"Bone of the father… unknowingly given… you will renew your son!"
Harry Potter had the overwhelming feeling that he was not going to leave this graveyard alive. The bounds around his arms and ankles were tight and uncomfortable. The sweat in his bangs was burning his eyes whenever he moved his head. The gag in his mouth was repulsive to his tongue and he just might throw-up a little. His nemesis was apparently going to come back to life and there was nothing he could do about it.
My parents must be so proud, he thought bitterly. Cedric was now dead. Wormtail had him pinned to the gravestone so easily. He was beaten by a coward. And soon, he was sure that he would be honored with a few of Voldemort's famous Crucio's, topped off with an Avada Kedavra. Life just couldn't get any better for him. Because something would just make it worse.
As Peter poured the dust of Tom Riddle Sr. in the cauldron, Harry wondered why he was in any of this in the first place. Why was he here? Why was he a wizard? Why did he have to come to Hogwarts? For that matter, why was he with the Dursleys? Why had he been subjected to pain and torture all of his life? Why had he survived the Killing Curse?
Why was he still alive?
He had thought about that question all of his life, but didn't go too deep into the matter, for it would lead to decisions that he didn't want to make. Although, he was sure Voldemort would make the decision as soon as he rose. He wished it wouldn't be so dramatic. He wanted it to end soon.
Was there anything good that happened in his life? The first one is Hagrid. He was a great friend, but he was not very secretive. It seemed like he was telling someone else a major secret once a year. He wondered why Dumbledore tells Hagrid everything.
The second was Hedwig. His best animal friend. He wondered what she was doing right now. Possibly fending off the males of the owlry. Or she could possibly be flying off towards him. They always had some strange connection, probably because she was his familiar. If she could hear his plead, he would beg her to stay at Hogwarts. He would miss her terribly.
The last was Ron and Hermione. They were his best, and only, friends in the world. Ron was his first friend since he arrived on the train to Hogwarts. He had met Hermione also, but Ron had pretty much scared her away. Harry felt ashamed for letting that happen. If it wasn't for him coercing Ron, Hermione wouldn't have survived the troll. She wouldn't have become his best friend.
That brought Harry to the age-old question; who was truly the best friend? He half-wanted to say that it was Ron, but after all that happened that year, Harry was sure that such was not the case. The only person who stood up with Harry when his name was blown out of the goblet was not Ron. He had always known that Hermione was the more helpful friend, but he always, for some reason, thought that Ron was the more loyal friend. He was wrong, apparently. Hermione was the more helpful, loyal, and better friend.
Or was it only friend?
"Flesh – of the servant – w-willingly given – you will – revive – your master."
Harry didn't hear, because he had just had a startling epiphany. He had just thought of Hermione as his best friend in the world. But did he have any feelings for her? What about Cho? Sure, she was pretty, but he didn't even know her. Hermione, on the other hand, had a certain connection with him. It was like she could understand his thoughts, feel his feelings…she could read him like a book. And Harry could do the same to her. He and Hermione couldn't do that with anyone else, not even Ron. Besides, it wasn't like he could even think about Cho. Her boyfriend just died, and he was sure that Cedric wouldn't like it. In fact, he figured that Cho would be in a depression for a while.
So did he like Hermione? Romantically? What would it feel like to go on a date with her? It was certainly worth a try. She was very pretty. There was a chance that Hermione liked him. While he was sneaking glances at Hermione's beautiful face during the Yule Ball, sometimes Hermione looked his way at the same time. They would stare at each other for a few seconds, each trying to figure out what the other was thinking, until Hermione finally look away, a red stain on each of her cheeks. He had never seen her smile so brightly after each time. Was it, at the least, a crush? Maybe, he could just ask? He had nothing to lose. Their relationship was too strong to be awkward.
His thoughts were broken as Peter's blood-curdling scream filled the air. He looked at, first, the bloody dagger, then the arm that was dripping. Wormtail cut off his hand. He then looked at the cauldron. The liquid was completely blood-red and boiling. Even the rising smoke was red. And reality hit him. He wasn't leaving. He wasn't going to live past these few moments. He wasn't going to see Hogwarts again. He wasn't going to see Hagrid. He wasn't going to see Ron. He was not going to see Hermione Granger's smiling face one more time.
