I am a bad, bad person. Now that we've established that, let's move on!
Warnings: not really for this one.
Disclaimer: It's not mine. Yet. D
Go forth, my lovelies!
Harry was slumped forward with his head in his hands, staring blankly ahead in the class room. He didn't dare look to his right- that was where Hermione sat between him and Ron, suspicion radiating from her like an overripe perfume. He didn't look left, either- that was where Draco was taking notes near the front, actually paying attention for once. Ahead was the safest bet.
His glazed eyes were aimed near the very front of the room, where Professor Flitwick was perched on his stack of books, chirping enthusiastically about that day's charm. "The trick is in the flourish at the end!" He squeaked, gesturing so emphatically that a few errant sparks flew from the tip of his wand. "Because the spell can be tweaked to fit other purposes, it is essential that the performer puts real effort into his or her casting! If you find yourself unable to muster the effort, or if you are not specific enough, your spell will revert to the basic mood spell. Now, before we begin, who can remind us the three primary variations of the Mood Spell?" Hermione's hand was up before he's even finished asking. "Hmm? Perhaps Mr. Malfoy?"
Harry perked up, glancing inadvertently towards Draco's seat as Hermione slumped with a resigned sigh. The blonde head in front of him didn't even flinch as he replied, "The spell can be used to redistribute the emotions of a small group of people, maximize a person's current sentiments, or reverse the effects of another mood spell."
Harry sank lower in his chair, trying desperately to avoid the urge to go and curl up in Draco's lap.
"Very good! And how are these different effects brought out-?" Then, with a sigh- "Yes, Miss Granger?"
Sitting straighter, Hermione piped up proudly, "In addition to the necessary intent of the caster, there is a suffix added to the spell itself."
Flitwick nodded, exasperation and pride warring on his face. "Precisely. All right, I believe you are all ready to practice. Alternate between the three incantations, and don't forget to flourish!"
There was a cacophonous scraping of chairs and sudden voices as the students stood and either began practicing immediately or- the more popular option- began muttering to the people closest to them about the spell. Ron leaned over Hermione, beaming at Harry. "Alright, mate, make me happy."
"That's one of the more complex versions," Hermione scoffed. "We should start out with the basic spell." Without waiting for the boys' consent, she lifted her wand. "Sententia discretor!"
Her want emitted a burst of golden-yellow mist shot through with ribbon-like veins of pale green and the occasional pink. The burst of color hung in the air for a moment, glittering slightly. Hermione was already checking her notes before it had drifted away, leaving a fine coating of the magical dust on the desk and the pages of notes.
Hermione almost said something, but then her face colored and she set her shoulders abruptly. "Who's next?"
"Hold the Floo, Hermione, what did that mean?" Ron plucked the notes out of Hermione's hands before she could stop him, his russet brow furrowing as he painstakingly ignored Hermione's indignant squawks. "Yellow for good spirits- you did just get the question right, I guess- light green means… er… energy?"
"Envy," Harry supplied as Hermione snatched back the page of notes, red in the face.
"The ink smudged," Ron muttered, frowning. Without warning, he suddenly snorted, a strange sort of revelation crossing his face. "You're peeved that Malfoy got that first question, aren't you?"
"No." Hermione said shortly, pushing her hair out of her face a bit too harshly. "Harry, it's your turn."
"Right. Here goes… Sententia discretor!"
Rather than the full-bloomed cloud that Hermione had summoned, Harry's wand gave a rather uncomfortable cough and spat out a thimbleful of watery-looking blue smoke.
"Again, Harry, and-"
"Don't forget to flourish, I know," Harry grumbled. Steadying his wrist, he cleared his throat and tried again. "Sententia discretor!"
It was still pathetic next to Hermione's, but it was better than he had been expecting. The fist-sized clump of vapor was a deep blue with striking violet and reddish-brown static running all through it in unpredictable bursts, lingering in the air for a moment before dissipating.
"Much better," Hermione nodded with a small, bemused smile.
