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Hermione kicked a stone out of her way as she walked across the crowded campsite and it did nothing to lessen her frustrations. The stone was bigger than she had thought and sent a sharp pain shooting through her big toe. Hermione let out a grunt of fury and kept walking arms folded. The witch was completely oblivious to the chaos caused by the stone she had kicked. The stone had hit the back of a large burly wizard who turned to the purple-robed wizard next to him and grabbed him by the ear demanding he answer for poking him so hard in the back.

"Idiots!" Hermione snapped her temper still rising as she stamped onward.

"Um...good morning to you too Hermione," Said an offended sounding Parvati Patil who was stood with her sister outside their tent. Hermione spun around to look at her blushing.

"Oh no! not you Parvati...I was talking to myself...sorry, um...good morning..." Hermione rambled greatly embarrassed marching off again before her face got any redder.

"What's her problem you reckon?" Padma asked her sister, raising an eyebrow.

"What's always Hermione's problem?" Parvati asked smirking.

"Harry and Ron," The twins said in unison bursting into laughter as they watched Hermione disappear into the crowd.

Harry and Ron were such inconsiderate oafs sometimes. Here they all were at the Quidditch world cup and they'd already found a way to cut her out of the fun. Why did she have to get the water exactly? It was bloody Ron's fault the first bucket got knocked over not hers.

"Oh, the bloody stupid bucket!" Hermione said turning and looking back in the direction she had come from, she'd only gone and left the damn thing behind. She'd been so incensed at Rons having pushed the blame on to her for the spillage that she hadn't stopped to pick up the bucket when Mr. Weasley requested she go and fill another from the river at the other side of the camp.

"Honestly can't they just fill it with magic?" Hermione muttered under her breath moving to sit under a tree throwing herself down on the ground in something of a strop. Hermione realised that Arthur probably had filled another bucket himself and had sent Hermione on something of a fool's errand presumably so she and Ron would get out of each other's way for a moment and be able to calm down. Hermione picked up a daisy and began harshly pulling petals off it bitterly muttering to herself.

She was more annoyed at Harrys refusal to take sides than Ron's outburst in all honesty. She had been rather surprised by that, more often than not Harry came to Hermione's defense when Ron got out of order. This had been one time he hadn't however, perhaps he thought she was overreacting. Harry also had a lot on his plate what with that nightmare he'd told her about. Harry had spoken of it to Hermione and no one else so far, a further sign of his usual trust in her. He was probably still worrying about that and didn't have time to concern himself with Ron and his tomfoolery Hermione reasoned frowning as she felt bad for having been angry with the dark-haired wizard.

"Oh, Merlin I don't believe this...they're actually letting 'your' kind into the world cup? My how standards have fallen," a mocking snide voice said and Hermione felt sick as she instantly recognised Draco Malfoys voice. Looking up Hermione glared at the wizard for a moment before snorting with laughter as she found the boy to be ludicrously overdressed for the occasion. Everyone else had worn casual muggle wear for the most part but here was Malfoy in his dark suit with brown flat-cap standing out like a posh arrogant sore thumb.

"Stop that! what are you laughing at Granger!" Malfoy snapped his confident smirk disappearing off his face.

"Oh go slither off and bug someone else Malfoy," Hermione laughed and Malfoys face grew redder as the witches laughter grew louder.

"Shut it! Where's Potter and Weasley? I assume if their little mudblood pet is around they can't be far behind. They ought to be handed a fine for letting you off your leash. Wonder how Weasleys old man managed to even get tickets...probably sold his house....though way I hear it...it's more of a shack," Malfoy said changing the subject and Hermione clenched her fist, outraged. Not at the foul insult, he had casually sent her way but his mocking tone when he spoke about the Weasleys made her blood boil.

"Oh you look a little tense Granger....struck a nerve have I?" Malfoy said his confidence returning.

"I'm going to give you one chance to walk away Malfoy," Hermione said a dangerous look in her eye as she reached toward her wand which was just visible at her waist tucked into her jeans and Malfoy suddenly looked unwell and his joy faded from his face. He knew he was no match for Hermione in a duel no matter how much posturing he did about being the best duellist in Slytherin.

"Are you threatening me Granger....there's no magic allowed outside of school you know that," Malfoy said with a nervous laugh.

"Try me," Hermione said simply letting a tiny smile cross her face for a moment and drawing her hand ever closer to her wand.

"Granger...my...my father will hear about this!" Malfoy stuttered as he backed away almost tripping over his own feet as he retreated off into the crowd at great speed losing his nerve. Hermione got a little smirk of her own on her face and let her hand fall away from her wand. 'Yes run to daddy you yellow little ferret!' Hermione thought pleased at how she had handled the situation.

"Hey Hermione you alright there? What'd that scumbag want?" Seamus Finnigan said moving toward her an Irish Tri-colour draped over his shoulders.

"Oh just being a prat, as usual, I can handle him don't worry," Hermione said smiling at Seamus.

"I don't doubt it...you're some woman Hermione you know that? Bet you could beat him in a duel with one arm tied behind your back eh?...I'd have liked to see you jinx him out of the camp," Seamus said laughing. Hermione tried to keep her smugness at that comment from showing but couldn't quite manage it and Seamus laughed again.

"Here you'll be supporting Ireland tomorrow right? Now I don't want to fall out with you but I'm afraid I will be forced to never speak to you again if you turn out to be another Krum fangirl. I know he's got the abs and the chiseled jawline but have you seen the awful scowl the man has on him? Sure you couldn't be fecked lookin' at him," Seamus said laughing tossing an Ireland scarf to Hermione winking at her and then hurrying off to join some other Ireland supporters over by a vendor who was selling hot food.

"Guess I'll be Irish tomorrow then...let's see how Ronald likes that," Hermione muttered to herself dawning her new scarf and grinning feeling a lot calmer and happier than she had been earlier.

"Hermione there you are!" Ginny called moving past the crowd of Ireland supporters who appeared to be arguing over a fiddle now by the looks of things.

"You said it was enchanted to play Whiskey in the jar, this thing only does Danny Boy! I want my Galleons back! now!" said an irate dark-haired man brandishing the fiddle like a club he appeared ready to hit the wizard opposite with it any second now.

"Now, sir, please! let me just try another few charms on it and...hey you can't throw that! I'm not refunding you now," the enchanted fiddle vendor shouted as he watched one of his other fiddles fly through the air and bash into a tree right next to Hermione who jumped in surprise.

"Why don't we move along to the river? Things are getting a bit excited around here," Ginny said grinning reaching a hand down to Hermione to help her up.

"Yeah alright...did your dad send you to find me?" Hermione inquired getting up and dusting off her jeans as she followed Ginny through the tree's and away from the campsite.

"Nah I just thought I'd come and apologise on behalf of my idiot brother. He's always blaming me for things I didn't do as well, prat!" Ginny said shaking her head and Hermione snorted.

"Glad it's not just me getting the brunt of his temper all the time," Hermione chuckled.

"If he hadn't been dancing around singing about Krum like a moron the bucket would've been fine," Ginny said rolling her eyes.

"What's the big deal with this Krum anyway? I'm sure he's just like the rest of these braindead Qudditch types," Hermione muttered before recalling who she was with and biting her lip wishing to take back her words instantly.

"Hey! you know I both play and love Quidditch too right? Don't judge us all by Ron and his antics....besides isn't your best friend our house seeker? You wouldn't say he was brain dead now would you," Ginny said sounding a tad offended by Hermione's remarks.

"Well...Harry could do with some refinement himself now that you mention it..." Hermione began but trailed off as she saw Ginny rolling her eyes again.

"I just mean...oh forget it...I didn't mean anything, Ginny, there's nothing wrong with liking or playing Quidditch it's just your brother...oh he just drives me mad sometimes!" Hermione said kicking another stone a smaller one this time and with her good foot in order to avoid another sore big toe.

"Hey at least you don't have to live with him," Ginny said smirking and both witches laughed as they moved to lean against a wooden fence that ran along the river bank.

"When did I ever say Harry was my best friend by the way?" Hermione asked giving Ginny a little playful nudge as she went back to that part of the conversation.

"Well it can't be my brother so who else is there?" Ginny asked raising an eyebrow. Hermione rolled her eyes and made a gesture towards the redhead with a look that said "Hello!" etched on her face.

"What? Me?" Ginny asked genuine surprise in her voice but also mixed with a tiny bit of smugness.

"Interesting that you'd say that Hermione...you don't often hang around with me at school...not very best friend like behavior," Ginny said putting on a sad mock pout.

"Well, its tricky with you being in the year below and everything....besides you're always with that strange little Ravenclaw," Hermione sighed seeming a tad put out.

"You mean Luna? Well I'd ask you to come hang around with us but Luna...she's...well..." Ginny trailed off seeming to struggle with how she should phrase the trouble with Luna.

"She doesn't like muggle-borns?" Hermione asked frowning. Ginny got an aghast look on her face and looked like she might hit the witch and Hermione flinched.

"Merlin Hermione! Do you think I'd hang around with someone like that? Luna's not like that at all! She just...thinks you're a bit...scary," Ginny said looking away across the river as she muttered the last part her initial anger shifting to humor again as she tried to contain her laughter.

"Scary! I'm not scary! What's given her that idea?" Hermione asked scowling and crossing her arms as she leaned back against the fence.

"Well...you can be a bit forceful and bossy at times Hermione...always shouting at people in the corridors for breaking petty rules and the like," Ginny said a playful grin on her lips as the bushy-haired witch next to her appeared to get more and more irate her cheeks growing red.

"What nonsense!" Hermione said shaking her head.

"I'm not sure you'd have much fun with us...you're not really one for idle chatter and debates concerning unicorns and the like," Ginny said snorting at the perplexed look on Hermione's face.

"Unicorns?" Hermione questioned.

"Luna's latest fascination...I think she'd rather like to marry one....says a unicorn would make a far more useful life long companion than a wizard," Ginny said chuckling.

"Luna was definitely sorted into Ravenclaw...you're sure?" Hermione asked seeming to find this idea more and more far fetched the more she heard about this Luna.

"Yes and Luna's actually a really bright witty clever witch maybe even more so than yourself Hermione Granger...so get that tone out of your voice when you speak about her," Ginny said a little snappily. Hermione seemed disturbed at the thought of their being a witch at Hogwarts who was brighter than herself but decided not to pick Ginny up on that part and softened her expression instead.

"Sorry, Ginny...I'm sure Luna's lovely...I just....it's hard to hear about other people you've never really met disliking you..." Hermione sighed looking at her feet.

"Luna doesn't dislike you Hermione...she just doesn't understand you and that scares her a little. Don't worry...she'll come around...I just need to get in her ear awhile longer...I know you're really a big softie deep down Hermione Granger," Ginny said shifting closer to Hermione and bringing an arm around the girl's shoulders giving her a brief one-armed hug.

"Did I ever tell you, you're my favorite Weasley, Ginny?" Hermione said grinning as she gave Ginny a playful shove to get her to drop the sickeningly sweet smile she had on her face as the pair looked at their reflections in the still river water.

"No...but you didn't need to, your options are rather limited considering you haven't met Bill or Charlie...Percy is just...well Percy, Ron's a pig...Fred and Geroge are delightful but you dislike their utter disregard for school rules, dads half-mad, mums worse...so that leaves me.. your favorite," Ginny said smugly giving Hermione a peck on the cheek.

"Very clever smart arse," Hermione said rolling her eyes at the quick and startling accurate deduction the redhead had made. Hermione bit her lip then as she had another question to ask Ginny regarding her friendship circle at Hogwarts. It was a question that could cause trouble but it had been dancing around Hermione's head for months.

"Also... speaking of you and you're friends Ginny...whose that Slytherin I've seen you with down by the greenhouses?" Hermione asked trying to appear very casual and not all that interested while on the inside being desperate to get to the bottom of this little mystery that had been bugging her all summer.

"Have you been spying on me, Hermione?" Ginny said narrowing her eyes at the witch seeming rather shocked at the question.

"No, I have not! I just...saw you with her every time our class was heading to herbology last year..." Hermione lied hoping Ginny wouldn't realise that the witches time table the previous year had meant she was in transfiguration at the time Ginny would have been in Herbology and that she'd only discovered the pair due to her time turning activities.

"A likely story....but if you must know that will have been Daphne Greengrass...we have a little business arrangement and I think that's all I'll say about that Inspector Granger," Ginny said a small grin on her face. Hermione wanted to push for more but could tell Ginny wasn't for opening up.
'Business arrangement, what on earth could that be? Oh, I hope you haven't gotten into something you shouldn't have Ginny!' Hermione thought, frowning deeply.

Hemione didn't know much about Daphne Greengrass other than she was a pretty Slytherin who was rather very academic, a bit like herself and that was all she had. She seemed to keep away from the Slytherins who normally tormented Hermione which was a good sign but she could often be found talking with Pansy Parkinson in the corridors and that meant she didn't always keep savory company.

"So... you supporting Ireland then, Hermione?" Ginny asked eyeing Hermione's new scarf changing the subject hastily before reaching down to the ground to gather up some stones to skim across the river. Hermione was pulled out of her musing about Daphne Greengrass and quickly responded.

"Probably...just to piss off dear Ronald but also I saw Seamus earlier and he threatened to never speak to me again if I supported Bulgaria," Hermione said smiling.

"...and would that be such a bad thing? sounds like the right time to become a Krum fan honestly," Ginny said sarcastically firing off her first stone.

"You're awful Ginny Weasley...Seamus isn't that bad....sometimes....when he's not blowing stuff up," Hermione laughed as she watched wide-eyed at how far Ginny's stone went.

"Could....could you show me how to do that?" Hermione inquired picking up a stone of her own.

"Sure come here," Ginny said moving into position behind Hermione and taking a firm hold of her. Hermione let out a little surprised gasp at how commanding Ginny was, quite liking how confidently she took charge of the situation..

"Alright now curve your finger around the stone like that...yes there you go now pull back like this and make sure to twist your wrist....its all in the twist...Yes! that's the way!" Ginny cheered as Hermione managed to make her stone skim across the water three times. It fell far shorter than Ginny's had but Hermione felt pleased with herself none the less. Hermione turned her head to grin at Ginny who was still holding her the pair just held each other gaze for a moment before Ginny stepped back awkwardly almost tripping over her own feet blushing deeply.

"Sorry...Hermione I...forgot to let go," Ginny chuckled.

"Oh...don't worry... its nice to be held sometimes," Hermione said grinning shyly.

"Granger and Weasley sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G," Sang another all too familiar mocking voice that made Hermione's face fall as she spun around.

"Any chance you could go find someone else to annoy Pansy! I saw Draco earlier surprised you weren't following him around like a little lapdog as per usual" Hermione said glaring at the Slytherin who was stood on the other side of the river. Pansy just grinned and looked Hermione up and down as she leaned back against a tree folding her arms smugly.

"Its a free country Granger...I'll go where I please and Draco doesn't own me, I'm my own witch. Sorry if interrupted you and Weasleys alone time," Pansy said putting on a mock frown before cackling. Hermione just shook her head getting ready to fire back at the witch again but Ginny grabbed her arm and silenced her.

"Leave her Hermione, come on let's get back to the tent eh? I don't like that look she has in her eye...she's up to no good I can feel it...so let's get out of her way before we get dragged into some nonsense," Ginny said pleading with Hermione who looked unconvinced and like she'd rather like to argue with the Slytherin awhile longer.

"Oh don't go already Granger I haven't even gotten started on your clothes yet! I so rarely see you out of uniform ...this is something of a treat. I see your fashion sense hasn't improved any of the summer. Though I must say those jeans are very snug...just turn around for me again...or do you only flash that arse for the ginger here," Pansy said blowing Hermione a mocking kiss. Hermione went absolutely scarlet and was about to go for her wand but Ginny forcefully grabbed her and pulled her along back through the trees and back towards the camp leaving a laughing Pansy behind.

"I hate to see you go Granger...but I love to watch you leave," Pansy called loudly and Hermione let out a long groan.

"First Malfoy and now her... what I'm I exactly? Some kind of magnet for fools or something," Hermione muttered as Ginny chuckled.

"She might be a fool but she was right about one thing..." Ginny said grinning wickedly as Hermione raised a skeptical eyebrow at her.

"Those jeans are a perfect fit," Ginny said hitting a gobsmacked Hermione a quick pat on the backside before running off into the crowd before the scowling Hermione could scold her.

"You get back here this instant Ginny!" Hermione shouted chasing after the witch.

*******

"Don't run off Gabrielle stay close to me," Fleur said grabbing her younger sisters hand just in time before the girl could slip off into the crowd and explore by herself. The younger girl muttered disappointedly to herself in French and Fleur rolled her eyes.

"No, English only! Remember? we need to practice as often as we can! Do not make those sad eyes at me Gabrielle I am not mother, you can not have your way with me as easily as with her," Fleur said holding her head up proudly as Gabrielle pouted but otherwise made no further attempt to argue.

"What a terrible filthy place...who organised this? It's complete madness...when the world cup was held in France we had no over crowding...no mud and dirt...so uncivilized these English," Fleur said looking around at the muddy campsite and its occupants disapprovingly before stepping around a huge puddle bringing Gabrielle with her.

"If you hate it so much why not go back to the other side of the river with the other rich people and let me get some candy floss on my own," said Gabrielle trying to pull free from her sister's hand again.

"Behave or you'll have no candy floss at all!" Fleur said growing irritated with her sister's tone and continued attempts to break free of her grip. Gabrielle opened her mouth to argue but a dangerous glance from Fleur silenced her and she instead just glared in quiet fury. Fleur looked away to hide her grin, in truth she could not be mad at this attitude and Gabrielle merely reminded the witch of how she had been at that age.

"Come now this way," Fleur said leading her sister on through the crowd deftly navigating the muddy parts of the now well tramped mucky ground of the campsite.

"Oh look at the state of this no way we can cross this...we'll have to go around," Fleur said as herself and Gabrielle came to a stop at a large muddy and puddle laden section of the camp that was horrifying to behold to the french witch who detesed dirt and being unclean more than anything else.

"Ginny stop! my legs are tired!" Fleur heard a voice call from behind her.

"Not on your life Granger! Keep up!" a redheaded girl replied as she dodged past Fleur and her sister almost crashing into the pair but quickly maneuvering out of their path. Fleur was about to tell the boisterous redhead to watch where she was going when something crashed into her back at great speed.

"Argh!!!" Fleur shouted as she was pushed face-first into the mud.

*******

Hermione stopped and covered her mouth unable to believe what she'd just done, she felt like her heart had stopped and it became hard to breath. It had been an accident someone had stuck their foot out and tripped her sending her crashing forward into a tall silvery haired witch without any way of stopping herself.

"I'm so sorry! Are you okay? here let me help yo...arghhhhhh!" Hermione squealed as the furious muddy faced witch reached up and grabbed Hermione's outreached hand only to pull her down into the mud with her. Hermione heard laughter and caught a glimpse of a small blonde girl who had been holding the tall witches hand before Hermione had crashed into her. She was stood next to a horrified looking Ginny who was biting her lip. Hermione was about to shout at her to help when she felt herself getting pushed back down into the mud again as the silvery haired girl clambered on top of her and pinned her hands above her head leaning down right into her face nostrils flaring eyes bulging.

"Did you think it would be funny to push me? Not so funny now is it!" the witch snapped in a thick french accent and Hermione trembled beneath her trying to scramble for an apology but words wouldn't come as she was stricken silent by the fierce blue eyes of the older girl.

"Well say something!" The witch said her voice softening a little as she saw the true remorse in Hermione's eyes.

"I...I...someone tripped me it was a mistake...please I'm sorry," Hermione pleaded finding her voice at long last. Fleur sat up straddling Hermione letting go of the witches hands so she was no longer pinned and folded her arms. Hermione thought about throwing the girl off her but found she was still in too much of a state of shock to move.

"Listen she said it was an accident now please get off my friend," Ginny spoke up bravely and Fleur turned to look at her.

"Do not make demands of me, I shall rise when I'm good and ready...as for you Gabrielle another laugh out of you and its straight back to the other side of the river," Fleur snapped at the giggling small blonde next to Ginny.

"You, what's your name?" Fleur said looking back down to Hermione.

"Hermione...Hermione Granger," Hermione said trying not to let her voice crack as she spoke.

"...'ermione?" Fleur repeated softly more to herself than Hermione a small grin on her lips.

"I won't forget that name,"

Hermione felt her heart flutter, no one had ever spoken her name like that before. Hermione decided to take this as a chance to maybe laugh everything off and tried to give a nervous grin back. It proved to be a mistake, however.

"Something funny about the way I talk 'ermione Granger?" Fleur asked venom returning to her eyes.

"No not at all...its just no one's ever said my name like that before it was...well I always found my name a little antiquated...but the way you say it...it became sort of exotic sounding it was very...I liked it is all," Hermione pleaded quickly giving the full truth hoping it would stop her from being pushed back into the mud again. Fleur seemed to like that answer and her expression softened again.

"Might I know your name....please?" Hermione dared to ask as Fleur finally moved to get up and brought Hermione up with her with surprising strength for such a slender girl.

"I'm Fleur Delacour," Fleur said drawing her wand and in one swift motion she had cleansed herself of all the mud and dirt that had clung to her clothes.

"Um...Fleur could you...use that spell on me...I'm sorry but I can't do magic outside of school..." Hermione rambled hoping the witch would agree or else she'd have to walk all the way through camp looking like this until Mr. Weasley could use Scourgify on her. Fleur looked like she might say no for a second but then with an exasperated sigh and twist of her wrist, Hermione was also clean.

"So...this school of yours....its Hogwarts I take it?" Fleur asked stowing her wand away and moving back toward Gabrielle and taking her hand.

"Yes....what School do you attend..." Hermione began but was cut off as Fleur spoke over her.

"Prehaps I will see you again then...'ermione Granger," Fleur said before turning on her heel and striding off before Hermione or Ginny could say anything.

"Typical bloody French as rude as you can get! stuck up mare...wants her broom removing from her backside...hey why are you looking at me like that! This wasn't my fault!" Ginny said as she found Hermione to have crossed her arms and to be scowling at her eyes alive with icy fury.

"If you hadn't run off and made me chase you none of this would've happened," Hermione said as Ginny slumped her shoulders in defeat.

"Okay maybe I'm twenty-five to thirty percent responsible...but you said someone tripped you I heard you when that Fleur was wrestling with you in the mud," Ginny said trying to wriggle her way out of the situation.

"Sorry about that Granger...I'm ever so clumsy sometimes...but thanks for the show the sight of you and that snooty French cow rolling around in the mud was quite something," Pansy Parkinson said stepping out from the crowd smugness dripping from every inch of her face.

"You little..." Ginny moved to grab the Slytherin but she bounded off into a large group of people and Ginny lost sight of her and gave up the idea of pursuit.

"She's going to pay for this!" Hermione snapped moving over to Ginny.

"Yeah wait till school starts you nasty little serpent," Ginny said grinning evilly her mind already conjuring up numerous pranks to pay the Slytherin back with.

"Don't think you're off the hook either Ginny Weasley...you're still the one who made me run in the first place," Hermione said smiling widely at the pained look in Ginny's eye.

"I'm sorry Hermione please...you'll forgive your best friend for this mild transgression surely?" Ginny asked nudging Hermione playfully.

"We'll see...if you help me get back at Pansy...and don't mention any of this to Harry and Ron," Hermione said getting a very serious look in her eye.

"Not a single word, I promise," Ginny said taking Hermione's arm and the witches headed back towards their tent.

"Ermione," Fleurs voice sounded in Hermione's head as they walked and the witch couldn't help a small grin appearing on her lips

Chapter Text

"Ah there you are ladies, just in time for the stew, come on grab a seat that's it," Mr. Weasley said smiling widely as Ginny and Hermione entered their tent. It was early evening now and Hermione was tired hungry and very ready to get off her feet all the running she'd done chasing after Ginny had taken its toll. That and being pinned down in the mud by a furious french witch couldn't half take it out of you.

"Ah, great stuff dad I'm starv'..." Ron began as he leaped towards the table the first one to his seat as usual. Ron's face fell, however, a look of utter horror appearing as his dad lifted his bowl away from him abruptly.

"Not so fast sunshine you've got some good old fashioned groveling to do first," Mr. Weasley said gesturing towards the direction of Hermione and Ginny with his head. Ron mumbled something to himself which earned him a light clap on the ear from his dad which made Harry Fred and George snort with laughter as Ron looked even more awkward. Ginny restrained her laughter but flashed Hermione a quick grin which the bushy-haired witch returned, feeling rather smug Ron was getting his just desserts.

"Louder, say it properly," Mr. Weasley said a rarely heard stern tone in his voice.

"I'm sorry about the whole bucket thing Hermione...it was my fault I shouldn't have shouted at you...but if Fred and George hadn't been dancing around then..." Ron was cut off as Mr. Weasley interjected before he could make excuses for himself.

"Oh and I suppose if Fred and George set fire to themselves and dived off a bridge you would do the same, would you?" Mr. Weasley asked as Ron looked more amused than upset by this talking too he was receiving now. Mr. Weasley had never been very good at discipline and his 'telling offs' often became unintentionally comical as his inability to display true anger when it came to his children often undermined his speeches.

"Set fire to ourselves? why on earth would we do that?" Fred asked utterly bemused nudging George who also joined in.

"Set fire to other people maybe," George replied sarcastically a wicked grin on his face.

"Where would we even find a decent bridge for diving around here? The one that crosses the river over the way is far too low!" Fred continued as the twins appeared set on making a mockery of the situation.

"Enough! The point is...ah...what was the point, Harry?" Mr. Weasley asked looking genuinely lost randomly turning to the dark-haired wizard for help in a moment of desperation as he forgot where he'd been going with this whole thing. This caused Hermione and Ginny to burst out laughing no longer able to hold it in as Harry looked confused as to why he was being brought into this conversation and he just blinked up at Mr. Weasley blankly.

"Um...that you shouldn't...ah.. set fire to...bridges?" Harry asked hopeful that was correct as he had been only half-listening and was more worried about his stew getting cold as his stomach let out a low rumble.

"Yes! that's it! no setting fire to bridges, or anything else for that matter. Now then, don't have me needing to tell you all this again...well...anyway....tuck in," Arthur said setting Ron's bowl back in front of him. Ginny rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh as she pulled a chuckling Hermione over to the table to sit down. Hermione sat next to Harry and Ginny sat on the other side of her.

"Well he almost got you an apology of sorts I guess," Ginny said giving Hermione a small nudge.

"I really am sorry...Hermione," Ron said quietly cutting in across the table glancing up at Hermione sheepishly then going back to his food feasting with the speed of a man who had been without food for weeks.

"Apology accepted Ronald," Hermione sighed with a small smile. Mr. Weasley's ill-fated attempts at trying to teach Ron some manners had put her in good spirits and she found herself in a more forgiving mood than she had been earlier. Despite this Hermione found she wasn't as hungry as she had thought and soon stopped eating and began playing with her food a little way into dinner. A fact that Ginny soon took notice of.

"Everything okay Hermione...bit too much salt? Sorry about that, dad doesn't often do the cooking," Ginny said giving Hermione an apologetic half-smile.

"Oh no, the foods fine...its...oh don't worry about it," Hermione sighed before her eyes went wide and it was like a lightbulb had just been switched on in her mind.

"Oh Beauxbatons! Of course..." Hermione muttered frowning deeply.

"Um...what did you call me?" Ginny asked sarcastically raising an eyebrow.

"Fleur's school...I just realised...Remember I asked where she went to school?.... but where else would a French witch attend, oh I was so stupid...she probably thinks I'm an idiot," Hermione said going a little red.

"Aw...not still upset about the french girl are you? It's all over and done with now, no use crying over spilled potion. Besides who cares what she thinks about anything," Ginny sighed seeming irritated at the mere memory of Fleur. Hermione couldn't help grinning at Ginny's annoyance.

"You really don't like her do you?" Hermione said with a small laugh.

"I didn't like how she conducted herself...the way she looked down her nose at us and how she held you down in the mud...I know you crashed into her first and some kind of payback was required but all that climbing on top of you... it was uncalled for..." Ginny said stabbing a bit of carrot harshly with her fork as she recalled how Fleur had roughly handled Hermione that afternoon. Hermione furrowed her brow, unsure why Ginny was so concerned by this incident. Hermione didn't inquire further as to why Ginny was so annoyed as just then the sound of fiddles playing 'the wild rover' could be heard from outside.

"The Irish in high spirits it seems," Arthur said smiling widely. Hermione found herself absentmindedly humming along for a little while until Harry gave her a little tap on the shoulder.

"Sorry I don't mean to intrude...but I just need to be sure I have this right...did you say you were wrestling with a french witch in the mud this afternoon?" Harry asked in a hushed tone a cheeky grin on his face eyes alive with glee.

"It's not how it sounds...just...oh finish your peas!" Hermione said a little snappily in a harsh whisper annoyed that Harry had been listening in.

"Alright keep your hair on...just seemed like an interesting story is all. You being such a...indoor girl, its a bit surprising," Harry laughed going back to his dinner. Hermione frowned at his tone which appeared to be suggesting that being an indoor type was somehow amusing.

"What's wrong with indoor girls," Hermione said a slightly accusatory tone in her voice. Harry just laughed and shrugged seeming to want to be diplomatic about the whole thing.

"There's nothing wrong with it Hermione...but wasn't it nice to get out down by the river today and I seem to recall you laughing for a while when we were running...before the incident," Ginny said with a small smile.

"Well it was sort of...exhilarting," Hermione admitted a small grin on her lips.

"Wait she runs now too?" Harry asked sarcastically looking around Hermione's shoulders at Ginny quizzically and they both laughed.

"What are you're laughing at Harry! Being your friend involves copious amounts of running and you know it!" Hermione said giving Harry a playful shove unable to muster true anger at the glee on his face as she was in fact rather relieved he was smiling again and not worried about that nightmare he'd had.

Also, Hermione supposed they were sitting very close together so it wasn't his fault he had overheard herself and Ginny and joined in. At least Ron was so busy stuffing his face he hadn't time to pay attention to much of anything that was being said around the table. Mr. Weasley and the twins were having a discussion about a bet with Ludo Bagman and also were paying Hermione, Ginny, and Harry no mind.

"Are you okay though...she didn't hurt you or anything, this french girl?" Harry asked after a moment his initial humor fading and being replaced with genuine concern.

"No I'm fine I think Fleur realised it wasn't my fault...I had a little run-in with 'Veruca salt' earlier in the day and then she tripped me...that's what caused this mess," Hermione sighed throwing out a little code name herself and Harry had developed for Pansy over the years.

"That Parkinson's going to push you too far one of these days," Harry said shaking his head.

"She wasn't that awful today, to be honest I mean I wanted to jinx her at one point but not as bad as usual...I saw Malfoy as well though...he's still a twenty-four caret prat, however," Hermione said recalling the unpleasant interaction.

"Of course that little git would have to be here too...you handled him alright I take it?" Harry said coldly getting a little on edge as he always was when Malfoy was mentioned.

"Don't worry I sent him running to daddy I laughed at how over-dressed he was, sent him a tad loopy so no problems there," Hermione said and Harry laughed.

"Wish i'd seen that...I still have lovely dreams about that time you nearly broke his jaw last year," Harry said and Hermione couldn't help getting a little smug look on her face.

"It was a pretty great punch wasn't it," Hermione said and Harry chuckled.

"You're quite vicious sometimes Hermione, you know that? Kind of frightening actually," Harry said still smiling and Hermione hit him a dig in the ribs.

"Am not!" Hermione said before realising she was proving Harry's point and she went a tad pink causing Harry to laugh again.

"Anyway tell me more about this...ah...' Fleur' was it? She...um...decent?" Harry asked going a little red.

"Decent?" Hermione asked raising an eyebrow.

"You know..pretty," Harry muttered and Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.

"That's the first thing you want to know? Is that all wizards care about...weather or not witches are 'decent'?" Hermione said a little snappily taking offense at the term. Harry didn't answer and went rather quiet as he took a long drink from his cup. Hermione turned away from him and went back to discussing Fleur with Ginny.

"Don't you think there was something strange about her?" Hermione asked.

"How do you mean? Isn't that her just being french?" Ginny asked sighing again seeming exasperated that Fleur was to be the continued topic of conversation over dinner.

"I'm not sure...there was just this air around her...she was just... rather captivating don't you think?" Hermione said smiling to herself.

"Not particularly," Ginny said rather dryly appearing to grow very tired of this discussion indeed. Hermione decided it was time to drop it though she had thought of floating another question about what the french witch had meant when she said she would perhaps see Hermione again. It had been when she'd heard she was a Hogwarts student. Perhaps she was going to be part of some foreign exchange program?

Though Hogwarts hadn't partaken in such things since nineteen twenty-two when a Swedish wizard went swimming in the great lake and had an ill-fated encounter with the giant squid. After that many wizarding newspapers did an Exposé on how Hogwarts was the most dangerous wizarding school in Europe and other schools deemed it unacceptable for their students to visit for any such programs again.

Fleur seemed too old to be taking part in such a program so it seemed unlikely in any case. Besides Hermione being such a top pupil would have definitely been the first to be informed of such a thing by their head of house and perhaps offered the opportunity at being sent to a foreign school herself. Hermione furrowed her brow as the gears in her mind turned and she tried to find a solution to this little mystery. The witch, however, was pulled out of her revery as Percy Weasley finally returned to the tent.

"Get a shift on son your dinners getting all cold..." Arthur said waving his wand and conjuring another stool at the table.

"...and eaten," Fred whispered across the table to Hermione and making a gesture with his head towards Ron who had indeed begun taking portions from Percy's bowl hastily pushing the bowl away from him before his older brother would notice. Hermione snorted and gave Ginny a quick nudge so she would also catch Ron's greedy antics and the pair shared a small grin.

"Yes sorry everyone, I'm just out of a very important meeting with the Minister of Magic, making last-minute adjustments to the stadium making sure everything's in order," Percy said smugly sitting down a wide smile on his face.

"Got held up shining Fudge's shoes for him?" Fred asked sarcastically.

"Needed his wand polished did he," Geroge added. Even Hermione who often was nicer to Percy than most couldn't help snorting at that. Mr. Weasley had to pretend to have a coughing fit to contain his own laughter. Percy went very red and looked about ready to have steam come billowing out of his ears.

"Right that's it," Percy said standing up and taking his bowl of stew and marching right outside.

"Oh no Fred did you hear? That's 'It'!" Geroge said eyes going wide with mock fear.

"What's it?" Fred asked a look of exaggerated confusion on his face.

"That!" Geroge replied biting his lip and Fred pretended to faint.

"Oh, Merlin not It! please no!" Fred cried falling backward onto the ground.

Everyone had to stop eating for fear of choking with laughter except for Ron who had, of course, finished his dinner in record time.

"Alright settle down...I'll go speak to him. Now I like a bit of a laugh as much as the next wizard but let's all lay off Percy after this before Bill and Charlie get here okay? I want everyone nice and jolly for the big day tomorrow alright," Arthur said speaking to everyone but only looking at Fred and George who stopped their joking around and appeared to give a sincere nod to their father before he left to go get Percy.

"Bill and Charlie are coming after all?" Ginny asked excitedly.

"Yeah there was an owl while you and Hermione were off galavanting about the camp," Ron said stretching and yawning.

"Is your title of "my favorite Weasley" about to be challenged then, Ginny?" Hermione asked nudging her and giving a small grin and Ginny laughed.

"Wait...Ginny's...the favorite?" Ron asked looking at Ginny in disbelief and Harry snorted at the indignation in his voice and Hermione couldn't help the devious smile that came across her lips as she got off her stool moved behind Ginny and slid her arms around the girl and pulled her into a gentle hug.

"Something wrong with that?" Hermione asked settling her chin on Ginny's shoulder trying to keep her joy at how annoyed Ron was getting out of her voice.

"Well... it's just...I don't remember Ginny saving anyone from a bloody mountain troll," Ron grumbled folding his arms.

"Didn't Harry have something to do with that as well?" Ginny asked eyes swimming with glee as she leaned back into Hermione as she continued to hug her.

"Yeah and wasn't it a certain other Weasley that caused that person to be in need of rescue in the first place," Harry said sarcastically leaning back from the table folding his arms smugly as Ron went a little pink in the face.

"I'm going to bed," Ron grumbled getting up and heading over to his bunk to get ready for sleep drawing a curtain around the boy's section of the tent as he changed.

"Yeah better get an early night, can't wait for tomorrow and ah...nice scarf, by the way, didn't know you were pulling for Ireland Hermione," Harry said giving her a playful nudge as he walked past her.

"Well I suddenly went off Bulgaria recently," Hermione said grinning.

"Can't imagine why," Fred said glancing in the direction of Ron's bed laughing as he and George shared a glance.

"That'll go down well tomorrow," Harry sighed shaking his head at the pettiness between his friends.

"Don't look at me like that Harry! He started it," Hermione said crossing her arms and holding her head up proudly.

"I know but...just play nice tomorrow, please? I'm the one who has to listen to all the moaning otherwise. Also...I should've backed you up before Hermione, I was just...I had a lot on my mind you know?" Harry said running a hand through his messy dark hair.

"That's alright Harry...I maybe went a tad overboard myself...I'll behave tommorow...as long as Ronald does," Hermione said giving Harry a soft smile.

"Fair enough...oh and I want to hear the full unabridged story with you and this mud wrestling incident later," Harry said winking at Hermione before heading behind the curtain before Hermione could tell him off.

"Mud wrestling!" Fred and George cried excitedly at the same moment sharing gleeful looks with each other. Hermione blushed deeply and looked away hoping to not have to explain what had happened.

"Blimey didn't know they had that around here...come on let's go, George, I want in on this!" Fred said excitedly heading for the exit to the tent.

"Alright but let's try to squeeze in some bridge-burning first!" Geroge said moving to follow his brother.

"Just a second you two! Where are you really off to?" Ginny asked appearing very like her mother Molly as she stepped forward crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes at the pair.

"Off to see a wizard about a broom," Fred said winking at Ginny as he fired off a well-worn phrase that was really code for "get involved in some sort of dodgy deal".

"Alright but don't blow anything up...also before you go any chance you could source your beloved little sister some zonks everlasting itching powder, some dung bombs and some of those fake wands that turn into bats when you pick them up," Ginny asked batting her eyelashes in an exaggerated comical fashion. 'What on earth do you need all that for?' Hermione wondered furrowing her brow at Ginny.

"Those items could fall into our possession at some point...but why do you want them, young lady?" Geroge said eyeing Ginny suspiciously.

"Just get the stuff no questions asked or I'll tell dad you ran off to make another dodgy deal with Ludo Bagman," Ginny said quickly a smug little smirk on her face.

"You know I think it's us she gets this attitude from," Fred sighed shaking his head nudging George.

"...and we couldn't be prouder," George smiled and so did Fred.

"You'll have the stuff before school starts now off to bed you two! big day tomorrow," Fred said and he and George left the tent and Ginny turned to a bemused Hermione and took her arm leading her over to the girl's section of the tent before drawing their curtains.

"What 'are' you going to do with all that stuff?" Hermione asked as she began getting undressed and pulled her pink pajamas out of her trunk which was next to her and Ginnys bunks.

"Let's just say Pansy Parkinson won't know what hit her this year," Ginny said smiling evilly at Hermione. Hermione got a flash of Pansy in her mind's eye her short dark hair in that perfect little bob that framed her sharp features just right, a smirk on her lips. Hermione imagined her screaming her head off as a fake wand she picked up suddenly turned to bats and the witch couldn't help chuckling. The devious Slytherin needed paying back for all the teasing and pranking she'd been doing to Hermione over the years it was true but Hermione couldn't help but feel Ginny was going a tad overboard. Pansy hadn't been that mean recently either if truth be told.

"The fake wand is one thing and maybe you could get away with the dung bombs...but that everlasting itching powder...isn't that a bit far?" Hermione questioned as she pulled on her Pajama bottoms turning to find Ginny hastily averting her eyes as if she had been caught looking at something she shouldn't have. Hermione furrowed her brow but shook her head and decided not to question the girl further and waited for an answer on the Pansy situation.

"You said she's been a nightmare for years, you told me Snape keeps pairing you two up in potions and that she won't give you a moment's peace? Pulling your hair poking prodding and pinching you? Remember when you had blue hair for an entire afternoon because she dipped your hair in a potion?" Ginny said folding her arms.

"I know and it's dead annoying but she's not been as bad lately...at least not when she's on her own...It's strange but I've been wondering if maybe she actually wants to be my friend or something but hasn't got the social skills required to do such a thing," Hermione pondered as she sat on the bottom bunk.

"Do you hear yourself? You're being ridiculous! She bloody tripped you a few hours ago and sent you right into the mud!" Ginny said seeming to get very irate now.

"Well...Fleur was the one who pulled me into the mud in fairness...I think Pansy maybe only wanted to see Fleur go down," Hermione mused furrowing her brow.

"I don't believe this...what happened to 'she's going to pay for this'?" Ginny groaned pulling on her own pajamas shaking her head.

"I meant it...at the time...but lets just not go over the top alright," Hermione pleaded and Ginny sighed as she moved to sit next to the bushy-haired witch.

"Just like I said...big softie deep down," Ginny said smiling now and Hermione couldn't help grinning as she gave Ginny a playful nudge.

"It's just Pansy's not the worst Slytherin there is and lately she's been less cruel and more.....just kind of... playfully teasing," Hermione said.

"You make it sound like she bloody fancies you or something," Ginny muttered a sour look passing over her face.

"Now who's being ridiculous!" Hermione snapped shaking her head at the mere notion of what Ginny had just said.

"Well maybe you were onto something before...all that pinching and hair-pulling...isn't that something idiots who can't really express their feelings for a girl do when they can't think of another way to get their attention?" Ginny said crossing her arms.

"Well I'd expect that kind of juvenile nonsense from a wizard maybe but not a witch," Hermione sighed wanting to get off this topic as it was clearly close to sending Ginny off in a foul mood.

"Let's just drop it eh? come on let's get some rest," Hermione said smiling at Ginny whose expression softened then as she grabbed Hermione's hand before she could climb up into the top bunk.

"Not so fast Granger you're in with me tonight," Ginny said smiling as she climbed into her bunk and brought Hermione down with her.

"What's this in aid of exactly?" Hermione laughed as she climbed under the covers to join Ginny.

"Well just being that our tent is second hand and the heating charms are wearing off it might get a little chilly later on...and we could maybe keep each other nice and cozy," Ginny said smirking.

"Fair enough," Hermione sighed shaking her head as she cuddled up next to Ginny.

"Hermione could you just lift your leg...yeah thats better,"

"Do you mind if put my arm over... like this Ginny...okay no let me just turn this way a bit..."

After much shifting about both witches finally got comfortable and settled down.

Before her eyes fluttered shut just in the midst of that place between being awake and asleep Hermione found Ginny's face fading next to her only to be replaced with that of another witch. A witch with silvery hair and piercing blue eyes. Hermione slipped off with a small grin and a sleepy whisper of a certain french witches name on her lips.

*********

"...and then the bucktooth, bushy-haired, English witch pushed Fleur into the mud and it was the funniest thing that ever happened to anyone who ever lived," Fleur read aloud scowling before tossing the parchment Gabrielle had been writing on earlier in the evening onto the floor next to her bath. It was an essay their mother had tasked Gabrielle to write in order to improve her English. Gabrielle had delighted in following their mother around the tent that evening repeating in detail the mud incident.

Fleur had sat at the table eating, stewing in silent embarrassment as her mother Apolline had laughed and told Gabrielle to make sure she put all this in her essay so their father could read all about it when they returned home from the world cup. Fleur rolled her eyes and took a sip of her wine before leaning back into the bath and closing her eyes. It wasn't long before the little witch from Hogwarts appeared in her mind's eye again trembling beneath her in the mud her wild hair large teeth and warm brown eyes all there in her mind clear as day.

"'ermione," Fleur muttered a half-smile on her face. It was a strange name old but pretty, Fleur found she was rather fond of it. This Hermione had become stuck in Fleurs head and it seemed like she wouldn't be leaving for some time. Their encounter had been odd and hard to forget after all. What fascinated Fleur was Hermione seemed not to be greatly affected by her Veela blood. She hadn't been drooling, her pupils were not dilated her heart rate had appeared normal or it had been when Fleur had been holding the witches wrist.

None of the telltale signs of a person having fallen under her Veela charms had been present. Though Hermione had been shaking, Fleur put this down to her just being cold and wet from the mud and a little bit scared. Whilst it was mainly only muggle men and wizards who were affected by a Veela's charms Fleur had found she had been able to dazzle a fair few witches when she had a mind too.

It was very useful and helped her talk her way out of conversations whenever she grew bored with the people around her. It was said a Veela's charms only worked on those who weren't strong of mind Fleur wondered if this is why her charms hadn't seemed to work all that well on Hermione. Perhaps she was a gifted witch with a very sound mind, there had been something that told Fleur as much when she had looked into those brown eyes which had been filled with curiosity, wisdom and of course a pinch of fear.

There had also been courage there and Fleur wagered that if push came to shove the girl could have fought her off when she had been held down but she seemed to wish to settle things peacefully. Not an attitude Fleur was accustom to from the few English witches and wizards she had encountered. Most had been more like Hermione's redheaded companion, quick-tempered and ready to duel at a moments notice. 'If I really turned on my charm could I make Hermione melt as most others have done under my gaze?' Fleur wondered taking another sip of her wine.

Fleur liked a challenge and very much hoped she would indeed run into Hermione again when she visited Hogwarts. The planned trip was already set to be a great adventure but now it could also become something even more delightful. It was on occasion quite welcome when a person failed to be taken in by her Veela charms it meant Fleur could deduce if a person was truly fond of her and not just taken by the Veela blood, which sometimes could be as much of a burden as it was a gift. It was hard to go around facing non-stop admiration from those around you, fun for awhile yes but soon life grew very tiresome like that.

"Perhaps you will make my days exciting once more, 'Ermione," Fleur said aloud to the evening air with a soft giggle.

"Who are you talking too?"

Fleur's eyes shot open to find Gabrielle had poked her head through the curtain into Fleurs section of the tent and was looking at her quizzically.

"None of your business! You should be asleep off now with you...I shall call mother you just see if I don't," Fleur said narrowing her eyes at her younger sister who glared back furiously but did retreat from the curtain and went back to bed muttering to herself in french.

"Cheeky little..." Fleur muttered sighing to herself. Fleurs mind soon turned to the world cup final tomorrow. She initially favored Bulgaria due to their star player Victor Krum if a seeker like that catches a glimpse of the snitch early then it's all over for the other side. However, there is more to Quidditch than having one shining star and the Irish side had a set of chasers that were out of this world.

If they managed to rack up enough points early on Krum being an outstanding seeker would count for a lot less. Fleur had heard talk of a wizard named Bagman running around taking bets and she had considered placing one in favor of Ireland after she had thought over their chances but she had been unable to locate this Bagman. Also, Gabrielle had been with her all afternoon and she would no doubt inform mother and the whole thing would be a disaster.

It was probably for the best that Fleur hadn't found the wizard as he might have been susceptible to her Veela blood and just agreed to give her whatever she wanted even if Ireland lost in the end and where would the fun be in that? Fleur wondered where Hermione and her friend would be seated in the stadium. Fleur and her mother and sister were to be guests of Minister Fudge and would be in the top box.

Fleurs father worked with the french Ministery and had worked with Fudge a number of times over the years and they had grown friendly so the tickets were easy to come by for Fleur's father. Mr. Delacour had to work and was unable to attend the match himself but he had insisted that Fleur and her sister go along with their mother and enjoy themselves none the less.

Fleur guessed it was unlikely she would see Hermione again at the match as she and her friend were clearly staying in the side of the camp for those without the funds for a space nearer to the stadium and thus likely didn't have as good seats as Fleur's family had. That would be a shame though maybe it would be better in the long run if the pair didn't reconnect until Fleur arrived at Hogwarts absence does make the heart grow fonder Fleur thought with a small smile. The French witch finally stood up and got out of the bath and reaching for her wand dried herself off quickly and slipped into her silk baby blue pajamas and headed off to bed.

********

Pansy stopped a few feet away from the Malfoys tent and had to stick her fist in her mouth to stop from laughing as she caught sight of Draco. The wizard was sat on a stool smoking a pipe looking very smug and pleased with himself. Pansy rolled her eyes wondering if the boy had any idea of how much of an arrogant posh poncy git he looked.

The suit and flat-cap also had Pansy struggling not to burst out laughing. 'No, stop it, woman, we have serious business to attend to no joking around!' a voice in Pansy's head said and the witch soon straightened up and tried to relax and let go of her need to laugh before approaching Draco.

"Good evening Draco, nice night for a walk," Pansy said offering Draco her arm. Malfoy sighed and looked like he'd rather do anything else but he did get up and take the witches arm and the pair went for a little stroll around the fancy camp filled with all the purebloods and well off types that were attending the world cup. Though it was heading toward half nine it was still a quite clear and semi-bright evening due to it being mid-summer.

In better company Pansy found herself feeling this might have been quite a romantic setting but alas she was with Draco Malfoy and he seemed intent on acting as if Pansy wasn't even there. Draco didn't appear interested in idle chatter and shot down most of Pansy's attempts at small talk with blunt one-word answers. Eventually Pansy managed to lead Draco off to the bridge which was free of other night-time wanderers and they were finally alone. For a time the pair watched as numerous owls arrived and departed from the campsite across the river neither of the Slytherins had seen a gathering of so many wizards before nor had they seen such a large number of owls. Pansy smiled widely as several took off at once in the formation of an arrow.

"That's lovely isn't it," she sighed and Draco merely shrugged.

"Listen... Is there something you want Pansy, I should really be getting back," Draco said in a bored drawl leaning against the rail of the wooden bridge after another few moments.

"I just wanted to know....do you know anything about this 'surprise' all our parents have been talking about? You know the one that's happening tomorrow night after the match," Pansy asked deciding to just cut straight to the heart of the matter hoping to shock Draco into an answer.

"Keep your damn voice down! Merlins sake Pansy...I see you haven't gotten any brighter over the summer," Draco snapped looking all around furiously making sure no one was close by to overhear them.

"I'm sorry...but I asked my mother and she wouldn't tell me anything, says after the match I'm to go straight to our tent and stay inside...I just want to know what's happening," Pansy said frowning deeply but trying not to show how badly Draco's dig at her intelligence had stung.

"My father keeps pushing me out of the tent while he and his friends discuss whatever's happening...I don't know much but id say that after the match tomorrow it's going to be a bad time to be a mudblood. Here's hoping Granger finally gets hers" Draco said eyes alive with malice. Pansy swallowed hard and gave a small laugh that rang very false but Draco didn't seem to notice as he turned on his heel and started heading back to his tent. Pansy heart dropped as she thought of something terrible befalling Granger. Sure she was a know it all swot and an uptight, bossy, moody mare at times and Pansy delighted in infuriating her but she didn't want anything serious to happen to her.

"Come on Pansy we better get back before our parents send a search party," Draco said as he walked off and Pansy hurried to keep up with him being pulled out of her thoughts.

"Um...so you really know nothing else about..." Pansy fell silent as Draco glared at her with a look that screamed "Silence!" etched on his face. The pair walked silently for a time then and Pansy realising she would get nothing else important out of the wizard made another attempt at small talk. To satiate her own curiosity if nothing else.

"So you smoke a pipe now?" Pansy asked trying not to laugh.

"Just something I'm trying out," Draco said shrugging.

"Smoking can be hazardous...I heard a healer telling..."Pansy was cut off as Draco snapped at her rudely.

"I don't care what you heard...besides it's not proper smoking and its not even tobacco its that...wacky stuff Greengrass grows down the greenhouses at school," Draco said finishing with a little smirk.

"Oh, friends with Daphne Greengrass are you now? Since when?" Pansy asked unable to keep a tiny bit of envy out of her voice.

"Whats it to you? I can speak to whoever I want," Draco said smugly.

"Well so can I!" Pansy heard herself saying before she could stop herself and she marched off leaving Draco standing gobsmacked. Pansy had never lashed out at him like that before. Pansy returned to her tent with the full intent of seeking out Hermione tomorrow and giving her a warning to get back to her tent after the match before whatever Draco's father and his band of fools decided pull took place.

Pansy snuck back into her tent quietly avoiding her parents and getting back to her bed breathing a sigh of relief as it was clear they hadn't noticed her absence. It wasn't a surprise her parents barely noticed her most of the time anyway. Pansy quickly got dressed for bed and climbed under the covers her mind buzzing with what she should say and when in order to make sure Granger wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time tomorrow.

"I mean...if something happened to you Granger...who would I fight with," Pansy said taking a small newspaper cutting out from under her pillow and smiling at it before blowing it a kiss. The clipping showed a moving Photograph of Hermione as she received a reward for academic achievement from Dumbledore at the end of last year. The Hermione in the photograph looked away shyly whenever Pansy would look at her but she did eventually return the kiss and Pansy placed the clipping back under her pillow and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

"Hermione catch!" Harry called as he tossed the witch a set of omnioculars. It was one of four pairs he'd just grabbed for her, Ron, Ginny and himself. Hermione grabbed them at the last second almost fumbling them but just about managing to hang onto them. Hermione beamed at Harry proud of herself she normally dropped anything that was tossed at her like that.

"Not bad Granger...not quite keeper material just yet...but there's still time for us to train you up I reckon," Fred said winking at her as he passed by heading after his dad and the others as they shopped for more souvenirs. Hermione rolled her eyes about to fire back at that sarcastic line. Everyone knew she was unsteady on a broom and a very poor Quidditch player and Fred and George especially liked to remind her of it. Hermione held her tongue however and smiled trying to see the funny side.

Trying to stick to what Mr Weasley had said about everyone being jolly today and what Harry had said about her behaving and not falling out with Ron or his brothers. There had been a close call when Ron had finally taken notice of Hermione's Ireland scarf and had looked rather pouty for a moment until Harry had stepped in wearing a shamrock hat. Ron seemed less inclined to question Hermione's Ireland support after that. The rest of the afternoon had passed without incident of course until Ron had spied the omnioculars and looked to be rather miserable he couldn't afford a set.

"You didn't have to do that Harry it was rather very sweet," Hermione whispered in the dark-haired wizards ear a little later that evening as she walked alongside him with the Weasleys towards the stadium for the world cup final. All of them carrying their chosen teams flags, hats, scarfs, and other knick-nacks. Harry went a little red at the look Hermione was giving him and seemed to struggle for a response.

"Well... he gets nothing for Christmas now," Harry said giving a small laugh running a hand through his wild dark hair nervously. Hermione had realised right away Harry had only bought the set of omnioculars for all of them so Ron didn't feel he was getting special treatment when Harry had offered to get him a pair. Ron had spent his souvenir money on what Hermione thought was useless Krum merchandise but that Ron had described as priceless collectables. Ron was currently watching in awe as an enchanted miniature figure of Krum flew about his head on a tiny broom doing tricks in the air. Ron grabbed up his new omnioculars and started following the Krum figure while spinning some dials and pressing a few different buttons a huge dumb grin on his face, he looked closer to five than fifteen at that moment.

"Boys and their toys," Hermione sighed rolling her eyes.

"Hey, Ginny...um...what 'are' you doing?" Hermione questioned wide-eyed as she turned to find Ginny was walking very slowly behind herself and Harry her omnioculars held up to her face which had seemingly been trained on Hermione.

"Oh..um nothing... just testing these out...see how the slow-motion is..." Ginny rambled quickly trying to move her omnioculars out of Hermione's reach but the bushy-haired witch grabbed them and looked into them before Ginny could do anything. Hermione saw a slow-motion recording of herself walking her hips swaying somewhat hypnotically the image slowly zooming in on her jean-clad backside.

"Why in Merlin's name were you looking at my...." Hermione began but Ginny suddenly snatched back her Omnioculars and dashed off after her father and brothers. Hermione noted her face was almost as red as her hair.

"The last one to the stadiums a Slimy Slytherin," Ginny called and suddenly Harry and Ron shared an intense look and the pair sprang after Ginny.

"I've got you beat this time Harry," Ron shouted.

"Only time you beat me, Ron...I wasn't there!" Harry called back.

"Hey wait for me," Hermione cried pouting trying to keep up but her legs were still tired from all that running the day before and she soon fell behind and had to stop for a breather by the bridge a stitch in her side.

"You should really give up the athletics Granger you don't seem suited to them one little bit,"

Hermione looked up and groaned, Pansy Parkinson was walking towards her a small grin on her lips.

"Oh look we match! I'm not a huge Ireland fan but green is my colour so...." Pansy laughed eyeing Hermione's Ireland scarf and then holding up her own briefly before letting it fall back around her neck as instead of receiving a smile Hermione merely looked at her blankly. The bushy-haired witch was confused by the lack of snark in Pansy's voice, she had to be up to something.

"Listen, Pansy, if you're here to throw me in the river or something you can just go ahead and forget it because..." Hermione fell silent as Pansy threw up her hands in a sort of "I'm unarmed and I come in peace" kind of motion.

"I'm not here for anything like that, I just need to speak to you...I was worried I'd missed you when I saw Potter and Weasley sprinting by earlier, Why'd they leave you behind like that? Little twirps," Pansy said looking genuinely annoyed at Harry and Rons having abandoned their friend, her cheerful tone dipping slightly.

"It's just a stupid race they were having...but never mind that, what one earth would you have to say to me," Hermione panted trying to be cautious but finding herself too exhausted to step too far away from Pansy as she leaned against the rail of the bridge.

"Well, I just wanted to say as funny as it was...I shouldn't have tripped you, I thought you'd maybe only take down that French witch. She was rather rude to me and I wanted to wipe the smile off her face. I didn't think she'd pull you down with her." Pansy said looking at her feet and Hermione noted the apparent genuine remorse in her voice.

"You waited here just to say that? I'm...sorry Pansy but I'm not sure I believe you," Hermione said a little frostily but not being as harsh as she could have been.

"Well, I expected that...you have no reason to trust me really...but I've said it now so we can move on to the important part," Pansy sighed moving a little nearer to Hermione her face growing more serious now.

"There's more?" Hermione questioned finally straightening up as her side began to ease back to normal.

"Yes...um let's move on toward the stadium we don't want to miss the match eh?" Pansy said gesturing towards the other side of the bridge with her head before turning and beginning to walk Hermione cautiously fell into step next to her.

"After the match...I think it best if you and Potter and all the gingers just get back to your tent and portkey your way home as soon as you can." Pansy said biting her lip. Hermione raised an eyebrow trying to look for any sign that Pansy was playing yet another of her lousy tricks on her but the witches face held no lie or at least none that Hermione could see.

"Why should we do that exactly....just because I'm a muggleborn doesn't mean I don't have the right to camp here along with everyone else," Hermione said coldly.

"That's not what I'm getting at...there's...something bad is going to happen and...I don't want you getting hurt," Pansy said looking around at Hermione eyes burning with fierce determination now. Hermione couldn't help but keep a sceptical look on her face though she did get a feeling Pansy was truly concerned from the way she was acting.

"Whats this bad thing that's happening then? Forgive me for not just taking all this as gospel Pansy...but its just yesterday when you tripped me you didn't seem to care much for my safety," Hermione said looking Pansy directly in the eye now before the pair moved off the bridge and into the tree's next to the posh side of the campsite. The witches were getting nearer and nearer to the stadium if they excited voices, singing, chanting and echoes of cheers from up ahead were anything to go by.

"I can't...I don't have the details just...oh please Granger! Just enjoy the match and go straight home," Pansy suddenly stopped dead and grabbed Hermione's hand in desperation squeezing it tightly in both her own. Hermione let out a little shocked gasp if she didn't know any better Hermione would've said Pansy was on the verge of tears.

"Please," Pansy repeated desperately. Hermione tossed all she had heard around in her mind. None of this made much sense to her but for what it was worth she did feel Pansy was being genuine.

"I'll try...to speak to Mr Weasley about heading home early and I'll make sure we all get back to our tent right after the match." Hermione sighed and shaking her head a little unable to believe she was really agreeing to this.

"Well...I guess that'll have to do," Pansy said a little sniffly, not fully satisfied with that answer but seeming to deem that it was better than nothing.

"You know...I didn't know you cared anything for me, Pansy, to try to help me like this," Hermione said with a small laugh trying to raise the Slytherins spirits a little. Pansy eyes went wide and Hermione felt a little unnerved.

"Care? I don't care!...um...well not that much....and let go of my hand....don't use this as an excuse to try and feel me up Granger you...you slag!" Pansy said her mood seeming to change on a dime.

"Excuse me?" Hermione questioned outraged immediately going off everything she had just been told and feeling like a fool for even having considered listening to the Slytherin. However, Pansy suddenly jerked her head towards a group of girls that were approaching them. Hermione recognised some Slytherins from their year at school and the Gryffindor finally got the hint.

"Out of my way Parkinson...you...you harlot!" Hermione said playing along with Pansy who gave her a quick wink very much appreciating that Hermione had caught on to what was happening. Hermione rudely shoved Pansy then and quickly headed on toward the stadium. Hoping their little act would be enough and that the other Slytherins wouldn't suspect that the pair had been having a civil discussion.

"What'd she want?" Hermione heard one Slytherin witch ask as she walked off.

"Haven't a clue...think she was having a pass at me," Pansy said and Hermione rolled her eyes so hard she thought she might do herself an injury, thinking the witch was laying it on a bit thick now but she kept walking not looking back and soon made it to the stadium.

"You must be Hermione Granger...you're with Arthurs party aren't you? Ginny told me to expect you, just take the stairs and go right up to the top as high as you can go and you'll find them!" An excited witch said looking at Hermione's ticket briefly tapping it with her wand and then smiling widely before sending the witch on her way.

"Thank you," Hermione said trying to not let her disappointment at the mention of stairs seep through her cheery reply. She'd hoped that wizards would've thought of some clever spell for this kind of thing that would instantly transport her up to where she needed to be. Alas, it appeared she'd have to do things the old fashioned way sighing as her poor legs were in for yet more punishment.

"I don't think I've done this much exercise since P.E in primary school," Hermione muttered as she climbed the stairs. Pansy's warning went around and around Hermione's head as climbed and the witch couldn't decide how serious to take any of what she had been told. In the end, she decided she would mention it to Mr Weasley, perhaps suggesting he should look into doing a quick sweep of the campsite for signs of trouble after the match and maybe bring in some other ministry wizards as back up. If there was anyone who'd likely to be causing trouble it would be the Malfoys Hermione reasoned and since Pansy had been close with Draco she could have indeed overheard some dangerous plot at some point.

*******

Hermione finally arrived at the top box after around ten minutes of climbing, her mind was just as exhausted as her legs as she had tried to figure out the full story behind Pansy's words and had made little headway. The stairs had made for quite the workout and Hermione was panting heavily and very relieved when she spotted Harry, Ron, and Ginny and knew the climb was over. She finally let go of thoughts about Pansy and the Malfoys and tried to relax deciding she was due some fun. Moving toward her friends and the other Weasleys her face soon fell, however.

"Um... where do I sit?" Hermione asked Ginny, noting that there didn't appear to be a spare seat and that the top box was rather full.

"Sorry Hermione...but looks like Fudge invited some extra guests," Ginny said a bitter look on her face as she nodded to her right and Hermione looked to the far end of the row and saw Malfoy and what could only be his mother. Oddly there was no sign of his father, Hermione had a sudden sinking sensation in her stomach as her imagination ran wild about what all manner of evil the missing wizard could be planning. Hermione was pulled from her thoughts as Ron decided to offer his thoughts on a certain matter.

"She's a bit alright ain't she though? That Narcissa," Ron said following Hermione's eye line to Narcissa Malfoy.

"Excuse me?" Ginny asked looking disgusted.

"All I'm saying is...I wouldn't kick her out of bed," Ron said and Hermione felt rather ill as a disturbing mental image flashed in her mind for a moment and Ginny looked equally ready to throw up.

"You fancy Malfoys mother?" Harry asked eyebrows going so high they almost threatened to leave his forehead altogether. Ron just shrugged and went back to looking at the Quidditch program he was holding and began reading it again. Hermione took a second look at Narcissa Malfoy, she could almost be kind of attractive if she didn't appear to have a permanent scowl etched on her face. Narcissa glanced at Hermione and the bushy-haired witch looked away hoping she hadn't been caught. After another few moments, she dared look up again trying to look for a place to sit.

Next to Malfoy and his mother was an empty seat probably belonging to the missing Lucius Malfoy. Even if it was free however nothing on earth would make Hermione sit there. After the space for Mr Malfoy, Hermione's eyes went wide as they fell upon a familiar face who was smiling at her a semi-curious look in her eye. The witch who was in a light blue hooded top gave Hermione a brief little wave her eyes dancing with amusement now perhaps at the shocked look on the Gryffindors face. Hermione returned the wave shyly and felt herself going a little red at having been caught staring.

"Sorry everyone...um back in a second," Hermione said as she felt her feet moving before she could really think about it. Ginny followed Hermione's eye line after appearing bemused at the dumb smile on the witches face. Upon catching sight of who Hermione was looking at Ginny crossed her arms and shook her head.

"What rotten luck...of course that French mare would have to be here of all places," Ginny muttered but an oblivious Hermione took no notice.

"Wait Hermione there's a seat here next to me," Harry said as Hermione reached him. Harry nodded toward an empty seat on his left that the witch had missed on her first inspection of the top box.

"Begging your pardons young sirs but this seat is belonging to Mr Crouch...I is merely keeping it reserved for him," said what Hermione recognised to be the high pitched squeaky voice of a female house elf. The elf had her eyes covered with her hands and appeared to be trembling Hermione felt awful thinking that she and Harry were scaring her.

"Oh no! that's quite alright....sorry to have bothered you...are you okay there's no need to hide your face...I'm not that scary I promise," Hermione said trying to meet the elves eyes through her fingers that she parted slightly to look at the witch addressing her. Hermione gave a small grin hoping to help the elf relax.

"Oh no, miss it is not you...I is just very much not liking high places....please do not concern yourself with Winky," the elf said with a nervous laugh hastily covering her eyes again. Hermione shared a look with Harry hoping the wizard would also recognise the cruelty of what this, Mr Crouch had done sending an elf who was scared of heights to keep a seat for him. Harry however merely shrugged and gave Hermione a "Well...I tried mate" smile, clearly still only concerned with getting Hermione a seat.

The witch rolled her eyes and continued walking leaving a slightly confused Harry behind as she made her way closer to her end goal. As she got nearer Hermione noted Malfoy and his mother next to him were looking rather concerned that she was heading their way. Draco even had his hand in his jacket no doubt gripping his wand fearing an attack from Hermione perhaps. Hermione tried to pay them no mind and kept walking till she arrived in front of her silvery haired quarry.

"Well...this is a surprise, I hadn't thought we'd be meeting again so soon and here I was just barely recovering from our first encounter. I do hope you're not here to push me out of the top box or something?" Fleur said sarcastically.

"No, I just wanted to say hello...and er... sorry...again," Hermione laughed nervously beginning to play with her hands.

"That is alright 'ermione, perhaps we...how do you English say....took the wrong foot from each other?" Fleur said seeming unsure if that was the right phrase. Hermione giggled as Fleur confused the words slightly but the message was still easily understood and Hermione appreciated it.

"Yes, we did get off on the wrong foot...maybe we can start again?" Hermione asked and Fleur nodded. Hermione stood then in silence a little awkwardly still unsure what to do about her seating arrangement. Fleur looked around suddenly seeming to realise what the problem was.

"Gabrielle, sit on mothers lap," Fleur said softly with a smile though it was clear it was a demand and not a request. Gabrielle did not take kindly to this, however.

"Why don't 'you' sit on mothers lap! This is my seat, I shall not be moved," Gabrielle said sticking her tongue out at her sister and a now very awkward and embarrassed looking Hermione.

"Don't be a little brat... mother tell her..." Fleur began, trying to get her mothers attention. Apolline was busy talking with Minister Fudge who sat on the other side of her and waved a weak annoyed hand at her daughters to quiet them. Hermione quickly cut in wanting to avoid causing a family feud.

"Oh no it's fine I'll just...um stand," Hermione laughed nervously moving over to the edge of the box and looking down before stepping back as she got a little light-headed. Hermione now felt she understood exactly why Winky was so scared. Hermione also wasn't fond of heights and it was rather a big part of the reason she was so unsteady on a broom. Fleur seemed to note Hermione's discomfort and frowned deeply looking ready to speak again but her sister beat her to it.

"If you stand there we will be unable to see past your hair, have you not discovered a thing called a comb?" Gabrielle said giggling and Hermione blushed, Fleur glared at her sister but the little witch seemed unphased and grinned as another thought came to her.

"'ermione...why don't you sit in my sister's lap," Gabrielle suggested her eyes alive with glee her grin growing larger, this earned her yet another deadly look from Fleur.

"I don't think Fleur would appreciate that much... would you?" Hermione said with a chuckle trying to laugh off the suggestion. It was absurd she was going to be fifteen in September, far too old to sit on anyone's, let alone an almost total strangers knee. Fleur, however, looked back to Hermione and softened her expression seeming to actually to be thinking the idea over. Hermione's breath grew a little quicker and she began to blink a little too quickly, her heart rate also increasing drastically under Fleur's gaze.

'Oh don't look at me with those eyes for one second more I'll just die,' Hermione thought biting her lip.

"Well...I suppose it might be okay... if you sit a little to the side of course, so I can still see the match. I like your hair 'ermione but it is as my sweet sister suggests... a tad big. Besides this is only fair, as I already used you like a seat yesterday remember? I can only hope I'm as comfortable to sit upon as you were," Fleur said with an odd little smile that made Hermione go weak at the knee as she recalled how Fleur had straddled her in the mud the day before. That memory and feeling of Fleur pressing down on her did nothing to calm Hermione's nerves and she struggled to reply.

"Okay...um...that's....okay," Hermione rambled her voice almost cracking as she moved to sit on Fleur's knee, unsure she really should but saw no other alternative and her legs were like jelly and she couldn't stand for even another second. Hermione felt her heart thundering in her chest and could've sworn the heat in the top box had been turned up to insane degrees out of nowhere. Gabrielle giggled and said something in french under her breath as Hermione seated herself and shifted around slightly so Fleur would be able to see past her wild hair.

"What did she say?" Hemione questioned with a shy smile.

"She says I make a better seat than I do a witch....how very clever she thinks she is," Fleur said rolling her eyes before giving Gabrielle a small pinch on the arm earning a furious glare that made Fleur smile.

"I'm sorry....you can't really be happy about this but I'm very grateful, it was a long climb up those stairs and my legs felt like they were on fire," Hermione laughed and Fleur grinned at her.

"Well I don't mind being used as a seat when my knee is to be occupied by such a derrière as yours 'ermione," Fleur said looking Hermione up and down appreciatively for a moment before giving a little sigh and Hermione felt her cheeks burn with the fire of a thousand suns. 'What is it with witches and their sudden fixation with my rear!' Hermione wondered eyes going a little wide. Gabrielle snorted and again said something in French which Fleur replied to also in her own native tongue and her little sister pouted then folded her arms falling silent.

"...'ermione? your friend, the one who glares at me, she doesn't seem pleased at these seating arrangements," Fleur whispered into Hermione's ear leaning forward giggling. Hermione turned her head slightly using her hair as curtain she could see Ginny was indeed looking over arms crossed a disgruntled look on her face.

"I think she's worried you might be plotting your revenge for the whole mud thing," Hermione said groaning as she wished for a way to somehow send a signal to Ginny that everything was okay. Hermione groaned again as she realised Harry and Ron were also now looking over at her.

"Um...Harry, what on earth is Hermione doing?" Ron asked as he finally took notice of her absence and spied her sitting on Fleurs lap his eyes going wide.

"I honestly haven't got a clue," Harry said laughing as he flashed Hermione a puzzled look followed by an uncertain smile trying to ascertain if she was alright. Hermione smiled at him awkwardly as he mouthed the words 'you okay' and Hermione nodded quickly and the wizard turned away laughing to himself.

"Excuse me Miss Delacour but a word to the wise, you don't want 'that' filth touching you...she's a mudblood," Draco Malfoy said jumping into the conversation out of nowhere sneering at Hermione. Gabrielle let out a gasp eyes wide blinking rapidly up at Fleur and then biting her lip as she saw the unbridled rage there. Hermione found herself dramatically grabbing the french witches hand getting ready to try to restrain and calm the girl. Fleur looked at Hermione's hand for a moment and looked up back up at the witch seeming unsure what to say but she did give a tiny smile to Hermione before turning on Malfoy.

"You were telling me what a good flyer you were before, yes? Well, let me tell you this little boy! another word comes pouring out of your idiot mouth and we'll all see just how well you can fly," Fleur spoke harshly eyes dancing with cold fury as she suddenly nodded towards the edge of the top box and it was clear to all present what she was insinuating. Malfoy who looked like he'd just been slapped around the face, swallowed hard and shrank back into his seat.

"Are you threatening my son?" Narcissa Malfoy snapped standing up abruptly.

"This was no threat...it was a promise," Fleur said smiling seeming to delight in the shock in the outraged Narcissa's eyes.

"You listen here, you foreign filth..." Narcissa began but fell silent as the witch on the other side of Fleur who Hermione had surmised was her mother stood up herself and eyed Narcissa venomously.

"Think very carefully before you say anything else it may be the last time you have a tongue to speak," Apolline Delacour said her accent almost as thick as her daughters was also somehow extremely menacing and Hermione felt like her heart had almost stopped as she'd spoke.

"Ladies please I'm not sure what's happened here but let's try to get along, shall we? After all the world cup is all about strengthing international wizarding relations..." Minister Fudge began trying to laugh off this very tricky situation but Narcissa Malfoy wasn't having any of it.

"You used to have a spine Minister but now a semi-strong gust of hot air blows and it almost buckles you...well don't worry we shan't trouble you further...Draco, come along let's find some seats with less rift raft about them...My husband will hear of this Minister...enjoy the match," Narcissa said striding off towards the stairs Malfoy following her giving Hermione a dirty look before he left.

"At last I could not stand these people...that boy was trying it on with me since the moment I sat down...droning on about an inane list of achievements if I had to hear much more I'd have thrown myself onto the pitch," Fleur said sighing seeming rather nonplused with everything that had just happened.

"You behave, young lady, no more outbursts," Apolline said, eyeing Hermione with a raised eyebrow having only now seemed to notice a strange little witch she'd never seen before was sitting on her daughter's knee. Apolline shook her head deciding to not question the situation before taking her seat in bemusement.

"You could take one of that boy's families seats now if you wish 'ermione," Fleur said sounding a little crestfallen. Hermione looked at the empty seats considering it but then shook her head.

"If it's alright with you I'd like to keep my current seat...I'm very comfortable....besides I don't want to catch some disease by touching the same surface as a Malfoy," Hermione said with a small laugh and Fleur beamed at her.

"Very well, stay where you are then 'Ermione," Fleur said. Apolline Delacour said something in French to her daughters then and both Fleur and Gabrielle looked upset. A back and forth ensued between mother and daughter as the three appeared to fight about something Hermione had a sinking feeling she was the topic of discussion but then she heard Malfoys name repeated and they seemed to rapidly discuss him for awhile. Eventually, Gabrielle let out an angry cry of frustration at what their mother was saying and began to speak in English again.

"But Mother the things this boy said to 'ermione he was in need of a..." Gabrielle didn't get to say what Draco Malfoy was in need of as Ludo Bagman's booming voice echoed around the stadium and drowned her out.

"I GIVE YOU THE BULGARIAN MASCOTS THE VEELA!" bagman shouted to thunderous applause and cheering.

"Oh, it's starting!" Fleur said excitedly giving Hermione a little squeeze around the middle before nodding toward the pitch. Hermione looked down and saw some of the most beautiful women that had ever befallen her eyes walking onto the pitch.

'Wait...that Silvery-hair,' Hermione thought furrowing her brow before a lightbulb blinked on in her mind as so often happened to the clever witch and she looked around at Fleur wide-eyed.

"You're..." Hermione whispered biting her lip unable to complete her sentence as Fleurs little smirk took her breath away.

"I could tell you were clever 'ermione, I know what you think and you're almost correct but I'm afraid I'm only a quarter Veela....I hope that doesn't disappoint you? Maybe you were eager to tell your friends about how you once sat on the knee of a full-blooded Veela perhaps?" Fleur said laughing.

"No...I...you don't really turn into a bird-like creature when mad or anything?" Hermione asked sounding a tad worried.

"No, that is a full blood trait...If I had the ability I think you would've found out about it after that little accident of yours yesterday," Fleur said with a giggle. Hermione gave a nervous chuckle before another worry took hold of her.

"You're not...I mean...you're not charming me right now are you?" Hermione asked concerned that maybe the witch was using another trait of the Veela to perhaps draw Hermione to her for some unknown purpose.

"Do you feel charmed?" Fleur asked laughing again.

"Well... in a certain sense...that is to say...er...I mean...is it awfully hot in here or is it just me," Hermione sighed as she got a little flushed and began to ramble Fleur's gaze and sweet smile had made her lose her train of thought.

"I don't think my Veela blood effects you 'ermione....I mean you would be acting like your friends right now," Fleur said with a nod towards Harry and Ron who were both being held back by Ginny as they tried to do hand stands and other ridiculous acts at the very edge of the box. Hermione rolled her eyes, wizards could be such fools sometimes. Hermione had read a little about Veela and knew that often people caught in the thrall of their charms would act out and try to show off in order to gain the creature's favour.

"They'll be okay in a moment don't worry 'ermione....ah here come the Irish!" Fleur said cheering as the Irish team took the pitch their own mascots a group of Leaprchauns flying about the stadium tossing gold coins at the crowd. Soon the mascots of both teams took their spots at opposite sides of the pitch and the match began. World cup level quidditch was not at all like the high school amateur level Hermione was used to. This stuff was brutal and took place at a blinding speed it was almost hard to watch at times. Hermione found herself reaching for Fleurs hand several times as players collided, crashed or flew into the ground pulling her hand away hastily each time she found herself doing such a thing as Fleur just grinned. Eventually, Hermione overcame her concerns and got swept up in all the excitement bounding off Fleurs knee at one stage to cheer as Ireland pulled ahead with an amazing goal. The Irish were in high spirits and began to sing Hermione even joined in during the chorus of the traditional folk song.

'Low lie, The Fields Of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly'

Hermione suddenly remembered she wasn't on her own and turned to gauge Fleur and her sister's reaction to her singing the pair didn't seem to know the song but they clapped as Hermione made her way back to sit on Fleurs knee. A little while later it was clear Bulgaria would not be catching up with Ireland goals wise and Victor Krum decided to end the match before the point margin got any worse managing to catch the snitch and ensure that his team would finish a respectable ten points behind of Ireland. The noise in the stadium was unlike anything Hermione had ever heard she had to cover her ears eventually for fear of going deaf.

"Now that was exhilarating," Fleur said as she moved to stand and Hermione got up off her knee though she was loathe to leave her comfortable position. The stadium began to empty and Hermione felt her heart sinking not just due to her having to leave Fleur but the words of Pansy Parkinson suddenly returned to her mind.

"Are you okay 'ermione? This is only goodbye for now...I wasn't joking when I said I would see you again...I hope you will be a gracious host come September," Fleur said with a wink, taking a hold of a somewhat sleepy Gabrielle and picking her up to carry her back to her tent.

"What's happening though...why are coming to Hogwarts?" Hermione called after the witch.

"That's a surprise....jusqu'à ce que je te revois, 'ermione," Fleur called before following her mother down the stairs Gabrielle now dosing with her head on the witches shoulder.

"Now 'that' was Quidditch! Krum was outstanding wasn't he...even though it was a lost cause he battled on till the end and got his side a noble defeat" Ron said moving past Hermione hitting her a little clap on the back. Hermione snorted at Ron's way of taking this victory somehow still managing to find a way to use it to make his idol look flawless even after a loss.

"You okay Hermione...that girl you were with... she's not the french witch you were on about was she? She didn't hold you, hostage, the whole match or something?" Harry asked as he too walked over to her smiling.

"No...we got on very well actually," Hermione said with a small grin.

"Oh yes, we could see that alright," Ginny said a little snappily pushing past Harry and heading after Ron.

"Ginny?" Hermione questioned perplexed at her tone but the girl did not look around.

"Probably just tired...she had to listen to Ron fanboy over Krum the entire match," Harry said giving Hermione a little playful nudge to knock her out of her sudden quiet mood.

"Come on we better get after them," Harry began but stopped as Hermione grabbed his arm frowning deeply.

"Harry...I need to tell you something and then I want your help talking to Ron's dad about it," Hermione said taking a deep breath hoping Harry would hear her out about what Pansy had said and maybe they'd all get away from whatever the Slytherin thought was going to happen.

******

"I don't know Hermione...the word of one girl isn't really enough to go hunting through the entire camp for strange goings-on, especially not at this hour. If anything were to happen it would be dealt with quickly there's lots of security around. I'm sure this Pansy was just trying to scare you, I know its unfair to tar all Slytherins with the same brush but I must say I haven't encountered one yet who wasn't an apt liar." Arthur Weasley said squeezing Hermione's shoulder.

He'd stopped to talk with Harry and Hermione on the bridge. Hermione had a tricky time getting Harry to take her seriously but he had eventually given in and agreed to help her speak to Arthur. Harry had seemed to think Pansy was talking rubbish but had relented when he'd noted the fear in Hermione's eyes. A sudden series of bangs and what sounded like shouting and laughing coming from across the river cut through the night air and Hermione felt her heart skip a beat.

"The Irish going at the old fire whiskey a bit too hard nothing to worry about I'd say," Arthur said trying to reassure Hermione and Harry as he caught sight of their dismayed faces. However and even louder bang followed and a sudden flash of flame shot high into the air and in an instant screaming and cries for help began to ring out. As many as twenty tents appeared to catch fire and numerous flashes of green and red light shot all around the camp.

Then Hermione saw them a large group of about thirty people hooded and masked walking through the camp hexing people and blasting tents out of their way. The muggle family who ran the campsite were hovering above them being spun in the air at great speed. Hermione covered her mouth trying to cry out. Harry took a hold of her arm and squeezed it tight already beginning to pull her away.

"Pansy was right...she tried to save me..." Hermione muttered more to herself than Harry or Mr. Weasley but Harry seemed to hear and looked unable to believe it.

"Merlin...No but this can't be! Harry, Hermione! get into the woods! I need to find the others! stay together, I'll find you both I promise, Harry no heroics! Hermione, you're in charge," Arthur shouted drawing his wand and sprinting across the bridge towards the shouting.

"Why are you always in charge?" Harry grumbled as he looked at Hermione shaking his head.

"Oh, we'll fight about that later come on!" Hermione shouted and the pair ran into the woods as explosions screaming and sounds of spells being shot through the air slowly began to fade behind them.

Chapter Text

The waves battered Azkaban with such ferocity and frequency it seemed almost as if they were guided by the hand of some unseen force. A force that perhaps knew what manner of evil was housed there and sought to see it sink into the murky depths of the North Sea and be lost to all memory so that its inhabitants might do no harm to anyone ever again.

This was what ran through the mind of Augustus Solace as he first set foot on the bleak miserable rock that housed the wizarding prison he had been sent to inspect. The phrase 'abandon all hope ye who enter here' also sprang to mind. Azkaban was like a place born from the foulest darkest nightmares imaginable. An enchantment meant the island was covered in a thick fog all year round with heavy cloud cover which allowed for no sunlight this aided the island in remaining hidden from muggle eyes and gave the Dementors ideal working conditions. Ever since the escape of Sirius Black, the Dementors had been reinforced with wizarding staff, however as they were no longer deemed capable of running everything without someone keeping a watch over the 'watchdogs' as it were.

Augustus had been in favor of having the entire prison being taken over by Arours and having the foul Dementors rounded up and sealed away in a ministry facility for study and perhaps eventual destruction. This hadn't gone over with the rest of the ministry so nothing came of it in the end.

"I'll need the glasses Mr. Solace," Dr. Myers said extending a hand to Augustus pulling the wizard out of his internal musings about the prison.

"What on earth for?" Mr. Solace said eyes going wide a disgruntled look spreading across his face. He disliked walking the halls of Azkaban enough as it was, never mind needing to do so while barely being able to see where he was going.

"With glasses, this witch could kill you," Dr. Myers said bluntly in a rather bored tone as if this was something the wizard in front of him should have expected and just accepted without question. Augustus Solace was missing the biggest night in Quidditch on top of having to visit this hell hole. Now he was being informed the prisoner he had to inspect sounded like they were so high risk that at least three other inspectors should've been present. The law was the law however and he had to do his job so here Augustus was soldiering on as always, besides perhaps the good doctor was exaggerating.

"How would she even..." Augustus began but was rudely cut off by Dr. Myers before he could question his earlier statement.

"She could take the frame, twist it and stick you right in your...well let's not get into it, shall we?" The Doctor said with a small cough and very false smile. Augustus decided he wasn't overly fond of this Doctor, Azkaban did funny things to people, the new staff as well as the prisoners it appeared.

"Listen she's vicious, barking mad, extremely dangerous even without a wand, no sharp or metallic objects are to be allowed in the same room as her. There was an incident with a spoon you see...poor girl lost an eye...but ah less said about that the better," Dr. Myers continued, shaking his head and Augustus relented and handed over his spectacles at last. The next moment the wizard was jumping and Augustus leaned back against a wall as a large rat scurried past heading down the narrow hall, Dr. Myers didn't even seem to register its presence as he tucked Augustus's glasses away in his pocket for safekeeping.

"You alright Mr. Solace?...you seem a little out of sorts...well I suppose this is your first time on the island. Anyway, what was I saying...oh yes nothing sharp...this prisoner has a fascination with knives and blades....of course, I'm sure you've read the reports about her various escape attempts," Dr. Myers said casually as they began walking again.

"Honestly, you'd think there weren't even Dementors around here, the way you speak about her...don't they keep her in line?" Augustus asked starting to regret agreeing to this inspection after all. Perhaps the ministry had less control over this prison than he had been led to believe. It seemed maybe Mad-eye or someone better equipped for this kind of hands-on inspection should've been sent.

"Dementors only work on those of us with a conscience Mr. Solace, the witch you are about to meet knows nothing of guilt or regret. I've spent years trying to reach her but you must understand sir, there's nothing inside anymore...well nothing that I'd care to call human anyway. If I'd had my way she would have been given the kiss years ago," Dr. Myers said coldly and Augustus shivered at the hate that flashed across the man's face as he spoke.

"They tell me you keep her blindfolded and her hands in shackles at all times?" Augustus asked wanting to enquire about this before entering the witches cell to ensure all the correct security measures were in place.

"Yes, she's rather gifted at wandless nonverbal magic if she were allowed to make eye contact with someone for too long... got in their head with an Imperio or...well let's not think about that, shall we. Normally Dementors leave prisoners in such a state of misery and fear they can't function well enough to sit upright never mind cast nonverbal magic...but as I mentioned before sir...Dementors don't work on crazy," Dr. Myers said gesturing towards the cell door next to him as they came to a stop. Swallowing hard Augustus moved to step inside however just as his hand touched the heavy iron cell door a bell began ringing out the sound echoing all around the prison.

"What the hell is this? No, it can't be!" Dr. Myers cried out furiously eyes bulging.

"What's the matter? Whys the bell ringing?" Augustus asked not liking any of this one little bit and searching around in his jacket for his wand which he seemed to have misplaced. There was a sudden drastic change in temperature and the prison which had been freezing began to warm up and Augustus could no longer see his breath in front of his face.

"That bell is for the Dementors you know as well as I, it only rings when they are being summoned by the ministry... but why are they taking them now! Why wasn't I informed! This is madness!" The Doctor shouted slamming his fist against the cell door in fury. Laughter, wails of anguish, delirious babbling and screams joined the bell. It seemed prisoners normally kept docile due to fear of the dementors regained apart of their minds with the absence of the creatures and we're reacting to the sudden unpleasant realisation of where they were.

The cacophony was maddening, Augustus wished to dive from the nearest window feeling he'd rather take his chances with the sea than stay with the lunatics in the prison. Augustus was contemplating a less insane means of escape when he heard running feet and looked around to see a pink-haired witch running towards them. For a moment Augustus thought she was an inmate and backed away tripping over his own feet.

"Get back! Doctor do something! I can't find my wand! you'll have to take her!" Augustus cried but Dr. Myers rolled his eyes grabbed the wizard and pulled him back to his feet.

"Get it together you fool she's an Auror!" Dr. Myers said shaking Augustus harshly before turning to face the pink-haired witch.

"Nymphadora whats the meaning of this?" Dr. Myers asked.

"The world cup is under attack! Looks like some bloody death eaters decided to get drunk and go on a rampage! Fudge has called for the dementors to help round them up. The Aurors office tried to stop him but the damn fool wouldn't listen...we could deal with those masked idiots ourselves now we'll have to keep a load of bloody dementors from kissing any innocent bystanders instead." The pink-haired witch said looking furious.

"Thanks for the information Nymphadora...I suppose you need to speak with your superiors...well on you go then," Dr. Myers said shaking his head. The pink-haired witch nodded and took off running again no doubt to head to the courtyard of the prison the one spot in which apparition was possible on the island.

"Right I need to speak to Fudge see what that fool is playing at make him see sense...Mr. Solace I think it best if you leave this inspection for another time and..." Dr. Myers was cut off then as a shrill manic cackle sounded from behind them. Augustus felt his blood run cold as if a dementor had just come floating right up behind him.

"Oh, dear...shall I take it that I am not to be getting released early then? My what an awful shame...maybe you could skip procedure just this once doctor, for little old me..." A female voice said in a sickeningly sweet tone that was laced with an undercurrent of icy fury.

Augustus felt like his heart had stopped as he turned to find a dark-haired witch in tattered robes twirling her wild hair with her wand, eyes bulging with both malice and glee as she stepped from the shadows. Barefoot, pale, shrunken faced and looking like a woman who'd never been fed there was still admittedly a terrible dark beauty to the woman before Augustus. At present, the witch did look like she'd been pulled through a hedge backward such was her state of ruin but she didn't seem to care all that much as a grin full of wicked intent spread across her lips.

'You'd rather like to steal a kiss from me...wouldn't you inspector," the witches sing-song voice echoed in Agustuses mind as his eyes locked with her dark hypnotic ones as she began to edge forward.

"She's in my head!" Augustus cried in horror grabbing Doctor Myers arm unable to look away from the approaching woman.

"Don't look her in the eye fool its a form of Legilimency!" The doctor cried and Augustus shut his eyes tight.

"Bellatrix...how did you get out of your cell! that wand! how did you...never mind! stop this at once!" Dr. Myers shouted and began drawing his own wand from his robes but he was sent flying backward as Bellatrix give a quick effortless twist of her wrist. Dr. Myers was lifted back into the cold stone wall his head smashing against it hard and he fell to the floor, out cold his left leg twitching. Bellatrix cackled again and spun around in a circle giving her robes a twirl, looking very much like a child at play.

After a moment she stopped brought her wand to her mouth and let her tongue run along it at a painstakingly slow pace her eyes alive with joy she shuddered with pleasure. Eyes bludging, nostrils flaring, breast heaving, she looked like she was on the verge of ecstasy!

"Oh, I've missed you, sweetheart...I hope those awful ministry types kept their filthy mudblood loving hands off you, It's okay your back with mummy now...oh whos a good girl! you! yes, you are!" Bellatrix said kissing the wand at its tip speaking like certain witches presented with a puppy or kitten often did. Augustus tried to slowly back away from Bellatrix daring not to even breath, Bellatrix appeared so enraptured with her wand Augustus thought for a fleeting moment there was a chance of escape. There wasn't.

"Hold it...as for you dear inspector..." Bellatrix said aiming her wand at the slowly retreating wizard before she skipped over to the shaking man who shrank back against the cell door he was standing in front of slowly falling to his knees.

"Oh yes, that's a good boy right where you belong....now then you're going to tell me everything I want to know aren't you?" Bellatrix said dawning a sickeningly sweet babyish tone again that made Augustus shudder as he nodded.

"Very good...now, where is the world cup being held! Curcio!" Bellatrix roared the torture curse immediately after her question not even allowing for time to answer. She howled with laughter and then danced around a quivering Mr. Solace as he lay on the ground crying out in anguish.

"Sorry, I'm a bit out of practice... let them answer, then torture...silly me...now, where is the world cup being held!" Bellatrix snapped placing her barefoot on Augustus's throat glaring down at him chest heaving again as her eyes swam with pleasure and excitement at the mayhem she had planned for when she vacated this godforsaken rock!

*******

"Tonight went rather well for you didn't it?" Gabrielle said sleepily into her sister's ear just as they were arriving back at their tent after the match. Gabrielle had been half sleeping in her sister's arms but the noise of the camp, the cheering and drunken celebrations roused her and she was now seeming alert, full of energy and mischief once again.

"What are you talking about now?" Fleur sighed feeling she had an idea where this was going but didn't have the energy to really fight so decided to indulge her little sister.

"You found 'Bushy' again so soon...and you even got to have her sit on your knee...Oh là là..."Gabrielle said with a giggle comically shifting her eyebrows up and down and Fleur groaned.

"She is called 'ermione not 'Bushy' as you well know... and I was just being friendly, do not make more of it," Fleur said a little snappily and Gabrielle snorted.

"You do not fool me, Fleur Delacour, you think because I'm only eight I do not see the way of things but I do," Gabrielle said smiling widely at her sister's irritation. Fleur narrowed her eyes at the devilish little witch.

"You don't know half as much as you think you do," Fleur said a little frostily, Gabrielle grinned delighting in her ability to get under her sister's skin.

"Well...that still means I know twice as much as you," Gabrielle said softly and Fleur rolled her eyes. The little witch always had a clever answer for everything so wise beyond her years. Fleur couldn't get too mad at this as once again her sister was just reminding her of her own smart mouth at that age.

Fleur soon set Gabrielle down on a stool and placed herself down next to her as they waited for their mother to come back out of the tent with some hot drinks. Though Gabrielle was tired and ready for bed when she had heard Fleur and her mother discussing the possibility of some hot chocolate before bed she had insisted on being allowed to stay up and drink it with them as they watched the stars for a while and listened to the Irish celebrate.

"I quite like 'Bushy' myself you know...she is sort of shy and awkward... it's rather adorable...not like these other arrogant English we have met...that Malfoy and his stuck up mother," Gabrielle said her face souring as she recalled the unpleasant interaction.

"I couldn't believe my ears when that boy called 'ermione that foul name...I should have thrown him over the side of the box right away," Fleur said crossing her arms and Gabrielle grinned at her sister's ferocity.

"If I was a little bigger I would've helped you do it," Gabrielle said and the pair laughed again.

"Careful, keep your voice down...you heard what mother said at the match...she doesn't want to hear of us fighting with Hogwarts students again or it might damage my chances of competing," Fleur said suddenly stopping her laughter and straightening up.

"Mother also said not to get so close with 'ermione and that you should keep your mind on the task before you...are you going to listen to that part too?" Gabrielle asked sarcastically already knowing the answer. Fleur's cheeks went a little pink she decided not to acknowledge her sister in the hopes she would drop this subject.

Luckily for Fleur a moment later, Apolline Delacour exited the tent three mugs floating in front of her held in the air by a spell the witch cast from her raised wand.

"Now be careful they are very hot," Apolline said as her daughters reached for a mug each however just as the tips of their fingers touched the warm mugs a series of screams and loud bangs sounded from the other side of the river. This unexpected racket made Apolline momentarily lose concentration of her spell and the three mugs crashed too the ground spilling their hot beverages.

This was much to the upset of Gabrielle who looked like she wanted to cry and hit something at the same time. Fleur, on the other hand, was drawing her wand, face wide with fear as she looked across the river and saw the horror that was unfolding there. A large group of masked and hooded figures moving through the camp in formation hexing and destroying everything in their path.

"Fleur take your sister and get into the woods now!" Apolline said her face a mixture of shock and outrage as she viewed the masked figures.

"Mother!" cried Gabrielle seeming dismayed that Apolline was evidently not coming with herself and Fleur but instead was taking steps toward the bridge looking ready to fight.

"Don't worry Gabrielle your sister will take good care of you, I will see you again in no time at all," Apolline said smiling sweetly at Gabrielle before rushing back to her dropping to her knees briefly to hug the witch before standing and kissing Fleur on the forehead.

"Go now, into the woods I know you are ready for this you have trained all summer in defensive magic! I will be with you again soon now go on!" Apolline said pushing Fleur a little forcefully in the direction of the tree line. Apolline turned on her heel and headed toward the bridge ready to cross and fight the approaching masked horde with some other adult witches and wizards who had the same idea by the looks of things.

Fleur wanted to protest, to say she could stay and fight these masked fools too but she glanced at Gabrielle who grabbed her hand at that moment and squeezed as tight as she could and the witch nodded and turned away towards the wood. Fleur's eyes went wide and her heart felt like it might be trying to smash its way out of her chest as she caught sight of a familiar dark-haired boy with glasses and a witch with large wild bushy hair disappearing into the trees across from them.

" 'ermione! Fleur called as loud as she could taking off and pulling Gabrielle along but Hermione and Harry were already gone and did not hear her calls over the noise of the screams and loud bangs that echoed all around the campsite. Fleur let out a gasp as she saw one of the masked rioters sprint into the woods right after Harry and Hermione.

Without really thinking Fleur sent a hex of orange light flying toward what she thought was a man by the way the figure moved but they'd been too quick and her spell crashed into the trunk of a tree and blasted some splinters everywhere. The spells intended job of making the figure's feet turn to stone and leave him stuck there until a counter curse could be cast unfortunately not coming to pass. Fleur shared a quick fearful look with her sister who looked equally afraid in that moment but a second later her eyes were filled with a fierce determination.

