Disclaimer: All characters, places, and anything familiar from the Harry Potter books and movies belong to J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros.
A/N: Sorry it took so long to update but I had another busy month. Thanks to my wonderful beta KennethRose. Also thanks to all the people who read, reviewed, followed and favorited the story. Hope everyone enjoys the long chapter!
Harry was sitting in his assigned hospital bed waiting for Neville and Millicent to arrive. Suffice to say that he was extremely bored. The fact that he'd been stuck in a bed for a week and hadn't gotten much more than a very, very, very supervised stroll to the end of the hospital wing and back might also have had something to do with it. He had tried talking to the matron a while ago about getting an early release and finally got her to agree after some very subtle hints about house-elves, his broomstick, and the window that she sometimes left open.
Madam Pomfrey had assessed him with her scrutinizing eyes and forced him to read from a poster with words in different sizes she'd hung in a wall just for him. At least his uncovered eye was all healed up. She promised that tomorrow she would take the bandage off and make him read the poster once again to test his other eye.
The window had been conspicuously closed ever since.
But Harry had readily agreed; he had no intention of escaping and risking more confinement now that he actually had a date to look forward to. Now he was just waiting for his friends to arrive so he could tell them the good news.
Neville ran all the way from the Headmaster's office and arrived at the infirmary out of breath. He pulled the doors wide open with a bang, walking in with his face flushed and looking like he'd just ran a marathon. Harry looked up from his bed and gave him a curious look while thinking to himself that wizards and witches seriously needed to think about physical conditioning. Neville took notice that the matron was missing yet again and approached Harry cautiously.
"How was Divination?" Harry's voice was laced with amusement and Neville rolled his eyes. It was well known that the Divination Professor had a sick fascination with Harry. It seemed that predicting the worst possible ways Harry was going to die was her favourite pastime, and today had been particularly harrowing.
Neville took out the books he had fetched from the Library and tossed them in front of Harry. He took a deep breath. "Quite boring actually…"
"Why did you run all the way back then? There really was no rush."
"I ran into Professor Dumbledore on my way out the Library…" he said in one breath. "He made me go to his office."
Harry's face turned sour. "What did he want?"
Neville shook his head and sat in one of the chairs near Harry's bed. "He was fishing for information about you. He asked why you weren't letting anyone visit you."
"Well to be quite honest I'm not surprised he's digging for information; it's not often that he, the Headmaster, isn't allowed in here." Neville's eyes bulged slightly. Why wasn't Harry going off over this? Surely he'd be furious that the Headmaster was using one of his friends to get information on him.
"That's not all… he asked why only Millicent and I were allowed in. He even asked why Hermione wasn't the one bringing your assignments." Neville shook his head slightly. "As if he wouldn't know you aren't speaking to her or something."
"And what did you say?" Neville noticed that Harry's voice was getting a little rough but again he somehow managed to control his temper.
"That I didn't know. He finally let me go once he found out I wasn't going to tell him anything."
"That's all?" Neville gave him a sceptical look.
"What do you want me to say? I can't stop him from asking questions…" Harry gave a light shrug.
"Well, when you put it that way…"
Harry glanced briefly towards the entrance of the Hospital Wing. "What do you think is taking Millicent so long?"
"I guess she's still having dinner down at the Great Hall."
"Right, I forgot. I'm just going out of my mind here, it's so boring."
"You don't have to tell me twice mate!"
They sat in silence for a few minutes when Neville decided to speak again, "So… have you decided who you're asking to the Yule Ball?"
Harry shook his head and groaned; it wasn't something Harry really wanted to talk about and Neville took great pleasure making his friend squirm.
"You do know it's not an option for you right?" Neville teased. Professor McGonagall had left strict instructions with Madam Pomfrey to pass along to Harry shortly after the Yule Ball was announced. Harry hadn't been entirely happy when he found out he had to attend since he was one of the champions and, worst of all, he had to find himself a date.
"I think this is the worst part of the tournament… I'd much rather face dragons all over again if it gets me out of the blasted ball."
Neville laughed heartily. "Don't worry mate, I'm sure you'll have lots of birds lining up just for the chance to go with a Triwizard Champion!"
"Neville! It really isn't funny!"
"What's not funny?" a voice asked from the entrance of the infirmary.
"Nothing!" both boys called out at the same time.
Millicent gave them a suspicious look but said nothing while she walked up to them carrying Harry's assignments for the day. They talked for a while and the topic of dates and, much to Harry's relief, the ball wasn't mentioned again.
Millicent was not amused when they told her that the Headmaster had all but ambushed Neville for information, but both of the Blackthorns had to leave once Madam Pomfrey came to check on her patient and told them that visiting hours were over for the day.
Both students walked for a while until they had to separate to go to their own common rooms. "What do you think about the whole situation with Professor Dumbledore?"
Neville stopped walking and turned to look at Millicent. "I really don't know what to think. I do find it a bit suspicious but then again being barred from going in the infirmary would make anyone curious."
"It's just," Millie shook her head, "I just don't trust him. There's something off about the Headmaster but I can't put my finger on it."
Neville nodded in agreement. "Why don't you let Daphne know and see what she thinks about it? Right now there's nothing we can do."
"Alright. You know she isn't going to be happy about Professor Dumbledore cornering you for information, right?"
Neville let out a tired sigh. "You don't have to remind me. I'd feel the same if she was in my place."
Millie snorted slightly crossing her arms over her chest. "That's an understatement."
Neville laughed quietly; he could actually see his cousin's face after Millicent told her what went down today in his mind, and it was definitely not a happy face. He said goodbye to Millicent and told her he'd see her in the morning. He walked cautiously through the quiet halls; after the short conversation with Millicent and thanks to his vivid imagination and extreme paranoia he expected the Headmaster to jump him at any moment from behind a statue or around the corners, but he finally relaxed once he reached the portrait of the Fat Lady still with no Headmaster in sight.
