The rest of Hermione’s holiday was mostly miserable. All of the relatives went home after Christmas, except Aunt Rachael and Uncle Carter, and her aunt Claire, who was staying through New Year’s. Hermione was busy babysitting for Linc, who was unruly and eager to go home to Nottingham, and taking care of Stephanie, who was ill. She was too weary of her inexperience in the area to use any magical healing methods on her little cousin.
Meanwhile, her mother was absorbed in cleaning up the Christmas decorations, her father had gone off to work, Buddy was on the phone with his girlfriend (again) and aunt Claire had gone shopping with Rachael and William at Harrods. Hermione wasn’t sure where Uncle Carter was, but she was guessing that he was asleep, as was Stephanie, who had dozed off in front of the television with a box of tissues in her hand. Only Stevie was awake with her in the living room as she doodled in the new drawing book her mother had gotten her for Christmas. He was playing Linc’s GameBoy and kicking the ottoman in front of him in an annoyingly erratic fashion.
“ Stevie,” Hermione said, more harshly than she’d planned, “ Could you please stop that? It’s very irritating.”
Stevie looked at her, grinned, and proceeded to kick the ottoman so hard that it bounced across the room and landed only a few inches from Stephanie’s head.
“ Whoops,” Stevie said laughing. Hermione groaned and left the room before she said something she’d regret. She wasn’t in a good mood—she hadn’t been since Christmas morning, and then, she hadn’t really been in great sprits before that either, ever since Professor McGonagall told her about the danger Harry was in. Why did I have to fall in love with the boy who’s destined to be destroyed by Voldemort? Hermione wondered, dragging up the stairs and thinking that maybe Harry HAD ruined her life. Lately all she wanted to do was crawl into bed and daydream about him, trying to forget the fact that they may never see each other again.
Hermione went into her room and shut the door behind her, and walked to her dresser drawer, picking up the fragile little jewelry box Ron had given her for Christmas. She opened the lid and pulled out the tiny note Harry had left her with her Christmas present.
She read the bottom line for the millionth time that week. He loves me, she thought, still not able to believe it. The only boy who has ever loved me has run away so he can die alone. Just thinking it made Hermione’s eyes cloudy with tears. She folded the little note carefully and tucked it back into her jewelry box.
Hermione heard a flapping sound at her window, and saw her owl, Comet, land on the windowsill with a letter clutched in her talons. Normally Hermione was very polite with her little messenger, but on this occasion she hastily snatched the letter from her beak and tore open the envelope without so much as a second glance at the owl. Comet hooted disapprovingly and landed on her bed with a soft thud.
Hermione’s hands shook as she unfolded the paper inside. Was it from Harry? No, she realized when she saw the girlish handwriting, and her heart sank.
Are you okay? At least alive? I keep having these horrible premonitions that you’re in danger, or pain or something. Not to worry you—I’m sure you’re fine! Just drop me a line to ease my nerves, okay?
Anyhow, I hope you had a great Christmas. I had a lot of fun being home in Ithaca, (that’s in New York, it’s where I live), me and Nail went out partying on the island (that’s Manhattan, it’s a real big city) every night, and my mom gave me new motorcycle boots for Christmas! Everyone really liked the earrings you gave me, even my dad. We visited him in prison on Christmas Eve, he’s doing real well—minimum security this year!
Oh yeah, and Draco called me long distance yesterday and said a bunch of sappy stuff—you wouldn’t believe him when you guys aren’t around! Anyhow, I’d like for him to meet Nail sometime, I think they’d either get along great or totally hate each other. Well, see you next week!
Hermione smiled slightly, though she’d much rather have a letter that insured her that Harry was okay. Rosa was so thoughtful—Hermione knew she took her friendship for granted, though there were times when she wanted to punch her lights out. She knew Rosa had excellent Divination skills, and wondered if she knew anything about Harry’s whereabouts…but then Hermione got a better idea.
She grabbed the new stationary set that her grandparents had given her and started a letter.
