Okay, as today is a very speical day for all HP fans, I decided that I'd start posting this story I've been working on. Updates will be slow, as I've still got a lot that I need to do (and oh so little time to do it), but I can start sharing what I have. This is a Harry/Harem post-Fifth Year fic (though can you call three a Harem?) The sex is not intended to be a major part, though it does have a significant part to play... (evil girn)

At this time, this is un-beta'd. I did send the lot off to be beta'd by my usual beta, but he hasn't gotten back to me.

A Note on what is canon: I got into HP via the movies, and have yet to read the first four books (though I have read books 5 & 6). But, thank's to this site, I've got a rough idea of the main differences between the first four books and films. Thus'y the setting is mostly the books, with film stuff inserted where it's more suited.

Oh, and I'm British, and the HP world is British, thusly I'll be using 'English' English, along with the correct terms and names.

The primary ship is Harry/Hermione/Susan/Daphne, with a possibility for up to two more. There's a poll on my Author page for details. The rating is 'M' due to adualt content: swearing, violence and sexual situations, obiviously.

These early chapters are very Hermione driven, mainly due to the situation they find themselves in. And Miss Granger's is my favourite... which makes JKR's choice for her future so... painful. There's also going to a bit of Dumbledork and Weasel Bashing (4/9)... have yet to see how far it goes...

Lawyers; I'll say it now, and we'll just carry it on for each chapter after this, okay? I don't own Harry Potter in any way. JKR has those rights...

Harry Potter & the Curse's Cure

Hermione sighed quietly as she walked a half step behind Harry as they exited the transfiguration classroom. Ever since coming back from the Ministry Harry had been in a deep funk. He was barely responsive to outside stimuli. Instead his entire attention was inward focused, brooding. Hermione could still read him clearly though, even with him turning inwards. He blamed himself for everything that had happened That Night. She could see it in his eyes the few times he looked up. He blamed himself for Sirius' death, as he did for the injuries of everyone who had joined him on his ill-fated and misinformed rescue attempt, herself included. He blamed himself for allowing himself to be played like a puppet.

The first couple of days back he'd tried to pull away, to isolate himself. But Hermione had not permitted it. She had stuck at his side whenever she could. That first day she'd been confined to the Hospital Wing, but Madam Pomfrey, perhaps seeing the way she was restless, had allowed her to leave, provided she continued to take her potions and took things easy. The curse that had struck her down could have been a lot worse, and she was going to be sore and delicate for a while. That meant no heavy lifting, including her book bag. They were both fortunate that this last week of term, after the OWL's, was mostly review on the material covered in the exams and the year in general. In muggle schools there would be games and such like. At Hogwarts some of the professors lightened up, some didn't. McGonagall fell mostly into the latter set, though she was not as serious as normal. She had been willing to discuss things and allow some wandering attentions. And today she'd been willing to discuss with Hermione a topic that had been intriguing her since the end of third year, but which she'd been forced to put off till now.

Hermione did feel a little guilty about asking their head of house about Animagi, since Sirius had been one too. However Hermione had justified it: if she focused on something positive Sirius had done, it might help Harry move past his death. Harry had in fact perked up a little as McGonagall had talked, and so had much of the class. Ron had not, but that was not too surprising. He seemed to have lost some intelligence to the brain creature thing. Not that he had started with much anyway...

She snorted to herself. Honestly, that boy was just so infuriating! Hermione only really put up with him because he was friends with Harry too, and even then he hadn't been a good one at times. She just couldn't understand why he though as he did. He resented her for being better at spell work than him, but he never put any effort into improving. He insulted her about her hard studying, but then went to her to do his homework for her when he had put it off to the last moment! Most conversations between them included a smattering of backhanded insults and put downs, her appearance and muggle background being the main ones. He clearly didn't even realise he was doing it, but Hermione could hear them. And that was when they didn't degenerate into an argument. When that happened... well, the rest of their house had learned not to be caught between them. The only who didn't run away was Harry.

