“His Hidden Heart”
By = Sure As Elle
Chapter One: Not Like Other Boys
Harry Potter was not like other boys. He was, in fact, a wizard; something he'd first found out about on his 11th birthday. That alone had been a shock, a pleasant one, in a life full of misery and woe. Raised by his aunt and uncle, who hated him and worked him like a slave for as long as he could remember, it had been good news to get out of there and to a world where he had special talents.
But then the second shock had come: he was famous in that world, for something he had no memory of. Famous because the most dangerous dark wizard in a century had not been able to kill him, had become a wraith in his attempt to do so. This was almost too much for Harry, who had always been told he was nothing, invisible, that nobody liked him or would ever like him.
For the first few years of his Hogwarts career, he thought that was the last great shock about himself he would discover. He was wrong. He would figure this out on the day of the Quidditch World Cup.
Harry was awoken rather reluctantly that morning, as he'd gotten only a few hours sleep. It wasn't even technically dawn yet, which annoyed him. In his opinion, no human being had any business being up before the sun even rose. But rise he did, because they had to get ready to go very early in order to get to the Quidditch World Cup. Why they couldn't just go by side-along apparition, Harry didn't know. But there were rather a lot of them. Still, Percy and Bill knew how to apparate too, they could have taken some people.
After breakfast, they took a portkey to the place the match would be held at, and went looking for their bit of the campsite. While Mr. Weasley tried starting a fire the Muggle way, he and the others went off looking for water, since there was no magic allowed here, seeing as it was owned by Muggles. Along the way, Harry let his eyes wander and take in the sights. He smiled as he watched the wizarding children gambol about, intrigued to see such young wizards and witches, a sight he'd not been privy to before. Youngest he'd seen before then was Ginny, back when she was 10 and he was 11. It was a pl---
WHAM. He fell over, having walked right into Ron's backside, because the boy had stopped and Harry hadn't been paying attention.
“Oi! Oh, sorry Harry. Here,” Ron said, holding out a hand to help his friend up. “You must not've been paying attention, mate.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I was-- er, something caught my eye.” Even in his dazed state, he didn't think it was a good idea to say he'd been too busy watching little girls playing to keep an eye on his surroundings. Especially as he didn't know himself why he found them so fascinating.
Switching gears, he took a moment to figure out where he was and what was going on. As it turned out, they were waiting in line for water. With this knowledge, he went back to watching the children playing. His eyes mostly followed the oldest of two girls in the group, who he guessed was about 7 or 8 years old. The other girl, who was maybe 4, didn't interest him much, nor did the three boys of various ages. The girl he was watching so keenly had lovely chestnut brown hair and matching eyes, and was dressed like a Muggle in shorts and a blue t-shirt. She also wore pink trainers with red shoelaces.
The girl got into a mock fight with one of the boys, and they struggled to wrestle one another to the ground. When she wouldn't go down easily, the boy – who was bigger than her – grabbed her by the arms and lifted her up, making her legs flail in the air. Harry chuckled at the sight, a chuckle that was cut off abruptly as he caught a flash of pink panties, and suddenly he felt very... he blinked. What did he feel? And... he felt his face go hot as he noticed his... thingy... was suddenly standing at attention. If he'd been in wizard robes, that wouldn't have mattered, but he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt; he quickly put his hands in his pockets and surreptitiously tried to hide the evidence. When that didn't work so well, he started thinking about Dudley eating, and that mental image grossed him out enough that the errant member began to behave itself.
Feeling suddenly paranoid of everyone looking at him, his mind began to race. What was going on with him all of a sudden? Thinking fast, he remembered it had been doing weird things the last year or so, popping up at random. Yes, that was it; going through puberty meant that sometimes his... his penis... did things. It had a mind of its own, was what his sex-ed teacher had said. He relaxed, but still he tried looking anywhere but at the little girl. He was relieved, as well as a little sad, when the group of kids ran off out of sight.
Out of sight, he was able to get them out of mind, but only by focusing on the conversation nearby. Apparently some old wizard named Archie had shown up in a Muggle woman's dress, needing a healthy breeze around his privates, which gave Hermione a serious case of the giggles.
Everything was basically normal until the walk back, when he spotted the girl again. He found himself wishing he had a camera and the guts to snap a picture of her, which confused him. Sure, it was a charming sight to see children playing, but why would he want to have a photo of that? Well, aside from the fact that wizard photos moved, so it would be like taking a short video.
He was glad when they got back to the tent, so he could go in and lay on the bed until it was time for the match. But this just resulted in him thinking about the little girl some more. In ways that made him wish it was a private bedroom.