Ron made a small sound of discontent as he peeked over Hermione's shoulder to look at the notes. "That can't be right…"
Before Harry could ask what Ron meant, Hermione intervened. "The important thing is that Harry managed it, which is more than you have done."
With a scowl and a funny look at Harry, Ron turned to face the table and mumbled the spell. It took three tries to get it to the size of Harry's. Each time he conjured it, the cloud turned a bit darker shade of grey, throbbing with multi-faceted rivulets of jade green, powdery pink, and burnt orange.
"Good, Ron," Hermione encouraged, but Ron didn't acknowledge her praise.
Her smile faltered, and she seemed to steady herself before raising her hand to summon Flitwick over.
Harry tuned out the question she posed as he glanced at his own notes. They were nowhere near as thorough as Hermione's, but he had written a small index of color meanings.
Dark Grey: frustration, anger.
Pale or Jade Green: envy/jealousy.
Light pink: muted romantic feelings.
Darker Orange: suspicion.
Harry frowned. He had written just above the list that the body of the manifestation would represent a person's primary emotion at the time, and any smaller bits of color would represent any underlying or less significant emotions. Harry could understand that Ron would be frustrated with the spell, but that didn't explain the jealousy or suspicion.
Then a terrible thought occurred to Harry. What if Hermione had figured out his relationship with Draco, and had shared the idea with Ron? But there had been no obvious indications…
On a whim, Harry glanced at the paper again, seeking his own colors.
Dark Blue: depression or longing.
Reasonable enough, Harry thought to himself, stifling the urge to turn and check on Draco.
Harry swallowed and searched for the final underlying emotion.
Darkest Red, or Red-Brown: Shame.
He quickly schooled his features into something that hopefully did not reflect the feeling of sinking confusion in his stomach. Flitwick hurried towards where Seamus' cloud was raining fire as Hermione turned back towards Harry, retrieved her quill, and made a small note in the corner of the piece of parchment that she held. To Harry's surprise, she didn't say anything else to Ron or Harry about their clouds. "Right. Next we'll exchange emotions… why don't you try on me and Ron, Harry? And remember, intent is key."
"Er. Alright." Sending an anxious look at Ron, Harry raised his wand, checking the notes for the correct suffix. He mentally crossed his fingers and prayed that he wasn't about to turn them both into walruses or something equally horrendous by mistake. "Sententia discretor augereto!"
Something milky and vaporous sprang from the wand and wrapped itself around the two of them, seeming to draw colors from their palms and mix them up before vanishing in an instant. Ron reeled, holding his head for a moment before smiling and crossing his arms happily. "Interesting…"
Ron paused. "I'm not exactly sure..."
Between the pair of them, Hermione's expression had turned rather sulky. Her arms were also crossed over her chest, but not with any of Ron's sudden confidence or bravado. "So unfair," she muttered.
She hesitated, combing her fingers agitatedly through her hair as she scowled at nothing in particular. "I don't know."
Harry took a moment to marvel at the déjà vu before setting them right again.
Harry made his way to Snape's office slowly, confusion swirling around in his head. Ron had been acting almost hostile towards him throughout the past day, hardly speaking to him. He'd even gone so far as to laugh when Harry and Neville's cauldron had exploded in Monday's Potions class (Snape had, as he had warned, given them each a detention for Tuesday evening).
Harry didn't understand it. Ron had been acting perfectly normal and happy all through Sunday evening and most of Monday morning, but from lunch onward he had been acting totally different.
A new pang of fear struck him abruptly, and Harry almost skidded to a halt. What if Ron had somehow found out about Harry's relationship with Draco? That would be more than enough cause to be upset with him.
But wouldn't Ron openly confront Harry about something so unexpected and, from Ron's perspective, outlandish?
Dragging a hand through his hair, he sighed heavily as he approached the door to Snape's office. He prayed briefly that he wasn't going to be the first one to arrive before he knocked three times on the broad wooden door.
"Enter," Came Snape's bored, annoyed voice, and Harry did so with a grimace.
