Title: The Accidental Bond
Rating: PG-15, A/U
Pairing: Harry/multi
Summary: Harry finds that his "saving people thing" is a power of its own, capable of bonding single witches to him if their life is in mortal danger, with unusual results.

((A/N: I will follow the books at times, and if you find sections of text in bold, those passages are quoted from the appropriate book, written by JKR. I will keep that to a minimum and probably only in the first chapter, but sometimes, the original text just works so well to set up my story. :)

I had not ever planned on doing a true "multi" story, but this idea just wouldn't leave me alone. Also, while mature themes will occasionally come along, there will be no explicit scenes, although I may imply a lot and leave the rest up to your imagination.

This story will be mostly about the characters. There will be action, but it will also not be the focus of the story. This story will also seem to be slow in starting. Like many stories, the altered universe need to be fleshed out and like ripples in a pond, the first ripples are the largest and cause the most difficulty/time in dealing with them. BTW, this story is probably not for you if Molly Weasley is your favourite character. :)

A special thanks goes out to XRaiderV1, moshpit, and NotACat for beta'ing this story for me. While I haven't quite finished the first draft stage, I'm close enough to guess we'll end near 325Kw and about 30 chapters, so this will be a non-trivial story. I'm not sure what the update schedule will be. I'll try for weekly, or maybe a little faster later on.

Just in case anyone is confused, the "Harry Potter universe" and all that is commonly recognized to be part of the commercial "Harry Potter universe" are owned by someone commonly known as JKR and probably various corporations. I will take credit for this story, plot, original characters, and anything else left over that is not recognized to be JKR's. No, I am not JKR -- I'm not even the right gender. This is all done for fun, no profits will be made from the story.

The Accidental Bond

Chapter 1 - Trolls Can Be Hazardous

An eleven year-old Harry Potter walked into Charms class on Halloween morning and quickly became excited when Professor Flitwick announced they would start practicing the Levitation charm for the first time. While Harry normally sat beside Ron Weasley, his mostly best friend, today the professor had partnered him with Seamus Finnigan. Ron had been partnered with Hermione Granger.

While the professor handed out feathers for them to practice with, Harry considered his new friends again. Seamus, Dean, and Neville, three of his dorm mates, were pretty good blokes. None of them was a bully like his cousin Dudley, although he was having trouble figuring Neville out, as Neville was so shy he would hardly talk to anyone.

Ron had sort of become Harry's best mate, almost by default. Harry appreciated the red-haired boy as he had been friendly with him from the moment they had met on the train, but there was something a bit off with him. Ron seemed to alternate between being friendly and being a prat. Worse still, Harry never knew which mood Ron would be in at any given time. When he was friendly, Ron was everything Harry hoped he would have in a friend, which was wonderful considering how he had grown up. But when Ron was in "prat mode", it was like he was a "good" version of Draco Malfoy. At the moment, Harry was trying to be friendly to him and wait and see what happened, hoping Ron turned into a true best mate.

Then there was Hermione, who had somehow arrived in his life. She was incredibly smart, even as a first-year. Her dedication to learning was almost scary, which made Harry wonder why she was that way, as well as why she was in Gryffindor. She was nice enough when she wanted to be, but at the moment they were iffy on being friends. She was a bit put out with him for receiving a broom from Professor McGonagall and for being on the Quidditch team, both of which she had let him know that she perceived as breaking the rules. Harry had quickly noticed that she held both teachers and rules in high regard. He understood that, but was unsure why she took that view to such an extreme. Still, they mostly got along and would probably become better friends one day.

Professor Flitwick handed Harry and Seamus a feather to share and prompted them to start working. It did not take long for there to be "results". Harry had no clue how Seamus had done it, but his dorm mate had burnt their feather to a crisp, requiring their diminutive professor to supply a new one.

Harry glanced one table over and saw Ron and Hermione bickering about how to do the spell. He started to shake his head in mirth when Hermione pointed her wand at their feather and cast "Wingardium Leviosa!" perfectly, causing the feather to rise as required. Leave it to her to show Ron how to cast it on the first try.

"Oh, well done, Miss Granger," Flitwick enthusiastically congratulated her. "Everyone look at Miss Granger's wonderful work. Take five points for Gryffindor, Miss Granger."

Ron started muttering something, obviously in a dark temper. Hermione gave him a few questioning looks, but it looked to Harry as if she had not fully heard Ron and was only reacting to his very displeased expressions.

As soon as class was over, Ron quickly left his desk and joined Harry as they walked out into the corridor. With a loud and snide voice, he said, "It's no wonder no one can stand her, she's a nightmare, honestly."

Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It was Hermione. Harry caught a glimpse of her face -- and was startled to see that she was in tears.

"I think she heard you."

"So?" said Ron, not looking a bit uncomfortable. "She must've noticed she's got no friends."

"But you don't have to rub it in," Harry replied. Ron looked over and shrugged. He was in "prat mode" at the moment.

Hermione wasn't seen for the next class or for the rest of the afternoon. That evening, on their way down to the Great Hall for the Halloween feast, Harry overheard Parvati Patil telling her friend Lavender Brown that Hermione was crying in the girls' toilets and wanted to be left alone. Harry suspected that even Ron would have felt awkward at hearing that, but at the moment, he was engaged in talking to Dean and had not heard. They all entered the Great Hall and saw all the Halloween decorations, which caused even Harry to put Hermione out of his mind. He thought the carved pumpkins were especially well done.

Harry and the rest of his year mates took their seats at the table, enjoying the festive occasion. Tasty looking food magically appeared on golden plates and everyone started dishing out their food.

Harry was just helping himself to a jacket potato when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the Hall, his turban askew and terror on his face. Everyone stared as he reached Professor Dumbledore's chair, slumped against the table and gasped, "Troll -- in the dungeons -- thought you ought to know."

He then sank to the floor in a dead faint.

There was uproar. It took several purple firecrackers exploding from the end of Professor Dumbledore's wand to bring silence. "Prefects," he rumbled, "lead your houses back to the dormitories immediately!"

Percy was in his element. "Follow me! Stick together, first-years! No need to fear the troll if you follow my orders! Stay close behind me, now. Make way, first-years coming through! Excuse me, I'm a Prefect!"

Harry stared blankly at the Prefect for a brief moment. He was so unlike Ron or the twins, Fred and George.

"How could a troll get in?" Harry asked as they climbed the stairs.

"Don't ask me, they're supposed to be really stupid," said Ron. "Maybe Peeves let it in for a Halloween joke."

They passed different groups of people hurrying in different directions. As they jostled their way through a crowd of confused Hufflepuffs, Harry suddenly remembered his other friend -- Hermione. As the crowds jostled him and he was separated from Ron, he realized that she would not know about the troll. He started to yell for Ron to come help him warn her, but then he remembered why she was in hiding and did not really expect Ron to come help, given how the two were not getting along. Ducking past a big seventh year Hufflepuff, Harry started running down another corridor away from the rest of the Gryffindors.

Racing down the corridor and stairs, he made it to the girls' bathroom just in time to see the back side of the troll go in. It was grey and huge. Running in anyway, he was almost knocked over by the stench of the creature. A girl's scream brought his attention back to the matter at hand.

The troll raised its large club and swung, knocking a stall door off its hinges and violently throwing it across the room to break a sink. Knowing that Hermione was in danger, even if they were not best of friends at the moment, Harry pulled his wand out and ran, jumping on the back of the troll, throwing his arms around the troll's neck. Praying he could distract the troll and allow Hermione to escape, he jammed his wand in the troll's face, unaware that the instrument had lodged in the creature's nose. While not what Harry had planned, he had accomplished his goal, the troll had completely forgotten the girl in its pain.

