Sorry about the delay, university and life in general made writing difficult. Some of you might know that I've got a depression and anxiety disorders, which with all the rest made it very hard to get this out the way I want to. I won't make you wait for as long as all us A Song of Ice and Fire fans does, but I don't want to post something I strongly dislike. Thank you for sticking with me and the story you wonderful people!
I'll sooner or later, depending on my ability to get what I want to write, out on print, make up for the lengthy delay for you.
A big applause for my beta Beau2809!
As they returned to the castle, wading through the falling snow, Harry's thoughts had regained the ability to remain on one subject for more than two seconds. He was still very confused about everything that had happened and would happen over the coming weeks. A part of him wished that he could stay with the Tonks' and hide from the world for a couple of days, but he had previously decided to stay at Hogwarts for the holidays and Professor McGonagall had already helped him enough.
Harry didn't really feel up to talking to Ron or Hermione since they were still arguing, so he once more found his way to the Ravenclaw common room while he was wandering round in the castle corridors with the fading daylight casting shadows on the grey stone walls.
After answering the riddle, Harry was greeted by a welcoming committee consisting of Jessica and Sheila who had looked up from their comfortable sitting arrangement on a heap of blue pillows in front of one of the tall windows and launched themselves over the room as they saw Harry.
"Harry! How did everything go? We heard from Professor Flitwick about it! What happened, are you alright?" Harry nearly fell over as they threw themselves at him. He hugged them and received a tight hug in return. Anthony and Terry stood behind them and while they smiled at the display they still seemed to be as worried as the girls.
Harry looked down at the blonde and brown hair of the two people attached to him. They shepherded him to the pile of pillows, which Harry realised matched their clothes as they pushed him down before they stood above him looking at him with frowns on their faces.
"You didn't get hurt, right?" Harry smiled at Jessica.
"No I'm fine." Terry snorted.
"Harry, you might be physically alright, but you're not fine, considering everything that happened the past day. If you are I'm a llama." Harry smiled. Perhaps Terry was right there. Though it would be fun too see him as a llama, Harry thought.
He didn't have long to imagine that before he was joined on the pillow heap by Sheila and Jessica as Terry and Anthony dragged a couple of chairs over to their pile and sat down on it.
"Wanna talk about it?" Harry was thankful that he was given an option and thought about it.
"I just found out that the man I thought betrayed my parents was innocent and has been through hell, that Ron's pet rat was the one who did it and I've got new guardians. I'm just… a bit confused." Terry snorted at that and leaned forward and looked Harry in the eye.
"Harry most people wouldn't be a little confused after that; they'd need calming potions." Harry reclined to the pillow heap and looked at the ceiling.
"Does ice cream count as calming." Sheila giggled and with hugs from Sheila and Jessica and sardonic comments and relief from Terry, Harry managed to tell them what had happened. While Sheila and Jessica were great at hugging and comforting in a way, they were still younger than him. Terry gave him comfort in other ways, by being able to give him time and not pushing him, but also being a sounding board when needed. Harry wasn't as close to Anthony, but he too didn't push but was there if Harry needed him, even if he himself admitted that he was better at spells and books than people.
Sheila and Jessica stayed with Harry for the entire conversation and it wasn't until Terry sniggered and levitated a blanket over them that Harry realised that they had fallen asleep. Terry and Anthony sniggered as Harry fought to get out of the pillow pile without waking the two sleeping first years. In the end Terry took pity on him and helped him up while Anthony made sure that the pillow heap didn't implode.
The boys tip-toed their way out of the common room and into the corridor. None of them wanted to wake up the girls but dinner would be soon. Harry looked at the others.
"What about asking the house elves for help? There are so few of us that perhaps they could send the food to the common room?" the other boys nodded and grinned.
"I never really took time to find out all the secret passageways. Oh how remiss I've been." Terry sighs and looks a bit foolish as he pouts dramatically. Looking at each other the boys quickly and silently agreed to use as many passageways they knew on the way to the kitchens. Harry won, but Anthony wasn't that far behind while poor Terry vowed to learn more about the castle as he was dismally the one with the least knowledge. Harry thought that without the map, he probably would have been neck and neck with Anthony.
"You know in first year, Malfoy issued a duel challenge to me in the first weeks. He didn't show but Filch did. We ran through this passageway as we ran from him. Unfortunately we ended up in the forbidden corridor even though we escaped him." Terry and Anthony sniggered. Since Harry was in front of them, it obviously went alright and Harry guessed that they'd heard the rumours during the end of their first year. Terry looked at Harry with narrowed eyes.
"Did Hagrid really have a Cerberus?" Harry nodded.
"Yup it was called Fluffy." Terry nearly walked into the wall.
"He also had a dragon in first year called Norbert, it was a Norwegian Ridgeback." Anthony blinked, shook his head and grinned.
"He had a dragon? What happened to it? Anyway does anyone else think Hagrid's naming habit is odd? I mean the dog is really friendly and he's called Fang and the deadly creatures are called Fluffy and Norbert." The boys looked thoughtful as they ducked under another tapestry and nearly got attacked by a floating mistletoe garland that they evaded quickly.
"Charlie Weasley took the dragon to the reserve he works at. Perhaps the more dangerous the cuter name they're given?" agreeing, the boys entered the kitchen and had to halt their conversation as ten house elves asked them what they needed. Dinner sorted, they were ushered out as the elves had plenty to do and the boys didn't want to disturb the elves.
