Training and Confrontations


Story Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, R/T, and a paternal Ron.

Chapter 38

Chapter Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities growing, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, Remus/T, and a paternal Ron. Part IV (Chapters 35-44) goes from the start of the New Year through the end of June.
Author's Note:
Arguments over a dance, Draco's plan for the future, and the Valentine's Dance.


As the students slowly started to recover from the funerals, life at Hogwarts finally returned to normal. Throughout January and early February, not a peep was heard from Voldemort nor was there any sign of any of his Death Eaters. Magical Law Enforcement around the world kept searching.

The DA was not only meeting every Sunday, it had split into two groups. This was necessary because every student Second year and above was now a member. The Second, Third, and Fourth years met slightly earlier on Sunday afternoons, primarily under the direction of Harry, Neville, and Ginny, assisted by numerous other Fifth years (who needed to practice for their O.W.L's). The full sextet trained the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh years, while Harry (more powerful than ever) coached his five friends.

Since it was still too cold and snowy to fly and too soon for most students to worry too much about O.W.L.s, N.E.W.T.s and other exams, many students' minds turned to the up-coming Valentine's dance. To the disappointment of a number of the girls, Dumbledore had refused to say if the dance would become an annual affair.

Students were asked to sign up for tables. There had to be at least four people to claim a table, and there could be as many as twenty. Hermione, for reasons really known only to herself, had decided to claim one of the twenty-person tables (although she expected to have just nineteen).

Hermione had quickly signed up herself, Harry, and Luna; Ginny and Neville, Parvati and Dean, Lavender and Seamus, Susan and Ernie, Hannah and Justin, and Padma and Anthony. She was not terribly surprised that Draco turned her down, although she was a bit disappointed. (Draco was taking a Fourth year Slytherin, and would be sharing a table with Millicent Bulstrode and Greg Goyle.) She was more than a little surprised that Ron turned her down. He was taking Tracy, and would be sharing a table for four with Daphne and Blaise.

Needless to say, this put Hermione into a huff. She had hoped all the Gryffindor Sixth years could be seated together. She convinced herself that she would not have minded if Ron was sitting at a larger table, but thought that since they had four seats and Ron was sitting at a table for four, he should be willing to fill them.

Harry quickly saw that Ron's main objection was Hermione's expectation. Try as they might, neither Harry nor Ginny could distract Hermione's continued campaign to bring Ron to the table (while they let Ron know they would have liked him to join them, they refused to pressure him). Not even Luna could do more than deflect Hermione for short periods. The disagreement between Ron and Hermione lasted most of an entire week (Friday through Wednesday), in part because of Hermione's single-mindness and in part because Ron was enjoying egging her on, finally going so far as to tease her about S.P.E.W.

Those taunts, on the Wednesday night, had made most of the common room wince. Hermione had been researching and refining her opinions on elf rights (and the rights of goblins, centaurs, werewolves, vampires, giants, merpeople, etc, etc.) since her sojourn over the previous summer. She had not given up on any of her ideals, but had finally realized that she had to learn more and consider the opinions of those other beings. (Having been threatened by the centaurs had shocked Hermione nearly as much as learning that Dobby had been forced to clean the Gryffindor common and girls' areas because of her actions. Having to deal with human slaves while keeping her opinions to herself in Rushak had made her think as well.)

The Gryffindor common room (as opposed to the Sixth year boys' room while Harry had been having his nightmares) had been a fairly quiet place so far that year. Weasley Wizard Wheezes were not uncommon, but compared to the intense testing of the year before, they were only a minor danger. The general noise level generated by the Weasley twins had also been fairly high. Harry was not snapping at people. Hermione and Ron had not engaged in one real argument from September 1 through the end of January.

Everyone agreed that the argument that last Wednesday of the month certainly was in their top ten fights of all time until the breaking point. Real connoisseurs, like Ginny and Seamus, rated it just in the top five. All the First and Second years had been chased out of the common room within fifteen minutes, Bonnie in tears, and that was before Ron had brought up S.P.E.W.

Harry sat in a chair in a corner, tired and worried. He was tired because every Monday through Friday evening from 7:15-8:15, Harry was sparring. Despite barely being recovered, he had quickly shown earlier that month that he could take any three students, even Ron, Ginny, and Neville. He could usually defeat any group of four as well. By now, he was taking on teams of four students or teams of three drawn from Professors McGonagall, Moody, and Flitwick, plus Remus and Tonks, and beating them three out of four times.

To Harry's disappointment, Professor Snape refused to join in. Kingsley Shacklebolt, observing one of the three professors versus Harry duels, withdrew his offer to face Harry alone. He did offer to try and bring of team of aurors and hit-wizards to make a try against Harry before the end of the term.

