Cho Chang/Harry Potter Hermione Granger/Viktor Krum Original Female Witch/Ron Weasley
Harry Potter
Action Suspense
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 02/06/2003
Updated: 02/18/2003
Words: 264,404
Chapters: 34
Hits: 87,813

Harry Potter and the Flying Squad

Horst Pollmann

Story Summary:
Fifth year in Hogwarts. Even before terms start, Harry is involved in the defence against an evil attack from the Dark Forces, something which ``later will be called 'The Hogwarts Express Accident' ...``In Hogwarts, many things are different - most of all, the joining of all four``Quidditch teams in the 'Flying Squad', for patrol and exploration services.``For Harry, this looks like a path toward Cho Chang, except that - well, ``maybe this should really be left to the story itself ...``At any rate, expect Giants, Goblins, and house-elves to play their roles in ``this fic - as well as some new characters.

Chapter 07 - Training and Lessons

Chapter Summary:
The four Quidditch teams join to form the Flying Squad. Harry's first partner is the Slytherin seeker - maybe not Harry's first choice, but ...
Author's Note:
If this fic is truly English, then it's thanks to the efforts of two people:

07 - Training and Lessons

Giants were still the subject in Care of Magical Creatures when Hermione descended upon Harry and Ron like an eagle out of the sun.

It was after breakfast on Saturday morning. They were idling around, with Harry musing about the Flying Squadron Dumbledore had mentioned. He could think about this topic on and on - it had to do with flying, also had to do with some would-be Squadron members ... one in particular.

Along came Hermione, aching under a huge pile of books. She dropped them on the table, sending up clouds of dust.

"Here we go," she panted.

"Hermione, for Heaven's sake," cried Ron, "what's on your mind?"

"Giants, what else?" She looked at him sternly. "We have a project together, remember?"

"I remember all too well," groaned Ron, "but we haven't even finished the basics in class!"

Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Right, and that's the best time to start. What do you think will happen once it's over? We're not the only ones who think it's a cool idea ... I've scanned almost the entire library, and that's the result. I'm six hours of work ahead of you!"

She grinned mischievously. "The others will be in for a bad surprise when looking for literature. But it's the early bird ... you know."

"Tweet, tweet," chirped Ron.

It made Hermione furious. "Listen, you lazybag, I'm planning ahead for seven O.W.L.s. It's a tight schedule, and I'm done with time-turners. So I have to know what's my part, yours, and" - she turned to Harry - "yours! Do we have a deal, yes or no?"

"Yes," hastened Harry to agree, "we have."

More to calm her down, he asked, "Do you know what else you'll do?"

Hermione glared at him. "You're just not ready to put your nose into these books, so you think you might put them into my business, eh? ... Bad luck, Harry Potter. I'll tell you, might nobody say I haven't a minute for my friends."

She raised a fist to count with her fingers. "One, Muggle Studies, special topic Medical Science ... Two, Arithmancy, about magical numbers ... Three, History, the Goblin Rebellion ... Four, Herbology, Medical Plants ... Five, Transfiguration, probably Levitation and Its Role in the Muggle World."

Her second fist came up.

"Six, Potions, don't know yet what in particular ... Seven, Giants, and you two better tell me quickly what my contribution is. All right?"

Two arms reached timidly for the pile of books.

Harry took a large volume and examined it. A Land of Giants, by Alastair Thumbling. The author had lived with Giants for some months and then had written a book about it. Of course, it dated back to the last century.

"Oh, that's colossal," called Ron.

Harry giggled, watching his friend duck under Hermione's blow.

"Ouch! Hey, I'm doing serious work!"

Even Hermione had to laugh.

"Here's my first contribution." Ron indicated the book in his hands.

Harry read Weapons Against Wands. A Survey of Giants' Tactics and Techniques in Combat, by Sylvester O'Gruffy.

He sighed inwardly - Ron had taken the part he'd had in mind for himself.

They established a first schedule. Harry would take Lifestyle and Culture. Ron would take Military, Weapons, and Sports. Hermione would take Origin and History.

The seventh and last section - Wizard Politics Toward Giants in the Twentieth Century - remained open. It was no question, this couldn't be part of Hermione's schedule about History; it had to be split again once the other sections were done.

Hermione looked more satisfied. "That's better. Now, what's our first milestone?"

"Huh?" Ron looked blank. "We're not going to travel, are we?"

Hermione sighed. "Poor me, what did I do wrong to deserve this team?"

She explained the basics of project management, with milestones as the landmarks where progress was reviewed and sub-topics were closed. In the Muggle world, project management was a science of its own.

