SIYE Time:14:28 on 21st May 2018

When Harry Missed the Trick Step
By Srikanth1808

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Category: Pre-OotP
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Warnings: None
Rating: PG
Reviews: 82
Summary: Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry's foot hadn't sunk into the trick step, when he went to investigate Barty Crouch's sudden appearance in Snape's office in his fourth year? Read on to find out! Compliant till a part of the chapter "The Egg and the Eye" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Chapter 10 up - please read and review!
Hitcount: Story Total: 15188; Chapter Total: 983


When Harry Missed the Trick Step

Chapter 6: Greengrass and Gillyweed

Previously on “When Harry Missed the Trick Step”…

It took Harry a few moments to process what Neville had said. ‘It gives me gills?’

By this time, Hermione had found the appropriate page in the book — almost towards the end — and had shoved it back onto the desk in front of them. ‘Read!’ she said, and Harry and Ron read.

‘Gillyweed is a magical plant native to the Mediterranean Sea. When it is eaten by a witch or wizard, one grows gills and webbing between the fingers and toes, allowing them to process oxygen from water and navigate underwater more easily. There is some debate among Herbologists as to the duration of the effects of Gillyweed in fresh water versus salt water, but the effects of Gillyweed in fresh water seem to last about an hour.’

Harry looked up at Neville, excitement coursing through him. ‘Is this easily available? Here, in school?’

‘Professor Sprout has some in her private stores. So does Professor Snape. But you can easily get it in Hogsmeade — Dogweed and Deathcap definitely has it.’

Poor Neville had no idea why Hermione had kissed his cheek, or why Harry and Ron had hugged him fiercely, after that statement. It was only once the second task of the Triwizard Tournament ended, that Neville understood just how much he had helped Harry Potter.

Harry, Ron and Hermione’s euphoria at finally figuring out a solution for the second task of the Tournament, however, barely lasted the rest of the night. The three of them had just joined Ginny and Neville at the Gryffindor table for breakfast the next morning, when the unmistakeable whooshing sound of the post owls swooping into the Great Hall caught their attention. Harry instinctively looked up, hoping to see a sign of Hedwig, but then remembered that he hadn’t sent her to deliver anything to his only correspondent. A sudden wave of guilt washed over him — he had not, despite his promise, told Sirius about the events of “the night”. Of course, he suspected that Lupin would have told his godfather about what had happened, but then realized it was unlikely that the former even knew about the presence of the imposter — Dumbledore had probably not informed the werewolf about the unusual circumstances surrounding the vacancy. He supposed that Lupin would have, after a bit of cajoling on Dumbledore’s part, accepted the offer to return to Hogwarts straightaway.

This train of thought made Harry realize that he had barely heard from the headmaster over the last two weeks; not since Dumbledore had revealed the Longbottoms’ fate to Harry had they spoken to each other. Harry glanced over at Neville, who was buttering his slices of toast as he listened to Hermione tell Ginny about the Gillyweed. True to his word to Dumbledore, Harry had not divulged the truth about Neville’s parents to anyone. And not for the first time, he felt a rush of sympathy for his house-mate — to have parents who were alive, but unable to recognize you, was far worse than being an orphan… At least he had a sense of closure, of absolute finality that they would never be back… He could never imagine how Neville must feel to see his parents alive, but without any spark of comprehension in their eyes…

He was distracted from these morbid thoughts by the sound of Hermione swearing. Her companions stared at her in shock — Ron’s fork was halfway into his mouth — as the witch in question glared at something in front of her. A moment later, Harry realized that she was scowling at the front page of the Daily Prophet. Her hands were actually shaking with fury, almost threatening to tear the offending pieces of parchment into two. Ron, thankfully, noticed this almost at once, and grabbed the paper from her hand.

‘Bloody hell,’ breathed Ron, and Harry was quite surprised to see even Ron getting angry — the tips of his ears were turning quite red. Harry looked across the table at Ginny, who appeared to be just as confused as he was.

‘What’s going on?’ asked Ginny, standing up and reaching across the table to pry the Prophet from her brother’s hands. A bit of manoeuvring of the dishes later, she placed the Prophet on the table, and, together with Harry and Neville, bent over to read.