He closed his eyes, miserably trying to keep the tears in his eyes. He had no one to blame but himself. He was going to die in front of Voldemort, defenseless, and Tom would soon move on to his friends. His mind made him picture Ron shaking uncontrollably on the ground with three cloaked men pointing their wands at him. He could picture Neville lying next to his parents in St. Mungo's, staring blankly into space, with signs of life that will never progress. He could picture Hagrid swinging at the Death Eaters charging at him, taking them out in pairs, until five sickly green beams of light from every direction strikes him. He could picture Hedwig trying to fly away from the danger, but two well-placed Reducto's made sure she couldn't flap the wings that no longer existed, causing her to land into the Forbidden Forest. He could see each and every Weasley stuck in their lop-sided house, the doors and windows sealed, while the charms that kept the house together and barely sturdy were being removed by Voldemort himself.
What he could not picture was Hermione in pain. His mind… and his heart wouldn't allow it. It was at this moment that he realized that not only did he like Hermione, but he loved her… and she would never know. He didn't care if she didn't return the feelings. He wanted her to know before he met his end. But Voldemort wouldn't grant him that wish. Harry wouldn't allow himself to admit that Voldemort would taunt her with that fact before he killed her.
Harry had never felt so much regret. He had never felt sorrier in his life than this. He was so filled with guilt. So much, he had unconsciously touched his magic with the overwhelming feeling. It felt like his entire body was filled with guilt and sorrow. It spread through every bone in his body, and pulsed through every vein. If he had his eyes open, he would have seen the dust and sand close around him slowly turn black. He suddenly felt tired. He had started to accept his fate. He wasn't going to die looking into the darkness of his eyelids. He had to think of a goodbye picture.
Hermione, walking down the staircase, wearing a periwinkle dress, the glitter sparkling around the splayed dress with each graceful step, Her hair in a loose bun, her smooth and sleek brown hair framing her beautiful face, her radiant smile lighting the entire room, her warm brown eyes searching the area before they stopped on emerald ones for fourteen very long seconds before looking down at her heeled shoes with a smile tugging her lips.
Harry figured that there is no better goodbye picture than that. Voldemort would certainly be mad when Harry dies with a smile on his face.
Harry was in another world now. He was dreaming of what could've been. He could've been taking Hermione out for a walk, slipping his hand in hers as they strolled around the lake. He could've been studying with her, only getting properly rewarded this time. He could've been in Hogsmeade with her, smiling as her face glowed after seeing a particularly beautiful quill, then shock when he paid for it. He could've been doing just that. If only he had noticed this feeling longer. Hermione was the most important person in his life. And she would never know. He was filled with both love and remorse.
"B-blood of the enemy…forcibly taken… you will…resurrect your foe."
Harry couldn't muster the energy to flinch as Wormtail dug his dagger in Harry's arm. He couldn't even look up. It was as if his magic was weighing him down, as if forcing him to not move. He obeyed. Wormtail left his limp body over to the cauldron. He heard three distinct drops. It was almost like a countdown. He heard bubbling that seemed distant, but getting closer. Apparently, that was the last of the ritual. Harry's number was up. Out of the corner of his eye, he blearily saw a figure rising up from the cauldron. He heard gasping noises. Was that supposed to happen? He heard convulsing. That definitely wasn't supposed to happen. Harry slowly looked up to a sight that amazed him.
Lord Voldemort, presumably, was still standing in the cauldron, his red slits for eyes glowing in anger. But it wasn't directed at Harry.
"You…idiot!" Voldemort wheezed, and Harry was sure that his voice was not supposed to be so strained. In fact, it looked like Voldemort was in pain. "Y-you fool! You must've done something wrong! Give me my wan—!"
Before Wormtail could wonder what he did wrong and reach the wand in his pocket to hand over to his master, terrified of the consequences, Harry felt a shudder all the way through his body. He felt it travel up his spine, all the way to his head. To his amazement, he felt something shoot out of his forehead. He blinked as a flash of dark red was heading towards Voldemort and hitting him squarely in the chest, causing him to fall back, the cauldron tipping over with him. Tom, in a panic, crawled out from the cauldron and stood up. Harry gave a perverse smile at seeing Voldemort looking so afraid.
