Harry Potter tossed and turned in his bed in the hospital wing. He knew it wasn't morning yet, and he could hear snores all around him. He knew that Bill, Ron, Hermione, and Mrs. Weasley were all staying the night with him, and that even though his godfather, Sirius, had wanted to, he had left on errands for Dumbledore.
Why hadn't the Dreamless Sleep potion worked? Harry wondered as he continued to try to get comfortable. He had woken several minutes before, sweat glistening on his forehead, fear rooted in his heart. The nightmare he'd awoken from had been extremely powerful; Cedric's wide and staring eyes set on a face full of shock and fear, Voldemort, rising out of a cauldron, masked and hooded Death Eaters jeering and laughing as the Cruciatus Curse was flung at a defenseless Harry, his parents, Cedric, the old Muggle man, and Bertha Jorkins coming out of Voldemort's wand, telling him to hold on, to be strong, to fight ... the images plagued him ceaselessly.
Right then, all Harry wanted was someone to hold onto, someone he could break down and sob in front of. No! he chastized himself. I don't deserve that. I let Cedric down, I couldn't protect him. The only reason why he died was because he was standing beside me when it mattered most. All I wanted to do was be fair, despite my jealousy of him. But look where it got him: lifeless on the ground. His Uncle Vernon was right, and always had been: he was nothing but a freak and a burden. Why did he, of all people, deserve anyone to comfort him? He remembered, mortified, that he had almost lost it when Molly Weasley had hugged him earlier.
Why did Molly care? he wondered, honestly confused. Now that Voldemort was back, she should want her family to stay far, far away from him. Hadn't the death of Cedric taught her anything? Harry had barely known Cedric, he hadn't even liked him very much, but Voldemort had still killed him because he was with Harry! Harry loved the Weasleys, they were his favorite family in the world. God knows what Voldemort would do to them! It wouldn't be just a plain Avada Kedavra, and Harry knew it. So why was it, that in Molly Weasley's arms, he felt like someone's son?
Without being able to stop them, a few tears trickled down Harry's face. He remembered the love in his parents' eyes when they had come out of the wand tonight, and the pride that had shown in their expressions. Why were they proud of him? He'd done nothing but cause trouble since the moment he stepped foot on Hogwarts grounds. Ron had been hurt his first year, Ginny his second, Ron again in his third, and now Cedric had died in his fourth. At that last thought, the look on the seventeen-year-old's face as he came out of the wand entered Harry's mind - he had looked at him with sorrow and helplessness. Why, after he'd just been killed, did Cedric feel sad for him? He should have been angry, should have been demanding for his blood!
With these thoughts as a continuous loop passing through Harry's mind, the tears came harder and faster. Harry sniffled, a single sob escaping from him. No! he thought furiously. I'm not going to cry like a baby! I'm going to wake everyone up! I've done enough damage tonight to last a lifetime!
But no matter how much he chided himself, the tears kept coming. He furiously wiped them away, but it was no use - more came to replace them. I'm such a stupid, stupid freak, he thought furiously. Cedric's loved ones deserve to cry and be comforted. Not me.
And then, to make matters worse, he heard someone tiptoeing towards his bed. Before he knew it, he felt a warm, soft hand take his. A quiet spell was cast, and he knew it was a Silencing Charm. The voice was immediately recognizable: it was the voice of Molly Weasley.
"Oh, sweetheart," she crooned as she squeezed Harry's hand. "Baby, I'm so, so sorry. I should have known the Dreamless Sleep potion wouldn't work. Your thoughts are too powerful tonight. Sit up, love, there you go."
Slowly, unwillingly, Harry sat up and stared at the blurry face before him. Through his tears, he managed to choke out, "Mrs. W-Weasley, I'm s-s-sorry. I didn't m-mean to wake you."
"You didn't, honey," Molly whispered, almost in tears herself when she saw how much this poor child was suffering. "I was already awake." She sat down on the bed beside him, beckoning for him to come and sit on her lap.
Harry looked at her in horror. He didn't deserve this compassion! He couldn't possibly sit on her lap, could he? He was a fourteen-year-old boy, for one, and for two, he'd never sat on anyone's lap in his life, from what he could remember. The short time he'd had with his parents - he couldn't recall any of it. The only thing he remembered of them were their dying screams, and what he'd seen of them tonight.
"Harry, darling, come on," Molly coaxed, feeling her heart break further. "No one should have to live through what you did tonight. It's not healthy to bottle it all up inside of you. I'm right here, Harry. Come on."
And with those words, Harry's resolve to be strong, to be the hero everyone wanted him to be, cracked. He carefully maneuvered himself onto Molly's lap, and she pulled him close. He rested his head on her shoulder, and it was then that the sobs came in earnest. Howls emenated from his throat, and there was only one word he was able to force out through his pain. "Cedric ... Cedric ... Cedric ... Cedric ... Cedric ..."
"I know, sweetie, I know." Molly rubbed his back, hugging him to her. Even through his agony, Harry felt that he had never been comforted or loved like this, ever. Was this what it would have felt like to be hugged by his real mother after a nightmare, after a heartbreak? This thought only made him sob harder.
"That's it, my sweet boy, my brave, brave boy, let it out, that's it." Molly soothed, not being able to hide a few tears herself.
For minutes on end, Harry continued to let the pain fall from his eyes, the moans of the name of the boy who had died because of him fall from his mouth. Finally, though, the sobs became hiccups, the tears ebbed, and the repeating of Cedric's name ended. He simply lay in the arms of the only mother figure he could remember.
At last, he pulled away, and Molly stroked his cheeks tenderly, wiping the tears away. "Better?" she asked softly.
"Yeah," Harry replied, his voice hoarse from all the crying. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
"Anything for you, Harry," Molly replied, pulling him back in for another hug. "I may not be your mother, Harry, and I would never do anything to replace her in your heart, but I love you, darling, and I always will." As she held him close again, Harry realized he was absolutely exhausted. But the arms he was in felt so wonderful, and he didn't want to let go. He wanted to tell her that he was so, so touched by her words, but he could find no words to express himself.
But Molly, with her mother's instincts being as good as they were, seemed to understand immediately. "Go to sleep, love," she whispered in his ear. "I'll hold you."
Too tired to disagree, Harry continued to rest his head on her shoulder. Then, very gently, Molly began to rock him back and forth. Her soft, sweet voice filled the air as she began to sing a lullaby to him.
And that was the last thing Harry heard as he, buried in a warm cocoon of love, fell fast asleep, no more nightmares plaguing him that night.
And so it was, that even after the child had fallen asleep in her arms, Molly couldn't bring herself to let him go. She continued to hold him, tears falling down her face. She knew, as she dropped a tender kiss on Harry's scarred forehead, that he was, and would always be, one of her children.