Is there never an end to Albus Dumbledore’s eccentricities? One could be forgiven for thinking that he would have learnt his lesson after the expose written by yours truly, Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent, on the controversial appointment of part-giant Rubeus Hagrid as Care of Magical Creatures teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Au contraire, it seems as though the Headmaster has acquired a penchant for repeating his mistakes.

While the appointment of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody raised some eyebrows, and that of Hagrid ruffled some feathers, there is no doubt that the latest addition to the staffing contingent at Hogwarts will cause an outcry. A cry of “Wolf!” perhaps.

Indeed, for Albus Dumbledore has decided to re-appoint the werewolf Remus Lupin as the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor for the remainder of the school year, after the jinx-happy ex-Auror Moody was forced to resign due to “certain unavoidable situations” cropping up during his teaching stint. Many of my dear readers would remember the Daily Prophet’s article at the end of the last school year, when the truth of Lupin’s lycanthropy was made public. We, at the Prophet, had received a startling number of letters (and Howlers) from worried individuals and parents, demanding that Lupin be sacked, as they did not want a werewolf teaching their children. It seems, however, that Dumbledore has chosen to ignore these concerns.

Our readers would remember only too well the terror that werewolves posed to our peaceful society when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was in power. Chief among those savage and vicious creatures was the notorious Fenrir Greyback, an ally who served You-Know-Who in exchange for access to potential victims and new “recruits”. Indeed, it was often believed that Greyback would purposefully position himself near his victims just before a full moon, thereby increasing the chances of a successful attack.

What many of our dear readers do not know — or may not remember — and what the Daily Prophet was able to unearth, is that, incidentally, Remus Lupin was one of Greyback’s own victims. Rumour has it that he had been bitten as retaliation against the comments made by Lyall Lupin, his father, who had said that werewolves “deserved nothing less than death.”

Surely this is a cause for concern — a savage werewolf, one of Greyback’s own victims, teaching innocent children without any restrictions or security measures being put in place. While this reporter has convincing evidence that Lupin has been taking the Wolfsbane Potion, it is not always fool-proof, with more than a few incidents of the werewolves in question going rogue and attacking people. There appears to be no guarantee that Lupin would not do the same. In fact, it can be exclusively revealed that Lupin had been loose on the grounds of Hogwarts near the end of his first teaching stint last June, proving to be a sure-fire catalyst in his dismissal from Hogwarts. It is evidently clear that Lupin has imbibed some of Greyback’s fearsome characteristics and personality traits, in order to make sure that he gets his way.

Unsurprisingly, the Ministry has taken its first step in controlling, and possibly eradicating, this terror from our society. Well-placed Ministry sources have confirmed that the Ministry has submitted an anti-werewolf legislation before the Wizengamot, the passing vote for which would take place next week.

‘The Ministry happens to agree with the views of Lyall Lupin,’ says Dolores Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, and main drafter of this legislation, ‘in as much as werewolves pose a dangerous threat to our otherwise peaceful society. The consequences of having them roam freely amongst us are too horrifying to imagine.’

When quizzed about the details of the legislation, Madam Umbridge was, surprisingly, tight-lipped. ‘You’ll just have to wait and see when it is presented in the Wizengamot next week. But I can assure you, it will go a long way in keeping us safe from these dangerous creatures.’

For dangerous is indeed the word — this reporter has it on good authority that Lupin has started training his students in casting the Patronus Charm, one of the most difficult charms to master for any witch or wizard, and something certainly beyond the level of O.W.L. or even N.E.W.T students at Hogwarts. It smacks of instability and incapability in teaching young and innocent students those spells that could be cast easily, and are likely to appear in the year-end examinations.

Certainly another potent cause for concern is the closeness that is shared between Remus Lupin and Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived and Hogwarts’ Triwizard Champion. The two are often seen conversing with each other even when there are no classes — indeed, Lupin is considered as Harry’s favourite and the “best” Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, a fact that was confirmed by Harry himself.

Perhaps Harry Potter is unaware of the perils that he may suffer due to his association with a werewolf, but it surely falls on his fellow, more informed classmates to inform him of such dangers. One thing is for sure, however: unlike Albus Dumbledore, our Ministry of Magic certainly seems to be proceeding in the right direction in protecting the future of our society.

