Ben Granger and
the Legacy of Icarus
By Helmione Nightingranger
A/N Thank you very much to
everyone who reviewed. *Sobs* you're all so kind...<g>
Especially thank you to the people who told me how I could
improve. I need to know that, otherwise I get too cocky! Lol. NB.
There's a thanks section at the end for all you beautiful
I would like to make one point now, though. I don't hate Cho Chang. I get really annoyed at the fics where she's evil. Looking back at it, I can see that I wasn't very nice to her in chapter one, but it wasn't personal. I just wanted to make the point that girls her age gossip (I should know, I am one) and it's not nice. I don't mean I don't do it, cos I do, but it's still not nice. I didn't, however mean that she was a bad person for doing that, she just has a bad habit. So does everyone. It was in my outline to characterise her more in this chapter anyway, so you'll be seeing more of her. I do like her. Promise!
Also, several people said there were places where I went off the point and waffled too much. I know I do this, and I can't stop myself, so I'm sorry and I'll try and keep it to a minimum, but thanks for pointing it out!
Finally, I'm afraid begging for your ship preferences will get you nowhere. I might be convinced towards H/C or H/G, or H/Someone obscure, but H/H isn't going to happen. Sorry folks. But anyway, there will be small amounts of fluff in this, but only as a sub-plot - this is not a romance, and so it doesn't really matter if you ship differently to me cos the point of the story is not to ship one way or another.
Oh, and one last thing -Beatrice says she's open to suggestions about what you'd like her to sing. It has to be something she knows the words to, obv, but if you want to review and suggest a song, she'll consider everything. (She's a big fan of musicals, so if you suggest something like that she says she'll do her best to oblige.)
Phew - that was long Author's note, sorry. Anyhue, on with the story...
"I hate to
spread rumours, but what else can one do with them?" Amanda
Chapter II - *So Much Fun*
All Ben could see when he woke up was black. For some reason his bed felt strange, different. It was so dark - it must be very early still. He reached out sleepily to switch his bedside lamp on, so that he could see what time it was.
His fingers found something with short rough fur. Something huge, because he moved his hands up and down and sideways, and he couldn't find the edge. It was soft. He pushed gently. It moved. He held his breath - maybe this was a nightmare - there couldn't be a huge furry animal in his bedroom, could there? That was silly.
He pulled and pushed the furry thing frantically this way and that, until suddenly - light. It hit his eyes like an electric shock, and he blinked. And then he saw the dormitory, the other beds with heavy velvet curtains. And all around him, instead of black, a sea of Ravenclaw blue.
Of course. He wasn't in his bedroom. He was at Hogwarts, and the furry indigo drapes around his four poster bed let not one tiny shred of light in. Ben sighed. What a way to wake up on your first day.
He looked at the tiny magical sundial on the table next to his bed. It had been a present from Hermione for Christmas last year - it had a detachable strap so you could wear it on your wrist like a watch, or stand it up on the table. It was carved in grey marble, bewitched to be feather-light, and set with tiny glowing roman numerals. It had a charm on it to cast a shadow even when there was no sunlight, and if you pressed a miniscule red stone on the side, the date, longitude, latitude, phase of the moon, and colour of your socks flashed respectively along the front edge.
It read a few minutes after seven o'clock, and when he pressed the button, "date: Wednesday 2nd September ~ longitude: 3o W, latitude: 55o ~ moon: first quarter ~ socks: none." He grinned, and looked down at his bare feet.
Hermione said that the last bit had probably been put in as a quality control test, so you could tell if the sundial was malfunctioning, but Ben, who enjoyed random craziness and contradicting his sister, insisted it was added in by some crazy wizard inventor who just really *liked* socks.
Having been to Diagon Alley last week to buy his school things, and seen the sort of people that lived in the wizarding world, Ben had come to the conclusion he was probably right.
Seeing as he was awake, Ben thought he might as well get up, so he rubbed his eyes, and went to find the bathroom. He had a little trouble getting the shower to work, as it was temperamental and refused to get warmer until he said please. He wasn't entirely sure he was happy with washing in a shower that was alive, but after it promised not to look at him, and realising that there was no other option, Ben washed and found that, after it was spoken to courteously, the shower was actually quite pleasant.
Ben got out of the shower, and got dressed, girly Hogwarts robes and all. He was just putting on his left sock (yellow, as his sundial particularly liked brighter colours, and would add stars after its little display if he wore yellow socks) when a bell sounded in his ears, and a head poked through the curtains of a bed on the opposite of the room.
