Itís been quiet up here for
so long that the footsteps on the stairs are deafening.† I roll over on my side
and face the window, where the rain trickles down in irregular patterns that
distort what little light is getting through, making it dance over the walls
and the things on my dresser.† Maybe if I stare at this long enough Iíll fall
asleep.† Maybe this time I wonít dream.
The footsteps are getting
closer, and I wish like hell that theyíd stop, falter, or disappear
altogether.† They donít sound like Ron, which means I stand a pretty good
chance of being ignored, left in peace...† For once.† Iím so sick of the
spotlight I could vomit.
The footsteps reach the
door, and stop, which is strange.† We donít stand on ceremony in Gryffindor
tower.† Anyone who lives here just sort of barges in.† But thereís a hesitation
before the door is pushed gently open.† And now I know itís not a Gryffindor
boy, because the door just doesnít sound like that.† Iím getting good at
predicting individual door openings.† Ron has a purpose on entering every room,
and so opening the door for him is a necessary action toward something else.†
Wood, when he was around, burst through it with all the enthusiasm that keeps
him out on the Quidditch pitch thirty minutes longer than everyone else.† No
polite knocks for him; it was all about getting me out of bed as quickly as
And this?† Itís tentative,
as though they know better, as though they can sense that theyíre unwelcome.† Which
means that itís a girl.† And I have a pretty fair idea which oneÖ Which isnít
to say Iím all that inclined to turn around.
I squeeze my eyes shut as
the footsteps cross the room, but I can still see the rain in the blackness.†
She stops at the other side of the bed.
Itís a whisper, and while
Iím definitely not turning around, thereís a faint tug inside.† She knows Iím
awake.† She always knows.
Thereís a shift behind me
that means sheís sitting on my bed.† I squeeze my eyes shut tighter, hoping
sheíll take the hint.† But I know she wonít.† Hermione doesnít deal in hints,
just facts.† And the fact of the matter is that Iím curled up in a ball of
anxiety and anger, pretending that Iíve just forgotten to take my glasses off.†
ďI know youíre awake.Ē
Iím still not saying
anything, because I am that stubborn.† Sirius would have said that I got
that from himÖ
Maybe I did.
But she sounds strange.†
Strangled, as ifÖ
Sheís been crying.
I canít help it, my eyes
flicker open.† I open my mouth to ask her whatís wrong, but then I remember
that Iím asleep.† And that I already know whatís making her cry.† Itís me, of
course, but I canít fix it and she wonít believe me if I try.† So I bite my lip
and pretend that I canít hear it, and that we both donít know Iím lying.
I know she means it, but
whoís to say that itís true?† How can any of us make that promise to each
other?† And whoís to say that I deserve it?† I know I donít, and I know that
itís not going to stop her promising.† I want to believe her, I really do, butÖ
Thereís a hand on my arm,
and I freeze without thinking.† The violent tug of war begins, as I pull myself
in every direction; longing and accepting, ashamed and frightened.† Iíve
identified these feelings without growing any closer to a conclusion to the
struggle.† And I donít want to think about it.† Which is why most of the time I
just freeze up.† And most of the time they pull away and I donít have to make a
Before I can stop it, before
I can get control, a tear slips out.† I donít mean it to, and I never even saw
it coming, but itís there, rain-coloured and warm.† The fear mounts Ė I donít
want to let this go.† I canít.† Not now.† So my arm stiffens, and she pulls
away.† And now Iím scared, because losing control in front of people is bad
enough Ė losing it alone is a thousand times more frightening.† Thereís no one
to anchor youÖno one to catch you.
The weight leaves my bed and
I clench at the sheets.† A sweat breaks out on my forehead, a cold sweat, and
sudden.† Safe from her gaze now, I sit up, gasping for breath, and lean on my
knees, my head in my hands, trying to stop the spinning.† I drag my hands
through my hair and try like mad to breathe.† Itís not as easy as it sounds.†
The sweats get worse, and now thereís an element of panic.† What is
happening to me?
All of a sudden thereís a
hand on my arm, and I jerk up without thinking.† Itís her.† If the touch of her
hand wasnít enough to know sheís not imagined, then the look on her face would
be, and for a moment I forget to try for breath.† Sheís crying.† But itís not
pity.† Itís not sympathy.
Suddenly Iím scared Ė more
scared than ever, because now itís real.† The instinct is to run Ė in any
direction Ė but her hand is still on my arm, and her face is still in front of
me.† She reaches for me, touches my face and itís only now that I realiseÖIím
crying too.† Thereís a split second where I might have run.† What actually
happens surprises me more than it does her.† Because all of a sudden Iíve
grabbed her, hugged her to me, and buried my face in her robes; and the tears
have no barriers now.† She kisses my head, and I can feel my face crumple.†
With every ragged breath I think that itís finally too much, but then she
anchors me back somehow, and itís ok until I breathe again.
And now I thinkÖI might just
believe her when she whispers that sheís here.