Harry awoke early the next day. He had been dreaming all night about the match, the new instructions that Professor Sprout had left with them, about why she, and all of the other professors seemed so worried, and of course about Hermione. They had almost gotten caught last night. They were still out on the blanket when they saw Dumbledore, McGonnagol and Snape rounding the top of the hill that overlooked the lake. They had quickly gotten up, grabbed up the blanket, bottle, and mugs and hidden behind a tree until the three were out of sight, and then made their way stealthily back to the school.
Harry padded downstairs softly that morning to sit in front of the fire, still blazing warmly in the common room. As he sprawled out in one of the plush chairs, staring into the orange flames, his mind began to wander. He could see himself in the future… possibly playing major league Quidditch for a few years, with Ron on the same team (Harry smiled fondly), and later married, maybe becoming an Auror, or working underground for some defense league against dark magic. He thought of his future with Hermione and wondered where their relationship would lead them.
He smiled warmly as he remembered kissing and holding her last night, among other things not quite as mentionable.(I don’t mean they went that far! ;0) ) It had been warm out, with a light breeze; the kind of night that almost drugged you to sleep. As Harry and Hermione cuddled on the blanket, neither remembered falling asleep until Hermione awoke with a start and glanced at her watch. It was already an hour past curfew, but instead of waking Harry at once, she had rested her head on her hand for a few more minutes and watched him sleep. Intermittently, the red heart lying loosely from her neck onto the blanket began to glow. In the dark, with the moon blanketing them, she had made it a point to memorize his face.
His wire-rimmed glasses had fallen onto the blanket beside her, and she tucked them into her robe for safe keeping. His long, dark lashes framed his cheeks, and his mouth was relaxed open. He looked so peaceful. She smiled to herself. She had seen him asleep before. He had fallen asleep one too many times on the couch in the Gryffindor common room. He always seemed to take up the entire area, his long form sprawled out carelessly, arms and legs lying wherever they would. Even now he took up most of the blanket.
Reluctantly, she had woken him up, and just in time too, for just a few moments later, the three professors had come into sight.
Harry remembered both of them making out on the couch in front of the same fire that he stared at now, until one o’clock this morning, when both of them were exhausted and finally headed off to their dorms.
He glanced at his watch. It was only seven now… he could’ve slept for at least another half an hour.
At that moment, a sharp agonizing burning sensation began in his forehead that seemed to explode all around him. As Harry fell from the chair, trying not to scream, he realized that it was his scar. Pain like a white hot poker from the fire seared his forehead. Harry winced and dug his fingers into his hairline, willing the pain to stop, but it kept coming in waves. He felt nauseated; his stomach flipped and churned for what seemed like forever, when in reality, it was only a few minutes. Finally, the pain began to ebb.
When he was able to open his eyes, Harry found that he was lying on the floor, covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He willed his heart and breathing to slow.
At that moment, Ron, stumbling down the stairs and rubbing his eyes, scanned the common room sleepily.
“Harry… you down here? I didn’t see you in your bed…” He glanced towards the fire where Harry usually sat and saw him on the floor, trying to sit up and clutching his forehead.
“Harry!” Ron flew around the couch and threw himself to his knees. He gaped at his friend as he helped him up. “You’re white as a ghost! What happened? I woke up early and I didn’t see you…”
Harry held up a hand to silence Ron for a moment as he tried to find his voice.
“What is it…” said Ron sternly, “Do I need to get Madame Pomfrey? Tell me…”
Harry turned a decidedly pekid face towards Ron. “My scars burning again…” He rested his head in his hands and tried to breathe evenly.
Immediately, Ron tensed, searching Harry’s face. It had been a while since that had last happened; back when Harry had last had to face…
Ron stared at Harry steadily. “Voldemort,” he said quietly.
Harry only had the strength to nod at the moment, closing his eyes as the last wave of nausea passed. Slowly he leaned back on the couch and turned his head to look at his friend.
“Look, don’t tell Hermione,” he managed quietly.
Ron drew his brows together. “Don’t tell her!? Don’t you think she has a right to know!? She…”
“…has enough on her mind already,” finished Harry, closing his eyes again and opening them slowly. “She already knows what she needs to know… Voldemort’s on the move. If we tell her about my scar it’ll just upset her more. It means the same thing.”
