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Hermione and the Quidditch Team

Part Two

By Mena Baines

Hermione awoke early to the sounds of loud coughing. Rosa. She groaned and tried burying her head under her pillows, but it was no use.

“ Sorry Herm-oine,” Rosa said hoarsely, “ I’m a mess. I feel like crap…ohhh…” she moaned. Hermione kept her head under her pillow, and wished again for the quiet mornings when she’d woken up comfortably in the Mark Inn…

She heard the door to their room being slammed open. “ Where’s my junior nurse?” came a decidedly chipper voice. Hermione cringed under her pillow and pretended to be asleep. It was Madam Pomfrey, who had been so over-run at the hospital wing that she’d called for Hermione’s help. And who was she to refuse, being the only healthy Gryffindor girl in the castle? Beside that, she needed to earn back her responsible reputation. She was afraid McGonagall would never look at her the same way again.

So for the past two days she’d done nothing but hand out tissues, measure cough syrup, and pass out chicken soup. Not only that, but she’d been practicing Quidditch with Harry and the rest of their misfit team all week. Hermione groaned—she didn’t even want to think about it this early in the morning. She sat up slowly and let her eyes adjust to the light.

“ Here I am,” she muttered, exhausted. Of course she’d been having nightmares, too, so she hadn’t been sleeping well.

“ Up and at em!” Pomfrey said. Hermione was convinced that the school nurse was losing her marbles after every thing she’d been through at the castle with the mysterious epidemic. She was obviously frazzled, but trying stupidly to hide it under false cheerfulness. Rosa sneezed.

“ OW!” she said, “ My throat…ugh, it feels like I’m swallowing knives!”

“ I’ll bring you some orange juice,” Hermione grumbled, pulling on a pair of jeans and throwing her hair into a messy ponytail. She didn’t feel so hot herself—she needed a shower.

“ Let’s go, let’s go!” Pomfrey chirped, ushering her out the door. Hermione crashed into a bouquet of tulips on her way out the door.

“ Where does he get tulips this time of year?” she muttered, shoving them out of her face.

“ Delivery for a Rosa K. McNally!” said the first-year Slytherin who carried them.

“ Put them with the others,” Rosa instructed, too sick to care about Malfoy’s flowers anymore. Hermione followed Madam Pomfrey down a hallway full of coughs and moans. She felt like she was in an old-folks home or something. Pomfrey was going down the list of things they had to do.

“ First of all we have to check on Dumbledore—poor old guy, it’s really hitting him hard. And then we’ve got to change the sheets on all the girls beds—make more pumpkin bread for the boys—it seems to be the only thing helping their stomachs—poor things! Then we’ve got to make the rounds at Ravenclaw, a few of them need cough syrup, and the Hufflepuff 4th years need their ointment…” Pomfrey went on, and Hermione tried to tune her out.

When they finally got downstairs to the common room, she saw Harry standing at the foot of the boys’ stairs, holding a mop and a bucket. He had a horrible look on his face.

“ Hey,” Hermione said, wishing she could just sink into his arms and fall asleep, “ What’s wrong?”

“ Hermione!” Pomfrey tut-tutted, “ No time for that.” She gave Harry a dark look. Harry narrowed his eyes as she sashayed away. He looked at Hermione and sighed.

“ Oh, nothing,” he said sarcastically, “ I’ve just been mopping up barf all morning.”

“ Yuck…”

“ And all night,” he added with a sardonic grin, “ So I think I’ve somehow taken on the job as school janitor since I’ve disobeyed them—“

“ Don’t take it so hard,” Hermione said, “ I’m miserable, too—and I can’t believe we have to do that Quidditch thing tomorrow—“ Harry shut his eyes.

“ I don’t even want to talk about that,” he said, “ Great Wizards—I just hope they’ll all stay in bed, it’ll be so embarrassing…”

Hermione snorted, “ And miss the last game of our 7th year against Slytherin?” she said, “ I doubt it.”

