I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), the Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
ACT THREE: WHAT TO BELIEVE
With no TriWizard tasks until after the Christmas hols, Draco was able to calm his nerves slightly and focus on plans to ensure he and his fellow Death Eaters regained their memories.
Sitting in the Room of Requirements, where Draco was currently living while avoiding his fellow Snakes, Draco's idea progressively became silly. At first, he was tempted to just tell his friends – to tell Theo and Pucey and Potter – but then he figured they'd institutionalise him in St. Mungo's instead, so he began to think of hitting them over their heads to jog their memories, to confessing everything tearfully on his knees in front of Dumbledore.
He was giggling to himself on the divan, imagining his adult version lording over a strange, small, and shrivelled Voldemort (which was what he looked like currently, living off of his snake's venom), with a cape and sceptre when Potter burst into the Room dramatically and came to a rest at Draco's feet with a sulk.
Draco raised his eyebrow in response. "Me, what?" This was familiar, their verbally charged responses and snarls.
"You time-travelling knave!"
That was new.
"Why didn't you warn me that there was a Yule Ball?" Potter continued, coming to the end of his tirade and sinking into the armchair across from Draco's seat. While Draco gapped at him unattractively, Granger swanned in, looking collected and calm and in complete opposition to Potter's current emotional state.
"Don't mind Harry, Draco," said Hermione in greeting, "He's just upset that no one will find him attractive or a worthy dance partner."
"That's not it!" defended Potter hotly.
"Of course it isn't, Harry," replied Granger tartly, setting her school bag down and placing her hands on her hips. "But did you want me to go around telling everyone it's because Cho Chang is dating Cedric Diggory and she's already taken so you want to wallow in a teenage, hormonally-driven sulk because he got there before you?"
Draco found himself biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing as Potter's face went scarlet. After he composed himself and Granger abandoned Potter to his pout, in order to become acquainted with the numerous books on the shelves, Draco cleared his throat and asked, "Why not ask the little Weasley?"
A stifled laugh came from Granger's direction, while Potter screwed up his face. "Well, ignoring that Ron's being Ron, the last time Ginny tried to have a conversation with me, she turned red and slipped her elbow into the butter dish."
"Yes, that would make conversing with her during the Ball difficult," agreed Draco, magnanimously, withholding his other thoughts. "What about Granger?"
"Pardon me?" asked Granger, turning and joining the conversation.
She and Potter both looked thunderstruck.
"The two of you are friends and get along. If you'd feel better with someone you trust, then you should go together," replied Draco, thinking back to how Granger looked in her blue periwinkle dress, her hair curly and not bushy, looking proud and confident and so strange on Krum's arm a lifetime ago.
"Erm," said Potter in response, causing Granger to offer a wry smile.
Turning, she said to Draco frankly, "I'm afraid neither Harry nor Ron ever saw me as a girl."
Draco blatantly looked Granger up and down from her head to her toes. "You're very clearly a woman, Granger."
Harry's face went further red in embarrassment while Granger gave Draco a rather cheeky grin.
"Thanks," she said, nodding and sitting in the leftover armchair, slouching. Draco learnt over the months becoming friendly with Granger and Potter that Granger only put on the prim and proper act in front of those she wasn't fully confident or comfortable with; learning this made a tingle begin in the pit of Draco's stomach, seeing trust given to him first hand.
"That still leaves poor Harry without a date," finished Granger, sighing and lolling her head over to face Potter.
"There's Lovegood," answered Draco.
"You mentioned her before. She's that really quiet and shy Ravenclaw in third year, right?" squeaked Potter, joining the conversation when it wasn't focused on him. He frowned. "I've seen some of the older Ravenclaws treat her poorly."
"I'd say so," agreed Draco, "Given that they're stealing and hiding most of her things. Greengrass – Astoria, that is, she's a second year – saw some of this and wanted to put a stop to it so she told her older sister."
"Daphne, right?" interjected Granger, nodding along.
Draco nodded. "Yeah, though she really only responds to 'Queenie,' as that was her father's name for her – don't ask, it's a long story. Anyway, she scared a few of the 'Claws, but not enough to permanently end things for Lovegood."
"Hmmm," answered Potter, deep in thought.
