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Hermione’s Holiday Part Two

By Mena Baines

Hermione woke up late on Saturday morning. She was in Ginny Weasley’s bedroom; asleep on the floor with Ginny and Rosa in a sort of tent they’d built last night with Penelope. Where was Penny? Hermione stood up, climbed out from the mess of blankets and pillows, and walked to the window.

Outside she could see the front yard of the Weasley’s burrow, and despite what Draco might say, looking at the surrounding woods, lit up with the whites and pinks of spring buds on the trees, she could hardly believe they were poor. Oh, to live in a place like this! Hermione really detested cities for the most part, she’d rather be in the countryside. She’d give every inch of her upscale estate just to be surrounded lovely woodlands like this.

Outside the Weasleys and their friends were busy setting up for the wedding that evening. Hermione looked at Ginny’s clock and saw that it was already noontime. She turned and crawled back into the fort of blankets to wake Rosa and Ginny.

“ Hey, hey, you guys!” she shook them awake. “ Come on, its noon already. I guess Molly forgot to wake us up.”

Rosa sat up groggily. “ Hermione,” she said, “ I was having the most wonderful dream about my wedding night…”

“ If it’s about Draco I don’t want to hear it!” Hermione said, remembering the odd dream she’d had in New York about her own wedding. She tried to push it out of her head—she wouldn’t worry about it today. Ginny sat up and rubbed her eyes.

“ Hey!” they heard someone calling, and went to the window. Looking down, they saw Seamus and Harry standing in the front yard, “ Where have you guys been? Come on down!” Seamus shouted.

“ Man,” Ginny said, flipping her long red hair over her shoulder, “ My mom is going to kill me. We have to get ready.”

“ Oh, not yet,” Rosa moaned, “ Let’s go have some fun with the boys.”

Hermione grinned and pulled a tank top and shorts out of her travel bag, “ She’s right,” she said, “ We’ve got time. Look how nice it is outside!”

“ Oh, but you don’t know Percy!” Ginny moaned, “ He’ll kill me if I don’t look PERFECT for the pictures.”

“ Nothing changes, I guess,” Hermione said with a grin, “ I’m gonna go get dressed. The ceremony starts at sunset, right?”

“ Right.”

“ Well,” Hermione did some calculations in her head, “ We can mess around until two, and then we’ll get down to business. That should give us enough time to put our hair up and get ready.”

“ Alright,” Ginny agreed. Hermione pushed her way into the hall bathroom, and turned on the water to wash her face in the sink. Suddenly she heard a rustling noise behind the shower curtain.

Hermione gasped, “ Is someone there?” she asked, her heart leaping into her throat. Lately she was expecting danger at every turn. Even lurking behind the Weasley’s fish-print shower curtain.

“ Oh, heh, Hermione is that you?” she recognized Penelope’s voice.

“ Penny!” Hermione said, “ I was wondering where you got off to. You know, you should have said something when I came in. I’ll let you finish in here.”

“ O-okay,” Penelope said quickly, “ Sorry—I, um, didn’t hear you come in?”

“ Are you alright?” Hermione asked. There was no water running… what was she doing, just standing back there for fun?

“ I’m fine!” Penelope said instantly, “ Just…drying off!” Hermione left the bathroom, wondering what was going on with her. She’d been acting a bit strangely last night, too—one minute cracking up, the next on the verge of tears. Hermione chalked it up to pre-wedding jitters and searched for another bathroom.

She met Rosa and Ginny downstairs in the kitchen, where Fred was trying fruitlessly to make Belgium waffles.

“ I think I used the wrong heating spell,” he said, “ They’re a bit soggy.”

“ How’s Percy holding up?” Ginny asked, opening the icebox. She came face-to-face with a huge wedding cake. “ Where’s my milk?” she whined.

“ He’s lost his mind, and I used it for the waffles,” Fred answered both questions without skipping a beat.

Hermione wandered outside, where Harry and Seamus were sitting on a speaker, watching the live band set up. Other volunteers were helping to fold out chairs and Percy and his father were bickering over something that looked like a gazebo.

“ Who ordered this carpet!” Percy was shouting, “ It’s supposed to be gracefully draped over the stairs—it’s not long enough—agh!”

“ Oh for goodness sakes!” Molly shouted right back, “ I made this myself, I had it measured perfectly—it was you who changed the length of the walkway!”

“ If they’d have gotten married at the Ministry like I suggested…” Arthur began to say, but a look from both Percy and Molly silenced him.

“ Hey,” Harry said with a grin, “ Come watch the show.”

“ Harry!” Hermione scolded, “ That’s awfully rude!”

“ It’s okay,” Ron said, walking over with Clio. “ They deserve it. I don’t know why they’re all getting so nuts over this—they weren’t so bad at Charlie’s wedding.”

“ Speaking of Charlie,” Clio said, squeezing some water from her short braids, “ He showed us the coolest little lagoon out in the woods! You guys should check it out,” she said, winking at Harry and Hermione.

“ Hey, Ron,” Harry said, “ XYZ.”

“ What?” Ron looked at him like he was speaking parseltongue.

“ It’s this dumb Muggle thing that Dudley used to tease me with,” he said, “ It means ‘ examine your zipper,’” He explained with a snort of laughter. Ron’s cheeks turned red and he whirled around to take care of the problem. Clio burst into laughter.

Hermione rolled her eyes. It was going to be one of THOSE days.

_________________________

“ Lookout below!” Seamus screamed, jumping off a rock jetty and into the lagoon beside Hermione. She shrieked as his splash sprayed her with water.

“ That’s nothing!” Rosa said, “ Watch this!” she bellowed, flinging herself off after him. Her splash fanned out across the water, dwarfing Seamus’s.

Hermione knew it was probably after two o’clock—they had been hanging around the lagoon for awhile now. But she didn’t mind being late for once—it was so nice out, and the lagoon was beautiful. Harry came up behind her and picked her up, slinging her backwards over his shoulder.

“ You wanker!” Hermione cried, laughing when she re-surfaced. She jumped on his back and tried to push him under but he was too strong. After a while though he let her succeed, only to grab her around the waist under the water and kiss her. Hermione came up laughing.

“ Ew,” she said, wincing, “ You made me get water in my mouth!”

“ Hey,” they heard someone’s voice above them on the jetty, and Hermione looked up. Harry used the opportunity to shove her under again.

“ Oh I’ll kill you!” she declared when she popped up, lunging at him, only to have him laugh and catch her in his arms. She glanced up again and saw George Weasley looking down at them.

“ Hey have you seen Penny, er, Penelope around?” he asked.

“ There you are!” Ginny shouted up, “ I’ve barely seen you since we got here!”

“ Uh-huh,” George said, “ Well, I’ve been around. So have you seen her? Percy’s looking.”

“ Last I saw her she was in the shower,” Hermione told him. He got a funny look on his face for a moment.

