Here we are, chapter 2! Most of my ideas come from the wonderful tymes24, by the way.
I'm sorry, but sporadic are as good as my updates get. My life is genuinely terrible right now, so please, bear with me.
Please review! Reviews make my days a little bit better. :)
After telling Fleur goodnight, Harry slowly left the small room that they had occupied, just to run up the main staircase and stop on the first floor landing. He turned around and looked over the railing, watching as Fleur emerged from the room and walked through the castle doors. Through a small window, he could see her walking across the grounds, her long, silvery-blonde hair bathed in moonlight. With a half-smile, he watched and waited until he saw her disappear inside the Beauxbatons carriage, then he began to make his was up to Gryffindor tower.
He'd only taken a few steps in that direction when his mind began reeling again. For the life of him, Harry could not understand why his name had been entered in the Goblet of Fire. It just didn't make sense. Why on earth would anyone want to enter him in some dangerous competition that hadn't taken place in years? Was someone really hoping that he would be somehow killed through it? Was someone just trying to isolate him from everyone else, make him lonely, get inside his head? And why on earth would a beautiful, part Veela woman be paying any attention to him, let alone be taking his side and using her powers of empathy to stand up for him?
Harry didn't know any of the answers to any of those questions, all he knew was that they were making his head spin.
"Well, well, well!" Exclaimed a voice, startling Harry out of his thoughts. It was the Fat Lady, he realized, once he realized where he was. "I heard the Triwizard Tournament is happening once again, isn't that right, Violet?"
"That's right," a pale, wizened witch replied, doing her level best to sound as snobbish as possible. "Who's been chosen as champion, then?"
"Balderdash," Harry said flatly, giving her a pointed look.
"What? I've never heard of anyone named 'Balderdash' before!" The witch exclaimed, thoroughly confused.
"No, no, dear. It's the password," the Fat Lady informed her, swinging forward on her hinges to let Harry through. Before he could so much as think about stepping through the portrait hole, however, he was nearly blasted backwards by the outburst if noise from the common room when they saw him, before at least a dozen pairs of hands reached out and grabbed him to pull him inside.
"Bloody hell, Harry! How did you manage it?" Dean shouted as Harry was dragged through the portrait hole.
"I didn't!" Harry shouted back, but everyone laughed at him.
"Of course you didn't. Blimey, mate, how'd you trick the age line?" Seamus asked, appearing next to him.
"I didn't!" Harry replied again, sighing inwardly.
Lee Jordan suddenly appeared and draped an enormous Gryffindor banner around his shoulders, all the while prattling on about how proud he was that Gryffindor would be represented in the tournament, and completely ignoring Harry's protests.
After a few minutes of that, Harry was beginning to seriously consider beating the next person who approached him over the head with their own arm. Before he could do so, however, both of his arms were seized and he was dragged to a somewhat emptier corner of the common room. He whipped his head around to see who his kidnappers were, and was relieved to see the Weasley twins.
"How'd you do it, mate?" George asked as soon as they had released Harry from their clutches.
"More importantly, how'd you do it without getting a beard?" Fred asked, rubbing his hand along his jaw.
Harry sighed heavily.
"I didn't do it, I didn't put my name in that goblet!"
"You didn't?" Fred asked, looking so surprised that Harry had to wonder if it had ever even occurred to him that Harry hadn't done anything to get his name in the goblet.
"How the hell did it get there, then?" George demanded.
"I dunno, but Moody reckons someone did it hoping that I'd die during one of the tasks," Harry told them grimly.
"Bloody hell," both twins said, looking at each other in surprise. Fred opened his mouth to say something else, but he was cut off.
"Harry! Oh, at least if it couldn't be me, it's a Gryffindor!" Angelina Johnson exclaimed as the three chaser girls swooped in on their little group.
"Yeah, you can pay Diggory back for that last match, now!" Katie Bell shrieked excitedly.
"At least tell us how you did it, Harry!" Alicia Spinnet asked, grinning at him.
"I didn't do it, girls. Really, I didn't." Harry was getting very tired of this endless questioning.
"But...you must have!" Alicia said, confusion evident on her face.
"How else would it have gotten there?" Angelina asked.
"Harry says that Moody reckons someone else did it," Fred piped up.
"Yeah, someone who's hoping that someone else offs him!" George added, looking rather angry about the words he was saying.
Harry nodded at them, thankful that he didn't have to explain things one more time.
"Oh my God, you poor thing!" Katie exclaimed, gripping Harry's arm with both hands.
"That's awful!" Angelina agreed, the twins and Alicia nodded their agreement with her.
