A/N: Admiral MM and Arabella, you're Godsends. Thanks for strong but not ego crushing betas.
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By her beginning of her seventh year, Hermione had certainly spent enough time in the hospital wing of Hogwarts, both as an inhabitant and as a visitor. This time was different, however. A dictionary's worth of words wouldn't help her to explain why, but it was different. Every time she had been in the infirmary before, it had been because someone was physically ill or wounded.
It was just an entirely different thing when the person lying in the hospital bed was there because he had suffered an utter emotional breakdown.
Hermione shifted in her chair, hearing several bones pop as she uncurled from the position she had been in all night. Beside her, she heard Ron shifting as well, felt his arm sliding from around her shoulders so he could stretch as well.
"How is he?" he mumbled, rubbing eyes that were blurry with sleep.
Hermione sighed and bit down lightly on her lower lip, leaning forward to look at the pale figure resting in the bed. "The sleeping potion's still working," she replied quietly, absently adjusting her robes.
Ron nodded slightly. "Good," he decided. "I can't believe the bugger managed to get off school property before we could even hex him. I swear, if I ever run into him, I'll--"
"--run in the opposite direction, and get an army to help you pummel him," Hermione cut in gently, reaching over to take one of Ron's hands with hers and squeeze it lightly. Ron's angry bravado visibly deflated from his body, and he slumped back into his chair.
"All right... So I would," he admitted wearily. "But I can at least fantasize that I would be the dutiful best friend and simply deck the bastard, right?"
Hermione managed a rueful smile for him. "I want to fantasize too. I suppose we're entitled," she decided before her gaze drifted back over to the figure in the bed. The lightning-shaped scar was a furious red against too pale skin and the sight of it just added to her mounting worries. Just how much could one young man be expected to take?
"We'll help him through this," Ron said quietly, breaking into Hermione's thoughts. "It's what we do."
She managed another half smile for his sake, but she didn't feel any emotion behind it. There was too much of her that was convinced that there were some things they simply couldn't help him with. Some demons Harry would just have to deal with himself.
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The Previous Evening
The air outside of the Hogwarts castle was cold enough to make breath become fog, but Harry couldn't bring himself to mind about such a thing. Tonight was too good for him to be bothered. He adjusted his robes, the new Order of the Phoenix Crest absently catching his attention for a moment. It was settled on the breast of his robes. They were scattered among students of all houses now, even a few Slytherins--of the Slytherins that were left. They were the peacekeepers and the protectors: war wizards in training, really. Voldemort hadn't expected that Dumbledore would be willing to train such young people in combat, and it had allowed for his forces to be temporarily crippled last year. But such surprises could only be sprung once, and the war was far from over.
Harry stopped walking as he reached the edge of the lake. Carved pumpkins lined the path with their fiery grins. His hand came up to his forehead, rubbing his scar unconsciously as he looked out at the water. It always hurt now; a dull throb that would not go away. Sometimes he almost forgot about it, during things like Quidditch matches and that one pillow fight the seventh year Gryffindor boys had sprung on the girls. Still, it lingered. He didn't like that it lingered.
As his fingertips brushed against the skin one last time, there was a jolt of pain, as though he had just stabbed himself. Harry stumbled back a step, surprised as he looked at his hand. He hadn't felt that in a while, and it certainly didn't make any sense that he was feeling it no--
"Happy Halloween, Mr. Potter."
He was not going to scream. He willed himself not to scream. Even as thin, icy cold hands gripped his shoulders like a vice and dug into him until he thought there would be holes in his flesh, he refused to scream. Which might have been very stupid, because people needed to know if Voldemort could make his way onto the grounds of Hogwarts again, but silly things such as pride and terror and mind numbing pain kept Harry from doing so.
"So good to see you again this evening," the Dark Lord murmured from behind him, his voice like velvet, making Harry want to shudder. "We have made so many different anniversaries over the years, but really, I think this is my favorite."
Despite his mouth feeling dry enough to crumble to dust, Harry managed to speak with a steady voice. "One shout and everyone would know you're here," he said. "You'd have an entire school's worth of enemies on you."
Voldemort merely chuckled, his grip on Harry tightening to the point where the dark haired wizard had to bite his tongue to keep from whimpering. "Oh, but you won't. You know as well as I do this is between you and me, Potter. Besides, I'm not here for any reason but to offer you a present."
"I've seen your version of presents," Harry replied, licking his lips nervously, his hand ever so slowly inching its way upward. If he could just get to his wand....
"Oh, Mr. Potter, have you no faith in me?" Voldemort whispered, one of his hands sliding against Harry's neck. "All you're receiving is a little--remembrance." Something stabbed into Harry's flesh, making his mouth jerk open in a scream, only he didn't hear any sound could out.
No sound came out when he saw that it was his father standing in front of him, either.
It was all a matter of moments really, painfully slow ticks of the watch as Harry realized where he was and what was going on. It was hard to deny that it was his father standing in the middle a cozy living room that Harry couldn't remember but had somehow seen before, and it was impossible not to know that it was Voldemort who blew out the front door and strode inside.
Though everything moved in regular time, it might as well have been slow motion. Harry screamed so hard he could feel the vibration of his vocal cords in his throat, but the only sounds were of his father's strong voice and Voldemort's lower rasp. He tore uselessly at his father, fingers desperately trying to get a grasp on James's arms, but it was though everything and everyone in the scene was encased in a slippery glass. Even when his father crumpled to the floor, eyes sightless, Harry couldn't touch him.
As Voldemort swept upstairs, Harry was dragged along too. It was like he was attached to some invisible leash the older wizard was holding, and though he kicked and clawed, Harry was still pulled up into the nursery where his mother was. Though he willed his eyes to screw shut, he still saw the green light take his mother away. He couldn't help but think how the spell matched his mother's eyes. Then he found he could close his eyes, hoarse sobs catching in his throat that he could now hear. That slippery glass feeling was gone from his hands, replaced by grass and dirt he could dig his fingers into. He felt his glasses slip off his face but it didn't register for him to pick them up. And he allowed Voldemort to ruffle his hair because for the time being he simply lacked the will to cringe from it.
"Happy Halloween, Mr. Potter."