Title: Anxiety

Author: Amethyst Jackson

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson@hotmail.com

Category: Drama

Keywords: Harry, Hermione, Ron, Death Eaters, kiss

Spoilers: For all five books

Rating: PG

Summary: In which Hermione gets angry with a table, Ron twirls a quill, and Harry wanders about.

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.

Author's Note: This started as a fifteen minute ficlet, and I actually finished it for once instead of leaving it to sit on my disc for months. So, yes, enjoy.

~

"Why isn't he back yet?" Hermione demanded, pacing nervously across the common room. Harry had sneaked out of Gryffindor Tower half an hour ago under the Invisibility Cloak to see what was happening. Hermione was terrified that some form of harm had befallen him.

"He'll be here soon," Ron said from the armchair he was somehow managing to stay seated in. He could not hide his anxiety from his voice, nor could he keep from fidgeting. Hermione knew that Ron was only saying things like that in an attempt to keep her from going after Harry herself. Ron continued, fiddling with a quill, "Maybe he decided to…I don't know, spy on the Death Eaters? He could find out what they're up to and tell Dumbledore."

Hermione ran her fingers through her already wild hair in frustration. "That's what Mad-Eye Moody is for!" she cried. "Stupid prat! It's not his time yet! They set up the Order for a reason, and that reason wasn't for Harry to go off on one of his rescue missions before he's at all capable of really fighting Voldemort!"

Ron stared resolutely at his hands. "I know, Hermione. But don't you think he might have learned his lesson by now?"

Hermione laughed humorlessly. "If he had learned his lesson, he would have stayed put for once!"

Ron didn't reply to that. Hermione continued to pace, unable to vent her panic and frustration. She wanted to throw things or smash something or run out the portrait hole and search the castle until she found Harry. It simply wasn't right of Professor McGonagall to waltz into the common room and tell them all that Death Eaters had infiltrated the castle, and to stay put. Stay put! As if Harry knew the meaning of the words!

Part of her itched to go out there and help. Dumbledore's Army had been a success, and it had continued on. They could fight. Harry had taught them well indeed, and experience had done an even better job of it. Their Stunners had been worked to perfection.

McGonagall had come to warn them at eleven o'clock. It was now three in the morning. Eventually, all the students had become too tired to worry any longer, and, one by one, they had returned to their beds - all of them, except Hermione, Ron, and Harry.

Harry was the most restless of them all. Hermione and Ron couldn't blame him. All three were quite aware of the prophecy hanging over Harry's head, but only Harry didn't seem to realize that it would be another year before he would be ready to face the Dark Lord.

Hermione had begged him not to leave the common room. Ron had chimed in here and there, but most of the arguing had been between Harry and Hermione. It wasn't surprising. Hermione knew Harry from the inside out, and she could see every thought that passed through his mind. Harry knew this, and he had only become cleverer to counter her arguments. Everybody had hoped that he had learned from his fifth year, but only Hermione had accepted that it had only made him more determined to save every life that was put in danger by Voldemort.

Hermione kicked over a table in vexation. Ron's eyebrows shot up, but he didn't comment on her sudden burst of violence toward the furniture.

The worst part was not knowing what was happening. If there had been any form of battle, the sounds had not carried up to the seventh floor. It was impossible to tell if the Death Eaters were still in the castle, or if the teachers were still alive. The students would all be safe in their houses, of course. It was nearly impossible to get into one without a password. Still, Harry wasn't safe inside Gryffindor Tower at the moment. He was wandering about the castle with nothing but a cloak to protect him.

What if all the professors were dead? What if they were to be stuck inside the houses until Voldemort found a way into them, or they risked going out?

"I should have gone with him," Hermione said in a strained voice, throwing herself into a chair. "Instead of trying to get him to stay, I should have just gone with him…at least then I would know." She blinked away her tears. As shaken as her emotions were, she wasn't ready to cry yet.

"He wouldn't have let you go with him," Ron said, still twirling the same quill between his fingers. "You know how he's been since Sirius died. He'd never risk putting you into danger again."

"That's not his decision to make," Hermione replied, curling up in the chair. Part of her wanted to go up to bed and hide under the covers; she wanted to sleep and wake up to find that it had all been a dream, and that Harry and Ron were still supposed to be playing in the Quidditch Finals the next day. She wanted to return to life as usual, and she knew it would be impossible.

The hinges of the portrait squeaked. A bolt of panic shot through Hermione, and she jumped out of her chair, tense and alert as she had been four hours ago. Perhaps Voldemort had figured out how to get through the portrait. She whipped her wand out, but the portrait hole only closed again quietly, and a soft rustle of fabric revealed Harry standing before them.

Hermione nearly collapsed, but instead ran to Harry, throwing her arms around him. "Harry…Harry, you had us so worried…"

Harry enfolded her in his arms, and it was the catalyst that broke through her dam of emotions. She stood there sobbing into Harry's robes; he held her, whispering things that she didn't comprehend but appreciated nonetheless.

"Shh, it's all right now, Hermione, I promise," Harry said, and those were the first of his words that she registered. They spurred on a wave of questions that Ron started to ask before she could put the words together.

"What happened, Harry? What's going on out there?"

Harry's hands pressed into Hermione's back. "The teachers managed to fight them off. It took them a long time…they trapped most of the Death Eaters on the second floor, but some of them escaped to upper levels…Voldemort included."

Hermione jerked away from him, still clutching him by the arms, worry once again forcing her into action. "Harry, you didn't – "

"I went completely unnoticed the entire time," Harry reassured her. "I don't know how, but Dumbledore forced Voldemort out of the castle. It was really bright, I can tell you that much. Most of the night was spent tracking down the Death Eaters and having the Aurors take them away, I guess. I think mostly everyone came out of it all right."

"Mostly everyone?" Hermione asked quietly. She didn't like the way he said it.

Harry didn't meet her eyes. "McGonagall…"

"No," Hermione choked. "Not McGonagall –"

"She's…she's alive, but it…doesn't look good."

Hermione was too exhausted to cry again. Harry and Ron didn't look much better.

"We should all go to bed," Ron said. "It's been a long night…and an even longer morning."

Hermione nodded, and the three headed for the stairs. Ron went up without hesitation, but Hermione took Harry's hand to hold him back. Hermione felt the need to do something. It was the same as it had been when they parted fourth year, the same nagging impulse. She hadn't hesitated then, and she wouldn't now, feeling that if instinct guiding her, her heart must have believed it was right.

She stood on tiptoes and kissed Harry softly on the mouth.

Hermione turned and walked up the stairs. She didn't look back, and neither spoke, but Hermione knew that he watched her until she was out of sight.

- Fin