After the excitement of the evening had finally ended and after Harry and Hermione had told the story of their extraordinary adventure to Ron, the hospital wing became quiet for the night. Harry was just about to fall asleep when he heard a whisper from Hermione.
“Harry?” she said so softly that he could barely discern the sound above Ron’s snoring from the other side of the room.
“Yeah,” he whispered in reply. “What is it?”
“There’s something I still can’t quite puzzle out about tonight,” she said.
“Only one thing?” Harry chuckled, still amazed he had just spent several hours literally traveling back in time.
“It’s just…” Hermione paused. “Well, before the Dementors came back again, you had told me that you were unable to conjure a Patronus the first time. You and I both were desperately trying when we were with Sirius, and you said that you had been thinking of happy memories, but it just wasn’t enough. Yet then, the second time, you were able to conjure an extremely powerful Patronus. I just don’t understand how…” Her voice trailed off: she appeared lost in thought.
“As I said, I figured out that I had done it before, so I knew that I could—”
“But still, to drive back a hundred Dementors—Harry, it’s very, very advanced magic.”
“You said that before.”
“I know, but it’s true.”
“Well,” he said matter-of-factly, “I knew if I didn’t, you and I and Sirius wouldn’t make it—”
“I get that,” she interrupted. “But you still would need to summon something powerful inside you, draw on a positive memory or thought.”
A few moments passed. “The first time,” he started to explain, “I couldn’t help when the Dementors brought out the bad feelings in me. I kept trying to think that I might be able to get away from the Dursleys and live with Sirius or something, but the negative thoughts kept coming back and overwhelming me.” They lay in silence for several seconds while Harry contemplated how much he wanted to say—whether he was ready to tell Hermione the truth. “My parents are gone,” he eventually added, “and I’m never going to get them back, and one of the last sensations I experienced was my mother screaming…” Harry closed his eyes, blinking back the water that he felt pooling in them. He couldn’t say this aloud; he wasn’t ready to talk...
Hermione must have sensed Harry’s distress, as she turned on her side, staring intently at him in concern. “Is that why you thought you saw your dad? Is that part of the memory you used?”
Harry shook his head. “No, I… I don’t really remember them at all. Not consciously, anyway. I don’t even…” he hesitated. “I don’t even remember anyone ever caring about me, ever… hugging me.”
“When you say ever…”
He let out a long breath. “The Dursleys never did, not that I remember. But during our first year at Hogwarts, after you solved the potions riddle, and you…” Harry closed his eyes again, reliving those sensations when Hermione had suddenly and unexpectedly thrown her arms around him, making him feel truly loved. It had been overwhelming and embarrassing and confusing, but now… “It was the first time,” he went on, “the first memory of someone…” His voiced cracked, and he took another deep breath to calm himself. He felt profoundly embarrassed to admit such a ridiculous thing: that no one had ever really cared about him—certainly not in a demonstrative physical way—in his life before. He didn’t know if he could say more.
But he didn’t need to. Hermione’s hand had gone to her mouth, after he heard her gasp. “Oh god,” she muttered, seeming to come to full understanding of Harry’s words. He couldn’t stand her pity and turned on his side in his bed, away from her, now wanting to hide from the girl whose affection had been the key to saving all of their lives that night.
Only a few seconds went by before he heard the rustling of sheets, then Hermione moving behind him, coming to the side of his bed. She pulled back the blankets.
He turned his head half around. “Hermione? What are you…?” But she had already crawled in beside him, wrapping the blankets tightly around them both.
“Shh…” she murmured, as Harry felt her cuddle up behind him. “We don’t want to draw Madam Pomfrey’s attention,” she whispered in Harry’s ear, her breath warm and soothing, quelling a little anxiety concerning the fact that his best friend was now sharing his bed. But when Hermione put her arm around him and for a few seconds held him almost as tightly as she had while they rode Buckbeak just a little while before, Harry closed his eyes and began to relax in her embrace.
They lay there for several minutes, the silence only broken by a couple contented sighs from Hermione as she seemed to snuggle even closer, before she finally took his hand in hers, threading their fingers together while they began to drift off to sleep. Just as slumber overwhelmed him, Harry’s last thought was that now he’d certainly never have to struggle to conjure a Patronus again.