It was during this down time between the three that the Room of Requirement's door opened again, admitting Theodore Nott, who came to check up on his friend. The teenager was looking down as he entered the room, focused on the titles of several books he was carrying, drawing everyone's attention.
"—you couldn't get your own bloody books, could you, Draco? No, you just had to make me face Pince after that bloody switching spell yesterday—"
Theo broke off as he spotted Granger and Potter's gazes. "Erm. Hello."
"Hello," the two Gryffindors responded evenly.
"Hey, Theo," greeted Draco, moving his feet off the cushions and wordlessly inviting his friend to sit. "Did you get them all?"
Draco ignored his best friends' rather confused response; he either found the books Draco needed or he didn't, and if he didn't, he'd be going back to the library to find them, since Draco couldn't.
Not that Draco physically couldn't go to the library – he was more than capable of putting one foot in front of the other – but the truth of the matter was that he wasn't feeling very confident in travelling to the library, unless he was in a pack of people he knew wouldn't try to hex him he moment his back was to them.
It was strange, thought Draco, that in a single moment of demonstrating support to Potter, his house turned on him and he sought refuge with the very same people he once considered enemies.
As such, Theo was his go-between man, and Draco hoped that the large number of books he asked for on time travel would get his best friends' brain jogged.
"What do you have there?" asked Granger, eyeing up the titles in Theo's hands.
"She's fine, Theo, let her have a look at them before she rips them from your arms, the great bloody magpie that she is," chortled Draco happily, leaning back in his seat and enjoying the startled expression on his friends' face.
Granger's eyes lit up and she practically Apparated across the floor and was flipping through the first book before Theo had time to react. "Interesting choices," she said, glancing at the text before flipping a page.
"It's something to keep me busy in my spare time," responded Draco.
Granger huffed. "What, are you planning to high jack a Delorean now, to travel through time?"
Potter chuckled. "I hear 1955 is a good year."
Granger shot her friend a grin, which he returned, and Draco felt oddly left out. He quickly decided to get back at Potter. But first: "You never know, a larger vehicular body may stabilise the quantum-flux slipstream."
"You'd need to recalibrate the polarisation of the stream coordinates though," argued Granger, absently giving Theo back the first book she was looking at and then taking another, leaving him staring oddly at the fifteen year old.
"Not necessarily," argued Draco, "If I don't recalibrate the polarisation, I can still reverse engineer the power stream in the time slip space wormhole."
Certain that Potter was now not paying attention as soon as he started the techno-speak, he caught Granger's eyes, changed topics, and drawled, "Of course, if Potter's not interested in Weasley or Lovegood, there's always Natalie MacDonald, she's that first year..."
"Laura Madley?" shot off Granger, quickly catching onto him.
Draco made a face. "Potter with a 'Puff? Really, Granger..."
"Maybe older women then?" suggested Granger with a daring little smile, handing an unusually quiet Theodore Nott the book she had and taking the last one from him to glance through. "Katie Bell?"
"Not unless Harry wants to be used as a test subject for Fred."
Draco shuddered. "Eloise—"
"Don't go there," warned Potter, joining the conversation with a dark tone, and causing Theo to startle in surprise. "Just... don't. That'd be like suggesting Bulstrode and we both knew that, that won't happen."
"Just standards!" mocked Draco, enjoying himself. "Whatever will you do, Potter, with so few girls to choose from and so little time before all the good ones are gone?"
Granger inadvertently scowled at the term Draco stressed, but the wink he sent in her direction made her roll her eyes in response. Having glanced through all the books Theo was carrying, she returned to browsing the bookshelves the Room provided.
It seemed as though Potter was considering what Draco had earlier said, as he turned to Granger, and tentatively, almost shyly, began, "Uh… Hermione… W-Would you…?"
"Would I, what, Harry?" asked Granger, turning to face her friend and teasing him horribly by making him say the sentence in full, in front of Draco and Theo.
"Wouldyougototheballwithme?" he exploded in one, quick sentence.
"I suppose," she replied with a sigh, but there was a slight smile on her lips. "Since you've finally noticed I'm female, anyway."
"With a little bit of help," interjected Draco evenly. "And had you not asked Granger, Potter, I would've suggested Tracey Davis or even Daphne; either would've been happy to go with you."
Potter obviously wasn't sure how to respond to that, so he settled for a half-hearted wry grin that wobbled quickly off his mouth.
