The next morning Harry was in the Gryffindor Common Room and about to leave for breakfast when he was confronted by two worried witches.
"Harry, you need to come with us." said one of them.
To say that Harry was confused would be an understatement. He had no idea what Parvati or Lavender would want with him.
"Why?" He asked.
"We need you to see something important. Just come and ask your questions later, please." Lavender replied, with a touch of annoyance.
Harry had half a mind to tell them that he was busy, but he was also curious to find out what they wanted from him. He finally agreed to accompany them.
They led him to the entrance of their dormitory and Parvati grabbed Harry's hand. However, Harry refused to move ahead, "I'm not climbing those stairs. I know what happens and it's not something that I want to experience."
"Not if you're invited. As long as I hold your hand, you'll be fine." Parvati reassured him.
Harry was still a bit sceptical, but tentatively took one step forward. He was mightily relieved when nothing happened.
He quickly climbed up the remainder of the stairs. Parvati, who still held his hand, dragged him to one of the beds.
"Do you know who's under the covers, Harry?" Lavender asked him.
Harry had figured it out by now. This was all just a ruse so that they could get him to talk to Hermione.
"It's Hermione, isn't it? How did she convince you to trick me into coming here?" Harry asked with anger evident in his voice.
With that he pulled off the covers, inclined to give Hermione a piece of his mind. However, what he saw shocked him.
At first glance, Harry thought she was dead. He managed to pull himself together by taking a deep breath and looked at her more carefully. She was sleeping but her thin and pale form scared him.
"She has not been eating at all for the last few days. Even though she makes it for breakfast every morning, she barely eats anything. As for lunch and dinner, she completely skips those meals." Lavender explained.
Parvati then turned towards Harry and said, "I have noticed that you two haven't been on talking terms lately. But what could possibly be so bad that you let her get into this condition? You're her best friend, Harry."
Harry was too overwhelmed to even speak. The remorse he felt at not noticing Hermione's condition and perhaps being the cause of it led him into a state of despair.
After just staring morosely at her for a few more moments, he finally found his voice, "I didn't notice she wasn't eating. We need to get her to Madam Pomfrey."
"We have been trying to get her to do that for the last few days, but she refuses to even consider it. As you're here now, perhaps she will agree." Parvati responded.
"You want me to wake her up for you?" Lavender asked.
Harry shook his head before speaking, "I'll take care of her now."
Both Lavender and Parvati knew that they weren't needed anymore. They had faith in Harry to do the needful and help Hermione recover. Asking him to take care of her, they both exited their dorm and left for breakfast.
Harry went and sat next to Hermione on her bed. He shook her body a little, "Hermione... Hermione, wake up."
She however didn't wake up and this worried Harry even further. He immediately summoned Dobby and instructed him to take Hermione to the Hospital Wing. Dobby was only too happy to oblige.
As soon as Dobby had popped out with Hermione, Harry got up and headed to the Infirmary too.
"She'll have to stay here for a while, Mr. Potter. I would expect her to regain full fitness in three to four days." Poppy Pomfrey informed Harry.
Harry had expected her to recover sooner. He asked, "Surely there must be a faster way, Madam Pomfrey? You managed to re-grow my bones in a day. This isn't as bad as that."
Pomfrey was surprised by Harry's question as she was accustomed to him accepting her treatment without any queries. She took a moment before responding, "Such cases of starvation are not really common, Mr. Potter. Miss Granger needs to be fed a nutritional potion which I can only administer once a day. Given the duration of her starvation, it's bound to take time."
Harry nodded and accepted her explanation. As he moved to sit on Hermione's bedside, Pomfrey remarked, "The potion will keep her asleep for quite some time, Mr. Potter. I think you should head off to your classes. You can come in and check on her once you're done for the day. She'd be awake by then."
Harry didn't really want to leave Hermione, but he knew it was pointless to stay. He then enquired about Dumbledore's health and on being informed that the Headmaster was still resting, he exited the Infirmary.
Daphne was lying back on the couch and reading when Harry entered the Room of Requirements. She had been expecting to see him as he usually dropped in during Lunch time after eating in the Great Hall.
Harry went and sat on the couch adjacent to the one Daphne was relaxing on. His defeated expression spoke volumes and it didn't take Daphne long to figure out that something was seriously wrong.
"What's the matter, Harry?" She asked, hoping that something bad hadn't happened.
Harry would have generally hesitated but in the last few days he'd really opened up with Daphne. He spilled out all that had happened in the morning. By the time he finished, there were tears in his eyes. He tried to quickly wipe them off, but couldn't control them.
"She almost died and it was all because of me. All because of me..."
