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.


AN: Thanks for your patience, and of course, your kind reviews.



Chapter 9

Of Crabs and Cramps


As Harry's mind slowly drifted towards consciousness, he noticed a familiar scent, vanilla. Even before he opened his eyes, he smiled and said, "Morning Hermione."

"Morning Harry," she said, leaning forward a little to examine his still closed eyes. "How'd you know I was here? Are you peeking?"

Harry opened his eyes, and with a growing smile said, "Now you know I don't cheat."

Hermione raised one eyebrow, "No, I suppose not, but that doesn't answer…"

"I could smell you."

Hermione's other eyebrow joined the first near her hairline, "Well since I just got out of the shower, I guess I had better look into finding a better soap."

Harry laughed while scooting back a little, so he could sit up. "Your soap is fine Hermione, it's your shampoo," seeing she was still waiting for an explanation, he went on, "Vanilla…your hair always smells faintly of vanilla."

"Oh…" Hermione leaned back in her chair, not quite sure how she felt about that.

"I hope you don't ever change it... I... I like it. Whenever I smell vanilla, it reminds me of you." Both teens turned away slightly embarrassed.

Unable to believe he had just said such a personal thing, Harry tried to ease the tension by changing the subject, "Madam. Pomfrey says I should be able to leave this afternoon."

Hermione turned back, "Oh that's great news Harry. I was afraid she might make you spend another night here."

"I don't know why I even had to spend one."

"You know why Harry. You were exhausted, both physically and magically. You really did need it."

"I suppose," Harry relented, "so, you're up early."

"Well, I know how much you love being here, so I thought I'd come and join you for breakfast," Hermione said with a look, that brokered no argument.

Harry nodded, "Sounds good."

A short while later Harry wiped his face with a napkin and moaned, "I don't think I could eat another bite."

Hermione stood and chuckled, "That's because there isn't another bite."

"Hey, you said I need to regain my strength."

Reaching over she took the tray from his lap and sat it on the side table next to her own, "Yes, but I didn't necessarily mean you had to do it all in one meal."

"Well at least I didn't talk with my mouth full of food."

"Um, that's true," she said playfully. "Listen, as much as I'd like to hang around here with you and the other goldbrickers, I can't; I have some work to do... some of it is even due tomorrow."

Harry put on his best-looking stern face, "Hermione Granger... waiting until the last day to finish an assignment?"

Yes, well, I was a bit distracted," she smiled.

Harry stared at her for a moment then nodded, "I know... thanks Hermione."

"No worries," she said softly. Then a second later her voice returned to normal, and she asked, "So, what are you going to do? Want me to bring you your books or something?"

"No, I think I'll write a nice long letter to an old friend."

"I'll bet he'd like that," Hermione said as she turned for the door, "I'll see you later at dinner."

"Yeah sure, bye."



Dear Padfoot,

How are you? I hope this letter finds you doing well. It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote, so I thought I'd send you an update. Well let's see... it's Sunday morning, the day after a second task. Madam Pomfrey insisted I spend last night in her care, but I expect to be released this afternoon. I swear, she makes such a fuss. A couple of little cuts and scratches, and you'd think I was missing a limb or something. Well at least she cares, and I know she means well. Since I'll be here a while, I hope you don't mind a long letter.

The second task was really different. It was a little physical, but mainly it just messed with your head, especially towards the end. It was so real, I kind of forgot where I was. I don't know if I've ever been that scared before. Anyway, I can hardly believe it, but I managed to come in second for this task. I was only three minutes behind Fleur. Then it was Cedric, followed by Renée, and can you believe it, Viktor came in fifth. Derrick and Vasil were last, although I don't know the order, (if you really want to know, ask Hermione). So unfortunately, that means I have to go on now, to the end. I just hope it's not the end of me!

Adding the scores from the first task puts me in third place overall. As it stands right now, Cedric is in the first with eighty-two points, Fleur is second with eighty-one, then me with seventy-nine, and finally, Viktor with seventy-seven. I hate the fact that I'm part of the final group and have to continue on, but part of me is also just a little bit proud. I somehow managed to hold my own against some older students. With most of the school still calling me a liar and a cheat, it helps just a little if you know what I mean. And with that thought, I have to tell you Padfoot, Hermione has been great! She keeps track of everything; the scores, dates, rules, everything. But most of all, she is always there to help me. A few others have come around and believe me now, but she believed me from the beginning. I honestly don't know what I'd do without her, I'm sure I'd have never made it this far.

