Harry Potter and the Arch of Hades

By: Merusa

Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who hasn't given up on this story yet! Love you guys!

Chapter 9: Always a Part of Everything

Harry was tired. He hadn't quite realized how much time that his N.E.W.T. classes would take up- nearly double that of the O.W.L.s. The threat of Voldemort loomed closer than ever, punctuated every day by articles in the Prophet. Aphrodite Waers questioned Harry and attacked Dumbledore every week. Dumbledore's lessons were physically and emotionally draining. He'd been taught everything from sword fighting to bow skills and dueling with two wands at once. On top of that, other activities required his attention.

Harry groaned and fell into his seat. He slumped into the chair, too tired to move. Ginny fell into the seat next to him, leaning her head against his shoulder. "Harry…that was exhausting."

"It was great, though. You're so good, Gin."

"I can't believe we got through that. That was the first time I've…"

"I know. Me too."

Hermione glanced up at them from her book. "What are you two on about?"

"Quidditch practice," Ron answered for them. He sat down next to Hermione. "It was my week."

"And brother dearest drove us into the ground." Ginny sat up and grabbed a roll of bread, then scarfed it down.

"Hungry, Gin?" Harry teased.

She rolled her eyes at him. He laughed, and tucked into his own supper.

As they ate, an unidentified owl swooped in and dropped a letter onto Harry's potatoes. He made a face and wiped the parchment off, then broke the seal.

"Harry, please come to my office tomorrow night at 8 o'clock. I've got something important to discuss with you.

-Professor Seymour."

Ginny poked her head over his shoulder and read it. "What does she want?"

Harry swallowed. She hadn't moved her head from his shoulder, and it was distracting.

Hermione frowned at him. "Is everything alright, Harry?"

He gave her a weak smile. "Yeah, everything's fine. Seymour wants me to come to her office tomorrow night, though."

Ron smirked at him. "Maybe she wants to test your wand skills?"

Harry scowled heavily at him. "Ha, ha."

He felt Ginny stiffen next to him. She moved her head from his shoulder, and he immediately felt its absence.

Slowly, almost unconsciously, he moved his under the table and, for the first time, took her hand in his.

He smiled slightly when he heard her give a soft sigh. She squeezed his hand, and glanced up at him. He glanced down, but when their eyes met, they both blushed and looked away. He didn't let go, though.

Ron was too busy stuffing his face to notice, and Hermione pretended not to. She opened her mouth to comment on something else, but was interrupted when Dumbledore stood up at the Staff table, beaming around at the room.

Ginny let her head fall onto his shoulder again. "Oh, what now?" she groaned sarcastically. Harry laughed, and let his head rest on hers for a moment, before moving to pay attention to Dumbledore.

Dumbledore was still beaming. "My lovely students! In these dark times, it is important to keep light of the good that can be found! In keeping with this philosophy- well, I will get straight to the point! The staff has decided that the school will host a student talent show! Information will be posted on the message boards soon. Let us perform!" The Headmaster sat down, almost bouncing in his excitement. The thought of a show seemed to have brought some of his youth back.

Harry felt his mood drop drastically. He looked down at the table.

Ginny moved closer to him. "Hey, what's wrong?" Hermione and Ron were busy talking about the show, and didn't notice the exchange.

He shook his head. "Why a talent show?"

"You don't have to do it if you don't want to."

He gave a short, harsh laugh. "Ginny, it's me. It's a Hogwarts event that includes publicity. Somehow, I'm going to be forced to be a part of it."

She smiled at him. "Well, you can always sing."

He snorted, but the corners of his lips turned up slightly.

She squeezed his hand. "No, I'm serious," she whispered quickly, "when you sang last year...it was really sexy."

Blushing furiously, she turned and jumped into Ron and Hermione's conversation.

Harry stared at her in shock for a moment, and then shook himself. He paused for a moment, wondering at the oddity that was his relationship with Ginny. Even as he turned to join the conversation, he couldn't help but think that maybe he would do the talent show after all.

A/N: Yes, it was very, very short. But it was cute, and considerably lighter than the rest of the story. Can you say, calm before the storm?

I'm so sorry about the lack of updates. I really could not help it. My workload has gotten a lot easier, so I'll probably start updating again.

A huge thank you to Lazteuq, whose review made me realize that I was letting this story die. I'm determined to finish it before Book 6 comes out- so, I'm aiming for the last chapter to be up the first week of July at the very latest. Chapter 13 is where the plot really thickens- and I can't wait to right it.

Thanks again to Lazteuq, and also Greek Mione and Creative Deficit, all who reviewed.

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