Cold Blood

By DerLaCroix

Chapter 2: Did anyone get the number of that dragon?

When Harry woke up, he felt like his whole body had been bludgeoned by, well, a dragon. Harry knew where he was before he had opened his eyes. The familiar smell of potions and very clean linen indicated that he was in the infirmary. After a moment, he realized that there was another, faint smell in the air. It was familiar, but he couldn't put a finger on it.

He slowly went through a series of checks he had started back in his cupboard, every time when he awoke after being beaten unconscious. 'Legs? Fine. Arms? Right one sore, left one fine. Chest? Burns like hell. Neck fine. Headache? You bet.' His head pounded like mad, especially his eyes, they felt like someone was pushing a needle into them from the inside of his skull.

After his initial check was completed, he slowly opened his eyes, and blinked in the sudden painful brightness. As soon as he had stirred, Madam Pomfrey was bustling over to his bed. Harry was sure she had a charm or something on the bed to notify her.

To him, it was annoying that she always knew when he was awake and immediately began questioning and berating him and, worst of all, dosing him liquefied guano, deducing from the taste of it. Just once, he would like to be able to completely connect to his surroundings before being assaulted again.

Of course, the first thing she did was giving him a potion. Smelling it already from six feet away, Harry had identified it as a pain potion before she had said a word. He had to fight the sudden urge to growl at her.

He was mildly surprised that it didn't taste as bad as it smelled and even more delighted when it was the only potion for him. At least for now.

"Harry?"

Turning to his right, he saw an outline of a figure in a bed across the room. The brown blob sounded a lot like Hermione.

"Hermione? Is that you?" he tried to confirm his guess with squinted eyes.

"Yes, Harry. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine!" he answered, while he unsuccessfully fondled for his glasses on the nightstand.

"Coming from you, that could mean everything from being healthy to crippled, but alive," she retorted, which caused a tiny snort to escape the Healer, earning her Hermione's attention. Hermione didn't waste a moment to ask the first question. "What happened?"

"Well, long story short, Miss Granger, while Mr. Potter did his usual death-defying things, you seem to have fainted or were knocked unconscious. You had a lump on the back of your head, but I can't say if it was the result or cause of your fall. Mister Potter here," the matron avoided the looming interruption, and waved in the direction of her other patient.

"He received a light concussion, some cuts, a pierced arm and that stupid egg. You, Miss Granger, were carried into the tent where I was tending to his injuries, about when I was finishing his treatment. After I had examined you, both of you were then put into the hospital wing. You both woke just a few minutes ago. So, if you would excuse me, I'll go and eat dinner; you will have yours sent up by a house-elf in about one hour, when the potions have settled. I expect to be back long before that. Behave, and I will have you back in class by tomorrow morning," she concluded, and left for the Great Hall.

For a few seconds there was silence, until Harry broke it.

"How are you doing? Do you know what happened?"

"I'm fine," she said, and Harry snorted as she used 'his' line.

"Hey! I can use it and mean it! It's you who uses it for 'I'm still alive', Mister Potter!" she scolded him in return, but her tone told Harry that she actually was amused. He could hear a faint trace of giggling in it.

It didn't last long, and silence reigned again. But not complete silence. Harry could hear a faint repeated sniffling.

"Are you crying?" he asked in concern, in the direction of the brown blob across the room.

Hermione jerked up into a sitting position. She in fact had curled up and given in to tears, but she was sure that she had kept them silent. "No! Of course not!" she shouted, not wanting him to notice.

Harry took a deep sigh. "I can not only hear that you are lying, I can practically smell your tears," he said, and took another short whiff of air. "And someone has placed a basket of peaches somewhere in here. It smells nice, better that the usual hospital wing scents," he finished.

Hermione took a good look around. There were a lot of things in the hospital wing, but no fruit basket. Not even flowers. "But, there aren't any peaches in here. You must be mistaken," she answered, while she was subtlety drying her tears.

"Not? Strange, the smell is getting stronger by the minute. But quit changing the topic, Hermione. What's wrong with you?"

Hermione wanted to hide it from him, staying strong, but when heard his voice, her memories surged once again, and she broke down with long, hard sobs. Harry instantly rushed over and embraced her. She clung to him like a lifeline while hot tears ran down her cheeks and into his pyjamas. He awkwardly patted her back and let her cry, hoping he could do more and unknowingly doing the best he could.