As for everyone else, well Neville and Luna are still with me. The Weasley twins and Ginny, plus the Patil twins say they believe me now. However, Ron is still being a total git. Luna thinks it's because he's afraid. I don't know about that.

I've been keeping an eye on Bagman and Crouch like you suggested, both seem a little weird, but nothing dark stands out. Of all of them, Karkaroff seems the most suspicious. It's like he's always ready to make a run for it. Also, I don't know if it means anything, but on a couple of occasions, I've caught Moody staring at me.

Well, that's about it for now, as soon as I know anything about the third task I'll write again. Until then please take care and be careful.




Hermione had just finished lunch, and was on her way back to the library. She wanted to continue the work she had started after leaving Harry in the infirmary earlier in the morning. Now that the task was over, she could relax and spend more time on her studies. `Be nice to get caught up, maybe even get a little ahead before the next task,' she thought, `before my brain shuts down again with worry.'

"Hey Hermione, hold up."

Hermione stopped and spun around, "Hey Ginny, what's up?"

"Where are you off to?" She asked, cautiously.

"The library... I've loads of work," Hermione replied, trying to convey the fact she was in a hurry.

"Oh, do you mind if I tag along, there's something I want to talk with you about." Ginny noticed the older girl glance down at her overstuffed book bag, "I know you're probably very busy. I only need a few minutes of your time, I swear, I won't keep you long."

Ginny looked as though whatever she wanted to talk about was important, so with a sigh, Hermione agreed, "Fine, but remember, you said it wouldn't take long."

"Thanks Hermione," Ginny said as they continued on to the library.

A few minutes later, both girls were sitting down at one of the many tables the library offered. An uneasy silence hung in the air. Hermione looked around casually, aside from a couple of Ravenclaws there was only one other person in the room, Viktor Krum.

"Hermione, I wanted to talk to you about... Harry," Ginny whispered nervously. The change to Hermione's demeanor was instant. She went from relaxed and maybe slightly annoyed, to tense and focused in a heartbeat. Her eyes were no longer soft and casual. Now they pinned her with an intensity that actually scared Ginny a bit.

"What about Harry?" Hermione asked softly, but with a sharp edge.

Ginny looked down at the table deep in thought. She hadn't realized how hard this was going to be. Just asking any girl what she was about to ask would be hard enough, but Hermione wasn't just any girl. She was Harry's best friend. She was older and smarter. Most importantly though, she was not someone you wanted to make mad. On top of all that, Ginny considered her a good friend.

Looking up Ginny sighed, there was just no easy way to say it, without just saying it. "Hermione, do you... fancy Harry?"

Of all the things Hermione had expected, this wasn't even on the list. It caught her completely by surprise. "What?" She blinked, setting up straighter in her chair.

"Hermione, I know you like Harry, and I know you're close, but do you fancy him?"

Hermione of course, had heard her the first time. Now having had a moment to let the question sink in, she was ready to reply, "Ginny... you know I'm not one of those kinds of girls who are always going on about boys. Besides, that's a rather personal question, don't you think?"

"Yes of course, you're right on both counts. Look Hermione, I'm not trying to start some kind of rumor or anything... I just want to know."

Hermione studied the girl across from her, "Why?" She asked, even though she already knew the answer.

Ginny knew she had to do this right. Ordinarily, she wouldn't have cared about Hermione's feelings, but this was different. If Harry liked her, even just a little, and she was fairly sure he did, then she didn't want to upset him, by making Hermione mad. Plus, as most anybody would tell you, you didn't want to get on her bad side. Ginny could handle a wand pretty good for a third-year, her older brothers saw to that. But Hermione was in a league of her own. The sweet and caring girl could easily turn into a lioness if aggravated, and Ginny had no intention of provoking the sleeping brown haired beast. In fact, she was certain that all but a few sixth and seventh year girls felt the same about her.

