next few weeks rushed by in a blur of Weasley family dinners, makeshift
backyard Quidditch matches, and chess games of unjustly mismatched talent. On
one particularly hot evening, four days before they were to catch the Hogwarts
Express, Harry, Ron, Fred, George, and Ginny were flying recklessly through the
air. Completely ignoring the makeshift goal posts Fred and George had set up,
the five teenagers madly chucked the quaffle at each other, awarding themselves
ten points each time the ball struck a body.
am the Quidditch Queen!" Ginny shouted, as the quaffle she had just thrown
bounced off Georgeís head.
caught the ball and grimaced, rubbing his head. "Maybe, if this was how
the game was actually played," he said sarcastically.
stuck her tongue out at him as he hurled the quaffle at Ron. Ron dodged it
expertly, caught it as it zoomed by, and flung it at Harry, who was hit
squarely in the chest.
for air from both laughter and the blow, Harry dove lazily to the ground and
collapsed on his back. "I surrender!" he managed.
landed securely on his feet next to him. "The famous seeker is now a
Harry panted, unashamed.
on," Fred said, "Itís getting dark. Weíd better go in before mum has
was first to the third floor shower, and when he came out, blissfully clean and
wearing fresh clothes, he made his way downstairs to look for Ron.
he passed by the door to the den on the second floor, Harry glanced in and saw
Mr. Weasley at his desk. He was leaning way back in his chair, glasses perched
on his nose, examining some documents. Harry didnít want to interrupt, but he
had been trying to catch a word with Mr. Weasley alone for days, and had so far
been unsuccessful. He stood outside the room for a moment, deciding whether to
go in, but it ended up that he didnít have to choose. Mr. Weasley had seen him.
entered the room. "Yeah...sorry, I didnít want to bother you."
Come in," Mr. Weasley said cheerfully, motioning Harry forward. "We
havenít really had a good chance to talk, have we?"
Harry replied, taking a seat in a battered but comfortably fluffy armchair next
to the desk. "Are you working?"
said Mr. Weasley, swiveling his chair around to face Harry and tossing the
papers onto the desk. "Just some boring Ministry paperwork. How are you
Harry? You doing all right here?"
love being here, Mr. Weasley. You have no idea how grateful I am that you keep
rescuing me from the Dursleys."
Weasley turned serious. "Itís bad there, Harry, is it?"
immediately regretted bringing up the Dursleys. He hadnít meant to worry Mr.
Weasley, not when he had so much to worry about already.
itís not really that bad," he said, attempting some quick damage control.
"Itís actually better than it used to be. Theyíre a little scared of me
now, and Sirius. I think theyíre worried they might wake up as toads some
morning if theyíre not careful."
Weasley chuckled. "You hear from Sirius much?"
we owl pretty regularly."
I think thatís good."
Weasley, thereís something Iíve been meaning to ask you about," Harry said
I havenít had a lot of exposure to the wizarding world the last few months,
and, well, Iím just wondering...how are things? I mean, how worried are
mean because of...what happened."
Harry, I wish I could give you a straight answer to that." Mr. Weasley
sighed, removing his glasses and unconsciously fidgeting with them in his lap.
"Some people are panicked. Others think itís a hoax -"
hoax?" asked Harry incredulously.
indeed, Harry," he said, nodding. "You give some people bad news and
theyíll do anything to convince themselves itís not true."
was a pause.
everyone knows, then."
Fudge tried to keep it quiet, to keep it under wraps for a while, but
Dumbledore sort of thwarted that effort when he told all the students that
You-Know-Who was back. Word travels fast." He paused, then quickly added,
"I support Dumbledore, one hundred percent, of course. Itís best that
people are forewarned."
nodded, biting his lip, then thought of something. "Stan Shunpike didnít
seem to know."
Weasley looked mildly surprised. "Really?"
he congratulated me on winning the Triwizard Tournament."
Weasley smiled ruefully. "Not exactly a shining example of tact, is
smiled back. "I guess not."
I wouldnít worry about that," Mr. Weasley said with a dismissive wave of
his hand, "Most people donít know all the details, and besides, Shunpike
is so scatterbrained, he wouldnít know whether to scratch his watch or wind his
burst out laughing.