"Wait...you actually believe me?" Harry asked, floored.
"Of course we believe you, mate!" George said, clapping him on the shoulder.
"We dunno how many other people will, but we know you wouldn't lie to us," Fred agreed. "Besides, someone throwing your name in a goblet and hoping you get killed because of it? That's so batty that it could only happen to you."
"Yeah, and the theory is so paranoid that only Moody himself could have come up with it," George added.
"So, of course we believe you!" Fred exclaimed, grinning and throwing an arm around his twin's shoulders.
"We believe you too, Harry!" Alicia said, gesturing to herself and the other two girls, who nodded their agreement.
"Oh, thank Merlin!" Harry exclaimed. "At least you lot believe me, everyone's been driving me barmy. I really didn't do anything and no one will listen..." Harry trailed off when he spotted a small, bushy haired figure sitting on the bottom stair of the boys' staircase.
"Well, we're listening, Harry. Your team has your back, remember that!" Katie said, squeezing his arm before finally pulling her hand away.
"Apparently, we just have to keep you from getting killed before the first challenge. Of course, knowing you, that could be difficult," Angelina said with a smirk.
"Thank you, thank you so much! Bloody hell, I have to go, but...I'll see you at practice!" Harry excused himself and made his way over to Hermione as quickly as he could, which was difficult, what with everyone trying to talk to him. "Hermione, thank Merlin you're here!" He exclaimed when he reached her. He opened his mouth to say something else, but she held up a hand to stop him.
"Harry, did you or did you not put your name in the Goblet of Fire?" She asked, looking him square in the eye and planting her hands firmly on her hips.
"No, 'Mione, of course I didn't!" Harry exclaimed. "I didn't do it, and now Moody thinks that someone's hoping I'll get myself killed, and..." He was cut off by Hermione throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him so tightly that he thought his lungs might burst.
"It's okay, Harry, you don't need to say anything else. I believe you," she said, her voice slightly muffled by his shoulder.
"Thanks, Hermione," he replied, breathing a sigh of relief as he returned his best friend's hug. "I...er, have you seen Ron?"
Hermione pulled away from him, looking distinctly nervous. Harry's heart immediately sank, he knew what her reaction must mean.
"He...um...he went up to your dormitory," she said, shifting uncomfortably.
"He's angry, isn't he?" He asked flatly.
Hermione nodded, looking rather upset.
"He's probably going to yell at you," she said, glancing up the stairs as if waiting for Ron to stomp down the stairs and punch someone.
"Brilliant," Harry said, shaking his head. "Just what I need right now."
"No matter what he says, Harry, you just keep telling the truth. We both know how Ron can be, so just be honest and hope to Merlin that he listens to you like he should," Hermione said sternly.
"You know I will, Hermione. I just hope he'll believe me."
"He'd better! You, lie and cheat your way into a stupid competition? Never. More importantly, you, lie to your best friends? Don't be daft."
"Yeah, well, of course you know I'd never lie to you, but Ron's not exactly..." Harry trailed off, unsure of what word to use to accurately describe Ron.
"Reasonable?" Hermione offered.
"Yeah, he's not exactly the most reasonable person I've ever met, you know?"
"Oh, I know. Still he's your best friend, he ought to listen to you."
"I hope so," Harry replied with a sigh.
Hermione looked at him for a moment before attacking him with another fierce hug, then darting up to her bedroom. Harry took a deep breath, then tromped up the stairs to find Ron. He tried to unwrap the Gryffindor banner that Lee had tied around him, but it was tied very tightly and was being very stubborn. With every step up the staircase Harry grew more annoyed until he finally reached the top step, ripped the banner off at last, and threw open the dormitory door.
"Bloody people tying me up in banners," he muttered, throwing the banner into the corner and slamming the door behind him.
"Congratulations," a dull voice said from the bed next to his. Harry spun around to find Ron sprawled out across his four-poster, still fully clothed and wearing a sullen expression on his face.
"What the hell do you mean, congratulations?" Harry demanded, trying not to sound as annoyed as he was, but failing completely.
"No one else got across the Age Line, not without getting a beard. Not even Fred and George. How'd you manage it, the Invisibility Cloak?" Ron asked in somewhat of a monotone, refusing to look Harry in the eye.
"No, I didn't use the bloody Invisibility Cloak, because I didn't put my name in the goblet! The cloak wouldn't have gotten me over the damn line, anyway," Harry replied, exasperation evident in his voice.
"Oh, right. I thought you would have at least told me, let me try too. I mean, the cloak would've covered both of us!"