For an article from our archives regarding Fenrir Greyback, go to p. 4. For our expert column on werewolves, go to p. 12.

Harry looked up at the rest of his friends, his heart thudding in his chest with rage.

‘If I ever meet that Skeeter woman again,’ he began in a menacing tone, his hands clenching into tight fists around the bit of paper he was holding.

‘Anti-werewolf legislation?’ said Hermione in horror. ‘What are they going to do — round them and lock them up in cages?’

Ginny, however, was re-reading the article. ‘Who in Merlin’s name is this Umbridge woman?’

It was Neville who answered. ‘She’s a very prominent member of the Ministry, second only to the Minister. I’ve seen her once or twice, when accompanying Gran to some of those Ministry functions. Gran says she’s the most despicable, short-sighted woman she’d ever had the misfortune to meet.’ He grimaced as he looked back at the article. ‘Umbridge is quite a power-hungry person too, apparently. She’ll do anything to get herself more authority.’

‘Sounds like a slimy Slytherin,’ muttered Ron darkly, his half-eaten toast and scrambled eggs all but forgotten.

All around the Hall, conversations turned from the mundane topics of the day’s lessons, to discussions regarding the anti-werewolf legislation and Rita Skeeter’s article. More than once, Harry noticed a few heads swivel in his direction, evidently after reading his name in the paper.

‘The cocky git,’ said Ron in a low undertone.

Harry looked up from trying to focus on his breakfast, to where Ron was glaring at with clear dislike. Draco Malfoy, grinning broadly, was holding court to a large number of Slytherins, all of whom were roaring with derisive laughter and glee as he read the article out loud.

‘I have a strong desire right now to do what Hermione did last year,’ said Ron through gritted teeth.

Ginny looked at him curiously. ‘What did she do?’

‘Slapped Malfoy right across the face,’ replied Ron, to Ginny’s amazement. ‘I think I’d want to do something more permanent though — shame we don’t know how to do any human transfiguration yet.’

It was a mark of the utter dislike they had for Malfoy that not even Hermione reprimanded Ron for his less-than-noble intentions.

Harry, however, had missed the last exchange on Ron’s wish to cause Malfoy some bodily harm — he had just spotted something at the Slytherin table that was distinctly odd.

‘Hermione,’ he said quietly, causing his bushy-haired best friend to look up from her almost clean plate. ‘Who are those people? The ones sitting slightly away from the Slytherin crowd?’

Hermione, and the rest of his friends, looked to where Harry was indicating. Sure enough, there were four students — two boys and two girls — at the Slytherin table who had, just as Harry had described, occupied places further down the row from where Malfoy was regaling the rest of Slytherin house. One of the boys was dark-skinned and tall; Harry could make out his keen eyes even from his place at the other side of the Hall. He was sure that the dark boy was Blaise Zabini, a fellow fourth-year. The other boy was slightly shorter than Zabini, but did look at least a year or two older than the latter, and was somewhat familiar to Harry, who couldn’t make out who it was. The girls had their backs to the Gryffindors, with only their respective honey-blonde and dark brown hair giving away any indication about their identities.

‘The dark one — that’s Blaise Zabini,’ said Ron, confirming Harry’s guess. ‘And the other guy is Terence Higgs — he used to be the Seeker for their Quidditch team.’

Harry suddenly remembered — he had played against Terence Higgs in his first ever Quidditch match at Hogwarts, when he’d almost swallowed the Snitch. ‘I thought he’d left school.’

‘Nah, he got kicked off when Malfoy bought his way into the team with his Nimbus 2001s,’ said Ron. ‘I actually feel sorry for him, poor bloke — he’s loads better than Malfoy, and he plays fair. Or so Fred and George told me.’

‘Told you what, dear brother?’

The twins in question had turned up for breakfast. Ron repeated his statement, to which Fred nodded.

‘Yeah, he was one of the few decent players in the Slytherin team,’ he said between mouthfuls of toast, even as he loaded his plate with food.

‘Never tried any dirty tactics during a game,’ agreed George, swiping a small bacon strip from Ron’s plate, much to the latter’s displeasure.

‘He’s in your year, isn’t he?’ asked Ginny.