She turned her attention back to Harry. He walked with his head down, with listless movements. There was more than grief at work here, she realised. She knew that the Headmaster had finally talked to him just after he got back from the Ministry, but not what about. Hermione wanted to give him time to bring it up himself. Sadly, she knew that at some point she would have to do it herself. Harry would bottle up everything for eternity if he could.

They reached a cross passage. Hermione sighed; she had to leave him here. "I'll see you for potions, okay?" She asked him, laying one hand on his arm.

"Yea, whatever." Harry answered in a morose, broken tone. She felt her heart go out to him. She wished to do nothing more than wrap her arms around him and drive out all the horrors that life had inflicted on him, whatever it took. "Bye Hermione." He continued before moving off, his motions even more depressed and downtrodden.

Hermione stared after him. If she didn't know better, that had sounded like he was saying goodbye forever...

In the Arithmancyclassroom two girls from the same year as Hermione and Harry sat together at one desk, their bags holding the third space on the desk. The sight was common in any school, except for the fact that these two came from different houses, one of which was Slytherin.

Daphne Greengrass was tall for her year, with shoulder length blond hair and a slim, athletic figure. She had a very slight accent to her words, and startling blue eyes. It came as no surprise that her family had its roots in Sweden and Finland. They had moved to England during 1937, to escape the coming Nazi storm. As such, Daphne was English born, but retained a fraction of the accent of her grandparents.

Her companion was almost a complete contrast. Susan Bones of Hufflepuff was a little shorter than average, but had a more rounded figure. She had elbow length dark red hair, but it was not that or her sweet, oval shaped face that drew the eyes of the boys.

It was her heavy bust. She'd been one of the first in the year to develop breasts, sometime near the end of second year, and they had seemed to just not stop growing. She was the bustiest girl in their year, and in the top ten for the whole school. Appropriately, Susan herself was of two minds about her assets. On one hand, having such a large chest meant that she felt like a woman, and could catch any males eye. But outweighing that was the envy she got from the other girls, and the drooling of the boys. Very few boys looked at her beyond her boobs, and it was annoying after a while. And then there were practical concerns, like the weight and the fact that sometimes they just got in the bloody way.

As they waited for their mutual friend to arrive, Susan thought back to how the two of them had become friends. They'd both gotten onto the Express at nearly the same time, and ended up in the same compartment. With nothing better to do, they'd started talking. What had started out as a way to pass the time had become a strong bond of friendship between the two young girls. They had hoped to be sorted into the same house, though Daphne had suspected that she'd be sorted Slytherin. Susan had promised not to push her away even if that happened, and she had kept her word. That action proved her loyalty, hence why she ended up in Hufflepuff.

It was not until third year however that their third friend joined them. They had both known of her - who couldn't? – and had talked with her on occasion, but it hadn't really gone anywhere. But with third year class selections they had found themselves all in the Arithmancy class, and so they had come together in a sea of blue, the only non-Ravenclaws in the class, and formed a strong bond of friendship that matched the bond between the 'Golden Trio' of Gryffindor.

Just as she was thinking this, the third member of their own 'trio' entered the room; Hermione.

Both Susan and Daphne were worried about their Gryffindor friend. While she had cut back a little with the studying, her Prefect duties with Ron had constantly wound her up, while her worries about Harry pained her. Not even during Third Year, when she'd been cut off from 'her boys', was she this worried or distracted. They had never called her on it, but both knew that Hermione loved Harry Potter. Not for his name, fame or money, but for him, Harry himself.

And it had been through her that both young women had fallen for him too.

It was a little over two hours later, and Hermione was fuming as she stormed out of the Potions dungeon, though she was able to temper her anger enough to remain with Harry.

"The nerve! Honestly, doesn't he have a shred of compassion?" She ground out to the group at large. Harry, walking silently at her side, said nothing.

Despite the year at an end and classes all but over, Professor Snape had worked them just as hard as earlier in the year. And he had continued to be abominable to anyone not in his house, and Harry in particular. Throughout the lesson she had been forced to bite her tongue, despite everything she felt, to stop herself reacting to Snape's taunts of Harry.

