Author’s note: This is the first of a series of stories set in
fifth year. If you enjoyed it, please watch my author page for the
entitled “The Innocents” and “Feather and Flame” (and more if I can
J ). Let’s raise our glasses to the day that JKR renders all this
The Dursleys had nothing to say this time. Harry simply waited at
end of the drive, along with his trunk and Hedwig's cage, enjoying
summer sun. Uncle Vernon stayed inside watching Match of the
while Aunt Petunia fussed about in the back garden. Harry had no
where Dudley had gone. He was probably out with his "community youth
as Aunt Petunia optimistically referred to his gang of delinquent
Harry had spent most of the summer in his room, principally to avoid
group's charitable drives, which usually involved soliciting
from any generous soul smaller or younger than them, to benefit
Happily, Mr Weasley's car appeared from around the corner before
gang did. Ron had told Harry to expect a car. Somehow Mr Weasley had
another one, but this time instead of charming it to fly, he had
reconstructed a normal Muggle automobile engine and charmed each
to move on its own without the aid of petrol. The problem with this
that the car moved without making any sort of sound at all, which
both conspicuous and dangerous. The best Mr Weasley could do was to
another charm, ingeniously adapted from a patented Fred-and-George
which made the car blow a constant raspberry sound as it moved.
smiled as the car splurted wetly toward him. He was certain he had
cars with muffler troubles that had sounded worse.
The car pulled up. Harry saw Uncle Vernon's face appear at the
for a moment, then vanish. The car, perhaps an orange Renault of
years' vintage, was not spacious- Harry hoped Mr Weasley had charmed
boot as well as the engine. Mr Weasley hopped out, and from the
side came Ginny. Harry was surprised to see her. She waved
"Hi," Harry said, smiling. Mr Weasley walked over.
"Hello, Harry. Ron stayed back to welcome Hermione," he explained.
Ginny asked if she could come along."
"That's great," Harry said, and it really was great to see the
two friendly faces he had seen in nearly two months. Mr Weasley
the trunk into the boot- yes, Harry noticed, it had been charmed-
Ginny took Hedwig with her in the backseat.
"You want to say goodbye to your aunt and uncle?" Mr Weasley
"Already done," Harry said, eagerly climbing into the front
seat which Ginny had vacated for him. Mr Weasley shrugged and took
place in the driver's seat.
"Like the car?" Mr Weasley smiled as they set off.
"Yeah, it's nice," Harry said, impressed and relieved that the
sound was not audible from inside.
"Orange, for the Weasleys!" Ginny announced. "Dad let me choose the
Harry was startled to see a small cloth puppet figure of a
emerge from a tiny trapdoor in the dash. "Stop sign here," it said
Mr Weasley obediently slowed to a halt.
"Don't do a lot of driving in Muggle areas," Mr Weasley explained.
fellow reminds me of all the rules. He's just like a Muggle
"Po-lice-man, Dad," Ginny said. "Honestly, it's you should be
the Muggle Studies classes. How was your summer, Harry?"
"It was okay," he said. "Boring, really. I've been looking forward
"Did you get my letter?" Ginny asked. "The one I sent with Ron's?
"Yeah, sure, I got it. I-" Harry suddenly thought of something. He
over at Ginny, her face inquiring but innocent. “Yeah, thanks. It
Ginny began telling him all about the birthday party they had
Harry in absentia, Mr Weasley occasionally filling in details, but
very intent on the roads, which suited Harry just fine.
The policeman began to rattle off directions to the motorway.
taking Muggle roads," Mr Weasley informed Harry. "Everyone felt that
Harry frowned. He had just about managed to forget that it was
but a lovely summer's day before the beginning of school. Just now
did not want to ask who 'everyone' was and why he should be anything
"What about you, Ginny?" Harry asked. "How's everybody?"
The car pulled on to a long road out of the village, and Mr Weasley
out, "Teatime!". "Right, guv!" the cloth policeman affirmed, and
back down his tiny hatch. Mr Weasley also turned the ignition key,
did not stop the car but Harry guessed it did stop the wretched
noise. A minute or two later the Burrow appeared before them. Harry
see his friends outside in the garden, on a bench- Hermione, Fred,
and George. It was a strangely quiet scene- no pickup Quidditch
no gnome-chasing, none of the usual chaos that prevailed at the
Was there some bad news waiting, Harry thought, something Mr Weasley
not told him yet? Harry was glad, at least, to see all his friends
Their heads lifted as the orange car rolled up the lane.
leapt off Hermione's lap as she stood. Ron was running ahead with
twins. "Harry!" When Harry stepped out of the car he was mobbed-
threw her arms around Harry's neck and hugged him tightly, a habit
hers which Harry had always found unsettling. Fred, George and Ron
him on the back and he was bustled along toward the house by his
with Ginny a little way back and Mr Weasley bringing up the rear,
"So you got away from the Dursleys in one piece, did you?" said
"Didn't have to knock anyone out?"
"Give Dudley a swift kick for us, did you?" Ron added.
"Are you joking?" Harry laughed. "He'd have sat on me. No surviving
"We have so much to tell you!" Hermione said, a bit
"Yeah," said Ron. "Later," he added, apparently directing this last
toward Hermione, confirming Harry's impression that there was
that he was not yet being told. Mrs Weasley was advancing on them
the door of the house, and Harry knew another crushing hug was
The table in the kitchen was already laid out for a feast,
expected by the others because no sooner was everyone through the
than they were seated at the table and tearing into the plates of
Mrs Weasley had prepared. "Thanks, Mrs Weasley," Harry said,
the only one to acknowledge that the meal was not *entirely* the
"You're welcome, dear," she smiled at him with moist eyes.
The feast was a homecoming for Harry. Dish after dish of wonderful,
food- something which the less-than-wealthy Weasleys never cut
on, and the more-than-comfortable Dursleys never wasted on Harry.
friends plied him with questions about his summer. Fred and George
some of their inventions. Mrs Weasley had apparently become resigned
this, as she was laughing as hard as any of them. Ron bemoaned the
of the Cannons once again to secure the premiership (never really a
Harry thought to himself). Hermione talked about Bulgaria-
country, Harry, really,"- although Harry noticed that she
said nothing about Viktor Krum, and Ron's face remained a blank
Suddenly Ron seemed to think that the time had come to bring up
it was he had wanted to put off before. "Dad, maybe you ought to
us now," he said to Mr Weasley, who had silently watched the
from the end of the table. Everyone fell quiet, Hermione looking
so slightly cross.
"Yes, I expect I should," he said, pulling his chair forward.
I didn't want to tell you until you were safe with us. We... didn't
there was any need to alarm you over your holiday."
Harry sat up.
"Two weeks ago, there was a riot at Azkaban. The prisoners...
organized an uprising," Mr Weasley announced. "Nobody has been able
contact the warden's office."
Harry swallowed. "How did they manage that? The Dementors-"
"Exactly, Harry. No prisoner could organize such an action under
Dementors' watch. He would be morally and physically incapable. He
hardly have the energy to rise from his cot."
"So, the Dementors were not trying to stop them."
