Girls, Girls, Girls
Chapter 9 - Girls, Girls, Girls
Harry had been so shocked by Ron's claim that he hadn't been able to give Ron much of a response the rest of Herbology. And they certainly couldn't talk about it during Care of Magical Creatures with the Slytherins. That left lunch, but they were sitting with Hermione during that too. Harry couldn't even meet her eyes as he thought of Ron's ludicrous claim.
Or was it ludicrous?
Harry hadn't really thought of it, but maybe Hermione did actually like Ron. He shot a side glance at his friend and watched as he stuffed his face full of sausages and shook his head slightly. No, Harry thought, he didn't think Hermione liked Ron in that way. At least, he doubted she was in love with Ron. And if she ever found out Ron thought so… Harry shivered.
Harry was so preoccupied that he didn't even get as angry as he normally would have when Professor Trelawney did indeed predict his death…again. After Divination though, Harry drew Ron aside.
"Ron, I don't think you've quite got this right. I'm pretty sure that Hermione is not in love with you." He kept his voice low, even though he was sure no one else was around. Ron shook his head insistently.
"Harry, haven't you noticed? She's always hanging around us. At first I thought maybe it was you she liked, but since she hasn't said anything, I figure it must be me. Why else would she be around?" Ron's expression was so earnest, so oblivious, that Harry had to work really hard not to groan aloud at his friend's foolishness.
"Ron, she's our friend. A girl doesn't have to be in love with a boy to want to hang out with him!" Harry wasn't even sure what else he could say about that, for it seemed so obvious to him. Ron was frowning.
"Well, that's not what Charlie always said," Ron asserted, "And I reckon that he knows a sight more about girls than you do!" His voice was firm, but Harry was still shaking his head.
It was still so strange to be looking down on Ron like this he thought, their heights had always been reversed. "Ron, don't you think if Hermione were in love with you, she'd have said something by now?" He tried to be reasonable about it, but Ron was being completely unreasonable.
"C'mon Harry, don't be thick!" Harry rolled his eyes. "Why else would she hang around us? At first I thought it was you, but now I'm sure it's not you. She didn't seem jealous at all when you were making eyes at Cho Chang last year." Ron was so far gone in his explanation that he missed Harry's sudden blush. "Besides, girl's are shy about that stuff sometimes." Ron's voice had suddenly become rather worldly, and Harry stifled a snigger.
"Ron, either way Hermione would want you to be happy." Harry tried another tact. Perhaps he couldn't convince Ron of Hermione's platonic feelings, but he could convince him to take advantage of a girl who certainly did seem to like him. "I think you should give it a try with Lavender. If you like her, go for it. Don't worry about Hermione." Harry hesitated, and glanced around. He really didn't want Hermione to hear this next part, "I'll tell you what. If it looks like Hermione is getting upset, I'll talk to her."
Ron let out a relieved breath and clapped Harry on the shoulder. "That's all I wanted mate! I'm glad you're behind me on this one. I'm going to and find Lavender now." Harry watched as Ron retreated down the stairwell, humming happily to himself. He shook his head. He had no idea how Ron had got it into his head that Hermione liked him.
Not that there was anything wrong with his friend, but Harry was certain that Ron was nowhere near Hermione's type. Crisis momentarily averted, Harry returned to the common room.
As he clambered through the portrait hole, he heard a familiar voice call his name.
"Hiya Harry!" It was Neville. Harry smiled at the other boy. It was hard not to like Neville. His fellow Gryffindor was so kind and gentle, Harry had used to wonder why he had ended up in Gryffindor at all. Neville's inner courage and strength had been revealed his very first year though, when Neville had stood up to Harry and his friends when they had been sneaking out of the tower again. Though Neville hadn't known what was going on, he had still made a stand against three more powerful students. Well, Harry thought ruefully, maybe only two.
Even so, Harry had a deep respect and liking for Neville. "Is there something you needed Neville?" Harry asked, "I'm free if you need help with something." If it was potions though, Harry doubted he could be much help.
Neville was smiling at him eagerly, and Harry couldn't help smiling back. "Actually Harry, I wanted to ask you something." Suddenly Neville seemed shy and unsure of himself. Harry frowned. What was he going to ask?
"Of course," Harry said slowly, "You can ask me anything you want." Neville glanced around the room nervously, but they were alone. The other Gryffindors hadn't as yet made their way back to the Tower.
The other boy took a breath. "Harry, do you think Ginny'd go to the ball with me if I asked her?" His voice was shaky, and his eyes were on the ground, but Harry could hear the earnestness in his voice.
Harry stared at Neville blankly. "Erm…ball?" What on earth was Neville talking about?
