Chapter 2 ~ (Attempted) Murder on the Hogwarts Express
Rick Apparated invisibly to Diagon Alley, as instructed by Professor Dumbledore. He ducked into a narrow alleyway, and after checking that it was empty, focused his mind on making himself visible. He enjoyed his afternoon - it was, to say the least, magical.
He decided to keep a low profile. The intention to pass unnoticed seemed to have created a Disillusionment Charm, because no one paid him any attention after that, unless he addressed them directly. Rick thought of it as his Wizard Repelling charm, because it seemed to work much the same way as a Muggle Repelling charm, except on witches and wizards instead of Muggles.
He went to Madam Malkin’s for his clothes. They even had silk boxers with flying magical creatures zooming around, but luckily you couldn’t feel them when you had them on, that might have been a bit ticklish.
He found that the Cauldron Shop opposite the apothecary sold trunks and boxes of all sizes and shapes, not just cases for cauldrons. He bought a large trunk to store all his new acquisitions. He threw in the bags from Madam Malkin’s along with the cauldron he had just purchased.
The witch at the Cauldron Shop was very obliging. Noticing his long list of purchases, she invited him to leave his trunk with her, while he got the rest of his things. “Thanks,” said Rick politely, wondering why she was blushing and being so friendly.
Next, he went to Flourish and Blotts for his books, which he carried back and placed in his trunk. Then it was on to Slug & Jiggers Apothecary for his Potions supplies and the Stationary Shop for ink, quills, and parchment.
When he had everything on the list, he decided to drop his trunk off at the Leaky Cauldron. Thanking the obliging witch at the Cauldron Shop, Rick dragged his heavy trunk out into Diagon Alley. He knew that as an underage wizard, he wasn’t allowed to do magic so he couldn’t levitate it. Luckily the Leaky Cauldron was very close by.
Tom the innkeeper had a room reserved for him – just as Dumbledore had promised - and showed him up. Risk decided to change into some of his new Wizarding clothes.
Although he had not been the only one dressed in Muggle clothes in Diagon Alley, he had felt conspicuous and had kept his eyes down despite the disillusionment charm he had cast upon himself. Now all dressed up as a wizard, he removed the disillusionment charm and smiled at himself in the mirror. It suddenly started speaking to him in a husky female voice:
“Oh my, oh my ... what a handsome wizard. Gilderoy Lockhart, eat your heart out, no more Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile awards for you, Gildy dear. If you smile like that, my young ‘Prince Charming’, you are going to have every witch in Diagon Alley falling at your feet.”
Rick stepped back in surprise. It was rather nice being coo-ed over, even if it was only a talking mirror, although he wasn’t sure that he liked being compared to Gilderoy Lockhart. The thought of witches being attracted to him was quite appealing to a teenage boy, well maybe not all witches, but certainly one particular witch ... Rick sighed.
He began to wonder if Casanova had been a wizard and was maybe amongst the ones who had bestowed their gifts upon him. There must be some explanation for this, he thought. Then he remembered reading about Helga Hufflepuff in ‘Hogwarts, a History’ and how she was so charming that everyone loved her. Maybe if I try not to smile, he thought, assuming a more serious expression and looking in the mirror again. “Do you still find me so charming?” he asked.
“Well, you are still a most handsome wizard, but if you hold back the charm like that, you might have a quieter life.”
Rick spent the next ten minutes, standing in front of the bemused mirror, using its reactions to learn how to control his gift of charm. As much as it might be fun to have witches falling at his feet, it would hinder his mission. He was just going to have to be careful to resist the temptation. There might be times when he could use his charm ‘in the line of duty’, but other than that, he was going to have to keep it under tight control.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Rick stepped back into Diagon Alley and made his way to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour and sat down in a quiet corner. He was dying to try one of Florean’s fabled sundaes. He ordered a chocolate and raspberry with chopped nut sundae, which definitely lived up to expectations. After that he decided to head back to Flourish and Blotts for a little ‘speed reading’, as the Headmaster had suggested.
