Harry Potter Hermione Granger Parvati Patil Ron Weasley
Romance Drama
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 05/29/2003
Updated: 06/11/2003
Words: 119,713
Chapters: 25
Hits: 162,459

Dance With Me Harry


Story Summary:
COMPLETED. During the summer after his fourth year, after Uncle Vernon beats Harry, the only thing that keeps him going is thinking about Hermione's kiss at the train station. But once the authorities intervene, he is sent to live among the Muggles, where he learns about life and love. But will this help him win Hermione's heart? Or will Voldemort strike first?

Chapter 09

Chapter Summary:
During the summer after his fourth year, after Uncle Vernon beats Harry, the only thing that keeps him going is thinking about Hermione's kiss at the train station. But once the authorities intervene, he is sent to live among the Muggles, where he learns about life and love. But will this help him win Hermione's heart? Or will Voldemort strike first?


By Aerie22


Going Home

The summer was finally ending for Harry. He had given his regrets and farewells to all his customers, mowing his last lawn yesterday, for the Downeys.

It was early in the morning, Wednesday, August 30. Harry, as was his habit, had walked the three blocks to the local comprehensive school grounds to the running track. He was doing his stretches and warm up exercises when Sara showed up. Harry nodded to her with a smile. "You're here early," he commented.

She tilted her head in acknowledgement. "I just thought we'd do a quick run and maybe talk before you left. It's tomorrow morning, right?"

Harry nodded with a crooked smile. "Yes. 11:00 am, sharp."

Sara did a few stretches and did a few warm up exercises and the two began their run.

Harry, for his part, felt like he could run like the wind. Normally, he would do his exhausting set of wind sprints that Mr. Nichol insisted was good for endurance and agility, wearing himself out before Sara would show up. That way, she would have little trouble keeping pace. But today, Harry felt like a hobbled horse, trying to pace himself so as not to press the pace beyond Sara's abilities.

They did six circuits around the 400-meter track before Sara finally called it quits and returned to her towel. Harry, almost reluctantly, followed.

She lay back in the grass, breathing deeply. Then, she turned to him. "So, you're finally going to see that girl of yours tomorrow. Your Hermione."

Harry nodded and smiled. "I can't wait...or maybe I can," he said absently.

Sara smiled indulgently. "Look, I'm sure she likes you. You're a terrific guy. So don't worry. Just remember all the things I told you and you'll do fine."

Harry chuckled. "I don't think I study as hard in school as I did with all those girls' magazines you gave me."

Sara gave him a sharp, but friendly, look. "Listen, you might think they're silly. Maybe they are. But like I've been telling you, at least they tell you what girls like your Hermione are thinking and feeling about boys."

Harry chuckled again. "Yeah, but some of those pieces of advice. 'A good boyfriend bends in the face of his lady's wrath like a reed against the wind, ready to spring back when the storm ends.' I have a teacher who talks like that. She's the worst."

Sara snorted to keep from laughing. "Okay. A little too Zen for you. Just remember that girls are just about as of scared of you than you are of them. But they also want you to like them as much as you want them to like you. So don't treat them like some sort of alien species. They just want to find a nice boy who is interested in them. If you treat them nicely, you'll find them falling all over themselves to be your girlfriend. Just look at Patty and Beth and Pammy. They spent most of the summer competing for your attention."

Harry smiled at the thought. They were sweet. Pammy was pretty enough, and he enjoyed kissing her. But Patty and Beth were nice and he enjoyed being with them and the attention they showed him.

"And don't worry if they tease you. That only means that they like you. If they didn't like you, they wouldn't bother. And if you can tease them back--remember, in a nice way--they'll like you even more. Show them you're not intimidated but actually enjoy the attention and can return that attention back in kind and they'll really like you."

Harry flexed his neck as he leaned back on his elbows. "Well, Hermione is not much for teasing. I guess she doesn't mind it too much, but she gets kind of defensive at times when you tease her about her studies. I think she's kind of sensitive."

Sara nodded. "Like I told you. Just be attentive to her. I think she'll appreciate it."

Harry sighed and leaned back to lie on his back. "I guess."

Sara giggled. "And remember what I told you about kissing."

Harry blushed. He still thought about Sara's kissing lesson. He had walked around in a daze for the rest of that morning and he occasionally liked to think about it before he went to sleep at night. Even if Sara was clinical in her description and demonstration, it knocked Harry for a loop. So he was disappointed when there was no follow-up lesson. Sara didn't love him. He shrugged. "I remember," he said quietly.

