Disclaimer:  This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N:  This is simply Harry's POV.

Harry's POV

            I wished I had never been born.  True, I was already a famous and reputedly powerful wizard, but as Snape once said, 'Fame isn't everything.'

            The first months after the TriWizard tournament were the worst.  Just imagine your greatest fears and insecurities have all come to attack you and no one understands or believes you.  They all say its not you, that you're not the one to blame; the thing is, they're wrong.  Everything from the beginning of your life is wrong, utterly wrong.  I am the opposite of Voldemort, but the same.  We both destroy everything we touch with magic.

            The Dursleys' kicked me out of their house after less than two weeks.  That's when the night terrors started.  I owled Mr. Weasley and he agreed to pick me up in the Leaky Cauldron, where I stayed after the night bus dropped me off in Diagon Alley.  At the Burrow, I was glad of the chaos; it took my mind off of my guilt most days.  Ron and I passed much time beating bludgers, degnoming the garden and playing chess.  I would sneak out of the house every night and sleep in the garden as not to scare everyone, returning before dawn or when Ron dragged me back to the house.

            For the first time ever, I dreaded the return to Hogwarts.  Hermione came to the Burrow for the last few weeks of the summer.  She'd grown taller and more willowy, actually quite beautiful.  I wondered if she would be the next target for Voldemort, or would he pick Ron?

            As I imagined, things did not improve once I returned to school.  People either stared at me or ignored me or more terrible yet, treated me with forced cheerfulness that clearly belied a desire to be far away from me.  Malfoy dogged my steps every minute, trying to get me to react.  But his taunts didn't make me angry.  Nothing did.  I felt nothing but gnawing guilt all of the time.

            Ron and Hermione were the only ones who didn't seem all that put on around me.  I played chess with Ron as much as we played Quidditch.  His was the first face I saw in the night as he woke me from the endless number of dreams that peppered my sleep, his eyes bright with worry.  Several times he tried to ask me about what had happened, about what happened on the other side of the portal; I just couldn't bring myself to tell him.   I knew he would tell me it wasn't my fault and not to feel guilty, et cetera.  What he didn't understand, what no one understands, was that I was the person who wanted Cedric to take the cup.  Alone.  Then I could ease out of the spotlight for a while, let him have the glory for the Hufflepuffs.  I don't know why I couldn't have just grabbed the cup and left him there.  That scene replays over and over, the moment our hands closed over the handles, consigning Cedric to his death and me to purgatory.

            A couple times a week I would stay in front of the fire in the common room, awake for most of the night.  More than anything, I wanted to think in silence, but also to let everyone get a quiet night of sleep.  The tired faces of the Gryffindor students attested to the severity of my nightmares, as no charm or spell was strong enough to drown out the noise I made while in the throes of Morpheus' grip.

            I was sitting in my usual position, slumped low on the sofa, legs sprawled in front of the hearth when I heard soft footsteps.  Hermione came around the corner and looked at me.

            "What are you doing?" she asked.  Dumb question, I thought.

            "Letting the house get a little sleep.  What're you doing up?"  She was holding her worn copy of 'Hogwarts, a History' and observing me with a calm gaze.

            "Too quiet."  She sat down next to me and put the textbook on the floor.  I saw her studying my profile for a quick second before she turned to contemplate the flames licking up the fireplace.  I felt my exhaustion creeping into my bones.  I was tired of acting as if everything was okay.  And tired of holding it all inside. 

            "He wanted me to have the Cup all to myself, you know that, don't you?" I blurted.  I turned to look at her and was surprised to see her gazing at me levelly.  For some reason, it made me want to tell her everything.  The expectant, but non-judgmental look she wore battered down my defenses and I struggled to hold back, to keep her from knowing what had transpired away from Hogwarts that night.

            "Tell me, Harry."

            I began to talk.  Once I began, I couldn't seem to stop.  I traveled back in time to that day, giving a running commentary of each step I took, completely reliving the final task.  Coming upon Cedric and the cup.  That moment we were transported, not to victorious cheers, but to Voldemort and Wormtail.  I fed on Hermione's silent acceptance.

