Disclaimer: Honestly! If I did own Harry Potter, would I sit here and post fanfiction for free? Hell, I'd sit on a beach in the Bahamas and drink cocktails, watching Tonks, Hermine and Luna frolicking in the waves!
Children were roaming the grounds of Hogwarts on this sunny October afternoon, ignoring the cold, and soaking in the last few rays of sunlight before the merciless Scottish winter would lay siege to the castle.
None of those had a care for the world more important than their next exam or the Quidditch match in three weeks' time. And none of those looked up to notice the lone figure up at the parapets of the Astronomy tower.
Harry sat up there, in the cool breeze that was always present at that altitude. He didn't care. It was much colder when he sat on his Firebolt, pouring every last bit of speed into his chase of the elusive Snitch. Like he had done just minutes earlier, during training. He instinctively grabbed tighter onto his precious ride that had brought him up here.
The loss of Katie had rattled the team, and Harry was struggling to keep them together, especially Ron, who was fighting his nerves, and losing badly. If Ron didn't get his act together, soon, he would have to find a replacement for his best friend, as well.
Harry snorted in a fit of dark humor - well, he was British, after all - as he realized that this would probably be the end of their friendship. Ron would never get over it if he were kicked out of the team by Harry.
But then, Ron never took anything well. Not even the fact that Harry and Hermione were invited to the Slug Christmas party, while he wasn't. In the end, Hermione sacrificed herself to invite him to keep the peace. Or wasn't she?
A deep sigh left his lips as he thought about that. He could see that there was some attraction between them. Anyone could. But Ron had a strange way to show it. Harry never commented on that, nor on their obvious affection.
In fact, he hoped that it would go away, because if they did, it might have an effect on their friendship. Sometimes, it seemed as if Ron would try to compete with Harry to impress Hermione, which was a bit awkward. If these two were growing tight, somehow, Ron's permanent envy could drive a wedge between the three of them.
Thinking about this made his chest constrict painfully. What would he do without Hermione? She was a constant in his life at Hogwarts. Ron was touch and go with his loyalty, but Hermione always stood by him, even if she had to go behind his back to protect him.
His heart gave him another pang when he thought about that and how badly he'd been treating her in return. More than once, he had simply ignored her or hurt her feelings. It hit him like a Bludger when he realized that he usually did that when Ron was urging him on. Like over that silly broom - Harry would long have had forgiven her if Ron hadn't ruled that out categorically.
For a brief moment, he wondered why Ron would be interested in Hermione when he treated her that badly all the time.
Harry was even more surprised that Hermione seemed to be giving in to his awkward attempts to woo her. He never would have thought about them getting together. Not with all that constant fighting between them.
Then, a memory of a talk triggered a sudden awareness - he had talked to Hermione about the Quidditch tryout being crowded. That talk deteriorated in Hermione trying to convince him that he was fanciable, with Ron pathetically trying to point out that he was at least as good as Harry.
He nearly jumped up as the realization hit him. Actually doing so would be a stupid mistake on a tower parapet that high up. OK, not in Harry's case, as he had his broom with him and was more than able to mount it in free fall. Actually, that's how he had planned to get down from this tower...
Could it be that Hermione had been flirting with him, probing the waters?
Did he fail at her test? Did she now focus on Ron instead?
Well, obviously she did. Hermione cheating in anything was something people would consider unthinkable, but she had. She had helped Ron to get into the team, confounding McLaggen. Of course, Harry had caught her doing so, but he didn't want to cause a stir. Given how McLaggen had behaved during the practice, he couldn't hold it against her. Harry was tempted to hex that jerk more than once, himself.
On the other hand, Ron wasn't much better. Especially since they stumbled over Ginny sucking Dean's face off in the hallway.
Harry had to huff as he thought about that incident. Seriously, at first, he had actually been jealous of Dean. To be fair, Ginny was a handful - her petite figure, which made her bust look extremely big, even though she didn't have a 'rack' like Bones or Greengrass. The long, fiery red mane and the pale skin was dream fodder, as well.
