Disclaimer: I own nothing; it all belongs to J.K.Rowling. I'm just borrowing the characters to play with for a while. This is for pleasure only, no profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
The next morning, Harry was awakened by the sound of Ron's snoring, which was causing the entire room to shake. Combined with Dudley's snores coming from the room next door, it sounded as if a battle of the bands was taking place.
Uncle Vernon must be loving this. Of course, he snored fairly loudly himself, so maybe he was missing it. The door to Harry's bedroom creaked open, and a disgruntled Hermione stuck her face inside.
"Does he always snore that loudly?" she asked testily.
"Pretty much," Harry replied, grinning. He pulled the covers up closely to his bare chest, suddenly becoming aware of his state of undress. "Er, what are you doing in here, Hermione?"
Hermione's cheeks turned pink, as if she just realized what she'd done. He noticed her gaze remained fixed on Ron's bare chest as he lay uncovered on his bed, his arms flung open wide.
"Hermione," Harry repeated.
She started. "Oh! I mean, erm…I just couldn't sleep with all that racket. I'm going to Apparate into Diagon Alley and pick up some books at Flourish and Blotts that might help us with our search. I'll get some breakfast while I'm out. Try and wake Sleeping Beauty there; we've got loads to do when I get back."
Hermione had, thankfully, thought to bring sandwiches and snacks with her when she'd arrived yesterday, and they'd feasted in Harry's room. He was grateful that she'd offered to get breakfast and relieved him of the duty of having to explain that the Dursleys wouldn't be feeding them.
"All right. Be careful," Harry said.
"Honestly, Harry. I'm only going to Diagon Alley. I'll be back before you know it. What do the Dursleys like to eat? I could pick something up for them while I'm out, too."
Harry just stared at her, mouth agape. "You…you…you want to get breakfast for the Dursleys?" he asked, unable to wrap his mind around the idea.
"Well, if I'm getting something for us, it would be the polite thing to do. I think that if we just made an effort you all could come to an understanding. You're her nephew, after all, and she's raised you since you were a baby. She came to you for help, and I think you have the chance to really build a relationship here, Harry."
Harry's mouth opened and closed wordlessly. Had his friend finally gone mad? He knew exactly what would happen if Hermione brought back food to the Dursleys – they'd sooner let it knock into their heads than touch it. They did as much last year with the wine Professor Dumbledore had offered them. He also knew Hermione well enough to understand that nothing he could say would dissuade her from her campaign.
"Why don't you just get a variety of pastries," he said. He was amused with the idea that Hermione's latest crusade appeared to be to enlighten the Dursleys. Harry knew she stood a better chance with the house-elves. In fact, he'd spent most of his life being treated like a house-elf by the Dursleys. Between Ron trying to live like a Muggle and Hermione trying to civilize the Dursleys, this would be the most entertainment he'd had on Privet Drive in his entire life
After Hermione had left, Harry took a shower – a very long shower once he got distracted with thoughts of Ginny again – and then went to awaken Ron. He tried calling his friend's name several times, and when that didn't work, he lobbed a pillow at his head.
"What the… Bloody hell, Harry. What'd you do that for?" Ron asked grumpily, throwing the offending pillow back at Harry and pulling the covers over his head.
"Come on and get up. Hermione told me to have you up and dressed by the time she returned," Harry said, grinning at Ron for jumping to attention at the mention of Hermione's name.
"What? Returns from where? Where is she?" Ron asked.
"She went to Flourish and Blotts to get us some research material and also to pick us up some breakfast," Harry replied, tossing Ron's dressing gown at him.
"The shower gets wonky with the hot water sometimes. If it gets too hot, just jiggle the handle, and it resets itself," Harry said.
"Jiggle the handle," Ron repeated blankly.
"Yeah," Harry said absently, opening the window to let in the owl delivering the Daily Prophet. He paid for the paper and turned back to find Ron still sitting there.
"I can't just tell the shower how hot I want it to be?" Ron asked, although it sounded more like a whine.
Harry remembered his first summer at the Burrow, when he was twelve and standing naked in Ron's shower, completely perplexed over the lack of a handle to turn the water off and on. He'd broken out in goose bumps before it had finally occurred to him simply to ask the water to begin spraying.
Taking pity on his friend, he grinned and said, "Come on. I'll show you how the common folk live."
By the time Ron had finished with his shower and returned to Harry's room (with the echo of Aunt Petunia huffing over the waste of water), Hermione had returned from her visit to Diagon Alley.
She burst into the room in a foul temper, angrily swiping the hair from her face. She dropped a heavy load of books onto Harry's rickety old desk and plopped a box full of more pastries than even Ron could eat onto the bed.
"Your relatives weren't hungry, so there's plenty to eat," she said stiffly.
Harry really tried his best not to grin. Really.
"What did they do? Throw them at you?" he asked.
"They're under the impression that I did something to the pastries. Honestly, Harry, I can't believe that you ever tried to poison them, so I don't know what all the fuss is about," she sniffed.
"They hate anything – and anyone – associated with magic. It has nothing to do with you, Hermione. It's just how they are," Harry replied, shrugging his shoulders.
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Well, that's just as bigoted and narrow-minded as the Malfoys' view of Muggles."
Harry supposed she was right. "Yeah. Now that you mention it, I think Dudley and Malfoy could have actually been mates."
"There's an unpleasant thought," said Ron with a grimace. He'd already opened the box of pastries and held one in each hand. He took a bite of one, causing jam to squirt up on the side of his face. He slowly licked it off. "Mmmm, this is brilliant. I love you, Hermione."
Hermione's cheeks turned pink as she hurriedly looked away and selected her own pastry.
Harry wasn't certain what was happening between his two best friends. He'd thought that maybe they'd come to some sort of an understanding at Dumbledore's funeral, but they hadn't said anything to him. In fact, they were acting pretty much the same as they always did – except for a lot more blushing.
He didn't know how he felt about it. He wanted his friends to be happy, but the idea of sitting on the sidelines and watching them fall in love while his own heart was aching was more than he could bear.
Things were different for Ron and Hermione, though. They were together on this quest for the Horcruxes. They were a team and worked much better with each other than apart. Harry watched his friends out of the corner of his eye as he ate his own pastry. Ron was doing a good job on both of his, but Harry noticed him pausing every once in a while to sneak a glance at Hermione. For her part, Hermione was much more discreet, but she was also copping her