Unofficial Portkey Archive

Always and Forever by Lorelover

Always and Forever


Always and Forever


Disclaimer: Harry Potter, and all the characters associated there with belong to JK Rowling, and Scholastic. Also, any similarities to any other work is unintentional. I make no profit from this story. I wrote it, just for fun.

AN: Thank you for your patience, I know it took a while to get this posted. Also, thanks for all the kind reviews.



Chapter 17

The Real Fleur


Harry was grateful to be able to join his friends for breakfast the following morning. Madam Pomfrey had wanted him to spend the night, which would have meant breakfast in bed, a hospital bed. Harry had managed to talk his way out of it, with a promise to stop by around noon for a final checkup. Ron hadn't been so lucky; Harry was sure it would only add to his foul mood, and so really wasn't looking forward to seeing him right away.

As Ginny sat down across from him and Hermione, he asked, "Seen Ron yet this morning?" Ginny just nodded yes, as she started filling her plate. "How's he doing?"

Ginny stopped buttering her toast and stared at Harry with one eyebrow raised, "Really Harry, you know him about as well as me... how do you think he's doing?"

Harry leaned back and nodded slightly, conceding the point. Then with half a smile, said, "Mad, I suppose."

Using her fork to point, first at Harry then Hermione, Ginny answered, "Right in one Harry, at the both of you."

"Me! What I do?" Hermione asked, a little indignantly.

Ginny shrugged her shoulders, "How should I know? Because you were there? Because you didn't drown... or maybe it's just because you didn't have to spend the night in the infirmary. It's Ron, so like I said, who knows."

"Well he better not start in on me... none of this was my doing," huffed Hermione.

"Did you get a chance to see any of the other hostages?" Harry asked.

"Yeah, they were all there except for Cho Chang, she got released last night." Ginny looked thoughtful for a moment, as if trying to remember something else. "Oh, Fleur was still there too… didn't look very good either, I doubt she'll get out today."

Hermione nodded, "How was her sister?"

"A lot better than Fleur. None of the others looked that bad really, not even my brother." Ginny answered lightly. Apparently, her sour mood from her visit with her brother was starting to fade. "Hey, when are you guys going to start running and ah… cal-lo-stin-tics again?"

Harry smiled while Hermione laughed a little.


"Just surprised you're sticking with it, is all," Harry offered.

Hermione nodded in agreement, "And it's pronounced; calisthenics."

"Yeah, yeah, calisthen-tics, whatever. So do you think Viktor will be swimming again?"

"Only if he really is crazy," said Harry.

"A girl can hope."

Hermione laughed again, "Hope he's wearing his swimming outfit you mean."

The conversation never went any further, as Dumbledore chose that moment to make an announcement.

"Good morning everyone, if I may have your attention for just a few minutes," he started, "because of the commotion at the end of yesterday's task, final judging was delayed. Therefore, it is only now that I can give you the final results.

"Commotion, is that what he's calling it?" Hermione asked, disdain and anger clearly present in her voice. Dumbledore was obviously referring to Fleur's failed attempt to return to the lake.

After performing a perfect Bubble-Head Charm, and finishing the fourth challenge in the Triwizard Tournament with the fastest time, Mr. Cedric Diggory placed first with thirty-seven points for a total of one hundred and forty-two points, putting him in first place overall."

Cheering erupted at the Hufflepuff table.

"Yes yes, well done Mr. Diggory. Our next champion tied for the second fastest time, Mr. Harry Potter scored twenty-three points for a total of one hundred and thirty-eight, placing him in second place overall.

More cheering, this time from the Gryffindor table, but by now Harry was hardly paying attention; he was slowly becoming lost in thought. `Why are they cheering? Don't they realize someone could have been hurt, that someone could have died? Do they have any idea how scared we all were?' When Dumbledore started talking about the last task, Harry began thinking about how he had felt... and about how he had imagined the others had felt, especially Fleur. However the more he thought about it, the more he focused on Hermione. She could have been hurt! Down there, in that dark abyss that was the bottom of the lake... she could have died. Harry realized now, why he'd been so scared. `No... terrified,' he corrected himself. Harry turned and looked at Hermione, really looked. What would he do, if... he couldn't finish the thought, it was just too unimaginable.

