More, with a side-order of longer. Shout-outs to Marie for motivation (threats of bodily harm if more is not written count as motivation, right?) and Trag, for general awesomeness. Yes, it's a word.
Harry Potter, the famous boy-who-lived and reportedly delusional madman, was going on a date. What fun, he reflected, as he trudged down the stairs towards the gate. Knowing his luck, it would be a fiasco.
He frowned to himself. No, that was a stupid way of putting it. He was spending a bright and sunny Hogsmeade trip with a fellow DA member. Even if it did turn out to be too awkward, he had an excuse to end it early - Hermione wanted to meet him for something at the Three Broomsticks, after all.
He was in much better spirits about the whole thing by the time he had reached the line at the gates, greeting Cho with a smile. She looked fairly normal, but under closer scrutiny there was a strange tenseness to her... as if she had too much energy bottled up. Luna was right.
The two of them greeted each other with awkward hellos, and the conversation turns, inevitably, towards Quidditch as they made their way through the line and towards Hogsmeade.
"Do you miss it?"
"Well, yeah, but Ginny seems alright at it. I can still fly, at least."
Cho gave him an confused look. "I thought the Toad had taken your broom?"
Harry's mind flitted to the cloud he had watched yesterday, and for a brief second he was looking at a series of grassy hills, tiny sheep looking like miniature clouds dotted around. Seems his cloud had drifted south. Without thinking, he murmured, "you don't always need a broom to fly."
Cho just looked at him with a strange expression, before shrugging it off. She seemed about to continue on the subject when the two of them were subjected to a drive-by berating from a group of Slytherin girls lead by Pansy, including unfavourable comparisons between him and Cedric.
"Now that's just in poor taste," Harry commented after the pack had passed, frowning at their backs. How best to undo this? Ah. "Maybe it's jealousy. Perhaps Pansy has a thing for you."
Cho just gaped at him, any anger or embarrassment from the Slytherins' comments erased by this suggestion. She shook her head to clear her mind at the thought and cast her eyes around, looking for something to change the subject to. Instead she caught a glimpse of the rainclouds overhead. "We should get inside before it rains. D... d'you want to get a coffee?"
Harry followed her gaze and inspected the sky. Those were not friendly-looking clouds. "Good idea. Three Broomsticks?"
"Actually, I know a nice little place..." And with that she led him off down a sidestreet, across an alley, and into a small, cramped little teashop.
It was horrendously cutesy. Harry paused halfway through the door and just gaped at it. Frills, bows, confetti... and cherubs. One of the little buggers flitted over to greet them, caught Harry's alarmed expression, and did an abrupt about-face. Instead, they were greeted by the crafter of this abomination, Madam Puddifoot herself, who bustled them over to a table next to a steamed-up window. Uncomfortably, they were also next to Roger Davies and a blonde Hufflepuff, who were currently carrying out detailed inspections of each other's tonsils using only their tongues. Ye gods.
Harry gave the cherubs a long, uncertain look - something about them seemed off to him. They seemed to be avoiding his eye. He shrugged it off - at least he wouldn't have to spend the next day or two picking confetti out of his hair. He turned away from them to catch their coffee arriving.
Well, this was awkward. They didn't really have anything to talk about that they hadn't covered at DA. Well, Harry had something, at least.
"Do you mind if we swing past the Three Broomsticks around midday? Hermione asked me to meet her there."
"You're meeting Hermione Granger? Today?"
"Yeah, I think she's up to something for DA." He thought for a moment. "She got a letter this morning, and told me to meet her just after she read it. I think she'd be out with Ron if he wasn't training for the next match."
This seemed to derail Cho's train of thought. "Oh. Hermione and Ron are going out?"
"They're doing something that requires a lot of time together. Going out is my best guess."
Another awkward silence filled the air. Cho glanced over at the next table a few times (where Roger and his lady friend had thus far failed to devour each other's faces, but were still trying with unabated enthusiasm) and seemed about to comment, but decided against it. Instead she cast her eyes over the teashop and murmured, "I came in here with Cedric last year."
Harry's first reaction was one of horror, but then Luna's warnings from the other day started to make sense. She lost one champion, so she probably thinks she needs a new one. But she misses Cedric, not a champion.
The poor girl was trying to replace Cedric with Harry by doing all the same things, but then everything reminded her of Cedric... which would explain the teary kiss, and her bringing up Cedric now.
Harry didn't know what to do, but then he remembered how he had replied to Luna's warning. She's DA. We look out for each other... And he looked over to Cho, who was watching for his reaction through misty eyes, and could tell that only the fact that she was in public was keeping her from bursting into tears.
So he stood, took her hand, and gently pulled her out of her chair and into an embrace. She stiffened, surprised, before relaxing and clutching at him. A moment later she started to shake with silent sobs.
With some difficulty, he extricated a galleon from his pocket and dropped it on the table. He started guiding Cho to the door, which was being held open by a sympathetic-looking Madam Puddifoot.
Outside the sunny day had turned anything but and rain had just started to patter down, but Harry ignored it, gently guiding Cho through the streets and towards Hogwarts. Just as they reached the outskirts of the town, Cho's sobs started to recede. "I'm sorry Harry, it's just..."
"...you miss Cedric," Harry finished.
They walked in silence for a minute more. "How did it happen? Did he say anything... anything?"
Harry really didn't want to remember that day, but he figured he owed it to Cedric. "We grabbed the Cup together. It was a portkey, we ended up in a graveyard..." He swallowed. "We looked at each other, and he said, uh... 'wands out, d'you reckon?' Then someone yelled the killing curse, and it hit Cedric." He shook his head. "Didn't feel a thing. Probably didn't even have time to realize a killing curse was flying before he... before." She started sobbing again, out loud this time, and Harry just continued to hold her, slowly guiding them back towards Hogwarts.
