· Challenge

Disclaimer: I own nothing, and I gain nothing.

Authors note: I originally wrote this for the V-day challenge for the Pumpkin Pie Archives. I updated it to make it OotP friendly, so, enjoy! 

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Wednesday, February 10, 1999

Dear Journal,

Albus Dumbledore should be eaten by a Peruvian Vipertooth. Honestly! I do love the man immensely. Everything he has done for the good of the school, the wizarding world at large, and Harry in particular should be heralded and recompensed, (as it most usually is) but sometimes he comes up with the most absurd ideas! Imagine, announcing there is to be a Valentine's Day Ball? Could it be that Gilderoy Lockhart got a hold of a palantir and decided to take over Dumbledore's mind or something?

Nevertheless, Dumbledore is right (as he most usually is). Hogwarts does need a distraction to takes its mind off of The War. The War. That is all that is talked about now, preparations, undercover espionage, who did what to whom, when, why, and where. And what is Dumbledore going to do about it? And what about Harry? Yes, why doesn't Harry Potter just burst into Voldemort's secret lair and destroy him and end everything once and for all?

When random people ask me these questions, I feel like telling them to sod off in a non-too polite manner. First off, Voldemort's secret lair is secret.  Otherwise Harry would probably have already stormed the place like the melodramatic git he is. However, I doubt he would have achieved anything much besides getting himself killed.

No, he isn't ready. But it isn't people's faults that they don't know. They don't know Harry is just a boy, a regular boy that has to bear the mark of a worldwide hero when quite frankly he doesn't need it. Don't get me wrong dear journal, Harry is a Hero. He has been a hero in the past, and will be again in the future. He is brave and talented and one of the most amazing people of this lifetime. But that doesn't make it right that everyone expects it of him?! They have given Harry this Grand Ol' Destiny thing, and it is completely absurd! They take him for granted, and I hate it! I hate it! 

           

And now with this idiotic ball, girls are going to be throwing themselves at Harry left and right, girls who have no idea who the real Harry is, girls who have fallen in love with the "hero," the image, the idea of him, not the real him. And does Harry need this right now? No. He needs to prepare himself for the inevitable. He thinks Ron and I don't know, but I do. When he thinks I've gone to bed he sneaks out of his room and out the door to the common room of the " Head" Suites we both share. I can hear the creaky hinges of the door all the way in my room, and I just know he is meeting Dumbledore somewhere in the castle and training. He thinks I don't notice the bags under his eyes, or how tired he looks in the morning. He thinks I don't see the phial of green liquid in the small bathroom we share He doesn't know I know it's an Enlivener, a wizarding version of caffeine, only more affective and less harmful. He uses it to morph from tired yawning Harry in the mornings, to hyper energetic Harry in the afternoons or during Quidditch practice and games. He doesn't know I watch the surreptitious glances he gives Dumbledore, or the ones Dumbledore gives him, as if somehow they are conversing with their eyes.

           

He is wearing himself out, and I worry, and I'm scared. I wonder if he has taken too much upon himself: school (his marks have improved tremendously this year), Quidditch (he is Captain now that the Twins are gone), Head Boy (which he took on reluctantly mind you, not only because he thought it was supposed to be Ron's job, but because he didn't think he would be good at it), and the fate of the world (granted, this one was sort of thrust on him).

           

I know Dumbledore knows what he's doing, but it still doesn't make me less frightened. Maybe I'm being silly and he isn't getting trained at all, maybe he's just getting tutored and that is why his marks are so much better. Or maybe he is just meeting up with random groupies…

           

No. Harry isn't like that. And why would he need a tutor when he has me? I'd be mightily insulted if that ended up being his reason to go off in the middle of the night.

Merlin's Ghost! Look at the time! I have to do my Arithmancy homework! And I have to get Harry his dinner. Poor Harry, as soon as he heard the announcement about the Ball, he fled the Great Hall and locked himself in his room without eating. (Blasted girls giving Harry a hard time already.)

Ta-ta dear Journal!

*~*~*~*~*

Wednesday, February 10,1999

Dear Mum and Dad,

            Hallo, it's Harry here. I am writing to you in the journal Hermione got me for Christmas. You probably think this is a silly idea, but I've decided to make out all my journal entries to you. This way I can feel closer to you; maybe this way I can feel you are here with me and that we are a regular family, and that I'm just a regular boy sitting down with his parents at dinner telling them about his day.  I know this is a childish notion, but I have no one else to turn to right now, and I wish you were here with me. I need you here with me, especially now with Sirius gone, and everyday I have to live with the fact that you aren't here and you won't be here to help me through what I must face. Right now, I have to face something so horrible and dangerous that I fear I might not make it out alive:

The Valentine's Day Ball.

Blast Dumbledore into a thousand pieces! How dare he do this to me? I thought he was joking all along when he mentioned he might do this, but I never in a million years thought that he would actually be serious!

 It all began last week when I snuck away in the middle of the night to train. I couldn't disarm him properly, and I spent half the night trying to, but I just couldn't! I knew it was because he has this power about him, this essence that makes him untouchable (no wonder Voldemort fears him, you'd have to be drunk to want to duel him!). But Dumbledore kept saying I could, and that I just wasn't applying myself, and that I wasn't concentrating enough, but bloody hell it was three o'clock in the morning and all I wanted to concentrate on was my pillow and blanket! He threatened me, saying that if I didn't disarm him by the 481st try, he would throw a Valentine's Day Ball.

Now, Dumbledore knows just how much I hate Balls. He knows just how much I loathe the whole Ball process, ever since 4th year when Hogwarts hosted the Yule Ball during the Triwizard Tournament and I had barrels of girls throwing themselves at me every which way. Every corner I turned I would find some girl or other asking me to the Ball. I hated it! None of these girls knew me; they just wanted to go out with me because I was "Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived."

Anyways, I laughed at Dumbledore's threat and shrugged it off. I finally managed to disarm him by the 482nd time, so I figured that perhaps he'd forget about the whole affair and I'd be happily spared, but NO! He just has to be a man of his word! The second I heard the announcement today, I ran to my dormitory and locked myself in, not even paying heed to a worried Hermione who was sitting in our common room doing her homework (I suppose). I skipped dinner, but luckily Hermione was smart enough to figure out why on earth I was hiding out, and managed to get Dobby to smuggle some food up for me.

I really must be getting on with my homework now; I have to go train again later tonight. Rest well mum and dad!

*~*~*~*~*~*

Thursday, February 11, 1999

Dear Journal,

Merlin's ghost I think I might sacrifice myself to the squid in the lake! I feel like I'm back in first year, when nobody liked me and I had to watch everyone else be friends and ignore me. Who wanted to hang out with Hermione? Nobody did. I was too bookwormish, my hair was too frizzy (still is) and I was too snobby. I had to settle for hearing people make rude remarks about me, and I had to pretend I didn't care. Later in the day I would cry myself to death in the girl's restroom; never would I let anyone see me cry, never would I let them know how much they hurt me.