Although Harry had only been in the Potions Master's office a few times before, he recognized the depressing, eerie interior. The jars on the walls still held their slimy, unnatural-looking occupants at bay, and the shelves that weren't bowed beneath the weight of the hundreds of jars were bearing what looked like hundreds of leather-bound books. Not all of the titles on the spines appeared to be in English.
The professor was seated behind his rounded desk, writing something on a piece of parchment that was more than three feet long. Neville already sat in one of the two stiff wooden chairs. He looked as though he was sweating heavily, and his hands were knotted uneasily into fists. Upon Harry's entrance, he looked up gratefully.
"Potter," Snape muttered without looking up. "You certainly took your time."
"Sorry," Harry mumbled, sitting down in the other chair. He winced; the chair was even more uncomfortable than it looked, which was saying something.
"I'll be with you two in a moment." Snape seemed to be in no hurry to finish whatever was occupying him as the boys squirmed in the silence. Harry glanced around the room, struggling to distract himself while, at the same time, not looking too hard at the contents of the glass vials.
One thing did not escape his notice. There was no third chair. "Isn't Draco coming?"
Snape ignored him entirely. It wasn't until the he had dotted his last i and crossed the last t that he sat back and scrutinized the two Gryffindors. "Welcome to detention. This is obviously a ruse, and therefore we should not waste time pretending otherwise. Now, let us get started-"
"Professor, won't Draco be arriving later? Shouldn't we wait for him?" Harry held his breath. Seeing Draco from a distance was torture, plain and simple; he had barely even made eye contact with him during mealtimes or class, and it was beginning to drive Harry more than a bit mad.
Professor Snape, however, appeared to have other plans. He sneered at Harry, whose heart sank immediately.
"You ignorant boy. You really think no one would notice if I gave Draco detention? Or even if I were to simply call him to my office tonight? I will fill him in myself, later on, inconspicuously." After another few moments of staring contemptuously at Harry, he snorted. "You can't manage a day without him, Potter? You should really work on that."
Harry flushed to his hairline and sank down in his chair as Snape went on. "The situation up until now has not been dealt with appropriately. From now on, there will be definite rules about when the two of you will be permitted to see one another."
At this, Harry bristled. "We were managing just fine," he snapped. "Besides, this isn't what Dumbledore told you to do-"
"You were not present at the meeting, Potter, and even if you are receiving the details from Longbottom here, he was absent for the later portion of it. You will follow my direction."
Harry folded his arms defiantly, hot anger welling up inside his chest. "Dumbledore is in charge here, not you."
Snape crossed his legs and raised an eyebrow, as though he were saying, challenge accepted. "If you have the desire to go to the Headmaster and whine about it, go right ahead and waste his time. Until then, you'll follow my directions."
Harry glowered at him mutely, feeling Neville's scared-rabbit gaze flitting between both of them.
Snape met Harry's gaze levelly, one side of his mouth twitching up slightly. "Very good. Now, let's continue. During normal school weeks, you and Draco are not to meet during the day, or during any week nights. Your potions grades are despicable, so it would be more than reasonable to set aside every Saturday evening under the guise of remedial classes, but it will be trickier to find an excuse for Draco. You two can use that time to… cuddle or something…"
If it weren't so terribly awkward, Harry would've laughed at the blatant aversion to cuddling, or whatever else he'd insinuated.
"If your current state is anything to go by, however, we will likely have to set aside a weeknight in order to avoid the two of you sneaking out on your own – and maximizing your chances of getting caught, might I add. Additionally-"
Neville let out a high-pitched shriek and toppled out of his chair with an astounding thud, causing Harry and Snape to jump and go for their wands.
"What happened?" Harry scanned the room for any Death Eaters, hippogriffs, or other beasts worthy of such a reaction.
Neville, gibbering, pointed at a shelf that was approximately eye-level to one who was seated. It took a moment to find the particular pair of jars that Neville was gesturing at, but once Harry discovered them he leapt to his feet with a disgusted shout.
