Two and a half weeks after the library incident, Harry, Hermione, and Luna sat down with Viktor at what was quickly becoming their regular table. The three of them had continued to sit with Viktor on a daily basis, and already a strong friendship was forming. Harry had discovered that, while Viktor loved Quidditch and was proud of what he did for a living, he had come to resent the fame just as much as Harry did. The two boys had quickly bonded over that fact, but the girls hadn't been excluded. No, as soon as Hermione and Luna had discovered that Viktor had brains behind the brawn, their conversations had become strange meldings of Quidditch, schoolwork, and fantasy novels that somehow transitioned seamlessly from one thing to another.
Of course, it did help that Viktor had a spectacularly dry sense of humor- well, when he could find the English words, that is. He found present tense the easiest, so while his grammar was near perfect, he would often put his thoughts out in a stilted manner that made many people think he wasn't all that bright, when really, he was trying to communicate in a language that he didn't have to use all that often.
Upon realizing this, Hermione had immediately taken it as a challenge for all three of them to learn Bulgarian, so Viktor had started teaching them little phrases and sentence structure while laughing at their pronunciation. Surprisingly enough, Harry had proven to have a bit of a knack for conjugation. He found grasping the word structure fairly easy, and it was only a matter of learning words for him. It was the complete opposite for Hermione and Luna, though. They found memorizing vocabulary to be extraordinarily easy, but conjugating verbs and such to be the biggest barrier in their pursuit of being bilingual. This had not daunted Hermione in the slightest, she had even made a lesson plan for them, which included two hours every night full of memorizing at least 30 of the more commonly used Bulgarian words along with reading, writing, and speaking practice with them. With Hermione's insane schedule, and Viktor's help in extra practice, they were making incredible progress. They all knew over 500 words and were able to make extremely limited conversation, which was, according to Viktor, simply amazing.
Of course, the trio hadn't been idle in their research, either. When they weren't occupied with school work, Bulgarian, swimming lessons, or, in Harry's case, countless invitations to go to the ball with almost strangers, they were searching through the library, looking for references to spells for breathing underwater. So far they had found the Bubblehead Charm, which wasn't to be taught until 6th year and was a constant drain on magical power, a spell that would stop a small child from being fully submerged for more than 15 seconds, an asthma spell for clearing airways, and a spell for vanishing water from drowning victims' lungs.
When they were researching for the tasks, Viktor and the trio had agreed not to exchange information, not because they didn't trust each other or want to help, but they didn't want to be accused of cheating, so they kept their meager findings to themselves.
Three hours of fruitless research later, a very discouraged group of students parted ways, each heading to their respective common room, or, in Viktor's case, ship. Harry bade Hermione good night before climbing up the stairs to the boys dorm, and setting his things down with a sigh. He flopped onto his bead and groaned. Why couldn't anything ever end up being easy for him? Just once, Harry wanted something to actually work out so that he could focus on normal teenage things, like Quidditch, grades, or girls. He blushed as an image of two girls he knew very well in swimsuits came to mind. He shook his head to rid himself of the admittedly lovely image, and sighed again.
Neville looked up from a book a couple beds over. "You alright there, mate?"
"Yeah, I'm fine Neville. It's just," Harry paused as he tried to think of an appropriate word. "It's bloody frustrating, really. We finally figured out the clue, but now we can't find any spells that can do what we need!"
Neville took on a thoughtful look as he pondered his friend's dilemma. "Well, maybe you're looking in the wrong place? What if what you need isn't a spell? It could be a potion, or a part of a magical creature, or even a plant! Plants can do almost everything, you know- they can heal and protect and-" Neville broke off with a blush as he saw Harry gaping at him and looked down. "Sorry, I-I get a little carried away with plants and-"
"No, Neville, that's bloody brilliant! We're looking in the wrong place!" Harry jumped off the bed and started pacing, earlier weariness forgotten. "We'll expand our research to potions, and transfigurations, and plants, too! Neville you're a genius!" The aforementioned boy turned as red as a tomato at the complement. Harry suddenly stopped his pacing and turned towards him. "Neville, could you keep an eye out for any plants that could help with breathing underwater?"
Neville's eyes widened as he jumped off his bed and started rummaging through his trunk. "I have a book all about underwater plants! Professor Moody lent it to me during tea after the Unforgivables demonstration. I haven't finished reading it yet, but I'll be sure to keep an eye out for anything that might work!"
Harry thanked Neville profusely, causing the poor boy to blush and stammer even more. As Harry continued getting ready for bed, a thought struck him. Neville had said that it was Moody who had given him the book, hadn't he? Harry frowned. Moody had given him a hint for the first task, and then he had just happened to have given his dormmate a book that could quite possibly have the solution to breathing underwater? That, combined with the fact that he wasn't actually Alastor Moody, was more than a little suspicious.
He decided that he would bring it up with the girls in the morning. As for now, he was exhausted.
The next morning as they were eating breakfast, Harry brought up what Neville had said about Moo- er,fake Moody.
Hermione paused in thought, her fork suspended halfway from her plate to her mouth. "That does seem a little suspicious, doesn't it? A mysterious man in disguise, whom we still haven't been able to watch long enough to distinguish any drinking patterns, is indirectly giving Harry all the answers to help him win the Triwizard Tournament."