It didn’t take him long to work his way through all the Hogwarts curriculum books starting at first year on the bottom shelf, he quickly made his way up to year seven on the top shelf. He found that all he had to do, was concentrate and run a finger along the spine of each book on the shelf. After that he decided to do the Defence Against the Dark Arts section, which was quite large. Could be useful, he thought to himself and it was definitely more interesting than ‘The Standard Book of Spells’ (Grades 1 to 7) by Miranda Goshawk.
It was so interesting, in fact, that he forgot to look around to check that no one was watching his peculiar behaviour – someone was watching – and becoming more curious by the minute. But it wasn’t until Rick had almost tripped over the unseen witch that she yelled out, “Excuse me! Would you please pay attention to where you are going, you almost stepped on me!”
Rick quickly pulled back his hand from the books, turned, and on seeing the witch who had startled him, blurted out in surprise, “Hermione!” before catching himself, and blushing fiercely.
“Who are you?” demanded the witch, with hands on hips. “And how do you know my name? I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“Umm, know your name?” said Rick, recovering his poise quickly. “Why do you say that? I have no idea who you are.”
“Because,” said the witch, “you just said it – Hermione – now stop playing games and tell me how you knew my name.”
“Hermione? No, I didn’t know that was your name ... no, I just said, err ... ‘Oh my, oh me’.”
“And why would you utter such silly gibberish?” asked Hermione, raising her eyebrows in an attitude of deep scepticism.
“Umm ... err ... because you are a most ... beautiful witch,” replied Rick smiling sweetly, attempting to charm his way out of the mess he’d gotten himself into. Rick was pleased with the result. Hermione’s expression was no longer aggressive and confrontational. She looked a little embarrassed, but was clearly flattered by Rick’s comment – or more likely – his magical charm.
“Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Rick Godfry. I’ll be starting as a sixth year student at Hogwarts tomorrow,” he said, trying with great difficulty to tone down the charm.
“Pleased to meet you, I’m sure. I’m Hermione Granger, and I am a sixth year Gryffindor prefect.” Rick was having real trouble holding back the charm now. He knew that it wasn’t right to use his gifts like this. He should only use them to fight for the Light. But standing before him was the witch he had dreamt about so often, he could not stop staring at her and she too seemed unable to break their eye contact.
Luckily – or perhaps unluckily – a large redhead came upon them like that, their eyes locked upon each other. “Who the hell are you?” he said, pushing himself between them and towering over Rick in a threatening stance.
“Ron,” said Hermione awkwardly. She seemed to have recovered from her encounter with Rick, now that the contact was broken. She carried on more assertively, “You and Harry were supposed to meet me here forty-five minutes ago. Have you two been in Quality Quidditch Supplies for the last hour and a half?”
Ron turned around to face Hermione trying to look innocent. “Are you sure it’s been that long? Well I never heard you complain about having to wait in a book shop before,” he smiled winningly.
“Humph,” said Hermione, as they walked away from Rick, forgetting about him completely. “Where’s Harry? We better find him and get back to the Burrow, your mother will have dinner ready and be wondering where we are by now.”
The Wizard Repelling charm that Rick had cast upon them had worked a treat, they walked away without so much as a backward glance at him.
He thought back to what had happened when he had first seen Hermione and how his attraction to her had resulted in the unintentional charm which he had found so hard to break. That must be what Godric Gryffindor had meant when he said to Professor Dumbledore that the temptation to abuse such great power will be strong. He was really going to need constant vigilance, as Moody would say, to stop himself from doing things like that.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The following morning, Rick Apparated to platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross station. He got there early, so he was immediately able to become visible. He knew that it was important to make the right impression on his fellow students and teachers if his mission was going to be a success. He has already decided that he needed to be in Gryffindor, so that he could stay close to Harry. And Hermione – no, that would just be an incidental bonus, he tried to convince himself. Now all I have to do is persuade the Hogwart’s Sorting Hat!
From his booklist it looked like Professor Dumbledore had given him the same subjects as Harry. The real difficulty was going to be to win Harry’s trust, without revealing who he was and why he had come. And then there were his feelings for Hermione, which were just going to make it much more complicated.
