Disclaimer: Like the Saruman-possessed Théoden in The Two Towers I lean forward on my throne and snarl, "Harry Potter is mine!" and then – after having witnessed a bar fight in my throne room wherein the unarmed heir to the throne of Gondor, a pretty elf and a stocky dwarf beat the greater part of my personal guard to a pulp – I get exorcised by Gandalf the Uberwhite, defender of the copyright, in one of Peter Jackson's more ridiculous scenes for, I would dare to presume, anyone who read the books before the movies came out (and maybe some who didn't). By that I mean to say that I do not, in fact, own the rights to Harry Potter. Did anyone not get that from that?

Introduction: Greetings, everyone! I have written some stuff and once more I have done so in the middle of summer, which is odd considering I would usually describe the season as something like poison to creativity. I mean, try writing a novel-length story in a foreign language while your brain is practically melting in the heat of the dog days. Who in their right mind would do that?

Yeah, well.

At any rate, the first chapter was actually written late last year and then I reread it a couple of weeks back and liked it enough to decide that it might just deserve to be followed by a finished story, so I indeed set out to write the rest of it (if you want to call 95% 'the rest'). It was initially planned much in the vein of my previous multi-chapter story, Amor Veritatis, in regard to length and structure, but then I ended up pulling a little Martin (George R.R.) and the whole thing just kept growing and growing until it finally reached nearly four times the length of what up until now was my longest finished piece. Now it's all done, counting just about 78,000 words in total; split into nine chapters and an epilogue. Yeah, an epilogue. Not my favorite word where Harry Potter is concerned, but there you have it.

Also, this time around it really, really is more Comedy than Drama. Honestly. Cross my heart! I mean, you obviously have to share my sense of humor at least to some degree for it to work, but it's generally much lighter in mood than Amor Veritatis turned out to be.

All of this, as always, comes from the heart of someone who is just a little obsessed with the idea of this particular, fictitious couple (which is all the stranger considering he's usually not the type to be obsessed with any couples, fictitious or not). If that's not your thing, chances are this story won't be either.

So much for my habitually long-winded introduction. Have I forgotten anything? Does anyone care? No? Alrighty then.

Hope you enjoy.


Thresholds

• Chapter I •

Awakening

In accordance with a tradition upheld by generations upon generations of students attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the busiest and most hectic times of every week were to this day the late Sunday evenings, and for no more than one simple reason: Sunday – as a fact well known, less accepted und much lamented – always and unalterably is followed by Monday, although at some point someone certainly had brought forth the suggestion to move Monday further away from Sunday, so as to make the transition less of an ordeal.

In the meantime, however, with both the Gregorian calendar and the flow of time remaining largely intact, Sunday evening remained the time to remember all the worries one had temporarily left behind the Friday before. And thus, students of all ages all throughout the school withdrew from the parties, the games and their relaxation to pick up their discarded quills and parchments, to try to accomplish what they'd had nearly three days to do in just about three hours instead.

The Hufflepuffs did it with solemn diligence, for they always thoroughly checked on Friday how much time they would probably need to finish all their homework on Sunday; their weekly race against time was, in a sense, frantic by design. The Ravenclaws did it with dignified composure, for they didn't do much else over the weekend anyway; symptoms of precipitance were mainly to be seen whenever someone forgot to stop studying something else to get started on his homework in time, and were – as a general, if unwritten, house rule – frowned upon.

The Slytherins quite simply did it the way they always did it, because they knew they could; even in their haste they managed to look nonchalant, meeting the ticking clock with the exact same arrogant sneer they delighted everybody else with. And then the Gryffindors, of course, always threw themselves into the educational fray for they simply liked the challenge; the question if they could do it by far outweighing the question of what exactly would happen should they not.

Hyperboles and stereotypes put aside, there were of course characters of every kind in each of the four common rooms. In the case of Gryffindor, Ron and Neville commendably played the part of the Hufflepuff, although Ron tended to skip the preparation phase on Friday and instead confined himself to realizing that there was just too much to do in too little time at about nine o'clock in the evening on every Sunday. Hermione, as a matter of course, brought the element of the raven into the lion's den, quietly working in her own corner; her concentration an inspiration to all others, her simultaneous elation a barely accepted nuisance.