Then Harry came along and everything was better. Of course Ron was my friend also, but I must admit in the beginning I wasn't too sure about him. He was probably the most spiteful boy of them all! But he did prove himself a worthy friend in time.

I wish he would've proven himself a worthier boyfriend.

But what was I thinking? Dear journal tell me what was going through my mind? I mean, I honestly thought that at one point I might actually drown him. It wasn't enough that he criticized everything I did, but I did the same to him as well! What were we trying to play at? Sexual tension…was that what Lavender and Parvati called it? Was it sexual tension that drove me to kick him in the groin…

           

The day we declared it over, I think we were both finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. He wasn't happy, and I wasn't happy, and luckily we got through it still remaining friends; but that still doesn't make up for the lost year of my life. Then again, I shouldn't begrudge the experience. At least I learned something from it: never date your best friend.

The fact that what is past is past does not stop me from resenting him at least a little bit from bouncing back so quickly, however; especially after today. He seems so happy with Luna…why can't I be happy? Not necessarily with him, but with whomever! Today everyone kept running around asking each other to the Valentine's Day Ball.

No one even looked at me. 

Ron spent breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the Ravenclaw table with Luna, and Harry didn't present himself to any of the meals at all, (not that I could blame him). It seems like everyone already has a date to the dance, and it has only been a day since it was announced! Dean and Seamus are going with Parvati and Lavender respectively; Ginny refused Neville but did it with a really deep blush in her cheeks which means that she already has a date but is refusing to admit who; Justin Finch-Fletchley is going with Hannah Abbot, I think even Crabbe and Goyle have dates…

No one even looked at me.

I felt invisible! And I feel wretched, and I want to do nothing but sit here with Crookshanks on my lap and cry a little. Maybe then the old-Hermione feelings will stop haunting me, and maybe after a time of silent contemplation, I'll remember that I have friends who care about me and love me for who I am.

Maybe not.

*~*~*~*~*

Thursday, February 11,1999

Dear Mum and Dad,

            I disarmed Dumbledore on the first try last night. I actually disarmed him about a hundred times I believe. So great was my fury with him that it sort of lent itself to my magical potency and allowed me to be a rather excellent defensive dueler. Dumbledore was pleased, but not surprised at all. I think this was his plan actually, to get me so riled up that I would have an extra crackle, and that this extra crackle should be let out through physical exertion.

Even though I did manage to become an expert disarmer, I couldn't petrify him to save my life. This is where another part of his plan came in; he sat me down and said to me:

"No matter how angry you are; no matter how much you feel the need to destroy in a blind rage, never let your fury take over; never let anger become hate. Passion, in all its shapes and forms causes one to lose control; never let yourself lose control Harry Potter! This weakens you, and it is what the enemy wants, and it is what he shall strive to do when the time comes when you must face him."

And then he raised his ancient eyebrows at me, and continued:

"The challenge is to find the passion that does not weaken."  

Dumbledore sounds like a bloody fortune cookie.

But he is Dumbledore, and sometimes what comes out as eccentric is actually worth listening to. Not sometimes, it's really more like all of the time. But you guys experienced this, didn't you mum and dad? You guys know how it feels to try and understand him when he makes no sense, or when he makes such perfect sense that you know you got it all wrong because its not supposed to make sense at all.

Speaking of not making sense, I really need to understand girls more.

Take Hermione for instance. She's been one of my best friend's for six and a half years now, and sometimes I feel I can barely understand her. Today for example, as I was about to sneak off into the kitchens to eat something, (I skipped all meals in fear of being harassed by the female population of Hogwarts) I found her sitting in front of the fire in our common room sobbing quietly.

I honestly didn't know how to react to this. I knew I couldn't just leave her there! I knew she knew I was in the room because her sobs stopped abruptly. I inched my way closer to her, and I could hear her holding back; I could hear her heavy breathing. I finally managed to get close enough to touch her shoulder and inquire what was wrong.

"It's nothing," she said. "Nothing is wrong."

"Don't give me that, Hermione," I replied, knowing full well something was wrong. "Is it Ron?"

At this Hermione gave a sharp intake of breath. I had to live a year with either she or Ron, coming up to me, pointing fingers and accusations at each other. Both expected me to pick whoever was right so that they could then rub it in the wrong person's face, and I would be the one scorned for being truthful. As much as I tried to stay out of it in the beginning, they both sucked me into it, and I was put into a position where I had to say something or they'd both be mad at me! I remember in the beginning I was more prone to side with Ron, no matter how wrong I knew him to be, but as I grew older, and as I underwent experiences with girls myself, I began to see how idiotic Ron really was, and I began to side with Hermione.

Even though they aren't dating anymore, and even though their bickering is not as bad as it was while they were dating, it is still far worse than the way it was before they dated. Really, I'm sick of hearing it all the time! Now that Ron has Luna it has lightened up a bit, as he spends a large portion of his meals over at the Ravenclaw table, but still, when he and Hermione are together its like being back in 3rd year with the Pet Wars as I've taken to calling them.

I honestly don't know what it is about them, its like they can't be satisfied until they've successfully gotten each other in a foul mood. Yes, they have their good days when its all smiles and laughter, but those days are few and far between, and quite frankly I miss them.

This whole relationship mishap has taught me a valuable lesson, however: Never date your best friend. It only wrecks perfectly good friendships! I mean, Ron and Hermione are still there for me. They're both as protective and loyal and brave as always, they still follow me into whatever scrape I get myself into (no matter how much I protest, as I always deem it the proper thing to protest). But still, Even though they're there for me individually, its really hard for them to be there for me together, as an ensemble. Do you understand? The dynamic is still there, nothing can take away the fact that we're a very magnificent and might I add dangerous Trio, but that level of camaraderie we used to share has been taken down a notch. A part of the fault may be mine, as I'm quite busy of late; but all of us are busy of late, what with being Head Boy alongside Hermione, (and technically she does all the duties as to alleviate my load) and being Quidditch Captain, not to mention that insane wizard that keeps following me around. Ron has Quidditch, prefect duties, and Luna.

Despite all our busyness Ron and Hermione's failed relationship is the main reason why our friendship is in a bit of a rut. Its like a part of our dynamic has been shifted out of balance, and somehow this balance must be put back into place. Whether time or something else is needed for this to happen is yet to be seen.

Getting back to the story, Hermione told me in few words (with lots of sobbing in between) that no, it wasn't Ron that made her cry today, but everyone in general. I was perplexed by this reply; this was the first time in how many years that it hasn't been Ron that made her cry, and I had to get used to this. I told her as much, and though this did elicit a giggle from her, it did not do much in the way of bettering her spirits.

After a couple of minutes of just sitting there quietly, (and awkwardly might I add) she burst out with the whole truth. She told me all about her day, her sitting in the Great Hall watching everyone else make cute little dates to the ball while she remained unnoticed and alone. After this revelation of heart, she burst into a new batch of tears and threw her arms around me.

