Blush (Chapter 4)

At first, no one spoke.

“Harry,” Ron finally breathed, turning to face his friend, who was still flushed, green eyes glittering with fury at the receding backs of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.

Harry expelled a long breath. It was only by a sheer act of willpower that he had managed to refrain from hexing the Slytherins into a giant three-headed mass of bubotuber pus. He slowly withdrew his hand from his pocket, where it had been clenched tightly around his wand, and flexed it.

“You okay?” Ron was peering worriedly at him as if Harry had suddenly announced a plan to move to Romania and take up dragon farming.

“Yeah.” Harry sat down heavily. Hermione was gaping at him also; he didn’t even want to think about what she would say when they were finally alone.

“That bloody git.” Ron glared at the spot by the doorway where Malfoy’s black robes had finally vanished from view. He shook his head angrily. “Look, Harry, you don’t have to do this just because Malfoy is a raging bastard –”

“That’s not why I’m doing it,” Harry said simply. Ron looked at him blankly.

Harry couldn’t explain it. Ron might not be himself these days, but he was still Ron, and they’d be making snow angels in hell the day Harry let Draco Malfoy get the better of him.

Harry sighed and grinned ruefully. “Ron. This is us we’re talking about. You’d do the same for me, you nitwit.”

Ron’s freckled face broke into a huge smile.

“Now go ask your sister to be in your band before half the fourth-years find out her hidden talent, will you?” Harry inclined his head in the direction of Ginny’s, which was easily visible as the only red one among a group of fourth-years at the other end of the table.

Ron looked as if he was about to explode with gratitude. “You’re the best, Harry, you know that?” he beamed, then grabbed his bag and dashed for the opposite end of the Gryffindor table.

Harry looked across the table at Hermione, bracing himself for what he might see when he finally met her gaze. A reproachful look at having given in to Ron’s lunacy, maybe. Criticism at committing himself to yet another activity. Anger at watching him lose his temper at Draco Malfoy when he really should know better by now. He had a sudden vision of Hermione, in their first year, glaring after him as he mounted his broom to go after Draco and Neville’s Remembrall. Her words floated into his mind with perfect clarity: “What an idiot.”

He wasn’t prepared for what he saw instead.

Hermione’s eyes were shining with tears; she was smiling at him.

Harry blinked in astonishment. “You all right?”

Hermione looked abashed. She flushed pink and wiped her eyes. “Yes, I — I’m sorry. That was — so nice of you, Harry.”

It was Harry’s turn to go pink.

Voices were now chattering eagerly from Ginny’s end of the table. Apparently Ron’s proposal was causing quite a stir. Heads were beginning to swivel in Harry’s direction. It was not often that Famous Harry Potter could do something without creating some kind of buzz.

“D’you want to get out of here?” Hermione said quietly.


Harry had never been more grateful for Hermione’s uncanny ability to read his mind.

Without another word the two of them gathered their books, Harry grabbing a few of the sandwiches which had appeared on the golden tableware, Hermione snatching up two apples and a handful of pumpkin cookies. Quietly, they slipped out of the Great Hall and into the afternoon sunlight.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A buttery light was flooding the grassy lawn outside the castle as Harry and Hermione pushed open the vast oak front doors and made their way across the grounds. Harry knew where they were going without having to say anything. It was where he and Hermione often went when they had something important to talk about, but it was also where they went when they didn’t want to talk at all.

A brisk fall breeze was blowing across the surface of the lake when they reached their usual spot, a smooth knoll sheltered from the wind by a pair of giant shade trees, neither of which bore any relation to a Whomping Willow. Dappled light fell through the trees and bathed the grass with bright splotches of sun; the giant squid was visible at the far end of the lake, sending the occasional jet of water high into the air. Harry took off his robe and laid it on the grass, set his bag down, and rummaged for the food in his pack while Hermione did the same. They were soon munching on ham and cheese, apples, and cookies, gazing contentedly at the giant squid and the deep green mass of forest far beyond the lake.

Though he had been seething with rage just half an hour before, Harry now felt oddly at peace. His heart fluttered in the familiar way that it did whenever he was alone with Hermione, but he didn’t mind so much at the moment. He glanced over at Hermione, who was lying back on her elbows finishing an apple, her long brown-gold curls splayed across the grass. She was wearing her usual white blouse, grey uniform sweater and grey skirt, but had undone her Gryffindor house tie and kicked off her black school shoes. The sun was falling across her face and Harry noticed a faint dusting of freckles across her nose and the tops of her cheeks, which were rosy from the crisp breeze. She looked up at him, and he felt his heart thud hard against his sweater.

