Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Friendship’s Price :: 07 :: Semantics

07 • Semantics

Harry was beginning to look forward to the time he spent with Neville in the secret room. Neville didn’t nag him about his work, or try to constantly distract him from his work. Although Ron was getting better about tackling his assignments sooner, it was a struggle for him to balance need against desire.

Harry simply did his the moment he had an hour or two free, sparing himself the lectures that seemed to flow effortlessly from Hermione in her passion to promote responsibility and timeliness in her friends. Even Ginny came in for the occasional talk, though she was far more inclined to take her work seriously.

During Prefect meetings when Ron and Hermione were otherwise occupied, Harry either read and answered letters from Martin or sat talking about perfectly mundane things. Nothing horrible was being reported in the paper—which in itself was somewhat suspicious—and Harry wasn’t having any nightmares or visions. Harry felt almost . . . normal.

Therefore, it should have come as no surprise to Harry that something would happen to shatter his near-idyllic holiday from turmoil. A Hogsmeade weekend had been announced for October, a few weeks before Halloween. Without too much discussion Harry, Ron, and Hermione had made plans to go down together to browse the shops and have a few rounds of butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks.

Harry was sitting by the fire in the common room; the warmth it gave was pleasant. He leaned to one side as the couch dipped and looked up to see Seamus sitting beside him. He gave him a quick smile and turned his attention back to the book he was studying, only to look up again as a hand was placed on his thigh briefly.

“Yes, Seamus?” he asked politely, wondering why the other boy was being so familiar. Seamus had been hanging around a lot of late, often enough to catch Harry’s attention despite how much time he’d been putting into his homework and other commitments.

“I wanted to know if you’re going to Hogsmeade this weekend,” Seamus said.

Harry nodded vaguely and smiled. “Yeah, we talked about it earlier.”

“We? You mean Ron and Hermione,” Seamus said with a faint frown.

Harry grinned. “Who else?”

Seamus cast him a sideways look, then fleetingly touched Harry’s leg again, as though to emphasize his words. “Well, I thought I would see if you’d go down with me, you know?”

Harry blinked then let his eyes roam the room for a moment, gazing at his two best friends for a second before looking back at Seamus. “I’m flattered you’ve asked, but we already made plans,” he replied, “and I don’t want to go back on them. Look, what say you join us for lunch at the Three Broomsticks?”

“Er, yeah, thanks. I’ll think about it, Harry.” Seamus got up without another word and headed out the portrait hole.

Harry gazed around the room again, noticing several sets of curious eyes turned in his direction, and winced when his stomach gave a low rumble. He marked the page and closed his book, then stood and went upstairs to the dorm. If he seemed a little distracted when he reappeared, no one mentioned it.

Ron and Hermione joined him on his way to the Great Hall for dinner. Stuffed full an hour later he grabbed the bag he’d brought down and headed up to the library after a quick explanation to his friends; a paper had been assigned in their Apparition Theory class and Harry felt that the required text was not expansive enough to provide sufficient information.

Browsing among the less used cases in a back corner, he was fairly uninterested in his surroundings until footsteps caught his attention. Not wishing to be disturbed, he ducked back into the shadows silently and waited.

Seamus came into view, followed almost immediately by Hermione with Ron in tow. Harry stayed hidden as his friends caught up to Seamus, and watched as Seamus seemed to give a sigh before sitting down at a nearby table.

“What’s up?” Seamus asked.

Hermione pinned him with a frank stare. “We were curious. Were you . . . flirting with Harry earlier?”

“I asked if he’d go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend. Why?”

Hermione shifted. “So you asked him out?”

Seamus glanced over at the silent Ron before answering. “Yes, I did. Is there a problem or something?”

She smiled slightly. Condescendingly, Harry thought to himself, and frowned.

“Well, not a problem exactly. But really, Seamus. Harry? Harry couldn’t possibly be interested in boys. That’s just silly. I’d hate to see you go after him just to get hurt.” She reached out and patted his hand gently.

“I see. Is this because you don’t agree with it, or because you know for sure that Harry is completely straight?” Seamus asked as he pulled away from her touch.

“Honestly, Seamus. What I think about it doesn’t mean anything. And we all know he likes girls. Think about Cho. No, I’m sure he’s straight. You shouldn’t set yourself up for a fall, that’s all.”

Seamus’ eyes narrowed as he asked, “Does Harry know you’re talking to me about this?”

