Chapter Three – Hidden Thoughts

Hermione Jean Granger was a conundrum to Harry Evans.  He’d never truly understood her.  At first glance, she was little better than a stereotype: a Muggle-born who felt so inferior that she had to overcompensate by being, as Ron had once put it, an insufferable know-it-all.  She urged everyone around her to do their homework and disliked it when they got better marks than she did.

Harry had tried to explain it to her once.  It was not about recitation.  Anyone could do that.  It was about finesse, an innate understanding of the magical principles, ingenuity.  Magic was not a science.  It was fluid; it changed for every person who wielded it, for every wand that conducted it.  If you did not have the subtlety to craft it properly or the power to turn a teacup into a tortoise (and not just any tortoise, mind you, but one that could survive on its own, that was unique, and could not be regarded as separate from an always-tortoise; Granger, although the first to complete such transfigurations, made them little more than an animation of a drawing she had once seen, unflawed, perfect, and completely unoriginal) then good essays would only take you so far.  Yes, she would have a Ministry job probably waiting for her at the end of Hogwarts, but she would be pushing papers with the best of them as anyone who read her essays would know she was little more than a photographic memory and an annoying personality.

It was the real reason that she hadn’t been sorted into Ravenclaw.  He knew that the other Gryffindors sometimes watched her, wondered what sort of bravery and courage she might portray.  She was brash, as far Harry as could tell, not brave.  She had been sorted into a house that would cater to her Muggle-born status, but she tried to distance herself from her Muggle heritage as much as possible, while simultaneously trying to reform the wizarding world to her standards.

It was almost horrifying to watch at times. 

Harry truly didn’t understand Ron’s attachment to her.  Intellectually, he knew that Granger was also friends with Ginny, who sometimes had the annoying habit of thinking that since she was Ron’s sister and Granger’s close friend, that meant she could sit with Harry when he was all alone and trying to study, or invite herself on their “adventures”—not that Harry ever included Ron or Granger in the “excitement” he had about once a year.  Well, at least Ginny now had Corner to snog.  Maybe it meant she would leave him a lone a little more often.

Ron had also invited Granger to the World Cup, Harry remembered.  Harry had gone with Seamus, whose mother had said he could invite a friend, and Harry had been more than pleased to have a reason to refuse Ron.  He knew that Percy would be pompous and go on about Harry would be the next Gryffindor Head Boy, that the twins would prank him horribly and laugh at his “Muggleness” (their blanket insult for everything they found quaint about him), that Granger would lecture him and that Ginny would stare. 

That was how he’d first met Krum, before the Triwizard Tournament later that year.  He and Seamus had been separated in the mob during the Death Eater attack, and he’d felt strong hands close around his waist and upper arm and lead him forward through the crowd, away from the tents and the forest, and into a secluded ditch far away from the chaos.

“They vill not be thinking to come here,” his rescuer had explained, a harsh Bulgarian voice rough with worry and sleep.  Harry had been unable to see him, could only make out his profile, realizing that the crooked nose and strong jaw belonged to Viktor Krum.

The two hadn’t spoken at all after that, but Krum’s hand remain protectively at his waist, their breaths mingled in the cool night air as they waited for it to all be over.

Now Harry wondered if that’s when it began, this ardor that Krum now wrote of.  They had never mentioned it again; Harry thought that Krum hadn’t remembered since then.

How could he?  They had never truly spoken, Krum had never seen his face, and yet still Krum had held Harry closely and protectively for what seemed like hours, a kiss placed on his lips when it was safe to return, until he quietly led him back to the tents, their fingers entwined until the moment they had been forced to let go.

Harry took a deep breath as he sat in the Gryffindor common room, working on a simple Arithmancy problem.

My ardor although previously unspoken has proven the test of time.

A smile began to play on his lips, small, almost not there, but still he could feel the tug at the corners of his mouth.

A rustle of papers and the slam of books against the table caught his attention, bringing him out of his thoughts.

Granger had a pile of old moldy looking library books that no one in their right mind should read.  Also, Harry was mildly allergic to mold.  He inched away from her. 

Her eyes flashed up at him, a hard brown, her wild bushy hair framing her head like an avenging angel.  “Have you finished your Potions essay yet?  You know what Professor Snape’s like.  It takes Gryffindors twice the work to get a good grade.”

“No it doesn’t,” he responded evenly.  “It takes Gryffindors twice the work to earn a point in class.  He’s decently fair at grading.”

She huffed at him.  “He couldn’t possibly be.  I only get Exceeds Expectations.  I need to get into the NEWT-level class!”  Unfortunately, she sat down opposite him and began to open the large potions tome, dust flying into the air.

