. 'Wha-'
'HURRY UP HARRY!' yelled Ron from downstairs.
Harry rolled over and looked up to the top of his four-poster. 'Are we going too fast?' she had said. Harry had barely thought of it once they had dropped the subject, but when the thought had unavoidably made a path to his brain, it wouldn't leave him alone. True, their relationship had been rather fast, and they had made more progress than most couples would in months. But, Harry reasoned, they had history. They'd been together before, and known each other for a while. And yet, he couldn't help wondering, what happened now?
Harry got up and pulled on his robes, and trudged down the stairs where Ron was tapping his fingers nervously on a table. 'Finally! Let's grab somethin' to eat before class.'
They jogged to the Great Hall where Hermione was sitting, pouring syrup over her pancakes. 'Good morning,' she said cheerily.
'Mornin'' piped Ron through a mouth full of food.
'Morning,' said Harry gloomily.
Hermione raised a brow. 'What's the matter? You were rather euphoric last time I saw you.'
Harry leaned closer to her to tell her, so that only she could hear, about what had happened the day before, and what he was worried about. He told her what Cho had said and asked what she meant.
Hermione put down her knife and fork and explained. 'Well Harry, what she means is that with any relationship, there is a difference between what the two people have together, what they can have together, and what they want and need from each other in that relationship.'
Harry blinked. 'Say that again.'
Hermione sighed and explained once more, slowly this time, until Harry understood. 'So…' he said, 'What she means is…'
'That you can very well have what you want in a relationship, but you might not always get what you need, and what you do have can always be made into something more.'
'Then… What am I supposed to do now?'
Hermione shrugged. 'Do all the things a normal couple would do at this point in time. Go out on dates; get to know each other, you know. That sort of thing. Unlike what you've been doing lately; snogging the lips off each other's faces…' She glanced at her watch. 'Oh, we'd better get down to Hagrid now. Class starts in ten.'
Harry gulped down a swig of orange juice and followed Hermione out of the Hall with Ron trailing not far behind, who only turned back to grab slices of toast smothered with marmalade.
Cho closed her eyes briefly before opening them again to see Eri sitting on the armchair opposite her in the Ravenclaw common room. 'Hello.'
'Hello yourself. How long have you been awake?'
Cho wriggled upwards until she sat up straight in the cushy chair. 'Not long. I woke up about an hour ago and had a quick breakfast.'
'What do we have first?' Eri pulled out a folded schedule out of her pocket. 'Aw, shit. Ancient Runes, then Divination-'
'That's your schedule. I don't do Divination. And I've got to help a sixth year Care of Magical Creatures lesson instead of Ancient Runes. Something about severing Crup tails…'
Eri groaned. 'Ngh. Whatever. Same thing.'
Cho raised a brow and stood up. 'We're going to be late.'
'No kidding,' said a voice from behind her.
She turned and found Theo walking down the stairs from the boys dormintory. 'Ancient Runes first, right?'
'Er, I've got something on this morning, so you guys are on your own today. No copying my notes because you fell asleep.'
Eri's face fell.
'Oh, well then,' Theo continued, 'Cho and me have Herbology, while you,' he drawled, 'Use your non-existent inner eye in Divination.'
Cho and Theo shared a quick look before laughing and walking out to the common room entrance, or rather exit. Eri came running behind them. 'Hey! Wait up!'
Cho stopped and Eri ran up beside her. 'God, best friend MY ASS. Just waltz out with your cousin and LEAVE me. It's fine, I'm ok. DON'T wait for me.'
Cho grinned and nudged her gently. 'Oh come on, I didn't mean to. Theo's a very good distraction, you know.'
Theo looked offended. 'Well, just excuse me!'
'Oh, shut up Teddy.'
He gasped. 'Don't call me that!' he hissed under his breath as a couple of very attractive Hufflepuff fifth years walked by giggling.
Cho rolled her pretty brown eyes. 'Oh, God. Don't you have some half-naked girl waiting for you in a broom closet somewhere? Stop corrupting innocent little girls.'