He climbed the stairs to the fourth years' floor without stopping in the common room first. He had many ideas running around in his head and wasn't really in the mood to socialize at the moment. He had to admit that the talk with the Headmaster left him a bit rattled. What was he really up to? He knew Harry was partially right when he said that it was probably just curiosity but after all the warnings they were given they ought to be cautious around him.
Neville found the room empty and sighed in relief. He tossed his schoolbag on his bed and went through his trunk pulling his nightclothes out. He changed and went to sit on the edge of his bed. He wasn't really tired but it had been a long and strange day. He couldn't get his mind around the fact that the Headmaster would go out of his way to be invasive when it was anything related to his friend, and that in itself worried him. He was the Headmaster, sure, but one would think he wouldn't have enough time to stick his nose into Harry's business what with his Mugwump post with the ICW and being the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and yet somehow he still managed to be around Harry conveniently after things managed to go wrong.
Neville tossed the covers off his bed and lay down, his eyes lost and unfocused. He tried to relax but his muscles were still tense. Neville sighed tiredly, the questions still rolling around in his head.
He looked at all the facts and didn't like what they meant. Neville knew Professor Dumbledore wasn't just the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and because of his huge reputation and influence some people even saw him as someone infallible and maybe even omniscient, which was more than a little worrying. Neville knew it was impossible for the man to be a god but it scared him nonetheless. Professor Dumbledore was what many called the 'Leader of the Light' and even though the Longbottoms were a light family they had at times associated with gray families. There were a few instances where they even sided with dark families depending on the situation at the time.
Neville shook his head trying to clear his mind, but it was in vain. If Daphne managed to pull through with her plan to form a society within the Blackthorns of Gray with the goal to change the wizarding world from the side-lines then Professor Dumbledore could be a big problem; with all the support he garnered he could very well stop them before they even began. And if a war broke out he could still pose a very big threat with his 'second chance' motto and the notion of not stooping to the enemy's level, leaving the light side like sitting ducks.
Neville rolled around in his bed and closed his eyes. He made a mental note to tell Harry everything he thought about Professor Dumbledore. Maybe he was wrong and the Headmaster was just a curious old wizard but he wasn't willing to take any chances.
After his friends left Harry felt the boredom creeping back in. He was tired and annoyed. And what was even more frustrating was that he didn't even know why he was tired since he hadn't done any training since he'd gotten stuck in the infirmary.
His mind was swirling with all the possible reasons why Professor Dumbledore would ambush Neville to ask him about why he didn't want any visitors. If he was honest with himself it made him nervous. Why was it that when he found himself in trouble the professor was always absent but arrived the moment after the danger passed? There was a pattern if he really looked at all those times he managed to get in trouble.
There was that time during first year with the Philosopher's Stone. How he came upon the Mirror of Erised and how Professor Dumbledore conveniently found him entranced by it days later. How it was all connected to the Stone in the first place. And when they realized someone was after the stone they tried to warn the Headmaster only to find out he had left for London. And on top of that, how could a group of first years beat all the obstacles designed for a grown wizard? Now that Harry thought about it the puzzles seemed to be suspiciously designed to fit his, Ron's, and Hermione's specialties.
Then there was second year and the whole Chamber of Secrets business. How could the Headmaster not know there was a giant snake roaming around the halls when he alluded that he always knew what was going around Hogwarts… and hiring Professor Lockhart; that was something that everybody but his enamoured fans saw as a complete and utter joke. Surely the Headmaster saw through all the lies and still deferred to him when a student was 'abducted' by the monster.
If he didn't know any better he would think that Professor Dumbledore was somehow testing him in some way. Why else would he tell Hermione that he tossed his name in the goblet when he said he believed him? Hell, he'd even reassured he'd find the culprit, and nodded his head with his grandfatherly smile.
And on top of all those things there was Sirius' warning. There had to be a way to find out what Professor Dumbledore was up to. Maybe have one of the house-elves spy on him? It wasn't one of his best ideas but they had found out about the first task that way. He would tell Neville to talk to Cotton if he wasn't released the next morning to go to the kitchens himself.
After a while Harry's thoughts turned back to the duel and Malfoy's visit earlier that day. Deep down he really didn't want anything to do with Malfoy but then he remembered Sirius words. He needed to expand his social circle and, like it or not, the Malfoys were a powerful family even if they were arrogant and had a moral compass so screwed up he was surprised they could find their own bloody home. Harry still had many issues and reservations about them but for now he was willing to see how Malfoy acted around him and, like Neville told him earlier, go from there.
Harry knew he was going easy on Malfoy, especially as his extended stay in the Hospital Wing was his fault to begin with, 'Daphne's too', a tiny voice in his head supplied. He recalled Neville's face when he pleaded to just talk to his cousin after he tore up all those notes she sent. Many would say that he was being unreasonable, more so if he was willing to put his animosity towards Malfoy aside, but she had hurt him deeply and if he was honest, Malfoy had always been an arse and knew what to expect every time they crossed paths. Daphne on the other hand, was willing to break the rules during an honour duel to defend a person like Malfoy. She knew Harry couldn't stand him and yet she went out of her way for the blond twit. The feelings of hurt and betrayal just wouldn't leave him alone.
Harry shook his head. He still wasn't ready to open that can of worms. For now he was just going to ignore her until he was ready to face her again.
He sat back on the bed and grabbed the books Neville had left for him. He noticed an old worn book he hadn't asked for. He flipped the cover and read the title, The Black Family History. Why had Neville signed it out? Yes, Sirius Black was his godfather but apart from that there was no relation between him and the Blacks, at least none that he knew of, which honestly wasn't much.