“ Hermione!” Madam Pomfrey called from the portrait hole, “ We haven’t got any time to waste! Let’s go!” Harry scowled at her from across the room.

“ Don’t let her talk to you like that,” he said.

“ Harry!” Hermione said, walking away, “ Of course I will—she’s my… I dunno, she’s an adult.” Harry rolled his eyes.

“ See you at six,” he said, “ For practice. I’ll try and end it early—so we can…you know, have some…time.”

Hermione laughed and waved at him as she walked off.

__________________________

After a day full of loud coughing and grumpy girls demanding more soup, it felt heavenly just to sit down alone for a moment. Hermione grabbed some stew and a roll, and tucked herself into a corner in the Great Hall for an early dinner. She was one of the first to go down to eat, and since there were no scheduled bells due to the illness, the Great Hall was mostly empty. Harry was probably off mopping up puke somewhere, but she would see him soon enough. She dipped her bread into her stew and ate quietly, peering out one of the huge windows at the courtyard. It was snowing heavily, and the grounds were deserted. She hoped Hagrid was keeping warm enough in his little hut.

“ Hey,” came the rude voice of Malfoy, breaking her thoughts, “ How’s McNally?” he asked, “ Not that I care.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “ She doesn’t feel very well. Did Slytherin really do this to our house?” Malfoy glared at her and smiled evilly.

“ I wish,” he said, “ The cup is as good as ours after this. Are you clowns even going to attempt to play us tomorrow?”

Hermione shrugged, “ Don’t bug me,” she said, staring out the window. But Draco lingered there, holding his soup awkwardly. Hermione looked back at him.

“ What?” she asked, frowning.

“ Nothing!” he answered, still standing where he was. Hermione looked away again, but he didn’t move. She saw a pack of Slytherins sitting at the far end of the Great Hall, snickering in their mischievous way. She sighed and realized her fate. The Slytherins had been teasing Malfoy for dating a Gryffindor girl, she knew that. He didn’t have anyone to sit with. She took another bite of her roll and groaned.

“ Well are you going to sit?” she asked, not looking at him, “ Or just stand there letting your stew get cold?”

Malfoy sat down without a word. He and Hermione sat together eating their dinner and not speaking to each other, just looking out the window.

“ Sure is snowing,” Malfoy muttered dumbly, embarrassed. Hermione actually felt bad for him, she knew he missed Rosa’s company.

“ Don’t worry,” she said, “ She’ll get better soon.”

Malfoy frowned. “ Like I care!” he said, his cheeks turning red. “ Who will? What are you even talking about?”

Hermione just laughed.

__________________________

At six o’clock Hermione walked to the Quidditch field, dreading the practice session, but excited about seeing Harry. She was bundled up in layers of lambs-wool sweaters and a thick brown jacket she’d borrowed from Rosa. She wore her black ski cap and heavy brown hiking boots, and sloshed through the thick snow out onto the part of the field that had been cleared for practice. Meanwhile, Slytherin’s team was just coming off the field. They looked like professionals compared to the Gryffindor bunch, who were slowly beginning to gather in the center.

Firstly there was Harry, probably the best Seeker the school had ever seen. But then there was Hermione, who was filling in as a Chaser, and who considered herself quite possibly the least athletic person in the world. Their other Chaser was Cory Longbottum, Neville’s little brother, who was skinny and wore thick glasses with huge frames, but still couldn’t seem to find the Quaffle to save his life.

“ Want to play Rubin with us after practice Harry?” Cory asked, pushing up his glasses. Hermione snickered under her breath. Rubin was a dorky wizard card game where you picked your own name and fought “battles” through card matches, ultimately trying to get “knighted”. It was the kind of silly rubbish only first year nerds would waste their time with.

“ Not today, Cory,” Harry said, already aggravated with his un-focused “team”. “ I’ve got plans.” Hermione giggled and pulled on his arm. She felt happy—they were both safe at Hogwarts for the first time in awhile, and despite her nightmares, she’d mostly been able to put the Voldemort situation out of her head. She danced around the Quidditch field absently, making up ballet steps like she had when she was little. She turned back toward Harry and watched him try and give the younger kids orders.