In a way, Dean and Seamus were playing both the Gryffindor and the Slytherin part, their confidence more akin to imprudence. Since they omitted the sneering, the others were able to tolerate their flippant attitude, even welcoming the way they managed to make it all look like one big joke sometimes. Quite their own house were, whenever present, Fred and George, who by rights shouldn't even have been there anymore, for they had finished school over a year ago. Yet somehow, obviously against rules and probably even undermining some kind of magical protection, they managed to visit their former classmates now and then; preferably whenever said classmates were in their greatest disarray even without the presence of the two mischievous Weasley twins.

And then, of course, there was that one guy with the raven black hair that never agreed to form into anything that could even remotely be considered fashionable, and with the glasses that had grown with him for what seemed to be the greater part of his life, right in front of emerald green eyes under the best known scar of the whole wizarding world. So, what was his name again?

"Harry, will you please ask Hermione to let me copy her text for our History homework?" a despairing Ron asked the person described above.

Dutifully, Harry turned to the brown-haired, brown-eyed witch sitting next to him, moving her quill with a unique combination of both speed and elegance over a parchment she had stretched out on a heavy tome in her lap, her legs crossed underneath.

"Ron asked me to ask you to let him copy your text for our History homework," Harry told her monotonously.

"Tell Ron if he wants something from me he'd better ask me directly," she answered without looking up from her work.

Harry turned back to his other friend, who was already looking at him expectantly, and said, "Hermione told me to tell you that you should ask her yourself if you want something from her."

Ron nodded his head excitedly, apparently encouraged in his endeavor. He turned to Hermione to address her directly and asked, "Hermione, will you please let me copy your text for our History homework?"

"No," she flatly refused, unperturbedly scribbling away.

Ron groaned and threw his arms in the air in a gesture of defeat. "Seriously, how do they expect us to do all this stuff in so little time?"

"They don't," Hermione replied soberly, without taking her eyes off of her work. "No one expects you to do all your week's homework within ninety minutes on Sunday evening."

The youngest of the male Weasley offspring made a disgruntled face. "It's still too much," he stubbornly insisted. "It's nearly half past eleven and I'm not even halfway through with this. Am I supposed to skip sleep, or what?"

"As tempting as it may be to make you work the whole night through," Hermione said, "you do realize that due to Professor Binns' absence we won't have History again until Wednesday, don't you?"

Silence, with the exception of Hermione's quill continuously moving over the parchment. Ron's facial expression was frozen with his eyebrows raised up to his hairline. Then he blinked – twice.

"Alrighty then," he exclaimed cheerfully, clapping his hands together and abruptly raising from his armchair, neglecting his unfinished homework and leaving it right where it was.

And just like that, he eagerly hurried up the stairs to the boys' dorms as Harry watched him leave with a chuckle.

"You can be surprisingly cruel, you know that?" Harry jokingly asked Hermione when their friend had vanished from sight.

"Why? For letting him do just a little more of his homework, so he will have less to do tomorrow?"

Harry raised an eyebrow at her, even though she still held her eyes fixed on her work. "You do realize you sound like you're talking about a child, don't you?"

The quill came to a sudden halt at that and Hermione pensively raised her head. "Blimey," she breathed in a near-whisper, her expression growing horrified. "I am cruel."

Harry couldn't help but laugh out loud at how shocked she looked in light of that hard-hitting revelation. "Cute is what you are," he told her blithely.

"Oh, stop it," Hermione dismissed his flattery, smiling despite herself. "How far have you gotten with your essay, anyway?"

"Actually, I'm pretty much done already," Harry had to confess reluctantly.

"Really?" Hermione asked with some surprise. "Then what are you still doing here? You could've gone off to bed."

"Oh, I just wanted to finish my…" he began, then trailed off when he noticed the cup of tea he had intended to refer to was already emptied. "Well, I mean I just wasn't tired yet."

Hermione raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. "Your eyes belie your statement, Mr. Potter," she observed, scrutinizing him skeptically. "You look like you're sleeping already with your eyes more or less open. And now that I think about it, I don't believe I've noticed you touching your quill in quite a while."

"I tend to restrain myself from touching my quill in public," Harry replied as matter-of-factly as if he were conducting an interview with the Daily Prophet.

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "And there's the proof," she declared. "You don't get naughty like that unless you're really tired."

"Don't you like it when I'm… tired?" he asked teasingly, receiving a playful slap on his leg as the most immediate response.

"Seriously, what's gotten into you?" she asked, openly amused and yet no less perplexed. "You really should go to bed, Harry."

