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
“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
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.
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
“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
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 –”
“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,
“I guess she was all right with that?”
Harry’s grin widened and a twinkle lit in his eyes. “Don’t
“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.”
“Great, thanks. So. Where’s this stuff you want me to help
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
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
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
“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.”
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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.
“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,
“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
“Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia. We’ll be leaving tomorrow,
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?”
“IS THAT A THREAT, BOY??”
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
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
“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,
“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
“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
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,
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.”