Hey, have you heard from Harry? I shouldn’t start a letter this way, but I’m really worried about him, and I’m sure you are too. Had he told you he was going to leave Hogwarts? Anyway, he wants to, can you believe him? I tried to talk him out of it (he came to my house) but didn’t have any luck.
How was your Christmas? Mine was so absolutely dreadful, and it’s all Harry’s fault. I’m sorry I can’t write about anything else, I suppose I really do have a one-track mind.
Reply as soon as my owl lands! Thanks—
Hermione shoved Ron’s letter into an envelope and brought it to Comet, who looked at her as if she were insulted before grabbing the letter and taking off again. Hermione sighed and watched her go from the window.
“ Hey, whatcha doin’?” asked Buddy, walking into the room, “ Want to go see a movie or something?”
“ No,” Hermione said with another sigh. “ I’m tired. I think I’m coming down with something.”
“ Maybe you caught Steph’s cold,” he said. Hermione nodded.
“ Oh, here’s your phonebook,” he said, handing it to her. “ Thanks. I’ve never called Teresa at home before, usually she’s at school.”
“ Really?” Hermione asked, turning over the phone book in her hands, “ Your girlfriend goes to a boarding school?”
“ Um, yeah—“ Buddy said, his eyes suddenly shifty. “ Anyway, I’m gonna go make lunch for the kids…so…come down and have something, okay?”
Hermione nodded, “ I’ll be down in a minute,” she said. Buddy left the room and she got up and shut the door behind him. She grabbed the phone book, excited. Why hadn’t she thought of this before? Of course Harry would stay with the only people whose safety he didn’t care for—the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle.
Hermione flipped through the pages until she found a long list of Dursleys, and combed the list for familiar sounding names. Walter…was his uncle’s first name Walter? It almost sounded right, but Hermione couldn’t remember. She continued pawing through the names.
Then there it was: Vernon. Vernon Dursley—she was almost sure that was Harry’s uncle. He had only mentioned him once or twice, so she wasn’t positive, but it was still worth a try. She tore out the page with his address on it, threw on her peacoat, and brushed her hair until it looked somewhat suitable. She was going to find Harry, whether he liked it or not. He should have learned by now that Hermione Granger was no quitter.
Hermione tromped down the stairs, her spirits lifting as she imagined Harry’s surprise. She just hoped that she was right about his location—she couldn’t think of any other place he’d be. She went into the kitchen and packed a lunch for the bus ride to Privet Drive.
“ Going somewhere, after all, eh?” Buddy said, munching on a pickle. Hermione nodded, and then sneezed.
“ Sorry, Buddy, but my friend is in trouble,” she said, grabbing a bottle of iced tea, “ I’ll tell you about it later.”
“ The same friend who came here the other night?” Buddy asked, following her into the foyer.
“ Yes,” Hermione said, reaching into her pocket to make sure her wand was still there,
“ How did you know?”
Buddy looked away from her for a moment. “ You’re right,” he said, “ You’d better go to him.” Hermione frowned.
“ What?” she said, “ What are you talking about? You know something…about Harry?”
“ Call it…” Buddy chewed on his lip, “ …Divination, okay? We’ll talk later, right? You’d better get going, before my mom and aunt Rachael get home.”
Hermione nodded, and walked out the door, confused. How could Buddy be involved in this? He knew a few token spells and charms—Hermione had always suspected that her uncle Ricky had been something of an amateur wizard, and had possibly taught him some tricks. But Buddy lived in an entirely Muggle world…or at least, that was what she’d always thought.
Everything’s strange, Hermione thought, pulling her coat around her against the cold. She felt sort of sick, and very tired, like she was coming down with something. I just need to find Harry, she decided, get some things straightened out, and everything will make sense again.
Hermione took the bus all the way to 4 Privet Drive, which was in an outlying suburb of the city. The street was small, quiet and bathed in afternoon sunlight. Hermione thought it looked awfully picturesque, and wondered how Harry could have been miserable growing up here. She was, however, miserable herself, as her cold had worsened on the two-hour bus ride, she was feeling slow and her throat was aching.
