You Are Not Alone
Hermione Granger wasn't in the mood for yet another Weasley drama with Ron. She turned on her heel, leaving him shouting after her about how House Elves liked doing what they did. She had in effect, for the first time, abandoned her Prefect duties. She angrily stalked the corridors, making her way up the stairs from the first floor. How dare he?! What right did he have to call her selfish after all she did for him!?
The portraits whispered amongst themselves as a furious head of hair walked silently past them, wondering what could have had such a young woman so riled up.
Hermione looked up as she heard cackling above her. "Peeves if you dare do what you planned I will exorcise you myself. I am not in the mood!" She growled so darkly it would have made the Bloody Baron himself proud. Her tone seemed to have done the trick, as the poltergeist who usually loved to wreak havoc amongst the Hogwarts students zoomed away from her. She could however hear him singing; "Potty Potter's Granger girl is potty like him!"
She shook her head, rolling her eyes at the words. When where people and ghosts alike going to get it into their heads?! There was absolutely nothing going on between her and Harry! Sure they were close, closer than most people, closer than Ron and the three of them, save for last year, been together in life or death situations.
And she rarely argued massively with Harry. The only conflict to come between them was when she reported his Firebolt, for fear it may have been cursed. She could have handled Ron sulking at her, since that was all he ever did. But she never imagined Harry would abandon her. In fact now she thought about it, it was like the other half to her was missing. She shook her head. Of course Harry wasn't the one that made her complete. He was just Harry. Her very skinny, messy haired best friend that always had a crooked grin just for her when she helped him. So why was her heart starting to tell her differently? She felt her anger slowly leaving her as she reached the fourth floor, she knew she needed to think on this, it couldn't possibly be right. They were best friends for five years and not once had either of them expressed an interest of that nature toward each other. "This is madness..." she muttered.
"So is talking to yourself. And hearing voices."
Hermione wheeled around at the voice and she gasped when she saw Harry. Great... just the person she didn't want to see at that moment. "What are you doing out of the common room? And why weren't you in the Great Hall earlier?"
"I was in the kitchens. I was out by the Quidditch pitch earlier and I missed dinner, so I went to get something to eat. Then I passed Ron who was still mad at something." He shrugged. "I figured he had another argument with you." He added, his green eyes softening slightly.
Hermione gave a small smile. Harry was always moody lately, and the times he wasn't, she really liked it. Ron would never care this much, to follow her and make sure she was happy. No Ron was selfish and bad tempered. "I'm alright Harry." she said.
"I don't believe you." He told her. He was the only person that saw her and how she was feeling, even if lately he wasn't feeling himself.
She shook her head. "Harry please. I'm fine I just want to forget about it." she smiled softly.
Harry nodded, knowing he wasn't going to get much more out of her than that. "Well why don't I walk you back?" he suggested.
Hermione's smile grew wider as she nodded. "I'd like that." she said, and laughed when he held out his arm for her, and she linked her arm with his.
They walked in a companionable silence the rest of the way to the seventh floor, their silence broken by the Fat Lady's request for the password, and Hermione's reply of "Mimbulus Mimbletonia." The portrait swung open to let the couple inside.
Harry looked around, seeing to his relief that it was mostly empty except for a couple of first years playing wizard's chess in the corner.
Hermione flopped down into the sofa in front of the fire, letting out a soft sigh as she closed her eyes.
Harry laughed a little, realising how tense she must have been and he sat beside her.
"What is so funny, Potter?"
Harry's smile turned into a smirk at her words. "Nothing."
Hermione opened her eyes, raising an eyebrow at him, though her insides were jumbling inside. That damn smirk! "Is that why you're smirking?"
"Well..." he shrugged, but the smirk didn't leave his face.
Slipping off her shoes, she turned and swung her legs so they came to rest in his lap, and deliberately placed her feet where she wanted them. "Well?" it was her turn to smirk as she saw something flicker in her friend's eyes. "I would think very carefully about the next thing to come out of your mouth."
The smirk faltered slightly when he saw her feet ever so close to where he knew she would most definitely cause him pain. "You are pure evil, Granger." he challenged.
He grabbed her ankle when she started to inch closer. "Don't. You. Dare."
Hermione feigned a look of innocence, though her eyes were teasing. "Me? I would never." she giggled.
"You wouldn't get the chance." he told her, smirking still and moved her feet off his lap, then grabbed her arm, pulling her close to him. He had no idea what he was doing, why he was doing this to his best friend. All he knew was that there was something about her. Something that couldn't keep him away, couldn't keep him from thinking about her in more than a friendly way. He knew he loved her, ever since she had been petrified he knew he would never want to lose her. "You would never hurt me, Mione we both know that." he told her in her ear, moving his arm around her back to keep her in place.
