Foreword

I don't generally write forewords/premise statements - especially not long ones like this one - because it's a given that fanfiction is going to be either a little bit or a lot different from Canon, and the blurb is usually enough to give people an idea of what the story is about. But for this story, I had some goals in mind, and I wanted to make clear from the outset some of the parts of Canon characterisations I am keeping, and those which I am discarding. You don't have to read the foreword, but if you don't, and you find yourselves wondering later why the story took a certain direction, you should probably take that into account before leaving a comment.

The premise for this is "consistent-character!Harry Potter" based on his "Pre-Ron" characterisation. And by that, I mean the way Harry is described at the beginnings of the books (particularly in the beginnings of books 1-3... see my profile for chapter citations... and in any other scenes in the books which are most reflective of Harry's fundamentals) before Rowling started writing Harry with lines of thought and dialogue which sounded to me more like they were originally written for Ron.

As such, we see a Harry who is VERY interested in reading his schoolbooks, keen on learning everything there is to know about magic, and keen on doing his homework in a timely fashion - in other words, someone who has loads more in common with Hermione than Ron. And as such, we will also see a Harry who is more consistent in his behaviour regarding being very anti-bully, anti-bigot, anti-slavery, and very pro-fairness, not to mention being a fair bit smarter than he sometimes behaves when he's hanging around with Ron.

So there will be no Rowling style Out-of-Character moments where Harry goes from being someone who treats Dobby likes an equal, feels bad about house-elf enslavement, actually frees Dobby from house-elf enslavement, and then suddenly turns into Brainwashed-by-Hagrid-and-Ron!Harry who thinks Hermione is crazy for wanting to free house-elves two books later. And also no moments where Harry isn't smart enough to be suspicious of a super-expensive broom appearing out of nowhere when an alleged mass-murderer is hunting him. Nor will Harry be stupid enough to test out unknown spells discovered written in the margins of an otherwise very useful book on unsuspecting people.

In other words, again, a Harry who tends to have far more in common with Hermione in terms of goals, intellect, and basic outlook on life. Which isn't to say that Harry will be "Brainiac!Harry" who is a clone of Hermione - he will still have a more intuitive/visual style of intellect rather than a verbal/linear one, his memory will be normal - not eidetic, and he will still have a measure of impulsiveness, sassiness, and mildly judgmental attitude, all of which are strong features of Harry's core persona.

Likewise, in this series of moments, we'll see a more consistent-character!Hermione. A Hermione who once she learns to trust Harry's friendship and instincts, doesn't suddenly do inconsistent things like talking to McGonagall about suspicious broomsticks before discussing it with Harry, or stupid uncharacteristic things, like not believing Harry's all-too-credible deduction that a Son-of-a-Death-Eater, with serious Daddy-Issues, is very likely following in his father's DE footsteps.

Nor will Hermione be doing stupid OoC things like falling for a goofball with a motor-mouth, or going to a party with a gropey-rapey jock (McLaggen) just to make that same thickhead jealous... i.e. Hermione won't be portrayed as one of "those girls," a smart assertive girl who inexplicably falls for someone who treats her like crap all time, and who never really show any appreciation for her unless she's doing their homework for them.

No doubt some folk will think my characterisation of Ron is "bashing," (someone always does) but frankly, it is based on Rowling's OWN portrayal of him. And Rowling does not treat Ron's character particularly kindly (when it comes right down to it, she's the original "Ron Basher", which is one of the things that really makes the Ron/Hermione pairing truly bizarre). Oddly enough, Ron is one of the most consistently written characters in the original series.

Anyway, Ron will be depicted in this fic with all of his canon faults, but also with all of his more positive canon traits (he's a decent bloke at heart, he was mostly a good friend for Harry, every once in a while he has a good idea, and he's brave after all). Likewise, the relationship between Harry and Ron in this fic will have its ups and its downs, much as it did in canon. And Ron will get a few moments to shine.

