Work Header

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

Chapter Text

21 March 2002: Arusha, Tanzania

"God I hate these things," Ron said, tugging at the tight collar of his robes.

"Ron, stop fussing," Padma said.  "You'll pull it out of shape."

"And now you know why I never became an Auror," Harry said.  "It was bad enough right after the war, with the Ministry trotting me out at every opportunity, but Christ, for the rest of my life?  To be sent in every time there was some kind of need for a heroic symbol?  No thank you."

"That isn't why," Draco replied.  "You couldn't hack the training."

Arusha was just large and diverse enough, particularly with all its diplomats from other parts of East Africa, for the wizards of the area to settle without attracting too much notice.  It was in easy travel distance to both the Ukerewe Academy, on the shores of that great lake, and the port city of Dar Es Salaam.  Wizards from all over East Africa came to the school, as the local wizarding population had always ignored the Muggle—or really, colonial—borders as much as feasible.  The Ministry's annual spring fete on Ostara was the party of the diplomatic season. 

"Yes, thank you for reminding me, Draco.  Ministry training, much more physically stressful than being a professional athlete."  Harry rolled his eyes.

"I didn't mean physically," Draco replied.

"Too right," Ron said.

"Boys!" Padma said.

Hermione rolled her eyes.  "Honestly, just undo your trousers and get it over with."

"Ugh," Pansy said.  "Please don't."

"Oh no," Draco said.  "I know how you girls talk, and I know that you know full well who would win that particular contest."

"That's right," Ron said.

"Not you, Weasley," Draco said, nodding across the room.  "Him."

Pansy followed Draco's glance and saw Parvati Patil and Dean Thomas, walking toward them.  "There she is again," Pansy said.

"She has an assignment here," Padma said. "She said she was bringing Dean along but I didn't realize it was this week."

"She has an assignment every time," Pansy said.  Between her schedule and Parvati's she'd only seen seen her once, for lunch, since their Valentine's night and she still wasn't entirely sure what she thought about that.

"Fancy seeing you here," Parvati said.

"At this point you can't possibly be surprised," Pansy replied.

Parvati smiled slightly.  "I assure you, I do go abroad for modeling assignments and not run into you and your chum."

"And this time you have a chum of your own," Pansy said.

"She got me in on the cheap," Dean said, smiling.  "I've been taking pictures all day—a little less noticeable than sketching.  Besides, the light is amazing."

"Dean," Hermione said, "you should come with us tomorrow.  The Minister of Culture is giving us a private tour of the museum's collections, first thing in the morning before it opens.  You too, Parvati, if you're available."

"How'd you rank that?" Dean asked.

"How do you think?" Harry grumbled.

"Oh god," Dean said, then leaned in and whispered, "Is he here?"

"Of course he is," Ron replied.  "How do you think we got in?"

Dean's eyes narrowed.  "What are you lot doing here, come to think of it?" he asked.  "Draco and Pansy have been doing the circuit all year, but I've never known the rest of you—"

"We're here," Hermione said, "to ease the transition of this new era of Magical Cooperation.  I have a personal connection as you know, and Ron is here to lay the groundwork for a better relationship between his department and the local Aurors."

"And I'm here because I can't stay home without supervision," Harry added.

"Oh Harry," Hermione sighed.

"What?" Harry asked.  "It's the truth, and I'm not bitter over it.  I got a trip to Africa out of it, after all."

"At any rate," Pansy said, "would you like to accompany us tomorrow for our museum tour?"

Dean turned to Parvati, who said, "My call time isn't until the afternoon, so yes, I'd love to come along.  Thank you."

"Oh there he is," Ron said.

"Coming toward us?" Harry asked.

"Not yet, thank goodness," he replied.

"Be nice," Hermione said.  "You know how clannish you two can be."

Dean raised an eyebrow.  "You're calling them clannish?" he asked.

"Fine," she said, "all of us, but behave."

Pansy turned and saw a slender man in traditional African robes nodding to Hermione from across the room.  "Who is this?" Pansy asked.

"Hermione's ex-boyfriend Theodor," Draco said.  "Our official contact.  He doesn't like Ron or Harry because he thought they brought Hermione down from the academic heights she should have been scaling, so Ron and Harry very maturely don't like him back."

"Also," Dean muttered, "he has a truly impressive stick up his arse."

As the man approached Hermione was all smiles, unfortunate as she didn't have a particularly charming fake one.  "Theodor," she said, extending her hand.  "Lovely to see you again."

