A/N: This story takes place early in the summer
between Harry’s third and fourth year at Hogwarts.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters
are property of J. K. Rowling. I am but a humble player in her exciting
world. The quotation that begins the story is taken from "Harry Potter
and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
Oh no – I don’t like this – oh,
I really don’t like this –
Harry woke with a start, disoriented to find himself
in bed, in his room at Number 4 Privet Drive. He’d been dreaming, and
most vividly, of the weeks before the end of the last school year, when
he and Hermione had ridden Buckbeak up to the window of Professor Flitwick’s
office and rescued Sirius Black from the dementors. Collapsing back against
his pillow, Harry tried to sort out the thoughts that were struggling
together in his head.
He missed Sirius intensely. It was hard to have
him wrenched away so suddenly, after finding out that not only was Sirius
his godfather, but he’d wanted to rescue Harry from the Dursleys forever.
He’d had letters from Sirius, but only few and far between, and after
every one he felt certain that it would be the last time he would hear
from his newfound friend.
The same memory, however, brought him a bit of
laughter. Ever since their first day of flying lessons, he’d known that
Hermione wasn’t much of a flyer. The school broom on which they were to
practice had literally jumped into Harry’s hand on command, while Hermione
could barely get hers to roll over on the ground. Hearing her muffled
mutters as she had clung to him for dear life during their flight together
on Buckbeak made one corner of his mouth tug up into a smile.
She really did seem to hate flying. But when push
came to shove, she climbed right on and took flight. And she had even
released Harry’s waist, at least long enough to cast the spell needed
to open the window to Sirius’s cell. Maybe that was why she was in Gryffindor
house with Harry. She was braver than she gave herself credit for.
But thoughts of Hermione, during that flight, were
more complicated than that. Even with the stark terror of flying an unruly
Hippogriff, and the possibility of the dementors getting to Sirius before
they did, or that they’d be seen and their time-travelling stunt would
go horribly awry, Harry could recall some things with amazing vividness.
The strange but pleasant tingling that was Hermione’s grip around his
waist, the pressure of her head into his back as she hid her eyes in his
fluttering robes, the completely irrational desire to turn around and
hold her, protect her and convince her that everything would be alright.
It didn’t seem to make much sense.
He’d never thought about Hermione like that.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like her. She was one of his best friends, after
all, and certainly his best friend after Ron Weasley. But he had to admit
deep down that there was something there. Her sense of humor, once he
and Ron had awakened it, was wonderful, sharp and witty. And you couldn’t
help but appreciate her brute competence–
she really was very good at nearly everything she put her mind to.
Harry rolled over onto his side while he continued
to mentally tally Hermione’s merits. Her loyalty to her friends, at least
to Ron and Harry, was total, even when they flagrantly broke the rules.
She’d gotten them out of many scrapes with her fast thinking, and had
even stopped blaming them for getting her involved in most of it. There
was that unfortunate incident with the Firebolt, but even that worked
out for the best in the end. She was, after all, only looking out for
Harry’s well being.
Harry sat bolt upright again, as if waking from
another dream. "Have I got a crush on Hermione?" he whispered
incredulously. He collapsed onto the pillow again. Knowing that he was
starting to fancy her, he knew it could only complicate things at school,
and that if he were to pursue her, that it would make things awkward between
Ron and himself. Ron lived for teasing and tormenting Hermione, and Harry
knew he’d be conflicted, having enjoyed the same pastime himself, but
now feeling the need to be chivalrous and stand up for…for…his girlfriend?
Not to mention the sheer amount of time he’d be spending in the library…
He pulled the covers up to his chin, but knew that
sleep would be a long time coming. Just before he finally nodded off,
Harry resolved not to say anything out of the ordinary to Hermione. That
would be easy enough if he got to see her next when they were at the Burrow
together, visiting the Weasley family. There were plenty of other people
there to distract him. He’d just be himself and see what happened. Not
like Ginny, peeking through cracked doors, squeaking adorably when confronted
with the object of her crush. Harry smiled into his pillow and started
dreaming again, but this time, the girl had red hair…
Her eyes fluttered open, but the room was still
nearly as dark as it had been with them closed. The bedside clock told
her it was still the middle of the night. Hermione curled up on her side,
clutching the blankets closer to her, and tried to return to sleep, but
sleep wouldn’t come. She felt all flushed and her ears were burning. Her
father always told her that that meant that somebody was talking about
her, but that was just an old wives’ tale. Or was it? So many things she’d
taken for legend and fantasy as a child had turned out to be true, after
she’d entered the wizarding world. Why not one more?
She wondered if it had anything to do with the
dream she’d been having. Hermione hated flying dreams—hated flying, really.
Oh, she’d gotten better at it over time, better enough to pass with a
93% at the end of first year, at any rate, and then promptly dropped that
class as inessential. If she’d not pulled that 112% in Charms to counterbalance
it, she’d have been completely crushed.
But, that said, why had she been dreaming about
Buckbeak and Harry? Since everything had turned out for the best in the
end, she didn’t figure that it counted as a nightmare, but it still left
her feeling disoriented and confused. It really had been quite terrifying;
wondering if they were going to get caught breaking one of the most important
wizarding laws ever created. And there were other things…
Why did she think such foolish things, and then,
even when dreaming about it, remember it so vividly? The important thing
had been to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius and see them off to safety. Why
had she been ever so briefly upset with Harry after he helped her onto
Buckbeak’s back, when he climbed on in front of her? Was she really
so much a girl that, in a life-or-death situation, she’d been considering
how nice it might have felt for him to have his arms around, holding on
to her during the flight? And it wasn’t even that she…liked him…at least
not in that particular manner. Liking boys was for the likes of
Lavender or Parvati, not for a studious and serious girl like herself.
She sat up and had a drink of water from the glass
on her bedside table. "Harry is my friend. My very good friend. That’s
all." No matter how brave he was, facing up to You-Know-Who, rescuing
Ginny from the Chamber of Secrets, attacking Sirius Black when he thought
that Sirius had killed his parents. Especially so when he’d grown up parentless,
and with only his hateful aunt and uncle to raise him. He really was a
wonderful person, Harry. And deep down, she did know that she loved him,
but like he was the brother she never had.
And with that, she lay back down and tried to fall
back to sleep. As she drifted off, her subconscious mind still dallying
on the subject of boys, a thought formed that broke through to her conscious
and made her lay wide-awake again. It was preposterous! Hermione felt
her forehead to check for a temperature. She must be sick to have actually
thought, even with the unconscious part of her mind, that she’d not have
minded these brief romantic thoughts if it’d been Ron. That made no sense
at all. Ron made her crazy and the very idea of being hugged or held by
him, well, it just made her furious that she’d even thought of it. And
she repeated to herself that Ron was an even worse candidate for romance
than Harry was, until even she started to believe it.
"Ron Weasley, honestly," she muttered
to herself as she drifted off at last. But no matter how strong-willed
she might be, she started to dream again, but this time, the boy had red