Growling at himself, he got up and started hunting around for a book to distract himself with; any book would do. But he hadn't brought any, he hadn't thought he would need one. He was going spare! He began pacing in circles. When someone asked why, he mumbled something about being impatient for the game.
After about ten minutes of this, he gave up and headed out again.
“Where you off to, mate?”
“Finding Luna. Your dad said she was here somewhere.”
“Okay, but it's almost time.”
Luna Lovegood was a friend of Harry's. She'd caught his eye in the first week of his second year. He'd been an outcast and social pariah all his life thanks to Dudley, so he recognized the look of loneliness and despair in her first week, and had gone over to the Ravenclaw table to see she was alright. In the years since, they'd become close friends, almost as close to him as Hermione and Ron were.
He asked around now and then for the Lovegood's tent, which he figured would be distinctive. Occasionally it required explaining 'it'll look weird probably,' though he was unsure how much this helped. But before too long, he managed to find it. The tent was almost an exact replica of their house, shaped like a giant chess rook. This warmed his heart.
Luna was outside putting out a purple fire with her wand, when he showed up. She glanced up and beamed. “Harry! You found us! I didn't think we'd meet until the top box.”
Harry grinned. When he'd found out Luna and her father were going, but on cheap tickets, he'd used gold from his own account to pay for a ticket upgrade for the both of them. It wouldn't do, after all, to not have her near him at such a big event.
“Yeah, well, I couldn't wait. I had to see you.”
“You found us just in time, Harry. They're already starting to fill the stadium.”
Xenophilius Lovegood came out of the tent and grinned at Harry.
“Harry, my lad, good to see you! But you seem to have vexamoths fluttering around you. They're attracted to worry, of course; feed off it. You shouldn't worry so much, my dear lad; vexamoths are venomous. They stay around you too long and your health will deteriorate.”
“Um... okay, I'll try.” He smiled at Xeno's weird invisible creature talk.
“That's the spirit! Cheer up, scare those vexamoths away. They're repulsed by happiness. Much like Dementors that way, y'know.”
Harry and Luna chatted about this and that on the way up to the Quidditch pitch, which Harry was glad for. Of course, it also helped that people were packed enough that the few kids he could see were mostly hidden by the adults in the way.
“Oh, by the way,” he said as they finally made it to the top box, handing her a pair of omnioculars. “This is for you.”
“Why thank you, Harry. You're so generous.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, well, I never had any money before my 11 th birthday, as far as I knew. I like sharing with my friends.”
“Because you never had any friends to share with until Hogwarts?”
“Me too,” she said with just a touch of sorrow. He knew this already, of course, but he nodded anyway.
“I really do appreciate having you as a friend, Harry. And for introducing me to Ron and Hermione as well.”
“Harry! Over here!” It was Mr. Weasley's voice. Harry looked up, and he and Luna were soon sitting with everyone else. Bemusedly, Harry noted Hermione was on one side of him, and Luna was on the other. Poor Ron was on the other side of Hermione, but he didn't seem too put out by it.
Luna started looking around with her omnioculars, so Harry did as well. While doing so, he saw another little girl, this one wearing a yellow halter dress. She was blond, but he couldn't tell what her eye color was from this distance. He zoomed in a little more, and saw she had blue eyes. She was extremely pretty. Especially those lips; he wanted to kiss them.
He tore the omnioculars from his eyes, shocked and disturbed at his own thoughts. Needing a distraction, he looked at Luna, who seemed to have her omnioculars facing the same direction.
“What you looking at?” he asked. She jumped a little, and fumbled to put her omnioculars down, before jerking her head at him and blushing. He raised an eyebrow at this; he'd never seen Luna nervous before. She looked almost as nervous as he felt.
“Oh, er... just people-watching,” she said, giving a nervous chuckle. “What about you?”
They both looked elsewhere, not meeting the other's eyes. It was very awkward. Luckily the game started then, distracting everyone.
After the game was over, they went back to their tents, where they celebrated for a while and then went to bed. But they were hardly awake long when they were woken up by a ruckus. Death Eaters were rampaging through the camp, and they all had to run away while Mr. Weasley went to help the Ministry deal with the threat. As they ran to the nearby woods, they caught sight of a Muggle family being held up in the air and being toyed with. Harry, suddenly very angry, surged back to try to help them, but he discovered he didn't have his wand, so he had to retreat, trying all the way there to figure out when he'd lost his wand and where it'd gone.
They met up with Luna on the way there, and passed by a sneering Draco Malfoy. Luna, too, was concerned about the Muggle family - “those poor kids!” she bemoaned. But she stuck with them all the same.
The rest of the night was a surreal blur, in which somebody scared off the Death Eaters with the Dark Mark, but wasn't caught. Harry's wand was found with a house elf of all things, and he got accused by Mr. Crouch of being a Death Eater, but nobody else took the man seriously. Harry was just glad his wand was okay.