In each jar was a human eye with the nerves still attached suspended in sludgy, grey, transparent-looking fluid. Each had an iris the color of dried blood, and both were staring ominously at Neville's trembling form.
"Oh, that." Snape sounded bored again. "Baby troll eyes. Obscenely difficult to obtain… Oh, get off the floor, Longbottom, they're eyes, not teeth. They can't eat you."
Neville stood up hurriedly and got back into his chair. He stared straight ahead at a shelf of books, doing his damndest to not look at any more of the glass vials. Harry sat too, slowly, sending one more wary glance at the eyes before turning back to Snape.
The professor's smile held a bit of smug amusement. "Shall we continue?"
"Can't believe him," Harry muttered to Neville at breakfast. "Two nights a week, maximum? It's absurd. It's like he's become our jailer or something."
To his left, Neville shrugged slightly, glancing around their table anxiously. "He's just being cautious. I know it must be hard, but-" Seamus laughed loudly a few seats down and Neville jumped. "Harry, do you think we might talk about this later?"
"Fine," Harry mumbled, sneaking a glance across the Great Hall. Draco was listening to something that an upset Pansy Parkinson was saying, nodding occasionally. It didn't look as though he'd touched his food.
"Stop looking," Neville hissed in a slight panic, and Harry looked down, annoyed.
On his other side, Ron was snapping at Hermione about something regarding their previous potions class. Harry had been partnered with Neville, and he wasn't exactly sure what he'd missed.
"I don't know why you're so upset, Ron," Hermione blustered. She wasn't meeting his eyes, focusing instead on buttering her toast, but the splotches of color high on her cheekbones were more than enough to indicate that she was more upset than she sounded. "I only miscalculated the measurements by half an ounce, the potion was still nearly perfect, Professor Snape did not indicate that he was displeased with it-"
"I'm just saying," Ron spoke tightly, his knuckles white, "that you could have done a little less staring at Harry, and maybe we would've done better."
Harry, Neville, and Hermione stared at him in shock for a few moments before Hermione spoke up, her voice a bit shaky. "Firstly, Ron, we have not even received our grades yet, and secondly, I was only worrying because Harry and Neville's cauldron exploded-"
Ron snorted loudly, his jaw tight, and Hermione flinched as he stood and stepped over their bench to walk out of the Great Hall altogether. Hermione made a small choking noise as she watched him go.
"What's up with him?" Seamus called from down the row, but none of them answered him.
Neville tapped Harry's shoulder, his face apprehensive. "You don't think he knows-?"
Harry sent him a sharp look before turning back to Hermione. "Do you have any idea why he's so upset?"
Hermione was quiet, appearing to blink furiously and steady herself before returning to her breakfast, scowling. "Oh, he's just being Ron, Harry. He's likely peeved because I didn't pass him the eggs or something." Her voice has high-pitched and quavering slightly, but she showed no signs of rescinding her words or otherwise explaining Ron's behavior.
Harry nodded mutely, ducking his head to finish his own breakfast. He could feel Neville's gaze on the back of his head, but he didn't return it.
Thusly, he didn't notice the dainty, brown owl's approach until it landed in front of him, toppling his pumpkin juice as it flapped frantically for balance. Harry cursed as the liquid dripped onto the bench and his trousers, grabbing a napkin to dab at it while Hermione took the owl, detached the letter, and offered the creature a bread crust in return. It gulped down the scrap and took flight without waiting for a replying letter.
"It's for you, Harry," Hermione handed the crisp envelope to him, grimacing at the sodden cloth in his hands. "You should probably change. I could try to spell it off, but it's a bit risky while you're still wearing them…."
"Thanks," Harry accepted the letter. "I'd better hurry if I'm going to make it to Herbology on time."
Hermione nodded and waved him off. "We'll save you a seat. And," her voice cracked. "If you see Ron, tell him I'm saving one for him too, alright?"