Due to the fact that Rowling has stated that she downplayed the physical abuse of Harry by the Dursleys, at the behest of publishers who had her alter earlier drafts, I have simply reinstated the obvious, which is apparent from the bits Rowling left intact - see my profile for chapter citations. So there will be a bit more mention of it than in canon, simply for the sake of realism, but I'm not going to go overboard on it either.

Due to these sorts of changes, some canon events may be altered more significantly than others, and some other characters may respond accordingly, perhaps even adjusting their own behaviour patterns due to altered perceptions of Harry and Hermione. Other characters will more or less follow the exact same course of behaviours that they engage in canonically.

I should say right up front, though, that Snape's characterisation in this story is based on the MOVIE version of Snape. ... Book Snape was a sadistic psychopath who abused children and had zero empathy or remorse for destroying Harry's life. ... Movie Snape was just a crabby teacher who actually had a heart underneath his crusty exterior.

There are also a couple of characters who have also been adjusted to be more consistent with their initial characterisations (Dumbledore and Fudge in particular). ... And a few other characters will be slightly revisioned to give some actual credence to Rowling's after-the-fact claim that the Potter series is LGBTQ positive - a number of prominent characters will be LGBTQ. ... This is also a very Fem positive fic. And the full implications of the "his mother's eyes" trope will be explored more in depth (hint: the eyes are the window to the soul).

There are a few surprises in store, because I don't like to tag every idea I employ. It's too spoilery that way. So be prepared for some twists that you might not expect.

It's worth pointing out that those who have read my other fic, Hermione's Furry Little Problem, will recognise many scenes, particularly from Fourth Year on, as I am shamelessly plundering my own material, Though the scenes have all been rewritten for a Harry/Hermione-only pairing - there have also been numerous other revisions: expanded scenes, added scenes, deleted scenes, general clean-up and clarifications, different pairings, etc... All of that material was originally intended for a Harry/Hermione-only fic like this one to begin with.

As the story progresses, particularly from Fourth Year on, some mature and serious themes come into play (sex - because, Teens! - and violence. Also, some potentially triggering themes in later chapters) but they will continue to be written in a manner appropriate for the Teen rating (PG-13, TV-14, occasionally veering into slightly R territory. Appropriate warnings at the beginnings of the chapters).

A final point: Some of the early chapters do feature some time-skips and flashbacks to get through the first couple of years quickly without boring plot summaries. There isn't very much of that in third year, and it's all straight ahead after that.

For Guest Reviewers: I have no issue with negative reviews, but I like to respond to them. However I have no intention of cluttering up the story with responses. Please get an account so that we can discuss the issues, or be prepared to potentially have your reviews deleted - especially if they are obviously just Troll "Reviews,"and if you complain about things which I have already given you a heads-up about or slyly hinted at in this Foreword.

~o0oOo0o~

Know-It-Alls and Broomsticks

Harry was tired of listening to Ron going on about the "Bossy Little-Know-it-All," but he really wasn't sure how to tell him. Ron was his best friend. Nobody had ever wanted to be Harry's friend before Ron, so he wasn't entirely certain how to tell a friend to stop being a jerk.

Yeah, it was true, Hermione Granger was a bit bossy, but Harry didn't see what was wrong with being smart. He'd read all of his own schoolbooks before term started, which had all been very interesting, and he wanted to know everything there was to know about magic. Losing a point in his first ever Potions lesson for suggesting that Professor Snape let Hermione respond to the questions when she clearly knew the answers was particularly galling.

Harry had read his potions book, and he had read One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, but he couldn't remember everything he'd read. He thought that maybe Snape wouldn't hate him so much if he had been able to remember everything and answered the questions properly. Harry meant to ask Hermione if she had any tips for improving his memory, but then he forgot all about it after visiting Hagrid's hut and seeing the newspaper clipping about the Gringotts break-in.

Before Harry knew it, another week had almost gone by and the next time he noticed Hermione was on the Thursday that the Gryffindors had their first Flying Lessons together. He saw how terrified Hermione was of her broom. Then that creepy little bully with the blond hair - the one who thought he was better than everyone else, Draco Malfoy - stole Neville's Remembrall.