At Harry's confusion, Neville immediately looked up. "Oh, I forgot you wouldn't know. My Gran knows a lot about the Triwizard Tournament, and told me in a letter that there would be a formal ball for all of the students. She expects me to escort a girl and…well. Harry I'm hopeless with girls!" Neville's voice ended in a pitiful wail that had Harry stepping forward with a wince, making shooshing motions.
"Calm down Neville! We'll figure it out. A ball, eh? I wonder when the teachers were going to tell us about that." Harry tilted his head, his voice taking on a thoughtful tone, "I guess that's why we were supposed to bring dress robes…" He paused, thinking. "Neville, do you actually want to take Ginny?"
Neville nodded frantically. "I've liked her since she came last year. She's so pretty, and funny. She's also really strong. I've heard the teachers talking about her…" Neville swallowed nervously. "But I don't think she'd go with me. Can you help me Harry?"
Harry took in a breath and surveyed his friend. Harry wasn't an expert on Ginny even though, according to her brother Ron, Ginny had been in love with him since forever. He did have an idea of what might attract her attention though. "Neville, I'm going to help you. Let me think on it. I'll come find you when I have a plan. Don't stress yourself out though—it's not even October yet." Neville nodded in agreement, practically rocking on the balls of his feet in his excitement.
"Thank you Harry! I really owe you one." Harry shook his head, and just headed for the stairs up to their room. A ball. His thoughts immediately strayed to Fleur. Harry was sure she was a perfect dancer…he could almost imagine her in a flawless dress with her beautiful, silvery hair and blue eyes.
Harry sighed, pushing the door open. It would be a perfect opportunity to get to know Fleur better, he thought, to go with her to the ball. Harry wanted to know her. The Bond between them was growing, he knew. He could almost feel something inside of himself—a link he didn't know how to reach the end of.
When Harry stepped around the end of Ron's bed to his own, he was startled to find Hedwig sitting on his pillow.
"Hey girl! How did you get in?" Harry glanced at the window and was surprised to find it open. "Hmm. I thought I'd closed that." Realization poured over Harry all at once, and he raced over to Hedwig, roughly pulling the note from her leg and causing her to squawk in indignation.
"Sorry girl, I have to read this! It's from her, I know it is!" His heart pounding in his chest, Harry tore into Fleur's letter and read eagerly:
I will admit that I am shocked anyone would be so bold as to do what you say your friend's mother has done. I wonder if she realizes the damage this has caused, for both of us. You didn't say in your letter, Harry, but I am sure that you have had struggles at school similar to my own thanks to this news article.
You say that you have aged. I will speak to my father about that—I have never known the Bond to manifest itself like that, but I have also never known anyone in our particular situation. It could be as you say, that the Bond was making up for the difference in our ages. In which case, I am sorry Harry. You said you don't mind, but I'm still sorry that this has happened to you.
The Triwizard Tournament is very dangerous, but I don't have a choice about entering. My headmistress is using me to lever attention and support from my father and certain…circumstances prevent me from admitting to him that I would rather not enter this competition. The only thing that makes the prospect of competing in this…Tournament…bearable is the thought that you will be there.
Nothing exciting has happened to me as a result of the Bond, at least not that I've noticed. I do feel something, though. Like a part of me is stretched very far away, and I'm trying to pull it back. I wonder if you feel that too? A hollowness that was once full…
Take care of yourself Harry. I will see you in a couple of months.
Harry gazed at her elegant script, reading her words over and over. The only thing that makes the prospect of competing bearable…is the thought that you will be there… Harry felt warm inside, truly happy for the first time since he had gotten Fleur's last letter. He read over her words yet again, lingering over the feeling she described. "Yes…" Harry mused aloud. That was definitely one way to consider the link he felt.
Harry carefully, regretfully folded her letter back up and slipped it into his trunk next to the last. He glanced at his tired owl ruefully. She wouldn't be up for another flight for a few days. He dug out some owl nuts for her and handed them to her as a peace offering. "Sorry Hedwig," he apologized again. "I got a little crazy there." She nipped his finger affectionately and accepted the nuts before flying out the window.
Harry watched her fly away, and wondered what Fleur would learn from her father.
Fleur sat impatiently in her father's office. It was a Saturday, so she didn't have any classes, but Fleur had been waiting for an hour now to speak to her father. She wondered what could possibly be going on that would keep him away like this.
She leaned back in her chair across from his desk, trying to relax. Her blue eyes slid closed as she began to count her breaths—a technique her mother had taught her to use when she was feeling frustrated. As her emotions slowly came back under her control, Fleur admitted to herself that she was really upset because she hadn't heard from Harry in several days—not since she had sent her response back to him with the snowy owl. Perhaps her message had been too forward, or maybe it hadn't reached him at all. Her teeth worried her bottom lip as she considered the possibilities.
Or maybe he just didn't care to respond.