He scanned the index and turned several pages until he found the family tree. It was quite extensive and Harry took notice that there were a lot of known pureblood last names scattered throughout the tree. He did a double take when he saw his name. 'What the hell?' His godfather was his cousin? They apparently shared the same great-grandparents. He remembered Neville telling him many families were related but this meant that he did have family besides the Dursleys… he could've lived with any of these families and he had been stuck with the awful muggles all this time?
Harry was silently fuming while he searched through the family tree. To his surprise he was also closely related to Malfoy while Neville and Daphne were farther apart. It was kind of surreal but maybe Neville had a reason why he decided to sign out the book after all.
He closed the book quite forcefully. Didn't his parents leave a will or something? Surely leaving him with the Dursleys was something of a last resort, right? Harry contemplated writing Sirius a letter but it would probably be easier to just ask Neville in the morning who he had to talk to or where to go concerning his parents will. 'If there even was one', he thought bitterly.
Harry tossed the book aside and grabbed the one with the history on the Potters. He lay back against the headboard and started to read, the situation with Dumbledore all but forgotten.
Harry woke up earlier than usual. He was full of energy and the only thing he wanted was to get out of the Hospital Wing, preferably today. When Madam Pomfrey finally came around he was already sitting on his bed waiting for her.
"Well aren't we a little ball of sunshine this morning? I assume all this pent up energy is related to your impeding release?"
"You have no idea," Harry muttered under his breath.
The matron gave a soft laugh. "Well, lets take this off so I can test your eyesight. I have to say yesterday I was quite impressed with your improvement, let's just hope it's the same for this one."
Harry beamed at her. At the moment the only thing he wanted was to get on with the test and return to his regular schedule, and on top of that he still had to figure out the clue for the second task and ask Cotton to spy on Professor Dumbledore. 'And you have yet to find a date for the ball', his mind supplied making him cringe slightly.
"Can we get on with it already?"
"Patience is a virtue!" Madam Pomfrey scolded Harry sternly. "If you want me to let you out today I suggest you don't pester me!"
Harry blushed but nodded eagerly. He waited patiently while the matron took the patch off. His eye started to water immediately once Madam Pomfrey uncovered it. "It will take a few minutes for your eye to adjust to the light, take it easy alright?" She saw Harry nod. "I'll be back in a moment to test you."
He was finally free! Harry was walking to Gryffindor Tower with a slight spring in his step. It was still quite early and most of the students were either still asleep or getting ready to head to the Great Hall for breakfast.
When he reached the portrait the Fat Lady greeted him with a smile and welcomed him back. Harry stepped through the portrait hole and scanned the common room noticing it was still rather empty.
The few students that were already up glanced at him and did a double take when they saw it was him. He'd been confined in a hospital bed for over a week and he was now sporting a very thin scar across his right eye, so he wasn't too surprised at the reactions he was receiving. It was still an angry red but Madam Pomfrey assured him that with time it would become practically invisible, but for now there was nothing to do but bear the stares from the other students… but that didn't mean they could gawk at him as if he was some sort of rare animal.
Harry shuffled uncomfortably and headed for the stairs. It surprised him when Seamus and Dean welcomed him back quite enthusiastically right after he walked through the door that lead to their dorm he shared with them. One would think he was gone for more than a week. Harry snorted when he saw Ron was still snoring away in his bed and turned to Neville who just patted him in the back and gave him a curious look since he was still wearing his glasses. He shook his head and mouthed 'later'. None of his roommates mentioned the new scar, which he was somewhat relived about.
Harry took a quick bath and got ready for the day. He told Neville once they were alone that wearing his glasses was a way to gain an slight advantage if he ever lost them in a duel, and that he was heading straight for the kitchens to avoid the rest of the school; even with his great mood he wasn't willing to submit himself to the students gawking at him all over again. Plus he wanted to ask Cotton to listen in on Dumbledore's conversations.
Neville offered to go with him but Harry asked him if he could go to the Great Hall and let Millicent know he was already out. Neville agreed once Harry told him he'd surely see him during classes and promised they would meet after the school day had finished in their abandoned classroom to resume their training.
Daphne was on her way to Charms with the Ravenclaws after spending some time in the Library completing her Potions assignment that morning. Millicent had told her last night what had happened to Neville. She had fumed and ranted while her friend watched on with an amused grin on her face. She hadn't found the situation funny at all and had promised to find a way to discover what the Headmaster was up to.
She had woken up the next morning in a somewhat better mood than most days that past week but it was still nowhere near her usual disposition. She had gone through the motions of showering and getting dressed and thought about skipping breakfast again but decided at the last moment to head to the Great Hall.
While she had been moving the food around in her plate Millie sat down in the place next to hers and told her in a hushed voice that Harry had been finally released earlier that day from the Hospital Wing.
Daphne had yet to see him but in a way it was a relief that he was finally out of the infirmary. She had been ecstatic in fact, but the guilt she carried around was still weighting her down, which in turn made her feel tired and depressed. She knew she still looked like death warmed over but there was nothing she could do until she talked to Harry.
She was walking down one of the crowded hallways with thoughts of Harry running around in her head while trying not to bump into other people when she rounded a corner and collided with another student. She heard a soft grunt and when she opened her mouth to apologize she saw who it was and changed her words.
"You should watch where you're going." Daphne grumbled, seeing Hermione's eyes widen when she recognized her voice. She was about to sidestep the bushy haired Gryffindor when she heard her mutter under her breath.
Daphne froze where she was standing. Oh this was not what she needed today. She wasn't really in any sort of mood to deal with the scorned Gryffindor but she simply couldn't allow the bookworm to get away with such a comment.
"What did you just call me?" Daphne hissed under her breath.
Hermione blushed from her neck up but stuck her chin out defiantly when she answered, "You heard me."
"Did you just call me a stuck-up?"