As the troll roared, Harry thought his hardest about pushing "magic" out of his wand, wishing that the troll was no longer there. He did not see a pencil-sized beam of white light burst out of the top of the troll's head and hit the ceiling, but Harry did notice that the troll had suddenly ceased roaring and was starting to fall forward. Yanking his slime covered wand back, Harry rode the troll as it fell, landing on the troll's back on all fours. There was now silence -- except for a brief whimper.

Harry looked up and saw Hermione crouching on the floor of the stall with the missing door. "Y-you all right?" he asked with a shaky voice. He could not believe what he had just done, but felt it was important to look after Hermione for the moment.

"Y-y-you, you saved m-my life. I w-w-was going to d-die and you s-saved my life!" She was starting to sound more hysterical as she talked.

He hurried over to her. "I'm glad you're safe." As he said that, Harry started to feel a strange something in his mind, but he did not recognize it. However, that strange feeling reminded him that they were in a strange situation and needed to do something. "Hermione, I don't know what's going on with everything, but I think we need to leave. Come with me?" he pleaded and grasped her hands, which felt incredibly wonderful.

With wide eyes, Hermione nodded and slowly rose as Harry stood and pulled her up. Seeing his wand in his hand and that it was "messy", he quickly wiped it on the troll's coarse loin-cloth and then hurried her out of the bathroom.

Trying to avoid everyone, Harry pulled her in the opposite direction they should have gone, which was towards the Great Hall and the main stairs.

"Harry, this is the wrong way; the Great Hall is the other way…"

"I know a back way where we can hopefully not get caught. Everyone was sent back to our common room," he informed her as they quickly walked; in fact, he was almost dragging her. He took a secret passage that the Weasley twins had inadvertently shown him as he followed them one day. They were back to the Gryffindor Tower in a short time. Hermione had been quiet the whole way, and Harry was appreciative, as it gave him time to think.

Harry was not sure what was going on, just that something unusual was happening. He had never held a girl's hand before, but this felt really great, as if he never wanted to let go. Also, while he would have considered Hermione a friend that morning, now, she seemed more important to him -- important enough that he would protect her from anything. It was a strange feeling, but he kind of liked that too.

They had barely made it back to their common room, without being caught in the corridors, when Ron walked up to them. "What are you doing holding her hand?" he asked as if he could not believe Harry was doing that.

"I think I'm helping her get to safety," Harry almost snarled, unsure where this feeling was coming from.

Ron stepped back. "Why?" he asked, looking bewildered.

"Because," Harry continued aggressively, "you and your 'I'm better than everyone else' attitude caused her to hide from you. That meant she didn't know about the troll. So I had to go and find her and bring her back here. It's all your fault, you know."

He felt a pull on his arm, so he looked at Hermione. He could tell she was about to say something and he was afraid she might give something away, so he squeezed her hand and shook his head just slightly when she looked at him. She nodded back and meekly looked down.

"I can't believe you…" Ron said, starting to get angry.

"Believe it, Ron. Now go eat, since that's what you seem to do best, and leave us alone until you have something important to say to her," Harry told him, pointing sharply toward the place Ron had probably been sitting before, next to Dean.

Ron muttered something, but Harry did not catch it and decided not to care, just like he did not care that Percy was staring at them too. Harry had thought Ron was his friend, but this was hard to understand. As Ron turned his back, Harry pulled Hermione the other way to the other side of the room. He led her over to a corner and sat them down on the floor behind some chairs, out of sight from most of the room.

They had barely sat down when Hermione threw herself on Harry, almost knocking him over, giving him a hug that practically squeezed the life out of him as she started quietly sobbing. Not knowing what else to do, he put his arms around her, although not nearly as tightly. While this felt nice in its own way, it was not as good as holding her hand. As he tried to decide what to do, she shifted and her bare arm touched his bare neck and everything felt good again. So Harry just held on and marvelled in his first real hug as she cried, not caring in the slightest that his shoulder was slowly becoming very damp.


Minerva McGonagall stopped in the hallway and sniffed, almost revolted by what she smelled. Still, she had a job to do. It was not hard to figure out what direction the smell came from, so she hurried in that direction. Her four paws allowed her to run quickly. A moment later, she was sure that her quarry was behind this bathroom door, so she transformed back into her human form. As she left her cat Animagus form, the stench lessened. She also noticed that there were no sounds coming from behind the door, which she thought unusual as trolls were rarely silent.

Wand out, she slowly opened the door to the girls' bathroom in the dungeons and was horrified at what she found. She quickly sent a magical message off to the Headmaster and slowly went in. She had just verified that the troll was indeed dead when the Headmaster came in, along with Professor Flitwick.

"I see you found it, Minerva," the deep calm tones of the Headmaster said as he walked over. "Is it unconscious or dead?"

"It's quite dead, Albus. I don't understand it. There's no one here and there's no blood," she said, shaking her head. "And look at the room. It was on a rampage, but again, there's no victim."

"Look on the top of his head, Minerva," the squeaky voice of Flitwick said, standing at the troll's feet.

"Why?" Dumbledore asked.

Flitwick pointed to the ceiling. "While I don't ever come in here, I find it most unusual to see a hole in the ceiling, and it looks freshly made."

McGonagall walked around and made a disgusted sound. "I'm afraid you're correct. There's a quarter-inch hole in the top of his head. Even more surprising is that there is no blood. It's as if it's been cauterized."

"Like a drilling spell," Flitwick said as he nodded. He pulled out his wand and levitated the troll before flipping it over on its back. "And no hole on the front. The spell must have gone through its mouth or nose. The odds against that shot scoring in one of its few easily vulnerable areas are quite high."

"And yet it has happened," Dumbledore murmured.

"What was it doing here?" McGonagall asked. "I thought you already had one in place as a guard?"

"I do," the Headmaster replied. "I suspect this one came from the same clan and was looking for its friend, but I suppose we'll never know." He did several revealing spells around the room. "Nothing, there's not a single clue as to who might have done this," he said, sounding slightly upset. "Do either of you have any ideas?"

Neither colleague offered any ideas.

He cleared his throat. "Yes, well, what's done is done. Please check your charges to make sure everyone is accounted for and keep your ears open for any rumours in case someone saw something or is injured. I'll inform Pomona and Severus and have them do the same. Please report back to me if anyone is missing or if you develop any leads on this mystery. I shall work on how it might have entered the castle."

With a flick of his wand, the troll was transfigured into a rat and deposited into the trashcan in the corner. A few more waves of the wand repaired the bathroom, restoring it to its former state. All three professors left wondering exactly what had happened and who had done it.


Harry had no idea how long they had been sitting and holding each other. He knew that Professor McGonagall had come in for a few minutes and talked to Percy, but they had been left alone. Eventually, Hermione sniffled and lessened her hold on him, although she did not let go completely.

"Harry," she whispered, "I'm sorry I'm crying all over you, but I just couldn't stop." Whispering seemed like the right thing to do. It kept the conversation more private and, well, intimate.

Not knowing what else to do, Harry lightly patted her on the back before whispering, "It's all right. I've never been hugged before and it felt really good." He shocked himself saying that. Why had he let that slip out?

Hermione pulled back and looked at him closely with red-streaked eyes. "Never before?" After he nodded, she said, "You've not talked about your life outside of here."

He looked down, not sure what to say, but somehow feeling like he could trust her with anything. "There's not much to say about it; certainly nothing good."

"Would you tell me, please?" she softly begged. "I want to know."

Harry started to tell her 'no' until she went on.

"I want to know about you, Harry. If it will help, I'll even promise to tell you anything about me that you want to know," she told him sincerely.

There was something about her request, her phrasing, that made him understand she did want to know about him, the real him. As he started to answer, his stomach rumbled.