Draco thought back to his previous timeline, when Granger had walked in on Viktor Krum's arm, and how shocked everyone had been at the transformation. The truth was that Granger was good looking – rather pretty, actually – but most of it was hidden under her bushy hair and she slouched under the weight of her books. Her intelligence was a turn on for a particular type of wizard; Draco knew Theo had a wee crush on her that he would never act on, due to the conflict between their two Houses.
"Now that we're done the subject of me," began Potter dryly, "Perhaps you can tell us who you're going to take, Malfoy?"
Draco waved his hand negligently in the air, glancing at Theo once his Slytherin friend recovered from his shock and sat next to him on the couch. "So many girls, so little time, Potter."
Granger snorted. "What? Not taking Parkinson to the Ball as your date, Malfoy?"
Draco shook his head. "In case you haven't noticed, Granger, I'm a bit persona non grata amongst the Slytherins at the moment. Pansy won't go with me."
Both Granger and Potter shared a glance between them – again leaving Draco feeling left out, a strange feeling that. Peeved, Draco snapped, "What?"
Potter shook his head. "I still don't understand why you decided to tell everyone you believe I didn't put my name in the TriWizard Cup. You've always been one of the first to point out when I'm seeking attention or doing something stupid or Muggle."
Draco winced, glancing away. He could feel everyone's eyes on him. "I have my reasons."
"We know," said Granger gently, quietly, as she turned away from the books to face the three teens. "And we won't push you. When you're ready, you'll tell us. If you want."
Draco nodded, and Granger and Potter stood, indicating they were ready to leave.
"Thanks for showing us the Room, Malfoy," Potter said, with a small smile. "If I ever lose track of Hermione, I'll know where to look now."
Draco let out a bark of laughter. "First place, library; second, here. I get it."
Granger gave a little wave to both the Slytherins on the couch, and then she and Potter disappeared through the door, leaving Draco alone with Theo.
"Are you ever going to tell me, too?" his best friend asked quietly, his focus on the strange collection of time travelling books.
Draco shook his head. "I won't have to, hopefully. You'll figure it out soon enough, I think. Maybe."
"And if I don't?"
"Then I'll tell you. This summer, if you don't know," said Draco, just as quietly. "I promise."
Theo nodded, settling back into the cushions, satisfied at Draco's response. "Good. Just don't get mushy on me."
Draco grinned. "There won't be anything worth getting mushy over – that I can guarantee."
The Yule Ball was a giant hot mess from start to finish, leaving Harry cursing Dumbledore and the rest of the TriWizard Tournament officials every which way to Sunday, and back.
Of course, he and Hermione had fun; she suggested they practice a dance for the opening ceremony, which would likely be a waltz, and together they used McGonagall's classroom after class hours and her gramophone. Unlike their previous years, when Hermione would tackle a new project with gusto and pizzazz, Harry found Hermione enjoyed the lessons of teaching him to dance a waltz and made it fun and interesting, since it was active participation and not book memorization.
They didn't do anything fancy with their steps – although their one attempt at a spin out and dip was an utter failure with Harry dropping Hermione onto the stone floor. Luckily, she laughed it off and then spent the rest of the evening deliberately stepping on Harry's toes.
After, they coordinated Harry's bottle-green dress robes to match Hermione's periwinkle gown (but they asked Professor Flitwick to change the colour of Harry's robes instead of trusting their own spell work). Harry ended up with a fitted, black robe that was similar to a tuxedo jacket with tails, and a tie in periwinkle.
After that, it was just waiting for Hermione to show up at the bottom of the staircase in the Entrance Hall, as they arranged, as Harry stood with the other Champions. He had seen Ron slunk into the Great Hall dateless, while Neville and his date, Hannah Abbott, smiled and waved; even Draco Malfoy, with an openly curious Daphne Greengrass, stopped for a brief chat and cordial hello.
Although his crush on Cho Chang was still in force, Harry managed to politely greet her and Cedric Diggory and even engage them in a conversation about Quidditch. Viktor Krum arrived last, after Fleur Delacour, both with Hogwarts students as their dates but neither of them people Harry knew.
McGonagall approached, telling the Champions to line up. She sent a curious glance at Harry, as if asking where's Hermione? On cue, Harry turned to the staircase and saw his best friend effortlessly gliding down the steps, her hand delicately resting on the banister for support.
