The Sugar Quill
Author: cranston  Story: Armaments  Chapter: Clarification
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

In the lounge, a conversation was taking place, one that the two people on the settee would later repeat, except in words


Chapter 2:  Clarification


A/N:  Thanks to Zsenya, moya beta, for extricating me from a number of corners I’d painted myself into…




Ron and Hermione entered Harry’s room to a rousing welcome.  “Brilliant, Ron!  Wish I’d done that!” 


Ron glanced in alarm at Hermione, who was staring straight ahead with wide eyes.  Dry-mouthed, he croaked, “Wish … you’d …”


“Hung Dudders from the ceiling,” Harry replied, sounding like it was obvious.  “I’ve wanted to do something like that for years.”


“You saw that?” asked Hermione tremulously.  “How?  Where were you?”


“Downstairs, of course.”  He looked at her as if she had gone mad.  “Did you think I was going to stay up here with all that shouting going on?”  They both eyed him suspiciously, and he faltered a bit.  “I – I got down to the living room and I saw Dudley hanging upside down and,” nodding toward Ron, “your wand pointed at him.”  Four eyes silently bored into him.  “Well,” he said, now sounding flustered, “you obviously had everything under control, and I didn’t want Dudley to see me and maybe try to get me to help him, so I just went back upstairs.  Uh, sorry?”  Ron and Hermione exhaled in unison.


Ron swung his head away, then back to Harry.  “That was Hermione’s doing, actually – I mean, hanging Dudley up,” he fumbled, not having quite regained his composure yet.


“Right, then, well done, Hermione – oh, but that was one of the Prince’s spells!”


She laughed, sounding relieved.  “As I told Ron, it was the first thing to come to mind.  He cast a very accurate Stunning spell, by the way.”  She flashed a smile in Ron’s direction.  “He’d have gotten Dudley with it except my Levicorpus had just moved him out of the way.”


“Well, is anybody thinking of telling me what happened?”


And so they told him the whole story, each one proudly recounting everything the other had done – up to the point where Dudley ran upstairs.


“And then?”


Right.  And then.  There was a bit more time to be accounted for, wasn’t there?  Quite a bit of time, in fact.  Hermione’s color had progressed from ashen back to normal, but refused to stop there and continued on dangerously in the pinkish direction.  Ron thought fast and dove in before Harry could remark about this.  “And then … Harry, don’t get angry about this, because we’ve already taken care of it.  I mean with Dudley and all.  But then we noticed this.”  He reached toward Hermione and showed Harry her purple forearm.  “So we tried to remember what to do about it, and then we went looking for something to make a healing potion with.”


Harry looked like he was about to say something, but he didn’t.


“There aren’t any potion ingredients in the kitchen, you know,” Ron added.


“No, I don’t suppose there would be,” said Harry guardedly.  “And that’s when you decided to look in on Dudley?”


Grateful for the change of subject, Hermione answered quickly.  “Ron had put a Silencing charm on him, but we forgot to take it off after we let him down.  When we remembered we went up to take care of it.  He didn’t answer his door when we knocked, and he was really scared when we used Alohomora to open it.”


“Harry,” Ron interjected earnestly, “We need to leave here and go to the Burrow.  We can’t stay around here, if we do there’s no telling what that nutter might try.  Look, we can owl Mum right now and she’ll get some people to come for us.  And Mum’ll know what to do about Hermione’s arm.”


Harry stepped over to the window and gazed out for a while.  “Dudley’s not stupid enough to try anything.  Not now that he knows you can hex him.”


“Mate, he was stupid enough to try to molest Hermione.  He could be stupid enough to try anything.”


Another long pause.  “Right, then, why don’t you take Hermione back to the Burrow.”


“Why don’t I take her?” Ron exploded.  “What about we take her?  We came here to get you out of here, remember?”


“Harry,” Hermione said firmly.  “We came here to be with you and we’re staying as long as you stay.”


“I’m just not ready to leave yet.”


