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Hogwarts Shuffle! Chapter Sixteen
10/23 – Wednesday
Waking up with Ginny again had been an interesting experience, especially since he no longer had the excuse that she was too sick to play with him. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Ginny seemed to realize his emotional state that night and had been content to simply hold him like a teddy bear all night. She didn't even try to get him out of his clothes.
Which was a good thing, since after her night spent in testing in the demon realm, Gabby ended up in their bed at around midnight when she had a bad dream. It surprised him when Ginny welcomed the smaller girl with open arms and put her between herself and Harry. He was thankful that the bed had been made larger when the rooms had been combined as he has plenty of space to try to shrink away from the two girls without falling off the edge.
He'd awoken to find Gabby wrapped around his waist anyway softly snoozing on his stomach like a pillow. Ginny was wrapped around the smaller girl from behind with her head laying on his shoulder. It was very comfortable in a wrong sort of way. It wouldn't be so bad if he could just rid himself of the strange feelings the blonde was able to stir inside him. The cerebral part of him knew she had even more issues than Ginny did, and his eyes told him she had the body of a 12 year old girl. At 16 his head and his eyes agreed that the girl was not attractive, but his heart was arguing that she needed him desperately and just maybe he needed her; which was all well and fine until his body chimed in that it was extremely willing to explore the girl wrapped around him regardless of her looks and emotional issues. One particular part was arguing very loudly for everyone else to shut up and take advantage of having two girls in his bed with a locked door between them and everyone else.
The door had been locked just in case Hermione had yet to calm down; maybe it was best to avoid her as much as possible for the rest of the day.
His thoughts were interrupted when Ginny rolled away from the smaller girl and got out of bed, the sudden cold spot forced Gabby to wrap herself around him more tightly.
"Morning Gin." He said quietly.
"Oh! I didn't know you were awake, I was just going to get your things ready."
He pondered her for a moment as she began removing clothes from the closet and dresser, "How do you wake up so early without an alarm or something?"
She shrugged as she laid his trousers and dress shirt on the end of the bed before heading over to the closet and selecting a tie, "I just do...I guess I've trained myself to be ready for you in the mornings, otherwise I know you wouldn't let me do this."
He made a slightly pained face, "I told you I would let you take care of me..."
"I know, but it's a habit now." She said returning with a tie, sweater, and pair of boxer shorts.
"You should be able to sleep in though, both you and Gabby have the morning off." He eyed the boxer shorts uncertainly. "And I can't get out of bed without waking Gabby up...then how am I going to change..."
Ginny smiled a she placed his shoes and socks on the floor, then crawled back into bed and gently drew the girl off of Harry and into her arms. "I'll make sure she stays asleep, and I think at this point you changing in front of me is the least of your worries." She finished with a wink.
Regardless that she'd seen him mostly naked already, he was still self conscious and turned his back as he dropped his boxers and removed his t-shirt. His body betrayed the rest of him again as it proudly shouted it was NOT embarrassed or self conscious to be completely nude in the presence of the two girls, even if one was asleep.
He didn't see the two girls sharing a smile behind him as they watched him get dressed.
It was easy to avoid Hermione by skipping breakfast and sitting with Ron in potions (although he'd gotten thrown a very ugly look by Lavender Brown of all people). But of course, the day could not go as planned once Snape got involved.
The lesson that day was on creative dueling, the use of spells other than hexes and curses in a duel or fight. Harry actually agreed with his professor for once that getting into habits can be bad for your health. He had only recently realized that he tended to use Disarming and Stunning too often in battle. He remembered watching Sirius duel in the Department of Mysteries and was amazed and the scope of the mans talent.. he was just barely able to push the memory away before having to watch his Godfather fall through the veil again.
The problem today, was that Snape had noticed the coldness between he and Hermione and decided to use it to full advantage.
"Perhaps..." Snape began, "A demonstration is in order... Potter! Granger! On the platform at once."
Harry stole a glance at Hermione, hoping to find surprise but instead only found determination. He gulped.
"As some of the class may know, these are the number 1 and number 2 students for the Defense OWL last year. In fact, Mr Potter, would you care to share your score with the class?"
"Not really sir..." He was feeling self conscious again, and hating Snape for making him the center of attention as usual.
"Come now Mr Potter! Surely you want to brag about such an...accomplishment. Tell us now!"
"ohplusplus" he said quietly.
"What was that Mr Potter?!"
He screwed up his face and stared down his Professor, even daring to look him in the eye. He felt the magic well up against his brain like the year before but then...recede without seeing his worst memories fly across his thoughts. It was odd, and when Snape blinked in confusion Harry mirrored him.
"O++ Sir." Harry stated, the class gasped in shock. They had all done well thanks to him, and expected he would have done even better than they; this was still far above what they expected.
Snape barely missed a beat however, "O plus, plus. The highest defense score ever recorded for OWL if I'm not incorrect?"