Hermione glanced over and caught Harry staring at her. She started to smile, and an instant later stopped. She knew that look; scared, confused, but mostly it was a look of guilt. Now, safely back and with time to think, it was all catching up to him, `He's blaming himself. He believes it's his fault that I was involved.' She knew he had been worried about her, and of course, she had been afraid for Harry's safety as well, probably as much as he had been for hers', even though he hadn't said anything yet.

"Harry, you did nothing wrong, and besides, they gave me a choice, and I chose to go."

"What? Why, you could have... you..."

"So could have you Harry, but you didn't... and neither did I." Hermione said softly as she pleaded with her eyes, begging him to understand. She needed him to see, that it was as much for her benefit as it was for his. She trusted him, believed in him; and she wanted him to know it, but with more than just words. She wanted to show him, like he had done for her so many times before.

"... and placing third was Viktor Krum. Although his time was identical to Mr. Potter's, in his attempt to rescue his hostage, he inadvertently injured him, resulting in a minor point deduction. Mr. Krum scored twenty points for the fourth challenge giving him a total of one hundred and thirty-five points, and placing him in third place overall. Unfortunately, Miss Fleur Delacour did not finish the task, however, after demonstrating a perfectly performed Bubble-Head Charm, and for sheer determination, she was awarded twenty points. As of this moment, she is in fourth place with a total of one hundred and twenty-six points." Dumbledore finished.

There was a light smattering of applause for both Viktor and Fleur, but Harry didn't notice, he was still looking at Hermione.

She had known the clues, and she had known the risks... yet she chose to be a hostage. She knew what I'd sorely miss the most. He had never told her, but she knew anyway, and trusted him to find her in time.

Harry slowly started to smile as understanding came to him. "Fine... but I'm still mad at Dumbledore for asking you in the first place."

Hermione smiled back, glad he'd come to terms with it. "Join the club Harry, I've been mad at him from the beginning, for involving you."

Before Dumbledore sat back down, he had one more thing to say, "And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to thank all the students who participated in the task by being a hostage for one of the champions. If the eight of you would please stand so we can all show our appreciation."

Harry looked around; Cedric had rescued Cho instead of a seventh-year girl named Maria something, an older friend of his. Fleur had left behind Roger Davis, her date to the Yule Ball and her sister Gabrielle. Although it was plain to see, she would have taken her sister if she'd been able. The odd one was Viktor. He had saved a younger boy named Petar and had left Alicia Spinnet behind. Harry would find out later, That Petar was the younger brother to Viktor's best friend back home. The last thing Harry noticed was that none of the hostages who were left behind, looked nearly as upset as Ron did.


As regular classes started back up the following Monday, things slowly returned to what passed as normal for Hogwarts. After a fun-filled two-hour lesson with Professor Snape down in the dungeon, Harry, Neville, and Hermione were in a hurry to get out of there. Rounding a corner a little too fast on their way to dinner, they ran into Fleur, and nearly knocked her down.

"Oi, I am sorry, I was not looking where I was going... excusez-moi." Fleur said quickly as she took half a step back.

Ron was angry with them again, and so had hung back with Dean and Lavender. Rounding the same corner were Harry and the rest were standing, he saw them talking to Fleur. He paused for a second as if he was going to say something, but then quickly hurried on, obviously angrier than before.

Harry and Hermione shared a quick look before turning their attention back to Fleur.

It had been a few days since the last task. Physically, Fleur was looking much better, but anyone who bothered to look more closely, could tell she was still troubled by recent events.

She still wasn't one of Harry's favorite people; she had yet to apologize for calling him a little boy and treating him like he didn't belong. However that didn't mean he was going to be rude to her, "No problem Fleur, we weren't being very carefully ourselves."

Fleur gave a curt nod and said thank you, and started to move on.

"Fleur wait!" Hermione called after her. In that brief encounter, she had seen something familiar in the older girl's eyes; loneliness, and a burden that threatened to crush her. Hermione walked back a few steps and gently took one of the Fleur hands. "Are you all right?" She asked with genuine concern.