Now mum and dad, let me tell you that this isn't the first time I've been hugged by Hermione. The first time, if I recall correctly was way back in first year, right before I entered the final chamber and faced Quirrel's Turban/Voldemort's evil and frail head. I was eleven then, and in any event the first hug between a boy and girl at that age cannot be anything but awkward, even though it was just between friends. Add to this that this was my first hug, ever in my life; you are bound to feel even more uncomfortable and slightly bashful.

Don't you dare blame yourselves for the lack of nurturing I've experienced throughout this lifetime! How can you miss what you've never experienced in the first place? No, it wasn't that lack of affection that caused a bit of a rough patch in my mental state (for a rough patch it was), but the sudden onslaught of human to human contact that I was previously unaccustomed to. It wasn't only Hermione that plagued me thus, but Mrs. Weasley, and Hagrid, and all the silly girls that kept vying for my attention by engaging my er…physical senses.

But if there has ever been one constant in my life to try and make this newfound intimacy more familiar it has been Hermione. Who else do I spend almost every waking hour with that has the familiarity to just grab a limb in nonchalance? Certainly not Ron…(And I don't know how I'd react if he did that, I'm sure the reaction would vary depending on the limb. Actually, the same would go with Hermione).

Nevertheless, despite having had years of Hermione's invariable and welcome hugs, kisses, and larks, there are still quite a few instances in which hugging Hermione goes back to the early days of discomfort…

And this qualifies as one of them.

Its not necessarily because I don't like the fact that she is hugging me, but it's the reason behind it. I am definitely not used to an insecure and crying Hermione. I've seen Hermione cry for happiness, I've seen her cry in fear, I've seen her cry in despair, in anger, in hate, in frustration, and I've consoled her, and rejoiced with her over these and their subsequent victories and its all been well and jolly…

But I've never seen her cry out of insecurity. I've never had to console her because she was feeling down or depressed; I'm not accustomed to seeing her level of confidence so low. It practically floored me and made me have a sort of mini-anxiety attack. What on earth does she have to be insecure about?

Mum and dad, I have to tell you, I really did feel like slapping her silly. Another part of me also felt like laughing in her face over the ridiculousness of it all! But then that other part of me came in…that part that knows what its like to feel neglected and alone; the part that knows what isolation feels like, the part of me that is still locked up in that cupboard in #4 Privet Drive…

That part of me won over, and after the initial shock wore off I did the best I could to try and console her. I held her close; mustering up all the times Hermione ever did anything for me so that I could try and frame words to console her, and that was when it hit me:

 When have I ever showed Hermione the appreciation she deserved?

Here was Hermione! Hermione, one of my best friends for the past six and a half years, probably the person that has done the most for me in anything (with the exception of Dumbledore) and I have never ever ever done anything to make it known to her how much it is that I appreciate her.

At this point I felt like slapping myself silly. Am I, or am I not the most selfish, pratish, idiot that has ever walked the face of this planet? Do I not deserve to be eaten by a Peruvian Vipertooth, or perhaps be sacrificed to the squid in the lake?

"No you don't Harry!" Hermione laughed when I told her this. When I say laughed, I mean laughed. I don't think I've ever heard her laugh this much in my life.

"No no no Harry, it isn't you that deserves to be eaten or sacrificed." She said this with a twinkle in her eye that made me think that perhaps she had contemplated similar methods of execution before…

"But in all honesty Hermione, don't you know that you are one of the most wonderful people I've ever met in my life? And I'm not just saying this because you've saved my arse from death many a time, but in all seriousness, don't you know how absolutely brilliant you are? Your marks…you're at the top of the class! And your courage…Ron can't hold a wand to you. (Don't you dare tell him I said that!) And your kindness…who in Hogwarts is kinder? Exactly who on this bloody planet is more thoughtful than the illustrious Hermione Granger? Harry Potter can't think of anyone, because after all, if it weren't for Hermione Granger, Harry Potter wouldn't be alive to fight the naughty bad guys and save the world from everlasting strife. Harry Potter probably would have starved himself to death in his dormitory in an effort to keep away from jealous best friends and love-sick school girls."

Hermione laughed some more at this to try and hide the signature blush that made its way across her pale cheeks. "All right, fine fine fine! I'll admit it; I am brilliant and magnificent! Can we please go to bed now? I really need all the benefits a full night of beauty sleep can dictate."

I was about to unfold my limbs and get up when I heard this last comment.

"Hermione, don't ever let anyone tell you you aren't beautiful, and don't ever let anyone make you feel that you aren't. You are beautiful in ways that go beyond the physical, and they shine right through your eyes."

I couldn't help but notice the way her eyes shined in that moment, reflecting the crackling fire no doubt. They gave me the sudden urge to use my fingers to explore the arch of her eyebrow….but I stopped my twitching hand from doing what it wanted, and checked my mind from thinking unthinkable thoughts; this was Hermione after all.

 "Goodnight," I mumbled hastily, wanting to get away from her as soon as possible.

"Goodnight," she whispered in return, and before I could slip into my room, she called out to me.

"Harry! Thank you, you don't know how much this meant to me," She said, her eyes cast to the ground, a demure expression on her face.

"And thank you for…everything," I replied, slamming the door shut behind me. All thoughts of food were gone from my head at this point, and it is now that I get to where I currently sit, writing this to you, feeling a bit of the load off my shoulders, and yet, feeling more confused than I've ever felt in my entire life.

So I end the day mum and dad. This is all Dumbledore's fault.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Friday, February 12, 1999

Dear Journal,

            Help me! I'm confused! And it's getting worse by the hour! Last night I stayed up talking with Harry. I was feeling awful and I needed consolation, and Harry saw me in this state and of course, being the good friend he is, offered me solace.

            But everything is changed.

            I don't know how to explain it properly; I just know it is. Take this morning for example; I couldn't look at him in the eye without feeling my face grow hot and my skin bust out in gooseflesh. I don't know whether its because I'm ashamed that he saw me in such a state of girlish immaturity, or whether its because I have to get used to being in such close, private, intimacy with him…

            Or whether it's something else entirely.

            Don't be stupid Hermione Granger! This is Harry Potter we're talking about…bloody Harry Potter! Harry Potter who you met at age eleven on a train…Harry Potter who saved you from a Mountain Troll and so befriended you…Harry Potter who refused to leave school in second year because he feared an evil snake might harm you…

            Harry Potter who said the most amazing things to you last night.

            But what do words do anyways? Words are words! Words are nothing! Many a woman has been swayed by silly words…you've been swayed by words before Hermione Granger! Perhaps he didn't even mean any of it…maybe he said all those lovely things just because he wanted to make me feel better.

            But when has Harry not been a man of his word? 

            Merlin I'm just being silly! He is my best friend after all and this is nothing more than a passing fancy…

Right?

Anyways, continuing on with my story, I couldn't look Harry in the eye.

One reason was because he was surrounded by girls who were asking him to the ball, all whom he kept ignoring. When the lot of them finally realized they were not to get a response from him today, they moved away.

