A/N: Okay, so this is my first story for Harry Potter so I would definitely appreciate feedback on how I did. This story is based on book three, but takes an alternate path after Scabbers' supposed 'death' at the hands of Crookshanks. This is how I think the books should have gone after that moment. I am definitely going to write the rest of third year and all of fourth, however I may decide to take it even further and write the later years as well. This will be a Harmony story, just in case you have any problems with H/Hr.

Chapter 1: Broomsticks, Rats or Weasleys

Harry Potter was not having a good year.

Well, that was probably an understatement. He had discovered that his crazed godfather-turned-traitor, Sirius Black, had escaped from the most secure prison in the world and had attempted to break into the place Harry considered home, he was surrounded by Dementors which made him relive his worst possible memories and, to top it all off, his two best friends were now refusing to speak to each other, because of a broomstick and a rat.

So, all in all, not a very good year at all.

Currently, the boy in question was sat gazing into the common room fireplace with a thoughtful expression. His mind full of thoughts about a certain bushy-haired bookworm.

'She doesn't deserve this' He thought to himself sadly.

Both he and Ron had been acting coldly towards Hermione in the past couple of months and Harry was ashamed of it. It wasn't just the fact that it had been over something as trivial as a broomstick. It wasn't just the fact that she'd had a completely valid reason to do what she did. No, what hit him hardest was that she'd done it all for him.

He wished that she'd come to him about the broom instead of McGonagall. He liked to think he would have understood, that he'd have handed it over for inspection himself, if she'd given him the choice. It wasn't what she'd done that had hurt him, it was that she'd done it all behind his back. That was the real reason he'd been angry and, now it was all done, he'd hoped that things could go back to the way they had been.

The truth was... he'd missed her during those two months his Firebolt was being checked.

He'd missed sitting with her to do his homework. He'd missed taking walks around the lake with her (not that they could do that anyway, thanks to the aforementioned maniac godfather). He'd missed those hours that they'd spent poring over old books together, looking for a way to help Hagrid with Buckbeak. He'd missed her just being there with him, no matter what happened, like she always was.

It hadn't taken him long to realize that it would hurt him more to lose her friendship than it would Ron's, and that she was on the right side of the argument. There really was no proof that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers and even if he had, Scabbers was... well, he was getting old. Everyone could see how ill that rat looked, he'd probably been at death's door already.

Regardless, Harry had decided to support Hermione in this, which brought him back to his current predicament.

'What on earth am I supposed to say to her?' He questioned in his head.

There were many things he wanted to say, he just wasn't sure how to. Sorry was the first and most important, she deserved an apology for his behaviour. Thank you was another obvious one. He wanted her to know that he appreciated her looking out for him, even if he didn't exactly agree with her methods. He also wanted her to know how much he appreciated everything she'd done for him these past two-and-a-half years, from lying about the troll in first year to turning in a possibly homicidal Christmas present. He wanted her to know just how much being friends with her meant to him.

He just didn't know how to convey all that gratitude and apology in mere words. Still, he was going to talk to her anyway, so maybe he should just get on with it.

The sound of a small explosion shocked him out of his musings, almost causing him to fall out of his chair.

He chuckled slightly. He'd been so engrossed in his own thoughts that even an exploding playing card was enough to make him jump.

'I just need to get up and talk to her. No more brooding.'

Making his decision, he stood up and stretched, aching a little from the way he'd slumped in the armchair. 'How long was I sat there?' he pondered absent-mindedly, not really wanting to know the answer. He turned to scan the room.

Ron was sat in a corner playing Exploding Snap with Seamus, which was the sound that had startled him before. Neville was reading and re-reading a little piece of parchment, no doubt trying again, fruitlessly, to memorise the new guardian's password schedule. Lavender and Parvati were... well they were doing whatever it was girls did in their free time. The only others in the common room were a cluster of first and second years and a single seventh year, none of whom Harry knew.