"I don't see anyone else that matches that description." Hermione said placing her hands on her hips.
Daphne pulled a lose strand of dark hair behind her ear while smirking slightly, "Where do you get off calling me that? Have you looked in the mirror lately?"
Hermione glanced around and took a nervous step back. "I don't know what Harry sees in you, you're just a manipulative Slytherin."
"That's none of your business!" Harry was a touchy subject for Daphne at the moment, and Granger had unknowingly hit a nerve. She saw the Gryffindor's eyes shine with contained mirth — or not.
"Why so defensive? Are the rumours true then? I heard you weren't even allowed to visit your friend in the Hospital Wing?" Hermione said in a mocking tone.
Daphne felt the heat rise to her face. All she wanted to do was wring the arrogant girl's neck. What did she know anyway? She was just lashing out because she was no longer on speaking terms with Harry. Still what Granger said touched the part of her that was deeply hurt by Harry's rejection.
This time Daphne was the one to look around noticing several students walking slower than usual to witness the shouting match. "You don't know what you're talking about!"
"Oh! It's true then? I though they were just rumours… I guess Harry finally opened his eyes and found out you really aren't worth his time!"
At that moment Daphne saw red. It didn't even cross her mind to reach for her wand. She went straight for Hermione's hair.
Hermione let out a startled yelp and tried to get out of the fuming Slytherin's way but she wasn't fast enough. Daphne managed to get a handful of bushy brown hair and pulled with all her strength.
"Let go!" Hermione screeched while several students stood with open mouths watching the ensuing fight.
"Take it back!" Daphne said pulling Hermione's hair again. When Hermione just kept yelling to let go she pulled harder until the Gryffindor had enough and decided to fight back.
Hermione pushed Daphne, who somehow lost her balance and fell backwards, hitting the ground with a painful thud.
Hermione straddled Daphne's waist pulling the Slytherin's hair in return. Daphne started clawing at Hermione trying in vain to get her off. They were both screaming unintelligible words at the top of their lungs when suddenly Hermione was dragged off of her.
Daphne looked around in confusion her eyes widening at the sight before her. She saw Ronald Weasley holding the demented Gryffindor in a tight embrace whispering something near her ear to keep her from jumping her again. Who would've thought the brash blood-traitor wasn't into girls fighting in the corridors?
At the moment she was just grateful that it wasn't a professor that caught them fighting in the hallway. Movement to the right caught her eyes and she turned her head slightly. There was someone offering her a hand. She took it gratefully and hissed when pain shot through her lower back when she got up.
"Are you alright?" A deep voice questioned her. She noticed it had a thick foreign accent but paid it no mind. She had other things to worry about.
Daphne shook her head slightly. She had probably pulled something when she took that nasty fall. "My back hurts."
"Let me take you to the Hospital Wing, yes?"
She nodded, her mind still in a daze after her fight with Granger. She was nothing like this, she was well aware this reaction was uncalled for but she had just exploded and reacted without another thought. Granger had some nerve calling her out on her situation with Harry when it was a well-known fact that the Gryffindor herself was no longer in Harry's good graces. 'Neither are you', a voice that sounded suspiciously like Neville's answered in her head.
Daphne shook her head slightly while the Durmstrang student guided her slowly towards the infirmary. She looked at the person walking beside her and her eyes widened when it dawned on her that she was holding Victor Krum's hand.
Daphne immediately blushed, completely conscious of his hand still holding hers. She really hoped he didn't think she was a silly schoolgirl, or worse, a troublemaker. She blushed again. How many other students had seen the confrontation? Fighting was unbecoming of someone of her station and if her parents ever found out they would surely punish her.
She was jolted back to reality when they arrived at the Hospital Wing. Once Madam Pomfrey saw them she immediately started asking the usual questions.
"Dear girl, what on earth happened to you?"
Daphne sat down in one of the beds with the help of Viktor. "Just a little spat in one of the hallways…" her voice trailed off.
"Children these days…" Madam Pomfrey tsked disapprovingly, "Why were you fighting in the first place? And are those scratches on your neck?"
Daphne avoided looking at the matron, instead focusing on a spot on the wall. This whole situation was really embarrassing. She was no longer a little girl, and even back then she had never lashed out at someone like that before.
"I think I pulled a muscle on my lower back…" Daphne said barely above a whisper.
Madam Pomfrey turned to the Durmstrang champion for answers. Surprisingly he was more than willing to convey what he saw.
"I was on my way to the Library when she…" he looked at Daphne waiting for something. It occurred to her that he probably didn't know her name.
She looked back at him and then turned away. "I'm Daphne Greengrass."
Viktor inclined his head slightly and continued, "When Miss Greengrass collided with another student. From what I saw the other girl was taunting her, yes?" Viktor looked at Daphne for confirmation.
She nodded and left him to continue his version of events. "They started fighting and the other girl pushed her and Miss Greengrass fell and hit the ground."
Madam Pomfrey gave him a dubious look. "Is that all?"
Viktor gave a sharp nod and stayed silent. The matron huffed but started checking her thoroughly for other injuries. It was kind of ironic that Daphne had tried to visit Harry for the past week, and now that she finally managed to get past the doors it turned out that he'd been released earlier that morning.
"It appears that you did indeed pull a muscle, it must've been quite a nasty fall." Madam Pomfrey looked at her disapprovingly. The gesture just made Daphne feel more uncomfortable than she already felt. And what was the Durmstrang student still doing here? She was very grateful for his help but other than that he was just making her feel awkward and ashamed.
After assessing that all the wounds were superficial, except for her back, Madam Pomfrey gave her a foul tasting potion and sent her on her way making it painfully clear that if she heard that she got into another fight she would report it to her Head of House, or worse the Headmaster.
