Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters, places, and terms are property of J.K. Rowling.
Chapter 1: Let the Games Begin!
September 1st came and went just like it did every year at Hogwarts. However, this year was different in several ways. The main difference was that Voldemort had been defeated by Harry Potter. The other main difference was that the first year class at Hogwarts was larger than it had been previously. Yes, Hogwarts opened itself again to the students but because many students had not attended school the previous year, the Ministry decided that all of the students should go back to school and repeat a year. For that reason, the first year class had more students than any other year.
The summer prior to the school year had also been very eventful. Repairs had been made to the school following the Battle of Hogwarts, the dead had been buried, the Death Eaters who were still alive after the battle were captured and locked away, and finally Kingsley Shacklebolt had been elected to the position of Minister of Magic.
For their parts in defeating Voldemort, Harry and Ron had been offered positions at the Auror office by Kingsley. They accepted readily but were given the special privilege of going through their basic training at Hogwarts so that they could be close to Hermione. Of the three, Hermione was the only one who had decided to go back to school to complete her education. Harry and Ron shook their heads when they heard of her decision but they knew that Hermione loved learning and would not be happy if she did not go back to school. Not surprisingly though Hermione had also been made Head Girl.
Ron and Hermione had been dating since the end of the Battle of Hogwarts but, contrary to what everyone was expecting, Harry had yet to ask Ginny to be his girlfriend again. By not entering into a relationship, Harry had made himself the most eligible bachelor in the wizarding world and, much to his chagrin; he was receiving proposals of every kind from a good number of the available witches.
It was for that reason that eight girls were secretly gathered in the Room of Requirement with one mission: to take Harry Potter off the bachelor market. These girls, unlike the rest of the female population, had not sent the hero of the wizarding world a proposal of any kind because they had already observed Harry's negative reaction to the ones he was already receiving. This was where Ginny Weasley found herself after dinner one Saturday evening.
There were two girls from every house at Hogwarts present at the meeting. To Ginny's left sat Lavender Brown, the other from Gryffindor. Lavender had recovered from her injuries inflicted by Fenrir at the Battle of Hogwarts and returned to finish her schooling. Personality-wise, she had not changed much. She still enjoyed to gossip with her friend Parvati but was not as much of an attention seeker as she was previously.
Representing Hufflepuff were Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott. Neither of the two girls had changed very much physically but Ginny did not know much else about them. The same went for Padma Patil from Ravenclaw other than the fact that she had went with Ron to the Yule Ball in her third year.
The other Ravenclaw girl turned out to be Luna Lovegood. Luna was still good friends with Ginny and she came to visit the Burrow from time to time during the summer. Luna still had the same dreamy look on her face and Ginny was pleasantly surprised that the time in Malfoy's dungeon last year did not dampen her spirits even a little. Finally, there were Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis from Slytherin who were sitting across the table from Ginny and Lavender. From what Ginny remembered, these two girls were almost always seen together. Neither of the girls' families had sided with Voldemort during the war, choosing instead to remain neutral. In hindsight, that strategy was beneficial because it ensured the survival of their families no matter which side won the war.
While Ginny did not know anything about Tracey, she had heard about Daphne from other students. In her own right, Daphne was a very attractive girl with a pretty face and dark hair flowing in waves down her back. In fact, if it were not for her reputation as an ice queen and the fact that she was in Slytherin, Ginny suspected that many of the boys might have tried to ask her out. Despite her reputation, however, Daphne was able to get along with students in the other houses when necessary. Daphne was also the reason that the eight girls were gathered in the Room of Requirement.
After getting the attention of the other girls, Daphne wasted no time is getting to the point. "So we all know that Potter is still on the bachelor market," Daphne began. "I think it's time that one of us snags him for ourselves."
"Why are you suddenly so interested in Harry?" asked Luna. "Not after his fame are you?"
Daphne frowned at Luna. "I'm not so shallow as to be after his fame, or his money for that matter. In case you haven't noticed, he is quite fanciful. Besides, I would like to get to know him. Other than what Malfoy has said about him, Potter is still a mystery to me – a mystery I would love to try to crack."
"Then you can stop calling him Potter and start calling him by his first name," Ginny snapped.
"Calm down Weasley," said Tracey with a smirk. "We know you're still bitter that Pott—I mean Harry hasn't gotten back together with you."
"What does that have to do with anything!" Ginny said angrily, beginning to stand up while Lavender put out an arm to calm her down.
