Ron sat back in his chair and stroked his upper lip
speculatively as he watched Tatiana wobble her way on six-inch high
heels towards the bar.
"Well, she seems nice," he said at last.
"She is," Harry said.
"And, er, recent, is it?"
"Yeah, just this week."
you didn't mention her last night," Ron said, fixing Harry with an
inquisitive stare. Harry stared down at his glass. Sometime around the
second horcrux, his best friend had developed a stare that put Snape
and Dumbledore to shame in its ability to make a subject squirm.
I didn't know if it was going anywhere," he improvised. "But I saw her
this morning, and I thought I might bring her along."
"I didn't know you were coming to watch today."
"I figured I'd come and say hi," Harry said.
"Well, always nice to see you," Ron said. "And ask you what in the name of Merlin are you thinking?"
Harry looked up with a start.
Harry, you can tell me to get stuffed if you want," Ron said, glancing
at the bar, where Tatiana was flirting with three of the Cannons
reserves. "But I thought you knew better than to get mixed up with
girls like that."
"She's a, a scarlet
woman," Ron hissed, as though embarrassed to say it out loud. "She's a
groupie, Harry. I didn't think that you were into girls like that - and
Mum's going to have a fit!"
"What's your Mum got to do with anything?" Harry asked, bewildered.
"Harry, she's not that keen on Padma, for Circe's sake," Ron sighed. "And she's
smart and pretty and nice enough, I suppose. What do you think she's
going to say if you bring Tatiana to Hermione's birthday party or
Harry boggled at the thought of presenting Tatiana to the Weasleys, but pulled himself together before Ron went on.
"Your mum doesn't like Padma?" he asked. Ron grimaced, as if he'd said more than he meant to.
don't think she dislikes her exactly," he said. "But... You know what
Mum's like. She doesn't think Olivier's good enough for Ginny, either.
Can you imagine introducing Tatiana to her?"
I'll leave it a few weeks, eh?" Harry said, somewhat flabbergasted at
the news that Molly didn't like Padma or Olivier. "So, has your mum
said anything to you? Or Ginny?"
"Well, no," Ron said. "It's more what Mum doesn't
say, at least, that's what Ginny reckons. Apparently Mum never asks us
about the future, at least not if we're going to be there with Padma
"She doesn't?" Harry asked. He cast his mind
back over the last few Weasley family gatherings, but had to admit that
he hadn't been paying very much attention.
"That's what Ginny
says," Ron replied, in a tone of voice that suggested that he hadn't
been paying very close attention either. "But..." he looked a bit
unhappy, and shrugged.
"Do you see a future for yourself with Padma?" Harry asked. Ron looked even unhappier, and gave an almost imperceptible shrug.
are you going to do?" Harry asked, restraining himself with some
difficulty from pointing out what he felt Ron had to do: Dump Padma and
ask Hermione out.
"I dunno," Ron said. "I suppose I ought to tell her. But..."
"She's nice to have around?" Harry asked. "Keeps the bed warm?"
sound like Fred and George," Ron said with a grimace. "And no, it's not
that. I'm just sort of hoping that she notices I'm not really
Harry looked at his friend in disbelief, although
if he was honest with himself he supposed that he shouldn't have been
surprised. It was such a Ron thing to do.
"Ron, if you keep
letting her stay at yours, and don't actually turn around and say that
she's dumped, I don't think she's going to take the hint," he said. "I
mean, look how long Lavender took to break up with you - and you were
just snogging her."
"I'm just snogging Padma!" Ron said, a
little too loudly. A few of the other people in the bar looked over in
amusement, and a flashbulb popped nearby. Ron sunk back into his chair
with a groan.
"Alright, I get the point," Harry said. "So, what's stopping you ending it? If you're not that serious about her-"
"She is," Ron said. "At least, I think she is. I mean, how would I know?"
Harry shrugged. It wasn't an area of relationships that he knew a great deal about.
