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Chapter 32

In a Different Light


Harry walked across the ground towards the Quidditch pitch, his broom slung over his shoulder.

“Harry, wait up!” Ron yelled from behind running to catch up to him. Harry slowed enough to let him catch up.

The two walked together into the pitch and spotted Lavender and Veronica waiting for them. They headed over to them.

“Here’s what Madam Hooch wants us to practice today,” Lavender said to Ron handing him a parchment with some instructions.

“All right, sounds easy enough,” Ron said although he barely glanced at the parchment and was looking around for Hermione. He spotted her with Terry several yards away. They were once again talking, although this time they each had brooms.

Veronica was already on her broom and Harry was explaining the fine touches of steering the broom while on a dive, as explained in the ‘Emergency Landing’ instructions. He glanced over to where Hermione and Terry were standing.

Harry saw Terry motion to Hermione to mount her broom, but she seemed reluctant.

“You said you had flown a broom before,” Terry said when he noticed the fear enter Hermione’s eyes.

“Yes, but…”

“So what happened that made you change your mind?” He asked casually as he stood his broom and propped himself against it.

Hermione turned somewhat red. “Well, you see… the summer before my fifth year, I was in Bulgaria with a friend…”

“Viktor Krum?” He asked raising his eyebrows. “I read the Prophet,” he said noticing her ‘how did you know’ look. Hermione blushed and nodded.

“He’s a Quidditch player, you know, and he coaxed me to play against him. I know nothing of actually playing Quidditch; long story short: I lost control of the broom; I ended in the Hospital for two days… I’ve never been able to fly comfortably since then…”

Terry nodded in understanding. “Are you afraid of heights?”

Hermione paused to think for a moment, “no, not really.”

“So it isn’t the fact that you fly high in the air that frightens you now, then?” He asked with a pensive expression.

“No, I guess it isn’t that,” Hermione answered the more she thought about it.

“So what it is that makes you afraid to return to flying a broom?”

“I don’t know…” She knew that there was this fear that gripped her the moment she sat on a broom, but now she knew it wasn’t because of the height… then what was it? She had flown last year on top of an invisible (to her anyway) horse, and although it had been somewhat of an alarming experience, it was different when she attempted to mount a broom.

“Here. Let’s just get you on this broom, and we can work on whatever feeling you get when you mount.” Terry said and encouraged her to mount the broom that was now floating beside her. He noticed her face paled a bit, but she nodded.

Hermione straddled the broom and gripped the handle tightly, turning her knuckles white.

“Now, I want you to let go of the handle and just straighten up,” Terry said as he moved to stand next to her.

Hermione seemed to concentrate hard, then barely whispered. “I can’t!”

“It’s all right, you won’t fall…”

“I… I can’t,” she said looking frightfully pale.

Terry spoke in a reassuring voice, “don’t worry, this broom won’t fly anywhere. It’s just an old broom I snatched from the cleaning closet. I’ve just put a Hover Charm on it. It won’t fly, even if you wanted it too.”

Hermione looked up surprised, and nodded… but she still couldn’t quite let go.

“Hermione, look at me,” Terry said and Hermione looked up and locked eyes with him. He extended his hands to her, “just let go and hold my hands…”

Hermione let go of her handle and quickly clasped his hands. He smiled brightly at her.

“See, still safe.”

Hermione smiled nervously.

“Now, I am going to make you hover just enough so your feet don’t touch the ground,” Terry said gripping her hands to keep her from grabbing onto the broom.
“Just remember that this broom doesn’t fly.”

Hermione took a deep breath and nodded. Terry slowly let go of one of her hands, and she clasped it to his other. He pulled out his wand and made the broom rise from the ground. Hermione clutched his hand tightly when she felt her feet leave the ground. The broom stopped when her feet where floating about an inch from the ground.

“Can you let go of my hands?” Terry asked gently and Hermione did so.

“Now, close your eyes,” Terry said and she did as asked, “and picture yourself hovering about five feet from the ground…”

Hermione quickly opened her eyes and noticed she was still in her same spot, blushed, and closed her eyes again and nodded.

“Keep your eyes closed, but now I am going to pull the broom with my hand. You can hold on to the handle if you like.” Hermione quickly did so.

“So let’s just pretend you are flying slowly… keep your eyes closed…”

Terry noticed Hermione become increasingly alarmed by the second the faster he pulled the broom.

“Stop!” She finally said and in a blink of an eye had dismounted the broom.

“What happened?” Terry asked her noticing that she looked terrified.

