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“What are you doing?”

“Watching paint dry.”

“That's not really a conversation opener - more of a closer.”

“Do I want to know how you got in here?”

“Terry let me in.  He owed me a favour.”

“'kay.  What can I do for you?”

“There was a time when you wouldn't have asked that.”

“True.  Four months ago, really.”

“Before Ron and I dated.”

“And exploded.”

“I am sorry about that.”

“That it happened, or that we kind of went our separate ways afterwards?”

“The latter.”

“I am as well.  I miss it just being the three of us, but you know, this was going to happen sooner or later.  It's called growing up.  Friendships change; we just have to make sure that we keep what's important - that we are friends.”

“I guess.  It's just that sometimes, I want it back the way it was.”

“Do you want to give up Blaise?”

“No.”

“Then you don't want it how it was, Hermione.  We've all moved on now.  You're dating a Slytherin, I'm dating a Ravenclaw, and Ron's dating a nutcase.”

“She's not that bad.”

“They had sex under my invisibility cloak.”

“Okay, maybe she is that bad.  How could you tell?”

“It reeked.  Or would you like me to go into more detail?”

“Err, no.  That's more than enough.  You know that you've changed?”

“It's part of growing up.  Happens despite our best efforts to remain young and free.”

“You were never young and free.”

“Sadly.”

“You're a little more open, and a lot more reflective now.  And you're getting great grades.”

“You always equated effort with intelligence, Hermione.  Because you worked so hard, you thought that everyone who didn't work like you was stupid.”

“I didn't...”

“Didn't you? Really?”

“Well… Maybe a little.”

“Exactly.  You were always badgering me to do things I didn’t want to do, and you had a knack for taking the fun out of it, and making it so that I often had to make a choice between something I really wanted to do and studying.  Studying was always going to take second place.”

“So how has Padma managed to get you to work?”

“By working with me.  She understands that the DA comes first for me, my personal advanced training comes second, Quidditch comes third, and schoolwork comes in last.”

“You didn't mention her.”

“Of course not.  I was talking about activities, and she isn't an activity; she's a part of my life.”

“Isn't that the same thing?”

“Not at all.  Padma is involved in everything that I do, and any spare time I have, I spend with her anyway.”

“But how did she help you get your grades higher, when you're still not dedicated to studying?”

“I'm a lot smarter than you ever gave me credit for, Hermione.  Padma accepts me for who I am, and knows how to handle me.  She can read my moods.  Some times she'll make homework fun, and other times she'll simply sit with me, cuddling me, while I work on what she puts in front of me. 

“And her incentive scheme really can’t be topped.”

“Good grades should be their own benefit.”

“I hate to say this, but I'm rich, and I'm a good Quidditch player - the best in the school.  I'm also one of the best fighters in the country, and the only thing that really matters to me is meeting and killing Voldemort.  Grades are largely irrelevant because either I die, in which case they really don't matter, or I live, and I'll never be able to have a normal life, anyway.”

“You would have never said anything like that, before.”

“You’re right, I wouldn't have.  Padma's been teaching me that there is a difference between stating a fact and boasting, and that it's okay to have pride in your abilities.  She's happy to say that she's the second cleverest girl in school.  And that her plan to get me worked to perfection.”

“Doesn't that bother you?”

“Why should it?  She wanted me, she couldn't have got me if I hadn't wanted her to, and I admire her determination and intelligence in figuring out how to get what she wanted, and then doing it.”

“You still haven't explained why if grades are irrelevant to you - and they shouldn't be – then why are you working on them?”

“Well, ostensibly, it's because when I get good grades, Padma is willing to turn the page in our book.  But really, it's because I like her being proud of me.”

“What book?”

“It's an in-depth guide to making love.”

“Oh.”

“Wish you hadn't asked?”

“Slightly.  So, you and Padma are serious and are... you know... doing it?”

“Doing it? What are we, Hermione, twelve?  You mean making love?”

“Yeah.”

“Nope.  We're taking it slowly.  I told you - I don't work hard for the grades, but so she'd be proud of me.”

“I would have been proud of you working hard.”

“Would you have, really?  Or would you have been worried that I was taking away what made you special in your eyes?”

“What?”

“You've always defined yourself by your intelligence.  It's what made you, you.  If I had become a straight ‘O’ student with you, would people have paid attention to you, or would they have talked about the Boy Who's Name Must Be Capitalised.”

“Probably you.”

