The Sugar Quill
Author: St. Row-a-Check  Story: With You  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: Some clever Muggle named Jo Rowling owns all the people and things you’re about to read about, including yours tru

Disclaimer: Some clever Muggle named Jo Rowling owns all the people and things you’re about to read about, including yours truly. Or so I’m told. And the some of the dialogue near the end is directly quoted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, UK version, pg. 605-607. Despite the fact that it was we who said it. And there are also a few GOF allusions. Does any of this stuff make sense to you?

 

 

 

 

 

With You

 

 

            ‘Ron, are you done molesting that piece of bacon?’ Hermione demanded with barely controlled irritation.

 

            For a moment, I considered retorting, and then I shrugged and moved on to the kipper.

 

            Hermione sighed and returned to her own almost-untouched breakfast.

 

            At least she doesn’t want to argue. Thank Merlin. I don’t feel up to that right now.

 

            Hell, I didn’t feel up to anything at that moment. The weather was unfairly nice – the ceiling of the Great Hall was clear blue. Like my new dress robes, the ones the twins had given me ‘to match my eyes’. I was painfully aware of the fact that that bloody git at the High Table had eyes exactly the same colour.

 

            And so had Dumbledore.

 

I used to like the colour blue. At that breakfast I was just plain sick of it.

 

            ‘Hi, Neville.’ Hermione’s voice was calm, but hoarser than usual.

 

            She must have been crying last night, I thought idly.

 

            I blinked. Where did that come from? I have absolutely no business guessing what Hermione has or hasn’t been doing. (Especially in bed. Er. Alone. Alone in bed.) After all, I have ‘the emotional range of a teaspoon’, don’t I?

 

            ‘Hey.’ Neville sat down heavily beside me. He was still limping.

 

            ‘How are you feeling?’ I asked, and Hermione looked up at him with concern.

 

And yes, her eyes were red-rimmed.

 

            For a moment, I felt a rush of triumph at being right… reality caught up with me. She shouldn’t have to cry. Nobody should. All because of one greasy-haired… traitor. I bet he planned Sirius’s death, too. He hated Sirius. But Dumbledore trusted him.

 

            The thought of Dumbledore, wise and crazy Dumbledore making a mistake as big as that made me nauseous. Trying desperately not to think about it, I looked around the table. Neville must have told us how he was feeling, because now everybody was eating (or rather, staring into their plates) in silence.

 

            ‘What’s Harry doing?’ Ginny sounded sober and gloomy – but I was actually inclined to snigger. ‘What’s Harry Doing’ was the famous question that appeared in every single P.S. in every single letter I received from my sister back in first year.

 

Blimey, that was fun.

 

But nothing should seem fun today, should it?

 

Deciding not to dwell on it, I focused on Neville’s reply.

 

‘Packing. Staring through the window. Sighing. Putting his hand in his pocket and pulling it out again. Looking at the beds like he thinks he’ll never see them again.’

 

Poor Harry. He never properly looked forward to summer break. Can’t blame him though. I’d be glum too if I’d have to go home to those – those – Dursleys.

 

But after that night Harry’d taken his annual Goodbye Hogwarts traditions to ridiculous lenghts – the previous afternoon we’d all been sitting beneath the beech tree and Harry was touching it more than he was touching Ginny (not that I liked it when Harry touched Ginny. But still. Nature-loving has its limits).

 

Maybe he thinks Hogwarts will close – but McGonagall and the others won’t allow that. It wouldn’t make sense anyway.

 

I glanced at Hermione, expecting to exchange our custom ‘Typical Harry’ Look of Exasperation, but she was staring resolutely at her porridge, twisting a lock of bushy hair around her little finger. I knew exactly what that expression meant – it was her form of saying ‘I know something you don’t and I’m not telling you until I want to.’

 

I dislike that expression very much.

 

I opened my mouth to start pestering her about it, when Harry stepped in the Great Hall, attracting everyone’s attention.

 

Harry looked… better than he could but worse than he should, I decided. His posture was relaxed, but he scowled viciously at the High Table before looking away hastily. Nothing good came to people who received that scowl from Harry. I actually found myself hoping it wasn’t Percy Harry had been staring at – but, no. It was Scrimgeour, the Minister of Morons.

 

Wasn’t it?

 

It might be Snape’s chair.