Weasley blushed slightly. "Donít tell Mrs. Weasley I said that," he
shook his head in mock seriousness. "No, of course not." Then in real
seriousness, he asked, "So what is the ministry doing about...the
sorry to say, nothing at the moment. I reckon theyíre just waiting for him to
Theyíre just going to sit by and wait for him to attack?"
scared, Harry. They donít know what to do so theyíre doing nothing."
agree. But thereís a real difference of opinion at the top, you see. Fudge
wants to sit back, Dumbledore wants to take action. Fudge is the one with the
authority, and since heís the one telling people they donít have to do
anything, no one is challenging him. They may know deep down that itís not the
best solution, but no one really wants to put themselves in danger, do they? So
Fudge says wait, and they wait."
was silent for a minute, while he considered this information. "So, there
havenít been any attacks or anything? He hasnít been seen?"
Weasley shook his head. "Biding his time I suppose."
Harry thought, ĎComing up with a new plan to wreak destruction and despair.í
"Thanks, Mr. Weasley," Harry said, looking thoughtful as he rose from
thing, Harry," he replied as Harry headed towards the door. Then,
Harry turned back.
Weasley smiled kindly. "Try not to worry too much, eh? Voldemort isnít
your responsibility. Let the people in charge worry, all right? Itís their
Harry said with a smile and a nod. "Thanks again," and he left the
thought you said we were supposed to meet her at half past," Harry said to
Ron as they hurried down Diagon Alley.
shook his head. "One oíclock."
come on. Weíre late. You know how she hates that. Do you really want to be
scolded for ten minutes when we first see her?"
Harry said, struggling to keep up with Ronís longer-legged strides. Harry was
terribly sore from their game of
hit-your-friends-with-the-quaffle-as-hard-as-you-can the previous evening, not
to mention the fact that he was still distracted by the conversation heíd had
with Mr. Weasley afterwards. But he was trying to hurry; he was anxious to see
told you!" said Ron, pointing to a bench next to the entrance to Flourish
and Blotts. "There she is!"
followed Ronís finger and saw Hermione sitting on the bench with her parents.
She saw them too.
waved. "Harry! Ron!"
hurried towards them and reached Harry first. Feeling emotional, he dropped his
bags and scooped her into a hug.
you all right, Harry? Iíve missed you."
fine and I missed you too." He let her go and then it was Ronís turn.
Harry tried not to smile when Ron held onto her a little longer than necessary.
Hermione either didnít notice or pretended not to, for whatever reason.
Iíve missed you so much," she said happily.
too," he said, releasing her.
come on," she said, pulling them by the hands, "My parents want to
walked over to where Mr. and Mrs. Granger were standing looking nervous, which
was how they always looked when they were around magical people and places.
Harry didnít blame them in the least. The last time they had been in Diagon
Alley they had witnessed two full grown wizards, one of whom was Ronís father,
beat each other up like schoolboys.
Granger stepped forward and offered his hand to Harry, and then to Ron.
"Hello, boys. Itís good to see you again."
too," said Harry.
Mr. Granger," said Ron.
remember my wife?" he asked, stepping aside so she could shake their hands
course," said Ron.
to see you again, Mrs. Granger," said Harry.
you boys gotten all of your things for school?" Mrs. Granger asked,
indicating the packages Harry and Ron were carrying.
finally," said Ron. "It took forever. Itís so crowded everywhere. It
seems like everyone from Hogwarts is here today."
itís hot," said Hermione. "Letís go cool off in the Leaky
Cauldron," she suggested. "We can get some cold drinks."
agreed that this was a fabulous idea, and after they had made their way inside,
and acquired some drinks, they all sank gratefully into a large booth.
gotten all of my things too," said Hermione as they sat down, indicating
the bags she and her parents had deposited on the floor beneath the table.
just come from that robe shop," said Mr. Granger.
Malkinís," Hermione reminded her father.
he said, patting her forearm where it rested on the table. "Madam
Malkinís. Had to get Hermione all new robes, sheís grown so much in the last
year. I guess you boys have too, huh? Youíre all at that age."
isnít that the truth," came a voice from behind them. It was Mrs. Weasley.