"I... I... I nearly lost... you nearly died," she sobbed, digging deeper into his chest, digging her fingers painfully into his back. Harry resisted the urge to hiss in pain, and instead began to rock her gently, trying to ease the pain a bit by calming her.

"If you, if you had..." she began anew, but again interrupted herself with a burst of sobs. "I don't have anybody else, no one!" she cried. "I'd be alone... again…" she stammered between sobs.

"No, not alone," Harry cooed, "there's Ron, and Ginny, and..." he said, trying to soothe her.

"But they're not YOU!" she choked out, and hugged him so hard that he saw stars blinking in his view. He refrained from commenting, not for being that wise, but for not being able to breathe sufficiently, and just held her until her death-grip lessened. But for some reason, he felt elated at her outburst.

While she continued crying into his shoulder, he finally noticed that it was her who was smelling of peaches, especially her hair. Filing that thought for later, he concentrated on consoling his friend, and soon, her weeps diminished.

"I know, but still, you won't be alone," he told her while petting her soft hair.

She gave a snort in response. "Sure. Ron only tolerates me because of you, and Ginny is only talks to me because I'm a friend of Ron and you. As soon as you are gone, Ron will be gone, too - and Ginny will turn to her own friends. And I'll be alone."

Realization hit him like a Bludger. Deep inside, he knew that she was right. Ginny only orbited around the three of them, and had lots of friends her age. And Ron, well, he was Ron. Last year he refused to speak to her because of his rat, which turned out to be Pettigrew, anyway, but he even went on a crusade against her because of Harry's broomstick.

And now, he wasn't on talking terms with both of them, because he thought himself betrayed by Harry's presumed lie about the goblet, and because Hermione believed in Harry. He could easily see him abandoning Hermione, except when he needed her help with homework. In a sudden burst of anger, he vowed that he would take care of that, and her.

Not wanting to confirm her suspicion, he hugged her hard, and then leaned a bit back. Putting his index finger under her chin, he raised her head to look in her face. She was a mess, but a cute one. Her hair was a fright, her eyes puffy and red, like her running nose. Her lips were a quivering pout as she tried not to meet his eyes.

He softly wiped her eyes, and on a sudden impulse, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. As she stared at him in shock, he caressed her cheek and whispered to her.

"Then I'll have to stay around for you, won't I?"

Hermione continued staring flustered at him, trying to match his behaviour with the Harry she used to know, and drawing blanks all along.

Harry chuckled at her, and caressed a tress of her hair behind her ear. "You look cute like this," he commented.

For a second, she smiled her thank at him, but then she suddenly went rigid. "Where are your glasses?"

He waved his hand at his bed and nightstand. "Oh, they're over there. I just didn't..."

For a few seconds, Harry looked at his outstretched hand. His three feet remote, but perfectly visible hand. He turned it one way, then the other, and then brought it closer, looking at the texture of his skin, his fingerprints. Only then he raised his head and took a look around. While he couldn't see the other side of the infirmary clearly, his bed was in sharp focus. A few minutes ago, he was barely able to make out Hermione on her bed, and now, he could see halfway across the room! In retrospection, he never before had been able to see anything more than three feet apart! Something strange was going on.

"My eyes..." he stammered, facing Hermione again. "I can... see! But..."

"How?" she completed.

"Are you asking me?" Harry stammered. "You are the genius in the room, remember?"

"Honestly, Harry," she scolded. "I don't know. Maybe something has happened when you were hurt, some kind of side effect of a concussion. Did Pomfrey check your head? Is there something else off with your senses? Vertigo? You mentioned a smell," Hermione began talking in rapid fire mode, signalling an incoming panic attack.

"No, that was your shampoo - I can smell it in your hair now." Harry tried to calm her, only managing the opposite, as Hermione gasped.

"But that was yesterday evening! And you could smell it from across the room!" she nearly screamed at him, before she stopped and took a deep breath, placating her self with hand gestures, trying to regain her composure.

"Ok, no need to panic, no need to panic, it's not bad, isn't it? Your senses are a bit heightened, that's not bad, it's actually rather good, especially your eyes. I mean, honestly, you can see, and that great, especially for the tournament," she started rambling, her inner panic creeping into her words, but fell silent once Harry embraced her again.

