Part 1: Present Tension

Chapter 01

Innocent Affections


~~~ Prologue ~~~

The soft round angles of snow encrusting the study window had diminished a wintry morning's daylight, and the writer at his desk lit an extra candle.

"Dad, why don't you use your wand for that?"

"I love the smell when you strike a match."

There was a comfortable silence for a few seconds, gently lifted by a few deep sniffs of curiosity and the scratching of a quill on a greetings card.

"Daddy, can I wear that shirt?"

"Mmm?" The quill stopped. "That? It's a boy's really, not a girl's, and it's ripped. Bit big for you, anyway."

"Why'd you have it pinned up on your remembrance wall if it's ripped?"

"Just memorabilia."

"And that penknife hung up next to it? What's it for?"


"But why, Daddy?"

"They remind me of absent friends, darling. People I knew... so I never forget them."

"Do I know them?"

"In a way."

"Is that when you were very little?"

"No, but quite young — older than you. The shirt fit me when it was new."

"But what happened?"

"You're too small. I'll tell you when you're older."

"I'm ELEVEN in the new year!"

The sound of a little foot stamping on a tiled hearth was followed by a short pause then... a very long sigh from the area of the desk.

"I don't suppose you're going to give me any peace until I tell you about it, are you?"

The young girl giggled.

"You must not repeat this story to anyone else, alright? It's family."

"I promise."

"It's quite a long tale. Sit down here in the warm then and make yourself comfortable. Hold my hand during the scary bits, okay? And... the sad parts too...

"It begins in my fourth year at Hogwarts — no, actually I suppose it begins at the end of the year before that, going home on the Hogwarts Express. Yes, it all began, curiously enough, with a scrap of rubbish — I'd almost forgotten that. It altered absolutely everything. Perhaps it was not chance after all..."


~~~ Crookshanks's Discovery ~~~

It had been another difficult year at Hogwarts. The apparent threat of Sirius Black had been stressful for Harry and his friends. At least it was over and yet... there was an air of wistfulness as they departed for their summer holidays.

Hermione looked up from her book to scowl at the mess of sweet wrappers that littered the floor of their carriage on the Hogwarts Express. "Ronald, you do realise some poor house-elf has to clean up after you?"

Ron shook his head. "Does it itself."

"What does?"

It was not easy for Ron to speak with his mouth half full but he was well practised. "The train vanishes all the trash itself at the end of every journey. Honestly, haven't you even read the Magical Traveller's Handbook?"

Hermione pinked and blinked slightly, as if she had overlooked revision for a test. Mortified, she stared at his bulging cheeks for a few moments, watching him chew, assessing his expression — then her shoulders relaxed.

"You just made that up."

Harry couldn't hold himself in any longer and exploded out a great belly laugh. Ron spluttered and grinned a tight grin, just managing not to lose the contents of his mouth.

"Not funny," huffed Hermione. "Look at it all..." She waved her arm floorward. "What have you got there, Crookshanks?"

Her cat was pawing a screwed-up scrap which rolled away to rebound off Harry's shoe then back repeatedly. Ron, sitting at Harry's side, wiped his mouth. "Can't blame me for that; looks like parchment. I never touch parchment outside of school — matter of principle," he said loftily, and not entirely truthfully.

Ron glanced up past Harry's shoulder and out through the sunlit window. "It's going to be a great summer..."

"Maybe it came with Sirius's letter, Harry," said Hermione.

Harry shook his head and happily waved his Hogsmeade permission slip like a celebratory flag. He had been clutching it ever since Sirius's little owl had delivered it to their compartment.

Before he could draw breath to speak, Hermione continued, "Sirius only said he was enclosing something — he never said it was only one thing."

Harry shrugged, yawned, and lounged back further in his seat, pretending to doze. Ron opened up another Chocolate Cauldron and jauntily flicked the wrapper onto the floor. It instantly caught Crookshanks attention. The screwed-up parchment forgotten, it rolled away into a corner. Hermione returned fixedly to her book with an expression of deep resignation.

A tiny smile crept onto Harry's face as his half-closed eyes watched her, waiting... waiting...

