Unofficial Portkey Archive

Always and Forever by Lorelover

Always and Forever


Always and Forever


Disclaimer: Harry Potter, and all the characters associated there with belong to JK Rowling, and Scholastic. Also, any similarities to any other work is unintentional. I make no profit from this story. I wrote it, just for fun.



Chapter 13



"Hurry up Hermione," whined Ron. Even though, he had only been down in the common room for a few minutes, as soon as Lavender had shown up, he had become anxious to go.

"Keep your shirt on Ron, it's only breakfast," replied Hermione, with a hint of annoyance in her voice.

Harry smiled, the best way to avoid a fight with Ron, was never to come between his stomach and a table full of food. "Ron, why don't you go on ahead, we'll be down in a sec."

"Thanks Harry," then, without another word he grabbed Lavender's hand and pulled her through the portrait hole.

Hermione raised a brow. "What? Now we can take our time," Harry said, then after looking pensive for a second added, "he's probably just in a hurry to eat so he can get on to Hogsmeade." As they made their way down to the Great Hall, Harry's thoughts drifted back to the article in the Prophet the other day about Hagrid. The more he thought about it, the more he realized, he shouldn't have been so surprised about learning that he was a half giant. What did bother him, was just how fast the school had turned on Hagrid. Harry could relate to that all too well.

"Harry," Hermione asked breaking into Harry's self induced introspection, "you all right?"

Harry turned to look at her as they continued their short journey. `She's always so observant,' he thought, then a quiet voice from the back of his head told him why, `because she's always worrying about you.'

"Yeah, I'm fine." Not wanting to concern her any further he went on, "Just thinking about Hagrid. I mean he got kind of a ruddy deal the way that rag of a paper was taking the piss out of him, don't you think?"

"Only because of that... horrible woman!"

Harry didn't want to get her worked up, so quickly moved on, "Hey, at least you got to see a unicorn again, right? What's it been, about a year."

Hermione smiled, she knew what Harry was trying to do.


As promised, Miroslav made his way over to the Gryffindor table just as breakfast was ending. "Good morning Hermione,"

"Good morning to you Miroslav."

"I must say, I think you look quite beautiful today."

Hermione's face colored slightly, she wasn't used to such praise. "Thank you."

"You're welcome. Are you ready to go, or should I have a seat?"

Harry studied the boy as he stood waiting for Hermione. He was perhaps an inch or so taller, but he didn't seem to have a large build. In fact Harry thought he looked kind of lanky. About the only thing they had in common physically, as far as Harry could tell, was they both had dark hair, although his was considerably longer. Harry would've liked to learn a little more about this guy, but before he could ask any questions, Hermione spoke.

"No, I'm finished. We can go now, If you like." Hermione said, as she stood up.

"Very well," Miroslav said, while offering his arm to Hermione.

Now it was Harry's turn to feel a twinge of jealousy, as he watched the exchange. Once more, he mentally kicked himself for his lapse. Then, as if she suddenly sensed something was wrong, Hermione turned towards Harry.

"Oh, Harry this is Miroslav Demetrius. Miroslav, this is Harry, Harry Potter... my best friend.

Harry stood, and reached out his hand, "Nice to meet you." Though, he really didn't think he was. Harry held the other boys gaze for a second, and the message was clear, `Miroslav, had better be a gentleman.'


By noon, the Three Broomsticks was quite busy, as Hogwarts students made their way in for lunch.

"Look at her, what a tart. Who does she think... Draco, are you listening to me... Draco!"

Pansy had been going on about Hermione Granger for the last ten minutes or so, ever since said girl entered the Three Broomsticks, on the arm of a boy from Durmstrang.

"What you think of Potter?" Draco asked, as if he hadn't heard a single thing Pansy had previously said.


"Potter," then turning to look at her, Draco asked again, "what do you think about Potter?"

The question caught Pansy off guard. His tone wasn't nasty or condescending, it was... curious, asked like when one seriously wanted an honest answer.

Pansy sat up a little, both brows raised in confusion. "Well, he's... I think..." Pansy wasn't sure what she thought. At the moment, she had been focused on Hermione. Falling back to her normal Slytherin opinion of Mr. Harry Potter, she finally responded, "Why do we care about him, he's a liar and a cheat. An all-around arse."


After holding the door for Brigitte, Harry followed her in. Looking around for a place to sit, he took note of who all was in the pub. Harry first caught sight of Draco, he was sitting with Pansy and of course the two bookends; Crabbe, Goyle. They were sitting by themselves in a far corner where they could keep an eye on things. Moving further into the room, Harry next noticed Viktor. He was sitting at a table in the middle of the room, and sitting across from him was Alicia Spinnet. Then he spotted Ron in the opposite corner from Draco, sitting with lavender. The couple seemed to be oblivious to everyone else in the room, as they sat there snogging. Harry just shook his head at the display, he'd talk to Ron about it later.

Harry was broken out of his thoughts by voice he knew well. "Harry!" Called Hermione, "over here."