Harry grabbed his broom, ready to go after Malfoy, but Hermione tried to stop him.

"No - Madam Hooch told us not to - you'll get us all in trouble," she shouted.

Harry almost ignored her completely, but then he remembered that he wanted to talk to her later and noticed that she looked extremely distressed and on the verge of tears.

"Look - Malfoy's the one causing trouble, Hermione. You have to stand up to bullies - if you don't, they think that they can get away with anything."

That seemed to work. Hermione looked conflicted for a moment, then nodded.

"Just be careful, Harry - I don't want you to get hurt or get blamed unfairly."

Of course, when McGonagall stormed out of the castle furiously, it appeared for a short while that Harry would get into loads of trouble. And Hermione's voice was one among the chorus of voices trying to tell the stern professor that it wasn't his fault. Hermione seemed quite appalled when she noticed that Malfoy's part in things had gone unremarked on while Harry was unceremoniously dragged off by Professor McGonagall - possibly to get expelled.

However, things didn't work out like that at all; to Harry's great surprise, he was drafted onto the Gryffindor Quidditch Team instead. Harry was very happy not to be expelled, and thrilled to learn that he was good at something his father had also excelled at.

But then things went all wrong again - and, in retrospect, Harry had to question McGonagall's decision to hold the threat of punishment over his head to make sure that he trained hard at Quidditch. At the time, he had been too excited by the prospect of being on the team to consider how much that might cut into his study time.

In any case, Harry was beginning to seriously question his own decisions. It had been thoroughly stupid to allow himself to be goaded into an after-curfew Wizard's Duel with Draco Malfoy. What did he know about dueling?

They were running from Filch in the middle of the night, and just as Hermione was gasping "I - told- you," and clutching at a stitch in her side, Harry remembered that he barely knew any spells at all, and that he wanted Hermione to give him some study tips. Yet there he was, gallivanting around the castle in the middle of the night simply for the sake of showing Malfoy up. Harry didn't even the justification of standing up to bullying that time; he had seen Hermione's distress and ignored it.

"Malfoy tricked you," she reproached him. "You realise that, don't you? He was never going to meet you - Malfoy must have tipped Filch off."

"You're right, Hermione," said Harry, shame written all over his face. "I'm sorry - I should have listened to you."

Hermione's eyes widened in surprise at being acknowledged and apologised to, as if it were an extremely rare occurrence. And Ron gave Harry a strange look - as if Harry was a nutter for apologising to Hermione Granger - the Bossy Know-It-All. Then Peeves the Poltergeist showed up and Ron idiotically took a swipe at him, which simply caused Peeves to create even more of a ruckus. After running into the room with that mad giant three-headed dog thing to escape Filch once more, Hermione was infuriated all over again.

"We could have been killed," Hermione snapped, glaring at Ron and Harry when they returned to the Gryffindor Common Room, "or worse, expelled. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to bed."

"No, we don't mind," Ron said to Hermione, glowering as she stormed off, "You'd think we'd dragged you along," he snarled at her as she gave them both one last withering look.

Harry hadn't said anything at the time. Hermione was right - about Malfoy tricking him, and about the fact the dog was guarding something, most likely whatever was in the package which Hagrid had retrieved from Gringotts. But Harry had just stood next to Ron in silence, not wanting to say anything to the first friend that he'd ever had.

Hermione didn't talk to either of them for a week. And every time Harry caught her eye and wanted to say something, Ron started loudly going on again about the Bossy Know-It-All, and Harry still hadn't said anything - because Ron was the first friend that he'd ever had.

Hermione bit her lip and turned around, stalking away crossly the first time, and looked closer to tears after each following incident.

At the end of that week, Harry received a Nimbus 2000 broomstick at breakfast. He was excited, but then he caught Hermione glaring at them as he was gloating with Ron about how it was really all thanks to Malfoy being a bullying git.