Hermione let a short giggle out. "Maybe we should get something to eat first. The food will eventually go away and I haven't had anything to eat since breakfast."

"I can get it for you if you want to stay here," Harry offered. It seemed like the thing to do.

Hermione smiled and leaned forward, brushing her cheek against his as she gave him a light hug. "Thank you, Harry, but I'm feeling well enough now to get it." She let go and stood up.

Immediately, she was uncomfortable. Looking at Harry, it was obvious that he felt it too. Realizing that the only things that had changed were that they were standing and not holding hands, she reached out and grabbed his hand. Immediately, the comforting feeling came back.

Harry had figured out what was going on as he told her, "We need to touch and yet…we need to not be seen while we do this or we'll raise suspicions. Can you make it?" he asked.

She gave his hand a squeeze. "I can for a few minutes, but please don't dilly-dally."

He nodded and led the way over, with her closely following. At the tables with food, they saw that most of it was gone, but there was enough left they could still have their fill as they were the last to eat.

"Hey Harry! Where've ya been?" Seamus called out from a nearby table. Dean and Ron were sitting with him.

Harry quickly glanced around and saw that almost half of the house had gone up to their dorm rooms. Hermione was also trying to hurry with her food and she was making an effort to face away from everyone or else look down so her hair covered her face.

"Sitting on the other side of the room," he said, trying to sound as if nothing unusual was going on while he dished out food onto his plate.

"You've been talking to Hermione?"

Seamus looked like he was just asking to be asking, and Dean looked similarly curious, but Ron still looked upset at him. Harry chose to ignore the one he thought was his friend.

"Yeah." He was not sure what else to say, or really that he wanted to say anything else at the moment.

"What for? I thought you were still mad at her about the way she carried on with you getting the broom and being on the Quidditch team?"

Seamus was still acting as if he was just trying to find out information, but Harry felt his anger start to return and he really did not want to go there for now. So he hurriedly poured himself some water and grabbed it so he could leave. "I was never that upset with her and we've worked past that and we're friends again." With that as a parting comment, he quickly turned and left for their corner. Hermione had already finished serving herself and was waiting for him.

They sat back down, again mostly hidden from everyone, and started to eat after they held hands again. Eating with one hand slowed them down, but the comforting feeling was well worth it.

"Harry?" Hermione restarted the conversation, again whispering. "I'm sorry about the argument over the broom. It's just -- I've always lived by the rules and think they're made for everyone. And, well…" she trailed off.

It was not hard to guess what she was about to say. "You've been made fun of because people didn't always follow the rules and you did, right?" he asked, knowing it had to be true. It had happened to him often enough, with Dudley leading the charge.

She slowly nodded. "When the rules aren't followed, then it's not fair for everyone."

He understood, really he did, but she was not totally right either. "I think you're right, most of the time, but there can be exceptions, Hermione. I hate my uncle and I think he's lied to me more often than he told the truth, but he did say one thing that I believe to be very true."

"What?" she asked, looking into his eyes and wondering what he knew.

"Life is not always fair. I think people should be treated the same, whether they're smart or not smart, or whether they have a stupid scar on their forehead," the last said a little more angrily, "and a lot of other things, but life doesn't seem to work that way. We're both made fun of at times, for different reasons, but all we can do is try to go on as best we can. When life isn't fair, you do the best you can." He had thought about this a lot when locked in his cupboard under the stairs, usually after his uncle had done something 'unfair' to him. Harry knew he could only do his best with what he had.

Hermione took another bite of food and considered what he had said. She knew it was true and even had thought similar thoughts. "I know you're right, but I still don't like it. It makes life messy and unpredictable."

Harry chuckled, happy for a little levity. "I'm sure it was all done just to annoy you," he said with a grin.

"Prat," she softly said with a smile.

Harry just squeezed her hand, still smiling. He ate the last few bites on his plate before he set it aside. He moved so he could lean against the wall, and she put her plate on his and moved with him, leaning against him -- still holding hands.

"Harry? If I tell you something, will you not make fun of me?" she asked hesitantly and a little fearful. She trusted him, and yet, they had not had much time to show that trust.

"Of course," he quickly assured her. "I may tease you from time to time in fun, but I'll do my best to never be unkind. What is it?"

"I'm … I'm scared. I can tell something has happened to us and I can't figure out what it is. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I don't see anyone else doing what we're doing and I've never read about it either. There are a lot of books in the library to check, but if this was common, I'm sure I would have read about it already in one of my introductory books."

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was something he always did before he had to deal with Dudley. He thought it always made it easier for him figure out how to get away from his cousin.

"I have no idea. I've only known about the wizarding world for about three months."

"Me too. It's so unfair," she grumbled.

Harry quietly snickered and she smiled for a moment, knowing that he was thinking about his uncle's comment. He also thought about their situation for a moment. "I'm sorry," he quietly told her.

She looked at him as in confusion for a moment. "For what?"

"For getting you into this. I'm sure it's my fault; it always is," he said dejectedly, unable to look at her.

"No," she said firmly but quietly.


"No, I don't forgive you because there's nothing to forgive. It's not your fault. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine," Hermione insisted.


"Harry, did you let the troll in the castle?"

"Err, no."

"Did you make it attack me?"

"Of course not!" he said fiercely but still quietly.

"Did you upset me? Did you force me to hide in the girls' bathroom?"

"No, but I didn't stop Ron or go after you."

"Right, it was Ron's fault I was upset, not yours. And it was my fault for hiding in the bathroom. You did come after me when you really needed to. It's not your fault in any way. None." She glared at him to make sure he did not try to claim the blame.

"I suppose you're right, but bad stuff always happened around me at home," he explained. "It was always my fault there."

"That was probably accidental magic, and wasn't really your fault either. You were merely untrained. That shouldn't happen any more after this first year," she told him authoritatively.

"Oh, that's good." He was not sure if that would make things better with the Dursleys, but hopefully it would reduce the number of times they got angry with him.

Hermione nodded, looking satisfied that he accepted her explanation. "All right, describe to me what you think is happening and what you feel. I'll do the same in a minute and maybe that will help us. I'd go get something to write with and on, but I don't want to get up and leave you. This feels too nice."

He squeezed her hand, hoping to give her a little comfort. "OK. Err … the most obvious is that I feel like I have to touch you, or have you touch me, skin to skin." He blushed as he realized what that must sound like and tried to hurry on. "I don't feel the need to do anything else, just hold your hand or something."

Hermione blushed a little too. "Same here, holding hands is good. What else?"

"I, uh, I felt really angry at Ron when he tried to insult you. Looking back at it, his first comment about holding your hand wasn't that bad, but I knew it was his fault for hurting you earlier and I couldn't help taking it out on him a bit." He slowly shook his head. "I probably owe him an apology now."

"Maybe, but if you think about it, he owes both of us an apology. Me for what he said, and you for his comments about me." She waved that off. "But the important thing for now is understanding that you feel protective of me. Right?"

Harry quickly nodded. "Yeah, a lot actually."

She considered that for a moment. "I feel the same way about you. We probably need to hide this for a while until we learn how to deal with that."

"What?" His fear of rejection, reinforced so many times by the Dursleys came crashing down on him.

Hermione saw his expression instantly change so he looked as if he had lost his best friend. She quickly grabbed him and pulled him into a hug, feeling him sit very stiffly. "No, Harry, I'm not leaving you, not ever. You'll always be my friend." She felt him relax and his arms slowly go around her. "I meant that we need to be careful because some people would try harder to make you angry by insulting me if they knew about how we feel, that it's … it's reflexive, I suppose." She could feel him nodding slightly on her shoulder.

"Like Malfoy," he breathed, as if afraid to say the Slytherin's name.

