1. Chapter 1:Remembering... by prof roz
2. Chapter 2:Invitation to Fear by prof roz
3. Chapter 3:Intervention by prof roz
4. Chapter 4:The Sleepover by prof roz
5. Chapter 5:Confrontations by prof roz
6. Chapter 6:Beginnings... by prof roz
7. Chapter 7:An Awakening by prof roz
8. Chapter 8...And a Nightmare by prof roz
9. Chapter 9:Lessons of the Heart by prof roz
It was early morning in the middle of summer at Little Whinging; the birds were just starting to greet the day. At Number four, Privet Drive, a dark haired young man was doing sit-ups, his breath coming in short gasps with his exertion. Harry Potter wasn’t sleeping. He couldn’t, so he was trying to exhaust his body to the point of dreamlessness. Harry collapsed back on the floor, his muscular chest heaving. He mopped his unruly hair out of his eyes and stared at the ceiling, listening to his heart beating. All too quickly though, the image of Dumbledore came to mind.
Weakened and surrounded by Death Eaters…
Trying to convince Malfoy not to kill him…
The treacherous and traitorous Snape using the Avada Kedevra curse that struck Dumbledore in the chest...
The pain of knowing he wasn’t coming back…
Ginny crying on his shoulder….
The times they spent together, her soft lips…
Harry groaned as he felt his chest tighten. The past three weeks had been hard. Every time he thought about anyone he loved, it hurt. It hurt a lot. He rubbed his chest, trying to make the ache go away.
It didn’t help.
He rolled over on to his stomach and started to do push-ups.
One…two…three…four… four Horcruxes…
Up, down, up, down….
I need to find them…
Up, down, up, down….
I need to destroy them…
Up, down, up, down….
Everyone was counting on him to end this war…
Up, down, up, down….
He suddenly realized that his arms were shaking from the exertion and he collapsed on the floor. Harry rolled on to his back to let the floor cool him down as his bare chest heaved with his heavy breathing. He lay there for a few minutes before sitting up. He glanced out the window and saw the sky was becoming lighter with the rising sun. Harry sighed and got up off the floor and went and stared out the window. He had found that muggle exercise had helped at times to make some of the pain go away. He missed being able to fly, since that’s how he used to forget about his worries. He smiled dourly at that thought.
He would be at the age when he would be considered a man in the Wizarding world. He had thought about how he was going to say goodbye to the Dursleys. He smiled grimly to himself as he envisioned himself flying away with his trunk behind him in broad daylight, his uncle a lovely shade of purple…
Or maybe he should just zap Dudley one last time….
Harry sighed. He reached over and pulled a shirt from the back of his chair and pulled it over his head. He found his pants where he had thrown them the night before and finished dressing. Harry picked up his trainers and very carefully opened his door. It was still early, and he didn’t want to wake any of the Dursleys yet. He snuck downstairs to the front door, making sure he missed the creaky steps. Harry put on his shoes before quietly closing the front door behind him. He liked the early mornings. It was always quiet. He began jogging once he hit the end of the driveway. He had only gone a block from the house when he heard the distinct crack of someone apparating behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw bright pink spiked hair bobbing towards him.
“Wotcher, Harry,” Tonks grinned.
Harry merely nodded and kept running. They jogged for several blocks; Harry didn’t seem to have a destination in mind, but he wasn’t surprised to find himself at the park. Harry remembered coming to this park a lot during another summer so long ago…
He slowed to a walk and ambled over to the swings to sit down. He leaned against the cold chain and let his hands fall into his lap as he closed his eyes. He heard Tonks go over to the water fountain and get a drink. She came over and sat down in the swing next to him, using her toe to slowly rock the swing. They were quiet for a while, both contemplating their own thoughts.
“Why have you been pushing yourself like this for the past three weeks? Is it Dumbledore?” Tonks finally asked quietly.
Harry was so deep in his own thoughts that he startled at the sound of her voice. He opened his eyes to stare at her.
“You need to let go, Harry. There wasn’t anything you could have done differently,” she said.
“I…I can’t, Tonks,” he murmured. He could feel the lump already forming in his throat as his feelings rushed back to his exhausted body.
She sighed and slid off the swing to kneel on the ground in front of him. She placed her hands over his. They felt warm and comforting to Harry.
“You are not alone, Harry,” she said quietly as she looked up. “You will never be alone. Talk to me. It may make you feel better.”
Harry fought down the lump in his throat, trying to push past the pain. He looked up at the clear blue sky, blinking back the tears that seemed to constantly be threatening to fall. He felt vulnerable, sitting on the swing like that nieve 11 year-old boy so long ago. Tonks sat quietly, waiting, just holding his hands.
“It hurts, Tonks,” he said as his voice cracked. "It hurts a lot. I wake up every morning and the pain is there. My chest feels like it’s going to burst. I can’t think about the future because my past is overwhelming me. Everyone I care about either dies or gets hurt. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” Harry bowed his head and whispered, “It just hurts too much.” He let the tears coarse freely down his cheeks.
Tonks stood up and put her arms around him. It had been a while since anyone had held him like this. He was expected to be the strong one, the Chosen One, the Boy Who Lived. He leaned against her and let the pain go. His arms went around her waist and he pulled her closer, crying uncontrollably. Tonks murmured words of sympathy, and stroked his hair. Harry took it all in, grateful that she cared about him. They stayed like that until Harry was able to compose himself, and then he sat up. He wiped his face and gave her a weak smile.
“You must think I’m pretty weak,” said Harry, his cheeks burning. He certainly didn’t feel like a grown man in control of his feelings.
“No,” said Tonks. “I think you have turned into an incredible young man who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. And,” she said as she looked at him slyly with an impish grin, “ you are fairly handsome to boot!”
Harry blushed. She grinned at him and held out her hand. He took the hand she offered and she pulled him off the swing. They began to walk through the park, hand in hand; reminiscing about some of the things they had been a part of, and talking about Lupin. By the time they got near the Dursleys, Harry was feeling a bit better. Tonks stopped as they got to the end of the alley.
“Harry,” she started, “ What I said before is true. You are not alone. We all care for you a lot. Dumbledore…” she stumbled a bit at the mention of his name and took a deep breath. “ Dumbledore loved you like a son. He would have done anything for you,” she said quietly.
“Yeah, like leave me alone to face Voldemort,” Harry said angrily.
“Harry,” Tonks chided gently, “No one could have predicted what was going to happen on the tower that night.”
“I tried to warn him,” Harry said. “He didn’t listen to me.”
Tonks smiled. “Dumbledore saw the good in everyone, including Malfoy. I’m not trying to make excuses for what he did, but without all the information that Dumbledore had, how can we really and truly judge what happened?”
“So you think I should find Malfoy and tell him ‘no hard feelings’,” Harry said stubbornly. He wanted to hold on to the anger. It kept the pain away.
Tonks shook her head in frustration. “I’m not asking you to forgive just yet, but this ‘poor me’ attitude is beginning to wear a little thin. There are others who are grieving just as much or even more than you are, and yet, they are worrying about you. Have you even thought about how his closest friends and family are feeling? Many of them are still preparing to fight.”
Harry stood dumbstruck. He hadn’t thought…He was angry with Dumbledore for dying when he needed him. He didn’t even know Dumbledore had any family…
“I… I never thought about it. I…this is crazy!” Harry threw his hands up in frustration.
He didn’t want to feel sympathy for anyone else. Didn’t they understand the position he was in? There was nothing to stop Voldemort now from trying to kill him and take over the Wizarding World. He wasn’t strong enough to stop him on his own. He needed Dumbledore…
He could feel his anger building again.
“He was the only wizard that Voldemort was scared of! He doesn’t fear me! There is no one to stop him now! NO ONE! He could take over the Wizarding world and there isn’t anyone to get in his way!”
“He may not fear you yet, Harry,” said Tonks quietly, “But Dumbledore knew. He knew that it would be up to you to get rid of Voldemort, not him. You will stop him, Harry, because you have to. Dumbledore was tired, Harry. He wasn’t able to heal himself as well anymore. You saw that. He wasn’t a spring chicken you know.” Tonks smiled wistfully. “Harry,” Tonks sighed and put her hand on Harry’s chest. “He is here. He will always be here to guide you. Just like Sirius, and just like your parents, and if you lose your way, we, all your friends and I, will be there to guide you back to the right path. Harry…” she hesitated. “I want to show you something.”
Harry looked at her and she smiled.
“You have grown so much there past two years. So tall and handsome.”
Harry blushed. She stood up on her tiptoes and looked him in the eye.
“I want you to feel something,” she said. “Look inside yourself.” She took his face in her hands and kissed him gently on the lips.
Harry’s eyes went wide and he inhaled sharply. Suddenly, he felt a tingle. It started in his chest and seemed to spread. He closed his eyes and sensed the warmth that was now spreading through his body. Tonks pulled away and Harry felt the tingle linger for a moment and then slowly disappear.
“Wh…what…” he stammered, “What was that?”
“That, Harry, is love, my love for you. As a friend of course, since my heart belongs to another, but that’s your power, Harry. If you can find the way to unleash that power, you will be the most powerful wizard alive,” she smiled at him.
“How do you know all this? How do you know its true?” he asked.
“Everyone has the power in them,” she shrugged. “For you, it has a profound purpose. It’s just the way I see it. Now go on home, Harry. Try to rest. We can talk some more at another time. There’s a wedding in two weeks, you know. I’ll probably see you before then. And, Harry,” she said as she yawned, “Try not to do too many more early morning jogs on my shift. It wears me out,” she blew him a kiss and was gone.
Still playing with those characters even though they aren't mine...It may be a while before I can return them...
Read and enjoy!
Invitation to Fear
Harry returned to the Dursley’s just as quietly as he left. He tiptoed upstairs, making sure that he missed the creaky spots again. He figured he had time for a quick shower before he had to make breakfast, and since Aunt Petunia hated sweaty, smelly bodies in her kitchen, he didn’t want to get on her bad side. He stood under the hot water and let it run down his broad back, loosening his tense and tired muscles. It felt good just to stand there and not think. He didn’t stay that was for too long however, because he knew Uncle Vernon would berate him for using all of the hot water. He quickly finished, turning the water off and grabbed a towel to dry himself. He picked up his glasses and put them on as he wiped the mirror with his towel. He stared at the reflection in the mirror and a green-eyed stranger stared back. The eyes were sunken from lack of sleep, and the face was haggard. He hadn’t really looked at himself in a long time.
‘You look like your father, but you have your mother’s eyes…’
He had heard that so often that it was annoying. Now though, he stared at those eyes, not really recognizing them for his own. They had seen too many deaths, mirrored too much pain. Is that what his mother’s eyes looked like before she died? The eyes that looked back at him seemed dull, without any life or answers to his question.
‘You look like your father…’
He looked intently at the dark-haired young man in the mirror, trying to see what everyone else had seen. When had he stopped being a little boy? Tonk’s words came back to him as he looked at his broad chest and washboard stomach.
“You’re fairly handsome,” she had said. Was he? His hair was still as unruly as ever and he shrugged as he thought that it would never be tamed. He noticed that he had a little hair on his chest now, and…
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Hurry up! I need to get in there!” yelled Dudley, bringing him out of his reverie with a start.
Harry let out a huff of annoyance, hastily threw his pants on and grabbed the rest of his stuff while Dudley continued to bang on the door. He opened the door quickly, almost getting knocked in the face, as Dudley was about to bang on the door again. Dudley shoved him aside and pushed his way into the bathroom. He slammed the door in Harry’s face without saying a word to him. Harry felt his temper starting to rise and he took a moment to push it back down. He sighed and went to his bedroom to find some clean clothes.
Harry headed down stairs to the kitchen and started to pull out the things he needed to make breakfast. He got the eggs and bacon going, and began to set the table while the bread toasted.
Well, he thought grimly, at least one good thing has come out of being a ‘slave’ to the Dursleys; he could look after himself.
He still didn’t know what he wanted to do. Should he get a flat somewhere? He thought about it and realized he didn’t know if he wanted to be alone. He thought about Hogwarts and felt a pang of sadness. It was his real home, not the Dursleys. Even with Dumbledore gone…
He heard the crackle of the bacon and quickly turned back to cooking breakfast. Uncle Vernon would kill him if he burned the first meal of the day.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia came down a few minutes later, followed by Dudley. They didn’t even acknowledge him as they sat down in front of the food at the table. Harry didn’t care. He didn’t want to talk to them anyway. He put his food on a plate and turned to put the pans in the sink to soak, while lost in his thoughts about what he wanted to do today. He returned to the table to have his breakfast, and it was gone. He looked over at Dudley as he finished wolfing down the last of Harry’s breakfast. Harry narrowed his eyes and Dudley grinned at him.
One more week… he thought as his anger grew. He took a moment to tamper it back down.
He went back to get the eggs out and make himself some more breakfast when Uncle Vernon looked up.
“What are you doing boy?” he asked.
“Making myself some breakfast,” Harry replied.
“Oh no! You have already cooked today’s allotment of food for breakfast! Do you think I’m made of money?”
“But…” started Harry.
“No buts! You are costing us enough as it is without you cooking more breakfast!”
Harry’s temper became a red-hot flame. The lights in the kitchen began to flicker, and Aunt Petunia looked around wildly, as an earlier scene came to mind. She reached out to Vernon, intent on calming the situation.
“IF YOU WOULD KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR FAT PIG OF A SON, I WOULDN’T HAVE TO COOK MORE FOOD FOR MYSELF!” Harry yelled, his green eyes blazing.
Uncle Vernon began to turn purple and Aunt Petunia gasped and put her hand to her chest. Dudley just grinned at him; he knew Harry had gone too far by insulting their little ‘Dudders’.
“THAT’S QUITE ENOUGH!” roared Uncle Vernon. “YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO INSULT OUR FAMILY AFTER ALL WE HAVE DONE FOR YOU!”
“HA!” laughed Harry. “IF IT WASN’T FOR DUMBLEDORE…” He stopped, as Aunt Petunia gasped again, and he felt himself choking on his words as a lump formed in his throat.
“I think,” Uncle Vernon said through gritted teeth, “It would be best if you disappeared to your room, boy.”
“Fine!” said Harry as he grabbed a few pieces of toast.
Uncle Vernon started to splutter at him and Harry just turned and stared at him with cold green eyes.
“I only need to put up with you for one more week. Don’t make me any angrier than I am,” Harry said menacingly through gritted teeth.
Dudley dropped his fork as his eyes went wide and Uncle Vernon stood up suddenly. His left eye twitched as he closed the distance between himself and Harry.
“Are you threatening me, boy?” he said in a strained voice.
Harry looked at him for a moment and then shrugged, trying to look nonchalant.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” he said, as he let a small smile play on his lips.
His uncle took an involuntary step back at the look on his nephew’s face, giving Harry a small sense of satisfaction as he turned and left the kitchen munching on his toast. He went upstairs and slammed his door as he reached his room, daring his uncle to come up and confront him.
Harry flopped down on his back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He was in a foul mood again. He tucked his hand behind his head as he finished his toast. He sighed and rolled over on to his side, looking at a picture of Ron, Hermione and himself as they waved at him. He missed them.
Sometimes, he thought, I just wish I were a normal wizard. Just Harry, with parents, and a normal life…
He felt his throat tighten again, and he pushed all those kinds of thoughts from his mind with a deep shuddering breath. His eyes hurt and he was tired.
Maybe I’ll rest a moment before I go out, he thought, just for a moment. I don’t really want to stay here all day…
Harry’s eyes slowly closed as he let his exhaustion take him. Soon he was fast asleep.