"Ooh!" she sighed and jumped down to search the floor on her hands and knees. Harry sniggered.

She retrieved the piece of litter — which did indeed turn out to be wrapped-up parchment — and sat down again with the superior air of a fisherman whose neighbours had suffered empty nets all day.

"There's something inside." Her fingers half-parted the enfolding sheet. "Should I open it, you think?"

"Hermione, it's just rubbish," said Harry.

That decided her. A little gasp followed. "They're..." Whatever the contents were, she did not say, but turned her attention instead to the parchment itself which she flattened out and smoothed across her knees, staring at the writing thereon. Ron and Harry yielded to their curiosity, straightened up in their seats opposite her, and leaned forward, if not eagerly, at least with inquisitiveness.

Hermione's eyes widened. Next, her mouth fell open. Her voice noticeably trembled when she spoke. "Harry..." She held out both the document and its contents to her friend who accepted it with a puzzled frown.

"What's it say, Harry?" said Ron.

Harry's mouth gaped wider than Hermione's. His eyes moved back and forth from the parchment to its contents then back again.

"You were right... uuh..." He did not look up but Ron knew Harry's apologetic tone was aimed at Hermione.

He read it out, "Harry, your dad gave me these for safekeeping and I've kept them in my vault. He never said, but I think they're to do with his bookshelves. If so, be careful; Lily told me they'd been unnerved by a spectre and you probably know how terrible they can be. — Sirius."

Ron released a low whistle. "Yeah, they're almost as bad as demons — real nasty if you annoy them — worse because you can't strike back; they're not solid."

But two items lay upon the crumpled sheet and Harry was lifting up the first to examine it.

"Looks like a wristwatch," said Ron. He frowned. "Bit girly..."

"My mum's... must have been," said Harry. There was a reverence to his tone as if he had made contact with something very special. "And..."

He held up a tiny book between his thumb and forefinger. "Do you think I should enlarge it?"

"No, Harry — I think you should restore it," said Hermione.

Harry looked puzzled for only a moment then, as Ron edged away to make room, he placed the objects and the document on the upholstered seat between them and drew out his wand.


The soft-bound pages swelled generously, but even so, Hermione's discovery remained quite a modest pocketbook. There was no title on the cover, only the well-worn shape of a heart gilded into the brown leather. Harry flipped through the pages but appeared non-committal. "Runes." He passed it over to Hermione and turned his attention to the watch. "Still ticking! That's... ah, probably Sirius wound it up." He conveyed an air of disappointment. Perhaps, thought Ron, he had hoped for a sensation of active contact from his parents: life where there was none.

Harry's fingers explored the surface of the little watch. The knurled winder on one edge he could feel was a tiny heart shape but otherwise, the device remained just an ordinary clockwork timepiece and nothing more. He looked up hopefully at Hermione.

"I'm sorry, but the book's nothing special. Just everyday potion notes, I think. The first is for a headache relief. I'd need to study it to be sure but it looks like that's all it is."

"But why Runes?"

"Perhaps your dad was comfortable with Runes? Lots of people like to have a bit of privacy with their notes."

He looked back at the watch and frowned. "This has Runes too — the numbers on the dial, I mean."

He handed it to her. She examined it closely then laid it with its soft beige leather strap open upon her wrist to judge the effect.

The train slowed a little to clack forcefully across a set of points. Ron fidgeted on his seat.

"Hermione..." said Harry.

She looked up, startled. "Sorry, I wasn't thinking..." She offered it back.

"No, no... I..." He hesitated, seeming confused.

Hermione and Ron exchanged glances, the watch still dangling from her outstretched hand.

"I was just visualising my mum wearing it," Harry explained himself at last. "It was odd when you did that."

He still didn't take the watch so after a few seconds she withdrew her arm and went through the motions of re-examining it.

"Back in a minute," said Ron, having rapidly become bored by the mundane objects and the transient distraction of the message. He slid open the compartment door and headed out to the toilet further along.

"It's quite delicate," observed Hermione, "and simple — I mean it's a lovely piece of jewellery, but..."

"Ordinary?" said Harry.