“I… I just felt as if the broom was going to take off…” she replied.

Terry was once again standing before her, the broom upright, and leaning against it.

“So you think it is fear of loosing control again that keeps you from maneuvering the broom?” He asked and she nodded.

“I think so,” she replied uncertain.

“We will just rid you of that fear,” he said with a smile. “Let’s just run through that again…” he said patiently as Hermione mounted the broom once again. She finally nodded when she was ready to rise a bit, then after a while Terry began to pull the broom with his hand. He was careful to make sure Hermione saw he had a firm grip on the broom. They did one circuit around the pitch.
Terry now told Hermione that he would guide the broom with his wand, while he walked next to her. They completed another circuit around the pitch, Terry guiding Hermione’s broom, and Hermione flying slowly, her toes actually touching the grass.

Hermione was talking seemingly more relaxed, and her white knuckled grip had relaxed. Terry said that it was good to keep her body as relaxed as possible. It made it a lot easier to maneuver the broom.

“I think you are ready for the next step,” Terry announced once Hermione had dismounted her broom.

“Which is?” Hermione asked uncertainly.

“I get to take you out for a spin on my broom,” he announced as he Accioed his broom from where it was leaning against the stands. Hermione looked scandalized.

“I promise I won’t go any higher than a meter from the ground,” he said looking into her eyes, locking his gaze with hers. Terry mounted his broom and sat a bit lower on the handle to accommodate two riders. Hermione felt her cheeks redden; all thoughts of falling off the broom escaped her when she realized she would be sitting right in front of him.

“Now, hop on,” he said patting the seat in front of him. Hermione sat on the handle sideways rather than straddling it. Terry glided forward to press against her.

“Now hold onto the broom handle,” he said, his face mere inches from her neck. Hermione took hold, and Terry placed his arms around her and grabbed onto the broom.

“Here we go,” said Terry and he gently pushed off the ground and they came to hover about a foot from the ground.

“How are you doing?” He asked in a low voice right by Hermione’s ear. She suddenly became aware of how close they were and shivered.

“F-Fine,” Hermione stammered to answer.

“I’ll start off going slow,” Terry said as he leaned a bit forward, pressing against Hermione and the broom began to move slowly around the pitch. Every so often, Terry increased the speed just a little bit, but they were still traveling quite slowly.

“Now I want you to guide the broom. I’ll maintain this speed and you can make it go wherever,” he once again spoke into her ear. Hermione nodded hastily.

He let go of the broom handle, and placed one arm around her waist. Hermione tried to concentrate on the broom handle and guiding the broom, and not on the warmth that was spreading from his arm around her waist. She veered left, then right, made a few zig-zags and some slow figure eights on the pitch.

They were the only pair of students flying so low on the ground, as everyone else was several feet higher working on doing a few maneuvers around the course set up by bright orange cones floating in the air. There were several skills that were tested in the flying exam to obtain their license, including things like flying at a fast speed, and applying the brakes while they had to stop within a certain distance, without losing control of the broom, or falling off. Other skills involved weaving around cones, performing sharp turns etc.

“Want to try going a few feet higher?” He asked and Hermione shook her head.

“You sure? You are doing great. Plus I’m right here with you… I won’t let you loose control,” he murmured and to confirm his words, he increased his grip around her waist.

“Ok,” Hermione managed to croak.

They rose up so that now they were about five feet in the air. Terry had slowed down again, so they were practically going slower than a roaming butterfly.

“You are doing excellent. Now, try some wide circles to the left,” he said and Hermione did so.

“Now to the right.”

“Excellent. Now I want you to guide us back down to the ground, and bring us to a halt.”

Hermione nodded and slowly pushed the broom handle down, lessening their altitude, then pulled on the handle to break. When they came to a complete stop, Terry dismounted the broom then held his hand to help Hermione to her feet.

“So, how was it?” He asked with a satisfied smile.

“It was not as scary by the end,” she replied not quite able to meet his eyes.

The bell rang signaling the end of class. People began touching down, and Hermione noticed the scowl on Ron’s face. Lavender looked positively excited for Hermione and waved enthusiastically at her. Hermione chanced a glance in Harry’s direction, and saw Veronica reach for him and kiss him deeply, her stomach gave a jolt, and she turned to look at Terry who was looking at her.

“Would you have a moment before dinner today?” He asked a bit cryptically.

“Erm, well… I promised Harry I would help him with a potions essay,” she said as she now saw Harry walking, hand in hand with Veronica, towards them.

