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SIYE Time:20:40 on 20th August 2017


For In Dreams
By Senator of Sorcery

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Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 285
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.

Rating changed for later chapters.

*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 83312; Chapter Total: 474





Author's Notes:
be prepared, not for the death of the king, but for an extremely long chapter. and a slur near the end, but malfoy's the one saying it and dickishness is to be expected from him. happy reading and don't forget to leave a review




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Chapter Forty-Nine

Lions Win, Snakes Are Grim

Harry

Knowing out that your dead parents are out there somewhere, watching over you from an afterlife you don’t know how to describe is a strange feeling. So, on Wednesday morning, Harry woke up long before the alarm and stared up at the ceiling for an uncertain amount of time, running over and over in his head the image of the planchette spelling out his name. It was a strange feeling. He couldn’t help but wonder if his parents were watching him even then.

Remus called them over the Floo at 6:30 to fetch them for that morning’s training. He told them that he, Sirius, and Tonks were already in the Room of Requirement waiting for them, and to just take the Floo there. Ginny got out of the shower a minute later, and they Floo’d to the Room. They found Tonks sitting on a floor mat doing stretches, Sirius slumped on the ground beside her quietly snoring, and Remus standing over Sirius with an expression of distaste.

“Alright, up!” Tonks called, abruptly hitting Sirius on the side — Sirius snorted, then jerked up into a sitting position and flailed his arms defensively; Remus grabbed his hands to stop him from hitting Tonks in the head. “Time for warm-ups, kids.”

Harry groaned. Tonks seemed much too cheery for this time of the morning. The warm-ups and following exercises lasted until just after seven, when Tonks let them have a break for water and breath. The clock struck 7:15, and Tonks called their attention.

“While I was in America, the Aurors from MACAUSA taught us Brits some of their fighting techniques,” she said. “Now, don’t tell Moody that I’m teaching it to you, because these are pretty much guerrilla tactics compared to the kind of stuff we do over here.”

“What is it?” Harry asked.

Tonks waved him over. “Stand over here, Ginny, you too.”

Harry glanced at Ginny, then got up and moved over to where Tonks was. She positioned them side by side then took a few paces away from them.

“This is for facing more than one opponent,” she said, drawing her wand. “Say you’re in a situation like this, you’re being attacked by more than one person.” Tonks gave a wave of her hand, and the dueling circle became a street; the Room added asphalt road and street lamps and cars as well. “This can be done with any object, a car, a stand, anything.”

“Erm, what are you going to do?” Harry asked her.

Tonks jabbed her wand at the car sitting next to her. In an instant, the car lifted itself onto its rear wheels, began deconstructing itself, and within seconds was not even a car anymore; rather a tall humanoid figure towered over them, standing stock still.

“You can enchant yourself a little golem,” Tonks said, quite pleased with herself.

“Little!?” Harry squeaked. He cleared his throat. “I mean, little?”

“Yup. Alright, Bumblebee, stand at attention!”

The car-golem-giant-thing snapped its metal arms to its side and nodded. Tonks pointed her wand at another car, and the golem immediately smashed it.

“Erm, aren’t golems a bit — I dunno — out there?” Ginny asked. “Like, dark kind of out there?”

“Yeah, that’s why they don’t teach you how to make them over here,” Tonks said. “Traditionally, golems are used by dark wizards, but the magic involved in making one isn’t dark at all.” Tonks waved her wand again, and the car-golem collapsed into pieces. “Golems are wicked useful, especially when you’re on your own, but they take quite a bit out of you so you only want to use them as a last resort.” Tonks snapped her fingers, and the Room turned the street back into the dueling circle, now covered with large square pillows. “Oh, didn’t even realize I needed one,” she muttered, dropping onto a pillow. “Get over here, you two.”

Harry shrugged, then snatched a pillow and plopped onto it, only to be shoved across it when Ginny joined him. Sirius and Remus followed suit, the both of them looking just as eager as Harry felt to learn.

“Before I can tell you how to turn a car into a golem, you got to know what one is,” she said. “Now, the Americans didn’t have much time to teach me, so they just dropped the instructions in my brain via Legilimency, but that’s not necessary here.”

“Are we going to have story time or something?” Harry asked.

Tonks gave him a look of unamusement. “Yes, Harry, that’s exactly what’s about to happen.”

“Sorry.”

“Thank you. Right, so golems were first made by Hebrew wizards, best historians can figure, as simple guardians. That’s their only purpose, to protect and serve their creator. A proper golem is made out of clay, but you can use just about anything to form one in a pinch; clay ones just seem to last longer.” As she was speaking, Tonks conjured a small figure out of brown clay, which she picked up and held out before them. “The magic used to animate golems is simple, but it’s the charms that turn into a guardian that’s tough. Used to be you had to write up the spell the old fashioned way, on a scroll or sommat, and stick it inside the golem’s mouth; that bound it to you and made it your guardian.” Tonks gave a sudden grin. “‘Course, we wizards are inherently lazy, and writing up one time use only spells on scrolls got old quick.”

“Wait, hold on,” Harry interrupted, “what do you mean, old fashioned way?”

Tonks threw her head back and groaned. “God, I know Binns is boring, but could you pay the tiniest bit of attention when he talks about ancient ways of doing magic?”

“Erm, he hasn’t?”

Tonks rolled her eyes. “Whatever, I don’t have time to go deep into magical theory and history with you; wizards used to write out all their spells, back in the heyday of runes, but we moved on to wands, savvy?”

“I guess?”

“Good, now shut up.”

Sirius sniggered. Tonks looked at him, an eyebrow raised. “I will kick you out, Sirius.”

“Sorry, Dora.”

Tonks huffed. “Anyway, as I was saying, wizards are lazy, we got tired of having to write it up even after we moved onto wands, so the charm was changed into a verbal one about two or three hundred years ago.”

Tonks tapped the little clay figure with her wand. “Piertotem Locomotor.

The clay figure lifted its head, looked around, then sat down. Tonks nodded. “That’s the spell to animate it, simple, yeah?”

Four more clay figures appeared before each of them. Tonks raised her eyebrows. “Go on,” she urged.

Harry quickly took out his wand; he cleared his throat and pointed the wand at the unmoving clay figure. As he spoke the incantation, so did Sirius, Remus, and Ginny. Only Ginny’s moved. It fell over.

Tonks stifled a laugh. “Try again,” she urged.

Piertotem Locomotor!

Ginny’s clay figure picked itself up off the floor, then seated itself in front of Tonks’s. Harry’s did a strange sort of wiggle, then collapsed in half, while Sirius and Remus’s remained still. The three boys tried again; this time, Harry’s clay figure picked itself up and joined Tonks’s and Ginny’s, as did Remus’s. Sirius tried a fourth time, finally succeeding in getting it to move.

“Good!” Tonks clapped her hands. “The spell to animate doesn’t do much than get it to start moving, now you have to give it instructions and specifically get it to fight.”

Tonks touched her wand to her clay figure. “While I was across the pond, I saw one man use the animation spell and then instantly command the golem to fight, so apparently, this next spell can be made unnecessary over time or with a fat load of skill. Nunc Militus Defendere!

The little clay figure jumped up and started bashing in the head of Harry’s clay figure, which just sat there and took the beating.

“Hey!” Harry protested.

“Well, give it a try and have it defend itself,” Tonks said, sitting back on the pillow.

Harry scowled slightly, then jabbed his wand at the clay figure. “Nunc Militus Defendere!

And, of course, nothing happened. The tiny golem stayed still while Tonks’s mini attacker continued its assault.

Tonks waved her wand, “Nunc Militus Reliqua.” The clay golem stepped back, waiting. Tonks leaned forward on her pillow, looking down at the little golems. “Maybe we should start the old fashioned way,” she murmured.

“Regardless of which way we start, our time is up,” Remus said abruptly. “These two must get ready for the day ahead and get to breakfast. You, young lady, have an appointment at St. Mungo’s.”

Tonks groaned. “Oh, don’t remind me.”

“Why? Is something wrong?” Harry asked.

Tonks quickly shook her head. “No, no, nothing’s wrong, it’s just a check-up. Erm, required, y’know, since I just got back from another country.”

Remus gave a nod. “You two better head back to your rooms.”

“Take your golems with you, try and practice those spells on them, see if you can get them to work,” Tonks told them, pushing herself up off the pillow. “See you.”

Ginny grabbed the two clay figures and Harry took his. They said their goodbyes and took the Floo back up to their rooms. Ginny put her golem on the coffee table, where it lay down and folded its arms over its chest.

“Look, it looks just like its mum,” Harry said, setting down his golem. Ginny stuck her tongue out at him, which made him laugh. “I’m gonna get a quick shower, I’ll be out in a minute.”

“Okay,” Ginny answered. “I’m going to keep reading The Shining while you’re in there then.”

Harry scowled. “But it’s getting to the scary parts!”

Ginny gave him a mocking smile and a kiss, then went to fetch her book. Harry grumbled to himself as he grabbed fresh robes and locked himself in the bathroom. He shut the mental passage between them, hoping that Ginny’s reading wouldn’t penetrate it.

Harry undressed and turned the water on, moving autonomously as his thoughts drifted. Last night, he hadn’t had much time to process in the moment what was happening, but in retrospect, he wished he had ignored Mrs. Vance’s orders completely. He wished he had tried to talk to his parents, more than just asking questions. He wished he could have had ages to talk with them. He wished they weren’t dead.

But nothing could change that, and he knew it. He had been fine without them for as long as he could remember; he had Sirius and Remus, Ginny’s parents, even Hagrid. Knowing that his parents were somewhere, waiting for him, was enough for him then.

Harry got out and dressed, taking time to dry his hair with his wand. He found Ginny curled up in the sitting room, poking the clay golems with her wand, little good it was doing. He set a hand on her shoulder, making her look up.

“Breakfast?” he asked.

Ginny nodded, standing up. They grabbed their school bags and left their quarters, as they did, the clock struck seven. In the common room, they passed Neville, Dean, Seamus, and Ron all talking about something, though Ginny commented that arguing seemed a better verb to describe them.

“What’s up with you lot?” Harry asked.

“There is absolutely no way that a football game could have been more enjoyable than the Quidditch World Cup,” Ron said.

“You weren’t there!” Dean protested. “Shay, you were, back me up.”

“I’m not touching this with a ten-foot pole,” Seamus laughed.

“Because you agree with me, right?” Ron asked.

“What part of not touching this with a ten-foot pole doesn’t get through your skull?” Seamus asked Ron, rapping against Ron’s forehead with his knuckles to prove the point. Ron batted his hand away, scowling.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked.

“Dean says that the best sporting event he’s ever been to was this football game earlier this summer,” Neville told them in a low voice. “Ron says he can’t think that because Seamus took him to the Cup last year. Seamus isn’t touching the conversation with a ten-foot pole because he had a better time at the football game with Dean than at the Cup.”

“Really?” Ginny asked.

“I think that the whole Death Eater attack may have affected Seamus’s enjoyment of the World Cup,” Neville reminded her.

“Oh, true, true,” she said.

Neville glanced back at them. “Personally, I don’t see why either of the two events were that entertaining.”

Gi nny and Harry looked at him with deep offence. “Don’t say you’re not a fan of Quidditch,” Harry begged.

Neville shrugged. “I wouldn’t say that I’m not a fan, but it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d do on my day off.”

Harry sighed. “I give up. You and Dean are strange.”

“See, Harry agrees with me!”

“That doesn’t mean anything, he plays Quidditch!”

“Are you lot going to stand there bickering until classes start or are you going to breakfast?” Ginny asked them.

Dean and Ron stopped arguing. Ron turned pink, Dean shrugged. “I’m waiting for Hermione,” Ron said.

“Really?” Seamus asked. “You two are still a thing?”

Ron gave him a dark look. “Yeah, we’re still a thing. You’d better not have been planning on making moves on her when you’ve finished with Mary Perkins or whoever you last were dating.”