"Hurry we have to save Bushy!" Gabrielle cried and it was she who took off leading Fleur by the hand for a change. Fleur couldn't help a small smile even in this most desperate of moments at the sheer bravery of her sister. No, there would be no tears from Gabrielle Delacour she had a way of just being able to adapt to things better than anyone Fleur had ever met and the witch felt herself swelling with pride that she was her blood. Of course, Fleur would never confess such a thing to her sister aloud or she might never hear the end of it!

'We're coming 'ermione just hold on!' Fleur thought as herself and Gabrielle ducked under a branch and entered the woods.

*******

"Lumos!" Hermione said harshly finally giving in and igniting herself and Harry's path. Hermione had wished to avoid using magic but this was getting ridiculous. Herself and Harry had been stumbling around into each other and tripping over fallen branches and tree roots for far too long and Hermione couldn't take it anymore. There would surely be an exception made about the whole no magic outside of school rule in the case of being caught in a riot Hermione reasoned. Harry joined her in lighting their path a second later gripping his own wand tightly.

"Was it me or was someone calling your name for a while back there?" Harry said taking deep breaths trying to recompose himself after all the running.

"Sorry Harry but all I heard was screaming...you don't think Ginny or someone was trying to catch up with us?" Hermione asked biting her lip worried that she'd left her best friend behind. It had been weighing on Hermione's mind ever since the match had finished that there was something up with Ginny and that she'd done something to upset her. Hermione couldn't bear the thought of something happening to Ginny or any of the others especially not while the last time they'd spoken had been so frosty.

"It was a witch I think...but I dunno... there was loads of people shouting all sorts, maybe I imagined it," Harry said shaking his head.

"Do you think we should head straight through back to the stadium or... maybe wait here? We don't want to get too far from camp what if Ron and the others can't find us again?" Harry said looking eager to actually head back the way he and Hermione had just come from. Hermione could sense his eagerness to run towards the fight and admired his bravery but couldn't abide the recklessness of such an act so decided to put that idea right out of the boys head instantly and grabbed his arm to pull him along with her deeper into the woods.

"We'll just keep going and put as much distance between those rioters and ourselves as we can. I know you'd like nothing more than to run back there and blast those stupid masks off their faces but neither of us has the dueling skills required and we'd both be killed! so you'll just come along with me Harry Potter! Absolutely no heroics you heard Mr. Weasley!" Hermione said dawning her most strict professor style tone trying to not let her voice crack and appear braver than she currently felt. Harry who had looked ready to argue instead just let out a deep breath and nodded though Hermione could still sense his discomfort with this plan.

"Alright Hermione...you're in charge we'll do this you're way," Harry sighed and Hermione gave him a small thankful grin. They walked through the trees in silence for a time sometimes flinching at the sound of distant bangs and screams. There were crows cawing or perhaps they were ravens but whatever they were they seemed to be flying overhead driven from the trees by the battle that was raging below. Most people found the cawing of crows unsettling but Hermione was oddly cheered by the sound. Hermione's spirits didn't stay high however as the witch kept getting the awful feeling there was someone behind her. She had to grab Harry's arm for comfort which made the wizard look rather awkward for a second but he gave a nervous smile and they kept walking. Awhile later and Hermione still felt eyes on her and whispered to Harry to voice her concerns.

"I think we should extinguish our wands...I...just... I think there's someone following us!" Hermione whispered and Harry looked uncertain. Next moment they both looked around abruptly as the sound of branch breaking behind them perked up both their ears and the pair ducked into a bush to hide as someone came running toward them through the darkness. Harry and Hermione extinguished their wands and fell as still as they could Harry held Hermione close trying to soothe her nerves as the witch trembled against him. They heard yet more telltale signs of someone moving around nearby, footsteps and twigs and leaves crunching underfoot.

"Could it be Mr. Weasley...or maybe just someone else fleeing the riot?" Harry whispered to Hermione wanting to peek out of the bush to check but Hermione pulled him back down covering his mouth and shaking her head. Hermione cautiously pointed toward a small gap in the bush and had Harry look through. Hermione saw anger and fear grip the boy the same way it had done to her moments before when she'd spied the figure in the metal mask searching around a nearby clearing, looking for them. Harry raised his wand taking aim but Hermione grabbed his arm and shook her head. Harry looked mutinous but relented as Hermione's eyes broke him and he settled for watching the hooded masked man from their position of safety hoping he would move off any second.

" 'ermione? are you there?" a familiar voice whispered through the darkness from the left side of the bush Hermione and Harry were in. Hermione's heart felt like it had leaped into her mouth and herself and Harry shared a wide-eyed look. They had to do something before the masked man heard her!

"Fleur?" Hermione whispered desperately, sticking her head out of the bush and looking all around bringing her finger up to her lips to make the international sign for 'silence' as her eyes fell on the french witch who's silvery hair was illuminated in the pale moonlight, her younger sister next to her. The pair were ducked behind a fallen dead tree. Fleurs eyes looked alive with joy at having spotted Hermione and she and her sister moved toward the bush she was in while staying very low.

"There's one of those masked freaks just over there be very quiet," Hermione said just before Fleur through her arms around the girl squeezing her insanely tight. Gabrielle and Harry just shared an awkward glance not sure what to do with themselves as the witches embraced.

"How did you find me?" Hermione whispered raising an eyebrow as Fleur finally pulled back.

"Our mother told us to flee into the woods, I just happened to catch sight of you before you ran in here and I tracked you with Gabrielle...we saw this masked fool follow you and tried to keep pace with him he lead us right to you," Fleur said glancing out of the bush and spying the masked wizard who was kicking some bushes now, desperately looking for Hermione and Harry it seemed. He finally growled out in fury and took off running, Hermione dared to stick her head out of the bush to watch him disappear deeper into the forest.

"I think he's gone," Hermione whispered and she stood up helping Fleur up with her and they all stepped out of the bush.

"How long were you two alone in this bush?" Gabrielle asked a cheeky smile on her lips as she looked at Harry and Hermione and the pair blushed deeply though it was hard to tell as they were only lit by moonlight at present.

"Gabrielle! This is not the time for your foolishness!" Fleur said a little snappily seeing where her younger sister was going and wanting to cut her off right away.

"Well then..What should we do now...we saved Bushy and...um...what is your name?" Gabrielle asked tugging on Harry's sleeve and the wizard blinked down at her seeming to be confused at the little witches having referred to Hermione as 'Bushy'. Hermione also furrowed her brow at that and looked to Fleur expectantly seeking some kind of answer but Fleur gave Hermione a 'Don't ask' look and Hermione just sighed.

"I'm...Harry...Harry Potter," Harry said shifting around awkwardly as Fleur and Gabrielle both went wide-eyed.

" 'Arry Potter...I knew it! I have seen your picture a thousand times in the paper these last few years, I was sure I knew you from somewhere!...my 'ermione you have some mighty friends," Fleur said grinning at the witch and giving her a little playful nudge.

"Oh...well Harry's not 'that' mighty," Hermione said giving a small laugh as Harry looked very uncomfortable at the attention he was receiving as Gabrielle, in particular, looked star-struck eyes glazing over a little as she looked up at the nervous wizard.

"Not mighty?...thanks a whole lot...I see how things are now Hermione," Harry said sarcastically trying to laugh off the situation and pretend he wasn't aware of Gabrielle's stare.

"I just meant...oh do shut up Harry! We don't have time for this! we need to move! maybe it's safe to return to the camp now...quickly before that wizard comes back!" Hermione said getting a tad flustered feeling everyone had gotten very sidetracked and was no longer taking their dire situation seriously.

"Yes, okay 'ermione...I think we should head...this way..." Fleur said taking charge seeming to pick a direction at random and Hermione frowned as she was supposed to be the leader but fell into step next to the witch and Harry and Gabrielle followed.

"Who are those creeps in the masks anyway...is this what Pansy was on about? She knew these scumbags were here?" Harry asked after a little while of silent walking. Hermione stopped to answer but one particularly shrill scream had been carried their way through the trees and she closed her mouth again. Hermione swallowed hard that scream had sounded closer than the others, maybe they were getting close to more rioters. fleur raised her wand cautiously as did Harry and Hermione followed suit and they began walking slowly again.

"I think they're Death Eaters...or what's left of them anyway," Hermione said after a moment finally drawing her eyes away from the direction of the scream. Fleur stopped to covered her mouth but Harry and Gabrielle just looked bewildered.

"Death Eaters?" Harry asked his eyes alive with furious curiosity.

"The followers of Vol..." Hermione tried to say the name but flinched however as she saw Harry's gaze and as Fleur gripped her arm she acquired a newfound strength. If Harry could say the name without issue then so could she, you're a Gryffindor remember? Hermione told herself and she continued with her explanation.

"They're Voldemorts followers...or at least the ones who managed to avoid Azkaban or execution," Hermione said darkly. Fleur shuddered, seeming unable to belive Hermione had said the name Gabrielle still looked lost and Hermione reasoned that the witch being so young had been lucky enough to never hear of this dark part of British wizarding history.

"What are these scumbags doing here? they must know this event is swarming with ministry security? seems like they have a wish to get friendly with some Dementors over on Azkaban after all," Harry said snorting angrily.

"I guess they got drunk and a bit wand happy...did you see what they did to those poor muggles who own the land we're camping on? They hate muggles and mudb..." Hermione trailed off unable to finish her eyes welling with tears. Harry stepped forward and pulled her into a gentle hug.

"They're not getting anywhere near you Hermione...don't even think about it," Harry said and the steel in his voice made Hermione straighten up and dry her eyes a great wave of courage crashed over her and she nodded as Harry smiled at her.

"Yes you listen to 'arry, I will hex anyone who comes too close to us into a thousand pieces," Fleur said confidently placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder smiling at her.

"Don't cry 'ermione...my sister is really brave she means every word we are very safe with her!" Gabrielle said taking Hermione's hand and the Gryffindor beamed down at her.

"Oh I can tell...she's very fierce...if she'd gone to Hogwarts she'd probably be a Gryffindor herself," Hermione said eyeing Fleur again and the witch looked a tad bashful.

"Sorry I didn't mean to get upset...it's just I wish we could've done something...those poor people," Hermione said gripping her wand tightly.

"What happened to no heroics," Harry said with a small smirk trying to lighten the mood further.

"Oh do shut up!" Hermione said in mock outrage giving Harry a playful push but deeply pleased that the wizard was here and still able to put a smile on her face. Fleur and Gabrielle shared a little gleeful look at the pairs playfighting both seeming glad to have risen Hermione's spirts again. Just as Hermione was about to suggest they kept moving a voice called out from close by.

"You little maggot! Get back here," the words were growled from Hermione's right and the witch felt herself being pushed up against a tree by Fleur as she forced her to take cover.

"Get away from me! Help!" A female voice cried and Hermione shuddered as she recognised it.

"Parvati Patil?" Harry asked in a low whisper looking to Hermione who nodded confirming Harry's suspicions.

"Come on let's get over there sounds like there's still only one of them you and Fleur take him from the back I'll go around his far side...we hit him with stunners before he can make a move...Um..." Harry stopped his plan as he looked at Gabrielle seeming to have forgotten her name but the little witch came to his aid.

"Gabrielle," The witch whispered smiling at her an odd little look in her eye and Harry grinned back nervously.

"Right! Of course...sorry... just stay here and keep an eye out for anyone else sneaking up on us and shout as loud as you can if you hear anyone, Okay Gabrielle?" Harry said and Gabrielle nodded.

"Well come on you two let's go," Harry whispered again harshly, ducking out from behind the tree and running off before Hermione or Fleur could agree.

"He is a bit mad...no?" Fleur asked looking very unconvinced of this hastily thrown together plan.

"Oh, you have no idea..." Hermione sighed half wanting to slap Harry and hug him at the same time, the bloody reckless brave idiot.

"Well come on I suppose this is the only plan we have.." Fleur shocked Hermione then by grabbing her hand and pulling her out from behind the tree and towards Parvati and the hooded wizard who was stood in front of her laughing now.

"Alright girly where's the boy I saw him come in here with you don't deny it!" The wizard barked taking a step forward.

"I'm alone...I was with my sister but I lost her in the woods...please there was no boy," Parvati cried almost tripping as she backed away.

"Oh, so I'll have to Curcio it out of you eh? Well, I'm honestly happy about that...its been so long since I had the chance to do this," The wizard said raising his wand. Fleur looked at Hermione and they shared a nod and a second later they both cried out 'Stupefy!' and two shots of red light hurtled towards the wizard but the man was quick and dove to the ground so Hermione and Fleurs spell crashed into a tree instead.

"You little brats! I'll tear you apart!" Cried the wizard taking aim at Hermione while still on the ground.

"Expelliarmus!" Harry roared running at the wizard from his left side taking him by surprise and sending his wand high in the air.

"Accio wand!" Fleur shouted and the wizard's wand flew through the air straight towards her and she grabbed it from the air.

"Disarmed by children...I can't believe this! " The wizard spat and stood hastily and turned to Parvati looking like he was going to grab her.

"Get away from her!" a witches voice cried from above him and the masked wizard looked up just in time to see Padma Patil jumping down on top of him from a branch screaming her head off.

"Argh!" The wizard cried out as he was knocked to the ground hitting his head off a rock which both knocked off his mask and made him blackout a large wound appearing on the back of his head. Padma sat up and spat on the unconscious man before being helped up her sister, neither seeming to care much for how badly injured their attacker might be.

"You took your sweet time," Parvati said swallowing hard.

"Oh, that's the thanks I get?... I had to wait until he was in the right position! I'd have nothing to break my fall otherwise," Padma snapped and the sisters glared at each other for a moment before grabbing each other and embracing warmly.

"Never leave me alone again," said Parvati.

"Never!" Agreed Padma.

"Are you two alright!" Harry asked running over to them.

"He didn't hurt you?" Hermione asked as herself and Fleur also headed over Gabrielle running out from behind her tree to also join them.

"No, I think...arhhhhh" Parvati began but screamed as the freshly unmasked wizard grabbed her ankle out of nowhere and pulled her down before leaping to his feet again. He punched Harry hard in the jaw before he could react next rounding on Hermione who froze unable to think of any spell at that moment but somehow found herself slamming her knee into a very sensitive region of the wizard in front of her before he could do anyone else any harm.

"You little..." whined the wizard through gritted teeth before falling to his knees grabbing his crotch eyes watering in pain. Fleur stepped forward and kicked the wizard right in the face sending him back to the ground a few of his teeth flying through the air as he was sparked cleanout once again. Hermione starred wide-eyed equal parts horrified and impressed. Gabrielle gasped and then said something in french while looking to her sister who replied in English.

"Yes well just think about this next time before you make me mad Gabrielle," Fleur said a wicked grin on her face.

"You knocked him out cold...wow," Hermione muttered looking Fleur up and down a strange wild-eyed glee crossing her face.

"No one touches you...remember?" Fleur said taking a hold of Hermione's hand and the Gryffindor shook herself a little and nodded trying to recompose herself.

"Ow..." Harry groaned from the ground and Hermione ran to him and dropped to her knees feeling awful that she'd almost forgotten her friend.

"Oh Harry are you alright...here let me help you," Hermione said helping the wizard up just as Padma was helping Parvati back up.

"Anyone asks...I'm the one who took him down alright?" Harry said laughing as he rubbed his sore jaw.

"Sure thing Harry," Hermione snorted before hugging the boy tight and making him moan.

"Please...gentle," muttered Harry as he tried to recover from the sucker punch and Hermione stepped back, biting her lip.

"Sorry," Hermione said giving him a sympathetic smile.

"So Brave how you stood up to this foul man just now...My hero," Gabrielle sighed dreamily as she rushed to Harry's side and smiled up the boy taking his arm and holding it close making the wizard look liked he'd rather be back on the ground. Hermione tried not to laugh and turned away to look at the Death Eater on the ground.

"No more surprises out of this one," Fleur snapped as she tied up the dark wizard before them with a set of ropes she conjured form her wand.

"Should we just leave him here or... what do we do?" Padma asked looking to Harry.

"Is he dead?" Parvati asked sounding rather hopeful.

"No he still breathes," Fleur said nodding toward the wizard's chest.

"I say we leave him for now and try to get back to camp tell Ron's dad maybe he can get someone to drag this scum off to Azkaban," Harry said breaking free of Gabrielle's grip and stepping over to Hermione and the others.

"Do you hear that? Someone else is coming!" Hermione said turning and raising her wand as Fleur Harry and the Patils did the same.

"Who's there we've got wands on you don't take another step!" Harry called but lowered his wand as he saw who it was that came stepping out of the darkness with her hands up.

"Ginny!" Hermione shouted running toward the girl unable to help herself.

"Hermione!" Ginny cried almost knocking the witch over as she ran at her friend too and threw her arms around her and held her close.

"Ginny! What are you doing here? Um...you...couldn't loosen you're grip...just a little....hard to breathe," Hermione said chuckling.

"Now you know how I feel," Harry called sarcastically as Hermione rolled her eyes at that remark referencing the tight hugs she was known for giving.

"Sorry...I just had to come find you....when Dad said he'd left you to hide in the woods I broke away from the others and came looking for you. Oh, dads going to kill me," Ginny groaned as she stepped back from Hermione. Hermione beamed at her eyes shining with beginnings of tears so thankful that she had such a friend as Ginny Weasley. She'd been worried Ginny had fallen out with her about something after the match after she had marched off out of the stadium in a foul mood.

"I'm glad you're here Ginny," Hermione said a little sniffly.

"Well...had to come rescue my best friend didn't I?" Ginny said with a cheeky grin then.

"I think you'll find my sister did the rescuing," Gabrielle said smugly and Ginny narrowed her eyes at the little witch and then frowned as she spotted a smirking Fleur next to her.

"Of course they'd be here...whats next...is Pansy going to jump from behind that rock over there or something," Ginny muttered shaking her head and Hermione bit her lip trying not to snort in laughter at her friend's annoyance.

"It was a team effort," Harry said wanting to end this trouble before it began.

"Anyway What about me? You came to get me too right, Ginny?" a semi-annoyed sounding Harry asked grinning. Ginny turned to Harry a look on her face that suggested she'd rather forgot he was even there.

"Harry! Um...yeah of course," Ginny said giving Harry a playful shove her tone suggesting that the wizard hadn't been the one in her mind at all when she had run into the woods. Ginny bit her lip nervously and Hermione snorted unable to contain herself any longer.

"Oh that's charming that is...what am I? Chopped liver?" Harry asked sarcastically shaking his head in bemusement.

"Well..I knew you'd be handling things well enough Harry...I really did want to find both of you," Ginny said pouting then dawning some sad eyes that made Harry sigh.

"Fine...whatever...now come on wheres your dad and the others? We really need to get back to them sharpish. There are some of those masked lunatics running about in here and I'd like to get as far from them as possible," Harry said his face become serious again. Ginny swallowed hard and gripped her wand a tad tighter.

"They're some of those freaks in here?" Ginny said lowering her voice now looking all around the clearing.

"Yes we captured one who was attacking these two," Fleur said nodding toward Padma and Parvati before kicking the knocked out wizard at their feet. Ginny's eyes went wide as finally took notice of the wizard on the ground.

"Any idea who he is?" Ginny asked looking down at the wizard.

"No," Hermione said simply taking her first good look at the man, who she had to admit had a sort of rough handsome charm to his face. Hermione shook herself and felt sick as she thought this.

"Hey wait a second...Hermione! It's him the man from the nightmare the one who was speaking with Voldemort," Harry whispered harshly tapping Hermione on the shoulder. Hermione's eyes went wide and her heart kicked into overdrive.

"Are you sure?" Hermione asked trying not to panic.

"What all that whispering you two...stop it please you're scaring me," Parvati said looking a little tense as she eyed Harry and Hermione suspiciously.

"We don't have time to stand here talking we need to..." Fleur began but a loud crack from the clearing behind them stopped her mid-sentence.

"What was that? more Death eaters?" Asked Harry raising his wand again.

"Morsmordre!" A shrill female voice roared her cry sending birds flying from the trees and off into the night sky as the whole area in which Hermione and everyone was standing in was bathed in green light as a huge green skull with a serpent flowing out of its mouth rose high into the air. Across the woods, screams rang out and it was apparent others who had run for cover in the trees were now scrambling off back toward the campsite as whoever it was who had conjured this monstrous symbol began to cackle. A great a Many voices echoed around the woods as people ran for their lives.

"It's him!"

"Run!"

"Merlin save me! no!"

The witch who had conjured the skull appeared to be stark raving mad her laughter seeming to have no end to it as it rang through the forest chilling Hermione to the bone. However, there was eventually another loud crack from her position and silence followed. It seemed birds people and all manner of creature that had been in the woods had fled, save for Hermione and her group.

"She's home! Just as planned, now we're going to have a lot of fun!" A voice cried from behind Hermione and she looked to the ground and saw the death eater they had captured was laying wide-eyed smiling as his eyes were trained unblinkingly on the green skull in the sky, his face dripping with admiration. He seemed rather unconcerned that he was tied up and bleeding from both his head and nose.

"Who the hell are you! What is that thing! What are you talking about?" Harry shouted but a moment later a dozen loud cracks sounded around Hermione and her friend's position.

Various voices cried out curses and jinxes and Hermione felt herself being knocked to the ground as Fleur dove at her and pushed her down shielding her from harm.

"STOP!" THAT'S MY DAUGHTER YOU FOOLS!" Arthur Weasley roared running over to the group lowering his wand and moving to help Ginny up who had evidently grabbed Gabrielle and was also helping her up after having pulled her to safety.

"Ginny what are you doing here! I told you to stay in the tent and..." Arthurs furious voice faded and he looked like he'd seen a ghost as he peered past Ginny at the Death Eater on the ground.

"Barty Crouch...Junior...it can't be." Arthur said slowly raising his wand as the Death Eater before him smiled widely looking rather insane as two of his front teeth were missing having been knocked out by Fleur.

"What did you say Weasley!...I'll have you in chains for mentioning that name...I..." Barty Crouch senior began as he strode over flanked by two wizards Hermione didn't know. His face too twisted and contorted as he viewed the man at his feet.

"Hello daddy," Barty Crouch Junior said mockingly before beginning to laugh.

Chapter Text

Pansy sat on her bed in her tent biting her fingernails as chaos reigned outside. Screams, shouting, spells being roared, it seemed rather distant and not that near the rich side of the campsite at all but the Slytherin was still deftly afraid. Though not for herself or even her parents who had run off telling her to stay inside and not leave, right as the trouble had begun.

'Please be okay Granger, please be okay' Pansy thought in an unending chant that she'd kept repeating in her mind for what seemed hours at this point.

"I'll never say a mean word to her ever again, I'll...shine her shoes...carry her books...comb her bushy hair...anything at all! I'll do anything Merlin! just please be okay..." Pansy said aloud then getting to her feet and beginning to pace around the tent unable to sit still any longer.

"I had such big plans for this year, the dress robes listed on our school lists meant there has to be some kind of social event happening and that meant dancing... I could've asked her... and then...oh please!" Pansy cried again wringing her hands. Pansy looked up as she heard footsteps and Daphne Greengrass suddenly ducked into the Parkinson's tent.

"Daphne?" Pansy cried running over embracing the girl briefly before stepping back.

"Sorry Pansy I just couldn't take being alone in my tent any longer...did your parents leave you too? For once I'm glad Astoria had to visit Saint Mungos and couldn't come with us...oh I hope she's okay," Daphne said shuddering as there was a particularly loud bang from outside. Pansy nodded and took Daphne's arm and led her over to a large sofa so they could sit down.

"I'm sure she's fine the healers know what they're doing...she won't be sorry to have missed this madness I'd say," Pansy said trying to comfort the girl.

"You know at first I thought I'd just smoked too much laughus-leaf, I didn't even think it was a real riot," Daphne said giving a small chuckle.

"You should really lay off that stuff it's doing funny things to your mind...and as for selling it at school..if you get caught..." Pansy began sternly crossing her arms but Daphne cut in quickly to head her off.

"Well I bloody will get caught of you run around shouting about it like that!...it helps me relax Pansy...you know what it's like with my parents forcing me to ace every last exam and test we get or threatening to disown me...I just need something to help...also selling it was just a hobby that got out of hand...but it's a nice little earner and keeps the rest of school from thinking all Slytherins are uptight, snide, devious death Eaters in training.

Also its nice to shake off that whole 'Ice Queen' thing everyone tries to stick me with...Fred Weasley even made a joke about me finally living up to my last name before the end of last year...I felt kind of free after that" Daphne said giving a small laugh and Pansy sighed as she saw how much the way people treated her rather coldly at school up till recently had taken a toll on her friend.

"I'm sorry Daph...its just Malfoy told me you started selling it to him...and I got a bit upset...since when do you talk to him about anything," Pansy muttered and Daphne grinned.

"Jealous are we Pansy?" Daphne questioned biting her lip.

"No! Just disappointed...I thought you knew he was no good, like you always told me...then you're suddenly selling Laughus-Leaf to him...what gives?" Pansy said nudging Daphne.

"Its just business I promise...besides maybe Laughus-Leaf will lighten him up a bit and he'll stop being such a little poncy git," Daphne said and both witches laughed before falling silent as another ominously loud bang sounded from across the river.

"I hope no one is too badly hurt out there," Daphne said beginning to play with her hands.

"You didn't see anyone on your way over here, Daphne? Not Potter...or Granger or anyone?" Pansy asked trying to casually drop Hermione's name without drawing too much attention to the fact.

"No...didn't see anyone from school why'd you ask about Potter and Granger? Why would I be near them? You know I never liked that Granger...all that hair and the teeth...the knobbly knees, that uptight, mouthy, know it all attitude she's a..."

"...Adorable," Pansy sighed before Daphne could finish a dreamy look crossing her face as her eyes glazed over slightly and she seemed to even forget Daphne was there.

"I was going to say nightmare...but...okay...it takes all sorts I guess," Daphne sighed as Pansy shook herself and seemed to come back to reality.

"Sorry..what were we talking about?" Pansy said quickly trying to cover herself.

"Oh, nothing...why don't we..." Daphne didn't get to finish her suggestion as suddenly a great deal of screaming could be heard from outside and the two witches got to their feet and cautiously made their way to the exit of the tent. Upon opening up the flap of the tent a great deal of green light spilled in and Pansy and Daphne gasped as they looked up to see a giant green skull with a serpent in its mouth emblazoned in the night sky.

"Hermione," Pansy muttered fearing the worst instantly, Daphne bit her lip and grabbed Pansy's hand squeezing it tightly.

"I need some more Laughus-Leaf," Daphne said swallowing hard.

*******

Bellatrix apparated away from the forest ceasing her manic laughter and found herself now stood on a hill overlooking a small muggle village. The village was lit by only a few street lamps and the dull glow of the moon through the heavy clouds above. Little Hangleton was quaint, quiet and dull as dishwater, Bellatrix dispised it almost immediately. She stood in silence gathering her thoughts and trying to calm herself after the excitement at the horror and madness she had unleashed upon the world cup. Oh, how the screams had delighted her. That group of so-called Death Eaters that had been having a little reunion of sorts had no doubt fled in terror with the rest of the filth once the Dark Mark had been cast into the sky.

Bellatrix was ecstatic at having been able to put the fear of the Dark Lord into those followers who had escaped a sentence in Azkaban through lies and treachery, most of them never once seeking out their former master. Bellatrix was ashamed that even her dear sweet Cissy appeared to have also failed to keep to the old ways but no matter it was no doubt her fool husbands doing. Lucius would answer for his failings once Bellatrix got within reach of him.

"Perhaps I'll flay him living," Bellatrix muttered aloud allowing a grin to cross her face as she enjoyed the cool summer breeze on her skin. Looking down Bellatrix looked at her bare toes and wiggled them aginst the grass a feeling she'd thought she might never have again, freedom was indeed sweet.

"I'll need some shoes, perhaps the locals will help accommodate me in that department" Bellatrix mused watching her toes for a little while.

If only Cissy was here for this moment it would be perfect, Bellatrix thought her grin fading.

The dark witch had thought of heading to Malfoy Manor to await her dear sister, it had been so long since she'd seen Cissy and the thought of her warm embrace upon escape had been what had kept Bellatrix going on those long cruel dark nights at Azkaban. Cissy had never visited her and though it was likely Bellatrix was too high risk to even be allowed visitors the dark witch again laid the blame for this at the feet of Lucius, whether he was deserving of it or not. What a useless spineless waste of skin that man was, still he did at least serve some purpose as his little riot had for whatever reason caused the Dementors to vacate Azkaban that evening and had greatly aided Bellatrix in her escape.

Perhaps Barty had something to do with that, maybe he'd viewed Lucius as a useful idiot and helped him orchestrate his little riot to get the Dementors attention. It could be that he'd managed to Imperio an important ministry official while at the world cup and had ordered them to bring the Dementors to help stop the riot and taken them away from the prison. Bellatrix would've liked to quell her curiosity about all this but Barty had not been in the agreed meeting place and it looked like he'd failed to find his target. It had been a long shot but there was nothing much to worry about as plan B was still very much open and the preferred method the dark lord wished to pursue. If Barty had been captured there would need to be some alterations but Bellatrix was prepared. As Bellatrix began preparing a little speech for her master her train of thought was broken as she heard laughter from the village.

Bellatrix's face curled into a look of disgust as she viewed two muggles going at it in a telephone box. They'd have to go if she were to walk through the village so with a sharp wave of her wand the glass shattered in the box and the pair inside ran out screaming the boy tripping over his trousers as he tried to pull them back up.

"What the hells happened?" the girl cried adjusting her clothes back into place as she hurried away from the telephone box.

"I told you we should've just gone into the pub toilets!" The boy said finally getting his trousers up. The pair disappeared down the street soon after bickering, they didn't seem like they would be inclined to contact the muggle authorities so it looked like Bellatrix had gotten away with her little reckless act of vandalism.

"Disgusting behavior, not an ounce of class these muggles...I've done this village a public service I should be congratulated," Bellatrix muttered stowing her wand away smiling again now and surveyed her surroundings for a little while longer. Just in case anyone else was stirring in the sleepy village, it was well past midnight now however and it seemed unlikely anyone else would venture onto the streets so Bellatrix began to descend from her hill to look for The Riddle Household.

Passing by a shop window Bellatrix stopped and took a step back as she spied something that caught her eye. Grinning she deftly took out her wand drew a size-able perfect circle with it against the glass before giving a quick flick vanishing that segment of the window. Bellatrix smiled widely as she reached inside knocking a pair of high heels out of her way so she could grab a set of heavy leather boots. They looked to be something meant for a muggle man to wear but at a glance, Bellatrix could tell they would suit her just fine. Not very pretty but great for stomping on people, that's the kind of quality Bellatrix looked for in a shoe.

She'd have to do without socks at the moment but no mind, they could wait. Once her new boots were laced and resized a little with her wand Bellatrix set off again down the street. A black cat ran out of an alley and stopped in front of her, it lowered its head and raised its back beginning to hiss at her and Bellatrix couldn't help but let out a few barks acting like a rabbit dog which sent the cat off like lightening. Bellatrix smirked but next second ducked into the very alley the cat had run from as a light switched on in the upstairs window of the house across from her. The window was opened and a very tired looking muggle woman stuck her head out seeming to be looking around for the source of the barking.

"Ian! I think old Ned's dogs got out again...I'm sure I heard barking," Bellatrix heard the woman's voice drift across the street very clearly. The woman gave a final look around before pulling back and closing her window and soon after the light was switched off and Bellatrix let out a little sigh of relief before heading on down the street eyes still searching for the Riddle home.

Young Barty had given here clear directions and instructions when he'd visited her in Azkaban in disguise of an Auror. That had been when He'd slipped her the key to her cell and told her where exactly in Azkaban her wand had been stored. As evidence of her crimes, her wand had been held in storage to be perhaps used in further trials when the time came and had thus far escaped destruction by the ministry.

Bellatrix thought that storing such a thing on the same Island as the perpetrators, was the height of stupidity, though she supposed the ministry assumed the Dementors meant no one could ever muster enough will power to try and escape and regain their wand. Unfortunately, those idiotic bureaucrats at the ministry had never counted on the island housing such a mind as Bellatrix Lestrange. A mind so fractured that it was mostly immune to most of a Dementors power. With Bellatrix being as she was, escape, with help from the right person, had almost been too easy in the end.

Bellatrix had been grateful to Barty but also suspicious of him, in the beginning, unsure if she believed his story about his mother having taken his place in the prison and that it had been her that was buried in his place all those years ago. Bellatrix had thought it might be an Auror playing a trick on her, it was the type of game Mad-Eye Moody would've played. Bellatrix admired the cruelty of it but had little patience to partake in such a thing so had been very cautious with Barty to start with.

"Why didn't you come for me sooner!" Bellatrix had cried trying to grab the wizard through the bars of her cell but being shackled and blindfolded she had no way of reaching him.

Barty had explained he would've come for her if it hadn't been for his useless father keeping him under the Imperious curse and locked away in their home.

"You were always the most loyal Bella...you were like a second mother to me I would've done anything to help you but my father had his own ideas...I'm free of his power now...and together we can bring our Lord back...I have seen him!" Barty had said and Bellatrix had almost passed out from joy. Now here she was about to see him again face to face. Bellatrix found the run-down house easily enough it was the largest building in the village and was hard to miss. The Riddle House had seen better days it was overgrown with ivy and looked ready to crumble if a mere semi-strong wind were to blow on it.

Bellatrix couldn't help her glee as she skipped up the garden path, the front door slowly creaking upon by itself as she approached, no doubt the work of her master. Even if he was weak he still had some power Bealltrix beamed at this knowledge and quickly stepped inside heading right upstairs where Barty had said the Dark Lord was staying

"B-Bella....what a wonderful honor it is..." stuttered Wormtail bowing as low as he could as the dark witch reached the top of the stairs.

"That's Bellatrix to you, rat! Though I'd prefer you not address me at all you little..."

"Bellatrix! do not waste words on Wormtail come to me...there is much to discuss," A cold high voice echoed down the hall and Bellatrix jumped to attention like a schoolgirl who had been caught misbehaving.

"Yes, master right away!" Bellatrix called shoving Wormtail out of her way causing him to crash into the wall knocking an old painting to the ground.

Bellatrix entered the upstairs dining room to find her master sitting bundled up in a load of old blankets by the fireplace. He looked like a little old man, frail, doubled over, all skin and bones barely even recognisable as human.

"My appearance shocks you Bella...no need to concern yourself, this form is temporary I will be made whole again very soon..as long as you are willing to still follow my command," Voldemort said in a low whisper his red eyes locking with Bellatrixes dark ones. The witch almost tripped as she ran to her master and fell on her knees before him.

"I will do whatever is required of me master! I'm your most loyal! most trusted! I will not fail!" Bellatrix cried bowing her head.

"No, you won't that's why I had Barty fetch you from Azkaban...I trust you will not be missed...it is rather vital for what comes next...we can't have the ministry going on the offensive in search of the great Bellatrix Lestrange," Voldemort said with a soft hoarse laugh.

"I've taken care of that, I've placed another Prisoner in my cell and placed a strong Glamor charm over her she will resemble me for up to a year as long as the charm holds. She was a witch of an unsound mind, can't speak...only screams about needing to be let out...but half the building shouts that daily... no one will know it isn't me. I destroyed all record of her from the prison's files, they'll never know their a prisoner short," Bellatrix said smiling eyes dancing with delight at how clever she found her plan to be and looked up at her master seeking praise for her actions.

"You weren't spotted during your escape? There are no witnesses?" Voldemort asked not giving Bellatrix the praise she was after just yet.

"There... were two wizards whose memories I had to modify one was rather badly wounded...a Doctor who tried to reason with me...a healer of minds or some such nonsense....foolish man. I healed him best I could...I think no one will pay heed to the scar on the back of his head...as for the other one, he was some kind of inspector I placed a false memory in his mind. I made him think he came to Azkaban, saw me and declared I was still unfit for release and that I shouldn't be scheduled for another inspection for at least a decade," Bellatrix said quickly. Voldemorts eyes flashed with anger but he restrained himself as Bellatrix cowered before him.

"I had hoped for a cleaner escape...I hope you haven't lost your edge while you were locked away my dear Bella...that would be terribly disappointing...I know you sometimes have trouble being...' cautious' while carrying out my tasks but the one I'll be giving you now is the most important one you shall likely ever receive...I hope you are equipped for it," Voldemort said eyes dancing with malice.

"No, I swear...I'm still capable...let me prove myself to you once more," Bellatrix cried almost brought to tears by the disapproval she heard in her master's voice. Voldemort softened his glare but did not smile as he turned his head to look over his shoulder at the door.

"Wormtail! Bring me the prisoner!" Voldemort called coughing afterward at the effort raising his voice had caused. Wormtail quickly entered the room pushing a woman in a wheelchair. The woman was bound, gagged and blindfolded and seemed unconscious as she was not fighting against her bonds.

"This is Morticia Hallow...Bellatrix you're going to come to know her very well..." Voldemort said his red eyes burrowing into the witch in the wheelchair. Bellatrix listened to the details of the plan as her dark master laid it all out for her by the end she was almost bouncing with glee a huge wide-eyed smile on her face.

"Oh master this is wonderful...I'd always fancied a stint as a Professor," Bellatrix said and Voldemort began to laugh, his first genuine laugh in years.

*******

"No this is a mistake! My sons dead this...this is an imposter...yes that's it! Death Eater trickery!" Barty Crouch senior called as he was lead away in shackles with his son. He had been shouting all sorts ever since he'd been placed under arrest but his cries of innocence and ignorance fell on deaf ears. He even tried to blame Harry for conjuring the Dark Mark even though Hermione and everyone else declared it had been a witch who had cast the incantation.

"Nonsense it was this boy!" Barty had shouted but Fleur had grabbed Harry and walked with him right up to Mr. Crouch and held his fringe up off his forehead to show the wizard Harry's scar.

"You think this boy is the one casting such a curse? 'Arry Potter is your suspect?...what kind off fools do the English allow to govern their ministry?... I have never seen or heard such madness in all my life!" Fleur had shouted as Harry just stood there looking rather awkward. Arthur had stepped in then and pulled her and Harry away from Mr. Crouch as some Aurors had rushed toward the ranting wizard and placed him in chains.

"This is all a mistake! A dark conspiracy!" he screamed again dragging his feet.

"Give it up old man! You're finished, same as me...maybe they'll get us a cell together this time," Barty Crouch junior laughed struggling against his captors but being held at bay by four Aurors as he too was led away.

Hermione, the Weasleys and the Delacour's watched from the entrance of Fleur's family's tent as they were taken off to Azkaban. Arthur had explained that their own tent had been destroyed in the riot and Fleur had immediately invited them all back to her family's tent insisting that there was a lot of room to spare and that it was a tent built to house at least twenty people.

"Alright shows over you lot...I know it's going to be hard but we should all try to get a few hours sleep before we head home in the morning," Arthur said placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder and gesturing for her and the others to head inside the tent.

"A quick drink for you all first," Apolline Delacour said as she floated a great many steaming mugs in front of her and sent them in her new guest's directions. Hermione took her tea and went to sit by Ginny at a large table giving her a small smile. Everyone was still in shock and reeling from what had happened. The Sight of the Dark Mark was burned in everyone's mind and its memory hung heavy in the air. Hermione had explained the symbol to everyone when Harry had asked what it was and the entire group had gone very quiet ever since.

"Should I tell them I dreamed about this Barty...and Voldemort?" Harry had whispered to Hermione seeming to panic as the Aurors had departed.

"I...Harry they might think you're mad...maybe you should speak to Dumbledore...he'll know what to do he always does," Hermione had suggested though she was unsure even going to their headmaster was a wise move. Hermione believed Harry with all her heart that he'd seen Crouch in his nightmare and that Voldemort, or at least his followers, were up to something but she had a feeling even Dumbledore might fail to really have answers for Harry about this situation. Hermione nursed her tea for awhile glancing over at Harry now and again as Apolline fussed over the cut on his jaw he'd received from the attack Crouch had made on him.

"He was so brave mother," Gabrielle sighed resting her chin on her hand starring at Harry with a dreamy expression on her face.

"I must thank you 'Arry for looking after my daughters," Apolline said with a small smile.

"Oh...well it was Fleur and Hermione who took down that Barty fella in the end...i just helped a little," Harry said looking rather awkward and embarrassed by everyone looking in his direction at that moment.

"Hermione took down a Death Eater?" Ron asked eyes going wide.

"What's with the tone of surprise? I'm perfectly capable of defending myself you know!" Hermione said raising her voice a little, annoyed at how shocked Ron seemed.

"Well...it's just we haven't learned many combat spells at school...what curse did you use?" Ron asked leaning forward in his chair eagerly.

"The old knee in the groin curse," Harry said laughing.

"Then my sister finished him off with a boot to the face hex," Gabrielle added seeming eager everyone noted Fleurs contribution.

"Wow..." Ron exclaimed simply looking from Hermione to Fleur his eyes filled with admiration as they stopped on Fleur who looked a little uncomfortable with his stare.

"They don't make them like you at our school," Ron said and Fleur went very red.

"They make them well enough," Harry said quickly looking at Hermione and Ginny who both looked murderously at Ron as he continued to go all gaga over Fleur.

"Sometimes magic just isn't enough to get your point across and the old muggle dueling has to be brought out eh? Hermione," Fred called over to the witch who blushed and took a deep drink from her mug. Hermione looked at Harry again and they shared a small smile. Hermione couldn't help worrying about the boy and that nightmare, 'oh what to do?' Hermione thought, furrowing her brow.

"He'll be okay...he always is," Ginny said giving Hermione a small nudge as she followed her friend's eye line towards the dark-haired wizard. Hermione gave her a soft smile and decided to try and lighten the mood again, a certain subject that had been bothering her returning to the front of her mind.

"Are 'we' okay though Ginny?" Hermione asked a small cheeky grin on her lips.

"How do you mean?" Ginny sighed seeming to know where this was going and looking exhausted already before the conversation had even really begun.

"Well just...back at the match you seemed rather annoyed with...the seating arrangments," Hermione said biting her lip and Ginny became a little stone-y faced.

"Well its just...you gave me this little speech about how I'm your favorite Weasley...your dear best friend in all the world...then suddenly a pretty, airhead with smoldering eyes, a sexy foreign accent, and haughty attitude comes along...and I get left all by myself...I would've got up and let you have my seat you know?... I wouldn't have minded sitting on your knee either," Ginny said muttering the last part crossing her arms and Hermione sat looking at her a little bemused before shaking her head and letting out an exasperated sigh.

"Right! Stand up!" Hermione said a very demanding tone in her voice. Ginny narrowed her eyes at the witch but did as she was bid not being allowed to be on her feet more than a few seconds before Hermione grabbed her around the middle and pulled the younger witch onto her knee.

"There! Happy now!" Hermione said smugly as she held Ginny in place as the redhead went a little pink in the cheeks.

"Mildly..." Ginny said pouting trying not to smile or show her delight but as Hermione looked around her shoulder at her forcing eye contact the witch broke and a huge smile appeared on her lips. Hermione snorted then and Ginny began to laugh. Hermione looked around the room then her eyes finding Fleur who quickly looked away and went back to her conversation with her sister the witch appearing to have been caught staring in Hermione's direction. If Hermione didn't know better she'd have sworn there had been a distinct hint of envy in the witches eye before she'd turned away. Hermione didn't get to ponder it too long as Mr. Weasley's voice caught her attention and she looked over to him next.

"I think we should contact Dumbledore...he'll know what to do..." Arthurs's voice drifted over from his own table where he sat talking to two ministry wizards. Arthur stood up and cast the Patronus charm, his Patronus, a Weasle, ran about the tent for a moment before stopping in front of him. Hermione had heard there were some Dementors floating about trying to round up stray Death Eaters but Mr. Weasley couldn't think there'd be any heading their way surely? Hermione wondered getting a tad anxious. However, this didn't appear to be the case and Arthur began speaking to his Patronus.

"Albus, I'm so sorry to interrupt you while you're on holiday but there been terrible things afoot at the world cup I'd really appreciate it if I could speak with you as soon as possible," Arthur said and the next second his Patronus bounded off at lightning speed out of the tent.

"A Patronus message is far quicker than an owl," Arthur explained as he saw the many quizzical faces looking at him. A mere two minutes passed and there was a sudden loud crack from outside and Albus Dumbledore stepped inside the tent. Only he looked nothing like his usual self, in fact, Hermione almost fell off her stool as she saw him and Fred and George had to stick their fists in their mouths to halt their own laughter.

Their headmaster was wearing a bright red floral Hawaiian shirt, blue shorts and sandals his long white beard had been made into dreadlocks and his long hair had been placed into a ponytail, Hermione thought he rather looked like he'd just got done surfing. The bushy-haired witch looked around Ginny's shoulders again to see her reaction and the witches eyes were dancing with glee and Hermione snorted hiding her face in Ginnys back as Dumbledore looked their way.

"This..is Albus Dumbledore?... your headmaster?" Fleur whispered to Ron who just nodded blankly his mouth wide open. Harry meanwhile was simply grinning ear to ear.

"Ah yes my appearance...sorry I quite forgot myself...I've just left a barbecue with some Jamaican warlocks," Dumbledore said looking down at himself with a soft smile before drawing his wand and with a causal wave he was soon in more standard robes that they were all accustomed too.

"I trust you're all well...despite the awful circumstances," Dumbledore said as he made his way over to Arthur who conjured a chair for the wizard and they began a hushed discussion. Hermione only heard bits pieces about 'interrogations' mad-eye moody' and 'the tournament being put on hold' and some other things that weren't really adding up as the witch strained to hear. Dumbledore, Mr. Weasley, and the ministry wizards talked for around ten minutes before the headmaster of Hogwarts got to his feet again.

"This was a troubling event...no doubt but I think the tournament should go ahead as planned...with Mr. Crouch senior unavailable I think perhaps Alastor should stand in and take over his duties," Dumbledore said stroking his beard in thought for a moment.

"Didn't you require Alastor elsewhere this year Albus? He spoke about some kind of job you'd given him" Arthur asked looking like he was unsure this Mad-eye would be the best person to put in charge of whatever Tournament they were on about. Hermione was desperate to cut in and demand an answer but held her tongue as even she was not so bold to act out while the headmaster was present.

"I've had a change of heart in regards to that matter, another old friend of mine has been in contact and I think she will fill the position I had just as well as Alastor, you do remember Mistress Hallow?" Dumbledore said smiling and Arthur nodded.

"Ah yes, Morticia she was in my year at school, a fine witch...perhaps a safer choice...considering Alastors....well you know how he can be...maybe having him in a classroom would be...unwise," Arthur said giving a small laugh.

"Running the Tournament though Albus...is that also not a bit unorthodox?" A short ministry wizard with a large bushy mustache said furrowing his brow.

"Well I think there is less chance of any incidents like the one which happened here befalling us should Alastor be in charge...he has a way of maintaining order...constant vigilance as he likes to say," Dumbledore said laughing softly before turning to leave.

"Professor...could I have a word...um Hermione could you maybe..." Harry looked to Hermione gesturing for her to join him and the witch nervously got up. Ginny left her lap looking at her questioningly but Hermione moved over to Harry and followed him and Dumbledore outside before Ginny could ask her anything. Hermione had an idea what Harry wanted and that he needed her to help explain it. He was going to mention his nightmare and Barty Crouch junior's presence in it. Hermione frowned she really wasn't sure this was wise, Barty was on his way to Azkaban already would revealing this nightmare to Dumbledore really help things in any way or make Harry just seem a bit mad.

"Something troubling you Harry...that's a nasty bruise I'm so sorry you had to endure all this trouble, at least you aren't injured Miss Granger, I hear yourself and young Fleur gave young Barty a rather 'thorough thrashing' as the muggles would say," Dumbledore said smiling down at the pair before him as they stood awkwardly unsure what to say. Hermione looked to Harry thinking it was his choice what to do next. Harry, in turn, looked to Hermione seeming uncertain himself if he wanted to speak of his nightmare.

"I just wanted to ask sir...this Barty Crouch Junior...he was the one who planned this riot...theres no evidence, Vold..." Harry trailed off as Dumbledore raised his hand calmly and placed it on Harry's shoulder.

"I know you have concerns, Harry...I don't have all the details yet but we will speak to Barty...father and son both and get to the bottom of this please do not fret," Dumbledore said Harry looked like he was about to say more but closed his mouth.

"You'll use Veritaserum on him won't you Professor?" Hermione asked quickly as she thought of a way of maybe attaining Voldemorts possible involvement without Harry having to mention his nightmare.

"I'm afraid it's a little late for that Miss Granger...Veritaserum must be given to a wizard-like Barty Crouch Junior when he isn't expecting it and thus unable to prepare to defend his mind with Occlumency. He will no doubt anticipate he is being drugged with his every meal and the potion is unlikely to help much. There are other methods of getting to the truth however and we shall use all of them. Now I think you two should get some sleep its rather late and you return to school on Friday isn't it?...big things this year," Dumbledore said tapping his nose briefly giving a small chuckle before he disapparated in an instant with a loud crack. Hermione and Harry were left blinking blankly at the spot where he had stood.

"I can't wait till we can do that," Harry said with a small laugh as he nudged Hermione.

"Yeah...are you oaky Harry...what happened didn't you want to mention your dream?" Hermione asked softly whishing to be delicate.

"I just...it was only a dream...and it was very fuzzy at this stage...maybe I didn't see Crouch at all...I dunno..maybe I should've said something...sorry I dragged you out here Hermione...come on let's get to bed," Harry said moving inside Hermione was about to follow when she heard someone whisper her last name in a desperate tone.

"Oi Granger! Over here!"

"Pansy?" Hermione questioned raising an eyebrow as she spied the Slytherin standing at the corner of a tent across from Fleurs. Pansy waved her overlooking very flustered and Hermione frowned knowing Harry would probably come looking again any second but despite this quickly jogged over to Pansy. The witch deserved some kind of thank you for trying to help them earlier Hermione supposed as she made her way over. Hermione was about to voice her appreciation when Pansy through her arms around the witch and squeezed her tight.

"Oh, why didn't you get to your portkey, like I told you? You stubborn mare! When I saw the mark...I thought you'd died!"Pansy cried seeming to be holding back tears as she pulled away from Hermione and crossed her arms. Hermione just blinked at the witch in confusion then Pansy started slapping her arm repeatedly and Hermione had to grab her arms to restrain her.

"Stop that! I tried but Mr. Weasely didn't think he could take the word of one girl," Hermione said looking a bit awkward at the oddly affectionate display from Pansy. Pansy fell still then looking at Hermione's hands holding her arms a small half-smile on her lips before Hermione hastily loosened her grip.

"Well, at least you didn't end up like that muggle woman with her dress up around her head showing off her knickers to the entire camp...bet you're glad you didn't wind up flashing your pink ones to Potter and Weasley eh?" Pansy said quickly blinking away her happy tears and trying to be snarky once again. Hermione glared at her wide-eyed.

"How do you know what colour my...have you been looking up my skirt at school?" Hermione asked accusatorily!

"Merlin no! That was... I just...it was a lucky guess...Im...going to go now...and throw myself in the river!" Pansy said biting her lip turning very red as she spun on her heel and ran off before a furious Hermione could say or do anything else.

"What is happening to the witches around here, first it's my bum...now it's my knickers," Hermione said rolling her eyes and looking up at the night sky about to ask Scotty to beam her up.

"Hermione? What are you doing over there?" Harry called sticking his head outside the tent again having wondered why the witch hadn't followed him inside.

"Oh...nothing sorry just wanted to get some air for a moment...coming!" Hermione called and quickly headed back inside the tent.

"You will have to double up," Apolline said to Fleur who looked at Hermione a small smile on her lips.

"Oh that won't be a problem," Fleur said and Hermione got a little flushed at the thought of sharing a bed with the french witch.

"No...i meant that you should double up with Gabrielle," Apolline said narrowing her eyes as she saw her daughter glancing at Hermione.

"Oh of course..." The witch said a little crestfallen as she headed off to bed taking a smirking Gabrielle's hand.

"'ermione you and Ginny shall take Gabrielle's bed...just through there," Apolline said and Ginny gleefully took Hermione's arm and pulled her along to the other side of the tent.

"Two nights in a row...this is getting to be a bit of habit for us isn't it," Ginny said as she grinned at Hermione.

"Well just try not to kick me as much tonight okay?" Hermione said sarcastically recalling how much Ginny liked to move about in her sleep. Ginny went rather red and gave Hermione an apologetic smile before the pair both slipped into the bed exhausted from the night's events the pair were asleep almost instantly.

********

"Gabrielle move closer I want a cuddle," Fleur whispered pouting as her younger sister got into bed. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow looking a little taken aback.

"What's going on? Where is Fleur?" Gabrielle said sarcastically not moving closer.

"I just need a hug...whats wrong with that? Can't I show my little sister how much I care for her after such a shocking evening?" Fleur said reaching for Gabrielle who reluctantly shifted closer to her and allowed her to wrap her arms around her.

"You better not just be using me as a substitute for 'Bushy'... I saw how sad you were when mother stopped you doubling up with her," Gabrielle said with a cheeky grin.

"Quiet...or I'll kick you out and you can sleep on the floor!" Fleur said a little snappily as her astute little sibling cut to the heart of why Fleur wanted someone to hug at the moment.

"Ah...now there is my sister...I feel a lot happier now," Gabrielle giggled before snuggling up to Fleur who rolled her eyes before she closed them and tried to drift off to sleep which took a little while as her mind was filled with worry about all that had happened that evening. There had also been some talk of the tournament being canceled but it seemed this Professor Dumbledore seemed eager for it to go ahead.

Fleur hoped she hadn't wasted all those months training for no good reason. This was her chance to bring honor to the family name to make her school and headmistress proud, it was also a chance to perhaps win the affection of a certain little English witch. Fleur grinned then as she imagined Hermione cheering for her as she lifted the Tri-wizard cup and breaking away from the crowd running to her so they could embrace.

******

The next morning everyone in the campsite who still remained packed up and left in a hurry everyone seeming to want to get as far away from this scene of catastrophe as quickly as they could. Fleur spent a great deal of the morning trying to dissuade one of Hermione's red-headed friends from helping her pack or trying to carry her heavy trunk for her and a series of other tasks the boy seemed to be engaging in to show off to her.

"Please...Russell was it? I can do all this myself there is no need!" Fleur said trying to restrain her annoyance as a crestfallen Ron who looked deeply upset at Fleurs having misremembered his name walked back to join his father and brothers as they retrieved their own things from the ruined tent they had borrowed. Fleur took this moment to break away from her mother and sister to speak to Hermione one last time.

Hermione was stood with Harry the pair both whispering to each other. Harry saw Fleur approaching and excused himself from a slightly miffed seeming Hermione and he walked over to help Fred and George retrieve some of their things from the collapsed tent that was being held up by Bill and Charlie at the moment. Fleur wondered what would happen if it collapsed again with people inside it but tried to push the distressing thought from her mind.

" Sorry...I hope I'm not interrupting 'ermione...but I just wanted to say, It was wonderful meeting you and 'Arry. All this trouble was almost worth it so I could meet one set of decent English witches and wizards," Fleur said with a soft smile. Hermione went a little pink but beamed at Fleur.

"It was wonderful meeting you and Gabrielle too...but this isn't really goodbye is it...you keep telling me we're going to meet again...and we do...just not as planned...can't you tell me why you'll be at Hogwarts...I'm dying to know!" Hermione cried biting her lip as Fleur laughed.

"You're so very inquisitive 'ermione...but I'm afraid that would be telling," Fleur said giving Hermione a wink.

"Well...it wouldn't be anything to do with a certain tournament my headmaster was discussing with those ministry wizards would it?" Hermione asked and Fleur narrowed her eyes a little.

"So you heard them too...I'm afraid my lips are sealed 'ermione Granger," Fleur said leaning down to Hermione and giving her brief kiss on each cheek walking off back to Gabrielle leaving a semi-stunned Hermione to bring a trembling hand to her cheek to were Fleurs lips still burned lightly against her skin.

"Hermione come along got to get back to the portkeys, this way!" Arthur Weasley called knocking Hermione out of her daze and she quickly picked up her rucksack and hurried after him and everyone else.

"What the heck was that with that French girl just now Hermione Granger?" Fred whispered in her ear making her jump and bash into George who was on her other side.

"You two looked awfully friendly," George said and the twins began to make over-exaggerated kissing noises while puckering their lips and Hermione went rather red.

"That's just how the French say goodbye don't make something out of it you two!" Hermione snapped marching forward quickly to hide her smile as Fred and George began to laugh.

******

A week or so later as Harry Hermione Ron and the other Weasleys boarded the Hogwarts express ready to return to school after a very eventful summer indeed Hermione couldn't help noticing everyone was starring at them and rapidly whispering to each other. Hermione got the sense everyone was afraid of her and no one would meet her eye.

"What's going on?" Harry asked nudging Hermione who just shrugged.

"Here," Fred grumbled shoving a copy of the daily profit into Harry's hands that he'd just picked up off a bench.

"Harry Potter and girlfriend Hermione Granger allegedly responsible for conjuring Dark Mark at Quidditch World Cup Claim's Barty Crouch Senior!" Hermione read aloud her voice going rather high drawing a lot more attention from people on the platform.

"Girlfriend?" Ron repeated eyes wide.

"When'd that happen?" He asked looking very disturbed.

"It didn't Ron you idiot its all lies!" Ginny quickly cut in hitting Ron a thump on the arm.

"Isn't it?" Ginny said lowering her vocie a little sounding a tad worried as she whispered to Hermione who just rolled her eyes and gave her a look that said 'of course!'.

"Who let this tripe be published! This is defamation!" Hermione cried wanting to set the paper alight almost drawing her wand out of sheer fury.

"Rita Skeeter, of course... nasty vile bitch," Ginny spat as she read the front page over Hermione's shoulder.

"A tell-all interview with falsely accused ministry official?" Ron read eyebrows almost flying from his head the rose so fast.

"Great...and here I was hoping for a quiet year at Hogwarts," Harry muttered darkly crumpling up the paper and tossing it in a bin looking disgusted.

"If I ever get to meet this Rita Skeeter...I swear to Merlin..." Hermione began her nostrils flaring as she followed Harry and the others onto the train head alive with all manner of revenge plots. It was going to be a long year Hermione thought shaking her head.

Chapter Text

As they walked through the train looking for an empty compartment Hermione continued to feel very aware of the numerous eyes that were daring to glance at herself and Harry as they passed by. Some younger students even let out audible cries of fear and ran into their compartments and slammed the doors shut as quick as they could. Rain battered against the windows and a sudden flash of lightning had Crookshanks break free of Hermione's grip and he bolted from her arms and fled down the shadowy corridor.

"No! Bad Crookshanks come here!" Hermione cried patting her knee furiously trying to tempt him back but the cat was gone.

"Even her cats terrified of her!" A little first-year girl whispered to her friend before the pair quickly ducked back into their compartment as Hermione stared daggers at them.

"This is ridiculous," Hermione muttered her temper and destain for Rita Skeeter and that sad excuse of a newspaper she wrote for rising to dangerous levels with every passing second.

"The whole school seems to think you and Harry are about hex them any moment," Ron said with a small chuckle.

"Oh yes, I'm glad this all so terribly amusing for you Ron!" Hermione snapped her eyes growing a little damp with furious tears.

"Don't worry, It'll be news for a day then old Rita will move on to trashing the ministry for something else...she can't really believe Barty Crouch senior wasn't involved in hiding his son all this time, she'll get her claws into another angle soon enough about this Dark Mark business," Ginny said nudging Hermione and giving her a small reassuring smile.

"Oh...but what if Fleur reads it," Hermione sighed frowning deeply and Ginny rolled her eyes.

"She was with you and Harry the whole time she knows full well it wasn't you two who conjured the Dark Mark," Ginny said shaking her head.

"I'm not worried about that its the bit where Skeeter says Harry and me are an item..." Hermione confessed her eyes going wide as she realised she'd said that out loud without meaning too.

"Glad to see you have your priorities in order Hermione," Ginny said seeming exasperated.

"So you're not going to be asking me out then? I'm heartbroken Hermione," Harry said sarcastically smiling at her over his shoulder and the witch gave him a quick tap on the backside with her foot making him stumble forward slightly.

"You're not funny Harry Potter," Hermione said trying to appear angry but unable to keep a small grin from her lips, as she admittedly saw a tiny bit of humor in the situation.

"Alright Seamus...mind if we...oh sorry you look full up," Ron sighed as he looked into a compartment that contained Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas, and Neville Longbottom, who were playing poker by the looks of it.

"Hogwarts has a zero-tolerance policy about gambling!" Hermione cried eyes going wide at the scene before her.

"Um..well were not at Hogwarts at the minute so...it's not really like we're breaking any rules right?" Neville said looking up at Hermione and swallowing hard at the look she gave him.

"Yeah, you tell her Nev...we're doing nothing wrong...besides we're only playing for a few galleons, relax Hermione," Seamus laughed shaking his head at Hermiones sour look.

"Mind if I play a few hands?" Ron asked excitedly digging into his pocket for two Galleons.

"That's for you to get your lunch from the trolley witch! Wait till I tell mum!" Ginny said folding her arms in a very Molly-ish fashion as she narrowed her eyes at her brother.

"Aw come on Ginny... I need money to pay Harry back somehow for those omnioculars...the gold I got from the Lerpaucahns turned out to be fake," Ron said miserably as he eyed the small pile of gold resting on a tiny table in the compartment next to him with hunger.

"There's no need for that Ron I told you a hundred times," Harry said running a hand through his messy hair seeming uncomfortable this issue was rearing its head again.

"I said I'd pay you back and..." Ron was cut off as Ginny stepped in again her fiery temper flaring.

"Fine!...but don't expect me or Harry or anyone else to buy you lunch later when you lose everything!" Ginny said grabbing Ron by the arm and rudely shoving him inside with Seamus and the others before harshly sliding the door shut. Ginny frowned deeply and Hermione placed a hand on her shoulder.

"He'll come crawling back looking for you to buy lunch later and we're not going to give in Ginny...at least until he falls to his knees and says sorry, that'll teach Ronald a very valuable lesson about looking after his money won't it," Hermione said giving a soft smile but it didn't raise Ginny's spirits any.

"You'd think he'd learn gambling doesn't pay after what happened to Fred and Geroge at the world cup...that Bagman swindled them paid them off with Leprachaun gold just like Ron...when will my brothers learn," Ginny sighed before letting out a small gasp as she was suddenly grabbed from behind as a small blonde girl pulled her into a hug.

"Ginny, I missed you! I'm so glad you didn't die at the world cup that would've been an awful shame," Luna Lovegood said squeezing Ginny tight, her eyes shut a dreamy smile on her lips as she rested her chin on the redhead's shoulder.

"Hello to you too Luna," Ginny laughed leaning her head to one side just barely able to give Luna a quick peck on the forehead making the small Ravenclaw giggle. Luna opened her eyes and her jovial attitude vanished in an instant as she caught sight of Harry and Hermione. Luna let her hair fall around her face and quickly shied away behind Ginny's back.

"Don't tell me...you've been reading the Daily Prophet as well have you?" Hermione said a little snappily stamping her foot as she'd had just about enough of the way everyone was treating Harry and herself.

"No, I have not!" Luna spoke up bravely sounding somewhat offended which had Hermione Ginny and Harry blinking at her in surprise.

"The Daily Prophet is a mere front used to fund an international werewolf crime syndicate!" Luna said very seriously seeming to forget her fear from just a moment ago. Hermione recalled Ginny having told her that Luna thought Hermione was somewhat scary and the bushy-haired witch tried to hide her look of bewilderment at that bizarre accusation and bit her tongue so not to lash out at the strange girl. If she wanted to hang around with Ginny more often this year she would have to get used to Luna, Hermione thought.

"That's an intriguing...hypothesis, maybe we could discuss it further sometime," Hermione said trying to smile and swallow her pride as she entertained Luna's nonsense for Ginny's sake.

"Perhaps we could...only if you partake in the lycansten ritual so I can be sure you don't have any werewolf blood in you," Luna said matter of factly. Hermione looked unable to contain herself anymore and was about to wash her hands of this foolishness when Ginny cut in.

"How...very interesting...I'm sure Hermione would be glad to take part in the...whatever it is you just said...um Luna why don't you tell me all about it in your compartment and Harry and Hermione and go find their own seats?" Ginny suggested seeming to want to head off any kind of confrontation between Hermione and Luna before it could begin. Luna nodded and beamed at Ginny then taking her arm and leading her down the corridor to the second door on the right and they disappeared inside.

"She's...fun," Harry said after a moment and Hermione snorted.

"Well looks like it's just you and me again...that'll help kill those rumors that Skeeter trollop has concocted," Harry sighed looking rather depressed again a moment later.

"Is it really so terrible...the thought of people thinking I'm your girlfriend? Am I really so stuffy and boring?" Hermione asked narrowing her eyes at the wizard and folding her arms looking slightly offended.

"What? No..I just meant...oh very funny Hermione," Harry said giving the now smirking witch a quick shove as her act broke and she began to laugh. Though Hermione had been joking she did sometimes worry she was a little behind her peers when it came to the subject of cutting loose and letting one's hair down as it were. There was an awful lot of studying, reading and more studying when Hermione Granger was your friend. Hermione buried her worries and kept laughing at the moment not wanting to return to being down in the dumps about how everyone was treating her and Harry at present. A certain Slytherin heard their laughter however and was eager to rain on their parade.

"Oh yes, Potter, just you and your little mudblood girlfriend laugh it up while you can...few more days and you two should be hauled away for questioning I imagine," Draco Malfoy said appearing from the compartment opposite Harry and Hermione a copy of the Daily Prophet held in his hand. Hermione was about to fire back at the smug-looking Malfoy when a tall black-haired witch in dark robes pushed herself past Harry and Hermione grabbed the paper from Malfoy. She covered his face with it and pushed him back into his compartment with great force her hand pressing right into his face. This caused the boy to cry out as he tripped over his own feet and fell to the floor. Crabbe and Goyle jumped from their seats to try and help him up.

"Gutter press, they'll print anything to shift a few rags," the witch said with a smile before slamming shut Malfoys compartment door and tapping it with her wand a small flash of golden light hitting the lock.

"Remind me to let them out later dears, before we reach the castle...or don't, up to you," The witch said before striding off down the corridor and into her own compartment.

"Was...was she a professor?" Harry asked eyes wide with a mixture of admiration and disbelief.

"Surely a teacher wouldn't just assault a pupil like that? Even if it is Draco Malfoy," Hermione said her face still frozen in shock at what she'd seen. The Hogwarts express rarely seemed to transport adults, though only just last year Professor Lupin had traveled via the Hogwarts Express, he'd been something of an exception aside from the little old lady who pushed the food trolley up and down the train of course.

"Didn't Professor Dumbledore mention a Professor 'Hallow' or something at the world cup? Do you reckon that's her? I didn't really hear most of the conversation," Harry said frowning as he tried to recall what Dumbledore had been saying the week before.

"Did you hear them mention a tournament too? Fleur kept not so subtly hinting that she and her school will be visiting Hogwarts this year too. What do you think's happening this year?" Hermione asked finally divulging this piece of information to Harry.

"Fleur's coming here? you kept that one quiet Hermione!" Harry said looking rather surprised and Hermione looked away to hide her smile.

"Ron'll be happy anyway...wouldn't shut up about her all last week...was starting to lose my mind," Harry continued, shaking his head. Hermione got a little stone-y faced then but didn't acknowledge that part further and instead returned to the subject of this suspected new Professor.

"Do you think we could sit in with that witch...She seems to hate the Daily Prophet, could be she's the only one on the train who won't kick us out of her compartment," Hermione said and Harry looked uncertain for a moment but upon thinking for a second he seemed to decide they hadn't much choice and nodded his agreement. Hermione led the way down the corridor to the dark-haired witches compartment which still had its door open to find the witch sitting crossed leg nursing a mug of tea as she read a book that was sat open in front of her. She had a pair of reading glasses that Hermione hadn't noticed before and seemed entirely enraptured with her book.

"Excuse me..um..." Hermione trailed off as she realised she didn't know the witches name.

"Morticia Hallow...your new defense against the dark arts Professor, of course, there's no need to ask who you two are...Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Your pictures are strewn all throughout that gossip magazine that's masquerading as a newspaper," Professor Hallow said reaching a hand toward Hermione and they shook. Hermione winced slightly as the witch had a very firm grip indeed one that didn't seem to match her sweet smile.

"Do you mind if Harry and I sit in with you...it's just everyone else has gone off us all of a sudden," Hermione said giving a nervous laugh and Professor Hallow nodded and waved the pair inside. After Harry and Hermione were seated the Professor rose to close the door but jumped back in surprise as Crookshanks appeared at the door and began hissing loudly at the witch.

"No bad Crookshanks what's gotten into you today!" Hermione said sternly getting up to grab the cat but he scratched at her hands fiercely and bounded off again seeming determined not to be brought into the compartment.

"Crookshanks!" Hermione groaned really very annoyed her pet had made a show of her in front of her new Professor.

"Not to worry dear he can't go anywhere...besides cats and I don't really mix...I'm definitely more of a dog person," Professor Hallow said with a small smile as she slid the compartment door shut. As she moved to sit down another flash of lightning illuminated the train and Hermione caught a really good look of their professor for the first time. She was a strikingly attractive witch with straight shoulder-length black hair, warm brown eyes, and soft pale skin. Her eyebrows were a little bushy but Hermione quite liked that as the reminded her of her own.

Her plain dark robes were rather a tight fit but did wonders for the witches bosom. Hermione rolled her eyes as she, of course, caught Harry picking up on that same detail his eyes quickly darting away to look out the window as Hermione caught him staring. Hermione found she couldn't really blame the wizard and there were just no two ways about it, Professor Hallow was something of a fox. Hermione had a thirst to know everything there was about this witch but tried to restrain herself, if she came on too strong with the questions Professor Hallow might close herself off and Hermione would have to wait till they got to school to satiate her need to learn who exactly this witch was. Hermione decided to start small and ask about her attitude to a certain Slytherin she'd just interacted with.

"Professor I was just wondering..the way you handled Malfoy just now...is that really allowed? Won't you get in trouble?" Hermione asked biting her lip as she saw a flash of darkness cross the witches face for a fraction of a second.

"Oh no...I'm an old friend of the family went to school with Draco's mother...she won't mind me putting him in his place," Professor Hallow said waving a dismissive hand at Hermione. Harry smiled widely at the response and Hermione tried to see the funny side of having a Professor who would cut Malfoy down to size but she also found the level of physicality involved in how she had disciplined the boy to be a bit much. Silence fell for a time as Professor Hallow went back to her book and Harry just took to alternating between glancing out the window and back at his new Professor never starring at one or the other for too long.

"Um...Professor I don't mean to be rude...but what exactly is that?" Hermione asked as she noted a very large item that was sat longways against the seat opposite herself and Harry covered in a large dusty cloth.

"Oh...that old thing that's just my Carcerem-Mirror," Professor Hallow said pulling the cloth off the mirror making Harry and Hermione recoil in horror.

"Whys it doing that!" Harry called reaching for his wand out of instinct. The mirror was showing Professor Hallow bashing her hands against the glass screaming and shouting looking like a madwoman trapped in an asylum,

"A Carcerem Mirror is a special device enchanted not to reflect one's physical image but rather their mental one....I'm afraid today I'm going a bit mad with worry...starting a new job all this business with death eaters at the world cup...its been stressing me out a little...but don't worry I'll be fine once I settle in at Hogwarts," Professor Hallow said moving in front of the mirror blowing her reflection a quick kiss before covering the mirror once again.

"Sorry, Professor...but why do you need such a thing...I just can't see much use for it," Hermione said furrowing her brow unable to see why a person would carry around such a thing.

"I find its good to check in with one's self now and again to make sure you're doing alright up here," Professor Hallow said with an odd little smile tapping the side of her head with her index finger briefly.

"It good to have a way of seeing how you're really doing on the inside sometimes our minds can be funny and tell us were feeling just fine...the mirror, on the other hand, reflects only the truth," Professor Hallow said taking a drink from her mug before settling down to read her book again.
Silence fell for a time but was broken by Harry as she shifted a little closer to Hermione and leaned into her ear.

"Have you ever heard of a Morticia Hallow before?" Harry whispered.

"Despite what people say about me Harry, I actually don't know everything...but I do intend to do some digging in the library when we get back to school," Hermione said quietly with a small grin the thought of having a reason to head to her favourite haunt already so early into their return to school filling her with a comforting warmth. Harry just gave a small chuckle and went back to watching the rain lash against the window. Hermione found herself wishing to inquire about a great many things about this Professor Hallow from the witch herself but deemed it very bad form to interrupt the witch while she was reading. Hermione titled her head slightly trying to be sly as she glanced at the underside of the book in search of a title.

'The Greatest Duels of the Modern Age Volume two' Hermione read quickly tilting her head back up before Professor Hallow could notice. Hermione hadn't gotten to that series of books yet but they were on a mental list she had along with countless others. With books filling her head Hermione quickly recalled she had wanted to practice a spell from their newest Standard book of spells Grade four. The witch reached into her heavy trunk that Harry had so gallantly been dragging along with his own and withdrew the book in question.

"Harry could you set your glasses on the floor for me," Hermione said after studying the text she was reading for around five minutes.

"Um...okay...don't damage them or anything alright," Harry said with a small laugh.

"Ha! that's rich coming from you! I'll remind you I'm the one always mending them after you've smashed them up for the millionth time," Hermione said giving Harry a playful shove as he set his glasses on the floor.

"Accio Glasses!" Hermione said and Harry's glasses jumped up off the ground and into Hermione's lap.

"Well done Miss Granger, you're a sharp little thing aren't you," Professor Hallow said smiling at Hermione who went a little pink.

"Haven't I heard that spell before?" Harry asked taking his glasses back and putting them on.

"Fleur used it at the world cup...I wanted to be able to show her when she comes to Hogwarts," Hermione said beaming.

"You're really rather taken with her aren't you," Harry said a little knowing smile on his lips and Hermione went very red.

"I...she's...she's a very...um...Fleur is a wonderful witch whom...I'm somewhat fond of yes," Hermione said managing to stop her rambling and make a calm finish trying to appear unconcerned with Harry's smile. Having got the spell down in record time Hermione placed her spell book back in her trunk about to pick up another book when a funny smell hit her nose.

"What is that...do you smell something Harry?" Hermione asked sniffing the air.

"Um...yeah I smelt it as we walked down the corridor too...I think someones having a smoke in one of the compartments," Harry said shaking his head as Hermione got to her feet looking like a witch on a mission.

"Back in a second Professor...just going to sort something out," Hermione said sliding open the compartment door.

"No problem Miss Granger...I'll take good care of Harry while you're away," Professor Hallow said winking at Harry who swallowed hard and shrank back into his seat unsure what to say to that as Hermione exited and followed the smell of smoke. Hermione came to a compartment at the very end of the corridor and without even knocking she rudely slide open the door ready to give whoever it was stinking up the place a good telling off.

"Right stop what you're...Crookshanks?" Hermione called eyes bulging as she took in a very odd sight indeed. Pansy Parkinson and Daphne Greengrass were on their knee's on the floor rubbing Crookshank's belly as the cat squirmed around on his back purring in pleasure. He never acted like that for anyone not even Hermione.

"Who's a good kitty! you! yes, you are!" Pansy cooed rubbing Crookshanks belly seeming to not even realise Hermione was there.

"Isn't he sweet," Daphne said scratching Crookshanks behind an ear also failing to note that there was a furious looking Hermione stood next to her.

"Excuse me!" Hermione said clearing her throat and Pansy and Daphne finally looked around. Hermione saw that both witches looked a little out of it and their eyes were a little red looking. The Gryffindor also noted the large cloud of smoke that hung in the air and the dumb grins Pansy and Daphne had on their faces as they looked up at Hermione seemingly unconcerned with the glare she was giving them.

"Oh hello, Hermione...Crooky look mums here," Pansy laughed.

"Give him here he shouldn't be in this room...inhaling whatever it is you two were smoking in here...It certainly wasn't tobacco by the looks of it...wait, you two weren't doing Laughus-Leaf were you?" Hermione asked sternly trying to grab Crookshanks but he instead just rolled away from her and then tried to get up a few times but staggered sideways and collapsed again.

"Merlin you were! weren't you! You've only gone and gotten my cat stoned! You bloody idiots!" Hermione cried rushing over to Crookshanks and dropping to her knees next to her cat to check if he was okay. Crookshanks was fast asleep now by the looks of things and didn't stir for Hermione.

"Oh relax Granger Laughus-leaf will do him no harm...side effects are just hungry happy and hor...um sleepy," Daphne said amending the last 'H' word in that sentence as Hermione turned to look at the Slytherin murderously before turning on Pansy. Hermione had thought the witch had turned over a new leaf at the world cup but now she'd pulled another stupid stunt.

"She...she made me...I didn't want any but she insisted!" Pansy pleaded, seeming to sober up a little under Hermione's vengeful gaze.

"She made me Hermione," Daphne repeated in a mocking impression of Pansy sticking her tongue out at her friend and the pair narrowed their eyes at each other for a moment before they burst out laughing.

"Right that's it, I'm taking Crookshanks going back to my compartment and turning you two into the new Professor for the consumption of illegal substances!" Hermione snapped moving to pick up Crookshanks again and hurry out of the room but Daphne grabbed her by the shoulder and forced her back down onto the ground and Pansy quickly ran to the door and slid it shut.

"Now Hermione lets not be hasty...remember how I looked out for you at the world cup...you wouldn't throw little old me to the wolves for a little Laughus-leaf would you," Pansy asked putting on some very sad eyes that Daphne also copied. Hermione mulled it over for a moment, Pansy had tried to save her and Harry and everyone it was true. However that one good deed was being heavily offset against the Slytherins having seemingly abducted her cat while stoned off their arses and having Merlin knows what going on in his poor little cat mind thanks to their bloody Laughus-leaf. Hermione tried to remain furious but out of nowhere she suddenly let out a laugh but quickly covered her mouth in shock.

"Oh, no...I've inhaled too much of the smoke its...I feel funny..." Hermione muttered her eyelids feeling exceedingly heavy all of a sudden. Pansy rushed to her and lifted her up onto a seat.

"It'll be okay Hermione, just breath slowly and relax...Laughus-Leaf is harmless...or at least the stuff Daphne grows is...she had a rather special method that takes away all the harmful side effects while only leaving in the fun ones!" Pansy said beaming at Hermione who just nodded along happily not really seeming to hear anything Pansy had just said. Hermione was concentrating on the many different multicolored butterflies that had appeared from nowhere and were fluttering around the compartment. Hermione smiled in awe and tried to grab one but upon looking at her hand she found it empty and frowned. Pansy and Daphne shared a confused look then Hermione spoke again.

"I can't feel my toes," Hermione said dreamily and Pansy and Daphne shared a glance and the pair burst out laughing again. The Gryffindor next felt like she very much wished to sing.

'Today's another day to find you
Shying away
I'll be coming for your love, okay?
Take on me
Take me on'

"Um...is she going to be like this long Daphne...just I think I saw that new Professor walking up the corridor earlier and if she finds her...and us for that matter, smoking it up we're dead meat!" Pansy said finding less humor in the situation all of a sudden as Hermione continued to sing her muggle song to herself. Daphne sighed but got up and opened the window a little to let out the last of smoke quickly closing it again as the rain continued to batter against the train.

"There we go she should start coming around in a second...do you think she's going to kill you first or me?" Daphne said chuckling.

"Hopefully neither of us if we get our story straight...she just wandered in here looking for her cat, tripped, hit her head and passed out for a few seconds right?" Pansy said looking at Daphne desperate for her to agree and the witch sighed but nodded her agreement.

"Pansy...you have lovely eyebrows," Hermione said still not quite shaking off the laughus-leaf.

"Oh what a lovely thing to say, Hermione! Thank you! I work ever so hard on my eyebrows and no one ever notices," Pansy said getting a tiny bit bleary-eyed forgetting to be worried for a second as she was wrong-footed by the sweet compliment. Daphne snorted and then mimed being sick into an invisible bucket to show her distaste for this strange show of affection she was bearing witness too. Pansy rolled her eyes and just went back to grinning at Hermione. The Gryffindors dreamy smile was fading however and she suddenly shook herself and started blinking rapidly.

"Whats...what's going on why am I in here?" Hermione asked standing up and looking very dazed before immediately having to sit down again as she still felt rather light-headed.

"You came in looking for Crookshanks he's just over there look, you were so surprised to see him with us when you rushed inside to grab him you tripped and gave yourself a little bump on the head...passed out for a few seconds didn't she Daph!" Pansy said quickly looking to Daphne to back her up. Daphne looked bored and like she was going to stay quiet but under Pansy's pleading gaze she soon broke.

"Yeah you want to be more careful Granger...could do yourself a serious injury next time," Daphne said giving a very false smile. Hermione wasn't sure what had happened here but she knew she wasn't getting the full story.

"Shouldn't you get back to your compartment Hermione we need to change into our robes soon...not long till we're back at school now...though you could change in here if you want," Pansy said sounding rather hopeful. Hermione raised an eyebrow at her wondering why the Slytherin was so keen on that idea before recalling a little something Pansy had let slip at the world cup. Hermione got a little knowing look in her eye and crossed her arms before standing up.

"You'll have to try better than that if you want to confirm what colour they are Pansy," Hermione snapped and the Slytherin went rather red. Hermione proceeded to scoop up the still sleeping Crookshanks and made to leave but was still a little unsteady on her feet and stumbled back to her seat greatly embarrassed that her dramatic exit hadn't gone as planned.

"You want to know the colour of what now?" Daphne asked smirking at Pansy who gave her friend a look that said "Be quiet!" and Daphne just grinned wickedly.

"Just take your time and sit for another minute Hermione...you're a little out of it from your fall, you don't know what you're saying..." Pansy laughed nervously hoping to cover up that last part of the conversation so Daphne wouldn't figure it out though Pansy was sure she already had.

"Morticha...er Professor Hallow and Harry will be wondering where I am," Hermione moaned trying to shake off whatever it was that was bothering her.

"Wait...you and Potter are in a compartment with Morticha Hallow? She's our new defense against the Dark Arts Professor?" Daphne asked opened mouthed. Hermione nodded and furrowed her brow a little disconcerted that Daphne seemed to know more about the witch than she did. Not knowing something was an unusual state of affairs for the Gryffindor and she didn't like this feeling one little bit. However, her curiosity got the better of her and she couldn't help asking Daphne for more.

"Do you know a lot about this Professor Hallow?" Hermione asked trying to sound casual and hide her desperate thirst for information. Daphne wasn't followed that easy and with witch sat back in her seat folding her arms smugly and grinned at Hermione.

"Well...well, well...look at that I must be dreaming...I know something that Hermione Granger doesn't," Daphne said and Pansy had to bit her lip to stop herself laughing at the outrage in Hermione's eyes.

"Well go on then spill it!" Hermione snapped looking very pouty.

"Morticia Hallow is a 'Retriever', for the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. She's traveled all around the world securing priceless and deadly dark magical artifacts and treasures for study and sometimes destruction. She's a descendant of the famed pirate witch queen of the west indies Morrighan Hallow," Daphne recited from memory sounding like a proper Professor getting smugger and smugger with each word she spoke as Hermione hung on her every word.

"So...that mirror...is one of her artifacts," Hermione muttered to herself.

"What?" Daphne asked no quite catching what she'd said.

"Nothing...I better go and get changed...don't let me catch you too stealing my cat again...or whatever it was you were trying to do!" Hermione said marching out of the compartment and heading back to Professor Hallows.

"Why the long face Pansy? I think we got away with that," Daphne said smiling widely.

"Maybe...but I think I just lost all the goodwill I had built from the world cup," Pansy sighed looking miserable.

"You'll win her over in the end," Daphne said getting up and moving over to Pansy to give her a quick hug.

********

Hermione Harry and Ron ran from their carriage and straight-up the stone steps into the entrance hall of Hogwarts as quick as their legs would carry them to get out of the rain. They stopped in the entrance hall to take a breather but didn't get much time to relax as Peeves appeared chucking water bombs at people. Hermione ducked behind Harry and Ron just as one was sent their way. Harry and Ron through their hands up bracing for impact but it never came. Hermione dared look up from behind Harry's back and saw Professor Hallow striding into the entrance hall her wand drawn she'd manage to suspend the water bomb in mid-air.

"Not today Peeves thank you," Professor Hallow said and the next second she'd conjured a large vase from thin air right under Peeves and he was being sucked inside.

"Aw wait! No Miss what are you doing, it was only a little game!" Peeves cried but Professor Hallow didn't release him from whatever trap she'd conjured and once he was fully sucked inside the vase, a large cork appeared and sealed the vase up. Professor Hallow floated the vase into a dark corner of the entrance hall were it sat shaking as Peeves no doubt tried to escape his echoing swears and cries for help just barely audible from inside.

"That was amazing, I didn't know there were spells that worked on poltergeists...can you keep him in there forever Professor?" Ron asked excitedly smiling at Professor Hallow.

"Its only a temporary solution you can bind corporale beings to an object for a time but they always break loose after a few days...still we'll have some peace and quiet till then at least," Professor Hallow said giving a flick of her wand which caused the suspended water bomb to fly in the direction of Draco Malfoy and Crabbe and Gogyle exploding above their heads and showering them in water just as they'd been drying themselves off with a spell of their own. Professor Hallow winked at Harry Ron and Hermione before speeding off into the great hall before Draco could see who had soaked him.

"Who threw that! My father will hear..."

"Oh shut up Malfoy," A tall Ravenclaw boy said as he pushed by the wizard on his way into the hall.

"I think I love her," Ron sighed wistfully as himself Harry and Hermione walked into it the great hall. Hermione rolled her eyes and Harry chuckled.

"It was Narcissa Malfoy a few weeks back, last week it was Fleur, now it's Professor Hallow...whoese next?" Harry asked shaking his head.

"Fleur wouldn't go for you anyway," Hermione said a little rudely as the three took their seats.

"Why not?" Ron asked sounding deeply offended but Hermione didn't get to list of the dozens of reasons that immediately sprang to mind as Professor Dumbledore stood to speak and quiet feel across the hall as everyone got seated.

"Yes Welcome... welcome shame about the weather I hope our fires and feast will warm you all up in no time. You'll have to wait a little longer for dinner than usual this year I'm afraid," Dumbeldore said and some booing broke out but it was rather light.

"Aw come on I had nothing on the train!" Ron grumbled and Hermione supposed that meant he'd been unlucky at poker after all.

"Yes...yes quiet please, I know you're all very hungry but there's a special reason for this delay that shall be revealed after our new students are sorted into their houses...so Professor McGonagall if you could carry out the sorting and we'll move along as swiftly as we can," Professor Dumbledore said as he took a seat while Professor McGonagall entered the hall leading the new students carrying the sorting hat in her hand a roll of parchment with their names under her other arm.

*********

"Gabrielle come on, under my umbrella I'm not having you catch a cold on our first evening," Fleur called helping her little sister down from the carriage and the pair quickly fell into line behind the rest of the Beauxbatons students that were being led up a steep hill by their headmistress Madame Maxime.

They all half-ran to keep up with the exceeding tall witch as she strode confidently up to the castle's entrance and right inside. As they hurried up the hill Fleur glanced down toward the lake and saw a large ship floating there. It was being battered by the wind and heavy rain, it seemed the Durmstrang students had arrived before them.

"It's wonderful," Gabrielle said eyes filled with awe as she looked up at Hogwarts castle as they entered.

"It looks like a ruin," another less impressed student said.

"And cold one at that..." added a witch next to the boy who had first spoken.

"...And damp" a third equally unenthused Beauxbaton student finished, regarding the castle with a disdainful look. Gabrielle frowned deeply at their reaction and looked to Fleur for reassurance, unfortunately, her older sister also looked unimpressed with Hogwarts. It was a far cry from the luxury they were all used to.

"Well, I like it!" Gabrielle said holding her head up proudly as she headed inside dragging Fleur along. Fleur couldn't help grinning proudly at her sister for not following along with everyone else's thoughts and instead sticking to her own view even though Fleur herself was unsure she liked the look of Hogwarts all that much.

"Line up ladies on the left...boys on the right yes that's it!" ordered Madam Maxime as she got everyone ready to enter the hall.

"Durmstang have already made their entrance...typical we were supposed to enter at the same time...that Karkaroff has no manners," Madame Maxime grumbled.

"Now I think we should have you all sit at Ravenclaw's table, I've looked into these four houses of Hogwarts and they are by far the brightest students, I think that is where the students of my school belong...oh you have a question young Miss Delacour?" Madam Maxime paused looking a tad annoyed as Gabrielle had shot her hand into the air.

"Isn't Arry Potter a Gryffindor...I'm thinking a wizard such as that would be in the finest house no? Is it really Ravenclaw where we should be seated?" Gabrielle said with a tiny grin flashing her nervous looking older sister a quick knowing look. Madam Maxime looked exasperated and stepped towards Fleur and her sister.

"Fleur...I allowed your mother to talk me into having you're younger sister travel with you and stay with you at this school during the tournament as Apolline is a fine witch whom I admire. However, if you do not keep this little one from questioning my authority I will have to request that she be sent back home," Madmam Maxime said speaking to Fleur but looking at Gabrielle whose face became rather dark as the headmistress of Beauxbatons looked down at her a condescending smile on her lips. Fleur greatly respected her headmistress but didn't like how she was acting at present so answered rather rudely.

"I think my sister had a point Headmistress, If Arry Potter reportedly one of the finest wizards of our time is not in Ravenclaw but Gryffindor then I think we should take our seats at their table does anyone else agree?" Fleur asked looking to her fellow students and a few murmurs of agreement broke out but were silenced as Madam Maxime glared at them all.

"Quiet! You'll sit at Ravenclaw's table as I have degreed...I had high hopes for you Miss Delacour...this is a disappointing start...please conduct yourself accordingly and step back into line sharpish or I may reconsider letting you compete," Madam Maxime said turning away and shaking her head. Gabrielle glared at her back and stuck her tongue out a few students on Fleur's side made very rude hand gestures toward their headmistress quickly dropping their hands back to their sides in case she would turn around and turn them into stains on the hard stone floor.

"Sorry... I only wanted to make sure you got to sit with Bushy..." Gabrielle sighed looking up at her sister sadly.

"Are you sure you weren't trying to get yourself a seat next to Arry," Fleur responded with a soft smile and Gabrielle narrowed her eyes at the witch before turning away trying to hide her smile.

"Just hold on to my hand Gabrielle...Madam Maxime will get over this in time," Fleur said with a wicked grin as Gabrielle looked up at her sister furrowing her brow in confusion. Gabrielle had no time to question Fleur however as a moment later the doors of the great hall swung open and Albus Dumbledore's voice drifted out toward them.

"Please Welcome the fine students of Beauxbatons and their wonderful Headmistress Madam Maxime," Clapping and cheering broke out as the french students stepped inside. Madam Maxime heading toward the top table to shake hands with Dumbledore and to get a seat. The French students headed over to the Ravenclaw table and began sitting down, all except Fleur and her sister.

"Come along this way Gabrielle," Fleur said as she spotted the warm brown eyes, wild bushy hair and crooked adorable smile she had been searching for and headed straight toward Hermione her heart picking up pace with every step she took.

"'ermione do you mind if we sit with you," Fleur said leaning down to kiss Hermione on both cheeks and the slightly stunned witch just nodded slowly her cheeks going a little pink. Fleur sat next to Hermione and Gabrielle squeezed herself in next to Harry on her other side. Harry looked like he wanted to slide from his seat and duck under the table and hide from the many heads that turned to stare in his direction.

Fleur felt a little sorry for drawing this clearly unwanted attention to the boy. However, as she looked back to a beaming Hermione, Fleur found herself greatly cheered once more. Daring a glance at the top table Fleur noted that Madam Maxime looked furious and the witch couldn't help grinning as she looked past Hermione's shoulders to her sister who also noted Maxime's displeasure.

"I think you are in for it this time," Gabrielle said snorting and Fleur shrugged.

"She'll shout for a while but in the end, she'll let us join whatever house we wish..she has no other contender above me to enter for our school she has no choice but to let us do as we please," Fleur said with a smug smile.

"Is...there a problem with your sitting here?" Hermione asked biting her lip looking worried.

"No problem at all 'ermione," Fleur said dropping her hand to the Gryffindors thigh and giving her a small reassuring squeeze. Hermione looked rather faint and quickly turned back to look at Professor Dumbledore who was ready to address the hall once more.

"Now please be very kind to our new guests they'll be attending classes eating meals and participating in all general school actives with you all as we play host to the first Tri-wizard tournament for centuries," Dumbledore said smiling widely as cheering and applause broke out across the hall again. Hermione turned to look at Fleur again wide-eyed her mouth open.

"Surprise," Fleur said softly reaching a hand to Hermione's chin and gently closing her mouth as she let out a laugh.

Chapter Text

"This is a disaster," Pansy said moving her food around her plate with her fork absentmindedly, unable to eat as she kept her sad eyes trained on Hermione and Fleur at the table across from her.

"I know...with this tournament keeping everyone entertained...sales of my Laughus-Leaf are going to tank," Daphne sighed shaking her head before taking a drink of her pumpkin juice.

"I didn't mean your bloody Laughus-Leaf business...I meant that!" Pansy snapped gesturing toward Hermione and Fleur and Daphne rolled her eyes.

"Oh, Pansy..." Daphne began, seeming exasperated but Pansy wasn't in a mood to hear her friends thoughts at present.

"Don't 'Oh Pansy' me...this is serious...how I'm I supposed to compete with that!" Pansy said giving Fleur a look so pointed and sharp it might've been able to draw blood. They seemed overjoyed to be in each others company and the sight caused two fires to ignite within Pansy. One made of the furious green flame of envy and the other an icy blue flame of misery. Both flames entwined with each other in her belly for extremely volatile results making her feel queasy.

Half the hall was turning their heads every few seconds to get a look at Fleur. Hogwarts had never counted such a goddess among its inhabitants even the Grey Lady, Ravenclaws house ghost's beauty was nothing when put against Fleur. It was no surprise that even the superstar Quidditch hero Victor Krum, who was currently being fawned over by Malfoy and his cronies wasn't drawing anywhere near the same level of attention that Fleur was garnering.

Fleur had gone out of her way to sit with Hermione and the entire hall had witnessed it, excited whispering had broken out all around the house tables immediately. Pansy supposed she should be happy for Hermione that all that rubbish Rita Skeeter had written about her and Potter would be quickly tossed aside by everyone and this acquaintance with such a stunning Beauxbatons witch would now be the talk of the castle instead.

Pansy couldn't manage much joy at that notion as it meant one of her latest schemes to get close to Hermione had now been shut down before she could even get it properly started. If Hermione had been going around with half the school afraid of her and actively avoiding her, saying all sorts behind her back it would've been the perfect time for Pansy to lend a shoulder to cry on.

"How do you know that French girl's even interested in Granger, besides she looks to be at least two years older for a start and..." Daphne was cut off as Pansy quickly jumped in to condemn Fleur.

"Of course she's bloody interested! She kissed her on the cheek! twice! Not even one of those kissing the air fake kisses the French do! Then she rested her hand on Hermione's thigh and it's still there!" Pansy said poutily feeling like she'd rather like the feast to end so she could go to bed. Daphne looked around to make sure no one was paying attention to Pansys somewhat loud outburst and thankfully most of the Slytherins were either trying to get Krum's attention or were busy gawping at Fleur.

"You can't keep this up Pansy, you're starting to act crazy, so...either you ask Granger out tomorrow... or I will," Daphne said suddenly leaning right into Pansy's ear to whisper her shocking ultimatum.

"You wouldn't!" Pansy said spinning around in her seat to glare at Daphne who just grinned wickedly.

"Well...I know I said I wasn't that keen on Granger but after she got some Laughus-Leaf in her she was a lot more lively...and such a sweet singing voice, who knew?" Daphne said letting out an exaggerated longing sigh while smiling at Hermione.

"Stop that! I know what you're doing Daphne Greengrass and it won't work...besides I don't think the 'ginger' is going to be very happy when you start sniffing around her best friend," Pansy said nodding toward Ginny Weasley a wicked grin of her own crossing her lips. Daphne's face hardened then and all the humor left her eyes.

"Don't go there Pansy...or I swear..." Daphne said trailing off trying to restrain herself. Pansy knew her friend had been having secret meetings with Ginny Weasley since the start of last summer before school finished. Always sneaking off to the greenhouses, Ginny was no doubt fond of Laughus-Leaf but what was in even less doubt was how fond of Ginny Daphne was.

"Well then stop pressuring me and maybe we can both get what we want...I get Hermione and you're free to swoop in and sweep the poor lonely best friend off her feet, I just need to deal with this french cow first," Pansy said with a smirk.

"Things aren't going to be that simple...Don't take this the wrong way Pansy but...are you sure you and Hermione would even be a good fit? Have you really thought about the nitty-gritty of dating her? What would your parents say...or the rest of our house? Do you think the Gryffindors would just go along with it? Also... I just can't help but feel you'd get tired of her after a week, all that studying all the time spent in the library, all the chasing after Potter and getting into insanely dangerous shenanigans? What do you two have in common really?" Daphne said letting her concerns about this proposed relationship finally slip out. Daphne upon seeing Pansy's eyes instantly wished she'd never spoken the girl looked hurt beyond words.

"So....thats how you feel...you think I'm not clever enough or brave enough to stand a chance with her? Is that it?" Pansy said getting rather bleary-eyed as she looked away from Daphne and shifted a little way down the bench to distance herself from the witch. Daphne felt awful and slid herself down next to Pansy who appeared ready to jump from the bench and run off but Daphne grabbed her arm.