"No, I definitely wouldn't call it ordinary. I like it a lot because it's understated yet it kind of... whispers quality."

"Try it on," he said.

She did not hesitate. Harry had the impression she had been hoping he would let her.

Her eyes smiled with surprise. "Why, it fits perfectly!"

Harry laughed softly. "Well, it's a leather strap, Hermione! You buckle it where it fits."

She shook her head. "No, the strap kinks slightly where she... where your mum used to buckle it."

"Let me see..." He half-crouched his bottom the couple of paces over to her and swung himself round onto the seat at her side without taking his eyes off the watch. "But you're only..."

"Fourteen years old," she whispered darkly, leaning forward in a conspiratorial manner as if it were a great secret shared. "Fifteen in a couple of months."

He glanced down at her and his eyebrows wrinkled up. "I thought you handed in that Time-turner?"

Her hand went to the slender chain at her throat then tugged up her neckline to cover it. "This is just a copy for nostal— for old times' sake!" She burst out laughing, surprised by the emergence of her own wit. "When we're middle-aged, we can reminisce about school and the things we did. I like old things, don't you?"

"But does it work? I mean—!"

"Of course not! You don't think it would be that easy, do you? Magical items are different, dangerous, and unreliable when copied. Anyway, we were talking about this watchstrap."

Harry blinked at the sudden redirection of his thoughts.

Hermione refreshed his memory, "I'm fourteen? My wrist is slender? Your mum was, what? Twenty-odd?"

"Oh, yes, that's what I meant; and she doesn't look particularly thin in any of the photos that Hagrid gave me. Show me where the strap..."

He took her hand to steady it when she held it out palm upwards and he leaned down to peer closely at the buckle, prodding his spectacles back firmly with his free hand to get the best focus then squinting hard.

"Your eyesight really is terrible, Harry."

"Tell me about it," he moaned. "But good enough that I can see what you mean."

He turned her hand over and looked at the watch itself. "Hermione, I think she was wearing this very watch in the latest pictures — but as you said, she must have been twenty at least!"

"Then it's enchanted," said Hermione.

As the declaration of magic hung in the air, they both became aware that her hand was resting in his, and for either of them to break that friendly contact, while not offensive to the other, might draw attention to it — which neither wanted. The feeling magnified ridiculously second by second, but they couldn't keep holding hands forever...

She smiled. "We still think like Muggles, you and I, much of the time anyway. Look..." She turned over her hand again, knowing it would pull away innocently from his in the process, then, without opening the strap buckle, she moved the watch higher up her forearm. "Still fits perfectly." She took it off and handed it back to him.

His attention fixed on the watch face, he retreated backwards onto his own seat just as Ron approached the still open doorway. But Ron paused, talking to someone out of sight down the corridor: it sounded like Fred. Crookshanks jumped up beside Hermione and stared disdainfully at Harry as if claiming the seat beside his mistress was exclusively his own by right.

"I wonder why the Runes, though?" mused Harry, aloud. "My mum was very smart, I know that..." he added proudly, "Loads of NEWTS and stuff... I bet her name is on tons of awards and trophies."

"Lily... Her name was Lily, wasn't it?" said Hermione.

"Yeah. My dad's name was James but she was the brainy one..."

She watched him thinking about his mother — with his eyes looking through the watch, far off into the distance. While Hermione knew he regarded Ron as the very best of his friends, she already knew by then that Harry would always be hers. Ron was more fun of course, and that was one of several things that attracted her to him now he had grown. She giggled inwardly; once his mind caught up with his age perhaps he'd take more notice of her! But it was Harry that needed her support over the coming months, and perhaps years. He was deeper, more sensitive and considerate, and she knew that was why she sometimes tried too hard to be good company for him.

She prayed then for Ginny's chances. With all he had suffered, it was unthinkable that Harry should be lonely later in life. They would be perfect together and Hermione resolved to do all in her power to help them find happiness with each other. If only he could see what was right under his nose! Ginny seemed to have lost heart over the last few months and if Harry didn't give her any encouragement soon then she would begin to lose interest. Hermione had suggested to Ginny that she spend time with someone else to see if that produced a reaction in Harry.