She laughed lightly and said, “Oh, no. I’m not even sure where he is. Though, since I don’t see him around here I guess we’ll go look in the common room. He probably already found what he was looking for and left.” She gave him another smile before grabbing Ron’s hand to tug him away, letting go as they rounded a corner.

Harry stayed in the shadows until Seamus finally stood and left, trying to decide if he was angry or not. Granted, he didn’t think of Seamus in particular that way, but it was upsetting to realize that one of his best friends would go behind his back to warn off any boys, not to mention her automatic assumption that he was straight. For all she knew he could like both.

He couldn’t tell about Ron. His silence and expression had given him little clue as to what the redhead was thinking. With a sigh of his own he stepped from the shadows and went back to checking the shelves. He spoke an absent greeting as Neville walked by a moment later.

*

After doing their level best to denude the local shops of anything interesting with the money they had to hand, Harry and his friends lugged their bags to the Three Broomsticks and paused long enough to spot an empty table. Once they sighted one, they made a beeline for it and slipped into chairs with sighs of relief.

Rosmerta arrived a moment later and asked for their orders, but before they were finished, Seamus walked up behind her, smiled at everyone, and slipped into the seat beside Harry.

“Glad you could come. We were just ordering lunch.” After giving Seamus a grin, Harry gave up his own order, then looked at him expectantly.

Seamus turned to Rosmerta and ordered as well then said, “You have a lot of bags. Looks like you got plenty in the shops. Must have been good fun.”

“I thought so,” said Harry, “but I’m not sure I need half of what I bought. I did get a new watch though.” As he showed his wrist to Seamus to display the timepiece he noticed Hermione frowning out of the corner of his eye.

And Seamus admired it, letting his fingers linger on Harry’s skin as he brought the watch closer. “It’s very nice,” he finally said, letting go. “Perhaps I shall buy one for myself.” It was more of an afterthought on Harry’s part to realize his actions, or lack thereof, might have been misleading.

Rosmerta arrived then with a tray and deftly deposited plates and bottles before each of them, then swept off briskly. Everyone dug in and the conversation flowed. But throughout it all, Harry noticed that Hermione was acting stiffly and kept shooting dark looks at Seamus, who was becoming more and more quiet as the meal progressed.

By then Harry was getting a bit annoyed himself, so he switched his focus to polishing off the remainder of his sandwich. Ron and Hermione had not yet finished by the time he polished off the last of his butterbeer. Harry summoned up a smile and said, “I think I’m going to head back up.”

“We’re almost done, Harry,” said Ron. “If you want to wait a little. . . .”

“It’s all right. Don’t rush on my account. Besides, I know you wanted to go back to Honeydukes. I’ll see you at practice if not before then.” Harry nudged Seamus’ foot with his own as he gathered up his bags, then stood and left.

Out on the street he waited about thirty seconds and was joined by Seamus. Together they walked back up to the castle, with Harry saying, “Look, I’m sorry about that.”

Seamus gave him a sharp look.

“I’m not quite sure what happened back there. Still, I’m glad you joined us. It’s nice to get to know more people better.”

After a sidelong glance Seamus said, “How much better?”

Harry shrugged and replied, “Oh, you know. Like Ginny. I always just thought of her as Ron’s little sister, but now that I know her better, I know what a good friend she can be. It’s always nice to make new friends, right?”

Once they passed through the gate onto the school grounds Harry asked Seamus his opinion of the Apparition class. That lasted them all the way to the main doors, from which they walked in relative silence to their common room, where Harry paused beside Ginny’s chair to ask her to make sure he didn’t miss practice as he was going to take a short nap.

Then he nodded to Seamus and dashed up the stairs to the dorm, stowed his bags in his trunk and lay down.

*

Harry came away from practice sweaty, tired and preoccupied. Flying was generally a good way to get his mind off things, but with both a reserve team and two new chasers to chivy into shape, he’d found his mind wandering to the events of the past few days.

He’d finally snapped out of it when Ron had yelled at him one time too many, but now that he was on the ground his thoughts wandered back. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to say anything. He didn’t much care for confrontations with either of his two best friends.

He understood that Hermione was a little stressed. Her devotion to academia was practically legendary and for her it was likely she was already considering a revision schedule for their NEWTs the following year. But she had never before directly intervened in matters of the heart.

She’d given him advice on Cho, but that was to his face, and in a fairly casual, or even cryptic manner. He assumed that Ginny had spoken to her willingly, but now he was not so sure. And to find that she would, based on her own preconceptions, place herself in a position to tell people whether or not they could or should flirt with him was more than a little shocking.