Theodor shook her hand.  "And you, Hermione."

"Thank you so much for all you've done for us," she said.

"Of course.  Anything in the name of international magical cooperation," he said, entirely unconvincingly.  "So what are you doing these days?"

Hermione cocked her head.  "I'm writing my thesis," she replied.

"Oh really?" he asked.  "I thought that might have been abandoned in the wake of, well, recent events."  He glanced at Harry.

"Not at all," Hermione said.  "Salem is an excellent place to research my topic—I'm still writing about the effect of first contact on indigenous magical traditions—and Draco's been kind enough to lend us a cottage in Maine."

"I see. And how is that research coming?"

"Very well, thank you," she replied.  "I'm writing now.  Harry's been a great help.  He does know his way around a library."

"It's good to have marketable skills," Harry said.  "I should use you as a reference."

"Yes, how are you, Harry?" Theodor said.  "Good to see you out and about."

Harry shook his hand.  "Good to be out and about, thank you," he replied.

"Will you be joining us on our mountain trek?" Theodor asked.

"I'm afraid I can't," Harry replied.  "But thank you for the invitation."

"Why not?" Theodor said, looking Harry up and down.  "You certainly look fit enough for it."

"Fitness isn't the issue," Harry replied.  "The ... mediwizards feel that it's a bit soon for me to be going into low-oxygen environments."

"Oh of course, of course," Theodor replied, smiling smugly.  "Wouldn't want to jeopardize your recovery."

"Thank you for understanding," Harry said dryly.

"Theodor," Hermione said, sounding eager to change the subject, "you remember Ron and Padma, and Dean, and Draco, and Parvati.  This is Draco's friend Pansy Parkinson."

He shook her hand.  "Welcome to Tanzania, Ms. Parkinson," he said.  "I hope you're enjoying your stay in our country."

She smiled.  "It's certainly been entertaining so far," she said.

The museum tour the next morning was fine as far as it went.  They all kept a sharp eye out for anything that resembled the Seal of Solomon, but it was Parvati who made a beeline for it, and she hadn't even known to look.  The art was beautiful, as well, and after having spent the better part of a year researching Hermione's thesis, Harry felt that he had a little more context for what he was seeing, a little more ability to understand magical traditions not his own. 

After lunch Harry was inclined to just go up to his room while the others went to the mountain.  They were renting a villa for the week; cheaper than a hotel and apparently the done thing among those who came into the city for the many Ostara parties, and the nice part was that they could move Dean and Parvati into it as soon as they heard they were in town.  He had a book and the villa had a fine view of the mountain, and he could have a quiet afternoon to himself; being around all these people after the relative isolation of Maine was making him a bit claustrophobic.

But Hermione said, "I know you, Harry Potter, and it does no good to brood."

"We could go for a walk about the city," Pansy suggested. 

"You're not going on the trek?" Harry asked.

"Please," she said.  "Parkinsons do not climb mountains."

"Neither do Malfoys," Draco said.

"Which is precisely why you're doing it," Pansy replied.

"Point," Draco admitted, nodding.

"You could come to the shoot, if you like," Parvati suggested.  "Lots of the models have entourages, and you both know how to stay out of the way."

Pansy turned to Harry.  "Would that interest you?" she asked.

Harry cocked his head.  "Yes, I'll definitely turn down an opportunity to watch a group of beautiful women getting their picture taken."

"Oh Harry," Hermione said.  "Honestly, Parvati isn't an object to be ogled."

"I am when I'm on the clock," Parvati replied.  "So is that a yes?" 

"Absolutely," Harry replied. 

Harry was in pretty good spirits when Theodor came to the villa to pick up the others; though he tried to get snotty again, Harry just smiled and nodded and was the bigger man.  Well, figuratively.  But at least Hermione wasn't scowling at him.

A car came to pick them up, and they were whisked off to the base of the mountain where Harry could see that lights and cameras and a few tents were already set up. Parvati arranged for seats for her guests that were out of the way but had a clear view of the shoot, then went off to the makeup trailer, leaving Harry and Pansy to their own devices. Harry squirmed in the canvas chair as he realized that he'd never actually been with Pansy when Draco wasn't there, and had no idea what to say to her. 

Pansy, as usual, looked entirely in her element, comfy in linen trousers with large sunglasses obscuring most of her face.  "I suppose a word of thanks is in order," she said.

Harry blinked.  "For what, exactly?"