While Harry tried to distract himself with thoughts about taking on a hit-wizard team, after nearly an hour of the increasing acrimonious argument which had started at the S.P.E.W. reference, Ron then brought out his biggest weapon. He teased Hermione about her crush on 'Vicky'.

The blood had drained from Hermione's face, and Ron recognized the look that crossed her face as the same one she had had right before she had slapped Draco back in Third year. He took a nervous step back. Hermione then turned and fled up to her dorm.

Lavender and Parvati exchanged glances. Parvati ran after Hermione, while Lavender waited to see what happened next. Ginny, seeing Parvati leave, decided to stay.

Ron breathed a sigh of relief. Then it occurred to him that while teasing Hermione about 'Vicky' might have been a useful ultimate weapon over the year the two of them had sparred about dating, it might not be the best weapon to use while Hermione was in a relationship with Harry.

Ron slowly turned to look at the corner most of the students remaining in the common room were already looking towards.

"Ron," Harry said, in far too calm a voice, "if you and Hermione are going to take up squabbling in public again, perhaps that is one taunt you can stop using. You know perfectly well it's been over a year since she wrote to Viktor."

Several retorts formed in Ron's head. For once, Ron thought before he spoke and realized that saying any of them could easily estrange himself and Harry. "I suppose so," Ron said. "You know how we get when we argue, though."

"I know," Harry said, still in that very carefully controlled, calm, frightening voice. "It's really something both of you are going to have to learn not to give into, isn't it?"

Despite trying not to, Ron's eyes locked with Harry's. Suddenly, Ron remembered Harry's hyperventilation episode the previous summer. Harry nodded, and Ron realized that Harry had somehow projected the image past his rudimentary Occlumency shields. Harry was so calm because he was somehow isolating his emotions, at least in part because of an overuse of Occlumency, otherwise the fight between Hermione and himself could have set Harry hyperventilating like he had the previous summer. Ron also realized that, since Harry drew some of his strength from his relationships, he was now cut off from that power and support.

Ron flushed. "I'm sorry, Harry." He turned around. "I apologize, everyone, and I'm sure Hermione will tomorrow. Ginny, Lavender, please tell Hermione how sorry I am." He scowled. "But also please tell her, as I have tried to several times, I'm sitting where I'm sitting because they invited me long before I knew she was planning this big group." Ron walked out of the common room, up to the dorm.

Harry sat in the chair for several minutes, and then left the Gryffindor area. Neville followed him out.

Neville only caught up with Harry because he was standing on a stair landing, looking out the leaded glass panels.

"Harry?" Neville asked, concerned. His concern grew as Harry started to shiver. "Harry!" Neville drew the smaller teen into an embrace. Harry's shivering continued, although not as strong. It decreased more as Ginny silently joined Neville in hugging Harry.

"Remember last summer, that night after the last combat?" Ginny asked.

"I see," Neville said. "What should we do? It's better, but he's still shivering."

"Hermione is still too upset to help," Ginny said thoughtfully. "Run back to the common room and bring all the HPSN who are there, and come back yourself."

Neville hurried back to the common room, which was now mostly deserted. The only two HPSN members were Katie and Natalie, who were discussing Chaser tactics. Neville did not hesitate, but brought them and Colin (who had been restarting some homework) back to Harry. The five Gryffindors embraced Harry, and none of them were very surprised to have Luna join them after a few moments.

After about ten minutes, Harry moved and the six teens let him go. He thanked them shakily, kissed the girls goodnight, and Neville and Colin helped him up to his bed. Neville quietly told Ron what had happened and what he thought about Ron's behavior, mostly in words of one syllable, many of them with just four letters. Ginny told Hermione in more gentle terms. Both Hermione and Ron resolved to try not to fight like that ever again.

Friday, January 31, 1997

Although he neither showed it nor really admitted it to himself, Draco Malfoy was a bit nervous. He had set up this meeting with Potter and his friends the previous Monday, but news of the Great Wednesday Night Fight (although not Harry's reaction afterwards) had spread throughout Hogwarts. Draco had, with some difficulty, held his tongue when he had learned that only Potter, Granger, and Longbottom were meeting with him. He accepted without a blink Potter's statement that something had 'come up' which prevented Weasley from attending. As much as he had disliked and even hated Granger and Potter over the years, Draco had found the Weasel the most consistently annoying.

"What can we do for you, Draco?" Harry asked, joining Draco at the Slytherin table well before dinner.

"Tell me, you two," Draco said with a nod to Harry and Hermione, "what do you think about the Magical Traditions course?"

"It's interesting," Harry allowed.

"Interesting?" Hermione exclaimed. "It's fascinating! I can hardly believe all the things we should have known years ago!"

