A/N: I do not own Harry Potter and would not particularly care to. I would like a rental agreement with option to buy for Hermione Granger. A short-term contract with Nymphadora Tonks would not be turned down. A Long-term agreement with Luna Lovegood would probably be a whole lot of fun. Any time Padma Patil wants to open negotiations, call me and oh for a weekend with Fleur. Oddly Lavender and Padma’s sister (despite being her twin) Parvati do nothing for me…
AN: In a break from tradition (in other words, the way I have always done it) this story has a Beta. The Great and Powerful Kokopelli himself just could not take what I was doing to the English language and volunteered to translate my scratchings into English.
Part Two: The Ball.
Potter looked up from the book he was reading on magical objects and the sounds they made and blinked owlishly. He fought the temptation to stare at the rather impressive breasts in front of his eyes and concentrated on maintaining eye contact with Susan Bones.
"Hi..." he squeaked, his voice breaking at precisely the wrong moment. He swallowed and tried again, forcing his voice into a lower octave. "Hello Sue. How are you?"
"I'm fine Harry. What are you reading?"
Harry held up the book so that the Hufflepuff could read the cover.
"'From Gabriel's Horn to Knopfler's Axe, how magical sound changed the world'. That's an unusual book."
Harry pulled off his glasses and began cleaning them. "I'm trying to figure out the egg thing from the Tournament."
"Cedric gave us all headaches when he first got his," Sue confided. "Since the first couple of times he hasn't opened it in the common room though," she paused and seemed to steel herself. "I hear that you don't have a date for the Ball."
Harry blinked at the sudden change of subject. "I find it hard to believe that my pathetic social life could really be a topic of conversation in the 'Puff common room."
"Harry," the redhead said with a serious expression. "You are a champion without a date. Of course we talk about you."
"Ah, I would have thought..."
"That you weren't all that popular among the Hufflepuffs?" Susan asked with a small grin. "That was true, until Cedric sat everyone down and made it very clear to everyone that he believed you when you said that you didn't put your name in the Goblet, and that if it weren't for you warning him, he might not have survived the dragon in the first task. Cedric says he considers you a decent person and a friend."
Harry blushed and did not say anything, so Susan continued. "Anyway, I'm guessing that you are planning on waiting until the last minute and asking Hermione to take pity on you."
"That was my original plan," Harry admitted, "but Hermione has a date, though she won't say who it is."
"I wasn't sure if you knew about that or not," Sue sat across from the boy who lived. It was now or never. "How did you find out?"
"Hermione started acting all girly, looking at fashion magazines and talking about colors and contrasts. It wasn't hard to figure out."
"So Weasley has no idea?"
"None at all," Harry returned her grin for the first time. "He has this great plan for asking Fleur Delacour to the ball. He tells me that she's sure to have an ugly friend I could go with, because he says 'extremely pretty girls always have an ugly friend for a guy's wingman.'"
"And you would be the wingman?"
"So he tells me," Harry closed his book. "And if I was a smooth talker this is where I would ask you if you had any ugly friends open to a pity date."
"Sorry, I don't have a troll girlfriend for a wingman."
"Ah," Harry said with a slight blush. "It was worth a shot."
"However," Susan said, "I do have a brand new set of formal robes, and I was telling myself that since you are pretty much responsible for my being able to afford them, I thought that I might ask you to go to the Ball with me."
Harry blinked. "With you?" One of the prettiest girls in his year was asking him out? There had to be a catch, his luck most specifically did not work like that.
"Yes. Is it that uncomfortable a suggestion?" Susan said with a small grin. Hermione had been right; Harry looked like he was frightened out of his mind.
"What?" he gasped. "No, no, not at all. I just didn't think that...."
"Then don't think Harry, just tell me yes or no."
Harry swallowed hard, and then nodded so that it appeared he would shake his head off, "Yes!"
Susan's smile got even wider as she stood from the table. "Excellent, we'll have fun. We'll have to get together later and compare colors so that we don't clash."
Harry nodded again, despite having absolutely no idea what the busty Hufflepuff was talking about.
"I'll let you get back to your research," Susan said dazzling him with her smile again. "Talk to you later, Harry."
"Later," the Boy Who Lived agreed as he watched the girl walk away, silently marveling at the way her body moved in every direction at once, yet did it gracefully.
Wow, he thought as a wide smile stretched across his face. He had a date.
Just as suddenly the color in his face drained away and a sense of impending doom filled his mind. Bloody hell! He had a date.
Wait...Wait... What was that about her being able to afford her new dress robes because of him? Harry sighed. It always seemed like he was the only one with no clue as to what was going on.