"Good," she said with a quick nod. "Well, I've got to get going. Peter and I are going out this afternoon. I'll see you at the vicarage tomorrow morning before you leave."

"Peter?" he said with a pleased smile.

Sara smiled back. "Well, he asked me out a couple weeks ago and I turned him down. So this time, I asked him out."

Harry chuckled in and felt like hugging himself in pleasure. "Okay. I hope you two hit it off. You're two of the nicest people I know and I'm sure you will," Harry said with a find smile. "Oh, and Sara?"

She turned with a smile.

"Thank you....for everything," he said with a misty smile.

She gave him a wink that made him recall Lavender Brown's winks, and turned and jogged off.

* * *

Harry was out on the vicarage porch an hour before the car was due. He wandered in and out of the house countless times in nervousness. He went all the way up to his room three separate times to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.

"Do you have your razor, Harry?" Mae asked with a smile.

Harry jumped and went to run up to the upstairs bathroom when he remembered that he'd packed it in his toiletry kit. Tony had showed him how to shave when he first showed some chin whiskers in late July. They were sparse, but dark like his hair and he was sure that they would be silly looking once his summer tan faded. Then he ran up to the upstairs bathroom in a panic to make sure he had packed his toiletry kit. He had.

While he was up there, he took one last look at his reflection in the mirror. He had a nice golden tan. 'I'm darker than Parvati,' he chuckled. He looked again. His hair was still unruly, but his face was now more angular. 'Not handsome, but no more baby fat,' he thought. 'Just okay.'

As he was leaving, he stopped to look at the edge of the door. He chuckled on how Mae measured him against the side of the door and marked his height with a date in blue pencil when he first arrived. He saw several generations of such marks on the door edge. Then Mae did it last night. He was shocked to see he had grown two inches in two months. He was now just a shade under five-foot, ten inches. He smiled. He wasn't about to challenge Dean in height, but he wouldn't be considered short any more.

When he returned to the porch, he saw Sara there in her jogging shorts and noticed the Downeys pulling into the drive.

"Who am I going to run with now?" she said with a smile.

Harry laughed as Mae squeezed his shoulder. "Peter, of course."

Sara rolled her eyes as Harry came down to meet her on the steps. "As if I could get him up that early," she said with a tinkling laugh.

"Harry!" Pat Downey said as he got out of the car. "Come to see you off. And to deliver something from John Nichol," he said with hearty laugh. He handed Harry a small bag which looked to he full of booklets and pamphlets on karate and exercise.

"Thanks, Mr. Downey," he said with wide eyes.

"Oh, and Evvie's got something for you," he said, nodding to the other side of the car. Evvie Downey got out with two modest sized boxes.

"Oh Harry, here's something for you and your friends for the trip. Just some sandwiches and some treacle fudge. And a variety of soft drinks," she said with a fond smile.

The Downeys and Sara followed Harry up to the porch and sat down with Mae and Tony to wait, chatting idly about Harry's adventures to come.

Harry had worried about how he would be picked up. He assumed it would be by car. But he was afraid it would be some sort of bizarre magically modified Muggle car or a variation of the Knight Bus that would shock and startle everyone.

So he was as surprised as anyone when he heard the purr of a powerful engine make the turn up the road. He looked in amazement as a huge old Daimler limousine cruised to a stop in front of the vicarage.

"Tea with the Queen, Harry?" Pat Downey uttered with a surprised smile.

The front doors opened and two large men in black suits and dark sunglasses stepped out, making a quick survey of the neighborhood and seeming to speak into cellular phones. Harry recognized Cyrus Thomas as one, and the Hufflepuff auror who helped install wards at the vicarage at the beginning of the summer as the other.

As Harry stepped down off the porch, the two aurors nodded and suddenly the two passenger doors on the right-hand side of the limo burst open and a sea of redheads led by a pretty young girl with thick light-brown hair seemed to explode out.

Hermione raced and jumped into Harry's arms. "Harry! I missed you so much!" she exclaimed, giving him a warm, tight hug. "You look wonderful! And you've grown!"

Suddenly, he was surrounded by Weasleys pounding him on the back and squeezing his shoulders and mussing his already mussed hair.

Hermione only let go the embrace when she spied the tall pretty blond girl in the skimpy joggling shorts staring at her with a smile.

She backed a step away from Harry. "Who's that?" she whispered.