Harry clenched his teeth, "Yes Sir...my Patronus was worth extra points."
"Fully Corporeal Patronus, yes? From what I heard, a Patronus with form is being considered for future OWL students thanks to this group you taught. It is unheard of for a student, let alone a fifth year, to be able to summon one, and yet a full third of last years class was able to produce a form. Another third were able to produce a mist which is still NEWT level. Quite the accomplishment."
Harry had no clue why Snape seemed to be praising him...then it happened, the man got up in his face, "Tell me Mr Potter, what good will a patronus be against something other than a Dementor? Did you simply dazzle the judges with fancy tricks or can you actually handle yourself in a life or death situation?"
He turned away from Harry and continued, "Remember today's lesson, you are to stay away from all hexes and curses other than to stun or disarm. Granger! Potter! Face each other and bow."
Harry and Hermione faced each other at the ends of the small platform at the head of the class. Harry was feeling nervous, both about hurting his friend, and about what she might be about to do to him with the permission of a professor.
Hermione immediately doused him in cold water with an Augementi charm, in his shock he nearly missed the smirk on her face but quickly recovered by transfiguring her shoelaces into snakes and calling out to them in Parsel to trip her up. She squeaked and the class shivered as they all remembered he could talk to snakes, but she quickly recovered and transfigured them back.
During her distraction he took a page out of her book and doused her with the water summoning charm, so now they were both soaked and staring at each other. He noted three small birds flying around her head and wondered when she had summoned them and what good they were going to do her...he supposed she could use them to intercept spells if she were quick and accurate enough.
She grinned and cast a freezing charm at the water on the floor around him and he suddenly realized what it was she had been doing with the water. He had only been returning the favor, not thinking ahead. As he slipped he spun around and sent a short but intense Incendio across the floor, recovering his footing just before he lost his balance.
As he turned around he found there were now seven of the birds circling her head, and he began to worry what her plan was. He didn't have much time to think though as she hit him with a tickling charm and his laughter caused him to squirm and run out of breath. He tossed a cheering charm at her, followed quickly by another tickling charm. She was so overwhelmed with positive emotions she nearly passed out and the insane laughter wasn't helping. In fact, she was starting to sound downright evil and the look in her eye matched the feeling. Harry was not feeling good about his chances in this battle unless he hurt her...he wasn't certain he could do that.
She was able to cancel both charms while he was doing the same, and they both came up at the same time, panting for breath. The difference was Harry was still worried about his next move, Hermione pointed her wand at him and the flock of birds suddenly shot his direction. It was only quick thinking on his part that summoned part of the wooden platform up in front of the attack. There were several loud thumps and he could see the sharp beaks sticking through the wood, he looked around the other side quickly and saw their little wings still flapping as if they were trying to get to him.
This was getting ridiculous, that would have hurt! He ran through is spell repertoire quickly and smiled evilly as he thought of a strategy. First he stuck his wand over the wooden barrier and cast an overpowered Lumos Maxima which resulted in a blinding flash. He then began the wand movement and pulled up a recent happy memory...Hermione in the bathtub...and cast the one spell he was best known for.
"Expecto Patronum!" He shouted as he stood up and pointed at the still recovering Hermione. She turned to the sound of his voice, confused as her vision cleared and wondering about his choice of spell until suddenly her vision was filled with 7 feet of charging stag. She screamed as it passed through her, though it didn't sound particularly like pain, and missed his next spell as her wand left her hand and flew toward him.
"Potter wins." Snape called out, "Though I'm taking 5 house points for casting that Patronus verbally, I thought I made myself clear at the beginning of the year that all spells were to be cast silently in my class."
Harry was willing to be contrite, as he had unintentionally been given a new use for his Patronus by the professor. "Yes sir, you did."
"Very well, return to your seats, and return Miss Granger's wand please."
He was back to feeling very self conscious as he handed Hermione back her wand. But she only sent him a very odd look before returning to her seat on the other side of the room with Parvati.
The rest of the day was free for the sixth years who were not taking Divination, after eating lunch with Ron rather than Royal Tower (and seeing many wondering and longing looks from Ginny, Gabby, Rina and Sia) Harry decided rather than spending his time hiding from Hermione in his room he would take Ron's invitation to come back to Gryffindor and play some chess.
It was actually a nice change of pace, he'd been surround by females and crazy fathers for weeks and was beginning to miss his old friend. For the first hour he and Ron were left alone at the table in the common room where he proceeded to lose three games of chess. The two didn't talk much, as was their way, until the third game.
"So..how is life without us in the tower?" Harry asked.
Ron shrugged, "Well nobody is happy that we lost our seeker and best chaser candidate, especially me. You know...since I'm the Gryffindor Captain now..."
"Really? Ron that's great! Congratulations."