Ron listened with fascination, then turned to Harry. "Well, she's really got us by the b - books, I mean. Seems as if we have to do some work, and on time. But this management stuff sounds awfully cool. I've never heard anything similar from my father."

"The Ministry," sneezed Hermione, "what they're doing is called Management by Disaster. Your father" - she turned to Ron - "would probably be the first to agree."

"True, but don't tell Percy. He still believes in Santa Claus."

They agreed to come together once a month officially and to deliver their results to the other team members. Each of them was supposed to have a paper ready which would provide a summary. Hermione would be the one to collect all papers.

Harry had an idea. "We might ask Grubbly-Plank whether we can use the spector. This technique beats reading by far."

Hermione, the only one who hadn't seen that type of presentation, had mixed feelings.

But Ron agreed immediately. "Good thinking, Harry - except that you're aiming too low. Use your connections with Dumbledore to get it."

Harry agreed with Ron only as far as aiming too low wouldn't help much. But he had no intention of using his connection with Dumbledore to gain an advantage over other students. It felt too much like nepotism. He would rather suffer before following the example of Malfoy, who had bought himself into the Slytherin Quidditch team.

What he did instead was contact McGonagall and ask how they could get access to the spector.

"Of course - the newest toy in town, and you three want to play with it."

Harry stressed the aspect of efficient team management, hitting the right nerve.

McGonagall promised to ask Dumbledore and, if possible, to organize something like spector time for O.W.L. students and above. To Harry's dismay, though not unexpectedly, she would announce it in public, giving the same chances to all students.

The next day, Harry almost forgot about Giants and spectors. The dragons had arrived!

It was Ron who brought the news. "I met Charlie. They have four dragons, just the same as they had for last year's tournament." Ron knew all the details and was happy to explain.

The dragons had been placed at the border of the Forbidden Forest, in an array of nests as close together as advisable for non-hatching females. The team that had brought them, four wizards, had shrunk to two residents, and Charlie was one of them.

With the dragons in place, Harry had only one thought - the Flying Squadron. So madly did he miss the feeling of freedom and weightlessness, up in the air on his Firebolt.

* * *

It still took a full week until the Flying Squad had its first meeting. Dumbledore had scheduled the initialization for Saturday after lunch. He would introduce the Squad members to their duty, and Madam Hooch would organize the details.

The week was filled with work. Harry expected - hoped - that the Flying Squad would require a lot of time, so he used the days to establish the basics of his Giant Lifestyle excerpt.

After several pages of the Thumbling book, it became obvious that the author was extremely prejudiced. It took Harry additional effort to extract information from the pathetic concoction. His knowledge of the Muggle world and especially his experience with prejudices proved most helpful.

Finally, the Saturday of the Flying Squad had arrived.

Harry wandered to the Quidditch stadium, the Firebolt on his shoulder. It felt strange walking alone, more so arriving and not seeing any visitors around. But Dumbledore had made it very clear that this was not entertainment, rather a paramilitary service.

Reaching the pitch, Harry saw the four teams at once. Sitting on the grass, they formed a rectangle in exactly the same order as at the tables in the Great Hall. He was among the last to arrive; the rest of his team was complete, with Lee Jordan, the new goalkeeper, looking like a young boy at Christmas.

Glancing over, Harry saw the Ravenclaw team with Cho. She was busy looking somewhere else. Then Madam Hooch arrived at the place.

"Team captains, please come to me!"

The Gryffindor team members looked at each other with consternation. They'd forgotten to elect a new captain!

"Lee," said George, "you're so good at talking - want be be our captain?"

"That's ridiculous," answered Lee, "I still have to play my first match with you. The other captains would laugh at me. And aside from that ..."

Looking around, Harry could see that their three Chasers - Angelina, Alicia, and Katie - didn't like that idea either. Especially Angelina Johnson looked annoyed. Everybody knew that the twins didn't want the position.

George turned toward him, but Harry had made a quick decision. "I vote for Angelina," he said loudly. "It's about time there was a girl captain, and we as the cup holder have an obligation."

Quoting Fred, he asked, "Any objections?"

Surprised looks, followed by appreciative grins. Nobody spoke.

"Who does agree?"

Six arms went up, only Angelina didn't know whether it was appropriate to vote for herself.

"Angelina," said Katie, "if you don't agree, you'll never make it captain. Get that arm of yours up!"

Angelina obeyed, and was rewarded with applause.

Katie pointed to Madam Hooch. "Okay, cap'n, get that ass of yours up."