Harry silently regarded her for a moment.  It had been a mystery last year why Krum had asked her to the Yule Ball.  Harry had seen Krum often enough in the library; it was difficult not to when Granger would complain about his fan girls (Harry had always thought this slightly hypocritical of her as she had never complained about his and had a smug look on her face whenever they were alone together in the presence of his more exuberant admirers).  Krum, though, had never spoken to her to Harry’s knowledge until they arrived together at the Yule Ball.  He’d assumed it had been a romance as Granger wouldn’t stop talking about it afterward, and she had even been placed at the bottom of the Black Lake for Krum to save. 

She’d even mentioned something about an open invitation to Bulgaria and he could have sworn she had said once earlier that year that she had to “write a letter to Viktor.”

His eyes narrowed slightly.  Was she lying the entire time?

“How’s Krum?” he asked casually, putting the final flourish on his problem. 

Granger stilled for a moment and then looked up at him, a wistful expression passing across her hard eyes for a moment.  “Fine.  Lovely,” she said after a pause, and she pushed her bushy hair behind her shoulder.  “Why do you ask?”

Harry shrugged.  “No reason.  Just wondering if you were going to Bulgaria for Christmas, is all.”

Her lips thinned out into a line at his casual tone and Harry turned back to his homework. 

She sniffed.  “No.  I thought I’d spend it at the Burrow or Grimmauld Place.”

Harry’s jaw clenched.  Grimmauld Place.  His prison, as it were. 

“Surely you’d want to see each other,” he pressed, glancing up at her momentarily to take in her stunned expression that she wasn’t quick enough to hide.  “It’s been, what, six or so months since you’ve seen each other.  Aren’t you serious about him?”

A harsh moment of silence stretched between them and Harry could hear the murmurs of the rest of the common room.

The portrait hole opened and closed again, and he heard someone storm in, a flash of long ginger hair catching his eye.  He didn’t bother to look up.

“Did you break up with him?”

Granger still didn’t answer.

“I doubt he would have broken up with you,” he continued, as if thinking to himself.  “You had a passionate romance all last year, he invited you to Bulgaria, sends you letters—it must be important to him, especially as he goes to Durmstrang where they only accept purebloods, and if it weren’t, he wouldn’t waste his time on a Muggle-born, I suppose.”

What exactly are you saying?”  Her tone was clipped and low.

Harry caught her hard gaze.

“Just that, in my experience, purebloods don’t waste their time with Muggle-borns unless it’s truly important.  I mean, my dad chased after my mum for years from what I heard.  He wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t been in love.  So, Krum obviously didn’t break up with you—did you break up with him, or are you leading him on?”

“I’m doing nothing of the kind,” she answered primly.

Well, that answered that particular question.

“Where are you spending Christmas?” she finally asked after Harry had already gone back to his work.

“My aunt’s,” he replied absently, “like always.”

She pursed her lips and stared right at him.  “You know, Harry, I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Harry found himself grinding his teeth—again.  It was rather a habit when Granger was around.  “And why is that, Granger?”

“That woman is a horrible influence,” she opined.  “She has you thinking you’re a Muggle, even had you change your name to Harry Evans, of all the nonsense, as if she couldn’t bear that you had a magical surname.”

“Yes, because Potter is such a rare name in the Muggle world,” he said sarcastically.

She looked at him searchingly for a moment and then turned back to the text.  Clearly the sarcasm had eluded her.  “I’m certain your godfather would like to see you.”

Harry bit his inside cheek.  Well, he didn’t much want to see Sirius—not that he considered the man his godfather, whatever his parents had originally hoped when they chose him.  “I’m certain your parents would like to see you.  How long has it been?”

She didn’t answer him.  Well, at least she was now silent, however long that would last.

“Ronald said you had a letter this morning.”

Of course he did.

Harry sighed and put down his quill.  At least he was now finished, and he didn’t want to do all of this week’s homework.  He needed an excuse to hide from Ron and the others, especially given the red ribbon incident, as he was now calling it in his mind.

“What else did he say?”

“Nothing.”  She was obviously peeved by this turn of events.

He didn’t respond.

“Well?”

“What do you want me to say, or would you prefer that all owls I receive first go through you, Granger?”

She harrumphed.  “It isn’t like that.”

“Of course not,” Harry muttered.  “That would be your ideal world and we haven’t all reached that conclusion yet, as you hope we soon will.”

Granger pointedly ignored the comment.

Harry looked around the room and saw Ginny sulking in a corner with a few other fourth year girls.  Maybe she had had an argument with Corner.  Maybe Kevin was right and she really did fancy him despite the snogging behind the obscene tapestry.

He grimaced at the thought.

“It was clearly important,” Granger was now saying, but Harry was only half-listening.  “All of the other fifth years seem to know.”