Ron smiled, "Well there really wasn't much choice. They wouldn't give it to a fifth year and the others all decided they wanted to focus on NEWTS..."
"Bah! You are a great choice and I'm sure they wouldn't have let you have it if they didn't believe you could handle it. Blimey mate, has there ever been a Captain in their first year on the team?"
Ron was trying not to grin, "Not for like fifty years, and that was a freak accident in the first game that led to an entirely new team having to take over. Lightning strike I think, took out the players and their brooms. The players could have come back for the third game but were still too shaken up to play worth anything."
"Still quite the honor, I bet you are still going to wipe the pitch without us. I'm proud of you mate."
"Thanks. Creevey is our new Seeker if you can believe that. He's actually not bad on a broom, reminds me a lot of you."
Harry pulled a face, "Don't let him hear you say that or his head might explode...you'd think he'd get over his hero worship after a couple of years."
Ron sat forward as he put Harry in check, "Speaking of which...how's my sister doing?"
Harry pondered the question, and how to answer it. "Ginny is doing really well I think, I'm sure she misses her brother and all, but a new environment and new set of friends seems to have done wonders for her. I bet she's top of her year with Luna and Gabby right behind, though Gabby won't ever be top with her problems casting."
"That's really good to hear...I worry you know? We used to be close, and not having her around this year has really made me realize how much I miss seeing her."
"You should tell her that Ron, I know it isn't very manly, but it would mean a lot to her to hear it from you."
Check again, Harry knew it was only a matter of time now as Ron spoke again and he studied the board, "I'll think about it. And how are you doing?"
Harry got a sudden lump in his throat, "We're doing fine...nothing strange going on at all.."
Ron looked up sharply and studied his best mate for a few moments, "I meant you specifically, with all the girls and this ambassador stuff. But since you mentioned it, are you and Ginny..."
"No..." Harry answered to quickly, "I mean not really... Ginny is still kind of messed up about the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing and doesn't want me to consider dating her exclusively... I can't really tell you much more than that, but we are closer."
Ron closed his eyes for a few moments before his face relaxed, "I have to let her go...it's her choice how she wants to live her life. I'd rather she just dated you, but if she has other ideas I guess I need to just butt out."
"That was surprisingly mature of you Ron, are you sure you are okay?"
Ron's ears brightened as he blushed, "Well...Lav has had a talk with me about leaving my sister alone to do her own thing."
"Lavender? You know she threw me a nasty look when I sat with you in Potions...is there something deeper going on?"
Ron looked away and coughed, "We've sort of been seeing each other for a while now. She gets me, you know?"
Harry grinned, truly happy for his friend, "That's great Ron! You are just full of all sorts of surprises today aren't you? Captain of the Quidditch Team, a girl who agreed to date you, I bet your brothers would be proud."
Ron's face soured, "You know, you're awfully chatty. I think you've spent too much time with women."
"Hey! So maybe my conversation skills have improved a bit, I'm still all man over here."
"Good, don't forget it and go all emotional on me. I get enough of that from Lav."
Speak of the devil and.. "What was that Won Won?" Lav asked as she walked up behind him and draped herself over his shoulder. Kissing him soundly without regard for surroundings.
Ron was now grinning stupidly, "Nothing Lav Lav, I was just telling Harry I can't get enough of you."
"Awe how sweet!" She kissed him several time on the cheeks and lips before turning to Harry, "And what about you Harry? Have you chosen which girl to marry yet? The whole school is still buzzing about you."
The rest of the common room perked up at the conversation and Harry tried to control his blush, "Nothing concrete at the moment. But we are all still getting to know each other, I'm not just going to marry someone I don't know."
Lavender looked sad at the loss of a juicy gossip story but let it go, "So you aren't dating anyone yet? I've seen the way Won Won's sister dotes on you. Are you sure you aren't with her?"
Ron looked supremely interested now, "Yeah mate, she is kinda all over you now that I think of it. I thought you said you weren't together."
Lavender smacked him lightly on the back of the head, "Won Won what did I say about letting her make her own decisions."
He grinned stupidly up at the girl, "I know, but old habits die hard. Besides, you just want the gossip."
Lavender dramatically put a hand to her forehead, "Oh so that's all you think of me! I'll go throw myself from the astronomy tower now!"
The redhead pulled the girl onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her, "We can't have that, I won't let you waste your beauty in death."
She smiled and kissed him, obviously this was all playacting and the two of them were both in on it. Harry was actually a bit jealous, which was odd considering his current situation. "Now WonWon, just because I want all the details doesn't mean I would look down on a girl for doing what feels good or feels right to her. I don't judge people, I just like to share what I know with other people."
Ron nodded, "I know, but its my sister. If she were acting like a slag I couldn't help but feel upset, worse if you went around telling everyone what she was doing."
Lavender paused and thought about that for a moment before getting a serious look on her face, "I never thought of it that way...I just thought it was fun to let everyone know what was going on... I...know I'd be embarrassed to let everyone know if I were into something strange..."