Accompanied by laughter, Angelina strolled over.

The other teams had watched the scene. Harry became aware that Cho had been a witness to his public statement. He quickly dropped to the grass, hiding behind the other two Chasers.

They took the opportunity and patted his shoulders. Katie said, "Harry, you're Heaven's present for us girls," loud enough to make the others around laugh.

Harry, feeling his cheeks turn pink, didn't know where to look.

Fortunately, Dumbledore arrived on the scene.

"Madam Hooch," the Headmaster began, "my dear students. I won't steal much of your time as you certainly can't wait to fly."

Nods and laughters.

"So I declare the Flying Squadron of Hogwarts founded. But" - he paused to let the applause fade - "before I leave you alone, there's something important."

The place fell silent.

"First, I want to thank all of you for your volunteering, and I want to point out that you can resign any time."

Heads were shaking, somebody shouted, "Never!"

Dumbledore didn't smile. "Second, your purpose is to watch, explore, and inform. If you ever come across something unusual on your patrol, we expect you to come back like a cat with a burning tail. We do not expect" - Dumbledore's voice grew hard - "some foolish bravado. Is this understood?"

Nods and shouts of, "Yes!"

For a split second, Harry felt Dumbledore's eyes meet his own.

"Don't forget it. That's all I have to say ... Good luck." Dumbledore left.

Madam Hooch explained how the Flying Squad would work. The basic rule was that two players formed a twin team, which was the unit of the patrol. If something happened to one of them, the other would return to gather help, rather than trying to help his teammate alone and fall into the same trap.

For the same reason, the two players wouldn't fly side by side but with a distance of at least fifty yards between them. Madam Hooch left no doubt that purposeful violations of that rule would result in the immediate dismissal of the culprits.

A complete standard route formed a triangle. From Hogwarts to the Giants' camp near Hogsmeade was the first edge. The second one ran from there to the dragons' camp. After passing all four nests, the last edge went across the Forbidden Forest back to Hogwarts.

Four teams of seven players made fourteen twin patrols. To improve the Squad spirit and to overcome the traditional competition between the teams, Madam Hooch announced a special pattern:

Each player would join with his counterpart from another house, Beater with Beater, Chaser with Chaser, and so forth. Once a month, the pairing of houses would be set like in the good old days of Quidditch matches.

Madam Hooch then asked the four captains to draw tickets to set the initial pattern.

Adrian Pucey, captain of the Slytherin team since Marcus Flint had finished school, was the first. He plunged his hand into the cauldron and extracted a rolled parchment.

After opening it, he showed it around. A large '2' was painted on it.

Hufflepuff came next. It was an awkward moment for Harry to watch their new captain. Then he remembered that Cedric Diggory, even if still alive, would have finished school.

The parchment that came up showed a '1'.

"They make it thrilling," said Alicia.

The next number would show it all.

Angelina walked to the cauldron. Her arm went down, then came up. She unfolded the parchment, looked at it, and stepped toward Adrian Pucey. So it had to be a '2'.

Even though the other pairing was obvious now, Davies, the Ravenclaw captain, took the last parchment before meeting his Hufflepuff colleague.

Harry didn't know which feeling was stronger: his disappointment that it would take at least another month before he would form a team with Cho, or his relief for still having time.

Looking over, he saw her head quickly turn away. Then she rose and walked toward the Hufflepuff Seeker.

He grabbed his Firebolt to march over to the Slytherin team. Suddenly he realized that, until recently, Draco Malfoy would have been his teammate. The thought made him shudder.

A figure came into view. "Harry Potter?"

He looked up, nodded.

"I hope the question didn't sound stupid, but I didn't know what else to say ... Hi - I'm Robert Daunty, your teammate for the next month."

"Yes, of course." Harry remembered. "We played against each other. You were the Slytherin Seeker before - "

"Right. And now I'm the Slytherin Seeker after - and that's all I want to say about that bad episode." Daunty smiled grimly.

Harry nodded, grinning. "That's just fine with me. Nice to meet you again, Robert."

They shook hands.

"Call me Bob, otherwise I wouldn't know who you're talking to."

Walking together to join the growing crowd near Madam Hooch, Bob shot a glance to him. "At the risk of breaking my own rule, Harry - I owe you one."

"What for?" Harry expected something about his last encounter with Malfoy.

"Two, actually. I rarely felt as good as when I was watching you beat my predecessor."

Harry laughed. "Save it, er, Bob. I felt pretty much the same."

Chatting, they reached Madame Hooch, who was discussing details of the next hours with the captains.