"That's right. Any *thinking* person-" Mr Weasley practically spat
word through clenched teeth, something so startlingly
of him that Harry flinched- "any *thinking* person would recognize
this was planned, and organized with the co-operation of at least
of the Dementors. It seems that we have lost a prison, and
has gained a fortress and an army." Mrs Weasley, sitting next to her
"But that's not what the Ministry's telling people," Fred
"No," Mr Weasley agreed, shaking his head. "We are busy reassuring
public that all necessary precautions have been taken and that order
soon be restored. Life continues as normal throughout the wizarding
"How about school?" Harry asked.
"School will start as usual. Which is perhaps the best thing,
there's nowhere in the world we'd rather have you all than at
But nobody will tell you this information, Harry. The world is in
I know that the Ministry has done nothing, save remove the warden of
fireplace from the Floo Network."
"But things'll be different at school this year," Ron said.
"Yes," Mr Weasley continued. "Thanks to Dumbledore- and thank
for him- there will be plenty of precautions taken. Dumbledore has
monitors for each of the four houses, who will be staying in the
"So it will be a terribly dull year," Fred grinned.
"Only if we are lucky," said Mr Weasley, smiling but serious.
"And that's not the only reason things'll be dull, eh Hermione?"
Hermione straightened up. "I'm going to be Gryffindor prefect this
Harry's eyes popped wide. "Congratulations!"
Mr Weasley broke in. "She’s the best candidate in these
"Why? Erm, I mean, I think it's a great idea, of course-" Harry
Hermione just smiled.
"Well, she’s respected by everybody, of course, but especially
she is loyal to you, Harry. And she knows exactly what you face.
else, no matter how well-meaning or trustworthy, would understand
how important it is that you are protected." Mr Weasley paused, and
noticed Ron shifting in his seat. "This was Dumbledore's
"Well, erm, congratulations, Hermione, it's great for you."
"It's all about who you know, eh Harry?" Fred said, smiling and
his arms in mock disapproval.
The Weasley party's annual assault on Diagon Alley took place the
day. After stocking up on school supplies, the group split up for
leisurely shopping, Fred and George heading one way with Mr Weasley,
Mrs Weasley headed another way with Hermione and Ginny in tow. Ron
Harry to Florean Fortescue's ice-cream parlour, apparently glad for
chance to speak privately with his friend. Harry had noticed that
had been a little uneasy ever since his arrival the previous
He had hardly spoken directly to Hermione, for one thing. Harry
that they were in the midst of a row that must somehow have started
the four hours between Hermione's arrival at the Burrow and
Ron led Harry to an out-of-the-way table, after they had paid and
up their ice-creams from the counter.
"So what d'you think of all this, eh?" Ron said. Harry understood
apparently vague question.
"It's going to be very strange this year."
"You're right about that. And that's not half of what Dumbledore
in mind, I hear. Dad's met with him a few times. Not openly."
"What do you think about Hermione?" Harry asked, sure that Ron was
for him to bring the subject round to her.
"Prefect?" Ron shook his head. "I don't know."
"I notice you've hardly talked to her. Have you had anoth- have you
a row or something?" Harry corrected himself, not wishing to make it
"No, nothing like that," Ron said, then stopped. He looked away and
silent a moment. "You know, it's stupid, that someone can be your
friend in the world, then a few weeks later you can't find anything
say without completely choking."
Harry nodded. In his last letter to Ron, Harry had accused him of
an obvious crush on Hermione. Ron had not answered. Harry was glad
find at least that Ron was not angry, or trying to deny it. Harry
sympathetic- he had found himself choking once or twice himself in
of Cho, the Ravenclaw seeker, and would not have wished that
feeling on anyone. But at least Harry only spoke to Cho a few times
"You know, Harry," Ron continued, "I think this'll be the end, for
three of us."
"Why would you think that?"
"Hermione'll be a prefect. She'll have much more important things
do. And you, well you know how important you are."
Harry's lips tightened. More than once he had been exasperated by
conviction that he was a third wheel between famous Harry and
"That's rot, Ron. We will stick together. You heard your Dad-
been made a prefect-"
"-Because everybody respects her and she's the *only* one who
you," Ron said acidly.
Harry blew an exasperated breath. "Ron, shut up. So you fancy
"That's neither here nor there," Ron said indignantly. He crossed
arms and looked up toward the list of flavours on the wall.
"It's okay, Ron. I'd have given anything for Cho to talk to me-"
broke off, thinking of Cho in tears the last time he had seen her,
of how he was sure he would never be able to look her in the face
"I know it's bad. I wouldn't laugh, if that's what you're afraid
Ron brightened up a little. "I think about her, and I feel great.
she shows up and I talk to her and I feel wretched. I can't control
I don't know what to do."
"You should, I don't know, tell her-" Harry said and Ron shook his
violently. "She's your friend. She'll hear you out. Do you want me
Ron looked at him. "I don't want to do anything that'll make her go
I'm so afraid of that. I was okay knowing I'd see her every day,
nothing of it, until Krum came along and I thought, that's it, we're
now, she's going away, going to be someone else's friend. It seemed
"But she didn't, did she?" Harry pointed out.
Ron was silent for a few moments. "But a prefect, Harry. You can’t
a prefect, not at school."
"Why not?" Harry smiled slyly. "Prefects have private rooms, I
"Harry!" Ron's cheeks were glowing hot. "This is Hermione we're
"What about her?" came a familiar voice. Hermione helped herself to
chair from the next table and sat down with them. Harry hoped his
face was not glowing like Ron's.
"I was telling Ron you'd make a great prefect. He said no, you'd be
Hermione seemed to examine Ron’s face for a moment. "Well, never
if you don't want to tell me anyway."
"Aren't you supposed to be shopping?" Ron said, the familiar old
back in his voice.
"Yes. I am. Ginny shooed me away for five minutes. I think she's
my birthday present."
"Oh yes," Ron nodded sagely.
Ginny, smiling broadly, appeared at the open window and waved. "All
Hermione, it's safe now!"
"Excuse me," Hermione said, and stood up. "You can get back to your
"D'you suppose she heard me!" Harry whispered as Hermione strode
"I'm a rat," Ron announced. "We're both rats."
"Have either of us ever given Hermione a birthday present?" Ron
Harry swallowed, looking toward the space Hermione had recently
"I guess not." He thought of the Broomstick Maintenance Kit, a
possession of his, sent to him by Hermione one lonely summer.
"We ought to be whipped," Ron said sadly. "She's going to be
"It's right at the beginning of the school year... it just never
"Well, we're in Diagon Alley and we've got an hour. There must be
fantastic we can find," Ron said desperately. They stood up and left
ice-creams to melt unfinished.
Ron and Harry tore up and down the Alley, dodging Hermione and the
Weasleys. "What do girls like, anyway?" Ron said pleadingly as they
"I don't know," Harry said. "Anyway, Hermione's not like most
Ron looked at Harry. "I mean, she likes books-" Harry added
as they passed Flourish and Blotts.
"Yeah, but which ones hasn't she read! Anyway, we'd have to find
Look, mate-" Ron said suddenly, turning on Harry.