"Girls, there will be plenty of time to fight later," Daphne interjected. "Now as I said earlier, each of us wants to take Harry off the bachelor market but first I think we should all swear an oath that we are not to talk about this to anyone other than ourselves."
Around the table, each of the girls readily took the oath but when they got to Ginny, she hesitated for a moment before giving in.
"So now that we are all sworn to secrecy, I propose that we make a contest out of this," said Daphne. "The prize, of course, is Harry. Perhaps with some luck, the winner will spend the rest of her life happily married to him."
Hearing that, Lavender perked up considerably. "So what are the rules?" she asked.
"The rules are simple," Daphne began to explain. "We are not to use love potions on Harry and we are not to use unforgiveables either."
"Aww, and I was hoping to slip him some of the stuff that Slughorn had sitting in his stash," Tracey said, catching the attention of all of the girls in the room, including Daphne's. Soon enough though, Tracey burst out laughing.
"That was great!" she said with a laugh. "I can't believe even you believed me Daph."
Daphne gave an annoyed look at her friend but continued on nonetheless. "So each of us can either attempt to ask Harry out or get him to ask one of us out. You will be eliminated from the contest if he rejects you or refuses to go on another date with you."
"So what happens if he rejects all of us?" asked Padma. "And why isn't my sister here?"
"Leave it to a Ravenclaw to point out the worst case scenario," said Daphne with a frown but that quickly changed into an evil smirk. "In that event, I'm all for jumping him at the end of the year and having our way with him. Agreed?"
Even Ginny had to laugh that that one.
"As for Parvati, I did invite her but I guess her experience with Harry at the Yule ball was enough to deter her." Daphne continued. "So, any other questions?"
"What if more than one of us gets to go on a date with him?"
Daphne thought about that for a moment. "I suppose that could happen. He could go on dates with more than one than one of us but not commit to having any of us as a girlfriend yet. How about we settle a tie with a duel at the end of the school year, winner take all. Now who's in?"
Ginny thought about that one for a moment. This contest would probably be a slam dunk for her. She was not on bad footing with Harry and she figured that with some help from Hermione, she could perhaps get back together with Harry and maybe obtain some help in eliminating the competition. In the off chance that one of the other girls got to date him too by the end of the year, Ginny figured that she had enough dueling experience to win.
"I'm in," Ginny said eventually. The other girls also followed Ginny's lead one by one.
"When do we start?"
"Tomorrow morning," Daphne replied with a grin. "But first, I need to explain one thing."
Ginny saw Daphne pull out eight pieces of rolled up parchment. She gave one to each participant and kept one for herself.
"I've just handed each of you a list of our names. This is how we'll keep track of the contest. The lists are charmed so that when one of us is eliminated, that person's name will be crossed out on the list and that person's list will combust. There is nothing else identifying the lists so no one should be able to figure out what the list is for," Daphne explained. "That's all I have. May the best girl win."
With that, each of the girls pocketed the parchment they had been given and returned to their respective dorms to begin their scheming.
The next morning Ginny woke up and immediately sought out Hermione. Ginny found that Hermione was already eating breakfast in the Great Hall while reading a book. Ron was sitting next to her one arm around her waist but Harry was nowhere to be seen.
Approaching the pair, Ginny asked where Harry was.
"I haven't seen him all morning," Ron replied. "Though we are supposed to meet up later for our auror training. I hear that your new Defence professor is also our trainer. But why do you ask?"
Ginny just shook her head. "No reason. Say Hermione, would you have time to help me with a project?"
Hermione looked up from her book and nodded. "Sure. Where do you want to meet?"
"Can we meet at the library after dinner?" Ginny asked.
Hermione agreed while Ron groaned. "Count me out then."
"No one said you were invited Ronald," Ginny said sarcastically.
"Thanks," Ron said flatly. "Nice to know that I am wanted."
Hermione merely grinned and kissed Ron on the cheek. "Don't worry. You can rest assured that you are wanted."
"See? Hermione understands," Ron said to Ginny. "Why can't you?"
Ginny merely huffed and started to eat her breakfast.
Later that evening, Ginny went to the library after dinner to meet with Hermione. The head girl had left dinner early "to catch up on some studying." Ginny suspected that "studying" meant a snogging session with her brother but that was irrelevant since Ginny knew that the prospect of studying would scare him away. Truth be told though, Ginny had no intention of studying at all either. After Ron left, Ginny would try to get Hermione to help her snag Harry.
When Ginny got to the library, it took less than five minutes to locate Hermione. Sure enough Ron was there with her but Hermione looked like she was about to hex Ron.
