Midnight Duel, Midday Love
Cho emerged from the prefect's bathroom with an uncharacteristically large smile on her delicate features. Anyone watching her may have been struck by the fact she looked so happy, enough that such a watcher may miss the fact that she held the door open as though letting someone else out, someone unseen.
"See you at breakfast in an hour, you sexy witch." a disembodied voice whispered, and Cho felt an invisible hand give her left buttock a gentle squeeze.
Her dark, almond-shaped eyes widened in appreciation. "Stop it, or I'll drag you back in there." she whispered, her smile never disappearing.
After a short pause, Harry's disembodied voice returned. "I'm trying to think of the downside to that."
Cho giggled and slapped his hand away. "Go get dressed, we have to visit Professor McGonagall today."
"I love you." was all the reply she got.
"I love you too." Cho said under her breath, as she made her way to the Ravenclaw dorm rooms.
Hermione lay curled up on her bed, the curtains all drawn closed. Some of the other sixth-year girls had risen, but none had interrupted her silent tears.
The scene had been burned into her memory, Cho's perfect face fixed in an expression of joy, as she had sex with another man. Harry was Hermione's best friend, well, had been before he went to Azkaban. Since his escape and subsequent exoneration, he had been friendly, but slightly distant.
Yes, distant. That was the word. Harry's old cheerfulness and joy only surfaced now when he spent time with Cho.
He still spent time with her and Ron, though. Over the last few weeks the trio had spent the majority of their time together recreating the Marauder's Map. It had been a fun project, and both Hermione and Ron intended to use it as one of their Charms NEWTs next year. They had offered to let Harry take credit for himself for his OWLs, but he had declined, and given them a look of disbelief. "I came up with the idea, but we all made this. Why should I be the only one to get credit?" he had asked.
Same old Harry, yet different. He still had his innate nobility, and generosity; but he no longer had his hesitatancy and indecision. The old Harry would have been doubtful on the trio's chances of re-creating the Marauder's Map, but the new Harry simply jumped in, with a determination Hermione had never seen in him, and the new Map had been designed and built in less than a fortnight.
The Map! Hermione sat straight up in her bed. With the Map, she could see whom Cho was cheating with. Though it was unlikely, the pair may still be in the bathroom.
Hermione pulled apart the curtains, and started rummaging through her trunk. She soon found her copy of the Map, and climbed back into bed to use it, closing the curtains behind her to ensure her privacy.
Sighing in relief that the trio had decided to each have their own copy, Hermione concentrated.
Seconds later, a translucent picture perfect model of Hogwarts Castle had formed above the sheet. Peering into the depths of the castle, Hermione muttered a curse under her breath when she saw the bathroom empty. It took Hermione a minute to locate Cho's dot, deep within the Ravenclaw common room, surrounded by dots of the other seventh-year Ravenclaw witches.
As always, Hermione's eyes sought out the dot labeled Ron Weasley. Not that it was difficult for her, since she had made one minor, tiny, inconsequential modification to her copy of the map. Ron's location was highlighted by a pink heart.
There he was, still on his bed. Hermione frowned, and wondered if there was any way she could start an argument with him about his laziness. Something distracted her before she planned further.
Harry wasn't in the dorm with Ron. A quick scan of the model Gryffindor Tower pinpointed his location in the common room.
Hermione clenched her fists with indecision. Should she go down and talk to him, tell him that the first love of his life was cheating on him? The last thing Hermione wanted to do was hurt Harry. But was Cho the one hurting him? Would Harry blame the messenger?
"Hermione? Are you still asleep?" came Ginny's voice.
Hermione quickly wiped the map and looked up as Ginny parted the curtains. "Gin? What do I do?"
Ginny frowned. "What do you mean? What's happened?" The youngest Weasley took in Hermione's red eyes and soulful expression. "What has my git of a brother done now?" she demanded, as she sat down on the bed.
Hermione smiled and gently shook her head. "Nothing, this time."
Hermione closed the curtains and took a deep breath. "I just saw a pair of students having sex."
Ginny relaxed. "Is that all? Did you give them detentions?"
"No, that's just it, I didn't. I ran away shocked."
Ginny laughed. "Why? That doesn't sound like you."
Hermione looked straight at Ginny, weighing up what she should tell the younger witch. "The girl is going out with someone else."
Ginny's eyes widened. "Who?"
"Never mind. I don't want to start any rumours. But what should I do? Should I talk to the girl, or her boyfriend? Should I just butt out?"
"Do you know them? Know them well, I mean."
Hermione shrugged. "Sort of. I thought I did. I think so."
