Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Moments in Love

Friendship and Bravery

by Gandalfs_Beard 0 reviews

Who do you trust when you're trying to stop Voldy from stealing a Philosopher's Stone? Your Best Friends of course (especially one in particular...)

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: G - Genres: Angst,Drama,Romance - Characters: Harry,Hermione,Neville,Parvati,Ron - Published: 2017-06-09 - 6149 words

Friendship and Bravery

Something gleaming and Golden fluttered just of reach, taunting Harry. The Snitch! He tried to grab it but his arms wouldn’t move. Then his eyes focused and he realised it wasn’t the Snitch at all. It was the late afternoon sun reflecting off Hermione Granger’s tawny brown tresses as she peered worriedly at him.

“Harry! Thank goodness you’re awake...” she squeaked.

Harry blinked again and Professor Dumbledore came into view.

“Good Afternoon Harry,” said the Headmaster.

“Quirrell!” Harry gasped, “It was him all along! Not Snape! Quirrell’s got the Stone... ”

“Calm yourself my dear boy. Quirrell does not have the Stone...” Dumbledore began to say.

“Who does then?” Harry interjected as he started to panic. Why wouldn’t any of the Professors ever believe him? “Sir, I swear - it was Quirrell...”

“Please Harry, relax...” Professor Dumbledore held up his hand for emphasis. “Quirrell does not have the Stone and you are NOT in trouble. And if you cannot calm yourself, Madam Pomfrey will turf me out.”

“Hmmph!” snorted the school nurse. “Fat chance of that! I couldn’t even get rid of Miss Granger. She’s refused to leave Mr Potter’s bedside for three days, and someone overrode my authority!” she concluded with an angry glare.

“Indeed!” The Headmaster’s eyes twinkled as he regarded the cross looking witch. “Minerva seems quite taken with our young Heroes. Be thankful that she didn’t allow Mr Longbottom, Mr Weasley, and Miss Patil to remain by Mr Potter’s side as well!”

Harry took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and put them back on again and looked around. He was in the Hospital Wing, covered in a crisp white linen sheet and the bedside table was piled high with sweets, cards, and vases of flowers. And Hermione Granger was sitting in a chair beside him, holding his hand.

“Three days?” Harry croaked, as his head began to throb painfully. “I’ve been here for three days...?”

Hermione nodded, biting her lip as a tear rolled down one cheek.

“I’ve been so worried Harry! I thought you might never...” Hermione trailed off, unable to finish her sentence. The thought of Harry never waking up was too horrible to contemplate.

Harry slumped back on his pillow and squeezed Hermione’s hand as everything flooded back.


After the Troll Incident on Halloween, Neville had mentioned seeing Snape heading for the Third Floor, where Neville, Ron, Hermione, and Harry had found the giant three headed dog when running from Filch in the middle of the night several weeks before.

Harry hadn’t noticed Snape limping when he’d shown up at the girl’s bathroom with Professor McGonagall, but in the days following it had been hard to miss. Snape had been lurching around and taken away the library book, Quidditch Through the Ages, which Hermione had found for Harry. When Harry had tried to ask for it back, he had discovered Snape complaining to Filch about the three headed dog.

Hermione wasn’t sure what that was all about, but it had furthered her growing concern about the arbitrary nature of the rules, and the selective enforcement patterns of the professors at Hogwarts. It was yet another instance which had brought into question everything that Hermione’s parents had ever taught her about trusting that those in authority always knew what was best.

Then had come Harry’s first ever Quidditch match. Gryffindor was playing against Slytherin, and Harry had been pleased to have his own personal little cheering section. Ron had been doing his best to be nice to Hermione, though it was clearly still a struggle for him. They had sat in the stands together, along with Neville, Parvati, and Parvati’s friend, Lavender Brown - all rooting for Harry.

Harry had been so sure that it was Snape who had hexed his broom. Even Hermione had thought so. When she had surreptitiously set Snape’s robe on fire, the spell had ended and Harry had been able to complete the game, proceeding to a victory for Gryffindor.

