CHAPTER 4: THE MIDNIGHT DUEL
HARRY – THE TRUTH ABOUT GINNY WEASLEY
The Hogwarts Express arrived at Hogsmeade Station around 8:00 PM that night. Harry was relieved; he could only put up with so much snoring from Hermione. After donning their robes and clawing through a barricade of prepubescent girls guarding the last carriage door, Harry and Hermione were able to rescue Ginny, Ron and Neville from their captors. Neville was still a bit flustered. He obviously was completely unaware of the fact that all this attention was due to his newfound good looks...
“Hermione,” Neville said. “I don’t understand. I’ve studied toxic mold exposure with Professor Sprout, but she never mentioned that it could lead to this.” Neville pointed to the heap of passed out third and fourth years guarding the last carriage. Hermione did a double take; Colin Creevey was buried in the pile clutching his camera. Hermione shook her head. Ginny had a mischievous grin on her face. Harry was just glad to be back home... and he was feeling a lot better. There was something magical about returning to Hogwarts... almost liberating. For the first time in months, he felt alive...
Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Ginny rode in a Thestral-Drawn Carriage up to the castle and entered the Great Hall. After the first years were sorted into their houses, the five Gryffindors pigged out at the start-of-year feast, and then walked back to the Gryffindor Common Room. It was peaceful. The moon was almost full, and Harry could taste the sweet smelling Scottish air.
Once in the Common Room, Neville left to unpack, Ginny and Hermione headed for the Girls’ Dormitory, and Ron pulled Harry aside.
“Harry, we need to talk,” Ron said urgently, pulling Harry into the stairwell. Harry paled. Did Ron know?
“About Ginny,” Ron whispered. Harry breathed a silent sigh of relief.
“Well, go on...” Harry motioned for Ron to speak. Ron still looked flustered.
“It’s just... It’s just... She’s in love, mate...” Ron squirmed. This was obviously quite uncomfortable for him.
“In love?” Harry enquired. “I didn’t realize that she’s still going out with Dean Thomas.”
Ron shook his head, turning three shades of red. “No... They broke up for... for... erection-cilable differences...”
“Irreconcilable differences... sort of.” Ron was at a loss for words.
Harry grinned. There was obviously more to this story than Ron was willing to share. He’d have to get the details from Ginny.
“So how d’you know that she’s in love?” Harry enquired.
“Blimey Harry, I overheard a conversation between her and Hermione... and... you know... Ginny said that she’s in love with... Malfoy!”
Harry gasped. “Malfoy? How... how d’you know?”
“Harry, d’you know how much this hurts! My little sister... with that sniveling little git! I mean... I mean... D’you know how much this hurts me? After all the bad blood between us, she’d choose Malfoy! Malfoy? Dad’s gonna have a heart attack! This is just a plan by Lucius to get even... Ginny’s just a pawn, see... I have to stop them!” Ron was hysterical. Harry tried to calm him down.
“Ron, are you sure that she’s in love?” Harry asked. Ron nodded hesitantly.
“But how do you know?” Harry asked, now ghostly pale.
“Umm... well, I don’t... I mean... She said she’s in love with... the new ‘hot guy’ in our class.”
Harry breathed an enormous sigh of relief. He had been really worried. A smirk spread across his face.
“So you’re telling me that you find Malfoy attractive?” Harry enquired. Ron looked horrified. He took three steps back and almost tripped down the stairs.
“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! I mean... He’s taken care of himself, but...”
Harry giggled. “It’s okay, Ron. I won’t tell Malfoy...”
Ron look absolutely mortified. “C’mon... please, mate... Don’t be thick... Who else could it be?”
Harry was really amused. Hermione had been eavesdropping and overheard the latter half of their conversation.
“Umm... Could it be... Neville?” Hermione interjected. Ron turned around aghast; his face looked like a radish with a bad sunburn.
