Harry rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding an angry red stunner as he jumped to his feet, retaliating with a stinging hex followed by the disarming spell at Draco; the two had been dueling for close to fifteen minutes, rolling, diving and jumping around on the old duling platform like they had been every day after class for the last few weeks since flitwick had left the dueling hall door unlocked, and with several books and practice dummies lying out for 'anyone to use'.
"You really favor that don't you?" Draco gasped as he jumped back.
"Best way to stop a fight is getting their wand!" Harry retorted, flicking his wand out and sending a bludgeoning hex at the other boys feet.
Draco stumbled to the side and fell down on his arm, his wand flying into the air a moment later.
"Technically the best way to stop a fight is incapacitating the other fighter." Daphne chimed in from the side, she and Hermione were sitting at a small table against the wall; far enough away that they were protected by the rooms safety enchantments but close enough to observe and give their input, both were drinking tea as they watched the two teens.
"Sometimes you can't incapacitate though, and disarming could be a step towards incapacitating." Harry rebutted, helping Draco to his feet.
"Or it could get you killed because you're more worried about disarming then harming your opponent." Hermione drawled. Looking down at her tea as she sipped it daintily, "this tournament is dangerous Harry, you can't afford to be simply thinking about disarming, it could be detrimental to your life."
Harry sat down on the edge of the platform while Draco leaned against the wall, twirling his wand, "you're right." Harry conceded, "but I doubt I'll be dueling anyone any time soon."
"Tournaments usually leave the champion vs champion aspect out until the second or third task." Draco said.
"There were four instances of the first task having some aspect of dueling opponents, not specifically the other champions."
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "maybe I need to spar against someone else, it's getting too easy for me and Draco to spar each other." he looked to Hermione, "would you like to spar Hermione?"
Hermione sipped her tea before putting the cup down, "I politely decline," she said, "it is unbecoming of a Lady to spar."
"But not unbecoming to jump someone and drag them into a classroom?" Draco asked innocently.
Daphne snorted her tea as Hermione raised her eyebrow dangerously, "that was...extenuating circumstances." she said calmly as Daphne coughed a couple of times, muttering a cleaning spell to clean up the spilled tea.
'I'm sure.' Draco said with a shit eating grin, "Well then, if you're so scared then I guess me and Harry will just continue our usual sparring until we can find someone to spar against."
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked, slowly standing up, "but I am not scared, I simply refuse to partake in the barbaric practice of dueling!"
"Yesterday you said dueling was an 'elegant tradition of the wizarding heritage.' changing our tune now are we?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes while Daphne chuckled behind her hand, "he's got you there." she said as she drank her tea.
Hermione sighed, "fine," She conceded, "I will duel Harry, if only to shut you Up Granger."
"Always a pleasure Malfoy." he drawled, walking over to sit down in her chair, pouring himself a cup of tea.
"Cream and sugar?" Daphne asked him as she slid the dishes for them towards the boy, giving Hermione an innocent smile.
"That would be delightful thank you." Draco thanked as he poured the cream and dropped it in a sugar cube.
Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes as she stepped onto the dueling platform, she didn't like that Granger and Daphne were starting to become familiar with each other.
"You know you don't have to do this right?" Harry asked her as they squared off from each other, "Draco is dramatic, and likes to push people's buttons-"
"-i will not back down from a challenge Potter," she said icily, "and your friend has challenged me."
"How does he issue a challenge, but I have to duel you?"
Harry sighed and bowed to her, she returned it with a simple curtsy, then twirled her wand, "Stupefy!"
Harry deflected the spell and returned with his own, it reverberated painfully against her shield, deflecting right towards Draco who didn't even flinch when it dissapated on the wards.
"I think that was on purpose." He said conversationally to Daphne, who gave a soft 'hmm' as she sipped her tea.
Harry rolled to the side and fired off three spells in rapid succession, two splashed against her shield while the third broke through and almost hit her, only to be deflected by her wand at the last moment.
"Impedimenta!" he shouted, then whispered, "expelliarmus, flipendo."
Hermione confidently sidestepped the first spell, but let out a startled gasp when her wand flew from her hand and she was thrown off the platform.
Daphne quickly went to Hermione's aid, while Harry went to the edge of the platform, "alright there Malfoy?" he asked with a smile.
"Fine." she muttered as Daphne helped her to her feet.
"You know," Harry started as he began twirling her wand, "I feel slightly satisfied at the turning of the tables."
"It was luck." she stated hotly, "plain and simple."
Harry chuckled and tossed her back her wand, she caught it easily.
With a huff she climbed back into the platform, "again."
Forty minutes later.