Ron raised an eyebrow, "I think we need to talk about that later...sounds like you need to share something with me."
Lav got wide eyed and hopped up off his lap, "I um...need to be going...somewhere. By Harry!"
As she dashed off Ron watched her go, he turned back to Harry still wearing a wide smile, "Harry I think I'm in love."
Harry raised an eyebrow, "Really? It's only been a couple of weeks."
Ron shrugged, "I just...know...you know? She gets me, like perfectly gets me. She almost worships me at quidditch, she's an amazing girlfriend, and she's promised to cook for me if I come over for boxing day."
Harry didn't know, maybe not really knowing love after losing his parents had stunted him, but he didn't really know what Ron meant. "Well, I'm happy for you mate. Sounds like getting out of my shadow has been good for you."
Ron nodded, "It really has..Ginny was right, I was afraid to let myself shine because I was hiding behind you and Hermione. Now I have to be my own person and it's pretty amazing...that someone like Lav likes that person."
"You should tell Ginny that too Ron, it would mean a lot."
"Maybe I will." Ron said as he put Harry in Checkmate.
Harry wandered the castle and grounds alone for the rest of the day, thinking. What Ron said about 'just knowing' he was in love troubled him for some reason. Did he love any of the girls in his life? He knew he had feelings for Ginny, but had already decided not to push her anymore. She was happy with how things were, and wouldn't let him love her properly even if he decided to try. He was confused as hell about Hermione after everything that had happened between them, but something just felt wrong about saying he was 'in love' with the girl that was like a sister to him in all but blood.
And of course, he wasn't supposed to be falling for a witch anyway, he was supposed to be choosing between Sia and Nerine. While part of him was still upset with the situation, as if a choice had been taken from him...or rather forced on him; another part admitted both were very cute and he could see himself falling for either of them. So why hadn't he?
He and Sia had already been on a date, his first date, and it had gone very well. And the time they spent alone had been filled with...something...that he liked. He realized he still hadn't taken Nerine out and resolved to fix that the next weekend. He felt like he hadn't really learned much about the blue haired girl beyond the fact that she was in love with him, and it wasn't fair to say they hadn't connected when he hadn't even given her a chance.
His thoughts were interrupted when the girl in question found him by the entrance hall.
"Oh Harry! There you are." She said with a smile that made his insides melt a little.
"Hey Rina...I was just thinking about you." He said.
The girl blushed and looked demurely at him, "Really...you...were thinking about me?"
He smiled and walked over to her, offering his arm, "Would you like to accompany me on a walk around the grounds?"
She smiled and took his arm, "I'd love to."
They walked out into the warm fall weather and Harry walked without a firm destination in mind. "So um..Harry... what were you thinking...about me?"
"Well..I was thinking about everything really, and I realized we still hadn't been out on a date...would you like to go somewhere this weekend with me? Just the two of us?"
She grinned, "I'd love that Harry! Where should we go?"
Now he was at a loss, "Well...Sia and I went to the cinema, and then just walked around and talked. It doesn't sound like much.."
"No that sounds wonderful Harry, I'd love to go see a movie with you."
He rubbed the back of his head nervously, "Well...its not very original.."
She smiled up at him and hugged his arm, "It doesn't matter what we do, as long as we can spend time together."
His wanderings had taken them down to Hagrid's hut, and the seventh year Care of Magical Creatures class. There were only three people who had continued into the NEWT class and they were helping Hagrid with something that didn't seem to have a form. Just an inky blackness that spread across the ground, rippling in the direction of the students with a frantic Hagrid telling them to back off.
"Now yer just want to back away slowly kids, this here Lethifold looks hungry. The man what sold it to me swore it'd just had a deer and wouldn't be too dangerous."
"Hagrid, what's going on?" Harry called out to the man.
"Hey'er there Harry! Just a dark creature whats gotten too big fer it's britches. Class how many of you can cast a Patronus?"
There were 2 of the 3 hands raised and Harry would swear he heard Hagrid mutter a curse under his breath, "Alright, we need to coax it back into its enclosure. On the count er three try to direct it back over here. One. Two. Three!"
The two students casts a sickly mist, the Ravenclaw looked like he almost had a form but the Lethifold seemed unaffected by the mist. The rippling blackness shifted in his direction and even the vague shape seemed to dissipate, emboldening the hungry creature.
"Expecto Patronum!" Harry called as his stag came racing out of his wand, the Lethifold had reared back to strike, and suddenly had a pair of antlers sticking out of its back side. There was an eerie scream as the thing exploded into several smaller puddles of darkness and began to evaporate. Everyone present was now staring at Harry as his stag walked calmly back over to him and bowed before disappearing.
"Blimely 'Arry, I'd heard tell but that was magnificent that was!" Hagrid practically shouted. "Have 20 house points for quick thinking!"