"She keeps hinting... Anyway, she went out with Dean before me, and you know what he's like."
and Harry shared a loaded look. Dean and Seamus were rapidly acquiring
a reputation, from their lavish flat to their sharp clothes to their
large credit card limits, they had capitalised on the post-war
atmosphere by investing all their savings in a small party supplies
firm whose stock had sky-rocketed in the wake of Voldemort's defeat.
They had diversified into the general entertainments field and were now
running a small cinema on the edge of wizarding London that catered to
both magical and Muggle crowds. They were hotly rumoured to be about to
break onto the Daily Prophet's '100 Richest' list and their
ability to generate money was only surpassed by their ability to
attract women. Dean had been linked with Blaise Zabini's mother, the
notorious Black Widow of the wizarding world, but by and large they
seemed to be working their way through the recent female attendees of
Hogwarts. Even Hermione had gone on a couple of dates with Seamus, but
Harry knew that it had never really gone anywhere.
boys? Gossiping away like old ladies, I see," Tatiana giggled as she
plonked a round of drinks down on the table. Half of Ron's pint slopped
over the top of the glass. "Whoops!" she giggled again. "Bottoms up!"
and she took a large gulp of her Firewhisky-and-tonic, before burping
in a mildly disconcerting manner. "Excuse me!"
Ron stared at
her, slack-jawed in horror. It was only when Harry kicked him under the
table that he remembered his manners. With a muttered "Thanks!" he
picked up what was left of his drink.
"So, what were you boys
getting up to when I was gone?" Tatiana asked, swaying slightly in her
seat. "Nothing too naughty, I hope. One at a time, and all that, but I
suppose we've got the whole night ahead of us, eh? Eh?"
Harry and Ron stared at each other, speechless.
"I should be getting home," Ginny said, looking at her watch with a frown.
"Is Olivier finishing now?" Remus asked.
She looked at him blankly. "Back to the Burrow, I mean. I don't live with Olivier."
Under the table, Hermione kicked Remus. She had the distinct impression that Ginny has been poked enough for one day.
"Mum wants help with the curtains. Not," she added darkly, "that I have a great deal of luck with them."
She stood up and pulled on her coat.
to see you again, Hermione," she said. "Say hello to Harry for me.
Remus, it was nice to see you as well. Give my love to Tonks."
"I shall do, Ginny. You're always welcome to come and see us."
"Thank you," she smiled and, with a pop, she Disapparated.
"I wouldn't like to be in Olivier's shoes tonight," Remus said. "It's a pity, really. He seems like a nice enough bloke."
"But..." Hermione said, and paused.
"Yes?" Remus asked.
very, well, up himself," she said, as though saying so was as painful
as having a tooth pulled. "Remus, do I come across like that?"
he said firmly. "Oh, you share Olivier's passion for learning, but as
Ginny said about Harry, you tend to know where to draw the line.
Olivier's passion is a fine thing, and in time I have no doubt that he
will learn to temper his enthusiasm, but..."
"But right now, Ginny's unhappy."
I must admit, I was unsure about this mission of yours at first, but
Ginny would do well to heed the advice of her elders and seek happiness
Remus smiled wolfishly.
"Sometimes advice is not given verbally, Hermione. And it's been a
while since I tested my wits against someone of your age group, anyway."
"You're going to help us?"
yes," Remus smiled again. "I think that Tonks and I could be
considerable assets in your quest. But may I suggest that you also
consult with Fred and George?"
"Fred and George? Whatever for?" Hermione asked. "Do you really think that getting them involved is the best thing to do?"
"Not directly, perhaps," Remus said. "But I feel that they could make a small delivery for us."
"A small delivery?"
"Maybe not so small."
"Well, it's been wonderful meeting you Tatiana," Ron said. "I hope to see you again soon."
"Ooh! So polite! You," she said, swatting Harry on the arm, "have competition."
gritted his teeth and forced a smile on his face. It came rather easier
as he looked at the rictus of horror spread across Ron's features. With
a pop, the redhead departed, and Harry slumped back against a wall.
"That was rotten," he said.
Tonks looked around and, seeing that no one was looking, shivered her way back to her more normal form.
shoes are rotten," she said, nearly overbalancing as she tried to
wrench one of the stilettos from her foot. Harry caught her arm
absently, long practise at being around Tonks having honed his reflexes
even better than regular Quidditch had.