"Yeah, of course," Harry assured her. She nodded again, facing her plate absently. The wrinkle in her forehead made it obvious that she was thinking deeply about the morning's events. With a wave to Neville, Harry set off towards the entry hall and, from there, the dormitory. The cold air seeping in from the enormous doors made the fabric sticking to his thighs even more uncomfortable, and he hastened his already-rapid pace.
It wasn't until he was halfway there that he recalled the parchment he held in his hand. Not breaking his stride, he glanced at the inscription on the front. It simply said Harry in a familiar handwriting.
Harry's heart leapt, and he tore it open as he hurried on, turning into the corridor that housed the Fat Lady as he glanced around him to ensure his solitude.
Harry, it read, I apologize for not reaching you sooner, but things have been going strangely since our last conversation. If possible, I would like to use the mirrors to communicate tomorrow night around ten o'clock in the evening. Do not respond by owl- the house is being observed.
Harry felt a mixture of apprehension and excitement swirling in his chest. He missed Sirius, and he was looking forward to finally "seeing" him; still, their last talk had been impossibly awkward, and Harry worried just a bit about whether or not Sirius would bring it up in their imminent conversation.
"Codswallop Muffins," he muttered absently to the Fat Lady, who nodded primly and swung open. Once he had clambered through the portal, it took him a moment to tear himself from his thoughts of Sirius and remember why he'd come back. After it occurred to him, he took the stairs to the boys dormitory two at a time-
Harry let out a yelp as he ran directly into someone coming down, their combined momentum forcing him off of the steps, and the pair went tumbling down a flight of stairs to land sprawling in the common room. Dazed, it took Harry a moment to process what exactly had happened, and yet another passed before he sat up gingerly. Ron was beside him, already sitting up and rubbing a red mark on his forehead.
"Hey," Harry muttered, poking a blotchy red patch on his upper arm that would no doubt evolve into one hell of a bruise. "You okay?"
Ron got up, brushing himself off with a scowl. "Fine," He barked. He looked as though he was about to leave without further commentary before he stopped abruptly, looking at something on the floor.
Harry followed his gaze, and his heart jumped into his throat. It was the letter.
Ron began to reach down to grab it, but Harry made a wild dive and snatched it up before his friend's hand could get there. His heart pounded. If Sirius did bring up the last time they'd spoken during their mirror conversation, Harry desperately didn't want Ron or Hermione to be there.
His friend seemed to have taken the gesture in the worst way. His face was thunderous, and he didn't say a word before stomping out of the common room, limping slightly and leaving Harry staring after him. Harry was sure that if the portrait could've been slammed shut, Ron would have done just that.
Harry and Hermione walked the darkening grounds slowly on the way in from Care of Magical Creatures. Ron hadn't said a word to either of them all day, and most of the day before, and neither of them knew what to do about it. It wasn't like Ron was opening up about his feelings, or their mysterious causes.
They were halfway up the hill when Hermione spoke. "What's going on with you, Harry?"
He looked up at her swiftly. He'd assumed that they were both moping silently about Ron's moodiness. Maybe Hermione had hoped to surprise him with the question- if so, it was certainly working. "What do you mean?"
"Don't give me that," She snapped tiredly, quietly. "You're being an arse, and Ron's being an arse, and in times like these, we can't afford to lie to one another."
Harry walked silently for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "I haven't been doing very well in Herbology lately. I didn't want you to know, because you've been so good about helping Ron and me with all of our classes. Neville's been helping me some nights- you know how he loves that class. And other times, I've needed to go to Dumbledore's office."
Hermione let out a frustrated sound. "Dumbledore has trusted me and Ron for years. Why isn't he allowing you to tell us about whatever's going on?"
Harry felt a painful pang of guilt in his chest, right above his heart. "He does trust you! He really does, Hermione, it's just…" Harry dragged a hand through his hair, struggling for the right words. "Neither of us wants you or Ron to get hurt, and Dumbledore thinks that the less you know, the less danger you'll be in."
There. That wasn't too much of a lie.
Hermione was quiet for a while, processing Harry's words. The only sound was the crunching of old snow and dead grass beneath their boots.