Yes, she was Ron's sister. Funnily, that didn't register too high with him - in part because Molly blatantly endorsed such a relation. Also, the more male part of his psyche interjected, getting a go at a girl like her was more than worth losing any friend.
Funnily, a trick of the light had killed his interest in her. While she was tearing into Ron, she had surged forward, and crossed a shaded area. For that brief moment, she had looked a lot like Cho.
Man, that was like a kick in the balls to him. If it weren't for Voldemort, Harry probably would have nightmares about that girl. She was hot, that for sure, but boy, did she have a temper. You never really knew what hit you when you did something wrong, and then she flew off the handle. In a certain way, Ginny was much the same. Yes, she wasn't crying at the drop of a hat, but then she didn't lose any close friend lately - and Harry hoped she wouldn't anytime soon. But her temper was just as bad, and he had a feeling she would be high maintenance. Thinking that she might grow up into a Molly, version two, wasn't helping.
So looks weren't as important as temper. Good to know, but what did he want of a girl? Certainly no bore, but no fury, neither. He could deal with someone who had enthusiasm, but still was susceptible to reason. Someone you could talk to, or have a vivid discussion with.
Loyalty was important. He certainly did want someone he could trust in. With his life, that was probably the most important thing of all. He should also watch out for a girl that could take care of herself, someone he wouldn't need to protect all the time when things turned bad.
Thinking about all he wanted from a girl, Harry was slightly confused that all he brought up matched his best female friend.
For the first time, Harry acknowledged the fact that Hermione was a girl, and that there might be the possibility of them being together. He never thought about that before. Was he even attracted to her, this way?
It was a long time before Harry finally jumped off that parapet.
After that day, Harry had started watching his best friends. He had always been rather good at watching people for their moods - something he had extensive practice in.
Right now, Hermione was sitting on a desk, studying for something - Runes, he believed it was - while Ron was playing chess with Seamus. Harry was sitting in a chair near the fireplace, pretending to read his Potions book, while in fact he had chosen the seat for its observatory vantage point.
Over the last hour, he had counted five times Ron had looked over at Hermione, and eight times Hermione had made a glance in Ron's direction. Each time, they did so while the other wasn't looking, but they were looking far too long as if they only were interested in what the other was doing. In the same time, Ron had only looked once in Harry's direction, and Hermione only twice, but only for a short time each.
There - another slightly longer than necessary look by Hermione. They might not know that Harry was aware, but he was. He was aware of much more than he was happy with.
Harry could feel something raging in his chest, it was like a little monster was banging against his heart, constricting his lungs, making it hard to breathe.
He was sure now. She was Ronnie's girl. They might not have come to the agreement, but Hermione had made her decision.
He also grew painfully aware that he actually was interested in her, in that way . Very interested - his aching heart told no lies. But it was too late. She was Ronnie's girl.
Another half hour went by, and Hermione was stalling in her work. He knew the signs. She would ruffle a parchment with notes, pull another book out of her bag, only to put it back again after leafing through. Soon, she would raise to leave for the library to find a book she hadn't on her, yet.
There, she had done the book look-up. Right, and now she had begun to pick up and sort her notes.
Right, there was it again - right after she had shoved the parchment pile into her bag, she had stood, and looked for Ron. She probably hoped he might accompany her, but she knows that he would not stand from this seat for at least an hour. Ron hadn't even noticed, nor would he have cared at the moment. Chess was too important to him.
Harry ducked deeper into his open book when Hermione's glance found him for a second. He was pretty sure she hadn't noticed him watching her, but he had noticed something else. When she had looked at him, her eyes had dipped deeper for an instant, and a slight frown had marred her face.
For the time it took her to pick up her books and bag, Harry sat and stared at his book, pondering what this look could have meant. Looking at the page in front of him, he had a sudden realization.
"Hermione, wait!" Harry called out when Hermione was just about to leave the common room, putting his book in his bag and getting up. Ron hadn't reacted at all, his mind lost five or six moves in the future.
"Mind if I join you in the library?" he asked when he had caught up with her.