            As I spoke of Cedric's death and the request his ghost had made of me, all of the anguish and terror visited upon me that night slammed into my carefully constructed façade.  I put my head in my hands, fighting the overwhelming tides of coldness that washed over me, holding back the tears I'd vowed not to shed. 

            I felt Hermione's hand as she rubbed my back with her flat palm.  It was so warm and soothing.  Growing up without a mother, it was rare for me to experience warmth from another person without having to share it.  Hermione's touch was firm as she circled over my sweater.

            Taking a deep breath, I sat up and back against the couch.  It was done.  I'd killed Cedric, he was dead because we couldn't decide, no, because I couldn't decide…

"After that, what could I do?  I'd already killed him –"  The image of my hand grasping Cedric's cold, dead wrist loomed in my head, along with other, jumbled images – Cedric's parents, my mum and dad, Dumbledore, Snape – all the people I felt I'd let down.  "Harry –" "Don't tell me it isn't my fault.  I'm to blame for so much, so many –" Before I could register anything, I found myself sobbing into Hermione's shoulder.  I surrendered to the wretched grief that I'd heretofore held inside, the sorrow bursting forth like a waterfall from my chest.

                It vaguely registered that Hermione was crying as well.  I wanted to tell her that it was going to be okay, that she didn't need to cry for me, but I couldn't take a deep enough breath to do more than sob hoarsely. 

            I can't describe how good it felt to be held by another person.  I'd never had the experience before.  It was like being cocooned in the warmest, softest blanket.  I squeezed my arms around her lightly and she returned the gesture.  A second later she spoke.

            "Harry, you are wrong.  You were, and are, the savior of the wizarding world.  Probably of the entire world.  If you hadn't lived that night, destroyed Voldemort's power, no one could have stopped him.  Not even Dumbledore.  You have saved more lives than anyone.  You can't change what happened.  You didn't know."

            Wise words indeed.  I still believe that I let many people down that day, that I should have figured it out with the Marauder's Map.  But her softly spoken words touched the part of my psyche that wanted to just be absolved of all responsibility.  As long as she and Ron and Dumbledore could forgive me, that I could go on.  Her response made sense, but I wasn't ready to accept it, not yet.

            I stayed within the circle of her arms, inhaling her light talcum powder scent.  She riffled her hand through my hair and laid her cheek on the top of my head.  It was the most natural feeling in the world, to be cradled against her.  The gentle rise and fall of her chest lulled me into a feeling of complete security.  If only she could lie with me at night until I drifted to sleep…

            Almost on instinct, half-dazed, I rooted my mouth ever so slightly.  She shivered as a puff of air hit the damp area where my tears had fallen.  I felt the tightening of her nipple under her robe and a corresponding tightening in my groin. 

            The kiss she pressed to the top of my head brought me out of the trance-like state I'd been in.  Lifting my head, I found myself entrapped by Hermione's face, bright with tears, looking down at me intently.  I took in her features; I hadn't truly noticed the light sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks, nor the way her upturned nose gave her a cherubic quality. 

            Her lips descended toward mine and I closed my eyes to the silky sensation.  Another first.  Unless you counted being kissed by Franny Connors in the primary school cloakroom, I'd never really kissed a girl.  Or had her lips on mine, as it were.

            I sat up to make it easier to access her lips.  My lack of experience made me hesitant, but I needn't have worried.  Instinct took over and when she opened her mouth to me, I did the same, tentatively touching my tongue to her.  I gasped as her tongue snaked out and we came together frantically.  We fought to get closer; I ate at her mouth like a man starved. 

            When she pulled away, I was again drawn to her face, concentrating on her red, swollen lips.  Her eyes were the color of coffee; it felt strangely powerful to know that I was the one to do that to her.  An answering pull from my lower body reminded me of where this scenario was likely to head, and I didn't want to push Hermione into doing anything she wasn't absolutely ready for. 

            Hermione lifted my sweater over my head and freed the buttons of the school shirt I wore.  I took a deep breath.