At first, Fleur was taken aback, why was this girl even talking to her, yet alone being nice? She knew of Hermione, but mainly, she knew Hermione was Harry's best friend and now girlfriend; a boy she'd made fun of not that long ago. As much as she wanted to pull her hand free, and turn up her nose and say, `of course I am you silly girl'... she couldn't. She glanced at the two boys who were watching them with curious interest, then turned back to the girl still holding her hand. "No, I am not, but what is one to do?" She finally answered softly.

Hermione bit her bottom lip, trying to think of something encouraging to say, without it sounding cliché.

"Miss Granger is it not?" Fleur asked.

Hermione nodded yes.

"Zank you, for your concern, Miss Granger."

"Hermione, please call me Hermione."

This time, Fleur nodded, "Vairy well... Eermione." Fleur started to leave again, when a thought occurred to her. Turning, she looked at Harry for a long moment. Then seemingly, as if he had passed some unspoken appraisal, she walked forward and stood in front of him.

"Meester Potter, I owe you an apology for my rude and disgraceful treatment of you earlier. Please forgive me," she said before bowing her head.

Now it was Harry's turn to look shocked. He took a quick peek at Hermione to see if she was as surprised, as he was. "Miss Delacour I...ah." Harry paused to gather his wits, "look, considering the circumstances back then, I don't think an apology is necessary, but thank you anyway."

"Au contraire Mr. Potter, bad behavior ees bad behavior, regardless of ze situation," Fleur stated with force, "and don't forget, since zen, you ave proven me wrong more zan once."

Harry glanced again at a smiling Hermione. "Very well, I accept your apology on one condition."

Fleur stood up straighter as a brow ticked upward with a little suspicion, "And zat would be?"

Harry stuck out his hand to shake, and said, "That you call me Harry."

After a brief look of surprise, the tension in Fleur's shoulders just seemed to evaporate, and she visibly relaxed. Reaching out, she gave Harry's hand a delicate shake and said, "I'd like zat."

Every since she'd come back from the lake, Fleur had distanced herself from everyone. Hermione had often seen her sitting alone during meals. Once a confident; to the point of arrogant, witch, she had shrunk into a mere fraction of her former self. Hermione felt drawn to her, to help her. She didn't know why. Maybe she saw a little of her old self in her, or `maybe,' she thought, `because none of her so-called friends are willing to try.' "Fleur, why don't you join us for dinner?"

Fleur looked around skeptically, "zat is vairy nice of you to offer, but I am not sure zat is so good an idea."

Hermione looked at Harry, asking for help with her eyes.

Harry understood immediately, and not needing an explanation, jumped in, "Not a good idea? It's a great idea... oh come on Fleur, you're not going to make a fellow champion beg... are you?"

Hermione and Neville both nodded in agreement.

Less than a half-hour later, after Fleur had finally relented, the small group sat down for dinner at their usual spot at the Gryffindor table.

It seemed at least half of the Gryffindors said hi, or had welcomed her to the table; a point that made not only Hermione proud of her house, but Professor McGonagall as well. The only one not happy with the newcomer at the table was Ron. He was still miffed at Harry for choosing Hermione over him, and now seeing Harry getting friendly with Fleur, a veela no less, only seemed to upset him more. He sat at the far end of the table with Lavender and Dean, and ignored anyone who chanced to look his way.

The topic of conversation around the table ranged, from what it was like to be the only female champion, to what it was like attending Beauxbaton Academy. Fleur was slowly loosening up, and for the first time in several weeks, she was actually enjoying herself. That all came to a crashing halt when Hermione accidentally stumbled upon what was really bothering her, Hermione had asked about her family.

Fleur immediately pulled back and tensed. Hermione berated herself for asking something so personal so soon. "I'm sorry Fleur, I didn't mean to pry... it's none of my business," Hermione said, hoping her tone would convey her sincerity.

Like a cornered cat, Fleur quickly glanced around the table as if expecting someone to accuse her of a hideous crime. Tense beyond belief, she was ready to bolt. However, after a moment that seemed to stretch forever, she calmed marginally and managed to look more carefully at those around her. She saw nothing but genuine concern from all of them. They were all younger than her, and her regular friends by at least a couple of years or more, yet in some ways they were more mature. It was slowly becoming obvious to her; that when one of them needed help, or even just a little support, the others rushed in to give it.