"That no what I'm saying! You are clever Pansy Parkinson! Not in the way Granger is perhaps but you're a sly one...cunning, can talk you're way out of anything!" Daphne said and Pansy put on a tiny smile as she sniffed back her tears as her friend continued.

"As for bravery...what about that time Snape was about to catch me with a ton of Laughus-Leaf in my bag but you enchanted that suit of armor to run down the corridor towards us and he had to leave me so he could chase it down?" Daphne said beaming at Pansy who let out a little laugh looking a tiny bit smug at that particular memory.

"You're a wonderful witch, Granger would be lucky to have you...but is she really what you want? her being 'adorable' as you put it, can't be all there is to base a relationship on...just make sure this is what you want...and what she wants too," Daphne said frowning as she looked across the table to see Hermione and Fleur were now sitting so close their arms were brushing against one another and Hermione looked like she was in paradise. Pansy bit her lip lost in her own thoughts.

************

"You've stopped eating 'ermione are you alright?" Fleur asked getting a little concerned, the girl had looked so happy before.

"It's just... do you really have to take part in this tournament?" Hermione asked frowning deeply as she turned to look at Fleur.

"'ermione...nothing can go wrong you don't understand how well planned all this is..." Fleur was cut off as Hermione rudely spoke over her unable to hold back her concerns any longer.

"You could be maimed! horribly injured or even die! The tournament was outlawed for a reason you know," Hermione said unable to maintain her calm any longer as many stories about deaths and fatal accidents surrounding the Tri-wizard tournament filled her mind. Dumbledore said there would be more to explain after dinner and Hermione supposed he might announce certain security and safety measures that would ease her troubled mind but until then Hermione couldn't help her imagination running away with her. The French witch next to her just sighed and shook her head, however.

"I'm surprised you are so against this 'ermione...I thought hinting about the tournament would have softened the blow by now so you wouldn't overreact," Fleur said seeming puzzled by Hermione's concerns.

"I didn't think 'this' was the kind of tournament you'd be taking part in," Hermione groaned.

"Well, what kind of tournament did you think I was hinting at? Chess perhaps?" Fleur said with a cheeky smile that had Hermione narrowing her eyes at the witch who seemed unwilling to find humor in this situation.

"I'm a dab hand at chess now you mention it," Ron said through mouthfuls of food cutting into the conversation rather rudely in what Hermione could tell was another thinly veiled attempt at impressing Fleur. Fleur gave him a weak smile before looking back to an increasingly irritated Hermione.

"I thought it might be some kind of...dueling tournament... or something, Perhaps with the three biggest wizarding schools in Europe trying to find their greatest duellist or...I don't know just not this," Hermione said laying out what she'd imagined in her time coming up with ideas of what this top-secret mystery tournament might entail.

"Well...dueling might be a part of it, the tasks are not public knowledge till they are actually happening," Fleur said and Hermione looked fearful again.

"If you don't even know what you're up against... how do you know what to train for? what spells you might need? How do you know you won't be hurt!" Hermione said pleading with her eyes to make Fleur reconsider entering.

"Oh 'ermione you don't need to worry for me, I'm sure you remember at the world cup I was very capable of looking after myself. Besides this tournament is being watched over by your headmaster! Albus Dumbledore, he isn't going to let things get too out of hand. I doubt anyone will be hurt on his watch," Fleur said brushing off Hermione's concerns again, before boldly reaching for the Gryffindors hand and covering it with her own and squeezing gently.

Hermione swallowed hard her mind going blank as she blinked down at her and Fleur's joined hands. She tried to fight her grin but was no match for the giddy juvenile joy that welled up inside her. Fleur smirked seeming pleased with this tiny victory and she shuffled ever closer to Hermione their bare thighs grazing each other for a moment and Hermione let out a tiny whimper. All the noise of the hall seemed to fade into the background and all Hermione knew was the warmth of Fleurs skin against hers and the tenderness in her blue eyes. The moment was however shattered in an instant as Ron spoke up again.

"Isn't Mad-Eye Moody being brought in to oversee the tournament as well? Now old Bartys been shipped off to Azkaban with his son? He's a right nutter that Mad-Eye, he might think up all kinds of insane tasks," Ron said tactlessly even sounding rather excited at the prospect as he went back to stuffing his mouth with chicken. Fleur looked murderous as Hermione's joy faded and Harry had to take a swig of his juice to stop himself laughing at the rude interruption.

Hermione's worries all came rushing back in an instant as she learned of this Moody's apparent outlandish nature. Though perhaps Ron was exaggerating he often went a little over the top when describing certain people or events Hermione hopped this was another one of those times. Besides Dumbledore must have some say he wouldn't let anything too dangerous happen.

"Let's not discuss this now...I hate seeing you all upset like this...we're is that sweet clumsy carefree little English witch who 'accidentally' pushes people into the mud, I liked her I wish she'd come back to me," Fleur said sarcastically and Hermione couldn't help making a semi-annoyed tutting sound before grinning again.

"Excuse me! I told you! I was tripped, it 'was' an accident! I'm not clumsy," Hermione cried trying to appear outraged but her smile betrayed her as she found she rather enjoyed being teased by Fleur.

"There's that smile again 'ermione is back..."Fleur trailed off an odd little look on her face as she glanced up the table and gave someone a little wave. Hermione turned to look but saw no one looking their way, it appeared everyone who had been enamored by Fleur had gone back to their dinner at last.

"Did...you see someone you know?" Hermione asked turning back to Fleur looking a little bemused.

"The one who glares at me so fiercely...Ginny wasn't it?" Fleur said with a little smirk.

"Oh, she wasn't giving you the evil eye again? I thought we'd settled all that," Hermione groaned looking down the table at Ginny who had a very sour look on her face as she furiously carved up her stake.

"Oh don't worry...I think it's cute she doesn't like me cozying up with her friend...but tell me 'ermione... has Ginny ever been to France? To Paris perhaps?" Fleur asked a curious look in her eye.

"Not that I know of...why do you ask?" Hermione replied furrowing her brow, wondering where Fleur was going with this.

"Well, I was just thinking perhaps she had a poor experience with the French while on holiday and it would explain her dislike of me. I mention Paris as even among the French certain Parisians are known to...how do you say...they have certain...um... high notions about themselves and can come across as ill-mannered and rude...though maybe that is the way of people from all large cities around the world," Fleur said with another small chuckle.

"I read something about this subject actually! Its a thing called Paris syndrome that often effects muggle holidaymakers who go a bit crazy after having their illusions of what Paris will be like shattered as it doesn't live up to the lofty expectations set by centuries of literature, art films, books and the like that have built Paris up to be Heaven on earth!" Hermione said delighting in being able to teach Fleur this little fact. Hermione's joy faded however as Fleur frowned.

"How terribly sad...perhaps we should try having muggles drawn to our beautiful countryside and our small villages and towns instead, we're really very friendly people...I promise," Fleur said regaining her smile and winking at Hermione.

"Oh, I know! I went on a skiing holiday once the small town we stayed in was lovely and the people very welcoming," Hermione said quickly wanting to get on to a lighter topic of conversation.

"You ski? How wonderful we'll have to go together sometime," Fleur said excitedly and Hermione felt her heart start to hammer in her chest as the delightful image of Fleur kitted out in ski-wear fluttered through her mind's eye.

"Didn't you say you hate skiing just the other week..." Gabrielle began, looking around Hermione's shoulder to grin at her elder sister who had silenced her with a deadly look instantly. It was a look that held the promise of a great reckoning for Gabrielle should she not fall quiet right away. Hermione bit her lip and looked to her dinner trying not to snort with laughter. The awkward moment was quickly defused as Dumbledore rose to speak again tapping his goblet with a spoon to call for quiet which fell almost immediately over the hall.

"I hope you are all now full, warm and content and that you have made our guests very welcomed. Now before I get on to the finer details around the Tri-Wizard tournament I have a few other quick announcements." Dumbledore said smiling widely despite the groans of annoyance from the many students who were eagerly awaiting more information on the tournament. Dumbledore merely seemed mildly amused with the dissenting voices whereas Professor McGonagall took to her feet to quietly glare at everyone till they quieted down a moment later.

"Now first off I want you all to welcome our new defense against the dark arts Professor, Morticia Hallow," Dumbledore said gesturing with his hand toward Professor Hallow who stood up awkwardly bowing her head a little as the hall gave her a very welcoming applause. Save for Malfoy and those sat next to him whom he had already poisoned against the teacher after having told them of her ill-treatment of him on the Hogwarts express. Hermione noted Malfoys destain and couldn't help grinning as she clapped and cheered for Professor Hallow even though she wasn't sure she fully agreed with all her methods of disciplining students just yet.

"She's an absolute ride, lads eh?" Seamus Finnigan said clapping very loudly indeed.

"You're telling me! what about you Nev?" Ron laughed clapping just as loud as Seamus.

"Um yeah...she's...yeah...what do you think Harry?" Neville rambled unsure what to say as he tried to fit in with the laddish banter and clapped along with everyone else.

"She's alright I guess..." Harry said not even looking at Professor Hallow as he instead had his eyes trained on Ravenclaws table as a certain Seeker politely clapped for the new Professor. Hermione smirked as she noted the look Harry had in his eye as he watched Cho Chang flick her hair back as she settled back down as the applause slowly faded.

"Wizards," Fleur muttered to Hermione who giggled at the destain in her voice.

"Yes, yes welcome Professor Hallow...I'm sure you'll all get along famously. She is a wise and mighty witch whom I've been friends with a great many years...now I must tell you all that it is very important that if you should step inside her office for whatever reason, that you do not touch her mirror. Professor Hallow was formerly a Retriever for the Ministry of magic and has acquired a great many fascinating and deadly artifacts." Dumbledore said stopping for a moment to smile at Professor Hallow who was just sitting down again now.

"She is currently studying this mirror of hers and as all its properties are, as of yet, unknown to her it would be in the best interests of all those among you whom do not wish to die needless and possibly very painfully deaths that you avoid the mirror at all costs," Dumbledore said very calmly with an all too upbeat cadence to his voice and an overly warm smile for a man who was delivering such a dire warning. Many nervous whispers broke out surrounding the mirror but everyone fell quite as Dumbledore raised a hand to hush the hall once more.

"Secondly a quick notice to our new guests, please do not venture into the surrounding forest without being accompanied by a Professor the forest is home to a great many creatures who are very territorial and won't hesitate to tear an unsuspecting and ignorant visitor limb for limb. As for the great lake again please do not go swimming the giant squid can be a bit ill-tempered at times and we don't really know what mood he's in at present and it would be best if you just stayed on dry land." Dumbledore said still smiling widely despite this ever-increasingly unsettling description of Hogwarts and its grounds he was giving to the new arrivals.

"Our ship will go unaccosted of course Albus?" Said the very alarmed looking headmaster of Durmstrang.

"Oh...I should imagine so," Dumbledore said giving a somewhat unconvincing smile to the man who swallowed hard turning to Severus Snape seeming to seek reassurance there but Snape didn't respond and Hermione could swear that for a split second the dreaded potions master had smiled at the Durmstrang's headmasters fear. However, Snape never smiled and if he had that would be rather concerning, Hermione shook herself hoping she'd imagined it.

"Thirdly I'd also like to make a note for our new guests that we have a number of Ghosts who like to wander the halls I'm aware this isn't a situation you're used too so please don't be alarmed should you run into one and...ah here they are now," Dumbledore said beaming as the house Ghosts appeared flying through the closed doors of the great hall. A number of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students looked a little fearful and Gabrielle even grabbed onto Harry's arm to comfort herself.

"Don't worry... they're harmless," Harry chuckled looking a little awkward as he tried to free himself from the girl's tight grip.

"You don't have ghosts at Beauxbatons?" Hermione whispered turning to Fleur.

"Yes...but they all stay in the basement...yours just wander about where ever they please?" Fleur asked looking shocked and Hermione nodded.

"So no swimming because of sea monsters...no walking in the woods because of merlin knows what...and you have ghosts floating all over the place...'ermione...this isn't a school...its a madhouse!" Fleur said frowning and Hermione bit her lip. The Gryffindor very much wanted to stand up for her school but she couldn't help agreeing a little with Fleur. It was after all only last year the place had been home to dementors for an entire year...and the year before that a great bloody murderous snake had been revealed to be living in the very belly of the castle and in their first year, a wizard possed by Voldemort himself had been teaching at the school.

When Hermione really stopped to think about it Hogwarts really was quite a dangerous environment in which children were expected to receive an education. Still, there was part of Hermione that wanted to leap to the defense of what had become a second home to her, where she had met the only friends she'd ever had and learned to do things she'd never thought she'd be capable of.

"Isn't there anything you like about Hogwarts?" Hermione grumbled folding her arms a little poutily as Dumbledore laid out yet more dangers that Hogwarts held to the new students. Fleur looked down at the table for a second in thought then looked back up at Hermione a small grin on her lips as she shuffled closer to the witch causing Hermione to look around at her.

"There is maybe one thing I like..." Fleur said as she brushed a stray strand of Hermione's hair off her face and back behind her ear. Hermione felt like her heart was trying to punch its way out of her chest as she grew very warm and found it rather hard to breathe under Fleurs gaze. She almost forgot Dumbledore or indeed anyone else was even in the hall but a certain phrase caught Hermione's ear and the witch looked around to listen to her headmaster once more.

"Goblet?" Hermione muttered trying to make sense of what she'd heard while only half-listening.

"The Goblet of Fire, is an impartial judge that will select one student from each of the three schools," Dumbledore said gesturing towards the back of the hall as its doors swung open and Argus Filch accompanied by Hagrid came into the hall carrying between them a large ornamental looking wooden Goblet. It appeared to have been carved out of the trunk of a tree and was similar in size. Hagrid seemed to be doing most of the heavy lifting but Flitch seemed determined to also help carry the Goblet even though he looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The pair set the Goblet down a blue flame flickered above it and Dumbledore smiled as Hagrid moved to the upper table to take a seat and Flich stumbled off to the side of the hall to lean against a wall for a breather.

"The Goblet will be resting here in the great hall until October when the choosing ceremony will be held on the thirty first of that month during our Halloween celebrations. No one will be permitted to enter their name until the first of October. The Tri-wizard Tournament is a great undertaking and I have decreed that the students of Hogwarts should have a full month to way up the risks before any of you decide to enter. The winner will bring eternal glory to their school and family name, along with one thousand galleons in prize money," Dumbledore said pausing for a moment as excited chatter and cheering broke out again.

"Finally... no one under the age of seventeen shall be permitted entry to the tournament," Dumbledore said rather quickly in a low voice as if he hoped to sneak that last part by everyone in the hall but people did indeed pick up on it and rather angrily responded.

"What! That's nonsense!" George Weasley cried standing up.

"Are you mental!" Fred shouted joining his brother on his feet. A great deal of laughter drowned out the booing and heckling then as Dumbledore merely regarded the twins with a warm smile.

"I thought that rule might cause a little controversy, I can confirm that I am indeed perfectly sound of mind Mr. Weasley...and I assure you that no one under the age of seventeen would have the capabilities of dealing with the tasks that the Tri-wizard tournament would entail...especially not with Alastor Moody organising them. Anyone seeking to hoodwink the Goblet...please, by all means, go ahead...however I fear things will not end in your favor," Dumbledore said speaking to everyone but only looking at Fred and George who had looks on their faces that said, "Bring it on old man!". Hermione frowned deeply wondering what on earth the twins were going to do to try to gain entry.

A few moments later and Dumbledore dismissed the hall and sent everyone off to bed. Hermione walked to the entrance hall chatting with Fleur the pair wanting to stay in each other company as a long as possible.

"Miss Granger you're time table...Miss Delacour...I should warn you Madam Maxime seemed very displeased with your choice to seat yourself and your sister with my students...I must ask was there any particular reason for this?" Professor McGonagall asked handing Hermione her timetable and regarding Fleur with a rather cool expression.

"I felt that if Gryffindor house was home to such gifted students as both 'Arry Potter and 'Ermione Granger then that must be the only house with witch my sister and I should join Professor," Fleur said with a sweet smile. Professor McGonagall narrowed her eyes at Fleur and then glanced at an awkward-looking Hermione.

"Do you feel very strongly about joining my house for the year Miss Delacour? You are aware Miss Granger and Mr Potter are but mere fourth years and you would be joining the seventh years Gryffindors for classes? You being a mature witch of seventeen couldn't possibly be intreseted in sitting through lessons you will have done already?" Professor McGonagall said a curious look in her eye as she spoke.

"Well to be honest Professor...I was actually hoping to join 'ermione's class...Gabrielle would be attending with me you see and while she is very bright for her age I don't think she would be capable of understanding many of the classes above fourth year...and seeing as we both know 'ermione quite well at this stage I think it would make us both feel very comfortable in this...strange new environment...I promise we would be very well behaved," Fleur said putting on a very innocent face that Hermione had to look away from before she burst out laughing.

"I shall speak to Madam Maxime about it...I suggest you and your sister return to the Beaubattons carriage before she finishes speaking with Professor Dumbledore or else you will be in for quite the talking to...now on you go," Professor McGonagall said handing Fleur a copy of the same time table she had given Hermione.

"Goodnight 'ermione," Fleur said kissing the air next to both Hermione's cheeks seeming not to be as bold as to give her cheeks a proper peck while a Professor was watching them.

"Tell Arry goodnight for me...he ran off before I could say anything," Gabrielle said a little sadly before yawning and Hermione nodded and the pair left and flooded out of the castle with the rest of the Beaubaton and Durmstrang students as they no doubt returned to their ship and carriage.

"Do not make me regret this Miss Granger, I can see you and Miss Delacour are quite...'friendly' and I think it would be good for you to be able to set a great example of Hogwarts to our guests and perhaps have Miss Delacour report back to her headmistress what a fine house Gryffindor," Professor McGonagall said a faint grin stirring at the corners of her mouth. Hermione finally understood why her head of house was agreeing to this now, she'd clearly felt snubbed that Madam Maxime had chosen Ravenclaw house to have her students join rather than her house.

Fleur breaking away from her fellow students to join Gryffindor had probably given her Professor an easy way to seek a petty kind of revenge. Hermione couldn't help smiling as she pieced all this together finding it amusing that her head of house had this kind of juvenile side to her.

"I'll make sure Fleur and Gabrielle are well looked after and deliver glowing reports to their headmistress about Gryffindor," Hermione said and Professor McGonagall gave a curt little nod and strode back into the great hall no doubt to square all this with Maxime.

"Oi Granger,"

"Hermione!"

Hermione turned to see both Pansy and Ginny were heading her way both looking a little pouty.

"I was here first, butt out Parkinson," Ginny sighed shaking her head as she noted Pansy was right next to her as the came to a stop in front of Hermione.

"I called out to her first so I get to speak thank you very much!" Pansy said sticking her tongue out at Ginny who narrowed her eyes at the Slytherin.

"Can whatever this is wait till the morning...I'm so awfully tired," Hermione said feigning a yawn and backing away to head up the stairs to the seventh floor and avoid whatever Ginny and Pansy were going to bend her ear about now. Hermione stopped suddenly as she caught sight of Daphne with her arms folded shaking her head as she leaned against the wall next to the doorway of the great hall. The sight of Daphne stirred a strange memory in Hermione and the witch let out a little gasp.

"Now I remember! Laughus-Leaf! I have a bone to pick with you two," Hermione cried and Pansy and Ginny both went wide eyed.

"What!" The pair of guilty looking witches said in unison glancing at each other and swallowing hard.

"Its all coming back to me...that business on the train...I know what you've been doing with Daphne down the greenhouses now Ginny!" Hermione said folding her arms getting a very strict tone to her voice.

"Its..not for me Luna likes it... you see but she's shy... and scared to ask Daphne herself and..." Ginny didn't get to finish as a snorting Pansy cut in.

"You smoke it up with Loony Lovegood? That must be a wild trip," Pansy laughed and Ginny got a murderous expression on her face.

"Don't call her that!" Ginny said harshly and Pansy went very quiet looking genuinely sorry which seemed to quell Ginny's fury.

"No wonder Luna's so...well you know how she is...Ginny, I hope it wasn't you who made her like that!" Hermione said a slightly accusatory tone entering her voice. Ginny looked very annoyed again and crossed her arms

"Luna actually becomes more normal when she smokes Laughus-leaf...its rather very curious...no conspiracies, no strange creatures or overactive imagination she just becomes very focused and blazes through her homework and other studies at lightning speed...I need her help with some work and as you're always busy helping Harry and my idiot brother I can't really ask you so...Luaghus-leaf and Luna became a solution," Ginny said looking a little pained as she admitted this.

"Oh Ginny you could ask me anytime I'd sooner help you than Harry or Ron if you asked! They just steal my notes anyway, you'd actually do some work yourself and probably learn something...Next time you have an issue come get me and I'll help you and...Luna too," Hermione said seeming reluctant to add the Ravenclaws name but just about managing to force a smile as she said it.

"Well that's all very nice and everything...but can I speak to you now please?" Pansy asked looking very pouty indeed.

"Well..." Hermione began but Ginny stepped in again.

"Oh you can talk in class...if I don't get speaking now I won't see you till Merlin knows when," Ginny said taking a hold of Hermione's arm and beginning to lead her upstairs. Pansy looked to be fuming but held her tongue and didn't say of the harsh things that came to mind and instead moved over to join Daphne and the pair headed down to the dungeons.

Hermione frowned deeply she'd probably get an earful from the Slytherin tomorrow about this. Hermione found herself stumbling as Ginny fragged her along rather forcefully.

"Ginny slow down can't we just talk on the next landing..." Ginny came to an abrupt stop and Hermione crashed into her back.

"Quick behind this tapestry! Its Snape and that new Professor, they're coming down the stairs...If he sees us he'll take points of us for no good reason as usual!" Ginny cried and both herself and Hermione quickly ducked behind the tapestry. Professor Hallow and Snape seemed to be having some kind of argument and the pair came to a stop right next to the Tapserty Ginny and Hermione were hiding behind.

"What were you doing trying to enter my office," Professor Hallow snapped in a low voice that seemed rather different than her sweet tone from the train Hermione noted.

"I was making sure all your artifacts were safely stored away as Professor Dumbledore instructed," Snape said a calm bored drawl that seemed to infuriate Professor Hallow going by the cry of annoyance she let out. Hermione dared peek out from the tapestry a little and saw her new Professor grab Snape's arm just as he was about to descend the stairs.

"Of course you'd be interested in dark objects Severus..." Professor Hallow said with a smirk rolling up Snape's sleeve and glaring at something on his arm that Hermione couldn't see. Snape looked furious and like he might throw Professor Hallow down the stairs.

"Oh my...getting darker isn't it...I though these things had become faded..." Professor Hallow said in a tiny sing-song voice and Snape pulled his arm from her grasp. Snape glared at Professor Hallow his eyes burrowing into the witches as if he was trying to see right to the very core of her being. Professor Hallow laughed.

"Oh I'm a skilled Occlumens Sevy.... you won't find anything up here," Professor Hallow said tapping the side of her head laughing again as she spun on her heel and headed back up stairs.

"I'll be keeping a close eye on you...Professor," Snape snarled before hurrying down stairs presumably to the dungeons.

Hermione just turned to look at Ginny who looked as confused and worried as she felt herself.

"What one earth was that about," Ginny whispered taking Hermione's hand out of nowhere seemingly to calm herself down.

"No Idea...but I'm going to find out," Hermione said determinedly squeezing Ginny's hand before both girls headed upstairs to the seventh floor and into the Gryffindor common room.

Chapter Text

Hermione found herself being helped through the portrait hole by Ginny who still hadn't let go of her hand. Ginny seemed to suddenly take notice of this as well and drew her hand away looking a little flushed. She was always giving out to people who tried to help her in the same manner now here she was doing it herself.

Hermione wasn't too focused on it however as her mind was still firing on all cylinders trying to make sense of what had just happened between Professor Hallow and Snape. She was so lost in her own thoughts it was probably a good thing Ginny was there to guide her so she didn't trip.

"Sorry...I was just so shaken from before...I forgot to let go," Ginny laughed as she freed her hand from Hermione's. Hermione just blinked at Ginny completely lost for a second before she realised what she was on about and she merely grinned at her friend.

"Oh...Don't worry I'm all shaken up as well...I could've sworn Snape was going to pull back the tapestry and discover us for a second," Hermione said shuddering at the prospect. Hermione was pulled out of her worries about Professor Hallow and Snape as the voices of her housemates who were gathering around the common room fireplace, drifted over to her.

"You know why they've done this age restriction thing don't you?" Seamus said smirking as he sat himself down in an armchair by the fire.

"No... but... let's hear it then," Ron said sitting down on the sofa with Harry. Ron seemed as crestfallen as his twin brothers did about the age restriction.

"They didn't want Harry here entering and besting all the seventh year students making them all look bad getting beat by a fourteen-year-old," Seamus said and Harry shook his head, seeming to not agree with any of that.

"Who says I even wanted to enter?" Harry said shrugging his shoulders.

"Ah don't try that on me Potter...you're mad for a bit of danger and reckless behavior you'd be jumping at this if Dumbledore hadn't placed this age restriction," Seamus laughed and Harry just shrugged again not confirming or denying anything.

"Eternal glory and a thousand Galleons, just imagine being the one to win it all," Ron sighed misty-eyed staring into the fire seeming dead to the rest of the room for a moment.

"I don't fancy much more glory," Harry said and Hermione could tell the boy was thinking about the years of stories that the wizarding world had created about him ever since he was a baby and how he had never asked for any of it or seemed to really want any part in his legend at all.

"You're great and all Harry but how would you ever beat some of those Durmstrangs or Beauxbatons anyway... they know loads more than any of us I bet... and...they even do a load of dark magic at Durmstrang," Ron said whispering the last part looking a tad fearful at even mentioning such a thing. Perhaps he thought his idol Victor Krum was about to run into the room and berate him for sullying the name of his school.

"Well, Harry's got a secret weapon doesn't he...and here she comes now," Seamus said winking at Hermione as she and Ginny made their way over.

"What are you talking about now," Hermione said a little exasperated as she folded her arms and sat down on the arm of the sofa.

"What I mean is...you'd be able to tell Harry how to beat anything that came his way...none of those Durmstrangs or Frenchies could compete with that," Seamus said laughing as Hermione went a little pink. She tried not let her utter delight at the compliment shine through and kept a cool look on her face.

"Yes...well that would be cheating so...no, I wouldn't be much help to Harry or anyone else," Hermione said holding her head up proudly as Ginny moved to sit crossed-legged on the floor with her back to the fire.

"So you wouldn't step up to save Harry? even if he was in mortal peril?" Neville asked joining the conversation as he walked over and pulled up some rug next to Ginny.

"Harry's always in mortal peril and he's done well enough so far," Hermione said smiling at an awkward-looking Harry who ran a hand through his messy dark hair seeming to want this conversation to wrap up soon.

"Bet you'd help that French bird though," Seamus said under his breath but Hermione caught it and her face soured as she narrowed her eyes at the boy who looked to immediately regret speaking. Ginny looked at Hermione expectantly also clearly having heard and appearing to want an actual answer but Hermione stayed quiet.

"Right well...that's time for us to turn in... right fellas?" Ron said seeming to want to defuse this situation as he stood up and stretched in an over-exaggerated manner.

"Um..yeah... care of magical creatures tomorrow. Hagrid will have us trying to tame winged fire-tailed bores or something. We better get an early night and build up strength," Harry said joining Ron on his feet and the pair made a hasty exit followed by Seamus who gave Hermione a wide berth as he stepped around her and flashed an apologetic smile at her before also hurrying up the stairs.

"I don't know anything about winged fire tailed bores...are they really dangerous Hermione?" Neville asked looking horrified and Hermione had to bite her lip as she tried not to laugh.

"Oh..no Neville Harry was being sarcastic...I don't think those are a real thing," Hermione said glancing at Ginny whose face was curled up awkwardly as she too tried not to laugh to spare Neville's feelings.

"Oh...yeah, of course, I knew that...was joking," Neville said giving a very unconvincing laugh and almost tripping over his own feet as he made to head to bed.

"Aw...he's adorable," Ginny said making extremely sad puppy dog eyes that made Hermione snort with laughter as soon as she heard the room to the boy's dorm close as Neville joined the others.

"I worry about him sometimes," Hermione sighed sitting down and leaning her back against the bottom half of the sofa and Ginny moved on her hands and knees to sit next to her.

"You worry about everyone and everything Hermione, all day every day," Ginny said with a snort and Hermione shook her head in defiance.

"Do not," Hermione said.

"Do too," Ginny muttered.

"Don't" Hermione replied in a barely audible whisper, Ginny didn't opt to reply as she felt like they'd be there all night.

Both girls giggled then and were quiet for a time legs outstretched in front of the fire watching the flames dance before them.

"So...what are you going to do about all this business with our new Professor and Snape? They don't seem to like each other one little bit" Ginny said after a little while of silence.

"Library," Ginny and Hermione said speaking at the same time and Ginny smirked at the slight hint of annoyance in Hermione's eye that she'd guessed it right away.

"Don't know why I even asked...of course that'd be right at the top of your agenda," Ginny laughed and Hermione folded her arms looking a little frosty.

"Well do you have any other suggestions as to how best to find out more about this Professor Hallow and whys he and Snape seem to hate each other, smart arse?" Hermione said and Ginny shook her head smiling widely at her friend's irritable nature.

"No...it's a fine idea...just be careful...I have a funny feeling about all this...I don't want you getting into anything serious," Ginny said linking her arm with Hermione's and moving to rest her head on the witches shoulder. Hermione smiled down at Ginny grateful for her concern.

"Since when have I ever got into anything serious," Hermione said sarcastically wanting to lighten the mood and Ginny raised an eyebrow.

"Well let's see...trolls, basilisks, dementors, death eaters...no I can't think of anything...you're right," Ginny said and the pair laughed as Hermione hit Ginny a few playful slaps on the arm. Soon they settled down again and Hermione found herself with a question, Ginny had wanted to speak to her after dinner but hadn't gotten a chance, Hermione wondered what had been on her mind.

"Ginny I just remembered you wanted to speak to me about something after dinner...but Pansy got in the way?" Hermione said and Ginny looked around again frowning as if she'd rather wished Hermione had forgotten about it.

"It's just...with this tournament happening...everyone at Hogwarts is going to expect you to fall in line and support our champion...and it's just you seem very close with Fleur and her sister and it could look like you were maybe lending your support to a foreign school...I just don't want you catching any unnecessary flack," Ginny confessed and Hermione frowned deeply, unsure that was the real story but was feeling too tired to pull Ginny up about it at present.

"Whos to say Fleur will even be chosen...besides even if she was I don't think people would have much of an issue with me still being friendly with her...the tournament is as much about strengthening international wizarding relations, creating eternal bonds of friendship as it is anything else," Hermione said trying to remain calm and collected as she spoke not seeming to want to be too eager to dismiss what Ginny was saying.

"Fleur seems to have a little more than friendship in mind...You know its funny I could swear one of her hands disappeared under the table all evening and she didn't bring it back up...what's the story there," Ginny said quietly and Hermione felt her cheeks burning.

"You're...imagining things Ginny...all that bloody laughus-leaf no doubt," Hermione said quickly changing the subject.

"I told you, I just get it for Luna...I've barely touched any of it," Ginny said shifting around uncomfortably and not convincing Hermione for even a second that she was being truthful.

"You little liar!" Hermione cried laughing as she found herself grabbing Ginny and beginning to fiercely tickle the witch until she fell onto her back and began squirming around.

"No! Hermioneeeeeeee!" Ginny cried between giggles trying to throw the witch off her as they tussled on the floor.

"I should really hand you into McGonagall you devious little witch," Hermione said finally relenting and falling still ontop of Ginny resting her head on the witches chest having tired herself out.

"You wouldn't do that to your favorite Weasley surely?" Ginny laughed as she smiled at Hermione a gleeful twinkle in her eye.

"We'll see...you can't wheel out that line every time I catch you getting into trouble you know," Hermione said with a smirk and Ginny rolled her eyes.

"Are you going to get up at least...It really is time we got to bed," Ginny laughed giving Hermione a playful shove.

"I'm rather very comfortable thank you very much...I missed my bedwarmer...forgot how soft she was," Hermione sighed nuzzling Ginny chest and the redhead chuckled.

"So we're just going to lay here till morning then...suppose it might kill all those rumors about you and Harry if we were found like this...but could you deal with the ones that would take their place?" Ginny laughed as Hermione got up and pulled Ginny up with her.

"I can see Skeeters new headline already, Harlot of Hogwarts, Hermione Granger ditches Harry Potter for mystery redhead witch!" Hermione grumbled and Ginny snorted.

"Listen if we ever get a hold of her... I'll hold her and you can jinx her lights out," Ginny said taking Hermione's arm and the pair laughed again as they headed upstairs to bed.

*******

Hermione found it hard to doze off that evening, she lay for a long while tossing and turning thoughts of Professor Hallow running through her mind. When Hermione had finally gotten the Professor out of her head it was a certain french witch who took her place in the Gryffindors mind. Hermione had been joking about missing a bed warmer with Ginny but suddenly she wished there was someone next to her to cuddle and hold.

Hermione had never shared a bed before staying with Ginny and had come to be rather fond of having a warm witch next to her during the long nights, it was hard to return to being on her own. Hermione finally elected to take a hold of her pillow and hold it close to her imagining it was a lovely warm witch in her half-asleep daze the image of Ginny, Pansy and finally Fleur swam before Hermione's eyes replacing her pillow.

"I'll keep you warm 'ermione," Fleur's voice whispered and Hermione smiled widely with her eyes shut tight squeezing her soft warm pillow. The imaginary Fleur brought a hand to Hermione's bare thigh gently caressing her. Hermione let out a little gasp as her mind wondered back to the great hall and how Fleur had rested her hand in the same place. All the sensations Hermione had felt came rushing back to her. As she'd grasped Hermione's thigh Fleur had moved her thumb in a slow smooth soothing circular motion, which had been something that had sent Hermione's heart rate into overdrive.

As she thought about it Hermione began remembering things she wasn't sure had really happened like Fleur grasping her thigh harshly and squeezing and running her hand further and further up the Gryffindors leg under her skirt. Hermione grew very warm a tension began to rise in her belly and she felt an ache between her legs.

Hermione recalled how Fleur had clambered on top of her in the mud the day that first met, she wanted to feel the witch above her again now, holding her wrists, keeping her pinned down, those fierce blue eyes glaring down at her. Hermione's mind turned to when she'd sat on Fleur knee at the world cup next, Hermione found herself imaging what Fleur would've done had Hermione ground her backside against the witches lap.

"Such a fine derrière 'ermione," Imaginary Fleur whispered with a chuckle and Hermione let out a little giggle.

Hermione bit her lip as imaginary Fleur painstakingly slowly slid a hand down into Hermione's pink pajama shorts and tentatively under the hem of her knickers, her fingertips just barely grazing the soft cushion of bushy curls that were to be found there. Hermione had to stifle a groan of pleasure as to not alert her housemates.

"Are you my witch, 'ermione?" imaginary Fleur whispered her warm breath licking at Hermione's earlobe. Hermione's heart fluttered and she felt her damp sex pulse with desire as Fleur's silky voice warmed every part of her being.

"Yes...I'm...I'm your witch..." Hermione agreed breathly to the imaginary Fleur, involuntarily thrusting her pelvis against her pillow seeking much-needed friction to quell the damp heat between her legs. Phantom Fleurs fingers descended lower through Hermione's dark brown curls Hermione tossed her head back as the witch found her quarry.

Hermione's eyes shot open as she felt the slickness against her fingertips a bolt of pleasure coursing through her.

"Fleur..." Hermione muttered breathly.

"Hermione?" A voice that definitely wasn't her imaginary nocturnal partner replied.

Hermione sat up in bed at lightning sped she withdrew her hand from her shorts and was brought crashing back to reality. Hermione hastily dried her hand against her sheets trying to catch her breath.

"Are you okay? you were talking in your sleep?" The voice continued and Hermione realised she'd woken Parvati Patil with her antics.

"Sorry...bit of a funny dream," Hermione said trying to keep her voice steady as it went a little high her face feeling like it was on fire as she was sure she could hear Parvati giggle.

"Okay...well goodnight Hermione," Parvati said and Hermione could almost feel the girls smirk as Parvati went back to sleep.

"Night..." Hermione muttered before laying back down and cringing as she looked to her pillow and let out a little grown.

"What I'm I doing...Fleur's seventeen... she couldn't possibly...I can't...she can't....get a grip of yourself!" Hermione muttered aloud shaking herself trying to make sense of what was happening to her. Hermione's unquiet mind finally fell silent after what seemed to be hours of maddening debate with herself about a great many things. It was only when imaginary Fleur had spoken in her mind again that Hermione had relaxed and felt calm enough to drift off.

"What will be will be 'ermione," Fleur's voice had whispered.

*******

"Seamus, I've been wondering about something isn't there any Irish wizarding schools...shouldn't one of them be here for the tournament too?" Ron asked just as Hermione slid into her seat in the great hall hurriedly pulling a plate of toast toward her and devouring as many slices as she could eager to get to the library for twenty minutes before class. Ron and Seamus didn't take much notice of her erratic eating behavior and kept talking.

"Well there's Morrighans College up in Ulster and Maves Institute for witches down south...but they're not exactly friendly with the British ministry who've organised this whole tournament. British ministry has wanted Irish wizarding society to come under their rule for a good long while but that's not happening," Seamus said with a wry smile.

"I had no idea there were Irish wizarding Schools," Harry said tucking into a boiled egg.

"Well...didn't you ever wonder why I'm the only the Irish wizard at Hogwarts? You didn't think I was the only wizard in Ireland did ye? I'm only at Hogwarts because me mam fell out with the headmaster of Morrighans College and Maves is for witches only as you can tell by the name...so wasn't much choice for me," Seamus said and Harry got a wicked grin on his face before responding.

"Bet you wouldn't have minded being at an all witches school though," Harry said giving Ron a playful nudge and the pair shared a quick chuckle.

"You two haven't met any Irish witches, have you? Trust me it wouldn't be the grand time you think it would be down at Maves," Seamus said and all three laughed again. Hermione rolled her eyes and chugged down her orange juice before bounding off her seat and quickly pulling her book bag over her shoulder.

"Hermione whats the hurry we're not due down the greenhouses for fifteen minutes yet...I know you're keen to get back at it but this is mad! even for you!" Ron said a look of disbelief spreading across his face.

"Gotta get to the Library, urgent business no time to talk. if you see... Fleur... and her sister tell her I'll meet her in the entrance hall before classes start!" Hermione called over her shoulder as she sped out of the hall leaving no time for her friends to question her further. Hermione had struggled to even say Fleur's name she'd made an effort to keep the french witch from her mind all morning or else she risked getting nothing else done.

"No no time for daydreaming Granger there's work to do," Hermione muttered to herself as hurried through the corridors to the library.

"Morning Hermione...I hope you managed to shake off that....dr-dream" Parvati Patil said in breathy voice biting her lip and letting her eyes flutter shut in pleasure as Hermione passed her in the corridor. Hermione went scarlet it was clear the witch was well aware of what had happened last night. Thankfully Parvati was on her on at present and had at least kept her voice down.

"Oh don't look at me like that Hermione...I'll never tell...its just between us girls," Parvati giggled giving Hermione a wink before heading off in the opposite direction. Hermione groaned her face screwed up in embarrassment, this was a disaster. Hermione shook off her worries and finally made it to the library where she rushed around like road runner looking here and there for a book that would satiate her curiosity.

Hermione only had time to check out one book that she'd managed to find that contained a large chunk of information on Morticha Hallow. The book which told tales of the many adventures of a select few ministry Retrievers was a large leatherbound tome entitled 'Relics of the Retrievers Volume twelve'. Professor Hallow had two entire chapters dedicated to her and Hermione couldn't wait to comb through them later. Hopefully, late-night reading would keep her hands busy so she wouldn't have time for other certain nocturnal pastimes. Hermione was sure one was just as pleasurable as the other and would be plenty to keep her distracted.

The Gryffindor quickly stowed the heavy book in her bag and made her way to exit the library at great speed. She'd just glanced at her wristwatch and seeing she had no time to waste before class began in another three minutes had upped her step. Hermione suddenly mourned the loss of her time-turner she didn't get to grieve too long, however, as having looked at her watch for that split second she hadn't seen another witch stumble out from behind a bookshelf a large stack of books piled up in front of her. Hermione collided with her and the pair crashed to the ground books reigning down on top of them.

"Argggghhh!" Both witches cried out as books landed on top of and all around them creating an unholy din that echoed around the normally eerily quiet library. It earned both witches the ire of Madame Pince immediately

"Granger! Greengrass! What on earth do you think you're playing at! I'll have none of that Gryffindor Slytherin rivalry roughhousing nonsense in here! Clear up those books and get out before I ban you both!" Pince snapped furiously from behind her desk eyes bulging in outrage.

"Sorry! It was an accident!" Hermione called beginning to pick up and stack some of the books.

"Accident my arse Granger you knew what you were doing!" Daphne Greengrass hissed as she also began to stack books.

"Don't take that tone with me, Greengrass! Or I'll hand you into Professor McGonagall for that laughus-leaf stunt on the train!" Hermione snapped back as quietly as she could trying to restrain herself. Daphne just glared at her before more calmly responding.

"What kind of insufferable swot are you anyway? rushing to the library first day back," Daphne said with a smirk.

"Hello kettle...meet the pot!" Hermione said eyes wide as she gestured towards Daphne and her pile of books. Daphne frowned as she realised her error in trying to use the library as ammunition against Hermione when she herself was here too.

"I'm only trying to put these back, I had them out over the summer to get a head start on this year's classes," Daphne said smugly as Hermione looked scandalised.

"That's not fair Madam Pince said I couldn't take any books home when I asked!" Hermione said crossing her arms.

"Guess you'll never knock me off the top of the class now," Daphne said with a mocking smile and sad eyes.

"What! I'm top of every class...except.." Hermione trailed off as she remembered her one area of weakness as Daphne grinned wickedly.

"Yes...I'm still above you in Herbology aren't I?" Daphne said looking very pleased with herself as she started putting books from the neat stack at her and Hermione's feet back onto the shelves of the bookcase next to them.

"One word to my head of house about your 'extracurricular herbology' and you'd be thrown out on your rear," Hermione said cooly trying to keep a straight face as Daphne narrowed her eyes at her.

"I don't think Ginny would thank you for that...we're quite close these days, if you hadn't noticed...she's rather fond of my leaf, a great many people are," Daphne said eyes alive with glee as Hermione once again starred daggers at her.

"Other people can do what the please, they want to rot their minds that's their business but you leave my friend alone," Hermione said coldly.

"You leave mine alone first!" Daphne responded immediately both witches took a step toward each other. They were now mere inches apart Daphne who was a little taller than Hermione had to tilt her head down a little so the pair could continue their little starring contest.

"Pansy sometimes does and says things that don't make any sense...don't you go reading anything into it," Daphne said in a very low voice and Hermione looked rather confused.

"I don't know what you're getting at...but Ginny can be a little reckless herself I don't want you roping her into your shady Laughus-leaf business," Hermione said.

"Fine" Daphne snapped.

"Good" Hermione hissed.

The pair stepped apart then and just stood, stewing in their silent indignation, each one seeming to want to force the other to leave first.

"What book were you so eager to take out anyway?" Daphne sighed eventually seeming bored as she appeared to realise Hermione wasn't going to rise to any more goading and wasn't about to run off either and rudely reached into the Gryffindors bookbag withdrawing the tome on the Retrievers.

"Hey! Give that here!" Hermione whispered harshly reaching for the book but Daphne was too quick and held it out of her way.

"Ah...so still interested in our new defense against the dark arts Professor eh? Why do you have such a vested interest in Hallow, Granger?" Daphne said finally relenting and giving the scowling Hermione her book back.

"I'm...interested in her lineage...you mentioned a pirate witch queen before...Morrighan Hallow? I was quite fond of pirates as a little girl," Hermione said bending the truth only a little as she was indeed a pirate fan when she was younger.

"Odd...I thought you'd be the type to read about stuffy types like Victoria Hallow the Alchemist or Ethel Hallow the Wandmaker....not the ruthless pirate witch queen," Daphne mused looking uncertain as to whether she believed Hermione.

"No, I loved Pirates...I used to pretend to be one in my back garden...I had an eye patch and everything," Hermione confessed before she could stop herself and Daphne couldn't help her smile at the image that conjured.

"Had a little crew made of your muggle friends that you'd boss around too eh?" Daphne asked and Hermione's face fell and she looked down at her feet.

"Other children at primary school thought I was strange...I had to be the captain, the first mate, the lookout, the naviagtor...the whole damn crew," Hermione muttered before looking up her eyes wide as she wished she hadn't just given Daphne more ammunition to tear her apart with.

Daphne probably already thought Hermione had been a lonely outcast now she'd have even more things to laugh about with her Slytherin pals. Daphne wasn't laughing however she looked almost like she pitied Hermione, which was a tad unnerving. Hermione blinked back the beginnings of tears and tried to recompose herself.

"Hey...at least you've got your weird little crew at Hogwarts now...Potter and all those Weasleys...not the sharpest bunch, however, I'd watch your ship doesn't sink captain," Daphne said softly with a playful small smile and Hermione couldn't help but laugh. The Slytherin finished putting away her books then and made to leave but Hermione quickly caught up to her.

"You're alright really... for a Slytherin...Daph..er...Greengrass," Hermione said giving the witch a little nudge as she passed.

"Yes...yes I am Granger," Daphne said proudly holding her head up and marching off with a little smug look on her face and Hermione snorted. Her light mood vanished however as she saw she was now two minutes late for class and the Gryffindor sped off to head outside.

******

"Now listen to this part here, Skeeter gets Weasleys dad's name wrong and everything...can you believe it! he's so low level it wouldn't even be worth fact-checking his name," Draco Malfoy laughed while brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet in front of a sizeable crowd in the entrance hall. Hermione found her face hardening as she marched down the stairs towards the scene. Harry was holding Ron back as he tried to run at Malfoy to no doubt knock his teeth out.

"The Prophet could get your fathers name correct though eh Malfoy...of course that's just because they're used to typing it up in stories about the latest raid on your home for illegal artifacts," Hermione called as she helped Harry pull Ron away from the scene and the trio turned away heading towards the door as the crowd began to laugh making Malfoy furious.

"If I wanted your opinion I'd hex it out of you mudblood!" Draco snarled drawing his wand aiming at Hermione's back.

"Levicorpus!" a female voice in a thick French accent shouted and Malfoy was suddenly lifted into the air by his ankle and held suspended high in the threshold of the great hall. He began calling for help fumbling with his wand and dropping it, the wand rolled across the stone floor and came to a stop in front of Fleur Delacour who had stepped from the corner of the entrance hall with her sister. She was glaring up at Malfoy as he thrashed around in the air being taken higher and higher.

She was glorious in her outrage her eyes wild with anger her silvery hair was being lifted slightly by the breeze from the open doors. She was utterly breathtaking Hermione thought-feeling rather faint as she took in the sight of Fleur.

"You dare try to hex someone when their back is turned you little rodent!" Fleur shouted as cheering and laughter from the gathered crowd erupted. Hermione Harry and Ron just stopped where they were frozen in shock as they watched Fleur make Malfoy bob up and down in the air like she was shaking him down so coins might fall from his robe pockets.

"Crabbe! Goyle! Do something get me down!" Malfoy called his voice coming out as a sort of manic screech. Crabbe and Goyle looked at each other and then at Fleur swallowing hard.

"Sorry Draco...the bells just gone we...better get to class," Crabbe said and the oafish pair hurried away up the stairs to their first class.

"Alright what's going...oh Mr. Malfoy making friends with our new guests, that's nice," Professor Hallow said in a strange nonchalant voice for a teacher who was effectively witnessing a pupil attack another pupil.

"Professor!" Fleur gasped comically hiding her wand behind her back causing her charm to break and for Malfoy to fall in a heap on the floor where he lay groaning. Hermione wanted to rush forward to defend Fleur what if she was sent home for this! Hermione began to panic and tried to run forward but Harry grabbed her by the arm.

"Don't....you'll be in detention for weeks...let Malfoy take the fall," Harry muttered pleading with his eyes for Hermione to stand still and stay where she was.

"But...Fleur," Hermione whispered trembling with fear that witch was about to get a severe telling off for trying to help her.

"Oh get up boy...that wasn't even that high a fall," Professor Hallow muttered waving a dismissive hand in the direction of Draco's moans and groans the wizard, acting as if he was about to die, was earning sympathy from no one.

"My Father will hear..." Draco began but Professor Hallow rushed over to him and pulled him to his feet grasping him by the shoulders she glared into his face nostrils flaring and shook him harshly.

"You're father must be sick of hearing from you by now boy! Seems you write to him once every half hour" Professor Hallow snapped and the crowd began to snigger but quickly stopped as Professor Hallow turned to look at them all.

"What's gone on here Miss Granger?" Professor Hallow asked looking to Hermione her sweet smile returning from nowhere, Hermione swallowed hard a little uneasy with this erratic behavior but relived Fleur wasn't being reprimanded for any of this by the sounds of things.

"Malfoy tried to jinx me while my back was turned...Fleur was defending me, Professor," Hermione said flashing Fleur a thankful smile and the French witch returned it making Hermione's heart leap into her throat.

"Oh is that all...detention Mr. Malfoy every night for a week my office...now get to class," Professor Hallow snapped taking Draco by the ear and leading him towards the grand staircase. Malfoy suddenly broke free of her grip and hurried towards Fleur pushing younger students out of his way as he reached for his wand looking very red-faced and in a state of utter shock. He picked up his wand and stowed it away as more sniggers sounded around him he looked fit to be tied.

"You can't treat me like this Professor...I'm going to my head of house, he'll sort you out...you've sided with Gryffindors against Slytherins on three different occasions now...that's favoritism," Draco rambled seeming semi-hysterical clearly deeply unused to not having a teacher take his side.

Hermione rolled her eyes so hard at that favoritism line it actually hurt, it was rich coming from Malfoy who got away with murder under the watch of his head house, for him to cry about favoritism was an utter joke. Professor Hallow didn't think it was one bit funny however as she slowly drew her wand wordlessly stepping toward Draco a strange look in her eye. The crowd grew deathly quiet and everyone including Malfoy seemed to hold their breath as Professor Hallow advanced on the boy.

"I'm going to pretend I didn't just hear a threat Mr. Malfoy...if I was to hear even one more syllable fall from your insufferable oversized gob...well, I'd just have to do something about it," Professor Hallow said in a strangely sweet almost sing-song voice. Malfoy was trembling even Hermione who couldn't stand the wizard was praying he'd keep his mouth closed for once but he just couldn't do it.

"I..." was all Malfoy got out before Professor Hallow gave a casual flick of her wrist and suddenly Malfoy fell to his knees his hand covering his mouth as he made a load of unintelligible babbling moans and grunts. When he took his hand away Hermione and everyone else's eyes went wide as Draco Malfoy no longer had a mouth. There was just a smooth blank patch of skin where his mouth should've been. Malfoy was mumbling and moaning probably calling for help/ Professor Hallow merely smiled down at him.

"Lesson of the day children...don't talk back...or I'll make it so you can't talk at all," Professor Hallow said a huge grin on her face.

"Professor Hallow what on earth is going on here...What's happened to Mr. Malfoy! You haven't put a curse on a student! Has Albus not explained how we do things at this school! No corporale punishment!" Professor McGonagall cried as she rushed to help Malfoy up drawing her wand to cast the counter curse and give the Slytherin his mouth back.

"Albus says lots of things...one minute he's talking about wine gums and gobstoppers the next it's about some weird sister rock ballad from the seventies it awfully hard to follow him sometimes, Minerva," Professor Hallow said sarcastically. Professor McGonagall looked outraged but seemed to hold back her anger.

"You lot should've been in class ten minutes ago! To the greenhouses now, this instant! Mr. Malfoy, Professor Hallow...I think we should have a little talk with the headmaster." Professor McGonagall said waving Hermione, Harry, Ron, Fleur, and her sister out of the castle along with the rest of the crowd before herself, a terrified Draco and a rather bored-looking Professor Hallow made their way upstairs. Before she went Professor Hallow gave Hermione a wink which made the Gryffindor feel even more unnerved than she already was.

"Is it like this every day at Hogwarts?" A semi shocked seeming Fleur said to Hermione giving a nervous laugh as they walked down the steep slope of the grounds toward the greenhouses.

"Only on days of the week that end in the letter 'Y'," Ron said sarcastically and everyone in their group laughed.

"Can you show me how to make people I don't like fly?" Gabrielle asked her older sister and Ron snorted as Fleur merely grinned down at her sister.

"Maybe if you're...well behaved today," Fleur said cheerily with a smirk.

"You are going to talk about good behavior after what you just did?" Gabrielle said snorting and Fleur frowned.

"This was necessary I couldn't let this horrid little boy attack 'ermione!" Fleur said haughtily.

"Thanks for taking care of Malfoy...If you hadn't stopped him who knows what he'd have done to me," Hermione said smiling at Fleur gratefully again, trying to keep her voice even as Fleur looked around at her once more the tenderness in those blue eyes making Hermione feel like she wanted to sing.

"You don't need to thank me for pest control, the cowardly rat should be thrown out of school and sent to live in the sewers where he belongs... how dare he try to strike my 'ermione..." Fleur said with a small chuckle whispering that last part so only Hermione could hear. Hermione bit her lip and looked away to both hide her joy and trying to stop the heat from building on her cheeks. It was rather hard to stay on her feet she felt a tad dizzy but Fleur was right next to Hermione and helped her keep her footing on the slippery slope of the hill.

"Old Hallow seems a bit mad eh? Great that she seems to like Griffindor and hate Malfoy though, isn't it?" Ron said cheerily.

"She's not like any teacher I've ever seen," Harry said.

"She's really been out there finding dark artifacts, dueling deadly creatures and evil wizards, probably can tell what kind of scum Malfoy is going to turn out to be and getting a head start in punishing him for it...she's amazing..." Ron sighed seeming to drift off into his own little world as he spoke about Professor Hallow.

"She's... something alright..." Hermione muttered not quite as enthused as Ron. As much as Hermione disliked Malfoy she still couldn't help but feel it wasn't right that a Professor felt she could do anything she pleased to the boy as a punishment no matter how deserving he was. There was also that odd encounter with Snape, Hermione just couldn't put her finger on it up there was just something off about this Professor Hallow. Hermione was pulled from her thoughts as Fleur quietly linked their arms and grinned down at Hermione as they walked.

"So deep in thought..so pretty...when you're thinking, 'ermione, tell me what is it that has you furrowing your brow so?" Fleur asked with a grin just as they arrived at the Greenhouses.

"Oh...um...oh," Hermione rambled her brain was still stuck on the word pretty and hadn't managed to make sense of the rest of the sentence. Hermione was saved as Professor Sprout stepped outside looking very miffed a few seconds later.

"There you are I was about to come looking! First day back this isn't on people! Be on time! Miss Granger, I'm surprised at you...Daphne wouldn't let me down like this," Professor Sprout said shaking her head. Hermione went a little pink in the cheeks and quickly hurried inside flashing Professor Sprout an apologetic smile as she and Fleur passed her by and made their way into Greenhouse seven.

"Don't worry...we'll work very hard in this lesson...I'll get you back in her good books," Fleur said with a small laugh as Hermione nodded eagerly to get to work and see Fleur in action again, pushing all that morning's unpleasantness from her mind.

Today they were going to extract Bubotubers puss a rather disgusting task that had Fleur look rather faint but the witch kept it together and managed to do her task well. Gabrielle seemed to be having the time of her life as she threw herself into the horrible task seeming to be the only student who was having any fun as she laughed and giggled every time she burst one of the pods.

"Pst...Hermione...look at this,"

Hermione looked up and saw Parvati Patil holding the tentacle of a plant next to her which had a certain uncanny resemblance to an intimate part of a witches anatomy. Pavarti stroked it with a mocking pleasured look on her face letting out little sighs and Hermione glared at her.

"Stop that...how old are you Parvati!" Hermione snapped trying to keep her voice low. Fleur looked at the scene curiously with a raised eyebrow. Hermione groaned as Parvati laughed seeming to find this to be the funniest thing that had ever happened. Hermione shook her head, preparing herself for a long day.

Chapter Text

Professor Hallow sat with one leg crossed over the other her arms folded a bored expression etched on her face as she sat in Dumbledores office with Malfoy and Professor McGonagall awaiting the headmaster. The witch looked almost like a petulant schoolgirl her indignation at being hauled into the headmaster's office was radiating off her.

Professor McGonagall had taken a seat behind Dumbledore's desk while they waited and was regarding Professor Hallow with a rather frosty pointed look not pleased with her attitude thus far. Albus had mentioned that Morticia Hallow was a little 'out there' and had a hair-trigger when it came to magic after years of fighting off dark creatures and wizards while conducting her work as a Retriever.

Professor McGonagall had held many reservations about hiring such a person but had given into Albus after he'd said the alternative had been Mad-eye Moody and that had horrified the deputy head far worse than any tale about Morticia Hallow. Then there was Severus who had been circling the waters of the defense against the dark arts job for years like a hungry black-eyed shark and would also be most unfit for the position.

Being between a rock and a hard place with these options she had reluctantly agreed to give the witch a chance. Albus must have some reason for choosing her she couldn't be completely unfit for the task but then again Albus had also hired that snake Quirrell, the total fraud Glidory Lockheart and an actual werewolf, Remus Lupin, in the past so maybe his judgment was somewhat lacking. Alas, McGonagall had still tried to give the new Professor as fair a shake as she could manage.

However it was not even halfway into the first day of term and here the witch was disciplining pupils with curses in the full sight of other students, this couldn't be allowed to go unchallenged. Draco Malfoy was a nuisance no doubt and could on occasion be a nasty little bully with a big mouth and vile attitude but that was not grounds for cursing his mouth right off his face! The boy was at this very moment scowling at McGonagall looking just as irritated as Professor Hallow was at being called into the office.

"This is ridiculous, you've hired a lunatic whose just attacked a student and yet I'm somehow having my time wasted sitting around here like it's my fault," Malfoy snapped suddenly getting off his seat and starting to pace back and forth across the room.

"Quiet blondie! You attacked the Granger girl first, there are half a dozen witnesses I was merely educating you," Professor Hallow said with a smirk.

"That's enough the pair of you! Sit down Mr. Malfoy before I..." Professor McGonagall was interrupted by a roaring whooshing sound which was followed by a large green flash from the fireplace as Professor Dumbledore stepped out from the grate brushing some dirt and dust off his robes. The headmaster beamed at everyone present, seeming to not read the tense atmosphere in the room at all. Professor McGonagall got up from the headmaster's desk and he moved around to take his seat.

"Sorry for disturbing your meeting with the Weird Sisters Albus I know how important it is to you that we get them booked but...um Albus?" Professor McGonagall stopped in her tracks as Dumbledore reached into his drawer and withdrew three lollipops reaching one to McGonagall who looked at it cautiously before reluctantly taking it. Dumbledore gestured for Professor Hallow to take the next one and the witch leaned forward with a large grin on her face eagerly unwrapping the lollipop and popping it in her mouth immediately much to the annoyance of Professor McGonagall.

"Mr. Malfoy?" Dumbledore questioned trying to hand the last lollipop to a rather startled looking Draco who tentatively reached out his hand and took the treat.

"Um...thank you... sir," Malfoy said quietly adding the last word in semi-mocking tone but taking the lollipop and slipping it into his robes looking rather unnerved for a moment before his face returned to the scowl he'd had before.

"Now then, what can I do for you on this fine morning Professor McGonagall," Dumbledore said turning to look at the witch who was also in the process of stowing away her lollipop.

"Well... Albus, I'm sorry to report there was some kind of incident with Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger and our new defense against the dark arts Professor," McGonagall said trying to recompose herself and get her stern voice back after being wrongfooted by Dumbledores having chosen to hand out sweets before even asking why anyone was there.

"That french witch attacked me too! Don't forget that part!" Malfoy interrupted eagerly to make sure Fleurs having tossed him around in the air wouldn't be forgotten.

"Again less of an attack more of an extremely justified aptly timed defensive maneuver by someone seeking to protect their friend from a cowardly little snake in the grass," Professor Hallow said taking her lollipop out of her mouth briefly to speak eyes swimming with venom as she looked at Malfoy.

"Y-you can't speak to me like that! Headmaster this is...listen to her," Malfoy cried gesturing at Professor Hallow wildly with his hand in an overdramatic fashion.

"Please relax Mr. Malfoy...I assure you I'm listening to everything at all times, all the walls keep me up to date," Dumbledore said smiling and Malfoy just looked at the wizard-like he was mad. Professor Hallow looked mildly concerned by that revelation but didn't speak and kept sucking her Lollipop.

"Albus what should we do about this...Madame Maxime was already in a poor temper over my having allowed her top contender to join my house for the year against her wishes if she finds out Fleur has been in an altercation then..." Professor McGonagall stopped as Dumbledore raised a hand to silence her a small smile on his lips.

"I shall talk to Maxime and smooth everything over by now the word of this incident will have spread around the school like wildfire and will no doubt have reached her so there is no point trying to cover it up. I think we can put this unfortunate set of events down to the first day of term boisterousness and I'm sure Professor Hallow is just a little nervous on her first day." Dumbledore said smiling at the witch and Draco, both of whom appeared to be unable to belive the leniency of the headmaster.

"Albus..." Professor McGonagall began sounding exasperated and like she really wished Dumbledore would reconsider this notion of sweeping everything under the carpet but the wizard spoke over her.

"I'm Sorry Professor McGonagall but we can't be falling out amongst ourselves at the start of this extremely important year for the school. Lets put this nasty business behind us and give everyone involved a second chance. I expect you to stay away from Miss Granger and young Fleur from now on Mr. Malfoy, is that understood?" Dumbledore said the first hint of any kind of sternness entering his voice and Draco nodded though he looked disgusted with himself for agreeing so easily.

"I shall ask young Fleur to also keep her distance, Professor Hallow I'm sure you'll be kinder to young Mr. Malfoy in the future as well?" Dumbledore asked regarding the witch with a warm smile and Professor Hallow nodded.

"Oh of course Albus...I went to School with Narcissa you know, we were ever so close I guess I couldn't help being extra harsh on young Draco here as I'm sure his sweet mother would disapprove of his attitude. I'll have words with Cis...er Narcissa she'll make sure I don't have any trouble from Draco here again." Professor Hallow said her declaration so startling to Draco that he nearly fell off his chair.

"Y-you know my mother?" Draco asked eye's bulging.

"Oh yes..we were the best of friends once," Professor Hallow said with a chuckle and Draco went extremely pale as he swallowed hard.

"Well then now that's sorted...back to class Mr Malfoy and Professor McGonagall don't you have some first-years to manage today as part of their induction week?" Dumbledore said and though, she looked very displeased, Professor McGonagall nodded and exited the office with Draco. Professor Hallow also rose but only so she could move over to the fire where she stood warming her hands before Dumbledore spoke again.

"I had hoped we'd gone a day at least before a student was being hexed for misbehaving Morticha dear..." Dumbledore sighed though he didn't seem all that concerned or to be really chastising the witch.

"It was harmless Gobloss charm Albus it would've only lasted a few hours...I was only going to keep him like that few minutes anyway," Professor Hallow said with a wicked smile as she watched the flames of the fire.

"Try to be more restrained in future...now I'm afraid I really must get back to my meeting," Dumbledore said moving over towards the fireplace presumably getting ready to use the flu-network to return to the weird sisters where ever they currently resided.

"This ball will be quite the night to remember if you manage to get the Weird Sisters playing Hogwarts Albus...it's been a long while since I let my hair down...I'm rather looking forward to it," Professor Hallow said smiling widely at the wizard as he approached.

"Yes the Yule Ball is a very important part of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, It wouldn't do if the children had only Professor Flitwick's Orchestra to dance too...don't get me wrong the classics have their place...but I do love something a bit more lively. Seeing as the Weird Sisters owe me a favour after I dispelled that demon that had possed their drummer's drum-kit I think the negotiations shouldn't be much longer." Dumbledore said beaming as he recalled his little misadventure with the ban in the late seventies.

"Is Minerva still be tasked with holding these dancing lessons...you know I'm quite the mover myself I could step in and..." Professor Hallow trailed off as Dumbledore shook his head.

"Minerva is quite cable, won several ballroom competitions in the last decade alone, don't worry about the dancing lessons. Besides she's rather looking forward to putting a large number of students through their paces, namely Fred and George Weasley, I'd hate to disappoint her," Dumbledore chuckled.

"Ah yes, those twins...you don't think they're still going to try to enter the tournament, do you? The Goblet is so well protected, you told me yourself about the various charms you had in place to prevent anyone getting around the age restriction," Professor Hallow said her eyes alive with glee.

"Oh they shall try but...alas I fear they will come up empty," Dumbledore laughed again before moving to step into the fireplace a pinch of ash held in his right hand but Professor Hallow took a hold of his arm stopping him an odd little look on her face.

"Is there something else you wish to discuss Morticia?" Dumbledore asked as he stepped back from the fireplace looking at her intently over his half-moon spectacles.

"Actually, Albus, there is one thing...I've been thinking about the death eater attack at the world cup...the dark mark in the sky, these are troubling times as you said and we must read the signs. So...I'm just wondering are you sure it's wise to have the likes of Igor Karkaroff at this school? I've noticed he and Severus have been awfully cosy having little hushed discussions and..." Professor Hallow stopped speaking as she noted a little bit of steel had entered Dumbledores eye and she swallowed realising she'd gone down the wrong path.

"I trust Severus Snape more than anyone in this school, I have told this to you before and I shall thank you to not go down this well-trodden road again. As for Igor, Severus is indeed speaking to his old companion...exactly as I have instructed." Dumbledore said calmly. Professor Hallow turned away to look in the flames again to hide her look of surprise.

"I didn't mean to intrude on any of your plans Albus...I apologise, it's just...I feel the students could be in danger...I was wondering if I could make some changes to my lesson plans in regards to certain curses and dark magic...with everything that's happening in the world don't you think it'd be best if we taught the pupils of Hogwarts exactly whats out there and what the worst of wizardkind are capable of," Professor Hallow said daring to look around again. Dumbledore brought his free hand to his beard and stroked it in thought for a moment before responding.

"What is it you have in mind dear?" Dumbledore asked and Professor Hallow grinned.

*******

Parvati's teasing was really grating on Hermione and by the time Herbology had finished she was about ready to strangle the witch. At least she seemed intent on limiting her mockery to being a joke that only Hermione and she would understand.

The bushy-haired witch was somewhat grateful for this but she couldn't take much more before she would snap. Fleur had already asked her on two separate occasions if something was wrong, mentioning how red Hermione's cheeks had gone. Hermione had just brushed it off saying she was just warm and Fleur had seemed to buy this initially but had kept a close eye on Hermione while she bickered with Parvati. Hermione wasn't close with the other witches in her dorm but they were civil enough and all got on fairly well. Though Hermione didn't care for Parvati's' fondness for endless gossiping and was eager to keep this little ' nocturnal incident' between the two of them alone. It was getting increasingly more likely someone else would overhear as Parvati kept up her jokes.

"Can you help me untie my apron Her-moany," Parvati said struggling to keep her voice from cracking with laughter as she made her terrible pun.

"I'm warning you Parvati! I've just about had it!" Hermione whispered viciously as she harshly helped Parvati remove her apron at the end of class. Parvati just grinned and moved off to put her apron away with everyone else, though she muttered something about Hermione 'almost having it last night too'.

As they walked out of Greenhouse seven Hermione took Parvati aside grabbing her by the arm and letting everyone else including Fleur and her sister head over towards Hagrids hut for their care of magical creatures lesson. Parvati bit her lip looking nervous but also like she was about to burst out in hysterics at any moment as Hermione narrowed her eyes at the witch waiting for everyone else to be out of earshot before speaking. This was going to end now!

"This stops right this second! Got it! It's... not like I'm the only witch in Gryffindor tower whos ever had a quick...don't laugh Parvati I swear to Merlin!" Hermione cried as Parvati couldn't contain herself any longer.

"Oh I'm sorry Hermione..it's just....well it's 'you' isn't it..." Parvati said with a cheeky grin her eyes brimming with glee. Hermione pouted not sure what Parvati meant by 'well it's you' exactly. Parvati tried to recompose herself and explain quickly before Hermione's temper could worsen.

"It's just, you're Hermione Granger, clever, uptight, know it all, straight-laced, wonder witch...I never thought you of all people would...." Parvati stopped to giggle again but soon halted as she saw Hermione's hand edging inside her robes presumably in search of her wand.

"Okay! I'll stop, please! I mean...of course we've all had a little go at ourselves, its natural...but just none of us have ever caught you at it before...we all thought you were to wrapped up in studying and mystery-solving with Harry to concern yourself with such things," Parvati said trying as hard as she could not to laugh again as Hermione felt her cheeks growing redder and redder.

"Well, now you know I'm a witch, with needs just like the rest of you! Please get over it and stop making fun before...Fle...um...someone... notices," Hermione said catching herself just in time before she uttered a certain french witches name. Parvati got a little smirk on her lips but refrained from further teasing, she did, however, glance in Fleurs direction and then back at Hermione a little knowing look in her eye.

"Well, I honestly can't blame you, Hermione, that one's a right firecracker...I can see why you'd..." Parvati quickly closed her mouth as Hermione abruptly reached into her robes and half withdrew her wand a look on her face that said: "not one more word!"

"Okay, Really! I'll stop...' someone' won't ever know, I promise," Parvati said looking to her left at Fleur again and the others who were still walking towards Hagrids hut. Hermione slowly put her wand back in place and gave Parvati a curt little nod and the pair hurried over to the others to catch up.

Hermione groaned as she saw the Slytherins moving down the hill towards Hagrids to join them as they arrived for their lesson. Malfoy having returned to classes after he had been dragged away by McGonagall to discuss the incident with Professor Hallow in Dumbledores office was at the front of the crowd. The boy looked to be absolutely fuming his eyes trained on Fleur before moving onto Hermione.

Hermione though a tad nervous about what he might be planning in order to get revenge wasn't one to shy away from a confrontation with the Slytherin and she starred right back at him defiantly. Fleur had an odd little grin on her face and she gave Malfoy a mocking wave, this seemed to unsettle him and he turned away and moved along to the other side of Hagrids garden away from Hermione, Fleur and the other Gryffindors.

Hermione noted Daphne and Pansy were also looking her way, Hermione gave a tentative wave to Daphne who looked a little unsettled but grinned back lifting her hand for just a second to acknowledge Hermione's wave. Pansy caught this little interaction and frowned deeply before turning to Daphne and the pair began to bicker. Hermione bit her lip and quickly turned away not wanting to get drawn into any more nonsense on the first day back. As they waited for Hagrid Hermione and the rest of the class soon noted a pair of large shaking crates sat at the front steps of Hagrids home.

"Come away Gabrielle you don't know what's in there," Fleur said sharply grabbing her sisters hand and pulling her back before she could investigate the crates and their contents.

"That's why I was going to have a look inside obviously," Gabrielle said a little cheekily and Fleur just rolled her eyes.

"Don't be smart with me...I can send you to bed anytime! Mother told me to do as much if you didn't behave!" Fleur said and a pouty Gabrielle refrained from firing back eager to stay in class as she'd rather enjoyed herself so far.

"Please not winged fire tailed bores..." Neville muttered to himself and Hermione shook her head having thought she'd gotten it across to the poor boy that there was no such thing but knowing Hagrid it was probably something even more dangerous than a winged fire tailed bore. Hermione swallowed hard as a large bang echoed from inside the nearest crate making a few of the students close to it jump in terror. Ron moved away and stepped back behind Hermione and Fleur.

"What are you doing Ron," Hermione asked suppressing a snort of laughter as Fleur also looked around at the nervous wizard.

"Well...er If I'm nearer to you two I'll be able to...um... protect you!...from whatever's in there," Ron said seeming to convince himself and no one else that this was the reason he'd slipped behind Hermione and Fleur.

"So noble...going to save us from all the way back there when you won't even see what's happening when the crates open...you must indeed be a powerful wizard," Fleur sighed sarcastically Ron looked rather pleased with this and didn't seem to realise Fleur was mocking him. Hermione had to turn away from him to shove her fist up to her mouth to halt her own laughter.

"'Arry will look after me," Gabrielle said dismissing Ron with a casual wave and battering her eyelashes at an awkward-looking Harry who stepped a little bit to his right away from her.

"Sorry I'm late was just fixing the cages in the forest..." Hagrid trailed off looking rather annoyed with himself as he stepped out from the forbidden forest and walked towards his class.

"Cages?" Harry asked not liking the sound of that.

"Um...its er nothing...project for later in the year...should not have said that," Hagrid muttered the last part under his breath Hermione Harry and Ron shared a quick glance with each other hoping Hagrid wasn't up to something dangerous with some terrifying creature in the forest that they'd have to deal with later.

"He's almost as big as Maxime!" Gabrielle gasped excitedly tugging on Fleurs sleeve to get her attention.

"He is a giant?" Fleur asked giving Hermione a little nudge.

"Half-giant... don't look so nervous Hagrids lovely!" Hermione said with a wide smile to combat Fleurs semi-worried expression. Fleur forced a reluctant smile on to her face and nodded.

"Now gather around the crates everyone that's it...er..excuse me little lady whats yir name then?" Hagrid asked grinning warmly while bending down slightly to address Gabrielle.

"I'm Gabrielle and this is my sister Fleur...from Beauxbatons," Gabrielle said and Hagrid let a huge smile spread across his face.

"Ah okay, I was just speaking to yir headmistress earlier wonderful woman...but um...didn't realise any of you'd be so young... this lesson is more for older students ya see...might be best if you kept yir distance just over there other side of me garden wall...you'll still be able to see everything don't worry," Hagrid said trying to reassure Gabrielle who looked rather put out by being sent away but Fleur gave her a stern look.

"Okay Professor," Gabrielle sighed and the little witch made her way out of the garden behind the wall before moving to sit on it crossing her arms looking a tad pouty.

"We're not looking at anything too dangerous are we Hagrid," Hermione enquired trying to not let her nerves make her voice reach too high a pitch.

"Oh no Hermione just some Blast-Ended Skrewts," Hagrid said cheerily and the witch nodded giving a very false smile as she had in fact never heard of such a creature and by the end of the lesson Hermione very much wished she'd remained in such blissful ignorance. The skrewts were like things from a nightmare slimy deformed lobster looking things that appeared to be crossed with scorpions. They could sting bite burn and leech blood all at once. Gabrielle looked rather thankful to have been removed in the end. The class suffered a great many bites cuts and burns.

"Arghhhh!" Fleur had cried out drawing her hand back from one of the crates at lightning speed as one of the Skrewts had shot a large flame from one end burning her hand. Hermione had rushed to her aid and at the same moment, Gabrielle bounded off the garden wall to see if her sister was okay. Hermione had cast a charm that healed burns on the back of the witches hand as Gabrielle looked on biting her lip.

"Is she going to be okay please help her," Gabrielle said tugging on Hermione's robes desperately.

"I'm fine really there is no need to fuss...don't worry you two!" Fleur said trying to dismiss her sister and Hermione but the Gryffindor kept a firm hold of Fleurs hand and kept muttering the incantation to fuel her charm. Gabrielle grabbed her sister's arm and hugged it close. Fleur sighed but smiled down at them both grateful for their concern.

A pale blue light was emitting from the tip of Hermione's wand as she ran it all over the affected area of Fleurs hand. The thankful french witch smiled and gave a large sigh of relief deeply enjoying the sensation of the soft soothing cooling effect of the charm as the burn began to fade. Fleur also seemed to appreciate having her hand held in the grasp of Hermione's, the Gryffindor was trembling slightly with adrenaline at having to use a charm she hadn't practiced before and at having Fleurs soft warm hand held in hers.

"There, all better now," Hermione said turning Fleurs hand over a little to make sure the burn was fully healed.

"Give it a little kiss to make it completely better Bushy," Gabrielle whispered in a hushed tone her eyes dancing with glee. Fleur fixed her with a disapproving look and Hermione went a little pink but quite boldly brought Fleur's hand to her lips and gave it a quick little peck before letting her hand go. Fleur's lips twisted into a smile which Hermione returned and the pair just stood looking at each other for a moment each lost in the others warm gaze. Gabrielle giggled which finally brought the pair out of their haze and she quickly ran off back to her seat on the wall before Fleur could chastise her.

Hagrid came over then patting at some embers that smoldered in his still smoking beard it was clear he'd been hit with a flame from a Skewrt as well. Fleur looked at Hermione and raised an eyebrow.

"I know he's a bit...and this is all very un-organised...but...um...he tries, he tries very hard, he really does!" Hermione cried trying her best to stand up for Hagrid under Fleurs disapproving gaze.

"Whats that Hermione? Not talking about me are ya? How are you getting on, managed to feed the little blighters anything yet? I thought the rat guts might be worth a go but...um guess not," Hagrid chuckled finally patting out the last of the embers in his beard.

"No we have tried everything...they seem intent on making a feast of us if anything," Fleur said regarding Hagrid with a rather cold expression.

"Sorry about that...um...I'll look into some fireproof gloves and other equipment, keep you all protected for next time," Hagrid said smiling again looking to Hermione seeming to seek reassurance that this was the correct thing to do. Before Hermione could respond Draco Malfoy interrupted the conversation by shouting across the garden.

"Excuse me did I hear you right? You're saying there's going to be a bloody next time! We have to get bitten burnt and stung by these beasts on a weekly basis?" Malfoy cried looking furious.

"Don't interrupt me while I'm speaking to other students Malfoy!" Hagrid said dawning his most serious Professor tone. Malfoy scowled at him but quickly looked away as he had to duck just as another burst of flame was sent his way by a Skrewt. Hagrid frowned deeply and began looking around at his moody and ill-tempered class who were all nursing some minor injury or another and looking very fed up.

"You...you don't think I'm doing a terrible job do you?" Hagrid grumbled glancing at Hermione and though it was she he was addressing Fleur had opened her mouth to answer and Hermione fearing her brutal honesty had grabbed her hand and squeezed tightly pleading with her eyes not to say anything. Fleur had sighed but closed her mouth. Hermione looked back to Hagrid who looked a little bleary-eyed and the witch felt like her heart was breaking into pieces at how upset he appeared and she quickly spoke up in a loud voice so that Harry and Ron who were nearby would also hear.

"You're doing a great job Hagrid...these creatures are... fascinating...we wouldn't get such valuable experience and knowledge about them from a teacher who was afraid of practical lessons, would we? Only you can do this kind of thing," Hermione said turning to look at Harry and Ron giving them a very distinct "back me up here" look.

"Oh yeah...this is...amazing," Harry said doing his best to beam at Hagrid and keep a straight face as he wrestled a Skrewt back into its crate as it tried to escape.

"Yeah having the time of my life here," Ron called sounding a lot more sarcastic than Harry but Hagrid didn't seem to pick up on it and gave them all a huge smile.

"Can always depend on you three can't I," Hagrid said a little sniffly and Hermione gave the half-giant a quick hug before Hagrid moved off to save Neville who was crying out for help as he made his way up a nearby tree to escape from three Skrewts that were chasing him. Hermione Harry and Ron shared a quick look with each other all of them frowning deeply.

"I know you and your friends are being kind 'ermione and your gentle heart is a wonderful virtue...but is it really wise to allow this Hagrid to continue on with such dangerous lessons...the truth is often hard but sometimes you must be straight with people, in order to help them in the long run," Fleur said placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder.

The Gryffindor frowned, Fleur was right but the witch couldn't bear to hear it. Hermione along with Harry and Ron all knew that one day they'd be dropping Hagrids lessons rather than face whatever increasingly dangerous creature he'd have them learning about in the higher years. For now, however, they wanted to spare their friend's feelings as long as possible.

*******

On the way to their third class of the day, Ron seemed eager to perhaps take Fleurs advice as he flinched and moved around uncomfortably as Hermione used her anti-burns charm on his neck as they walked.

"We can't spend a full year looking after those monsters...there's going to be nothing of us left by Christmas," Ron grumbled and Gabrielle giggled seeming to find Ron's indignation rather humourous.

"Don't laugh Gabrielle, you weren't getting cooked alive stung and bitten today you don't know what we've been through," Fleur said giving her sister a little tap on the shoulder but Gabrielle still seemed very amused.

"I know what you went through I saw the full thing...it was awfully funny," Gabrielle said sticking her tongue out at Fleur.

"You weren't saying that when I was burned, 'oh please help my beautiful loving sister 'ermione I'd just die without her'" Fleur said putting on an impression of Gabrielle that made them all laugh.

"I said no such thing!" Gabrielle said looking scandalised and crossing her arms walking on ahead of everyone else.

"Maybe we could have tea with Hagrid and talk him into having us look after something less vicious," Harry suggested though his face looked like he held rather little hope for the idea.

"I know it's hard but we have to get through this...If Hagrid hears about us wanting to ditch his pet project it'll crush him...you saw him back there when his lesson started going wrong," Hermione said knowing Harry and Ron didn't want to hear it but she knew they had to be convinced. The pair of wizards shared disapproving glances with each other. They both seemed to reach some unspoken agreement after a moment and finally, Ron spoke again just as Hermione had finished fixing up his neck.

"I guess if you promise to heal us all up after and...maybe teach us some spells to combat the bloody beasts...we could maybe stick with it, what do you think Harry?" Ron asked nudging Harry but the boy had brought a hand up to his forehead looking a little pained.

"Did a Skrewt get you around the face? here let me look at it," Hermione said moving closer to Harry but he shook his head.

"Scar," He muttered quietly so Fleur wouldn't hear. Hermione bit her lip but fell silent giving Harry a glance that told him they'd discuss this later.

"So you going to be our personal healer or not Hermione," Ron said giving the witch a little playful push to lighten the mood again.

"It depends on much of your own homework I see you doing this year," Hermione said with a wicked grin and Harry and Ron both groaned.

"You'd make a cruel healer Hermione Granger," Ron grumbled as he and Harry entered the potions classroom.

"Do not listen, I think you'd be a wonderful healer 'ermione...i'd love to see you in one of their uniforms...Oh là là," Fleur said sighing longingly before winking at a very red-faced Hermione before heading into class with Gabrielle. Hermione gave a nervous delayed laugh trying to calm her heart rate before she moved into the classroom to find her seat.

"No, not there Granger...You're with Miss Parkinson, five points from Gryffindor for that look on your face" Snape called in a bored drawl not even looking over his shoulder as he wrote the words 'The Slahain Serum' on the board. Hermione who had indeed been scowling had her face fall into one of embarrassment instead as the Slytherins started sniggering at her all save for Pansy and Daphne whose table she joined.

"Come to join some real witches eh?" Pansy said with a cheeky grin.

"What?" Hermione muttered not really listening.

"Well I saw you working with little miss broom up her backside over there she got her hands all burned up...I didn't...clearly I'm the more skilled witch," Pansy said looking very pleased with herself. Hermione rolled her eyes and didn't deem it worth responding to.

"Didn't you spend all last lesson hidden behind my back?" Daphne said cutting in and Pansy looked murderous.

"That's... besides the point," Pansy said haughtily and Daphne snorted as Hermione couldn't help a grin breaking out on her face. The idol chatter and bickering between the Slytherin witches raising her sprits after Snape had trampled her self-esteem as soon as she'd stepped in the door.

"Potter, what is the main ingredient of Slahain Serum?" Snape called sharply spinning around as he tossed his bit of chalk at Ron who had already been dosing off in his seat. The chalk struck Ron right between the eye's and he jolted upright bringing a hand to rub the sore spot on his face.

"Um...ah..." Harry rambled searching for an answer.

"No? five points from Gryffindor for failing to even open a book before arriving yet again this year Potter," Snape said a twisted smirk on his lips.

"Does anyone have an answer to my question," Snape asked sounding altogether uninterested in the fact of whether anyone in the class did or didn't know. Hermione's hand had of course shot into the air and was also joined by Fleur who was sat at the table next to Hermione with Gabrielle. Snape cast an eye over both of them not even seeming to register they were there.

"No one...as perusal, some days I wonder why I bother," Snape said coldly staring directly at Hermione who lowered her hand looking crestfallen. Fleur saw this and her face become one of white-hot fury, Hermione thought she was about hex Snape but Fleur just sat silently stewing in her outrage.

"Sometimes I wonder the same about you, Professor," Harry said bluntly and Snape's eyes filled with venom as he rushed over to Harry and grabbed him by the arm before marching him out of the classroom. Malfoy and his cronies burst out laughing.

"Anyone else have something smart to say, you can join Potter in detention all this week," Snape spat loud enough so Harry who was now stood out in the corridor could also hear his fate for having sassed Snape. No one spoke but Hermione Ron and Fleur all shared a glance their indignation at Snape's actions etched clearly across each one of their faces.

Snape let out a small chuckle before turning back to the blackboard summoning back the chalk he'd thrown before without even looking and got to work writing some instructions for that day's potion. Hermione opened her mouth fully prepared to stand up to Snape and intent on not backing down for once no matter the cost, however, Pansy rushed around the table and covered her mouth.

"Please don't...you'll be scrubbing cauldrons for years, with no magic!...think of you're poor lovely soft hands," Pansy said slowly taking her hand away from a startled Hermione's mouth before going very red upon realising what she'd just said.

"Um..." Was all Hermione could manage in response as Pansy went back to her seat.

"Not one word Daph," Pansy whispered harshly to her smirking companion as she let her eyes wander between Hermione and Pansy an odd little knowing look in her eye.

The rest of the lesson passed mostly without incident save for Neville destroying another Cauldron by mixing his potion incorrectly once again. Hermione had managed to repair the damage before Snape had noticed but the Potions master was still furious to find Neville with an empty Cauldron and a soaked floor at the end of the lesson.

*******

"How did this Snape ever land a job at this school! I have never seen such a loathsome, petty, foul teacher in all my life," Fleur said sitting down next to Hermione at dinner that evening in the great hall.

"Sorry, I should've warned you before we went into the classroom that he was..well like, that," Hermione said frowning as Fleur sat with her arms crossed looking too furious to even eat.

"You think Harry's going to be alright alone with Snape this evening in detention? Snape looked like he was in a worse temper than usual," Ron said who unlike Fleur had amassed a huge appetite and was piling his plate to the high heavens with food.

"He can't do anything too cruel...Dumbledore wouldn't allow it," Hermione muttered glancing at the top table to see their headmaster was currently deep in conversation with Professor Hallow. Hermione wondered if Snape's new-found bitterness was perhaps her doing. Hermione glanced at her again only to find the witch was no longer speaking to Dumbledore and instead her eyes locked with Hermione's. The Gryffindor let out a tiny gasp and quickly averted her eyes not liking how it seemed like Professor Hallow had been looking right into her soul.

"What was that about?" Ron asked seeing how Hermione had looked as Hallow had starred at her.

"It's noting...finish your vegetables," Hermione said a little snappily and Ron snorted.

"All right keep your hair on mum," Ron said sarcastically.

"On what day do we have a lesson with Professor Hallow, I'm hoping she'll teach us how to do that mouth vanishing spell," Gabrielle said excitedly looking around Fleurs shoulder at Hermione who went into her book bag to glance at her timetable.

"We don't have her till Thursday," Hermione said sounding rather happy about that fact. It meant she'd have more time to read up on the witch, Ron wasn't as pleased.

"Just our luck...Fred and Geroge had her this morning, said they'd never seen a class like it, finally learning things they could use in the real world, a teacher who knows what they're doing at last...just imagine it" Ron said eyes wide with excitement. Hermione was about to tell Ron off for seeming to forget that Professor Lupin had also given very valuable lessons that had been incremental in getting Harry and herself out of trouble last year and that he shouldn't be so easily forgotten but just at that moment the evening post arrived.

A great many owls flooded into the great hall dropping letters and parcels on the tables in front of students. Hermione was surprised to receive around ten letters and a large parcel. Hermione was sure she knew what her parcel was and tore off the paper to reveal a large hardback book. Hermione beamed as she looked down at the novel she'd ordered as an early birthday gift to herself.

"Stephen King, Insomnia," Ron read aloud rudely leaning across the table to get a good look.

"What's that? A book about sleeping spells or something?" Ron asked furrowing his brow, Hermione snorted and shook her head.

"No its a novel by a muggle author...you wouldn't like it, Ron, he's all spiders and monsters and scary stuff," Hermione said enjoying how Ron recoiled from the book at the mere mention of spiders.

"Why'd anyone want to ever read something like that," Ron said shuddering, Fleur and Hermione both shared a look and giggled at Ron's visible discomfort.

"He is easily spooked for a Gryffindor no?" Fleur asked with a sly smile.

"Oh, Ron has its moments, to be honest...I was a bit unfair bringing up spiders," Hermione said a wicked gleeful look in her eye.

"Spiders eh? I'll keep that in mind," Fleur said looking back at Ron who looked dismayed by her and Hermione's hushed little conversation.

"What about your letters Hermione...seems to be quite a few," Ron said changing the subject and Hermione moved to open the one at the top of the pile. Hermione's face slowly contorted into one of raw unbridled rage as she read the letter, seconds later, nostrils flaring, Hermione crumpled the letter up and threw it on the floor. Fleur furrowed her brow and reached down to pick up the later meanwhile to Ron and Gabrielle's surprise Hermione began burning the rest of the letters igniting them with her wand when she noted they all had the same handwriting on the front.

"Dear Harlot of Hogwarts how dare you abuse the tender heart of Harry Potter you should be ashamed of...arghhh" Fleur cried out as Hermione grabbed the letter and threw it on the smoldering pile on the table where it ignited with the others.

"Hate mail...you know who's responsible for this don't you," Hermione spat her eyes growing a little damp as she glared at the burning letters the flames reflecting in her watery pupils making her look rather fierce.

"Bloody Skeeter and her rag of a newspaper," Ron grumbled slamming his fist against the table an action that Gabrielle copied as she too got a scowl on her face though it was clear she wasn't really sure why they were supposed to be mad. Hermione glanced at her and gave her a watery smile finding her supportive action very comforting. Fleur made Hermione gasp as she brought a silk handkerchief to Hermione's cheeks to gently dry her eyes.

"Don't give her the satisfaction 'ermione...this is the Skeeter woman who writes utter nonsense for the Daily Prophet? I saw some of it while we journeyed over from France. I'll be having words with her one day soon, she'll be here to cover this tournament no doubt and I promise she'll eat those words of hers," Fleur said and though her voice was soft and she was smiling to comfort Hermione, the Gryffindor couldn't help but feel a distinct air of a promise coming from the french witches eyes.

"Well, you'll have to beat me to it," Hermione said blinking back the rest of her tears and allowing a small smile to cross her face.

"Mon Beau Lion..." Fleur sighed her eye glazing over a little as she spoke making Hermione go a little red. Her french was a little rusty and she wasn't quite sure what Fleur had said but by the inflection, Hermione could tell it was meant to be sweet and endearing so her heart soared. Gabrielle snorted as she heard her sisters words and Fleur turned to glare at her.

"I can't believe you really said such a thing out loud how is it you are not affronted...do you think you are a poet or something," Gabrielle said giggling.

"Quiet," Fleur said harshly and Gabrielle relented and went back to her dinner.

"Don't worry Hermione only utter morons with nothing better to do would sit around and write hate mail to an actual child, don't listen to a word of it, all the people that matter know its all lies anyway," Ron said smiling at Hermione. Hermione beamed at the wizard taken back by his unusual display of tact and empathy. Hermione's pleasant surprise was however shattered a moment later as Ron spoke again.

"So...anyway, couldn't help me with all that potions homework, could you? Snape went overboard today, didn't he? two thousand-word essay on the first day back hows that fair!...also I know you don't do it anymore but this divination chart thing Harry and I have to fill out...you couldn't help with that too?" Ron asked hopefully as he piled seconds on his plate still not full yet. Hermione rolled her eyes and let out a deep exasperated sigh, of course, he'd have to use that tender moment to butter her up for some request or other.

"Oh just make it up that old fraud won't know if you've really read the stars or not," Hermione grumbled before taking her new novel and placing it in her book bag getting ready to head to the Gryffindor common room and do her own homework and more importantly read up on Professor Hallow. Fleur who had finally started eating hastily finished her meal so that she and Gabrielle could join the witch in the entrance hall to say goodnight.

"Oh take me to bed 'ermione," Fleur sighed pulling Hermione into a surprise hug from behind.

"W-what," Hermione cried in what came out as a high pitched squeak as the Gryffindor felt her heart begin to pound in her chest. Fleur removed her arms from Hermione a slightly bemused look on her face.

"I just meant...its been a long day I'm tired...this was a joke 'ermione," Fleur laughed and Hermione went very red indeed as she realised she'd taken the witch up the wrong way completely.

"Oh of course," Hermione said giving a nervous laugh and Fleur furrowed her brow as she looked at Hermione then before a sudden knowing looking flashed across her face for just a second but Hermione caught it. Fleur took a few steps forward and leaned down to Hermione's ear to whisper to her so Gabrielle couldn't hear.

"Maybe the next time I utter those words...you can take them a little more literally," Fleur said with a giggle giving Hermione a quick peck on the cheek and moving to head outside to the Beauxbatons carriage.

"Goodnight 'ermione!" Fleur said giving the frozen Hermione a small wave.

"Night Bushy," Gabrielle also called a little smirk on her lips as she too gave a wave.

"Yes...good...ah...goodnight!" Hermione said managing to find the right word at last and shake herself out of her daze. Hermione watched Fleur and Gabrielle go, sighing as she cringed at how awkward she felt she'd just been.

"Oh get it together woman, she was only playing...wasn't she?" Hermione said aloud to herself biting her lip as she made her way up the stone steps towards the grand staircase.

"Well you never can tell with the french," A Portrait of a rosy-cheeked witch in a garden who was busy tending to some flowers said to Hermione as she passed and the Gryffindor groaned in embarrassment in the knowledge that the whole scene had been witnessed by the portrait and hurried off up the stairs.

*******

"Today was amazing Fleur put that nasty English boy from the world cup in his place and..." Fleur stopped reading shaking her head frowning deeply.

"You can't tell mother these things, Gabrielle! Change it now!" Fleur cried reading over her little sister's shoulder later that evening as they had retired to their room in the Beauxbatons carriage.

"Oh but that was the best part...other than how you and Bushy couldn't keep your eyes off each other all day that is," Gabrielle said muttering the last part to herself but Fleur still heard it plainly enough.

"Again with you and your overactive imagination, you really must try to control it one of these days," Fleur said turning away to hide her burning red cheeks as she slipped into bed. Fleur herself was one to talk about overactive imaginations given the waking daydreams she'd been having of late. A small grin eventually broke out on her lips as she thought of all the things that had past between herself and Hermione that day and the witch felt a great warmth building in the very core of her belly and a slight tingle between her legs.

Fleur wished she didn't have to share a room with Gabrielle in that moment as she rather felt like she needed some time alone with herself as it were. Fleur pushed some delightful imagery that had begun to swim before her eyes from her mind and tried to settle her mind and do her best to not count the minutes until she would see Hermione again. Then it happened, Fleurs imagination ran away with her again.

"Not asleep already are you Mademoiselle Delacour?" A familiar voice whispered and Fleur felt her heart kick into gear.

"No...not tonight," Fleur groaned as a phantom Hermione slide into her bed next to her.

"That's not fair you invited me to bed remember?" imaginary Hermione said with a chuckle.

"The real 'ermione...not you!" A flustered Fleur whispered harshly.

"Are you talking to yourself again?" Gabrielle asked looking over from the reading desk she was sat at still editing her letter for their mother.

"No...just finish that letter and put the light out soon, its keeping me awake," Fleur said a little haughtily and Gabrielle shook her head sighing as she went back to her work. Fleur dared to open her eyes and let out a little groan as imaginary Hermione was still there next to her grinning like a Cheshire cat. Fleur gave into her imagination and leaned forward and pulled this vision of Hermione close to her hoping that this would quell her overactive mind. It did and Fleur was soon asleep a small smile on her lips as she held an all too real feeling Hermione close against her.

*******

Hermione stifled a yawn as she finished looking over Ron's essay for Snape having had to make what felt like a hundred alterations and corrections. Ron had gone to bed already he hadn't asked her to aid him again but the wizard had looked so miserable Hermione hadn't been able to help herself and had pulled the essay towards her.

Hermione though looking forward to seeing Ron's overjoyed face in the morning when he collected his amended homework was now feeling it might not be worth it. She had hoped to get another task out of the way that evening but now felt far too tired to do any reading from her book on the retrievers. Still, perhaps this Hallow business wasn't as bad as she thought, Dumbledore couldn't really have hired a fourth unfit defense against the dark arts Professor in a row surely? Hermione tried to reassure herself with this notion but knowing Dumbledore's record she couldn't fully shake the idea that something was off with Hallow.

"Hey, Hermione waiting up for Harry are you?" Ginny asked as she entered the common room and made her way over to the reading desk Hermione was sitting at and placed herself down next to the exhausted-looking witch.

"You heard about his run-in with Snape then, I was hoping to speak to Harry but I was just finishing some homework at the moment," Hermione said stretching.

"Not even your own by the looks of it," Ginny said raising an eyebrow as spied her brother's name at the top of the Essay in front of Hermione.

"I know...don't say it, I'm a pushover...but Snape really did spring this essay on us out of nowhere..." Hermione said and Ginny just grinned.

"Well just don't let my brother and Harry get away with murder this year...put your foot down make them do some work after tonight," Ginny said and Hermione nodded getting a stern look in her eye.

"Anyway...I was talking to Parvati earlier..." Ginny began and Hermione felt her heart miss a beat and she felt like screaming but somehow managed to remain calm and gave Ginny a look that said 'and?'

