The Sugar Quill
Author: Splatt & Ada  Story: Harry's Dilemma  Chapter: Chapter 2 - Realization
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HARRY'S DILEMMA

Summary
: A momentary lapse in concentration leads to a stressful few days for Harry Potter

Rating: PG

Classification: H/G, R/H

Disclaimer: All characters and names used in these fics are the legal property and creative work of JK Rowling and/or Warner Bros. We are making no profit from these stories, merely having fun. In other words, please don’t sue us!



Chapter Two - Realization



In all his years at Hogwarts, Harry had never been pleased to receive a detention, but this evening he was grateful for the chance to think his own thoughts, and keep away from the looks Ron and Hermione kept throwing his way. He knew it wouldn’t be long before they both sat him down for a full grilling about what was bothering him.

Harry practiced blocking his mind with more vigor in the ten minutes it took to receive his instructions from Professor Snape than the whole of last year. Exhausted, but finally alone, Harry felt sure that despite the suspicious and sneering looks Snape had been giving him, his female underwear problem was still secure in his mind – and indeed his trunk. He set to work carrying out a stock check on the supplies in the student cupboard, pausing every now and then to ponder what he should do now that he knew who the ... thing belonged to.

“Okay, that’s it!” Harry thumped the wooden bowl he was holding onto the workbench in front of him. “That’s enough. Just call it what it is; call the thing by its name.” After all, hadn’t Dumbledore said that fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself? Briefly, Harry wished he was merely confronting the Dark Lord again rather than this tricky scenario – but it was only briefly. He genuinely wished he would never have to meet Voldemort ever again. By contrast, there might actually be a day in the future when he would be quite happy to be handling a … bra. There, he’d done it.

That little hurdle over, Harry’s thoughts turned guiltily to Ginny again. He couldn’t get it out of his head that being one … bra - there, he’d done it again - short might be a considerable hardship for Ginny. He was very well aware that the Weasleys were not well off. Indeed, he had lived with Ron’s insecurities over his own lack of underwear for years. He was always fretting that if the house elves didn’t turn his washing around quickly enough, he’d be walking round school with his assets dangling in the breeze.

Therefore, while Harry had no idea what the norm was for the number of bras per girl, he was pretty certain that Ginny wouldn’t have an endless supply – and he couldn’t stop worrying over whether this was causing her any inconvenience.

Harry continued to scribble lists of potion ingredients, liquids and mixing paraphernalia on the scrolls of parchment in front of him, but his mind was elsewhere, grappling with his dilemma. The trouble was, he knew Ginny and if she ever found out ... Harry swallowed with difficulty. It really didn't bear thinking about, not to mention the fact she had several older, protective brothers, none of whom he wanted to get the wrong idea about this.

Harry sighed heavily, wondering for a brief moment exactly how painful Ginny’s famous bat bogey hex was … and whether she’d ever made anyone the victim of a permanent one.

*****

Later that evening, for the second night running, Harry lay awake pondering how to solve the problem. He stared blurrily at the canopy of his bed but there was no inspiration lurking there for him. With a frustrated sigh, be pushed himself up on his elbows and stared instead at his feet; he’d already done that much tossing and turning, they were sticking out from under his covers.

Think!” he urged himself. “Think logically. There has to be a way … I can’t just banish it. I mean, what if it flies up the stairs and the door is closed? Will it try and find an open window to get in? It might turn round and come back down – it could be floating around the common room for days ...” Harry felt the chill in his feet rise up rapidly to his face at the sheer thought. No, banishing was not an option, much too risky.

This was going to have to be a hands-on task. He shuddered; perhaps that wasn’t the best way of describing it. But it was becoming clear that he would have to return it to Ginny’s dormitory himself. However, that also included a further obstacle: how to overcome the fact that boys weren’t allowed up the girls’ staircase?

