I don't know why I asked him, really. It was just a quiet morning, the first Saturday after the start of the term. I was up early because I wanted to do some work in the greenhouses. It was my OWL year, and at least at the beginning of the year, I was determined to buckle down and study harder. Herbology's never been my strong suit, and it was silly to hold out hope for anything more than an A on the OWL exam, but there I was, eating breakfast as early as I ever had at Hogwarts. I was glad that Quidditch was cancelled that year—well, not glad, but I thought it would be good for me. There were half a dozen Ravenclaws, a pair of Hufflepuffs, and me, scattered through the Great Hall, so I noticed right away when Harry came in.
And like I said, I don't know why I asked him. We'd been teammates for three years by then, of course, and you might have called us friends, but we weren't really close. Maybe I was less affected by the mystique of Harry Potter than most people, because I'd suffered with him through Oliver's insane practices, and trudged back to the castle, wet, muddy, and exhausted, with him and the rest of the team. I'd even gotten to see him come out of his shell a little. He was a skinny little kid his first year on the team, and I remember the way he choked down his breakfast that morning before the first game. Not that I was in much better shape; it was my first game, too. By his third year, though, he carried himself differently on game day—like for once, he didn't mind all the attention that came with being Harry Potter, as long as it was Quidditch that people were watching him for.
But I'd also caught sight of his face twice during the Welcoming Feast. The first time was when Dumbledore had announced that Quidditch was cancelled for the year, and he looked as outraged as anyone. But the second time was when Dumbledore had spelled out the details of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and just for a second, he had this look of relief on his face, like he was thrilled that there was going to be this big to-do at Hogwarts, and he was going to have nothing to do with it. And I felt like I had a little glimpse into what it cost Harry to be the Boy-Who-Lived, right then. I'd thought about the expression on his face a couple of times since then—turned it over in my head when I should have been working on Transfiguration or something.
We may not have been close friends, but when he saw me at the Gryffindor table that morning, he steered himself over and sat across from me, and even mumbled, "Good morning," at the table between us. That could have been it—a companionable but silent breakfast—and maybe it would have been any other day.
But I leaned over towards him a little bit, and asked, "Are you going to miss it?" He looked up at me, puzzled. "Quidditch," I clarified. What else would I have been talking to him about? "Are you going to miss it?"
He shrugged, and swallowed his toast. "I reckon, yeah," he finally said. "It's hard to say I'll miss Oliver's practices. But I'll miss the rest, you know. Parties in the common room. And even just being on my broom." He looked down, then, like he was done talking, then looked up sheepishly. "What about you?" he asked.
"The same, pretty much," I told him. "It's OWLs for me this year, so I need all the extra study time I can get. But here I am at seven o'clock in the morning, and honestly I'd rather spend the next four hours flying drills for Oliver than up to my elbows in dragon manure." That got a laugh out of him, small but genuine, so I asked him. "Want to go for a fly sometime?"
He didn't answer right away, and I was ready to think all sorts of unkind things about him (and myself, too), but then he looked at me again with those eyes he has, and said, "Yeah, that'd be great." He seemed to realize then that he'd taken too long to answer, and he said, "Sorry, I—," but then he couldn't figure out how to explain himself. So he just said, "That'd be great," again. We didn't really say anything through the rest of breakfast. It was a comfortable silence, I'd like to think.
I'd started first, so I finished first. When I stood up, I said, "Let me know." And I got eye contact—those eyes again—and a nod, and something I'm seventy-five percent sure was a smile. That's probably more than most people get from Harry in a year. So even though I was pretty sure we'd never actually go flying, I was in a good mood until I got to the greenhouse.
We did go flying, though, the very next weekend. It was Sunday, this time, and I was in the common room, along with most of the rest of Gryffindor. The noise was not doing wonders for my resolve to be more studious, and I remembered with some sympathy the short fuses that Alicia and Angelina had had the previous year. A good part of the noise was coming from Harry, Ron, and Hermione's table. Ron and Hermione had been sniping at each other all year—house elves and table manners seemed to be their favorite subjects—and Harry was finding himself in the middle an awful lot. But I guess he'd had enough at that particular moment, so he got up and walked over to me. Ron and Hermione didn't even notice when he left.
"Katie," he said, maybe a little more publicly than the situation called for. "How about that fly?" Now they had noticed, and they were looking at me with astonishment (Ron) and suspicion (Hermione). I wasn't sure why he was asking me quite that way, but I was tired of being in that common room too. So I flipped my book closed, planted an elbow in Alicia's ribcage (just in case she was thinking about inviting herself along), and followed him out through the portrait hole.