Hermione climbed off the bus, and walked through the chill air and the suburban sunlight to the house that Vernon Dursley owned. It was a medium-sized Tudor, with neatly trimmed shrubbery, and a street lamp on the front lawn. Most of the curtains were shut, but she could see the silhouette of a Christmas tree in one of the windows on the bottom level.
“ This doesn’t look so horrible,” she whispered to herself, wiping her nose with a handkerchief. She glanced up at a window on the top floor and beamed when she saw Hedwig sitting on the ledge, primly cleaning her feathers.
“ Harry!” she called, trying not to be too loud, “ Harry! Hullo?” she tried again but got no answer. Hermione began to worry—what if Hedwig had just returned by habit and he wasn’t there after all? She walked to the door, taking a breath and formulating a plan for getting inside. If the Dursleys were anything like Harry had described, they wouldn’t be welcoming to one of this friends from school.
She rang the doorbell, nervous. The way Harry talked about his mother’s sister and her family, she felt like she was preparing to meet some very powerful dark wizards. Instead, a fat blond teenager with chocolate on his chin answered the door. His eyes bulged when he saw Hermione.
“ D-Dudley?” Hermione asked, hoping she had gotten the name right. She pulled nervously on the little amethyst necklace Harry had given her, and wondered how on earth he could be related to the slob that stood before her.
“ Yeah?” the fat boy asked, looking her over and attempting to tuck his shirt into his pants, which were too small and bulging with an over-sized gut.
“ Dudley, it’s—you!” Hermione said, forcing a smile, and glancing over his shoulder. She could hear someone moving around in the kitchen behind him—she tried to speak loudly so Harry would recognize her voice at the door. “ We met at the, um, well at the…dance?” She took a chance, praying that Dudley had been to at least one dance in his lifetime.
“ The dance?” Dudley said, scratching his head, some dandruff flakes falling onto his wide shoulders, “ But…I didn’t talk to any girls,” he said, frowning.
Great Wizards, Hermione thought, what a bloke… “ Y-you don’t remember me?” she asked, pretending to be disappointed, “ Come on Dudley—we talked for like…an hour!” Dudley’s eyes widened, and Hermione could see that he had probably never spoken to any girl (other than his mother) for anywhere near an hour.
“ Well…” he said, “ I suppose I, I do remember…” he said, searching his miniscule brain for a memory of this girl. Hermione sighed, and craned her neck to see inside the kitchen door at the end of the hall behind him. A slight, waspy woman with thinning blond hair was washing dishes. He’s not here…Hermione thought sadly.
“ Dudley,” she said, going for broke, “ Remember you were telling me about that odd cousin of yours—the one you’re forced to live with?”
“ H—but I never talk about him!” Dudley insisted.
“ Well, you really opened up to me!” Hermione said, desperately, grabbing his fat wrist. Dudley blushed and grinned.
“ I did?” he said, stepping back so she could come into the foyer. Hermione saw the thin blonde woman in the kitchen peer through the doorway suspiciously.
“ Sure you did,” Hermione said, glancing up the stairs. “ Maybe we should…hang out or something. You could tell me all about it…”
Suddenly someone else crashed into the house behind her. Hermione gasped and jumped out of his way—it must be Vernon, she thought. He was a squat, angry looking man with a very short neck. He looked right past Hermione and Dudley as if they weren’t there—he seemed as though he were about to explode.
And then he did.
“ PETUNIA!” He screamed, his red cheeks darkening with rage. “ Where’s that BOY?” he shouted. Hermione’s heart lifted a bit—was he talking about Harry?
“ I’m right here, pop.” Dudley said, pulling a chocolate bar out of his pocket and taking a bite.
“ Not YOU, Dudley,” he said, trying to contain himself.
“ What’s the matter, dear?” Petunia asked, walking into the foyer. For a moment Hermione wondered if Harry’s aunt was maybe a decent person. She looked rather annoyed with her agitated husband.
“ Have you SEEN what is sitting in the WINDOW?” Vernon roared.
“ No…” Petunia said, “ I haven’t been outside…” she glanced at Hermione, “ Dudley who is—“
“ THERE IS AN OWL IN HIS WINDOW, PETUNIA!” Vernon shouted, pointing up the stairs.
