After his ill-fated trip to the Department of Mysteries that led to the death of his godfather, Harry Potter decides he must take control of his own life. But if a certain Gryffindor know-it-all ha...
No More Mysteries
Chapter 2: All Aboard
Harry Potter had boarded the train that would bring him back from Hogwarts many times. Most of the times he'd made this trip in the past, he'd done so with reluctance and sadness, as he would much rather have stayed in the castle with his friends than go back to the wretched existence waiting for him at 4 Privet Drive.
This time, he didn't mind leaving Hogwarts behind. He had some serious thinking to do. Plus, if he could figure out a way to get the Dursleys to go along with their plan, he and Hermione would finally have the chance to pick up where they'd left off in the hospital wing.
Harry, who had been silently thinking ahead to what promised to be avery eventful summer, was brought out of his musings by a tug on his sleeve. He turned to look at Hermione, who was looking at him expectantly, waiting for him to stop daydreaming. Once she saw that she had Harry's attention, Hermione spoke.
“Ron and I have a prefect meeting to go to. We'll catch up with you later, Harry,” Hermione said.
“Sure,” Harry agreed, “I'll see you both in a bit. Later, mate,” he said to Ron, who nodded back at him as he followed Hermione.
The two prefects moved away from their friend, but not before Hermione turned back around and gave Harry a brief, worried smile. Harry returned the smile, knowing that Hermione had been deeply concerned about him since their talk in the hospital wing a few days earlier. The simple fact that Hermione knew about at least some of the things that were currently running through his mind made Harry feel lighter, somehow. At least he had someone in his corner, who he knew he could trust to help him.
With that thought in mind, he had no problem giving Hermione agenuine smile, a smile that told her not to worry, that he'd be fine for the time being. Hermione's smile widened, and Harry could see the relief on her face. With a final nod in Harry's direction, Hermione turned back around and resumed her walk. She was oblivious to the confused look on the face of Ron, who had seen the silent exchange between his two best friends. Ron looked back and forth between the two, trying to figure out what had just happened. After a few seconds, he gave up, shrugging his shoulders and following after Hermione.
After watching his friends head off to deal with their prefect business, Harry made his way through the train. He ignored the now-familiar stares and whispered conversations that followed him wherever he went, and focused instead on finding an open compartment.
A group of giggling younger girls (Harry guessed that they were probably 2nd or 3rd years) invited him to join them in their compartment, but Harry declined as politely as he could manage. He had no interest in spending the entire train ride surrounded by a group of 'Boy-Who-Lived' admirers.
“Harry! Harry, in here!”
Recognizing that voice, Harry turned his head. He saw Ginny, sitting in an open compartment with Neville and Luna. The redhead waved her arm, motioning for Harry to join them.
“Hello, Harry,” Neville said as Harry sat down beside him.
“Hi, Neville,” Harry responded.
Harry exchanged pleasantries with all three of his friends, but the conversation soon turned to topics of far greater significance than the end of year exams and summer vacation plans.
“So, Harry...how are you doing?” Ginny asked hesitantly.
Harry didn't need to ask what she meant. All four of them knew exactly what she was really asking: how was he coping with the death of his godfather?
“I'm...well, it's hard, obviously. I didn't have the chance to get to know him nearly as well as I wanted to, but he was still the closest thing I've ever had to a father, or a family.”
“You know my father would do whatever he could to help you, right? Any of us Weasleys would...well, aside from that git Percy, maybe,” Ginny said earnestly.
“Of course I do. Your family has been great to me, and I'll always be grateful to all of you,” Harry reassured her, “but it was just...different, somehow, with Sirius. He was the person that my parents chose to raise me if something happened to them. He was like a link to my parents, and now he's gone.”
“He's not gone forever, Harry. You'll see him again someday. And you'll see your parents as well, of course,” Luna said serenely.
“I hope you're right, Luna,” Harry responded, a sad smile on his face.
