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He had been stealing glances at her for a while now. Nothing creepy, mind you, just the casual glances a teenage boy would steal from a teenage girl. No drooling or stalker-like staring, just... glances. Besides, being in the Great Hall meant that he could do it discretely enough. No one would notice him staring. And if they did, they wouldn't know who he was looking at
He'd sit on the opposite corner to the one she did and he'd use his peripheral vision to see her outline. Sometimes, she'd be too far away, the glasses never made things easier for a guy, but there were certain "strategies" he could use to get a better view. The most successful one would be to have one of his friends, Ron (he was clueless to his surroundings when there was food in front of him), sit opposite him, but just a little bit to the side so he could see her over their shoulders. It was a flawless plan. And yet, the others had noticed something.
They had suspicions he fancied someone but they were not sure. Neville pointed out that he seemed to smile more often. Luna said that, apparently, the Nargles had left him alone (for the moment, she always added). Ginny stayed out of the whole business the moment she realized she wasn't the victim of his affections. He liked the girl, but he saw her as much as a little sister as Ron did. Hell, even Dean and Seamus seemed to notice he had eyes for a "bird" as they called her. They did nothing beyond teasing. And it was harmless teasing, it wasn't like he planned on acting on his feelings. He was merely attracted to a beautiful classmate. But then, Hermione happened. Well, to be completely honest, you could blame Katie instead of Hermione but he saw Katie as more of a catalyst and not the problem itself. It all started after a late Quidditch practice...
As they arrived to the common room, Katie commented on his recent tendency for more dangerous maneuvers on the air. She asked if he was trying to show off. He dismissed the claim with a laugh. But Hermione, who was waiting for them, chose that moment to merge into the conversation.
"I'm just sayin' those moves were pretty out of your regular comfort zone, Harry. And that's saying somethin'!" Katie laughed.
"Nothing to worry about, Katie. It's not like I'm trying to impress someone." It seemed like a common friendly response. He hoped the issue would be dropped then and there. It wasn't.
"You know," Hermione said in an inquisitive tone as she lifted herself from the closest couch "you've been pretty misty eyed lately... something we should know about? Any potential Mrs. Potter out there?" she smiled as she said that. Sadly, Harry's expression must have been similar to that of Malfoy's in front of a hippogriff because her smile dropped.
"Sweet Merlin, there actually is! Harry you have to tell me! How am I only hearing about this now?" She crossed her arms and tapped her foot on the floor. As Ron entered through the portrait hole, Katie decided it would be best to head up to her dorm room and give some privacy to the trio. Harry was glad, he didn't need an audience for what was to come. He only needed to remain calm. Everything would be fine.
"Did you know that your best friend is risking his life to impress a girl?" Hermione asked to the surprised ginger.
"Well yeah, but his life has been at risk 24/7 for the past years so I don't see any problem with him trying to get a good snog out of it." Ron smirked. Harry didn't know whether to feel proud that Ron was paying more attention to his surroundings or bad for not sharing his secret with his best friend. Ron didn't seemed to mind so he would just feel proud for the moment.
"That's disgusting, Ronald." Hermione said with a hint of annoyance in her voice "You shouldn't try to impress someone, Harry. If they can't see how amazing you are without silly tricks then you don't need them in your life." she ended flatly.
"Excuse me, but a Wronski Feint is not a silly trick!" Ron argued before Harry could open his mouth "It's a pretty difficult maneuver and you should be proud that Harry can pull it of so that we may win the Quidditch Cup this year! Besides, she's not even in Gryffindor. He has to catch her attention somehow" Ron finished lamely. Harry was gobsmacked. Perhaps he was selling Ron's attention span really short. At seeing his friend expression, Ron argued that he had heard Dean, Seamus and Neville talk about it.
"Don't worry, mate. I was a bit worried you may have started to fancy me after you asked me to sit in front of you so often at meals and just... stared. I put two and two together and I realized you like some 'Claw or perhaps a 'Puff. I mean... I've seen Susan, if you catch my drift" he winked at Harry.