The rest of the trip passed without further conversation, and Cho stopped them at the castle entrance and pulled away. Her eyes were red and she looked far from happy, but she looked less, well, tense than she had all year. She gave Harry a half-hearted smile. "This didn't go so well, did it?"
"Oh, I don't know," he said thoughtfully. "You never really had a chance to get all of that off your chest. It could have gone much worse."
Cho's almost-smile twitched and she briefly hugged Harry - this time more affectionate than comfort-seeking. "You go back to Hogsmeade, see what Hermione's up to."
"You'll be alright?"
"Marietta's upstairs. I'll be fine." He turned to leave. "Um, Harry? Thanks."
He looked back and smiled, his expression slightly distant. "Like I said to Luna, we're DA. We look out for each other." And with that he turned and left.
"...he said to Luna?" Cho murmered to herself as she started climbing stairs, still sniffling slightly. She had heard a rumour that Harry and Luna had been spending some time together, and had dismissed it. Maybe there was something to it after all.
Harry hit the door of the Three Broomsticks at a speed that suggested anyone that had attempted to go through them the other way at that point in time would have become and unfortunate and very lonely statistic. The umbrella he had taken from the ever-present pile in the Hall could only cover so much, especially after the wind picked up. At that point he looked like he had waded half-way into the lake before thinking better of it.
Hermione appeared next to him, eyeing him concernedly. "You're late, you know, and completely soaked. And where's Cho?"
"I took her back to Hogwarts. Apparently it brought up memories of Cedric for her..."
"Oh dear... is she okay?"
"She should be. Marietta can take care of Cho better than I can."
Hermione had led him over to a table tucked into a corner booth, almost out of sight of the greater part of the tavern. Inside it were two familiar faces; one welcome, one anything but.
Luna and Rita Skeeter.
He ignored the latter and gave the former a warm smile, who returned it with a questioning look at the door. Harry shook his head and glanced in the general direction of Hogwarts. Luna nodded in understanding and returned to reading a copy of the Quibbler.
Harry took a seat at the table opposite Rita, giving her a mistrustful look. "What's this about?"
"That's what I'd like to know. Ask your manipulative little friend."
Hermione shot Rita a withering look "Well, Rita here is going to write an article about You-Know-Who being back, and Luna's father is going to publish it."
Hermione's timing was perfect; Rita had just taken a long sip of her drink as she heard what she was to be doing, and sent a fine spray of it through the air, barely missing Luna.
Harry resisted the urge to headbutt the table. This was not going to be fun.
Two hours later and the interview was finally finished. Recalling that night was bad enough, but being badgered mercilessly for every minor detail elevated it to a form of torture. After the first five minutes, Luna had sought out Harry's hand with her own under the table, without any indication to anyone watching that she was doing anything other than placidly sucking Gillywater off her cocktail onion.
Luna and Harry left soon after, Hermione and Rita barely noticing, too caught up in their verbal duel over the more florid phrases and leaps of logic that Rita's quill had made.
They paused at the door, just looking at the rain pouring down. Harry silently offered the umbrella to Luna, who took it with a thoughtful expression. A long moment of silent thought later, she walked out into the rain with the umbrella unopened, spreading her arms and smiling up at the sky. She turned and gestured for Harry to follow.
Well, it wasn't like he wasn't already soaked. He walked out into the street, flinching under the heavy rain at first but shrugging it off. Luna had opened the umbrella and balanced it top-first in a puddle and had was looking up at an overhanging branch with her wand drawn. A couple of quick Diffindos and fixing charms later, and two fairly straight section of branch were fixed to the handle of the wand.
Luna took a step back and gave the... thing being built a critical look, before shrugging off her robe to fix it to the newly-attached crossbars. The fact that she was wearing shorts and a white blouse underneath elevated this creation to the greatest invention in the history of magic in Harry's mind. Luna turned to Harry with a smile that would have been worrying on anyone else - equal parts thrill of creation and mischief.
Harry blinked, but complied. "Wingardium Leviosa," he murmured, and the umbrella lifted slightly into the air. Luna examined it, giving it a gentle poke, before shaking her head.
"No, more than that."
Harry had been glancing around, finally noticing that bystanders had become spectators, but shifted his attention back. He gathered up his focus and narrowed his eyes at the thing. "WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!"
Luna gave it another poke, then a harder prod. It drifted a few centimetres but otherwise stayed still. She grinned and reached over to Harry, grasping his arm and pulling him over to the umbrella, pausing, as it were, on the precipice. She lifted her foot, and Harry obligingly mirrored the movement. Together, they hopped into the umbrella.
It dipped slightly, but otherwise stayed stable, the material of the umbrella seemingly unconcerned with their weight. Luna sat in the umbrella, which by now was almost full of rainwater, and pulled Harry down next to her.
They sat there in the floating umbrella-turned-bathtub with a handle-turned-sail, Luna just smiling at Harry. It occurred to him, between glances at the growing crowd, that this wasn't going to do his protestations of sanity any good, but by Merlin he was going to see what this girl was about to do even if he ended up in St Mungo's afterwards. He returned her smile with one of his own, and followed her gaze as she shifted it to the sail. She lifted her wand and, with the mix of relish and eagerness usually reserved to those flicking a switch with one end connected to a corpse/jigsaw puzzle hybrid and the other to a lightning rod, whispered "Depulso".