“They’re guessing,” he responded absently.  “And if they won’t tell you, what makes you think that I will?”

“People say that Umbridge has been opening our mail,” Granger rebutted, though Harry wasn’t certain how this proved her argument.  “She might have seen it, read it.”

“Yeah,” he acknowledged, “no.  It definitely wasn’t read before I opened it.”

“How can you be certain?”

Harry had felt the magic only respond to him as he untied the red ribbon, and from the little he and Kevin knew about such letters, it was clear that no one—not even a toad like Umbridge who thought herself better than everyone else except her precious Fudge—would dare to interfere with one.

“We should really start a defense group,” she began again, a wheedling note in her voice.  “We’re not really learning anything in Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“As I’ve said before,” Harry began, trying to sound patient, “if you want to start one, be my guest.”

“Yes, well, you’re the only one of us who can cast a Patronus.”

Harry tried to withhold a laugh.  He knew that bothered her, that he had been able to learn when he was only thirteen and, on top of that, had been able to cast a fully corporeal Patronus.  He’d always wondered at the form, a large vulture.  It didn’t seem like the noblest of creatures, and he occasionally pondered the significance.  He hoped it meant that he wasn’t a scavenger at heart.

“If I could learn it then so could you,” he responded.  “After all, can’t you learn anything from books?”

“Harry!” she admonished.

As always, it fell on deaf ears.

“People would be behind you,” she continued quietly, ignoring the fact that he was putting away his books and parchment.  “Not everyone believes what the Prophet says.  Why do you think Umbridge is so harsh on you?”

“I’d assumed it was because I was Anglican,” he said tiredly.  “She seems to take it as a personal insult for whatever reason.”  He glanced down at his hand and the white scars that were clearly visible.

Granger’s gaze followed him.

“Well,” she began, “it is nonsense.”  She sounded grudgingly approving.  “Her methods are a bit unorthodox.”

He bit the inside of his cheek.  Unorthodox.  Of course.  If it had been any other message it would have been an outrage, but as she personally agreed, Granger couldn’t see it as wrong.

“I’ve tried to convince my sister it’s nonsense,” she began conversationally.  “She’s in pre-Confirmation classes.  Of course, she won’t listen.  She seems to think magic is nonsense instead.”

Harry paused.  “You have a sister?”

She looked at him, startled.  “Of course,” she replied carefully.

“A sister.”

“That’s what I said.”  She was now shifting uneasily in her seat, her large moldy Potions book forgotten.

“You’ve spoken to me several times a day for the past four years,” Harry said calmly.  “You rarely speak of your family, and have never once mentioned a sister.  What were you doing?  Waiting to see if she was a witch and thus was worth mentioning?”

Granger paled considerably and looked away, chewing at her lower lip.

“You’re despicable,” Harry whispered calmly.  “You’re no better than the Blacks who would disinherit children for being Squibs.”

“Now see here!” she exclaimed, her eyes hardening even more.

Several people turned to look.

“What’s her name?” Harry asked, equally as loud.  He wasn’t going to let Granger get away with this.  “What is your Muggle sister’s name?”

“What does it matter?”

“She’s your sister,” Harry shot back.  “I’m sure that everyone in our year would recognize my cousin’s name and maybe even his best friend’s name if I said them.  That’s normal behavior, not pretending you don’t have a sister because she’s not magical.  You’re a Muggle-born!”

“And you’re a half-blood,” she seethed.

He blinked at her.  “I know.”

“You shouldn’t care about your Muggle cousin or aunt or whoever.”

He ignored her statement.  “What’s her name?  How old is she?  Does she like books?”

“Elissa,” she ground out finally.  “She’s fifteen.”

“My age,” he responded calmly.  Hermione was sixteen already.  “Elissa’s a pretty a name.”

“And Hermione isn’t?” she shot back, hurt in her eyes.

“I never said that.”  He picked up his bag and shouldered it.  It had been a gift from Dudley when he made prefect that past summer along with a Smeltings jersey to show his support for Dudley’s boxing team, which he wore on Saturdays. 

“Where are you going?”

“To my dorm room,” he replied.  “I’m done with my work”—unlike some

She glared at him.  “I just got here.”

“I thought I was distracting you.”  He fiddled with his shirt cuff.  Harry knew Granger couldn’t refute it.  He had been distracting her from her precious work, or rather her pushing him constantly had distracted her.  Harry really had only just been there, which was really all it took most days.

“Harry.”  She looked up desperately at him.

He felt out of his depth and was really beginning to think that Kevin was right—which was disturbing.  Harry had never equated Granger’s bossing him around as her way of fancying him.  Briefly he imagined what a relationship would be like with her and shivered.  It would be worse than Ginny Weasley—though neither now could theoretically happen.  He still had that note in his pocket and the original red ribbon proposal upstairs in his trunk.