Every twin team had to fly the full route once, but the Quidditch teacher was the only one who knew the landmarks. Finally, they agreed to run double patrols for this day, one team that knew the route from its first turn, and a second one that would be instructed on where to fly.

Madame Hooch guided the first team.

* * *

A single patrol took about twenty minutes, so more than four hours would pass before the last team could take off.

Madam Hooch had prepared a duty roster which listed six flights per day, two before and after each meal from breakfast, over lunch, to supper. That was, each twin team was scheduled every third day. The teams used the wait for signing themselves in the list; those who came last found only breakfast schedules left open.

Waiting for their double patrol, Harry had time to think. It was like a major clean-up in his mind, the first one since the new school year had started.

Watching the teams depart and return, he reviewed the conversation with Hermione and Ron during breakfast, and how Hermione had described techniques of project planning. With their regular classes, the O.W.L.s, the Flying Squad, and some more personal items together, Harry had so many things to keep track of that he felt in need of a reordering.

Lupin's lessons about Ways and Goals resurfaced in his memory. He could see many parallels between Zen and project management.

He decided to write down a personal list of goals for this year, as soon as he was back in his room. Or maybe not all of them, perhaps only those which were harmless when read by someone else.

There were some personal goals, referring to dance balls and to a certain girl who just had departed for her double patrol. This part seemed better off when kept only in his mind.

He made a mental project list for this goal. It looked pretty simple:

  • Go to the ball with Cho
Obviously, it wasn't that simple. Was a list a list if it contained just one entry? Worse, the line didn't give him any hint how to reach that goal.

Thinking harder, he remembered Hermione's milestones. The second list looked slightly better.

  • Ask Cho to the ball
  • Meet her at the evening
  • Enjoy the ball
It still didn't look right. In his mind, Harry dropped the second entry; meeting her was fairly obvious - once things had developed that far.

Checking the first entry, he remembered how he had tried once. It wasn't too pleasant a memory.

Suddenly, it struck him that there were several conditions important enough to be listed as milestones. The new list felt as if he had grasped the first bit of project planning:

  • Ask Cho soon enough to be the first
  • Make sure she accepts
  • Have fun - do better than the last time
A pity he couldn't ask Hermione about the proper scaling of his plan. But his 'public' list of goals would contain enough material to fine-tune the technique.

He was trying to imagine himself asking Cho when Bob's and his turn was due.

The flight was wonderful. Harry enjoyed the cool breeze drying the sweat in his face. He felt sure the patrol duties would be the times to clear his mind and to think about strategies.

The landmarks were simple; it seemed nearly impossible to get lost in such a small area. Their second turn proved it.

Less simple was the flying in formation, with fifty or hundred yards distance. The different broomsticks made it difficult to stay in sync, even Bob's Nimbus Two-Thousand and One, whose performance came closest to Harry's Firebolt, had trouble following.

As they found out, the broomstick with more power was best placed in the trailing position.

Passing the Giants' camp, Harry tried to locate Hagrid, eager to wave at him, but no luck. It was the same with Charlie at the dragons' nests; probably they had gotten bored from all the students passing by.

* * *

Back in the castle, Harry made an attempt to write the public list he'd planned. But mysteriously, his mind refused to deal with matters as mundane as O.W.L.s. Instead, it always returned to the three items in his mental list.

He had no idea how to complete the first step toward these goals. Once during their lessons, Lupin had quoted some old Zen master. If your path is clouded, you may want to wait until the fog lifts. But this may never happen. A determined man walks the steps he can overlook; he will be rewarded by another piece lying open then.

All right, he was determined - where were the steps he could overlook?

Hermione had said that morning, "Break the tasks down into subtasks." This should unravel the visible steps.

Harry checked item number one, asking Cho soon enough.

One thing was clear - soon enough meant as soon as possible. But certainly not right now? He decided that the first time with Gryffindor and Ravenclaw together would be soon enough.

As for the invitation itself, he found nothing that could be broken down. He - simply - had - to - say - the - words.

In his mind, Harry erased the word simply, then went to the second item.

'Making sure she would accept' was a mission impossible. How about 'improving the chances she would accept'? Could he count it as an improvement that Cedric was no longer around? Harry's mind refused to answer that question.

He quickly went to the third item.

'Have fun' could be checked off immediately. Going to the ball with Cho might be more excitement than fun, but for any lack of joy, the blame would be on him.

'Doing better than the last time', this should be an easy candidate for breaking down. Ball manners. Well, he wouldn't start a discussion with Ron while Cho sat at his side. Dancing.