And yet...No matter what Snape said, Harry hadn't reacted. Exactly as she had been telling him for the last five years. And it seemed, given that his barbs had gotten nastier and nastier as the class went on, that Harry's lack of response was annoying the slimy Professor. He had gotten back by taking far too many points away from Gryffindor when Harry didn't respond to direct questions, but it was clear to her that he didn't get any satisfaction from that.

Harry's lack of reaction however was of concern to her though, as it showed just how far he had withdrawn into himself. Not even taunts about his parents had affected him, and Hermione clearly recalled the last Quidditch match he'd played in, when he'd assaulted Malfoy for insulting his mother.

Hermione frowned as she realised something. Until today Snape had always belittled Harry and his father, but his mother had never come under fire. It was as if Snape didn't want to say a word against her. Today, when clearly angry at Harry's near comatose state, Snape had delivered a backhanded insult to Lily Potter, wondering aloud how she could have fallen so low as to marry James. For an instant, he had looked wretched...

"The others would lynch me for saying this Hermione..." Daphne's softly spoken words cut across her thoughts. "...but Snape was really out of line today. Sometimes..." She trailed off, uncertainty clear across her face.

Hermione gestured for her to continue, but before Daphne could speak, someone else called up from behind them.

"Hey scarhead!" Draco Malfoy's voice, unwelcome at the best of times, was truly repellent to Hermione now. His tone was laced with frustration and anger.

Harry didn't respond to Draco's taunt. He just kept walking slowly forwards. Looking around slowly, Hermione noted that while the bulk of their classmates had gone ahead, Neville and Susan had remained close, while Daphne was a few steps away, close enough to intercede, but far enough away that no one would suspect that she was with Hermione.

As she took in the group Draco had with him however, Hermione wished that a few more of their friends were here. In addition to Crabbe and Goyle, Draco also had Parkinson, Bulstrode... all the members of Umbridge's 'Inquisitional Squad' plus the bulk of the Slytherin Quidditch team. It was over three to one against them.

Then again, they'd faced worse odds at the Ministry.

"Don't get comfortable Potter! People like you are going... Hey! Look at me when I'm talking to you!" Harry had continued to walk away, seemingly oblivious to Draco's presence.

"Hey, I'm talking to you!" Draco seemed to be finding Harry's current indifference very annoying, prompting him to change tactics. "Your pet deserved everything that came to him! But you'll be joining him very soon!"

"Leave him alone Malfoy!" Hermione snapped, as she could see Harry's face. His gloomy, guilt ridden mask had cracked, and very real and terrible pain and anguish had been visible. He'd stopped, head half bowed, radiating grief.

Draco turned his head to regard Hermione, looking at her with a cold fury and pure hatred. "Keep your mouth shut mudblood whore! The only time your mouth should be open is when one of your better blows his load down your throat!" Hermione was stunned, while behind her Daphne paled. Susan and Neville both stiffened in anger and her hand moved towards her wand, but the sight of the Slytherin group with wands already to hand made her pause.

"Don't call Hermione that."

Harry's voice startled everyone. Hermione turned her head to look at him, to see that he had turned about and had lifted his head, glaring with deadly intensity at Draco.

Draco himself was clearly startled at first by Harry's sudden response, but then he brought his mask of superiority up and sneered. "Defending your mudblood slut Scarhead? What for? You know she'll have to spread for anyone if she hopes to survive outside your common room. Maybe even within. You're not going to be around much longer!"

Harry growled and stepped forwards a bit, invading Draco's personal space. "Malfoy… shut yourself up, before I make you." His words were spoken with an iciness that sent shivers running down everyone's spine.

Draco stumbled backwards. "You can't threaten me! My Father…"

"Your father's in prison, remember? I do… since I helped put him there." Harry cut him off coldly. As Draco went red with rage, Harry continued to speak. "You are pathetic Malfoy. I wouldn't even bother with you myself, but you leave Hermione out of this!" With that Harry turned and began to walk away.

Draco swore loudly. "I'll show you Scarhead!" He screamed as he levelled his wand. "Reducto!"

"Protoego!" Hermione yelled, setting up a shield protecting Harry. Draco's weak curse fizzled out on contact with the disk of magical energy that Hermione had cast. As she dispelled it, Harry was revealed to have already spun round, wand levelled.