Harry's face fell, and he thought that he should try apologising again for the previous week. Hermione's eyes flickered when she saw Harry's expression change; she opened her mouth to say something.

But then Ron looked up and scowled at her.

"I thought you weren't speaking to us," he snarled. "Don't stop now - it's doing us a world of good."

Hermione whirled around and marched off angrily.

For the first time ever, Harry felt like hitting Ron - but he said nothing to the first friend that he'd ever had, and it was really starting to eat away at him. Harry was barely been able to concentrate in classes all day as all he thought about was his upcoming first ever Quidditch Practice - and Hermione Granger.

Despite everything, once he was in the air, Harry felt an exhilarating rush of freedom. He caught every golf ball which the Gryffindor team captain, Oliver Wood, hurled into the air. Harry wanted to try it with the real Golden Snitch, but Oliver didn't want to lose it, as it was getting dark. Finally, an extremely impressed Oliver said it was too dark to go on at all, and they packed it in for the night.

The next few weeks passed quickly. Lessons were growing extremely interesting now that Harry had mastered the basics. But the pressure was on, as he had team practice three nights a week, and Oliver strongly reminded him that Professor McGonagall had bent the rules to allow a First Year student to play Quidditch, and suggested that Harry practice everyday.

As much as Harry loved Quidditch and flying, he also wanted to do well in school, and he was afraid that he would start falling behind - especially as Ron wasn't keen on spending their time together doing homework. Harry was beginning to feel a bit desperate - and he couldn't get Hermione Granger out of his head either.

And it wasn't just because he was interested in study tips - he really wanted to get to know her, as a friend. He had wanted to be her friend ever since the day she had said that she didn't want him to get hurt or unfairly punished for going after Malfoy - the day that he had told her that you had to stand up to bullies.

And every time Ron had bad-mouthed Hermione when she was nearby, Harry's feelings of guilt and resentment had grown stronger. If there was one thing he really hated, it was bullies. But Ron was his first ever friend - and he had no idea how to tell a friend to stop being a bully.

~o0o~

Before Harry knew it, Halloween arrived and he was glumly sitting in Charms practice with Seamus Finnegan wishing that he could switch places with Ron, who had been partnered with Hermione. Harry couldn't tell who was angrier between Ron and Hermione, all he knew was that he felt like exploding himself.

They were all trying to make feathers fly of their own accord. Seamus managed to make his and Harry's feather burst into flame. Professor Flitwick brought them a new feather and patiently demonstrated again.

"It's a nice simple wrist movement," squeaked the diminutive Professor. "Remember - swish and flick."

Ron was flinging his arm around like a propeller.

"Wingardium Leviosa," he yelled at the feather.

"You're saying it all wrong," Hermione fumed.

Harry rather thought that Ron's problem went a lot deeper than poor pronunciation, but he paid close attention when Hermione pronounced it correctly.

"It's Win-gar-dium Levi-o-sa... make gar nice and long and put the accent on the o..." she said.

"Go on then, little Miss Know-It-All," snarled Ron, "Let's see you do it if you're so bloody clever!"

Harry had to admire Hermione's restraint and composure considering the great duress that Ron was putting her under. She sniffed haughtily and delicately flicked her wrist as she precisely enunciated the incantation. The feather lifted several feet off the desk and floated in mid-air. Harry focused his attention, ignoring Ron's huffing, and copied Hermione meticulously.

"Oh look..." Professor Flitwick remarked loudly, "Miss Granger and Mr Potter have both gone and done it - well done, you two! Five points apiece to Gryffindor!"

When Ron's ears turned beet red, Harry thought he might see steam shoot out of them at any moment. Ron was in the foulest mood that he had ever seen him in - not even Draco Malfoy, Snape, or Filch had ever managed to infuriate Ron so completely.

When the lesson was over, Harry walked out of class quickly hoping to avoid Ron, but Ron barged through the other students and rushed up beside him.

"Can you believe her? Win-GAR-dium Levi-OOOOOO-sa," Ron sneered, miming an effete wrist movement, "It's no wonder she doesn't have any friends - She's a Bloody Nightmare!"