“How's Hermione? Is her wound fully healed?” Neville asked, in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Neville might have had good intentions in changing the subject, but this was a topic that was no more comfortable for Harry. He looked down at his feet and frowned.
“Pomfrey cleared her, and Hermione says she feels just fine. But I know she's lying,” Harry said tensely.
“You don't think it's more serious than she let on, do you?” Ginny asked worriedly.
“Not really,” Harry said, shaking his head, “but she's still in some pain. I can tell.”
“I'm sure it'll go away soon,” Neville said reassuringly. “She'll be just fine, just like the rest of us.”
Neville had just touched on something else that had been bothering Harry: his guilt over foolishly leading all five of his friends into what had been a near-death situation.
“About that...listen, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have led you guys into that situation. I should have known that...”
“Harry, stop,” Ginny interrupted, waving him off. “None of us regret going with you, and none of us blame you for what happened.”
“But...” Harry tried to protest.
“No, Harry,” Ginny insisted, “I'm not going to let you blame yourself for my ankle, Neville's nose, Hermione's chest, or anything else. You're always saving people, helping people. You needed help from someone else for a change, and the five of us did whatever we could for you. I don't regret that. I don't regret going with you, and I don't regret standing beside you and fighting back.”
“She's right, Harry,” Neville added. “None of us blame you. You thought your godfather's life was in danger. There was no way we were going to let you run off to save him all by yourself. Besides, you didn't ask us to come along; we chose to come.”
“I agree; you are blameless, Harry,” Luna said. “We wished to help you, just as you always help others. We knew it would be dangerous, but we went with you anyway.”
“Still, I shouldn't have let you come, no matter how much you argued,” Harry objected.
“We'd have just followed right behind you, Harry,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “Get this through your head, Potter: it wasn't your fault. You were tricked, by one of the most powerful wizards of all time. I know something about that, remember? I can hardly blame you for making that mistake, can I?”
Harry nodded slowly, accepting that Ginny could offer a unique perspective. As she had reminded him over the Christmas break, she knew all about Voldemort and how devious he could be. But she wasn't done just yet.
“Besides, Harry...how do you think that night would have gone without us there? Or even if the three of us hadn't come, and you'd had just Ron and Hermione with you? With the six of us, we were lucky that our injuries weren't much worse. Would you have been able to hold on until the Order arrived, just the three of you? If you ask me, it's a good thing you didn't have to find out.”
Harry looked around the compartment at all three of his newest friends, trying to decide if they really they did not hold their brush with injury, or even death, against him. Seeing nothing that would suggest otherwise, Harry relaxed slightly.
“Thanks, guys,” Harry began. “I can't help feeling a bit guilty, but I'm glad that the three of you aren't angry with me. After what we went through together this year, I think of all three of you as friends now. Merlin knows, I can't afford to lose too many of those. I don't have very many as it is.”
“I'm sure loads of people would love to be friends with the Boy-Who-Lived,” Neville said with a teasing smile on his face.
“Probably,” Harry agreed, returning the smile, “but those aren't real friends. Not like you guys.”
With that, the mood lightened considerably. The four of them chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, until they were eventually joined by Ron and Hermione. Ron went to sit beside his sister, joining her and Luna on one side, while Hermione sat down next to Harry on the other side.
“How was the meeting?” Harry asked, once Hermione had settled in.
“It was fine,” Hermione responded. “Malfoy was even more insufferable than usual, but other than that, there was nothing worth mentioning.”
“I guess that makes sense about Malfoy,” Harry said. “He's obviously heard about the fight in the Department of Mysteries, and he knows that daddy dearest is off to Azkaban. It's only natural that he'd be an even bigger git than usual.”
“Maybe his daddy being locked up will knock that arrogant plonker down a peg or two,” Ron said, smirking at the thought.
“It'll probably just make him angry, actually,” Hermione speculated. “Especially with Harry. I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to retaliate at some point.”
“Let him try,” Harry said.