"I've got to get her something nicer, okay?"
"I know you've got pocketloads of Galleons there, but I'm trying to
"I'm sure you do anyway, Ron," Harry said, smiling wryly.
"Yeah, but in a nice way this time," Ron said, walking on with
"Don't worry. Um-" Harry began awkwardly.
"Yeah?" Ron stopped walking.
"I mean, if you want to get her something really nice, don't be
but... if you don't have enough on you, just at that moment..."
Ron’s expression was blank for a moment, then he smiled
They passed a ramshackle shop called "The Sorcerer's Souk", and
into the window, between posters proclaiming "For Fair Trade!" or
wizarding community events in an assortment of foreign languages. It
to sell everything and nothing at once- the shelves and walls were
high with jars, lanterns, talismans, statues, clothing. Harry and
walked in and looked around. The shop did not sell two of anything.
Harry noticed that Ron seemed to keep returning to one shelf, where
very large piece of fabric lay neatly folded. It was- well, Harry
it might be blue, but the closer one looked the more the colour
to recede deeply into the fabric. Along one edge was an embroidery
dark gold that made living, slowly moving swirls. Ron touched it and
visible silver ripples ran out from where his hand was.
"What do you think?" asked Harry as Ron stopped in front of the
for the fourth time.
"It's like her, isn't it?" Ron said, not seeming altogether aware
what he was saying. "Very nice, but... serious..." He pulled his
away, and barely perceptibly he shook himself. "Anyway, it's just a
"That's a saree," said a voice, in a manner that was both testy and
if that was possible. The proprietor had appeared next to Ron. "From
Women wear that."
"Do they now," Ron said, once again absorbed. Harry could
see Ron's imagination trying to work out how a woman would wear
"Parvati would know about that," Harry said. "I think she's worn
before. Are you interested?" Harry noticed that all of Ron's
money was perhaps a fourth of the price tag.
Ron looked over at Harry, clearly torn. "What do you think? I mean,
would hardly be from me."
Harry lowered his voice. "Ron, about the price, don't worry. It's
even my money, mate, it's my Dad's. It's a good cause. The only
is," he continued at normal voice, "if you give it to her, she'll
exactly what you're trying to say."
"How do you mean?"
"What did Hermione give you for your last birthday?"
Ron considered a moment. "Bag of dungbombs. Quidditch book. Some
"So you get my meaning."
Ron's eyes were wide. "Blimey, Harry! D'you think it's too
"I don't know," Harry shrugged. "I'd have to ask my loads of girl
But maybe you want it to be too much..."
"She might be embarrassed. *I* might be embarrassed!"
They stood staring at the fabric until the proprietor, forgotten,
away exasperated. "Hey!" Harry said to him as he retreated. "We're
to take this!" On the way to the cash, Harry picked up a small
and glass lantern he had been looking at before, which had an
bright point of light suspended perpetually at its center.
Ron was on autopilot as he and Harry piled up their Galleons to pay
proprietor. "If you chicken out, we can say it's from the both of
Harry told Ron, who nodded thoughtfully as the proprietor neatly
the saree in paper. They stepped out of the store just in time to be
out the door when Hermione and Ginny rounded the corner with Mrs
"Where've you been? What have you got there?" Hermione said.
"Never you mind," Ron said testily.
The arrival at Hogwarts was an altogether different affair this
Harry's ride on the Hogwarts Express was subdued, partly because
memory was cast back to the sad and anxious parting two months
and partly because, although Ron's mood had lightened considerably,
was if anything less able to speak to Hermione coherently than
Harry wondered what she made of Ron's behaviour, pressed so tightly
his seat it looked like he was trying to get himself swallowed by
She wasn't giving anything away, though, chatting happily as
dozed across her lap. The houses had each been herded into their own
at King's Cross, so that Harry saw nobody other than Gryffindors on
ride. The first years were separated and kept in yet another
car, and Harry had the impression there were fewer than usual this
About fifteen minutes before arrival, Hermione was summoned out of
cabin by a seventh-year student. Ron looked crestfallen as he
her leave. Harry guessed that Hermione's prefect duties would begin
the platform at Hogsmeade.
"There she goes," Ron muttered. Harry said nothing. He had a
the remark was not for his benefit.
Sure enough, as they stepped out, there was Hermione, in full robes
wearing a badge, calling out, "Gryffindors over here! Gryffindors!"
to her was Professor McGonagall and, Harry guessed, the newly-hired
for Gryffindor tower.
"Is that who I think it is?" Ron said, nudging Harry.
The stranger turned to face the oncoming gaggle of Gryffindor
"Professor Lupin! What are you doing here?" Harry said, amazed, as
lined up in front of Lupin, McGonagall and Hermione.
"Not Professor this time, I'm afraid," Lupin said, smiling. “Just
"You're going to be staying in our dormitory?" Ron asked, as they
led to the carriages.
"Yes, well, three weeks out of four," he said to the two, winking.
be away on business the rest of the time, of course."
"Quiet there, please," Professor McGonagall said.
As the carriages took the Gryffindors up to the castle, Harry
out the window, and saw what he presumed was the Slytherin
riding parallel. He was grateful at least that the segregation of
houses on the train had spared him the customary snide greeting from
Malfoy. On the front of the lead carriage of Slytherin was... could
be their Monitor? Harry smiled. It was Alastor Moody, "Mad-Eye". And
roving eye was watching carefully down the row of carriages as the
eye looked forward up the path. Further down the road, he saw the
procession, led by a woman who reminded Harry a great deal of his
babysitter Mrs Figg.
The students were led into the hall still separated into their
Dumbledore was already at the front table with a severe expression
the crowd seated themselves, a strict silence enforced by the house
the monitors and the prefects. Harry caught some dirty looks from
fellow Gryffindors as Hermione shushed them.
Dumbledore cleared his throat audibly as the house heads took their
at the head table. "Welcome," he intoned gravely. No "a few words"
year, Harry thought. Straight to business.
"You have no doubt observed," Dumbledore went on, "that we have
a number of extraordinary measures this year, to ensure the safety
our students. We have been forced to take these measures by
outside of our control, and I speak for everyone on the staff when I
that I hope that this condition will be temporary. However we cannot
anything. As a result I must advise you that all school regulations
be enforced to their fullest extent this year." Harry was sure that
Snape was looking directly toward him when Dumbledore said this.
"There are several precautions we are taking. First and foremost,
house has been assigned a Monitor who will quartered in the house's
The Monitor is empowered to carry out inspections of every part of
dormitories at any time. He or she will be inspecting all magical
in the possession of every student in their house. All student
are subject to confiscation. There are no exceptions to this."
The room bubbled with subdued voices. Fred and George looked at
other. Ron looked at Harry.
"The Monitors will be assisted in their duties by the house
as well as by the Head Boy and Girl." Harry glanced at Hermione,
next to Lupin at the front end of the Gryffindor table. Her face was
blank. "You are to show unconditional respect to your Monitors and
prefects. They are working to ensure your well-being."
