|SIYE Time:22:07 on 18th November 2017|
The Road not Taken
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Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Sirius Black
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Story is Complete
Summary: The summer before his third year, Harry stormed out of his relatives' house and met a large dog. Instead of taking the Knight Bus, Harry throws his lot in with Sirius Black. Join him as he fights for his godfather and gets to know his best mate's little sister just a bit better.
Hitcount: Story Total: 19713; Chapter Total: 1545
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thanks again to Arnel for her beta services!
“You have a Firebolt?!” Ron exclaimed once they’d settled into a compartment on the train.
Harry nodded excitedly. “It is brilliant! I went out flying every day.”
“A real Firebolt,” Ron repeated in amazement.
“What’s so brilliant about a Firebolt?” Hermione asked looking between the two boys.
“It’s an International standard broom,” Ron said. “It can go from zero to one hundred and fifty miles an hour in ten seconds. It has an unbreakable Braking Charm and they are supposed to be incredibly responsive to the rider. I read about them in Which Broomstick.”
“I heard the Irish team was using Firebolts,” Ginny put in. “They are supposed to be amazing.”
Harry nodded, happy to talk about his favourite present. “It is beautiful. It has a registration number on the handle. The handle is polished ebony with birch twigs for better acceleration. It is so responsive — it turns so easily.”
“How fast did you go?” Ginny asked excitedly.
“I hit one hundred and fifty mph,” Harry crowed. “It was amazing. I could do so many dives.”
“Harry, that sounds really dangerous,” Hermione objected as she looked around at her friends. “You were flying at one hundred and fifty miles per hour?”
Harry shrugged. “I love flying, Hermione.”
Hermione didn’t say anything, but her disapproval was obvious. There were very few things that Hermione wasn’t good at, but flying was definitely one of them. She watched all of the Quidditch matches with her friends, but she wasn’t interested in playing Quidditch or flying. This wasn’t the first time she’d pointed out to Harry how dangerous his favourite pastime could be.
“Where were you that you were able to fly?” Ginny asked.
“Sirius rented a house in Northumberland for the holidays,” Harry explained. “There is an area in the forest that is opened for flying at certain times of the year.”
“Oh, Charlie and some of his friends went there a few years ago,” Ginny said. “It sounded amazing. Otter- otter something, right? It has to do with the Muggle defence system.”
“Yeah, Otterburn training range. It’s under the Ministry of Defence, but the Ministry of Magic has arranged to use it at certain times of the year,” Harry explained, excitement shining in his eyes. “You’ll never guess who I saw there. Professor McGonagall! She even tried out my Firebolt.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Ginny said feeling quite happy for her friend. “I bet the Firebolt is amazing.”
“What would you know? You can’t fly,” Ron said rather meanly.
“Of course she can,” Harry replied wearily. “She flew my Nimbus.”
“What?! You let her fly your Nimbus?” Ron was shocked.
Harry shrugged. “She did great.” He grinned at Ginny who blushed, but grinned back.
“When did this happen?” Ron asked suspiciously looking between the two of them.
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “September sometime. I didn’t write down the date or anything. I was going down to the pitch to practice and I ran into Ginny. I took her up first and then she flew by herself.”
“You didn’t tell me about that,” Ron grumbled. “Don’t even think about letting her try your Firebolt, she’s way too young.”
“What?!” Ginny was incensed. “I suppose you’re old enough.”
“Of course,” Ron replied. “You’re too young and too little to handle a big broom like that. I’m older than you and I’ve much more experience flying.”
Harry looked between the siblings, not sure of what he should do. He honestly thought Ginny would be able to handle the Firebolt — she was a great flyer. She was a better flyer than Ron, actually. Why was Ron getting so upset?
“Don’t worry, Ron,” Hermione said. “I’m sure Harry has no intention of letting her fly his broom.”
Ginny slammed out of the compartment. Harry watched her leave, rather upset with his friends and unsure of what to do. He thought Ron and Hermione were both being mean and rather unreasonable. Should he follow Ginny? Indecision gnawed at him and he settled for glaring at his oldest friends.
“Why are you two so mean to her?” he demanded. “She can try my Firebolt if she wants to; she’s a really good flyer.”
“You can’t be so nice to her,” Ron complained. “We’ll never get rid of her if you keep being nice to her.”
“Get rid of her? I don’t want to get rid of her,” Harry replied angrily. “She’s a friend of mine. Why are you the only one allowed to be my friend? Why is it that we saved Hermione from a Troll and became instant friends, but I save Ginny from a Basilisk and I’m not allowed to talk to her?”