“ Alright, Mara, you follow Quinton—and I want both of you to really keep your eyes on the Bludgers this time—a Bludger can cost you the game.” Harry explained. Mara rolled her eyes. She was a cynical little kid, small, and teased by the others with nicknames like “Mouse”. Hermione didn’t know what to make of her. Sometimes she seemed sweet, other times she was downright rude and insensitive. Supposedly she was a talented divinator, but Hermione had never put any faith in that field to begin with. Mara followed Quinton around the field, trying to step on the back of his shoes.

“ Cut it out!” Quinton whined, “ Harry, make her stop!” Quinton was a big cry baby. Mara laughed with delight and stomped on the back of his shoe again.

“ What kind of Beater gets BEAT up by a GIRL?” taunted Dewy Marks, a fat kid with blond hair who was playing Keeper. Mara turned around and stuck her tongue out at him. Dewy scooped up a huge handful of snow and chucked it at her, but she ducked and it splattered all over the back of Quinton’s neck.

“ Annhhhh!” he whined, “ That…hurt!” he shouted, starting to cry.

“ Oh, for the sake of Great Wizards…!” Harry exclaimed, throwing down the clipboard he’d been writing plays on. “ Quinton! THERE’S NO CRYING IN QUIDDITCH!” he shouted, only causing him to elapse into deeper sobs.

“ Quin-ton!” Hermione said, walking over, “ It’s just a little snow!”

“ Everybody’s mean to me!” the little boy wailed. Hermione pulled him into a hug.

“ There, there,” she said, “ Don’t listen to Harry,” she whispered, “ He’s just in sour mood because our team…isn’t quite coming together the way he’d hoped.” Quinton sniffled.

“ Hopeless. Hopeless!” Harry said, throwing out his arms, “ We don’t even have enough Chasers!”

“ Oh, come off it,” Hermione said, getting up, “ You know it’s legal to play with only two Chasers in an un-professional league! And as long as you get the Snitch everything will be fine.”

“ Yeah, well Slytherin will be all over me—and who do I have to stop them?” Harry asked, surveying his team, “ No offense,” he added. Hermione shrugged.

“ None taken. Look, let’s just calm down and do some drills…” she trailed off when she caught sight of Cory and Mara, who were busy building a snow fort on the sideline.

“ What’s the use,” Harry muttered, “ They don’t care. It’s all Rubin and loud music for kids these days!” Hermione laughed. Harry shook his head. “ Not that I should care, either.”

“ No, it’s good that you do.”

“ Hey!” someone shouted, and they both turned to see Professor Lupin heading onto the field. He walked over to them with a sly grin on his face. “ Heard you needed an extra Quidditch player?”

Harry raised an eyebrow, “ You play?”

“ Sure,” Lupin said with a devilish smile, “ Old James taught me a few things, back in the day…”

“ Hey,” Dewy said, jogging over, staring at Lupin. He looked him up and down and frowned, “ Heard you were a werewolf,” he said.

Lupin nodded, “ That would be me,” he said.

Dewy was thoughtful for a moment. “ Cool!” he finally said, with a big grin.

“ A werewolf?” Cory asked, circling him. “ Interesting. I have a second edition platinum Herdian Werewolf card—that’s worth 8 points, second highest Rubin card level in the fire pack…” he trailed off and looked at Lupin. “ You play Rubin?”

Lupin reached into his pocket and pulled out a gold plated card with a dragon on it.

“ I’ve been known to collect a few cards, yes,” he said.

“ GREAT WIZARDS!” Cory screamed, almost collapsing, “ A first edition golden Zaigreat Dragon…from the Ancient series!” He placed a hand on his forehead and took a moment to regain his composure. “ I’ve heard of it’s majesty,” he said, “ But to see it in real life…”

“ Big deal,” Mara muttered, “ Rubin sucks.”