He was being dragged into a large hall. It was draped in black and there were cages hanging on large chains around the outer walls. Harry could see people in them; they looked beaten, bloody and emaciated. The dim lights from the candles cast shadows everywhere; he thought he saw people standing in the back, just out of sight. He looked to the front of the hall and there on the dais, was a large chair, like a throne. Someone was sitting in that throne, dressed in black from head to toe. He couldn’t see his face behind the cowl, but he knew who it was. His scar began to burn painfully the moment they had walked in the room. As Harry got closer he could see bodies strewn across the floor, lying on top of each other, their limbs at unnatural angles. He recognized many of the faces there, and he felt sick. He saw students from Hogwarts, Tom the bartender, Rosemerta, McGonagall, Flitwick, Hagrid, the Weasley twins, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Lupin, Neville, Luna and Ginny. His heart missed a beat as he looked at her face. “Ginny,” he whispered, as he felt his chest tighten. They were all looking heavenward, with dead, sightless eyes. He was shoved unceremoniously towards the bottom of the steps and he fell to his hands and knees. He tried to catch his breath, collect his thoughts, and understand all of what he was seeing.
‘This can’t be real,’ he thought. ‘I would have known earlier…’
His thoughts trailed off as he slowly looked up towards the throne. Movement behind the dais caught his eye.
He gasped as he saw them, his chest constricted with fear. Ron and Hermione were chained to a wall, their heads hanging forward, their clothes slashed and covered with blood. They both slowly raised their heads and looked at him without any emotion, they were beyond pain. It looked like they had lost all hope.
Harry slowly stood up and turned to look at the cloaked figure sitting on the throne, as the man steepled his fingers together. He smiled, almost snake-like at Harry, the slits of his eyes glowing as he scrutinized him.
“Welcome, Harry,” he hissed, “to my new home.”
Harry looked around, but he couldn’t place where he was. It was too dark. He recognized the throne though. It was Dumbledore’s chair from Hogwarts.
“I don’t really care for the decor, and I don’t think you deserve to sit on that throne. It belonged to a far greater wizard than you,” Harry reflected, looking straight at him.
“Yes, well…” Voldemort sneered as he stroked his throat with his long fingers. “The display is just for you, Harry. You see, it is very important to me that you understand your position in all this, that you should fear me. I want to see and feel your fear. I wanted you to know who was the better man when all of this becomes mine.” Voldemort waved his arm to take in the whole room.
Harry’s head jerked up. Voldemort had said ‘when’, which means it hadn’t happened yet. He glanced around again trying to figure out where he was and guess Voldemort’s plan.
“You are feeding me your thoughts,” charged Harry looking back at Voldemort and trying to stall. “This isn’t real.”
“Very good, Harry, I never took you to be a stupid boy,” Voldemort replied. “Much smarter than your parents.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed as he said that, and he felt his anger beginning to build in the pit of his stomach.
“They were obviously smart enough to beat you three times,” he choked.
The smile slid from Voldemort’s face as he looked at Harry.
“I see you need to learn your place,” Voldemort whispered as he casually pulled out his wand.
Harry winced as he thought he knew what was coming: the Cruciatus curse. Suddenly Voldemort pointed his wand behind his throne and said “Avada Kedavra!”
A green light shot out of his wand and hit Ron in the chest. His body arched back and then went limp in death.
“NNOOO!” Harry screamed and fell to his knees, hanging his head. The tears began to fall freely down his cheeks, and he hugged his nauseated stomach as he tried to tell himself ‘it’s just a dream, it’s just a dream…’
Voldemort’s grin was almost feral as he watched Harry.
“Tsk, tsk,” he said mockingly, “is this what that all powerful magic does to you that makes you so great?”
He looked around at the death eaters in the shadows, got up from his throne and threw his arms out wide, strutting across the Dais.
“This is what, and who is going to destroy me?” He laughed, and a few of the Death Eaters laughed with him nervously. Voldemort walked over and kicked Harry in the side, causing him to gasp in pain.
“You are weak! Look at you!” He sneered. “Love makes you pathetic and vulnerable! You are not worthy of the title of the Chosen One, let alone my time or effort.”
He turned his back on Harry and walked back to his throne, haughtily wrapping his cloak around him as he did. He sat down again as Harry raised his head to look at him. His green eyes glittered with the hatred that was coursing through him.
“You will pay…” Harry vowed through gritted teeth.
“OOOH!” said Voldemort mockingly as he put his hand to his chest and raised his eyebrows. “Temper, temper, Mr. Potter, it gets you in trouble. Obviously you have not learned your place,” Voldemort taunted as he tapped his wand in his hand, his eyes flickering to the two people hanging behind him on the wall. Clearly he was enjoying the pain he was causing Harry.
“Nnooo…” Harry whispered,
“Please,” he begged, shaking his head and pleading with his eyes, hating himself, but knowing what was coming for sure this time.
Voldemort lazily flicked his wand behind him again and chanted,
For a second time a green flash shot out of Voldemort’s wand and this time hit Hermione in the chest. Her eyes went wide as her back arched and then she became limp in the chains holding her.
Harry choked back a sob as he looked at his two best friends. It was too real. Too close to the fears that he had hidden in the deepest corners of his heart. He couldn’t stand it. He felt his heart shatter and a part of him died. Voldemort laughed at him as Harry knelt on the floor in front of him.
“Oh, I can’t wait to see you again in person, Potter! I am going to enjoy breaking you over, and over again, before I take my final revenge by slowly killing you. You fool! You are so disgustingly weak. You bore me.”
With a lazy flick of his wand in Harry’s direction, he murmured “Crucio”
Harry screamed and fell to the floor into a fetal position as it felt like every nerve in his body was on fire. Spasms shook him uncontrollably, as waves of pain coursed through every limb. He couldn’t stop it. He continued to scream, and then suddenly he sat up.
He was in his bed, covered in sweat. His scar was burning intently and his face was soaked with tears. He scrambled back to the top corner of his bed and hugged his knees to himself. He was shaking uncontrollably and at that moment, felt so very alone and hopeless. He just sat there; eyes wide open, tears flowing, as he rocked back and forth for a very long time.
A/N: Thanks to all you that are reading this! If you like it, take a sec to write a comment.
As per earlier disclaimers, I still don't own these wonderful characters, I just like playing with them and don't want to give them back!
The next few days were even worse than before for Harry. He felt broken and beaten, and he was afraid to fall asleep. He slept fitfully when he did, waking often in a sweat. During the days he took to walking by himself around the park, or sitting in his room staring at nothing. He didn’t even rise to the threats of Dudley, which frustrated Dudley to no end, even when he purposefully tripped Harry in the hall.
Tonks watched Harry for three days, her heart breaking. She knew something had happened but Harry wasn’t talking. On the fourth day she had enough and went to the Burrow.
Ron was taking a nap under a tree, trying to get a break from his mum who was working them all to the bone, getting ready for Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Tonks apparated right beside him and Ron jumped with a start.
“Wotcher, Ron,” Tonks grinned at him.
“Bloody Hell!” yelled Ron, scrambling to his feet. “What did you have to do that for, Tonks? You just scared a year’s growth out of me!”
Tonks laughed and sat down against the tree.
“Looks like it would help too! You’re getting awfully tall, Ron.”
Ron flopped back down beside Tonks and looked at her sideways. Today she had spiky, platinum blonde hair with black tips. He liked the fact that she could change her appearance. It made her interesting. No wonder Lupin liked her so much.
“So what do I owe for the pleasure of this visit? I thought you were working?” Ron asked leaning back with his arms behind his head.
Tonks sobered up immediately, a pained expression was evident in her eyes.
“Its Harry,” she said quietly.
Ron sat straight up.
“What’s wrong? Is he okay? Where is he? What happened?”
Tonks held up her hands to stem the flow of questions.
“No, no,” she said, “he’s okay…I think.” She frowned. “Well, he’s alive that’s for sure, but he is troubled by something. He’s not sleeping or eating properly, Ron. He looks like hell. He won’t talk to me, and its getting worse. I think I need you and Hermione’s help.”
“What can we do?” asked Ron.
“Go see him. Try to get him to talk or at least eat!” she said.
“Okay…let’s see…I can probably get him to eat, that’s my specialty, but Hermione is the only one that he will talk to. Ginny said that he talks to Hermione because she has that empathetic thing going for her. You know, it’s a girl thing.” Ron said talking more to himself than Tonks.
Tonks rolled her eyes.
“I’ll have to contact her. We weren’t going to see each other until the weekend, since its Harry’s birthday, but I guess we could go earlier.”
Tonks raised an eyebrow at him. “Seeing a lot of her these days?” she asked with a grin.
Ron blushed. “Yes, not that it’s any of your business,” he muttered as he jumped up and headed towards the house. Tonks followed laughing.
“Tonks!” cried Mrs. Weasley when they arrived at the kitchen.
“Morning, Molly,” said Tonks, “I hope you don’t mind but I have to borrow Ron for a few days. I promise I will have him back well before the wedding.”
Molly looked terrified as she came over to where Ron was standing quietly.
“Oh Tonks please tell me it’s not for Order business! He’s so young…” she trailed off as
Ron rolled his eyes at her.
“Mum, I am seventeen now. Really!” he huffed.
“No Molly, its just Harry. He isn’t…um… feeling well, so I thought that Ron could cheer him up.”
“Oh! Of course! Anything for Harry! Here dear, take him some cookies. He’ll like that.”
She began bundling them into a small container as Ron headed upstairs to get ready. Just as he was packing his bedroll, Ginny walked by.
“What are you doing Ron?” she asked as she leaned against his doorframe.
“What does it look like? I’m packing,” replied Ron as he stuffed the last of his clothes in his bag.
“Obviously,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. Where are you going?”
“To see Harry,” was the reply.
“Oh! Wait! I’ll come too!” Ginny said as she turned to go to her room.
“No!” said Ron, “You’re not going!”
Ginny turned back to him, her eyes blazing.
“And why not? I’m his girlfriend you know,” she said, putting her hands on her hips.
“Ginny—” Ron sighed, “ It’s not a good time for you to see him. And besides, didn’t he break it off with you?”
“He only said that to protect me. He is so brave and sweet…” she sighed.
Ron just rolled his eyes. “Yeah right. He’s a bloody hero.”
“Well he is!” cried Ginny. “And I deserve to be with him! I know him the best, I know what’s good for him”
Ron snorted. “Yeah, sure you do.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Who else would know him as well as I do? I was the one he chose. We were the perfect couple. The hero and his beautiful girlfriend,” she said with a flip of her hair.
“Uh…Ginny? I don’t think that’s how Harry wants you to see him. He didn’t choose this fight. You-Know-Who did. I think that Harry just wants this to be over so he can have a normal life,” Ron said as he thought about the prophecy.
“Oh he’s better than normal. They have already named him ‘The Chosen One’. You don’t just disappear to lead a normal life after something like that. He’s famous,” she said smugly.
Ron sighed. His sister was star-struck and he was afraid that she was going to get hurt. As much as Harry was his best mate, he didn’t think that Ginny was the one for him. She was hotheaded and stubborn, and Harry didn’t need a lifetime of conflict. Then again, he did seem happy when he was with her…
“Look—Ginny, just give him some time, okay? He might change his mind after all of this is over, but right now he needs Hermione and me. Not you.”
Ginny pouted, turned and flounced back to her room and slammed the door.
Ginny was right, thought Ron as he picked up his bag. Harry will probably never have a normal life. He will always be the famous Harry Potter.
Molly had insisted that Ron finish all of the chores before he left, so it was dinnertime by the time Ron and Tonks got to Hermione’s house, and the Grangers were pleased to see them.
“Come in. Come in,” beamed Mr. Granger. “We’ve just finished dinner, but Jane has a wonderful apple crumble that just came out of the oven. You must stay for dessert.”
Seeing as Ron never turned down an offer of food, they went in. They made small talk over dessert, and Ron kept glancing sideways at Hermione.
She sure has changed in the past year or so. When did she become so pretty? Ron thought as a slight blush crept into his cheeks. I have really enjoyed spending time with her alone these past few weeks.
They had started to become closer at the end of school last year, and even though he had seen her a few days ago, he missed her company. She caught him looking at her and reached over and squeezed his hand under the table. Ron blushed even further and averted his eyes.
“So Tonks,” said Hermione finally, “What brings you here? Surely Ron didn’t hire you to chaperone did he? Drag you all the way over here just so he could have…dessert?”
Tonks snorted at that and Ron narrowed his eyes at her.
“No actually, I’ve come because of Harry,” she said.
Hermione’s smile faltered and she paled noticeably. She dropped her hand from Ron’s, which annoyed him to lose that contact with her. I wonder if she ever worries about me like that?
“What’s happened? Oh, please tell me he hasn’t left without us! He needs our help!” she said frantically.
“Like he can’t look after himself,” Ron grumbled under his breath. Hermione kicked him in the shin.
“Where is he going dear?” Hermione’s mother asked.
“Oh, wha…” Hermione stammered realizing that she and Ron were the only ones in the room who knew about the Horcruxes.
“Well…um…to buy a wedding gift for Bill and Fleur! Oh, you know what men are like Mum! They are terrible at finding the right gift.” She looked pleadingly at Ron to verify her story.
“Oh, yeah, right,” said Ron catching her eye. “Ummm, don’t know what we would do without good ol’ Hermione here.”
Tonks looked at the two of them with a confused expression on her face.
“Yes, well,” she said, thinking there was something they weren’t saying, “Harry’s a bit under the weather right now. Do you think you could leave tonight instead of waiting for the weekend? You might be able to cheer him up a bit.”
“Oh! Of course!” said Hermione, “I was already packed anyway. I’ll just be a minute.”
She went upstairs with Ron’s eyes following her noticeably girlish figure.
“Is there ever a time when that girl is not prepared for something?” he asked with amazement, appreciating the swing of her hips.
“Not our Hermione,” said Mrs. Granger proudly.
After hugs and promises to write, they left the Granger’s and found a private place to Apparate. Soon they were walking towards the Dursley’s.
Harry heard the doorbell ring downstairs but didn’t bother to get up. Probably one of Dudley’s friends. He was surprised then to hear arguing and then Uncle Vernon bellow.
“BOY! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!”
Harry sat up, feeling a little light headed from lack of food or movement. He threw his shirt over his head and headed for the stairs, not bothering to do anything with his appearance. He shuffled down the stairs and looked towards the commotion from the landing. His eyes went wide as he took in the scene before him. Tonks had her wand pointed at Uncle Vernon’s throat, and he was backed up against the re-boarded fireplace. Uncle Vernon was absolutely purple in the face and spluttering in rage. Aunt Petunia was sitting on the couch with Dudley and she was trying to protect him from their visitors, which was silly, considering the size of his girth. Ron was standing just inside the door with a look of pure rage on his face and Hermione was behind him trying to hold him back. At first, Harry was relieved to see his best friends, but then he remembered the dream and went cold. He just stood there, looking at them, the fear tightening itself around his heart.
Ron looked towards him and his face dropped. Harry looked terrible, and he didn’t look at all happy to see them.
“Blimey…” Ron said as he took in his friend’s scruffy appearance.
Hermione looked up at Harry and gasped.
“Oh, Harry,” she whispered and tightened her grip on Ron’s arm.
Tonks looked over at Harry and gave him a small smile.
“Wotcher, Harry. We were just talking about you. Won’t you join us?”
Harry shrugged nonchalantly and came the rest of the way down the stairs and into the living room, warily eyeing the scene before him.
“Now then,” said Tonks tapping her wand on her chin. Where were we? Oh yes! We were discussing the arrangements for the next three days.”
“A…Arrangement?” interrupted Harry.
“Yes. You have guests. And the Dursleys—” at this she whipped her wand up at Uncle Vernon again. “The Dursleys have graciously agreed for them to stay.” Tonks grinned wickedly at Uncle Vernon’s discomfort.
“But…” started Harry, “what if I don’t want them here?”
Hermione’s eyes went wide at that statement.
He’s scared of something. I haven’t seen him this upset and withdrawn since the prophecy.
“Harry,” Hermione said gently, “We would really like to stay with you until Saturday.”
Harry just stared at them for a moment. He felt sick. His nerves were raw and he was emotionally drained. He didn’t want this anymore. He just wanted to be alone, away from the rest of the world. He wanted to forget about all he knew, because then maybe, just maybe, the pain in his chest would go away. But he knew they wouldn’t leave him alone. It annoyed him.