Theo smirked. 'Ha! Hardly little, I'd say.'
Cho slapped the back of his head.
'Miss Chang!' yelled out Professor McGonagall from further up in the passageway. She hurried toward her, her robes swishing all the way.
'Professor!' she said, a little surprised. 'Is something wrong?'
Theo cursed incoherently while rubbing his head.
McGonagall smiled warmly. 'No, of course not dear. I'd like a word with you in private is all.'
Cho nodded and followed her into her office, leaving Theo and Eri to walk to class without her. Also in the office, was Professor Flitwick and Professor Dumbledore, who, she suddenly recalled, was neither at the start-of-term feast, nor at any other meal. She hadn't seen him at all.
'Professor Dumbledore!' she exclaimed. She wanted to ask where he'd been, but thought better of it.
'Good morning, Cho,' he said kindly. 'You must be wondering why you're here.'
McGonagall sat down in her chair behind the desk. 'Well, seeing as we have a ball, I think it rather appropriate to have a few dance lessons for the students.'
Cho stilled. Dance lessons?! 'B-but, we had-'
'Yes, we had the Yule Ball, but do you think any of the students actually remember how on earth to move their feet? Most of the students that attended the ball have long since graduated anyway,' she said.
Cho sighed. 'Well… I guess.' She stared at her feet for a moment before asking, 'But Professor, why are you telling me this?'
McGonagall smiled. 'Don't you worry, I'm aware you're perfectly capable of conducting yourself on the dance floor. That's why I'm putting you, and Head Boy Justin Reefell in charge of it. Of course I'll be there, but I'd like you two to-'
'WHAT?' Cho very nearly shrieked. The words strangled in her throat, so she had to do with a very loud exclamation instead.
McGonagall looked at her disapprovingly. 'Miss Chang, you are Head Girl, a model student and seventh year. You, of all people, should lead by example.'
'To dance?' she asked dubiously.
Professor Flitwick clapped excitedly. 'You're rather light on you're feet dear. Wonderful at dancing.'
McGonagall smiled sincerely and turned to Cho.
'Why of course.' McGonagall smiled cunningly. 'Don't worry; I will be there, as I was saying, to teach and supervise. All you and Justin have to do is assist. Show them the steps, give demonstrations, and the like. You can figure the rest out.'
Cho was startled by McGonagall's level-headedness when what she was proposing seemed so ridiculously preposterous to her. 'B-but… I can't-…'
'Nonsense,' McGonagall cried impatiently. 'You will be there, this afternoon in the room to the left of the South Astronomy tower. Is that clear?'
Cho's lips twitched. 'Of course, Professor.' She marched out of her office and down the stairs. Sometimes, she had already learnt, being Head Girl could be a real bitch.
Hermione was the first to spot Hagrid among some fairly excited Crups.
'Oooh! I've seen those before!' cried Hermione eagerly. 'They look exactly like Jack Russel Terriers, except for their forked tail, which is usually cut off anyway… Wait.' She looked over the adorable creatures. They still had forked tails. Every last one. 'We aren't going to-… Oh, Hagrid, we aren't going to sever them ourselves, are we?'
Hagrid grinned. ''Course y'are!' He petted one of the Crups. 'These little ones here are common pets! You gotta know how to take care of 'em! All it takes is a simple Severin' Charm!'
Hermione gulped, her enthusiasm gone.
Harry and Ron stepped closer, each picking one of the dog-like creatures. The one Harry picked up immediately began to lick his face.
'He likes you, he does!' beamed Hagrid.
Ron, however, did not seem to have the same affect on the Crup he had picked up. He petted its head, and then was abruptly bitten on the hand. 'H-hey! Oi! HAGRID!!' He waved his bitten hand, with the Crup hanging on tight, waving it about. 'AAAHHH!! HERMIONE! DO SOMETHING!!'