"Now that's my point," Draco said. "Longbottom, you're taking both the Business and the 'Living with Muggles' course. What do you think?"

"I think I know where you're heading, Malfoy," Neville agreed. "If it is, I agree with you, strange as that sounds."

"I don't know where you're heading," Harry admitted.

"Look," Draco said, "I don't like Muggles. I don't like Muggle culture. On the other hand, we're outnumbered thousands to one. Where people like my father went wrong was not in hating Muggles but in thinking we can destroy them or do without them. People like Longbottom and me have to learn to live surrounded by Muggles, even if many of us don't like it and never will."

Draco took on an unfocused expression for a moment, then he went on. "Even though I can understand why none of you could like my father, I really think he was right about one thing. Even forgetting about blood, Muggle-born and half-blood students dilute our culture, our traditions."

"Well," Hermione snapped, "you won't have to worry about many Muggle-borns over the next ten years or so, will you?"

"No," Draco admitted, flushing, "but that short-term situation is not the point. Tell me, Granger, how many students are still around from our year?"


"How would you divide us up, between those raised primarily in the Muggle world versus those raised primarily in the magical world?"

Hermione thought about that, and then answered, "Twenty-four are solidly in the magical world and an even dozen were totally in the Muggle world before coming here. The other twelve are sort of mixed." She shrugged, and said, "Let's say thirty to eighteen."

"Alright. I'd say twenty-seven to twenty-one, but either way is fine. How many of that eighteen or twenty-one are in the Magical Traditions class?"

"Six," Hermione stated.

"And there are six in the 'Living with Muggles' class," Malfoy said, "and six taking the Muggle Studies course. Now, if I were totally willing to leave a large chunk of my business in the hands of agents, I wouldn't have to really deal with the Muggle world at all. Can you live without contact with the magical world and still consider yourself a witch?"

"Of course not," Hermione agreed. "What you're saying is, two of the reasons people like you and your father hold your underlying beliefs against Muggles and the Muggle-born are one) the magical world is at such a huge numerical disadvantage and two) when members of the magical world interact with people of Muggle backgrounds, magical culture can be diluted."

"Exactly," Draco said. "I won't answer for you, Longbottom, but to me, being a wizard is more than having magical ability. It's also a way of life. It should mean something."

"I never thought of it that way," Harry admitted.

"I have," Neville said. "Obviously, I think everything your father did was wrong, but I do understand what you mean."

"So what do we do about it?" Hermione asked.

"There's one easy solution," Harry said. When Draco nodded and Hermione and Neville looked at him, Harry said, "We make the two culture courses mandatary, maybe even offer N.E.W.T.s for them."

"More than that," Draco said, "we have to move them back to Second year. Make every student take the course on the world they're less familiar with. Then people like me can continue on with Muggle Studies if they want, and people like you two can carry on with Wizarding Traditions if they want to. And you were right, there needs to be O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s for the magical course, just like the Muggle course."

"Like you would have taken Muggle Studies," Harry scoffed.

"Probably not," Draco agreed. "From my point of view, I want as many people like you and Granger to know about my world as possible. I'm just willing to make people like me to learn something about Muggles in return. I don't like it, but that's the politics of the situation."

"That makes sense, but why talk to us about it?" Harry asked.

"Would Dumbledore really listen to me?" Draco asked. "And, if he would listen, won't he be more likely to agree with me if you're with me?"

Hermione was writing furiously on a blank sheet of parchment. She read over it, and handed it to Draco. "What do you think of this?" she asked.

Draco read it over. "That's what I mean," Draco admitted, impressed.

"It's your idea," Hermione said. "Why don't you sign it first?"

Draco signed it and held it out to Harry, who read it and handed it to Neville. "I'll sign it," Harry said. Neville agreed as well, when he finished reading it over.

"Why don't I give you and Hermione ten minutes at the start of the DA meeting Sunday?" Harry suggested. "This might start bringing the British magical world together over time, after the war is over." He smiled evilly. "We should call this 'the Malfoy plan'."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Great. You'll win the war and be the hero of the magical world, and I'll probably be the last, unknown victim."

Harry frowned. "If I win the war and you don't make it, and this plan goes through, I promise you won't be unknown, Draco."

"Cold comfort," Draco muttered. Still, he appreciated the politics of the gesture. He wanted to be known as the Pure-Blood who had brought the worlds together, not Potter or Granger. It was the best solution for long-term influence he could hope for, other than a victory by Voldemort, which he did not want.

"There are still four seats open at our table for the dance," Hermione said. "You, Victoria, Gregory, and Millicent are all welcome."