It was Jeremiah Mint, a boy who had introduced himself to Ben last night. As Jeremiah half stepped, half rolled out of bed, the other two boys in the dormitory, Fabian Dan and Westerly Blue, both appeared between their curtains.
"Morning!" said Ben. Jeremiah grunted in response. The others just looked at him, and began trying to disentangle themselves from their curtains. Ben grinned - he wasn't exactly a morning person himself, but after his shower he felt quite awake, and it was very funny watching his dorm-mates trying to force themselves back to consciousness.
Suddenly, Ben realised how hungry he was. He decided to go straight down to breakfast rather than wait for anyone, as he didn't know any of the boys yet, but Hermione was probably at the Gryffindor table already and he could probably talk to her.
He headed down the spiral staircase to the huge Ravenclaw common room. It was a light, airy room, with lots of windows which seemed, somehow, all to face east, because as he entered the room the pink and yellow sunrise surrounded him on all sides. It was a nice room, it felt like something out of a water-colour painting, delicate and subtle.
He was just heading for the wall, when he noticed someone sitting in a corner staring out of the window, singing softly,
"Wake me up, before you go-go
Don't leave me hangin' on like a yo-yo..."
"Morning Beatrice!" he called.
She turned, looking very cheerful. But then, she always did.
"I've been up for hours, and I was waiting for you to come down!" she said. She skipped over to him, and they both walked to the wall at the end of the long room.
"Acumen!" they said in chorus. The wall and the small area of tiled floor in front of it swung round until they were standing outside in the corridor. They looked around, and, seeing that no one was there, stepped off the tiles and heard it sweep back around.
"Why have you been up for hours?" asked Ben.
Beatrice shrugged. "No reason, really. I always wake up early. I love to sit near the window and listen to the birds singing. Sunrise is the nicest time of the day. And wouldn't it be *so* much fun to be a bird and fly in a multi-coloured sky like that?"
Ben nodded vaguely. He was beginning to wonder if Beatrice actually talked deliberately, or if she just left her mouth to flap up and down randomly. Surely nobody could have this much to say?
Beatrice was still saying something or other about dawn skies when they entered the Great Hall, to find a grey ceiling. Ben was surprised - where he lived, in the south of England, it was still warm and summer like, but if the bewitched ceiling was that colour, it must be very cold up here in Scotland. Now that he thought about it, it was quite draughty, and he was very glad of his Hogwarts robes over his clothes, even if he did look like slightly effeminate.
He looked at his sundial - it was twenty five to eight. Beatrice sat down at the Ravenclaw table, still humming George Michael, and was just about to help herself to toast when she saw that Ben hadn't sat down with her. He had found Hermione, (with Ron and Harry) at the Gryffindor table and was saying good morning. Seeing where he was, Beatrice scrambled up and followed him.
"Hi Hermione!" he said. She turned around.
"Oh, hi Ben." She looked at Beatrice. "Who's this?" she asked.
"This is Beatrice," said Ben.
Hermione smiled. She hadn't forgotten his "introduction" at the station yesterday. "Found a girlfriend already, have you?" Ben flushed and said nothing. "What's it like in Ravenclaw?" Hermione continued. "Shame you're not a Gryffindor - I did cross my fingers for you."
Beatrice bristled. "There's nothing wrong with Ravenclaw!"
Hermione bit her lip, realising what she'd said. Or rather, who she'd said it to. "I, uh, of course not, I just - "
Ben grinned. He'd never seen his sister at a loss for words before.
"Of course there's nothing wrong with Ravenclaw. I like Ravenclaws," said Harry, obviously trying to sound nonchalant. Ron choked on his pumpkin juice, and Hermione became very interested in her cereal, so that Harry wouldn't see her giggle.
"What?" asked Harry.
Ron swallowed and grinned. "Nothing, Harry."
"What?" demanded Harry.
"It's just that - well, we all know how much *you* like Ravenclaws - especially the girls..." said Ron. Harry went red and muttered something.
"Oh, you like *clever* Ravenclaw-ish girls, do you Harry?" Ben asked, deciding to fight fire with fire. He leant forward, hand covering his mouth and said in a stage "confidential" whisper to Harry, "Well, I'll give you a tip - Hermione likes boys to be romantic, so buy her a couple of bunches of flowers and you're in there mate!"
"Ben!" Hermione punched Ben in the arm. Ben just laughed, and went back over to the Ravenclaw table, Beatrice following close behind.
