Author name: Ruskbyte
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Just a short little piece I thought up late in the night. Harry's a nice guy and all, but sometimes I wonder. So I decided to try a different tack where, like most young teens I know, Harry doesn't just forgive and forget.
Issues of Trust and Faith
Madam Pomfrey snorted with disgust as she sat Harry down on the bed that was waiting for him. She examined his shoulder, injured in a literal brush with the furious Hungarian Horntail that Harry had found himself pitted against, and muttered furiously to herself all the while.
"Last year Dementors, this year dragons, what are they going to bring into this school next?" She finished poking and prodding his throbbing shoulder and pulled out an small ampoule of a dark violet balm. "You're very lucky," she told him, dipping her finger into the container, "This is quite shallow," she explained as she began to dab the medicine on the wound inflicted by the Horntail's horned tail (I couldn't resist), "it'll need cleaning before I heal it up."
Harry glanced to one side as his shoulder smoked and stung under her ministrations. He could see a shadow through the canvas wall of his cubicle, either Cedric or Krum he decided after a moment. "How are the others?" he asked Pomfrey as she waved her wand over his cleansed injury.
"The Durmstang boy is fine, not a scratch on him," she said, examining her work, "The French girl was a little singed around the edges, but not too badly."
"And Cedric?" Harry asked anxiously.
"Well enough," she said, nodding with approval and gathering her stuff, "He got a bit scorched of course - dragons I ask you! - but nothing that can't be fixed."
The Hogwarts nurse bustled out of Harry's cubicle, "Just sit quietly for minute - SIT! You can go and get your score then."
Harry, however, was far too exhilarated by his victory to remain sitting about. He gingerly rose to his feet, inspecting his shoulder as he made his way to the mouth of the tent. Aside from a slight redness and the occasional twinge, he was as good as new. Madam Pomfrey might be overly enthusiastic about caring for her patients, but she certainly knew what she was on about, Harry thought, remembering a disastrous incident in his second year when a bumbling professor had accidentally removed all the bones from his right arm.
Just before he reached the exit several dozen people flooded inside, babbling with excitement. They all paused as they spotted him standing directly in front of them. Harry had only a few seconds to spot some familiar faces when Hermione darted forward and embraced him in a tight hug.
"Harry, you were brilliant!" she exclaimed as she almost crushed his ribs, "You were amazing! You really were!"
For the next few moments everything else faded into the background and Harry grinned down at Hermione as she backed away. Her arms slipped up and hooked around his neck as his hands took a gentle hold at the small of her back.
"Only because of you, Hermione," he told her truthfully, remembering the many hours she had spent with him the day and night before, helping him learn the summoning charm he had needed to complete the first task. "I could never have done it without your help," he said as she blushed a bright scarlet.
As her face darkened, he could make out something about her skin. Releasing one hand from its hold by her back he reached up to tenderly stroke her cheek. He traced the fine crescent moons that her fingernails had dug into her skin as she had clutched her face in fear while he had swooped through the air earlier.
"Hey," he asked softly, "What'd you do this for?"
"God, Harry," she almost whispered, "I was so scared for you."
Sensing the need to allay her fears, he smiled teasingly, "And you thought my Quidditch matches were dangerous."
Hermione laughed, "The Bludgers can only beat you black and blue, Harry. That thing, no matter how fondly Hagrid thinks of them, could've turned you into a crisp!"
Joining in her laughter, Harry nodded, "Yeah, but I'll bet you a dragon would never debone my entire arm while trying to fix it."
"You're probably right," she admitted with a giggle.
Harry bent his head down, his brow brushing gently against Hermione's as they gazed into each others eyes. A short moment longer and they would have kissed, had an embarrassed cough not interrupted the bubble of solitude they had unwittingly erected.
Harry glanced up and saw Ron standing only a few feet behind Hermione, his face pale as chalk and bearing an embarrassed, anxious, uncertain and yet also serious expression all at the same time.