“Oh,” Ron squeaked. “I’d better go now...” Ron dashed up the stairs, horrified at his lapse in judgment. Hermione and Harry laughed hysterically. Poor Ron.
GINNY – IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
September 2nd. 9:00 AM. Ginny was still really pissed off at Ron. Yesterday, she had it all planned out. Neville had fallen right into her trap. And then her stupid older brother had the audacity to join them, wrecking her plan of attack; and then, to make matters worse, he insulted her aroma!
Bugger! She really needed to get laid. Which meant, of course, she really needed to get Ron laid. Ron was always getting in her way with men, and obviously a good bang might give him something better to do with his time than foiling her attempts to copulate. But who should it be?
Well, Hermione was the obvious choice, but she might be a bit too frigid at this point. Ginny would work on her... Luna could also be interesting, but then again, she might break out with handcuffs or something funky and scare Ron off. Damn prudes. What kind of family did she come from anyway? Ron and Percy were still virgins! How did they survive? Their right hands can’t be that entertaining!
Ginny surveyed the Great Hall at breakfast that morning. She did it discreetly, while sitting alone and taking small bites of porridge (so as not to attract attention). Hmm... What about Lavender or Parvati? Definitely good-looking. But they’re such nervous wrecks. I guess Ginny could always lend Ron her ball gag... Well, that might just be a bit too incestuous for her taste.
What if she looked for women outside of her house? Unfortunately, there weren’t many good Gryffindor specimens. Well, what other houses were there? Slytherin? Umm, no... those wenches were nasty. Besides, Ron would personally kill her. The Hufflepuffs might be a decent bang, but... who to pick? Susan Bones? She definitely could use a good lay. Heck, it might be the only bang she’ll ever get... so it would be a good deed, too.
Well, what about Ravenclaw? Who in that house really needs a good roll in the hay? Cho? Ginny grinned. That’s perfect! And Harry wouldn’t mind... It was quite apparent to her that Harry would actually be relieved... He obviously had a different sexual preference (as if Ginny hadn’t noticed). Why else would he have rejected Ginny for three years? One of these days, Ginny really wanted to eat a banana right in front of Harry, just to get a reaction. Either that, or a big, thick sausage. Okay, so she might not be that cruel... yet...
Ginny’s eyes shifted over to a certain blonde squeezed between Crabbe and Goyle at the Slytherin table. Draco was posturing as usual. A mischievous grin grew across Ginny’s face. She had only two words for that flaming ferret - Open Season!
Back to more pressing issues. Something had to be done about Ron and it was time for Ginny to take action. Ron would not foil her next attempt to mate with Jungle Boy. Ginny licked her lips and bit into her eggs and bacon. Hermione walked in and noticed the dreamy yet calculating look on her face.
“Ginny, what are you thinking about?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Ginny mused. “I’m just really looking forward to... History of Magic.” Hermione was suspicious. Okay, so Ginny was a bad liar. What’s a girl to do?
HERMIONE – HARRY, HARRY, HARRY
Two words often described Hermione Granger: frustration and mediocrity. True, she was a Prefect, the brightest witch in her class at Hogwarts, the best friend of The Boy Who Lived, and the mastermind of many of Harry’s schemes, but this shell of accomplishments masked tremendous insecurities. Hermione often doubted herself. And when she was depressed, everything looked like a sham. Her intelligence was just books and trickeries. Her accomplishments were sheer dumb luck. And her friends, well, she was the charity case. The ‘filthy little Mudblood’ that could.
In her heart, Hermione knew that these fears were unfounded. And her primary motivation to keep studying, to keep charging forward, was her friendship with Harry and Ron. Hermione’s relationship with her best friends made her feel complete... important... wanted... needed... loved. And now, something has definitely changed. Harry had stopped letting her in.
Hermione had been worried about Harry for months. Very worried. He barely owled her over the summer, and when he finally arrived at the Burrow, he kept to himself most of the time. Harry didn’t eat properly. He was losing weight. He stopped dressing well. He rarely laughed. She couldn’t cheer him up. He was always lost somewhere... somewhere else. He would not let his guard down. He was obviously hiding something... But what? And why wouldn’t he tell her?