Ginny began to fidget, "Because... because I do." She immediately turned red, and started to wring her hands. "Oh Hermione, we're friends... I don't want to fight with you, and I certainly don't want to get hexed halfway across the country for stealing your boyfriend."

Hermione flopped back into her chair and deflated a little, "Ginny, he's my best friend. Besides, he doesn't see me like that." That last part had stung just a little as she said it. She knew Harry cared about her a great deal, she could tell just by his actions, the way he treated her. She was his best friend, someone he could trust and confide in. Hermione loved the fact that he felt that way, but she was also quite sure he wouldn't see her as potential girlfriend material. She didn't have the kind of beauty that hormonal boys looked for when they started thinking of girls in that way. It wasn't just her looks, it was also who she was; an ordinary Muggle-born, a bossy bookworm… she was plain and simple, not really the stuff girlfriends were made out of.

"Maybe... maybe not, but I'm not asking you what he feels."

Hermione leaned forward again. `How do I feel,' she asked herself. She knew her feelings for Harry were different than any feelings she had for anyone else. They were…stronger, more intense. Hermione knew she cared for him…deeply, `but in what way?' She wondered. Did she have romantic feelings for him…'maybe,' she wasn't sure, since she always tempered her thoughts as soon as they started drifting into that very dangerous territory. After all, she didn't have any experience in that sort of thing.

She did know however, that his friendship was very important to her; more important than anyone else's. "To be honest Ginny... I'm not sure how I feel." Seeing the exasperated look on her friends face, she tried to clarify. "Like I said, he's my best friend, something that I value very much. I don't ever want to lose that." After a soft sigh she went on, "This last summer we grew closer, there's no doubt. But now with this stupid tournament, we're both running around like crazy just to get things done. I... I just haven't had a lot of time to think about such things."

Ginny just sat there and stared at Hermione. She really hadn't quite known what to expect when she thought to ask, but she had hoped for something more definite. Frustrated she asked, "Well what am I supposed to do?"

Hermione eyed the girl for a couple of seconds, then her stare became sharp again. The edge in her voice was back also, "Ginny... I don't want to fight either, but if the time comes that I find I do want to be more than just friends with Harry... I will. So for now, you do what you think you have to, all I ask, is that you're honest about it, especially to Harry. And Ginny, if you hurt him, regardless of how I feel... I'll give you a fight you'll never forget."

Ginny nodded.

Really, the only thing she knew for sure, was that she just wanted Harry to be happy. If that meant burying her feelings for him, then she would. Hermione's face softened, and she reached forward and took hold of one of Ginny's hands. "Ultimately, it's up to Harry... right? If you're honest with him and treat him right, and he chooses you... I promise I won't hex you. However, once I have my feelings sorted out, and if I find that I want more... I'll let him know. And if I'm not too late, I'll fight for him too, okay?"

Again, Ginny nodded, "Okay, I guess that's only fair. Thanks Hermione." Ginny slowly rose and started to turn for the exit. `Maybe I stand a chance,' she thought, `as long as Hermione continues to be uncertain.'

"Oh and Gin remember, Harry has had a hard life, and I don't think it's going to get any easier in the near future. He'll need a strong girlfriend, one that will stand beside him no matter what. He'll need his girlfriend to understand him, both the good and the bad."

Ginny smiled, "I can do that."

Hermione watched her walk away, `Really Ginny, because I'm not sure you can.' Then her thoughts turned to Harry, `How do I feel about him? I'm going to have to think on that a bit. Harry is too important to me, to mess up our relationship, but I'm not sure how I'd handle him being with somebody else, even Ginny.' Actually, Hermione wasn't sure anyone was good enough for him. Shaking her head, she decided to think about it more later, right now she had work to do.


Harry sat down gingerly at the Gryffindor table for lunch. It had only been two days since he was released from the tender ministrations of the school healer, and he was still a tiny bit sore. He had left for the Hall a bit early so he wouldn't have to rush, and now found himself alone. His peace and quiet however, only lasted a moment.

"Hello Harry, mind if I join you?"