“I know.  Sad isn't it, that people are so myopic that only one reality can intrude on their consciousness at one time?”

“So far, you've used the words ‘myopic’ and ‘ostensibly’ in context in this conversation.  It's a little strange.”

“I thought you preferred intelligent conversation.”

“I do. I just don't expect it from you.”

“Ouch.”

“Oh, shush.”

“You’ve mortally wounded me; I'll have to get Padma in to defend my honour.”

“I really do find it hard to believe that you're sitting in the Ravenclaw Common Room watching paint dry.”

“She's worked really hard on this painting.  I don't want anyone touching it while it dries, and she's practising her duelling with Moony right now.”

“I find it hard to believe that a Ravenclaw is becoming so good at Duelling.  That's normally a Gryffindor or Slytherin thing.”

“Now who's being myopic?”

“Is this where I say, ‘ouch’?”

“Probably.  Who's Padma's sister?”

“Parvati.”

“And which house is Parvati in?”

“Gryffindor.”

“Do you really think that identical twins would be that different?  Our actions define us, Hermione.  Padma decided to go into Ravenclaw because she felt she would get the best education there.  You chose to be a Gryffindor because of the excitement, and possibly, because you felt it would be more of a challenge to be the top of the school there.”

“That's not fair.”

“Can you honestly tell me that the idea of being the smartest in the school, and beating the smart-people house didn't cross your mind at all?”

“No, I guess not.”

“There's nothing wrong with that, Hermione.  You've always had ambition, but you've always been caring, brave, and a little bit sneaky when you needed to be.  You've been Harry Potter's best friend, and you've been my best friend as well.”

“Do you think of yourself as two different people?”

“I am two different people, Hermione.  I'm Harry to you, Ron, Padma, Ginny, and a few others.  Everyone else, they can't see past Harry Potter to get to me. 

“And I kind of like it that way.  It gives me a degree of anonymity in the midst of my infamy.”

“I'd not really looked at it that way.  You've always been Harry to me.”

“I know, Hermione, and it's one of the reasons why I think of you as family.”

“You do?”

“Absolutely.  You and Ron, and Ginny too I guess, are my family.  We might fight, maybe even break up, but we'll always return to what brought us together in the first place.  The only difference now is that you're bringing along Blaise, Ron's brining Luna, and Ginny's bringing... actually, who is Ginny bringing these days?”

“No one.  And that was one of the things I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh?”

“You know she's still carrying a candle for you?”

“No, I didn't.  I thought you said she was over me?”

“I said she'd given up on you.  It's a different thing.”

“It is?”

“You'd have to be a girl to understand.”

“'Kay.”

“So.”

“So?”

“What are you going to do about Ginny?”

“Nothing at all.  I'm pretty sure it hasn't slipped your mind that I'm dating Padma.”

“Why didn't you ask Ginny out when you had the chance?  Everyone thought you were going to.”

“I did think about it, but having seen you and Ron come close to hating each other, I didn't want to go through that with Ginny.  And besides, she went from Dean to Neville.”

“She was trying to make you jealous.”

“Well, that kinda points to me being right about risking our friendship on our relationship.”

“That's a little obtuse for me.”

“See, it's fun, isn't it?”

“What?”

“Being able to utilise your complete vocabulary in a conversation.”

“Well, maybe a little, but you're dodging my question.”

“Not dodging, merely postponing.  Do you think that I would feel jealous of Ginny dating somebody else, or do you think I would feel pleased that she's found someone a little more stable and less prone to life-threatening fights than I am?”

“I hate to say this, but probably the second one.”

“Exactly.  Neville's a good man.  He's smart, hard working, brave when he needs to be, and would be a good partner for anyone.  I saw Ginny having fun with him, and thought it was a good idea.”

“Neville might be all that, but he's also a little boring, and Ginny's anything but.  They're not really compatible.”

“Maybe if Ginny had approached me, it would have been different.”

“She's still a little in awe of you - you did save her life, remember?”

“I do.  I still have an occasional nightmare about it.  But don't you see, that's part of the problem.  Padma knows that she is my equal.  Sure, I'm a better fighter, but she's more intelligent.  We balance each other on a lot of things.  But it doesn't really matter; what are you expecting to achieve by telling me this?”

“I don't know.  I just felt that I owed it to both of you to get some things cleared up.”