Rick boarded the Hogwarts Express, which was almost empty as it was not due to leave for another forty minutes. He found an empty compartment and put his trunk up into the overhead rack. Then he sat by the window staring out at the platform as it slowly filled up with students and their families. It was fun trying to put names to all the faces. The Weasleys were impossible to miss. Harry and Hermione were with them. Apart from Ron and Ginny, Fred and George, who had departed Hogwarts in style the year before, were also there for the occasion.
But Fred and George were looking around alertly, and not joking about, as he would have expected. Maybe they have joined the Order of the Phoenix, thought Rick. Looking around he noticed a woman who just had to be Nymphadora Tonks; the purple hair was a dead giveaway. The Order was clearly out in force, which meant that they were worried about a Death Eater attack; perhaps an attempt to kill Harry, before he reached the safety of Hogwarts.
Rick’s thoughts were interrupted when the door to his compartment opened. Two Slytherin witches entered. “Well hello, I’m Pansy Parkinson,” said the blonde witch batting her eyelids coquettishly at Rick, “and who may I ask, are you?”
“Rick Godfry, I’m new at Hogwarts, I’ll be in sixth year.”
“Mmmm,” purred Pansy. “Charmed to meet you I’m sure, I do hope that the Sorting Hat puts you in Slytherin, we could do with some handsome wizards. Not that Draco isn’t handsome of course, but then there are those great lumps Crabbe and Goyle.”
“Well you won’t have to worry about that pair this year, I hear that they failed their OWLS so abysmally that they won’t even be back,” said the big-boned, dark haired witch, pushing her trunk up onto the rack and sitting down. “I’m Millicent Bulstrode,” she said to Rick with a coy smile, that didn’t become her. “But I’ve have heard nothing about any new wizards in sixth year. My aunt is on the Hogwarts board you know, and she tells me everything.”
“Well, it was all arranged at the last moment,” said Rick noticing that the train had started moving, “so I guess the news hasn’t got around yet.”
“Where are you from?” asked Pansy. “Are your people Purebloods – you won’t get into Slytherin if they’re not, you know.”
Rick was saved from having to answer her. The door opened, to reveal Draco Malfoy, with Blaise Zabini standing behind him. “Who are you, and what are you doing in our compartment?” Draco demanded arrogantly of Rick, swinging an immaculately polished mahogany trunk onto the rack and plopping himself down on a seat as if he owned the compartment, if not the whole train. Blaise took the seat beside him.
“Pleased to meet you too,” said Rick trying to maintain a friendly tone, wondering if his charm worked on wizards as well. “But I was actually the first one in this compartment and I didn’t notice any ‘Reserved’ signs.”
“Oh Draco dear,” gushed Pansy. “It’s so nice to see you again, but please don’t start a fight with Rick – he seems like such a dear. Anyway, we have to go up to the front in a few minutes, for the prefects meeting.”
“I know,” drawled Draco. “But before we go I have something to tell you three – just you three he said, looking pointedly at Rick. As their eyes met, Rick probed Draco’s mind for what he was going to say.
“In about ten minutes the train will be stopped by servants of the Dark Lord. We have to get Potter off the train so they can kill him. Apparently, Dumbledore has placed some protection on the train which may stop the Dark Lord’s servants from getting on to do the job. Stupid ‘Hero Potter’ will probably be the first one off anyway. But if he’s not, we’re to throw off some little firsties for them to attack, which will be sure to draw Potter out.”
Draco hadn’t noticed Rick’s probe. Rick just shrugged and was about to get up to leave when the door slid open once more, this time to reveal Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Their glance rested on Rick for a moment before turning to Draco and Pansy.
“We are all waiting for you two to grace us with your presence at the prefects’ meeting.” said Hermione in an annoyed tone. “Although I don’t think those who were part of Umbridge’s little Inquisitorial Squad deserve to keep their prefect’s badges.”
“Well no one cares what you think Granger. Things are going to be different this year. My father is on the best of terms with the Minister of Magic – did you know that? He has a great deal of influence. The days of Mudblood filth at Hogwarts will soon be over, you mark my words. Now why don’t you and your pet weasel, just run along.”