Hannah skidded to a stop in front of the door to the Library a look of disappointment on her face as she found her oldest friend with an expression of victory on hers.
"The Library? He was in the Library?"
"Yep," the busty redhead affirmed.
"Of course he was. I ran all the way out to the Quidditch pitch, and then pounded on the door of the Gryffindor dorms for half an hour before someone would answer me, and you just find him in the Library."
"He's researching his egg," Susan said with a grin.
"I bet. So?"
"So, I've got a date to the Ball."
"Damn it Sue..." Hannah shook her head. "It’s not fair. Something should be going my way this year. You've gotten those boobs, new robes and a date with Harry Potter. What do I get? How did you find him?"
"Before Cedric sat you all down to tell you that Harry was a good guy, he might have told me where his competition was likely hanging out." the redhead said with an even wider grin.
"Damn it!" Hannah swore. "You had better let me dance with him at least."
"Maybe," Susan said as she walked away from her flustered friend.
The Ball, it turned out, had changed Hermione into, well, a girl. Not that Harry had ever doubted her status as a female, but this whole taking several hours to get ready thing was something new for his most trusted best friend.
Harry, along with most of the other males of Gryffindor above third year, sat in the common room waiting for the women to get ready. Harry and Hermione planned to go the Great Hall together to meet their respective dates, Susan in his case and Hermione's mystery man.
This year was turning out to be exceedingly weird, and that was before Ron's rather spectacular crash and burn in front of everyone when he asked Fleur Delacour to the Ball at the evening meal. The French girl's dismissal of the suggestion followed by her refusal to recognize Ron's existence had several of the girls in the Great Hall, from all three of the represented schools, scrambling to take notes for the proper method to use in the crushing of a boy's ego and removing his will to live.
Ron blamed Harry for not being a supportive wingman. The redhead told everyone who would listen that the only reason that Beauxbaton's champion had turned down his offer was due to his not being able to offer a date to take her obligatory ugly friend.
The fact that Fleur did not appear to have an ugly friend did not dissuade Ron in the slightest.
Harry sat on the sofa in the corner that the fourth years normally staked out as their own and contemplated what little he remembered of the 'Dance Lessons' that Susan had shanghaied him for. Mostly he had concentrated on not staring down into her awe-inspiring cleavage and trying to keep Susan from discovering the evidence that he had, in fact, looked down once or twice by bumping her hip into said evidence. As a result, he had not actually learned much in the way of dancing.
Neville quit pulling at his collar and nudged Harry to get his attention. He then nodded toward the doorway to the boy's dorms.
There stood Ron Weasley, all decked out in his dress robes, a mélange of purple and lace. Ron spotted his dorm mates and made a beeline for them.
"So," Dean asked, "who took pity on you Ron?"
"Ha, you're so funny Dean. I'm here to keep Hermione from looking silly."
There was a moment of silence until Neville asked the question that all the others were thinking. "The sight of that purple monstrosity is going to distract everyone I suppose, but how is it going to keep Hermione of all people from looking silly?"
"When she comes down and has to admit that her 'mystery date' is a figment of her imagination of course," Ron sighed as if he was explaining the most obvious thing in the world.
"Ron," Harry said, trying to spare his somewhat unreliable friend's ego, "Hermione has a date."
"You would take her side wouldn't you?" Ron sniffed.
"Ron, pull your head out of your arse," Seamus laughed. "The girl has a date. You pissed about, and then set your sights impossibly high, and now you have the choice of staying here with the youngsters or going stag."
"I asked Hermione before Ginny asked me," Neville pointed out. "She already had her date then. That was more than a month ago Ron. Quit being such a wally and man up."
"Ginny asked you?" Ron shouted before wheeling on Harry. "This is your fault. If you had been there for me when I went after the Frenchie, then I wouldn't be left out like this."
"For god’s sake Ron, this isn't about you," Harry began.
"Ron," Dean cut in dangerously as he stood, showing that Ron had not been the only Gryffindor to have had a growth spurt over the previous summer. "You're being an ass. No one made you go after a girl that everyone knew you had no chance with, no one made you ignore Hermione, and for you to start blaming Harry for anything after the way you badmouthed him before the task with the dragon is just stupid. Now shut up and go away before you get hurt."
Ron looked furiously at his dorm mates before stomping off out the common room doorway and out into the halls.
Dean shook his head and returned to his seat. "Sorry Harry, I know he's your best mate, but I'm just not in the mood for Ron's shite tonight."
The silence spread among the fourth years for several moments before Seamus broke it. "Krum's date was something of a surprise eh?"
"Yeah," Harry noted, wondering just when it was he quit being so interested in Cho. "Kind of makes sense though, the both of them being seekers and all that."