"That the best you can do Malfoy?" He asked mockingly. "Daddy's really been soft on you. He was much better than that."

Draco screamed and fired off another curse. Harry almost lazily deflected it up into the ceiling. Seeing this, Draco glanced over his shoulders at his housemates. "Well don't just stand there! Get him!"

As the hexes came in, Hermione noted with approval that Neville had taken cover, herding the younger students away.

Not that his lack of a wand would have made much difference. Harry seemed to have come alive again, and was sending hexes out blindingly fast. In fact Hermione had to force herself not to watch him to the exclusion of all else.

She refused to acknowledge that she would do so from lust and desire.

The Slytherins quickly began to fall or pull back, their expressions clearly showing that they found Harry in this state unnerving. Draco had actually paled a bit, an impressive feat given his normally pasty complexion. She watched as he looked to her side. "Greengrass, stun that mudblood bitch!" He yelled.

Hermione looked to her left. Daphne was only a couple of feet away, too close for her to react in time if she were to turn her wand on her. Daphne looked back at her, then turned her wand towards Draco. "No. Stupefy!" Her stunned skimmed past Draco to catch Pansy in the forehead.

Draco appeared shocked for a long moment, then his eyes narrowed and he glared at Daphne. "Blood traitor..." He hissed, before looking at Harry and Hermione once more. An evil glint entered his eye.

Daphne looked across at them herself. Likely unknown to either of them, they were fending off her house-mates attack side by side, almost touching. Harry was offensive, she was defensive. The two of them blended their motions together so well it was like a dance.

The sight caused a lump to form in Daphne's throat. It was further proof, as if she needed any, that those two belonged together.

Hermione deflected another hex in to the ceiling. The Slytherins were so bad, they were more of a threat to the innocents behind them down the corridor than they were to Harry and Hermione.

Before she could step back to Harry's side however, she heard Draco cast something. The general noise prevented her from hearing the words.

Daphne however did, and she went white in fear. "No Malfoy!"

But Draco had already cast, sending a dark red bolt at Hermione. Hermione, turning around, saw the bolt almost on her, and realised that she was out of time. Just before it reached her though, something stepped between them… somebody with black hair. A gasp escaped her as the curse struck Harry, the bolt catching him right in the chest. Yet aside from a short lived corona there appeared to be no effect. Harry just blinked, then glared at the blond. His disarmer sent Draco's wand flying out of his hand, as well as sending him flying down the hall. Shocked, Draco dragging himself to his feet and ran off. The other Slytherins, those still standing, quickly followed.

"Harry!" Hermione half cried as she stepped over to her friend. "Are you alright?"

He looked at her strangely, in a manner that was both mildly repulsive and yet exciting. His eyes seemed to run all over her for a moment before latching onto her lips. "I… I'm fine. Great, really…" He almost purred, sending chills running up and down her spine.

"Harry?" she asked nervously. As she looked into his eyes, she was shocked to see a red glow just emerging from behind his green irises. After several long seconds he blinked and the glow was gone. His eyes seemed to clear and he looked about, as if startled.

"What... oh yeah. I'm fine Hermione. I just... need to be alone for a bit." He blurted out. Hermione could see fear in his eyes before he looked away, but fear of what?

"What is it?"

"Nothing!" He told her, not looking at her. He quickly rushed off.

Frowning, Hermione turned to look over the others. Susan was okay and looking after Harry with a confused expression. It seemed Hermione was not the only one baffled by Harry.

She turned to speak to Daphne... and gasped. "Daphne! What's wrong?" Hearing the worry in her voice, Susan also turned to their friend.

Daphne's face was pale, her fear and dread filled eyes still looking in the direction that Harry had gone. She was actually trembling. "Daphne?" Susan asked, concerned.

"We're in so much trouble..." Daphne told them.

"You most certainly are!" Hermione whirled round in shock at hearing Professor McGonagall's voice behind her. Her Head of House was looking scandalised as her gaze moved across the seven unconscious Slytherins. "I am very disappointed in you Miss Granger. As a Prefect you are supposed to set an example for the other students!"