“Well, I guess I should say thank you.  But it's not changing anything.  I'm not going to give up something that is very good for me, for something that may or may not be.  Padma's not Ginny, but that's not why I'm dating her.  I'm dating her because she is Padma.  That's what I like about her.  Things could have been different, but we live by the choices we make.  Ginny chose to try Neville to make me jealous - I chose to go get a glass of water when she and Seamus were fighting.”

“She was devastated when you brought Padma back.”

“She didn't show it.”

“She's got years of experience in hiding her feelings for you.”

“Why do you care so much about me and Ginny?”

“She's my best friend, and I really don't like her being hurt.”

“This isn't the past, Hermione.  We're all grown up now, even Ginny.  I think that I've been a friend to her, and I've certainly not ignored her - neither has Padma.”

“I know.  I'm sorry.  I just had to try.”

“I'm not sorry, Hermione.  Padma makes me feel something I've not really felt with anyone else before.  Contentment.  When I'm with her, I've not got the urge to throw myself into dangerous situations, and I find myself looking forward to the future.  I find myself actually envisioning a future after I fight Voldemort.”

“I'm happy for you, Harry, really.”

“And I am for you; Blaise is a nice bloke.”

“For a Slytherin?”

“Nope.  Just in general.”

“Thank you.”

“Like I said, it's all part of growing up.  We move on, make different friendships, and fall in love with different people.  All we have to do is keep hold of that link that joined us in the first place.”

“Mature Harry is a bit of a shock.”

“Mature?  I don't think I've been called that before.  I’d better pull off a prank quickly.”

“Oh, shush.  You're right, you know.  We do grow and change, but we'll never forget what made us such good friends.”

“Tell Blaise that if he doesn't invite me to be Best Man at your wedding, I'll knock out whoever he does choose and do it anyway.”

“What makes you think that we're getting married?”

“The peaceful look on your face when you're together.  He grounds you - stops you from getting too flighty and uptight.  It was something that neither Ron nor I could ever really do.  You need that, and he needs you just as much.”

“You really have changed.”

“Not that much, I've always noticed this sort of thing.  It's only recently that I've been given the confidence to say them to people.  Well, maybe not all people, but Padma's helping me be more open about what I am thinking and feeling.”

“Harry, you know that I love you, right?”

“I do, Hermione.”

“And I'll make it a part of the deal.  I won't say yes unless you're involved as Best Man.”

“Good.”

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.  For this.  For opening up to me, and for not getting mad at me for bringing up Ginny.”

“You're welcome.  I told you, you're family.”

“Now, will you stand up?”

“Why?”

“Because I really need to hug you now.”

“Okay,” Harry said, as he rolled to his feet, and pulled the smaller girl into a hug.

“Did you ever think it was strange that we never felt anything romantic for each other?  I mean, you're good looking, I'm okay looking.”

“Not really.  I think we both knew from the start that we were better as friends.  And of course, there was the fact that you and Ron were always together, anyway.  I had you pegged as Ron's from our second year.  And Hermione?”

“What?”

“You're much better than okay looking.”

“Thanks, you do know how to make a girl feel special.”

“Only the girls that mean something to me.  You, Padma.”

“And Ginny.”

“In a slightly different way, yes. 

“If things had been different - if I hadn't been so determined to avoid homework, and if you hadn't been so bossy about pushing me into it, and if we'd not been friends with Ron, we might have been something.  But you know, I'm kinda glad that we're not.  I like having a female friend that I can talk to about anything without worrying about the usual boy/girl crap.”

“I feel the same way.”  Hermione lightly kissed his cheek.  “I'll see you later.”

“The DA room is going to be empty tonight.  I put a lock on it, so if you want to use it, feel free.”

“Thank you.  What about you and Padma, I thought you would use it for yourself.”

“Do you really think that I would lack resources for quiet time?”

She laughed softly.  “No, of course not.  You're the great Harry Potter; mere rules and regulations aren't going to stand in your way.”

“Exactly.  Now run along before Blaise starts getting nervous at the amount of time we've spent together.”

“I feel a lot better.”

“Good.  Now go.”

“See you at breakfast.”

Harry nodded and stretched, his hands reaching above his head.

Petrificus Totalus.”

He froze in that position, as Padma walked from a side door to face him.  She looked around the Common Room, and simply said, “Everyone out.”

The students looked at her implacable face, saw that Harry was frozen, and had just seen him kissed by another girl, and vanished.  Some went out the door, others to the bedrooms.

She turned, and stalked towards him.