She and Mr. Weasley and Ginny were hauling a dozen bags with them as they
shifted over to make room for them, and after all of the pleasantries were
exchanged, and they had all become pleasantly cool, the teenagers became bored
with the conversation. Mr. Granger seemed very interested in hearing about
magic-Muggle relations and Mr. Weasley, like always, was eager to learn about
various Muggle devices.
this contraption, this lawnmower," Mr. Weasley was saying, "It
actually cuts the grass?"
rolled his eyes.
Ginny exclaimed. "Thereís Paisley Kingston and Belinda Ballantine. Iím
going to say hello." She scooted quickly out of the booth and was gone.
weíre out of here," Ron whispered to Harry. And then, to the adults, he
said, "Um, weíre going back outside. Weíll meet you back here at - "
he glanced at his watch, "three."
adults nodded their consent.
fine," said Mrs. Weasley, "Thatís what time we told George and Fred
to meet us here, too."
Ron, Harry, and Hermione escaped quickly, before the adults could change their
on," said Ron once they were walking back down Diagon Alley, "Letís
go over to Quality Quidditch Supplies. We havenít been in there yet."
that will be fun," Hermione said sarcastically.
where would you rather go?" Ron asked, smirking playfully, "Back to
Flourish and Blotts? Donít have enough books to last you the year?"
scowled and opened her mouth to reply, but Harry cut her off.
on, Herm, be a sport," he said imploringly. "We wonít stay
face didnít change, but she replied, "Fine."
pushed their way inside through the throngs of people and maneuvered through
the aisles, stopping here and there to chat with a student or two that they
recognized. Once Hermione looked thoroughly miserable, and they realized they
hadnít been able to get close enough to any of the shelves or racks to actually
see anything, they decided to head back outside to see what was in the window
look at that," Ron gushed, pointing at a shiny broomstick on display in
the front window.
Harry breathed, crossing back and forth in front of the glass, trying to examine
the broomstick from all sides, which was, of course, impossible. "Itís the
new Firebolt XL. Look at how itís just itching to fly." The broomstick was
hovering several inches above the display stand and was vibrating slightly.
Ron whispered, shaking his head and staring open-mouthed at the broomstick, no
doubt imagining himself flying it around a Quidditch pitch while wearing bright
orange robes of the Chudley Cannons persuasion.
well, well," came a familiar drawling voice, "If it isnít the hero
and his pauper and his mudblood."
felt Ron and Hermione whirl around next to him. Harry closed his eyes and
exhaled heavily before doing the same.
off, Malfoy," Ron was saying. He had already turned beet red with anger.
Malfoy stood directly across from them, arms folded, platinum hair shining
brightly in the sun. His two cronies, Crabbe and Goyle, lurked on either side
of him, looking more like brainless trolls than ever. "Itís good to see
some things never change," Malfoy said silkily. "The holy
triumvirate. Still joined at the proverbial hip, I see."
using the big words to make up for your midget dick, I see," Ron retorted.
raised an eyebrow. "Touchť. You kiss your mother with that mouth,
moved forward. "Go away, Malfoy," he said sharply.
ignored him. "What are you doing, Weasley? Hmm? Trying to figure up how
many years of your fatherís salary youíd need to pay for that broom? Iím not
sure you can add that high..."
on her hips, Hermione calmly took three steps forward so that she was only
inches away from Malfoy. She lifted her chin slightly so that she could glare
right into his eyes.
. . ." Ron warned through his teeth, reaching out to pull her back by the
arm, while Harry attempted to step between her and the platinum-haired
Slytherin. She shook them both off.
hit you once before, Malfoy," she hissed, "and Iíll do it again, I
swear I will."
grinned wickedly. "Threatened by a mudblood. How positively paradoxical.
So smart, and yet you know nothing of the natural order of the world."
stepped forward until they were practically touching and glared right back into
her eyes. Hermione was visibly shaking, but she kept her composure.
threats mean nothing," he hissed. "You are nothing," and
he turned his head and spat on the ground at her feet.
started to lunge forward and Harry quickly flung out an arm to hold him back.