“Fine,” he finally said and turned around and went back upstairs without waiting for them to follow.
“Well! That went swimmingly!” said Tonks cheerfully as she turned back towards the Dursleys. “Now, you will be polite to your guests while they are here and show them your generous hospitality for the next three days.”
“Now see here—” spluttered Uncle Vernon.
“No, you see here. Harry is going through a very difficult time. He is obviously not getting any support from you lot, since you have the empathy of a pea, so we are here to help. If you interfere in any way, I will know about it. Do I make myself clear?” Tonks snarled.
Uncle Vernon clamped his mouth shut and after a slight hesitation, nodded mutely while eyeing the wand in the enraged witch’s hand.
“Oh, and by the way, this young gentleman and lady are both of age, which means…”she looked pointedly at Dudley and smiled wickedly, “they can do magic. Don’t piss them off.”
Dudley gulped and tried to hide his huge girth a little further behind his mother. Tonks went back to where Ron and Hermione were standing. She gave Ron a little vial.
“Sleeping draught,” she said quietly, “ I think he needs it, but he won’t take it from me. Look after him.” she said as she gave them a quick hug and apparated with a crack.
There was an uncomfortable silence as the four people stared at each other.
“Yes…well…” said Hermione clearing her throat as she moved towards the stairs.
“Where the bloody hell do you think you’re going?” growled Uncle Vernon gaining his courage back now that the crazy woman had left. He wasn’t going to be cowed by two teenagers.
Hermione turned and looked at him. She gave him one of her no-nonsense smiles.
“To see Harry.”
“There will be NO girls upstairs in MY HOUSE!” Uncle Vernon yelled.
Hermione’s smile stayed on her lips, but her eyes hardened. She moved until she was standing in front of Uncle Vernon. Her wand was in her hand before he could blink and like Tonks, she pointed it at his whimpering face.
“I don’t want to cause any problems, but you WILL let me go upstairs where I WILL be staying in Harry’s room for the next three days with Ron!” her eyes narrowed, as she took in his quivering form. “You already disgust me! Do NOT anger me. You will regret it.” With that, she turned back to the stairs.
“Coming, Ron?” she said without looking back. Ron shrugged and followed her upstairs.
“Bloody hell, Hermione!” he said, “That was brilliant!”
A/N: Thanks to all the people who are reading this story! A special "hello" to Scout, I hope you are enjoying this.
I'm planning on playing in "Potterverse" for a while, so even though these characters don't belong to me, it may be a long time before I give them back.
Harry had returned from downstairs and flopped down on the bed. He rolled over and faced the wall. He was glad to see his best friends, but the vision that Voldemort sent him had really scared him. He had collapsed, useless and powerless, as soon as Voldemort had killed them. Voldemort knew his weakness and Harry knew he would try and use it against him. He didn’t feel any strength from being loved. He just felt vulnerable and weak. He heard the door to his room open, but he didn’t turn around.
“Harry?” Hermione called quietly as she came into the room.
Harry felt her sit on the side of the bed and tentatively touch his shoulder. He closed his eyes and swallowed past the painful lump in his throat. It hurt to breathe, but the touch was comforting. When he felt that he had some control of his emotions, he sighed, and rolled over. He smiled at her weakly.
“Hi, Hermione, it’s good to see you. Hey, mate,” he said looking at Ron.
“Oh, Harry! You look terrible!” Hermione cried, “What’s wrong?
Harry shrugged. “Bad dreams, is all,” he said. “They make it hard to sleep.”
“I’ve got something for that mate,” Ron said as he put the vial on the side table.
Harry looked at it but said nothing. He didn’t want to let down his guard. What if Voldemort was waiting? He knew Voldemort couldn’t touch him at the Dursley’s, but what about Ron and Hermione? Were they safe?
“Sooo…” said Ron rubbing his hands together. “What’s to eat? I’m starved!”
“Ronald Weasley! You just had dinner at home and dessert at my place! You can’t possibly be hungry again!”
“I’m a growing boy!” he shrugged and gave Harry a wink. “Come on, Hermione! You can’t expect me to wait until morning! I’ll die from starvation!”
Hermione snorted at that and rolled her eyes. Harry grinned in spite of the mood he was in. Things felt normal when he heard them bickering.
“Well, I could go over to Diagon Alley and get us some food. I don’t reckon we’ll be getting much around here,” Ron said with a grimace.
“How are you planning on doing that?” Harry asked, “I don’t have any floo power or a fireplace connected to the floo network.”
“Oh! I guess you don’t know!” Ron grinned proudly, “I passed my Apparition test! It’s been great! I can Apparate in on Fred and George at any time!” he said with a laugh. “Oh, revenge is sweet! One day, last week, I apparated in on Fred and Angelina—”
“Ron!” Hermione said angrily, her cheeks flushed, “You shouldn’t talk about it! That’s rude!”
Ron just grinned and mouthed ‘later’ to Harry.
Harry was amazed at how much better he was starting to feel just being around his friends.
“I’ve got a better idea,” Harry said as he realized that his stomach was growling too. “Dobby,” he called.
There was a crack and Dobby appeared in the room.
“Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby looked around. “Harry Potter’s Miss and his Wheezy sir! Dobby is honored. What can Dobby do for the great Harry Potter?”
Harry smiled at him.
“Dobby, Ron is hungry. Could you get some food for us? Oh, and some butter beer to wash it down.”
Dobby bowed low and disappeared. Harry sat up and genuinely smiled at his friends.
“I am glad to see you guys. I missed having someone to talk to.”
“So what have you been doing, mate?” Ron asked as he rolled out his sleeping mat.
“Not much,” mumbled Harry. “Working out, sleeping when I can, thinking…” he trailed off and looked out the window. He sighed, thinking that maybe he didn’t want to talk about himself after all.
“So what about you? What’s been happening at the Burrow?” Harry asked, wanting to change the subject as he watched a neighbor arrive home.
Ron shrugged. “Mum’s been working our arse’s off. She wants this wedding to be perfect since Fleur’s family will be there. If it wasn’t for the few times Hermione and I have managed to sneak off—”
“Hang on, what?” Harry said, his head whipping around to eye his friend. Hermione had the good grace to blush. Ron blushed as well.
“We…uh…well, we have spending some time together you know. Talking and—”
“And what?” asked Harry as he turned and looked at Hermione. “Are you dating?”
If possible, Hermione blushed a little deeper.
“Well, we have gone out a few times…” she trailed off, not meeting his eyes.
Harry felt stunned. He knew they liked each other. How did he really feel about this? He had Ginny, he was sure that she would wait for him, so he should feel happy for them. But something didn’t feel right…
He smiled at Hermione with what he hoped looked like sincerity, not voicing his feelings.
“That’s…that’s great. You guys will be great together,” he said.
He saw Hermione visibly relax and smile at him. Dobby reappeared at that moment with a picnic basket straining the seams with food. Ron rubbed his hands with glee and dug into the food with gusto. He passed the butter beers to Harry and Hermione and lay back munching on a sandwich, the look of sheer bliss on his face. After a quick update about Kretcher, and a promise to Ron to return with more food tomorrow, Dobby returned to Hogwarts. The three best friends spent the next few hours catching up on the past three weeks and reminiscing about old times. Ron and Hermione were careful to stay away from any talk about Dumbledore or the Horcruxes.
It was sometime near midnight and Ron was snoring on his sleeping mat. Hermione covered him with a blanket, and went back to sit at the end of Harry’s bed. Harry was sitting near the top of the bed, his knees bent and he was leaning his head back, gazing at the ceiling. Hermione looked at him sitting there, and could feel the anxiety oozing off of him. She swore he had changed in just the three weeks that they had been apart. He was no longer a scrawny eleven-year-old boy with messy hair that she had first met on the train. During the past year he had grown into a handsome young man. His broad chest and shoulders were evident under the tight black T-shirt and his facial features were chiseled. His emerald green eyes were dull with a haunted look, and he looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Harry,” Hermione started tentatively, “Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”
Harry sighed and blinked back the tears that seemed to always be threatening to fall these days. He felt very fragile and depressed. Angrily, he wiped his eyes. He wasn’t used to feeling so helpless. He looked over at Hermione sitting there looking so worried about him. He suddenly felt that he needed to talk, and she was the only one he could talk to.
“Is it Dumbledore?” she asked, moving over and putting a hand on his knee. “It’s been hard for everyone, Harry; it must be twice as bad for you. I can’t imagine how you are feeling right now, but maybe it will help to talk about it.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” he murmured. “I see Dumbledore die every night Hermione. Sometimes I see Snape killing him, or Draco, or Voldemort. The worst ones are when I see me doing it, like I’ve failed him somehow and I am forced to kill him because they use the imperious curse on me,” he hung his head and rested his arms on his raised knees. He started to speak again in a broken whisper, reliving the terror.
“I was learning to cope with those dreams, but three days ago I…I had a vision.”
Hermione gasped when she heard this. She knew how hard it was for Harry to practice Occulemency, especially right now. He proceeded to describe the vision in detail, explaining that he realized that it hadn’t happened yet, but Voldemort wanted it to. Hermione’s eyes became wider with shock as he told his story.
“It made me sick to see all of the bodies, but the worst part was seeing you and Ron chained to the wall. He wanted to get to me by hurting both of you. I don’t know if I can take that,” he said haltingly. “The thought of you and Ron getting hurt because of me isn’t fair. I don’t want to be the cause of your pain. Maybe the two of you should—”
“Don’t you dare finish that thought, Harry,” Hermione warned, “You know that we want to help you. Neither of us would be able to live with ourselves if we were safe at home while you were risking your life.”
“He killed you,” Harry whispered brokenly after a few minutes. “He killed you— you and Ron— because he wanted to teach me a lesson. I couldn’t take it. I collapsed on the floor. I felt like my heart had shattered into a million pieces. I couldn’t…I couldn’t fight him. He had won.”
The sob that came from him broke Hermione’s heart. She now understood why he looked so bad. She would have not been able to sleep either. She moved up beside him and held him in her arms. He let her pull him in close, and he dropped his head on to her chest and wrapped his arms around her waist. Hermione rocked him like a mother rocking a child, and he let it all go. He cried for Sirius, Dumbledore, his parents, Cedric, and for the losses he would have to face in the future. He felt drained, but it felt good to unburden himself. After a while he sat up, and smiled weakly at Hermione. She began to smile back and stifled a yawn.
“You should sleep,” Harry said quietly to her.
“You should too,” she said.
Harry looked away, shaking his head, fearing what he would dream about if he did.
“Harry, use the sleeping draught. Ron and I are here. We will watch out for you. You need some sleep before you go mental.”
“Maybe I already am,” he said grimly, “besides, how will I know if you’re safe if I can’t wake up?” he said, finally voicing his concern out loud.
“Really, Harry,” Hermione said. “ Do you think that the Order would let us come here without protection? They have wards all over the place and people watching. You should know that.”
“I guess I should have known, since Tonks knew what kind of state I was in,” he murmured.
Hermione rolled her eyes and handed him the vial before going to lie out her sleeping mat. He looked at the vial for a moment, and then looked at her as she stood up.
“Will you sit with me? Until I fall asleep?” he asked tentatively.
“Of course,” Hermione replied gently. When she looked at him, he looked like a little lost boy, and her heart went out to him.
Harry popped the lid and quickly downed the potion. He lay down on the bed and turned sideways towards Hermione, scooting over so she would have room to join him. He held his hand out to her and after a moment’s hesitation she took it and let him pull her to sit beside him. She sat with her back against the headboard and he held her hand.
“Thanks ‘Mione,” he mumbled as the draught started to take hold of him, and his breathing graduated to a light snore as his face lost some of the rigidness that had dominated his features since she and Ron first arrived. Hermione could feel him relaxing as he fell into a deeper sleep. She closed her eyes.
‘I’ll move in a minute, as soon as I am sure that he is fast asleep.’
“Sleep well, Harry,” she whispered as she gently moved the hair off of his forehead. Hermione closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall. Harry shifted in his sleep and wrapped his arm around Hermione’s waist, pulling himself closer to her. She inhaled sharply, her heart racing and her stomach fluttering as she glanced back down at him sleeping peacefully. Hermione quickly glanced over to where Ron was sleeping, but he hadn’t moved. She felt confused by her reaction to Harry. She had hugged him before. Why would this single act make her stomach lurch and cause her heart to do flip-flops?
Somewhere in her heart, a voice answered: because you want to protect him…
She moved the hair off his face again and watched him sleep.
Somewhere in her mind, a voice countered: He is your best friend that’s all. Nothing else…
She closed her eyes again and rested her head against the wall, her own sleepy voice drowned out all the others: I’ll rest my eyes just for a moment…
Hermione woke up much later. She looked outside and saw that it was still dark. She was stiff and sore from sitting up for so many hours. Harry still had his arm wrapped around his waist, and he had thrown one leg across hers. She very slowly disentangled herself from him and swore she heard him whimper as she left the warmth of his side. She knew he wasn’t dreaming though. The potion took care of that. She went to her sleeping mat and lay down with the thought of getting a few more hours of sleep.
****** ****** ****** ******
When Ron woke up the next morning he looked for his friends. He had been so full of food last night that he had fallen asleep before either of them. He noticed that both of them were still in their clothes from the day before and wondered if they stayed up late. He watched as Hermione stretched and rolled over to face him. Watching girls stretch, he decided, is as good as watching them walk.
“Morning,” he said with a smile. “How late were you up?”
“Mmmm,” Hermione said as she stretched again, her back arching fetchingly, much to Ron’s pleasure. “Sometime after midnight. I got him to take the sleeping draught, though.” She glanced over to where Harry was sleeping, concern reflecting in her eyes and inflecting in her voice. “I really hope he sleeps for a long time.”
Ron sat up and looked around. He saw the covered trays of breakfast food that Dobby had left for them while they all slept.
“Brilliant! I’m famished!” he said as he crawled over and popped off the covers, enjoying the aromas wafting up from the still-warm plates, “Do you think that Harry is going to want to eat anything?”
Hermione rolled her eyes and flopped over on to her back. She looked over again to where Harry was sleeping peacefully and felt his arm around her waist, the fluttering butterflies dancing in her stomach…She sighed and closed her eyes and then admonished herself. She was seeing Ron! How could she even feel like that towards anyone else, let alone her best friend! She put her arm over her eyes.
“Something wrong, Hermione?” Ron worked his words around the bits of Danish in his mouth.
“No,” said Hermione sharply. Immediately regretting the sound of her voice, she knew her clipped tone was because she was feeling guilty about where her thoughts had been. “I’m just tired. I’ll feel better after a shower.”
Ron gulped down the food in his mouth at the thought of a nude Hermione in the shower. The mental image of her, with nothing on, the water cascading down her naked body, soap being worked into a lather and spread all over her girl-parts occurred at the same time that he took a large gulp of his pumpkin juice, which caused him to choke and sputter all over his visual image and his sleeping mat.
‘Oh honestly, Ron!” reprimanded Hermione in a sharp whisper. “Slow down! You are going to choke to death!”
Ron just grinned and went back to eating, with the lovely picture of a bathing Hermione re-materializing in his head.
Hermione got up and angrily grabbed her shampoo and a towel.
“Waffs wif oo?” Ron said between mouthfuls.
Hermione stopped. What was wrong with her? She shrugged her shoulders and turned around.
“I don’t know Ron. Maybe I’m just tired, and worried. You know, about Harry, and what’s to come.”
Ron sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m worried too. My biggest fear is that he’s going to go off and play that ‘Hero thing’ without us. Did you talk to him about it last night?”
Hermione hesitated. She didn’t want to tell Ron about Harry’s vision, not yet anyway.
“Well, we mostly talked about his dreams. They’re pretty bad, Ron. Mainly he dreams about Dumbledore’s death.”
Ron ran his hands through his hair and nodded. “I figured as much.”