“NOT READY?  Harry, you’ve been telling me for six years now that you can’t get out of here fast enough, and now … what?  You get all sentimental about the place?”


“No, Ron, it’s just …” He took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes under his glasses.  Then he said quietly, “Hermione, that arm must hurt.  You should be sitting down, at least.  There, put a pillow on it.”


Hermione nodded and crossed to the bed.  She sat down, leaning her back against the headboard, put her pillow on her lap and rested her injured left arm on it.


Ron was sure she must have been in quite a bit of pain to allow Harry to change the subject like that.  He himself was all but quivering with anger at Harry, who was again gazing out the window.  Just as he was about to press the subject, Harry spoke.


“Ron, would you come to the basement with me?  If we’re going to leave, I’ll need your help with a few things down there.”


“Let’s go, then,” Ron replied.  He turned to Hermione.  “I’ll lock up, just for safety’s sake.  All right?”  She nodded at him, either in weariness or in pain, he couldn’t tell which.  “Rest up, now.”


The two boys left the room.  Ron closed the door behind him and waved his wand at it. He turned to follow Harry, who had already started down the stairs, then stepped back to try the door and make sure he had done the Locking spell properly.  Satisfied, he followed Harry, wordlessly, down to the basement. 


As soon as Ron was off the steps, Harry spun around to face him, wand in his hand and fire in his eyes.


“All right, now tell me what happened!


“We already did.  Dudley –”


After Dudley.”


“Like we told you.  We went looking for something to do about that bruise –”






“Neither one of you thought of ice?  Come on, do you think I’m as stupid as Dudley?”


It was Ron’s turn to be silent for a while, while Harry glared at him, his face set.  Ron’s head turned down, and when his reply finally came, it was in a very small voice.


“I kissed her.”


Harry’s arms and shoulders dropped, and he gave a quick, emphatic sigh.  He turned to his friend with an impish grin.  “Not before time, mate.”


“Bloody hell.”


“I guess she was all right with that?”


“Seems like.”


Harry’s grin widened and a twinkle lit in his eyes.  “Don’t tell Lavender.”


“Tell who?”


“Gryffindor.  Our year.  I’ll tell you about her some time.”  His voice turned serious.  “Ron, I thought something terrible had happened that you were trying not to tell me about!”


“Why did you think that?”


“Come on, Ron, Hermione’s a terrible liar, you know that.  And you weren’t quite up to your usual standard, either.  Hermione must have been turning six different colors while you were telling your story, and you weren’t far behind.  I guess I just assumed the worst.”


“Well now you know, okay?  But Harry, please don’t let Hermione know I told you.  She’ll kill me, you know she will.”


“Don’t worry.”


“Great, thanks.  So.  Where’s this stuff you want me to help you with?”


“What stuff?”


Ron’s eyebrows shot up as he looked Harry in the eye for a long moment.  Then both of them started to laugh.  “Oh, very clever, Potter,” said Ron as he went back to the basement stairs and sat down on them.  “O master of strategy!  But, Harry, you owe me one now.  You’ve got to hear me out.”


Harry, of course, had just been outmaneuvered once again by the real master of strategy:  Ron was blocking the steps, so Harry couldn’t get out of the basement until Ron let him – that is, until he had, in fact, heard Ron out.


“Go on, then,” he sighed.


“I meant it when I said we need to leave. All of us.  Now.  We’ve got too much that we have to get done to risk having some buffoon like Dudley do something to one of us while we’re not watching.  It’s time for you to pack up your stuff, wherever it really is, and come with us to the Burrow.”


“And I meant it when I said I’m not ready yet.”


“But you’ll be ready-y-y … when?  Midnight on your birthday, with Death Eaters knocking on the door?  How can you not be ready?  Come on, out with it.”


“I don’t know, I’m just –”


“You want me to say it?”


Harry stared him in the face but said nothing.


“It’s Ginny, right?  You don’t want to face her.”


Harry looked away, still silent.