 

I had spent a considerable part of the few previous days imagining what I’d do to the slimy bat, if I had the opportunity. None of the things were pleasant. But they were probably nothing compared to what Harry would do.

 

He placed himself between me and Ginny, with an absent-minded ‘G’morning’. He was staring around the Hall with the distant expression he usually wore around the end of the year, not even glancing at breakfast. I gave up on my kipper (which, by now, looked like something a troll stepped on) and reached for the pumpkin juice.

 

McGonagall stood up and announced the beginning of the funeral. She stepped beside their table and we stood in a row behind her. Hermione sprinted forward to help line up the first and second years. I decided she had the matter well in hand, so I stayed near the end of the line, waiting to help Neville (I noticed Ginny gently stirring Harry from his thoughts).

 

I was both surprised and oddly pleased to see Luna Lovegood stroll casually over from her table (followed by suspicious looks from her Housemates) and extend Neville a helping arm. Giving her a nod of thanks and a quick grin, I tuned to join the rest of my classmates. They were unusually silent and Lavander had tears in her eyes already.

 

Too bad the Patils had to go home. Something suspiciously like guilt was nibbling at my insides. Go over there. Try to talk to her. Maybe she’ll get angry and stop looking so miserable.

 

Before I could reach a decision, however, Seamus stepped beside her and whispered something in her ear, making her giggle weakly. I sighed in relief. That Irishman’s getting increasingly likeable these days – especially since that enjoyable little family reunion with his mother.

 

I wish I could scream my heart out at Percy like that. Life would seem much easier. Or more bearable, at least.

 

Hermione returned and the line finally set off. She shot me her usual sour look that screamed ‘Thank you for being such a great help’ very sarcastically. I didn’t argue with her. She had done it well without my interference – the brats were obviously tamer than usual.

 

Ginny and Harry joined us and we walked to the grounds in silence. The oaken doors were still broken – McGonagall must have had more pressing matters on her mind. Scrimgeour and his bootlickers had been following her around twenty-four hours a day, constantly interfering and giving her suggestions on how to do her job. I snorted mentally. As if she needed help. She was made to be a Headmistress, strict and professional, not at all like Dumbledore (not that he needed… had needed help, either).

 

We followed her towards the lake, to many rows of white chairs. As I sat down between Harry and Hermione, I realized – if McGonagall would be Headmistress, we’re going to need a new Transfiguration teacher. And a Head of House, too. I listed our current teachers, trying to imagine them in McGonagall’s place – I very nearly chuckled at the mental image of Trelawney in red and gold shawls and Luna’s roaring Gryffindor hat.

 

In the end I decided Hagrid would be the best choice – he was very brave and overall ok, if you ignored his creature-obsession. And I was willing to ignore it, especially since Buckbeak cut up Snape’s face so nicely. But I definitely hoped Hagrid wouldn’t make his Skrewts the House Mascot.

 

I wonder how Hagrid’s taking all this. If he was so distressed by the death of a spider… And Dumbledore was the only one who trusted him enough to give him a job after he was expelled.

 

I looked around. Come on, Half-Giants aren’t really hard to miss.  Sure enough, I immediately spotted Maxime, in plain black robes and holding a white handkerchief only slightly smaller than a tablecloth. And there were others I recognized – people from the Order, teachers, minor celebrities, my family. But Hagrid was nowhere to be seen.

 

I leaned over to Hermione to ask if she’d seen him –

 

The next moment I was pushed back in my chair sharply, all thoughts of Hagrid driven from his mind as the music flowed in. Music… not the kind you get on the Wireless. No distinguishable words, yet no instruments I could recognize. It was sad. And somehow calming because of it’s sadness.

 

Hermione leaned over me, putting a hand on my knee for support. I couldn’t not blush a bit at this. She was staring at the lake, but I didn’t see why – there was nothing on the surface, and I couldn’t see inside the water without pushing Hermione from my lap.

 

‘Seek us where our voices sound, we cannot sing above the ground,’ she chanted in a whisper.

 

‘What?’

 

‘Merpeople, Ron.’ She sat back on her chair ‘The ones you were supposed to have fought off single-handedly with your wand up your sleeve.’ She smirked Hermioneishly.

 

            ‘Oh.’ My blush was more pronounced now. She has no bloody business remembering stuff like that.

 

Instead of looking at the lake, I turned to Hermione again, probably to say something biting – 

 

And, instantly, all the blood rushed from my face. I had finally found Hagrid.