"It's alright, it's alright, everything will turn out fine," he whispered as he rocked her gently.

Everything in Hermione screamed that this wasn't the Harry she was used to, but a small and very insistent voice kept telling her to 'shut the fuck up and enjoy the moment!'

By the time Pomfrey returned, his eyesight had improved to the point that he could see her from across the length of the infirmary.

Before Madam Pomfrey had properly entered the room, she already was addressed, or to be frank, verbally assaulted by Hermione, who overeagerly explained the situation.

To Pomfrey's credit, she took this in stride. Honestly, after all those years in Hogwarts, she had become jaded. She only paused a second as Harry demanded that she should check what happened but insisted that she did not remove it. The demand baffled her a bit, especially how insistent the normally pliable boy was, until she remembered that this patient had positive symptoms, for a change.

ooOOoo

"As I told you apart from the concussion, the healed arm wound and some cuts, you are all right. There are some bruises coming out on your back, but they can be dealt with a salve," the burly matron said after she had once again given her most frequent patient an extensive wand-over.

"But that isn't possible," Hermione insisted. "He has gone from blind as a bat to perfect vision and can follow a trace like a Crup, that isn't normal!"

"Thanks, I think," Harry chuckled at her outburst, and laughed out loud as Hermione blushed and gave him a contrite look

Nonetheless, even an extensive scan brought up nothing. Since Harry was fine, actually even better than normal, she just declared it as a strange side-effect of the concussion, but instructed him to notify her as soon as there was a change or he was feeling off. In order to not cause too much ruckus in case of it being just temporary, Hermione transfigured a copy with plain glass lenses.

The next day, both of them were released for breakfast. The walk to Great Hall showed that his days would be easier from now on.

First, most of the "Potter stinks" badges were gone, only Malfoy and his Slytherins were still wearing them. Harry decided to ignored them for now, but was sure to make a mental list of each and every person who was or had been sporting a badge.

Second, Harry and Hermione were thick as ever. Something had changed between them, but neither of them wanted to acknowledge it, at least now. Sure, they walked a bit closer than usual, but they did so all year long, ever since Harry was isolated after Halloween.

They sat at their usual spot at the table, right next to Ginny, who greeted them enthusiastic.

"Hey, you two! You really scared us out there. First Harry gets smashed by that dragon and then you got knocked out in the commotion, Hermione. Nobody knows who exactly had hit you, as everybody was jumping up at the same time, there was so much pushing and shoving."

"Yeah," Neville interjected, "I nearly got thrown into the arena by some Hufflepuffs behind me. Barely grabbed a hold in time," he shivered.

"Yeah, got some bruises, too" Fred quipped in, and George continued, "So don't be ashamed, Hermione, that could have happened to anybody."

"By the way,"

"Great job, Harry,"

"Being tied for second with Diggory is no small feat,"

"Considering that you are two years behind him!"

Finishing their daily show of twin-pong, the twins set off for Jordan and the Chaser girls, leaving confusion and well hidden pranks in their wake.

While Harry and Hermione started filling their plates, Ron flopped himself down in the space the twins had vacated, and immediately shovelled a lot of food first on his plate and subsequently into his face. Harry was surprised that Ron would even sit with him, but didn't want to stir up a fight.

Sometime between bites, Ron acknowledged Harry's presence and addressed him. His first try was unintelligible, even to the trained ears of his year mates.

After a huge swallow, Ron tried again. "I said that I believe you now, Harry," he said.

"Oh really? Why that? Why now?" Harry answered, his eyes narrowing slightly.

"Well, I reckoned that whoever had put your name in the goblet was trying to do you in," Ron answered, as if it would explain everything, not bothering to stop eating his breakfast while talking.

"Well, Ron - to me," Harry began, making a wide gesture around, "and I believe anyone else at this table - that doesn't quite make sense. Why do you suddenly believe that I didn't put my name in?" he finished, getting a lot of nods from the people around him.

Ron reacted like usual when under pressure. "Hey, no need to be nasty about it. I came around, didn't I?" he snapped.