            "Hermione," I said, my voice sounding gravelly to my ears.

            "What?" she said in a throaty voice that shot directly to my prick.

            "I think we should stop."

            "No."

            "No?"

            "I want this."

            So did I.  I didn't want to worry about tomorrow or about any of the other problems that were sure to loom large in the light of day.  Right at that moment I wanted to show Hermione how much I cared about her, and if this was the way that worked best, I was ready.

            I untied her robe, revealing the sheer nightgown she wore.  Her breasts were still peaked and I ran my thumbs over the tips, licking her neck and shivering with every sigh and pleasure-filled noise she made. 

            She wound her arms around my neck and pulled me over her.  Even after her reassurances that she did want to go through with this, I still felt her fear.  I was as nervous as she was and I didn't want to hurt her or disappoint her.  I kissed her again and again, until she was hot and wiggling restlessly under me.  She worked my belt and together we managed to free my prick from its constraints.  The last barrier was the small cotton panties she wore.

            "This is it, Hermione," I said.  "If you want me to stop at any time, tell me and I will."  I waited for her response and when I had it, I slid my finger into her slit, praying that I would be doing things right.  Her reaction let me know that I had hit her clit, and I played with it, absorbing her moans into my mouth.  Moving downward, my finger slicked with wetness as I fingered her.  She was stroking me and we coordinated our movements back and forth, in and out.

            She shook as I moved over her.  As much as I didn't want to hurt her, my body was now throbbing for release and I wanted to bury my prick inside her wet warmth.  I pushed forward slowly, feeling her body gradually giving way to mine.  The sensation was incredible – a silky, wet, hot fist clutching me – and I had to resist the urge to rut into her mindlessly. 

            Moving very slowly, I felt some of her tension fading away as she became more accustomed to me.  She shifted under me and I fought against the waves of pleasure that were engulfing me. 

            At her urging, I moved harder against her, thrusting deep, trying to get as far inside as I could.  I sped up my pace when Hermione began to grow restless, twisting her hips and moving to drive me further into her.  The tingles running down my spine alerted me to my impending orgasm and I hoped to be able to hold out long enough to see Hermione come. 

            Her body tightened spasmodically under mine and she threw her head back, moaning my name.  The sound was so erotic that I couldn't wait to watch and I groaned with the rush of my own release. 

            I brought my head up to look at her.  She wore a satisfied smile and enfolded me in her arms as I rested atop her, my hands tangled in her hair.  I kissed her neck gently, then her lips.  We explored each other's mouths experimentally, trying different things, laughing softly.

            We disengaged ourselves and dressed.  The last chiming of the clock had signaled 4 a.m., and I didn't want the night to be over.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen; we'd blurred the lines of friendship, and although I felt better than I had in months, I wasn't sure I hadn't simply transferred my angst to Hermione.

            She looked to be okay, her cheeks flushed pink in the firelight.  Her smile and words held no inkling that what we'd done was anything but natural, which eased my mind.  I wanted to broach the subject, but was afraid of breaking the mood permeating the night.

            I stood up with a sigh.  We had to get to bed before someone awoke early and caught us here together, as it was obvious what had happened.  I'd left my shirt open and my belt unbuckled; Hermione's robe was open and her lips bore the dusky impression of having been well-kissed.

            "We'd better get to bed.  It'll be sunup in less than an hour."

            She pulled her robe together and stretched.  We walked toward the stairs that would lead us to our rooms.  I kissed her gently, aware that both of our mouths were swollen. 

            "Hermione?" I wanted to tell her how much better I felt, but was afraid I'd sound daft.

            "Yes?"

            "Thanks for listening.  For everything."

            "I'd do anything for you, Harry," she said seriously.

            "I know." I replied, and knew it was true, for better or worse.  "You'd do anything.  I'd do anything for you."

            "I know."

            At that we parted ways.  As I climbed the stairs, I felt threads of exhaustion wind around me.  I fell into bed, fully clothed and was asleep before I could remind myself not to dream.