“Harry, would you mind if I steal Hermione from you… for a few moments,” Terry said and Hermione did a double take between the two boys. She thought Terry’s choice of words peculiar.

“Erm, no actually, I was just going to ask Hermione if we could meet after dinner; I was going to take Veronica down to Hagrid’s,” Harry replied and he seemed to be bothered by Terry’s request.

“Oh, then that works perfect!” Veronica said sweetly and smiled with what Hermione would call a vicious sneer that Harry didn’t seem to notice.

Hermione smiled brightly at her, albeit too brightly Harry noticed. “Yes, it seems perfect. Let’s go Terry,” she said and Terry nodded a good-bye to the pair. “Shall we?” He asked Hermione and they headed back to the castle.

Harry tried to keep his attention on Veronica as they walked to Hagrid’s hut, but he couldn’t help the images of Terry wrapped around Hermione so tight while they flew about the pitch. It should be normal for him to be concerned about who hangs around Hermione, shouldn’t it? After all, her relationship with someone was bound to have an effect on their friendship. You’re just jealous… jealous? Me? Jealous of Hermione and dork boy? She’s just my friend, and besides… Ron fancies her and I… I’m just worried that she’ll go her own way and we won’t be like before...

Harry felt guilt then; he felt like the biggest hypocrite as he thought about his own relationship with Veronica. If anyone was affecting their friendship it was him. Since Veronica had come to Hogwarts, Harry spent most of his free time with her, and barely saw Ron and Hermione anymore, except for classes. Even during meals they barely had time to chat as Veronica was with him a lot of times. Harry also thought with a pang of guilt that the time he had been using to search about the veil was now occupied by time with Veronica. What if Sirius was alive, dying and Harry wasn’t doing all he could to save him? Another voice inside him asked if it wasn’t Voldemort’s trick…

“Harry?”

“Erm, what? Sorry…” Harry snapped from his musings and turned to Veronica.

“I said Hagrid’s over there by that horse-bird thing,” she said pointing to where Hagrid stood patting a Hippogriff. Harry recognized Buckbeack. They veered towards Hagrid’s location.

“’Ello Harry, better ye stay away fer now, and keep yer distance. B… erm, Whitherwing’s bit frisky today. ProudWings’ in heat, and a few other male Hippogriffs have showed up and he ain’t very sociable in this condition,” Hagrid said patting Buckbeack, while he turned his large yellow eyes to survey Harry.

Harry bowed to Buckbeack who didn’t hesitate to bow back, a pleased look in his eyes.

“Whitherwings really likes yeh Harry,” Hagrid said really pleased as Harry moved forward. Veronica made to follow, but Hagrid stopped her.

“Yeh need to bow firs’. Hippogriffs are very proud.”

Veronica bowed at Whiterwings, but he simply looked at her and refused to bow.

“Oh Dear, s’all right. Just back away slowly miss, and don’t look up,” Hagrid said cautiously, and Veronica did as told feeling a bit frightened.

Buckbeat turned his attention back to Harry, bowed to him, and Harry bowed back again and approached.

“We’ll be waitin fer yeh Harry,” Hagrid said moving Veronica closer to his hut.

“Hey, how are you? Hagrid says that you love being back. I bet you missed being free, huh?” Buckbeak made some crooning noises.

“Yeah, I miss him too. Well, I came to visit Hagrid. I am glad this arrangement is working just fine for you,” Harry said patting Buckbeak on the neck. Dumbledore had said that since Buckbeak had practically belonged to Sirius, it was now Harry’s. Harry hadn’t the faintest idea what he would do with a full grown Hippogriff, and seeing Hagrid at the funeral had given Harry the idea that he could take care of Buckbeak. Dumbledore had suggested they use a different name for the Hippogriff just to be on the safe side. Harry patted Buckbeak one last time and retreated back to where Veronica and Hagrid were waiting.

“I told yer friend that next time, once ProudWings is back to normal, that Buc… I mean, Whitherwings’ll be friendlier; he’s known Harry since his third year here,” Hagrid said turning to Veronica.

“It’s all right. He is rather daunting when seen closer, I would probably be too afraid and end up offending him,” Veronica said eyeing Buckbeack with trepidation.

“Yeh want some tea? I got some ready,” Hagrid invited them inside.

Harry introduced Hagrid to Veronica, and viceversa. Veronica let out a shriek as Fang sprung from the door when Hagrid opened it.

“Fang! Down Fang!... sorry ‘bout that….” Hagrid said dragging the large boarhound by its collar as it attempted to lick Harry’s face.

“He’s harmless,” Harry grinned at her, and Veronica looked ready to bolt.