"Miss, they attacked us!" Susan jumped.

"Be that as it may, you are not to be fighting in the school! Especially you, Miss Granger, in your condition."

Daphne seemed to snap out of the daze she had been in, almost leaping towards McGonagall. "Professor, you've got to find Harry at once! He's been cursed!"

McGonagall seemed taken aback at being spoken to by a student in such a tone. She looked at the emblem on Daphne's cloak, and frowned when she saw the snake symbol of Slytherin House. Hermione could almost see the question turning in her head. "I would hope that Mister Potter would report to the hospital wing if he were hurt or afflicted in any way..."

"No Professor, you don't understand!" It was only the desperation in Daphne's voice that stopped McGonagall from cutting her off. "He's been hit with a dark curse, a personality altering curse!" She seemed about to say more, but then paused.

McGonagall looked closely at Daphne, then around at the others. Neville was stood nearby, a wand held between two fingers, his pose one of someone holding something they'd rather not. "Mister Longbottom, pass that here." Once she had the wand in her hand she looked at the three young women again. "You three, come with me."

McGonagall led the three of them into her office, directing them to stand before her desk. Instead of taking the seat behind it though, she stood just in front of it.

"Now, Miss Greengrass..." She said looking at Daphne. "..Tell us what you know about the curse inflicted on Mister Potter." Hermione raised an eyebrow slightly; was that real concern in her tone?

Daphne shuddered as she took a deep breath. "Professor... It's no secret my House has a, dark slant."

McGonagall nodded slowly.

"Well... Off the common room, we have a small private library, containing books that… should not even be in the restricted section." She hung her head as she said this. Susan reached out and touched her elbow in a show of support. "Most contained mostly harmless curses, such as the curse Malfoy used on you last year Hermione, but there was this one book... it both fascinated and disgusted me. I… I couldn't help but look in it." Daphne raised her head to look McGonagall in the eye, shivering.

"It was a book about… a person's… sexual, features and drives … and curses that worked on those areas."

A small gasp escaped Hermione's throat, and McGonagall's face paled.

"What's going to happen to Harry?" The fear was clear in Hermione's voice.

Daphne looked sadly at her friend, hating to have to tell her. "The one Draco used is known as the Rapist's Curse, one of the nastiest ones in the book. It causes the sex drive of the target to grow exponentially, while at the same time suppressing their morals. The more powerful the witch or wizard, the greater the rate of increase. Wizards cursed with it will… fuck, anything they can, regardless of who or what their target is. Cursed wizards have been known to rape every man, woman, child and animal in the local area, including their own family members, repeatedly. Cursed witches have been known to… screw men to death, or to break their own bodies trying to sate their lust. Over time, the cursed become consumed by the curse, and in almost every case, had to be killed."

Hermione had paled completely. "Harry'll fight this..."

Daphne looked even more frightened. "That's the worst thing he could do! The longer he goes without giving in, the more the lust builds! One family, when one of their own was cursed with this spell, tried to protect everyone else by locking themselves in. It took nearly four months before they finally gave in and killed him. But by then, the affected wizard had raped his entire family hundreds of times. His brother's pelvis had been crushed so much, they couldn't fix it." Daphne seemed to fold in on herself. "His wife, sister, mother and two daughters were all three months pregnant." Daphne looked up, fear clear in her eyes. "Eventually, the lust will become too strong even for someone like Harry to resist. And when he snaps, he'll end up raping everyone in the school, and likely Hogsmeade too!"

All three of the listening witches were shocked at Daphne's statement. Yet they could tell that she knew what she was talking about. Eventually, Susan asked the question that was preying on their minds.

"Is there a cure or counter-curse?"

Daphne shook her head sadly. "None. Once cursed, the only way to save everyone else is to… kill, the cursed individual..."

"Not going to happen." Hermione stated with steely conviction.

They all mulled her words over, considering the ghastly consequences that could ensure from this.

"How did Draco learn of this curse though?" Susan suddenly asked. Daphne seemed to wilt.

"Miss Greengrass?" McGonagall asked sternly.