“Just when I think I have you all figured out, just when I think everything is perfect, you change things.  I saw everything, Harry.

“And I heard everything. 

Her face changed, and she lost the scowl.  “I love you, Harry James Potter.  I'm telling you now because I just realised it.  Do you have any idea how proud I am right now?  Of you, and because of what you said?

“I did think that the reward scheme was what motivated you, but to hear you say that you were working so hard to make me proud of you was possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever heard anyone say.  Especially to me.

“I knew Ginny still wanted you, and I was a little worried that one day you'd wake up and turn to her.  But not any more.  Hearing you talk about why you are happy with me, I was almost in tears back there. 

“But don't put yourself down, Harry.  You gave me a hell of a lot of credit for what has happened with you, and how you have changed, but I've only been responsible for a part of that.  Your growing up has been achieved by you, first and foremost.”

She reached up and lightly kissed him.  “I love you, Harry.  When I release this spell, I want you to keep my words in your heart, and then kiss me.  I don't expect you to say the words back.  I won't accept them now.  I'll accept them when they're burning a hole in your chest trying to get out.”

She pulled out her wand and cancelled the spell.

Harry reached down and slid his arms around her, pulling her closer as he leant down and kissed her lingeringly.

He stroked his hands down her back slowly, deepening the kiss, before sliding his hands up into her hair.

The door to the Common Room opened, and Ron and Luna walked in.

“You've got atrocious timing,” Padma sighed. 

“Sorry,” Ron said.  “Can I have a word with Harry, in private?”

“Of course.  Come on Luna, let's go upstairs and gossip.”

“Did you know that Ronald has a seven inch penis?” Luna asked, as she walked with Padma up to their room.  “I measured it with my wand.”

“Completely bonkers,” Ron said, a smile on his face, and a slight blush on his cheek.

“What about us poor souls who have no wish to know that sort of thing?  Ron, you're going to have to try and be more discreet.”

“Why?”

“Because the rest of the school really doesn't want to know every detail of your sex life.  And I really don’t want to have to spend an hour trying to wash the smell out of my Invisibility Cloak again.”

Ron blushed.  “Yeah, I’m sorry about that.  It was the only way…”

“Please,” Harry interrupted.  “Just don’t.”

“Okay, but the others don't seem to mind that much.”

“Well, I do mind.  You call her bonkers, and you're having a lot of sex with her.  Apart from that, what do you see in Luna?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you basing a relationship purely on sex?”

“Well, yeah.”

“And don't tell me, you're proud that everyone knows that Ron Weasley is the only person in school who is definitely getting laid on a regular basis?”

“I hadn't really thought of it like that.”

“You know people are calling Luna a whore?”

“What?  Who is?  I'll kill them.”

“Calm down and sit down while you're at it.  You're too tall to be running around ranting, and I don't want you knocking over Padma's painting, because then I'd have to make her a present of your teeth as an apology.”

“Right.  Sitting down.  It was a lot more fun before I realised that you are quite capable of following up your threats like that.”

“No comment.

“So, if you're just using Luna for sex, why are you upset that people are calling her a whore?  Surely that's what she is.”

“No she's not. She's kind and sweet.”

“I didn't say she wasn't.  But at least you do recognise there is a person there, somewhere.”

“Oh.”

“When was the last time you talked to her?”

“A few minutes ago.”

“Out of bed.”

“We...”

“Yes, I know, you rarely do it in bed.  When you're not engaged in the act of procreation?”

“Well, never.”

“You've never had a conversation with her?”

“You know what she's like - absolutely nuts.”

“So you like her for her body, but not anything else?  You're a nice guy, Ron.”

“Hey!  That's not fair.”

“Isn't it?  Do you ever think about what Luna is thinking and feeling?”

“A little, yeah.”

“Well, here's an idea for you.  What if she feels trapped?  What if she perhaps doesn't want to be so open about the intimate side of your relationship, but because she seduced you like she did, and because she knows that sex is all you have, that she's being the way she is because she's terrified of losing you if she doesn't?

“For better or for worse, she's in love with you, Ron.  You can see it in the way she looks at you, and you're treating her no better than a whore.”

“But...”

“You need to make a decision, Ron.  You need to think about what you are doing in your relationship, and if it's only sex, then you need to stop.  Now.  It's not fair to her, and it's not fair to you either, to take this any further.  But, if you do feel something for her, then you need to walk up those stairs, and talk to the girl, reassure her, and let her know that it's okay if she doesn't want to do it on Snape's desk.”