With a sigh, Ginny walked over to the couple. "What did you do now?" Ginny asked pointedly.
"Nothing!" Ron replied defensively, holding up both of his hands. "I was just trying to protect her from those Slytherins."
"Honestly Ron," Hermione said exasperatedly. "That Slytherin was just trying to ask for some help with her essay for her N.E.W.T.s. All she wanted me to do was proofread it and give comments. She was not going to try anything. Besides, she doesn't hang around with Malfoy and his group."
"And I say that her essay could be jinxed. You can never trust those Slytherins after all," Ron said hotly.
Ginny stared at Hermione suspiciously. "Her? It wasn't Daphne Greengrass or Tracey Davis by any chance was it?"
"It was Daphne," Hermione replied before turning her attention back to Ron. "Anyway, nothing happened when she handed me her essay. You were here for that!"
"Nothing that you could see anyway," Ron said, his face beginning to turn red in anger.
Hermione glared at Ron and said with finality, "I am going to go study with Ginny. You go back to your room and give this a rest."
Ron said nothing and stalked off while Ginny took a seat next to Hermione. Ginny thought a bit. Daphne probably was trying to get close to Hermione so she probably used "needing help with an essay" as an excuse to talk to Hermione. Just to be on the safe side though, Ginny figured she should look at Daphne's essay just in case it had something about Harry.
"Say Hermione, I don't suppose I could look at Daphne's essay?" Ginny said finally. "I mean one could never get a head start on one's N.E.W.T.s right?"
Hermione gave her a questioning look but dug through her bag and handed Daphne's essay to Ginny. Ginny unrolled the parchment and skimmed through the first few lines.
Sure enough it did look like an essay - one on potions at that. Losing interest, Ginny rolled the parchment up again and handed back to Hermione.
"Done already? So what did you need help with?" Hermione asked, taking back the rolled up parchment and putting it in her bag.
"Actually," Ginny said thoughtfully, "I was wondering if we could go to your suite and talk in private?"
Hermione looked at Ginny with a raised eyebrow but did not ask any questions. "Fine. After that row with your brother, I don't think I could concentrate on my studying."
Ginny grinned and stood up as Hermione gathered her things.
"That's like your 1000th row with him isn't it?"
"Tell me about it…sometimes I wonder why we even bothered dating but I guess I should be flattered that he's concerned for my safety this time. At least this one was better than that pointless bickering that we usually get into."
When the two girls arrived at Hermione's suite, Hermione placed silencing charms around the room.
"So what did you want to talk about? Is it about Harry?" Hermione asked, sitting down on the couch.
Ginny gave her a small smile. "Is it that obvious?"
"Well given that everyone was expecting you two to get back together again after the war, I figured that you might come to me sooner or later about this," Hermione stated.
"I know, mum was expecting Harry to ask me to be his girlfriend again," Ginny said. "She looked very disappointed when we went off to school and Harry still hadn't asked me out again."
"I think your mum just wants to have one big happy family, especially since Fred is gone," Hermione said sadly. "I mean your mum was ecstatic when we told her that Ron and I were dating."
A crestfallen look fell upon Ginny's face as well. "I miss him too. George hasn't been the same since but Angelina seemed to be visiting him at the shop during the summer. Maybe she'll cheer him up."
Hermione brightened up at that bit of information. "Really? I think she'll be good for George."
"So I thought that since Harry isn't making a move on me, I should make a move on him," Ginny said. "What do you think?"
Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think that Harry will come around. Just be patient."
Ginny looked a little frustrated. "But what could he be waiting for? I mean you and Ron got together after the war. Sure Ron was also saddened by Fred's death but that didn't stop him from asking you out."
"Harry is just adjusting to normal life. I mean he had Voldemort to deal with his entire life. You can understand that can't you?"
"Of course I can," said Ginny. "I just wish he'd tell me that instead of leaving me hanging like this. Isn't there anything I could do?"
"I suppose you could try to see if you can help him with something," Hermione suggested thoughtfully. "While you're discussing the solution, you could go for a walk around the lake and enjoy each other's company. At least that's what we do sometimes when he comes to me for help. I mean a walk around the lake is a romantic thing to do isn't it?"
Ginny grinned to herself. If that's all it took then perhaps the competition would be easy to win after all, and to top it off, she would certainly feel better if things got back to normal with Harry. Thanking Hermione, Ginny left for her own dorm. She would definitely be keeping an eye out for a way she could help Harry.
A/N: I should have the next chapter up by tomorrow. In the meantime, any feedback would be appreciated.