He got up and went over to where Hermione was standing and gave her a hug.
“I think that since Harry’s sleeping and you are going to take a shower, I’m going to go back to the Burrow to check up on things. I want to make sure that everything’s okay for Harry’s birthday. You know Mum, she has to have everything just right, and she has been so preoccupied with this wedding, I hope she’s got everything right for Harry’s birthday, and she hasn’t bought him a wedding cake or something.” He grinned, kissed her cheek, before sneaking out of the room and downstairs.
Hermione headed for the bathroom and had a quick shower. She came out of the stall and was giving her hair a quick rub when she realized she had left her clean clothes in the bedroom. She glanced at the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and grimaced. She didn’t really want to put them back on. She wrapped her towel around her tightly and picked up her clothes. She quietly opened the door a crack and looked out. Seeing no one, she quickly padded down towards Harry’s room. As she passed Dudley’s room, the door opened. She gasped as Dudley stood there, leering at her. She quickly headed to Harry’s room and slammed the door, feeling his eyes following her the whole time.
Harry woke with a start as he heard his bedroom door slam, but years of training kept him still. He was surprised to feel his glasses still on his nose. He fell asleep so fast last night that he forgot to put them aside. That and the distraction of his best friend being beside him…He cracked open one eye and looked towards the door. He saw Hermione leaning against it, wearing only a towel, and looking visibly upset. She glanced over to where Harry was sleeping, seemingly undecided about something. Harry lay as still as he could, feigning sleep. She moved further into the room and reached for her clothes. With her back turned, she awkwardly tried to put them on while holding on to the towel. Harry almost laughed out loud, but the smile died on his lips as he caught a flash of her thigh. It was smooth and he wondered what it would feel like. He groaned and Hermione turned around with a start. He quickly shut his eyes again, trying to breathe normally. She quickly finished getting dressed, and began to tidy up her sleeping mat. Harry figured it was safe, so he made a show of stretching and making noises to show he was awake. He sat up and ran his hand through his hair, giving himself an even more tousled look.
Hermione turned and smiled at him.
“Morning, Harry. How did you sleep?”
Harry smiled. He felt better than he had in weeks, and he told her so.
“Where’s Ron?” he asked, as he headed over to the trays of food and rummaged through what Ron left behind.
“At the Burrow,” said Hermione. “He went to make sure that we were able to stay there for the whole week instead of just a few days. Apparently Mrs. Weasley is so wrapped up in this wedding that she forgets about everything else.”
“Well, I guess it’s pretty important since the first of their children is getting married,” Harry said with a smile.
Just then, Ron arrived back into Harry’s room. He grinned at Harry.
“Morning, mate! Sleep well?”
“Yeah, great thanks. I really needed that,” he said with a small smile, and looking sideways at Hermione. He realized that she hadn’t told Ron about the vision, and he was thankful.
“So, what should we do today?” asked Hermione, changing the subject.
“What’s there to do around here?” asked Ron.
“Not much,” said Harry. Thinking about the list of chores Vernon had made him do over the years, leaving the house seemed like the best way to avoid Ron and Hermione being ‘volunteered’ to trim the grass with nothing more than a pair of scissors and a ruler. “Why don’t we just go for a walk?”
“Sure,” said Ron, his face brightening at exploring Muggleland. “Beats sitting in this room all day, mate.”
Harry quickly went to the bathroom to change, and as he passed Dudley, he sneered at Harry. Harry ignored him, getting into a fight with Dudders was not something he wanted to do this morning. Rejoining Ron and Hermione, dressed to enjoy a summer day, the three friends headed downstairs and out the front door.
“Don’t you tell them where you are going, Harry?” asked Hermione, remarking on how they had breezed by Petunia and Vernon without a word being exchanged on their way out of the house.
“No, they don’t care where I go. I think they figure that if they don’t ask, then one day I won’t come back.” The bland tone in Harry’s voice spoke the truth about his relationship with his mother’s sister and her family as he shut the front door.
Not missing the deadened look in his best mate’s eyes, Ron pivoted on his heels and stopped short on the front walk while he snorted derisively and murmured, “Just one little hex, Hermy, just one. That’s all I need…”
Hermione scowled and hissed at him. “Ron! Behave yourself.” Walking ahead and gaining the sidewalk, she skewered Ron with a look that could pop a balloon. “And DON’T CALL ME HERMY!”
Harry grinned as he headed out into the sunshine, his heart feeling lighter than it had for weeks.
So the Trio is back together. I know I haven't jumped right into the action yet, but I want to set the stage. Another chapter is on its way! If you enjoyed this, please review on your way out. Thanks!
Ron, Harry and Hermione spent the next few days just wandering around Little Whinging. Harry showed them some of the areas where he liked to walk, and of course, the park. It was here on their last day that the trio found themselves.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” grinned Harry, “Imagine! I can legally do magic. I wonder which hex I should use on Dudley…” he pretended to ponder as he stroked his chin.
Ron laughed. “Ooh! Ooh! The Bat-Bogey Hex! Or maybe the Confundus Charm…Nah, he’s confused enough.”
Harry was holding his sides and laughing as Ron imitated Dudley stumbling around the swings.
“Ooh! The Jelly-Leg Jinx!” Harry said, wobbling around after Ron.
Hermione stood there watching them with her hands on her hips, frowning.
“Ron! Harry! That’s not funny! I will not let you hex Dudley!”
Harry and Ron looked at each other with a conspiratorial grin.
“Oh come on, Hermy! Please?” they said in unison.
“DON’T CALL ME HERMY!” she yelled as she ran at them.
Ron and Harry took off in opposite directions, laughing. They spent the next half-hour chasing each other around the park, carefree and happy. Ron finally tackled Hermione and they fell to the grass, laughing. Harry sat down next to them, enjoying the freedom he felt. He was so glad to have found Ron and Hermione as friends. That thought sobered him. He was so afraid of losing them, or having them hurt. He lay back on the grass with his hands behind his head and sighed. Why was it that one man could ruin a perfectly good day? Hermione picked up on his mood change immediately.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Nothing,” said Harry, “just thinking.”
“About what?” Ron said.
Harry glanced over at Ron. He knew he had to tell him about the vision. He was his best mate after all. Harry sat up, and began to tell Ron all about the vision. As he talked, Ron became paler and paler. When Harry got to the part about them being killed, Ron looked like he was going to be sick.
“No wonder you couldn’t sleep! Bloody hell Harry! Why didn’t you call for help? The order—”
“The order can’t help! Don’t you see? It’s me he wants. Me, and anyone who is close to me, which means you are both in danger. He could kill you,” he choked, “I can’t let that happen. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
“Harry—” Hermione began.
“No Hermione. I don’t want your deaths on my conscience. I need to do this alone.”
“Oh, honestly, Harry! Stop playing the hero for a moment will you?” Hermione said angrily. “This is so typical of you! You have no faith in us. Have you ever wondered why we hang around? Because we care about you! We are in this together, Harry! You, Ron and me! We made a choice! You didn’t force us to get involved. It’s our choice to help and support you during this war. Just as it was Sirius’, Dumbledore’s, and your parents’ choice to protect you.”
By now she was up and pacing in front of the two boys.
“It scares the hell out of me, and I know that it scares Ron too. But did you stop to think that maybe we don’t want your death on our conscience? That maybe we don’t want to feel like we’ve failed you?”
“I’ve never thought that,” mumbled Harry, feeling quite humbled by her outburst.
“And we have never felt that you are responsible for us. I’m a grown woman, Harry. Ron is a grown man. We can make our own choices, and we choose to be here beside you, fighting Voldemort. And—” she added quietly, plopping back down between the two, “If we die…well, at least we will be fighting ‘til the end, together. Right, Ron?”
Ron had been staring wide-eyed at Hermione the whole time she was ranting. He had not seen her that angry in a long time.
“Uh, yeah, what she said,” Ron said, getting his voice back.
Harry looked between the two of them and his shoulders slumped in resignation. He knew Hermione was right; he needed them. He wouldn’t have gotten this far without them. They were silent for a few minutes, just watching the day beginning to fade. During this time, Hermione was tapping her chin with her finger and biting her lip. Harry knew she was thinking.
“Harry, could you tell me about your vision again? Not the end part, mind you. I want to see if you can remember any details about the room. Maybe…maybe if we can figure out where he envisioned himself…”
“We can stop it before it happens,” finished Harry.
Ron looked at the two of them. They were doing it again; finishing each other’s thoughts. When that happens, he felt like a third wheel. Harry sat deep in thought, his eyes closed.
“We came though big double doors. It was like a big hall. All of the walls were draped with black cloth and there were round cages, like big birdcages, all around the outside wall.
He pushed the palms of his hands into his forehead, as the vision became clearer. “The floor was made of stone; it was cold. At the back of the hall there was a large dais. There was a door to the left…I don’t know where it went.” He dropped his hands. “The wall at the back where…where…” he swallowed painfully, “there were chains hanging there, and on the dais were was a chair. That’s where Voldemort was sitting when I came in. There were other people there, his Death Eaters I suppose, and the chair! I remember! It was Dumbledore’s. He must have stolen it.”
Harry looked at Hermione and Ron. Both were sitting deep in thought.
“It could have been anywhere,” Ron muttered.
“It was not the Riddle house. I know that. It was a big hall.”
“Did you see outside the hall? Maybe the surrounding area?” asked Ron.
Harry thought for a moment and then shook his head no. He was still watching Hermione who was deep in thought. She looked up suddenly as an idea came to her.
“Do you remember the ceiling?” she asked.
“Ceiling?” echoed Harry.
“Think, Harry. Could you see the ceiling?”
Harry frowned and closed his eyes again. He could see himself looking around, and then he looked up. In his vision the ceiling was black, like the night sky.
“It was black; like the sky,” he whispered, as a feeling of dread came over him.
Ron’s eyes went wide. “I only know of one hall like that,” he said.
“Hogwarts,” both Harry and Hermione said in unison.
“He wants Hogwarts,” said Ron.
“It makes sense,” replied Harry. “We know he likes to collect trophies. This would be the greatest trophy ever. He has already gotten rid of Dumbledore. He probably figures that he can just waltz in and take over.”
“We have to stop him,” Hermione said.
Harry jumped up and started pacing, his face flushed with anger.
“There is no way I’m letting him have Hogwarts! NO WAY! If he thinks he can take our school away from us, he has another thing coming.”
The anger was building in him.
‘How dare he?’ Thought Harry, ‘He’s trying to take away MY home. Just like he took away everything else.’
Suddenly he stopped, the realization hitting him in the face.
“He’s doing it to get me,” he said, “He knows how much Hogwarts means to me because it meant so much to him, but Dumbledore turned his back on him when he wanted to come back to teach. He really was looking for a way to recruit more followers, but Dumbledore saw right through him. Now he’s getting revenge because I still have Hogwarts and he doesn’t.”
Harry ran his hand through his hair in frustration.
“I hate him! Why does he have to try and destroy my life and everyone associated with me?”
Ron and Hermione watched Harry as he stormed back and forth, his agitation clearly showing on his face.
Harry’s ranting was abruptly interrupted by loud, raunchy laughter, and they turned to look down the path. Coming towards them were Dudley and his pals. Dudley stopped when he saw them, then grinned and sauntered up to Harry.
“Well, well, look what the cat dragged in. It’s my scrawny cousin and his weird friends.”
‘Scrawny?’ thought Hermione with a snort.
“Sod off Dudley. I’m in no mood,” said Harry darkly.
Dudley’s eyes flickered over to where Ron and Hermione were still sitting. His eyes raked over Hermione, making her feel uncomfortable. He turned back to Harry.
“Was she good?” he sneered.
“What?” Harry asked.
“Did she moan and squirm a lot Harry, or did she just lie there. She looks like a live one to me,” Dudley taunted as he leered at Hermione again.
Hermione’s face went white, but she still had the sense to grab hold of Ron’s arm and hold him down as he tried to get up. Dudley didn’t miss the movement though.
“Ooh, a threesome perhaps? It’s a shame I missed that.”
Harry didn’t think that he could feel any angrier than he already did, but Dudley had managed to push him that much further. Harry could feel the electricity sparking off of him as he turned to face his cousin. His voice was deathly calm, which surprised him considering how he was feeling.
“You need to apologize to my friends,” he said quietly.
“Or what?” taunted Dudley.
“Or I will have to teach you a lesson in manners,” replied Harry.
Dudley laughed, feeling confident because of his lackeys standing with him.
“It’s a day early cuz, no birthday yet. You want to teach me a lesson; you are going to have to use your fists.”
“Fine,” said Harry.
“Harry,” said Hermione in a whisper, “It’s not worth it. Let’s just leave.”
“Need help, mate?” asked Ron in a tight voice.
Hermione looked at him incredulously. Harry just waved him down. Ron leaned back into a relaxed sprawl on the grass, but his taught muscles betrayed his calm demeanor. Hermione just sat looking between the two in shock.
“He needs this Hermione. He needs to get rid of his pent-up anger,” said Ron. “Besides, I would love to see Dudley put in his place.”
Harry stood on the spot, his hands relaxed at his side.
Dudley sauntered up to Harry, still grinning.
“Who knows? When I’m finished here, I just might have a go myself,” leered Dudley.
“You wouldn’t know what to do with her and,” Harry said, looking pointedly at Dudley’s crotch, “your equipment probably isn’t up to snuff.”
Ron snorted at that comment and Dudley’s smile turned into a snarl. He swung hard at Harry’s face and connected with his cheek. Harry tasted blood as his head snapped sideways. He looked around at Dudley and wiped the trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth.
“That was your free hit,” Harry said to him.
Dudley’s grin faltered, and his eyes went wide as Harry threw a punch into his stomach. Dudley sat down with an “Oomph”. His buddies began to move forward, but Dudley stopped them.
“No!” he wheezed, “He’s mine!” He stood up slowly, rubbing his belly.
“Big mistake, cuz,” he said angrily.
He charged at Harry, hands outstretched, with the idea of grabbing and squashing him. Harry just sidestepped as he ran past, and kicked him in the rear. Dudley went flying again. He got up slower this time, watching Harry warily. Harry just stood, looking relaxed, watching him, and Hermione couldn’t help but admire the bulge of the muscles on his arms. Dudley came at him, slower, and swung at his head. Harry ducked, but was unable to get out of the way of the fist aimed at his ribs. Harry grunted in pain as he felt something break, but it didn’t slow him down. He was filled with anger right now, and it was the adrenaline he needed. He rounded on Dudley and smashed him in the side of the nose, causing it to break. Dudley staggered back, and then came again. The two traded blows back and forth, but it was Harry who was connecting more often. With an uppercut to the chin, Dudley went down again, for the last time. Dudley’s two pals closed in on Harry, who was now just trying to remain standing. Ron was up like a shot.
“Oi!” he yelled, “Don’t be nutters, or I’ll have to take you both on!”
He towered over the other two, who suddenly lost their courage and began backing away.
“Take your garbage with you!” Ron said, kicking Dudley with the toe of his shoe.
The two grabbed Dudley by each arm, and dragged him away as fast as his heavy frame would allow them.
Ron went over to Harry and put his arm around him before he collapsed. Harry winced as he was led back to the grass where Hermione was still sitting.
“Well,” he gasped as he clutched his ribs, “that felt great.” He winced again as he lay back on the grass.
Hermione whipped out her wand and looked around before tracing Harry’s ribs and muttering a healing charm under her breath.
“I should just leave you like that,” she said angrily, her eyes blazing.
Harry grinned and then winced as he felt the pain in his face.
“Come on, Hermione. Don’t you remember how good it felt to hit Draco?”
“Yes, well, that was different. I didn’t beat him to a pulp. What do you think is going to happen when your aunt sees Dudley?”
Harry shrugged. “The stupid git will probably say he was mugged. He’d be too embarrassed to admit I beat him. I’ve been waiting a long time for that.”