 

            The Gamekeeper was walking slowly on the aisle left to us. He was carrying something in his arms... carrying it. Him. Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s body, of course, not Dumbledore himself, so still and lifeless. Not person that made us sing that stupid Hogwarts song in first year.

 

Something hot and prickly gathered in my eyes. I had never seen a dead body. Ever. And I’d never understood why so many people cried at funerals – you already know the person’s dead, know he’s not breathing anymore. Seeing it shouldn’t make any difference, should it?

 

But it did. It hurt like Hell, watching a motionless old man carried like a baby by a sobbing Half-Giant. I didn’t really know Dumbledore, either – it’s not like I have too many memories of him.

 

Except for his start-of-term speeches, cheerful, to-the-point and completely wacky. And the end-of-term speeches, too, especially the one when he granted me fifty points for playing chess. And the time he caught me out of bed after curfew, just before the First Task. Any sane Headmaster would have given me detention then. Dumbledore gave me sweets. And some completely pointless advice involving houseplants and Acid Pops. I guess it was supposed to make me go over and apologize to Harry. Actually, it kind of did, in the end.

 

My eyes were full of the prickly stuff by now, and I had to screw them up to keep it from rolling out. Hagrid placed it – the body – on a white marble table, and blew his nose loudly. He was probably the last person ever to touch it.

 

He really should be Head of Gryffindor, I decided, reflecting on everything Dumbledore meant to Hagrid. Can’t really get braver than that.

 

Some little man stood beside the table and started talking. I couldn’t have heard him even if I had paid attention; I couldn’t have paid attention even if I’d wanted to. And I didn’t. Hermione, predictably, leaned forward in her seat, trying to catch the words, and most probably failing. Her face was wet and teardrops were still falling lightly from her eyes. Irrationally, I wished I had a skien of Extendable Ears at hand to give to her. Or a tissue, at least.

 

Harry was sitting beside me like a statue. His face was hard, eyes focused forward. He looked like somebody who had just reached a decision, or was about to reach it. His cheek was glittering in the sunlight. A lump formed in my throat. I hope we can do something for him.

 

My eyes travelled over to Ginny. She was crying, too, very quietly. Not at all like the teary tantrums she produced when she was little. I would have never thought I’d miss those.

 

I looked over to the rest of my family, blinking to hold the prickly stuff in. I knew what each of them were doing, although I only saw them from back. Mum was crying, obviously, her head was buried in her hands, shoulders shaking. Dad’s arm was wrapped around her comfortingly. Fleur rested her head under Bill’s chin. One of the twins – I couldn’t tell which, from that distance – whispered something to the other, who nodded somberly.

 

The Git was there, too, sitting beside Scrimgeour. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew exactly what it looked like – formal and as stiff as a mask. What I wouldn’t give to break that mask into pieces. Along with his nose, preferably. If he still didn’t have the decency to go over and apologize to Mum – and Harry – well, I really couldn’t imagine him doing it after this…

 

How can someone be so stupid? Because of the Order, most of the family’s in danger all year round… And he goes around wasting time. Even now, we’re not all here – Charlie couldn’t come. The lump grew larger.

 

Sure, he was busy doing something for the Order. But what could be more important than being here for the funeral?

 

That question had been nagging me ever since that night. Mum said he was busy, but didn’t clarify – and I really couldn’t go around asking Order secrets, could I? Anyway, most Order members were busy or unavailable, and Mum and Dad had enough problems with the upcoming wedding. But it wasn’t something I could forget.

 

The well-known list of ‘Anyone we know’ popped into my head. Almost all of them were Order members. Two – no, three dead. One a traitor. One in Azkaban now (mostly his fault, true), and one who’d been released a few months ago. The lump was about the size of a Snitch now, threatening to choke me or make me throw up. One with half his face chewed off by a human being.

 

By the time we’re ready to join, there won’t be any Order left.

 

I tried to chase that thought away, but it kept coming back like carried by a well-trained fetch dog.

 

Swallowing difficultly, I looked around yet again, searching for a distraction.

 

Harry was sitting back in his chair, looking resolved – he reminded me of the skinny and panting almost-twelve-year-old who decided to go save the world with his Cloak and a flute. Somehow, that calmed me. The world can’t go completely wrong, as long as Harry’s Harry.