Daphne nodded reluctantly but stayed silent throughout the matron's speech. If that wasn't embarrassing enough Viktor Krum hadn't left her side during the whole visit to the Hospital Wing.
She walked out the infirmary with her head down in shame. Her parents would surely find out about this but maybe once they knew what really went down they'd take it easy on her. She snorted softly: now that was just wishful thinking. Even if her parents were understanding people compared to most of the pureblood families, they still thought that fighting like a muggle was unbecoming of a lady.
Daphne was so lost in her thoughts that she jumped a little when an arm halted her steps.
"I'm sorry I did not stop the fight sooner." Daphne looked into Viktor's dark eyes and saw sincerity and regret shining back at her.
She nodded and was about to continue on her way when he stopped her again. "I was on my way to the library…" Viktor looked away and shrugged. "I was actually following the girl you got into a fight with."
Daphne shot him a small smile. "You don't really have to tell me anything."
"I know, but I want to…" he replied calmly. "I heard several students say that she was one of the top students in her year and I liked the fact that she paid me no attention," Viktor said finally meeting her eyes.
"Oh my god! You were going to ask her to the Yule Ball weren't you?" Daphne let out an involuntary snicker and immediately covered her mouth in shame while heat rushed to her face. "Sorry, it was not my place to ask such a personal question."
Viktor gave her a soft smile. "Do not apologize, it is partially the truth," he avoided looking her in the eyes, "I actually already asked her."
Daphne shook her head slightly her eyes wide in surprise. He had already asked her? How had Granger managed to get herself a respectable date? "Still, I shouldn't have said that, or laughed about it either." Daphne managed to say in a small voice.
"I wanted to thank you," he continued, taking her small hand in both of his. "If it weren't for you I would not have known what kind of girl she was. I thought that what people were saying about her and Harry Potter were just students being jealous of her."
Daphne shook her head and took her hand out of his but smiled slightly. "I'm glad getting into a fight at least cleared things up for you… but I did hit her first."
"But she was taunting you and she ended up hitting you as well, yes?"
"Let's say we don't really see eye to eye at the moment," 'if ever', her mind supplied. Daphne was tempted to tell him the whole story but being petty wasn't really her thing even when the bushy haired Gryffindor deserved it. What Granger had said really hurt her deeply. At the very least she was kind of pleased that Viktor had witnessed the fight if only just to realize that Hermione Granger wasn't the prim clever girl she portrayed to be around school.
"Well going to the ball with her will surely ruin my night." Viktor confided with a low tone of voice and a small smirk on his face. "I wonder how will she react if I tell her I can't go with her after all."
"I don't rightly know and, well… I really have to get to class… I'm already twenty minutes late as it is, but thank you again for helping me back there." She really wanted to get out of there. He was being all nice and sweet even when she probably looked a mess. And by direction the conversation was taking it sounded as if he wanted to ask her instead and she wasn't willing to find out as of yet.
"It was the least I could do."
Daphne blushed again. She was really horrified with how her body was reacting to him; he would probably assume she was some fan girl with all the blushing but there was nothing she could do but walk away. She wasn't really a fan of Quidditch but she couldn't deny that Viktor Krum was very attractive and quite intimidating at the same time. Still she wasn't sure she wanted to go to the Yule Ball with him, and that was the silent question hanging in the air if her instincts were right.
"I'll see you around." Daphne walked away without looking back. If she'd turned around she would've seen Viktor watching her with a thoughtful look.
Word had reached Harry about the fight between Daphne and Hermione. There were several versions going around but all had one thing in common: Hermione had insulted Daphne and Daphne had attacked. He still couldn't really wrap his mind around the image of Daphne hitting Hermione with her bare hands but there was always a first time for everything.
Even if he was mad and currently not speaking to Daphne he was still proud that she could take care of herself. What didn't sit well with him was the other rumour running around. Was it really true that Viktor Krum had helped Daphne to the Hospital Wing? He didn't know why but he really wished it was him helping her out, not Krum.
Harry shook his head to clear the unwelcome thoughts. He wanted nothing to do with her right now. He had many things he needed to do and thinking about Daphne wasn't one of them. He reached the Great Hall and went to seat beside Neville at the Gryffindor table.
"Did you hear about the fight—"
"Yes, I already heard and no, I don't really want to talk about it." Harry interrupted Neville. Although secretly he wanted to know everything that went down but he was going to stick by his decision of ignoring anything that had to do with Daphne.
"Alright… whatever you say." Neville shook his head sadly but dropped the subject all the same. He picked up his fork and started eating the food on his plate. After a while he tried to get Harry to talk again. "So, have you narrowed down the possible prospects for a date to the Yule Ball?"
Harry's eyes became as big as saucers and his cheeks tinged pink while he shook his head vehemently.
Neville let out a short laugh. It was quite funny to see his friend all flustered about finding a date. He opened his mouth to speak again but the warning in Harry's eyes stopped him for only a second. "You know, you could ask anyone you wanted, half the girls at school are giving you those looks, if you know what I mean."
Harry snorted shaking his head in denial. "Why would they want to go with me when not even a month ago they all hated my guts?"
"You know how this works, one minute they adore you and the next you're the up and coming Dark Lord."
"Yeah well, I don't fancy going with someone as fickle as the weather. I rather go alone…"
Neville shook his head and tsked at his friend. "You know you can't do that, why don't you let me find you someone that's actually worthy of your time?"
Harry raised a sceptical eyebrow. "I doubt you can find someone with those attributes in this school."
Neville playfully punched Harry in the arm. "Seriously mate? I know it's been a rough couple of months—"
Harry shot Neville a withering glare.
Neville gulped nervously, "Alright you've been through hell and back but you can't let them win. We both know you're better than that."
Harry sighed tiredly. "I guess I can let you pick my date if you promise I won't regret it…"
Neville gave a loud cheer and clapped Harry's back.