“If you say so,” she said not looking convinced, but still followed Hagrid inside.

The pair arrived late to dinner, Veronica went and joined her classmates and Harry hurried to the table and found Ron sitting with the other sixth years. Neville held a crimson Remembrall in his hands.

“Potion’s essay?”
“Charms homework?”
“Did you water Mimby?”
“How about something to do with your grandmother?”
“Herbology project?”
“Anything to do with the Halloween ball?”

“That’s it!” Neville exclaimed excited and his Remembrall cleared to white smoke swirling peacefully inside. Neville whipped out his notebook with a pencil tied with a string and began to scribble.

“I need to owl my measurements to Madam Malkin’s; my dress robes are too short,” he said as he pocketed the notebook.

Harry sat down and noticed Ron was stabbing his chicken a bit roughly. He then noticed that Hermione was missing. He felt his stomach drop, and turned. Sure enough, Hermione was sitting across from Terry Granchester at the Ravenclaw table. Harry saw that he wasn’t the only one that had noticed. The whole of Ravenclaw, and the rest of the school, was murmuring casting glances at the pair.

Terry Granchester almost never set foot at the dinner table except on the very first day of classes in previous years; although now that he was Head Boy, he was more a regular at the table, but for very brief periods of time and mostly sat alone reading a book. Now he had made an appearance and with Hermione by his side. For some reason Harry felt relieved when he spotted Ginny’s fiery redhead next to Hermione’s and Luna Lovegood sitting next to Terry.

Luna said something, and Harry could imagine her dreamy voice from the way her face was staring into space. Terry seemed to find whatever she had said amusing, as he almost chocked on his pumpkin juice and laughed a care-free, almost bark like laugh. This startled Harry and caught him by surprise. Terry’s long dark brown hair, and finely chiseled, handsome features, made Harry think of his Godgather; especially the bark-laughing Sirius that Harry had seen when he was in his fifth year in Snape’s memory. It seemed that seeing Terry laugh like that was something that had caught many people off-guard as several of them were staring at him with disbelief.

Harry noticed that girls seemed to think that it made him even more handsome and that several of them wished to know what had made him laugh so. Hermione, Ginny and Luna looked incredulously at him, then they too began to laugh. Luna began to snort and chortle, making Ginny laugh harder. The noise in the Great Hall seemed to die down, making the sound of four people laughing so hard quite noticeable. As the laughter began to die down, Terry stood up and wiped the water from his eyes.

“I have to go. It was such a pleasure,” he said smiling at the grinning girls. Then to the astonishment of everyone, he picked up Luna’s hand and kissed it. He said in a quiet, steady voice, which strangely carried itself everywhere so everyone heard what he said.

“My dear Luna, if I had ever known your company would be so pleasant, I would have never missed a meal for the past five years. I will see you around.” He left the Ravenclaw table ignoring the murmur that grew as he walked past. Luna seemed thoroughly pleased, and Hermione was smiling at her. Ginny positively glowed with happiness for her friend.

Harry and Ron ate their dinner without a word; neither of them seemed to be in the mood for talking. Hermione and Ginny joined the Gryffindor table for dessert, and Ginny merrily recounted what Luna had said that had sent them into such a fit of laughter. Ginny could barely speak amidst her laughter, and the contagious laughter soon spread. The whole of Gryffindor was roaring, although no one had heard nor understood a single word Ginny had said. It was her exuberant laugh that had started it all. The rest of the houses watched in interest, curious and wishing they knew what was so darn funny, and also jealous of the camaraderie that seemed to make Gryffindor the most united house in the school.

Professor Dumbledore looked on the students with pride, and he held a goofy grin on his lips. Snape looked utterly bored, while the rest of the staff held smiles, and grins. It was hard to feel unhappy when the ringing sound of joy was so powerful.
Even Harry, who had been brooding about Hermione’s new friendship with the Head Boy had laughed hard at nothing. By the time the Gryffindors headed to their common room, they all felt their spirits uplifted.

When they reached the common room, Harry, Ron and Hermione automatically gravitated to their favorite spot by the fireplace near the stairway to the boy’s dormitory. Before anyone had a chance to speak, a black Raven flew in through the opened window and landed in front of Hermione. She quickly took the note that it held in its beak for her.

