Due to (mostly) popular demand, I have decided to add an epilogue/chapter. Thanks to all who reviewed (by review I mean not flamed), and special thanks to Damon Blade for talking me into posting this. Thanks, Damon!
This chapter has a large break that skips two months. Sorry, I would post them, but it would be not only repetitive, but time consuming, and I want to get to work on my long fic, Prisoner of Azkaban: With a Twist.
Harry awoke to see sunlight shining through the small gap in his bed hangings. Must be late in the morning, he thought to himself, sitting up in his bed. He pulled back the curtains to find the dormitory deserted. Even Ron had gotten up before him. That's pretty bad; I really overslept.
He stood up and recalled the events of last night, smiling to himself as he headed for the shower like he did every morning. Still smiling as he climbed out, he dried off, got dressed, and headed down to the common room. His eyes sought Hermione immediately, and he found her sitting on the couch next to (not good) Ron. He seemed to be interrogating her about something. Hermione was angrily giving short answers and trying to read a book (though she was clearly getting nowhere in it). Harry walked over, intending to intervene. Ron spotted him and glared at him.
"You!" he said, getting up and stalking over to him. Harry sighed at how inevitable this was. "What were you thinking, getting together with Hermione? You could have any girl in this school, and you chose her?"
"Yes," Harry said, walking over to sit next to Hermione, who was looking worriedly at the two of them. He took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly.
"Why?" Ron shouted, a vein actually pulsing in his forehead. Harry was forcibly reminded of Uncle Vernon's constant rants. "You took away the one thing I had that you didn't!"
"Ron, calm down—" Hermione began.
"You have fame, all the money a man could want and then some, and now Hermione!" Ron said, completely deaf to Hermione's attempts to quiet him. "You just live to have everything I want, don't you! You know what? I don't care! I'll stay out of your way!"
With that, he stormed (quite impressively) from the common room, shoving several onlookers out of the way. The common room was deathly silent after his departure. Someone coughed in the background as Harry looked at Hermione, who was close to tears. He wrapped his arms around her, and she broke down, sobbing into Harry's shoulder. Harry rubbed small circles on her back to try calming her down.
"It'll be alright, Hermione," he said into her ear. "That actually went better than I thought it would."
"What?" Hermione asked, pulling away from his shoulder. "How could that have possibly gone worse?"
"He didn't get his wand out," Harry said. "I expected at least one attempt to harm me."
Hermione let a weak laugh, knowing that Harry was trying to lighten the mood. "What'll we do, Harry? Ron's our friend, we can't just leave it at this."
"I know, Hermione," Harry said, looking at the ceiling. "It took a dragon to make him realize he was being thick last time. What could make him realize it this time?"
Meanwhile, in the office of Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, said Headmaster was talking to the Potions Master, Severus Snape.
"You're sure, Severus?" Dumbledore said. "They were dancing together?"
"Yes," Snape said, a smirk playing across his face. "Miss Granger had to lead due to Potter's ineptitude at dancing. She seemed to find it cute," he finished, spitting the last word out as though it were a vicious swear.
"Well, this changes a lot," Dumbledore said, standing and walking over to his window to look out at the early morning sun. "Owl Ludo. Tell him there's been a change of plans in the Second Task. Mrs. Granger will still be going into the lake, but for someone else. Also, Mr. Weasley will have to watch instead of participating."
"Yes, Headmaster," Snape said, standing and making for the door. His hand was on the knob when Dumbledore spoke.
"Oh, and Severus?" he said. Snape turned.
"Many thanks for recounting the night with as little insults at Harry as possible," he said, smiling, his eyes twinkling as ever.
Snape nodded curtly and left. Dumbledore walked over to a cabinet and retrieved a large, shallow, stone basin. He placed it on his desk and placed his wand to his temple, pulling away a few long silver strands of memory, which he deposited in the basin. He placed his hands on the basin and moved it around like one would when making stir-fry. Snape's face swam into view speaking in an echoing voice.
"I saw Potter and Granger late last night," the Snape head said. "They were dancing rather closer than two friends would. And I think I saw them…kiss at the end of the last one. I figured you would like to know this…."
"A very interesting development," Dumbledore said, smiling.
……Two Months Later……
The following two months were a flurry of conflicting emotions for Harry. While he was spending quite a lot of time with Hermione as they looked up methods of breathing underwater (sometimes with the occasional "study break"), it was at the cost of Ron's friendship. He seemed to have taken the loss of Hermione as a huge blow. He was cold shouldering Harry worse than ever before, and now Hermione was in the same boat. Ron had taken to hanging around with Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan, leaving Harry and Hermione to study by themselves.
"Harry, wake up," Hermione said gently. Harry sat up, rubbing his face where prolonged contact with the book page had numbed it.
"How long was I out?" he said on a yawn, resuming his frantic searching of the book.
"Only five minutes," Hermione said, yawning as well. "You looked so peaceful, I just let you rest for a while."
Harry sighed. "Can't afford rest, Hermione," he said. "The Second Task is tomorrow, and we haven't found anything that might help me breathe underwater for an hour."