"It wasn't your fault, Harry." Daphne tried to reassure him.
However, Harry was having none of it as he shook his head and the tears continued to fall. After a moment's hesitation, Daphne got up from the couch and went and sat next to Harry. She turned him around by the shoulder to face her.
"I meant what I said, Harry. Damn it, it wasn't your fault! The way she treated you this year, any person in your place would have responded in the same manner." She said, trying to keep her voice as calm as possible.
Harry kept on mumbling incoherently as his brain processed what Daphne had said. It took some time for his tears to stop falling.
When she noticed that Harry had calmed down a little, Daphne cupped Harry's face in her palms and made him look up. As her blue eyes met his green, she felt a moment of absolute weakness, unlike anything she'd ever experienced before.
She managed to shake it off before speaking, "You need to relax, Harry. Hermione needs you now. Take care of her and once she wakes up, talk to her and sort this mess out. Can you do that?"
Harry nodded and she smiled at him. Daphne then tried to get up to move to her couch again, but was surprised when Harry grabbed her hand. She turned to look at him before he spoke, "You're a good friend, Daphne. Thank you."
She smiled again and responded, "Anytime, Harry."
After a while Harry realized that he was running late for his post lunch Potions class. Once he had left, Daphne sighed and leaned back on the couch.
She couldn't help but think about the moment when she had looked into Harry's eyes. Never before had she felt as vulnerable as she had at that moment of time.
As she thought about it further, Daphne was perplexed as she was finding it hard to figure out the reason behind her vulnerability.
Only one likely explanation had entered her mind and that was just... stupid!
She couldn't possibly be attracted to Harry Potter.
Tonight was the night. Draco Malfoy was finally going to fulfil his Master's orders. Dumbledore being in the Hospital Wing was a really amazing stroke of luck for him. Once he had found that out the previous night, it had taken him only a few hours in the morning to ensure that he came up with a foolproof plan.
Before breakfast he had gone to see Madam Pomfrey with the excuse of needing a headache potion. While she had gone to her cabinet to fetch the potion, Draco had looked around and ensured that Dumbledore was practically defenceless.
Night time would be perfect as he had expected. He would station Crabbe and Goyle outside the Infirmary to take care of any unexpected visitors.
After that it would be a simple task of casting the Killing Curse on Dumbledore and getting the hell out of there.
Once he had disposed of the old man, he would proclaim it to the world. He would be known as the vanquisher of Dumbledore, one of the most feared wizards alive.
Oh yes, life was going to be very good for Draco Malfoy.
Done with classes for the day, Harry decided that he would spend the remainder of the day at Hermione's bedside.
As he walked towards the Infirmary, he really couldn't figure out how things had gotten so messed up. She had been at loggerheads with him over everything. She had accused him of being a cheat due to that damned Potions book. She had dismissed his suspicions about Draco Malfoy, terming him as paranoid and delusional. She had even lied to him about Ginny's activities in broom closets.
The breaking point for him had come when she had told Ron that she didn't expect him to survive the war. He was so used to Hermione being on his side that he had been shocked when he had heard her say that. He knew that she was right and that his chances of surviving the war were miniscule at best. However, that still didn't stop him from hurting. She was his best friend after all. He expected her to support him. She always had.
Try as hard as he might he just couldn't let her go. Even though his head told him to stay away, his heart was still very much in favour of Hermione Granger. He had realized that her condition wasn't exactly his fault, but he still felt terrible seeing her in her weakened state.
His musings were interrupted when he realized that he had reached the Infirmary door. He pushed it open and spotted Madam Pomfrey tending to Dumbledore.
He walked towards her and inquired, "I hope the Headmaster is feeling better, Madam Pomfrey?"
Pomfrey looked up to him and responded, "Not really, Mr. Potter. He did wake up in the afternoon but was still in considerable duress. I had to put him under the influence of a Dreamless Sleep potion as a result. He'll take some time to recover."
Harry had seen the effect that the potion had on Dumbledore and wasn't really surprised.
"Miss Granger is awake now though." Pomfrey continued.
Harry didn't need her to tell him twice. He quickly moved to where he knew Hermione's bed was.
"Harry!" She exclaimed as soon as she spotted him. She tried to get out of her bed but Harry gently pushed her back down and sat on a chair next to the bed.
"Hey Hermione, feeling better I hope?" He asked
"Harry, I'm so sorry..." She began.
Harry interrupted her, "You need your rest, Hermione. We can talk about this later."
"I've been waiting to talk to you for so long, Harry. I don't know if I'll get a chance again. Please..." She pleaded.