That was when I finally did manage to look him in the eye, and to my extreme horror, I saw the large bags under them…

I felt like bloody shooting him.

And then I felt like bloody shooting myself…

He hadn't slept! He hadn't slept properly in three days (upon my calculation…) and this last night was all my fault. I had kept him from sleeping well, and I had kept him from eating well (because no doubt he was sneaking off into the kitchens last night, why else would he be lurking about on a non-training day?) 

And to top this all off, the git had not taken his Enlivener! (Not that I support this little habit mind you.)

I immediately stood up from my seat, pulled him out of his, and dragged him up to our common room. The opinions this gossipy school was forming on my sudden actions never really crossed my mind; the only thing I could care about was Harry and his welfare. I felt a little guilty I was the cause for his exhaustion, especially after the big deal he made about me taking care of him last night; I figured I should live up to my title, no? (Which actually I don't think I deserve…have I really helped Harry all that much throughout the years? I wanted to look in previous journals to see if I could find evidence enough to support this claim, but blast me I think I left them at home!)

I think he was too shocked to speak until we got to our common room, (I'm usually not this aggressive, or perhaps he was too tired?) where he finally burst out with:

"Hermione, by the lion's mane what do you think you're doing?"

I decided to ignore this question, and I continued with dragging him into his room, and in one swift motion, shoving him onto his bed.

"Sleep!" I commanded, mustering up the sternest face I could.

"B-b-but…"

"If you dare but or protest Harry Potter, I shall turn you into a Flobberworm! Is that understood or would you like a demonstration?" I put my hand on my hips and gave him my most pointed stare, keeping very clear the image Prof. McGonagall in my head.

Apparently it worked for he burrowed himself into his bed with a big pout on his face.

"Fine," he said, "but if I stay, you stay too."

Let me tell you I was a bit shocked at this. I expected to only make him get some rest so then I could be on my merry little way. But he looked at me with this challenging look in his eye, almost wanting me to defy his command…

Which of course I did.

"Why on earth would I stay here, Harry Potter? Who then would give your excuses to your Professors? And why, pray tell, would the illustrious Hermione Granger, who is known for her academic excellence and impeccable attendance record, stay and watch Harry Potter sleep? I'm not a member of your fan club after all…"  

Harry seemed like he was trying hard to think this over, when a rather mischievous expression clouded his face.

"I didn't necessarily want you to watch me sleep. Didn't the illustrious Hermione Granger admit she was wanting in the beauty sleep department…"

That did it! I threw myself on him and smacked him. This of course resulted in a pillow fight, which left us both panting and tired. How on earth could I refuse a nap after that?

"You know, we might get in trouble for this…"

"Hermione, we're Head Boy and Girl! We can make whatever excuses we want! Besides, Dumbledore has given me special allowances to miss classes if I need it, and I'm sure nobody cares you're missing class as you're probably smarter than all the teachers in this school combined and don't really need to go to class at all…and hey! You're not in my fan club? Some friend you are!"

I rolled my eyes playfully at him; although he had a point, I don't really need classes anymore, despite the oncoming NEWTs  (not to sound cocky).

"Very well, Mr. Potter; I shall allow myself this instance of abominable laziness just this once, but from now on you must take your mid-morning siestas alone. Agreed?"

The only thing to answer me, however, was a very uncouth snore; Harry had already fallen asleep.

I rolled my eyes again (I seem to do this a lot when I'm around Mike and Ike here…) and settled myself for a nap. Merlin knows my tired eyes needed one…

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Friday, February 12, 1999

Dear Mum and Dad,

            Shoot me I'm such an idiot! First off, I asked her to nap with me.

To nap with me.

            What was all that about? I honestly don't know what came over me when I asked her to stay with me…I'm trying to convince myself that it was just a general mood of obnoxiousness that provoked me, but I really do not know. All I hope is that she doesn't notice it was in fact a terrible attempt to keep her close to me.

Drat! I admitted it to myself! Finally!

It was an attempt to keep her close to me. 

You don't understand mum and dad, I've been having an internal debate myself all day as to why exactly I asked her to stay with me, and it is a relief that I've finally admitted this to myself. I think I can sleep soundly tonight…

But no, why exactly did I want to remain close to her? Its not as if I'm not close to her every waking hour of the day, I even share a suite with her! Is this jumbled feeling in my stomach the result of me realizing that I have taken her for granted all these years, and that perhaps her friendship to me might mean more than Ron's?

I am so not used to analyzing anyone, let alone myself. Why on earth did I begin to write in this blasted thing anyway? It's making me think about myself, which is something that I'm not accustomed to doing. Its always been much easier to think about everything but. When I was younger I would think about being away, away from the Dursleys that is, and when I got away and came to Hogwarts my thoughts became focused on all my escapades and the growing threat of Voldemort, and finding all I could about you mum and dad. And suddenly I've had to think about myself, and I think this is the hardest thing I've ever done!

And I've only been doing it for two days. Isn't that funny?

Anyways, I haven't told all of what transpired of my idiotic day. After I rather rebelliously asked her to nap with me, (Which was quite a pleasant experience I might add. She was all soft and warm and smelled nice. Hold those thoughts, this is Hermione. Hermione is not supposed to be soft or warm or smell nice. She's supposed to be all hair and attitude. I think I'll shut up now.) I awoke to find myself alone in my bed. She was gone, and when I checked the clock, I realized she must have gone down to lunch without waking me. The rumble in my stomach told me that it too wanted to go down to lunch, but I was rather scared of being bombarded by invitations to the Ball.

Then my stomach made a really loud growling noise, and I decided I had better eat something before my stomach decided it was time to find another host and left me for someone else.

When I got to the Great Hall I was pleasantly surprised to find there was no stampede heading my way. All the girls did was stare at me with longing looks, and give Hermione venomous glances. When I joined her and Ron at the Gryffindor table, I was amused to find Hermione was suffering from bed head, and had a rather smug smile on her face.

"Toast, Harry?" She asked me pleasantly, and handed me a plate of already buttered toast and a cup of warm spiced cider. She already had my meal ready, which was typical Hermione.

I tried to eat in this state for some time; I was actually beginning to feel paranoid. The Great Hall was eerily quiet, and people kept staring and whispering in our general direction, and I finally could take no more of this.

"Hermione," I began, letting my cup of cider fall to the table with a loud clank, "what is everyone on about?"

Hermione gave me a conspiratory smile and jerked her head towards the door. We stood up in unison and sprinted out of the room, leaving a rather bewildered Great Hall to its gossip. Once outside in the hallway, Hermione told me everything.

"I told a core group of girls that if any of them so much as got within a three foot radius of you, their house would lose points and they'd be turned into something unpleasant. The rumor spread (as everything does here), and voila! It worked."

 It was at this point that I hugged her and thanked her profusely. I don't think I've ever been as grateful to anyone in my entire life. It is a really big hassle, dealing with all these girls. And Hermione, in her own brilliant manner, found a perfect way to solve the problem.