"For letting Draco bring me in on this," she replied.  "I know it was nearly four years ago now, but I never had the opportunity to thank you for going along with him.  Having this job," she paused, taking a sip of water from the bottle in her lap.  "It's meant a great deal to me."

Harry shrugged.  "It was a good idea," he said.  "Anyway, my opinion didn't mean that much. You underestimate Draco's influence."

"And you underestimate your own," Pansy replied, "which is typical Gryffindor behavior, I know, but you needn't be so reflexive about it." 

"I'm just a boy whose mother loved him."

"A very powerful boy, you mean."  Pansy turned to him.  "What's it like?"

"What's what like?"

"The power."

Harry raised an eyebrow.  "Honestly?"


Parvati was standing near the wardrobe tent, her hair in some sort of styling contraption on top of her head.  "It's kind of like Parvati," he said.  "She doesn't have anything to do with how beautiful she is.  That's genes, mostly.  But what she does with it, keeping herself in shape and knowing how to work with the camera and with the other people here, that part is her.  So the power, that isn't me, but what I do with it is."

"You sound like the old man," Pansy said, shaking her head.

"Dumbledore had his faults," Harry replied, mildly; by now he was used to the dismissive name Slytherins used for his mentor.  "But he was right about most things.  Besides, he knew what it was like, first-hand."

"So that's it?" she asked.  "Great responsibility?  No fun?"

"Maybe a little too much fun at one point," Harry said.  "And there's the hum, but I've always had that."

"The hum?"

"Yeah, under my skin.  It gets stronger around certain objects; I can feel it the power coming off them in waves.  I didn't even realize it until I found out no one else felt it.  Well, Parvati does sometimes; she did today."

"I heard you two whispering about that," Pansy said.  "So she's powerful, too?"

"No," Harry said.  "But Snape said she's the most sensitive divination student Trelawney has ever seen."

"Huh," Pansy replied.  "You know she's been turning up whenever we've gone out to make a connection."

"Yeah, I was wondering about that," Harry said, "and after being in that museum with her today, I think it's the objects.  She went right to the ring, did you notice?  I think it attracted her, somehow."

"You mean, she's interested in them?" Pansy asked.

"No," Harry said.  "The objects are actually pulling her to these places.  Magic does that, sometimes, when one is open to it."

"So for some reason, she needs to be nearby when we get the object."

"I think so," Harry said.  "But I don't know why."

"Shouldn't we ask her?"

"I don't think she'd know," Harry said.  "Dumbledore always said that divination was unconscious, and that one shouldn't allow anything to get in its way, including the diviner.  He never told Trelawney about her own prophecy; Snape did, later.  But I don't know.  That might be one of the things he got wrong."

"I vote for telling her," Pansy said firmly.  "That is, if I do have a vote.  Keeping her in the dark sounds old-fashioned and sexist and all sorts of prejudiced.  She's a diviner, not a child."

Harry smiled.  "I'm sure she'd be pleased to hear you defending her," he said, and resisted the urge to wink.

Pansy looked self-conscious anyway.  "What?" she asked.

"You probably should know, if you hadn't guessed, that this is a close-knit group," he said.  "Parvati told Dean, Dean told Seamus, Seamus told Hermione, Hermione told me, I told Ron, Ron probably talked to Padma, who I would guess said something to Ginny, who was then likely annoyed with Draco for not telling her, assuming that you told him about it yourself."

"Parvati told you what?" Pansy asked.

"Told us about your evening with her on Valentine's Day," Harry said.  "It's like a bush telegraph, only faster."

Pansy scowled.  "You're a lot of gossips, is what you're saying, then?"

"Basically," Harry replied.  "You'll get used to it.  Or not."

"And does everyone know what I'm actually doing out here?" she asked.  "Parvati doesn't."

"Neither do Dean or Seamus," he said, "though really, I wonder if we shouldn't tell them.  I know it's supposed to be all secrets but, well, not to put too fine a point on it, I used to be much more secretive and I don't think it always led me to the best decisions."

"That's a very enlightened observation," Pansy said, cocking her head.

"Ten months of intensive therapy will do that to a man," Harry replied.

Parvati walked over to them then, having finished with hair and makeup. Her skin was coated with some kind of oil to make it gleam in the sunlight, and her hair was straight and shiny as well, and floated in the breeze like a flag. She wore what looked to Harry like a leotard with a belt and a skirt made of ribbons with shoes that should have been impossible to walk in, but Parvati was striding toward them across the uneven ground as though she were wearing trainers.

