After the feast, Harry nervously sat in the common room both wanting it to empty and dreading it. Hermione and he sat quietly, both lost in their own thoughts. Harry practiced some relaxation techniques and sooner than he would have thought the common room was empty.
Still in his trance-like mindset, he looked at Hermione and could feel fear pulsating off her. She wasn't afraid of him, but her fear had something to do with him. He took a deep breath, "Hermione, I want to ask you a question, and please answer honestly." She nodded. "How do you," he struggled for a moment, "feel about me?"
He could see that she was surprised by the question. "You are my best friend Harry."
He could feel his heart being crushed, "is that all?" She broke eye contact. Harry felt a fire light in him and got within a few inches of her face and asked again.
"I like you Harry," she said with tears in her eyes. "I like you a lot more than just a friend." She glared at him, similar to the times she had forced the truth from me. "Are you finished embarrassing me?"
Not breaking eye contact he replied, "the point was never to embarrass you Hermione. I need to know because it means I can tell you who the girl that I love is." Her eyes went blank for a second before widening in surprise.
"Me," she said in a soft voice. Harry couldn't do anymore than nod.
"I have always cared for you Hermione, ever since we became friends. Unfortunately it took me coming back to gain the courage to say anything." She looked at him for a long time before smiling.
At that point Crookshanks came down and hopped on Hermione's lap. He gave Harry a look as if measuring him, then butted his head against his hand. Harry knew that it was of some merit that Crookshanks accepted him, and it was further confirmed when Hermione said, "he doesn't like anyone, not even my parents."
Harry turned to her and said, "well there's one thing I need to do before I call it a night."
She smiled and asked, "and what would that be?"
"Would you go out with me Hermione Granger?" Even knowing how she felt, He was still nervous about asking her. She smiled broadly, "I would like that." He blinked a few times, surprised that she said yes so quickly, before showing relief . "You think I would have said no," she asked with a smile, "even knowing how I feel?"
Harry shrugged, "you could have always said no."
She smiled and hugged him, but he could feel himself tensing for a second before slowly returning it. They said goodnight and he watched her walk up the dorm steps before he walked up to his dorm and prepared for bed.
Ron had watched them hidden in the shadow of the stairs. He couldn't believe it, they hadn't gotten together already. While it made sense now that hadn't told him, it further enraged him that he would no longer matter. Ron had slipped silently into his bed before Harry came up and caught him. Ron felt rage burn his veins as Harry once again took the spot light from him, but this was worse than any other because now Harry had taken the girl he, Ron Weasley wanted.
Ron could feel his face flush at Harry's presumption, Harry just assumed that any girl he wanted would just bow at his feet and give him what he wants. The part that really bugged Ron was that it's mostly true. He knew his sister wouldn't say no, hell most of the girls in the house and a few others probably would not say no either.
Why did Harry have to take her from him? Ron had been sure that they were friends, Harry would fall for his sister and officially become a member of the family and Ron would be with Hermione and she would be apart of the family. Didn't Harry realize that this was a mistake?
Ron felt a cold anger burn in him as Harry approached his bed, most likely to gloat about this conquest. But Harry stopped and turned back to his own bed and laid down.
Ron lay there for awhile, thinking about when that house-elf had called them master and mistress. He had wanted to know why, but had decided to keep his mouth shut. He knew Harry had sent a house elf to their home under instructions to take care of the house. At first Ron's Mom and Dad objected, but gave in when they realized that it was, according to Harry, a small way to repay the large amount of kindness and love that had been shown him.
Harry was always showing off like that, he had flaunted the fact that he could do magic when everyone else couldn't, he flaunted money by paying a house elf to work for them, and he even showed off by taking the one thing that belonged Ron.
Ron tossed and turned for awhile before finally succumbing to sleep.
Harry woke up to Winky telling him it was time to get up, it felt odd that Winky did it instead of Dobby, but he understood that Dobby was responsible for ensuring all his properties were properly taken care of. Harry joined Hermione downstairs and gave her a huge smile.
They waited a couple of minutes before Ron came down. He didn't seem to notice them even when they called to him. Hermione was confused, but Harry had a good idea what it could be, and he knew that this was not going to be easy.
They went down to breakfast and sat down just in time for the post to arrive. Harry noticed Hedwig flying down and land nearby. He feed her a piece of toast and asked her to deliver a message to Professor McGonagall. After she had done that, he thanked her and she flew off.
Professor McGonagall passed out the timetables to everyone, but stopped by Harry long enough to say "did you really think I would let my best students off so easily?"