“No,” Ron protested. “It’s not like that. It’s just Ginny is annoying. If you are nice to her she’ll follow us around and think she can hang out with us. She’s too young to be friends with us. What happens if we run into another adventure — are we supposed to let her come? My mum would kill me. No, she’s annoying, she’s too young, and she talks too much about stupid things. Not to mention the fact that she has that stupid crush on you, if you keep talking to her she’s going to think that you like her.”
“Ron, be nice!” Hermione reprimanded. “Harry, he does have a point. If Ginny thinks she’s your friend, she won’t make friends with people her own age. She needs to make up for last year and make friends with her roommates. She is rather young — she’s almost two years younger than me.”
“Maybe I’m too young,” Harry snapped back. “I’m only a year older than her. She didn’t do anything wrong other than trust the wrong person — that can happen to anyone. I don’t know why you two are so mean to her. Ginny is my friend and she can hang out with me any time she wants. She’s gotten over her crush and we’re friends now, why is that such a problem?”
The three settled into an uneasy silence. Harry pulled his Ancient Runes book from his bag and started reading the next chapter. Ron and Hermione exchanged an uneasy look. Why did Harry want to be friends with Ginny? It was rather concerning for both of them.
A while later, Harry headed to the bathroom still rather aggravated with his friends. He was hoping to run into Ginny, he didn’t like being at odds with her. Unfortunately, he didn’t see her and soon arrived back at his compartment. To his dismay, Cho Chang was there talking to Hermione. Just the person he didn’t want to see. Hermione looked up with a big grin when she saw him.
“Look who stopped by to see you,” Hermione said gleefully as Harry glared at her.
“Hi, Harry,” Cho said softly. “I wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy Christmas. Did you have a good Christmas?”
Harry nodded. “Yes.”
“Hermione told me you received a Firebolt,” Cho said fluttering her eyelashes. “Maybe you can take me up on it sometime.”
“I don’t think so,” Harry said coolly.
“Why not?” Cho laughed. “Are you afraid that I’ll sabotage it? I promise I won’t.”
“No,” Harry replied tersely. “What do you want?”
Faltering under his disinterest, Cho quickly said goodbye and left the compartment.
“Harry!” Hermione reprimanded him.
“Don’t be rude,” Hermione scolded him. “You seemed to like Cho well enough before Christmas break. You couldn’t keep your eyes off her at the Quidditch match.”
Harry flushed. “I thought she was pretty. I’m sorry I stared at her. Why are you making such a big deal about it? I thought she was pretty, but then I found out what a horrid, mean person she is and I don’t want anything to do with her. I want you to stop pushing her at
me and quit making fun of me!”
He slammed out of the compartment, leaving his startled friend behind. Harry headed down to the corridor, rocking with the train. He couldn’t believe how horrid they were to Ginny. It didn’t make sense that Hermione was encouraging him to go after Cho, but discouraging him from being friends with Ginny. He thought Ginny was much nicer and she was really pretty, too.
A few compartments down, he found Ginny looking out the window. “Ginny.”
She turned and smiled shyly to see him. “Harry, I thought you were still with Ron and Hermione.”
“I’m sorry they were so mean to you,” Harry said. “I don’t know why they are acting like that.”
“That’s okay,” Ginny replied with a shy smile. “Thank you for coming to find me.”
Harry smiled, glad that he’d made the effort to find her. “Not a problem, you are much better company than they are right now.”
“Thank you for the beautiful quill,” Ginny said. “It’s lovely. I wanted to send you a thank you note, but I didn’t have access to an owl for most of the holidays.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said happily. He’d found a pretty scarlet coloured quill that was made from a scarlet macaw feather while he was in Hogsmeade. It reminded Harry of both Fawkes and Ginny’s hair, so he’d decided to give it to her for Christmas.
They spent the next few minutes talking about their Christmas gifts. Ginny’s were mostly homemade, but she’d also received some
clothes and books.
“I think it’s so cool that your mum makes all of you a jumper for Christmas,” Harry said.
“I’m guessing your aunt never did anything like that?”
Harry laughed. “Aunt Petunia? She’s never given me a present, ever. But even for Dudley, she was never much for homemade gifts, she
thought they were inferior or showed you didn’t have enough money or some rubbish like that.”
Ginny shook her head. “I don’t understand that at all. Ron and Percy act like that sometimes. I like that my mum makes us jumpers.