"And now you expect me to just say to forget it and go back to business as usual?" Harry asked innocently. Ginny and Hermione both cringed at his voice. They knew how Ron would react to this, and how Harry's reply would be. They used that trick often enough on dear old Ron.

"Of course mate!" Ron grinned. "I knew you wouldn't make a big thing about it. So, best mates again?" he asked, glad to sweep everything under the rag, ignoring his mistakes.

This only cemented Harry's resolve. If Ron had been humble about it, he might have gone along, but not like that.

Harry stared at his plate for a second, before huffing once and looking at Ron. "Ron, forget it. And I mean that best mate thing. You see, I still want to be your friend, but for a best mate, I would need trust in you, and frankly, I lost it. Can you understand that?"

Harry had thought that he would feel regret while voicing this, but he didn't. He felt calm and secure in his decision, like it was the only logical way. Ron's eventual hurt didn't factor in this, at all. He felt grateful for Hermione's hand sneaking into his, but while he approved of her support, he didn't need it.

"But... But... Fine!" Ron yelled, and stood up abruptly. "Be like that!" he spat.

Harry had raised a hand. "Ron! Just one more thing - I don't do second chances. Think about that."

With a final huff, Ron stormed off, not even finishing breakfast. Harry sighed again and returned his attention to his plate. After a few seconds he noticed something being off. He raised his head and saw everybody gaping at him. Carefully swallowing, he asked an eloquent "What?"

"No second chances?" Ginny inquired. "You? What happened?" she stammered. Hermione nodded energetically.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "I think Pettigrew happened. It's just that I have enough of people hating me one day and then turning around and behave like everything was fine all the time the next. I've learned a lesson from the dragon. If you don't finish things properly, it'll turn around and bite you in your ass… "

"Harry! Language!"

"Sorry, Hermione."

"You learned from the dragon?" Ginny asked.

"Yeah, it gave me some good advice. When I had gotten the egg, it could just have let it go and concentrate on protecting the rest, but it made sure that I wouldn't do it again. It's a new approach that appeals to me and I want to try it. Do things right the first time, don't hesitate. You know, it sounds like a fortune cookie," he finished with a laugh, but only Hermione understood and gave him a small grin.

ooOOoo

That evening, Harry sent a letter to Sirius, of course containing a blow-by-blow recount of the first task and a short note about his improved senses. Harry had wanted to use a school owl for security reasons, but in the end had to use Hedwig, since every other owl relocated to another perch at his approach, and after a few tries, all other owls decided simultaneously that they urgently needed to go hunting right then.

The following days, Ron kept moping, which Harry ignored, and joined Hermione in her studies, just like before the task. One thing he noticed was how far he was behind her in his studies, mostly due to his permanent goofing off with Ron. Noticing that his life could depend on it - literally this time, he buckled down and studied. After having studied for days to get the summoning charm down, he knew that he was able to study if needed, so he could do this. Also, doing his assignments with Hermione caused him to be finished earlier than usual, to boot.

The bruises on his back healed up quickly, and soon, he was back to full mobility. The scar on his arm was a bit more noticeable, but he had worse.

His senses remained sharpened and even improved further. His vision was now 20/20, a thing he really enjoyed, especially while flying. Also, Harry was now able to hear people talking in the next room, even with doors closed, if he concentrated on it. That gave him a lot of insight into the mechanics of the school as he now could hear the gossip before people would notice him and stop. But it also meant that he would develop a blinding headache during meals as the multitude of voices battered his ears.

His sense of smell was the same as his ears, but it was harder for Harry to isolate those smells, since the human nose normally wasn't made for that. But it made him appreciate Hermione's standards of body hygiene very much, especially compared to the usual smells in his dorm.

Life took a bit of a downturn when Rita Skeeter chose to show up for another interview with Harry after Care of Magical Creatures a week into December, but Hermione had helped him to evade her. Of course, that didn't mean that there wasn't any article about him, having seen Potter in the distance was obviously good enough for Skeeter to call it a personal interview. Unsurprisingly, it was about as truthful as if she had talked to him and ignored his responses, like before.

Some people gave Hermione the evil eye because of the rumours spread by the Daily Prophet of her having a fling with Harry.

This made Harry snarl and hiss at them when he noticed them doing so.

Literally, he did.

Another downturn followed when Hermione found the kitchens and house elves.