Harry looked up into the nervous eyes of his dorm mate Seamus Finnigan. "Way too tired and stiff to try and stop you," he answered indifferently while gesturing to the seat across from him.

Seamus sat down rather quickly, "So Harry, you ever find out what happened with the Cup and all?"

`Are you kidding me?' Harry thought. "What's to find out? I cheated right. I somehow managed to fool an ancient magical artifact. I also managed to outsmart the greatest wizard, since Merlin." The venom in Harry's voice was plain to hear.

Seamus flinched, then holding up both hands in a placating fashion said, "Sorry Harry, stupid question." Putting his hands back down he went on, "I made a rash decision blaming you Harry. I've been thinking more and more about it lately, like the things you just said. It doesn't add up, and well… I really don't think you're that kind of guy." Seamus paused a moment and stuck out his hand, "I'm sorry for what I said."

Most of the school was still ignored him, but as Harry sat there looking at Seamus, he could tell the boy was telling the truth. After all, what purpose would there be in lying, except maybe as a prank, and Harry really didn't believe Seamus would stoop that low. Smiling, Harry reached out and shook his hand, "Thanks mate."

After a few seconds of awkward silence, Harry glanced around the table, "Well... care to join me for lunch?"

"Sure... thanks."

Seamus started to fill his plate, but Harry could tell something was still bothering him. After making eye contact he subtlety asked, "What?"

Seamus sighed, "I thought you'd be more upset, maybe tell me to piss off or something."

Harry stared for a second, and slowly nodded, "I was mad, still am even, at some." Harry shrugged his shoulders, "Can't stay mad forever though, and I've had time to do a little thinking myself, and I can see how it might have looked at the time. Besides, I could always use another friend," he added with a laugh.

Seamus finally relaxed and laughed too, "I could too, so I'm glad you feel that way Harry." Then turning a bit more serious, but still smiling, "You know Harry, I'm not the only one who starting to change their mind."

Harry swallowed a bite of egg, "Oh?" He asked, one eyebrow raised.

"Yeah, I think after the second task, people started to think, and well... I think some must have come to the same conclusion as me."

"Well maybe I'll get killed in the next one and convince a few more." Harry hadn't meant for it to sound so harsh, but it did.

Seamus wasn't sure, but he had a feeling most of Harry's resentment was aimed at Ron. He was supposed to be his best friend, Ron should have believed Harry from the beginning. Taking a chance he ventured, "He'll come around Harry," then trying to lighten the mood, "hopefully, you won't have to die before he does."


Thursday, a couple of days later, Harry was feeling much better. He, Hermione, and Neville had just sat down to breakfast when Hedwig made an appearance. Swooping down she landed gracefully on the table in front of Harry, suspiciously close to the side of his plate that had the bacon on it.

"Hello girl, let me get this letter off of you, then you can help yourself to some of my breakfast, kay?"

Hedwig barked softly and held out her leg, all the while eyeing Harry's plate. Harry laughed as he untied the letter, "Hungry girl?"

"Of course she is Harry," Hermione said as she reached over and stroked the snowy owl, "she's probably been flying all night. Haven't you girl?"

Hedwig nuzzled the side of Hermione's hand in appreciation before turning her attention back to the bacon.

"Sorry girl, help yourself." Harry said smiling.

As Neville slowly ate, he watched the interaction between the three. It was obvious that Harry loved Hedwig, and Neville was sure that if his familiar was capable of love, then she loved Harry back. Oddly, he was also sure that Hedwig cared a great deal for Hermione. Many times Hermione had commented, that Hedwig would come and find her on her own whenever she needed to send a post. `She sure doesn't do that for anyone else,' Neville thought.

Then, there was Hermione and her familiar, Crookshanks, the terror of Gryffindor tower, if you were to listen to Ron. As far as Neville was concerned, the little ginger half Kneazle was nice enough, `Never bothers me.' Funny thing was, the cat never did care much for Ron, but he just adored Harry. Also, nobody could ever; if they dared try, pick up the little lion, except of course for Hermione and sometimes Harry. It seemed they were the only ones Crookshanks allowed that honor.