"Well, of course not," was the reply as she led the way through the entrance hole. Her face was neutral, maybe a bit curious. But no smile.
Harry fell in step next to her, walking along. A few times, he tried to start a conversation, but the situation was quite a bit awkward. He grew a bit desperate at this realization. It wasn't like that between them, ever, except for the broom incident.
It was made worse by the fact that he noticed Hermione noticing his failed attempts to talk to her. A few times, it looked like she was about to say something, as well, but wasn't able to, neither.
Harry already felt like he was tip-toeing around Hermione when they finally arrived at a table in the library. When he sat down next to her, he opened his bag and pulled the bone of contention between Hermione and him out.
Hermione's eyes narrowed dangerously when he pulled that book out and placed it on the table. Before she could say a word, Harry pushed it over to her.
"What are you doing?" she whispered so sharply that it was nearly a hiss.
"It's yours. Read it, shelve it or burn it, I don't care. It's not worth losing you," Harry said, almost choking on his words. He quickly looked away in Madame Pince's direction, hiding the fact that he had to swallow his hurt to keep the tears back. When he turned back, Hermione was still looking at him. He knew that expression - she was solving a puzzle.
"What is this about?" she asked, her head slightly cocked as she tried to figure things out.
"What I said. This book is helpful, and I learned a lot from it, but if it stands between us, I don't want it anymore. I never wanted to have a repeat of the broomstick incident," Harry said.
"And I apologize for that, as well. I was an arse - you were out of line, but I was as well with my reaction. I'm sorry I did that to you," he added, his eyes now watering for sure. This was emotionally worse than he had expected.
Hermione's eyes grew wide at his display. "Well... I..." she stuttered, a bit at loss for words as she looked at him, quite astonished.
"I appreciate that," she finally said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I probably should apologize to you, as well. I never noticed I hurt you so bad with our argument about that book. I might have been a bit harsh about it. Honestly, keep it - if it's been that helpful to you, you should. Just be cautious with it."
Harry sniffed back the snot that had accumulated, even though he had avoided crying. "Sorry," he said when Hermione frowned at him, and pulled his handkerchief out to clean his nose proper.
"No, this is why I want you to have it. You will be able to sort the good from the dangerous stuff. I have no idea about that, other than to try it out. And if you know it, you will tell me anyway. If there's one thing I can rely on, that that you'll help me if I need it," he rambled.
"So you are giving it to me to be your reference librarian?" Hermione asked, slightly miffed.
"Merlin! No!" Harry said loud enough to earn a sharp reprimand from Pince's corner. Ducking his head slightly, he continued in a whisper. "Hermione, you know that I do my homework, myself. I might ask you to look it over, but I'd never copy it from you. I just realized that I'm not qualified to decide on the things that are in it. Some are downright dangerous, I think. You are. And I'm sorry that I didn't listen to you right from the beginning, creating this mess between us."
Again, Hermione gave him that strange look, before she finally nodded and slipped the book into her bag. "So, that's all? You're heading back to the tower?" she asked, her voice cautious.
'Hell no!' the monster in Harry's belly wanted to scream, but Harry resisted to follow that urge. "Well, I still have the Transfiguration essay to do, so if you don't mind me hanging around, I could as well do it here. Probably the best place for it, come to think of it," Harry replied, equally anxious.
"Of course not," Hermione replied and gave him a bright smile, the first for a few weeks, and probably the most beautiful he ever had seen on her. "I think you should go and check out Edmonton's Treatise on invigorating transfiguration, there are some very interesting chapters you might need in there.
Harry smiled back and stood, to do as she had told him.
The next days were better. For him, at least. He finally got along again with Hermione, which made it much easier to deal with the still budding relationship between Hermione and Ron. Not that he liked it, but he would respect Hermione's decision. Even if he was becoming more and more convinced that it was a wrong one.
Ron was a problem. Ever since the incident with Dean and Ginny, he was beyond furious. It not only reflected badly on his game, but also on the way he treated Hermione. Harry had an idea why he did so, but he couldn't quite tell, and so he was forced to watch, helplessly.
He would ignore her almost completely, except to berate her or to whine about the upcoming match.