Struggling against Ronís weight, Harry pushed his other arm between Hermione
and Draco and shoved Draco hard in the chest.
out of here, Malfoy," he growled in a quiet but deadly voice.
stepped back, laughing, and, snapping his fingers at Crabbe and Goyle, they all
turned and walked away. "See you soon," he called back over his
spun Hermione around and grabbed her by the top of her arms with both hands. He
could feel her trembling. "Are you okay?" he asked, and when she
nodded, he continued, "Are you mad?" his voice was harsh, but
a small smile betrayed the fact that he was rather impressed.
bastard!" Ron exclaimed. "Why didnít you let me at him,
Harry?" he demanded angrily.
you would have killed him and I donít want to have to come visit you in
Azkaban," Harry replied shortly.
go of me," Hermione said, exasperated, twisting out of Harryís grip and
straightening her blouse impatiently. "Iím not afraid of Malfoy. Heís all
talk. Anyway, heís just still angry about how we humiliated him with all those
curses on the Hogwarts Express at the end of last term."
Hermione," Ron, who was beginning to calm down, said worriedly, "You
shouldnít have done that."
not? I told you, Iím not afraid of him."
not afraid of a lot of things, Hermione, and sometimes I wish you would be,"
said Harry dejectedly.
that supposed to mean?" she asked.
he replied, "Come on."
led the way through the crowds and back into the Leaky Cauldron. The adults were
still chatting, and hadnít even seen them come in. Harry was about to take a
seat at a vacant table when Ron put a hand on his shoulder.
go out there," he said, grinning, and pointing out the door to the Muggle
shook his head and chuckled dryly. "I donít think your mother would like
come on, weíve only got fifteen minutes anyway. Weíll come right back."
if they see us come back in?" Harry pointed out. "Weíll get in
parents wonít care if she goes out there, they came in from out there. And my
mum canít punish you. Iím the only one who stands to get in trouble here, and
Iím okay with that. Come on. Live a little." Ronís eyes were gleaming with
mischief. Harry knew that Ron had spent very little time in his life in Muggle
streets, and he must have been dying of curiosity. Besides, they would only be
gone for a few minutes.
right, letís go."
I donít know," Hermione spoke up, shaking her head a little. "I donít
want you to get into trouble."
rolled his eyes, and dragged her out the door by her wrist. Harry followed.
Ron exclaimed. "Look at all the cars!"
few passersby shot strange looks Ronís way.
Ron, people will hear you," whispered Harry.
weíll not cross the street, okay?" said Hermione. "And weíll just
stay in this block."
Ron mumbled, starting off to the right.
first storefront they came to was a Muggle bookstore. Hermione wanted to go in,
but Ron, in an exasperated sort of voice, said that it really couldnít be that
different from a "regular" (which, to Ron, meant "magical")
bookstore. Thinking of "The Monster Book of Monsters", Harry doubted
that were true, but they passed the bookstore anyway. They came to a bank
branch next. Ron really wanted to go in, but Harry pointed out that there
wasnít much to do in a bank that didnít involve exchanging money, and so they
might look a little suspicious just standing there, watching.
he said annoyed. "Can we go in here?" It was a small electronics
said Harry, grinning widely. "Your dad would be so jealous," he said
as he pulled the door open.
entered the store and Ronís jaw dropped. Harry quickly nudged him in the ribs
and Ron closed his mouth.
follow me and donít say anything," Harry whispered.
three of them walked up and down the short aisles, Harry and Hermione pointing
out certain devices and explaining them to Ron in hushed voices.
a VCR," Hermione said, pointing. "You can buy Muggle films on videotape
and then hook this machine up to the telly to watch them."
asked Ron, screwing his face up in confusion. He had no idea what she had just
giggled. "Okay, something simpler, something he can see," she
muttered to herself, glancing around.
she said pulling him further down the aisle. They stood before a television set
which had a video game displayed on the screen. "Here," she said
again, pushing one of the controllers into Ronís hand and passing the other to
Harry. "Itís a game. Show him, Harry."
watched, dumbfounded, as Harry made the figures move across the screen by
pushing buttons on the controller.
That is cool. How do you know how to do that?"
has this one," Harry said with a scowl.
lets you play it?" Ron asked him with a sideways glance.
didnít ask. I used to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and play
Ron pushed some of the buttons on his controller, and in seconds, all of his
players were dead.
glanced at her watch. "Come on, we should go."