Harry touched Brigitte's arm and nodded toward Hermione's table, to get her moving in that direction.

Sitting down Harry smiled, "Hey Hermione." Then he give a nod hello to Miroslav.

"Hello Harry," still smiling, she added, "hello Brigitte."

Neither Brigitte, nor Miroslav failed to notice, that Harry had taken the seat right next to Hermione.

After acknowledging Hermione and Miroslav, Brigitte settled in next to Harry. "This place does good business." She commented.

Looking around, Harry had to agree, "Yeah, the place is definitely packed." It was now fairly obvious as to why Dumbledore hadn't allowed the third-year students to come.

"So, where else have you two been?" Asked Hermione with a hint of more than just a little curiosity.

"Pretty much everywhere. This was our last stop." Harry answered, before turning around and ordering two butterbeers, one for him, and one for Brigitte.

"Yeah us too." Hermione replied, before turning her attention to the girl on his other side, "What was your favorite shop Brigitte?"

Brigitte smiled, "Oh... that would have to be Honeydukes," then looking at Miroslav with one brow raised, "and yours?"

"Hmmm, I think perhaps Honeydukes as well, their chocolate is very good."

Everyone laughed and nodded in agreement. Honeydukes was indeed one of the most popular shops in Hogsmeade, mainly because of their famous chocolate. A moment later Hermione sat up, and with a nod towards the door said, "Well... look what the Kneazle brought in."

Everyone turned to look. Standing just inside the door stood Neville, a girl on each arm, Susan and Hannah.

Harry looked a little surprised, "Well that's unexpected," then a little louder, "Neville... over here." Turning to Hermione he asked, "I thought he and Luna were kind of..."

Hermione shrugged, "I thought so too."

Neville pulled a chair out for each of the two girls, then quickly joined them. "Hey guys, what's up?"

Harry laughed, "You're the one with two dates... you tell us."

Hermione smiled, it was so strange to see the painfully shy Neville with two girls. She couldn't help but compare him to Harry, and wonder, that if their places were reversed; would Neville be doing as well in the tournament, and would it be Harry with two girls? Hermione laughed to herself; she liked Neville, but was not the wizard Harry was and would have probably never have made it this far. And Harry, even without the pressure of the tournament, wasn't the kind of guy who would take two girls on a date at the same time. Glancing over at Ron, she briefly wondered if he was jealous, then laughed again, when she thought he was so preoccupied, he probably hadn't even noticed.

Susan and Hannah both smiled while Neville looked confused. A moment later he seemed to understand, "Oh, we're not on a date." Then as if he was worried that he might have offended one or both of them he added, "Not that I wouldn't mind of course... it's just... well I am kind of ah… well interested in…"

"Luna?" Hermione supplied for a red-faced Neville.

"Yeah…" Neville answered uneasily as he started to squirm a little. Then looking at all the knowing faces sighed and went on, "I was going to ask her to come with me today, but then they said no third years or below could go. Something about it being too crowded."

"So I told Luna," Susan jumped in, "that Neville was so cute, he might need protecting, and that Hannah and I would keep an eye on him for her."

Hannah rolled her eyes and shook her head, "Honestly Susan, you think just about every boy at Hogwarts is cute."

Susan turned back to her friend, "And some of the girls too." She immediately turned red and slapped a hand over her mouth, mortified at what she had just said.

Harry alone with Neville and Miroslav all shared look, not quite sure what to make of her comment. While at the same time Hermione and Brigitte were sharing a knowing smile. In the discriminating world of magic, it was not all that uncommon for a pair of witches to become romantically involved. However it was almost always very discreet. Whether or not Susan and Hannah fancied each other, nobody knew for sure. It was however obvious, that the two were very good friends, and could almost always be found together.

Deciding to change the subject, at least somewhat, Hermione cleared her throat and then said, "Well…" and after regaining everyone's attention, she ticked her head towards the far corner, "what do you suppose has gotten into Ron?"

"You know he asked Luna to be his girlfriend a while back." Neville said with contempt. "Why would he do that? He hardly ever even talks to her, except to call her names."

Harry looked at Ron for a moment, then turned back, "Really?"

"Yeah, she turned him down of course, also said he was starting to act like a real blighter."

Then seemingly out of nowhere a new voice asked, "Hey guys, mind if I join you?" And, without waiting for a reply, Alicia started pushing Brigitte closer to Harry, who in turn had to scoot closer to Hermione so she could join them on the bench. "Oi, budge up Harry, Hermione won't bite... well maybe if you ask her to." Alicia laughed as she sat down on the end of the bench next to Brigitte.

It was hard to tell who was more embarrassed, Harry or Hermione, as the rest of the table laughed. Finally, Hermione regained her composure, "I'll have you know, I haven't bitten anyone since I was barely five."

"Really! Well you might want to try it sometime." The older girl said while waggling her eyebrows. Hermione started to protest, but before she could say a word, Alicia went on, "So what were you lot talking about before Hermione's eating habits came up?"