“ What??!” Petunia asked, suddenly in a panic, “ Did anyone see?!”
“ Only the whole NEIGHBORHOOD, I’m sure!” Vernon shouted. “ This is the LAST STRAW, Petunia—I don’t care what kind of promise you made to your nutcase sister—“ he stopped and looked at Hermione, “ And who on earth is THIS?” he asked, eyeing her suspiciously.
“ Uh, this is…er…” Dudley stuttered, embarrassed.
“ Sarah,” Hermione said quickly, throwing her arm out, “ Sarah…uh…Ferguson.” She spat out the first name that came to her mind, and bit her lip.
“ Sarah Ferguson?” Petunia asked, frowning.
“ Well, heh—not THE Sarah Ferguson, of course…” Hermione stuttered.
“ She came to see me,” Dudley said proudly.
“ A girl calling on a boy…?” Petunia clucked her tongue disapprovingly.
“ Petunia WHAT are you TALKING about?” Vernon demanded, “ Go get that BEAST out of his window before someone calls animal control!” Petunia frowned and headed up the stairs, but Harry stood there, near the top, in her way.
“ MOVE IT, young man!” she scolded, but Harry was looking past her, at Hermione.
“ What…?” he asked, beside himself with surprise, “ What are you doing here?” Hermione suddenly felt very embarrassed and out of place. Great Wizards, she thought, looking around at the angry faces of Petunia and Vernon, at Harry’s shocked expression, and Dudley’s utter confusion.
“ YOU know Sarah?” Dudley asked, sneering at Harry. Harry shook his head, puzzled.
“ What? Dudley have you lost your…this is my friend,” he said, frowning. Hermione’s heart sank. His friend. Blimey—I’m in over my head, she thought.
“ What is going on here?” Vernon asked harshly, glancing from Harry to Hermione.
“ That little heathen is NOT allowed to have guests in MY house. RE-move yourself, young lady.” He ordered, glaring at Hermione and pointing to the door. Hermione shrank. She felt dizzy, and her head was pounding, aching from her cold.
“ Shut up, you moron,” Harry barked at his uncle, “ I trust you remember that I WITHDREW from school. I can use magic whenever I want to.”
“ DON’T YOU THREATEN ME IN MY OWN HOUSE!” Vernon stood his ground, but Dudley jumped under a table, and Petunia backed down the stairs.
“ VINDIVICDIAVIUS!” Harry shouted, throwing his hands in Vernon’s direction. Vernon gasped, and flew back against the wall behind him, knocking over a small table near the door.
“ Harry!” Hermione screamed, watching in shock. The way he had preformed that spell…she felt wrong even thinking it, but it looked like…dark magic.
“ Y-you…” Vernon, stuttered, standing up, shaking like mad. “ I’ll c-call the p-police.”
“ Oh, calm down,” Harry said, with a dark look, “ You’re not even worth the trouble, Vernon. I’m going. Just let me get my things—I told you I only needed a place to sleep for a few nights. And I WON’T be back. I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” He swallowed, and looked at Hermione, who was watching him in a terrified awe. She’d never seen Harry act so… vengeful.
“ And you’d better apologize to my friend,” he added.
“ S-sorry.” Vernon said bitterly, straightening his tie and walking away, ashamed, “ Sarah Ferguson,” he muttered with a sneer. Dudley followed him out of the room running and covering his head. Petunia gave her a spiteful glance and walked off after them.
Hermione ran up the stairs, and stopped a few steps before Harry, her knees trembling.
“ Harry,” she whispered, gazing up at him, “ What are you doing?”
He looked away from her, narrowing his eyes. “ You shouldn’t have come here,” he said, his voice quiet, and even toned.
“ I didn’t come soon enough!” Hermione said, following him up the stairs, and into his room. Harry shut the door behind them. He went to the window and picked up Hedwig, stroking her feathers and placing her on a hanging perch near his closet. The owl shut her dark eyes and fluffed out her feathers, getting comfortable.