He knew as much about dancing as he had the year before. Dances should be performed on broomsticks in the air - that would solve his problem. He didn't expect a majority vote for this solution, though. Even then, he didn't expect Cho to agree. She could dance.

Harry remembered Hermione's remark from the first evening, the one that had irritated Ron so much. She was right, except that he, Harry, would go just for dance lessons, not for French.

But where, or from whom?

His head jerked up. There was a solution!

Thinking about it, his mouth went dry. If only he could muster the courage.

Fleur Delacour.

* * *

Sunday arrived, presenting magnificent weather. Harry regretted bitterly that he and Bob had been too late on the Squad list to sign up for today. When Harry had told his friends about the Flying Squad the previous evening, Ron had listened enviously, while Hermione hadn't looked too happy.

"I don't like it too much," she'd said, "students being used like - like soldiers. I almost can't believe that the idea came from Dumbledore."

Harry had shrugged. "He has to make do with what he has," he'd said. "It's a small risk, compared to some others, and we're all volunteers." He had remembered Dumbledore's words about using those being suited best for the job.

"And what if the Dark Forces catch one after the other?" Hermione had asked angrily.

Ron had said, "They won't do that, the first captured student would end the Squad's existence, and the political damage would be worse than ever."

His words referred to the public reaction after the Daily Prophet had reported the Hogwarts Express accident. The news had upset lots of wizards who, until before, hadn't cared much about the Death Eaters, raising a level of engagement which was unprecedented. According to recent news, people talking derogatorily about mixed blood were likely to encounter unpleasant hexes. Currently, the Death Eaters did the best they could, they were lying low.

After breakfast, Harry took his book and his parchments, and positioned himself in a strategic position to catch Fleur alone. In the meantime, he was working on Giants' lifestyle.

He didn't make much progress; his mind wasn't on the subject, and it didn't help either that he looked up so often.

Shortly before lunch, he saw Cho and the Hufflepuff Seeker reach the exit, broomsticks in their hands and talking animatedly.

Groaning inwardly, he let his eyes fall to the open page, unable to read a word.

After lunch, Harry could only admit to himself that his approach had failed completely. He had to visit Fleur directly, actively, only he didn't know how. When he saw the teachers leave their seats, he sped to a place where he would bump into Lupin.

"Harry - you look troubled on such a lovely day." Lupin himself looked healthy; it was the time around new moon.

"Professor Lupin, I'd like to ask you a question."

Lupin checked Harry's face again. "Then let's go to my office."

Harry followed him.

When they were inside, Lupin closed the door. "Sit down, Harry. Want some tea?"

"No, thanks." Harry swallowed.

"Let me guess: might it have to do with your O.W.L.s?"

"No - er, I mean, yes."

Harry was offered the opportunity to wrap his question into something less suspicious, and he took it quickly. "Professor Lupin, I was planning to do an O.W.L. about Defence against the Dark Arts."

The teacher smiled. "Naturally so, and now let me guess again what might be the topic. Hmmm, difficult - there was a dramatic pause - "but might it have to do with a very unusual charm?"

Harry grinned. "Yes."

"What else." Lupin grew serious. "Harry, that's a self-runner. We simply owe it to you, and besides, you've already invested most of your summer vacation."

"That was the best vacation I ever had," admitted Harry, blushing.

Lupin looked genuinely pleased. "Thank you, Harry. If there was ever a doubt, recent conversations with Professor Snape have confirmed you are not trying to - er, cajole me."

Harry blushed even more deeply.

Lupin winked. "By the way, I never worried about my health - that is, aside from the - er, obvious. But then, I had the advantage of past experience."

He paused, looking absent-minded. "Anyway, to come back to your question, what you should do is review the literature about the Patronus spell. It isn't much, really ... In the exam, you should be prepared to conjure up a Patronus."

He stopped. "Oh - I forgot, the boggart doesn't work any longer, and I don't think we'll have a Dementor at hand." Then his eyes lit up. "I know what to do. Either you do a Patronus against a fake, or we'll show them the catatonic Dementor, and I'll give testimony about its fate."

He smiled. "This way or the other, Harry, it will be your easiest exam ever, with a result you might find hard to beat."

"Good." Harry tried to sound casual. "Professor Lupin, er - do you know Fleur Delacour?"

"The Beauxbatons Liaison Officer?" Lupin asked wonderingly. "Not really. Why do you ask?"

"I was trying to talk with her. Er, do you know where I could find her?"

Lupin laughed. "As the name indicates, Harry, a Liaison Officer has an office. Hers is not far away from that of Mr Filch."