"Well, Harry, what do you think?" she asked.

"Is that all of it?"

Parvati looked down. "A top and a skirt isn't enough?"

"I think it's quite nice," Pansy said, "though I dread these shredded skirts hitting the streets in London."

"Really?" Harry asked. "I don't."

"Don't get too excited," Parvati said. "Most women will wear this with tights and boots, not bare legs and four-inch heels."

Harry shrugged. "Sometimes it's what you don't see," he said.

Pansy shook her head. "Say, Parvati, will you have some free nights, when we're back in London?"

"Sure," Parvati said, nodding. "My next travel assignment isn't for a week or so. Why?"

"Oh, I just thought we might get dinner."

Parvati smiled. "I'd like that."

"Great," Pansy replied.

A young man came running up. "Parvati, we're ready for you now," he said.

"Right, well," Parvati said, "I'll talk to you in a bit."

They watched her walk away, and after a moment, Pansy said, "We can just announce that at dinner tonight."

"Announce what?" Harry asked.

"You know, that I asked Parvati on another date," she said primly. "I could also send a note to Ginny and Seamus, as they aren't here with us. That way you'll all know at the same time."

Harry started to laugh. "And rob me of the triumph of knowing before everyone else? I don't think so."

"You know, Harry, there is a difference between being a secret agent and being a gossip."

"Not one I've noticed," Harry replied.


Strange how Seamus had been back in London for less than a year and already Dean's being away for a few days felt wrong.  There just weren't that many things that he couldn't do when Dean was around.  He already lounged around the flat nude as often as he wanted and the neighbors would become angry if he played music too loud anyway.  Really, even though they lived together, they had strange enough schedules that they each had alone time as it was, so now all Seamus felt was the loss of a large, warm, solid body wrapped around him as he went to sleep.  Pillows were no substitute.

Cooking for himself was a drag, so he was pleased that Ginny had invited herself over for dinner since Draco was out of town as well.  Odd, that; Parvati had been saying that she kept running into Pansy while she was out on her modeling assignments and now Dean would see it first-hand.  Ginny brought one of her excellent pies, which Seamus was glad of as he was shit at baking, and they stood in the kitchen talking and drinking wine as Seamus whipped up a simple pasta and salad dinner.

"Things are still good?" Ginny was asking.  "With Dean, I mean?"

Seamus grinned.  "Yeah.  Went to dinner with some friends of his just before he left on his trip and managed not to cringe all night or pout when we got home even though he did use the word 'darling' three times in five minutes.  I am inordinately proud of myself."

"As well you should be," she replied.

"And you?" Seamus asked.  "Ready to be the mistress of Malfoy Manor now?"

"Well, not right now.  But it is a nice house." She ran a finger along the countertop.  "I suppose I could bake pies there."

"Draco's Aunt Andromeda talks about pies on the wireless," Seamus pointed out.

"She's a black sheep."

"And Draco isn't?"

Ginny cocked her head.  "I suppose with his father not around I don't think about it that way, but you're right."

"Anyway I expect that if you start baking pies at Malfoy Manor it will become fashionable," Seamus said.  "That's how it was at school."

"School isn't wizarding society," Ginny said, "and baking pies isn't the same as some silly mania for fish necklaces."

Seamus smiled.  "Not so different," he said, noticing that she still wore the necklace that Draco had given her years ago.

"Well, I'm thinking about it," she said, in a tone that meant the subject was closed.  She paused, then asked, "St. Mungo's?"

"Still exists, which is a miracle, according to Dean," Seamus said.  He pulled out a strand of tagliatelle and broke it in two, handing half to Ginny.  "Done?"

"Yeah," Ginny said, nodding.

Seamus drained the pasta into the sink.  "So I've been thinking about private practice," he said.  "Keeping people well instead of just seeing them when they're sick.  I like the idea of having regular patients."

"I'm sure you'd do well," she said.  "What sort of practice?"

"Well," he replied, as he stirred the pasta into the simmering sauce, "Adams is getting on in years."

Ginny raised her eyebrows at the name of the mediwizard they'd all gone to when they were young.  "Children?  Really?"

"Why not?" he asked.  "Start good habits early, help out Pomfrey when she needs it, and I'm certain I can give a better sex lecture than Adams did."

"Ugh," she said, rolling her eyes.  "That was torture."

"I'm going to ghost him for a few weeks, see how it goes," he said, shrugging.  "I've just—with the war and all, I've done enough trauma care to last a lifetime.  I need to walk away before I burn out."

