Harry looked from Ron to Hermione and back again as the other two stared at each other. Hermione's expression was nonplussed whereas Ron's was determinedly set.
The girl seemed to take a moment to process what she wanted to say, still studying the redhead as though she wasn't entirely sure who he was. "You're going to what?" she finally asked for clarification.
"Join you. For studying," said Ron resolutely. "Harry's coming, too. Right, Harry?" He shot the dark-haired boy a look.
"Um, yeah. Sure," Harry replied.
Hermione still seemed to be laboring over the fact that Ron had just willingly declared that he wanted to study without the least bit of prompting. "But…" she began cautiously, "I'm going to be helping Goyle and Crabbe."
Ron was not quite able to keep from grimacing at that, but he somehow managed a mostly nonchalant tone. "Yeah, I know. We're coming with," he stated. He shot another uncertain look at Harry. "Right, Harry?" Harry simply nodded.
The girl gave him a speculative look then nodded slowly. "Alright, then," she responded lightly. "Have you got your homework with you?" Ron patted his book bag in answer and Hermione nodded again before leading the way out of the common room. Harry fell in stop behind them.
They trekked down to the library in awkward silence, none of them really knowing what to say. Harry wasn't sure if it would be a good idea for Ron to study with the Slytherins, but his friend seemed determined to see the task through. He just hoped that Ron wouldn't pick a fight with them, especially if Malfoy was there – and he was.
"Then, you bring it around like that," the blond was explaining to his two housemates as the Gryffindors rounded the bookshelf to the study table. He appeared to have been demonstrating a tricky wand movement from their transfiguration textbook. "See?"
"No," Vince stated bluntly, frowning even as Greg gave a slow nod.
"So, you just-" he started to ask, only to be interrupted by his friend.
"Merlin, what'd you bring those two along for?" Crabbe had glanced up to see the three newcomers.
Hermione gave a somewhat strained smile – she wasn't all that sure all of them together was a good idea, either. "They wanted to study, too," she responded tightly.
"Likely story," the bespeckled Slytherin scoffed, parrying Greg's attempt to nudge his shin under the table with his foot.
Harry tensed when Ron bristled slightly. "What? You think you're the only ones who study?" the redhead demanded.
"You're only here 'cause you're worried about Granger," Vince accused.
Ron sputtered a bit, trying to come up with a plausible denial before giving up. "Yeah. So?" The other boy gave him a measuring glance, then let out another scoff as he reached under his glasses to rub his eyes.
"Are we going to study or glare at each other?" Draco drawled into the stilted silence that followed. "If you all don't mind, I'd rather get it done now as I have a detention to go to later."
Harry felt an irrational surge of guilt at this comment, although he was quite certain that had not been Draco's intent. If anything, his last conversation with the blond would indicate otherwise. Nonetheless, he still felt that the already awkward situation had just become a little more so.
Then, as Hermione settled down in the seat next to Goyle, Ron beside her, Draco pulled out the chair on the opposite side of his own. "Harry," he beckoned with a hand, uncertainty visible on his features despite his attempted nonchalance. Ron shot the Slytherin a look at his use of his friend's given name. Before the ginger could say anything about it, however, Harry had moved around the end of the table to take the offered seat.
"Thanks," Harry said, his irrational guilt absolved by an equally irrational relief that Draco did not seem to blame him for his ongoing detentions. It was Draco's own fault, after all, and Harry still had to bear the consequences for the other boy's actions back then. Why should he feel guilty? He knew that he shouldn't, not even a bit. Sometimes his brain made no sense.
And with that, the six students settled in to studying, Hermione and Draco quietly explaining something to Greg or Vince when one of the boys found they were having difficulty. Ron took his turn at asking Hermione for help, as well, although both he and Vincent were clearly wary of asking for help in front of the other.
They continued on in this way for some time and it turned out that, despite his struggling performance, Greg was rather quite studious when he put his mind to it. It certainly helped that he was now receiving special tutoring to overcome his learning disability. Vince, on the other hand, was not the least bit inclined to studiousness, at all. Neither was Ron, for that matter. Perhaps that is how the two of them had ended up talking to one another rather that plying their attention to their school work.
It had started with Ron doodling in the margin of his textbook instead of reading it. More or less across from the redhead, Vince had begun to play with his glasses, amusing himself somewhat by changing the way they rested on his face and altering his perception of the books on the shelf opposite him. Vince grew weary of his actions first and finally dug into his bag to pull out a Quidditch magazine. Draco's own attention wavered for a moment before he resolutely shook his head and dragged his focus back to his studying.
Ron was less successful at this. "Blimey, is that the newest edition?" he questioned, leaning forward a bit in his chair, a note of longing in his tone.
"What of it?" Vince answered gruffly, getting a blurry view of the Gryffindor over the rim of his glasses.
The redhead seemed to remember who he was addressing and slouched back in his seat. "Nothing," he mumbled. "It's just one of my favorites, is all." Which was a bit of an understatement, as Ron had read every edition of said magazine he was able to get his hands on for any length of time. Considering his general dislike for reading, this was quite an accomplishment.
