Chapter 17 : The Romance Reflex
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The Romance Reflex
Although Harry was overjoyed that Ginny was no longer with Dean, his mind was often elsewhere that next week. Horcruxes of course were always on his mind, but there were some strange changes coming over Harry that he found very peculiar. He knew that as a result of his intensive training his magical skills would progress, but he wasn’t prepared for the extent to which it was happening. He was producing wandless and non-verbal magic very regularly, and usually it was without consciously trying to. He first noticed it one morning when he sat down at breakfast, and was about to pour himself some pumpkin juice. Neville reached for it first, but his elbow knocked the jug and it dropped to the floor, its contents about to spill. Harry shot out a hand and without saying anything, without even making any effort, the jug flew up into his hand, not a single drop split.
“Wow, Harry, how’d you do that!” Neville exclaimed in admiration.
“I have no idea,” Harry said, slightly dazed.
His Seeker’s reflexes, which had always been good, were suddenly phenomenal. He found that when he was practising Quidditch he could catch the Snitch in record time, and he had a strange, sixth sense-like awareness of when a Bludger was heading his way. Apart from Neville, no-one else seemed to notice it at first, but as their lessons became more demanding it became far more noticeable. Harry was excelling at Charms; Professor Flitwick was delighted with him, calling him to the front of the class to perform many spells that everyone else found hard. Ron found that rather amusing, but Hermione seemed quite disgruntled. Professor McGonagall noticed too. They were attempting to turn a large bowl of water into solid metal, which everyone was finding very difficult; turning liquids into solids was renown to be very tricky. They were taking it in turns alphabetically, and Hermione had seemed to make the most progress, her water thickening into a jelly-like consistency.
“Excellent first attempt, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall praised warmly, and Hermione beamed. When it was Harry’s turn, however, he simply waved his wand and muttered the incantation, and his water immediately turned a brownish shade and hardened. Professor McGonagall stared, and then tapped the metal. “It’s copper,” she said in amazement. “Well done, Potter. Ten points to Gryffindor. Do you think you can change it back?” Harry waved his wand again, and the metal at once liquefied back into water. Professor McGonagall stared at the water, and then at Harry. “Well done,” she said again, although Harry caught her giving him some strange looks when she thought he wasn’t looking.
The same thing happened in every lesson Harry had. Hermione was becoming more and more annoyed as Harry was asked to demonstrate the correct techniques, and she wasn’t. She’d asked Harry how he had suddenly gotten so good, and he had told her honestly that he didn’t know. It was particularly obvious in Defence Against the Dark Arts, much to Snape’s dismay. Dumbledore had asked Harry to reconsider attending his lessons, as apparently Snape had agreed to give Harry one last chance, provided Harry didn’t put a foot out of line. In Harry’s mind, he was giving Snape one more chance and, after much persuasion from Hermione, he agreed to rejoin. For this particular lesson they had been told to try and summon their wands from where they were placed on Snape’s desk across the room. Summoning charms were hard enough anyway - it had taken Harry hours to master it in his fourth year - and to do it without a wand was very difficult. They lined up against the wall on the other side of the classroom, and when Snape called their names they stepped forward and tried to summon it. Hermione was one of the first to show any sign of managing it.
“Accio wand!” she said, holding out her hand. Her wand twitched and rolled off the desk a few feet. Snape sneered.
“A pathetic effort, but better than the dismal attempts prior to this.” His eyes rested on Harry and his sneer deepened. “Potter, your turn.” Harry stepped calmly up to the line.
“Accio wand!” he said, and his wand at once sprang up and sailed across the room straight into his hand. The class broke out in applause, and Snape looked surprised for a minute before the sneer spread over his face again.
“Very good, Potter. Seeing as you are so confident, perhaps you’d like to attempt doing it silently too?” he asked, taking Harry’s wand from him and placing it back on his desk. Harry shrugged.
“Okay.” He walked back to the line and held up his hand. He closed his eyes briefly and thought “Accio!” and sure enough, his wand jumped up and glided across the room into his outstretched hand. Snape, obviously not finding anything derogatory to say, simply proceeded to the next student.