“Listen, mate, I understand what you’re trying to do.  But –”


“Shut it, Ron, I know what you’re going to say,” he snapped.  “I need her with me, and all that rubbish.  I’ve thought of all that already.  If we’re together, she’ll be a target, I know she will.  And I’m not going to put any more people I care about in harm’s way.  In case you haven’t noticed, they keep getting killed, and in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t think I’d be able to bear it if something happened to Ginny.”


“Nice try, Harry, but that’s not what I was going to say.  Me, I only have two words for you:”  He held up one finger… “Draco,” … and then a second.  “Malfoy.”


Harry spun and stared at Ron as if he were daft.  “What does that ferret have to do with anything?  Like Ginny’s going to start going out with him when I’m away?”


“Please, Harry, don’t make me ill.  And don’t be so thick yourself.  Tell me – where is Malfoy right now?  Malfoy got assigned a task by You-Know-Who and he failed at it!  That’s not exactly the path to happiness and prosperity, now is it?”


Harry shook a little.  “Poor stupid idiot, I’ll bet he never had a clue what he was really getting into.”


“Yeah, well, how is the poor stupid idiot going to save his poor stupid skin now?  Only one way I can think of:  He can give You-Know-Who some valuable information he probably didn’t have before.  Like who Harry Potter’s girlfriend is.”


“Oh, Merlin, Malfoy knows.”  Harry looked aghast.


“Of course Malfoy knows.  Everyone at Hogwarts knows.  You two weren’t exactly hiding anything.  Ginny certainly wasn’t going to let you hide it, even if you tried to.  So if You-Know-Who doesn’t know already, he’ll know pretty soon.  What he won’t know is that you broke it off.  Malfoy wasn’t around to find out about that.”


“So you’re telling me that Ginny is a target no matter what I do,” Harry said, stunned.  “What the bloody hell now?”


“I suppose you could just owl You-Know-Who and let him know you’re not going out with her any more.  That should help.”


“Thanks, Ron.”


“No problem.  Seriously, Harry, think about it.”


“Like I have a choice.”


*          *          *          *          *


As Harry and Ron came up the stairs, they spotted Dudley in the upstairs hallway, looking much less like he was headed downstairs than like he was headed toward Harry’s room.  “What the …,” Ron said under his breath, storming up the stairs two at a time.  Dudley reversed himself abruptly and fled to his room, shutting and locking the door just as Ron reached it.  Harry, meanwhile, climbed the stairs, walked to his door, and tried the knob.  It turned easily, but the door would not open.




“Right,” replied Ron through clenched teeth.  He strode to the door and unlocked it with a tap of his wand.  The two walked into the room.


Hermione was fast asleep on the bed, her head on one of the conjured pillows, the other two pillows wrapped around her left arm.  Silently, Ron gave Harry a significant look.  His Locking spell had been her only defense.


“Owl your Mum,” said Harry.


*          *          *          *          *


This time, Harry had help packing; consequently, it was far more difficult than usual.  Harry’s bed, being in the middle of the floor, was a major impediment to any kind of movement around the room, and the sleeping bags on either side of it made the footing uncertain at best.  In this awkward, confined  space, two rather large and none-too-graceful bodies were trying to move a multitude of items into a single trunk – and to do so silently, so as to avoid waking the smaller and, truth be told, more graceful body sleeping on the bed.


At least Hedwig was no longer present to offer her commentary.  She was on her way to the Burrow, carrying an apparently innocuous, newsy-sounding letter from Ron to his mother.  A letter that contained the unobtrusive phrase that they had previously agreed would mean “Send someone to get us tomorrow”.


Harry was lying on one of the sleeping bags with his head and shoulders under the bed, trying to extract some of his more obviously magical possessions from the space under the loose floorboard where he still hid them from the Dursleys.  Ron, meanwhile, gathered up all the clothes from the bottom dresser drawer and carried the ungainly load toward the trunk, carefully avoiding stepping on Harry as he went.  He was, unfortunately, not able to avoid walking into the bed.  A stack of trousers suddenly landed unannounced on Hermione’s legs.  She woke with a cry and a jump.  Startled, Harry tried to leap to his feet, crashing into the bed slats while Ron was still trying to right himself after his stumble.  The unexpected impact below her sent Hermione jumping off the bed – and landing on Harry’s legs.  Harry bellowed in surprise and pain, and again lurched upward and smashed into the underside of the bed.  Hermione toppled over, shielding her bad arm as best she could, and collided with a still-overbalanced Ron, sending him sprawling onto the floor in his turn.  Eventually all three of them came to rest, rubbing their respective sore parts and laughing maniacally.