It was quiet for a few seconds. Peter and Harry were wondering what had happened while Voldemort was looking around the sky, afraid that something might come down and strike him. Seconds later, something did. A dark red flash of light came hurtling down so fast it was almost like a flashlight aimed directly at him. A half-second later, the same flash struck him again, this time from the direction of the house that was next to the cemetery. Voldemort was knocked to the ground again, his back hitting the cauldron, and Peter became shocked at what happened to his master. Tom was now screaming, and Harry could see him sweating from the head stone. About two seconds later, three red flashes came from the sky and consecutively hit him before he knew it. Voldemort sat up in reflex, screaming, blood trickling down the sides of his mouth.
Wormtail dropped his dagger. Harry looked towards him, and choked back a gasp. He was grabbing his forearm. It was burning with pain, it seemed. He lifted his sleeve, revealing the Dark Mark. It was pure black, but he could tell that it was fading slowly. Wormtail yelled in pain, the volume equal to his master's in Harry's ears. What Harry didn't know was that the same was happening to every Death Eater in the world.
Bellatrix Lestrange was doing nothing. She'd been doing that a lot lately. Dementors tend to suck the life out of you, little-by-little. At least they left her sanity. Well, as much sanity she possessed when she arrived at the island prison. She usually has a huge arrangement, or mess, of thoughts. One moment, she wonders how her husband is holding up. Another, she wonders if she would get to kill the Longbottom boy and grandmother, something she didn't have the time to do because said hag disappeared with him. That all eventually led to one even thought (the first one in decades) that was helped along with a tingle in her right arm. The Dark Lord. She smiled at her arm, but she was too tired to lift her sleeve.
Then she felt pain, for some reason. Bellatrix, being the sadist that she was, enjoyed the pain for over a full minute before she coughed up blood and realized that this was not her master's way of rewarding her.
When their screams stopped, and the Dark Mark completely disappeared from Wormtail's arm, Voldemort collapsed while Wormtail's eyes traveled to the back of his head, before falling on top of his master. Harry had no idea what had happened. It took a few minutes for him to realize that Voldemort was dead. It took a few more seconds to realize that he himself was still alive. A slow grin appeared on his face as he realized both of these. He looked around to see the trophy and Cedric's body. How to get to it?
'I'm sure Hermione will forgive me,' he thought with a dry and muffled chuckle. 'Dobby!' He internally screamed in his head, praying to whatever fate that had seemingly turned his life around that he could hear him.
A pop signaled Harry's immense relief. "Yes, Mr. Pot—" but the house-elf stopped at Harry's appearance. The house-elf immediately snapped the ropes and gag to disappearance and let Harry float to the ground. "Who did this to the great Mr. Potter?" he asked with a vehemence that would've made Snape's seething seem like a giggle.
"Voldemort," Harry whispered after ripping out the cloth in his mouth, his voice raw with emotions and underuse. "We need to go."
Dobby held back his whimper to help his hurting 'Master' (whether he knew it or not). "Where would Master Potter like to go, sir?" Dobby asked as he conjured a bandage wrap.
"Back to Hogwarts, Dobby. My dorm would be nice." Harry really didn't want to be seen. He needed rest.
"Yes, sir!" Dobby said in mock salute.
"Could you get Cedric, too, Dobby? I want his parents to bury him properly."
Dobby nodded and walked over to Cedric's body, talking about how brave and kind The Great Harry Potter is. Harry noticed with some sadness that Dobby didn't bat an eyelash at Cedric. Probably because he had seen a lot of death.
Dobby came back seconds later, levitating Cedric's body and carrying the Triwizard Cup. "Is Mr. Potter ready?" Dobby asked him.
Harry nodded, confused. "How are you touching that cup? It's a portkey."
"Portkeys don't work on House-elves," Dobby explained. He snapped his fingers and Cedric's body disappeared, presumably to the front of the maze where everyone was waiting. Dobby proceeded to grab Harry's hand and popped out of the graveyard.
"So… do you guys believe me?"
Ron and Hermione stared at Harry for a few seconds. While Ron looked at Harry like he deserved a straitjacket, Hermione had an inquisitive look on her face. It looked very cute.
"How am I going to believe," Ron started slowly, as if talking to a flobberworm, "that You-Know-Who came back from the dead, and you killed him just like that! Then you killed Scab- I mean Wormtail, tied up to a grave."
