The next day, Saturday, found Harry looking outside the window at the
He stayed that way until Ron, Seamus, Dean and Neville Longbottom woke up.
Harry? Neville said groggily as he stood up, stretching. Whatcha looking at?
For a moment, Harry stared at Neville. Here was another kid whose familyat least his
mum and dadwere taken away from him by the same evil that took Harrys
family. Voldemort. But that morning, Harry didntcouldnt feel anger. He could only feel sadness and a painful sense of longing.
He smiled briefly. Nothing really, Neville.
Harry! Ron suddenly said. Why in the world did you go to sleep so early last night?
Ron walked over to Harry. Harry wished Ron would just turn away.
are you okay? Ron asked uneasily. You
you look as if you cried all night.
Oh. Harry rubbed his eyes. No, I was just
awake all the time. Didnt get a drop of sleep.
Yeah, like I believe that. Ron looked at him seriously. Honestly. Was it something Trelawney said or what?
Im not going to cry over Trelawney, for heavens sake! Harry said indignantly. Im not that weak.
I know you arent, said Ron quietly.
Hermiones reaction was the same.
Whats wrong, Harry? she said as they met in the common room. You look really terrible.
Thanks, he said dryly, but Im okay, Hermione.
Harry didnt want to share the discovery of the clasped rings with Ron and Hermione yet. It didnt feel right telling themor anyoneabout it. He felt as if the
rings were his alone, for now.
Hey, guys! It was Ginny bouncing down the stairs, looking all bright
and well. For some reason, Harry didnt want her to look at him and see his face.
Now that was silly. He was a year older than she was, after all, and feeling embarrassed around her didnt
seem right. It had been the other way around until last year.
'Morning, Ginny said in a cheerful tone as Harry felt a light tap on his arm. Hi, Harry. I never thanked you for the lesson on Thursday nightit really helped me write my essay.
Ron and Hermione had turned away, and it seemed likely that Hermione was asking Ron what had happened to Harry.
Careful not to let Ginny see his eyes, Harry tried to smile. Anytime, Gin.
Ginny seemed to have sensed Harrys lack of enthusiasm. He felt her grab his arm, and before he could do anything, her soft brown eyes were staring into his.
Harry, she began softly, her whole attitude changing all of a sudden, are you okay?
Yeah, Harry said, willing himself to believe it. Of course
uh, Im hungry, arent you? I think Im going to the Great Hall.
Ginny let go of Harrys arm as he walked towards the portrait hole. He could almost sense her gaze on his back even as he closed the door.
It was a funny thing
but he almost wished for Ginny to run after him. Ginny, of all
I told you, he wasnt at breakfast!
Hes gone again! I looked all over the school for himthe library, the
did you check the kitchens?
The first place I went into.
Any other ideas?
Try the portrait hole.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny looked up suddenly as Harry entered the common room at ten in the morning.
Where were you? Hermione shrieked, charging towards him. Ron and I were worried sick about you! We looked all over the school for you!
I even braved the cold and went to Hagrids hut, you know! Ron almost yelled.
Hey, calm down, guys, Harry said, holding both palms up. I didnt want anyone looking for me, you know that.
But we were worried sick, cant you get through your skull? Hermione snapped. You cant keep disappearing like this! Youve been doing it all year!
Hermione, Harry said, removing his winter cloak, I really appreciate your concern, but
a guys gotta have some time alone too, you know. And Im okay nowIm feeling a bit refreshed, actually.
But you looked so awful when you got out of here, Ginny said
quietly; she was the only one who didnt sound hysterical that Harry had gone off.
Hey, were you thinking I was going to drown myself in that squids lake?
Ginny smiled a little. WellI wouldnt put it past you, she said.
Harry stared at her. Then he broke into a grin. It felt as if he hadnt
smiled for days.
Ginny smiled backuneasily, at first. Then it widened into that now-familiar cool smile.
Can I just say hes probably okay now? Ron muttered to Hermione.
Ron, Hermione said, shaking her head, weirdoes like Harry smile one second and jump into the lake the other.
Jump into the lake? Ron looked sideways at her. Weirdoes like Viktor Krum, for instance?
Hermione rolled her eyes. If you dont stop mentioning his name, Im
going to strangle you with my bare hands.
The common room was beginning to fill up and get noisier. Fred and George, Rons twin brothers who were now in their sixth year, were selling a bunch of Ton-Tongue Toffees to enthusiastic second-years. Fred and George waved, and Harry grinned at them, recalling the day when his Muggle cousin Dudley Dursley ate one and had his tongue expanded to the size of a boa constrictor.
Gee, I hope Fred and George have told them what they really are, Hermione whispered.
They have, Ron said. They plan to plant it in their Slytherin classmates Energy Potion for retaliation after the Slytherins made the Gryffindors Acne Mixtures blow up.
Harry, Hermione and Ginny grimaced.
Let me guessSnape didnt let them go to the hospital wing until after classes, Harry said.
Typical of him, said Ron. Remember when Malfoy gave you the long molars, Hermione?
Those were incisors, said Hermione.
Teeth, said Ron. Your parents are dentists, I know, I know.
