At once, Hermione Granger's voice seemed to fill his head...
Hermione made a loud tutting noise. She reached up and pulled Harry back into his seat. "Honestly!" she said.
"And that, boys," yelled Mr. Weasley over the tumult of the crowd below, "is why you should never go for looks alone!" (note: not H/Hr related, but I just love this quote!)
"What's that supposed to mean?" said Hermione defiantly.
"Granger, they're after Muggles," said Malfoy. "D'you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around. . . they're moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh."
"Hermione's a witch," Harry snarled.
"Have it your own way, Potter," said Malfoy, grinning maliciously.
Perhaps there was truth in what Malfoy had said; perhaps Hermione was in more danger than they were.
"Harry, come on, move!" Hermione had seized the collar of his jacket and was tugging him backward.
"It wasn't her!" said Hermione. She looked very nervous, speaking up in front of all these Ministry wizards, yet determined all the same. "Winky's got a squeaky little voice, and the voice we heard doing the incantation was much deeper!" She looked around at Harry and Ron, appealing for their support. "It didn't sound anything like Winky, did it?"
"No," said Harry, shaking his head. "It definitely didn't sound like an elf."
He had teetered for a moment on the verge of saying "me," but couldn't bring himself to make Hermione look any more horrified than she already did.
But Hermione was right, Harry thought irritably, Professor Trelawney really was an old fraud.
"Been in the -"
"Library." Harry finished her sentence for her. "C'mon, quick, or we won't get decent seats."
Crookshanks wandered over to them, leapt lightly into an empty chair, and stared inscrutably at Harry, rather as Hermione might look if she knew they weren't doing their homework properly.
"That was a lie, Harry," said Hermione sharply over breakfast, when he told her and Ron what he had done. "You didn't imagine your scar hurting and you know it."
He walked resolutely over to the portrait hole, pushed it open, climbed out of it, and found himself face-to-face with Hermione.
"Hello," she said, holding up a stack of toast, which she was carrying in a napkin. "I brought you this. . . . Want to go for a walk?"
"Good idea," said Harry gratefully.
They went downstairs, crossed the entrance hall quickly without looking in at the Great Hall, and were soon striding across the lawn toward the lake, where the Durmstrang ship was moored, reflected blackly in the water. It was a chilly morning, and they kept moving, munching their toast, as Harry told Hermione exactly what had happened after he had left the Gryffindor table the night before. To his immense relief, Hermione accepted his story without question.
"Well, of course I knew you hadn't entered yourself," she said when he'd finished telling her about the scene in the chamber off the Hall. "The look on your face when Dumbledore read out your name!"
"Have you seen Ron?" Harry interrupted. Hermione hesitated.
"Erm. . . yes. . . he was at breakfast," she said.
"Does he still think I entered myself?"
"Well. . . no, I don't think so . . . not really," said Hermione awkwardly.
"What's that supposed to mean, 'not really'?"
"Oh Harry, isn't it obvious?" Hermione said despairingly. "He's jealous!"
"Jealous?" Harry said incredulously. "Jealous of what? He wants to make a prat of himself in front of the whole school, does he?"
"Look," said Hermione patiently, "it's always you who gets all the attention, you know it is. I know it's not your fault," she added quickly, seeing Harry open his mouth furiously. "I know you don't ask for it.. . but - well - you know, Ron's got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you're his best friend, and you're really famous - he's always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it, but I suppose this is just one time too many. . .
"Great," said Harry bitterly. "Really great. Tell him from me I'll swap any time he wants. Tell him from me he's welcome to it.... People gawping at my forehead everywhere I go. . ."
"I'm not telling him anything," Hermione said shortly. "Tell him yourself. It's the only way to sort this out."
"I'm not running around after him trying to make him grow up!" Harry said, so loudly that several owls in a nearby tree took flight in alarm. "Maybe he'll believe I'm not enjoying myself once I've got my neck broken or -"
"That's not funny," said Hermione quietly. "That's not funny at all." She looked extremely anxious.
"Write to Sirius. You've got to tell him what's happened. He asked you to keep him posted on everything that's going on at Hogwarts... It's almost as if he expected something like this to happen. I brought some parchment and a quill out with me -"
"Come off it," said Harry, looking around to check that they couldn't be overheard, but the grounds were quite deserted. "He came back to the country just because my scar twinged. He'll probably come bursting right into the castle if I tell him someone's entered me in the Triwizard Tournament -"
"He'd want you to tell him," said Hermione sternly. "He's going to find out anyway."