Hermione sat back with a tiny huff. She felt it better to just let this go and move on, or Alicia would end up teasing her all night. When Harry touched her hand, she looked over to find him smiling softly at her, and she couldn't help but smile back.

Harry turned back to Alicia, "Didn't I see you with Viktor when I came in?"

"Yeah, we were talking about professional Quidditch. I've been thinking about maybe going Pro after I graduate. Anyway, he had to leave, something about going for a swim... anyone jumping in the lake this time a year is a complete nutter if you ask me."

Harry and Hermione smiled, both now having a pretty good idea as to why. Then, remembering how Viktor had left her after the Yule Ball, Hermione said while looking a little put out, "Well that's no way to treat a date."

"Oh it's not like that, we weren't on a date," Alicia quickly said, "Viktor has a girlfriend back home, and he wants to stay true to her."

Harry and Hermione looked at each other, perhaps they had misjudged him. Hermione made a mental note to talk to Viktor in the near future.

His curiosity getting the better of, Harry just had to ask, "But didn't I see you and Viktor together… like back in October?

Alicia leaned forward and smirked at Harry, "What's the matter Harry… jealous?"

Harry balked, "What? No… I, I just thought maybe you and… you know… I mean, you did go to the Ball with Fred."

Alicia laughed, "Wow, I didn't know you were so interested in my love life. Well if you must know…" Harry held up his hands and started to say no, but Alicia went on anyway. "In October… I met with Viktor to ask about Quidditch, while Fred and his brother were shopping for prank supplies. I would have come with him today, if the berk hadn't gone and gotten himself a detention," she finished shaking her head. Then turning to Harry again with a smirk asked, "What about your love life?"

Harry suddenly knew how Hermione felt a few minutes ago, "Ah… don't really have one, so not much to talk about."

Alicia just said, "Right…" While Hermione looked on curiously about his answer.


"I had a wonderful time today Hermione," Miroslav said, as he and Hermione stopped just outside the portrait of the Fat Lady.

"I did too Miroslav, it was very nice talking to you about your school, and things." Hermione kicked herself mentally `things'. She was starting to get nervous, she knew this was where they'd say goodbye and she wasn't sure what Miroslav would do. She also wasn't sure how she would respond. Even though she hardly knew him, Hermione thought he was nice enough, and quite smart too, but she really didn't feel anything... special. There was just no chemistry, no spark. Maybe, if he kissed me... Harry. A tiny feeling of guilt rippled through her subconscious at the thought. But why? They weren't a couple... strange. Her thoughts ended suddenly when Miroslav leaned in.

Even though they had only spent a short time together with Harry and his date, and even though Hermione hadn't talked about him all that much; Miroslav knew Harry was far more than just a good friend to her. Miroslav admitted to himself that he was just a little intimidated by this girl. She had good friends, important friends, and she was also very intelligent. On top of all that, she was also quite pretty. However, weren't those the very reason he had been attracted to her in the first place, `Maybe,' he thought. He just hadn't expected... so much. She wasn't just smart, she was very smart. And she wasn't just close to Harry Potter, wasn't just a good friend, she cared a great deal for the boy. Miroslav wondered if Mr. Potter knew just how lucky he was to have a good friend, like this. Yes, he was attracted to Hermione, but if he was honest with himself, he also knew a relationship with her would never work. Besides living in two different countries, and going to different schools; he knew that her heart was already taken, even if she didn't. However, since she wasn't really with Mr. Potter, there was no reason why he couldn't at least kiss her goodnight.

As he deepened the kiss, Miroslav put a hand on her waist and gently pulled her closer. Hermione responded by putting a hand on his shoulder to both study herself, and to control how close he could draw her in. The kiss only lasted about a minute, and although Hermione thought it was a good kiss, now that she had something to compare it to... she knew it wasn't a great kiss. She was glad she had gone on this… date. Hermione had wondered, that if she and Harry had actually started dating, would she think about dating others? Considering how strong her feelings were for Harry she didn't think so, even though she didn't know how she felt about him romantically. Now however, she was a little more certain about her feelings. She was quite sure, she wasn't interested in anybody else. She certainly, didn't feel the need to date other boys, even if the opportunity presented itself.

When they broke apart, both knew there would be no more. That had been the one and only kiss that they would share.

"Thank you again Hermione." Miroslav said with a sly smile as he stepped back half a step.

Hermione smiled back. She could tell he expected nothing more. "You're welcome Miroslav, and thank you, for such a nice day."

Miroslav stood straighter and nodded, "Goodnight Miss Granger."


Down by the Beauxbaton carriage, a very similar scene was taking place.

"Well..." Harry said awkwardly.

"Yes... well," Brigitte said smiling back. She knew Harry was feeling more and more uncomfortable by the second. "Harry, relax." Taking his hand, she led him to a spot next to the carriage that had a small bench tucked just out of sight. Setting down, she patted the spot next to her, "Please, sit with me for a while?"