Lupin shrugged. “ To each his own,” he said, tucking the card away. He looked at Harry, “ What do ya say hot shot?” he asked with a grin, “ Am I on the team?”

Harry narrowed his eyes and smiled. “ Let’s play ball!” he shouted, kicking over the box that held the Quaffle, Bludgers and Snitch. Hermione jumped on her broom and followed the others, up, up into the snowy night sky. Blinded by the wind, she laughed as Dewy took a Bludger to the stomach and it bounced right off without much damage. Quinton and Cory held onto their brooms for dear life, glancing wearily at the ground while Mara absently did flip turns on her broom, the Snitch shooting past her ears every now and then.

_____________________

“ I need to talk to you,” Harry whispered. Practice was over, and they were helping Professor Lupin clean up before they went inside. He had actually turned out to be pretty good—but it still didn’t quite make up for the rest of the team, save Harry.

Hermione nodded, and they waited patiently for Lupin to start heading back.

“ You kids coming?” he asked.

“ We’ll be right there,” Harry called. Hermione turned red, she knew their professor saw right through them, just like everybody else. Lupin frowned.

“ Come on,” he said, “ It’s freezing out here.”

“ No thanks,” Harry said, an angry bite to his tone. Lupin turned and headed back, and Hermione looked at Harry, embarrassed for his rudeness.

“ Don’t be cross with him!” she said, “ He’s been very kind to you.”

“ He’s in on it,” Harry muttered, walking toward the bleachers, “ They all are.”

“ In on what exactly?” Hermione demanded. “ Harry I think you’re getting very selfish. We still have one semester left, and these teachers have given us—“

“ Stop being so grateful,” Harry said, “ They’d sell our souls if they thought it’d stop Voldemort.”

“ Harry!”

“ You don’t believe me?” he scoffed. He sat down heavily on the first row of bleachers, and Hermione sat next to him.

“ I…I don’t think we have to be so wary of them,” she said. “ I think they’re only trying to help us.”

“ Help you maybe,” Harry said, “ Not that I’m not for that…but they treat me like their freaking slave. The whipping boy for the dark arts, that’s me. Harry Potter, what a guy—so long!” he sneered, “ They’ve been waiting for this.”

Hermione was confused—more and more Harry was acting like this, hurt, dejected. She knew he felt separate from the rest of the kids at Hogwarts, and he hated it.

“ Waiting for what?”

“ Their precious prophecy,” he said, “ The one who will sacrifice himself for the destruction of the Dark Lord.” He shook his head, “ It wasn’t enough with my dad. I didn’t even turn out with the right mother—how do they know it’ll accomplish anything?”

Hermione felt her eyes get wet. She knew what he meant by “it”. His death—his sacrifice. Hermione let her head fall into her hands and cried. How could he talk about it like this, like he was some…pawn, who had no control?

He put his arms around her and pushed aside her hair, kissed her neck like a whisper. “ It’s not going to be like this for much longer,” he murmured in the tiny space between his lips and her neck.

“ Like what?” she choked out, turning her face to him and pressing her forehead against his.

“ Me and you,” he whispered, “ The teachers…they keep asking me to stay away from you.”

“ Why, why, why?” Hermione asked, shutting her eyes, “ What difference does it make?” He shook his head.

“ We’ve got to get serious about this. They’re right, you know? I’m a danger to you,” Harry insisted. Hermione jumped up.

“ How? Why?” she shouted, flinging her arms out and turning around, “ I don’t see any danger here, Harry! And what has happened to us so far? NOTHING.”

Harry sighed, “ You don’t feel it?” he asked quietly. Hermione let her arms fall to her sides.

“ What?”

Harry looked up at the sky, “ I don’t know. It’s not here. It’s…elsewhere. Elusive.”

“ What?” Hermione asked again, sitting back down beside him, “ What are you talking about.” Harry looked at her. He reached up and touched her cheek gently, stroking her skin softly with his thumb.

“ I’ve got a bad feeling,” he whispered sadly. Hermione shook her head.

“ It’s just the dreams.”