Miss Granger,

I have found a lead in locating a text that is to my belief to be of Sindarin origin. I have deciphered some clues as to its whereabouts, and I am mounting an expedition to retrieve it. If I am successful, I shall be back in my shop by the 31st of October. I will owl you immediately upon my return. I have estimated the price of the tome to be approximately 2200 Galleons. If you are unable to accommodate that price, I may be able to lend you the ancient tome, but you will have to sign an agreement to repay its market value as if sold on auction if you damage the item. As always, there is no obligation to buy, so please do not be alarmed by the price. It merely reflects the value of the item. I hope to see you on the 2nd of November.

Sincerely,

Zibiki Gathoka


“Bloody hell! 2200 G’s!?” Ron exclaimed stunned.

“Sssshhhh!” Hermione admonished him when the people in the common room turned to stare at Ron’s outburst.

“I’ll pay it,” Harry said quietly, feeling hopeful that once they had this text in their hands they could figure out a way to get to Sirius.

Ron ogled at Harry, his facial expression clearly disbelieving how Harry was willing to waste that much money. “What if it’s all a hoax?” Ron asked incredulous.

“You read what he said, there’s no obligation to buy, so we can always refuse to buy it. But if it’ll help me find a way to bring Sirius back, it’s all worth it,” Harry said resolute. He kept thinking about the dreams he had about Sirius. The one where Harry saw him in that bleak black and white environment of a post-apocalytic deserted Hogwarts was the most frequent. But it was always the same… Sirius barely had said two words when Harry would wake up. So far there hadn’t again been anymore incidents involving the other Gryffindor fifth years like the other times except for the one time when Hermione had fallen down the steps and she had heard Sirius’s voice.

“We don’t really know if anything that bloke has sold us is real. I mean, yeah those texts about monolith portals and planes of magic sound cool, but kind of dubious to me, and what if he’s taking advantage of us and wants to take us in!” Ron said voicing for the first time his suspicions.

“Well, I can tell you that the text he gave us on Planes of Magic isn’t a hoax. The other day I found information about Planes of Magic in a book here at the library, and Harry’s book can pull up tons of other references. Most of the stuff I’ve read out there seems like rubbish, a lot of it being wild speculation, compared to the information on the scrolls from Zibiki… in fact, a lot of the artifacts shown on the scrolls are real objects of magic that do exactly as the scrolls say, but the scrolls describe the items in more detail and how they were actually valuable in used for transportation throughout the Planes,” Hermione jumped quickly to defend the store owner.

Ron seemed at a loss for words for a second. “What about that stupid diary about Animagus Transformation?” He said and didn’t expect Hermione’s look of glee.

“We’ll find out about that soon enough,” she retorted and wouldn’t divulge any more information on that, although she assured them she hadn’t read it and no, she wasn’t going to surprise them by becoming an Animagus. She seemed a bit hurt that they had believed her capable of going through that without them by her side. They quickly apologized.

“Anyway, I need to figure out a way to get about 3000 Galleons from my account, just in case…” Harry said bringing the topic back to the book.

“Well, I know you can have an owl transfer made to the school and withdraw your money here… but you have to go through the Headmaster,” Hermione replied. Harry wasn’t sure if he wanted to share with Dumbledore why he needed so much money.

“Is there no other way?”

“We could ask Bill if he’ll get it out for you. He can meet us in Hogsmeade on Saturday,” Ron offered.

“Won’t he ask too many questions? What if he tells your parents, or the Order?”

“Mmm, I don’t know about that,” Ron sat and thought for a minute.

“I can do it!” Hermione said.

“How?”

“I’ll be going to the Ministry early tomorrow for Apparating lessons, and for the next two Saturdays we’ll be Apparating to Diagon Alley, I’ll be able to know by tomorrow if I can make it to Diagon Alley or not, and next weekend I’ll just Apparate in front of Gringotts, get the money, and then Apparate back to the Ministry... it’s not uncommon to land several yards away from your destination, nobody will suspect anything.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?” Ron asked with worry.

“No, I’ve managed to successfully Apparate twice to from the Ministry last weekend,” Hermione said with a grin, and Ron and Harry looked at her with awe.

“Won’t you get into trouble? It’ll take time to get to the vault, get the money, and back to the Ministry,” Harry said with concern.

“Not if you send a note to Gringotts ahead of time that I will be picking up the money; they can have it at the desk ready for me to pick it up. Then next visit to Hogsmeade, we can get the book if he’s got it…” she said and Harry looked troubled. “What’s wrong?”

“Once you get the money, you’ll have to get the book from Zibiki. I have made plans for me and Vero,” Harry said shifting uncomfortably in his chair remembering that he’d forgotten to tell both Ron and Hermione about it.

“Oh, that’ll be no problem,” Hermione said rather quickly.

