Harry & Hermione
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chem prof - End Game
Chapter 9 - Halloween Dance
Disclaimer and Acknowledgements
The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment. The first year muggleborn students are still mine, though.
Thanks to Old Crow and Dee for prereading this chapter.
Chapter 9, Halloween Dance
By Friday, all anyone could talk about was the dance. That afternoon, Neville had finally been released from the hospital. He was still too weak to do anything other than sit and watch, but he would at least be able to attend.
Harry waited patiently for Hermione to finish getting ready. Per her instructions, he was wearing a pair of black dress trousers, and a silky green dress shirt. They had disagreed on how many buttons he would leave unbuttoned. When she had suggested bringing in Ginny to mediate, he gave in and unbuttoned the second one.
When Hermione emerged from her room Harry's knees went weak. Her dark red dress was of a stretch fabric, with a spaghetti strap top. It fit very snugly all the way down to her hips, then flared slightly to end about four inches above her knees. She was also wearing high heels, which made up about half of the height difference between them.
Unlike the tank tops which Harry had grown accustomed to seeing her wearing during the summer, this top had a V-cut neckline. The built in bra had a slight push-up character to it so that it revealed some eye-catching cleavage. Her magical necklace, usually buried beneath her robes, was now prominently on display in very attractive surroundings.
"Enjoying the view?"
Harry's head jerked up to see her smirking at him and he managed a guilty smile. "Um, would you believe I was admiring your necklace?"
Hermione laughed and Harry realized that he hadn't heard her laugh much the past week and that it was something he really enjoyed hearing. She crossed the short distance between them and pulled him into a hug. "Don't worry, Harry, if we didn't want you boys to look we wouldn't wear outfits like this. Just try not to be too obvious about it. And believe me, if some of the dresses I've seen are any indication, you are going to be in for a treat tonight." She pushed back from him and gave him a good look up and down. "Although I think quite a few girls are in for a treat as well."
Harry reddened a little. "Well, I think you look fantastic tonight." The corners of his mouth turned up into a grin. "And I think quite a few blokes will be noticing what an attractive necklace you're wearing." Now it was Hermione's turn to turn red, and her pulse quickened at her delight in hearing his words. She reached up and gave him a kiss on the cheek in gratitude.
He took her hand and led her out the portal. "But seriously, I'm amazed at how well the color of the gem in your cross matches your dress."
She stopped and cocked her head up at him. "So you really did notice the necklace?" He grinned and nodded. She smiled back at him and replied, "Magic." At his confused look she giggled and explained. "Pretty much all of the dresses in catalogues these days are either white or black. It was easy to transfigure the color to whatever we wanted."
When they arrived at the Gryffindor common room, the guys were still waiting for the girls to come down. As the first girl to arrive, Hermione was the subject of many disbelieving stares and quite a few compliments. To amuse himself, Harry tried to count the number of guys he noticed 'admiring her necklace'. He finally gave up after it happened with basically every boy fourth year and above, and not a few of the younger years.
Just then there was a commotion and they looked to the boys stairs to see Ron helping Neville walk down the stairs. Harry raced over to them and warmly greeted his loyal friend. Following a little more slowly due to her high heels, Hermione embraced Neville with a big hug, causing the shy Gryffindor to turn bright red. To top it all off, someone started clapping and immediately everyone present was applauding him for the courage he had shown in the battle. Before he could get any more embarrassed, the girls started descending from their dorms.
Hermione was right about the impact of the girls' dresses. The first one that caught Harry's eye was, of course, Ginny's. She was wearing a dress similar to Hermione's, except that the spaghetti straps from her top continued further down her back in a crisscross pattern. Also her dress was green to match her emerald pendant just as Hermione's matched her necklace. After a moment's reflection he realized that it matched his shirt as well.
Ginny had been delighted to find that the push up top of her dress gave her cleavage she had never had before, and a thrill shot through her when she noticed that it had caught Harry's attention. For his part, Harry noticed that when Ginny blushed the redness traveled a considerable distance down from her face. He complimented her on her lovely pendant with a wink, which elicited a quickly stifled laugh from Hermione. Hermione leaned over to explain the comment to the puzzled Ginny while Harry went on to greet his other female classmates.