“ It’s not just the dreams. It’s everywhere,” he said, looking up again at the dark night sky, all the stars covered behind thick snow clouds. Hermione shivered and leaned into his arms. How much longer will I be able to hold him like this? She wondered, how many days will I spend regretting my reluctance to admit how I felt about him, after he’s gone?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He opened his eyes and found himself in the basement again. He felt a pounding pressure in his head, and remembered his Master’s earlier blow in a painful rush as he struggled to sit up. Earlier? Hadn’t it been days ago? Fin rubbed the gash on his head and flakes of dried blood fell onto his shoulders. So the damned old man had left him down here for days.

Fin’s mouth was like cotton. He tried to stand, but he was too weak. There were snakes everywhere, crawling over his limp and useless legs, sliding behind his back as he moved to get up.

“ Get me some water,” Fin said, stroking a long, black python as it moved over him in an affectionate sort of gesture. The snake looked at him and hissed.

“ Please,” Fin added, feeling stupid. The snake moved off of him, toward a hole in the wall that led up the ventilation shaft in the crumbling old mansion.

“ I’ll see what I can do,” it answered in Parseltounge, “ But I can’t promise you anything. I think he’s trying to kill you.”

Fin watched him go, and slumped into a heap on the floor, his nose close to the putrid smells of the dirty stones. No one had cleaned anything in the mansion for years—filth and decay suited his Master. I only wish he were trying to kill me, Fin thought—he often wondered why Lord Voldemort had kept him alive for so many years. He was just a dirty, stupid slave boy he’d found wandering the streets, and had never been of much use to him in his plan to regain his former glory. Fin was mostly a whipping boy, and could easily be replaced—sure, he knew some dark magic, but the dark arts were easy enough to learn.

Fin had once foolishly thought that Voldemort was secretly going to apprentice him to be the next Dark Lord. He had imagined perhaps that his Master was only trying to toughen him up by treating him like garbage, like a common slave. With every beating, every disabling curse, Fin would feel himself growing stronger, feel his anger building to fuel his dark powers. But all of that had changed when his Master revealed his ultimate plan to turn his powers over to Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Fin sneered at the very name.

Harry Potter, that ungrateful school boy brat who had stolen his only chance at having a life outside of this rotting old mansion, this rank, dripping basement where he’d spent almost half of his days, and from the cold, disapproving glares of the snake-eyed man who kept him here. There had been a time when he thought he’d get beyond this, after all of Voldemort’s children had been killed by the Dark Lord himself, when they proved to be too weak to inherit his power. But the boy who lived had ruined all of that. Fin felt his hand clench into a fist with his last ounce of strength.

Fin wanted to die. He wanted to become a ghost, so powerful that he would be immune to pain, to torment and humiliation, so his Master couldn’t hunt him here anymore. Part of him wanted to come back and haunt Voldemort for the rest of his life, until he was driven to insanity and lost all of the precious power he heralded for the neglectful Harry Potter. But something else in Fin just wanted to be free. He just wanted to leave this battered and bruised body and sail through the walls of this dirty old house, sail up until he was just a part of the sky, soaring along with the clouds through the soft colors of the sunset.

Fin had seen the sky once, once that he could remember, and he remembered it well. He had been upstairs mixing ointments with rat guts and octopus tentacles, when the Master had dozed off for a bit. Or so it had seemed—this was back in the days when Voldemort was still very weak, and just beginning to re-gain his powers. Most of his followers in the Kingdom of the Neverworld had thought he was going to die. He was always slipping into brief coma-like trances, and Fin used this one as an opportunity to peek out the window. He remembered pulling back the heavy curtains Voldemort always kept shut, and his eyes were met with a blinding glow. Fin had fallen to his knees, there behind the thick curtains, just peering up at the vast blue heavens, kissed with the orange of the late evening sun set. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen—the only beautiful thing he’d ever seen before then. Fin had felt the warm light through the window fill his eyes with something other than pain for the first time in his young life. It was a feeling he’d never let go, like an odd sort of hope. A feeling not matched until years later, when he first felt Marielle’s soft hands on his back…

Why am I thinking about this now? Fin wondered, blinking back something that could have been tears, but he hadn’t cried since he was five years old. He had learned long ago that crying provoked Voldemort to do terrible things to him. He heard the familiar sound of a snake sliding down the ventilation shaft and back into the room. Fin managed to lift his head slightly, and saw that it was carrying a small vile filled with yellowish water in it’s mouth.

