When it's dark bending me
Author's Note: I do not own Harry Potter and related syndica.
I fired my brother and now I have a cousin beta reading. She reads this fic as well but doesn't post reviews – she tells me in person what she likes and hates. I must give her some credit, she gave me an inspiration for what to write in this chapter :-) thanks girl.
It was finally here – the dance that would be the ultimate test of love and romance for everyone. Harry was trying to figure his way through the crowded hallway before the dining hall. Someone had tacked up a few posters that loudly told of the dance, when it took place, and what to expect from it. He had been lucky enough to read the poster before the crowd formed – now he just wanted to eat breakfast and then enjoy Hermione's company.
There was a very chilly draft in the hall but it was pleasant to experience – chilled silk against his skin. He sat himself down and then waited to see if anyone would sit by him. A group of Gryffindor students were gathered at the other end of the table, whispering fervently. Harry couldn't help but get his curiosity up. The group consisted of only boys, now that he thought about it.
He knew he'd have to sate his curiosity. He stood and approached their side of the table to catch brief interludes from their conversation:
" … I mean, you have to do something special…"
" … That's the bet way to show you care, you know…"
Fred and George, the older and more 'experienced' boys, were leading the conversation with animated, delightful chattering. Harry said: " What are you guys talking about?"
Fred's eyes sparkled with a devilish gleam and he whispered under his breath: " Girls, Harry. Pleasing girls during the dance."
" Just giving tips on how to make a girl go nuts for a guy." George added, his eyebrows waggling.
" I should have known!" Harry crossed his arms across his chest. However, something compelled him to listen in. The Weasley twins had enough rumor and gossip in them about girls to fill a good encyclopedia set. Though their rumors on what girls preferred, what gifts they liked, and what kisses they enjoyed were unconfirmed and often times solely based on overheard chitchat or articles in The Witch Weekly, a lot of boys asked for advice.
" Now, I've heard from a trusted source that a very popular girl in this school actually said that this year, girls are expecting a kiss from the guys. This dance is a huge thing, supposedly." Fred said to Harry. " We're just giving freelance information on how to do it right. When to know if the mood is right."
Harry felt a strange feeling inside, almost an awakening feeling. He was completely inexperienced. He'd tried to kiss Hermione on the lips, but he botched that up. She had to go and kiss him back, doing it the right way. Maybe I should listen in. I mean, who knows, it can come in handy. I don't want to embarrass Hermione in front of her peers, if all the other girls are getting kisses.
George banged his fist down on the table, making a bowl spin around on its base. It clattered to a stop, finally, and he said, his voice throbbing with secrecy: " Cho told me herself. She said she wanted me to keep it a secret, but I mean, you guys just have to know."
Harry bit his lower lip. So it was true. Cho wouldn't just make up lies to George. She only wants to help us all out, this would be just like her, to reveal secrets like these through the gender barrier.
George forced out a nervous laugh. " Guess we all better brush up on kissing, huh?"
Cho slowly applied the brown-tinted lipstick. It was just a shade away from cinnamon-colored, and when she pursed her lips, it gave her an innocent but seductive look. Brushing a strand of black hair from her face, she examined herself in the mirror critically. I'm sorry, Hermione, but Harry deserves better than you. I don't want him tied down to a girl that devotes herself to her books more than to her boyfriend. He needs someone willing to give him special attention. You haven't even begun dating yet and you've hurt him so many times, as well as getting mad over ridiculous things. How could you mistaken love confessions to a profession of hate?
Her eyes were a very deep, chocolate-cake brown. Her skin was smooth and illustrious. Despite the shambles she had been in this year, Cho felt firm about the fact that she was ready to move on. Why hadn't I noticed Harry before? When he talked to me in that classroom, I knew. He was meant for me, his kindness had kept me alive so far this year. He'd pick up my quill if I'd drop it in the hall, he'd help me out when I'd trip, and he even soothed me when I cried. When he took me on that date, it was the cherry on the ice cream.
Cho hugged herself tightly at the idea of Harry and her. If I hadn't refused him before, I would have been in a relationship with him now. The whole disaster with Cedric wouldn't have affected me this way. This just proves it – fate wanted us together. I refused it before, but now I know.