"There are some," Dumbledore continued, "who will not understand or
in the necessity of these measures. There are some who will wish to
or circumvent them. So be it," he said, looking over at the
table. "We can only reassure you that we are all eager for the
to relax this extraordinary discipline. Whatever you have heard over
summer, it is a fact that Voldemort has risen again. You are
to be in the safest stronghold in Britain. This house is protected
more enchantments than I could learn about in many lifetimes."
“It has now been demonstrated that Voldemort's only power to
this castle is his ability to penetrate our own hearts, to turn us
against another, to tempt us to treachery. Be on your guard, then.
your companions, but especially, watch yourself. He will not come in
assault. He will come to us singly, as we move among our crowd of
The Sorting was brief- Harry was sure there were less than half the
of new admissions this year than there had been in previous years.
rose slowly over the course of the feast, as sumptuous as ever, and
began to mix as students sought out friends from other houses. Harry
around the back of the room, and drifted near the Slytherin table,
he heard Draco Malfoy holding forth.
"-even tried to dissolve Slytherin house, but the Governors soon
an end to that notion. Takes more than a senile old bat of a
to end a thousand years of tradition-"
Harry was impressed. Could that be true, that Dumbledore had tried
dissolve Slytherin house? He supposed it would make running the
easier if he could have the Malfoys and Crabbes and Goyles and their
children of known Death Eaters, separated or expelled. But with
the only living eyewitness of Voldemort's rebirth, the wizarding
had not yet acknowledged the state of war, and people like Lucius
remained respectable. Harry moved away before he was spotted. He was
eager to confront Malfoy tonight.
Next was the Ravenclaw table. He stopped a moment. A sober and
Cho Chang sat with a knot of her friends. She spotted Harry and gave
little wave and a thin smile, which Harry returned, then looked
maybe too quickly, he thought. He looked back, and she was again
to her friend. Harry moved on.
Back at the Gryffindor table, he found Hermione sitting alone,
at nothing in particular. She hardly noticed him taking the seat
to her. "Hey", he said.
Hermione looked over at him. Her eyes were hollow. "Harry,
is going to hate me."
"What do you mean?"
"Nobody's even said hello to me all evening. Did you see the looks
were giving me? I've made a horrible mistake. Everybody is going to
"Hermione, don't be ridiculous," Harry said. "It's just your job.
"I'm not so sure. This is terrible. I wish I could leave. I can't
this. I've got to sit here looking important. Look, even Ron hasn't
Harry, surprising himself, grabbed her hand under the table.
looked at him. "Don't worry, Hermione. If anyone makes trouble for
Ron and I will help put it right." Harry let go of her hand, as
as he could without appearing (he hoped) to rush.
Hermione was silent for a moment, then, in a gesture that startled
she raised her arms to her face and rubbed her eyes angrily with the
of her hands. She pulled her hands away and stood up, her eyes as
as before. "Excuse me, I have to go back to work." She walked into
milling crowd, a space opening for her as she went.
Harry looked around. Ginny was nearby, watching him. Harry smiled
her, but this time it was she who moved away suddenly, barely
him. Harry stood up, and went to find some boys to talk to.
Dumbledore unexpectedly called an end to the feast at ten o'clock,
instructed the prefects to lead their houses back to the
Hermione led the Gryffindors. If Mr Weasley had been there, he might
have been so quick to assert that everybody respected her. It was a
grumbling crowd that climbed the marble staircases toward the tower.
d'you like her, eh?" Harry heard Dean whispering to Lee Jordan.
take long for a little power to go to your head."
"Shut up, Dean," Harry said. "She hasn't done anything Dumbledore
tell her to." Harry was mortified to see Hermione's head turn- she
heard Dean but she had heard Harry's response. "Quiet down there,"
muttered. Dean made a gloating face at Harry that made Harry want to
Lupin was waiting by the portrait of the Fat Lady. She seemed to be
a long sheet of parchment in her hand. Lupin stood next to a table
a vat and many glass vials, a candle, and incongruously enough, a
"Good evening," he said. "Before you go in, I have another procedure
advise you about. You're going to have to drink this-" he held up
tiny vial of clear liquid- "and state your name. It is a very small
of Veritaserum, to confirm your identity. I will then give you the
At this, he held up a vial of red liquid. You will then be given
own password, which you are to keep strictly to yourself. Don't
"Oh no!" Neville whispered. A couple of students near him
"You will whisper your password when you arrive at the portrait
now on," Lupin continued. "Hermione will go in first. Hermione?"
Lupin gave a clear vial to Hermione, who drank it back. She coughed
"Your name?" Lupin asked.
She spoke with a slight slur. "Hermione Granger, although my dad
"Don't say anything else, Hermione, and drink this." Lupin handed
one of the red vials. "Aww," said a voice, as she tossed back the
There was a slight titter from the crowd. Lupin held out the
and Hermione pulled out a small piece of parchment. She examined it
moment, then put it into the candle flame where it was consumed in a
She walked up to the portrait, whispered as the Fat Lady leaned over
hear, and waited while the Fat Lady made a note on her own
Finally the portrait swung aside, and Hermione disappeared into the
"This is going to take ages," Dean muttered.
"Well if you're bored," Ron said from behind Harry, "just picture
going through this with the Slytherins." Dean nodded, smiling.
The next day, classes began but all students were instructed to
to their dormitories at four o'clock. When Harry and Ron got back to
tower, Hermione was standing at the entrance, making sure each
was entering with their own password. "Hi," she said, with a forced
"Got to make sure you use your password." Harry went up to the Fat
who was getting tired of all this bending down. He whispered
in her ear. The Fat Lady checked her list then swung aside. "Don't
how long it's going to take me to memorize all this," she complained
the other side of the frame. Ron began to follow Harry in but
arm appeared to block his way.
"Sorry, Ron, you've got to do it too," Harry heard her say.
"What's all this for," Ron said huffily as the frame swung shut.
reappeared a few seconds later. "Well it's not like I like it
said Hermione's voice from the other side of the portrait hole as
The common room was slowly filling up with Gryffindor students.
stood patiently by the fireplace, waiting for all heads to be
"What do we have to do now, Professor- I mean, sir?" called a
"Isn't anyone getting tired of all this?"
"Got to be done, Angelina, sorry," Lupin answered, smiling. Harry
impressed with Lupin's style. His prior reputation helped him win
an otherwise grumpy crowd time after time. Unfortunately, Harry had
observed that the Gryffindors' impatience was being transferred to
prefect. Hermione had joined Lupin at the front of the room. Harry
the same blank look on her face she had had after the feast. He
over at Ron, who was watching Hermione with an equally inscrutable
"This part isn't going to be fun, my friends," Lupin began.
of all magical objects in your possession. All of them. Hermione and
will be going room to room, checking for unauthorized spells, hexes
A groan rose from the assembled group, as Lupin led Hermione toward
stairs to the boy's dormitories. "Oi!" called Seamus Finnegan.
not bringing her up there, are you?"
"Do you expect me to be able to do all the work alone, Seamus?"
called back. "If you've got magic underpants up there I promise I'll
the inspection myself." The assembled Gryffindors laughed as the
followed Lupin and Hermione up the stairs. The girls rushed up the
staircase, obviously hurrying to take advantage of their head start
clean their rooms.