"She wasn't making much sense..you know how she is, all that giggling...but she said something about you maybe needing a hand with something this evening and that I should offer to help?" Ginny said looking bemused and Hermione sat in silence her hands gripping the table so tightly her knuckles began to turn white but she took a deep breath and controlled her anger.

"I haven't a clue what she's talking about Ginny...in fact, I saw her talking to Daphne Greengrass earlier...she's probably off her head on that Bloody Laughus-leaf you lot love," Hermione lied and Ginny snorted.

"Well it does tend to give people the giggles...ah well never mind I'm off to bed...don't work too hard Granger," Ginny said giving Hermione a quick hug before heading upstairs. Hermione swore under her breath as soon as she heard the girls dorm room door close and she had some very choice words for Parvati. It was around ten minutes later when a shattered looking Harry stumbled into the common room seeing to not even note Hermione was there as he threw himself face down onto the sofa groaning slightly as she shifted about trying to get comfortable.

"Harry?" Hermione called rushing over to the boy and dropping to her knees next to him.

"Four hours cleaning Caulderons...that mans not human," Harry grumbled and Hermione couldn't help throwing herself over Harry and giving him a hug.

"When will you learn to keep your big mouth shut and let me take the brunt of Snape's nonsense...it doesn't bother me honestly! I hate seeing him get away with punishing you for standing up for me," Hermione moaned knowing Harry wouldn't listen but trying her best to make him see reason anyway.

"I'm not letting him get away with treating you like dirt...besides I'm already done with this detention, Professor Hallow showed up claiming Dumbledore had ordered Snape to forget the rest of my detentions, you should've seen the greasy gits face Hermione...now that was some real magic," Harry laughed opening his eyes at last and rolling around to look at Hermione. The witch couldn't help laughing at Harry's lopsided grin and the crooked way his glasses now hung on his face. Hermione wasn't thrilled to hear Hallow had once again wormed her way into a situation that somehow involved Harry and his friends but she was thankfully for the woman at present.

"Snape's going to be pissed come our next lesson though isn't he," Hermione sighed and Harry shook his head.

"Doesn't matter I can handle him, just you keep your head down Hermione and don't listen to a word he has to say about you," Harry said smiling and Hermione nodded though she felt Harry wasn't as ready to face more detentions and hours of misery with Snape as he was letting on. Harry shocked Hermione as he grabbed his forehead again and cried out in pain sitting upright.

"Damn scar...ever since that nightmare before the world cup I haven't been able to shake it!" Harry said through gritted teeth. Hermione grabbed onto the wizards freehand panicking as she saw her friend in such pain.

"Harry...you could still talk to Dumbledore or..." Hermione trailed off as she could see Harry shake his head quickly dismissing that notion.

"I sent a letter to Sirius...and that's already caused enough trouble...Hedwig found me in the great hall when I was having late evening dinner, Dumbledore had the house elves knock something together for me," Harry said reaching into his robes and handing Hermione a letter the witch read it quickly and bit her lip. Sirius sounded worried and had mentioned something about Dumbledore reading the signs and that he was on his way back to Britan. Hermione could tell Harry was deeply troubled by this. The pain started to leave the wizard and he took back his letter.

"What if he's found Hermione...and I'm back on my own again," Harry said quietly and Hermione couldn't help herself as she immediately threw her arms around the boy and held him close.

"You're never on your own Harry! Not now! Not at Hogwarts...and neither I'm I, you're my navigator!" Hermione said defiantly holding back tears as squeezed the wizard to death. Harry wasn't sure what that meant As Hermione had never really detailed her pirate fascination to the wizard and Harry had never asked Hermione about her childhood before Hogwarts.

He had however gotten a sense that she'd been an outcast like him and had never really found a kinship with anyone her own age till she'd met himself and Ron. The witch finally pulled back from Harry giving him a small smile going a tad pink as she'd realised she'd mentioned the imaginary role she'd given her friend aboard the metaphorical pirate ship she had begun to see as their friendship after that little talk with Daphne.

"I didn't mean...I know I always have you, Hermione," Harry said shifting about a little awkwardly seeming sorry for not having called their friendship to mind immediately.

"Yes, and you always will... now don't let me catch you saying something so foolish again!" Hermione said straightening up and getting her more bossy self back making Harry grin again.

"I'll think of a way to make Sirius stay where he is...I was just overreacting...There must still be time....well goodnight Hermione," Harry said getting to his feet and heading upstairs to bed.

"Harry what about your homework?" Hermione called looking scandalised the wizard appeared to have forgotten.

"Oh well that star chart nonsense can be made up...and er Dumbledore had Hallow hand me this envelope after she got me out of detention and its...well its a pre-written essay on the exact subject Snape asked us to cover...its like he knew this was going to happen and had it written out already? Mad isn't it," Harry laughed pulling the essay out of his pocket. Hermione frowned deeply.

"That's not your own work!" Hermione cried.

"Oh and that's Ron's handwriting is it?" Harry said sarcastically with a smirk nodding towards the essay laying on top of the nearby reading table and Hermione went rather red.

"That's...that's...don't laugh at me, Harry Potter! If Dumbledore didn't have a machiavellian level of foresight you'd have your corrected essay sitting right next to Ron and you know it," Hermione snapped folding her arms being driven mad by Harry's cheeky grin. Harry knew the witch wasn't mad that it wasn't Harrys own work just that it wasn't his work amended by her, though she often complained very vocally about having to help Harry and Ron, Harry got the sense the witch secretly enjoyed helping her friends and being able to have them both owe her multiple favors at any given time of the year.

"Night Captain," Harry chuckled taking a few more steps toward the stairs.

"Captain?" Hermione asked eyes going a little wide, had Harry somehow dove into her mind she wondered heart rate rising a little.

"Yeah well if I'm a navigator you've gotta be the captain right? I mean only time Ron piloted anything I ended up crashed into the whomping willow...so no way I'm stepping on a ship with him in charge," Harry said winking at Hermione and finally heading up the stairs leaving the blushing witch alone a warm feeling running all through her.

*******

The rest of the week until Thursday and Professor Hallows class was mostly uneventful and saw Hermione using most of her free time to read up on the Professor often with Fleur by her side. Gabrielle more often than not had chosen to hang around with Harry and Ron much to their dismay and Hermione and Fleur's amusement. Sat in the library at lunchtime before Professor Hallows first class with them Hermione noted a strange figure was starring at herself and Fleur from across the room.

"Fleur...I think Victor Krum is staring at us" Hermione whispered nudging the slivery haired witch who looked up from her own book of advanced charms and sighed.

"Sorry 'ermione I often have wizards drawn to me like this," Fleur said looking rather annoyed.

"Um...actually I think he's staring at me," Hermione whispered going a little pink the cheeks.

"What!" Fleur said a little too loudly her voice laced with envy as she turned to look around Krum but Hermione grabbed her arm.

"No don't look! He'll know we're talking about him! Let's just get our thing together and head to class we only have five minutes left anyway. Fleur nodded and her temper seemed to cool and the pair left the library and headed towards the defense against the dark arts classroom.

"Hermione was shocked to find herself and Fleur weren't the first ones there and that everyone even Ron, Seamus and Dean who could be a bit slow to class on occasion were all neatly lined up at the door. It was clear that word of Professor Hallows allegedly groundbreaking lessons had excited everyone enough to rush to class. A moment later after Hermione and Fleur joined the line, the bell rang and the door to the classroom swung open on its own and Professor Hallow invited them inside.

"Everyone, inside please, quickly now, a lot to get through today," Professor Hallow called in a rather cheery voice and everyone scrambled for the door there was a quick tussle between Malfoy and Ron as they got stuck in the door frame both wizards having tried to charge into the room at the same time. Hermione was surprised Malfoy was so eager to be in a room with Hallow after their last encounter but perhaps the word of her amazing lessons had even excited him.

Hermione took her seat near the back of the room with Fleur and Gabrielle rather miffed that they were so far back but these were the only seats left. Hermione didn't have to fret for long however as it appeared Professor Hallow was also displeased with these seating arrangements.

"Now, now Miss Granger, Miss Delacour I can't have what I hear are too of the most gifted pupils at Hogwarts sitting all the way back there! Swap with these three here if you would," Professor Hallow said with a wicked grin as she looked at Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle who all reluctantly got to their feet and shuffled off to the back of the room as Hermione Fleur and Gabrielle moved to the front row. The room was deathly quiet as Professor Hallow looked over the register running her finger down it till she let out a little gasp and looked up at them all.

"Longbottom," Professor Hallow said simply it didn't appear to be a question and more a statement.

"Yes Professor?" Neville said raising his hand from the second row.

"Sorry...it's nothing...I just met your parents once a long time ago," Professor Hallow said giving Neville a rather strange smile. Hermione along with a few others turned to view Neville and saw that the boy looked rather ill and merely gave Professor Hallow a quick nod before lowering his hand.

"A-hem...well then...where to start, I hear from your former Professor that you have covered plenty of dark creatures and how to fend them off...so I think the next step should be...oh a question Miss Granger, you're a very keen little thing aren't you...I like that" Professor Hallow said stopping mid-flow to look at Hermione giving a little laugh.

"We should maybe start with chapter..." Hermione trailed off as Professor Hallow moved back around her desk and took up a copy of the same book Hermione was looking to and flicked through the first few pages before snorting and promptly dropping the tome in the rubbish basket next to her desk to the laughter of half the class and the absolute horror of Hermione who sat open-mouthed and wide-eyed starring at the book in its new resting place.

"Load of rubbish that thing...everyone stand up..." Professor Hallow said and there was a great deal of noise as chairs scraped against the floor as everyone stood even a still shell shocked Hermione who couldn't get over the idea of a teacher treating a book with such casual disregard. Professor Hallow gave a casual flick of her wrist and suddenly all the tables and chairs vanished leaving her students stood in the now very empty feeling classroom.

"Gryffindors on the right Sltherins on the left...lets have some fun," Professor Hallow said with a gleeful smile.

Chapter Text

A sheet of misty rain had rolled into Hogwarts and was now providing a tender pitter-patter of raindrops against the defense against the dark arts class windows. The rain against the glass was the only sound to be heard as Hermione and her fellow students awaited their first lesson from Professor Hallow with bated breath.

Their Professor walked up and down the center of the room between the two lines of Gryffindors and Slytherins who were stood opposite each other all of them seeming too entranced by the woman to speak, move or even breathe. Eagerly anticipating instruction, the excitement and tension in the air were electric. Even Hermione who had been so utterly disgusted by Professor Hallows treatment of the book from which they were meant to study this year, had also stood to attention and was keen to learn. The Professor had a small grin on her lips as she slowly drew her wand.

Hermione got the sense the woman was enjoying having her students utterly undivided, rapt attention. It was a luxury afforded to few Professors at the school. Perhaps only Snape, Professor McGonagall or Dumbledore could claim to have such command over a room when they entered it.

Professor Hallow proved to have something of a flair for the dramatic as she gave a casual flick of her wand and the shutters of the windows banged shut leaving the room in darkness for a moment before a series of candles along the sides of the room ignited. It reminded Hermione of how Snape had liked to have the room while he had covered for Professor Lupin last year.

Hermione shifted about nervously at the sudden change in lighting it made the room rather eerie as the shadows created by the candlelight crossed everyone's faces at odd angles which disturbed the witch for some reason. Hermione felt around in the dark next to her for Fleurs hand but grabbed something else by mistake.

"Frisky today are we 'ermione," Fleur said sarcastically with a mock look of outrage on her face as Hermione drew her hand back from Fleurs thigh at lightning speed, now thankful for the darkened room so no one would notice her reddening cheeks.

"Sorry! I was looking for your hand," Hermione whispered and Fleur giggled but before she could respond further Professor Hallow let out a little cough to draw their attention back to her.

Professor Hallow seemed right at home in the darkened shadowy classroom and her grin got wider as she saw the increased anticipation mixed with a tinge of fear in her captive audience's eyes. The woman gave a brief chuckle before sliding back into her lecture where she'd left off before Hermione had interrupted.

"As I was saying, Professor Lupin left me a letter detailing the work you have done in regards to combating dark creatures, spirits and all manner of foul beasts. I think it's time for you to prepare to face another all together deadlier, crueler and unpredictable foe," Professor Hallow said her cheery tone disappearing as she spoke a more serious look crossing her face.

"A wild beast such as a troll or a werewolf are tough foes indeed but they all basically act and think alike driven by their basic instincts. A witch or wizard with the correct training should have no fear in being able to combat such beings. However what about an opponent who can think move and act just as quick as you? With the same arsenal of magic that you possess and much much more? Now that's a foe I believe the students of Hogwarts should be looking to be able to combat most of all and thankfully, our dear headmaster seems to agree." Professor Hallow said reaching the end of the room spinning on her heel and beginning a slow march the other way.

"So what is this great enemy I speak of? Anyone?" Professor Hallow asked and of course, Hermione's hand was the first up but it was a lot slower at rising than usual as Hermione found she wasn't at all comfortable with where this is appeared to be going. Professor Hallow nodded at Hermione signaling she had permission to answer.

"You're speaking about another human being Professor...A dark witch or wizard," Hermione said quietly as nervous whispering broke out around her as it seemed other students in her class appeared equally as disturbed as Hermione was by the notion.

"Right you are Miss Granger...you, of course, we're at the world cup when that band of unhinged drunken cowards decided to riot," Professor Hallow said her gaze shifting from Hermione to Malfoy opposite who didn't look back at the witch but instead scowled straight ahead at the wall across from him. Hermione wondered why she'd looked at him as she spoke about the terrifying events at the world cup.

Hermione Harry and Ron had spoken about it amongst themselves at the time of course and they'd all agreed Malfoys parents had probably been amongst the rioters. Did Professor Hallow have some knowledge about the Malfoys that told her the same thing? Could that be why she'd looked to the boy with that smirk just now? Did that also explain why she was seemingly so harsh on Malfoy, did she think he would turn out just like his parents? Hadn't Hallow also said she'd been at school with Draco's mother and was an old friend of the family? Hermione didn't like any of this it wasn't adding up but she didn't get to ponder these things long as their Professor continued her lecture.

"With such rift raft about in the world today...I and your headmaster feel you need to be taught how to defend yourselves...the ministry does not wish me to give such lessons...they think you'd be incapable of dealing with the harsh reality of our world till you're older...does anyone agree with that stance?" Professor Hallow asked and to everyone's surprise, Parvati Patil spoke up to answer. Hermione had been meaning to have another word with the witch over that little teasing thing she'd said to Ginny in regards to her but as she looked at the girl now she saw almost a different person. Happy, laughing Parvati wasn't there it was a stony-faced furious witch Hermione saw instead.

"I certainly don't agree, Professor! I was at the world cup too and If it wasn't for some help from my friends, my sister and I could've died...the ministry didn't get to the scene till long after we had gotten ourselves out of danger...they can't protect anyone the way I see it...so why shouldn't we learn to look after ourselves," Parvati spoke a never before heard steel in her voice, it was clear she was outraged about what had happened at the world cup and how in-effective the ministry had been. A large murmuring of agreement broke out and Professor Hallow smiled widely.

"I like you, Miss...Patil wasn't it? You've got the right attitude...you can't rely on other people to be there to save you all the time, you've got to be able to take care of yourselves. These so-called Death Eaters aren't going to care if you're underage, there won't be any mercy or sympathy you'll be disposed of just like anyone else. That's why I say you need to know exactly what's out there and how to defend yourselves from it," Professor Hallow said passionately seeming to stir a great deal of inspiration in the class even a few of the Slytherins were nodding along fiercely with what the witch was saying.

Hermione felt maybe it was wrong to assume every last Slytherin student was a Death Eater in waiting and that maybe not all their parents had been rioters at the world cup after all. Malfoy Crabbe and Goyle, however, looked equally unsettled by their Professors tone at odds with the rest of the class and their excitement.

Hermione could feel her heart rate rising as she too felt a great swell of excitement at the core of her belly getting swept up in the moment of their fired-up Professor's speech. However, as the excited chatter around her got louder Hermione realised she wasn't feeling excitement at all, she was feeling something closer to dread. While she agreed with the sentiment overall there was just something about the look in her Professors eye that made this all feel wrong somehow.

Hermione seemed to be alone in her worries as the witch looked to her left to see Harry was actually clapping his hands nodding in agreement a few others joined him in this brief applause. Some of the more overzealous students even cheered and vocally expressed their support for their new Professors words.

"Yeah! why shouldn't we know how to fight!"

"Ministry hasn't a clue! Look at how many were injured at the world cup!"

"Exactly they can't protect us we need to do it ourselves!"

Hermione wanted to feel the same rush of inspiration her fellow students did but it just wouldn't come. Hermione looked to Fleur on her right side then and was relieved to see Fleur was viewing the Professor with a certain level of suspicion in her eye. Hermione felt a great rush of affection wash over her for the french witch and before she could stop herself she'd taken the witch's hand in her own and squeezed able to find it this time without issue. Fleur looked away from Hallow and down at her and Hermione's joined hands before looking up and locking eyes with the Gryffindor smiling.

"She seems to have an odd distaste for the ministry she used to work for...that seems a little strange wouldn't you say" Fleur whispered to Hermione and the witch nodded.

"Yes, strange indeed," Hermione said back, biting her lip.

"Well maybe there's a good reason she left them to come work at Hogwarts," Gabrielle said joining the conversation as she looked around Fleur up at Hermione. There could be something to that Hermione thought, as from her limited research from the book on the retrievers she did recall a passage that spoke about Hallow butting heads with ministry officials on occasion. Hermione was pulled from her thoughts as their Professor raised a hand for quiet and silence fell once more. Professor Hallow moved back to the head of the room and sat down on top of her desk in a causal manner before speaking again.

"Yes very eager, that's nice to see, all of you seem ready to tear some of those Death Eater cowards limb from limb...but first things first, you need to learn what these people are capable of...first hand but we'll come onto that in a second. I must warn you some of the things you will see in this lesson will disturb you and be hard to stomach anyone who feels unable to partake please feel free to excuse yourself at any time." Professor Hallow said looking around at them all. Of course, no one moved, none of the students wished to be seen as weak and have to leave. Professor Hallow smiled again before continuing.

"Very good, Now then, there are three curses that exist in our world that are outlawed in almost every civilised corner of magical society does anyone happen to know the name of any of these foul curses?" Professor Hallow asked, speaking to everyone but her eyes seemed to linger on the Slytherins, which seemed to offended a handful of them.

Daphne and Pansy, in particular, seemed to dislike the insinuation their Professors stare carried as her gaze fell on them. Still, a few did raise their hands as did some Gryffindors. Hermione was a little taken back to be able to count Ron's hand amongst them.

"There's that one my dad talked about the...Imperious Curse," Ron said lowering his hand and looking at his feet nervously after having spoken.

"Red hair...you'd be another Weasley, Ronald wasn't it?...your fathers a Ministry man yes? Those twin brothers of yours mentioned him and that exact curse too...it caused a great deal of trouble the Imperious Curse. It can be used to control the mind of anyone it is placed on, many Death Eaters used it as a defense in court, saying it was the only reason they ever did You Know Whos bidding," Professor Hallow shot Malfoy another venomous glance that only Hermione seemed to register before the woman continued.

"Of course that presented a great headache for the ministry, who to believe...who to punish...there were ways of obtaining the truth however and today I'm going to demonstrate one of them for you whilst at the same time showing you the terrible power of the Imperious curse and the other two that we'll come onto shortly," Professor Hallow said sliding off her desk again turning and opening a large trunk that sat in front of it and levitating a rather heavy-looking object up on top of the desk. Hermione raised herself on tiptoes to look over Professor Hallow's shoulder at the object.

The Gryffindor saw what appeared to be a large ornate silver basin with strange runes carved around the outside of it and what appeared to be a few precious looking blue gemstones. The basin appeared to contain only a pool of crystal clear water but soon shifted and changed to what appeared to be a silvery cloudy liquid. Hermione could swear she heard faint whispers coming from it and it chilled her to the bone.

"A Pensieve," Hermione muttered to herself but Professor Hallow heard her and turned on her heel, smiling once more.

"Yes, you are correct again Miss Granger," Professor Hallow said reaching into her robes and taking out three small vials which appeared to contain a whispy silver liquid and placed them on the desk next to the Pensieve.

"What's a Pensieve when it's at home then?" Seamus Finnigan asked a tone of amusement in his voice and a grin on his face that soon vanished as Professor Hallow fixed him in her gaze.

"A Pensieve Mr...Finnigan? Is a powerful magical object that can be used to view memories that have been extracted from various living beings including animals and of course humans. Today I have acquired with special permission, three memories from three of the foulest Death Eaters to have ever held a wand. Again I must warn you all what you are about to see will be hard viewing but please remember these are only memories and you can come to no harm while observing them." Professor Hallow paused briefly as the class muttered to each other restlessly.

"Miss Delacour, I must insist that your sweet younger sister not participate in this part of the lesson, these things are not for one so young," Professor Hallow continued and Fleur nodded and was surprised when Gabrielle looked to easily agree not to take part appearing for the first time to be frightened by one of the lessons she'd been in.

"Go along to the library spend some time reading...I will find you again at dinner in the great hall," Fleur said and Gabrielle nodded before giving Hermione a small smile that the witch tried her best to return before the girl exited the darkened room and quietly shut the door.

"This first memory comes from the mind of one Randal Castor, it was held by the ministry as evidence during his trial he was found guilty of having used the Imperious curse to have an Auror, Quincy King, drown himself," Professor Hallow said holding up one of the vials before uncorking it and emptying the contents into the basin where it swirled around.

"If the ministry can just extract people's memories how come anyone ever gets away with a crime?" A confused sounding Pansy asked furrowing her brow.

"Well miss Parkinson, memories are funny things they can on occasion be a little foggy or unclear...or a person with the right knowledge can alter or even repress a memory altogether you have to act quick when extracting a memory or you risk losing the chance to ever extract anything useful and even when you do get a memory in time a court often dislikes using them as evidence due to how easily certain witches and wizards can falsify them with magic," Professor Hallow said and Pansy nodded seeming satisfied by that answer.

"Join hands now please children, you two at the end there, Miss Brown and Miss Davis step closer together and close the loop...Miss Greengrass, Mr. Thomas if you would both take my hand and close this end of the circuit," Professor Hallow said and everyone tentatively did as she bid. Hermione and Fleur who were still holding hands with each other gave one another reassuring squeeze before Hermione took Harry's hand on her other side and Fleur took the hand of Dean Thomas.

Daphne and Dean awkwardly stepped toward Hallow, placing their free hands over the Professors outstretched one as she touched the contents of the Pensieve with the tip of her wand held in her other hand. The room in which Hermione and her classmates where standing faded and in an instant they were all stood on a country lane as the sun was just setting. Anxious murmuring broke out amongst the class but Professor Hallow cleared her throat and they all fell silent.

"This way children, stay close together and brace yourselves," Professor Hallow said leading them all down the overgrown country lane. She hadn't instructed them to keep holding hands but Fleur and Hermione had no intention of letting go of each other as they walked. After a few minutes, the glass could hear the sound of flowing water and a small stone bridge came into view. A cloaked wizard was stood atop it his eyes appearing glazed over another wizard in dark robes who was hooded and masked stood behind him wand raised.

Hermione covered her mouth as she noted it appeared the wizard standing on the bridge was holding what looked like a large cannonball in his hand. It must have been conjured by the masked wizard, Hermione felt sick as she could tell where this would end. Others around Hermione and Fleur also seemed distressed.

"Is this really allowed...I'm not sure I can look!"

"He's not going to jump? No! Someone do something"

"This is a memory you idiot all this has happened already we can't change anything!"

"Quiet please...try to relax...I did warn you all this wouldn't be a picnic but either quiet down or I'll toss you out of the memory!" Professor Hallow called to the class getting rather stern.

"Imperio!" The masked man on the bridge called and the class watched as wispy white smoke left the wizards wand and clouded around the face of the man holding the cannonball making him inch closer to the edge he looked like he was going to jump but then halted.

"No don't fight it! You'll do as I say Quincy old boy!" Randal Castor laughed giving a flick of his wand seeming to strengthen his spell.

"You just couldn't let me be Quincy...had to follow me into that muggle's house and see me commit that murder, well...now I've got no choice but to have you go for a little swim in the river here, I'm sure you understand," The masked wizard laughed and with another flick of his wand Quincy jumped from the bridge into the river and sank right to the bottom. A few of the students let out gasps and some turned away unable to watch. Hermione let out a small cry and turned to Fleur burying her face in the witches chest shutting her eyes tight and Fleur held her close. All Hermione knew then was the beating of Fleur heart and the strength of the witches arms around her.

"I'm with you 'ermione... it's okay...be strong," Fleur said squeezing Hermione a little her warm soothing voice somewhat dispelling the horror of the situation.

"Help him!" Cried, Lavender Brown seeming to have forgotten the scene before them was an event long past that they couldn't change, just like that other student before her had.

"This is a memory girl...there is nothing to be done, when you find yourself under the Imperious Curse like poor Quincy here...unless you develop an iron will and learn how to resist the curse you will do anything the caster commands of you, including jumping in a river with cannonball and allowing yourself to drown," Professor Hallow said harshly turning to look at them all as the masked wizard on the bridge who had to be the Randal she'd spoken of cackled with laughter again and took off his mask running excitedly to the edge of the bridge.

Randal looked down at the water wide-eyed watching, a small steady stream of bubbles rise to the top and then...they stopped and the wizard spun on the spot and disappeared with a crack. The memory faded and before anyone knew what was happening the entire class was back stood in the defense against the dark arts classroom holding hands. Everyone looked rather ill even Malfoy and his cronies didn't seem like they'd been prepared for what they'd witnessed. Hermione was still being held by Fleur and awkwardly stepped back out of her grasp an apologetic watery smile on her face.

"Oh I got your robes damp...I'm sorry Fleur I...just didn't think I'd react like that," Hermione said feeling very annoyed at herself for getting so upset.

"Hush now 'ermione...that was enough to turn anyone's head," Fleur said a little bit of steel in her eye as she looked to Professor Hallow who was waiting for them all to recover.

"Wasn't this lesson meant to be fun," Hermione heard Ron grumble to Harry who didn't reply and instead seemed lost in his own thoughts.

"It's not pleasant, it's harsh and cruel what I've shown you but you've got know...got to see what happens if you don't learn...if you aren't prepared! I realise I've thrown you all in at the deep end but I've found that was always the best way to jolt people into action," Professor Hallow said and the class swallowed hard as she picked up her second vial to uncork it but was interrupted by Malfoy.

"Couldn't you just use the curses on some of those damn things that oaf Hagrid is making us raise...save us having to see all this stuff," Draco grumbled making a few Slytherins laugh. Professor Hallow regarded him with a cold stare seeming to be holding back her fury at being interrupted by the boy.

"Oh and harm some poor defenseless creatures, how cruel and unnecessary...your mother really wants to be giving you a talking to one day soon young Mr. Malfoy," Professor Hallow said a strangely sweet tone to her voice that seemed to wrongfoot the boy and he didn't respond Ron did however unable to help himself.

"Those Skrewts are anything but defenseless Professor...but honestly it's lucky you left them where they are...bloody things would burn the castle down if they got in," Ron said and most of the room laughed even some Slytherins.

"Yes well in any case back to the lesson we have quite a bit to get through so settle down now please everyone. This next memory comes from the wickedest witch that I dare say there ever was. One...Bellatrix Lestrange..." Professor Hallow said stopping to read the room again.

"Le-Lestrange?" Malfoy stuttered looking disturbed and Hermione was sure she saw their Professor's eyes dance with delight for a split second at the boy's dismayed face.

"Yes...this memory was one of the few to be cleanly extracted from the witches mind....she is as mad as march hare these days you see...it'd be quite the witch or wizard who could get anything that made sense out of her. Bellatrix specialized in particular unforgivable curse, one used to bring excruciating pain upon the victim, sometimes known as the torture curse but might anyone know its true name," Professor Hallow asked and before she'd even turned to see if anyone had raised there hand Neville had spat out an answer in a tone that made Hermione feel her stomach churn with worry.

"The Cruciatus Curse," Neville said looking as pale as a ghost, trembling with what appeared to be a mix of fear and anger, his hands balled into fists. Parvati took hold of Neville's arm to comfort him noting he looked unwell, as everyone turned to look his way. It was clear there was something terribly wrong, Hermione wanted to run to him and make sure he was okay but stayed in place as Hallow spoke up again clearing her throat.

"Yes, Mr. Longbottom...I don't expect you to enter this memory...if I'd looked at my register beforehand I never would have..."Professor Hallow was cut off as Neville spoke up defiantly.

"No! I'll see it! I'll see it all!" Neville said swallowing hard and pulling away from Parvati's grip straightening up. Hermione felt her heart give a little jolt at the steel in Neville's voice.

"A true Gryffindor...Very well then...this memory will allow us to witness Bellatrix Lestrange torturing a ministry official for information during the height of the Dark Lords reign. I urge everyone to take a moment to ready themselves as this will be harder viewing than even the last memory," Professor Hallow said taking up the vial again before emptying its contents into the basin.

This time the class found themselves in what appeared to be a wine cellar as a tall dark-haired attractive witch walked around a wizard who was tied to a chair that was floating a few feet above the ground. The man's face was bloodied and bruised one eye was so badly damaged that it was sealed shut by swelling. The dark-haired witch who was clearly this Bellatrix Professor Hallow had spoken of kept walking around and around tutting as she took in the mans sorry state. The witch often prodded and poked the man irritating and aggravating the worst of his wounds making the witch giggle.

"Those fools...always trying to get to the bottom of things with muggle dueling...fists biting punching kicking...keep that sort of thing for the bedroom I say," Bellatrix cackled then as she withdrew her wand. Hermione looked to her left and saw Neville was shaking with fury his eyes trained unblinkingly on Bellatrix his teeth gritted eyes damp with furious tears. Hermione felt herself tremble with outrage at how this lesson was making Neville feel she wasn't sure what the story with Neville and this Bellatrix was exactly but it was clearly extremely upsetting for him. Hermione swore that if this memory lasted much longer she would demand their Professor halt this lesson and pull them all back out of the memory.

"Please...please," The wizard in the chair groaned struggling to speak.

"Oh don't waste your breath...begging didn't work for that last Auror and it won't work for you! I'll be straight with you...I don't give a flying fig what you know or what you don't know but I'm going to have some fun with you regardless, you can say whatever you want I've heard it all before but all you can really do is pray to whatever it is you pray to for a quick death...and maybe I'll be merciful...or maybe I won't," Bellatrix said in a semi-sing-song voice smiling wickedly. Hermione felt like she wanted to scream and throw up at the same time. Neville let out a cry of anguish and tried to run at the vision of Bellatrix but Harry and Ron grabbed him.

"It's alright Neville...it's not really happening she's not there..." Ron whispered harshly trying to make sure Professor Hallow and the Slytherins didn't see Neville's outburst.

"But it was real...she did this...and worse..."Neville said his voice cracking and Professor Hallow moved toward Neville and took him aside as the vision of Bellatrix continued taunting her victim. Hermione saw Professor Hallow put her arm around the boy as she spoke to him, seeming to calm him down. Neville moved back to stand with Hermione Harry Ron and Fleur, his newfound calmness didn't last however and once Bellatrix raised her wand his face hardened again and he looked slightly unhinged as he glared at the woman.

"Curcio!" Bellatrix cried and the man in the chair trashed about and cried out in horror as his limbs began to bend at funny angles and his head was thrown back in pain. Bellatrix cackled and kept up her spell not even asking any questions for her victim to answer it was clear she being truthful when she said she hadn't cared if the wizard had nay information for her or not.

The man screamed and howled in agony as Bellatrix danced around him striking ith the torture curse over and over. Looking to Neville again Hermione saw the boy had balled his fist so tightly that his nails had dug into the palms of his hands and he'd drawn blood and he was shaking worse than ever. Hermione couldn't watch any longer.

"Stop this! Let us out! Can't you see this is bothering Neville!" Hermione snapped grabbing Neville and pulling him close so the Slytherins, mainly Malfoy, couldn't see his state of utter distress. Professor Hallow looked around at the many disturbed faces in the cellar and how Hermione was barely able to keep Neville standing upright and with a flick of her wand they all found themselves back in the defense against the dark arts classroom once more.

Professor Hallow cleared her throat looking uncomfortable as she made her way over to Hemione who aside from helping to keep Neville on his feet was also now openly scowling at her Professor. Hermione had just about enough of this so-called lesson. As the Gryffindor opened her mouth to reprimand their Professor for thinking such a lesson was wise she was caught off guard as Neville whispered into her ear.

"No...don't, I'll be alright Hermione...just leave it," Neville said straightening up and taking his weight off her. Hermione wanted to argue but was struck silent by the look in Neville's eye.

"I must apologise Mr. Longbottom...I should have put my foot down and not allowed you to view that memory...please come up to my office and have a sit down and a cup of tea, kettles right there on my desk... and I'll be along shortly and we can talk this over," Professor Hallow said gently taking Neville by the arm and leading him towards the small staircase behind her desk that lead up to her office.

Neville nodded and clambered up the steps seeming eager to be out of sight of the others. Neville needn't have worried about being embarrassed at being upset by the memory as the rest of the class including Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle all stood looking rather worse for wear themselves.

All of them were pale and disturbed, some trembling, others with tear stricken faces. Some, like Hermione, had looks of cold fury on their faces whether it was due to them thinking about the evils Bellatrix Lestrange had committed or if it was there Professors new strange teaching methods that had them feeling this way was hard to say.

"Let's move onto the last...and worst curse shall we, would anyone care to name the foulest curse of all?" Professor Hallow asked moving toward the Pensieve and emptying the last vial into it. Hermione while wishing to not even participate in the rest of this lesson till she knew if Neville was okay couldn't help herself and answered in a quiet voice.

"Avda Kedavra...the killing curse," Hermione said simply trying to keep her voice from cracking as she felt her stomach churn at having to utter the incantation she'd never heard spoke aloud before and only ever read in a book form the restricted section of the library.

"Correct again Miss Granger...theres no blocking the killing curse, no potion to null its effects, no enchanting an object that can dispell it...there's only ever been one recorded survivor of it...and he stands amongst you," Professor Hallow said turning and looking at Harry who was staring determinedly at the flame of a candle in what Hermione knew was an attempt to not acknowledge the many eyes that were now upon him.

The class reluctantly joined hands for a third time to witness the final and worst unforgivable curse. Hermione rubbed her thumb in a soothing circular motion over the back of Harry's hand as they entered this third memory that Professor Hallow informed them came from the mind of a Death Eater named Jaspar Rackham. Jaspar had taken a muggle man hostage and was holding him captive at the peak of a large snowy mountain.

"Those others...like you? they're gone now see...you don't need me anymore... I can go now," the muggle man on his knees said hopefully looking up at the bloody face of Rackham who had clearly just survived a rather nasty fight of some sort.

"Yes...you can go," Jaspar laughed giving a twist of his wrist and the ropes binding the muggle mans wrists were cut and he got to his feet and quickly turned to run. He took maybe two steps before Rackham had raised his wand once again and uttered the killing curse. There was a blinding flash of green light that hit the muggle man square in the back and he fell like a sack of bricks face down in the snow killed instantly. Hermione turned away and squeezed Harry's hand tightly the wizard looked grateful she was there. The memory faded a moment later and everyone returned to the classroom all of them seeming utterly shattered by today's experience.

"That's all there is to it...you get hit with the killing curse you're done...now I know what you all must be thinking if the curse is that powerful how come witches and wizards don't use it all the time when they get into a duel...besides the obvious legal repercussions. Well, that's simple...it takes an extreme level of hatred and power to cast the killing curse and that goes the same from Curcio. If all of you raised your wands at me now and cast either curse I doubt I'd get much more than a paper cut," Professor Hallow said giving a small snort.

'Oh I don't know...lets put that to the test shall we," Hermione found herself thinking rather viciously as her temper worsened as she couldn't get over a Professor giving such a twisted lesson to their pupils. Hermione was thankful there were only five or so minutes of this madness left and they could all return to normality. Hermione was also eager to check on Neville and make sure he was doing okay. Professor Hallow still had one last thing to say however and Hermione couldn't help but listen intently unable to ignore a teacher, even one she found so distasteful.

"It seems we're almost out of time so we won't get to the other part of the lesson I had planned for today but I think I'll detail the concept to now at least. If you could all look at the person opposite you and give them a smile...this will be your dueling partner for the year," Professor Hallow said and the misery in the room seemed to vanish as some excited chattering broke out. Hermione looked across at Pansy who was stood opposite her and bit her lip. This couldn't be happening, Hermione thought, groaning. Pansy meanwhile looked like she'd just won a million galleons and was grinning ear to ear. Others were less happy with their partner.

"I'm not training with Potter! He'll never be off the floor" Malfoy scoffed.

"We'll see about that Malfoy," Harry snorted a decidedly wicked grin on his face and Malfoy looked a tad unsettled.

"Excuse me Professor...but whom should I partner with," Fleur asked and Hermione noted that Daphne had been paired up with Dean so that left Fleur as the odd one out.

"We'll practice together Miss Delacour...go easy on me won't you," Professor Hallow said sarcastically and Fleur gave a very false smile just as the bell rang.

"She is in for a rude awakening..." Fleur whispered to Hermione making the Gryffindor grin.

"I hope you jinx her into next week...I'm sorry Fleur but I really need to sort something out I'll see you later," Hermione said not joining the witch and the rest of the class as they made their way out of the room.

"Um...going somewhere Miss Granger?" Professor Hallow called as she watched Hermione head up the stairs toward her office.

"Sorry but I really wanted to check on Neville Professor," Hermione said not stopping as she hurried up the stairs.

"Alright...but um don't touch anything... Mr. Potter just a second I want a quick word," Professor Hallow said getting distracted and letting Hermione enter the office. Hermione got a gleeful grin on her face.

She truly was eager to look in on Neville but she all thought now would be the perfect time to root around Hallow's possesions and maybe get some answers about who this witch was exactly. Hermione hopped Neville would go along with her ransacking of the office but there was only one way to find out. Hermione took a deep breath and stepped into the office.

Chapter Text

Hermione tentatively stepped into Professor Hallows office and quietly shut the door trying not to disturb Neville. The boy was sitting in a chair by the fireplace nursing a cup of tea he'd made for himself. The wizard seemed to have forgotten he was even holding the cup appearing not to have touched a drop, Hermione assumed the tea was stone cold by now.

Neville's eyes were trained unblinkingly on the flames of the fire that were still licking at the underside of a blackened kettle. He seemed completely tied up in his own thoughts. Hermione noted his tear stricken face and his red puffy eyes and couldn't help letting out a little whimper of sorrow at seeing the boy like this. The noise made Neville jump out of his reverie and he spilled a little of his tea on his shirt.

"Sorry Neville! I didn't mean to sneak up on you!" Hermione cried moving over to the boy drawing her wand and deftly drying him off as Neville gave her a smile.

"S'okay Hermione...I thought you were Hallow....is she not coming?" Neville said a little sniffly smiling at Hermione gratefully as she continued drying him.

"She's talking to Harry...probably be up in a minute. Honestly, I don't know what she's playing at giving such a lesson...maybe seventh years would be fit to see that sort of thing...but even then..." Hermione trailed off halting her rant as she saw Neville shiver at the memory of the still fresh painful lesson they'd endured.

"Sorry I shouldn't have brought it up again...How are you feeling now?" Hermione asked trying to be gentle as she worked at the stains on the rest of Neville's robes with her cleansing spell.

"I'm fine honestly don't worry about it...I should've been able to be strong and brave like the rest of you were...instead, I'm the only one who made a fool of themselves as usual...some Gryffindor," Neville muttered and Hermione felt a great swell of anger rise within her she hated seeing the boy speak about himself like this.

"No! Stop that! You're just as brave as any one of us...maybe even more so...Bellatrix Lestrange clearly doesn't mean the same to the rest of us as she does to you...I know it's none of my business Neville...but if you want to talk about it I'll listen...anytime you want," Hermione said placing her free hand on Neville's shoulder in a comforting manner. Neville looked up his eyes swimming with affection and he began to speak.

"You know I was raised by my Gran, don't you? Well, that's because my parents...my parents were...Bellatrix Lestrange...she..." Neville tried to get the words out but couldn't manage it and Hermione couldn't help herself and threw her arms around the boy pulling him close. She held him as he cried into her shoulder. Neville doing his best to stifle as much of his cries as he could by leaning his head hard into Hermione. The witch found it a little sore but she could bear it if its what it took to ease Neville's pain even just a little.

"It's okay you don't have to speak now...I shouldn't have asked it wasn't my place," Hermione said gently swaying side to side to try and bring Neville around again biting her lip as she began to worry about how much longer it would be before Hallow entered the office. If she wanted to have a good look around she'd have to think of a way to explain things to Neville so he didn't think she'd gone mad when she would start rummaging through Hallows things for information about her.

"Sorry Hermione...I've just never spoken about this to anyone at school before...I'll tell you again sometime," Neville said stepping back from the witch and moving to sit down again. Hermione nodded giving him a soft smile as Neville rubbed at his eyes before chuckling. Hermione raised an eyebrow concerned but happy that boy was smiling again.

"Sorry...just here you are still helping me all these years later eh?" Neville said with another small half-choked laugh.

"What?" Hermione asked with a soft smile her mind drawing a blank as to what Neville was on about at present due to her worrying about Hallow wandering into the room any second before she could look around.

"Just...you were the first person who was kind to me when I got here...remember on the train during first year you found me crying in my compartment because I'd lost Tervor...no one else would help me look for him...but you did," Neville said smiling at Hermione and the witch felt her heart begin to swell.

"Neville..." Hermione said quietly getting a little bleary-eyed that the boy still remembered such a thing.

"Then there was our first day when Malfoy hit me with that leg locker curse...I had to hop all the way back to Gryffindor tower...everyone laughed...but not Hermione Granger...you cast the counter curse and told me you were going to hand Malfoy into Professor McGonagall if he ever did it again but only after you'd turned his shoes into jelly the next time you saw him," Neville said chuckling again and Hermione snorted.

"Remember I got him just as he was walking through the courtyard and he slid all the way across it? Straight into Snape...he didn't know what hit him," Hermione said trying to stifle more laughter as she recalled the look on Malfoys face. The pair laughed for a moment before Hermione stopped and abruptly looked at her wristwatch, Hallow really wouldn't be much longer Hermione had to act now or not at all.

"Neville this is going to be a bit strange but...I'm going to take a look through Professor Hallow's things...It's just I have a funny feeling about her and I need to put my mind at ease," Hermione said looking away from a confused Neville her eyes darting around the many weird and wonderful artifacts that decorated Professor Hallows office.

"Well I knew you'd have some reason for coming up here other than looking out for me...so what are we looking for exactly?" Neville sighed getting to his feet resigning himself to the task of helping Hermione whether she wanted his aid or not. Hermione beamed at the wizard and rushed over to Hallows desk to start rifling through some papers on top of it.

"I'm not sure exactly...anything strange...or out of place...any signs of wrongdoing I guess, careful though some of these things might be dangerous," Hermione said frowning as the papers on the desk she flipped through turned out to be mere essays on shield charms.

"Well I hate to say it Hermione...but everything in here looks strange to me...I mean what's under this...arghhh!" Neville cried out and almost jumped out of his skin as he pulled a large dusty sheet off of a large object in the corner and was greeted by the reflection of Professor Hallow. Hermione rushed over to help Neville untangle himself from the sheet as she regarded the mirror with a fearful look. Hallows reflection was today sat on her knees looking utterly defeated and miserable, her make up a mess as it ran down her tear-stained cheeks.

"That's her mirror, the one Dumbledore spoke about...but hows she in it...when she's not even here?" Neville asked swallowing hard as he looked behind himself seeming to expect to see the real Hallow kneeling on the floor looking like the reflection in the mirror.

"She called it a...Carcerem-Mirror she told Harry and me about it on the train...said it reflected how one was feeling on the inside..." Hermione said frowning deeply as the reflection of Hallow looked up at her with deeply hurt and wounded eyes.

"Well she looks like she's in a right state today then...maybe she feels awful about how the lesson went...maybe she was really trying her best to help educate us all and feels terrible we all took it the wrong way?" Neville asked taking a step back from the mirror clearly unsettled by it.

"That... could be it," Hermione muttered though she didn't sound entirely convinced. Professor Hallow had seemed calm enough after the lesson and hadn't looked all that distressed by her pupil's reactions but maybe she was just good at hiding how she really felt. Hermione couldn't help feeling a pang of guilt for lashing out at the witch even though it had felt justified at the time.

'Still better safe than sorry eh? Keep looking there still might be something here!' a voice said in Hermione's head that sounded a bit like Harry and the witch nodded and rushed back to the desk leaving Neville to look at the mirror and listen out for Hallows footsteps. Hermione began looking through the drawers of the witches desk again not finding much. Sweet wrappers and junk mostly, Professor Hallow seemed to have something of a sweet tooth. Hermione kept up her rummaging shaking her head as she still couldn't locate anything noteworthy.

Only a silver nasty looking little blade stood out but Hermione didn't care to touch it so moved onto another drawer and her breath hitched as she found this one to be sealed shut. After a few different unlocking charms, Hermione finally got the drawer open and furrowed her brow as she found a wand inside. Hermione knew she shouldn't touch it but couldn't help grabbing it up to show Neville.

"Look at this? Didn't Hallow have her wand on her during class...so who owns this? Why's she got two wands," Hermione asked looking to Neville who just shrugged looking increasingly nervous the longer this searching of the room went on.

"Maybe it belonged to someone important...some famous witch or wizard...she was a retriever after all maybe it's just another artifact," Neville said and Hermione bit her lip.

"Twelve and three-quarter inches, walnut? is that what this is? a walnut wand, Neville?" Hermione asked as she turned it over in her hand.

"I think so? I was never very good at recognising wands," Neville said looking at the office door hoping Hallow wouldn't step in any moment and find them looking over her things like this.

"Oh what's that spell that detects a wands core...yes that's it I remember!" Hermione said recalling the incantation drawing her own wand and tapping the other wand with it and whispering the incantation. The words 'Dragonheart string' appeared in white cloudy fluffy lettering above the wand Hermione had been holding before vanishing. Hermione committed the details of the wand to memory the beginnings of a plan forming in her mind.

"Hermione I hear footsteps put it back quickly!" Neville whispered harshly as he began covering the mirror back up. Hermione tossed the wand back in the drawer and hastily sealed it again hoping she'd chosen the right locking spell before running back around the desk at a careless speed and not looking up in time to see Neville coming toward her and she collided with the boy and knocked him to the ground.

The office door opened just as Hermione sat up on Neville Stradling the boy covering her mouth in shock at what had happened. Hermione locked eyes with Neville and then looked around at Professor Hallow who just blinked at the scene blankly a slow look of realisation crossing her face.

"Oh my...Miss Granger...Mr. Longbottom...I...this is...I'm sorry but you can't be at... this sort of 'thing' in my office...what you do in your dorms is your business but this is out of order," Professor Hallow said covering her eyes with her hand as she entered the room clearly getting the wrong idea about the scene before her. Hermione bounded of Neville immediately.

"No Professor! I tripped and..." Hermione tried to give her desperate explanation but Professor Hallow spoke over her daring to take away her hand now she was certain she wouldn't see anything she shouldn't.

"Yes, that's what me and the witches I went to school with used to say when Flitch would catch us in the act in some broom closet or other...Sorry Professor... we tripped and fell inside together," Professor Hallow said with a smirk as Hermione went scarlet and looked like steam was about to come out her ears.

"Please, Professor! Hermione's not like that she really did trip...we weren't doing anything," Neville said hastily getting to his feet and dusting himself down.

"Well...what were you doing rushing about the room so that'd you trip in the first place, Miss Granger?" Professor Hallow asked with a smirk rasing a doubting eyebrow. Hermione went silent not having an answer and Professor Hallow sighed shaking her head.

"Oh alright then Miss Granger on you go, I'm sure nothing happened, you did seem so attached to Miss Delacour so I was a bit surprised to find you in such a compromising position..." Professor Hallow said grinning at Hermione who's nostrils flared at that and the witch couldn't help the glare that followed. Hermione did however quickly recompose herself as Hallow appeared displeased by the look and Hermione quickly made to leave and head to her final lesson of the day. The witch gave Neville a small smile and a wave before departing hoping the boy would hold it together under any interrogation Professor Hallow might give him.

"Did you have a cup of tea Mr. Longbottom? Hopefully, you've relaxed a little, I can only apologise again for my lack of foresight with this lesson. I know why don't I lend you some books to make up for it, Professor sprout says your a gifted herbologist nipping at the heels of Miss Granger and Miss Greengrass for the top spot in her class," Professor Hallow said walking over to Neville and putting an arm around him just as Hermione left the room.

********

"Alright, partner...you're running a little late," Pansy said as she caught up with Hermione as she was rushing through the corridors toward History of Magic classroom. Hermione rolled her eyes at the word partner still unable to take in that Professor Hallow had paired them all up with a Slytherin to duel with for the rest of the year.

"I could say the same thing about you Pansy, what are you doing out of class," Hermione sighed slowing the pace of her step as her legs tired and she felt like taking the rest of the stairs towards History of magic at a slower pace.

"Well...I was waiting on you wasn't I, you seemed like you really wanted to lay in Hallow after that lesson...I wanted to make sure my partner wasn't expelled for mouthing off to a Professor," Pansy said with a cheeky grin giving Hermione a playful nudge.

"I was not mouthing off! I was merely making sure Neville was okay," Hermione snapped a little indignantly and Pansy let the grin fall from her face.

"Bit of a rough lesson wasn't it....was Longb...Neville okay? I know it was hard to watch and everything but maybe its what we all needed to see so we'd grow up a little and stop fooling around," Pansy said looking surprisingly thoughtful for once and Hermione raised a surprised eyebrow at the witches apparent maturity. Perhaps being her partner wouldn't be as unbearable as Hermione had imagined.

"Nevilles strong, stronger than he knows, he'll be okay. As for that lesson...I think there were other ways we could have been educated about the subject that were less traumatising and what do you mean by make 'us' stop fooling around?" Hermione asked shaking her head at the last part.

"I never fool around," Hermione continued proudly, holding her head up and Pansy snorted.

"Well, I didn't mean you, golden girl...I was talking about the rest of us...mainly me...I know what you were thinking when Hallow said we'd be paired up for the year...' Oh Merlin no...why me'" Pansy said with a wry smile and Hermione frowned wanting to deny it but Pansy clearly knew the truth of the matter.

"I'm going to surprise you, Granger, I'm going to work my knickers off to keep up with you during lessons just you watch," Pansy said also holding her head up proudly and Hermione grinned.

"I'd rather you work at keeping those on thank you very much...but if you really do work hard and do your best to not annoy me and we'll get on just fine Pansy," Hermione said and Pansy beamed at her.

"Oh but annoying you is my favorite pastime," Pansy sighed a mocking pout on her face and Hermione gave the witch a playful shove.

"I love it when you manhandle me, darling," Pansy sighed batting her eyelids comically at Hermione and the witch snorted again.

"No, stop that! Any more 'darling' rubbish out of you and I'm going to request a new partner," Hermione said smirking before speeding up the stairs leaving a fearful Pansy frozen in place.

"You wouldn't!" Pansy called after her.

"Try me and see!" Hermione called back grinning wickedly to herself Pansy hurried up the stairs to retort and the pair spent the rest of the walk to the history of magic bickering.

********

Hermione was restless all throughout the History of Magic lesson and couldn't concentrate much on taking her usual five pages or so of notes and found herself more often than not gazing out the window lost in thought. Luckily Professor Bins being a ghost who only stood at the front of the class and drawled on endlessly about Golin wars and such never paid much attention to who was in his class or what they were doing anyway.

Hermione had made up her mind that even if the ghost had floated in through the blackboard one day to find there were no students there he would still slide into that days lecture without issue and teach an empty room. Hermione wasn't interested in Golbin wars at the best of times but with her discovery in Professor Hallows office so fresh in her head it was even harder than usual to pay attention to the subject.

Her mind swirled with a dozen theories about the second wand she had found in Hallows office the details emblazoned clearly in her mind. Twelve and three-quarter inches, walnut, Dragonheart string.

Hermione repeated those words to herself under her breath over and over like a prayer. There had to be some way of finding out who owned that wand. Hermione eventually settled on asking Harry about it later when they retired to the common room to do that evening's homework.

"A second wand? Harry asked quietly so no one else in the common room would overhear as Hermione held her hushed discussion with him.

"Yes, it was in her drawer," Hermione said finishing up her charms homework and setting it aside.

"My...breaking into a Professors desk in search of trouble...I've clearly been a bad influence on you Hermione," Harry chuckled and Hermione rolled her eyes giving him a little slap on the arm.

"No joking around! Do you know anyone who might be able to tell me anything about the wand or don't you," Hermione said a little snappily as Harry continued grinning before answering.

"Well you could write to Olivander I suppose...he said something about remembering every wand he's ever sold when I met him...seemed rather insistent on making sure I knew that, he was a bit of a strange man, to be honest. I was happy to be out of his shop once I'd gotten my wand," Harry said seeming lost in his memory of the day Hagrid had first taken him to Diagon Alley. Hermione's eyes widened as she dared to get a tad excited.

"There's no telling if the wand was made in this country but...I can try and see it might go somewhere," Hermione said reaching for some fresh parchment to begin writing her letter to the wandmaker.

"Are you sure you really want to interfere with a Professors business like this Hermione...I know her lesson was a bit much and you clearly aren't fond of how she conducts herself but what if you're overreacting and it just turns out to be a spare wand or something?" Harry asked a wry smile on his face.

"Counseling restraint and caution are we...now who's been a bad influence," Hermione said with a sly smile thinking of how she had probably managed to instill some of those qualities in her friend and Harry laughed.

"I just want to keep you on the straight and narrow...keep a steady course and all that so this ship stays afloat...captain," Harry said winking as he said the last word and Hermione hit him another playful slap for bringing up the whole navigator conversation. Hermione hoped Harry wouldn't demand to know more about her reasoning for investigating Hallow but the boy's curious eyes stayed trained on her expectantly

"Look...If it turns out to be just a harmless spare wand or whatever then we've nothing to worry about...if its something more then we can go to Dumbledore," Hermione said and Harry looked like he still wanted to dissuade her but gave her a nod and went back to his own essay.

Hermione finished up her letter in which she politely asked Olivander if he could recall whom he'd sold a Twelve and three-quarter inches, walnut, Dragonheart string wand to. Hermione mentioned it was part of a defense against the dark arts lesson to try and cover herself should Olivander thing it a very odd question to be asked.

"I can give this to Hedwig tomorrow can't I....or is she not back yet?" Hermione asked and Harry looked up frowning deeply.

"She's back, resting up in the owlery at the moment...brought me this," Harry sighed reaching into his robes and passing Hermione a small note.

"You can't fool me that easy Harry. I might have been born but I wasn't born yesterday! This trouble with your scar, the dark mark in the sky, I don't like any of it so I'm coming to you. I'm already in the country so don't try sending me any more letters to stop me. See you soon, love Padfoot." Hermione read in little more than a whisper before handing the note back to Harry.

"What does he mean he's coming to you and he'll see you soon? He's not going to break into Hogwarts again is he?" Hermione asked worried about what dangerous foolhardy plan Sirius might have come up within a panic after hearing about Harry's scar.

"I hope not...we'll just have to wait and see...I shouldn't have said anything...though I have to admit its good knowing he's close...you know," Harry said quietly and Hermione gave him a small smile.

"Ah, Hermione there you are...listen, this History of magic essay you couldn't..." Ron didn't get to finish his request as he entered the common room heading right over to Harry and Hermione by the reading desks as Hermione rudely cut him off.

"No, I couldn't lend you my notes as I didn't get taking any...I was still upset by what went on in Hallows class," Hermione lied and Ron groaned loudly sitting down next to Harry.

"Here you can have a look at some of mine... I did fall asleep after twenty minutes so their incomplete," Harry said and Ron snorted.

"Well, its better than nothing...Hermione where are you going it'll soon be curfew?" Ron called as Hermione made to leave the common room tucking her letter for Olivander inside her robes.

"I've really got to send this letter, I know Hedwigs tired Harry so I'll just use one of the school's owls if I'm quick I can make it to the owlery before Hagrid closes it up for the night!" Hermione called as she exited the common room leaving a bewildered Ron and a sighing Harry behind.

"Sending letters at this time of night...you know Harry, after all these years...she's still mental," Ron laughed and Harry, though he was worried about where this wand stuff with Hallow would lead couldn't help a grin breaking out on his lips.

*******

Hermione had in truth two reasons for her late-night wanderings, firstly she truly did want to send her letter as soon as possible and secondly, she'd hoped to run into a certain silvery haired french witch in the grounds. Fleur had been absent from dinner and Gabrielle had stated that Madam Maxime had wanted a word with her sister so Hermione hadn't been able to catch up with her that evening.

Knowing that some of the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students liked to hang around in the great hall and entrance hall during the evenings just chatting and warming themselves from the cold Scottish evening air Hermione felt there was a good chance of running into Fleur. Seeing as the foreign students were all seventeen and of age, they didn't have a curfew imposed on them like Hogwarts students below seventh year had, Hermione wasn't surprised to still find a few Beauxbatons students sitting on the steps in the entrance hall huddled together for warmth.

'It's not that cold' Hermione found herself thinking a little snappily as she saw two Beaubatons girls with a cloak draped around their shoulders trembling a little as she walked past. Hermione noted that a few boys from Durmstrang seemed very happy by how warm the castle was in comparison to perhaps their own school as they stood by a suit of armor talking not even wearing their large fur coats this evening. Hermione quickly sidestepped the Durmstrang students as she noted one of them was Victor Krum, the wizard has seemed to be popping up wherever herself and Fleur had been recently and Hermione was getting a little concerned by it and didn't wish to be found on her own by the wizard.

Hermione peered into the great hall as she passed and instantly caught sight of Fleur who was sat at the Ravenclaw table for once seeming to have an intense-looking conversation with some of her fellow Beauxbatons. One of Fleurs friends gestured with her head at Hermione and Fleur looked around seeming a tad frightened to find Hermione standing there.

Fleur got to her feet excusing herself from the table in french and speed-walked over to Hermione taking her arm a little roughly and walking along with her a little way outside the castle till they were out of view of her fellow Beauxbatons. Hermione couldn't help frowning as she got the sinking feeling Fleur didn't want to be seen with her. As soon as they were outside however Fleur pulled Hermione behind a tree and pulled her into a quick hug.

"Sorry for rudely dragging you out here 'ermione...but it's not good for us to be seen together right now," Fleur said stepping back from Hermione and giving her a soft smile.

"I thought...you were maybe sick of me or something...did someone have a problem with you hanging around with me so often?" Hermione asked biting her lip.

"Madam Maxime thinks...that it is unwise for me to be so attached to a Hogwarts student with the choosing ceremony drawing ever closer....she thinks you are spying on me for one of the possible Hogwarts champions," Fleur said shaking her head at the ridiculousness of the notion.

"That absurd...if I could talk to her maybe..." Hermione trailed off as Fleur took her hand in both of hers and held it close to her.

"No, do not do this 'ermione...she will only get more....what's the word...paranoid? We'll just have to be careful not to be seen by anyone from my school outside of lessons. Some of them are no doubt eager to rat me out to Maxime to ruin my chances of being allowed to compete in the tournament," Fleur sighed and Hermione felt her temper rising that anyone would do such a thing.

"You're still definitely going to enter?" Hermione asked and Fleur snorted as this topic rose its head again.

"Oh ermione...we've been over this, you can't talk me out of putting my name in the Goblet...this is just something I have to do," Fleur said bringing a hand to Hermione's cheek and caressing it affectionately and Hermione felt her heart rate rise at the warmth of her touch.

"I just...I worry about you...I know we've only known each other a matter of weeks...but I'd quite like get better acquainted and not have to worry about you getting mauled by...by a winged fire tailed bore or something!" Hermione exclaimed her mind going blank of deadly creatures Fleur might have to face at that moment as she said the first thing that came to mind. Fleur laughed again and drew back her hand.

"I've not heard of such a creature before...but I think I can handle them 'ermione. I trained for months to be ready for this. It might be hard for you to understand but I have to do this, I have to show people that I'm not just this pretty object who only gets by due to every witch and wizard she meets being charmed by my Veela blood." Fleur said folding her arms and Hermione bit her lip as the witch continued laying her heart bear to her.

"So many at my school dismiss my achievements due to this blood of mine and I'm not going to take it any longer. I will show them all how skilled I am with magic and be able to hold my head high and not have to worry about all this whispering that goes on behind my back any longer. I will win through my own hard work and no one will say I had this handed to me!" Fleur said getting a tad misty-eyed as she spoke and Hermione felt her heart quiver.

The Gryffindor hadn't considered what other reasons Fleur might have for entering the Tri-wizard tournament other than the fame and money aspect of it. Hermione knew all too well what it was like to want to prove yourself to people and have them respect your abilities and stop seeing you as someone lesser than them. Hermione grabbed onto Fleur and gave her a hug of her own, Fleur giggled and squeezed the witch back.

"Anyway..what are you doing out of Gryffindor tower at this hour surely you need to get back soon?" Fleur asked stepping back from Hermione a warm smile on her lips.

"I've got to get to the owlery to send a letter...do you want to walk with me," Hermione asked hopeful Fleur would agree and the witch nodded making Hermione feel altogether giddy at being able to spend more time in the witches company.

"Olivander? The wandmaker?" Fleur asked as she saw the wizards name on the letter Hermione was busy attaching to a brown owl shortly after arriving at the Owlery.

"You've heard of him?" Hermione asked not all that surprised as Olivander was no doubt well known across wizarding society and his shop had been passed down through the generations.

"Yes, of course! even in France his work and craftsmanship is well known and sought after...are you looking to have some work done to your wand? maybe having it cleaned or the core re-aligned?" Fleur asked eyes alive with curiosity. Hermione bit her lip not wanting to lie but also not feeling it wise to declare her intentions at the moment. Fleur picked up on Hermione's hesitation and got a mock look of exasperation on her face.

"Very well...keep your secrets 'ermione Granger," Fleur said and Hermione grinned at her gratefully for so easily brushing off the subject and the witch brought the owl over to the nearest window and he set off with Hermione's letter. Fleur watched very intently as Hermione raised herself up on her tiptoes bending forward slightly to allow the owl on her arm access to a small window so that it could take flight.

This presented Fleur with a rather delightful view of the witches rear. Fleur let out a small pleasured sigh and bit her lip as she leaned back against the wall of the owlery folding her arms in a rather satisfied manner tilting her head slightly to one side as she enjoyed the scene before her to the fullest.

"Maintenant c'est ce que j'appelle la magie," Fleur muttered to herself a wicked grin on her lips.

Fleur's voice caused Hermione to look over her shoulder a little bemused. She had been working on her french with the witch now and again so had caught the gist of the sentence but didn't know what was all that magical about sending a letter via owl. However, upon following the french girl's eye line she soon realised what she was actually referring to and Hermione's eyes widened. The Gryffindor got rather flushed and straightened up turning away from Fleur to hide her delight at the cheeky compliment. Fleur wasn't embarrassed at all by having been caught checking Hermione out and indeed seemed to reveal in Hermione's having caught her.

"Well that's...that taken care of...um...is it me or is it a tad warm in here? Shall we go out....um outside! that is... and get some air?" Hermione said trying not let her voice crack as she spun around and fanned herself a little with her hand heading over to the door to leave.

Hermione and Fleur stepped out of the owlery and to Hermione's surprise Fleur moved to sit at the top of the stone steps that lead up to the tower of the Owlery and patted the space next to her inviting Hermione to sit down. Hermione was reluctant to stay out later than she should and they were cutting it fine already but feeling like it would be rude to refuse the witch moved to sit alongside Fleur.

The pair sat in silence for a moment, taking in the very pleasant view of Hogwarts, the lake and grounds all illuminated by the pale glow of the moon on this starry cloudless night. Hermione was glad to see Fleur beaming at the sight of the castle at night feeling that perhaps the witch had found some beauty in her school to appreciate at last after her initial distaste for how antiquated Hogwarts had appeared to her.

Soon, Hermione and Fleur both caught each other sneaking sideways glances at each other and Hermione felt her mouth start to go dry and her tummy began doing summersaults. 'Merlin Hermione just speak to her before you make yourself sick!' Harry's voice sounded in her head and the witch nodded and tried to strike up a conversation once more to break this semi-awkward silence.

"A lovely...evening isn't it? The moons really glowing tonight...very...um... pretty," Hermione said her voice coming out a little higher than planned as she rambled a little making Fleur grin at her.

"Yes....and the moon is not alone in her raidence this evening," Fleur sighed looking Hermione directly in her eye for a moment and the witch felt her heart flutter. Then in what Hermione assumed was Fleurs next best attempt at making her heart explode, the french witch shuffled a little closer to the Gryffindor on the step. Fleur didn't halt her movement till their legs and arms brushed against each other. Hermione swallowed hard finding it rather tricky to breathe wanting to continue the conversation but seeming to have lost the power of speech. Fleur deemed it was up to her to break the silence.

"You don't have an Owl of your on then?" Fleur asked and Hermione cleared her throat to get her voice back.

"No, I always have to borrow Harry's owl Hedwig or one of the schools, my parents were going to buy me one for my birthday last year but then I saw Crookshanks and getting an owl had to be put on hold," Hermione said with a small chuckle as she recalled having to chase Crookshanks around that shop in Diagon Alley for almost ten minutes to get him into his cage.

"I haven't seen the little devil around in awhile...does he wander away often?" Fleur asked and Hermione nodded.

"He's something of an adevnturer...at least when he's no lazing around by the fire in Gryffindor tower. It's odd... whenever I see him I couldn't get him to move for love nor money half the time but when I take my eye off him for a split second he's suddenly off gallivanting all across the castle," Hermione laughed.

"Yes, he sure gets around, I think the last time I saw him he was being shooed out of the defense against the dark arts classroom by Professor Hallow....she doesn't seem to like him much....and by the way he hissed at her I think the feeling is mutual," Fleur giggled but Hermione frowned as she thought about this hoping that Professor Hallow wouldn't jinx her cat if he kept following her around like he was her shadow or something. Hermione tried to get her mind on something lighter not wanting to ruin the mood.

"So...how was your first week at Hogwarts?" Hermione asked trying to engage in more small talk. Fleurs face fell a little and she looked to be thinking over how best to be diplomatic with her thoughts. Hermione couldn't help letting out a little frustrated groan.

"That bad was it," Hermione said a wry smile on her face.

"Oh no! don't get me wrong...it's been very...I've enjoyed the food, some of the lessons...and the company, the company has been to die for," Fleur said giving Hermione a little nudge making the girl blush.

"I can't help feeling that there's a 'but' on the way," Hermione laughed and Fleur sighed.

" But..." Fleur said taking a deep breath and Hermione braced herself for the truth.

"The weather...the cold and the rain...and these Slytherins...that bloody Snape...I mean how did he fall into teaching exactly? He seems like the type to slap himself around the face before he goes to sleep so that he has something to complain about during his dreams!" Fleur said her pent up frustration spilling out of her in a rather haughty manner. Hermione couldn't help burst out laughing at that assessment of Snape it tickled the Gryffindor greatly.

"You agree then? The man seems to despise children, yet chose to teach, then there's your History of Magic Professor...Dumbledore is aware he's a ghost right?" Fleur asked shaking her head and Hermione bit her lip wanting to defend her school from this tirade but she couldn't really bring herself to speak up for either Snape or Professor Binns. Hermione also had to admit Fleur's indignation was rather amusing however the witches next words hurt to hear.

"Also, I know he is your friend and he seems like a very kind sweet person but this Hagrid is having us raise monsters who want nothing more than to eat us!" Fleur said her tone less harsh now as she seemed to want to not be too hard on a teacher Hermione was so fond of. Hermione opened her mouth readying her defense of Hagrid but didn't get started as Fleur had moved on to her final issue with the teaching staff at Hogwarts one Hermione was more inclined to side with her on.

"Finally...this Professor Hallow...she seems intent on radicalising her students and forging them into warriors as if you're all to go into battle soon...I mean maybe after the world cup she is right to some degree....but showing those memories was...how is it said in English...a bridge too far?" Fleur said frowning deeply and Hermione nodded in agreement.

"It was all a bit overwhelming...I can't say I really like our new defense aginst the arts Professor. However, she seems to have won the rest of Gryffindor over with her distaste for Slytherins, mainly Malfoy and her outside the box lessons," Hermione said folding her arms annoyed at how easily her fellow classmates had been charmed by the woman.

"Was your friend....um Neville wasn't it? He was okay after the lesson when you went to see him," Fleur asked her voice softening a little as she recalled the boy's reaction to the unsettling lesson.

"I'd say he was rather far from okay...but I think I cheered him up a little, he's going to be a great wizard one day....he just needs some time to grow," Hermione said longing for the day Neville would prove her right and taking great heart in the notion. Fleur smiled and put an arm around Hermione's shoulders and pulled her into a brief hug.

"With you aiding him 'ermione, I dare say he could conquer the world," Fleur said with a laugh and Hermione gave the witch a playful shove.

"Oh stop it," Hermione said her cheeks going a little pink at the praise.

"Anyway to answer your original question 'ermione...my first week has been quite the experience and...I'm hoping it continues, I mean I'm down the rabbit hole now so let's see how far it goes," Fleur laughed and Hermione beamed at that.

"Hermione? Fleur wasn't it? What are you two doin' out at this hour?" Hermione looked down the stone steps to see Hagrid at the bottom holding up his large oil lantern, Fang at his side.

"Just sending a letter...sorry Hagrid, time just got away from us," Hermione said getting to her feet and Fleur promptly joined her.

"Ah okay...but come on now with me, I'll take you back to the castle and Fleur you can head back to yir carriage...anyone asks you two were helping me on my patrol of the grounds?" Hagrid said winking at the pair and they shared a grin with each other and then hurried down the steps to join Hagrid.

"Strange sort of date wasn't it?" Fleur whispered to Hermione as they walked in Hagrids shadow.

"D-date?" Hermione stammered feeling she really needed to sit down as her head went all fuzzy and she began to blink rapidly, a wave of euphoria and giddy excitement crashing over her.

"Oh...I can't take it as such? That's a shame..." Fleur sighed a playful grin on her face her eyes alive with glee and mischief.

"No! I mean yes!...er...you can take me any way you want!....no! That's...wait..."Hermione trailed off going extremely red as she failed to string a coherent sentence together and realised she'd just let out an extreme Freudian slip.

"I'll keep that in mind, 'ermione Granger," Fleur laughed heartily before giving Hermione a peck on the cheek. Hermione couldn't help the dreamy look that crossed her face as the french witches warm lips lingered on her cheek just a fraction longer than what could be considered 'friendly'. Fleur stepped back from Hermione looking very pleased with Hermione's reaction.

"So sweet...when you're flustered," Fleur sighed and Hermione just opened and closed her mouth, repeatedly, unable to speak.

"Well goodnight 'ermione... thanks for walking me home....goodnight to you too Professor 'Agrid," Fleur said striding off toward the Beauxbatons carriage her head held high smiling ear to ear.

"Goodnight!" Hermione called a little too loudly finally finding her voice again.

"G'nigh'," Hagrid called in a cheery tone not seeming to have registered anything else that had gone on while he'd lead the students down from the owlery as he'd been busy stopping Fang from running off. Hermione followed Hagrid into the entrance hall and crashed into his large burly back as he stopped abruptly.

"Your lessons are the talk of the school Morticia...are you trying to bring the ministry down on us like a ton of bricks!" Hermione heard Snape hiss as she tentatively looked around Hagrids back to see Professor Hallow and the potions master were arguing yet again.

"What's the matter Severus, you got something to hide that you don't want the ministry around to rumble, is that it. You and you're bosom buddy Karkaroff up to something are you?" Professor Hallow said in a sickeningly sweet mocking tone that seemed to enrage Snape. Before he could get responding Hagrid cleared his throat loudly not wishing to allow this fight to continue while they were unaware they had company.

"Sorry to intrude Professor's....just seeing young Hermione here gets off to bed alright," Hagrid said in a jolly voice patting Hermione on the back gently to send her forward and off up the stairs. Hermione tried to quickly duck around Snape and Hallow but the potions master stuck his arm out to block her path.

"What exactly was Miss Granger doing outside the castle at this hour, 'Professor'," Snape asked in a sarcastic tone as he regarded Hermione with his cold dark eyes.

"Was helping me on patrol...and she wanted to know how our class project was going...let her off to bed please Severus," Hagrid said his voice rising a little as he spoke the last part and Snape drew back his arm and let Hermione past. Hermione noted his icy fury as she passed but didn't look back and kept walking.

"Scaring school girls...that how you get your kicks Sevy?...what a sad little serpent you are," Professor Hallow said her lips curling into a smirk and Snape looked murderous. He didn't respond however and instead spun on his heel and headed down into the dungeons his black robes swirling behind him. Hermione didn't hang around to hear what Hagrid said to Professor Hallow and half ran up the stairs so she wouldn't have to speak to the witch as well.

"What is it with those two?" Hermione muttered to herself, her mind running away with her once more as she walked.

*******

Hermione found the Gryffindor common room empty save for Neville who was sitting before the fire reading a heavy-looking book a huge grin on his face. Hermione couldn't help the joy that welled up inside her warming every part of her as she saw Neville smiling again. He seemed to have perked right up from that afternoon's events.

"Oh, hello Hermione, you were out a bit late weren't you?" Neville asked raising a questioning eyebrow and Hermione decided to go with Hagrids cover story.

"I was just helping Hagrid with something," Hermione said moving to sit next to Neville on the sofa.

"Well your hands aren't all burned up so guess you weren't looking in on those bloody Skrewts for him at least," Neville said and the pair laughed.

"Merlin no...I don't want to see those things again till...well I don't want to see them at all, to be honest," Hermione sighed and Neville nodded agreeing with that sentiment.

"Listen about all that business in Hallow's office...you think we could maybe forget it ever happened? It's just she seemed really sorry about the whole thing and even lent me these books on Herbology really advanced stuff too! Said the way Professor sprout was talking I have a chance at beating out Daphne Greengrass for the top of the class," Neville said excitedly. Hermione beamed at him but inside felt herself being torn in two.

She was overjoyed a Professor had instilled such confidence and self-belief in Neville but couldn't help but feel another of her allies had been won over by Professor Hallow. Hermione heard a little voice in her head that sounded like Ron, 'well...maybe you're wrong about her Hermione...Even you can be wrong once in a while you know' the voice said and Hermione shook her head trying to dispell the words.

"You okay Hermione? I know you seemed to think there was something up with Hallow and the whole owning two wands thing...but maybe we could just play this one by ear for a while and see how it goes?" Neville suggested closing over his book and stifling a yawn. Hermione felt like mentioning her letter to Olivander but decided against it wanting to let Neville hang onto his newfound joy.

"I guess we could...maybe I was going a bit overboard...maybe she'll impress me next lesson," Hermione said and Neville grinned.

"She seems like one of the good ones... a bit like you, now I think about it," Neville said and Hermione just grinned awkwardly unsure how to feel about that statement.

"Well goodnight Hermione, see you in the morning," Neville said taking his book and heading upstairs leaving Hermione alone staring into the fire lost in thought.

Hermione couldn't help letting her mind drift back to Fleur as it so often seemed to do these days. It was official Hermione had decided and there was just no getting around it. She fancied Fleur. That was all there was too it. Hermione had tried to write it off as a passing thing a late-night fantasy to keep her warm on a particular cold and lonely evening in Gryffindor tower but that simply wasn't the case.

Hermione had known for a long while she was drawn to witches in a way she simply wasn't to wizards. She was enthralled by witches. She delighted in being around them and watching them. She desired their curves, their long hair. She got drunk on the cadence of their voices, she admired how they carried themselves, how they dressed, how soft and warm and tender she imagined them to be to touch. She cherished the way some of their hips swayed and how their backsides wiggled as they walked. Also, she simply adored breasts and soft thighs and....and...

"Muff!" Hermione said aloud rather proudly before clapping a hand to her mouth in shock at having voiced that last part before she relaxed and began to laugh.

"What do you intend to do about all these things 'ermione," Fleurs voice sounded softly in her mind and Hermione bit her lip. What was she going to do? Fleur seemed to delight in teasing and flirting with her but was it just a bit of fun or did she want something real out of this. "What do you want 'ermione?' Fleur voice asked sounding in her mind again, a bit demanding this time.

'I want... to run my hands through long silvery hair to feel her warm wet breath on my neck, to caress, hold and love her.' Hermione thought her heart swelling up as she imagined all these things. 'Though what did you have to go and say Granger that insured you put your foot right in it before you could ever get anything started with the girl?'

"You can take me any way you want...Merlin Hermione! what were you thinking!" Hermione said aloud groaning as she scolded herself and launched herself backward into the sofa throwing her head back and scrunching her eyes shut tight. The full extent of her embarrassment only hitting her now as she had some time to really take in what a fool she'd made of herself an hour or so ago. 'I ruined any chance of anything happening with that nonsense didn't I?' Hermione thought shaking her head in despair.

"Um...you okay there Hermione? Rough evening?" Ginny asked as she stepped into in the common room and stopped dead in her tracks observing the strange state she'd found her friend in. Hermione's eyes shot open and she straightened herself up trying to regain her composure. This served only to make Ginny laugh as she moved over to sit down next to the flustered bushy-haired witch.

"It's nothing...um...so you were out a bit late?" Hermione said changing the subject hastily and narrowing her eyes a little at Ginny who shifted about uncomfortably.

"I was just...taking a late-night walk, clear my head," Ginny said and Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.

"Try again, Ginny Weasley," Hermione said in a slightly stern tone.

"Oh I love it when you get all serious Hermione," Ginny said with a smirk making Hermione raise an eyebrow.

"It's sexy," Ginny said getting a mocking seductive look on her face and Hermione snorted getting knocked out of her strict mood much to Ginny's delight.

"Do shut up! Where were you, come on! Spill it!" Hermione demanded, trying to hold back laughter lifting a cushion and tossing at Ginny's face.

"Watch it Hermione....oh alright I was with...Daphne Greengrass," Ginny said sighing as Hermione got that ill-tempered look on her face again.

"That little serpent...I told her not to bother you...um..." Hermione trailed off realising she was speaking aloud without meaning too.

"You did what? No wonder she was so flaky when I tried to talk to her! Luna and I need our...um I mean 'Luna's' Laughus-Leaf so we...er 'she' can study," Ginny rambled making a mess off convincing Hermione once again that she didn't use Daphne's Laughus-Leaf. Hermione pouted and made a disbelieving 'hmph' sound.

"What kept you out so long if all you were doing was buying some of that mind rotting rubbish," Hermione asked sharply.

"Well...Daph and I kind of got locked in Greenhouse ten. You know the one that was abandoned due to getting too overgrown?" Ginny said and Hermione's eyes widened in shock.

"Greenhouse ten is dangerous, there could be anything growing in there!" Hermione snapped making a note to give Daphne a telling off next time she saw her. Hermione felt even more annoyed than she usually would have, owing to the fact she'd thought herself and the Slytherin had kind of hit it off the last time they'd spoken. Yet now she was hearing the witch had lured her best friend into mortal peril.

"Relax Hermione, Daphne cleared the place out last year...she's been using it grow her Laughus-leaf ever since...she spread those rumors about it being overgrown with venomous tentacula to keep people away," Ginny said and Hermione's frown lessened a little though she still wasn't all that pleased.

"How did you manage to get locked in there anyway," Hermione asked shaking her head.

"Well, Daphne misplaced the key so we had to spend a long time looking for it....then we heard Professor Sprout watering some of her baby screaming beech trees and we had to duck under a table so she wouldn't find us," Ginny laughed and Hermione let out an exasperated sigh.

"How cosy..." Hermione muttered and Ginny let a sly smile cross her lips.

"Yeah...one minute we were huddled together in fear...the next she had her hand up my skirt and we just took it from there really," Ginny said and Hermione turned to look at her mouth open eyes bulging and Ginny burst out laughing.

"I'm joking Hermione....though if Daphne had wanted a go at me....I'm not sure I'd say no," Ginny said seeming to watch Hermione's face intently for a reaction.

"Well you can do what you want Ginny Weasley...just Don't expect me to pick up the pieces," Hermione said a little haughtily and Ginny bit her lip seeming to enjoy that response.

"Is that envy in your voice Hermione Granger...I thought you'd be too wrapped up with little miss perfect from Beauxbatons to worry about what I'm doing," Ginny said moving a little closer to Hermione.

"Leave Fleur out of this please, I just don't want anyone taking advantage of you Ginny," Hermione said going a little pink in the cheeks.

"I can take care of myself Hermione...but I'm glad you care," Ginny said linking her arm with the witch and pulling her close and Hermione let a grin spread across her face. The pair sat in silence watching the flames of the fire awhile till they decided they should both head off to bed.

********

"What time do you call this exactly?" Pansy said folding her arms and looking at Daphne like a disappointed parent would as their drunken child dragged themselves into the house in the early hours of the morning after saying they'd be back before ten.

"Oh relax mum...I just had an issue down at the greenhouses I got held up," Daphne said restraining her annoyance that her friend had caught her sneaking back into the Slytherin common room at such a late hour.

"This 'issue' wouldn't happen to be five feet three inches tall with fiery red hair and legs to die for would it?" Pansy asked her smirk deepening as Daphne narrowed her eyes at her friend.

"Don't push me, Pansy... it's been a long evening," Daphne said moving to sit in the leather armchair across from Pansy.

"All shagged out are you?" Pansy snorted and Daphne tossed a discarded witch weekly at her, though Pansy managed to duck her head out of the way.

"There wasn't time for anything like that," Daphne said mournfully.

"Though...not that you didn't try right?" Pansy asked probing for more information.

"Well, I did try what you suggested...being forward and assertive...I got my hand on her waist, pushed her up against the greenhouse glass...and then bloody Sprout comes along watering those damn screaming trees," Daphne said looking murderous and Pansy laughed again.

"Well guess that's you spending the evening with the .five sisters. eh?" Pansy said nodding towards Daphne's right hand and Daphne used that very same hand to gave Pansy a rather very rude hand gesture.

"Don't know why you're laughing Pansy! Not like you've got anywhere near Granger yourself," Daphne said and to her surprise, the witch grinned.

"Well actually after that defense against the dark arts lesson Hermione and I had a little talk on the way to History of magic...I'm so in there! I can feel it! I just need to impress her with my wand work in class and its all over," Pansy sighed dreamily and Daphne shook her head.

"Aren't you forgetting the French goddess who spends every waking minute with your precious Lion?" Daphne said and Pansy's face hardened a little.

"I'll fix her broom, all in good time...just you watch Daph," Pansy said and Daphne raised a doubting eyebrow but didn't respond further. Pansy changed the subject with a rather odd question then.

"Daph...now that we're just speaking about this...I have a question, don't you think it's a little strange how many witches around here seem to be into...well, other witches?" Pansy asked and Daphne snorted.

"No...haven't you ever read Maulders Origin of Magic?" Daphne said sighing in exasperation and Pansy got a very sarcastic look on her face.

"You know It's me you're talking to right Daph? I haven't even read the whole of my timetable yet," Pansy said laughing and Daphne rolled her eyes.

"That's not something to be proud of Pansy...but in any case, if you had read it you'd know that all magic originally came from witches. All-female covens with no men allowed, the only relationships that existed in the covens for centuries were between witches and other witches...its in witches very blood to be drawn and attracted to other witches, even now. Its the magic draws us together you see. Back then there were no wizards and it was just what we did, centuries later and even though we now have wizards due to Maves sharing of her blood with Merlin, witches are still drawn to each other sixty percent of the time in fact, or so studies suggest. It's just in our nature, even if some of us do still like wizards for whatever strange reason," Daphne said speaking a little like a professor giving a lecture.

"How did witches pass on their magic, if there were no wizards for...um babies and all that back in the day? Did they sometimes steal away muggle men or something" Pansy asked giggling?

"No, that would've been viewed as polluting the bloodline...Witches fell pregnant through...um magical...alterations to their anatomy, using potions and spells," Daphne said going a little red and Pansy proceeded to laugh her head off a series of very bizarre images flashing into her mind.

"Wow...just...I don't think I needed to know that....do any of those spells or potions still exist...just out of curiosity?" Pansy asked trying to look casual but Daphne easily saw through her veneer and smirked at the witch.

"Why? planning on, surprising Granger should you ever get her into bed?" Daphne asked and Pansy glared at the witch.

"Merlin no! I was just wondering for....um research," Pansy said convincing not even herself and Daphne snorted.

"Maybe concentrate on asking her out before jumping to thinking about having children through ancient blood rituals eh Pansy?" Daphne said shaking her head and Pansy picked up the witch weekly this time and tossed it at her friend as she had done to her.

"Would you listen to us eh?...a pair of Slytherins pinning after some Gryffindors...funny old world isn't it?" Pansy sighed and Daphne shrugged stifling a yawn.

"Well, come on Daph lets hit the hay...I'm sure you're eager to get to work with the five sisters before you forget what it felt like having Weasley up against that glass," Pansy laughed and Daphne stared daggers at the witch who ran off down the hall to her room before Daphne could jinx her.

Pansy slipped into bed and lay for a long while thinking about the promise she'd made to Hermione to work hard and make her proud. She really wanted to see Hermione look at her with pride in her eyes to see her be impressed by her abilities. Pansy just hoped that Hallow started them off with something easy next lesson.

*******

Professor Hallow wasn't in the mood for easy as it transpired as the following week's lesson saw her having them delve deeper into the Imperious curse. Hermione almost wanted to run from the room and fetch Professor McGonnagal when she heard what the witch had planned.

"You're going to use the Imperious curse on us? That can't be legal," Draco Malfoy cried wide-eyed from the back of the room as Professor Hallow made her announcement.

"When's the Malfoy family ever cared about the law?" Harry said sarcastically and the Gryffindors all laughed.

"Quiet Mr. Potter thank you, as for you Draco I don't recall giving you permission to speak during this lesson, have you forgotten what happens to little boys who speak out of turn to me?" Professor Hallow said smiling at Malfoy as some sniggering broke out again. Everyone clearly recalling how Malfoy had been hit with a Gobloss jinx by Hallow no time ago. Malfoy went very pale and fell silent immediately, though he continued to shoot furious glances at Harry for his earlier remark.

"Though to answer your question....special arrangments have been made and it will indeed be fine for me to use the curse upon you all. Finish copying down the notes on how best to resist the curse and then we'll give it a try," Professor Hallow said beaming at the class as they all looked a tad unsettled by the news.

Professor Hallow vanished the desks and chairs as she had done before when the class was done writing and they formed a line to be tested one by one against the Imperious curse. Professor Hallow had half the class jumping up and down, doing push-ups and making animal noises not meeting much resistance from anyone. Even Fleur couldn't resist the curse and to the great amusement of Gabrielle, Professor Hallow tasked the witch to give her sister a piggyback ride around the classroom which she did without question as Gabrielle giggled.

Hermione, though she still wasn't sure about the use of an unforgivable curse on students but couldn't help grinning at the scene as it was rather sweet and not as mean spirited as some of the tasks Hallow had other students partake in. It seemed no one would be able to shake off the curse but then came Harry's turn.

Hallow had tried to make the boy leap up onto her desk but he had instead only half jumped banging his knee very hard into the edge of the desk before falling to the ground. The Gryffindors gasped while the Slytherins mostly laughed. Ron and Neville hurried forward to help a groaning Harry up off the floor.

"Quiet! I don't see why you lot are laughing? Not one of you managed to fight the curse even half as well as Potter here! He's the only one amongst you with a true raw magical ability or so it seems...but let's try you Miss Parkinson...then we'll finish with you Miss Granger," Professor Hallow said and Hermione and Pansy made their way forward ready for their turns.

Pansy went first and unlike Harry couldn't fight the curse seemingly at all and Hermione found herself being drafted into being Pansy's dance partner as Professor Hallow made the Slytherin do the Tango with the Gryffindor. Hermione gasped as she was pushed back by Pansy her bushy hair brushing the floor as Pansy leaned over her and brought her lips to the girl's neck as Hallow had them finish their dance. There was wolf-whistling and cheering both Slytherins and Gryffindors seemingly highly amused, though a certain French witch had crossed her arms and looked to be in something of a huff.

"How very curious...if I didn't know better I'd say you seemed all too willing to follow my instructions, Miss Parkinson...perhaps I need to suggest a less appealing dance partner next time...and I didn't even say to add that kiss...but nice touch," Professor Hallow said giving a beet red Pansy a wink as she hastily let go of a rather shell shocked Hermione who just stood still blinking trying to get her bearings. Pansy slipped back into the crowd trying to ignore the funny looks from her fellow Slytherins and tried not to groan at the smug look on Daphne's face.

"Not one-word woman! I swear," Pansy hissed and Daphne covered her mouth to hold back her laughter. Hermione started to come around and glanced at Fleur who was giving Pansy a look of such withering disdain that she would even give Professor Snape a run for his money.

"Over here please Miss Granger lets see if you can shake off the curse, maybe Mr Potters ability has rubbed off on you," Professor Hallow said and Hermione swallowed hard stepping closer to the witch not liking the glee in the woman's eye. Hermione felt a rather great deal of pressure to perform given how everyone always viewed her as the most clever student in their year.

"Imperio," Professor Hallow said for what seemed the twentieth time that day and the familiar cloud of fluffy white mist spread from the tip of her wand and was inhaled by Hermione. At first, Hermione thought nothing had happened and she was somehow unaffected but then she felt a tingling in her toes and feeling of utter bliss and relaxation welled up within her.

Hermione felt like she was floating and couldn't help a dumb smile crossing her lips as she looked to Professor Hallow somehow extremely drawn to the witches eyes. Hermione soon heard a sweet tender voice in her head giving her instruction. It wanted her to sing, Hermione rather liked to sing, though only while she was on her own. 'Don't you wish to serenade a ceratin Miss Delacour? Don't you think she'd love to hear you sing?'. Hermione felt her mouth opening aginst her will and though she tried to hold her tongue she slipped into song unable to help herself.

'It's been seven hours and fifteen days
Since you took your love away'

Hermione heard surprised gasps behind her the class seeming to be rather impressed at her soft and pleasant singing voice. Hermione however upon recalling she was indeed not alone in the room managed to force her hand up form her side and covered her mouth before she could continue the song even though the voice in her head told her to continue. The voice got louder and somewhat frustrated, Hermione didn't want to hear it anymore and in a moment of madness bit one of the fingers on her hand as it covered her mouth. The curse was lifted and Professor Hallow gave Hermione a short applause a few Gryffindors joining.

"Well it took you a moment...but you shook it off in the end nice work Miss Granger....though its a shame, you have quite a voice on you...shame you didn't know something a bit more upbeat that one sounded like it would bring tears to a glass eye," Professor Hallow said with a small laugh and Hermione felt her cheeks burning and quickly stepped back into the crowd of students behind her. Hermione cringed as she heard the sniggering of some of the class behind her.

"I thought it was beautiful...'ermione do not listen to them," Fleur whispered leaning down into Hermione's ear, making the witch grin.

"Next lesson, I'll be teaching you some spells to counteract the Imperious curse and you'll all get practicing with your partner, now anyone abusing the curse to make their partner do anything extreme will be harshly punished," Professor Hallow said sternly her eyes crossing over all of them but lingering on Malfoy Crabbe and Goyle.

"You mean we're going to be allowed to use...an unforgivable curse during a lesson? That's mental that is!" Ron exclaimed causing some to snort with laughter at his declaration. Professor Hallow merely smiled at him.

"I assure you, Mr. Weasley, there is nothing 'mental' as you put it, about training for the harsh realities of our world," Professor Hallow said and moments later the bell rang signaling the end of the lesson.

******
Elsewhere:

Olivander the wandmaker opened his shop as usual bright an early at seven in the morning. The wizard stepped inside noting a large number of letters had been delivered over the weekend. The wizard picked up the stack of mail groaning as she stuped low to lift them and set it them on the counter. As chance would have it moments later a strong gust of wind blew into the shop and sent the letters flying off in all directions.

"Merlins sake!" Olivander snapped shutting the door with a harsh wave of his wand as he rushed about gathering up the letters hoping that they were all still there. The wizard was satisfied that they were. However one letter had slid under a bookcase and had escaped his notice, this moment of ill-fate would come to haunt the man in the future one of his few regrets, as he later wrote in his autobiography, was that "I didn't use bloody Accio to make sure I'd gotten every letter that morning".

*******

September often slipped into October without Hogwarts students paying much notice but not this year. As the first of October arrived Dumbledore gave another speech at that evening's feast stating that students who were of a mind to and had given serious thought to the idea now had permission to start entering their names into the Goblet of Fire.

"You ready Fred?"

"Born ready George,"

Hermione observed this brief exchange between the Weasley twins as Dumbledore rounded up his speech and shared a glance with Fleur who was also listening.

"They think they have a way past your headmaster's age line and other enchantments, this should be amusing," Fleur said and Hermione, though she was loathe to see anyone breaking school rules, had to admit that a tiny part of her was looking forward to seeing the twins get their just desserts. Hermione didn't have to wait long either as the next morning she arrived down to the great hall to find Fred, George, and around half a dozen others being lead out of the hall with long wispy white beards.

"An age potion, that'll do he said," Fred grumbled.

"I didn't hear any better suggestions dear brother!" George fired back as they brushed past a giggling Hermione giving each other's beards a harsh tug as they continued to bicker about their failure to fool the age line.

"You should've seen it, they were wrestling and everything," Harry said laughing as he buttered some toast as Hermione sat down next to him at their table.

"I told them a million times they didn't have a hope," Hermione said shaking her head.

"Bet you have way past that line though Hermione? Probably worked out five minutes after Dumbledore told us about the thing....go on tell us," Ron pleaded as Hermione glared at him.

"I most certainly will not! Even if I did know a way past I'd never say!" Hermione said and Ron muttered to himself bitterly under his breath. Hermione felt Harry give her a little nudge and looked around at him to see he was nodding towards the Goblet of Fire. Hermione swallowed hard as she watched Fleur walk straight up to the Goblet over the line and confidently drop her name inside.

Hermione was still conflicted she really wanted Fleur to get what she'd wanted and to show her school that she wasn't just a pretty face with no magical ability but Hermione also couldn't help but feel sick at the thought of Fleurs name coming out of the Goblet on Halloween. There was still no indication at what any of the tasks where and Hermione couldn't help but imagine the most terrible things befalling the French witch. Hermione pushed her worries from her mind as Fleur gave her a little wave as she moved to sit a little way down the table from Hermione, sitting next to Gabrielle.

"Is she not speaking to us now the tournament getting closer or something?" Ron asked looking a tad crestfallen.

"Madam Maxime was giving her an earful about spending so much time with Hogwarts students....she's just being cautious until the choosing ceremony is over...then she'll be back," Hermione said hoping that Maxime would put her foot down and force them apart. It was selfish but part of Hermione hoped Fleur's name wouldn't be chosen and then there would be no issue at all Fleur would be free to sit and talk with whoever she wanted. Though is she wasn't chosen, did that mean Fleur might have to return to Beauxbatons? No, surely all the contenders would be allowed to stay to watch the tournament, it would be rotten to send them all home, Hermione reasoned.

"You really don't have a way to get our names in that thing, Hermione?" Ron asked one last time as the moved to walk out of the hall looking over his shoulder at the Goblet mournfully. Before Hermione could tell him off for asking again Harry interjected.

"What's this 'our' business? I told you I don't need any more glory in my life...you'll be entering on your on Ron I'm afraid," Harry said laughing and clapping Ron on the back. Hermione smiled at Harry as he led Ron away saving her from getting into a petty back and forth with the wizard. Hermione also took one last look at the Goblet and then at Fleur, who winked at Hermione when she caught her eye. Hermione grinned back but on the inside, she was terrified.

'Merlin just let Halloween come and go and don't let some other poor sod get chosen and leave me Fleur,' Hermione thought though she hated herself a little for trying to jinx Fleurs dream.

******

As with most things a person dreads in life October thirty first came around all too quick for Hermione's liking and before she knew it she was being ushered into the Halloween feast with Fleur and the rest of the school. The hall had the usual floating Jack O'lanterns, a large number of live bats flying around the ceiling, cobwebs and large novelty spiders and skeletons hung around. Though if you got close to either the spiders or the skeletons they would spring to life briefly terrifying whoever was nearby before falling still again. Ron wasn't best pleased by the spiders of course and couldn't seem to relax as they all entered the great hall.

The decorations might have been the same as always but the feast itself wasn't the usual standard affair and it seemed Dumbledore had opted to have party games and music playing while the four house tables had vanished in favor of one large table of food off to the side of the hall from which people could take what they wanted. Some students danced to the Halloween themed music, currently enjoying the misfit's version of monster mash. Meanwhile, activities such as bobbing for exploding apples, pin the tail on the dragon and the headmasters favorite, table tennis, were being played on the other side of the hall.

Hermione who wasn't great at many sports was actually a very skilled table tennis player and had forgotten her worries about Fleur and the tournament for a while as she got to show off a little by beating almost everyone who challenged her. Hermione's winning streak was eventually ended when Luna Lovegood challenged her and seemed to purposefully wind Hermione up further and further till she couldn't play properly and started to lose her temper.

Luna's favored technique it seemed was to deliberately bounce the ball straight into Hermione's chest and off her sizeable bosom repeatedly, making Hermione jump each time. This gave the rapt audience of Fleur Pansy Daphne and Ginny a very delightful show their eyes all trained on Hermione's jumper-clad chest which was showing off her assets rather nicely. The witches rarely saw Hermione just down to her jumper and school shirt as she was normally wrapped up in her robes most of the year even when it was warm, they all appeared entranced by her figure.