Hedwig and Crookshanks also got along with each other, `As if they knew it would be important to their owners that they got along,' Neville thought. `One thing for sure,' he further mused, `I haven't seen a single mouse since those two showed up.

Having had her fill, Hedwig decided it was time to leave and launched herself off the table. Unfortunately for Ron, her flight path of choice, seemed to be straight at his head.

Ron saw her coming out of the corner of his eye and managed to duck in the nick of time, nearly planting his own face in his food. "Bloody owl," he snipped. Picking up a roll, he got ready to throw it at the departing bird, but after looking around he thought better of it, and chucked it at a laughing Neville instead.

Harry had just finished reading Sirius's letter, and looked up just as the roll flew by, missing its intended target and hitting a confused second-year instead. He turned to Hermione for an explanation, only to receive a blank look. Seems she had been busy trying to read over his shoulder and also missed Hedwig's low-level departure.

It was Neville who finally filled them in, and after a few laughs, they decided it was time to head for class. While they walked Hermione asked, "Was that from Padfoot Harry?"

"Yeah, didn't you read it?" Smirked Harry.

Hermione had the decency to look down for a second before answering, "Well I tried... but short of getting up and standing behind you, I couldn't really see it very well."

Harry laughed, "You can read it later during break if you want, or... I can summarize it for you."

Hermione was well aware that Harry would leave out anything bad... and then some, if she let him do that. "Well, if you don't mind... I'd rather read it myself," she said rather tentatively.

Still smiling, Harry just handed her the letter, "You know I don't mind."

Hermione took the letter and pocketed it, then bumped shoulders with him, "Prat."

Harry pretended to look hurt. He knew she was only kidding, her smile gave it away.


A short while later, most of the fourth-year Gryffindors were leaving their Transfiguration class and heading back to their common room. They all had a two-hour break before lunch and most just wanted to take it easy. As Harry headed upstairs to his dorm to put away his books, Hermione sat down near the fire to read Sirius's letter.



Dear Harry,

Congratulations, I knew you could do it. I'm so proud of you Harry, and I'm sure your parents; who I know are watching over you, are too. Although, I have to say I wouldn't have been upset if you hadn't passed, at least then you'd be out that damned Tournament.

I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but Karkaroff is a Death Eater. The only reason he is running free is because he gave up the names of all of his Death Eater friends a while back. That, and he supposedly renounced his ways. Just him being there bothers me, but that he is nervous... that really bothers me. What's he hiding, or who is he hiding from? He's made a lot of enemies Harry, on both sides. A man like that can become very desperate. As for Moody, I think he's just trying to keep an eye on you, no pun intended. He's a good man Harry, and a good friend of Dumbledore's.

Something's up Harry, I can feel it in my bones. Please be careful. Trust no one except your closest friends. Listen to Hermione, she's a very smart witch. I'm afraid I can't comment on Ron, I really don't know him that well. On the other hand, I'm glad young Neville is with you, the Longbottoms are a good family.

Now I'll bet the Black family vault, that Hermione is reading this too, and that's fine by me. So Hermione, I only have one thing to ask of you... please take care of Harry for me. I know it's a lot to ask Hermione, but you're the only one there I trust at the moment, and you're probably the only one he'll listen to.

I can't tell you how much I wish I could be there myself, but that's not possible. Have faith though, I'm working on it, and I hope to see you both soon.

Love, Padfoot.



"Well, what do you think?" Harry asked as he plopped down on the opposite side of the couch from Hermione. When she looked up, Harry noticed she had tears in her eyes and the hand that was holding the letter was trembling.

"Oh Harry," she cried faintly.

Harry quickly scooted over next to her and grabbed her free hand, "Hey, hey what's this about?" Hermione tightened her grip on him and sniffed as she looked down. "Please Hermione, don't cry." Taking hold of her other hand too he added softly, "Talk to me, tell me what's wrong."

Hermione felt a little foolish for crying even though she knew why. She had been trying to stay busy, so she wouldn't have time to think about it. The Tournament, the tasks... the danger. Sirius's letter was just the catalyst to bring all the horror back into focus, and her emotions finally caught up with her.