She looked up enough to meet the others eyes. "Most of the spells within it are the sorts of things that teenaged wizards and witches would curse to get their hands on. I suspect that Draco must have been told about it by his father."

Suddenly a determined glint entered Hermione's eye. One that several people, including those in the room, knew meant that she had a new quest, a new crusade. Nothing on the face of the Earth would stop Hermione seeking out and reading through that book. But both Susan and Daphne knew as well that she would only do so in order to help Harry. Hermione was not the type to be tempted by the other spells contained within that tomb. Seeing that fiery gleam in her star – and if she was honest with herself, favourite – student, McGonagall sighed.

"Miss Granger, as Prefect I expect you to locate and confiscate that book, and then hand it in to myself or the Headmaster at a suitable point." Hermione was startled at her words, but then a look of gratitude crossed her face as the meaning of her words sunk in. "Do what you can for him."

"What about Draco?" Susan asked quietly, as if afraid to bring the ferret up.

McGonagall's face hardened. "I'll have words with young Mister Malfoy." She looked down at the wand that lay on her desk: Draco's.

"Firstly, make sure that you can keep track of Harry's movements. We may need to confine him very quickly."

As the three girls left her office, McGonagall allowed herself to slump back against her desk. She passed a hand over her eyes. "Oh Mister Potter, will you ever be free of trouble?"

Ginny was sat chatting with her friends from her own year, talking up her role at the Ministry. Whilst she didn't say what actually happened down there – the need for secrecy had been impressed into her very strongly by Dumbledore – that did nothing to stop her making the most of her involvement.

Nearby, Neville sighed to himself. He thought Ginny was very pretty, but her current behaviour was almost repulsive. Ron was sat close to Ginny, nodding dumbly at everything she said. Neville didn't know if it was due to lingering effects of the brain thing that attacked him, or the fact that he was staring at Lavender Brown.

And there was another factor. He wasn't sure if Ginny even knew she was doing it, but she was belittling Hermione's involvement whenever she could. As Neville respected Hermione greatly, he felt disgusted.

The common room door eased open, and Neville looked across to see the witch in question slip in. Ginny didn't though: her back was to the door. Neville waved Hermione over.

"Neville, has Harry been through here?" There was a note of worry in her voice.

Neville nodded. "He came in a little while with Ron. But he started acting odd, staring at the girls. A few minutes later he rushed upstairs, I guess to the dormitory." He looked at her in concern. "What's going on with him?"

Hermione sighed. "The curse Draco landed on him is a mind altering one. It'll make him want to… do things. I just know he's going to attempt to isolate himself, to protect everyone while he fights it off." Hermione didn't add the rest. She frowned suddenly, glancing over towards Ginny, where several other students had gasped. She looked back towards Neville, an eyebrow raised.

"I know." Neville sighed. "She's been going on for ages. From the way she tells the tale, it was her alone who got us all out."

Hermione looked over towards Ginny again, and after a few moments sighed. Most of the younger girl listeners had noticed that she was there, and had slightly worried looking expressions on their faces as they wondered what Hermione was going to do. Ginny, of course, thought that they were expressing worry for her in the story.

"Ignore it Neville."

"But Hermione, she's slandering you..." Neville began to object.

"It doesn't matter." Hermione said sadly. "The last thing I need is publicity. All that matters right now is curing Harry before it's too late." With that she strode towards the stairs that led to the boys dormitories.

Neville would ponder for years to come whether it was by accident or design that she walked right by Ginny as she did so. Ginny had just started to speak again, once more making more of her own contributions, when the older girl walked by close enough to touch. Ginny's voice died off as she realised just who had swept past. Hermione however paid the rapidly paling redhead no mind. Instead she was focused totally on reaching Harry. She didn't even hear the second set of footsteps behind her. Reaching the Fifth Years door, she knocked.

"Harry, you in there?"

Silence was her answer. She sighed.

"Harry, I know you're in there." She tried the door, but it wouldn't open.

Sighing once more, she drew her wand. "Alohamora."

The door opened a little, and she slipped inside. Within she found Harry standing by his bed, staring out of the window with his hands gripping the sill.