"Just thought I would ask," Harry replied. McGonagall smiled slightly at him before returning to passing out the remaining timetables. Harry looked down and felt a wash of relief, Herbology and Care for Magical Creatures were this morning. That meant no Snape first thing.
Harry glanced at Ron but didn't say anything before heading out with Hermione to the green houses. He had known that Ron had been interested in Hermione, especially after the Yule Ball, but he had agreed with Remus, there was no reason why he should have to suffer because of Ron's indecision.
During the class, which was mostly practical, Harry worked with Neville and Hermione, while Ron worked with Dean and Seamus. It was noticeable to anyone that something had happened between the three of them that had shifted the balance. But this had happened before they told themselves, so it was just a matter of time until they got back to being the group most people envied.
During Care of Magical Creatures, Malfoy noticed the division between Ron and Harry saying, "well it looks like you've moved up in the world Potter, now all you need to do is get rid of the mud-" he stopped when he noticed Harry's wand three inches from his face.
"Insult any of my friends again, and I'll show you exactly why Voldemort wants me dead." Harry walked away and back over to Hermione.
Hermione looked at him and asked quietly, "how did you get from here to there? I didn't even see you move."
Harry shrugged, "I don't know, but it will keep Malfoy's mouth shut for the rest of class."
The class studied Blast-ended Skrewts for the entire period, but even Hagrid was curious about the split between Harry and Hermione from Ron. After the class, he decided to find out about it. "Harry, what happened between the three of you?"
Hermione answered, "I'm not sure, he was fine on the train."
Harry sighed, "he's jealous."
Hermione looked at him confused, but Hagrid asked the obvious question, "why? What does he have to be jealous of?"
Harry looked at Hermione but said nothing. Hermione's eyes widened as she realized the implication. Smiling sadly, Harry turned to Hagrid, "I think we should all hurry, or will miss lunch." Hagrid agreed and walked with them to the Great Hall. Hermione looked as if she wanted to ask a question, but restrained herself.
Harry waited until they parted from Hagrid before pulling Hermione off to the side. "Originally, Ron realized that he liked you after the Yule ball, but he had been attracted to before then. It was something we never discussed, it was more of an unspoken understanding."
"Then why did you ask me out? If you knew how he felt," Hermione drifted off.
Harry smiled sadly, "while I am very dense when it comes to my feelings, I know that Ron only started to like you about mid way through third year, and by the end of fifth you two, to the best of my knowledge, never went out. Except for a few detentions and classes I took extra, the two of you were only alone together on prefect duties."
Hermione smiled when he mentioned her being a prefect, but sobered quickly "so for all you know, we could have been dating."
"If you were, then Ron had better acting skills than I ever thought possible, as you two never showed much more affection than you have in the past." Harry ended the conversation by walking in the great hall and filling a plate.
After lunch, the two of them separated and went to their individual classes.
Ron walked into his dueling class and looked at his classmates, most were a couple of years older than him, but he was comforted in the fact that he wasn't the only new person. Some of the older Gryffindors recognized him and introduced him to other people who were taking the class.
A few admitted they were jealous of him, given that he would have a lot more time to refine his skills than they would before leaving to compete, and started showing him a few tricks. As the class met three days a week, there would be mostly practical training, which included some physical training as well.
During the class, Ron felt jealousy rear up when he thought of Harry and Hermione, but focused all his energy on the person in front of him. He quickly realized that he was a lot better than 'good enough' to be in the class, except for the fact that he used lower level spells.
After the intense training session, he joined the other Gryffindor duelists in the library to research spells to use in duels. At first the older students, who were somewhat friends with his brothers, were hesitant to let him join them, but made room for him.
Soon afterwards Ron found himself welcomed into joining them for their study sessions. He realized that he had Hermione to thank for his being useful in the library, but was still mad that the two of them had yet to even try to talk to him about their going out.
He stood in the shadows watching his friend conversing with students a couple of years older than him, even enjoying being in the library. Harry hadn't wanted to talk to Ron as soon as he could, because he knew that soon enough they might be at odds.
Harry watched as his best friend laughed with the people he was apparently in dueling with, and felt a stab of envy. He knew that Ron was a loyal friend, and that the reason that he was acting this way towards them was because he had overheard Hermione and him talking about the way they felt towards each other.
As he walked back over to where Hermione had their books, he sighed at the situation. He had never really expected things to turn out this way. He was dating a girl that he had always cared for, Ron was maturing separate from them, Sirius was free and clear, and all that he had left to complete the difference from everything he knew was to stop Voldemort from coming back.
No matter what.
A/n: 2084 Words. Yea, many thanks to my new beta! So very sorry for the delay, life just seems to get in the way.