Harry gave everyone a broad smile. "Hey everyone. I want you to meet my friends and family.

He quickly introduced the Strowbridges, the Downeys and Sara to Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Fred and George. The excited teenagers babbled excitedly to Harry and his Muggle family and friends.

But Sara grabbed Hermione by the arm and gently pulled her aside.

"So you're Hermione," she said with a warm smile. She embraced Hermione, which the young witch returned with uncertainty. Sara leaned close to Hermione's ear. "Harry's talked a lot about you. He's a wonderful boy. I hope you take care of him, because if you don't, there will always be someone like me waiting for someone as special as he is." She backed up and gave Hermione another smile and turned to meet the rest of Harry's friends.

Hermione blinked, confused. She looked at the girl, realizing she was a little older. But she was very pretty. And very sexy in her brief, satin jogging shorts. Hermione decided immediately she didn't like this girl.

Mae and Tony Strowbridge, on the other hand, were wonderful. Mae reminded her a little of a younger, dark-haired Molly Weasley, with her warm manner and hugs. And Tony was equally warm and seemed a very caring. So she was shocked when Harry gave George the devil for some off-color remark, saying with a laugh that "Reverend Strowbridge" would have him scraping bumblegum from the church pews for eternity for such language.

Tony laughed heartily. "Oh, I've heard worse," he said. "How do you think I keep the church so clean. All those penances."

The Downeys were equally happy to see all the friends Harry had talked about during the summer. Even Ginny seemed to bask blushingly in the attention and in the knowledge that Harry had thought about her during the summer enough to tell his friends about her.

But as Harry gave his new family and friends a last misty goodbye, Hermione couldn't keep her eyes off Sara. 'Who is this girl that should be so friendly to her Harry?' she thought in annoyance. Her annoyance only increased when Sara gave Harry a warm, tight hug and a kiss on the cheek and whispered something in his ear that made him smile broadly as he was about to get in the car.

So Hermione was relieved when Harry finally got in and, waving frantically one last time, closed the door.

Ron was the first to start. "So, who is she?" he asked with wide eyes.

George was laughing. "Oh, we've all heard of these sons of the preacher man. They're hell on the ladies."

Fred poked Harry in the ribs. "Did you kiss her yet?"

Harry's blushing suddenly intensified beyond even what Ginny was showing at all the teasing about Sara.

"Come on, guys. She's got a boyfriend," he complained. "I told you about Trevor the Toad, Ron. Well, she ditched him last week and is now going out with a friend of mine."

Ron guffawed. "Squashed the toad, did she?"

Harry lowered his head. "Something like that," he said with a small smile. "He was a world class jerk. He was away all summer and I surely am just glad I got to meet him only once."

Fred and George exchanged glances and burst out laughing. "And while the cat's away, the Harry will play," Fred exclaimed.

"So, while the Toad was out of town, did you catch her snitch, Harry?" George asked in a conspiratorial voice.

Harry, who was in one of the jump seats, sunk down in embarrassment.

"George!!!" Hermione exclaimed in annoyance. "Ginny's here!"

Ginny made a face at Hermione and rolled her eyes. "I'm not a child," she said with a pout. "After all, I grew up with these louts."

Hermione sunk into her seat facing Harry and pouted.

Ron reached across Ginny in the middle jump seat and grabbed Harry's shoulder. "You didn't answer the question mate," he said evilly. "Did you kiss her?"

Harry sulked. "Hey, she's just a friend. And she's seventeen...and a half, for Merlin's sake. And she's now dating my best Muggle friend," he complained, blushing furiously.

Suddenly, Fred and George turned to each other and gave each other a high-five.

Ron blinked. "What did you just do?"

Fred laughed. "You wouldn't understand. It's a Muggle thing." He turned to Harry. "Did you shag her, too?"

"George!!!" Ginny shouted in dismay.

"No!!!" Harry exclaimed, as the limo pulled on to Queen Anne Road and up to a stop light. Harry, who was now gazing out the window in embarrassment, suddenly saw Pam and Beth on the sidewalk. He rolled down the window. "Pam! Beth!"

The two squealed and ran up to the car. "Harry!" Pam gushed, practically pulling his head out of the window to kiss his cheek. "I was hoping to see you. Good luck!"

Beth leaned in a gave Harry a shy peck on the cheek, too. "Ring us up. Or write. Please."

"I'll try," Harry said as they backed away to let the car pull away. "Say goodbye to Patty, will you," he called to the two waving girls.