"What now?" he asked.
"What did you find out from Ron?"
"That Molly's not very keen on Olivier or Padma, apparently."
"Well, it's a start," Tonks said doubtfully.
"And that Ron's not too keen on Padma, either," he added.
Tonks grinned. "That, we can work with."
see Padma at the Ministry occasionally. I'm sure that we can talk
things through. I think we're both on duty tomorrow as well."
"You and Padma?" Harry asked.
and Unspeakables have to liaise on cases sometimes," Tonks explained.
"Me and Padma worked together on a case a couple of months ago when I
found something Dark in an orphanage."
"What happened?" he asked.
"We sorted it out. Don't worry, Harry, we know what we're doing."
could always become an Auror if you want to keep an eye on us," Tonks
smirked. "It's not like they'd be able to turn you down, you know?"
Harry laughed. "No, thanks. Maybe in a few years, but I've had enough of chasing down dark artefacts."
"Now you just use your skills to break up happy couples?"
Harry turned a toothy smile on her. "Yes."
"Remus, just the man!"
"And Hermione too! We are doubly blessed."
Hermione and Remus stopped short. Hermione held the door open, just in case a quick getaway was necessary.
"Fred, George," Remus said cautiously. "What can we do for you?"
"Test subjects," George grinned. "You don't mind, do you?"
"The Ministry's insisting, you see. We can't just rely on testing on ourselves â€" we're young-"
"We need a wider sampling," Fred went on. "So a young, healthy-"
"-female such as Hermione, and a slightly more well matured-"
"-occasionally somewhat unwell-"
"-male would be excellent additional assistance."
Hermione and Remus exchanged knowing looks.
"No," they said together.
you could speak to Olivier," Remus went on. "I would imagine that the
kids at his hospital would love to be test subjects â€" it'd be
something to tell their friends when they go back to school. It's not
fun being ill during the summer, believe me."
idea," Fred said, nodding enthusiastically. "And since Olivier's
practically family, we could probably give him a free sample as well."
"Yeah, that'd be good. We could get some feedback direct from him. And if there is anything wrong with them-"
"-and he gets badly cursed, or hexed, or jinxed-"
"-then he'll know how to cure it!"
the twins said in unison. They hurried off to the back of the shop and
emerged, a few seconds later, with their arms full of WWW boxes, each
bearing a flashing yellow and red sticker which warned that the items
were not for sale.
"Ver-" George began to yell, but the twins' assistant had already laid a box on the counter for them.
Verity," Fred said, as they piled the Wheezes into the container.
Verity, without even looking, reached up and snatched a wayward
Whizbang as it shot out of its box and quickly doused it with a jet of
water from her wand. She gave Remus and Hermione a smiling shrug, as
though to say that while she was quite enjoying working for the twins,
she was the responsible one of the three. Hermione gave her much the
same expression in reply.
"I can't believe we didn't think of
Olivier ourselves," George went on as they piled their Wheezes into the
box. He ducked as one went off, spraying a substance that looked like
stinksap over a nearby shelf. "He reminded us about murtlap essence,
Fred nodded. "I suppose we must have suppressed that memory," he said, absently rubbing his buttocks.
that was easier than expected," Remus said as they walked back along
Diagon Alley to the nearest Apparition Point. He looked at the finger
trap that he'd decided to buy as an excuse for visiting the WWW shop.
"I think that I shall give this to Tonks," he added, poking it
carefully with his wand and watching it analytically as it twisted and
contorted. "She can try and shapeshift her way out of it. It'll be good
Hermione nodded. "Do you think that it might be a bit cruel, though?" she asked. "I mean, Olivier hasn't done anything, really."
neglected Ginny," Remus said simply. "And if it came down to a choice
between the twins doing their well-intentioned worst, or Ginny doing
her ill-intentioned worst, which do you think he'd prefer, given the
"I suppose," Hermione said. "And there's always the
chance that they'll work their way through it and emerge stronger, in
which case we've done them a favour." She pulled a face. "This must be
how Fred and George justify all the pranks they pull. Or maybe they
just don't worry about the consequences very much."
nodded absently. The finger trap had suddenly grown in size many times
over and was now wrapped tightly around his forearms.