“Nah, mate, that would break the code,” Seamus said, clapping a hand on Ron’s shoulder. “And Mary and I went separate ways.”

“Did you?” Neville asked with very little surprise.

“Yeah, wasn’t the one for me,” Seamus said, glancing over at Dean. Then he looked back at Ron and said: “You wait for Hermione, Ron, we’ll go ahead.” He grabbed Dean’s arm, adding to the other three in a softer but carrying tone: “Come on, let’s get out of here while we can.” Ron rolled his eyes while they laughed.

“So, did you really enjoy that football game Dean was talking about more than the Quidditch World Cup?” Harry asked Seamus as they left.

Seamus gave a shrug. “I mean, there were no madmen in masks in the middle of the celebrations.”

“Told you,” Neville said.

“Really?” Dean asked.

“Well, yeah,” Seamus said. “No madmen in masks, can’t top that.”

Dean glanced at Seamus, then shrugged. Ginny looked between them, then shook her head with a smile.

“It’s a fair point,” she said.

Seamus laughed. “Says the seeker’s wife. Don’t let Ron know.”

“’Course not, why would I?”

Seamus chuckled again, throwing an arm around Ginny and giving her a side-hug. “You’re like the baby sister I never had, y’know?”

“Aw, I’m touched,” Ginny laughed.

“Yeah, long-lost sister or not, hands off my wife,” Harry quipped jokingly.

“Hey, whatdya say we ditch him and forget I said you were like my sister?” Seamus asked in an equally joking tone. Dean rolled his eyes while Harry pretended to gasp.

“Well, I would say yes, but my husband can hear me,” Ginny said dryly, grinning still. Seamus chuckled, dropping his arm from her shoulders.

“I feel betrayed, Gin,” Harry said. “How dare you?” he added, picking at a spot on his finger.

Ginny rolled her eyes, elbowing him. “You know I love you, you idiot.”

Harry rolled his eyes right back at her. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell.”

“The two of you are both relationship goals and an example of what not to do,” Dean said, shaking his head. “And I don’t understand how you do it.”

Ginny glanced at Harry with a smirk. “Y’know, me neither.”

Harry grinned. “Maybe we’re soulmates or something.”

Seamus snorted. “Now there’s a fairytale I haven’t heard in a while.”

They reached the Great Hall and found seats near the middle, Neville and Harry spacing themselves so that Ron and Hermione could join them when they entered the hall. Harry started to serve himself eggs and bacon, just as the owls started to fill the hall.

“Oh, Hermione’s post is here,” Ginny said.

“She’s not here yet, though,” Harry murmured, looking up; there was, indeed, a large barn owl circling over them, holding a newspaper tightly in its talons.

“Get it for her, she can pay you back when she gets here,” Ginny said, pouring herself pumpkin juice.

“Here, boy,” Harry called to the owl. “I’ll pay you.”

The owl flapped its wings twice, then slowly descended and landed on the table in front of him. Harry pulled a Knut from his pocket and dropped it into the owl’s collection pouch, then took the rolled-up scroll from the table while the owl took off again. Harry glanced at it, then went to put it aside, but jerked his gaze back to the paper. His mouth dropped open, staring down at the headline clearly displayed despite the paper being rolled up tightly.

What ? Ginny thought, glancing over. “What?” she gasped.

Harry ripped the twine off and unrolled the paper. “Potter Planning A Wedding,” he murmured. “What the fuck,” he added in a louder voice.

“Whoa, mate, what’s wrong?” Seamus asked.

Harry flipped the paper around to show him and Dean. “Look at this!”

Seamus shrugged. “You’re planning a wedding, so?”

Harry didn’t understand why Seamus didn’t understand that he was fuming. “So? So! So, this is my private life! Spread across the front page of the Prophet!”

Seamus gave a wince then went back to his eggs. “Fair point, mate.”

Harry glanced over the article. “How the fuck did they get a picture of your wedding dress?” he burst out.

Ginny leaned in. “I’m not in the picture,” she said. “That’s some small consolation.”

“But how? Why? Who?”

“I don’t know, love,” Ginny sighed. “This was bound to happen, you know that. The papers had a field day back in August when we found — got,” she corrected herself, “our marriage license, remember?”

“Why can’t they just leave us alone?” Harry growled through gritted teeth. He balled up the paper and threw it aside, already feeling nauseated that all of the school would know that he and Ginny would be having a wedding by lunchtime.

Ginny took his hand and squeezed it. “Because you’re the Boy Who Lived, Harry.”

“What’s happened now, then?” asked Ron, having finally shown up.

Harry jerked a thumb to the balled-up newspaper. “I got your copy of the Prophet, Hermione.”

“I see that,” Hermione replied, picking it up. “Is there a reason it’s crumpled up?”

“Yeah,” Harry growled. Hermione frowned, unfolding the paper.

“What!” she gasped. “Ron, look at this!”

“Wow,” Ron murmured. “Mate, you’ve got a problem.”

“I know,” Harry grunted.

Eat your bacon, Harry, Ginny thought. There’s nothing you can do about it, don’t stress about it, okay?

“It doesn’t say who tipped off the papers,” Hermione said. “At least the date isn’t leaked either.”

“What is?” Harry asked.

“Just where you were shopping,” Hermione said. “Mostly it’s guesses as to why you’re having a wedding now all of a sudden, and when it will be.”

“Ugh,” Harry said.

“Indeed,” Hermione sighed. She ripped off the front page, balled it up, then tapped it with her wand and set it aflame. “You can complain to the editor.”

“Hey, you’re right, I can,” Harry said. “Yeah, I’ll write a letter later.” Harry glanced at Ginny, then at the ashes remaining of the article. “Gin, would you agree no more outsiders involved in our wedding?”

“Yep,” Ginny said. “Except we need a photographer and a musician.”

Harry sat up in his seat, looking around. He spotted a mop of yellow blonde hair not far from them, talking with several other fourth years. “Oi, Creevey!”

Colin Creevey looked up, startled. “Huh?”

“C’mere!” Harry waved at him. Colin glanced around, then got up and moved towards them.

“Hi, erm, what’s up?” Colin said with an awkward smile.

“Could you take pictures at a wedding?” Harry asked.

Colin blinked at him. “Erm, I suppose,” he said.

“Would you take pictures at our wedding? Over Christmas break?” Harry asked more specifically, pointing to himself and Ginny.

Colin flushed. “Oh. Erm. Yeah, yeah, I could.”

“Great, we’ll pay you the going rate for wedding photographers, is that alright?”

Colin perked up slightly. “Hell, yeah, it’s alright! I mean — yeah, yeah, that’s good.”

“Wicked, Colin, thanks.”

“No problem,” Colin said, nodding. He was still pink in the face. “No problem.”

Colin walked away. Harry looked at Ginny, who looked back at him with pursed lips and a raised eyebrow.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she sighed. “We still need a musician.”

Harry shrugged. “Ask the twins or something.”

Ginny sighed again, this time with less exasperation. “We’ll figure something out, okay?”

“Uh-oh, gnat alert,” Dean said abruptly.

“Hey, Weasley!” came the greasy, angered voice of Draco Malfoy.

“Will you just fuck off?!” Harry snapped. “And her name’s Potter!”

Malfoy sneered at them. “How’d you afford that gown, Weasley? Did you stock up your profit from selling yourself?”

“She’s not a whore!” Harry spat at him. “You get out of here, before I hex you!”

Malfoy’s sneer turned into a scowl. “Sometimes I wonder why she bothered so hard to land you, Potter,” he said coolly. “You’re definitely not as much of a hero as the papers make you out to be.”

“I’m warning you,” Harry growled. “Leave us alone!”

“Or you’ll do what?” Malfoy spat. “Turn me in to a teacher?”

“One of these days I’m going to put you into the Hospital Wing,” Harry threatened.

“Harry, that’s enough!” Ginny snapped. He hadn’t even realized that he had risen from his seat, but she jerked him back down into it. “He’s deliberately provoking you to get you in trouble, stop playing into his schemes.”

“Oh, I’m not trying to get him into trouble,” Malfoy said in a sharp sneer. “I’m just trying to make him feel like an absolute fool for getting himself stuck with you.”

Harry whipped out his wand and leaped off the bench. “I am sick of your incessant, slanderous, foul attitude towards my wife,” he spat, “and I will not tolerate it one second more. You stay away from us, or else I’ll make you regret it!”

Malfoy slowly looked down at the wand tip that was pressed into his chest, then back up at Harry. “There’s nothing more you can do to me,” he hissed, then turned on his heel and walked straight into Colin Creevey.

“Out of my way, fool,” Malfoy spat at him, shoving him aside. Harry glared after Malfoy, his wand still raised.

“Harry Potter.”

Harry bit back a groan and shoved his wand away quickly as he turned around. “Yes, professor?”

Profe ssor McGonagall glared at him. “Did I just overhear you threatening another student?”

“You did, professor.”

“Follow me, please, Mr. Potter.”

Harry glanced towards Ginny. She looked almost as pissed as McGonagall. Malfoy’s plan worked, she thought. I’ll see you in class.

Harry hung his head and followed Professor McGonagall out of the Great Hall. He was silent as she led him up the stairs to her office, silent as she shut the door, silent as she told him to take a seat.

Professor McGonagall dropped into her chair behind her desk and folded her hands to look at him over the top of her spectacles. “I understand that Mr. Malfoy has been aggressive in his targeting of yourself and Mrs. Potter since your return to school.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Harry said.

McGonagall did not smile. “I have had several talks with Professor Snape about his behavior, however it seems evident that whatever punishment he is receiving from Professor Snape is not cutting it.”

Harry looked up from his lap. “You’re — you’re not talking to me to punish me?”

“Oh, rest assured you will receive detention,” McGonagall promised. “However, Mr. Malfoy’s behavior is just as inexcusable as your own.”

“But he —”

“Mr. Potter, I would advise you to follow your wife’s lead in this situation,” McGonagall snapped. “She has been relatively cool-headed about this from the beginning and has not once let one of Malfoy’s outbursts trigger her into equal aggression. Your responses to Mr. Malfoy’s talk is what fuels him to continue antagonizing you and your wife, so if you truly wish him to stop you must not let him provoke you. Do I make myself clear?”

Harry gritted his teeth. “Yes, ma’am,” he muttered.

“You will serve your detention tonight at 6 o’clock, Mr. Potter,” she said. “As for Mr. Malfoy, he will be receiving detentions from me each week for the next month. I trust that this will be acceptable to you and that you will cease responding to his outbursts.”

W eekly detentions will do, Harry.

He didn’t question Ginny further. “Yes, ma’am,” he murmured, nodding as he did. McGonagall echoed his movement, her stern gaze softening.

“If his behavior does not improve, I will ask the Headmaster to look into more serious repercussions,” Professor McGonagall promised. “His bullying of your wife will not be allowed any longer.”

This made him hopeful, so he agreed with another nod. “Thank you, professor,” he said, rising from his chair.

“You may go now, Potter,” the professor said. “I will see you in class.”

Harry murmured a farewell, exiting her office. He took the stairs down to History of Magic, where he found his friends and Ginny sitting in the back of the classroom; Ron and Dean had resumed their argument, now focusing on which was a better sport in general, but in quieter tones. Ginny was sitting in her seat staring stonily at the blackboard. Harry slid into the seat beside her and took out parchment and quill.

Are you mad at me?

She didn’t answer him. Harry clenched his jaw. I don’t get it, I defended you! Would you have rather I said nothing?

Yes!

The thought startled him. He looked at her, but she didn’t look back.

Why? Harry asked, now equally as confused as he was upset.

Because then you wouldn’t have gotten into trouble! You played right into Malfoy’s hands!

I couldn’t just ignore him —

Yes, you can, Harry, I’ve been doing it all year.

Harr y looked away, his jaw tightening even more. I’m sorry if I can’t help wanting to defend you. I’ll just let him get away with calling you a slut next time.