Draco was about to refuse when he saw both Potter and Longbottom roll their eyes. Draco smiled. Sitting at their table, when Potter and Granger were likely to be at one end and so unlikely to talk to him too often, could be politically advantageous. In addition, it would certainly hack off the Weasel. "I need to talk with them," Draco said politely, "but I'll tentatively accept. I'll let you know by the end of dinner."

Harry looked around and saw that the early arrivals for dinner were just arriving. "Fine," Harry said, standing.

Needless to say, Draco came over during dinner to loudly announce his party's acceptance of Hermione's generous offer. Even though Ron had not thought about backing down, he scowled at the thought of Malfoy sitting at the same table as his friends. Catching Harry's eye, the-Boy-Who-Lived could only shrug helplessly.

Friday, February 14, 1997

Ron and Hermione had stayed somewhat distanced over the preceding two weeks, although neither was in any way hostile to each other. Neither wanted Harry to have a recurrence of the attack that had come after their last fight.

As usual, Harry was up early, leading a small number of runners through the castle. As they woke up, all the members of the HPSN and the milk donors outside of the group found an envelope from next to them, left by a house elf early in the morning. Each envelope had a Valentine's card and a new charm (a small heart-shaped ruby) inside. Four of the recipients also found small flat boxes. Ginny and Tonks both were given six caret emerald pendents on reddish-gold chains. Luna and Hermione were given twelve caret rubies on 18 caret white gold chains.

That was not all the jewelry Harry had purchased and had delivered. Each member of the DA and a number of others received a magical seal. The seal was in the form of a shield. The lower portion of the shield had a stylized DA. The center had a single phoenix feather. The top of the shield had the owner's initials. Most were a straight seal with a wooden handle. The sextet, Tonks, Remus, Moody, and Dumbledore all got seal rings.

Each seal would magically imprint itself onto warm wax, although the thinness of the designs would have prevented non-magical seals from leaving decent impressions. Only the owner could use the seal, and only by his or her free will. The owner could use the seal to prevent anyone other than one person from opening it (the recipient had to use their wand and truthfully announce their name as it was inscribed on the envelope), or use it so that only one or more of the other seals could undo the seal.

Most of the girls, third year and above (all the students younger than that and about a fifth of the other students were going to another large hall to eat and play games) retired to their dorms to dress by 3:30. Most of the boys did the same by 5:15.

Since Harry, Hermione, and Luna were technically going as 'friends', Hermione had suggested that Harry not bother with flowers. Harry of course was wise enough to ignore the suggestion. He conjured matching corsages of white orchids and pink tea roses. Harry was wearing a dress set of the multicolored dragon robes he had been given just before he had left Rushak.

"Most people will think Fred and George gave you those," Hermione teased.

"How else would anyone notice me with you next to me?" Harry teased back as they left the common room. Hermione was wearing robes that seemed a cross between form-fitting dark-green dress robes and a formal Muggle gown. Her coloring and the jewels Harry had given her were set off by the gown. Hermione rolled her eyes mockingly, and the pair strolled over to Ravenclaw to pick up Luna.

Luna's robes were such a dark green that it appeared almost black, and had more of a regency look. Each young woman linked an arm with Harry, and the trio went off to the ball.

"Granger!" Draco called politely up the table, "I think you must have thought of this menu! What are these dishes?"

"Didn't you ever travel in Europe?" Hermione asked back.

"A little in France," Draco said. "I recognize the French options" (French-style escargot or onion soup for the appitizer, coq au vin for the entree) "and the desserts. What's the rest of this?"

The larger Italain menu was a choice of Italian-style snails or 'Cozze Marinara o Mugnaia' (mussels steam in tomato broth or a white wine sauce) with the choices of Veal Scallopine Marie-Louise (veal topped with crabmeat in a light cream sauce with a touch of bearnaise), Veal Sorrentine (sauteed veal topped with eggplant, cheese, and tomato sauce), Chicken Valdostana (deboned breast of chicken stuffed with spinich and prosciutto), or Trout Venice (sauteed filet of trout, served with crabmeat and meunier sauce) as entrees. There was a Viennese menu (Chestnut soup Viennese and Wiener Schnitzel), and an Eastern European menu of borscht and perogies. There were also a Spanish Tapas menu, two vegan menus and an Indian vegetarian one, Cajun (seafood gumbo or crawfish etouffee, blackened redfish or catfish Cecilia), and Middle Eastern (stuffed grape leaves or hummus dip, Chicken Shawarma or roast goat).

"I say, Harry," Justin drawled when Hermione was away with most of the girls, "did Hermione really draw up the menu?"

"No, she just went over it, why?"

"It's just a little heavy on the veal offerings, so I was surprised."

Harry shrugged. "Notice she didn't order it. She tried to talk the elves into substituting, but they put up such a fuss she gave up."

"Ah. That sounds about right."