To be honest, Harry and the team had just as much cause to whine as Ron had, if not more. The biggest fact was that Ron actually was a very good Keeper. The problem was that he couldn't deal with stress, at all. It only took one Quaffle slipping past him, and he would start a journey down the slippery slope to total despair giving you 50-50 chance of him blocking the next. And if you got three past him in a row, he was done, and would not block another one - like clockwork. It didn't once matter if it were two in a row. That he could recover from, but three were a magic number when it came to Ron and keeping.
That meant that the Beaters and Chasers would have to work extra hard to break up the enemy's games to keep that fatal triplet from occurring to early. And Harry had to be extremely quick, to keep game duration short.
He could only hope they were lucky enough to manage all of this. Hmm... Lucky...
A small, sinister smile formed on Harry's face as a plan emerged.
"Harry, I want a word with you," Hermione hissed at him just as he was about to leave the changing room. They had flattened Slytherin in a quick shutout match, with people chanting Ron's name.
The same was the last one in the room with Harry when Hermione had barged in. "Oy! That's the men's changing room - what if we had been changing, still?" He exclaimed, but got ignored by his friends.
"Yes?" Harry spoke with an anticipatory grin. He knew that she would call him out on his shenanigans during breakfast.
Hermione stepped closer and lowered her voice, although it wasn't any less sharp. "You know that that's illegal - Slughorn told you."
Of course, Ron had listened closely, and entered the conversation at this point. "And you are going to do what? Snitch?" he hissed, his eyes narrowing slightly.
Harry schooled his face into a mask of confusion. "What are you talking about? Illegal?"
"Don't you play games with me, Harry Potter!" Hermione screeched at him. Ron immediately threw the door shot and hissed at her to pipe down.
"I saw you spiking Ron's cup with lucky potion this morning!" she continued, with only slightly less force.
"Did not," Harry replied with a slight smile.
"You did - that's why everything went right and Ron saved every shot!" Hermione insisted with force.
"Did not," Harry stated firmly, now grinning broadly at her, enjoying the childish way he was bickering with Hermione. Before she could reply - Harry had a slight hope she would in fact have replied with 'Did too!' - he pulled out the small flask with the golden liquid, presenting the still sealed cork to her. "I just pretended to do so," he grinned at her. He turned and looked at Ron. "It was all you - you felt lucky, so you gave your best without doubting yourself," he told his friend as he pocketed the potion again.
"But... Vaisey, Malfoy, the weather, my keeping... You didn't?" Ron stuttered as he tried to come to grips with the facts. Harry just grinned and shook his head.
"No, except for a bit of general luck, that was all you."
It took Ron a few more moments to process, and then he reacted in the usual way. Glaring, he rounded on Hermione, imitating her voice, badly. "Harry, you put some Felix Felicis in Ron's juice," he mocked her. "That's why he saved every shot," he whined, before he glared angrily at her. "See - I'm not totally worthless without help! I can do things quite well!" he rounded at her.
"Ron, I never said you couldn't," was all she managed to say before he had stormed off, hurling the door closed with a bang so loud that it hurt.
For a few moments, silence reigned. Then, Harry whistled low after the shock had worn off a bit. "That was... Actually, I don't know what this was," he said, still trying to comprehend what had happened.
"That was Ron," Hermione said bitterly, her eyes glistening, although she was frowning fiercely.
"Well, I suppose it was," Harry replied, taking a deep breath and ruffling his hair. "I think that might have gotten down the wrong way with him."
"Oh really? I didn't notice that," Hermione spat bitterly. "Really, I'm sick of this. What did I wrong? What was I supposed to do?"
"Well, yeah, you know how he is. He'll come around soon, don't worry," Harry tried to console her. He couldn't really tell her that Ron was angry at her for something she had done long ago - with Victor Krum. He seriously had hoped that if they win this match, Ron would be happy, maybe kiss Hermione and forget about the kiss between her an Victor. Obviously, his plan had a tiny flaw. It was bollocks.