Ron tried to push past Hermione with the obvious intention of pouncing on Draco, but Hermione grabbed his arm, trying to drag him out, but without success. “Here, let me help,” said Rick, jumping up and pushing Ron back till they were all out of the carriage.
“Get off of me you Slytherin git,” Ron bellowed at Rick, his face red with fury. “After I’ve finished off that slimy little ferret, you’ll be next.” But before he could force his way back in to the compartment, the door was shut and locked behind them.
Hermione turned on Ron. “Ronald Weasley, how can you be so stupid? Can’t you see that Malfoy is just trying to provoke you? If his father has so much influence, what do you think will happen if you beat up his precious little Draco? You’ll lose you prefect’s badge for starters and probably get expelled as well. You are just going to have to learn to control your temper and ignore his taunts. Now let’s get to that prefects meeting. If those Slytherins don’t want to come, that’s fine, we’ll start without them.” Ron glared one last time at Rick before following Hermione towards the front of the train.
Right, thought Rick, I better find Harry fast. He shut his eyes for a moment and tried to conjure up an image of the train. Amazing, he thought to himself, it was just like a ‘Marauders Map’ of the train, right in his head. He noticed Kingsley Shacklebolt, from the Order in the guards van and Harry Potter alone in a compartment two carriages back. He quickly made his way to Harry’s compartment, which he’d been sharing with Ron and Hermione. He took a deep breath and slid the door open.
Harry looked up with a guarded expression on his face as Rick entered. He knew all too well that his life was in danger and his suspicion was immediately raised by this unknown wizard entering his compartment. He whipped out his wand and pointed it at Rick’s chest. “OK, just stop right there,” he demanded, “and tell me who you are and what you’re doing in this compartment.”
Rick tried to smile reassuringly at Harry. He raised his hands in the air like in a cowboy movie. “OK, sheriff, please don’t shoot, I’ll go peaceably,” he joked, pleased to see the hint of a smile on Harry’s face. “Would you mind if I sat down for the interrogation?”
“OK,” said Harry, “but don’t make any sudden moves or go for your wand – I’m not joking.”
Rick smiled and sat down carefully. “My name is Rick Godfry and I’m new to Hogwarts this year, I’ll be in sixth year. So who are you – apart from the ‘fasted wand in the west’?”
Harry did a double take. He couldn’t remember anyone in the wizarding world ever asking him that question. Everyone seemed to know who he was, if not his whole life history.
“Harry Potter,” he said. The wizard showed not the slightest reaction or recognition of his name, maybe he’d just arrived from Mars though Harry, unless of course it was all some kind of act.
“Where are you from?” asked Harry.
“New Zealand. There aren’t any schools for young witches and wizards over there, which is why I’m going to Hogwarts.”
“I guess there can’t be a lot of witches and wizards in New Zealand if there are no schools,” observed Harry.
“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t really know, I only found out that I was a wizard, a couple of years ago.”
“Are your parents Muggles?”
“Well actually, I don’t know. I’m an orphan, and I don’t know anything at all about my real parents. They might have been magical, but I just don’t know. The people who raised me were Muggles, but they had a friend who was a wizard, although they didn’t know that until he discovered that I was magical too, and told us all about how witches and wizards are real and not just make believe. He’s a very powerful wizard. He works with the magical creatures that live up in the mountains. He taught me all the magic I know.”
Suddenly, the train began rapidly slowing. Harry looked nervously out the window, trying to see what was out there. When he turned back, Rick had gone. Harry saw the compartment door sliding shut behind him.
But Rick did more than just shut the door – he focussed his mind on locking it, and making it an impenetrable barrier, until he lifted the lock. He then made himself invisible and cast a Sonorus charm on himself and began making an announcement in the voice of Professor Dumbledore.
“This is Professor Dumbledore. This train is under attack from Death Eaters. I have placed a protection spell upon the train, which will prevent them from boarding it or casting spells through the sides. Everyone – without exception – is to stay in their compartment and lock the door. Under no circumstances should anyone leave the train.”