For a moment, she didn't quite know what to think of what she would later call her new younger friends. Instinctively, she knew she needed to tell somebody if she was ever going to feel better. Taking a leap of faith, Fleur decided to tell them what was causing her so much grief. She would trust them, and hope that her trust was not misplaced.

"Eemagine my surprise, when I learned I'd ave to swim to ze bottom of ze lake. Mon Dieu! I am part veela, we are creatures of aeer and feere. We fear ze water!" Fleur went on to explain a little more about being veela. How she hated the way the veela part of her affected both men and boys. "Eet makes eet so difficult to find someone who can be zereself around you." Fleur leaned over and whispered to Hermione that she didn't have to worry about Harry; he was unaffected by her charms. Hermione made a mental note to ask why later, and for that matter, why she even mentioned it.

Fleur then told them briefly about her home life and her parents. About how strict they were, and how protective her father was when it came to his two daughters. She told them how Gabrielle, her much younger sister cried herself to sleep after begging to be allowed to accompany her to Hogwarts; her parents had all but refused. They had cited the lack of supervision, and the dangers associated with the tournament. She told them how much she loved her little sister and couldn't stand to see her so upset, and how she had pleaded with her parents on Gabrielle's behalf, but to no avail. Fleur recounted how she had finally convinced them to let her go. Only after promising to watch out for her and to protector her at all cost, did they finally relent.

"And ze first time she is needing me... I fail her." Fleur finished with tears running down her face.

Harry watched as Hermione pulled Fleur into a gentle embrace and whispered something in her ear. Fleur nodded in understanding as she cried into Hermione's shoulder. Soon the pair was wrapped up in two more pairs of arms, as Ginny and Luna joined her in comforting the older witch. Harry was proud of his friends, and after a glance at Neville, Harry knew he was too.

Harry had misjudged the French witch. From his first encounter with her, she had come across as pompous and arrogant, too good to associate with others lesser than herself. He knew now that most of that was just an act, a defense mechanism. She normally only acted that way when she felt threatened. The wizarding world was already overly chauvinistic, and she was a witch competing in what had always been a wizard-dominated tournament. Harry would have to give that some thought, as well as maybe talk about it with Hermione to get her point of view.

Harry definitely had to give her credit. She was the top student at her school, and was a veela; no wonder she acted that way sometimes. The attention, both good and bad tended to get to you after a while. Harry thought he could relate to that all too well. Once you got to know her and she relaxed a little, she was actually quite nice and polite. Also, as far as Harry was concerned; the fact that she cared so deeply for her family, was a huge plus.

Things settled down again, and the conversation turned light. It would seem they had a new friend in their group, and Harry smiled at the thought.

As dinner was coming to a close, and students were getting ready to leave, Harry noticed Dumbledore stand and approached the podium, it appeared the drama for the night wasn't over yet.

"Good evening students," Dumbledore said. Smiling, he nodded to the assembly as the majority of the students responded in kind. "I see that you are almost finished with dessert, so I thought I would leave you with something to think about before you turn it." Having piqued their interest, Dumbledore went on, "The fifth and second to last task, our champions will have to face, is set to start on the twenty-eighth of April, and will finish a few days later when the last champion has returned to Hogwarts.

Hermione turned to Harry and mouthed, `A few days?'

Harry just shrugged shoulders.

"Each champion will be given a Muggle backpack, filled with the things we feel will help them in the upcoming task. They will also be given a portkey that, at a predetermined time will transport them to a designated spot deep inside the Forbidden Forest."

Hermione didn't like the sound of this; Harry and the others would be far away from the safety of Hogwarts... and far away from her.

Dumbledore raised his hands to regain everyone's attention. "There is more, if you care to hear it?" … silence. "There is a rub. When the champions Portkey away, they will leave their wands behind."

This time, the noise level rose rapidly, as students competed to be heard. How will they perform magic? How will they survive in the forest without a wand? Were two of the most commonly heard questions.

"Silence!" Dumbledore all but roared. "There have been a great many times, when a witch or wizard has found himself in a situation where they could not, or at the very least, should not use magic." Dumbledore looked off in the distance whimsically, "It's a wonderful thing... magic. But far too often, it is taken for granted." Turning serious again, Dumbledore stared out at the students before continuing, "Our champions can, and will survive their trek through the Forbidden Forest as they make their way back home… even without magic." Gesturing wide with his hands, he smiled and said, "That is why we have made this announcement so early, and why we will give them their backpacks tonight. So they may learn to use the tools given." Dumbledore paused for a moment then, before stepped back away from the podium he finished, "Champions if you'd be so kind as to join me in the annex to claim your packs as soon as Professor McGonagall is finished."