Then he realized there was one possible option. Dobby had once told him that Filch often entered all dormitories and bathrooms as part of his maintenance duties at some time or other during the day. It had been last year, when there had been a problem with plumbing, flooding … in one of the Gryffindor girls’ bathrooms! At last, a small ray of hope! Harry’s breath started to become more rapid. Was he on to something here? He ran a hand through his extremely messy hair and rubbed the bridge of his nose where his glasses normally rested. So surely it meant that the magical protections on the girls’ staircases must not be activated in the middle of the day during lesson time, to enable Filch to go about his duties without interruption?

Well, it was the only glimmer of light he’d had so far, and it had to be worth a try. Harry rapidly thought through how he could do it. He’d need his invisibility cloak, obviously. Even if he managed to scale the staircase successfully, he wouldn’t want to risk being seen. He would have to make some excuse to Ron and Hermione, slip back to the Tower, grab his cloak and the bra and return it to Ginny’s trunk unseen. She may well wonder where it had reappeared from, but no one would ever know that he had had it all this time.

With a burst of relief, Harry released a huge, heartfelt sigh. At last, a plan! He didn’t need anyone else’s help. He’d solved it on his own. Harry rolled back onto his pillow, tucked his feet up under his blankets and drifted off into a much-needed sleep.

*****

“Damn, I’ve forgotten my Charms textbook,” Harry exclaimed as they neared Professor Flitwick’s room after Herbology next morning. “Let Flitwick know, will you? I’ll be as quick as I can.” He hurried off in the direction of the common room, and Ron and Hermione, shrugging their shoulders at each other, turned back towards the Charms classroom.

Harry had deliberately picked Charms as the lesson he would be late for, as Professor Flitwick was the most lenient of their professors and therefore more likely to excuse his late arrival - if he even noticed; Charms lessons were often chaotic.

He rushed into his room, and wrenched open the lid of his trunk. He glared at the bra, resting nonchalantly on top of his jumble of books and clothes. If it weren’t for the fact that it was clearly ridiculous, he would swear it was mocking him. Taking a deep breath, for the third and hopefully final time Harry stuffed the bra into his trouser pocket. Seconds later, with his cloak in place, he dashed back down the stairs, and skidded to a halt at the bottom where the steps divided.

Harry took a second to catch his breath, and was assailed suddenly by a wave of doubt about the success of this scheme. What if he was wrong and he tumbled down into the Common Room? What if alarm bells sounded throughout the castle and the whole school crammed into the Gryffindor common room to see Harry in a heap on the floor, with a bra wrapped round his neck? Harry blew out a breath. “Get a grip!” he muttered to himself. It was irrelevant; he didn’t exactly have a range of options to choose from, so he had to try. And no one was going to be around to see if it didn’t work …

He tentatively put out a foot and placed it on the bottom step of the girls’ staircase. He scrunched his eyes closed and held his breath, waiting for the loud, wailing, klaxonlike noise that they’d heard piercing the common room last year. Nothing. He stepped higher, cautiously. Still nothing. Harry opened one eye and peered down at his feet - no sign of any melting steps. “Yes!” he muttered through clenched teeth. At last, something was going right. He climbed the rest of the girls’ staircase two steps at a time and arrived out of breath a moment later outside the door labeled ‘Fifth Years’. Taking a few steadying breaths, he gently pushed the door open, taking the time to reassure himself that the room was indeed empty. With relief he saw that it was.

He was just about to walk in when he became aware of someone, or something … just a sense that he wasn’t alone … he froze where he was, his hand still on the edge of the door, and then slowly turned his head. A few steps further up, just where the stone staircase curved around a corner, sat Mrs. Norris, Filch’s cat.

Harry stayed as still as he possibly could. He’d met Mrs. Norris before while wearing his cloak, and yet again he experienced the uncanny feeling that she could see right through it. She was scrawny and dust-colored, and as a result had blended completely into the background of the stone walls around her. Now she narrowed her lamp-like eyes in his general direction, and then yawned widely. Harry gave himself a mental shake, aware that time was ticking away. She was only a stupid cat, and she couldn’t talk, could she? He turned his back on her, stepped softly into the room and closed the door behind him.