“Would a guard please Apparate immediately for reinforcements. Everyone is to stay calm.”
Rick made himself invisible and then Apparated to the corridor outside his original compartment. Pansy and Millicent were sitting there alone. Shutting his eyes and conjuring up a map of the train once more, Rick spotted Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini near the front of the train with someone named Matilda Martyn.
He Apparated to them immediately, and found the two Slytherins dragging a terrified little first-year girl, with brown plaits, along the corridor towards the carriage door.
Rick pointed his wand towards them. Focusing his mind on Draco and Blaise, he said “Stupefy.” The pair fell unconscious, to the floor, allowing their small captive to escape. The little girl ran back to her compartment, only to find the door locked from the inside. Rick flicked his wand at the door saying “Alohomora.” The little girl ran inside, shutting and locking the door behind her.
Rick did a quick scan of the train. No one else was out in the corridors. Right, time to deal with the Death Eaters, he thought, steeling himself for his first battle.
Still invisible, he Apparated outside. It was bright and sunny and he had no trouble spotting the Death Eaters. There were about twenty of them, all bunched together, flinging curses in the same direction.
Harry’s compartment, thought Rick, I hope Dumbledore’s protection is strong enough to block twenty combined Avada Kedavra Curses.
Rick waved his wand at the Death Eaters and boomed “Expelliarmus.” He was using a hoarse ghostly accent for his spells. He didn’t want anyone to recognise his voice.
The astonished Death Eaters flew through the air and landed in an unconscious heap. Their wands flew up into the air and then descended in a graceful arc towards Rick. Oops, he though, Don’t want to give myself away. Just before they reached him he waved his wand at them saying “Incendio” and they burst into flames. Rick then flicked his wand back over the pile of Death Eaters saying “Incarcerous” . Each Death Eater was now bound from head to toe in thick ropes. Without their wands, they would be unable to Apparate away, even if they regained consciousness before reinforcements arrived from the Order to deal with them.
Rick Apparated back to the corridor outside Harry’s compartment, to find Ron and Hermione flinging every curse and charm they knew at the door, in a frantic attempt to get it open. While they were absorbed, Rick made himself visible and simply walked up to the door, and, after focusing his mind on removing the Locking Charm he had placed upon it, turned the handle, and slid the door open. While Ron and Hermione were recovering from their surprise he entered the compartment, greatly relieved to find Harry very much alive.
“Where did you disappear to?” demanded Harry suspiciously. But before Rick could reply, Ron grabbed hold of Rick and shoved him down on a seat and pointed his wand at his chest.
“Just what did you do to that door you Slytherin creep?”
Rick feigned innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I just turned the handle, and it opened. Maybe one of you two unlocked it with your spells.”
“Wait a minute,” said Harry. “Did you say he unlocked the door? Because he was in here with me when the Death Eaters attacked and the next moment he was gone and the door was locked. I tried Alohomora, Evanesco, Incendio and even a couple of Blasting Curses, but nothing would move it. What kind of spell did you use to lock me in here?” he demanded of Rick.
“Look, I don’t know what you are talking about, I didn’t lock or unlock anything,” lied Rick. But secretly he was very glad he did. Draco Malfoy was right. Harry would have been the first one off the train. He would have walked right into the Death Eaters’ trap.
Ron turned on him again, as the train moved forward once more. “So what were you doing out and about while the Death Eaters were attacking then? Helping them perhaps? I heard a little first year girl was dragged out of her compartment by a couple of Slytherins, who said they were going to throw her to the Death Eaters. Luckily she got away from them. Maybe that was you and your mate Malfoy?”
Rick didn’t know what to say, he couldn’t tell them the truth, but if he said nothing he would remain suspect. “Look, I’m new here. I’ve never met a single person who is on this train before today. I wasn’t helping any Death Eaters or Draco Malfoy. He’s no friend of mine. It just happened, that him and his friends decided to sit in the same compartment as me.”
“Rubbish,” said Ron. “I know a slimy Slytherin git when I see one.” Rick was starting to get annoyed. He stood up. Ron towered over him aggressively.