"Ron, where's Ginny?" she called.

Ron came fully back inside the compartment then. "Dunno. With her friends, I think."


"That funny little blonde girl; don't know her name. Oh, and Neville's with them I think." His attention turned to Harry. "So, you two figured it out yet?"

"Figured what out?" clashed Harry and Hermione together. They glanced at each other.

"What that watch and the book mean?" He turned his head in the direction of the doorway as if he had heard a question asked outside. "YEAH!" Ron hollered.

Harry scrabbled around for Sirius's parchment to rewrap the watch. Hermione held out the little book.

"Don't you want to study it?" said Harry.

"Well, yes, I'd love to but, I mean, it's an heirloom... It's your dad's."

"Hang on to it for a bit then." He hesitated, then leaned forward with the watch. "You might as well keep this with it as well."

"No, Harry!" she said, but as he had put it between her fingers, Hermione found she had taken it anyway.

"It's not as if you're going anywhere in the next couple of years is it, Hermione?" laughed Harry. "Anyway, I think there's some special connection between them."

"Wooooo!" grinned Ron, wiggling his raised fingers in flimsy imitation of a sudden ghostly apparition.

"Why'd you think that?" she asked Harry, ignoring Ron's sneer.

"Dunno. Just do."

"What, just because they've both got Runes on them?"

"And they both belong to one or both of my parents," said Harry, firmly. "Look, if anyone can work out what it means then it'll be you, Hermione, not me."

"What what means, Harry? As I said, it's probable that your dad liked Runes and he bought your mum the watch as a gift."

"Well, I think the book is your mum's and she bought the watch for your dad," scoffed Ron, sounding rather bored with the whole matter. "I mean, if it's a magic watch then it'll fit anyone."

"Were you listening!" cried Hermione.

Ron appeared baffled. "Listening to what?" He looked back and forth from Harry to Hermione. "All I said was if it's a magic watch then it'll fit anyone! They all do — well, mostly, anyway. What's wrong with that?"

"Oh... right." She flushed slightly and busied herself securing the items safely within her bag.

What was that all about? she mused, as Ron and Harry commenced to chat about the coming Quidditch cup final planned for the summer. She felt strange, as if something important had moved within their space but she didn't know what, and there was nobody to advise, no book she might attend, not even a question she could frame.


~~~ A Little Success ~~~

Hermione's odd sensation persisted through the summer weeks despite the distraction of the Quidditch World Cup Final that the three went to, together with the Weasleys. She tried to appease the queer feeling whenever she could by studying Harry's father's book — she felt certain it was a man's handwriting — but apart from progressing with the translation, she still felt she had an itch to scratch. Back at The Burrow, she did make one discovery, but it merely added to her curiosity.

"It's a failure," she murmured, loud enough for Ron and Harry and Ginny to hear. They were crowded into Ron's room and had mostly been discussing events at the cup match. Ginny, to Hermione's delight, had avoided sitting in the obvious place beside Harry on his bed and instead took the more distant window seat while she, herself, was curled up on Ron's bed with several books spread around her. Ron was lounged in the chair next to his sister, occasionally glancing out at the worsening weather.

"It's a failure," Hermione repeated more loudly, when no one responded.

Harry looked lazily across at her so, encouraged by the tiny bit of interest shown, she continued, "The headache cure — your dad definitely says, 'But it only relieves megrims and sore heads!'

"Hermione, you're supposed to be on holiday!" said Ron. "All these weeks and that's it? Harry's dad failed to cure a headache?"

"No, it's the other way round. It does cure headaches — and migraines too."

"But you said it's a failure!" spluttered Ron, becoming slightly exasperated.

"What does it mean, then?" said Ginny, sensing there was more to it.

"It means," sighed Hermione in a some-people-do-not-listen-properly sort of voice, "that he was trying to make something else but it only cures headaches."


~~~ Their Darkest Secrets ~~~

"Bagsy this line! Come on, Ron!" Ginny giggled and started on the south row where the fattest, most succulent blackberries were growing in greater abundance than elsewhere.