Glancing passed Ron, Harry saw a watchful crowd of onlookers. Right at the front were Fred and George, their little sister Ginny squashed between them. Seamus, Dean and Neville were there, along with a good dozen other Gryffindors. Colin Creevy was present, faithful camera in hand. The rest were a more-or-less even mix of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students, who seemed a good deal more embarrassed by Harry and Hermione's embrace than the Gryffindor bunch, who were all looking extremely self satisfied.
"Appears we have an audience," Harry told Hermione in a stage whisper.
Twisting about, but staying cradled within of his arms, Hermione delighted the assembled group of Gryffindors by turning several attractive shades of crimson. Now that his attention was less focused on the girl in his arms, the Hufflepuff contingent all gave Harry quick nods and a few quiet congratulations before running off to Cedric's cubicle. The Ravenclaw students divided equally, but all handed out congratulations, whether going or staying.
Harry was almost tempted to frown as he watched Cho Chang make her way after the Hufflepuffs, giving him a short wave and a smile as she went. But, all things considered, especially having Hermione wrapped in his embrace, Harry decided to return her smile with his friendly trademark lopsided grin.
Then, trying to keep hold of his feeling of light heartedness, Harry turned to face Ron.
"Harry," Ron said, with a seriousness Harry and Hermione had previously associated only with his older brother Percy, "whoever put your name in that Goblet - I - I reckon they're trying to do you in!"
"Amazing deduction, Watson," said Harry coldly, "Been hanging around with Crabbe and Goyle, have you? I see they've had a positive influence on you."
Hermione pulled clear of Harry, standing between him and Ron, who had gone even whiter than before. They stood for a long moment, surrounded by silence as the crowd watched the exchange. Everyone knew how badly Harry and Ron's friendship was currently going, but none had expected Harry to be so suddenly scathing with his words. Ron swallowed nervously and tried to speak, but was cut off as Harry raised a hand for silence.
"You don't need to say it, Ron," Harry told him, watching as the faintest signs of relief made themselves visible in Ron's posture.
Harry extended his right hand, "Friends?"
Ron grinned nervously, almost unable to believe his luck. He reached out to grab Harry's hand and shake it, fully intending to come within an inch of shaking the entire arm free of its socket with enthusiasm. His fingers had just begun to brush against Harry's when Harry's arm dropped suddenly to his side and his other arm shot up in a tight left cross that connected squarely with Ron's jaw.
With a grunt of pain, Ron staggered back and collapsed into the arms of the twins, who barely thought to catch him in their arms, they were so surprised. Everyone, especially Hermione, was gaping at Harry with open mouthed disbelief.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice a high squeak.
He ignored her, moving instead to stand above Ron, who remained slumped in his brother's arms. Nursing his jaw and staring up at Harry with wide eyes, he remained where he was, seeming not quite able to process what had just happened.
Harry loomed over him, adopting a lecturing stance that was a disturbing combination of both Professors McGonagall and Snape. He ran his right hand back through his hair, an action that Ron and Hermione, after four years, understood immediately. When Harry used his right hand it meant he was either nervous, embarrassed or angry. Looking into his coldly blazing eyes, they had no doubt which it was. Harry was angry. He looked down at Ron, eyes narrowed to slits.
"Dumbledore once told me," he began, his voice as cold as an arctic wind, "that one of the cornerstones of a friendship, a true friendship, was trust. He told me to trust my friends."
He glared darkly at Ron, "But over the past few weeks I've learnt something else. Something he neglected to tell me. That trust is a two-way street. That you can't have a honest friendship if only one of you is willing to trust the other."
"Harry..." Ron tried to say, but a vicious cutting motion Harry made with his hand stopped him.
"You didn't trust me, Ron," Harry said very softly, his words barely reaching the ears of those assembled around him. "You didn't trust me when I told you I didn't put my name in the goblet. After all the years we've known each other, after everything we've done together, how in hell can you possibly think I'd want to be part of all this?"