"You'll have to be very careful around him, Harry. I know he calls me names, but honestly, they don't bother me very much."

"But it bothers you at least some, doesn't it?" he challenged her.

She shrugged. "Only a little, but it's because I know he's trying to insult me, so I don't let it bother me."

Harry gave her a squeeze and then let go and leaned back against the wall again, although he did not let go of her hand.

"You're right, as usual," he told her with a grin, which she matched.

"And don't you forget it," she teased, causing him to chuckle. "Harry?"


"Tell me about the Dursleys and how you grew up." She felt him immediately stiffen again. "Please! I really want to know about you, about why you act like you do. You're such a mystery at times."

Harry was silent for moment, not sure how to answer, and then deciding that a joke might help. "But why? I heard on the telly that women like mysterious men."

She lightly slugged him. "Harry…" she softly growled.

He could not help but smile. "You know that you're a lot more fun when you're playful like this, don't you?"

Hermione fixed him with a glare. "Harry, I'm waiting…"

Harry took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "That's something we need to talk about too," as she opened her mouth to say something, he hurriedly added, "Later. About me, well… After my parents were killed, I'm told I was taken to the Dursleys. I really don't know why, other than my aunt is my mother's only relative. I was eighteen months old."

She nodded, as that was the accepted story.

"What people don't know, including Dumbledore, who I'm told was the one who placed me there, is that my aunt and uncle hate magic."

"Hate?" she asked, thinking he did not really mean it.

"Yes … unless you have a stronger word?"

"Abhor?" she quietly offered.

"Sure," Harry willingly accepted. "They abhor it and everything connected to it. I don't know why, but I do know they took their hate out on me. I was treated like a slave, doing everything around the house that I could physically do, while my cousin did nothing. If anything went wrong, I was blamed for it, even if I wasn't the one who caused it or knew what had happened. Just like in Snape's class, but worse."

"But Professor Snape isn't fair to you…" Hermione protested.

Harry was glad she would admit that. Her view of teachers was something else they needed to talk about eventually.

"It's an ugly place to be. They threw me into the cupboard underneath the stairs and that was my room until I received my Hogwarts letter."

"What?" Hermione said in a normal voice, her disgust obvious. She sheepishly looked around and no one seemed to be looking at them so she turned back to him and started whispering again. "Are you serious? Your room was a cupboard under the stairs?"

"I swear," he said as he nodded. "That's where they made me stay at nights and anytime they thought I was in the wrong, which was quite often. I had to do most of the cooking, but I rarely had as much to eat as I wanted. Even after two months, a normal meal here is a feast to me."

Hermione threw herself at him to give him another hug. "And I'm really the first person to ever hug you?" She felt herself tearing up as she thought about what it was like for him, how much worse than she had had it.

"I'm sure my mother did, but I have no memories of her. So yes, you are the first that I know of."

"I think I understand now." She sniffled quietly. "They neglected you terribly. And yet, you're the nicest person I've met here and I'm so very lucky to have you as my friend -- my best friend."

Harry squeezed her tightly for a second. "You're my best friend too."

Hermione looked out from around the chairs in front of them and saw that the common room was mostly empty now. "Harry? What are we going to do now? I still want to hold your hand and it's time for bed."

"What if we sat down here together?" he suggested after a moment. "I think I'd like to go take a shower and change into some other clothes before we do, but I think we could hide here for most of the night." He paused for a moment before adding, "We might have to leave early too, maybe go to some unused classroom for an hour or so before breakfast."

She thought the idea through. "I guess that would work and not get us into too much trouble. We could go to breakfast side-by-side and then hold hands under the table. Since tomorrow is Saturday, we could spend our time out on the grounds or even hiding in the library."

Harry slowly started to smirk at her.

"What?" she asked.

"I find it funny that you're thinking of doing something that won't get us into too much trouble. The fact that any amount of trouble is acceptable is funny." He almost wanted to snicker at her, but managed not to, as he was afraid it might hurt her feelings.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Honestly, Harry, I'm not that bad. Even I know that some rules make no sense and are worthless."

Harry let his mirth show in his eyes and in his smile. "I'll remember that and quote you some day." He leaned out and looked around the chairs. "Percy is gone, so now would be a good time. I'll meet you back down here in about fifteen minutes. How's that?"

"I might need a couple more minutes, but I'll be as fast as I can," she told him. Looking out to make sure no one was looking their way, Hermione rose and felt the loss of Harry's comfort as she released his hand. It was all she could do to leave and not grab him again. Without looking at him, lest she turn back, she hurriedly made her way to her dorm room.

Harry also felt Hermione's loss as she let go of his hand. He felt a shiver run through him. He almost grabbed her hand before she left, but he managed to restrain himself. After she left, he got up and quickly walked across the room. On the other side, he saw Fred and George Weasley, along with Lee Jordan. That gave him an idea; so he walked over to them. "Hey, I've got a question for you two."

"Harry, our lad…"

"Our friend…"

"Our glorious Seeker," Lee added, as if he was a part of the Weasley family and a triplet along with the twins.

"Or three," Harry added with a smile. "I've heard you talk about the kitchens. If I wanted to eat there, how would I find them and get in?"

"Ah, a man after our own heart, Fred."

"True, a real adventurer, George."

They spend the next few minutes explaining where the kitchens were and how to open the door to them. Harry thanked them and hurried up to his dorm.

His dorm mates were already asleep as the lights were out and the snores were at full strength. Harry hoped he did not snore like that when he was asleep.

Grabbing his shower things and a change of clothes, he went into the bathroom for a quick shower. Ten minutes later, he was grabbing his pillow and heading downstairs. There appeared to be only two people left in the common room, and the couple was on a couch and oblivious to everything as their faces were pressed together. Harry did his best to ignore them, as he silently made his way over to his and Hermione's spot, but he could not help but wonder if he and Hermione might snog like that one day. At the moment, the question seemed uninteresting and it faded from his mind.

He had just made himself comfortable when Hermione quietly joined him. He noticed that she also had her pillow, along with a blanket.

"Good idea with the blanket," he whispered as quietly as he could.

She gave him a satisfied smile. "Thanks. We probably shouldn't even whisper while they're still here." She indicated the seventh-year couple on the other side of the room with her hand.

Harry nodded and made himself as comfortable as possible, leaning against the wall and his pillow. Hermione offered her pillow for both of them to sit on and then she leaned against Harry, as well as pulled the blanket over both of them. When they held hands again, they both gave little sighs of contentment.

Despite sitting on the floor, Hermione felt really comfortable snuggled up to Harry. As she fell asleep, she wondered what she had gotten herself into by entering the world of magic. She could not remember any fairy tale even remotely like the situation she found herself in at the moment.

Harry absently put an arm around Hermione's shoulders, not even aware of what he was doing. As she snuggled in, Harry relaxed and enjoyed the moment, allowing the rightness of it to wash through him. He had no idea anything like this was possible, but if magic gave him a best friend, he decided to be thankful for magic.

Something woke Harry up. He was not sure what it was, so he sat still and listened. It was a survival instinct he had learned from living with the Dursleys. He heard footsteps at the same time he realized the sun was starting to shine through the windows a little. He thought that meant it was still pretty early, especially on a Saturday. Looking through the crack between the chairs they were hiding behind, Harry saw Percy walk across the room and out the Portrait hole. It was time to get up. He also realized that his bum was numb, reinforcing the need to get up and move around.

"Hermione," he whispered as he shook her shoulder slightly.

She slowly stirred, brushing her hair out of her face as she looked up at him. Realizing where she was, she blushed and looked back down at her arm that was around his body. "Sorry," she mumbled as she pulled it away, still holding his hand with her other hand.