Harry looked at the two seventh years who seemed to be ashamed that a sixth year had outclassed them, even if he was Harry Potter. Harry though just smiled, "I think the problem was you let the fear get the best of you, it isn't just Dementors that can cause your happy thoughts to flee. That thing was hungry and you knew it was coming after you, don't feel too badly that you couldn't hold it back for long. You should practice more though, until the Patronus doesn't require much effort to cast."
"Lewis, you especially should have done better. I know for a fact you had a solid form last year...Mink I think?"
The Hufflepuff boy shook his head, "Badger...I'm surprised you remember that much."
Harry shrugged, "You can't let a skill like that go unused, or it won't be ready when you need it."
Hagrid nodded, "That's right, you lot would er been in bad shape if 'Arry here hadn't been around. It's rightly my fault for not making sure it was fed before getting you involved, but fer homework why don't you practice your Patronus? Keller you couldn't produce one, that'll need to change if you want a good NEWT grade for this subject."
The Slytherin looked murderous, "And how am I supposed to learn such a high level charm? You can't even use magic!"
Harry wasn't happy with the way the words affected Hagrid, "You could just ask for help, Lewis there can walk you through it, or if you are willing to lower yourself I'd teach you."
"Piss off Potter, like you could teach anyone."
Hagrid recovered and looked livid, "5 points for language Keller, and I think we can go ahead and end class early seeing as we don't have a subject any longer thanks ter 'Arry here."
The three boys nodded and left, Keller looking rather murderous...and Harry narrowed his eyes at the way the boys eyes traveled over Nerine's body before he turned around.
"That was amazing Harry!" Nerine said, still holding onto his arm. "Those things are from my world, and we lose so many people to them every year. Devils can't really conjure enough light magic to do anything to them, usually we just keep blasting the pieces until it can't bother us anymore, but they don't take very long to reform themselves after that. Days at most. I've never seen one vaporized like that!"
Harry was feeling embarrassed, "I haven't either...but my Patronus is pretty special."
Hagrid nodded and slapped him on the back, "That it is 'Arry, it isn't unheard of for a powerful enough wizard to kill a Lethifold like that, but most people just use it to drive them off. Yer a right powerful wizard, up there with Dumbledore or ol Whats's-name himself."
Harry shrugged, "I'm not all that special, its one spell."
"And a might hard spell, especially to get to the level you got it and yer only sixteen! Don' underestimate yourself too much 'Arry, that was a mighty fine bit of magic." Hagrid changed the subject suddenly, "And listen to me prattlin on, you ain't even in my class no more. Why don't you take yer girlfriend for a walk down by the lake?"
"Girlfriend?" Nerine said with wide eyes.
"We aren't dating...yet..." Harry said a little too quickly.
"Ope, my mistake then." Hagrid said with a grin, "I need ter be cleanin up before next period. I don't have a class but some o' my sixth years are coming down for extra tutoring."
"Hagrid..." Harry began, "I'm sorry I'm not taking your class this year, it isn't anything personal."
The man shrugged, "It's okay, I know you got a lot on yer plate what with the Gods and Devils runnin round and this pretty girl on yer arm. I didn't take no offense. Now off with yer!"
Harry and Nerine smiled as they turned and left the clearing and headed down to the lake. They walked slowly and quietly, Nerine squeezing his arm every few steps. "Harry?" She asked.
"Hmm?" he answered absently.
"Would...it be okay if I called myself your girlfriend?"
He stopped in his tracks and she was pulled up short, turning to face him without letting go of his arm, which put her close to his body. "I...I don't know if..."
"It doesn't mean anything really changes Harry...but you know I'm in love with you, and you don't seem to mind the idea." She blushed and smiled up at him, face rather close to his.
"I...but...what about Sia?" He asked, stalling.
"She can be your girlfriend too, I mean you are dating both of us, or at least will be after this weekend. Ginny can be your girlfriend too if you want, Sia and I like her and don't want to see her hurt."
"I...but...uh..." he stuttered, "Ginny doesn't want to be my girlfriend..I sort of already asked her this summer and she turned me down."
Nerine pondered that, nibbling her lip the way that Hermione did and it drove him mad when either of them did it now. "Well...I don't know why Ginny wouldn't want to be your girlfriend, it's obvious she is in love with you too."
"She...just wants to serve me...she wants to love me but doesn't want me to love her back...its a long story. You would need to talk to her about it if you want to know though, not my secrets to tell."
Nerine suddenly reached up and kissed him on the cheek before pulling him along so they could begin walking toward the lake again. "I'm glad you're so thoughtful Harry, it is just one more thing I can love about you."
He really wasn't comfortable with all the talk of love...it was a really nice feeling, but he didn't have the first clue how to deal with it. "I don't want to hurt anybody..." he confessed, "I care about each of you in different ways and I'm scared to make a choice."
