Chapter 23: Sorrowful Goodbyes


As Daphne's eyes slowly opened, the first thing she saw was the top of the canopy that covered her bed. Turning her head to the left, and then to the right revealed green curtains, which blocked out the outside world. While she observed her surroundings, the young girl's higher brain functions began to turn on, and she was able to realize something about her situation.

The soft bed underneath her was warm and comforting, yet she could not take any solace in it. No noise penetrated her curtains, which were charmed for privacy, making her feel alone. Not to mention she was tired. Actually it was more like exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Drained. That was the word she was looking for. She felt drained. Like all of the energy she once had was just gone, evaporated, along with whatever emotions she might have once possessed.

The events of last night played heavily in her mind. They were like a plague, haunting her, taunting her, telling her that she was powerless, that no matter what she did or how strong she became, nothing would change. She felt helpless, incapable, invalid, like nothing she did mattered because she couldn't do anything to make a difference.

This feeling of helplessness, it had all started with Professor Snape's announcement that Hermione Granger had been killed. The response given by Slytherin House had been mixed. Most didn't really care. To them, Hermione was just some muggleborn student who happened to be friends with Harry Potter. But there were a few who seemed to feel genuine regret at the loss of life. Of course, there were also those who had been overjoyed at news of Hermione's untimely demise. Draco Malfoy had been the most vocal of this group.

He was now sporting a broken nose via Blaise's fist.

After the announcement Daphne had been in a state of shock. At least she thought it was shock. Her mind had been locked in a sort of hazy state. Nothing had seemed real at that point. It all felt like some horrible dream, a nightmare that the blond-haired, blue-eyed Hogwarts student wanted to wake up from as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this was no dream. Hermione was dead. Professor Snape had confirmed it himself.

Getting out of bed, Daphne decided to go about her morning ritual before the others woke up. She took a shower, got dressed, and then found herself sitting down before a mirror, using an enchanted comb to get the tangles and knots out of her hair. It was an easy process, one that she had done thousands of times and didn't require her to think.

Black rims sat under her eyes, reflected by back the mirrors surface. She hadn't got much sleep last night. Maybe two or three hours at the most.

While combing her hair, Daphne's ice blue eyes moved to glance at one specific bed, the one that contained the reason she hadn't gotten much sleep last night.

Tracey Davis lay in bed, curled up into a ball, looking like a mess. The sheets were a tangled mass of twisted fabric, denoting to a restless sleep. From where she sat, the young blond could easily see the red rims of Tracey's eyelids, and even though the lights were dim, pick out the tear tracks on her face.

The death of Hermione had been much worse for Tracey than it had for her. Daphne had liked the muggleborn girl, but she was not friends with her to the extent that Tracey was. Those two, along with Lisa Turpin, had been very close.

Last night had been singularly awful for Tracey. The brunette with the normally upbeat and cheerful personality had practically collapsed into Daphne's arms the moment the shock of hearing about her friends death had worn off. For most of the night, she had cried into Daphne's shoulder, soaking her clothes in tears and howling out her sorrow. Even Pansy Parkins, someone who despised muggleborns with a passion and would have probably been more than happy to make snide remarks about Hermione's death, had not said a single word to the two of them.

A frown crossed Daphne's face. All throughout last night, while her first friend had bawled her eyes out, Daphne had not shed a single tear. It made her feel guilty. Here she was, one of her friends had died, been killed, and she couldn't even cry for them. Had she really grown so cold that she could no longer shed even a single tear for a friend?

Maybe her father's conditioning ran deeper than she had originally suspected.

She knew there was something wrong with her, that she was emotionally stunted in some way. She couldn't feel emotions as clearly or powerfully as others. What emotions she could feel were almost always fleeting, ephemeral. In some ways, it almost felt like the emotions and feelings she had didn't even belong to her, but to someone else.