‘Yep,’ replied Fred. ‘Nice chap off the pitch, too. We’ve spoken a few times during classes, never insulted any of us even once.’

The rest of them looked quite impressed at that revelation; all of their prior encounters with Slytherin students had never been civil, and were, most of the time, close to being quite confrontational. Harry could still clearly remember his mini duel with Malfoy outside the Potions’ classroom early last term, when Malfoy’s curse had rebounded onto Hermione.

‘And the other two?’ he asked Hermione, indicating the two girls. The twins also joined in on what could only be termed as a ‘group stare’ across the Hall.

Surprisingly, it was Neville who responded once again. ‘Daphne Greengrass — that’s the blonde one — and Tracey Davis.’

Harry, Ron and the twins stared at their shy classmate, who swallowed slightly nervously.

‘Greengrass…’ said Fred.

‘And Davis…’ continued George.

‘You know them?’

Neville gulped again at the stares he was receiving from the five of them. Harry, for his part, was more interested in how he hadn’t noticed them before, rather than how Neville knew them.

‘I don’t really know them, to be honest,’ he said slowly. ‘Gran keeps taking me to these Ministry functions and other fancy parties over the summer holidays — just to keep up appearances, you know.’

Ron, Ginny, and the twins nodded, clearly understanding what Neville was implying. Harry and Hermione, however, were clueless.

‘Anyway, I’ve seen the two of them at some of those parties. Even Blaise, too, now that I think about it. They’ve always spent time with each other, rather than with anyone else.’

‘Well, that explains the distance between them and Malfoy,’ said Harry, pointing out the gap between the four subjects of their conversation, and the blonde Slytherin.

‘Yes, well,’ continued Neville, a bit braver now that it didn’t seem like the twins would take the mickey out of him, ‘they are from prominent pure-blood families, but they’ve never shown any outward support to You-Know-Who, or to any of the supposed “Dark” families.’

‘They’re Slytherins, Nev,’ said Ron dismissively. ‘Slimy, slippery gits, the lot of them. I’m sure it’s just an elaborate ruse, them not supporting You-Know-Who.’

‘Well…’ said Hermione quite slowly, drawing everyone’s attention to her. ‘I’ve never actually seen them behave like, you know, Malfoy.’

‘Exactly!’ chipped in Neville.

‘I mean,’ she continued, ‘they’ve always been nice to me during Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. And I know for a fact that Tracey takes Muggle Studies. I can’t believe I didn’t recognize them earlier, though…’ she trailed off, looking quite thoughtful, and a bit peeved at herself.

‘Like I said, elaborate ruse,’ said Ron adamantly; clearly, he was refusing to budge from his viewpoint on the four students. ‘Those Slytherins are always up to something — and it’s never good. They probably maintain that visage to establish appearances, and then take advantage when it’s best for them. Evil, they are.’

‘To be fair, they do belong to the House of cunning,’ said Ginny. ‘I remember someone saying that Slytherins would use any means necessary to achieve their ambitions. And it’s not like ambitious always equates to a desire for power.’

Hermione and Neville nodded approvingly, but Ron still didn’t seem convinced.

Once again, Harry only partly heard the conversation. He was still wondering how he hadn’t identified Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis, especially after having almost four years of Potions lessons with them. Then again, Potions was one of those classes — Transfiguration being the other — in which one was virtually unable to focus on anything else other than the task at hand during the lesson. Snape, like McGonagall, needed absolutely no effort in keeping the class silent, but was a lot stricter than the Head of Gryffindor House in ensuring the maintenance of absolute concentration. Harry took solace in the fact that as a subject, Potions was inherently complicated; focusing on anything else in class could result in a disastrous potion, and an unwanted detention with the greasy-haired Head of Slytherin House.

By dinner, every single Hogwarts student had read Rita Skeeter’s article in the morning edition of the Daily Prophet, and were openly wondering about the proposed anti-werewolf legislation, and what it could mean for Lupin. Harry even noticed a number of younger students explaining the article to their classmates. Presumably, the ones receiving the explanations were Muggle-borns — they had no idea about the ramifications of the legislation, and indeed, how the Ministry of Magic would work to pass it.