"And," Harry interrupted Neville's celebration, "Your cousin is off the table."
Neville's eyes widened. "Do you really think I would do that to you when you wont even read her notes?"
"I just wanted to clear that up." Harry averted his eyes feeling a twinge of guilt creep up on him but he wasn't going to back down. Not now and not about this.
"Alright, I promise I'll choose wisely."
Harry laughed a little when Neville bowed his head as if addressing royalty. He really hoped Neville wouldn't mess things up. At least it was one thing less to worry about.
Hermione ranted all the way to the Library with a subdued and frightened Ron following silently beside her.
"I was this close to reporting her to Professor Dumbledore. What she did…" Hermione shook her head and started walking faster.
"What's the point? They'll surely take points away from Gryffindor too since you were also part of the fight."
"Why Ron, since when are you so worried about house points?" Hermione replied, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
Ron was a little scared of his friend at the moment. Her hair was standing in every direction and looked like it was crackling with electricity. He had seen her push the Slytherin down and was quite shocked that Hermione had it in her to begin with. He loved a good fight just as much as the next male at school but at that moment his mind had disconnected from his body and out of instinct he pulled Hermione of the fallen girl. It had taken every bit of his strength to keep Hermione from going back to hex the Slytherin.
He shook his head and tried to match Hermione's hurried steps. "I knew those rumours were true," she continued with a smug tone. "That's why she lost it. I was right… but I do wonder why Harry isn't talking to her."
"What rumours?" Ron's eyed her curiously. He hadn't heard anything but then again he rarely paid attention to the gossip going around school.
"Oh, you know, that nobody was allowed to visit Harry during his stay at the Hospital Wing. Or that it was all Greengrass' fault."
Ron scratched the back of his head. This was all knew to him. "Well you know how it is: there are always rumours going around school. Hell, at some point I heard Harry had asked you out on a date and we both know that isn't remotely true."
He saw Hermione's eyes harden slightly. What did he say now? She didn't really fancy Harry did she? A small pang of jealousy hit him but he immediately squashed the feeling. He didn't really know the girl walking beside him, not anymore; it was as if this year he was finally seeing the real Hermione.
"Don't be silly, of course that isn't remotely true," Hermione said with a tight voice. Ron's eyes widened. He may be a bit slow when it came to understanding pretty much everything but this was a slap in the face kind of obvious. He wondered what was really going around in Hermione's head lately. Why was she even thinking about dating Harry when they had both accused him of being a liar and a cheat to his face, then there were all the things they'd said behind his back.
Everything had gone downhill since Harry was declared the Fourth Champion. A small part of him wished for things to go back to the way things where before all this Triwizard Tournament nonsense, but as it was he was off the hook with his parents' whole plan to make Harry dissolve the blood feud between their families, at least for the time being. They would probably try to use Ginny in the future if he didn't manage to re-establish his friendship with Harry, and he had no plans to even try in the first place.
Ron had ignored all the letters his mum had sent him. Ginny or the twins were probably keeping her updated with his lack of progress but his mum couldn't risk sending a howler and let half the school know about their plans. And thankfully he wasn't going home during the winter holidays so he wouldn't see them for a long time.
He watched as Hermione practically talked the ear off of herself, and the only thing he wanted to do was head back to the common room or outside, anywhere really, as long as Hermione stayed far away from him. He was still grasping for an excuse when they arrived at the Library.
Hermione walked briskly towards one of the empty tables and started pulling out the books from her bag.
Ron sat down in front of her and scratched the back of his neck. His mind coming up blank; any excuse he could come up Hermione would surely see through. He resignedly let out a sigh and started taking out his own books from his schoolbag.
After a few minutes of trying to make sense of his Potions essay he noticed hushed voices and giggles. They were coming from behind a bookcase full of blushing girls. That could only mean one thing. Krum was near. If he were honest he would admit that he was jealous of his idol. What he wouldn't give for all the fame the Quidditch star possessed. And all the benefits it came with.
A shadow fell over their table and when Ron looked up he came face to face with the Triwizard Champion. Ron flushed red and sputtered. What was he even doing here? He wanted to ask for an autograph but the words just wouldn't come out of his mouth.
"Hello Viktor." Ron's head snapped towards Hermione, since when was his friend on first name basis with the Durmstrang student?
"Good morning Hermy-own-ninny." Krum inclined his head slightly.
"It's Hermione, we already went through this. Several times." Hermione shook her head in exasperation.
"My apologies, I was wondering if I could talk to you in private for a few moments?"
Hermione sighed and nodded her head. She dropped the quill she was holding and stood up, following the retreating champion.
Ron was left with a puzzled look. What the bloody hell was going on? Hermione had never mentioned Krum. He followed them with his eyes. It seemed that whatever Krum was telling Hermione wasn't making her very happy. He contemplated grabbing his stuff and making a run for it but his curiosity won out.
After a few minutes Hermione stomped back to the table. Ron noticed she was practically foaming at the mouth and instantly regretted staying.
"Honestly, who does he think he is? He's not even the best Quidditch player." The venom in Hermione's voice left no doubt in Ron's mind that something ugly had gone down.
Ron was about to speak when Hermione started ranting again, this time at him. "When you ask someone to the ball you don't come back a few days later to take the invitation back!"
Ron spluttered. What was she talking about? He hadn't asked anyone to the ball yet let alone take said invitation back. Hermione's eyes narrowed and Ron noticed a slight glint in her eyes shining through. "Ron," Hermione's voice had gone from maniacal to velvety sweet. "Do you have a date to the ball?"
"Well… I uh…"
"Come on Ron, spit it out, do you have a date yet?" Hermione's voice was taking on a hard tone.
"Well no, not really," Ron finally managed to say. What was going on in that giant brain of hers?