Parvati was wearing a halter style minidress with a plunging front and a bare back, which emphasized her dark skin. Harry later discovered that Padma was wearing an identical dress, except that Parvati's was Gryffindor red while Padma's was Ravenclaw blue. The really jaw-dropping one, though, was Lavender's outfit. She was wearing a twelve inch black leather microminiskirt. Fortunately for the males' ability to stand up straight, she wore it pulled down low over her hips. This drew their attention further north, however, since she paired it with a sequined, cropped tank top, revealing at least six inches of bare midriff. To further accentuate this area, she wore a piercing in her navel. She had admired this on one of the models in a catalogue, and Hermione had informed her that Tonks had her navel pierced. So Lavender had consulted with her Transfiguration teacher and obtained one of her own.
When Harry heard this story, it struck him as yet another example of how different things were in the castle this year. Somehow he couldn't quite see his former transfiguration professor giving advice to female students on navel piercings. At this point, Hermione found him and they all headed off toward the Great Hall. With a sly grin on her face, Hermione managed to scramble his brain once more when she whispered a casual comment that if Lavender was going to wear that skirt again she would have to introduce the blonde witch to thong underwear.
Outside the Great Hall they paused while those who had dates from other houses found their partners. Since they were officially going as singles and one of the functions of the dance was to get them to mingle with other houses, Harry and Hermione had decided that it wouldn't be right for them to sit together. Hermione joined Ron and Luna while Harry sat at a table with Ginny and her date Reggie, their quidditch teammate from Ravenclaw, and the Patil twins. Harry noticed that Reggie was extremely nervous and smiled inwardly as he realized that the poor boy had probably received the big brother warning from his quidditch captain.
Parvati's date was Terry Boot from Ravenclaw while Padma was with Seamus. Seamus joked that his date was actually Parvati and that the twins had switched dresses to fool everyone. Harry joined in the laughter, but knew that the twins were as advertised, since he was able to tell them apart after only a few seconds of conversation with them. Looking around at the other tables, Harry saw that Hermione was correct about how daring many of the sixth and seventh year girls were with their dresses. Daphne Greengrass was particularly striking in a black strapless evening gown that molded tightly to her body all the way to the floor. It was cut so low at the top that he decided she must have used magic to keep it up, much as Fleur had with her wedding dress. He also wondered how she could walk in that dress, until she moved and he could see that it was slit up one side all the way to her hip. The outfit was completed with four-inch heels, which meant that the already tall Slytherin was now taller than any boy there except Ron and Dean. When he noticed that, Harry decided that it would probably be best if he did not dance with Daphne tonight, as his face would be about chest height on her.
After a delightful meal, by some prearranged signal the older female prefects rose and began to coax their dates to the dance floor to signal the start of the dancing. The first dance was reserved for the prefects, then anyone was welcome to join in. Since Harry and Hermione were attending without dates, they paired up for the initial song.
As they danced, Harry noticed the mischievous look reappear in Hermione's eyes and he knew he was in for another tease. Confirming his earlier guess, she leaned in and whispered that he'd better hope no one cast a Finite Incantatum while he was dancing with Daphne. He stuck his tongue out at her in response and informed her that he had already decided that it would be better for his health if he didn't dance with the blonde Slytherin tonight. She rewarded him with another delightful laugh.
After the first dance they changed partners, and Harry danced with Susan, Padma, and Luna in turn. The dance with Padma proved enlightening.
"You dance quite a bit better than you did at the Yule Ball in fourth year," she complimented him.
Harry switched naturally into apology mode. "Ron and I were real prats at that dance," he admitted. "We treated you and Parvati horribly. I already apologized to her a while ago, but I never apologized to you. I'm so sorry."
"Harry, that was a long time ago. You've grown up a lot in three years, and you've made it up to us countless times since. Don't give it another thought," she reassured him. "Besides, Ron is the one who should apologize to me." Harry nodded, then continued in a lighter vein.
"So, how was it that two of the prettiest girls in the school didn't have dates for that ball until the last minute?"