“I’ll go with you, I really don’t want you to go alone after last time, and we’ll probably have to have a Professor with us.” Ron added.

“Ask Professor Lupin to go with you, and Ron can keep him occupied while you get the book.”

“All right, sounds like a plan then,” Hermione agreed.

While they worked on their homework, Harry casually asked Hermione what Terry wanted with her after flying class.

“Oh… can you keep it a secret?” She asked and Harry and Ron huddled closer.

“Terry said his father knows the parents of the lead singer of Hesperides,” Hermione whispered and Ron gasped.

“Really!?” Ron whispered back excitedly. “I thought you’d be bringing back the Weird Sisters!” Ron obviously thought that Hesperides was better than the Weird Sisters.

Hermione grinned, “they’re already signed up,” she whispered back.

“The Weird Sisters and…!”

“Ron! Shut up!” Hermione said when people around them looked towards them. At once, the common room was a flurry of gossip. Hermione glared at Ron, “so much for keeping a secret!” She said through clenched teeth.

“Well, the whole school has been speculating about The Weird Sisters, so that ain’t news,” Ron said turning deep red in the face.

“But that’s not really why he wanted me this evening. He’s going to handle those two bands, but he wanted me to make an attempt and contact this other third band. He said he knew two of their members are former Hogwarts students, and if they aren’t booked for that night, they may just do it and for a reasonable price too,” Hermione said catching Ron and Harry’s interest.

“Who?” Ron couldn’t help but ask.

“I’ll whisper it to you, but if you exclaim…” Hermione had caught something by the floor.

“What?” Harry asked puzzled, and then he saw them too.

At once, Hermione scooped up two strings of what appeared to be stretched out used bubble gum, held them to her mouth, “BOOO!”

“OI!”

“AAAARGh!”

Fred and George who were just a few seats away from them, jumped into the air, fleshy strings of Extendable ears hanging from one of their ears. They rubbed the sides of their heads as they glared at Hermione, who simply waved at them and smiled. Harry frowned and wondered how long the twins had been spying on them. Were they doing it for Order business?

Fred and George rolled their Extendable Ears and walked over to them.

“You could have been nicer you know…” Fred said sticking a finger in his ear and shaking it as if it would help rid him of the ringing inside.

“So, who is it?” George asked greedily.

“As if I am going to say anything now,” Hermione said returning to her homework. Ron glared at Fred and George for ruining it for them. “Besides, it would be quite possible that they are already busy for that night, this would be on such short notice, since they are so big and all, and probably won’t make it anyway…” she said shrugging, and the four boys begged her to tell. Hermione simply refused.

“Now, you’ll just have to wait like the rest,” she said and closed her book; she was finished with her essay. “I’ll see you tomorrow. I am off to bed, good night,” Hermione said and smirked at them then headed to her room. Her smirk widened at a few cheeky words that she heard Fred mutter.

“I should take five points for the cheek of you!” She called back and ducked into the doorway when a cushion came towards her.

“So, how long do you plan to keep spying on me?” Harry said looking quite serious at the twins.

“Spying on you?”

“Yes, unless you expect me to believe that you were just wondering who’s going to play at the Halloween Ball?”

Fred and George looked at each other. “We were just wondering what you guys are up to,” Fred said as he shrugged.

“We’ve seen that you and your dorm mates are up to something,” George added.

“Why didn’t you just ask?” Harry said and narrowed his eyes at them.

“It really didn’t occur to us, but now that you mention it, what are you up to?” Fred said and leaned forward expectantly.

“If you haven’t found out by now, I’m not about to tell you…” Harry replied and stood up.

“Now wait a minute, we can do things the nice way, or the Weasley way…”

“You might as well tell them Harry, trust me, you don’t want to see the Weasley way,” Ron said glaring at his brothers.

“You have to swear not to tell anyone,” Harry said and the twins nodded solemnly.
“I don’t believe Sirius is dead and we’re going to find a way to get to him,” Harry said and held his breath. He expected the twins to react to his words.

Fred and George seemed to sober up, and their faces turned serious. “If you need any help, just tell us,” George said and nodded to Harry. Harry blinked back incredulous.

“Dumbledore said that he would look into the dream we had, but I haven’t heard anything from him. I dunno if you can, but maybe talk to the Order members, and just see if you can get anything about the veil or anything… just be discreet,” Harry finally said after thinking for a while.

“Leave it to us—

—We’re on it—

—discreet is out motto— they both say in unison.

Harry and Ron exchanged a glance with worry.