He had never been in any of the girls’ dormitories before. In layout they were pretty much the same as theirs, except the curtains and bed drapes were gold rather than deep red, but the room looked like a bomb had hit it. Then, Harry remembered that the fifth years were still in the middle of their Muggle project, hence the lack of bed making and general tidying by house elves that week.

Feeling a horrible sense of guilt for being there without anyone’s knowledge, Harry moved around as stealthily as possible, trying to find some evidence that would show him Ginny’s part of the room. Luckily, he soon spotted not only a trunk with a peeling GW embossed on the side, but a photograph on the bedside table of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, waving cheerfully. He knew it was foolish, but he was even more relieved he was wearing the cloak; he would have felt very embarrassed if he had come face to face with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley while creeping around their daughter’s room, and he felt quite sick at what they might think if they knew why he was there.

Moving rapidly round the bed, Harry flipped the lid of Ginny’s trunk open and then stopped transfixed. All he could see was a huge jumble of … underwear. Now what should he do? If he just laid it on top, it would be so obvious the next time she opened it. But to put it lower down would mean having to move some of these other … things … there he went again … with his hands.

‘Pull yourself together,’ he admonished himself. ‘If you can tackle a Hungarian Horntail, you can tackle Ginny Weasley’s underwear’.

Harry closed his eyes for a moment and wished fervently that he would open them and find this had all been an appalling dream, a nightmare. Then he snapped them open again. “Get on with it, Potter,” he admonished himself. “Just get it done.” Time was passing, Mrs. Norris could at any moment decide to find Filch, who couldn’t be far away … she might start scratching at the door, and Filch might decide to check inside. Harry shoved his hand into his pocket and grasped hold of the bra. Too late, he became aware of footsteps on the stairs, approaching at a rapid pace.

He froze where he was, hoping with all his might that the person would pass by, but to no avail. “The next time I see that damn cat,” thought Harry through gritted teeth, “I’ll …” but before he could finish the thought, the door crashed open with a bang and Ginny herself dashed into the room, her bright red hair streaming out behind her.

She was headed for her trunk and at such a pace that Harry had no time to move anywhere; his only option to avoid her hitting into him was to leap onto her unmade bed. To his relief, the bed covers were in such a state of disarray that the indentation of Harry kneeling there wasn’t noticeable.

Luckily, Ginny was in such a rush that she didn’t seem to register that her trunk was open. She immediately started flinging things out of it in her search for whatever had brought her back to the dormitory between lessons. Unfortunately, everything she flung over her shoulder towards her bed was landing haphazardly on the invisible Harry. He tried to shrug off the bits of clothing as quickly as possible, just in case she turned around and saw … things … suspended in mid air that were actually resting on his shoulder, and for a brief second, his head.

Ginny continued to mutter away to herself, and Harry thought he detected she was looking for a book, but was so distracted by trying to field and dodge the onslaught, he couldn’t be sure. He had a horrible feeling that the next time he was playing Quidditch, he was going to see visions of Ginny’s underwear flying towards him instead of Bludgers.

Suddenly, however, the shower of missiles stopped. Ginny was reaching into the depths of her trunk and then pulled out a book. With a triumphant “Yes!” she flicked the lid shut and headed for the door, a large volume tucked under her arm.

Harry remained rigid for a moment, and then he slowly eased himself off the bed, shaking out the cloak to ensure nothing incriminating was attached to him. He could do without any additional complications.