To his surprise, Dobby and Winky were present at Hogwarts, and while Dobby was overjoyed, Winky had taken up drinking because she still was mortified about being free. Hermione, leader of S.P.E.W, was horrified about house-elf enslavement and let her sentiment be heard, which unfortunately only made Winky even more distraught. When they finally left the kitchen, Hermione was muttering under her breath - that didn't bode well.

ooOOoo

Three days later, a Yule Ball was announced and Harry was ordered by McGonagall to find a date for it, since he needed to do the opening dance. His new confidence made him approach his intended girl, Cho Chang, the beautiful Ravenclaw Seeker he had been lusting after since last year, the next chance he had. It was only a few days later, but it turned out that she had been asked by Cedric already. His next idea was to ask Hermione, who surprisingly had already been invited by Victor Krum, of all people. She gave him the good advice to ask Padma, since she knew that the girl was still unasked. Harry immediately sought out the girl and asked her before she was taken, too.

They had a bit of a laugh at Ron having tried to ask the French contestant, Fleur, to the ball, and getting dumped in a spectacularly rude manner. It seemed that Ron had tried to ask her out in the hallway, and had been so enthralled by her that he only managed to shout "ball", "you", "me" and "dancing" at her, to which she only huffed and left.

Hermione noted that Ron's social skills weren't much better even without the girl's effect on him, but still thought it was kind of mean to treat Ron like that, even though they were currently not on good terms with the third part of their trio.

Hermione was surprised when Harry asked her a day later if she could help him learn to dance in the remaining two and a half weeks, so that he wouldn't have to be too ashamed out there. He had intended to ask her for a book, but she took it upon her to teach him in person. Life was good for a while.

They were having lots of fun together, and with meeting in empty classrooms at evenings, holding each other in their arms as they were moving to the music and talking, one thing led to another, and a week into the practice; they finally exchanged a gentle first kiss, with a few more to follow.

They spent the rest of the evening talking and making a few decisions about themselves. Most importantly, they decided unanimously to keep their dating under cover, for now.

There were various reasons for that. Both had still hopes that Ron would grow up and come around, and because Ron had a problem with changing situations, they wanted to avoid a shouting match with him. They thought that it was better to ease Ron into the concept of them being together after the ball.

Also, they chose to honour their promises and to attend with their partners. Both found it bad form to dump them a week before the dance. Of course, that didn't mean that the wouldn't share some dances, or talk with each other, since they would be sitting at the same table, anyway.

This decision also solidified their other joint decision to keep their dating secret, as the gossip mill and Skeeter would have a field day if they were seen dating and then showed up to the dance with different partners. Hermione could vividly imagine the headlines about the scandalous tri- or more angled relationship of the Boy Who Lived and didn't really want to experience that. Harry hadn't even thought about that, and didn't care much about the press, but since Hermione and Padma would be dragged through the dirt as well, he agreed to her reasoning.

A few days before the dance, Ron had a major falling out with the two of them when he decided to grant Hermione with his presence at the ball, in the most insulting manner possible. After telling Ron off in a very spectacular manner, although with very vocal help from Harry, Hermione had run off into her dorm, not being seen again until the next morning, but glaring at Ron whenever he crossed her sight. After this display being witnessed by several girls in Gryffindor, rumour about him being a chauvinist jerk spread rapidly, and in the end, Ron had to go single - which he did - grudgingly, but happy to have more time for his true love, the buffet.

ooOOoo

Hermione was running through the dark, torch-lit halls of Hogwarts, her blue periwinkle evening gown rustling as she darted along. The staccato of her medium height heels was only interrupted by her opening and slamming of doors. Tears of panic were streaming down her cheeks, the mascara leaving a pattern of utter distraught visible on them.

After having looked in what felt like the fiftieth room, she found Harry in an abandoned tiny classroom, full of unused furniture, up on fifth floor. Being in extreme panic already, she slipped in, fearing the worst. But all her fears didn't even come close to what she saw. Harry just sat there, in a recessed windowsill, his back towards her, staring out into the dark. She could have coped with everything, screaming, tears - even hexes would have been fine with her, but not that.

"Harry?" she asked tentatively. No answer.

"Please? Talk to me," she tried again, her voice hitching badly as she couldn't fight the tears. Still silence.