"Harry..." She began, taking a step forwards.

"Hermione, don't." Harry's words stopped her. He didn't speak angrily, or sharply. Instead there was a desperate plea in them. "It's... best that you don't come near me for a bit."

Hermione nodded, even though he couldn't see her. "I understand Harry. I know what Draco's curse is doing to you." His head turned a little, letting her know he was surprised. "Daphne told me. She's read about the spell before."

Harry's hands gripped the sill even tighter as she said her friend's name, and his breathing hitched a little. After a long moment he spoke again. "That's... good, Hermione. So you... know how to deal with... it."

Hermione bit her lip. "Not yet Harry. But I'll find a way to cure you, before..." She trailed off, hesitant to actually say the words.

"...Before I jump on you, or some other girl, and..." Harry finished for her, an embarrassed note in his tone.

Hermione longed to comfort him, even something as simple as laying a hand on his shoulder. But she knew that such an action could shatter what self control he had. So she'd had to use words alone. "Just hold on Harry. I'll sort this out."

A half chuckle escaped from Harry's mouth. "You always do." She could tell he was smiling slightly. His tone turned serious. "I trust you Hermione, far more than I trust anyone else. I know you won't rest until you've solved this problem." There was pure gratitude and warmth in his words, making her heart lurch. Oh, how she longed to wrap her arms around him!

"Don't worry Harry, I'll find the answer. You just keep yourself collected, and I'll free you." With that she turned and exited the dorm.

Stepping into the corridor she pulled the door to, and turned to return to the Common Room... only to find the way was blocked. "Ron! You startled me."

There was a dark look on Ron's face. "So I'm the one laid up in the Hospital Wing, but you're all concerned for Harry?" There was a note in his voice that she had never heard before.

Hermione rolled her eyes without even thinking. "Ron, we were both injured, myself the worst if you recall. But Harry's lost Sirius! Our pain is nothing compared to his!"

A confused look entered Ron's eyes. "Oh, yeah right." He then looked at her again. "Say Hermione... I'd say we got pretty close with all this ministry stuff and all. We kicked Death Eater ass!" He took a step closer to her, crowding her. "I'd say that calls for a celebration..." He started to slide an arm round her.

"Ron!" Hermione pushed away his arm and stepped back and to the side. "This is no time for any kind of... celebration! Harry's been cursed by Malfoy, and we need to help him!"

Ron snorted. "Harry'll come through this, just like he always come through." There was a note of jealousy in his tone now. "Always gets everything doesn't he, 'our' Harry. Gets into the Tournament last year, and wins. Has heaps of money, swarms of fan girls..."

"When he's not being ridiculed!" Hermione snapped sharply, now quite cross with her red-haired friend. "And you've skimmed right over all the horrible things he has to put up with! But this is neither the time nor the place to discuss this." She started to step past Ron to head down to the Common Room.

Ron's arm shot ahead of her, catching her across the stomach. Hermione gasped as pressure was applied to the lower end of the mark that ran diagonally across her body... the mark left by the curse that had taken her down at the Ministry. Pomfrey had lifted the curse, but she had warned Hermione that the skin would be tender – and weak – where the mark was for a week of two afterwards.

"Ron!" Hermione snapped, looking up at him with a mixture of anger and worry.

Ron stared down at her with an unreadable expression. "Why do you always put Harry over me huh? Harry's the bloody 'Chosen One', he doesn't need help! I'M the one you're always flirting with!"

"WHAT?" Hermione half screeched. "Flirting? Since when?"

Ron looked confused. "Ever since we arrived here, at Hogwarts. People always say we 'argue like an old married couple'. That's a sign of, you know... tension, between us."

Hermione snorted. "The only 'tension' between us is caused by your idiocy! And as for that saying..." she rolled her eyes again. "...that is one of the most ridiculous expressions around! Now..." She tried to compose herself. "...Step aside so I can go to the Library. I need to find a way to save Harry."

Ron scowled, but did step aside. Hermione quickly moved off, not looking back once. If she had, she might have heard Ron muttering to himself.

"You're mine Hermione. Harry's not having you too!"