Hagrid had invited Harry and his friends to tea after the match, and even though Ron, Hermione, and Parvati all swore that they had seen Snape cursing Harry’s broom, Hagrid had refused to believe them.

“Codswallop - why would Snape do somethin’ like that?” he had said, looking a bit shifty.

Harry had swallowed nervously and decided to tell him the truth about discovering that Snape had been bitten by the mad monster dog with three heads - “Fluffy” Hagrid had called it - and that he and Hermione suspected that it was guarding whatever Hagrid had retrieved from Gringotts before the break-in.

“Snape’s trying to steal it - he must be...” Harry had told Hagrid.

“Nonsense! Snape's one o' the professors tryin' ter protect it,” Hagrid had crossly retorted.

Then Hagrid had let slip the bit about Nicholas Flamel before clamming up and not saying another word. Harry knew he had heard the name somewhere before. He and Hermione had dug through books in the library until Christmas trying to work out who Flamel was, with no success.

Harry had very mixed feelings about Christmas. For the first time in his life he had got presents, but Hermione had left to spend the holidays with her parents, and Harry had missed her loads. It had been alright spending it with the Weasley brothers - the Twins were a barrel of laughs, they’d all had a snowball fight, and he’d played a bit of chess with Ron - but it didn’t feel right without Hermione.

Harry had been surprised that Ron’s mum had sent him gifts - Ron must have told her that Harry had never got presents before. Hermione had given him a box of chocolate frogs, but Harry didn’t want to open it until she was back.

The most interesting “present” had actually belonged to his father originally - the Invisibility Cloak. Harry had peered at the spidery writing on the note which had come with it.

“Use it well,” the note had said, but there was no signature.

It didn’t look like Hagrid’s scratchy scrawling, nor did it appear to be Professor McGonagall’s neat-as-a-pin penmanship. Harry had begun to wonder how well the Headmaster had known his father. When Dumbledore had found Harry, sitting in the store-room with the Mirror of Erised, the Headmaster hadn’t seemed surprised.

“I don’t need a cloak to become invisible,” the Headmaster had said softly. Harry had been sure of it then. Dumbledore must have had the cloak for some reason and wanted to return it to Harry.

Harry had been extremely happy when Hermione returned after the Christmas holiday, though she had been a bit disappointed that Harry hadn’t worked out who Nicholas Flamel was yet.

Snow had turned into rain, and Oliver Wood had been driving the rest of the Quidditch Team spare making them practice in the stormy weather. Harry was pleased that Professor McGonagall had given him permission to spend less time training so that he could spend more time studying with Hermione.

Finding out that Snape would be refereeing the next Quidditch match had been quite a shock though. When Harry told them, Hermione and Ron had both been very concerned. At that moment Neville had toppled through the portal into the Gryffindor Common Room, a victim of the Leg-Locker Curse.

“It was Malfoy,” Neville had said miserably. “I’m pathetic...”

“Rubbish,” Harry had retorted adamantly while Hermione reversed the spell, much to Neville’s relief, “You’re worth a dozen Malfoys...”

Harry had opened the box of Chocolate Frogs that Hermione had given him at Christmas, and shared them out, giving one to Neville. And that’s when Harry had finally realised where he’d heard about Nicholas Flamel before - on the back of the Famous Wizard Trading Card featuring Albus Dumbledore.

Harry and Hermione had now solved part of the mystery: Fluffy had to be guarding the Philosopher’s Stone which had been created by Nicholas Flamel. But they still weren’t certain why Snape was apparently trying to steal it.

Then had come the Quidditch match vs Hufflepuff. Ron and Neville had got into a fight with Malfoy and his goon-squad, Crabbe and Goyle, and Harry had won the game for Gryffindor, much to Snape’s bitter disappointment. Hermione had jumped up on her seat shrieking happily and hugged Parvati.