She turned to face Harry more directly and looked up into his concerned eyes. "Oh Harry he's right, I should be taking care of you... not the other way around." Hermione looked down again, "Yet here I sit, crying, like a little first-year schoolgirl."

Harry smiled and gently said, "And you have been Hermione, you have. Merlin, without your help and support... I never would have made it." Harry reached up and gently lifted her chin to look her in the eye. "Hermione, knowing that you believed me, that I didn't put my name in the Cup would have been enough, but you didn't stop there. You stood up to others on my behalf, you didn't just believe me, you believed in me, I don't think you know how much that means to me." He let that sink in before he went on, "Me, this Tournament... all my problems... they're not your responsibility." He watched her worry her bottom lip for second and then gave her a look to tell her not to protest, "They're not, yet you run to my rescue, to help me anyway. That is why you are so special. Hermione you do so much more than just take care of me."

Hermione couldn't stop herself, she launched herself into Harry's arms and wrapped her own tightly around him. With a hitch in her voice, Hermione whispered, "Thank you Harry, that's the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me." Refusing to let go, she went on after a moment, "It's not fair. Forced to compete, and with students far older no less. The way others treat you. Ron! And poor Padfoot... it's just not fair!" she finished, on the verge of tears again.

Hermione finally released him and leaned back, "Sirius would be so disappointed in me," she said sadly.

"Nonsense Hermione, I'm sure he'd be very proud of you." And then Harry said in a stern voice that sounded oddly like their Head of House, "Miss Granger, I'm ordering you to take the rest of the day off from Harry Potter guard duty."

Hermione laughed as she wiped at the last of her tears. She knew Harry hated to see her cry. He always said he didn't know what to do with a crying witch, and yet he always found a way to put a smile back on her face. "Fine, but after a good nights sleep, I'll be back on duty first thing in the morning."

Harry smiled, "I wouldn't have it any other way." They'd talk about the letter some other time.


The one thing Draco Malfoy had in common with Harry Potter, was that neither like getting up early. But for different reasons both were normally up before everyone else in their house. Draco needed peace and quiet in order to study, and in the wee hours of the morning, Slytherin's common room was always deserted. He had tried getting his work done in the evening, but there was always just too much commotion. If he tried to stay in his room to study, someone would always stop by and interrupt him, almost like clockwork. He once tried the library, but he never really felt comfortable there. So, getting up around five o'clock every morning gave him the quiet time he needed, and as a plus he was always on time to breakfast and class.

Of course, there's a downside to everything, and in this case, it meant, that even if he had nothing to do and tried to sleep in, he would find himself wide-awake by five thirty at the latest.

There were only a couple of other students up this early on a Saturday, let alone already dressed and down in the Great Hall having breakfast. As Draco helped himself to something to eat, he looked around. Down at the end of his table sat two seventh year Slytherins working on some class project. There were three girls sitting at the Ravenclaw table having a quiet conversation. It appears that nobody from Hufflepuff was up yet, at least nobody was down for breakfast. Then there was the Gryffindors, and currently there was only one person sitting over there, Harry Potter.

Why was Potter always up so early? Draco briefly wondered if it was for the same reason as himself. `No, I doubt It, he doesn't seem that studious,' he thought. Draco continued to watch Potter as he ate his breakfast. `I wonder if he's telling the truth, he's stupid, but stupid enough to actually put his name in the goblet? And if he was that stupid, how did he managed it?' Draco smirked, `Dumb luck or bad luck, he still stinks. Maybe I'll get lucky, and the Tournament will kill him.' The last thought gave Draco pause, did he really wish Potter dead? Draco shrugged mentally.

"Good morning Draco," Daphne said as she settled a couple of feet down from him.


"What's our arch enemy up to today?" She asked after noticing that Draco had been staring across the hall at Harry.

Draco broke his gaze away from Harry to face her, "What?"

Daphne never looked away, she just ticked her head towards the Gryffindor table.

"Oh... don't know, don't care. I was just wondering how stupid Potter really was." And after having said that, Draco returned to his meal his thoughts turning to other things.

Daphne raised an eyebrow in thought as she looked away from Draco and over to Harry, `Can't be too stupid, he's doing far better than Vasil.' Then she too, returned to her breakfast.