Ron protested, but he followed her and Harry out of the store.
and Hermione started back down the sidewalk towards the Leaky Cauldron, but Ron
grabbed them both by the arms.
one more," he said, pulling them, protesting, back past the electronics
came before an antique shop, and there were hundreds of little gadgets and
trinkets displayed in the window.
are not going in there," said Harry. "Weíd never come out
again. You can just look at this stuff in the window for a minute."
eyes scanned the display eagerly, trying to take it all in. Ron asked Harry
what a lot of things were, but many of them were so old that even Harry wasnít
Hermione knows," Ron said, turning around. "Hermione?"
was standing about five feet away, at the other end of the window, gazing in.
She didnít seem to hear him.
he asked again, louder. After a moment, she pulled her attention away from the
lost interest in whatever he had been looking at and walked over to where she
were you looking at?" he asked, peering in. There was a large display of
antique jewelry behind the glass.
nothing. Just that...that necklace," she said breathlessly. "Itís
raised an eyebrow. It wasnít like Hermione to be so taken in by a piece of
jewelry. But as soon as he leaned over her shoulder to see it, he could see why
she was. The chain was simple enough, he thought, but the pendant really was quite
pretty. It had a large, round, deep red garnet set into the middle, encircled
by tiny diamonds and an ornately decorative gold setting. It looked more like a
small brooch than a necklace pendant, Harry thought. He glanced at the price
tag, which was just visible sticking out from under the velvet platform on
which the necklace was displayed, and laughed out loud.
hope that glass is shatterproof," he said, "It costs 700
many galleons is that?" Ron asked.
a hundred and fifty," he replied.
let out a low whistle. "Come on, Hermione," he said, steering her
away from the window by her elbow. She stumbled a little as her feet moved
before her eyes followed. Ron rolled his eyes. "Girls," he mouthed to
quickly regained her focus on reality, though. "Letís hurry," she
said. "We donít want them looking around for us when we enter."
they entered The Leaky Cauldron, the crowd between the door and the table where
the adults sat was thick enough to allow them to slip in unnoticed. When they
reached the table, everyone else was there. They seemed to be waiting on Harry,
Ron, and Hermione. Judging from the number of empty butterbeer bottles on the
table, the Weasleys and the Grangers had gotten on smashingly.
I guess this is goodbye," Hermioneís mother said to her, sniffing.
nodded, biting her lip and looking suddenly teary.
Granger placed an arm around her daughterís shoulders and turned to Mrs.
we canít thank you enough for keeping Hermione and seeing her off to school.
Itís very kind of you."
nothing, dear," she replied, reaching out and brushing Hermioneís arm with
her hand. "We love having her. Youíve raised a lovely daughter."
you," she replied, her voice catching.
turned back to her daughter. "You have a good year, now. You write to us
often, and let us know whatís happening at Hogwarts." Hermione nodded.
"Weíll miss you." She hugged Hermione tightly, and when she pulled
away, Harry saw a tear roll down her cheek. †
sniffed, and hastily swiped at her own eyes. Harryís heart ached and he wanted
to reach out and hug her.† A glance at
Ronís pained face told him that he was thinking the same thing.
Granger stepped forward and hugged his daughter too, kissing the top of her
head. "Chin up, Buttercup," he said gently. Hermione sniffled into
his chest. He pulled back and cupped her face in his hands. "You be good
now. Mind your manners and keep making you old dad proud. I love you." He
kissed her on the forehead and put an arm around her as they all walked towards
the door the three teenagers had come through minutes before.
boys take care of my little girl," Mr. Granger said to Harry and Ron,
shaking their hands and smiling. "Sheís the only one Iíve got."
and Harry nodded fervently.
will," Ron said seriously.
his great surprise - and chagrin - Harry felt a lump rising in his own throat,
as he watched the Grangers share their final farewells, thinking about what it
might be like to hug parents good-byeÖHe quickly swallowed hard several times.
Weasleys bid the Grangers farewell, and they all watched Hermioneís parents
leave the Leaky Cauldron. When Hermione turned around, her eyes were damp.