“Thanks for not being mad at me,” said Harry.

Hermione averted her eyes briefly. “I was mad, at first. But I know why you did it.”

Harry gave his finished apple core a lazy toss; they watched it drop into the shallows of the lake with a satisfying plunk. “I dunno why Ron wants me to do this band thing, really. But it’s Ron, you know, and I — we — never get to see him anymore.”

Hermione nodded. “I know. I just worry about you, is all. We have so much work this year, and you’re smart, Harry, and you’ve been doing well in classes so far, and…” She trailed off apologetically. “Well you know how I am. I worry about that kind of thing.”

“I do too,” Harry admitted. “I was pretty freaked out about the O.W.L.’s all summer.”

“Oh Harry, you don’t need to be that worried!”

“Well exams don’t come easily for me, like they do for you. If I could play Quidditch for my exams, I’d have no problem with them.”

Hermione gave him an earnest smile. “Harry, you know I’ll always help you with studying. We can work together all term if you like.”

“That’d be really nice.” Harry grinned back at her.

Hermione looked down, flushing slightly. “Want to know something, though?”

“What?” Harry dug around in Hermione’s pack and brought out the last pumpkin cookie, then broke it in half and offered a piece to Hermione. She took it, then took a deep breath.

“I wish studying wasn’t the only thing I was good at. I’ve always wanted to try Quidditch,” Hermione said quietly. “It looks so exciting! I’m a hopeless chicken at flying, though.”

Harry almost choked on his last half of pumpkin cookie. “Hermione! Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“I — I thought you’d laugh.”

“I’m not laughing!”

“I think you’re rubbing off on me, mostly.” Hermione’s eyes were bright. “You’ve shown me that there are other things in life besides books and classes.”

“Shh! I won’t tell anyone you said that.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and punched him lightly on the arm.

“Ow.” Harry grinned.

“Really,” she said. “That’s why I can’t be mad at you for helping Ron. Friends are just more important than homework.”

Harry’s heart swelled. He wanted so badly to tell Hermione that her friendship was not like anything else he’d known, how being near her made him want to lose himself in every bit of her, down to the inkstains on her left index finger.

“Yeah,” he said. “They are.”

Their eyes locked for an infinite second. Harry’s heart was pounding again, his head strangely light.

“I — I have an idea,” he managed.

Hermione blinked. “Oh?”

“Let me teach you Quidditch.”

Hermione’s eyes were shining. “Well I’d love to, but… Harry, I don’t know, that’s even more work for you.”

“It won’t be. I have to work out what I’ll do for the team’s Quidditch practice anyway, so I have to spend the time training. I can try out my ideas for practice on you. You can be my guinea pig.”

“Your guinea pig?”

Harry grinned at her impishly. “Would you rather be my flobberworm?”

Hermione gave him a long, deadpan stare. “Only if you’ll be my Blast-Ended Skrewt.”

Both of them doubled over with laughter.

“Deal,” said Harry finally, wiping his eyes and mopping his glasses with his sweater.

Hermione sat up again and hugged her knees to her chest. “I like the idea of knowing I won’t have to go through this term cooped up alone in the library.”

“Me too.” Harry sighed. “Now, the only thing I’ll be dreading will be the Ron Weasley Three-Ring Circus Act.”

Hermione dissolved into giggles again, falling backwards onto the grass. “I can’t believe it,” she laughed. “You were brilliant. The Marauders!”

Harry was suddenly struck with the sheer ridiculousness of what had happened at lunch. He fell back onto the grass next to Hermione, helpless with laughter. They both lay under the trees for a few moments, giggling, the trees overhead nodding gently in the breeze. Harry turned his head to look at her and saw that she’d done the same, her face inches from his, her brown curls mingling with his messy black hair. Their laughter faded; he caught his breath. Time slid to a stop. Hermione lay still, her doelike brown eyes fixed on his, her long eyelashes tipped with gold in the sun.

Harry felt himself move imperceptibly closer and incline his face towards Hermione’s. Her eyes were wide, unreadable. His entire body surged with a single thought. He could smell Hermione’s hair, the fresh grass beneath them, a lingering trace of apples and pumpkin cookies.

What was he doing? Harry looked away quickly, the shade trees above them partially obscuring the bright robin’s egg sky. He felt his cheeks burn with color.