Flying with Harry was always glorious, but it was especially fine on a crisp autumn morning when he'd gone out of his way to invite me in front of the whole common room. Once we got in the air, he started showing off for me a little bit, but that was all right. First, because I was an appreciative audience—I knew exactly what it took to make a broomstick do what he was doing, so I could be properly impressed. But second, because I was pretty good on a broomstick myself, and if he was showing off, that meant I could too.
After a while, though, we got tired of flying tight spirals up the goalposts, and making inverted passes over the stands, and we just started taking long lazy loops over the pitch, flying next to each other. At first we were going too fast to talk, but we slowed down, and I had the first really long conversation with Harry that I'd ever had.
"How'd you wind up on the team?" was the first thing he wanted to know. It was a reasonable question. Everybody knew the story of how he got on the team—or everybody knew a story, anyways. The only ones who saw it were the Gryffindor and Slytherin firsties, and they may have been a little bit prone to exaggeration. But I was just a little second-year chit of a girl at the time, and it was a little surprising for me to be on the team.
"Well, I always loved sports in primary school. I played pretty much everything—hockey, athletics, netball, I even played football with the boys my last year," I told him. But he had made this little sideways sliding motion on his broom, to bring himself almost to a stop in the air.
"Are you—did you grow up Muggle?" he asked.
I was surprised, and at first maybe a little offended, and so my tone of voice may not have been entirely polite. "Muggleborn. Didn't you know?" I said.
He turned red, and looked down at the ground for a moment. "I'm sorry," he said finally. "You know I didn't mean it like it sounded. I just had no idea."
Well, when I stopped and thought about it, I had to appreciate his point of view, and I was quick to say so. "It's OK, Harry," I said. "Actually it's kind of refreshing. Sometimes I feel like my blood status is part of every conversation I have here. It's nice to talk to someone who doesn't even keep track."
He nodded right away. "I know what you mean," he said. "I mean, if you take someone like Neville, I'm sure he could tell you about everybody in our year. For the purebloods, he'd know their parents, and all their various family ties and alliances; for the half-bloods, he'd know about the scandal when their parents got married, or their grandparents or whoever; and for the Muggleborns, he'd know they're Muggleborn, and that's all he'd really need to know. And Neville's a good bloke, he wouldn't judge us, but there are some who aren't so nice about it."
I was so quick to agree, I didn't even notice the way he'd said 'us'. Not right away, anyway; I thought about it plenty later on. Right then, I just said, "Exactly. And so any conversation about anybody at Hogwarts, we're starting at a big disadvantage."
He knew what I was talking about. "It's just stupid, though. Why should it be such a disadvantage? I don't hate Malfoy because he's a pureblood. I hate him because he's an awful git. Why should he hate me for who my parents were?"
So we talked about that for a while, before we circled back to the question of how I started playing Quidditch. It wasn't much of a story; my first year had been kind of a low point for Gryffindor Quidditch. They didn't win a match, and there were lots of broken bones, particularly in the Slytherin game. So when tryouts rolled around my second year, nobody was really interested in getting publicly humiliated three times a year, and there was a spot on the team for the little sports-mad Muggleborn girl. And Oliver, bless his heart, never once made a big deal of it.
I told Harry all this, and he nodded like Dumbledore, rubbed his chin, and said, "I see. It must have been all the hockey that prepared you to be such a talented young Chaser."
I was in such a hurry to correct him that I didn't really see the compliment he'd buried in there. "I think it was the netball, really, that's where I got used to throwing—," I said, and then I realized he was making fun of me. Or making a joke, anyways; he wasn't being mean. So I dove at him, and he dodged right away, so I made a little half-spiral and tried to cut him off from in front, but that didn't work at all; he was too quick on that Firebolt of his. But we ended up playing broom tag for a long time after that. By the time we went inside, we'd missed lunch, and we were both in serious need of a shower. I had quite the interrogation coming from Alicia and Angelina, and from Leanne, too, when she found out about it. Harry probably got the same from Ron and Hermione, but they'd apparently learned their lesson about shouting at him in the common room, so I didn't hear what they had to say to him.