She laid her head on his shoulder, "Then don't. We have plenty of time to figure out the rest of our lives, right now just enjoy being with each of us and you can decide later. I know Sia won't keep me from being your friend, so I won't mind so much if you choose her. But..." Her eyes clouded over momentarily and he could swore she was about to cry, it was replaced with a grin before he could contemplate what it meant though, "You don't have to get married any time soon, so we don't have to worry about that. Right?"
He smiled and laid his cheek on her head, "I guess not...so...will you be my girlfriend?"
Nerine lit up and kissed him on the lips, icy fire shot down to his stomach and a bit lower, before spreading through the rest of his body and making his fingers and toes tingle. "I'd like that Harry...but you have to ask Sia too. I don't want any hurt feeling."
He grinned at her, all silly, "Okay...as long as I get more kisses."
She smiled and pulled him down into another kiss.
"Hermione can I talk to you real quick?" Ginny asked as she found the girl in the library.
The brunette put her book aside after marking her place and looked up at the younger girl, "Of course Ginny, I've always got time for my best girl friend."
Ginny sat down across from her, "I've sort of figured out what must have happened the other night...but you have to know Harry didn't do that on purpose."
Hermione sighed and sat back, "I know...I'm not even sure I'm all that angry any more. I did tell him I expected there to be an accident eventually with all of us sharing a single bath with no lock on the door. We need a sign or something to keep the sexes apart though..."
Ginny giggled, "I'm not sure any of the girls would really mind sharing a bath with Harry, but you are lucky it wasn't Neville. Can you imagine?"
Hermione smiled slightly at that, "I'm not sure if he'd have a heart attack or an aneurism before I could hex him... Ginny, why are you okay with anyone else sharing a bath with Harry? He...told me a few things..."
Ginny seemed to close off a bit out of instinct but just as fast as her shields were raised Hermione saw them being lowered again, it made her feel good to know the girl trusted her. "I... don't know what he told you..."
"That you refused to be his girlfriend, and you are encouraging him to date anyone else...as long as he lets you 'stay close' I think were his words, but I read into them."
The redhead blushed, "I...I wouldn't want him to cheat on anyone, but I wouldn't mind if he did... I don't care how close we are, I just need to be in his life."
Hermione simply filed that information away, not willing to press the girl on it at this point, "So if you walked in on him with someone else you wouldn't be upset or jealous?"
Ginny got an evil grin, "Why Hermione, you planning to seduce him tonight and want to make sure I catch you?"
Hermione's eyes widened as she began to blush slightly, "I would never! I mean...Harry is fanciable but he's like a brother to me. Besides I'm sure he doesn't see me that way."
"I'm not sure I believe that." Ginny said with a smile, "He has a way of growing on a girl once you let him know you are interested. But in any case...sure I'd be jealous...but I'd also be really happy for him, finding someone to love."
"What if it wasn't love, what if he just starts shagging girls because he can?"
Gin thought about that for a moment, feeling a strange mix of jealousy, anger, and slightly turned on. "I...it's his life, he can do whatever...or whoever he wants. But I think we both know he wouldn't just do that kind of thing with anyone. That's why I can trust him, not that he needs me to trust him."
The older girls shook her head, "I'm not sure I understand what's going on with you Ginny, but as long as you're happy..."
Ginny grinned at her, "I am Hermione...for the first time in a long time I finally feel like I'm doing something I was meant to do. Taking care of Harry makes me feel important and happy."
"I'm not sure how your family would react to hearing about your choices though...especially your mother and Ron."
Gin harrumphed at that, "My mum will just have to understand that I'm happy, and be happy for me. I can't be her little girl forever. Ron...seems to have grown up some lately, I think he would already be happy for me as long as he doesn't have to know the details."
"Alright then, I'll try to butt out of your affairs. I still feel like all of this is wrong though, Harry shouldn't have three girlfriends at the same time."
"His life has pretty much sucked up until this year, he deserves all the happiness he can get. But if you are staying out of his affairs, why are you on the sleep schedule?"
"I..." Hermione tried to come up with a good reason, "I guess...maybe I just don't want to be left out. I was the only girl in his life for so long...maybe I'm a little jealous."
"Just a little?" Ginny asked with a smile.
"Yes, just a little. It isn't like I want him for myself."
Ginny sing-songed at her, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt."
Harry and Nerine walked back into the tower holding hands, immediately getting Sia's attention at the far end of the room. "What's this?" She said brightly.
Nerine blushed but didn't drop his hand, "Harry asked me to be his girlfriend!"
"G-G-girlfriend?" Sia asked, suddenly struck dumb.
"No it's not like that!" Rina said, dropping Harry's hand and grabbing Sia's. "He wants to ask you something too."
