rolled over onto his side. Catching his watch face in a translucent
ray of light, he read the time to be just past midnight. Lying flat
on his back, he half-listened to Ron’s shallow breathing from just
above him. The Burrow sat in pensive silence; even the ghoul seemed
expectant that night. Harry sighed, straining to keep himself from lapsing
back into his usual train of thought, fuelled by guilt, remorse, and
though he hated to admit it, fear.
Harry was afraid.
Afraid of a future that had never looked blacker, a future stained with
darkness-a future of Voldemort Harry shuddered as one by one the images
returned to him: Cedric’s body, his mother, his father, and those
eyes, those pitiless eyes, eyes the colour of blood . He screwed his
own eyes up against them; willing himself unsuccessfully onto other
After a feverish
moment Harry stood silently and left Ron’s room. He padded slowly down
the stairs until he reached the door to the living room. He rested his
hand on the doorknob and twisted it gently, the cold smoothness beneath
his palm calming him slightly.
of a dying fire glowed amber in the Weasley’s grate. Harry hesitated.
Before he’d had a chance to think, something shifted in the darkness.
He reached immediately for his wand heart thumping uncontrollably in
“Oh! Oh, Harry,
it’s you!” breathed Hermione in relief moving a lit candle into greater
prominence. Harry exhaled a deep breath he hadn’t known he was holding.
Hand trembling slightly he returned his wand to his pocket. Hermione
rubbed her eyes, clearly having fallen asleep on the old squishy sofa.
She shifted to make room for him, Harry collapsed shakily onto the cushions.
Neither spoke for a while.
sleep either,” said Hermione gently. “I was just sitting, thinking…I
must have drifted off.”
unable to think what to say. Talking had never been his forte, these
days he was satisfied with just listening. Hermione understood this
and was not perturbed by his lack of response. She hardly
dared imagine what he must be going through. Her chest tightened as
she began to recall her own memories of that night. The red sparks against
the black sky…Viktor Krum staggering out of the maze assisted by Professors
Snape and McGonagall…her grip on Ron’s arm tightening…the horrifying
shrieks as Harry appeared, the corpse of Cedric
Diggory in tow.
at Harry. It simply wasn’t fair. No one should have to go through an
ordeal such as Harry had. No fourteen year old should have to shoulder
the burden that he did and no-ones eyes should be hardened to the world,
hiding misery of such a devastating scale. No one, she thought
“It is my
belief we are facing dark and difficult times…” Hermione closed
her eyes as she recalled Dumbledores words. A
anxiety sat stiffly in the pit of her stomach. She remembered the worry
in her parents’ eyes as she had hugged them goodbye. She had to be strong,
for them, for Harry – no matter how hard it was.
muttered Harry, legs drawn up to his chest, one hand clutched in his
hair. Hermione bit her lip leaving him to continue.
really our house is it?” he asked a half-question. Hermione was surprised
by the remark. For a swift moment her thoughts returned to her own house
in the Muggle world. She cast them aside and mulled what Harry had said.
the same as home Harry,” she reflected softly. To her, the Burrow had
become as much home as her parent’s house. She knew Harry would feel
the same, however guilty he may have felt about it. This guilt was an
almost subconscious result of Ron and Harry’s fight of last year, the
open revelation of Ron’s envy. Hermione despaired of them both, despite
having no doubt in their deep affection for each other.
He stared into the orange embers unblinkingly until a film of wavering
wetness blurred his vision. He blinked vigorously.
It wasn’t that
he felt uncomfortable at the Burrow, far from it, being there filled
a huge void in his life. It was the next best thing to being back at
Hogwarts. He loved the bustle of the large family, the echo of activity
and laughter. He loved being able to talk about Quidditch, to laugh
along with everyone at the twin’s antics, to have Mrs Weasley fuss over
how much he ate. He loved belonging. But he couldn’t escape the fact
that he had had a family of his very own, parents who loved him,
parents whose voices haunted
his nightmares as he heard them trying in vain to protect him from the
fate to which they themselves had succumbed. Parents who he knew he would never know. The
familiar ache gnawed at his stomach, so much so he wanted to cry out
loud the anguish welling up inside him. He rested his throbbing head
on his knees. A moment later he was surprised to feel an unfamiliar
pressure between his shoulder blades. On closer inspection this turned
out to be Hermione’s hand.
gesture was all at one innocuous, comforting, and meant more than any
words Hermione could have uttered, no matter how well chosen.
straightened up and met Hermione’s gaze, which was steady and true.
She said simply and gently. Harry smiled slightly.
She took her hand away again squeezing his shoulder briefly.
“Have you heard
from Sirius?” she asked.
He’s still at Prof…Lupin’s,” said Harry.
“Hermione…” he asked after a pregnant pause.
“Have you told your parents? About all that’s going
on?” Hermione pressed her lips together then closed her eyes briefly.
“Yes I have
– they didn’t want me to come back for a while. I begged them though,
it’s awful living like this, in two separate worlds…they’re scared Harry.”