Halfway up from the kitchens they bumped into Ron. Ron blushed and took a deep breath as the carefree atmosphere vanished from the others. Harry hoped this would turn out better then their last encounter. Ron rubbed his neck as the blush lingered on his face.
"Could I talk to you Harry?" Harry looked over at Terry and Anthony who nodded. Terry leaned in and whispered to Harry.
"No matter the end of this, remember to come back to the Claw's common room." With a slightly wary look at Ron the two boys set off to the Ravenclaw common room. Harry looked at Ron who looked anywhere but at Harry.
"You know the whole thing with the broom, I just…" Harry stood silent and watched Ron fumble over his words. Harry didn't want to be mean, but he needed Ron to decide what he wanted to do and say. Harry needed to know that Ron could deal with Harry being someone else than Ron's best friend and do things without Ron and do things that Ron didn't like. Harry needed to be Harry and he didn't want his friends to be unable to handle that. So he waited for Ron.
"Hermione's smart you know and the whole thing with the broom was stupid but she and I've been fighting all year, so when she talked to me later, I just thought it was because of our fight I got so angry at her and it just seemed so reasonable when she said it and you never yell and…"
"You did say that I always take my temper out on you." Harry stated calmly as Ron nodded and grimaced.
"Hermione said something like that, that you get moody and take it out on us, I'm not sure…" Harry wasn't surprised that Hermione would have said that since she lashed out on everybody lately. She really needed the rest. That didn't make what Ron said right though.
"You still said it. Ron what you need is to think. You're not stupid, even if you somehow think that you can't measure up to your brothers. To say something to me you don't even mean, why would you do that?" Ron sighed.
"You and Hermione, you're my only friends. I just got scared, you've been studying and taking other courses and Hermione and I've been fighting all term." Harry raised his eyebrow.
"So you thought it would get better if you blamed me for getting angry at Hermione for going behind my back and making it sound to the professors like I acted like a toddler about it?" Ron grimaced.
"I know I messed up, I got enough letters from home to tell me that." Ron hung his head.
"You know Ron, this is something we need to get over once and for all if we're going to be friends. Is your family perfect, probably not, no family is. Neither are your brothers, so don't compare yourself all the time. You've got a family; I might get one, if things turn out alright, but up until yesterday I didn't really have anything looking like a family." Ron looked at Harry in confusion.
"Would you trade your family, they'd be dead; you could never speak to them again if you could have all of the Malfoys' fortune?" Ron recoiled from Harry's words.
"Of course not!" Ron said vehemently while Harry looked at him coldly.
"Than why do you get angry at me whenever anything concerning money comes up? Do I yell at you anytime you mention your family, holidays with them, birthdays celebrated, memories of good night stories and the like?" Ron looked a bit chagrined.
"Well it's not really the same…" Ron said but Harry cut him off angrily.
"Bollocks it isn't! You just said family is more important than gold, yet you're allowed to get angry over lack of gold, but I'm not getting angry over lack of family. You have food and a roof over your head, clothes and school supplies. I know that only having a second hand wand isn't good, but otherwise isn't the fact that you have a families love worth so much more than my ability to buy sweets or new stuff?" Ron sighed and nodded.
"Yeah it is I guess I just didn't want to see it that way. I know you never mean to brag, like Malfoy does. I just get so angry. I suppose I can work on it?" Ron said tentatively and Harry nodded.
"I'm not perfect Ron, I don't expect you to be. But I can't walk around on eggshells in case you get offended by something. Talk to me instead. Say this makes me uncomfortable instead of being angry and saying nothing about it." Harry looked at Ron who nodded. Harry really felt out of his depth with all of this.
"Sorry about the whole blaming you thing. I'll try and work on this talking thing." Ron offered and Harry nodded.
"Apology accepted." Harry and Ron shock hands.
"You know Ron, I'm not the scared eleven year old anymore. We can still be friends even if we do different things or hang out with different people. You've been talking to Oliver a lot lately, right?" Harry asked Ron.
"Yeah, he's really nice and knows so much about Quidditch." Ron looked excitedly at Harry.
"Exactly. See you've got a friend that I don't know so well, sure he's my captain, but we don't really talk like you do. Don't worry I won't stop being your friend because I become friends with others or because we study differently. Hermione will hopefully feel better soon, I hope she does." Harry sighed wistfully after finishing his sentence; he really hoped Hermione would get better.
"You know mate, I'm sorry about the whole rat thing." Ron said and Harry nearly got whiplash from turning so quickly.
"That wasn't your fault Ron. How were you supposed to have known?" Harry looked at Ron earnestly, this of all things he really didn't blame Ron for in the least. Perhaps his parents because they had never wondered about how long he lived, but not Ron.
"Its weird though you know, knowing now all the times I defended the rat and it, he, whatever slept in my bed!" Ron looked revolted and Harry took his arm and started to walk.
"Don't think about it Ron, it'll only make it worse. Come on, we can have dinner in Ravenclaw tower, you can meet Terry, Anthony, Sheila and Jessica properly." Harry continued to walk and was glad when Ron kept up the pace and didn't complain about meeting Harry's friends. Ron turned to look at Harry after they'd gone a little bit however.
"You know mate, I should have just let Hermione's bloody cat eat the thing! He'd have deserved it." Ron said gloomily and Harry burst out laughing, glad when Ron joined him. Sure, Harry thought later, it would have been fitting, but then the truth would have never come out.