There were only two people in the entire world that made her feel, truly feel: Astoria and Harry. Astoria, her dear, sweet sister. The girl that she lived for. It was her love for her sister that allowed Daphne to survive her father's harsh conditioning and punishments when she failed to meet his expectations with her sanity intact. And then there was Harry, the boy who had broken through her defenses within a single night. She always felt something when she was with him. She didn't quite know what it was, but she knew that it was strong, and warm, and accepting. Yes. She felt like he accepted her, faults and all. Because in a way, he was just like she was. Stunted. Brittle. Broken. Yet strong.

Daphne really wished he was there right now, with her. She could really use a hug.

After she finished combing her hair, Daphne made her way over to Tracey's bed and sat down next to her friend. The other girl was going to need comfort when she woke up. Tracey was emotional, more so than anyone else she knew, and she had a feeling that the brunette was not quite done crying yet.

While waiting for the girl to wake, Daphne took to gently stroking her hair in the same way she would when she was with Astoria. It wasn't much, but in the present circumstances, it was the best she could do. She could only hope it would help ease her friend's heart.

Tracey must have not been sleeping as heavily as she usually did, because the feeling of fingers running lightly through her hair caused her to stir. Perhaps she had been having a nightmare and wanted to wake up. Or maybe her sorrow at the loss of her friend made it so that getting a good nights sleep was simply impossible. Either way, her eyes slowly fluttered open, blinking, before they fixed on Daphne.

"Daph," Tracey sounded hoarse. She probably had a soar throat from all the crying she'd done. Her eyes were also red, bloodshot red, and puffy.

"Tracey." Daphne paused in her ministrations, then started again. "How are you feeling?"

"Like shit."

Daphne didn't reprimand the girl for her language. That was Hermione's job, and she didn't want to remind her friend since childhood of what she'd just lost.

Tracey Davis looked at her friend with red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes. "It wasn't a dream, was it? Last night? Hermione. She really. She's really..." She couldn't finish the sentence. Her throat appeared to close up. Tears began gathering in her eyes. Tracey grit her teeth, struggling to contain them, but it was no use. After the first few droplets of crystal clear liquid ran down her face, the brunette Slytherin's body was wracked by a powerful sob.

Daphne didn't say anything. What could she possibly say in this situation? Was there anything she could say that would make her friend feel better? That would ease the ache in her heart? No. No there wasn't. And so she said nothing, instead opting to lay down on her side and pull her friend into a hug much like she did when Astoria came into her room after having a nightmare.

The sound of Tracey's cries woke the other girls in the dorm up. Pansy and Millicent both looked their way, but a death glare from Daphne caused them to scuttle off without a word. As her robes became soaked, Daphne tried to soothe her friend as best she could, crooning and rubbing her head. Eventually, the cries did subside, turning into the occasional sniffle.

"I can't believe she's gone," Tracey choked out. Like a lost little girl who'd been flung into a sea of emotions she clung to Daphne as if the blond-haired Slytherin were the only thing keeping her afloat. "One minute she was right next to us, laughing and talking and having fun, and then she was just gone. Why? Why her? How come she was the one to get killed?"

That was indeed a good question. Daphne didn't say it out loud, but she found Hermione's death to be very suspect. There had only been three attacks the entire school year: Missus Norris, Professor Lockhart, and Hermione. Of the three who were attacked, only Hermione was killed. Why? And how? How come she was killed while the other two were merely petrified? And why would she be targeted? She might be an amazing witch, but there were several hundred people in this school, and it wasn't like she was the best student at Hogwarts. Who would want to kill her?

Unless...but no. That just didn't make sense. If they wanted to attack Harry there were better targets than Hermione. While Daphne was not vein or anything of the sort, she felt it would not be out of bounds to say that she would have made a far more valuable target than Hermione Granger if getting Harry Potter was the ultimate goal. But then, she was also a pureblood. Maybe that was why. Or were they even after Harry in the first place? And if so, why not just attack Harry himself?

So many questions. And all of them without answers.

"Come on, Tracey," Daphne said softly, directing her friend out of bed and leading her towards the showers. "Let's get you cleaned up. We'll have to be in the Great Hall soon."

"Yeah... I guess..."

As Daphne began to help her friend wash her, she couldn't help but curse whoever had killed her friend.