"Harry!" Ron whispered as he and Harry climbed the stairs. "I can't
her looking in my trunk for magical objects!"
"Why n- oh, right," Harry said, suddenly remembering that Ron had
their gifts. "Let's see what we can do."
Harry and Ron bustled up the narrow stairs, pushing past students-
Careful! Where's the fire, mate?"- trying to reach Lupin before he
to the dormitories.
"Sir-" said Ron, as they caught up just after reaching the top of
stairs. He was suddenly at a loss, realizing that Hermione was also
looking straight at him.
"Yes, Ron?" Lupin said.
"Uh- can you inspect our room yourself, sir?" Ron said.
Hermione grimaced. "Why's that, Ron?"
Ron floundered, speechless.
"Ron's got magic underpants, sir," Harry said, suppressing a
Ron didn't seem amused. Neither did Hermione. Lupin looked over at
She just shrugged and turned.
"Let's go to it, then," Lupin said, and Ron and Harry followed him
their room. Ron didn't look too pleased to see Dean, Neville and
follow close behind- Harry guessed he'd rather not have this go on
"Let's start with the underpants, then," Lupin said jauntily.
wanted some of those."
Ron opened his trunk. Lupin looked in, and prodded some items with
wand, whose tip was glowing blue. Every time it touched a magical
it would turn orange. "Sneakoscope- nothing out of the ordinary
A couple of Chocolate Frogs, they'll be gone soon enough, I
He prodded the package from the store. "I'll have to have a look at
Ron leaned over and unwrapped the paper. Lupin's eyes were wide.
quite something, Ron! Who's the lucky- ah," he stopped, obviously
two and two together. Behind them, Dean, Seamus and Neville were
at each other. Ron was glowing red.
"It's from the both of us," Harry said. "It's her birthday
It was clear, however, from the expressions on their roommates'
that they had already arrived at their own version of events. Dean
Seamus were grinning stupidly, while Neville simply stared,
"Well, a few unusual spells, but harmless. It's very nice work
Someone will see you have excellent taste," Lupin concluded, moving
The next few days wore all the students beyond endurance. It seemed
every day there was a new procedure to learn or inspection to carry
At meals Hermione was to be found seated at the front end of the
often leaving early to assist Lupin. Harry and Ron hardly spoke to
except for a few words between classes, and even then she would
make excuses and disappear again.
"Is she ever going to speak to us again?" Ron said glumly as she
off again after a gruelling first class in Potions.
"She's really busy," Harry said.
"It's not that. She's not speaking to us. Probably still mad about
"Can't blame her," Harry said. "I'm glad her birthday's soon. So we
explain." Ron didn't answer.
Arriving at the door of Gryffindor Tower, Harry and Ron found Lupin
again allowing only one student to enter at a time. Katie Bell was
at the portrait hole. "How long are we going to have to do this,
she said plaintively.
"Until I'm sure you'll all do it yourselves, Katie," Lupin said
his characteristic smile. "Simple." Katie went through the routine,
disappeared into the common room. Harry followed, then Ron. As they
up toward the stairs to the boys' dormitory, a knot of students
near the fire erupted into laughter.
Harry came down alone a few minutes later, showered and ready to go
to the Hall for supper. The same group was still gathered by the
and this time Harry overheard a snippet of their conversation.
"-deserves to be taken down a notch, doesn't she?" A murmur of
rose from the group.
Harry stopped in his tracks, frowning. Another voice rose up from
"Did you hear about Ron Weasley? He fancies her, you know, and
"Shut it," Harry said sharply, not even aware he'd spoken. There
a pause, and a head appeared from around the wing of one of the
by the fire.
"Can I help you, Harry?"
"You shut up about Hermione, Geoff. You all sound like a roomful of
"Mind your own business, Harry. Not all of us benefit from the
treatment you get," Geoff said.
Harry walked off, gritting his teeth.
"Uh, Harry. May I see you a moment, please?"
Harry stopped and turned. It was Lupin's voice. Lupin was poking
head out the door to his rooms, beckoning Harry. Harry walked
"Harry, you know that I have to leave tomorrow?"
"It was a condition of my taking this job," Lupin explained in a
voice. "Dumbledore was rather insistent that I be at or near
this year, and quite a nasty bit of negotiating was done to bring it
I go well away from the school at least two days before the full
and I don’t come back until at least three days after. That means
going to be away for most of a week." Lupin dropped his voice still
"I think you've noticed that Hermione is getting a bit of a rough
"Don't know quite what to do about that. I'll let everyone else
that I expect them to show her respect while I'm gone, but- well,
know, not everybody seems to understand exactly why all this is
Harry nodded. "You and Ron will keep an eye out for her, won't you?
"Of course, sir."
"Thanks, Harry. Go on now."
The fifth-year Gryffindors filed down the narrow stairs from the
where their Astronomy lesson had just wrapped up. The class ended at
and Hermione had the unenviable task of shepherding a tired and
group of students quietly back to Gryffindor tower. Once again she
not walk with Harry and Ron. She was at the head of the group,
making signs to keep it down when their chatter got too loud. The
of this was always temporary at best. Harry tried to do his part to
his group from making trouble for her- "Quiet, okay, guys?"
The group arrived at the portrait hole, and Hermione once again
the excruciating ritual of going through the door one password at a
Going through this at that late hour made the mutinous grunts even
"Come on, we're not going to conjure the Dark Lord at this hour,
just want to get in our pajamas!"
"That's not funny, Katie," Hermione answered.
"That's not funny, Katie," sneered a mocking voice. Hermione
looking furiously at the group, but all faces remained blank.
When Harry entered the common room, however, it did not look like a
about to wind things down for the night. Fifteen or so Gryffindors
sitting around, chatting, playing chess or Exploding Snap, and they
the fifth-years who had just entered to join them. Somebody had
to bring out a crate of butterbeer.
"Come on, guys, " the third-year named Geoff called out cheerfully.
the cat's away..."
"The cat is not away, Geoff," Hermione said. "Remember, lights-out
in forty-five minutes," she announced to the room. Her words made no
"Forty-five minutes," she repeated. She watched the room a moment,
disappeared down the corridor toward her private room.
Harry went upstairs to change, and came back down about forty
later to see what he could do to clear the common room. There was no
decrease in the level of activity. Two boys were duelling, and
flashes crossed the air between them. A wireless was playing. Six
were levitating a study table. "Look, it's a seance!" called out a
girl who was watching. "I'm a Muggle and I hate dirty witches!" she
out, and started setting fire to their robes with her wand, which
general hilarity. Harry was annoyed. He knew that any other day the
room would have emptied out by that time. Harry was doubly annoyed
see Ron in a corner, a butterbeer in hand, playing a noisy and
chess game with Dean Thomas. Out of the corridor at the far end came
in pajamas and a dressing-robe. Her face was twisted in
"It's lights out, everybody," she called above the hubbub.