Harry had been relishing the victory and storing his broomstick in the shed when he had spied the lanky hooded figure prowling the grounds and sneaking into the Forbidden Forest. Harry would have recognised that stride anywhere; it was Snape. Cautiously, Harry had followed Snape, hopping back onto his broom and gliding just above the trees.

Harry had peered through the leaves into a clearing and he had to stifle a gasp when he overheard Snape threatening Quirrell, trying to make him reveal the secrets guarding the Philosopher’s Stone.

“Have you found out how to get past Hagrid’s pet monster yet?”

“B...b...but S...Severus...”

“You don’t want me as your enemy, Quirrell,” Snape had said menacingly.

Feeling a bit panicky, Harry had dashed back to the castle before he could be discovered. He had unfortunately missed dinner but he hadn’t really cared at that point.

“Harry, where have you been?” Hermione had squealed, giving Harry an anxious hug.

“We won Harry... and I gave Malfoy a black eye...” Ron had gloated.

“Never mind that...” Harry had muttered breathlessly.

Harry had pulled Hermione and Ron into an empty classroom and told them everything.

“So it’s true!” Hermione had gasped, her voice full of dread, “The Stone is only safe as long as Quirrell can hold out against Snape!”

Several weeks had gone by, and Quirrell had appeared to be standing firm. Whenever he’d had the chance, Harry had listened outside the door on the third floor, just to make sure that Fluffy was still inside.

As Harry and Hermione had begun studying for exams - still ten weeks away at that time - their trepidation had grown. Ron had scoffed at their early preparations.

“Blimey Harry, give it a rest... you’re getting as bad as Hermione.”

Harry had glared at Ron, and Ron had shut up and gone to find someone else to play a game of chess with. But even Hermione needed a break every once in a while, and they had taken some time off to visit Hagrid when they had discovered him in the library looking at books about Dragon Breeding.

Ron had thought Hagrid was barmy when they found Hagrid trying to hatch a dragon egg, and even Harry and Hermione were forced to agree.

“I can’t believe him,” Hermione had fumed as they departed. “Hagrid is so irresponsible. He lives in a wooden hut. He’ll get into so much trouble.”

Harry had sighed. He knew that Hermione didn’t want Hagrid to get into trouble any more than he did. But neither of them knew how to make Hagrid see reason. Harry had almost considered going to Dumbledore. But Hermione had by this time lost all confidence in the ability of the professors at Hogwarts to enforce the rules with any sense of fairness.

It was true, Hagrid had been ridiculous to think that he could illegally raise a dragon in secret, but he didn’t deserve to get sacked over it. At that point, neither Hermione nor Harry trusted that the other professors or the Headmaster would protect Hagrid’s job.

But things had come to a head when Hagrid had invited Ron, Harry, and Hermione to observe the hatching. And even Hermione hadn’t been able resist witnessing something so precious. But the event had been marred.

“Oi, who’s that then?” Hagrid had said worriedly when he spotted a blond haired boy peering through his window. Harry had looked out through the pane of glass at the figure running away.

“Draco Malfoy,” he had groaned. “Hagrid, you have to get rid of the dragon before Malfoy turns you in.”

“My brother Charlie is a dragon handler,” Ron had said. “He should be able to help!”

After a few weeks, Hagrid had accepted the inevitable. So they had gone out of their way, at great risk to themselves, to help Hagrid get rid of Norbert the Baby Dragon. In the end, it had been Harry and Hermione who had taken it upon themselves to sneak Norbert up to the top of the Astronomy Tower and pass him over to several dragon handler friends of Charlie Weasley’s in the dead of night..

Unfortunately, upon leaving the Astronomy Tower to return to Gryffindor, Harry and Hermione had forgotten the Invisibility Cloak at the top of the Tower, and ended up getting detention with Malfoy, who had been determined to get them into trouble. Neville had been caught by McGonagall trying to warn Harry and Hermione and they had all ended up losing fifty points apiece, which had caused them all to become instant pariahs in Gryffindor.