It was in this state of hugginess that Draco Malfoy found us, (git!) and being who he is, could not leave without making some snide remark.

"Well well well, apparently Rita Skeeter wasn't as mad as we all thought."

Hermione and I jumped away from each other as if we were on fire.

"And apparently the young lovers do not want anyone to know about it…"

Hermione puffed up in haughtiness and flipped her hair, (for her that is a sign of flippancy). "Malfoy, go dig a whole and crawl into it. There is nothing going on between me and Harry, and everyone knows it."

Malfoy chuckled mirthlessly, "Of course there isn't anything going on between you and Harry. Harry wears glasses, which prevent him from being blind. Anyone with eyes would know to stay away from you Granger."

 Normally Hermione would find some witty retort to make, but I could see that comment stung her already vulnerable sentimentality, and at that moment I really did feel like grabbing Malfoy's scrawny neck, and twisting it until it broke…

But instead I did something sillier.

"Shut your pumpkin pie hole, Malfoy! As it turns out, Hermione is my date to the Valentine's Day Ball, and for your information, she looks ten times better in her dress robes than that hag you date better known as Pansy Parkinson!"

I saw Malfoy's jaw drop and Hermione's eyes widen in surprise. I gave Hermione a pointed stare, and as if reading my mind she dropped her surprised look and feigned one of nonchalance; she couldn't, however, hide her blush.

Malfoy left, a bit flabbergasted actually, and Hermione and I were left alone, in an awkward silence.

"Soo…." I began…

"Soo…"

All we did was stare at the floor, the ceiling, anywhere but at each other, until she finally said, "You know, we don't really have to go if you don't want to."

So this was it, my way out. She was giving me a way out, and I think my newfound appreciation for her soared to a higher plateau. Here she was, not caring about herself, or what might be said of her is she was "dumped by Harry Potter," but about me, because she knew I wasn't too fond of dancing or balls…

"Stop being ridiculous! You're my date Miss Granger. Unless you don't want to go…"

"Oh no! I mean yes, I wanna go, as friend's of course..."

"Right. Yes. Friends."  

She gave me a shy smile, which I returned (at least I hope it was a smile.) With that we both sort of turned away and walked to our separate classes, both not really caring that we weren't prepared for class at all (at least I wasn't, but I didn't see Hermione with her school things either.)

The whole day the rumor followed us; Malfoy didn't keep it a secret that I was going with Hermione to the ball. Nobody said anything however, they just maintained the same attitude they had during lunch: the girls would look at me longingly and shoot evil glances at Hermione

I was shocked to find Ron giving me evil glances…

And so it is here that I stand mum and dad; I am to go with Hermione to the ball. I didn't have the intention of going at all, but alas fate has seen it fit that I should go with Hermione. I think that fate made the best choice possible actually, but that still doesn't stop the butterflies in my stomach.

I really do hate Dumbledore; this is all his fault!

Did I tell Malfoy to shut his pumpkin pie hole?

Smooth Potter.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Saturday, February 13, 1999

Dear Journal,

            I couldn't sleep. I don't think I can breathe. Yesterday Harry asked me to be ball! Sure, it was a spur of the moment thing where he was trying to protect my honor…but I'm going to the ball with him! I must admit that I am a bit frightened; I really don't know where we are anymore. Sure, he is still my friend, but you know that feeling when you just want to reach out and touch someone, not in comfort or in friendship, but because you want to feel them? Well, that's the feeling I have around Harry now, and it scares me. Where on earth did it come from? What trade wind blew across my cheek and awoke my sentimentality, making it sensitive to Harry of all people?! Wasn't it last week when I was throwing snowballs at Harry and smothering him in a motherly fashion? When on earth was maternal preoccupation replaced with…

            With I don't know what exactly.

            Oh journal can't you tell me? Can't you help me with this confusion? I don't understand it; he is my best friend! He's been my friend and only my friend for the past six and a half years! Harry as more than that has never crossed my mind, not in a million, trillion, gazillion…

           

All right, ok, maybe it has, but not to the point where it was strong enough that I might act on it, or that I might hope he reciprocates. Yes, there was a time when I had that girlie crush on him I'm sure all girls go through, but I thought I was above and beyond that and that everything was ok…

            Which it's not.

            Blast me! Here I am, pondering what I feel for Harry when I have no clue what it is exactly he feels for me. Why must it be so complicated with him? Ron was soo obvious, to the point where I knew it was just a passing infatuation and nothing more.

            But you know what they say, its always complicated when its true love…

            Oh my stop it Hermione Granger! He is your best friend! And you made a promise to yourself! No more of it, no more! You're only going to the ball as friends and nothing more, so you should just stop making a big deal out of it! 

But I can't; I can't!

Today was the Hogsmeade weekend allotted to students who needed to buy new dress robes for the ball. Luna accompanied me to buy mine, and they're soo lovely! When I went to pay for them, the storeowner told me they were already taken care of.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, completely perplexed. Luna just shrugged.

"Well, you are Hermione Granger, no?"

I nodded, not really knowing where this was going.

"Well, all the stores in Hogsmeade were notified by Mr. Harry Potter that anything bought by Hermione Granger should be billed to him…"

Journal I was most surprised at this, and quite frankly I didn't know how to react.

            I finally saw him today after we got back. He ran off somewhere with Ron the whole day (they really didn't need to buy any robes,) and I hadn't seen him at all. I stayed up late waiting for him, and I saw him return to our suite all sweaty and tired from training with Dumbledore.

            He looked simply ravishing.

            "Harry!" I called to him before he slipped into this room. (Seeing him all tired really tugged at my heartstrings, but that rugged look really does suit him…)

            "Hey," he said. He wouldn't look me in the eye, and I knew he was a bit shy about the whole ordeal. This just endeared him to me more.

"Thanks for the robes," I said to him hastily. "You didn't have to, you know. I'll pay you back if you like…"

"No Hermione, keep them. They're a gift. They're my thanks to you."

I felt my face burning; he said this last bit looking me straight in the eye.

"Thanks for what?"

"Everything." And he slammed the door behind him.

Now I sit here and ponder this encounter, which ended rather identically to the other night. What game are we playing Harry Potter? Are you my friend…or aren't you? I for one am confused, and the only way to figure this out is if you help me, but how do I ask your help?

I shall end this entry now dear journal; I really need to get my beauty sleep!

*~*~*~*~*~*

Saturday, February 13, 1999

Dearest Mum and Dad,

The world is ending; this must be answer! For there is no other explanation for it; there is no other way to explain why it is that I have suddenly fallen for my best friend Hermione Granger. And it isn't like this graceful fall, where you sort of float down onto a fluffy, cloudy surface. No, its' more like getting thrown off a cliff onto jagged rocks.

Today we went into Hogsmeade to buy all the necessary things for the ball. Ron and I didn't really need anything, but I went along anyway to alert the stores that anything Hermione wanted would be billed to me, and Ron came along to accompany me.