"Wormtail was wearing the Dark Mark!" Harry argued. "He must've been… I don't know… affected by it! What happened to Snape? Didn't he die?"
"He did," Ron confirmed. "He just started screaming for no reason and we thought he passed out. Colin took pictures. No one's seen Karkaroff. But how do we know You-Know-Who killed him? Moody died, and we all know he isn't a Death Eater!"
"Moody died?" Harry asked in horror.
"Yeah, he died the same way. How could You-Know-Who have killed him from… wherever you were? You have to be joking!"
"Then how is Cedric dead?! Are you telling me I killed him!?" Harry yelled at him, for the first time standing up. He had assumed that the moment Cedric appeared, dead, that Ron would have believed him. He couldn't believe that Ron didn't. Who accuses their best friend of murder?
He couldn't help but notice that Hermione didn't say a word. She seemed to be working something out, but slower than he really wanted. Usually, she would nibble on her bottom lip as if it was a tough decision. But she seemed to take this as if she was answering a divination question. Then, she just stopped. Nothing changed in her appearance, she didn't look up, but Harry could just tell that she stopped thinking. It seemed that she had an answer, and was confirming it with herself.
"I don't know!" Ron yelled, snapping Harry's attention back to him. "First, you just pop out of the maze with the cup. Next, Cedric just comes out of nowhere, dead. Then, when Dumbledore tries to talk to you, you ignore him and grab us and ran to some strange room we never heard of that looks exactly like our common room."
"Dobby brought Cedric's. Then he told me about this room."
"How are we supposed to believe you? Dobby will agree with anything you say, whether or not it's true!"
"What am I supposed to do to prove it? Bring back Voldemort's body? If you don't believe me, then you don't. It's not my fault that you don't believe your friend!"
Ron was quiet for a moment, and Harry almost thought he would change his mind. "No, I…I don't believe you. It's just not possible! No one could do that! You-Know-Who is unbeatable, and you didn't even touch him?"
"No, I didn't." There was a hard edge to his voice. Ron didn't believe him. He didn't believe him. What he had, half-an-hour ago, considered his best friend in the world, did not believe him. Granted, it was a little far-fetched, but now Ron was practically accusing him of murder! What other explanation could there have been? "What do you want me tell you? The spirit of Voldemort took over Cedric and killed Snape, Moody, Wormtail, who knows who else, and died before he got to me? Think, Ron! What else could have happened! Only Voldemort could have done it!"
Ron looked far from convinced. "Then show me his body! Or Pettigrew's body! Show me some damned proof or I will never believe you! You really could have killed Cedric for all I know, all these lies you're spewing! I'm your friend! How did Cedric die? Was it an accident or something? Tell me the truth!" He demanded, frantically waving his arms. They had both long since left the comfortable chairs they were sitting in, but neither had approached each other.
Harry had had enough. It was time to call Dobby to retrieve Voldemort's body.
He took a deep breath, and yelled "D-"
But he stopped. No. Ron was his friend. Why didn't he at least take a grain of truth? He didn't believe a single damned word he had said. The fact that the cup was an illegal portkey that took him to places unknown completely escaped Ron. The fact that Cedric was dead, obviously by a killing curse, Ron ignored. The fact that Harry himself was covered in blood, sweat, and tears, his right arm practically immobile, due to the large bloody gash, escaped his notice. Every single other strange phenomenon that had happened in the past forty-five minutes was out of his range of caring.
The fact that Harry had never before lied to him, mattered little to the redhead.
No. Ron had made his choice. He would give him his proof. Later.
"Alright, then," Harry said dejectedly. "If you don't believe me, then you don't believe me."
"Oh, come on! I know most of that is made up, but you can't tell me what happened?" Ron asked, oblivious to Harry's sadness.
"Go talk to Dumbledore for the real story," Harry muttered darkly, looking down at his dirty fingers, his fringe covering his unnoticeable fading scar.
Ron left without a word, eager to know what actually happened.
There was a silence in the room. He was sure Hermione could hear him breathing. He didn't notice when she stood up.
He did notice, however, when she shot towards him and clung to him in a hug, with so much force, he toppled backwards into the chair, that reclined for them both. She didn't let go; Harry tentatively put his unhurt am around her, desperately hoping that she wasn't thinking she was an uncomfortable weight.