Several other students giggled and nodded. Hermione pushed past Ron and Harry, bursting into tears, and ran down the hallway sobbing. She darted around the bend and was gone.

Harry stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Ron as something snapped inside of him.

"What's wrong with you?" asked Ron.

"What's wrong with me?" Harry shouted. "You should be asking yourself that! You sound like my bloody cousin Dudley - a big bullying git! ...and you eat like him too!"

Ron's jaw dropped and he stood there in the middle of the corridor gaping in bewilderment at Harry's bizarre pronouncement as he watched his best friend storm off to look for the Bossy Know-It-All.

Harry never did find Hermione, and she wasn't in any of their classes all afternoon. He sat as far away from Ron as possible, who kept squirming, shrugging, and shooting Harry befuddled "what did I do?" looks.

Harry had never been more miserable on Halloween. Not even the Halloween decorations, nor the hundreds of live bats fluttering above, nor the sumptuous feast held any interest for him. Hermione was still nowhere to be seen and Harry refused to look at Ron who was still trying to get his attention with a hurt expression on his face.

Harry picked at his food, until he saw Parvati Patil glowering at Ron and overheard her telling Lavender Brown that Hermione had been crying in the girl's bathroom on the first floor all afternoon. Ron flushed uncomfortably, which was the first sign of remorse that Harry had seen on his face all day.

But Harry wasn't feeling in a particularly forgiving mood. Hermione probably thought he hated her too, or else surely he would have defended her like he'd defended Neville. Harry pushed his plate away and went to look for the girl's bathroom to apologise to Hermione. Ron looked even more confused and starting eating a piece of Pumpkin Pie.

Not more than twenty minutes later Professor Quirrell skidded into the Great Hall, stammering and sputtering loudly with a terrified expression on his face.

"T-t-t-troll... in the dungeon!" he shouted before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head. He keeled to the floor and passed out.

The Great Hall erupted into bedlam as students began screaming and squealing. Ron's eyes bulged when he anxiously realised that Harry still wasn't back, and he had no idea where Harry had gone. He began to panic, and not knowing what to else to do, Ron swiveled around and tried to get Percy's attention. But Percy was too busy being a pompous prat and trying to order everyone about to listen to anything Ron had to say.

Ron caught Parvati's eye and swallowed his pride, suddenly realising where Harry had gone.

~o0o~

Harry managed to find the first floor girls' lavatory relatively easily. Swallowing nervously, he pushed the bathroom door open a crack and heard sobbing. Feeling fairly reassured that no other girls were using the facilities, he entered the bathroom.

"Er... Hermione - is that you?" he asked tentatively.

Hermione's sobs halted and she called out in a shaky voice from the stall that she was in.

"Who's there? This is the girl's loo - go away! I want to be alone!"

"It's me... Harry! I just found out you were in here, and...er... I wanted to apologise. I'm really sorry, Hermione."

"Why do you even care about me?" she shouted. "Why now? After all this time...? Ron's been mean to me for weeks - and..." Her voice broke into another loud sob, then she continued "...and you never said anything then!

"I thought you must hate me too. I'm just a stupid Bossy Know-It-All! Who could possibly like me enough to stand up for me...?" She lost it again and began sobbing uncontrollably.

Harry's heart shattered into million tiny little pieces. He knew how much it hurt to feel all alone - like nobody cared about him. But he hated talking about it... How could he not? It would be like admitting that he really was a freak who deserved a good thumping - and the last thing he wanted was to be pitied. He'd never told anyone - not even Ron.

All Harry had ever told Ron was that his aunt, uncle and cousin were horrible and didn't like magic - that they made him wear Dudley's old clothes and didn't give him any presents.

Trembling, Harry moved towards the toilet-stall within which Hermione was crying and opened the door. He swallowed again, not sure how to begin.

"I... I'm really sorry, Hermione. It's hard for me to explain - I... I've never had any friends before I met Ron on the train..."