For the majority of the morning he wouldn't talk to me, and let me tell you I was really worried as to why. I finally managed the courage to ask him what was wrong, and I was most dismayed when he didn't respond.

            Instead he just grabbed my arm and pulled me to the nearest carriage. We were silent all the way back to Hogwarts, and we were still silent as we walked to Gryffindor Tower, and up to his dormitory. Once there he went to his trunk and pulled out five books. All five were big and worn, and on the cover in engraved gold where the initials H.G.

            "Hermione's journals," I whispered to no one in particular. I knew what they were immediately; having seen her write in them diligently for the past six and a half years, and having an identical type myself, (which I am currently writing in) only the engraving on mine is H.P.

            "What is all this about Ron," I asked. I was a bit perplexed as you might imagine, and I was more perplexed when Ron replied:

            "Do you ever wonder why I was mad at you for so long during fourth year?"

I honestly didn't have an answer to this, as I didn't have an answer to the rest of what he said.

"Don't you ever wonder why I spend so much time with Luna now, Luna, who can't hold a quill to what you and Hermione mean to me? Don't you ever wonder why ever since the breakup, Harry, things have been weird not only between me and Hermione, but between me and you as well?"

All I could do was just sit there and stare. What was his point, exactly?

"My point is that it's because of this!" He said, throwing the journals to the floor. "This! You and Hermione, Hermione and you."

"Ron," I began, completely confused now, "There is no me and Hermione to speak of. We're just going to he ball as friends; you above all should know this. And besides, this is a recent development, it has nothing to do with things long past…"

"No, that is where you are wrong. It has everything to do with things long past. Or did you think I hadn't noticed? Did you think I was that daft and blind? Harry you insult me…"

"RON! What in Merlin's name are you rambling on about?"

At this point Ron narrowed his eyes at me, and began circling me like a hawk. "Do you not know then…"

He stopped, and inspected me with a cool gaze. I didn't know what to make of his behavior, and I was beginning to think that maybe I knew, but I just didn't want to accept it.

"I read these," he said, motioning to her diaries. "And you know who is the most prominent figure in most of her entries, besides herself?"

I shook my head at this; I had never read her diaries in my life, and I would not for the life of me intrude on her privacies in such an abominable manner; I was rightly upset with Ron.

"You!" He said, not bothering to hide any resentment. "All she writes about is you! How she worries about you, what you said, what heroic thing you did. Even in her 6th year journal, when she was my girlfriend, all she wrote about was you! You! Sure, she wrote about the fights she and I had and how much I upset her, but she never bothered to write about the good things or the fun things. Perhaps in her opinion there weren't any, but if it involved you in it then yes, she would write. And even when she wrote about our fights, she would spend most of the entry scribbling angrily over the fact that you sided with me, or writing triumphantly if you sided with her! Even when it was just between me and her, Harry, you were always there between us! And it angered me, angers me still!"

My head was spinning from his rant, where on earth was this coming from?

"Do you wanna know why I stayed mad at you back in fourth year, even though in the back of my mind I knew it wasn't really you that put yourself into the Goblet? I'll tell you why, it's because of her! That's right, it was because of her that I was mad at you! Why did she have to side with you huh, why? Why did she have to come to me and yell at me for being a git and sing your bloody praises? Why did she spend all the time talking about you to Victor Krum, she has two best friends does she not? Why!?"

I couldn't answer Ron, I didn't know how to react to all this. What was he trying to imply…

"Harry! What I am trying to say is that she bloody loves you! Ok? That's what I've been whining about. She loves you in a way that doesn't involve me. I don't think she realizes it, as she does tend to be daft when it comes to emotional problems involving herself, and apparently you didn't realize it either."

I refused to believe anything he said; and so I fled. I fled a problem that I knew was never-ending, and more complicated than fighting any sort of manifestation of Voldemort; I fled hoping the problem would stay in the room, with Ron. But when I went back to my room, I paced (I paced a lot in fact). I then decided pacing wasn't doing me any good, and it definitely was not going to solve anything, so I decided to go to the one person who had a reputation of solving things.

Dumbledore.

But the fact that Dumbledore was the start of my problems, (as this unraveling began after his bloody Valentine's Day Ball announcement) my spirits weren't any lighter when he answered the door to his study.

"Ahh…back for another round I see?" He asked, that blastedly knowing twinkle in his eye. My gaze on him was malicious; I was so upset with him I fancied my very gaze would cause him to burst into flame. Instead, I was startled when Fawkes burst into flame.

"I'm afraid your gaze didn't do that, Harry," Dumbledore remarked casually. "Fawkes has been meaning to explode for days now. Anyways, I'm sure you missed your desired mark by a few feet."

He said this with the most amused expression I didn't think I could get my hands on my wand fast enough…

"Patience, Potter. Patience is a virtue…"

That was it; I grabbed my wand and aimed the petrifying curse at him…

And I failed miserably.

"Bloody hell!" I yelled, feeling a really big need to destroy something with my hands. "Sod you to Hades! Why do you do that? Why did you ask me to train with you if you knew I could never defeat you? Do you enjoy getting me frustrated and angry? Do you want me to hate you? And what about the ball? You knew it would just upset me, and you called for it anyway! Why? What is your grand plan Albus Dumbledore? Tell me before I pull a Fawkes and burst into flame, only without rebirth."

By the time I was done ranting, I couldn't breathe anymore. Dumbledore just stood there, a composed and unaffected look on his face.

"In the first place, Harry Potter, I called the Valentine's Day Ball not to upset you or get you angry, but because I felt the school needed a holiday. Not everything is about you."

When he said this I felt like crawling under a rock and never leaving. How self-centered was I? I felt like I was back in Grimmauld Place the summer before 5th year yelling at Ron and Hermione…

"Secondly, I asked you to train with me because you need it; not because you need it, but because you need it. And maybe because I need it, and perhaps because I knew there to be no other person in this world, wizard or Muggle, that has the potency to defeat me."

Again I was shocked at this, (this week has just been full of shocking revelations, hasn't it?) but he did not explain further.

"And thirdly, I'd be very upset if you did indeed burst into flame. I rather enjoy your company Harry, and this maybe another reason as to why I asked you to train with me."

By now I was tired, tired of everything and of nothing. I sort of just plopped myself on the floor and buried my face in my hands. "Why can't I fight you?" I asked him, exhaustion begin to seep into my veins, "Why, when just a few days ago I could disarm you with the snap of my fingers? Why can't I do that today?"

Dumbledore sat himself down next to me, and to my surprise, began smoking a pipe (apparently he took to this habit after some wizard friend of his introduced him to it).

"The answer is quite simple, really. Last time you managed to succeed because you were angry. And remember you didn't succeed the whole time. As you continued your exercises, your anger diminished, and so did your success."

"But Professor, this time I was angrier than the last. Why did I not succeed?"

"Anger wasn't the only thing you felt today, Harry. In fact, I got the distinct feeling that you hated me, and hate always makes the strong ones weak."