***

On Tuesday before dinner, Harry’s mind was busy with putting the last finishing touches on his plans for Hogsmeade. He’d also been thinking about what Hermione was going to do this coming weekend. She had successfully Apparated to Diagon Alley by the end of her lessons last Saturday, and Harry had contacted Gringotts about having 3000 Galleons ready for Hermione to pick up quickly. Harry hoped he wasn’t getting her into trouble, but Hermione was more than sure she could pull it off. Harry tied the purchase order to Hedwig’s leg, and she nipped his fingers affectionately before taking off.

He watched her struggle against the bitter wind, and felt bad for sending her off in this weather, but the note said that he needed to make his payment before the end of today and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect for the Hogsmeade weekend. A noise by the door alerted Harry that someone had come in, before he could turn around, a pair of hands covered his eyes.

“Guess who?” A soft voice whispered in his ears. Harry took the hands off his eyes, and spun around to face Veronica.

“You were supposed to guess,” she pouted.

“But I did,” he replied as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Oh really?” Veronica countered raising an eyebrow and wrapping her arms around his neck.

“mmh hmm,” Harry said nodding his head. “How did you know I was here?” Harry asked her, looking into her brown eyes.

“I saw Ron heading to dinner and told me you were sending a letter with Hedwig, so I thought I’d come up and see you. I have to make sure you aren’t sending secret love letters to your other girls…” she said teasingly as she brushed her lips against his, but didn’t really kiss him, and smirked… “…you know…”

“Well, you’re too late then… I’ve already dispatched about a dozen owls…” Harry teased back as he moved forward to capture her lips in his.

“Oh yeah? Is that so, Mr Potter?!” She pretended to be mad as she pulled her head back keeping him from kissing her.

“Yes, Miss Motiño… quit stalling and give me kiss…”

Veronica laughed and this time didn’t pull back as Harry cradled her head with one hand and pulled her face to his and kissed her. With his hand, Harry took out the pencil that Veronica used to secure her dark mane in a bun. A habit she had picked up at muggle school and really liked. Her long waves of her hair released from the coil of her bun, and Harry inhaled the sweet scent of honey and jasmine that he liked.

Veronica smiled through the kiss, and pressed herself against Harry, her tongue prodding his lips. Harry responded, and wrapped his arms tighter around her.

They were interrupted by a fit of giggles. They broke the kiss and turned to look at two first year Hufflepuff girls snorting behind their hands, and giggling nervously. Their faces were tinged a bit crimson.

Harry’s face turned red a little, and Veronica merely grinned at the girls.
“Come on, let’s head to dinner…” Veronica said and grabbed Harry’s hand and led him from the tower. Harry could hear the girls giggle as they passed.

The pair made their way down to the Great Hall, and they turned at the end of Ravenclaw table. “You have detention again?” Veronica asked hopeful that maybe it was perhaps cancelled.

“Yeah,” Harry answered absentmindedly as he spotted Hermione sitting right next to the Head Boy, and this time Luna and Ginny weren’t there. They were both poring over a piece a parchment, their heads quite close together.

Harry noticed that Veronica was pulling him towards the open area which happened to be near where Cho Chang and her friend Marieta were sitting.

“Hey Marieta, hi Cho,” Veronica greeted as she sat down, and Harry sat beside her.

“Oh, hi Veronica, hi Harry,” Cho replied, while Marieta only nodded and looked down hiding her face. Harry simply nodded at Cho, still very awkward when seeing her. Most of the time they pretended they didn’t see each other.

Hermione finished scribbling something on the parchment that she and Terry were looking over, rolled it up, and she stood up. Terry stood up as well.

“Thanks Hermione, very well done…”

Harry noticed that a lot of people were trying to overhear what the Head Boy was saying to Hermione.

“… this will be the best Masquerade Hogwarts has ever seen…” he smirked noticing the eager looks from students around him. News of a possible multiple-bang gig for the ball had spread all over school. “If you excuse me, I’ll see you later.”

Hermione nodded at him and he turned, walked down the length of Ravenclaw table, then left the Great Hall. Hermione was looking over the Gryffindor table for a sign of Harry, and frowned when she didn’t spot him there. She turned to pick up her book bag and spotted Harry with Veronica a few seats from where she was. She smiled at him and walked over to him.

“Harry, Professor Donovan was looking for you just a little while ago. He said that detention wasn’t until 7:30 tonight because he had something to attend to first…”

“Great!” Veronica exclaimed.

“Actually, I was hoping if I could borrow Harry for that time. I need his help, and I’ve got Prefects duty tonight so I probably won’t see him again tonight,” Hermione interjected.

