Chapter 2

A Day Like Any Other - Mostly

Well, her homework was all finished, and it was a Sunday evening, so there was nothing left to do but relax. Phoebe was looking forward to it immensely.

Madame Pince watched her like a hawk as she left the Library, but Phoebe barely noticed. She was so deep in thought that she didn't realise she'd reached Gryffindor tower, until she arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady.

Rather than sit in the common room, doing nothing, Phoebe decided she'd prefer to look for Ella, and talk with her instead. It wasn't that she didn't like her housemates; she just didn't want to see Hermione and Ron together.

She found Ella in the girl's toilets, smiling vaguely into the mirror at herself.

"Mirror, mirror …" Phoebe laughed. Ella jumped and whirled around.

"Phoebe!" she said, almost wailing. "You scared me!"

"If you weren't so absorbed in your reflection," Phoebe teased gently, "you'd have seen me come in."

"I was not!" Ella said indignantly. "I'll have you know, I was just … thinking."

"Oh, really?" Phoebe pretended she didn't know who her best friend had been thinking about. It was painfully obvious that Ella fancied Harry, anyone could see that.

"Don't look at me like that, Phoebes," Ella said, blushing. "I know what you're thinking – and I don't fancy Potter!"

"Whatever you say, El."

They left the toilets, Ella still protesting that she did not have the most gigantic crush on Harry, and Phoebe still proclaiming that she did.

She went to bed that night, thinking – as always – about Ron. She actually sickened herself at times like these; when she dreamt hundreds of different scenarios, all ending with a passionate kiss, and Hermione weeping in the background. How could she be so happy about making someone cry, even in her dreams?

But then, she and Hermione were rivals – saddening that it had come to such rivalry, even though they were in the same house – and Phoebe couldn't imagine anything more satisfying than stealing Ron away from Hermione.

Phoebe awoke on Monday morning, rolled over in her bed and glared at the shaft of sunlight shining into her eyes. Unfortunately, it promised to be another glorious day, but Phoebe was in no mood to celebrate.

Hermione passed her on the way into the bathroom, and they glowered at each other, before Phoebe turned around and went down to the common room.

At breakfast, she noticed Ron and Hermione speaking in low, hushed voices, and gesticulating wildly. They both wore frowns that bordered on scowls, and Phoebe was happy to note that they seemed to be arguing.

Ha, she thought viciously, the Golden Couple are finally hitting a rough patch. It's about time.

She buttered her toast with renewed vigour after that, sneaking satisfied glances at Ron and Hermione – who still seemed to be arguing in full flow – and by the time Phoebe reached Transfiguration, she was in a better mood than she had been all week.

She sat at the desk next to Alana in McGonagall's class. Being a typical Ravenclaw, Alana just seemed to get what the professor was saying, whereas it took Phoebe a couple of explanations and demonstrations to figure out what they were talking about. Today was no exception

They were going over human transfiguration again, and Phoebe was heartily sick of it all. Not just the incessant gibberish that McGonagall seemed to be speaking, but the way Hermione kept bouncing up and down in her seat, clearly trying to answer as many questions as possible in the one lesson. It made Phoebe want to vomit.

She settled, instead, for glaring at the back of Hermione's bushy, brown head. Once she was feeling marginally better – after she'd copied the diagrams from Alana, that is – she remembered Ron and Hermione's fight earlier this morning.

It brought an inexplicable smile to her face. Alana noticed, but tactfully said nothing. She knew exactly how Phoebe felt about Ron, and was somewhat amused by it all.

It was only lunchtime, when Phoebe found herself walking a little way behind Ron and Hermione in the corridor. They were arguing much more heatedly now, and Phoebe couldn't help but eavesdrop.

"Ron, please don't be difficult," Hermione was saying, as though speaking to a recalcitrant child. Phoebe's lip curled with disgust.

"And why shouldn't I be?" Ron asked obstinately. "This isn't exactly how I pictured spending my lunch hour."

"You're acting like a five-year-old," Hermione said impatiently. "If you would just listen –"

"Hermione, why don't you just come out and say it?" Ron's voice was suddenly tired. Phoebe frowned and kept following them.