Ginny turned to face him, her eyes steely as she met his gaze. He’s clearly not getting away with it, and just because he says it doesn’t make it true.

But —

One person ceasing to say it will not change the minds of the rest of the school, Harry; we both know that everyone who’s read the Prophet thinks I conned you into this and it does not matter.

How can you be so calm about this? It’s outrageous!

Ginny, astonishingly, rolled her eyes at him. Clearly it isn’t; the rest of the world doesn’t know we’re bonded, so they had to come up with some explanation for us getting married. It made the most sense and sold the most papers that I’m cunning and tricked you somehow.

It doesn’t make sense —

To them it does! I’m from a socially-low-class family with no money, you’re a hero, heir to a multi-million galleon fortune, without the information that we’re bonded, our marriage doesn’t make sense.

Har ry gaped at her. Seriously? You want to see it from their perspective?

She turned away. It’s better than thinking they all just hate me.

Harry looked down at his desk. Ginny’s calm demeanor about the situation didn’t make sense to him.

I would appreciate it if you would stop responding with aggression every time someone makes slights against me. They’re not going to stop, and I’m tired of it.

Ginny, I can’t just sit by —

Yes, you can, and you will, because no matter what anyone says, no one can break up our marriage and I’m sick of you getting in trouble because you think you’re defending me.

I am defending you!

No, you’re yelling at people and waving your wand around like a fool. It clearly is not effective, and I am sick of it.

Harry shot her a glare. I don’t get it. One minute you’re mad that I’m not paying attention to what people are saying, now you want me to ignore them?

Ginny didn’t answer him. He glanced at her again, then poked her with his quill. She shooed his hand away, dutifully taking notes. He looked up to see that Binns had entered the classroom without him noticing and had begun his lecture. Harry decided he would ask Hermione for her notes later and prodded Ginny again.

Piss off, Harry.

Y’know, I think I won’t.

I’m trying to take notes.

Big whoop. Answer my question.

I’m done with this, Harry.

Well, guess what, I’m not.

Too bad for you then.

Ginny.

She began ignoring him again. Harry glared at her, then made up his mind. He glanced up at Binns, then around his shoulder to make sure that Hermione was really taking notes before sticking his hand under the table and snaking it around Ginny’s waist. He found the hem of her robes and pulled it aside, shoving his hand under her jumper and finding the bare skin of her stomach. Ginny gave a start at the coldness of his fingers, then glared at him.

What the hell are you doing?

Why are you so mad about me defending you?

I said we were done with this!

No, we’re not, because you’re mad at me and I don’t understand why.

Maybe if you tried thinking through it instead of shouting angrily about it like an idiot you’d figure it out, Ginny snapped, then hit his hand away from her. Harry’s mouth fell open, confused and hurt but most of all confused. Ginny shut up her thoughts, and all he could hear from her now was her notes. He didn’t understand. He figured out that her words pointed more towards his reacting to Malfoy, but what that had to do with why his defending her made her upset he didn’t know. Malfoy deserved a good hex to the balls, just because it got Harry in trouble for it didn’t matter; she shouldn’t be angry about him responding to Malfoy’s words in kind —

Oh.

Ginny kept taking notes. Harry gently slipped his arm around her again and hugged her slightly, then let his hand rest at her hip.

You’re mad because I’m acting like him.

Gold star, Harry, would you like a reward?

Can it be you stopping being pissed at me?

If you promise you’ll stop acting like a prick.

I promise to do my best.

Good. Now shut up so I can take notes.

Har ry shut up. He also began copying her notes because if she wasn’t mad at him anymore there was no point in asking Hermione.

After History of Magic was Defense Against the Dark Arts; the bell rang and Binns let them go. The fifth year Gryffindors filed out of the room and to the stairs. On the fourth floor, however, an irate Professor McGonagall was conjuring bright yellow tape to rope off the corridor.

“Classes in this wing are cancelled for the rest of the day,” Professor McGonagall announced to the waiting hoards of students. “Go to your common rooms until your next class.”

“What happened?” Harry called.

Professor McGonagall opened her mouth, but whatever she was about to say was cut off by the door to the Transfiguration classroom suddenly bursting open and a sea of bright green slime poured out, the deluge dropping Sirius and Remus onto the floor covered in welts and steaming. Professor McGonagall simply pointed to the sight of the two Defense Professors as if no further explanation was necessary.

“Off you go!” she called. “Robbins, Creevey, you stay put!”

Harry looked around, seeing Colin Creevey and Demelza Robbins standing with extremely guilty expressions in a group of fourth years.

“Nice job,” said Fred Weasley, offering Colin a high five.

“Weasley, do not encourage the boy!” Professor McGonagall snapped.

“Are Professors Black and Lupin alright?” Ginny asked McGonagall.

“They will be,” McGonagall replied curtly. Ginny raised her eyebrows skeptically. McGonagall glanced over her shoulder, then sighed heavily as Remus was trying to quench the fire that had caught on Sirius’s robes and failing miserably; Sirius was shouting loudly in what sounded to Harry like French and what he guessed were curse words. “Lupin, Black! Get to the Hospital wing!”

"Merde! Putain de putain de merde!”Sirius shrieked, now trying to put out the fire in his hair.

Aguamenti Maxima!” Remus shouted, and the entire corridor filled with dark gray storm clouds, which began dousing everything in pounding rain; including the still gathered students and Professor McGonagall.

“By the name of Merlin — get out!” McGonagall screamed at Remus and Sirius.

Sirius, no longer on fire, started to run, slipped on a pile of slime, and fell backwards into Remus. The two of them collapsed onto the floor. McGonagall pressed a shaking hand to her forehead.

“I can escort them out,” Harry offered, feeling rather sorry for her on behalf of his godfathers.

“Please,” McGonagall murmured. Harry ducked under the yellow tape and walked over to Remus and Sirius.

“’Ello, lil’ Prongs,” Sirius grunted. “There’s a wolfman on top of me at the mo’, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t hug you.”

“You’re filthy, I wouldn’t anyway,” Harry quipped. He grabbed Remus’s hand and helped him up, then pulled up Sirius. “By orders of Professor McGonagall, you’re getting out of here.”

“Gladly,” Sirius muttered. “I don’t have a clue what the fu—udge those two fourth years did, but I don’t want to fix their mess any time soon.”

“Neither do I,” Remus sighed. “Which is why I didn’t offer to help Minerva to begin with.”

“What, would you rather I compromise my morals as a gentleman and not help out an old lady?”

“I heard that,” Professor McGonagall snapped.

“I advise you to shut up,” Remus muttered.

“Duly noted,” Sirius hissed back. Harry shook his head at them.

“Mr. Potter, take them to the Hospital Wing if you don’t mind,” McGonagall told him. “And ensure that they do not attempt to return to help me further.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Harry said. “Come on.”

“What are we, children?” Sirius muttered under his breath.

“Evidently,” Remus sighed.

Ginny, wrinkling her nose, followed Harry and his godfathers from the slime soaked corridor to the Hospital wing. “What even happened there?” Ginny asked.

“Haven’t the foggiest,” Sirius said. “One minute, I was showing second years how to perform a Disarming Charm, the next, McGonagall was screaming at me to evacuate the whole wing.”

“A couple of fourth years botched up a transfiguration quite badly it seems,” Remus commented.

“Colin and Demelza,” Ginny told them. “They wouldn’t say what had happened.”

“Well, give your friends a good kick up the arse for me,” said Sirius grumpily, patting his head. “I’m going to have to spend all night re-growing my hair.”

“Will do,” Ginny said dryly.

Upon entering the Hospital Wing, they found Madam Pomfrey tending to several other fourth year students who seemed to have been caught by the slime. She took one look at the two professors and groaned.

“Go on to your beds,” she told them, conjuring Hospital pajamas for them with a wave of her wands. “I trust you don’t need me to remind you how to find them?”

“No, we remember, thank you Madam Pomfrey,” Remus said, taking the pajamas.

“You have your own beds?” Harry asked them.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Sirius laughed. “I think I carved my name into mine.”

“I sanded it off,” Remus reminded him.

“What did you do that for?” Sirius asked with an affronted expression. Remus just rolled his eyes.

“Should we go?” Harry asked as Sirius and Remus drew curtains around two beds at the end of the hall so they could change.

“If you’d like,” Sirius called, “I don’t imagine there’s much for you to do since our’s is your next class.”

“Nothing at all,” Ginny said, dropping into a chair. Sirius pulled open the curtain, having changed out of his robes and into the trousers, though he was shirtless. His arms and upper torso were covered in angry red welts and burns, as well as various runic tattoos; as he turned around, Harry saw the words PROPERTY OF MOONY written in bold letters across his shoulders. He sniggered.

“She’ll attend to the students first,” Sirius said, wincing as he sat down on the bed. “Damn, these smart.”

“Agreed,” Remus replied, opening his own curtains. Like Sirius, he hadn’t donned the hospital standard shirt and his torso was covered in burns, though on his body, there were no tattoos, rather, several old looking scars covered his back and chest. “Here,” he said, holding out his hand to Sirius.

“Thanks,” murmured Sirius, taking whatever it was and tucking it into the pocket of his trousers. Remus dropped onto the other bed, sighing heavily.

“What did you two do?” Madam Pomfrey asked, having finally bustled over to their beds.

“We took a bath in the pool of slime,” Sirius told her. “Didn’t turn out to be a spa.”

“Clearly,” Madam Pomfrey told them. She handed Remus a jar, saying: “Put this on every affected area of skin, use a thick layer mind you, and stay here until I discharge you.”

She glanced at Harry and Ginny. “What’s the matter with you? I see no burns or smoke.”

“Nothing, we just brought the professors here,” Ginny said.

“Well, you’d better get to your common room,” Madam Pomfrey told them, “I haven’t the patience of mind to allow visitors right now. Shoo.”

She hurried off. Harry looked at his godfathers. “Bye,” he said, waving.

“See you later,” Sirius said, waving a hand gingerly.

He and Ginny left the Hospital Wing, taking the stairs up to Gryffindor Tower. They found Neville, Seamus, and Dean sitting in a corner looking very bored.

“Where are Ron and Hermione?” Ginny asked.

“McGonagall made them stick around to keep people out of the corridor,” Seamus said, “since they’re prefects.”

“Lucky them,” Harry said wryly.

Seamus snorted.

“How are Lupin and Black?” Neville asked.

“Yeah, did Black’s hair catch fire again?” Dean added.

“No, they’re fine,” Harry said. “The slime got them good, but Madam Pomfrey will have them fixed up in a jiffy.”

Neville gave a satisfactory nod. “At least we’ve got no classes until lunch, what with Defense and Transfiguration canceled.”

Harry dropped into a chair. “Yeah, I’ve half a mind to go upstairs and take a nap.”

Ginny dropped onto his lap. “I have half a mind to force you,” she said with a yawn. He patted her shoulder and kissed her forehead out of habit.

“Ugh, the two of you,” Seamus groaned. “You’re horrible sometimes.”

“Why, do we remind you that you do have a heart and that you ought to try harder to have meaningful relationships?” Ginny asked.

Seamus tapped his chin as he considered this. “Nah, you’re just disgustingly affectionate.”

De an pointedly rolled his eyes. “You’re horrible, Seamus.”

Seamus punched Dean lightly on the shoulder. “Ah, but I’m still your best mate, aren’t I?”

“Sure, Shay,” Dean said, rolling his eyes again.

Seamus huffed. “Fine, if that’s your attitude, then Ginny here’s my actual best mate.”

Ginny grinned. “I’ve always wanted to be someone’s best mate,” she giggled.

“Oi!” Harry protested. “What about me?”

“Eh,” Seamus said. “You’re a bit high maintenance sometimes, what with all the madmen trying to kill you every other day.”

“He has a fair point,” Ginny said.

Harry scowled. Ginny pecked him on the cheek as she smirked.