Padma smiled, acknowledging the compliment, and blushed a little before she answered. "Oh, that was Parvati's idea. We each had several guys ask us, but she was holding out for you. She knew you didn't have a date yet, and I knew that Cho was already going with Cedric, so she persuaded me to wait and see what would happen. I was pretty sure that either you or Ron would go with Hermione, so I didn't see the point of me waiting too, but she turned out to be right."
Harry just managed to nod, somewhat shocked. He realized now that he must have been considered a real catch, but at the time it hadn't really sunk in. He had had no idea that Parvati had been interested in him!
His dance with Luna was also interesting. The blonde Ravenclaw was wearing a dress that had a sheer layer with blue and green flowers and butterflies on it with a white satiny layer underneath. The dress had an uneven hem, with shortest part about mid-thigh and the longest part dropping to her knees. She was quite pleased when he told her that he had thought about asking her to be his date before he found out Ron had already asked her.
"So how are you and Ron getting along?"
She regarded him serenely. "Oh, we have fun together. We're just here as friends though. We make each other laugh and that's a good thing, don't you think?" Harry nodded and she continued. "I'm not really his type, though. I'm a little too 'out there' for him." Harry supposed he should agree with her. One thing about Luna, she was always direct, even if it made most people uncomfortable around her. "See who he's dancing with now?" Harry turned in the direction she was indicating and saw Ron dancing with Hannah Abbott.
Unbeknownst to Harry, Ron had come to regret his initial decision to ask Luna to the dance as friends. He hadn't realized at the time how 'fanciable' he himself had become over the summer, as his exploits with Harry became more widely known. Numerous girls had approached him in the month before the dance and he had decided he was going to make the most of it.
Hannah Abbott had once been on the chubby side, but over the summer her figure had matured into that of a full bodied woman. The dress she was wearing tonight was cleverly designed to emphasize her bust and hips, but made her waist appear more slender giving her quite an hourglass figure. The blonde Hufflepuff had caught Ron's eye as soon as he came into the Great Hall, and he had been dancing with her every dance since the first one with Luna. Harry glanced back at Luna in concern, but she seemed unaffected by it. Of course, she always seemed unaffected by just about everything.
After dancing with Luna, Harry decided to take a break and found a table with his favorite first years at it – the five muggleborns he had met at the orientation session. Carolyn had tried to play matchmaker and get Jon and Mark to take Laura and Kristin to the dance. She had explained quite logically that since she and Jon were both in Ravenclaw and she was Mark's sister that was the only way it would work out. But while Jon had considered it Mark had refused, still being in the 'girls are icky' stage. When Harry reached the table they were comparing birthdays. It turned out that Kristin's was a week before Hermione's making her the oldest one in her class. Laura's birthday was coming up in a week, while Jon's was in March and Mark and Carolyn's was at the end of May. Ironically, Carolyn, who was the tallest one in the group, was the youngest while Kristin, the oldest, was by far the shortest.
The three girls were wearing very pretty dresses in different pastel shades, what Kristin called 'dress up dresses', and Harry told them all how nice they looked. Jon and Mark were wearing dress shirts and ties, although Mark had long since lost his tie. Harry noticed that Laura and Jon were giving each other occasional shy glances, always looking away when the other one looked in their direction. Seeing that, he suggested that the six of them go out and dance. He announced that he would dance with Carolyn since she was the tallest. Mark gave him a dirty look, but there was no refusing the Head Boy. Mark was shorter than Laura so there was no way he was going to dance with her, leaving him matched up with Kristin and Laura with Jon, making Harry's matchmaking attempt a success. Harry found himself amused during his own dance with Carolyn, listening to the younger version of Hermione talk so enthusiastically about a book she was reading. He decided that if she started a sentence with 'Honestly, Harry,' he would probably lose it right there on the dance floor.
After the dance he excused himself and went back to his original table and found himself alone with Ginny.
"Hey stranger. Care to dance with a former girlfriend?"
"Well," Harry said, making a show of looking around. "I believe there is only one in attendance tonight. But to be fair, have you asked Michael or Dean yet?"
"I thought I'd go in reverse order," she responded, keeping a straight face.
He pretended to think about it, then smiled and gave in. "In that case, Miss Weasley, I'd be delighted to dance with you."
He led her to the dance floor and took her into his arms. "Has anyone told you yet this evening that you look absolutely beautiful in that dress?"