“ Thanks,” he mumbled, walking off.

“ What’s up with him?” Harry asked once he was gone.

“ I don’t know,” Ginny said, “ Since when does George care what Percy is looking for?”

Hermione was beginning to feel like a drowned rat in the water, so she climbed out to sun herself on the rock with Rosa and Ginny. The heat of mid-Spring wasn’t too bad filtered through the thick trees. She found a sunny spot and spread out her towel.

“ I hope Draco’s okay,” Rosa was saying, “ He hasn’t called since we got to the burrow.”

“ I think he knows better than to call the Weasley’s house!” Harry shouted up from the water.

“ He’s right, Rosa,” Ginny said, “ Not that any of us has really figured out how to work that phone, anyway. I’m sure he’s fine.”

“ Yeah,” Rosa said, staring up at the trees and not sounding so sure. Hermione shut her eyes. This trip was the last good moment. After this, she could feel it, everything would change. Something dreadful would be going on at school, and then Voldemort would show up and it would all be over. They should be enjoying this last peacefulness while they could, but even Rosa couldn’t help but worry.

She felt a shadow fall over her light, and then felt Harry’s wet arm curl around her waist as he laid down beside her.

“ We should go get ready,” Hermione said as he buried his face against her neck.

“ Give me a few more minutes,” he muttered softly, close to her skin. Hermione’s eyes started to fill up with tears. Of course he deserved a few more minutes. What was left for him after this?

_________________________

It was nearly sundown when they finally made their way back to the house. The band was warming up outside, and Mr. Weasley and Bill were setting up the last rows of chairs. Mrs. Weasley was trying frantically to rid the grounds of the last of the yard gnomes.

“ Come back here!” she shouted after a pack of wild laughing ones.

“ Mum!” Ginny called to her, “ Calm down!” This was a mistake.

“ Gennifer Weasley!” Molly screamed, “ What are you doing… in a bathing suit…and—look at your hair!” she screeched, “ You should have been ready hours ago!”

Harry and Hermione crept away carefully while Ginny was being scolded, but Seamus stuck around for moral support.

“ I need a shower,” Hermione said, “ I feel all sticky from that gross water.”

Harry sighed, “ I don’t think I have time,” he gave her a quick kiss, “ I’ll see you down there in a minute,” he said, turning into Ron’s room where he was keeping his stuff.

Hermione went into Ginny’s room to grab her dress. She’d picked it out with Rosa the other day at a vintage shop in Melodeon Courtyard, a wizarding shopping district near the Weasley’s house. It was a long dress in light purple, with thick straps that hung loosely off her shoulders. The color matched her little amethyst necklace almost perfectly.

She put her dress on a hanger and pushed her way into the bathroom, hair brush and battery-powered blow dryer in tow. She grabbed her shampoo from her bag and threw back the shower curtain to see if they had any soap for her to use.

“ Great Wizards!” Hermione screamed, jumping back. “ You gave me a scare….” Two people were standing behind the curtain with eyes as wide as saucers. At first she’d thought it was Ron and Clio, but one of them was wearing a wedding dress….

“ Penny?” she said, squinting. Perhaps she was losing her vision….

“ Her-Hermione,” Penny stuttered, “ I can explain…”

It was then that Hermione noticed who she was with, who she was clinging to for dear life. It wasn’t Percy. The glasses and self-important look were missing from this red-headed boys’ face. It was George Weasley.

George muttered some curse words, and sat down on the side of the tub with a sigh. He was wearing his tuxedo for the wedding, only his tie and hair were rumpled. Penny’s eyes were red and puffy.

“ Oh, Hermione,” she said, leaning back against the tiled wall of the shower, “ What am I gonna do?”

“ Wait, wait,” Hermione said, setting down her shampoo and shaking her head, “ What is this…?”

“ It’s not what it looks like,” Penelope said, sniffling.

“ It’s EXACTLY what it looks like,” George corrected her, standing up. “ You found our big secret meeting place.” He glanced at Penelope, “ It shouldn’t be a secret anymore anyway! I can’t even believe we’ve let it go this far.”

“ I know!” she sobbed, “ George…oh, I can’t believe they’re down there setting up for this…this…WEDDING, when it just…can’t happen!”

“ You’re not in love with Percy?” Hermione asked, still a bit foggy.

“ No, I was never in love with him!” Penelope said, “ I mean, we had fun together in high school—sure! But afterwards… I don’t know… I just sort of let him hang around, and when he asked me to marry him, well, what could I say? I’d led him on for so long, how could I crush him then?”

“ She was just going to go through with it, too,” George said, “ Ridiculous! I could tell she wasn’t happy.”

Penelope nodded, “ George was such a…good friend,” she said. They looked at each other and Hermione could see this thing between them, an overwhelming affection.

“ It was that one night at Diagon Alley,” George said with an impish smile. “ I smuggled you away from my brother and kissed you outside of Flourish and Botts.” Penelope giggled, and then quickly brought her hand to her mouth and became somber again.

“ Oh, Hermione,” Penelope said, “ You said the other night that you were in love with Harry Potter—you’ve got to understand how we feel!”

“ Yeah, sure,” Hermione said, “ But what are you going to tell Percy? How long has this been going on?”

“ Almost a year!” Penelope said ruefully, “ I hate this sneaking and hiding from him—poor Perce! But I just don’t have the heart to tell him. As stoic and business-like as he is, he still has a heart.”

“ She tried to postpone the wedding as much as she could,” George said, shaking his head, “ It’s useless. I want to tell him—I’ll tell him right now!”

“ Great Wizards,” Penelope muttered, covering her face with her hand.

“ Well what are you going to do about it, Penny!” he asked, her, grabbing her shoulders, “ Wait until the ceremony has started? Come on, the more you postpone it the worst it will be.”

Hermione had never seen George Weasley act serious about anything before. He must really love her, she thought. But what about Percy?

“ Okay,” she said, holding up her hands, “ Let me think for a minute.”

“ I don’t see what needs thinking about,” George said, kissing Penelope’s neck. “ We’ve just got to tell them. Once they know the truth…”

“ Your mother will KILL me!” Penelope exclaimed, “ And Percy will kill you.”

“ Come on now,” Hermione said, almost feeling sorry for them. Sure they were cheating…but the way George ducked his head and rested it on Penelope’s shoulder reminded her of how Harry looked when he was scared, holding onto her. “ I’m sure they won’t react…that way.” Of course she wasn’t sure. She had no idea—no one would be expecting this, that was for sure.

“ No one knows, only you,” George said, “ I didn’t even tell Fred, though he might have suspected something was going on.”

“ I’ve got something of a plan,” Hermione said, “ If you’re willing to try it.”

“ I’ll try anything,” Penelope said gratefully. George shrugged.