Ginny giggled. "Do you want to try and make less sense than that?" she asked impishly.
Hermione smiled despite herself. "OK. I do know the girl. Not too well, but I do know her."
"OK. What about the boy?"
"He's not in my year, but I know him a little better." Hermione replied, hoping Ginny wouldn't figure it out.
Ginny looked thoughtful. "OK, What are your choices? Do nothing, Talk to one of them, or talk to both."
"I don't want to hurt him."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "It may be a little late for that."
Hermione nodded her head reluctantly. "I know. I just wish it never happened."
Ginny gave her friend a calculating look. "I didn't think you were so close to anyone else outside your year here that you'd feel so bad about this."
Hermione almost panicked. "Um, I just, I wouldn't want to think that Ron was cheating on me."
Ginny's expression softened. "I understand. But this is not about you and Ron. Go and talk to the boy, it will just make it harder for him if you wait, and if he finds out that you knew all along, he may blame you."
Hermione gave Ginny a thankful look. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
"I just wanted to know if I could borrow your essay notes for your potion assignment last year about the various antidotes and the common ingredients. Harry and I have it due next week."
Hermione nodded. "Help yourself, I'm going to get dressed, then go and talk to that poor boy."
As Hermione opened the curtains around the bed and got up to get dressed, Ginny made her way over to Hermione's desk and selected the folder marked Potions - fifth-year - assignments - essays - notes. You had to give Hermione credit, Ginny thought; she was the most organised person anyone had ever met.
Hermione left to go downstairs as Ginny took out the required notes. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny noticed the Map.
She had seen it before, and had even felt a bit left out when she found out the trio had been spending their time together making it. With a curious grin, Ginny activated the map and looked deep into the model of Hogwarts, searching for Hermione's dot. "Who is she talking to?" Ginny wondered.
One second later, Ginny covered her mouth in shock. She wiped the map, quickly stood and closed the curtains around Hermione's bed.
Ginny stood still quietly for a few seconds, breathing deeply and trying to slow her heart rate. Slowly and deliberately, she walked out of the sixth-year dorm and into her own. She climbed onto her bed, and closed the curtains. A flick of her wand, and a silencing charm had been placed on the curtains.
Ginny grabbed a pillow and covered her mouth with it, then let out an enormous shriek of joy, and started jumping on the bed in delight.
Cho was cheating on Harry!
Hermione left Ginny to find the requested notes, and made her way into the common room to talk with Harry. Her heart was beating wildly as she slowly descended the stairs.
This early in the morning, there were few people in the common room. Harry was one of them, he was lying stretched out on one of the long couches, reading a book.
That was another one of Harry's changes. He was quieter now, that was an achievement in itself, but also more studious. Hardly surprising, since with a couple of months preparation he had taken on and almost single-handedly destroyed every dark wizard in the country. He now knew the benefit of planning and organisation.
Hermione almost faltered, wondering just how much the news she had would hurt her friend. Silently, she cursed Cho, for putting her in this position.
She crept up on her friend, and looked at him thoughtfully. He lay on the couch with the back of his head facing her. "Harry?" she said softly, hoping no one else would overhear.
"Mmmm." he said distractedly.
I need to tell you something, and you are going to freak out. "How are you?"
"Fine, yourself?" he said, not looking up from his book.
Awful! I just saw your girlfriend bonking another man. "I'm OK. Um."
"Um? You don't sound sure." For the first time, Harry seemed to be paying attention to the conversation.
"I'm not sure." she blurted.
Harry frowned, put the book down on his chest, and arched his neck to look at Hermione upside down. "What's up?"
Hermione took a deep breath. "I just walked in on a pair of students... In the shower." With that sentence, Hermione blushed furiously and looked away from Harry.
She missed Harry's cheeks turning their own bright red. Harry quickly looked back to his book to hide his face. "Did you give them detention?"
"One of them was a prefect."
Harry's heart was racing, his cheeks flaming red. He shifted and brought his book up to keep his red face away from Hermione. "That must have been uncomfortable for you."
Hermione was embarrassed enough not to notice Harry's rather flippant answers. "You have no idea." she muttered.
Harry's mind whirled. "Did you recognise this prefect?"
"Yes. Harry, what I'm going to say is going to hurt you."
"I saw Cho, making love to someone in the shower."
Hermione snapped her attention to the top of Harry's head. How could he take this so calmly?
"I remember the last time someone wanted to hurt me. They used poly-juice potion to do so." Harry continued, his nose still in his book.
Hermione felt a weight lift from her heart.
