Rated R for swearing, violence, and suicide (and/or suicide-related issues). If this offends anyone, don't read. Thought I'd add that I own nadda. All characters, names and related indicia are property of J.K. Rowling. I am merely trying to share some of her goodness in a non-illegal way. :)
Standing On The Edge
Chapter 1: Another Year
Ginny Weasley stormed into the Gryffindor common room and threw her books in the general direction of one of the squashy armchairs, narrowly missing Parvati Patil. Toeing off her sneakers, she dragged herself over to the fire and slumped, a bundle of robes, into a chair. She chewed on her bottom lip moodily, every inch of her feeling as though she had just fallen off the Astronomy tower. Nearby, Harry Potter looked up from the game of Wizard's Chess he had been playing with Ron, and grinned, a lock of black hair falling over one eye.
Ginny threw him a withering look and ran a hand over her face. "The worst," she replied. "Filch made me sort through and organize the main storage cupboard in his office, then I had to go with him to the Owlery to scrub owl droppings off the floor. Without magic!" She scowled and cast a dirty look out a window, as though expecting to see Filch lurking there outside, hundreds of feet above the ground.
Harry made a sympathetic noise. "Rough," he said, noting how tired she looked. "Have you eaten?"
"No," Ginny said sulkily. "I suppose it's too late now, anyway..."
Harry adjusted his glasses and glanced down at the chessboard again. Ron had gone to the dormitory to hunt down his bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, leaving Harry to contemplate his next move. Naturally, Ron was winning...two third's of Harry's pieces had been taken out, and so far he had only managed to nab one of Ron's knights and a pawn. He scratched his head and thought he had a move worked out when Ron returned, looking very tousled but exceptionally triumphant.
"Ha!" he announced, holding up the voluminous bag of sweets and sitting down. "Found them! They somehow ended up at the bottom of my trunk, coiled into one of the sweaters mum knit me last Christmas --"
Ginny snorted. "Hand them over."
"Because I haven't eaten since breakfast."
Ron threw her the bag. "Don't eat them all." He chewed thoughtfully on a bean before adding, "By the way, how was your detention?" Ginny scowled and repeated what she'd told Harry.
"Rough," Ron replied after she'd finished. "Filch's cupboard, from what Fred and George have told me, isn't small either...and I reckon the Owlery hasn't been scrubbed in about a year..."
"It was getting pretty bad," Harry commented, taking his turn with the chess.
Ron scoured the board with his eyes, and almost absent-mindedly cast his next move, sending Harry's king flying.
Harry sighed in defeat. "Well done, mate."
Ron laughed a little. "You are getting better, Harry...just very slowly." He grabbed the bag of beans from his sister and shoved a handful into his mouth, grinning.
"Slowly," Harry repeated, running both hands through his hair. It had grown a lot over the summer, reaching such a high level of untidiness that numerous females (in the whole two weeks they'd been back at Hogwarts), said looked really good. Many times he'd considered using magic to give it a trim, but decided that even though he was in sixth year, his Trimming Charm wasn't quite perfected yet. What really stopped him, however, was the memory of the Yule Ball in which Ron had used the same charm to attempt to remove the frills from his dress robes.
Harry had grown a whopping one inch during the holidays, but was finally getting rid of the awkwardness of youth and starting to fill out a little. In replace of his skinny arms and legs was muscle born of his Quidditch training, and he looked much older than he was. He wasn't massive at all, but a "good healthy size," as Mr. Weasley had told him. Ron, however, had grown even taller. His shock of red hair was nearly as long as Harry's, but nowhere near as untidy. He too was rid of the lankiness in his limbs and appeared considerably older.
"You'll get better," Ron said. "It takes a while --"
Suddenly, a choking noise came out of Ginny so alarming that both he and Harry were at her side in a second, hitting her quite roughly on the back. Her eyes were watering and she half stood up, doubled over, and gasped for breath. After one particularly loud cough, a grayish clump shot out of her mouth and into the fire, where it hissed and burst into flame.
"Ginny Are you all right?"
"It's the - dirty - toenail flavoured bean - " she choked, sinking back into her chair. "Every time I get one of those I always choke on them..."
Further across the room, tucked into a corner chair and surrounded by books, was Hermione. Her face was concealed behind "The Arthritmancy Almanac," but the stray bits of hair that had escaped the bun at the back of her head were sticking crazily out in every direction.