"Well, we can't give up," Hermione said. "There has to be something. There just—there has to be."
Harry smiled for the first time in what seemed like days. Hermione seemed to be disappointed in her books for not giving her the information they needed. Her whole world must be turning upside-down, he thought, watching her study the pages intently. He liked this side of Hermione, snappy as it could be. She was so…intense. Hermione seemed to sense his gaze and looked up, smiling slightly at him.
"What is it, Harry?" she asked him. "Something wrong?"
"I just…. Thank you Hermione," Harry said, looking at his hands. "I probably wouldn't have any idea what I was doing if it wasn't for you. You keep me going forward. Thanks for that."
Hermione smiled and turned slightly pink. "Of course, Harry," she said. "I'm glad to help you whenever possible. Even if I wasn't your girlfriend, I'd still be sitting here."
Harry's heart fluttered. Even if I wasn't your girlfriend…. Even though it had been two months, the fact that Hermione was his girlfriend was still amazing to him.
"Hate to break up your cozy little study session," a growling voice said, "but Professor McGonagall wants to see you, Miss Granger."
They looked up to see Professor Moody standing there, leaning on his walking stick, a grim expression on his face.
"Just me?" Hermione asked, looking confused.
"Yes," Moody said. "Just you, Miss Granger."
"Okay," Hermione said, standing and turning to Harry. Professor Moody became suddenly very interested in a book about botany as Hermione gave Harry a quick peck on the lips.
"Take as many of these books to the common room as you can," she said. "I'll be along as soon as possible."
"Bye," Harry said.
"Bye," Hermione said, smiling as she walked away. Moody watched her go and turned to Harry, smiling across his scarred face.
"Some girl you got there, Potter," he growled, hobbling away. "Longbottom!" he barked and Neville straightened up, looking at the professor. "Help Potter carry his books."
"Neville, are you sure about this?" Harry asked, walking with Neville to the location of the Second Task.
"Yes," Neville said, nodding fervently.
"This'll make me breathe underwater for an hour?" Harry asked, eyeing the glob of green worm-like things in his hand.
"Yes—well, you know…there's been a debate about the effects in salt water versus fresh, but…."
"You're only telling me this now?" Harry hissed as they reached the pavilion.
"I—I'm just trying to…help," Neville said, looking at his shoes. Harry sighed.
"Right. Thanks, Neville," Harry said. "It's not like I was getting anywhere on my own. You seen Hermione? She never showed up last night."
"No," Neville said, scanning the crowd. "I don't see her with Ron."
"Attention!" Professor Dumbledore's magically magnified voice boomed over the crowd. "Thank you. Welcome to the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament. Last night, something of great importance was taken from each of the champions, and is now at the bottom of the lake. They will have one hour in which to retrieve it…"
"No," Harry whispered to himself, looking at the lake. "Hermione! She's—they've taken her!"
He actually lunged for the lake, but Neville held him back (he was really rather strong).
"Not yet, Harry!" he said, grabbing Harry's arms. "Take—take the gillyweed!"
Harry growled, shoving the gillyweed into his mouth and chewing furiously. The effects began as soon as he swallowed. His head began to swim and he couldn't breathe. He was vaguely aware of cannon fire in the distance, then he was submerged. He writhed around in the water as his body changed. He looked at his feet. They were elongating into flippers. He felt stabbing pains in his neck and ran a hand over…gills. He had gills. He then registered that his hands felt strange against his skin. He held them up. They were webbed. In the middle of his awe, he registered one thing.
Hermione. She was in danger. He flipped over and swam towards the center of the lake, rage at the merpeople coursing through him. They took her. They took his Hermione; the girl he loved. As he swam, he was vaguely aware of shadowed figures swooping in and out of his peripheral vision. He reached into his robes and pulled out his wand, ready for anything. He saw something swoop at him. Reacting instinctively, he held his wand up.
"Impedimenta!" he said, issuing a large bubble from his mouth. A blue jet of bubbling water shot at the thing, and it was stopped in its tracks. Harry saw another flurry of movement and turned, firing another Impediment Jinx. He stopped another grindylow in the water and turned to swim, kicking a third one as it swam at him. The rest of his swim was unimpeded, and he reached the center of the lake.
"Hermione!" Harry yelled, allowing another silver bubble to burst from his mouth. He swam forward and reached four large columns. Tied to these columns were Cho Chang, Hermione, a tall Bulgarian man, and a silver-haired girl Harry guessed to be Fleur's sister. He looked around. No one else had arrived yet. As he floated there, Cedric swam into view, a large bubble covering his mouth. Cedric pulled his wand out and blasted Cho's chains free. He looked at Harry and tapped his watch. Harry nodded, getting the message.
I'm running out of time, he thought. He held up his own wand and broke Hermione's chains, then looked over at Fleur's sister. As he made to swim over, Cedric swam into view, a large shark's head perched on his shoulders. He look sourly at Harry, who glared back, then bit the Bulgarian man's chains free, swimming back to the surface. Harry hovered there in indecision for a few moments more….