Apparated into the kitchen of Olivier's flat with the faintest puff of
air, and smiled slightly. Even with the huge bags of groceries she was
carrying, she was still the quietest Apparator she knew - even Harry
and Hermione made faint pops when they appeared.
Of course, I'm a foot shorter than Harry nowadays, she mused as she set the bags down on the floor. Less displacement of air. It was only as she turned around and her gaze took in the rest of the room that she realised how messy it was.
it was only as she realised how messy the room was that her mind
registered the shadowy figure sitting on the far side of the room.
wand was in her hand before she had breathed in enough to speak the
words of a jinx, and the wand that the shadowy figure was holding lit
up, illuminating the gloomy kitchen.
"Olivier?" Ginny asked uncertainly, her wand still raised and aimed at the other occupant of the room.
c'est moi," Olivier replied. Ginny winced. Olivier only spoke in French
when he was really angry - he claimed that he could express himself
better in his native language.
Of course, I barely understand a bloody word he says, she thought, with a flash of anger. She quelled it with the ease of long practise and lowered her wand.
happened?" she asked, taking in his dishevelled appearance and the mess
that coated the kitchen table, one wall and a great deal of his
normally immaculate hair.
"Vos frÃ¨res, celui est ce qui!" Olivier erupted, standing abruptly and slamming his chair back into the wall.
"My brothers?" Ginny asked, having learned a few words, 'brothers' among them. Olivier often spoke of her siblings in French.
Ginny bared her teeth in a smile that had nothing to do with humour. She had heard that phrase so often that she had asked Hermione to translate it for her.
side! You want me to be on your side! For Merlin's sake, Olivier,
you're a grown man! You have all those wonderful doctors you suck up to
on your side, or is your nose not far enough up their arse, yet? My
brothers like to have fun - so what? That's not a bad thing, and after
what I went through last year, I'd have thought that you would have
understood. But you're just a stodgy, stuck up, old before your time,
boring prat! I don't know how I could ever have thought you were a nice
guy, Olivier. You're just a tosser."
a crack, Ginny brought her wand up and a blast of black light crackled
across the room before slamming into Olivier's face. He went down from
the impact, and the screech of bat-bogeys was heard in the otherwise
"Accio my things!"
a pitifully small bundle of odd socks and a torn t-shirt under one arm,
Ginny paused to glare balefully at Olivier's frantic attempts to
reverse her famed hex. Then she Disapparated.
"Hi, Harry, can I come in?"
"Of course. Is something up? You don't look happy."
"I just dumped Olivier."
chance of a cup of tea?" Ginny asked, dropping into one of the chairs
in the living room, and sighing. Harry nodded and closed the door
behind him. With Ginny safely on the other side of the door, his hands
flew to his head and he raked his fingers through his hair.
think, Potter, think," he muttered. "She's dumped le tosser at last.
Now what do I do? Is it too soon to make a move? How's my hair look -
gah, stupid question. What am I wearing? What am I wearing? Where the hell is Hermione? She'd know what to do."
fact, Hermione was at work, finishing a report that wasn't due for
another week. Hermione knew, however, that her boss at the Department
for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures would find a way to
tear her work apart, and that she'd have to find a way to rewrite it in
a way that satisfied his monstrous ego whilst still getting her point
She sighed, and rubbed her eyes with the balls of her hands. Somehow, I imagined that life after Hogwarts would be more exciting than this.
tell me - you've finally learned so much that your brain has to get rid
of some old stuff to make room for the new stuff."
She looked up in surprise. "Ron?"
"Yep," Ron said, dropping his lanky frame into the chair opposite her desk. "You do know that it's Saturday, right?"
"Er, yes, of course," Hermione said, wishing that she had the time to check her hair. And her make up.
a silent sigh, she cursed herself for being so silly - as if Ron, after
all the time that they had known one another, would notice if her hair
was wild or her face was bare of colour.