He got up to the tower and through a shower in a haze of conflicting impulses, and down to dinner by keeping Ron’s bright hair in his line of sight, even though he wasn’t paying attention to where they were going.

He did, however, notice that Seamus sat well up the table and on the same side. Whether it was so that Harry could not catch his eye, or so that Seamus could keep an eye on Hermione, he didn’t know, and was not about to ask to find out.

*

Harry didn’t sleep that well, and in consequence woke early, still tired, and a bit surly. After stopping in for a wash he grabbed his bag and headed down to breakfast, silent as a tomb as he mechanically ate breakfast. He left just as his friends arrived in the Great Hall, giving them a half-hearted wave before continuing on to the library.

It wasn’t yet time to meet Neville, and he’d put off finishing his Defense essay because of Hogsmeade and practice the day before. Dutifully, he set about to correct the unfinished state of his homework.

Some time later on Harry’s focus was first disturbed by footsteps, then shattered when Hermione dumped her books on the table he was sitting at. A moment later, Ron also dropped his things, and both sat down. Ron looked rather weary, but given their location and presumed intentions, Harry didn’t find that to be strange.

Hermione smiled, apparently pleased that all of them were sitting there about to work, and immediately flipped open one of the books she’d brought.

For some reason, that irritated an already tired Harry. He coughed.

She looked up, concerned. “Is there something wrong, Harry? You aren’t coming down with a cold are you,” you said accusingly.

“Yes, actually, now that you mention it, there is something wrong. Do you normally make a habit of being unkind to people I invite to lunch?”

She blinked at him and said, “What are you talking about?”

He raised his brows in disbelief. “Does the name Seamus ring any bells?”

“Oh, him. Really, Harry, don’t be silly. Don’t you realize he was asking you out?” She smiled again and patted his hand. “Well, no, you wouldn’t, but he was. Naturally I took care of it for you. I thought it was quite rude of him to show up for lunch. I suppose I might have been a little testy about it, but I’m sure you understand.”

After a glance at Ron, who was suddenly quite intent on examining the ceiling, Harry gave Hermione a thin smile. “You took care of it for me.”

“That’s right, Harry. So nothing to worry about.”

“I’m just curious, so I hope you’ll answer something for me. You think Seamus was asking me out, right?” She nodded. “And you thought it was rude of him to show up, which says to me that you spoke to him, on my behalf of course, when I wasn’t around. Correct?”

“Well, yes, I did.”

“So you warned him off, and when he showed up anyway because I’d invited him, you were rude to him.”

“If you insist on putting it that way. . . .”

“I think I do, actually. I know you were only trying to do what you thought was right, Hermione, but what I fail to understand is what caused you to step in for that specifically. Is it because you just don’t like Seamus, or because he’s male?”

“I’m not sure I see what you’re getting at, Harry. I told Seamus he was wasting his time, so I don’t understand why he came in spite of that.”

“Perhaps because he likes me as a person? Perhaps he took what you said to heart, but came anyway because he liked being around me even if he thought I wouldn’t date him?”

Her eyes widened for a moment. “Well, of course, Harry. I never meant to imply you weren’t a nice person or that people wouldn’t want to spend time with you.”

“All right. So if that’s not the problem, then what is? Do you not like him specifically, or is it because he’s male?”

“I don’t see how that matters, Harry. I made a mistake, that’s all. I won’t do it again.”

Harry clenched his jaw and glanced at Ron again, who had slipped a book open and was for all intents and purposes deeply engrossed in it. Harry wondered if Ron was trying to avoid getting involved, or if he was perfectly happy to let Hermione do the talking for both of them.

“That’s fine. We all have our little secrets. I can understand you not wanting to reveal yours.” Harry was willing to just let it go at that point, but she spoke again.

“Honestly, Harry. I never said I disliked Seamus.”

Harry gave her another thin smile. “By default that means you object to his gender.”

“I never said that.”

“All right,” he said and turned back to his work. When Hermione apparently took that as a close to the conversation and began reading, Harry scratched out the remainder of his essay in silence, taking care not to let his anger get in the way of what he was writing.

A short time later he capped his inkwell, closed his book, and started packing his things. “I need to stretch my legs, so I’ll see you guys later,” he said quietly, receiving nods from each of them. He stood and walked off toward the secret room, ducking behind the first bookcase he came to and pausing to growl softly, then continuing on.