He turned with a smile back to his companions.

"Geez, Harry," Ron said with wide eyes. "How many girlfriends do you have?"

Harry started. "They're not my girlfriends," he said, suddenly startled. "I just know them from the parish youth dances. They're nice."

Ron chuckled. "Well, the one in the glasses was nice, all right. And they both kissed you. Wow, Harry."

Fred and George were busy whispering to each other and were about to say something when Ginny gave George a kick. "Shut up, both of you. Let's see what Mrs. Downey gave us."

The Weasleys all exclaimed over the sandwiches and were amazed at the taste of the treacle fudge. "All this was made with no magic," Ron said with his mouth full.

Harry nodded laughing. "Sure beats Hagrid's fudge, right."

Harry noticed that Hermione was being quiet. But as the ride progressed, he caught her several times looking at him and then quickly looking away. He prodded her with his toe. "How was America?" he asked with a smile.

She gave a vague smile. "Okay. I'll tell you on the train," she said and looked out the window.

"By the way. Congratulations on being made prefect."

Hermione gave Harry a brief smile. "You, too," she said and turned back to the scenery.

Harry frowned, but soon was engrossed in catching up with Ron, Ginny, Fred and George. He no longer noticed Hermione's furtive glances at him. But Ginny did, because she was doing the same.

* * *

The ride took just over two hours, mostly because of the London traffic. They arrived and checked in to Leaky Cauldron. The boys shared one large room and the Ginny and Hermione shared a smaller room.

Once they were settled and Fred and George took off for Diagon Alley, Ron pulled Harry aside.

"Tell me, you kissed Sara, right?"

Harry shrugged. "We talked a lot about girls and dating and stuff. And when she found out I never really kissed a girl..." he paused, blushing furiously, "...ahhh...well, she said she would teach me how. It wasn't really romantic or anything. She said girls kiss each other all the time to practice for when they go snogging with boys...It was sort of like that."

Ron's eyes got wide. "Whoa," he said with amazement. "Girls kissing other girls? I'd like to see that."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Ron. It's not like that. It's like Lavender and Parvati walking arm and arm. Or Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones. You see that all the time. Girls kissing each other is just like practicing Quidditch. It's not the real thing. Just practice."

Ron was lost in thought. "I'd like to see that. Parvati and Lavender kissing. Whoa," he said with a dream-like look on his face.

Harry gave Ron a playful punch on the shoulder. "Come on, Romeo. We've got to buy our school supplies," he said, beginning to get up.

But Ron reached up and pulled Harry back. "No, wait. What was it like, kissing Sara?

Harry smiled. "It was pretty cool, even if it was just practice. Her lips were soft and warm. And you don't just pucker up and press your lips. It's like you touch your lips together and sort of gently pull on the girl's lips with yours....I don't know how to explain it. But it was really nice."

"Wow..." Ron said with a sigh. "I'm going to have to learn how to do it. I made a promise to myself that I would go snogging before the end of the first term."

Harry smiled. "With who?"

Ron shrugged. "I don't know. As long as she's pretty. Maybe Lavender." He looked up with a wary expression. "...or Hermione."

Harry gave Ron a halfhearted smile. "I vote for Lavender for you, but I guess that depends on Hermione, doesn't it?"

Ron blushed and hung his head. "I guess." Ron fumbled with his shirt, trying to tuck it in as Harry got ready to leave. Finally, Ron spoke in a soft voice. "Uhhh, Harry?"

Harry frowned at Ron's nervous shuffling. "Yeah?"

Ron was making a face as he seemed to debate with himself. "Could you help me...on how to talk to girls?" he said shyly.

Harry gave Ron a wry smile. "Well, first you've got to memorize all the major figures in all the Goblin Rebellions," he said, chuckling to himself.

Ron stared at Harry blankly. "Whaaa?"

Harry sighed. "Well, if you want to score points with Hermione, you're just going to have to do better in your history of magic," he said with a crooked smile.

Ron blinked and blushed. "Well...maybe something I could use on other girls...maybe. Like Lavender."

Harry's brows knitted. "What do you mean," he said softly.

Ron shuffled again. "Well...I wasn't sure I wanted to tell you or anything..."

Harry's face became even more serious. "Yes?"

Ron blushed again. "Well...I asked Ginny to keep Fred and George busy on the trip after we picked up Hermione so I could kind of talk to her...you know?"

Harry nodded, speculatively.