We only went flying one more time before everything changed. It was one of those misty October mornings in Scotland when all the sane people stay inside and drink tea. But we'd been hardened by years of Oliver Wood, and our housemates were still driving us crazy, so we set off despite the weather. We made a pretty good try at getting some flying in, but it wasn't any fun. It was cold, and the mist was thick enough that I couldn't properly admire Harry's flying skills. We gave it up as a bad job after maybe twenty minutes, but neither of us could stand the idea of the common room (and, I admit, the library didn't even occur to me), so we sat down on the very top row of the stands to talk. I showed him a warming charm, which he mastered with annoying speed.
It seemed like maybe his friendship with Ron and Hermione was a little shaky right then, and I hated to see that happen. So I started talking about them. "I always envied your friendship with Ron and Hermione a little," is what I said, and he looked surprised, if not actually cross. "It was hard for me to find my way at Hogwarts to start out. Leanne was really my only friend, and she was Muggleborn, too. We stuck together as best we could, but with her in Hufflepuff, it was hard. None of the Gryffindors who had grown up witches went out of their way to help me or anything."
He frowned at that. "What about Angelina and Alicia?" he asked.
"Oh, sure, once I was on the team they were nice to me. But my first year, they were on the team, and I wasn't, plus Fred and George were on the team too, so they never even thought about the firsties. It was my second year that they sort of took me under their wing. Or wings. And by the time it occurred to me that somebody ought to do the same for you, you and Ron and Hermione were together all the time."
"Oh, so you just wanted me under your wing?" he said. He was teasing me, but it sounded like I might have struck a nerve, too. "What about Dean Thomas? He needed more help than I did."
"No, he didn't. He fit right in with Seamus and Lavender and then Parvati later on," I told him. And then I realized that I was admitting to paying a lot of attention to his whole year group, but Harry didn't even notice.
"Ron and Hermione are great," he said, staring at the mist. "I guess you've heard we've been through a lot together. But I don't know what's going on this year. Hermione's just so motivated, and Ron's really not, and I'm somewhere in the middle, and we're always driving each other mad."
I really wanted to help him out. "Harry, I don't know what happened exactly, but you all went through something big at the end of last year, with Professor Lupin and Sirius Black."
"And Buckbeak," he interrupted. I must have looked confused, because he reminded me, "The hippogriff." That didn't help much, but he looked away. "I shouldn't really talk about it," he said.
"It's OK," I said. "The point is, something big happened to all three of you, and then you didn't see each other for the whole summer. Now you're back together, but nothing big is happening. It's just school. Maybe you're just having a hard time adjusting."
He thought about that for a little while. "Are they really my friends, then? If I can only stand to be around them when something big is happening?"
"Harry!" I said. Or maybe I shouted; I was shocked at him, and I showed it. "Do you know how lucky you are to have friends you can count on? I don't know the details, but it doesn't matter much. They've stood by you through things that the rest of us can only whisper about. How can you even ask me that?"
He didn't seem to mind that I was shouting at him. Actually, he smiled at me, a real smile. "Thanks, Katie," he said, and I can't stand to think what a dumb look I must have had on my face when he said it. "I guess I needed to hear that. I'll remember what you said next time I'm talking to them." He saw the look on my face, and sort of waved his hand. "Oh, they're still driving me mad. But we'll get over it."
I had to take a deep breath before I could say anything. "All right. I'm sorry, maybe that was none of my business. Only I would hate to see a friendship like that come apart over nothing."
"Don't worry about it. I asked you, after all."
"All right," I said again, and then I had to take another deep breath. "You know, Harry, you've got other friends, too."
I was ready to explain that I was talking about Neville, or some Ravenclaw or something, but he just looked at me and said, "I know." And then we didn't really have to say anything else for a while.
I started noticing Harry a little more after that. At first I was just paying attention to him when he was around Ron and Hermione, trying to judge whether that volcano was going to erupt. It looked like maybe it wasn't going to right away. At least, Harry seemed a lot more relaxed around them. Hermione was wound as tight as ever, and Ron, well, I've never been able to see the sweet kid with a good heart that's supposed to be hiding in there. But you'd see them starting to wind each other up, and Hermione's voice would start to carry across the common room, and Ron's face would go all red and gold like a house banner, but Harry would just lean back and sort of smile. It almost looked like he was going to wrap his arms around them both. It probably just made them madder.
But I never really saw him look that happy when he was away from them. He didn't seem to have any friends in other houses, and even the rest of Gryffindor passed him by. Ginny was hanging out in his wake a lot, but he was never more than pleasant to her. Neville—now there's a kid who could have used a friend like Harry, but their paths just didn't cross that much. I started to make a point of saying hello to Harry, and he was always so sincere and almost grateful when he said hello back, but he didn't exactly come to me for help with Transfiguration. Which was probably just as well; there's not much I could have done to help him.