She stared shaking, and Harry could feel the tears through his shirt. Harry had no idea how to deal with crying girls; he didn't even know why she was crying. So he rubbed her back awkwardly.
Was it because of him? Why, though? He was alright. Was it for Cedric? She didn't know him that well, they never even spoke. Was it because of…?
No. She couldn't have been thinking…? No!
"H-Hermione?" He stammered into her hair, "Do you… believe Ron?"
Hermione snapped her head up with such force that if it wasn't for his reflexes, she would have broken his jaw with the back of her head. "What?" She asked with ferocity. Her face, streaming with tears, her brown eyes staring at him with disbelief. Apparently that hadn't even entered her mind.
"Why are you crying? Did I do something wrong?" He had thought that she felt sorry for him, for what she thought he had done.
"Harry – NO, you didn't do anything wrong! What could have made you think that?"
"Well…" Harry muttered, distracted by how close they were, "you were crying, and I don't know why…"
She burrowed her head back into his chest and squeezed him tighter. She said something around the lines of 'not mad', 'sorry' and 'Ron's an idiot'.
Harry was confused, but stayed silent, relishing the tight, but somehow comfortable embrace.
As she rambled into his shirt, she mumbled a few more phrases that he was able to pick up from time to time; 'not your fault', 'so sorry', 'don't listen to Ron', and 'I believe you' were all common phrases. Harry's heart felt lighter. It was what she said last that really caught his attention.
'I could have lost you.'
Harry loosed his hold on her and lifted his head. "Funny," he muttered, "I thought the same thing about you."
Hermione seemed to stop crying and pulled back, so they could see each other. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "You mean when you were thinking that I might not believe you? You know I do, Harry. I always do. You've never lied to me before."
"Not that," Harry whispered, focusing on her eyes. "I was thinking that at the time, yeah, but I was also thinking about how I could have lost you."
Hermione made an eloquent "Huh?"
Harry sat up with Hermione and the chair reclined back with them.
"Hermione…" Harry started slowly, then stopped.
He had promised himself he would do this. He was going to do this.
He had lost one friend.
But he wasn't much of a friend to begin with.
What was the worst Hermione could do?
Like she could've done before.
She said she wouldn't leave him. He looked in her eyes, filled with such concern, and remembered back to the moment when he thought that he was never going to see Hermione again.
But if he did see her, he was going to tell her.
Damn it, he was not going to have two people call him a liar today.
"Hermione…" He started again, but continued, "…while I was up there… I thought I was going to die… and it made me think. A lot."
"You had an epiphany?" Hermione asked her friend, taking the silence Harry had given her to mentally compose herself.
Harry wasn't sure what that word was, but he nodded absently. And Harry started. For the next fifteen minutes, Harry told Hermione of everything that happened in greater detail, so Hermione never even needed to ask questions. He told her how it felt like his entire life flashed before his eyes, from his earliest memory of the Dursleys to the moment he was tied to the gravestone. He had talked about the only friends that remained by his side, which had recently dropped to three. Both chose to ignore that Hermione made herself more comfortable by sitting sideways on his lap, and steadied herself by looping her arms around his neck. He held her up by putting his un-bandaged arm around her waist.
"At first," Harry continued, "I thought that since Ron was my first friend, then he was my best friend. Apparently I was wrong. You were always the better friend. You were always my best friend."
"Th-thank you, Harry," Hermione said with a small sniffle and a hug, "that means a lot to me. You are my best friend, too. And my first."
Harry fumbled for a moment and looked down. "Thanks."
"You haven't finished telling me what you were thinking."
He looked up at her, and she could see the desperation and fear in his eyes that reached out to her. He whispered, in a broken voice, "Are you sure?"
She nodded resolutely. "Of course, only if you want to."
"No, I mean…" he took a deep breath. "I mean, are you sure you won't… leave me?"
Hermione, the entire time Harry had been telling her his inner turmoil, had been in full Hermione-mode. But when Harry finished talking, her brain instantly shut down. She didn't know what to say, what to make of what he said.
No, no, that was a lie. She knew what he said, but what did he mean? She opened her mouth to ask him, then closed it. Then, wordlessly, she leaned over and touched her lips to the corner of his mouth.