Ron was getting more uncomfortable by the moment. "Well...I guess my brothers sort of caught on and...well, they said hi to her and all and then kind of kept to themselves. Ginny, too."

Harry was watching Ron intently.

Ron took a deep breath. "Well, I sort of tried to talk with her, like, just the two of us, about our summers and sort of trying to figure out how to show her I liked her and all..."

Ron shifted on the bed again, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles in the bedspread. Finally he took another deep breath.

"Well, she sort of told me America was fun but hectic and all. But then she started asking me about you. About where you were, why you weren't with the Dursleys anymore, if I'd heard from you, and all."

Harry blinked, a little surprised.

Ron made another face. "All she wanted to talk about was you," he said with a sad look. "It was kind of hard to talk to her like I wanted to." Ron's head was hanging now. "I think she kind of likes you," he said with a deep sigh.

Harry was torn between elation and compassion for his friend. But then, he thought about how Hermione reacted to him in the car. She barely spoke to him during the hour-long drive into London. He made a face of his own.

"I don't know Ron. Maybe she does. But maybe she doesn't. You never know."

Ron looked up and shrugged. "I was a little put out," he said. He made another face and then shrugged. "Okay. I was a lot put out."

Harry reached over and squeezed Ron's shoulder. "If you don't end up with Hermione, you're sure to find someone else great. I mean, Lavender is really pretty. I think you two would make a great couple. And Parvati's hot stuff. And you mentioned they were both available. You never know."

Ron shrugged again. "That's kind of what I was thinking. I sort of like Lavender. Parvati's really pretty and all, but I was there when she punched what's his name in fifth year...well, sixth year now. I didn't know a girl was strong enough to break someboody's nose."

"Dan Turley," Harry said.

"Yeah, that's his name."

Harry chuckled. "Hermione told me she and Lavender were up half the night doing healing charms on Paravti's knuckles. But you notice no one gets too forward with her now."

Ron nodded with a smile. Then the smile faded as he lowered his head. "You know, I was really upset when you wrote to me this summer," he said softly. "Ginny really did give me hell. I'm really sorry about not writing for so long. Then, when you wrote me to say you'd been moved out to a safer place, I began to worry like anything. Then it kind of hit me--at least when Ginny wasn't hitting me--that you might be in real danger. And I might lose you. And you are my best friend and all. What would I do if something happened to you when all I was doing was sulking around the house." Ron suddenly looked up at Harry. "It wasn't You-Know-Who that made you move, was it?"

Harry shrugged. "It's just that the Muggles in the neighborhood started getting involved and Dumbledore thought it was better that I stay with the Strowbridges."

Ron shook his head. "Living with a priest," he said flatly. "It must have sucked."

Harry started. "No!" he exclaimed. "It was the most wonderful summer of my life. Tony and Mae were wonderful. They were so nice. Even when I messed up...like when they found out I was almost in a fight with a bunch of my cousin's old gang and once when I stayed out past curfew when I was out with one of my buddies, they didn't yell or anything. Tony just sat me down and talked to me about responsible behavior. But what really hurt me that time I came home late was seeing how worried Mae was. I could tell she was probably thinking Dudley's old gang had come after me...or maybe Voldemort. And Peter and I were just talking about girls and stuff and lost track of the time. It was stupid, but it made me realize how thoughtless I was. Just knowing someone is worried about you is really nice, but it makes you think, too."

Ron sighed. "I never thought about that before. I guess I'm lucky having a cool mum and dad and all and having all my brothers," he said with a thoughtful look. "Of course, you can have Ginny if you want...No, maybe not. She's my sister, after all," he said with a chuckle.

Harry leaned back on the bed, chuckling as well. "You almost ready?"

Ron blinked. "No! You haven't told me what to say or do around girls. What did you do this summer? You seemed to have all these girlfriends. What happened to you, anyway? Did Lavender brew you a supply of love potions or something?" he said, chuckling.

Harry giggled. "No. Sara, you know, the blonde girl at the vicarage..."

"Oh, I remember Sara, all right," Ron said with a smile.

Harry chuckled. "Well, she gave me all these girls' magazines with all sorts of advice in them. Some of those articles were really dumb. But some of the advice was pretty good. Like one said girls shouldn't put up with a guy who only talked about himself. And the ideal boyfriend should be willing to give a girl an unexpected compliment. Especially when the girl looks like she's in a bad mood or something. The article said the girl should respond with a nice word or a hug or something like that. The article says that this is called 'positive reinforcement.' If a guy knows the girl is going to be nice to him when he gives her a compliment, he'll become more sensitive to her needs and moods or something like that. A lot of it was sort of weird, but some of it made sense. So you should try that. You know, being nice and complimenting a girl you like, even if you figure it might be a little embarrassing or something."