"Fine," she said at last. "I guess I'll find out when Dumbledore allows it." She shot Harry a sullen look. "But don't think for a second that I'm okay with this, Harry."
"Duly noted," Harry muttered. They were almost to the doors when Hermione's foot lost traction on a patch of ice; her arms pinwheeled and she nearly tumbled to the ground, but Harry grasped her hand and pulled her upright. She staggered into his chest, grabbing his shoulder to regain her balance.
A streak of light appeared on the snow as one of the main doors swung open hesitantly, then came to a jarring stop. Harry glanced up, startled by the figure standing there.
Ron's face was stony as he stared at the pair of them, still wearing his overcoat and Gryffindor-scarlet scarf. He snorted once, turned, and left without a word.
Harry sighed- Ron seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
"He needs to figure out what's stuck up his arse," Hermione muttered, heading for the door. Despite the situation, Harry stifled a chuckle and followed.
Sirius tapped his wand idly against his palm, staring at the mirror that was propped up at the foot of the bed. It was two minutes until ten o'clock, and he was nervous.
"You realize you're worrying over nothing?" Lucius rumbled from the doorway. He pushed his hair away from his face, grey eyes gleaming in slight amusement. "Just don't mention last time, and get to the point. It's Harry Potter, for crying out loud, not Greyback or Bellatrix."
"You aren't helping, Lucius." Sirius wore his old scarlet robe from his school days over a pair of fraying, fading black pajama bottoms. His hair had been combed and distressed and combed again, and now stuck up stubbornly on one side- the unfortunate side effect of Sirius threading his fingers through it anxiously. "You realize you can't say a bloody word once he's on the other side, right? He'll never let it go."
"Firstly, I'm not daft. Secondly, he'll find out sooner rather than later, and thirdly…" Lucius paused, rubbing the shining, silver snake's head on the top of his cane as he mused to himself. "Actually, I don't believe that I have a third point. Just don't worry so much. If it will put your mind at ease, I'll even go downstairs and make some tea so you won't be so distracted."
"Yes, because you are so distracting," Sirius muttered. Lucius smirked, as though saying silently, indeed I am, before turning and heading down the hall towards the kitchen. Sirius let out a sigh. If he was being honest, Lucius would have been terribly distracting. He was dressed especially well that day in soft, pale grey robes that fit awfully well and made his eyes glow, not to mention the scary, sexy cane.
He blinked at the empty doorway for a disconcerting moment before glancing down at the mirror and jumping. "Harry!"
His godson looked tired and a little sad, but as he met Sirius' gaze a wide, genuine grin broke out on his face. "How've you been?"
"I'm just fine- how're things on your end?"
Harry shrugged, grimacing for a moment. "Eh. Ron's being a prat, but everything else is going well. I don't have a whole lot of time, though. What's going on?"
Sirius reached up to run a hand through his hair, but he stopped himself at the last second. "Er. Well, there's quite a lot I'd like to tell you, Harry, and now isn't the time or place for it. I was hoping that you might want to stay here for a few days after Christmas instead of going to Hogwarts right away."
"Oh- oh!" Harry nodded, smiling uncertainly. "I'm not sure… I'll have to check with Dumbledore-"
"I've already spoken with him. He said that transportation wouldn't be a problem, and that it was fine with him." Harry didn't seem quite convinced, and Sirius added, "He also told me to tell you that he had already taken care of the others who were going to be staying over break. I didn't understand why it was important, but he said you would."
Harry nodded more firmly this time, "In that case, I'd be more than happy to! I should really talk to Dumbledore, though," he muttered the last bit.
There were a muted thump and loud voices on Harry's end, and his head twisted sharply as he turned to look. "Oh, Merlin. Sirius, I've got to go… I'll see you over break, yeah?"
"It's a plan." Harry smiled back at Sirius before his mirror went dark, and Sirius sat back, apprehension and happiness fighting one another for dominance in his chest.
"That was quick."