"And you do know that
it's-" he made a show of looking at his wrist, although he had never
worn a watch in all the time she'd known him "-gone nine o'clock?"
Hermione replied, less sure. She often lost track of time while she was
working. Her job may have been dull, but she could never be accused of
lack of effort.
"Then what on earth are you still doing here, Hermione?"
"I have a report to finish," she said, finally looking away from him.
your boss still giving you problems?" Ron asked. Hermione shivered. His
tone of voice left it clear that he, Ron, would happily stand up to her
boss on her behalf.
Would he do that if Padma had to work late? she thought, irrelevantly.
"No, not really," she replied. "All new recruits have to work the long hours. When I've been here as long as him-"
"Hermione, he's been here fifty years, and he's only the poxy head of a department. A department no-one cares about, at that."
Despite herself, Hermione felt her temper flare.
"So my work isn't important?"
work is, his isn't," Ron sighed. "Look, Dad's head of his department,
right? He says that everyone knows your boss is a prat - but they can't
sack him. He's a political appointment. He always knows the right horse
to back in an election race, and it keeps him in work - but you've seen
his file, right? He's had more sideways promotions then Harry's had
trips to the Hospital Wing."
Ron flushed, as though he hadn't meant to say so much. Hermione eyed him inquisitively.
"How do you know so much about Ministry appointments?" she asked. "And how did you get in here, anyway?"
was visiting Dad," Ron shrugged. "Mum made me take him his dinner,
since he's daft enough to be working this late too. Then I saw the
light on in here, and I just knew that it had to be you. Who else is
barking mad enough to work Saturday nights? Thought I'd see if you
wanted dinner or something," he tossed out carelessly. Hermione noticed
that the flush on his cheeks hadn't quite disappeared.
"Is Padma busy tonight?" she asked.
"I dunno, probably," Ron said. "I think she said it was Parvati's birthday or something."
"Then... wouldn't it be Padma's birthday as well?" Hermione asked.
"Oh... I suppose so," Ron said, light dawning over his features as he worked it out. "Suppose it's not that, then."
"Shouldn't you check?"
"Should I?" Ron asked. "I'm pretty sure it's not that."
"You're not a very good boyfriend, are you?"
Ron took a sharp breath, and Hermione realised just too late that it hadn't been the politest thing that she could have said.
if you're busy then I'll just leave," he said. "I just thought that you
might like some company if you hadn't already eaten, alright? If I want
to be insulted, I can go... well, anywhere, really."
"I'm sorry," she said, and meant it.
well," he said, his cheeks flushed again. Hermione sighed. It had
always been that way - a wrong word from one or the other of them and
it all fell apart. It was what had driven Ron into Lavender's arms
during their sixth year. In fact, Hermione remembered, it had been a
similar argument that had sent Ron off, vulnerable and angry, to be
comforted by Padma.
"Dinner sounds nice," she said, tentatively.
"W-well," Ron said, all trace of anger gone, she noted. He almost seems embarrassed. If only he wasn't so... unpredictable.
"We could try that new place - Club Two?"
I've heard of it," Hermione said. "But I could never afford that. And
they wouldn't let me in, anyway. You need to be fam- Oh."
Ron smirked. She blushed, grateful that the angle of her desk light illuminated him and not her.
see you back to your flat," he said, eyes sparkling as he stood. "You
can get dressed up, if you like, or at least wash your face." He leant
across the desk, and her breath caught in her throat as he reached up
and brushed her cheek with his thumb. "I may be pretty famous, but I
think even dear old Vicky would have trouble getting you into Club Two
with half the contents of an ink pot smeared around your eyes."
grinned one of his maddening grins and stood up to go into the lobby
area and fetch her coat. Alone in her office, Hermione sagged forward
and banged her forehead against her desk several times before pulling
herself together. As she joined Ron in the lobby, and let him help her
into her coat, she wondered exactly how it was she managed to keep
finding herself in positions like this.
Harry wondered how it was that he kept managing to find himself in positions like this.
