Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny get ready for the ball.
Harry was lost in his thoughts and it took him a few seconds to realize that Neville was talking to him.
“I’m sorry Neville, I was thinking about something. What did you say?”
“That’s okay Harry.” Neville said chuckling at his friends antics. “I was asking what you were going to get for Hermione as a gift for going to the Ball with you.”
Harry looked up at Neville with panic in his eyes. “I forgot. Oh, Merlin, she is going to kill me.” He said while looking around the Great Hall for Hermione.
Fortunately, she was deep in conversation with Ginny Weasley and did not hear what they were saying. She must have sensed his discomfort through their bond because she looked over towards Harry to check on him. He smiled and waved so she returned the gesture and went back to her conversation with Ginny.
Neville was having a hard time not laughing at Harry’s reactions. ‘He can face a dragon but he is scared of upsetting Hermione.’ He thought to himself with a chuckle. “I’ve been growing some flowers in the greenhouse to give to my date. Would you like me to make up a corsage for Hermione?”
Harry smiled in relief at Neville’s gesture. “Can you show me how to put it together?”
Neville was surprised at the request and he quickly replied, “Sure. That would be great. She will like it even more if it came from you anyway.”
“Okay. Should we do that tomorrow morning then?” after Neville’s nod yes, Harry asked; “Who are you going to the ball with?”
Neville blushed a bit but his gaze drifted over to where Ginny and Hermione were talking together. “Ginny Weasley.” He said proudly.
“That’s great Neville!” Harry said clapping Neville on the shoulder.
The gesture of friendship from Harry surprised Neville. He had noticed that Hermione was usually the only other person that Harry would voluntary touch. “Thanks, I really like her and I think that she is very pretty. She sometimes gets that same stare you have in the common room when you are sitting in the window seat.”
“Oh.” Harry, shocked by Neville’s comment about the ‘look,’ knew it well. He wore it whenever he was remembering some of the more disturbing events in his life. “I think I know what that’s about.”
Harry gazed over at Ginny with pensive look on his face while muttering under his breath “How could I be so stupid?” His expression became determined and he turned to Neville and said, “Com on. Let’s go and get them and go somewhere private so we can talk.”
Neville and Harry made their way over to where the girls were sitting. “Hi Ginny.” Harry said before he leaned down and kissed Hermione’s cheek. “Hey.” he said softly into her ear as he stood back up. “Would you two like to take a walk with us?”
Hermione gave Harry an understanding look before holding out her hand to him with a smile. “That would be nice.” She looked over at Ginny and said, “Come on, we know somewhere quiet to talk and the view is wonderful.”
As the couples walked out of the Great Hall together, various people were watching them for different reasons.
Professor Dumbledore had noticed that Harry and Hermione didn’t stay for very long in the Hall for meals. Especially since the Yule Ball was formally announced two weeks ago. He was concerned that Harry was isolating himself from everyone but Ms. Granger so he was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Longbottom and Ms. Weasley leave the hall with them.
He knew that they were not leaving the grounds so he hadn’t really followed them out one of their walks yet. If they continued spending time apart from the rest of the students, he would see about putting some monitoring wards out where they walked around. Monitoring Harry was more important ant allowing him privacy. ‘It is for the Greater Good.’ thought Albus as he watched the children leave the hall.
Minerva McGonagall was also paying close attention to Harry Potter. She had watched him come out of his shell this year, despite the challenges of the Tournament and the way he the Dursleys raised him. ‘Ms. Granger is really good for him’ she thought to herself while watching Harry lean down and kiss her cheek.
Their relationship was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year for Harry and Minerva hoped that it would be strong enough to help him through his tasks and everything else that Dumbledore seemed to throw at him. Mr. Potter’s grades were evidence enough that he was taking everything very seriously and Ms. Granger seemed much happier and more relaxed now. Part of that was also due to their fallout with Mr. Weasley she mused as she turned her gaze to the young man.
Professor McGonagall sighed as she looked over at the youngest male Weasley boy. His grades were down a bit and he was not socializing as much with his classmates. His jealousy had really surprised her. After Charlie Weasley and Madam Poppy Pomfrey had filled her in on what had happened in the hospital wing she had had a hard time not punishing him more than he was currently suffering.
The Head of Gryffindor hoped that Ronald Weasley would outgrow his jealousy and resentment before he slipped further down the dark path he was traveling and away from his one time best friends.