She spends a lot of time and effort to make them. She picks out the colours and the themes. I used to help her when I was younger.
Well, not with the knitting or anything, but I would help pick the colours.”
“That sounds like fun,” Harry said.
“It is. Mum loves working on those jumpers. She made me a blue and white jumper this year. I love it, but I have to admit my favourite presents this year were from my oldest brothers.” Lifting her jumper slightly, she showed him a pretty dragon skin belt made from iridescent scales. “Charlie sent me the belt. He said it was from his favourite dragon. She shed her scales and Charlie thought of me.”
Ginny nodded. Holding out her right hand, she showed him a small ruby ring set in gold. “Bill gave me this. Rubies are supposed to be good for protecting your mind,” Ginny said blushing slightly.
“That was really nice of him,” Harry observed.
“Bill’s the best,” Ginny replied simply.
“I didn’t tell you about my second favourite present,” Harry said.
“What was that?” Ginny asked.
“Sirius adopted a puppy!” Harry explained with excitement. He pulled out several pictures of him playing with Hadrian. He also had a few pictures of him and Sirius together.
“He’s adorable,” Ginny cooed as she looked at the photos.
Harry told her all about Hadrian and the time spent with Sirius. She was happy to hear about him having such a good time. Sirius sounded like he was really good for Harry.
“What else did you do?” Harry asked they’d exhausted the topic of Hadrian.
Ginny made a face. “I helped my mum in the kitchen. She makes fudge and other sweets to send to my brothers and some of my aunts and uncles. I also helped with Christmas dinner. You know my mum - she makes way too much food.”
Harry nodded appreciatively. “Your mum is the best cook in the world.”
“I agree,” Ginny laughed. “She’s taught me some, but I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as her.”
“Don’t your brothers have to help?”
“Not in the kitchen,” Ginny said in disbelief. “Mum has very firm rules on appropriate chores for girls and boys.”
“That’s kind of silly,” Harry said. “Sirius and I had a great time cooking together. I had to do a lot of the cooking at my aunt’s house and of course Sirius has been on his own for a long time. We can’t cook like your mum, but we managed.”
Ginny frowned for a minute as she thought over what he’d said. “That makes sense. I wonder what my brothers did when they moved out. I don’t think she ever taught Bill or Charlie anything about cooking or anything.”
“My aunt had me cooking as soon as I could see over the stove. She put a little stool next to the stove so I could reach everything,” Harry said candidly. “I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, but I think both boys and girls should learn how to cook.” He smiled as he recalled the fun of cooking with Sirius. “One night he had this music playing and we were dancing around the kitchen while we were cooking. It was really fun. I imagine we looked like idiots dancing around, but it was brilliant.”
“That sounds fun,” Ginny said with a smile. While she had fun with her mum sometimes, she couldn’t imagine dancing around the kitchen with her.
Remembering what Harry had shared with her about his relatives, she was really glad that he had Sirius now. Pulling out a deck of cards, the pair played Exploding Snap and talked happily for the rest of the journey.
The next morning Harry was sitting at the Gryffindor table enjoying an early breakfast when Hermione joined him. “Good morning, Harry.”
“Good morning,” Harry replied a bit stiffly.
“Harry, I’m sorry about how I acted about Cho. I really did think you had a crush on her,” Hermione explained. “I was only trying to help.”
“I don’t know about that,” Harry said. “I thought she was pretty, but it wasn’t just that. It was like you were trying to embarrass me. Why did you do that?”
Hermione’s jaw dropped. “I wasn’t trying to embarrass you.”
“You weren’t? You kept making comments about her and teasing me about her, especially in front of Ginny.” As he finished the sentence, Harry realized that was exactly what Hermione had been doing. He narrowed his eyes. “You were trying to embarrass me in front of Ginny, why?”
“Whether you want to admit it or not, Ginny has a huge crush on you,” Hermione replied. “I simply wanted to point out to her that you aren’t at all interested in her. It’s not fair to her to lead her on and I’ve heard some very concerning rumours about her.”
“What?” Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Is this the crap Cho and her friends were talking about?”
“I don’t know what they were talking about,” Hermione said stiffly. “I don’t like to spread rumours, but I’ve heard several stories about her sneaking out to meet boys. There are even stories about how she’s doing things with boys for money.”
Harry was furious. “She’s not like that at all! I can’t believe you would believe these lies.”
“Can you explain how she suddenly has extra pocket money?” Hermione asked sceptically.
“Yes, she’s sewing.”
