I'm writing this in an ill-advised midnight daze, but bear with me. I just need to tell you two things. First, you have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. And second, the rest of you is pretty enough to match. Just letting you know.
"Love letter?" Ron asked, peering over his shoulder.
"I guess that's what you'd call it," Harry answered, handing the parchment over with a shrug.
Ron scanned it. "Well, that's not Ginny's writing, if it makes you feel any better."
"I should hope not," Harry answered with a grin. "Dean would rip me limb to limb."
The barn owl hooted gently. "Right, sorry," Harry said, turning his attention to the bird. "Hold on just a second, would you?" He pulled out a scrap of parchment and a quill. Hastily he scribbled: Thanks, I think. But who are you?
He tied it to the owl's leg. "Give that back to whoever sent it, would you?" The owl blinked up at him and took flight out the open window. Harry watched, hoping he would see where the bird landed, but it turned around a corner of the castle. He sighed.
"So who do you think it was?" Ron asked, fidgeting with a quill.
"I don't know," Harry answered. "Does it matter? Probably some first-year Hufflepuff in love with me."
"You don't give yourself nearly enough credit," Ron told him. "I can think of at least one sixth-year Gryffindor in love with you."
"You said Ginny's – "
"Not her," Ron interrupted. "But would you happen to have a handwriting sample from a certain Colin Creevey?" He laughed as Harry blanched. "Kidding, only kidding, Harry." He pulled out a battered chess set from beneath his bed. "Care for a game?"
"Sure." They curled up on Ron's bed as the pieces arranged themselves. "Wonder when she'll get back to me, though," Harry said as he nudged a pawn forward.
Ron looked up with a grin. "One letter and already you're in love," he noted playfully.
"I am not." He moved a knight out, causing Ron's bishop to cackle. "But wouldn't you like to know who it is?"
Ron pushed the bishop forward, knocking out Harry's knight. "Well, sure," he answered. "But what, are you expecting a relationship out of it? I stand by my assertion that it's Colin."
The letter had come with the morning post, from the same school barn owl. "What is that supposed to mean?" Ron pondered as he read over Harry's shoulder. "You're the Boy Who Lived, but I'm me?"
"It's true, in any case," Hermione said wryly.
"Thank you, 'Mione," Ron answered, raising his eyebrows. "Do you recognize the writing?" Harry handed the parchment to her.
She glanced at it briefly. "No, but is that really such a surprise?" She handed it back. "If she truly wants to remain anonymous she'd have disguised her writing. And that's why she's using a school owl as well."
"And if she just doesn't own an owl?" Ron asked.
Hermione shrugged. "She should be able to afford one, at least." She motioned to the paper with her fork. "That's really good expensive parchment. And the silk ribbon she's using to tie it? Those aren't cheap, compared to string like everyone else uses."
"And that's why she can't afford an owl, because she's writing to Harry on the expensive parchment," Ron retorted.
"Enough," Harry snapped. "I think you two care more than I do. They'll remain the mysterious exotic stranger for now. Although I'm not sure about the cold lonely nights part."
"You take the fun out of everything, Harry," Ron complained. "That's all I'd keep 'em around for. Ow!" he protested when Hermione hit him across the back of the head.
"That was for being a chauvinist," she informed him primly. "Are you ready to go? We have to be in class in ten minutes."
"I guess." Ron took a final piece of bacon for the trip, and they went to retrieve their bags from the dorms.
"Morning, Mudblood," Draco drawled as Harry and Hermione entered the dungeon. "You're looking especially buck-toothed and know-it-all this morning. And Potter, Hogwarts's own pint-sized celebrity with a hero complex."
"Sod off, Malfoy," Harry said shortly as they took the desk next to the one he was perched on.
"Touchy this morning, hm? Is it because your Weasel-buddy didn't get in to advanced Potions? It's amazing you made it in, Potty; if I were Professor Snape, I wouldn't trust you making poisons. Although if you're not careful that may not be a bad thing."
Behind him, Hermione audibly ground her teeth. "Why don't you just leave him alone, Malfoy? He hasn't done anything to you, why antagonize him?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Potter hasn't treated me kindly since we met at the Sorting. Besides, anybody who keeps the company of people like yourself and Weasel don't deserve my respect."
"Or your attention, Malfoy, so why don't you just turn around and leave me and Hermione alone," Harry told him.