Hermione sat up beside him and started to scramble to her feet. “It’s time for class,” she said breathlessly. Harry nodded, struggling to his knees, and began shaking out his robe. What was happening? He felt as though six hammers were pounding behind his ribs. His head was whirling. He had been half a breath from doing something completely unthinkable.

He had almost kissed his best friend.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Right,” said Ron, looking up as Ginny closed the door of the practice room. “Let’s get started then!”

It was a bright Sunday morning, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione were seated on folding chairs in a large room with shiny wood floors and one wall full of rickety cabinets and shelves. They were in an unfamiliar wing of the castle, the Southeast Turret, which housed the Hogwarts Music and Art departments, a few spare rooms for castle guests, and three rather dilapidated hallways that smelled suspiciously of butterbeer. The music department was headquartered in a long hallway that curved around one side of the turret, with many identical practice rooms radiating from it like slices of pie. Professor Trebble, the school’s quiet, eccentric music professor, had an office at one end of the hallway. He was rarely seen by students outside the music department, but odd squeaks, warbles, and trills emanated from his office at all hours.

Hermione had insisted on going to the first band practice to cheer them on. She hadn’t said anything to Harry about what had happened that afternoon by the lake, but Harry had found himself replaying those few breathless moments over again in his mind all week. Hermione was still acting perfectly normally towards him, however, and they had walked together to the Southeast Turret, chatting about their Care of Magical Creatures assignment. When Harry and Hermione had arrived, they found Ron already rummaging in the music room cabinets, a variety of strange-looking instruments spread out across the raised platform at the back of the room where a drum set was already assembled. They’d all sat down to wait for Ginny, Harry studying the display of instruments curiously. Most of them looked familiar, but some looked like odd half-cousins to Muggle instruments, as if someone had cut up an orchestra into pieces and stuck all the wrong bits together again.

Ginny entered and took a seat next to them, smiling shyly, and going a bit red as she always did when Harry smiled back at her. Harry looked from the drum set to Ginny and back again. Tiny, quiet little Ginny Weasley was about to accompany her brother by smacking very loud hollow objects with sticks?

“Okay.” Ron stood up and opened a long case on the floor beside him. He pulled out what looked like a battered electric guitar, bright red with a white faceplate, similar to one Harry had once seen in his cousin’s room before Dudley had smashed it into a television in imitation of a Muggle music video. Ron slung the guitar’s strap over his shoulder and pulled his wand out of his pocket.

“Now you all know that when Muggles use these guitars, they plug them into electric amplificators.”

“Amplifiers.” Hermione couldn’t help herself. Ron shot her a reproachful look.

“Right. Now my dad’s quite interested in Muggle music, he showed me how wizards use enchantments to make their instruments sound like electric guitars and ampli– ” He checked himself. “Amps.”

Ron cleared his throat authoritatively and continued. “So this is a muggle guitar I’ve got here, converted to act like a wizard instrument. It’s a little beat up, ‘cos it belonged to Charlie first, but it sounds okay. Here’s how you use it.”

He pointed his wand at the guitar and tapped once. “Amplificatus.”

A few green sparks shot from the guitar with a loud crack; a wisp of acrid yellowish smoke curled from the spot where Ron’s wand had been. There was an earsplitting buzz which made Harry and Hermione flinch abrubtly. The buzz immediately quieted to a faint hum.

Ron gave them an embarrassed grin. “It always does that. Works fine once you start it up.” He grasped the neck of the guitar with his free hand. “Now, there are all kinds of spells you can cast on an enchanted instrument to make it sound different. My dad’s got a great collection of Muggle music, so I happen to like this one.”

Ron shook his wand once, gave a small flourish, tapped the guitar again, and muttered, “Psychodelectus Hendrixis.”

A tiny jet of green lightning shot from the end of Ron’s wand and onto the guitar strings. The lightning crackled up and down the strings, flared suddenly into a blinding green flash, and blinked out. The guitar was quiet again, still humming faintly.

“That one’s named for a wizard who used to perform in the Muggle world under a fake name,” explained Ron, ignoring the stunned looks on Harry and Hermione’s faces. “It was a big controversy in the Ministry of Magic back then, a wizard performing at Muggle festivals — ”

“Just play something, Ron!”

Ginny seemed unruffled by this display of bizarre magic and was looking at Ron impatiently.

“All right, all right, I’m getting there, Gin!” Ron turned back to Harry and Hermione. Harry was rooted to his folding chair. He didn’t think he could possibly be more shocked than he was already.