‘They’ve got to give the legislation to the Wizengamot — they’re the people who finally decide if a piece of legislation becomes law or not,’ Ian Rosenthal was saying to a group of first-year Gryffindors. ‘It needs a majority vote from the members, and then the Ministry will issue guidelines and instructions for implementing the law.’

‘So it’s like how the Parliament functions, isn’t it?’ asked Natalie McDonald.

Ian looked momentarily confused, but was saved from embarrassing himself by Colin Creevey, who was passing by. ‘Yes, quite similar to the British Parliament. Although, I don’t think the — what do you call it? The Wizengamot, is it? So yeah, I’m not sure if they have the differentiation between the House of Commons and the House of Lords.’

This statement promptly sparked an enlightening discussion on the differences between the Muggle and magical governments, which ended with the Muggle-borns quite spectacularly dismissing the system adopted by the Ministry of Magic as “extremely archaic and out of date”.

‘There’s no accountability if you’ve got the same body acting as the legislature and the judiciary!’ declared Colin emphatically, much to the amusement of the onlookers in the Gryffindor common room.

Dinner itself was a fairly subdued affair — three-quarters of the school were worried that if the legislation were to become law, Lupin would be out of Hogwarts quicker than one could say “Defence Against the Dark Arts”. Naturally, the Slytherins comprised of the remaining quarter of the school who were quite in favour of Umbridge’s proposed law — or at least most of the Slytherins. Once again, Harry noticed Blaise, Terence, Daphne and Tracey sitting apart from the rest of their house-mates. He wondered if their views on blood-purity were the same as those espoused by Malfoy, and voiced this to his friends.

‘I don’t think they do,’ said Neville. ‘Well, maybe Blaise might have — I’ve heard he’s a bit arrogant and proud about his ancestry and heritage. I’m not sure of the others, though. I’ve never met Terence, and, well, it’s a bit hard to approach Daphne and Tracey, to be honest.’

‘Really?’ said Harry interestedly. Daphne and Tracey were now facing the Gryffindor table as they ate; he couldn’t imagine why it would be difficult to speak to them, however.

‘She’s sort of closed herself off from everyone, except her closest and trusted friends,’ said Neville. ‘She barely socializes with anybody.’

‘But why?’

Neville, and surprisingly Ron, looked at Harry as though he’d grown a second head. ‘Have you seen her at all?’ said Ron, dumbfounded. ‘I mean, despite being a Slytherin, she’s quite attractive. One of the best-looking witches in the whole school, actually.’

‘Who is?’ said Dean, who’d sidled over from a few places down where Seamus was chatting away with Christine.

‘Daphne Greengrass,’ replied Ron. Dean let out a low whistle of appreciation, causing Hermione to scowl at him.

‘Sorry, Hermione,’ said the West Ham fan, as he tried placating her with his arms raised in surrender, ‘but even you have to admit, she does look hot.’

‘Better than Fleur, I’d imagine,’ said Ron, nodding in agreement with Dean’s words.

‘Oh, now hold on. Better than a part-Veela? You must be joking!’

‘I dunno, she could definitely give Fleur a run for her money.’

Harry tuned the conversation out as it moved on to whether anyone could compete against Fleur’s beauty and looks. He noticed Hermione throw Ron a look of disgust — something which the red-head completely missed — before continuing with her meal.

He turned back to Neville. ‘So, why has she closed herself off?’

‘Does it matter?’ snapped Ginny in an irritated voice, and Harry, glancing at her, was quite surprised to see her looking quite annoyed. Why would she be so peeved about this?

‘Blimey, Harry, every boy would want to date her and show her off as his stunning girlfriend,’ said Neville, still in disbelief over Harry’s ignorance. ‘And girls would want to be friends with her so that they could show off too — it’s like being friends with a princess, just for the fame and name that comes with it.’

‘Oh…’ said Harry, as comprehension dawned on him. And with a sudden jolt of realization, it hit him that he was in pretty much the same situation as well — people wanting to be friends with him just for his fame and the prestige that came with being associated with him. There were very few people who took the effort to get to know him as Harry, instead of being content with him, the Boy-Who-Lived.

‘That’s horrible,’ he said rather quietly. ‘It’s like how most people want to be friends with me, just because of my fame, and not who I really am.’