Vince tilted his head back to look at him through his spectacles, which had slipped down his nose a bit. His eyes narrowed speculatively. "You like Quidditch?"
"Like it?" Ron practically sputtered. "I love Quidditch. I know practically anything you could want to know about Quidditch."
The Slytherin seemed to take this as a challenge, for the boy straightened in his chair and put his magazine down on the table. "Yeah?" he said, leaning forward. "Well, did you know before the snitch, they used to catch live birds called snidgets?"
This was met with a scoff. "Doesn't everyone? That's as obvious as saying the name 'Quidditch' comes from 'Queerditch Marsh'."
"Right. So you actually do know a thing or two, but did you know that…"
Hermione shot them an impatient (and somewhat bemused) look as they continued back and forth, trying to come up with something the other didn't know. Greg rolled his eyes and tried to continue with his studying, asking the girl to explain something he was having trouble with. For his part, Harry found the conversation interesting enough. Especially after the other two had stopped trying to outshine one another and started to mention random facts and details that couldn't be found in Quidditch through the Ages. Draco looked amused, although he pretended he was still doing his reading instead of listening in.
After a few minutes, however, the two seekers found they couldn't help but join in the conversation, and a moment later, Greg also gave up his attempts at studying. Only Hermione was not interested in the topic, but found the talking too distracting to even pretend she wasn't listening.
"Well, he does hold the record for the most consecutive goals by a single player," Ron was stoutly defending on of his favorites.
Vince snorted. "Not anymore he doesn't. Madge Wildreth just broke it."
Before they could get into it further, Draco had checked the time and was alarmed to find he was about to be late to his detention. "I gotta go," he exclaimed, hurriedly stuffing his belongings into his bag and departing.
"Wait, does that mean I can leave, too?" Vince called after the blond, forgetting that being present for a study session was technically something he'd done of his own free will. "If Malfoy's leaving, I'm leaving, too." He addressed this last part to Greg, who just shook his head at his antics.
"My head hurts, anyway," his housemate sighed, raising a hand to rub at his temple. He turned to look at Hermione. "Is it okay if we finish this another time?"
"Of course," Hermione replied. "You have your tutoring tomorrow, right?"
Goyle shot a wary look at Harry and Ron, as though half expecting them to make sort of comment about said tutoring. "Um, yeah," he answered. "I do."
"Then, how about we meet to study again the next day?"
The boy nodded and started gathering his things together. "That'd be good. Thanks, Granger." Crabbe had already shoved his books into his bag and stood waiting for his friend, who soon joined him. He hesitated as though he wanted to say something else, before thinking better of it and leaving without another word.
"Well?" Hermione turned to Ron once the Slytherins had gone. "Still worried about my studying with them?"
"Yes," Ron responded emphatically. "Crabbe thinks that Madge Wildreth holds the record for the most consecutive Quidditch goals by a single player during a game. I mean, she's a great chaser, but she's not that great. What if his daftness is catching? Then, what would you do?" Despite the absurdity of his words, the boy's expression was earnest.
"I don't think I have anything to worry about," the girl responded dryly, starting to gather her own books together. "After all, I haven't caught your daftness, yet."
Harry gave a laugh before he could stop himself, clapping his good hand over his mouth to prevent any more from escaping. Looking affronted for a moment, Ron finally shook his head and gave a small grin.
"Fair enough," he allowed, then added a bit reluctantly, "And I guess I do feel a bit better about you studying with them. Even Malfoy. Though… that reminds me…" Ron shot Harry a puzzled look. "Since when does Malfoy call you 'Harry'?" Hermione looked like she would also like the answer to this.
"Oh, well, I told him he could," Harry answered, picking at a strap on his wrist brace. "He was getting a bit confused about calling me Potter when I'm really… well. You know. So I said he could call me Harry, instead."
"But it's Malfoy," Ron stated flatly.
"Ronald…" Hermione began.
The dark-haired boy shrugged a shoulder. "I know," he said.
"And you're really okay with that?"
Harry carefully contemplated this before nodding his head. "Yeah. I am."
Ron still didn't look quite convinced as he looked at his friend for any sign that he was being less than honest. After a long moment, he nodded as well. "Okay," he said. He didn't quite understand it – it was Malfoy's fault Harry's hand was injured, after all – but if Harry had decided it was okay to let the other boy use his name, then there probably wasn't much he could say to change his mind. Besides, Harry had been right to give Snape another chance, and his friend was clearly happier for that decision.
"Are you coming back to the common room for a bit, Harry?" Hermione asked.
He shook his head. "Maybe tomorrow night," he replied. "I'm just going to head back to my room for tonight."
"We'll walk with you, mate," Ron offered.
"Alright," Harry agreed. And gathering up the rest of their things, the three friends headed down to the dungeons before parting for the night.