"Shall we go up to the party?" he attempted to change the topic. Hermione was just about to burst into tears and tried to run away, but he snatched her sleeve as she tried to gt past him.
"Let me go," she hissed, but Harry didn't.
"What kind of friend would I be if I let you alone like that? No, I'll stay with you, come on, let's take a walk to the lake and you can rant my ear of," he grinned at her. He had to move his head a couple of times to manage to catch her eyes as she tried to avert her face, but finally she relented.
"Prat!" she laughed out as she smacked him lightly over the chest for his goofing around. "Ok, then, lead the way - they're your ears," she said after a huge sniffle, but smiling a bit, already.
"On second thought, we'd better make a stop at the greenhouses, first," Harry replied with a big smile of his own.
"No way - you made your bed, Mister!" she giggled, still sniffling slightly.
"Let's go, then. And don't worry, I'll talk to him, later" he proposed.
"You will?" Hermione replied hopefully.
"No problem, I've done it quite a lot for you two, right?" Harry laughed as he pulled her after him and out of the locker room. "Honestly, if I had a Knut for each time I have to break up one of your quarrels," Harry chuckled while she fell in step next to him. "Well, I'd certainly have a lot of Knuts, then," he continued, laughing softly about his own joke, not noticing that Hermione had grown silent.
As they finally approached the Fat Lady after a long walk, the portrait swung open by itself. The cause was Ginny, who had emerged from the common room right then, followed by a wave of raucous party noise.
"You two better not go in there," Ginny stated as she saw Harry and Hermione approach. "It's not pretty - now excuse me when I go and try to drown myself in the lake to eradicate the picture," she quipped as she took off, but in the direction of Ravenclaw tower, instead of the Entrance hall.
Stepping through the portrait and scanning the crowd, Harry saw the reason for Ginny's indigence.
There, right in the middle of the Common Room, Ron was snogging with Lavender on a couch.
Well, you could call it snogging, in a way. The way the two were flailing around, groping everything in reach while trying to suck their lips off was pathetic to watch, although it obviously was enjoyable for the two. A brief shudder of revulsion shook Harry as he noticed the tent in Ron's robes.
Before he could react, Hermione had whipped around and almost flew out of the portrait hole.
Shaking his head clear of that mental picture, he quickly left the room, following Hermione's trail.
By the time he was out of the room, she already had disappeared down the hall. He heard the sound of a door falling shut, to his right, so he went down the corridor, trying the doors. Finally, one door was unlocked and opened into an empty classroom.
Almost empty, apart from Hermione sitting on the teachers desk, with a flock of yellow birds circling around her head, twittering loud. Harry was impressed that she managed to perform such a conjuration in her current state.
"Everything alright?" Harry asked as he stepped closer.
Hermione whipped her head up and around to look at him.
"Does this look alright to you?" Hermione replied in a strained voice, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, before she began to sob.
Harry carefully let himself down next to her. Slowly, he put his arm around her back, letting his hand rest on her distant shoulder. Hermione accepted the invitation and leaned over, while Harry silently held her as the birds circled both of them.
They got interrupted by the door swinging open. Harry groaned when Ron stumbled in, frolicking with Lavender, in obvious search for a place to be alone.
"Oh!" he stated when his eyes fell on them.
"Oops!" Lavender giggled as she saw them, too. "Seems this room is already occupied," she said as she backed out of the room. Ron stayed behind.
"What is going on here," he demanded, his eyes darting from Harry to Hermione, who slowly lifted her head from Harry's shoulder, sitting as straight as only Professor McGonagall usually did.
"Nothing," she replied icily. "Now hush, don't leave Lavender waiting," she quietly commanded.
Ron wasn't inclined to comply. "Is there anything I should know," he asked hotly, his eyes narrowing at Harry.
Harry was quite tempted to comment on this, but Hermione spared him the burden.
"Oppugno!" she shrieked, her wand flashing towards Ron. The flock of birds ceased their innocent circling and screeched bloody murder as they hurled themselves at Ron, clawing and pecking at everything they could reach. Flailing around, trying to protect his face, Ron took flight, the birds following through the door.
