Candidates rethink their strategies, while Harry throws a stone in the pond.
A slogan belonging to Vidal Sassoon is used in this part. I make no claim of ownership.
On his way back to his room, Harry remembered something that he should have done before the evening's meeting, and he hoped that Neville would still be awake when he returned. Fortunately, when he reached the room, Neville was sitting up in his bed, clearly waiting for Harry.
"Thank you for coming with me, Neville. I really appreciate it," Harry said after climbing onto Neville's four-poster, closing the curtain, and casting Muffliato. "Before I get any further, I want to apologize."
"For what?" Neville asked blankly.
"For putting you at risk this evening. I should have gotten the Marauders' Map to have a better chance of knowing who or what was waiting for us in the locker room tonight. I'm sorry that I keep doing things like this..." Harry started to tail off, only to have Neville put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Harry, are we alright now?" Neville inquired.
"Yes, we are. There is no risk to us, although I couldn't have known that-" Neville cut off his explanation.
"Harry, I trust you and I accept your apology- if you tell me what's happening." Neville looked as determined as he ever had in Dumbledore's Army.
Harry began to outline the election and list the candidates when Neville interrupted him again.
"Wait, is that Mandy Brocklehurst from Ravenclaw? The sixth year with the big green eyes?" Neville demanded.
"Yes, it is, Neville," Harry answered.
"Do- do you think she's going to win?" Neville sounded much less sure of himself now.
"I don't know. Pansy told me there had been polls, but I don't know what they said," Harry replied.
"I just thought I'd ask, Harry," Neville said hesitantly. "Mandy's very good at Herbology, you know? We've worked together on some projects over the last year. I was wondering if, if maybe..." he tailed off.
"Have you talked to her about going out?" Harry asked gently.
"Well, not exactly. I think she knows how I feel, and I want to tell her, but I get tongue-tied every time I try," Neville said slowly.
Harry remembered his own relationship with Cho. "I can talk to her, Neville. I can't promise anything, though."
"Thanks, Harry. I really appreciate it. Here's your cloak back. Let me know if I can help with the election," Neville said as he started turning back the covers of the bed.
Knowing a hint when he saw one, Harry got up. "Thanks, Neville. I don't think there's anything else you can do, but I'll let you know if there is."
Mornings arrive late in Scotland in late November. When Harry got up the three hours before the game was to start, it was still nearly dark outside. Wind blew into north-facing windows, and the sky was dark, promising snow in the near future.
A few minutes after Harry started eating, Hermione came into the dining hall and sat down. She looked more disheveled than usual, with her blouse misbuttoned and hair afrizz.
It hadn't been a pleasant night for Hermione Granger. A talk with Lavender about her next tactic quickly devolved into a shouting match that lasted for half an hour, ending with Lavender's decision to "work with Katie for the next day or two." With only six days left until the election and the last of her lead gone (according to the latest poll), Hermione felt her plan to cheer Harry up spinning completely out of control.
"Hermione, can I talk to you?" Harry asked.
"Harry, I'm really not-" She got no further before Harry impatiently interrupted, leaning toward her.
"I need to talk about the election. Now." Harry's voice was very quiet but insistent. Hermione gulped and nodded.
"Sure, Harry," she said as she followed him to an unused classroom two floors above the Great Hall.
Harry paced back and forth for a few moments, collecting his thoughts. When he finally spoke, however, he had but one word to say to Hermione: "Why?"
"Because Luna and I saw you mourning a couple of weeks ago. We've seen you like that so often these last few months, beating yourself up for not knowing things you couldn't have known and for keeping all of us from getting killed! We want you to be happy, Harry. If we can't do it," she said shakily, "then you deserve someone who can. So we decided to let other girls stand and make their case. Lavender's been helping me, but we can't agree on how to campaign, and..." Hermione tailed off.
Harry looked at Hermione, who was now fighting back tears. "Hermione, I'm sorry that I haven't been pleasant to be around, but it's just that there's a lot of people who've been expecting great things of me, and I don't know if I can do them."
"I know there's a lot of pressure on you, and I want you to know that I will do anything you want me to do to help you- even if that means doing nothing," Hermione said, voice steadily dropping to a whisper.
When asked about it later, Harry couldn't say exactly where the idea had come from, but he thought he knew exactly how to deal with Hermione's crisis of confidence.
"Lavender's been helping you run your campaign, right?" Harry inquired. When Hermione nodded, Harry continued, "Could you please bring her up here? I've got a few questions for her."
Twenty minutes later, Hermione returned with Lavender in tow. Harry stated that "I need to speak to Lavender in private," and Hermione departed.
"I understand that you and Hermione have been arguing lately," Harry began. Lavender waxed indignant in her response.
"Yes, and it's driving me crazy! She doesn't let me present any ideas of my own, even though her polls keep dropping. I know what I'm doing, or at least I think I do, but she won't let me demonstrate it," Lavender complained. "She never wants to dress up, even for the Memory Balls we record. She won't let me show her how good she can look- like at the Yule Ball."
"Lavender, I remember that it took her three hours to prepare for the Ball. Who wants to spend that much time getting ready every day?" Harry replied, reasonably. "Surely there's something less drastic that you can do for her."
