Harry hesitated with his hand on the cover of Hermione’s diary. He shouldn’t open it. If he read it he would be disrespecting Hermione’s privacy and he was supposed to be her friend. But it could explain what was going on…

He didn’t have time to decide. The trapdoor suddenly shot open and Harry, startled, dropped the diary so it landed open face-down as Hermione’s head appeared. He didn’t have time to put the book back . He set down the flame jar as she climbed in and said, “Sorry, I left my…”

She saw her diary lying at Harry’s feet and frowned. “Did you read this?”

She snatched it up off the floor and snapped it closed angrily.

“No, I swear, Hermione,” Harry began to say, switching the parcel to one hand and gesturing with the other. “I just found it.”

“I suppose you were wondering anyway,” Hermione mumbled, sitting down on the floor. Harry paused for a minute and sat down again, putting the parcel down next to him on the floor.

“Wondering why you were being so weird?” Harry asked, tentatively. He was still unsure of Hermione’s reactions - she had tended to blow up recently. He shuffled backwards a little, noting that without her wand she couldn’t curse him.

“Yes,” Hermione sighed. “It’s Ron.”

Harry’s heart sank. He had guessed she fancied him, and knew that Ron fancied her, so they were bound to get together. And where would that leave him? Pushed to the side like when Ron was with Lavender?

“Don’t laugh at me, Harry, but I thought…well, he liked me.”

Hermione had gone red, as far as Harry could see in the blue light. He nodded uncomfortably. He wanted to get their discussion over with if it was going to end the way he thought it would.

“I went kind of mad, thinking I liked him back,” she continued, keeping her eyes cast down at the floor. “So when he started dating Lavender I felt humiliated.”

She glanced up, but Harry was focussing on the flickering bluebell flames as if he was transfixed.

“That was why I invited McLaggen to Slughorn’s party, to get him back. But I realised what a bad idea it turned out to be. I made myself look more of an idiot than Ron had.”

She snorted and tucked the diary into her jeans pocket as she carried on talking. “And I realised, I don’t like him. That way,” she added quickly, but the relief flooding through Harry seemed to drown out her words.. “As a friend I do, but not for much longer if he keeps acting like such a big-headed prat.”

Harry had to agree that Ron’s recent attitude towards Hermione had been less than friendly. He was still surprised by the emotion that had come over him. Yes, he was glad that his friends were not going to go out and abandon him. But there was something else underneath it. Harry didn’t know what it was and it unsettled him.

“Anyway, I’m trying to pull myself together Harry and get on with things like it didn’t happen. So I’d appreciate it if you…”

“If I did as well?” Harry interrupted and finished her sentence. “Yeah, OK. I’ve been trying to forget it myself.”

“I suppose it must have been worse for you, caught in the middle of it. Like I was, when you and Ron were arguing in our fourth year.”

“Yep,” Harry agreed, standing up. Hermione took this as a cue and stood up as well, scooping up the flame jar.

“Listen, Hermione,” Harry said awkwardly. “Thanks for telling me all of that.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I feel better now I’ve told somebody.”

Harry offered an awkward smile and picked up his parcel before climbing down the stepladder. He looked back up but Hermione had extinguished the flames and the attic was in darkness. He couldn’t see her, but he heard a long sigh as he hurried into Ron’s room and shut the door, before he could see if Hermione was climbing down or not.

It was later in the evening than he had anticipated, and Ron was laughing to himself, stretched out on his bed with a copy of The Adventures of Martin Miggs, The Mad Muggle. He looked up and raised his eyebrows.

“Long time in the toilet, mate,” he said. Harry nodded, grabbing his stomach for effect with the hand that wasn’t hiding the parcel behind his back.

“Yeah, felt a bit sick. Must’ve ate too much.”

He flopped onto the camp bed and surreptitiously slid the package underneath his pillow. He slipped the bottle out of its wrappings, just in case, and stuffed it up his jumper. The bottle was cold against his skin and it shocked him.

He joined in a game of exploding snap with Ron, who singed off his left eyebrow and a bit of his fringe, before they both agreed they were worn out, got into their pyjamas and put out the light.

As Harry lay in bed on Christmas night, he could hear the bubbles pulsing steadily in their bottle under his pillow like a second heartbeat. What would he wish for? It was obvious.

But if his parents were alive for one day, wouldn’t he miss them more once he knew what his life would have been like? And if he wasn’t cursed, if it wasn’t him who had to kill Voldemort, what would be the point for only 24 hours? At the end of it he would still be the chosen one, or whatever the Daily Prophet called him.

He lay awake for a while, puzzling and thinking, before he finally fell asleep.

The End

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