"Why should I listen to you?" Draco sneered. Harry reached for his wand, but Draco was quicker. He grabbed a jar set out for today's class and threw the contents in Harry's face. Ground runespoor scales. Harry coughed and felt an itchy rash spread along his face. He ignored it and picked up a glass vial.
"Harry, don't!" Hermione gasped. He ignored her, pulled off the stopper, and tossed it at Draco. Bobotuber pus spattered across Draco's desk and arms, and boils the size of a golf ball swelled upon his skin.
"Potter! Malfoy!" Snape thundered from the doorway. The entire class whirled around; nobody had realized he was there. "You will go to the infirmary. You will come back and participate in class. And then you're getting detention for a month," he snarled. "The rest of you who aren't stupid enough to throw my ingredients at each other, read the second section of chapter nine."
"This is all your fault," Draco muttered under his breath as they trudged to the infirmary.
"My fault? You started it. I wouldn't have a rash covering my face if you had just left me and 'Mione alone."
Draco gave him a sideways smirk. "What's the fun in that?" They rounded a corner and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. The infirmary.
Draco pulled open the door and allowed Harry to go first. "You can explain to Madam Pomfrey how you attacked me unprovoked."
"How gracious of you."
Madam Pomfrey bustled up, wringing her hands. "Oh dear, what happened to you both? Here, have a seat, I'll get the salve." She pulled Harry and Draco to a pair of chairs. "I don't think a week goes by when I don't see you here, Mr. Potter," she said, dabbing goo onto his face with a cotton swab. "What's the cause this time?"
"Him," Harry spat, motioning to Draco beside him.
Madam Pomfrey clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "And no doubt Mr. Malfoy acquired those – " she motioned to the boils along Draco's arms – "from you?"
"Yes," Harry answered bluntly. He expected Draco to further exaggerate, but he remained quiet.
Madam Pomfrey smeared cool minty gel down both of Draco's arms and wound thick cloth bandages around them. "That's all I can do for you, I'm afraid. It should clear up within a week. Mr. Potter, I'd give yours an hour or two. Now back to class, both of you."
"Thank you," Harry said, rising to leave. Draco stepped in front of him and pushed open the door, letting it slam in Harry's face.
Harry pushed it back open and caught up with Draco. "You had to pick the Bobotuber pus, didn't you?" Draco asked, pulled his sleeves over the bandages.
"Yes, I did. You were being obnoxious."
"Oh, and you weren't?"
"I would have gladly ignored you."
"Easier said than done."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
Harry would have loved to punch Draco in every one of his boils until they burst.
Potions was a solemn affair; Snape was seething and nobody wanted to do anything to incur his wrath. And, as he had promised, he gave both Harry and Draco a month of detention beginning tomorrow night, which ruined the rest of Harry's day. So it was almost a happy occasion when the barn owl tapped at his window that evening.
Ron was in the library, studying with Hermione (or so he had told Harry beforehand, tips of his ears pink and a pleased grin on his face). And the rest of his roommates were in the common room. So Harry could enjoy the letter alone. He let the bird in and took the parchment.
You never wrote me back this morning. I hope you didn't mind me self-appointing as the mysterious exotic stranger, as that's the only way I wish to be known to you as.
I heard you got in a fight with Draco during Potions. I hope you're okay. Do you really hate him that much? I think he's gorgeous.
Autumn Ball for the seventh years is coming up. Do you have anybody to go with? I'm not offering, I'm just curious. Until next time,
Harry pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill. Fine, Anonymously. You get an honest-to-god letter.
I forgot about your letter this morning, sorry. I'll make this one longer to make up for it.
Yes, me and Malfoy got in a fight in Potions. And yes, I really hate him. Even if he is "gorgeous," he's a git. Find somebody else to like. Or have you already?
I also completely forgot about the Autumn Ball until you mentioned it. I don't know if I'm going, though – nobody to go with. My two best friends are going with each other and anyone else I may have considered asking is already taken. You wouldn't think I have trouble finding somebody. At least somebody who wouldn't mind making themselves known. Hint hint. At the moment, I guess I'm just going to spend the night in my room alone.
What did you mean when you said that I'm the Boy Who Lived and you're you? I don't see a problem with that…Could you at least tell me about yourself? Anything? I promise I won't tell.
The barn owl had been watching him, and stuck up his leg obediently when Harry picked up the parchment. He tied it on with the length of black silk that had bound Anonymously's letter. "You know the deal." The owl hooted gently before soaring out of the window.
Harry pulled out his homework and settled down on his bed. But he got almost nothing done because every few minutes he would glance out of the window, hoping for another letter.