And then came that awful Halloween. I was so excited about the tournament at first; it really seemed like the whole world was coming to Hogwarts, and after everything I'd heard about the Quidditch World Cup, we needed something big to go well. Angelina, of course, had been talking about it non-stop since she first realized she was eligible, and Alicia and I got swept up, too. She seemed to think she had a pretty good chance, and maybe she did. Thinking back on it, we were so hopelessly naïve. It didn't even occur to us that the tournament would be difficult, let alone dangerous.
It was all very dramatic and magical at first. I mean, of course it was magical, but it was magical in the way all the best things at Hogwarts were. We had the big feast, and then Dumbledore stood up, all majestic and mysterious, and brought out that flaming goblet. It was enormous; not even Professor Hagrid could have drunk from it. Dumbledore waved his hand over it, and the flames leapt to meet him, and deposited a slip of paper in his hand. But before he could even read the name, a red bolt shot out of the goblet. I thought it was flame for a moment, but then I realized that it was pure magic. It went straight across to the Slytherin table and hit Viktor Krum, the famous Quidditch player. It played across him for a second or two, and he sat up a little straighter, but it didn't seem to hurt or anything. Then it disappeared, and the flames in the goblet died down, and Dumbledore waved his arm. "The Champion for Durmstrang," he said grandly, "is Viktor Krum!" The Durmstrang students banged on the tables and shouted, and everybody else applauded. Krum walked up to Dumbledore, acknowledged everyone with a wave, and then disappeared into some side room.
The flames rose again, and we all held our breath. Dumbledore reached out for the slip, but everyone was watching for the bolt of magic. This time it flew toward the Ravenclaw table and hit this impossibly beautiful French witch. She did the same thing as Krum, although her posture was a lot better, so she couldn't really sit up any straighter. But she sort of flinched, and then Dumbledore announced her as Fleur Delacour, Beauxbatons champion, and she walked up to the front of the room.
Hogwarts was the only school left when the flames sprang to life again. There were a lot of people around the Great Hall who were dreaming of being chosen. Angelina was gripping the back of my chair, and I had my fingers crossed for her. But the red bolt went over towards Hufflepuff instead, and hit Cedric Diggory. We clapped for him—Cedric was a decent sort, after all—but Angelina was sagging next to me. As soon as he left the room, I turned to her. At first I was just trying to console her, but then I had to shield her from all the other girls in Gryffindor, who were swooning over the boy who had just shattered her dreams.
So I didn't see the goblet light up again. But I sure saw the bolt of magic zip past me, and I turned almost involuntarily to see that it had landed on Harry Potter. There was confusion all around, especially when the bolt didn't vanish after a second or two like it had with the other champions. But from the expression on his face, Harry was clearly fighting it. The arc of magic between the goblet and him shimmered and crackled for fifteen or twenty unbearable seconds. Then his eyes went very wide, and the stream of magic got much wider. He clutched at the table and looked totally overwhelmed, like a man pinned down by a firehose. But the goblet didn't stop; it just poured more and more magic into him. When it finally ended, maybe another thirty seconds later, Harry just leaned on the table panting.
"Harry Potter," Dumbledore announced, and he sounded completely dumbfounded. I looked up at him; he was reading another slip of paper, and the goblet had gone out. "Harry Potter," he said again, but he still didn't sound like he believed it. I looked at Harry. He showed no sign of getting up until Hermione yanked on his arm. Then he walked to the front of the room like a condemned man.
The common room that night was tense. Harry came in late, announcing to whoever was around, "I didn't enter my name, but I have to compete." Some people wanted to celebrate that he was a champion. But Angelina was hurting pretty badly, and I suppose some of the seventh years were nursing their own dashed hopes, and nobody wanted to hurt their feelings. Especially not Angelina's; her tongue gets sharp when she's angry. It might have helped if Harry had said something more, but it might not have, and he didn't look like he was in any shape to talk.
He sat in the corner of the common room with his back to the rest of us. Hermione was with him, but not Ron, which I wondered about a little. They didn't seem to be saying much. Fred and George paid him a visit, and I could see his mood lift right away. But just as quickly, he got defensive, and then upset. Fred and George walked away laughing, but Harry just shrank back into himself.