"I kind of doubt that Krum is looking for tips on seeking," Neville said with a grin.
"Probably not," Harry agreed with his own grin. Ah, yeah. It was the first time Susan's dance lessons had him holding her close and he looked down and...
"Merlin!" Seamus breathed as he stood up from the squashy chair. Harry turned his attention to the door to the girl's dorms in time to see that the girls were making their appearances.
They were... There was... Hermione was... How the hell had he missed this? Had he been so wrapped up in himself that he missed... this?
"Close your mouth Harry," she said with a pleased smile. "You're staring."
"Bloody hell Hermione," he answered trying to recover his dignity by looking her up and down in an exaggerated manner. "You scrub up quite nicely."
Hermione cocked her head to one side as if thinking of a proper response, and then quicker than Harry could react she cuffed him on the side of the head. Glancing down at her nails, she smiled happily then held them up for Harry to see.
"Magical nail polish, complete with built in quick-drying charms, and it's chip proof, as I just demonstrated on that hard head of yours. Lavender loaned it to me," the girl grinned. "And mind your language Harry. There are ladies present."
Harry rolled his eyes as he rubbed the side of his head. "This side of you is scarier than normal; I'll have to warn your mystery man about how violent you can be."
"Oh Harry," she cooed as she took his arm and lead him toward the doorway. "Not if you value your life."
Hermione stumbled at the top of the first staircase, and ended up leaning heavily on Harry to keep her balance.
"Are you ok?" he asked.
"It's these heels," she explained. "I'm not really used to them. So, what's wrong?"
"Wrong? Why would there be anything wrong?"
"Well, after you got over the shock of discovering that I was a woman, you made your little joke, and then got very quiet. That usually means something is wrong."
"Oh," he said quietly. Was this, he asked himself, what having a family was like? Having someone in your life who knew you well enough to know what you are thinking from what you don't say? "It's Ron; I think he might make a scene."
"He showed up in the common room saying that he was going to 'keep you from looking silly' because he just knew that you didn't really have a date."
"Oh he did, did he?" Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow.
"We set him straight, but well, he got mad and stomped off," Harry paused. "I think he's really still mad about Fleur."
"How her shooting him down was your fault because you weren't there to be his 'wingman'?" Hermione asked as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
"Yeah. I don't know where he gets that stuff." They were at the top of the last staircase before they arrived at the last set of stairs before the Great Hall. All around them students dressed in their finest robes were making their way to the party. "So," Harry asked as he steadied her again, "are you going to tell me who your mystery date is?"
"Maybe I like being an enigmatic woman," she laughed.
"Do I at least get to stomp on your feet while pretending to dance tonight?"
"If you can tear yourself away from Susan I suppose."
"Tear himself away from ME?" Susan's voice broke into their conversation, "as if that could happen."
"Hi Sue," Harry said, his voice cracking yet again at the very worst time. He swallowed and again forced his voice into a lower register. "You look amazing."
"I do, don't I?" the redhead said while twirling so that Harry could see her from all sides.
"Susan Amelia, at least try to show some modicum of decorum can't you?"
"Yes Auntie Amelia," Susan sighed, offering Harry a wink. "Harry, this is my aunt, Amelia Bones."
"Hello," Harry said awkwardly shaking the woman's hand, before receiving an elbow to the ribs. "Oh! And this is my friend Hermione Granger."
"Oh, yes, Cedric's friend." the grey haired woman nodded, her monocle flashing in the light. "He has mentioned you in his letters."
"Yes I did, but not so that you could embarrass her, Aunt Amelia," Cedric interjected, as he approached to take Hermione's hands in his. "You look lovely tonight."
"Thank you," Hermione said while a blush spread across her features. "You look quite handsome as well."
Harry looked back and forth between his best friend and his competitor. Hermione and Cedric? When had this happened?
Hermione and Susan were joined by Hannah Abbot and the three girls were suddenly in an in-depth conversation with Susan's aunt about some obscure aspects of their party wear. Cedric and Harry exchanged a confused glance before stepping back from the women to have their own conversation.
"So," Harry began, "you and Hermione? When did that happen?"
"Well," the tall handsome Hufflepuff said, "After Cho decided that she would rather be a Quidditch groupie than my girlfriend, you knew we were dating, right?"
Actually, Harry had not known that, but he nodded in the affirmative.
"Like I said, Cho decided to be a Quidditch groupie, and I sort of, well, got to feeling sorry for myself, so I threw myself into my studies. So I started spending all my time in the Library."
"Where you met Hermione," Harry concluded.