After being instructed how to find it, Harry left.

Luckily for him, Filch was nowhere seen. Still unsure whether he stood before the right room, Harry saw a piece of parchment fixed to the door with spellotape:

On tour at Beauxbatons.
Will be back after supper.

Harry went to his dormitory and started working seriously. Now that he knew how to contact Fleur privately, he made good progress. After his talk with Lupin, it felt as if he was already working on his second O.W.L.

* * *

Meeting the others at supper, he reported the conversation, skipping the last part as well as the remark about Snape.

Hermione was pleased to hear that Harry's second O.W.L. was settled.

Ron sighed. "I wish I had something like that ... I have my third topic - dragons, meaning Care of Magical Creatures. I spoke with Charlie; he'll help me as far as he can."

"Super," said Harry. "Ron, you're one ahead of me."

"The heck I am," muttered Ron. "Maybe in counting. But it'll be a hell of a lot of work."

"Break it down," suggested Hermione. "If you specialize on something like 'Domestication of Dragons and their Purposeful Usage', you can see where it ends."

Ron looked up, a grin spreading across his face. "Hermione, you're an angel!"

"I'll quote you the next time." To Harry, she added, "You're my witness."

"What?" Harry held his hands around the ears. "I didn't hear you."

He quickly moved his head out of Hermione's reach.

Then they discussed their joint project, telling each other interesting details.

Grubbly-Plank had finished the subject, and Hermione was right - many students were interested in Giants as an O.W.L. topic; Madam Pince, the Librarian, had reminded Hermione of the time limit for borrowed books.

Harry waited until the evening had settled. Then he went upstairs to Fleur's office. He had thought of his Invisibility Cloak, but had dismissed the idea. After all, this was nothing forbidden; nobody except himself knew how unusual the request was.

He knocked on the door.

"Come in!" came a voice, and Harry opened the door.

Fleur was sitting at a desk. "'arry! What a pleasant surprise!" She stood up. "I just came back from my parents. I had to tell Gabrielle all about your adventure. She was quite frightened."

Harry imagined a small figure. Next year, Gabrielle would enter wizard school, but it would be Beauxbatons, thank God. He could use a second Ginny-syndrome like a second scar on his face.

Fleur motioned him to an armchair. "A glass of wine? I just restocked."

"No, thanks. Alcohol is the last thing I need right now."

"Oh." Fleur poured herself a glass. "Is it that difficult?"

"Maybe not." Harry swallowed. "Fleur, er - I'd like to ask you a favour."

She looked surprised. "But certainly, 'arry. What can I do for you?"

"Can you ... I thought ... I want to learn dancing."

The cat was out of the bag.

Fleur's eyes went bright. "Really? But yes, of course - the balls. And you - 'arry, that's a wonderful idea. I'm flattered you asked me."

Harry suppressed a reply about her being the only one that had come to his mind. Actually, he could have asked Hermione, except that the idea was simply absurd.

Fleur nodded, thinking. "I don't see a problem, 'arry. We'll need a room, some music ... Perhaps even at Beauxbatons." She smiled. "I like the idea better every second. It will be fun, and the others will marvel at us."

Harry was horrified. "For heaven's sake, Fleur!"

He explained that he wouldn't be able to stand any publicity, at least not as long as he was getting rid of his fundamental clumsiness.

"You're not clumsy," protested Fleur.

Next moment, she frowned. "You mean, doing it secretly, tiptoeing the floors in the evening, like lovers?"

Harry flushed. "I didn't imagine it like that. And besides ..." He couldn't finish his thought.

Fleur laughed joyfully. "You mean nobody would think that way about you and me?"

Harry nodded, unable to speak.

"Maybe not 'ere at Hogwarts," giggled Fleur, "although ..."

Then another thought struck her mind. "'arry," her voice was enticing, "who is the lucky one?"

Harry didn't see a way of evading the answer. Moreover, talking with Fleur about these things seemed quite natural, different from anything, or anyone, he had experienced before. Maybe it was her Veela nature which made it so simple, but there were probably other reasons. It was a relief to say it out loud.

"Her name is Cho Chang."

The name didn't tell Fleur anything.

"The Ravenclaw Seeker."

Still no clue.

"Remember the other girl in the lake - the one with Cedric?"

"Oh, 'er." Fleur smiled warmly. "You 'ave a fine taste, 'arry."

Then she recalled the full picture. "And Cedric is dead, while it just so happens that you were with 'im when 'e died, and you're alive ..." She finished, "No, I don't see a problem, either."