So I exchanged a tricky bit of non-verbal communication with Alicia, in which I told her that I was going to talk to Harry and she should keep Angelina distracted, using only my eyebrows and the muscles in my right cheek. If I have ever said anything unkind about Alicia, I take it back, because she understood and did what I asked without even smirking at me
I walked up behind Harry and put my hand on his shoulder. He just about jumped out of his skin, and I think Hermione was going for her wand, but he settled down when he saw it was me. "It'll be OK, Harry," I said quietly.
He relaxed under my hand for a second. "Don't see how," he said.
I didn't either, but I couldn't tell him that. So I just said it again, "It'll be OK," and then I left him alone.
It should have gotten a little better for Harry, at least in Gryffindor, after that. Angelina figured out pretty quickly that he wasn't trying to steal her thunder. It helped that she knew him from Quidditch, I think, but there was also some whispered communication somehow. It must have been Hermione, because Ron wasn't talking to Harry. And that's why, even though the rest of the house felt a little sheepish about the way we'd treated him, it didn't really change things for him. When Ron had called him a liar, he'd just decided to shut the rest of Hogwarts out. He sat in the corner with Hermione, trying to learn all the magic in the world, and didn't hear anything that anyone else said to him. He tolerated me reasonably well when I talked to him, but I was worried about distracting him. So I just sat with Alicia and Angelina and watched him.
In a way, the horrible article that Skeeter wrote probably made things easier. It just solidified in his head that it was him and Hermione against the world. Everybody in Gryffindor knew it was rubbish, of course. But the rest of the school was happy to chatter about it, either because they hated Harry, or because they wanted to knock him off his game in favor of Cedric. Things were even a little strained between Leanne and me, although if she ever wore one of those buttons, she didn't do it in front of me. I couldn't believe that some people did, though; I was surprised to see that Hufflepuff house pride had a dark side.
Then one Monday morning he stopped behind me while I was eating breakfast. "Katie," he said, "I need your help." He sounded desperate.
Angelina said something like, "Are you bothering my Chaser, Potter?" which she probably meant as a joke, but came out sounding pretty hostile.
But Harry didn't even acknowledge her. He just said, "Katie?" again.
I turned around and said, "Of course. What do you need?"
"I need some practice flying. Can you come out between the last class and dinner?"
"Of course," I said again. And he thanked me, and went and sat at the other end of the table. I waited until he was gone to start glaring at Angelina. I don't know what made her think I was her Chaser; Alicia could have been captain just as easily.
When I saw him that afternoon, he was a wreck. I asked him why he needed to practice flying, fully aware that the tournament started the next day, but I wasn't prepared for what he was going to say. "Dragons," he said. "The first task is dragons. I can't win a fight with one, but I might be able to out-fly it." He didn't look like he believed it.
"All right," I said, determined not to panic in front of him. "Dodging and maneuverability drills, then. Should we borrow a Bludger?"
"No," he said. "I can't risk getting hurt." Good point. That could wait for tomorrow.
So we flew for a little while, but all we proved was that he was quicker on a broomstick than I was. I tried shooting coloring charms at him with my wand, but it was just about impossible to hit a moving target, and they weren't really big enough for him to see. What he really needed was practice dodging a wall of flame, and maybe some idea of how fast a dragon could climb and turn, but neither of us knew anything about that.
I stopped to catch my breath, and he pulled up alongside me. "Harry, you're a natural on a broom," I told him. "If there's anything else you need to work on, you should do that instead."
"OK," he said, and I could hear the exhaustion in his voice. "I'll go in and work on the summoning charm."
"What for?" I asked.
"Well, I'm not allowed to start with my broomstick, so I figure I'll summon it."
My stomach dropped. "Sounds good, Harry," I said, and I don't think he heard the quaver in my voice. "What's plan B?"
He pointed his wand out over the lake, and said, "Stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy." The stunners flew harmlessly over the water, and he slumped over his broom. I didn't dare say a word, but I grabbed his elbow. After a minute, he sat back up. "I can get nine stunners off before my vision starts to go funny," he said. "It's supposed to take twenty dragon handlers to stun a dragon. Plan B is to hope my stunners are twice as powerful as average, or that they all hit the dragon in the eye." He looked at me for a minute, measuring me somehow, and then confessed, "It's not completely impossible. I've been feeling a lot more powerful lately."
We landed, and he left to go work with Hermione. When I was sure nobody was around, I pointed my wand towards the far shore. "Stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy, stupefy," I said, and then I found myself on my knees, my head buzzing. I thought for a minute that I'd been hit with my own rebounding stunner, but I realized it must be magical exhaustion. I staggered back to the castle on my own, feeling foolish, and terrified for Harry.