Her dress was what she described to Harry and therefore, was no surprise; however, she used product in her hair to give it shine and style, twisting half of it into a partial bun and leaving the rest curled around her shoulders. She wore light makeup, a glossy sheen to her lips and a bit of darker colour around her eyes. She needed no blush, being entirely flushed upon realising she was everyone's object of interest, being the last to arrive.
"Ms. Granger," began Professor McGonagall, slightly choked up, as she looked the teen over, "You look lovely. Please join Mr. Potter so we may begin."
Hermione bobbed her head and latched on to Harry's extended elbow. In heels, she was slightly above him in height, but it was enough for them to be at eye level. Harry caught her eye, and winked.
"Stop it," she hissed, although incredibly pleased by the reaction she received.
"Haven't said anything," laughed Harry, and she grinned; that was what the entire Hogwarts population and their foreign guests saw as the Champions entered the Great Hall: Harry and Hermione laughing, both wearing pleased grins and flushed cheeks at the rear of the line up.
At the corner of his eye, he saw Ron's mouth drop open and his entire face take on a red hue. And that, Harry determined, was when the night went pear-shaped.
Having followed the rest of the Champions, Harry and Hermione ended up seated next to Percy Weasley, who sat in for Barty Crouch, and next to Cho for Hermione. Conversation at first was stilted amongst all the Champions who sat with their school professors and Heads, as well as TriWizard organisers – none of the teens knew quite what to talk about.
After ordering their meals, conversation began around how good their food tasted; Percy began waxing on about the thickness of cauldron bottoms, which Harry couldn't understand would be necessarily important, and left Percy's conversation to Professor Dumbledore, who seemed far more engaged and interested. Instead, he joined Cho, Cedric, Krum, and Fleur's date, Roger Davies, to talk about Quidditch. Hermione, seeing that Fleur and Krum's date didn't join, asked the girls about their dresses (which Harry was honestly surprised at, since Hermione rarely engaged in feminine discussion with her dormmates) that kept them entertained.
Yet, Harry could not get Ron's face from his mind, as he continued to glare at them from his dinner table. Harry could feel the burn from the glare as easily as he could feel Snape's from day one at Hogwarts, following him and waiting for an opportune moment to corner him. Harry wasn't looking forward to that evitable conclusion of a massive fight that was only now just beginning to boil, but which had brewed since the Champions were named.
Once the Champions finished their meals, Dumbledore indicated with his wand towards a player-less orchestra on the far side of the Great Hall, and they began tuning their instruments.
"Let us welcome our Champions by opening the dance floor with a waltz," called Dumbledore, his voice echoing throughout the Hall.
"Oh thank God," whispered Harry breathlessly, clutching at Hermione's hand as she caught his eye with a wide grin.
"If only it was a foxtrot or samba," she sighed instead, making Harry blanch.
While the other Champions each chose a spot far enough away that they wouldn't crash into each other, Harry felt his heart race and thickly gulped as he gently took Hermione's hand in his right and placed his left on her lower back.
"Hey," she said quietly, looking at him. He caught her eyes. "We practiced this. Numerous times. You know what to do; your feet know what to do. Don't think about them watching us – this is just us in Professor McGonagall's classroom, okay?"
Harry grinned weakly. "Okay."
And then the music began, a slow swell of strings and wind instruments, and Harry took a step forward, slowly, gently guiding Hermione with his left hand to move as they began a simple box step in small, measured moves. Soon, Harry gained confidence and despite continuing to feel Ron's glare, he began to make larger steps, sweeping steps that Hermione laughed gaily at, throwing her head back a little as she did so and immediately catching everyone's attention.
Harry, twirling her around now as their steps became more fluid, even if they were the same four steps, saw the jealous and surprised looks thrown their way, and flushed with pleasure. For once, he was the centre of attention without having done anything but make a girl laugh, not because he was the Boy-Who-Lived, but because he made her happy with a dance.
Harry grinned at Hermione, and together they finished the dance with smiles on their faces and heavy breaths. As the music ended, Harry let go of Hermione and gave her a courteous bow; she responded with a curtsey and a smile of her own.
The dance floor then was flooded as the other students and their dates joined for another waltz, and Harry took Hermione's hand once more for a second dance.
"One more," she said, "Then ask Cho to dance. Make sure you dance with all the Champions or their dates."
