Candidates try to figure out what works, what doesn't work, and what Harry wants, with mixed success.
No one can go through what Hermione Granger had been through over the past five years without learning something, and Hermione's quick wit and thoughtful attitude (and occasionally good reflexes) allowed her to learn more than most. However, when it came to dealing with other
people, she could still be a little naive.
Her first Memory Ball was an example of this. It simply featured a seated Hermione explaining that she'd been at Harry's side for as long as anyone, and that she'd earned the right to continue to be his best friend. She made no special attempt to dress up. After all, that would be a distraction from her simple and unassailable logic.
(This would soon be referred to, by all the campaigns, as Mistake Number One.)
Katie Bell's first Memory Ball featured a similar spiel, but with a few significant differences. She was decked out in her Quidditch kit, partly because she was about to start practice for the game on Saturday, but mostly because she figured that her audience (and Harry) would appreciate the display of tight clothes on an athletic body. Her final line, "Vote for me, and I'll make sure that Harry gets what he needs," was an inspired ad lib. Lavender smiled as she put the recorder down. 'This might be an interesting campaign after all,' she thought.
Susan Bones and Megan Jones were the only candidates to make a joint Memory Ball. Susan wasn't really worried about losing votes to Megan, while Megan believed that her best chance was probably to let Susan do most of their heavy lifting at the beginning. While Susan's commentary was mostly boilerplate about the advantage of friends in high places, her wardrobe was sending a slightly different message- a hem a couple of inches above the knee, a braid resting on the front of her blouse, a top button that she'd occasionally worry and eventually undo.
Beside her, Megan lacked the endowments of her fellow Hufflepuff, but made up for it with a shorter skirt and a deeper voice. She'd heard from Vivian that men liked a voice with a little bit of husk to it, and had rehearsed for half an hour before filming. While she wasn't sure if women would react in the same way, she figured it was worth a shot. It didn't cost anything, after all.
Mandy Brocklehurst was a "Muggle lover," the polite term for a pureblood who knew Muggle pop culture but was still happy in magical society. As a result, her Memory Ball ended with the phrase "huge tracts of land" to describe the family farm and a slight lean forward- not enough to display her goods, but hopefully enough to get Harry wondering.
Luna's Memory Ball was a stream-of-consciousness story about sitting in the Astronomy Tower and thinking of Harry as she heard the returns come in, detailing the re-election of that nice man with the hoarse voice from a state she couldn't spell. She figured that Harry needed to know that she was thinking about him; that she was doing so in one of Hogwarts' best-known love nests could only help. Other girls might not know exactly what to make of her speech, but that wasn't exactly new.
Pansy's new campaign manager was, to the surprise of many Slytherins, not Draco Malfoy but his rival Blaise Zabini. Was it a breakup? A quest for campaign cash? An elaborate ruse? Seeking advice from a woman who'd successfully 'campaigned' for seven husbands (and
outlived six)? Whichever it was, Pansy gave no sign. Her Ball was quite bluntly aimed at getting Slytherins to vote and let her "give Harry the treatment he deserves." If wannabe Death Eaters and Harry-lovers wanted to interpret that in different ways, fine and dandy.
Daphne had Astoria sit with her in their uniforms during their Ball. Both talked about how much they admired Harry and why they were too "embarrassed" to join the DA, but admired Harry's initiative. They figured that Slytherin couldn't give them all the votes they needed to beat Hermione, and thus figured that Daphne would have to play beyond their House base. Astoria's presence could be interpreted as a promise of something more. That wouldn't bother either Greengrass at all... especially if they won.
Angelina owled Parvati and Patil to let her know that she would be able to stop by on Wednesday. They hated having to wait for two days, but in the absence of their candidate, they really couldn't do anything else.
Classes on Monday provided the girls with their first chances to mix during the campaign. Greetings were still civil if not completely cordial, and with no input from Harry as to whose performance he preferred, no one could get too cocky.