Sirius jumped wildly, facing the door once more. "For Merlin's sake, Lucius…"
The blonde entered and made his way to perch on the side of the bed, offering Sirius a teacup. "You did fine. I thought you might add something more sentimental at the end, but that is merely an opinion…"
Sirius' chest contracted. "This isn't the time for what-ifs."
Lucius rested a hand on his shoulder. "I'm well aware." There was a long silence, interrupted only by the crackle of the fire and the low, windy sound of Sirius blowing on his tea. "You don't have to do this," Lucius murmured. "Not so soon."
Sirius shook his head, smiling sadly. "This isn't the time for hesitation, either."
Harry hadn't felt this strung-out since Voldemort had dragged him out of a maze and into a graveyard. He felt physically sick from the stress. It was just one thing after another-
Dealing constantly with Ron's unforeseen angst.
Lying to Hermione more and more.
Not being able to look Professor Snape in the eye.
Fretting about what on earth Sirius was going to try to talk about with him.
Being unable to speak to, look at, or otherwise interact with Draco in any way whatsoever.
By midday on Friday, Harry couldn't even think about eating. Instead he went to the common room and sat by the fire, counting the moments until he could see Draco again as people bustled around him. The majority of the school was packing to go home over the holidays since the train left at seven-thirty sharp that evening.
Someone walked in front of the fire and stopped, forcing Harry to stop staring into the flames and look up, blinking, to see who it was. Neville smiled uncertainly at him. "Hey, Harry. You okay?"
He shrugged. Neville was a nice guy, but Harry really didn't want to get into this with him.
Taking a quick look around them, Neville pulled up an unoccupied chair and sat down unbidden. In a low voice, he asked, "Do you miss him?"
Harry sighed, massaging his temples. "It hurts like hell, if you must know. I've only a few more hours, though. There's no sense in losing control now."
Neville looked on patiently, waiting for Harry to say more. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to, Neville spoke again, "Hermione asked me if I've been helping you with Herbology."
"Of course she did," Harry muttered.
"I told her yes, you were miserable at it, et cetera, et cetera, and I think she's satisfied for now. At least you don't have to worry too much about that, eh?"
Harry met Neville's wide, eager-to-please eyes, and forced a grin. "Thanks, Neville. I owe you big time."
"Yeah, you do," Neville smiled back. Then, glancing at the clock on the wall, he stood. "I promised I'd run down to the greenhouses to help Professor Sprout with a fire-eating water lily from Jamaica before my next class, so I'd better be off!"
Harry watched him go, glad that he wasn't in his friend's shoes. He'd had quiet enough of the demonic vegetation, thankyouverymuch.
According to the clock, there was still a full half-hour left in the lunch period. Harry stood, stretched, and began to make his way through the crowded room towards the portrait hole. He would become overly restless if he stayed still much longer, which would make classes even more unbearable. He was halfway to the door when a foot purposefully strayed into his path and sent him crashing to the floor.
Anger flooded through Harry, adding another emotion to the towering, teetering stack, and Harry got to his feet with fire coursing through his veins. Ron stood off to one side, arms folded defiantly.
Without thinking about it, Harry stepped forward and gave him a shove. "What the bloody hell's wrong with you?"
Ron snarled, pushing Harry's hands away fiercely. "Nothing at all, mate."
"Don't give me that shit," Harry snapped. Around them, the common room had gone eerily quiet. "You've been acting like a git all week and you know it. You've been horrible to me, you've been horrible to Hermione-"
"Oh, so she needs you to protect her now, does she?" Ron exclaimed. His ears were going steadily red. "That's how it works now?"
Harry stared at him, fists clenched at his sides. "What the hell are you going on about?"
"Oh, come on, Harry. I saw your emotions, remember?"
Harry's brow furrowed. He had absolutely no idea where Ron was headed with this, but his ignorance only seemed to make Ron angrier.