He glanced at Ginny once again, and found her staring at him with a mixture of awe and impressed feelings. ‘What?’ he asked, feeling slightly uncomfortable under her gaze.

The youngest Weasley shook her forcefully, as though trying to get her bearings. ‘Nothing, it’s just…I didn’t expect to hear you say that, Harry.’

Harry shrugged. ‘It’s true, though. I can count the number of close friends I have on both hands — friends who have taken the time and effort to know me, and like me for who I am.’ He looked back at Daphne, who had finished her dinner and was now leaving the Hall with Tracey and Blaise. ‘Imagine having to cut yourself off from everyone just because everyone else was a bunch of good-for-nothing gits with ulterior motives for friendship. It’s downright depressing.’

‘Yeah, well, it’s not like you could do anything about it, can you?’ said Ginny with a pat on his arm. ‘She’s in Slytherin, you’re in Gryffindor…she’d probably hex you six ways to next week if you even try to approach her.’

‘She’s right, mate,’ said Neville sagely, reaching for a slice of apple tart. ‘It’s probably best that we don’t try to interfere where we’re not needed.’

Harry nodded, recognizing the truth in his housemate’s words. He still hadn’t abandoned the thought though…the thought that maybe, someday, he could reach out and help Daphne Greengrass.

The upshot of their conversation regarding Daphne and her extremely miniscule list of friends was that Harry had completely forgotten to seek out Lupin and find out if he was okay, after what had been written in that article. Rather unfortunately, the Professor wasn’t at dinner, nor was he at breakfast the next morning. His absence from the public eye concerned Harry, and he had half a mind to march right up to Lupin’s office, just as Hermione had done after Skeeter’s earlier article about Hagrid’s heritage had come out.

‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Harry,’ said Hermione when Harry had voiced this thought to her as they dug into their breakfast. ‘The prejudice against giants is a lot worse than that against werewolves — at least from what I can see. Plus, most of the school knows about his condition anyway, so he doesn’t really have anything to hide.’

Harry still didn’t seem convinced, but her next statement effectively quashed any further action on his part to visit Lupin.

‘It’s a full moon tonight, Harry.’

Resigning himself to the fact that he would probably see Lupin only after the weekend, Harry polished off the rest of his food, then joined his fellow Gryffindors as they made their way to the Entrance Hall. It was a Hogsmeade weekend — the last one before the second task — and as had been decided two days ago, Harry was to visit Dogweed and Deathcap in the village to purchase his key survival ingredient — Gillyweed. Ron and Neville had chosen to accompany him, with Hermione and Ginny deciding to get some shopping of their own done. They had, however, agreed to meet at the Three Broomsticks at half past one for lunch.

The sky was a dull grey as the three boys — bundled up in sweaters and scarves to stave off the slight chill in the air — trudged down the sloping lawns of Hogwarts, the slightly frosty grass crunching under their feet. They’d elected to walk to the village, instead of taking the horseless carriages that were now trundling past them in a single file. In the distance, Harry could spot the huge Beauxbatons carriage parked near the edge of the Forbidden Forest — a few of the French school students were just exiting it — wearing significantly more layers of clothing than Harry was used to himself — presumably to spend the day in the village along with their Hogwarts counterparts. His gaze shifted to the imposing sight of the Durmstrang ship, anchored on the banks of the Black Lake. There seemed to be some sort of activity going on on the decks of the ship — a number of people in dark cloaks and robes could be seen hurrying about.

He wondered how the other champions were doing on their solutions to the second task. He knew Cedric had had a head-start, of course, having been the one who had told him to “have a bath and mull things over”. In retrospect, it was a good thing that he, Harry, had heeded his advice in the end — he had initially been stubborn about listening to Cedric when the latter had beaten him to asking Cho out to the Yule Ball. So much had changed in the span of one month…

Viktor Krum had also figured out what he needed to do, considering his frequent swimming trips into the lake. The three of them spotted him once again, standing at the edge of the deck, and with unusual grace, he dived straight into the chilly waters.

‘He’s mad,’ said Ron, but he sounded more concerned than what Harry had expected from him. Perhaps he had had a change of heart, possibly because they had found out that Karkaroff had nothing to do with Harry entering the Tournament, and that they knew what to expect in the second task.