"Don't be," he firmly whispered, blushing a little too. "It makes me feel … well, like someone cares for me." Much like last night, he was a little worried that he had let his feelings be so free and spoke them honestly, even easily.

Her brown eyes snapped back up and held his for a moment before her head was buried back between his neck and shoulder. "I'm sorry, Harry. No one should have had to go through that, much less you."

"Why? I'm no one special…" She shook her head and her hair tickled his face.

"But you turned out so nice despite all you went through. That makes you very special, just like you're special because you're my friend," she confided quietly in the silent room.

He did not fully understand that, but that was a reason. "You still owe me your story, but I think we should go somewhere else to talk, so people don't find us here."

"I agree. I need to use the bathroom and brush my teeth too. You should go put your pillow back. Make sure you mess up your bed as if you had slept in it, so people will think you just came to bed late and got up early," she told him.

He chuckled. "You're sneakier than you look."

She blushed and looked down. "I did sometimes sneak out of my room when I was younger." Her hand moved and she lost contact with him. The discomfort of not touching him was just as strong as it was last night, which worried her. "Hurry back down here, Harry."

"I will," he whispered fervently, feeling the loss too.

They both struggled getting up, stiff from sleeping while sitting on the floor. Fortunately, they met no one on the way to their rooms.

Harry crawled into bed and kicked around a little before crawling back out. He thought it looked pretty normal. Grabbing his toothbrush, he quickly took care of his bad breath. While he was brushing his teeth, he thought about Hermione and had a feeling he had never had before. It was like he knew exactly where she was, as well as knowing that she was "well", although he was not sure what that feeling meant. He could not feel her emotions or thoughts, but he could feel things about her: her location and wellness, for lack of a better way to explain it. They would have to experiment with it to know what it really meant, he decided.

He went back down to the common room and found it empty, so he waited in the chair nearest the girls' stairs. She came back down a few minutes later with her book bag in hand. It was so typical of Hermione that he had to smile at her.

Hermione gave him a slight scowl as she walked over, as she had a feeling she knew what he was smiling about, but she let it go and grabbed his hand. "Let's go," she quietly told him. They walked out the portrait hole and found a nearby classroom that was unused and had a few desks in it. "This should do," she said, sitting and pulling out quill, ink, and parchment.

"Making a list?" he inquired, trying to read upside down what she was writing.

"Yes. I want to list what's happening as well as any ideas we may have." She was writing what they had discussed last night.

"You can add two more things," he told her.

She stopped and looked at him intently, not even noticing that her quill was about to drip and make a blot. "What?"

"Did you think about me while you were in your dorms?" He blushed when he realized what that sounded like. "I mean, think hard about me?"

Hermione looked at him for a moment. She also appeared to be struggling with her expression. "Not hard, no. Why?"

"I don't know how I know it, but I knew exactly where you were." When she looked like she was about to object, he quickly added, "I don't mean that you were in your dorm, but that…" he paused. "How do I explain this? It was like I could point to you, like I knew exactly where you were. If I knew how to make myself go somewhere, whatever you call it…"

"Apparate?" she helpfully supplied.

"Yeah, Apparate. If I could Apparate, I'm sure I could have appeared right beside you."

She worried her lower lip for a moment. "I've never heard of someone able to do that either." She added it to the list. "What was the other thing?"

"This one is harder, but I found I could tell how you were, that you were … err, OK. I don't know how to explain it. Maybe you should try it," he suggested.

"How? Specifically how did you do it?"

"I just closed my eyes and thought very hard about you. I know, close your eyes and I'll stand on the other side of the room. Think about me and point to me without opening your eyes."

"All right," she agreed, but sounding like she was not sure this was the best idea.

Harry waited and when she closed her eyes, he started walking backward as quietly as he could -- one step backwards, one step to the right. He did not think he was making any sound. After a moment, she lifted her hand and pointed right at him. "Open your eyes," he commanded.

Hermione did and gasped. "You're right. I did know where you were and that, well, I knew you were all right, or maybe normal." She harrumphed for a second. "You're right. That is hard to describe."

He nodded and walked back over, grabbing her left hand again without even thinking about it.

"I suppose we'll just have to wait to find out more about that. Surely there is more to it than that?"

"I don't know. Have you noticed anything else?" he asked.

"No." She looked at the list and then her watch. "We've got to go. Breakfast is starting in a few minutes."

Harry smiled. "No, let's wait a few extra minutes until everyone else has gone."

"I suppose that would be helpful, as maybe we could hold hands while we walk," she theorized.

"True, but if we let them all go and let breakfast start, then we can go to the kitchens and eat there," he said with a proud grin.

She gave him a questioning look. "You know the way to the kitchens? Why haven't I heard about them before?"

He shrugged. "Don't know. I heard about them from Fred and George."

Her expression changed to one of suspicion. "Are you sure you can trust them on this?"

"I think so. We probably should be careful though," he told her, trying to sound agreeable.

"Very well, let's go then." She let go of his hand and quickly packed up her things. Grasping his hand, they went off to find the kitchens.

They came upon a few Hufflepuffs on the way down who were late for breakfast, but they heard the other students before they saw them and quickly dropped hands until they were alone again. Harry found the picture Fred had described and tickling the pear did indeed produce a door handle. Harry carefully opened the door and they slowly went inside -- their eyes wide with wonder. As Harry closed the door, the noise caught the attention of the little creatures that worked there.

An older looking creature came over to them. "What can we get you, Miss, Sir?"

"Err …" All sane questions went right out of Harry's head, much like his first experience with goblins. These creatures were less than waist high (and considering how short he was, that was short) with overly large eyes on their overly large heads with overly large ears. The greenish-yellowish tint also made them a little bizarre to look at, considering they were basically human shaped.

However, Hermione rose to the occasion. "Excuse me, but who are you and what are you? I've never met anyone like you before."

"I be Beaker, Miss, and I be a house-elf. We serve the castle and all who live in her."

"I've never heard of house-elves," she said to Harry. Looking at him, she saw him shrug. Turning back to the elf, she asked, "So you're like butlers, maids, and cooks? You're hired staff?"

"Oh no, Miss, we would never take wages!" His large ears flapped noisily as he vigorously shook his head in denial. "To take wages when we are serving would be … well, it would be most degrading," he said emphatically.

"But that's wrong!" Hermione protested. "That makes you slaves!"

Beaker sighed and looked down, slowly shaking his head. "Another one who does not understand."

That brought Hermione up short, and even Harry gave him a quizzical look.

"You do not come from magical family?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, neither of us do."

"That is why you do not know. You are too young to have learned here. Go to your room of books and read. Learn that what you ask would kill us," Beaker said honestly.

Hermione gasped.

In the ensuing silence, Beaker asked again, "What can we get you, Miss, Sir?"

Harry cleared his throat and tried to talk again. "Uh, I was told that we could get some food here if we did not want to be seen in the Great Hall."

The elf brightened. "Of course, Sir. Come over to the table we keep here." The elf led them over to a small round table with four chairs.

The two students sat beside each other, still holding hands. A few snaps of the fingers by Beaker and bowls of food and place settings, just like in the Great Hall, appeared in front of them.

"Thank you -- Beaker," Hermione told him.

Harry added his thanks as well and they began to eat. After a few minutes, Harry decided this was as good a time as any to ask his questions. "Hermione? Will you tell me about yourself?"

Hermione used a napkin to dab at her mouth before she smiled at him. "Sure, Harry. Let's see… My parents are both dentists, although my father does more oral surgery then dentistry nowadays. I'm an only child. My mother had trouble getting pregnant with me, but she wanted a child so badly that they went to special doctors to help make it possible. I've always done very well in school, and my parents have supported me in all I do, mostly by buying books to read."