Fleur swallowed painfully. "This is so stupid." She muttered to herself half-heartedly. And yet, she couldn't help but be extremely disappointed by the possibility that Harry just didn't care that much about their correspondence. Or, by extension, her. It was his right not to care, she reminded herself. She shouldn't waste her time worrying about him either, no matter the Bond that was slowly developing between them. Fleur could feel whatever it was strengthening every day. She could not feel Harry himself, but she knew they were connected.
The door behind her suddenly banged open, and Fleur jumped at the sudden interruption of her thoughts. She turned in her chair and saw her father backing into his office with a rather large box in his arms. She frowned. Was the box…growling? Evidently it was heavy, for she could hear the Minister grunting with effort as he moved to the other side of the room. Fleur got up hesitantly.
"Can I…?" But her father just waved her off and managed to set the box down on his own by the window. As soon as he stepped away from it, the growling ceased. He smiled wearily at Fleur and slumped into the chair behind his desk.
"Hello my dear. Sorry for the wait, had a little trouble in our Muggle Artifacts office. Apparently, some joker thinks it's funny to send the head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office a biting teapot. Poor chap lost a finger before we could get it off him!" Fleur gasped at this revelation, but her father was laughing. Laughing. "Best fun I've had all year!" Seeing the expression on his daughter's face, he quickly sobered. "Not to worry, Maurice will be okay. They can do anything at St. Lungo's these days. I just loathe the man so…" Remembering that Fleur had actually come to see him about something, he trailed off and sat up a bit straighter.
"Nevermind about that. What was it you needed?" Jefferoi Delacour was nothing if not an attentive father, and he knew something must be really troubling his daughter if she would come to seek him out at the Ministry. Fleur really abhorred politics.
Fleur took a breath, readying herself. She would have preferred to speak to her mother about this particular matter, but she was still sickly and Fleur did not want to trouble her if she could avoid it.
"Papa, I have come to ask you some questions about the Bond I now share with Harry Potter." She risked a glance at her father, and saw the skin around his eyes tighten faintly.
Jefferoi chose his words carefully, recognizing this as a sensitive subject…for both of them. The formal tone Fleur was taking with him was a clue as well. "Fleur, I will answer what I can. I am not Veela, however, and can only tell you what I know of my own experience with your mother. Ask away." He didn't want her to think that he was an authority on the subject, but he would certainly try to help.
This wasn't exactly the response Fleur was expecting, but she nodded. She just hoped her father had a little insight that he could share.
"Harry has grown, Papa." She decided she'd just come right out with it. Jefferoi blinked, and raised his eyebrows. Fleur fought a faint blush. "I mean, he and I have been exchanging letters…" Her father's eyebrows climbed higher and Fleur couldn't help blushing furiously. "Papa! I'm trying to be serious. He told me that he grew overnight. He is taller…he is not in the body of a 14-year-old boy anymore." Fleur paused, glancing at her father, before resuming. "I didn't know what to tell him, because I have never heard of that happening." Fleur hoped her father would catch that she didn't know anything beyond that.
Jefferoi didn't become Minister for nothing. He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "Well, this does sound in keeping with the Bond's tradition of equalizing partners…" Fleur leaned forward, "However." She frowned. Jefferoi looked up and met his daughter's eyes seriously. "There has never, that I can recall, been a bondmate as young as Harry Potter. Age is not usually an issue." He fell silent, and Fleur waited anxiously. All of this she had assumed for herself. She needed to know what else to expect.
"There has also," her father suddenly continued, "never been a bondmate quite like Harry Potter, also known as the Boy-Who-Lived. It is generally assumed that he is very powerful, or has the potential to become powerful." Jefferoi looked up at Fleur. "I would warn Harry to be careful of his spellwork for a while. He has grown physically. I would not be surprised if he now has the spell capacity of a 17-year-old as well. With his own increased power, his spells may well be exponentially more powerful." Jefferoi got up from behind his desk and walked around until he was sitting next to Fleur. "Remember also Fleur, that what happens to one of you, happens to both of you."
Fleur frowned, unsure exactly what he meant. She knew to tell Harry that his spells would probably seem supercharged for a while. Did that mean that her own spell power may be affected? As if reading her thoughts, her father continued, "Be careful for a time when doing spells of your own. I don't know exactly what the effect will be on you, but the Bond usually tries to make partners as equal as possible. If Harry is more powerful, it could be that you are as well." Jefferoi leaned back, finished.
Fleur was quiet for a moment, and then "Thank you Papa. You have given me some answers. I have to go and tell Harry now." Jefferoi nodded and watched as Fleur got up to leave. His voice stopped her.
"Fleur, be careful. The Bond is different in every couple. Be very attentive to it." Fleur nodded in understanding, and slipped out of his office. Jefferoi stared at his desk absently long after Fleur had gone, remembering his own start with the Bond. The sudden rattle of the biting teapot snapped him out of it—he was Minister. There was work to be done.