Here he was, on the sofa with Ginny. Terminator 2
was on TV, and Ginny had demanded that they watch it. A violent, loud,
exciting film was exactly what she needed, she had declared, to rid
herself of the last traces of her cultured, pompous ex-boyfriend.
Those had been her exact words, and Harry knew better than to argue with her when she was in that sort of mood.
But he was wondering exactly what he was supposed to do next.
often, when he found himself at a party, he would be press-ganged onto
one of the larger sofas and promptly surrounded by women of all shapes,
sizes and personalities, but all of whom shared a single purpose â€"
So far, he had been lucky. He had been able to
plead tiredness, injuries, even on one memorable occasion a
relationship with Ginny â€" that, he remembered with a wince at the
thought of the telling-off she'd given him, had not been one of his
better ideas â€" and he had managed to escape with only a few blows to
his dignity. His experiences in the war had taught him that fleeing
without pride was better than many alternatives.
With a shudder he recalled Marietta Edgecombe's forthright approaches.
"Are you okay?" Ginny asked.
"Uh, yeah, someone just walked over my grave."
she said, and turned her attention back to the screen. Arnold
Schwarzenegger was holding a very large gun, and he remembered that the
scene coming up was one of her favourites.
"Do you ever wonder where that saying came from?" he asked.
"What?" she asked, glancing back at him, her attention still on the screen.
someone walking over your grave. I mean, where is my grave, that
someone just walked over it? Is there a footpath through a graveyard
somewhere? Are some kids exploring the grounds at Hogwarts? Or maybe
one day I'll get ploughed so badly during a match that they won't be
able to dig me out again. I'll be buried in the goal area at the
Cannons stadium or something."
Inwardly, Harry felt himself drowning. Why in the name of all that's magical am I talking about graves?
"Harry," Ginny said. "Why are you talking about graves?"
"Er... you don't find it interesting?"
She stared at him for a long moment, before quirking a small half-smile at him.
"I'm sorry. I guess that I'm not in the mood for laughing today. You understand, don't you?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," Harry said quickly. Well, that could have been so much worse...
With a sigh, she hit a switch on the remote control and muted the film. She turned to face Harry fully.
"I just can't believe what an idiot I've been. I've wasted a year with that idiot."
"I'm just glad that I'm done with him. Remind me to thank Fred and George, will you?"
"What'd they do?"
"Oh, they sent Olivier a Wheezes care package. They must have realised that he needed some fun in his life."
"Did it explode?"
think everything exploded. It looked like he'd been covered in dough.
Thick, sticky, goopy dough. From head to foot. The bat-bogies barely
got through it."
"You hexed him?" Harry asked, incredulous.
"I don't believe it."
"You don't think that I did it? Or that he deserved it?" Ginny asked, her eyes flashing in the dim light from the television.
"I know you'd do it â€" you did it to Malfoy, and Zacharius Smith. And as for whether he deserved it-"
Harry stopped and remembered how protective Ginny was of her choices â€" even her bad ones.
"-if you say that he deserved it, then I reckon he must have done," he continued, choosing the safe route over the chancy one.
"Hmm," Ginny calmed somewhat.
"I just mean that I've still never got to see this hex of yours. I keep missing it."
"We can go back and hex him again, if you like," she suggested.
"Nah, waste of time," Harry said. He smiled. "I reckon that anyone who gets hexed by you, stays hexed."
managed another half smile. She turned back to watch the television,
but frowned. Glancing at Harry, she slowly leaned back against him,
something that made his heart stop for several seconds.
"Comfy?" he managed to ask.
"Yeah," she said. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No, no, no, not at all," he said, and wondered if he looked as ridiculous as he sounded.
was very, very aware of how warm her body was against his. With a jolt,
he realised that she used the same flowery scent that she had three
years before â€" he had never quite remembered to ask whether it was a
perfume or shampoo.
He had never been here before. Normally
when he was on the sofa with a girl, her intentions were clear â€" and
his eyes were on the exit. Now he wanted nothing more than just to stay
here with Ginny â€" nothing more, that is, other than to kiss her once
The first time he'd kissed her had been a spur of the
moment decision â€" not even a decision, really. He had been almost at
his lowest ebb, and then she had been there.