"Say what?"

"That you're breaking up with me so you can go out with Krum," Ron said, and there was an edge of bitterness in his voice that Phoebe had rarely heard before.

"Ron, I don't know what –" Hermione began, but her tone was guilty.

"Don't insult me by pretending you don't know what I'm talking about," Ron interrupted. "Just admit it; you want to go out with Krum, and you're breaking up with me."

There was a long silence, though Phoebe thought that Ron and Hermione were both taking the chance to mull things over.

"Alright, I am," Hermione said coolly. "So what?"

"So these past few months were a waste of time?" Ron burst out, barely controlling his anger.

"It would seem so. I am sorry, Ron," Hermione said suddenly. "Honestly, I am. If – if there was any other way …"

Phoebe rolled her eyes; Hermione was breaking up with Ron for that duck-footed, moody git, and here she was saying that she was sorry. As if.

"Don't give me that bloody rubbish!" Ron snapped. "I'm not stupid!"

"Well you're doing an excellent job of it!" Hermione shouted, and the heavy sound of footsteps coming her way made Phoebe jump back into the shadows. Hermione came stomping up the corridor, her face set with anger and pain. Phoebe chanced a quick look down the hallway.

Ron was still standing where Hermione had presumably left him. He stared at the ground for a few minutes, his expression never changing. Then he ran a hand through his flaming hair, sighing heavily, and began to follow the way Hermione had just come.

Once again, Phoebe pressed her back to the wall in order to avoid being found. Ron passed by without seeing her, and when he'd gone, Phoebe let out her breath.

Ron and Hermione had broken up. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were no longer going out. Something jolted in her stomach at the words, and she smiled.

Today wasn't such a waste after all.

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A school barn owl dropped the letter onto the Hufflepuff table, at breakfast.

Serena stared at it. Her parents were Muggles and wouldn't know to send her a letter by owl post. Her friends wouldn't write to her to tell her something; they'd tell her themselves.

So who had sent this letter?

Intrigued, she picked the envelope up, noticing the unfamiliar, spiky handwriting on the front, and tore it open. A single sheet of parchment fell out, and Serena looked at it eagerly.

Astronomy tower. Midnight.

That was it. That was all it said.

Puzzled, Serena turned it over, but the other side was blank.

At that moment, Hannah Abbott, a fellow Hufflepuff, dropped into the seat next to her. Hannah pulled a plate of toast forward and began to butter a couple of slices, before she realised Serena was still staring at the piece of parchment in her hands.

"What's up?" Hannah asked curiously. A frown was smudging Serena's forehead.

"This," Serena murmured, passing the parchment over. "I just got it, this morning."

"Who sent it?" Hannah said, reading it.

"I have no idea."

"Hmm, seems a bit dodgy to me." Hannah pursed her lips and passed the note back. She picked her knife up again and resumed buttering her toast. "You do know why people meet up at the Astronomy Tower, don't you?" she asked suddenly, glancing up.

"Of course," Serena said, rolling her eyes. "Late-night snogging."

"And the rest," Hannah laughed. "So, whoever sent you this –" she indicated the note, lying on the table "- wants to do more than talk about constellations."

They laughed, and went on with breakfast. Halfway through a bowl of porridge, Serena picked the note up again, and looked at it thoughtfully.

"D'you think I should go, Hannah?" she asked slowly.

"That's up to you; but if you're going to, just be careful." A typical Hannah answer; honest but ambiguous.

"I just want to know who could have sent it," Serena shrugged. "You don't recognise the handwriting, do you?"

Hannah glanced at the parchment again. Then she shook her head. "No, though I don't think it's anyone from Hufflepuff."

"How d'you figure that one?"

"Well, I would imagine it's another seventh year," Hannah said slowly. "And a boy, of course. I've seen Ernie's and everyone's writing," she added, "and this doesn't look like any of theirs."

"I'm relieved, for some reason," Serena chuckled dryly. "I think most of the Hufflepuff boys are taken, anyway." She gave Hannah a significant look.

"Well, if it turns out to be Ernie, Justin or Zach, they'll soon regret it."