XoX

Helping Tracey Davis get ready for the day was a chore. And not in the usual way. Ever since she had known the girl, it was simply a challenge to get the girl up and going. She was lazy and unmotivated in the mornings. She just didn't want to wake up. It normally took Daphne at least half an hour each morning just to get the girl to the Great Hall.

This was not the problem Daphne found herself facing now. The issue in front of her wasn't due to a desire to sleep more, but an ache, a wound that no spell could heal. How could you heal a wound given to the soul?

The brown-haired girl was listless. She hardly responded to anything Daphne tried to get her to do. Even when Daphne asked her to lift her hands so she could help take her nightgown off, the brunette only made a half-hearted attempt to raise them up, forcing Daphne to raise them for her. The amount of effort she put into helping her get ready was nearly three times more than she had every other day since they started going to Hogwarts.

Still, after everything was said and done, Daphne managed to make do and, in a little over half an hour, Tracey was at least somewhat presentable.

When they went down to the common room, it was to see that Blaise was already awake and waiting for them. He was standing just a little off to the side of the girls dorm, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. It looked like he'd been standing there for a while.

As they walked closer to the second year male Slytherin, Daphne found out that didn't even need to ask how he was doing to know that her dark-skinned friend was not doing very well. While he masked it much better than Tracey, it was clear that he'd spent a good deal of last night crying. His eyes were slightly red and a little puffy, and there were black bags underneath them, denoting a distinct lack of sleep.

"Blaise."

"Daphne," he greeted, then turned his eyes to the girl that Daphne had wrapped an arm around, "Tracey."

Tracey looked up at her friend, then looked back down at the ground.

"Hey Blaise..."

Upon hearing the monotone greeting, Blaise grimaced and looked back towards Daphne, a silent question in his eyes. When she just shook her head, the Italian boy nodded, understanding the situation without needing to be told. He walked up to them, wrapping an arm around Tracey's shoulder in a protective gesture. The girl in question tensed a bit, but soon relaxed in their embrace. Together, the three of them proceeded to the Great Hall like that.

In most cases, the Great Hall of Hogwarts was a rambunctious place. It was a place where hundreds of students congregated for meals, chatting and laughing, creating a cacophony of noise that was almost relaxing despite the volume hectic nature.

Such was not the case now. The Great Hall was silent. Dead as a grave. No one spoke. People avoided making eye contact with anyone else. This was not the Great Hall that Daphne had come to know.

She and Blaise slowly guided Tracey into the massive room. Almost as soon as they entered, all of the people within the Great Hall turned their heads to stare at them. Those eyes followed them as they walked along the hall, searching for a place to sit. Tracey shrunk into them, hiding herself behind Blaise and Daphne like a timid rabbit, nothing at all like usual.

Daphne tried not to glare at the people looking at her and her friends. She didn't know what she hated more: the attention she was getting, or the fact that the gazes all the people were giving her were pitying. No. What made all this worse was that she couldn't even blame them for their stare. That's what she hated the most.

She and her two friends eventually sat down after finding the others. Neville wasn't down yet, but everyone else was there. Susan and Hannah were sitting together, using each other for support. Both had clearly spent much of their night crying as well. And they looked exhausted. Lisa was sitting in between Luna and Terry. She was using Luna as support, the younger girl with her arm wrapped around the second year's waist. Several hic ups escaped her, letting Daphne know that, much like Tracey, she had probably been crying this morning. Luna looked downtrodden as well. She barely looked up from the table, which she was staring at with a blank gaze. Terry looked the best out of the trio. He was currently rubbing a hand along Lisa's back.

All of them gave half-hearted greetings as Blaise, Daphne, and Tracey sat down. No one really felt like speaking. After nearly fifteen minutes of this silence, Neville Longbottom walked in. He was being escorted by Professor McGonogall. When he got closer to them, Daphne could see that he'd clearly had just as rough a night as everyone else. He sat down next to Hannah without uttering so much as a word.

Daphne frowned.

"Neville..."

Neville looked up at the sound of her voice. Seeing who was speaking to him he tried to give her a smile, but failed. "Hey, Daphne."