Back at the Ravenclaw table, Cho Chang and fellow prefect Douglas Carter were handing out timetables. Ben and Beatrice hurried over, eager to see what lessons they were to have that day. Ben grabbed his first, and scanned it quickly.
"Double History of Magic first...then Potions...then Transfiguration after lunch," He reported, looking disappointed.
"What's the matter?" asked Beatrice.
"I was hoping to have a flying lesson soon - I'm really looking forward to it - but we don't seem to have one at all," explained Ben.
"It's not in our timetable, it'll be up on the notice board when we're supposed to have our lesson. And anyway, flying's not that much fun really," said Beatrice, "I learnt at home - I really wanted to learn, but my parents made me wait until I was nine, and it was a huge disappointment. It's so hard to make the broomstick do what you want it to, and half the time you just feel like you're going to nosedive!"
Ben bit his lip. She was probably right, she'd flown before so she should know, and he knew Hermione didn't like flying either, so maybe it wasn't as much fun as he imagined. Still, he couldn't give up hoping - ever since Hermione had told him about how Harry was "discovered" in his first flying lesson, Ben had secretly dreamed of sitting on his broomstick and soaring into the skies, naturally talented. After this, of course, he would be whisked away to become a Quidditch hero and win the cup for Ravenclaw. Maybe he would even go on to become a professional Quidditch player and world famous and extremely rich.
It certainly made a very nice dream. And no matter what Beatrice said, Ben couldn't wait to try flying - *just in case*.
Ben put his timetable on the table, sat down, and poured himself a bowl of cornflakes (covered in sugar, as Mr and Mrs "Dentist of the Year" Granger weren't here to stop him). He began to eat them, still dreaming of world renown, when suddenly the room was full of owls. It took him a moment to remember that this was how the post was delivered in the wizarding world. He looked upwards - it was an amazing sight - so many owls of different shapes and sizes. Then he caught sight of one that looked familiar - a tiny grey owl carrying a large package which headed for the Gryffindor table.
Ben watched as the owl landed by Ginny's plate, and then suddenly he remembered - it must be bringing her book from home. Ben could remember Ginny's voice perfectly as she said it - "I left my copy of 'Through The Purple Mist: Scrying For Beginners' at home." Scrying. Ben didn't know what it was, but it sounded beautiful and mysterious and glamorous - just like Ginny.
He watched as she gracefully detached the heavy book from the owl's leg, ruffled its feathers, and laughed as it took off again. Ben sighed - she had such a beautiful laugh - like fairy bells and running water and -
"Pretty, isn't she?" Beatrice's voice shattered Ben's stream of conscious. He shook his head dopily, trying to concentrate on Beatrice instead of a certain red-head.
"What?" he asked.
"Virginia Weasley - I said she's pretty, isn't she?"
"Um, yeah, I guess," said Ben, trying to sound offhand, "I hadn't really noticed."
Beatrice grinned. "That's why you've been staring at her for the past ten minutes, is it?" She giggled. "Ben's in lu-rve!" she sang.
"Shut up!" Ben hissed. Beatrice smiled evilly, and carried on eating her toast and marmalade.
They waited outside the History of Magic classroom with anticipation - their first ever magic lesson was about to begin.
"Hermione said this class is taught by a ghost!" said Ben - he was looking forward to it, he'd seen some ghosts last night, but none up close.
"No it's not," said Beatrice "Binns retired at the end of last year - they've got a new teacher straight out of Governia Proficium College for Witches to come and teach."
"What's that?" asked Ben curiously.
"It's a post Hogwarts college - most witches and wizards don't go to college, but if you want to become a professor, you have to have some sort of higher qualification. I'm not sure what this Professor is like, but my parents heard she got the highest grades in her year, so she should be good."
"Go in, please," said a smiling voice. Ben and Beatrice whirled around to see a woman with tailored baby-blue robes, blonde hair with the texture of candy-floss, and lips painted coral pink. They filed into the classroom, and Beatrice sat at a desk near the window, tugging on Ben's robes until he sat down next to her.
When the entire class (Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs) were seated, Ms candy-floss and coral stood in front of her desk, and cast a quiet charm on the chalk, which leapt to life and began to write on the blackboard.
"Hello class, I'm Professor Jacqueline Lennox," she said, beaming, pointing to her name, which the chalk underlined with a flourish. "This is my first day of teaching, and your first day of school, so I expect we're both feeling a little nervous." She smiled even wider, perhaps thinking it might reassure them. "I want to make your History of Magic lessons as interesting and educational as possible - but most of all *fun*" she giggled.