"Hmm." Was all she said, the glint in her eyes was back. That couldn't be good. Ron shuddered involuntarily; he was seriously considering making new friends. Clearly Harry and Hermione were only a risk to his health.
After a few moments Hermione finally spoke, "Well, I guess you just got yourself a date."
Had Hermione gone bonkers? What did she mean by that? Surely she didn't just tell him to go with her, did she? "Um… Hermione, are we going together?"
Hermione rolled her eyes and huffed in irritation. "Really Ron, you can't really be that thick can you?"
He shook his head vehemently. Well he could have done worse, he could have ended up going with Pansy Parkinson or some other slimy Slytherin snake, not that it was remotely possible, but still anything was better than a snake.
Daphne walked to the Great Hall with Pansy and Millicent beside her. Classes were finally over for the day. She wasn't really hungry but her friends had all but forced her to eat something.
She had caught a glimpse of Harry during Potions class and was horrified that after a whole week in the infirmary he was still sporting an angry looking scar that went down just above his eyebrow all the way down his eye and ending above his cheek. Her stomach had dropped and the guilt had doubled. This was all her fault.
Millie had tried to pacify her telling her that it would probably vanish with time but the slightly nauseating feeling didn't go away. Her friend had looked at her with a small amount of pity in her eyes and that was the last thing Daphne wanted. How could she ever face Harry again? How could he ever forgive her?
All she wanted was to run out the Great Hall and back to her room. She caught Draco's eyes across the table and saw guilt reflected in his blue-gray eyes. She did notice he hadn't taunted Harry during Potions and she assumed that he followed her 'advice' and apologized to Harry. At the very least something good came out of the ugly situation.
She pushed her food around and took small bites but after a few tries she gave up. "Millie, I'm going to lay down for a while, I don't feel very good at the moment."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
Daphne shook her head. Millicent told her earlier that Harry wanted to resume their training and it wasn't fair to Millie to make her go with her instead of helping Harry.
"I'll be fine on my own," Daphne assured Millie smiling sadly and lowering her voice, "You go ahead and help Harry."
Millicent gave her a knowing look. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, don't worry about it."
"If anything comes up you know where to find me."
Daphne nodded and stood grabbing her schoolbag before making her way towards the doors of the Great Hall. She chanced a look towards the Gryffindor table and for a moment she thought she saw Harry looking at her but it was probably wishful thinking.
She was on her way to the Slytherin common room when she changed her mind and decided to take a walk outside instead. It was quite cold being December and all, but at the moment all she wanted was to be alone and she knew there would be a small amount of students in the common room.
Daphne stepped outside, the cold night air hitting her face leaving her breathless. She wrapped her cloak tightly around her and started walking without a destination in mind.
Harry's face kept popping up in her head. Even if he somehow decided to forgive her, how was she ever going to forgive herself? She was probably blowing things way out of proportion but seeing that scar on his face today really hit home how much damage she could have caused, and all for assuming that Harry would severely injure Malfoy. She knew Draco had it coming. Years of taunting and insulting Harry had reached its inevitable climax and she had no right to interfere.
Daphne sighed in defeat and kept walking aimlessly around the frozen grounds. She would keep her word though: she had promised Harry to help him throughout the tournament and even if she had to work around him and avoid being in the same room with Harry she was sure Neville would pass along the necessary information for her to find spells and strategies that would aid him during the upcoming tasks.
Next on her list was finding out what the Headmaster was up to. She had noticed how nervous Millie was when she told her all that went down yesterday, and although Harry had brushed it of as the Headmaster being curious she was almost sure it was anything but innocent inquiry.
She planned to write a letter to her father asking him to snoop around; surely there was something to dig up. Maybe asking Cotton to keep an ear open for any suspicious conversations from Professor Dumbledore would help too.
Her mind made up she decided she was done freezing her arse off. She felt a little lighter as she began walking back towards the castle. The nauseating feeling was all but gone. She was determined to help Harry even if he wanted nothing to do with her ever again. Maybe she was partly doing it to make it up to him but either way she was doing it.
Daphne was so caught up in her head that she didn't notice a figure milling about the entrance of the school. She was a bit startled but kept walking without missing a step. As she approached the doors she finally got to see the face of the person walking back and forth in front of the entrance and she smiled a little.
"What are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be in your ship or something?"
Viktor stopped pacing and cleared his throat, "I was waiting for you."
"Oh, well… why were you waiting for me out here?" Daphne approached him slowly.
"I saw you heading out but it looked like you needed some time alone, yes?"
Well at least he left her some time to herself instead of following her. "Um, yes I did."
"I wanted to ask you to the Yule Ball, if you do not have a date that is."
Daphne had to admit she was surprised despite having felt earlier that maybe he wanted to ask her to go with him. "Didn't you say you were going with Hermione Granger?"
"I did, but as I told you before, she was not the girl I thought she was. I talked to her in the Library after our talk in the hallway."
"You actually told her you didn't want to go with her anymore?" If nothing else she felt happy that something in Granger's life hadn't gone right. She knew she was being a bit spiteful but she didn't care. After everything that Granger said Daphne didn't feel an ounce of sympathy for the bushy haired Gryffindor.
Viktor nodded, "And I think she did not take it very well."
Daphne cracked a small smile.
"So, would you do me the honour of accompanying me to the Yule Ball?"
At the moment Daphne didn't have a date, even though some of the male students had asked her over the past week. She was kind of waiting in vain for the raven haired Gryffindor to ask her, and if she kept that up she would surely end up dateless.
"I would love to go to the ball with you."
Viktor smirked slightly and nodded his head. He extended his left arm for her to take. "Let me walk you back to your common room."
"Thank you." Daphne gladly took his arm and walked through the silent corridors.