They were at breakfast the following morning, Ron somehow managing to peruse the sports section of The Daily Prophet while shoving food into his mouth at a worrisome pace without dropping any down his front. Hermione looked like she was trying not to fall asleep in her tea after having stayed up too late reading a book she had borrowed from the library. Harry's attention was divided between taking distracted bites of his eggs and toast and studying his hand with renewed interest. That morning, he had noticed that he had at some point developed sensation partway along some his fingers, so he was idly testing this returned feeling by lightly poking at them with the back end of his fork. It felt… weird, but he definitely felt it, even if his fingertips were still numb.
Harry started when Ron's spoon abruptly clattered to his plate. Hermione had also jumped, hissing mostly in surprise when she splashed tea on herself. They boy turned to the redhead, whose mouth hung open as he gaped at his borrowed newspaper in shock.
"He was right," he murmured faintly, blue eyes blinking rapidly. "No bloody way… How could-" He broke off, half rising from his seat as he turned to peer over to the far side of the Great Hall. "How could he know that? There's no way… The results of yesterday's game didn't even come out until today!" Ron's tone was somewhere between reverent and indignant.
"Um, Ron?" Harry arched an eyebrow at his friend, not wholly aware he was doing so. "What are you on about, mate?"
"Crabbe!" exclaimed Ron as though it were perfectly obvious. "He knew Madge Wildreth broke that record, yesterday, but the Harpies' game wasn't even broadcast on Wizard Wireless! It wasn't a big enough game. It wouldn't have come out before today. How could he have known that?! You don't think he's a seer or something, do you?"
Hermione, despite her lack of enthusiasm for the sport, frowned thoughtfully at this. "No, I'm sure there's a more logical explanation," she said decidedly. "That is rather curious, though."
"Curious! I wanna know how he knew!"
It came as no real surprise to the other two that Ron was having difficulty letting it go. Harry himself was curious how the Slytherin knew a detail that wasn't in the paper until that morning. He wasn't quite as Quidditch mad as Ron was these days, however (being unable to play anymore because of his hand had dampened his enthusiasm considerably), so he was a bit less obsessive over the matter.
What did come as a surprise was what occurred when they went to Potions class. The three Gryffindors had arrived just as Snape opened the door to let in his waiting students. Without a word of warning, Ron pushed a bit forward through the other third years to claim a seat – right next to a nonplussed-looking Crabbe.
"All right," they heard the redhead say in a rush, "you gotta tell me how you knew about Wildreth."
Goyle, who'd been about to take said seat, glanced around the room and quickly redirected to a table on the other side. He shot an apologetic look at Harry, but sat next to Hermione nonetheless. "The professor's handwriting is a nightmare to read," he offered as explanation. "Vince can't really read it, either."
Harry glanced between the two unlikely pairs in bemusement, nor was he the only one to do so. Pansy Parkinson and Daphne Greengrass in particular looked as though they didn't know what to make of their classmates sitting with Gryffindors. The confusion on Neville's face was almost comical, and Seamus was rubbing his eyes while Dean blinked rapidly, as though suspecting they were seeing things.
None of this, however, was half so amusing to Harry as the expression on the professor's face. Snape looked like he dearly wanted to forbid this new seating arrangement, but could not come up with a justifiable reason to do so. The man's dark eyes shot warily to Ron and Vince, were by then had become engrossed in a hurriedly whispered and wildly gesticulated conversation about Quidditch. Apparently, Vince had a second-cousin that was a sports reporter who kept him up to date on exciting news.
"Harry." The dark-haired boy turned to see Draco tentatively offering him the stool beside him. Harry hurried to take it.
After a moment, Snape flicked his wand toward the classroom door to close them, which caused the students to grow quiet. Ron had looked up in surprise, having apparently missed everyone taking their seats. The redhead exchanged a leery look with his unlikely seatmate, the two boys wary of each other once more in the absence of Quidditch discussion.
The professor resisted the urge to roll his eyes and launched into his lesson for the day. It was not quite as terse as his lectures earlier in the year. After seeing Harry's increased success when given more detailed instruction, the Potions Master had begun to employ this knowledge in classes, with good result. Even Longbottom had shown notable improvement (although – the man guiltily realized – it likely also helped that he now made a conscious effort not to startle the anxious boy).
Having finished his lecture, Snape set the third years to working on their potion for the day. The man shot another wary glance at the interhouse pairs. In truth, he was not the least bit concerned about Granger and Goyle, nor was he all that worried about Harry and Draco. The other two, on the other hand…
"Misters Crabbe and Weasley," he snapped as he stopped behind the two boys in the midst of his circuit around the classroom. He didn't even try to hold back his sigh as they turned to look up at him with matching guilty expressions. It was the end. Already he could see that he would never again have peace in his classroom. Slytherins and Gryffindors getting along – how could he have been so blinded to how truly catastrophic such cooperation could be?
The Potions Master reached out to take the piece of parchment that had nothing to do with potions from their tabletop. "You will reserve all things Quidditch related to outside my class," he silkily intoned. He leaned in a bit closer to add, "And next time, it will be points from both your Houses."