A part of Daphne wanted to ask if he was alright. She didn't because she knew it was a stupid question. None of them were alright.

Instead she asked, "Where's Harry?"

"Harry is..." Neville grimaced. "Missing."

The head of every single one of Harry's friends snapped towards Neville.

"What?" Daphne asked in a soft, disbelieving whisper. She shook her head, her blond locks swaying. "I... I don't know understand. What do you mean he's missing?"

"I mean just that. No one really knows when, but sometime last night, Harry disappeared," Neville answered. "I woke up this morning to find his bed empty and his trunk gone. There was no trace of him in the common room. It was... it was as if he'd never been there."

Daphne felt her mind reeling. Harry was gone? What did that mean? He couldn't just be gone. Not now. Not after what happened. Harry was the glue that kept them together. He was the entire reason they were all friends. With him gone, would their friendship even survive?

And, more importantly, would Daphne survive without him?

"So no one knows where Harry went?" asked Blaise, looking contemplative. "Do we have any clues?"

"No." Neville shook his head. "All I know is that I woke up sometime last night to use the loo, and when I came back I noticed Harry's trunk gone and his bed empty. I went to inform Professor McGonagall, but..."

Daphne frowned as she tried to figure out what was going on here. There was definitely something strange happening. Hermione was gone and Harry was missing. These two facts couldn't be a mere coincidence.

A thought occurred to her. Had he... did he try to go after the person who killed Hermione? But then why was his trunk gone? Perhaps he had... but no. She couldn't jump to conclusions. Daphne would wait to speak with the headmaster. Surely, he would know something.

As if hearing her thoughts, headmaster Dumbledore rose up from his seat, causing the head of everyone present to turn towards him. Daphne did as well, and she was shocked by what she saw. Dumbledore, the man who was hailed as the leader of the light, one of the most powerful wizards in the world, and someone who almost always had a jovial smile on his face, looked utterly beaten. She'd never seen the man look so defeated. His posture was slump, his eyes were dim, even his beard somehow managed to convey a sense of depression. The man looked like someone who had just been crushed under the weight of the entire world. It was, to be perfectly honest, frightening.

"Everyone," despite clearly feeling the events of last night, the headmaster's rang strong and clear throughout the Great Hall. Sonoras charm, no doubt. "This year is one that has been filled with much hardship. What once looked like a bright year in which the four houses would see a form of unity that has not been present since Hogwart's founding, has now been mired in darkness. The Chamber of Secrets was opened, and though we managed to capture the one responsible, it cannot change the heart ache we all suffer. One of our own, a young woman with a bright future ahead of her, had her life cut indefinitely short last night."

At these words, the Great Hall came alive as several hundred sheets of paper appeared, lining the tables. It was only after several seconds that Daphne realized they were not actually sheets of paper, but photos, pictures of Hermione Granger. Each one seemed to depict the young, muggleborn witch doing something: spending time with her friends, practicing a spell, cheering during a Quidditch game, slapping Tracey upside the head for her vulgar language.

The sight of so many pictures of the bushy-haired witch caused those around her to nearly break down in tears. To the blond's left, Tracey let out a sob and buried her face in Daphne's shoulder again, causing the girl to wrap an arm around her friend.

She knew what Dumbledore was trying to do. He was trying to unify the school through their shared hardship, to tell that they needed to come together if they wanted to move past this.

She wished he had gone about it in a better way. Couldn't he see that his actions were hurting her friends?

"Although we have lost a great witch and an even greater person, Hermione Granger still lives within each of us. Those who move onto the next great adventure are only truly dead when they are forgotten by the living. I ask of you to never forget Hermione Granger, what she accomplished here at school, and what she could have accomplished had her life not been cut tragically short." The headmaster paused. "In dark times such as these, we must learn to rely on each other. When things become to tough to face on your own, do not hesitate to lean on your friends, for they will never let you down."

He closed his eyes then, looking tired, as if the speech had worn him down.

"After breakfast, you shall all be escorted to the station in Hogsmeade," Dumbledore continued, opening his eyes again. "When you arrive home, I would ask that you use this time to get some rest and grieve. All wounds heal in time, but you must set aside that time before they can truly heal. And now I must make my leave. There are many issues that I have to deal with. I wish you all the best."