Ron set his jaw and gazed at Harry tersely. “Harry, it means he may have someone already on school grounds… You know your scar only hurts when Voldemort or one of his servants are near!”
“Or when I dream about him, or when he’s plotting somewhere and thinking really hard about me… who knows!? I know what it means Ron, which is why I want you to keep an eye on her at the game, just in case. Stick by her… don’t let her be alone,” said Harry.
“But don’t tell her why…” said Ron angrily.
Harry sighed. “I understand why you’re mad. I don’t like keeping things from her either, but we talked last night Ron.. about Voldemort and I. She was in tears… worried sick. She doesn’t need anymore.”
Harry paused and sat staring into the fire, thinking. He felt Ron’s steady gaze on him, trying to think the situation through as well.
“So how will we find out what’s going on…”
“I don’t know,” said Harry steadily, “There’s no way to find out until something happens, is there? We’ll just be on our guard. I don’t like this either, but whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”
The rest of the morning went by achingly slow. Harry, Ron and Hermione sat together in their classes; Harry doing his best to avoid the glances and whispers of pity from mostly well-meaning classmates.
Internally, Harry tried various things to calm himself. He needed to keep his mind on the Quidditch match that afternoon and didn’t need the added distraction of talk of Voldemort and constant thoughts of Hermione, although the latter were rather pleasant ones.
In the hallway between every class, he was greeted by Colin Creevey, shadowed by his even smaller brother, Dennis, as he snapped roll upon roll of film and wished Harry good luck in numerous different ways. Each time became more annoying until finally Hermione took Colin aside and explained to him that while Harry really did thank him for the well-wishing, it was quite enough. Colin, resilient as he was, didn’t take the reproach badly, but decided that it might be worth his time to take pictures of the other Quidditch players as well. He bounced off happily, his younger brother skipping to keep up.
“Novel idea,” said Ron sarcastically as Hermione told he and Harry about her conversation.
In Transfiguration class, Harry not only had to put up with pompous glares from Malfoy, but also caught Professor McGonnagol staring at him with an expression of mixed pity and worry right as he was trying to change a bird into a glass bowl. Her expression and the expressions and quick glances from his classmates made Harry turn his bird into more of a deep dished feather pizza. He closed his eyes, sighing through clenched teeth.
Malfoy, of course thought Harry’s discomfort with the attention to be extremely amusing, and leaning towards Harry’s desk, he whispered to him in his trademark hateful way.
“Way to go Potter… Three guesses as to how your game will be today. Voldemort couldn’t have moved at a better time.”
Harry turned a fiery glare his way and spoke to him warningly. “I’d worry about my own game if I were you. Slytherin could use all the help they can get.”
“Not today; not with you as seeker.” Then Malfoy took the opportunity to twist the knife. “And by the way, if Voldemort does show, it’s a sure bet he’ll go for all the mudbloods. He always did want to purge the school. I just hope Granger gets it first.”
Harry felt as if he’d been punched in the chest. Before Malfoy even had a chance to react, Harry flew out of his desk so hard that it crashed to the floor, and ripping Draco from his, punched him hard across the face. It came so suddenly that Malfoy found himself sprawled on the floor. As he gaped up at Harry in shock, he found him straddling over him, his wand inches from his face.
“Harry Potter!” McGonnagol yelled, too shocked to move.
The look of white-hot fury burning on Potter’s face was enough to root Malfoy to the spot. Harry shook with rage. When he spoke his tone was flat and even.
“If you ever say anything like that again… If I ever even hear of it… they can pick up what’s left of you in a glass jar. Do you hear me…”
Malfoy, almost hyperventilating, realized at that moment that he may have gone a tad too far.
The class, including Hermione and Ron, stared at Harry in shocked silence. They had never seen him react so violently before.
“Nod.” Harry spoke through gritted teeth.
Slowly Malfoy nodded that he had heard and understood, but with a look of pure hatred. Harry had sealed their two fates in that one instant for him, and if he wasn’t sure before, he was now. Potter and he would always be enemies.
Harry willed his breathing to slow and swallowed, trying to calm himself. He turned and looked from Hermione, to Ron, to McGonnagol. Quickly he picked up his books and walked out of class.
Malfoy picked himself up from the floor amidst a room full of gaping students and scooting his desk back to its proper position, he sat down slowly.