“ Harry,” Hermione squeaked, “ I know all this…stuff…is making you crazy. I feel the same way. But…we can’t lose our heads—you can’t forget…who you are.” Harry didn’t answer her. He stared out the window.
“ You shouldn’t have come,” he said again, “ Why couldn’t you just leave things…the way they were? Didn’t we have a nice goodbye?”
“ Goodbye?” Hermione exclaimed, “ You LEFT me while I was sleeping!”
“ I did what I had to.” Harry said.
“ Stop talking like that!” Hermione said, “ And look at me, will you?” Harry turned his head to her. She could see pain lining his eyes, though he was trying to be tough. His gaze softened a bit when his eyes met hers.
“ I hope you don’t think I’m doing any of this because I want to,” he said quietly. “ I didn’t want to hurt you….that’s why I left.”
“ Right,” Hermione said, sitting down on his bed, “ So you leave me to wonder if you’re safe—if you’re even alive?” Harry sighed.
“ Look Hermione, I’m not trying to be mean, but I don’t have time for all of this. I…I’m going to have to grow up very fast. I can’t keep thinking about myself—about what I want…and…need…” He looked at her longingly.
“ Oh, Harry,” Hermione whispered. “ Who are you trying to fool? Come here,” she said, reaching for him. Harry hesitated.
“ I suppose it doesn’t matter now, anyway,” he said, walking over to her. He knelt in front of her and rested his head in her lap, hugging her legs.
“ Harry,” Hermione said, leaning over and putting her arms around him, “ I don’t know what to say anymore. Just that—I don’t want to…be without you.” She sat up for a minute and sneezed. “ Sorry,” she said, her nose stuffy, sniffling.
Harry smiled. “ You’re sick?” he asked. Hermione nodded. “ Here,” he said, getting up and pulling back his covers. “ Why don’t you lie down for a minute? I’ll go make Petunia cook you some soup or something.”
“ Oh, no, Harry,” Hermione said, lying down on his bed, “ Don’t boss them around like that—it’s not right. I know they were cruel to you—but to…to...go after them like that, it’s like…” she trailed off, not wanting to say it.
“ Dark magic?” Harry asked quietly. Hermione just stared up at him. “ Well, it doesn’t really make much a difference anymore. Even McGonagall said my only hope of defeating Voldemort is using the dark arts against him.”
“ Harry! She didn’t say that--!”
“ She did,” he insisted, “ It’s simply more powerful magic. That’s why it eats up your strength and makes your body deteriorate over time—it’s too powerful for humans, really. It goes against even supernatural laws. That’s why it’s the only thing strong enough to take him down. It makes sense, Hermione”
Hermione sighed, and buried her face in her hands, “ Nothing makes sense anymore,” she said.
“ I don’t think anything ever made sense,” Harry said, touching her cheek softly, “ My parents died to protect me, only so I could someday join their killer or die myself. Being with you is like threatening your life…and being away from you…is like…” he trailed off, embarrassed.
“ Where’s the sense in that?” he asked quietly. Hermione looked up at him.
“ Well, I’ll go get you something to eat—“ he said, his hand sliding off her cheek. Hermione grabbed his wrist.
“ Don’t go,” she said, “ I don’t want anything to eat. Stay with me.”
“ Hermione,” he whined, pulling off his glasses and putting them on his bedside table,
“ You make this very hard…” He sat down on the edge of the bed.
“ I’m going to have a nap,” she said, “ I have a cold and I feel terrible. But,” she raised an eyebrow, “ You had better be here when I wake up.”
“ Don’t worry,” he said, lying down on his back, “ I wouldn’t leave you here with these people.”
“ Alright,” Hermione said, holding onto his arm and shutting her eyes. “ I’ll trust you. But I do have this cold—I hope you won’t catch it.”
“ I don’t care if I do,” Harry said automatically. They both laughed at the irony, despite everything.
Hermione was in the Forrest. It was darker than she remembered from the last dream. She was wearing the boots, and running, the look on her face was terrified and desperate. The cut on her arm was bright with red blood against the blur of the dark trees.