The only champion Harry had not seen actively doing anything to solve the egg was Fleur. There was a chance that she did not know how to solve it; Harry debated on whether he should tell her, to keep things even, but he realised that she would have asked Madame Maxime for assistance, and was bound to figure it out, along with a viable solution. In any case, she was a champion from a rival school — his direct competitor in the Tournament; he shouldn’t be thinking of relinquishing any advantage he may have at any stage.

As they reached the main High Street of Hogsmeade, Harry allowed himself to actually contemplate his potential victory in the Tournament. Up till the end of the first task, his main aim had been to survive the ordeal that the Tournament was most likely to present him with. But now, with the threat posed by Barty Crouch Junior and Voldemort seemingly snuffed out, and his almost guaranteed-to-work solution for the second task, he could envisage a winning scenario — beating three fully qualified and highly experienced witches and wizards. He was tied in first place with Krum after all — what was to stop him from beating the Bulgarian in the second task, and going on to clinch the third task, whatever it would be?

And not for the first time that year, Harry’s mind conjured up images of him standing on the grounds of Hogwarts, arms raised in triumph as he celebrated his victory…the entire school was cheering and applauding for him…and Ginny was running towards him, throwing her arms around his neck as she leaned in to capture his lips…

‘Here we are,’ announced Neville, which broke into Harry’s fantasy quite abruptly. Harry wasn’t sure if he wanted to pummel Neville for dissolving the fantastic image in his head, or secretly thank him for not taking it further. What on earth was he thinking about — why would he be imagining kissing Ginny Weasley?

Sirius, I need your help, he thought desperately as the three of them entered Dogweed and Deathcap.

Harry had never had the occasion to visit this shop before, primarily because he hadn’t been allowed to visit Hogsmeade in his third year (only third-years and above were allowed to visit, with a signed permission slip from their parents or guardians), and in the last two visits he had made with Ron and Hermione, they’d always spent time at Zonko’s or the Three Broomsticks. There was also the fact that he had ensured he was well stocked up in his Potions ingredients while visiting the Apothecary prior to the start of the school year — he did not need another reason to tick Snape off due to the lack of Potions materials.

The store was, rather unsurprisingly, quite similar to the Apothecary in Diagon Alley. In fact, as Harry and Ron looked around the store while Neville spoke to the man at the counter — an old chap with an extremely wrinkled face and a shock of white hair on his head — it was almost an exact copy of the latter. Barrels of slimy stuff stood on the floor; jars of herbs, roots, leaves and what-not lined the shelves along the walls; bundles of feathers, strings of fangs, and what looked horribly like innards of some poor dead creature hung from the ceiling. Harry thought that he could even see various jars of blood all the way at the back of the shop; he was glad they were shut — the prevalent smell of rotten cabbages and bad eggs was overwhelming enough.

‘Nine Sickles,’ came the grunt from the man behind the counter; Harry extracted the silver coins from his money bag in exchange for the small pouch containing his purchase. Their thanks elicited another grunt of acknowledgement from the man, before they exited the shop. Once they were outside, Harry opened the bag to have a look at the Gillyweed.

His first thought was that it was a bundle of rat-tails. On a closer look, he noticed its grey-green colour, and the slimy texture. He supposed the slimy nature was due to its underwater origins, but its appearance did nothing to quell his apprehension at having to ingest it.

‘So I have to eat this?’ he asked Neville, as they moved along the High Street towards Zonko’s.

‘Well, yes, you do,’ replied Neville. ‘I asked him to give us a little extra, so that you could practice with it before the task.’

‘That’s very thoughtful of you, Nev, thanks,’ said Harry, and Ron echoed the sentiment.

With the Gillyweed in hand, Harry felt reasonably confident about his success in the second task. The extra quantity that Neville had acquired for practice would certainly do a world of good — especially in terms of scoping out the lake, and what lay in its depths.

Lunch was an enjoyable affair, in stark contrast to the previous night’s dinner. The five of them — Hermione and Ginny had joined them laden with two shopping bags each — spent the afternoon talking, joking and laughing with each other. It was exactly the kind of carefree time that Harry had wished for during his first Hogsmeade trip last term — happily chatting away about everything except the Tournament, teasing Ron with Madam Rosmerta when he personally went to get more bottles of Butterbeer, and feeling extremely content with the fact that he had spent time more time with Ginny.