Ben was starting to wonder if this woman was for real.
"Now, I remember my History of Magic lessons at Hogwarts, and they were *boring*. I don't want to teach you about yucky goblin rebellions or nasty violent wars, so Professor Dumbledore has kindly agreed to let me teach you something *much more fun* - the ancient Greek wizards! We're going to do a project from now until Christmas, and it'll be *so much fun*!
I just want to tell you before we begin that I don't like rules, but when people are noisy or nasty to other people, it makes me *sad*. So I'm going to promise you that if you play fair by *me*, I'll play fair by *you*!" She looked around the room at the rows of blank faces. "I just *know* we're going to get along *wonderfully*!"
Perhaps Professor Jacqueline Lennox had been hoping for a more enthusiastic response than the disbelieving silence which followed her sugary monologue, as she sat down behind her desk looking ever so slightly downcast, though she was still somehow showing all her straight white teeth.
"If you'll all get out your textbooks, and begin researching the Greeks, I want you to make a list in pairs of five facts you find that are *interesting*," she said, struggling a little to keep the brightness in her voice "and in fifteen minutes we'll all share what we've found."
Ben pulled his textbook ("Grand Greeks And Exhilarating Egyptians - An Exciting And Educational Look At The Ancient Magical Cultures") out of his bag and turned to Beatrice.
"You did say she got the top grades in her year?" asked Ben incredulously.
Beatrice looked quite stunned. "Yeah - mother said the Ministry are thinking of making all trainee professors take a course in inter-personal skills, but evidently they haven't put it into practise yet. She's dreadful, quite dreadful." She was still gazing in horror at Professor Lennox.
Ben laughed. "Oh, come on, she's not *that* bad." Beatrice said nothing, she just pointed to the front of the room. Ben looked.
Professor Lennox was leaning over Jeremiah Mint and Fabian Dan's table, exclaiming loudly:
"Why yes, that's *right*! Aristotle was one of the greatest wizards ever known! Well done boys, you're making an *excellent* start!"
"Ok, maybe she *is* that bad..." said Ben. "But look on the bright side - if she fails at teaching, she'll make a *great* Sesame Street presenter!"
"Where's Sesame Street?" asked Beatrice.
Ben sighed. His magical schooling had begun.
After History of Magic (sponsored by the letter B and the number 10), Ben and Beatrice made their way to Potions. Ben had been dreading this - Hermione had told him all about the evil Potions Master Snape.
So he was very surprised when they reached the dungeons to find a woman in long grey business robes sitting at the desk.
"Come in, come in, you're a little late," she said to them. The first year Ravenclaws hurried in to see that the Gryffindors had taken all the seats at the back. Ben didn't blame them - whoever this woman was, she seemed to be a formidable character.
"Good morning," she said briskly, when everyone had found a desk. "I am Professor Figg. I am not your Potions teacher, but Professor Snape has been called away, and I'm filling in for him until he gets back. Right, today we will be making a simple antihistamine potion. I hope you all have your cauldrons and your basic potions kit with you - you will need one feather," she wrote the ingredients on the board as she spoke "two millilitres of water which you can get from the tap at the back, one spoonful of golden syrup (I have that at the front, you can come and get it when your water has boiled)..." Ben was distracted from what Professor Figg was saying by the puzzled look on Beatrice's face.
"What's the matter?" he hissed.
"and you will also need....no talking! I expect you to listen to what I'm saying!" Professor Figg seemed to have the hearing of a bat, and under her harsh glare, Ben didn't dare try to talk again.
He waited until they were paired up, watching for the syrup in their potions to mix with the water, before asking again.
"Oh, it doesn't matter," was the reply. Ben said nothing, but Beatrice carried on anyway.
"It's just...silly to worry really, but I've never heard of her."
"What?" asked Ben. "Never heard of who?"
"Professor Figg. I've never heard a Professor Figg mentioned, and I've heard of all the other teachers. And I want to know where Severus is, too."
"The potions master, Severus Snape," Beatrice said, dismissing Ben's ignorance with a wave of her hand. "He's an old friend of my family."
"Snape is your *friend*?" asked Ben, shocked. "Hermione said he's really evil and horrible."
Beatrice laughed. "He's not the friendliest person in the world, but he's alright. You can count on him to do the Right Thing." Ben said nothing. Hermione had said he used to serve You-Know-Who, and in Ben's mind that certainly didn't count as the Right Thing.