Ron Weasley scowled as he saw Harry reach over and clap Neville on the shoulder before they walked over to where Hermione and Ginny were talking. His gaze became even more resentful when Harry leaned down and kissed Hermione on the cheek.
‘He has everything; fame, money, and now Hermione. It just isn’t fair! Ron though bitterly. He never realized that Harry would gladly forgo the fame and money to have his parents, alive and well. The fact that Harry had a girlfriend and he didn’t only made the Hermione situation harder to accept.
Ron missed his friends and they way things were before the announcing of the Triwizard Tournament Champions. He couldn’t get past his pride to apologize so their friendship continued to shatter under the weight of his pride and stubbornness.
Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny were waling towards the spot that Harry had created near the lake. The snow was about a foot deep on the grounds and they had their cloaks pulled tight around them for extra warmth.
When they reached the secluded spot overlooking the lake, with the castle in the background, Harry stepped aside to let the others into the garden that he had created for Hermione.
The snow didn’t intrude into the small garden clearing by the shore. It stopped at the edge of the ring of Holly trees that Harry had planted to screen it from view.
Hermione, Neville, and Ginny had all stopped at the edge of the Hollies, each of them staring open mouthed at the beautiful, snow free, garden in front of them. Slowly they each began to step into the area, walking around marveling at this warm oasis in the middle of the snow-covered grounds.
A stone pathway led to the shore and another to a seating area, carved from the surrounding boulders. There was an enchanted fire burning in the center of the benches that radiated warmth.
Well-manicured flowerbeds, in a ring around the benches and next to the stone paths, dotted the landscaping. The overall effect was very peaceful and the surroundings affected each of the teens.
Harry was watching everyone’s reaction to the garden. He had worked very hard, and in secret, to finish the project and he wanted to know what they all thought.
Hermione turned to Harry with a smile and said, “It’s very beautiful Harry. When did you find the time to finish this?” Her voice held a note of wonder and pride that made Harry smile at her.
Neville was looking at the plants in the garden and he realized that none of them was magical. The garden held an aura of serenity that you did not often find outside of magical ones. “It’s very peaceful here. You did a marvelous job Harry.”
Ginny sat down on one of the benches and pulled her legs underneath her cloak. She had a soft smile playing across her lips and she seemed relaxed.
Harry went over and sat next to her on the bench with Hermione and Neville joining them. He tentatively reached out a hand and touched Ginny’s shoulder. “Are you okay?” he asked her while gazing directly into her eyes.
They held each other’s gaze for a few moments before Ginny finally spoke. “No, but I think that I will be. Can you tell me what happened down in the Chamber?” Ginny asked with a small hitch in her voice.
Harry surprised everyone when he leaned in and pulled Ginny into a hug. “I’m so sorry Ginny. I should have talked to you about this a long time ago. I still have nightmares about that day from time to time too.” Harry admitted quietly.
Ginny was quietly crying on Harry’s shoulder as he rocked her back and forth.
Hermione was rubbing Ginny’s back in silent support of her friend. She knew about the events from the Chamber of Secrets but not all of the details. Harry had only told the Headmaster exactly what had happened that day. She felt that if Harry was finally going to talk to Ginny about that horrible day that it would probably help him with his nightmares about it.
Neville was shocked. He began to piece together some of the strange events from their second year. He knew that Ginny was never petrified but something had happened to her and Harry knew what it was. He reached over and patted Ginny’s back and said, “If I can help in any way, I will.”
Ginny gave Neville a watery smile before replying “Thanks.”
Hermione and Ginny had talked about their experiences from that ordeal so she had an idea what Ginny was going through. She felt that talking with Harry about it would help bring her some closure and the ability to begin healing. She reached over and gave Ginny’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
Harry’s voice was whisper quiet when he asked, “Do you want me to tell you about what really happened down in the Chamber of Secrets?” he asked as he looked directly into Ginny’s eyes.
There was a hint of fear mixed with longing in Ginny’s expression but she nodded yes to his question, not trusting her voice.
Harry sat back to make himself more comfortable before he began re-counting the events of his second year. Taking a deep breath, he began telling them everything that he experienced that horrible year.
He told them about his feelings of loneliness when the majority of the school shunned him for speaking Parseltongue. He also explained his feelings when Hermione was petrified and how she had figured out the clue about Slytherin’s monster, the basilisk.