No one said anything as Dumbledore left the Great Hall. Daphne wanted to run after the man, but found herself unable to move. She couldn't leave her friends like this, especially Tracey. Just like she was strong for her sister, Daphne now needed to be strong for her friends.

And yet, as she looked around the room, watching as people finally began speaking in hushed whispers, the young girl who had grown up much too fast could feel her heart wavering.

'Harry, where are you?'

XoX

Ever since last night, when news had reached her and Hannah about Hermione's death, the young redhead had been in a state of shock. A part of her simply couldn't believe that one of her friends was no longer amongst the living, that someone she knew, someone she cared for, was now dead. Another part felt like something had been ripped out of her chest. That night, after the news had been delivered by a sorrowful Professor Sprout, she and Hannah had cried themselves to sleep. Now all she felt was a sense of loss.

Hermione was dead. Harry was missing. No one had said anything about Harry yet. The headmaster had avoided even mentioning her raven-haired friend. She was sure that he had something to do with catching the culprit last night. It was the only reason for him to be missing. But what happened? Where did he go? Had he disappeared? Did he leave? Why would he do that? There were so much about this entire situation that Susan just didn't know. It worried her.

After breakfast in the Great Hall, all of the students were escorted by the aurors down to the Hogsmeade train station. While the killer had been purportedly caught, no one wanted to leave the children alone during such a stressful time, and felt it best if they had authority figures with them to help keep everyone calm.

This wasn't much of a consolation, especially to those who felt the sting of loss biting at them, but it was all the staff of Hogwarts and Ministry could do at the moment.

Among those who were escorted to the Hogwarts Express was Susan Bones. She, along with Blaise, Daphne, Hannah, Lisa, Luna, Tracey, Terry, and Neville, found themselves sitting in a single compartment.

It was a little bit crowded. While there were two less people there, the compartment also wasn't as large as it normally was. Usually, when they sat together, it would have been Harry who performed the spell needed to expand the space around them so they could all sit together. This time it was Daphne, whom Harry had taught the spell upon her asking. Some of the others had learned it to, including Susan, but they didn't have the magic necessary to perform it on something as large as a train compartment.

Unfortunately, while Daphne was probably the most powerful witch among them, the spell was one she had little practice using. This had been her first time expanding a space this big. Thus the compartment had only expanded a little bit, enough to fit her and the others, but not enough to be truly comfortable.

Susan sat in between Hannah and Blaise. Neville was on Hannah's other side, talking to the pig-tailed blond in a quiet voice. She couldn't hear what was being said, but then, she wasn't really listening either.

Over on the other side of the compartment was Daphne, who was sitting on the far left of the compartment near the window. She looked tired, probably due to performing the expansion charm, though Susan also suspected that, much like her and the others, the blond Slytherin had not gotten much sleep last night. The beautiful girl had looked tired when she came to the Great Hall that morning too.

Sitting next to her, Tracey looked to be in even worse shape. Her eyes were red and her cheeks stained with tears. She looked like she might burst out crying at any second. The second year Slytherin was leaning on Lisa―who looked just as bad, both holding each other for support. Next to two of them was Terry, whose eyes showed more emotion than Susan had ever seen in them, and none of them good. He had Luna on his left. Susan couldn't tell what the first year was thinking. It was hard to know Luna's thoughts due to them being so out there. But she imagined, hoped, that their newest friend was also feeling the loss of Hermione.

The compartment was far too quiet for her liking. No one was talking except for Hannah and Neville, and Susan had the feeling they were only talking because neither of them were comfortable with the silence. Their conversation was stilted and full of pauses, as if they were forcing themselves to speak as opposed to letting it flow naturally.

It was while Susan was thinking these thoughts, her mind lost and trying to come to terms with the reality that Hermione was dead, that the door to the compartment slid open.