Serena walked to Arithmancy soon after breakfast; she let her eyes wander over the boys in her class. Had any of them sent the letter? Could it have been Terry Boot, from Ravenclaw? Or his friend, Anthony Goldstein? What about Dean Thomas, the only Gryffindor male in this class? Serena's gaze shifted from Dean to the boy at the next desk.

Malfoy, she thought venomously. Well, at least she could be sure it wasn't Malfoy. He wouldn't come near a Mudblood like her. Good thing, then, because she didn't want him to.

Though he was quite good-looking, she reasoned. All the girls in her house said so. It was just a shame he was so arrogant and self-obsessed, because he was a pretty good example of the human race. Such was the irony of life.

Serena shook her head to clear that particular thought. It was pointless discussing Draco Malfoy's merits, because his flaws always outweighed them.

She decided, later that day, that her curiosity was getting the better of her. She would go to the Astronomy Tower tonight, simply to find out who had sent her the letter. And if she liked whoever it was, she might stay awhile.

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For once, she wasn't sitting in the Quidditch stands when Oliver found her. No, Alana was walking from Ancient Runes, when she rushed headlong into the Quidditch coach.

"Oh, sorry!" she said swiftly. "I didn't see you."

"No, I seem to keep sneaking up on you, don't I?" Oliver said amusedly.

"Are you stalking me, Prof –" She broke off when he raised his eyebrows expectantly. "– Oliver?"

"I'm sure that position has already been filled." The corners of his mouth twitched slightly. Alana blushed.

"Have you seen Stephen?" Oliver asked a moment later. "Practice has been scheduled to Saturday now, instead of Friday."

"No, but I can tell him, if you want?"

"That'd save me a job. I suppose he'll leave you in the stands again, won't he?" Oliver eyed her sympathetically. "It's not easy dating a Quidditch nut."

"Mm," Alana said noncommittally. "He's not all bad," she smiled.

"No, he's a good kid. I just don't think he –" He stopped suddenly, as though on the verge of saying something he wanted to keep to himself. "Well, see you later, Alana."

And he walked off without another word.

What was all that about? Alana wondered, mystified. She felt oddly abandoned, too, as though he'd just dismissed her.

Rather than dwell on it, she went to the Ravenclaw common room and found Stephen already there, chatting to a couple of his friends. Alana went over to him, slipped an arm around his waist and kissed him gently.

He glanced at her surprised. "What was that in aid of?" he asked, a smile unfurling on his mouth.

"Oh, nothing. Just wanted to say hello."

"Well, hello to you, too." And he planted a kiss on her lips in return.

"By the way," Alana said, a few minutes later. "Quidditch practice is on Saturday now."

"Is it?" Stephen looked at her, surprised. "Who told you that?"

"Oliver." Seeing her boyfriend's blank look, she said, "Professor Wood."

"Since when have you been on first-name terms with a teacher?" Stephen said, eyes narrowed.

"Oh, don't be so suspicious," Alana said playfully, covering her mistake. "I'm not going to run off into the sunset with him."

Though she had to admit, that did sound like an extremely tempting idea.

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Ella sighed and pushed the strap of her bag back onto her shoulder. Harry was only a few feet away, chatting with Hermione, though they were noticeably without Ron.

She'd welcome any excuse to talk to Harry right now, so much so, that she thought about going up to talk to him outright. She could imagine the look on Hermione's face when a Slytherin willingly started a conversation with Harry. It also made her think what Phoebe would say about being in the same vicinity as Hermione Granger. She chuckled softly to herself.

Still, it was nearly time for break and she had to go and collect her Potions stuff, and then she was planning on catching up with Serena about their Herbology homework. Break wasn't long enough to do those things and chat with Harry, unfortunately, and she had to prioritise. Though Harry was pretty high up on the list of important things.

She strode down the hallway, her eyes catching Harry's almost automatically. He gave her an acknowledging smile, and Ella practically skipped back to her dormitory.

Seemed like it wasn't such a bad day after all.

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Of course he'd known Ella was there. He'd known all along. Ignoring her was pretty hard, actually, now that Harry thought about it.