The third weekend of term was the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, which the whole school was watching; the rivalry between the two houses, and the fact that Slytherin were the biggest threat to Gryffindor meant that it was sure to be a good match.
“Good luck Ron, Harry, Ginny!” Hermione called, winding a Gryffindor scarf around her neck and hurrying to find a seat.
“You nervous, Harry?” Ginny asked, as the team stood in the tunnel, waiting to fly onto the pitch.
“No,” Harry replied honestly, thinking it was slightly strange that there were none of the usual butterflies in his stomach.
“I am,” Ron said shakily.
“No surprises there,” Ginny muttered. “Come on, there’s the whistle, let’s go.”
They flew onto the pitch to riotous applause. Harry felt the wind ruffle through his hair and relaxed, holding onto his Firebolt loosely.
“Here’s the Gryffindor team led by Captain Harry Potter, also known as the Chosen One…but will that help him here?” The pompous voice of Ernie Macmillan thundered through the stadium, and Harry realised he was the commentator. He grinned, unsure why he felt so happy, so tranquil.
“Teams, take your positions!” Madam Hooch shouted.
“Good luck, Potter,” a familiar voice drawled, and Harry turned to see Draco Malfoy hovering next to him. “You’re going to need it.”
Harry said nothing, and took his position. Madam Hooch blew the whistle, and they were off. Harry soared up to the top off the stadium, his eyes scanning the pitch. For some reason his eyes were blurry. He took off his glasses to polish them on his robes, and blinked. He held the glasses up to his eyes again, and then took them away. He did not need them. His eyesight was crystal clear without them; he could see every face in the stands below vividly - he could even make out Dumbledore’s eyebrows furrow slightly as he looked up at Harry. Harry flashed a smile at the Headmaster, stowing his glasses in his pocket. He turned his head to the right, and then he saw it. The Snitch was fluttering about a hundred metres below him, a foot above the ground. Flattening himself to his broom, Harry soared down, the wind making his eyes water. Malfoy saw Harry dive and hurried after him, but he was no match for Harry. The ground sped towards him; he was so close he could see every blade of grass; he stretched out his hand…
“And Harry Potter catches the Snitch! That must be a record - twenty-seven seconds! What a brilliant Wronksi Feint! I’ve never seen anything like it!” Ernie’s voice echoed over the screams and cheers of the Gryffindors. “And yes, Professor McGonagall has just informed that it is indeed a record for fastest catch at Hogwarts - what a game for Harry Potter!”
Harry grinned, holding the Snitch triumphantly in his hand as his team mates piled on him.
“Harry that was brilliant!” Ginny cried, flinging her arms around him. Harry hugged her tightly back, but let go quickly when he saw Ron watching. He landed smoothly, unaware that Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall were watching him very carefully.
“Albus, have you noticed anything strange about Potter?”
“Strange? What do you mean, Minerva?” Dumbledore replied carefully.
“Well, it’s just in my lessons he’s so…well, he’s so good! I have never seen anything like it from a seventh-year, let alone a sixth-year! I am aware that he’s doing extra training, but surely that would not result in him progressing this fast, would it?”
“No, I don’t think it would Minerva. I have been waiting for someone to bring this to my attention. I don’t think the fact that he caught the Snitch so quickly either is a coincidence.”
“I notice he’s not wearing his glasses anymore, either. Is he wearing those Muggle lens things?”
“No, he is not. I think his eyes have just…improved.”
“But that cant just happen like that!”
“You’re right…it cannot.”
“Albus…you don’t think he might be…ill? Only I’ve read about some illnesses which encourage all magic in a person to accelerate alarmingly fast to their full potential, and after a short while there is a slump, often resulting in permanent loss of magical powers!”
There was a short silence as they watched Harry for a while, the crowd filing back up to the castle. The stadium was emptying quickly, and the team were warming down. After finishing a stretch, Harry stood up and pulled his Quidditch jersey over his head, about to change into a clean one. His exposed torso was surprisingly robust and muscular - very different from the more lean, wiry shape he had had a few months ago.
Dumbledore gave a small chuckle. “No, Minerva, I don’t think he’s ill.”