But Rick calmly stood his ground and said, “Why don’t we let the Sorting Hat decide if I’m a Slytherin or not.” With that he left the compartment sliding the door shut behind him.
Ron quickly checked that they hadn’t been locked in again, before sitting down and looking at Harry. “So what did that git have to say for himself, when he was in here before?” Harry repeated what Rick had told him.
“Well I don’t believe a word of it,” said Ron. “If you ask me he’s working for ‘You-Know-Who’, probably together with Malfoy. We better keep an eye on him.”
“Yeah, I don’t trust him either,” said Harry. “But then I guess I don’t trust anyone very much any more,” he added despondently.
“There were about twenty Death Eaters just outside this window, all pointing their wands at me, screaming Death Curses. Whatever protection Dumbledore put on this train completely blocked them.”
“Then suddenly the Death Eaters just flew up in the air as if they’d all been hit by a collective Expelliarmus Spell. It was weird, their wands all flew up in the air, and were converging on the same spot, when they just burst into flames. When I looked back to the Death Eaters they were all tied up. I wonder who was out there.”
“Maybe it was a whole bunch of operatives from the Order under invisibility cloaks,” suggested Ron. “Dumbledore instructed the guard to go for reinforcements, remember.”
“It was obviously Dumbledore himself,” said Hermione. “He made the announcement, so he must be on the train – or at least he was. He’s probably the only wizard powerful enough to take on twenty Death Eaters and dispose of them all like that.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right, it must have been him. I guess he was expecting trouble. Oh well, it looks like I’ve survived Voldemort’s first attempt on my life for this year ... I wonder how many tries it will take till he finally succeeds.”
“Oh please Harry, don’t be so defeatist, it won’t help,” said Hermione with deep concern.
“Yeah come on mate, cheer up,” said Ron. “Anyone would feel down after spending the summer holidays with those miserable Muggles who call themselves your relatives. I just can’t understand why Dumbledore insisted on you staying there the whole holidays and only letting you come to the Burrow the last night. My mum is really angry with him about it.”
“I don’t understand either,” said Harry. “But I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the holidays at the Burrow and endanger all of your family. I wouldn’t have come, even if Dumbledore had allowed it. If Voldemort’s going to blow up the place where I’m living and kill everyone, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than with the Dursleys,” he said grimacing ironically.
“Oh Harry, don’t be so negative, and despairing,” said Hermione. “We’re going back to Hogwarts, where you will be safe under Dumbledore’s protection.”
“For how much longer? Two more years, and what then? Sooner or later I’m going to have to face Voldemort. It’s not Dumbledore that has to kill him, it’s me.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” asked Hermione. “What gives you that idea?”
“The prophecy,” replied Harry. “The one that Voldemort was after in the Department of Mysteries.”
“I don’t understand,” said Hermione. “The prophecy was lost when the ball smashed. No one knows what it said.”
“Ah, but they do,” said Harry, and he proceeded to tell them everything he had heard in the Headmaster’s office at the end of their fifth year, including the prophecy, which he repeated word for word. Ron and Hermione sat shocked. This was all new to them, even though they knew that Voldemort wanted to kill Harry.
“So in the end, it’s just me and Voldemort. I’m going to have to stand up to him alone. What really worries me, is that I have no idea how to defeat him.”
“No Harry,” said Hermione with iron in her voice. “It may be you he’s after, but you won’t be alone, Ron and I will be there with you – you know that don’t you?”
“Yeah mate,” affirmed Ron. “We’ll be with you, no matter what, you know you can count on us.”
“But I don’t want to count on you, I don’t want the pair of you with me, can’t you understand that! I don’t want to see you die. I’ve seen enough people die because of me. Cedric, Sirius ... it’s enough – don’t you understand?”
“The prophecy is about me and Voldemort, nobody else. It’s my destiny and I’m going to have to face it alone, no one else is going to die with me.” With that he shut his eyes and drew himself inwards, trying to cut himself off from his friends and from a world which he found increasingly hostile and threatening.
