It was a cool Saturday morning and there was a mist drifting across the great lake. Sunlight was beginning to stream out over the castle bathing the grounds in warm, amber light. Underneath a large tree next to the lake sat a lone figure on the otherwise deserted grounds.
He was so lost in thought that he never noticed the young woman walking down from the castle heading straight for him. Without a word, the second figure sat down on the ground next to the young man and handed over a bacon sandwich wrapped in a napkin that she pulled out of her shoulder bag.
“Thanks, Hermione.” Harry croaked, and he began to eat his sandwich. Harry and Hermione sat and watched the sunrise completely over the castle, comfortable in their shared silence.
In a voice so low, that Hermione had to strain to hear it over the sounds of the awakening forest Harry whispered, “I’m so scared, I don’t think that I’m ready for this.”
Hermione could hear the fear in his voice and that alone shook her. “Harry…” but he interrupted her before she could continue speaking.
“Crouch Sr. says that my name coming out of the Goblet of Fire is a magically binding contract, even though I didn’t enter myself. They all thought that I had gone back to Gryffindor tower after they dismissed me, but I stayed in the hallway to hear what was going on. Snape suggested that they use me to draw out the person that put my name into the Goblet and Dumbledore agreed. They are using me for bait, Hermione. BAIT!” Harry hissed the last word with venom.
Harry stood up abruptly and walked over to the water’s edge, stuffing his hands into his robe pockets in frustration. “They aren’t even going to give me any help, and I know that Madam Maxine and Karkaroff are going to do everything that they can to help Fleur and Krum win the tournament.”
Hermione got up and wrapped Harry in a hug from behind, he stiffened for a brief moment but did not move away, and she buried her cheek against his shoulder. “You can do this Harry; I’ll do everything I can to help you get through this.” Then she felt it, Harry’s breath caught in his chest and she knew that he was crying silently.
After a few moments, Harry gently tugged Hermione’s hands apart and turned into the embrace so that they were facing each other. Pulling her into his chest, he returned the hug and whispered in her ear, “Thanks. I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“I’ll always be there to help you Harry, you’re my best friend.” Hermione stated while pulling back to look at his face. “Besides, think of all of the new spells we are going to learn while preparing you for the tournament. We should write to Sirius and let him know what is going on. Do you think that he would give us some ideas to help with the tasks?”
“That’s a good idea. Perhaps we can ask Professor Lupin to help too. He is the one that taught me the Patronus Charm last year and he was definitely our best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.” Harry reached out and grabbed Hermione’s hand. “Let’s go visit Hedwig and send a couple of letters out.”
Hermione was a bit surprised when Harry did not let go of her hand as they walked back up to the castle because it was rare that he initiated contact with anyone. It was as if he was not used to physical contact at all. Then it hit her like a well-placed Impediment Jinx and she stopped in her tracks. Because they were still holding hands, Harry came to a quick stop.
He turned to look at her and the expression that he saw on her face was murderous. Quickly growing concerned, he pulled out his wand and looked around at their surroundings. They were next to Greenhouse Seven but there was no one in sight. “What’s wrong, Hermione? Are you okay?”
Hermione grabbed his hand and began dragging him towards the greenhouse. In her anger, the door to the greenhouse burst open before they got within five feet of it and she strode in without a second glance. Once Harry was inside, she turned and cast a locking charm on the door before sitting down on one of the benches and pulling Harry with her.
After taking a calming breath Hermione slowly reached out, took Harry’s hands in hers, looked into his eyes, and said, “Harry, why did you stiffen first when I hugged you? When was the last time that you had a hug?”
This was not what Harry was expecting when Hermione dragged him into the greenhouse in a towering rage. As such, in his confusion he answered with complete honesty, “I’m not used to being touched at all, Hermione. The last hug that I had before today was the one from you at the end of last year when we got off the train. My aunt never touches me unless it’s to grab my arm for something that she thinks I did wrong.” Immediately after completing his sentence, Harry realized what he had said, and his eyes went wide with fear before he hung his head down in shame.
“Harry, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Hermione said quietly. “That is called child abuse and your aunt and uncle are guilty, not you. Have you ever told anyone about this before?”
Harry still had not looked up but when he spoke, Hermione could hear the tears, pain, and bitterness in his voice. “Dumbledore knows. The address on my first letter from Hogwarts was to my cupboard under the stairs. That’s why I have never brought it up before because I don’t think that he will do anything to help me with the Dursleys.” Then all of a sudden the floodgates opened and Harry began telling Hermione everything that had ever happened to him in his time at his relatives. He told her about starving, the mental and physical abuse, a lack of clothes that fit properly, being the Dursley’s house-elf, and how he only got his own bedroom after coming to Hogwarts. When Harry was finished it was like a great weight lifted that he was not aware that he had been carrying around.