Hermione dropped a notebook on the table and slid in next to Harry, "Morning, you're up early, have you started your morning workout routine again?"

Harry smiled, "Morning Hermione, and yes, well sort of anyway." The look she then gave him clearly said, explain. "I started back at it today, but only about half as hard. Thought I'd take it slowly, half today, maybe three quarters tomorrow, and then on Monday go back to a full routine."

Hermione nodded in understanding, "Sounds like a good idea, besides, you don't want Pomfrey to get a hold of you if you overdo it."

Harry laughed, "No, I don't. What about you? Are you going to join me again?"

Hermione answered with a smirk, "I started back right after the second task."

"Really? Why didn't you say something?"

"Because I knew you would want to join me, and it was too soon."

Harry smiled and shook his head, "Yeah, you're probably right." Seeing Hermione raise an eyebrow Harry amended, "Okay, you are right."

Hermione laughed, "Good answer. Seriously though Harry, I've been meaning to mention how much I think your workouts helped you in the last task, especially that climb up the cliff."

"Yeah, I had similar thoughts myself. Hey, if you don't mind a change the subject, do you want to talk about the letter from Padfoot?"

Hermione sighed, it was a worrisome subject, but she knew Harry needed to talk about it, maybe make some plans, "Sure, I really hate to think about it, but I guess we should."

For an hour and a half, they had talked about who might be involved in some kind of plot. Their main suspects were Karkaroff, and Bagman. Both had been acting very suspiciously. When Harry mentioned Moody, Hermione agreed there was something definitely off about the man. They also discussed various possible reasons why someone would want Harry in the Tournament. Of course, the most logical conclusion was to see him hurt, or even killed. One thing for sure that Hermione agreed with Sirius about, was they needed to be careful, and extra observant. Finally, they talked about trying to find a way to get Remus back at school.

The Hall was slowly starting to fill the students for breakfast, as Harry and Hermione made their way out. Both had schoolwork that needed to get done, and so made their way to the library.


"Harry, how much detail did you go into on how to cut ginger root?" Hermione asked.

"Not much, just a couple of sentences really," answered Harry. He had always liked reading, and learning new things. It was just some of the homework; like writing essays and revising for tests he didn't care for. He'd been mildly surprised to discover he was actually beginning to enjoy even that part of schoolwork, although he would never admit it to anyone except Hermione. Every since he started studying during summer, he found that if he just stayed on top of it or maybe a bit ahead it wasn't so bad.

"Thanks, that's about what I have. Hmm there he is, as usual."

Harry looked up, "Who?"

"Oh..., Ah Viktor Krum. It seems he's here all the time. Funny though, doesn't seem to be the studious type."

Harry looked over at Viktor and studied him for a moment before he remarked, "No... he doesn't. Hey, if we hurry and finish this up, we can still make lunch. You hungry?"

Hermione quickly rechecked her work then said, "Yeah I am actually, give me five minutes and we'll go."


It was fairly light out Monday morning when Harry had come down the stairs to the common room. Yesterday he had managed to get through most of his regular workout, and today he was planning to do the full routine. Still a little sleepy he didn't notice the small group sitting on the couch talking softly until he was almost on them. "What..."

"Morning Harry," Hermione had obviously been awake longer than him.

"Morning Hermione... Ginny?" Harry asked half confused. He had never seen Ginny up any earlier than necessary, he knew she liked to sleep as long as possible.

"Ginny heard about our morning run; she asked if she might be able to join in." Hermione stated, answering his un-asked question.

Ginny smiled, "Morning Harry, I hope you don't mind. After seeing what it's done for you, I'd kind of like to give it a try."

Harry really didn't think she had any idea what she was getting herself into, but she had sounded just a tiny bit desperate. "Well ah, no I don't mind."

Ginny's smile fell, "Are you sure? It sounds like you do mind."

Harry glanced over to Hermione, "Did you tell her what it's like... you know, first starting out?"

Hermione nodded, "Yeah, we talked about it for a bit. She still wants to give it a go, so I loaned her some running clothes."

"I won't slow you down Harry, I promise," pleaded Ginny.