McGonnagol realized that she had a hand clamped over her mouth and dropped it quickly, assuming control of the class once again, though visibly shaken.
“Mr. Malfoy, do you need to go to Madame Pom…”
“I’m fine,” Malfoy said flatly. He glanced Weasley’s way and noticed he was holding up two fingers.
Twice this week Ron mouthed silently. With a sarcastically blank face, he gave him a thumbs up.
Draco clenched his jaw, and it split his head with pain. He chose to look straight ahead.
McGonnagol struggled to speak. “Ah…I…want this class to continue with your assignments. Miss Patil, I’ll leave you in charge; you did an excellent job… beautiful bowl… I need to step out of class but I will be back momentarily. Until then I expect you all to be on your best behavior. Miss Patil, please.”
The professor gestured Parvarti to the front of the class and walked out quickly in search of Harry.
She found him with some difficulty sitting on the steps of the stairway to the third floor with his head lowered. He didn’t acknowledge her as she sat quietly beside him.
They sat like that for some time, and as it was nearly a half and hour until classes for that period were done, the silence made it all that much more uncomfortable. Finally the professor spoke.
“You scared him.”
Harry looked up as if shaking himself from a dream. “What?”
“You scared him,” repeated McGonnagol patiently. “If that’s what you were trying to do Potter, it worked.”
Harry looked guiltily from the professor to the floor and placed his head in his hands.
“I’m so sorry professor… I just… Malfoy said something really awful… I just lost it, I…”
“I’m sure whatever he said was awful Potter, and I don’t need to know about it; that’s your business… But as for the classroom, that’s my business.” She paused. “I’m taking twenty points from Gryffindor.. for your serious lack of judgement.”
Harry sat quietly and finally nodded.
McGonnagol’s expression softened as she noted the worn look on his young face. She spoke kindly. “It’s a big burden on such a young person, isn’t it?… To be the one person that Voldemort seeks to destroy… and the one person that can ultimately destroy him.”
Harry turned a distraught but surprised face to his professor. How was she able to sum up his whole life in one sentence?
Without replying, he turned his gaze from her only to find himself staring at row upon row of enchanted paintings in the hallways, all listening to the conversation. He heard whisperings of Harry Potter… boy-who-lived… isn’t it sad…no parents…constantly set upon by something evil…
He rolled his eyes wearily, and head in hand, rested his elbow on his knee.
McGonnagol noticed the paintings and shushed them with a hard look. Reluctantly, they stopped their gossip and resumed their original forms.
The professor put an arm about Harry’s sturdy shoulders and gave him a motherly squeeze. Harry glanced sideways at her.
“One thing I want you to always remember, Potter,” she began in a soft tone, “You are not alone.”
Harry closed his eyes and shook his head slowly.
“No Potter, listen… You are not alone. No matter where this battle takes you, no matter what you have to face… and even when it’s ultimately down to just you and he… you have friends; true friends who are willing to fight and even die along side of you. And every teacher in this school will be right behind them… If you let them.”
At a hard look from Harry, McGonnagol gave him a knowing smile. “Yes every teacher. Even Professor Snape.”
As she sat with him, she noticed tears begin running slowly down his cheeks.
Harry looked up at her without embarrassment. “Professor, I don’t want anyone hurt because of me.”
McGonnagol nodded, but looked Harry straight in the eyes. “I understand,” she said softly, “But don’t you push anyone away… don’t you dare. Do you hear me? Their lives are their own, and they choose to risk them because they care for you… and because the fight against Voldemort involves all of us. You can’t control that; you can’t even try… Let them be with you Harry.”
He paused, thinking over her words carefully. Finally he nodded, brushing away his tears absently.
McGonnagol gave him a final pat and stood, making her way back to her classroom, but Harry stayed on the steps for the rest of the period, lost in thought.
Hermione and Ron met Harry after class and after rushing to his side, asked Harry what in the world Malfoy had done.
Harry glanced sideways over Hermione’s head to Ron, giving him a knowing expression.
Ron caught on quickly, and just as quickly as Harry had, his expression turned black with anger.
“I’m sick of that bloody…I think I’ll go finish the job.”