Hermione stared at him in confusion. “Sewing, what are you talking about?”
“After you were so horrid to her because of your stupid blouse, she was looking for a way to make extra money. She’s been fixing tears in people’s clothes and making clothes fit better. She told me about helping her mum with sewing and I said it was too bad I didn’t realize that before Sirius bought me all new clothes. That’s when we realized that there were other people who needed help. She’s helped a bunch of people adjust their clothes so they fit better and she’s even helped Katie and Alicia redesign their robes. She’s hoping to save enough money to buy a wand of her own.”
“I didn’t realize that,” Hermione said in a completely different tone of voice.
“Will you make sure that other people know the real story?” Harry asked. “I hate that she’s had so many rumours spread about her.”
Hermione nodded reluctantly. “I will. I didn’t realize that’s what was happening.”
“Why don’t you like her?” Harry asked curiously.
“I don’t really know her,” Hermione said. “All I know about her is what I’ve heard from Ron and what happened last year. I just think she should have known better.”
Harry frowned. “She should have known better, what do you mean? She thought her mum gave her the diary.”
“Yes, but once she realized it didn’t act like a regular diary, she should have told someone.”
“Hermione, we all looked at the diary and even after Riddle showed me how he managed to get Hagrid expelled you never suggested the diary was evil or that I should tell someone about it. If none of us thought anything was wrong with it, why was she supposed to? You never said I should have told someone.”
Hermione bit her lip as she thought back to the previous year. She frowned. “That’s true. Maybe I have been a bit unfair to her.”
“She’s really nice and fun to be around,” Harry said. “We’ve become good friends this year and I think if you gave her a chance, the two of you could be friends as well.”
“I don’t know, it would make Ron a lot happier if she wasn’t hanging around with us all the time.”
“So what Ron wants is more important than what I want?” Harry asked incredulously.
Hermione blushed deeply. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just you invited Ginny to start hanging around with us without asking either of us what we thought about it. Ron doesn’t want to spend so much time with his sister. Ginny is simply too young, she needs to make friends her own age.”
“Fine,” Harry bit out. He pushed away his half eaten plate. Their discussion had destroyed his appetite. He really couldn’t believe they were making him chose between Ginny and them. Without another word to Hermione, he headed off to Arithmancy.
During Arithmancy, he sat next to Terry Boot and Michael Corner. He didn’t know either of them very well, but they’d worked on a group project and had all worked well together. Michael and Terry seemed surprised, but they easily welcomed him into their group.
The Quidditch team was thrilled to see Harry’s new broom. Oliver was over the moon after the first practice with Harry riding the Firebolt. Professor McGonagall had come out to watch part of the practice and she seemed quite pleased with how well Harry was flying on the international standard broom. The team was out on the pitch for over an hour after practice taking turns trying out the Firebolt.
Harry watched as his teammates tried out the Firebolt. When Katie landed, he turned to Ginny who had also come down to watch practice. Holding out the Firebolt, he asked, “Are you ready to try it?”
“Of course,” she said gleefully.
She took off, rocketing into the darkening evening sky. While she wasn’t quite as adventurous as Harry, she was obviously a natural flyer.
“When did she learn to fly like that?” Fred demanded as he watched his sister loop around the Quidditch rings.
Harry grinned at the look of shock on the twins faces. “You really didn’t know she could fly?”
They both shook their heads as they kept their eyes on Ginny. “We’ve never let her fly with us because she’s so young and we were afraid she’d get hurt.”
“She’s been breaking into your broom shed since she was six,” Harry said laughing.
“That would explain it,” George said as he watched his sister.
Oliver was watching her assessing her flying with a captain’s eye. “She’s quite good. Does she want to play Quidditch?”
“She wants to play Chaser,” Harry said.
“We need to work to keep our places, girls,” Angelina laughed as she watched the younger girl.
Harry watched with satisfaction as the three Chasers flew up and started passing the Quaffle back and forth, showing Ginny some moves. Oliver headed up to the castle, but the twins stayed and watched with Harry.
It was amidst much laughter and good spirits that the Quidditch team returned to the common room. Harry headed up to his dorm room to safely stow his Firebolt. Ron was sitting on his bed when Harry entered.
“Why didn’t you invite me to try your Firebolt?” Ron demanded. “I saw the whole team flying it and you even let Ginny fly it after I told you she couldn’t.”
“Ron, you need to learn that you can’t tell me what to do,” Harry returned angrily, his good spirits crashing quickly. “Fred and George were both there and they didn’t have a problem with Ginny flying. Professor McGonagall was watching practice and she didn’t have a problem either. I wouldn’t let her fly it if I didn’t think she was safe.”