I nodded; I knew where this was going.

"Did I not tell you Harry, that you should never let hate take over? Did I not warn…"

"Yes yes yes, you did. I get it now; this was your grand plan, to set it up so that I learn a valuable lesson. Hate bad. I understand now. I understand it all perfectly…"

"No you don't."

"Well of course I don't! You're a bloody puzzle that way; can't ever make out what you're implying." 

I realized I was pouting like a child…but I am a child. I'm only seventeen, so I thought pouting was something I could still get away with. It was while contemplating my poutiness when Dumbledore asked me the proverbial question.

"So…you're attending the ball with Hermione Granger."

He said this with such a pleased look on his face that I couldn't help but begin to re-question the priorities of his grand plan…

But still, the thought of Hermione and everything Ron told me and everything I'd been feeling for the past week sort of pervaded my mind and senses, and all thoughts of Dumbledore and his grand plan left my mind entirely. In fact, I don't think I heard Dumbledore properly when he asked me to duel. I think I sort of stood up in a daze of sorts, and only really woke up when I heard Dumbledore exclaim "Rictumsempra!"

It was then that I woke up, and for some strange reason, attacked with "Wingardium Leviosa!"

If someone would have entered the room at that moment, they would have encountered a really silly sight indeed. I was writhing on the floor, laughing hysterically, while Dumbledore was floating a few feet from the ground, bobbing up and down; it was hard for me to keep control of the spell while laughing. 

Finally the ticklish sensations got the best of me, and forced me to break the levitation spell. Dumbledore fell to the floor with a thud, and relieved me from his spell. Then we both burst into laughter.

"Harry," he asked when we finally stopped. "What, by the Lion's teeth, possessed you to use that spell on me? It actually got through…"

A small smile came upon my face at the question. "I remember back in first year it was the first spell we learned. Hermione was the only one that could manage it, and I remember feeling admiration for her skill…"

Dumbledore nodded, a triumphant look on his face.

"What?" I asked. That familiar feeling of confusion seeping back, "What are you plotting now."

"I'm not telling you," he said smartly. "If you haven't figured it out, then perhaps you are as daft as Snape says you are. And if you don't excuse me, I think I might want to get some sleep now. You might do yourself a favor and get all the sleep you can tonight, tomorrow night shall be long."

And with that I left, and with that I came up to my suite. After a quick discourse with Hermione in the common room about her robes, (I assured her she didn't have to pay me back, they were a gift) I came to my room to write this.   

I am now more confused than ever, (which I never thought I could be, but I am) and more scared than ever. Scared of what exactly, I'm not sure, but I know it has something to do with tomorrow night.

Now mum and dad, I think I shall go to bed and get some rest. It's a big day tomorrow, as you both should know, and I need my "beauty" sleep.

I really dislike Dumbledore.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Sunday, February 14,1999

Dear Journal,

            I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight. Its as if a week's worth of worries and stress and anxiety…and confusion have culminated in this one spectacular ending. The effect of it all is incomprehensible, but it makes more sense to me than anything else in my life. Let me start from the beginning…

            I was pacing in our common room. Yes mum and dad, I was pacing again. I know I should stop that habit, but waiting for her to emerge from her room was sort of like waiting for a bomb to explode. I felt that if she didn't some out of there soon, I would have to run in there to avoid spontaneous combustion. I don't remember feeling this way while I waited for Parvati back in fourth year…

            I didn't want to leave my room. I knew he was out there, waiting for me, and I felt this rush of nervousness steal over my body, as I was about to turn the knob on my door, I hesitated. What if he didn't find me pretty enough? What if I disappointed him? What if I wasn't a good enough dancer? What if Cho suddenly re-appeared and he left with her…I would be completely devastated! But then I remembered this was Harry I was thinking about, and Harry would be a perfect gentleman regardless…

            I am pretty sure that when she opened the door and stepped out my heart literally stopped beating, at least for a couple of seconds. She looked…wow! And suddenly I felt my robes a bit too constricting…it wasn't this hot a minute ago, was it?

            I felt like running back into my room. Did he like the way I looked? I couldn't tell, I was too nervous, and too busy gaping. Did he know how gorgeous he was? Did he actually go out of his way to make himself this beautiful? Or was it one of those natural, god-given things. I remember a few years back how short he was, how he had knobby knees and a boyish frame. Now he practically towered over me, and mon dieu I could just drown in his eyes!

            "Hermione, you look…er…you look…"

            I couldn't bloody talk. I could see the expectation in her eyes, and I for one could not think of one coherent sentence that would pay sufficient homage to just how lovely she looked tonight. No words could describe…and if there were, then quite frankly I'm too daft to think of them.

            "Hermione, you look…breathtaking."

            I blushed. What else could I do? I didn't expect Harry to think I looked breathtaking. "Fine" would have been good enough for me, but breathtaking? He looked breathtaking himself…

            "I don't think I've ever seen you look more handsome, Harry Potter."

            I tried my hardest not to blush when she said that. I know I did gulp rather loudly, and that I sort of began pulling at my collar, but I couldn't help it! She looked simply marvelous in white…

            I hooked my arm through hers and escorted her down to the Great Hall.

The Great Hall looked amazing! It was a sort of understated décor, none of that frilly Lockhart-ish stuff anywhere (what was I thinking when I fancied him?). No, Dumbledore had opted for the simple elegance that the correct placement of fairy lights could dictate. The music was excellent as well; the Weird Sisters were nowhere to be seen. This time Dumbledore opted for a traditional band that played the classics, (Wizarding classics that is. And actually wizarding classics are just as weird as the Weird Sisters. Funny.).  I'm sure Dumbledore went out of his mind trying to achieve a romantic ambiance, and alas, he succeeded!

I didn't really pay attention to the way the Great Hall looked or what anyone else was wearing, all I could think about was her. It was sort of like the pieces of the puzzle were coming together…it completely amazed me how right it felt to have her at my arm. It was a simplest gesture…but the sensations that I got, that feeling of being in total union with someone…it was brilliant! I had never felt like that before, not with Parvati, Cho, or Ginny. 

I was really happy when Ron and Luna came over to greet us; Ron gave me that half nod that guys seem to give each other surreptitiously as not to inform the ladies of an argument. I'm glad things are good between us again.

I was really confused when Ron gave Harry that sort of "half nod" guys seem to give each other when they think they are hiding some sort of argument from us girls. Who do they think they are? Nevertheless, I'm glad that whatever differences they had, they worked them out. I would allow nothing to ruin my night.

I was really really really nervous during our first dance.  I remember with Parvati it was more like her leading me every which way, and it just felt awkward and uncomfortable. But with Hermione…it was like having her at my arm, it was just right. I don't know how to explain it…maybe its all those years of having to rely on each other for so many different things that has established this automatic trust within us, that even on a subconscious level our bodies recognize it.