Hermione frowned. There is no higher authority than a bagsy but it wasn't that Ginny and Ron had bagged the best spot for themselves that was annoying her; Hermione was beginning to seriously doubt her plans for Harry and Ginny. She liked the idea of him having glimpses of her with other boys at Hogwarts to stimulate his jealousy and make him realise she was the one for him, but if it also meant he would see less of Ginny — whoever she was with — then that might be counter-productive. Hermione thrust her basket down at the start of the opposite row, resigned to the fact that Harry and she herself would be moving further and further away from the young redheaded girl.

The bushes were exceptionally varied in height, many were five or six feet, while others were much lower, so they had some stretching and bending and crouching to do. As they worked their way quietly along, plucking the ripe fruit and Harry occasionally stuffing one in his mouth to evoke a glare from Hermione, he smiled. Theirs was a comfortable relationship and rarely was there significant friction between them. Birds were twittering in the orchard further along, bees and other insects buzzed through the warm air; life was good and Harry felt part of it all.

"I wish I'd had..."

"What do you wish, Harry?"

Harry remained silent for a few moments. "A brother."

"You're thinking of when you were younger?"

"Yeah," he said, "just seems a waste to have been stuck with Dudley. We never shared any activities like this."

"At least you had a sort of... brother — sort of, I said," she emphasised when Harry snorted. "I was stuck on my own." She sounded wistful, Harry thought. She noticed his expression. "Oh, I had some acquaintances at school, but nobody I'd call a best friend."

As they progressed, Hermione forgot about Ginny, and even Ron for a while. "Oh, look, there are a few early apples!" She pointed ahead into the orchard as they approached the far end of the row.

Harry glanced around. Mrs Weasley was a very distant figure in the kitchen window of The Burrow. "Come on, let's nick a couple!"

"Harry!" cried Hermione. "No way! Come back here!"

He paused at the gap in the hedge. "Come on, it'll be fun. Ron's mum won't mind."

Hermione scowled and it seemed to Harry that she almost dug her heels into the soft earth. Why do girls always have to be so damned... He turned his back on her and pushed into the gap. He stopped immediately and returned to her — they had been enjoying the morning until that moment.

"You really are the most... purest... erm..." he smiled.

"It's called being honest, Harry." She lifted her nose in that superior manner she had, secretly pleased that perhaps she had influenced him for once.

They continued around the end of the row on the other side. She peered into the bright haze. Ron and Ginny had not yet reached the end of their row, yet their own basket was half full already. Maybe it's not how many berries there are but how fast you pick them!

"Come on, Harry, we can beat them!"

Harry laughed and proceeded in a happy state of mind. He even refrained for a while from eating the odd blackberry — until he spotted a really big, juicy one. Hermione playfully slapped the back of his hand and he smudged it onto his nose.


As he wiped his face, he said, "So... you've never, ever pinched even so much as a... pen or something? Not even a paperclip?"

"Well..." Her cheeks went slightly pink.

"Ah-hah!" He grinned. "Come on, 'fess up."

She shook her head.

"Oh come on, it's only you and me." He saw her wall of resistance so tried a different tactic. "I swear as an honourable Gryffindor never to reveal your evil secret to another living soul for as long as I live." He placed his fist across his heart.

"There's nothing; nothing happened," she huffed, stretching down to move the basket along a few steps.

"Mmm..." He could see he would have to play his reserve card and make the ultimate sacrifice. "Okay, I swear to tell you my darkest secret if you tell me yours. How's that?"

She glanced at his expression. He was smiling but he looked very serious.

"Why should I want to know your secrets?" she said.

She's interested! Harry thought to himself. "Oh, well then..." he said nonchalantly.

They carried on picking in silence, their fingers stained with juice.

"You swear not to tell anyone?" she murmured, in the pretence of thinking to herself.

"Yes, if you also swear."

The basket was moved along a little and they continued their harvesting. She was tough; Harry himself was beginning to crack. The suspense grew...

"Alright, I'll tell you," she said finally.

Harry turned to listen.