"Harry, this isn't going to be kept quiet," said Hermione, very seriously. "This tournament's famous, and you're famous. I'll be really surprised if there isn't anything in the Daily Prophet about you competing. . . . You're already in half the books about You-Know-Who, you know.. . and Sirius would rather hear it from you, I know he would."
"Okay, okay, I'll write to him," said Harry, throwing his last piece of toast into the lake. They both stood and watched it floating there for a moment, before a large tentacle rose out of the water and scooped it beneath the surface. Then they returned to the castle.
"Well, borrow one of the school owls, then, anyone can use them," said Hermione. They went up to the Owlery. Hermione gave Harry a piece of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink, then strolled around the long lines of perches, looking at all the different owls, while Harry sat down against a wall and wrote his letter.
"It's really not that difficult, Harry," Hermione tried to reassure him as they left Flitwick's class - she had been making objects zoom across the room to her all lesson, as though she were some sort of weird magnet for board dusters, wastepaper baskets, and lunascopes. "You just weren't concentrating properly -"
"Oh very funny," Hermione said sarcastically to Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls, who were laughing harder than anyone, "really witty."
Ron was standing against the wall with Dean and Seamus. He wasn't laughing, but he wasn't sticking up for Harry either.
"Want one, Granger?" said Malfoy, holding out a badge to Hermione. "I've got loads. But don't touch my hand, now. I've just washed it, you see; don't want a Mudblood sliming it up."
Some of the anger Harry had been feeling for days and days seemed to burst through a dam in his chest. He had reached for his wand before he'd thought what he was doing. People all around them scrambled out of the way, backing down the corridor.
"Harry!" Hermione said warningly.
Harry wrote back to Sirius saying that he would be beside the common room fire at the time Sirius had suggested; and he and Hermione spent a long time going over plans for forcing any stragglers out of the common room on the night in question. If the worst came to the worst, they were going to drop a bag of Dungbombs, but they hoped they wouldn't have to resort to that - Filch would skin them alive.
But Rita Skeeter had gone even further than transforming his "er's" into long, sickly sentences: She had interviewed other people about him too. "Harry has at last found love at Hogwarts. His close friend, Colin Creevey, says that Harry is rarely seen out of the company of one Hermione Granger, a stunningly pretty Muggle-born girl who, like Harry, is one of the top students in the school."
Hermione had come in for her fair share of unpleasantness too, but she hadn't yet started yelling at innocent bystanders; in fact, Harry was full of admiration for the way she was handling the situation.
"Stunningly pretty? Her?" Pansy Parkinson had shrieked the first time she had come face-to-face with Hermione after Rita's article had appeared. "What was she judging against - a chipmunk?"
"Ignore it," Hermione said in a dignified voice, holding her head in the air and stalking past the sniggering Slytherin girls as though she couldn't hear them. "Just ignore it, Harry."
But Harry couldn't ignore it.
On the Saturday before the first task, all students in the third year and above were permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade. Hermione told Harry that it would do him good to get away from the castle for a bit, and Harry didn't need much persuasion.
"People keep looking at me now," said Hermione grumpily as they came out of Honeydukes Sweetshop later, eating large cream-filled chocolates. "They think I'm talking to myself."
"Don't move your lips so much then."
When he'd finally got all his clothes on the right parts of his body, he hurried off to find Hermione, [...]
Feeling too queasy to eat, Harry waited until Hermione had swallowed her last spoonful of porridge, then dragged her out onto the grounds. There, he told her all about the dragons, and about everything Sirius had said, while they took another long walk around the lake.
"Hermione," Harry said, through gritted teeth, "will you shut up for a bit, please? I m trying to concentrate."
But all that happened, when Hermione fell silent, was that Harry's brain filled with a sort of blank buzzing, which didn't seem to allow room for concentration.
And it clicked. He was best at flying. He needed to pass the dragon in the air. For that, he needed his Firebolt. And for his Fire-bolt, he needed -
"Hermione," Harry whispered, when he had sped into greenhouse three minutes later, uttering a hurried apology to Professor Sprout as he passed her. "Hermione - I need you to help me."
"What d'you think I've been trying to do, Harry?" she whispered back, her eyes round with anxiety over the top of the quivering Flutterby Bush she was pruning.