“Don't antagonize him, Harry,” Hermione warned. “You have enough to deal with.”
“Don't worry, Hermione. I'm not going to seek him out. But if the git tries to avenge his dad by coming after me, or any of you, I'm not going to back down.”
Hermione still didn't look completely satisfied with Harry's answer, but she let the matter drop for the time being. For the next several minutes, the“Ministry Six”, as they'd been dubbed by The Daily Prophet, chatted about various things, including the DA, Umbridge, and their battle with Voldemort's Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. As they were talking about what the Ministry's next step might be now that Voldemort's return had finally been acknowledged, they were interrupted by a knock on the compartment door.
The door opened to reveal Dean Thomas, a Gryffindor boy in Harry's year that had shared a dorm with he and Ron all five years at Hogwarts.
But Dean wasn't there to speak with either of his dorm mates. He had eyes only for Ginny.
“Hey, Ginny. Ready for summer?” Dean asked, a playful smile on his face.
“Of course,” Ginny answered, smiling right back at him. “Sorry, Dean, but there's not really any more room in this compartment.”
“Oh, that's OK. Seamus and I already found a compartment, actually. I just wanted to say goodbye now, because I didn't know if I'd have time later.”
“That's sweet,” Ginny said, smiling even wider now.
“Well, I guess I'll be going back to my compartment, then. I'll write soon, Ginny,” Dean said.
“You better,” Ginny said, smirking. “Have a great summer, Dean. Talk to you soon.”
“Talk to you soon,” Dean echoed with a smile. “Bye, everyone.”
And with that, Dean left as quickly as he'd arrived, shutting the compartment door behind him.
“What was all that about?” Ron asked suspiciously.
Ginny turned her head to fix her older brother with a threatening glare before she responded to him.
“Dean and I are dating now,” she said, her tone warning him not to make a fuss.
Ron's face turned red, and his eyes narrowed to slits. Clearly, he objected to this bit of news. However, his fear of his sister's bat bogey hex was enough to keep him quiet.
“I thought you were seeing Michael Corner,” Harry asked, confused.
“I was. We broke up,” Ginny replied, simply.
“I'm sorry...” Harry began, but Ginny cut him off.
“Don't be. It wasn't going anywhere, and besides, I think he fancies Cho Chang.”
“Well...that's good, then . As for Dean: I don't know him that well, but he's always seemed a decent bloke. He should treat you right. And if he doesn't, well, he'll hear about it from me,” Harry said, smiling at Ginny.
“Great. Another overprotective “brother.” Just what I needed,” Ginny said in response, though the smile on her face made it obvious that she wasn't truly upset with Harry.
Ron grumbled and muttered under his breath, still displeased with the latest development in his sister's love life. But fortunately for both he and his nostrils, he had the sense to keep his objections to himself.
Harry, meanwhile, silently marvelled at how much closer he felt to the youngest Weasley after the events of his 5th year. Until this year, she'd hardly been able to form a sentence in his presence without blushing as red as a tomato, stuttering, stammering, and just making him feel very uncomfortable and awkward in general. But she'd evidently put that schoolgirl crush behind her, and he now felt like he finally knew her as her own person. He thought of her as Ginny, his friend, rather than Ginny, Ron's younger sister. Now that she could carry on a regular conversation with him, he'd gotten to know her: her personality, her bravery, her sense of humour. He considered her a true friend.
The same could be said for Neville and Luna. He and Neville had been mere acquaintances before this year, and he'd never even been properly introduced to Luna. But after everything that they had gone through together that year, first in the DA and their defiance of Umbridge, and then in the Department of Mysteries, he genuinely trusted them and counted them among his very small circle of friends.
If he did make the decision to drop out of or transfer from Hogwarts, he would certainly miss his three new friends. Perhaps not as much as Ron or Hermione, but still...
Could he really walk away from Hogwarts? Away from the only people he'd ever really thought of as friends, and the only place he'd found any sort of happiness? Even if the school was less safe than he'd been led to believe, and even if he'd lost faith in Dumbledore, could he actually leave all of this behind?