I felt so hot…I mean I was literally burning. His hand was on my waist, and it was like the imprint burned right through my robes and into my skin and left a mark. I didn't know…and quite frankly I did not care if my face was red or if he could tell how I felt, but the truth is that I myself didn't know. What was this feeling? The slightest touch, the brush of hand on my arm, the quick caress of his lips on my forehead…all of these made me feel alive. It was like Hermione was dead all her life…and here came along this wizard, this necromancer that brought her to life.

I couldn't take it anymore; I needed air. Besides that, the hand that had been on her waist that moved to her back was now beginning to stray a bit southward, and the naughty thing was very well on its way to going way down south of the border. Before the vile hand could have its way, I needed to get it out of the tempting situation.

"Er…you wanna go outside?" I asked her. Oh Lord I hope she didn't notice how red my cheeks were!

"Sure," I answered. What else was I gonna say? "No, not really, I'd rather stay inside because I'm afraid of the actions I might commit if I am placed in a situation where I am alone with you."

I'd like to see him react to that!

I led her outside by the hand; she had such a warm hand. It took all of my willpower to not grab it and caress my cheek with it. But what was I thinking of Hermione like this? Remember Harry; she was only with you as a friend 

It was really getting to me, the way he kept biting his lips. Usually I'm not one to notice these things, but with him its like all the rules have changed. Before I used to forbid myself from having such improper thoughts about boys, but with him its like I can't regulate my own mind to maintain a state of decency! My mind has a mind of its own, a separate entity from myself. And this entity has unanimously decided that its in love with Harry Potter, and thinks he is very good looking.

I think it has good taste.

Once outside I could feel the air crackling with something…I don't know. It was almost like the world around was tense; everything was waiting in expectation. The lake wasn't lapping lazily as usual; as we stepped outside the chill wind suddenly stopped blowing; the stars in the sky dimmed slightly; the moon hid behind a cloud; the crickets stopped chirping and even the sounds that usually emanate from the Forbidden Forest were silenced. The whole world waited for a resolution.

We just stood there for a while, rather awkwardly, waiting for the other to say something. It was finally he that got the courage to start a conversation.

"It's a rather nice night for winter," I said. I really didn't know what else to say. In my life I've found that there are two pertinent topics that have the solemn effect of breaking uncomfortable silence: your health, and the weather.

"Yes it is," I said. I knew the ploy all to well, your health and the weather. Pfft!

After a couple of more minutes of uncomfortable silence, I finally decided to drop the bomb.

"Hermione, we have to stop dancing around each other."

This made me freeze. After all that time of just being silent, he just decided to burst out of nowhere with that! Great Merlin's Ghost! How was I to react to that?

            "Hermione, don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. This thing between us…whatever this thing is. What is it? Because I sure as hell don't know, and I was hoping that maybe, possibly, you could help me figure it out."

            I suddenly felt like one of those silly Southern girls, those American girls from the Civil War era, those girls that OD'd on opium and were a bit high and felt faint all the time…

            Did Harry just insinuate what I think he was insinuating?

            "Hermione, you know exactly what I'm talking about! So don't just stand there and listen and not say a word because I'm really nervous can't you tell I'm nervous? Look I'm even gonna speak in run-on sentences that make no sense to fill the air so as to keep from letting the full levels of my nervousness show and not feel like a complete fool maybe just a blithering idiot but no not a fool no not a fool at all…"

            And he was just standing there talking and I could feel my heart get bigger and bigger 'till I couldn't take it anymore and I did what every self-respecting girl would do in my position…

            I kissed him.

            And that was some kiss.

            I've been kissed by boys before (strike that, A boy…) but not like that! And it was weird, because I never thought of Harry as being one of those boys that was an excellent kisser (Ron sure wasn't) but boy oh boy oh boy, who on earth trained him to make me feel like that? (Is that what Dumbledore's been teaching him? Eek! Scary thought!)

            She never ceases to amaze me! That kiss came as a complete shock! But that doesn't mean it wasn't welcome, because welcome it was, and forever her kisses shall be welcome, because it was kissing her that opened up something within me that I've never felt before, and never in a million years did I think I would feel something like this…whatever this feeling is.

            After we kissed a bit more (I was really enjoying it…) we realized we should get back to the ball and actually do some dancing before people started to get suspicious…but to our greatest surprise it was already over! It was midnight; the last students were lingering and saying goodbyes. How long were we outside anyway?

            Ron and Luna came up to us, Luna was looking all dreamy as usual; apparently, she had a very pleasant evening. 

            Bluntness being her forte, she didn't find it inappropriate to ask:

            "So…where did you two disappear off to tonight?"

            She gave me that secret smile only girls are meant to understand, as it never really crosses boy's minds that we are just as perverted as they are, only that we are much better at controlling it and keeping it hidden behind coy behaviors.

            We both stumbled with excuses, blushing heavily and keeping our eyes downcast. Finally, they left us off the hook and made their way to the Astronomy Tower (where Lord knows what on earth they were going to do…).

            We walked slowly back to our suite, and before he dropped me off at my room, he gave me a lingering kiss.

            Oh for the life of me I would have stayed there forever! But I knew that we should stop before we crossed lines we were nowhere near crossing, so we stopped (reluctantly).

            I bid her goodnight, and at that point I really did feel like Romeo who burst forth with "parting is such sweet sorrow!" For I indeed felt sorrow, sorrow for parting with her! But I had some other business to attend to…

            I wasn't surprised when Dumbledore opened the door to his study before I even knocked. I was quite used to him knowing what he knew before he should, so I just merrily went inside and waited for him to address me, for usually he was the first to address.

            "I take it you aren't here to train," he began. He had just come from the Great Hall; he was still dressed in his formal attire. 

            Something strange overtook me then; I started laughing. I really cracked up! I just started laughing and I couldn't stop! All Dumbledore did was puff away at his pipe with a smug look on his face, watching me laugh my arse off.

            "You knew all along, didn't you?" I asked him when I could control my laughter long enough. "This was your Grand Plan, wasn't it?"

He looked at me, still smiling that mischievous smile. "Whatever are you talking about, Harry?"

"Duel me."

It was the only way I could show him I understood. So I took off my cloak and took out my wand. We drew out our wands, and at the same time, exclaimed:

"Petrificus Totalus!"

I ducked his spell, but mine hit him perfectly, and he fell to it with a dull thud. But I wasn't shocked that I finally got through, no, I was expecting this the second I had kissed Hermione. All of this happened for a reason…

"So…you've finally realized you're in love."

After I replaced petrified Dumbledore with regular eccentric Dumbledore, we shared a pot of tea and sat down for the last lesson of my training.

"Yes," was all I could say.

"I'm glad you've finally realized it, although I knew you would all along. In fact, it surprises me you didn't figure it out sooner, as it was love, although of a different nature, that saved you from death the first time." He sipped on his tea calmly, knowing that his mission was complete.

Yes, I had finally figured it out.

Passion, though it weakens you in some forms, can at the same time make you stronger. Love is a passion, as much as hate is a passion.

And it is love that conquers all hate.