“ Harry!” she screamed, whipping her head around, trying to see everything. She looked up, trying to see the sky, the stars, SOMETHING, through the dense Forrest. But all she saw was darkness.
“ Oh, Sages—somebody—help me!” Hermione said, sinking to her knees. She was shaking like a leaf in her silky, nightgown. Her silver boots were stained with mud. “ Harry,” she whispered weakly.
“ Hermione?” she heard a voice, and looked up. There he was. Harry—glowing somehow, in the darkness that surrounded them.
“ Harry!” she shouted, jumping up and falling into his arms. As soon as she touched him the dream changed. They were standing in the middle of a vast, starry sky, and holding onto each other.
“ It’s all going to be okay now?” Hermione asked. Harry didn’t answer her. He smiled, though, took her face in his hands and kissed her. Hermione could almost feel his soft kiss on her lips, even in the dream. She was lost in paradise for a moment.
Then it was the Forrest again. Hermione was lying on her back, out of breath and scared. She was staring up at the tree tops, unable to move. I can’t see the stars, she thought sadly. Great Wizards, she suddenly realized, my blood…his blood…she looked to the side.
“ Harry!” she screamed.
“ What?” He was there. They were sitting in his bed on 4 Privet Drive, not in the Forrest. Hermione looked at her arm. She thought she saw a ghost of a scar where the gash had been in her dream. It was dark in the room—the sun was setting outside. She looked at Harry.
“ You were dreaming?” he asked, placing a hand on her back, concerned. She shook her head.
“ I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, leaning into his arms, “ It’s okay. Really. It’s just… that I’m worried. About you.”
“ I worry about you, too, Hermione,” Harry whispered, looking at her.
Hermione wished she had some lip gloss or something—he had that look in his eye. She smiled faintly and shut her eyes as he leaned in and kissed her. Harry’s kiss was soft, and then more intense, and Hermione felt a strange, dizzy happiness in the midst of all her confusion. She leaned back onto his pillows, her heart beating hard against Harry’s chest.
“ Hermione…” he breathed. “ I love you…why is this happening to us?” She didn’t have an answer for him, so she just pulled him down to her and kissed him again. Hermione was beginning to acquire a real taste for Harry’s kisses, for Harry in general—she had to noticed that he smelled very good when they were close together. He smelled like the ice-skating rink—sharp and clean, like pine trees, and like tangerines, and a million other good things that were hard to describe. Hermione also realized that she wasn’t very nervous around him anymore. Of course it would be hard to be nervous when she felt so warm, and safe in his arms.
Hermione sat up slowly, reluctantly. Harry flopped over on the bed and gazed up at her, contented for a moment.
“ Sorry,” he said with a grin, “ I got distracted. What were we saying?” Hermione laughed and punched him playfully in the shoulder.
“ I’ve got to go,” she said, “ It’s a two hour bus ride home and it’s already getting dark.”
Harry sighed. “ Well, there’s no way I’m letting you ride home alone on some scummy city bus at night.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “ Harry…”
“ Come on,” he said, reaching over and playing with the necklace he’d given her, “ I’ll find something for us to ride home on…”
“ Oh, Harry, I’ll get in trouble with school!” Hermione said.
“ No you won’t—not if I do the enchanting!” he said, grinning. Hermione groaned. She hated flying, and she had the feeling that was what he had in mind. “ Let’s scare the wits out of my aunt and uncle,” he said, grabbing a little floor rug. Hedwig watched with interest from her perch.
“ Oh, for crying out loud!” Hermione said, falling onto the bed with laughter. “ Not a flying carpet…”
“ Flicididiliktous!” Harry shouted, using his wand this time. Hermione watched as the carpet rose off the ground and hovered beside Harry. He beamed at her. “ Ta-da.” He said.
“ There is no, NO way you are getting me on that thing.” Hermione said, shaking her head and laughing. “ We’d be better off flying about like Mary Poppins with umbrellas.”
Harry laughed, and jumped onto the carpet. “ Ah, it’s comfortable,” he said, beckoning for her to join him, “ Come on, Hermione, conquer your fears!”