Harry was feeling rather awkward doing this in front of Rina, but he had to now or look rather silly on top of everything, "Well...you see Rina pointed out that you and I are dating already, and I'm taking her out this weekend...well she heard Hagrid call her my girlfriend and that got the conversation going and well... would you like to be my girlfriend also? I know it means you have to share and I don't know how I feel about having two girlfriends myself but if you..."
He was cut off as Sia threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly until he stopped babbling, "I'd love to be your girlfriend Harry, and I don't mind sharing with Rina. She's loved you as long as I have after all."
He grinned back at her, "Well then I'm glad that's settled, for now anyway. I'm warning you both though, the only other relationship I had went pretty badly last year. I don't know if I'm a good boyfriend."
Rina took one arm and wrapped herself around it, "You're a great boyfriend Harry, I can already tell."
Sia grabbed the other arm and they pulled him over to the couch, "Obviously she just wasn't a very good girlfriend. I promise I'm going to be the best girlfriend ever!"
Rina shook her head, "Not if I am."
Sia narrowed her eyes at her rival/cousin/sister figure, "Well, it's my turn to sleep with Harry tonight! Oh Harry I can't wait to snuggle with you all night!"
Rina looked troubled, "But...he asked me to be his girlfriend first, I think I should get him tonight."
Harry was looking back and forth between the two girls, rethinking his decision to date both at the same time when he heard the voice of his savior behind him. "Actually, he skipped me last night so it's my turn."
"Hermione?" He asked.
"You don't think I'm letting you get away with skipping me just because we had a disagreement?"
"We'll talk about it after dinner, right now why don't you go get Gabby and we can head down together?"
"But I...okay Hermione..." Harry said, finally giving up figuring the girl out.
All eyes were on the three of them when they walked into the Great Hall with arms linked. Most were confused, some were jealous, a few were calculating. Harry put them out of his mind, figuring they could all go screw themselves if they disagreed with his choices. He'd given them enough, letting them get to him about something so comparatively small wasn't worth it. He led his girlfriends over to the table with Ginny and Gabby in tow. Hermione has proceeded them to the Royal table at the head of the room and was already sitting down.
Ginny seemed lost as first when she couldn't sit beside him, but quickly joined Gabby on the other side of the table and began preparing a plate for him since both of his arms were currently occupied by the smiling Princesses. Once his food was in front of him the girls on either side began preparing their own plates with one hand, unwilling to let go of their recently acquired prize.
He heard the whispers, people were saying how unfair it was for him to have two such beautiful girlfriends, or were saying what a bastard he was for leading both of them on. He ignored the whispers but the girls on either side of him didn't.
"Oh Harry, they keep saying we must be your girlfriends! Isn't it wonderful?" Sia asked.
"I guess..." he replied, unsure of himself.
"Every time one of them says it I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's really nice Harry, don't you think?" Rina asked.
He was staring at his plate hungrily, he hadn't eaten much at lunch. Too busy catching up with Ron and the other lads from Gryffindor. "I suppose it is nice, um...can I have my arms back?"
"Why?" Sia asked happily.
"I need to eat."
Rina smiled at him and picked up a bit of roast and a potato on her fork and offered it to him, "Nonsense, we can feed you. I think in the human world they say...ahhhhh."
He opened his mouth instinctively and took the bite getting a huge smile from Rina and several angry whispers from others in the hall. Sia repeated the gesture on his other side and he found himself being fed alternately for the rest of the meal. It was kind of demeaning on the one hand, he felt like an invalid and an idiot letting them feed him. At the same time though he was basking in love from both sides and it felt rather nice. Nice enough to ignore the outrage at their display. At the head table, Dumbledore was twinkling and smiling happily at the scene playing out before him.
Gabby stabbed some of his food with her own fork and offered it to him, "I want to try, ahhhhh."
"Hey wait a minu-mphh," He was interrupted by her stuffing her fork into his mouth. He turned accusing eyes on a laughing Hermione as Gin decided to get in on the action. He refused to open his mouth this time, until Sia offered him her own fork...that was okay, she was his girlfriend...of course Gin shoved her own fork into his mouth as he opened it for Sia and he ended up with double the amount of food. All the girls save Gabby were giggling madly now.
"You phink thif if fummy?" He asked around a mouthful of food. "To I amufe you?" He said with an arched eyebrow. This broke the dam and all four girls were in hysterics laughing at his situation, he huffed as well as a bloke with his mouth full and his arms pinned by laughing girls could.
"Oh Harry, don't pout." Hermione said, still laughing.
"I not pow-ing, I'n wooding." He said. Though it had sounded more manly in his head, and without his mouth full. He began chewing the best he could and finally swallowed, uncomfortably. "How am I supposed to drink now though, I have a lump of food in my throat thanks to someone." He stressed the last word and gave the evil eye to a smirking Ginny.