With half of their classes cancelled and the common room feeling over-stuffed, Harry suggested that they move up to his and Ginny’s rooms in the upper levels of the Tower.

“Oh, yeah, you’ve never invited us upstairs yet,” Seamus commented, “let’s go!”

“First door on the right!” Harry called as Seamus jumped up and bounded up the stairs. He sighed, then shoved at Ginny gently. “Get off.”

“Rude,” Ginny said, standing up.

“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered, getting up as well. “Come on,” he said to Neville and Dean. They found Seamus upstairs waiting for them, standing outside their door.

“It’s locked,” he said, pointing to the door.

“It is?” Ginny said. “We don’t lock it.” She tried the handle and it opened. “See?”

“Must be charmed,” Neville said. “So that only you or Harry can open it.”

“Cool,” Harry said. The door from the girl’s stairs opened abruptly and Head Girl Hollins stepped out followed by her friend Greenley. “Hi,” he said to them, noticing that Greenley was pink in the face and had hastily dropped Hollins’s hand.

“Potter,” Hollins said. “And friends.”

“Erm, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan, Neville Longbottom,” Harry introduced them, pointing to each of them.

“I wasn’t asking,” Hollins muttered, opening her door and ushering Greenley in. Harry huffed.

“She’s like that,” he said. Dean raised an eyebrow.

“I’d say that she was just pissed because we interrupted her and her girlfriend,” Dean said, moving through the doorway, “but that’s none of my business.”

Harry frowned. “What?”

Ginny glanced back at him. “Oh, come on, Harry, you can’t tell me that you did notice that Greenley doesn’t stay in her own dorm anymore?”

“Really?” Harry asked, completely astonished.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “You are so oblivious.”

Seamu s sniggered, glancing at Dean. Ginny looked between them, snorted, and started for the kitchen. “I’m making tea!” she called over her shoulder. Harry looked between his friends, still confused.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

Neville shrugged. “I think it’s like bro telepathy or something.”

Harry laughed at that. “Are you implying that my wife is their bro?”

“Oh, definitely, she’ll probably be the best man at their weddings.”

“I’d like to think they’d pick each other to be best man,” Ginny said from the kitchen. Dean covered his head with his hands while Seamus fell onto the couch laughing.

Harry glanced at Neville, who shrugged. “Hey, speaking of weddings, when are you sending out invitations to yours?” he asked.

Harry gave an echo of Neville’s shrug. “Her mum is taking care of all that, it should be soon, though. It’s going to be on Christmas.”

“Ooh, winter wedding, classy,” Seamus said.

“It was the soonest we could have one,” Harry said, dropping into an armchair. “I mean, we only found out in August.”

“You mean you got married in August,” Dean corrected. “Legally, at least.”

“Uh, yeah, that, right,” Harry said. Neville glanced at him.

“Luna had this weird theory,” Neville said with a laugh, taking a seat himself, “that you were already married.”

Harry’s stomach lurched, but he played it off with a laugh. “What on earth made her think that?”

“I dunno,” Neville said with a shrug. “Something about the two of you being practically soul mates.”

Harry chuckled, looking away. Ginny, Ginny, holy crap Luna knows.

Big deal, Luna knows, like, everything.

Everything? Really?

Shut up with your sarcasm.

G inny returned from the kitchen holding two cups of tea, one of which she handed to Harry before taking up the remaining space in his armchair.

“Do we not get any?” Seamus asked.

“Water’s in there, tea bags and mugs are in the cupboard,” Ginny said, then took a sip of her tea and let out a contented sigh.

Seamus huffed. “Some best mate you are.”

Ginny smiled warmly at him. “I’ll still be up there next to you when you get married.”

Seamus rolled his eyes.

Wait, something was off about that, Harry thought.

Harr y, you’re being daft, Ginny replied as she took a sip of tea.

He shrugged. Probably.

“So, when are you going to start holding private parties up here?” Seamus asked.

“Same time I start desiring to hold private parties,” Harry answered.

Seamus snorted. “Fine, but what about your stag night? When you gonna have that?”

Harry shrugged. “Wasn’t really planning on one.”

Seamus gave a dramatic gasp. “Wasn’t planning on having one?” he repeated in a shocked tone of voice. “Dean, Dean, quick, summon a medic, the boy’s touched in the head!”

“Oh, shut up,” Harry said, chucking a pillow at Seamus.

“No, seriously, you have to have a stag night,” Seamus said. “Ginny’s having a hen night!”

“I am?” Ginny said.

“Duh!” Seamus laughed. “I’m already in cahoots with Hermione to plan it!”

“You are?” Dean said. “Is that why the two of you were hiding in a corner last night?”

“Yeah, Ron was there for a bit but I made him leave,” Seamus said. “He can help with Harry’s stag night, but it’s kind of weird for the brother of the bride to help plan the hen night, y’know?”

“Why are you planning my hen night?” Ginny laughed.

“Because I plan the best parties,” Seamus said. “You’re having it the next Hogsmeade weekend.”

“Am I having my stag night at the same time?” Harry asked sarcastically.

“No, you can’t do the same night, because I can’t be in two places at once,” Seamus sighed. “Ideally, you would, but we’ve got to figure out a different night for you.”

“Lovely,” Ginny said, sipping her tea. “Harry can join the hen night.”

“No!” Seamus protested. “That’s against the whole point of a hen night!”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “In case you hadn’t noticed, Harry and I are joined at the hip,” she told him.

“Yeah, yeah, you can stand to be away from each other for a few hours,” Seamus said with a wave of his hand. Ginny glanced at Harry, who snorted. “What?” Seamus said.

Do we tell them or not?

Not?

It would be easier to convince him not to separate us too long for a hen night.

Why not.

“Actually, we can’t,” Ginny said. “It’s kind of why we got married.”

Seamus frowned. “Pardon?”

“It’s all long and complicated, but we can’t actually stay away from each other longer than a few hours,” Ginny said.

“Seriously?” Seamus said. “You’re not kidding?”

“Seriously,” Harry said. “Remember that night last term when I randomly stopped being able to breathe?”

“You had a bout of claustrophobia,” Dean said. “Like panic attack kind of claustrophobia, yeah.”

Harry jerked his head towards Ginny. “It had been about eight hours since I’d last seen her. By the end of term, we started breaking down at five hours.”

“Holy shit,” Seamus muttered. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah,” Ginny said. “He gets claustrophobic, I start hearing voices, it’s a whole mess. So, literally, we can’t stay away from each other for long.”

Seamus blinked. He glanced at Dean, who was gaping at them, then at Neville, who was just as stunned, then flopped back on the sofa. “Holy shit,” he repeated.

Ginny took a sip of her tea. “Yep.”

“You know why?” Dean asked.

“Yeah, but it’s a long story,” Harry said.

“Like how long?” Seamus said.

“Too long,” Ginny told them.

Seamus let out a long huh. “Hermione and I will have to change a few details about your hen night,” he muttered.

“I’m almost afraid to ask, but like what?” Ginny asked him.

“Erm, well, for starters, it was going to last from dusk to dawn, but that seems to be out the window.”

Ginny laughed. “It can be that long as long as Harry’s there.”

Seamus waved a hand. “We’ll figure something out. Hey, did Hermione already know that?”

“What, the five hour thing? Yeah.”

“That’s why she kept saying it couldn’t be that long then,” Seamus said. “Good maid of honor you got there, Gin.”

“He’s actually jealous that you didn’t pick him,” Dean admitted.

“No, I’m not!” Seamus protested.

Dean gave a nod. “Had his dress picked out and everything.”

“Shut up!” Seamus laughed, grabbing a pillow and hitting Dean over the head with it. “You’re a big fat liar and you know it, Dean Thomas!”

Dean stuck his tongue out at Seamus and grabbed the pillow. “Yeah, yeah, whatever helps you sleep at night, Shay.”

“Your mum helps me sleep at night!” Seamus said, shaking his fist.

“Really, ‘your mum’ jokes? How original,” Ginny said with an eyeroll.

“What would you suggest,” Seamus asked her sarcastically.

“Not something used commonly by twelve-year-olds, that’s for sure,” Ginny quipped.

“You lot are unbelievable,” Neville sighed.

“Your mum is unbelievable!” Seamus said.

Neville smiled weakly. “She is, actually, she’s been in the psych ward of St. Mungo’s for the past fourteen years.”

Seamus dropped the pillow. “Merlin’s pants, mate, I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t know, it’s fine,” Neville said.

“I’m not going to make a ‘your mum’ joke again,” Seamus promised.

“Good plan,” Harry said.

There was a sudden knock at the door and they all looked towards it. Harry glanced at Ginny, who raised her eyebrows, then sighed and got up to answer it.

“Hi, Ron, Hermione,” Harry said, letting them in.

“You lot been up here the past hour?” Ron asked. “Budge up,” he added to Dean and Seamus before dropping down in the middle of the couch.

“Pretty much,” Harry said. “Hermione, have you been secretly planning Ginny’s hen night with Seamus?”

“Yes,” Hermione said matter-of-factly. “It’s going to be in December and we’re having it here because Seamus apparently has to be there and he can’t get into the girls’ dorms.”

“Not for lack of trying,” Seamus promised.

“Thanks, Hermione,” Ginny said. “Ron, take a leaf out of her book and start planning Harry’s.”

“Alright, it’s the same night,” Ron said.

“Nope, already discussed that,” Seamus said. “Keep up.”

“Fine, it’s the night after,” Ron said. “Or whenever Seamus decides it’s going to be because apparently, he’s a party planner extraordinaire.”

“Thanks, Ron,” Harry said, taking his seat again. Neville got up and offered his chair to Hermione, who shook her head and squeezed in between Dean and Ron.

“This is a two-person couch!” Seamus protested.

“It’s a three-person couch,” Harry said. “There are three cushions.”

“There are still more than three people on it,” Seamus protested.

Hermio ne leaned across Ron and stuck her tongue out at Seamus, who huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. Dean rolled his eyes.

They stayed in their sitting room for another hour, until the bell could be heard ringing in the distance to signal the end of the period and the start of lunch, which was when they left and joined the throng headed for the Great hall and food. After lunch they separated for Divination and Arithmancy, then the boys had another free period while Ginny and Hermione went to Ancient Runes. After classes, they gathered in the library to do homework until dinner.

I have detention tonight, Harry thought with a groan later that night.

And it’s no one’s fault but your own, Ginny replied.

Not helpful, Gin.

Oh, I wasn’t trying to be.

Harry huffed. Seamus offered him a glass of water.

At about five thirty, Harry left the Great Hall for Professor McGonagall’s office. He got there with plenty of time to spare, in fact, the professor was not there, so he sat down outside her door and leaned his head against the wall.

It’s cold, he thought. I should’ve brought my cloak.

Probably.

Thanks for being so helpful, Gin.

You’re welcome, dear.

“Mr. Potter.”

Harry got up at the sound of his name to see Professor McGonagall striding towards him, followed by —

What the f —

Harry, I’m starting to get concerned by how much you’re swearing.

What is Malfoy doing here???

Pr ofessor McGonagall opened her office with a wave of her wand, then gestured for Harry and a surly looking Malfoy to go inside. Harry shot him an angry look, then moved into the office.

“Sit,” Professor McGonagall said.

Harry sat. Malfoy did not. Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows at Malfoy, pursing her lips until he took a chair. Harry’s Head of House gave a nod, then stepped back outside the office. A moment later, she reentered, followed by Demelza Robbins and Colin Creevey.

“The four of you shall be serving your detentions tonight with Mr. Filch,” Professor McGonagall said, taking her chair behind her desk. “He shall be here in a moment to fetch you.”

“Professor,” Harry asked.

“Yes, Mr. Potter?”

“If you don’t mind me asking, why is he here?” Harry jerked his head towards Malfoy. Professor McGonagall raised her eyebrows.