I learned a lot that next day, even though classes were cancelled for the tournament. I sat with Alicia and Angelina, since Leanne was still being difficult about Cedric. Ron and Hermione were a couple of rows in front of us. It was cool and sunny, with a nice stiff breeze. The elite of British magical society, and probably continental magical society as well, were in the announcer's box, or scattered through the stands. And the spectacle we were all there to see was totally and completely insane.
Maybe the girls who grew up witches were better prepared for this. Maybe they all see dragons in magical petting zoos from the time they're four years old. But my first view of a dragon was on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch that morning. They're enormous, of course, but it's not only the size that gets you. It's the feeling that you're completely insignificant next to one, that there's absolutely nothing you can do to escape it. It must be the way a field mouse feels when the shadow of a hawk passes over it.
They're supposed to be quite clever, but this one just looked like a caged animal. It was furious, and there's no doubt in my mind that it would have killed everyone in the stands without a second thought, just to be left alone. And of course it was protecting its eggs, so it was probably ready to fight to the death.
And there were four kids getting ready to face this thing, for the amusement of everybody in the stands. (I know, I know, three of them were "of age" in the magical world, but they were still just teenagers. And I don't even know what it means to be "of age"; I don't get the sense that Angelina got to vote for her Member of Wizengamot or anything, and we'd all been drinking Butterbeer since we were thirteen.) It was sick and wrong, and I couldn't stand it. That idiot Bagman was announcing it like a bloody football match, but it was life and death for the competitors. I was appalled, I was terrified, and I was shaking in my seat. When Cedric emerged, I wanted to look away, but you can't actually take your eyes off a dragon when it's in front of you. Plus it would have been disrespectful to Cedric.
I watched the first three competitors in a kind of daze. I was hunched over and my eyes were blurry, and I kept praying under my breath, please be okay, please be okay. Alicia and Angelina seemed to be in slightly better shape; at least, Alicia had the presence of mind to rub my back between competitors. But the student sections of the stands were a lot more subdued than anyone would have expected.
The first thing I learned that day, then, was that the wizarding world was crazy and immoral. It wasn't enough to send mad gossip columnists after students; no, they had to plunge those same students into a blood sport. Dumbledore's platitudes about international friendship felt like bald lies to me. It planted a seed somewhere deep inside me that said, I have to get out of here. Out of those Quidditch stands, out of Hogwarts, probably out of Britain. I wouldn't be safe until I did.
The second thing I learned that day was about the feelings I had for Harry Potter. Maybe everybody else in Hogwarts already knew. Maybe they saw me flying with him, and watching him from across the common room, and they thought, 'Katie's got it bad for that boy.' But all I was thinking was that it had been really nice getting to know Harry better this year. Then I saw him step out of that tent, and I had a whole new feeling to deal with.
I had been afraid for Cedric, and for Krum and Delacour, too. But the kind of anguish that filled my heart when I saw Harry getting ready to face a dragon was something I had never experienced before. I saw him make the wand movement for a summoning charm, and the thought that went through my head as those agonizing seconds passed was, 'He's going to die, and I never told him how wonderful he is.'
If I had been in a daze for the first three competitors, I was in a hyper-aware state for Harry. I realized later that I must have had enough adrenaline in my system to kick a hole in a tank. But all I knew then was that every heartbeat felt like the echo of a faraway cannon blast, and my eyes were switching their focus between Harry and that beast about five times a second. I lived through every twist and turn with him, trying to think with him about where to go next, and watching how the broomstick responded to his mind and body. I honestly believed that if I blinked, he would vanish, and it would be my fault. I probably aged six months in those twenty minutes.
When it was over, I couldn't even cheer. I wanted to go down to that tent and see him (and talk to him and hold him and kiss him and we'd better stop there), but I was in a heap in my seat, and I didn't really have an excuse to visit him. Alicia and Angelina and I walked back to Gryffindor tower together, hardly able to believe what we'd seen.
There was a very strange party in the tower that night, where everybody tried to pretend that Harry hadn't walled himself off from the rest of Gryffindor for the last few weeks. I think we all felt like we'd had a brush with death that day, even though really only Harry had, and the party was about being glad we were alive. Harry gave up on it pretty early, but before he did, he tracked me down and thanked me for helping him practice. I told him honestly that I didn't think I'd helped much. Then I tried to tell him how scared I had been for him, and how glad I was that he was OK, but it was all too raw for me to explain myself clearly.