“ You lock yourself in the bathroom,” Hermione said to Penny, “ Or any room, really. And George, go downstairs and act as if nothing is happening.”

“ How is that going to help?” George asked, “ I thought we were going to come clean!”

“ You are,” Hermione said, “ But not just yet. I need to concur with my associates.”

_________________________

“ Alright, Potter,” Hermione said, pushing her way into Ron’s room. Harry was buttoning up his white collar shirt. He’d tried to slick his hair down, it seemed, but that wasn’t really working out. “ We have a situation here,” she said.

“ How do you do these things again?” Harry asked, pulling his tie around his neck and trying gracelessly to knot it.

“ Here,” she said, grabbing each end and tying it like a pro. “ You know, you can do that with your wand.”

“ Really? What’s the spell?”

“ Oh, Harry not now!”

“ Right, right,” he said, pulling on his trouser socks, “ The situation.”

“ Yes,” she said, sitting down next to him on Ron’s bed, “ It’s quite…unexpected and catastrophic.”

“ Isn’t everything these days?”

“ Harry!”

“ Sorry,” he gave her a mischievous grin, “ Go on.”

“ We have something of a reluctant bride on our hands.”

“ Oh,” Harry said, flopping backwards onto the bed, “ It’s always something with these Weasleys. Is this really our problem? I mean, I think we have our share already.”

“ Yes, well it’s mine,” Hermione said, “ Penelope is my friend… and well let’s just say I sort of stumbled upon the predicament.”

“ What’s the matter with her?”

“ George Weasley.”

“ What’s he done?” Harry asked.

“ Um, well I believe he’s fallen in love with her,” Hermione said. It was actually starting to sound rather romantic.

Harry laughed.

“ It’s not funny!” Hermione insisted, “ Because she’s done the same with him, and it’s all looking quite bad for poor Percy on his wedding day.”

“ Oh, yeah,” Harry said, “ Him.”

“ So I was hoping to get your opinion on the matter before I give her any advice on how to tell him.”

“ My opinion?”

“ Yes!” she got a wicked idea, “ How would you like to hear about it if I was deserting you on our wedding day?”

Harry shut one eye, “ On my death bed,” he answered.

“ Oh, what’s that supposed to mean?” Hermione asked, beginning to realize that he wasn’t going to be any help.

“ So you’re saying you’ll marry me?” he asked.

_________________________

Hermione found Rosa in Ginny’s room, painting her toenails a magenta color. She was wearing her dress, a tight black number with spaghetti straps.

“ Hey,” she said, “ You’re still not ready?”

“ Never mind that,” Hermione said, “ I don’t think there is going to be a wedding.”

“ What?” Rosa asked, finishing with the polish and capping the bottle, “ Why not?”

“ The bride seems to be in love with the groom’s brother.”

Rosa continued to stare at her toes. “ I don’t like this color,” she muttered. She bent her head and blew gently on the drying polish, and it turned bright red. “ That’s better,” she said with a grin.

“ Rosa did you hear me?” Hermione shouted. Why was everyone else acting like this wasn’t a problem?

“ Okay,” Rosa said, looking up, “ Who’s she in love with? Ron?”

“ George,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes, “ I think Ron’s taken.”

“ I know can you believe Clio?” Rosa muttered, “ She sure moves fast.”

“ Back to the matter at hand!” Hermione snapped, “ I was hoping you’d have a suggestion on how Penny can deal with this. Somehow I thought you were good at handling disastrous situations.”

“ I can be,” Rosa said boredly, looking at her dress in the mirror and holding in her stomach for a moment. “ I need to lay off the Every Flavor Beans,” she said to her reflection, wrinkling her nose critically.

“ Oh, what are you talking about, you’ve got the waist line of a Cornish Pixie,” Ginny said, walking into the room. She was wearing her pink bridesmaid dress, which clashed badly with her red hair. “ Hermione,” she said, rummaging through the hair clips on her dresser table, “ You’d better get ready.”

Hermione groaned.

“ She’s got some news for you, Ginny,” Rosa told her, winking at Hermione. She glared in response. What was she thinking, asking Rosa’s advice on this? She was the least sensitive and most uncouth person Hermione knew.

“ What is it?” Ginny asked, pinning her hair up with a few butterfly clips. “ Check it out,” she said, reaching backward to tap them with her wand. They began to flutter their little wings in her hair.

Rosa giggled, “ Lemme have one,” she said.

“ Penelope is leaving Percy for George!” Hermione screamed, unable to take it any more. At this point she just felt like throwing open the shutters and shouting it across the yard for the whole wedding party to hear.

Now she had Ginny’s attention. “ What?!” the red-haired girl asked, becoming flustered.

“ That’s right!” Hermione said, crossing her arms over her chest. “ They’ve been meeting in secret—they’re in love with each other!”

“ Penny and…George?” Ginny asked, raising her eyebrows in shock.

“ Yes, them.”

“ Oh, Sages help them,” Ginny said, “ Why didn’t they say something before now! The wedding starts in thirty minutes!”

“ I don’t know,” Hermione said, shaking her head, “ Penelope is hiding in the bathroom. I don’t know where George is. But someone has to stop this wedding before it goes any further.”

“ Okay, okay,” Ginny said, beginning to hyperventilate, “ I’ve got to tell my mother. Great Wizards—she’ll kill him! And I don’t even want to THINK about what she’ll have to say to Penelope—anyone who hurts her precious Percy is mincemeat. Great Wizards!” She collapsed onto her bed in exasperation.

“ Oh, Herm-oine you’ve killed her!” Rosa said fretfully.

“ Ginny!” Hermione shouted, “ Get up! We can deal with this. Your mother…well, she’ll just have to cope. And Percy will be okay…I think.”

“ My poor brother!” Ginny cried into her bed sheets, “ Every thing bad happens to Percy!”

“ Not true!” Hermione said. “ Percy is very successful and…well, he’s very successful.”

“ So what?” Ginny wailed, “ George has always ragged on him—this will send him over the edge!”

“ Ginny…”

“ What if he tries to kill him?”

“ Ginny!”

“ I’ve got it!” Rosa suddenly exclaimed. Ginny looked up.

“ What?” Hermione asked, “ What have you got?”

“ It!” Rosa said, “ I know how they can get out of this scot-free.”

“ Well say it already!” Ginny said, sitting up.

“ It’s so simple, you guys,” Rosa said, “ They can elope! If they just disappear, and get married on the lamb, Ginny’s family will grow to except it while they’re away, and there will be no homicides!”

“ But what about Percy?” Ginny asked, “ He’ll still be crushed!”

“ We can’t have him standing at that alter waiting like a fool,” Hermione said, “ It’s cruel.”

“ Well let’s hear a better idea, then!” Rosa challenged, “ I think it would work. Percy can just get over himself.”

“ Rosa!” Hermione scolded. Ginny burst into tears.

