The Awakening Power by Sib Chapter 22: Pride and Ego
A/N: Harry's sixth year, after OotP. H/G, R/Hr, PG-13 rating.
* * *
Harry awoke with a huge yawn. He climbed out of bed with an odd feeling. He vaguely recalled Ron talking to him the previous night, but it may have been a dream... he wasn't certain. Ah well, he thought, as he dressed and noticed that Ron had already headed down to breakfast.
He looked at his night table and saw a Valentine's Day card that Parvati had given to him the previous day. Fortunately, it hadn't made any dramatic confessions, but had only said she enjoyed spending time with him and hoped to do more soon. While he would have preferred to not receive the card, he felt that it could have been much worse.
He had half-thought about giving Ginny something, maybe something relatively innocent, a friendship item. He wondered if maybe giving her something would give him some clue about her feelings about him, to give him more information, but... ultimately the day had passed without any action on his part. His thoughts of her had been extremely confused lately.
He walked down the common room steps and saw that Ron and Hermione were talking together quietly, looking in an unusually good mood. He slowed, sensing something – odd. He peered closely at them, trying to spot exactly what was giving him pause. Shrugging his shoulders, he continued down the stairs.
They gave Harry greetings at the same time, their voices overlapping, then looked at each other and giggled in a silly way. Harry blinked at them.
They went down to breakfast. Ron was actually humming a tune, and Hermione was smiling far more than usual. Harry wondered if they had accidentally taken some sort of cheering potion.
"Bloody he– I mean, drat," Ron said, glancing at Hermione. "Where's the bacon?"
"I'll get you some, Ron!" Hermione said brightly. She picked up his plate and walked down the table until she found some and filled up his plate generously.
All through breakfast, they glanced at each other and smiled. Harry was starting to seriously wonder if he should suggest they visit the infirmary.
Later on that morning, they headed down to Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Harry had continued to watch them, and there could be no doubt that they were far too cheerful. He reviewed all the lessons they'd had recently, but he couldn't think of any that might have gone wrong to cause the symptoms he was seeing.
"That's my chair! I sit there all the time!" said a Hufflepuff boy, as Harry entered into Snape's class with Ron and Hermione.
"Too bad! I got here first," replied a Ravenclaw. "Next time get here earlier if you want it."
"You better move..." said the Hufflepuff threateningly. They seemed to be fighting over a chair in the back of the class.
They both abruptly stopped as they saw Harry walking into the class. They looked at each other, and then the Hufflepuff sighed and reluctantly moved toward a chair closer to the front.
Harry felt irritated as he traveled over to his chair. He couldn't help but notice that a lot of students had been trying to keep to the back. Recent classes between himself and Snape had been growing more tense every time.
"So, Potter, I guess we'll finally find out what a true fraud you are," Malfoy said with a smirk.
Harry gritted his teeth. He really wasn't in the mood for Malfoy, who was standing by Harry's usual seat with crossed arms, apparently waiting for them.
"What are you babbling on about, Malfoy?" Ron said, looking annoyed.
"Of course, how silly of me. You lot are always the last to know anything, aren't you? You'll find out soon enough," Malfoy said, obviously enjoying himself.
Harry just sat in his seat, deciding to ignore his taunting. Ever since the door incident, Malfoy had doubled his efforts in trying to annoy Harry, as if he was trying to get him to lose control once and for all. Probably trying to get me expelled, he thought.
Snape glided into the room, the traditional silence following in his wake. After calling the role, he fixed the room with a cold stare.
"I have an announcement," he said in his silky, soft voice. "I've decided that we're going to have a little... fun." He curled his lip, as if the word was one that he pulled out of an unpleasant corner of his mind.
Harry felt a chill come over him. Anything that Snape thought was fun couldn't possibly be enjoyable for anyone else.
"Since our class focus has been on skills useful for combat, I believe it would be prudent to gain practical experience in pressure situations," he said, pausing to let the thought sink in.
"Erm, pressure situations?" said a Hufflepuff girl, her voice quavering a bit.
Snape narrowed her eyes at her. "Yes, Miss Landry. Now if you will allow me to finish without interruption, I will explain."
The girl cowered back into her seat, looking afraid.
"As I was saying," he continued. "I want you to experience dueling when something depends on it. Namely, your marks in this class. We will be holding an in-class dueling tournament. The further you go in the tournament, and the better you do in each round, the better your mark will be. The format will be single elimination, with four draws, each draw seeded based on how well you've done so far in this class."
A murmur went up in the room. Many students appeared excited about the idea, although other students looked very nervous.
"I will post the draws at the end of class," Snape said. "There will be no homework. I suggest that many of you practice between now and the beginning of the next class when the tournament will begin."
"Are there prizes if we win?" Seamus said excitedly.
Snape glared at him. "Have we all forgotten how to raise our hands?" he said. Seamus slumped in his seat, abashed.
Snape steepled his fingers as he continued. "To answer your question, Mr. Finnigan, there is one prize. The winner shall have the opportunity to earn extra credit in this class. The extra credit shall be earned by dueling... me."
* * *
Harry came down the common room stairs, ready to join Ron and Hermione for lunch. He'd made no more progress on figuring out exactly what was wrong with them. He slowed as he came down the stairs, spotting them in the common room, as he had this morning. He decided to get another surreptitious look to see if he could spot any other symptoms.
They were standing rather close to each other, whispering in each other's ear... Ron had a goofy smile on his face... Hermione was giggling in a very un-Hermione-like way... and then suddenly it hit him. Harry ran back up the stairs in shock, needing a few seconds to recover.
Good lord, they finally did it, he thought, grinning to himself. He wasn't the most perceptive bloke about these things, but there couldn't be any question about what he'd been seeing that day. Now that he'd figured it out, it was like a neon sign over their heads. In fact, he remembered last night... Ron had wanted to borrow the invisibility cloak. Harry chortled; they must have had a late night Valentine rendezvous.
Pasting a nonchalant expression on his face, he started down the stairs again. He suppressed a chuckle as noted that Ron and Hermione immediately took a step back from each other as soon as he came in the room.
"Ready for lunch?" Harry said.
"Yeah, I'm starving," Ron said, a bit too cheery.
As they went down to the Great Hall, Harry wondered about when they were planning to tell him. It finally dawned on him that they might be worried about his reaction, and he wondered if they really thought he didn't see it coming.
They sat down at the table, Ron and Hermione sneaking glances at each other, but sitting carefully far apart. Harry, sitting across from them, spied Ginny down the table.
"Be right back," Harry said. He noticed that Ron and Hermione were so wrapped up in each other that they hardly noticed him speaking.
He moved down to Ginny, who looked up curiously. "Hi Harry. What's up?" she said.
Harry leaned down and whispered to her. "Look at Ron and Hermione."
Ginny peered over. Ron was whispering in Hermione's ear, and she was responding with a giggle. An expression of shock came to Ginny's face.
"You don't think..." she said, a grin slowly creeping across her face.
Harry nodded with a grin of his own. "They've been like that all morning."
"Oh, this is just too good. Come on," Ginny said, picking up her plate.
They went back and sat down across from Ron and Hermione, who immediately backed away from each other.
"Hi Ron, Hermione," she said brightly, looking at them carefully.
"Hey sis," Ron said, eating his lunch, but appearing