"I didn't do it, Ron."
"Then who the bloody hell did?"
"I dunno!" Harry exclaimed. As melodramatic as the truth sounded, it had been enough for a few people, so he decided to say it again. "Moody reckons that someone's trying to kill me...or at least, they're hoping I die because of it."
Ron's eyebrows shot up until they almost disappeared into his hair, and his ears began turning rather red.
"It's fine, you know, you could have told me the truth," he said, sitting up as he grew more agitated. "I'd understand if you didn't want everyone else to know but really? Me? You shouldn't have to lie to me!"
"I'm not lying, Ron! I'd never lie to you! I don't want to be a part of the bloody tournament."
"Yeah? That sure isn't stopping you! Dumbledore's still letting you enter, there's a thousand Galleon prize, plus you don't have to take end-of-year exams, either? Yeah, sounds like something that I'd hate to be a part of," Ron spouted angrily, his ears flaming red now.
"I'd much rather have a normal year, for once, thank you very much! I didn't put my name in that goblet, Ron. I swear to Merlin I didn't."
"Yeah? You said this morning that you would have done it last night and nobody would have seen you!" Ron said, standing up and pacing back and forth. "I'm not stupid, you know!"
"Yeah? Then you should really be in Muggle films, because you're terribly good at acting stupid."
"Oh yeah?" Ron asked angrily, stopping his pacing. "Just go to bed, Harry, I'm sure you have to be up early for some photo call or something."
"Don't tell me what to do! Don't pretend like you're my mum, Ron!" Harry exclaimed, completely fed up with Ron's childishness.
"How the hell would you know if I was acting like your mum, Harry? Its not like you'd know what your mum was like!" Ron shot back.
"Fuck you!" Harry shouted, thoroughly pissed.
"No, fuck you, you liar!" Ron yelled back before wrenching the hangings shut around his bed and leaving a fuming Harry standing by himself in the middle of the dormitory.
Harry shook his head as he stared at the hangings around Ron's bed, the hangings that were now hiding the person Harry had thought was his best mate.
"Hey, mate," a familiar voice came from behind him. Harry turned around to see Neville Longbottom grinning at him, a butterbeer in each hand.
Harry sighed. He hadn't even heard the door when Neville came in, and this was just what he needed, another bloody person to try and explain himself to.
"Hey, Neville. Come to ask me how I managed to get my name in that damn goblet?" Harry asked, a little more gruffly than he had anticipated.
"Not really," Neville replied, his grin fading as he studied Harry's expression. "Are you doing alright? You look...furious."
"I'm fine," Harry said, his tone clipped as he turned away from Neville and began digging through his trunk for his pajamas.
"Like hell you are," Neville replied, setting the butterbeers atop his bedside table and also looking for his pajamas. "Your hands are shaking like they do after a Quidditch game, you're snapping at me and I've only been in here for two seconds, and your face is redder than a Weasley's hair."
Harry turned around, pajamas in hand, as he stared at Neville in surprise.
"How would you be able to tell any of that?" He asked.
"Live with a bloke for four years, you pick up on a few things," he answered with a shrug.
"Maybe you do, but not everyone does," Harry replied darkly, shooting a glance over at Ron's curtained bed before ripping his shirt over his head and pulling on his pajama shirt.
"Ahh, Ronald Weasley strikes again," Neville said, understanding becoming evident on his round face.
"You could say that," Harry agreed, pulling on his pajama pants and flopping down on his bed.
"He thinks you entered your name into the goblet, doesn't he?"
Harry nodded sadly.
"And he won't listen to you when you tell him that you didn't?"
"Nope," Harry replied as a pajama clad Neville perched himself on the edge on Harry's bed and handed him one of the butterbeers.
"Stupid git" he said, shaking his head.
"Yeah, well, I sort of saw it coming."
"You shouldn't have had to. He's supposedly your best mate. He's supposed to believe you no matter what. It's what friends do," Neville replied firmly.
"Yeah, well, he doesn't," Harry said, taking a sip of his butterbeer.
Both boys were silent for a few moments.
"Neville, do you believe me?" Harry asked quietly.
"Of course I believe you, Harry. Even you should have been able to figure that much out by now," Neville replied, chuckling.
Harry couldn't help but smile at the good-natured crack at his general failure to be at all observant.
"But why? I didn't tell you anything!"
"Look, Harry. We may not be best friends or anything, but I know you well enough to know that you would never lie to me...or any of your friends, for that matter. You would never bother coming up with some elaborate scheme just to enter your name in some stupid contest, even though that's exactly what everyone thinks you did. If you say you didn't do it, which I'm sure you have at least a hundred times tonight, then I believe you."