"I'm glad you tacked that on," replied Harry, his feet now moving surely, "Because I don't think Krum would've enjoyed dancing with me as much as he probably will with you. He keeps glancing over."
"Are you sure it's me he's looking at?" taunted Hermione boldly. "It could be you, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome."
Harry wryly grinned. "Tall, huh? Now I know you're lying."
They laughed and then Harry twirled Hermione towards Cedric and Cho; as they neared, he extended his arm, and Hermione ended up in front of Cedric with a grin.
"Mind if I cut in?" asked Harry, with a smile.
Cedric laughed, glancing at Cho to see if she was agreeable. "Not at all!"
"Thanks," answered Harry and then took Cho in his arms.
They were silent for a bit, as they danced, before Harry ventured, "I wanted to say thank you for your nice rejection."
Cho flushed red and stammered, "Harry... I'm sorry, but Cedric had already asked"—
"No, no," interjected Harry with a smile, "That's fine! I just wanted to say it was the nicest rejection I've ever had."
Afterwards, Harry danced with Fleur and then Krum's date, but he didn't have much to say to either of them. Upon returning to Hermione, who had danced with Cedric, Krum, and Roger Davies (whom she said was a right bore), Harry offered to get her a drink, just as Krum came towards them for a second dance request.
Glancing at Harry, Hermione was unsure at how to respond, but her friend saved her from rejecting Krum. "I'll get that drink for you, and when you're done dancing, just come find me at the table over there," he said, indicating to an empty table near the door. Both Krum and Hermione agreed and were gone; Harry left for the buffet and drinks table, pouring two glasses of punch for himself, being parched, and for Hermione, whom he was sure would want a drink after all her dances.
He sat quietly at the table, surprisingly not feeling lonely. He was enjoying himself, despite Ron's glares – he wondered why – and his partner's popularity.
"Enjoying the night, Potter?" drawled a voice that Harry immediately recognised.
"Surprisingly, yes," he responded, as Draco sat at one of the free chairs. "How is yours going?"
"Well," admitted Draco with a smile, glancing at the Slytherin side of the Hall where they congregated. Daphne was subtly flaunting the fact she was Draco's date over Pansy, who looked livid at a girl's only table.
"Oh, boy," said Harry, following his gaze. "And that won't be a problem?"
"Not for me," boasted the Slytherin, causing Harry to laugh loudly in response to the arrogant reply.
"Fraternising with the enemy now?" sneered another voice Harry knew well, which made him mentally groan.
As if on cue, Hermione and Krum appeared, breathless and happy, but cutting themselves off mid-laugh as they saw Harry turn to roll his eyes at Ron, who was looming above his seated best friend. They had heard what he said. Draco, however, merely sat back and crossed his arms in response.
"Don't be so stupid!" Harry said.
Ron's narrowed eyes shifted from Draco to Krum.
Harry caught the look and so did Hermione, who burst out, "The enemy! Honestly – who was the one who was all excited when they saw Viktor arrive? Who was the one who wanted his autograph? Who's got a model of him up their dormitory?"
With each accusation, Ron's ire – and the flush in his cheeks – grew, just as Krum's discomfort at being caught mid-argument and being drawn in to one, did.
"I s'pose Harry asked you to come with him while you were both in the library?" Ron moodily asked, eyes drawing away from Krum, who began to slink off, to Harry.
"No, he didn't," replied Hermione, coolly. "Not like it's your business, Ronald. But Harry did ask me."
"Pro'bly felt sorry for you, didn't he?" continued Ron, talking over Hermione. "Like he always feels sorry for you. You probably talked to him so much about spew he had to agree to shut you up."
Draco interjected quickly as twin red splotches of colour appeared on Hermione's cheeks. He knew that look, very well. "Actually, Weasley, I was the one who suggested Potter and Granger go together, since they were with me at the time."
Ron's aghast and pale face was enough to make him lose his train of thought – but only briefly. "You're hanging out with him now?"
"Well, unlike you, he believed Harry from day one that he never put his name in the Cup," replied Hermione tartly, leaving Harry to sit between Draco and her, his head whipping back and forth.