“ You must be mad! I’m am NOT getting on that…thing!”
“ What if,” his green eyes sparkled, “…What if I said we could run away together? Or...fly away. Then you’d come with me?”
“ I…would not!” Hermione said, “ I don’t believe you.”
“ Well, we could,” Harry said, “ I…things are going to change, Hermione. I have a plan. I was going to wait…and I don’t know if everything will work out…but if it does then there’s no way I could go back to Hogwarts…so…”
“ Harry, you’re babbling.” Hermione said, confused.
“ I know. But would you? If we’re still together...after…everything?” he asked, almost bashfully.
“ I…” Hermione frowned, and then gave him a wicked grin, “ What are you, proposing marriage?” she asked, with a laugh that came out too high.
“ Wouldn’t you marry me if I asked?” Harry asked. Hermione stared back at him in disbelief.
“ Harry! Stop…acting so serious. We’re just kids!”
“ I don’t feel like a kid, Hermione. I…feel like I could do anything right now. I think I could throw boulders across the sea if I wanted to,” he said, looking at her with an unwavering gaze.
“ I hope you’re not getting a big head because of little old me,” she joked, walking to him. She reached over to where he sat on the floating carpet and ran her finger along his jaw line. She felt him tremble slightly at her touch. “ Are you going to be okay?” she asked.
“ I don’t know. Are you?”
“ I…don’t know.” They stared at each other for a long time, not saying anything.
“ Just…don’t turn into Tom Riddle, okay?” Hermione blurted out. “ I’m not going to stand by you if you decide to…take that path.”
Harry blinked, and said nothing.
The Dursleys were enjoying a nice, quiet evening in front of the television. Vernon was working on his crossword puzzles, Petunia was stitching up a pair of Dudley’s pants which had ripped at the seem, and Dudley was finishing off his Christmas candy. They had almost forgotten about the burden in their upstairs bedroom.
Suddenly there was a loud bang, like a door being thrown open. Dudley automatically jumped out of his seat and tried to hide under the couch—but he was much too large.
A Persian rug that Petunia had bought when they first moved into their house floated down the stairs, on it were Harry and the mysterious girl who had come to visit him that afternoon. The girl was looking kind of scared, and holding onto Harry’s waist for dear life.
“ Sarah?” Dudley whimpered from the floor. Petunia dropped his extra large pants to the floor, and gasped. Vernon was still as stone in his easy chair.
“ I’m going,” Harry called, “ And I won’t be back. Thanks for nothing.” With that he sped off, throwing the door open just by pointing at it, and steering the carpet out into the night.
The whole family was very silent for a few minutes afterward. Vernon wiped some sweat from his brow and looked to his wife.
“ Turn the volume up, will you Petunia?” he asked, trying hide the shaking in his voice.
“ Y-yes dear,” she said, nervously retrieving Dudley’s pants. Dudley suddenly jumped up.
“ He kidnapped Sarah!” he exclaimed, “ The only girl who ever—I’ll never forgive Harry for this!” he proclaimed.
“ Oh, Dudley, will you sit down?” Vernon barked, “ I can’t see the television.”
Hermione was lying with Harry under the invisibility cloak, watching the sky soar by as she stretched out on the flying carpet. I really am lucky, she told herself, not many girls get to see the world like this. The lights of London were just coming on against the darkening night sky. Hermione looked over at Harry.
“ Thanks for making my life interesting,” she said. He grinned at her.
“ Where would you be, had you not met me and Ron?” he asked, “ Safe in bed, and better off for it.” He answered his own question.
“ I feel pretty safe,” she said, “ Amazingly. And anyway, don’t give yourself all the credit for us having met. It’s not like I didn’t search you out on the train that day. And the sorting hat wanted to put me in Ravenclaw with the other brains—I asked it to put me in whatever house you were going to be in.”
“ It wanted to put me in Slytherin,” he said.
“ Well, look where we ended up!” Hermione said, “ There’s your proof.”
“ What proof?”
