The Golden Thread::Book Two::Chamber of Secrets::

Love and Theft

Their afternoon of blissful forgetfulness in their tree grove ended far too soon. Once they were back in bustle of the school forgetting was impossible. Hermione woke the boys with a loud yelp that night. She'd had yet another nightmare about the monster. All five of the second year boys exchanged anxious looks. Harry and Ron weren't the only ones worried about Hermione.

Ginny was, once again, greatly affected by the attack. She cried quite a bit. According to Hermione she'd sat next to Collin in charms. The twins were dealing with the stress as they usually did..in a misguided effort to cheer Ginny up they took to covering themselves in fur and boils and scaring her as she came around corridors. They stopped when Percy told them he'd write home and tell their mum Ginny was having nightmares. The first years started wandering in packs as if they thought stragglers would be attacked.

The second week in December arrived and Professor McGonagall went around collecting names of those staying at Hogwarts for Christmas, the trio signed up. They had heard that Malfoy was staying which struck them as suspicious. They also figured that the Holidays would give them the perfect chance to use the Polyjuice Potion to try and get a confession from him.

There was a problem with this though: The potion was only half finished. They needed boomslang skin and bicorn horn and the only place they'd get it was Snape's own personal stores. Harry felt as if he'd rather face Slytherin's monster than let Snape catch him robbing his office.

What we need..Hermione thought as they laid together side by in front of the common room fire with the double potions lesson on Thursday drawing nearer Is a distraction. So one of us can slip into Snape's office and take what we need. Harry and Ron exchanged nervous glances.

You two have been in enough trouble and I have a clean record so I think I'd better be the one to do the actual stealing. She continued as casually as if she was discussing the weather So one of you has to cause enough mayhem to keep Snape busy for five minutes or so.

Harry grimaced Oh is that all? He thought. intentionally causing trouble in Snape's class was as safe as poking a dragon in the eye.

Potions class started in the usual way, Snape had them mixing a swelling solution. He stalked up and down the rows sneering at the Gryffindors while praising the Slytherins. Malfoy flicked Puffer Fish eyes at Harry and Ron who didn't retaliate for two reasons: One, they knew that they'd land themselves in detention quicker than you could say 'Unfair' and two, they were worried about what they were about to do. Snape made fun of Harry's potion which was far too runny. Hermione met his eyes after Snape had walked off to bully Neville.

Now. She thought. Harry took a deep breath, reached into his bag and pulled out a firework that he'd taken from Fred. He lit it with a prod of his wand and threw it straight into Goyle's cauldron. It was chaos. People who were splashed with the potion began swelling oddly, in the din Harry saw Hermione slip into Snape's office unnoticed.

"Enough! Quiet! Anyone who got splashed come get a deflating potion." Snape ordered. As various people lumbered forward Harry had to muffle a laugh as he saw Malfoy with a nose the size of a small melon. He then caught sight of Hermione creep back out of Snape's office. He grinned to himself. They'd done it. Once everyone who had be splashed had gotten an antidote and been returned to normal Snape walked over to Goyle's cauldron and pulled out the remnants of Harry's firework. Harry felt his stomach sink and a hush fell over the class.

"If I ever find out who threw this.." Snape said quietly "I will make sure they are expelled." He met Harry's eyes and Harry did his best to arrange his face into a properly puzzled expression.

The bell rang a few minutes later and Harry was grateful for it. The trio then headed off to Moaning Myrtles bathroom to add the new ingredients to the potions

He knew it was me... Harry thought miserably as Hermione worked on the polyjuice potion

The potion'll be ready in two weeks. Hermione reported happily

Snape can't prove you threw that firework. Ron reassured Harry What can he do?

Something foul... Harry thought bitterly. He already hates me.

It started to snow the next morning and by the time the trio had reached the common room after classes the grounds were covered in a fluffy white blanket. Ron looked excitedly out the window and then back at Harry and Hermione

"Come on guys." He said, a huge grin on his face "Let's go out and play."

Harry and Hermione didn't share Ron's enthusiastic attitude. The were still worried about all that was going on around them.

Guys..we're working on it.. Ron thought We can't do anything until the potion is ready and we can't just sit and mope around. We'll go mental. Harry and Hermione looked at each other, he was right. They couldn't make their next move yet and there was no point in being miserable while they waited. They smiled at Ron and got to their feet. Harry took Ron and Hermione's hands as they headed out of the portrait hole and down onto the snowy grounds.

They enjoyed themselves just as they had in the tree grove. They made a snowman and then started a snowball fight, laughing and joking as they threw snow on one another. As Harry and Hermione focused on each other, Harry trying to rub snow into Hermione's hair, Ron tackled them both to the ground, landing on top of them in the cold snow. All three of them blushed but Ron didn't move. He instead gave them his special lopsided grin and, without any warning, gave them both a quick kiss on the cheek and then, as if realizing what he'd just done, he scrambled to his feet and backed away from them. Harry and Hermione were both so shocked that they laid in the snow for another minute, staring at each other. They then regained their senses and got to their feet. Ron was staring at his sneakers, not meeting their eyes

Dinner's soon... He thought, sounding flustered We'll be able to warm up over some hot chocolate.

He then lead the way back into the castle. They didn't mention what happened at all that night but Harry laid awake that night staring at the canopy over the bed and thinking. Harry hadn't minded the kiss but he didn't know what to do about it..Ron wouldn't even talk about it, and besides they had bigger things to worry about at the moment and yet Harry couldn't help grinning to himself as he put a hand on his cheek. He sighed happily and finally drifted off to sleep.