Harry wasn't sure of the answer. But he was hopeful that, once he'd had the chance to go over all of his grievances and concerns with Hermione, she'd be able to help him find it.
In spite of everything he'd been through over the past year, and the past week or so in particular, Harry found this train ride back quite relaxing. The friendly banter and idle chatter between he and the five friends who had gone with him to the Ministry allowed him to forget about all of his troubles, for a little while at least.
Eventually, though, the trip was at an end. All six students gathered their things, exited the compartment, and started towards the exit of the train. Harry lagged behind the rest of his friends, as he was in no hurry to depart the train and make it to his“reunion” with the Dursleys. Many students tried to talk to Harry or get his attention as he walked past them, but he ignored them all, making straight for the exit without stopping, his head down.
Because Harry's head was down, he did not see the arm reaching for his shoulder, nor the face of the person it belonged to.
Harry, startled, shook free of the hand on his shoulder and spun around, his wand out in a flash as he prepared to defend himself. He found himself looking into the wide, terrified eyes of his former girlfriend, Cho Chang.
It took a moment for Harry to recognize the familiar face, but once he did, he abruptly lowered his wand and tried to calm himself down. He took several deep, calming breaths before he returned his attention to Cho, who still looked somewhat frightened.
“Sorry about that, Cho. I've just been a little tense lately, and you caught me by surprise,” Harry said apologetically, his breathing still slightly heavy.
“That's OK, Harry. After everything you've been through, it's understandable. I'm sorry I snuck up on you like that,” Cho said in understanding, though Harry could tell she was still unnerved by how he'd reacted.
“Anyway, was there something you wanted, Cho?” Harry asked, assuming she must have had some reason for seeking his attention.
“Yes, there was, Harry. I wanted to say I'm sorry for how things ended between us, with, you know, Marietta and all. I know we had our problems, but I hope we can still at least be friends?”
“Sure, Cho, yeah,” Harry agreed.
If he and Cho were to be “friends”, Harry had no earthly idea what they'd talk about beyond Quidditch, but he wasn't about to say that out loud.
“Good. Thanks, Harry,” Cho said, beaming at him.
Somehow, Cho's wide smile didn't have quite the effect on Harry that it would have months earlier. He still thought she was very pretty, to be sure. But there was just something...missing. He didn't feel the same attraction, the same pull, that he'd felt towards her before.
Glancing ahead, and seeing Hermione waiting for him near the door, Harry decided it was time to wrap this conversation up.
“Well, I guess I'd better get going. Have a nice summer, Cho,” Harry said.
“You too, Harry. Have a nice summer. And stay safe,” she added, giving him a peck on the cheek before he left.
Harry barely reacted to the kiss, merely smiling and nodding at Cho before he began walking towards the exit.
He never saw the brief frown that crossed Hermione's face.
“So, what did Cho want?” Hermione asked, once Harry had caught up to her.
“Oh, not much, really. She just said she was sorry about how things ended between us, and she hoped we could still be friends.”
“Friends?” Hermione repeated, sounding sceptical. “Since when were the two of you ever...friends?”
“I was sort of thinking the same thing, actually,” Harry said. “On our one and only date, we had pretty much nothing to talk about besides Quidditch. But she's nice enough, I guess.”
“Yes, she is,” Hermione agreed, “but I highly doubt she just wants to be your “friend”, Harry.”
“You think she actually wants to start that up again?” Harry inquired. Hermione nodded, and Harry shook his head in disbelief. “After how terribly it went last time? Why?”
“Don't ask me, Harry,” Hermione said, suddenly sounding rather irritated with him. “Cho may know that the two of you didn't go very well together the first time, but that doesn't mean her feelings for you just went away. Love and romance aren't very rational, you know. You can't control who you're attracted to.”
“I guess,” Harry said.
“Come on, Harry, everyone's waiting for us outside,” Hermione said, changing the subject.