Hermione sighed. 'Oh for God's sake Ronald. It's a cute little Crup puppy. What on earth did you put on this morning to make it bite you?!' She gently coaxed it off Ron and began to baby it herself. 'Who's a good doggie? Yes! Yes you are!'
Ron rubbed his bitten hand and scowled. 'Brutal little devil, he is!'
Hermione gasped. 'Ron! He heard you!' She looked down at the Crup in her arms. 'No, no, silly little Ronald doesn't know what he's talking about!'
Harry grinned at them, while the Crup in his arms nestled comfortably.
Hermione looked over at Hagrid. 'How old are they?'
Hagrid ran a couple of fingers through his beard. 'Oh… 'Bout seven weeks now they are. Ready to have their tails severed! I'll be teachin' you some other things on how to care for 'em too, don't you worry.'
More students began to gather now, pointing and petting the puppy Crups.
'Alrigh' gather round now! We're goin' to be learnin' about care of Crups today! As some o' you know, Crups need their tails severed, so Muggles can't tell the difference, 'cept maybe that they'll be particularly vicious toward 'em.' Hagrid picked one up and scratched it behind the ears. 'Now, I can't perform the severing charm myself, so I've asked one of the more talented seventh year students to come down and help, and she's doing this using time out o' her own schedule to show you, so show some respect.' Hagrid looked up the hill. 'Matter o' fact, here she comes now.'
Cho trekked down the grassy hill toward Hagrid and the class. She had been asked to help with this class personally, and being Cho, she'd accepted, even though she'd miss Ancient Runes and would have scrolls worth of notes to catch up on. She only hoped Theo and Eri had gotten them down. Without falling asleep halfway through.
As she came closer, she could see the Crup puppies running around excitedly. She grinned. Crups were always fun. Something else she noticed as she walked toward the class, were some familiar faces. She froze in her tracks. This was Harry's class.
'Cho!' Hagrid called. 'Come on now! Don't be shy!'
Cho swallowed a feeling of somewhat dread and nervousness down before making her way down to where they were gathered. 'Good morning,' she said, half-smiling, half-frowning.
Harry, Ron and the rest of the male students in the class, meanwhile, felt their jaws hit the damp ground. The girls, however, watched her eagerly, including Hermione.
Hagrid beamed. 'Alrigh' everyone, you probably all know who this is, eh?' he said happily. 'If in some strange case you don't, this is Head Girl, Cho Chang.' Everyone blinked. Well, at least they'd have no problem with her name. 'I'll leave this part to you Cho.'
Cho nodded and put her bag down. 'Um, hi.' She tucked a strand of her smooth black hair behind her ear, giving a quick glance and smile to Harry. 'Most of you have probably noticed that these are,' she picked up a Crup, which instantly began to snuggle against her, 'Crup puppies. Meaning they'll still have their forked tails.' She used one hand to show everyone the tail.
Harry couldn't tear his eyes off her. He didn't want to blink. Didn't want to breathe. He didn't want to miss a word she said. He gulped. This was going to be a very long lesson.
'Now, the first thing Hagrid's told me you all have to do, is to perform a simple severing charm on these tails. I'm not going to get you to do it straight off on the puppies, that would be somewhat stupid.' Cho put the puppy down and motioned toward a wooden box to her left. 'In those boxes are practice branches. They're all marked somewhere, and you have to sever them at that spot. Once Hagrid sees you're capable of doing it proficiently, then we'll move on.' She looked all of them carefully. Some looked more nervous than they needed to be. 'Um, by any chance,' she asked warily. 'Does anyone have any trouble with the severing charm itself?' She looked around again. There were a few, she could tell, but they seemed rather ashamed of it. She smiled gently. 'It's okay if you do. We'll work on it before you start practicing on the sticks.'
Harry stared at her in admiration. He didn't have any problems with the Diffindo charm, but he could certainly think of a few who did. And she wasn't impatient about it or anything. She didn't really seem to mind.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Neville Longbottom raised his hand. 'I-I can't do it.' He turned a bright shade of red. 'The severing charm, I mean.' He stepped forward and tried to look at Cho, but couldn't quite meet her eyes.