So where were you all morning, Harry? Ginny asked.
somewhere. Somewhere that I reckon only I know of.
Ginny arched an eyebrow. (She knows how to do that?) Yeah?
You dont believe me, do you?
She wrinkled her nose. Not really. But maybe I will when you show me where it is.
Harry had no intention of telling anyone about the place he had found that year in Hogwarts. It had been his own sanctuary for monthswhere he simply sat down and mulled things over.
Maybe someday, he told Ginny.
Meanwhile, Harry and Ginny hadnt noticed that Ron and Hermiones conversation had moved from teeth, to smarts, to the Triwizard Tournament last year.
No, really, Hermione. You are way too smart. I humble myself to your omnipotent presence.
Oh, dont be such a git, Ron, shut up. Dont I have the right to correct you when you are obviously wrong? Youre being as insufferable as you were in the Triwizard last year when you
wouldnt admit that you were wrong.
Oh, the Triwizard, eh? Still cant keep Vicky out of your mind, huh?
Ron, shut up, or Ill make you.
Ginny was shaking her head in disbelief. Why are you being so secretive this year?
Me? Harry said. I had loads of secrets since first year and you never bothered.
Why should I? I knew you were going on well despite everything. But now
I dont know, even Ron and Hermione are worried cause they dont know what youre up to.
Im not up to anything, Harry said firmly.
Ginny was peering at his face thoughtfully. Yeah, but
I guess what Im saying is, youre becoming quite distant. Youve
changed a bit. Especially since you started disappearing into this hiding place.
Especially since you started to go after him! Rons angry voice suddenly broke into their quiet
I am not going after him, how many times have I told you! Hermione shrieked. I didnt even go to Bulgaria even when he begged me to!
Well, geez, I hate to wonder why, said Ron sarcastically. But Ill give it a shotyoure smitten by some other kid down
here, arent you? Arent you?
Why do you care?
Why dont you want to tell me?
BECAUSE THAT KID IS YOU, YOU STUPID GIT!
The whole common room suddenly fell silent.
Harry looked from Ron to Hermione. Hermione had her hands pressed to her mouth, staring at Ron with wide eyes. Ron looked like the full meaning of what Hermione had said suddenly hit him on the head like an overlarge cauldron.
Then, without warning, the two ran off to separate directionsHermione to the girls staircase, Ron to the boys. They both raced to their respective dormitories.
The other Gryffindors in the common room stared at the two for a few seconds, then
a buzz of conversation broke out in the room. Harry noticed that, in the far corner, Lavender and Parvati were giggling madly.
What was that all about? Harry asked in astonishment.
Didnt you hear? Ginny asked Harry. Something about being smitten by some kid around here
then Hermione said the kid was Ron
Harrys jaw dropped. You mean
Now Harry knew how Hermione felt when he and Ron werent talking last year. He went from one to the other, listening to what they
had to say, but both were muttering things quite unintelligible by other human standards.
shouldve kept my mouth shut
began with teeth
Vicky butted in
sh-she said she was smitten with some stupid git that I am
Hey, dont you feel relieved that youve confirmed the feeling is mutual? Harry asked, only half-joking.
THATS JUST THE WHOLE POINT! Ron yelled, flapping his arms as if
he had wings. THE FEELING IS MUTUAL! ONLY I NEVER WANTED TO FIND OUT IF IT
Youre weird, Harry told him. If I were you, I wouldve asked a long time ago.
Youre going to eat your words, Harry, Ron said. You dont know what its like when one of your best friends suddenly comes out and says, Hey, Im love-struck with you. Its
But the feeling is mutual, Harry insisted.
I didnt want to hear it from her!
I wanted to be the one to tell her
but todays not the right time! I was expecting after maybe three years, Id ask her out
but not today! Not when were fifteen! Not when I still blush!
In classes, Ron and Hermione avoided each other by sitting at far corners of the room. Harry did his best to divide his time among them. It was
a tough job.
On Wednesday evening, Harry and Ron went into the common room to find Hermione sitting on one of the tables, with a long list of calculations spread out in front of her.
Hermione Harry started to say.
Im going to bed, Ron suddenly said, dashing to the stairs. Looking at him from behind, Harry saw that his ears had turned beet red.
The few people in the common room began to laughnews of the event on Saturday morning had spread among the Gryffindors by Saturday lunchtime.
Harry approached Hermione, who had begun to groan in frustration. I hate me, I hate me, I hate me, she muttered.
Sokay, Hermione, Harry teased. Even though you hate yourself, somebody else loves you.
She glared at him. Harry, before I hex you, shut it.
Then afterwards we drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two, Harry began to sing
in a slightly out-of-tune voice And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you...
I can see it in your eyes that you despise the same old lies you heard the night before, Seamus, trying not to laugh, joined in. And though its just a line to you, for me its true and never felt so right before.
I practice every day to find some clever lines to say to make the meaning come true, Colin Creevey, who was in Ginnys year, was also singing. His brother, Dennis, followed. But then I think I'll wait until the evening gets late and Im alone with you.