Harry just stared at Neville for a moment, letting his words sink in.
"Thanks," he finally said, even though he knew it was totally inadequate to express the relief he felt from knowing that he had one more person on his side.
Neville just nodded at him and took another sip of his butterbeer.
"Ron really is a git, you know," Neville said after a couple of minutes.
"Yeah, I know, believe me. We've fought before, but never like this. He...he even made a couple of remarks about my dead mum!" Harry told him, fighting back the anger that came with the memory of Ron's words.
"Stupid bastard," Neville replied, shaking his head.
"Yeah...I mean, making remarks about my dead parents? That's a new low."
"Even for him," Neville agreed, then grew quiet.
"Why the hell are you so observant and understanding all of a sudden?" Harry asked bluntly.
"Maybe its not all of a sudden. Maybe I've always been like this and you've just never noticed."
"I...I never thought of that," Harry admitted.
"You know, Harry...I never knew my parents either. I think that maybe I understand the way you think because we both know what it's like to never know our parents. I dunno, but maybe."
"Is that why you live with your gran?" Harry asked, a few of the puzzle pieces clicking into places.
"Yeah. I love her, and all, but it's not the same as having real parents, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. You should see the Muggles I was raised by, it's a miracle I'm still alive!"
"I've heard a couple stories, from Hermione mostly," Neville told him with a small smile.
"Hermione told you about them?" Harry asked, surprised. He'd never seen Hermione and Neville interact, at least, not outside of Potions.
"Just a couple of things, really, she didn't think you'd mind," Neville hurried to explain, looking a bit nervous.
"Calm down, mate, it's fine! I don't mind that she told you, I'm just surprised. I've never seen the two of you together, at least, not outside of Potions."
"We study together on Wednesday nights. I reckon Hermione's the only reason I'm passing most of my classes," Neville explained, blushing lightly.
"Me too," Harry said, smiling. He chose to ignore Neville's blushing...for now. "That explains where she always disappears to."
"She doesn't think you put your name in the goblet either, you know. She told me earlier, on the way back to the common room from dinner."
"I know," Harry replied. "I saw her right before I came up here. She nearly hugged me to death."
"Yeah, she does that," he said with a grin.
"Know who else believes me?"
"The Beauxbatons girl?"
"The Veela one?"
"I know, I expected her to hate me, but no. She's actually really nice, not to mention..."
"A total knockout?"
It was Harry's turn to blush, now.
"Yeah," he agreed. "She's gorgeous, all right. Plus, she has some cool empathy power thing that apparently comes with being a Veela. She can literally feel the same emotions as the people around her, so she used that to try and convince all the teachers that I'm innocent."
"Bloody hell," Neville said again. "Not only is she hot, she used her powers to stand up for you?"
"Damn. You lucky bastard." Neville said, even though he didn't actually sound at all jealous.
"Yeah, well, I was pretty well shocked. I'm sure I must have looked like an idiot, I usually do."
"Can't argue that one, mate."
"Hey!" Harry exclaimed in mock horror, smacking Neville with a pillow.
"You said it first, not me! I was just being a good friend and agreeing with you!"
Neville laughed as he stole Harry's pillow and propped himself up with it, stretching out across from Harry just like Ron had done so many times. In fact, Harry couldn't help but think that everything Neville was doing was what Ron would normally have done. The way he was supporting him, joking with him, even talking about girls with him...only, Neville was being much more good-natured about everything. He also couldn't help thinking that maybe this was what a real best mate was supposed to be like. Someone like Hermione, someone who stood by you no matter what, without letting irrational jealousy or any other stupid thing get in the way.
That in mind, he leaned back against the headboard of his bed, propping himself up with a couple pillows before taking his last pillow and throwing it at Neville.
"Shove off, Neville. You would have looked just as stupid as I did," he said with a grin, taking a sip of his now half-empty butterbeer.
"Knowing me, I would have been ten times worse," Neville replied ruefully.
"Now that one I can't argue, mate," Harry said, trying to keep a straight face as he paraphrased Neville's earlier remark.
"Oh, shut it, you prat," Neville replied, trying to look angry, but failing when Harry made a stupid face at him. Both boys dissolved into laughter, and as Neville began to tease him about how sure he was that Harry'd been falling all over himself around Fleur, Harry allowed himself to think that maybe, just maybe, Neville would turn out to be a better best mate than Ron had ever been.
That, however, was the last time Harry thought about Ron for the rest of the night.