Now he had no
idea what to do next. Instincts were all well and good, but her head
was nestled under his chin, and even the extremely flexible Tonks would
have struggled to kiss someone from that angle.
"So, what's next for you?" he asked.
don't know. I don't know if I can live at home much longer. Mum's never
been pleased with me spending nights at Olivier's, and I know that
there'll be a little part of her that won't be able to resist saying 'I
told you so'."
"Your mum would do that?"
"All mums do that."
"Did she not like Olivier, then?"
"Ugh, no. And she was right."
"Well, I guess she might be entitled to-"
"Don't you start," she said, swatting him on the arm.
"No, no... I know she was right. I just wish she could have been more supportive. Like you!"
"You were always really nice to Olivier."
"Well, your mum wants the best for you, and she's got more experience than us at who's good and who isn't."
"And, to be honest, I never liked Olivier that much."
Harry shook his head. "He wasn't good enough for you, at least I didn't think so. I just figured that you saw more than I did."
I was just so caught up in the idea that this older, intelligent guy
liked me at first... and then I was just rebelling against Mum. I think
I always knew that he was a tosser."
"Well then, you're better off rid of him, I suppose."
"So... what do you want to do when the film's over?"
"I don't know... I can't face going home just yet."
"Well, you can stay here as long as you need."
"Oh, yes, I'm sure Mum would be delighted."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Mum's convinced that you and Hermione are... well, you know."
"She is?" Harry asked, surprised.
quite old-fashioned. Two people of the opposite sex living together? It
never happened when she was young â€" it doesn't happen that much
nowadays, come to that. Most wizard-borns wouldn't even consider it. I
suppose it's because you're Muggle-borns, well, Muggle-raised in your
"I guess. So, everyone thinks that Hermione and me are together?"
"Pretty much. Are you?"
"She's a nice girl, Harry." He could hear the laughter in her voice, barely held back.
"But she's... Hermione."
"You've never thought about her that way?"
"Well... not seriously. I mean..."
"Look, you have to promise not to tell Ron, right?"
She twisted around so that she was looking up at him. His mind went blank for several seconds before he shook himself mentally.
"Me and Hermione, well, we kissed last night."
"Really?" Ginny looked shocked.
"But it was so weird â€" it wasn't like kissing..." You. It wasn't like kissing you. "It wasn't like a proper kiss. I think we're just trying to forget it ever happened."
"Because, well, I can't speak for Hermione, but..."
fought to prevent himself just leaning forward the few inches that were
all that stood between himself and the girl lying in his arms.
"I don't want to be with Hermione. I want to be with someone else."
Ginny blinked, and Harry could feel the shallow breaths she was taking against his ribs.
"Someone in particular?" she asked.
His mouth suddenly very dry, Harry nodded.
Whatever Harry would have said next was interrupted by the pop and crack of Hermione and Ron Apparating into the front room of the flat.
"What the bloody hell..." Ron barked, taking in the scene on the sofa.
Harry and Ginny sprung apart so quick it almost appeared that they had Apparated.
"You!" Ron levelled a finger at Harry, who stood up uneasily.
"You! You have a girlfriend!" Ron yelled.
"You do?" Hermione said.
"He does?" Ginny said.
"I do?" Harry said.
"Yes!" Ron snarled, prodding Harry in the chest. "Or did you get bored of Tatiana already?"
Tatiana," Harry said, feeling somewhat relieved, until he looked at
Ron's furious expression once more. "That, er... She, well, she..."
It wasn't Ron's voice. Harry's face froze into a rictus as he turned to face Ginny.
"Who's Tatiana?" Ginny asked.
"A friend," Harry said. "Not my girlfriend," he added quickly.
"You just hopped into bed with her for the night then?" Ron said, prodding Harry again.
twisted around, shoving Ron's hand away and propelling his friend into
an armchair with a move he'd learned from Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Now, can everyone please calm down," he said, turning back to face Ginny.
But Ginny had gone, leaving behind only a woebegone pile of odd socks and one torn t-shirt.