“ What’s going on in here?” Suddenly Ron was at the door. “ Mom wants you downstairs, pronto…. Why is she crying?” he asked, walking to his little sister. Suddenly his cheeks turned red and his eyes narrowed. “ WHAT HAS SEAMUS DONE?!” he roared.

Ginny jumped up off the bed, “ Shut up, Ron!” she screamed, “ Our family is in a major crisis and all you can think about is Seamus screwing up! Well, I’ve had it with you! Seamus has feelings, too, you know! How would you like it if Nail pounced on you every time you so much as looked at Clio?!”

“ Whoa,” Rosa said, “ That was out of left field.” Ginny gave an enraged scream and ran out of the room. She crashed into Harry, who was walking in.

“ Hey,” he said, watching her go, “ What’s wrong with her?”

“ She’s NUTS!” Ron screamed, “ What did she mean, our family is in a crisis?”

“ It’s about the wedding,” Rosa said, putting on some lip gloss, “ Take it away, Herm-oine,” she said. Hermione was definitely having one of her days where she wanted to kill Rosa. They had become fewer and farther between, but they still arose every now and again.

“ What is it?” Ron asked with a frown. “ Penny hasn’t run off on him, has she?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow.

“ Um…,” Harry started, and then gave up and looked back to Hermione.

“ I’m afraid,” Hermione said with a heavy sigh, “ That Penelope is in love with someone else.”

Ron tipped his head to one side and narrowed his eyes, “ Wait,” he said, “ This person who she’s now in love with… wouldn’t happen to also be in my immediate family, would they?”

“ It’s George,” Rosa spat out, “ Why, d’you know about it or something?”

“ Hmm,” Ron said, un-doing his tie, “ Well I thought maybe… actually, I thought it was Fred. But close enough. I knew she was always looking at one of them longingly at the dinner table.”

Clio appeared in the doorway behind him, “ Hey,” she said, “ They’re asking for you guys down there. You know… places everyone! And all that.”

“ Naw, forget it,” Ron said, waving his hand and pulling off his tie, “ Looks like I’ll be able to take you out tonight after all. My brother’s not getting married.”

Clio frowned, “ What?” she asked, “ Why not? Does he, um, know that he’s not getting married? Cause he’s downstairs, and um, well he looks like he thinks he is.”

Ron’s eyes widened and he looked back to Hermione and Rosa, “ Wait a minute,” he said, “ …Percy doesn’t know about this?!”

“ Well no doi, Ron!” Rosa shouted back, “ Do you see him running away and crying in agony?”

“ Percy was never one for showing emotion,” Ron muttered. He pinched his eyes shut and wrinkled his nose.

“ Okay,” Clio said, “ I’m, um, sensing that something bad is going on here. Anything I can do?”

“ That’s it,” Hermione said, pushing her way out of the room. “ She’s got to tell him right now.”

“ Five minutes before the wedding!” Ron screamed, “ She might as well just marry him and get a divorce tomorrow. Maybe then she’d walk away from my mother alive!”

“ Oh, stop saying that!” Hermione hissed, “ Molly is a grown woman, she can handle this just fine I’m sure.” Hermione rapped on the bathroom door. “ Penelope!” she shouted, “ Come on, let’s get this over with.”

Silence.

“ Well I can’t blame you for choosing George over Percy…but REALLY bad timing, Penny!” Ron added.

“ Hey!” Hermione said, smacking him, “ She doesn’t need to hear that now!”

“ And let me tell you, you’d keep a lot neater house if you picked Percy,” Ron continued, “ Have you seen George’s ROOM? Well let us know if you can find the floor; we haven’t seen it in years.”

“ Ron you are so NOT FUNNY!” Hermione screamed. They heard someone’s footsteps rushing up the wooden stairs, and all caught their breath in their throats.

“ Now it gets interesting—I bet that’s Percy!” Rosa whispered, almost excited. But instead of the soon-to-be-crushed groom, George appeared at the top of the stairs.

“ Hey guys,” he chirped happily, “ What’s going on?”

“ What’s going on?” Ron screamed, “ What’s going ON?! We’re only trying FRUITLESSLY to straighten out your little mess!”

“ LITTLE mess?” Hermione said, rolling her eyes.

“ Hey!” George said with a snort, “ I thought it would be funny to replace the throwing rice with Mexican jumping beans! Didn’t mean to ruin your life, Ron.”

“ What in the name of the Sages are you talking about?!” Ron shouted, “ That is HARDLY a priority right now!”

“ Ron…” Harry warned, beginning to see what was going on.

“ I’ll have you know that your little GIRLFRIEND is holed up in the bathroom here, unable to let our family know the truth about what you two have been doing, and inevitably about to ruin several lives!” Ron was on a tirade.

“ Whoa!” George said with a smile, “ I’ve got a girlfriend? Awesome! Who is it? Is she cute?”

“ Ron it’s FRED,” Harry said what had become obvious to everyone else by then. Rosa was dying with laughter at this point.

“ What’d you think I was George?” Fred asked, “ Where the heck IS George?”

“ Uh oh,” Hermione said, trying the lock on the bathroom door. When she couldn’t pull it open, she got out her wand and tapped the door knob, muttering the un-locking spell. “ Penny?” she called inside, walking over to the shower curtain. She threw it back, and saw that the tub was empty, except for a fluffy white wedding dress. The little window above the shower was open.

Fred threw back his head in laughter, “ What a scene!” he howled, “ Anything to escape marrying my brother, oy, I don’t blame her!”

“ Oh, stop!” Clio said, “ Poor thing! Did she really run away?”

“ It would appear so, Sherlock,” Fred said.

“ I wonder if George is with her,” Hermione said, “ Or if she just took off,” she sighed, “ It looks like they left it up to us to cancel the wedding.”

“ Oh, fun!” Fred said, “ Okay, I’ve got it. One of you girls—or even better, boys!—put on this dress and walk out there, and when he lifts the veil yell: Surprise!”

_________________________

Hermione was ducked behind Harry’s shoulders as they made their way out into the wedding courtyard. I should have just had them tell everyone straight off! Hermione thought. She kept trying to tell herself that this wasn’t her problem, but somehow she felt responsible.

“ There you are!” Molly hissed, “ Where’s Penny, for love of the Sages-- the sun started setting ten minutes ago! You know how your brother is about punctuality.”

“ Oh, boy,” Rosa muttered under her breath.

“ Ma,” Fred whispered, “ Where’s George?”

“ George?” Molly asked with a frown, “ Oh, who needs him at a time like this? Really, it’s safer with only one of you attending.”

“ Har, har, ma,” Fred said, “ But it’s quite the opposite I’m afraid!”

“ What’s that supposed to mean?”

Everyone looked to Ron.

“ What?” he shrieked, “ I’m not saying it! Ever heard the term ‘ Kill the messenger’?”

“ Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said, trying to remain calm, “ Penelope Clearwater does indeed want to marry one of your sons.”

“ I’m quite aware of that!” Molly said, raising her voice a bit, “ Does she plan on doing it anytime soon?”

Hermione shrank a bit and backed up against Harry, “ Well, its not really…him, that she um…” she looked at Percy, who was standing at the alter with his best man and ushers.

Molly looked at Fred. “ What did you do?” she asked flatly.

“ Me?!” Fred said, “ I’ve got nothing to do with this! It’s Penny who’s run off.”

A whisper of voices came up among the wedding guests, letting Hermione know that they’d heard that last sentence.

“ She’s done WHAT?!” Molly roared. Percy came running down from the altar, followed by his father and Bill.

“ What’s happened?” Percy asked, looking panicked, “ Is Penny okay?”

Before anyone could open their mouths to tell him what had happened, they heard a blood-curdling scream from the surrounding woods. Hermione felt Harry stiffen behind her.

“ What was that?” Bill asked, reaching for his wand. “ Sounds like trouble!”

“ Thank you, captain obvious!” Fred said, following after Harry, who was already on his way toward the terrifying scream.

“ HELP!” They heard another distant cry, and the wedding guests gasped in fright. Hermione’s heart stopped. The woods. Perhaps the Forrest she’d been dreaming about wasn’t the one beside the school. Was this it? Was Voldemort waiting now for Harry; was this the final battle?

“ Harry wait!” she screamed, starting to run after him. Mrs. Weasley grabbed her arm to try and stop her, but Hermione clawed out of her grasp. She took off running and caught up with the group of boys that was headed for the Forrest.

“ That was George’s scream!” Fred said, and Hermione saw a serious look fall across his face for the first time since she’d known him.

In an instant of not knowing what she was doing, Hermione jumped up and landed on Harry’s back, tackling him to the ground.

“ Hermione!” he screamed, as the Weasleys and their father forged ahead. “ What are you doing? They need me!”

“ You bastard,” she said, choking out a sob, “ Weren’t you even going to say goodbye?”

“ Hey, stop it!” he screamed, “ Not now! I want you to stay right here. Right here! I’ll be back to get you, okay?”

Hermione shook her head. Rosa and Ginny ran up behind her, Clio dashed ahead of them and into the woods.

“ What’s going on?” Ginny asked, grabbing Harry’s arm.

“ Your brother’s in trouble,” Harry said, getting up. “ Don’t worry. I’m going after him. You all stay here.” He got up and ran toward the woods.

“ No, wait!” Hermione was crying. She had hoped to hold up better than this, but how could she? She watched as Harry disappeared into the thick woods, for the last time. She struggled to get up, but Ginny and Rosa held her down.

“ Don’t go, Herm-oine!” Rosa pleaded, “ Ginny’s brothers will help him!”

“ No one can help him!” Hermione cried, wrenching herself from Rosa’s grasp, and pulling Ginny’s arm off, “ Only me,” she muttered darkly, getting up and starting to run. She drowned out the sound of Rosa and Ginny’s voices calling to her as she entered the Forrest.

Hermione could hear the sounds of running footsteps ahead, she knew it was Harry and the other boys. In the distance the cries for help had been silenced. Hermione’s heart felt sick for poor George. She picked up her dress and ran harder, her breath coming in weak pants and tears blocking her view.

I’m not wearing the right dress! Hermione realized happily. The one from her nightmare was always a soft, silky tan. And there was no cut on her arm, no silver boots on her feet. Maybe things had been changed, perhaps now there was a way to save him.

“ George!” she heard an alarmed shout up ahead and recognized Fred’s voice.

“ Stay back!” that was Clio. Hermione heard laughter that sent chills down her spine.

“ Wait,” she panted, running harder to catch up.

“ Penny!” that was Percy’s voice. Hermione turned into the clearing where they had found them, and saw him holding his lifeless fiancée in his arms. She was wearing the slip that had gone under her wedding dress… it looked something like the nightgown Hermione always wore in her dream about the Forrest. Had Penny come across some fate that had previously awaited Hermione?

“ Where is he?” Harry was asking frantically, searching the clearing, “ Where is he?”

“ We’re too late,” Arthur said, clutching his motionless son in his arms, “ Too late….” his face fell sadly. Fred knelt beside him, holding onto his twin brother’s limp wrist.

“ He still has a pulse!” he shouted, joyful tears in his eyes.

“ So does Penny,” Percy said, “ She…Penny?” Hermione looked over to see the blond haired girl’s eyes open slowly.

“ George,” she whispered, “ Where is….” She trailed off and her eyes fell shut again.

“ He’s bleeding pretty badly,” Arthur said, standing with George in his arms. He took a few shaky steps, and headed out of the clearing. “ Let’s all get back to the house.”

“ Look!” Clio screamed, her hand covering her mouth in shock. She pointed to a nearby oak tree, one which smoke was rising out of. Hermione saw what she had meant to show them and gasped. A black stain of ash had been burnt into the tree. It was in the shape of a thick bolt of lightening, and a strange green substance oozed from its edges. Voldemort’s calling card. This was his work.

“ Why!?” Harry screamed, throwing a fire spell at the tree with his hands. “ Why does he tease me… SHOW YOURSELF!” he yelled, throwing his head back and directing his order to the sky above, “ You COWARD!” he shouted, “ Come back, Riddle! I’m ready for you now!”

“ Harry!” Hermione said, wiping tears from her cheeks. “ Please—he’s gone!”

Harry turned on her and grabbed her shoulders roughly, “ I thought I told you to stay out of this!” he screamed.

“ I won’t!” Hermione shouted back, standing her ground, “ You are not alone anymore!” she yanked herself out of his grip, and quickly did a freezing spell on the tree that he’d set on fire. Harry crumbled to the ground behind her.

“ It’s me!” he cried, “ It’s me he wants—why is he hurting my friends, what good does it do him?”

“ Hey!” Hermione said, joining him on the ground, “ Quit trying to rationalize a madman’s behavior! Let’s go back to the house and try to help the people he’s hurt. That’s all we can do right now!”

“ What can I do for them?” Harry asked, shaking his head, “ All I do is bring disaster on everyone. I shouldn’t be allowed back in their house.” He looked up at Hermione with sad green eyes, “ I’m like a disease to everyone around me, it won’t be stopped until I’m gone, don’t you see?”

“ That’s not true!” Hermione insisted, but she didn’t have a reason. She reached for him, but he turned away from her, crumpled in a heap.

“ Don’t,” he said, “ I can’t stand the thought of what he’ll do to you, the person I… Just get away from me while you still can.”

“ He won’t do a damn thing to me, because you won’t let him, Harry!” she said, grabbing his arm, “ Because you won’t let him. Don’t you see what he’s trying to do? To drive you away from everyone you care about, so you’ll be alone, so you’ll want to join him?”