Hermione had taken the robes off to play taking the table tennis a lot more seriously than her competitors. Victor Krum had wandered over to watch at one stage too, along with Harry and Ron but Fleur, Pansy, and Ginny kept moving in front of them and obscuring their view till they got annoyed and wandered back to the food table.

"So bouncy..." Luna remarked cheerily as she once again hit the small ball into Hermione's chest making the witch jump and Hermione defensively covered her breast with one arm and glared at the small Ravenclaw.

"Would you stop that!...you're hitting them on purpose now!" Hermione hissed blushing as Luna just grinned at her a dreamy expression on her face.

"Don't be a sore loser Granger, Lovegood just found your weak point...hitting the twins till you lose your cool," Pansy said sighing as she took in the rather pleasant view of the cleavage Hermione was creating by holding her arm across her chest to soothe her tender bosom from the growing dull ache of having so many small tennis balls hit into her.

Hermione narrowed her eyes at them all wanting to berate them for being so lecherous as they were all clearly enjoying seeing Hermione dressed down a little and not hiding herself under her robes completely as normal but the witch had to admit she rather liked the attention just a tiny bit. It was Fleur's gaze that eventually had Hermione break out in a grin and the French witch went a little red as she noted Hermione had caught her staring and she straightened up and tried to regain her composure.

"Right well...that's enough table tennis don't you think ladies? We should really eat now, the choosing ceremony has to be only ten or some minutes away," Fleur said and quickly headed over to the food table. Hermione reluctantly set down her paddle and walked around the table to shake Luna's hand.

"I'll get you next time Luna Lovegood," Hermione said letting her competitive nature spill out a little with a very determined look crossing her face and Luna giggled.

"You can try Hermione Granger," Luna said eyes dancing with mischief before she headed off around the other side of the table stopping next to Pansy for a moment smiling at her intently.

"Um..." was all Pansy had to say as Luna continued to smile at her.

"Witches, Witches everywhere but not a drop to drink," Luna said before heading off with Ginny to get some food and Hermione followed in their wake leaving a confused Pansy behind exchanging bewildered looks with Daphne.

Not long afterward Dumbledore arose at the top table and silence fell as he began to speak.

"Everyone to the center of the hall please," Dumbledore said smiling and with a casual wave of his wand the rooms current state shifted and in place of what had been before a set of bleachers now ran along the right side of the hall.

"Please take a seat everyone the choosing ceremony will begin shortly...we're just awaiting two special guests," Dumbledore said and frustrated whispering broke out among the crowd as they learned they were in for yet more waiting. Hermione managed to seat herself next Fleur and Gabrielle with Harry and Ron on her other side.

"Who you think we're waiting on? I see Professor Hallows not here...you think it's her?" Ron asked and Harry shrugged.

"Heard she wasn't feeling well today...I think its probably that Madeye Moody and maybe Ludobag man the head of international sporting events or whatever his bloody title is...can't kick off a tournament without the ministry right?" Harry suggested and Ron nodded.

"Yeah, that sounds about right...Dumbledore did say something about Moody overseeing the tournament after Crouch got hauled off to Azkaban with his son. Wonder how insane the tasks are going to be bet Mood makes them hundred times more dangerous than their supposed to be..." Ron had a huge grin on his face at the notion but it vanished as he noted Hermione's icy stare.

The witch was about to tell Ron off for hoping the tournament to be outlandishly dangerous but closed her mouth just as she'd opened it as a loud clunking sound began to echo around the great hall. The room darkened as the candles burned down and went out now the room was lit only in the pale blue light that emanated from the flames of the Goblet at the head of the room. It was then Hermione saw who was making the clunking sound and her eyes widened and she gripped Fleurs arm in fear.

A rather monstrous-looking man with one metal leg and gnarled and scarred face with a bizarre false eye that was spinning in all directions in its socket stepped slowly into the hall and began walking straight towards the head table. The man, if he could be referred to as such as he looked more machine than human at present seemed intent in ignoring the stares of the students in the hall and kept marching onward toward Dumbledore. The headmaster who had risen to his feet seemed to be the only one pleased to see this terrifying-looking individual.

"That's Moody? He's the one in charge of the tournament...making up the tasks?" Hermione said a sinking feeling in her stomach looking to Ron who nodded swallowing hard as he took in the sight of Moody.

"Yeah, that's Mad-eye alright...Dad said he'd been through a lot...but he barely looks like there's any of him left," Ron said and Hermione frowned deeply. Moody stopped his march to rip a leg off a chicken by the food table beginning to devour it like a starved man as he walked. He'd eaten the thing in seconds and had tossed the bone over his shoulder back toward the table without even looking and didn't seem to mind where it landed as he moved forward a rather insane smile on his face as he extended a hand toward an equally enthused seeming Dumbledore.

"Albus, you put on a good spread at the very least, ready to get this thing started then? Morticia not attending the feast? I'd hoped to have a drink with her, been a while since we ran into each other while she was recovering that cursed statue in Egypt," Moody said his voice coming out as something close to a growl.

"Welcome Alastor, No I'm afraid Professor Hallow was feeling a little under the weather this evening and couldn't join us. I trust Ludo will be with us shortly, then we can begin," Dumbledore said shaking Moody's hand smiling warmly at him.

"Aye, here he comes now....mans something of a fool if you ask me but he makes up for it with enthusiasm at least," Moody said barking with laughter as Ludo Bagman speed-walked into the great hall. Bagman shook hands with Dumbledore too and he and Alstor then greeted the other heads of the visiting schools, though Hermione noted Moody refused to shake Karkaroffs hand and just gave him a brief glance of acknowledgment before moving to sit down at the head table.

"Now then we shall begin, the three champions of Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, and Hogwarts will be chosen by our impartial judge. When your name is called please head through the door on my left and await further instruction. Good luck to all who put themselves forward." Dumbledore said clapping his hands together. It was then the flames of the Goblet changed form blew to red and with a sizeable burst of flame a small piece of paper shot out of it and into the air floating down gently in front of Dumbledore who calmly plucked it from the air.

"The Champion of Beauxbatons...." Dumbledore said pausing for dramatic effect as nervous whispering broke out. Hermione felt her heart thundering in her chest and gasped as Fleur grabbed her hand and squeezed harder than she ever had before.

"....will be...Fleur Delacour!" Dumbledore said cheering from the Beauxbatons broke out though some of them looked greatly dismayed one girl even bursting into tears. Fleur paid little notice taking a deep breath she got to her feet letting of Hermione's hand giving the Gryffindor a small smile before she hugged Gabrielle who sat on her other side then made her way down the hall. She headed toward Dumbledore shaking his hand before exiting through the small door at the top right of the hall. Quiet fell again as the Goblet shot out a second slip of paper.

"Durmstrangs Champion will be...Victor Krum!" Dumbledore read and the dower looking Quidditch star rose from his seat to great applause, his headmaster cheering him loudest of all it was clear he had favored Krum over all his other students from the very start such was his unabashed joy at the announcement. Krum too shook Dumbledore's hand and left the hall following Fleur. The tension in the air as the hall awaited the name of the Hogwarts champion was next level and Hermione found herself holding her breath as the third slip of paper was spat out by the goblet.

"Finally The Hogwarts Champion shall be...Cedric Diggory!" Dumbledore called as the hall erupted. Hermione clapped politely not getting too excited as to not worsen the mood of Ron who grumbled about Hogwarts having no chance with that 'pretty boy'. Hermione rolled her eyes and looked back to Dumbledore as Cedric left the hall as the other champions had.

Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak but fell silent as to the utter shock of everyone in the room the Goblet began to shake and sparks of flame were spat out from it as it rocked around a little its flame changing to many different colours before once again settling on blood red and a fourth slip of paper was shot out of it at great speed.

Dumbledore had surprisingly quick reflexes for a man his age and he snatched the paper form the air without evening flinching. The hall waited with bated breath for this bizarre situation to be explained no one moving a muscle you could've heard a pin drop such was the silence.

"Harry...Harry Potter?" Dumbledore read looking up and finding Harry in the crowd his face unreadable.

Hermione felt like her heart had stopped.

Chapter Text

Fleur tried to keep her breathing steady and her heart rate under control as she paced back and forth. She was a wreck of adrenaline, shock, excitement and a tiny bit of anxiety. She had done it, she was to be Beauxbatons champion in the Tri-wizard tournament. Madam Maxime had looked overjoyed, Gabrielle had happy tears in her eyes when they'd hugged and most of her classmates had cheered. Fleur tried not to take notice of the few who had looked deeply upset that she was chosen and not them.

She would have to send her letter off to their mother as soon as possible, Fleur had written two letters out already in preparation. In one letter she expressed sorrow at having not been chosen and in the other, the one she would now be sending, she stated how overjoyed she was to have been selected as Beauxbatons champion.

Fleur had taken it upon herself to write both of these letters so she could work through what it would feel like having to accept her possible failure and indeed to also practice what it would be like to succeed. Fleur found at the moment she wasn't much concerned with how she herself felt and truth be told her mind was instead wondering about a certain Gryffindor witch's thoughts on the situation.

It had been exhilarating to receive this opportunity and to see her fellow Beauxbatons celebrate but there had been one face in the crowd who had been the exception to the cheering and applause. Fleur had known Hermione was more nervous than jubilant at Fleurs having been chosen but Fleur was sure she could also count on her support when the time came. She'd shared a smile with the witch and gathered that from the look on her face she wished Fleur the very best even if she was also terrified on the inside at all the things that could go wrong.

Fleur couldn't help a small grin breaking onto her lips, Hermione was such a worrier, it was rather sweet. Fleur had tried to signal to Hermione nonverbally that she could handle this and tried to mouth the words 'I'll be fine' before she'd left the hall and headed into the small trophy room she now found herself in. Fleur tried to keep her mind focused, already thinking about what the first task might be however visions of herself lifting the tri-wizard cup and Hermione rushing into her arms as a huge crowd cheered kept invading her mind and it was tricky to concentrate.

'Don't get ahead of yourself!' I slightly miffed voice that sounded like Hermione said in Fleur's head making the witch give a small laugh.

Fleur tried to calm her unquiet mind by looking at some of the many trophies that were on display as her fellow champions mainly kept to themselves. Krum was stood by the fire his hands held behind his back, he cut quite an imposing figure but Fleur was not afraid, she believed she would have the skills required to best him.

Krum was a great athlete and could definitely out preform Fleur when it came to physical strength but from what the french witch had gathered from the talk amongst the other students from Durmstrang, Victor wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed when it came time to actually perform great feats of magic. Still, Fleur knew it would be unwise to discount him just yet as he had his headmaster Igor Karkaroff aiding him.

If the rumors about that man were to be believed, then Krum would definitely be no pushover. Then there was the Hogwarts Champion, Cedric Diggory, another Quidditch player he looked to be lean and appeared to keep himself in good shape though he was nowhere near as strongly built as Krum. Fleur didn't know much else about the boy and that was a matter she hoped to soon rectify.

Fleur decided it would be a good idea to keep an eye on this Hufflepuff till she got a better sense of what he could do. At the moment Cedric was just standing with his hands held in front of him reading the names of the many head boys and head girls of Hogwarts from a silver shield displayed in a glass case. Fleur wondered if he maybe had ambitions to join those names, if that were the case then he must at the very least have a good head on his shoulders. Fleur was pulled from her musing as she heard a strange noise from out in the great hall.

"Was that the sound of Goblet going out?" Cedric asked turning to look at Fleur and the witch shrugged, unsure what it was.

"It sounded more like the sound it made as it coughed up our names," Krum said in his heavy accent turning away from the fire as he looked toward the door furrowing his brow. Fleur shook her head at that suggestion, the three schools now had their champion there were no more names required. Perhaps Krum had misheard.

"The choosing ceremony is over...I don't think it could be that, why would the Goblet..." Fleur trailed off as she heard the door to the room open and saw Harry step inside.

"'Arry?....do they want us back in the hall or something?" Fleur asked raising an eyebrow as a rather ill-looking Harry stepped further into the room shaking his head and moving to sit down on a stool that was off in one of the corners.

"You feeling alright Potter?" Cedric asked heading over to have a closer look at Harry who was looking like he might throw up any second.

"My Name...it came out of the Goblet...I'm a Champion, I think," Harry muttered speaking to himself more than anyone else.

"That meant to be a joke, Harry? Try harder next time eh?" Cedric said shaking his head looking to Fleur and Krum to gauge their reaction. Victor looked bemused and Fleur looked more dismayed as she got the feeling Harry wasn't here as a bit of fun. Something serious had happened. Fleurs suspicions were confirmed a moment later as a large number of people burst into the room.

"Potter! get over here!" Professor Snape snarled glaring at the boy.

"Please calm yourself Severus lets not raise our voices, till we are in possession of all the facts," Dumbledore said as he headed toward Harry who jumped to his feet as yet more people spilled into the room.

"Alright, how'd you do it, boy, tell me now and I'll do my best to see you only get half a year in Azkaban," Madeye Moody barked as he looked around Dumbledore to get a look at Harry who swallowed hard at the idea he might be heading to prison.

"Alastor you can't be serious! Come on now, he's a boy of fourteen we can be a little lenient can't we," Ludo Bagman said, the only one amongst the adult wizards who was smiling ear to ear looking delighted by this turn of events.

"There will be no leniency! This boy should be punished for trying to derail the tournament!" Igor Karkaroff shouted moving to stand by Victor.

"Pipe down Karkaroff...your a strange fellow to be giving out to people about punishment," Moody snarled his hand edging inside his robes presumably to grip his wand. Karkaroff went rather pale and he fell silent. Next Fleur saw Madam Maxime enter the room ducking low to get under the doorframe, her face was one of total outrage.

"Dumbl-y-doooor! What is the meaning of this! I hadn't heard the host School was allowed two Champions, what nonsense is this!" Madam Maxime said making her way toward Fleur and putting an arm around the witch defensively. Fleur jumped a little at the weight of the woman's arm on her shoulders and how tight she was being held.

"Yes if Hogwarts has two champions I want two as well!" Karkaroff cried gesturing with his arm in an overdramatic fashion towards Harry.

"Another word out of you Karkaroff and I swear!" Moody roared rushing over to the wizard at surprising speed for someone with a metal leg.

"SILENCE!" Dumbledore called his voice booming around the room he'd clearly used a nonverbal spell to amplify his voice to be heard over all the dissenting voices. Everyone jumped and turned to look at the wizard.

"If you would all please calm down and let my student speak, Did you put your name in the Goblet Harry," Dumbledore said in a strangely calm manner looking to Harry who stepped closer to the headmaster to take a look at the small slip of parchment the wizard was holding out to him.

"I swear sir I didn't put my name in the Goblet, I don't know how this happened, I've never seen that bit of paper before in my life," Harry said and Fleur could tell by the determination in his eye and the lack of fear in his voice that he was being completely honest. Fleur didn't know Harry all that well in truth but she'd been around him long enough to know he wasn't the type to lie to the face of Albus Dumbledore about such a serious matter.

"Might I see that headmaster," Snape said stepping forward and taking the slip of paper with Harry's name on it from Dumbledore's hand.

"Harry Potter, Morrighans College...I had no idea you were Irish Potter...how very clever to enter yourself under the name of a fourth school but how did you cross the age line," Snape spat seeming like he was about to grab a hold of Harry by his jumper.

"I didn't do this!" Harry said harshly through gritted teeth glaring at Snape. Fleur thought he was maybe attempting to goad the wizard into striking him such was the intense anger that burned in his green eyes.

"Yes leave it, Snape! I was a little hasty myself just now but of course a fourteen-year-old couldn't hoodwink the Goblet of fire...that would be a task only fit for a skilled dark witch or wizard....seeing as there's very few of them about in this castle that rather narrows things down a lot...don't it!" Moody said drawing his wand eyeing both Snape and Karkaroff before continuing.

"Now who to interrogate first...Eeny, meeny, miny, moe....catch a death eater by the toe....." Moody began chanting his little rhyme moving his wand between Snape and Karkaroff but Dumbledore quickly interjected.

"Alastor this isn't helping anyone please put the wand away," Dumbledore said sounding mildly exasperated, placing the tip of a finger to Moody's wand-making him slowly lower it. A loud bang made everyone jump and turn to the door as a very large figure burst in knocking over a suit of armor.

"Professor Dumbledore sir! This is all a big mistake! You've gotta listen to me! I've known Harry since he were a wee babe in swaddling clothes...now a'course there was a bit of a gap between then and me seeing him again when he first started Hogwarts...but that's beside the point... Harry would never enter his name..." Hagrid rambled as he sped into the room knocking over several trophies as he rushed toward Dumbledore. Fleur could tell this was a speech Hagrid had been preparing in Harry's defense since the moment he'd seen his name come out of the Goblet no doubt.

"Hagrid!" Dumbledore shouted his voice booming around the room, once again amplified by magic managing to drown out Hagrids rambling and increasingly loud pleas.

"Please slow down, I assure you I understand how you are feeling....and I must say I feel the same, I very much doubt Harry put his name in the Goblet," Dumbledore said raising a hand to silence Hagrid smiling at him over his half-moon spectacles.

"Oh...well a'course....knew you would Professor Dumbledore sir....sorry about the mess," Hagrid said going a little red as he looked at the trophies he'd sent to the floor which Ludo Bagman had begun picking up and placing back in their correct position. Snape meanwhile cast Reparo on the suit of armor he'd smashed.

"Dumble-y-doooor, you can't be serious! who else would have put the boy's name in the Goblet?" Madam Maxime said shaking her head in annoyance at everything that had been said so far. Dumbledore took a deep breath before answering.

"Lord Voldemort...." Dumbledore said after a moment of quiet contemplation and everyone in the room stiffened.

"Albus..." Bagman muttered his smile fading.

"No..no...it's not possible...he's gone...no...gone," Was all Karkaroff had to say in a quiet voice as he went paler than ever rambling to himself under his breath. Snape side-eyed Karkaroff it was clear he thought the wizard was a fool but he himself said nothing.

"You're certain of that?" Alastor said gripping his walking staff tightly his false eye going completely out of control in his socket at the idea.

"....But...how? he was destroyed, how would such a thing be possible," Maxime said bringing a hand to her mouth in shock. Fleur looked to Harry whose eyes had gone wide as he heard his Professor's words and took in the gravity of what he was saying.

"His evil was never completely extinguished, I wouldn't say you could still call him a living being but some power of his, of some kind, lives on. I don't know how he got Harry's name in that Goblet. I'm sure it won't have been by his actual hand that Harry was entered but perhaps by the hand of someone he has under his command...this would indeed be an ideal way to have Harry murdered. Perhaps its best if we withdraw him from the tournament," Dumbledore said looking to Moody who frowned at that statement.

"Sorry, Albus...but that Goblet is part of a binding magically contract...once your name comes out... you compete...or you suffer the consequences," Moody said drawing a finger across his throat slowly making Fleur gasp in shock at how nonchalant the man was being as he put this information out there.

"That is...unfortunate," Dumbledore said gravely bringing a hand to his beard in thought.

"You can't mean you will force 'arry to compete....you will be playing right into Vol...er...You Know Who's hands!," Fleur cried trying to break free of Maxime's grip but she held her close to her tightly.

"It looks like we have little choice, Miss Delacour...Harry must enter the Tri-wizard tournament and fulfill his contract. I must ask all of you who are gathered here that you keep my suspicions about who has caused this situation to yourselves. We can't allow ourselves to spread discord and panic throughout the school," Dumbledore said letting out another exasperated sigh.

"Professor Dumbledore sir...this...we can't!" Hagrid rambled tears beginning to well in the large man's warm black eyes as he looked to Harry.

"I'm afraid we must Hagrid. Harry, I assure you we will get to the bottom of this and keep you from harm....as best we can..." Dumbledore said and Fleur could tell from Harry's face he wasn't very assured at all by that.

"For now I think its time you and the other Champions headed off to bed," Dumbledore continued, gesturing towards the door and Harry, though he looked like he would rather argue, reluctantly stepped around Snape the pair exchanging nasty glares before he left. Victor Krum and Cedric Diggory soon followed both lost in their own heads or so it appeared. Madam Maxime gave Fleur a little push on the back toward the door. Fleur wanted to stand where she was and protest all of this. The injustice was sending her mad she wanted to scream and to smash something but the witch bit her lip and strode off. Snape was rather too near the door to allow her past and the witch shouldered into him but disguised it as her accidentally tripping.

"Excuse me...Professor," Fleur said coldly steadying herself enjoying letting out a small proportion of her frustrations in this manner. Snape looked like he might hex her through a wall but Dumbledore spoke up in a warning tone.

"Severus...a mistake I'm sure, let the girl past," Dumbledore was stern but calm and Snape moved though he gave Fleur a look that said he would remember this. 'Good!' Fleur thought in her mind before marching outside back into the great hall which was now dark and empty. Fleur had hoped to speak to Harry but it looked like he'd already left in a hurry. Perhaps he couldn't bear to speak to her or anyone right now. Fleur could understand that well enough. What a mess this was becoming, perhaps she would need to alter her letter to her mother after all.

"I gather there's been some kind of strange going on this evening, Professor Flitwick woke me and said I should speak to the headmaster, is he through there, Miss Delacour?" Professor Hallow asked making Fleur jump as she hadn't seen the woman standing in the shadow of the now extinguished Goblet. Fleur saw the witch was moving around it with her wand tracing around the object a small yellow light emanating from the tip.

"Yes he's in the trophy room with a number of other teachers and my headmistress," Fleur said watching Professor Hallow closely Fleur felt her stomach fall for a second as she could've sworn there had been a rather strange smirk on the woman's face.

"Is Igor Karkaroff amongst them?" Professor Hallow asked stopping her pacing around the Goblet and stowing away her wan din her robes.

"Yes, he is present..." Fleur said trying to keep her voice steady as the witch began to slowly walk up the steps toward her and the trophy room entrance.

"Good, I'd like to ask him some questions....about whom has interfered with the Goblet," Professor Hallow said brushing past Fleur, so close that Fleur could feel the woman's warm breath on her ear before she entered the trophy room. Fleur let out her own breath in something of a gasp not having been aware she'd even been holding it. There was something about that Professor Hallow that just rubbed her the wrong way. Also for someone who had apparently been ill that day she seemed right as rain at present. Fleur shook her head and pushed these thoughts from her mind.

Fleur headed out of the hall and out the front door of the castle feeling the cool night air against her face was rather soothing and helped still her mind which was running around in all directions currently. Fleur headed back to the carriage taking a deep breath before stepping inside to face her fellow Beauxbatons and her sister wondering how she would keep all this talk of a Dark Lord and murderous plots under wraps while easing their minds about her needing to face not one but two Hogwarts champions.

'I wish you were with me right now 'ermione, you would not exactly what to say,' Fleur thought wistfully before taking the small silver steps up into the carriage.

*******

Hermione sat in the Gryffindor common room as people cheered and celebrated all around her. Everyone seemed overjoyed that Harry had somehow had his name come out of the Goblet. Hermione had tried telling anyone who would listen that Harry hadn't done this, it had been plain to see on his face that he was in just as much shock as anyone else. Ron and Ginny were the only other people who were less than happy at what had transpired, both Weasleys were sat on the sofa with Hermione lost in their own thoughts.

There was still no sign of Harry and Hermione had begun to get the urge to go looking for him in case he had wandered off. She thought it would be best if he contacted Sirius again to inform him about these events before the papers did even though the wizard hadn't wanted more letters and he'd already said he'd see Harry soon, whatever that had meant. Hermione was just reaching for a quill and some parchment to give to Harry later when Ron broke his silence.

"Go on then how did you do it," Ron asked after awhile crossing his arms as he looked to Hermione his face screwed up in bitter annoyance.

"Excuse me?" Hermione asked her voice going as high as her eyebrows as she looked at Ron hoping he wasn't going where she thought he was with this.

"Come off it Hermione! You're the only one around here with even half a chance of knowing how to get past Dumbledore's age line and all the rest of it...you helped Harry get his name in the goblet didn't you?" Ron grumbled, Hermione let out a cry of utter indignation but Ginny spoke before she could, getting to her feet and towering over her older brother.

"You didn't just ask that! It's Hermione you're speaking too! she'd never let Harry throw himself into something like this!" Ginny snapped and Ron snorted.

"Yeah...because everyone loves Harry, don't they? Don't want the golden boy to get hurt now do we...you could've helped me get in too Hermione, just give me a reason why you didn't? Was skeeter on the money after all....you two going out or something?" Ron said his mood worsening by the second but that was nothing compared to the white-hot molten fury that was bringing Hermione's blood to boil as she got to her own feet.

"You're being an absolute idiot Ron!" Hermione said stamping her foot just missing Ron's as he moved to stand himself his hand balled into a fist.

"Yeah, that's me, Ron Weasley...Hermione Granger and Harry Potters idiot friend," Ron said storming off upstairs to the boy's dorm leaving a furious Hermione and Ginny behind, the celebration in the room had quietened down a lot and Hermione realised everyone was looking their way.

"You mean you didn't help Harry get into the tournament?" Lavender brown asked her face falling along with the rest of the room as the mood became very somber. Hermione couldn't bear all the disbelieving eyes or the shocked expressions and looked to her feet.

"Of course she didn't how can any of you even think that!" Ginny said grabbing a tearful looking Hermione by the arm and leading her up the stairs to the girl's dorm. Hermione was thankful, she didn't think she could have made her legs move on their own without Ginny being there to help her. Hermione couldn't bear to look at anyone else in the common room, they all thought she'd helped Harry cheat his way in and it hurt.

"I'll talk to them, Hermione...and when Harry gets back up here he can clear everything up himself," Ginny said placing an arm around Hermione's shoulder as they sat on the witch's bed as Hermione dabbed at her eyes with the sleeve of her jumper.

"I don't think they're in a mood to hear...they were cheering and celebrating the whole way back to Gryffindor tower, Dean's even making a banner to hang up with Harry's name on it. You saw his face he didn't want this...he'd never do this....why does everything have to happen to Harry," Hermione said a little sniffly.

"It'll be okay, Dumbledore will sort this just you watch! As for Ron, I'll get Fred and George together and they'll help me knock sense into him, bloody prat....going into a sulk at a time like this!" Ginny said looking disgusted by Ron's attitude and outburst.

"You think everyone's going to think like Ron does...that I helped Harry put his name in the Goblet?" Hermione asked her tears fading now as she moved past misery into anger.

"Don't worry Hermione, anyone says a word about it again and I'll deck them so hard their ancestors will feel it," Ginny said moving closer to Hermione and giving her a one-armed hug.

"Ginny..." Hermione said groaning as she knew the witch was joking but there was always a chance she would carry out these threats if not persuaded beforehand that it was a bad idea.

"Oh come on, How can I keep my reputation as your favorite Weasley if I don't rough up a few big-mouthed Slytherins on your behalf from time to time," Ginny said grinning wickedly and Hermione shook her head though her eyes were alive with glee.

"I can handle anything they throw at me...I'm more worried about Harry...I should go down and wait for him, make sure he knows there's at least one of his friends who doesn't think he did it," Hermione said moving to get up but Ginny pressed her back onto the bed.

"I'll wait up for him and warn him about Ron being off on one so he knows what to expect when he heads to bed, you get some shut-eye, Hermione. Get rested for tomorrow Harrys going to need you fully charged for what's coming," Ginny said and Hermione nodded. Ginny gave her a small wave before heading back downstairs Hermione heard cheering and boisterous behavior briefly before the door shut.

It was clear Harry had arrived and was getting a heroes welcome that Hermione knew he would want no part of. Though she wished to run down to him now and let him know that she was on his side, Hermione instead forced herself to get undressed and slipped into bed formulating what she would say to Harry tomorrow and trying to plan how they would get through this.

********

The next day Hermione got up early before the rest of Gryffindor's house and headed to the great hall which was empty save for a few Hogwarts students and a handful of Durmstrangs and Beauxbatons. It was Sunday and most of Hogwarts had opted for a lay-in. Those that had got up already all of them halted their conversations as she walked in and shot her positively nasty looks before whispering to each other.

Hermione held her head up and didn't let the chatter get to her as she piled up some toast into a napkin and tied it to give to Harry when he got up. If she was suffering this level of scrutiny from only a few students Hermione didn't like to think what Harry would be in for when he came down later and decided to spare him the torturous walk into the great hall. Hermione hurried back into the entrance hall running into someone coming the other way, Hermione managed to stay upright and avoided dropping her toast. A familiar comforting scent of perfume hit her nose and the witch felt her heart swell.

"'ermione...I...it's so awful," Fleur said simply pulling the witch into a tender hug before stepping back from her. Hermione noted Fleur looked like she had barely slept a wink.

"Fleur...I'm sorry but I've got to get to Harry before anyone else does...do you want to come with me?" Hermione said already putting a foot on the steps to head upstairs and Fleur nodded. The pair half ran up the stairs and managed to get to the fat lady just as Harry was leaving, Hermione had given herself a stitch in her side she had climbed so fast but it was worth it to see the look of utter relief and joy on Harry's face as she held his toast up for him.

"Maybe we could go eat out by the lake or something," Hermione said simply and Harry nodded opening and closing his mouth unsure what to say so he settled instead on grabbing Hermione and pulling her into such a tight hug the wizard actually briefly lifted Hermione off her feet making Fleur giggle.

"You don't even have to ask me, do you, Hermione?" Harry said letting the witch go his smile making Hermione go weak with tenderness.

"No, no I don't," Hermione said proudly beaming at Harry. Fleur made a little sniffly noise and both Harry and Hermione turned to look at her.

"Are you okay Fleur?" Hermione asked biting her lip.

"It's nothing...there's just some dust in the air...its setting me off, come let's move away," Fleur said turning quickly to hide her face so the Gryffindors couldn't see how truly moved she was by their friendship.

"Didn't think you'd want to speak to me again," Harry said looking to Fleur as the moved down the stairs and the french witch got a slightly offended look on her face.

"How could you think this rubbish 'arry! Of course, I wish to speak to you, I know you did not cause any of this," Fleur said reaching a hand out to Harry and taking a firm grip of his shoulder to make sure he got the message that she was on his side.

"Sorry...its just Ron...when he turned on me...I thought I'd have no one, except Hermione of course," Harry confessed as they moved down another flight of stairs on the grand staircase and Fleur let out an anxious gasp.

"Ron has...what! You're his friend, what is he playing at!" Fleur said her hand balling into fists as she learned about Ron's attitude to the situation.

"He didn't see sense after some sleep then?" Hermione asked her face falling as she had placed a little bit of hope on the wizard coming around after a good night's sleep.

"No, he thinks I put my name in the goblet and that I had you figure out how, stormed off out of the boys dorm after that, don't know where he's gone...and I don't much care," Harry said bitterly his pace increasing as he marched outside Hermione and Fleur had to start speed walking to keep up with him.

"He can be such a thick prat sometimes!" Hermione snapped, she wanted to try and keep a cool head with this and talk Harry around into maybe speaking with Ron again later but the truth was that she was deeply hurt by his belief in the notion that she'd helped Harry cheat his way in.

"In any case Rons the least of my worries....you heard Dumbledore last night didn't you Fleur? You remember what he said about whos really behind this," Harry said coldly picking up a stone and skimming it across the lake furiously. Hermione looked to Fleur expectantly but the witch bit her lip seeming unsure whether or not it was her place to speak about this matter.

"I've not slept thinking about it... and him...'arry," Fleur said softly and Hermione grabbed Harry's arm impatiently as he reached down to grab another stone fixing him with a look that positively pleaded with him to fill her in. Harry sighed deeply and tossed away the stone before speaking.

"Dumbledore thinks its probably Voldermort...it all makes sense now doesn't it...that dream I had, my scar hurting...he's out there now pulling strings and lining me up to bloody die in this tournament," Harry said throwing himself down at the foot of a tree taking a slice of toast that Hermione offered him and bitterly biting into it.

"Dumbledore won't let anything happen to you Harry....he'll be watching the entire tournament if it really is Vol...V-Voldemort he'll be ready...and so will we!" Hermione said speaking up loudly appearing a lot braver than she actually felt at that moment.

"I won't be able to go easy on you in the tournament Harry. Maxime insists I still go all out...part of her believes this whole thing is all a ploy by Dumbledore to make a mockery of the tournament and the ministry at the same time...but I don't believe he would be capable of such madness. I will try to help you where I can however. I'm not sure about Diggory but Krum we should probably keep at a distance," Fleur said moving to sit on Harry's left side as Hermione placed herself on his right.

"Did Krum say something out of place last night or...?" Hermione asked unsure why they shouldn't trust him, though she had been getting concerned about his following her around.

"It's not him I'm worried about...it's his headmaster," Fleur said coldly as Hermione furrowed her brow but Harry soon filled her in.

"Madeye Moody seemed to be suggesting that Karkaroff and Snape...were once...Death Eaters," Harry said as Hermione covered her mouth in fear.

"Also, when I left the trophy room last night I ran into Hallow, she said professor Flitwick had told her about what happened and that she should speak to Dumbledore. She also heavily suggested she placed the blame for this situation at Karkaroffs door," Fleur said and Hermione swallowed as Harry shook his head before leaning back against the tree they were sitting under.

"So, I'm entering a tournament that's killed hundreds, while two alleged bloody death eaters, one of whom openly despises me, are going to be a mere few feet from me at any one time...this just gets better and better," Harry said chuckling wryly now at his situation. Hermione reached into her robes and withdrew an everlasting quill and parchment and placed them in Harry's lap. Harry looked at her quizzically and Hermione thought about how best to phrase what she was about to say due to Fleur's being there.

"I think you should explain all this to...Padfoot, he should hear it from you before Skeeter gets printing some alarmist rubbish in that blasted paper," Hermione said gritting her teeth at the thought of the utter nonsense that useless excuse of a journalist was going to write about her and Harry this time. Harry looked reluctant but nodded and Hermione looked to Fleur giving her a look that said they should give Harry some privacy and walked back over to the edge of the lake munching some slices of toast of their own.

"Padfoot?" Fleur asked but Hermione gave a very slight shake of her head and Fleur nodded seeming to realise this wasn't for her to know and Hermione was endlessly grateful she just dropped it right away.

"'Arry is lucky to have you 'ermione Granger," Fleur said tenderly taking Hermione's hand and squeezing as they looked out across the lake.

"I hope I can help him through this but...I just don't know," Hermione said biting her lip and Fleur squeezed her hand again.

"We'll do this together 'ermione...no matter what my Headmistress or anyone else thinks, I won't back down from helping my friends. Though I hope you know I still mean to win this thing," Fleur said a cheeky glint in her eye and Hermione grinned at the witch.

"I didn't expect anything less," Hermione said finishing her toast throwing the crust into the lake which to the great surprise of both witches was grabbed by a tentacle before it slowly sank back beneath the surface.

"The giant squid?" Fleur asked swallowing and Hermione nodded blinking rapidly at the place her crusts had been.

"I'm glad I'm not a Durmstrang...having to sleep on that ship with that thing in the water," Fleur said giving a nervous chuckle.

"Likewise," Hermione agreed.

"Strange...I thought you loved ships, captain," Harry said appearing at Hermione's shoulders a wicked grin on his face as he handed Hermione back her quill. Hermione could've strangled him but was glad to see him in good humor again so merely made an annoyed tutting sound.

"Captain?" Fleur asked raising an eyebrow.

"Its just...this game...from hen I was a kid...I used to pretend to be a pirate...never mind," Hermione rambled going red as Fleur giggled looking to a still smiling Harry.

"I'm the Navigator, apparently," Harry laughed folding his arms smugly looking very pleased with getting to tease Hermione like this seeming to enjoy seeing her squirm a little.

"Oh...so what I'm I...the first mate maybe?" Fleur asked hopefully.

"Um...thats Ginny...and Ron was...oh it doesn't matter now, he's walking the plank next time I see him!....maybe you could be my...cabin wench," Hermione sighed biting her lip at the utter cheek of her comment.

"Cabin wench! Right, you are going in the lake with the giant squid 'ermione Granger!" Fleur cried grabbing hold of Hermione and effortlessly scooping her up in strong arms and carrying her to the edge of the water. Hermione squealed with laugher and struggled against the witch.

"NO! Harry! Help me!" Hermione cried as Harry leaned back against the tree they'd been sitting under folding his arms grinning at her wickedly.

"Sorry Captain, I don't get paid enough to save you from angry Cabin wenches," Harry laughed but his face fell as Fleur suddenly planted Hermione back down on her feet and turned to look at him her hands on her hips.

"So now it's you wanting to go into the lake 'Arry? Fine by me," Fleur called and Harry noting the rather serious look in her eye took off running as Fleur gave chase.

"Wait for me!" Hermione called chasing after the running pair overjoyed that they'd managed to take Harry's mind off things even if it was only for a little while. The bickering, laughter and high spirits carried the trio all the way to the Owlery where Harry sent Hedwig off with his letter. Hermione wished they could stay in this carefree moment and stop time so none of them would have to face what was to come but as the three of them watched Hedwig getting smaller and smaller against the horizon and a cold air rose around them the mood became somber once again and all three readied themselves for the storm that was to come on Monday.

*******

When the storm hit the next morning it was somehow even worse than Hermione had feared. Half the school seemed to now hate herself and Harry. Quite a few openly sporting badges that stated 'support Cedric Diggory' and changed to read 'Granger and Potter stink!' when you pressed them. This was bad on its own but the fact that there was also a divide in Gryffindor between people who believed Harry and Hermione's story and a faction, seemingly spearheaded by Ron, that was adamant that they were lying hurt Hermione and Harry the most.

Ginny had told them that Fred and George had given Ron hell and that she'd helped but the wizard had made his mind up and wouldn't admit that Hermione and Harry were innocent of any wrongdoing. He'd also made outlandish statements about his siblings seemingly whishing Harry was their brother and not him before he'd stormed off with Dean and Seamus.

"Maybe he'll come around once I've been beaten to death by some trolls or whatever the hell goes on in this tournament," Harry spat as he listened to Ginny inform him and Hermione about Ron's refusal to accept their story.

"Don't say things like that Harry!" Hermione had snapped clapping him hard on the back of the head.

"Hey! Stop that...I thought you were on my side," Harry grumbled rubbing the tender spot Hermione had hit.

"I 'am' on your side but if you think I'm going to listen to that defeatist attitude all year you've another thing coming Harry Potter!" Hermione had hissed in her most strict tone and Harry snorted. Hermione wanted to hit him again but found his smile to be more agreeable than his moping around so left him be that time.

"Well that's you told Harry, you better shape up sharpish," Ginny said giving him a small smile. The mood was light for a little while as the small group ate breakfast but it wouldn't last.

Hermione Harry and Ginny had sat apart from the rest of their house at the very end of Gryffindor's house table. Fleur and Gabrielle were opposite them but weren't making conversation at present as Madam Maxime was watching closely from the top table. Fleur had told Hermione they'd speak in-between classes when no one would overhear and rat them out to her headmistress.

Hermione dared to look around at the rest of the great hall again only to be meet by flashes of 'Potter and Granger stink' badges from the Slytherin table and a few of the less than happy Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws. It was clear that everyone save for a select few Gryffindors favored Cedric, Hermione thought this was more than fair but there was no need to be so openly hostile to Harry about it.

None of this was his fault, Hermione wanted to jump up on a table and chastise the entire hall but managed to restrain herself as Fleur caught her eye and gave her a look that said 'ignore them'. Hermione gave her a weak smile and nodded but Harry had, had enough of the badges he got to his feet and faced Malfoy who was directly across from him. Malfoy Crabbe and Goyle were all sniggering at the clear annoyance on Harry's face.

"Something to say, Potter? Going to ask if I want an autograph from the pretend champion? I'm alright thanks," Malfoy said in a bored drawl as the Slytherins around him burst out laughing. Hermione was glad to see Pansy and Daphne weren't sporting badges and neither of them was laughing, in fact, they looked completely fed up and moved down the bench a little away from the rest of their house before getting up and leaving to head to class.

"You make those badges Malfoy?" Harry asked in an oddly calm voice. Hermione gasped and her heart rate began to rise as Harry's hand slowly moved inside his robes. Malfoys face fell as the Slytherins around him moved out of the way all slowly slinking away now that it looked like there would be a fight. Malfoy swallowed hard as even Crabbe and Goyle seemed unnerved by the look in Harry's eye. The Slytherin cleared his throat then recomposing his face into its usual one of smug bravado and slowly got to his feet himself also slipping his hand into his robes.

'No please don't' Hermione thought beginning to panic as she looked to the head table dismayed that only Snape, Karkaroff and Madam Maxime were here at present, none of them seeming to pay attention to the scene that was unfolding. Hermione wanted to shout to them for aid but knew Harry would never forgive her for bringing Snape into this so instead with a trembling hand she reached for her own wand trying to not make it obvious what she was doing as Harry and Malfoy continued to stare each other down.

"Yeah, I made them...you want one?" Malfoy chuckled Harry didn't respond and Malfoys face flinched a little as he drew his wand out a fraction.

"G-go on Potter... Professor Hallow not here to save you now," Malfoy said his voice breaking a little undermining his calm demeanor. It was Harrys turn to smirk.

"She made you look like a right prat...she wrote to your mummy yet? Thought she said if you stepped out of line again you'd be getting disciplined," Harry said and Malfoys faced burned red.

"Potter...at least I have a mother..." Malfoy didn't get to finish that sentence before anyone knew what was happening spells were flying. Harry had drawn his wand at breakneck speed and sent a blinding curse toward Malfoy. The Slytherin had grabbed Goyle and flung him in front of himself as a human shield.

Goyle took the blinding cruse right in the face and fell to his knees screaming eyes scrunched tight in pain.

"HELP! MY EYES!"

Crabbe meanwhile had drawn his own wand but Hermione had jumped to her feet and disarmed him yelling the spell without even thinking and had his wand flying through the air and landing in a bowl of cereal. The large boy dove after it sending plates of food and glasses of orange juice milk and other beverages through the air.

Many Slytherins ran from the table then clearing the area as roaring shouting and screams of surprise at what was occurring broke out around the hall. Snape had gotten to his feet unsure what was happening in the chaos of the hall as many students fled lest they be hit by a stray spell some even ducked under the house tables.

"Severus stop them!" Maxime cried covering her mouth as she stood.

"Ah let them fight" Karkaroff laughed, the only one in the hall seeming to enjoy this scene.

Crabbe was about to reach his wand but Hermione had blasted the bowl with a second spell sending the wand further away. Malfoy had finally armed himself and was taking aim at Harry, who'd taken his eye off Malfoy briefly to look at what Hermione had done. He turned just in time to see Malfoy getting ready to roar another curse and he had no time to raise his wand. Hermione saw a flash of red hair speed past her as someone knocked Harry out of the way.

Hermione felt her heart swell with thanks that Ginny had acted so fast but the witches face fell as she found she was now the one in the line of fire and Malfoys curse hit her right in the mouth and she dropped to her knees crying out in fear having no idea what was happening to her.

Malfoy got a wicked grin on his face for a moment until he saw Fleur clambering over the Gryffindor table sending food everywhere as she then dove across the Slytherin table and grabbed the boy by the throat pinning him against the hard stone wall lifting him off his feet with an unbelievable level of strength. Malfoy dropped his wand and Hermione watched wide-eyed, she couldn't possibly be seeing what was in front of her. Screams broke out across the great hall again and many ran to the entrance hall.

Fleur's upper body had transformed her face elongated into a sharp, cruel-beaked bird head, scaly black wings had burst from her shoulders her right hand the one free of Malfoy, had spouted talons and she was screeching into Malfoys face the boy looked like he might wet himself as he kicked and struggled to be free, a look of complete and total Horror in his eyes. The Slytherins around him fled to the entrance hall along with most of the rest of the great hall.

"I'll pluck out your eyes for that boy!" Fleur screeched her voice echoing around the hall. Hermione tried to speak to calm Fleur but found she couldn't something was wrong with her mouth. Hermione cried out as she realised her front teeth were growing down past her chin and seemingly showed no sign of stopping. Fleur herd Hermione's cry and suddenly she was herself again the birdlike features had vanished in an instant and Fleur in a great bout of a strength threw Malfoy onto the Slythrine table away from her like a mere piece of rubbish she was tossing in a bin. He slid along the table screaming as he knocked yet more food and plates onto the floor until he crashed right off the end of the table. Fleur ran into Hermione and fell to her knees next to her.

"'ermione what has he done to you," Fleur cried holding the girl close. Hermione still couldn't speak but she felt herself rising to her feet as Fleur helped her up.

"Stay right where you are! Potter! Weasley! get off the floor!" Snape snarled advancing on the scene his wand drawn. Hermione looked and saw that it wasn't Ginny who had knocked Harry out of the way of Malfoys spell but it had instead, been Ron. The pair got up and exchanged a brief glance but there was no warm reunion just yet and they stepped apart a little to focus on Snape he was still striding toward them his wand aimed at Fleur.

"What is the meaning of this madness! Did you use a spell to transform yourself just now to attack Mr. Malfoy! How dare you lay hands on a student of my house! I'll have you thrown out of this school..." Snape spat glowering at Fleur but the witch was not in the mood for this chastisement and began to shout right back.

"Your student is a pig and so are you! He attacked 'ermione! Look at what he has done!" Fleur cried trying to pull Hermione's hands from her face which took a little moment but Snape was unmoved when he finally saw the damage.

"I don't see anything out of place," Snape said coldly and Hermione quickly covered her mouth again her eyes welling with tears.

"You! unimaginable! bastard!" Fleur cried her wand practically jumping into her hand but before anything could happen there was a loud crack and Dumbledore appeared from thin air, in a dressing gown looking totally out of place at the center of this horrific scene. The Professor took advantage of a stunned looking Snape and Fleur taking each of their wands from them with ease.

"I shall hold onto these for a moment till you both calm yourselves, I'm not sure what's gone on here but I can assure you any more of it and I will be most displeased," Dumbledore said surprisingly nonchalant and not seeming to care about the mess that lay about his feet from the fallout of the duel.

"Headmaster this girl must be thrown out of...." Snape began pointing a finger sharply at Fleur but Dumbledore raised a tired hand and Snape fell quiet brooding in silent fury.

"Miss Delacour, please take Miss Granger to the hospital wing and have Madam Pomfrey see her back to her normal cheerful self," Dumbledore continued smiling softly at the witches.

"Mr. Malfoy please get off the floor and stop that wailing you appear almost completely unharmed, It seems you learned nothing from our last meeting, you'll be in my office this evening for another lesson. As for the rest of you out there in the entrance hall. If anyone of you is found to be wearing one of these badges," Dumbledore paused as he picked up an abandoned badge from the Slytherin table and observed it with a rather tired expression.

"I'll permanently pin it to the offending student's forehead...now please everyone, sit back down and enjoy breakfast...Severus clear the place up won't you," Dumbledore said beaming, offering Snape back his wand. The potions master looked as if he had been struck by lightening such was how twisted and contorted his face had become he seemed ready to argue but let out a defeated breath and began moving plates and glasses back to their correct position via magic as he was bid. Dumbledore grinned at them all heartily and gave Fleur back her own wand, before giving a wink to Hermione and disapparating again.

"This isn't over Potter, I'll see you and Weasley in detention all next week..." Snape looked like he was ready to hand Fleur and Hermione the same punishment but the french witch glared at him and with a grunt of fury he swirled around and moved down the hall cleaning up the rest of the mess. Everyone appeared to pay no attention to Crabbe and Goyle who were still laying on the floor injured, even their fellow Slytherins just shrugged their shoulders and sat back down to eat. Harry and Ron shared awkward glances before Ron moved back to sit with Dean and Seamus.

"What just happened...I thought our Veela blood didn't extend as far as to allow us to transform, you were so scary and...and wonderful!" Gabrielle cried as she moved around the Gryffindor table to hug her sister wide-eyed and in total amazement.

"I guess....I've never felt such a level of anger till just now...oh 'ermione lets get you to the hospital wing and fix your teeth, Gabrielle finish your breakfast, I'll see you in class," Fleur said and Hermione nodded giving Harry a quick look to see if he was okay. The boy looked miserable that his inability to keep his temper had led to this.

"Hermione...I..."was all Harry could get out before Hermione silenced him by shaking her head and she mumbled that it 'wasn't his fault' though it barely sounded anything like what she meant due to the curse she was under Harry still got the message.

"I'll come with you to the Hosptial wing try to explain what happened to Pomfrey," Harry said leading the way out of the great hall. The students they ran into all hurried out of their way all of them seeming rather terrified Fleur might transform again and attack them.

******

Madame Pomfrey fixed Hermione's teeth in no time flat, she could hardly believe the story Fleur and Harry told them about Malfoy and the badges and Fleurs little transformation.

"Well...there's never a dull day at Hogwarts is there...I do hope this is an end of your roughhousing Mr. Potter, I understand you were clearly goaded into this but you have to think with your head, not your wand. Miss Delacour's little sister was right next to you all you said...what if she'd been hit! Please learn to contain yourself from now on!" Pomfrey said just about finished with Hermione's teeth holding up a mirror so she could see the results.

"How's that Miss Granger, everything in order?" Pomfrey asked smiling at her.

"Um...you could stand to shrink them just a little more," Hermione said biting her lip and Fleur couldn't help but interject.

"I thought they were back to normal... any more and you'll lose that cute toothy grin of yours, I'm ever so fond of it," Fleur sighed sadly.

"You....you like... them like that?" Hermione asked sounding surprised.

"Yes, they are lovely...I don't know how I'd feel if your smile changed 'ermione...though it's your teeth I suppose, do as you will," Fleur said softly and Hermione got a little misty-eyed.

"Well Miss Granger, job done...or should I keep going," Pomfrey asked again getting a little impatient now.

"No...they're fine they way they are," Hermione said beaming at Fleur and she got up off the bed and set down the mirror before almost tackling Fleur on to the bed next to them such was the force with which she grabbed the witch. The hug didn't get to last long as Luna Lovegood entered the hospital wing, walking right up to Fleur without announcing herself and tapping her gently on the shoulder.

"You and Harry are to come with me to the fifth floor...I think its something to do with looking over your wand before the tournament to make sure they're in good working order. My, you all look rather terrible today haven't you been sleeping?" Luna said in her dreamy voice not seeming to register how blunt the last part of her statement was.

"Um...okay...Lead the way then Luna," Harry said awkwardly running a hand through his messy hair trying not to meet Hermione or Fleur's eye to save himself from laughing.

"I heard that you and your fellow Beauxbatons turned into harpies and tried to murder Draco Malfoy...I'm sorry I missed that," Luna said mournfully as she smiled at Fleur who just looked at Luna like she had two heads.

"That not...quite right Luna....lets get a move on I'll explain on the way," Harry said quickly grabbing Luna by the arm and pulling her away from a dismayed Fleur before this conversation got any more awkward. Harry and Fleur waved goodbye to Hermione and followed the Ravenclaw out of the hospital wing. Hermione sighed as recalled she would now be in lessons alone for merlin knows how long. Ron, though, he had helped Harry seemed to still not want to give in and make things up with either Harry or Hermione so the witch wasn't looking forward to class any more than she had been before breakfast.

Still at least Pansy and Daphne might speak to her and Gabrielle was going to be there too maybe she could sit with her today and maybe probe her fro information about Fleur's shocking transformation. Fleur had seemed to be under the impression that she lacked the ability to transform using her Veela blood when mad but it looked like that was no longer the case. Hermione stopped for a moment as she caught sight of her reflection in a freshly polished suit of silver armor and smiled widely at it for the first time in her life she was glad of her slightly large front teeth.

'...that cute toothy grin of yours, I'm ever so fond of it,' Fleurs voice sounded in Hermione's head and the witch felt her heart flutter all over again. Hermione picked up the pace and tried to get a move on, potions would be starting any moment and she couldn't stand the idea of giving Snape any kind of reason to jump down her throat after what had happened. Fleur had really been about to duel him for her sake, it was the most reckless insane, yet brave thing Hermione had seen.

"I was kind of sexy when mad don't you think?" Fleur voice sounded in Hermione's head again and the witch snorted. 'well maybe not the bird head bit but the rest was...somewhat exhilarating to bear witness too,' Hermione confessed to the voice in her head as a smile broke out on her lips again that didn't last long as she found herself nearing the dungeons all too quickly. Hermione hoped Fleur and Harry could survive listening to Luna on the way to whatever Tri-wizard tournament business they had to attend to and took a deep breath before descending into the dungeons.

******

Fleur wasn't sure if this Luna who was guiding them was putting on an act, had been smoking Laughus-Leaf, drinking fire whiskey or was maybe just plain crazy. One thing that was for sure, however, she was unlike anyone Fleur had encountered at Hogwarts thus far or anywhere else for that matter. A rather ratty uniform, her wild dirty blonde hair, with many split ends, the wand tucked behind her left ear, the horseradish earrings and the bottle cork necklace around her neck all added up to make Luna a rather very eyecatching and odd witch indeed.

Fleur would have scoffed at such an outlandish appearance a mere few weeks ago but having spent so much time with Hermione and attempting to be more gentle as she often was Fleur had come to appreciate in a tiny way, of course, the uniqueness of others. However, some of the ideas this Luna Lovegood had in her head were too much for Fleur to even begin to pretend to take seriously.

The small Ravenclaw had spent the entire walk to the room in which herself, Harry and the other champions had been summoned explaining in great detail how the Tri-Wizard Tournament was a front used by an international vampire cult. The cult, Luna said, used the tournament and the many deaths it caused as part of some ancient blood ritual to strengthen their powers.

"How...intriguing," Fleur said side eying Harry to see the wizard was holding back laughter and Fleur too got a small grin on her lips. Luna stopped abruptly and spun around her large silvery eyes while still full of warmth had a slight touch of annoyance to them now.

"Well, you can laugh all you want but don't come to me when you're stung up your ankles and being drained of blood by Dramitus Rex the king of Vampires," Luna said her tone still sweet but with an undercurrent of slight anger bubbling away beneath her smile.

"Oh...well um...we'll keep an eye out for him....just in here is this where they want us?" Harry asked moving toward the door Luna had stopped in front of and the witch gave a small nod and Harry quickly entered clearly wanting out of earshot of Luna as Fleur heard the muffled sound of him bursting into laughter as soon as the door shut. Luna would have had to have heard the noise but she just stood stoically still smiling at Fleur who gave the witch a small smile before also heading inside mumbling her thanks for Luna's having shown them the way.

"No problem...mind the wackspurts that nasty woman with the crocodile skin handbag keeps them with her at all times, she'll try to confuse you with them and make you talk but don't listen to them, I managed to shake them off and she got nothing out of me. An agent of Dramitus, id imagine," Luna said cheerily giving Fleur a small wave before skipping off down the corridor humming a tune to herself.

"O-okay..." Fleur muttered shaking her head as she closed the door. Harry was still chuckling to himself nearby and Fleur looked to him raising an eyebrow.

"That one is...different," Fleur said softly and Harry grinned.

"That's putting it mildly," Harry said and before Fleur could ask him more about Luna Lovegood Ludo bagman came rushing over to them pulling Harry into a quick hug laughing and beaming widely at him.

"Harry there you are, hope you've got your wand Ollivanders going to weigh it up for you to make sure it's ready to take on anything the tournament throws at you," Ludo said rubbing his hands together excitedly.

"Ollivander? The wandmaker? He is here?" Fleur asked wondering if he had gotten Hermione's letter and looking to Harry he seemed to be thinking the same thing his eyes going a little wide as he looked over at a rather old gentleman who was currently talking to Madeye Moody. Hermione hadn't mentioned receiving a letter back yet and Fleur wondered if it would be worth asking the wizard about and maybe she would be doing Hermione a favour.

"Mr. Ollivander, I'm sorry to interrupt I was wondering if you received a letter from..." Fleur was cut off rudely by a blonde witch in rather garish magenta robes who grabbed her by the arm.

"Alright, let's get the photo's out of the way first and get on to the interviews, hot stuff you're up the front, maybe stick your bum out just a little eh? Though...you haven't got much going on at the back have you....that's a shame," The witch said rapidly and Fleur felt her face grow hot with annoyance.

"Hot stuff? Excuse me! who are you? what are you doing! I suggest you unhand me, I'll not have any photos done by someone so ill-bred and mannerless," Fleur snapped her utter distaste for this witch dripping from every facet of her being as she pulled her arm from the woman's grip.

"Yeah! you tell her Frenchie...who gives a damn about some blasted photos...besides, my ugly mugs likely to break the camera eh? Rita? remember the last time you tried to interview me without warning," Madeye barked howling with laughter as he made his way over.

"Yes...unfortunately...only it wasn't your face that smashed the camera lens it was that bloody walking stick of yours," the woman named Rita said cooly crossing her arms regarding Moody with an icy look.

"Rita? as in Rita Skeeter? I've got a bone to pick with you!" Harry grumbled walking over to stand next to Fleur his fists clenched.

"Skeeter?" Fleur said her own temper rising she reached into her robes and took out a small newspaper clipping she'd been saving for this moment.

"Oh, my Harry Potter? The star of the show, oh I do hope you're coping with everything that's gone on dear! Not sore about that world cup thing are you?" Skeeter said speaking at great speed beaming wildly seeming to misread the danger she was in.

"oh is that a favorite article of mine you keep on you at all times, my how lovely shall I sign it for you!" Rita cried excitedly catching site of the scarp of paper Fleur had taken from her robes. Fleur smirked and Rita swallowed hard just before Fleur leaped on her and forced the newspaper clipping into her mouth.

"Eat it!" Fleur shouted wrestling around with Rita on the floor. Harry who had been only planning on giving her a verbal kicking had his mouth hanging open as Fleur started trying to give her a more literal kicking.

"That's the stuff! go on Frenchie!" Madeye laughed a look of rather manic glee in his eye as he enjoyed the tussle.

"Ladies please stop this!" Ludo Bagman called rushing over trying to pull Fleur off Rita but she wouldn't budge.

"Not until she starts chewing! Harlot of Hogwarts? How dare you! 'ermione Granger is nothing of the sort!" Fleur snapped and Ludo backed off at how fierce her cries were.

"Alastor please do something," Ludo pleaded as Fleur and Rita continued to roll around on the floor.

"Ah, you're no fun Bagman, ya know that? You two! pretty boy and Bludger face! get over here and get Frenchie up, don't worry much about Skeeter," Moody laughed gesturing toward Cedric and Krum who jumped to attention at Moody's loud booming voice and they helped Fleur up though she still looked like she wanted to go another few rounds with Rita. Rita herself was spitting up bits of paper her glasses askew on her face as she looked rather worse for wear.

"Right, I'll fix you, Miss Delacour! Just you wait!" Skeeter snapped crawling across the floor heading towards her handbag that had opened and spilled a few quills and other bits and bobs all over the floor. Skeeter was just about to pick up a note pad and an acid green feathered quill when the boot of rather long pointy silver shoe stepped on it preventing her.

"Ah, Rita, I was just informed you blagged your way past Mr. Flich and into the castle, making more friends I see, my how popular you are," Dumbledore said smiling warmly reaching down and helping a fuming Rita up. The witch looked like her blood was boiling about Dumbledore having stood on her quill. Maybe it was a favorite of hers Fleur thought smirking enjoying the woman's outrage immensely.

"I'm just trying to get an interview and some picture for the paper...you...you..." Rita rambled furiously searching for the correct insult.

"Senile old dingbat was the one I think you last used to describe me, oh what an amusing read that was, I'm afraid there will be no interviews today and I'm sure there are more than enough pictures of Harry in the archives...because of course you don't really want pictures of the other champions crowding your cover story do you," Dumbledore said chuckling and Skeeter looked ready to scream but instead gathered up her things putting them back in her ugly looking handbag and gestured with her head for her cameraman to follow her outside.

"I'll be back Dumbledore...you can't silence the press...you'll regret this," Skeeter said trying to dawn a sweet tone but her fury at the situation seeped through and her eyes were alive with malice.

"Yes, I'm sure I will, bye now," Dumbledore said calmly shutting the door in the woman's face casting a charm at the door which glowed gold for a few seconds before returning to normal. Fleur noted the keyhole had been sealed shut Dumbledore noticed the witch staring and smiled at her.

"We could do without dear Rita listening at the door don't you think," Dumbledore said moving toward Ollivander as Fleur nodded grinning at the wizard and then looking to Harry who seemed to be stifling a fit of laughter.

"Outstanding Albus! I couldn't take another word out of that woman," Ollivander said shaking Dumbledore's hand gratefully. Fleur wished to once again try and ask him about Hermione's letter but very much didn't want to interrupt his discussion with Dumbledore.

"He is rather quite mad isn't he," Krum said moving to stand beside Fleur and Harry who both chuckled at that.

"Glad he got Skeeter out of here....she was trying to ask me how long you and Hermione have been going out...I mean you're not a thing are you?" Cedric said also moving over and Harry quickly shook his head.

"No that's more of Skeeters rubbish...can't wait till she types up what happened in here today...Harry Potter had his new squeeze Fleur Delacour attack star journalist Rita Skeeter," Harry said sarcastically and Fleur groaned as she very much realised Harry was right and that her attack would indeed likely see both their names dragged through the mud yet again.

"All right everyone wands out, Ollivander will see you now," Dumbledore called and the four champions made their way over to have the wizard inspect their wands.

*******

"Ollivander was here and I missed him?" Hermione said aghast as Fleur and Harry filled her in about the wand weighing that evening at dinner.

"I tried to speak to him about the letter...but there wasn't time," Fleur said sadly and Hermione sighed.

"I'm sure he's just busy...he'll get around to responding eventually...it's fine," Hermione said trying to force a small smile onto her lips.

"Hey at least Fleur got to give Rita Skeeter a good hiding," Harry laughed giving the french witch a playful nudge and she went a little red under Hermione bemused gaze.

"I'll tell you later," Fleur said and Hermione furrowed her brow wondering what had happened exactly. Hermione didn't have to wonder long as the full details of what Rita Skeeter had described as an assault upon her person by "The Harrpie of Hogwarts" was already doing the rounds after the evening edition of the daily profit arrived.

"Miss Delacour, latest girlfriend of Harry Potter, unexpected fourth champion of the Tri-wizard tournament, is a poor tempered, deeply insecure witch. Who when threatened by my vastly superior, stunning good looks, leaped upon me as I tried to interview Harry about his strange decision to enter the Tri-wizard cup. Harry, who recently dumped his previous girlfriend, disarmingly pretty muggle-born Hermione Granger, was unable to complete his interview but will be available to comment at a later date," Hermione read her face going scarlet with anger her hands shaking as she read the paper her eyes glaring at the words as if she hoped to set fire to them through sheer will alone.

"How could you drop Hermione for this trollop!" Lavender Brown snapped at Harry as she walked past their spot at the table.

"What did you just say!" Fleur said through gritted teeth. Lavender must have got flashbacks to what Fleur had done that morning and squealed before running out of the hall. Hermione scrunched up the newspaper and ignited it with her wand as she had done to the hate mail she had received a few weeks back.

"This is getting out of hand, I'm really going to put Skeeter in her place one day, I swear," Hermione said determination burning deeply in her fierce brown eyes and Fleur nodded seeming to greatly admire that sentiment.

"Hermione look Hedwigs back! looks like Padfoot got my message," Harry said excitedly grabbing up the note Hedwig dropped on his plate nipping at Harry's finger affectionately before taking off with the other owls.

"What's he say?" Hermione asked as Fleur went back to her dinner knowing this conversation wasn't for her.

"Going to be in the common room at one in the morning on Saturday night," Harry said looking worried.

"I knew he'd do something mad like this...well we better just make sure no one stays up late on Saturday," Hermione sighed hoping she wouldn't have to chase anyone off to bed and raise any suspicions that evening.

"Well it's Hogsmeade this Saturday hopefully everyone tires themselves out," Harry said and Hermione nodded.

"Hogsmeade, that little village near the castle? Are we allowed to visit this weekend?" Fleur asked excitedly.

"Can I come?" Gabrielle said jumping into the conversation before Hermione could respond.

"I'm afraid you're a little young...sorry," Hermione said frowning at the pouty face the young witch made.

"I'll bring you back some treats," Fleur said which seemed to perk Gabrielle up immediately.

"Okay...but no more turning into bird face and attacking anyone...I'll have to tell mother if you do," Gabrielle said a cheeky glint in her eye and Fleur rolled her eyes.

"I shall try to restrain myself...so Harry Hermione will you show me around town?" Fleur asked Hermione beamed but Harry looked less enthused.

"I'm not sure I'm going...can't be bothered facing more of the "that's him" looks and whispering...I wouldn't enjoy it," Harry grumbled but a plan jumped into Hermione's head right away.

"You could go under your cloak and since fleur would be with me I wouldn't look like a friendless weirdo wandering around on my own....maybe we could also try speaking to Ron again...if he had a few butterbeers in him then maybe..." Hermione trailed off as she saw Harry's face sour.

"I'll go...but I'm not talking to Ron, Hermione!" Harry said sharply and the witch sighed. Hermione had hoped Ron's saving Harry from that spell had maybe healed things between them a little but it seemed there was a way to go yet. Hermione looked down the table and saw Ron was looking rather miserable eating his dinner at a slower pace than usual listening to Dean and Seamus drone on about the muggle sport of football something Ron had little interest in.

Hermione caught him glancing Harry's way but he quickly forced a smile on his face and dove into the conversation with Dean and Seamus. Hermione looked to Ginny who had also caught that little moment and was rolling her eyes and gave Hermione a look that simply said "Wizards". Hermione chuckled but as soon as she saw Ginny an idea popped into her head and she slid down the bench a little to speak to the red-headed witch.

"They're still being stubborn idiots about this whole thing eh?" Ginny laughed and Hermione nodded.

"I think I have a way to maybe fix things...can you speak to Daphne and Pansy....get them to meet Fleur and I in the three broomsticks on Saturday. tell them to bring some Laughus leaf bring yourself along too and maybe Luna...she can be fun in small doses," Hermione said her eyes alive with glee.

"My...what are you planning Hermione Granger?" Ginny said sarcastically and Hermione just smiled wickedly before replying.

"Just do what I said and get Ron in the three broomsticks as well of course...and let's see if we can't loosen everyone up a little, I quite fancy letting my hair down a little after this week, listening to all these rumors and snide remarks...I want to cut loose," Hermione said and Ginny snorted.

"Wow...whats gotten into you Hermione," Ginny laughed looking overjoyed at where this was going.

"What? I can be fun, I know how to have a good time!" Hermione said rather indignantly crossing her arms and Ginny giggled. Hermione looked around at Fleur then who appeared to be watching their interaction rather intently with curious eyes. Hermione just smiled at her hoping that when Saturday came around they'd all be laughing it up and forgetting about this mess that had unfolded around them for even just a little while.

*******

Hermione and Fleur stepped into the three broomsticks on Saturday as planned and made their way over to the bar to wait for Ginny, Pansy, Daphne, Luna and hopefully Ron. Hermione hoped Daphne would find it in her heart to give up some of her laughus leaf to them out of the goodness of her heart or else this plan would be a bust. Also Ron would need to get over his dislike of Slytherins long enough to be talked into coming.

"Ah, Hermione new friend, my she's a looker eh? No...Harry and Ron today," Rosmerta asked as Hermione and Fleur approached.

"Oh...they're around, Fleur and I just wanted some...girl time," Hermione lied trying not to look to her left where she knew Harry was standing leaning against the bar under his invisibility cloak. Hermione and Fleur got a butterbeer each and Hermione slipped a third one slyly to Harry as they waited. Hermione saw Hagrid and Madeye Moody making their way to leave but Moody stopped Hagrid, his strange false eye spinning in all directions before stopping in Hermione's direction and he and Hagrid shared a brief word before the pair made their way over.

"Cloak can't fool me, boy, I get it though don't want all these idiots around here gawping at you fair enough son...anyway Hagrid you got something to say," Moody whispered just low enough for only Hermione and presumably Harry to hear.

"Um yeah if you and Harry....wherever he is... wanted to see something...interesting then I'd maybe come along to my hut at about eleven this evening, Fleur you can come along too...though I'm sure your headmistress would tell ye eveythin' herself but...ah come along anyway," Hagrid said trying o look casual and failing as he awkwardly stepped away from where an invisible Harry stood now chuckling under his cloak as Hagrid and Moody made their way out of the bar.

"What on earth was that," Hermione whispered to Harry.

"I Dunno...but it could make me late for Padfoot this evening...but we'd better check it out in case," Harry sighed.

"If its anything to do with those skrewts...I think I might have to get very stern with 'Agrid about his idea of interesting," Fleur said looking anxious. Hermione grinned and gave the witch a playful nudge.

"Hey...you wouldn't have me go without you would you," Hermione said making sad eyes at the witch and Fleur sighed.

"You are a devilish little witch 'ermione...but okay I'll go," Fleur said taking a drink of her butterbeer. A little while later and Professor Hallow entered the pub. She was followed by Rita Skeeter much to Hermione and Fleurs dismay however Professor Hallow spun on her heel and grabbed the witch by the collar of her fur coat.

"I'm not telling you again you useless hack...I'm not giving interviews now, good day!" Professor Hallow snapped and before throwing the witch back outside, she fell into the muddy street squealing and shouting about how she was going to end Hallow's career.

"Oh put a sock in it," Professor Hallow sighed giving a wave of her wand and a dirty well worn looking sock appeared in Skeeters gob. The witch tried to pull the sock from her mouth but it seemed to be glued in place.

"That should keep her busy for a few hours...ah peace and quiet at last," Professor Hallow said closing the door of the pub and beaming around at the place.

"Morticia! I was wondering when you'd drop in for a drink, Rita not joining you I take it" Rosmerta said slyly as Professor Hallow made her way over to the bar and sat down at a stool looking mildly confused at having been addressed by the barmaid.

"Its Rosermerta....don't you recognise me? Hufflepuff sat next to you in Transfiguration?" Rosmerta said furrowing her brow at the lack of recognition on Professor Hallow's face. The defense against the dark arts teacher opened her mouth a little and a knowing look came across her face though Hermione felt it rang very false.

"Ah yes, Rosmerta! How have you been," Professor Hallow said leaning over the bar and giving the witch a quick hug.

"Not too bad been running this place well enough since I left school, doing pretty alright for myself, what about you eh? Retriever for the ministry, you must have some stories!" Rosmerta said excitedly.

"Yes...a few," Professor Hallow said rather looking like she didn't want to get into it.

"So...you still a fire whiskey girl?" Rosmerta asked with a wink and sly look on her face and Professor Hallow grinned.

"But of course," Hallow said and Rosmerta conjured a shot glass and got a bottle out from under the bar.

"This is the good stuff...only the best for Morticia Hallow...you remember that night we got blind drunk in the forbidden forest," Rosmerta asked her cheeks going a little pink as she spoke lowering her voice a little so that Hermione and Fleur could barely hear what was being said.

"Should I remember it if I was drunk?" Professor Hallow asked with a chuckle.

"You mean...you don't remember what we....you and me...um," Rosmerta trailed off her voice getting lower and lower and a flash of excitement crossed Professor Hallows's face before she downed her shot and licked her lips.

"Were...we...did we get rather very friendly that evening Rosie?" Professor Hallow said her voice positively dripping with seduction. Rosmerta bit her lip and struggled to respond and Hermione, as well as Hallow, could plainly see the truth. Hermione swallowed hard, she didn't think herself and Fleur should be listening to this. Fleur had an equally shocked look in her eye and no doubt Harry had risen an eyebrow under his cloak.

"Did...we have a lot of fun," Morticia asked moving off her stool and beginning to walk to the very end of the bar and Rosmerta followed smiling widely now her cheeks very red indeed. The woman seemed enthralled by Hallow and rather like she'd forgotten she had a bar to run.

"Would you like to remind me...how much fun exactly?" Professor Hallow said gesturing toward the stairs and Rosmerta looked like she might faint.

"T-There's no one to watch the bar..." Rosmerta said in a rather breathless voice.

"Miss Delacour you're seventeen...you can legally serve.....wouldn't give Rosmerta here a quick hand for a half-hour or so...while we...catch up on old times," Professor Hallow said moving to head upstairs taking Rosmerta's arm.

"Half an hour? We used to go a lot longer than that!" Rosmerta said sounding a bit disappointed but quickly covering her mouth as she realised she'd said that part out loud without meaning too.

"Make that an Hour Fleur dear," Hallow said smiling ear to ear as she started to take the stairs.

"I don't know anything about being a barmaid...hey wait a moment Professor!" Fleur called trying to protest but Hallow and Rosmerta had already disappeared upstairs giggling like a pair of school girls.

"Are they really going to...there not about to...oh my...did that just happen?" Hermione asked feeling a little flushed as a few delightful, yet also somehow very disturbing images of her Professor and Rosmerta flashed into her head. Fleur looked very annoyed but turned her back to the bar raised herself up onto it gracefully and swung her legs over and placed herself down on the other side getting ready to learn the ropes.

"Just how I wanted to spend our second date," Fleur muttered to herself and Hermione nearly fell off her stool.

"D-date..." Hermione stuttered just as she had a few weeks back when Fleur had mentioned that word before. Fleur looked up at Hermione grinning and gave Hemione a little nod which was her only response. Hermione felt her heart soar and she let out an involuntary little sigh of pleasure. Hermione was about to ask Fleur what they'd do for their third date when a rather drunken wizard wandered over looking for another pint.

"Rosmerta...you're looking breathtaking today...have you done something with your hair?" The drunk wizard said slurring half the words before burping and Fleur looked like she might slap the man.

"You look like you've had enough...please get out of my bar before I toss you out," Fleur said not bothering to correct the wizard about her identity and the drunken man looked rather afraid by her tone and he didn't fight her demand and stumbled off out the door before promptly falling face-first into a puddle and needing to be helped up by some Hogwarts students.

"Wizards..." Fleur sighed shaking her head looking to Hermione who just grinned.

Almost exactly an hour later, Rosmerta and Hallow returned back downstairs each one of them looking a tad flushed with very satisfied little smiles on their lips.

"Well, thanks for the drinks and good company Rosie...gotta get back to the castle but...I'll see you again next Saturday," Professor Hallow said giving the barmaid a quick peck on the cheek leaving the now messy haired and slightly breathless Rosmerta to just nod at her as she left.

"Ah thank Merlin you are back...these customers were doing my head in, well we must go it looks like our friends have arrived, I'll be sending you my bill for my services via owl sometime soon," Fleur said sounding serious but Hermione could see the gleeful sarcasm in her eye. Rosmerta wasn't listening however and was staring wistfully after Hallow.

"Oh, that's wonderful dear," Rosmerta said moving back behind the bar as Fleur shifted around it back toward Hermione.

"That must've been some hour," Fleur giggled and Hermione bit her lip going a little pink at the things that went through her mind at those words.

"Right let's do thsi thing then, you ready Harry," Hermione said nudging the invisible wizard.

"Yeah let's get it over with," Harry sighed quietly and they moved over to the table Ginny, Pansy, Daphne, Luna, and Ron were sitting at.

"So..we having some kind of party...why wouldn't you explain what this is about," Ron grumbled as Hermione sat down.

"Did you bring the stuff Daph?" Hermione asked and the Slytherin nodded a sly grin on her face.

"Well let's load up on butterbeer and head to the shrieking shack and get stoned off our arses then," Pansy said standing up excitedly.

"You want to party in...the shrieking shack?" Ron asked looking to Hermione and going a little pale.

"Yes...no one will bother us in there...it's time you stopped moping around Ron and fixed things up with me and Harry," Hermione said and Ron looked moody again.

"Well...I only see you Hermione...maybe the golden boy couldn't be bothered," Ron muttered and Hermione leaned down to whisper in his ear.

"He's under his cloak...just come on try and fix things up...you really got the wrong end of the stick about this whole thing!" Hermione muttered and Ron looked all around seemingly wondering where Harry could be.

"I'll have one butterbeer and maybe one of those funny cigarettes Greengrass has...but that's all I'm promising," Ron said getting up and putting his hands in his pockets. Though he wouldn't admit it Hermione could tell Ron was excited this was happening.

The group gathered up a load of butter beers with what money they had and left for the shrieking shack.

"nabbed this too," Fleur said nudging Hermione as they walked up the overgrown garden path towards the old run-down shack and Hermione gasped as she saw the witch draw a fire whiskey bottle from inside her baby blue coat.

"Fleur!" Hermione said slightly reproachfully.

"What! I did pay for it you know... I left my Galleons by the till Rosmerta will find them! I just didn't think she would wish to sell to me even though I am of age, I'm still a student after all," Fleur said with a cheeky smile and Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Are you trying to get me blind drunk, miss Delacour," Hermione said teasingly.

"Maybe just a little tipsy...I want to see 'ermione with her hair down," Fleur giggled and the pair followed the rest of the group inside Harry entering last and finally taking off his cloak. Surprising no one as Ginny had told everyone except Ron this part of the plan.

"So let's get wasted!" Pansy said rubbing her hands together excitedly.

******

"Its just..my whole life I've been trying to live up to my brothers, try to stand on my own and be something but there's always someone else overshadowing me...Harry...or my brothers, " Ron said taking a drag of some Laughus leaf before continuing. The group of Hogwarts students were sat in a circle around some old jam jars and a glass vase that Hermione had placed a flame inside acting as a makeshift fire to keep them warm in the old ruined shack they now found themselves in.

It was a tad creepy and eerie feeling sitting there in low light as the wind howled outside but it was oddly cozy with them all huddled together fire whiskey warming their bellies and Laughus leaf loosening their hearts. They were all getting a strange, floating sensation and Hermione was having to restrain her desire to sing.

"I hear you Ron...but a...can anyone else not feel their face?" Harry said blinking rapidly as he began tapping his cheek with his hand looking a little worried. Hermione and Ginny snorted and everyone else was too lost with their own strange feelings to notice.

"Have I told you all how attractive the nape of your necks are," Luna said matter of factly staring intently at Pansy's neck.

"Hey, can we get back to me, please...I was trying to have a moment here..." Ron tried to bring everyone back to listening to him opening up his soul to them but they were all still a bit distracted by the hazy feeling of the laughus leaf.

"Listen...I think you're all just extremely shaggable....just the witches that is...and I know I can't have you all at once...but we can try," Pansy was saying, her words slurred as she finished yet another bottle of butterbeer.

"No one shags me... but me!" Hermione replied tipsily not realising but she was saying.

"You should try it with someone else sometime 'ermione...I hear its a lot more fun," Fleur snorted taking a drag of laughus leaf. Hermione feeling rather embolden by the look Fleur gave her and being full of fire whiskey and laughus leaf did something Fleur had often done to her and brought her hand to rest on the witches thigh giving it a small squeeze. Seeing the look of surprise on Fleur's face Hermione bit her lip and tried to retract her hand but Fleur grabbed it and held it in place clearly signaling she very much welcomed Hermione's touch.

"Anyway! as I was saying!" Ron cried trying once again to get this conversation back to the main issue at hand.

"My brothers, they all have something they're good at and everyone looks up to them, you know,...then there's me...Harry Potters useless sidekick," Ron grumbled getting things back on track and finally laying bear what had been eating him this entire time to everyone present as he continued his confession. Harry had started to coem out of his daze and looked to be really listening now.

"I've never seen you like that, nor's Hermione...or bloody anyone else we know, I bet!" Harry said blinking a lot and shaking his head that this was what had caused all the trouble and friction between them.

"Um...I kind of thought that for a while...er...that was a joke," Pansy said quickly taking a swig of fire whiskey as no one appeared amused by her cutting in. Most of the group rolled their eyes at this attempt at humor from the Slytherin save for Luna who giggled and then began to cackle with laughter, getting a bit over zealous. Pansy looked a tad frightened that the Ravenclaw had enjoyed her joke so much.

"Alright that's enough Luna," Ginny said calmly tapping the witch on the arm and she abruptly stopped her laughter.

"You're very amusing Pansy," Luna said smiling at the short-haired Slytherin warmly and Pansy shifted about a little awkwardly but gave Luna a weak smile.

"Did you hear that!" Daphne cried grabbing hold of Ginny's arm and pulling her close as a noise sounded off somewhere in the shack.

"Relax its just the house creaking, with the wind...or the laughus leaf...or the drink," Ginny laughed.

"What if it's ghosts?" Daphne said looking very pale, biting her lip.

"We see ghosts all the time at school how are ghosts a problem for you now?" Hermione asked trying not to show her amusement at Daphne's terror, the Gryffindor also sobering up a little as the laughus leaf began to leave her.

"Those ghosts are tame and benevolent, aside from peeves and maybe the bloody baron...but what if there are evil ones out here," Daphne said in a whimper squeezing Ginny's arm tightly.

"Will if there is what's hanging onto my arm going to do about it exactly?" Ginny snorted still cracking up at the situation.

"I dunno...it makes me feel safe alright!...just stop laughing all of you it's not funny!" Daphne snapped.

"Oh hush, have another drink Daph darling," Pansy said handing the fire whiskey bottle across to her and she took a deep drink.

They talked about many things over the course of a few hours drinking, smoking more laughus leaf and eating the many sweets Luna had brought in her book bag having opted to not bring the extra butterbeer she had been tasked with sourcing. This had amused everyone and Hermione got the sense it had been Luna's intent the whole time.

After Ron and Harry had talked through their problems tempers getting a little heated at times but being moderated by Hermione and the others the pair finally shook hands. Ron agreed that he knew deep down Hermione would never help Harry cheat his way into a deadly tournament and the wizard looked ashamed of himself. Harry had said he was sorry he'd been so quick to lose his patience with Ron and that he should have done a better job explaining what had happened.

"Alright now kiss!" Pansy called a little tipsy as Harry and Ron shared a brief hug.

"Um... just as soon as you snog Luna," Ron said stepping back from Harry shaking his head.

"What!" Pansy cried taking a heavy drag of some Laughus Leaf.

"Ah come off it you've been giving each other the eye all afternoon," Ron laughed sitting down again as everyone else in the circle held back their own laughs.

"No, we haven't!" Pansy said going very red.

"Yes, we have," Luna said cheerily seeming to not be very concerned or embarrassed by this admission at all.

"Merlin! Can't you and Potter just leave already and go chase a quaffle or something so we girls can kick start this orgy already," Pansy snapped and Ron and Harry looked like they were about to pass out.

"Um...org...what?" Ron asked eyes as wide as plates.

"She's joking Weasley...or drunk... or both... calm down," Daphne said rolling her eyes.

"That's a shame," a genuinely crestfallen seeming Luna said and the group fell about the place laughing.

"Witches, witches everywhere...and quite a lot to drink," Luna said shifting closer to Pansy who grinned at the Ravenclaw though she looked mildly confused as much as amused.

"It better be a joke...I'm not sure I could share you 'ermione..." Fleur whispered into Hermione's ear her warm whiskey breath licking at Hermione's earlobe. The bushy-haired witch turned to look at her, mouth hanging open as Fleur downed another butterbeer eyes alive with mischief. Hermione tried to look aghast at all these debaucherous suggestions and lecherous humor that the laughus leaf and fire whiskey had caused but couldn't help grinning at how carefree and relaxed everyone had become.

"So, mission accomplished Hermione?" Ginny said leaning close to Hermione to speak as Ron had pulled a deck of cards from his pocket and the rest of the group had decided to play a game of poker.

"Trust me I'm a lot better since the start of the year! Seamus and Dean have been teaching me, get ready to strip ladies" Ron said as he dealt the cards, smirking.

"Ha! I'm poker champion of Beauxbatons six years running you will need a lot of luck to beat me and there will be no stripping... unless you and 'arry leave," Fleur said grinning as she eyed the other witches who looked rather agreeable with that suggestion. Harry and Ron shared a glance and the pair burst out laughing.

"Yeah I think this has been a success, Ginny," Hermione sighed happily.

A good while later after Fleur had thoroughly trashed them all at cards the group had taken to exploring the shack everyone had wandered off to different corners. Hermione stopped outside an upstairs bedroom when she heard Daphne and Ginny talking inside. Hermione knew it wasn't fair to listen in but the curious witch couldn't help herself.

"So about that night down in greenhouse ten...when I tried it on with you...you looked like you were enjoying yourself then you froze up...is there someone else Ginny?" Daphne asked quietly.

"Its...complicated," Ginny sighed.

"Let me guess...Granger?" Daphne asked getting a little exasperated.

"That's...well..." Ginny trailed off and Daphne groaned.

"First Pansy, then Fleur, now you...what is it with you witches and Hermione...does she have fire whiskey flavored nipples or something," Daphne said and Ginny snorted. Hermione felt her cheeks burning and it took all her strength not to burst into the room and halt this conversation. 'That better be the drink talking Greengrass', Hermione thought gritting her teeth.

"Daphne shush! not so loud someone will hear us! Hermione's...my best friend I care about her a lot...but I know she's head over heels for Fleur I mean a blind man could see that...I'm sure Pansy can tell that ships sailed too besides I think Luna's got her in her sights now...maybe they'll hit it off?" Ginny suggested and Daphne snorted this time.

"Pansy and Lovegood? I'll believe it when I see it...Pansy's wanted Granger to sweep her off her feet as long as I've known her but I'm sure she can tell Fleurs pretty much shut down any hopes she had...she acts like she's going to try and throw a spanner in the works...but that girl is soft at her core she'd never hurt Granger like that...never," Daphne said sounding rather proud.

"Man...Hogwarts needs to create some sort of sapphic counseling program...are there any witches around here not chasing other witches? Bizarre isn't it," Ginny laughed.

"Looks like you've not read Mualders Origin of Magic either..." Daphne sighed giving a chuckle.

"What?" Ginny asked clearly not a clue what Daphne was on about.

"Never mind...we're getting off course lets bring this back to us, shall we," Daphne said getting a little anxious.

"I wanted you to kiss me, back in the greenhouse...I did...I'm sorry I froze... it's hard to let things go you know," Ginny said softly. Hermione bit her lip her heart quivering as she listened to Ginny bear her soul. 'was I really so blind all this time' Hermione thought feeling like the worst witch who'd ever lived. Had she been harshly ignoring Pansy and Ginny's advances for years? Hermione felt like she needed another drink and began to move away from the door just catching the last part of Daphne and Ginny's conversation.

"Well..we're alone again now...and there's a bed just over there...it looks like it's been the home to about a million rats but...we could fix it up in a second," Daphne said a sultry tone breaking out in her voice and Ginny giggled.

"Not today Miss Greengrass...anyone could just walk in...come on its gotta be time we got back to the castle," Ginny said and Hermione hurriedly tiptoed down the corridor and took the stairs back to the entrance hallway of the shack.

"'ermione there you are, we were waiting it's time to go," Fleur said and Hermione looked over her shoulder just in time to see Ginny and Daphne descend the stairs and the group headed out of the shack and back to school.

"You alright partner, you look rather flushed," Pansy asked nudging Hermione as they walked back down the country lane towards Hogwarts.

"Oh it's just the fire whiskey...I'm not really a big drinker," Hermione said and Pansy grinned.

"Thought maybe you and miss perfect had gotten busy in a closet or something," Pansy laughed and Hermione gave the witch a rather forceful push and she crashed into Luna falling on top of her.

"Sorry Lovegood it was Hermione...she...she.." Pansy trailed off as Luna brought her hands to the Slytherins hips and held her in place stopping her from getting up her large silvery eyes locked with Pansies.

"Oh I don't mind...I'm rather comfortable in fact," Luna said dreamily. Hermione bit her lip, sorry for being so rough with her push but also quite pleased with the results. Hermione left Luna and Pansy to help each other up and caught up with Harry and Fleur.

"So...we ready to head down to Hagrids this evening then...should we all go under the cloak...I mean Fleur you're a bit tall but we should all fit." Hermione said and Harry nodded.

"Yeah shouldn't be a problem... let's just pray we don't end up as dinner for whatever Hagrids keeping in the forest this time," Harry said frowning. Hermione took Fleur's arm and held her close.

"You'll look after me...us...Harry and me I mean," Hermione rambled and Fleur chuckled.

"Of course...though if it comes to it, I'm afraid, I'll have to leave Arry for the Skrewts if it turns out just to be them we're looking in on," Fleur said simply a wicked grin on her face.

"Oh that's charming that is," Harry grumbled and Hermione and Fleur giggled.

******

Hermione and Harry deftly tiptoed around the reasons they would be ducking out of Gryffindor tower that evening as not to upset Ron when he'd just come back into the fold. They had debated just bringing him along but Hagrid had only invited Hermione Harry and Fleur and there was only so much room under Harry's cloak. They managed to put him off joining them when Hermione heavily implied that Hagrid wanted them to help with the Skrewts and Ron suddenly lost all interest in whatever they were doing that evening and went off to bed early.

"Well better you two than me, hope your meeting with Sirius goes alright after too...though how the heck is going to get in here," Ron laughed shaking his head as he took the stairs up to the boy's dorm, leaving Hermione and Harry alone. Hermione too was wondering about this meeting, hoping Sirius wouldn't actually just break into Hogwarts.

"What will we do if someone comes down in the night and finds him just standing there?" Harry asked as they got up to leave pushing their homework aside.

"Well...I've been practicing memory charms this year," Hermione offered a little glint in her eye, excited to show off that fact but also hoping it wouldn't come to that.

"You're terrifying sometimes Hermione Granger," Harry chuckled and the pair headed toward the exit of the common room.

"You got your cloak, Harry? Right. Lets get a move on Fleur's going to meet us in the entrance hall," Hermione said and herself and Harry made their way out of the common room and slipped under Harry's cloak when out of sight of the Fat Lady who looked that them disapprovingly as they left the tower at this time of night but made no comment.

"Could he just want us down for tea?" Harry asked sarcastically.

"Maybe he wants us to feed tea to some horrible creature more likely," Hermione sighed.

"I hope I don't regret agreeing to this," Fleur muttered.

Around ten minutes later the trio were all under the cloak and had apprehensively made their way to Hagrid garden waiting for the large half-giant to appear. Hagrid surprised them by stepping out of the forest wearing a rather hideous suit and very ugly yellow tie, he'd also clearly tried to slick his hair back and comb his beard bits of the plastic comb still hanging in his wild untamed beard.

"Harry? Hermione, Fleur? You three out there?" Hagrid said in a not very quiet attempt at a whisper.

"Yeah we're here, what's going on?" Harry asked as Hagrid began making his way towards the Beauxbatons carriage.

"You'll see in just a minute, follow me and stay outa sight...and no screaming," Hagrid laughed, unnerving the trio who all looked at each other wide-eyed under the cloak swallowing hard. Hagrid was now helping Madam Maxime down from the carriage smiling at her warmly.

"Ah good evening 'agrid...you had some surprise for me or so you said," Maxime said linking her arm with Hagrid as he led her back towards the forest.

"Is he making us tag along on a date or something?" Harry grumbled as the trio followed Hagrid and Maxime deep into the forest.

"Hush Harry, they'll hear us," Hermione hissed and the boy fell silent. Hermione herself had started to worry Hagrid was wasting their time but finally, he came to a clearing where four large cages sat, suspiciously empty/

"Aren't they beautiful!" Hagrid said not even looking at the cages but instead just beaming at Maxime who looked greatly bemused. It was then Charlie Weasley and a few other ministry looking wizards ran toward Hagrid looking rather disheveled. Some of their cloaks where smoking and their faces were a tad blackened as if they'd been working down a coal mine.

"Hagrid! there you are...the Dragons have escaped!" Charlie cried but Hagrid didn't seem to hear him properly.

"Well, a'course the dragons have...WHATA' YA' MEAN THE BLOODY DRAGONS HAVE ESCAPED!" Hagrid roared a look of utter horror crossing his face as the full magnitude of what Charlie had said dawned on him.

"Dragons?" Fleur whispered looking ill and taking hold of a trembling Hermione's hand. This didn't sound good, not good at all!

"I've only been gone for ten minutes!" Hagrid bellowed shaking his head in utter disbelief.

"I know but...that Horntail it went mental smashed the lock off the Welsh Greens cage and soon they were all loose! headed up towards the Frost Fang mountains, Moody's gone to Dumbledore were waiting for word on what we're going to do about this, Merlin this is a disaster! I told Alastor you could maybe get away with three nesting females in the same area at once...but four? There was bound to be trouble," Charlie said shaking his head.

"'Agrid I don't understand what is going on?" Madam Maxime asked looking dismayed.

"The Dragons were to be part of the tournament see...the champions were going to retrieve a Golden egg from one of the nests each...but Merlin... what are we gonna do now, blimey what an almighty cock-up!" Hagrid said leaning back against a tree.

"The first task will be... canceled?" Madam Maxime asked covering her mouth in shock.

"Absolutely not!" a voice from the darkness snarled. Hagrid, Charlie, and Maxime turned to see Madeye Moody making his way through the trees toward them a manic grin on his face. Hermione thought he looked far more happy than any normal man had a right to be upon knowing that four deadly dragons were now roaming the skies of Hogwarts.

"Alastor! Any news? Dumbledore got a way to deal with the Dragons?" Hagrid asked anxiously.

"Dumbledore took flight on his broom found the beasts nesting at the four peaks of that snowy mountain range that surrounds Hogwarts. They can't leave the Valley though don't fret, Dumbledores put enchantments in place to keep them penned in, besides he said they all looked right at home up there. I don't think we'll get them down till their eggs hatch in spring but since it appears they'll be unlikely to go anywhere else...we can still pull off the first task...we'll just need to alter the plan a little," Moody said barking with laughter.

"You mean...we're going to have Harry and the rest... hike up the bleedin' Frost Fangs at this time of year? With snow storms rolling in? They're gonna be doing the task up there? That's bloomin' madness! There's frost spirits, willow the wisps, mountain trolls, Ice wolves and Merlin knows whats else in the Frost Fangs!" Hagrid cried seeming to look around for where he thought Harry and the others might be standing to gauge their reaction forgetting they were under the invisibility cloak.

"Aye, I know! Bloody great isn't it! That'll be far more exciting than that tiny arena Ludo and the others talked me into!" Moody said barking with laughter again the only one present who seemed overjoyed at this news.

"'ermione? can I have a hug please?" Fleur muttered in a tiny far off voice seeming rather shaken up by this outlandish plan for the first task. Hermione nodded and held Fleur close under the cloak.

" I think I need some more fire whiskey," Harry said also seeming to have had the wind knocked out of him this news. The trio began to edge away from the clearing and empty cages as it was almost time for Harry to speak to Sirius but with the moon now hidden behind some clouds they couldn't really see where they were going and crashed into something, or rather 'someone', as it transpired.

"Who's there! Who hit me!" A female voice whispered harshly and the trio stumbled away from the shadowy figure, their breaths hitching as they froze hearts leaping into their mouths, praying they wouldn't be discovered.

Chapter Text

A pale hand came out of the darkness searching for the trio as they stood huddled together under Harry's cloak slowly edging backward as not to be detected. Please no, Please no, Hermione repeated in her mind joining her hand with Fleurs as they kept tentatively retreating. The warmth of Fleur's skin and her soft tender fingers helped to slow Hermione's breathing and she squeezed the witch's hand appreciatively. Fleur returned the kind gesture seeming equally grateful.

"I know you're there," A woman's voice hissed as she stepped forward just as the clouds above began to clear allowing for the light of the moon to illuminate the rest of her and a familiar face came into view.

Fleur had to cover Hermione's mouth with her free hand to stop her crying out as Professor Hallow stepped into view. The witch was wild-eyed and slightly unhinged looking continuing to feel around in front of her snatching at thin air. What on earth was she doing out here? Had Dumbledore sent her after the Dragon escape? Maybe to investigate what had happened? Hermione wondered. Out of nowhere, Harry reached an arm out across herself and Fleurs front moving them back again as Hallow moved off to their right still searching for whatever had run into her.

"'Arry! Please! move your hand! that is my breast!" Fleur said in a harsh whisper through gritted teeth her cheeks burning as she looked down at her chest to see where Harry's hand had unfortunately come to rest. Harry hastily drew back his hand a look of horror on his face as Hermione glared at him and involuntarily stood on his foot.

"Ow! Hey! It was an accident...I didn't mean too," Harry whispered desperately, trying not to whine in pain his eyes jumping from a somewhat embarrassed Fleur to an outraged Hermione whom the wizard could tell looked like she might give him a slap to go along with his sore foot. Hermione knew this wasn't the time to fight about such a petty accident but her envy was a hard foe to vanquish even under the circumstances. Professor Hallow had seemed to hear the commotion and turned from the direction she'd been heading and resumed stepping ever closer to their location. This prompted Hermione Fleur and Harry to fall deathly silent holding their breath once again.

"I saw you come in here Karkaroff, are you playing games with me? I'd quit now before you make me mad," Professor Hallow hissed slowly drawing her wand. The unmistakable sound of feet crunching against fallen leaves answered the Professor and Hallow without missing a beat spun around wand raised.

Hermione thought she looked ready to fire off a curse blindly in the direction of the noise. However, Hallow surprised them all displaying that she was somewhat dexterous and athletic by beginning to climb the nearest tree heading up high enough to be out of sight. The trio watched her perch herself on a branch her eyes darting around at the area below finally stopping on a shaking bush from which another shadowy figure emerged.

Karkaroff stumbled against a tree losing his footing as he tripped over a large tree root. It was too dark to really tell but Hermione got the sense the wizard was rather afraid and anxious at the moment. Hermione, Fleur, and Harry exchanged confused looks but said nothing.

"Bloody Dragons, let loose, that'll derail the tournament, damn them!... I must inform Viktor!" Karkaroff rambled to himself hurrying off again apparently in search of a way out of the forest. Professor Hallow gracefully dropped down from her branch and with a wicked grin on her face, she set after Karkaroff moving deftly and quietly her feet not making a sound. Hermione, Harry, and Fleur all stayed glued to the spot till they were certain the pair were gone before daring to speak.

"What the hell was that about," Harry asked and Fleur and Hermione shook their heads.

"Hey, whats that?" Hermione said reaching down to the forest floor and picking up an object she'd trodden on.

"Too dark to really see....but looks like a large key...like one Hagrid would have around his belt," Harry said narrowing his eyes at the object as Hermione tried to hold it up to the moonlight for a better look.