Ron nodded. "I guess it makes sense...maybe," he said with a look of concentration.

Harry sighed. "Sara said thatmost girls want you to like them as much as you want them to like you. And that if you show a girl that you like her, there's a real good chance she'll like you in return. Maybe not always like a girlfriend, or at least not right away. But if you do that, you've got half the battle won."

Ron leaned forward, looking thoughtful. Then he started chuckling. "I keep thinking about Lavender and Parvati kissing each other. Whoa..."

Harry chuckled.

"I wish there was a way to learn how to kiss. Like a snogging instructor...like you had," he said with a laugh.

Suddenly Harry stood up and slapped Ron's back. "Whoever your instructor is, don't count on practicing with me beforehand," he said with a laugh. "Maybe you can practice with Ginny...if she's not already practicing with Hermione."

"Oh, that's disgusting," Ron said, turning red.

Harry laughed and led Ron out of the room.

* * *

Harry leaned back on his chair at an outdoor table at Florian Fortesque's Ice Cream Parlor. Hermione was engrossed in her sundae. Fred and George had dragged Ron off to Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, and Ginny tagged along to supervise the purchase of Ron's new dress robes. Harry was enjoying the late summer sunshine when Hermione suddenly looked up at him.

"Who is Sara?" she asked quietly.

Harry tilted his head as he licked his strawberry ice cream cone. "I mowed her parent's lawn every week. And we got to know each other. She decided to teach me all about the Muggle world."

Hermione blinked. "She knew about you? About us?"

Harry shook his head. "No. I mean she tried to teach me about, I don't know, dating and stuff," he said, suddenly shy.

Hermione leaned forward slightly. "But you kissed her. Is she your girlfriend?" she asked urgently.

Harry suddenly gave Hermione an exasperated look. "No. I told you, she was dating this university guy. I met him. And he would give Malfoy a run for his money on being a world-class jerk. I'm glad she broke up with him."

Hermione gave him a puzzled look. "But you still didn't explain about kissing Sara."

Harry sighed. "She was trying to teach me how to kiss girls," he said quietly with a blush. "You know, like girls practicing kissing each other so they know what to do when they kiss a boy. You probably did that."

Hermione blushed. "I never did that," she said firmly. "Although Parvati and Lavender did that a few times in third year...yes, it was third year. I thought it was weird. They invited me to try, but I wouldn't. I thought it was kind of gross."

Harry began chuckling. "Well, don't tell Ron about Lavender and Parvati. I told him about girls practicing kissing and he nearly passed out."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me. He likes Lavender."

Harry shrugged. "I guess. I think he's a little afraid of Parvati."

Hermione chuckled. "Well, he better watch himself. Parvati's got a temper, but doesn't let her anger linger. But Lavender remembers. If she thinks you did her wrong, she'll give you the evil eye for months. She got mad at me over something in April--I don't even know what--and barely spoke to me until near the end of term."

"I didn't notice," Harry said.

"You were busy with other things," she said quietly.

Harry nodded.

Hermione then slowly looked up and into Harry's eyes. "So Sara isn't your girlfriend?"

Harry shook his head. "No."

Hermione gave a curt nod. "Okay. And those other girls?"

Harry tilted his head at her. "Pam and Beth? No. I would meet up with them and a few of their friends at parish youth dances. We danced and had fun together. But Sara warned me not to lead them on. They were nice girls and we had fun, but I never went snogging with them or anything. Pam kissed me a couple times, but I knew we couldn't really be a couple, so I sort of set her up with another guy I met. He was kind of goofy, but we talked a lot and he started to come around by the end of the summer and they actually started dating, I guess."

For the first time all day, Hermione started to relax. Harry smiled fondly at her. "So, how was America?"

Hermione was still in Edmonton in describing her summer when the Weasleys returned looking triumphant except for Ron, who was sulking. "I still don't know what's wrong with orange."

Fred, George and Ginny did a collective eye roll and the six of them returned to the Leaky Cauldron.