Harry nodded, "Sure." They'd had a good time wandering around Hogsmeade taking in the sights, and just talking. This was all new ground for Harry, he wasn't sure what was expected of him. He had no real dating experience, none actually. The Yule Ball might have been an exception, but that really wasn't a date. He and Padma had both agreed, they were going together as friends, nothing more. This however was different. It seemed the situation had suddenly become more... personal. What was he supposed to do now? Take her hand and say something nice about her hair, or should he just kiss her. Was he supposed to ask first, no... he didn't think so. There was only one person he could think of to ask, and he was sure Brigitte wouldn't appreciate him running off to ask her.

"You don't do this much, do you?"

"No," Harry sighed, "am I that bad?"

"No, of course not Harry." Brigitte's smiling face turned serious, "You're just nervous. I didn't mean... I don't want to make you nervous."

"Oh you're not... I mean, it's not you. I-I don't," Harry stopped, then after a moment took a deep breath and continued, "I'm just not sure what's expected of me." Harry couldn't help but feel a little frustrated as he looked down at his feet.

Brigitte chuckled, then seeing his alarm, she took hold of one of his hands. "Harry, it's just a date, two people out together. It's not our wedding night... nothing is expected of you."

Harry laughed, "Yeah, I suppose you're right. I'm probably making this into a bigger deal than it is... right?"

Still holding his hand, Brigitte answered softly, "Right... although after such a great day, it would be a shame not to end it with a goodnight kiss... no?"

If Harry was nervous before, then what he was feeling now, could only be described as full-blown panic. `She did expect me to kiss her!' he thought. Mustering all his courage, Harry reached up with his free hand and cupped the side of her face and leaned forward.

Brigitte closed her eyes as Harry leaned in. A moment later she felt his lips on hers. Tentative at first, but quickly becoming more confident. She reached her hand up to the back of his head, hoping to hold him in place a little longer. Hoping to encourage him to kiss her more passionately. He suddenly pulled away, and Brigitte sighed. Partly in content, and partly in disappointment. As inexperienced as he may be, he certainly seemed to know how to kiss properly.

Her eyes were already closed, and a second after their lips met Harry closed his as well. She was soft, and smelled of lilac. Harry decided, he liked this aspect of girls. Soft, and they always seem to smell so good. Slowly he deepened the kiss and tried to imagine the girl he was kissing. Unfortunately, to his complete surprise the face didn't belong to Brigitte. Harry broke the kiss and pulled away, the image of Hermione still clearly visible in his mind's eye.

Shocked and a little confused, Harry stood up, "It's late... I-I should be getting back." Harry announced uncertainly. Standing there waiting for her to say something, he couldn't help but notice her look of disappointment, and rejection. "Brigitte look, I really did have a good time with you today. I had fun, and while I don't think I learned any French, I did learn a lot. I hope you feel the same way." He raised a hand to keep her from answering just yet. "It's just... I'm a little confused… I don't know. I don't think we can be anything more than friends. I wouldn't... I don't want to give you the wrong idea."

Brigitte stood up, "You're very sweet Harry. Hermione is a lucky witch to have your attention." Brigitte leaned in quickly and gave him a peck on the cheek before turning and starting towards the carriage door. As she walked away, she said over her shoulder with a cheeky smile, "If you need any help when you finally decide to tell her how you feel... you will ask me, yes?"

Harry laughed, "Yes, er a oui," making Brigitte laugh too. Harry wasn't sure if she had it right, `but it would sure explain a few things,' he thought.


Harry greeted Hermione as he sat down next to her for breakfast the next day, "Hey, missed you last night. Did you come in late?"

Hermione smirked, "Well, aren't we a bit nosey this morning."

"Oh no, it's not... I mean... I usually see you in the common room... oh you're right, it's none of my business, sorry."

Hermione smiled inwardly, `He's concerned,' she thought. Every since she had come to Hogwarts and made a few friends, real friends, she would sometimes doubt herself. Think herself unworthy. For so many years, as a young girl before Hogwarts, she never had any friends. There were a few times when she would meet someone, and it looked as though it was going to turn into something more than just a… acquaintance. More than just some other boy or girl you sat next to in class. You knew their name, but you didn't know the person. As soon as she would opened up a little, tell them something about herself, they'd pull away. She quickly learned, that they didn't really want to know her. They didn't want to know the real Hermione Granger. The girl who enjoyed school, not recess, learning new things, instead of playing with toys. She loved school, and she loved her teachers, yet those had been some of the saddest days of her life.

Loneliness is so much more than not having friends. It's like a half-life, no one to share with... neither the good things nor the bad. Hermione was a smart girl, there wasn't very much that she didn't understand. And unfortunately, she understood loneliness. She understood it all too well. Loneliness... was painful.

Knowing that Harry was concerned, that he cared about her, helped her to remember, that here at Hogwarts she did indeed have friends, real friends. That she had a best friend.



"Promise me something?"

Harry turned to look at her more directly, something in her voice told him this was important. "You know I will... if I can."

"Promise me, that we will always be friends," she asked, her eyes never leaving his.