 

Suddenly, the little man stopped speaking and sat down. I glanced at Hermione, expecting her to know what would happen next, but she looked as puzzled as anyone – then the body burst into flame, along with the table. Hermione gasped a bit and grabbed my hand. Some people screamed. For a few seconds, everyone’s eyes were on the white fire, then a white-marble tomb took its place.

 

Dumbledore was finally gone. The cold stone was all that was left of him. And we’ll never see him again.

 

Just like we’ll never see Sirius run around chasing cats. A drop of the prickly stuff rolled down my cheek, but I didn’t bother to dry it up. And Grandma Prewett, cooking her excellent home-made pumpkin pasties. Two more drops followed. And Uncle Bilius, bringing us stupid gifts and telling long stories about his flatmates.  My face was thoroughly wet now, but it didn’t bother me – it was something of a relief. I numbly noticed arrows showering the ground, and a few people screaming again. It didn’t matter, really.

 

I fleetingly caught Harry’s eye, before he turned to talk to Ginny. He was crying too… I really had no reason for hiding it. With that, I looked over at Hermione. Her face was soaking, but, I was very surprised to see, she wore a small grin. I raised my eyebrows and she nodded towards the front row – where a nearly-hysterical Umbridge was battling with her long over-decorated cloak. Which was pinned down to the ground. With an arrow. A Centaur arrow, I realised, noticing the Hermione’s Smug Look of Mischief.

 

I produced something between a chortle and a snort, and at the next moment, she buried her head in my shoulder, sobbing and giggling at the same time. Girls. Her enormous hair was all over my face, tickling me. I had to pat it down… so I wouldn’t sneeze… and somehow my hand got lost in the motion… and kept doing it over and over again. And it was strange. I felt like I could protect her from anything. And I would.

 

She wasn’t giggling any more. Only her heavy breaths showed that she, too, found stopping the tears a less-than-easy task. I wondered what she was thinking about – the past? The future? Some obscure Arithmancy equation? She should calculate our chanced of winning this bloody war, I decided. Or maybe it’s better not to know.

 

Harry and Ginny were talking earnestly. Snippets of conversation reached my brain – the part that wasn’t filled with a large, warm mass of Hermione. ‘Some stupid noble reason’, my sister said. I wondered absently what it was – just about everything Harry does is stupid and noble. He has ‘moral fibre’, as some would put it. It’s just how he works… Whereas Hermione’s doings are mostly noble, never stupid… and mine are stupid most of the time, but generally right.

 

In example, I’ve just noticed my left hand – the on that wasn’t busy with The Hair – tighten around Hermione’s shoulder. She relaxed noticably, so I squeezed her more tightly and muttered ‘Sgonnabeallrightor something equally stupid – because, really, who am I to say – promise – anything will be all right, when it most probably won’t? But she didn’t mind, or didn’t hear me, and her sobbing was completely muffled by my shoulder.

 

The talking stopped beside us and Harry stood up. He glanced at us, face smoothing momentarily, then he turned and walked away. He looked a lot older than he was… and very tired, somehow. I considered going after him, but I didn’t want to push Hermione away – and, besides, Harry didn’t want company just then. Ginny sat for a while, staring stiffly ahead. She wasn’t crying any more, but her jaw was set – she looked like she was preparing for a fight.

 

Hermione’s face left my shoulder now, and she looked at me and squeezed my hand slightly. Then she got up and sat on Harry’s vacated chair, on my other side. She put a cautious hand on my sister’s arm, who twitched like a cat when you step on its tail. She glowered briefly at Hermione, then hugged her fiercely. Then she came over and hugged me. I wasn’t this close to her since second year, when we all thought she was killed.

 

Again, embarrassing and stupid and right – it reminded me of the time the twins used my Puffers as a Bludger. Ginny had kicked Fred in the shins, screamed at him for half an hour and finally came over to me and told me she’ll buy me a new Puffskein as soon as she starts getting pocket money (she was six at the time). This was somewhat like that, though I wasn’t really sure who was comforting who.

 

She finally let me go and stood up. She was wearing a lopsided smile.

 

‘I just broke a Weasley tradition,’ she said, almost gloatingly. Then she looked reflective ‘Strange, I always thought it would be Phlegm.’

 

I stared at her blankly, then realisation hit.

 

‘He left you?!’ I couldn’t help raising my voice.

 

‘Technically. But I guess I wanted him to – that’s why I started going out with him in the first place.’