"Sure thing," he agreed casually. "Yours or mine?"

"Harry James Potter!"

"Okay, okay," he relented, raising his arms in a gesture of capitulation. "But what you told Ron earlier is true for you as well, you know? And I'm not the only one who's tired around here."

"I just want to finish this first…"

"Of course you do," Harry knowingly said. "Now go to bed."

"Mr. Potter," Hermione began warningly, "if you think you can tell me what to—"

"Please?" he softly interrupted her, batting his eyelashes emphatically at her. "Pretty please with sugar on top?"

Hermione snorted. "How very manly of you."

"Anything to get you into bed," he said with genuine, sleepy innocence, only then realizing what he had just said. "Wow, this is getting pathological."

"Indeed," Hermione concurred, shaking her head at him. "I am seriously considering calling for Madam Pomfrey right about now."

"That," Harry began as he raised himself up from the couch, "won't be necessary. However," he said, standing right in front of her with his hands reaching out to her, "I will only go to bed if you do likewise."

She looked up at him with her eyebrows furrowed and her lips turned into a pout.

"Come on, you can do it," he urged her on. "You know I'll just stay here and keep making inappropriate jokes all night, if I have to."

She sighed heavily, and with one part annoyance and three parts amusement, she finally took his hands with her own and let herself be gently pulled onto her feet by him.

"See?" Harry said, smiling pleasantly. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

"Get a room already," someone who passed them by interrupted their exchange. "You two lovebirds make me sick like a Nicholas Sparks novel."

Immediately Harry and Hermione broke their contact and brought some distance between them, the latter maybe just a little more awkwardly so than the former.

"Well, I'm trying, George, but the lady is playing hard to get," Harry replied with playful exasperation, earning a slap on the shoulder from the aforementioned lady.

"What are you guys still doing here anyway?" an irritated Hermione asked the Weasley twins with her arms crossed in front of her chest.

"Oh, just business," Fred replied.

"The usual," George added, opening a window behind him.

Hermione raised a most skeptical eyebrow at them.

"Pranks," they said in unison, and Fred went on to explain, "We made some last finishing touches to next week's selection. Can't have a proper week of school without any pranks, now can you?"

"You do realize Dumbledore is fully aware of your malapropos scheming, don't you?" Hermione asked them with hardly subtle disapproval in the tone of her voice.

"Of course we are," George confirmed nonchalantly, grabbing a broom that had apparently just been hovering outside the window. "The old man even made a few suggestions of his own and challenged us to successfully prank him once within the year."

"We're still in early preparations for that one," Fred confided, then saluted them and promptly jumped straight through the window, reappearing seconds later on his own broom.

"Malapropos," George emphatically repeated while stepping onto the window sill, shaking his head. "Seriously, Hermione. You're so bourgeois."

And out he went, following his brother and quickly vanishing in the starlit night sky.

"Unbelievable," Hermione grumbled.

Harry just shrugged it off. "Anyhow," he said. "You still have a bed to go to."

"Which I actually feel quite ready for now," she said. "I'm Head Girl, for Merlin's sake! And here I am letting these scoundrels go about their utterly inappropriate business…"

"Which even Dumbledore is in on…"

"Which doesn't make it any less inappropriate," Hermione insisted. "Honestly, this place is getting more ridiculous with every passing year."

"Yeah, at this rate they'll have Dementors at next year's Halloween party."

Hermione took a deep breath – probably in preparation for saying something very dignified – which she then just exhaled in a deep sigh instead. "I'm not even going to comment on that," she said. "No, I'm officially signing off for today. Have a good night, Mr. Potter."

"Hey," he called out after her when she had already begun ascending the stairs to the girls' dormitories, and then, when she had stopped and turned around to face him, he softly said, "You too."

She just smiled in response, then turned again and quietly went up the stairs, his eyes following her every step until she was no longer to be seen. He sighed the faintest sigh, then walked over to the open window through which Fred and George had so gallantly departed and looked out over the moonlit landscapes surrounding the castle. No matter how accustomed he grew to it, it never ceased to amaze him just how beautiful and perfectly peaceful it was; so far away from his life at Privet Drive and his childhood worries. And yet other worries had taken their place. If only the merest fracture of that peace would find itself reflected in his inner landscapes, he wouldn't dread going to bed so much night after night. Alas, there was nothing he could do but face the nightmares whenever they might haunt him. And recently they had gotten worse again.