Harry smirked and she blushed at that admission.

"I don't like sports too much. I understand them and do like to watch rugby with my father from time to time, but I don't really care to play any of them."

"Is that why you don't like flying?" Harry asked, interested in what she would say.

She swallowed a little harder than normal. Finally she said, "No, I, uh, I'm acrophobic." At Harry's confused look, she said, "I don't like heights."

"Oh, uh … yeah, I could see how that could be a problem."

She looked at him and it was all she could do not to say 'duh'. "Anyway, I was very surprised to find out I was a witch, although, it was not a complete surprise. I used to change the colour of my clothes by accident when I was younger."

Harry chuckled. "I turned a teacher's hair blue once. What did you do?"

Hermione was sure she looked embarrassed, but ploughed on anyway. "I don't like the colour pink. So from about the age of five, whenever my mother bought me pink clothes, they would mysteriously turn a light green or yellow overnight."

Harry laughed. "I like it. My aunt has always hated my hair, so one day she cut it very short. The next morning, it was as long as it always was." He turned sad and looked down at the table.

"What, Harry? What happened?" Hermione was concerned.

"I, uh," He did not really want to explain.

She squeezed his hand in encouragement. "It's all right, Harry. I know it's not your fault that you had horrible relatives."

He nodded hard once before he eventually said, "I didn't get to eat for two days after that." He felt her squeeze his hand and it was so hard, she was actually hurting him a little, but he bore it as he saw the concern on her face. She let up on his hand after a long moment.

"Harry, I promise you. If there is any way possible, you won't go back there."

She looked so sincere and he could tell that she honestly meant it. "Thank you," he quietly told her, afraid to say more lest his voice betray him.

Hermione gave a smile that was only a little forced, and since they had finished breakfast, she suggested, "Why don't we go to the library now? We can research what happened to us."

"OK, but can we talk about one other thing first," he asked tentatively, using all of his Gryffindor courage to broach the subject.

"Certainly, Harry. We can talk about anything. What did you need to say?" She looked very interested in what might be on his mind.

"Since we're going to be best friends, can I ask one favour of you?" He really hoped she did not get angry at him for this.

She gave him a smile. "Of course, Harry. Just ask. I may not do it, but you can always ask."

Emboldened slightly, he launched into it. "You're really smart, Hermione, and I think that I'll learn a lot just being around you, but it's hard to be around you sometimes and if you could change one little thing, it would be helpful." She was starting to glare at him so he hurried on. "I mean, it's helpful when you remind us to do our homework, but if you could just not remind us so often."

"Harry," she huffed, "you're at a school. The reason to come to a school is to learn. You won't learn if you don't do your homework."

"I know, and I do my homework, but there's more to school than just homework." He was not sure how he was standing up to her on this. She took her schoolwork so seriously, he thought. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that reminders are helpful and I appreciate it, but I really only need one."

Hermione was starting to look upset. "You're saying that I'm nagging, aren't you?"

That was blunt and, to be honest, closer to the mark than Harry was willing to admit because he did not want to hurt her feelings. "Ron might say that, but you know how he is. I really do appreciate the reminders, because I do forget sometimes, but once you tell me, I make time for it and don't need to be told again half an hour later."

She looked at him carefully, still holding his hand. "You do have a slight point. I probably really don't need to tell you more than once a night, but you never seem to take your studies very seriously."

Harry sighed. "Some of that is because I don't know how."

"Some?" she asked.

"OK, a lot of it." He looked down, very embarrassed, not sure how he had managed to talk about this. "I do get distracted at times, but it's mostly that I don't know how."

"Why not?" Hermione asked, very concerned. "Didn't you learn in primary school?"

He shook his head, still looking down. "They didn't teach us how to do a lot of things, like writing essays. I think they might have starting doing that this year, but of course I didn't go there. And well, it was unhealthy for me to do too well in school."

Hermione thought about that. She had gone to a private primary school and it was possible that she was taught extra things. But one thing he had said bothered her. "What do you mean, that it was 'unhealthy' for you to do well in school?"

"If I, uh, if I did too well and got better marks than my cousin, I got punished, and he wasn't very smart. So it was better if I just didn't try too hard or learn very much," he said quietly, hating to admit that.

Hermione reached out and grabbed his other hand. "Harry, I can help teach you what you missed. I know you'll pick it up because I can tell that you're smart too."

"Not as much as you…"

She sighed. "Whether you are or are not isn't the point. What matters is that you are smart enough to learn what you need to know and to learn how to make better grades." She paused and came to a few conclusions. "I'll make a deal with you, Harry."

"What?" He looked up at her for the first time since he had broached schoolwork with her.

"I'll teach you what you need to know to do better in school and I promise not be a slave driver. I'll teach you a little at a time."

He thought that was a pretty good offer, though the return part was missing. "OK," he offered to the first half.

"And I'll also stop nagging you and Ron, but in return," she smiled at him to make this easier to take, "I want you to promise to do your best in school. Just try very hard and I'll be happy, Harry. I think you'll be happy with your grades, too."

Harry thought about that a little longer. "OK, that seems fair. It will be hard to change, but I'll do it for you."

Hermione smiled brightly. "Just like I'll do my part because it's for you."

Harry returned her broad smile. This was how friends should work, he thought happily.

"Now, since we have that worked out, let's go to the library and figure out what's going on with us." She picked up her book bag and they started to leave.

"Thanks, Beaker!" Harry called and waved. Hermione echoed him. The elf looked happy and waved back, as did all the other elves there. Once outside the kitchens, Harry said, "They're a little weird, but fun."

Hermione shook her head. "It's all a matter of perspective, Harry. I'm sure they think we're weird."

He nodded as she did make sense.

They had to drop hands as they neared the library. Searching, it did not take long to find a table that was fairly isolated in the back. Hermione dropped her bag there and then led him to some shelves he had never visited before. She looked over the titles and started pulling a few out and handing them to him. Harry quickly understood that his job was to carry the books and did so. By the time she was done and leading him back to their table, he was holding eleven books. They sat down and Hermione's hand sought his out under the table. The contact reassured them both.

She handed him a book and quietly said, "Search through this looking for anything about bonds, or I think that would be the subject we need. If you find something about them but don't understand it, show it to me."

He nodded and got to work. He found a few things, but they did not seem to match what had happened to them. Harry showed her a few passages, but she shook her head after glancing over them. Occasionally, she would stop and make a few notes, but she did not claim success.

By lunchtime, they had searched through all the books she had pulled out. Hermione had a page of notes. She had him carry all the books back over to the shelves and put them all back. That done, she grabbed her bag and they returned to the kitchens for lunch.

Beaker was there and served them lunch again, where they again held hands the whole time.

"I'm not sure what to say about what happened to us, Harry," Hermione said tiredly. "I don't understand why we couldn't find anything. It's not like magical bonds should be restricted knowledge," she huffed.

Harry considered what she had found. After reading over her notes, he had to agree that nothing she had found had described what had happened to them. "I guess we'll just have to keep searching. Maybe that bookstore in Diagon Alley might have something," he suggested.

Hermione brightened. "You're brilliant, Harry! See, you are smart."

Harry blushed but was secretly pleased.

"We can go there at Christmas." She was already planning it all out in her head.

"Err, 'we'?" he asked, very surprised.

"Sure. You can come home with me…"

"And meet your parents?" He almost squeaked.

"Of course, they are at home, Harry." She sounded a little exasperated at his missing the obvious.

Harry knew they were nice people, from her descriptions, but to meet them? Now? When he could not go for more than a few minutes without touching their daughter?

"It will be fine, Harry. I promise that they'll love you," she reassured him.

"If you say so." He was still not convinced, but they were her parents, so she should know.