"Aaarrgh! Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Harry worried the whole castle would be awakened before Hermione was done with Ron "When are you get it through your head?! Stop being a perverted oaf! This isn't just about Harry liking a girl! It's about him not trusting us! First it was the Prince's book and now..." after hearing those words, Harry's head shot up. He couldn't believe it. He was worried his cover was blown but this was just another stupid argument about his potions book! He could hear Hermione in the background, but a silent turnmoil of thoughts plagued his mind.
He could just tell them who he fancied, it would definitely shut both of them up. But then again, it would lead to further line of questioning and he didn't need that right now. Was he really in the mood to fight with Hermione about his potions book, though? AGAIN? Mind you, Ron seemed to be on his side on this one. They could have a chance to end those arguments for good. For the snippets Harry could hear, Ron seemed to think Hermione was exaggerating. Harry just wanted to go out on a couple of dates, what's wrong with that? It had nothing to do with the book.
And it really didn't. Harry opened his mouth to speak "Okay..."
"FINE!" Hermione interrupted "Do whatever you want! But when something bad happens don't blame it on me! And ask yourself Ronald, if Harry could so easily lie about whatever girl caught his fancy, what stops him from keeping more secrets from us?" with that, she turned to Harry "Harry, please. You need us, now more than ever. Just... Just think about this, okay?" And with that she left for the girl's dorm rooms. Harry could swear he heard her sniff a couple of times. He turned to face a silent Ron.
"You... You wouldn't do that would you, mate? Keep secrets from us?" asked Ron, almost pleadingly "I know that through our friendship I may not have always been the best out of the three of us but you do know that I'm here for you. The both of you." And Harry knew. He knew that no matter what, Ron would have his back as much as Hermione would. They may fall or they may stumble, but they would always back him up. "Hermione is just a little stressed, you know. I believe..."
Whatever Ron was about to say was cut by the words that came out of Harry's mouth.
"She's blonde." Harry realized that was the second sentence he had spoken since he entered the Gryffindor Tower. "She has blue eyes too. I saw a glimpse of her on the train a month back. You guys were at the prefect's meeting and I was looking for a compartment. Listen, Ron, I know it's not much but please understand. I don't even know if I like her, she's just attractive." Harry said looking down at the stone floor. He realized he had never spoken to the girl. Where was all that "Gryffindor Bravery" whenever he passed her on the halls? Or whenever he saw her at meals or near the lake?
A small pat on the back made him look up "Don't worry, mate. Well take this one at a time. Who knows? Maybe I could set you two up" Ron said as he led the two of them to the sixth year boy's dorm room. Harry could do nothing but laugh at that statement. "What?!" Ron answered with mocked hurt "Anyways, is she..." he said as he made strange signs with his hands "...you know?" he finished with a small grin.
"Well, she does have a nice arse..." was all Harry said before he realized Dean, Seamus and Neville were pretty much awake and wanted to hear all about this nice arse he and Ron seemed to be talking about.
A week rolled by and it all seemed to come back to reality. It was a Monday morning when Harry found himself going down for to the Entrance Hall, the rest of the guys would still be at their beds but he fashioned a little bit of fresh air on his face before breakfast: it wouldn't hurt. He noticed Hermione when he entered the Great Hall a couple of minutes later and decided to approach her. From afar, Harry could see that Hermione looked a little bit put out now that Harry and the rest of the sixth year Gryffindor boys seemed to have grown closer and he and Ron spent less of their free time with her. She had friends, obviously, but they weren't her best friends like he and Ron were.
"I know we haven't talked like we used to in a while, and it is probably my fault for being a prat, but you do know you are my best friend right?" Harry said as he sat across Hermione, leaving plenty of space to observe the rest of the house tables "That fight the other night, let's just forget about it okay?"