They mixed all the rest of the ingredients into the syrup and water, stirring it with the feather, as it began to cool.
"It looks good. A little too thick, maybe. Add a drop more water and you'll be fine. Very good," Professor Figg seemed content with their potion and was about to move on to the next table, but Beatrice stopped her.
"Um, if you don't mind me asking, Professor..." she began "if you're filling in for Sev - Professor Snape, what do you usually teach?"
Professor Figg said nothing for a moment, then she answered, "I don't. I'm retired." Then she walked away without another word, but Beatrice didn't look satisfied.
After Potions it was lunchtime. Ben walked into the Great Hall feeling quite exhausted - he'd never quite realised magic would be this tiring.
He looked around for Hermione - he imagined she'd want to hear all about his lessons - but she didn't seem to be there, so he sat down at the Ravenclaw table, and found Jeremiah Mint and Fabian Dan having an argument about whether or not the Chudley Cannons were better than the Falmouth Falcons.
Ben grinned - he loved football, and was an avid Chelsea supporter. He'd tried to get Hermione to tell him all about the different Quidditch teams so he could support one of those too, but Hermione had said (to Ben's disgust) that she didn't know anything about Quidditch and he'd better look it up in a book.
"What Quidditch teams are there?" he asked, when Jem and Fabian had finally finished arguing.
"Well..." began Fabian, and he began a long description of Quidditch - the teams, the players, pretty much anything even vaguely Quidditch orientated, with Jem and Beatrice interrupting every now and then when they thought he'd forgotten something.
Ben listened eagerly. Quidditch sounded even better than Chelsea.
"...and I was at the Cup last year, and it was really amazing, and Viktor Krum is absolutely *brilliant*!"
Ben laughed, remembering. Viktor Krum. That was another of the names he'd caught when he'd "overheard" Hermione's long conversations with her Muggle friend Emily over the summer which she always seemed to have when he was in his very thin walled room.
That was where he heard her talking about Harry and Ron as well. Ben bit his lip, as he remembered last night. Still, nothing had come of it, no one seemed to be talking about Hermione today, so it had all blown over.
Of course, whenever he'd heard the name "Harry" mentioned in Hermione's room, he'd also heard the name "Cho" or "Ginny." He thought it was quite funny that poor Harry seemed to be chasing Cho. He also thought that Harry was completely mad not to like Ginny when she liked him - did he not *have* eyes?
As for Cho, the Ravenclaws had a system where each first year was assigned a prefect who they were supposed to go to if they had any problems or worries, and Cho was "Ben's" prefect. He quite liked her, but she wasn't half as beautiful as Ginny.
Ginny. Even her name was beautiful. He wished she was a prefect and he could talk to her - she seemed so kind and friendly and he wished -
"Ben!" He looked up. It was Ginny.
For a moment he just sat with his mouth open, but eventually he managed to choke out, "uh, w-what?"
"I, um, I think you ought to come with me," she said softly.
"Sure, why?" Ben was intrigued.
"It's about Hermione." Ben got up and followed Ginny out of the Hall without another word.
As they entered the empty classroom, Ben saw Hermione sitting at a desk with her head in her hands. Harry and Ron were standing awkwardly next to her.
"Well, you didn't mind last year with Daily Prophet..." said Harry, looking a bit puzzled. "You kept telling me to ignore it, and you were right, that's what you should do now." Hermione looked up at him.
"That was different..." she said miserably. "That was just Rita Skeeter, and everybody knew she was making it up. Everybody believes this...did you know Fred and George came up to me earlier and asked if it was true?"
Ron looked surprised. "Really? Fred and George? But that's ridiculous, they know perfectly well that you...I mean, that we...I mean..." He didn't seem to be able to get the words out. Hermione sighed.
"They assume because it's someone who knows me saying it, it must be right."
Ginny coughed quietly to let them know she and Ben were there. Hermione looked up immediately, and stared at Ben.
Ben knew that look. That look was never a good thing.
"Ben. I've been hearing some very strange things this morning..." said Hermione in an unnaturally calm voice, as she stood up.
"Some people seem to think that I'm madly in love with not one but *both* of my best friends, and that I'm so depressed that they don't love me back that I slashed my wrists and now have to have counselling from a Muggle called Emily. Now, I don't particularly like to hear *vicious rumours* about myself, and I'd *quite* like to work out how such *humiliating lies* could have been spread around the whole school."
Ben gulped. Hermione's eyes were cold as ice with the Granger-women's trademark Evil Stare Of Death.