Hermione could feel her heart pounding in her chest, she forced her breathing to remain calm as she was pulled close to him. She involuntarily shivered when she felt his breath on her ear and heard him speak. Gone was the playful best friend she had been just moments before. "I could always try." she spoke, trying to maintain her playful side.
She didn't realise it, but she had succeeded in taking their minds off their troubles, it was just the two of them.
"We both know you won't." he looked into her eyes now, he could see the twinkle still there, but he could also see that she was internally nationalising something. "What are you thinking about?"
Hermione tried to think of what to say. How was she supposed to explain that she was falling in love, very hard, and very fast? More importantly, how was she supposed to explain that it was with him? And had probably always had been? "It's... uh... it's nothing." she said, doubting herself. She was a Gryffindor for Merlin's sake! Why couldn't she just tell him!
"You don't seem so sure." he spoke gently.
"It's nothing, honestly." she repeated, a bit firmer.
Harry quickly dropped his arm just as the portrait door swung open.
Hermione leaned back against the arm of the sofa again as Ron walked through and looked straight at them.
"Did I interrupt something?" Ron asked, noticing Hermione was blushing and Harry was trying to avoid eye contact.
"No. We were just talking." Hermione said quickly. "It was just something that was a bit embarrassing for me that's all."
Ron shrugged, not wanting to know or caring. He probably would have demanded an explanation had he seen them just seconds earlier.
"Anyway, I'm going to bed. Goodnight boys." she said and stood up, walking up the stairs to the girls' dormitories, leaving Harry and Ron alone.
"Yeah, I think I'll turn in too. You coming?" Ron asked after ten minutes of silence, just staring at the fire.
"No, I'll be up in a bit though, just want to be on my own."
"Suit yourself. Night." Ron yawned and left for his bed.
Harry only shrugged a reply, staring at the flames flickering and dying in the fireplace. He wondered what had happened before Ron came in, what would have happened if he hadn't returned when he did. He saw how unhappy she was with Ron, heard their arguments, most of them were so petty he had to shout at them both to tell them to shut up. Ron was acting like a jealous boyfriend and he wasn't even dating her. Harry only wanted Hermione to be happy, he just didn't know if he was who she wanted, even if he was the only one to make her happy.
Hermione drew the curtains around her bed, effectively stopping Parvati and Lavendar trying to rope her into a conversation. She stared at the ceiling, her heart rate slowing down. I don't love him... not like that... she told herself. I don't... I can't... She soon fell into a restless sleep.
It was after midnight by the time Harry retired to ed, his dorm filled with the snores of Ron Weasley and Dean Thomas, Seamus and Neville slept silently, the odd groan coming from the Irishman as he kicked off his covers.
Harry rolled his eyes and silently got himself ready for bed, he too falling into a restless sleep as his head hit the pillow.
Harry jolted awake from another nightmare and he looked around the room frantically.
"You alright, Harry?" Ron asked, pulling a jumper over his head.
Harry looked over, his brain slowly registering that it was in fact morning, and he wasn't in the dark depths of Voldemort's mind. "Yeah..yeah I'm fine." he said and jumped up, starting to get himself ready.
"Well I'll meet you down in the Great Hall." Ron said, leaving the dorm.
Neville who had been silent the whole time, looked over at Harry warily. He knew the boy wasn't fine as he said, the panic in his face was obvious, should have been obvious to Ron. "H-Harry?"
Harry turned, buttoning up his shirt when he looked at Neville. "Yeah?"
"If you ever need to talk, y'know I'm here mate, don't you?"
Harry gave a grateful smile to the other boy. "Thanks Nev, much appreciated. But I don't think this is one anyone other than Dumbledore can help with." he said, fumbling around with his tie and then grabbed his school bag.
"Okay, well how about I walk down with you?" Neville as,ed, grabbing his own bag.
Harry nodded and the two of them left Gryffindor Tower, both walking down to the Great Hall. Both boys made their way to the Gryffindor table, Neville taking his seat by Ginny and Colin, Harry sitting next to Hermione.
"Harry, you look terrible!" Hermione gasped when she turned to face him.
"Thanks, Hermione.." he rolled his eyes at her, smiling a little at her concern.
"Did you get any sleep last night?"
"Leave the man alone, Hermione, he just woke up!" Ron scoffed, shoving some bacon into his mouth.
Hermione scowled, her cheeks turning pink at his words.
Harry put his hand on hers to stop her from reacting verbally. "I'm fine, Hermione, honestly."
Her brown eyes searched his green ones for a moment. After deciding he was telling the truth, she nodded and picked up a piece of toast.
Ron was on his second helping of a fried breakfast when the trio heard a "Hem hem!" which caused them to look up.