Ron was nowhere in sight, and Harry was curious about that. Hermione didn't seem to know, or care, but then, she'd been babbling about something or other for the past five minutes. Harry hadn't been able to get a word in edgeways.

"– and then I said 'You're doing an excellent job of it!' and I walked away."

Hermione's voice finally pierced his thoughts. He blinked down at her – he'd grown much taller this term, and now he was a good foot bigger than her – and wondered for a second what she was talking about.

"What?" he asked eventually, not sure he was getting the whole picture.

"Honestly, Harry!" Hermione sighed impatiently. "Haven't you been listening?"

"Er ..." Harry said guiltily.

Hermione gave him a reproachful look. "I was talking about breaking up with Ron. It happened earlier."

"You did what?" Harry burst out, astonished.

"We broke up. We've argued so many times these past few weeks, it's pointless trying to keep a relationship going." She sighed, "It's just too stressful."

"So … how are you doing?" Harry asked cautiously, in case she was about to start crying on him, or something.

"Oh, I'm fine," she said airily, waving a hand casually. "And I'm sure Ron's alright too. Where is he, anyway?"

"Dunno. I haven't seen him since Transfiguration."

"I'm sure he'll tell you all about it soon. I'll see you later, Harry; I've got to send a letter to Viktor."

Hermione gave him a happy little wave, and walked in the direction of the Owlery. The way she'd slipped Krum's name into the conversation made Harry sure that his best friends had split up because of the Bulgarian Seeker.

I wonder how Ron's doing, he mused. I'd better go find him.

He found Ron sitting motionless on one of the couches in Gryffindor tower.

"Alright, mate?" he said carefully.

Ron seemed amused by his cautious behaviour. He smiled slightly and said, "Yeah. Hermione tell you about us breaking up?"

"Erm, yeah. You doing alright?"

"I'm fine," Ron shrugged. "Had to happen sometime, right? We did argue a lot …"

"I know. You both seem okay with it …"

"I'm not doing to badly. I think –" Ron broke off quickly, embarrassed.

"What?" Harry asked curiously.

"Well … I think I kind of – like someone else …"

"Oh." Harry blinked. "Oh, I see. Well … you move fast," he remarked dryly. "But if that's what you want … who is it?"

Ron sighed rather heavily. "The thing is, Harry," he said quietly, "you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

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Draco had to stop from congratulating himself out loud. The Hufflepuff girl from earlier had received his letter – the one telling her to meet him at the Astronomy Tower at midnight – and she was curious, that much he could tell from her puzzled frowns this morning at breakfast. He didn't, however, have any intentions of going to the Tower tonight; his plan was to inform Filch that someone would be out of bed after-hours tonight, up in the Tower. The caretaker would catch the stupid Hufflepuff.

It was petty, childish revenge, but it distracted Draco from Blaise's increasingly suspicious interrogations, and Pansy's bouts of anxiety on his behalf.

"What's gotten into you?" she'd asked, earlier that morning. "You don't talk to us anymore, and you didn't even help us deal with Potter and his groupies, the other day!"

To which Draco had drawn himself up dignifiedly and said, "Everybody has to grow up sometime, Pansy."

Blaise, who had been watching him with silent distrust, suddenly spoke up. "And how grown up you've become, Draco!" he said, smirking unpleasantly. "One would think you're turning your back on us."

"Who told you that rubbish?" Draco spat, his arrogance covering the truth, as usual. "You think because I'm not making Potter's life a living hell, I'm turning on you?"

"It certainly seems that way," Daphne Greengrass said from over by the fire. She gave Draco a level glance, "When you're not around, people talk."

"You're a bunch of suspicious bastards, aren't you?" Draco said, half-admiring, half-exasperated.

They gave him amused smirks, and the matter was dropped. Draco found himself in some state of relief or another these days, coupled with increasing annoyance that his apathy was being questioned non-stop. Why couldn't anyone just let him be? He needed a break, and maybe – just maybe – that Hufflepuff girl could provide it.

Perhaps he would go to the Tower tonight, because seeing someone get into trouble as a result of one of his own schemes always cheered him up.