The next day, as they headed back, he was relieved to find out that the Muggle children would be okay. Nobody else had gotten hurt by the night's chaos, thankfully. And so they returned to a very distraught Mrs. Weasley, who was very, very happy to see them all alive and well.
Harry had forgotten about his self-observations in the chaos of that night, but over the next few days, those memories trickled back. Luckily, everyone attributed his growing nerves to the events of that night and the fact that the perpetrators still hadn't been caught.
Along with the thoughts from that day, Harry was beginning to remember other things. Like the time last summer he'd been going through an old Weasley family photo album and had lingered on old pictures of Ginny, from when she was about 7, and how he'd thought she was so adorable. He had lingered on those photos, despite having never had any interest in Ginny before. And he'd had no interest in Ginny even now, so it wasn't like he'd spontaneously developed feelings for her.
Examining those feelings, he realized they were different from what he'd felt for that brown haired little girl at the World Cup. He'd looked at Ginny's old photo as though admiring a work of art, and little more. But he'd had butterflies in his stomach, a racing pulse, sweaty palms, and extreme nerves upon seeing the unknown World Cup girl. It was a crush, no doubt about it. And though he resisted the notion, he finally had to face facts. By the end of the fourth day back from the Cup, he knew; he, Harry Potter, fancied little girls. He wanted to hug them, hold their hands, and kiss them; maybe even more. As fantasies of the girl disrobing began to invade his thoughts, he pushed them aside. Make that a definite desire for more.
Not all of them, or even most of them. Just some of them. But that was enough. It was a horrible thought, especially when he thought about going to school, as he was fairly certain Snape could read minds.
Getting up to pace around Ron's room, he did a lot of hard thinking. What could he do? If this was his sexuality, now, then he knew he was screwed. It was impossible to just change who you were attracted to, he knew that from some of the things he'd come across in the library and other places in his time. One's sexuality could change, of course, but only on its own; you couldn't force the issue.
He needed someone to talk to about it, but who? Ron would be disgusted, no doubt. Hermione would insist he was leaping to wild conclusions. But he'd considered that already. He'd wondered if maybe he just really wanted to be a father some day, but discounted that. Fatherly feelings are not meant to include wanting to... to do things with your children. Plus, the thought of doing things with his own children, assuming he ever had any, turned him off, a lot.
She'd probably also say he was only 14, it was natural to like people who were young, as he's young too. But so far, he'd never felt anything like this for anyone his own age, and this girl he was having impure thoughts about was half his age. She was a child, and he was a teenager. True he was a minor himself, but being a legal minor and being an actual child were two entirely different things.
Harry's worries followed him through the rest of the summer and onto the school train. Luna met up with them and they all got a compartment together, but Harry remained taciturn the whole way, no matter how hard people tried to engage him in conversation. Luna even tried talking about his worry, but it was no good. He pondered it; Luna might understand; she was extremely open minded and non-judgmental, but even so, he had doubts. And he couldn't well talk to her here. Anyone could be overhearing, even if he booted his other friends out, which would be rude and suspicious.
That night at the Sorting, he tried to resist looking at the new students, all 11 year olds (or close enough), but he couldn't. His eyes picked out several adorable girls in the lot, and one bombshell that really got his heart going. She wasn't the youngest-looking of the girls, but she was stunning. Gloria Hartnell, Ravenclaw. She had long, slick black hair, light brown skin, and stunningly gorgeous hazel eyes.
After the feast, up in his bed, he spelled the curtains solid, put up a silencing charm (he'd been reading years ahead lately to try to distract himself from his thoughts, and practicing some of the advanced spells), and pulled down his pants. Conjuring some lotion, he started thinking about the girl from the World Cup. He later cried himself to sleep from shame.
For weeks, he worried. Schoolwork distracted him some, as did trying to block his thoughts whenever Snape was around. He thought he was achieving some success, given the confused looks he occasionally saw on Snape's face. Of course, he had no proof that reading minds was a real talent, but he had to consider it was at least possible, given what he already knew magic could do.
He'd even considered writing Sirius about it, but was paranoid about the letter being intercepted, and he didn't really know Sirius enough to know how he'd react. Also, he couldn't see going to any adult about this. By the end of the first week, he knew he'd have to talk to Luna. But the next couple weeks he spent screwing up his courage to actually do so.
Part of the problem was where to go, that had privacy enough. He'd finally resorted to looking up privacy spells in the library. He spent extra time learning them all, but it wasn't until he mastered one to repel ghosts and poltergeists – almost like the Muggle repelling charm did – that he finally decided to do it.