As the laughter subsided, a muffled voice from under the bed asked, “Is it time for lunch yet?”


The three friends gradually extricated themselves from their unexpected positions, quickly agreeing that if having two people trying to pack had been such a fiasco, then having three people trying to pack was definitely to be avoided at all costs.  And that yes, it was indeed time to break for lunch.


“Tell you what,” said Harry.  “I’ll go downstairs and bring some things up.”


“Are you sure you want to take the Dursleys’ food?” Hermione asked.  “We still have plenty of our own.”


“Better selection downstairs, though.  Tonight we can take the preservation charms off the rest of our food and sneak it into their refrigerator.  So long’s they don’t realize it’s from us, they shouldn’t be afraid to eat it.  That makes it a fair trade, right?”


Hermione looked puzzled at this, but her face brightened when Ron supplied the missing piece:  “We’re leaving tomorrow.”  Then he clarified, “At least we’ve send word to Mum to have someone come get us.  I assume she will.”


“Besides,” Harry added, “this way I can look around downstairs and see if I’m forgetting any of my things.  That is –”  He looked pointedly at Ron. “– unless someone is about to die of hunger if I’m not back in sixty seconds?”


Ron shook his head.


“Right, then.  I’ll bring back something good, I promise.”  And he was gone.


Hermione had returned to sitting on the bed and was now trying to wrap the pillows around her arm once again.  Ron sat down at her injured side and started to help.


“How’s the arm?”


“It still throbs a bit, but it’s not too bad.”


“We’ll be home soon and Mum’ll fix you up.”


She smiled at him weakly, then looked down at the mattress to her right.  “Sit over on that side?”


Ron followed her gaze; it took a moment for her invitation to register.  He automatically started to climb over her to get to her right side, then thought better of it and walked around the foot of the bed instead.  As he sat down he somehow found his fingers entwined with hers.  Amazed, he stared down at the joined hands, trying his best to convince himself that one of them belonged to him.


At length, Hermione breathed, “He’s afraid to see Ginny, you know?”


“Yeah, I talked to him about that a little.  While … you were asleep.  Pointed a few things out to him.  He told me he’d think about it.”


“Well, that’s good.  Harry needs to think things through sometimes.  Usually he just does whatever comes to mind without ever thinking whether it’s really the best thing to do or not.”


“But usually it seems that whatever it is that just comes to Harry’s mind turns out to be the best thing after all.”


“You mean he survives.  That’s not the same thing at all.”


“Still …”  Still, he thought, it would be so nice to know for sure that what they were trying to convince Harry of really was the best thing.  It was all so complicated.  He looked again at Hermione’s hand in his, at his fingers moving ever so slightly between hers.  Even that was more complicated than it looked.  He wished it weren’t.  He wished it were all much simpler.  And he marveled at how the world can have some things being born in it at the same time that others are dying.  Perhaps, with luck, Harry-and-Ginny would not be something dying.  Perhaps, with luck, he-and-Hermione was something being born.  He stole a glance at her; she was staring at their hands as well.


“Do you think this will help or hurt?” she asked, lifting his hand a little.  “Help Harry figure out about Ginny, that is?”


So, so complicated … even Hermione didn’t know the answer.  He could only shake his head; she seemed to accept this as an answer to her question.  Ron continued gazing fixedly at their hands, savouring the mutuality of it all.


After a long silence, the doorknob turned.  “Lunch time!” Harry’s voice announced, as he backed into the room, shouldering the door open.  Ron and Hermione squeezed hands and let go, and Ron jumped up to help Harry with the outsized tray of food he was trying to wrestle into the room.