"I was about three or four years old and wanted an ice cream but Mum said no." She looked at Harry to see if he was smirking but he wasn't; he looked sympathetic. So, encouraged, she continued, "A button had come off my cardigan and my mum had put it in her purse to sew it back on later. You realise," she added hastily, "I had no sense of money at that age?" He nodded. "Anyway, she had left her purse on the sideboard after she had paid the baker's boy..."

She tailed off and Harry prompted her to continue. "What happened then, Hermione."

"I... I took the button from her purse — I mean it was my button wasn't it?" she said defensively, "I sneaked out to the corner shop. I couldn't understand why the man wouldn't take my button in exchange for a cornet. Mum scolded me a little bit when I got back but I heard her laughing with dad in the kitchen after."

Harry stared. "That's it? A button?"

"Yes, but Mum's purse..." she said with a tone of awed reverence.

"Well, I'm sure she forgave you," Harry said kindly.

"And you won't tell anyone?"

"Of course not. Cross my heart."

They were little kids again, reliving their childhood as the siblings they never were but had both ached for, perhaps without realising what was missing to cause such longing.

He cleared his throat as if he were going to make an announcement then hesitated. She could tell by the way his eyes were swivelling about and inwardly focused that he was trying to think of some alternative.

"You swore, Harry! Your darkest secret! Nothing less!"

His shoulders sagged. "It's nothing really. I was nine. I used to get books from our local library."

"You read books?" she said, trying not to sound too sarcastic.

"Yeah — fantasy and space fiction and stuff like that. Then there'd be ones like hang gliding or bicycle maintenance — how to fix a tyre puncture — not that I ever had a bike of my own but..."

"Go on."

"So, I only had two tickets... well, it wasn't that really..."

"What wasn't?"

"Nothing. I borrowed a book without a ticket."

"What! But that's..." She stopped herself saying 'stealing' and instead tried to change direction. "What was the book?"

Harry blushed miserably. "I can't remember now. Anyway, I—"

"You swore to tell!"

He hesitated then mumbled, "It was babies but I got lots of different books over the years. I like aeroplane ones and rockets and—"

"It was what?"

"What was what?"

"The book you took without a ticket?"

"Erm.. babies — but I got it by mistake."

"Babies? You mean, how to make babies?" Her eyes widened.

"I meant to take it back, honestly! I was scared to. I burnt it on the bonfire."

They resumed their berry-picking and didn't speak for a while. Never before had Hermione appreciated with such intensity the depth and desperation of Harry's isolation.

"You won't tell anyone? You won't tell Ron?" His eyes bulged. "Oh God, you won't tell Ginny?"