“Oh, damn.  I never thought of it like that.  But she's, you know… weird.”

“She's also a Ravenclaw, so she's obviously intelligent.  She's a pretty good fighter as well.”

“Yeah, you're right.”

“And maybe if she feels comfortable around you, she won't be as crazy, and you'll find the person behind the mask.”

“You think she's not really like that?”

“Look at her history, Ron.  A nervous, small girl, still grieving over her mother’s death, ignored and belittled?  Maybe she invented a persona to keep herself safe.”

“Oh god.  You're right.  Harry, thanks mate!  I really appreciate this, but I need to go talk to her, now.”

“Off you go then.”

He watched as Ron bounded towards the stairs, climbing the first two before they changed to a smooth slope, and he tripped and slid back down to the floor.

Harry sighed and walked over to his friend.  He grabbed him by the shoulder and lifted him up.  Without a word, he cast a spell under his breath, and floated with Ron to the top of the stairs.  He knocked on the door, and as it opened he carried Ron into the girls’ room.

Luna was in tears on the bed, Padma kneeling on the floor next to her.

Luna shot to her feet, a smile appearing from nowhere.  “I was just telling Padma about the death of the Razorbacks, it always makes me sad.”

“Luna,” Ron said softly.  “Can we talk?”

“Talk?” The blonde girl look petrified at the idea.

“I've got a very long apology to make to you,” Ron said softly.

“Come on, Padma,” Harry said.  “Let's leave them to it.”

They walked out, shutting the door firmly behind them.  With a thoughtful look, Harry waved his hand absently, locking the door from the outside, so that while they would be able to get out, no one would be able to get in.

“Harry Potter, what did you just say to Ron?”

“That he was treating Luna like a whore, and that if he felt anything for her at all, he'd get to know her as a person.  And that maybe if he looked past her façade, he'd find something else.”

“That's twice today so far that I've been proud of you.”

Harry smiled slightly and created a visible shield around her painting.  “Come on.  We need to go do something.”

“We do?  I thought we'd have the rest of the afternoon together.”

“We will, later,” he said, dragging her out of the corridor and down some steps.

“Isn't this the way to the Professors' rooms?”

“Yes.  Now what I'm about to show you, you can't tell anyone else.”

“I promise.”

“You're about to meet one of my closest friends.”

“Oh.  Cool.”

He laughed and stopped by a large statue of Godric Gryffindor in full formal regalia.  He lightly tapped its nose, and it moved aside after twisting to look at him.

“Mr Potter?  Ms Patil?”

Harry rolled his eyes and dragged his girlfriend in quickly, shutting the door behind him.

“Drop the act, Min.”

“Harry James Potter!”

He dropped heavily onto a couch, and patted the seat next to him.  As Padma sat down nervously, he said, “Min, meet Padma, the girl who is largely responsible for continuing your work at making me grow up.  Padma, meet Min, who, when she's not acting like the snotty Professor we know and love, is one of my closest friends.  And before you start, Padma can be trusted, and I'd like two of the most important women in my life to know about each other.”

“Damn it, Harry, I swear that at times you're more like your father than you can believe.”

“Arrogant and forceful?” Padma asked.

“Well, I was going to say charming, but they'd do as well.”

Harry looked from one to the other, and groaned.  “Okay, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.”

Padma lightly patted his knee.  “It's okay, I've already promised Harry that I wouldn’t reveal his secret.  I will admit to being curious as to who his mysterious friend was, especially as he's always spoken so highly of you.”

“You do understand why I have to be careful?”

Padma nodded.  “If the rest of the school knew that you might have a soft spot, you wouldn't be able to be as effective a Professor as you are.”

McGonagall nodded slowly.  “I should have known a Ravenclaw would understand.” 

The Professor slowly smiled and walked over to her small kitchen.  She returned a moment later with three glasses of wine.  “I've been trying to get Harry to appreciate a good wine, but the uncivilised barbarian still prefers Butterbeer.”

Padma reached out and took a glass.  “Oh, a Scottish wine,” she sighed happily.  “I always miss this when I come to school.”

“Et tu, Padma?” Harry asked dramatically.

“Oh, shush you,” McGonagall said.  “Tell me dear, how did you recognise it?”

“It's got a very distinct bouquet.  Dad's very much into wine - not so much the Muggle kind, more the Wizarding.  He took us on a tour of Scotland's finest Magical Vineyards last summer.”