"Yep. After my ego got over having my Potions essay corrected by a fourth year, we started to talk. Then we started going for walks, and we talked some more. Hermione is amazingly mature for her age. Hell, she's more mature than I am."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, "me too." He still was not comfortable with the idea of Hermione being with an older man like Cedric... Cedric was a good bloke, scrupulously fair in a match, but it was no secret that Hermione was his closest friend, would he...
"Hermione and I made an agreement not long after she started helping me with my classwork," Cedric continued. "That was we would never discuss the Triwizard, or you, so you don't need to worry about that."
Shocked that the Hufflepuff had read his thoughts so easily, Harry looked away.
"Don't worry about it Harry, if you had suddenly stated dating my best friend I would have had the same suspicions... Of course if you actually were dating Percy Weasley we might have something else to talk about."
The thought that Cedric's best friend might be Percy Weasley managed to shock Harry all over again.
"Hey, I know he can be something of a prig," Cedric shrugged reading Harry reaction for what it was. "Ottery St. Catchpole is a small town, Percy and I were the only lads our age, so we hung out before he started Hogwarts, and we stayed friends afterward. We both have our own passions, I drive him mad with my Quidditch stories and he bores me to tears with his fixation on rules and regulations, but we are still mates. Percy, Ollie Wood, and I are planning on sharing a flat after I leave Hogwarts."
"I bet you'll have wild cauldron bottom and Quidditch themed parties." Harry joked.
"Believe it or not, we've already had one of those, last summer," Cedric said with a grin. "Who knew the girls who work in Administration at the Ministry were so kinky? Anyway," he said changing the subject, "I've got to get my 'Older Brother' thing out of the way; ‘if you hurt Sue, they'll never find your body.'"
Harry blinked. That had come out of nowhere. He nodded, and glanced at Hermione meaningfully. "Right back at you."
It was Cedric's turn to be surprised; he took a step back from Harry, and then laughed at himself. "You know, before this year I would have laughed at the idea of you threatening me. However, after I saw what you did with that Horntail. I think I'll be on my best behavior."
It turned out that Susan's Aunt was attending the ball not as a family member, a bit concerned that her niece had for some reason chosen to associate with a known trouble-magnet like Harry, (though that was at least part of the reason) but rather because she was standing in for Barty Crouch as the representative for the Ministry. Over dinner, Madam Bones told an amusing story about how for a short period Percy Weasley was actually supposed to represent the Ministry at this function, standing in for his boss. Then someone in the Ministry's Protocol Office realized what an insult it would be to the participant schools to have the Ministry represented by someone only a year out of school himself.
The meal was over soon enough and the four champions took to the dance floor for the opening dance.
As nervous as he had been while heading out to the floor, Harry had to admit to himself that having Susan in his arms and moving to music most specifically did not suck. He hoped that she was having fun as well.
"Am I staying off your toes?" he said hopefully after an hour of dancing.
"You're doing fine Harry" she awarded him with one of her dazzling smiles. "I'm having a wonderful time, and you're a big part of that."
For no reason he could identify, that made Harry feel very good. A large smile spread across his face as the music ended. The pair broke apart and joined the rest of the dancers in applauding the band.
When the next song started, Susan wrapped herself around Harry's right arm and led him to their table. "I hate that song, let’s get something to drink."
Behind them, there was a sudden splash sound, followed by an ear-splitting screech. Pushing Susan behind him, Harry spun into a crouched and ready position with his wand out. He found himself staring at Fleur Delacour drenched in some kind of sticky crimson fluid and covered in some foul smelling... rope like somethings. Past the French champion stood Draco Malfoy, levitating some sort of metal container and a look of shock on his face.
After a few heart beats, Malfoy's shock dissolved into laughter.
At hearing that laughter, the French girl's cries of horror became a roar of fury, and some very strange things began to happen.
"Oh Merlin," Susan whispered into Harry's ear. "Veela really do transform when angry..."
The castle's elves had the mess cleaned up in minutes, but the attack on Fleur put a real damper on the party, and the result of her response to Malfoy put the fear of Veela into all of the witnesses. Most of the Beauxbaton's contingent had left with their still raging though once again human formed champion and Headmistress. The students from Durmstrang and Hogwarts tried to keep the party going for a while, but individuals slowly started drifting away to prepare for leaving for the holiday the next morning.
Harry himself was torn between sympathy for Fleur's humiliation and hysterical amusement for what she had done to Malfoy. He decided that he was going to have to buy the French girl a Christmas gift for her trouble.
"The party is breaking up," Amelia Bones said as she approached their table. "I think I'll be leaving so that I can go to the ministry to deal with the fallout of the Malfoy boy's actions. I'll be seeing you tomorrow Susan?"