*          *          *          *          *


Harry’s time in the kitchen had been well spent.  On the tray were several roast beef and ham-and-cheese sandwiches – which, being already made, had to be eaten – more kinds of cheese than one person could keep track of, several shiny apples, a copious supply of crisps in absurdly small individual bags, and various sorts of biscuits and drinks.  Ron’s first taste of ginger beer with lime juice gave him an entirely new appreciation of the Muggle world.


The morning’s ordeals had left all three friends even hungrier than they had realized, and they systematically demolished everything on the tray.  After an intense half hour, Harry and Ron found themselves contentedly munching the last of the sandwiches, while Hermione eyed the last remaining apple speculatively.  Ron grinned and rolled it across the tray to her.


One bite later, she looked up thoughtfully and said, “Harry, you do need to talk to your aunt and uncle before we leave.”


Harry stopped patting his newly-replete stomach and furrowed his brow.  “Why?  To thank them for lunch?  Give them one final chance to scream at me for eating their food?”


“To warn them, Harry.  Don’t you realize how much danger they’ll be in when your birthday comes?”


“Sorry, no.  What am I missing?”


“Didn’t Dumbledore say that the ancient magic he invoked prevents your being attacked here until you come of age?  But that means that you can be attacked here once you do come of age.”


“Ri-i-ight,” said Harry as the light dawned.  “And so Voldemort’s going to send a bunch of people in masks to deliver a cake for my birthday.  ‘Death Eaters knocking on the door,’ Ron, that’s what you said, wasn’t it?”


Ron nodded.  “I figure they’ll drop by, just in case you’re stupid enough to still be here.”


“But if the Dursleys are here when they come …” Hermione added significantly.


Harry looked grim.  “We’d better talk to them then.  Not that they’re likely to listen.”


The conversation was interrupted by the sight of large white wings gliding in through the open window.  Hedwig landed on Ron’s knee, and Ron took the parchment she proffered and gave her the remains of his last sandwich in return.  After scanning the message briefly he announced, “They’ll be coming to get us tomorrow morning.  Hmm…”


“What time?  And who’s coming?” Harry asked.


“Dunno.  It doesn’t say.”


Harry looked over Ron’s shoulder at the letter.  “Ron … where does it say any of that?”


“It’s code, of course.  You know that owls can be intercepted, right?  So Mum and I wanted to make sure that nobody else would learn anything about our plans if they did.  See the word ‘one’ there?  That’s the largest number mentioned in the letter, that means ‘one day from now’ – tomorrow.  ‘Wedding’ there means someone coming to get us.  And that over there, that means ‘morning,’ and…”


Harry pointed at another part of the letter.  “What does that bit mean?”


“No idea.  I was about to ask you.”


“Me?  I don’t know the code, Ron.  I just found out that there was one.”


“That’s not code.  I just don’t know what Mum’s on about there.  And she wants a reply, otherwise she’ll think we didn’t get this, and then they’ll just go with their emergency plan, whatever that is.  But I’ve no clue what she’s asking me there.”


“Me neither.  I’ve never been to a wedding.  Have you, Hermione?”


“Only Muggle ones, why?”


Harry took the letter and handed it to her.  “What’s this all about?” he asked, pointing to the mysterious paragraph.


Hermione burst out laughing.  “Well, Ron, you’re part of the groom’s immediate family. I suppose you’ll all be sitting together at the ceremony, and so your Mum needs to know how many chairs to set up for the family.  And if it’s going to be a sit-down reception, she needs to know how many people she can seat at your table.  So, Ron, are you planning on inviting a guest?”


*          *          *          *          *


Outside the window, the midsummer twilight was lingering.  Every few minutes Harry opened his door and listened to what was going on downstairs.  Dinner was over; eventually the sounds of cleaning coming from Aunt Petunia’s kitchen subsided and only a television program could be heard.  The three Dursleys would now all be in the living room.  “All right,” he said to his friends.  “It’s time.”