“Ron…” began Harry. He needn’t have worried. Just as Ron began to stomp off, wand in hand, Hermione caught his arm. After being pulled a few steps, she was finally able to stop him and pull him back over to Harry’s side. Then, taking both of their arms, she pinched them rather painfully.
“Ow!…’Mione, what the…” began Ron.
“What was that for!?” said Harry, rubbing his bicep and wincing.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Do you two honestly think I don’t know what you’re on about? The quick glances and all… Don’t try to shield me for my benefit, because I know he said something horrible about me.”
“How did you…” began Ron.
“Don’t be so thick!” said Hermione reproachfully. “I’ve known you two for as long as you’ve known each other. You think I don’t understand your little silent exchanges by now!? Well for the love of all that’s…”
Hermione folded her arms over her chest and began leading them both along towards Professor Binns’ History of Magic class.
“And so we deserved the pinch, why?” said Ron as Harry pulled at one of her curls to stop her.
She turned to address them both. “Why do you let him get to you? He’s been the same since first year… just a filthy prat; nothing but trouble. And now Professor Binns will be wondering why he’s not in class, and Snape’s gonna find out and all of Gryffindor will get it!… Malfoy’s probably running back up to the infirmary right now…”
But as Hermione continues she couldn’t help the smile that began to creep up on her face, or the laughter she was trying to squelch, coming out in bursts. She told them off until finally, she started snickering wildly.
“I knew it!” Harry pointed at her with a grin, “You loved seeing him sprawled on the floor as much as we did!”
Hermione tried to sober. “I did not! You… probably fractured his jaw, Harry… All I did was bruise him!”
But she couldn’t hold it any longer and began to snicker even harder, much to Harry’s amusement.
Ron, ignoring them, thrust out his jaw and rubbed his arm gently, checking it for wounds.
“You bruised me…” he began distractedly, rolling up the sleeve of his robe. “You… look there! You did! I can’t belie… That’s twice this week you bruised someone, ‘Mione!… Look there! Right there on my arm…You…you did!”
Harry laughed and Hermione held up two fingers at Ron with a droll expression. Suddenly, they both started laughing.
Hermione linked arms with them both as they headed towards class, eliciting jealous stares from a few passing girls, and leaving Harry wondering about the two finger gesture.
“What was that about…”
Ron and Hermione snickered.
“What?” asked Harry.
The rest of their classes went by rather quickly, and just as quickly, two o’clock rolled around.
Potions finally let out; Snape, having fixed Harry, Ron and Hermione with suspicious glares all throughout class since Malfoy failed to show. He had been informed of the incident the day before, right before his class, between the three and the Slytherin boy.
As the students began rushing into the hallways and towards their houses to change clothes for the game, Harry was stopped by a sudden grip on his shoulder. He turned to see Snape glaring nastily at him, his greasy hair falling down in his face.
“I wonder Potter, if you know why Draco Malfoy did not show up for class…”
“I’m in Gryffindor,” stated Harry, rather unaffectedly, “Why don’t you ask Crabbe or Goyle…”
He turned to leave but Snape grabbed at his robe again, whipping him around.
“They seemed to think that you might have an idea.”
Harry shrugged. “Nope! Don’t have a clue… Maybe he’s been out on the field, practicing… lord knows Slytherin needs it.”
With a grin, he yanked himself free and took off towards the Gryffindor common room, leaving Snape with a decidedly angry sneer in his wake.
Harry, Ron and Hermione changed in their rooms quickly and met back in the common area. As the weather had suddenly taken a decidedly chilly turn, they were all dressed warmly, save Harry, who would be sweating on the Quidditch field anyway.
“What’d Snape want…” asked Ron darkly, pulling his red and gold scarf over his shoulders.
“Just to harass me,” said Harry, reaching down to pick up his broom. “He wondered where Malfoy was.”
Ron smirked. “You should’ve told him he’d know where he was if he was stuck up his…”
“Ron!” yelled a shocked Hermione.
Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan passed Ron with a snicker as they were headed out towards the field.
“Nice one Ron,” said Seamus, clapping him on the back.
Harry gave Ron a crooked grin. “Well, I’m off… got forty-five minutes before the game. I’m sure Wood wants to make sure we have our strategy down for the ninety-fifth time…”
Hermione stood on her toes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “Good luck then… We’ll see you after the game.”
She began to climb out of the portrait door and then came back.