He wanted to add he’d never let Hermione try his Firebolt for that very reason, but he didn’t want to be so mean. “As for why I didn’t invite you, Hermione told me that you didn’t want to hang out with your sister and I had to make a choice. So I did.”
“You chose my sister over me?”
“Ginny has been there for me all year,” Harry burst out. “She doesn’t make fun of me or tell me I’m imagining things. She doesn’t put limits on who I can be friends with.”
“Of course she doesn’t,” Ron yelled. “She has a stupid crush on you and would agree to anything you say.”
“No, she doesn’t,” Harry yelled back. “She’s over her crush and we are friends now. She doesn’t automatically think I’m right, but she doesn’t keep telling me I’m wrong and she doesn’t try to embarrass me.”
It looked like that might be the end of the friendship that had seen them through so many adventures. Hermione was buried in her books and hardly talked to anyone, Ron was angry and upset with Harry and his sister, and Harry kept his distance from the other two.
Harry was happy being Ginny’s friend and he enjoyed her company, but he couldn’t deny he missed Ron and Hermione. He didn’t understand why they couldn’t all be friends. Why was three the right number, but four was too many? Why did he have to choose between Ron and Ginny?
Ron stomped into the common room after watching Harry and the rest of the Quidditch team head out to the pitch for practice. He threw himself down next to Hermione who glared at him.
“What is it, Ron?” she asked impatiently.
“Have you talked to him?”
“Why should I?” Ron returned hotly. “He chose my baby sister over me!”
Hermione looked troubled. “I know. He’s not talking to me either. I don’t really understand it.”
“Why’s he upset with you?” Ron asked, his anger set aside for the moment.
Hermione coloured slightly. “I kept teasing him about Cho Chang.”
“The pretty Ravenclaw player?”
Hermione nodded. “I noticed him watching her at the Quidditch match and…well, I may have teased him a bit too much. When you’d gone to talk to your brothers on the train, she came into our compartment to say hi. Harry was rather mean to her. I guess he heard her talking about someone and he decided she was rather shallow and not very nice.”
“So why’s he mad at you?” Ron was still confused.
“He realized that I teased him more about Cho when Ginny was around,” she admitted. When Ron didn’t reply right away, she hurriedly explained, “I thought if Ginny realized he had a crush on someone else she would go away.”
“That was really smart,” Ron said admiringly.
“It was until he realized that I’d been teasing him more when she was around. He was upset with me and I tried to tell him that she needed to make friends with people in her own year, but he got really upset with me.”
“I thought we all agreed that we would be there for Ginny this year.”
Ron turned around to see his older brother, Percy, looking at him disapprovingly. He flushed under Percy’s glare. “I don’t mind being there for Ginny,” Ron protested, “I just don’t want her stealing my best mate!”
“Even after everything that happened last year because we ignored her, you want to keep pushing her away,” Percy commented, disapproval evident in his voice.
“She needs to find friends of her own,” Ron protested.
“Why can’t Harry be friends with both of you?” Percy asked curiously.
“Because!” Ron sputtered angrily. “He was my friend first. We’ve been best mates for two years and we don’t need her. I don’t want to hang out with my baby sister all the time! She’s annoying and she has a horrible crush on Harry.”
“Not to mention she doesn’t have the best judgement in the world,” Hermione put in.
Percy grimaced. “I do realize that, but she’s young. She might benefit from your guidance and friendship.”
Ron shook his head. “No, she needs to find other friends.”
“It doesn’t seem as though Harry agrees with that,” Percy pointed out. He sat down next to his brother. “You can’t decide who Harry can be friends with. It sounds like that is why he is upset with you.”
“I’m not deciding who he can be friends with,” Ron said weakly as redness crept into his face.
“Yes, you are,” Percy replied calmly. “You’ve told him he can’t be friends with the girl whose life he saved. Imagine that you were alone
when you saved Hermione from the Troll. You might feel that it is only natural for the two of you to be friends, but what if Harry didn’t want to be her friend — not only didn’t want to her friend, but didn’t want you to be her friend. How would you feel if Harry said you couldn’t be friends with her?”
“Harry would never do that,” Ron said dismissively.
Percy reached out and grabbed Ron’s arm. “What if he did? What if Harry made you choose between being his friend and being Hermione’s friend? How would that make you feel?”