Harry, I might have to hurt you slightly, but you will be happier with me in the long run. I know I'll be happier with you than any boy in Hogwarts. I'll treat you the way you deserve.
Giving herself a glance-over in the mirror one last time, Cho pinched her cheeks to give them roses and then she stepped out into the hallway. Hopefully, by now, George has given his speech to the boys. Cho carried herself proudly as she walked, her posture perfect and rigid, her eyes straight ahead, her chin on an elegant angle. She slightly lowered her head as she entered a more crowded area of the school, to give a shy and innocent effect. Slowly pushing her way through, she spotted Harry walking quickly across the hallway.
Feigning surprise to see him, Cho grasped his shoulder. He spun around.
" Harry! How are you?" She asked.
Harry's eyes brightened to see a friendly face. " I'm fine. How's everything?"
" Just great." Cho pushed her hands into her pockets. Harry's face didn't seem to have any visible emotional strain written on it. Best just go along with the plan. " You look worried about something."
" I do?" Harry seemed to reflect. Ah, right, now I remember. Guess it's just my nature to worry about little things, he thought. " Oh, well, I just heard some news and I'm just a bit nervous about it. Nothing bad, of course." He grinned. " Just a little detail about the dance." I can't give George away.
Cho batted her eyelashes, then pressed her hand to her mouth, suppressing what was to be a sad look, holding back tears. " I bet Cedric would have been taking me to the dance, if not for…" A real wave of guilt filled her now. I shouldn't be using his passing away like this. I've learned to adjust to it by now. Yet, it's the only way to gain Harry's pity.
" Don't feel bad, Cho. I thought you were fine already. " Harry seemed to be frustrated, then an understanding look crossed his face. " I guess it must be the holidays. Everyone's coupled up, and I guess you feel lonely."
" No, not really." Cho did her best to appear to be lying, which was very easy to act out. Behind her hand, she made a small yawn, which brought immediate tears to her eyes. Perfect. Slowly, a tear slid out. " I just want to make everyone else's dance to be perfect. Just a few days ago George Weasley asked me for a bit of dating advice. I felt so flattered."
" Oh, really?" Harry pretended he knew nothing of it.
Just like I thought. He's pretending he doesn't know a thing, but I can see he does. He's avoiding my eyes, and he's jiggling his glasses with his hand. He does that when he's nervous or lying.Cho put her hand down, then quickly wiped at her cheek. " Harry, don't tell me he spread the news around." Cho's whisper made Harry's heart thud to a stop for a second.
Oh, she knows, she knows,he panicked inside his mind. " Well, he told only a few people, only the boys that needed the most help. Like me."
" I'm so sorry. So that's what troubling you. It's all my fault, I shouldn't have told George anything. You're worried now because of something I said." Cho began to pace, her hands held to her chest, her fingers entwined as if in prayer. Her lips parted and she whispered: " I feel so guilty."
" It's not your fault." Harry said, hopelessly. " George always tells everything he hears. It's his fault, not yours. You were only trying to help him." His hand brushed hers in comfort, then dropped to his side. He was very uncomfortable and unsure of how to comfort her.
Cho turned her face to him, her eyes wide and filled with tears, though dimmed back now. She smiled and then took his hand in hers. She could see him relax a bit. The movement of her hand to his felt so natural to Cho. She held his hand, like a good friend comforting another. " Harry, I would like to help you. It's hard to figure out how to make a girl happy. I would know."
Harry nodded, his ears reddening.
" I mean, I haven't dated for so long now, ever since…" She gave a dramatic pause. "… well… I just haven't dated. I can still give you some advice. Anything, to make up for worrying you."
" Uh… that's okay." Harry said, taking a step back. It would be too weird to hear you tell me how to kiss Hermione, he tried to buzz the thought into Cho's mind. " Thanks, though."
Cho had to think fast. He wasn't exactly following her plan. She snapped her fingers thoughtfully, as if, just then, an idea dawned on her. " Harry, I feel so numb, and I'm not going to the dance for sure. So, I guess I might as well be of some use to someone." She faked a great embarrassment. " I can be your practice partner. Just for a few minutes."