Hermione sighed and went to work on some of the other cuts and bruises that were beginning to show. When she was finished, they decided to head back to the house. When they got there, they could hear Aunt Petunia in the kitchen fussing over a very bruised and bloodied Dudley. He saw Harry without a mark on him and scowled. Harry just grinned at him, and the trio went upstairs. They spent the evening helping Harry pack all of his things; he wasn’t planning on ever returning. He couldn’t wait until tomorrow. He was weary when he finally went to bed, but satisfied with the outcome of the fight with Dudley. He fell asleep with a contented smile on his face.
A/N: Thanks to all of you who are taking the time to read this! Sorry for the delay, there wasn't any internet access at the campground! Here is your next chapter. Enjoy!
All the usual disclaimers apply, I don't own anything, if I did, things may have been a lot different...
Dumbledore was standing on the tower, his hair and his beard being whipped around by the wind. Harry was standing in front of him, his wand out. “Harry, please,” Dumbledore begged as Harry raised his wand…
Harry tossed and turned in his sleep, beads of sweat on his forehead.
“No, no,” he moaned.
Hermione woke up and saw him thrashing in his bed. She quickly went over and slid next to him. She put her arms around him, trying to console him.
“Shh, it’s okay, Harry, it’s just a dream,” she murmured, wishing she had more sleeping draught.
Harry turned to her and put his arms around her waist, hugging her close without fully waking up. Hermione folded herself around him, stroking his back. Harry became quiet, and relaxed back into a deep sleep. Hermione continued to hold him, willing the bad dreams to go away.
Ron woke up at the noise, rolled over, and watched from his sleeping mat. He saw the tenderness of Hermione’s actions and felt a mixture of jealousy and sympathy for Harry. He wouldn’t want any of those nightmares that Harry had, but wasn’t that his girlfriend? He closed his eyes and sighed. Would he ever be that close to Hermione? He knew that she cared for both of them, and he really wanted to find out how much she cared for him. He drifted off to sleep with thoughts of Hermione hugging him instead of Harry.
Harry was dreaming. He dreamed he could feel a warm body snuggled up to him. He dreamed he could smell a light fragrance of vanilla and jasmine, and he dreamed he had his arms around someone soft. He lay there breathing in that wonderful scent and sleepily ran his hand up and down the soft back. He could feel warmth radiating out from his heart, and making him tingle. It was a wonderful dream.
Hermione was dreaming. She could feel strong arms around her, protectively, and a hand stroking her back. She snuggled closer to the warmth that seemed to radiate from the body beside her. She slowly ran a hand down a muscular back and then back up again. It felt nice just holding Harry…
Hermione woke with a start as she realized where she was. She looked down at Harry’s smiling face, as he slowly opened his sleep-filled eyes. When their eyes made contact, he jumped in shock and moved away, his cheeks going hot from the thoughts going through his mind. Hermione blushed at being caught enjoying Harry’s company, and sat up.
“How…what…” stammered Harry.
“I’m sorry, Harry. You were having nightmares again last night. I…I guess I fell asleep,” she concluded, trying to explain her actions.
Hermione was so embarrassed by being caught, no matter how honorable her intentions were. She knew deep down how much she had enjoyed just lying next to Harry, and she couldn’t meet his eyes. She got up and busied herself with gathering up her belongings. Harry watched her for a while, unsure what to say. He finally got up without a word, and left, which hurt Hermione more than she was willing to admit, although she didn’t know why.
Ron had watched the whole scene play out before his eyes. It hurt to watch Hermione consoling Harry. How could she love him when she showed such tenderness towards Harry, his best friend? He cared so much for Hermione, but he knew from past experience that challenging her about this would only end in argument. He wasn’t too sure how to deal with this.
“All right there, Hermione?” he asked quietly.
“Fine, Ron,” Hermione said sharply as she continued to stuff her belongings in her bag.
Ron sighed. He could see she was upset by what had happened. He was annoyed by the thought that he might be losing his chance with her before he even got that first kiss…
Harry let the water run down over his head as he stood in the shower. It had felt so good lying there in Hermione’s arms, but she was his best friend! She was supposed to be going out with Ron! He shouldn’t be having feelings like that for her. Yes, he knew she was a girl, and a beautiful one at that. He had known that since the Triwizard Ball so many years ago, but to enjoy her embrace? He shouldn’t be doing that. He ran his hands over his face trying to erase the images in his mind. He decided that he would pretend that it didn’t happen. He didn’t need his life to be any more complicated than it already was. With that thought firmly in his mind, he finished his shower, dressed and headed back to his room. Ron was already digging into the food Dobby had brought, and Hermione was staring out the window.
“Harry Potter, sir! Dobby was hoping to see you today, the most important of days!”
“Today?” asked Harry.
“Oh yes, sir! Dobby was hoping to wish Harry Potter a Happy Birthday sir!”
Harry suddenly grinned. He was officially seventeen. He pulled out his wand and looked at it, wondering which spell to do first. Ron came over and slapped him on the back. All things considered, he was still his best friend.
“Happy Birthday, mate! Go ahead, what are you going to try first?”
Hermione turned and looked at the boys, ‘correction,’ she thought, ‘men. So much has changed in the past six years…’
Harry seemed to have forgotten about the incident this morning, and she relaxed. She was afraid of ruining their friendship.
Harry was looking around the room when his eyes fell on Hedwig’s cage. He walked over to it.
“Scourgify,” he said, pointing his wand at her cage. Instantly, it was clean.
“That’s going to make life a lot easier,” he laughed.
Ron laughed too. “For my first time, I made my breakfast come to me in bed. That was a riot. Mum nearly bit my head off!”
Harry turned to Hermione. “What did you do first?”
Hermione smiled. “I made a list of the books on my bookshelf, in alphabetical order of course, and correlated it to the list of which books I have read more than once, making sure to cross-reference it to—”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Should have known,” he chortled.
Their laughter broke the tension and the three enjoyed their last picnic in Harry’s room. Dobby made his farewells and disappeared while Harry checked for any last belongings. He took Hedwig to the window to let her fly free.
“We’re going to the Burrow, okay?” he told her. She gently nipped his finger and took flight.
Harry pointed his wand at her cage and then his trunk. He shrunk each of them to fit in his backpack. He looked around the room that was his personal hell for the past six years and sighed. He would not miss this room. He headed downstairs; Ron and Hermione followed. His Aunt and Uncle were still in the kitchen.
“Well,” said Harry, “I’m off.”
“That’s it then,” said Uncle Vernon as he looked up from reading his paper. “Just like that? I hope you left that room clean. Don’t want to have to spend a lot of time cleaning up after the likes of you.”
Harry sighed. He thought that maybe they would be sad to see him go, since he was family, but apparently not.
“Where’s Dudley?” he asked.
“Poor Dudders is upstairs still. He has had such a hard time recovering from that mugging,” Aunt Petunia sighed.
“Yeah, I guess he’s afraid he might come face to face with those muggers,” Ron smirked.
Hermione poked him in the ribs and Harry had to work hard at keeping a straight face. He figured Dudley would go into hiding, knowing that Harry could do magic now.
“Well…Goodbye,” he said and turned to follow Ron and Hermione to the front door. They had just got outside when he heard footsteps behind him. Harry turned to see his Aunt coming towards him. She gave him a small smile and cupped the side of his face with her hand.
“You have her eyes,” she whispered as her tears threatened to fall. Then she turned and was gone. Harry put his hand to his face and stared after her, surprised by that one touching gesture after so many years.
“Coming, Harry?” Ron yelled.
Harry turned and walked away, leaving Privet Drive for the last time. They went around the corner to a deserted alley and Ron Apparated out first. Hermione took Harry’s hand and shyly looked up at him.
“Happy Birthday, Harry,” she said with a smile.
Harry smiled at her, glad that everything seemed back to normal. He focused on the Burrow, and glanced over to see if Hermione was ready. He felt that familiar feeling of being squeezed through a tube, and closed his eyes. When he opened his eyes again he was standing just outside the boundaries of the yard leading to the Burrow.
“Didn’t want to be blasted for Apparating too close,” grinned Hermione. She pulled Harry by the hand as they ran towards the house. As they reached the kitchen they could hear laughter and talking, and to Harry, this felt like home.
They entered the kitchen to find Mrs. Weasley bustling around, Ron eating a second breakfast, and Ginny listening to Ron’s story of Dudley’s demise. Ginny glanced up as Hermione and Harry came in and saw them still holding hands. She frowned at Hermione, who saw this and quickly let go of Harry’s hand. Hermione moved around to give Mrs. Weasley a hug as Harry went to sit down beside Ron.
“So, mate, we didn’t feed you enough?” he said with a grin. Ron just shrugged happily and kept eating.
“Happy Birthday, Harry!” Mrs. Weasley said as she gave him a hug. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better. Would you like some breakfast?”
‘Feeling better?’ Thought Harry, ‘I didn’t know I was sick.’ Harry looked at Ron quizzically and Ron gave a miniscule shake of his head.
“Thanks, Mrs. Weasley. I already ate,” he replied, watching Ron polish off his pancakes.
“Well, we have a wonderful day planned for you, special day you know!” She said with a wink as she bustled around the kitchen.
“Oh, really, Mrs. Weasley, you don’t have to do anything,” said Harry.
“Harry Potter!” Mrs. Weasley said, putting her hands on her hips. “You have just come of age! There is no way we would let that happen without some kind of celebration.”
“That’s very kind of you, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said a bit embarrassed, “No one’s really cared before.”
“Well, we are going to change that now aren’t we?” she said as she went back to work. “Now head upstairs and put your things in Ron’s room. Hermione, you’ll share with Ginny.”
Harry headed upstairs, followed by Hermione and Ginny. Harry headed straight for Ron’s room, and Ginny followed him, closing the door behind her. Harry turned and saw that she had followed him in.
“Hi Ginny…Mmmmph!” he said as she grabbed his face and kissed him. Harry closed his eyes for a moment, looking for that tingle that Tonks had told him about. It felt good kissing her again, but he didn’t feel the same way that he did several months ago. He very gently pushed her away from him.
“Ginny—” he began.
“I thought I should give you a proper greeting, since it’s your birthday,” she said coyly as she ran her finger down his chest.
Harry turned away from her and ran a hand through his hair.
“Ginny, I thought we discussed this in June.”
“Yes, well I’m a big girl, Harry, and I’ve been thinking about it. I can take care of myself. I know you said that just to protect me.”
Harry sighed. He didn’t really want to have to deal with this right now. Not with what had happened earlier with Hermione. He still wasn’t sure what to think about that. He turned and smiled at her.
“It is good to see you. I just… I have a lot on my mind right now. With Dumbledore’s funeral and all…”
“I can make you forget all that, Harry,” Ginny purred as she moved closer to Harry, causing him to back up and bump into the bed.
Ron chose that point to burst in. Ginny jumped back startled, and Harry let out a little sigh of relief. Ron looked between Harry and Ginny and raised an eyebrow.
“Oi!” he said, “no sisters allowed! Get out!”
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him and flounced out of the room, blowing a kiss at Harry as she left. Harry busied himself with enlarging his trunk and setting up Hedwig’s cage, purposefully avoiding Ron’s scrutiny. Ron watched him for a moment, and then came over and sat on Harry’s bed.
“Sooo,” he said. “You and Ginny back together?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Harry shrugged and sat down on Ron’s bed. “I don’t know how I feel about Ginny,” he said. “Last spring, and before Dumbledore’s death, we had some good times. I needed her. The time we spent together was great and I enjoyed every moment I spent with her. But now…” he shrugged his shoulders and looked at Ron. “I don’t want to hurt her, but I’m not the same person. I still have feelings for her, but I don’t think I love her, I don’t know. I just feel that it’s not fair to make her wait until this whole thing is over. I know that your mom would like us to be one big happy family, but I don’t know if I can do that. I’m sorry.”
“Is there someone else?” Ron asked.
Harry shook his head. “No, why do you ask?”
Ron shrugged, feeling a sense of relief. “Just wondering.”
“I just don’t want anyone else in danger. It’s bad enough that he knows about you and Hermione. I don’t want to add her to the list,” Harry said.
“You need to talk to her then,” Ron said.
“You’re not mad?” Harry asked.
“Nah, mate,” Ron said as he shrugged again, “It would be great if you were together, but if its not meant to be, then you shouldn’t let her keep thinking that she has a chance.”
“That’s very grown-up of you, Ron,” Harry said with a laugh, “When did you become so all knowing about women?”
Ron grinned. “Sounded good didn’t it? I heard my Mum talking to Charlie one night. I thought it was good advice.”
Harry shook his head and smiled sadly. “Sometimes I feel that she fell in love with ‘Harry Potter the hero’, not me. I don’t know. What if she gets to know the real me, the one with the nightmares and fears, and she doesn’t like who I really am? How would I know if she liked the real me?”
Ron didn’t say anything for a moment. He secretly thought that maybe Harry was right. Ginny didn’t really know who the real Harry was.
“Come on,” said Ron. “Let’s go play a game of Wizard’s chess. That’s something I can understand.”
They spent the rest of the day playing chess and Exploding Snap while the girls helped Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen. Harry tried to go and help several times, but he was chased away by the three ladies. It was late afternoon when Fred and George arrived; looking splendid, as always, in their dragon hide suits.
“Happy Birthday, Harry!” they said in unison as they came into the living room.
Harry shook hands with them, and they steered him into one of the corners.
“Listen, mate,” said George, “We need to talk a little business with you.”
“Don’t tell me that you need another loan?” Harry teased.
“Oh no,” said Fred. “In fact, business is booming, another deposit was put into your vault the other day. We don’t want to discuss it here though. You need to come by the shop in Diagon Alley or the new shop in Hogsmeade,” he dropped his voice to a whisper, “We have a few things you might need.”
Harry looked at him in surprise. What were these two up to now?
“Mum! You look lovely today! Have you done something new with your hair?” George said as he intercepted his mother coming out of the kitchen, Fred winked at Harry and following behind.
It was almost time for dinner, and as Harry found out, there were going to be several guests. He decided to go up and change into some clean clothes. Soon he was back downstairs, and being welcomed by the first of the guests, Tonks and Lupin. Today Tonks was sporting red and gold hair, “in honor of the Gryffindor House”, she told Harry.
“Happy Birthday, Harry!” Lupin said, “I am glad that I am able to be here to see you come of age.”
Harry sobered at that thought. Lupin was the last of the Marauders. The only tie that he had with his parents, and the only one he completely trusted. Suddenly, he had an idea.
“Professor, could I talk to you later? It’s something important.” Harry asked quietly.
Lupin looked at him a little worried.
“Are you okay? Do you need something?
“No, no,” assured Harry, “it’s just an idea I had.”
He didn’t elaborate any further as Ginny grabbed his arm and dragged him outside towards some of the other waiting guests. He greeted his friends from Hogwarts, Seamus, Dean, Lavender, Padma and Parvati. He was glad to see some of the DA members there as well, including Luna, Susan Bones and even Cho. He was amazed at how many people were there. As he was greeting everyone, Ginny hung off of his arm, as though she was showing off her latest prize. Harry tried to dislodge her several times, to no avail.
“Oi! Ginny! Mum’s looking for you!” said Ron appearing at Harry’s shoulder.
“Oh! The cake must be here!” Ginny said as she released Harry. “You stay here, I want it to be a surprise!”
“Thanks,” Harry muttered as she disappeared from view.
“No problem,” Ron smirked. “I figure you might be able to breath now.”
Ron looked around at the ever-growing crowd and frowned.
“I hope you don’t mind, Harry,” Ron said. “Mum and Ginny ran into Neville and his grandmother at Diagon Alley a few weeks ago, and Neville’s grandmother was trying to plan a party for Neville. You know how Neville gets; he didn’t want any fuss, and Neville’s grandmother was having a hard time organizing anything. Mum, being her generous self, suggested a double party, so we’re going to celebrate Neville’s birthday as well.”
“I think it’s brilliant,” Harry grinned, relieved that now not all of the attention would be on him. He felt grateful to Mrs. Weasley for her generous spirit.