"For Merlin's sake, Harry, stop pretending that you don't understand. I know, alright? I know all about you and Hermione. I saw the cloud, Harry- love? Shame? You two are seeing each other behind my back! She's always asking about you when you're not around, and she's always worrying about you in classes, and bloody hell, Harry, I saw you two last night! I get it, alright? I figured it out. I'm not an idiot!"
It was all too much. This, on top of everything else, was so horribly wrong, so incredibly absurd, that Harry just couldn't take it.
He laughed a little at first, just a tired, hysterical chuckle, and the enraged confusion that resulted on Ron's face only made him cackle harder. He doubled over, the guffaws pouring out of him uncontrollably, each one releasing more of the tension and stress until Harry was on his knees, tears in his eyes as he howled with derisive laughter.
Above him, Ron seemed entirely lost. His anger hadn't dissipated altogether, but he didn't seem to know what to do with his best friend hooting on the floor. The rest of the crowd filling the common room seemed to be experiencing a similar dilemma. Harry could've sworn he heard someone wonder aloud if he should be taken to the Headmaster, or straight to St. Mungo's psychiatric ward. For some reason, Harry found this funny.
Finally, Harry wiped the tears from his eyes and cheeks, feeling a little hollow, a little silly, and a whole lot better. Looking up at Ron, he gave one last chortle before saying, "Ron, I'm not dating Hermione. I have no feelings for her whatsoever."
Ron slowly flushed to the roots of his gingery hair. "Ah," he said faintly. "Really?"
"You said that already," Harry leaned against the back of one of the cushy sofas.
"Yes, I did." Ron meandered over to Harry in a daze, sitting on the floor beside him. He was silent. Then, "You really aren't in love with her?"
Harry shook his head, staring at the fire again. "I'm really not in love with her."
Ron sighed heavily as the students around them gradually continued their conversations. "Well, that's just perfect."
Harry took the stairs two at a time, ignoring the stitch in his side and the pain in his half-frozen feet. Saying goodbye to Ron and Hermione had taken longer than he's thought, and he was late.
Skidding around the final corner, Harry screeched to a stop in front of the empty patch of wall. As he focused as hard as he could on it, he did his best to catch his breath and slow his pounding heart. He didn't accomplish much.
Much too slowly, the wall puffed out slightly and morphed into a pair of rounded, intricately carved stone doors. The knobs arrived last, and Harry twisted them open as soon as they did.
Inside, the room was lit with soft, butter-colored lamps that were spread throughout the room, highlighting the velvety chairs, the round mahogany table, and the dark green canopy bed.
Harry paid this no mind as he flew across the room and into Draco's arms.
The blonde let out a huff as Harry crashed into him, knocking him slightly off-balance. But he recovered quickly, and soon Harry was being encircled by a pair of perfect arms.
He let out a shaky breath. "I missed you."
Draco's hands rubbed his back soothingly. "I missed you, too. And I still love you, even though you're crazy."
Harry pulled back, frowning even as he worshipped Draco's face with his eyes. It seemed like he had managed to get even more better-looking at some point in the week. "Crazy?"
"The news of your lunchtime breakdown traveled fast," Draco teased, his eyes twinkling.
Before Harry could dispute this, he found his lips occupied in a much-preferred way. Sighing happily, he pressed closer to Draco, feeling better than he had all week.
I love you.
Sirius settled back into the mound of pillows that had been amassed on his bed. He was practically pinned to the mattress beneath the endless blankets, and when Lucius approached him with another, he sent him an exasperated look. "I don't need another."
"I'll be the judge of that," Lucius muttered, draping the afghan over the foot of the bed.
"You've done a fine job, Lucius," Dumbledore told him from his perch in a conjured armchair by the side of the bed. "But I think it's about time we got started."
Lucius rubbed at his chin, sending Sirius a beseeching look. "You're sure about this? Tonight is the night?"
"I'm sure. Now come on." Sirius glanced from Lucius to Dumbledore and back. "It's about time that I regained some memories, don't you think?"
Ah, a cliffy. You all hate me now, I know, but if you review, I'll write faster! )
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!