Harry kept waiting for Draco to bring up the night in the woods but he never did. Though he was reluctant to admit it, Harry was a little hurt that Draco didn't confide in him, especially since this was, in all likelihood, involved in Voldemort's plan, whatever that may be.
And still Draco had said nothing. Slowly, Harry had begun to spend more time with Aris, Riker and Rhea. Sometimes Draco would join them but he seemed to have become friends with Gregor again. Harry wasn't about to say anything.
"So you said that Dumbledore didn't find anyone in the woods?" Harry asked for the millionth time.
"Yes. We have been over this," Snape said impatiently.
"I know, I know. I'm still trying to make sense of it all though. I can't believe it's been a few weeks and nothing new has happened," Harry said, disturbed.
"One more time then. Professor Dumbledore said that he received the message while in a meeting with one of the Durmstrang professors. The other professor took off immediately and, being faster than Dumbledore, got there first. Neither of them found anyone at the tree with the light," Severus said tiredly. "Until I informed him, discreetly, otherwise, Dumbledore thought it was a prank of some sort."
"It wasn't," Harry muttered.
"I know that."
"Do you think this has anything to do with why my name was put in the Goblet?" Harry asked worriedly.
"All possibilities must be considered," Severus stated.
"That didn't answer my question."
"Yes, I do believe it is connected but I have no idea how," Severus said, seeming irritated at the lack of knowledge. "Apparently, the Ministry refuses to believe that Crouch is missing- or dead. They maintain that he went on an 'unexpected holiday'," he said with disgust.
"Right," Harry replied sarcastically.
"My thoughts exactly," Severus responded. He paused. "On another note, the third task is coming up quickly."
Harry balked. "Really? But it's only the end of April!"
"That gives you a little over a month to prepare," Severus pointed out. "As I have noted in the past, that month will go quickly."
"That's what you say about final exams," Harry said, rolling his eyes.
"And is this not the final exam to end them all?" Severus asked relentlessly.
"I guess," Harry admitted. "So, what should I do to prepare then?"
"First, I would suggest finding out what the third task is. You do not know, correct?"
Harry shook his head. "Not yet. I'll look into it."
Harry did look into it, but came up with nothing for another week. In truth, it had mostly slipped his mind. On one evening, Harry sat in the library with Rhea, the tournament the farthest thing from his mind.
"That was really nice of you, helping Peter out in Potions today," Rhea commented.
Harry shrugged. "I was finished already."
Rhea cocked her head at him. "There aren't many guys like you here."
Harry paused, giving her a look. "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"She thought for a moment. "A bad thing, I think."
"Riker and Aris are nice," Harry noted.
"Aris is my brother and Riker is his best friend," Rhea said sadly.
Rhea looked at him, eyes dancing with amusement. "Well what am I going to do when you're gone?"
"Uh..." Harry blinked. "What?"
Rhea gave a half smile and shook her head in exasperation. Harry simply looked bemused. Glancing around for something to distract himself, Harry noticed that his mirror was glowing.
"That's weird," Harry commented.
"What?""Someone's calling me. I usually don't talk to Severus until later and Sirius wasn't supposed to call at all today," Harry explained.
"Answer it," Rhea said with a shrug, turning back to her book.
"Okay," Harry replied, picking it up.
"Hi Harry!" Ron said, familiar face appearing next to Hermione's. "We thought maybe you were ignoring us."
"Hi! My mirror was in my bag," Harry told him. "This is unexpected, but in a good way."
"How are you, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Great," Harry replied. "For the most part, anyway. How'd you get this mirror?""Siri- Professor Black said he wasn't using it today and that we could borrow it to call you," Hermione answered.
"Oh, that was nice of him," Harry replied, not noticing that they were in the Gryffindor common room. Harry glanced up at Rhea. He mouthed the words, "Want to meet my friends?"
She gave him a slightly nervous look but when he smiled at her, she nodded.
"Hey, Rhea's here, you want to meet her?" Harry asked, turning back to Ron and Hermione.
"Of course!" Hermione exclaimed at the same time that Ron burst out with, "You bet!"
Rhea bit her lip and slid her chair closer. "Hello," she said,accent thicker in her nervousness.
Ron was dumbfounded. To cover his lapse, Hermione replied, "Hi! I'm Hermione and this is Ron. Harry's told us so much about you."
"Good things, I hope," Rhea replied, slightly chagrined.
"Of course," Hermione replied easily, elbowing Ron.
"Uh, hi," Ron managed.
"Hello," she replied, a little amused. "You are at Hogwarts, correct?"
"Yes," Hermione responded.
"It is very colorful," Rhea noted, looking behind the pair at the bright decorations in red and gold.
"We're in the Gryffindor common room. Want a look?"
"I would love one," Rhea answered earnestly. "I have been very curious about Hogwarts."
"Sure thing," Hermione replied, raising her mirror for a sweep around the room. Harry grinned as he caught a glimpse of several familiar faces.
"Is that Harry?" one of the twins called.
"Ooh, with his girlfriend?" the other joined in.
Harry could feel Rhea blush beside him.
"What's that?" Ginny's voice asked from beyond the frame.
As Hermione lowered the mirror, Harry saw the twins rush across the room.
"Sorry about this in advance," Harry muttered to Rhea. She shot him a worried look and he managed to appear helpless.
The image in the mirror was abruptly changed as if it had been yanked away from whoever was holding it. Two twin faces appeared in the glass.
"Well, well, what have we here?" Fred asked with a jovial grin.