Harry followed her off of the train in silence, trying to figure out why she'd snapped at him all of a sudden.
'I don't think I'll ever understand girls', Harry decided.
As soon as Harry and Hermione stepped off of the train at King's Cross, Tonks and Lupin, who had been assigned guard duty, approached them.
“Wotcher, Harry,” Tonks greeted, though without her usual enthusiasm.
“Hello, Tonks,” Harry replied. “How are you feeling? I know Bellatrix got the better of you during our battle.”
“Oh, just fine, Harry,” she replied, waving her hand dismissively. “Not bad enough to keep me off-duty, obviously.”
“I think the real question is, how are you, Harry?” Lupin said quietly.
“Me? Just fine. Hermione was hurt worse than I was,” Harry said.
“You know that's not what I meant, Harry,” Lupin gently scolded. “How are you feeling after...after losing Sirius?”
“It's hard, Remus, I'm not going to lie,” Harry said honestly. “I think I'm still trying to accept that he's really...gone.”
Lupin reached out and patted his former student's shoulder gently, while Hermione gripped one of his hands tightly, both of them trying to will some comfort into Harry.
“I completely understand, Harry. I'm having a hard time coming to grips with it myself. Just remember that you aren't alone. If you ever need to talk about it, or anything else, please feel free to come to me. Or send me an owl if there's no way for us to meet in person,” Remus pleaded.
“Me too, Harry,” Hermione insisted. “You can talk to me about anything.”
All Harry could manage in response was a simple “Thanks.” His trust in Dumbledore might have been shaken, but it was comforting to know that he wasn't alone. He trusted Hermione more than anyone else he knew, of course, and among the adults in his life, he felt particularly close to Remus.
Remus earned his trust during the trio's third year, when he was Harry's DADA professor and helped him learn the Patronus charm. Thus far, he'd been the only competent DADA instructor Harry had had. And aside from that, there were other reasons Harry was tempted to confide in Remus. With Sirius gone, Remus was essentially the last link Harry had to his parents. The last surviving Marauder...well, aside from Wormtail, but Harry obviously wouldn't be chatting with that traitor any time soon.
Still, he couldn't turn to Remus Lupin. Not just yet, at least. He knew the werewolf cared for him and would do whatever he could to help him, but he also knew that he felt indebted towards Dumbledore. And for good reason; Dumbledore had done quite a bit to help him over the years. If he were to go to Lupin at the moment, Harry couldn't be sure that he would be able to set his gratitude towards Dumbledore aside, and give him sound and unbiased advice.
Later on, perhaps he'd be able to look at Lupin as a confidant of sorts. But at that moment, Hermione was the only person he trusted implicitly. She was the only one who might be able to look past Dumbledore the legend, and focus on Dumbledore the man. A man who was prone to mistakes, just like any other man.
Harry turned at the cry, and found himself quickly engulfed in a hug from Molly Weasley. She squeezed him even tighter than usual, if that were actually possible, and he could tell that it was a struggle for her not to burst into tears.
“Oh, Harry, you dear boy! Why must everything happen to you?” Mrs. Weasley sobbed.
“Hello, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said, his voice muffled as the Weasley matriarch continued to try and hug the grief and sorrow right out of him.
“Molly,” Mr. Weasley began, “why don't you let Harry go? The poor lad's likely to suffocate if you keep that up.”
Mrs. Weasley reluctantly released Harry, and ruffled his hair affectionately before standing aside so her husband could approach the boy they both thought of as almost a seventh son.
“Hello, Harry,” Mr. Weasley greeted, sticking out his hand for Harry to shake.
“Hullo, Mr. Weasley,” Harry replied, shaking the proffered hand.
“I'm sorry you have to go back with the Dursleys, Harry. You really should be around friends right now,” Mr. Weasley said.
“It's OK, Mr. Weasley. I have a lot of things I need to think about, and honestly, Privet Drive isn't a bad place to get some thinking done. Lots of time to myself,” Harry said.