Going over to the Ravenclaw table as he did sometimes, he chatted up Luna with an unconvincing display of nonchalance, slipping her a piece of parchment as he did so. When he finally left the table, she waited until she was one of the last to leave the Great Hall before reading it. It said, simply, “I need to tell you something. Meet me in the classroom across the hall from the library's main entrance before dinner tonight.”
Harry was lingering behind as well, looking her way. She smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. She might miss dinner, but it would be worth it to find out whatever was bothering Harry lately. And she could always get some food from the house elves later.
Luna poked her head into the room he had indicated, making sure Harry was there; he was, and was pacing a hole in the floor (not literally). He stopped when he saw her, and turned pale, which had her concerned. What could be so serious, after all?
She closed the door, and he cast a bunch of complex security spells after she did. Her eyes grew wide in concern.
“Are you... are you dying? Is it contagious? This room is so thick with vexamoths it feels crowded.”
“Sit, please,” he said, indicating a chair. She did, looking up at him in concern. He did not sit himself.
It took Harry about 20 minutes or longer – it felt more like an hour – of talking in disjointed and broken sentences, to finally get to what he wanted to say. Most of the words sounded like chaotic thoughts burbling up out of his mouth at random, it was very hard to make any sense out of it. But she figured out bits and pieces, something about some girl at the World Cup, but that didn't seem to fit how nervous – no, terrified – he was.
Finally, he managed to control himself enough to speak somewhat sensibly. She got the impression he'd worn himself out and no longer had the energy to hem and haw.
“Y-you know... um... when I asked you, er... about what you were, um... looking at? Through the omnioculars?”
She blushed at this, feeling uncomfortable herself. “Um... yes, I do, Harry. Er... what about it?”
“Well I was, you know, I was trying to make, well, conversation. I needed a distraction. Because, well... I... the girl I'd been looking at? Well... she, er... she was...” he mumbled something indistinct.
“What? I didn't catch that, sorry.”
“Um.” He closed his eyes, then held up seven fingers. She looked at these in confusion for a moment, before realization dawned on her.
“Oh. OH. Oh. Oh Harry...” she laughed hysterically, and he glared at her, tears in his eyes. “Oh Harry, is that all? Oh, oh...”
“Whaddaya mean 'is that all'?”
“Sit, Harry, you look exhausted.” He resisted, but she pulled him down onto the seat next to her, then pulled him into a hug.
When she ended the hug, he looked confused but relieved. “Harry. Do you remember that I was, er... a bit uncharacteristically nervous myself, when you asked me what I was looking at that day?”
Not trusting himself to speak without puking, he nodded.
“I, er. I was looking at a little girl in the stands, a girl with a gorgeous yellow h--”
She blinked in surprise. “Why, yes. Is she what you were looking at, too?”
“Yeah. Why were you looking at her?”
“Well, if I've figured out what you're trying to say correctly... for the same reasons as you.” She sighed wistfully. “She was so gorgeous . I've had a lot of fun thinking about her since that day. You know, at night, before going to sleep.”
“Really? So you...”
“Fancy little girls too? Yes.”
“How... how long have you known?”
“Not much longer than you. The first week of this recent summer, in fact. I went out into the village, like I do sometimes, to walk around looking at things. And stopping at the park to watch the children playing. That day, I was eyeing a sexy little slip of a thing, maybe 8 or 9 years old, wearing cutoff shorts and a bikini top, her red hair in braids. I found myself thinking about undressing her, and... doing things with my mouth, on her... um... between her legs.”
“So... so we're both monsters?”
“Shhh, no. No, Harry. You can't choose your sexuality. But you can choose how you behave. It's not wrong to love someone, or even to lust after them, as long as you don't do anything to hurt them.”
He visibly relaxed at this, looking pensive. “You have a point, there,” he eventually said. But the tears in his eyes grew; he leaned into Luna's chest and wept, long and loud, while she ran her fingers through his hair, cooing at him and speaking soothing words.
When he finally sat up and dried his eyes off, he asked, “How did you get so calm and wise about this stuff?”
“Oh, it wasn't easy. I had months to obsess over it, though. And I had my Daddy to help me.”
“You talked to your dad about this?”
“Yes. I had almost as hard a time as you did. But he told me, before I got it out, that he'd always love me and protect me, even if I joined the Death Eaters.”
“What'd he say after you told him?”
“Basically what I told you. That we don't choose who we love, but we do choose how we treat those we love. That we don't have to act on those desires. But that we should love every part of ourselves, give it attention but don't let it control you. He says denial and self loathing just make us slaves to those unloved parts of ourselves; they manifest anyway, act out. To master our emotions, we must acknowledge them, accept them, and love them. It's much easier to tell an emotion 'no' when it understands that you understand.