"He's a Slytherin! Of course he's going to try to get on your good side! He's just trying to get closer to Harry – get inside information on him – pass it on to his Death Eater friends and Snape – or get near enough to jinx him—"
Hermione looked scandalised on Harry's behalf, and even Draco looked at Ron in disappointment and pity. "He hasn't asked us a single thing about Harry or the tournament—"
"Oh, but that doesn't stop a sneaky, disgusting Slytherin from information gathering, does it?" butted Ron, continuing breathlessly as Hermione's mouth dropped open in shock.
"You're really stretching it, Weasley," drawled Draco in amusement, leaning forward to look better at the redhead. "This whole tournament was supposed to be about getting to know foreign witches and wizards and making friends with them. I think Potter and Granger are managing that well enough, aren't they? Dancing with all the Champions and their dates and chatting about at dinner. What have you been up to, huh?"
"The tournament is about winning!" shouted Ron.
They were beginning to draw attention, the kind Harry didn't like, so he tried to appeal to Ron, who was the loudest, and Hermione, his date, to calm down. "Ron, I haven't got a problem with Hermione dancing with Viktor; I danced with Fleur..."
Ron ignored him. Harry was beginning to dislike that, an angry twinge in his stomach feeding his own growing anger.
"Why don't you go find Vicky, he'll be wondering where you are," sneered Ron.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," muttered Draco, standing from his seat, drawing up to his full height next to Hermione. "Weasley, stop being so goddamn jealous and just realise that Granger is attractive and prefers real wizards over boys like you."
Ron's jaw dropped open, and Harry – who knew Ron probably better than he knew himself – jumped up from his seat and grabbed Hermione around the waist. In a fluid move that Hermione would later swear he should have used on the dance floor, Harry twirled Hermione around to place her behind him and Draco just as Ron whipped his wand out.
"Don't be stupid, Weasley," said Draco quietly, eyeing the trembling wand as it was pointed directly at him. "We're in the middle of the Hall and everyone can see what you're doing."
"What's this? Ron? What are you doing?"
Never had Harry been so glad to see Percy Weasley in his life.
Although there were several eyes on them, Harry piped up, "Percy! Hi! So glad you're here. Remember what you were saying at dinner about the cauldron bottoms' thickness? Ron was just asking about it and wondering if it would help improve his potions grade if there were standardised bottoms. You might want to explain things some more. Well, look at the time! Must dash. Bye!"
And with an arm wrapped around Hermione's waist, Harry bodily moved her through the crowd and towards the entrance hall, Draco trailing them while trying to hold in his sniggers.
When they were partially hidden behind a pillar and in a darkened alcove, Hermione buried her face in her hands. "Was he always like that?"
Draco shrugged and leaned against the wall, keeping his eyes trained on the empty Entrance Hall. "You knew Weasley best."
"It's just..." Hermione trailed off, looking up. "He wasn't like this before."
"Jealousy, I suppose," offered Harry. "Look, let's just give it time, okay? Things are heightened right now. He's upset and jealous over things; we're getting emotional in response. Let's just wait and see how the year goes and then we'll go over this with him."
"I suppose," replied Hermione doubtfully. "But after everything we've learned? What Ron is like without us around? And now this?"
"Benefit of the doubt," supplied Harry quietly. "And we'll cross that bridge when we get there, Hermione. Not before. Let's not think of it now."
"Best idea," agreed Draco, glancing at the two, but not changing his position. "You've got enough to worry about."
Harry nodded in agreement, and wrapped a friendly arm around Hermione's shoulders. "Now, c'mon, you look great in that dress. Let's head back and hear what the Weird Sisters sound like. I've never heard wizarding music before."
"You haven't?" asked Draco in surprise. "What do you listen to?"
"My cousin likes the Beastie Boys," answered Harry, grinning at Draco's confused face.
The three returned to the Yule Ball, although both Harry and Hermione were visibly subdued after their argument with Ron; Draco wandered back over to his date and left the TriWizard Champion and his date alone, speaking quietly by the very same table Ron confronted them at earlier.
"Do you feel like everything is just getting worse and worse?" asked Hermione quietly, her eyes watching the throng of students in front of the stage, where the Weird Sisters were performing 'Dance like a Hippogryff.'
"Something big is going to happen, isn't it?" she continued.
Harry scoffed. "Doesn't something big happen at the end of every year?"