Hermione stifled her sobs and peered at Harry incredulously.

"You're just saying that to try and make me feel better because you know that I don't have any friends. How can you not have any friends? Everybody knows you - you're famous! You're in all those history books."

"I didn't even know I was a wizard until a month before school-term," Harry said quietly, steeling himself to tell the truth. "That's why I didn't know what you were on about on the train. My aunt and uncle hate me. They hated my parents because my mum and dad were wizards.

"They never told me anything except lies - that my mum and dad were drunks who died in a car crash. And they never let me have any friends - they told all the neighbours that I was a dangerous nutter and wouldn't let me play with anyone - they let my cousin and his gang beat me up all the time - my Uncle..." Harry croaked, barely able to say it.

"...Uncle Vernon... He hits me too sometimes - he calls me a freak - they all do."

Hermione looked utterly horrified; she bore a sickly expression of revulsion but Harry kept going. He didn't know why, but now that he'd started talking he couldn't stop.

"...I never even had a bedroom - they used to lock me in a cupboard under the stairs until they started getting my Hogwarts letters. So...erm... so when I met Ron on the train - he was the first person besides Hagrid who ever liked me.

"I'm sorry, I know it's n-not a good excuse, but that's why it was hard for me to say anything to Ron wh-when he was being mean to you! Ron is my first real friend."

Hermione started crying again, but this time as her tears rolled down her cheeks, her ragged breath was barely audible.

"Th-that is a good excuse. I'm sorry - I had n..."

"No!" Harry interrupted her. "It's not... I hate the way he treats you - and I hate myself for letting him! And today was just too much for me to take anymore! I..." He gulped when he got to the hardest bit, "...I'd rather be your friend, Hermione..."

Suddenly Hermione lurched forward.

Harry flinched, not knowing what to expect, and was shocked when she flung her arms around him and buried her bushy head under his chin. Usually when people came at him, he had to dodge blows; he'd never been on the receiving end of a hug before - at least not in his memory. Harry stiffened awkwardly, but the heat of Hermione's embrace - teary as it was - began to melt his glacial tension.

"I'd like that very much too, Harry." Hermione sniffled into his chest. "B-but you don't have to give up your friendship with Ron just for me. I understand now - and it's all right to have more than one friend, even if they don't like each other. ... I can try harder to ignore him. Like my parents told me I should do when people make fun of me."

Harry grit his teeth at the terrible advice Hermione's parents had given her. But it was hard to stay cross while she was hugging him.

"You won't have to," Harry murmured as a fuzzy warm sensation unlike anything he'd ever felt before filled him. "I'll tell him off from now on... Urgh! What's that smell?"

Harry wrinkled his nose; the toilet hadn't smelled this dreadful when he'd come in. Then the whole lavatory shook as if there had been a small earthquake. Harry spun around and peered out of the stall. His eyes nearly popped out of his head at the hideous sight and Hermione let out an ear piercing scream.

It was a troll - at least that was Harry's best guess - an ugly dingy greyish creature at least four metres tall wearing a filthy loincloth and brandishing an enormous wooden club. The foul stinking monster roared and swung his bludgeon.

Harry yanked Hermione out of the stall in the nick of time and pushed her behind him against the tiled wall. The club demolished the stall from which they had just departed on impact, shattering the toilet, and water began to geyser from the burst pipes.

"I'll distract him. Hermione, run!" yelled Harry as the beast lumbered towards them splashing through the puddles and gushing water, but she was petrified with fright and couldn't move.

His heart pounded in his ears and Harry wished he knew more spells. He couldn't think of anything that he'd learned yet which would be helpful in a fight with a gigantic monster. Then an idea struck him. Harry pointed his wand at the club as the troll began to swing again. He swished and flicked as he carefully muttered the incantation and the club soared out of troll's grubby hands.

The troll paused and stared in bewilderment at his hovering bludgeon. Harry instinctively directed the bludgeon until it was several metres above the troll's head and he released the spell. The club fell straight down, slamming into the troll's thick skull with a sickening crack.