Neville had cried himself to sleep that night.

For all that Harry felt bad about Neville having detention with them and Draco Malfoy, he had refused point blank to allow Hagrid to partner himself or Hermione with Draco when he had discovered that detention would entail hunting whatever was killing the unicorns in the Forbidden Forest.

“I’m sorry Neville, I know you don’t deserve this,” Harry had told him, then he had turned to Hagrid. “Look Hagrid - I’m sticking with Hermione. We’ll take Fang and you can look after Malfoy and Neville... Hermione and I can look after ourselves.”

Harry had given Hagrid a hard stare, and after a moment, Hagrid had relented.

“Righ’ then Harry...” Hagrid had sighed, “It’s my fault you lot are all out here anyway... I can’ thank yeh enough fer stickin’ yer neck out fer me. Jus’ be careful you two. Fang’s a bit of a coward.”

Sure enough, Fang had run off when Harry and Hermione had come across a wraith-like hooded shadow slithering through the fallen leaves in the moonlight. The creature had looked up from the dead unicorn, silvery blood dripping from its mouth. Harry had felt his scar burning, but he had ignored the blinding pain and stepped in front of Hermione before a centaur had burst into the clearing and charged at the Shade.

Moments later the centaur had pulled Harry and Hermione onto his back and departed the clearing. Trembling with fright, Hermione had nonetheless held Harry tightly to prevent him from falling off the centaur.

“Voldemort,” Harry had gasped. He had slumped in Hermione’s arms, shaking, as the searing agony had continued to burn in his forehead. “That was Voldemort wasn’t it!?”

“Yes,” the palomino centaur had replied. “You are the Potter boy are you not? My name is Firenze. It is not safe for you in the forest. You must leave at once...”

Firenze had returned them to Hagrid, who was beside himself with worry. Hermione had helped Harry stagger back to the Gryffindor common room where they had found Ron asleep, waiting for them to return. Still shaking, Harry had begun to tell Ron everything.

“It was Voldemort - Snape’s not trying to steal the Stone for himself... He wants it for Voldemort!”

“Stop saying his name,” Ron had hissed angrily.

Hermione had glared at Ron.

“I can’t believe you - leave Harry alone,” she had snapped. “Harry’s the one who’s just had to face him...”

Hermione had dragged Harry up to his dormitory and put him to bed where they discovered that Dumbledore had returned his Invisibility Cloak with a note: “Just in case.”

“I don’t understand Hermione,” Harry had muttered darkly. “Dumbledore obviously knows what’s going on around here, and yet we both still got detention for trying to do something good to help Hagrid. And why give me back my cloak? To get me into more trouble? It doesn’t make sense!”

“I’m not sure Harry! Maybe Dumbledore doesn’t trust some of the professors either, and he thinks you might need it. He must know that one of them is trying to steal the Stone for Voldemort, but he’s not sure who to trust.”

“And he could be afraid that Voldemort might...” Hermione’s breath had caught as she had peered anxiously at Harry, “...that he might try to go after you again!”

As everyone else finally began preparing for exams, Ron, Neville, and Parvati had expressed fear about Voldemort, but they hadn’t seemed quite as worried about the Stone as Harry and Hermione.

But nor had they seen what was lurking in the Forbidden Forest. They hadn’t woken up shaking from the nightmares or with stabbing pains in their heads like Harry did every night. Hermione was the only one who really understood. She was terrified for Harry. They had both managed to get through exams, but the worry had taken a toll. Harry’s nightmares had grown worse and his head hurt all the time now.

“I dunno mate - you should go see Madam Pomfrey...” Ron had muttered dismissively in the sweltering day after exams.

“I’m not ill - it’s got something to do with Voldemort...” Harry had angrily retorted.