"Yes, Auntie," the redhead said, rising from her seat to hug her aunt. "I hope there isn't much trouble and you don't end up working too late."
"I'll be alright, though Lucius Malfoy will be explaining his son's actions. Of that, I have no doubt. Good night Mr. Potter, and don't think I didn't see you place yourself between Susan and possible danger. Thank you for that."
Harry had no idea what to say to that, so his blush was his only answer as Amelia exited the Great Hall.
"Hey, Harry," Cedric called.
The raven-haired boy looked up to the Hufflepuff. "Yeah?"
"Come over here a second. Hermione and Sue can amuse themselves for a few moments."
Harry looked between his best friend and his... girlfriend? The pair shrugged at his unasked question, so he crossed to where the older boy stood.
"Harry," Cedric said in a low voice. "Have you figured out the clue in your egg yet?"
"No," Harry admitted. "So far all I've managed is to annoy everyone in the common room by opening it."
Cedric nodded. "I know what you mean. You know, it occurs to me that I never thanked you for your warning about the dragons."
Harry shrugged. "Don't worry about it. Telling you was just the decent thing to do, anyone would have done the same."
"Maybe so, but you're the only one who did. Viktor and Fleur both knew, that much was obvious, but neither of them as much as whispered a warning. Looking back on it, I figured out my egg when I got away from other people and just focused on the egg itself."
"I suppose I could try using an empty classroom," Harry said thoughtfully, "but the noise is like to bring the whole castle running."
"Maybe you should try some other place. Somewhere quiet and soundproofed... like maybe the Prefect's bath. You could take a bath and relax, unwind a bit, and use the time to give your egg your full attention."
"Take a bath?" Harry asked, wondering just what Cedric might be suggesting... surely not... The Hufflepuff was dating Hermione; surely, he wouldn’t be…
"Believe me Harry, take your egg to the bath and everything will be much clearer..." Cedric turned back to the two girls who were pretending not to be listening. "I think I'd best get Susan back to our dorms, can I trust you to escort Hermione back Harry?"
In a private suite at St. Mungo's, Lucius Malfoy stood at the foot of the bed that supported his son's burnt and broken body. "And what," the head of House Malfoy asked, "made you think that dumping pig blood and entrails on the French champion was a good idea? And in front of Amelia Bones no less?"
"It wud thuposed tuh be Pottah!" Draco ground out around his immobilized jaw. "He muved!"
"So, Potter moved did he? How unexpected." Lucius said through clenched teeth and he gripped the rails of the hospital bed to keep from strangling his only son. "Who would have ever expected someone to be moving on a dance floor?"
"Fathuh! Id wad a mithake!" Draco declared, wondering if his hair was going to grow back. "How will da Veewa be punished foah attacking me?"
Before Draco could blink, Lucius' wand was in his hand. "Pater Detegit" the man called out with a complex wand movement. The tall blond man paused to read the glowing name that blossomed over his wand. Draco blinked through the pain to make out the letters. Y… O… F… L… A… M… S... U... I... C...U... L... what did that mean?
"Damn it!" Lucius cursed, before calming himself enough to continue. "Let's think about your question, shall we Draco? You dumped several gallons of pig’s blood and rotting entrails on the French girl, you stood there with your wand in your hand, still levitating the trough, once you saw what you did, you laughed..." Lucius' anger was getting the best of him again. He took several deep breathes to calm himself. "And... And you did all of this directly in front of Amelia Bones, the Director of Magical Law Enforcement."
"Tho she cahn do this to me an' get awah wif it?"
"Draco, after what you did, she could have killed you and probably been applauded for it. What were you thinking son?"
Lucius shook his head. "Draco, Potter went toe to toe with a dragon and won. What makes you think that if you had done what you did to the French girl to him and the niece of the Director of Magical Law Enforcement, the end result would have been any different?"
"But nothing. You were a fool. You were not cunning, you were not covert, and you stood in front of the entire school and were spectacularly stupid. You paid for your stupidity. It took all of my political capital to keep you from being expelled, passing your actions off as that of a confused young man showing off for a pretty girl." Lucius paused shaking his head in disappointment, "I am ashamed of you Draco, and your actions betray your heritage every time you have anything to do with the Potter boy. I want you to stay away from him. When you return to school, just stay in your common room, and stay out of trouble!"
Lucius spun to face his son and cast "Pater Detegit” once again. Once again, the glowing letters formed the same name before the man's eyes.
"Damn it!" Lucius cursed yet again, "Just do what you're told for once in your life boy!"
Draco watched as his father left the room. Damn Potter, this was entirely his fault! He was going to pay!