"What's it doing here....did Hagrid drop it or something?" Hermione asked and Harry just shrugged.

"We'll hang onto it and give it back to him later," Harry suggested and Hermione nodded.

"Karkaroff was definitely here spying for Krum wasn't he...guess Cedric will be the only one who doesn't know about the Dragons...I better warn him tomorrow," Harry said but before Hermione could give her thoughts on this very noble act Fleur cut in a tad impatiently.

"We can't talk about it here, I'm sorry 'Arry but you must get me back to the carriage before Madam Maxime arrives! She will no doubt want to discuss the first task with me just as Karkaroff will with Krum. Is she see's I'm missing from my bed...or If she found out I was already being aided by someone else, Hogwarts students no less, she will blow a fuse," Fleur cried and with that, the trio took off moving as fast as they could within the limitations of being under the cloak.

Somehow they managed to beat Hagrid and Maxime out of the forest and Fleur hastily departed to stealthily enter the carriage. The French witch still looked shaken by the knowledge she would be facing a dragon and perhaps many other dangers in the near future.

"I'll help you through this...I don't know much about Dragons but I'll do what I can!" Hermione promised, hugging Fleur tightly before she had departed and Hermione ducked back under Harry's cloak.

"Um...I know I'm not as pretty as Fleur but you'll lend me a hand too won't you?" Harry asked nervously and Hermione gave the wizard a playful shove.

"I might, if you stop making jokes at a time like this and get us back up to Gryffindor tower as soon as you can! Sirius is going to be here in about fifteen minutes! Let's go!" Hermione said rather demandingly waving her wristwatch in Harry's face, taking the boys arm and starting a quick march across the grounds and back into the castle.

"Also keep your hands to yourself Harry no funny stuff just because we're under the cloak," Hermione snapped still a little sore about the alleged accidental groping of Fleur.

"Merlin Hermione! I didn't mean to I swear! I was just trying to make sure we all moved backward at the same pace," Harry said his face screwing up in embarrassment as this subject reared its head again. Hermione made a disbelieving 'hmph' sound though on the inside she could tell Harry was being truthfully he wasn't the type to take advantage like that.

Hermione finally admitted to herself just as they reached the Fat Lady that she was only mad that Harry had got touch Fleur in such a manner before she herself had. Hermione shook her head to get her mind off such things as they had other things to worry about now. This meeting with Sirius for one and then bloody Dragons, ice wolves trolls and whatever else the Frost Fangs would have to throw at Fleur Harry and the other two champions.

Pulling off the cloak Harry gave the snoring Fat Lady the password and without waking the portrait still swung open and let the Gryffindors inside. Hermione could tell from Harry's face his mind was currently torturing him with visions of large scaly wings, huge bursts of flame and blood cruddling roars. Oh Merlin why did the tasks have to be so extreme right off the bat, couldn't they have eased into things and had the Champions doing something simple, like dueling each other, Hermione thought groaning as she moved with Harry to sit on the sofa.

"Well five minutes to go and he should be here...you don't think he'll just fly up to the window on a broom or something?" Harry asked and Hermione couldn't help grinning at the notion but shook her head.

"No, someone from one of the other towers could look out and see him or some Durmstrangs might be on the deck of their ship and happen to look up toward the castle... it's too risky...maybe he'll..." Hermione didn't get to finish her suggestion as the voice of Sirius Black drifted up to them both from the grate of the fireplace making them both jump in surprise.

"Harry Hermione too...unexpected but good to see you again...bet you were worried Harry's mad uncle was breaking in to steal him away or something so he'd not have to face this tournament," The disembodied head of Sirius Black laughed giving the shocked witch a quick wink.

"No! We got caught up with something else...I wasn't meant to be here actually," Hermione said smiling nervously.

"Up to no good as usual...that's what I like to hear...though I hope you weren't wandering the grounds at night with everything that's been happening in our world recently," Sirius said his grin disappearing as he became less excited and more apprehensive.

"Sirius! You're doing that Flu powder thing Arthur did at the Weasleys! I should've thought of it!" Harry said dropping to his knees to be closer to the fire. Hermione too instantly recalled seeing Mrs. Weasley talking to her husband's head in the fireplace of their home over the summer, when they'd been staying with them before and after the Quidditch world cup.

"Didn't want to mention this trick in my letter in case it was intercepted, How are you holding up Harry?" Sirius asked his face one of both worry and joy at seeing his Godson alive and well.

"It's...been fine for the most part...few Slytherins trying to turn the whole school against me....though there was that Rita Skeeter writing all sorts of rubbish about me in Daily Prophet as well...that's not helped me much," Harry confessed and Sirius swore under his breath.

"Rita Skeeter that old hag...I had seen she wrote about you and Hermione...and well I wasn't sure if you two were...you know courting or...." Sirius didn't get to finish as Harry quickly shut down that train of thought.

"No! That's a pack of lies she's tried linking me to every witch in this postcode! She's a lunatic!" Harry said trying hard not to raise his voice as Sirius shook his head.

"Well she's the least of your worries...this scumbag that's put your name in the Goblet of Fire is the real person we need to worry about...Dumbledore have any idea who it is?" Sirius asked his face hardening. Harry and Hermione both swallowed hard glancing at each other. Hermione knew Harry was thinking the same thing she was. Should they be bluntly honest and just tell Sirius that Dumbledore thought it was most likely a scheme of Voldemorts to have Harry murdered or would that just send the wizard into a panic and cause him to do something stupid that could possibly get him arrested again.

"Harry...you can't hide it from me, I'll find out eventually you know...no matter what I have to do...so why not save me some time eh?"Sirius said rather sternly and Harry let out an exasperated sigh before nodding. Hermione placed a supportive hand on his shoulder squeezing gently.

"He thinks its Voldemort...or someone under his command whose done it...Madeye Moody seemed to think Karkaroff or Snape could be involved," Harry said and Sirius looked gravely affected by this.

"You need to watch them both Harry! Karkaroff was a death eater who only got let off for becoming a turn cloak and selling his Death Eater pals up the river! He'd do anything to get back onside if You Know who is really out there and trying to rebuild himself!" Sirius said and Harry clenched his fist.

"Why's Dumbledore bloody let him in the school then...and how does Snape play into it all?" Harry asked his voice getting a little too high.

"Shush Harry! you'll wake half the tower," Hermione pleaded and Harry gave her an apologetic look before Sirius answered.

"Dumbledore will have had to accept that Karkaroff served his time...but he'll be watching him I've no doubt...as For Severus...Dumbledore never gave me the full story but he's got some reason for trusting him and I'm afraid we'll just have to have faith in him," Sirius said though he looked very pained at uttering this sentence.

"Anyway Harry whats the first task, have you any idea...I might be able to lend a hand in some way?" Sirius suggested and Harry eagerly spilled the beans desperate for as much help as possible.

"Its Dragons Sirius! there's four them one for each Champion...only they escaped and are now nesting in the Frost Fang mountains...we've got to hike up to the peaks and get past them somehow and retrieve an egg or something," Harry said speaking rapidly hoping to get any information he could before Sirius would have to leave.

"Merlin! Thrown you in at the deep end there! Whats bloody Madeye playing at...well I suppose the Dragons escaping wasn't his fault. The Frost Fangs are full of deadly creatures Harry! James, Remus, myself... and the rat, used to go climb them at weekends. We'd sneak off with backpacks full of snacks and fire whiskey get about halfway up one of the mountains before the rat would get tired and we'd have to head back. We kept our wands handy at all times, worst we ever had was a few frost wolves ambush us but some fire magic sorted them out! Try to master Incendio and Cinderblast!...there's fiendfyre too but that's much too advanced for you...maybe stick to the first two." Sirius said stopping seeming to think what else he had could say that would be any use.

"There are trolls in those hills too, best to sneak past any of those, their big dumb and slow but if you get too close to one they'll crush you with a fist in an instant. Some have clubs made from tree trunks be very careful if you come near one! Again if you have to fight I'd burn them or blind them! Good to always go for the eyes with a dark creature! Remember that Harry! As for the Dragon what I'd do is..." Sirius trailed off as the sound of a dorm room door opening drifted down from upstairs.

"Damn! I better go...Sorry, Harry!" Sirius whispered and his head vanished from the fireplace. Harry was completely dismayed at the interruption as was Hermione, they'd been about to hear vital information! Harry quickly sat back up on the sofa and grabbed a magazine and pretended to read it as Hermione pulled some parchment close to her and pretended to write. A yawning Lavender Brown stepped down in her dressing gown and blinked at them.

"You two are up a bit late eh?...though, this is pretty cosy alone by the fire, past midnight...wait... Harry! have you broken up with that awful french girl? You've taken Hermione back, haven't you! Oh, I knew you would," Lavender cried excitedly waking up a little at that idea.

"What! No! I'm just... I'm studying!" Hermione cried holding up her mostly, blank, bit of parchment that she'd only managed to write her name on.

"Merlin! we're just friends alright and I was just reading some...Witch Weekly," Harry groaned as realised what the magazine he'd grabbed actually was which was embarrassing enough but Harry also realised he was holding it upside down and quickly rotated it. Lavender just looked at the guilty and embarrassed pair and snorted with laughter, a knowing look in her eye that drove Hermione mad.

"Oh stop it you two! you can't fool me! I interrupted your alone time, I'll just get to the bathroom and head right back to bed and you two can...um get back to each other," Lavender said winking at them before heading off toward the bathroom at the other side of the common room. Hermione felt her whole face glowing red and groaned loudly as Harry just shook his head.

"We're never going to kill these rumors about us, are we? Lavender's going to broadcast this far and wide...probably have an exclusive interview with Skeeter by tomorrow afternoon," Hermione said tossing her bit of parchment in the fire harshly.

"Come on let's get to bed before she comes back," Harry said sighing he thought about tossing the witch weekly but saw Neville's name was handwritten on the cover and Harry didn't wish to destroy his property, Harry didn't have time to wonder why Neville subscribed to the publication and was too tired and frustrated to spend any energy on it. The pair got up and quickly took the stairs to their dorms before Lavandar could get the wrong idea, again. Hermione bit her lip as she thought of a way to kill this idea everyone seemed to have about herself and Harry.

A delightful vision of herself running up to Fleur in the great hall abruptly pulling her up to stand form the Gryffindor table and snogging the life out of her while the whole school, as well as the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students, looked on open-mouthed and Hermione felt a warm rush of excitement fill her as she grinned ear to ear and felt a slight tingle between her legs.

'No! bad Hermione! don't get carried away again remember the last time? Want Parvati to start up again?' Hermione chastised herself in her own head and the witch shook herself before entering the girl's dorm trying to clear her mind so she could get some sleep. It wouldn't be easy that evening as a side form more fantasies about Fleur her mind was swirling with Dragons and Dark creatures.

********

Hermione tossed and turned that night. She had the most awful nightmare about herself Harry and Fleur being chased all around the castle by Rita Skeeter who when they escaped from and ran outside, suddenly transformed into huge green Dragon blasting fire at them as they ran. Hermione didn't mention this nightmare to Harry who she knew was already dealing with enough.

They met in the great hall as usual only now with Ron sat back next to them. Things were not very jovial as aside from the impending Dragons Harry and Ron both seemed to be nursing hangovers from the party in the shrieking shack. Hermione was lucky enough to have not drunken all that much and felt fine enough aside from the panic about the first task that was clouding her mind.

"Blimey Harry...Dragons? How did you find out I thought Hagrid was just showing you some Skrewts?" Ron said struggling to keep his eyes open against the morning light looking like he needed to head back to bed.

"You know Hagrid he...er thought it'd be a surprise or something," Harry lied shaking his head.

"Hagrid!" Hermione said grabbing some toast and moving to leave the hall to head down to his hut.

"Where you going, Hermione! I was hoping you'd be able to help me find some books in the library!" Harry called desperately.

"I've got to give Hagrid that Key I picked up remember? Besides who knows more about our large scaley friends than him!" Hermione said excitedly and Harry's face lit up as he got the plan immediately. Hagrid bloody loved Dragons if there was a way to get past them he'd know for sure. Hermione couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it immediately daring to smile as she headed out of the hall and down to Hagrid's. The witch moved at a speedy pace not wanting to be late back to the castle for lessons it only took her a few minutes before she was knocking on Hagrid's front door.

"Oh...morning Hermione, what ya doing down here at this time? lessons be startin' soon," Hagrid said the half-giant looking half sick with worry. It seemed Harry and Fleur weren't the only ones in a tizzy about the Dragon situation.

"It's just about last night," Hermione began and Hagrid grabbed the witch and pulled her inside roughly and quickly shut the door before she could say more.

"Merlin Hermione! ye can't just run around talking about that in the open...I know what you want...you want me to give Harry a spell to tame Dragons 'er somethin' right? Well, I can't... it's part of that contract created when his name came out of the Goblet. Receiving help from a teacher at your school will cause something terrible to happenin' ya see.

That's why I had to be so roundabout in tellin' him to come visit the forest without really saying why he needed to be there....that way it was like he found out on his own see?" Hagrid said and Hermione opened her mouth to try and convince Hagrid to maybe in a roundabout way tell her what book in the library could aid them but before she could Hagrid was rushing over to his window with a huge set of binoculars and was looking up at the Frost Fangs.

"Look there! Its the bloody Horntail circling that peak!....what a beauty eh? Hope none of the Durmstrangs take a glance over yonder or that'll be old Krum in the know and Harry and Fleur will lose their advantage," Hagrid grumbled. Hermione knew why the half-giant would help Harry he was a dear friend and had known him for years but why was he keen on helping Fleur. Then it came to Hermione, Hagrid wanted to help out her headmistress more than he wished to aid Fleur herself.

The half-giant was clearly infatuated with the large woman, Hermione had wondered if Naxime might be part giant herself at one point. Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed, she felt that part giant or not, Maxime was clearly taking advantage of Hagrid and that he was too kind-hearted to realise. Before the Gryffindor witch could say anything Hagrid was trying to make her head off to class again giving her a nudge towards his door.

"Wait, Hagrid, there's something else about last night, I found this key laying on the forest floor...is it one of yours?" Hermione said holding the large object up to Hagrid who looked rather startled.

"Bloomin' heck Hermione! That's the damn key to the Horntails cage! Where'd you get that eh?" Hagrid said taking it and swiftly reattaching it to his belt.

"As I said we found it on the ground...though it was right when that Karkaroff came stumbling by us...could he have dropped it? Professor Hallow was out there running around too and..." Hermione didn't get to finish as Hagrid interrupted.

"Bloody Karkaroff nosy cheating so and so...shoulda know he'd do something like this...he'll just mention to Krum to look up at the mountains for a while and that'll get him around breaking the contract and Fleur was already with you two... so she doesn't need told anything else but her headmistress will likely have her watching the skies above the Frost Fangs too," Hagrid grumbled. Hermione thought it was a bit rich to complain about the Durmstrang headmaster cheating when Maxime had clearly roped Hagrid into helping her do the same and the half-giant had himself gone out of his way to clue in Harry.

"I think Cedric's the only one who doesn't know they'll be up against dragons yet...but Harry said he was going to fill him in today...he wants everything fair," Hermione sighed and Hagrid couldn't help smiling.

"A'course he does...that's just Harry isn't it...wouldn't do if he didn't win the right way," Hagrid said smiling before his face fell again.

"Still...he could've done with that advantage...those Dragons won't be easy...and getting up the damn Frost Fangs coulda been an entire task in itself...but listen Hermione you needa get off to class...I wish I could help more but me hands are tied...Dumbledore won't let anyone get badly hurt though, just keep that in mind... and tell Harry not to panic," Hagrid said and Hermione gave the half-giant a quick hug before exiting his hut and running back up to the castle for her first lesson of the day. Hermione wasn't best pleased that their ace in the hole wouldn't be able to help and tried to brace herself to inform Harry.

********

So he can't help? That's just great," Harry mumbled later as he, Hermione and Ron, sat in the library at lunchtime pouring over all books that were in any way even slightly related to Dragons.

"He said it would violate your contract and he'd only been able to give you the information about the dragons in the first place as he did it indirectly without actually telling you himself and that you walked into the forest on your own," Hermione sighed tossing aside a book about the uses of Dragon talons that was proving to be no help at all.

"You think we should go find Fleur...she's older she'll know what magic to use hopefully," Ron suggested but Hermione shook her head she'd received a note from Gabrielle during charms that stated Fleur wouldn't be allowed to speak to them till after the first task.

"Maxime put her foot down and has banned Fleur from talking with any Hogwarts students especially me or Harry till after the first task....we're on our own here," Hermione said and Ron and Harry groaned.

"What are you working on there children?" Professor Hallow said as she appeared from behind a bookcase making the trio jump.

"Oh...just a... care of magical creatures project," Hermione lied trying to shield the cover of the book on their table from the woman but she was too quick and grabbed one up and grinned as she read the title aloud.

"The Hide of Hangar, the slaying of a Dragon by Cassandra Smoulder," Professor Hallow said looking around at them all.

"So...had a little trip into the forbidden forest did we Harry...don't look so worried...I won't rat you out...you need all the help you can get...though I'm sure you are aware I can't directly give you any answers...but I might be able to give some general advice.

"Such as," Hermione said a little snappily causing Harry to give her a dig in the ankle to make her drop the haughty attitude and Hermione bit her lip but fell still.

"Play to your strengths, Harry...I hear you're a fine sportsman," Professor Hallow said a glint in her eye.

"Sports...you mean Quidditch...what goods that going to be?" Harry sighed and Hallow looked a little frustrated.

"What's the key to playing Quidditch...what tool do you need to participate?" Professor Hallow said clearly becoming annoyed with how dense Harry was being.

"A broom!...I'm a decent flyer!...but I can't take a broom with me," Harry said his excitement rising briefly before falling again.

"You can take your bloody wand though, can't you! Now figure out the rest...I can't stand about here yacking all day," Professor Hallow said before striding off smiling to herself.

"Maybe hide your firebolt up the Frost Fangs the day before, so it'll be there when you need it," Ron suggested but Hermione shook her head and so did Harry.

"They'll know I cheated...they've got to see me...see me.. summon it!" Harry cried and Hermione let out a gasp as her mind jumped to the same thing Harrys clearly had.

"That spell you used on the train Hermione to lift my glasses off the floor, could you teach me it!" Harry cried eyes filling with hope.

"Accio! Of course! We'll need to start right away, you were having such trouble in charms this morning!" Hermione said and Harry's face fell again at the reminder but he got up.

"Ron, maybe try looking through that book about potions, maybe you were onto something with that fire resistance forumla...it could come in handy stop me getting burned alive," Harry said as he and Hermione packed up their things to go find somewhere to practice summoning charms.

"Right if you drink it before you set off that morning they'll never know it cant help to use some! where will I find you later? I think Fred and George know how to make that fire resistance potion...they might even have some on them! They're always blowing things up while experimenting it was practically all they drank for a while there, to stop themselves getting burnt to a crisp!" Ron said his face lighting up as he recalled this.

"There's an empty classroom on the 6th-floor corridor you know the one next to that tapestry with the drunken Knight in it?" Hermione said and Ron nodded.

"Yeah, I know it! I'll meet you both there and hopefully have a few vials of potion for Harry," Rons said and Hermione and Harry waved goodbye to him before hurrying out of the library.

********

"Maybe we need to try have you summoning something you really want..." Hermione said biting her lip as Harry had failed to make anything move more than a few inches after an hour of practice that evening.

"So what...I should try saying Accio Cho Chang or something?" Harry asked sarcastically clinging on to some gallows humor to keep him from breaking down. Hermione rolled her eyes at the suggestion.

"Is that all wizards think about...Merlins sake," Hermione grumbled and Harry snorted then.

"What! Like you aren't worried sick about Fleur and haven't been thinking about her every second since she went off on her own," Harry said folding his arms as Hermione blushed.

"That's...that's...shut up Harry Potter!" Hermione cried stamping her foot and the wizard grinned.

"Alright enough talk let's try again..." Harry trailed off as he saw Hermione was looking a tad upset still and it was clear he'd hit a little to close to home in regards to the bushy-haired witch worrying about Fleur. Harry stepped over to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"She'll be alright you know...probably be up and down the Frost Fangs in an hour tops...she doesn't need a broom to fly either with those Veela wings she sprouted remember," Harry said and Hermione smiled at that though she was unsure Fleur had much control over her wings yet or her ability to transform in the first place.

"Sorry...I just..I know she's capable...I just wish I could help her like I said I would," Hermione sighed rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand to stave off the beginnings of tears.

"Take as long as you need Hermione...I'll just go over here and think about Cho again eh?" Harry laughed and Hermione snorted before a devilish look crossed her face and a rather bold yet ridiculous plan entered the witch's mind.

"I can't have you summon Cho the charm doesn't work like that...but maybe I can get you the next best thing...wait here Harry I'll be back!" Hermione cried hurrying out of the room leaving a bemused Harry behind. Hermione returned around ten minutes later with Luna Lovegood in toe.

"Um...wrong Ravenclaw Hermione," Harry joked and the witch rolled her eyes.

"No it's not Cho but Luna retrieved something of hers from Ravenclaw Laundry room that'll maybe inspire you to learn Accio," Hermione said with a smirk holding up a pair of Blue knickers with the Ravenclaw crest on them. Harry went absolutely scarlet swallowing hard.

"Are those...you didn't steal those...what on earth's gotten into you, Hermione Granger?" Harry said half laughing half choking.

"Well do you want them or not," Hermione said holding them up by the tip of her finger twirling them a little and Harry snorted again.

"You've gone mad..but let's try it," Harry said his cheeks still red eyes filled with glee and utter astonishment. Luna just stood nearby smiling at the scene not seeming to think anything out of place was happening.

"Now don't just shout Accio knickers or you might take mine by mistake...and if you do I'll slap you silly Harry James Potter do you hear me!" Hermione said sternly wagging a finger at Harry as she set the knickers down on the table in front of her.

"What should I say then?" Harry asked still bemused, Luna opened her mouth to speak but Hermione covered it with her hand giving the witch a warning look before taking her hand away and answering instead.

"Oh...just Accio Ravenclaw Knickers should do...and never use this spell for this outside of this very specific circumstance or I swear Harry!" Hermione began but Harry cut her off.

"Yes, I know...slapped silly I got it," Harry chuckled raising his wand and taking a deep breath.

"Accio Ravenclaw Knickers!" Harry cried a sentence that had all three of them trying not to laugh and a second later the blue knickers soared through the air toward Harry who grabbed them just before they hit him square in the face.

"You've got it, Harry, well done!" Hermione cried jumping up and down and hugging Luna who looked equally pleased though a little taken aback by Hermione's sudden affection.

"Guess I just needed the right motivation to get me started eh?" Harry laughed.

"A shame a dragon wasn't enough motivation in the first place though," Hermione said shaking her head but still laughing.

"Can I have those back now," Luna called and Harry tossed them to her.

"You want to get them back before Cho sees a pair have gone walkabout eh?" Harry laughed and Luna shook her head before stepping into the knickers pulling them up.

"No...they're mine Harry Potter, Hermione told me about your troubles and we concocted this little scheme between us, I'm happy to help anytime but please don't mention this to Pansy...I don't think she'd understand, bye now good luck on Friday with the task," Luna said sweetly in that dreamy voice of hers giving Harry a wave before skipping out of the room. A dumbstruck Harry just stared after her then looked to Hermione.

"What? you didn't think I'd actually have someone break into Ravenclaws Laundry and steal another witches knickers...Merlin Harry give me some credit," Hermione said smirking at Harry who was going very red again.

"Well guess it makes sense they came from Luna...I was wondering why they were still warm," Harry said blankly and Hermione snorted with laughter.

"Right well...lets practice Accio again with some heavy things like the chairs or these books...make sure you can summon something similar to the weight of your broom when the time comes!" Hermione said brightly and Harry nodded getting serious again.

In no time Harry was sending everything that wasn't nailed down across the room to him with the spell and Hermione was beaming at him giving a small round of applause.

"You've definitely got it! I think this is all going to work out," Hermione said feeling less anxious than she had done in days.

"Well I'm not out of the woods yet Professor Granger...still got to get up the Frost Fangs and past Ice wolves and all the rest of those things Sirius said were up there," Harry said his grin fading and Hermione bit her lip having forgotten that part for a moment in her joy at Harrys having mastered Accio.

"Well we can't practice the fire magic Sirius recommend in here...but maybe we could find a spot in the forbidden forest out of sight...though we could end up burning the whole place down...on second thought maybe we could just go down by the lake...all that water could come in handy if anything goes wrong. Cinderblast can be very powerful it'd be better to be in a wide-open space like that," Hermione suggested hoping that no Professor would get in the way of them practicing down there.

"I could also start exercising and limbering up a bit do a few laps of the lake...It's going to be tough going getting up the Frost Fangs I need to get in shape," Harry said though he looked like he wasn't that happy about the idea.

"I think that's the way to go Harry...but don't push yourself too hard or come Friday you'll be exhausted and no use to anyone," Hermione said and Harry nodded.

"I was thinking about my strategy...If I place my Firebolt out by the lake it should be close enough to summon at the base of the Frost Fangs...so should I summon it right away? I'm not worried about Fleurs plan I don't think she'll have a broom handy and I doubt if Krum brought his but if Cedric realises what I'm doing he might copy me right? Wondering if its best to wait till I'm about halfway up to my peak and then summon my broom?" Harry said looking to Hermione for her opinion.

"Well...it seems tempting just to summon your broom right away but I've got to be honest Harry, when I was at Hagrids we saw the Horntail flying around its peak...if it where to spot you on your broom early and saw you as a threat before you got sneaking up on its nest...it could cause you no end of trouble. What if it went for you before you even had time to figure out where the golden egg is?" Hermione said biting her lip again as she imagined Harry being chased by that vicious looking dark-winged Dragon she'd seen from Hagrids window that morning.

"That's a good point, I don't fancy having that unchained beast on my tail too early...I guess I'll have to fight my way to the peak the old fashioned way...get a good view of the eggs, summon the firebolt and just go for it before whatever Dragon I get has a chance to give chase," Harry said trying to sound confident even though Hermione could tell he was still a bundle of nerves.

"Anyway, why don't we look up some books on trolls, Ice wolves and those other creatures tomorrow before a practice session out by the lake," Harry said trying to change the subject in what Hermione knew was a bid to get his mind off the Dragons.

"I think I have an idea how to help you train too, there always loads of driftwood along the shoreline I could make it hover over the lake and you could take shots at them with Cinderblast or sends burst of flame at them with incendo...like makeshift targets or something," Hermione suggested as Harry nodded again seeming agreeable to that plan. Before the could discuss Harry's training regime further Ron finally arrived carrying a small vial of blue-ish green looking potion.

"Got some Anti-scorch serum! I had to dance around why I wanted it from Fred for a good hour but he seemed to catch on it was for you somehow anyway and let me have it. Says you take three drops the morning you need it and it last for a full twenty-four hours you can't be harmed by fire! I reckon you take it at breakfast on Friday before anyone notices and you'll be sorted to face those Dragons," Ron said excitedly handing Harry the vial and he slipped it into his robes.

"Cheers, hope this stuff works," Harry said and Ron tried to force a confident smile onto his face but it convinced neither Harry Hermione or even Ron himself as far as Hermione could tell from the look in his eye.

*******

The rest of that week Hermione spent every free moment pouring over books about all manner of creatures with Harry, breakfast lunch dinner in between classes and even during some glasses such as History of magic in which Professor Binns wasn't attentive enough to notice. They also spent a great deal of time down by the lake Hermione levitating driftwood out above the surface of the lake while Harry took careful aim with his wand blasting them out of the sky with fireballs from Cinderblast.

Ron would also help out placing targets out on the lake but he mostly kept watch for any Professors coming to investigate the racket they were making. They were very exposed down by the lake but no one really came to bother them, Neville the Creeveys and few others would watch Harry training but if they asked too many questions Harry would have Ron lead them away and distract them with a game of wizard chess or poker back in the castle.

Harry also used Incendo to practice shooting great ropes of flame through the air and create a wall of flame that he would be able to use as a shield from any creatures that came upon him should the need arise. Harry also spent time trying to hit the driftwood with blinding curses and stinging hexes having thought about what Sirius had said about 'always go for the eyes' it could be useful against a Dragon, or so Harry and Hermione hoped.

Hermione also helped Harry with his exercise and work out routine timing him as he jogged around the edge of the lake and helped him keep count while doing sit-ups and pull-ups using the branch of the tree that was near their training area. Harry wasn't the only one training that week Krum and Cedric also could be seen racing each other around the lake. Hermione wasn't very impressed by how hard they were pushing themselves.

"They'll not be in good shape come Friday going flat out like that around the lake! This is good for you Harry you might be able to beat them to the top," Hermione said cheerily as they watched Krum and Cedric sprinting as if their dragons were already breathing down their necks.

"You think I can beat Fleur though," Harry asked a little cheeky grin on his face as he nodded to Fleur who had just headed down to the lake in a swimming costume. The sight took Hermione's breath away she had never seen so 'much' of Fleur before. The French witch gave Hermione a small smile and even turned around letting Hermione see her from all angles before diving into the water to do some lengths a huge grin on her lips.

Hermione just watched her opened mouthed her heart hammering in her chest. Fleur hadn't been speaking to them all week due to Maxime's instructions and it had been driving Hermione mad, she missed her so much even though she still saw her around the school and in class. Not being able to talk to her or get close enough for a hug or to even grab her hand for a second was torture.

"Um..sorry...yes, wait, what?..sorry Harry what were you saying," Hermione rambled blinking rapidly going rather red trying to draw her eyes away from Fleur and back to her friend.

"I said do you reckon I could beat Fleur? She's been swimming rather than running...wondering which one's the better work out," Harry mused a knowing grin on his face as Hermione tried to recompose herself.

"Well, swimming used most of the muscles in your body so it takes more out of you but you get more back in return...Fleur has her Veela strength to rely on too...If I didn't know any better I'd say she was just swimming for...the fun of it," Hermione said narrowing her eyes at the french witch who was now doing the backstroke.

"Maybe she wants to show you her...breaststroke," Harry said his eyes filling with glee as he made the cheeky comment and Hermione spun around to glare at him.

"You're one to talk about breaststrokes Harry Potter!" Hermione said recalling the incident under the invisibility cloak again. Harry snorted but put his hands up defensively backing away a little from the furious Hermione.

"Hey! Now that was a mistake, it was dark I couldn't see what I was doing!" Harry pleaded as Hermione advanced on him looking dangerous.

"You and I have been under that cloak plenty of times, in the dark and otherwise and you never grabbed me by mistake," Hermione said rasing a doubting eyebrow.

"Well because I know what you'd do if anything like that happened accident or not!" Harry said still backing away before finally breaking into a run and speeding off laughing as Hermione gave chase.

"Get back here Harry Potter!" Hermione cried only semi-serious about giving him a hiding.

By Thursday Harry had mastered most of his combat spells and Accio, he felt he'd done enough physical training and it was best to take the day easy to be rested up for Friday. So Hermione Harry and Ron spent most of their free time that day in the library trying to cram in any last-minute research about dark creatures, fire magic, and dragons that they could. Hermione had to admit her mind wasn't fully on the task at hand and she was still pining for a certain French witch, who was occupying most of her thoughts at present.

"Um, Hermione this is a book on broom repair...hows that going to help?" Ron asked giving the witch a confused look as he held up the most recent book she'd brought back to the table.

"Oh sorry, I must've grabbed the wrong one...back in a second," Hermione said yawning and headed back to the dark corner of the library where she'd gotten the book. The Gryffindor was just placing it back on its dusty shelf when she was grabbed from behind a hand covering her mouth to stop her from screaming. Hermione gasped and tried to struggle but then that familiar smell hit her nostrils, that perfume she liked so well and the witch's heart soared.

"Sorry for sneaking up on you 'ermione but I couldn't be seen! Maxime has some Beauxbatons tailing me day and night I had to be careful! I had to see you though before the first task or I might have gone crazy," Fleur said in a low voice as she let go of Hermione who just spun around and grabbed the witch holding her tight. Hermione couldn't help burying her face in Fleur's neck and inhaling deeply, just breathing the witch in, she'd missed this so badly. Fleur chuckled before she pulled back, a little a curious look in her eye having noted Hermione's apparent smelling of her.

"Um...do I need a shower or...?" Fleur trailed off giggling lifting a strand of her silvery hair to her nose as Hermione blushed.

"No! It's...that perfume of yours it's so...I missed it," Hermione confessed her cheeks burning and Fleur looked positively delighted by that and pulled Hermione close to her again and this time she buried her face in Hermione's bushy brown locks and it was her turn to inhale.

"I missed this 'ermione smell myself...books and parchment ink and quills...and a hint of toffee," Fleur giggled as Hermione chuckled unsure where Fleur was getting any of that as she had never smelled any of that on herself but it made her heart flutter to hear so she didn't question it further.

"Oh I didn't know it would be so hard," Fleur said finally stepping back from Hermione who just looked at her quizzically.

"Do you mean...preparing for the tasks?" Hermione asked worried the girl wasn't coping and had been struggling without Hermione there to aid her as she had promised. Fleur grinned and shook her head.

"Oh no that stuff is easy..I meant being apart from you...I sometimes wanted to scream at Maxime for forcing me away from you and the other Gryffindors. Gabrielle is beside herself too, that she hasn't got to speak to 'arry all week," Fleur said and Hermione felt herself grow weak with tenderness again.

"Well...it'll be all over tomorrow...you'll go up the Frost Fangs get that golden egg and everything will be fine," Hermione said more confidently than she felt and Fleur smiled again.

"I'm glad you have such faith in me 'ermione...what of 'Arry does he have a plan...and don't tell me details that wouldn't be fair I heard how he wants everyone on a level playing field...such a noble boy," Fleur said looking through the stack of books behind her at Harry who was still reading through his book on Ice Wolves.

"We've come up with a strong strategy...I just hope he can pull it off when the time comes...I saw one of the Dragons circling the skies above the Frost Fangs...I wouldn't like to think what would happen if I was facing one," Hermione said swallowing hard and Fleur's face grew a little anxious.

"Yes...I saw one too...the Chinese Fireball I think...it will be tricky...but doable," Fleur said holding her head up and Hermione beamed as she truly sounded confident in that moment.

"So...I hope you forgave 'arry for his...um...wandering hands the other evening," Fleur said with a smirk as Hermione's face darkened again as this groping incident reared its head once again.

"I might forgive him...in a few years," Hermione said crossing her arms and Fleur giggled.

"Is that envy I hear in your voice...'ermione Granger? I guess there's only one way to put this right," Fleur sighed gently her eyes swimming with glee. The witch stepped closer to the Gryffindor so they were almost nose to nose. Hermione rose an eyebrow at the sudden closeness, the intensity in Fleur's eye made her take a step back but she had nowhere to go and bumped into the bookcase behind her letting out a tiny squeak as Fleur kept inching closer. The French witch took hold of Hermione's left hand forcing the nervous girl to uncross her arms, Hermione was trembling and Fleur softened her expression making sure she had permission to continue and Hermione gave the smallest of nods.

Fleur grinned and held Hermione's hand for a moment before slowly bringing it up to her chest and without warning the witch gently placed Hermione's hand over her left breast. Hermione let out a small gasp and Fleur let out out a breathy laugh and then more firmly held the Gryffindors hand in place over her chest.

Fleur let out a chuckle biting her lip at the boldness of her action. Hermione's brown eyes went wide a touch of apprehension in them that was soon superseded by giddy excitement, her heart pounding in her chest at the sensation. Hermione felt a familiar rush of heat between her legs and a maddening tingle, an itch that needed to be scratched as it were. Hermione closed her legs close together to try and pour water on the fire that had ignited within her core but it didn't help much and she found herself squirming around a little seeking pleasure from the feeling of her damp knickers grazing her quim as she rubbed her thighs together involuntarily. Fleur's eager gaze made Hermione grow warm all over.

Fleur glanced downward at the witch's thighs and looked back up at Hermione a wicked grin on her lips her tongue licked her lips for a second and the witch moved so close to Hermione then that their bellies were pressed together. Fleur leaned into Hermione's shoulder trapping the witch's hand against her breast while her knee was trying to force apart Hermione's thighs. Was this really happening? It was just so sudden and escalating quickly, not what Hermione had planned. She wasn't sure she liked not being in control of the situation so in an attempt to steady her nerves and regain some kind of dominance the Gryffindor was used to having Hermione brought her free hand around behind Fleur and grasped her backside.

Fleur pulled back a little mouth falling open seeming a tiny bit shocked up also equally impressed as Hermione squeezed her. The Gryffindor couldn't help the positively devilish look that crossed her face as she caressed Fleur's bum through her skirt. She'd wanted to grab Fleur like this for a long time and wasn't disappointed by the rush she felt as she did it.

Hermione let out a snort of laughter at the naughty-ness of the situation. She couldn't believe this was happening in the library of all places, it was rather thrilling. Looking around Fleur to make sure Harry and Ron were not on their way over to see where she had gotten to, Hermione let out a little breathy sigh, as Fleur's lips suddenly grazed her neck, she hadn't been expecting it. Fleur also quite forcefully grabbed Hermione's hips pulling her roughly into her, as if to say 'I'm in charge here Hermione Granger'. Hermione found she could maybe get used to being bossed around, as long as Fleur was the one doing the bossing and she went weak at the knee at the playfully harsh treatment that was being administered to her.

Hermione wasn't sure how much longer she could cope before giving in and letting Fleur's knee force her thighs apart so it might press against her damp knickers. Hermione wanted the delicious friction Fleurs knee would provide but what if they were discovered. Fleur drew back from Hermione's neck wanting to gauge how things were going she looked rather very satisfied at how enthralled Hermione was and she felt the witch give her breast a small tentative squeeze through her light blue uniform.

Hermione giggled her warm brown eyes meeting Fleurs sharp blue ones and the pair couldn't help laughing. Fleur let out a little satisfied sigh as Hermione deepened her grip on her breast before letting a semi-stunned Hermione's hand drop back to her side and she quickly stepped away. Hermione looked away from Fleur then unable to meet her eye without laughing, her mouth hanging open as she tried to think of something to say. She half wanted to slap her for bringing an end to whatever this had been but also felt relieved they'd stopped before anyone had caught them.

"There, now you're more than even with 'arry...play your cards right and...maybe we'll do that again... and more," Fleur said her voice low and seductive as a still open-mouthed Hermione just stood their her face on fire blinking at her in something of a daze, trying to forget the furnace between her legs that was demanding urgent attention. Fleur chuckled again seeing the look of desire frustration and glee in the Gryffindors eye before giving Hermione a small peck on the cheek and heading to leave but Hermione grabbed her by the wrist. The witch wasn't getting away that easy! She couldn't just allow Hermione to feel her up and get her all fired up only to run off!

A bold and mad idea had jumped into the Gryffindors head she wasn't sure why she was doing it but it felt like the right thing to do. So Hermione took a hold of both Fleur's hands and brought them to her own sizeable bosom making the french witch let out a surprised gasp. Hermione swallowed worried the witch wasn't enjoying herself but a wicked grin crossed her face and Fleur's eyes filled with glee and wicked intent. Hermione let out a sigh of relief.

"There...now its fair..oh..that feels nice...ahhh," Hermione moaned a little as Fleur moved one of her thumbs in a painfully slow circular motion around Hermione's taut nipple through her shirt. The witch hadn't worn a bra today as it was laundry day and due to a mix-up, she'd found she hadn't had one spare. Fleur was not complaining in the least. However, the french witch abruptly pulled back her hands as Hermione's face fell utterly crestfallen at the loss of contact, frustrated her pleasure was again just taken from her like that.

"I'm sorry 'ermione...if I do not stop myself now...I'm afraid I might do something that would see Madam Pince banning us form her library for life is we were caught. I'll see you tomorrow before the first task...and after maybe we can continue this," Fleur said biting her lip then giving a rapidly nodding Hermione a wink before she hurried off out of a side door of the library so herself and Hermione would not be seen together. Hermione leaned back against the bookcase behind her trying to blow a stray strand of hair the clung wetly to her sweaty forehead off her face but it wouldn't budge and Hermione found she was suddenly to weak to even raise a hand to brush it aside.

The witch found herself slowly sliding to the floor her head buzzing Hermione managed to get her wand out of her robes and cast a cooling charm on herself so that when he went back to Harry and Ron they wouldn't suspect anything. Hermione finally got back to her feet and hastily straightened her tie and took a deep breath before she stumbled her way back to Harry and Ron still in something of a daze a dumb grin on her face.

"You...okay there Hermione? Didn't find that other book then?" Ron asked raising an eyebrow at the witch's far off expression and the dreamy look in her eye.

"Witches are just great aren't they...with their lips and hair...bums and breasts and everything...just...wonderful aren't they..." Hermione sighed seeming to forget who she was with and Ron fell off his chair as Harry burst into a fit of laughter that he had to cover up as a coughing fit as Madam Pince stormed over, looking murderous and forced them out of the library. Hermione was glad the witch had distracted Ron and Harry from her random statement and they all soon forget it had happened as they went back to studying in a corner of Gryffindor tower. Hermione was little help that evening her mind hung up on a set of fierce blue eyes and the feeling of warm wet lips against her neck.

Harry and Ron noted the witches daydreaming but didn't mention it again save for Ron muttering one comment to Harry that earned him a kick in the shin.

"Telling you, I saw Fleur behind that shelf...Hermione's still not got her priorities in order has she, you're about to be battling a Dragon and she's trying to get off with the bloody competition," Ron grumbled shaking his head chuckling.

"Argghhh!" Ron cried out as Hermione kicked him.

"Another word and I'll feed you to a Dragon Ron Weasley," Hermione said calmly as Harry gave her a knowing look that made the witch shift around in her seat uncomfortably before she cleared her throat.

"Anyway have we looked, at some basic healing charms yet, I'll show you the one for minor cuts Harry," Hermione said quickly changing the subject hoping Harry wouldn't need anything stronger than that come tomorrow.

******

Fleur took a long time to doze off the night before the first task but it wasn't Dragons that drove her to distraction it was the memory of Hermione's warm trembling hands covering hers as she'd held Fleurs hands to her chest her heart thundering her eyes swimming with glee and pleasure. Her breath on her face, the heat of skin against her lips Fleur was in a blissful haze for most that afternoon.

Fleur felt the heat and dull ache again growing between her legs but kept her hands at bay she couldn't indulge in such things with Gabrielle so nearby. This was, of course, nothing to how she had felt in the library, the slickness between her legs, the maddening pulse of her quim...Fleur had nearly grabbed Hermione's hand and forced it down her knickers right then and there! It had been no place for such a thing however and would only have gotten them caught and promptly punished.

'We will find a place for ourselves, Hermione, we're we can do as we please uninterrupted for as long as we wish!' Fleur thought a smile crossing her face.

'All you have to do is beat that Dragon,' Hermione's voice sounded in the witch's mind and Fleur let out a little groan as her stomach churned at the reminder.

"Yes...that's all...just one tiny Dragon....for you 'ermione...I'll do it, for you..." Fleur sighed sleepily before drifting off.

*******

Friday arrived and Fleur spent the morning doing last-minute research and practicing some of her more powerful charms. From her window, she saw the first snowflakes of the year begin to fall it was only a week into November but snow was rather common at this time of year in this part of Scotland. Fleur made sure to dress extra warmly that day permitted not to wear her usual uniform as it was the day of the task.

She departed the Beauxbatons carriage glancing up at the Frost Fangs dark clouds were gathering and the witch groaned as it looked like it would be snowing heavily by the time herself and the other Champions would be taking part in the task. A gusty wind had started to pick up and was again not a good sign, Fleur imagined being caught up in a blizzard atop those mountains with a dragon to be one of the worst things that could happen. Then again maybe a snowstorm would aid her and the others in getting past the dragons their visibility and increased effort required to fly in a storm could be very helpful.

Fleur tried to convince herself the less than promising weather was a good thing and headed up to the castle to eat a very large breakfast that would keep her energy up for the rest of the day. Gabrielle sat with her as always and they ran through some of the spells Fleur had been mastering and what creatures she should use them on.

"Right I think you have a chance....though you won't beat 'arry of course, he is so brave and daring...you should crush Krum and Cedric I should think," Gabrielle said cheerily but there was a worry in her eyes as she tried to finish her cereal.

"I will do my very best, I hope to hear you cheering even when I am halfway up that mountain," Fleur laughed and Gabrielle nodded.

"Mother will hear me all the back home in France," Gabrielle said proudly and Fleur kissed her forehead.

"Was that necessary....'arry can see you! so embarrassing," Gabrielle grumbled going a little red and Fleur chuckled looking down the table to see Harry who flashed her a nervous smile which she returned. Fleur saw Hermione wasn't eating and was playing with her food absentmindedly as she looked down the table at Fleur white as a ghost. It was clear the witch was worried sick about herself and Harry. Fleur couldn't wait till this was over and she could hold the girl close once again.

Fleur didn't start to feel her nerves till it came toward midday and it was time for the champions to head down to the lake. One of Fleur's fellow Beauxbatons had arrived during charms and told herself and Harry that they were to head down to the lake with the other champions so they could prepare for the first task. Fleur got up swallowing hard, Gabrielle jumped up and hugged her tight.

"If you die, I'll kill you," Gabrielle said holding back tears and Fleur snorted.

"I'll be back in no time just you watch," Fleur said before looking to her left to Hermione who was gripping her desk so hard her knuckles were turning white. Hermione stood up abruptly and was about to run over to Fleur but Professor McGonagall stood up and told her to take her seat.

"Miss Granger, please sit back down, Mr. Potter and Miss Delacour...on you go, you don't want to keep Professor Dumbledore and the other judges waiting now do you," Professor McGonagall's voice was stern but her lip quivered as she looked to Harry who was shaking a little as he packed away his things. Fleur moved over and helped him zip up his book bag and the pair set off, Fleur giving a last glance to Hermione. Feeling cheeky and wanting to take Hermione's mind off things Fleur slyly moved her thumb to her breast and rubbed it in a circle for just a second winking at the Gryffindor witch who went scarlet but the fear left her eyes and Fleur smiled very gladly no one else had caught that gesture.

"We can do this can't we," Harry asked sounding rather short of breath as they walked outside the front door of the castle and through the grounds.

"You are 'arry Potter and I'm Fleur Delacour...we can do anything," Fleur said giving Harry a playful push and the boy smiled seeming to take a bit of heart in that comment. Harry tightened his scarf around him and pulled a hat from his coat pocket hastily pulling it on his eyes trained on the dark clouds above the frost fangs presumably looking for any signs of the Dragons.

The journey to the lake was a quiet one after no one else was outside yet and the rest of the school wouldn't be heading down to the lake for around half an hour yet in order to watch, classes ending early that day. Fleur took a deep breath as the sports arena-style seating came into view as herself and Harry walked down the hill.

Fleur had seen the construction of the large seating area taking place earlier in the day when she had left the carriage that morning. It would seat hundreds and was facing out across the lake towards the Frost Fangs. Fleur wasn't sure how well any of the crowd would see them from so many miles away but as herself and Harry headed down toward the lake they passed a table with some wizards handing out Omnioculars like the ones that had been at the world cup only these were enhanced versions with some new features.

"You just move the dial down to numbers one, two, three or four and you'll instantly view what that champion is doing close up just like your watching one of those muggle TVs! Amazing eh?" The wizard setting out the new and improved Omnioculars said beaming at Harry and Fleur as they stopped to inspect them.

"What champion gets which number?" Harry asked but before the wizard behind the stand with the Omniculars could respond Mad-eye Moody called Harry and Fleur down to the shore of the lake. Fleur saw the wizard was stood with Dumbledore, Madam Maxime Karkaroff and Ludo Bagman. Krum and Cedric were already next to them and behind them bobbing in the water were four small boats that Fleur assumed were for them.

"You two move your arses we can't hang about all day ya know!" Moody growled and Fleur and Harry hurried down the slope toward the wizard trying their best not to slip in the mud. Fleur saw Hagrid leaving his hut to make his way down to the lake as well and he gave Harry a thumbs up and then tapped the side of his nose.

"What was that?" Fleur asked narrowing her eyes at Harry.

"Nothing... just needed Hagrid to hold onto something for me for today," Harry said not meeting the witch's eye. Fleur assumed it was part of Harry's plan and didn't push the boy further.

"Now then as Miss Delacour and Mr. Potter have finally graced us with their presence we can get this show on the road. I have in this bag a miniature representation of the creature you lot will be facing today now when I call your name to reach in and you get what you get! No swapping and trying again ya hear!" Moody growled and they all nodded crowding around the man as he held a small brown bag up to them.

"Diggory you first," Moody said and Cedric tentatively reached into the bag and withdrew a tiny figure of a dragon with a number one engraved on a small silver medal hung around the tiny beast's neck.

"The Swedish short snout eh? You'll be heading up peak one of the fangs lad...just get in that first boat there," Moody said gesturing to a boat behind him and Cedric climbed on board and sat down. Dumbledore made his way over to the boy appearing to give him some last moment advice.

"Miss Delacour you next if you please," Moody said coughing a little as he moved the bag toward Fleur. The french witch took a deep breath and reached into the bag grasping one of the figures by the tail and pulling it out. A green dragon with red eyes and a number two on its medal greeted her.

"The Common Welsh Green, you'll be heading up peak two then, well into the boat next to Diggory go on," Fleur was about to step into her boat when she heard someone calling her name and turned just in time to have her vision obscured by a great deal of bushy brown hair.

"I couldn't let you go without a proper send-off!" Hermione cried squeezing Fleur tight.

"Girl! would you stop holding up proceedings and get back to the stands there's a storm blowing in! we don't have time for..." Moody was cut off as Ludo Bagman interjected.

"Ah give them a moment Alastor, have a heart," Ludo laughed clapping Moody on the back. Moody spun around threatening to hit him with his large walking stick and Bagman stepped away.

Hermione stepped back from Fleur a little raising herself on her tiptoes her eyes fluttering shut and she pressed her lips to Fleurs. it was a little clumsy and Hermione's nose bumped against Fleurs but the Gryffindor quickly righted herself and found her quarry. Fleur felt lighter than air almost like she was floating the catcalling and wolf-whistling from the others that were gathering in the seating area faded. Fleur didn't even notice Mad-eye blasting off a spell towards the crowd to quiet them down before Dumbledore stepped in and had me put away his wand. There was no one or anything else in the world at that moment, only her and Hermione, no Dragons, no tournament, no task, nothing only them.

The kiss was slow, soft and tender but all too brief for Fleur's liking, as when she'd opened her mouth to turn the kiss into a full-on snog Hermione had pulled back letting out a nervous choked laugh. Fleur tried to chase her lips but Hermione pressed the tip of her finger to the girl's mouth halting her hungry advance. Hermione looked wildly excited by the eager yearning in Fleur's eyes but there was also a devilish glee at having such control of Fleur at that moment.

Fleur had wanted to grab hold of the back of Hermione's head tangling her fingers through her wild hair and finally show her what the witch meant to her. To show the bossy lioness that she would bend to the will of Veela and that sometimes it was okay not to be in charge. Hermione wasn't to be subdued so easily it seemed and the Gryffindor just kept grinning at Fleur gleefully her cheeks going a little pink.

"Oh please....more! I might not have this chance again 'ermione," Fleur said softly in a breathy tone and Hermione gave another choked laugh shaking her head.

"You go up that mountain kick that Dragons scaly green arse and you come back to me Fleur Delacour... and you can have as much of that as you want," Hermione said rather breathless herself letting go of Fleur's waist and heading back to the stands giving Harry a small wave before she went not hugging him as to avoid further holding things up. Hermione received some wolf whistles as she headed back to her seat but as Moody glared at the crowd they fell silent again.

Fleur's heart soared in her chest she stepped into her boat head held high and sat down. The way she was feeling just now that Common Welsh Green better watch it's back because Fleur Delacour was a witch on a mission and nothing would stop her getting back to her Hermione. Madam Maxime stepped over to her looking displeased. The witch took a deep breath before beginning to speak in rapid french.

"Fleur Je t'ai dit de garder la tête sur ce qui est important, pas une idiote d'écolière ... si tu cours en pensant à ce que ce sera de voir mademoiselle lion contre un mur avec sa culotte autour de ses chevilles et non En gardant un œil sur ce foutu Dragon, tu seras grillé!," Madam Maxime said bluntly in a harsh whisper.

("Fleur, I told you to keep your head on what's important, not a schoolgirl crush ... if you run around thinking about what it will be like to see little Miss Lion against a wall with her knickers around her ankles and not keeping an eye on this damn Dragon, you'll be grilled!")

Fleur's face soured she almost got up and slapped her headmistress for such a vulgar statement at a time like this but kept her head and said nothing. Maxime took a breath and changed to English trying to soften her tone.

"I'm sorry Fleur...I just want you to do well...I sound harsh and cruel...but I'm saying this for your own good...I kept you apart from that witch for your own good as well, you will see I was right after you are the first back today! Now remember your charms and defense spells, you can do this good luck!" Maxime said moving back to the judges. Next Krum withdrew the Chinese fireball with a number 3 around its neck and entered his boat getting a pep talk from Karkaroff who sid=eyed Fleur and Cedric. Fleur gave him a nasty look and the wizard chuckled before moving away. Harry reached into the bag last and of course, got the Hungarian Horntail with a number four around its neck and as the others had he stepped into his boat and received a talk from Dumbledore.

"Now then, these boats have been enchanted to carry you across the lake to the shore at the other side just at the base of the Frost Fangs. Once you disembark from the boat, the four of you will set off heading up one of four, mountain paths each, taking the trail with your number below its sign and heading right to the peak. When you arrive at the top you will find your dragon, you must do whatever it takes to get past the beast and retrieve a golden egg. Now once you have that egg hold onto it tight and don't let it go, trust me you'll need it. It's a long treck up those mountains and you'll have three hours to get up there and get your egg." Moody growled pausing for a moment making sure no one had any questions before continuing.

Anyone who takes longer than that will have points deducted from their final score. There are many creatures that roam about the Frost Fangs so been on guard at all times! Constant Vigilance! Charlie Weasley and a number of Dragon tamers will be hidden at various points along the winding path up the mountain out of sight ready to step in if things get too dangerous but first you'll have to raise your wand and send sparks into the air. Of course, there'll be a heavy deduction of points should this occur. Now go out there and give it all you have Good luck!" Moody said finishing his speech and with that, he brought his walking stick down hard on the ground and the four boats set off across the lake.

The Lake had become rather misty snow swirling down from the sky and obscuring the champion's views further. Fleur looked over her shoulder one last time finding Hermione's face in the crowd not giving a damn if Maxime saw she blew the witch a kiss and Hermione looked like she was ready to cry but instead visibly caught the kiss in her hand in a low key fashion so none around her would see and gave Fleur a final wave.

******

Fleur lost sight of her fellow champions boats in the growing mist and fog, the snow had gotten heavier and was also limiting her view. Fleur hoped that the Omnioculars still had their feature for being able to filter out harsh weather conditions or the crowd watching the tournament wouldn't be able to enjoy this alleged 'spectator' sport at all.

The wind was picking up too and the sound was drowning out Ludo Bagman's booming voice as he began his commentary from back across the lake. Fleur heard something about the Champions time beginning once there boats docked at the other side of the lake but couldn't make out the words that clearly. Fleur became rather queasy it wasn't like the boat was rocking around too much or anything and it was likely due to the thought of her impending showdown with a dragon. Fleurs stomach gave a lurch as she imagined getting to the peak and being paralysed with fear in front of the great beast, Fleur leaned over the side of the boat ready to vomit but a voice jumped into her head with a stern warning.

"I'm not going to kiss you if you've just thrown up and have sick all down your front...unless you brush your teeth first or something!" Hermione's voice sounded in Fleur's mind making the witch laugh and smile to herself her stomach settling a little at thought of embracing Hermione when this was all over. 'No I won't be sick today, I won't freeze up! I can do this!' Fleur told herself this over and overtaking deep breaths as her slow journey across the lake continued. The freezing cold air filling her lungs somehow cleared her mind and made her more focused.

Fleur wished the boat would pick up the pace however as she didn't like being out on the lake alone like this, it was rather eerie shrouded in all this mist with the snow slowly drifting down from the sky.

Fleurs mind wandered back to the tentacle herself and Hermione had seen a few weeks ago and Fleur shuddered. A nasty vision of herself being dragged from the boat and into the water-filled her mind but the French witch shook herself as Hermione's voice sounded in her head again.

'Don't let your imagination get carried away!' Hermione snapped rather forcefully and Fleur chuckled imaginary Hermione's tone warming her up a great deal and easing her worries. The French witch looked over the side of the boat her hand gripping her wand tightly as she swallowed hard thinking she had seen something just below the surface. Fleur didn't know why she did what she did next but it seemed to happen before she had the power to even stop it.

The witch found herself dropping her hand over the side of the boat letting her fingers skim across the icy cold surface of the lake finding the motion soothing. Her mind relaxed again and with thoughts of sea monsters disappearing she let her fingertips trail across the water for a while until suddenly she felt something brush by her hand. Fleur gasped and drew back her hand in a flash of panic. She saw the shadow of something under the water moving around her boat. It looked humanoid but that made no sense, who would go for a swim at this time and in this weather.

"Hello..." Fleur said tentatively holding her wand tighter than ever. Fleur heard a splash from the other side of the boat and she spun around letting out a gasp as she saw the face of a very pretty golden-haired woman who's head was bobbing in the water. The woman from what Fleur could see was completely nude, her breasts though obscured by the water, were visible just beneath the surface of the lake. The woman smiled at Fleur with curious eyes. 'Merlin she must be freezing, what was going on here!' Fleur thought her eyes widening.

Before Fleur could make any other comment the woman dove out of the water high into the air and over Fleurs boat. The French witch had her mouth hanging open in awe as she took in the sight of a scaly emerald green tail passing overhead as the golden-haired woman revealed herself to be a mermaid.

The creature disappeared back into the water with a splash that almost soaked Fleur but she raised her wand and managed to cast a charm to deflect the water at the last second. Fleur couldn't help smiling as she saw the tail appear again at the other side of the boat before vanishing. Fleur wondered why the creature had revealed herself, maybe there were many such creatures living in the lake and they just got curious about the boats.

The mermaid's intentions would remain a mystery however as Fleur did not see even a flash of golden hair or a glimpse of the emerald tail again and soon found herself jolting forward slightly as the boat finally bumped into dry land. Fleur hurried out of the boat and jumped onto the shore wand raised she saw her fellow champions also disembarking. Cedric, off to her right, Harry and Krum on her left. Cedric and Krum saw the signs with their numbers next to their trails and took off running right away eager to get up to their peak and complete the task quickly.

A rather unwise move they would tire themselves quickly Fleur moved toward the sign with a number two on it and took that trail deciding to speed walk for the first half-hour of the climb and break into a jog a little while later. Fleur knew she had to pace herself and warm herself up for the climb. Fleur looked over her shoulder and saw Harry had opted for a brisk walk himself, he was wiser than the other two Fleur thought grinning before looking back to her path that was slowly being covered in snow and got a determined look on her face.

"Up the mountain, get past the dragon, grab the egg and get back to Hermione," Fleur thought simply pushing all else from her mind and she set off.

The first section of the trail up the mountain had trees running a long it and they swayed with the wind snow not getting a chance to rest on their branches. The noise of the strong wind made it hard to hear if anything was sneaking up on her but Fleur made sure to check around her once in a while as to not be caught unaware of any creature that might be stalking her. Fleur had gone so long without any hint of a creature she began to wonder if the storm that had rolled in had maybe caused them all to hide in the caves and burrows that the wildlife of the Frost Fangs called home.

However just as she began to move from the wooded section of the mountain trail onto a more open rocky section of the path she heard a series of loud bangs coming from her right. It sounded like Cedric was the first to be engaged in combat with some animal or other while heading to his peak. Indeed Fleur could see flashes of spells through the heavy snow about a mile away from her location on the slopes of the path across from her. Fleur didn't allow herself to be caught up with such things as concern or worry in that moment, this was a competition after all.

Fleur pressed on, her own wand held tighter than ever as she prepared to run into some creatures of her own shortly and the witch was right to be prepared. Though, It wasn't any of the creatures she'd expected that lashed out at her first. Fleur had been moving around a rather ancient looking tree that's bark had a strange deep colour of red splashed across it, she hadn't paid it much mind but then something grabbed her ankle from nowhere and she was being dragged along the ground back toward the tree. A thick tree root had sprung from the earth of the mountain path and twisted itself around her ankle.

This tree was a living creature like a whomping willow, however, only its roots seemed to live. Fleur noted that the reddishness of its bark was not natural and they were actually the dark stains of dried blood. Fleur tried not to panic her heart hammered against her chest and rush of blood went to her head as she was hoisted into the air by her ankle briefly. Her eyes were drawn to something strange next to the tree.

Fleur noted there was a ram's skull and perhaps a goats decaying hide next to the tree laying off to one side that she hadn't noticed as she'd passed. Did this tree just murder any creature that came to close to it? Fleur didn't get to ponder this question long as she was suddenly and harshly slammed back into the earth by the tree root. The witch groaned as she felt her ribs take the worst of the hit one of them might have been cracked, she was finding it hard to breathe. Fleur's mind was panicked her hands were getting cut up by the gravel of the path as she tried to cling to anything and stop herself being pulled closer to the tree!

"Your wand! You're a damn witch, aren't you! Curse that thing to pieces!" Hermione's voice sounded in Fleur's head and the bruised but not yet beaten french witch let out a mighty roar of defiant fury. Gripping her wand so tight it was certain to leave an imprint on the palm of her hand Fleur managed to turn onto her back and took aim at the tree root that was pulling her nearer. The tree seemed to sense danger and a dozen more roots sprang from the ground sending muck gravel and snow everywhere. Fleur was covered in the debris but the witch had only one thing on her mind, destroying this tree so it could never harm another soul.

"Diffindo!" Fleur spat through gritted teeth.

The severing charm cleanly sliced through the root that had a hold of her and the witch scrambled backward letting out a choked laugh of relief. The tree let out a shriek and Fleur grinned eyes filled with vicious glee at having finally struck back against the creature. Other roots shot towards her but Fleur cut them to pieces with the same severing charm slashing her wand this way and that furiously crying out in a rage as she relentlessly cut down her foes.

"I'm not some defenseless animal you will not have me!" Fleur screamed as she rather manically kept slashing her wand through the air as the roots that were launched at her fell one by one.

The roots that were cut had a thick green liquid spraying out of them staining the snow a sickly green colour, perhaps this was the creature's blood. Fleur didn't stand around to ask it if it was or not and hurried up the path away from the remaining roots and out of reach.

"Cinderblast!" Fleur cried sending a great ball of fire from the end of her wand towards the ugly gnarled trunk of the tree and the creature burst into flame shrieking louder than ever.

"That is what you get!" Fleur said haughtily taking no pity on the creature as it burned and began to wither. Fleur hadn't a clue what kind of tree it was but made a note to watch for more of them. These Frost Fang mountains held great magical power it seemed and everything around them appeared to have magic seeping into them perhaps this is what drew all these creatures to this area, maybe that's why Hogwarts itself had been founded so nearby. The four founders may have known there was a strong well of magic in this valley, Fleur didn't ponder these things long as she thought she heard a low grow being carried on the wind.

It was time to move some other dark creatures would have likely heard her fight with the tree so the witch took off. Fleur did her best to heal her bloody hands as she walked and picked bits of gravel out of the scrapes and cuts as she went. It was rather too cold to really feel the pain Fleurs hands had gone a little numb the girl was oddly thankful because it meant she wouldn't be distracted by the pain.

Fleur came to a small cave entrance and slowed her step not wanting to be heard by anything that might be sheltering from the snowstorm outside. Fleur was about to head right past the cave when she heard whispering from inside. Voices, that she recognised her mother and Gabrielle they needed her help. Fleur felt compelled back towards the cave entrance. Her legs were moving though she didn't want them to.

"If you go in there you won't come back out! You won't ever see me again! Don't listen to the voices! They lie!" Hermione's desperate voice cried inside the witches mind and Fleur felt herself stumbling backward from the cave she caught sight of some bones by the entrance. The voices of her sister and mother were gone now and were instead replaced with a harsh shrill whisper demanding that Fleur step inside the cave.

"No!" Fleur said tearing her eyes from the entrance and she sped away from the cave. Fleur didn't know what was in there only that whatever force dwelled inside that cave was evil and meant her harm.

"Thank you 'ermione," Fleur said breathly to the cold mountain air and Hermione's voice sprang into her mind once again 'Anytime...Ma Belle Fleur' Hermione said softly. How bold with her words this imaginary Hermione grows, Fleur thought her nerves calming a great deal as she got further from the gave and whatever dark presence had tried to beckon her inside. It was awhile before Fleur encountered any more trouble but then she heard howling being carried by the wind and new it was time for another fight.

Just as Fleur was clambering over a dead tree trunk she heard more growls that were carried from up ahead and before she'd set her feet back on the hard ground three large Ice Wolves with glowing blue eyes started stalking toward her, their icy fangs bared to her as they slowly moved forward.

The creatures were made up of nothing but Ice, from the books Fleur had read it was thought that Ice wolves had been some kind of ancient frost spirits that through some magical ritual had been bound into their Icy form by persons unknown centuries ago. Fleur had also read about how the ice wolves liked to hunt she didn't concern herself with the three in front of her and instead spun around immediately. Her instincts were correct and the witch managed to raise her wand and blast the Alpha wolf that leaped towards her from behind out of the air.

"Cinderblast!" Fleur cried and a large ball of flame burst from her wand and smashed right into the wolves' face its jaws bearing down on her and it shattered the wolves head into pieces, shards of ice flying in all directions as the rest of its glassy ice body melted away into nothing. Fleur threw up a shield charm to protect herself from the sharp bits of ice that had flown towards her and quickly spun back around to face the other three wolves.

Fleur had been quick with the shield charm but not as quick as she hoped. She felt blood trickling into her left eye down from her brow, she'd been nicked by a shard of ice that had cut her rather deeply. Fleur shut her left eye having no time to heal the wound at present she just took aim with her wand at the other wolves.

They howled in dismay at the loss of their Alpha and looked set to charge Fleur but the witch anticipating this held her nerve and waited till the wolves broke into a run and had built up too much momentum to stop. Fleur roared "Incendio" and a large wall of flame arose in front of her the wolves leaping right into it destroying them instantly before they could touch her. Fleur took a moment to collect herself, it had been a rather small pack, the witch found herself thinking but the question as to why there were so few was answered a moment later as she rounded the corner of the path and let out a groan.

There hadn't been a large pack of ice wolves attacking Fleur as the rest of them had been busy facing off against a huge pair of mountain trolls who were stomping on and smashing the wolves to bits with large clubs. Damn, how was she going to get past those two dirty great brutes! Fleur ducked behind a large boulder and decided to wait for the trolls to take care of the rest of the wolves not risking having to fight both sets of creatures at once.

There were only two wolves left now and the largest of the two giant pin-headed bloated green trolls smashed his club that looked to be a dead tree trunk, down as hard as he could on the Ice wolves crushing and shattering them instantly. The two trolls laughed dumb grins crossing their faces. They raised a hand in the air each it looked like they were trying to high five but completely missed. The somewhat confused pair looked like they were about to wander off back into the entrance of a large cave surrounded by various animal bones of sheep and other unlucky creatures who had no doubt stumbled too close to the troll's lair.

The largest troll who had finished off the wolves with his club stopped abruptly and began sniffing the air before letting out a mumbled grunt to his companion. Fleur swallowed hard heart rate on the rise again as the pair shared a look and then began heading towards her location. Fleur took a deep breath her mind racing in many directions searching for a plan one came to her it wasn't very clever and was indeed highly risky and damn right dangerous but Fleur felt it was all she had at that moment so went for it.

"Give them hell!" Hermione's voice sounded and Fleur smirked as she leaped from her position.

"As you say, darling!" Fleur cried.

The witch jumped up onto the boulder she'd been ducked behind and raised her wand into the air before shouting, "Teslavolt!"

There was an almighty crack of thunder from the heavens both trolls stopped their march toward Fleur and looked up in time to see a bluish-white bolt of lightning flash from the sky cutting through the dark clouds above before striking the edge of the mountain a little way above them. The noise was deafening the power the witch felt was immense. However, nothing happened as quick as Fleur thought it would and for a moment she felt her plan had been for nothing but the next second there was a huge rumbling sound and boulders and huge rocks began to cascade down the side of the mountain at great speed colliding with the trolls. Large boulders some the size of Hagrid crashed toward the beast who had looks of horror in their tiny faces.

The great lumbering beasts tried to flee but they were too sluggish and large to escape and the rockslide sent them growling and roaring over the side of the mountain path and down the cliff face crashing to the earth below screaming in their guttural language. Fleur's eyes were wide she could scarcely believe she had done that, those creatures were likely killed instantly from the fall but it had been them or her there was no time to feel guilty about her actions. Fleur ran onward stepping around many of the rocks that now blocked the mountain path due to her actions and quickly headed away from that section of the path lest more rocks loosened by her spell could fall on her.

"That was bloody marvelous" Hermione's voice sounded in Fleur's head as he ran along the path and Fleur laughed to herself.

"Thank you, mon cheri, I think that display was worth five or so kisses don't you think," Fleur said aloud to the cold mountain air a wicked grin on her lips. Fleur was in strong spirits now she had to be nearing the peak, however, that meant she would soon be face to face with the Welsh Green.

"If you ever want to see my wonderful derrière again, pull yourself together and get that golden egg!" A very demanding Hermione's voice echoed in Fleur's head and the witch nodded determination filling her once again.

"I love it when you get so bossy 'ermione," Fleur muttered with a grin, unsure if she was going mad talking to herself like this but she felt a lot better doing it and right now that was all that mattered as she jogged up some stone steps and made her way to the snow-covered peak of the mountain.

Fleur could see the group of Dragon eggs nesting in the shadow of another large cave entrance they jumped out at her right away not hidden at all and in a surprisingly open position. However, Dragons didn't have to fear many predators stumbling into their lairs in search of eggs so why should they hide, it made sense they were in the position Fleur found them. There was no sign of the Welsh Green at present and it looked like Fleur had a clear shot to bolt for the Golden egg.

However the witch didn't move from her position, it all felt too easy and as it turned out Fleur was right to be patient as a set of bright yellow eyes suddenly appeared from the darkness of the cave and the Welsh Green made its way out snorting a little flame sniffing the air before curling up next to her eggs. Her head was raised and her eyes darted all around ever watchful. Fleur swallowed the beast was larger than she had imagined if she got this wrong, things would not end well for her. Crushed, stomped on burnt to a crisp eaten up by those monstrous jaws, there was no good way to lose to a dragon.

"Don't lose then!" Hermione's voice snapped and Fleur nodded before a second voice joined Hermione's in the witch's mind.

"Remember the plan, get it in the eyes with the sleeping charm!" It was Gabrielle's voice that spoke that time and Fleur gripped her wand tightly readying to make a move out from behind her rock. However, the sound of heavy leathery wings flapping from above stilled the witch's feet and she looked up to see the great black Hungarian Horntail was chasing after a figure on a broom.

'Harry!' Fleur thought her eyes going wild with fear and admiration the boy could really fly! Though where had he gotten his broom she wondered. There wasn't time to fixate on it however as the Welsh Green rose up from its slumber and roared at the Horntail as it passed by blasting a great jet of flame into the sky towards it and Harry.

Perhaps thinking the other Dragon was here to steal or harm her own eggs. Fleur took this moment of distraction to run from behind her rock and took careful aim at the large creature's eyes readying her sleeping charm. Fleur wasn't as quick as she could've been tired from her long trek up the mountain and the Welsh Green had spun its head back around to face her. Fleur barely had time to dive behind an ancient gnarled tree before a blast of fire had been sent at her previous position.

The flames had just caught her legs as she had dove and her trousers had caught alight. Fleur screamed in agony but quickly shot a stream of water at her legs from her wand before too much damage could be done and instantly extinguished the flames. Fleur couldn't stay behind the tree it was no protection at all so she ran out from behind it just dodging a swipe from the dragon its huge clawed leg obliterating the tree as it let out another roar.

Fleur turned to face the great beast and took aim at its eyes just as it was opening its mouth to bellow yet more flame her way Fleur roared the sleeping spell a great ball of misty white light erupting from her wand and hitting the dragon right in its left eye making it stumble sideways into a large boulder almost the same size of the Dragon itself. Fleurs charm wasn't that simple however and hitting the dragon was the easy part but making it dose off would be tricky. Her heart thundering in her chest Fleur advanced on the drowsy looking creature moving her wand slowly side to side in a hypnotic manner chanting her incantation making sure the dragon's eyes followed the tip of her wand. Fleur kept this up for five minutes until the great beast sat back on it haunches before beginning to lower its head toward the ground.

'That's right you overgrown lizard! just go to sleep don't worry about your eggs, I just want the gold one that's not even yours!' Fleur thought in a sing-song voice inside her head as the Welsh Green finally let its great yellow eyes slide shut. Fleur took no time to admire her work with the dragon and spun around to head towards the nest and grab her golden egg it was then however that Harry swooped down towards Fleurs peak the Horntail in hot pursuit and the French witch had to dive out of the way of another great burst of flame.

Fleur's face scraped along the hard ground cutting up her cheeks a little, she would be bruised for sure but at least there would be no more burns to speak of. Fleur knew it wasn't Harry's fault but she couldn't help feeling a tad resentful of his broom plan at that moment as it had inadvertently made life harder on her just now. The welsh Greens head ha jerked up again roused by the Horntails blast of flame and it started to get back to its feet opening its jaws to unleash another blast of flame at Fleur.

"FrostFyre!" Hermione cried in the witch's mind and Fleur knew exactly what she had to do and took careful aim. If she missed she was done for. Fleur waited and soon as she saw the red flame building in the back of the Welsh Greens giant maw she immediately shouted the incantation to counter the Dragons flame. A huge icy blue fireball burst from the end of Fleurs wand and it hurtled across the peak of the mountain and straight into the Dragons wide open mouth exploding in the back of the creature's throat and sending it stumbling backward roaring in pain as it tumbled off the side of the mountain, it fell down onto a slope below. Fleur could hear it trashing around below her it wasn't dead and it would be back she had no doubt. It was time to get her egg and get back to Hermione!

Looking up at the skies Fleur saw Harry was dive-bombing towards his own peak the Horntail hot on his tail. Fleur's competitive spirit kicked in it was clear Harry was heading back to his own golden egg. Fleur without missing a beat sprang into action using the last of her energy reserves, she charged toward her golden egg diving and grabbing it up. Fleur had around two seconds to think the words 'now how do I get back down' before that problem took care of itself in rather brisk and sudden fashion.

********

Fleur felt like a hook had been attached to her naval and she was being pulled backward at great speed into a vortex of some kind. Everything was spinning the witch felt like she was falling from a great height and shut her eyes tight. All she could hear was the roaring of the wind around her but then she felt herself stop suddenly and found she was feeling extremely wet, or at least her feet and ankles were. Fleur opened her eyes, she was standing on the shore of the great lake once more. Her golden egg under her arm her wand held tightly in her free hand. The sound of the crowd was deafening Ludo Bagman's booming voice added to the cacophony. 'The egg had been a Portkey! of course!' Fleur thought glad there had been no long trek back down the Frost Fangs for her or the other Champions.

Fleur beamed at the crowd who were going wild as gave them a small wave, walking forward out of the lake and up the slope as some healers ran to her and started drying her off with their wands as well as wrapping a dressing gown around her. Fleur's eyes searched for Hermione but the crowds were too chaotic, jumping up and down waving banners and signs that she couldn't make sense of anything she was seeing. Fleur heard Bagman's voice again and her eyes found him over by his podium as his commentary continued.

"Miss Delacour is the first to return! What an outstanding performance! Oh! Merlin! Here comes Mr. Potter look at him go! Oustanding move summoning his broom!" Bagman shouted and the cheering intensified. Fleur looked around and suddenly Harry was there having appeared form thin air crashing his broom into the shallow waters of the shore of the lake. Fleur could see his own egg was held under his arm too. Harry clambered to his feet looking badly dazed and like he couldn't believe he was alive his glasses lopsided on his bruised and dirty face.

Fleur gasped as she saw the boy was bleeding badly from his left shoulder but before Fleur could advance on him to check if he was alright she found she was being led off into a medical tent by Madam Pomfrey. Fleur tried to protest she wanted to see Hermione she could've sworn she'd heard the witch calling her name as she was led away. However, the nurse forced Fleur to lay down on a bed while she tended to her minors cuts and bruises. When she saw the burns on Fleurs legs she got very vocal about her displeasure at the tournament and its dangers.

"Ice wolves! Trolls! Dragons! Madness! that's what this is! I can't believe Albus agreed....but of course, he is rather unusual....a genius to be sure...but sometimes I wonder if he's all there," The nurse said shaking her head as she bandaged up Fleur legs. Pomfrey let out a gasp as Harry stumbled into the tent aided by some healers and ran over to attend him next. Soon after Cedric was brought in on a stretcher his face and left the side of his body looking blackened by flame.

Krum came in last his shoulder had been dislocated but otherwise, he'd been the luckiest of them and once he'd been cleaned up a little he was allowed to go while Harry Fleur and Cedric were made to stay. Cheers erupted from outside the tent as Krum received his scores from the judges but Fleur wasn't in the mood to listen she only wanted to hear one voice at the moment. The same voice that had been with her all day up that bloody mountain and had kept her safe.

It was after thinking this that Fleur heard the sweetest sound in the world. The bossy demanding tone of Hermione Granger as she forced her way into the tent and past Madam Pomfrey's assistant healers.

"I'm warning you! if you don't get out of my way I'll blast you into the lake my friends in there and my girlfr...um...Fleurs in there too! out of my way! I can stand here all day!" Hermione cried her voice soon joined by Rons less ill-tempered and slightly amused one.

"Listen, I'd just do what she says, I know she looks like butter wouldn't melt but she'll have you eating dinner with the giant squid in a minute if you don't move," Ron said laughing and the healers at the entrance of the tent moved aside grumbling under their breath. Hermione half-ran inside her eyes darting around the tent finally connecting with Fleurs.

The French witch got up and limped over to Hermione which was rather painful but she wasn't going to miss this moment. Fleur could see Hermione had fingernail tracks along her cheeks from where she'd been gripping her cheeks too hard from worry while watching the task. Fleur swallowed, Hermione looked like she was torn between embracing Fleur and slapping her.

"I made you worry..but I'm okay see..." Fleur said forcing a smile and doing as graceful a twirl as she could muster under the circumstances, Hermione still looked a tad pouty and she spoke in a trembling voice.

"I...you could've died! up there against that beast all on your own are you insane! I should've never let you go" Hermione cried stamping her foot in frustration as Ron quickly backed away from her. Fleur tried to keep a straight face but Hermione's outrage was so cute and endearing the french witch couldn't help but widen her smile.

"I wasn't alone...you were with me the whole time...I could feel you...maybe its crazy but its like you were right there next to me...giving him a boost when I needed it...reminding me that I had one job...and that was to get back to you," Fleur said softly and Hermione's bottom lip quivered.

"Oh no you don't Fleur Delacour!...you can't just run off and throw yourself into danger then come back here and say things like that and think I'll just let you sweep me off my feet with all those honeyed words... because I won't," Hermione said defiantly as Fleur giggled and stepped closer to the witch.

"Those sad eyes and that pout won't get you anywhere either so just...so just..." Hermione trailed off as Fleur was now within touching distance of the Gryffindor

"It's good to know you care so much 'ermione, you're so fierce when upset... it's very sweet," Fleur said softly, Hermione was fighting a smile now. 'time to press the attack!' Fleur thought wickedly placing a hand on Hermione's hip.

"I didn't look like I was too in over my head against that dragon did it?" Fleur asked sarcastically.

"No...you looked like a true dragon tamer, maybe you can speak to charlie about getting a job...go professional, have me sick with worry on a regular basis!" Hermione said a little snappily making Fleur grin.

"I'd rather tame lions, I think," Fleur said a cheeky glint in her eye and Fleur felt Hermione tremble a little under her hand and seductive gaze.

"Any lion in particular?" Hermione asked trying to appear casual and like she didn't know full well what Fleur was getting at.

"Maybe there's this one lady lion I have an eye on," Fleur said biting her lip and Hermione let out a little breathy moan. 'In for the kill', Fleur thought her heart beginning to race.

"You know... before I left, you promised me something for coming back in one piece if I recall...I believe you owe me a kis..." Fleur was cut off as a tearful Hermione couldn't hold herself back anymore up keep up this pretense of anger at Fleur's having made her worry and she just about leaped on Fleur pulling her into a desperate but very tender kiss.

This time Fleur tangled her hand into those bushy brown locks, losing her fingers in the soft curls as she had always wanted her other hand more firmly grasping Hermione's hip. Soft, wet and tender Fleur wanted those lips never to leave hers. All cheering from the crowd outside vanished Harry and the others awkward chuckles too were lost and there was nothing but herself and Hermione. It didn't last long however as Madam Pomfrey marched over forcing the pair apart.

"Cut it out! Back into bed Miss Delacour. Miss Granger would you please contain yourself," Madam Pomfrey said as Hermione bit her lip going rather red as she recalled that she and Fleur had an audience. Hermione didn't dare look anywhere on than Fleur and the pair held each others gaze.

"Oh but Madam Pomfrey this was part of my healing process," Fleur said cheekily not looking away from Hermione causing Madam Pomfrey to roll her eyes relenting about tossing Hermione out but telling Fleur that she absolutely had to get off her feet for at least another fifteen minutes. Fleur pouted and got back onto the bed. Hermione moved to sit on the stool next to it but Harry called out to her.

"Oi, where's my kiss...What about my healing process," Harry said sarcastically himself and Ron laughing and Hermione snorted and made her way around to hug Harry doing her best to not get blood on her robes from his shoulder.

"Well Ron pucker up, you heard the man he wants his kiss," Hermione said smirking at the two wizards smugly folding her arms as she let go of Harry who chuckled at this but Ron looked rather flustered.

"Oh shove off Hermione," He muttered and the witch went to sit back with Fleur.

"No offense Ron but I'd rather snog the bloody Horntail," Harry said laughing but stopping quickly as the effort caused him some pain in his chest.

"Settle down Mr. Potter, it's good you're in high spirits but anymore laughing and I'll have to send Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger outside! Now lay back and let me look at that shoulder," Madam Pomfrey said sternly cutting the sleeve of Harry's shirt off his arm with a flick of her wand to get at his wound.

"So how did 'Arry and the others get on?" Fleur asked she was looking at Hermione but Ron answered seeming unable to contain his excitement as he gave a detailed play by play of events at how each champion had fought their way up the Frost Fangs.

"Then Hermione screamed as you cast that Teslavolt spell, dropped her bloody Omnioculars and tried to take mine but I jerked them away so hard they went flying. I tried to borrow Ginnys but she wasn't paying attention too busy trying to get off with bloody Daphne Greengrass. Hermione managed to get Luna to give hers over but only after she agreed that you and Hermione would come dress shopping with her and Pansy." Rons said looking confused as to why they'd want to do such a thing before moving on. Fleur recalled that she'd had a dress packed neatly in her trunk by her mother who had said it was an important part of the tournament but had neglected to say anything further. Fleur wondered if Hermione had got a dress yet for whatever social function was on the cards.

"Anyway I ripped the Omnioculars back as it was Hermione's fault I dropped them in the first place," Ron continued and Hermione tossed a cushion at his head but he ducked and it a healer in the back who gave Hermione a stern look and the witch gave an apologetic smile as the healer set the cushion back on the bed next to him

"This was when Krum had hexed his dragon with a curse to the eye, sent the thing mad smashed up half his eggs...think they'll take points for that, anyway at the same time Cedric over there...well the dog he'd transfigured form a rock suddenly wasn't as fun to chase for the Swedish Short snout and that's when he got toasted. Harry, of course, was having the Horntail chase him all over the place...started to look like he was enjoying a nice Sunday flight around the mountains and forgot there was even a dragon there," Ron laughed. Fleur tried to take in all the information but all she couldn't concentrate on it, instead she was watching Hermione's face change as every word Ron said caused her to recall the anxiety she'd had while watching the task. Fleur couldn't help but grin at how adorable she was.

"Miss Delacour, Mr. Potter you're wanted back out by the lake for you scores you can go now but I want you straight back up at the school and into the hospital wing right after! Rest and recuperation that's what you need," Madam Pomfrey said sternly looking at the pair a warning glare in her eye. Fleur got up with the help of Hermione and the witch helped her outside as Ron took up both her and Harry's golden eggs and carried them out for the pair. Cedric wasn't fit to hear his scores yet and was still recovering in bed he'd be given his points a little later.

Fleur and Harry stood facing the judges as Hermione and Ron waited off to the side near the medical tent.

"Miss Delacour you will be scored first!" Bagman boomed cheerily and Fleur stepped forward. Madam Maxime raised her wand and a white ribbon shot from the tip and twisted itself into the shape of a number nine in the air. Fleur was very pleased, part of her had hoped for a ten but perhaps with the few injuries she had suffered it was correct that she not have a perfect score. Dumbledore was next and he also gave the witch a nine and a huge smile.

Karkaroff wasn't as quick off the mark but when he did raise his wand he gave Fleur a seven which received some hissing from the Beauxbatons. It appeared the wizard had been tactical with his points giving Fleur what would look just about acceptable to everyone else while not allowing her to get close to his own pupil Krum in terms of points. Finally Moody took up his wand and in an instant, a large number ten appeared and Fleur couldn't believe it she almost passed out as cheering grew to insane new heights around her. Moody was the judge she'd thought would be harshest but he was looking at Fleur with great admiration at present and gave her a small nod of his head.

"Yes well done Miss Delacour! Great result! Now, please keep that Golden egg with you pick it up from your friend there on the way out. Its of vital importance to the next task and contains a clue that will help you prepare. The next task will not be until the new year in late February you will have the exact date shortly. Do not slack off, I know it sounds far away but it'll soon swing around! Now off you go up to the castle go on get some dinner and a nice laydown! you earned it. Fantastic performance," Ludo Bagman shouted beaming at the witch from his podium before she headed over to Hermione who hugged her again and had happy tears in her eyes once more.

Ron passed the witch her golden egg and she took it beaming at him and raising it above her head briefly receiving a large cheer from the Beauxbatons in the crowd. Fleur and Hermione had planned to wait to hear Harry's score but they both looked to the mouth of the medical tent and saw Madam Pomfrey with her hands on her hips and the witch jerked her head towards the castle and they reluctantly set off up the slope to reenter Hogwarts. Fleur trying not to put too much weight on Hermione as the Gryffindor helped her along.

"'ermione?" Fleur said stopping for a moment to get her breath and Hermione looked around at her expectantly waiting for a question. However much to both witches, eternal annoyance Rita Skeeter suddenly jumped from behind a bush her note pad and acid green quill primed and ready to go.

"Mind giving me a word or two for the paper dears?" Rita asked in that sickeningly sweet stomach-churning tone of hers. This witch clearly didn't get the message the last time Fleur thought her temper rising. I thought I had been very plain in my distaste of this useless hack too, Fleur thought her nostrils flaring but he witch allowed herself a moment to calm down and spoke in a cheerful tone.

"You can have two words," Fleur said smiling sweetly before continuing.

"Baise..." Fleur said softly nudging Hermione.

"... toi," Hermione finished smugly and the pair marched off as Rita shouted at their backs.

"I speak french you know! you graceless little trollops, I'll fix your brooms yet! You hear me!" Rita shrieked as Fleur and Hermione kept walking laughing their heads off. The pair didn't stop laughing till they were back in the entrance hall, they moved into the great hall and ate dinner. Hermione seemed eager to get to work on the egg clue already but Fleur shook her head.

"No, later I want a few weeks of stress-free relaxation after that task. Now 'ermione if you would please...take me to bed," Fleur said a seductive tone seeping into her voice as she grinned at Hermione who let out a little gasp at the reply but quickly recomposed herself.

"R-right...um my bed... or your bed in the carriage?" Hermione asked stuttering a little and Fleur giggled.

"The one in the hospital wing...where Pomfrey told us to go remember," Fleur said her eyes full of glee.

"Oh...right I knew that...just I thought you meant....like...you know the last time you asked me that and then you said...um..." Hermione trailed off her ramblings making her cheeks glow red.

"Oh I'd love to do what you have in mind 'ermione trust me...but I'm in such a state I'm afraid I wouldn't be very lively or of much use to you in that way at present....though we could still cuddle beneath the sheets before Pomfrey catches us, I'm a little cold maybe you can keep me warm" Fleur suggested taking a hold of Hermione's hand and squeezing it biting her lip. Hermione's eyes danced with excitement at that prospect and she helped Fleur up and the pair hurried off as quick as Fleur was able to the hospital wing.

"So...are we...does this mean...are you, my..." Hermione rambled off her attempt at asking Fleur where their relationship was exactly, as she lay on a bed in the hospital wing with the witch feeding her some sweets that she'd saved from the party in the shrieking shack.

"Relax speak slowly and try that sentence again 'ermione," Fleur giggled kissing Hermione's forehead. Hermione took a deep breath and tried again.

"I'm I..your witch?" Hermione asked biting her lip and Fleur's heart fluttered at that statement, Hermione's voice had been so tender and vulnerable but so utterly sincere it had taken Fleurs breath away. Fleur looked away shyly from Hermione a moment trying to regain the power of speech before turning back with an answer.

"Yes 'ermione...you are my witch," Fleur said softly reaching for the bed covers and pulling them over both of their heads and leaning down to Hermione and capturing her lips for the third time that day. Fleur wasn't sure how long they kissed but the witch was fairly breathless by the time Madam Pomfrey was harshly pulling the bed covers off them and scolding them for their semi-state of undress as Fleur and Hermione had tried there best to disrobe each other while curled up in bed.

"I suppose this is also part of your healing process...well I won't have any hanky panky in my hospital wing...off to Gryffindor tower with you Miss Granger before I inform Minerva of this behavior," Madam Pomfrey said and Hermione whose face was redder than all the Weasleys hair combined hastily corrected her uniform and hurried off giving Fleur a small wave before she went. Fleur mouthed the words 'see you tomorrow' and Hermione nodded eagerly before disappearing out the door. Harry walked in with his arm in a sling followed by Cedric who was also back on his feet but his face was heavily bandaged and he still looked rather shaken. Krum who hadn't been that badly injured was not with them.

"Alright into bed you two...no sneaking off during the night I'll be keeping a close eye...also no opening those eggs...I've heard what they can do and I'd rather not endure it again thank you very much. Make sure you take them with you when you leave in the morning now get some shut-eye." Pomfrey said moving into her little office as Harry and Cedric set down their golden eggs on the cabinets next to their beds. Fleur reached over the side of her bed and picked up hers taking her first real good look at the egg noting it did indeed have hinges on it and was clearly meant to be opened.

"Any idea what the clue is?" Harry asked Fleur as he noted her turning her egg over in her hands.

"No...but I think we'll find out when we open them tomorrow...I wonder what happens it sounds unpleasant going by Pomfrey," Fleur said and Cedric laughed as he swung his legs into bed before replying.

"I opened mine in the medical tent gave the poor woman an awful fright I'm afraid...the egg just screams at you...I'm sure there's some trick to hearing what its really saying but I've not worked it out yet," Cedric said yawning before rolling onto his good side in bed and looking over at his own egg.

"Well...I know a witch who'll be able to work it out in no time flat," Fleur muttered to herself grinning setting down her egg again before shutting her eyes so content and exhausted that she slipped off easily that night. Fleur's dreams as they so often where these days, were filled with a certain bossy bushy haired witch. Her witch, her Hermione.

Chapter Text

Rosmerta kissed her way up to Professor Hallow's belly and soon came to rest her head on the witch's chest, sighing in a rather satisfied manner as Hallow brought a hand to her hair and tangled her fingers through it.

"Are you really only going to be at Hogwarts a year Morticia?" Rosmerta asked looking up at the witch her head still resting on the woman's chest a small pout on her face. Professor Hallow let out a little chuckle and stroked the blonde witches' hair lightly before answering.

"Sorry, Rosie but you know me I never was a witch to hang my broom up in one place all that long...I told Albus he could get a year out of me then I'd have to go," Professor Hallow said reaching over to her bedside table and retrieving her half-full glass of wine that she'd abandoned before herself and Rosmerta had tumbled into her bed. The witches had met each other again while watching the first task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

Rosmerta and a number of other Hogsmeade residents had traveled up to the castle and got a place in the stands with students. Professor Hallow had soon learned Rosmerta was there to watch her rather than the task and had deftly made her way through the stands towards the woman and they had soon picked things up where they'd left off that time they'd spoken in the three broomsticks. While everyone was busy watching Potter and the other Champions receive their scores Professor Hallow and Rosmerta were running off back up the slope towards the castle giggling like school girls.

"Don't you enjoy teaching? Are the children a little too much?" Rosmerta asked trying to get to the heart of why the witch seemed so set on only staying such a short while in her position.

"I enjoy the job a lot if I'm honest and while some students are more pleasant to teach than others, the bad apples are not really the problem either... let's just say I have prior...commitments," Professor Hallow said taking a sip of her wine a devilish smirk on her face. Rosmerta rose from her position on the witch's chest and moved to sit up next to her and lay back against the headboard. Professor Hallow lifted her arm to let it fall lazily around the woman as Rosmerta got comfortable next to her.

Their bodies still gleaming and damp with sweat from the rather vigorous encounter they'd just had, seemed to melt together as the two women held each other for a moment. Professor Hallow finished her wine and set her glass aside, she wanted to sleep now and thought it wise that Rosmerta slip off out of Hogwarts before they should be discovered. If McGonagall or someone discovered them like this Professor Hallow would not hear the end of it. Rosmerta seemed intent on yet more pillow talk, however.

"I could go with you, you know...if you're going to start traveling again after you're done at Hogwarts," Rosmerta asked her voice quivering slightly with nerves as she spoke. 'Merlin this witch had it bad, you've given her too much now she's an addict but I can't be tied down, I must sever this bond,' Professor Hallow thought, trying to keep an exasperated look off her face.

"You'd really run and let Albus's goat loving brother tend to the needs of your customers? You'd force them to drink in the Hogshead would you?" Professor Hallow asked letting out a small laugh as Rosmerta looked terrified at the prospect.

"No...you're right I could never shut up shop...this was just a bit fun...I shouldn't be talking like this...forget I said anything. Let's just have this be remembered of a celebration of the first task going off mostly without a hitch eh? Very clever of young Potter to summon his broom wasn't it? Keep under your cloak mind but I reckon its that young Hermione who helped him come up with that one," Rosmerta said giggling and Professor Hallow forced herself to smile though she gritted her teeth.

Professor Hallow was loath to give someone else credit for what had essential been her plan that had helped Harry, though she had to admit it probably was Granger who made sure he knew how to summon the broom after Professor Hallow had planted the seed of the idea in the boy's mind.

"Yes awfully clever indeed...you know I think that boy stands a real chance of winning," Professor Hallow said her smirk back in place and Rosmerta turned and grinned up at her.

"Well with you teaching him...I don't doubt it...I was worried when I heard he'd been caught up in this tournament business...but looks like whoever entered him probably wanting him badly hurt or killed must feel pretty daft right about now seeing as he's doing so well," Rosmerta said and Professor Hallow shifted about a little awkwardly.

"Yes...I imagine so...Listen Rosmerta I don't mean to be rude but if Minerva finds you up here at the castle at this hour and finds out I'm involved..." Professor Hallow trailed off as Rosmerta looked extremely crestfallen.

"I should've known it was too much to hope to spend the night...alright I'm going...I left old Martha in charge of the pub while I was out today...better get back before she does herself an injury. One thing though...this Yule Ball you mentioned, I was wondering if maybe we could...you know have a bit of dance and a drink and all that...Don't worry I won't get all clingy...just be nice a final evening to ourselves before we cut this thing off eh?" Rosmerta asked and Professor Hallow not wanting to upset the witch nodded her agreement.

"Yes...why not...you used to be quite the mover...I hope you can keep up with me Rosie," Professor Hallow said giving the witch a peck on the cheek before she got up and headed to the bathroom that was adjacent to Professor Hallows's bedroom for a shower. Professor Hallow watched Rosemerta's perfectly formed backside as she headed off and the witch let out a satisfied little groan at the sight, contemplating following the witch into the shower for round two Hallow got up herself.

However, not wanting to risk having Rosmerta spend even yet more time at the castle than she should the witch sat back down on her bed and let her mind wander to the Yule ball. Potter and the others would be distracted for a while with it on the way it would be hard to get the boy's mind onto his egg but she'd find a way or maybe little miss bookworm would come to the rescue again first.

Either way, it was an absolute must that Potter kept progressing as he was, everything was riding on him having the best advantage going into the third task. He was in a good spot at present but that Fleur was drawn first with him,perhaps she would need her wings clipped before the next task. Professor Hallow paced back and forth in her room lost in thought, 'what to do, what to do'.

******

Fleur was jolted awake the morning after the first task by someone leaping into her bed and shaking her awake. Fleur groaned and tried to push whoever it was off her, though she made a rather poor attempt at it due to how wiped out she was from the strenuous activity she had been engaged in from the day before. Her body was in rough shape, it wasn't painful exactly but all her muscles seemed to be suffering from a dull ache and the witch had no desire to move even a fraction. So it was with great effort that she reached up an exhausted arm to push away whoever had climbed onto her bed and was vigorously shaking her.

"Get up! get up! come on you have to tell me everything!" Gabrielle was saying in an excited but hushed voice she didn't want to wake Harry or Cedric only her sister. Fleur's hand was easily swatted away by the eager little girl who hadn't time to consider what state her older sister was in after her perilous trek up the Frost Fangs. Gabrielle was acting like a young child who had awoken at three in the morning on Christmas day and had snuck into her parent's bed to rouse them so that they might get to tear into their gifts early.