After lunch, they returned to their table in the back of the library. Hermione started teaching him how to research and then how to write essays. By the end of the afternoon, Harry was starting to understand how to write an essay. He knew he would need help for a while still, but he knew his next essay would be much improved over his old ones.

By dinner time, they decided they really should show up in the Great Hall, so they went straight there from the library. While they wanted to, they were unable to hold hands due to the number of people around. Each of them looked at the other and it was obvious the other was still uncomfortable.

"Hermione?" he whispered as they walked down the hall.

"Yes?" she answered in kind.

"I'm still having to restrain myself from grabbing your hand, but I think that maybe the feeling is starting to wear off. What do you think?" He watched her and hoped she felt the same, as it would mean they could act more normally.

Hermione looked very thoughtful. "Maybe I'm getting used to the feeling and so it's getting less, but it's hard to tell."

He nodded. "Maybe we'll be normal by morning."

She looked worried and as if she was struggling with something.


"Harry, how do you feel about this? Will you not want me around as much by morning?"

He grabbed the sleeve of her robes and stopped her. "You'll always be my friend, Hermione, tomorrow morning and a long time from now."

"Thank you, Harry." She grabbed him in a quick hug, since no one was around. "You'll always be my friend."

"Is everything all right, Miss Granger, Mr Potter?" said a stern feminine voice a moment later, causing the two students to jump as well as turn very red.

"Y - Yes, Professor," Hermione said hurriedly and nervously. "I was telling Harry thank you for being a friend."

McGonagall looked at her two students and it was all she could do not to smirk given how embarrassed they looked. At eleven, it was all very innocent. If they had been fifth years or older, she would have asked some rather more pointed questions. "Friendship should always be valued and I'm happy you have made friends here, each of you."

Hermione smiled, glad the professor had not heard the rest of their conversation. "Professor, may I ask you a question?"

"Certainly, Miss Granger. I am your head Head of House." She wondered what the girl would ask this time.

"Professor, I've found out that some of us were taught how to write essays before we came here and some were not. Why doesn't Hogwarts offer a class to help those who don't know how to write, especially since most of our homework involves writing?"

McGonagall was surprised at the question and thought carefully about it. It was true that many students did a reasonable job with their homework, but the consensus among the staff was that those who did not do so well just needed extra time to adjust. Most students did acceptable work by the end of their second year. She had never put forth the idea that the problem might be one of training, nor had anyone else. If pressed, she would admit that the number of students handing in sub-standard work during the first year or two had been on the rise for a few years. She had attributed to that a temporary situation, but perhaps there was a bigger problem than she had realized.

"I'm afraid I've never considered that question, Miss Granger," McGonagall finally answered. "Why do you feel it's a problem?" The girl looked at Potter for a moment, and she saw him give the girl a slight nod. McGonagall found that interesting.

"I've just spent the afternoon teaching Harry how to write an essay," Hermione explained. "It wasn't taught at his primary school before he came here. That's probably true for other Muggle-born students, and I don't know about those who were raised in Wizarding homes."

"Most Wizarding families teach their children at home, and since they know essays are required at Hogwarts, they teach their children accordingly," McGonagall answered. "Of course," she thought out loud, "the proportion of Muggle-born students has been going up in recent years…" That could explain the trend she had seen. She nodded at the girl. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Miss Granger. Now, I believe dinner is about to start and we are near our destination."

"You're welcome, Professor." Hermione was happy the woman had listened. Hermione would help Harry regardless, but the other students like him deserved help too.

They were soon in the Great Hall and sitting beside one another. Hermione was not sure how they were going to do this, as they still wanted to touch, but it would be too obvious to hold hands under the table here as neither of them was left handed. Suddenly, she had an inspiration and leaned over and whispered into Harry's ear. "I'm going to cross my legs, which should put my foot near your knee. Casually reach down like you're putting your hand in your lap and push the cuff of my trousers up so you can touch my ankle."

Harry blushed and looked at her, not believing what he had just heard.

"Honestly, Harry," she quietly huffed, tickling his ear with her breath. "It's just my ankle and you have to do it since I'm on your left."

With a sheepish look, he reached down and moved the bottom of her robes and her trousers underneath up a little and put two fingers on her bare ankle. He did have to admit that it provided some relief. She smiled at him and he decided the embarrassment was worthwhile. It also made him wonder what witches wore under their robes. He wore a shirt and trousers.

They had just started eating when the rest of their year came in.

"Where have you been all day, Harry?" Ron asked, as if last night had not happened. "I didn't see you at breakfast or lunch either?"

"Yeah, mate, where'd you go?" Dean asked. He, Seamus, and Ron sat on the other side of the table from Harry and Hermione.

"Uh…" Harry looked at Hermione and she just looked at him, as if wanting to see what he said. Gathering his Gryffindor courage, he said, "I've spent the day with Hermione. She's been teaching me how to do homework." That must have been a good answer as the girl beamed.

"How to do homework? Are you daft? Why would you want to waste time like that?" Ron asked, dismayed.

Harry felt his anger rising at what Ron said. He knew it was his new protective streak, but knowing did not stop him from reacting. "Well, Ron," Harry answered a little forcefully and with sarcasm, which made the red-haired boy look at him in surprise. "That would because we're at a school and schools are meant to be a place where you learn things. Maybe you were lucky and had a family to teach you things like how to write an essay, but I did not."

"Harry, I…"

But Harry did not let him finish. "And furthermore, Ron, you should not be criticizing others considering what you did yesterday."

"Me? What did I do?" Ron looked truly bewildered.

"Yes, after what you did yesterday. You shouldn't even be speaking to Hermione until you apologize to her," Harry said, his voice still a little above normal, but not too loud.

"What are you talking about?" Ron looked at his other two friends and they seemed clueless as well.

"Maybe you should think about that, and if you still can't figure it out, talk to your parents, since they obviously didn't teach you at least one thing," Harry practically hissed, trying to keep his voice down but still show how upset he was. Part of him knew he was going overboard, but because of what Ron did, Hermione almost got killed and he would not let that happen again.

Whatever Ron might have said was prevented by Professor McGonagall standing and tapping her knife on her goblet.

"May I have your attention please?"

Harry found it interesting that even the Headmaster looked like he did not know what was about to happen.

"It has been brought to my attention that not everyone was taught the same skills before they came to Hogwarts. Therefore, I would like to take a survey for planning purposes. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, so please do not feel embarrassed with your answer. I would like a show of hands from all the students if you did not learn how to write essays before you started school here. Hands up please, and hold them up, if you had to learn about writing essays at Hogwarts."

McGonagall looked around and was amazed that over a third of the students had raised their hands, including Harry's she noticed. More than half of the students with raised hands were Muggle-born, but there was a sizeable number of half-bloods and even a few purebloods with their hands raised.

"Very good. I will assume the rest of you were taught before you came. Now, same question for just the first and second years. If you did not learn how to write essays before you came, please raise your hand." She counted. "And if you did learn how before you came here, please raise your hand." She counted again, and noted that Miss Granger had her hand up now. She was slightly distressed to find that almost half of the newer students lacked this skill. "Thank you for your help, please resume your dinner."

As she sat, Dumbledore leaned over and quietly asked, "What prompted that?"

"As I said, it was a matter brought to my attention. I have wondered why the first-years have been doing more poorly over the last five years or so, and I believe I now have an idea why. Albus, we need to have some remedial classes for writing. It is not fair to the students to ask them to write essays for homework if they don't know how to write an essay."

The man thought about it for a moment as he watched a small disturbance narrowly be avoided. "I noticed that most of the students who lacked the skill were Muggle-born," he casually commented.

"Albus! Surely you, of all people, would not discriminate!"