Ginny and Hermione were both crying as Harry explained his second year from his point of view. Ginny’s was crying because Harry’s explanation described much of how she felt for her entire first year.
Hermione’s tears were for Harry’s plight and how tough he had it and yet he still managed to persevere. She knew that he had a horrible year but this was the first time that he had explained everything in detail.
The details of what happened down in the Chamber itself left all four of them crying. However, it finally began the healing process for Ginny and furthering the progression for Harry.
Having finally heard all of the details about Harry’s second year caused Hermione to reflect on his other years as a part of the magical world. She realized that his life was still very difficult.
He dwelled in both worlds, but was not really a part of either. At Hogwarts, the populace never took the time to understand, or get to know, him. Because of that, he was both revered and reviled at the same time.
This dichotomy in the Wizarding world never truly allowed Harry to integrate fully into their society. In the non-magical world his relatives despised him for existing, which lead to the same problem.
Hermione had moved over so she could hug Harry. She knew that he needed the physical reassurance that her touch brought and she craved the same thing in return. She made a vow that she would do everything in her power to provide a loving, normal, life for him.
Since their bonding, they had both been so busy with the tournament that she had not been able to dedicate much thought to it. Hermione knew that there were aspects of it that she didn’t understand but that some would come with age and experience. She did know that they needed each other now more than ever.
Hermione looked over to see Neville and Ginny sharing an awkward, but reassuring, hug while whispering to each other.
Ginny stepped back from her hug with Neville and turned to Harry and Hermione with a small smile of gratitude on her face. “Thank you for telling me about what happened down in the Chamber and what you went through.” She said as she pulled each of them into a hug.
Stepping back Ginny looked up at Harry and said, “If you need any help with the tournament I’ll do what I can. I believed you when you said you didn’t put your name in but I was too shy to say anything to you.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” Harry said with a smile.
Hermione looked at her watch and said, “We need to get up to the castle. Ginny and I have to get ready for the Ball.”
As the two girls headed off to the dorms Harry and Neville made their way down to the greenhouses to put together the corsages for their dates.
Harry and Neville were working in Greenhouse One preparing the corsages for Hermione and Ginny. Neville had Ginny’s corsage almost finished and he asked “Harry, can you grab me a fern leaf from over there please?” while pointing towards a large plant in the corner.
“Sure.” Harry said while heading over to the fern in the corner. When he bent down to grab a leaf, he felt something grab his thigh. “GAAHH!” he cried out while jumping away from the groping appendage, spinning around with his wand in his hand.
He found Neville howling with laughter as he pointed to the creeper vine that had grabbed Harry. “Bloody plant.” Harry mumbled while giving the vine a very wide berth on the way back to their workstation.
Neville saw Harry giving the creeper a lot of room and a nasty glare and it caused him to start laughing all over again.
Fifteen minutes later both boys had finished putting together the corsages for their dates, so they headed back up to the common room to get ready for the dance.
They were both waiting anxiously for Hermione and Ginny to join them in the common room. Harry turned to Neville and asked, “Why does it take them so long to get ready anyway?”
However, Neville did not answer. He was standing ramrod straight and staring at the two beautiful girls that were coming down the stairs towards them.
Harry’s breath caught in his throat when he shifted his gaze to follow Neville’s' eyes.
Hermione and Ginny shared a knowing look and approached the stupefied boys.
Neville was the first to recover and he said, “Ginny, you look amazing!” while handing her the corsage. “You too Hermione.” he said with a smile.
Hermione smiled at Neville’s compliment but she only had eyes for Harry. He had this wistful smile on his face as he stepped towards her. She could feel his emotions pouring through their bond; and the overwhelming feeling of love made her smile truly radiant.
Harry felt like he was in a trance as he moved towards Hermione. He didn’t even realize that he was broadcasting his emotions to her until he felt hers come back just as strong. He stepped close to her and tenderly cupper her cheek in his hand. “I love you.” He said softly while looking deep into her eyes before leaning in for a soft kiss.
Hermione had tears at the corner of her eyes as they pulled apart. “I love you too.” She said as she leaned into an embrace and whispered into his ear “My husband.”
Harry’s smile was threatening to split his face in half it was so big. He continued grinning the entire time as he placed the corsage on Hermione’s wrist. When he took a steep back he noticed that her dress matched his robes and he figured that Winky must have done that for them, he would have to thank her later.