Well, it was not as if Hermione needed to read a book on Harry to know some of the issues which tormented him. His Godfather was murdered in June, and his failed relationship with that paranoid Ravenclaw seeker could only exacerbate an already bad situation. But if those were the only problems, why wouldn’t Harry want to talk to her about them? She could help him! She was his best friend! After all these years, didn’t she deserve more? Did he always have to fight the last battle alone?
And where would that leave Hermione? A cheerleader? Somebody’s second, sitting on the bench and waiting for a turn that never comes? Harry used to make her feel like she was something more than the Muggle-born daughter of two dentists. Hermione could not go back to that... She had to talk to Ron.
HARRY – PRELUDE TO THE DUEL
Monday morning passed far too quickly for Harry. Herbology was dull as usual, and he wanted to murder all of the girls who wrote love letters to Neville. Harry was also a bit preoccupied. He had not seen Draco Malfoy all morning. Malfoy must be practicing his wizardry right now. Harry was nervous. He hadn’t practiced magic all summer, so his skills were not in top form. He had to do something.
Harry ditched Care of Magical Creatures before lunch and instead headed into the castle to practice hexes for the Midnight Duel. He really wanted to nail Malfoy with the Densaugeo curse. Either that or just transfigure him into a rodent... which was not a far stretch from the truth.
Harry decided to go to the Room of Requirement to practice his spells. He climbed up to the seventh floor of the castle, and walked opposite a tapestry showing Barnabas the Balmy trying to teach trolls to dance the ballet. He walked back and forth in front of the blank wall three times, concentrating very hard on what he needed - Malfoy’s head on a spit.
The room appeared. Harry walked inside and found it filled with everything he needed. There were books of spells and hexes, and several inflatable dummies which looked just like Draco Malfoy. Harry grinned; he was going to have a lot of fun in here. Too bad he didn’t think about this last year. Dumbledore’s Army would have loved an inflatable Umbridge in a fluffy pink cardigan on which they could practice their witchcraft and wizardry.
Just as Harry was about to start practicing his hexes, the door opened. Harry froze. Ron walked into the room. He looked around, immediately noticed the inflatable Malfoy dolls, and nervously took a step back.
“Harry, what in the name of Merlin are you doing?”
“Umm... voodoo?” Harry replied cautiously. Ron’s look of terror morphed into a shit-eating grin.
“Show me,” Ron whispered.
Harry lifted his wand and fired the Bat-Bogey Hex right into the left doll’s head. Instantaneously, the spell engorged the doll’s ‘bogies’ to bat-size, gave them wings, and set them to attack his face.
“Wicked!” Ron cried. “Let me try!” Ron lifted his wand. “Petrificus Totalus!” A yellow flame shot out and petrified a Malfoy doll. Ron was thrilled – this was awesome! “Expelliarmus!” Another Malfoy was sent flying. Ron could be here all afternoon. Which made Harry nervous. He had to get back to practicing.
“Ron, how’d you find me here?”
“Blimey Harry, I followed you... You’ve been acting so strange, you know... Hermione and I were really worried and...”
Harry groaned. He should have known. “Ron, I’m fine. Really. You don’t have to worry about me.”
Ron looked hurt. “Whatever you say, mate. I... just wanted to make sure that you’re okay.”
“Ron, I didn’t mean...” But Ron had already left. Shaking his head, Harry returned to his work. He took out his book, Curses and Counter-curses, and started firing away at the inflatable Malfoys. He had to get ready. Harry had a long night ahead.
DRACO – THE MIDNIGHT DUEL
Midnight. September 2. Where the fuck was Potter?