“Because I dislike having to organize multiple separate detentions on the same night,” she said. “And if the two of you cannot be civil to each other, you will serve detention together again next week.” Malfoy opened his mouth, his face outraged, but Professor McGonagall went on: “Have I made myself perfectly clear?”

Harry clenched his jaw and nodded. Malfoy crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the floor. Professor McGonagall gave a nod.

There was a knock at the door and they all turned to look; Filch was standing outside, Mrs. Norris at his feet as always.

“Thank you, Mr. Filch,” McGonagall said. “You may take them.”

Filch raised a hand and waved them towards him. “Come on, then,” he said in his low, gravelly growl. Harry reluctantly rose from his seat and followed the other three students from Professor McGonagall’s office. Demelza Robbins and Colin Creevey quickly let Malfoy go past them, then met Harry’s eyes with raised eyebrows.

“What did you do?” Colin asked in a whisper.

“I told Malfoy I’d put him in the Hospital Wing if he didn’t shut up about Ginny,” he answered simply. Demelza raised her eyebrows even further and snorted.

“At least he’s a good husband,” she muttered to Colin, who elbowed her in the ribs. Harry didn’t know what to say; he knew the two fourth years were good friends with Ginny, but he’d never really spoken to them before, at least not to Demelza. They fell behind him as well, talking in low tones between the two of them. Harry glared at Malfoy’s back as they followed Filch from McGonagall’s office to the very same corridor that Colin and Demelza had covered in slime a few hours before.

Filch opened a broom closet and pulled out a cart of cleaning supplies. “Alright, you lot,” he grunted. “You’re to clean up this mess you made.”

“I had nothing to do with that disaster,” Malfoy protested.

“Shut it,” Filch snapped, and he shoved a mop into Malfoy’s arms. “No magic. I’ll be back at 9 o’clock, and if it’s not done, you’ll get to keep working until it is.”

With that, Filch left. Malfoy turned around and scowled at Colin and Demelza. “This is your fault,” he hissed.

“Actually, Malfoy, I think you’re the one to blame for your own detention,” Harry said, grabbing a mop himself. He could handle one slime-soaked corridor, he thought, but if Malfoy would be making snide remarks the rest of the night, he’d have a much harder time handling his temper.

You’d better handle your temper, unless you want to have more detentions with Malfoy.

Yeah, yeah, I know, Ginny.

“What exactly did you do?” Harry asked the two fourth years. Demelza gave a shrug.

“I blame her,” Colin said immediately.

“Hey!”

“Never mind,” Harry sighed. He grabbed a bucket and dropped the mop into it; it filled with soapy water automatically. “Just start mopping.”

“Why don’t they just get the house elves to clean up this mess?” Malfoy complained loudly.

“Because they’ve got fools like us to do it,” Harry snapped.

“I wasn’t asking you, Potter.”

“Really? Were you just talking to yourself, then?”

“I was talking to the two idiots who made the mess,” Malfoy said with a sneer. Harry rolled his eyes, turning away.

“Me?” he heard Colin squeak. Harry glanced back over his shoulder, wondering if he would have to defend Colin from Malfoy too.

Malfoy gave him a look of disgust. “Clearly,” he said. “You never said what it was that you did.”

“It was an accident,” Colin said quickly. “Demelza startled me and I said the incantation wrong!”

“He was trying to transfigure a cup into a toad,” Demelza added. “And all I did was pop up behind you and say boo, it’s not my fault you’re a little baby.”

Colin turned bright pink. “Shut up,” he muttered. Malfoy muttered something under his breath that sounded a lot like an insult. Harry shook his head and tried to scrap a bit of dried slime up with his shoe.

Harry didn’t talk, nor did Malfoy, but Colin and Demelza kept up a conversation between the two of them for the entire time. After a few minutes of Malfoy silently shooting Harry daggers with his eyes, Harry grabbed his bucket and moved to the opposite end of the corridor to work. Malfoy didn’t follow him. Harry checked his watch what felt like every hour, but by the ticking hands was closer to every five minutes. The work was slow and dull, and not even Ginny doing homework across his mind could help. Colin and Demelza were annoyingly cheerful, as if the detention was just an afternoon out on the town for them. An hour into the detention, Harry had cleaned about an eighth of the corridor, while at the opposite end, Malfoy, Demelza, and Colin had done just as much.

“What the hell!”

Harry glanced up at Malfoy’s sudden shout; he saw Colin looking absolutely mortified and Malfoy standing in the middle of the corridor looking down at his robes. He decided to ignore them, but then Ginny switched from working on her History of Magic homework to reading The Shining again, and Harry felt more like eavesdropping.

“Sorry, sorry, it’s just water —”

“It’s slime juice is what it is, get off me!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to, it was an accident —”

“You seem to cause a lot of accidents, idiot.”

“Hey, leave him alone, you kicked the bucket!”

“Heh, kicked the bucket.”

“Colin, shut up.”

Ooh, so that’s where “come play with us” came from…

Harry stabbed the ground with the mop and caused a horrible squelching noise that made him wince.

“Just leave me alone, the both of you.”

“I’m just trying to help you.”

“I don’t want your help, you — you fool.”

“Wow, rude much, Malfoy?”

“Shut up, Robbins!”

Harry glanced over at them; Colin was visibly blushing and Demelza looked like she was about to punch Malfoy in the face. Harry half hoped she would. Malfoy had taken out his wand and looked to be drying his robes with it.

“Didn’t Filch say no magic?” Colin said.

Malfoy abruptly dropped his mop to wave his middle finger at Colin. “Filch can go shove this mop up his arse for all I care,” he said, grabbing the mop again. “Now, piss off.”

“Funny how that doesn’t ever work,” Harry called.

Malfoy showed Harry his middle finger as well. “I don’t give a damn, Potter,” he spat.

Harry snorted. “Clearly.”

Malfoy scowled and angrily began mopping again, muttering under his breath something Harry couldn’t hear. He went back to scrubbing the floor; there was a particularly stubborn patch of slime right in the middle of the corridor that refused to loosen its grip on the stone. As Malfoy kept angrily mopping the opposite end of the corridor, Colin and Demelza moved away from him, closer to Harry, all the while continuing their conversation.

“… can’t believe you sometimes.”

“Don’t judge me, Mel.”

“I’m judging you.”

“Hey!”

Harry dunked the mop in his bucket, making the water slosh and splash onto the floor loudly. He missed Demelza’s next sentence as he was busy swirling his mop around the stubborn spot of slime.

“I know, I know.”

“So why? You know you can’t —”

“I can’t help it, okay? You don’t see me asking you about McLaggen.”

“Shut up, he’s a good Quidditch player.”

“You’ve only seen him in one game!”

“This is different, Colin!”

Harry decided eavesdropping further would be too rude and tried to block out their conversation. However, Ginny was still reading The Shining and he couldn’t block out their conversation and her reading at the same time. He tried to focus instead at how much he loathed Draco Malfoy at that moment.

“I just don’t want to see you get yourself stuck in a bad situation.”

“It’s not like anything could happen, alright?”

This is getting very interesting… Not sure how much I like the gore factor, however.

Har ry gave a shake of his head. He checked his watch. 7:08. He gave a groan, dreading the next two hours.

What if I switched to Two Towers?

Ginny, you’re a godsend.

Love you, too.

With Ginny now reading to him, the conversation between Colin and Demelza and Malfoy’s mutterings faded. He began to move autonomously, dunking and swiping and pushing his mop around until he ran out of slime.

“Is it all gone?” Harry asked, asking Ginny to pause as he looked around.

“I think we’re done, yeah,” Colin said, then promptly dropped onto the freshly mopped floor and leaned against a wall. “That was exhausting,” he murmured.

Malfoy practically flung his mop back into the broom cupboard. “What do we do now?” he said in a whiny voice. “It’s only 8:30, so Filch won’t show up to let us go for another half hour.”

“We could play a game,” Colin suggested. Malfoy answered him in a scowl. “Or not,” Colin muttered.

“Why don’t you go skulk in a corner over there,” Harry told Malfoy, joining Colin on the floor. “What sort of game?”

“Erm, twenty questions?” Colin suggested.

Demelz a frowned. “What’s that?”

“Oh, I keep forgetting you’re not from a Muggle family,” Colin said. “Never mind.”

Harry shrugged. “It’s a question game, one person thinks of something and the other tries to guess it in less than twenty questions.”

“Alright, what are you thinking of?” Demelza promptly asked.

“They have to be yes or no questions,” Colin told her. Demelza huffed.

“That sounds dull,” she said.

“It’s a Muggle game, what do you expect?” Malfoy said.

“If you haven’t got anything nice to say, hold your tongue,” Demelza snapped at him.

Malfoy merely sneered at her. “I could say the same to you,” he said, turning and walking away. Harry glared at his back until he vanished behind the cleaning cart.

“I can’t stand him,” Demelza muttered. “He’s always so mean.”

“I think he’s upset,” Colin said, frowning after Malfoy. “My dad always said bullies are mean to people because they’re upset about something else.”

Harry snorted. “No offense to your dad, but that’s daft. Malfoy’s a prick because of who he is.”

“You know, you’re not so nice sometimes either,” Demelza said stiffly.

“Oh, leave him alone, Mel,” Colin said. “He’s not mean, he’s anti-social.”

“Asocial,” Demelza corrected. “Anti-social is sociopathic.”

“I’m not asocial,” Harry said. “I’m… introverted.”

Dem elza raised an eyebrow. “You tell people to piss off for talking to you sometimes.”

“No, I don’t!” Harry protested. “I tell people to piss off because they’re being rude!”

“It’s still rude,” Demelza said.

Harry gaped at her. Ginny, your friend is being mean to me.

My friend is telling you that it’s rude to act rude to people who are being rude.

That’s too many rude’s.

“I’m not like him,” Harry said, jerking his head towards Malfoy.

“True,” Demelza said. “Though, I had to agree with Ginny, what you said this morning was a bit excessive.”

“You’re ganging up on me,” Harry said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I’m on your side, personally,” Colin said.

Demelza rolled her eyes. “Of course, you are,” she muttered exasperatedly.

Ha rry shrugged. “As long as he steers clear of me and Ginny from now on, I’ll refrain from hexing Malfoy. Is that not as excessive?”

“I’ll accept it,” Demelza said. “I bet you Ginny will too.”

Oh, I accept that. Also, now that you’re done mopping, I’m going back to the Shining.

H arry tried not to groan but nodded to Demelza. He then pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his forehead on his knees.

“What time is it?” Harry mumbled.

“You’re the one with a watch,” Demelza said.

Harry muttered grumpily under his breath, wanting to tell her that he had been asking Ginny, not her, though that would sound mental, and checked his watch. “Quarter to nine. Filch should be back soon.”

“What are you lot doing?”

“Speak of the devil,” Demelza muttered as Filch appeared from around the corner. Harry quickly pushed himself to his feet to wait for Filch to inspect the corridor and dismiss them. The cantankerous caretaker sniffed as he looked over the floors, then after a few moments gave a nod.

“Alright, get out of here,” he said, waving a hand at them. “Get to your dorms before I give you detention myself for being out past curfew.”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said, a little peeved. He offered Colin a hand up; the boy turned a faint shade of pink and took it. Harry gave him a quick pat on the shoulder, then started for the stairs and Gryffindor tower.

“Malfoy, Filch said we could leave,” Colin said, as the boy was still sitting on the floor. When the Slytherin didn’t respond, Colin stepped closer and touched his shoulder. “Malfoy?”

“Wha — get off,” Malfoy woke with a jerk and waved Colin away. “What are you looking at?” he snapped, getting up and brushing off his robes.

Colin, now pink in the face, shook his head. “N—nothing,” he said. “Erm, see you, I guess.” Colin grabbed Demelza’s hand and pulled her away, practically running for the stairs. Harry glanced at Malfoy, then nodded stiffly, and started after them. Malfoy did not acknowledge him in return, rather he left in the opposite direction. The two fourth years got ahead of him, as Harry was in no hurry. When he reached the portrait hole, they had already gone inside.