He shifted his gaze to Neville and Ginny and noticed that the two of them were red cheeked but smiling at them. Confused, Harry asked “What?”
Ginny couldn’t help it; she broke out in a fresh set of giggles which in turn set off Neville’s laughter and put a half smirk on Hermione’s face.
“Do I have something on my face?” Harry asked while rubbing his cheeks.
That set everyone into even bigger fits of laughter.
Ginny finally composed herself and said “No silly. It was how you reacted to Hermione. You looked at her as if she was the only other person in the room. I can tell you really love each other.” She finished saying as she blushed. She gathered herself and continued speaking, “It was like watching something private.” She said in a whisper.
By now, Harry was trying to fight back his own blush and failing miserably. Giving that up as a bad job, he said; “I do love Hermione and you’re right. I didn’t notice anything else once I saw her.” He gave Hermione’s hand a squeeze and turned back to Ginny “I’m sorry that I didn’t say anything to you Ginny. You look very beautiful too.”
“Shall we head down then?” Neville asked while holding out his arm for Ginny.
Looping her arm through Neville’s, Ginny said “Sure. Oh, I am so excited! I always wanted to go to the Yule Ball since it was announced.” Turning to Neville, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek and said “Thank you for inviting me Neville.”
Harry and Hermione had to stifle their laughter as they followed the other couple to the Great Hall. Neville kept reaching up to touch his cheek where Ginny had kissed him.
When they arrived at the Great Hall Professor McGonagall pulled Harry and Hermione to the side and sent Neville and Ginny on their way.
“Please join the other Champions over there so we can announce you.” The professor said as she pointed towards the other champions and their dates.
With a nod of understanding, Harry and Hermione joined the waiting group of champions. Once everyone had said his or her hellos, Harry whispered to Hermione, “Look at how Roger reacts to Fleur. She’s part Veela; she said so during the Weighing of the Wands Ceremony before the tournament. I have noticed that she has that effect on some of the other students too. Weird, isn't it?”
Inwardly Hermione was highly amused. Harry did not realize why Veela affected some people. She leaned into Harry’s side and whispered “Only people with disciplined minds or that are deeply in love aren’t affected, and you are both.”
“Oh.” Harry said as a light blush appeared on his cheeks.
“And I love you too.” Hermione said as she kissed his cheek.
Professor McGonagall returned and escorted the champions and their dates into the Great Hall.
Harry was amused and annoyed at his classmates as he kept hearing snippets about him and Hermione. A few of the snide remarks would have stopped him in his tracks if it were not for Hermione.
She was ignoring all of the whispering with a smile. Feeling Harry’s irritation, she said, “They’re just jealous. Ignore them, or smile at them as it will just irritate them more.” Hermione spoke with a glint in her eye.
Harry could feel a bit of her irritation and sadness while people were making fun of her. He made mental notes of who was making the snide comments that hurt so he could repay them later. Outwardly, he appeared to ignore them as he kept a smile plastered on his face.
Albus Dumbledore was watching Harry Potter very closely as the pair approached the Champions table. He was surprised when he saw Hermione whisper something to him and his scowl shifted to a smile that looked almost predatory.
Seeing that smile on Harry’s face sent shudders down the Headmaster’s spine. He had seen a very similar smile on the face of Tom Riddle fifty-two years ago. It was over the Chamber of Secrets incident, which led to Hagrids’ expulsion. Albus quickly replaced the shocked expression with a smile as the Champions drew closer.
Severus Snape was glancing over at the Headmaster when he saw the shocked expression flit across his face but a smile quickly replaced the look. Following the Headmaster’s gaze his eyes came to rest upon Potter and the Granger girl both wearing smiles as they walked down the aisle.
He was just about to avert his gaze when he realized that Potter now had his eyes fixed upon him. That infernal smile was still plastered upon his face too. Snape tilted his head a fraction to the side as he pondered the look upon Potter’s face.
There was something familiar about that smile, but it was eluding him right now. What he did realize was that smile had feral quality about it and it put him on edge. He decided that he would have to keep a much closer eye on the boy from now on.
Draco Malfoy had been glaring at Harry as soon as he entered the hall with his Mudblood girlfriend. He watched them until they had taken their seats at the Champions Table before turning to talk to his date, Pansy Parkinson. After a few seconds, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end. Sweeping his gaze across the Great Hall his eyes came to a stop when he saw that unnatural shade of green eyes of Potters boring right into him accompanied by a very predatory smirk.