Hermione hummed her agreement, and the silence between them grew. Harry's eyes wandered more often than not towards Cho and Cedric dancing, and their happy faces, but occasionally strayed to the other Champions and their dates and others in the crowd. His eyes picked out several acquaintances and their partners: Neville and Hannah Abbott, Draco and Daphne, Seamus and Parvati and Dean and Padma. Lavender was dancing with a boy from Beauxbatons while tossing her hair and giggling. Ron and Percy were nowhere to be seen.
"Are you ready for it this year?" Hermione finally asked, her voice tinged with resignation.
Harry thought it over; was he ever prepared for whatever was in store for him at the end of the school year? Was he ready when he went after the Philosopher's Stone, or when he burst into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny and fight a younger version of Voldemort? Was he ready to learn the truth about his parents' deaths, and about his godfather?
No, he was never ready, never prepared. Maybe it was time to change that. Maybe it was time to start believing that he was capable and – since he knew he never put his name in and someone wanted him dead – maybe it was time to start showing the wizarding world what he was capable of... even if he had yet to scratch the surface of his belief in his abilities.
"I think I will be," began Harry slowly, his drawing dragging themselves away from the happy teenagers dancing to glance at Hermione from the corner of his eyes. She too was looking out onto the crowd, but as if feeling his eyes on her, tilted her head in his direction and caught his peripheral gaze. "If I have you by my side, helping me out."
Hermione gave a tiny smile. "I'm not going anywhere."
Harry smiled back.
The months following the Yule Ball were strangely chaotic while maintaining a strange ambiance of surrealistic normalcy.
Hagrid had been made to feel inferior due to Rita Skeeter's tip-off that he had giant blood, and she all but did the same to Madam Maxime's reputation by pointing out her size; however, she refrained from declaring it to avoid an international incident.
Harry, with help from Draco and Cedric, "took a bath" and heard the Mermish song indicating that the second task would require a) swimming, which Harry didn't know how to do, and b) something precious would be taken from him and placed at the bottom of the lake for him to retrieve, which he wasn't pleased about either.
In the end, Hermione – and not Ron, which sent the redhead into another moody spiral – was taken as Harry's hostage. Harry played the hero when Fleur didn't come for her little sister, and only Krum and Cedric managed to free their hostages (their Yule Ball dates) but both were beyond the hour limit.
Following the task, Harry's daily existence was of the Gryffindors publically backing him against the three other Houses in Hogwarts, and staying on top of his homework with Hermione and Neville's help. While Harry realised that the entire plot of his name in the Cup could mean facing another version of Voldemort by June, he was honestly more frightened of Snape. He only doubled his study habits when Hermione pointed out that while Snape was scary, and hated him, for the most part Snape wasn't trying to actively kill him on an annual basis.
Relief came in the form of Draco, who took Harry out to the Quidditch pitch during February to April for freeform flying. The Slytherin was a strange companion, always around when Harry was at his lowest for an encouraging word or two; pointing out helpful study tips or wand movements that both he and Hermione had no idea about (which later became a rant on Hermione's part about purebloods hoarding knowledge); or even just spending time with them in the Room of Requirements. After the second task, even Theodore Nott became a more visible figure joining them in the Room, although more often than not, his time was monopolised by Hermione grilling him on what books he brought for Draco.
When a chance encounter after a flying session with Draco ended up with a conversation with Viktor Krum – whom Harry was on speaking terms with since the Yule Ball and the foreigner's fascination with Hermione — and finding the transfigured body of Barty Crouch, Harry realised time was running out.
Dumbledore, however, seemed to run on his own clock and decided that despite Harry's snooping in his pensieve, there wasn't much to be concerned about. After all, Harry was bound by magic to compete in the Tournament, so compete he would – nothing could change that.
Harry left Dumbledore's office disgruntled and annoyed, and ultimately ended up in the Room, where Hermione, Draco, and Theo lounged.
Hermione frowned as she recounted what Harry had explained to them. "So Dumbledore thinks You-Know-Who's getting stronger again as well?"
Theo was determinedly not involving himself with the discussion, hiding his face behind a thick tome near a crackling fire. Draco, on the other hand, was lounging on a couch, facing Harry and Hermione with a thoughtful look on his face.
"Well, there's nothing we can do about it right now," sighed Hermione, glancing down at her watch. "We need to continue practicing your spellwork, Harry. Impediment Curse? Accio? What would you like to start with?"