Harry let out a long, choppy sigh. “ I won’t let him get inside my mind like that,” he decided, letting Hermione pull him up. She wrapped him in her arms and squeezed him to her. She pulled him closer, closer, like she could just draw him inside her and keep him there, safe.

“ Harry,” she whispered, “ I thought I was going to lose you…right here, right in that moment…”

“ I’m sorry,” he said, squeezing a handful of her dress into his hand, “ The worst thing Voldemort could have done to you…I’m going to end up doing to you anyway. I’m sorry I’ve had to rip your heart out, Hermione. I’m sorry you had to love me at all.”

“ I’m not,” she said softly.

_________________________

Inside the Weasley’s house the atmosphere was that of an un-liftable sobriety. George was being tended to by his Mum in the master bedroom upstairs. Penelope, who had regained consciousness and only had minor head injuries, sat sadly in the kitchen, letting Charlie bandage her forehead.

“ It was like….a flash of lightening,” she began to explain once she had the strength to remember what had happened, “ He came and went in a single moment, like the wind, just in and out. George and I…” she looked up sadly at Percy, who sat on the other side of the room. He had begun to understand that she was in love with his younger brother, but he had not yet heard it from her. “ We were running away,” she said, beginning to cry. “ I suppose we deserved what happened to us.”

“ No one deserves an attack from Voldemort,” Percy said delicately, “ No matter what.”

“ Oh…Perce,” Penelope choked out, letting her face fall into her hands. Hermione was sitting with Harry on the sofa in the next room, and she could feel him tense up beside her. Keep going, she willed Penelope, he needs to hear this.

“ Well,” Penelope said, “ He came down…from the sky. Just like lightening. Struck George hard on the head—I thought he was dead. Then he came after me… I felt like I was suffocating. Everything was cold and dark, and I couldn’t feel the pain at first… just this frozen emptiness. Then everything went red… I don’t know when he left. I don’t even remember screaming. We knew it was him, though, as soon as we saw that figure coming down on us. You get this feeling like, This is the end. I knew it was Voldemort. It’s a wonder he didn’t kill us.”

“ He would have,” Harry said flatly, “ Had I not been on my way. He doesn’t want me seeing him before… well he’s not ready to face me yet. He wants to drive me crazy first. This is all my fault. I’m sorry. I’ll leave as soon as possible.”

“ No, Harry, that won’t solve anything,” Arthur said, standing and going to the window. “ We actually feel safer with you here.”

Harry looked down at his lap. He seemed ashamed of himself.

Molly emerged from the back room where they were keeping George, the local Healer following behind her.

“ How is he?” Arthur asked, a shake in his voice. Molly looked at her husband, her bottom lip beginning to quiver.

“ It’s quite a complex curse the Dark Lord has put on him, it seems,” the Healer began, and Penelope cried out and ran back into the room where George was. Ron and Ginny followed her in. Fred stayed where he was, stone cold and silent in a chair by the door.

Oh, how could he? Hermione thought, rising from the couch. How could he take the most joyful boys in the world and turn their lives into a miserable mess like this? She went to the door of George’s sick room, stood in the hallway and peered inside with slanted shoulders. Penelope was at his side, leaning onto the bed and peering down at him despondently, like she might die herself, just from watching.

“ George, oh my sweetheart….” She trailed off, elapsing into sobs, “ George,” she whispered, moving his bangs gently off his forehead. The young man whose cheeks were normally so pink with life and silly boyhood merriment had gone clammy and cold. It was no wonder his twin did not want to see him this way. Ginny sat down at the foot of the bed crying quietly. Ron put a hand on her shoulder and stared down at his brother. Hermione felt someone join her in the doorway; she looked over to see Percy.

“ Oh, it should have been me!” Penelope cried, her tears falling onto George’s cold cheeks. “ I was the one who wanted to run!” she sobbed, “ It should have been me.”

Even as she watched this scene that broke her heart, Hermione couldn’t make herself cry. Her eyes felt dry and numb. I’ve wasted all my tears on Harry, she thought. And what a waste it’s been. As if tears and good intentions will save him.

Hermione heard Penelope’s breath catch in her throat, and looked up to see George’s eyes open into tiny slits. Penelope called for Molly and Arthur to come quick, and they ran through the door, pushing Percy and Hermione out of the way. Hermione backed up, now joined at the door by everyone who’d been waiting in the other room.

“ Baby…?” Molly said tearfully, sitting down on the other side of the bed. Arthur stood behind her, hands on her shoulders. Penelope squeezed his hand hopefully.

“ Percy,” George said, coughing weakly, “ Where’s Percy?”

“ I’m…here,” Percy said, trying to clear the emotion out of his throat. He took a few steps into the room, gingerly.

“ Hey…I’m…sorry,” George managed to say, and everyone knew what he meant.

Percy shook his head and batted back tears, “ Don’t waste your breath,” he choked out, “ It’s okay,” he said, “ It’s okay. These things happen,” he nodded decidedly. George blinked, and shut his eyes for a moment. The Healer went to the bed, and began testing his vital signs.

“ Thank the Sages!” she exclaimed, “ I think he’ll be alright.” Molly cried happily, and Arthur grinned and hugged her. Hermione found herself wiping happy tears from her own eyes—perhaps she did have some left. George looked up at Penny and he grinned at her.

“ Hey, I heard your voice,” he whispered to her, “ I thought, you know, it might be worth waking up. So you’d stop whining.” He smiled, and Penny beamed at him and wrapped her arms around him.

“ Don’t over-excite him!” Molly scolded, and Hermione heard someone burst into laughter behind her. It was Fred, finally moved from his somber state.

“ Yeah, Penny,” Fred said with a wink, “ Get your mind out of the gutter at a time like this!” George and Penny laughed, and pretty soon everyone was giggling with giddy relief. Even Molly cracked a smile.

_________________________

It was late, but nobody wanted to sleep. Molly and Penelope were staying up with George, and Fred and Rosa had started a poker game with most of the other kids in the kitchen while Arthur made pancakes. Hermione and Harry snuck outside to have a walk through the yard, even though it was raining lightly.

“ Great Wizards, I’m in a good mood,” Hermione said, sticking her arms out and spinning in the rain, “ Aren’t you? I mean—they got attacked by the dark lord and they were okay! Maybe he’s not so powerful.”

Harry half-grinned at her for a moment, “ Yeah,” he said, unconvincingly.

“ What?” Hermione asked, hopping over some toppled wedding chairs, “ You don’t think so?”

“ I don’t think it was Voldemort,” Harry said, “ Probably just some of his disciples.”

“ Oh,” Hermione said, realizing that he was probably right. Voldemort wouldn’t risk coming here now—he’d just wanted to scare everyone. A little teaser for what’s to come.