*

Harry sat down heavily, dumping his bag on the floor. He took deep breaths and focused on calming himself. When that wasn’t quite enough he pulled the map from his bag and started watching the little prints move about the castle and grounds, finally zeroing in on the library itself.

Hermione and Ron were where he’d left them, and Neville was slowly making his way toward their hiding place. Harry put the map on the table and pulled out the traditions book and opened it to the table of contents to skim through and see what was coming up for him to read.

Harry was looking with interest at a particular entry when Neville crawled through the opening with an uncertain look on his face. He found a chair near Harry and sat down, looking rather nervous and out of sorts.

“Is there something wrong?” asked Harry, feeling quite a bit more relaxed.

“M-maybe. I—”

“You don’t have to say if you don’t want, Neville.”

“No, I suppose I should. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with Hermione, you see, and I get the feeling that you were pretty angry with her.”

Harry’s eyes widened slightly before he looked down. Giving Neville a sideways look he said, “Yes, I was. I still don’t like to criticize a friend, but she went too far.”

“Warning Seamus off?”

“That. And being rude. And acting like it was the natural thing to do. I bet she’d never think of warning a girl off.”

“So you think she’s against gays?” Neville asked with wide eyes.

“If you heard the whole thing then I expect you’d think so. I certainly do.” Harry thought about that for half a second and clarified. “I think she’s got a problem with it, yes.”

“Does it . . . bother you that Seamus asked you out?” Neville asked, his voice muffled as he’d leaned over to fish around in his bag.

Harry shook his head. “Why should it? I was flattered, even though I have no interest in him like that. I just don’t see why Hermione had to interfere.” He rolled one shoulder in a kind of half-shrug then stabbed a finger at the page he was on. “Which brings up a question. I’ve not read the chapter yet, but I noticed this while I was waiting for you, and thought you’d be the perfect person to ask.”

“What is it?” Neville closed his bag and sat up again.

“The wizarding world’s views on homosexuality. There’s a chapter here on bonding and marriage and it made me curious.”

Neville raised his brows for a moment, then his expression turned to one of recall and thought. “It varies. Overall, the wizarding population has been quite small in comparison to muggles, so in general it isn’t condoned. But that’s only because of the population. It isn’t because wizarding folk think there’s anything wrong with it. But like I said, it varies. Some people are very against it and think it’s deviant, while most just don’t care.”

“And that’s pure-bloods?”

Neville nodded. “It usually only becomes an issue when a family has a single heir and no hope for another. I mean, imagine if Malfoy were gay.” Neville flashed a rare grin at Harry. “Of course, many pure-blood families contract for marriages, and I know those are for an exchange or consolidation of power and wealth—rarely for a genuine attachment—and I’m quite sure in those cases the person in question has, er, someone on the side, so to speak.”

Neville frowned briefly and said, “Some don’t care that they are the sole heir and do what they want, family wishes to the contrary and consequences be damned.”

“May I ask how you feel about it, or would that be too personal a question?” Harry was genuinely curious, knowing so little about Neville, and wondering how liberal he was.

“I don’t mind answering, Harry. I’m one of those who doesn’t care. Just like the length of my hair—to use an example from before—doesn’t change who I am, neither would sexual orientation, in my opinion.”

“So are there gay marriages in the wizarding world?”

“Not marriages, per se, but that’s a technicality. Marriage is really a newer concept, I think born of patriarchal religion, and because for centuries women were seen as the property of the men that kept them. But that’s just an opinion. From what I understand, marriage has become far more of an equal proposition. Same sex wizarding couples tend to be bonded instead.”

“What is the difference then?”

“Some say it’s semantics. Marriage ceremonies—traditional muggle ones at least—tend to go on about the duties of a wife to her husband, keeping in line with the idea of ownership. Bonding ceremonies are far more based on a equal partnership of two people. But, wizarding marriages very closely resemble bondings. In that sense, wizarding folk have never been as sexist as muggles to my knowledge.”

Harry was starting to suspect that confidence had been Neville’s entire problem, as he obviously had a very good mind tucked away, one that had a wealth of information to hand. That Neville didn’t care one way or the other about orientation was a bonus, not that Harry had any plans to come right out and tell him.

After all, if it was a non-issue for Neville, there was no point in mentioning it except to say he didn’t care either, which he thought he’d already managed to do. They spent a few more minutes discussing the topic before Harry tossed the book on the table and stood, stretching, before getting out his wand.

“Time to practice?” he asked brightly.