“If we win, everyone will be going to Hogsmeade to celebrate after the game,” said Hermione with a bright smile to Harry. “Do you think you’ll be up for it?”
“Always!” said Harry grinning.
Ron cleared his throat, shaking his head. “Um… sorry to burst your bubble Hermione, but you’re forgetting… We have to go straight to dinner and back to our common rooms after. Remember the new rules?”
“Ugh! I forgot…” said Hermione, “And I was really looking forward to it too.”
“Actually, I’m kind of relieved,” said Ron, grinning at the confusion on Harry and Hermione’s faces. “I think Fred and George wanted to drag me to see a building that’s been for sale for a while. Apparently they thing it’s perfect for ‘Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes’ next year.” He put on a pained expression that made his friends laugh.
After a few minutes, Ron decided (with exaggerated air quotation marks) to let Harry and Hermione have a moment of “alone time”. He batted his eyes at them suggestively, and Hermione swatted at him with part of her scarf.
He stepped out of the portrait door and waited outside for her.
The last two Gryffindors to walk out were Lavender and Parvarti, and they stopped and engaged Harry in a short, very flirtatious conversation before continuing on.
“Good luck, Harry,” said Parvarti, flipping her dark hair over her shoulder. “I’ll be rooting for you.” She smiled suggestively at him and touched him on the arm while shooting poisonous glances Hermione’s way.
Next to the hearth, Hermione rolled her eyes.
Lavender pretended to laugh at Parvarti’s suggestion that Harry needed luck.
She grabbed onto his other arm and leaned in to him as if by accident.
“Parvarti, everyone knows Harry doesn’t need luck!” she said, tossing her hair and batting her eyes. She tried to send him a thousand watt smile. “I know you’ll be great. Everyone knows!”
Harry glanced down at them a bit distractedly and gently tried to disentangle himself.
“Yeah, ok. Well thanks.”
Hermione glanced down at her necklace and noticed that it was glowing. She looked up to Harry and he gave her a small smile and a wink. Once again her heart flip-flopped into her stomach.
Lavender and Parvarti wiggled out of the room smugly as if they’d accomplished something. Hermione needn’t have worried. They flirted just as shamelessly with Ron when they reached the hallway.
Harry walked over to Hermione. “Sorry about that…”
Hermione secretly thought that if she were a jealous witch, she would have swiftly strode over there and clawed both of the girls eyes out, but fortunately she wasn’t.
“Oh, I don’t care… Anyway, it reminds me of what I’ve got.” Although her cheeks were a little flushed, she smiled brilliantly up at him.
The breath hitched in Harry’s throat and he suddenly grabbed her and kissed her more deeply than he ever had. Hermione returned the kiss with fervor. When they finally broke apart, completely breathless, Harry thought that the explosion he had just felt must surely be written all over his face for her to see. Hermione blushed. She had felt it too.
He grinned sheepishly and ran his fingers through his hair. “Wow… Well, I’d better go then…”
He realized that he was about to back into a chair, and righted himself quickly.
Hermione laughed out loud as he walked towards the portrait door and mouthed It’s your fault at her with a grin. He finally left, letting the portrait shut behind him.
Ron was waiting in the hall, and smirked knowingly when he saw Harry.
“Ron,” said Harry, letting the smile slide off of his face, “Please keep an eye on her.. Remember what we talked about.”
“I haven’t forgotten Harry,” said Ron soberly, “I don’t want anything to happen either… but I’m not really worried. The whole school grounds have been covered with a safety charm. No one dark’ll be able to get in… McGonnagol saw to it.”
“All the same,” said Harry, backing down the hallway, “Just… watch out for her. For yourself too.”
Ron sighed in a you-know-you-don’t-have-to-tell-me-of-all-people way. Harry smiled at him.
“See you after.” He began to jog down the hallway.
“Harry!” Ron called out.
Harry turned to squint at him through a bright beam of sunlight that shined through the window beside him.
“Wipe the bloody lip gloss off your face; you look like an idiot…”
Harry swiped a hand over his mouth and looked at it briefly, giving Ron a triumphant wiggle of the eyebrows before he took off down the hallway again and disappeared out of sight.
Hermione climbed out of the portrait door just in time for Ron’s last comments and punched him lightly in the shoulder.
“I heard that.”