He felt a very cold shudder travel down his back under that gaze. After a few seconds, Draco dismissed the warning feeling in his arrogance. He felt that there was nothing he had to fear from Harry Potter, he was a Malfoy after all. He sent a quick smirk back at Potter before turning his attention back to Pansy’s inane babbling.
Hermione had felt the shift in Harry’s emotions as he gazed around the room. They were almost animalistic in nature. She paused in her conversation with Percy Weasley about cauldron bottoms and reached out to Harry through their bond.
Harry felt Hermione’s emotional prod and he took her hand and turned to face her. “Are you okay?” she whispered to him as she leaned close to his ear.
He nodded yes and said, “Just doing a little thinking. I’ll tell you about it later.” Harry said as he planted a quick kiss on her cheek.
As the meal progressed, Harry’s admiration for Hermione’s conversation skills grew. She was able to converse with everyone seated around the table without being intimidated. She had changed a lot this year, and he knew that it was for the better, and so had he for that matter.
Hermione had lost her blind faith in adults and authority figures. Because of these changes, she was now a well-rounded individual. Harry knew that he had undergone something similar. Except with him, it was a loss of the last of his innocence. The tournament and the events surrounding it had stripped it away. The biggest change had been his relationship with Hermione. He could not imagine his life without her in it anymore.
Minerva McGonagall was pleasantly surprised at how well Harry was handling himself this evening with everything thrown at him. When she saw him lean over and kiss Ms. Granger’s cheek, she knew that they really loved each other. Their feelings for each other balanced out some of the hardships in his life. She gave Hermione a small smile as they continued their conversation.
When the meal was finished, everyone began heading towards the dance floor and the stage where the Weird Sisters were waiting to begin playing.
The Champions and their partners spread out on the dance floor and they began moving in step as the opening notes of the waltz began.
Harry was very thankful for the dancing lessons now. He felt at ease with Hermione in his arms even though the entire hall was watching them dance. About halfway through the opening dance, the teachers and the rest of the faculty and students joined in.
Neville and Ginny were dancing near Harry and Hermione. After a couple of songs, they switched partners. Harry was twirling Ginny around the dance floor and watching the smile on her face. “You look like you are enjoying yourself.”
Ginny looked up at Harry and said, “I am. I’m glad that Neville invited me. I was really looking forward to attending the ball. I feel like a princess all dressed up.”
“You are pretty Ginny.” Harry said simply, causing her to blush. “Neville thinks so too. He told me when he was plucking up the courage to ask you to the dance.”
Ginny’s eyes had gone as big as saucers and they flicked up to look into Harry’s emerald ones. In a tiny voice that barely carried above the music, she said, “Really?”
Harry smiled and nodded, yes.
Ginny squealed, threw her arms around his neck, and hugged him. When they broke apart from their hug, Harry grabbed her hand and pulled her over to where Hermione and Neville were dancing. “Can we trade back? I think that there are some things that you two need to talk about.” Harry said with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“What was that about Harry?” Hermione asked as they resumed dancing.
“Let’s just say that I was helping someone get over their crush on me and to realize that there was someone else out there that really liked her.” Harry said with a smile.
Hermione smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “I didn’t think that you knew about her crush? I’m glad that you were willing to talk to her about Neville.”
“I knew about it.” Harry said as he spun Hermione around once more before pulling her tight against his chest. “I just wasn’t prepared to deal with it before and Neville really does like her.”
Hermione’s arms tightened their embrace around Harry’s back and she put her head down on his shoulder.
They remained in that position, twirling slowly as the band played on in the background. When the song was over, they slowly untangled themselves.
“Would you like to go for a walk in the garden?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, I think that I would.” Harry said as he held out his hand to her and made their way outside together.
Professors Sprout and Flitwick had set up the enchanted garden for the Yule Ball. Its design fit in with the holiday season and the theme for the ball. It was quite romantic and there were dozens of couples taking advantage of it. The bushes that lined the garden paths were full of fairies for light and decoration.
The young couple found a bench at the far end of the garden that looked back towards the well-lit castle.
“Thank you for teaching me how to dance. I had a really nice time tonight.” Harry said while leaning into Hermione.
“You’re welcome. I had a nice time too.” She said while resting her head against his, relishing their closeness.