It was cold and wet to say the least as Harry held out his wand arm four days after his seventeenth birthday. He felt drained, as though he hadn't slept at all in ages, which come to think of it, must have been true. The days of summer were slipping by surprisingly quickly. Harry suspected that it had much to do with the fact that it was very unlikely that he would be attending Hogwarts in September, and therefore, he had very little to look forward to.
Even though his seventeenth birthday had now finally passed, Harry didn't want to draw attention to himself by apparating, as he had not yet taken the test that would grant him a license to do so whenever he pleased, and until he did, this illegal bit of magic would certainly show up on the ministry's radar, and, almost more than anything, he did not want another encounter with Rufus Scrimgeour any time in the near future.
As the violent purple triple-decker emerged out of the night air with a loud bang, its faded gold letters shining spectacularly in the moonlight, Harry let his wand arm drop, pulled out a bag of coins and clambered onto the Knight Bus without a word. He barely even noticed shoving the coins into the small gold slot, which had unceremoniously replaced Stan Shunpike, as he had not yet been released from the ministry's cautious eye. However, he did vaguely realize that the ministry had it's eye on other things as well. Five or six bedraggled looking aurors sat in the front of the bus, all looking rather pale and visibly nauseous. One of them nodded to Harry in a distant sort of matter, and it was plain to see that he did not feel well at all. Harry surmised that they too had gotten little sleep over the past few weeks and were eager to get away from the jolts and bangs that accompanied this particular bus. Wishing dreadfully to be alone, Harry wandered of to the top most floor of the bus to find it had only one occupant, who had her dark hair in a clip and her head down as though she were reading a book, or perhaps had fallen asleep. Harry quickly decided by her floral muggle attire that this was not a Death Eater, and in all likelihood, she would not even notice him. He chose a bed on the opposite side of the bus from her, anyway.
The moment he sat down on the moth eaten sheets, however, he realized he had nothing to do, and he certainly did not want to be left alone with his thoughts at the moment. No, he had had far too much of that in the past few lonely weeks. Shifting around in the bed, he tried desperately to shut his eyes and try to get some much needed sleep, but once again, as he had seen so many times since the beginning of the summer, his closed eyes revealed a crumpled form at the bottom of a tall tower, a tall archway with a writhing tattered veil, and a cold, white marble tomb near a dark and menacing lake. Harry's eyes instinctively flew open and he debated whether he should simply ask someone to knock him out cold in order to get his deeply desired rest. He heard a rather loud BANG! But it was not accompanied by the usual jolt of movement and toppling of furniture that usually came with such a noise. Instead, there was a sudden clattering, the sound of brisk heels marching quickly towards him. Harry jumped and pulled away as the woman he had noticed earlier stopped in her tracks, still halfway across the bus, and let out a relieved sounding sigh.
"Good heavens, Potter!" She said briskly, though with a slight quiver in her voice, "for a moment I thought you had passed out."
Harry could've leapt for joy. He was on the Knight bus with half a dozen aurors and a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Seeing Harry's obvious relief, Minerva McGonagall strode forward again and sat herself down on the edge of his bed.
"Apparently," she began as she sat, "you did not tell Mister Prang where it is that you would like to go, as the bus is no longer moving."
"Oh," said Harry, feeling rather stupid, "I-I suppose I didn't. Where were you headed, Professor?"
"I just paid him my fee and told him to keep moving at all costs. I needed a bit of a break, I'm afraid." She smiled warmly at him, and then looked down at her lap. Harry saw a attack of papers he hadn't noticed before sitting there, and he assumed that this was what she had been concentrating on when he boarded the bus. She scribbled a quick note on the back of a sheet, tapped the paper with the tip of her wand, and watched for a moment as it zoomed down to the lower decks of the enormous magic bus. Harry was about to ask what was in the note, when the bus lurched forward unpleasantly and began to move steadily in what Harry was sure was no particular direction at all. Professor McGonagall rearranged herself delicately on the bed and turned to face Harry once again.
"You've been having trouble sleeping as well, I can see." She said with a dreamy quality that Harry was certain, under regular circumstances, could only have entered the voices of Luna and Professor Trelawney. To hear her so uncharacteristically soft was almost soothing in an odd sort of way. He Looked up at his professor's face and saw that her eyes, like everyone else's in the wizarding world, were blood shot and her face deeply lined. Through all this, however, she managed to give Harry another small smile. Unsure of exactly what she was planning on doing Harry nodded, and looked back down at his own knees in the dim light. He heard her shuffle closer to him and jumped slightly at the warm hand that had found his shoulders and began rubbing them gently. He was uncomfortably aware of how this would have looked to an outsider, but was also determined not to hurt Professor McGonagall's feelings by pulling back from her. Inadvertently, Harry twitched ever so slightly under his professor's touch, but McGonagall seemed not to notice. Instead, she pulled him closer to her and slowly guided his weary head down into her lap.
Again, Harry felt the urge to pull away, to stand up and tell Professor McGonagall that he did not need any help in sleeping, but her hand came to rest on his head as she began to murmur softly in a language Harry could not understand. Unconsciously, Harry felt his eyelids begin to droop, his mind to slip away from its thoughts, and his body begin to relax. Professor McGonagall continued to murmur softly and Harry suddenly realized that she was slowly, magically lifting his worries and helping him sleep in a way closing his eyes and trying to clear his mind had never quite worked. His last conscious thought was that he didn't care how this would look to one of the aurors downstairs anymore. He felt safe for the first time in months, and for the moment, that was all that mattered.
Harry awoke the next morning to find that Professor McGonagall had long since gathered her papers and left the Knight Bus. He quickly pulled on his glasses and stood up from the bed (which McGonagall had apparently taken the time to tuck him into) and went down to the driver of the bus.
"Where did Professor McGonagall get off?" Harry asked him, in a calm and constrained voice.
"Minerva? Hogsmeade station as usual. She paid me a little extra not to pick up anyone 'till you were awake, by the by. Glad you're finally up! I can finally go get Gladys Mudgeon. She's been tryin' for about half an hour now." Ernie Prang answered.
Harry muttered his thanks and walked back up to his bed rather slowly. He did not feel like leaving the odd comforts of the Knight Bus just yet. As he approached the bed he had fallen asleep on, he noticed a small, folded piece of paper on the untouched pillow beside where he had slept. Already knowing who it was from, Harry opened it and quickly began to read.
I hope that old Celtic charm allowed you get that sleep you seem to have been missing out on for some time. I am sorry that I am not there to see you as you awaken, but I didn't have the heart to wake you myself. Know that no one has entered or left the Knight Bus in your slumber and I have made sure the aurors downstairs are fully aware of the situation. Feel free to contact me at Hogwarts any time you fell you may need to. We will always open the gates for you.
And, tucking the short note into his pocket, Harry sat down on the now rumpled moth eaten sheets again, and, for the first time in what felt like an age, allowed himself a tiny, yet wonderfully gratifying smile.
I meant to add a disclaimer, I promise! It all belongs to Rowling, I didn't make up a thing! (which may be a first for me!) Sitting in the car inspiration just hit! That's about all for this one! Please critique!