He took in another deep breath of cool air and then closed the window. With a last glance towards the slowly fading embers in the fireplace he left the common room via the other staircase, leading to the dormitories for the male half of the students. After having brushed his teeth in the bathroom he finally arrived in the dark and quiet sleeping chamber, his fellow roommates' certain snoring safely trapped behind their closed bed curtains.

It was with a heavy heart that he lay down, for whenever the silent hours came inescapably upon him and he found himself alone again, all the worries and all the doubts crept back into his young heart, burdened so far beyond its years. With obscure visions of a looming fate assaulting him, he kept his eyes shut and tried to focus his mind on better thoughts and brighter places, waiting for sleep to come over him.

And sooner or later it always does.

~~

He felt warm and comfortable; safe and completely at ease. For a moment he thought he was dreaming, but then his consciousness switched on and he began to realize that it was not so. His eyes fluttered open, their lids heavy with sleep and his vision blurred and unfocused. It was still dark around him; early morning maybe, but not dawn quite yet. He made an involuntary attempt to move, but somehow – and oddly so – he didn't seem to be able to, as if something was blocking him. His bed seemed oddly small and confining.

He blinked a few times more to clear his vision as best he could, even though without his glasses there was only so far he could get. With his eyes slowly adjusting to their scarcely lit surroundings, illuminated merely by faint rays of moonlight further dimmed by the long curtains around the bed, he began to make out something right before his eyes, and it certainly did nothing to lessen his drowsy confusion.

Without a doubt there were contours taking shape before him he was puzzled to look upon, and a little light fell on something that even in its blurry form seemed strangely similar to a human face, which was quite impossible considering where he was. Where was he, anyway? Lying on his side, he turned slightly to look over his shoulder to where Ron's bed should be expected to be. Even the thin, semi-translucent silk curtains usually didn't distort Ron to look as if he had long, black hair flowing over his pillows like calm ocean waves shimmering in the silvery moonlight.

Wait, what?

He blinked again – quite deliberately this time. Silk curtains? And purple, no less?

What in Merlin's name…

He turned around again and rubbed his eyes. He was quite sure, against all better judgment, that he was seeing an all too familiar mane of brown hair, although he was seeing it from a most unfamiliar perspective.

"Hermione?" he heard his voice whisper, and the part of him that listened couldn't quite believe what the other part was saying.

Impossible!

He closed the weaker of his eyes to clear up his vision a little more, and while his visual perception improved sure enough, his comprehension of the perceived certainly did not. What he saw made no sense to him at all, and yet there they were; those most familiar features, gentle and relaxed. There she was, right in front him with her eyes closed and the sound of her soft breathing the only thing he was hearing in the silence of the night. Except maybe for the increasingly frantic beating of his heart.

He wasn't alone in his bed. And not only wasn't he alone in his bed, but it was Hermione who was with him. And with another nervous look around he was sure of another alarming fact: it wasn't even his bed he was in!

Suddenly every last remnant of sleep abruptly left him altogether, leaving him wide-awake with his eyes widened in horror.

Holy hogwash!

Where he found the presence of mind to not just jump straight up and bolt right through the next best exit – which would very likely have been a window rather than a door – he couldn't have explained, but somehow he did. So instead of making the situation even worse than it already was, he chose to move as slowly and carefully as possible. He cautiously lifted the blanket he had no idea how he had gotten under and tried very hard to refrain from taking in the view that incidentally was thereby revealed. Instead, he watched Hermione's face closely for any sign of what would surely mean nothing but trouble for him, but no such sign was to be seen.

He moved his legs, then followed with his torso when he had found sure footing. He breathed a sigh of relief when he finally stood next to the bed, although the realization that he was now standing in the middle of the girls' dorm with nothing but a pair of boxers on his body did not serve to lessen his heart rate. And yet he couldn't help but remain still for a moment, captivated by his best friend's peaceful form. Looking at her bare shoulders and the dangerously flimsy night gown below had a strange effect on him, but whatever that was – he certainly didn't want to pay too much attention to that now – he couldn't just leave without putting the blanket back over her properly. He wouldn't want her to be cold.