Harry stared back at the girl he'd known for almost 4 years. Her eyes told him the rest of the story. He saw the need, the desire. He saw how tremendously important this simple request was to her. Harry reached out and gently took both her small hands in his, and like her, his eyes never left hers when he promised, "Forever."

A much relieved Hermione smiled, and nodded thanks.

Harry smiled back as he watched her for a moment. Satisfied that he had eased her worries, Harry asked, "Hermione, if this is about, well last night, and you want to see…" Harry voice caught and he looked down, "You know I'll always..."

Hermione squeezed his hands, happy that he felt that way. "Thank you Harry, but I don't think I'll be seeing anymore of Miroslav. I actually came back before you, but was really tired, so I went straight up to bed."

"Oh well, of course," Harry acknowledged, trying not to sound too relieved.

"And what time did you finally make it in?" Hermione asked, her own curiosity getting the better of her.

"Like you I guess, pretty early. About half past seven, I..." Harry's answer was interrupted by a loud `hey!' Apparently, Ron and Lavender were starting to get a little carried away, and someone had thrown a breakfast roll at the two's, slightly erotic display.

After watching Ron get indignant with the rest of the table for a second, Harry turned his attention back to Hermione. "What in Merlin's name is going on with Ron?" Harry asked quickly, happy for the chance to change the subject, "I mean, it's like he's on a potion, or has been hit by one of his brother's spells."

Hermione watched Ron herself for a moment before answering, "I know, and I might even suspect that something like that was actually the case, if he hadn't been acting this way for so long."

"Do you think it has anything to do with what Luna was talking about?"

Hermione's forehead scrunched in concentration for a moment, "I don't know, maybe." Hermione glanced at Ron again before turning back to Harry, "I'm not sure why he's acting this way. It's not like him, or least it wasn't."

After taking another long look at Ron, Harry asked, "You think he's acting this way because of her?"

"Or someone else." Hermione said, almost as an afterthought. "I mean, I don't even think he likes her all that much, not really."

Harry looked further down the table at Dean, "Like maybe his new friends?"

Hermione nodded slowly," Yeah, maybe."

After watching Ron kiss Lavender again for the umpteenth time, Hermione couldn't help it as her thoughts drifted back to the kiss she had shared with Harry, and how she put off thinking about it. It... had certainly happened, and yet neither of them seemed ready to deal with it. By now Hermione was fairly sure Harry had no regrets, but like her, he didn't know how to broach the subject. It, the kiss was easily the sweetest, most tender and caring thing he had ever done for her. How does one talk about something like that. How do you translate those feelings and emotions into words without cheapening the experience? Hermione didn't think she could. `Maybe that's why Harry hasn't said anything. Maybe he feels the same way.' The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became. Harry had always been more about action, and less about words. So, it would seem the kiss and what it might or might not have meant, would for now anyway, remain within their own private thoughts. Like a gift that is given without explanation, and no questions are asked. Hermione smiled, she could live with that.

However, another question still remained. `Just what do I think of Harry,' she thought. Then, remembering her brief conversation with Luna, It's not about thinking, Hermione revised her question. `No... not what do I think...but how do I feel about Harry?' Hermione smile grew, `Well that's pretty obvious.' In that instant, she knew. Her feelings for the boy sitting next to her had changed. They'd grown. Hermione turned and looked at Harry as he talked to Neville. She liked Harry, like him as more than just a friend. Some might even say she fancied him, but it was more than just that. She... cared for him, worried about him. She felt a need to protect him, especially from those who she knew meant to hurt him. Hermione nodded to herself, she was okay with all of that, in fact she rather liked the idea. Although she thought he might just feel the same, it didn't matter how he felt about her, she'd still be there for him regardless. Even if she was wrong about his feelings, she would not change her mind. What would happen in the future? Where would their friendship go? Would their relationship, develop... she didn't know for sure. But thinking about that kiss, Hermione thought she just might like to find out. For now, with the tournament about to start up again, she'd have to put any further thoughts about them, on hold. She'd wait and see what the future would bring. Hopefully, it would be a boy with messy black hair and glasses, alive and in one piece.


The Charms and Runes demo was quickly approaching, and Harry was currently enjoying watching Hermione get excited about it.

"Oh Harry, I can hardly wait to meet Alexei, and see what kind of charm he's going to show me."

Harry raised a brow at the way Hermione phrased her last statement. For the second demo, the students had to pair up again. This time however, with someone from the other school. In other words, since Hermione had paired up with Nicole from Beauxbaton last time, she now had to pair up with a boy from the Durmstrang. In this demo, rather than working together on one project, they would have to teach each other something new. Something that the other was completely unfamiliar with. After consulting with their professors, Hermione was paired up with Alexei; who was also a fourth-year student. Hermione's job was to teach him how to construct and use a set of runes, while he would teach her a very specialized new charm.

Hermione finally noticed Harry's half amused, have questioning look, "What?"

"Well, I like your enthusiasm, it is good to see you so... happy and passionate about this."

"But?" She asked with a smile, knowing there was more.

Harry smirked, `She knows me so well,' "I just hope you're excited about Charms, and not about… his charms."