He was wrong.

“Here we go then.” Ron sighed, put his wand back into his pocket, and started to play.

The noise that ripped out of Ron’s guitar was like nothing Harry had ever heard in his life. It was like a violent electrical storm striking enormous waves on a beach, soaring up into an explosion of stars and comets and flaming golden hawks. Ron’s fingers flew up and down the guitar’s neck as if commanded by some alien force. His entire body was rocking in time with the beat he’d just conjured from nowhere, his face at first contorted with concentration, but then ecstatic and lost in the music. He sailed through the blistering melody twice, kicked into the riff a third time and began to sing along, his voice reedy and rough but a perfect fit for the barely controlled chaos erupting from the red guitar.

“Purple haze, all in my brain… Lately things don’t seem the same. Acting funny, but I don’t know why… ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy!”

Ginny broke into uncontrollable giggles. Ron’s guitar made an undignified squawk and the wave of music stopped abruptly. Ron stared at Ginny. “What?”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “It’s kiss the sky.”

“Oh. Er… right.” Ron flushed scarlet.

Harry realized he hadn’t been able to form a single coherent thought since Ron had picked up his guitar. He felt like his jaw was hanging so far open he’d never be able to close it again. Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Hermione was struck with a similar slack-jawed expression.

Ron shifted from one foot to another. “Well. So…. um. What do you think?”

Hermione gulped.

Harry blinked. He tried to say something, but the only noise that came out of his mouth was “Gaah.”

Ron fidgeted with the guitar strap. “It’s alright. You’re my friends, you can tell me if I’m no good. I’ve never had lessons.”

Harry found he had use of his voice again.

“For fuck’s sake, Ron,” he croaked. “That was bloody fantastic.”

Ron’s face lit up like one of Professor Flitwick’s Christmas lights. “Honest?”

“Do I look like I’m putting you on? I’m trying to find where my brain’s gone because it about blew through the top of my head when you started playing that thing.”

Ron was beaming, heartily embarrassed. “It’s just a hobby, really. Y’reckon Emma will think I’m any good?”

“Ron.” Harry looked at him fixedly. “If Emma doesn’t eat her own socks when she hears you play, I’ll kiss Moaning Myrtle.”

Ginny burst into giggles again. Hermione was still staring at Ron as if he’d just announced his own wedding to Professor Snape.

“One thing, though,” Harry said gravely. “I might have to kill you before we go any further.”

“What? Why?”

“For not telling me about this for five whole years, you ruddy git!” Harry thundered.

Ginny was still laughing; Ron turned even more red. “Er… Sorry about that. We’ve always been, you know, kind of… busy.”

The practice room door flew open with a bang, and they all jumped. Ron stumbled backwards and looked around wildly for the intruder.

“Sorry, Ron, sorry, did I miss anything?”

It was Neville Longbottom. Ron broke into a grin as Neville’s round face appeared in the doorway, flushed and breathing hard. Neville trotted into the practice room, a large, misshapen carrying case slung awkwardly over his shoulder which caused him to stumble several times on the way.

“I couldn’t find the Southeast Turret,” Neville panted, slinging his lumpy burden onto the floor and pulling up a folding chair. “I wound up in the Astronomy Tower, but Seamus was in there with some girl, and I think I startled them something awful. I hope he forgives me.”

Harry raised an eyebrow at Ron. Neville, in the band? Harry wasn’t aware Neville had any talents besides herbology and forgetting the Gryffindor passwords. Harry reminded himself never again to assume he knew everything about his friends after what had happened this morning.

“It’s no problem, Neville, we were just getting started,” said Ron. “Harry, Neville and I were talking about the contest last night, and it turns out he plays the Flanimus. I’ve asked him to join us.”

“The what?” Harry was beginning to take these surprises in stride, but he goggled as Neville opened his carrying case and pulled out a truly bizarre object.

It looked like an old-fashioned electric guitar, made of wood, with a white faceplate and a yellow sunburst pattern on the body. All similarities to a regular guitar ended at the neck, however, which was twisted like a tuba into intricate loops. Neville picked up the instrument and Harry saw that the twisted neck was like a strange molded strap, which coiled around Neville’s shoulders and waist. Neville patted the instrument, which Harry assumed was a Flanimus, pulled his wand out of his pocket, and looked around expectantly. “Are we starting then?”

“Just a minute, Neville,” said Ron. “Let me get Harry set up. Why don’t you and Ginny get ready? Hermione, you sure you don’t want to try this?”