“Blimey Harry, don’t say his name - it’s too hot for this. I’m melting. Just relax - the Stone is safe as long as Dumbledore’s around. There’s no proof that Snape ever got past Fluffy - and Hagrid won’t let Dumbledore down.”

Harry had shaken his head in frustration and Hermione had rolled her eyes. Norbert had instantly just crossed both their minds. Hagrid would never intentionally let Dumbledore down, but it had suddenly become obvious to both of them now what had happened.

“Where’re you two going?” Ron had sleepily asked.

“To find out more about who Hagrid got the Dragon from...” Harry had snapped. “Bit odd don’t you think - that a stranger would just show up and randomly give Hagrid a dragon egg?”

“But go ahead and take a nap Ronald,” Hermione had said acidly, “I’m sure you need your beauty rest!”

That had woken Ron up. He didn’t really want to let Harry down, but he had grumbled all the way to Hagrid’s hut. When they had spoken to Hagrid, their worst fears had been confirmed. Hagrid had inadvertently let slip how to get past Fluffy.

The three of them had gone straight to McGonagall, and Ron had finally become convinced that there was something to worry about when she told them that Dumbledore had taken a trip to London.

Hermione and Harry had tried to make McGonagall see reason. But to Hermione’s utter dismay, the professor had simply told them that the Stone was perfectly safe and to go back out and enjoy the sunshine. She had even threatened to dock more points if they tried anything foolish.

Then they had run into Professor Snape, and he had threatened to personally make sure that Harry and Hermione were expelled if he caught them wandering around at night again. Hermione had been as outraged as Harry, and they had made plans.

“I suppose this is it,” Harry had said grimly. “This must be why Dumbledore gave me back the cloak - in case something called him away. McGonagall won’t listen, and Snape’s going after the Stone to get it for Voldemort tonight. We’ll just have to get to the Stone first.”

“I’ll look through some books for some useful spells,” Hermione had said briskly.

“We both will,” Harry had muttered. “I’ve got nothing better to do between now and tonight...”

“You’re both barking!” Ron had gasped “After what McGonagall and Snape said? You’ll both be expelled, not to mention losing Gryffindor loads more points...”

“BLOODY HELL RON!” Harry had shouted. “Don’t you understand? If Voldemort gets the Stone, he’s coming back. He’s a bloody murderer. HE KILLED MY PARENTS - he’ll go after me again... and he won’t stop there. Voldemort will go after Hermione and every other muggleborn he can find and kill them all.”

“And he’ll murder anyone else that gets in his way. Who cares about winning the bloody House Cup... or getting expelled?None of that’s important compared to dying! If Voldemort comes back he’ll turn Hogwarts into a school for Dark Arts! Is that what you want?”

Ron had flushed in shame. That wasn’t what he wanted at all. He just hadn’t thought it all through.

“Will the cloak cover all three of us?” Ron had asked.

Harry and Hermione had stared at him in surprise. Ron had swallowed nervously and peered at Harry, his ears turning red.

“Look mate - I’m sorry... I was being stupid! You’re right of course. But you two can’t do this all by yourselves...”

“He’s right you know,” a girl’s voice had interrupted Ron. “You’ll need as much help as you can get.”

Harry had spun around and spotted Parvati and Neville. Harry had thought that everyone was still outside enjoying the sunshine, and that he and Hermione and Ron were alone in the Common Room. But Parvati and Neville had entered just as Harry had started shouting and heard everything.

“We’re all in this together Harry,” Neville had said, his voice thick with bitterness, tears streaming down his flushed cheeks. “I... I know what You-Know-Who is capable of! My parents - they might be better off dead after what his supporters did to them!”

Of course not everyone could fit under Harry’s invisibility cloak. In the end, Harry had gone after the Stone with Hermione and Ron, but Parvati and Neville had agreed to go and wake up McGonagall if the three of them weren’t back in an hour.

They had got past Fluffy, the Devil’s Snare, and the Flying Keys. Ron had taken a bludgeoning during the Giant Chess Match. Hermione had worked out the potions riddle, but there had only been enough potion to get one of them through the purple flames.

