Disclaimer: The whole Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling, lucky duck.
A/N: The first paragraph of the dementor definition is taken directly from Chapter 10 of POA when Remus is talking to Harry.
Harry gradually became aware of a dull, throbbing pain behind his eyes. The darkness surrounding him began to be pierced by voices talking and the steady drumming of rain against the glass. Slowly, he opened his eyes to see the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and his two best friends crowding around him.
Hermione was the first to notice that he was awake. "Harry! You're okay!" She tried to throw her arms around his neck in an awkward embrace. She straightened up as more shouts of "Harry!" came, trying to conceal the blush on her cheeks.
"Where exactly am I?" Harry asked. He noticed that his robes were wet and muddy like everyone else's. "Never mind, I'm in the Hospital Wing, aren't I?"
"Yeah, mate. Don't you remember the Quidditch match?" Ron asked from his position on Harry's right.
Suddenly, the memories came rushing back. "I remember dementors, and screaming, and then everything went black. What happened?"
"Dementors swarmed the pitch. You must have passed out, because you fell. Luckily, Dumbledore caught you before you could hit the ground," Hermione explained, trying to keep her tone calm.
"Good thing, too," started Fred.
"Yeah, that fall must have been at least a hundred feet," George continued.
"Don't think you'd look too good after that," they finished together. The whole team laughed at that, except Wood who looked very grim.
Harry immediately realized why, "We lost the game, didn't we?"
The mood took a downward turn. Alicia spoke the unfortunate truth, "Cedric didn't see you fall, and he caught the snitch as you got to the ground. He wanted to call it a draw, but…"
"I told him that he won, fair and square," Wood interrupted. Wood never took losing very well, but Harry knew it wouldn't be long until he was drilling them for their next great victory.
Harry did feel guilty though. "I'm sorry. This…"
Wood put his hand up to get him to stop. "Harry, none of us blame you. It's not your fault that the dementors were there."
Madam Pomfrey chose this moment to politely kick out the muddy Quidditch players. "Mr. Potter, you may go as well."
Harry sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, knocking a bundle of wood and twigs onto the floor. "What is…?" Harry spotted a piece marked "Nimbus 2000" in gold lettering. "Is that…?" He looked to Ron and Hermione for confirmation.
"There was nothing we could do. Your broom flew into the Whomping Willow. We got as many of the pieces as we could," Hermione said with tears in her eyes.
Harry couldn't say anything. He'd had the broom for so long, and he had never lost on it. Until then, that is. Seeing his sadness, Hermione took his hand, and Ron handed him the newly wrapped bundle. "Come on, Harry. Let's go change before dinner." Hermione led him out of the wing to Gryffindor Tower.
Still wet, Harry collapsed onto the sofa in front of the fireplace, dragging Hermione down with him. He absentmindedly fingered some stray twigs poking out of the bundle in his lap. Ron and Hermione stayed quiet, and Harry focused on the soothing circles Hermione was rubbing into his hand. Gratefully, he absorbed the warmth and comfort she was communicating instead of thinking about the events of the morning. They sat like this for a while until the grumbling of Ron's stomach ruined the silence.
"Harry, it's time for dinner. Would you like to come?" Hermione's voice was gentle.
Harry met her eyes, which seemed to be searching his own. He was surprised to find that they were a warm and caring chocolate brown. It stunned him for a moment, and her face returned with a look of puzzlement. "Sure. I'll go change into something dry. I'll be right back." He emptied what was left of his Nimbus into the fireplace and headed up the boys' staircase. Neither he nor Ron noticed Hermione stealthily save a piece from the funeral pyre.
Up in the dormitory, Harry redressed quickly and took a few minutes to mull things over. The dementors were foremost in his mind. "I can't let this happen again. I have to find a way to keep the dementors away," he muttered angrily to himself. Those thoughts gave way to ones about getting a new broom, and eventually to Hermione. Harry thought about the revelation he had about her earlier. It's not that he hadn't realized she was a girl; it's just that he was now more aware of it.
Harry tried to push those thoughts from his mind as he walked back down to the Common Room. He found Ron there alone. "Where's Hermione?"
"She went to put her cloak up," Ron gestured towards the staircase Hermione was descending.
"Are you two ready?" Harry and Ron nodded. "Let's go then," Hermione said as she let Ron lead them out of the portrait hole.
Harry motioned for Hermione to go next as he took one last look at the fireplace. He could barely make out a few remaining twigs burning to crisps. Hermione took his hand, and he followed her into the corridor. "I suppose I should start looking for another broom. Those old Cleansweeps and Comet Two-Sixties the school has won't work," Harry mentioned as they approached the Great Hall.
"Yeah. You'll never be able to get the snitch on one of those old brooms," Ron agreed. "I have a few broom catalogues in my trunk that you can borrow."
"Thanks. I'm going to need a new one before next year. Wood will be badgering me about it until I do."
They were among the last people to sit down to dinner. Harry and Hermione sat across from Ron who immediately became preoccupied with his food. Harry picked halfheartedly at what Hermione put on his plate until she set her fork down and half turned towards him. "Harry, something else is bothering you," Hermione stated with concern.
Harry glanced around even though he knew that with the noise no one would be able to eavesdrop. "I would tell you that I'm fine," he started.
"But you know that I would know you're lying, so it's pointless," Hermione quickly pointed out. "Please just talk to me." Her eyes were again filled with worry.
"Okay. Well, I know you think that Grim," Hermione snorted, "Wait, let me finished." She composed the annoyed look on her face for the concerned one before. He restarted, "I thought the Grim was all superstitious nonsense, but I saw it again. It was in the stands during the game."