Harry was taken aback as a wave of guilt hit him in full force. He knew that he had gone overboard in ignoring her for the past couple of weeks.
"Hermione, I'm sorry too. It was extremely mean of me to ignore you like that..."
It was Hermione's turn to cut him off, "It wasn't your fault, Harry. I am the one who acted like an absolute jerk for the whole year. I am the one who tried to stay away from you and belittled you. I am the one..."
She broke down in tears, unable to continue. Harry held her hand and tried to comfort her, "Ssh... It's all okay now, Hermione. I don't know why you did what you did, but I forgive you. I just want you to get well soon now. I want my best friend back."
He smiled at her and was pleased when he saw that he'd made her tears stop.
"I... I got scared, Harry. I thought I should try to have a normal year without adventures and tried to distance myself from you. I was foolish... so foolish."
"Hermione, I..." Harry tried to interrupt her.
"No, Harry... please let me finish."
Harry sighed and nodded. She continued, "I just want you to know that I'll always be at your side Harry, whether you want me or not. I know I have been the worst friend possible this year, but I will do everything in my power to change that. Just... just don't hate me, please. I don't think I could live..."
Harry didn't let her finish as he got up and hugged her. Hermione was surprised but she gladly hugged him back. This was the first time in six years that he had initiated a hug between them and she couldn't be happier. He had taken her back! She knew that it would probably take a long time for them to regain the same level of trust that they had at the beginning of the school year, but she was willing to work hard to do so.
"I could never hate you, Hermione. God knows I tried to... but I just can't." Harry said, still holding Hermione in his arms. "You mean a lot to me and nothing you do is ever going to change that."
He pulled back and noticed that she was on the verge of tears again. "No more tears please. I'll have to ask Madam Pomfrey for a bucket otherwise!"
Harry grinned when he saw a hint of a smile on her face.
"I... I don't deserve a friend like you, Harry."
"Yes, you do. You deserve better than me, Hermione. "
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
Before Hermione could say, "No, I don't" again, Harry put his finger on her lips and shushed her.
Harry got up from the bed and sat on the chair again. He grinned as a thought popped up in his mind and he said, "You know... you could have at least told me about Ginny. That was rather cruel on your part!"
Hermione missed the playful smirk on Harry's face as she muttered back in response, "I... well... I didn't want to hurt you, Harry. I was so tempted to tell you when I caught her but..."
"Hey, I was just teasing! You don't need to go all defensive on me."
Hermione had been worried and she mock glared at him. She was about to swot him on the arm when she suddenly paused. A small frown appeared on her face as she asked, "I never told you that I knew about Ginny, Harry. How... how did you know?"
The smirk was wiped off Harry's face when he heard her ask the question. The conversation that he'd overheard between Ron and Hermione was still a painful memory. He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice as he replied, "I heard you and Ron talking the other night... when the git tried to ask you out.
Hermione's hand flew up to her mouth as she recollected her conversation with Ron. "Oh... Oh gosh, Harry." She gasped. "I'm... I... How much did you hear?"
"All of it." He replied.
There were a couple of moments of complete silence. Hermione had wondered what had pushed Harry over the edge and now she knew.
He knew that she'd hidden Ginny's activities from him. He'd heard her tell Ron that he wasn't boyfriend material. He'd heard her tell Ron that she didn't believe in him. He'd heard her tell Ron that she didn't think that he would survive the war.
And yet he was sitting with her, being the best friend that he could be. She really didn't deserve him.
Hermione knew that she had to choose her next words carefully. She could either tell him that it was all just a lie to get rid of Ron or she could tell him the truth. She knew it would probably hurt her but she decided to go with the latter. "Harry, I don't want to lie to you. I could probably tell you that I didn't truly believe in what I said... but I did."
She noticed a pained expression cross Harry's face which made her want to curl up and cry her eyes out. However, she soldiered on, "It was only when I was apart from you that I realized your worth in my life, Harry. You're a truly incredible person. You have faced Voldemort numerous times already and always managed to come out with your head held high. It was stupid on my part to presume that the prophecy was a death sentence. I don't know what came over me. I... I think it was because I was terrified of losing you. As for now, I know it may be hard to believe, but I do have faith in you, Harry. My idiotic logical mind had failed to take into account the most important thing... You're Harry Potter. One way or the other, you always win."
She tried to force a smile on her face, but found that she couldn't. Harry hadn't said a word and his face remained impassive.
Hermione waited patiently for his response, knowing that she'd deserve it if he decided to break their friendship off altogether. She hoped it wouldn't come to that, but knew that it was one of the possibilities.
Harry spoke, "I'm going to be frank with you too, Hermione. I won't pretend that what you said the other day didn't hurt me. It did... it obviously did."