“ This was all I could come up with,” it said, dropping the vile beside him.

“ Thank you,” Fin said, snatching it. Part of him didn’t want to drink it—he could think of worse ways to die than dehydration. But he still had one thing left to do before he left this ungodly world and assimilated himself into the sky. And that was to make sure that Harry Potter never lived to know the extraordinary power Voldemort planned on giving him.

Fin drank his water slowly, feeling it move through his other wise empty digestive system. He wasn’t yet sure how, but there had to be some way he could escape long enough to show Voldemort who truly deserved the power to perform the ultimate evil. He wasn’t sure how, but someday soon, he would kill Harry Potter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hermione thought she’d go crazy waiting all day for their big Quidditch match. She was so nervous—the whole school was turning out to watch, even the invalids. Ron, who was showing signs of improvement, was allowed to sit with her in the common room before she left to get changed for the match.

“ How’s Harry holding up?” Ron asked, “ I’ve seen him a couple times since he’s been back—he looks kind of…angry.”

“ He is,” Hermione said, popping the tab on a can of pumpkin soda, “ Angry.”

Ron sighed, “ They’re not going about this the right way,” he said, “ The teachers. Trying to… prepare him—they should just let things happen!”

“ I don’t know, Ron. I guess. Don’t ask me.”

“ You’re not in a very good mood,” he said. Hermione sighed.

“ Well I’m about to make a fool of myself in front of the whole school,” she said, “ So, no, not really.” Ron smiled.

“ What’d you guys do?” he asked, “ While you were gone? I bet it was fun—no parents or teachers or anything!” Hermione shrugged.

“ Harry was kind of upset,” she said, “ About his parents. But yeah, it was great. I can’t wait to get the heck out of Hogwarts—they treat us like babies.” Ron nodded.

“ I’ll kind of miss it, though,” he admitted. Hermione raised her eyebrows. She had no idea what would happen after she graduated, but she had a feeling that all this Voldemort business would be over—one way or another. Of course this partly terrified her, but no matter what happened, she’d be relieved to see the end of it.

Hermione went to the girl’s locker room to get dressed. She’d hoped to see Harry on the way down, but he was no where to be found. Mara was sitting in the locker room, boredly reading The Secret Garden.

“ Shouldn’t you be getting dressed?” Hermione called to the younger girl as she pulled on her robes. Mara shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep. Hermione groaned—she hoped no one would be fatally injured when Slytherin was through with them.

Mara finally threw on a robe as they walked out to meet the boys in the team room. Harry was frantically pacing, Lupin was in the corner with Cory playing Rubin, and Dewy was poking a whimpering Quinton with his wand.

“ Hermione!” Quinton cried, running to her, “ He’s going to turn me into a mosquito!”

“ Jokes on you, you little pantywaist!” Dewy taunted, “ You already are a mosquito! Tiny and annoying.” Quinton sobbed. Harry looked at Hermione. She thought he might explode.

“ Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered, pushing past her, towards the field.

_______________________

Hermione only half-realized that they were getting killed as she hung in the air on her broom, vaguely trying to keep her eye on the Quaffle. Mostly she was watching Harry, who was infuriated with the younger kids for not even trying. Lupin had scored a few goals, but he couldn’t do it all himself. Hermione sighed and watched the crowd, trying to avoid Bludgers. Malfoy darted past her, trying to follow Harry’s search for the Snitch, but Harry was too busy screaming at Dewy for letting another Slytherin goal get by him.