"A girl?" George asked, acting mock shocked.
"Never seen one of them before, have we George?" Fred joked, looking at his brother.
"Not like this one," George replied. "She's pretty."
"Are the girls ugly at Hogwarts, then?" Rhea asked casually, finding her voice.
"Certainly not," Fred said indignantly. "Bet all the guys at Durmstrang are ugly though."
"Well what do you consider yourselves?"
"The handsomest around," George stated pompously.
Rhea made an exaggerated face. "Then I would say, yes, the boys here are very, very ugly."
Harry stifled a laugh.
Fred leaned over to his brother but their whisper still carried through the mirror. "Was that an insult?"
"I think so. I think she called us ugly."
Fred straightened and put on a winning smile. "You've got yourself an interesting one here, Harry."
"Thanks," Harry said sarcastically.
"That's enough, Fred, George," Hermione's voice came through in a commanding voice. "Give it back, Ginny wants to talk."
The twins rolled their eyes in unison. "Fine."
"Bye... what's your name?" Fred asked innocently.
"Bye then, Rhea," George finished for him.
"Nice meeting you... I think," Rhea said uncertainly.
With an exaggerated wink, they disappeared. Hermione's face came back into view, this time next to a different redhead.
"What is it with all the people with red hair?" Rhea whispered as Ginny and Hermione were situating themselves.
"They're all in the same family," Harry explained.
"Oh," Rhea breathed, eyes wide. She brushed her hair out of her eyes. "Hi."
"Hello," Ginny said, studying her through the mirror. There was an awkward pause.
"Er, I'm Rhea... you are?"
"Ginny," Ginny replied. "Ron's sister."
"And Fred and George's," Hermione pointed out.
Ginny sighed, "Don't remind me."
Harry let out a chuckle and Ginny's eyes snapped to his. "I should go," Ginny said abruptly, leaving the frame without a goodbye or anything.
"Is she alright?" Harry asked Hermione in a low voice.
Hermione gave a sad smile. "She's not quite herself at the moment. I'll get Ron back on here, hang on."
When she returned, Ron's familiar face came with her. "Hi again," Ron said. "You ought to ignore my brothers, they can be real idiots at times," he said, addressing Rhea.
"At times?" Hermione scoffed and they laughed.
"So how are things going up there in the arctic?" Ron asked. "Draco behaving himself?" he joked.
Harry could feel his face darken even though he tried to keep it passive. "Everything's fine."
Both Rhea and Hermione shot him a worried look. "It doesn't sound fine. Is something wrong?" Hermione asked.
"No," Harry said simply, clearly unwilling to say more, especially since he assumed that the other Gryffindors remained within hearing distance.
Hermione caught on quickly and worked to cover his lapse. "I loved my Christmas gift, Rhea! Harry told me you helped to make it."
Rhea smiled earnestly. "I am glad. I also love my box, it is very beautiful. Did you pick it?"
"Harry did," Hermione said with a small smile.
Harry, lost in thought, didn't comment.
"So, are you two...?" Rhea asked, gesturing with a hand at Hermione and Ron.
Hermione's eyes grew wide. "Are we dating?"
"Oh no, definitely not," Hermione replied quickly with a light laugh.
"Hey!" Ron protested indignantly. "We very well could be."
Hermione gave him a skeptical look and Ron came back with a stubborn one.
"Sorry," Rhea apologized.
Harry waved her off. "This is how they are all the time, it's not your fault."
"Yeah, it's not your fault that Hermion-"
Hermione visibly elbowed Ron in the ribs. "Save it!" she hissed. Putting on a charming smile, she turned back to the mirror where Harry was chuckling lightly. "It was very nice to meet you, Rhea. But I daresay Ron and I should be going now. Goodbye! Bye Harry!"
"Bye!" Ron seconded.
"Nice to meet you," Rhea said in parting.
"Call me soon, okay?" Harry asked.
"Sure thing," Hermione said. "Talk to you later."
Harry set the mirror down, letting out a sigh of relief. He turned to Rhea, looking sheepish. "Sorry about all that. I didn't realize there'd be a crowd."
"It's alright," she replied. "I was curious to meet your friends."
"They were curious about you too," Harry replied. "I think they imagined you as some big scary eskimo."
Rhea laughed. "Guess I disappointed them, huh?"Harry blinked innocently. "No, I think you met their expectations perfectly."
Rhea stared at him for a moment before she realized he was joking. She punched him hard in the arm.
"Ow," Harry complained, rubbing his arm.
"You deserved that."
Harry sat cross-legged on his bed, fiddling with a small puzzle block. "Ron and Hermione called today," he threw out casually.
Draco paused what he was doing. "Really," he replied, equally as casual. "I missed them, then."
"We invited you to come study with us but you never showed up."
"I had something to finish," Draco replied. "Something more important."
Harry gave a deliberate careless shrug. "You've got to have your priorities. But I saw what you got on that last Transfiguration essay..."
"What are you, my mom?" Draco snapped testily.
"Certainly not," Harry replied, looking up. He set aside the puzzle. "But I am worried about you. You're not getting into anything Dark, are you?" he asked without preamble, too tired of skirting around the issue to put it off any longer."No," Draco replied.
Even without using legilimency, Harry could tell he was lying. He studied his friend for a moment before picking up the block again. "Hermione told me to tell you hello," Harry lied, "and to behave yourself."
Draco grunted in reply. Harry figured he had done the best he could for the moment and let it go. After all, he had a puzzle to finish.