He leaned down and gingerly grabbed the seam of the blanket between his finger tips, slowly drew it up over her shoulders with all the fine motor skills he could muster – and then she suddenly shifted a little, moaned feebly and mumbled something unintelligible. Harry froze still, panic-stricken. With his eyes closed, he silently ushered some kind of prayer to whatever cosmic force might be responsible for managing utterly ridiculous situations such as this one. Maybe Schrödinger's cat. And perhaps it worked, for Hermione thankfully remained on her side of the waking life.

Letting out the breath he had been holding for the tense moment now safely passed, he put his sights on the door – the gateway to his safe zone; the exit from this nightmare that under different circumstances might have passed as a dream come true for many a desperate teenage boy. Somehow it seemed to be discouragingly far away. He could have sworn the room had just gotten a little bigger, if for no other reason than to increase his predicament. He wouldn't exactly put it beyond Dumbledore to install such magical mechanisms for precisely that reason either.

With the drumming of his heartbeat filling his own ears he tiptoed his way towards the door, having a hard time to discern if he was walking quietly enough. In a rather ludicrous moment he was quite sure his heartbeat alone would wake up every last person within the room – heck, probably the whole castle! Against this very rational expectation, however, the castle remained in utter ignorance of his stealthy endeavors. Well, not the whole castle.

When he was just a few last steps away from the door, said door suddenly, and in uncomfortable simultaneity with the stopping of his heart, softly opened, leaving Harry petrified in blank horror. Staring right ahead he was bewildered to see no one enter, and after a moment of relief slowly beginning to wash over him and with his heart slowly picking up its rhythm again, he probably would've just walked ahead if he hadn't heard the Meow! originating from just below him. Sure enough, there stood Crookshanks, greeting him far too chattily for Harry's taste and looking up at him quite expectantly.

Oh boy…

Before he had the time to do much of anything, the cat went on to animatedly rub against his legs, purring with satisfaction. Of all the things he'd never expected to be doing in his life, standing in the girls' dormitories in the middle of the night clad in nothing but his boxers with a cat canoodling his legs surely would have been somewhere at the top of the list, if he had even conceived of the possibility of any such thing happening. Ever. To anyone.

Yep, this is definitely one of the more bizarre moments of my life. Just imagine the headlines…

He really had to get out of there.

"Shoo!" he made at Crookshanks, speaking so softly that he doubted the cat would even notice it. He waved his hands at him, trying to somehow communicate to him that he'd better move along now.

"This is not the best time for me," he actually whispered at his feline predicament. "It's not like I planned to meet you here, you know? That would be considered creepy in more than one way by most people."

The quadruped seemed unimpressed.

"Honestly now, do you want us to be seen like this? Is that what you want? I don't think the world is ready for this. Frankly, neither am I."

With Crookshanks still happily purring away, Harry sighed in frustration.

"I'm seriously beginning to doubt your understanding of the severity of the situation," he told the cat.

It seemed appropriate to Harry that nothing but an insult to his intelligence was what finally made Hermione's cat move along, although he seemed more satisfied than offended. With the path to his salvation finally cleared, Harry tiptoed the last few steps towards the door and stepped outside into the hallway, not even daring to close the door behind him.

With a deep sigh of relief escaping his lips, everything that had just happened raced through his mind with regained clearness, leaving one fundamental question yet to be answered:

What the Fudge had just happened?

~Ω~


Annotations & Allusions

Nicholas Sparks: With the story taking place in the year 1997, it should be noted that Mr. Sparks had only published a single novel at that time, namely The Notebook. I confess I have not read a single of his works, but I have seen far too many of the gazillion movie adaptations and The Notebook is actually the only one I found myself able to enjoy without cringing all the time. I think – especially after all the movies based on his novels they keep dishing out – he is so well known that George's joke really just works with his name, and I imagined Mrs. Weasley would be the perfect candidate to add Sparks' works to her collection of Gilderoy Lockhart bestsellers; something that would probably not go unnoticed by the twins. I thought about using Lockhart for the line instead, but I'm not sure he has written any sappy love stories (which is what George is obviously scoffing at), although he would certainly fit the bill. So, it's a semi-anachronism at worst and one I was willing to accept for the sake of accessibility. Also, the comment obviously represents the opinion of the character, not the author. Not necessarily, at least.

Schrödinger's cat: Fully explaining this in a footnote would be a feat I won't even attempt to accomplish, so I'll just say that it's a quantum mechanical thought experiment you might want to google if you are at all interested in such things, and not yet familiar with the concept. If you prefer the short version, just try to imagine a cat in a box that is simultaneously dead and alive. Good luck.