Harry and Hermione both held their breaths as the mountainous beast teetered dangerously, then it slowly toppled and hit the floor with a thunderous boom that rocked the entire lavatory. Harry and Hermione were both drenched by the subsequent splash when it struck the ground.

Hermione was still quivering with fright as they stared at the fallen beast; Harry instinctively wrapped his arms tightly around her.

"Good Heavens!" gasped Professor McGonagall, suddenly appearing in the doorway with Ron and Parvati. Her features were pale with shock as she took in the scene.

Snape's face appeared right beside hers, no less pallid - but that was his usual colouration. Only the narrowing of Snape's dark glittering eyes suggested any sort of emotion. Fresh anxiety churned in Harry's gut as he wondered how much trouble they might be in.

Quirrell brought up the rear, trembling like a leaf at the sight of the unconscious troll.

"Well... I never... how did you...?" Professor McGonagall could barely get her words out.

"Harry saved me!" Hermione finally managed to squeak, still somewhat shakily. "H-He used the Wingardium Leviosa spell and bonked the troll on the head with its own club."

"A First Year bringing down a mountain troll all by himself? Truly astonishing - well done indeed, Mr Potter!" McGonagall eyed her student proudly. "Fifty points to Gryffindor for your quick thinking and Chivalry! I must say that when Mr Weasley and Miss Patil brought your disappearance to my attention that I feared the worst."

Ron glanced at Hermione who was still shivering in Harry's embrace. When the pair of them peered back at Ron in surprise, he shuffled and stared at his feet abjectly.

"I'm really sorry, Hermione - it was my fault you were in here all day, and that Harry had to come find you. I was really horrible to you. I'm sorry for being such a prat..." Ron looked up again at Harry.

"I tried to get Percy to help," he continued stiffly, "but he wouldn't listen. Parvati suggested we get McGonagall when we both realised you must have gone looking for Hermione. I... I just want you to know that I'm sorry too...and... and I hope we can still be friends Harry."

Harry felt a lump in his throat, and gazed back at Ron uncertainly. All Harry was sure of at the moment was that he really liked Hermione and didn't want anyone to be mean to her. But Harry had to admit that he still liked Ron - even if he was a bit thick and rude. They did have loads of fun together sometimes.

"Just try to be a bit nicer, all right," he sighed, giving Ron a half-smile. Harry caught Snape's dark gaze again, but was a bit taken aback to see that the glittering malevolence had dissipated; the Potion Master's features were now inscrutable.

"Well, I must say that I am quite pleased that you three have worked that out," said Professor McGonagall. "And I must give you some credit, Mr Weasley, for being brave enough to admit your culpability and make amends. Alright then come along everyone, off to Gryffindor with you - the feast is continuing in the Common Room!"

As they made their way to Gryffindor Tower, Harry and Hermione thanked Parvati warmly, both remembering how she'd stuck up for Neville on the day of the Remembrall Incident. Ron ambled slightly behind everyone, still feeling a bit awkward, but much happier now that Harry seemed to have at least conditionally accepted his apology.

Harry gave Professor McGonagall one last hesitant look as they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. As McGonagall watched Harry pass through the entrance, she was left with the distinct impression that he had wanted to tell her something, but then thought better of it, perhaps to leave it for a more appropriate time.

Professor McGonagall had almost reached the gargoyle which guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's office when it suddenly struck her. Mr Potter was clearly taken with Miss Granger, who was perhaps her most fastidious student. The House Mistress of Gryffindor groaned when she realised that she might have to make some adjustments if she wanted Mr Potter to remain on the Quidditch Team.

McGonagall shook her head as she acknowledged her own appalling behaviour in regards to looking out for Mr Potter's best interests. His education must take precedence over her desire for a House Victory at any cost. As she climbed the staircase to Dumbledore's Office, Professor McGonagall took some solace in the fact that Harry Potter was a Natural, born to fly, with remarkable hand-eye coordination. There was a good chance he could perform just as well on match days with far less practice if necessary.