She finished, her voice cracking. Harry looked at her as she blinked
“So am I.”
She added softly, almost as an afterthought.
“Dark and Difficult
times,” said Harry, repeating Dumbledores words. The silence that followed
was filled with thoughts, thoughts ballooning, swelling and enveloping
the dimly lit room.
“What did you
do with Rita?” he asked suddenly, shoulders straightening. Hermione
bit her lip ruefully.
she’s still in the jar!” she fought back a guilty giggle.
“Yes! I just…need to be sure she won’t be able to get at anyone for a while.”
“Hermione! You’re not going to…” he let the question
“Oh?! Oh! Goodness no. I’ll find a humane way.”
She laughed out loud at the open expression of disappointment
on her friends face. They smiled at each other.
“What about a certain Bulgarian Quidditch star?” he
asked slyly. Hermione pinkened and fidgeted slightly, becoming very
interested in her fingers clasped agitatedly in her lap. Harry waited.
I didn’t go to Bulgaria,” she half-whispered.
“Can I ask
“Oh I suppose so. I just…my priorities are here Harry.
And I don’t feel anything for Viktor except good friendship.” Harry
pretended not to notice her eyes flickering up to the stairs to Ron’s
room almost wistfully.
“Does Ron know?”
he asked tentatively. Hermione flushed.
what? Oh! Er…no. No he doesn’t.” she said ruefully. Harry fought back
A glance at
his watch told him that nearly half an hour had passed. His heart, he
noticed, felt somewhat lighter than it had in a while.
The door behind
them creaked open suddenly and Harry jerked to an abrupt attention.
Hermione herself started and both turned to the door. Ron stood there,
silhouetted in the moonlight, donned in paisley pyjamas and looking
very tousle haired. He looked at his friends, an eyebrow raised. Yawning
“This a private
“Not at all,”
said Hermione blushing. Ron wandered into the room and flopped down
into Mr Weasley’s usual armchair by the fire.
Hogwarts,” he commented absently. Harry knew what he meant. His thoughts
travelled back to numerous nights spent in the common room; nights of
laughter, last minute Divination homework, heated Quidditch discussion.
Those nights had seemed a million miles away in the last few weeks.
Sitting here though, with Ron and Hermione, transformed the memories
into something to hold on to, something tangible. Harry’s gaze returned
to the glowing embers.
that followed was comfortable, the one that comes with years of friendship
and a deep trust. Harry settled back into the sofa, content to just
stay there all night. His eyelids drooped and he suppressed a wide yawn.
A light grunting
noise made him sit up. Ron was covering his silent laughter with his
hand. Harry look over at Hermione. Her head had lolled onto her left
shoulder, her mouth slightly open. She was sound asleep. Harry’s lips
twitched as she continued to snore softly.
was it?” mouthed Ron grinning. Harry shrugged returning the grin. He
moved from the cushions to the armchair opposite Ron’s so not to wake
a lot on her mind,” he said quietly as means of explanation. He glanced
fondly at the bushy head, hair obscuring her face. He looked at Ron
who was staring at Hermione also but with an oddly soft expression on
his face. Harry cleared his throat. Ron blinked stupidly, his ears rapidly
“Don’t we all.”
He muttered darkly glaring into the fire.
“Can you believe
Percy?” he asked in a tone of disgust. Harry bit his lip awkwardly.
He didn’t know what to say to Ron about his older brothers behaviour.
Percy rarely at the Burrow anymore, preferred to stay at work to avoid
the confrontation he seemed to spark off whenever he was home. Deeply
shocked at his father’s insistent work against Cornelius Fudge, Percy’s
sense of self-importance and moral superiority was rubbing everyone
up the wrong way. Upon hearing the news of the innocence of Sirius Black
Percy had refused point blank to accept the truth, leaving Mr Weasley
irate and Ron furious.
Harry trailed off, unsure of how to finish his sentence.
should we do about her?” asked Harry in an attempt to cheer Ron up,
“Take a picture?”
he suggested wryly. Harry grinned.
“Send it into
the Daily Prophet…Rita Skeeter’s intrepid capturer after a hard day’s
work.” Ron laughed, then stood up and stretched. Harry followed suit
and headed for the door. He turned to Ron.
“Yeah in a minute,” he said absently, running his hands
through his hair in an uncanny resemblance to his father. Harry shrugged
and headed upstairs, no longer afraid of thinking.
Ron stood silently
for a moment, staring into space. Yawning, he reached for the blanket
that covered the back of the armchair. He held it for a moment lost
in thought. Sighing, he gently lay the blanket down over Hermione’s
Hermiones sleeping form. In the process he knocked over a magazine from
the arm of the sofa. He knelt to pick it up. He chuckled at the cover
of Arithmancy Today and he raised his gaze to Hermione’s half hidden face.
he whispered replacing the magazine to it’s place. His hand hovered
slightly and tentatively he rested it on her shoulder, absently stroking
her hair. He moved it away suddenly, regaining his composure.
he said softly, blowing out the candle and turning to leave. As the
door closed Hermione smiled briefly in her sleep.