Ron was thoroughly enjoying himself, running through the kitchens at Hogwarts. He had a large tub of butterscotch ice-cream in one hand and a bottle of chocolate sauce in the other. Hermione ran from him laughing, clad only in her skimpy lace underwear, her hair and skin smeared with whipped cream and other delicious foodstuffs.
Hermione slipped and fell into a shallow vat of strawberry yoghurt. She sat up and looked at her boyfriend with a sultry, seductive pout.
Ron stood at the edge of the vat, his sauce bottle aimed and ready to cover his sexy, half-naked girlfriend with liquid chocolate.
Hermione slowly extended her tongue, and carefully licked her lips. With a deep throaty growl, she lay back and spread her long silky legs, and ran her hands up and down her body. Beckoning to her boyfriend, she whispered, "Wake up you lazy bugger!"
"Wake up you lazy bugger!" Hermione told Ron, and hit him with a pillow.
Ron moaned in protest, desperate to cling onto his dream.
Hermione whacked him with a pillow again. "Will you wake up!"
With a final groan, Ron looked up at his girlfriend. "Huh? 'Mione? W'ssup? S'matt'r?"
Hitting him with the pillow one last time, Hermione jumped off the bed. "Get up, I need to talk to you."
With what felt like an heroic effort, Ron sat up. Through his sleep-blurred vision, he could make out his girlfriend, enough to tell that she didn't have any food splattered on her. Ron groaned in disappointment. "What?" he asked.
"I think someone is trying to break up Harry and Cho."
Ron collapsed back onto his bed. "S'ok, they'll still be trying in a couple of hours."
"Ron!" Hermione ripped off the covers. "Will yo-" she started, before the sight of her boyfriend distracted her.
Ron had just enough presence of mind to cover the tent in his boxer shorts with a pillow. "Do you mind?" he asked, now fully awake.
Hermione blinked and shook her head. "Yes, no, I mean..." she coughed. "Just meet me in the common room, OK?"
Ron watched as she raced out of the dorm. He looked down at himself and collapsed back on the bed, groaning in frustration.
"You really should tell her not to come in here." Seamus said, his head peaking out from between his own curtains.
"Would you want to tell her she isn't allowed to do something?" he snapped back.
"She's not my girlfriend."
Ron grunted, and stood up. "Just two more minutes, would that have been too much to ask?" he mumbled.
Harry motioned to Cho as he entered the Great Hall. Her smile seemed to light up the entire room. He almost ran over to her and gave her a hug.
"I need to tell you something, and you are going to want to be alone when I do." he whispered in her ear.
An intensely curious look graced her features and she led him from the hall. Arm in arm, they wandered through the corridor's of Hogwarts, and made their way out onto the grounds.
Once they had walked halfway to the Quidditch pitch, Cho turned to Harry and said, "Well?"
Harry blushed. "Did you notice that there was no locking charm on the door when we left the bathroom this morning?"
Cho's smile disappeared. "Yes, I did, as a matter of fact."
Harry swallowed. "I put a locking charm on the door when I first came in."
"Yep, someone walked in on us."
"Oh, my!" Cho covered her face with her hands. "Do you know who?"
Harry nodded. "Hermione. She confronted me afterwards. I think she was going to give us detention, but was too embarrassed at the time. I gave her a reason not to."
Cho looked at Harry for a second before understanding dawned. "You are a genius!"
Harry blushed. "Hardly. I would have used a stronger charm if I were that clever. But by suggesting that it was possible someone may have been using poly-juice potion, Hermoine now has an honourable excuse to avoid handing out detentions. She was really embarrassed. We do need to be more discrete in future."
Cho nodded and put her head on his shoulder. "I'm really embarrassed myself. Hermione saw us in the shower together."
"Just deny you ever lock the door, and her excuse has even more weight." Harry sighed. "It's weird, she never mentioned me. I guess she was shocked at seeing her best friend nude."
"Hmm, maybe. But now, I'm not the only one to have enjoyed looking at your backside." Cho slipped her hand down and caressed Harry's bum.
"Wicked girl!" he said, laughing. Harry leaned over and gently kissed Cho's soft lips. "Shall we go back for breakfast?"
"Mmm, sounds good. I worked up quite an appetite this morning." she replied, and the couple turned and made their way back to the castle.
"No!" a group of forth-year Gryffindor witches said together.
"That's what I heard." confirmed Ginny, a smug expression on her face. "I don't believe a word of it though, so if anyone asks you about it, just say you don't believe it."
Nodding like puppets, the gaggle of witches broke up and dispersed.
Ginny smiled to herself. Nothing travels faster than gossip, except denied gossip.