Hermione’s lips had trembled, her eyes glistening wetly. She had flung herself at Harry and thrown her arms around him. Harry had held her tightly as his own eyes moistened; he never wanted to let her go.

Harry didn’t like other people touching him, but he liked Hermione’s hugs, and he had wondered if he would survive to get another one.

“You’re a great wizard Harry,” she had whispered.

“I wish I was as good as you!”

“Me?” Hermione had squeaked, “Books! And Cleverness! And anyway, don’t sell yourself short. You’re good at those things too - but there are more important things Harry: fairness - friendship and bravery - and love. You’ve shown me all those things...”

Then she had given Harry a kiss on the cheek and let him go. Harry had been stunned - his cheek stll burnng where Hermione's lips had been - and he had blushed, not knowing how to respond. He had taken one last look at Hermione as the tears in her eyes began falling.

“Be careful Harry,” were the last words of kindness he had heard before the darkness.


Harry gave Hermione’s hand another gentle squeeze and looked at the Headmaster again.

“So what did happen to the Stone sir?” Harry asked, a bit more quietly this time.

“I see that you are determined Harry,” Dumbledore replied gently. “Very well - Quirrell never retrieved the Stone from you. I arrived just in time to watch him collapsing in your grip and pulled him off you. But he was finished anyway. And as to the Stone itself - it has been destroyed...”

“Destroyed?” Harry frowned in puzzlement. “But what about your friend Nicholas Flamel?”

“I discussed the matter with him at great length, and we have both agreed that it is for the best,” said Dumbledore. “He and his wife have enough Elixir left to settle their affairs and live a good while longer before passing on to the next great adventure.”

Harry nodded, then wished he hadn’t as his head began to throb again. Hermione looked alarmed when Harry winced in pain.

The Headmaster shuffled uncomfortably in his seat and his cheeks reddened slightly when Hermione Granger sat on the hospital bed and hugged young Harry Potter. But Dumbledore smiled when he saw Harry’s pain diminishing in her embrace. It was a hopeful sign.

“Sir...” Harry looked directly into the Headmaster’s clear blue eyes and steeled himself. Dumbledore was a bit taken aback by what he saw. “Sir - Voldemort’s going to keep coming back isn’t he? He means to keep coming back until he restores himself and finishes me off doesn’t he? And when he’s done that, he’s going to try and take Britain again...”

Albus Dumbledore was at a loss for words. He hadn’t anticipated this - he had thought that Harry was much too young to be told. Seeing the Headmaster falter, Harry pushed further.

“Voldemort told me that he only killed my mother to get to me. And Hagrid once told me that something about me prevented Voldemort from killing me, and that Voldemort vanished after trying to kill me - but Hagrid also said there wasn’t enough human in him left to die completely...”

“I know that’s true - because I saw Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest drinking Unicorn blood to stay alive... And I remember Mr Ollivander telling me that my wand shared the same core as Voldemort’s... ”

“And my scar - it hurts when I’m near Voldemort - I know that means that somehow we’re connected - Voldemort chose me for a reason didn’t he? He knows that there’s something about me that might finish him off for good... One of us is going to have to kill the other eventually aren’t we!?”

Harry sat up a bit and Hermione nervously turned to face Dumbledore as well. The Headmaster’s twinkles had disappeared; his face was ashen and grey. Harry knew that he’d struck a nerve.

“Sir, you sent me my dad’s invisibility cloak to help me survive, didn’t you!? But I need to know everything that you know if I’m ever going to have a chance to fight Voldemort properly...”

“Yes Harry,” Dumbledore’s voice creaked. “You are correct. You and Voldemort share a connection in more ways than one - and I have been a fool to believe that you were too young to understand. There is a prophecy - and though prophecies are a dubious business, the fact that Voldemort believes it makes the point moot - he means to fulfill it one way or the other!”