McGonagall rose and replaced Dumbledore at the podium, "Thank you Headmaster. The third and final set of demonstrations is also coming up. It will deal with Transfiguration and Arithmancy, and will be held on Saturday the twenty-fifth. Unlike the previous two demonstrations where the participants were paired up, each demonstration will be done individually, or in other words, there will be no partners. Therefore, there will be twelve separate and unique demonstrations." After looking around to make sure she still had everyone's attention, she continued, "They should prove to be the most exciting ones yet. I hope all of you will attend." As McGonagall finished, she nodded to the Hall, "Thank you."

Harry was about to get up and follow the champions to the annex, when Hagrid approached.

"Ello Erry, Ermione."

"Hello Hagrid," Harry answered back with a smile. He had missed talking with Hagrid, with the tournament and all he hardly ever had any free time to visit.

"Erry, with the next task and all… well I just thought that maybe if you stopped by… I could tell ya some things about the forest that aint in a book, if you knows what I mean."

Hagrid had seemed a little nervous or maybe reluctant to offer any help. Harry didn't know if it was because he felt out of place trying to teach him something, or if he thought it might give him an unfair advantage. Either way, it was a bit disconcerting to see the half-giant fidget, so Harry wasted no time in answering him.

"Sure Hagrid, I'm sure you know lots of stuff about the forest that would be dead useful for the next task." Harry glanced at an eager Hermione, "Do you mind if Hermione comes with me?"

Hagrid relaxed a little and stopped shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Sure ya can, ya know you are both always welcome."

Hermione smiled, "Thanks Hagrid."

Harry looked up, the others were already gone, "Well I best hurry before Dumbledore gets mad."

Harry stood quickly and chased after the other champions, while Hermione watched him go with concern and worry already growing in her eyes.

Hagrid gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder, "Don't you worry none Ermione, Harry a lot tougher than he looks. And a far better wizard than that other lot too I'd wager."

Sitting across from them, Neville and Ginny shared a glance, both thinking the same thing, `Here we go again.'


Hermione sat in the common room, nervously tapping a quill against a blank piece of parchment. Admitting defeat, she closed her Transfiguration textbook; work on her demonstration would have to wait a little longer.

At the sound of the portrait hole opening, Hermione looked up. "At last," she sighed.

Harry spotted Hermione sitting at her favorite table and went straight to her. He knew, she'd want to talk, and he was happy to oblige. Sitting down across from her, Harry spotted the blank parchment. Raising one eyebrow, he asked, "Please tell me that's not my fault, you're not worried already are you?"

Hermione put the telltale parchment away. "Of course it's not your fault Harry... it's Dumbledore's," Hermione smirked, "and don't be a prat, you know I'll worry... at least till it's all over."

Harry reached across the table and took one of her hands in his. After a gentle squeeze, he looked her in the eye and said, "Sorry Hermione." Harry looked down at the table and shrugged his shoulders, "I guess I'd rather... well I rather see you happy, instead of worrying about me or this stupid tournament." A second later Harry sighed, "I hate what it's doing to you."

Hermione leaned across the table and gave Harry a gentle kiss, "That's sweet Harry, thank you." Hermione wrapped her other hand around their already joined ones, and with a soft smile went on, "Oh Harry, if it wasn't this tournament, I'd be worrying about you and that crazy broom you love so much, or whether you'd finished your homework or not. It's just me. It's how I am... I care about you, so I worry." A moment later, Hermione's smile grew and she continued, "That's not all I do you know? I can be happy too… like now."


"Yeah," she confirmed softly.

Harry stared deep into her brown eyes, they were warm and caring, and he saw the truth. She was happy. After a second of silence, he said simply, "Yeah... I'm happy too."

Before the heat on her face could rise any further, Hermione pulled her hands free and gestured to the pack, "Well, let's have a look then."