"Hermione, I need to learn how to do a Summoning Charm properly by tomorrow afternoon."
And so they practiced.
He wanted to skip Divination to keep practicing, but Hermione refused pointblank to skive off Arithmancy, and there was no point in staying without her.
He forced down some dinner after Divination, then returned to the empty classroom with Hermione, using the Invisibility Cloak to avoid the teachers. They kept practicing until past midnight. They would have stayed longer, but Peeves turned up and, pretending to think that Harry wanted things thrown at him, started chucking chairs across the room. Harry and Hermione left in a hurry before the noise attracted Filch, and went back to the Gryffindor common room, which was now mercifully empty.
At two o'clock in the morning, Harry stood near the fireplace, surrounded by heaps of objects: books, quills, several upturned chairs, an old set of Gobstones, and Neville's toad, Trevor. Only in the last hour had Harry really got the hang of the Summoning Charm.
"That's better, Harry, that's loads better," Hermione said, looking exhausted but very pleased.
"Well, now we know what to do next time I can't manage a spell," Harry said, throwing a rune dictionary back to Hermione, so he could try again, "threaten me with a dragon. Right..." He raised his wand once more. "Accio Dictionary!" The heavy book soared out of Hermione's hand, flew across the room, and Harry caught it.
"Harry, I really think you've got it!" said Hermione delightedly.
"Just as long as it works tomorrow," Harry said. "The Firebolt's going to be much farther away than the stuff in here, it's going to be in the castle, and I'm going to be out there on the grounds. . . ."
"That doesn't matter," said Hermione firmly." Just as long as you're concentrating really, really hard on it, it'll come. Harry, we'd better get some sleep.. . you're going to need it."
Harry had been focusing so hard on learning the Summoning Charm that evening that some of his blind panic had heft him.
"Good luck, Harry," Hermione whispered. "You'll be fine!"
"Yeah," said Harry in a voice that was most unlike his own.
Hermione, however, leaned against the Owlery wall, folded her arms, and frowned at Ron.
"Harry's got a long way to go before he finishes this tournament," she said seriously. "If that was the first task, I hate to think what's coming next."
"Right little ray of sunshine, aren't you?" said Ron. "You and Professor Trelawney should get together sometime."
"He's supposed to work out the clue on his own," Hermione said swiftly. "It's in the tournament rules. . . ."
"I was supposed to work out how to get past the dragon on my own too," Harry muttered, so only Hermione could hear him, and she grinned rather guiltily.
Hermione, who seemed to be thinking along these lines, said quickly, "They're very interesting, aren't they? Aren't they. Harry?"
"What? Oh yeah . . . ouch . . . interesting," said Harry as she stepped on his foot.
"Harry!" she panted, skidding to a halt beside him (the Fat Lady stared down at her, eyebrows raised). "Harry, you've got to come - you've got to come, the most amazing thing's happened- please -"
She seized Harry's arm and started to try to drag him back along the corridor. "What's the matter?" Harry said.
"I'll show you when we get there - oh come on, quick -"
Harry looked around at Ron; he looked back at Harry, intrigued. "Okay," Harry said, starting off back down the corridor with Hermione, Ron hurrying to keep up.
"We're the only ones left who haven't got anyone - well, except Neville. Hey - guess who he asked? Hermione!"
"What?" said Harry, completely distracted by this startling news.
Hermione suddenly smiled very mischievously, and Harry noticed it too: It was a very different smile from the one he remembered.
"Yeah, okay," said Harry. Then, spotting the look on Hermione's face, he said, "Come on, how'm I supposed to concentrate with all this noise going on? I won't even be able to hear the egg over this lot."
Krum was at the front of the party, accompanied by a pretty girl in blue robes Harry didn't know. [...]
His eyes fell instead on the girl next to Krum. His jaw dropped.
It was Hermione.
But she didn't look like Hermione at all. She had done something with her hair; it was no longer bushy but sleek and shiny, and twisted up into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She was wearing robes made of a floaty, periwinkle-blue material, and she was holding herself differently, somehow - or maybe it was merely the absence of the twenty or so books she usually had slung over her back. She was also smiling - rather nervously, it was true - but the reduction in the size of her front teeth was more noticeable than ever; Harry couldn't understand how he hadn't spotted it before.
"Hi, Harry!" she said. "Hi, Parvati!"