"I don't suppose you would know anything about it, would you?" she continued. "Because Parvati tells me she heard it from her sister Padma who *swears* she was told directly by you. Does that ring any bells? Well, does it?"
Ben swallowed again. He tried to think of something to say to her, but the only word in his mind was, "Oops."
This was the wrong thing to say. Hermione began to shout.
"What did you think you were doing spreading rumours about me? How dare you? And where in the world did you get stupid ideas like that anyway?"
"I-I, uh, I"
"I'm waiting." Hermione sighed impatiently. "Have you any idea how humiliating this is? Malfoy's been calling me Little Miss Lovesick all day and asking to see the scars on my wrists. People keep asking me how I'm feeling now and telling me that if I want to talk I know where they are. Ben, I hate being pitied even when I have a problem, you know that, but the whole school's feeling sorry for me for no reason. It's so embarrassing! How could you put me in this position?"
She didn't look angry anymore. She looked hurt, which was ten times worse. Ben couldn't bear seeing his sister unhappy like this.
He didn't say a word. Hermione pushed past him, tears beginning to fall down her cheeks, and swept out of the classroom. Harry and Ron rushed after her, and so, after casting a disgusted look in his direction, did Ginny.
Ben sat down on the nearest table, feeling utterly miserable.
He had dragged himself through Transfiguration, though the Professor seemed extremely disappointed to find out that he wasn't as good as Hermione. In fact, he appeared to be the worst in the class. Beatrice had spent the entire lesson trying to find out what was wrong with him, and he'd spent the entire lesson trying not to tell her - she would just tell him to leave them to karma again, and that didn't really help him much.
He didn't like talking about his feelings. He didn't want to explain this whole thing to Beatrice, or anyone else really. But he wished there was something he could do about it.
He sat in the common room after supper, staring at his first ever piece of magical homework (to write up making the antihistamine potion for Potions) and doing nothing. He didn't even cheer up when Beatrice told him about the notice she'd found saying flying lessons would start next Monday. He just smiled weakly, and said nothing.
"Look what's up?" asked Beatrice, for what must have been the hundredth time.
"Nothing. Look, I'm going to go and find someone, ok?" he said. A thought had just occurred to him. Beatrice looked a bit hurt that he wasn't going to tell her.
"OK," she muttered glumly. Ben sighed - the last thing he needed was for her to be upset too. He watched as she picked up her own Potions homework, humming softly to herself and tapping her foot on the ground as she began to write.
Ben smiled - if she was singing "The Rain In Spain Stays Mainly In The Plain" she couldn't be that annoyed with him. It felt good to smile - he'd almost forgotten how in the past few hours.
It just seemed wrong, somehow, for Hermione to be upset with him. He hated arguing with his family, and though he wouldn't have told anyone for all the Galleons in Gringotts it hurt him to think he'd made Hermione cry.
He walked out of the wall, and found his way (after a few wrong turns) to the huge doors that led outside to the grounds.
He pulled them open, and set off into the twilight, to explore the grounds. He knew the Quidditch pitch must be out here somewhere, and it couldn't be that hard to find.
He hadn't gone more than a few paces when he heard voices. He stopped still, and looked around. The light was fading, but he could see a whole group of people coming towards him, all talking and laughing. As they drew nearer, he recognised them - Roger Davis and the Ravenclaw Quidditch team.
"Um..." he began. They looked down at him, as though suddenly noticing he was there. "Um, hi," said Ben.
"Hi," they all said.
"Is, uh, is Cho with you?" Ben asked, feeling rather intimidated by finding himself being stared at by six people at once, all of them at least a foot taller than himself.
"No, she's still on the pitch, said she wanted to do a bit more flying," said Davis, the tallest of all.
"Thanks," said Ben, and he walked off, anxious to get away from their stares.
"Must be her first year." He heard one of them say as he hurried away.
A single candle was shining, dimly lighting what could only be the Quidditch pitch - a large rectangle of grass with three big posts at either end. Ben looked up, and saw a dark shape fly slowly over his head.
"Uh, Cho?" he called uncertainly upwards. His voice seemed to get lost in the air somewhere, but the dark shape heard it, because it swooped back over him and landed gracefully on the grass a few feet in front of the light. Cho, facing away from him, held onto her broomstick like a walking cane for a second, one hand touching her face, then she turned round.
"Yes? Oh, hi Ben, what can I do for you?" She sounded cheerful, but it didn't take Ben two shakes of a Snidget's tail to work out that she'd been crying. He didn't have two older sisters for nothing.