Harry laughed, "It's not me you'll be slowing down, but if Hermione doesn't mind, then neither do I."

Hermione sighed, she knew why Ginny wanted to do this, and it had nothing to do with getting in shape. On the other hand, if Ginny did manage to continue, it might encourage others to start working out a little. After all, they didn't all have to work at it as hard as Harry did.

"Look, I have an idea," Hermione started, "why don't we jog to the lake to warm up? We'll do our stretches and calisthenics down there. Ginny can follow along until she gets the hang of it. We'll start our run from there, and go along the shoreline, if Ginny gets too tired or can't keep up, she can stop or just walk for a while. We'll come back the same way, so we can pick her up on the way back."

Harry glanced from an amused Hermione, to a beaming Ginny, "Well, guess I'd be barking to argue with that."

A half-hour later down by the lake, a sweat covered Ginny began, "Right, let me get this straight. You run down here slowly, to warm up. Why not use a warming charm? Second, you stretch...hmm, well that's kind of makes sense. Next cal-lo-stin-tics, or something like that. I mean really, sit-ups, push-ups... is it really necessary? Isn't there a spell or something?"

Hermione smiled, both her and Harry expected something like this, "Ginny, the point of all this is to make the body stronger, leaner, and faster. It also helps your magic. There might be a spell or potion that would help, but we like doing it this way. Plus, we can do this at home, where we can't use magic. Besides, once you get in shape, it's a lot easier. That's what Harry meant earlier when he asked if I had told you what it was like in the beginning. We struggled for a while too, but now…well we actually like it."

"You really get used to it? You like doing… this?" Ginny asked, having a hard time believing anyone could.

"Yeah, I do, and I'm pretty sure Harry does too. We still get tired sometimes, but that because the stronger we get, the harder we push ourselves." Hermione laughed, "I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. Look, it's not so much the work out that great, it's later. After I've had a shower and some breakfast. That's when I feel it, like I've been recharged. I have more energy, and I feel sharper too; mentally I mean."

Ginny couldn't help but get caught up in Hermione's enthusiasm, "Okay…so now we run?"

Seeing Harry was getting impatient, Hermione kept her answer short, "Now we run."

Harry had to give her credit, even though she was in better shape than most because of Quidditch, she was still in poor shape. Quidditch, though physical, just wasn't really that strenuous. But Ginny was hanging in there. She was really trying. That however, came to a halt about fifteen minutes into the run.

Exhausted, Ginny finally yelled, "Aaaah…That's it, I can't go any further!" Slowing to a stop, she had bent over to try to catch her breath.

"Ginny, don't stop, keep walking, just go slow," Harry called back over his shoulder.

"Are you mental, I'm dying here!"

"Ginny, keep moving for a couple of minutes until you cool down, or you might get cramps," Hermione offered.

"Crabs!" Ginny hollered horrified.

Harry laughed while Hermione tried to keep a straight face, "Cramps Ginny, Cramps."

"Oh thank Merlin's beard, and what do you mean might… I'm already one big cramp."

Harry and Hermione had circled back to keep talking to Ginny. "Look, just keep walking till you get your wind back," Harry said, "And when you're ready, start back towards the castle. We'll meet up with you along the way…Okay?"

Still out of breath, Ginny nodded, and waved them on.

Harry and Hermione resumed their run, this time at their normal pace, both remembering what it was like when they first started.

"Five to one, says she won't come with us tomorrow," Harry said while maintaining his stride.

Because Hermione knew Ginny had other reasons, she gave the girl better odds, "I think she'll last till the end of the week."

Twenty minutes later, they slowed to a walk as they caught up with Ginny. Even walking, she seemed to be moving rather slowly, and it appeared as though she had picked up a limp as well. Good thing they were fairly close to the castle.


Turned out, neither Harry nor Hermione were quite right about Ginny. She had lasted until Wednesday, then took Thursday off, but came back on Friday. Ginny had told them she was going to give it a couple of weeks and see if it truly did get easier. However, she also made it clear, there was no way she was giving up her lie-ins on the weekends, and she would probably only be able to make it three, or maybe four times a week. Still, she was determined to give it a go.




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