Hermione could give as good as she took. "Well if that's how you feel, it's a good thing you'll be there with me to help."

Harry's other brow rose as his smirk disappeared. "You want my help? But I've only just started learning runes, what help could I possibly be."

Hermione leaned forward, "You didn't know anything about the potion that Nicole and I were working on, and yet you helped solve the biggest problem we were having."

"Hermione, I didn't do anything. I asked Snape to help you."

"Which he did... because of you," Leaning back she added, "Harry, there are lots of ways to help, plus you said, you liked runes."

Harry stared at Hermione for a few seconds before answering. "Hermione, I do like runes, and I'll be there whenever, and wherever you want, not because I think I can help, but to support you."

Hermione reached over and gave his hand a squeeze, "Thanks Harry, I appreciate that. But you will try and help, won't you? I just know if you keep an open mind, you'll see something we missed."

Harry nodded, "Of course," then after a short laugh, "who knows, maybe I will."

Hermione couldn't help but beam at Harry, as she nodded back.


As Dumbledore approached the podium, the Hall quietly down. After waiting a moment to ensure he had everyone's attention Dumbledore spoke, "Just in case there are some who are not aware of the special events planned for today... I shall enlighten you. Today, one hour from now in fact, we will begin the second series of interschool demonstrations. The students involved will demonstrate a unique charm or rune sequence. There is however an added twist. Instead of demonstrating it themselves, they will have to teach their demonstration to their partner, who will then demonstrate it to the rest of us." Dumbledore laughed, "Perhaps they will also gain some insight into what the life of a professor is like."

Harry had been helping Hermione for the last week. He didn't actually help her design or construct any of the runes, but rather, help her to refine her teaching technique. Harry of course understood the very basics, but not to the level of Alexei who had been studying them as long as Hermione, and certainly not to Hermione's level. If she could teach him the sequence, then Alexei, being more advanced in the subject, should have no problem following her instructions either. It was Hermione's passion for the subject that tended to get her into trouble. She would get excited and would begin to speak too fast, making it hard to follow her. Harry would remind her to slow down when necessary; he also mentioned that Alexei might not be quite as knowledgeable as she was. He also noted that Alexei may have trouble with the language, since English was not his native tongue. By the end of the week, Hermione had learned to control her pace, and always spoke as clearly as possible.


Hermione's turn came up just before dinner. Harry, as before, made sure he had a front row seat. A moment later Neville and Luna sidled up next to him. Harry was also happy to see Ron had showed up to watch, and hopefully give his support. Harry made a mental note to thank him later. However, what surprised him most was seeing Draco there, and he actually looked interested. Harry gave him a tight nod hello, and to his complete surprise, Draco nodded back; although reluctantly.

"Hey Harry," Neville said, while Luna just smiled hello.

"Hey guys, glad you're here."

"Of course, though I'm sure I won't understand a bit of it," laughed Neville.

Luna smiled, "How are your studies coming?" Referring to Ancient Runes.

Harry turned pensive, "It's going good... I think."

Luna smile grew, and Neville laughed, "You think?"

"Well yeah," Harry chuckled, "it's a lot harder than I thought it would be, but with Hermione's help I'm starting to pick it up... I think."

This time Luna laughed, "Well, it would be pretty hard to learn without thinking Harry."

Harry laughed, "Yeah I'm sure you're right." Then after a short pause, Harry tried to explain himself better. "As you know Hermione's been helping me with my Ancient Runes schoolwork, so I can hopefully be caught up by next year. Then when I've had enough, I would help her prepare for this demo." Harry could see they still didn't quite understand, "What she is doing is so far beyond me... well it makes me realize just how little I really know. It makes me realize how much more there is to learn." Harry sighed, "Kind of makes me question everything else... you know?"

Neville nodded in understanding, "Yeah."

In a more serious voice, Luna tried to set him straight. "Don't worry Harry, that's a good thing," seeing his puzzled look, she went on, "it just means you're becoming more perceptive." Then quickly turning back into `dreamy' Luna, she added, "No one will ever know all there is to know."

Inside, Harry knew she was right, although he thought with a smile, `if anyone could get close, it would be Hermione.'

"So what do you know about this rune sequence she's going to show us," asked a curious Neville.

"It's brilliant," begin Harry, his face lighting up with excitement as he spoke. "The real beauty of the sequence is how versatile it is, and some of it can be done without a wand. With just a little modification, it can do several different things, that's what makes it so dead useful." Harry really didn't want to tell them exactly what it was, because he wanted them to see it firsthand from her.

"I assume it's fairly advanced," asked Luna, "how much of it did you understand?"

Harry smiled, "Well practically none of the theory of course, but it turns out Hermione can be a very good teacher if she sets her mind to it. I'm pretty sure I can set the runes up correctly, and probably get them to work... I think." Harry and Neville laughed, Luna just shook her head at what was becoming an old joke.


An hour and a half later, it was an ecstatic Hermione who literally bounced down the stairs from the stage. With a bright smile she asked, "Well, what did you think?"