Cho smiled kindly at Neville. 'That's okay. Um, Hagrid-'
Hagrid nodded. 'S'alrigh'. Jus' use that tree over there.' He pointed to a particularly large one beside the vegetable patch.
Cho led Neville to the tree, and stood beside him. 'Well, show me what you can do.'
Neville's hand quivered as he pulled out his wand. 'Hurry up Longbottom!' yelled Draco from the back.
Cho instantly had her own wand out and turned swiftly. 'Incarcerous!'
Draco was instantaneously bound in ropes, crying out rather pathetically. 'CRABBE! GOYLE!!' The said two pulled and tugged at the ropes, but it was useless. Draco struggled, but the ropes kept their hold. Draco tried to walk but tripped over and he fell face first into the ground
She smirked cheekily. 'Goyle, isn't it?' she asked one of the meat tanks staring aghast at Draco rolling around on the ground.
He nodded quickly.
'Stand him up.' She turned to Neville. 'Okay Neville, show me what you can do with the severing charm. You know the incantation?'
'Y-yes, b-but are you sure?' Neville seemed rather reluctant.
Cho shrugged. 'Fire away.'
The rest of the class couldn't help but let out a few sniggers, even Hagrid chuckled. Draco meanwhile, had the look of utmost fear on his face. 'M-my father will hear about this! Just you wait!'
Neville raised his wand slowly.
'I'll get- AAHH! N-no! You can't-'
'Should I get him to cast Silencio too?' Cho asked. 'Wonder what'd happen then…'
Draco went silent.
Neville's hand trembled as he pointed his wand at Draco. 'I-… Uh, Diffindo!'
The ropes were slashed down the middle, Draco's eyes still shut. He slowly opened one eye, then the other. 'Ha! Maybe Longbottom isn't such the lout after all!' he sneered smugly.
Cho had her wand at his throat the very next second. 'That's enough Malfoy,' she said sternly. Then more quietly, 'Or would you like me to tell everyone what a gentleman you were when I had dinner with your family?' Cho seemed to have a way with annoying men.
After a few dismal whimpers, Draco once more became silent.
Cho withdrew her wand. 'I thought so. Now, Neville,' she said, turning to him, 'I don't think you have any problems with that spell that I can see.'
Neville nodded feebly, nervously smiling.
'So grab a branch out of the box and we'll move on from there.'
The class congregated toward the wooden crate and each pulled out a stick a little larger than a wand marked near the end where they were meant to cut.
'Alrigh' class!' began Hagrid. 'Use the charm on the sticks, and on the mark. You won't be so much as touchin' the little beauties if you don't! And, you do it like so.' He motioned to Cho.
Cho picked up a stick and demonstrated. 'Diffindo!' The branch cut dead center on the mark.
The other students held their sticks and tried the same. Loud shouts of 'Diffindo' could be heard for a while. Hagrid went around the class looking at their practice severs. Hermione's by far, was the best. She had cut a teensy wee bit off the mark.
'If you din' get it the first time, go and get another stick and try again!' said Hagrid encouragingly.
Ron had missed the mark by a couple of inches, while Harry, who had been slightly more successful, missed by about a quarter of an inch.
'Blimey thing…' Ron cursed as he went to grab another stick.
Harry grinned, looked at his own stick, and then looked up at Cho at the front of the class playing with a Crup puppy. She felt his gaze and lifted her head, smiling. She stood up and walked to him, grabbing another practice stick as she went by.
'How'd you go?' she asked.
Harry showed her the stick, and she examined it carefully. 'Hm. You didn't miss by very much…' She handed the larger portion of the stick back to him. 'Show me how you did the spell.'
Harry put out his wand. 'Diffindo!' The stick snapped cleanly.