“Maybe you should try and keep her, Harry.  A girl who knows a good wine at her age is a rare find.”

“He's trying,” Padma said fondly.  “You've seen his grades?”

“I had heard rumours of a convincing reward scheme,” the Professor replied dryly.

Padma laughed, “Me too.  Till I happened to overhear my hero hear telling Hermione that he actually does it to make me proud.”

“And why couldn't he have tried to make people proud all the other years he's been in school?”

The younger girl grinned.  “He needed someone like me to bring it out of him.”

“You do realise I'm still in the room, right?”

“Of course, dear,” Padma said, patting his knee again and bestowing a radiant smile on him.

“I'm going to regret introducing you two, aren't I?”

“It depends on your definition of the word regret,” Padma said cheerfully.  “I'm not going to regret it.  I told you I would be happy to meet your friends.”

“Well, before you two really get gossiping, I did come here for a reason.”

“Oh?”

“Has anyone bet on Ron and Luna not to get expelled at all?”

“No.”

“Okay, put Padma down for that,” he said, pulling some money out of his pocket.  “And write that if she wins, all the money goes to St Mungo's.”

“Exactly what are you setting me up for?” Padma asked quietly, putting her hands on her hips.

Harry blushed and turned to face her.  “There's been a large scale bet going around on when Ron and Luna will be discovered having sex, and be expelled.  It's up to three hundred galleons.”

“Four hundred and ten,” McGonagall corrected absently.

Padma blinked, “Three times in one day, Harry.”

“Three times?” McGonagall asked.  “I seem to have missed something.”

“Three times that I've been so proud of him, I almost can't stand it.  The first time was hearing that Harry was more interested in making me proud than getting my clothes off.”  She ignored Harry's blush.  “The second was him having a deep talk with Ron, and whatever he said had Ron apologising to Luna in a very sincere manner.  And the third, was the large donation he just made to charity.”

“Ahhh,” McGonagall said slowly.  “So you now know that they probably won't be expelled, and you had me place the bet in Padma's name, so that people couldn't claim their money back.”

“Yeah,” Harry said with a slightly embarrassed grin.  “It serves people right for betting on my friends, anyway.”

“You were involved as well.”

“I know,” Harry admitted.  “But I've paid double, so I'm in the clear.”

“I must say, Harry, that when I advised you to get a girlfriend, Padma wasn't who I expected.”

“Me neither,” Harry said with a fond smile, looking at Padma.  “But she was very persuasive, and I think she's been good for me.”

“And he's been very good for me as well,” Padma interrupted.  “He's shown me things I didn't know existed.  I was terrified when he took me to meet the Acromantulas, but it was an amazing learning experience.  I was able to spot several things that were wrong in our Care of Magical Creatures book.”

“Really?” McGonagall said, leaning forward eagerly.  “Do tell.”

Harry groaned audibly, and then went quiet as Padma hit him lightly on the shoulder.  “Ignore him; he's just trying to keep his reputation intact.  He'd hate for you to think that he's actually very intelligent and noticed several things wrong himself.”

McGonagall smiled.  “He doesn't hide it very well anymore.”

“Don't you help her, Min.”

“I'll do exactly as I like, Harry.”

“What is it with me and independent women?”

The two females laughed.  “No idea.  But I'm glad you're the way you are,” Padma said with a smile.

The next hour passed very quickly for the three of them, as they discussed the giant spiders.

“Harry, wait outside,” McGonagall told him.  “I want a quiet word with your girlfriend.”

Harry nodded and left the room.  “I'll just worry outside.”

McGonagall laughed and turned to Padma.

“I do hope you're not playing with Harry,” she said sternly.  “He is very dear to me, and I will not stand by and watch as anyone destroys his confidence.”

Padma gulped.  “I'm in love with Harry,” she admitted.  “Totally, deeply.  He's the first person to ever see me as an individual, not as a twin.  And even if I hadn't been in love with him, I would have fallen in love with him today.  He's been incredible, and well, I'm hoping that I can get him alone this evening, without everyone interrupting us like they normally do.”

McGonagall tilted her head.  “You get interrupted?” she prompted.

“Well, putting Zacharias Smith and Cho Chang as Head Boy and Girl wasn't the best idea.”

“They are both good students,” McGonagall said.