“He did also say, weeks later, that he thought children could consent under the right conditions, one day, with lots of work on society. I believe much the same. I'll probably never live to see it. In the meantime, I choose to love myself fully, and do no harm.”
Harry nodded vaguely, the words echoing in his skull. He was silent again for a while, before finally thinking of something else to say.
“How have you managed to deal with Snape? I'm pretty sure he can read minds.”
She shrugged. “Not sure. I guess I just don't dwell on my feelings in his classes. It's not like there's any reason to think about those things, except from fear of Snape overhearing your thoughts.”
“So don't think of a pink elephant?”
Luna chuckled. “Something like that. But in seriousness, before you go to his classes, try reminding yourself that you're a good person, then think about something else. Think about the classwork, or about your friends, or even about Snape's greasy hair. Better he's offended than knowing your secret, right?”
He smiled. “That sounds like great advice, Luna.”
“Thanks. Now, it's too late for dinner, but I can show you how to get into the kitchens, so we can get some food from the house elves. You interested?”
Grinning sheepishly, he nodded.
“Well come with me then, Harry,” she said, taking his hand and leading him out of the classroom.
In October, the other schools came for the Triwizard Tournament, and within a few days the Goblet of Fire would be choosing the champions. Barred because of his age, Harry was glad he was going to get a chance to watch someone else do the dangerous stuff for once. But that was short lived, because somehow, someone had managed to get him in as a fourth champion. He had no choice but to compete, which he hated, but there was nothing for it.
Not that many people believed him. Hermione believed him, and Luna believed him, but Ron didn't. A rift formed between them, and if it weren't for Hermione and Luna, he'd have gone spare. His fourth year would have been bad enough with his realization over the summer, without this on top of it. He really wished whoever was trying to kill him would have just been up-front about it.
Every Sunday at the very least, if not more often, he and Luna would run off to talk about their shared passion, their shared secret. Rumors were starting to fly that the two of them were finding somewhere to snog (or more), but he didn't mind. He liked Luna, so he didn't mind the rumors. If nothing else, it was a good cover. Like Look at me, I'm normal; I'm dating Luna Lovegood.
She and Hermione spent time helping him prepare for the task with various defensive spells. These ended up not being terribly helpful once Hagrid leaked to him that the task was something to do with dragons, but if he survived this one, they might help down the road.
“I don't know what to do!” he despaired one Sunday with Luna. “I need ideas.”
“Hmm... well, what about flying?”
“I'm only allowed a wand.”
“Yes, but you're learning the Summoning Charm in Charms, according to Hermione. You could summon your broom.”
“Oh god... I suck at that charm. My mind has been preoccupied with the dragons.”
“Hermione can help you master it.”
He nodded. “Good thing she's still talking to me.”
With Hermione's help, he learned the Summoning Charm in time to use it to summon his broomstick, and put the dragon into a trance with his flying in order to get the golden egg. He was happy to be alive, he was happy to be in first place, but most of all he was ecstatic that Ron was his friend again; the red-head, seeing the dragon, realized Harry had been right... someone was trying to kill him.
Luna had no more idea what the egg's wailing meant either, so he put that mystery aside for the time being. There was plenty of time until the next Task. When he wasn't working or hanging out with Ron, he was spending time with Luna. In fact, he was starting to realize that he was attracted to more than just little girls... he was finding Luna attractive as well. Not just because she was a friend with a shared secret, either. She was beautiful to him, and he was feeling something that – while different from what he felt for little girls – was similar enough to be recognizable as love. He wanted to hold her hand, to hug her, to cuddle her, to kiss her, and maybe more.
After McGonagall told the class about the Yule Ball, and that he was required to attend and have a date, he smiled at her and said, “Professor, I don't think that will be a problem.”
He slipped Luna a message to meet him after dinner that night, and not to worry because he'd have his invisibility cloak with him in case they ran late. Despite his bravado with McGonagall, though, by the time Luna arrived, he was a nervous wreck.
“Well, you don't look as bad as you did that one night,” she said, knowing he'd know what night she meant, “but you look close. What's the matter this time?”
“Um... well... I figured out that, er... my feelings are, well... a little more complicated than, well... than I thought. I... there's a girl close to my age that I, that I like.”
“Oh? Who is this lucky girl?”
“Er... you. You are. I like you.”
She blushed, and looked away, picking at a spot on the desk she was sitting at. “Really? You really like me?”
“Yes. Very much. And, er... I... well... wannagoballwifme?”
She looked up. “What?”
He swallowed. “The Yule Ball. Me, you. Together?”