Fleur tried to block out her sister's voice and hang on to the wonderful dream she'd been having. She'd been skiing with Hermione in the French Alps, not an activity Fleur was fond of but in her dream, Hermione had talked her into it with the promise of warm cocoa and cuddling afterward back at the Ski lodge. Cuddling by the fire had moved into other activities and Fleur had just gotten Hermione out of her Ski clothes and down to nothing but an adorable pink woolly hat when Fleur had been driven from her dream by small devilish hands that were still pawing at her. Gabrielle's relentless shaking of her groaning sister eventually drew an audible response from the totally shattered and still half asleep witch.

"Grrrr...Stop that! let me sleep, I feel like I only just shut my eyes a few moments ago and everything is sore," Fleur moaned squeezing her eyes shut tight refusing to open them and still batting an arm lazily at Gabrielle. The little witch pouted but she would not be so easily sent away.

"No! That's not fair! Madam Maxime didn't let me see you after the task yesterday because apparently, I could not handle the wounds of the champions up close...but somehow it was fine for me to view them actually receive the wounds from far away with Omincolures...sometimes that woman makes me so mad," Gabrielle grumbled stopping her pushing and shoving of Fleur so she could cross her arms and grit her teeth for a moment sitting up and straddling her older sister.

Fleur let out a small laugh at her sibling's haughty tone. Maxime had also gotten on her nerves recently too, it was fun to bond with Gabrielle over the subject of being kept away from Hermione and the other Gryffindors. The pair had jokingly spoken of the many pranks they had planned to get back at the Beauxbatons headmistress.

Well, Fleur had joked but Gabrielle had at times seemed deadly serious about dumping a bag of Dungbombs through the large woman's carriage window before making a run for it. Fleur laughed at the image and Gabrielle began pushing her around again taking the laughter as a sign her sister was actually fully waking up. Fleur finally forced open her tired eyes blinking rapidly as the harsh morning sunlight made her eyes water a little.

"Finally! Now we can talk," Gabrielle said beaming at her yawning sister.

"So, I guess you...you saw me kiss Bush...um...'ermione, yes? You want to no know everything?" Fleur asked with a giggle but Gabrielle furrowed her brow in confusion.

"What?...oh I'm sure that was fun and everything...but I wanted to hear about what it was like to watch Harry flying with that dragon chasing him...he flew right over you it must have been so cool to see from your position, right up close!" Gabrielle said sighing longingly as she looked to Fleur's left at a still sleeping Harry. Fleur rolled her eyes and gave a small exasperated laugh.

"Oh so you aren't here to make sure your beautiful divine sister is unharmed or ask her how she got on during the task or even ask about her new realtionship...why was I cursed with such an uncaring little sister," Fleur said sarcastically as Gabrielle started to slap her chest playfully.

"I do care... I just wanted to hear about 'arry first...I spent most of my time with my Omincolures focusing on you...I didn't have time for 'arry," Gabrielle sighed a little regretful as she confessed. Fleur couldn't help grinning as she sat up in bed to hug her sister

"You really do love me, oh! what a relief," Fleur said mockingly in an overly lovey-dovey tone as Gabrielle fought to be free giggling as Fleur planted kisses all over her.

"Can you not go five minutes without embarrassing me," Gabrielle moaned though, in reality, she looked delighted by the affection.

"Oh no one is watching," Fleur laughed squeezing the girl tighter than ever.

"Perhaps save some of this energy for when Bushy comes to see you," Gabrielle said a small smirk crossing her lips as Fleur settled down.

"You have something to say about Bus...er...'ermione and myself," Fleur said a little haughtily pulling back from Gabrielle folding her arms.

"They whole School has something to say...more people are talking about your kiss than the tournament itself...strange people, what's so interesting about a kiss, they just saw a battle with dragons and Ice wolves and all kinds of incredible things yet this is what they wish to spend their days concerned over? It doesn't make much sense to me," Gabrielle sighed shaking her head. Fleur laughed again hoping her little sister would never change.

"So what are people saying around school exactly?" Fleur asked sighing as she prepared herself for what was to come but Gabrielle bit her lip looking like she regretted bringing the subject up.

"Gabrielle?" Fleur said a little stern tone entering her voice as she pressed the girl to answer.

"Well...most people seem excited by this um... 'hot new couple' I think one witch called you and 'ermione that but...um...there is a story in the newspaper by that awful Skeeter woman...she says..." Gabrielle trailed off as anger flashed across her older sister's face.

"What did that hag write now?" Fleur grumbled crossing her arms. She'd expected Rita to make good on her threats but that didn't lessen her frustrations at the knowledge that the sorry excuse of a journalist had written yet more lies about herself and Hermione.

"She said...that you and 'ermione having been toying with the heart of 'arry Potter and you've both only been after him for his money....also that you are virtue-less harpies...with the loosest knicker-elastic in the history of the magical world...whatever that means," Gabrielle said as Fleur began to visually tremble with murderous anger. I tirade of the most vicious insults imaginable flowed from Fleurs mouth in rapid french her tongue slashing like a long knife her hands gripping her bedsheets so tightly she threatened to tear through them. Gabrielle covered her mouth in shock but her eyes were gleeful and highly amused.

"If mother heard you say such things...oh my," Gabrielle said giggling behind her hand.

"What's all that shouting?" Harry said sitting up in bed abruptly jolting awake as Fleurs outburst woke him. The wizard reached to his bedside table grabbing his glasses and then his wand looking ready to duel.

"Sorry 'arry...I didn't mean to wake you...my dear sweet sister has just informed me of Rita Skeeter's latest hit piece against 'ermione, you and myself," Fleur said her face flushed and her nostrils still flaring.

"Merlin!....when will that old bag give it a rest! Tried to ambush me yesterday after the tournament for another interview...though Professor Hallow came over and she ran off screaming," Harry said laughing and Fleur felt herself start to calm down and she let out a chuckle at that. Fleur wasn't a huge fan of Hallow but she had her moments and the witches having thrown Rita out of the three broomsticks the other week and cursing her to have a sock glued into her mouth had been one of her finest.

"I must send Professor Hallow flowers," Fleur said grinning and Harry laughed.

"I wouldn't if I were you...Hermione wouldn't be pleased...she's still got a bee in her bonnet about Hallow. I mean she was acting strange running about the forest after Karkaroff and her lessons are a bit full-on and everything...but maybe she was off base sending that letter to Ollivander about that other wand," Harry said shaking his head seeming unsure what to think.

"'ermione never got a response from Ollivander? I was sure he would have gotten around to reading her letter by now...maybe she should try again...just to put the whole thing to bed once and for all," Fleur said and Harry shrugged.

"You could try it I guess but don't let Hermione get herself into trouble, sometimes when she gets an idea in her head she doesn't know when to stop...anyway looks like its breakfast time...I'm going to slip off before Pomfrey comes in trying to keep me here any longer than I should. Also...I've got a letter of my own to send... are you coming?" Harry asked and Fleur nodded making a semi-confused looking Gabrielle get off her bed so she could get dressed.

"What is all that about a letter and Professor Hallow?" Gabrielle whispered and Fleur shook her head and handed the witch her golden egg.

"Never mind that today, could you take this back to our room in the carriage for me...and don't open it, it'll be very loud and wake the whole carriage Maxime will be furious...so please don't," Fleur said looking at Gabrielle very seriously as the little witch got a cheeky glint in her eye.

"I'll try my best," Gabrielle giggled before setting off with the egg held close to her chest. Fleur pulled the curtains around her bed then to obscure Harry's view as she changed and the wizard did the same also pulling on some fresh clothes. It was Saturday so they both opted for muggle wear and when dressed stepped back out from their curtains.

"You two off alr-already," Cedric yawned sitting up in bed and stretching. Cedric had been in worse condition than either Harry or Fleur and looked like he wasn't ready to leave the hospital wing, he looked a little crestfallen that he would have a lack of company. Fleur felt sorry for him but before herself or Harry could respond to him a Ravenclaw girl who Fleur had seen around with Cedric a few times quietly stepped into the room and made her way over to Cedric smiling at him. Fleur noted that Harry had suddenly straightened himself up and gotten a little flushed.

"Sorry I couldn't see you last night...Madam Pomfrey wouldn't let me and others in," Cho Chang said moving to sit on a chair next to Cedric's bed.

"Ah no worries Cho...you're here now...well see you later you two...quickly go on before Pomfrey comes out of her office... let's try and keep each other up to date with the egg thing yeah? I won't forget how you helped me, Harry," Cedric said giving Harry a wave as he and Fleur moved to leave. Harry nodded and gave a weak smile, Fleur wasn't sure why but it seemed to her that Harry suddenly didn't want to speak to Cedric. The French witch didn't question it and the pair tiptoed past Madam Pomfrey's office and out the door.

"So...any ideas about these things yet?" Harry grumbled as he looked over his egg again as they walked down the corridor. Fleur just shook her head but a smile soon broke onto her face.

"Let's hope a little bossy bookish witch comes to the rescue again," Fleur said with a giggle and Harry went a little pink in the cheeks.

"Not sure what you mean Miss Delacour," Harry said sarcastically.

"Oh...so you thought of summoning your broom and learned Accio all by yourself eh?" Fleur asked giving Harry a playful shove and the wizard couldn't hide his guilty grin.

"Maybe... I had a little help...I'm just going to put this egg in my dorm, see you later," Harry said splitting off from Fleur and heading upstairs as she made her way down to the great hall. Fleur hoped that Hermione would rise early today and that they could eat breakfast and then maybe go for a long walk around the lake.

Perhaps Fleur could also burn as many copies of the Daily Prophet as she could find while she waited, the witch thought, an evil smile crossing her lips and she entered the great hall and sat down at the Gryffindor table. Fleur wasn't even done with her first slice of toast before students from various houses were coming over to her asking her to sign things and congratulating her on completing the first task with such high marks.

Fleur noted some of her fellow Beauxbatons had envious looks on their faces but this only made the attention Fleur was receiving that bit sweeter. A little while later Draco Malfoy walked into the hall holding that morning's Daily Prophet beaming widely his eyes full of malice.

"Everyone, listen to this..." Draco began about to read from the article about Fleur and Hermione but his eyes found Fleur at the table and he immediately folded the newspaper over swallowing hard. Fleur stared at him and brought her right hand down from the table and trying very best managed to pull off a little trick she'd been working on ever since she had first transformed into her Veela form.

Draco gulped as she saw Fleurs hand grow talons and Fleur smirked at him. Instead of reading to people as they entered the hall as he had so clearly planned he slowly backed away with Crabbe and Goyle, all three of them seemed to remember what had happened the last time they had crossed Fleur. They turned and ran when back in the entrance hall and Fleur couldn't help giggling as her hand transformed back to normal. Today was off to a good start, she thought, taking a deep drink of her orange juice.

******

'I put a spell on you
Because you're mine'

Hermione sang to herself as she got dressed in her casual Saturday wear grinning ear to ear as she checked herself out in the full-length body mirror in the girl's dorm that was right next to Parvati Patil's bed. It wasn't something Hermione ever did, she rarely cared to see her reflection but today she was just feeling so carefree and blissful she allowed herself this little indulgence. Hermione paid no mind to the snowstorm that was still raging outside nothing could phase her that morning. This frightfully cheery good mood didn't go unnoticed by her dorm mates either.

"Someone's in a good mood...that must have been some kiss," Parvati said as she brushed her hair, having just gotten out of bed. Hermione jumped and spun around having almost completely forgotten that she did indeed share a dorm room and wasn't by herself.

"Um, that's...um..." Hermione rambled playing with her hands and going a little pink in the face trying to respond to a grinning Parvati who giggled to herself at Hermione's bashfulness.

"Oh, you're so adorable when you're flustered...I think it's wonderful, you and Fleur, you know? I wasn't sure about her at first, I thought she was a bit full of herself and in love with the sound of her own voice...she couldn't possibly have anything going on upstairs in the old head department that could warrant the attention of Hermione Granger I thought. Well what rubbish that turned out to be, the way she fought up that mountain was amazing...I can't blame you for getting swept off your feet Hermione....oh this is all so lovely," Parvati said her eyes seeming to glaze over as she was swept up in the glee of speaking about Hermione's relationship.

Before Hermione could reply to anything she said Lavender Brown rudely cut in peeking her head over the top of that morning's Daily Prophet that an owl had dropped in the girl's dorm window around half an hour ago.

"Well I think its a travesty what you and that French tart have done...breaking Harry's poor heart....you two should be ashamed...you...you...you big mean...Sappho-Maleficarum!" Lavender snapped a little sniffly before ducking back down behind the paper.

"Sappho...what?" Hermione snapped spluttering with outrage her blood boiling.

"You know... a witch who loves...other witches," Parvati said shifting around awkwardly.

"I know what it means! I meant 'what' is Lavendar doing hurling it around like its an insult!" Hermione cried shaking with anger.

Hermione felt her gleeful mood disappearing and before Parvati could move to stop her having gotten up and sensing trouble, Hermione had already pushed past her and grabbed the paper from Lavender.

"Let me see that! Rita Skeeter of course! When are you going to learn Lavender? you can't just believe everything you read in the paper! Try asking Harry he'll tell you there was nothing between himself or I or Fleur for that matter. Its all a pack of lies being told to shift more copies of the Prophet," Hermione cried scrunching up the paper and tossing it into the nearest wastepaper basket.

"I had to pay for that you know!" Lavender snapped standing up and glaring at Hermione looking like she might swing her fist at the witch. Hermione also looked ready to go toe to toe and have this whole nasty business out with Lavender once and for all, the old muggle way. Hermione wasn't a skilled pugilist but she could throw a mean right hook however Parvati stepped between the pair.

"Ladies please! you're acting like...like bloody wizards! Now come on Lavander, I know you're brighter than this, you must realise Harry has never shown any interest in Hermione like that! Also, you can't tell me you didn't notice that Hermione and Fleur have had their eyes locked on each other since the first day of term! Heck, I knew they wanted each other since that night of the death eater attack at the world cup!" Parvati declared forcing Hermione and Lavender apart with her arms.

"Y-you did?" Hermione asked stepping back a little in shock biting her lip as Lavander looked to be thinking her friend's words over.

"Oh it was so obvious Hermione!...when she thought that Death Eater was going to hurt you...I've never seen such a fierce look in a witches eye," Parvati said smiling at Hermione who felt a great warmth well up in her chest.

"Then there was that evening I caught you..." Parvati was cut off as Hermione quickly covered her mouth to silence the witch before she embarrassed her further.

"Yes alright! I get it...you knew we fancied each other," Hermione said through gritted teeth stepping back from Parvati who had unbridled glee in her eyes.

"So...Skeeter....really is just making it all up?...you're not in one of those corny love triangles that's always in witch weekly articles?" Lavender asked seeming to look like she was starting to get a grip on the reality of the situation at last.

"No, I most certainly I'm not in any witch weekly style love triangle," Hermione said trying not to blush as she thought of the more hidden triangle of witches. The triangle that had consisted of herself, Pansy Parkinson and Ginny that had been a real tringle but had gone largely unnoticed by Hermione until she'd overheard Daphne's conversation with Ginny in the shrieking shack.

"Well...I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions, Hermione... it's just that Skeeter makes such compelling arguments...she's very tricksy!" Lavender said pouting. Hermione sighed having no clue how anyone could ever in their right mind get taken in by anything Skeeter had to write but the witch shook her head and decided to let this one go.

"That's okay Lavandar...just try not read her articles anymore and put anyone you see reading that rubbish right about the whole thing...well...I've got to go and...um feed Crookshanks," Hermione lied not wanting to say she was desperate to run to breakfast and then head to the hospital wing to visit Fleur. Lavender nodded but Parvati had a little knowing smile on her face as she went back to her bed to continue brushing her hair.

Hermione rushed out of the girl's dorm and down into the common room, the place was a right mess. Everyone in Gryffindor tower had celebrated Harry's amazing performance during the first task with a party in his honor, though, the wizard himself had been unable to attend due to being in the hospital wing. Hermione looked around disapprovingly at all the rubbish, empty butterbeer bottles and half-eaten packets of sweets and other treats strewn all around the place. Hermione moved over to the sofa and gave a sleeping Fred Weasley a rather firm poke in the backside with her foot.

"Ow! Leave off...sleepy time now," Fred grumbled.

"You said you wouldn't let things get out of hand look at the state of the place! Whys Neville tied to that armchair in nothing but his boxers!" Hermione cried kicking Fred again and the wizard reluctantly got up his eyes going wide as he rushed over to a sleeping Neville and quickly freed him. Neville didn't wake and continued to snore his head lolling to one side.

"Forgot we left him like that...it was the girls though! not us! they tied him down and started giving him lap...er special dances," Fred said trying not to laugh as Hermione got a very stern look on her face and crossed her arms. Had things really gotten so hectic after she'd gone to bed? Well never mind now, Hermione though shaking her head, she had to get to breakfast and then go see Fleur this was Fred and George's mess, they could deal with it. Fred opened his mouth to no doubt make some crass joke but Hermione cut him off.

"Stop! Don't say anything else just get this place tidied up! That goes for you too!" Hermione snapped walking over to George who was passed out on top of the reading tables and hitting him a slap on his bare stomach making him jolt awake. Hermione marched out of the room then shaking her head and muttering to herself about wizards.

Hermione was heading towards the hospital wing, her good mood back in full force as she whistled to herself when she ran into Luna and Pansy who were sitting on a bench. Luna appeared to be knitting a jumper while a rather confused looking Pansy sat next to her wool wrapped around her hands looking like she had reluctantly been drafted into helping the Ravenclaw with her needlework. Pansy looked to be eager for her role as "wool spinner" to be a brief experience but Luna seemed to have no intention of stopping her knitting anytime soon.

"Lovely day isn't it," Hermione sighed dreamily as she smiled at them. Pansy furrowed her brow and looked out the nearest window at the snowstorm that was still raging outside and looked back at Hermione quizzically.

"Um...you feeling alright Hermione?" Pansy asked trying not to snort with laughter.

"I feel wonderful, thank you," Hermione said moving to sit next to Pansy who looked a little unnerved by Hermione's overly happy demeanor.

"Oh...I've left my red wool back in Ravenclaw tower...I'll just go and get some more don't go anywhere Pansy," Luna said giving Pansy a peck on the cheek before setting aside her knitting on the bench giving Hermione a small wave and skipping off down the corridor. Pansy had an oddly dreamy look on her face as she gave a little sigh watching Luna head off.

"Bonkers that one," Pansy said her voice dripping with affection and Hermione giggled.

"You two seem to have really hit it off," Hermione said giving Pansy a playful nudge and the Slytherin went a little red.

"Well I suppose I should thank you Granger...if you hadn't pushed me into Luna on the road back from Hogsmeade...maybe things wouldn't be as they are now...and come to think of it...if I hadn't pushed you into little miss perfect at the Quidditch world cup...maybe you two wouldn't be so close either," Pansy mused smirking and Hermione chuckled.

"Funny how things work out...eh partner?" Hermione said moving to get up and Pansy laughed.

"Speaking of our partnership...you ready for me to whoop your behind again next Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson?" Pansy said a wicked grin on her face.

"Excuse me? I believe you'll find even though you knocked me down, I still had my wand in my hand and if the bell hadn't gone I would've disarmed you in a second!" Hermione said indignantly.

"Woulda coulda shoulda Granger...I spanked you and you know it!" Pansy said sticking out her tongue at Hermione who let out a frustrated groan and got to her feet.

"We'll see whos laughing next lesson," Hermione said snappily and Pansy cackled.

"Oh run off and see Fleur have her kiss your sore arse better from that heavy loss I inflicted upon you," Pansy said eyes swimming with glee and Hermione couldn't help snorting.

"Maybe...I'll do just that," Hermione said going a little pink as she turned and headed off down the corridor smiling to herself.

"Wait...come back here just one second! I'd get up but id ruin Luna's knitting," Pansy cried suddenly holding up her hands with the wool still wrapped around her wrists. Hermione paused and turned back heading over to Pansy her brow furrowed.

"Was there...something else?" Hermione asked quietly and Pansy nodded.

"Id...like a hug please..." Pansy requested simply shifting about a little awkwardly and Hermione grinned.

"I think I can manage that," Hermione said leaning down and gently hugging the witch taking care not to mess up Luna's knitting as she did so.

"That Fleur better....she better treat you proper...becuase I'll be watching and if she upsets my partner...she'd better look out," Pansy said a little sniffly and Hermione pulled back blinking away the beginnings of tears.

"I'll let her know...see you around Pansy," Hermione said rubbing at her eyes trying to get her smile back as Pansy chuckled and waved her goodbye. Hermione set off then a new spring in her step glad that things were settled between them.

"Things are better like this Granger....we'd have never worked out...I enjoy fighting with you too much," Pansy called and Hermione turned to look at the witch who was grinning though she still looked a little misty-eyed and Hermione snorted shaking her head before moving on.

"I'll see you next Saturday in Hogsmeade...Luna made us all agree to go dress shopping didn't she...that'll be fun," Hermione called over her shoulder remembering the deal she'd made in the stands while watching the first task and Pansy looked gleeful again.

"Yeah...I told her she'd need one...all us fourth years and above had it written on our school lists to bring a dress this year for an unspecified social occasion...and well I wanted to go with Luna...to whatever it is. So a little trip to Glad Rags is in order," Pansy said and Hermione nodded giving her a final small wave goodbye before resuming her walk down the corridor.

'You look after her Luna Lovegood', Hermione thought as she headed on toward the hospital wing. Hermione's mind turned to her own dress that she'd bought through a catalog with money her parents had sent her for her birthday back in September. It was lovely pink number Hermione wasn't the most girlish of girls not paying much attention to makeup her looks or what she wore but she did have a fondness for pink that she often kept to herself. Hermione hoped that she'd be able to get things in order for whatever social event was coming and be able to throw herself into getting all dolled up maybe just this once.

Hermione soon found herself wondering what Fleur would wear on the evening of this social occasion, Hermione hoped her pink dress wouldn't clash, because of course she'd be taking Fleur...or would it be Fleur that would be the one to do the taking? Hermione wondered if it was best to ask or be the one doing asking for such an occasion.

Hermione who revealed in being of control of every situation quite fancied the idea of being the one to formally ask Fleur out, however, Fleur was a little older than her she too seemed to like the feeling of being in charge. Hermione let out a little giggle as she had a little vision of herself and Fleur playfighting over who got to ask who out which soon descend into a very heated snogging session and Hermione had to stop her fantasy as she accidentally walked into a pillar on her way to the hospital wing. Hermione forced her mind to move into other things and sped up her walking more eager to see Fleur now than ever.

*****

"No she's not here...Miss Delacour and Mr. Potter snuck off early this morning probably dinning in the great hall already...ungrateful little sods...ah, they were mostly healed up I suppose... I won't chase them down. Anyway if there's nothing else I can help you with on you go Miss Granger," Madam Pomfrey said directing Hermione back out of the Hospital wing when she'd stopped to enquire about Fleur. Hermione held back laughter at Fleur and Harry's deviousness in running off thanking Madam Pomfrey before she left and headed back to the grand staircase.

She was semi annoyed that She'd have to wait even longer to see Fleur but made a note to use all this pent up frustration to fuel her next 'intimate' encounter with the witch. Hermione ran into Ginny and Daphne who were sitting on the steps leading down to the entrance hall. Hermione grinned but her face fell as she saw a small puff smoke and noted right away that Daphne was taking a drag of Laughus=Leaf. "Right out in the open the nerve of that girl Hermione thought putting her hands on her hips ready to tell the witch off when something unexpected happened.

Instead of inhaling the smoke Daphne pulled Ginny close and the pair shared a brief kiss in which Daphne blew the Luaghus-Leaf into Ginny's mouth. Hermione became too embarrassed to intervein at that moment and waited till Daphne and Ginny intense little stare ended and Ginny let out a little cough and the two began giggling before Hermione stepped around them offering Daphne an abridged version of her planned tirade.

"You know a Professor could step out of the great hall at any moment and smell this smoke?" Hermione said frowning and Daphne and Ginny just laughed.

"This is my new odorless strain Granger...so I don't think so," Daphne grinned wickedly though she did snub out her joint against the step next to her. Hermione sniffed the air and got a moody little pout on her face as it turned out the witch was telling the truth unlike the other Laughus-Leaf Daphne had been growing this stuff didn't smell at all.

"Well...if you get caught don't come running to me," Hermione sighed shaking her head as Ginny and Daphne giggled and went back to just staring at each other dumb little smile on their faces.

"At least she's happy I suppose," Hermione muttered before heading into the great hall getting her smile back in time to reunite with a certain french witch.

Hermione found Fleur sitting at the Gryffindor table by herself, the Gryffindors heart rate began to rise, even though she'd been with Fleur every day for most of the year so far it was somehow different seeing her now after they'd properly gotten together. Fleur brushed a curtain of her silvery hair back behind her ear the light caught her hair just right and Hermione let out an audible sigh.

Fleur had such an air of grace around her at that moment it was like the first time Hermione had set eyes on the witch all over again. Hermione noted that she was getting funny looks stood so completely still in the entrance to the hall and that a number of students were whispering to each other as they gave sly gestures towards her to signal their friends that she'd arrived.

Hermione got a rather stern look on her face as she caught sight of the many copies of the Daily Prophet she saw in front of the pupils in question. They had no doubt spent all morning reading over Skeeters lies about herself and Fleur. Hermione was of a mind to hop on a table and start setting alight to every paper she could see but thought better of it as Fleur finally caught sight of her standing there.

The French witches smile and the look in her eye clouded all else in Hermione's mind and the witch felt light and happy once more. Hermione took a deep breath and headed over to Fleur sliding down the bench a little so that she was as close to the witch as possible, their thighs grazing each other.

"Good morning 'ermione Granger," Fleur said with a coy little smile finishing up her toast.

"Good morning yourself Fleur Delacour," Hermione said biting her lip feeling altogether giddy though trying to act as causal as Fleur was trying to be. Hermione pulled a plate of bacon and eggs toward her along with a mug of tea trying to think what to say next. This was strangely tricky she hadn't had trouble speaking to Fleur before now so why was she struggling now? Fleur too seemed uncharacteristically nervous, Hermione began to panic for a mad second thinking that maybe they'd moved things along too quickly and they'd both gotten a tad afraid.

'Right! you have to say something Granger just do it!' Hermione told herself in her mind and she took another deep breath.

Hermione turned to Fleur at the exact moment the french witch had moved to look around at her, they were so close together almost nose to nose. Fleur's blue eyes seemed to be looking right to the core of Hermione's being. They both let out little whimpers and it was clear to each of them what they both wanted to do. The Gryffindor leaned forward at the same moment Fleur did and then out of nowhere there was a blinding flash from across the table and the pair jumped apart rubbing their sore eyes.

"Colin? What are you doing!" Hermione cried blinking at the wizard across from her who'd just taken herself and Fleurs picture without warning.

"Sorry, but I needed it for the paper...you're our top story...or you will be when Dennis gets everything typed up! Harry's going to be page two, I'll have to find him afterward...Dennis thought it would be too much like favoritism if Harry was our cover story so I went with you and Fleur to make it less like the papers going to be Gryffindor propaganda," Colin Creevey said excitedly beaming at a very startled and confused Fleur and Hermione.

"I'm sorry, 'ermione is this a friend of yours? what on earth is he talking about?" Fleur asked finally managing to open her eyes again after the blinding flash.

"This is Colin Creevey he's...something of a photograher...but I don't know what this 'paper' thing he's talking about means exactly," Hermione said narrowing her eyes a little at Colin who laughed and shifted about nervously.

"Well it's just Dennis and I thought that we can't sit back and let Rita Skeeter ruin the lives of our fellow Gryffindors with her shoddy second rate journalism...so we've started our own paper 'The Hogwarts Chronicle'...I wanted to name it the Creevey Chronicle but Dennis said we shouldn't make it about ourselves too much," Colin said beaming looking very proud and Hermione gave a small chuckle. It was a cute idea but a number of issues jumped into Hermione's head right away. What did the Creevey brothers know about running a newspaper exactly and had any of the staff signed off on this idea at all?

"So..you got Professor McGonagall's permission to run and distribute this paper did you?" Hermione asked folding her arms and Colin looked rather very guilty, which told Hermione everything she needed to know and the witch let out a little exasperated sigh.

"Well about that...we were hoping to do this a bit underground...sort of guerrilla-style..." Colin said biting his lip looking worried as Hermione frowned.

"I think that's a great idea Colin...who needs that Daily Prophet anyway...Skeeter writes nothing but lies...I'm sure Hermione won't mind being interviewed," Fleur said unexpectedly coming to Colin's rescue. Hermione looked a little unsure but Fleur dropped a hand to her thigh and gave her a little reassuring squeeze and Hermione buckled right away and gave in. Herself and Fleur gave Colin an extensive interview about the tournament and the true nature of their relationship so the boy could clear up all the insane rumors created by Skeeter.

"Wow! thanks a bunch, you two! This story's got everything, romance intrigue action danger... we're going to blow the Prophet out of the water with our first issue! With Harry's interview, Pansy's Agony Aunt Coloum, Fred and Georges comic strip, Neville and Daphne's Herbology segment this thing is shaping up perfectly! Anyway got to go, Luna Lovegood said she was going to type up an article on a fascinating-sounding creature called a crumpled-horn-swaggler....or something, see you later," Colin said getting up from the table and heading off before Hermione or Fleur could advise aginst having Luna write for their paper.

"Our story won't look very credible next to that strange little Luna's fantasies," Fleur said frowning as Hermione nodded in agreement.

"Well...Colin can always say it was a comedy article, maybe put it out under the segment title of 'Tall Tales and overactive imagination with Luna Lovegood'," Hermione suggested and she and Fleur giggled. Hermione and Fleur ate in silence for a time then sneaking little glances at each other until Fleur tried to make yet more conversation.

"I was wondering 'ermione...your letter to Ollivander...he still hasn't responded?" Fleur asked casually and Hermione shook her head.

"No...I'm starting to wonder if maybe I got the address of his shop wrong...or something...Though maybe he read it and thought it too trivial a thing to worry about, I'm of a mind to send another letter but I'm not sure...Professor Hallow hasn't really acted all that strange in awhile and with everything Siri...um..." Hermione trailed off before she could mention that Sirius had suggested Karkaroff was the person to watch around the castle and that any wrongdoing that was going on was probably his fault. Fleur didn't push Hermione to continue and the witch was grateful.

"Never mind let's talk about something else...I recall you made some deal or other that involves us heading to Hogsmeade with Pansy and little Luna to get a dress?" Fleur asked grinning and Hermione nodded.

"Yeah...Luna's third year so she wasn't asked to bring dress robes for whatever this special occasion is that's on the way but Pansy has her heart set on taking Luna now and wants to be ready," Hermione said smiling to herself. Fleur looked a little shocked, however.

"You mean to say Pansy will see Luna's dress before the day of this dinner party or whatever it is... won't that ruin the surprise...I wouldn't want you seeing my dress before the correct time," Fleur said giving Hermione a little playful nudge.

"Oh..so you think I've already made up my mind to go with you have you...that's a little presumptuous," Hermione said getting a smirk on her face and Fleur got a little sour-faced and put on a look of mock upset.

"Well, who else would you take?" Fleur demanded haughtily and Hermione chuckled.

"That Viktor Krum is quite handsome once you get past the scowl he's always got on his face...i guess he might do," Hermione said trying not burst out laughing as Fleur seemed to move past mock outrage into actual envy.

"That is not funny 'ermione...I warned Viktor that you were taken alre'...um never mind," Fleur said quickly taking a drink of her orange juice as Hermione spun around to gape at her open-mouthed.

"You told Krum we were seeing each other before...we'd even made anything official!" Hermione asked secretly delighted but putting up a pretense of annoyance.

"Well...he was always following us around and running into us at random moments I had to say something and...he doesn't show up in the library half as much now does he?" Fleur said casually though the envy in her eyes was clear and Hermione laughed before giving Fleur a peck on the cheek.

"He never stood a chance Fleur," Hermione whispered softly in Fleur ear and the french witch quivered with pleasure. The pair fell quiet for a while until Fleur made a suggestion.

"So...it looks like its too cold a day to go for a walk around the lake as I'd planned so is there anything you'd like to do instead 'ermione?" Fleur asked and Hermione nodded eagerly.

"We could get started on that egg clue together...I know Maxime doesn't want you getting help from me or Harry or anything... but what she doesn't know won't hurt her," Hermione said and Fleur shook her head.

"No, leave that for another time I want a break from the tournament...why don't we go find a nice quiet corner of the library and pick up where we left off the other day," Fleur said a little grin on her lips as Hermione's shifted around nervously.

"The library is usually quiet on a Saturday now you mention it...we could do some really fascinating...um 'research'," Hermione said adding the last word hastily her voice cracking as it went a little too high with giddy excitement and Fleur nodded her eyes filled with eagerness.

"Oh, research is my most favorite thing in all the world 'ermione," Fleur said devlishly before she grabbed Hermione by the hand and the pair half ran out of the great hall holding back their laughter as they made to head from the entrance hall toward the grand staircase.

However, as they passed the statue of the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Professor Dumbledore's office, the sound of Mad-eye Moodys booming voice traveled down the circular staircase toward Hermione and Fleur and they stopped in their tracks. Hermione looked at Fleur and it was clear she was thinking along the same lines as herself and the pair quickly slipped behind a suit of armor in order to listen to what was being said. There 'research' would have to be delayed a little while longer.

"So how'd it go? what did the Mere-people have to say?" Ludo Bagman asked in a hushed voice as himself and Moody came down the stairs.

"They told Dumbledore that they didn't appreciate the idea of their society and culture being made a spectacle of for the entrainment of wizards...looks like Albus has a lot of negotiation to do or this next task could be right pain in the arse to get sorted," Moody grumbled as himself and Bagman headed off out the front door of the castle.

"Don't know why I even let you talk me into this one Bagman...I mean how is an audience meant to see anything with a task like that?" Moody grumbled shaking his head.

"We could modify the Omincolures again!" Ludo suggested as the paired headed outside. Hermione and Fleur stepped out from behind their suit of armor when they were sure they were in the clear.

"Mere-people?" Hermione muttered to herself furrowing her brow.

"It reminds me...I saw a mermaid when I crossed the lake for the first task..." Fleur said eyes going wide as she recalled the encounter.

"Like Ariel?...did she have seashells to cover her...you know?" Hermione asked gesturing towards her bosom but all she received from Fleur was a rather bemused look.

"You know a mermaid named Ariel who wore seashells?" Fleur inquired and Hermione shook her head going a little red.

"Oh no it's...never mind," Hermione said as Fleur giggled.

"I wonder if there are more Mere-people in the lake...but how would they play into the next task exactly...I bet the egg will tell us something...oh are you sure you don't want to get it and we can..." Hermione was cut off as Fleur pulled her into a heavy kiss out of nowhere. Hermione's mind went blank and she forgot everything that wasn't Fleur. When the breathless pair eventually stepped apart Fleur smiled at a slightly dazed-looking Hermione before the bushy-haired witch spoke.

"I'm going to have to get used to that...wow...but what was it for," Hermione asked grinning.

"I just... love it when that big brain of yours gets all fired up 'ermione... but let's not get distracted by the egg again...we'll come back to it later...now I believe we had some...'research' to do in the library?" Fleur said and Hermione bit her lip but eagerly took Fleur's arm and they sped off again up the stairs.

*****

Hermione and Fleur proceeded to spend the best part of the weekend in a darkened corner of the restricted section doing 'research', mainly of each other's bodies. Hermione couldn't quite put her finger on it but there was something about being in the library with Fleur like this that she found terribly erotic.

All those books filled with centuries of knowledge, the smell of the ink the feel of the parchment, it was so invigorating to the witch. It made it rather easy for Fleur to persuade Hermione into letting the witch allow her hands to wander all over her as they snogged and experimented with each other between the bookcases.

"Tell me I'm your witch," Hermione whispered breathly before kissing Fleur's neck.

"You're. My. Witch." Fleur said deliberately squeezing Hermione's bum harshly to punctuate each word which made the Gryffindor let out a little moan of Pleasure.

"I'll never get tired of hearing that,"Hermione giggled before slipping her hand up Fleurs uniform in search of the witch's perky breasts.

They never went too far with things of course as Madam Pince was annoyingly attentive to them always checking to see what they were doing every fifteen minutes or so.

"This simply won't do...when the weather clears up and when it's gets a bit warmer...we'll have to find a nice quiet spot out in the grounds somewhere," Fleur grumbled withdrawing her own hand from under Hermione's jumper for the third time on Sunday afternoon as the pair jumped apart upon hearing Madam Pince's little cough from behind the stacks as she edged nearer to them once again.

"You want... to do this sort of thing...outside?" Hermione asked looking slightly terrified and giddy with excitement at the same time.

"Yes, why not...why can't I be with my witch under the pale moonlight with just the stars above to see us," Fleur sighed moving a hand to Hermione's hip pulling the witch close and Hermione blushed deeply.

"That does sound...rather enticing...maybe someday we'll give it ago...though I was thinking...next Saturday when we go to Hogsmeade with Luna and Pansy to find a dress for Luna...we could sneak off to glad rags changing rooms," Hermione suggested her cheeks glowing as Fleur snorted.

"I like the way you think 'ermione Granger," Fleur laughed and soon after the pair put away the books they had been pretending to read and went off to dinner.

*****

"Potter, Weasley are you four or fourteen? get rid of those monstrosities this instant and pay attention!" Professor McGonagall shouted as her lesson began on Monday afternoon. The witch had just caught Harry and Ron fighting at the back of the class with a set of Fred and Georges fake wands, the wizards were now holding a balloon animal and an inflatable penguin as they dueled with them using them as makeshift swords.

"Sorry Professor," Harry said dropping his penguin as the class sniggered and Ron quickly did the same.

"Yeah, won't happen again," Ron said hastily tossing aside his balloon animal.

"Oh, I know it won't Mr. Weasley. This is exactly the kind of behavior I'm going to stamp out of you all over the coming weeks in the run-up to Christmas. As I'm sure you all know fourth years and above were required to purchase dress robes this year as part of their school lists. The reason for that is because Hogwarts due to playing host to the Tri-wizard tournament will also host the Yule Ball this Christmas," Professor McGonagall said looking around at her students very sternly. Hermione, Fleur and nearly all the witches in the room let out excited gasps and could hardly contain their glee at this news. Meanwhile, the boys all seemed to shrink lower in their seats letting out moans and groans of annoyance.

"Yes, settle down, please! Now while the ball is a chance for us all to socialise with our foreign visitors and...um...let our hair down..." McGonagall glared around the room as some giggling broke out Hermione tried her best not to smile. It was just the idea of Professor McGonagall cutting loose, it just sounded utterly insane and was hard to picture from the strict and reserved witch.

"...it is also meant to be a respectful and dignified evening. Which means absolutely no tomfoolery from any of you! I won't have Gryffindor house making a show of me during this Ball! Is that absolutely clear? Good, then we can move on to the most important part of this lecture. From today on Monday, transfiguration classes will be used to get everyone here up to speed with some basic dancing skills required for anyone who means to attend the ball. These lessons are mandatory and none negotiable gentlemen please get those looks off your faces. Dancing is a wonderful thing and by the end of these lessons you won't be able to believe how you got along in life without it up till now." Professor McGonagall said as more excited chatter broke out around the room from the girls while the boys all looked like they wanted the floor to open up and swallow them.

"I'm sorry Professor I don't dance," Harry said and Professor McGonagall stopped as she had been about to give the rest of her lecture and just blinked at the boy.

"I assure you, Mr. Potter, you must...and you will," Professor McGonagall said with a look so pointed it could've shattered the boy's glasses.

"...but Professor," Harry began but McGonagall spoke over him.

"I won't hear it, Mr. Potter, as Champions yourself and Miss Delacour along with Mr. Diggory and Mr Krum must attend the ball, its traditional that the three or in this case four champions and their partners open the ball with the first dance," Professor McGonagall said as Harry looked like he'd rather be back up the Frost Fangs dodging the Horntail.

Hermione noted many of the witches in the room were all trying to catch Harry's eye or whispering excitedly between themselves. It seemed Harry would be spoilt for choice of whom to take to the ball however it was clear they only wanted to take Harry because of his name. Hermione frowned her own joy at the idea of the ball being dampened a little by Harry's visible discomfort.

"Now the pair of you please make sure you acquire partners for the ball or again you may find yourself dancing with me or even the headmaster instead," Professor McGonagall said a small grin playing at the corners of her mouth as some sniggering went around the room and Harry looked more pained than ever.

"Cheer up mate...dancing with Dumbledore would be a right laugh..." Ron said sarcastically and some laughter broke out around him.

"I don't know why you're laughing Mr. Weasley if you don't find a partner you'll be barred from entry," Professor McGonagall said a small satisfied look in her eye as Ron looked furious.

"Is that the same for everyone?" Ron asked eyes wide.

"No, a new rule just for you for such a humourous remark just now," Professor McGonagall sighed as more laughter broke out around the room as Ron now looked as dismayed as Harry but he suddenly caught Hermione looking in his direction and blurted out a request before he could stop himself.

"You're a witch Hermione... couldn't you come with me or Harry..." Ron said and Hermione shook her head.

"I'm spoken for!" Hermione said holding her head up proudly.

"What? We only just found out about the ball! how could you possibly be spoken fo..." Ron trailed off as Fleur looked around Hermione's shoulders from the table next to her and gave him a rather dangerous look and the boy swallowed.

"Oh...right...of course, just forget it...someone else will come along," Ron mumbled going a tad red as the room laughed again.

"If you're all quite finished! I'd like to move on before it gets dark!" Professor McGonagall said a little irritably.

"You can, if you wish to, invite a student from the lower years," There was some more laughter as McGonagall said this before she continued.

"The other younger students, that is to say, first-years through to third years, will be having their own celebration atop the Astronomy tower the evening of the ball, Miss Delacour your younger sister is most welcome to attend that function, however, she is a little too young for the Yule Ball I'm afraid," Professor McGonagall said as the little witch looked furiously at her sister to help talk sense into McGonagall about this but Fleur merely gave her an apologetic smile.

"This is not fair...i'm writing to mother!" Gabrielle said haughtily standing up taking her book back and leaving before Professor McGonagall or Fleur could do anything.

"I'll speak to her later she'll listen to me," Fleur said sighing as Professor McGonagall moved swiftly along.

"Everyone up please if you will, witches on the left, wizards to the right," Professor McGonagall called vanishing the tables and chairs in the room with a casual flick of her wand. Hermione moved over to stand next to Fleur, her heart already pounding in her chest as she got ready to dance with the witch. Fleur seemed to have the same idea and had already brought a hand to Hermione's waist eyes alive with excitement.

"No, excuse me, Miss Delacour...put Miss Granger down...if witches start pairing off with witches you'll all want to dance with each other and none of our fine young gentlemen will have a partner," Professor McGonagall said curtly and Fleur and Hermione looking utterly crestfallen stepped apart from each other. Hermione hoped that when the ball came around they were free to attend it with whomever they pleased or she would be having words with the headmaster himself.

"Now everyone please find a partner...one witch to every wizard and don't debate too long or refuse to pick a partner or you'll find yourself dancing with me," Professor McGonagall said with a small grin on her lips again and everyone even the boys who had looked liked they'd rather die than find a dance partner where now rushing to the nearest witch. Hermione quickly made a beeline toward Harry not wanting to get stuck with some wizard she didn't know all that well and Ron was lucky enough to have Fleur join up with him. Fleur had looked like she'd felt a little sorry for the wizard as every witch he had turned too had quickly stepped away.

"This is for lessons only, I hope you understand," Fleur said haughtily and Ron nodded looking to be in a state of shock. Hermione saw a few of the glass whispering to each other as she headed towards Harry, her dancing with him and not Fleur seemed to be quite the scandal. Lavender Brown looked deeply confused and Hermione swore under her breath, 'Merlin it's just for lessons, I've explained it to you already!' Hermione thought, gritting her teeth.

"This is really going to help stamp out those rumors Skeeter keeps spewing out into that rag of a paper eh?" Harry said shaking his head as he too saw everyone staring as Hermione moved over to take his arm.

"Sorry Harry..I'd rather dance with Fleur but...McGonagall's being so uptight, When it comes to the actual ball she better let us go together or Merlin I swear..." Hermione grumbled and Harry laughed.

"At least Ron looks happy," Harry said as he looked at his friend who had a smile on his face as if he'd just won ten million galleons. Fleur looked less delighted but forced a friendly smile onto her lips. Hermione narrowed her eyes at Ron giving him a warning look her envy getting the better of her and Ron quickly tried to look less pleased with this situation. A moment later and Professor McGonagall had wheeled an old gramophone out of broom closet at the back of the classroom and set it up and with a wave of her wand classical music began to play.

"Alright everyone to the center of the room, who amongst you know how to waltz?" McGonagall asked looking around at the couples and Parvati put her hand up tentatively.

"Ah, miss Patil you do? well bring yourself and Mr. Longbottom to the front of the class and well have a quick demonstration before the rest of you try," McGonagall said in an unusually cheery tone for the normally rather very sever witch. Neville looked rather terrified but Hermione could see Parvati was whispering gentle words of encouragement to the wizard as he took her waist and the pair began to dance.

Normally Hermione felt the class would have sniggered at Nevilles rather clumsy movement especially when juxtapositioned with Parvati's more graceful form but seeing as everyone else in the room would soon be trying to dance themselves no one seemed to have any time to laugh. Instead, they were all watching with rapt attention as McGonagall explained the dance to the class and pointed out what Parvati and Neville were doing wrong and correcting them when needed.

"You step on my feet I jinx you out the window Harry Potter and if your hand slips or there's any funny business..." Hermione began but Harry quickly interjected.

"Jinxed, window, got it," Harry chuckled shaking his head as he took Hermione's waist nervously and the bushy-haired witch prepared to help him through the steps of the dance after Neville and Parvati finished up their demonstration. Neville had done pretty well only stepping on Parvati's toes a few times and Hermione felt very happy for the boy as Parvati and he seemed to really take to each other as dancer partners. Harry meanwhile needed a lot of work if he was going to be in any kind of form for the ball, he left the whole thing up to Hermione having her take the lead in every dance McGonagall talked them through.

"Stop watching your feet, Harry! If you act like this with Cho she'll think you aren't that into her if you cant look her in the eye," Hermione said as they finally finished up their final dance of the lesson.

"Well...about that...I think Co's going to be taking Cedric to this thing," Harry said his face falling as Hermione and he stepped apart.

"Oh..sorry Harry I didn't know...um there's loads of other witches around and you just out flew a dragon! You'll have no problem finding a date!" Hermione said trying to cheer the wizard up as the bell went but he looked rather miserable. Hermione made her way over to Fleur who was currently berating Ron about everything he'd done wrong but the boy seemed to be in a blissful daze even while being spoken too so harshly.

"Are you listening to me, Ronald! No witch will dance with you if you go around staring at them with such a silly look on your face!" Fleur said shaking her head and Hermione quickly grabbed her arm and pulled her aside from the still nodding and smiling Ron.

"Rough lesson eh?" Hermione asked and Fleur snorted.

"I've seen trolls move with more grace," Fleur said and it was Hermione turn to laugh.

"At least when it comes to the ball itself... we'll be dancing with each other won't we," Hermione said getting a tad shy unable to look the french witch in the eye as Fleur got a gleeful look on her face.

"You call that a proposition 'ermione Granger?" Fleur giggled before taking the witch's hands in her own and Hermione shifted around a little uncomfortably.

"Let's try that again, deep breath and look me directly in the eye," Fleur whispered moving so close to Hermione that their bellies were pressed together. Hermione did as she was bid and tried to get the words out correctly not caring how many people were still in the classroom gathering up their things before leaving.

"Fleur...woudl you go to the Yule Ball with me," Hermione asked confidently a fierce look in her eye as Fleur beamed at her nodding before gently leaning down to Hermione.

"Yes, yes I will 'ermione," Fleur said before her eyes fluttered shut and she captured the witch's lips in a kiss. It didn't last as long as either wanted as when McGonagall heard the wolf-whistling she looked up from her desk and loudly cleared her throat.

"Miss Granger Miss Delacour! If you would please unhand each other and get to your next lesson...plenty of time for that's sort of thing come Christmas," The witch muttered the last half of that sentence to herself but a blushing Fleur and Hermione still heard her and began to laugh before hurrying out of the classroom.

*******

The ball was the talk of the castle in the coming weeks. Hermione had never seen so many groups of girls huddling together passing notes and secret messages to each other trying to plan who they'd take to the ball with a military level of precision. Hermione found out that Neville and Parvati had decided to stick with each other as partners even though not many others from McGonagall's dance lessons had chosen too.

"I just blurted out how i always remembered that time she told Malfoy to shut his mouth when he was making fun of me during our first flying lesson and then I just kind of asked her to the ball and she said why not," Neville said proudly as Hermione cast a charm on his right foot which had turned to stone after the boy had stepped on a trick tile that most students knew never to step on outside of the charms classroom.

"Well, that's great Neville I'm so happy for you!" Hermione said as the boy walked off, a spring in his step looking more confident than the witch had ever seen him. Later that same day Hermione heard Harry had been asked by a fifth-year Slytherin witch named Ingrid Moon and he'd agreed to go.

"I didn't even know she was a Slytherin she was wearing muggle clothing...I was coming back from the owlery and she just called me over as I was walking through the courtyard. 'Oi! Potter, I want a word...Pansy Parkinson tells me you fancy me, that right?'... I mean I'd never seen her around before but just looking at her in that moment I kinda did just fancy her right away so I just nodded... and she goes 'well then we'll go to that ball then won't we see how things go...you stand me up I bury you, dragon boy' then she gave me a peck on the cheek and went inside," Harry said still looking a little dumbstruck as he told this tale.

"Ingrid Moon...but she's stunning how you done that!" Ron, who had still been unable to find a partner asked and Harry just shrugged.

"I'd say Pansy was playing a prank that backfired," Hermione said sighing and shaking her head but happy for Harry none the less.

"Right when we go to Hogsmeade tommorrow you two have got to help me get a witch," Ron said desperately.

"Well Harry can help you if he wants but Fleur And I are going shopping with Pansy and Luna...sorry," Hermione said trying not to laugh as she finished up her homework and headed off to bed her head full of all the lovely things she'd get up to with fleur and the others the next day.

Chapter Text

Hermione snorted as she looked up from the scarf she was admiring to see Fleur stood a little way down the same aisle from her with some golden tinsel draped around herself in a makeshift festive scarf of her own. The French witch put on a mock sexy pose and Hermione gave her a "you're such a dork" look shaking her head and trying on the green scarf with a classic snowflake pattern. Fleur grinned and began a slow walk towards Hermione a seductive glint in her eye. Hermione looked up shaking her head again trying to suppress her own smile.

"What are you doing?" Hermione laughed as Fleur took the tinsel from around her own neck and put it around Hermione to draw the Gryffindor close to her till they were almost nose to nose.

"What? I can't kiss my witch in public anymore?" Fleur asked with a mock pout gesturing upward with her brow and Hermione looked up to see some mistletoe hanging from a shelf above them. Hermione let out a sigh going a little pink as she noted a few other shoppers looking their way but trying to ignore them she leaned up on her tiptoes as Fleur pulled her ever closer with the tinsel and they shared a tender kiss.

Fleur quickly stepped back after a few moments and put the tinsel back on top of the shelf she had lifted it down from before any of the staff in Glad Rags could chastise her. The pair joined back up with each other when Fleur had fixed the display. Fleur taking both her own and Hermione's shopping with her as the set off to look around the rest of the shop.

"Is my present in there?" Fleur asked a cheeky glint in her eye as she looked into one of the bags that Hermione quickly grabbed away from her.

"Yes... but no peeking! it's a surprise!" Hermione said sternly wagging her finger at Fleur who feigned upset a mock frown crossing her face.

"My present's in there too, I suppose..." Hermione asked trying to sound casual nodding towards the small silver bag Fleur was clutching and this time it was the French witches turn to defensively hide her bag.

"No," Fleur said an unconvincing smile crossing her lips.

"I wasn't going to look...but give me a hint at least?" Hermione pleaded biting her lip and Fleur laughed.

"I was thinking maybe... 'I' could be your present," Fleur said suddenly lowering her voice a glint in her eye again as she stepped closer to a startled looking Hermione.

"Um...what?" Hermione asked her voice cracking as it went a tad high.

"Well...I was thinking...after the ball, I might sneak up to Gryffindor tower lay down on your bed wearing nothing but a huge gift ribbon and wait...for you to come and... 'unwrap' me 'ermione," Fleur said leaning into Hermione's ear and letting her warm lips just barely graze Hermione's earlobe. The Gryffindor's heart began to race the image Fleur had painted in her mind sending her a tad loopy with excitement and nerves. Fleur stepped back from Hermione then and began to giggle. Hermione fixed her features into a stern look shaking off her excitement.

"Don't tease me! you better get me a real present!" Hermione said snapping out of her daze giving Fleur a playful shove.

"I'm not present enough for you 'ermione? My what a hard witch you are to please," Fleur said sarcastically and Hermione couldn't help a grin breaking onto her lips.

"Ha, ha, smart arse...come on let's find Luna and Pansy they should've found a dress by now," Hermione said and the pair went over towards the aisle they'd seen Luna and Pansy head down. It took a little while to find them, Glad Rags was packed with Christmas shoppers. Fleur had to keep a firm hold of Hermione's arm to make sure they squeezed past some rowdy customers who were all tussling for the last pair of dragon hide boots from Quintessa King's new winter collection.

"I saw them first!"A witch cried.

"They're mine you fat cow!" another witch responded shoving two others out of her way.

"I'll hex you all!" A third bellowed.

"You'll not hex anything! You dried up old bat!" A fourth responded.

'What idiots', Hermione thought rolling her eyes as Fleur kept pulling her along as they dodged flailing limbs and stray elbows.

"Ladies please! this isn't a very Christmas-y attitude!" A Glad Rags shop assistant called desperately trying to step between the crowd and stop the fighting. Fleur elbowed her way past them all holding Hermione close to her. She was so sexy when she got all commanding and ill-tempered Hermione thought, letting out a dreamy sigh as Fleur ruthlessly carved a path for herself and Hermione through the crowd.

"Out of my way! It's only a pair of boots!" Fleur cried shaking her head managing to somehow pull herself and Hermione through the ruckus without injury. Hermione would've normally been very miffed at having to endure such nonsense but the fact there was an enchanted piano in the corner playing jingle bells by itself as a miniature Father Christmas danced on a shelf nearby somehow made the scene rather comical and put a huge grin on Hermione's face.

Finally, through the crowd, Hermione spotted Luna and Pansy who were stood at the corner of the aisle speaking to another Glad Rags assistant. Hermione and Fleur made their way over though got distracted on the way by some weird and wonderful looking hats and stopped to try a few on. Hermione thought it was best to let Luna and Pansy finish their conversation though from what she could hear it wasn't going all that well.

"Are you sure you want to try that one... it's a little...loud, isn't it? Bit juvenile...with the butterflies and everything..." The Glad Rags shop assistant said in a bored voice adjusting her Santa Claus hat before going back to chewing her Droobles gum. A rather moody looking Luna, who rarely displayed anger, suddenly had her carefree demeanor stripped away.

"I happen to like butterflies," Luna said her voice rather cheerful but not matching her expression which darkened as she held her bright yellow dress with blue butterflies all around it close to herself defensively. Hermione thought it was a rather cute dress and liked how the butterflies flapped their wings occasionally and changed position on the fabric.

It wasn't something Hermione herself would wear but if Luna liked it that was all that mattered in her view. It seemed a certain Slytherin witch had similar thoughts to Hermione on this situation. A furious looking Pansy suddenly stepped between Luna and the shop assistant not liking the woman's tone or how she had a small smirk on her lips as she looked Luna up and down.

Luna, was as usual, worthy of a good long look given her unusual fashion sense, though Hermione didn't like the mocking glee in the shop assistant's eye. Luna had worn a rather striking purple turtle neck jumper with the words 'Free Stubby Boardman' across the front in black bubble lettering. Hermione assumed Luna had knitted her jumper herself.

The Ravenclaw also had a strange set of glasses, she'd called spectrespecs on her face that apparently helped her ensure any dresses she looked at were free of an infestation of some kind of creature called Nargles. Aside from the turtle neck and the glasses Luna also wore a necklace made of fire whiskey bottle caps that she'd swapped out for her usual butterbeer bottle corks. Her earrings were strawberries today a simple change from her normal horseradish and finally, completing the look as ever was Luna's wand tucked behind her left ear.

"Listen here..." Pansy paused, briefly looking down at the shop assistant witch's name tag, which was sloppily displayed lopsided on her robes.

"...Linda," Pansy said straightening the name tag and drawing herself up to her full height as Linda looked rather taken aback.

"Luna gets, whatever Luna wants! Got it!" Pansy said through gritted teeth forcing a false smile giving Linda a little tap on the cheek, trembling slightly as she withheld her anger at the condescending way in which Linda had spoken about Luna's choice of attire. The shop assistant stood opening and closing her mouth appearing unable to believe this was happening.

"Do I need to call your manager over here?" Pansy asked in a sudden sickeningly sweet voice crossing her arms and comically batting her eyelashes at Linda who broke under this threat right away and straightened up almost swallowing her gum.

"No! Please...Marrisa said she wouldn't put up with any more complaints," Linda said getting a pleading look in her eye.

"Well, in that case, I suggest you treat your customers with some respect and now kindly direct myself and Luna to the nearest changing room," Pansy said grinning wickedly and Linda nodded eagerly.

"Oh...of course, well-changing rooms are just back there," Linda said swallowing hard again as Pansy narrowed her eyes at the woman giving her the same mocking look Linda had thrown at Luna. Linda looked less fearful now and like she wasn't going take being bossed around anymore. However, before things could kick off Luna grabbed Pansy's arm and dragged her over toward the changing rooms.

"That's enough my Sassy Slytherin...I need your help...changing," Luna said with a dreamy laugh as she pulled a now beaming Pansy toward the changing rooms away from a stunned Linda. The pair disappeared behind a curtain giggling.

Hermione and Fleur went back to trying on different extravagant hats from a stand nearby trying not to laugh at Pansy's dressing down of the shop assistant and the current look on the witch's face. The pair held in the laughter till a shaken and rather moody looking Linda recomposed herself and headed back to the front of the shop to 'help' someone else.

Hermione thought the witch had no right to judge someone else's appearance when she herself had far too much makeup around her eyes had hideous overly large hooped earrings and many extremely tacky gold rings with various different suspect looking gems. Hermione thought she rather looked like a cliche British soap opera villain. To also call Luna's choice of dress juvenile when the witch was only a third-year was bad enough but to say it when she herself looked like she wouldn't know sophistication if it walked up to her and slapped her around the face was very rich indeed.

"Pansy is rather protective, no?" Fleur said with a giggle as she admired the large blue hat with purple feathers she'd just popped on her head in a nearby mirror.

"Says the witch who transformed into a human bird hybrid when Malfoy hit me with that curse," Hermione said grinning as she checked out her top hat with large pink bunny ears attached, that felt all too real to the touch for the Gryffindors liking.

"Okay..so maybe I'm a little protective of my witch too," Fleur sighed stepping towards Hermione and pulling her into a hug from behind. Hermione covered the french witches' hands that had come to rest on her belly with her own hands as Fleur rested her chin on the witch's shoulder. The pair smiled at how odd they looked with such bizarre headwear.

"Nice ears, 'ermione, though not very feline...you should take that headband with the black cat ears," Fleur said kissing the witches cheek and Hermione went a little pink. The Gryffindor hadn't ever mentioned the time she'd had real cat ears due to a mix up with some polyjuice potion and Hermione very much wished to keep that incident under wraps.

"Feline?" Hermione asked shifting about a little awkwardly forming her face into a semi-confused one.

"Well you are a lion of Gryffindor after all 'ermione...and there was the last time we were in the library doing 'research'... when I nibbled your ear lobe, you...oh never mind," Fleur laughed trying to change the subject as Hermione looked mildly terrified at what had been about to be revealed to her.

"No, go on! What did I do?" Hermione asked her voice low, looking left to right making sure no one was close by to overhear this conversation.

"Well...you began to purr, like a kitten," Fleur said shifting closer to Hermione bringing a hand up to the witch's cheek to caress it tenderly for a moment as a stunned Hermione just gaped at her.

"Are you sure...no...thats...you must've been imagining things," A crimson cheeked Hermione said turning around and placing her current hat back on the shelf she had taken it from and pulling her wooly pink one out of her coat and putting it back on. Fleur didn't press for more but she had a little look on her face that said 'I know what I heard'.

"I like this hat the most anyway...like the one from my dream," Fleur said adjusting Hermione's wooly hat and stepping back from her a wide smile on her face.

"What dream? How did my hat play into it?" Hermione asked raising an eyebrow in confusion.

"Well...you took me skiing and then we retired to the ski-lodge where you wound up wearing a pink wooly hat just like this...and nothing else," Fleur said biting her lip getting a seductive gleam in her eye.

"I was...only my hat? You saw...everything....was I...did I...how was...everything?" Hermione rambled nervously cheeks burning again.

"Well, it was only what my imagination could conjure and its all a little blurry now...but maybe you can help refresh my memory? The changing rooms are right over there after all," Fleur said with a giggle as Hermione's eyes went wide. She couldn't be serious surely?

"I know I suggested we do some 'research' back there... but Luna and Pansy are probably busy back there at the moment," Hermione said nervously her voice going a little high as Fleur pouted.

"Boo! You're no fun today 'ermione...we could go the bathroom of the three broomsticks instead," Fleur suggested sarcastically and Hermione looked appalled.

"The bathroom of the...have you been in there? It's hardly a romantic setting...what kind of witch do you think I am, Fleur Delacour?" Hermione said acting more offended than she actually felt a half-smile on her lips.

"One who only gets in the mood in the restricted section of the library apparently...I hope you will be more open to having some fun in the forbidden forest at least as I think I'm close to finding a cosy little spot where we won't be disturbed," Fleur said an excited tone seeping into her voice. Hermione, however, looked rather unenthused by the idea.

"The Forest...but there's all sorts in there! What if we're...at it...and a great big Centaur comes trotting past!" Hermione said looking aghast, as Fleur chuckled.

"I wouldn't worry about that this spot is well hidden...we'll just wait until the snow clears and then I'll show you....and 'ermione, we don't have to do anything you don't want to, we can go as slow as you wish," Fleur said getting more serious now as she entwined her hand with the Gryffindors. Hermione beamed at the witch and slowly nodded her head.

"Besides its also going to help me crack the clue to the next task so remind me to bring the egg the evening we head out to the forest," Fleur said getting a little more serious now.

"You thought a little more about what we heard Moody and Bagman talking about? With the Merpeople and everything?" Hermione whispered getting excited as she had been trying to get both Fleur and Harry to investigate their eggs for weeks without success at this point. Harry and Fleur both kept telling Hermione to relax and that they'd get around to the egg all in good time and that they won't a break from the tournament for a while.

"Yes, I think I know what needs to be done....if I'm correct after we try out my plan we can fill in Harry...I don't mind helping him...though Cedric and Krum...that's up to Harry," Fleur said getting a smirk on her face and Hermione nodded her agreement with that statement. Hermione and Fleur dropped the conversation as they heard Luna's soft cheerful voice drifting toward them.

"I think I'll take this one, let's go get it wrapped up," Luna said as she and Pansy reappeared both looking very satisfied with themselves.

"Great, let's get it paid for and head over to the three broomsticks...I want to see how Potter and Ingrid are getting on. Also Daphne and Ginny said they'd meet us in there," Pansy said brightly and the group moved up toward the counter of the shop.

"Did you really set Ingrid up with Harry?" Hermione questioned while they all waited for Luna's dress to be wrapped up.

"Yes, I know what you're thinking but it wasn't a prank...I knew she wanted to take Potter...and I wanted to make sure Ingrid was unavailable elsewhere, so I give them a little push in the right direction," Pansy said with a smirk.

"What on earth for?" Hermione questioned shaking her head.

"So Malfoy would be out of options, little pest asked Daphne to the ball, when she knocked him back he came crawling to me! Can you believe him the absolute nerve, asking us both a mere ten minutes apart! Thankfully we were both taken. However, I heard him saying if he didn't get Ingrid he'd probably not bother with anyone else. I was hoping maybe he and those two numbskulls Crabbe and Goyle might be too embarrassed to even show their faces at the Yule Ball without partners! I don't want them spoiling my,...I mean 'our' big night," Pansy said looking utterly delighted with herself and Hermione couldn't help snorting at the pettiness but also really liked the sound of there being no Malfoy at the ball to ruin the evening.

"You sure he won't ask anyone else...if he gets desperate enough he'd probably take anyone who was left...unless Ron gets to that poor soul first," Hermione giggled and Pansy chuckled.

"Well...he was sniffing around Daphne's little sister Astoria...but she's a second-year and he'd get laughed out of the castle for taking her so I'm not sure he has any options left," Pansy said looking very smug at the moment.

"If he does show he better keep himself in line because if he crosses me or 'ermione again...I'm going to show him what an unshackled Veela can really do," Fleur said with a smirk. Pansy looked delighted while Hermione had a slight look of concern but she said nothing and instead merely shook her head and took Fleur's arm as the group headed out of Glad Rags and down the street towards the three broomsticks.

Hogsmeade was covered in a fresh layer of snow and the footprints of the visiting Hogwarts students were already being filled by yet more snow as they walked. The village had been decorated for the festive season, most of the shops had fairy lights in their window displays, along with some statues of Father Christmas and his reindeer.

There were holly wreaths on the resident's doors though some had candy canes instead and enchanted snowmen could be seen in many parts of the street taking part in snowball fights with their own creators who'd enchanted them. Finally right at the center of the village was a huge Christmas Tree with many wonderous baubles and decorations right at the very top was a small golden hippogriff who would occasionally flap his wings or turn his head to look at those who gathered below the tree for shelter from the snow. A group of carol singers were under the tree at present singing their hearts out.

'Apparate down every chimney
Bring us all Christmas cheer
and three flagons of
ice cold Butterbeer'

Hermione waved at Neville and Parvati who were among the singers but they were more interested in looking at each other than Hermione as she passed with Fleur and the others.

"They are a fine match," Fleur noted catching sight of where Hermione was looking.

"Neville's so happy, bless him," Hermione sighed holding Fleur's arm tighter to her as a warm fuzzy feeling welled up inside her.

"Has Gabrielle calmed down any, by the way?" Hermione asked curiously, wondering how Fleur's sister was getting on after her outburst about not being allowed to attend the Yule Ball because she was too young. Fleur let out an exasperated sigh before answering.

"She is still pestering me daily and writing furious letters to mother about how unfair this whole thing is... I tell her she will still have lots of fun at the junior Christmas Ball being hosted for younger students up in the astronomy tower but...she wants to be with her older sister and the 'cool' students as she put it," Fleur laughed as Hermione too got a grin on her face.

"I think she probably just wants to see Harry in dress robes," Hermione said and Fleur nodded in agreement a gleeful look on her face. Both were pulled out of their conversation as a slight tussle happened ahead of them on the street and the noise made the pair look away from each other.

"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Snowman, let me fix that for you," Luna said apologetically as she picked up the carrot she'd just knocked off an enchanted snowman's face when she'd accidentally brushed into him with her shoulder as some rowdy students pushed by her. The snowman took off his top hat and bowed to Luna before returning to his static position beneath a street lamp.

"Watch where you're going next time you little twirps!" Pansy called after the two boys nostrils flaring visibly annoyed at their having pushed Luna.

"Oh shove off Parkinson, you and your lezzy Loony girlfriend shouldn't have been in the way!" One of the boys who Hermione now recognised to be a sixth year Slytherin shouted back. Pansy looked murderous, white-hot fury boiling in her eyes.

"What did you just say!" Pansy said through gritted teeth reaching for her wand but before she could withdraw it Luna grabbed her arm smiling at her sweetly.

"I didn't hear anything, let's go get some drinks shall we," Luna said dreamily totally ignoring the boys who were smirking now. Luna glanced at them for a second and Hermione could've sworn she saw the Ravenclaw mutter something. The next second the Slytherin boy and his friend turned to head down the street again laughing but they took a single step each before slipping on a large icy patch of ground Hermione was positive hadn't been there when they'd walked over that area moments ago.

"Arghhhh!" The boys cried out crashing to the ground hard were they lay groaning in pain. Hermione saw a devilish glint in Luna's eye that was there for only a moment before it vanished and the witch worked a mock look of surprise onto her face.

"Oh no, that's a shame," Luna said cheerily looking at the two boys as they rolled around on the ground moaning and asking for someone to help them up.

"Ha! serves them right," Pansy said smugly before taking Luna's arm again and the group headed on toward the three broomsticks.

"You saw that didn't you 'ermione? There's more to Luna than meets the eye it seems, very gifted for one so young," Fleur whispered into Hermione's ear and the Gryffindor giggled.

"It was a wandless spell, wasn't it? Amazing! She conjured the ice, wish I'd done it," Hermione laughed as herself and Fleur followed Pansy and Luna into the three broomsticks and quickly found a table next to Daphne and Ginny.

"Get everything you needed?" Ginny asked Luna who held up her brown package with her dress all neatly wrapped up and beamed at the witch.

"What about you Hermione, get the sleek-easy hair stuff you wanted?" Daphne asked and Hermione shook her head.

"No it was too expensive I'm going to brew my own formula when we get back to Hogwarts," Hermione said smiling as Daphne raised an eyebrow at her.

"I offered to buy some but 'ermione wouldn't have it," Fleur sighed handing out some butterbeer to them all as she sat down.

"Your straw Luna," Pansy said sweetly handing an oversized novelty straw to Luna that she'd taken from her bag. Luna took it and placed it in her butterbeer bottle giving Pansy a peck on the cheek.

"What about you Fleur get whatever you needed?" Daphne continued trying to not look too bemused by Luna's outlandish oversized yellow novelty straw that flashed different colours as the Ravenclaw drank with it.

"Mostly, I got my gifts for everyone but I still need some new earrings to go with my dress," Fleur mused and Luna looked rather excited and quickly interjected.

"Have you considered some cherry tomatoes?" Luna said seeming very eager to get into this discussion. Fleur looked confused and soon the Ravenclaw and the french witch were in a heated discussion about the topic. As Luna and Fleur talked over earrings, Daphne and Ginny filled Hermione in about Harry and Ingrid's date and how it had been going. Hermione looked around Ginny's shoulders over to Harry and the Slytherin witch in question and saw that a rather nervous Harry was sat in a corner with Ingrid next to him the witch had her arm around Harry as she leaned back casually in her chair in a somewhat masculine fashion. Hermione bit her lip trying not to giggle at how out of his depth Harry appeared.

"Ingrid's always been a bit tomboyish being a Quidditch beater and everything...probably why Potter went for her," Daphne said grinning as she took a swig of her butterbeer.

"What about your brother Ginny...he have any luck roping in some desperate witch too take him to the ball?" Pansy asked joining the conversation as she eyed a rather frustrated and down and out seeming Ron who was sat at a stool by the bar, head down, very much alone. Ginny shook her head frowning before answering.

"He hasn't a clue what he's doing, keeps accidentally stepping on the feet of every girl he speaks to and rambling on about absolute rubbish and by the time he gets around to asking them to the ball they've made an excuse to get away from him." Ginny said looking affronted that Ron was her brother.

"I could maybe help out...if he is really going to have no chance on his own," Fleur sighed as she got up and headed over to some Beauxbatons witches who were huddled by the fire. Hermione strained her hearing to listen in as Fleur spoke softly to a sandy-haired witch who looked to be utterly out of Ron's league but this didn't seem to matter to Fleur.

"You owe me Angelique...from the time Maxime found you with that fire whiskey bottle and I pretended it was mine," Fleur said with a little smirk on her lips.

"You can't be serious Fleur? He is so...rude and pale...and...and ginger!" Angelique who looked rather dismayed at what Fleur was asking said pouting.

"What's wrong with being ginger you stuck up little..." Ginny swore to herself under her breath also clearly listening to Fleur's conversation.

"Ignore her Ginny...redheads are rather very sexy," Luna said matter of factly making Ginny snort and cheered her up greatly.

"Not that sexy though...right?" Pansy asked looking a little envious.

"You've never liked redheads have you, Pansy...I remember you used to call Ginny what was it...Ginger muff...and fire crotch, those were your favorites weren't they," Daphne said suddenly biting her lip as Pansy's face fell and Ginny looked murderous again.

"She what?" Ginny snarled.

"That's...out of context!" Pansy pleaded though she convinced no one, Hermione was now laughing so hard she missed the rest of what Fleur and Angelique were saying and the next thing she knew the sandy-haired witch had gotten up and moved to sit with Ron at the bar.

"No amount of context on earth is going to save you from the jinxing I'm going to give you Parkinson," Ginny said through gritted teeth.

"Daphne!" Pansy pleaded looking to her friend for help.

"Ginny," Daphne sighed looking exasperated placing a hand on the witch's arm to calm her.

"Hermione!" Ginny groaned looking to the bushy-haired witch to side with her.

"Luna!" Luna said cheerfully seeming to not want to be left out of the row which broke the tension and the whole table began to laugh as Fleur made her way back over to them.

"A success I think," Fleur said looking very pleased with herself and nodding towards Ron who was looking over the moon that a witch such as Angelique was giving him the time of day.

"Well wait till she has to dance with him...I've heard you complaining the whole way through McGonagall's dance lessons how clumsy he is, always stepping on your toes," Hermione said smirk and Fleurs expression darkened.

"I still have a few lessons to get him into shape...I fought a Dragon...I can teach that boy!" Fleur said determinedly.

"Speaking of Dragons...the ones you had to get past are they still up on the peaks of the frost Fangs?" Pansy asked shuddering at the thought.

"Yes, I think so, I heard Moody saying they wouldn't be moving them until spring when their eggs hatched...there's nothing to worry about though Dumbledore placed all kinds of enchantments to stop the Dragons going anywhere, don't looks so scared," Fleur said giving Pansy a playful nudge.

"I'm not scared...I was just curious is all," Pansy said taking a deep drink of her butterbeer.

"There are worse things in those mountains than the Dragons anyway..."Fleur muttered more to herself than Pansy but Hermione still heard it and reached for the witch's hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

Hermione knew she was thinking of that cave she'd described to her the one which had the ability to mimic her mother and sister's voices that had tried to lure Fleur inside. Hermione had felt her hair stand on end as Fleur had explained the encounter to Hermione and how it had been the only truly frightening part of the first task. Hermione felt she understood why, the other creatures the tree, the ice wolves, trolls and even the dragon had all been foes she could see and combat with magic. Whatever had been in the cave was unknown and hidden and harder to forget, Hermione had tried her best to comfort Fleur about the cave telling her she'd never be back near it again and that there was nothing to worry about.

Fleur had even gone with Hermione to speak to Dumbledore about the cave the wizard had said there were many caves in the Frost Fangs and that he'd even explored a few himself but that the one Fleur was describing had never been seen by the wizard to the best of his knowledge. He even traveled to the exact spot Fleur had described only to find a large boulder in place of where the entrance was meant to be. Dumbledore had said it was maybe her Teslavolt spell that she'd used to cause a landslide that had sealed the entrance. Dumbledore also said he cast a few wards and enchantments around the general area and that nothing would be leaving the mountain to bother anyone at Hogwarts.

"It's over now...just a bad memory...you're with your friends...and your witch, remember," Hermione said in a whisper leaning into Fleur's ear before giving her a peck on the cheek.

"Yes, you're right 'ermione...I shouldn't dwell on it... let's get some more drinks eh?" Fleur said with a grind and she went over to the bar to get two more butterbeers.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a very pleasant fashion with everyone enjoying a good laugh and hearty meal from Rosmerta's kitchen. Professor Hallow made an appearance deep in conversation with Rosmerta at the bar. Hermione heard enough to learn that the pair seemed to be attending the Yule Ball together. It was a little while after Hermione overheard their conversation that the afternoon took a downward turn.

Rita Skeeter entered the pub with her cameraman her quick quotes quill scribbling away on a note pad in the air next to her. An old wizard in the corner who'd been playing Christmas songs on his fiddle abruptly halted his playing there was a loud scraping of chair legs against the floor and Hermione looked around the room spotting Harry who'd gotten to his feet eyes trained on Rita his hands balled into fists.

Fleur had also stood glaring at Skeeter who didn't seem to note how unwelcome she was yet, the witch was too busy rummaging in her ugly crocodile skin handbag for something. Professor Hallow cleared her throat the only sound to now be heard in the bar. Rita looked up a brief second of horror captured on her face before she forced a very false smile onto her lips and looked around at all the angry faces staring at her.

"You're barred you stuck up mare!" Rosmerta snapped.

"You heard the lady...beat it...before I beat you," Professor Hallow said slowly drawing her wand and placing it on the bar next to her in the most thinly veiled threat Hermione had ever seen. Rita looked around at everyone looking for anyone to come to her aid her eyes landed on Fleur who slowly transformed her hand into one that sported long deadly looking talons. Rita swallowed hard and took a step back.

"Oh...its like that is it...Dumbledores got this whole village well an truly wrapped up in his back pocket doesn't he...you're all brave now when you're together...but just wait till I get one of you on your own...when the price is right you lot would sell your own mothers to get a story in the paper. I'll show you lot...this Village...this school and everyone in it is finished mark my...arghhh!" Rita's speech was cut short as Professor Hallow having evidently gotten tired of the witch picked up a mince pie from the par and tossed it at the witch's face hitting her right between the eyes.

This began a chain reaction of sorts as everyone else in the bar began to throw peanuts, mince pies and other small snacks at the witch and her cameraman till they ran off outside screaming. Everyone hurled insults at Rita and laughed as the pair hurried outside.

"And stay out!" Rosmerta bellowed and the whole bar cheered and clapped. Hermione sat back down a smug look on her face.

"You nailed her right in the face with that pickled egg 'ermione! Nice throw!" Fleur laughed hugging the witch as the old wizard in the corner struck up a tune again and everyone got back to their conversations.

The rest of the day was less eventful. Many Hogwarts students came and went some stopping to chat a little while and the Yule Ball was, of course, the main topic. Neville and Parvati came over to Hermione and Fleurs table at one stage both of them looking to be on some kind of date. They didn't stop long as Parvati insisted they had to get back to the castle for more dancing practice as Neville though he was getting better and better still had room for improvement.

"Her poor toes must be ready to drop off," Pansy sniggered before crying out in pain as Ginny hit her a kick under the table.

"Don't laugh! Neville's gotten loads better!" Ginny said snappily.

"Merlin it was only a little joke woman calm down," Pansy groaned rubbing at her sore shin. Ginny looked very displeased at being told to calm down but before she could respond Daphne was pulling her to her feet.

"Leave it, Ginny...come one it's getting late we should get back to the castle," Daphne said stifling a yawn and Ginny, though she looked ready to still bicker with Pansy nodded.

Hermione, Fleur, Luna, and Pansy all got up and joined them on the trek back to Hogwarts following a long with a crowd of other Hogwarts students. Pansy and Ginny kept making snarky remarks about each other eventually entering into a blazingly intense snowball fight in the grounds of the castle after the tension between them reached its apex.

Soon a great many Hogwarts, Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students were engaged in a large scale snowball war. Hermione who wasn't a skilled combatant ducked behind a tree and took potshots at anyone who got near her. Many snowballs whizzed over her head or splattered against the trunk of the tree she was behind.

"No wands Lovegood thats cheating!" Hermione heard Fred, or maybe it was George, she couldn't really tell from this distance, shouting as Luna used a spell to levitate several snowballs into the air and fire them off at people close to herself and Pansy's position in quick succession.

"Yes! Get them, Luna," Pansy cried before falling silent as Daphne nailed her right in the side of the head with a snowball.

"Greengrass! You're for it when we get back to the dungeons!" Pansy cried chasing after Daphne who was laughing her head off.

"Ronald look out!" Angelique called from over by the Beauxbatons carriage as she grabbed Ron and pulled him out of the line of fire as no less than five snowballs smashed into the window of the carriage right where Ron's head had been moments before.

"Wow! Close one, cheers Angela!" Ron said excitedly only for his face to fall as he realised he made an error with the french witches' name.

"Angelique!" The witch corrected smashing a snowball right into Ron's face and rubbing it in with the palm of her hand. Smugly folding her arms as an embarrassed Ron made his apologies. Hermione watched the battle for a long time seeing Harry and Ingrid fighting back to back as a number of Slytherins tried to surround them but got chased away by Harry and Ingrid's expert marksmanship each time.

Hagrid stepped outside his hut for a brief second not even getting his huge furry scarf fully fastened around his neck before at least ten snowballs collided with the huge man from all directions. Hagrid let out a huge belly laugh and acting like an overgrown child made to join the fight. Though after he'd throw off his first snowball that was the size of an average snowman's head and taken out five students at once leaving them groaning on the ground Hagrid made a quick retreat back inside looking a tad guilty.

"Sorry...forget me own strength sometimes...you lot a finish up and I'll head up top the castle to put up the rest of the Christmas tree's and decorations later," Hagrid called ducking back inside his hut. Hermione laughed to herself not feeling too bad for the students Hagrid had taken down as they were all fifth-year Slytherins and though she didn't know them that well Hermione was sure they'd probably done something to deserve getting taken down like that. It was maybe a little mean spirited but aside from Pansy and Daphne and now Ingrid Hermione had rarely met any Slytherin students who had been in any way worthy of respect.

Hermione scanned her eye for Fleur after Hagrid took his leave but only managed to find Ginny who she sneakily hit in the backside with a well-aimed shot before retreating behind her tree laughing uncontrollably at the yell Ginny had given.

"Luna was that you? you cheeky little Ravenclaw...wait till I get you!" Ginny cried as Luna hid behind Pansy's back giggling.

"Save me, Pansy!"

"Back off ginger...Luna didn't hit you...it was me," Pansy lied gathering up more snowballs and the battle between them intensified.

Hermione chanced another look out from behind her tree wondering again where Fleur was, unable to spot her on the battlefield and just as Hermione was about to call out for her she felt ice-cold wetness at the base of her neck as someone crushed a snowball into her. Hermione jumped and squealed in shock turning to find a laughing Fleur who had to steady herself against a tree as her amusement at her little sneak attack was so strong.

"You are so dead!" Hermione cried gathering up a revenge snowball and chasing Fleur up towards the castle steps.

"No! Stop! 'ermione I'm sorry!" Fleur pleaded, laughing as she ducked into the castle dodging snowballs from all directions as everyone else saw Hermione and Fleur fleeing the battle.

Hermione threw her snowball as well, managing to hit the witch in the back of the head just before she ducked inside. Hermione giggled as she heard Fleur cry out in shock and Hermione ran inside to find Fleur was standing next to a brazer warming herself up shuddering shaking the snow off her shoulders. Fleur backed away slowly pointing a finger at Hermione as she looked up to see the smirking Gryffindor heading toward her.

"No, stay over there! I know you have another snowball!" Fleur said looking worried though her eyes were full of glee and Hermione snorted shaking her head and holding up her hands where Fleur could see them.

"No snowball see?" Hermione said and moved over to warm herself next to Fleur.

"Okay...truce?" Fleur asked and Hermione thought for a moment before nodding and moved closer to the witch linking their arms.

"I'll get you back properly for that one later," Hermione sighed and Fleur snorted.

"Oh...I'm I to be...punished 'ermione?" Fleur asked a glint in her and Hermione got a smirk on her face.

"You think I wouldn't be able to punish you?" Hermione asked biting her lip.

"I want to see you try," Fleur said grabbing Hermione by her hip and pulling her close to her mischief swimming in her eyes. Fleur leaned down then and the pair shared a heated kiss. Hermione envigorated by the animalistic look that had been in Fleur's eye brought a hand to the French girl's arse and grasped it firmly causing the witch to let out a satisfied little growl. The pair didn't get to go much further and were soon forced apart as a snowball exploded against the sides of both their faces. The witches turned to see Pansy and Ginny who were doubled over laughing.

"Pansy! Ginny! I'm going to kill you!" Hermione cried stamping her foot making to chase the pair but they ran off into the great hall with Daphne and Luna, where Hermione couldn't hex them due to the ever-watchful eyes of the Professors at the staff table.

"We'll continue this later," Fleur said sweetly brushing some snow off Hermione's wooly hat and out of her damp locks grinning down at the pouting witch who couldn't help her grin reappearing and she nodded her agreement before heading into the great hall with Fleur to have dinner making sure to take their Christmas shopping with them.

********

Christmas eve rolled around quickly after the shopping trip to Hogsmeade and Hermione found herself panicking about the sleek easy potion that she needed to aid with styling her hair for the ball the next day. There was one key component of the formula left and Hermione was having trouble procuring it.

"Well, what's missing?" Parvati asked as she laid out her own ball gown for the next day on her bed looking over it and making tiny alterations.

"I've got the blood and sweat...but now I need tears and I just can't cry!" Hermione groaned stamping her foot in frustration as she stirred the small cauldron on her bedside table that held her homemade sleek easy formula.

"Blood?" Lavender asked sounding appalled as she checked herself out in Parvati's mirror making sure her own gown was pleasing her.

"Oh relax it was only a little pinprick from my finger it wasn't like...something out of Carrie or anything, don't worry," Hermione sighed rolling her eyes.

"Carrie? is...she a student at Hogwarts?" Lavender asked bemused and Hermione snorted.

"no, shes out of one my scary novels...oh never mind that now what I'm I going to do," Hermione whined trying to make herself well up with tears yet again.

"I could slap you round the face till you cry?" Parvati suggested sarcastically and Hermione glared at the witch.

"I don't think so Parvati," Hermione said gritting her teeth.

"I could call you mean names? Maybe recite one of Skeeters articles from memory?" Lavender said sounding a little too excited by the prospect for Hermione's liking.

"No!" Hermione said tossing a scrunched up ball of parchment at the witch in annoyance.

"Alright! It was only a suggestion," Lavender giggled.

"What about...a sad song?" Parvati asked biting her lip and Hermione thought about it a moment.

"That could work...but I don't have a CD player...or any CDs for that matter," Hermione thought shaking her head ready to bin that idea too when Parvati laughed.

"No, silly, I can sing you one...whats that muggle one you're always singing on rainy days...that heartbreakingly sad one...oh I remember now!" Parvati said excitedly clearing her throat and moving over to Hermione to serenade her. Hermione braced herself for what was coming.

'I go out every night and sleep all-day
Since you took your love away'

Parvati sang and though she had missed the actual beginning lines of the song it was still enough to get Hermione welling up at last and getting a little sniffly Hermione quickly leaned over her cauldron and let three teardrops fall into her brew.

"There we go! See not that hard at all," Parvati said. Hermione rubbed at her eyes and beamed at Parvati.

"Thanks...that song just...oh it's so beautiful," Hermione said trying to hold back more tears and Parvati ran over and hugged the witch.

"Aw hush now, can't keep this up you'll be all red-eyed and puffy cheeked if you do...Fleur's not going to want to see that," Parvati joked stepping back from Hermione who finally shook off her emotional reaction to the song and got back to work on her sleek easy formula.

"I don't see why she couldn't just by some from a shop like the rest of us...cheapskate," Lavender muttered to Parvati then trying to sneak that statement past Hermione but the bushy-haired witch heard her and spun around to stick her tongue out at the witch who was too busy looking at herself in the mirror again to notice.

"Oh Seamus won't be people to contain himself when he sees me," Lavander sighed continuing to try out all manner of poses in front of the mirror Hermione shared a glance with Parvati and the pair both tried to hide their obvious amusement. Pavarti was next to try on her gown a traditional Indian gown that made the witch look absolutely stunning, Neville might actually pass out Hermione thought with a grin as Lavander voiced a similar opinion but in a rather rude fashion.

"I can't believe Neville's taking you, he's so lucky...I mean who'd have thought, him and you," Lavender said giggling and Parvati got very stony-faced.

"What's so funny about that? You got a problem with Neville or something?" Parvati asked a little snappily and Lavender quickly shook her head look regretful.

"Well good...because Neville's a perfect gentleman and we're going to have a wonderful time," Parvati said holding her head up proudly admiring herself one last time before turning to look over at Hermione expectantly.

"Well?" Parvati asked putting her hands on her hips.

"Yeah you look wonderful," Hermione said giving her a quick smile before going back to stirring her potion.

"No, I meant well aren't you going to try on your gown Hermione? We're dying to see you in it! Don't you want to make sure it doesn't need any last-minute alteration before tomorrow?" Parvati asked looking desperate to see Hermione in her dress. Hermione was actually a little nervous about trying on her dress she wasn't one to normally get all done up or attend events such as the Yule Ball.

"Well...um... it's just my sleek easy potion isn't ready yet and I won't look right till I have my hair done and mt makeup and..." Hermione trailed off as Parvati marched over to her and took her by the hand a grin on her lips.

"Relax Hermione all that stuff can come later...I help you with your make up too if you like," Parvati said lowering her voice so Lavender wouldn't hear the last part it was clear Parvati was aware that Lavender would jump at the chance to also dive in on that offer and what with her tendency to go a little overboard it probably was best to just leave such a task to Parvati.

"Okay...I guess...I'll try it on...but no laughing!" Hermione said sternly and Parvati nodded quickly.

"We'd never do that...would we Lav...I said would we Lav!" Parvati said through gritted teeth to get Lavender's attention as the witch had clearly not been evening listening still lost in her own reflections gaze.

"What?...oh yeah of course!" Lavender said hastily even though it was clear she wasn't sure what she was even agreeing too.

"Right well...give me a second," Hermione said shooing Parvati away as the witch moved behind a panel dressing screen that was next to all the witches beds and got changed into her pink gown managing to wrangle her hair into rather wild but mostly contained pony tale while she was at it. Hermione heard Parvati and Lavender whispering to each other in anticipation of Hermione's reemergence from behind the screen.

"You laugh! I swear Seamus will have to dance with your corpse Lav!" Parvati said through gritted teeth.

"I won't laugh...I'm not a bloody bully Pav!" Lavender said trying to keep her shrill voice under control but it still went rather high. Hermione took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the screen playing with her hands nervously and keeping her eyes trained on her feet waiting for a response. When none came, Hermione fearing the worst looked up an anxious expression on her face to see Lavender and Parvati looking at her open-mouthed.

"That...bad?" Hermione groaned wanting to dive from the nearest window.

"Bad? You're a bloody knockout in that dress Hermione!" Lavender said a rather unfaltering tone of surprise in her voice. Hermione smiled despite herself rather enjoying the compliment even if it was rather backhanded. Hermione turned her gaze on Parvati next who phrased her delight at how stunning Hermione looked in a much kinder way by simply walking over to Hermione and pulling her into a hug, an overexcited series of little noise and squeals coming out of the witch.

"Our little Hermione's blossomed into a beautiful mature witch Lav," Parvati cooed getting a little misty-eyed sounding like a proud parent which equally cheered and unnerved Hermione all at once.

"Oh don't get all dramatic," Hermione sighed giving the witch a playful push shaking her head while on the inside she was utterly over the moon at that affectionate reaction.

"Fleur's going to mad when you turn just as many heads as she does tomorrow," Parvati said almost bouncing with glee and winking at Hermione.

"Right well you get an O for outstanding on the dress Hermione but let's talk about your hair and posture next," Parvati said suddenly getting very serious again and moving to sit with Hermione on her bed.

"Wait! Not there Fleurs present!" Hermione said quickly stopping the girl from sitting down and moving her gift for Fleur out of the way just in time.

"Sorry! Wait...is that real silver?" Parvati asked grabbing what she now realised was a picture frame that displayed a moving image of Fleur and Hermione about to share a kiss in the great hall. It was the same one Colin had used for his Newspaper Hermione had enlisted him to help her frame the image as a gift.

"Yup solid silver...the man in the shop tried to push the gold one with the lions on me...but I thought this silver one with the horses was much nicer...I always found gold a little tacky," Hermione said and Parvati beamed as she looked at the moving image as the Hermione and Fleur in the photo shared a quick kiss looking a tad bashful due to having an audience.

"So...this is why you have to brew your own sleek easy formula you spent all your money on this fancy frame...you're so cute, Hermione Granger," Parvati said with a dreamy sigh handing the framed photo back to a blushing Hermione who quickly placed it in the gift box under her bed and tied a nice bow onto of it ready to give to Fleur in the morning.

"I hope she likes it," Hermione said stowing the gift under her bed as Parvati nodded eagerly.

"She'll love it...now about that hair," Parvati said quickly changing the subject again a cheeky glint in her eye and Hermione groaned in mock frustration. It was going to be a long Christmas eve indeed.

*******

Hermione awoke on Christmas morning in the girl's dorm in a different fashion than she normally did when staying at home for the season. The excited squeals of Parvati and Lavender tearing opening their pile of gifts were what woke Hermione at around six in the morning. Hermione was a little moody at first having been a rather late riser normally when it came to the holiday but soon found herself swayed by Parvati and Lavender's giddy excitement and she too bounded off her bed to tear into her gifts sitting on the floor at the base of her bed.

"Merry Christmas you two," Hermione said stretching and stifling a yawn.

"Merry Christmas!" Lavender called over to Hermione beaming at her as she tore into another present.

"Yeah, Merry Christmas Hermione!" Parvati said before going back to her own pile of gifts

Parvati had just finished unwrapping a set of fur boots that purred when you stroked them, meanwhile Lavender was trying to put on a silver locket that sang any song you wished when you spoke to it. The room was currently filled with the sweet sound of a female voice singing a soothing slow version of 'deck the halls' Lavender started to sing along rather out of tune and the locket abruptly stopped.

"Listen, I'm I singing this or do you want to take over?" The locket asked in a moody tone and a shocked Lavender could hardly speak.

"Um...sorry...just...no, you go ahead," Lavender said giving the locket a shy apologetic smile and it began to sing again.

"Oh Hermione, their lovely!" Parvati called as she opened the set of gold bangles Hermione had gotten her.

"I thought you'd be able to wear them to the ball," Hermione said brightly and Parvati got up and moved over to Hermione giving her a quick hug.

"A full years subscription to witch weekly! Thank you, Hermione!" Lavender cried holding her gift from Hermione close to her chest and beaming at the witch.

"Well...I know you love it...and I'd rather you read that stuff...than any more Skeeter articles in the Prophet," Hermione said and Parvati snorted as Lavender shifted about a little awkwardly at the reminder of what she'd said to Hermione after falling for Rita's lies.

"I won't ever read anything she writes again! I promised!" Lavender said and Hermione smiled at her before reaching for her own pile of gifts which all had a similar size and shape. Hermione let out a little sigh she was grateful every year for all her gifts but wished people would put in a little more thought and give her something other than new reading material.

"Finally...another book...oh this one is from you two?" Hermione said raising an eyebrow as she looked up from her last present that like the others was neatly wrapped with its shape giving away that it was obviously another book. Hermione loved her friends and family but they truly didn't have much imagination when it came to buying her gifts. 'Just once can't I have something pretty' Hermione thought trying not to frown as to not give Parvati and Lavender the wrong idea.

"Oh go on! open it already," Parvati said biting her lip and Hermione narrowed her eyes at her and Lavender who both looked rather giddy at the moment. Hermione wasn't sure she cared to find out what kind of book they'd gotten her but she let out a resigned sigh and tore open the gift. Hermione had to read the cover a few times to make sure she wasn't dreaming opening and closing her mouth in astonishment truly not knowing what to say to this gift.

"Spellbinding Sapphic Seduction...a modern guide to enchanting that special witch...." Hermione trailed off and looked up at a giggling Parvati and Lavender trying to decide which one of them she should hex first.

"Don't you like it?" Lavender asked not seeming to take note of why Hermione would be against such a gift.

"You two...are something else...I don't need a book on seducing witches! Fleur and I are already together if you two hadn't noticed," Hermione said nostrils flaring.

"Oh but Hermione it doesn't just cover how to kick off a relationship it's about maintaining one and keeping that 'spark' in the bedroom. You want to have all the right moves don't you?" Parvati said giving Hermione a cheeky wink. Hermione gritted her teeth trying to withhold her fury as she saw Parvati and Lavender weren't gifting her this book as a prank and they truly looked as if they believed they were doing Hermione some kind of wonderful favor.

"Who says there's something wrong with my...my 'moves'? I don't think I'll need help in that department, besides we're taking things slowly...but I suppose its the thought that counts...so thank you both...now lets never speak of this again," Hermione said getting to her feet and piling her new set of books next to her bed hiding Parvati and Lavender's book in her drawer.

"You're...taking things slowly? Oh...thats kind of put a spanner in the works of the second part of our gift," Parvati said looking a little disappointed.

"Second part?" Hermione inquired hoping it wouldn't be as inappropriate or embarrassing as the first had been.

"Yes...well we thought after you'd read a few chapters of Sapphic Seduction...you might want to try out some of the things in there...and Parvati and I had made arrangements to spend the evening with Neville and Seamus away from our dorm...so you and Fleur could have the place to yourselves," Lavender said looking as crestfallen as Parvati. Hermione bit her lip and thought things over for a moment, though she wasn't ready to go all out with anything she'd probably find in that book, Hermione did think it would be great to spend some alone time in her dorm with Fleur away from everyone else.

"Would the Fat Lady even let me bring Fleur in her here?" Hermione questioned as her brain suddenly throwing up that roadblock to her.

"Oh I wouldn't worry about her...she'll be blind drunk with her friend Violet by the time the Yule Ball is over...besides you and Fleur will be out of uniform she won't know she's letting a non-Gryffindor in!" Parvati said excitedly and Hermione couldn't help a small grin at how devilish of a plan it was. It was clear Lavender and Parvati had put a fair bit of thought into 'gifting' Hermione and Fleur this special evening.