“Sure, they are, and they're also completely wet.  No one trusts them with any problems, so the whole school comes to Harry.  Half the time we're lucky to get thirty minutes alone, unless it's late at night.  Everyone knows that Harry can solve problems, and that he's close friends with Professor Dumbledore.”

McGonagall laughed softly.  “I will admit that they were not my choices for Head, but their academic records did mean they were the top candidates.”  She took a deep breath and mumbled, “I never thought I'd be doing this for a student.”  She looked up at the young girl. 

“If you look at Harry's map, there's a suite of rooms on the third floor down the corridor from the Astronomy Tower.  They’re not used, as they’re normally kept for visiting Professors.  I shall allow you to use them till the end of the year.  And we'll make some more permanent arrangements next year.  I feel it’s important that Harry has a place to relax away from the pressures of who he is.”

Padma’s smile lit up the whole room.  “Thank you,” she beamed.

McGonagall nodded, “Of course, if either of your grades begin to suffer, I will end this arrangement.”

Padma nodded.  “Harry's going to pass every course, I promise you.”

“It's been nice meeting you, Padma.”

“It's been nice meeting you as a person too,” Padma replied.

“You can call me Min, when we're in private,” she said.  “We do both seem to love the same scamp.”

Padma nodded, and after receiving the password to the rooms, she hurried out.

“Come on,” she said.  “Your wonderful friend has just given us a perfect place to relax.”

“Really?”

“Yep, have you got your map?”

“I can get it.”

“Min said that it's on the third floor, near the Astronomy Tower, and that we should be able to see the place.”

Harry stopped, and then started to laugh.  “She knows about my map?  Damn.”

“She doesn't strike me as someone who misses much.”

Harry nodded.  “You're right.”  He snapped his fingers, and the Marauders Map appeared in his hand instantly.

“That's a really useful skill,” Padma said.  “Now come on, before anyone tracks us down.”

Giggling, they ran up some stairs and along a hallway. 

“Stop,” Snape yelled. “No running in the corridors.”

“Quick!” Padma yelled, pulling Harry around the corner.  “Television!” she said.

A door appeared in the stonework a little further down the hallway.  They quickly dashed in, and shut the door just before Snape appeared around the corner.

“Don’t think you’ve escaped!” they heard him yell.

Harry smirked and mumbled under his breath.

“I heard the Latin for pink,” Padma said, looking at him with one eyebrow raised.

“I might have just turned his hair pink,” Harry said.  “Although, my Latin's a little rusty, so I might have confused caesaries with callum.”

Padma laughed, and looked around the room.

“Nice.  We've got this till the end of term.  Min said that you need a place to be private.”

Harry smiled slowly and walked into the middle of the room.  With a wave of his hand, a roaring fire appeared, and he sat down comfortably on the couch.

“I'll have to do something nice to thank her later.”

Padma nodded and walked over to him.  “For now, I'm tired; Wolfie worked me really hard to day.  Why don't we have a nap, my love?”

He smiled at her tenderly, standing again.  He walked over to one of the bedrooms, kicking off his shoes along the way.

Padma followed him, and pulled off her robes, and then removed her skirt, leaving her in a long t-shirt and her underwear.  She stretched out on the bed and watched as Harry removed his jeans and climbed next to her.

He waved his hand again, and the lights dimmed, so that the flickering fire from the other room was their only illumination, the curtains blocking out the Saturday afternoon sun.

Harry leaned over and kissed her gently. 

“Padma?”

“Yes, love?”

“I'm falling in love with you.”

She smiled softly and rolled him on to his back, draping herself over his body. 

“I know, Harry.  I know.”

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Author Notes:

Another day, another piece of fanfiction, and I haven't been this concerned about a piece since, well... the Talk (my first ever piece). I've deliberately placed the bar for reading this quite high.

As I've mentioned a few times, this is a trilogy of fics, it is not a fic in three parts. Each is standalone representing a different time. This particular piece, as it's the middle, merely sets up the ending, it doesn't actually answer any questions. I don't think anyone will be complaining about this being rushed though *amused look*.

I've been talking about the style being different, and it really shows in this part. As I said before, I would advise you read closely, because if you skim read you will probably get a little confused. Note: I'm not apologising, merely explaining.

Thanks to [info]ohginnyfan, [info]pixiellie, [info]c_cliodne, and [info]elsielann for the pre/betaing, in such quick times.

And, thanks to Rachel, who's agreed to join me as my newest full-time beta, and ran through this last night, despite my slightly Slytherin behaviour towards her *grin*.

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