Daphne and Draco watched in fascination as Harry and Hermione traded spells; it was the fourteenth duel between the two and Hermione had abandoned trusting her shields and had begun sidestepping what spells she could and retaliated by throwing as many spells as she could towards him; harry, for his part, was dodging and deflecting her spells; sweat sticking his clothes and hair tightly to his body as he attempted to stay one step ahead of the irate witch.
It was like watching a hurricane fight a leaf.
"What's the score now?" Draco asked daphne, not taking his eyes off the duel as he drank his tea.
"Seven to five Potter." Daphne mumbled. Then winced when Harry hit Hermione with a stunner, making her crumple to the ground, "eight to five potter." She corrected herself.
Draco ran a hand through his hair."I thought she won four? What was the fifth win?" He asked in confusion as Harry walked over to Hermione."
"About the fourth duel in, when she caught him with a stunner a few seconds before he disarmed her."
"Wouldn't that technically be a tie?" He questioned.
"If it were at the same time yes, but she got him a few moments before."
Draco nodded in understanding. Then held his hand out.
Daphne sighed and put four Sickles into his hand.
"Five sickles Harry wins in eight minutes this time around." Draco said confidently as he put the sickles in his pocket."
"Seven Sickles Hermione puts him on his arse." She said stubbornly.
Deal." Draco said with a grin as Harry revived Hermione.
"Another point for me." He said as she sat up with a groan, holding his hand out.
"Brilliant use of cover." She muttered, "though I don't know how I feel about my spells being said cover."
"That many spells coming at me is hard to maneuver, but it also limits your vision."
"Apparently." She sighed, accepting his hand and standing up. "Once more before Lunch."
Harry rolled his shoulders and sighed, "alright, one more go." He walked to the other side, wand at the ready.
Hermione stood with her body slanted away from Harry, wand at the both gave a small bow and Hermione opened up with a powerful reducto aimed at Harry's feet, Harry dove over and and retaliated with a cutting curse aimed at her hand; she easily deflected it and threw up a shield as three more spells that Harry whispered came streaking towards her, forcing her to sidestep when the third shattered it.
"So what do you think the first task will be like?" Draco asked Daphne as their two friends began hurling spells at each other.
"I assume it'll be something simple yet difficult," Daphne said carefully, "and possibly with some kind of magical creature, it's usually what the first task is, get across the arena without alerting the cockatrice, swim to an island that has a clue for the next task while also fighting Grindylows."
"Sounds like fun." Draco drawled, wincing when Harry was literally launched from the platform, slamming into the wall beside the door, with a groan he pulled out seven sickles and handed them to Daphne, who smugly put them in her pocket, 'Lucky shot." he muttered as Hermione slowly walked over.
"Luck has nothing to do with Granger." Hermione said primly, picking up her outer robe and putting it on.
"I'm sure." Draco drawled as Harry walked over, "you need a shower." he said to Harry who shrugged sheepishly.
"You all do." Daphne said, giving Hermione a pointed look as she blushed, "I suggest we all freshen up and then meet in the library after lunch."
"Sounds like a plan." Harry agreed as they all left the room, the girls going one way and Harry and Draco going another.
"So, heard anything for the first task?" Draco asked as they climbed up the stairs towards the gryffindor tower."
"Not since the wand weighing." Harry said, grimacing at the thought of the disastrous interview and resulting article that had been done on him; he had been furious when the article came out, and had been the butt end of several jokes because of it. He was just glad Hermione and Daphne hadn't said anything about the article, "we going into Hogsmeade tomorrow?"
"Of course, I need some more parchment for classes. All this extra studying is putting a dent in what I bought at the beginning of the year." They both stopped at the fat lady's portrait as it opened, letting Ron and Seamus step out, the redheaded boy gave Harry a half-hearted glare and continued on with Seamus happily talking at his side.
"Do you think he'll ever get that bug out of his arse?" Draco asked Harry as they stepped into the common room.
"Not likely" harry said bitterly as they made their way to the stairs, "and i'd rather not see how he reacts when he finds out we've been working with Hermione and Daphne."
"You mean you've been working with Hermione." Draco said with a smirk, "Daphne and I are there to keep the peace."
"And place bets on our dueling." Harry snorted.
"And that, thanks for winning most of those by the way, made a killing."
"Glad I could help you get one over on your girlfriend." Harry muttered with a roll of his eyes.
Draco stared at Harry for a few moments before breaking out in uncontrollable laughter, "you're funny." He chuckled, heading towards the shower.
"And why is that being funny?" Harry asked hotly, glaring at Draco, "you always insinuate me and Hermione are together-"
"-its Hermione and I, and yes I do, because it makes sense." He gave Harry an amused glance over his shoulder, "trust me, Daphne and I are. And will always be, friends, nothing else."