Cho nodded. 'You're waving your wand a little too much,' she laughed. 'You're trying to sever something, not conduct a choir. If it were a larger object you were trying to cut, it'd be okay. But you're going to do this on a Crup.' She took his hand that held the wand. 'Try just a quick little swipe, or flick, or whatever you want to call it, in the right direction.'
Harry grinned at her. 'It used to be me teaching you, remember?'
Cho smiled softly. 'A little hard to forget.' She punched his arm playfully. 'Do what you're told.'
Harry couldn't help but smile like an idiot as she walked to the front of the class. Do what you're told. Why did he like being treated like a naughty boy? At least, by Cho.
'Harry!' Hermione cried. 'Look! Look! I did it!' She picked up another stick and performed the charm. And it was almost as good as Cho's, just not quite in the center.
'That's great,' he replied, half distractedly.
Ron ran up to her. 'How'd you do it 'Mione?'
Hermione shook her head, and showed him once more. Then Ron tried imitating her, achieving slightly better results than his first time.
'Ok!' yelled Hagrid. 'Hermione over 'ere seems to have gotten it righ'!' He picked up a Crup. 'Cho will show you how it's done!' Hagrid handed the Crup to Hermione and she walked to where Cho was standing. 'The rest o' you, keep goin'!'
'Um…' Hermione began. She still was rather uncomfortable about cutting the Crup's tail off. She shifted edgily.
Cho noticed her fidgeting, and smiled sympathetically. 'I didn't like doing at first either,' she offered. 'The idea of chopping a cute little doggie's tail off didn't exactly appeal to me.'
Hermione smiled weakly. At least she wasn't the only one.
'But it's got to be done. I was a bit shaky about it for a while, and then I realized that the Crups don't really feel it. They might as well be playing fetch for all they care while it's being done.'
'Really?' asked Hermione. That was quite comforting.
Cho nodded. 'Yeah, so I didn't feel so horrified after I found that out. So,' she picked the puppy up from Hermione. 'You've got to sever it right before the fork. Not on it, and nowhere before it. Otherwise, they're definitely be feeling it. I'll mark it like the sticks so it's a bit easier.'
Cho pulled out a pot of ink from her bag on the ground and put a dab of ink on the Crup's tail. It seemed to be grinning at her. 'I'll show you first, then we can go and get another Crup for you, alright?'
The tail was sliced off clean, and the puppy didn't so much as bark. It stood there, panting and grinning as if nothing at all had happened. The end of its tail, however, had a few drops of blood.
'Then all you've got to do is gently bandage it.' Cho snatched a roll of gauze off the table and wrapped the Crup's tail tenderly. 'And that's all you've got to do, really. Nothing too complicated.'
Hermione nodded again and walked over to where the Crups were playing.
After the class, in which nearly all the students had successfully managed to sever their Crup's tail, Harry ran up to Cho as they walked up to the castle.
'Hey Cho…' he began, taking her hand.
'Hm?' She faced him, still walking.
'Uh…' Dates. Getting to know each other. Doing what couples do at this point in time. Hermione's words rang through his head. 'D'you want to take this slower?'
Cho stopped, and shrugged. 'Well, in a way, it's kind of late for that.' She recalled Harry's hand on her behind. 'But-'
'I mean like, going out on dates and everything. I mean, we could just take it a little easier for now…'
Cho tilted her head and smiled. 'I think I know what you mean.' She tucked a bit of hair behind her ear. 'And I guess that's a good place to start. Or continue.'
Harry grinned and kissed her cheek, the action never failing to bring about a smile on her face and a pretty blush to her cheek. 'What do you have next?'
'Herbology,' she replied. 'You?'
Harry shrugged. 'No idea. D'you want me to walk you to class?' There. Quality couple time. Nothing said know-me-better like time spent together that didn't involve a fierce snogging.
Ron and Hermione passed by the pair and called out, 'We'll see you at Cha- AAHH!' A Valentine Messenger, better known as Cupid, zoomed past her head and flew over to Cho.