It was true, Harry knew. He'd have had a much better time at the Burrow, surrounded by people who actually liked him and cared about him, but for the serious thinking he knew he needed to do, the solitude of Privet Drive would actually be better suited. Not to mention the fact that he needed access to the muggle post to communicate with Hermione without fear of interference from Dumbledore or the rest of the Order.
“Well, I'll be speaking with Dumbledore about you coming to stay at the Burrow as soon as possible,” Mrs. Weasley promised. “And if I have anything to say about it, you will be visiting on your birthday. We'll throw you a party. A big one, to make up for all the years those...relatives of yours ignored it.”
“That's nice, Mrs. Weasley, but I don't need anything big. If you can manage to talk Dumbledore into letting me visit for the day, something small would be fine.” At the moment, Harry didn't care whether anyone even acknowledged his birthday. He certainly wasn't in any mood to celebrate. But he knew Mrs. Weasley would insist, so he settled on trying to keep it small.
“There you are, boy! Let's get going, then!”
Harry turned his head to see his uncle Vernon glaring at him, with Aunt Petunia standing right beside her husband, and looking just as unhappy to be there.
Harry took a step towards his uncle and aunt, but before he could get any further, Lupin stepped in front of him and approached the Dursleys himself.
“Hello, Vernon and Petunia. I do not believe we have met, but I've heard much about you, of course. My name is Remus Lupin, and Iwent to school with both of Harry's parents.”
“If you went to that freak school, then you're not anyone I want to be talking to,” Vernon grumbled. “Just get out of my way so I can take that ungrateful boy and get as far away from you and your kind as possible.”
Lupin's eyes narrowed thanks to Vernon's confrontational attitude, but before he could truly react, Mrs. Weasley got involved.
“That boy is one of the kindest, most polite, selfless children I've ever met. I'm not sure what's wrong with you and your family, but if you can't appreciate what a wonderful nephew you have, you are the freaks!”
“I will not be spoken to by you freaks in such a...” Vernon began, his face red with rage, but Mr. Weasley cut him off this time.
“Yes, we know all about your feelings towards magic, and towards Harry. That's why we came over to speak with you. We wished to give you fair warning.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Petunia asked, joining in the conversation for the first time.
“What that means, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, is that we do not want to hear any stories about you mistreating Harry this summer,” Remus answered. “That poor young man has been through quite enough in his life, and does not need to deal with your abuse on top of it.”
“Abuse?” Vernon spat. “I'll have you know that I've never beaten the boy! But maybe I should have! I might have been able to beat that nonsense out of him before you freaks screwed him up for good!”
“Be thankful that you never did beat him. Otherwise, this would be a very different conversation,” Lupin nearly growled. “But we've heard bits and pieces of what Harry's life is like when he is under your roof. And I warn you now that any poor treatment of Harry will not be tolerated.”
Harry could see that Lupin's warning had made his aunt and uncle quite nervous. But it was Hermione who drove the point home.
“Harry is my best friend, and one of the most important people in my life. I will never forgive you for the way you've treated him his whole life. He is a better person than either of you could ever hope to be. So from now on, when he's in your home, you'd better leave him alone, in peace. If you don't...you will regret it, Merlin help me.”
Even Harry had to suppress a shiver after Hermione's threat. He'd never heard her speak with such intensity, such...menace. He was now fervently hoping that he would never make Hermione angry enough to speak to him in that way.
The point had been made, and it was clear that the Dursleys got the message. After one look at Vernon's face, Harry knew that they would leave him well alone, and would do whatever they could to make sure Dudley did the same.
“V-very well, then,” Vernon stammered. “We'll just go and wait, then, while you say goodbye to the frea—err...that is, say goodbye to your friends.”
Vernon wrapped his arm around his wife, and the two of them moved quickly, putting as much distance between themselves and Harry's group of friends as possible while still keeping him in sight. Harry chuckled, and turned to the group surrounding him.