Professor Umbridge was standing directly behind Harry, causing him to turn around to face her when she spoke. "Where were you yesterday evening, Mr Potter?" she asked in her sickly sweet, girly tone.
"I was in the library, Professor. I had some homework I needed to finish." Harry lied. He'd be damned if he was going to tell her he was out flying for most of the evening.
"But, I sent Mr Creevey to look for you. He told me he couldn't find you anywhere. If you are telling me he is lying, Mr Potter... you know how I feel about little liars."
Hermione inwardly cringed at her tone, but Harry stayed calm.
"No he wasn't lying Professor. I just hid myself in a corner so I wouldn't be disturbed. I guess I missed dinner, he couldn't find me because he didn't know where to look." Harry spoke, hoping to spare whichever Creevey brother she may have sent from a detention.
Umbridge, with a nasty glint in her eye was spared from replying when the owls signalled their arrival of post to students and teachers.
Hedwig swooped down and landed in front of Harry, a piece of parchment clipped in her beak. Harry gently stroked her feathers and took the parchment from her, while Hermione handed her a piece of bacon, which the bird snatched from her fingers after nipping the girl affectionately.
"What does it say, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Professor Dumbledore wants me to go to his office after dinner tonight." Harry spoke, effectively stopping the toad like woman from giving him a detention for something she thought he must be punished for.
Umbridge, fuming and pink-faced, stalked toward the doors of the great hall and left the room..
"Doef if shay why?" Ron asked with a mouth full of food, causing Hermione to wrinkle her nose in disgust. "Wha've I done now?!" he snapped, and swallowed his food.
People within earshot braced themselves for yet another Ron and Hermione explosion.
"Eating with your mouth full Ronald. Nobody wants to see your breakfast being eaten."
Harry quickly cut across Ron who was about to argue back. "He didn't say why. Now stop bickering. Ron, Hermione's right, don't talk with your mouth full. Hermione, just try and ignore him. Or don't sit in front of him."
Ron just scowled back at his plate, grumbling about the fact he hadn't actually done anything wrong, while Hermione sat silently, her cheeks turning pink.
Harry reached under the table for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, showing her he wasn't angry at her. "Right now that's sorted, we better go. Got Transfiguration first." he spoke. He stood up with Hermione and started to make his way out of the hall with her.
"I wonder what Dumbledore wants?" Hermione thought outloud.
Harry shrugged. "I dunno... but it's a damn sight better than him ignoring me for most of the year."
"I don't think he was ignoring you Harry-" she started but was cut off.
"Hermione he made you and Ron, my two best friends, swear not to contact me over the summer. I get summoned to a disciplinary hearing and he doesn't say two words to me, walks past like I'm not even there. Refuses to speak to me when I listen to you, and try to tell him about that toad of a teacher. He's ignoring me, or something's going on and we're being kept in the dark."
Hermione stayed quiet for a moment, Harry could practically hear the gears of her brain whirring as she thought of something. "I have an idea. But you need to see Dumbledore first. You need to see what he wants you for and if you can get any information about us using defensive spells if we are to be attacked."
Harry nodded silently. "What do you have in that head of yours?"
Hermione pushed open the door that lead to the Transfiguration corridor. "You'll see later." she spoke.
Harry rolled his eyes, smiling as they walked down the corridor. They stopped outside the classroom.
"Wait out here?' She asked, knocking on the closed door.
Harry nodded, and watched as she entered the room, closing it behind her.
Moments later, Ron appeared, he had appeared to have run from the great hall to try and catch them up. "Where's Hermione?" He asked, trying to regain his breath.
"Just having a word with McGonagall before we go in." Harry shrugged.
"She's probably worried she got a 97 on her latest assignment." Ron laughed, but Harry didn't.
"Professor? I wonder if I might have a word with you?" Hermione asked politely.
Professor McGonagall studied her Gryffindor for a moment. Something did appear to be troubling her. "Well of course Miss Granger. What seems to be the problem?"
Hermione started to wring her fingers nervously for a moment. She really didn't want to get her best friend into trouble, but he had flouted his duties and the rules for far too long. "It's about Ron."
"What about Mr Weasley?"
"He's not a very good prefect. He tries everything he can to get out of his duties, he's not setting an example for the first years, he makes me do everything. I think you made a mistake letting Ron take on such duties." Hermione rambled.
McGonagall listened as the young woman ranted. She had a feeling Albus' big idea would blow up, she hadn't imagined it quite so soon. "Rest assured, Miss Granger that I will deal with Mr Weasley appropriately."
Hermione nodded. "You should have given it to Harry. He sometimes accompanies me on the rounds, and I make sure he's in the common room by curfew, but he actually helps me."
"I will keep it in mind, Miss Granger." McGonagall said just as the bell went, and students started piling into the classroom, Hermione taking a seat.