Luna's face turned even redder. Then, inexplicably, she burst into tears.
Oh shit, he thought. I've said something wrong.
“Um... Luna?” he awkwardly tried approaching her. “What... what's wrong?”
She grabbed him, sobbing into his robes for several minutes before she was able to stop. It took a while longer, though, for her to be able to stop sniffling. “I... it's just I... I never thought I'd ever have friends, then you c-came along, H-Harry. And even then, I n-never thought anyone but my D-Daddy would ever l-love me. That nobody would w-want me to be their g-girlfriend. I'm... they're tears of j-joy.”
Kissing her on the top of the head, Harry held her close and made soothing sounds at her, like she'd done for him once.
It took what felt hours for her to recover her composure fully. When she did, though, they talked again.
“There's something I never told you, because of how you reacted to Ginny's crush on you, but I've had a crush on you for a couple years now. But between Ginny and just being glad to have friends, I said nothing. Then this summer I became both bisexual and a little-girl fancier all in one go. To be honest, I kind of forgot about my crush on you until now. Even when we were bonding over our shared interest, it remained hidden in the attic of my mind. I'm glad someone, anyone, asked me out to the Yule Ball, but I'm most pleased it was you, Harry. I would be thrilled to go with you to the ball.”
Harry's grin that night persisted into his sleep.
The next day, Luna talked with him again; she'd heard something interesting that had sparked an idea in her, and wanted his take on it. He liked the idea, and immediately he went to McGonagall about it, and Luna went to Flitwick. Both teachers were in the teacher's lounge, which enabled them to give them (and Sprout as well) their idea together. The teachers were of mixed opinions about the idea. Soon, they involved Snape and Dumbledore, and the teachers of the other schools. Not everyone was happy about it, but with Dumbledore's support, the idea made it through.
So it was that, at the next meal in the Great Hall, Dumbledore announced that Harry Potter and his date had gotten his approval to invite everyone in years one through three to the Yule Ball as well, and would be allowed to stay until midnight, pending parental approval. This was met with lots of cheers from those years, and mixed reactions among the upper years.
On the night of the ball, a little over half the students in years 1 – 3 were staying behind, many of them being sent last-minute dress robes by owl post, or else getting help from older students or teachers to transfigure a set of their existing school robes for the occasion. Harry and Luna looked at all the younger students running around getting ready for the ball, and shared a conspiratorial look with each other. Both of them had memorized lists of students they wanted at least one dance with.
With Luna's help, Harry had gotten a date for Ron as well, a third-year girl he had forgotten the name of. Ron seemed pleased with the arrangement, at least. Harry had also gotten him help transfiguring his horrible second-hand robes into something decent.
The night of the ball came, and Harry was waiting in the crowded entrance hall looking for Luna. At some point the chatter changed in a way that alerted him, and he looked at the stairway. The first shock was Hermione, who had tamed her bushy hair into an elegant knot on the back of her head, wearing a beautiful periwinkle dress, and holding the arm of Viktor Krum.
The second shock was Luna. In typical Luna style, her dress was peculiar, and yet it also looked elegant, in its own way. Whatever color the material was had gotten lost in the fact that there were tiny mirrors attached to every square centimeter of the dress, like she was a human disco ball. And like a disco ball, she was hard to miss. Her hair had been lengthened and was in a beehive 'do with Christmas tinsel, tree decorations, and mistletoe hanging from it. She also wore earrings that looked like actual red-and-white glass Christmas-tree ornaments (and knowing her, probably were). Her corsage was holly and ivy and rowan.
Well one thing was for sure; nobody would be looking at him; their eyes would all be drawn toward Luna.
“Normally mistletoe has nargles in it,” Luna said when she caught him looking at her corsage. “But they're repelled by rowan wood, so there won't be any in this batch.”
Repressing a laugh, Harry smiled and said, “Good to know.”
He took her arm, feeling giddy. His eyes wandered to a group of first-year girls, all looking elegant in their pretty dresses, and nudged Luna, jerking his head a little to direct her attention that way. She smiled at him, her eyes looking where he'd directed her, and squeezed his arm gently with hers.
They spent the waiting time pointing one another at various similar sights for about 20 minutes before the doors of the Great Hall opened, and people began flooding in. The normal House tables had been removed, and replaced with a whole lot of round tables. Instead of just eating whatever was on offer, they had menus this time and ordered by speaking into their plates. Knowing how Hermione felt about house elves, he wondered what she thought of the extra work this meant for them, but a glance in her direction showed she was far too happy to care about that at the moment.