“I will tell you everything I know - and everything that I suspect but cannot be certain of...”


Finally, after being in the hospital wing for another day, Madam Pomfrey had grudgingly allowed Harry to go to the end of term feast. As Harry departed from the infirmary, hand in hand with Hermione Granger, the school nurse allowed herself a secret smile. Lavender and Parvati whispered and giggled when they saw Harry and Hermione enter the Great Hall holding hands.

“I saved you both seats together,” Parvati called out.

Hermione sat down next to Parvati, and Harry took a seat next to Neville. Ron grinned at him from the other side of the table.

“Too bad the Slytherins are gonna win the House Cup, but it’s good to see you up and about Harry!”

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to my last proper meal at Hogwarts,” said Harry, grinning back at Ron. Hermione frowned slightly but didn’t say anything as Harry continued, “Madam Pomfrey had me on a strict diet last night and most of today. It was gruel-ing...”

Neville and Parvati groaned at Harry’s dreadful pun, but Lavender giggled. Hermione shook her head slightly, but she had a bit of a smirk and Ron snorted with laughter.

The merriment was interrupted by the Headmaster’s announcement that there would be a slight adjustment to the end of term House Points. Neville and Ron were thrilled when all the points lost due to the Dragon Incident were restored and more added besides. Gryffindor ended up winning the House Cup instead of the Slytherins.

Ron nearly burst at the seams with gleeful pride when even Percy praised him for a well played chess match. For his part, Harry was just happy to see the smug, arrogant look wiped off Draco Malfoy’s face.

Snape shook Professor McGonagall’s hand, with a sickly, forced smile. He caught Harry’s eye, and Harry was startled to see an almost sardonic expression on Snape’s face. In and of itself, that didn’t necessarily bode well for next year, but Harry decided that it was an improvement over the horrid, evil glares Snape had given him at the start of the school year.

Harry was most pleased by his exam results. Hermione had come in with top marks among the First Years of course, but Harry was very happy to see that his were better than he had expected given the stress that he had been under. He had come in at 6th place among First Years just under the three Ravenclaws and the one Slytherin who had the four places just under Hermione. Harry was surprised that he had scored so highly, because he hadn’t expected Snape to give him such excellent marks.

The next morning, Harry was already packed and ready to go before Ron had even woken up, feeling in a much more subdued mood. He didn’t want to leave Hogwarts, and he was already thinking how much he was going to miss Hermione. He found her in the common room alone as she had also woken very early. Hermione flung her arms around Harry in a nearly bone-crushing embrace.

“You can’t go back to those awful people Harry - you have to tell someone. Tell Dumbledore,” Hermione cried.

“I have to go back Hermione. You heard Dumbledore - my mother’s protection charm is the only thing protecting me from Voldemort, and it only works if I live with my nearest blood relative...” said Harry quietly.

“But it doesn’t protect you from them...” Hermione’s voice quavered and tears trickled down her cheeks. “Maybe if I tell my parents...”

“NO!” Harry’s alarm skyrocketed; he almost wished he hadn’t told Hermione about Uncle Vernon hitting him. He was glad he had really... she understood him better than anyone, but he didn’t think he could bear it if other people knew.

“Please don’t Hermione... it’ll just make trouble. I’ll be alright! Really I will! They more or less left me alone after I got my letter last year.” Harry suddenly grinned as he remembered Dudley’s pig tail, thinking that might have had something to do with it. “Besides, the Dursleys don’t know that I’m not allowed to do magic outside of school...”

Hermione dabbed at her tears with a hanky and tried to return Harry’s smile.

“If that’s what you really want... alright Harry. But I’m going to miss you. I don’t think I can bear not seeing you for two months...”

“Ron’s invited me to stay for a bit, later this summer. Maybe his parents won’t mind if you come to visit too.”

“That sounds nice, I’d like that - as long as Ron behaves. I wish I could invite you to stay with me,” Hermione moaned.