Hermione sighed, trying to force her mind away from Harry and his negativity. “How did that new wizard know about the Sorting Hat if he doesn’t know anything about the wizarding world?” asked Hermione after a few minutes thought.
Harry wasn’t listening, but Ron was all too eager to respond. “I don’t believe a word that slimy git said. Of course he’s lying through his teeth, but don’t worry, he won’t fool the Sorting Hat, it will see right through him and put him where he belongs ... in Slytherin.”
Hermione didn’t answer, she was looking for an explanation, because for some reason she could not understand, she wanted to believe Rick, even though there were some unanswered questions about doors getting locked and unlocked. “Someone he spoke with on the train could have told him about the Sorting Hat. He might even have read about it in a book.”
“What – like ‘Hogwarts a History’?” scoffed Ron. “Get off of it Hermione, no one reads that book – except for you.” A picture flashed through Ron’s mind of Rick and Hermione, as he had found them the previous day, with eyes locked together, at Flourish and Blotts. She sure never looks at me that way, he thought jealously.
Harry was now asleep, snoring gently. “Hermione,” said Ron softly in a more conciliatory tone. “Have you though any more about what I asked you at the Burrow?”
Hermione blushed and looked quickly in Harry’s direction to make sure that he was really asleep. She took out her wand and cast an Imperturbable Charm over their side of the compartment so that Harry couldn’t hear them.
“Ron, I have thought about it, about you and me, umm ... you know, becoming closer, like girlfriend and boyfriend and I really don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m sorry Ron, I really love you as a friend, just like I love Harry, but I just think the friendship between the three of us is too important to risk.”
“What are you saying Hermione, spell it out, which is it? You don’t want to be my girlfriend because you don’t feel that way about me, or you’re worried that it would leave Harry out in the cold?”
Hermione pursed her lips, trying the find the right words. “I’m sorry Ron, but I think it’s a bit of both really. I don’t think I feel that way about you and I think that if we became a couple it would inevitably leave Harry all alone and I’m so worried about him right now, can’t you see that he needs us, more now, than ever?”
“Well, he doesn’t act like it sometimes. And you don’t seem so sure that you don’t feel that way about me. Maybe if we started getting, well you know, closer ... kissing and stuff,” said Ron awkwardly, “you might discover that you do feel that way about me, so why can’t we give it try?”
“No Ron, it just wouldn’t work out. You and Harry are like brothers to me, I don’t want to spoil that, it’s too precious. Now please, let’s just leave it, and not talk about it any more.”
“But Hermione, that doesn’t make sense. If you have such strong feelings for me and Harry, then surely one of us should be your boyfriend, not someone you hardly know like that git Krum, or someone else. We both know that Harry is not going to have any girlfriends any time soon. He would be too scared that they would become targets of ‘You-Know-Who’, or that they could be used to get at him. So Harry’s out. That just leaves you and me.”
“What makes you think I want a boyfriend?” asked Hermione, raising her eyebrows in disdain. “I’m not Lavender Brown or Parvati Patil – or one of those silly witches who can think and talk about nothing but wizards from morning to night. I have two more years of serious studies ahead of me, plus there’s Harry and the battle against the Dark side to worry about. I just don’t have time for a boyfriend, and I don’t feel ready for one right now, either.”
“Well I’m ready – I mean for a girlfriend, that is. Fred and George had lots of girlfriends when they were at Hogwarts. In fact I think they may have shared them sometimes without letting the witches know – perks of being a twin. Why even my little sister Ginny is onto her second boyfriend. First it was Michael Corner and now it’s Dean Thomas. Not that I’m happy about it.”
“Look Ron, if you think you need a girlfriend, I’m sure there are plenty of witches at Hogwarts who would be delighted to oblige you, but I’m not one of them. So will you please just drop it.” With that she flicked her wand, muttering, “Finite Incantatum,” to remove the Imperturbable Charm and make it clear to Ron that the conversation was over.
They sat in uncomfortable silence for the remainder of the journey.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Coming up: Chapter 3 ~ Sorted, Settled and Snaped
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