Harry and Luna had a table with all the other Champions and their dates, as well as Dumbledore and the other teachers. It made for very interesting conversation, especially with Luna there to tell about the wild things she and her father believed in. But Dumbledore was no slouch in the weird conversation department either, telling them – among other things – a tale of a mysterious disappearing room full of chamberpots he'd found once while desperate for a pee.
After dinner was over, the tables and most of the chairs were magically whisked away, opening the room – which had been expanded to several times its normal size for the event – for the dance. The Champions and their dates kicked things off by being the first to dance in an elegant slow dance, and Harry overhead lots of mutters about his choice of dates and her choice of fashion, but it didn't bother either of them.
As planned, after the first dance they split off and went around the room cutting in to dance with other people. Though predominantly aiming for first and second year students, they mixed it up with other years and even teachers, so as to not arouse suspicion. Harry lost count of how many times he had to tell the younger girls to calm down, that he was just another person like anyone else. He wasn't sure how well they heeded his words, but at least he was trying. Despite his words to them, he did find it thrilling that he made these young girls so excited, even though he knew it was just because he was a celebrity.
Though they mixed it up, their decision to dance with younger students got them a lot of attention and gossip, though Luna got far more than Harry did, for she was dancing with girls as well as boys. Harry had considered mixing up genders too, but unlike Luna he was not (yet) bisexual, as far as he knew. He didn't want to give anyone the wrong impression.
However, the thought of dancing with Draco Malfoy just to see the look on the blond's face amused him so much that he finally broke down and did it anyway. Draco had been dancing with one of the Slytherin girls, not the one he'd come to the ball with but another, and Harry cut in. Draco and the girl (Daphne Greengrass, he remembered) both thought he was going to dance with her, and both were shocked when he began dancing with Draco. Draco seemed even more shocked when Harry acted the lead, despite being shorter.
“What are you doing , Potter?” the boy hissed.
“Dancing, of course.”
“With me ?”
“Because the look on your face is priceless, right now.”
Draco reddened with embarrassment and glared at him, but didn't pull out. Instead, he struggled to pull his face into a dignified stoic mask until the song was over and Harry bowed at him and left to go find Luna.
As it turned out, she was at the refreshment table getting punch for them.
“Ah there you are, Harry.” She giggled. “Draco's face was very funny when you began dancing with him. Several other people's faces were also very amusing. Don't be surprised if Rita Skeeter writes something about you and Draco being secret lovers.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, it'd be worth it to drag him into her gossiping with me.”
They drank their punch in pleased silence for several minutes before Luna spoke again.
“I'm having more fun than I can remember ever having had before, Harry,” Luna said, “but I could really use some fresh air. Would you like to come with me?”
“Great, yeah. I could use some, too. Dancing is a lot of work.”
So, arm in arm, the two of them went outside, where the bushes were all decorated with real fairies for the season, their little lights twinkling. It was very pleasant, at least until they spotted Snape. Thinking quickly, they ducked behind separate bushes, where they overheard Snape and Karkaroff discussing something about Karkaroff should flee? Harry wondered what that was all about, but Snape was getting closer, and was blasting bushes to get people out of them, so Harry grabbed Luna and sneaked her off farther down the way.
This time, they got stopped by something else entirely. Hagrid was having what sounded like an intimate conversation with Madame Maxime. Harry wanted to leave, but Snape was still lingering nearby, blocking the way back. And so they overheard the whole thing, including Hagrid trying to get Maxime to admit she was a half-giant like him. That did not go well at all for Hagrid.
When Hagrid and Maxime were both gone their separate ways, Luna said, “Well that explains why Hagrid is so large. Oh hey, Snape is gone.”
They stood up and began making their way back to the dance. “Yeah. Dunno why Maxime was so bothered by it, though. If Hagrid's half-giant, she sure as heck is too.”
“Oh, lots of wizards fear giants, because they're big and tend to be violent. Of course Hagrid and Maxime are good people, but I can see why she's afraid to admit it; being half-giant isn't considered quite as bad as, well, what you and I are, but it's up there.”
“Kinda like the anti-werewolf fears, is it?”
“Yes. It's so sad, too. Treating werewolves as people with a disease might actually help things, but persecuting them has just made things worse, for many reasons. Being poor from their persecution, most werewolves can't afford the things they need to lock themselves up during the full moon, let alone make or take Wolfsbane Potion. So they get loose and bite more people, even the really careful ones. Then in response to that, the Ministry makes laws restricting where they can live, so that their only option becomes homelessness even when they can find a job, which just makes it harder to keep an eye on them when they're dangerous. Of course, the assumption is that they're always dangerous, which of course just isn't true. They're only dangerous during the full moon, and even then only at night.”
“Yeah. You know, I wonder how one gets into magical law.”
“Thinking about trying to pass legislation to help werewolves? Because that sounds like a good idea to me.”