Between the closeness, the handholding, and the subtle implied deeper meaning of happiness, the air had grown thick with emotion. Funny he thought, he could face a dragon, and she was as smart as they came, but despite their closeness, even in their new relationship, they both still had a little trouble talking about their feelings for each other. Now was not the time for such things anyway, it was obviously that Hermione felt the same way judging by how she quickly steered the conversation onto a new path.

Chuckling, Harry lifted the pack onto the table and began pulling items out one by one. "Right... well let's see," Harry said, as he glanced at Hermione. He smiled when he noticed her face had already started to return to its normal color. "A map and compass, I suppose I'll need them in order to find my way back. Some rope, a sheet of plastic, a candle, and a small blanket; could be handy." Harry paused, Hermione had opened the map and was already studying it. "Anything interesting?" He asked.

Hermione looked up, "Umm… oh, loads but will get back to it later. What else?"

Harry smiled, Hermione was in study mode, she was indeed happy. "Well...ah, a piece of flint and a steel striker," Harry looked up, "for starting fires I suppose." Then, after opening a small tin containing some fragile, blackish looking material, he said, "And this," Harry tilted the tin towards Hermione, "Dumbledore called it `char cloth,' whatever that is."

Hermione leaned forward to examine the contents of the tin more carefully. "Hum, no idea, but don't worry, we'll figure it out." Hermione bit her lip as she thought for a moment, "Maybe Hagrid will know."

Harry nodded, "Yeah, maybe. We'll take it with us tomorrow when we go see him. Oh, we should take the map too. I'll bet he can point out some places that aren't even on it."

"That's a great idea," beamed Hermione, "after all, who knows the Dark Forest better than Hagrid."

Harry nodded before pulling out the last few items, "And one large knife, a small Muggle first-aid kit, and two canteens, oh, and just before we leave they're going to give us some food," Harry finished.

Hermione nodded while staring at the knife and hoping he wouldn't need to use it as a weapon. Shaking the thought off, she asked, "Can you take anything else, besides your wand I mean?"

"Just some clothes and toiletries," Harry answered. As he sat there watching Hermione, he knew there was more bothering her, "What is it Hermione?"

She looked up and saw the concern in his eyes. `He's getting good at reading me,' she thought. After a moment of quiet, she sighed and said, "It's just that you're going to be so far away. You'll probably be far from the others as well. You'll be truly... alone. What if something happens?"

Harry smiled, "Well, I'll just Portkey back."

Hermione blinked, then smiled, "They are going to give you a two-way Portkey?"

Harry nodded, "Yeah, but we are only to use it in an emergency. Doing so disqualifies you, and you get a score of zero for the task."


"Yeah, still better than nothing."


Harry had just come back from his morning run with Hermione, and was rummaging through his trunk looking for some clean clothes to take with him to the showers, when he heard someone quietly ask.

"Why her Harry?"

Harry hadn't expected anyone to be up yet. Turning, he looked around the room, Neville was already gone, and Dean and Seamus were still both asleep. It was Ron who had whispered the question. He was still in bed, propped up on one elbow staring back at him.

"Why did you leave me behind Harry?"

Harry mentally sighed, he really wasn't ready for this conversation yet, especially at this hour of the morning.

Since it was still early, and Harry didn't want to wake the other two sleeping boys, he quietly walked over and knelt down on one knee besides Ron's bed to talk. Harry started softly, "Ron, I'm sorry about that, I really am, but... I couldn't leave her." Ron stared back emotionless, and said nothing. "You know, I did try to take you too."

This seemed to get Ron's interest, and some of the hostility in his voice faded, "Yeah?"

"Yeah, but a mermaid stopped me. Said I could only take one." Harry paused a second, "It was a hard decision Ron, but like I said I couldn't leave her."

In fact, it was an easy decision, but Harry knew Ron would take it badly knowing that. Someday, in time when Ron was ready to hear it, he would level with him. He would tell him the real reasons, but for now, Harry was certain he wouldn't understand. Telling Ron the truth now would serve no purpose except to anger him more. If their friendship were ever going to recover, he would have to hold his tongue for now.

Ron looked down for a moment as if considering Harry's words. "You know, I really wasn't all that surprised. When you think about all that has happened since the start of term... I can see why." Ron stared at Harry, he seemed to be struggling with something inside, finally he said, "You made the right choice Harry. I don't know why I got mad... again, but that's my problem, and I'll figure it out." Ron looked down again, "Sorry mate."