“That wasn't really necessary, but thanks anyway, I suppose,” Harry said.
“I meant it, Harry. You shouldn't have to put up with anything from those nasty people, not on top of everything else you have to deal with. The Order will be watching over you, of course, but if you need any help dealing with the Dursleys, you can always contact me,” Lupin assured him.
“I doubt I'll need to. With the way you all scared them, Ithink they'll be avoiding me at all costs,” Harry said.
“You're probably right,” Mr. Weasley agreed with a laugh. “Especially Hermione. Even I was frightened of her just then.”
Hermione blushed, and smiled slightly, but said nothing. Mr. Weasley glanced at his watch and, seeing the time, realised he needed to get moving.
“Well, I think we'd better get going, Molly,” he said. “See you soon, Harry.”
Harry nodded in farewell to Mr. Weasley, and submitted himself to another tight hug from Mrs. Weasley before saying goodbye to her as well. He nodded at Ron, Ginny and the twins, who had, on their parent's orders, stayed back and watched the confrontation with the Dursleys from afar.
Harry scanned the crowd, looking for Neville and Luna, but could not find them. Shrugging, he said a quick farewell to Lupin and Tonks before turning to Hermione. He noticed tears welling up in her eyes, and quickly tried to avert the crisis that is a crying girl.
“Hey now, none of that. I'll see you soon, yeah?” Harry said, trying to comfort her. Hermione shook her head rapidly, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and exhaled a deep breath. She clasped one of his hands between both of hers, and tilted her head up slightly to look him in the eyes.
“Remember your promise, Harry,” she whispered. “You aren't going to do anything until we've discussed all of this.”
“Of course, Hermione. I won't make any decisions about my future until we've gone through everything together. Honestly, without you, I don't think I'd even be able to figure out what all of my options are,” he said teasingly. He was rewarded for his attempt at humour with a slight laugh from Hermione, which raised Harry's own spirits a bit.
“So long as we understand each other, Potter,” she fired back. “Take care of yourself, Harry, and try to keep an open mind about Dumbledore,” she said, suddenly turning serious. Harry's only response was a nod, but he held eye contact with her to show that he was taking her words to heart. It might be hard for him to look past his anger over what had happened to Sirius, but he would do his best to try and see things from Dumbledore's perspective.
Stifling a sob, Hermione launched herself into Harry, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing herself against him tightly.
With Mrs. Weasley's hugs, Harry had simply accepted them. He allowed her to hug him, but didn't actively participate.
Not so with this hug. This time, he returned the affection, wrapping his arms around Hermione's waist and clutching her just as tightly as she was clutching him.
Though he'd never say it out loud, Harry was enjoying this hug quite a bit more than the ones he'd received minutes earlier, or even the ones Hermione had given him in the past. With the way Hermione's body had developed over the years, this hug felt...different. Better.
Shaking away those sudden crude and unwanted thoughts about his best friend, Harry removed his arms from around Hermione's waist and took a step back. He looked back over his shoulder to see the Dursleys waiting impatiently, and knew that it was time for him to leave.
“Well...guess I'll see you later, then,” Harry said reluctantly, not wanting to leave Hermione behind.
“Of course. And remember, Harry: write soon,” she said with a wink and a grin.
Harry turned and began walking towards the Dursleys, but not before he'd laughed. It was not a deep laugh, nor a long one, but it was still the first time he'd truly laughed, truly found amusement in anything, since Sirius had been killed.
'Hermione to the rescue, as usual,' Harry thought.
Prophecy be damned. With her helping him, he'd be just fine.
A/N: Not really sure how I feel about this chapter. I hadn't even planned on writing it initially; Chapter 2 was going to be centred around Harry and Hermione sending letters back and forth. But Idecided to throw this chapter in so I could give some face time to characters who likely won't be doing much for the next few chapters, like Remus and Mr & Mrs. Weasley. Hopefully you enjoyed it well enough.