" A… a what?" Harry could feel his ears turn to blazing metal, unbelievably hot. He took another step back, but his heart sped up instantly.
" Practice partner. You can try a kiss on me, and I can tell you if it's good or not." Cho immediately added, her voice full of sweet reassurance: " I want to be a good friend, Harry, and good friends look out for one another. I'd hate it if you disappointed Hermione again. She's such a nice girl, and she really is lucky to have someone like you. I don't want another misunderstanding."
This struck a nerve. Harry clenched his fists, deep in thought. He unclenched them then, and said; his voice was tired and cautious: "Doesn't this count as cheating?"
" Of course not!" She laughed nervously. It sounded like a shy titter, which was just perfect. " Harry, I wouldn't dream of hurting your relationship with her. I want to help you. I really want to see you both together." Another tear slid down her cheek, which she hadn't planned, but now she acknowledged it's perfect timing. She made a show of wiping it away, then she added: " Don't you trust me anymore? I thought you were my friend…" Cho began to turn away, hoping to play on his guilty feelings.
" Cho, I…" Harry was completely lost. He didn't know what to do. Some form of subconscious was warning him, but he didn't give himself to his feelings deep inside. Instead, he realized he'd be hurting Cho. After all she's been through, after everything that has happened, she was only trying to help him, and he was pushing her away as if he… hated her. Please let me do the right choice…He prayed deep inside, wondering if anyone ever listened to such prayers, but still doing so, because he knew that he needed any godly intervention he could to accomplish his goal – a good relationship with Hermione, and a friendship with Cho.
Cho sniffled. " Do you want my help?" The question was weighted with hidden meanings.
Harry slowly nodded. " Alright."
Before he could react, Cho had taken his hand and was moving quickly outside. She spotted Hermione taking her morning stroll out there just a few minutes ago.
Harry tried to say something, to mention that this was going too fast and he still needed to think about it, but before he knew it, he was standing behind the Hogwarts building, in a heavenly snow-covered scene, and Cho was pursing her lips, waiting.
Lost, confused, his heart wanting only to please Hermione, he leaned forwards and kissed Cho. Yet, he felt absolutely nothing, not even any emotional tie, not a quivering romantic feeling like he felt when he was with Hermione. Just then…
*A few minutes earlier:
Hermione walked briskly, her robes brushing the snow at the sides of the ploughed sidewalk (all cleared by magic, of course), the robes getting very wet from the bottom. She liked such early morning walks – it let her think and reflect. She had never felt so happy as this morning. She had Harry, all for herself, and she knew he liked her, and she liked him so much it hurt. Hermione could only envision the way their relationship was heading, what could happen in the future, and in the farthest future – as adults, as parents. It brought her cheeks to flaming hot, awkward blushes. She felt so immature thinking like this. I really should work on my essay for Snape. If I keep delaying, I'll never finish it. Yet, her mind always returned to Harry.
Just as she considered returning into the building, she saw someone racing towards her through the snow, a fiery red head just barely sticking out from a huge knitted scarf, credit to Mrs. Weasley. Ron, breathless but cheerful, said to Hermione: " Hi."
She smiled at him. " Hi, Ron. How are you?"
" Just great." Ron replied, taking a deep breath. " Thought I'd follow you around, I saw you leaving. Do you always walk this fast?"
" Are you always this out-of-shape?" Hermione teased.
Ron smiled at her. " Yeah, suppose I am." He straightened up and then pushed down the huge scarf from his mouth so he could speak more freely. " Can I join you?" I'd clean toilets, the Muggle way, to be with you, Hermione.
" Sure." Hermione said, pleasantly.
They continued their walk. Just then, they heard footsteps. Just a few meters ahead of them, a doorway burst open and two figures stumbled outside, both red-faced. They had obviously been running to hide someplace private. Suddenly, they engaged in a kiss. It wasn't an entirely romantic one, but Hermione guessed it was because they had been running and were tired, but still up to some kissing.
She felt a stab of horror. The boy turned around first to see who was standing behind them. The scar on his forehead was unmistakable, and neither was the identity of the girl beside him.