“Niffler knick-knacks,” Harry said to the Fat Lady.

“Yes, indeed,” the Fat Lady replied in a murmur as she swung forward. Harry moved through the gap behind her painting into the common room, which was still packed with students.

I’m upstairs already, Ginny thought. Harry nodded without thinking, heading straight for the stairs. He paused for a moment, however, to tie up his shoelaces, unfortunately next to a group of fourth-year girls, as he caught a snippet of their conversation:

“Maisy said that that he’s got tattoos!”

“Oh, come off it, Professor Black? Tattoos?”

“Yes! He’s got this big on his back, Property of Moony, she said.”

The girls all giggled as Harry rolled his eyes; of course, his godfather was that teacher, he thought to himself, the one every girl oohed and aahed over.

“That Moony girl better know how lucky she is.”

Harry resisted the urge to snort; he was quite certain Remus knew how “lucky” he was.

“Hey, Harry!” Angelina called his name and he stood up from his shoelaces. “Come over here for a moment!”

Harry glanced at his watch; he had said goodbye to Ginny at five thirty, it was nine o’clock already and he didn’t want to loiter any longer than necessary. He glanced between the stairs and Angelina, but she had already called him a second time.

“What’s up?” Harry said, walking over to her.

“We’re having Quidditch practice tomorrow night at seven instead of six thirty,” Angelina said, “but we’ve got the field booked until ten.”

“Erm, okay,” Harry said. “You wouldn’t mind if Ginny watched the practice, would you?”

Angelina shrugged. “Fine by me, as long as you don’t wander off to canoodle in a shed somewhere.”

“We wouldn’t, promise,” Harry said. “I’ve got to go, I’ve got mounds of homework.”

“Fine, see you later, then.”

Harry gave a nod, then tried to move as quickly as possible towards the stairs without running.

In training the next day, Tonks had them attempting to charm their golems again, and by the end, Harry had gotten his to throw a few punches at Ginny’s, but when Ginny managed to get it to fight back, it just walked away and hers did not chase it. Classes that day were dull, they did homework in the library again, and Quidditch practice was long and tiring. They had the first match of the season on Saturday, so that week’s extra training, Potions this time around, had been moved to Sunday.

By Friday, Malfoy hadn’t bothered Harry or Ginny again, which Harry took as a good sign and Ginny took as a relief. They got back their essays from Snape, and Harry’s was given an Acceptable, which Hermione huffed about but Harry was grateful, as it wasn’t a Poor.

Sa turday morning dawned bright and cold; Harry cast a warming charm on his slippers before putting his feet in them. He let Ginny sleep while he showered and dressed, then woke her up around eight.

“We’ve not got training, Harry, leave me alone,” she mumbled, rolling over.

“Because I have a Quidditch match, Gin,” Harry reminded her. “Come on, you’ve got to get up.”

Ginny waved a hand. “Let me sleep in for once,” she mumbled.

“It’s not my fault you were up reading until one in the morning,” Harry told her, “but if you don’t get up know you won’t be able to get ready in time for breakfast.”

Ginny cracked open one eye and checked the clock. “Fine,” she muttered, getting up. “It’s bloody cold in here, Harry, why haven’t you cast a warming charm on the room?”

“I didn’t think of it, sorry,” he said. Ginny grumbled as she took out her wand and cast a charm upon the room. Harry dropped onto the bed and picked up Two Towers to read while she was in the shower.

They left for breakfast about twenty minutes later, Ginny still half-asleep. As they left their room, Hollins and Greenley exited Hollins’s room across the hall.

“Morning,” Harry said.

Told you, Ginny thought.

“Morning,” Greenley answered him, taking the stairs down through the girl’s dormitory. Hollins didn’t reply, just followed Greenley. Ginny pecked Harry’s cheek before going after them. Harry took the stairs down through the boys’ dorms, pausing outside his old dorm to check on Ron. He opened the door and went in, looking around as he did. His old room-mates were much messier than he remembered.

“Oi!” Harry shouted. “Get up, you lot!”

Harry heard a strangled shout and Seamus toppled out of his bed. “Harry, what the bloody hell are you doing?” he complained, picking himself up and looking crossly at him.

“I’m getting you up so you can get breakfast before the Quidditch match,” Harry said brightly. “So, get up.”

“Fuck the Quidditch match!” Dean shouted from behind his curtains.

“It’s the first game of the season, Dean, you have to come,” Harry told him as he strode over to Ron’s bed. “Come on, Ron, get up!”

“Piss off, Harry,” Ron mumbled, rolling over. Harry rolled his eyes, then took out his wand and muttered a quick charm. Water spewed from the end of his wand, instantly soaking Ron and his bed, who gave a strangled yelp that was half shock half cursing and leapt out of the bed. “Harry!” he shouted, dripping onto the hardwood floor.

“Rise and shine, come and get breakfast,” Harry said, then ran from the room as Ron had started chasing him.

“I’ll get you for that!” Ron shouted after him; Harry laughed, exiting the dormitory.

Ginny raised an eyebrow at him. “Really?” she said.

“What?” he said. “It was a harmless prank!”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Just remember that when he comes roaring down here looking for your head on a platter, I’m on his side.”

“Thanks, love, you deserve a medal for being the best wife in the world.”

“More like the best sister,” Ginny said, linking her arm with his and starting towards the portrait hole.

Hermione’s voice came from the stairs, calling for them. “Harry, Ginny, wait up!” They paused, turning around as Hermione left the girls’ dorms and came up behind them.

“Warning, Ron’s going to be pissed when he gets down,” Ginny said.

Hermione frowned. “Why?”

“Because Harry woke him up with the Aguamenti charm,” Ginny answered, smirking.

Hermion e gave a snort of laughter, then linked her arm through Harry’s unoccupied arm. “Of course you did,” she said. “Let’s get out of here before he finds you then.”

“You’re not waiting for him?” Ginny asked.

“No, not this morning,” Hermione said.

Ginny shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

They left the tower, heading for the Great Hall and breakfast. As it was only 8:30 on a Saturday, even though there was a Quidditch match later, the dining hall was barely half full, with the most people seated at the Hufflepuff table. The Gryffindor table, especially, was devoid of its students, so they had prime choice of seats.

“How long do you imagine it will take for the rest of them to come down?” Harry asked as he poured himself coffee.

“A few minutes, if Ron’s that pissed,” Ginny said. “Pass the bacon, please. Did you wake up everyone?”

“Yeah, except maybe Neville; I didn’t see him get up.”

“Because I was already up,” said Neville, having walked up behind them without them noticing; Luna was with him, wearing a rather peculiar lion-shaped hat.

“Oh, hi,” Harry said, turning in his seat. “Morning.”

“Same to you,” Neville said, taking a seat next to Ginny.

“Are you sitting with us today, Lu?” Ginny asked the Ravenclaw girl.

“Yes, I want to show support for Gryffindor,” Luna answered, pointing to her hat.

“That’s very interesting, did you make it?”

Luna nodded, and the lion growled. “It’s enchanted to roar as well, but I won’t set it off in here; it’s rather loud.”

“Good thinking,” Ginny said, turning back her plate.

A few minutes later, Ron entered the Great Hall, followed by the sleepy looking pair of Seamus and Dean; Ron was definitely still irate over the water, as he dropped down across from Harry with a scowl.

“Feeling refreshed, Ron?” Harry asked with a cheeky grin.

“You watch your back, Harry Potter,” Ron threatened, waving the sausage he had picked up in lieu of his wand.

“Oh, I will, don’t worry,” Harry said without concern.

Ron’s scowl deepened, but he started on his breakfast anyway. Ten or twenty minutes past that, Angelina and the rest of the team showed up, all gathering around Harry and Ron at the table. Fred and George squeezed in on either side of Ron, Angelina beside George, Katie between Harry and Hermione, and Alicia on Hermione’s other side.

“Eat up, everyone, we need the energy!” Angelina called. “Ron, Harry, have you been up long?”

“I was very rudely awakened this morning at 8:30,” Ron complained.

“Good time for it, then,” Angelina said distractedly. “We’re facing Slytherin, so remember, keep your guard up at all times, they’re bound to plan nasty.”

“Malfoy especially is going to be pissy,” Fred said.

“More than usual?” asked Ron.

“Yeah,” George said with a nod. “Our sources in Slytherin say that he’s been having non-stop PMS since the start of the year.”

“Could you please not use part of the menstrual cycle to describe that little shitbag,” Katie asked.

“Fine, he’s been angsty and bitchy all year,” George corrected.

“Thank you,” Kate replied, shooting him a smile.

“Is he really?” Harry asked. “I just thought he was acting normal.”

“Nope,” Fred said, popping the final ‘p’ in the word. “Apparently, he’s constantly sulking and will snap at anyone who talks to him, even his friends.”

Harry frowned, thinking back, but Fred had to be right. The last few times Malfoy had confronted him and Ginny, he had been alone. Normally, he would be backed by Crabbe and Goyle at the least, if not a few of his other cronies. “Anyone saying why?” he asked Fred.

“Not a clue,” George answered. “But the little git’s starting to find out that you can’t yell at everyone and still have friends at the end of the day.”

“Yikes,” Harry murmured, not knowing what else to say.

“Yeah, indeed,” George said. “Anyway, while he’s being a prick, Marcus Flint might be off his game today.”

“What did you do?” Angelina asked exasperatedly, setting down her fork.

“Absolutely nothing,” George answered.

“Today,” Fred added.

“Yesterday, on the other hand,” George continued.

“Possibly a note insinuating that his antics in the dungeon with a certain Ravenclaw had not gone unnoticed,” Fred said.

“But of course, we wouldn’t be that obvious,” George reassured her.

Angelina rolled her eyes. “Have you got money riding on this match?”

“Ten galleons,” George said.

“Each,” added Fred.

Angelina sighed.

The Great Hall filled up rapidly; by nine, the Gryffindor table was packed with pumped students cheering and shouting — twice, Fred and George managed to start a cheer of “Lions win, snakes are grim!” Harry felt like he would rather melt into his seat than be stuck in the middle of the table with literally everyone walking up to him and the rest of the team to wish him luck. A couple of sixth and seventh years he had never even talked to ruffled his hair at one point. Harry tried not to seem rude in dodging their hands. Ron ended up hiding in Fred and George’s shadow, looking for once grateful to be unnoticed in their presence.

“You’d think this was the final game of the season, not the first,” Ron muttered as a group of giggling fourth-year girls left.

“It’s not our fault we’re the heart and soul of Gryffindor,” Fred said, puffing out his chest.

“Are you kidding me, you’re not getting half the attention poor Harry here is,” Katie said. “I’ve half a mind to start telling them to piss off, he looks so uncomfortable.”

“Is it that obvious?” Harry muttered.

“Only because I know you so well,” Katie promised him, patting his shoulder.

“Well, Harry, Fred, and I count as the heart and soul of Gryffindor then,” George said.

“Even Head Grump Hollins wished us good luck,” Fred reminded them. “Do you know how little she even talks to us anymore?”

“What did you do to her?” Angelina asked.

“A gentleman does not kiss and tell,” George told her.

“Yeah, what he said,” Fred added.

“Both of you?” Alicia laughed. “Merlin, you’re incorrigible.”

Ha rry frowned. “I thought she was gay?”

Alicia shrugged. “Her old dorm-mates say that, but I don’t think so.”

“Except that other seventh year Greenley stays the night in Hollins’s room all the time,” Ginny said.

“Yeah, because Greenley hates her room-mates,” Angelina said. “I should know, I’m one of them.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t hate you,” Hermione said, popping out from between Katie and Alicia. “Wizards are far less racist towards ethnic people than Muggles as far as I’ve experienced.”

“Why d’you assume it’s because I’m black?” Angelina asked, laughing. “Greenley hates everyone equally; so does Hollins.”

Hermion e turned slightly red. “Well, I don’t know,” she mumbled, leaning back. Angelina reached across the table and patted Hermine’s head.