 

This seemed to make sense to Hermione, as she shot Ginny a genuine I’m-very-proud-of-you smile. I want one of those, something whined in my mind.

 

‘Besides, it doesn’t count. Harry’s practically a Weasley himself.’ Ginny’s voice was matter-of-fact and held a not-too-hidden threat. ‘And, anyway, you’d have wanted him to. Right?’

 

I opened my mouth and closed it again. I guess being Harry Potter’s girlfriend is a lot more dangerous than not being Harry Potter’s girlfriend. And she doesn’t know about the Prophecy. So it was for the best, really.

 

But I wonder what she’d say if anyone else had suggested they break up.

 

Nothing, probably. She’d just  hex them into slimy pieces.

 

I nodded at her, reluctantly. It was their choice, after all. And it wasn’t the stupidest thing to do.

 

She opened her mouth as if to say something else, then she changed her mind and started walking towards Mum. She was calm, very pale and looked taller than usual.

 

‘Weasley tradition?’ Hermione asked me.

 

            I nodded. ‘No Weasley gets kicked out of a relationship. You either leave her, or marry her. You never get left.’

 

            She sighed. ‘It would be romantic if it wasn’t ridiculous.’

 

            I shrugged. It’s just something that is. Like the lack of female Weasleys.

I guess Ginny breaks a lot of traditions.

 

After a moment’s hesitation, Hermione sprinted after her to whisper something in her ear. Ginny stopped, looked at her, then at me. Then she whispered something back and went on.

 

            Hermione returned.

 

            ‘What was that about?’ I asked, fairly sure she wouldn’t answer.

 

            ‘Nothing.’ Ah, to be right… ‘Let’s go to Harry.’

 

            Normally, I’d have been angry at her for not telling me – Ginny’s my sister, after all. But she had stopped crying, as had I – and I wanted it to stay that way.

 

            Anyway, I can always weasel it out of her later.

 

Harry was talking to an obviously unhappy Scrimgeour. We hurried forward, in case it got out of hand, then –

 

Hermione stopped dead, with a very odd expression of her face.

 

What the bloody hell – ?

           

            ‘Is that – Hermione, please tell that isn’t—‘

 

            ‘Grawp.’ She actually looked pleased.

 

            I will never in a million years understand girls.

 

            I considered pointing out the dangers of an unleashed Giant in the middle of an all-human crowd, but decided against it. It would probably turn into a full-blown debate on Giant rights. Without tears, probably, but with loads of nagging and possibly badges.

 

Scrimgeour turned back and limped by us. Harry must’ve finally told him to bugger off. Good for him. The Minister stared at us, and we stared right back. Wonder what he wants.

 

            We finally reached Harry and sat down under his beech tree together. Hermione asked him about Scrimgeour.

 

            ‘Same as he wanted at Christmas. Wanted me to give him inside information on Dumbledore and be the Ministry’s new poster boy.’

 

            Now? Right after the bloody funeral?

 

            What tripe does that one have for brains?!

           

            My temper rose like a Wingardium-ed troll club.

 

            I bet the Git will just go along with it. Maybe say ‘He never had respect for authority’ or some other hogwash.

 

            And the ‘truly delightful woman’ will nod and say Harry has problems with his temper. And he’ll agree like a well-trained troll. Of all the sleazy, bootlicking –

 

            I turned to Hermione.

 

            ‘Look, let me go back and hit Percy.’ And Umbridge. And Scrimgeour. And Rita sodding Skeeter, standing beside the tomb with that stupid green quill.

 

            ‘No.’ She grabbed my arm. Just like she did the few thousand times when Malfoy insulted my family. My frustration ebbed away.

 

‘It’ll make me feel better!’ I whined, but didn’t really mean it. Well, I did, but I knew it wouldn’t work anyway.

 

Harry laughed, genuinely.  It made him look a lot younger. Hermione grinned, too, but then she turned gloomy.

 

‘I can’t bear the idea that we might never come back. How can Hogwarts close?’ she said.

 

‘Maybe it won’t,’ I tried to reassure her. Closing Hogwarts would be completely stupid. If anyone ever needed to learn anything, it’s now – assuming we get a normal Defense teacher for once. I voiced my thoughts, but neither of my friends seemed convinced. I asked Harry for his opinion, but he just smiled melancholically.

 

‘I’m not coming back even if it does reopen,’ he said.