Harry of course thought she did brilliantly, and told her so. Luna wholeheartedly agreed, but it was Neville, who finally convinced her. "You know Hermione, I don't know a thing about runes, and I certainly didn't understand any of the theory behind what you're talking about... but you explained it so well... I think with a bit of practice, I might even be able to make it work."

Luna couldn't help but add, "Harry was right, you are a good teacher." Harry nodded, so she went on, "It showed by how simple you made a complex problem look."

Hermione's smile grew, "Thanks guys, but it was Harry who helped me get the teaching part down. He's a natural."

"Nothing natural about it. If you can teach me, you can teach anybody," laughed Harry. Luna and Neville laughed as well.

A moment later a short dark-haired boy stepped up next to Hermione. "Oh, Alexei, hi. Please allow me to introduce you to my friends." He gave her a nervous smile and a small nod. Hermione gestured to her friends in turn, as she introduced them, "This is Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and Harry Potter." Laughing she added, "and the tall redhead who is currently eating something... is Ron Weasley." They all waved hello. "Everyone, this is Alexei Markovic."

"It is a pleasure to meet all of you," Alexei said in perfect English, "you must be very proud of your friend."

Harry nodded, and with a bright smile said while stepping closer to a beaming Hermione, "We are, very much so." Alexei noticed his answer was directed to Hermione.

"That was an interesting Charm you taught to Hermione," Neville commented. "I've heard of healing a cut and closing it at the same time, but to also draw out and neutralize a poison... well that was a surprise."

"In my country, there are many poisonous creatures, so..." Alexei gestured with his hands as if to say, it was something most people back home learned early on.

"Alexei your English is very good, have you ever lived here?" Asked Harry.

"No, never, but my mother went to school here, and she is the one who taught me. She is a very strict teacher. She would always say, `If it's worth learning, it's worth learning well.'"

"She did an excellent job," noted Hermione.

"Markovic, that's Russian, is it not?"

Alexei turned to Luna, "Yes, my father is Russian, have you been to Russia?"

"Once, with my father."

"Well, you are all welcome to stay at my home if you ever decide to visit." Then after glancing at his watch, Alexei finished, "I would love to talk some more, but my headmaster looks impatient, so I must take my leave. Good day everyone." As soon as the group had said their goodbyes, Alexei hurried off to join Karkaroff.

"Seems like a nice guy," Neville said, as he watched him go.

"Yeah," nodding Harry.


"Oh, there's Viktor," Hermione said suddenly, as she stretched up on her tip toes to see over the crowd. Turning back to Harry, she added quickly, "I'll be right back," knowing he'd understand what she wanted to talk to the Bulgarian about.

"What d'you think that's about?" asked Ron. He still didn't care for the fact, that Viktor had taken Hermione to the Yule Ball.

Harry glanced at Neville, who gave him a small nod, before answering Ron," They're still friends you know. But ah… that reminds me; what up with you and Lavender?"

Ron was caught off guard for a moment with the change in topic, "What?"

"You and Lavender, snogging all over the place… What's up with that?"

Ron thought Harry might have been over-reacting, but as Neville moved to stand next to him, his arms held crossed over his chest. Ron knew Neville was not only showing support for Harry, but wanted an answer too. Ron hesitated, he knew his public snogging displays were a bit much, but he really didn't think anybody really cared. He just liked kissing Lavender, and if it gave him a certain reputation as a lady's man, so much the better. "What? A guy can't snog his girlfriend?"

Neville shook his head, "Sure he can, but Merlin, turn it down a notch," Neville laughed, before adding, "or find a broom closet!"

"What do know," snapped Ron, "you don't even have a girlfriend, not that anyone would have you. And don't make me laugh by bring up Loooony, not that she'd be your girlfriend, or even consider letting you snog her…"

It was only because Harry had quickly stepped in front of Neville, that Ron hadn't been punched. If the look on Neville face was any indication, he was ready to pound the red-headed git into the floor, like a tent stake. Whether or not, Neville could actually take Ron in a fight, Harry didn't know, but he was quite sure he would've found out in short order, if he hadn't of intervened. Without taking his eyes off Ron, Harry tried to reason with his other friend, "He's not worth it Neville."

Then taking a half step closer to Ron, he asked, "What's wrong with you? Why would you say something like that?" While his voice was calm, and carried a genuine sense of curiosity, his eyes betrayed his true feelings. As he stared at Ron, waiting for an answer, there was no mistaking his look. Ron had better apologize, or things were going to get a lot uglier.

Normally, Ron wasn't afraid of Harry, neither physically, nor magically. He stood about an inch or so taller than him, and while admittedly, not as good magically; he knew Harry would never use dark magic, or anything particularly dangerous on him. However, at times like this, times when Harry was sticking up for someone, especially a friend; that's when Harry was scary. Maybe it was all the years of being bullied, or maybe it was his fierce sense of loyalty to his friends, that fired him up, Ron didn't know. Probably a little of both, Ron would later reason, but for now; he knew Harry was exceptionally angry.