She went around and sat in front of him, bending forward to grab his hands. "Please, Harry - talk to me. Scream, yell, whatever. But say something!"

Finally, he raised his head and answered. "And what would you like to hear, Granger?" His voice was cold, bare of any emotion, no trace of the compassionate young man that she had learned to know and love. Heavy sobs overcame her as she learned how much damage she had caused.

"I don't know, I ..." she pressed out between sobs.

"How about why?" Harry hissed.

For a few heartbeats, Hermione wanted to lie to him, tell him anything but the truth, but she knew that he would sense that. And he deserved better. 'It's my fault - I have to make this right,' she thought, and hung her head in shame. "Ron," she whispered.

"What?" he yelled at her, making her cringe.

"He had been so m-mean about me going with Victor to the dance, and no one would never even think about touching an ugly girl like me..." she choked, and had to stop talking and sobbed for a few seconds. She had so hoped for a hug, a caress, some consoling from him, but Harry hadn't moved an inch, he just emotionless waited for her to continue.

"When the evening was over, Victor insisted on escorting me back to the dorm. We were just saying goodbye, and he was thanking me for a wonderful evening, kissing my hand when Ron arrived there, and... and... and..."

Harry didn't even flinch when she stumbled over her story, having to swallow a sob before pulling herself together.

"He was awful. He smirked at me and proclaimed for everyone present that he was right - no one would ever want to kiss me. Victor took offence to that, proclaiming that Ron was a blind imbecile and wrapped me in his arms and proceeded to kiss me," Hermione tried to recount the events as they had occurred.

"So he kissed you?" Harry huffed. "You do remember I am no longer blind as a bat, right?"

"I... I... I just froze, I wasn't thinking! I was so thankful for him defending me, and... my mind just went blank... and Ron was getting so mad for being proven wrong right to his face and all the people, by his idol..." she rambled, visibly deflating as she wound up to a confession.

"And I don't know what came over me and I... I kissed him back... I'm so sorry, I didn't think about it," she sobbed.

"No, you didn't", Harry huffed. "Or I wouldn't have run into my girlfriend snogging another guy right in the hallway!" he yelled at her.

"I'm sorry," she bawled, "I didn't mean to, I was tired, still giddy from the ball, and then Ron ruined all of it and Victor stepped in... I was just reacting to the moment before my mind kicked back in. By the time I came to my senses and realized what I was doing, you were standing there..."

What she did not need to say was that by the time she had noticed him, he was already in the process of bolting from the spot he had been rooted to.

"Yeah, right. And what if I hadn't been there? How long would you have been going on before you would have had this epiphany?" Harry growled.

Hermione wanted to protest, but deflated the moment she tried. "I... I... I don't know. I wasn't thinking, I was mad at Ron, it was all so confusing," she replied, looking around in despair while gesticulating helplessly.

"So you cheated on me because of Ron?" he spat bitterly, and turned away to look out of the window.

"I didn't cheat, it was a stupid..." she began, and caught herself, admitting her fault. "No, it was me being stupid. I made an unbelievable stupid mistake. Please, forgive me," she begged.

"I can't," he said, not even looking at her. "It hurts! Even more now that I know it wasn't even affection, but a petty one-up against Ron! In front of all those people in the hallway!"

Sobbing, she threw herself on her knees before him, hugging him and crying into his dress robes. She had heard her own dress rip on the rough floor, but didn't care. 'Damn you, Hermione, you nearly lost him to the dragon and then you had to be so damn stupid - I can't lose him, I can't! I need him,' she mentally yelled at herself as she cried on his lap. For a few seconds, she let her tears fall freely, before she tried a last, desperate plead. "Please, forgive me, Harry. I - I'll do everything, whatever you want, just forgive me."

"What do you think could make me want to forgive that? What do you think you could do to make me forget you slobbering all over another guy?" he asked, enraged, as hhis head snapped around to face her, for the first time since she had entered. He had been quite tense, for an understandable readon, and the quick motion had caused his neck to lock up a bit from that. He ignored it for a few seconds to glare at her, but it quickly turned annoying. With a quick jerk, he cricked his neck to make it stop. He continued to stare at her for a second, but then turned away from her, again.