Ron looked at his brother in confusion. He snuck a glance over at Hermione and found her looking thoughtful. Reluctantly he thought about what his brother had asked — it seemed kind of stupid because Harry would never do that.
His eyes widened as he realized that’s exactly what he was doing to Harry. He thought back over the past few weeks. His feelings had been so hurt that Harry wanted to be Ginny’s friend that he didn’t stop to think how his actions were affecting Harry. Harry had risked his life to save Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets. While Ron had gone down there with him, it was Harry who’d had to face Riddle and the Basilisk.
For a moment Ron imagined what would have happened if Hermione had been taken into the Chamber. He’d be furious if Harry told him he couldn’t be friends with her. His face flushed as he thought it over. He looked over at his brother who was looking at him with sympathetic eyes.
“What should I do?”
“I think you need to apologize to him,” Percy said. He raised his hands when it seemed like Ron was going to complain. “I know I haven’t been Potter’s biggest fan, but he did save her life and he is making an effort to be her friend — that’s more than either of us have done.”
“Mr Potter, please come in,” Professor McGonagall beckoned him into her classroom. In front of her was a large chest that made the occasional rattle. “I have found a Boggart for our lessons.”
Harry’s eyes widened a bit. He wasn’t sure he was ready to face that awful creature, but resolutely, he nodded. Whilst Professor McGonagall didn’t reply, Harry thought he could almost feel her approval.
“Very well, Mr Potter,” she said brandishing her wand. “Do you have your happy memory in mind?”
Harry took a deep breath and concentrated on the memory of him, Hedwig, and Sirius playing on the beach over the summer. He recalled the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore, the sounds of other beach goers talking, laughing, and singing, as well as the occasional dog barking and the sound of the sea gulls screeching overhead. The smell of the salt and sunscreen were almost real. He could almost feel the warmth of sun as he thought about that day. It had been a fun day, playing on the beach and swimming in the pool. He loved playing with both Hedwig and Sirius, but most importantly he loved Sirius and knew that Sirius loved him. The feeling of being happy and loved flowed through him. Concentrating hard on that feeling, Harry faced the chest.
Professor McGonagall opened it and stepped away. After a moment, a Dementor soared out of the chest and hovered in front of him. He felt a cold wind in the previously warm room.
Taking a deep breath, Harry yelled, “Expecto Patronum!”
Even as he started yelling, the classroom seemed to fade and he felt as though he was falling through a thick white fog. He heard clearly — “Not Harry! Please, not Harry!”
The next thing he knew, Professor McGonagall was standing over him, helping him to his feet. He ate the chocolate she handed him without any complaints. Once he felt calmer, he looked up at her. “Can I try again? Please.”
After working for another hour, Harry had heard both of his parents’ voices as well as Voldemort’s voice taunting his mother. He’d managed to get the grey mist again, but he hadn’t been able to produce a Patronus.
“Don’t get discouraged, Harry,” Professor McGonagall said kindly. “This is a difficult spell that a lot of adults have trouble performing.” She handed him a new bar of Honeydukes finest chocolate. “Eat this tonight before bed. We will try again next week.”
Hermione jerked awake when she heard a noise up in the girls’ dorm. She grabbed her watch immediately. It was ten pm. What was she supposed to be doing? Looking around the small table she’d been using the past several weeks, she glanced over her notes trying to remember what she was doing.
Rubbing her eyes, she walked over to the sideboard and poured a fresh cup of tea. Her hair was falling down around her face; impatiently she pulled out her ponytail holder, and regathering her hair, she secured it once again. Sitting down she reassessed her work.
She’d finished Potions, Transfiguration, Divination, and Charms. Sipping her tea, she started to feel re-energized. She only had Muggle Studies and Ancient Runes. She didn’t have anything due in Arithmancy or Care of Magical Creatures. After carefully putting away the homework she’d completed, she pulled her Muggle Studies close to her. She groaned out loud at the assignment. So far all of her assignments had been discussing Muggle technology, but this was to discuss one of the Muggle religious beliefs. It really wasn’t fair, she hadn’t been raised in a religious household and at this hour she didn’t have time to delve into the topic as she would have liked.
An hour later, she was reading over her essay. She wasn’t entirely happy with it, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. If she’d started her homework earlier, she could have used the Time-Turner and gone to the library, but once she was in the tower it was too difficult to use the Time-Turner. For weeks now she’d silently coveted Harry’s Invisibility Cloak. If she had one, she’d be able to hide under the cloak and either work on another essay or even catch up on her sleep, but she couldn’t risk having two of her in the tower at the same time — there were too many people who might see the two of her.