Draco tapped his foot menacingly... and then realized that he was still alone. Well that was effective, he smirked. Draco’s eyes darted around the shadows of the Astronomy Tower. The area was vacant. Just as he had expected. But the silence... It was almost too silent. Draco glanced at his watch. Oh, scarface? Where are you, oh brave, valiant Gryffindor? What the fuck do I have to do, pretend to be a Mudblood in distress? Draco was livid. Okay, so he was a bit nervous, too – that half-blood must be up to something. But what? Where the fuck was he?
Out of nowhere, a black raven flew up to the Tower and landed on Draco’s shoulder. Draco glanced at it menacingly. As if he needed a chaperon! What did his father think this was, the Yule Ball? Draco could handle this duel himself. Merlin’s beard, he’s been practicing all month!
Suddenly, Draco heard footsteps. He grinned. It’s Showtime!
Harry climbed up the steps to the Astronomy Tower and locked eyes with Draco. Those damn pouty green eyes. Draco would have to look elsewhere. He needed to maintain his concentration.
“You’re late,” Draco scowled.
Harry’s eyes shifted over to the black raven that was perched on Draco’s shoulder.
“I thought you said to come alone?” Harry sneered, clearly irritated by the bird’s presence.
“I never said anything about me,” Draco replied deviously.
“Fortunately, I also came prepared.” Harry grinned mischievously.
Draco looked around nervously. Who else was there? How dare Potter play dirty! That was his territory! He was the one who was in Slytherin!
Draco took out a few Galleons and threw them down on the ground in front of Potter. There was silence for a few seconds. Harry looked confused.
“Sorry scarface, I just needed to make sure that Weasley wasn’t hiding under an invisibility cloak.” Furious, Harry kicked the coins to the edge of the Tower.
“Shall we dance,” Draco scowled, lifting up his wand. Draco and Harry stepped toward each other, wands raised. Their eyes were inches away from one another.
“On the count of three, cast your spell,” Draco commanded. They turned their backs toward one another and each took three steps. Then they turned, faced each other, bowed slightly and were poised to fight.
Draco started to count... “One – Two –”
“Stupefy!” Draco cried. But Harry was too quick. He leapt out of the way and countercursed. “Incendio!”
A yellow flame shot out of Harry’s wand and nailed the raven right between the eyes. It caught on fire. Draco shoved the burning bird off of him. Stupid raven! Serves her right! She shouldn’t be here anyway! The raven hopped off of Draco’s shoulder and slammed her feathers against the stone wall, trying to put the fire out. Draco and Harry looked at each other menacingly.
“Expelliarmus!” they both cried simultaneously. Their spells hit one another and dissipated. Draco was livid. This was not going as simply as planned. Draco fired the Conjunctivitis curse at Harry. He ducked and shot back with the Blasting curse. Neither one hit its target.
“Tarantallegra!” The spell impacted on a surprised Harry. Harry's legs started dancing the Mambo. Draco smirked. Stupid fucking Potter. Harry tried to regain his balance when Draco nailed him with the Leek Curse. Leeks started growing out of Harry’s ears. As if that stupid half-blood could match my brilliance, Draco mused.
“Finite Incantatum!” Harry cried, turning his wand onto himself. Harry bounced back onto the Tower floor, but the effects of Malfoy’s spells were gone.
“LEGILIMENS!” Harry chanted. The spell nailed a posturing Draco in the chest. Draco wasn’t ready. What was this spell? The Astronomy Tower unexpectedly swam in front of Draco’s eyes and then vanished. Suddenly, we were in Draco’s past. It was August 31, 1996. 4:55 AM. Draco was dreaming about his duel with Potter.
“Draco please!” Harry reached out and clasped his hands around Draco’s ankle, begging him for mercy. Draco kicked the half-blood swine away.
“Dumbledore can’t save you now,” Draco grinned. Harry pleaded for mercy. His face bloodied. His wand snapped in two.
“You didn’t show my father mercy,” Draco responded coldly. Draco lifted his wand. Potter cowered in fear. Draco admired his reflection in Potter’s terrified green eyes. He was going to do it. He waved his wand. A raven nodded in the background. Time stood still.