"I'm just saying you've been acting rather familiar with Granger lately." Hermione muttered as she got dressed, "you two were speaking as if you were old childhood friends."
"He's pleasant company to be around." Daphne said with an amused smile at her friend, who had been trying to find out more about Daphnes 'relationship' with Draco since she had stepped out of the shower, "I promise you that's all that's there."
"I'm not judging if there is something else." Hermione said quickly, "im just saying-"
"-i know what you're saying," Daphne reassured gently, "but there's no reason to say it, now come on, lunch will be over if you keep distracting yourself with all of this."
Hermione huffed and finished pulling her cloak on, a twirl of her wand braiding her hair elegantly down her back, "Harry was in good form today." She started quietly, "he's catching on quickly to the finer parts of dueling."
"Is that all you saw in his form today Hermione?" Daphne asked with a knowing smile, causing the heiress's cheeks to redden.
"I don't know what you're insinuating." She muttered.
"I'm insinuating that you would've won more of your duels if you hadn't been ogling his frame."
"I wasn't...that's not...Daphne!" She almost whined.
Daphne laughed behind her hand, "relax hermione, its alright to admire the hard work he's put into his body." She said, "after all, he was fit before with all his quidditch playing, the dueling has added mass and definition."
Hermione blushed deeper, "he does cut a nice look in his uniform…" she mumbled, then shook her head, "but the clothes he wears to practice are completely unacceptable! They barely fit him!"
"You're right." Daphne agreed, a strange look crossing her face, "they're several sizes too big, I don't know how he's able to move around and be comfortable in them…"
"And he's still a vagrant of the worst sorts." Hermione said, sharing a playful smile with her friend as they both said "a Gryffindor" before dissolving into laughter.
"Come now, let's head off to lunch before the house elves clear the tables."
The library was almost deserted in the hours before dinner, many students having decided to spend their weekend in Hogsmeade or out on the grounds enjoying the last few days of warmth before winter began to seep into the Scottish countryside. One would be hard pressed to find a reason to be inside, let alone in the library.
But here were four students, dutifully reading away at ancient tomes and scrolls, looking for any kind of spell that would be useful for the tournament, from spells to make yourself lighter ("imagine how fast you can run with a few pounds taken off.") To combat spells boarding on dark, ("odds are you'll use this cutting hex on monsters or inanimate obstacles, no need to worry about hurting anyone.") They researched it all and wrote their findings down on parchment for later use.
At least most of them were, Harry was finding it difficult to pay attention to the tome in front of him; And it had nothing to do with the witch currently sitting across from him, he told himself, he did not watch her as she absentmindedly played with a lock of her hair or bit her lip while reading a particularly difficult passage; Nor did he think it was cute when her eyebrows scrunched together in concentration.
No, nothing to do with her at all.
A yawn from Draco pulled Harry from his thoughts,"well I'm knackered, think ill have an early dinner tonight." He said as he stood.
"I agree, these words are starting to blur together." Daphne sighed, closing the tome and replacing it on the shelf, "coming Hermione?"
"I'm going to finish this scroll first then I'll meet you in the great hall." She said, not looking up from her reading.
"See you there then." Daphne said, walking towards the door.
"What about you Harry?" Draco asked, "can leave earlier if we turn in early."
"I'll...stay here...almost done with this book." Harry muttered.
Draco chuckled, "alright mate, see you later.
Harry let out a breath as Draco left, leaving him alone with Hermione, he continued to try and read his book, his eyes darting up to her every now and then.
"Are you two going to Hogsmeade tomorrow?"
Her question caught him by surprise, "oh, er...yeah, we are...Draco needed more parchment and I needed to stock up at Honeydukes."
"One would think you'd spend your money on something worth while." She sniffed, sparing him a glance, her garnet eyes looking over his visage before going back to her scroll, "like clothes for instance.
Harry turned red, instantly on guard and defensive "my clothes are fine." He grumbled."
"They Are several sizes too big," she sneered, "you look like a five year old child playing dress up."
"Not all of us have the money to spend on frivolous things."
Hermione looked up fully, a sharp retort on the tip of her tongue, but she stopped herself. He wasn't looking at her at all now, and was instead glaring at the wall, his hands clenching and unclenching slowly atop his book, "clothes aren't frivolous." Hermione saif carefully, keeping her tone even, "they're a necessity."
Harry shook his head, "not for me." He mumbled before closing his book, "I think Draco had the right idea, dinner sounds good right now."
"Harry-" hermione started as the messy haired boy stood and put the book up.
"I'll see you tomorrow Hermione." Harry muttered. Heading towards the exit.