"You sound like Harry.  Or Padma."


"Oh, you know, the songs for children."

"Oh, right," Seamus said, nodding.  "Well, we'll see.  And you?  What did your editor say about your proposal?"  He dished up pasta for himself and Ginny, and brought them over to the table, Ginny following with the salad.

"I'm to give her some articles, on spec," she replied, "which means travel.  Can't write a travel article about Diagon Alley."

"Ooh, where will you go?"

Ginny pushed her shoulders back a bit.  "I'm going to ask Draco to take me to the May Day party in Sweden."

"Really?" Seamus said, raising an eyebrow.

"What?" she asked.

"Well, not five minutes ago you were doubting your ability to bake pies in Malfoy Manor, as if it were some crime against the class structure, and now you're going to one of those high society circuit parties?  Talk about going into the belly of the beast."

"Huh," Ginny said.  "I wasn't actually thinking about it that way; I was thinking oh, I can go away to this party with Draco and get a good article out of it.  You know, anthropological."

"Like that time you and Parvati and Padma tried out for that girl group?"

"Exactly!" Ginny said.  "And I'm going to ask Parvati to make me a dress."

"Well, a new dress, any excuse for that," Seamus said, winking.

Ginny laughed and they were silent for a bit after that, eating.  "This is very good, Seamus," she said.

"Thanks," he replied.  "It's the pasta water in the sauce that does it."

"You know," she said thoughtfully, "Harry killed the basilisk by shoving the sword of Gryffindor down its throat."

Seamus blinked at the non sequitur, then tracked their conversation back in his head and realized she was talking about the May Day party.  "Are you the sword in this scenario?" he asked.

"No, I'm Harry," she said.  "But maybe the dress is the sword." 

Padma sat out on the patio of the villa, staring up at the mountain she'd been at the top of only that afternoon.  It was the first time so many of them had been in the same place at the same time and it was less awkward than she'd feared.  When she found out Harry would be in Africa she insisted Ron bring her along, as he and Harry hadn't been together much at all since Harry had been in recovery and while Ron trusted him (and always had), Padma didn't, quite.

Harry, though, was open and honest and self-deprecating, almost the opposite of the way he'd been just after the war.  Hermione had said he was back to who he'd been at school, but Padma couldn't imagine that, since he'd been so driven by revenge and destiny.  She was glad she'd come and seen for herself that he'd made himself into something else, maybe something closer to the boy he might have been had he not been so busy being the Boy Who Lived.

And then, as if summoned by her thoughts, Harry sat down next to her and said, "You really should tell him, you know."  He, too, had his eyes on the mountain.

"Tell him what?" Padma asked, though she knew full well what he was talking about.

"About our lunch," Harry said.  "It's going to come out, and sooner rather than later."

"What makes you say that?"

"Ginny," Harry said.  "Apparently some accolyte of Rita Skeeter is working on an unauthorized bio.  Shouldn't take too much investigation to find out that you were the mysterious woman I was having lunch with a few days before I was carted off to McCormack last spring.  You know, when I threw the chair into the koi pond."

"Ah, yes," Padma said.

"I behaved badly," Harry said.  "You were entirely right, of course.  I'm sorry."

"You've already apologized for the things you did."

"Not for that day, because we haven't been alone, and no one else knows."  Harry turned then, as did Padma, and she saw that old determined look in his eye.

"All right," she said.  "I will."

"Good," Harry said.

Padma smiled at him.  "It's good to have you back, Harry."

"Thanks," he replied.  "It's good to be back."

She took his hand and they sat there together, looking up at the mountain.

A bit later—Padma wasn't sure how long—Ron came out onto the patio, Hermione with him.  "There you two are," he said.  "Trying to steal my girl, are you?"

"Always," Harry said.  "Never."

Before Padma knew it, the words were spilling out of her mouth.  "I need to tell you something, Ron."

She could see Harry staring at her, surprised, out of the corner of her eye.  Ron looked unfazed.  "You aren't pregnant, are you?" he asked.  "Not that you'd be showing much on the wedding day but your mother—"

"I'm not pregnant," she said. 

"Right, well," Ron said, sitting down opposite her.  "What is it, then?"

"Well," she said, and paused, not sure how to start. 

Harry squeezed her hand, and she turned to him and he smiled, just a little, and nodded.

"You know that ruckus Harry raised at the restaurant, just before the intervention?"

"I remember," Ron said.  "You pushed a table into a lake or something?"