Turning, Hermione saw one of the seventh year prefects, Sarah, standing on the stairs. “What?”
“Hermione, it’s almost three in the morning,” Sarah pointed out.
“I’m perfectly capable of telling time,” Hermione snapped. “I’m almost done.”
Sarah’s eyes narrowed as she took in the harried third year student. Over the course of the term, she’d noticed Hermione isolating herself more and more. She was always revising and unfortunately, she was also becoming short tempered. Sarah had been drawn downstairs by the light in the common room as she was returning to her room from the first year dorm. One of the first year girls had a nightmare and Sarah had spent some time talking to the girl and calming her down.
Not wanting to start a yelling match in the middle of the night, Sarah returned to her room. She was going to have to think about what to do next. After realizing how badly she’d let Ginny Weasley down the year before, Sarah was trying to make sure she didn’t make the same mistake this year. She didn’t want to ignore one of the girls having a problem.
Hermione hurried down the corridor to Professor McGonagall’s office. She hoped the meeting wouldn’t take too long; she really had some revising to do. The door to the professor’s office was open, so Hermione knocked on the open door.
“Please, come in, Miss Granger.”
Hermione entered and sat down in one of the chairs across from the desk. Professor McGonagall had a folder open in the desk in front of her. She was looking through the documents.
“Miss Granger, I wanted to see how you are coping with your classes,” Professor McGonagall said.
Relaxing slightly, Hermione leaned forward in her chair. “I believe I’m doing very well. I have Os and Es in all of my classes.”
Professor McGonagall nodded. “I have reports from all of your professors indicating that you are at or near the top in all of your classes.”
Hermione beamed. Professor McGonagall turned her full attention to the young lady in front of her. “Have you been getting enough sleep?”
“Yes, I’ve been making sure to get at least six hours of sleep each night.”
Professor McGonagall frowned slightly. “I would like you to get at least eight hours a night. With the demands you are putting on your body, I don’t want you endangering your health.”
Hermione agreed. Professor McGonagall asked, “May I ask why you are discouraging Mr Potter from continuing in Arithmancy?”
“Did he complain to you?” Hermione asked in astonishment.
Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow. Hermione blushed. “Sorry, Professor. I…I just didn’t want him to discover my secret. If he talks to Ron and they realize that I’m in two classes at the same time, my secret gets out. It’s not fair. I’ve been working really hard in all of my classes. Harry has never been interested in his classes and he was fine with taking Divination and Care of Magical Creatures until his godfather showed up. I thought that if I discouraged him a bit he would drop the class and my secret would be safe.”
“Excuse me?” Professor McGonagall’s voice was like ice. “You were given that Time-Turner because you have been an exemplary student and showed a keen interest in taking all of our electives. However, your schooling does not take precedence over another student’s studies. Mr Potter has shown a dramatic improvement in his schoolwork this year and I will not limit his options simply because you don’t want your secret exposed.”
“But he didn’t even plan on taking Arithmancy,” Hermione protested.
“He didn’t, but it was my suggestion he take it. I spoke to him over the Christmas holidays and he said he enjoyed the class except for you harping on him to quit the class.”
“I’m sorry,” Hermione said softly. “I didn’t want to explain what was happening.”
“Miss Granger, I’m concerned with what I’ve been hearing from your classmates and professors.”
“But I thought you said the professors said I was doing well,” Hermione protested in confusion.
“Scholastically you are doing well,” Professor McGonagall allowed, “however, that is not the only area of your education and schooling. You are becoming increasingly short tempered and impatient with your classmates and two of your professors have commented that you appear to be isolating yourself from your friends and classmates. That concerns me.”
“I’ve been really busy and I’ve had a lot of revising to do to,” Hermione explained, rather confused by the idea that her lack of socializing was getting her into trouble.
“Have you learned anything new in Muggle Studies?”
Hermione frowned. “New? Well, not exactly. It’s just fascinating to see how the wizarding world views Muggles.”
Professor McGonagall nodded. “I imagine it would be interesting, but I don’t see what value the class is adding. I would recommend that you drop Muggle Studies. One less class would lighten your load, but ideally I would like to see you drop another class as well — perhaps Divination or Care of Magical Creatures.”
“What?” Hermione was horrified at the thought of having to drop two classes. “No, Professor, I can do the work, honest I can.”