It had been only a few hours, but he wanted to deal with it and the possibilities, especially as Christmas break was in about a week.  Maybe Krum would come to England, Harry mused, if he really did feel such ardor for Harry.  He must know how confused Harry was—how this had taken him by surprise.

He wondered what the protocol was for a response that neither accepted nor rejected a marriage proposal.  Harry really hoped that it wouldn’t be an implied insult.  He was after all only fifteen.

“We have to be in the Great Hall tonight,” Granger reminded him, her voice clipped.  “Christmas decorations.”

“I know,” he responded tiredly.  “I don’t forget these things.”

He really wished she didn’t mother him.  He had an aunt and a house elf to do that when he wanted maternal affection even if Granger was almost a year older.

He took the steps to his dorm two at a time and then dropped his bag in his trunk.  His eyes briefly strayed to his copy of Ulysses and the red ribbon that was sticking out from it.

Carefully he removed it and held it in his hand, staring at its silky smoothness and how the light caught the vibrant color.

Red for passion—red for love—red for ardor. 

Red for an emotion that called to Harry.  He wanted it so desperately, for it to be real, to feel it in return but toward a girl although he had begun to realize that that would never happen. 

Red for courage—red for sacrifice.

It humbled him and frightened him simultaneously.  A single red ribbon bespoke his future.  He knew he wouldn’t be able to refuse, especially if Krum were sincere, but it was so soon, so sudden, and he didn’t want the angels to weep for him when he finally met his maker.

It was legal, a traitorous voice in his mind whispered.  It is legal in a society that predated Christianity.

This could free him, he would have someone that was all his own, someone who recognized that he didn’t want to be the famous Harry Potter but just Harry Evans.  Krum knew he was a wizard and would perhaps respect his Muggle heritage.  He had wondered if he could ever find someone who would do that.

A gasp sounded behind him and he looked over to see Ginny Weasley in the doorway, her eyes trained on the red ribbon.  He sighed.  He never seemed to have any privacy, even in the boys’ dormitory.

“Ron is in the common room,” he reminded her as he carefully set the red ribbon in his trunk, his calloused thumb stroking it briefly before he closed the lid.  “You really shouldn’t be up here, anyway.”

“Was that—?” Her voice trailed off and she looked at him imploringly.

He sat calmly on the top of his trunk and gazed evenly at her.

Ginny swallowed again.  “Who’s it from?”

He looked down at his trunk, choosing to be deliberately obtuse.  “I bought it myself the summer before I came to Hogwarts,” he responded, patting the trunk.  “It’s rather sturdy, I think.  I’m fond of it.”

“No, Harry.  The red ribbon.”

He paused.  “—Red ribbon.”

“The one you were holding.”

He shrugged.  “I think it was either Aunt Petunia’s or my mum’s when they were girls.  It somehow got mixed in with my things.”  His green eyes pierced her, knowing that she still wouldn’t be able to tell anyone even in passing.  “Why do you ask?”

She breathed out in relief.  “Nothing.  I just thought—“  She shook her head.

Harry clenched his jaw. 

Red for fire—red for marriage—red for purity.  He looked at her ginger hair, and it seemed flat in comparison.

“Well.”  There was nothing else to be said.

There was a gentle hoot and Harry looked over to see that the owl was still perched on his bedpost and blinked at him knowingly.  He smiled at the magnificent bird.  “I’ll have the reply by tonight,” he informed the owl.  “You get to rest for awhile longer.”

Ginny was still standing in the doorway.  He was now getting annoyed with her.

“Well, I have an owl waiting for a letter,” he said, getting up and grabbing some parchment from his bedside table and a spare quill.  He would probably go to the library to write the response and then translate it back into Latin.  Sometimes he truly hated wizarding customs. 

He walked up to her and waited for her to precede him down the stairs.  He wasn’t going to leave her on the stairs.

She stared at him, a question in her large brown eyes.

“Ron is downstairs,” he repeated.

“Oh,” she gasped and quickly spun around, her hair swiping his face as she turned.  “Right.  Thanks, Harry.”  It sounded hollow to his ears.

She paused at the bottom of the steps, waiting for him to say something perhaps, but he swept past her and through the room, several eyes turning toward him as they often did.  He’d had several people question him on Dumbledore’s assertions that had made it into the Daily Prophet somehow, but he’d refused to comment on it.  Still, they appeared to wait as if he would say that Dumbledore was lying or that it was true, holding their breath.

As he walked out through the Portrait Hole, his mind turned again to the red ribbon in his trunk.

Red—the color of courage.

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