He continued to greet people as they came and congratulated him. He was feeling like it was turning into some huge, important function, as he met more and more of the ministry people. He was polite, but refused to have any lengthy conversations with any of them, especially Scrimgeour. He caught Ron’s eye, and Ron shrugged.
“Some of these people have been invited by Neville’s grandmother. I think she is trying to show that her grandson’s birthday is just as important as yours.”
Harry rolled his eyes. He didn’t want to be important. He just wanted to be Harry, celebrating a birthday with a few close friends. He kept his comments to a minimum as he met with the dignitaries, and escaped as soon as he could.
They had dinner in the backyard of the Burrow, under the warm summer sky. Harry was sitting at one end of the long table, and Neville was way down at the other end. Ginny was sitting on his right with Luna sitting next to her, and Ron and Hermione were on his left. Throughout the dinner, he could feel Ginny sliding her foot up and down his leg suggestively. He thought that he should have enjoyed it, but it only annoyed him, so he purposefully ignored her, trying to keep his legs out of reach. After dinner the table, plates, and leftovers were whisked away and a dance floor appeared. The older adults took this as their cue to retire to the house, as Fred and George were now conjuring up a stereo with large speakers. The music started blaring and couples headed to the dance floor. Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand and followed them. Harry didn’t want to dance, but since he and Neville were the guests of honor, and Neville was already out there, he figured he should put in a show. After a while, he found he was enjoying himself, much to his surprise. He danced with a few different girls before begging off for a break. He flopped down in a chair as George arrived with two drinks in his hands. He handed one to Harry who eyed it warily, knowing of George’s prankster personality.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Firewhiskey, bottoms up!” replied George and downed his in one shot.
Harry sniffed his glass and made a face.
“Come on, Harry! What are you, a man or a mouse?”
Harry took a deep breath and drank his firewhiskey in two gulps. It burned his throat on the way down, and he coughed and sputtered as his eyes watered. George laughed and slapped him on the back, causing him to cough even more. He could feel the slow, lazy warmth spreading through his stomach where the fiery liquor now sat. He was amazed at how relaxed his arms and legs felt all of a sudden, and how heavy they felt. Ron flopped down beside him and handed him another glass.
“I choked the first time too, mate,” he grinned, as he clinked glasses with him and downed it in one gulp. He made a face, but then grinned as he looked expectantly at Harry. Harry raised his glass and downed it in one gulp. He didn’t gag this time, and the warmth in his stomach spread even further, all the way to the tips of his toes.
“Happy Birthday, Mate,” Ron said as he produced a bottle from somewhere and poured Harry and George another one.
“Where did you get that?” George asked.
“Seamus,” grinned Ron, “I didn’t ask where he got it from.”
“Well, free firewhiskey is much better than paying for the stuff I always say. Bottoms up!” George said as he clinked glasses with Harry.
Harry could feel the affects of the third glass going to his head. When Ginny came to get him for a slow dance, he readily agreed, feeling a little reckless.
‘Maybe I should give this relationship thing another go,’ he thought to himself. ‘The benefits are rather nice…’
They moved around the floor slowly; Harry pressed himself snuggly up against Ginny. He brazenly ran his hands up and down her back as she nestled under his chin. Harry looked around and saw other couples dancing, closed his eyes, and sighed. He was really enjoying himself. He opened his eyes as Ron and Hermione danced past. He felt a sudden lurch in his stomach as he watched them swaying close together. He felt angry with them; his alcohol-induced brain couldn’t figure out what it meant, but it did kill the mood he was in. He was really having a hard time keeping up with his ever-changing frame of mind.
“A sickle for your thoughts, Harry?” Ginny murmured from under his chin, as she felt him tense.
“Huh? Oh…” Harry thought quickly, “Um, I was just thinking about how nice it was of your mum to go to all this trouble for Neville and me.”
“Well,” she said silkily, “It was my idea to throw you a party.”
‘Not according to Ron…’ Harry thought
“If Mum and I hadn’t run into Neville and his grandmother, you wouldn’t have to share your party with him. Of course, we all know who really is the most important person here,” she said as she hugged him closer to herself.
Harry just rolled his eyes. Maybe it was time for him and Ginny to have a talk, but not tonight, and not with the way his head was buzzing. Who knows what he might say, given how his mood seems to be changing faster than Tonk’s ever-changing hair.
Thanks for reading! Another chapter coming soon!
A/N: This was one of my favorite chapters, as it is an awakening of Harry's feelings. I had a lot of fun writing this chapter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you do, let me know!
Wait a minute....(checking...) nope. I still don't own the characters. If I did, my bank account would be much bigger! They are sure fun to play with, though!
As the evening wore on, and Harry had more firewhiskey, he began to relax and forget about any of his worries. He became agreeable to everything and felt giddy. Ron had introduced Neville to the joys of alcohol and he wasn’t feeling any pain either. At one point he stumbled to where Harry was sitting (because he didn’t trust his legs anymore) and fell down into the chair beside him.
“Harry,” he said with a slight slur, “Isn’t thish somtin? I’m glad I convish…convished…um, made my Gran let me sleep over.”
Harry raised his glass to him and looked back at the dance floor. The girls were huddled together in a group giggling, whispering, and pointing in their direction. He figured something was up. He wasn’t dead; he knew that when girls got together it meant trouble, and now there was a storm on the horizon. Hermione was there too, but she looked annoyed. He thought she looked so cute when she was annoyed; her eyebrows were furrowed, and her soft lips were pouting. He shook his head, trying to get rid of those guilty thoughts and looked for Ginny.
“Attention! Gather round!” called Lavender from behind Neville and Harry.
‘How did she get back there?’ Harry thought vaguely.
“Its time to play a game and,” she gave Neville and Harry a conspiratorial wink, “give our birthday boys their gifts!”
Neville waved at the group, with a sloppy grin on his face. Harry knew they were in deep trouble. Anything that was cooked up by Lavender could only lead to disaster. Lavender produced a silk scarf from somewhere and tied it around Neville’s eyes before his addled brain could react.
“Don’t worry, Neville,” she purred in his ear, “you’re gonna love this. Okay ladies; line up, one at a time. We’re going to play ‘Who’s the Kisser?’ Neville, you have to guess who is kissing you. Ready?”
Neville just grinned.
“Hey!” complained Ron, “you’re just looking for a reason to snog Neville and Harry!”
“Jealous?” Ginny challenged.
“Yeah! Nobody suggested playing this game on my birthday!” Ron grumbled as everyone else laughed.
“Okay, who’s first?” Lavender asked.
Ginny came forward and straddled his lap. She looked pointedly at Harry, then put her hands on Neville’s face and kissed him hard.
“Wow!” squeaked Neville as Ginny moved away.
“So, who was it Neville?” asked Seamus.
“Umm…can she do it again?” he asked eagerly. Everyone laughed.
“No way, Neville! One shot!” laughed Lavender.
“It was worth a try,” he laughed, “I know it was Ginny.”
Harry raised his eyebrows in astonishment that Neville knew who it was. It must have been quite a date at the Triwizard Ball. He was surprised that the monster that lived in his chest didn’t rear up its ugly head. He didn’t feel anything at all after watching Ginny kiss Neville.
‘Maybe it’s the firewhiskey…’
The game carried on amid lots of laughter and catcalls. Neville guessed wrong for the next three girls until Lavender came and sat in his lap. The kiss she gave him must have been better than Ginny’s because he sat there with his mouth hanging open for a few moments. He finally managed to gulp and whisper “Lavender” before turning a bright shade of red. Lavender giggled and blushed as well. The kiss must have shaken him because he didn’t get any more right.
‘Now how did he know it was Lavender? How many blokes has she kissed?’ Harry shook his head in wonder. He didn’t realize that Neville had it in him.
Ron whipped off the blindfold to the applause of everyone around him and Neville grinned sheepishly, his eyes searching for Lavender.
Before Harry could react, he was pulled back in his chair, his glasses were removed and the silk scarf was placed over his eyes. He nervously smiled as he heard the girls whispering in front of him. He felt the first girl straddle his lap and place a dreamy kiss on his lips. He could hear the clunking of her necklace and knew who it was.
“Luna,” he said before she had even moved off of his lap.
“Wow!” said Ron, “That was amazing! You should drink firewhiskey more often!”
Harry grinned. He liked this game. The combination of the blindfold and the firewhiskey took away his inhibitions. The next girl wiggled into his lap, trying to get a reaction from him. He knew it was Ginny. She would be the only one aside from Lavender, who would be brazen enough. She kissed him, running her tongue over his lips and then biting his bottom lip with her teeth.
“Ginny,” he said as she came up for air. He had to admit, she was a great kisser.
“Two for two!” yelled Dean, and everyone laughed.
Harry grinned. He was using all of his other senses to figure out who each girl was, which was quite a feat considering how much he had to drink. He did mix up Padma and Pavarti, but they were very similar, being twins. He could hear furious whispering going on while he waited for the next girl, and it sounded like someone was being dragged. Who ever it was bumped into his legs, and he grinned brazenly opening his arms to welcome her.
“Next!” he said cheekily.
He could feel the girl hesitate before sitting primly on his lap, and he thought it might be Cho. He felt tentative hands on his shoulders as she was slowly leaning into him. He waited, expecting to feel Cho’s lips on his. He felt her hesitate for a moment, so close that he could feel her breath on him. Then, after the observing crowd threw out several challenges, their lips met. An explosion seemed to occur in Harry’s brain and he inhaled sharply, as he was assaulted by the feelings her kiss caused. He instinctively put his hands on her back, pulling her closer and trapping her. Time stood still as he kissed her back, deepening the kiss. He felt daring, the blindfold and the firewhiskey gave him courage, and he ran his tongue over her lips, feeling the tingle explode out from his chest and wrap him in warmth. It felt like an electric current was running from Harry to her, and he knew she felt it as well. She pulled back from him and gasped.
“Hermione,” Harry whispered huskily, but it was so quiet no one could hear him, except her.
That kiss held more emotion than Harry thought possible. He was confused; he felt like he was going to burst from the feelings coursing through him. He wanted to kiss her again, with no thought as to who was watching them. He leaned towards her, but she stood up quickly and the warmth and the tingle that he felt were suddenly gone. He didn’t know if anyone else had caught the exchange, since he couldn’t see, and they were all laughing and making catcalls at him. To cover for his hesitation, he pretended to ponder for a moment, tapping his chin, and then said,
“Was it Cho?”
Which created even more laughter.
Lavender called out, “Don’t you even recognize your own best friend Harry?”
Harry feigned shock and said, “Ron! I didn’t know you had it in you!”
That made everyone laugh even harder and Harry pulled the scarf off his eyes grinning. He had to see Hermione, had to see her eyes. He grabbed his glasses and put them on. Looking around he saw three things; Ginny looking furious, Hermione standing there looking confused and hugging herself, and Ron laughing nervously, his eyes darting between Harry and Hermione. The music started up again and Lavender declared the game over as she dragged Neville to the dance floor.
Ginny came over to where Harry was still sitting and stood with her hands on her hips.
“Did you really think it was Cho?” she asked, her eyes blazing.
Harry just shrugged.
“It was just a game, Ginny, no big deal,” he said as he ran his hand through his hair.
‘That kiss…’ he thought.
“You kissed her back!” she hissed and then stormed away, grabbing a confused but delighted Dean by the arm and leading him to the dance floor as she went.
Harry let his eyes roam around the garden, looking for Hermione. He finally found her, walking off into the darkness behind the broom shed, with Ron’s arm around her protectively. His chest hurt to see them go off together and he ran his hand through his hair again as his alcohol induced thoughts ran around in circles. He really didn’t like the way his emotions seemed to be playing with him.
‘She was his best friend! Where did that feeling come from? He had never felt it with Ginny or Cho…She’s Ron’s girlfriend! He was supposed to be Ron’s best friend! They’re together! She’s not with you!’
But then another small voice from deep inside that was hard to ignore asked one simple question: ‘Why not?’
He all of a sudden found a glass in front of his nose and looked up. It was Luna. He took the drink she offered and took a sip, grateful that it wasn’t firewhisky.
“That was fun, wasn’t it?” she said dreamily.
“Yeah, Luna, great,” Harry said as he took another sip.
“How did you know it was me?” she asked.
“Oh,” Harry said. “You know, I heard the butterbeer cork necklace, and it was the… um…the way you kissed.”
Luna looked pleased with his answer. Harry glanced back over towards the shed, hoping for Ron and Hermione to return. Luna watched him.
“It won’t work,” she said dreamily as she followed his gaze.
“What?” Harry said distractedly as he pulled his eyes away from where he knew his two best friends were.
“It won’t work,” she said, quite clearly this time. “Those two. They’re too close. You know, like family.”
“What makes you think that?” Harry puzzled.
They certainly looked like a couple to him when they left. Luna turned and looked at him with her big blue eyes. She gave him a look that reminded him of Trelawny. She shrugged.
“I just know. Their paths do not mingle. They walk side by side, but not as one.”
Harry was getting confused and decided that maybe, he had had too much to drink. Then he thought that if he had drunk too much, this conversation would make sense. He shook his head at the way his thoughts seemed to be going in circles. He grinned at Luna suddenly, and put his glass down, happy for the diversion.
“Come on, let’s dance!” and he pulled her to the dance floor.
****** ****** ****** ******
Ron had gone to Hermione as soon as Lavender had declared the game over. He put his arm around her shoulders and steered her away from the dance floor. She shivered, so he grabbed her shawl from one of the chairs as they went by and put it over her shoulders.
“Thanks,” she murmured.
She was quiet then, but willing to let Ron lead her. He needed to talk to her privately, just the two of them. He walked with her, away from the party, and behind the broom shed.
Ron knew what he had seen. The way Harry had reacted to Hermione’s kiss made his blood boil. He had never seen Harry kiss Ginny like that, and he had caught them several times. There looked like there was some kind of…connection between his two so-called best friends just now. Ron frowned as he realized something else. Once again, Harry got to be first. He got to kiss Hermione before he had. He was starting to get pretty frustrated with all of the roadblocks that he seemed to have in front of him.
Hermione was in shock. That kiss…it felt like…she didn’t know what it felt like. Harry’s lips had been so soft and the jolt of electricity that had gone through her had touched her to the core. When Harry had kissed her back, knowing it was her, it confused her even more. The way he had whispered her name, it gave her goose bumps. She had never seen or felt such an emotion from Harry before. She took a deep breath and tried to push her thoughts down. Harry was, after all, just her best friend. They were all coming to an age where hormones would be affecting them, she had read about it. Besides, Harry was interested in Ginny, not her. He had also been drinking; she had tasted it on his lips. There was no way he was in control of his emotions with all that alcohol flowing through him. Feeling satisfied that she had figured it out; she looked up and smiled at Ron. Ron, who was caught up with his own thoughts, was surprised by her change in mood, and gave her a shaky smile back.
“Lavender sure comes up with some crazy ideas,” Hermione laughed nervously.
“Yeah, not fair though. I didn’t get a group of girls eager to snog me on my birthday,” Ron pouted.
Hermione smiled at Ron’s attempt to humor her.
“Hmm, I don’t know if I would have liked that,” she teased.
Now that he had her alone, Ron was nervous. He felt like he was fighting an unseen demon, and the demon was winning. He sensed he was losing his chance with Hermione, and he felt panicked. He wanted to know if there was going to be a relationship past handholding. He figured there was, since he felt very protective of her. He liked her a lot, and she had grown into a beautiful woman. Even though they argued, he liked her company, and he liked to try and make her laugh.