"Alright...you two go stay with Seamus and Neville...in...well, where ever you're going and...Fleur and I will take the dorm for ourselves," Hermione said trying to not show her full delight as Lavender and Parvati let out excited squeals!

"Oh, this is going to be the most amazing night! The actual best Christmas ever! Come on let's get dressed and down to breakfast, you'll need to give Fleur her present after all! Then we need to get straight up here and ready for the ball!" Parvati said almost vibrating with glee.

"...Will, we really need six hours to get ready? the Ball doesn't start until..." Hermione was cut off as Parvati jumped in again.

"Hermione darling...I love you but your hair is an all-day kind of job even with that sleek easy brew you made," Parvati said making pleading eyes at Hermione who went rather scarlet.

"She's right Hermione," Lavender added, matter of factly, nodding her head.

"My hairs not that bushy!" Hermione cried stamping her foot and folding her arms.

"Oh you poor thing you're in denial...don't worry we'll help you through this," Parvati said rushing over to Hermione and taking her hand.

"Denial? What...its just...I've been very busy I never have time to look after my hair...and there's been so much wind recently...and..and..."Hermione trailed off slumping her shoulders in defeat.

"Okay...so it's a bit wild...but six hours?" Hermione repeated eyes wide.

"Well do our best...we might be able to shave off an hour with the sleek easy stuff...but we're not miracle workers Hermione," Lavender said giggling.

"Oh enough! let's just get to breakfast I really do need to give Fleur her present...and I'm not rushing back up here right away...I'll probably be back up at about three, I want to spend the day with Fleur alright!" Hermione said rather snappily and though Lavender and Parvati looked like they were rather concerned by this time frame they both nodded and went off to get dressed as Hermione did the same. Hermione looked around for her ugly Christmas jumper from Mrs. Weasley only to realise she hadn't received one this year and that instead, she'd gotten one sock with a note attached to it reading 'send the other one later...ran out of wool'.

Hermione frowned deeply, she had heard from Ron that his mother had been writing to him complaining about Hermione and all the things Rita Skeeter had been writing about her and Harry in the Prophet. Hermione had hoped the witch would have more sense but alas going by her one small shoddily knitted sock Molly had been taken in by the lies after all. Hermione pushed it from her mind and instead pulled on a light blue hooded top and made herself a promise not to let Rita Skeeter ruin her Christmas before leaving the dorm and heading downstairs to the great hall.

*******

Hermione passed many excited students on the stairs on her way down to the great hall, some exchanging gifts and wishing each other a happy Christmas while most were chatting excitedly about the Yule Ball as ever. From what Hermione could gather it seemed to be a fact that the Weird sisters would be preforming tonight after Professor Flitwick's orchestra who would play during dinner and for the opening dance with the champions and their partners.

Hermione didn't know much about the Weird Sisters music but she heard one Ravenclaw talking about a Bagpipe solo she loved from one song called 'Flower for a Hag' and was unsure how to feel about that information but she remained curious nonetheless. As long as Fleur was with her and had a good time it probably wouldn't matter what music was playing Hermione decided, hurrying past the group of students on the stairs and heading onward to the great hall.

The house ghosts were gathered there singing carols, being unhelpfully aided by Peeves the poltergeist who kept throwing in filthy lyrics singing badly out of tune and cackling. However, the Bloody Baron who did not sing but was hovering nearby, floated over to hover next to the poltergeist glowering at him not saying a word and just like that Peeves got back in line and started singing properly. Hermione chuckled to herself at the scene and soon caught sight of Fleur.

The French which was stood at the foot of the stairs in the entrance hall by herself which was a sign that Gabrielle still hadn't come around and was still sulking in the Beauxbatons carriage. Hermione made a note to ask about Gabrielle but when Fleur's gaze fell on her everything else seemed to slip from her mind and all she could think about was her. Fleur's entire face lit up as she caught sight of Hermione making her way down the stairs and a giddy swell of excitement caused Hermione to stumble on the final few steps almost dropping her precious gift for Fleur. However, the french girl acted immediately and with lightening fast relfexes she grabbed the gift just before it crashed to the floor and managed to steady Hermione with her free hand.

"Sorry!" Hermione gasped as she straightened up and Fleur just chuckled.

"No problem 'ermione, it's not your fault you keeping falling for me...or 'on' me as it were," Fleur said with a cheeky grin and Hermione felt her cheeks grow rather warm.

"Stop!" Hermione groaned in mock annoyance at Fleur's sickeningly sweet comment.

"Just watch your step in future please...this gift could be replaced...but you could not...I need my date in tip-top condition if we're to wow everyone with our dancing later," Fleur said placing a hand on the Gryffindors hip and pulling her close as if they were about to start dancing right there in the entrance hall and Hermione snorted.

"This is for me?" Fleur asked turning over the gift in her other hand and finally spotting the name tag and grinning an excited glint in her as Hermione nodded.

"Merry Christmas Fleur," Hermione said giving the witch a quick peck on the cheek before stepping back to watch the girl unwrap her gift, watching her face intently unable to wait much longer to see her reaction. Fleur let out a small gasp and looked a little bleary-eyed almost immediately as she gazed at the framed picture of herself and Hermione.

"I love it 'ermione...did that boy with the camera help you with it?" Fleur asked smiling ear to ear as Hermione nodded.

"Colin did some editing so our initial shocked reaction was removed from the image and left it so the moment was captured in a more tender fashion," Hermione said as Fleur grabbed her and pulled her into a quick hug.

"I need to give you your present too...its only a small thing but I hope you like it," Fleur said reaching into her pocket and withdrawing a small box with a ribbon on top. Hermione took it and opened it curiosity running wild, whatever it was it most certainly wasn't a book and that thrilled the witch to no end.

"Well...do you like them?" Fleur asked nervously after a few seconds as Hermione looked at her gift open-mouthed without speaking. Fleur had given Hermione a set of lovely silver earrings in the shape of crescent moons.

"You hate them, don't you? That's why you're not speaking..." Fleur muttered begining to panic before Hermione quickly shook her head trying to hold back a flood of happy tears.

"No that's not it. They're wonderful..."Hermione was cut off as a still worried Fleur interjected.

"But why are you crying?" Fleur asked rushing forward again and taking a hold of Hermione's free hand and squeezing tightly.

"It's just...no one ever gives me things like this...all I ever get are books or quills and practical stuff...no one ever gives me anything beautiful... you're a fine witch Fleur Delacour...do you know that?" Hermione said sniffly as relife spread across Fleur's face before being replaced by unabashed joy and the witch pounced on Hermione out of nowhere and gave her a heated kiss.

"A-hem...I don't believe I see any mistletoe in the vicinity ladies...do you?" Professor McGonagall's voice said in a somewhat amused tone and Hermione and Fleur jumped apart. Hermione had to take a double look at her head of house as she had an unusual gleeful look in her eye and her hat today was trimmed with red and gold tinsel.

Hermione and Fleur both shared nervous glances wondering if the Professor was going to give them a telling off for such public displays of affection. However the woman's stern look broke and she chuckled which was rather unnerving to Hermione's ears, truth be told, it was just so unusual to hear the witch laugh like this.

"Oh relax...its Christmas Miss Granger...that was just a little fun....however please contain yourselves during the Yule Ball later...we can't have everyone carrying on like its the last days of Rome," Professor McGonagall continued a small smirk on her lips before she brushed between Fleur and Hermione and entered the great hall.

Hermione and Fleur shared awkward sideways glances and began to laugh before taking each other's arms and heading into the great hall to eat.

"So is Gabrielle still in a bad mood," Hermione question bringing a mug of tea towards herself.

"It's funny you should mention my dear sister 'ermione...she received a letter today and a gift from our mother which seemed to really excite her but she wouldn't let me inspect either of them and pushed me out of our room. Something is going on but I'm not sure what, she seems happy again at the very least. I hope she won't cause any trouble this evening and will go willing with the younger students to the astronomy tower party, I'm sure she'd have more fun than she imagines and it'd be much better than sulking in the carriage all through Christmas," Fleur said and Hermione nodded in agreement.

"I think I'll wear my new earrings tonight they'll fit perfectly with my dress," Hermione mused and Fleur grinned at her.

"I can't wait to see you in your gown 'ermione," Fleur said a longing look in her eye.

"Likewise Miss Delacour," Hermione said with a chuckle taking a sip of her tea.

"She's going to kill me, Harry...I step on her foot once I'm a dead man...listen you can take my Quidditch posters maybe hang onto all the Krum stuff it'll be worth a fortune in a few years," Ron said looking rather terrified as tried to force himself to eat his own breakfast sitting a little way down the Gryffindor table from Hermione and Fleur with Harry across from him.

"I'm sure Angelique was only joking Ron...but maybe watch your step just in case," Harry said flashing Hermione a cheeky grin and the witch turned away to hide her face so Ron wouldn't catch her laughing as Harry wound Ron up a little about his impending date.

"What about you and Ingrid? How you two getting on, she seems a decent sort...for a Slytherin," Ron said and now it was Harry's turn to look uncomfortable.

"Well she's a laugh and everything... but she's rather forceful and bossy....a bit...full on you know?" Harry rambled and Ron smirked.

"That sounds like a witch we know already doesn't it?" Ron chuckled and Hermione felt her temper rising speaking before she could help herself.

"Who would that be exactly?" Hermione snapped and Ron jumped in surprise not aware Hermione had been listening in.

"Oh...um no one....is that the time got to go...practice my dancing," Ron said looking at his wrist which was visibly lacking his watch before scrambling to his feet and heading off before Hermione could lay into him. Harry snorted before taking a bite of his toast.

"What's wrong with loud bossy assertive witches exactly...you should be a lot nicer about your date Harry," Hermione said rounding on the dark-haired wizard next and he quickly recomposed himself.

"I didn't mean...I was only...sorry Hermione," Harry said trying to calm her down and the witch, though she was ready to argue, was silenced as Fleur dropped a hand to her thigh and caressed her gently to cool her temper. Fleur didn't look at Hermione and went back to her cereal acting like she was doing nothing at all before whispering to Hermione.

"It Christmas...peace and goodwill to all wizards or however that saying goes," Fleur muttered and Hermione sighed in defeat.

"That okay Harry... it's just the way Ron said that...Oh never mind...Merry Christmas... and thanks for that book on advanced curse-breaking it looks fascinating," Hermione said getting a smile back on her face.

"Oh yeah, Merry Christmas... thought you'd like that...thanks for the new wizard chess set! It's amazing!" Harry said beaming at her.

"You're very welcome...Don't spend too much time playing with Ron...and get a look at that egg soon alright?" Hermione said getting a tad stern as Harry sighed and got to his feet.

"I'm on it I told you," Harry muttered unconvincingly as he headed out of the hall. Hermione was about to call after him and put her foot down about the egg situation when Dumbledore stood at the top table and gave a quick speech.

"Yes Merry Christmas to you all, I'm afraid you'll have to finish up breakfast in the next five minutes as we need everyone out so the Great Hall can be fixed up for the Yule Ball this evening. Remember doors will open at eight this evening and the Ball shall last until twelve. The Christmas feast will be rolled into the opening of the ball this year," Dumbledore paused as a few groans of annoyance sounded at that news.

"Yes I'm going to have a difficult time waiting too the house-elves do such a wonderful job...but alas that is how things are...now if I recall Fred and Geroge Weasley have asked me to announce that Round 2 of Snowball Slaughter death battle which commenced yesterday after afternoon is to be continued out in the grounds all afternoon starting in about ten minutes so hurry along now," Dumbledore said as some laughter broke out while a great many students rushed to pull on their coats and scarves and head outside to reignite yesterdays snowball fight.

"We'll shall we head out Miss Granger?....perhaps we'll be a team today yes?" Fleur laughed and Hermione got a devilish look in her eye.

"I'm not sure...not going to hit we in the neck up close again for a laugh are you," Hermione asked narrowing her eyes at the French witch.

"Never," Fleur said with a cheeky wink before grabbing Hermione by the arm and the pair ran outside. Hermione stowed her new earring safely in her zip up pocked of her jacket and Fleur briefly ducked back into the Beauxbaton carriage to put away her picture.

The Battle was fierce even more so than the day before half the school seemed to be out in the grounds Hermione was sure she even saw little Professor Flitwick getting in on the action from the front steps of Hogwarts along with Madam Hooch and Professor Sprout. Hagrid didn't risk taking part again today. Fleur kept her word today and fought by Hermione's side the two making a deadly team Hermione building up as many snowballs as she could and Fleur firing them off at anyone who came near them at rapid speed. They were like a well-oiled machine by the time four o'clock rolled around and a squealing Parvati and Lavender dashed through the battlefield dodging snowballs in order to recover Hermione.

"C'mon you've been out here all day we need to get ready we only have four hours left think about your hair!" Parvati cried grabbing Hermione and frog-marching her away as a dumbfounded Fleur just stared after the witches.

"I'll see you at eight! Meet me in the entrance hall!" Hermione cried as she was dragged away and Fleur simply smiled and blew the witch a kiss, before getting hit in the face by a snowball and charging after Pansy for revenge. Hermione laughed her head off almost the entire way back up to Gryffindor tower.

******

"Lavender...she's our masterpiece," Parvati said a little misty-eyed, her voice one of awe as she looked a newly transformed Hermione up and down. Parvati's eyes were swimming with wonderment and glee. Hermione raised a concerned eyebrow as she finished putting in her crescent moon earrings. Surely there wasn't that level of earth-shattering difference after only a few hours, Hermione thought biting her lip.

"We're artists Pav!" Lavender cooed looking utterly delighted with herself and Parvati's efforts as she hugged the Indian witch close beaming at their creation.

Hermione rolled her eyes she really couldn't look all that different she thought. It had taken less time than Parvati and Lavender had guessed to get Hermione outfitted for the ball with all the bells and whistles but her hair had still taken a while and been something of a hard-fought battle.

Hermione was now convinced that there was some kind of magic to her hair that stopped it being straightened and tamed by normal means it had taken a few spells combined with her own extra-strength sleek easy brew to finally make her brown locks manageable. Hermione was eager to see how it and the rest of her now looked so taking a deep breath she stepped in front of Parvati's full body length mirror her mouth falling open. Who on earth was that witch looking back at her, it surely couldn't be Hermione Granger.

Her hair was now slicked up into an elegant knot at the back of her head, the light makeup around her eyes really made her soft warm brown eyes look large and beautiful. Her floaty pink gown showed off her slender but curvy figure and did wonders for her sizeable bosom. Fleur's gift, the crescent moon earrings completed the look in a stylish fashion. Hermione smiled her big toothy grin never before having felt so good at gazing upon her reflection.

"Straighten up a little Hermione, remember good posture is everything! you're not hauling around a bag overflowing with heavy books now you know!" Parvati said getting a little stern moving behind Hermione placing her hand firmly at the small of Hermione's back and forcing her to straighten her back a little and hold her head up a little higher.

"Perfect!" Lavender called clapping briefly before moving to touch up some blusher on Hermione's cheeks.

"Oh enough! let's get downstairs we're already going to be behind everyone else," Hermione cried batting away Lavender's make up brush, now very eager to meet up with Fleur. She wanted to see her dress and gauge her reaction to her own transformation.

"That's the whole point of taking ages, Hermione! So that when we...er I mean you...come down the stairs to the entrance hall the entire school is there to witness the star attraction," Parvati said biting her lip as she gave Hermione a playful nudge. Hermione rolled her eyes again and shook her head moving over toward the door of the girl's dorm before stopping abruptly and rushing back to her bedside table to grab her wand which she slipped down the front of her dress between her breasts. Shifting everything around a little till it wasn't noticeable and she felt comfortable with the wand resting in its new unconventional holster.

"Um...expecting trouble this evening?" Parvati asked raising an eyebrow, she and Lavender weren't bringing their wands and had left them by their beds.

"Well...you never know...Malfoy didn't manage to find a date...but that doesn't mean he won't show up and try to ruin the evening some other way," Hermione said hoping she was wrong and wouldn't need her wand.

"Oh relax Hermione, Dumbledore and all the staff will be there he can't pull anything!" Parvati said chuckling at Hermione's stern tone.

"Aside from Malfoy there's also that bloody Rita Skeeter...she might try and sneak in...Dumbledore banned her from the castle and the grounds but she keeps getting past his security somehow! I swear I'll find out what her trick is soon and she's going to be sorry!" Hermione said her face screwing up with malicious intent as Parvati and Lavender giggled at her ferocity

"I'd hate to be Skeeter right about now with you on her case Hermione. I don't think she'll show again though, Dumbledore will just toss her out on her rear!" Parvati said looking very gleeful at that notion and Hermione smiled again.

"That would be great to see," Hermione said imagining Rita rolling around in the snow outside the front gates after Dumbledore instructed Hagrid or someone to throw her out.

"Well, come on then let's not keep Fleur Seamus and Neville waiting," Parvati replied fixing a seductive look on her face and straightening up just as she had instructed Hermione. Parvati then took Lavender by one arm and Hermione by the other and the trio set off. Hermione felt an odd fuzzy feeling well up inside her as she walked down the spiral staircase with her dorm mates. She'd never truly felt like one of the girls before but tonight she did and it was a wonderful sensation.

"Ahem...evening boys," Parvati said a sexy lilt to her voice making Hermione stifle a laugh as Parvati and Lavender posed next to her halfway down the stairs waiting for Seamus and Neville to look up from their card game.

"Merlin...arghh!" Neville cried out as he tried to stand up too fast at the sight of the witches as they entered the common room and banged his knee hard against the underside of a reading table.

"Ah, Lavender yir lookin' stunnin'," Seamus called in his heavy Irish accent moving over to Lavender and taking her arm.

"Yeah your...just...wow Parvati," Neville rambled rubbing his sore knee as he moved to take Parvati's arm almost tripping over his own feet and nearly falling but Parvati caught him.

"Calm down Neville...relax it's only me," Parvati said sweetly trying to ease Neville's nerves but looking utterly delighted by the wizard's reaction.

"Yeah only Parvati Patil...best looking witch in our year...no need to be nervous at all," Neville said with a chuckle as Parvati beamed at that comment.

"Best looking in our year?" Lavender asked looking a little moody, Hermione stifled a snort of laughter at her indignation which drew Seamus's attention to her.

"Oh...Who's this by the way?" Seamus asked casually turning to Hermione and looking her up and down in such a fashion that caused Hermione to grit her teeth at his wandering eyes as Lavender snapped her fingers in front of his nose an envious glare on her face.

"My eyes are up here!" Hermione said in a dangerous tone giving Seamus a dig in the shin to make him stop his gawping.

"Hermione!" Neville and Seamus cried in unison, looks of utter astonishment on their faces as they finally recognised her owing to her voice and familiar bossy tone.

"Wow, ye can scrub up alright when ye want to eh?" Seamus laughed half winching at his sore shin and half-smiling with surprise, a cheeky glint in his eye that earned him a slap on the arm from Lavender.

"You look amazing Hermione...er almost as pretty as Parvati!" Neville added the second part of his sentence quickly to dissuade Parvati from giving him a slap of his own. Hermione looked at the two witches and turned away to hide her delight at their obvious envy. Both Lavender and Parvati looked unenthused by their dates reactions to Hermione. Hermione was sure they were wondering if maybe they'd done too good of a job on Hermione's makeover. Hermione shook her head and headed over toward the exit of the common room sighing to herself, remembering now why she often liked not being one of the girls as it were. The constant drama wasn't something Hermione thought she had time or indeed the temperament fit to deal with it.

"Come on, any more standing around and Fleur will think I've ditched her," Hermione said hurrying out the portrait hole. Hermione looked over her shoulder as she descended the stairs seeing the Fat Lady and Violet were already on their second bottle of Goblin wine. Good, I should have no trouble sneaking Fleur past them later Hermione thought, grinning before moving on down the stairs to the entrance hall leaving Parvati Lavender and their dates to make their own way down. Hermione passed groups of boys in dress robes on her way trying not to smile as she heard them muttering to each other in shock as she passed.

"Who on earth is that? I should've asked her to the ball!"

"Wow!"

"Is she another Beauxbatons witch? what was she doing upstairs?"

"What a rocket!"

Hermione tried to keep a straight face as she passed them all normally she'd have been irritated by the gawping and wolf whistles and would've probably hexed the boys into oblivion but she felt she'd let it slide for one evening given her wonderful mood. Hermione was a little while getting down the grand staircase as she wasn't used walking in such a long flowing dress and kept almost stepping on it and tripping. 'This is insane, I won't be doing this ever again!' Hermione thought a wry smile on her face as she navigated the stairs.

"Won't you wear a dress on our wedding day?" The cheeky voice of Fleur sounded in her head and Hermione felt her cheeks burning. 'Merlin Granger don't jump to marriage already you're getting a bit ahead of yourself!' Hermione told herself trying to shake off the bizarre yet comforting and delightful vision she was having of both herself and Fleur walking down the aisle in beautiful pearly white wedding dresses. Hermione pushed her daydreams aside as she neared the entrance hall. Many voices were drifting up from the bottom of the stairs.

Laughter casual conversation a few yells and all the normal sound of a large crowd where making Hermione a tad nervous again. Could she really step out in front of all those people dressed like this? Had she really looked as good as she'd thought or had it been in her head? Where Neville Seamus Parvati and Lavender only putting on an act did she really look ridiculous all dressed up? Where they just trying to spare her feelings?

'No they're your friends! they'd never do that, you're acting crazy 'ermione! Now come down and see me, I need my dance partner, I need my witch!' Fleur's tender voice sounded in Hermione's imagination again and it inspired Hermione to take a few more steps onward down toward the entrance hall. Music could now be heard from inside the doors of the closed great hall, Flitwick and the orchestra were no doubt having one last rehearsal.

Hermione stopped just before she rounded the corner of the entrance hall and peaked her head around to look at the large crowd of students gathered there. As Parvati had correctly estimated most of the students eligible to attend the ball where already stood awaiting the doors of the great hall to open. Hermione saw many faces she recognised and couldn't help beaming at how lovely they looked. Harry was stood by the Gargoyle statue that led up to Dumbledores office in a smart and very sharp set of dress robes looking as nervous as Hermione felt. Ingrid was on his arm chatting away to a witch Hermione didn't know next to her. Ingrid looked stunning in a dark purple dress her brown hair pulled back into an elegant ponytail. Ingrid finished her chat then gave Harry a one-armed hug seeming to try to lighten him up, she leaned down into his ear and Hermione saw her give it a nip and this seemed to perk Harry up.

Across from Harry and Ingrid, Luna, in her yellow dress with blue butterflies and Pansy in a bottle green dress were chatting to each other excitedly. Pansy Took Luna and gave her a little playful twirl and the pair burst out laughing. Hermione was surprised to see Luna without her bottle cork necklace but she still had her horseradish earrings and her wand as ever was behind her left ear. 'good for you Luna Lovegood' Hermione thought as she scanned the rest of the crowd finding Daphne and Ginny sitting on a small stone bench on the left of the entrance to the great hall.

Daphne was in a sexy red number while Ginny was in a pale pink dress the pair were deep in conversation and utterly engrossed with each other. 'No Laughus-leaf you two!' Hermione thought, smirking before her eyes fell on Professor Hallow and to her surprise Madam Rosmerta. Professor Hallow wore a very foxy black gown her hair like Hermiones was up in an elegant knot she wasn't as cheerful as the rest of the crowd but she had a soft smile on her ruby red lips as she spoke with Rosmerta. The witch was alluring as ever and Hermione even felt her suspicions and dislike of the witch fading a little for a moment before she shook herself and looked back to Rosmerta who seemed delighted to be here with Hallow.

The Threebroom sticks barmaid was in stunning emerald green robes her golden hair was curled into ringlets she was as enticing as ever, Hermione again quickly shook herself 'no bad Hermione! You're Fleurs witch remember!' Hermione scolded herself before chuckling and moving her eyes around the crowd again. Hagrid was just stepping inside in his hideous hairy brown suit and large yellow tie he was beaming ear to ear and moved through the crowd and knocked on the great hall doors which opened slightly to let him in before closing again. Seemed Hagrid was being allowed in early to finish up some decorations or the like. Hagrid was always the one who put the golden Hyppogriff at the top of the main Christmas tree in the hall.

Soon after Hagrid entered Madeye Moody stepped inside with Ludo Bagman. Moody was in traditional Scottish highland wear complete with kilt and Sporran. For a man who was so viciously scarred and disfigured he looked rather dashing all smartened up for the evening. Ludo Bagman was in less striking dress robes that were akin to most of the male populace of Hogwarts. Moody brushed his way through the crowd and came to stop near the doors of the great hall shaking hands with Victor Krum and Cedric Diggory who were stood with their dates Cho Chang and Beauxbatons witch Hermione had only know by her face. Cho was the most striking in that group in her traditional Chinese dress smiling nervously as she held onto Cedric's arm. Cedric and Krum were again in standard dark dress robes though Krum had a red cloak draped over one shoulder with the Durmstrang crest on it as did his fellow Durmstrang students.

Hermione got a smirk on her face next as she spotted Malfoy Crabbe and Goyle sulking in the entrance that led down to the dungeons all three without dates hands in their pockets looking miserable. That's what you get for four years worth of being bullying insufferable gits! Hermione thought looking away from the Slytherins as Snape stepped out past them in his normal black robes seeming as if he hadn't thought this event worth smartening up for. Snape looked around the crowd a look of utter destain on his face, Hermione got the sense that Snape was the type who would've been rather happy to ban Christmas and indeed all social gatherings and parties that ever took place at Hogwarts.

Hermione watched Snape for a moment as he eyed Professor Hallow suspiciously and moved to stand a little way behind them leaning against a wall folding his arms, Flitch the caretaker stood next to him looking very out of place in a suit almost as ugly as Hagrids. Professor Hallow spotted Snape staring and they shared an odd look, Hallow then smirked at him and gave the wizard a wink. Snape looked sickened but didn't move and instead cast his eye towards Harry and Ingrid seeming very unenthused that a member of his house had taken Harry by the look on his stupid sour face. Hermione finally pulled her gaze away from him not wishing to make herself angry and lower the good mood she had been in worrying about Snape's usual nonsense.

Finally, Hermione spotted Ron and Angelique and couldn't help but grin wickedly as Ron who was in rather ancient looking dress robes was being relentlessly hen pecked by his date. She seemed to be forever fixing his robes into position and buttoning this pocket or that making the boy stand up straight and endless giving instructions by the look of it. Hermione almost felt sorry for him but reminded herself of how Ron had initially approached getting date with such a rotten attitude of, 'find the best looking witch who would tolerate him' and take it from there. Hermione felt he rather deserved to have landed a beautiful yet bossy overbearing and strict french witch. Speaking of French witches where was Fleur? Hermione couldn't see her anywhere.

Hermione listened to all the excited chatter and rowdy boisterous behavior scanning her eye desperately for Fleur but she couldn't seem to spot the girl. Hermione was getting a bit worried and started to panic a number of ludicrous thoughts running through her mind.

'Maybe she saw me and thought I looked terrible and snuck back to her carriage?'

"Maybe she's gotten deathly ill and had to stay in bed"

"What if she ran off with someone else"

These were some of the highlights from Hermione's over active imagination and just as Hermione began to wring her hands in distress, she saw her.

The crowd of students slowly parted like the red sea as Fleur and some of the other Beauxbatons entered from outside with Madam Maxime. Fleur looked up the entrance hall steps and smiled at Hermione who finally stepped out from behind the wall and was spotted by Fleur right away. Hermione felt her heart soar at the smile on Fleurs face now felt bold enough to take a few tentative steps down the stairs. Hermione tried to tune out the gasps that rippled around the crowd and kept her eyes trained on Fleur, she felt like she was in a dream everything was otherworldly, so ethereal all of a sudden. Fleur was almost too much to take.

She was utterly breathtaking, dressed in a pale silvery grey gown her long completely straight shiny silvery hair flowing down her back resting just above her backside. The light of the moon flowing in from outside seemed to be making Fleur's hair glitter, it was dazzling to behold. The witch seemed to be almost glowing a feint white light emanating from her pale skin. Was she turning on her old Veela charm or was Hermione just going mad from nervous and excitement? The Gryffindor wasn't sure and she found she didn't really care, all that mattered at that moment was that this goddess before her kept walking toward her.

Fleur almost appeared to glide across the entrance hall she moved so gracefully at an achingly slow and deliberate pace. Just as many students were now staring open-mouthed at her as they were Hermione. Hermione stopped her walk a few steps up from Fleur on the stairs, so she was towering over the witch for once. Fleur's gaze started at Hermione's feet and slowly drew its way up her body drinking Hermione in hungrily. The french witches smile widening her eyes swimming with tenderness and affection and when they finally met Hermione warm brown ones they almost looked like they were sparkling.

"Good evening 'ermione Granger," Fleur said giving a small bow of her head before extending a hand up to Hermione who accepted it gently as Fleur helped her down the last few steps. Hermione's heart was thundering in her chest she'd never felt such a rush as she did now, Fleur's gentle touch her smile, the glint in her eye Hermione felt a great wave of bliss wash over her. All the other faces and voices around them seemed to melt away and fade into the background all that mattered was Fleur.

"Good evening yourself Fleur Delacour," Hermione said in a quiet breathy voice managing to regain the power of speech at last.

"I wasn't sure you'd know who I was dressed like this," Hermione said with a chuckle.

"Oh...i'd know that 'ermione smile anywhere, its the same one from when we first met...rolling around in the mud," Fleur said with a soft smile and Hermione felt herself swell up with tenderness at the memory.

"Oh, I remember it very well...I thought the way you said my name was rather cute and I couldn't help grinning...I thought you might drown me in the mud you looked so mad," Hermione laughed before biting her lip as Fleur looked a little embarrassed.

"Oh...I was furious...but there was something about you that calmed me....and look at us now 'ermione Granger attending a Ball together," Fleur said taking Hermione's arm and holding her close.

"Funny how things work out isn't it...but um...I was wondering don't I get a little traditional french hello this evening?" Hermione asked a mock pout on her face as she tapped her cheek with her index finger before giggling.

"Id kiss you hello...but Maxime is watching...I don't want to make her too mad so early in the evening," Fleur giggled devilishly biting her lip.

"Well...save all that for after the Ball then shall we?....right, now let's see about dancing each others socks off eh?" Hermione said with a chuckle as Fleur looked mildly confused not seeming to understand the playful phrase as she looked down at her feet.

"Our socks...must come off?" Fleur asked and Hermione giggled.

"No, I just mean... we should go all out on the dance floor, go as long as we can before we drop....all those lessons, now its time to show off," Hermione said excitedly taking Fleur and heading over toward Harry and Ingrid. Hermione wanting to greet her friend and cheek he was doing okay.

"Well let's not exhaust ourselves too much...or we won't have the energy for...other things, after the ball," Fleur said mischief in her eyes and Hermione felt her heart racing again but tried to calm herself before she spoke to Harry.

"Hello Harry, Ingrid," Hermione said as they finally reached the couple. Harry looked bewildered and took off his glasses cleaning the lenses on his sleeve before putting them back on blinking rapidly as he took in the sight of Hermione.

"H-Hermione? Wow!" Harry said smilply a dumb grin on his face. Hermione covered her delight at his reaction and got a smirk on her face.

"What? is it so hard to belive it's me just because I'm in a dress?" Hermione said getting a mock tone of outrage in her voice.

"No...well...a bit... it's just the hair and everything...you look great! really great," Harry rambled quickly as the three witches around him exchanged looks enjoying teasing the wizard.

"I quite agree 'arry...a stunning witch, I see that sleek easy formula worked very well, though I hope you don't feel the need to stick with it after the ball...I like you all bushy," Fleur whispered the last few words into Hermione's ear so only she would hear. Hermione went a little pink in the cheeks wanting to pull Fleur close to her and get that 'hello kiss' they'd danced around after all. However, before Hermione could respond Harry changed the subject.

"So did Gabrielle head up to the astronomy tower in the end?" Harry asked looking rather hopeful she had as it was clear the wizard wanted to avoid having the little witch following him around all evening likely starring daggers at his date.

"No actually...she'll be along in a little while...our mother is such a soft touch, she caved after Gabrielle's many pleading letters...and now she is going to be arriving herself and allowing Gabrielle to have one dance with her and eat at the feast," Fleur said shaking her head and sighing.

"Your mother's coming to Hogwarts...she's going to see us...together?" Hermione asked her stomach doing a few flips as she was overwhelmed by nerves again.

"Oh do not worry 'ermione, I mentioned I was going to attend the Ball with you...and that we had grown so very course over the year. There is nothing to be concerned about, besides she'll have her hands full with Gabrielle she probably won't be able to spend too long catching up with you or me," Fleur said trying to reassure the semi-terrified seeming Hermione.

Fleur's mother Apolline had been very pleasant at the world cup though Hermione had only a limited interaction with the witch and it was of course not going to be the same meeting her again now that Hermione and Fleur had designs on each other.

'Hello Mrs. Delacour...I'm dating your daughter....I'm her witch' Hermione thought inside her mind trying to rehearse how such a conversation would go. Hermione didn't get to fret about the situation much longer as Moody growing impatient with all the waiting walked up to the doors of the great hall and crashed his walking stick against them shouting at the top of his voice.

"Right that's it Albus let us in! I'm starving could eat the hind legs off a hippogriff out here!" Moody barked stepping back from the doors as they finally opened and Professor McGonagall stepped out as the sound of Flitwicks orchestra playing the Hogwarts school song drifted out to the entrance hall with her.

"Yes thank you Alastor...maybe next time summon a sledge hammer if you want to smash the doors in," Professor McGonagall said giving the laughing Moody a withering look that he seemed to revel in.

"Sorry Minevra...pateince never was my strong suit," Moody said cackling with laughter.

"Oh, I know all too well. Now then moving swiftly along, if I could get the four champions and their partners to line up at the front here. Now please head to the tables at the top left of the hall in front of the stage, we'll eat dinner first and then the champions will open the ball with the first dance. Mr. Potter, are you feeling alright you look a little peaky?" Professor McGonagall asked as the wizard and Ingrid lined up in front of the Gryffindor head of house.

"Fine, Professor," Harry said convincing no one. Hermione hoped his nerves about dancing would settle after he'd eaten. The boy had just conquered a dragon for merlin's sake, surely he could handle a quick waltz? Hermione thought, sighing as she and Fleur lined up behind Harry and Ingrid ready to enter the hall.

"Well then on you go please find a seat," Professor McGonagall said stepping aside and gesturing with her hand for them to head up the center of the transformed Great Hall. Hermione couldn't help but stare in wonderment as she looked around what now appeared to be the hall of some kind of ice palace, the walls the tables and the stage all looked to be made of ice, decorated with tinsel holly and candy canes. The enchanted ceiling had snow softly falling from it the flakes magically disappearing before they could cover the hall.

"So pretty!" Hermione heard Parvati say from somewhere behind her as they walked.

A large frozen water fountain with a statue of a silver Centaur with his bow drawn was at the center of the room. Instead of the four house tables, a hundred or so tiny round tables sat around the fountain facing towards a large stage at the top of the hall where the Staff table was normally to be found. Hermione noted the area in front of the stage was cleared of tables and the floor had been redesigned to look like a chess board and it seemed it would be acting as the dance floor. Finally off to one corner was the huge Christmas tree decorated with many baubles and tinsel as always the golden miniature enchanted Hypogriff sat at the very top of the tree.

Hermione heard clapping over the sound of Flitwick orchestra who were currently occupying the stage and saw that Dumbledore and the other members of staff were now standing by the top few tables in the hall beckoning the Champions toward them. Dumbledore was clapping the most enthusiastically seeming ecstatic to see all his students dressed at their very finest.

"I hope these seats aren't as cold as they look," Fleur said as she eyed the chairs which like the tables appeared to made from solid ice. Hermione tentatively sat down expecting a cold shock but it never came it seemed the chairs had been enchanted to be warm and rather soft and cushiony, it seemed they resembled Ice in looks alone. Hermione was relived the ice was for aesthetic purposes only as she feared what an actual chair of ice would do to her poor backside if she really sat in one.

"No perfectly warm," Hermione said and Fleur quickly sat down at the table next to Hermione as their dinner appeared in front of them.

"Oh...I'm actually disappointed...I was just thinking maybe I could've sat in your lap if it got too cold for me...seeing as you owe me from the world cup," Fleur said with a laugh as she brushed her leg and arm against Hermione moving her seat as close to the witch as possible. Hermione tried not to let her glee at the idea shine through and began to pour some gravy over her dinner.

Everyone else quickly took a seat as well and tucked in right away all very hungry having waited all afternoon for the late Christmas dinner. Ron who was sitting at a table on Hermione's left was now being told off by his date once again for stuffing his mouth so full his cheeks looked like they might burst any second. Hermione turned away and laughed into her hand before taking a drink of her wine. It was then that Hermione noted that Professor Flitwick had left the stage and was moving over to the table next to her and Fleurs, his duty of conducting now taken over by Professor Sinistra.

"I didn't get to eat earlier with the rest of the Orchestra was busy setting everything up, helping Hagrid place baubles on the tree's...he's a bit too much of a rough hand to take that duty all by himself," Flitwick said as he sat down and Hermione had to suppress a laugh again. Hagrid could be rather clumsy and such a delicate task of decorating a tree would be rather amusing to watch him take part in Hermione thought as she shared a look with Fleur who also seemed to be imagining what that task would look like.

"Ah! Mr. Potter! I'm glad to have gotten a seat at your table been meaning to congratulate you personally on that excellent use of Accio during the first task. I'm sure it was my class that helped you there," the little wizard laughed and Harry went a tad pale as Luna who was behind them with Pansy suddenly opened her mouth to speak. It was clear she was intent on explaining her part in helping Harry learn Accio but being as that was a story altogether unfit for a Professor to hear Hermione quickly brought a finger to her lips making pleading eyes at Luna to be quiet but she'd already started.

"Sorry to butt in Professor..." Luna began but fell silent as she finally caught sight of Hermione who was now vigorously shaking her head hoping beyond hope the witch wouldn't mention knicker summoning to her head of house at a time such as this. Though there was, in fact, no good time for that subject to rear its head at all. Luna had seemed to catch onto Hermione's silent dismay and quickly altered her train of thought.

"Yes, Miss Lovegood something you wanted to ask?...my it is lovely to see you out and about with friends ... a nice change from being locked up in Ravenclaw tower all the time," Professor Flitwick said beaming at Luna.

"Oh yes, its wonderful Professor...anyway could you pass the cake please?" Luna asked dreamily and Flitwick merely blinked at her in confusion.

"I'm sorry Miss Lovegood...but dessert hasn't been served yet," Flitwick said furrowing his brow.

"Oh...thats a shame never mind then thanks anyway," Luna said going back to her dinner as Pansy snorted with laughter unsure what had just happened. Hermione tuned out the conversation at Harry's table and began cutting up some turkey and striking up a conversation with Fleur having just spotted something about the witch that made her heart swell.

"You took Luna's advice...cheery tomatoes," Hermione giggled eyeing Fleurs strange but cute earrings.

"Yes, I found them rather pretty when Luna showed them to me...I see you have my silver crescent moons in...oh they are so lovely on you 'ermione," Fleur said bringing a hand up to Hermione's ear stroking her lobe for a second making the witch shudder at the pleasant sensation.

"They were such a thoughtful gift thanks aga...wait what's that on your shoulder," Hermione asked narrowing her eyes as she caught sight of a small green beetle crawling on Fleur's shoulder and reached for it but it flew off causing Fleur to jump in fright.

"Ah! Get it away! I hate bugs!" Fleur cried shaking herself and patting her shoulders haphazardly trying to scare the beetle further away from her and it seemed to work the small thing disappeared toward Dumbledore's table, which was a little bigger than the other tables due to the fact it had to accommodate Hagrid and Maxime as well as Karkaroff.

"Strange thing to be flying around at this time of year in this rough weather," Hermione thought biting her lip her curiosity randomly spiked by the bug. The creature had also been a very specific shade of green she was sure she'd seen somewhere before rather recently but the witch was damned if she ould remember where.

"I hope it flies back out into the grounds where it belongs nasty little thing...though hopefully, it doesn't wind up by any of the rose bushes...I thought we might go for a walk around the garden after a few dances," Fleur said smiling again as she banished the beetle from her mind.

"Garden?" Hermione questioned rasing an eyebrow.

"The grounds in front of the castle have been transformed into a Christmas grotto of sorts. It's very pretty, rose bushes, fairy lights, stone statues of Father Christmas and his reindeer...oh 'ermione you have to see it," Fleur said taking the witch's hand and squeezing it excitedly.

"Sound wonderful... let's get some dancing done first though...I can't keep my hand off you much longer," Hermione said with a giggle and Fleur looked delighted as she bit into a slice of turkey. Hermione hadn't any idea someone could make eating turkey look erotic until that moment, Fleur could probably make scrubbing toilets look sexy if she wanted too in fairness Hermione thought grinning at the vision her mind created. Fleur raised a confused eyebrow at Hermione's little smile and brought a napkin to her lips.

"Did I splash gravy on myself or something?" Fleur asked looking a tad embarrassed but Hermione shook her head.

"No! I just thought of something amusing," Hermione said going back to her dinner before looking up at the orchestra who were now transitioning into Fur Elise. As the music changed Hermione heard the sound of the great hall doors opening again and saw two witches figures approaching one rather small and the other quite tall both wearing a similar silver dress to Fleur.

"Mother!...and Gabrielle...she has dressed her in a small version of my dress...that little...she copied me," Fleur looked rather annoyed and Hermione couldn't help giggling finding the whole thing rather cute. Gabrielle and Apolline waved over at Hermione and Fleur before taking seats of their own.

"I suppose she will be happy now at least....but I can't believe my mother would get her a dress just like mine," Fleur continued pouting as she saw many other students mainly witches looking at Gabrielle looks on their faces that said 'awwwww she's adorable'. Hermione was still finding the envy and rivalry between sisters rather sweet and couldn't help chuckling.

"It's not funny 'ermione this is serious... I was supposed to stand out as a champion," Fleur said trying to sound furious but there was a smile to her eyes as she saw how amused Hermione was and it seemed to soften her anger.

"Take it as a complement Fleur...your little sister is so in awe of you...so admiring of you...that she can't help but try to emulate her magnificent older sister," Hermione said leaning into Fleurs cheek and giving her a quick peck pulling back before Maxime would see. Fleur thought for a moment then grinned seeming to like that idea though Hermione wasn't sure she was totally convinced of Gabrielle motives she did fall silent and went back to her food.

"So Ablus about the...scaly situation," Hermione heard Professor Moody's voice say as it drifted along to their table a few moments later.

"Not here Alastor, with present company, it is unwise to discuss such a situation I'm sure you'll agree?" Dumbledore said with a small smile and Alastor nodded.

"Sorry...was just wondering...getting a bit worried you know," Moody grumbled.

"Everything is perfectly under control," Dumbledore said though Hermione noted a look in his eye that said he wasn't telling the whole truth but quickly looked away from the headmaster as he caught Hermione starring and raised his glass to her before taking a sip.

"Scaly situation? You think this is about the merepeople, remember that conversation we overheard?" Fleur whispered and Hermione nodded.

"You're definitely close to cracking the egg?" Hermione asked recalling their last conversation bout the second task and the clue that would help them figure it out.

"Yes, I told you...I have an idea what it's about and I shall take you with me to solve it soon! Patience Ma Belle," Fleur said rubbing Hermione's thigh soothingly and the Gryffindor immediately had eggs tasks and merepeople chased from her mind. Soon after Dumbledore got to his feet and tapped his glass and silence fell.

"Now then, I think that since we have all been fed and watered its time for the Ball to truly begin...Champions to the dance floor, please...I cant wait to join you all for a quick boogie...but its tradition that you all have the floor to yourselves at the moment, around of applause for our champions please everyone," Dumbledore called and cheering and clapping broke out. Hermione was helped up by Fleur and the pair headed over to the dance floor and into position as Flitwick returned to the stage to take up his conducting duties once again.

Hermione placed a hand at Fleur's waist and the other on her shoulder as the French witch too got her hands into position pulling Hermione close to her rather forcefully. Hermione bit her lip feeling a jolt of pleasure run through her at Fleur's strong grip and controlling attitude. It wasn't often Hermione liked someone else to take charge of her but this was one evening where she was going to allow it.

"Ready 'ermione?" Fleur asked a gleeful sparkle in her eye and Hermione nodded and then they were off. Hermione and Fleur moved gracefully around the dance floor eyes locked on one another. It felt wonderful, Hermione's heart was soaring and she felt a great warmth well up inside her at the core of her belly. Fleur, of course, being taller was leading the dance and Hermione was happy for once to let her do it as she was tired of always leading when practicing with Harry.

Hermione saw Harry and Ingrid passing by them out of the corner of their eye and couldn't help a small chuckle. Harry looked like he was in the middle of working out an intense and difficult equation as he tried to keep up with Ingrid who was, of course, taking the lead for the boy even though they were of a similar height. Harry didn't seem to mind much and was doing his best not to stand on her feet, Hermione saw a few close calls but was relieved that Harry corrected himself each time. It looked like the lessons had paid off, save your arse again Potter seems I spend half my life doing that, Hermione thought, smiling widely as Harry gave her a sheepish grin as she passed by her and Fleur again. Hermione suddenly gasped as she felt Fleur's hand slip to her bum for just a second as she gave the Gryffindor a playful squeeze.

"Just checking you were still in the room, you seemed to be zoning out there 'ermione...please pay attention," Fleur said a cheeky smirk on her lips as she gave Hermione a twirl. Hermione bit her lip plotting her revenge for that little slip of Fleur's hand anyone might have seen that! Oddly it excited Hermione rather than annoyed her but Fleur didn't need to know that at the moment.

'Let's see how you like it, Miss Delacour!' Hermione thought a wicked grin on her lips as she too slipped her hand from Fleur's waist in search of her rear.

"Oh...again please," Fleur said not being taken by surprise as Hermione had and giggling as it was clear she enjoyed the sensation greatly.
Hermione, however, didn't dare pull that move again as before they knew it Professor Dumbledore was joining them on the dance floor with Professor McGonagall and soon everyone else had taken to the floor as well. Hermione saw Harry trying to make a run for it as the first song ended but Ingrid wasn't having it she grabbed the boy by the arm and pulled him back and he now got a crash course on how to do the Viennese Waltz. Hermione and Fleur were the last of the original Champion couples to leave the dance floor after finishing a ballroom tango four or so songs later. Both were rather red-faced and warm at that point.

"That was quite the workout! Shall I get us some drinks?" Fleur asked drawing her lips back from Hermione's neck where they had come to rest after she had leaned Hermione over till her hair had been almost touching the ground as they had finished their tango. Fleur looked delighted to have gotten to tango with Hermione having been so upset that time Professor Hallow had made Pansy preform the dance with the witch while under the Imperious curse.

"Yes, good idea, I'm parched," Hermione laughed rather breathless and feeling a tad dizzy after all that vigorous dancing. Her heart was going mad in her chest as Fleur gracefully bowed and kissed Hermione's hand a cheeky glint in her eye before she let go and headed off for drinks. Hermione fanned herself with her hand and went to sit with Harry and Ingrid who were currently watching Ron struggle to remain on his feet as his date forced him to keep dancing. Hermione made her way across the dance floor and passed the many still dancing couples.

"Go on Ron keep those hips moving," Harry called laughing as Ron passed looking ready to faint and he seemed to be too engrossed in his dancing to be able to fire back a sarcastic line at Harry.

Daphne and Ginny passed by next and Ginny gave Hermione a small wave before Daphne pulled her away again. Daphne was getting a tad too enthusiastic and the couple nearly crashed into Neville and Parvati who luckily managed to side step them. Neville was doing a wonderful job and from what Hermione could tell he hadn't trodden on Parvati's foot even once.

"Go on Neville my son," Seamus called as he and Lavender moved to join them on the dance floor. Hermione was so glad everyone was enjoying themselves, save for Malfoy Crabbe and Goyle who were sitting in a dark corner taking swigs from something Hermione was sure wasn't permitted into the school. Hermione drew her eyes away from the Slytherins and located Fleur again as she sat down.

"Great night so far isn't it," Hermione sighed dreamily eyes still trained on Fleur who was in line at the punch bowl sneaking glances back over her shoulder at Hermione.

"You two are adorable...I think I might cry," Ingrid said putting on a mock sniffly voice as she observed Hermione and Fleur's behavior.

"Oh do be quiet," Hermione said trying to sound haughty and irritated but she was in too good of mood and her delight at how the evening was going shone through her voice.

"So...when do these weird sisters show? I was curious about them, what kind of music do they play?" Harry asked, he was looking at Hermione for an answer but Ingrid jumped in.

"Heavy blue grass Goblin jazz-funk, infused with electro glam punk and Hag pop-metal," Ingrid said at great speed not missing a beat as Harry and Hermione just stared at her open-mouthed.

"What on earth does that sound like?" Hermione asked just as Fleur came back with two cups of punch handing one to Hermione before sitting down next to her.

"Looks like your about to find out Granger! C'mon Potter lets mosh!" Ingrid cried grabbing Harry and dragging him to the dance floor as Flitwick and his Orchestra where rather ungraciously booted off the stage as a set of drums, a huge organ, two sets of bagpipes, three bizarre-looking Guitars and a saxophone appeared on stage and a group of the most strangely dressed witches and wizards Hermione had ever seen appeared on stage.

"We are the Weird Sisters!...and we play Heavy Blue grass Goblin Jazz-funk infused with electro glam punk and Hag pop-metal!....hears a tune called Diary of a werewolf!" The frontman of the weird sisters roared as the crowd went wild and struck up a fast-paced heavy rock song. Hermione and Fleur drank their punch quickly eager to join the madness that had broken out on the dance floor. Neither one seeming to care how tired they were any longer.

Hermione wasn't one for insanely fast heavy loud music but she sort of got caught up in the moment with Fleur both of them headbanging and thrashing around like mad just like everyone else. Hermione almost burst into tears laughing as she saw Dumbledore being invited onto the stage where he began to play the air guitar and mimicked the movements of the lead guitarist. He even hopped across the stage on one leg in a similar fashion to ACDC'S Angus Young and his famous duck walk.

"He's very fit for a wizard of a hundred or so years old!" Fleur shouted in Hermione's ear as the pair laughed and cheered harder than ever.

"Put me down this is an outrage!" Hermione heard Snape shouting as he was hoisted into the air by a few Durmstrangs and forced to crowd surf along with Professor Flitwick, the Charms Professor in contrast to Snape seemed to be loving life as he was passed over the heads of the students.

"In the pale moonlight, after midnight!
Behold an eerie sight!
A man who becomes a beast!
and you're his next feast!"

The lead singer roared out the lyrics and everyone lost their minds as a saxophone solo, a guitar solo and a bagpipe solo all began to play at once. It should have in no way melded together and yet it did. Hermione and Fleur, as well as a few other students, had to move out of the way of Fred and George as they along with their partners Angelina Johnson and Alicia Spinnet were dancing so erratically now that people were in great danger of taking a random smack to the mouth with how wildly they were moving their limbs. Hermione was also highly amused by Professor Hallow and Madam Rosmerta who were both throwing the devil horns and thrashing their hair around wildly, the weird sister's music just seemed to make people lose all their inhibitions.

Hermione soon spotted Luna and Pansy who were not moshing like everyone else and were instead, doing some strange kind of interpretive dance that Hermione was sure had been Luna's idea. It involved a lot of slow arm movement and swaying side to side, they appeared to be hearing different music to everyone else and Hermione began to wonder if the band had some kind of magic to their instruments and maybe they some how sounded different to each person who heard the music. It would go some way to explaining the wildly different reactions to the songs, though it could always be Luna just being Luna.

In any case, Luna and Pansy both seemed to be enjoying themselves and no one was really paying attention to what anyone else was doing so Hermione guessed that's why Pansy had agreed to join Luna with her strange dance. Hermione was also pleased to note Gabrielle was having a whale of a time having been lifted up onto her mother's shoulders too see the stage and admire the band. Gabrielle cheered and clapped enthusiastically.

However when a song with rather suggestive lyrics about a lonely witch and her one night stand with a vampire's 'wand', Apolline decided it was time for Gabrielle to join the younger students in the astronomy tower. Their party was being watched over by Madam Hooch and would no doubt be more suitable for Gabrielle than the Yule Ball had become. Hermione noted Dumbledore speaking to Snape then who he had freed from the crowd. Hermione saw they were both watching Professor Hallow and Rosmerta as they moved from the Dance floor and headed outside to the rose garden, soon after Snape followed in their wake. A little while after that Karkroff ducked out of the hall after Snape. Hermione bit her lip, something was happening out there and she wanted to know what.

After a few more songs, one about a hag who married a troll, another about a witch who escaped being burnt at the stake and even a tune that appeared to be about setting fire to Merlin's beard Hermione and Fleur were completely wiped out and decided to finally take their walk around the garden. Hermione was very agreeable and she hoped it would be a good chance to see what all the Professors were doing having snuck off out here.

Though it could have been all been innocent enough and perhaps they were only taking a breather like Hermione and Fleur but the Gryffindor witch found herself thinking there was more to the disappearances. Thus Hermione just had to feed her curious mind. As Hermione and Fleur moved to the back of the great hall they noted the music seemed to totally fade. Hermione assumed it must be some kind of enchantment Dumbledore had put in place to contain the music as to not disrupt the surrounding countryside. As the Weird Sisters were abnormally loud and the music would have no doubt traveled out the open doors and all around the Valley had it not be contained by magic.

"No Albus...you can not have her...you have one daughter of mine in the tournament isn't that enough for you? Find someone else for the creatures prize, they are dangerous and you are not all-knowing nor all-seeing you can't assure she will be unharmed," A thick French accent said from just outside the great hall.

"Mother?" Fleur asked in a low voice before grabbing Hermione and pulling her into the shadows as Dumbledore and Apolline reentered the hall.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that but other arrangments can be made for the task and I respect your wishes," Dumbledore said as he followed Fleur's mother back into the hall.

"What was all this about...it sounded like they wished to have Gabrielle involved in the next task? How would she fit in?" Fleur asked looking to Hermione who was frowning deeply.

"I don't like the sound of 'find someone else to be the creature's prize'," Hermione repeated looking dismayed.

"Do not fret 'ermione...I will find out the clue in the egg soon and then this will all make sense, let's not let this ruin our evening come on let's get some air," Fleur said shaking her head to rid herself of what they'd overheard and took Hermione's arm again. Hermione and Fleur found it a little chilly outside dressed as they were and some light snow was still falling so Hermione drew her wand and cast a heating charm on both of their dresses.

"What an interesting place to store a wand 'ermione...alas I don't have the proper sized assets to be able to do the same," Fleur sighed a mock pout on her face and Hermione went a little pink as she stored her wand back down her dress.

"You have..p-perfectly sized assets...their just so lovely," Hermione said her voice trembling a little as she glanced down at Fleurs cleavage awkwardly before Fleur snorted with laughter.

"Oh...tell me more...how lovely are they exactly?" Fleur cooed placing her hands on Hermione's waist suddenly and pulling her by her hips into a rose bush and the pair shared a heavy snog. Fleur's lips had been a little chilly and Hermione had gasped as she first parted her own to accept the witches demanding tongue into her mouth which soon warmed them both up even further. Fleur had grabbed Hermione by the back of her head with one hand tangling her fingers in her hair as her other dropped to what was becoming its favored resting place, Hermione arse. The Gryffindor meanwhile was content to keep a firm grip of Fleur hips holding her tight to her as they kissed.

"Um...lets go another way," Hermione heard Harry say and she looked around from Fleur to see the boy and Ingrid hurrying away from Hermione and Fleur's bush clearly not wanting to disturb them. Hermione felt her cheeks burning and turned back to Fleur who was smirking.

"You don't think we took their bush, did we? Maybe they picked it out earlier in the evening?" Fleur said sarcastically and Hermione snorted.

"Well... too bad, this is our bush now," Hermione said trying to fix a seductive look on her face as she leaned back towards Fleur going for her neck this time.

"Speaking of bush...would you care to join me back in my carriage after our walk 'ermione...as there is another 'bush' I'd rather like to get acquainted with," Fleur said in a breathy tone eyes swimming with glee at that suggestive remark as Hermione went to work on her neck. Hermione pulled back eyes wide as she heard that line however and she swallowed looking a tad nervous.

"Um...well...actually I was hoping...you'd maybe join me in Gryffindor tower...Parvati and Lavender won't be back till late...we'll have the place to ourselves...I mean you wouldn't want Gabrielle walking in while we're...well you know," Hermione said rambling a little as Fleur got a gleeful look in her eye.

"I'd love to join you in Gryffindor tower, 'ermione that sounds divine," Fleur said giving Hermione a more tender kiss on the lips after.

"Well, lets...wait do you hear that? quick hide!" Hermione cried grabbing Fleur and pushing her deeper into the bush and forcing herself into its branches along with her as the cold sneering voice of Snape drifted toward them as he walked along the path brandishing his wand speaking to Karkaroff.

"You there Lovegood! Parkinson! Out of that bush this instant!" Snape snarled blasting the bush with a jinx and Luna and Pansy quickly ducked out of it and ran back to the castle giggling.

"Um sorry, Professor...Luna was helping me look for an earring," Pansy cried laughing as she and Luna ran off.

"I very much doubt she'd find it up your dress Miss Parkinson! Have some damn decency!" Snape shouted after them moving along blasting other bushes and driving more couples from them as Karkaroff tried to bend his ear about something.

"Listen to me Severus, the mark is burning it's getting darker we have to..." Karkaroff was cut off as Snape rounded on him and Hermione thought for a second he had glanced sight of her pink dress but his eyes moved away elsewhere his face one of unbridled anger.

"Quiet you fool! Anyone could be out here! Snape spat in a low voice through gritted teeth.

"What's the matter Sevy...got something to hide?" Professor Hallows's voice sounded as she stepped out of the darkness a cup of punch in her right hand, a gleeful smirk on her lips.

"Merlin not you again! Won't you give me a moment's peace woman!" Karkaroff cried while Snape looked to be thinking over his options on how to reply more carefully.

"What brings you out here Professor...a little chilly for a walk is it not...and I don't see Rosmerta around...not sneaking off on her perhaps?" Snape asked calmly a small grin playing at the corners of his mouth. Snape spun around again out of nowhere and blasted another shaking bush from which Daphne and Ginny sprang out ducking behind Professor Hallow for safety or so it seemed.

"Greengrass fix your dress this instant! Weasley Ten points from Gryffindor! Now back into the castle before I make it twenty!" Snape said coldly through gritted teeth seeming furious that yet another Slytherin had been caught up to no good in the Rose garden. Daphne and Ginny righted themselves looking murderous at this unfair onesided punishment however Professor Hallow grabbed Daphne by the arm and she and Ginny stopped before the headed back inside.

"One moment Miss Greengrass I'd like to thank you for loaning me that book 'Maulders Origin of magic', very interesting stuff, eye-opening in fact. all that stuff about witches being the dominate form of magical being, how we're all meant to be partnering with each other and that wizards shouldn't have come to be at all....ten points to Slytherin," Professor Hallow said smiling at both witches who looked fiendishly amused at this turn of events as Snape looked like his head might explode as Daphne and Ginny ran back into the castle.

"Think that was funny do you Professor...i'll ask you again what are you doing out here!" Snape said eyes dancing with anger now.

"Just enjoying the night air Sevy...what are you two doing? Other than stamping out some Yule Ball babies from being born by assaulting all these poor courting couples, you miserable creepy old gits!" Professor Hallow spat looking slightly more deranged than Hermione had ever seen her act before.

"Oh spare me the lecture, I'm doing my job no sexual activity is permitted on these premises..." Snape was cut off as Professor Hallow cackled.

"Like anyone ever actually enforces that rule Snape-y, you sad little man," Professor Hallow said laughing again.

"What is that laugh...I swear I've heard it somewhere..." Karkaroff said suddenly looking rather pale as Professor Hallow stopped her laughter right away. Her face dropping in an instant.

"Well...I laugh a lot don't I...of course you've heard it before you fool...now then you two can get back to whatever sad little date you're on I'm going to go dance," Professor Hallow said downing the rest of her punch and tossing the empty cup at Karkaroffs head before skipping off down the path. Hermione thought she was acting rather very odd now that there were no students watching her and it seemed Karkaroff too had noticed her strange change in mood.

"Is...she drunk?" Karkaroff asked and Snape just shook his head.

"I neither know nor care...now silence! not another word about the mark...flee if you wish but I shall stay here at my post, good evening Igor," Snape said in a bored casual tone, his temper seemed to have cooled. Karkaroff stood stroking his goatee in thought looking rather worried.

Hermione watched him pick a familiar green looking beetle off his cheek and toss it away into the air. Hermione was certain it was the same one she'd seen at dinner. How odd, Hermione thought, furrowing her brow, watching the beetle as it flew off and landed on a bench a little way down the path next to two very large figures that Hermione assumed had to be Hagrid and Madam Maxime. Hermione was pulled out of her thoughts about the beetle as she suddenly felt a hand grasp her breast as Fleur having gotten bored of hiding had deemed it times to heat things up again.

"What are you doing! Stop that Snape could still be wandering around," Hermione whispered trying not to giggle as Fleur's hands got very busy.

"Oh let that old fool chase us away...its time you took me to bed 'ermione Granger," Fleur said leaning into Hermione's ear her hot breath tickling the witch's earlobe before she gave Hermione a little nip with her teeth. Hermione felt a jolt of pleasure course through her and familiar heat began growing between her legs. Screw Snape and Hallow and the tasks, that bloody beetle and all these other strange goings-on! Hermione thought taking a deep breath as she grasped Fleur's hand tightly. 'I need to get this witch upstairs right now!' Hermione thought eyes burning with determination. Then they were off running and laughing as they sped back into the castle and upstairs as quick as they could manage.

******
As hoped the Fat Lady and Violet were three sheets to the wind by the time Hermione was giving them the password and sneaking Fleur into Gryffindor tower proved to be a breeze.

"Miss Granger and Miss....oh my word! why are there four of you?....never mind on you go!" The Fat Lady called swinging open as herself and Violet cackled and downed another glass of wine each. Fleur wanted to spend some time looking around the Common room however as it transpired there was a randy couple getting busy on the sofa Hermione and Fleur instead tip-toed past them and upstairs to the girls' dorm.

"It must be fun to share a room, all witches together? At Beauxbatons we have a single room each, it can be lonely at times," Fleur said looking around the dorm that was only lit by moonlight at present.

"Sometimes I'd rather be alone...Parvati and Lavender can be a bit much on occasion...but they've been very kind recently, I mean if they hadn't ducked out for the evening we wouldn't have the place to ourselves," Hermione said feeling rather thankful for her dorm mates in that moment though they had sometimes been a little hard to live with.

"It's very cozy in here, warm and comfortable rather unlike Beauxbatons everything there has the feeling of extravagance but....its kind of cold in comparison to how Hogwarts feels," Fleur said as Hermione raised a doubting eyebrow.

"You're not just being kind for my sake are you? I'm a big girl Fleur, you can tell me if you aren't impressed," Hermione said giving the witch a playful push and Fleur shook her head.

"I mean it! I really like it...I admit a few months back before I'd met you 'ermione, I would've probably turned my nose up at the place...but you've done something to me...I'm more open to how other people live and can see that all things are not required to be like they are at Beauxbatons. You...make me better 'ermione," Fleur said softly taking a step closer to Hermione giving her a peck on the cheek. Hermione felt her heart flutter and got a little misty-eyed.

"You make me so happy Fleur Delacour," Hermione replied simply sliding her arms around the witch and pulling her into a gentle hug.

"Guess which beds mine?" Hermione asked as herself and Fleur stepped apart and Hermione tried to lighten the mood once again. Fleur got a very smug look on her face and marched straight over to Hermione's bed getting it correct on the first try.

"Oh...how did you know?" Hermione asked chuckling as she moved to join the witch and they both sat down on Hermione's bed.

"Well, whom else is going to have so many stacks of books next to their bed other than you 'ermione?" Fleur mused with a chuckle picking a book from the pile and flipping through it out of curiosity before placing it back. Next Fleur rather rudely opened the drawer of Hermione's bedside table and let out an excited little gasp before laughing as she withdrew Parvati and Lavender's risqué gift to her.

"Spellbinding Sapphic Seduction..." Fleur managed to read before Hermione tried to grab the book away from her.

"No don't look!" Hermione cried but Fleur being a fair bit stronger than Hermione managed to grab the book away and ran to the other side of the bed laughing as she opened the book and began to smile wickedly as she read through a little of it.

"Know when to have a tender touch, some witches take a while to warm up in the bedroom, you may wish to dive straight into things but instead try something unexpected such as kissing her belly button...." Fleur began to laugh then almost dropping the book. A scarlet Hermione was groaning in embarrassment having thrown herself down on her bed and began kicking her legs like a child throwing a tantrum such was her distress.

"My...'ermione Granger...where did you get such a book...wow...some of these illustrations...very interesting...I'd rather like to try this one?" Fleur said looking excited as her eyes scanned the page. Hermione unable to take any more of this jumped up again this time she had her wand drawn and managed to Accio the book away before locking it in her drawer and sealing it away with a spell. Hermione made a mental note to get Parvati and Lavender something equally as embarrassing next Christmas. Perhaps a set of Fred and Georges fake wands, one charmed to transform into a certain part of the male anatomy when they picked them up might do, Hermione thought an evil grin crossing her face.

"There's nothing wrong with owning such a book you know, 'ermione," Fleur laughed getting onto the bed with Hermione sitting on her knees rather awkwardly due to her dress restraining her.

"It's not even mine...well it is...but it was a gift...Parvati and Lavender...oh I could strangle them," Hermione groaned shaking her head as Fleur giggled.

"If it'll make you feel any better I have several...um how should I put this...' intimate tomes' at home sealed away in my closet for...lonely evenings," Fleur said and Hermione looked up smiling at the wicked grin on Fleurs lips. 'Now's the time Granger, make a move!' Hermione thought, feeling her palms go all clammy and her heart start to race once more.

"S-should we maybe... put some of the things in those books into practice...for um 'research' purposes of course," Hermione said shifting closer to Fleur and snaking a hand around to her back trying to unzip the witch. Hermione fumbled for awhile with shaking hands until Fleur took pity on her and reached back to still her hand bringing it back around to her front and squeezing it gently.

"'ermione...if you are not ready, it's okay we don't have to do anything further than what we already have been doing...we have a long time to ease into things," Fleur said sweetly bringing Hermione's hand up to her lips and giving it a tender kiss.

"I...but that's not how this is meant to go...in all the muggle films and books after the main couple goes to the big school dance they sneak off together and...and...go to bed," Hermione said shifting about a little awkwardly blushing again wanting to slap herself for even having said something so juvenile. Fleur appeared to find it rather cute however and beamed at Hermione before replying.

"Oh...well I suppose if it's in all the films and romance novels...we'll just have to go through with it...let me help you with that dress," Fleur said sarcastically before reaching to undress Hermione who scrambled backwards Fleur falling on top of her with the pair of them both laughing before sharing a tender kiss which soon descended into a tickle fight. After the pair grew tired and were totally laughed and tickled out of energy with Fleur resting her head on Hermione's chest the Gryffindor spoke again.

"Even if we don't do anything...could you still spend the night...here in my bed," Hermione asked quietly biting her lip and Fleur looked up at her a soft smile on her lips.

"Of course 'ermione...shall we get undressed then...do you wish us to wear anything...or would nothing at all be out of the question?" Fleur asked an excited gleam in her eye.

"Nothing is great!...er I mean... if that's how you'd be most comfortable or whatever..." Hermione rambled trying to hide her delight as Fleur got up and soon stripped out of her dress. The Gryffindor was spellbound by her confidence and Hermione had forgotten she too was meant to be undressing and instead sat frozen on the bed as Fleur got down to nothing but her silvery satin bra and knickers. The moonlight spilling in through the window bathing Fleur in its pale light seemed to make the witch glimmer. Fleur went rather slowly seeming to enjoy having an audience even stopping to check herself out Parvati's full body length mirror. Hermione watched the witch caress herself and slip her finger into the hem of her knickers adjusting them and turning around. Is she teasing me? Hermione thought biting her lip trying to stop her right leg from involuntarily bouncing as she tried to sit still. Fleur turned around again fixing Hermione with her wickedest look yet and unclasped her bra.

Hermione let out a small gasp as she let her bra drop and her beautiful small perky breasts were soon bathed in the pale moon light as well. For the first time, Fleur looked somewhat shy but upon seeing Hermione's cute reaction the witch relaxed again and had some more fun. Fleur yawned then and stretched her arms high into the air which accentuated the witchs curves as she pushed out her chest a little. Hermione let out an audible whimper and Fleur giggled. Next the enchanting witch drew her hands back to the hem of her underwear and hooked her thumbs into them seeming to be looking to Hermione asking her if she wanted to take them off. Hermione of course nodded vigorously and the French witch's eyes alive with mischief seemed to sparkle at the Gryffindors eagerness to see her fully uncovered.

Fleur dropped her knickers then in a swift confident motion and gracefully stepped out of them her eyes transfixed on Hermione who was staring in awe open-mouthed. Hermione didn't know where to look just then and some landed on Fleurs feet. Hermione grinned as she looked down at her bare toes which Fleur began to wiggle. Hermione chuckled and slowly drew her gaze up the witches endlessly long legs, her soft and tender looking thighs before next briefly glancing at the silvery blonde curls between her legs. hermione swallowed her mouth seeming to go dry it was tricky to see much with such dim light but Fleur rather boldly moved her legs apart to give Hermione a more full view of her visibly slick sex which seemed to shine in the pale glow of the moon much like the rest of Fleur.

Hermione for a mad moment wanted to rush to the witch and fall to her knees before Fleur and have her grab the back of her head and roughly pull her mouth towards her and roughly seek her pleasure from Hermione. It was an exciting vulgar and thrilling image but Hermione shook herself out of it before she allowed herself to be caught up in her fantasy. Hermione then let her eyes travel up Fleurs toned and well-defined abdomen, Fleur absolute kept herself in shape and had clearly worked hard to be ready for the tournament. Fleur placed a thumb to her belly button then as Hermione's eyes stopped there and the french with slowly circled the area and seductive look on her face and Hermione snorted as it was clear the witch was thinking back to that passage from spellbinding sapphic seduction. Hermione moved her eyes over her breasts once again before moving up her neck and stopping at her eyes which were alive with glee and a tiny bit of apprehension now.

"You are unusually quiet 'ermione Granger...is something, not to your liking?" Fleur asked sarcastically placing her hands on her hips in a haughty manner and tossing her hair back in a rather breathtaking fashion and Hermione was suddenly jolted back into reality and swallowed hard again as she tried to keep her eyes locked on Fleur's.

"No everythings...it's...you're just the loveliest witch I've ever seen...I didn't mean to stare," Hermione rambled biting her lip her cheeks burning once again. Fleur giggled and took a few steps closer to Hermione and the Gryffindor felt rather faint as she watched her breasts bounce with each step and the way her hips swayed was utterly hypnotic.

"I'm thinking you're still a tad overdressed... 'ermione," Fleur said moving to sit on the bed as Hermione nodded and moved over to where Fleur had undressed her hands still shaking as she stripped down to her underwear as Fleur had done. She wasn't as graceful as Fleur had been but there was cuteness to the clumsy innocent way Hermione shed her clothes. The Gryffindor was very aware of Fleur's hungry eyes and had to admit she found the excited looks she was receiving and the little gasps Fleur was letting fall form her mouth to be entirely exhilarating.

Hermione finally managed to undo her pink bra and let it fall fighting the urge to cover herself with her arm as Fleur's eyes widened and the french witch had a dreamy expression on her face seeming a little out of it for a moment. Hermione felt her cheeks glowing red again but let a small grin spread across her face at the reaction. Hermione for some reason focused on Fleurs toes then and couldn't help but chuckle as they curled in excitement as Fleur drank in the sight of Hermione's semi-naked form. Hermione swallowed hard and hooked her thumbs into her pink knickers and taking a deep breath in one swift motion pulled them down and stepped out of them.

Hermione again had to fight the urge to cover herself and kept her hands down by her sides trying to gauge Fleur's reaction as she looked between her legs at the sizable bush of curly brown hair to be found there. Hermione had received some teasing from Lavender and Parvati about not trimming anything down there but Hermione felt if she wasn't meant to have hair there then it wouldn't grow. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief as Fleur smiled finally drawing her eyes away from that region, she didn't seem to have any problem with how Hermione looked. In fact, Hermione saw the witch close her legs tightly together and shift around a little uncomfortably Hermione got the distinct sense that she was arousing the french witch and felt that familiar heat begin to grow between her own legs.

"So, how do I look," Hermione asked taking a step forward placing her hand son her hips trying to go for the same sexy pose Fleur had and Fleur grinned up at her eyes filled with affection.

"Breathtaking...I'm...You're...I'm sorry, I'm I little lost for words," Fleur said rambling in a rare display of bashfulness. Hermione felt herself melt under the witches suddenly shy gaze and she just wanted to embrace her again however it seemed Fleur had a little request first.

"'ermione? I was wondering, might I see that delightful backside of yours...for just a moment?" Fleur asked giving the witch a cheeky wink a dash of her confidence returning. Hermione got a semi shocked look on her face but it twisted into a smile and she slowly turned around a great wave of arousal washing over her as she heard Fleur mutter something in french under her breath. Hermione had no idea what possessed her to do what she did next but the witch reached a hand out behind herself and bending forward slightly Hermione gave her self a rather harsh spank. It stang wonderfully and Hermione had never felt so desired and sexy as she heard Fleur's reaction. Hermione felt her knees almost buckle as she heard a groan of pleasure be drawn from the french witches' lips.

It was now Hermione's turn to bring her thighs close together to try and stave off her arousal. Hermione looked over her shoulder fixing Fleur with what she hoped was a seductive look. The Gryffindors eyes widened as she saw Fleur had dropped a hand between her legs as she gazed at Hermione, visibly stimulating herself. It seemed Hermione had gone a little too far with her cheeky display.

"I...I'm sorry Hermione...I just lost myself for a moment," Fleur gasped drawing her slick hand away from her needy sex looking a tad embarrassed. Hermione looked away from her biting her lip. Her own hand sliding down her belly lower and lower through her dark brown curls to her own aching quim and she too felt the warmth and wetness that Fleur had been indulging in. This was getting silly they both needed to get off and this pent up arousal after months of teasing had both of them ready to explode but Hermione just wasn't sure she was ready to fully allow herself to be given over to someone in that way. Still, there had to be some way to solve this issue and have a romantic ending to the evening.

Hermione then, as she so often did had a bright idea, if she wasn't ready to let Fleur touch her like this yet but they were both okay touching themselves in the presence of each other, could it maybe be alright to perform this intimate act while watching each other. It was still going to be a tense and pleasurable experience and rather intimate in its own right surely? Hermione thought as she turned back to Fleur who looked worried she'd done something wrong but Hermione smiled at her and the witch seemed to relax again.

"I think I should get to see your bum too Miss Delacour its only fair after all," Hermione said trying to get a sultry tone to her voice as Fleur chuckled and rolled over on Hermione's bed before giving her heartshaped perfectly formed rear an enticing wiggle and Hermione almost charged toward her bed such was the maddening heat between her legs that need relief.

Hermione restrained herself and instead slowly moved back to her bed and herself and Fleur slipped under the covers facing each other. Fleur and Hermione slide an arm each around the witch opposite them and they shifted close together until their bellies and breasts were pressed against each other. Hermione had never felt such an intense connection to another person as she did to Fleur at that moment.

Hermione and Fleur both let out little moans and sighs of pleasure as they got comfortable, shifting around against each other. They met each other's eyes both swimming with affection and hunger. They seemed to be reading each other's thoughts at that moment and both witches leaning forward so their foreheads were pressed together slowly slid their free hands back between their legs.

Fleur was the first one to reach her peak her eyes fluttering shut as she let Hermione's name fall from her lips over and over like a little prayer as Hermione continued to slip two fingers into her damp wet heat her thumb circling her clit. Hermione kissed Fleur as she found her climax building and the french witch brought her now free hand down to Hermione's bum and squeezed her harshly.

"Are you my witch?" Fleur asked in a breathy voice in between their kisses.

"I-I'm... your... I'm your witch Fleur!" Hermione cried out as her orgasm hit her and she fell still against Fleur burying her head into the witch's shoulder. Fleur kept squeezing Hermione's backside as the witch kept bucking her hips and crying out Fleur's name in a breathless tone her fingers now moving in and out of herself at a blinding pace as Hermione chased a second climb to her peak which Fleur was determined to help her hit.

"oh ermione, keep going, don't stop, my witch, my 'ermione," Fleur said before going for Hermione's neck and kissing her again her other hand now toying with Hermione's taut nipples rotating her thumb in tiny circles that sent jolts of pleasure all through the Gryffindor and she soaked her fingers with a second wave of arousal as she climaxed again.

The pair lay holding each other, slick with sweat and arousal both panting and semi-overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience. Hermione was shuddering a little Fleur brought a hand to her face and brushed some wet strands of her hair off her face, Hermione elegant knot completely undone by their vigorous activity. Fleur leaned down and brought her lips to Hermione's scalding hot forehead and let it linger for a long time.

"Fleur...I...I.." Hermione tried to say it, those three words that had jumped into her mind the moment Fleur had clambered ontop of her all those months ago in the mud. Fleur's knowing smile made Hermione's eyes well with happy tears as the witch leaned down towards Hermione's ear.

"I know 'ermione...I know," Fleur said simply and Hermione grabbed her and hugged her tighter than she ever had before. There wasn't a need for the words between them because it was written in both their eyes how they felt about each other The exhausted witches cuddled for hours stroking each other softly soon slipping off to sleep warm and completely content in each other's arms.

******

Chapter Text

The snow had ceased at last and it was time to make a move Professor Hallow thought as she slipped from under Rosmerta's arm leaving her alone in her bed. She quickly got dressed in her traveling robes, trying her best to be quiet and not rouse her guest as she rushed to change. There was no telling how long the break in the weather would last but Professor Hallow didn't intend on a slow and steady flight. She hoped that only a few hours of calm would be enough to see her to and back from her destination.

She would disapparate outside the school gates to take a few miles out of her journey and speed things along a little. She'd be taking her broom with her of course so she could fly the rest of the way. It wouldn't be a pleasant flight even with the somewhat calmer conditions because as soon as she neared that forsaken island its own magical defenses which included harsh weather would kick in and she'd have to struggle through that. This would not be a fun evening but what needed to be done had to be done, there was no way around it.

The witch wrapped a dark scarf around herself pausing breifly as Rosmerta let out a little sigh in her sleep. Rosmerta had once again charmed her way into the Defense against the dark arts Professors bed. It hadn't been that tricky for her as the Professor had been keen to blow off some steam after her encounter with those fools Snape and Karkaroff in the rose garden. Morticia had been in a tense ill-tempered mood but soon found herself occupied with the three broomsticks barmaid once again which cleared her head for a time.

Rosmerta hadn't needed much time to persuade Professor Hallow back upstairs for some fun, she had been tipsy and in need of company and distraction at that moment, so off they went. She'd simply made those sad eyes, whispered some sweet things drunkenly in the witch's ear and that was that. They had enjoyed themselves as usual but Professor Hallow had felt annoyed when they'd finished as despite her attempts to cast aside Rosmerta their bond now seemed deeper and more binding than ever. It was a problem that she would need to rectify hastily or it would be a larger issue down the road. They'd already agree to cut things off after the ball but Professor Hallow was certain Rosmerta needed a quick reminder that this was truly the last time they could fool around.

However, there was no time to dwell on it now and Professor Hallow had other more pressing concerns to attend to. It was time for the witch to take some drastic action in regards to a very personal matter and Rosmerta couldn't know she was missing. There would be questions if she awoke alone at some point in the night and the Professor couldn't have that. So a little drop of a sleeping potion in Rosmerta's wine earlier in the evening had been employed to avoid such a situation arising and would hopefully see the woman not wake until late the next morning when Professor Hallow would return. That was if everything went to plan.

Professor Hallow also made sure to cast some charms on the door to her private quarters to keep out unwanted visitors who would likely cause a fuss about Rosmerta's presence in the castle if they found her in such a fashion. It wouldn't be out of place for Snape or some other busy body to come snooping as he had tried to do on several occasions rummaging through her things and pretending he'd been sent to collect something by Dumbledore before rushing off. Then there was that Granger girl and her bloody mangey cat both seemed keen on hanging around her office, the cat especially had a knack for stalking her that was beginning to get on the professor's nerves.

"You best not come calling tonight kitty or Miss Granger might not see you again for some time," Professor Hallow muttered smirking to herself as she fastened her traveling cloak around herself. Lovely images of the cat Karkaroff and Snape being tied up and shoved into a sack together before she sent them flying into the lake with a quick spell warmed the witch's heart for a moment as she got ready.

That little run-in with Karkaroff and Snape had unsettled her and they were both getting out of line. It was clear they both knew she was up to something and Kakaroffs comment about her laugh had almost seen the witch murder them both right then and there. She'd forgotten what a distinct laugh her better self had, it could ruin everything. Oh, how she had wanted to strike them down. It was not yet time to reveal herself however and there were likely students all around that garden still having it away with each other under the moonlight. Students who while undeterred by Snapes attempts at coitusinterputus would probably jump apart when they heard the killing curse being roared twice in quick succession and run screaming for help. Then the jig would well and truly be up as they say, so the Professor had stilled her wand arm.

'You are Morticha Hallow...yes that's you...you're not 'her' any longer' Professor Hallow had told herself in order to stay in line. It was easier than she had thought, some days she even forgot she wasn't Hallow sometimes it seemed as if she had always been this witch and that it was that other witch she was blocking out who was the imposter. This long spell in another's shoes was doing funny things to her mind, she was being rather kind and caring to people thinking things she ought not to be thinking.

This mission had maybe gone on too long but there were only a few more months left surely she could see it through then shed this disguise and be herself once more. Professor Hallow fought the urge to look in her mirror, to transform herself just for a little while to feel free again. It was a foolish notion and she soon shook it off. Anyone could walk in and find her and that would've been disastrous. No, she had to see this through all the way and to do that Karkaroff and Snape would need dealing with.

What those two idiots needed was something else to occupy their brains and keep them from paying her any attention for a while. Professor Hallow had just the solution and if things went well there was a good chance she'd kill two birds with one stone as it were. She just needed to cause some trouble someplace that wasn't Hogwarts and get everyone looking over there while she went about unnoticed as she had been doing.

There had been troubling rumors in that rag the Daily Prophet recently about a breakthrough with the Crouches interrogations and they were said to be heading to trial soon. She had assumed the father knew very little but young Barty if he had cracked as the papers suggested could divulge a great deal of hair raising tales should his tongue begin to wag and that would be most unhelpful. The boys will was strong but the mind was weak if those Aurous got in his head it would be all too easy for them. Everything they'd tried to work for would be torn asunder.

It simply couldn't be allowed, there had been no word from the dark lord but Professor Hallow simply had to act, she would be thanked in the end no doubt. Smirking to herself again the Professor grabbed her broom and pulled her hood up, blowing a snoring Rosmerta a kiss before exiting her personal quarters. The witch stopped in her office briefly frowning as she spotted her pensive sitting unguarded on her desk, she been having a little trip down memory lane earlier in the day and had neglected to tidy everything away.

There wasn't time to properly file away those memories at the moment she'd have to leave the magical device where it was and hope no one wandered into her office. It was a very taboo thing to do anyway, invade another persons pensive there were very few who would do such a thing even Snape wouldn't be so bold or so she hoped. Shaking her head the witch marched onwards and headed out into her classroom before exiting and making her way downstairs avoiding prefects, stragglers from the ball and most importantly other Professors.

It was very late now so there were very few people in the corridors but Professor Hallow proceeded with caution regardless. Ducking into a few empty classrooms when she heard footsteps or the sound of idle chatter from students. Eventually, she made it to the entrance hall and proceeded through the grounds melting large snowdrifts with her wand as she walked to make her path to the school gates easier to traverse. The clouds had cleared the snowstorm seeming to have truly broken at last and the pale glow of the moon saw Professor Hallow safely to her destination.

Just as she was about to reach the huge iron gates of Hogwarts she heard a hushed voice calling something from the other side of the bars.

"Rita? That you? Hurry up woman, I've been freezing my balls off out here waiting on you!" A man called in a harsh voice stumbling forward out of a bush next to the gate into the pale moonlight and Professor Hallow recognised him as the short stumpy little cameraman who was always trailing after Rita Skeeter like a lost puppy. Professor Hallow quickly ducked behind a tree as the wizard cast lumous and shone his wand up the path towards the school squinting as he tried to spot who he'd thought had been Rita.

"Rufus you twit! put that light out! We'll be caught!" Rita Skeeter cried as she appeared from nowhere at the man's shoulder as if she had just apparated behind the cameraman who nearly jumped out of his skin as he spun around to find her standing right next to him.

"Merlin's sake! Don't do that....what are you doing out here? I thought that was you walking up the path just now?" Rufus exclaimed extingquishing his wand taking deep breaths trying to calm himself.

"You're seeing things poor fool. What would I be doing walking down the path...I had to transform to fly through the bars of the gate remember? You bloody imbecile! What do I pay you for!" Rita snapped in a hushed voice hitting Rufus a slap on the arm.

'Fly through the bars of the gate' well, well...what did that mean exactly? Professor Hallow wondered an evil grin on her face as she listened in keen to hear more of this conversation.

"Well...you don't pay me do you?...this was an unpaid internship wasn't it...and about that, surely my trial run must've ended by now and I can move on to properly paid work?" Rufus asked rubbing his sore arm as Rita put her hands on her hips looking like a strict schoolmistress.

"Money, Money, Money...that's all I ever hear from you! Don't you realise I'm on the verge of tearing this school down right on top of Albus Dumbledore's head? Yet you want to badger me about a promotion! We're onto the biggest story of my life here and I'm not going to have you screw it up Ryan do you hear me!" Rita snapped and Rufus sighed.

"It's Rufus Rita...oh never mind...you dig up anything at the castle? You nail Morticha Hallow yet?" Rufus asked changing the subject and Rita got a very dangerous look in her eye as whipped out her note pad and acid green quill starting to scribble down notes.

"Oh I'll get her shortly...seems to be having secret talks with former Death Eaters....oh there's something big going on there...but first I'm going to write up a saucy piece on how she's been shagging the local barmaid in Hogsmeade, lets see how that tart Rosemerta feels about barring me from her pub come next week," Rita giggled as Professor Hallow balled her hands into fists and fought the urge to hex the witch and her dogsbody into oblivion as she strained to hear what else the witch had dug up that evening.

"Well...that'll certainly shift a few papers but don't see how Hallow shacking up with Rosmerta is going to help take down Dumbledore," Rufus said hugging himself and rubbing his arms haphazardly trying to warm up a little.

"Oh, I've got something else to bury Dumbledore with. Remember that huge care of magical creatures Professor I went to get dirt on Potter from?" Rita said excitedly looking like a toad who'd just spotted a particularly juicy fly to catch.

"Yeah Hagrid, had few pints with him in the Leaky Cauldron you know he told me the funniest story about a deal with a hag and...never mind," Rufus said trailing off as it was clear Rita didn't give a toss about how well Rufus knew Hagrid.

"If you're quite finished...as I was saying this 'Hagrid' turns out he's a half-giant! I mean I had suspicions but I heard the full thing from the horse's mouth up at the castle....oh Dumbledore's going to rue the day he hired that dangerous oaf! I had a little interview with young Mr. Malfoy told me all about how that big hairy lunatic set a hippogriff on him during his third-year lot of good quotes to blacken his and Dumbledore reputations. This is just the start Rupert...I'll get worse stuff on that Hallow and that Snape's got to have a few Skeletons hanging in his potions cupboard," Rita said finsihing up her scribbling and letting out another wicked giggle.

"Hagrid's not a bad sort though, Rita...half Diagon Alley knows he's a good bloke and..." Rufus began but fell silent as Rita furiously snapped shut her handbag as she closes her note pad and quill inside and stepped forward-leaning right into Rufuses face till they were nearly nose to nose.

"Do I need to find a new cameraman Reginald?" Rita inquired in a sickeningly sweet voice with an over-exaggerated smile that made Professor Hallow wish to vomit.

"No Rita..." Rufus said slumping his shoulders in defeat and shaking his head.

"Good, I need someone of your skillset...someone who does as they're told and doesn't get too big for their boots," Rita said cheerily pinching Rufuses cheek like he was some beloved nephew of hers and she stepped back from him.

"What about that french girl and that...what's her face... Hermione Granger? you get anything new on them?" Rufus asked dejectedly seeming to only be half interested in the conversation at this point.

"Ah yes, the star crossed lezzy lovers...they proved to have little worth writing about this evening nothing about Potter that I could twist to keep the heated love triangle stories going...but I'll fix them again soon don't worry...Potter will slip up somehow too...we've done the tragic hero angle now its time for the teardown," Rita sighed longingly as she looked delighted by the prospect of further ruining Harry's reputation.

"I've heard a few things from the students while we were still allowed into the castle about that Hermione Granger...some of them seem to think she's a dangerous witch to make and enemy of...as for that Fleur...well she's got all that Veela blood in her...maybe we shouldn't push thing further with them and...Hallow...she's been acting very strange of late according to the staff if we aren't careful..." Rufus was cut off as Rita smacked the wizard in the face with her handbag.

"Oh, would you dry up Rufus you big scaredy-cat! Do you think I can't handle a couple of school girl tarts and that hag Hallow? You don't know who're you're talking too!" Rita cried rasing her voice a little too loudly. Professor Hallow was ready to snap, 'call me hag again bitch! I'll carve you into so many pieces they'll have to bury you in a shoebox!' Professor Hallow thought gripping her wand tightly.

Luckily for Rita and Rufus, the pair decided they'd hung around long enough and were ready to take their leave. Professor Hallow thought of disabling them both and obliviating Rita so those stories never saw the light of day, however, another less messy means of dealing with the situation jumped into the witch's mind. Much like Snape and Karkaroff, all Rita needed was something terrible to happen elsewhere outside of Hogwarts so that all the other stories she had were like child's play in comparison and not even worth reporting upon.

"Okay, Rufus lets get down this lane a little way and disparate back to the office get things typed up for the next edition of the Prophet!" Rita said and the pair headed away from the lights of the Hogwarts gates and soon two loud cracks were heard and the pair were gone.

'I never wanted to see that hell hole again but I've been given little choice, oh well no point putting it off any longer got to get this done before those stories go to the printing press' Professor Hallow thought before stepping out from behind her tree.

"Oh...I'll give you something to write about alright Rita," Professor Hallow said surpressing a cackle as she deftly cut through the charms on the Hogwarts gates and made her own way down the country lane and disapparated holding her broom close, a clear destination in mind.

********

The next morning on boxing day Fleur was eased awake by Hermione's gentle warm breath as it licked at her neck. The witches had wound up spooning at some point in their sleep. Hermione was pressed into Fleurs back her bosom wetly nuzzled against Fleurs skin, slick and warm from their body heat and sweat. The girl's dorm was evidently a lot warmer than the Beauxbatons carriage and it seemed the house-elves had turned the heating up to the max now that winter was in full swing. Hermione and Fleur also being so closely entwined had turned Hermione's four-poster bed into something akin to a furnace.

Fleur would have normally been desperate for a shower if she'd awoken in such a clammy hot state back home or in her own dorm however she felt so wonderful in this warm little inferno that leaving the bed didn't even begin to enter her mind. She was so happy here, though her mind couldn't quite recall why just yet as she was still half asleep and everything was rather hazy. It was almost like being in a fever dream, though a wonderfully pleasant one. She was aware that there was something behind her however that began to rouse her. Something warm and soft and pillowy that was pressing into her just right. Fleur had never known any such comfort like it ever before.

Fleur also felt something tickle her belly, fingertips lightly moving across her skin as her stomach rose and fell with her breath. It was Hermione's arm that was loosely curled around Fleur, her hand resting against her belly that caused this delightful little sensation. Fleur let out a small chuckle and finally began the battle to open her eyes though part of her never wanted to wake and ruin this blissful mood she was in.

Fleur did however slowly force open her eyes and fought to keep them open against the morning light coming through the thin red curtains of the four-poster bed she found herself in. The light filtered by the curtains bathed the witches with a light red glow somehow adding to the dream-like quality of this moment Fleur thought with a small grin. Fleur stifled a yawn as she tried to shake off her drowsy-ness and get her barings. The French witch was a little slow to recall where she was exactly or who she was with at first. All she knew was she was happy, beyond happy even, it was hard to put into words this feeling. She was in such a dazed, cloudy, altogether blissful state it took a long while for the memories of the night before to come flooding back.

The Yule Ball, the music, the dancing, the food and of course, Hermione, her Hermione, her witch! Fleur suddenly jerked her head to look behind her as her heart began to race with excitement at having realised she was in Hermione's dorm, in her bed. Fleur let out a little pleasured sigh and smiled as the Gryffindor stirred a little in her sleep at Fleur's sudden movement, a small faint ghost of a grin etched on her peaceful face. Surely this was paradise, to be here with Hermione having her holding her close, warm and utterly content. Fleur suppressed a giggle as she noted Hermione's elegant knot had come completely undone by this stage and her hair was back to its usual, wild and unruly self.

It was funny, it looked as if it had reset to the exact position and way Hermione always wore it. Perhaps there was some magic at play, Fleur was thankful whatever the case was as though she adored seeing Hermione in all her splendor last night dressed to the nines. It was this wild-haired, untamed, toothy grin having, bookwork that she adored most not the refined elegant goddess of last night. Though both were lovely in their own way Fleur thought as she gently untangled her legs from Hermione's and freed herself from the arm Hermione had draped around her which had moved to tenderly cup her breast, much to Fleur's amusement.

Now she was free Fleur softly turned on her side to face Hermione, brushing some of that wild hair she loved so well off the girls face so she could just drink in all her beauty in this restful serene state. Fleur hoped it wasn't too odd to watch your lover as they slept, would Hermione find that strange? Perhaps I will shut my eyes tight should she show signs of waking just in case, Fleur thought trying not to laugh again as this idea came to her.

Hermione shifted around again in her sleep her arm seeming to search for Fleur but she was still sound asleep and when Fleur couldn't be located the witch rolled onto her back and rather cheekily pulled the bedsheets away from Fleur uncovering her. Fleur made a small mocking tut of indignation at this treatment she was receiving, all be it accidentally, from her sleeping girlfriend. Fleur chuckled as she thought that word 'girlfriend'. It had always been lingering there under the surface of her subconscious but this was the first time it had made its presence properly known. It filled Fleur with juvenile giddy excitement to able to look at Hermione and have the word ring out loudly in her head at last.

"No Fleur...use your little finger..." Hermione mumbled before letting out a small little satisfied groan and rolling over again in her sleep causing Fleur to hide her face in the pillow to avoid snorting with laughter and waking Hermione. It seemed her little Gryffindor was having a rather interesting dream involving her or so it sounded.

Inspired by Hermione's mutterings Fleur took her little finger and starting at Hermione's neck ever so lightly traced the tip of her smallest digit down the witch's body. Down to her breast stopping briefly to tease a quickly hardening nipple that had Hermione groaning a little louder. Fleur pulled her hand away biting her lip looking over her shoulder at the curtains around the bed tentatively sticking her head out to make sure Hermione's dorm mates hadn't heard anything. Parvati and Lavender seemed to both be still asleep their curtains still drawn, Fleur had heard the pair tiptoe to bed giggling in the early hours as they admired the two piles of clothes next to Hermione's bed by the light of their wands.

"Look, knickers Pav! They've gone all the way," Lavender had whispered excitedly trying not to squeal with delight. Fleur had cringed as she'd listened to the pair discussing her and Hermione's evening or rather how they had assumed their evening had gone.

"Well we don't know that for certain, maybe they just snogged and cuddled...you know Hermione takes a little while to warm up to new things," Parvati said also giggling and thankfully they had ended their conversation at that moment and slipped off to bed themselves. Fleur was grateful Hermione hadn't awoken as she would have definitely been mortified by her dorm mates and their snooping. Still, Fleur was also relieved to hear that Hermione was a little shy and it was a normal thing for her to take a while to warm up to things as part of Fleur had been worried how reserved Hermione had seemed when they had finally gotten each other's clothes off.

The French witch was worried that Hermione hadn't liked how she'd looked or that she'd maybe rushed the poor girl into this situation and had scared her off. They had of course done more than cuddle in the end and still had a very intimate experience with each other it hadn't been what Fleur had envisioned for the evening but their act of mutual self-love had been special. It had been the most romantic and erotic evening of Fleur's life so far and she hoped it was the first step to many more pleasurable evenings with her Hermione.

Fleur hoped that her plan to finally crack the golden egg clue would see herself and Hermione take things even further when the new year came. Fleur looked away from Parvati and Lavender's beds then and peered out the nearest window seeing the snow had stopped at last. It was a good sign. Hopefully by mid-January Fleurs planned trip with Hermione into the forbidden forest to the little hideaway she had discovered the last time she'd had to retrieve one of Hagrids damned Skwerts would be manageable. Oh, she couldn't wait to see Hermione's little face when Fleur showed her the magnificent place she had found.

Fleur was about to lay back down next to Hermione when she caught sight of the pile of books that sat around Hermione's bed again and couldn't help getting curious once more and deftly drew one from a nearby tower careful to make sure it didn't collapse and wake the dorm up.

'The life and lust of Morrighan Hallow pirate witch queen!' Fleur read smirking, Hermione sure did own some interesting reading material. Fleur flipped through a few pages at the center of the book and found her cheeks growing warm as she read about this salacious pirate witch queen who so often took a shine to female captives and had them, warm her bed from time to time.

'You