“Oh, quite sure,” said Hermione quickly. “Happy to watch!”

Harry gave her a nervous grin as he followed Ron to the platform, where Ron had laid out the other instruments. Hermione gave him a tentative thumbs-up in return.

“Now these four here are bass guitars,” said Ron as Harry leaned over to study the instruments lined up on the platform. “I took out these two Fatellos also, and this Robotuss, but I’m thinking you’ll like the regular bass better, ‘cos it’s more like a Muggle instrument.”

Harry nodded. “I’ll trust you on this one.”

“So just pick one you like, and I’ll enchant it for you until you learn to do it yourself.”

Harry studied the four bass guitars on the platform. Two of them were extremely heavy-looking, each almost the size of a first-year student; Harry couldn’t imagine struggling under their weight in front of the whole school. The third was a horrendous pea green color and seemed to be the shape of a large daisy. Thankfully, the fourth was a very plain dark blue and nearly guitar-shaped, though a little larger. Harry reached for it without hesitation.

“Good choice,” said Ron.

Harry picked up the bass and saw that it had a shoulder strap like Ron’s guitar. He slung it over his head and adjusted it so that the bass hung at the right height for him to play the strings.

“But Ron,” he muttered. “I can’t read music or anything.”

“You don’t need to,” Ron said breezily. “You just think what you want to play, and it sort of happens. It’s part musical talent, but partly how strong you are at magic. Knowing you,” he said, giving Harry a wry smile, “you’ll do just fine at the second part.”

Ron pulled out his wand. “Now, you see if you can turn that on yourself.”

Harry pulled out his own wand, pointed it at the bass, and muttered, “Amplificatus.” The instrument gave a relutcant twitch, then began humming imperceptibly.

“Good,” said Ron approvingly. “Now, this next charm is a little harder, but I’m sure you can do it with practice. The trick is learning all the different charms to change the sound of your instrument and then switching them while you’re playing. All the really great wizard musicians can do that. I’m workin’ on it meself, requires attatching your wand to the instrument somehow. It’s quite tricky, I shouldn’t think you’ll need to get that far.”

Harry shook his head. “No, I’m just shooting for standing in front of the school without looking like an enormous idiot.”

Ron grinned. “Okay then. Here’s the charm I was thinking you could use.” He waved his own wand at Harry’s bass, then touched it and said clearly, “Thundarus Lesharat.”

Glowing purple ooze spread from the tip of Ron’s wand and seemed to engulf the bass. Harry moved his hand away quickly as the ooze spread over the instrument, but Ron chuckled. “It’s alright. Just a spell, it’s not real.” The thick purple glow faded as he spoke and the bass rumbled contentedly before quieting again to a hum.

“I like that one,” grinned Harry.

“Okay, now think about what you’re going to play. Try this.” Ron put away his wand, pulled a small guitar pick out of his pocket, and played a slow melody on his guitar. Harry concentrated, trying to memorize the melody as Ron was playing. Ron stopped abruptly and tossed him a pick. “Let’s hear it then.”

Harry slowly touched the pick to the strings of the bass. The bass gave a great intimidating rumble. Um, Harry thought. Right. What was that tune again? He closed his eyes and thought as hard as he could, trying to remember the notes Ron had played. The bass was quiet. Just as he was about to open his eyes and admit defeat, he heard Ron play the notes again. That’s easy, said a voice in Harry’s head, and before Harry knew what was happening, the bass was booming the same notes in accompaniment.

“Great!” beamed Ron. “That’s really good, Harry, I knew you’d get it fast.”

Harry looked down. His fingers were playing along with the notes he’d heard in his head. He wasn’t quite sure how it had happened. “It was almost like I could hear someone in my head talk back to me,” he said, puzzled, uncurling his fingers from the instrument.

“Oh yeah,” said Ron. “That’ll be the bass. You’ve got to work together with your instrument, of course. Playing with other people is sort of the same. Let’s try something with Ginny and Neville.”

Harry doggedly climbed up onto the platform after Ron, where Ginny and Neville were already setting up. Neville seemed to be hunting around for something on the ground.

“I’ve lost me pick,” said Neville, peering at the floorboards.

“Don’t worry, Neville, there’s a whole jar of them over here,” said Ginny, waving at a shelf with her drumstick.

Ron waited until Neville had found a new pick, then addressed the three of them. “Okay. Now to play together, we’ve just got to do a quick charm to get our instruments in tune. It’s ‘Harmonius,’ Harry. We’ll just say it together on the count of three. Ready? One, two, three.”