Harry's voice was slowly rising, drawing attention from some Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws around the cubicle Cedric was occupying. "Do you honestly believe I don't have enough people trying to maim, torture or kill me that I'd be willing to enter this stupid game? That I'd actually go looking for trouble, when I've already got more than anybody else's fair share of it coming looking for me?"
"AM I REALLY THAT SHALLOW!?!?" Harry roared, "AM I REALLY THAT MUCH LIKE THE DURSLEYS!?!?"
"I-I--," stuttered Ron, stunned by the raw fury in his old friend's voice, "I'm sorry."
Harry fairly spat out the next words, "So am I!" he turned his back on Ron and began to pace around what little space he had. Three steps in one direction, three steps back. It wasn't much of a pace, but it gave Harry the feeling of doing something constructive, even though thoughts of destruction, namely Ron's, were hovering at the edges of his mind.
"Dumbledore is a very wise wizard," Harry said, his voice returning to something that passed for normal, "And he doesn't make mistakes all that often. So, I'm inclined to believe that what he said about trust and friendship was right. But I don't trust you anymore, Ron. I don't think that I can."
His voice dropped to a low, pain filled, whisper, "I don't think I want to."
"Harry, please - I -" Ron had pulled free of Fred and George and tried to reach out to Harry, who turned his back and stepped away.
"Don't, Ron. Just don't," he told him, the set of his shoulders warning Ron against trying to touch him in any way. "'Cause right now I'm righteously mad with you. I'm so uttered pissed off with you this moment I feel like going back out there and tearing that stupid, overgrown lizard apart with my bare hands, just to get it all off my chest!"
Hermione, who thought the idea of Harry fighting a dragon once was bad enough, decided that now was the time for her to step in. "Harry," she said, stepping up to him and placing a soothing hand on his shoulder. She could feel the tenseness of his muscles under his robes, "Ron made a mistake, that's all. He acted without thinking."
Harry nodded, hearing her words and taking a deep breath before turning to face Ron again, once more as cool and collected as always, "That's the difference between us, Ron," he said sadly, "You never think. You don't get angry for a reason. You just get angry."
He looked at Hermione, standing next to him, "I've got too many things to deal with right now to try and deal with that as well."
Ron was at a true loss for words. He had never thought it would come to this, for the passed month he had known he was over-reacting, known that he was making an issue out of nothing and had abandoned his best friend in his time of need. But some part of him had always assumed that Harry would forgive him, because, that was Harry. That was what he did.
He could feel himself floundering on an emotional edge, and Harry's next words brought some hope to Ron that their friendship could be salvaged. It wouldn't be easy, he knew that now, but there was a chance, however slim.
"I hate the idea of holding a grudge. I hate the idea of being betrayed by someone I used to consider a brother. I hate the idea of feeling this way forever," said Harry, wrapping an arm around Hermione's slender waist and leading her towards tent entrance. As they made their way through the crowd of Gryffindors and other students, Harry looked at Ron, his expression not one of anger, but of sadness, tiredness and... disappointment.
"I need time to think things through," he told Ron, never having sounded more exhausted to Ron in all the years he had known the Boy Who Lived. "Time to re-evaluate what passes for my life. When I'm done doing that, we can talk. Work things out."
The pair had reached the tent's edge and here they paused, Hermione holding tight to Harry as he stopped at the threshold and seemed to lose himself in thought. After a moment his eyes regained their focus and he looked at Ron, "Until then; stay out of my way." His eyes narrowed and he made one final dig at the redhead, "It shouldn't be too hard, you've certainly had enough practice over the last month.
Harry and Hermione ducked out of the tent, leaving a stunned and silent Gryffindor house behind them, making their way towards the now vacated enclosure. Without the distraction of a Hungarian Horntail to hold his attention, Harry could now make out the gold draped judge's stand, which he had somehow failed to notice beforehand.