"What a dead crowd," came a familiar and obnoxious voice. Susan looked at the doorway to see Draco standing there with his two goons, Crabbe and Goyle, along with Nott and Pansy. He was grinning. "You lot look like somebody just died. Oh. Wait." Draco chuckled. "Somebody did die. What a shame. You guys must be awfully sad now that your pet mudblood is gone."

"Piss off Draco!" Tracey snarled in a voice with more hatred than Susan had ever heard from the normally upbeat girl. It was almost startling to hear so much rage in the voice of someone who was usually so bubbly. "I'll hex your fucking bits off if you don't!"

Susan's eyes widened in shock. Tracey had never been one to curb her language, but even she wasn't that vulgar. Not that anyone, least of all Susan, could blame her. Draco's words were hurtful, even more so now. The boy didn't seem to even care that someone was dead. He was actually making light of what happened. As if Hermione's death meant nothing!

"Are you threatening me?" Draco's eyes narrowed.

Tracey stood up, gritting her teeth, her wand in hand as she glared at the blond boy. "I don't make threats!" she hissed. "I'm telling you, make one insult about Hermione and I'll hex you so bad the Malfoy line will end with you!"

"You'd better watch what you say to your betters, you half-blood whore!"

"Fuck you, Malfoy!"

"Why you―"

"Intestinum!"

Draco Malfoy's eyes widened, his face turning into a grimace. He lurched forward, dropping the wand he'd been holding, his hands going to his backside.

Everyone stared at the blond boy in shock. After several seconds had passed they turned their heads to see Daphne staring at Malfoy with a look that was so cold it caused all those who saw it to freeze.

"I've just cast a bowel cleansing charm on you," Daphne said, her voice as frozen as her eyes. "You have ten seconds to make it to a loo before you lose control of your bowels. I suggest you use that time wisely."

"Damn you, Greengrass! Just wait till my father hears about this!"

Malfoy grit his teeth as he stood up and began running out the door, his group of sycophants parting for him as he rushed down the hall, his hands still gripping his butt.

With a flick of her wand, Daphne closed the door. Another flick cast a locking charm. It was a very basic charm. An Alohamora would break it, but Daphne didn't think Draco or his ilk would know how to cast it. They should be safe.

Daphne soon sat back down, pocketing her wand, and went back to staring out the window. Susan and Hannah shared a look, before they, too, went back to what they were doing.

The rest of the trip was made in uncomfortable silence.

XoX

The Hogwarts Express pulled into Platform nine and three-quarters. As the wheels ground to a stop, all of the students began grabbing their bags. Luggage was pulled from the overhead compartments, trash and wrappers were thrown away. Soon enough, the students were walking out of the doors and then off the train, where they were greeted by family.

Susan and the others all went outside together. They stuck around as a group, pulling on each other for what support they could and trying to ignore the pitiable stares sent their way. Everyone knew that Hermione had been a part of their group, thus, every Hogwarts student they passed looked at them with pity and sorrow-filled eyes. Some could ignore the expressions sent their way, others had a more difficult time of it.

"Daphne."

Standing within the group beside Tracey and Blaise, Daphne stiffened at the sound of her father's voice. Susan could see why. Nathaniel Greengrass was a frightening man. Once a person known for his generosity and cunning, a conundrum if she'd ever heard one, the head of House Greengrass had become cold and unfeeling, focusing only on his political career and nothing else. It was like all the man knew was work. Her aunty once told her that it was his way of coping with the loss of his wife, but Susan hadn't paid much attention to the explanation at the time.

"I'll see you lot later," Daphne said quietly, her eyes dim. She looked lost, scared even. Susan wondered if the reason for her fright was because Harry wasn't with them.

"Yeah, bye Daph." Tracey gave her friend a hug, taking more time than was normal to let go. When she did, the brunette gave her friend a teary smile. "Try to keep in touch, okay. Summer's going to be hard without you."

Daphne's smile was more of a grimace. "I'll see what I can do."

The next to leave was Tracey.

"Tracey!" Her mother called. The moment Tracey saw her mom, the brunette rushed into her mom's open arms, crying. In return, Misses Davis wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter. "I heard about what happened. It was all in the Daily Prophet. I am so, so sorry Tracey. I know how close you and Hermione were."