"Are you sure? I mean, it was really rainy and foggy…"
"Hermione, I am absolutely positive. I saw it when lightening struck the pitch. I'm not particularly superstitious but seeing it twice is too much of a coincidence for me. Then, when you add on the dementors and Sirius Black."
Hermione muffled him by throwing her arms around him in an embrace. This caught Ron's and half the Great Hall's attention. "Oi! Harry and Hermione?" Luckily, his mouth was empty otherwise the now blushing Harry and Hermione would be covered in food. Gossip was rapidly spreading among the House tables about the "new couple".
"We were just talking about the Quidditch match," Hermione responded, her face still faintly pink.
"That's not what it looked like. People are already talking." Ron gestured to the mass of students whispering and pointing in their direction.
"Well, let them," Hermione announced with a tone of finality. Ron focused on his plate again, and Harry was silently contemplating the hug Hermione had just given him. It was warm and caring like the ones before, but there was something different this time. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but he had felt more than friendship in that hug. Harry wondered if Hermione had felt it too.
Because he was so caught up in his thoughts, Harry almost missed the end of dinner. Hermione brought him back by tugging on his arm. He turned and got up with her, but she seemed to be avoiding looking him in the face. The trip back to Gryffindor Tower was just as quiet and awkward.
They found empty seats close to the fireplace. Ron, oblivious to the silence of his friends, broke the tension. "I'll go get those catalogues, and I'll help you find a new broom." He ambled up the stairs, obviously tired from the massive quantity of food he'd just inhaled. Harry and Hermione were left there, politely looking the other way.
Hermione, the braver of the two, chanced to speak first. "Harry? What else is on your mind?"
He said the first thing that came to his mind, "The dementors. I want to know why I act like that around them." They both knew he was lying, but Hermione let it go.
"I don't know. We haven't covered them yet in class. Hold on." Hermione started rummaging in her ever-present bookbag. Out came a heavily belted copy of The Monster Book of Monsters of which she promptly stroked the spin, much to Harry's astonishment. The bookworm in her took over as she checked the index and found whatever she was looking for. "Oh, here it is!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Here what is, Hermione?" Ron had just come down the stairs with a bunch of catalogues under his arm.
"I was looking to see if there was a section on dementors, and here it is." She began to read:
"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places. They glory in decay. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can't see them. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself, soul-less and evil. You'll be left with nothing but the worst experience of your life.
"They guard the prison of Azkaban. Many inmates go crazy before long. Their last weapon is the Dementor's Kiss, which is done to suck a person's soul through their mouths. It is performed only on the evilest of criminals."
The author's word seemed to hang in the air around them. They took a while to sink in due to the horror of such a creature. "Normally, I would say that this book is biased, but given the circumstances…" Hermione purposely trailed off.
"Is that the end?" Does it say how to get rid of them?" Harry asked after a few moments of quiet.
Hermione quickly rescanned the section to see if she'd missed something. "It doesn't say anything else. There has to be something, a spell or charm that can ward against dementors. Let me check our Defense textbook."
Ron and Harry watched as Hermione pulled yet another book out of her bulging bookbag. While she searched that book, Harry noticed that Hermione looked very tired. There were bags forming under her eyes, and she looked paler than usual. He was thinking about talking to her about it when she grinned triumphantly up at him. "I found something. It's only briefly mentioned, but it's called the Patronus charm. The book doesn't say how it works though." Frowning at the book, Hermione closed it with a loud thud.
"I've never heard of it before. Have either of you?" Harry looked at his two best friends. Hermione shook her head, but Ron nodded.
"My parents have mentioned it before. Apparently, not many wizards can do it; it's supposed to be really difficult," Ron answered at Harry and Hermione's questioning looks.
"Do you guys remember that spell Professor Lupin did on the train? That silvery stuff he shot at the dementors?" Harry asked after thinking back to the beginning of term. "Do you think that's it?"
They looked to Ron again. "I think so, except I think it's supposed to have a distinct form. Lupin's didn't; it was more like fog." For once, Hermione was not their source of intelligence, and Harry couldn't tell if it bothered her or not.
Harry looked to Hermione to see if she had anything to add. "Maybe you should ask him anyway, Harry. If he can't teach you, I'm sure Professor Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall will be able to."
"It's worth a try. I'll talk to him in the morning before classes on Monday," Harry offered.
Again, they all stared absently into the fire. Harry's mind was focused on the dementors banishing all earlier thoughts of Hermione. He would have liked to get his Invisibility Cloak and sneak down to Lupin's office, but Lupin didn't know about the cloak. A loud yawn from Ron brought the three teenagers back to reality.
"It's late. We should all probably go to sleep Good night," Hermione said before moving towards the girls' staircase.
"'Night, Hermione," Ron replied as he ran up the opposite staircase.
Harry lagged behind. "Hermione?"
She turned back towards him looking wearier than earlier. "Yes, Harry?"
"Are you okay? You look really tired," Harry spoke with his voice full of concern.
She gave a tiny sigh. "Yeah, I'm fine. I've just been working really hard lately."
"Are you sure?"
"I'll be okay, Harry."
"Just don't work yourself too hard, okay?"
"I won't. Good night, Harry." Hermione flashed him a tired little smile that cause Harry's heart to flutter.
"Good night, Hermione," he said softly as she started up the stairs. He wasn't sure if she had heard it, but she walked up to her room with a grin adorning her face. Harry finally fell asleep with thoughts of Hermione swirling around his head.
A/N: I have taken the rest of the chapters off, so you guys don't get confused with the new discrepancies. I may not completely rewrite a lot of the later chapters, but they will definitely be happening at a different point. I'm basically letting my prose muse guide me right now. Sorry that this has taken so long!