"Not the right someone."
"Well, then let me correct that glaring oversight. You are enchanting this evening."
"Thank you. You look pretty good yourself." Then Ginny turned serious. "Can we talk now?"
Harry gradually moved them away from the other dancing couples, into a mostly empty corner of the Great Hall. Just to be sure, he cast a Muffliato spell. Gathering up her courage, Ginny continued. "Harry, I'm sure you've been worrying if what we have is real, or if we'd even be together if Ron hadn't done what he did." Harry nodded in surprise. She had read his thoughts almost exactly.
"Well, I can assure you that as far as I'm concerned this is very real. And no matter what anyone else did we were going to get together. I told you before that I never really gave up on you and I meant it. I know I dated two other boys, but I always knew that they were just temporary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the time I spent with Michael and Dean, and I don't regret dating them. In fact it was good for me that I did. I got over that starry eyed crush I had on you and learned how to talk to you and see you as a real person. But I also learned more about how to act toward boys. I learned what it meant to be a girlfriend. I learned the kinds of things boys like about girls, things I'd never learn from my brothers. For example, don't you think I learned how to kiss pretty well?" She pressed her body into him and looked into his eyes.
"That time I accidentally ran into you kissing Dean in the hall was the time the love potion really kicked in," Harry remembered aloud. "It was a real struggle to keep myself from hexing him and start kissing you myself."
Ginny frowned inwardly, not wanting him to be thinking in that direction. "In any case," she resumed, "when that relationship ran its course, I knew I was ready for you, and I was pretty sure you were ready for me. After all, you were over Cho by then and I knew you weren't thinking about anyone else. So I decided to make my move. That's what I was doing after that last quidditch match when I ran into your arms. I was about to kiss you when you kissed me first." She lowered her voice suggestively. "So what do you think about that, Mr. Potter? Potion or no, do you think you could have resisted me then?" She stopped their dance movements and pulled herself closer to him than ever. Her face was inches from his and he saw her moisten her lips in anticipation. She was right. He couldn't have resisted her then and he couldn't resist her now. He lowered his head to hers and claimed those lips for his own.
His mind had intended it to be a brief kiss, only for a second. Then his mind intended to stop the kiss after a few seconds. Then his mind stopped functioning.
The next thing he knew he was hearing a familiar voice. "Well, what do we have here?"
Harry and Ginny shot apart as though an electric charge had passed through them. Harry whirled to see Parvati and Padma standing there staring at them. Parvati had a look on her face like Christmas had come early, but Padma's face showed a mixture of emotions – amusement, then surprise, suspicion, and lastly disappointment. Harry got the feeling that he had failed to live up to her high opinion of him. She would never have believed that he would be someone who would cheat on his girlfriend.
Harry, feeling panicked, quickly glanced around to check if anyone else had seen them, but the nearby students' attention seemed to be elsewhere. Ginny, though, just moved away a little and stood there somewhat defiantly. Returning his attention to the look he had seen on Padma's face he stammered, trying to explain, "No, this isn't what it looks like." Parvati giggled and Padma raised an eyebrow. 'Well, OK, it actually is sorta what it looks like.' "I mean, look, you can't tell anybody about this," he pleaded.
Parvati gave him a 'you've got to be kidding' look and Padma folded her arms across her chest and frowned. "Really," claimed Harry, desperate to make them understand, "this is a matter of life or death."
Parvati chortled, "Yeah it is, because Hermione's gonna kill you."
"No, you don't understand. Hermione knows all about us. She's fine with it."
Parvati started to say something again, but Padma stopped her. "OK, Potter, what's going on here?"
Harry looked around feverishly but still no one was paying them any mind. "We can't talk about it here. You have to believe me. But please, you have to keep this quiet."
Padma regarded him shrewdly. "When, then?" Parvati was silent, not sure what her twin was getting at.
"Come up to the Heads suite after the dance and we'll try to explain it. But until then keep it to yourselves, OK?"
"What, you mean I can't even tell Lavender?" asked Parvati in shock.
"OK, we tell nobody," Padma agreed, silencing Parvati's objection before her sister could voice it. "But this better be good." Then her voice softened and she moved closer to Harry. "I want to be able to trust you, Harry. Please don't let me down."