“ Well you should still be in a good mood,” Harry said, hugging her from behind, “ George and Penny are okay, it’s great.”

“ Yeah, I know,” Hermione said, “ I was really scared there for a moment… poor Fred and Penelope must have just been dying.”

“ And his parents,” Harry said, “ Percy, Ginny and Ron, too.”

Hermione nodded, “ You couldn’t pick a more beloved victim.”

“ Yeah,” Harry said, “ It’s not as if he’s choosing them at random.” He sighed. “ But no,” he shook some water out of his hair, “ We’re in good moods.”

“ Right,” Hermione said quietly.

“ It’s a shame they didn’t get to use this whole set-up,” Harry said, trotting down the now-drenched aisle. Hermione followed him, looking around at the soaked decorations. They actually looked kind of beautiful in the moonlight, in the rain.

“ Yeah,” Hermione said, “ It’s a shame the way everything went.”

“ They’ll be okay,” Harry said, stepping up inside the gazebo. He put his hands on his hips and looked around.

“ I know,” Hermione said, coming inside the dry little structure with him, “ Percy is a good guy to forgive his brother… and Penny was just mixed up.”

“ All’s fair in love and war,” Harry said, yawning. Hermione thought of Nail; how he’d kissed her in New York. She wasn’t so sure Harry would agree with that cliched statement if he knew about that. But there was no reason for him to—Hermione didn’t plan on leaving him for Nail. It just wasn’t the same.

“ We’re going home tomorrow,” Harry said, looking at the ceiling of the gazebo.

“ Uh-huh,” Hermione said, pulling on his tie. She rested her face against his wet collar shirt and put her arms around his waist. We’ll go home and they’ll pull you away from me, send you off to die. I know. Don’t remind me.

“ Wanna see a neat trick?” Harry whispered, pulling two bottle caps out of his coat pocket. Hermione stood back and watched him. He turned his head a bit and raised an eyebrow. “ Looks like two ordinary bottle caps, no?” he asked.

Hermione smiled, “ Yeah.”

“ Okay,” he said, closing his hand around them, “ I do a little shake, tap them with my trusty old wand here…”

“ Oh, so you still need your wand Mr. Big Time?” Hermione teased.

“ Sure,” Harry said, “ This is a very complicated trick.” He opened his hand, and the bottle caps were gone—two brassy little rings were left in their place.

Hermione looked up at him, and his cheeks blushed red.

“ Oh, um,” Hermione reached into his hand and took one of the rings, “ That was complicated, huh?” She twirled it in her fingers.

“ Yes…,” Harry said, inching closer to her, “ Somewhat,” he said, “ I thought you’d be freaked out if I bought you one.”

Hermione laughed, “ Oh, well,” she said, “ I think I’m a bit beyond being freaked out these days.”

“ Hey,” he said, taking her face in his hands and lifting it up to his, “ Be serious for a minute.”

“ Okay.”

“ I want you to know why I love you,” he said, embarrassed, looking at his shoes, then back to her, “ It’s because you aren’t afraid of me.”

“ What?” Hermione might have liked a better reason than that, “ Of course I’m not!”

“ No, it’s really rare,” Harry said, “ Even Ron is scared of me, deep down.”

Hermione laughed, “ Harry!” she said.

“ You’re the only one who trusts me, Hermione,” he said, “ Honestly. You’re the only one who would have tackled me out there today. You’re the only one who doesn’t shrink when I scream like an idiot.”

Hermione looked at him for a minute, “ Alright,” she said. “ Well…good. Um…” Harry pinched his eyes shut.

“ Sorry,” he said, “ I’m horrible at…talking. Like this.”

Hermione laughed again without meaning to, “ Oh, you’re okay.”

“ So you say something, then!” he demanded.

She looked up at him, and turned his face to hers, “ Yes?” she said. Harry blinked, and then giggled, bending to kiss her. He brought his head back suddenly, “ Wait, wait,” he said, “ I want to do this right.”

“ Right.” Hermione suppressed a grin.

“ Okay,” he said, “ You do me first.” Hermione nodded, and picked up Harry’s hand. She gave it a squeeze and started to slide the larger brass ring onto his ring finger.

“ I think you should say a few words,” Harry said earnestly.

“ Okay,” Hermione said, taking a breath, “ Harry,” she looked up at him, “ I hope—I KNOW—we can spend the rest of BOTH our lives together. Whether that lasts for fifty years or until next week—“

“ Hermione!” he chided.

“ Sorry. Right. Getting off subject. What I’m trying to say, Harry, is that I want to be with you no matter where you are. In this world or the next—whatever happens to you I want to be right there beside you. We were made to save each other.” She slid the ring onto Harry’s finger.

“ Well,” he said, “ As you may know, I have something of a different philosophy.”

“ Go on,” Hermione invited, holding up her hand. Harry took it carefully in his, and held the ring at the tip of her finger.

“ Even if I’m just a memory,” Harry said, “ Death will NOT do us part. And I don’t mean I’ll be haunting you like a ghost or anything ridiculous like that, I mean… I just want to make this mark on your life… so you’ll know… when we meet again… What’s the word I’m searching for?”

“ Eternity?” Hermione suggested.

“ That’s the one,” Harry put her ring on her finger, and they clasped hands for a moment, letting the brass rings clink together.

“ We’ll just see who’s right,” Hermione said stubbornly, looking into his eyes.

“ Deal,” Harry said, leaning in to kiss her.

_________________________

Hermione and Harry ran back inside through the rain, and up the stairs to Ron’s little room. He was asleep on the downstairs couch with Clio, so they locked the door behind them and fell back against it, kissing each other passionately.

Hermione’s heart was racing—what had they just done? Harry wanted to marry her, she knew that much to be true. And she had no problem with the idea of spending the rest of her life with him. Not just because she had a feeling that it would be over before too long, but because he was right. She did trust him, she did understand him like no one else. Maybe it was from all those years of mooning over him. Even afterward, it seemed too good to be true that Harry Potter would be in love with her. Even as he had kissed her, she hadn’t really believed it. But now, finally, something clicked in her head. Harry was it for her. He was the One, and not just in the context of the prophecy. He was her One.

“ Stay with me,” Harry breathed, pulling her into his lap.

Hermione’s head was full of memories and regrets as she felt his warm lips move down her neck softly, heating her skin, which was chilly from the rain. She remembered the day on that Hogwarts Express. Even as an eleven year old she’d known.

Neville had been the first person she’d met on the train. When he came back from looking for his toad to tell her that he’d found Harry Potter in one of the compartments… Hermione wasted no time dragging him back there. She remembered that she hadn’t even been able to look Harry in the eye when she first came face to face with the beautiful little hero she’d read about.

“ Has anyone seen a toad? Neville’s lost one,” she remembered cursing herself for having nothing better to say. How she’d launched into her life story after that, speaking so nervously and quickly that Harry and Ron had exchanged a wearied look. “ I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?” she’d finally spat out.