He crossed quickly to the door, slipped out onto the landing and, seeing that Mrs. Norris was no longer in sight, dashed back down the staircase. He returned his cloak to his room and picked up his Charms book, which he had deliberately left behind that morning. If only that hadn’t been the most awkward of situations. If only he could have seen Ginny alone in the common room, instead of huddled on her bed without her knowledge. Perhaps then he would have had the nerve to ask her …

Engrossed in his thoughts, Harry retraced his steps along the corridors and slipped into his seat in the classroom.

“What took you so long?” Ron hissed at him.

“Hmmm?” Harry blinked, stared at Ron, then groaned inwardly. He patted his pocket tentatively. It was still there. He’d forgotten to leave the bra in Ginny’s room. Harry sighed heavily. Was this some kind of conspiracy? Were he and this bra going to spend eternity together? Perhaps it was some cunning plan of Lord Voldemort’s to drive him insane. Wearily, he lowered his head onto his hands where they rested on the desk. He was doomed.

*****

Later that day, with lessons finally over, Harry returned once more to his dormitory. He was relieved to find the room empty – he’d passed Seamus, Dean and Neville on the stairs on their way down to the Great Hall for dinner, and he welcomed a few minutes of space and silence. He dumped his heavy school bag on the floor by his bed and flexed his shoulders, trying to release some of the tension that was lying there.

He was beginning to feel like Exhibit A where Ron and Hermione were concerned. They had dogged him at every turn today, plaguing him with questions, looking more and more concerned, the quieter and more withdrawn he became. Perhaps if he’d raged at them a bit more, they’d have been less concerned about him. He sighed irritably. Thank goodness they had gone to a prefects’ meeting after their last lesson. It had given him time to take a much-needed breath of fresh air, albeit a rather cold one. The nights were drawing in quickly now, dusk had fallen and it had been cold enough to see his breath out there.

Harry started to loosen the neck of his robes, then paused. He walked slowly over to the large wall mirror, its glass spotted with age, the frame roughly carved and heavy. Harry stood there for a few minutes, studying his reflection. Black, untidy hair, sticking up at the back as usual, piercing green eyes behind wire framed glasses, a little taller now in his sixth year at Hogwarts, and filling out a little. Still thin, but not quite such a spindly frame, and of course there was the scar, still slightly visible between the strands of hair resting on his forehead.

What would Ginny see in him anyway? Well, said his conscience, perhaps she’s into perverts – she can redeem you. With a groan, Harry stamped out the thought. He peered at his reflection, then grimaced. What could she see in him? How ironic that she should lose her … her interest in him, just as he was beginning to find her ... well, interesting.

Last year at school, Ginny Weasley had somehow managed to slip into his subconscious: she had become part of an extended group of his closest friends. After the tragedy of the debacle at the Ministry of Magic, Harry had needed people he could trust around him, people who’d known and loved Sirius. During this summer at The Burrow, his longest away from the Dursleys, he had become very aware of Ginny, had spent a lot of time with her. For some reason, it had suddenly become quite natural for her to join him, Ron and Hermione in all they did.

Harry hadn’t given it much thought at the time, because it had just felt … right. Ginny was so much a part and parcel of all that had happened last year – from Grimmauld Place to the DA to the terrible climax at the Ministry. She’d been there when he’d needed someone to listen as he raged about Sirius, and she’d been there when he’d wanted to say nothing … she’d just, well, been there. After years of not really seeing her, now he seemed constantly aware of her.

So here he had been, ever since they’d traveled back to school on the first of September, wavering over whether he should ask her out or not, but unable to find the words, the opportunity, or the courage. He’d watched her carefully, (discreetly, he hoped), trying to work out if she was dating anyone. He didn’t dare ask Hermione outright if Ginny had a boyfriend. Of course, he knew she was no longer dating that Michael Corner: Harry swallowed hard as a bolt of something unpleasant made his insides clench. And he hadn’t been at all sure whether or not she’d been joking when she’d mentioned Dean Thomas to Ron on that distant train ride home. He’d been so wrapped up in his own world at the time, so deep in his grief and sense of loss for Sirius that nothing had really registered with him for some weeks.