“Among others,” he agreed. But they were too close to other people for him to go into any detail.
“Oh don't forget, Harry, to--”
“Save the last dance for you? Of course, Luna my love.”
She beamed at him.
When Harry went back to the dance floor to dance with one of the first-year girls he'd missed before, he was amused to note that Draco was giving him an incredibly wide berth. The girl was the one he'd most wanted to dance with, Gloria Hartnell, the bombshell he'd seen at the sorting. Well, he thought she was a bombshell, anyway; the poor lass looked very woebegone sitting on a chair in the sidelines all by herself. He walked up to her, and she barely noticed him until he bowed, presenting his hand.
“May I have this dance, my lady?”
Her eyes widened in surprise, but then she smiled and nodded nervously but excitedly. He took her hand, and off they swept across the dance floor.
He was pleased to note that aside from a permanent-looking grin and an odd silence, this girl seemed the most relaxed of all the younger girls he'd danced with that night. She was so much shorter than him that she ended up needing to stand on his feet as they danced, like a father-daughter dance at a wedding he'd seen on the telly once.
Which made it all the more surprising when she spoke to him, just as the song ended, and another began.
“You dance just as nice as Luna,” she said, not moving from her position on his feet.
He blushed a little. “Thank you, Gloria. You were doing well, yourself, despite the height difference.”
“I'm glad I got to dance with you, Harry. You're not at all like Rita Skeeter says.”
“Yeah, well... she says mean things about a lot of people. You should take anything she says with a grain of salt.”
She nodded. “I will. And I'll tell my parents, too. You know, I... nobody's ever paid any attention to me before, unless they were family. It feels nice.”
Thinking fast, and pushing aside his sudden worries with the mantra I am a good person , Harry decided to take this opportunity to have a positive impact on the life of a young person.
“It's no problem. I love helping people. And I'd be thrilled to help you even more if you'd like. Are there any school subjects you need help with? Maybe I could help you out with one or more.”
She turned red. “Oh no, you don't have to do that. I know you're probably really busy.”
“No no, I'd be thrilled to help, honestly. I'll gladly make time for you, Gloria. You're nice, yourself. It's a pleasant change. Aside from my friends, most people are indifferent or even hostile toward me. It's nice to see someone else be nice to me for a change.”
“Oh, thanks. Well, I struggle with History of Magic.”
He chuckled. “I think everyone does. It'd be a really interesting subject if someone, you know, alive were teaching it.”
“I can help with that subject. It's not my best, but I can try. Any others?”
“I struggle with DADA, too.”
“Well you're in luck, my dear, because that's my best subject.”
The song stopped. “Well, Gloria, I think this is the last song, coming up, and I promised Luna I'd dance with her for it.”
Gloria nodded, grinning. “Have fun! I'll see you later sometime!”
She waved enthusiastically, and he waved back before looking for Luna. She wasn't hard to find, even in the low lighting, and soon enough they found one another.
“Luna, there you are. Care to dance?”
“I would be delighted,” she said, attempting to curtsy in her mirrored dress.
The music began, a slow song, and because Luna was slightly taller than him, he let her lead. He leaned his head against the side of her neck because he didn't fancy leaning it against the mirrored dress, and they danced.
“So what was that all about?” Luna whispered into his ear. “All that with Gloria?”
“She liked my dancing. And she said I was very nice, not at all like what Rita Skeeter makes me seem.”
“Oh that's so sweet of her.”
“Yes. And I'm going to tutor her in DADA and History of Magic.”
“Yes, I offered. It will let me spend more time with her, and give me a chance to shape a developing mind.”
“You're not... worried at all?” she asked, barely loud enough for him to hear even with her mouth right by his ear.
He shook his head no.
“Good. Could I join you two, or would you prefer to keep her to yourself?”
He paused, thinking, before responding. “I'll get back to you on that.”
She laughed quietly. “Fair enough.”
They danced silently for most of the rest of the song. Toward the end, though, Harry brought his head up and looked at Luna. They looked into each-others' eyes. He felt a pulling sensation, as did she. Slowly, with a sensation like taut strings inside them vibrating, their faces drifted together, until they were kissing. Harry felt warmer than he had all night, but not uncomfortably so. His first kiss. His mind buzzed, his heart fluttered. He wanted to drink her up, but couldn't. Instead, he delighted in the taste of her warm mouth against his tongue, his tongue against hers, the feeling of her arms against his as they held one another close.
When they came up for air, the buzzing in his head did not go away. Nor did the fluttering of his heart, though both began to fade slowly. Harry knew, in that moment, that he had a new Patronus memory. His dreams that night were full of Luna and him dancing, while Gloria played a violin for them.