"But there is, Harry!" Lavender replied. "Sleekeazy's has come out with a new hair potion that will keep her hair nice and wavy for a month. It just takes three applications over three days. And I can help her with her clothes, too."
"I apologize, Lavender," Harry said lightly. "I haven't kept up with the latest developments in shampoo."
"Oh, come on. This is serious," Lavender said in a surprisingly serious tone. "It's like the Muggles say. 'If you don't look good, we don't look good.'" When that drew a blank from Harry, she continued. "There's good money in cosmetics. I interned with Sleekeazy's last year, and I hope to work there when I graduate."
"What would you do for them?" Harry asked, intrigued despite himself.
"I might work in their lab making potions, or I might be a model," she replied. Lavender had the face and body that photographers loved, whether Muggle or magical: she had a high forehead, long blonde hair that shone dimly even in the room's dim light, and a tall figure with modest but definite curves.
"Well, I'll try to convince her to let you work your wonders, Lavender," Harry said after a moment. "Maybe you can convince her that she deserves me- she really deserves better, of course. This might be just the trick she needs."
"Thank you, Harry!" Before he could react, Lavender hugged him tightly around the waist and kissed him on the cheek. "You're going to love Hermione when I'm through with her."
"Um, thanks, Lavender," Harry said, slightly abashed. Lavender was wearing a blouse and short skirt with stockings- 'she's either changing or not going outside today,' Harry thought- and he hoped that she couldn't tell what kind of effect she was having on him.
No such luck. "You know, Harry, I was in the election, too. I finished fourth here in Gryffindor, behind Hermione, Katie, and Parvati. She went off to work with Angelina. But I hope you'll remember me when Hermione wins," she purred. "And maybe, just maybe, you'll let me be your girlfriend for a day," she finished with a little grind for emphasis.
"Ah... Maybe after the election I can talk with Hermione about that," Harry answered, breathlessly.
Lavender finally let him go and headed for the door with a little wiggle in her step. "I'll let you know how things go, Harry," Lavender promised as she left.
At ten o'clock, Harry headed down to the locker room. By then, the snow promised earlier in the morning had started to fall.
"Katie, could I have a word with you before the game?" Harry asked. Katie, who hadn't changed yet, agreed.
"I know about the election, and I just want to make sure that, whatever happens, we can at least all stay friends. Alright?" Harry asked, in a voice that provided no room for disagreement.
"Alright, Harry. Do you think I should ask Angelina to visit again?" Katie inquired.
Harry, pleasantly surprised by her initiative, said, "Yes. I was just going to ask you to do that. I think it's important that Hermione, you, and Angelina-"
"Kiss and make up?" Katie asked with a grin.
"That'll do," Harry replied with a smile of his own.
Fifty minutes of changing and last-minute strategy later, the Gryffindor team headed out to confront the Slytherins and the elements.
Usually, no more than a handful of students fail to attend a Quidditch match. However, the horrid weather effectively emptied the stands; fewer than half of the students were present, bundled up to enjoy the game of wizards.
They wouldn't be bundled up for long. Less than two minutes after the balls were released, Harry saw a glint at the edge of his vision to his right. Sure enough, the Snitch was just floating there.
'Do Snitches actually get overconfident in zero visibility?' Harry asked himself. That didn't stop him from gliding over to collect the Snitch, win the game, and increase his popularity even further at the expense of Draco and his cronies.
'If only Harry could see this.' Two candidates and campaign managers were thinking this at the same time on Saturday afternoon.
The first set of such people were in Blaise Zabini's bedroom in the Slytherin dungeons. Pansy's letter of credit from her father had arrived, and she was now ready to spend some of it at Twilfit and Tatting's, to secure the clothes that she would wear in her Memory Balls for the rest of the campaign. Madame Malkin's just didn't have the kind of stylish outfits that she would need.
Of course, such clothes require careful measurement; while clothing can be transfigured, such garments wear out much more quickly and never look as good when closely examined. Hence, Pansy was very carefully measuring the parts of her body that Twilfit and Tatting's needed numbers for. And of course, anything else she was wearing would just get in the way.
Blaise, as her campaign manager, was supervising the process. After all, who knew what could happen if that charmed tape measure went rogue? He wondered if Harry might be persuaded to let him watch the fireworks if Pansy won. While he appreciated the aesthetics of the sight before him, it simply didn't... move him the way that it did Draco. (Of course, Draco had been a little too easily... moved by Pansy.)
Over in the Prefects' bathroom, Lavender was making the first application of Sleekeazy's New Hair Calming Potion to Hermione's scalp. This was best done, of course, in the bath. Both girls wore swimsuits for 'modesty' in case others should stop by, but they had planned the three required applications at times when the bath was rarely used.
Both girls apologized to each other for the fight the previous evening. Katie had spoken to Hermione at lunch to issue her own apology and to let her know that she'd asked Angelina to visit again on Tuesday.
As for Harry himself, he had paid a visit to Ravenclaw Tower to talk to Luna and Mandy. He told Mandy that he wanted to discuss more private matters with her at Greenhouse Six the next day at noon, and asked Luna to verify what Hermione had told him that morning about the origin of the election. When she did, Harry let her know that he was a little cross with her but that she understood. Luna asked if she would be punished, but Harry only answered, "We'll see, Luna."
After a few words with Neville at dinner, Harry was much more confident that things would work out okay as he bedded down that night.