As Harry pulled his clean jersey over his head, he didn’t see Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle creep up from behind him, about fifteen metres away, a beater bat in Goyle’s hand and a Bludger in Crabbe’s. Malfoy nodded slyly and his henchmen took aim. Ginny turned her head in time to see Goyle hit the Bludger hard at Harry, but she was far too late to shout out a warning. Malfoy had obviously put some silencing charm on the bat, for it made no sound as it hit the Bludger. As Ginny and Professor McGonagall watched in horror, the ball sped towards the back of Harry’s head. Suddenly, without warning, without even knowing why he did so, Harry spun around and ducked, shooting out an arm and catching the spinning Bludger. He looked at it for a few seconds, and they looked up to meet Malfoy’s gaze, his face expressionless. Malfoy stared in surprise for a few moments and then sneered.
“Lucky escape there, Potter. Good thing Weasel’s sister was there to warn you.”
“I didn’t warn him, Malfoy,” Ginny said coldly. “Perhaps if you spent longer training instead of cheating, your reflexes might be that good. But I doubt it.”
Malfoy’s face darkened and he pulled out his wand, quickly shooting a hex at Ginny before she had even had time to pull hers from her robes. However, he had forgotten Harry. Harry had drawn his wand the second he had seen Malfoy’s fingers twitch towards his robes, and without speaking had produced a shield that covered both he and Ginny. It was so strong that it was not only visible, but it actually produced its own breeze, a gust of magic that swept through the stadium, ruffling the remaining people’s hair. Professor McGonagall gasped, but Dumbledore remained silent, watching carefully.
“I’d put your wand away if I were you, Malfoy,” Harry said calmly, his face still impassive. Malfoy looked utterly dumbfounded.
“Ten points from Slytherin Mr Malfoy!” said Professor McGonagall angrily, hurrying down from the deserted stands. “Completely unprovoked Bludger attack! Thank goodness Potter had the sense to duck; you could have done serious damage! Up to the castle, now!”
Malfoy scowled, but swaggered away, followed by Crabbe and Goyle. The look of surprise was still on his face. McGonagall turned to Harry. She seemed slightly lost for words.
“Well, Potter. Good game,” she managed, hurrying away again towards Dumbledore.
“What’s up with her?” muttered Ginny, as they walked up to the castle.
“Dunno,” Harry shrugged.
“Well, thanks for your shield anyway, Harry. That was a pretty impressive piece of magic just there.”
“Thanks,” Harry said with a small smile. He felt very strange, very removed from everything, as if he were merely an onlooker, observing his life from someone else’s point of view. He felt stronger, more confident somehow. It was this strange sense of confidence that made him turn suddenly to face Ginny. “Why did you break up with Dean, Ginny?”
She blushed. “Just…you know…it didn’t really work out.”
“Hermione said it was because you liked someone else,” Harry said steadily. Ginny said nothing, but turned even redder.
“Do you like me, Ginny?” Harry asked suddenly. Ginny looked away and said nothing. Harry put his hand on her chin and tilted her head up so she was looking at him again. “Do you like me?” he repeated, looking at her intently. She said nothing for a moment, and then took a deep breath.
“I’ve always liked you, Harry,” she said, very quietly. They stared at one another for a while, and then a ghost of a smile flickered over Harry’s face.
“Good,” he said softly, and without thinking that Malfoy was just a few metres ahead, without thinking of Ron, or Dean, he bent his head and kissed her. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and she responded by throwing her arms around his neck.
“Well, Minerva,” Dumbledore said with a chuckle, as he and Professor McGonagall walked up to the castle, “it seems that Harry himself is not too concerned about his new magical prowess. Molly will be pleased.”
Professor McGonagall gave a sniff. “Yes, that’s all very well, but I trust you saw the incident a moment ago with Malfoy…not just Potter’s astonishing reflexes, but the strength of his shield too! It produced its own magical current, I felt it!”
“Yes, so did I, Minerva,” Dumbledore said, the smile fading slightly from his face. “It is most curious. I shall talk to him now about it. Well, as soon as he puts Miss Weasley down, that is.”