* * *

The prefects' meeting in the first car of the Hogwarts Express was a pleasant surprise to both Harry and Hermione. Professor McGonagall introduced the eight new prefects from the fifth year, along with Angelina Johnson, who Harry was delighted to learn was Head Girl, and Roger Davies of Ravenclaw, who was the new head boy.

The meeting itself was mercifully brief, with McGonagall reemphasizing the responsibilities of their new positions and urging them to reread their prefects guides and rulebooks.

What was even more merciful was that Draco Malfoy, the new Slytherin boys' prefect left immediately after the meeting without a word to anyone. But the other seven new prefects stayed to chat for a while.

Harry was particularly pleased to get to know the Hufflepuff prefects, Hannah Abbott and Ernie MacMillan. They had been a couple for as long as anyone could remember. But Harry found Ernie a lot of fun, joking and talking Quidditch. And Hannah, who had developed marvelously over the summer, was as sweet as ever. And she had finally abandoned her pigtails, letting her hair grow out and tumble over her shoulders in thick golden ropes of waves. It made Harry feel guilty as he occasionally glanced at her chest, which she could not conceal under voluminous robes.

Mandy Brocklehurst of Ravenclaw was pleasant, but a bit on the formal side in her conversation, at least until she and Hermione got talking. Terry Boot, Mandy's counterpart, started to discuss the history of prefects at Hogwarts but, when not even Hermione noticed, shut up.

But Harry was most surprised by Millicent Bulstrode. Millicent was about an inch taller than Harry and at least as wide. And she had a plain face with long, wavy dark hair. But it turned out that she had a wry sense of humor and generally friendly manner. She even teased Harry about how he would get along with his favorite potions professor this year. Harry looked at her closely and was satisfied that Millicent was just teasing and laughed along with her.

After about an hour, the discussion broke up and the group walked back through the train to join their friends in other cars. As Harry followed Hermione, they ran into Parvati and Lavender. Lavender was looking about the same as the year before, her thick blond hair tied up in a french twist. But Parvati looked like she had grown dramatically over the summer. She had grown from a pretty young girl to a statuesque beauty with a trim figure that did not lack for feminine curves.

Suddenly Harry looked down at Parvati's tee-shirt and burst out laughing. It had a slogan: 'Witches Have Wands, Too,' followed underneath in smaller letters: 'So Watch What You Do With Yours.' In between was a witch on a broom in silhouette casting hexes at a wizard below.

"And what are you doing, Harry? Admiring my chest?" she said mischievously.

Harry chuckled. Parvati had developed over the summer. Not quite on par with Hannah Abbott, but she was more shapely than the year before.

"Just taking heed of the warning, Parvati," he said with a smile.

Parvati laughed and grabbed Harry's arm, pulling him aside. "Harry," she whispered urgently, suddenly more serious, as Hermione simply continued on her way and Lavender stepped back to watch with a proprietary interest. "Is Ron seeing anyone? Hermione, maybe?" she asked earnestly.

Harry looked at her blankly. "No. Not at the moment. Why?"

She smiled. "Well, we ran into each other, and he smiled at me and blurted out how nice I looked and he smiled some more. I wasn't sure, but I thought he was flirting with me. He sure has grown tall over the summer."

A small smile crept across Harry's face. "Well, to tell the truth, he was complaining last night about how he didn't have a girlfriend and all. I suppose your name did come up," he said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Parvati's smile broadened. "He has gotten pretty good looking over the past year or so. I suppose if the matter just happened to come up in conversation, you might let him know that I just might have some openings on my dance card."

Harry giggled. "Whatever happened to your Beaubatons beau. What was his name? Olivier?"

Parvati snorted. "That ponce? He was gone after our second date. And he keeps writing me, still. Half of those letters are in French." She sighed. "Those French. They can't speak good English. They've got a different word for everything."

Harry blanched and stared at her. Could she be serious?

Suddenly, she reached out and pinched him. "That was a joke, silly. Tu ne parle pas Francais? O, quelle dommage," she said with a chuckle.

Harry leaned around to Lavender. "Can you help, Lav? Parvati's speaking in tongues," laughing as he now knew her first comment really was just a joke.

Parvati laughed and gave Harry a quick hug. "Remember, let Ron know. Just don't be too obvious. Okay?"

Harry smiled. "Sure."

* * *

Harry finally found his friends in the second to the last car on the train. Ron, Fred and George were engaged in a game of exploding snap on one bench, while Ginny and Hermione were busy talking on the other. He scooted in next to Hermione on the seat next to the door.