She kept looking at her food but Harry could see a little smile through the madness that her hair was. He decided to take a leap of faith. His hand crossed the table and grabbed hers. She looked at his eyes with a faint blush on her cheeks "Besides, who is gonna help me with my Transfiguration homework?" The blush was gone and she gave a smack to the hand holding hers. "Idiot" was all she could say before the both of them chuckled softly. A pleasant silence grew between the two of them as Hermione finished her breakfast and Harry started his. She decided to accompany him by doing a little bit of reading on her Runes book. Everything was going fine until the victim of his stolen glances decided to enter the Great Hall and have herself some breakfast.
He, obviously, stared as she moved from the door to her designated table. He could have swore he saw her smile as if she had noticed his stare but then, it was probably his teenage stupidity speaking and trying to coerce him into speaking to her already. He turned his mind back to his breakfast before anyone noticed. Hogwarts' students seemed to have a late start this morning, thought Harry. He was already done and Ron and Neville, usually the first at the table, were just entering the hall. Each of them sat beside Harry and said their greetings while grumbling something about cold water and Seamus waking them up. Harry and Hermione decided to wait for them as they had Charms together that morning.
Five minutes went by and Harry was bored out of his mind. Hermione tried to make small talk with him about Runes as they waited but he wasn't in the mood for it, something which seemed to irritate her. Last year, she had tried to get their interest on the subject but Ron and him were years behind on the theory and did not understand a thing beyond the names of the runes and some of their uses. Harry appreciated the thought, especially after how shaky things had been between them, but having a one-way conversation was not on his plans right now. Perhaps he should be more thoughtful. Yeah, they were best friends but they had just made up after a fight. Either way, Hermione gave up. She went back to reading about Aard signs, runes with the power of thrusting telekinetically if Harry was not mistaken. Ron and Neville were concentrated on their respective dishes so he chose to spy on an innocent young woman. Before long, he realized his mistake. Hermione may have given up on talking to him, but not on Ron or Neville.
Hermione looked up to Ron to politely ask him to swallow his meal as silent as possible because she was trying to understand the power of the Quen rune when she saw Harry staring deeply into her. And he was smiling. Now, Hermione had never had any romantic interest on one of her boys... Okay, she did. Third and fourth year respectively. But she had outgrown that, they were just her best friends. Her boys. And one said boy was looking at her very deeply. As if only the two of them were the only beings on Earth. And she couldn't help it. She felt all the blood go to her head. Perhaps that's why Harry had been so distant lately. She gathered all of her Gryffindor courage, looked into those emerald eyes and reached for Harry's hand. She never thought she'd do something like this and even less with Harry Potter, her best friend. But as her fingers touched the back of his hand, his eyes moved by a millimeter to fix on hers. And that's when it clicked.
What had Ron said? 'He kept staring at him' or something like that, right? Ron thought Harry had even started to fancy him! Oh, what a fool she had been! How stupid of her to even dare to hope. It's not like she wanted to anyway, but perhaps a little bit of broom cupboard exploring with someone whom she trusted her life to wouldn't have been so bad. With a sigh she moved her back away from his and into her lap. But not before looking back to where Harry was looking at. Maybe if he promised to giver that stupid potions book she could help set him up with Susan Bones. That's who Ron had said, wasn't she?
As Hermione turned her head to verify where her best friend's gaze had been just a moment ago, as Harry knew she would, his train of thought led to a single word: "Shit."
"Harry, why are you staring at Daphne Greengrass?" said an irritated Hermione as she turned her gaze back to him.
The next few seconds would have been worthy of a picture. Harry covered his face with both of his hands as he tried to make himself invisible. Ron started gagging on his fifth sausage; Neville spilled pumpkin juice all over his robes and Hermione's Runes book. Ginny, who was coming to sit with them, did a one-eighty and left instantly. Surprisingly, Hermione kept her composure and folded her arms as Seamus and Dean both sat beside hear and said at the same time: "Nice arse indeed."