Tracey's response to her mother's words was to cry that much harder. Susan and the others watched as Misses and Mister Davis gave them an apologetic smile as they left with their crying daughter in toe.

Blaise followed soon after, picked up by a strangely somber Celestina Zabini. Then Neville, followed lastly by Lisa. Susan and Hannah were picked up last.

"Aunty!" Susan ran into her aunt's arms, resisting her own tears. She knew she would be crying more later that night, but she didn't want others to see her tears. Not after everything that had happened.

"Susan," her aunty's voice was much softer than usual. Sorrowful. "I heard what happened. I am so sorry. If only we had let the aurors stay at Hogwarts. Maybe then..." she trailed off as Susan shook her head and buried her face deeper into Amelia's chest.

"D-don't say that. No one could have known this would happen. Not you, not anyone." Susan looked into her aunt's eyes. "Aunty. Harry's also―"

"Missing. I know." Amelia frowned. "I got a call from Dumbledore telling me. We think he might have run away."

"Run away?" Susan was shocked. "Why?"

"Sometimes, when a person feels lost or is unable to cope, they run. They try to escape what happened by running, feeling that if they run far enough, fast enough, they can escape the reality of their situation. Dumbledore and I think Harry might have run away because he can't deal with the knowledge that Hermione is, well, not with us anymore."

Susan was glad her aunty hadn't said Hermione was dead. Even if it was true. She didn't think she could deal with someone actually commenting on her friend's death.

"I'm scared."

"I know, Susan, but try not to worry. Dumbledore told me he would head over to Harry's relatives and see if he's checked in. We're hoping he might have shown up there. And with luck, he might still even be there."

Susan hoped her aunty was right. But still, she couldn't shake this dreadful feeling that something awful was about to happen, or already had happened. She didn't know what it was, but she prayed that it had nothing to do with Harry.

XoX

School was official out for the summer, thank god. Dudley didn't know how much more he would have been able to stand staying around at school. Nine months? Way too long for him. Especially since all his teachers did was complain. You're not doing enough work, Dudley, or can't you try a little harder, Dudley. Why couldn't his teachers see that he didn't care about their stupid lessons? He was only there so he could wrestle.

Too bad the school was making things difficult for him. Bunch of no good idiots.

He had arrived back home from Smeltings earlier yesterday, where he'd been greeted by his parents with a large dinner and several presents. The presents had been nice, but the dinner could have been better. That was the one thing Dudley could appreciate about his cousin. Harry might be a frightening, freakish boy with strange powers, but he could cook some really good food.

Dudley stared at the tele as he and his family watched a TV show. He wasn't really sure what the show was called, as it was something his parents had picked to watch, but so long as he was getting to watch something he didn't particularly care.

Though a part of him would rather be playing video games right now. Video games were cool. Except when he couldn't beat him. Then they just pissed him off. Not that it mattered anyway. He didn't have a game system anymore since he broke his last one, and his mom and dad told him that he would need to wait before they had enough money to buy him a new system.

He was pretty sure they were just being cheap.

The ringing of the doorbell caused Dudley to twitch. Sitting on the couch, his dad and mom looked from the TV to each other. After silently communing, they then turned their heads towards him.

"Dudley, go answer the door."

"But I don't wanna! You answer the door!"

"Duddikins, listen to your father and answer the door, please."

"Don't wanna! Don't wanna, don't wanna, don't wanna!"

"Dudley, if you don't answer the door, the good delivery man can't get in. I bought pizza."

And that was all it took before Dudley decided that he was going to be the first to answer the door. Pizza? Yes please!

Waddling over to the door like some kind of really fat penguin, Dudley undid the locks and opened the door... only to find himself staring down the tip of a wand.

"Obliviate."

The last thing Dudley saw before his world went black was a pair of glowing green eyes.


Here it is, the end of book 2. And its a cliffhanger. I know, you hate me. I do apologize for the cliff hanger, but this entire ending just had that feel to it. And I wanted to set up the third book.

The Q&A for chapter 22 should be up on my blog tomorrow if any of you are interested in reading my answers to your reviews.