"Sod off, Granger," Geoff shouted. Harry was shocked by this patent
So, apparently, was Hermione- her face was twisted even further, and
recognized that she was fighting tears. "I'm very disappointed in
all," she said with difficulty, her eyes fixed on Ron as she said
"D'you hear that, Ron? Very disappointed, she is," Dean Thomas said
a cruel smile. Ron said nothing.
"Ron. Dean. Come on," Harry whispered. Ron looked at Harry, then
"I'm staying put," Dean said.
"Very well," Hermione announced to the room. "I'll be speaking to
McGonagall about each and every one of you tomorrow morning." She
down her corridor. Harry was shaking with anger as he went up the
In the darkness, Harry sat up in bed, thinking furious thoughts as
waited for Ron to return. Only he and Neville had obeyed the curfew.
was almost an hour later when the door of the dormitory opened and
Seamus and Dean walked in. Even Neville sat up when they entered-
realized that he, too, must not have been sleeping.
"What was all that about!" Harry whispered sharply.
"You're still up?" Ron said dully, at normal voice.
"Don't be thick. What are you all playing at!"
Dean answered. "She can't tell us what to do. Don't know where she
the idea she could."
"From Dumbledore, you idiot! And Lupin! Anyway, you'll get yours
enough," Harry said, then turned to Ron. "As for you, you're
to be her friend."
"She's supposed to be mine, too, isn't she?" Ron said, disappearing
the curtains of his four-poster.
"Oooh- I guess we were wrong about who her boyfriend was, eh?" Dean
"Quiet in there," came Hermione's voice outside the door, then
"We're going to have some words tomorrow," Harry said, flopping
on his bed.
"Shut up," came Ron's voice, and no more was said that night.
The next day, Ron, Harry and Hermione went from class to class
and not exchanging a single word. It was on the way to the Great
for teatime that Harry ran up behind Ron, who was deep in Quidditch
with Dean Thomas, and grabbed his arm in mid-sentence, pulling him
the direction of an adjoining corridor.
"Hey-" Dean started as Ron vanished from his periphery.
"Hi, Dean," Harry said acidly. "Ron'll catch up with you."
Dean shrugged and walked off as Ron looked after him, an alarmed
on his face. "Come here," Harry spat, pulling him into the side
"What do you think you're doing!" Ron said finally.
"I was going to ask that. What was that little show about last
"You heard Dean. She can't treat us like that."
"Are you going to hide behind them? That's loyal of you. Too
to let them think you like her, are you?"
"I don't," said Ron, almost inaudibly.
"Eh? Look at me and say that, Ron."
"Sod off, will you? Mind your own business."
Harry gritted his teeth. "So you'll be taking a miss on her
Ron looked impatiently down the hall then back at Harry. "Take the
back. She won't want it from me anyway."
"I've got no use for it!" Harry shouted.
"Well well," came a voice from around the corner. "The boys have
outside to have a scrap? Some business to settle between men?" It
"We weren't fighting, sir," said Harry.
"Can't have that, Potter. Twenty points from Gryffindor. And
ten for not being in the Hall in time to hear an important
All Gryffindors are to report to their tower immediately after tea.
to do with a bit of unpleasantness last night. Now get to Hall
and I might reconsider giving you detention tonight."
"Yes, sir," Harry and Ron said dully, as Snape walked away. They
in silence to the Great Hall. Harry saw Hermione watching them as
entered and took their places. Ron quickly resumed his conversation
Dean, and Harry ate in silence.
Once again the Gryffindors were gathered in the Common Room,
to each other. Everyone in the house had by now heard of the
night's mutiny. Some were muttering 'about time', others were
the participants for landing everyone in trouble. There was no doubt
a talking-to from Professor McGonagall was imminent. A hush fell
the portrait-hole opened.
The Gryffindors were worse off than they feared. It was not
it was Snape.
"Good afternoon," he began, sneering with what Harry guessed was
enjoyment. "Professor McGonagall informs me that there was a brazen
of insubordination, disobedience to school regulations and vandalism
this room last night. She has kindly provided me with a list-"
Here Snape waved a sheet of parchment.
"A list of twenty-three names of students who participated in these
However, this list is of no interest to me," he said, tearing the
into small shreds, each of which flashed into flame and vanished
it hit the floor. "I am not at all surprised that discipline has
in this house, under the lax supervision and unearned favour you
until this point received. Therefore I see no need to discriminate.
the remainder of Mr Lupin's absence, I will be taking over monitor
in this house."
The Gryffindors looked at each other but did not dare utter a peep.
understood now why Snape had uncharacteristically forgiven them
"Tonight after supper, and every night for the remainder of the
all Gryffindors will return to this tower for two hours of quiet
and curfew at eleven o'clock. This evening Miss Granger and I will
the best of this opportunity," he continued, "by re-inspecting-
this time- all magical objects in your possession. Do not be late.
may return to your classes."
Once out into the corridors, the Gryffindors erupted into noise and
Hermione ran down the stairs ahead of the group, clutching her books
her chest, but she was not fast enough to avoid being followed by a
of students calling after her. "What did you do that for! Happy now?
*really* make you pay this time, Granger!" Harry and Ron watched as
Weasley pushed past Hermione's tormentors. She caught up with
and Harry saw Ginny put hear arm around Hermione's shoulder and lead
off to one of the girls' toilets.
"Now there's a friend," Harry muttered informatively to Ron. "You
to go toss in an insult or two before she makes it to the loo?"
"Shut up," Ron said. His face was red, eyes brimming, as he ran
the stairs away from Harry.
There was no getting around it this time. Snape entered the
with Hermione in tow, and the five boys stood quietly by their beds.
indicated Dean Thomas' trunk with his wand, and Hermione obediently
to open it. Snape didn't say a word as he prodded the contents of
trunk with his wand. He took a handful of objects, ranging from
to playing-cards, and tossed them into a sack which Hermione held
"Confiscated," he reported matter-of-factly. Dean's face was livid,
he didn't say a word. Snape moved on to Neville's trunk and
his Remembrall and some Chocolate Frogs. Snape took special delight
confiscating Harry's invisibility cloak. "Nice to see an end to
With another wordless order Hermione opened Ron's trunk, and Snape
to work. He pocketed his wand and pulled out the two wrapped
"What are these?" he said icily to Ron. Ron opened his mouth but all
emerged was a squeak.
"With all due respect sir-" Harry put in.
"I was not addressing you, Potter."
Ron's face instantly turned pink. "They're... presents, sir."
"Birthday presents," Ron declared. Harry saw Hermione look up, her
"How touching. For whom, Weasley?"
"For Hermione, sir... from Harry and me," Ron said, keeping his
fixed on Snape, as Harry saw Hermione's hand go to her mouth.
"Many happy returns, Granger," Snape said baldly as he tossed the
parcels in Hermione's direction. "We'll examine those afterwards.
I think we can safely assume they'll be confiscated."
Hermione dropped the sack she was holding as the two parcels came
way. She caught the smaller one in her arms, much to Harry's relief,
the lantern would not have survived impact with the stone floor. The
parcel slipped from her grasp and flopped limply onto the floor. She
down and picked it up, and put both parcels into the sack.