Before long, almost all Gryffindors who were raised by Muggles were singing, and Hermione had buried her head in Numerology and Gramatica.
The time is right, your perfume fills my head, the stars get red and oh the night so blue
and then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you.
Harry leaned a bit closer to Hermione. And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you
Harry, you great git, shut it, Hermione said through gritted teeth.
And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like I love you
Harry repeated, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
SHUT UUUUUUUUUUUP! Hermione screeched, and before Harry knew it, Hermione had her wand pointed at him. She had hexed him. But looking at himself and touching his face, Harry didnt find anything wrong. He still had ten fingers, his limbs were all on the right places, and there was nothing nasty sprouting out of his face.
Okay, he tried to say, but instead of the words coming out, he burped loudly.
Urgh, Parvati and a few other girls said in revulsion. Ginnys jaw dropped.
Harry looked uneasily around him. Hermione, he tried again, but an almighty belch came out. The Gryffindors groaned in disgust, while a few laughed.
Harry gestured at his throat, crossed his heart and held up a hand, as if telling her to remove the
hed stop singing.
Vocis! Hermione said with a flick of her wand.
Ahhh, loads better, Harry said in his normal voice as he massaged his neck. Let me see if it still worksBut then I go
I was kidding, he hastily said when Hermione began to twirl her wand on her fingers.
Nice going, Harry, said Fred, laughing heartily with the others. Hermione glared at him.
Why do I think Ive heard that song before? asked George.
Its quite an old Muggle song, said Seamus, still grinning. My dad had it memorized.
We heard it on Dads Muggle wireless, George, just last summer, Ginny told him. Radio, he called it.
Harry looked at her in surprise. You listen to Muggle songs?
Ginny shrugged. Well, he never really gave us much choice, did he?
Ah. Harry nodded. Like it?
Yeahwhen I heard it over the radio. Ginny grinned mischievously. I kinda hated it when you sang it.
Harry snorted in laughter. Now that he thought about it, he realized that Ginny, after all, had quite inherited Rons sarcastic humor.
He liked it, actually.
You prat, Ron groaned at Harry. You enjoy this, dont you?
Trying to get a hold of you and Hermione and trying to convince you to talk to each other again? Harry shook his head vigorously. Absolutely not.
After a hurried lunch the next day, Ron had dragged Harry for a walk around the groundsfor Ron to give him a tongue-lashing after the scene the night before.
Im going to get you for this, I really am, Ron said. Trying to exasperate her more, eh?
Harry sighed dramatically. Oh yes, of course, Ronald Weasley will do everything to protect the love of his life, he said, clutching his chest mockingly. How well do I remember you belching slugs for her when a friend of ours called her a Mudblood.
Ron had stopped in his tracks. And speaking of the devil.
Well, well. It was Draco Malfoy, Harrys not-so-best-friend in the world over, with his cronies Crabbe and Goyle at his side. If Ive heard right, the Weasel
has decided to begin snogging the long molars of that Mudblood.
They were incisors you lengthened, Ron snapped (Harry had to stop himself from grinning), and shut up, before I decide to pull yours out.
Oh, wow, that scares me, that does, Malfoy said in mock fright, and Crabbe and Goyle sniggered stupidly.
Come on, Ron, said Harry. This git still hasnt learned to pull out a funny joke.
Harry pulled at Rons sleeve, dodging a laughing Malfoy.
You might consider moving out of your excuse for a house when you marry, Malfoy said. But I doubt youll buy something much bigger than a fireplace?
All right, that does it, said Ron, turning back to Malfoy.
Ron, said Harry, grabbing Rons arm, leading him away. And you, he continued, looking at Malfoy, you can get your
arse kicked to Mars.
Harry led Ron away to the enormous marble fountain that was still void of water in front of the castle.
And there was Hermione, looking surprised that they were both there.
What is she doing out here, sitting in the cold? Ron asked indignantly.
Ah, said Harry. Waiting for you. Say I leave you here so that you two can talk? Weve got twenty minutes before History of Magic.
No, Ron growled, his face bloodless. Not now. Dont leave me.
Harry laughed and pushed Ron towards Hermione. Now. Show some courageshow me that youre a true
Gryffindor my arse, Ron muttered darkly. Maybe some other time, Harry.
Now, I say. Ill leave you. Look at her, shes expecting you to come. She looks like she wants to tell you something. You
going to leave her with a sad face? he finished with a pitiful voice.
Ron seemed to consider this for a while; he looked at Hermione, who was still staring at them, her expression unreadable.
Ron took in a deep breath and began to walk awkwardly towards her, as if this was costing him his entire life.
Harry, smiling to himself, watched. He saw Ron sit down beside Hermione. They both looked at him, and he jumped back, giving them a small wave. He turned around,
heading back to the castle.
As much as he wanted to hear everything Ron had to say, he thought hed better leave them. This was a private moment, and no matter how close he was to the two of them, some things were not to be shared. Things like this one.
Well, he said, as if Ron was still beside him, good luck.
Author's Notes: Huge thanks to Lisa and Amy for beta-reading the first two
chapters! You were a great help...I don't know how I'll ever get through my
grammar without you, hehehe. =)