Harry smiled and winked at her, and she smiled back weakly. Ron and Harry each
linked an arm through hers as they all headed towards the stairs to the guest
room where they had stashed their things. They would be leaving from the
fireplace in that room via floo powder.
they ascended the stairs, Mr. Grangerís words echoed in Harryís head. Take
care of my little girl.
asked the wrong guy,í Harry thought, ĎI canít protect anyone.í
seemed to cheer up considerably after they reached the Burrow. She was
obviously eager to get back to school and start cramming more knowledge into
her brain. Harry thought she could probably do with Dumbledoreís pensieve.
you two looked at our new Transfiguration text yet?" she asked as she
flipped through it. She was sitting sideways in the window seat of the
Weasleyís living room. The window was open and the night had cooled off
considerably. A light, pleasant breeze was wafting through the room, rustling
Hermione?" asked Ron sarcastically from the floor. "Check mate,
Harry. Youíre getting loads better, though."
just got the books today," Ron said, addressing Hermione again, "and
have you seen us look at them yet?"
ignored his tone. "Were learning advanced cross-species transfiguration
this term!" she announced enthusiastically.
would have thought youíd be more excited, Harry," she admonished.
"Itís exactly the kind of stuff your dad and Sirius must have learned to
right. Well, Iíll be excited when the time comes, but right now," he said,
leaning over to snatch the book out of her hands, "Weíre still on
she exclaimed as Harry grabbed the book and tossed it aside.† She reached over immediately to reclaim it,
Ron," Harry said, loudly shifting the subject away from schoolwork,
"You know there are two openings on the Gryffindor Quidditch team this
year. You going to try out?"
really should, you know," said Fred, who had just entered the room
carrying an enormous sandwich. "You were really good at dodging and
catching that quaffle last night. I reckon youíd make a pretty good
asked Ron, beaming.
nodded as he took a bite of his sandwich and a piece of ham stuck to his chin.
right," said Harry, "I think youíd be great."
yeah! Iíll definitely try out!"
I donít know," Hermione said, looking tense. "I go out of my mind
enough watching Harry fly around like a daredevil; I donít think I could take
it if you were up there too."
worry so much, Hermione," Ron replied, chucking a sofa pillow at her.
"Itís bad for your health."
lay awake on her cot that night, long after the sounds of Ginnyís deep
breathing had filled the room. Despite Ronís words, she was worried. Harryís
behavior had seemed a little...mixed up that day. On the one hand, he had
seemed desperately happy to be back with his friends, as though he never wanted
to take another moment for granted. His smile had been the same as always,
sweet and soothing, but mischievous all at the same time. His voice had been as
elastic as ever, kind and concerned one minute ("Are you okay?"),
wondrous the next ("Itís the new Firebolt XL."), then deadly
("Get out of here, Malfoy."), and even playful, ("Weíre still on
vacation."). But his eyes . . . his eyes had left Hermione deeply
troubled. They made his face look like he had aged ten years in the two months
that had passed since the third task of the Triwizard Tournament. Things that
no eyes should see in an entire lifetime, his had seen before the age of even
fifteen, and it was like a brilliant light behind his green irises had been
suddenly and irreversibly switched off. Harryís eyes had used to be like the
key to seeing into his soul. His face wasnít usually easy to read. Not at all
like Ronís, which endearingly betrayed his every feeling as though someone had
written the words across it with magic marker: "Ron is currently feeling
rather frustrated and a bit tired," for example. No, Harryís face wasnít
that easy - not unless you knew his eyes. But today they had been dull,
unchanging, the same emptiness in every moment. Perhaps they were still the key
to his soul, even now. Maybe a light had gone out there as well. Hermione
shuddered, pulling the blanket tighter around her. She wished Harry and Ron
werenít sharing a room right now. She longed to talk to Ron about this, and if
he had been alone in his room, she would have snuck off and woken him up, just
to hear his reassuring voice of reason. Instead, she tried to imagine what he
been through a lot, Hermione, just give him time,í or ĎHeís growing up, you
know, of course heís going to look different,í or even, ĎYouíre imagining
things, he looks the same to me,í would have cheered her up.