"Or to help me survive!" Harry said excitedly. "Maybe he was put undercover by someone to make sure that I'm not killed! Or maybe to find whoever did put my name in!"
Hermione turned to Luna. "Has the Professor been Not-Moody all year, or did he only appear after Harry's name was drawn?"
"He's been here all year. Which would mean that for Harry's theory to be correct, he, or whomever placed him here, would have had to know that someone was going to put Harry's name in the Goblet."
"And if that is the case, why didn't he just stop Harry's name from being put in the Goblet?" Hermione theorized.
"You know, it doesn't always have to be a sinister plot against me," Harry said in frustration. "Maybe the real Moody is undercover on a mission somewhere and this guy is covering for him, and he just so happens to like me or want a Hogwarts win or something." Harry said defensively. "Either way, if he's helping, then who am I to complain?"
"Harry," Luna said ruefully, "After all we've been through, we can't afford to make assumptions."
Harry sighed and rubbed his face. "I know, but still..."
"Yeah, it would be nice to be normal, wouldn't it?" Hermione sighed mournfully.
"But Potters don't do normal." Luna quoted what they had said the other night with a small grin.
Harry smiled tightly at her. "Thanks Luna," He said affectionately. It was good to have real friends.
After dinner that evening, Harry began to make his way to the library, but was, surprisingly enough, stopped by Hermione. "You, Mister, are not going to the library until later."
Harry was completely bewildered. Hermione was telling him not to go to the library? "Wh-what? Why not?"
"You don't know how to dance, and McGonagall is giving dancing lessons tonight. You and Luna need to go and get some practice in."
"But what about you? Don't you need to learn, too?"
"I know how to dance. I'll be in the library doing homework and looking for books on potions and plants." And in the blink of an eye, the bushy haired girl was gone, leaving Harry and Luna at the table.
"Are you excited, Harry?" Luna asked teasingly.
Harry rolled his eyes. "What do you think? I have two left feet- actually, you should be afraid, you might lose all of your toes by the end of the night."
"I'm sure that there's nothing your feet can do that Madam Pomphrey won't be able to set right. Besides, if you're truly terrible, I'll wear steel-toed boots to the dance!" The blonde girl giggled lightly.
Harry couldn't help but join her in laughter at the image that popped into his head of her, in extremely fancy and delicate dress robes, tromping around with thick, heavy work boots. "You might start a new fashion trend."
"Merlin knows they'd be more comfortable than those torture devices that we're forced to wear in order to be 'stylish'. Guys should have to wear heels, too!"
"Sorry, Luna, I don't think that I have the legs to pull that off." Harry said with a completely straight face.
"No, your legs are perfect for wearing heals. There's nothing like a pair of fishnet stockings with hair sticking out to make a guy look pretty." Luna replied with an equally straight face.
Then their faces cracked into grins and they snickered quietly. "My fair lady, wouldst thou doith me the favor of a dance or ten?" Harry asked, holding out his arm chivalrously.
"I wouldst, good sir." Luna replied, taking his arm as they walked out of the hall together.
Meanwhile, at the library...
Hermione sat down at their usual table, which was, for once, empty of anyone but her. She pulled out her quill and made a quick outline for the first draft of her potions essay before she pulled out her book and began making notes of things that could be added in for length and comprehension. She became so engrossed in her work that she didn't notice Viktor sitting down next to her.
"Herm-own-ninny?" Hermione jumped in surprise.
"Viktor, don't sneak up on me like that?" The aforementioned young man merely raised a bushy eyebrow at her. She grinned sheepishly. "So how long have you been sitting there waiting for me to notice?"
"Around Fife minutes, gife or take." The Bulgarian grinned down at her and laughed. "You are being, how do you say, too deep in working to be noticing anything else?"
"Yeah, I suppose you could say that." Hermione shrugged with a smile. "I was actually just working on my Potions essay; it's so fascinating how different ingrediants react to one another!"
"Yes, I am loffing Potions as vell. They are one of my favorite things in school." Hermione lit up at this information. Soon they were deep in a debate reguarding phoenix tears versus willingly given unicorn blood.
"But phoenix tears are strong enough to completely nullify basilisk venom."
"Yes, but villingly giffen unicorn blood is not only keeping you alife, it is giffing you a blessing for life."
"Phoenix tears completely heal the wound, though, whereas unicorn blood doesn't heal immediately, it puts you in a comatose state and heals you gradually over time."
"The blessing is vorth it. It can only be giffen to those who are being pure off heart."
"It's the same with phoenix tears!"
Eventually they came to the conclusion that phoenix tears were better for healing during battle because you could get back on your feet right away, while willingly given unicorn blood was better for the long run because all creature would know that you'd been blessed, and treat you as a part of the forest.
A comfortable silence settled over them once the debate was over, only interrupted by the occasional page turning or the scratching of a quill. Suddenly, Viktor stopped what he was doing. "Herm-own-ninny?"
"Vill you go to the ball vith me?"
A/N: Aren't I evil? Is Viktor interested in Hermione romantically, or is he just sick of the fangirls? Review and tell me what you think should happen! :D