 

I felt my jaw drop.

 

Harry, not come back?! But Hogwarts is his home! He loves it almost as much as Hermione does.

 

Speaking of which –

 

‘I knew you were going to say that.’ Oh, she did, did she? That’s what she wasn’t telling me at breakfast.

 

Why the hell wouldn’t Ron be the last to know?

 

‘But then what will you do?’ she continued and I had to stop sulking even before I started properly.

 

‘I’m going back to the Dursleys’ once more, because Dumbledore wanted me to.’ He put strong emphasis on the last words. ‘But it’ll be a short visit, and then I’ll be gone for good.’

 

And he’ll never have to see that stupid, narrow-minded family. We could finally make him an official Weasley – he already has the jumper and the Quidditch skills.

 

‘But where will you go if you don’t come back to school?’ asked Hermione.

 

The Burrow, I almost blurted out, but stopped myself at the last moment. It’s his choice. He knows he’s always welcome. Maybe he wants to go to Grimmauld Place or –

 

‘I thought I might go back to Godric’s Hollow.’ Or that. ‘For me, it started there, all of it. I’ve just got a feeling I need to go there.’ That’s what he said when he took the Felix, too. Maybe he’ll get lucky again. ‘And I can visit my parents’ graves, I’d like that.’

 

He said this very quietly; Harry usually avoided talking about his parents with us.

 

‘And then what?’ I asked warily.

 

‘Then I’ve got to track down the rest of the Horcruxes, haven't I? That’s what he wanted me to do, that’s why he told me all about them.’ He was staring at Dumbledore’s grave. Hermione let out the tiniest of sobs.

 

‘If Dumbledore was right,’ Harry continued, ‘ – and I’m sure he was – there are still four of them out there. I’ve got to find them and destroy them and then I’ve got to go after the seventh bit of Voldemort’s soul, the bit that’s still in his in body, and I’m the one who’s going to kill him.’ Because of the Prophecy. And because he’s Harry Potter.

 

Him killing You-Know-Who – it’s completely crazy, but it makes perfect sense.

 

Exactly like Dumbledore.

 

‘And if I meet Severus Snape along the way,’ he finished harshly, ‘so much the better for me, so much the worse for him.’

 

To Harry, that bastard’s as bad as You-Know-Who. His parents, Sirius, Dumbledore… Snape was guilty in all those deaths.

 

Maybe it should be his name we can’t say out loud without flinching.

 

I went over everything Harry said in my head. It was all logical, a good plan, if a rough one. He didn’t go into details – like how he expects to do all that. But, then, he had never been much of a strategist…

 

Then I realized what was wrong.

 

I’ll track down, I’ll destroy.

 

He planned on doing it alone. Really alone. Without us.

 

But we always did everything together…

 

Almost everything. He did the really important things on his own – like going into the maze, or following Dumbledore to the cave.

 

What if he doesn’t want us to go with him? Like with Ginny. He doesn’t have any real family, except us. He doesn’t want us to get hurt.

 

But people are getting hurt all around. The Death Eaters hate us anyway. Especially Snape and Malfoy. It doesn’t make any difference, if you get killed at Hogwarts, or at home, or while hunting for scattered pieces of You-Know-Who’s soul.

 

Well, it does. That’s why we’re going with him.

 

I am, at least. I looked over at Hermione. She was arguing with herself, too, by the looks of it. She caught my eye and nodded faintly.

 

It was enough.

 

‘We’ll be there, Harry,’ I said finally.

 

‘What?’ He actually looked confused.

 

‘At your aunt and uncles’ house.’ Just have a few words with them, maybe. About not giving you food and locking you in cupboards. ‘And then we’ll go with you, wherever you’re going.’

 

For a moment, he seemed pleased, then his face turned grave.

 

‘No –’ He wanted us to go with him, but he also wanted to argue. Typical Harry.

 

Hermione stirred. ‘You said to us once before that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, didn’t we?’

 

‘We’re with you whatever happens,’ I added. We always were. ‘But, mate, you’re going to have to come round my mum and dad’s house before we do anything else, even Godric’s Hollow.’

 

‘Why?’

 

‘Bill and Fleur’s wedding, remember?’

 

He seemed even more surprised by this. Then he smiled.

 

‘Yeah, we shouldn’t miss that.’