Harry nodded and was about to say something else, but at that moment a murmur went through the students around him. Whatever had grabbed their attention had just gotten even more interesting. Turning his head and straining to see what it was, his heart sank. It looked like something was happening on the dance floor, and he instantly recognized a certain head of bushy hair right in the middle of it. Was Hermione in trouble?
Without even thinking about it, he left the girls and began pushing through the crowd toward the other end of the hall, simultaneously reaching out with his mind feeling for Hermione's presence. What he found was a mixture of emotions. Delight, nervousness, excitement, uncertainty, but overall she didn't seem to be in danger. As he came closer, he saw that she was dancing with someone. Not sure what to do next he pushed out a mental question toward her. "Are you OK?"
Hermione had been off balance ever since Blaise had asked her to dance. Never had she had a boy flirt with her the way he was. He had a reputation as a ladies man and it was fully deserved. And where someone like Lavender or Daphne was used to this sort of treatment, in this aspect of life Hermione was a total novice. This wasn't something you could learn about from reading books and studying. At least not the kinds of books Hermione read.
The way he talked to her, the compliments he paid her, the slight ways he touched her, all left her flustered. When he had complimented her on her necklace, like every other boy had done while they were checking out her cleavage, he had reached out and touched it to examine it. In doing so the back of his fingers had 'inadvertantly' grazed her breasts where they emerged from her low cut top, and they still tingled where he had done so. Now those same fingers, resting on her bare back in their current dance step, were doing things to her skin that were driving her to distraction. For the first time tonight, she was acutely aware that under this rather brief dress she was wearing she had practically nothing else on.
During the dance, which somehow was accompanied by the longest and most sensual song the band had played the entire evening, he seemed to end up a little closer to her after every turn, and was now pressed up against her more closely than any other dance partner had been. And to make it even worse, she felt powerless to resist as her body unconsciously responded to the signals he was sending out. She was at once thrilled and alarmed. For one of the few times in her life she was not in control of a situation. And, to her dismay, she found herself enjoying it.
She was only vaguely aware that quite a few other students had noticed what was going on between her and Blaise, and a murmur had spread across the Great Hall as more and more of them jockeyed into position to see what would happen. His most recent move had left them in a position that was now decidedly outside her comfort range. The rational side of her mind began to panic.
And then there it was. Harry's voice in her head. "Are you OK?" At once she relaxed a little and her body language changed. Relief flooded through her and the nervousness eased, yet leaving the exhilaration in place. In her happiness at now knowing he was there for her and she was safe she sent him a mental response. "Great!"
Blaise Zabini couldn't believe that this was happening. Hermione Granger had never been someone who he considered worthy of his pursuit. He had noticed last month on the Hogwarts Express that she looked better than he had remembered, but at the time he had been more interested in Ginny Weasley's availability. Along with the other males in the DA, his attention had been grabbed by the outfits she and Ginny had revealed at their first training session, but when the other girls began to wear similar outfits she had once more slipped into the role of Potions partner. He had come to the dance tonight expecting to dance with the most attractive girls, and the pretty little Gryffindor redhead had been one he had his eye on. But when the prefects went up to dance he had been astounded. If Granger looked this good, how had she managed to escape his notice for six years? She immediately shot to the top of his prospects list.
He had carefully bided his time while all of the Ravenclaw boys had danced with her, and planned it so that there would be a particularly appropriate song playing when he approached her. He had put all of his moves on her, and he was amazed at how she was responding. This bookworm apparently had quite an unsuspected sensual side to her. Now he was wondering just how far he could go tonight.
All at once something happened. Something in her changed and she seemed to come to her senses and backed off from him a little. Yet she didn't look distressed, but rather was as radiant as ever. At the same time he became aware of a disturbance in the crowd. A little too late he remembered that this was Harry Potter's girlfriend that he was flirting with, and that was a young man that no one at Hogwarts wanted angry with them. Why had he thought this was a good idea?