“Harmonius,” they chorused.

There was a melodic hum as a tiny golden stream of light instantly materialized and darted back and forth between the four of them, twining around Neville’s Flanimus, bouncing across Ginny’s drums, ricocheting from Harry’s bass and finally curling itself around Ron’s guitar, where it vanished.

“Ooo,” Hermione said reverently from her seat across the room.

“I told you this would be fun,” Ron mumbled to Harry.

“Let’s do Sgt. Pepper,” said Ginny, who was bouncing in her seat with excitement.

“I know that one,” beamed Neville proudly. “That’s one I haven’t forgotten.”

Harry knew it too. He had lived in the Muggle world for fifteen years, after all, and he was now quite thankful for all the times he’d rescued Dudley’s discarded CD’s and records from the trash. This album was one of his favorites, though it felt quite odd to be discussing it at Hogwarts.

“All right,” said Harry. “One minute, let me think about how the first song goes.”

“You won’t need to think once we start,” said Ron. “Ready? One, two, three, four.”

A wave of noise exploded from Ron, Ginny, and Neville. It was tremendous. Ginny was pounding the drums like a whirlwind, her long red hair flying in all directions as her head bobbed in time to the music, the massive beat thundering somehow from her tiny form as her drumsticks flashed gold in her hands. Neville’s instrument was blaring like a guitar and a horn section all at once, and looked nearly impossible to play. His face was red with concentration as he groped for different parts of the Flanimus, reaching for a long silver tube which hung from the neck and blowing into it every few seconds. And Ron was soaring again, making a fantastic noise which somehow merged with the other sounds and drove them forward together. Harry put his pick to his bass, his mind blank.

It’s me again, he thought stupidly at the bass. And, er, I know this song. It goes like this.

He thought through the opening notes of the melody. Nothing happened.

Listen, said the voice in his head, which Harry now recognized as his bass. Listen to the others. Your magic is strong. It’s too strong for me to hear anything through it.

Harry closed his eyes and listened, attempting to quiet his own thoughts. He felt the great noise in the room assaulting him like a solid wall of music. But it wasn’t quite a wall, he thought. If he listened closely enough, he could hear what each person was playing. He could hear all the parts of the whole.

Now find your place, said the voice.

Harry could suddenly almost hear, through the distracting music, a noise that was missing. It was simple, but solid, like an anchor. And just as soon as he heard the noise, he realized it was coming from him. His eyes flew open.

Ron was grinning enormously at him. Harry was plunking a steady melody on the bass, almost afraid to move. He couldn’t help himself and grinned back triumphantly. The sound they were producing sounded almost exactly like the song from the album Harry remembered. Harry could tell that what he was playing was nothing exciting compared to what the other three were doing, but he was doing his job nonetheless. He didn’t want to lose his part now. Relax, said the voice in his mind.

Ron was dancing in place to the music, and to Harry’s great delight, Neville was bobbing up and down as well. He felt his own knees loosen and his head start to bob back and forth. He almost couldn’t help it. Ron turned to face them and began to sing roughly, “It was twenty years ago today…”

Now that Harry knew what enchanted instruments were like, he couldn’t believe Ron could sing and play one at the same time. He was so involved in the music that he came to his senses with a painful jolt when the song came to an end.

Harry blinked and looked around. Ron, Neville, and Ginny were smiling jubilantly at each other. Hermione looked thunderstruck. She was beaming at him from her folding chair. Harry hopped off the platform and hurried over to her.

“That was amazing,” she said excitedly as he reached her side. “You did it, Harry! I can see why Ron wanted to enter the contest!”

“I know,” said Harry. “I can’t believe it!”

“Oi, Harry!” called Ron. “Come on back up here, will you? We’re going to try it again.”

Hermione’s eyes were shining. Harry looked at her, her soft curls in disarray, her face glowing with pride, and was suddenly overcome by the strange feeling he’d had just a few days ago by the lake. His stomach flopped over twice.

“Thanks for watching us, Hermione,” he said quietly.

Hermione flushed. “Oh Harry,” she murmured. “Don’t be silly.”

“Come on, Harry!” called Ginny, breaking into a quick drum fill with a flourish.

“Right,” breathed Harry. He turned, his stomach still quivering, and walked back to the platform with his bass.

She’s cute, said the now-familiar voice in his head.

Oh shut up, thought Harry, grinning and turning pink in spite of himself.


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