Harry frowned and checked again. Nope, definitely no Hermione, he could have spotted that hair a mile off. He hadn't really expected her to be in the room. Since the incident with Ron, she'd been spending even more of her time in the Library (Something he personally hadn't thought possible).

He sighed and made his way out of the portrait hole, ignoring Ron's shouts for him to join them and Sir Cadogan's challenges. He began to make his way to the Library.

The trip was uneventful, aside from having to use a secret passage to avoid Peeves and his stink bombs, but that was pretty much normal at Hogwarts.

Once again he gave a silent prayer of thanks to Fred, George and the anonymous Marauders. He'd recently taken to pulling out the map at night and memorising some of the secret passages, as well as which ones Filch was aware of. Navigating the castle was now much quicker and easier than it had been in his last two years.

He paused as he entered the Library and spotted a familiar mane of bushy hair. She was sat in their usual corner, hunched over and absorbed in some thick tome. He smiled a little at the sight. It was just so... so Hermione. When something goes wrong, just head to the Library and lose yourself in parchment and ink. It made him happy to see that she hadn't changed after their disagreement over the Firebolt.

Emboldened, he made his way over to her and dropped into the seat across from her.

Hermione Granger was troubled.

She was staring at the page in front of her, but her mind was elsewhere.

A few months ago, she had done something that had seemed perfectly reasonable and undoubtedly a correct decision... at the time. However, her very hasty and totally correct actions had been rewarded with her two best friends treating her like she had just stabbed them in the back.

She still stood by her decision to tell McGonagall, even after her fears had been dis-proven, but she couldn't help but wonder... what if she'd gone to Harry. Maybe he'd have understood, maybe he'd have done the same thing she did.

His reaction made her feel much worse than Ron's, she could deal with Ron, but Harry was... another matter. She couldn't help but feel a little ashamed at her decision, no matter how reasonable. She felt as if she had stabbed him in the back.

And... she had enjoyed being his friend.

He seemed to be the only one who didn't tease her about her love of books, or all the subjects she was doing, or her reputation as a know-it-all. In fact, he'd seemed genuinely concerned about her enormous workload and how she was handling it all.

'If only he knew' she thought sadly.

After the whole issue was cleared up, she had hoped everything would just go back to what it had been before. In fact, Harry had come up and started talking to her, as if nothing had happened. She couldn't remember what they'd been talking about... something to do with Arithmancy. What she did remember, very clearly, was Ron storming down the stairs and shoving a bloody bedsheet in her face. Harry had tried to calm him down, told him to take another look around for Scabbers, but Ron was having none of it. He insisted that the rat had been eaten, throwing a few ginger cat hairs at her as evidence.

She had, of course, denied everything. She was absolutely certain that Ron had simply lost the rat and that he should have taken better care of him. Even if Crookshanks had eaten him, so what. As she'd said to him before, all cats chase rats, hers was no different.

Anyway, their little spat had ended any chance of reconciliation with Ron, she understood that.

She just wasn't sure where Harry stood in it all.

She was worried that he was going to take Ron's side, again, and she didn't think she could bear it. It had been bad enough when he'd had a reason to be mad at her, but this time it was entirely his choice. Which friend should he support?

She knew he'd choose Ron. Why would he choose her, she was bossy and a know-it-all and had already broken his trust. 'Ron's his best friend' she reasoned, 'He was always a better friend than me'.

She was so wrapped up in her own troubles that she almost missed him sit down opposite her.

She glanced up from her work and her eyes were met by a sight of unruly raven hair and sparkling green eyes.

"Hey, Harry," she greeted unenthusiastically, her earlier thoughts still weighing on her mind.

"Hi," he replied with equal vigour. He had an odd look on his face, like he was trying to wrap his head around some difficult puzzle.

He glanced down at her book and frowned. "We didn't have Care of Magical Creatures homework, did we?" he questioned, a note of panic in his voice.

She too looked at the page. True, it was a book on magical creatures, but it wasn't for homework.

"No," she explained, "I'm still researching cases to help Hagrid with the hearing."