As Harry approached the other end of the hall, he realized that it was Blaise Zabini who Hermione was dancing with, and he also noticed that she was pressed up against him rather tightly. He found that he was jealous that the handsome Slytherin was holding her much more closely than he had when he danced with her. He mentally berated himself for thinking that, since he had no right to feel that way, and in fact Ginny had been holding him just as close only a few minutes ago. Just then he noticed Hermione relax a bit and move back from Blaise, at the same time as he received her response to his mental query. "Great!"
Now he was in a dilemma. Quite a few students had by now noticed him bulling his way toward the dancing couple, and were expecting a confrontation between the smooth interloper and the angry boyfriend. But now he knew that Hermione wasn't in any trouble; rather she was enjoying herself, and anything he did would embarrass her. As he moved in her direction he found Ron at his side, ready to back him up like a best mate should.
Glancing around he noticed that among the bystanders watching the pair of students out on the dance floor were Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass. Making a quick decision he veered in their direction and leaned over to Ron, who was matching him stride for stride.
"You take the blonde, I'll take the brunette." Ron gave him a puzzled glance, but when he looked in the direction Harry was indicating he realized that his buddy had just changed the plan and adjusted accordingly. His eyes lit up as he got a good look at Daphne. He would have to thank Harry later!
"Would you care to dance, Miss Davis?" Startled, the Slytherin prefect accepted with only a brief hesitation. She looked at him shrewdly. Like the others, she had expected an explosion when Harry reacted to what Blaise was doing with Hermione. But not this year's version of Harry Potter. He had apparently read the situation differently than everyone else in the Great Hall, and judging from the fact that Blaise and Hermione were now dancing at a normal separation, he had read it correctly. She had been sure that things had been different just before he had walked up. Had he somehow communicated with Hermione?
"OK, Potter, what just happened here?"
He merely smiled at her slyly. "Whatever do you mean, Tracey? Don't you think it's wonderful that three Gryffindors are dancing with three Slytherins? What a great example we're setting for the rest of the school." They turned a few times so that they each had a view of the rest of the dancers. "I just noticed that Hermione was dancing with Blaise and thought I should follow her example. And I see that Ron must have had similar thoughts." They both looked over to where Ron and Daphne were dancing. Like Tracey, Daphne had been startled when Ron asked her to dance, but now she was making the best of it. Ron was having a hard time keeping his eyes off of the prominent display that her strapless gown afforded, and she didn't seem to be bothered by it. She finally broke his gaze by pulling him closer and pressing herself into his chest. Ron didn't seem to mind that either.
As the song concluded Harry noticed Hermione break away from Blaise and thank him politely for the dances, and he did the same with Tracey. Before he could get to Hermione to tell her they had a problem he found himself confronted by Parvati. "Padma told me to tell you that you owed me a dance."
"I think you're right, I probably do," Harry allowed, and he led her out onto the dance floor. Just to make conversation, he asked her about Seamus. She replied that they had been just having fun together, and weren't dating seriously. Following up on his thought, she allowed that Dean and Lavender had hooked up as a result of the events of the previous weekend, and pointed out where they were dancing. Harry noticed that Dean's hands seemed constantly being drawn to the bare skin around her waist revealed by her outfit. And that the exposed area reached dangerous proportions as she reached up to put her arms around his neck.
As they danced, he thought about the girl in his arms. He knew her better than just about any girl at Hogwarts besides Hermione and Ginny, and she was a good friend. Although they had never been especially close, she had been mostly supportive of him over the years, and she had shown her bravery during the Hogsmeade attack. And he had been comfortable enough with her in fourth year that she had been the one that he had finally attended the Yule Ball with.
Parvati interrupted his thoughts. "Quite a bit has happened in three years, hasn't it?" Harry agreed with her. It was hard to believe that life had been simpler when all he had to worry about was fighting dragons and breathing underwater. "We've all had to change, but none of us more than you, I think," she continued. She paused for a bit. "I don't think you realize, Harry, just how much all of us Gryffindors think of you. Sometimes I think we take you for granted and don't let you know how much you mean to us. So I'm telling you right now. We're behind you all the way, Harry. You can count on all of us."
Harry found himself too choked up to answer right away. It was true that he hadn't always felt appreciated by his housemates, and it meant a lot to him to hear what she was saying. He surprised her by pulling her into a hug. "Thanks Parvati. You don't know how much that means to me."