Harry was surprised, he hadn't expected him to be this understanding… Perhaps he had underestimated him. Regardless of the reason, he was glad that Ron wasn't mad at him anymore. Harry smiled, "No worries," and as he stood back up, he added, "so, you going to join us for breakfast then?"

"Yeah Ron, why don't you join Harry for breakfast, that way the two of you can carry on like an old married couple, and the rest of us can get some more sleep," teased Seamus.

Ron ticked his head towards their grouchy dorm mate, and after Harry nodded with a smirk, they both fired a pillow at him. That of course woke Dean, who wasted no time getting into the action.

Harry quickly left for his badly needed shower as a three-way pillow fight broke out.


As Ron sat down to eat, Ginny and Hermione shared look, both thinking the same thing, apparently there had been some sort of reconciliation between Ron and Harry. The pattern was starting to get old. Harry would do something that Ron didn't like, and he'd get mad. Then after a while, Ron would apologize, or Harry would reason with him, and they'd start talking again. It did seem that Harry was growing less forgiving, but it was also obvious that he hadn't given up on trying to restore his old friendship with Ron.

Hermione wondered what had happened recently to cause the current change, but knew that Harry would tell her about it later. `No use in risking a confrontation now,' she thought. Deciding on a different topic, Hermione asked, "So what's up with your brother Percy?"

"You mean Weatherby?" George butted in, stealing the question from his little brother.

Fred laughed, while Harry, Ron, and Neville smiled at the now infamous nickname Mr. Crouch had inadvertently given Percy. Ginny and Hermione just rolled their eyes at the boy's antics.

"Since they put him at the head table, you can hardly talk to him," Fred said.

"Yeah, as if his head wasn't big enough. Why that barmy old codger Crouch put him in charge, I'll never know," said George.

Harry looked around and then said, "That's just it... where is Mr. Crouch? Why is Weatherby… I mean Percy in charge?"

George snickered at his slip, while Hermione looked around completely ignoring it, "Good question Harry," she said.

Fred turned serious, "Ever since he lost his wife, he's been a little off."

"You know, we did talk briefly after the last task." Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, "Said he knew all about family and loss. At the time, I thought he was just trying to be nice… you know?"

Hermione slipped her hand into Harry's and laced their fingers together and gave a little squeeze. Any time Harry talked about his parents even indirectly, he tended to get a bit down. She hoped to ward that off this time.

Harry turned and smiled at her knowing she was thinking about his feelings. She was quick, and always the first to be there for him. Once again, he was glad she was by his side.

Hermione smiled back, happy it had worked.


It only took a couple of days to go over everything in Harry's pack and figure out what they were and how to use them. After that, Harry started practicing with them. He practiced making fires without magic or matches. He got familiar with the map and practice navigation using the compass. With Hermione's help, he practiced building a shelter using some of the other things in the pack. However, all that, really didn't take too long to get the hang of, so they ended up spending most of their time with the map. They studied it very carefully, taking note of unique landmarks for orientation, and marking out areas that might be hazardous.

Feeling better prepared for the fifth task than he had for any of the previous ones, Harry relaxed a little. He found he had enough time to not only keep up with his regular schoolwork, but he also had plenty of time for his additional studies with Ancient Runes.

"You know, I'm quite proud of the way you're keeping up with all the work," Hermione said one evening as she and Harry quietly worked on finishing an assignment. There was no doubt about it, Harry had changed. It could have been the tournament, but Hermione preferred to think that he was just growing up. Whatever the reason, Harry was taking not only school, but also his life, much more seriously, and she couldn't have been more proud of him.

Harry looked up from his halfway-completed essay and found Hermione staring at him. It was a new look for her, and Harry thought he rather liked it. "Thanks Hermione, but you know I would never have been able to do it without your help."

Hermione balked, "Oh, I don't know about that."

"It's true," Harry insisted.

"Still," Hermione countered.

Harry went back to work. A few moments later, without looking up, he said, "Well I didn't want to let anyone down."

Hermione of course already knew that, but she also knew he was probably referring to her. "You haven't," she said after a pause with a shy smile.

When Harry glanced back up, Hermione was already busy working again.



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