"Of course not. I swore."


~~~ Back to School ~~~

Summer was over all too soon; the Hogwarts Express was clattering them back to Hogwarts to start the new school year. Ron was in conversation with Harry but Harry was doing most of the listening. Hermione was still slightly put-out. She had reached the limit of her own abilities in discovering the meaning of the Runes in Harry's little book. Ron had lost all interest and tended to wander off if the subject came up. Harry seemed inclined to trust her entirely to solve the mystery. And Ginny... Well, Ginny seemed unconcerned about anything except meeting with or at least exchanging owls with Neville and her other friend. Hermione wondered if her plan had backfired and hoped Ginny would not get too involved with Neville. Perhaps she ought to have focused on helping Ginny and Harry get talking together more while they were all at The Burrow together instead of...

She sighed, put away the little book and looked out of the window at the scenery flashing by. Harry's face was reflected in the glass looking at her and shaking his head.

"Don't push yourself so hard, Hermione," he said. "Not for me. There might not be any special meaning in them."

"Then why were they given to Sirius for safekeeping?"

Harry did not have any answer.

"I mean, the watch might be a nice family heirloom they wanted you to have but the book..." She frowned. "Did you keep Sirius's message?"


She tilted her head on one side. "I can't remember if he said when they gave them to him." A sudden thought struck her. "You don't suppose ... no."


Ron made a noise between a sigh and a groan and went out into the corridor to look at the view from the other side of the train.

"I just wondered if... Well, they obviously knew they were in danger. Harry, do you think, near the end, I mean, they... But why these particular things? Doesn't it puzzle you, Harry? They're your parents."

"Well, yes, but what can I do?" He grinned. "Hermione, you're my best hope."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry, you don't seem to take things seriously enough! You nearly got killed by those horrible Dementors by the lake last year. Now the Dark Mark cast at the cup match with your wand! What if You-know-who should return? I worry about you, you know."

Harry's grin disappeared rapidly. "Do you think I don't worry as well! Trouble seems to follow me whatever I do. Sometimes I just wish I could... escape it all completely somehow."

She started biting her lip, wondering what to say. He relented.

"Look, Hermione, you're a brilliant friend, but trust me, I do enough worrying for both of us."

But as the journey continued, and now that she had reminded herself of his vulnerability, she did worry. She wanted to cast an everlasting shield about him if only so she, herself, could relax. Perhaps, she tried to think positively to herself, this term won't be so bad, and she was fretting about nothing. They were fourth years now; surely they knew enough magic to keep out of trouble?

Towards the end of the opening feast in the Great Hall, she was encouraged in her optimism by the announcement of an inter-school tournament that hopefully might, for once, divert attention from the 'Boy who lived.' Still...

"It's okay to wear it, Hermione," smiled Harry, as they made their way up the stairs to their common room.

"Sorry? Oh..." She pinked slightly as she realised she had been toying absentmindedly with his mother's watch. "I didn't like to..."

"Don't encourage her, Harry," said Ron.

That made up her mind and once they were seated in the common room, she put it on and held up her wrist to admire the effect. Harry could see she looked quite taken with it. He hesitated for a few moments...



"I'd like you to have it," he said finally.

Hermione's eyes flashed wide and she began to take off the watch. "No, Harry."

"It's for friendship," he added hastily, flushing slightly when he realised how it looked. Ron gawped at him.

Harry made up his mind. "I want you to have it — so long as..."

"So long as we're friends?" she said. "We'll always be friends, Harry." She held the watch, biting her lip, wanting it dearly, but reluctant to take a family heirloom, something that was so personal.

"No, well, yes, no, what I meant was, so long as I might see it now and again?"

She yielded a little then yet still hating herself that she wanted it so badly without understanding why. Of course, anyone could see it was a really nice watch... "For friendship, Harry." She smiled then. "I won't accept it as my own; It's yours — but I'll wear it for you forever."

Harry seemed delighted with that idea. She placed it back upon her wrist and continued to admire it.

Ron seemed perplexed by the turn of events and tried to change the subject.

"So, what d'you reckon to the new Defence teacher, eh, Harry?" said Ron.

"Moody? Don't much care for his appearance but maybe that means he'll be good at Dark Arts," replied Harry. "I mean, if he's been that battered about then he must have had a lot of practice defending himself by now."

Hermione frowned and looked up at the roman numerals of the clock on the wall. "That's odd," she muttered.

"Yeah, like he's been in the wars," said Ron. "Should be interesting."

Neville and Ginny's laughter floated along from further up the common room. The twins were arguing too. Hermione frowned at the distractions and struggled to remember what she had just been thinking about... Oh, that was so annoying!

Ron explained. "Fred and George are exasperated because they're only a few months too young. They're thinking of using an ageing potion."

"It won't work," said Hermione. "A special goblet is used to select entrants. It's called the Goblet of Fire. They'll get their fingers burnt."

She giggled loudly then in astonishment at her innocent pun. Ron shushed her but Harry thought it was pleasing to hear her laughter. She spends so much time on serious pursuits, she deserves to relax now and again. "What did you say it was called?"

"The Goblet of Fire."




Author's Notes

This story is divided into four parts (not books as originally posted.) They are simply natural divisions in my story and might be as short as a couple of chapters. The story is novel length of around 100,000 words.

I plan to make these chapters a little bigger than I did in Chary at the start. They'll be about 5000 to 8000 words which I think is a better size — not too little to leave you still hungry but not so much they'll give you indigestion! So I can't be sure I'll be able to publish weekly but I should be able to put up a new chapter every 7 to 14 days apart.

Many thanks for all comments and reviews. These are most welcome and very encouraging. Let me know of any weaknesses or faults — I'm always trying to improve my writing so feedback is really useful. :)

- Hippothestrowl