“I had serious doubts about this scheme when it was proposed and I’m even more concerned now. You are becoming short tempered, you’ve missed a few lessons, and you are isolating yourself from your friends. I don’t believe you’ve been eating properly nor getting enough exercise. I don’t believe that simply satisfying your curiosity is a good enough justification for continuing to use the Time-Turner. If you wish, you may continue to purchase the Muggle Study texts, although I don’t believe they will be useful to you. You may attempt to take the Muggle Study OWL if you wish, but I believe it would be best for you to drop Muggle Studies at this time.”
Hermione tried to come up with a suitable response, but couldn’t. She had to admit, Muggle Studies did tend to be a bit time consuming with all of the essays assigned. Frowning, she sighed. “Yes, Professor. I will drop Muggle Studies.”
“Good,” Professor McGonagall said. “I would prefer that you drop another course as well to bring you down to a more manageable number of classes, but I’m willing to allow you to continue with this course load for now. However, if I hear that you are continuing to harass Mr Potter, you will be dropped from Arithmancy without any other warning. Do you understand?”
Blushing, Hermione dropped her eyes. “Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry. I won’t bother Harry about it.”
“Thank you,” Professor McGonagall said in a satisfied tone.
Storming into the common room, Hermione’s eyes narrowed when she saw Harry sitting at one of the tables with Ginny. Angrily she strode over to him and without thinking what she was doing, she slugged him on the arm.
“How could you?” she asked angrily. He looked up at her in confusion. She glared at him. “I had to drop Muggle Studies because you were whining to Professor McGonagall.”
“What?” Harry looked up at her in confusion. He could see Ron coming over to see what was happening.
“You told Professor McGonagall that I was giving you a hard time about Arithmancy,” Hermione said angrily.
“She asked how I liked Arithmancy,” Harry replied. He looked up at her. “I don’t know why you don’t like me taking Arithmancy, but it is obvious you don’t. You keep asking me if I want to drop it or if I’m sure I want to continue. I thought you’d be happy that I’m putting time and effort into my studies, but you just complain about me taking Arithmancy and telling me it’s too difficult and I should drop it.”
“I’m concerned about you!” Hermione yelled. “Just because I’m concerned, there is no reason to complain to Professor McGonagall! I’ve
been working really hard all year and now I have to drop a class, not because I’m finding it difficult, but because of you. Arithmancy is one of my favourite classes! You better not complain to her again or she’ll make me drop it.”
“Then stop riding me about it,” Harry yelled back. “Professor McGonagall asked how I liked Arithmancy and I told her I liked it. Yes, I mentioned you trying to get me to drop it. It’s annoying, Hermione. I’m finally doing well in my classes and instead of being happy for me, you keep trying to get me to drop one of them.”
Hermione glared at him before stomping away. She brushed against Ron who had come over to see what the argument was about. Harry watched her go with a mixture of anger, indignation, and confusion. He honestly didn’t understand her attitude and he thought it was probably good that Professor McGonagall had made her drop Muggle Studies.
“What was that all about?” Ginny asked as she watched the older witch storm off.
“Merlin only knows,” Harry replied. “She’s been on my case about Arithmancy all year; asking if I’m going to drop it and that sort of rot. When Professor McGonagall asked me how Arithmancy was going I said it was fine except for Hermione’s attitude. I guess she decided to do something about it.”
“She’s been angry about most everything recently,” Ron said looked at the spot where Hermione had disappeared. Looking back at his sister and best friend, Ron cleared his throat. “Harry, Ginny…I’m sorry I’ve been such a prat.”
Harry tried to assess Ron’s sincerity. “Why did you get so mad that I want to be friends with Ginny?”
His ears reddening, Ron shrugged. “I’m not sure. I thought she was…not needed. You, me and Hermione have been friends since we started school. I didn’t want to share that friendship with Ginny. I thought she would make her own friends, not steal mine.”
“She didn’t ‘steal’ me,” Harry replied firmly. “I would be perfectly happy being friends with all three of you.”
“I’m sorry,” Ron said miserably.
“Does this mean you won’t be mean to Ginny or try to make her go away?”
“I won’t, I promise.”
Harry glanced over at Ginny who was watching her older brother wearily. She spoke up. “You won’t be tattling on me anymore? Writing letters to Mum hoping I’ll get in trouble?”
Ginny smiled and stood up and hugged her brother. Ron’s ears turned bright red, but he returned her hug. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I’ve been a huge prat to you.”
Looking up at her brother, she said, “I won’t deny that you’ve hurt my feelings, but you’re my brother. It will be okay.”
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