But he didn’t think she was seeing anyone, and now he was sure he wanted to ask her to go to Hogsmeade with him: there was another weekend planned in two weeks’ time, at Halloween. He must really want to ask her, mustn't he, because he even felt resigned to having to revisit Madam Puddifoot’s … if he had to - although in all honesty he didn’t see Ginny as a Madam Puddifoot’s sort of girl.

So why couldn’t he seem to draw on the courage he needed to ask her? Why couldn’t he do it? He knew she liked him well enough as a person, they were friends after all, even though he knew she was well over her crush on him. She didn’t appear to be seeing anyone else. Was he worried she would turn him down? Obviously. Added to which she didn’t know that he had her bra in his pocket. Or the fact that he had been carrying her bra around for days now. Harry folded his arms grumpily and stared into the mirror again. He didn’t look like a pervert … did he?

He cleared his throat and said out loud, tentatively: “Ginny, will you come to Hogsmeade with me?” Harry blinked at himself, and watched with interest as a faint color stole into his cheeks. There, that hadn’t sounded so bad, had it? “We could go to The Three Broomsticks for a butterbraaa …. Nooooo, damn it!” With a frustrated groan, Harry thumped his fist down on the dresser below the mirror. “OW!”

Just then, he became aware of a burst of noise somewhere outside the room. Rubbing his hand furiously, Harry swung around just as the door to the dormitory burst open, and Ron came charging in. He was panting, his robes were all askew and he had a cut on his forehead.

“What happened to you?” Harry exclaimed, and at Ron’s expression, “Ah, Malfoy.”

“Called Hermione a Mudbl…. – well, you know, the usual crap.” He winced as he started to remove his robes. “’Fraid I didn’t bother with my wand this time, just my fists”.

“What state’s Malfoy in? I hope he’s worse off than you!” Harry flexed the fingers on his bruised hand, and peered over at Ron, trying to assess how bad the cut was.

“Hmph! Well, he looks worse, but of course, only Gryffindor lost points!” Ron was easing his robes off over his head, not bothering to loosen the neck properly.

“Snape!” Harry stated. “Typical, why don’t the other teachers notice his … hey, Ron watch it – look you’ve knocked it, it’s bleeding again!”

“Damn! Get me a handkerchief or something will you?” Ron was trying to stop the bleeding by pressing his already bloodied fingers to the gash. “No way am I going to see Madame Pomfrey!”

Harry shoved his hand in his pocket and offered Ron something to mop himself up with. Ron stared.

“Bloody hell, Harry, what are you doing with a … is that a bra? … in your pocket?” Harry felt his insides curl up, could feel his face turn scarlet as his stomach gave a great lurch and he sank onto the edge of his bed, the bra hanging limply from one reluctant hand.

“Wow, Harry,” said Ron, impressed, as he came over and perched beside him. “No wonder you’ve been preoccupied lately. Who is she? And how come I never noticed?”

Harry decided in the circumstances it would be wise not to point out to Ron that more stuff got past him than should ever be deemed normal. It was a bone of contention between him and Hermione on a daily basis.

Ron was giving the bra a rather strange look, peering intently at it, and Harry thought for a panicked moment that he was going to recognize it from The Burrow. But no, the reason for Ron’s frown seemed different. He looked more like he was…sizing the bra up. His expression darkened for a moment, and then he looked quickly up at Harry’s face.

”Errr ... Harry, the only girl I know you've said more than two words to this year is … well, Hermione! And ... “ Ron seemed to be trying to force a laugh, “that can't be ... I mean, you wouldn't ...”

Harry blinked rapidly at the implication of these words, and leapt to his feet, tossing the bra onto the bed next to Ron.

"Don't be a prat, Ron!" Harry snapped, “of course it’s not Hermione’s, it’s Ginny’s!”



To be continued in Chapter Three - Confrontation
//
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