Nineteen Seconds Later
“That wand’s more
trouble than it’s worth,” said Harry. “And quite honestly,” he turned away from
the portraits, thinking now only of the four-poster bed lying waiting for him
in Gryffindor Tower, and wondering whether Kreacher might bring him a sandwich
there,” I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime.”
Putting his arms around
Ron and Hermione, Harry slipped on the Invisibility Cloak once more. With one
final glance at Dumbledore’s portrait, they all exited the headmaster’s study
for what would surely be the last time.
Harry’s mind. It was as though he had aged a hundred years since the sun had
last risen, and now, supported by his best friends, he could feel his life
unfolding: time that he had spent seeking Horcruxes and, he was not ashamed to
admit, coveting Hallows; time in which his every thought and entire self had
been attached to Voldemort; it was all time that was now being given back to
him. He could live. He would live. He, Ron, Hermione – they had survived.
Abruptly, Harry came to a halt in the middle of the hallway. He ushered Ron and
Hermione wordlessly into an empty classroom, where the first shafts of daylight
blinded and enveloped them. Removing the cloak, he crossed to the high windows
on the opposite side of the room.
Since he had arrived at
the Burrow for Bill and Fleur’s wedding (had it really been only one year ago?),
he had had something important to tell his best friends. It had been there
always, since two became three so many Halloweens ago. Neither Ron nor Hermione
said anything, but Harry knew that they were simply relishing the chance to let
him take his time. Last year, the discussion of anything that didn't relate to
Voldemort was wasteful and even reckless in light of the size of their task at
hand. One night after Ron had come back, while he and Hermione slept, Harry had
lain awake in his bunk and allowed himself to steal away from the throes of his
quest and just think. At that moment, he had not been able to remember the last
time that the three of them hadn’t been consumed with thoughts of Voldemort and
the job which Dumbledore had left them. Harry turned back and considered them.
Ron, he noticed, had both arms around Hermione, unashamedly verifying the nature of his feelings for her. The
expression on his face was not one of victory, but of bereavement. Fred’s death
had clearly stricken him. Ron blinked and looked down into Hermione’s face.
She gave him a small
smile, but it quickly fell into a half-frown. She sighed, and cupped his face
in her hand. Resting her free hand on his shoulder, she stood on tip-toes and kissed
When they broke apart,
their arms still around each other, they turned and faced Harry. Their
expressions were expectant, but for the first time in a long while, patient. He
had all the time in the world to tell them this most important thing.
He expected words to
pour forth, but none came. He felt his brow furrow. “Look,” he said, “it’s just
“– We know, Harry,”
Hermione interposed. “It’s all right.”
Harry opened his mouth
to protest, but suddenly, it dawned on him. The war was over. They had won. Simultaneously,
Ron and Hermione walked toward Harry and enveloped him in their arms once more.
“It’s finally over,” Hermione whispered. Harry noticed that for once, no tears
fell from Hermione’s eyes. He nodded in agreement.
And it was then that he
knew what he wanted to say. “Thank you,” he said. And that was enough.