"Sir, the *little* one's from me, but the *big* one's from Ron,"
enunciated pointedly, continuing to look at Snape. Harry caught a
from Hermione out the corner of his eye. Ron turned his head and
"Thank you for that relevant information, Potter," Snape said,
the 'r' in 'relevant' snidely.
Snape completed the inspection with a few more confiscations, and
the five boys standing in their room, shaken. Ron turned to Harry,
"I may kill you, Potter," he said. "I haven't decided yet."
The breakfast table was now the closest the Gryffindors had to
Snape prowled the common room all evening, enforcing the period of
study he had promised, although there was no problem enforcing the
as most students had scattered to their dormitories well before
Clearly the other houses were enjoying the sight of the cowed, if
Gryffindors filtering into the Great Hall.
When Harry arrived with Ron he saw that Hermione had taken her
customary seat at the front end of the table. Only Ginny was sitting
her. Harry caught Hermione's eye but she looked away quickly. Her
"How about you going over and saying good morning?" Harry
Ron's lips were tight. "Just an idea," Harry sighed.
When they sat down, Harry overheard the Gryffindors discussing the
of the previous night. Lee Jordan whispered, "Hermione's eyes were
when they came into our room. Looks like she's really having a rough
"Well spotted, Lee," Harry said bitterly down the table. "She is,
case anyone's interested," Harry announced to the group in general.
group lapsed into silence and started pushing their breakfast around
plates. "Don't suppose anyone would be up to apologising to her,
they?" he said with annoyance.
Ron stood up suddenly. "You're coming with me," Ron said gravely.
not doing this by myself."
"Sure, I'd like to speak to her," Harry said.
"No, not to Hermione. To Snape." Ron's hands were balled into
"Are you mad!" Harry said, standing up.
"Possibly," Ron said. "Look, he's talking to McGonagall. If we do
right-" Ron started walking down the row. Harry followed, glad not
have eaten yet because his stomach was starting to flutter. They
directly behind Hermione and Ginny, who turned their heads to watch
pass. Hermione looked at Harry inquiringly. He shrugged, and
Ron to the head table.
Snape was seated next to Professor McGonagall. "-and completed the
Harry heard Snape tell her.
"Was that strictly necessary, Severus? Surely Lupin had already-"
was answering, as Ron reached the table.
"Professor, sir?" Ron said ingratiatingly.
Snape turned his head and regarded Ron then Harry with undisguised
"Weasley. It is very impolite to interrupt a private
"I beg your pardon, Professor. I had just one small question," Ron
with such deference Harry thought he might choke.
"Out with it then."
"I was wondering if you could return the birthday gifts we got for
which you confiscated, just for a day," Ron said in one breath, and
saw Ron's eyes briefly travel to Professor McGonagall as he said
"It's just that, tomorrow's her birthday and I have nothing else to
"That's not my concern, Weasley," Snape said with finality. He
to resume speaking to McGonagall, but she now turned to speak
"Mr Weasley, an illegal item is an illegal item. We cannot make an
no matter how good your intentions," she explained.
"It was only a dress, ma'am," Ron said.
"I beg your pardon?" McGonagall said.
"It was a dress, ma'am. A very pretty one. I should like to see her
it just once before it's taken away," Ron said dreamily. Harry
he might be ill. He turned and saw Hermione not ten feet away,
all this with her eyes wide. Ginny looked like she was about to
"Severus, is-" McGonagall began.
"It was a magical item, Professor, which Weasley was keeping
Snape said in a thin furious voice.
"But Severus, surely we didn't intend *all* magical objects-
Potter, go back to your seats. We will see what we can do," she said
Harry and Ron didn't dare look back. Hermione watched them pass
Harry saw that she was blushing, but Ron was avoiding her eye as he
his way back to their place.
"Don't say anything just now," Ron said, grabbing his glass of
juice and taking a huge draught. Neville and Dean looked at them
wide, admiring eyes.
"That's guts," Dean muttered.
That evening the Gryffindors were summoned to yet another assembly
the common room. Harry wondered what further torments Snape might
in mind for them, especially in light of Ron's little display at
There was an audible letting go of breath on the part of everyone
when Professor McGonagall came through the door instead of Snape.
was holding a bundle which Harry recognized as the sack of
"You have all made a great deal of trouble for the staff in recent
she began, her tone sharp. "It should be clear that we have much
important occupations than disciplining troublemakers. Professor
will not be returning this evening, as he has far better things to
There was another collective breath.
"Upon further review," Professor McGonagall continued, "we have
to return some- I repeat, some- of the items confiscated last night.
Granger will distribute them once I have finished with you."
"Good one, Ron," Harry heard a voice whisper behind them. A couple
other voices breathed assent.
"Quiet, please," McGonagall said, raising her voice slightly.
remains the matter of detention for the participants in the mutiny
two nights ago." Several students shifted on their feet. "I will be
Miss Granger to furnish the names once again, if you please, Miss
Professor McGonagall turned to face Hermione. There was a collective
of heads, and Harry saw Hermione's face redden slightly as she fell
the gaze of the whole house.
"I don't remember," she said weakly.
Harry looked over at Ron, whose jaw had flopped open.
"I beg your pardon!" McGonagall snapped.
"I couldn't possibly remember, Professor. There were too many," she
more distinctly this time.
"Surely at least some, Miss Granger-"
"Well it wouldn't be fair to punish only some of them, would it?"
said. Harry shook his head.
McGonagall's lips were thin. "I rather think it's up to me what's
and what's not in this house." She paused and blew out her cheeks,
turned to the ranks of Gryffindors. "Well. Well. That will be all
this evening," she said, hands on hips. "You are all confined to
tower for the remainder of the evening, where I suggest you spend
time reflecting on your good fortune. I leave them to your wisdom,
Professor McGonagall turned on her heel and strode to the portrait
Nobody so much as twitched until it was closed behind her and all
sure she wasn't about to come back.
"Thanks, Hermione," Dean said, letting go of his breath.
"That was *cold*," Lee Jordan cooed admiringly. "Yeah," several
agreed. "We owe you," Fred said.
Hermione stood, her arms folded. "Yes, you do," she said. "Take
things, and let's be good just tonight, can we?"
"Yeah, all right." Mutters of assent came from around the room as
students came forward and started to root through the contents of
sack. Hermione knelt down and pulled out the lantern and the saree,
out of their wrappers. Harry and Ron made their way up as Hermione
about to walk away. Ron did the second very surprising thing he was
do that day, and clumsily threw his arms around Hermione and
her like a pillow. "Imm so sorrym," he said into her hair. Looking
between bemused and horrified, she tried to pat his back amicably,
much as she could with her arms pinned to her sides. Ron let her go
suddenly as he had grabbed her.
"That's okay," Hermione said with a startled laugh. She held up her
"I'm keeping these, by the way."
"It's not your birthday yet," Harry protested.
"It will be soon enough. I'll be having my birthday party tonight.
formal- get yourselves washed and dressed properly and come to my
in an hour."
Harry smiled. "Who's invited, exactly?"
"Just you two," Hermione said. "And Ginny."