Hermione surveyed the crowd. The Gryffindor side was half-heartedly cheering for their makeshift team, but mostly they were coughing or clutching their stomachs. Malfoy had said he only wished the Slytherins were responsible for the Gryffindor illness—was it possible that he was telling the truth? She shivered—it was cold and her Quidditch uniform, which she’d borrowed from Rosa, was too small and not very warm.

“ Hey!” Harry suddenly shouted at her, “ Pay attention!” Hermione glared at him.

“ Harry,” she hissed, “ I really don’t want to be here right now!”

“ Well it’s a little too late to change your mind!” he shouted angrily, speeding off after Mara to scold her for braiding the sticks on her broom and ignoring the game. I know he’s embarrassed, Hermione thought, watching a smug Malfoy speed by again, but what’s the big deal?

Suddenly something hit her hard in the back of the head. At first she thought it was a Bludger, but it didn’t hurt that badly. She turned her head to see the white wings of the golden Snitch beating calmly beside her ear. Hermione laughed happily—Slytherin was winning by 50 points, but Gryffindor would easily win now, and she could finally get off this stupid broom and get some rest.

“ Um, Harry?” she called, but he was too busy screaming at Quinton for chasing Dewy around the field with his bat. She saw Malfoy jerk his head in her direction and spot the Snitch. His eyes bulged, and he immediately started speeding toward her. The Snitch remained still near her face—she could feel it’s soft little wings on her cheek. Am I allowed to get it? Hermione wondered, looking at the crowd. She suddenly realized they were all screaming at her.

“ GET IT HERM-OINE!” she heard a shrill scream that she was sure was Rosa’s. She reached up and took the little golden ball in her hand, just as Malfoy came within inches of her. He tried to stop, but smashed into her—hard, sending her flying off her broom with the Snitch still in her hand. The crowd gasped in collective terror.

“ Oh, noooo!” Hermione screamed, terrified as she headed for the ground. Quick, think of something, stupid! she told herself as the ground rushed up to meet her. The Snitch beat it’s little wings frantically as if it were trying to keep her afloat. Oh, Great Wizards, Hermione thought, I’ll die—!

Something swooped down to meet her and suddenly she was rising again. Hermione opened her eyes and heard the relieved crowd cheering. Harry had caught her, was holding her against him on his broom. Hermione threw her arms around his shoulders.

“ Thank you, thank you,” she whispered, trying not to cry. He landed on the ground and pushed her off of him.

“ I,” Hermione stuttered, shaking and handing him the Snitch, “ I thought I was a goner.”

Harry frowned, “ Thanks a lot,” he muttered sarcastically, “ You embarrassed the hell out of me out there.”

“ Huh?” she asked, taken aback, but there was no time to answer, as the students flooded the field to congratulate the victors.

_______________________

Hermione sat at the window in her nightgown, her arms curled around her legs. Rosa, suddenly feeling better, was dancing around the room.

“ You were GREAT Herm-oine!” she sang again, “ And what a dramatic ending—almost dying, quite a show!”

“ I didn’t do it on purpose,” she muttered.

“ Are you in a bad mood?” Rosa asked, “ How can you be? You were GREAT,” she said again.

“ Great,” Hermione mumbled sarcastically. Why was Harry mad at her? If she hadn’t caught the Snitch Slytherin would have won—and he still looked like the big hero after saving her life. “ Boys are jerks,” she told Rosa.

“ Come on, Herm-oine,” Rosa said, “ He did save you. And you know how confused he must feel after everything that’s happened…”

“ Harry never acts like that,” Hermione said, shaking her head. “ Something’s going on.”

Rosa sighed, “ Something’s ALWAYS going on here,” she said. She paused for a moment, “ Want to hear the poem Draco wrote me?”

“ NO.”

“ It might cheer you up!”

“ I doubt it.”

Rosa shrugged, and walked to the door, “ I’m going to go join the party,” she said, “ You coming?”

“ No thanks,” Hermione answered, not looking at her. She was never one for parties, and that was the last thing she felt like doing.