"Then you're the only one," replied Harry. He had twisted inwardly, listening to Fleur thinking aloud about the events, so casually and naturally.

Fleur examined his face. "You may have to learn some more about women, 'arry. That friend of yours ... Anyway, learning to dance is a good beginning, and I will be a good teacher."

"That's what I thought." Harry's breathing became easier.

They agreed to do the lessons in a room Harry would provide.

He remembered the room where he had found the Mirror of Erised; as far as he knew, it was still unused and a fair distance from normal traffic.

Fleur would have known excellent places at Beauxbatons, but they dropped the idea quickly. The portkey links between the two schools were well guarded; it was impossible to use them unnoticed. Even if it could be done, someone checked the links each day to see who had used them. Harry learned from Fleur that a portkey could be instructed to show its recent users, just like a wand could be instructed to show the recent spells.

Then there was the issue of music.

"I could sing for us," suggested Fleur, but dismissed the thought. She promised to come up with the wizard equivalent of a walkman, which would answer the question how to avoid too much noise; only the two dancers would hear the music.

They would meet as often as possible until Harry had mastered the basics. Afterwards once a week or once a fortnight had to do. Both Fleur and Harry expected to have less time soon.

* * *

In their first lesson, Fleur taught him the Slow Waltz. "It's all about rhythm, with the steps quite simple," said Fleur. "So if you're such a good broomstick flyer, 'arry, you shouldn't have trouble with it."

Unfortunately, he had.

True, the steps were simple, but the closeness of the bodies, or maybe just the thought of it, made Harry dance like a piece of wood.

After a while, Fleur said, "I know what to do."

When the next dance started, Harry felt his embarrasment drown in a feeling of dizziness and bravado. When the music faded, it stopped.

Looking up, he saw Fleur smile teasingly. "I used a little Veela charm to flex your knees, 'arry."

From then on, Harry advanced rapidly.

* * *

They were in one of the next lessons. They just had finished a Cha-Cha-Cha when suddenly applause rose from a corner.

Harry froze.

Fleur looked up, surprised. "Who's there?"

With some effort, Harry turned, not daring to think who the spectator might be.

Moaning Myrtle - with the ghostly equivalent of purple cheeks.

"Myrtle! What are you doing here?"

"Watching you dance ... It's so nice - I really hope you don't mind."

"Well - er, really, Myrtle." Harry didn't like the idea much.

Before he could argue more, Fleur clapped her hands. "But yes, that's what we need. 'arry, you have to learn how to dance in front of people - um, yes, people."

Anxious to avoid one of Myrtle's tantrums, Harry introduced the two girls to each other. "Fleur, this is Myrtle, a former student of Gryffindor. She was killed by a Basilisk."

He had the presence of mind to skip the fact that it had taken place in the girls' toilets. Myrtle seemed grateful for that.

"Myrtle, this is Fleur Delacour, our Liaison Officer with the Beauxbatons school. You may remember her from the lake."

He had to tell Fleur how he'd met Myrtle at that occasion.

"All right, Myrtle," he agreed finally, "as long as you don't bring Nearly Headless Nick around, it's fine with me."

Myrtle, in an embarrassed tone, assured him that she didn't fancy the idea, and so it was settled.

There was no need to inform Myrtle of their appointments, the ghost girl found them invariably. Maybe she checked the room every evening.

Her presence offered one big advantage: more than once, Myrtle warned them off when Filch was passing by, anticipating the mean caretaker long before Fleur or Harry could hear him.

In reverse, Fleur offered to let her dance with Harry.

Myrtle found this idea very exciting, and they tried, only it didn't work well with the modern dances. The next time, Fleur brought Boccherini's Menuet in A-Flat Major and showed the two dancers how to perform the old figures.

Myrtle was delighted.

* * *

Harry was on his way back from a dance lesson when a figure stepped in his path.

"Hi, Harry. Nice to meet you here." It was Ron.

Harry jumped. "Ron, please, be quiet. There's no need for - "

"Playing hide and seek, Harry? What's so secret about it?"

Ron mimicked as if shouting along the floor, but kept his voice low. "Where do you come from?"

"Erm - actually, that's really none of your business."

"Maybe not." Ron's voice held some undertone of threat. "But then I might ask the question again while Hermione's listening. Imagine, me somewhere in the hall, say, at the Ravenclaw table, and I call, Hermione, you know what, and she, What, and me ..."

Harry stared. "You'd do that?"

"Don't ask, Harry - just tell me where you come from."