“ There is no destiny—no fate! We met each other because we went against both of
them—didn’t we?” Hermione reasoned.
“ Believe me,” he said, “ I plan to mess with fate and destiny more than anyone knows.”
“ How so?” Hermione asked, beginning to worry that he’d do something foolish.
“ Why do you think I left Hogwarts? I’d be roasted if they knew—oh, I’m not explaining this to you,” he said.
“ And why not?” she asked, frowning.
“ It’s not your problem,” Harry said.
“ Oh, Harry Potter—you are so insensitive!” Hermione smacked him as they neared her house.
“ Ow! And I thought you were going to kiss me goodbye.” He smirked.
“ Don’t get smug,” she said. They landed behind a grove of trees and removed the invisibility cloak once they’d parked the rug. Harry took Hermione’s hands and helped her off.
“ See, you’ve made yourself my problem, and now you ask me not to get involved! You have some nerve!” she said huffily, walking up to her door, “ My mother is going to kill me,” she muttered.
“ Don’t worry about me,” he instructed. “ I’ll worry enough for the both of us, okay?”
“ Harry you’re really not funny.” Hermione said, folding her arms across her chest.
“ Where will you go now?”
Harry shrugged, “ Don’t worry about it,” he said. Hermione shoved him.
“ Oh, you’re such a jerk! I wish we’d never met!” she said.
“ Really?” he smiled at her, leaned in and kissed her nose. His glasses slipped down against her face, and she pushed them back up for him.
“ You don’t take me seriously,” Hermione said, trying to keep her composure as he kissed her lightly on her cheeks.
“ I do,” he whispered, “ I’m going to marry you someday.”
“ Now you’re just talking nonsense. Anyway, I think McGonagall would sabotage the wedding.” Hermione said with a scoff.
“ Right,” Harry laughed, “ Her and Dumbledore: ‘ What about the prophecy!!?’.” Hermione snickered.
“ This is blasphemy, you know?” she said, “ We shouldn’t make fun—Great Wizards, who knows what’s going to happen to us.”
Suddenly the front door swung open. It was Hermione’s mother—Harry jumped back from Hermione like she was on fire.
“ Young lady,” her mother said, with a false calm, “ Get inside.”
“ Mother!” Hermione hissed, though she knew she deserved a scolding for sneaking off.
“ Bye,” Harry muttered. He tugged on Hermione’s hair affectionately before he walked off. “ Sorry, Mrs. Granger,” he added, looking to her mother as he left, “ I thought you knew where she was.”
“ Well I did not.” Hermione’s mother said, “ Goodbye—Harry, is it?”
“ Yes, ma’am.” Harry said, looking at Hermione as he walked away. “ Goodbye.” Hermione watched him go sadly, and then followed her mother into the house.
“ You have QUITE a bit of explaining to do young lady,” her mom said, frowning,
“ Your father would have a FIT!”
“ Oh, Mum,” Hermione pleaded, “ Didn’t you ever sneak off to see Daddy when you were kids?”
“ Well—that is CERTAINLY not the point,” her mother insisted. She sighed. “ Look, Hermione, you can’t just leave a message with your cousin and take off whenever you want. You are NOT eighteen yet, young lady, and even if you were—“
“ ALRIGHT, Mum,” Hermione muttered, irritable.
Her mother glanced out the window. “ Did Harry have a ride home?” she asked. Hermione swallowed.
“ He, um…drives?” she said.
“ Well, anyhow, go get ready for dinner,” her mother said, “ And here—this came for you today…by owl.” She handed Hermione a letter.
Hermione tore it open and read:
Haven’t heard from Harry—but there’s no way he’d leave Hogwarts. He must be fooling with you, Hermione, I just don’t believe it.
Had an okay holiday. Fred and George are home from Tasmania. They set the kitchen on fire, but Percy managed to put it out. He’s engaged to Penelope now, you know. Ginny is in a very bad mood about Seamus. All is well—I’ll see you when you get back. ~Ron.
Hermione sighed and went upstairs to get dressed for dinner, clutching Ron’s letter. As usual, he was totally oblivious.
THE END (sort of)