"Here comes Cedric Diggory!" Dumbledore's voice boomed. "He has arrive first with five minutes to spare!"
"Ron, are you okay?" Seamus asked Ron, who was sulkily staring at the lake. "You seem distracted."
"Did you see how he reacted?" Ron asked, not moving his eyes. Seamus and Dean looked at each other at this cryptic response.
"Who?" Dean asked.
"Harry," Ron said. "When he figured out that Hermione was down there. He practically threw himself at the lake. He was fighting just to get to her. He cared so much…."
"Well, he really likes her," Seamus said. "He's crazy about her."
"Yeah," Ron said distractedly. "I guess he is. He really cares about Hermione. And…she cares about him."
"Well, yeah," Dean said. "Where've you been, Ron? Haven't you seen them in the hallways, in the library, pretty much everywhere? They're always holding hands, and sitting real close to each other; I've caught them snogging quite a few times."
Ron felt a slight lurch of jealousy, but it was overshadowed by dawning realization.
"It would never have been like that between me and her," he said to himself. "The cuddling, the closeness."
"That's the truth," Seamus said, laughing. "You guys argue way too much. Like you'd have time for a good snog."
Dean chuckled too, but put a hand on Ron's shoulder, shaking it slightly. "They're good for each other, mate. They…I know it sounds gay, but they complete each other. Hermione can calm Harry down, and Harry can get Hermione to loosen up a little on the rules. Did you see he even got her stop campaigning around for that elf rights club of hers?"
"Good thing, too," Seamus said. "Anyway, Ron, you and Hermione just aren't for each other. You're good at setting her off."
Ron sighed. "I guess so," he said.
"And here's Krum!" Dumbledore's voice said. "As Miss Delacour had to forfeit earlier, only Mr. Potter has to emerge."
"Where's Harry, anyway?" Seamus said, scanning the glassy surface of the lake.
"Dunno," Dean said.
"Better not be doing something thick down there," Ron said.
They waited about ten more minutes in silence, occasionally commenting on how long Harry was taking. Then—
"There's Hermione!" Seamus said. "And…who's that?"
"Looks like it could be that Delacour's little sister," Dean said. "Where's Harry?"
They rushed forward and helped Hermione and the girl out of the lake. Hermione was shivering and screaming.
"Where's Harry?" she said, looking frantically around. "He should've come up with us, but he didn't!"
"What's that?" Neville said, pointing at the lake. A figure had burst from the lake and landed roughly on the wood of the dock. "Harry!"
"Hermione!" Harry said, sighing in relief and happiness as Hermione engulfed him in one of her signature bear hugs.
"Thank Merlin, you're okay," Hermione said, pulling away and wrapping another blanket around him. "I think you did wonderfully."
"I came in last, Hermione," Harry said. Hermione smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
"Actually, next to last," a new voice said. Harry and Hermione looked up to see Ron standing there, having the good grace to look ashamed. "Fleur was attacked by grindylows. She never even made it down there."
"Oh," Hermione said, looking back at Harry. "Well, next to last, then." She looked back up at Ron. "Ron…we're sorry—"
"No," Ron said. "I should be apologizing. I've been a git this whole year. I'm…I'm glad you two are together. Me and Hermione would never have worked, and…well, I guess it's better you're with Harry than some guy we don't know."
Hermione smiled. "Thanks Ron. Apology accepted."
"Yeah," Harry said. "No problem."
Ron smiled nervously as Dumbledore called the champions to order.
"Glad you lot'r done fightin'," Hagrid growled as they walked through the woods. "Hogwarts's got enough goin' on withou' all o' yer adolescent angst."
"Well, I guess I was being awful thick," Ron said. "Gotta be blind not to see that these two are crazy about each other," he gestured at Harry and Hermione, who were walking arm in arm, Hermione resting her head on Harry's shoulder.
"Ya know, the two o' you remind me o' Lily an' James," Hagrid said, his beard twitching as he smiled. "Inseparable, the two of them."
"Really?" Harry asked, looking at Hermione and smiling.
"Yep," Hagrid said. "Ya got the troublemaker boy who's absolutely crazy abou' his girl, great at Quidditch, good in classes, and one o' the most popular students at Hogwarts; and his clever, smart girlfriend who keeps him in check and makes sure he does what's right. O' course, they went on ter get married, an' have a kid. Woulda had more if…well, that relationship was built to last. You two'll go far, too."
"And Ron'll be there every step of the way," Harry said, looking at his best friend. Ron grinned and nodded.
"Every step," he said, coming up from behind and draping his arms across his two friends' shoulders. "One big, happy family, right guys?"
All three of them laughed and nodded.
A family…every step of the way.
Hope you like the ending, even if it was sappy. I couldn't think of how else to end it. If the two month gap bothered you…well, you have my sympathies, but I just couldn's stand two summarize two months. Also, for those of you perverts, "study breaks" does not imply anything higher than a T rating. Okay, thanks and please REVIEW!