"Anything that this point that may help me," groaned Harry as he slowly got to his feet. "We might as well just go through every spell we learned since First Year and make our way through the books."
"We'd be here forever," retorted Hermione, standing as well.
"I don't want to take away from your study time, though," added Harry, as though she hadn't spoke. "You should be studying for your final exams, like Theo is, instead of helping me."
"Consider it review," said Hermione instead, smiling at her friend, and picking up a book from a side table. "Shall we start?"
As Hermione shouted out spells, hexes and curses for Harry to perform, who in turn attacked a dummy conjured for the very purpose of being his target, Harry soon mastered the Impediment Curse, the Reductor Curse, and the Four-Point Spell, which would come in handy with the third task and the maze.
His shield charm needed work, and Draco helped where he could, but the Slytherin's patience was practically nonexistent, and soon everything Harry did frustrated the blond.
"Damn it, Potter!" he shouted, finally. "Why can't you get this through your thick skull? I can't believe you even managed to stay alive as long as you had!"
"Wait, what?" asked Harry, lowering his wand from its ready position as Draco threw his hands in the air and turned his back on his duelling partner.
Draco was ignoring him, running his hands through his hair while Harry and Hermione stood shock still.
"It must have been luck, that has to be it," Draco was muttering. "How else could he survive the Killing Curse? Prophecy or no prophecy, Potter was always below average, even in spell power. How could he survive everything? The Department of Mysteries? When the Death Eaters infiltrated in our sixth year? The Dark Lord's campaign afterwards and then their capture?"
"What is he talking about?" murmured Harry, as he moved to stand beside Hermione, who was staring at Draco in disbelief.
"He's talking about things we haven't experienced yet," she breathed, eyes wide and round.
"Yet?" questioned Harry, but he understood.
Draco was still ranting. "Oh, look at me – I'm Harry Potter – the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One but I only choose to use Imperio and silly little school-level curses instead of hitting them with everything I've got because I'm an idiot..."
"Hey now!" protested Harry, speaking up.
Yet, Draco continued. "No wonder the Dark Lord won. No wonder everyone died. Merlin, even Teddy deserved more, as did Victorie..."
"Who?" asked Hermione, frowning.
"Travelling through time to save his story arse and he can't even be bothered to remember it," muttered Draco, his back to the Gryffindors. "Why did I even search the blasted thing down? Stupid Clock. Stupid Dark Lord. Stupid Death Eaters. Stupid me."
Harry stepped forward and placed a hand on Draco's shoulder, making the teen stop speaking and immediately tense. Slowly, he turned his head to face Harry, silver eyes flashing as the Slytherin took in Harry's frown.
"I think it's time that you tell us everything," said Harry slowly, his eyes dark, a heavy emerald in the Room's light.
Slowly, Draco nodded, his eyes darting to Hermione, who was regarding him solemnly, but with a touch of something else in her eyes.
"Yes," he finally said, nodding. "Yes, I think it is time."
As Draco began to speak, one of the Room of Requirement's walls smoothed out and rippled white before a swirling mass of colours consolidated into images that Harry and Hermione recognised as themselves – only, older, dirtier, wearing worn clothing and gaunt faces, which then morphed into four figures standing before a maze entrance in flickering torch light.
"It started when Scabior caught you, Weasley and Granger in the Forest of Dean. No... In truth, it started the night of the third task, when Cedric Diggory was murdered..."
Author's Note Jan.15.14: So, I feel like I should say that my interest in fandoms tend to rotate based on mood. Although I have "fallen out of love" with HP canon, I do regularly return to my [numerous] HP fanfics and add to them; it just may take a disturbingly large amount of time before I do update, as I tend to fall in love with other fandoms in the meantime - such as Downton Abbey, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf...
As such, the story does have the next two chapters planned out; but whether or not I will get to them anytime soon is up in the air. I am working three part time jobs, waiting to hear about PhD acceptances for September 2014, and working on several personal events that require governmental research and many, many forms filled out. Those take time and MUCH mental focus.
I do hope you enjoyed this chapter - I felt this was the best place to end, even though the Third Task was originally planned for the chapter. Instead, the deviation from canon will truly begin now, and to answer your questions: YES, SOMEONE ELSE DOES REMEMBER. However, they are currently indisposed and unable to help Draco Malfoy. That, however, may soon change. :)