Hermione was crying openly while holding his hands and doing nothing to hide her tears. “Harry, I think that we should talk to my parents and maybe a solicitor too. I know you don’t want to, but I think it would really help.” Hermione pleaded.
“You’re right, Hermione; I just don’t like talking about it at all. No one has ever helped me with any of this before. I do not want to live with the Dursleys anymore but I don’t want to go to the Weasleys or an orphanage either. What am I going to do?” Harry asked in a small voice.
“We,” Hermione emphasized clearly, “are going to figure this out together. I will write to my parents about the situation with your relatives and see if they have some ideas that could help you out. However, the tournament is still going to be a priority right now.”
After taking a few minutes to compose themselves, Hermione opened her bag and began to pull out quills and parchment so they could begin writing letters to Sirius, Remus, and her parents. Harry put everything he could remember about Dumbledore and Snapes’ conversation about the tournament and how only Hermione seemed to believe that he had not put his name in the Goblet of Fire. He finished his letter asking Sirius and Remus if they knew of a quicker way to communicate with each other because owl post took too long. Hermione had also completed her letter, sealed it, and handed it to Harry to mail.
When they reached the tower, Harry called down Hedwig and told her to wait with Hermione’s parents for a reply. After watching his snowy owl disappear over the horizon Harry sighed and looked over at Hermione and said, “I guess we should head back to the tower so I can get my stuff and face the music.”
“Okay. Do you want to go to the library afterwards or should we look for a place to practice spells?”
“I think that I would like to look around the castle to find a place to practice. My mind is still too cluttered to study right now.”
As Hermione moved towards the door of the Owlry, Harry reached out a hand, tentatively touched her shoulder, and gently turned her to face him. “Thank you.”
No more words were necessary; Hermione could see the depth of thanks in Harry’s emerald eyes. “You’re welcome.”
He pulled the door open for her and they headed towards Gryffindor Tower, each of them thinking of the things that they needed to do to make sure that Harry survived the tournament.
Stepping through the portrait into the common room, Harry was unprepared for the sight that greeted him. Neville was red in the face, his fists clenched, as he stood over the crumpled form of Ron Weasley. “Don’t you ever say that about Harry again, Ron! You know he hates the attention. He said that he didn’t put his name in that stupid goblet and I believe him.”
“Thanks, Neville.” Harry said while stepping fully into the common room. Neither of them had noticed Harry and Hermione enter through the portrait. “That means a lot to me to know that you believe that I didn’t enter the tournament.”
“You’re welcome, Harry. Hello, Hermione.” Neville said as he turned to face them, with a sheepish grin on his face.
“Is there something that you want to say to me?” Harry asked Ron. Without saying a word, Ron got up and walked past them out of the portrait hole. “I take it that he is upset that my name came out of the Goblet and he still thinks that I entered the tournament on my own?”
Neville paused for a moment in thought and then answered, “Yeah, that about sums it up. He isn’t the only one that thinks that you entered on your own, but he is the only one in Gryffindor that is mad at your for being a champion.”
“What a load of rubbish! If he could get past his own jealousy maybe he would see that someone put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire for a reason.” Hermione fumed as she sat down in her favorite spot by the fire. “Don’t worry Harry, he will come around eventually, realize that he is wrong, and things will go back to the way that they were before.” Hermione hung her head as she said the last part.
Harry was watching Hermione from the corner of his eye and noticed that she had slumped down after she had finished speaking. He realized that he had not been a good friend to Hermione at all when it came to the relationship between her and Ron. “Hey,” Harry said softly as he reached over to touch Hermione’s arm. “I’m sorry. I should have stood up to him before for how he treats you. Things will not be going back to the way that they were, ever. I told you that you are my best friend and it’s about time I started acting that way.”
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione sobbed as she threw herself into his arms.
Neville silently waved goodbye to Harry and headed up to their room to give them some privacy.
Chuckling a little, Harry said, “It’s really been an emotional day hasn’t it?” and then he broke out into a full laugh as Hermione started giggling into his chest. Once their laughter had died down, Harry said, “You know, I think I feel better about all of this now that you know everything that I have gone through. It doesn’t seem like such a burden anymore.”
“I’m glad that I could help and talking about things makes you put them into perspective and allows you to move on.” Hermione stood up from the sofa and pulled Harry to his feet. “Now hurry up and get your stuff so we can find a place to practice.”
Grinning, Harry walked up the steps to his dorm room and retrieved the Marauders Map and his invisibility cloak to aid them in their search.