Hermione smiled and conjured a straw in his goblet which Rina picked up and offered to him. He grudgingly took a drink and sat back a little. "I am going to get each and every one of you for this, you realize that right?"
"I'm looking forward to seeing just what position you put me in after this."
"Ginny!" Hermione said, scandalized but giggling despite herself.
"What's so funny?" Gabby asked serenely, setting off a whole new round of giggles.
"So..." Harry said quietly into the air.
"Yeah..." Hermione replied.
They were sitting on the edge of her bed both suddenly feeling very awkward after the events of the past few days. They sat in silence for another few moments before Hermione decided enough was enough and punched him in the shoulder.
"Ow! What was that for!?"
"Oh Honestly Harry...you walked in on me in the bath! You saw me naked!"
"You saw me naked too!" He retorted.
She blushed, "That isn't the point, I've hit you now so we can forget about it."
Feeling bold for some reason, possibly because he'd spent the remainder of the day with two very cuddly girlfriends on his arms, he decided to press her a bit, "I'm not sure I can forget about that, but I'll take you accepting my apology and moving on from there."
She looked sideways at him for another long moment before sighing, "Alright, you win, I overreacted a bit...it isn't like I mind so much that you saw..."
He swallowed the knot in his throat and was about to give her a playful reply when she slapped his shoulder in the same spot she'd punched him causing him to wince, "I mean, you're like the brother I never had! It isn't a big deal for siblings to see each other naked."
He pulled a face, "Hermione I'm not sure thats..."
"Well of course they don't normally after childhood, but it isn't that big of a deal since there is nothing sexual about seeing your sister naked. Right?"
He was honestly perplexed by her reasoning, it didn't seem very Hermione-like at all, "I suppose...does that mean you don't mind sharing the bath with me then?"
She looked caught out for a split second, "I..of..of course not. Not that we should plan on it, I mean it would look weird... Just don't make a habit of it."
Harry had been studying psychology, Hermione seemed to have forgotten this, he was ready to diagnose her with Denial...but then decided he could use a little Denial in this case. He was completely willing to get closer to Hermione in a way that was comfortable for both of them, without crossing any threshold that might threaten their relationship. Besides...he had thought of her as a sister for several years, this really wasn't anything new. Just a new aspect to their relationship that was still mostly platonic...familial.
"I can accept that, I've thought of you as my sister for a long time anyway, you know?" He finally replied.
She got a huge grin and closed the gap between them, hugging him tightly. "Harry it makes me so happy to hear you say that, you know I love you right?"
He swallowed the catch in his throat as he returned the hug...he knew he loved Hermione, as a sister, that was much simpler than having a girlfriend, "I love you too Hermione, I can't imagine my life without you in it anymore."
She pulled back and grinned at him, "Lucky for you I'm not going anywhere then, isn't it?"
He nodded and watched as she got up and headed for the walk-in closet, "We should go ahead and change for bed. I don't fancy sleeping in a skirt, and I doubt you'd be comfortable wearing your trousers."
He got off the bed and removed his tie, sweater and dress shirt before kicking off his shoes, socks and trousers. Getting ready for bed, to him, meant stripping to boxers and a t-shirt. He was fairly certain that would be acceptable to his sister-figure as all the important bits were covered and then some. When Hermione emerged from the closet wearing just a long t-shirt and knickers he felt a stirring in his pants and quickly sat down to hide it.
"Is that really appropriate for sleeping with your brother?" Harry asked nervously.
"Why? Do you like what you see?" She teased.
"Um...very much... but I shouldn't enjoy seeing my sister half naked..."
She grinned at the compliment and climbed under the covers, "Well, I don't mind so much if you enjoy looking. I know I did."
He blushed as he rushed under the covers on the other side of the bed, "This is going to be the strangest brother-sister relationship ever..."
She raised his arm and slid under it to lay on his shoulder, just like she had done on the couch so many times in the common room, "So maybe we are more like Step-Siblings, not related but too close to being family to become anything more."
He fought the urge to reach down and adjust himself, "More like, not illegal, just wrong." He muttered.
She smacked his chest, "As long as we understand each other, I'm not after you, you aren't after me, we are just comfortable enough together to share a cuddle or tell secrets."
"Won't everyone else get the wrong idea?" He asked quietly.
She shrugged against him, "It doesn't really matter, I don't plan on dating anyone currently at Hogwarts anyway. If they want to say I'm one of your girlfriends I won't argue, but everyone in Royal Tower will know different. We're just very close, and I don't want to give that up."
He smiled into the darkness and hugged her with one arm, "Me either Hermione, goodnight."
A/N: It is really hard to blend Hermione's character with the character traits of the girl she is channeling from Shuffle (Asa). I don't think she is entirely OOC here, as I did explain in several scenes how she came to her conclusions.
I have plans for the next several chapters, so hopefully no more 3 month unplanned hiatus. I hope you enjoyed this chapter even though it was fairly uneventful.