"What's she got to come for?" Ron said plaintively.
"Because she got me a present," Hermione said smugly, and walked
"Not much, is it?" Ron finally declared, looking at himself in the
Taking Hermione at her word, he and Harry had changed into their
robes. Ron still had his same robes from the previous year, slightly
by some alterations he had pestered Mrs Weasley into making the
summer. She had removed the last traces of lace from the sleeves,
they remained ill-fitting, as Ron was not getting any smaller.
spent the money on my own clothes, if I wanted to impress anyone,"
"You look okay," Harry said, shrugging. Privately Harry thought he
rather handsome himself, although he remained annoyed with his hair,
could not be persuaded to behave. He patted down a particular
flop, which flipped right back again as soon as he had stopped
"It's gone over again," the mirror called out helpfully.
"Yeah, never mind," Harry answered.
"Has it been an hour yet?" Ron said, for the third time.
Harry checked his watch. "Yes." Ron grinned. "Let's go, then."
Ron rushed ahead of Harry down the stairs and into the common room.
couple of students looked up as they passed. "Looking good,
"Where's the funeral, Harry?" They went down the corridor toward the
quarters. "Ever been in there before?" Harry asked.
"Are you kidding?" Ron said. "Percy would've rather swallowed a
They reached the door, and Harry knocked softly. The door opened.
head appeared around the door, but she kept herself hidden. She wore
very tentative smile, and her hair was tied tightly back. Harry saw
lantern suspended on a chain from the rafter. It was much brighter
it was in the store, its light seeming to adjust itself to the room
filled. Harry thought it looked great, and complimented himself on
taste. Hermione's room was small but cozy- the bed seemed to fill
of the space, but there was also a fireplace, a table and desk which
piled high with books and pieces of parchment. There was a cake
on the table, behind which Ginny sat, dressed in jeans and a
"Formal, is it?" Harry said smiling, looking over at her.
"What, and look like a penguin like you two?" Ginny said. She
then added, "Just kidding, Harry, you look great," she ended,
Ron uttered a sound from behind Harry that was something like
and Harry turned to see Ron busy staring at Hermione, who had closed
door behind him.
"Parvati taught me a spell to wind it..." she said quietly, looking
Ron. "And lent me these," she added, vaguely indicating a golden
of earrings. "Anyway, it's really nice. Thanks."
"Yeah. That's all right," Ron said, waving his hand abstractly.
had to agree that the dress looked quite smashing. The blue fabric
shimmering degrees of dark, but when Hermione turned there were
waves of light that would ripple across it like an aurora borealis.
saree was wound around her elegantly, even exposing a bit of waist
one side which Harry imagined was like Christmas morning to Ron's
Harry noticed Hermione's hand unconsciously tugging slightly at the
over the gap from time to time. He perceived that she did not have
same confident demeanor as she had had walking into the Yule Ball
previous year with her blue robes and new teeth- she was clearly
to making such a grand and exotic impression.
"Shall we sit down, Ron?" Harry suggested helpfully.
"Yeah, okay," Ron said. "You're still going to be there if I turn
aren't you?" he said to Hermione. She grinned and nodded. Harry
and took a seat next to Ginny, who was watching him, obviously
the atmosphere. He wondered if Hermione always kept her room so
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had the first real conversation they
had together for months. Ron was at ease for once, brightening a
every time he made Hermione laugh. He didn't even seem to mind Ginny
there, although Harry imagined that he would perhaps have preferred
contemplate Hermione without his little sister watching. It occurred
Harry that maybe Ron would rather not have him there either, but Ron
keeping that to himself if he was thinking it. They quickly
the cake that Hermione had received from her parents (HAPPY 16th,
"My one sugary treat a year," she explained.
Around ten o'clock Ginny stood up. "I'm so tired!" she announced.
want to walk me home, Harry?"
"Why?" Ron said, adopting the instinctive younger-sibling tone.
not twenty feet from here. Oh yeah," he added, his tone suddenly
"Why don't you do that, Harry? I'll catch you up later." Harry saw a
grin cross Hermione's face and took the hint.
"See you in the morning, Harry," Hermione said, opening the door
Ginny and him. "Yeah, goodnight," said Ron.
Harry turned. "I'm not saying goodnight to you, mate," he said
"I expect to see you later."
"Go home, Harry," Hermione said. "Or I'll be obliged to report
Hermione shut the door behind Harry and Ginny. "The nerve of him
Ginny said. "That's the nicest thing I've ever done for him."
Harry laughed, a little self-consciously. "That was weird," he
and walked toward the common room. He was glad to see that
request had been honoured, and all but a couple of Gryffindors had
already. Ginny followed him out into the hall, and they stopped for
awkward moment by the stairs to the girls' dormitories.
"Well, goodnight, Ginny," he said, shrugging. She did not move
"It was fun tonight, wasn't it?" Ginny ventured.
"Yeah," Harry said. "Best time I've had in months."
Ginny smiled, then knitted her brows, then smiled again. "You fancy
for a walk in the morning? Before breakfast?"
Harry was caught quite at unawares by this. His first reaction was
scratch his head. "What do you say in a situation like this?" came
almost coherent thought.
"Either yes or no, I expect," came another, even more coherent
Then the clearest of all: "And why not?"
"Sure, I'd like that," he said finally, wondering how long it had
him to answer. He realised, with a twinge of embarrassment, that
looked like she was absolutely certain he would say no.
"All right, then," she said, now bright again. "Down here, at
"Okay," Harry said. Ginny turned and ran briskly up the steps.
stood still a moment longer, his face flushing. He was overwhelmed
a sense that he had just done something terribly wrong.
"You didn't, stupid," he said to himself, not realizing that his
were silently forming the words as he walked past a small knot of
watching the last moves of a particularly exciting chess game. "She
you, and you said yes."
Harry found himself running up the marble steps, and forced himself
slow down. Neville was asleep, but Dean and Seamus were up reading.
went through the motions of changing, flopped into bed and closed
eyes, but he did not find sleep.
Ron came in. Harry picked up his watch, and saw that it was just
midnight. Dean and Seamus had both blown out their candles, and one
them was snoring.
"So?" Harry whispered.
"It suits her, doesn't it?" Ron said.
"Yeah," Harry said. "So?"
"We just talked," Ron said quietly, sitting on his bed.
"I told her a bloke might fancy her if she weren't such a fussy
Ron answered with a lopsided grin.
"You idiot," Harry said, smiling. "What did she say?"
"She said I might be all right myself if I weren't such a whinging
Ron said, with a full grin this time. "Likes the red hair,
"Cool. So... are you going to do anything about it?"
Ron shrugged. "She told me she'd promised herself she'd never kiss
boy before she was sixteen. I told her I could wait that long. Then
told me to get out, it's curfew."
Harry laughed. "Sleep well, then."
Harry flopped back. "Oh, Ginny asked me to go for a walk with her
the morning," he whispered.
Ron's eyes were closed. "Good work. Are you going?"
"Yeah," Harry said, staring up at the canopy of his bed.
"That's all right, then," Ron said. Not two minutes later he was
THE END – Continued in “The Innocents”