'Art thou Miss Cho Chang?' it asked in a sweet, high-pitched voice.
A pink envelope appeared in the messenger's pudgy hand. 'From a Mr. Cormac McLaggen,' it squeaked before handing her the letter. 'I will wait for thy reply to Mr. McLaggen.'
Harry knew who Cormac was. He was a year above him, in Cho's year, and was in Gryffindor house, although hated by all Gryffindors alike. He'd tried out for the Keeper position last year, losing out to Ron, speaking of which who came trudging down with Hermione to where the pair stood. 'It was one of those Valentine Cupid things, wasn't it?'
Harry nodded. 'Are you going to open it?'
Cho shrugged. 'Might as well.' She gently pried the envelope open, in such contrast to what Harry would have done; ripping it viciously, and pulled out an even pinker letter. 'It's scented.' She showed it to Harry, who took a sniff. It smelled strongly of lavender and some other sickeningly sweet smell Harry didn't know.
She smoothed out the scented parchment and read aloud.
'Dear Cho Chang,
Would you please go to the Valentine Ball with me and be my Valentine?
Cho blinked. 'Well that was rather short. Precise and to the point, but short.' She pulled out a quill and ink. 'To Cormac,' she said aloud as she wrote. 'I'm sorry to tell you that I already have a date for the Ball, and a Valentine. From Cho.'
Harry raised a brow.
'What?' she asked. 'Would you prefer I write Love Cho instead?'
Harry shook his head quickly. 'No, no From Cho is fine.'
Cho folded the letter and put it back into the envelope, and handed it back to the Cupid. It saluted her and said as it zoomed off, 'Such beauty hath graced her! Eyes of the darkest mahogany, skin of the fairest the sun hath ever seen! Rose petal lips, so lush and full, her hair the silkiest mane!' The Cupid went on, but the others were to dumbstruck to listen.
'I... Um... I'm going to Herbology.' Cho began to make her way toward the greenhouses followed closely by Harry.
On the way to the greenhouses, Harry and Cho remained silent for a while.
'So,' Harry finally said. 'That was... Odd.'
Cho nodded. 'I don't even know who C-Cor... Corman is.'
'Cormac,' Harry corrected her. 'Cormac McLaggen.'
Cho looked at him. 'You know him?'
Harry told her about him, at least, what he knew.
Cho frowned. 'Oh. I didn't know he was in Gryffindor. The way you decribed him, I'd think he were in Slytherin.'
Harry shrugged, then pointed toward the greenhouses that now stood right in front of them. 'Well, I'd better go.' He kissed her, planning a very brief kiss, but soon found that he couldn't find it in him to part so quickly. He pulled her closer, her arms twining about his neck, slightly bending under him. Harry's tongue swept inside her mouth, and she responded in kind. Her hands gripped the collar of his robes tightly, and she pressed her mouth against his, wanting more.
'Miss Chang!' The voice Professor Sprout abruptly stopping their path of desire, they pulled away instantly, Cho trying her utmost hardest to ignore the hot flush creeping up her neck. So much for slowing it down. Harry meanwhile, adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. 'I-I'm going to...' He pointed toward the castle. 'I'll see you later.' He kissed her cheek and made for the castle.
Cho was left with Professor Sprout. She shifted uncomfortably, smoothing out her uniform.
Professor Sprout raised her eyebrows, then sighed. She opened the door to the greenhouse and encouraged her in. 'Go on. At least you aren't late.'
Cho nodded and walked in, ignoring the look of utter shock on her classmates faces. She'd forgotten. The greenhouse was made of glass. Very transparent glass.
She sat down next to Theo who was making little dirt mounds.
'How was Care of Magical Creatures?' he said casually, disregarding the fact she'd just had a serious snog outside the classroom.
Cho breathed out heavily. 'Oh, you know. Eventful.'
Pretty long, I know. Anyway. I have to go now. GO AND REVIEW, MY FAITHFULS! GO!