“ Harry Potter.” That name. They were the first words he’d spoken to her.

“ Hermione,” Harry muttered against her skin, kissing her bare shoulders. Hermione smiled and squeezed him to her as they leaned back onto Ron’s pillows. Who’d have thought they’d end up here, in love and practically married? She certainly hadn’t, especially that one Halloween night when she’d over-heard he and Ron talking about her. It was more Ron who had said something mean, but it was true back then that she had no friends, and though she’d been doing well in her classes, she was miserable. She felt her world had crumbled completely that night. She’d almost wanted that troll to do away with her later in the girl’s bathroom.

She remembered the feeling that had flooded her heart when she’d seen Harry push his way into the bathroom to save her. Hermione had been pressed against the wall—she’d all but given up. But then came Harry.

She felt his hands move softly up and down her back, giving her goosebumps. You were my hero then, she remembered. That was the night her infatuation with the famous boy had turned into something more. He cared about HER, out of all the people to think about that night at school, he had remembered her, alone and afraid in the bathroom, and he had come when she needed him.

But that was also the beginning of her curse. The curse that reared it’s head every time Harry was in danger after that—which was often. The thing that turned in her stomach and reminded her that any moment now all these dangers could take him from her.

“ If they hadn’t found me, I’d be dead by now,” Hermione had told McGonagall the night the troll had attacked. Waste of time, she thought sourly, I was doomed since that night. After that, there was no way she could walk away from Harry without losing her heart; her spirit.

Hermione tried to lose herself in the moment, with Harry so close to her in the dark and quiet room, the rain coming down harder outside. But her mind kept drifting as he kissed her and pulled her closer, as he brought the sheets up over their heads.

She remembered the first time Harry had to encounter Voldemort at Hogwarts, deep in the dungeons of the school. Ron had already been knocked out by a giant chess piece, and only she and Harry were left. He had told her to go back, to flee to safety, that he would go ahead alone. Just like he was telling her now, lately, that he would do this himself. Hermione remembered that night in the dungeon, how she’d thrown her arms around him in a moment of boldness.

She squeezed him closer in the darkness, remembering.

“ Hermione!” he’d scolded back then.

“ Hermione…” now he whispered her name breathlessly; kissed her ear.

“ Harry—you’re a great wizard you know!” Hermione had thought back then that those might be her last words to him, there in the dungeon. She had wished she’d had something better to say.

“ I’m not as good as you,” he’d said, and she’d finally let go of him. Harry always knew what to say.

“ Me!” Hermione had said, shocked and flattered, “ Books! And cleverness! There are more important things—friendship and bravery and—oh, Harry—be careful!” She had pleaded, feeling useless. Of course friendship wasn’t what she wanted to say, but what more could she have been to him, back then? She still regretted that she hadn’t told him sooner, maybe in their fifth year, that she’d dreamed of having him love her for so long.

“ Harry,” she cried, feeling tears, seeing them skitter down his bare shoulder. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes.

“ What’s the matter?” he asked, his breath slowing, “ Are you okay?”

Hermione shook her head.

“ I’m sorry,” he said quickly, “ I’ll…”

“ No, no, it’s not you,” she said, letting him pull her into his arms, resting on her side. “ Harry… I haven’t been completely honest with you. I feel terrible. There’s something you need to know.”

“ What is it?” he asked, pushing her damp hair off her face. Hermione pulled his head closer to hers on the pillow, so that their noses touched. So she could look into those green eyes that melted her. She and Harry had a pact together. She couldn’t keep McGonagall’s secret and betray his loyalties.

“ Professor told me something before we left,” she said quietly, “ It was about your father.” She felt Harry’s muscles stiffen, nervous at what she might say.

“ What?”

Hermione pinched her eyes shut. She knew he’d be mad, but he had a right to know more than she did, more than anyone.

“ He’s alive, Harry. James Potter is alive.”

==========================

Remus Lupin opened his eyes and tried to lift his head. A staggering pain kept it bent for a moment, and then he managed to raise it and look around. He was in… Hagrid’s cabin?

The last thing he remembered was coming here… finding Harry… he’d agreed to practice some defensive maneuvers with him. And then… they’d gone outside, to the old garden, and Harry had seemed so off, as if he’d never heard of any of the moves they’d been practicing so often. After that Lupin drew a blank. It was late… how long had he been out? He wiped his face on his shoulder and he could feel the subtle of a thin beard. It must have been days! Minny and the old man must be going crazy, he thought, with everything that’s going on…

He tried to move, but his arms and legs were tied to the chair he sat in. He saw a figure on the other side of the room, a boy, sharpening a little dagger and staring at the ground.

“ Harry?” Lupin asked, the name falling out of his mouth in shock. The boy looked up, and sure enough, it was his student, his friend’s son.

Harry stood and walked over to Lupin. He wasn’t wearing his glasses, and his hair was longer and wilder than usual. He stared down at him coldly. The anger in his young eyes almost made Remus afraid to speak.

“ Harry, what’s happened?” Lupin asked, and in answer he was slapped across the face.

“ Stop calling me that,” Harry said, his voice small but irate.

“ Well then what would you have me call you?” Lupin growled. Harry just blinked and stared at him, saying nothing. He looked away for a moment, and wrinkled his brow as if he were listening to some silent instructions.

“ Master says to be quiet,” he mumbled, walking back over to the other side of the cabin, “ He says you are the bait. Just the bait so tell him to be quiet.” Harry nodded to himself.

Master? Lupin’s head was pounding with some pain, and with massive confusion. Had Harry lost his mind? Was he possessed?

“ Who am I the bait for, Har—“ Lupin stopped himself, hoping to avoid another blow.

“ Master says to shut up,” Harry answered without looking at him, continuing to sharpen his dagger.

“ Oh, what’s happened?” Lupin whispered to himself. How could they let things turn out this way for Harry? Had they pushed him too hard? Told him too much?

He hoped Minerva was okay. He knew she’d be panicking, alone with all the children, and with only the old man, who’d been nearly on his deathbed since the January epidemic, to help her. He hoped he wasn’t the bait for her. His poor Minny. She had so much on her shoulders—just like always.

“ Har—“ he had to stop himself again, “ Excuse me,” he said instead, “ But what’s happened to the other children you were on vacation with? Have they come back as well?”

Harry pressed his lips together, and Lupin regretted asking. He stood up and walked menacingly over to where Lupin was tied up.

“ Master says you talk too much,” he said, raising his hands. He’s not using his wand, Lupin thought sadly, the mark of a dark magician.

“ Blindigica fortosficia,” Harry muttered a quick sleeping spell and thrust it at Lupin. He felt the talons of slumber grab him and drag him from the conscious world. But he did notice one thing before the world went black around him, something he could only see when Harry was close to him.

His scar was missing.