Trying to lighten up the mood a little he added, "I know I'm certainly enjoying this dance a lot more than the one three years ago. How about you?" She smiled and nodded, still in shock that she had just been hugged by Harry Potter! "You're right, though. Things really have changed. We've had to grow up a lot since then."
Parvati finally found her voice although she was pretty sure he must be able to feel her heart pounding from where she was pressed up against him. Reluctantly she pulled away when he ended the hug. "Yes we have. And we're all better people because of it. You'll get us through this, Harry. I believe in you." She decided that she had pushed this intimate moment far enough. Looking around, she spotted Hermione talking with another group of boys. "Some things haven't changed, though. It seems that once again Hermione has managed to catch the eye of every boy in the room." Harry laughed and agreed, and they went to rescue their friend as the dance ended.
It was after midnight, and a small group was gathered in the Heads suite. Harry had wanted to include Neville, but he was still recovering from his injuries and had been too tired after the dance. He, Hermione, and Ginny were coming clean with Parvati and Padma.
Parvati gasped once or twice during their revelation, and had a gleam in her eye at the thought of Harry and Ginny's secret rendezvous, but Padma looked thoughtful throughout.
"So, do you see why we need to keep all of this secret?" Harry concluded.
Parvati reluctantly nodded, but Padma had other ideas. "OK, but we want in."
"What do you mean?"
"In return for our confidentiality, include us in the ruse. You want it to look like you're dating other girls, let us be part of it. Switch girls every so often and everyone will think you're playing the field, so no one will be in danger. And we get a chance to date Harry Potter."
Parvati's face lit up, and Harry recalled how Padma had revealed that she had once fancied him. He frowned and started to shake his head. He didn't want anyone else in danger because of him. But Padma wouldn't be deterred. "Look, we're all in danger here. Everyone knows we're your friends. It won't matter that much if we date you for a while." She looked around at the others in the room.
"Everyone here benefits from this idea. My sister gets a few weeks with the boy she's been mooning over for four years." Parvati turned bright red and buried her face in her hands, but didn't deny anything. "I get to find out if you're as great as she says you are." She winked at Harry and he got the feeling that she knew very well that she would enjoy dating him. "Ginny benefits because we work her into the rotation and she can date you for a while without hiding it." The look on Ginny's face confirmed that she agreed wholeheartedly with that point. Then Padma came out with the clincher. "And Hermione gets a chance to have a guy ask her out and can maybe have a real boyfriend instead of a pretend one."
This comment had a dramatic effect on each of the three Gryffindors, although not necessarily the exact reaction Padma might have expected from each one. The most predictable was Harry who immediately felt guilty about how he had unthinkingly deprived his best friend. That guilt alone was enough to make him accept her proposal.
Ginny quickly realized how that prospect would work to her advantage. If Hermione were no longer pretending to be Harry's girlfriend, and in fact found another boy to occupy her attention, Ginny's worries about whether she was in love with Harry would be alleviated. This was sounding better all the time.
Hermione, by contrast, wanted to shout out, 'No, that's not necessary at all!' She was perfectly happy with the way things were. She didn't need another boyfriend. She wanted to stay with Harry. But she couldn't say any of that out loud. Trying to keep the anguished look from her face, she could only manage a weak nod.
As a prefect, Padma could legitimately get back to her dorm even though it was after hours, but Harry escorted Ginny and Parvati back to Gryffindor tower. As they reached the stairs to the girls' dorm, Parvati grabbed his arm and pressed up against him.
"Thanks for the dance, Harry," she purred. "I had a great time." Harry was startled for a second before he realized what was going on. He turned to Ginny for help, but she only smirked and bounded up the stairs.
"Would you like to give me a goodnight kiss?" Parvati whispered, her dark eyes capturing his in anticipation. Harry gulped and nodded. This was going to be a very interesting month.
A/N In case you're wondering about the war, Voldemort is on the ropes. Nearly all of his Death Eaters have been killed or captured. He's lost his dementor, vampire, and giant allies. Now he has to regroup and recruit more supporters, and it's going to be difficult since he has suffered so many defeats. It will be a few months before he's ready to attack again. So the next several chapters will be mostly the trials and tribulations of teenage relationships.