Hermione paled considerably, fearing the worst. Harry continued, "However, I understand what made you say what you said and do what you did. It... It's still a very painful memory for me though and it's going to take some time for me to get past that. All I ask for thus is for us to not mention it again. I want to move on with my life rather than reflect on the past."
"That... That is more than I could ever ask for, Harry. Even I would like a fresh start." Hermione responded, extremely relieved that Harry had managed to look past her indiscretions.
"That's great then. Hi, I'm Harry Potter. It's nice to meet you."
Hermione giggled, "Hi Harry Potter, I'm Hermione Granger. It's really nice to meet you too."
They both laughed and then spent the next couple of hours talking about school in general. Harry decided not to inform her about anything Daphne related. He would wait till she got out of the Infirmary for that. Also, he wouldn't do so unless Daphne approved herself.
He did however admonish her for starving herself. She apologized profusely and promised to never do it again.
When it was time for Harry to leave, Hermione was surprised at how disappointed she was. It had felt good to talk at a stretch to Harry again and it had sure helped heal a lot of wounds that their friendship had suffered. She also knew that some wounds remained, but was sure that they would be gone with time.
Harry bid her farewell and walked out of the Infirmary. When he'd reached outside, he saw Malfoy's two cronies lurking around for no apparent reason.
When Harry looked at them, they quickly looked away thus raising his suspicions. As he walked away, he realized that he was perhaps being a bit too paranoid. However, the idea of Hermione being vulnerable in the Infirmary didn't appeal to him.
He knew what he had to do.
It was past curfew when Draco Malfoy decided to exit the Slytherin Common Room. He'd asked both Crabbe and Goyle to keep a watch over the Infirmary and let him know if there was any sign of trouble. They'd been there since the evening and as they had not reported back to him, he figured that the coast was clear.
As he reached the Infirmary, he looked around and spotted both Crabbe and Goyle trying their best to stay hidden but not exactly succeeding. He thanked his stars that nobody had caught the two buffoons.
After a quick discussion with them, he was extremely pleased when he came to know that even Potter's mudblood was in the Infirmary. This was his perfect chance to kill two birds with one stone. The deaths of the Headmaster and the mudblood would be a near fatal blow to the Light side. The Dark Lord would reward him like no other Death Eater had been rewarded before!
This was his moment.
Draco quickly walked towards the door of the Infirmary. He quickly cast a Silencing Charm of his feet and crept inside. He had feared Madam Pomfrey might be awake, and was relieved that she wasn't
He walked over to the bed which the Headmaster occupied and was delighted to see his sleeping form.
As he withdrew his wand from the holster, he realized that it was a shame really. The greatest wizard the Light side had ever seen was about to die in his sleep.
He pointed his wand at the Headmaster and with a mad glint in his eyes he mouthed, "Avada..."
And then his whole world went black.
"Harry Potter's Greenie please be waking up!"
Daphne who had been sound asleep woke up with a shock. She was even more surprised to see Dobby standing next to her bed.
"What... What the hell, Dobby? Do you know what time it is? What happened?" She glared at him.
"Bad Malfoy boy be trying to kill Headmaster. Dobby put him to sleep and get him here!" The house elf exclaimed.
Daphne turned and was stunned to see the limp form of Draco Malfoy resting against the wall of her bedroom.
"Dobby now is getting Harry Potter sir here. Till then Harry Potter's Greenie please keep watch on Bad Malfoy boy."
Daphne simply nodded in response and Dobby popped out to fetch Harry. After just watching Malfoy for a couple of seconds she came to her senses and promptly sprung into action.
She took his wand from his hand and cast a quick Incarcerous to tie him up.
It didn't take long for Harry to arrive. Dobby had given him a brief version of the night's events.
He quickly conferred with Daphne and they asked Dobby to explain what exactly had happened.
Dobby responded, "Dobby be guarding Harry Potter's Grangey like the great Harry Potter had instructed him to. Dobby then see Bad Malfoy boy entering the Infirmary. Dobby watches him as he walk to Headmaster's bed. Dobby don't know what to do. Then Dobby notice Bad Malfoy boy trying to cast Killing curse on Headmaster. Dobby left with no option but to use elf magic to put him to sleep and get him here."
Harry got a wide grin on his face as he heard Dobby's explanation. He looked at Daphne who was herself struggling to keep a smile off her face.
"You did well, Dobby. The Headmaster may never know but you saved his life. Thank you." Harry said.
"Harry Potter sir not needing to be thanking Dobby. Dobby being very proud to be helping Harry Potter sir and be saving Headmaster's life!"