"Harry, wait." She commanded, making the boy stop in his tracks, "Harry," she began in a gentler tone, "please come sit back down."
Harry didn't move. "im hungry." He said quietly.
"I have an apple in my bag if you need something to tie you over." She offered, motioning back to his chair.
With a sigh Harry walked back to the table, sitting down with his arms crossed.
Hermione stared at him for a few moments before pulling the apple out of her bag and setting it in front of him, "i think we need to start focusing on magical creatures." She began, turning the pages of her Tome until she got to the one she was looking for, "the chances of the first task using a magical creature as an obstacle is high, and with this being the first tournament in a long time they'll want to make it a tough one."
Harry cautiously leaned forward, looking at the page, "what creature do you think they'll use?"
""Something challenging, but not so challenging that a single wizard can't handle it."
"So a hippogriff maybe?"
Hermione shook her head, smiling slightly when he absentmindedly took a bite, "no, itd be a creature above class XXXX."
"Brilliant, so I'm done for." He sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"No need for dramatics, we can easily come up with a plan."
For another hour or so the two bounced ideas off each other, some of them serious and well thought out, others so outrageous and silly that the two ended up in fits of laughter. After one of these laughing fits Madam Pince finally had enough of them.
"Both of you leave!" she commanded as she escorted the two to the door, "and don't come back until Monday!"
"Again, Very sorry to have disturbed your peace." Hermione said, a tad guiltily, nudging Harry when he snorted.
Madam Pince rolled her eyes and went back inside.
"Well...guess there's nothing to do but go down to Dinner." Harry sighed, hands in his pockets, "Thanks again for the apple."
"It was no problem." Hermione said as they began to walk. "Daphne will sometimes forget to eat in the mornings, so it's always a good rule to have food on hand."
Harry nodded absentmindedly, "They're my cousins."
Hermione blinked and looked at him, "Excuse me?"
"They're my cousins...the clothes I mean." He clarified, nervously running a hand through his hair, his eyes not meeting hers, "my Aunt Petunia always said it was easier to shop for one person instead of two, so I got most of Dudley's cast offs."
"But his clothes obviously don't fit you, why would she-'
"-we used to be a lot closer in weight." Harry cut her off, giving her a pointed stare, "it's hard to break routine."
Hermione stared at him a little longer, 'Right...routine…" she said carefully, "but that doesn't mean you don't deserve clothes that fit." she stopped walking, making him pause in his own steps as he looked back at her, "what do you think the wizarding world would think if they saw you in those rags?" she asked prissily.
"I don't very much care about what they think." Harry grumbled.
"You don't have to care," she conceded, then crossed her arms as she fixed him with a pointed stare, "but like it or not you are a person of interest in our world; people are already watching you, seeing how worthy you are of their attention and allegiance, and while that doesn't matter now, it will in the future; specifically when you begin to handle your family accounts-every wizarding family has them." she added as he looked ready to interrupt, "and I know for sure that the Potter Holdings are still a fair size compared to others; Future clients and former allies are watching you, seeing if you will hold up to the potter legacy." she took a step forward, her hand daintily going out and plucking at his stretched shirt collar, nails grazing his collarbone as she did so, "and so far, you paint a pretty poor picture."
"So I should dress up to impress a bunch of business men that I don't know, and will probably come to hate?" Harry questioned, taking an uncomfortable step back, "who says I even want to spend the rest of my life managing accounts? Sounds right boring."
"You could always have a trusted friend or individual to take care of it." She admitted, wisely taking a step back, "but you also have to think: the first impression many businesses and jobs get, is your attire; if you go in looking like a slob they'll treat you like a slob. If you look unprofessional they will assume you are unprofessional; which could make or break any successful interview, it's an important part of life and one that goes on every day. what would happen if you bumped into the Head of the Department of Games and Sports dressed in rags? He may laugh himself silly if you decide to try and apply come our seventh year." she cast her eyes over his clothes once more, "so one should always dress like one will be meeting someone important on happenstance."
Harry sighed, "I'm...sure that I can get something in Hogsmeade tomorrow." he muttered.
Hermione smiled brightly, "excellent," she said and continued walking, leaving harry to follow with a defeated look on his face.
"I still don't care what they think of me." he said.
"But you will look fabulous while doing it." Hermione quipped as they reached the great hall, as they always did, they shared no good-bye as they walked towards their different tables. Harry sat down and began eating, ignoring those around him in a bid to finish quickly and go to bed.
Hermione sat down with contemplative look on her face as she found Daphne still at the table, talking happily with the auburn haired Tracey Davis. Hermione didn't even acknowledge them as she served herself a balanced portion of dinner. Thinking over her conversation with Harry, her hand unconsciously clenching as she ate.