"Fine. Look, all I'm saying is, I don't think it's any of your business. Okay? You don't understand what it's like." Then, looking around Harry, to Neville, "Neither of you do." Ron paused, and looked down for a moment to collect his thoughts before continuing. "I didn't mean to call her that…it's an old habit…I…I'm sorry," Ron finished after looking back up at Neville.

Neville calmed a little after Ron's apology, but still couldn't bring himself to completely forgive him at the moment. Without smiling, he gave Ron a sight nod. As he turned to walk away, all he said was, "See you later Harry."

"Sure…I'll see you later," Harry said, before he turned his attention back to Ron. In a more relaxed tone, Harry said, "You're right Ron, we don't understand…That's why we asked."

"She likes me Harry. She likes me, Ron Weasley; The youngest Weasley male…" There was more to it than just that, but Ron wasn't going to say anything more to Harry.

"What are you talking about Ron? We like you too. A lot of people like you."

Do they Harry? Do they really? Or do they like me because I have a pretty sister, or maybe because they're afraid of the twins. Or maybe,,, just maybe they like me because you're my friend."

A little confused, Harry was starting to get frustrated. Was Ron being jealous again? No, he didn't think so. This was something else…something more. Ron wasn't jealous of what he had. Ron wasn't jealous that he was in the tournament. No… it was the fact that those thing made him special, different…unique. Harry realized, that those things made him an individual. They differentiated you from everybody else. Someone you either liked or disliked, nothing more, nothing less.

`The youngest Weasley male; Ron had five older brothers; a curse breaker, a dragon handler, a brother on the fast track to the Ministry of Magic, and of course, the twins. How was he supposed to compete with that! Then there's me; and the whole Boy-Who-Lived nonsense,' Harry thought. `Maybe Luna is right, maybe Ron is, just trying to figure out who he is!'

Harry wasn't completely sure about this new theory of his; he'd run it by Hermione later, and see what she thought, but for now, it seemed to fit. Harry nodded slowly, "I suppose, no one truly knows what it's like to be someone else. I guess, I don't really know what your life was like growing up at home, at least, not any more than you know about mine." Harry sighed, "You're right again Ron… I don't know what it's like to be you."

Ron said nothing, but Harry wasn't finished yet, so after a moment to collect his thoughts, he went on. "Maybe there are some people who only like you because of Ginny, or me, or…or whatever, but not everyone is that shallow. I know, I like you for who you are, and I'm sure Hermione does too; even when you're being a git," Harry said with a smile, hoping Ron would see he wasn't trying to be mean. "You were my first friend, and best mate. I'd like to at least be good friends again."

Ron seemed lost in thought, as he let all that Harry had said sink in. With his eyes still unfocused, he took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, while at the same time nodding his head a little in understanding. Harry knew Ron would need some time to think about all that had been said. As much as Harry wanted their old friendship back to the way it was in the beginning, he knew it was impossible. Too many things had changed. He had changed. Harry wanted to make sure Ron understood, "But Ron, you're not my only friend." When Ron looked up, he went on, "Remember first year… how you treated Hermione in the beginning?" Harry's gaze turned hard and icy. "I won't let that happen again Ron, not to anyone. Not to Neville, not to Luna… and especially not to Hermione."

"So, I'm not supposed to say anything," Ron temper flared, "I'm not allowed to defend myself, or my friends, but you are?"

In an effort to calm Ron, Harry smiled, and said softly, "Of course you are Ron. Talk to us, tell us what's going on, and how you feel, tell us what you think… just don't turn into an arse and get all shirty with everyone… know what I mean?"

Ron deflated a little, "Yeah, I guess so."

Happy that the tension seemed to be lessening, Harry changed the subject, "By the way, thanks for coming to Hermione's demo, I'm sure it meant a lot to her to see you there."

Ron smiled, "I didn't understand a thing, but I did say I'd root for her."

Things were looking better, and all Harry could do for now, was hope they'd continue to improve. He really did want his old friend back.

When Hermione returned, she studied both boys for a second, and then raised a brow and asked in an amused voice, "You're both smiling… did Draco's hair catch fire or something?"

"Naw, we'd be laughing if that had happened," Ron answered. "No, we were just talking about your demo; you did great by the way!"

Hermione's smile grew, "Thanks Ron."



AN: I don't hate Ron. I don't particularly like him (especially the way JKR wrote his charater), but I don't hate him, even though I'm painting him in a bad light now. I have plans for him later, and this is all necessary for them to work out. If you love Ron…try and hang in there, you might like the end result.

Also, I've been meaning to say this for quite a while now, but I always forget to add this note. I'd like to give a very special thank you to "Dementor149" for not only his encouragement, but also his help and insight on this story. I'm sure it take a considerable amount of time to catch all the mistakes and then write then in a review for me. I get no other help for the most part, so his work is invaluable to me. Additionally, you should check out his work, I think you find the writing excellent.

And while I'm at it, thank you, to all the rest who have left reviews. They give me the motivation to continue, and to try harder to make this a better story.




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