He hung his head a little at that and brought his palm up to his forehead. "I completely forgot we were supposed to be helping," he groaned, "Hagrid's never going to forgive me."

She almost smiled at him. "I'm sure it'll be fine," she assured him, "He'll understand. I mean, you've had a lot to deal with lately; Anti-Dementor lessons, Sirius Black, the Firebolt and now me and Ron..." she trailed off at that, not wanting to bring it up, but it seemed that Harry had other ideas.

"Yeah, listen... I wanted to talk to you about that," he began carefully, "About what happened with Scabbers.

'This is it' she thought, 'This is where he tells me that Ron's right and should just accept it'

"Go on then. Might as well get it over with." Despite her cold tone, her voice shook a little.

Harry, on the other hand, looked confused. "What do you mean?" he asked.

She snapped.

"Look Harry, I know what you're going to say, so you might as well get on with it," she stated, in that icy, quivering voice. "You're going to tell me how Ron's right and my cat is a bloodthirsty beast, and it's all my fault Scabbers is gone, because it's always my fault isn't it? First the broom, now this, I just cause all the problems don't I?"

Her voice gradually became less cold and more upset as her rant went on and tears were threatening to fall by the end of it. She hung her head after the outburst, not wanting to look at him.

She knew what he was going to say. He was going to...

"You couldn't be more wrong,"

Her head lifted at this and she saw a determination in his eyes. It was her turn to look confused.

"What do you mean?" she repeated his earlier question.

"Hermione," he said, "I was going to say that Ron is being a massive idiot and should learn to take better care of his pets."

"You... you don't believe him?" She could scarcely believe what she was hearing.

He snorted, "Of course not, that blood could have come from anywhere and, as for those cat hairs, Crookshanks has been jumping at Scabbers for ages now. They could have been there for weeks."

She still couldn't wrap her head around what she was hearing, "You mean, you agree with me?"

He looked at her suddenly puzzled again. "Yeah, why wouldn't I, you're my friend Hermione."

This time, she did smile. "I... I wasn't sure you'd still want to be friends. After what happened with your Firebolt."

He suddenly started to squirm in his chair and generally look uncomfortable, "About that, I also wanted to... apologise."

Now Hermione really was confused, "For what?"

"For how I treated you. You were just doing what you thought was right and I treated you horribly for it. In fact, looking back I think you did do the right thing."

Her heart swelled at his statement. Never, ever, had Harry Potter apologised to her before. 'Although' she realised, 'He's never actually had anything to apologise for, before now'

"You don't need to," she said firmly, "I shouldn't have gone behind your back about it."

"I don't care if I have to or not Hermione. I'm sorry," He was much more confident now, "And I wanted to thank you as well."

It seemed like every word out of his mouth left Hermione a bit more perplexed. "Th- thank me?" she stammered.

He nodded. "When you took the broom to McGonagall, you did it because you were scared for me. You were trying to keep me safe. So, thank you for..."

Whatever he was going to say next was lost as Hermione flung her arms around him in a bone-crushing hug. Struggling to get his breath back, he awkwardly returned the hug.

"Oh Harry. You don't have to thank me for anything. I'm just glad you don't hate me."

He pulled back at that, so that he could look her in the eye. "I could never hate you Hermione. You're my best friend."

She beamed at his declaration and he grinned back at her. It seemed that all her fears were entirely unfounded. She hadn't even dared to hope that it would go like this. Not only did he still want to be friends, he thought of her as his best friend. 'Me' she thought excitedly, 'Not Ron, Me'.

The two of them sat together and researched hippogriff trials for the rest of the day. They talked and laughed just like they used to, without broomsticks, rats or Weasleys to get between them. When it began to get late, they made their way back to Gryffindor Tower together, with as many books as they could carry and continued their studies in front of the common room fire.

They stayed up together long after most people had gone to bed and when they finally separated, to go to their dormitories, they left each other with their friendship, not only intact, but stronger than it had ever been before.

A/N: As I said, I'd love to know what you think about this and will reply to any questions you have about the story. Until next time, good readers.