There were a few moments of an increasingly heavy silence, before Hermione dropped her wand and clutched to Harry's arm, sobbing hard.
It took a couple of minutes for Hermione to cry herself out sufficiently to start talking again.
"To hell with him," she whispered from her place at Harry's shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I know what he meant to you," Harry replied.
Hermione slowly sat up, wiping her cheeks with her palm. "You do?"
Harry huffed a small laugh. "Everyone knows - seriously, you two were really obvious about it. No one really understood it, though, with all that constant bickering. I guess Ron has now proven why he didn't deserve you, at all."
Hermione's face darkened significantly. "Lavender, of all people. And in the midst of the Common Room. He did that to spite me."
"Well, I wouldn't say that," Harry allowed. "He might just be an insensitive twat."
"Anyway, I'm done with him. I'm tired of the constant arguing. I'm tired of him flying off the handle at every single little thing, his envy. His scorn for taking school serious. His small-mindedness. This was just the... the..." she struggled to find words and not to break into tears again at the same time.
"The dislodging of a small rock that brought down the rest of the whole rickety dam?" Harry helped.
"More like a dam buster raid," Hermione huffed, sniffling slightly.
"Well he did a pretty well bust-up, didn't he," Harry half-joked. Actually, he never before was so grateful for Ron's tendency to rush head-long into a short-term gratification situation, screwing up his long-term prospects in the process.
"For all it is worth, I'm sorry for you," he repeated.
"Why does this always have to be this hard," she lamented.
Harry mirrored her sigh. "I know what you mean."
Hermione shoot him a empathic smile. "Ginny, right? Is she still with Dean?"
"What? No, not Ginny," Harry replied, smiling back at her.
"Not? I thought you had a thing for her?" Hermione replied, surprise openly visible on her face.
"Well, who wouldn't?" Harry replied truthfully. "But to be honest, she's not really my type. I guess it was just a crush that I left behind me rather quickly."
Hermione rose a questioning eyebrow at that statement. "Not your type?"
"Well, if I were out for a fling, yes, but I'm not the type for that. I'm looking for something that lasts. The Weasley clan is far too fond of arguing for my tastes."
"Oh, right in one," Hermione said with a frown. "A wise choice. Spares the drama."
Harry nodded at her. "True. I have enough of that, don't you think? I need a second Cho as much as a hole in the head," he quipped.
Hermione snorted rather unladylike at that comparison. "Honestly, she was horrible!" she exclaimed, with Harry nodding his approval.
"But if it's not her..." Hermione pondered, leaning her head to one side, her eyes darting around without looking at anything. Harry could almost see the files brought out of storage, reviewed, sorted and discarded as she combed through her memories, trying to identify the most probable candidate.
Harry also saw the exact moment she found the answer. Her eyes slowed down, with the gaze becoming even more unfocused, as her mouth fell open, ever so slowly. Then her eyes widened gradually as realisation set in. Baffled, she looked at Harry, who found the courage to lean forward and give her a peck on the cheek.
"Come on, let's go for a walk," he said as he slipped off the desk, extending a hand to help Hermione stand up. Still looking at him like he was from a different planet, she accepted it and let herself be pulled of the desk, as well.
"Let's head for the library, just until curfew - we both could do with a quiet place to talk, don't we?" he spoke, and pulled her towards the door, their arms naturally snaking around the other, just like they sometimes had before, but this time, with more meaning than ever.
It was kind of cruel, but Harry couldn't keep a smile off his lips as they left the room, his arm curled around her waist while her head came to a rest on his shoulder. Well, she certainly wasn't Ronnie's girl anymore...
This fic is the result of a challenge of Embirsiphonelilathia.
I should use the song "Jessie's girl" to craft a HP story out of it.
You can Google it, but here's the first part..
Jessie is a friend
Yeah, I know he's been a good friend of mine
But lately something's changed that ain't hard to define
Jessie's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine
And she's watching him with those eyes
And she's loving him with that body I just know it
And he's holding her in his arms late at night
You know, I wish that I had Jessie's girl
I wish that I had Jessie's girl