She leaned back, looking into his eyes. "Only if you want me to."
Harry couldn't really say what he felt at that moment. He didn't notice, though, that for the first time that day, he felt like smiling.
"Never," he promised, and hugged her to him. He didn't know what that kiss was supposed to mean, but he prayed to whatever gods that had gotten him out of that mess an hour ago was still here for him now.
He would tell her. He would summarize it for her.
"I… I love you, Hermione."
She leaned back once again, and Harry saw the silliest little smile on her face.
Faced with what she had determined as the most unbelievable truth she had heard all day, Hermione's grin couldn't be contained. Finally, she burrowed her head in Harry's neck and closed her eyes. The day was catching up to her – she had never been so emotional as she was today, ever since Harry walked into the maze so long ago. She couldn't trust herself to even speak. She risked the last of her energy into words, for him.
"I love you too, Harry. I truly, truly do…"
She fell asleep, hugging him tighter to her, refusing to ever let him go again.
With her very comforting presence and her not the least bit uncomfortable breath on his neck, Harry tilted back, and silently thanked the room for the pillow that appeared behind his head.
He had escaped death that day, and somehow found his way into heaven. That was the boy-who-lived-again's final thought as he drifted off to sleep.
Harry had never thought that this would ever happen to him. He had never thought that he would see the sun again. It was quite a relaxing sight. Especially through sunglasses. The sun gave him a calm that he didn't know he had. Or was it the girl that was next to him? He decided that it was both. He was doing something that he thought he would never do. Relax. No worries about Voldemort. No worries about rogue Death Eaters. No worries about convicted godfathers that he had to free. No deadly tasks to prepare for. No pesky little reporters buzzing up his and his girlfriend's lives. No more spies and arrogant teachers. And most importantly, no relatives that hated his very existence and proved it every day. All he had to worry about was the OWL's exams next year.
All was certainly well with the world.
He turned over to face her, while giving him a chance to get his side tanned.
"I thought you were asleep," she said to him. "You were motionless for a full minute. You have to move a little bit, otherwise you won't know when you get a sunburn."
"Sorry," he said sheepishly, grabbing her hand and moving his thumb in circles on the back of her hand. "Just thinking about all that's happened over the weeks."
Hermione smiled at her boyfriend. "It has been a nice change in both of our lives over the past weeks, hasn't it? Especially yours. I swear, it seemed that mum tried to compete with Mrs. Weasley in cooking you large meals and stuffing you."
"Well, your mum won," he said with a small smile.
Hermione's smile dropped. "So you're never going to forgive him?"
"He didn't believe me when I first told you and him," Harry said. "And when Dumbledore said it, he begged to be my friend again. I already forgave him once, I don't think I want to do it again. Besides," he squeezed her hand, "It's not like I can't live without him."
She nodded with a neutral face and looked back up into the sky. Harry had realized that Hermione didn't really care if he made up with Ron. In fact, she seemed happy, when she thought he wasn't looking. He knew that the only reason she considered Ron a friend because they were both Harry's friends, but he thought they had formed a small friendship by now.
It didn't matter now, though. Harry would never speak to Ron again, even though he and Hermione were still on speaking terms with the rest of the family. Thankfully, Ginny believed Harry and gave Ron a debut of her signature move – in the Great Hall – that everyone began to know and fear.
Harry took that moment to look at the lovely curves of his girlfriend in a bikini. However conservative it was, that white bikini was Harry's favorite. And tan lotion. Both combined were a powerful force. How could he have not noticed her beauty? Was it the heavy Hogwarts robes or was it blindness?
Hermione saw him looking at her and smiled at the sky.
"You don't know how to be subtle, Harry? You're drooling a little."
Harry gave a sheepish grin that made two points slowly appear on her top. Luckily, he didn't notice. "Sorry. If you had my view, you would understand."
Hermione blushed a little, but Harry couldn't tell because of her light tan. "Thank you, Harry."
As Harry turned on his back, still keeping his eyes on Hermione, he wondered what he had done to make the fates give him ultimate happiness. Harry still never knew how it happened that night, but was thankful that whatever went wrong did happen.
He amended his earlier thought. Apparently, life could get better. And it never got worse again, with Hermione by his side.