sighed and rolled over, trying to think about something else. After a few
minutes, her mind defaulted. Ď ...I wonder if Flitwick will be teaching power
amplification charms this term...í
a room two floors up, dull green eyes darted back and forth behind closed
was swimming through dark and murky waters, straining his ears to follow the sound
of the merpeopleís song. He could barely hear it, and it seemed to be coming at
him from all sides. Furiously twisting his head from left to right, he willed
his ears to pick up the direction of the sound. Instead, he heard Ďtick-tick,
tick-tickí. The ticking was getting louder and louder, drowning out the sound
that he was so desperately trying to follow. He tilted his head back to look in
the direction of the sky. There, on the underside of the lakeís surface,
looking as though they were painted on, were bright red numbers, wavering and
shimmering with the movement of the water. 00:04:22, they read.
four more minutes,í Harry thought, frantic, ĎIíve got to move - but which
that any direction was better than none, Harry sped straight ahead. The
merpeopleís song was getting steadily louder, but so was the ticking. Harry
couldnít think, it was so loud. He looked up again. 00:02:07. He fought against
every muscle fiber in his body, all were burning with exhaustion, and he swum harder
and faster, kicking with his whole legs.
looked up. 00:00:32.
the merpeopleís song was deafening, though he couldnít see anyone or anything,
and he fought the urge to stop stroking with his arms and clap his hands over
an hour the prospectís black, too late, theyíre gone, they wonít come
He could see only blackness. He swum on.
late, theyíre gone, they wonít come back."
horrendous sound split through the water, and the ticking and the singing
stopped instantaneously. 00:00:00. The buzzer had sounded. It was too late.
suddenly exploded in Harryís head and he sucked in a sharp breath, pulling up
his knees and clapping his hands to his scar. And then heard it - the
high-pitched laughter coming from just behind him. Pushing away the pain, he
straightened and spun around and Voldemort was there, floating in the spot
Harry had swum through just seconds before. His laughter got louder and louder,
his red eyes gleaming like fireballs, and then he floated aside. Behind him
were hundreds of merpeople, the entire village, and in the center, the giant
merperson statue. Two people were bound to it with lengths of rope. He could see
only the backs of their heads - one brown, and one red. Slowly, they floated
around to face him, and Harry let out a horrible, savage, gut-wrenching cry,
which emerged from his mouth only as silent bubbles. The bodies of his beloved
friends were rotting and mangled, blood oozing from their very skin, which was
discolored and hanging off in places and flapping in the water. And their faces
- lifeless eyes in sockets too big - staring into his - and on their fleshless
foreheads shone two identical, blood-red lightning-bolt shaped scars.
jumped violently, and when he opened his eyes, he realized that he was somehow
on his knees, amidst a pile of tangled bed sheets. Ron was gripping him hard by
the shoulders, looking terrified in the moonlit semi-darkness. In an instant,
Harry realized that there was no lake in Ronís room to prevent his anguished
cry from escaping his throat in full force.
boys were breathing in deep, shuddering gasps.
on earth were you dreaming?"
tried to speak, but all that came out was an unintelligible string of sounds.
He collapsed in Ronís grip, and Ron had to maneuver himself out from under
Harryís weight. He knelt on the floor next to Harryís cot, holding his friend
up by his shaking shoulders, while Harryís breathing gradually slowed to only
late..," Harry muttered in a strangled voice.
head was spinning and he felt as though he might be sick. His face was soaked
with sweat and cold tears. He squeezed his eyes shut.
think youíre hyperventilating," Ron said anxiously.
Harry gasped, "Iím all right."
door to Ronís room flew open, and both twins burst in.
the hell?" one asked.
heard...well, we thought someone was in here killing you!" said the other,
was dreaming," Ron told them quietly.
still gasping slightly, glanced at them.
-" one started forward upon seeing his face.
Harry held up a hand to stop him. "Iím fine," he said, and then
again, more firmly, "Iím fine." He took a deep breath. "Did I
wake anyone else up?"
twins shook their heads. "I donít think so," one said.
Iím sorry...go back to sleep."
looked at Ron, bewildered. He nodded at them, and they turned and walked out,
closing the door behind them.
he was shaking his head. "No, Ron. Donít...just go back to sleep."
that he was still holding his best friend by the shoulders, Ron slowly let go,
hesitating to see if Harry would hold himself up. He did.
go back to sleep," he said again, turning away and falling back into bed.
He rolled over onto his side, facing the wall.
didnít move for a long moment. Then he slowly got up and crawled back into his