“ I’ll be back soon,” Rosa called, heading out for the common room. She turned around and stuck her head back in the door, “ Oh and by the way,” she said, “ Malfoy apologizes for almost killing you.”

“ Alright then.”

Hermione stayed at the window, chilled by the draft. She had almost fallen asleep with her head resting on her knees, when she saw a speck of white fluff heading for her window. As it came closer she recognized it as Hedwig.

Puzzled, Hermione opened the window and let Harry’s owl inside. She landed on the bed and shook out her feathers, dropping an envelope onto the bedspread. Hermione snatched it and opened it, she couldn’t even remember the last letter Harry had written her. She stopped for a minute and wondered if it was bad news. What if he didn’t want to spend time with her anymore—if he had only been “confused” when he told her he loved her? Hermione’s hands shook as she unfolded the note.

Hermione—

How cowardly you must think I am. I can’t even think straight anymore—forgive me if I act like a moron. It’s like I’m watching myself do things from outside my body—ever since Dumbledore told me about the prophecy I feel like I’m already dead.

I don’t expect you to understand that, but it’s okay. You don’t have to put up with me, but like some kind of saint, you do, and I don’t understand that. But it’s certainly appreciated—being with you is the only thing that can make me feel alive again.

I wish I were braver and could face this with grace and acceptance. Why should I be afraid of death when I belong to you? But sometimes I’ll just start shaking, and wish you were there to hold me, while everyone is trying to keep us apart. You shouldn’t have to be my anchor. But you are.

I would come see you and apologize in person, but Dumbledore has me locked in my room like a prisoner, doing “make up work”. I’ll try and see you tomorrow.

Love, Harry.

Hermione finished reading and looked at Hedwig, who glanced back at her with half-shut eyes.

“ Then I’ll just have to come to you,” Hermione said. Hedwig blinked. Hermione jumped up and grabbed Rosa’s Quidditch broom, the one she’d used in the game. She pulled open the window again and let Hedwig go ahead of her so she could follow the little owl. It was freezing outside, and Hermione watched the white smatter of owl through the darkness, trailing her until she saw a light in one of the boy’s windows. Everyone else was at the party. She saw Harry at the window, watching for his owl. She grinned at his surprised expression as she crashed inside after Hedwig. She skidded to a stop on the floor and stood up quickly.

“ Not very good at landing yet,” she said, blushing. Harry was speechless for a moment. Then he smiled slowly.

“ I’m sorry…” he said, “ I’m…all I ever do is apologize to you, why don’t you leave me for a real gentleman like Draco Malfoy or something?” he joked. Hermione laughed and walked to him.

“ Actually,” she said, “ Draco and I had lunch together recently and I WAS considering it.” He smiled, and kissed her quickly before he went to shut the window.

“ Dumbledore won’t check up on you will he?” Hermione asked. Harry shook his head and walked back to her. He titled his head to one side.

“ Seriously,” he said, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully, “ Why do you bother with me?”

“ Harry! What kind of question is that?” She reached up and pulled off his glasses, and laid them on the bed. “ I don’t know,” she said, taking his face in her hands and studying him for a moment, “ You make me happy.” Harry smiled, and bent his head to kiss her.

How much longer will I be able to feel his arms slip around me like that? Hermione tried not to think about it, but she always did. She pinched her eyes shut tight as his lips moved over hers, as she felt shivers of happiness creep through her body and wake up her senses. How many more times will he squeeze me to him like that, like I’ll never be cold again? Hermione felt the warm feeling spread through her like daylight. He broke their kiss for a moment to catch his breath, and Hermione realized they were breathing in sync. She leaned closer and kissed him on his neck, on his sweet-tasting cheeks, still thinking about time. How much time did they have left?

She felt his heart beating very quickly against hers. Harry’s heart. Please don’t ever stop, she thought, putting her hand gently over the place on his chest where she felt it pulsing.

“ I know,” he whispered, placing his hand on top of hers. “ See what you do to me?” He smiled, and Hermione tried again to stop thinking about time.

THE END (for now…you know the drill)