But that kiss he saw… it made his heart lurch. They had looked so natural together. Would he look the same with her? He felt the pangs of jealousy again that Harry got to kiss her first, although he knew Hermione didn’t readily agree to the game. He led her to the big tree and they sat down. They sat in silence for a while. They could hear the faint strains of the music from the party. Ron took Hermione’s hand in his and squeezed it. She turned and smiled warmly at him. He leaned closer to her, watching her reaction. She just watched him, waiting. He turned to her and reached up to cup her face with his hand. He ran his hand back, through her hair to the back of her neck. He pulled her gently towards him and claimed her lips. They were soft, and he closed his eyes, trying to sense the magic that he expected to feel between them. He could feel her soft lips on his, but that was it, no spark. He pulled her closer, thinking that the extra contact would make a difference, but after a brief minute, he realized that he felt like he was kissing a relative, not a beautiful girl. He drew back from her slowly and looked at her. She opened her eyes, but he didn’t see any passion for him there. When he was with Lavender, he could at least see something smoldering behind her eyes. With Hermione, he saw worry. He recognized a fear that she, for once in her life, didn’t know what to do. He searched his own feelings for her, and he didn’t find the kind of emotion that he thought was supposed to be between two people in love. But what really surprised him was that he felt more disappointed, than hurt. He sighed, and leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes. Hermione looked at him anxiously. She knew he was expecting more from her, but she just didn’t feel it. She knew he was disappointed, she could see it in the way he was sitting.
“This isn’t going to work,” Ron finally said.
“What?” asked Hermione suddenly in a panic. She had just figured out how to handle this situation, and now Ron was throwing a wrench into her plans.
“You. Me. Us. It’s not going to work. Hermione…” he stopped, trying to figure out what he wanted to say. “Hermione, I do love you. You are very important to me. I enjoy the times we have spent together, especially this summer. It was great not having to share you. I even enjoy our bickering.”
“Ron—” Hermione began.
“No, let me finish before I lose my nerve. I thought that there was something between us, but now I think I was wrong.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t want to hurt you. You were my best friend first, and I guess we just kinda fell into this, it just happened. I don’t think that either one of us have really looked at our relationship.”
Hermione,” he took a deep breath to steel himself against what he had to do, and he felt a pang of regret. “I don’t think we should be dating.”
There. He said it.
He looked over, and saw the look of shock on her face, and started to panic. What would Bill or Charlie say in this situation?
“Uh…it’s not you, its me. I...ah…you need someone special, and I don’t think it’s me,”
Boy, was he making a mess of this. He sighed, and his shoulders slumped.
“Look, if it’s okay with you, I would like to just stay friends. I’m sorry Hermione; I really screwed this up. I wish I could fix this. I don’t want to mess up the friendship we have, but I don’t think I love you the way you want me to. It’s…it’s like kissing my sister,” he finished quietly.
He saw the tears in her eyes and felt sick, thinking he had made her cry. He never knew what to do with crying girls, but he figured that maybe after his botched speech, she wanted to be alone, so he got up to leave.
“Don’t go,” Hermione said quietly.
Ron felt uncomfortable. It hadn’t felt this hard to break up with Lavender. Then again, Lavender wasn’t as important to him as Hermione was. He sighed and sat back down again and after an awkward moment, he put an arm around her shoulder. She leaned into him gratefully.
“I’m so sorry Hermione. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he whispered.
She turned and smiled at him, blinking back tears.
“I have a confession to make Ron. I am glad that this has happened, sort of.”
“What?” Ron asked.
Hermione sighed. “I think you are right. I didn’t really know what my feelings for you were. I love you too Ron, but not that way. You’re very important to me, and I thought it was for real, but…it’s not. I’m sorry if I made you think any different.”
“You don’t need to apologize, I think we were both delusional,” Ron said as he gave her a squeeze.
Hermione sniffed and wiped her eyes. “I am so lucky to have two of the best friends in the whole world. If you were just some guy that I was dating, I am sure that he wouldn’t have tried to let me down that easy. You, Ron, are a gentleman. You’re more worried about me than your own feelings. Yes Ron, we will still be friends because I treasure that relationship more than you will ever know. You are my second family.”
“So does that mean,” Ron said with a grin, “you just kissed your brother?”
Hermione punched him in the arm and he laughed, relieved to have her back as a friend, glad he hadn’t lost her completely. Hermione shook her head in wonder. She couldn’t believe this was the same guy that she had attacked with canaries for trying to make her jealous. She was amazed by the change in him. They sat together under the tree, as best friends, for a long time. They talked and laughed, and rediscovered their relationship. After a while, they decided they had better get back.
“Everyone will think we’ve been snogging,” Ron said good-naturedly as he stood up. Hermione followed.
Hermione stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. “I thing there’s already too much in-breeding going on in the Wizarding world, dear brother,” and she laughed as she put her arm around his waist.
So what did you think? Give a review, and you will make me happy. More chapters coming!
A/N: Once again I would like to thank all of you who are reading this, and a great big thanks to my beta, Dementor149. He has been with me and this story from the very beginning.
Any part of the story written in italics are thoughts of the characters, and in some cases, dreams.
As before, I still don't own these great characters. The whole series would have ended differently. Although, then we wouldn't have fanfiction, would we? :D
…And A Nightmare
They had been gone a long time. Long enough for Harry to finish the bottle of firewhiskey. He was sitting and watching his other friends enjoying each other’s company. He decided that he was a moody drunk. One minute carefree and happy, the next, feeling grumpy. He watched as Ron and Hermione came back smiling, arm in arm.
‘Well,’ he thought bitterly, ‘looks like they have had a good snog. I should be happy for them, I guess.’
They came over to where Harry was sitting and Hermione sat down. Ron picked up the empty bottle and looked at it.
“Don’t tell me you finished this off by yourself, mate,” he said.
Harry just shrugged as he warily watched Hermione, trying to gage her reaction to earlier events. He had crossed the line when he had kissed her back. He knew it, but he couldn’t help himself. He was worried because he didn’t want to lose her as a friend. He needed her, and the thought of losing her scared him. Hermione turned and saw him watching her, and the look in his eyes told her of his fears. She smiled to reassure him.
“It’s been a good party Harry. I’ve had a great time. I can’t believe that I actually saw you dancing several times! Must be that coming of age thing, or maybe the alcohol?” she teased.
Harry relaxed. Hermione seemed to be her old self, and he accepted her unspoken reassurance that everything was okay between them. He was relieved. He didn’t need any further complications in his life right now. He decided to store the experience away, like a dream. He gave her a sloppy grin and leaned back in his chair.
“Must be the alcohol; drunken Harry likes to dance. A sober Harry remembers a certain Triwizard Ball and the fear of being on a dance floor,” he shot back.
“Ugh!” said Ron eyeing the dregs in the bottom of the bottle wistfully before putting it back down. “Don’t get me started on that! Fred and George still won’t let me forget about having to dance with McGonagall.”
Harry smiled, remembering the conversation he had with the twins back then. He felt his spirits lift and the bad mood go away. It was an interesting sensation, being drunk, and no control over one’s emotions. He was in fact, feeling quite dizzy and light-headed. He figured that he couldn’t stand if he tried. His body and his brain were not even talking coherently to each other anymore. He watched Ron flop down in the chair beside Hermione and lean against the back of her chair comfortably, as the two of them engaged in a conversation about some of the couples on the dance floor. He wasn’t really listening to them, just watching them as they leaned in to share some observation. They seemed so content with each other, as if something had changed. They looked like a happy couple, sort of like Bill and Fleur did when they were together. They deserved some happiness in all of this, he decided, and he wasn’t going to stand in their way.
‘Especially Hermione,’ he thought, ‘she should be with someone stable, someone who doesn’t have a death threat against him by some evil lord. They both deserve to be happy, considering all that they had been through with me.’ He smiled as he realized he couldn’t have asked for two better friends, and he vowed that he would be happy for them. They deserved it.
All too soon the evening was coming to an end and Harry’s friends came over to say their good-byes. Harry saw Neville being guided towards the house by Fred and George, and he figured that it was time to call it a night as well. He was really having a hard time keeping his eyes open. Harry stood up and proceeded to stumble sideways and sit rather abruptly on the ground. Ron laughed at his lack of coordination and reached over to help him up.
“Upsy-daisy, mate,” he grinned, “good thing you don’t need to fly or catch a snitch tonight.”
Harry gave him a lopsided grin as he swayed unsteadily on his feet. “I can still fly circles around you, any time, anywhere. Want to have a go?”
Ron looked at him in disbelief. “I would have to tie you to your broom so you wouldn’t fall off, you old drunk!” he chortled.
“I am not old!” Harry said indignantly.
“Yeah, but you’re still a drunk,” Ron threw back at him.
“I can still out fly you any time, any day, and while you are still looping the rings trying to get your bearings, I will have flown circles around you.” Harry smirked.
“Is that so?” Ron challenged, “Care to put your money where your mouth is?”
“Oh no you don’t!” interjected Hermione. “There is no way either of you are going to fly in your condition! You just march right up to the house right now and take yourself to bed!”
“Bossy, little spoilsport,” Harry said as he stuck out his tongue.
“Always ‘Little Miss Prefect’, afraid of taking chances,” Ron muttered slyly, giving Harry a wink.
“Bed! Now!” Hermione said as she pointed at the house, trying hard not to laugh.
Ron put his arm under Harry’s and staggered up towards the house, singing a rather off-key drinking song that he had heard from his brothers. Hermione could hear Harry join in and shook her head as she fondly watched them go, smiling at their antics.
Harry let Ron lead him straight upstairs to their shared room. Neville was already there, snoring away. Ron laughed when he saw him; the twins had dyed his hair a shocking pink and gave him a Mohawk.
“I wonder if that’s the only hair they dyed?” Ron asked snickering. “You’d look good in Gryffindor Red.”
“Don’t get any ideas,” Harry warned, “I know where you live and I can still out-hex you.”
“Don’t know how, when you can’t even stand up,” Ron muttered.
Harry pulled away from Ron, intent on following through with his threat, and proceeded to collide with the open door.
Ron just laughed harder as he steered Harry towards his bed. Harry lay down and closed his eyes, willing the room to stop moving so he could sleep. Ron was climbing into bed when Harry opened his bleary eyes and looked at him.
“You’re a good friend, you know, mate. You and Hermione, you’ve been the best thing to happen to me in my whole life,” he was starting to feel a bit melancholy. “I’m happy for the two of you,” he said honestly, “You guys deserve a life of happiness. I’m just glad that you’re both my friends…” he said as he felt sleep overtake him.
“Uh, listen mate, about that. Hermione and I…” Ron stopped when he heard Harry snoring softly.
‘Tomorrow,’ he thought drowsily, ‘I’ll tell him tomorrow.’
****** ****** ****** ******
Harry was in the Great Hall. Voldemort was sitting on his throne, his supporters surrounding him. He looked around, seeing his friends jammed into the cages. He felt his chest contract as he realized the extent of Voldemort’s cruelty. There was so much blood…
Harry heard Voldemort laughing and turned around to see he was now standing near the wall, using a whip to flay someone hanging on the wall. Voldemort turned and looked at Harry; his evil grin making Harry shiver.
“Sometimes,” he hissed seductively, “physical pain can be just as rewarding as mental pain. It creates such a wonderful sense of helplessness, don’t you think?”
Harry looked at the body hanging loosely from the wall. He saw the blood dripping from the open wounds and the red hair. He felt sick. This madman was threatening his friends, and it was because of him. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take. It was too much.
He heard a commotion coming from the side room and turned to look. Two Death Eaters were dragging Hermione from the side chamber. They chained her, facing the wall, and tore her shirt off. Voldemort walked towards her, letting the tails of the whip stroke his hands, like a lover’s caress.
“I shall enjoy this,” he said, licking his lips in anticipation as he raised the whip. It whistled through the air and made contact with Hermione’s bare back. She cried out and tried to arch away.
“Noo!” Harry screamed as he tried to lurch forward. He looked down and saw he was chained to the floor. He frantically tried to open them with a few spells and found that they wouldn’t open. He couldn’t reach her, he couldn’t help her, he couldn’t think. He strained against the chains on his legs, the metal biting into his skin. He heard laughing all around him, and he felt helpless. He collapsed on the floor, as Voldemort slashed the whip across her back again and again, cutting her skin and making her bleed. He flinched with every stroke, sobbing and screaming for him to stop. He felt hands on him and he fought to get free, sobbing harder now at his inability to help either of them.
“Harry!” a voice said.
“LET ME GO!” he yelled, trying to free himself, fighting the hands holding him down.
“Harry! Stop! It’s okay! It’s only a dream!” the voice said, holding his arms to prevent him from lashing out.
“Only a…” Harry opened his eyes to see Ron trying to hold him down, with Neville standing fearfully behind him. Harry was so relieved that he sat up, grabbed Ron and hugged him.
“Wha…” said Ron, trying to push himself away so he could look Harry in the eyes.
“Harry, it’s okay,” he said, trying to calm him as he took hold of his arms.
Harry took a shuddering breath as Ron sat beside him, a knowing look on his face. It was so real to Harry. He could still feel the cold chains around his ankles. He ran his hand over his face and looked around, wide-eyed. He could still see them, chained and hurt, because of him. He was shaking still.
The door burst open and Hermione came in, closely followed by Ginny. Harry was so relieved to see her that he gasped out loud. Hermione went to him and wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“Was it Voldemort?” she whispered as she made eye contact with Ron, and an understanding passed between them. They were here for him.
Harry nodded, unable to speak. He held her, the tears started to flow freely; he didn’t stop them. He had felt so helpless, so afraid. He didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. He didn’t want to do this, didn’t want the pain, the fear, the responsibility. Hermione held him as he cried. He was exhausted, but so fearful of sleep.
“I…I can’t,” he whispered brokenly.
“It’s okay Harry. We’re here. It wasn’t real,” Hermione said soothingly, over and over again to reassure him, as she rocked him.
Ginny stood at the door watching them, the look of disappointment etched on her face as she watched Harry Potter, the hero, break down. How could he show such weakness over some silly nightmare? Why was it Hermione and not her sitting on that bed? She shook her head at the scene before her. She had thought so highly of him, thought he was braver than that. Right now, he just looked like a little kid having nightmares, not her knight in shining armor.
Mrs. Weasley had come in by this time, followed by Mr. Weasley. She looked at Harry, shocked at what she saw. She knew that he had been having nightmares, Lupin had told her, but she didn’t know that they had been so bad.
“I’ll get the sleeping draught,” she murmured and left. She came back a moment later and handed the potion to Hermione, who gave it to Harry. He took it without argument. Mrs. Weasley pushed her husband and protesting daughter out of the room and sent them back to bed.
Hermione gently pushed Harry back to lie down on the bed as Ron moved over to sit in the chair beside his bed.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured sleepily, the draught taking effect.
“What for?” asked Hermione as she sat beside him.
“I’m not strong enough,” he whispered, “I can’t do this.”
“We’re stronger together, Harry remember that,” she said gently as she pushed his hair aside.
“Stay…please…both of you,” he slurred as he grabbed Ron’s arm and Hermione’s hand. He drifted off, holding his two best friends.
While he was sleeping soundly, Hermione brushed his hair out of his face and smoothed the worry lines off his forehead. Ron watched her.
“I wonder if he knows how much you love him,” Ron said wistfully.
“Of course he knows! We’re his best friends!” replied Hermione.
“Not us Hermione, you. I’m his best mate and I’ll always be here for him, but you…” he trailed off and shrugged.
“I don’t know what you are talking about, Ron,” she said brusquely. “You know I care for him a lot, that’s what friends do.”
Ron rolled his eyes. He didn’t feel like fighting. He was already emotionally drained from dealing with Harry’s dream, and he could feel the start of a hangover in the back of his eyes. He yawned and got up to go to bed. He saw Neville still standing by his bed, wide-eyed.
“Neville, go back to bed. Harry will be fine now,” Ron said.
Neville nodded his pink Mohawk and wordlessly crawled back into his bed.
“I’m going to bed. Morning’s going to be here soon,” Ron said as he crawled under his own covers.
“I guess it’s okay for me to go too,” Hermione said, reluctant to leave. “Is Neville okay?” she said as she took in the pink hair peeking out from under the blankets.
Ron grunted in reply. He was already half asleep.