For he had finally realized that he did enjoy spending time with the fiery redhead — and not just whiling away the hours while doing absolutely nothing, but chatting away about her classes, her stories about her classmates’ antics, her own mischief and pranks that she had played on her unsuspecting siblings while at the Burrow… He enjoyed being the reason for the smile on her freckled face, for the adorably cute dimple to appear on her cheek whenever she grinned at him, for her infectious laughter as he regaled them with embarrassing stories of Ron and Hermione in their almost four years at Hogwarts…

And yet, despite all this, he had no idea what he was feeling, and why. He had definitely liked Cho — her smile had made his stomach do more somersaults than it should have, and she was extraordinarily pretty. He also knew he was over all of that — he barely felt anything like that for the Ravenclaw Seeker right now.

But did he feel the same way for Ginny? Was this what it felt like — to actually like someone? The emotions he’d had for Cho were based only on her appearance; he’d barely known her at all. Ginny was a different matter altogether — he had spent a whole summer with her last year, had gotten to know her as Ginny Weasley this year, instead of just as Ron’s younger sister, and she made him happy…much happier than he’d ever felt before.

She’s Ron’s younger sister, came a small voice from a part of his mind. Ron’s younger sister, you can’t have feelings like this for your best mate’s sister!

And why not, he asked that voice rather forcefully, although it seemed to be laced with doubt and apprehension. Ron can’t tell me who I should and shouldn’t have feelings for.

Yes, but it’s Ron. Can you imagine how he would feel if you told him you fancied his little sister?

I don’t — what? I don’t fancy her! These are just…I dunno, feelings. They’re going to go away, it’s just a temporary phase.

But even he knew that he was fighting a lost cause with himself, and that inner voice of his.

Sirius, where are you when I need you?

‘What on earth are they doing?’

Hermione’s whispered question interrupted Harry’s inner struggle; whirling around, he looked at what his best friend was talking about. Two tables down and a further one to the right from theirs, was Ludo Bagman. The presence of Bagman in Hogsmeade was quite odd — Harry could think of no conceivable reason for him to be here on a weekend where there was no judging to be done for the Tournament.

What was more intriguing was the company he’d chosen — although on a closer look, it seemed as though the company had been forced upon him. Fred and George Weasley had pulled up a couple of chairs and had seated themselves as close to Bagman as they possibly could. The twins had uncharacteristically stern looks upon their faces, and one of them — either Fred or George, Harry couldn’t tell which — was talking quite quickly and seriously to the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports at the Ministry.

As they watched, Bagman meant to stand up, but the other twin grabbed his arm and tugged him back down. He then produced a piece of parchment from the pocket of his cloak and pushed it towards the older man. Bagman looked down at the parchment, staring at it while he read, and then looked up, shaking his head.

‘I can’t, boys, I’m sorry. Not right now,’ said Bagman, and even from a distance, they could hear his apparent refusal to the twins. Fred and George looked disappointed, but then said something to Bagman, to which he eagerly nodded his head; and with a last look at him, they left the pub, a bottle of Butterbeer in each of their hands.

‘What was that about?’ said Ron in a low voice. Neville and Ginny looked equally confused as well.

The five of them paid for their lunch and began slowly meandering back to the castle, each of them lost in their thoughts. For his part, Harry was furiously trying to connect the dots between the interaction he’d just seen between the Weasley twins and Bagman, and any other incidents that had involved those three people in question. And as he thought, the only thing that came to mind was the bet the twins had placed with Bagman before the final of the Qudditch World Cup — where Krum would catch the Snitch but Ireland would win. Was it something to do with that bet? He distinctly remembered Bagman extracting the gold and silver coins to give to Fred and George as soon as the trophy presentation was over at the Top Box — had he not given them enough? Or had he handed over some fake coins — probably as a practical joke just like the fake wand that Fred and George had shown him?

Whatever it was, it was clear that the twins weren’t happy with it; but he had no reason to interfere in their business — not when he had more pressing matters on hand.

It was time to put the Gillyweed to the test.
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