"Are you alright?" he asked awkwardly.
Cho looked slightly surprised. "Um, yeah, I'm fine," she said smiling weakly. "I just...no, never mind."
Ben couldn't seem to stop himself asking, "What?"
Hermione had told him about the death of Cedric Diggory last year, and Diggory's relationship with Cho was one of the many secrets that he'd listened to through the wall. He guessed that was what she must be upset about, but he had no idea what to say to her, so as soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them.
"I was just thinking about my friend Cedric...I suppose you've heard all about that?"
Ben nodded. A tear appeared at the corner of Cho's eye, but she brushed it away impatiently.
"I'm sorry," said Ben.
"Don't be. You didn't do anything," Cho replied. She had a strange look on her face, as though she were a long way away. "That's what everyone says. 'Sorry.' Everyone wants to know how I'm feeling today and if I'm alright." She laughed bitterly.
"I'm not made of glass. I'm a lot tougher than people think." Ben wasn't sure if she realised she was still talking. He nodded in what he hoped was a sympathetic way, wondering if he should say something. But Cho didn't seem to need him to say anything, she just wanted to talk.
"You know the other thing everyone wants to know? They ask me if I loved him. For some reason everyone wants to make us into bloody Romeo and Juliet, but we weren't. I liked him a lot. I mean, he was a nice guy. But I'm only sixteen years old, how am I supposed to know if I loved him?
I don't think I did, not really, not yet. But what keeps making me cry is wondering if maybe I would have loved him, given time. I don't know. I'll never know." She sighed. "It's the 'what ifs' that hurt, not the memories.
People always ask about me. They seem to forget that I'm still alive, that Cedric's the one they should feel sorry for. He was a good guy, and he didn't deserve to die, but I'm glad, in a strange kind of way. He always wanted to be a hero - and he was. Not in the same way as Harry is. He wasn't famous, he didn't triumph over evil and he didn't get his happy ever after. But he was still a hero. Still *my* hero."
Still, Ben said nothing. He had never thought of things this way before - the stories Hermione told him of her brushes with the Dark Side were scary, and exciting, but though no tale was the same as the one before, they all had one recurring theme - a happy ending. Harry the Hero always made it home, Ron and Hermione always managed to work out the puzzle and win the fight, and he, Ben, admired them so much for all they'd done.
But now he began to wonder if maybe the real heroes were the unsung heroes, who did what had to be done, when it had to be done, regardless of the consequences. The ones who died whilst stepping aside so someone else could go on and save the world.
Cho shook her head suddenly, as though trying to wake up. She looked embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said all this to you," she muttered.
"It's fine," said Ben, who was used to girls being upset and was quite happy as long as he wasn't expected to say anything. "I have two sisters whose lives fall apart at regular intervals, I don't mind listening."
Cho bit her lip. "Even so, you shouldn't have to. I don't mean this is an offensive way, but you're still a kid, and I get the feeling you're going to be made to grow up far to quickly, I shouldn't be making it worse. If the Dark Side has its way, we're all going to be growing up soon." She sighed. "So, you didn't come out here to listen to me whine, did you want to ask me something?" She smiled.
Ben suddenly remembered what had happened earlier.
"Well, you said we should come and talk to our prefect if we were worried, and I..."
"What's worrying you?" asked Cho.
Ben didn't know quite where to begin. He almost wished he hadn't come to talk to Cho - he felt so stupid, talking about his "worries." He shouldn't be worrying about anything. He should sort out his own problems. Besides, compared to Cedric's death, Ben's problems paled into insignificance.
But somehow he found himself saying, "It's Hermione."
"Your sister? What about her?" asked Cho.
"She's angry with me, 'cause when I told you and the others those things about her last night everyone told everyone else, and the rumours got bigger and bigger and worse and she thinks I did it deliberately and I didn't mean to hurt her feelings and now I don't know what to do," he finished in a rush.
"Slow down," said Cho, laughing. "So, you told me and Padma that she thinks Harry and Ron Weasley are good looking, and it got spread around the school?"
"Yes, but it, it got worse. And now she feels really humiliated."
Cho sighed. "That's the thing with rumours - they always get worse. I'll bet that was Mandy." Ben frowned. "Mandy Brocklehurst - with the red hair? She was listening to you too, and she always makes things up. But anyway. You don't need to know how it spread, you need to know how to make things better, am I right?"
Ben nodded. She was good.