The two teachers approached the place where Harry and Ginny were still kissing fervently, completely oblivious to the fact that they were being watched by the Headmaster and the Deputy Head.
A small cough made Harry and Ginny break apart quickly. Both blushed furiously as they saw Dumbledore beaming at them, and Professor McGonagall standing next to him, pointedly looking in the other direction.
“My apologies for disrupting your celebrations with Miss Weasley, Harry, but I wonder if I could have a talk with you in my office?”
Harry nodded, his face still red. “Yes, sir.”
“Excellent, excellent. However, I don’t want to put too abrupt an end to you and Miss Weasley’s festivities, so perhaps you can come up in ten minutes or so?”
Harry nodded again, unable to meet Dumbledore’s eyes. He had the distinct feeling that Dumbledore was rather enjoying his discomfort. Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall walked past them and up to the castle, the latter giving the pair a disapproving look, although her mouth twitched as though she was trying to repress a smile.
“Well…” Ginny said eventually, sounding rather breathless. “That was embarrassing.”
Harry grinned and took her hand. “I wasn’t embarrassed.”
“Then why is your face still bright red, Mr Potter?”
Harry laughed, and then looked at her seriously. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do that, Ginny,” he said quietly.
She smiled. “Probably not as long as I have.” She raised a hand to his face. “Where are your glasses?”
“Oh,” Harry said in surprise, “they’re in my pocket. It’s weird…I don’t seem to need them anymore.”
“That’s strange. It’s a shame, really,” Ginny said breezily, “I always thought they were rather cute.”
“I can put them on just for you, if you like?” Harry suggested with a smirk
“Nah, you’re alright,” she said, taking his other hand in hers. They looked at each other for a while, each lost in the others’ eyes. Then Harry spoke again.
“What are we going to do about Ron?”
Ginny bit her lip. “I don’t know. I don’t think he’ll be that bad…he’s always hinted that he wouldn’t mind if we got together. I think he’ll just be a bit…shocked. I don’t think he’s noticed anything, you know how unperceptive he is. D’you want me to tell him?”
“No, no, I’ll do it. I s’pose I’ll have to wait ‘til I come back from seeing Dumbledore though.”
She nodded. “I can’t really believe this is happening. I thought you might like me, but…”
“I think it was pretty obvious that I liked you,” said Harry with a laugh. “Except to Ron, of course. When did you realise I did?”
Ginny thought for a moment. “I think the first time I ever thought it was a possibility was when you came into the Common Room at night, after your run, and I was the only one in it. Do you remember?”
“Vividly,” Harry said, thinking of how beautiful he’d thought Ginny looked that night.
“Yeah, I think it was then that I started to think you might…you kept trying to say something, and then you came out with something really lame like ’look after yourself’.” They both laughed. “Oh yeah, and you kept trying to look down my top,” she finished slyly. Harry blushed.
“Actually, I wasn’t! You have a freckle on your chest, for your information, that is very attention-grabbing!”
She smiled up at him. “Okay, I believe you. And then…over Christmas, when we had that row, I thought you might. Hermione insisted that you only said that thing about me going out with everyone because you were jealous.”
“I was,” Harry agreed. “Insanely. Yeah, Hermione kept saying things to me about it, saying I should get a move on and stuff.”
“Well, you should have! It’s been almost two weeks since I broke up with Dean! I thought then that maybe I was wrong, and so was Hermione. I thought maybe you only saw me as a friend, as Ron’s sister. D’you know, Anthony Goldstein asked me out the day, and I actually considered it because I didn’t think you were ever going to make a move.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t,” Harry growled, suddenly feeling an irrational dislike for the friendly Hufflepuff. “I would’ve hexed him to bits.”
Ginny laughed, and then tugged his hand. “Come on, we should go in now. What does Dumbledore want to see you for now?”
“Dunno,” said Harry, his brain still focussed on Ginny. “Probably wants to embarrass me further.”
“I doubt that’s possible. Well anyway, I’m going this way, back to the Common Room. I’ll see you when you come out.”
Harry nodded, drawing her in for another kiss. All too soon he had to break away in order not to be too late for Dumbledore. As he raced up the spiral staircase he wondered what Dumbledore wanted to talk about this time.
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