Wand at the ready, Hermione went down the back stairs to station herself at the doorway between the kitchen and living room.  Harry and Ron went down the front stairs.  Ron stood in the other doorway, holding his wand conspicuously, while Harry strode to the television set and peremptorily turned it off.


“Uncle Vernon.  Aunt–”


The television came on again.


Rattled, Harry turned back to the set and punched the power button once again.  The television fell silent and he returned to his unwilling audience and opened his mouth to speak.


The television came on yet again.


This time it was answered by Hermione’s clipped, annoyed voice.  “Accio remote control!”  The remote unit wrenched itself out of Uncle Vernon’s grip and flew dutifully to her hand.


Dudley turned to follow the flight of the remote control, and eyed Hermione as she caught it.  Suddenly he turned back to face Ron.  Ron looked him in the eye, then slowly raised his left hand and wiggled his fingers, not smiling.  Dudley blanched and sunk deep into his chair.


Harry, meanwhile, had regained his composure and begun again.


“Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia.  We’ll be leaving tomorrow, and–”


Uncle Vernon snorted something like, “Hallelujah!”


Harry wheeled on him, abandoning all attempts to sound civil.  “Listen.  You have been complaining for sixteen years about having to spend your precious pence to feed me.  Now I’m going to pay you back.”


“Not likely!  What are you going to pay with?  That fool’s gold that your kind use for money?  The deed to that unspeakable house where that – that thing lives?”


“How about with your lives?”




Addressing Uncle Vernon wasn’t getting him anywhere, so Harry turned to his aunt instead.  “Aunt Petunia, Dumbledore told you about the magic he set over this house when he first brought me here, right?  How the protection lasts until my seventeenth birthday?”  He spun to face Uncle Vernon again, and spat, “That’s July 31, by the way, I don’t think you know that.”  He looked back at Aunt Petunia, who nodded slightly.  At least she was paying attention.  “And did he mention what he was protecting me from?”  A weaker nod.  “Well, then.  Suppose you’re a cold-blooded murderer who’s trying to get at me, and you know that I’ve been living at number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, under wards that disappear at midnight on July 30.  Where do you think you would want to be at one minute past midnight on July 31?”  Aunt Petunia said nothing, but her eyes widened.  “Yes, full marks!  Number four, Privet Drive – with a bunch of your cutthroat mates!”


“In case you haven’t noticed,” Uncle Vernon interjected, “we are not cold-blooded murderers.”  He sounded as if he thought he had just won the argument.


Harry spun back to face him yet again.  “Would you like to meet some?  Well, then, just be here at midnight on my birthday.  I’ll bet they show up, hoping I’m stupid enough to be here still.”  At least Aunt Petunia seemed to grasp something of the gravity of the situation:  her face was white.  Uncle Vernon, on the other hand, looked about ready to go back to watching television, but for the fact that he no longer had the remote.  Dudley glanced back and forth between his parents, trying to choose which one to mimic; he couldn’t seem to decide whether to look scared or contemptuous, so he compromised by just looking stupid.


“But then they’ll be in a right foul mood when they don’t find me here.  I expect they’ll want to cheer themselves up with a spot of torture.  They enjoy torturing people, you know.  Or perhaps you’ll be lucky, and they’ll just find you and kill you before they even start looking around for me.  They’d do that just to keep you from getting in their way.”  He pointed at his scar.  “See that?  These are people who would murder children.  People who think Muggles are vermin.  People who’d kill you without batting an eyelash.”


He waited for this to sink in, but Uncle Vernon was looking rather impermeable.  He tried speaking louder, in case that might help.  “If you want to be alive on July 31, make sure you’re gone from here.  Don’t leave any indication of where you’ve gone, and certainly don’t take anything with you that ever belonged to me.  They might be able to use it to find you, and you don’t want that.”


Hermione spoke up.  “If you prepare properly, you might even profit from the attack.”  That got Uncle Vernon’s attention.  “Put anything valuable in storage, and increase the insurance on the house.  Death Eaters don’t always destroy the buildings they attack, but they almost always do major damage.  When you come back, you could collect the insurance money.”