"Chair into a koi pond," Harry said.  "It was a sushi restaurant."

"Ah.  Right, so what of it?"

"He was at lunch with me," she said.

"Really? Why?  I mean, not that you couldn't have lunch with Harry if you wanted to, but you weren't exactly his biggest fan at that time."

"No," she said.  "I wasn't.  That's why I asked him to have lunch."

"What do you mean?"

Padma sat up a bit straighter.  "I told him to stay away from you."

"You did what?" Ron asked, standing up.

"After the incident with the airplane—really, having to obliviate over a hundred passengers, you thought you could keep his name out of that entirely?"

"I did a good job of it!" Ron insisted.

"Yes, but at what cost to you?"

"I was getting along just fine, thank you."

"No you weren't," Padma said, and stood up, letting go of Harry's hand.  "You were distracted, only half there most of the time."

"And you couldn't come to me with this?"

"I did!" Padma shouted.  "I did, and you said there was nothing to worry about.  And I knew that I couldn't ask you to stop helping him.  He's your friend.  So I asked him to be a friend to you, and stop asking you to cover up his mistakes."

"You didn't think I could have done that?"

"You could have," Padma said, "but you never would have."

Ron started pacing.  Padma glanced at the doorway and saw all their other friends had made their way onto the patio, probably had come out once the shouting had started.  Well, it wasn't as though she had secrets from any of them, anyway.

"What did you say to him?" Ron asked.

"I told him that I'd played Quidditch at one time, too, and I knew what he was doing," she said.  "And that if he wanted to be your friend, he needed to keep it away from you, and stop taking advantage."

"And you, Harry?"

"Oh, I denied it," Harry said.  "And then I got defensive.  And then I tried to convince her that I hadn't been doing anything at all.  But she just sat there, implacable, and told me to stay away from you.  So I got angry and threw the chair into the pond and stormed out.  Not my … best moment, I confess."

"Implacable, eh?" Ron asked.

"I was fighting for you," Padma said.  "I had to be.  But it was all for nothing, anyway."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Harry said.  "After I calmed down, I realized you were right and resolved to keep Ron out of it.  Not sure that would have lasted long—not many of my resolutions did, those days—but it did have an effect on me."

"You didn't think about quitting?" Ron asked.

"I had tried before, for someone else," Harry said, "and it didn't stick.  So no.  I didn't think I was capable of that."  He paused, then went on, "Besides, that little episode led to the Witch Weekly piece which led to Ginny sounding the alarm and Draco organizing the intervention and my being sent to McCormack and getting myself together.  So you could say that Padma asking me to lunch that day led me to quit, after all."

Ron nodded, then turned to Padma.  "I wish you'd told me."

"I know.  I'm sorry," she said.  "I just—it seemed like it was all for naught, and it was only a week later that he was in hospital anyway.  But I should have told you, at least after he went in.  Or after you started your meetings.  I just didn't know how."

"So why now?"

"Harry thought I should, and I agreed."

"I'm not as interested in keeping secrets as I used to be," Harry said.  "I think I got a little too used to being secretive.  I'm better about that now."

Ron let out a long breath, then looked up at Padma.  "Come here," he said, and pulled her into his arms.  "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too," she said, and lay her head on his shoulder.

"All right?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said.  "Yeah, I'm all right."

"Good," Ron said, pulling back slightly.  "Because my comedy program starts on the wireless in, oh, twenty minutes?  And I think we could all use a laugh."

Padma giggled, wiping her eyes.  "I think so, too," she said, and she and the others followed Ron back inside the villa.

Hermione touched Harry's arm before he went through the door.  "Yes?" he asked.

"Are you all right?" she asked.  "It's been a stressful day."

"I'm okay, thanks," Harry said.  "Well, I'm actually a little shaky, but I'll be fine.  Looking forward to my visit to the local rehab center tomorrow a little bit more now, I'll admit.  I was supposed to encourage them but I'm pretty sure they'll end up helping me more."

"Good, I'm glad you're going," Hermione said, smiling.  "So, can I ask you a question?"

Harry cocked his head.  "When did I try to quit, before?"


"After the Euro Cup," Harry said.  "I had this lovely afternoon with an old friend, and I thought maybe if I quit, I could convince her to have some more of those lovely afternoons.  But I couldn't do it, even for her.  And after that I stopped trying."  He put his hand over hers.  "Is that what you wanted to know?"

"It's the truth," Hermione said.  "I always want to know the truth."