"OK, here's the bad news - you can't. Unfortunately they haven't invented an anti-human nature spell yet, so you're just going to have to let the rumours die down. They will, eventually. And to help them on their way, we have to set the record straight."
"How?" asked Ben. He was amazed at how easy this all sounded when Cho said it.
"Well, what's the real situation with Hermione? What's really going on? Because if we tell people that then they might start to ignore the rumours. Of course it's up to you - you might think that the truth would embarrass her more than the rumours..."
Ben considered this. "I don't think so," he said. "The truth is that Harry and Ron are her best friends, nothing more. She was very clear about that. She only said they were good looking because Emily - that's her best friend at home - asked. Emily always wants to know things like that, she watches too many soap operas. She was awfully disappointed when Hermione told her she hadn't been having any secret love affairs at school."
Cho laughed. "She sounds a bit like Mandy."
"I don't think so," said Ben. "Emily's not malicious, she just likes things to be interesting."
"That's all Mandy wants as well," said Cho. "People who spread lies only do it because they want a bit of drama. I think maybe we should spread the truth about Hermione, it seems like she didn't say anything embarrassing - and she has a point, Harry and Ron *are* good looking." Her eyes twinkled as Ben looked up at her, shocked.
"Come on," she said, picking up her broom. "It's late, and getting cold - we'd better get back to the castle." She lit the end of her wand by muttering "Lumos!" and held it out in front of her like a torch. Ben looked around - he hadn't realised quite how dark it'd got.
"Cho?" asked Ben, suddenly curious.
"How did you get to know so much about stuff like this?"
"I was hoping you weren't going to ask that!" She said, sighing. "If you really want to know, I've met several people in my life that weren't very nice to me, and I guess you just learn to cope. I handled it very badly to begin with, I can see that now - hindsight's always twenty/twenty. But I learned." She laughed. "You know, when they first told me about this prefect-first year partner thing Douglas said that some little first year could really benefit from my experience. I never thought he'd be right.
Oh, damn, I hate it when Doug's right!"
It took Ben a second to remember that one of the seventh year prefects was called Douglas Carter.
They walked on in silence for a little while, then Ben, feeling better now about Hermione, remembered what Beatrice had told him earlier. He stopped and grinned.
"What?" asked Cho.
"Oh, nothing really. I just remembered," he said "Beatrice told me that we have our first flying lesson on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it - it's been my dream to fly since I was about five!"
Cho looked very happy all of a sudden. "Me too - I always used to sit in the window seat of my second floor bedroom and just imagine I could step out of the window and glide away..." She smiled, remembering. "I'm a Muggle-born, you see, so I never thought I'd actually do it...but now I can!" She stroked the Cleansweep 9 in her hand lovingly. "Flying is just...it's the best feeling in the world. It makes you feel so free, so in control. There's something incredible about having the power to just up and leave, just soar away so high that everything on the ground is just a dot -all your enemies, all your problems, all left far behind."
Ben listened with rapt attention. This was it. This was what he dreamed of.
"I always knew there was magic, even though I'm Muggle-born too, because Hermione came here before I was old enough to stop believing. I always knew there were broomsticks and spells and things. But I've always wanted to fly, just on my own. I mean, I'll settle for a broom, because it's the closest I'll get, but what I'd really like would be to fly like a bird, unsupported, with the power inside me."
Cho looked at him curiously. "Flying is a strange thing. You can't settle for a broom, you have to love it as though it were your arm or your leg. Treating the broom like it's just something you sit on to help you fly is not enough, broomsticks are very temperamental. Especially this one," she held hers up, grinning at it. "Beware flying with a broomstick that isn't a part of you - it only leads to trouble."
Ben was almost scared by how serious her face looked, but he decided it was just the way her wandlight was shining up on her face making her look strange.
They reached the doors, and each pulled one of them open.
"Right, I'm off to the library," said Cho. "I'll see you around, OK? And don't worry about Hermione - everything will work out fine, you'll see. I'll start "spreading" the truth straight away." She winked, and hurried off down a corridor, still dragging her broomstick behind her.
Ben looked after her for a second, then, yawning and thinking about what a long day it had been, Ben made his way back to the Ravenclaw common room, all the way remembering the things she'd said.
As he got in to bed, Ben remembered what Dumbledore had said last night: "Many people learn many things at this school. It is not, nor has it ever been, a place devoted only to the instruction of children on specific subjects."
Ben grinned. He'd been having classes all day, but now he felt as though he'd just learned his first lesson.
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