 

He stared at something far away, looking like he could defeat a thousand Dementors at once. Hermione grinned too and leaned back on the tree bark, her side touching mine.

 

Wish I had a Pensieve. Things like this should be kept.

 

We just sat there for a minute or so, not saying anything. Then Harry got up.

 

‘Where are you going?’ Hermione asked, sitting up.

 

He shrugged.

 

‘I want to fly a few goodbye laps with my Firebolt.’

 

We nodded and he walked to the castle, his hands in his pockets.

 

Hagrid finally stopped crying. Grawp was leading him towards the Forest. We waved tentatively at Hagrid, who saw us and waved back with a watery smile. His little brother stared at us stupidly for a bit, then he started pointing and babbling. I recognized the words ‘Hermy’ and ‘pretty’ a few times.

 

I very carefully waited until they were out of sight to start laughing.

 

‘Looks like someone has a crush on you,’ I said between stitches. Hermione looked annoyed. But in a good way. Not the I’m-sending-a-flock-of-murderous-canaries kind of way.

 

‘Looks like I have to tell Lavander you believe in new beginnings,’ she said evilly.

 

I sombered at once. She wouldn’t do that, would she?

 

She snorted and shook her head, tutting mockingly.

 

Her hair was flying everywhere…

 

It’s a time as good as any.

 

 ‘Hermione, what did you say to Ginny?’

 

I expected her not to answer or tell me to mind my own business (she tends to do that, you know). Instead, she bit her lip, looking towards the castle.

 

‘I asked her if there’s anything we can do,’ she muttered.

 

And?

 

‘She told me – us – to “keep him alive”.’

 

Him? Harry.

 

Alive? Not safe, or unhurt, just alive.

 

Meaning he finds all the Horcruxes and does You-Know-Who in.

 

And Snape, Wormtail and that Lestrange woman, too, if possible. And that pervert, Greyback.

 

‘We can do that,’ I said. ‘I’ll take care of any giant chess pieces, you do the rest.’

 

She laughed, really, for the first time that day.

 

Looking at her, I realised, she’s not coming back to school either. I used to joke about there being no force on Earth that could keep Hermione Granger from sitting her NEWTs… But there is. Hanging around with Harry and me and saving our hides from detentions and blood-sucking monsters…

 

I can’t wait till the Dursleys see her, hair, robes and everything. I pictured each of them covered in canary pecks. They suited Dudley exceptionally well. Then Godric’s Hollow… that’ll be bloody awkward, all those memories of people we never met. But I’ve always wanted to find out more about Harry’s dad (since the end of third year, that is). He must have been a good man, becoming an Animagus to help a friend.

 

Exactly the kind of thing my Hermione would do.

 

            I turned to her again, planning to say something (wasn’t really sure what, though), when we saw Harry coming back, broomless.

 

            ‘The trunks are already at the station, I guess,’ he said in a voice that suggested he thought he knew something we thought he shouldn’t know. With a raised eyebrow to match.

 

            I very quickly retrieved my hand from Hermione’s elbow and stood up. I wasn’t blushing. Too much.

 

            ‘This is it then,’ I said, looking around the grounds.

 

            ‘It is,’ Hermione agreed, standing up, too.

 

            Something told me I’d miss Hogwarts very much as soon as I leave the grounds. The lake, the pitch, the Forest with its murderous Acromantulas… and the castle. For a few moments all three of us stared up at it, grey and tall. Then Harry turned to us.

 

            ‘Race you to the carriages,’ he said, very solemnly, and was off before we realized what he said.

 

            I snickered, and shot after the skinny cheater, dragging Hermione with me. We stumbled a few times, laughing, but finally managed to find a pace that suited both of us.

 

Half a minute later, Harry stopped to pant and grin at us. We finally caught up with him, and we went on together, leaving the trees and the lake far behind us.

 

 

 

Fin.

 

 

 

R/N: Review. I gather that’s important to the Author, for some reason. But if you say anything insulting to Hermione, Harry or anyone else in my family, I will happily send you some of Fred and George’s finest.

 

A/N: Please don’t mind Ron. Any and all thoughts, opinions and verdicts are welcome. Ron couldn’t use e-mails anyway.

 

 

With many thanks to Beth Degner, aka. Ivory, for being a precise, speedy and hopefully honest beta, to Darker Rage for stamping out random Americanisms and my wonderful Ylime for the moral support, help and chocolate.

 

//
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