‘NOOOOOOOOOO!’ screamed a voice inside Draco’s head. Get out! Get the fuck out of my head, Potter! Draco felt a sharp pain in his knee. The Astronomy Tower had come back into focus. Draco was livid and... terrified. What had Potter seen? Did he know? Damn that fucking half-blood! Now he’d have to kill him! Draco raised his wand. Harry, mortified at having just witnessed his attempted murder through Draco’s eyes, tripped and fell backwards. Harry’s wand tumbled onto the ground. Draco looked over at the raven. It nodded. It was time. Draco waved his wand.
“MEEEEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWWW!” Crookshanks, Hermione’s bandy-legged, ginger cat, leapt out of nowhere and pounced on Draco. He quickly shredded Draco’s custom tailored silk robe.
“Get Off Of Me, You Filthy Mudcat!” Draco screamed. Disgusted, Draco pried Crookshanks off of him and threw the mangy feline down. Harry scrambled and picked up his wand.
“EXPELLIARMUS!” they both cried. This time the spells did not counteract one another; instead, it knocked the wands out of both of their hands. The raven flew over to fetch Draco’s wand for him. Crookshanks leapt on top of the bird and proceeded to attack.
Draco was irate. He pounced on top of Potter at punched him in the stomach, then in the face, knocking his glasses onto the stone floor. They shattered. Fucking Potter. Take that! Draco hit Harry with two more jabs to the stomach. Harry bounced back with an uppercut to Draco’s chin. Then he hit Draco in the face. NOT THE FACE! Draco kicked Harry down on the ground. Harry’s face was bloody. So was Draco’s. Harry grabbed Draco’s leg and pulled Draco on top of him. They wrestled on the ground, each grabbing the other by the hair and trying to regain control of the struggle.
Suddenly, there were footsteps on the stairwell. Draco and Harry turned to see Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger rushing towards them.
“HARRY!” Ron and Hermione shrieked.
Draco looked at a shocked Harry. And then they kissed... well, not exactly.
Ron leapt on top of Draco to pull him off of Harry. But the force of Ron’s torso slamming into Draco’s neck knocked Draco’s head smack into Harry’s. Owwwww! Damn indigent Weasel! Draco opened his eyes and saw that his mouth had been inadvertently thrust against Potter’s. Draco could taste the blood on Potter’s lips. Oh my God!
“GET OFF OF ME!” Draco screamed as he lunged backward, throwing Ron off balance. Draco was in shock. Had he just kissed Potter? HARRY FUCKING POTTER? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Draco started shaking and then he did the only thing he could do. Run! Draco bolted down the staircase (intentionally knocking over the Mudblood on his way down) and did not stop running until he was back in the Slytherin Dormitory. He had failed. His father would be very angry. But for once, Draco really didn’t care. He was trembling with fear. He could still taste Potter’s blood... He could still see the horror in Potter’s devastating green eyes...
HARRY – THE ACCIDENTAL KISS
The Midnight Duel did not go as expected. Harry had lived. And now he was in the infirmary... his glasses repaired... his body bandaged... but his soul still shattered. Harry was haunted by the taste Malfoy’s blood on his lips... and by the petrified expression in Malfoy’s cold grey eyes when Draco realized that their lips had accidentally touched. But what terrified Harry more than the accidental kiss itself was... well... he wasn’t exactly sure if it were an accident. Had Harry intended to kiss Malfoy? But Malfoy tried to kill him! Harry saw his impending death through Malfoy’s own eyes! But... did Harry intentionally reposition his head when he saw Ron rush to his aid? Did he know that Malfoy would be knocked into him? Was he that cold and... calculating? The Sorting Hat was right; he would have done well in Slytherin. But... No... He couldn’t possibly... Damnit, he could still taste Malfoy’s blood...
END OF CHAPTER 4