“You’re cute, kid,” she said, “I hope Ron keeps you around.”

Ron turned almost as pink as Hermione.

“I hope that too, keeps her itchy Prefect nose off our tail,” Fred said, elbowing Ron lightly.

“Shove off,” Ron muttered, grabbing a third serving of sausages.

“I think they’re dating,” Ginny said, returning to the subject of the Head Girl and Greenley. “Maybe their mutual dislike of the rest of the school brought them together.”

“Yeah, but Hollins is into blokes,” George said to her. “Very into blokes.”

“There is such a thing as bisexuality,” Ginny reminded him. George shrugged.

“Whatever. Hollins wished us luck, and if she’s not dating Greenley, I’m going to double check that she’s into blokes,” George said decidedly.

“Gee, that must make all the girls go wild,” Katie said, rolling her eyes.

“It does, actually,” George laughed.

Katie shook her head at him. “Sometimes I wish Angie would kick you off the team,” she muttered.

“My apologies on his behalf, dear girl,” Fred said to her. “I shan’t be checking if Hollins is gay or not, so if you’re up for celebrating later this evening, I am open to whatever you’re into.”

“Ha,” Katie said sarcastically. “Hope you don’t mind being tied up.”

Fred chuckled. “Kinky, nice.”

Harry hid his head in his hands. Ginny patted his shoulder sympathetically.

“Can we change the subject?” Ron asked. “Not that I don’t enjoy this particular subject, but I actually hate this particular subject when it relates to my brothers.”

“Yeah, because you don’t mind that stuff at all, do ya?” George asked, grabbing Ron by the shoulders and smirking. “Nor does your little girlfriend.”

Ron turned bright red and Hermione actually slid out of her seat and under the table. Harry looked up, confused. “Wait, what does that mean?”

Fred snorted. “Never mind,” he said, waving a hand. Harry looked at Ginny, who was very obviously trying not to laugh.

“Gin?” he said.

“No, no, I know nothing,” she sniggered.

Harry scowled. “Yes, you do, don’t lie.”

Ginny snorted. “Sorry. It’s just — you’re really oblivious sometimes, Harry.”

Harry turned his scowl on Ron. “I didn’t get to give you the whole ‘big brother/watch your back/don’t hurt my sort of sister’ talk!”

Ron, though bright red in the face, shrugged. “Honestly, mate, I’m not chuffed about missing out on that particular talk.”

“Yeah, and if you gave him that talk, you know what would happen in return,” Fred reminded Harry. “Ginny’s got six brothers.”

Ginny gave Fred the finger. “And Ginny’s got a husband, too, not some horny boyfriend.”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “See?”

“He can’t get away,” Ginny continued. “I’m literally stuck with him for the rest of my life.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Harry whined.

Ginny rolled her eyes.

“You two are so confusing,” Seamus said. “Is alright if I blame your example for all my failed relationships?”

“I think you ought to blame your divorced parents,” Dean replied.

Angelina stood up then, stretching her arms above her head. “Alright, team, we’ve dawdled out here long enough. Let’s head over to the changing rooms.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Fred said, jumping up. “Forward, march!” He began to mock-march out of the hall, George quickly catching up with him. Angelina rolled her eyes.

“Come on,” she said. “And, yes, Harry, Ginny can come with us,” she said as Harry opened his mouth. “I don’t get how you two aren’t sick of each other by now,” she muttered, leading them from the hall. Ginny snorted as she looped her arm through Harry’s. Harry, on the other hand, was simply grateful that she didn’t ask for explanations as to why he and she were together constantly. The Gryffindor Quidditch team, plus Ginny, made their way out of the Great Hall to great cheers and applause from their House and multiple boos from the Slytherin table. The Slytherin Quidditch team hadn’t even finished eating when they left.

“Alright, everyone get changed and meet up in here,” Angelina called as she led Katie and Alicia into the girls’ changing room.

“Ooh, pep talks in the girls' room,” Fred laughed, ducking into the boys’ changing room. Angelina rolled her eyes at him, then moved out of sight. Ginny gave Harry a peck on the cheek before going into the girls’ room with the Chasers.

No peeking, she reminded him with a cheeky grin. Harry flushed, rolled his eyes, and stuck his tongue out at her; she laughed.

He and the Weasley boys changed quickly, then walked over to the other half of the changing room and Fred knocked. They waited for Angelina to tell them they could enter, then headed inside.

“Alright, gather round,” Angelina said. “Let’s talk today’s strategy.”

“Aggressive chasing and use of Bludgers,” Alicia said instantly.

“Let me talk!” Angelina called, scowling. Alicia shrugged and lay down on a bench. “We’re going for aggressive chasing and Bludger attacks.” Alicia threw her hands into the air as if to say Told you! Angelina ignored her. “Fred, George, I want you controlling the Bludgers at all times.”

“Sir, yes, sir!” George said, saluting.

“Alicia, Katie, remember that move we’ve been practicing —”

“We’ve been practicing it for a month, Angie,” Katie assured her. “We could do it in our sleep.”

“Good,” Angelina said with a stiff nod. “Ginny — wait, why are you still in here?”

“So that I don’t go nuts halfway through the match,” Ginny quipped. Angelina rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Harry, I want you keeping an eye out for Malfoy, don’t let him get the Snitch and don’t you catch it either until we’re at least ten goals in. Grab it if Malfoy’s too close, but I want a nice strong lead going into the season.”

Harry gave a nod. “I’ll keep him distracted,” he promised.

“Won’t take him much to do that,” Alicia quipped. The twins snorted.

“Focus, Al!” Angelina called.

“Sorry,” Alicia said, sitting up.

“Ron, remember what we talked about last practice,” Angelina continued. “You gotta keep your head in the game.”

“Got it,” Ron said, nodding.

“Y’know, that has quite a nice ring to it,” George mused, “gotta keep your head in the game.”

“Gotta get your head in the game,” Fred added. The twins chuckled to each other.

“Alright, let’s get some warm ups done,” Angelina called, rising from her bench and drawing her wand. “Get up, everyone, now.” Harry scrambled to get up off the floor as Angelina waved her wand and magicked the benches away from the center of the room. He always dreaded warm-ups.

By the time they finished warming up, the stadium had filled enough for the sounds of the crowd outside to reach the changing rooms. The match began at eleven, and by Harry’s watch, it was 10:40. Angelina began pacing up and down the room, occasionally shouting out encouragements or reminders for the game ahead. Fred, George, and Alicia started a game of Exploding Snap in a corner, and Harry sat with Ron and Ginny by the lockers in silence; Ron looked like he might vomit, and Ginny kept a firm grip on her wand in case he did.

Angelina left the changing room a few minutes later to check in with madam Hooch, then returned a little before eleven to give them a final note: “Whatever happens out there today, let’s come off the pitch knowing we did our best and we played fair, alright?”

“Yeah!” George echoed. “Everyone, huddle up, Lions win on three; one, two, three —”

“Lions win!” the team — and Ginny — all shouted.

“Let’s go!” Angelina called. “Erm, Ginny, you have to go to the stands.”

“Noted,” Ginny said, giving Harry a quick kiss. “Good luck!”

“Thanks,” Harry said, waving her off.

“She better turn out to be a fantastic good luck charm,” Angelina said as they lined up at the exit onto the pitch.

“She will,” Harry said. “Thanks for letting her hang around.”

“No problem,” Angelina told him. “Dumbledore said she would be.”

“He did?” Harry asked, frowning.

“Yeah, start of the year. Pulled me aside and said I was to let her audit practices and stick around before games and the lot. Didn’t say why.”

“Oh,” Harry murmured. “Erm, it’s a bit of a long story.”

Angelina raised an eyebrow at him, looking at him from the corner of her eye. “Well, you can tell it to me later,” she said, looking away again.

Harry just gave a quick nod, adjusting his grip on his Firebolt.

Dum bledore thinks of everything, I guess, he mused.

Appare ntly, Ginny replied. Nice of him to do.

Harry almost nodded, then stopped himself from reacting visibly. He let affirmative thoughts travel his mind to hers instead.

Angelina pulled back the curtain covering the doorway, seemingly waiting for Madam Hooch’s signal. After a moment, she dropped it and gave a nod to the team.

“Let’s go,” she said.

The crowd erupted in cheers as the Gryffindor team stepped out onto the pitch; at the same time, the Slytherin Quidditch team made their way out of the changing rooms at the opposite end of the stadium, and plenty of the cheers were for them as well. Harry made eye contact with Malfoy and gave a stiff nod, just to receive a glare in return.

“Captains, shake hands!” Madam Hooch declared. Angelina stepped forward and held her hand out to Marcus Flint; Flint took it and gave it a rough shake. “Mount your brooms!”

Harry swung his leg over his Firebolt, crouch, ready to kick off.

“Keep this a clean, fair game,” the referee reminded them, putting her whistle to her lips and in her other hand, holding up the Quaffle. She clenched the whistle between her lips and raised the Quaffle above her head. She blew the whistle and Harry kicked off; the players shot into the air as Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle into play.

“And Johnson gets the Quaffle; she dodges Flint and passes to Spinnet!”

The Snitch hadn’t been released yet, so Harry began a loop of the pitch as he listened to Lee Jordan commentating. He spotted Malfoy by the Slytherin goals and took off towards him.

“Spinnet loops Warrington and passes back to Johnson; watch out for that Bludger, Angelina! Nice dodge! Johnson passes to Bell; no, she feints a pass to Bell! Warrington falls for it, too! Johnson heads for the goals; she shoots left, and Bletchley misses it! Ten points to Gryffindor!”

Malf oy had to dodge Bletchley as he went to retrieve the Quaffle; he headed for the other end of the pitch, and Harry followed him.

“The Snitch is released, and vanishes immediately, as it usually does. Let’s hope Potter catches it before Malfoy. Sorry, sorry, Professor; let’s hope neither Seeker catches it too soon and ends the match before it has a chance to even start! And Flint gets the Quaffle!”

Malfoy reversed suddenly and looped over Harry. “Quit tailing me, Potter!” he shouted, shooting past him. Harry resisted the urge to flip him off and flew upward instead of after him. He could tail him from above.

“Fred Weasley hits the Bludger towards Flint; at least, I think that’s Fred, they really ought to wear signs. Flint rolls, but he drops the Quaffle; Spinnet catches it and heads back towards the Slytherin goals. Spinnet, for your information, is quite single and ready to mingle if your name is not Andrew Goldstein. Sorry, Professor McG, she asked me to say that. Oh, and apologies to Andrew Goldstein, you should have realized that snogging that Ravenclaw in your and Alicia’s special place would result in a situation like this.”

Harry chortled a bit as he watched Alicia flash the crowd a grin before diverting his attention back to Malfoy. The Slytherin Seeker was circling the pitch, his face scrunched up as he scanned it for the snitch. Gryffindor was only ten points into the game, but the Snitch usually managed to hide very well until at least 4 or 5 goals had been scored.

“And Spinnet passes to Bell, who catches it by the tip of her fingers and — oh, ouch! That had to have hurt; Montague tackles Bell and she drops the Quaffle; Flint grabs it. Fred, hit a Bludger at him! Or George, that works too. Flint drops the Quaffle and Johnson takes it!”

Harry saw Malfoy flying directly underneath him, oblivious to Harry positioned above him. Harry took advantage of the Slytherin’s lapse of concentration and dived suddenly, rocketing right past Malfoy’s nose; he heard Malfoy swear loudly, then glanced over his shoulder to see him diving too. Harry rapidly pulled out of it and shot off towards the Gryffindor goals, all the while tailed by Malfoy.

“The Seekers are racing each other; has one of them spotted the Snitch? Oh, and Johnson scores again for Gryffindor, twenty points to zero, but who cares about that, Potter and Malfoy are neck and neck!”