None of this made any sense to Ron, but he was used to Hermione knowing apparently Muggle things like this.  Yet he did have one thing to add.  “Just don’t come back too soon.  They may watch the place for a while to see if Harry comes back.”


“One more thing,” Harry added.  “We’re leaving tomorrow, but I still might come back for a bit any time before my birthday.  And if I come back on July 30, you’d better not be here.”


*          *          *          *          *


“Well, that went about as well as could be hoped,” Hermione said as they settled back in to Harry’s room.


“Harry,” asked Ron, “are you really thinking of coming back here again?”


“Probably not.  But Dumbledore always said that I was protected as long as I could call this house my home.  I figured if I announced that I was never coming back, that might mean that I couldn’t call it home any more, and then the wards might expire just then.  That wouldn’t be very useful, would it?”


“Good thinking!” said Hermione, impressed.  “And you gave them an extra incentive to get away, too.”


“I just hope they listened,” replied Harry morosely.  “Aunt Petunia probably did, she has some idea of what’s really going on.  But Uncle Vernon’s so thick he might stay here, just to prove that ‘there isn’t any such thing as magic,’ as he so likes to say.  And Dudley will probably do whatever Uncle Vernon does.”


Ron was impressed to hear Harry spending his concern on people who had been wantonly cruel to him for years.  But then, death by torture did seem a rather excessive punishment…  “Well, we wouldn’t want anything to happen to Dudley,” he offered.  “We have to introduce him to Crabbe and Goyle.”


“What??” replied Harry and Hermione in unison.


“Sure, it would do wonders for Wizard-Muggle relations.  Dudley could learn that there are wizards who are just like him, and those two pureblooded morons could meet a Muggle that they can relate to.  It could be the start of a whole new era!”


Harry looked from Ron to Hermione.  “Remind me to leave the strategizing to him, all right?”


“Is that really wise?” she retorted.  “But in any case we have our own new era to begin tomorrow, and I for one need to rest up for it.  Here, these are yours.”  She tossed the conjured pillow that she had slept on earlier in the day onto Ron’s sleeping bag and the other onto Harry’s, picked up her pyjamas and robe, and left to change in the bathroom.


Minutes later they were all ready for bed.


“Good night, Harry.  Good night, Ron.”


“’Night, Hermione, Harry.”


 “Ron.”  Harry’s voice most definitely did not sound like “good night.”




“It’s traditional to kiss your girlfriend good night.”


All the color transferred from Ron’s face to Hermione’s.


“Harry, I” “We” “I don’t” “How do” “didn’t want to” “think we should” “feel like” “CALM DOWN, WOULD YOU?”  Harry was holding both hands up for quiet. 


“Hermione,” he continued, “yes, I know about this morning, I forced it out of Ron at wand point when we were downstairs and I was afraid there was something really bad you two were trying to hide from me.  And now all day you’ve stayed away from each other because, let me guess, you didn’t want to make me feel bad?”  They both nodded dumbly.  “And you thought I’d somehow feel better if you hid it away from me?”  The nods were barely perceptible.  “So can you tell me what is supposed to make me happier than seeing something good happening in my best friends’ lives?”  Two ruefully smiling heads shook weakly.  “Good.  So let’s go back to the ‘good night’ part.  Good night, Hermione, Ron.”


Ron and Hermione faced each other and swallowed nervously.  “Good night,” they said quietly, and kissed, briefly but without hurry.  When they were done, they saw Harry looking away, waiting.  Ron caught Hermione’s eye, then looked down at his hand between them.  Silently, he pointed one finger at himself, then at her, and he jerked his eyes in Harry’s direction.  A pregnant moment later he nodded.


Hermione leapt off the bed, spun Harry around and threw her good arm around him, as Ron ran around the foot of the bed, crashed into Harry from behind, wrapped his arms around both of them, and squeezed mightily.  Finally, equilibrium was established, and two voices chorused, “Good night, Harry.”

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