When Harry woke later that morning, he felt beaten and bruised. He just lay in his bed for a long time not wanting to move. He could hear voices downstairs and saw he was alone, so he figured everyone must have been downstairs eating breakfast. That was fine with Harry. He wasn’t in a mood to see anyone. He rolled over and closed his eyes. When he woke again the room was warm. He figured it was mid-afternoon. His growling stomach made him get out of bed and throw on a pair of shorts and a shirt. The house was quiet, but as he headed downstairs he could hear two voices. He came into the kitchen and saw Mrs. Weasley and Lupin sitting at the table. Mrs. Weasley jumped up guiltily when she saw him, looking at him with sympathetic eyes.
“I’ll get you something to eat Harry. You must be famished.”
Harry sat down across from Lupin and stared at the top of the table, not wanting to make eye contact with him. Lupin looked concerned.
“I hear you are having bad dreams again, Harry,” he said.
Harry just nodded, without looking up. He was tired of trying to hide the fact that he had nightmares that made him sick.
“What happened to the Occlumency?” asked Lupin, “I thought you were learning how to shut it out.”
Harry shrugged. “My lessons with Snape weren’t very successful, I guess I didn’t practice enough,” he scowled as he thought about the hateful teacher. “I really don’t think he wanted me to succeed, because he never really taught me what to do.” Harry looked up. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I need to practice with someone. I was hoping that maybe you could help me.”
“Well, I’m not as good at it as Professor Snape is, but maybe I can get you going on the right track. Not today though. You’d be too emotional, and you need a break. I think your friends want to spend some time with you.” Lupin said.
Mrs. Weasley brought him some lunch and he began to eat, not really tasting what he was putting in his mouth. He shook his head as the feelings of being embarrassed from last night came over him.
“I don’t know if I want to see them,” he mumbled, “I need to distance myself from them.”
“What for, Harry? They’re your friends and they care about you!” Lupin said.
Harry sighed. “I’m weak professor. He’s beating me from the inside. He knows what my weakness is and he is going to use it against me. I…I can’t put them through that,” he stopped eating, unable to swallow past the lump in his throat.
“Harry,” Lupin sighed, “You have to understand what he is doing to you,” he thought for a moment. “One soldier on a battlefield surrounded by the enemy loses hope. He gives up. It makes it easier to defeat him. An army of soldiers feels strength from those around him. He feels empowered by the support of others. It makes him harder to defeat. If he alienates you from those you love, Harry, he has created that hopelessness that he wants and needs to defeat you. You need all the help you can get in order to end this war. We are all here to help you. Don’t push us away.”
Lupin got up and laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“We are all here to help Harry,” he said again, “we know what we’re getting into. We have made the choice to help you, just as you made the choice to fight. Don’t give up now. You’re not weak. Older and more experienced wizards have collapsed under far less than what you’re going through. You are one of the strongest people I know. You will beat him, Harry. We all have faith in you. I’ll see you tomorrow for your Occlumency lessons.”
After Lupin left, Harry decided he wanted some fresh air and maybe a ride on his broomstick. He needed to think. He grabbed his broomstick and headed over to the Weasley’s Quiddich pitch, avoiding everyone. He kicked off as soon as he got there, glorying in the warm breeze that ruffled his hair. He soared higher, circling around the pitch, enjoying the sense of freedom he always got from the wide-open skies. It gave him the chance to escape reality for a while, and the chance to organize his thoughts. He zoomed around faster, pretending to be looking for the snitch. He weaved in and out of the loops, feeling reckless. He spun and weaved; dodging imaginary players when suddenly a mop of red hair cut him off. He stopped, and Ron came up beside him, looking at him challengingly. Harry grinned and accepted the challenge, and took off. Ron chased him, both of them now weaving and dodging around the pitch. Ron almost had him once, but Harry was too fast for him. He was always one step ahead of his redheaded challenger. Exhausted, the boys finally headed for the ground. Harry collapsed on the field beside Ron, breathing heavily.
“All right there, mate?” Ron said as he gasped for breath.
“Yeah,” grunted Harry. “Thanks. You know, for last night.”
Ron shrugged. “You would have done the same for me.”
They were silent for a while, trying to get their breath back.
“So, how was Neville this morning?” Harry questioned.
Ron grinned. “He had a nasty headache this morning, and you should have heard him scream when he saw his hair! ‘My Gran will kill me’,” Ron said as he mimicked Neville.
“So was he pink through and through?” Harry asked.
“Oh yeah. You could hear him in the bathroom all the way downstairs,” Ron laughed. “Mum had a fit. It was a good thing Fred and George weren’t there. She made us all wait for breakfast while she made up a potion to change him back before his grandmother arrived. It was a nightmare having to wait!”
Harry instantly sobered again and looked away. The silence hung heavy between them.
“Was it worse than before?” Ron finally asked quietly after a few moments of silence.
Harry nodded. “He knows Ron. He knows that you and Hermione are important to me. He wants to use you to get to me.”
“Well then, I guess we had better be well prepared.”
“You don’t have to do this you know,” said Harry.
“I know, mate,” said Ron quietly, “but what kind of a friend would I be to let you go at it alone?”
“A live one,” Harry said.
Ron snorted. “No one will live if You-Know-Who wins, Harry. My whole family is marked. I need to do this.”
“What about Hermione?” Harry asked. “If anything ever happened—”
“Harry,” Ron interrupted, “do you really think Hermione would let herself be left behind?”
“I just don’t want her to get hurt,” Harry said.
“She’s pretty special,” said Ron. He was quiet for a moment, thinking. “So, how do you feel about her?”
“Oh, she’s…she’s a great friend. Always been there for me, for us. She’s smart, caring, and she always seems to know what I want, or what I need. I don’t know what I would do without her.” Harry smiled wistfully as he thought about her. He then looked up at the strange expression on Ron’s face.
“She’s, uh, just a friend Ron,” he said quickly, turning red. “Nothing else. I mean, I… uh…don’t fancy her, you know, she is your girlfriend Ron.”
“Yeah, well about that. I’ve been meaning to talk to you—”
“Harry! Ron! Mum’s looking for you!” called Ginny as she came onto the pitch.
Ron sighed. “Later,” he said as he got up.
Harry looked at Ginny and saw that she was looking at him strangely before she turned and left. He thought it was odd, after the way she had been throwing herself at him the last few days, but he shrugged it off as he headed back to the Burrow. Who knew how girls thought anyway?
Thanks for reading! Please leave a review on your way out so I know how I am doing! It would only take a minute!
More chapters coming!
A/N:Thanks for the reviews! I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am. Thanks to Dementor149 for his ongoing support.
I still don't own these characters, but I really enjoy being a part of the world I created for them.
Lessons of the Heart
The next few days seemed to be filled with the wedding preparations and Occlumency lessons, and Ron and Harry never got to finish their conversation. Harry was so busy with the Occlumency lessons that he didn’t even think about it.
The lessons had not been going well. For the past few days, Harry was unable to keep Lupin out of his head. Harry was becoming frustrated with his lack of progress, and he felt that Lupin was becoming frustrated as well. Most of the lessons had ended in failure, and Harry felt that perhaps he was never going to get it. Today was no better. Lupin had been attacking him all morning, and Harry was unable to block him. Soon, Lupin found out about the vision. Harry gasped and stumbled to the ground as Lupin pulled away from him. He always felt so violated with these lessons, even though he trusted Lupin.
“What was that Harry?” he heard Lupin ask quietly, “It looked like the Great Hall. That hasn’t happened. Why is that memory there?”
“Voldemort gave it to me,” Harry said as he plucked at the grass, not meeting his eyes, the shame of failure embarrassing him. “That’s what he keeps threatening me with.”
“Merlin’s Bones Harry! Do you realize what this means? Taking Hogwarts could be a part of his plan! Why didn’t you tell someone from the Order?”
“Because I…I didn’t think about it. I didn’t know the Order was still operating. Besides, I figured he was taunting me. I was focussing more on my friends…” he trailed off.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” Lupin said as he helped him up. “It is a pretty disgusting vision. I can see why you wouldn’t want to talk about it. As for the Order, it’s there; it’s just not as strong as before. We have lost a lot of good people and without Fawkes…” Lupin shrugged. “We can discuss this later. Let’s try again. Clear your mind. Try to make it blank.” Lupin said as he paced.
Harry closed his eyes and tried to will the visions from his mind. He turned to face Lupin.
“Legilimens” Lupin said and flicked his wand.
At first there was darkness, and Harry began to feel some elation of having hidden some of his thoughts. Then suddenly, a whirlwind of visions and thoughts were flying around. Dumbledore’s death flashed by, followed by the fight with Snape. They jumped forward to the Dursley’s and of him jogging with Tonks. They seemed to circle around the vision of Tonks, and Harry tried to push Lupin back. He knew what he was going to see. Then it was there, the kiss he had shared with her that morning. Suddenly, Lupin was gone from his head and Harry was left gasping again.
“Can you explain why you were kissing Tonks?” Lupin said in a strained voice as he began to stalk towards Harry.
“Hey!” Harry said, backing up. “She was kissing me! She said something about finding the power within me and she kissed me!”
Lupin narrowed his eyes at him and moved closer. To Harry, he looked ready to pounce.
“I swear professor! Honest!” Harry said as he backed up further, starting to feel nervous. He wasn’t too sure what he was going to do if the professor attacked him.
Lupin finally stopped and closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath, trying to relax. “I believe you, Harry,” he sighed, then shook his head. “She always has a way of getting my hackles up,” he smiled, “Let’s talk about your methods. Tell me how you are trying to clear you mind.”
“Well,” said Harry, “I just try to push my thoughts aside.”
“Hmmm…” said Lupin. “That means that all your memories and thoughts are still near the surface. Let’s try this. Picture all of your thoughts in the center.”
Harry closed his eyes. He pictured boxes of images jumbled all together in his head.
“Okay. Now build a wall around those thoughts. Lock them in.” Lupin waited until Harry nodded. Lupin continued in a low hypnotic voice. “Now, lower that cage down through the floor of your brain. Seal it up, like a vault.”
Harry did as he was told. He pictured an empty room, the vault hidden securely in the floor. He opened his eyes.
“Legilimens” Lupin said.
Harry felt him enter his head, and felt a sense of calm. His thoughts were protected; there wasn’t anything Lupin would be able to find. He smiled at Lupin and then pushed. Lupin stumbled back, surprised.
“That was good Harry. I couldn’t find anything. You’re picking up quick.”
Harry felt excited. He was finally making progress. It was suddenly making sense.
“Let’s try again. I want you to put a wall up in front of me so I can’t get in. Try and stop me before I start.”
Harry nodded, “Ready,” he said.
“Legilimens” Lupin said.
Harry quickly put up a wall and then pushed hard. Lupin stumbled back, almost losing his footing.
“Harry! That was incredible! I didn’t even get a chance to get anywhere.”
Harry grinned. “Thanks. I just suddenly understood. Snape never explained any of this like you have.”
“Let’s try something new. One thing that You-Know-Who will try to do is find something. If he finds nothing he will try and tear down your wall and rip you apart until he finds what he wants. Make an image in your mind and plant it behind the wall. Let me find it. You need to learn to direct someone to the image you want to portray, not the image they want to find.”
“Got it,” Harry said. He thought a moment and then smiled as he remembered an image of him flying on his broom earlier, being chased by Ron. He nodded to the professor, trying to stay focused on the scene in his mind.
“Legilimens” Lupin said.
Harry felt his presence as Lupin pushed against his wall, and he let it fall. He let him see the image of him flying, a feeling of contentment coming over him. Lupin abruptly gave a wolfish grin and latched on to that feeling and followed it. Suddenly he had access to all of Harry’s good feelings. Harry tried to catch him, but he was too slippery. Lupin saw him beating the dragon at the Triwizard tournament, winning the house cup, and holding Hermione in his arms as he slept…
“No!” thought Harry. He quickly built a steel wall around his vault of hidden feelings. At the same time he pushed Lupin, hard. Lupin went flying through the air and landed about ten feet away from Harry. Harry staggered from the effort, and then ran to where Lupin was now sitting on the grass.
“Professor! I’m sorry! Are you alright?”
“Merlin’s Bones Harry! Where did that come from?” Lupin said.
“I…I don’t know!” said Harry. “I couldn’t catch you! Then suddenly I saw…something… private, and…and I didn’t want you to see it. I created a new wall and I just pushed. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how hard I pushed you.”
Harry sat down beside Lupin.
“It was powerful Harry,” Lupin frowned, trying to remember the image. Suddenly his eyes went wide and he looked at Harry.
“It was Hermione,” he said. “And you…”
Harry turned red and looked away. He still wasn’t sure where he stood with Hermione, but much to his chagrin, he had been thinking about her a lot lately. Lupin watched him for a moment.
“Harry,” he said finally, “let’s try something. I am going to go looking for specific memories. People you know. Try to push me out.”
“Okay,” said Harry.
“Legilimens” he said and began by looking for Ron. He found him quickly, and watched as the boys shared a laugh together before he was pushed out again, hard. He put his hands back to break his fall, thankful that he was already sitting on the ground.
“Again,” he said, “Legilimens” He went looking for Ginny this time. He was pushed out again, but not quite as hard as before.
Harry was breathing hard from the exertion; his face was becoming sweaty.
“Again,” he said, “Legilimens” He was going for the images that he thought would create the biggest reaction. He knew he could get to them; Harry was tired. He found Harry and Hermione snuggled in bed together, but then the scene abruptly changed. He saw Hermione kissing Harry the night of his birthday. He was suddenly slammed on to his back and he couldn’t move. The force coming from Harry was impossible to break. It was beginning to press on his chest, making it hard to breathe.
“Ha…Harry,” he gasped.
Harry’s eyes re-focussed and he inhaled sharply at seeing Lupin flat on the grass. The pressure on Lupin’s chest suddenly eased and he took in a full breath of air. Harry was shocked. He hadn’t used his wand or said a spell, or was even aware of what he did. Lupin sat up, breathing heavily.
“What…How…How did I do that?” Harry asked.
Lupin looked at him for a moment.
“I think,” he said slowly, “Your feelings give you power. The stronger the feelings, the stronger your power. You have strong feelings for Ginny, stronger feelings for Ron, but your strongest feelings were for—”
“Hermione,” whispered Harry.
“Harry,” Lupin started, “how do you feel about Hermione? Have you really looked at your feelings? I don’t mean to pry, but there is something very powerful there.”
It was the second time today that he had been asked about his feelings for Hermione. He cared about her, a lot. He had noticed his body’s reaction to her, but chalked it up to male hormones. After all, she was a girl, beautiful, smart, and funny, who wouldn’t notice her? She was his best friend, so he felt comfortable around her, not like Cho, who made him feel nervous. He didn’t have to worry about how he acted around her, because she only saw him as a friend.
But then, he didn’t feel the same sensation that he got when he had kissed Ginny, or even Cho. With Hermione…Well, he could still remember the kiss they had shared, feel the sensation on his lips. It had been incredible and he had wanted more. In fact, he came to the realization that he had thought of very little else but that kiss. He sighed.
“I don’t know, professor,” he said, “I think about her a lot, but she doesn’t see me as any more than a friend. She is seeing Ron, so…” he shrugged.
“Well,” said Lupin, “You have a good friend in her. Make sure you treasure that friendship. It might give you the extra power you need. That’s enough for today. I’m tired, and you must be too. We’ll try again tomorrow.
It was getting closer to Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and Mrs. Weasley was in overdrive. Every spare hand was given a job, and Harry was trying to help where he could. He found it difficult with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley pussy-footing around him, like they were afraid he would break, and he found it strange that Ginny seemed to be avoiding him too. The lessons with Lupin were going great. Harry could shut him out without using any exertion at all. He was starting to plant different images in his head to see if he could direct Lupin towards them. He found that he was now in control of his thoughts and feelings; they were no longer in control of him. He was blocking out all the nightmares now, and getting more sleep. His confidence was growing again, and it could be seen in the way he held himself. He was becoming his old self again, and was looking forward to further lessons from Lupin.