Ron sounded seriously pissed off. Harry remembered that Ron hadn't really forgiven his voting for Lee Jordan as the new Quidditch teammate.

He gnashed his teeth. "All right, Ron Weasley, I'll tell you. Because I guess you might do it, and then I'd have to kill you on the spot, and I don't want to do that. But if you ever tell anyone, I'll kill you then, and I won't feel regret. Got me?"

Ron just grinned. "Yeah, gotcha. Now?"

"I'm taking dance lessons, with Fleur. We just finished one."

Ron's face expressed disbelief, followed by understanding, followed by rage. He had trouble keeping his voice low.

"You dirty son of a ... You didn't tell me. I knew it was something like that. Keep all the fun to yourself, huh?"

Harry's temper was rising, too. "You didn't ask me. Actually, it was advice for you that brought up the idea."

Ron looked uncomprehending. "Advice for me?"

"Remember the first evening here? Hermione said something like getting somebody to teach you dancing. Well, she was right."

Ron was baffled.

Much calmer, he said, "Okay, she was right. As so often. And you just did it." His voice turned excited. "That's goooood, Harry. When do we meet next?"

"You mean ..."

Ron nodded. "You bet."

"Then be prepared for somebody else. Although she won't dance with us."

"Who is it?"

"Moaning Myrtle."

Within seconds, Ron was in tears while straining to suppress a laughter.

At the next appointment, Harry opened the door to the training room, Ron at his feet.

Fleur was in conversation with Myrtle.

"Hi, Fleur, hi, Myrtle. I've brought somebody with me - he made me an offer I couldn't deny."

He stepped aside, giving Ron the opportunity to say hello.

"allo, Ron," said Fleur, not too enthusiastic. "What did 'arry mean with an offer 'e couldn't deny?"

"Well - I met him outside, and I had to blackmail him a little bit. In the end, we agreed that I might benefit from some dancing too."

"So what makes you think I'd agree as well?"

"Oh ... hmm - er, I hoped Harry's reasons might extend to you."

"Mr Weasley," snapped Fleur, "I know how to fight fire with fire. Before you think about going public, consider this: I would come over to you, and I would use a little Veela power, making you look as ridiculous as you've never been before."

Ron wasn't impressed. "Yes, you could do that, but what for? You know, I'm doing it myself all the time. Somebody told me to learn some manners, so I'm here."

Still irritated, Fleur said, "So be it. But be warned, my dear Ron. A Veela doesn't take blackmailing well. And she can direct that charm to a specific person, that's exactly the idea. If I really ever power up toward you, they'll tear you off me and sign a very unpleasant complaint immediately. 'ave I been clear enough?"

Ron's face had paled a little. "Yes."

"On the other hand," added Fleur in a voice suddenly alluring, "I might do better by getting friendly with the Weasley family."

Harry grinned, remembering how Fleur had looked at Bill Weasley.

Ron hadn't understood; Harry would have to tell him. Only - after the style of negotiations Ron had presented, Harry felt in no hurry to break the news.

* * *

As unbalanced as the three of them seemed, it worked out better than expected. Taking turns, Harry and Ron could use their breaks to watch the proper steps as well as the mistakes. It was much fun, and they enjoyed the shared experience.

They were on their way back to Gryffindor Tower, chatting softly about how they would show off at the ball, when Harry had a case of déjà-vu, in contrast to Ron.

"Good evening, you two."

It was Hermione. "Still busy so late?"

"Oh, hallo, Hermione," they answered almost as a chorus.

"Where are you coming from? Don't tell me working; I checked the hall, the library, everywhere."

"Hogwarts is bigger than meets the eye," teased Ron.

It was the worst he could have found.

"You stupid fool," hissed Hermione, "if that's your only answer, fine with me. I'm going to quit our agreement. Some people just can't see reason."

"Please ..." started Harry.

Too late - Ron's temper was boiling up. "Listen, you wisemouth, we're just doing what you've told us. Remember?"

In a mimicking voice, he chirped, "Get yourself somebody to teach you French, and dancing, and manners."

In normal voice, he added, "Except that it's just dancing and manners, but the teacher is French. So much for seeing reason."

Hermione froze where she stood. "What do you mean?"

"We're taking dance lessons from Fleur," said Harry.

It made Hermione truly speechless. After opening and closing her mouth several times, she turned and hurried upstairs. Ron and Harry watched her disappear, waiting long enough before following.

* * *

Next morning, during breakfast, the climate was well below freezing.

"Do we still have a project?" asked Ron after a while.

"Yes," was the answer, the only comment they got from Hermione for the day.