"It's marks out of ten from each judge," explained Hermione, "Fifty points in all."
She pulled free from his embrace and looked worriedly at him, "Harry..." she glanced back at the medical tent, where Ron and the others had yet to emerge.
He reached out a hand and placed a quieting finger on her lips, "Don't fret about it, Mione," he told her, "Despite everything I said, I have faith in Ron. Faith in our friendship. And if I've learnt anything over the years, it's that faith is just as strong as trust."
"Some might say they're the same thing," observed Hermione, looking up at him, her wide cinnamon eyes beginning to glisten with tears.
"I just needed to get it all out," he explained, "I couldn't keep it bottled inside any more, it was killing me. I had to tell him what I was feeling about things."
Hermione nodded her understanding and brushed away her half-shed tears with one hand, the other firmly in Harry's grip, "So you're going to forgive him?"
Harry smiled at him, the first true smile she had seen from him since Halloween, "I've already forgiven him," he said, "I just don't plan on telling him that for a day or two. Turn about's fair play, after all."
She giggled, then blushed at what she felt was an immature reaction, "You two are so stupid!"
As the judges began to show their scores, Harry focused solely on Hermione, ignoring the applause of the crowd as he took both of his friend's hands in his own, ducking his head down low to look her in the eyes.
"Yes, Harry?" she looked up and could see him hesitate, "What is it?"
"Mione..." he tried again, licking his lips, "Are you doing anything this Christmas?"
Hermione blinked in surprise, asking her what she had planned for the upcoming holidays was not what she had expected, "Christmas? No... I don't have anything planned that is. Why?"
"So, you'll be staying here with the rest of us?" Harry was determined to confirm that she would indeed be present at Hogwarts come Christmas.
"Yes," she nodded her head and asked, "Again, why?"
Yet again Hermione found herself blinking. The rush of words, or word as it had come out, took her completely by surprise and some deciphering was required. She felt reasonably certain she knew what he had just asked, but wanted to be absolutely sure, "Excuse me?"
Harry took a deep, steadying breath, held it a moment, then let out half and asked in the most calm and steady voice he could muster, "The Yule Ball. The reason we all had to buy dress robes. Will you go with me?"
"Please, Mione," he pleaded, "I can't think of anyone else I'd rather go with."
He was an inch away from begging, ready to completely forget that the entire school and a large crowd of complete strangers were seated in the stands surrounding them and the dragon enclosure, and drop to his knees and beg, "If you don't I'm gonna have to switch to Plan B..."
"Yes," Hermione told him, smiling at his dumbfounded expression, "I'll go to the ball with you."
"You said yes?" his expression quickly changed to one of amazed disbelief mixed with relief.
Hermione chuckled and stepped up close to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, "I can see it's going to take you a while for that to sink in." She grinned impishly up at him.
"You said yes?"
"Harry!" she let go of his waist with one hand, only long enough to swat him playfully on the arm as he grinned back at her, equally mischievous.
"Thanks, Mione," he said, his continued shortening of her name sending shivers of delight up and down her spine. Nobody had ever used any form of endearment when speaking her name, not even her parents. She liked it. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
"I think I do, Harry, 'cause it means a lot to me as well."
They stood there by the enclosure for a while, holding each other in their arms, finally turning their attention to the world around them. Checking the final score, displayed on a large board to one side, they were pleasantly surprised to find that Harry had tied with Krum in first place. Charlie came running up to them about then, congratulating Harry on his performance and babbling on about how Molly would react to the news.
After receiving the information that the champions were expected in the tent, where Ludo Bagman was going to be making an announcement of some sort, the pair started back. As they wound their way towards the tent, Hermione looked up at him.
"What's Plan B?"
"Oh, that. Pansy Parkinson."
"What!? Are you out of your mind!?"
"More or less."