Many hours later Harry and Hermione stepped through the barrier between platform nine and three quarters and into the muggle world. The Weasleys began emerging in pairs behind them.

Hermione waved to her parents who were waiting patiently. Mr Granger’s eyes narrowed when he spotted his daughter holding Harry’s hand, and his wife swatted him.

“There you are boy,” snarled Uncle Vernon, as purple faced as the day that Harry had last seen him. “Hurry up, we haven’t got all day.”

Mrs Weasley stared at Uncle Vernon in shock, and began reaching into her handbag for her wand, but Mr Weasley put his hand on her arm. Hermione scowled at Harry’s Uncle. She gave Harry one last hug and whispered in his ear.

“If I don’t hear from you Harry, I’ll know something’s wrong and I’ll come and get you - whatever Mum and Dad say.” Then Hermione gave him a lingering kiss on his cheek and ran to meet her parents.

Harry gawked after her as he felt something flutter in his tummy. He caught his uncle’s glaring eye again, but it didn’t seem to bother Harry so much now. Even Dudley singing “Harry’s got a girlfriend” in a snide voice during the car-ride all the way home couldn’t penetrate Harry’s cheerful daze.


Albus Dumbledore poured himself a glass of firewhiskey from a bottle he kept in his desk and squeezed a lemon slice into it as he sighed. He really should be getting ready to leave for the summer, but he had things to reconsider - plans to be adjusted - and he felt more comfortable doing that in his office at Hogwarts. Fawkes cooed softly; Dumbledore looked up when the door to his office opened.

“Ah, Minerva, thank you for coming! Please, make yourself comfortable.”

Minerva McGonagall regarded the poofy chintz armchair which the Headmaster had gestured towards with slight disdain. She conjured up a rigid, straight-backed wooden chair for herself instead.

“So, what’s this all about Albus?” Professor McGonagall sternly asked. “I should be packing.”

“Harry Potter!” Dumbledore peered seriously at McGonagall over the top of his half-moon spectacles. “I am afraid that I may have made some grievous errors in judgment...”

“Yes! Well - you are not alone Albus.” A flush of pink crept to Minerva McGonagall’s cheeks. “After what I put those poor children through with that ill-conceived detention - I had no idea that they were trying to protect Hagrid... and then waving off their concerns in regards to the Philosopher’s Stone...”

Dumbledore’s eyes began to twinkle. “Indeed! Well I dare say you made up for that a bit by allowing Miss Granger to stay in the Hospital Wing with Harry. Poppy seemed quite put-out!”

“You knew, didn’t you Albus?” McGonagall’s tone was accusatory and she eyed the Headmaster suspiciously. “You knew they were going to go after the Stone and you facilitated it.”

Dumbledore’s twinkles vanished and he looked grave once more.

“I am not proud of that - but it was necessary. I was not certain who I could trust. But I knew that I could trust Harry to make the right choices, and he did splendidly indeed. Trust does not come easily to me Minerva - I fear that I have wronged you in that regard... And that is really what I wanted to discuss with you!”

“I allowed myself a brief glimpse into young Harry’s mind for the first time during our ‘debriefing.’ And what I saw was quite disturbing. You were right about the Dursleys, and I was very wrong to dismiss your concerns all those years ago - things there are far worse than I had anticipated...”

To say that Professor McGonagall was stunned by the frank admission of the Headmaster was an understatement. But she held her tongue and allowed him to continue. Dumbledore heaved a large sigh and looked old and weary.

“I should have looked in on him myself over the years and rectified the situation. But I am uncertain how to proceed now that Harry’s residence and his relatives have been made known to the Ministry. They do not look kindly on interfering in the affairs of muggle guardians.”

Professor McGonagall’s features softened. It was quite a breakthrough for the Headmaster to openly admit to error and seek counsel beyond his own.

“To begin with Albus, why don’t you tell me why you really left Mr Potter with the Dursleys. We can take things from there...”
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