“Yeah, sure…” Veronica said with a shrug, and Harry beamed at her and was glad to see that she didn’t appear upset. He remembered the way Cho had reacted, jealous of his time with Hermione… but so far Veronica was always nice and kept telling Harry that she trusted him.

“Thanks Vero… I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Harry said and he leaned over and kissed her. He stood up and grabbed a piece of chicken in a napkin, and a goblet of pumpkin juice and followed Hermione out of the Great Hall. Neither noticed the dark look that crept over Veronica’s face.

They climbed the marble staircases and headed up to the fourth floor to the library. They stopped just before they got to the entrance and Hermione waited for Harry to finish his piece of chicken, and juice.

“So, what do you need help with?” Harry asked and took a last bite of food and drained the last of the juice. A soft pop revealed a house elf that collected the empty things from Harry and dissaparated just as quickly.

Hermione shifted uncomfortably… “Well, I wanted to ask, will it be all right if I replicate an invisibility cloak from yours again?”

Harry was caught off guard by the request. Why would Hermione need an invisibility cloak? He didn’t stop himself before he asked, “what for?” His tone was one of mere curiosity. Hermione blushed.

“I’ve got prefect’s duty tonight…” she began, and Harry noticed that she blushed somewhat. He didn’t comprehend why she’d need an invisibility cloak for that.

“…with Terry…” Hermione continued, and suddenly Harry felt like someone had shoved a burning lump of coal down his throat that ignited him as it traveled down. “… and he invited to take me somewhere after we were done with Prefects duties, but it may be after curfew and I don’t want to get caught…” Hermione was hastily explaining as if she wanted to get it over with.

The burning lump of coal had landed in Harry’s stomach like the weight of a ton of bricks, shattering into millions of pieces and now rapidly traveling through every vein in his body. Harry had not expected this sort of reaction to the news that Hermione was dating the Head Boy. He had an image of smashing his fist into his handsome face, but this didn’t help with the feeling he was experiencing.

“You? Out after curfew?” Harry exclaimed no realizing how accusing his tone of voice sounded.

Hermione was taken aback. “I’ve been out after curfew a million times with you! I’m not immune to it…” Hermione shot back.

Harry bit back the comment to say that when they were out it was important. He conveniently forgot about the late night excursions he made with Veronica on occassions.

“My invisibility cloak is in my trunk,” Harry said trying to calm the feeling of jealousy that was trying to consume him. What the hell was wrong with him? Hermione was his best friend, that’s all… and he was with Veronica.

Hermione smiled. “Thanks.”

“So you are going out with Terry then?” Harry compulsively asked.

“I don’t know…” Hermione said uncomfortably. Touching the subject of love interests wasn’t something she’d ever done with Harry. “I mean, he’s my date for the dance, and he just said he had something to show me that I would probably find interesting… but he hasn’t asked me… yet.” Hermione blushed wondering what compelled her to tell this to Harry.

“Do you want him to?” Harry hastily added, “I mean… you barely know him…”

Hermione gave Harry one of her looks… “And how long did you know Veronica before you snogged her senseless?” She asked crossing her arms.

“That’s different!”

“How so!?”

Harry was at a loss for words.

“I thought so…” Hermione said annoyed. “Look, what I do and don’t do with boys is none of your business…” she replied crossly, then took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “I really appreciate your concern… I know that you are just trying to look out for me,” she said gave him a small smile. “After all, you are my best friend, and friends care about each other so they don’t get hurt, right? But I can manage myself. I’ve spent a lot more time around Terry this year than you have because he’s the Head Boy. So is not really out of the blue…” she said and her cheeks crimsoned a little.

“I s’pose…” Harry said feeling as if he’d been deflated. The bits of coals swimming in his blood were quenching. “But if he hurts you, I’ll make sure to hex his ass from here to London!” Harry said and looked at his watch. “I better get going; I don’t want to be late…”

“Thanks Harry. Maybe I’ll see you tonight.” Hermione said and watched him go.

“Yeah, and don’t get into trouble…” he called as he sped down the hall fighting with the conflicting and confusing emotions that had been plaguing him for the last several days. She’s just my best friend, that’s all… But Harry knew that he had seen Hermione in a different light tonight, but there was nothing he could do about it. Besides, Ron has fancied Hermione practically since the first day he saw her. He couldn’t do anything about it. He wouldn’t.

Hermione watched him go. Why couldn’t things be easy? She sighed and pushed the door to enter the library.

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