Daphne smiled at the excited elf's declaration. She turned to Harry and said, "Dobby's good work deserves a reward, Harry. Don't you think?"
Harry happily accepted, "Obviously it does, Daphne." He turned towards Dobby and asked, "What do you want, Dobby? Anything you want which I can procure within my means will be yours. You just need to ask."
The little elf was about to refuse the reward but then suddenly fell silent. A couple of quiet moment later, Dobby asked, "Dobby being asking for too much, but it being a dream of Dobby. Dobby wanting to complete house elf bond with Harry Potter sir. Of course Harry Potter sir need not be paying Dobby but Dobby being happiest house elf in world if Harry Potter sir be bonding with him!"
Harry didn't even need to think twice, "If it means so much to you Dobby, I'll happily bond with you. However, I do insist on paying you."
Dobby jumped with joy as tears came into his eyes, "Harry Potter sir being the greatest and kindest wizard ever. Dobby not wanting payment but accepts as Harry Potter sir insists. Dobby now be starting the bonding."
Daphne watched in awe as a golden glow surrounded both Harry and Dobby signifying the completion of the bond.
Once the bond was completed, Daphne asked, "What do you want to do about the blonde ponce, Harry?"
Harry grinned, "First things first... Enervate!" He cast pointing his wand at Malfoy.
Malfoy woke up and was surprised to find that he couldn't move. He tried to struggle against his bonds but his efforts were futile.
He then looked up and was shocked to see his arch nemesis standing in front of him. "Potter!" He spat out.
"Potter's not the only one here, Malfoy." Daphne said as she came into Malfoy's view.
Malfoy couldn't believe it. This was probably worse than his worst nightmare. He had not only failed to kill Dumbledore but he had also been captured and was now at the mercy of both Potter and Greengrass.
"What the hell are you doing here, you w..."
He didn't get to complete his statement as he was smacked hard across the face by Harry.
"Don't even for one moment think that you're in control here, Malfoy." Harry stated.
The expression on Harry's face made Malfoy cower a little but he tried to put on a brave front, "The Dark Lord will hear about this. He will kill you... He will kill you both!"
Harry smirked, "You and your empty threats, Malfoy. I have had enough of them." He then turned to Daphne and asked, "You remember what he said to you in your Common Room the other day?"
Daphne nodded, well aware of what Harry was referring to. Harry's smirk grew wider as he said, "Well then... I think a bit of revenge is in order."
Daphne grinned as she stepped up. Malfoy's eyes grew wide with fear as she raised her wand and cast.
Draco howled in pain as he realized what she had cast. She had actually gone ahead and castrated him.
Daphne was pleased to see that Harry was howling with laughter. She went up to him and whispered in his ear, "A bit of mental torture now. Do you mind?"
Harry obviously didn't mind. He was looking forward to what Daphne had planned next.
Daphne turned towards Malfoy who was still sobbing on the floor. "I want you to see something, Malfoy. It's something you've wanted ever since our first year. It's something that you'd never ever get."
Even through his pain, Draco managed to look up.
Daphne grinned, turned around, walked towards Harry and before he could say anything... She kissed him.
Draco let out a strangled cry. Potter had got the girl he had wanted for so long and he couldn't even do anything about it.
Harry didn't pay any heed to Malfoy's cry as he was transported to a completely different world in which only he and an extremely attractive witch existed.
Daphne was in seventh heaven as she felt Harry kiss her back. This was her first kiss and it was everything that she'd dreamed it would be. Her spur of the moment plan to kiss Harry had worked wonders. If he hadn't kissed her back, she could have always said that she only did it to make Malfoy suffer. It was a near perfect plan.
She pulled back from the kiss reluctantly and grinned at the dazed look on Harry's face.
She then turned towards Draco, stunned him and told Dobby to deposit his bound body in the Atlantic Ocean. It was highly ironic in a way that he would end up suffering the same fate that he had planned for Albus Dumbledore. Draco Malfoy would soon be dead and nobody would ever know who did it.
Harry just looked on quietly as Daphne got rid of Malfoy once and for all. He wanted to help her but he was still in a state of shock. Daphne Greengrass had just kissed him and he had no idea why she had done so. What he did know though, was that it had felt really good.
He didn't know what possessed him, but as soon as Daphne turned to face him he crashed his lips into hers again.
Daphne was only too happy to kiss him back.
(A/N: First of all, I must apologize for the delay in posting this chapter. Hope you liked it though!
I'm sure that the Harry/Daphne shippers would have enjoyed the end of this chapter. It also felt good to get Hermione back in the fold. I really like her character.
Thanks for the reading and reviewing!)