"Ruddy unbelievable," said Ron, eyeing her. "Been here for two weeks and already she's stressing over her classes. McGonagall hasn't even gotten us far enough into her course yet to have us transfigure teabags!"
"Of course, you sixth years will be transfiguring things like badgers and tea kettles," Ginny said. "Good luck with that, Ron. I've gott'a work like mad because of those sodding O.W.L.S..." She broke off coughing again.
Ron threw a carpet-flavoured bean at her. "If you can pass them, you'll be fine."
The sky outside was darkening quickly. Harry got up and went to a window. The Forbidden Forest loomed black in the distance, and the lights were on in Hagrid's hut where smoke streamed lazily out of the chimney. One of the first stars twinkled into sight, and the silhouette of an owl flew into the diminishing purple horizon. He gazed out at the grounds, not aware of the cold stone on his elbows, nor the way his eyes were slowly filling up with lonely tears. He was back where he belonged...but... He felt a presence at his right. Hermione squeezed into the space with him and looked at him sadly.
"Thinking of him, aren't you?"
In spite of himself, Harry smiled slightly. "How is it you know everything?"
Hermione looked out at the forest and sighed quietly. "I miss him, too. Not as deeply as you, of course, but...Grimmauld Place was so horrible without him there. Everyone felt the hole."
Harry nodded. She was right, after all. There was a hole there. A huge, black, gaping, lonely hole. In a way he was glad to leave the Order once start of term had arrived, because the weight of Sirius' memory was threatening to crush him.
Hermione gave his hand a gentle squeeze. She stood with him a while longer, then retreated to the fireside to chat with Ginny, saying nothing. It was just as well; he wasn't feeling social at the moment. In fact, he hadn't felt social since the summer... He still hadn't told them what Dumbledore had revealed to him two months ago, and he wasn't sure he wanted to at the moment. In a way he felt guilty for keeping this information from them, but on the other hand it grieved and scared him so much that he wasn't sure he wanted to believe it was true. Become a murderer or be murdered --
"Hey, Harry," Ron called, pulling him out of his thoughts. Wiping his eyes on the sleeve of his sweater (bearing the Gryffindor lion knitted by Mrs. Weasley), he went to join his friends at the fire, grateful for the warmth. He half-listened to Ginny talking about Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, and strayed off into a trance instead. He really wished to be left alone.
The sixth year would be a better one as far as his classes went (he had selected everything he'd need to qualify for a position as an Auror), but he wasn't looking forward to the people. Although pretty much all of them believed that Voldemort was back to power, he hated the ever-growing amount of stares, whispering and pointed that it had earned him; not to mention the murderous glares the Slytherin's rewarded him with every time he came into their sight. Professor Snape hadn't been much better, either: ever since the incident with the Pensieve last year he had been even more horrible than the past five years combined.
After a while Harry yawned and stretched. Hermione was getting up and fastening the clasps on her new book bag.
"You going to bed?"
Hermione nodded. Harry quietly bid everyone goodnight and slowly walked with Hermione to the staircases leading up to the dormitories.
"Look," Hermione said, turning to him. "Try to get some sleep, OK? Try not to think about..."
Harry nodded. "I'll try." He was determined to keep conversation off Sirius.
Hermione looked at him for a second as though wanting to say more, but decided against it. She stood on her tiptoes and gave Harry a reassuring kiss on the cheek, said good night, and was gone.
Harry ascended the cold stone stairs to the dorm he shared with Dean, Seamus, Neville and Ron. He carelessly changed into his pajamas, his eyes half-closed, his mind filled with so many things he felt as though he was going to burst. The room was very dark but he was too numb to bother lighting the candles. Sitting on the large windowsill overlooking Hagrid's hut, he brought his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them. Even Hogwarts was losing its appeal. Everything was: food, classes, and friends... What else could he lose, as almost everything he held close to his heart was snatched away from him? What if something ever happened to Ron or Hermione? Why couldn't it have been him who'd fallen instead of Sirius...the memories came back to him then. A large lump had formed in his throat. He swallowed, but it got worse. Tears slid down his face, but he didn't try to remove them.
Half an hour later, Ron opened the dormitory door ever so quietly and slightly. His expression suddenly changed to one of concern when he saw his best friend sobbing quietly onto his knees on the moonlit windowsill.
Many more chapters coming...please review and let me know how I'm doing. (This is my first fic, so be gentle!!)