Parvati was gazing at Hermione in unflattering disbelief. She wasn't the only one either; when the doors to the Great Hall opened, Krum's fan club from the library stalked past, throwing Hermione looks of deepest loathing. Pansy Parkinson gaped at her as she walked by with Malfoy, and even he didn't seem to be able to find an insult to throw at her.
Harry glanced up at Hermione to see how she felt about this new and more complicated method of dining - surely it meant plenty of extra work for the house-elves? - but for once, Hermione didn't seem to be thinking about S.P.E.W. She was deep in talk with Viktor Krum and hardly seemed to notice what she was eating.
Hermione was now teaching Krum to say her name properly; he kept calling her "Hermy-own."
"Her-my-oh-nee," she said slowly and clearly.
"Close enough," she said, catching Harry's eye and grinning.
"How about giving me an interview about the Hagrid you know, Harry? The man behind the muscles? Your unlikely friendship and the reasons behind it. Would you call him a father substitute?"
Hermione stood up very abruptly, her butterbeer clutched in her hand as though it were a grenade.
"You horrible woman," she said, through gritted teeth, "you don't care, do you, anything for a story, and anyone will do, wont they?..."
"You haff a water beetle in your hair, Herm-own-ninny," said Krum.
Harry had the impression that Krum was drawing her attention back onto himself; perhaps to remind her that he had just rescued her from the lake, but Hermione brushed away the beetle impatiently and said, "You're well outside the time limit, though, Harry... Did it take you ages to find us?"
"No ... I found you okay...."
...but Krum didn't look happy at all. He attempted to engage Hermione in conversation again, but she was too busy cheering Harry to listen.
"Deprived of love since the tragic demise of his parents, fourteen-year-old Harry Potter thought he had found solace in his steady girlfriend at Hogwarts, Muggle-born Hermione Granger. Little did he know that he would shortly be suffering yet another emotional blow in a life already littered with personal loss.
Miss Granger, a plain but ambitious girl, seems to have a taste for famous wizards that Harry alone cannot satisfy. Since the arrival at Hogwarts of Viktor Krum, Bulgarian Seeker and hero of the last World Quidditch Cup, Miss Granger has been toying with both boys' affections. Krum, who is openly smitten with the devious Miss Granger, has already invited her to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer holidays, and insists that he has "never felt this way about any other girl." However, it might not be Miss Granger's doubtful natural charms that have captured these unfortunate boys' interest.
"She's really ugly," says Pansy Parkinson, a pretty and vivacious fourth-year student, "but she'd be well up to making a Love Potion, she's quite brainy. I think that's how she's doing it."
Love Potions are, of course, banned at Hogwarts, and no doubt Albus Dumbledore will want to investigate these claims. In the meantime, Harry Potter's well-wishers must hope that, next time, he bestows his heart on a worthier candidate. [...]
The article sounded ten times worse when read by Snape. Even Hermione was blushing scarlet now.
He repressed a shudder at the thought of what might come spilling out of his mouth if Snape did it... quite apart from landing a whole lot of people in trouble - Hermione and Dobby for a start [...]
Harry was getting sick of telling people that Hermione wasn't his girlfriend.
"It'll die down, though," he told Hermione, "if we just ignore it. ... People got bored with that stuff she wrote about me last time."
"I vant to know," he said, glowering, "vot there is between you and Hermy-ownninny."
Harry, who from Krum's secretive manner had expected something much more serious than this, stared up at Krum in amazement.
"Nothing," he said. But Krum glowered at him, and Harry, somehow struck anew by how tall Krum was, elaborated. "We're friends. She's not my girlfriend and she never has been. It's just that Skeeter woman making things up."
"Hermy-own-ninny talks about you very often," said Krum, looking suspiciously at Harry.
"Yeah," said Harry, "because were friends."
He couldn't quite believe he was having this conversation with Viktor Krum, the famous International Quidditch player. It was as though the eighteen-year-old Krum thought he. Harry, was an equal - a real rival - [...]
Moody's magical eye quivered as it rested on Hermione. "You're another one who might think about a career as an Auror," he told her. "Mind works the right way, Granger."
Hermione flushed pink with pleasure.
Hermione had not spoken for ten minutes. She was sitting with her forehead in her hands, staring at her knees. Harry thought she too looked as though she could have done with a Pensieve.
"Bye, Harry!" said Hermione, and she did something she had never done before, and kissed him on the cheek.