He smiled and slowly shook his head. "Of course not, Minerva. I was merely making an observation that a change in Muggle society is affecting us here." Before she could say anything else, he added, "I will leave this in your hands, but I would suggest that a few Saturday sessions that do not coincide with Quidditch matches might be a good time for these remedial lessons."

McGonagall breathed a little easier. "Thank you, Albus. If this works out well, I'll schedule the same lessons for the first-years next September."

Dumbledore's eyes lit in their own smile. "A capital ideal, Minerva."

As the survey finished, Hermione happened to catch Ron's expression. He had a big smile on his face and he was looking at Harry.

"Well, Harry, I guess that --"

"Ron!" Hermione hissed and glared at him, causing the boy to instantly shut up and look at her. "If what you were about to say is in any way disparaging towards Harry, you better not finish saying it unless you want to lose your manhood." She continued the glare and watched Ron gulp.

"Uh, what does 'disparaging' mean?" Ron asked weakly.

"She means you better not be saying anything bad about Harry," Seamus helpfully answered.

Ron licked his lips and gulped. "I, uh, err, I don't think it would be, but I'll just keep it to myself anyway," he said nervously.

Hermione had watched his changing expressions, as well as noticing that he was taking short and shallow breaths. In her opinion, that meant he was lying. She wanted to teach him a lesson but kept that feeling controlled. "That's probably a wise decision, Ron," she said very evenly. Ron seemed to get the message as he looked down and would not look at her again. She glanced at Harry's plate and noticed that he was almost done. "Hurry up and finish, Harry. I'm ready to go." She gave a distasteful look across the table and saw Harry nod out of the corner of her eye.

A few minutes later, Harry removed his hand from her ankle and stood without saying a word. Hermione followed suit and they returned to Gryffindor Tower at a fast walk. In the corridor, Hermione let her anger show. "That idiot has no control over his tongue. I wonder if he's ever engaged his brain before talking."

Harry glanced around and saw no one else at the moment, so he grabbed her hand and pulled her into a side passageway behind a tapestry. "Hermione," he whispered. "It's OK. I can't imagine he would've said anything I haven't heard before. It's not big deal."

That seemed to be the wrong thing to say, as she became angrier. "That's beside the point. If Ron was really your friend, he wouldn't say bad things about you, just like he shouldn't about me, if he was really my friend. Don't you see, Harry? He lied to us! I could tell he was about to say something bad to you, and then he had the gall to tell me it wasn't bad and then wouldn't look me in the eye." She was practically steaming.

"Gall?" Harry asked in confusion.

"Purposefully irritating or vexing," she snapped. The second she said it, she wished she had not. Without waiting for any response from him, she quickly hugged him. "I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm just so angry at Ron." She sniffled once. "This is why I went and hid in the bathroom all day. I didn't want to be seen like this and now I'm making you deal with it. I should warn you that I have a … a fierce temper when it gets out of control, so I try to let it out as little as possible."

Harry felt badly for her and hugged her back, being sure to touch her neck. The comfort of each other returned. "It's going to be OK, Hermione. I don't know how, but we'll find a way to make it OK."

His touch felt so good to her and it was just what she needed. She thought of herself as strong, but it was times like this that showed her how she was weak. Maybe this bond they had was a good thing. They could cover each other's weak spots. "Thank you, Harry."

"Any time, Hermione. And so you know, my temper isn't easily controlled either. I can hold it in most of the time, but I have accidental magic when it comes out," he admitted.

"We can help each other then," she told him. "I don't want to, but we should be getting back so we don't break curfew," she said half-heartedly. "It will be nice when we're in third year and curfew is an hour later."

He nodded and slowly released her. It was not until they were about to leave the passageway that Harry noticed something. "Hermione? I, uh, I'd still like to hold your hand, but I don't feel as bad now if I'm not."

She looked at him thoughtful, obviously searching her feelings. "You're right. I think I'd still like to sleep in the common room again where we did last night. I think I'd sleep a lot better that way."

Harry grinned. "I'd like that, too. Come on."

They hurried back. There were enough people around that they felt like they could not hold hands, so they each went up to their rooms and got a book. Sitting closely on a couch, they "accidentally" let their bare arms touch as they read.

Percy shooed them up to their dorm rooms later, but they came back down a half hour afterwards, each with their own pillow and Hermione with a blanket too. Like the night before, they got comfortable in the corner behind a pair of chairs and slept holding hands.

Early the next morning, Harry woke feeling refreshed. It was not until he stretched that he realized he was not touching Hermione in any way. Puzzled that he did not feel uncomfortable, he reached down and gently touched her hand as she slept. He could tell the moment he touched her, as he felt a little more comfortable, but it was very slight. Generally, they could function normally. He was not sure how he felt about that, as he had liked having her close by. After thinking about it for awhile, he finally realized that this was probably for the best, as they could now act normally.

Harry also tried closing his eyes and thinking about her very hard, and he could still "feel" her. She felt "normal" to him and he knew she was right beside him, so that had not gone away. He also felt a wave of pleasure and belonging when thinking about her, much like yesterday. So apparently, the only thing they had lost was the need to touch.

He looked at her and watched her sleep for a few minutes. The sense of belonging came back and he felt "warm" inside. He wondered if this was what it was like to have a family. If it was, Harry decided he liked it and wanted to keep it.

Hermione stirred and rolled over from her side to her back, her hair going everywhere. Harry thought it was sort of cute. She blinked at him and smiled, so he smiled back.

"'Morning," he quietly said. "How do you feel?"

She blinked again, thinking carefully. "I feel good. How about you?"

He grinned at her. "I feel good too. I think this is our new normal." At her quizzical look, he held up both of his hands.

Her eyes widened as she realized what he meant. Hermione realized they were not touching. She closed her eyes again and her face scrunched up slightly.

Harry realized she was doing the same as he had, so he just sat there. A moment later, he saw her relax.

"I liked that feeling, but this will make it easier to function," she stated.

"It will," he agreed.

She looked out from behind the chairs. "It's still early. We should go to bed and sleep for an hour or two longer. That will look more normal. We can talk about this some more after breakfast."

He nodded.

"Have you done all of your homework for the next few days?" she asked.

"Um…" He tilted his head as he thought. "All except for History."

"Right. We can go to the library after breakfast and you can finish that while I research house-elves. I want to know more about what Beaker said. After you finish, I'll show you some of the things I do to revise. If you weren't taught how to do essays, then I doubt you were shown how to be prepared for class so you can do your best." She had stated that, but then looked at him questioningly.

"I wasn't shown much," he confessed, looking down a little.

"It's not your fault you weren't shown, Harry," she tried to comfort him. "I'll help you learn how to do your best, whatever that is." He scrutinized her. "Yes, Harry, I don't expect you to be like me. We're all different. However, I do expect you to do your best."

"And have some fun, too?" he asked, wondering what she would say.

Hermione gave him a smile and leaned over and gave him a short hug. "Yes, Harry. Some fun is appropriate. You can stay on the Quidditch team; I wouldn't ask you to quit. I'm only trying to point out that I think you can do better in class with a little more work. Playing chess with Ron," she muttered, "if you still want to," before she went on normally, "or Exploding Snap, or whatever else you like should not distract you from your school work."

"I understand." He really did understand too, and he wanted to make her proud of him, like he had never been able to do for his aunt.

Harry stood and helped her up. They each went to their dorm rooms to do what they planned.

By lunchtime they found that the special feeling that came when they touched was completely gone. However, Harry also found that he was still very protective of her. One glance at her by Malfoy had his blood pressure up. Fortunately, nothing came of that.

((A/N: There's the beginning and the basic premise. I hope you enjoy the story. -- Kevin))