Malfoy elbowed Harry suddenly, throwing him off course, but Harry didn’t care, he had achieved what he wanted to do; he spun around and headed for the Slytherin goals. He heard Malfoy swearing again and guessed that he had realized that Harry had been feinting.

“And Potter turns back; must have mistaken a watch for the Snitch or something. And Montague with the Quaffle; he passes to Warrington, and Warrington drops it?! Or not? I don’t know, but Flint catches it and keeps on going — Angelina, tackle him! Oh, you tried; Johnson fails to grab the Quaffle as Flint passes back to Warrington. Warrington dodges a Bludger!”

Harry glanced around; the Slytherin Chasers were right on top of the Gryffindor goal posts.

“Warrington shoots! And Gryffindor Keeper Weasley — gets hit by a Bludger?!”

Harry spun around to gape; Ron missed the Quaffle flying through the left hoop, but the Bludger that one of the twins had sent towards Warrington had carried on to hit Ron. He shot off towards the goals, but Ron was already flying off to get the Quaffle and the match was carrying on.

“No foul from the referee, so ten points to Slytherin! Fred, watch where you send your Bludgers!”

“Sorry!” shouted Fred.

Ron seemed okay, as he tossed the Quaffle to Angelina and returned to the middle hoop. Harry worried that it was mostly his pride wounded.

Harr y, Malfoy’s spotted something!

H arry wheeled around and saw that Malfoy was indeed shooting towards the ground on the Gryffindor end of the pitch; Harry muttered a curse and leaned in, shooting forward on his broom towards Malfoy. The Slytherin glanced over his shoulder at him and sped up, but Harry pulled ahead of him and cut in front of him sharply, causing Malfoy to have to yank upwards on his broom to dodge him.

“What the hell, Potter?” Malfoy spat. “Get out of my way!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, didn’t see you there,” Harry shot back, then flew past him, again cutting it close so he brushed against him and knocked him away again. The Snitch had vanished again.

“And Johnson passes to Spinnet, who passes to Bell, who passes back to Johnson; nice use of the Romanian Dribble, Gryffindor Chasers! Johnson ducks Montague and passes to Bell; Slytherin Beater Crabbe hits a Bludger toward Bell, she dodges and passes to Spinnet. Spinnet shoots; she scores! Thirty-ten, to Gryffindor!”

Harr y circled the Hufflepuff stands, watching Malfoy prowl the other side of the pitch. He hadn’t spotted the Snitch again, and by the looks of it, neither had Malfoy.

“Bletchley gives the Quaffle to Flint; oh, no, Johnson steals it and puts it away again! Nice shot there, Angelina, forty points to Gryffindor! And Montague gets the Quaffle, he dodges a Bludger from Weasley and passes to Flint. Bell tackles him, and she doesn’t get the Quaffle, Flint passes back to Montague.”

Harry flew towards the Gryffindor goals; Malfoy was creeping closer and closer to them and Harry didn’t want him to get too far away from him.

“Flint and Montague are bearing down on Gryffindor Keeper Weasley; time to see how he faces up against the Chasers without stray Bludgers in the area. Johnson is on Flint’s tail, maybe she’ll steal it from him; Flint passes to Montague and Montague shoots for the right goal and Weasley catches it! Yes, great save, Ron! Ron gives the Quaffle to Bell and she rockets across the pitch towards the Slytherin goals! Everyone give a quick round of applause to the new Weasley on the team, I’d say that he’s a keeper, Angelina!”

The whole pitch groaned under the weight of Lee’s pun; Harry shot Jordan a grimace that was half glare half grin in time to see McGonagall hitting Lee over the head with her hat.

“Sorry, sorry, Professor, couldn’t resist. Bell passed to Spinnet, who’s now flying straight for the goals; Goyle hits a Bludger towards her, watch out! She passes to Johnson and rolls to avoid the Bludger! I knew I liked that girl, shame she won’t date me. Angelina, watch out for Warrington! Warrington tries to steal the Quaffle and fails, Johnson passes back to Bell, and Bell shoots; she scores! Fifty-ten, to Gryffindor!”

Malfoy was getting antsy; he was moving erratically around the lower half of the pitch, shooting back and forth as he searched for the Snitch. Angelina scored again in the time it took Harry to level with Malfoy, putting Gryffindor fifty points ahead. Angelina’s plan of aggressive chasing was definitely working, the Slytherin Chasers barely had time to get near the Quaffle let alone take it back to the Gryffindor goals, and it had to be helping Ron with his nerves. Harry had to focus on Malfoy, however; the Slytherin had spotted him and had taken off towards the Slytherin goals, not in a desperate run as he did when he was chasing the Snitch, just in irritation at seeing Harry tailing him again. Malfoy started a loop of the Slytherin goals when Harry spotted it; the Snitch was hovering under Keeper Bletchley’s feet, right above Malfoy’s head. And Harry was halfway across the field.

Harry, the Snitch —

I know!

“Spinnet shoots for the left goal, and Bletchley saves it! Seeker Malfoy is moving again, has he seen the Snitch?”

Harry shot towards the Slytherin goal, but Malfoy was going in the other direction, and the Snitch had darted away when Bletchley caught the Quaffle. He could see it still, flying for the Slytherin stands. Harry did an abrupt turn and shot for Malfoy; he flew right past his nose and made him pull up to avoid crashing into him.

“Do you have a death wish, Potter?” Malfoy shouted at him.

“Nope, I’m just horribly blind,” Harry shouted back, flying away again. The Snitch had vanished, but Malfoy looked irritated, not concerned. He hadn’t seen it.

“And Flint shoots! Wait, no, he passes; Montague scores! Sixty-twenty, Gryffindor still ahead by forty points.”

Harry flew off towards the Slytherin goals; Malfoy headed for the Ravenclaw stands in the opposite direction.

“Weasley gives the Quaffle to Johnson, who wastes no time in flying across the pitch; she weaves around Montague, flies under Flint, and passes to Spinnet; Spinnet performs a perfect Sloth-Grip Roll to dodge Warrington and drops the Quaffle; caught by Katie Bell, so I can’t tell if Alicia meant to do that or not. Hey, I rhymed! Yes, right Professor; Bell dodges a Bludger and shoots! She scores! Seventy-twenty, to Gryffindor! I’m going to be five galleons richer when this match is over, let me tell you — What? Professor, don’t be ridiculous, there’s no illegal gambling going on in Hogwarts, just a friendly bet between colleagues! Yes, I checked the rulebook; this doesn’t count as illegal — Oh, Flint just stole the Quaffle from Johnson and he’s shooting and Weasley catches it! Professor, stop distracting me, I’m commentating!”

Ha rry rolled his eyes at Lee Jordan, glancing back at where he and Professor McGonagall were sitting; McGonagall, indeed, looked irritated with Lee, but at the same time pleased with the events of the match. Harry looked for Malfoy again, spotting him hovering above the Ravenclaw stands, watching him. Harry frowned, then flew closer to the Slytherin stands. They were fifty points up, with that lead, he needed to start hunting out the Snitch himself.

“Johnson has the Quaffle, and she’s flying towards the Slytherin goals, just filled with determination, she’s going to win this match, or else I owe Maisy Jameson five galleons and I’m not losing a bet to a fourth year! Johnson passes to Bell, who passes to Spinnet, who passes back to Johnson, who shoots, and scores! Eighty-twenty, Gryffindor in the lead by sixty points! Oh, Malfoy seems to have spotted something — never mind, it was apparently nothing, he flies away and Flint takes the Quaffle — for ten seconds; Johnson steals it and rockets back towards the Slytherin goals and ouch! Bludger to the back, she drops the Quaffle, caught by Montague!”

Harry was searching the ground for whatever Malfoy had spotted, then caught sight of someone in the Hufflepuff stands waving something golden in their hands; whatever it was, it wasn’t the snitch. Harry turned back, heading for the Slytherin goal posts, when he spotted it — The Snitch was hovering near the Gryffindor stands, right above the heads of the first few rows.

They were sixty points up, and Slytherin was catching up. Harry shot towards the Gryffindor stands, determined to snatch the Snitch right out of the air before Montague could score again.

“And Potter seems to have spotted something! He’s flying towards the Gryffindor stands, Malfoy hot on his tail!”

Harry glanced over his shoulder; Malfoy was inches behind him, his face contorted with determined anger. Harry pressed forward, urging his Firebolt to speed up, he stuck his hand out, the Snitch was just inches from his fingers.

“AND POTTER GRABS THE SNITCH! GRYFFINDOR WINS, TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY POINTS TO TWENTY! JAMESON, YOU OWE ME FIVE GALLEONS; THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR BETTING AGAINST YOUR OWN HOUSE!”

Harry braked, clutching the Snitch in his hand and grinned at it. The crowd below him was screaming and clapping; someone grabbed the hem of his robes, catching his attention. Ginny was right below him, her face split with a wide grin. Harry gripped the handle of his broom and rolled to the side, hovering upside down before his wife.

“Give us a kiss?” he asked her, grinning. She laughed and pressed her mouth over his; it was weird to kiss someone upside down, but Harry didn’t care. She let go and Harry righted himself — not without some strain, of course — and flew out from over the stands in time to be rammed with the entire team at once.

“WE WON! WE WON! WE WON!” Fred was screaming at the top of his lungs.

“NICE CATCH, HARRY!” Angelina shouted over the screams of the Gryffindors.

“WE WON!”

The team flew to the ground; Harry jumped off his broom and Fred grabbed his fist, still clutching the Snitch, to shake it in the air for even louder cheers.

“Everyone gather up!” Angelina shouted. “Smile for the scrapbook!”

Harry hadn’t even noticed Colin Creevey running out onto the field as the team group-hugged, Harry in the middle despite being taller than the girls, his fist still raised with the Snitch. Colin snapped several photos; Alicia and Katie planted kisses on Harry’s cheeks for one, and then Fred and George decided to do the same.

“We won!” Fred shouted.

“And I thought I was vain,” Malfoy’s voice called over the cheering. “First win and you’re compiling a scrapbook?”

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Angelina called. “You’d do the same.”

Malfoy sneered at her, then turned his grimace onto Colin. “Not with that one behind the camera; I’d hire a professional.”

“I am a professional!” Colin protested, though he was blushing.

“Oh, yeah? Professionals don’t use beat-up, second-hand cameras,” Malfoy snapped.

“This was my dad’s camera!” Colin defended himself, hugging his camera to his chest.

“Your dad had poor taste,” Malfoy shot back.

“Why must you always be so horrible?” Colin snapped. “No wonder no one likes you!”

Malfoy’s eyes widened, he took a step back, then he solidified his glare. “No one asked you, queer,” he spat, and he stormed away, banging into Colin’s shoulder and almost knocking him to the ground. Alicia grabbed Colin to steady him, and Angelina grabbed Harry to hold him back from hexing Malfoy.

“You alright, Colin?” Angelina asked coolly.

“I’m fine,” Colin said, “erm, I’ll have these pictures developed by Monday.”

“Thanks, Colin,” Angelina said, giving him a side hug. “Ignore Malfoy, he’s a prick.”

Alicia was frowning after Malfoy, absently patting Colin’s shoulder as she was still holding onto his arm. “I hope that rat bastard gets what’s coming to him,” she murmured. “Actually, I wish you did hex his bits off yesterday, Harry.”

“So do I,” Harry grumbled.

“Oh, don’t get in trouble on my behalf!” Colin said quickly.

“He won’t, I promise,” came Ginny’s voice. She walked over to Colin and gave him a hug. “Ignore Malfoy.”

“They suggested I do that already,” Colin said.

“I’ll get Malfoy myself,” Ginny told him. “He needs a good swift kick up the arse.”

“That’s the spirit!” Fred crowed. “Come on, off to Gryffindor tower! We’ve got to celebrate the first win of the season!”

Fred and George scooped Harry up onto their shoulders and the quickly growing crowd marched back to the castle; the Gryffindors were chanting again; “Lions win, snakes are grim, Lions win, snakes are grim!”

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