Suddenly, Ron, Fred and George dropped their cards and stood up together and made a deep bow. "Your Highness," they chorused. "Your wish is our command."

Harry grabbed a notebook and threw it at the three playfully.

The group collapsed in laughter and then lapsed into companionable conversation.

It was about a half hour later, the pleasantness was disrupted as Draco Malfoy, along with his companions and bodyguards, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, passed by and stopped.

"I thought I smelled moth flakes. This must be the Weasley compartment," he sneered.

Ron began to stand in anger, but George pulled him back.

"Oh, and Granger. I don't know why you were made a prefect. They shouldn't allow Muggle-borns to be prefects," he said with a smirk.

Harry felt his anger rise, but remembered Mr. Nichol's instructions about maintaining control of any situation. Instead, he leveled his gaze. "What's this, Malfoy?" he said with a snarl. "Come to show off your dark mark?"

"I'd watch myself, if I were you, Potter," Malfoy retorted with an evil grin.

Harry raised his head with an evil smile. "Tell me, Malfoy. How does it feel to be willing to sacrifice everything and risk Azkaban to be a mere servant? To be a house elf?"

Malfoy started. "You better watch yourself, Potter," was Malfoy's only reply, his voice rising.

Harry nodded. "That's right. A mere servant. A junior league Death Eater. Not even a Death Eater of the first order. You have to stand at the end of the line to kiss Voldemort's arse," Harry sneered.

People from nearby compartments began to stick their heads out to see what the disturbance was about.

"Shut up, Potter!" Malfoy screamed.

"Not that you have any choice in the matter. Your father sold you out a long time ago, didn't he, Malfoy?! My parents were murdered, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing they loved me. Can you say that? Did anyone ever love you? Did anyone ever care if you lived of died except to serve their purposes?"

"I'll get you, Potter!" Malfoy screamed.

Harry was now on his feet. "That's right, Malfoy. You're nothing but Voldemort's house elf. Your only use is as a servant. That's your birthright. The powerful Malfoy family. Born and bred to be slaves to something that isn't even human. You could play Dobby to Voldemort, but that would be giving you too much credit. At least Dobby had a backbone."

"Go to hell!!!" Malfoy screamed.

"No, you don't even have a choice in the matter," Harry continued, his eyes flashing. "You just take orders from daddy. And what if you don't? He'll kill you, if Voldemort doesn't get there first."

Malfoy was hissing in rage.

"No, you don't have a choice. Because you don't have the courage to make that choice, you silly little git. No, Mr. House Elf didn't even have the courage to say anything at the prefect's meeting without your friends here to protect you. Malfoy, are you a puppet who only speaks or acts in the presence of Daddy, or Crabbe and Goyle! Tell me," Harry said in a loud voice. "Which one of you pull the strings to make him move. Is it you, Crabbe? Or you, Goyle?"

"Shut up!!!" Malfoy screamed.

"Malfoy. House elves are supposed to keep their voices down. So shut up and get out and do you're master's bidding," Harry yelled. "Unless you have the balls to be your own man. To prove you're more than that loathsome excuse for a man that you call your father. The chief house elf to scum like Voldemort. I just don't think you've got the balls to be a man. Just a miserable little second class house elf!"

Malfoy was now purple with rage and speechless. Then they all heard it. The chuckling coming from up and down the hallways. Suddenly, an anonymous voice called out. "Hey, Malfoy. Get us butterbeers like a good house elf."

"Shine my shoes, Malfoy," another voice called out.

"And kiss my arse, while you're at it," came another.

Crabbe and Goyle were looking back and forth up and down the hallways in confusion, then looking back at Malfoy, who was frozen in rage.

Harry took a step forward. "You see, you little shyte. Not even your butt boys can protect the little house elf when he steps too far out of line. So get out before somebody gives you what for."

"You'll pay," Malfoy said through gritted teeth as he turned on his heel and left, trailing a still confused and frightened Crabbe and Goyle in his wake.

Ron looked up at Harry, who was now shaking slightly in anger. "That was bloody brilliant, mate," he said, a broad grin on his face. "That was even better than the amazing bouncing ferret."

Fred and George were heaving in laughter and Ginny was looking up at Harry in awe. But Hermione looked troubled. "Do you think that was wise, Harry?" she asked in a small voice.

"Better than killing him with my bare hands," Harry growled as he sat down with a thump.

In the meantime. Malfoy, who was leaving the car, heard an ominous sound: Laughter.

* * *