Trough her mascara-stained, burning tears, Hermione had problems seeing anything in more than a blurry outline, the only thing she was sure of was him staring down at her, pausing as if in thought, and then doing some kind of head jerk. As he turned away, she glanced in the direction of the jerk, and saw a large couch over there, nestled between some stacked chairs and tables.

For a fraction of a second, her brain went into shock. 'He wouldn't!' she thought, 'He can't be asking for that! Harry would never do that!'

Panic raced through her as she considered the matter. She had known that Harry doesn't forgive betrayal anymore since his encounter with the dragon, as Ron and many others who tried to apologize since the first task have learned the hard way.

She had realized back then, in the infirmary, that Harry was the only thing that made this life worth living, her only friend, and now even boyfriend thanks to some strange quirks of luck she still couldn't believe have happened. And now she had driven him away by being so stupid to let herself being goaded into showing up Ron by snogging Krum, and completely forgetting in her petty rage what this would do to Harry.

She didn't even think one second about him when she pounced at the chance to make Ron to eat his words, and this would lose her the only love she knew, her first and best friend, a boy that risked his own life to save her without even really knowing her. If she lost Harry, she would be completely alone. And all of this just because she wanted to knock down a jerk like Ron. And she couldn't even honestly dispute that she would have stopped Krum right there, it was so intense and she went along and who knows. Of course he was pissed and would want her to earn his forgiveness. And what could be more appropriate than the biggest display of trust possible. 'It's cruel, but only fair, I guess,' she sadly thought.

Nodding to herself, she slowly rose with a sigh. While walking over to the couch, she undid the zipper on her back, letting the soft fabric fall and pool around her legs. Not breaking stride, she stepped out of it and continued forward, ignoring the cold as she was left in only her knickers. She blushed at being exposed like that in front of a male, even if he right now could only see her back, but was resolved to make things right again.

She had at first been wary about her dress having inbuilt support and dreaded a wardrobe malfunction, but after a few test-runs in her dorm room, she had grown confident that she provided enough 'anchoring' for the dress not to slip. Right now, she felt insecure if those two 'anchors' were big enough to hold Harry's interest.

Arriving at the couch she gave a last sigh, and quickly dropped her knickers, and sat down on the couch. Her eyes closed firmly in shame; she let herself come to rest on her left side, assuming what she hoped to be a favourable pose. "I'm yours, if you still want me," she said in a broken voice, her eyes still firmly shut in an attempt to keep from sobbing.

After a few moments of silence, she jumped as something soft touched her shoulder, and then the rest of her body. A deep sigh escaped her as she identified it to be a blanket of some sort, falling on top of her, giving her the cover she had so much yearned for. For a moment she enjoyed the feeling of safety, before a thought crashed her relief. 'He rejected me!'

Horrified, she opened her eyes and sat up, re-exposing her breasts and not giving a damn about it, as she sought out Harry with her eyes. There he was, at the open door, looking at her. "I still do. We'll talk here tomorrow, at seven," he said, and left.

It took a few seconds for the meaning of his last cryptic words to reach her stunned centre of conscience, and hot tears of relief soaked the old quilt she hugged to her chest.

ooOOoo

AN:

"Your mother," his wife told DerLaCroix, who sat at the pc, exchanging some papers with pfeil and embirsiphonelilathia, handing him the ringing phone.

"Hy darling, we just got a package delivered for you to the company, did you expect one?" the voice at the other end spoke as DerLaCroix answered the call.

"Sure! I've been waiting for this package already," DerLaCroix answered happily.

"Then come and fetch it - there's no way I'll get this heavy thing into the car and deliver it. What have you in there? An anvil?" the other voice squeaked.

DerLaCroix had the grace to blush. "Aaaahmm, actually… Yes…"

(It's even funnier, considering that this really happened…)

ooOOoo

Again, a big Thank You to my betas, pfeil and embirsiphonelilathia, who help my pathetic sputtering make sense.

Sorry that this update took so long, but my life has gotten even more hectic lately. But I have finally managed have some breakthroughs with my lands and it seems like everything is approaching normality again. (As far as someone like me can ever reach that state.)

So, flame on - and for those who think Hermione would never stoop that low, one word - McLaggen. Only that Krum is used to girls throwing themselves at him and willing to use this to his advantage.