However, Harry spent a few minutes in quiet conversation with Katie about the practice that afternoon. As Katie had worn the tightest clothing during her Ball (even if she didn't expose any skin), this got some of the girls thinking that Harry might want them to revise their tactics and wardrobes.
Harry wondered why there were more young ladies than usual watching their practice that evening. The weather had improved from the weekend, but not by much; it was still chilly and damp, even if the rain was staying away.
Harry was just landing as practice ended with his captain came over. Katie had seemed a bit distracted today. She didn't throw the Quaffle to Harry until he was looking at her, and she seemed to be in profile to Harry more often than usual.
"Is there something on your mind, Katie?" he inquired.
"Well, it's just something that I have to resolve over the next couple of weeks, Harry. It shouldn't affect you. But don't worry about me; I just want to make sure that you're okay," With that, she embraced Harry, who somewhat awkwardly patted her on the back.
If she'd told Lavender to record the scene, and where she expected to be when she greeted Harry, then Harry didn't need to know that. And if it appeared in a Ball later, with added romantic music, he didn't need to know that either.
Over the next couple of days, the girls of Hogwarts got a chance to watch the Balls from all of the candidates and compare notes. Most of the candidates asked for a new poll, and the Club agreed to provide one for release on Wednesday morning. Club members said they'd also provide advice to the various campaign managers if requested.
As it turned out, Hermione had lost most of her lead, with Katie joining Luna and Susan in the battle for second. The other candidates (except Angelina) made gains, but were still well behind.
Later that morning, Angelina made her appearance in Gryffindor. Harry hadn't seen her since she had graduated, and was glad to meet an old friend. He hoped that she'd remember him as well.
His first hint of her reaction came when Angelina ran toward him and engulfed him in a hug he hadn't experienced since last year with Hermione at Grimmauld Place. As Angelina was more solidly built than Hermione had been, Harry couldn't quite withstand the momentum and they toppled over. She quickly recovered and stood over him.
Angelina had gotten a big signing bonus from Chudley, and clearly some it went into her wardrobe. She was wearing a tailored, cream-colored silk suit that flattered her figure without showing off much dark chocolate skin.
By now, Harry had caught his breath again. "I'm glad to see you too," he deadpanned, but he couldn't keep his grin down for long. "How are you, Angelina? What brings you back here to visit
"Oh, I got a letter from some friends of ours," Angelina replied airily. "I figured that I'd drop by to see how you were doing, Harry. I figured you could probably use another friend right now."
'Oh, this is perfect,' thought the silent figure at the back of the room.
Harry had clambered back to his feet. "Well, I'm certainly glad to see you. Did you know that the Slytherin game is in three days? Can you stay for practice tomorrow? I'm sure we could use your advice."
"Well, I suppose so. I'm sure I can find a room in Hogsmeade. But we can talk some more about Quidditch later. I'd like to see everyone again."
During the conversation that followed before lunch, Harry wondered why Angelina and Katie were looking at each other so suspiciously- they'd always been good friends as far as he knew. Come to think of it, neither Chaser seemed to want to meet Hermione's eyes or vice versa. But when he tried to ask Hermione about at as they went to the dining hall, she refused to give him a straight answer, saying it was "something that's just come up and will go away soon. Don't worry."
Harry had stopped in his tracks and put a hand on Hermione's shoulder. "The girls who've been good friends to me hardly look at each other, and I shouldn't worry? Hermione, this isn't like you. I remember you and Ron three years ago, and you needed to talk things out- your argument almost got us killed! Please, what's going on?"
Hermione continued to hesitate in a very un-Hermione fashion. "Harry, I can tell you in ten days. I promise. Just let us handle things between now and then."
"I'm going to find out, Hermione. I just really wish you'd tell me up front," Harry said, half-pleading and half-warning.
By the evening, new Memory Balls were available showing Angelina's enthusiastic greeting and Hermione's sheepishness in the face of the Chosen One. Angelina and the Patils agreed- an Invisibility Cloak makes a really wonderful investment.