"If I may be so bold, can you tell me what you said to Granger in the Library?" Nobody would say Daphne Greengrass wasn't a girl first and foremost, after all what was a girl without some amount of gossip in her life?
Viktor gave her an amused smile but tried to answer her question as best as he could. "She asked me why I did not want to go with her anymore."
Daphne's face lit up. It was probably very humiliating and she was almost sure no one from Hogwarts wanted to go with her. She had made herself quite a reputation of being a stuck-up know-it-all that looked down on other students. Not many boys would be willing to subject themselves to that kind of torture. "I can assume she wasn't too happy to hear your reasoning?"
"You assume right. I was very lucky to be in a Library. She could not scream at me if she did not want to get kicked out."
"Oh, that was quite clever of you, there's nothing worse for Hermione Granger than getting kicked out of her sanctuary."
She was surprised they arrived so quickly to the entrance of her common room. 'My how does time fly when you're having fun', she thought.
"Can I ask you not to tell your friends about what I told you about Hermy-own-ninny?"
Daphne raised her eyebrows in surprise. During both brief conversations she had with the Triwizard Champion he appeared to have a good grasp of the English language; a bit thick with his Bulgarian accent, and at times it sounded very formal, but not being able to pronounce Granger's mouthful of a name was amusing.
"I promise not to say a thing."
Viktor nodded took her right hand and kissed the back of her palm earning a blush from Daphne. "Will I see you tomorrow at breakfast?"
She nodded not able to form any words. If anything Viktor Krum was the perfect gentleman.
"Goodnight." Daphne finally managed.
"Goodnight." Viktor said before turning around and walking back the way they came from.
She wasn't sure if going with Viktor Krum was the best idea but somehow it felt right. She stated the password to the blank wall and promptly walked in when the wall shifted to reveal the entrance.
She climbed up the stairs to her room and saw that Millicent wasn't back yet. She had seen Tracy and Gracie in the common room leaving only Pansy in the room. "Weren't you coming straight over from the Great Hall? Millie said you weren't feeling very well."
"I just took a walk outside to clear my head."
Pansy gave her a surprised look. "You went outside with this weather?"
Daphne gave a light shrug. It had been cold but the cloak had served its purpose. She sat in her bed finally taking off her shoes.
"So guess who asked me to the ball just now?" Pansy said excitement shining through her eyes.
Daphne wanted to roll her eyes. Pansy was the most transparent girl in the world. It really wasn't hard to guess but decided to tease her friend a bit. "I don't know, Ron Weasley?"
Pansy let out a girlish shriek. "What! Are you out of your mind?"
Daphne laughed at the outraged look on Pansy's face. "Pansy, I'm just messing with you. I know you're going with Draco."
Pansy's mouth dropped open in shock. "How did you know?"
"Are you seriously asking me that?" Daphne said between laughs.
Pansy rolled her eyes and let out an amused giggle. "I had it coming didn't I?"
"Do you really want me to answer that question?"
Pansy shook her head and tossed a pillow at Daphne. Both girls laughed and started talking about what dresses they were going to wear to the ball.
Harry and Neville arrived at the abandoned classroom after they finished eating dinner. It still looked very much abandoned and it had accumulated a small amount of dust during their weeklong absence.
They immediately started cleaning the place because, to be quite frank, Neville didn't want to start sneezing in the middle of a spell. "You'll be happy to hear that I managed to narrow down your options for a date to two candidates," Neville stated smugly after they finished cleaning.
Harry gave his friend and annoyed look. All he wanted to do was solve the stupid clue for the next task, find out what Dumbledore was up to, and discover how to know if his parents left a will. The blasted ball was the last thing on his mind right now.
"Neville, why did you check out the book about the Black Family?"
Neville furrowed his brow. "Well, I assumed you were probably related to them. I know I am through my paternal great-grandmother's side."
"You honestly didn't know we are kind of related?"
"No…" Neville blinked in surprise several times. "I only heard stories but I never sat and read through any books. I didn't need to seeing as being born in a magical family means we're pretty much tutored in any matters like that."
"I guess you should take a look." Harry pulled the old worn book form his bag and handed it over to Neville. "The family tree is in page 312."
After scanning the tree Neville's eyes widened and started spluttering incoherently. Harry let out an amused laugh.
"I don't actually see what's so funny. My Gran just told me I was related to the Blacks but I never looked it up."
"But you said Daphne was your cousin and see here," Harry said pointing to her name in the book, "She's also there."
"Oh, I'm related to her from both sides? How much weirder can it get?"
"We're both related to Malfoy…" Harry said helpfully.
Neville started spluttering again. "Merlin, I should have read this thing a long time ago. I'm guessing Daphne doesn't know either, or at least not the extent of it."
Harry gave him a sceptical look, "How can you be so sure?"
"Believe me, she would've said something by now."
"I'll take your word for it." Harry shook his head slightly. "I was also wondering why, if I did in fact have other relatives, I was left with the Dursleys? I mean my parents must've left a will or something right?"
Neville looked helplessly at his friend. "I don't really know."
"Do you know who can I talk to about this?"
"Well, assuming your parents left a will it will surely be at the Ministry. All official documents are stored there. I can ask my Gran just to be sure what department manages inheritance and wills."
"Do you really have to ask your Gran?"
"Really Harry, she can probably even set up an appointment and everything if you want."
"Will you do that for me?" Harry's face lit up. If his parents did indeed leave a will maybe he could finally move out from the Dursleys.
"It's really no trouble at all." Neville patted Harry in the back making Harry laugh again. His mood went from barely tolerable to ecstatic after Neville's assurance.
"So what were you saying about my possible date for the ball?"
Neville laughed along Harry as they chatted in the classroom waiting for Millicent to arrive. Harry still had things to do but thanks to Neville there were at least two things he didn't have to worry about anymore.