It was dark and at first Harry did not really know where he was. He knew the place but memory came slowly.
He was outside, that much was for sure, and it was night. There were other people, too, he could see them moving around him like shadows, but he could not stand it to watch them long enough to recognize one of them. Even though Harry knew he was wearing his glasses, it felt like watching the place with bare eyes.
The conversation of the people around him also sounded like people talking underwater, but everything slowly became clearer.
Harry could spot stones standing around him, all of the same kind of shape. Between the stones, in a circle, stood the others, Harry was captured in their middle. Now their murmurs became audible, but all he could understand was one word.
That word was repeated and repeated around him, like a chant. And then there was the laughter. Harry knew that high – pitched voice, all of a sudden he knew where he was and who was with him.
He was on the cemetery where Tom Riddle's father was buried, and with him were the death-Eaters who had come to show their loyalty to Dark Lord Voldemort. Voldemort had risen again. It all came back to Harry like a thunder strike. He had been in the Triwizard Tournament and hat touched the cup at the same time that Cedric Diggory had done so.
But someone had turned the cup into a portkey which had brought them to this place. Then Voldemort had performed a rite involving flesh, blood and bone to regain human shape. But before,…before that he had told Wormtail to kill Cedric. 'Kill the spare', that had been his words and then Wormtail had performed Avada Kedavra…
'Oh god', Harry thought 'he has killed Cedric. I have to find a way to get back to Hogwarts. I have to tell Dumbledore, he will know what to do. I have to tell them about Cedric, I have to do something, get away, run…'
But his feet did not move. He wanted to run, but he could not. It was as if something held him, not something he could touch, but something that cut the connection between his brains that told him to run and his feet that did not move.
"There is no way out of here. You know that there is not. This, Harry, is connected to you in a way you can't even imagine."
Harry did not want to hear what Voldemort said, but he had no other choice.
"Harry Potter, so we meet at last. Thank you for giving me powers even stronger than those before our first meeting. It was your destiny to come and help me, but you shouldn't have brought him", with this he looked over to the body of Cedric lying motionless on the ground, "he must not have died. You shouldn't have brought him.
Sharing the cup, hah! I'm afraid your generosity did not pay out for him, on the contrary it killed that poor little fellow. And now it is too late for you. You got nowhere to hide, and don't think that Dumbledore", he spit the headmaster's name out like something disgusting, "will come to rescue you. We are alone. You, me and my loyal servants,…"
And he started laughing again, even higher and more threatening than before. The laughter hurt Harry's ears, he felt that he was beginning to faint. Once again, like many times before, his scar hurt like mad. It made him feel even more numb.
I have to get out of here', Harry thought. 'I have to find Dumbledore. Cedric is dead, Voldemort is back, he killed Cedric and it's all my fault!'
"It's all my fault, Cedric is dead, oh my god, Cedric is dead, Voldemort killed him….."
"Harry! Harry! Wake up Harry!"
Someone shook him. Slowly Harry opened his eyes, afraid of what he would see. Again, the world was blurred and without clear shapes, but he realized quite soon that this time it was because he did not wear his glasses.
He started searching them with his hands, found them on the bedside table and put them on. The room was not his room at the Dursley's House in Privet Drive but he soon recognized it as Ron's. He was at the Burrow, now he remembered.
Ron was sitting on the edge of Harry's bed. One of his hands was still lying on Harry's shoulder where he had shaken Harry to wake him up. Though the room was quite dark Harry could see that the freckled face underneath the red hair looked concerned and worried.
"Are you okay? You've suddenly started screaming and I could not wake you up. It sounded horrible."
"I'm fine, thanks. Sorry that I woke you up."
"Sure you're okay, or do you want to talk about something?"
"Look, I've had a nightmare. Only subconscious digestion of yesterday's events. No wonder, I spent the entire day dodging the experiments and jokes of Fred and George, thinking about possible damages they could do to my health. That's all."
"Didn't sound like that, though."
The worried look still had not vanished from Ron's face.
"Ron, I want to sleep right now. I'm really sorry that I woke you up but the day after tomorrow we will leave for Hogwarts, as you know, so tomorrow is going to be a very busy day. We surely could do with some sleep, don't you think?"
Harry turned around to underline what he was saying, with this shaking off Ron's hand which still had been lying on his shoulder. Without another word, Ron stood up and returned to bed.
When Mrs. Weasly stepped into Ron's bedroom the next morning, Harry felt so tired he could not move at first. Last night it had not been easy to fall asleep again, he had been too afraid that Voldemort and the events after the Triwizard Tournament in the last year would sneak into his dreams again.
After he had dressed, he felt a little better and went down to have breakfast with the rest of the Weasly family. Ron didn't talk very much that morning.
Harry had been staying with the Weaslys for the last two weeks. Mrs. Weasly had invited him and the Dursleys of course had been very happy to get rid of Harry two weeks earlier than they had expected. So Harry had packed his robes, wand, books, quills and parchments into the trunk, and Mr. Weasly had fetched him up two weeks before the new school year in Hogwarts was about to begin.
Before leaving he had set Hedwig (the snow white owl he had received from Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper as a birthday present) free and told her to come to the Burrow. Uncle Vernon had not allowed her to fly freely during the summer holidays because he had been afraid of what the neighbours would think if an owl flew in and out of their house. So Hedwig had been very pleased with her regained freedom and had thankfully nibbled Harry's ear before flying away.
Harry did not know exactly how Mr. Weasly had convinced the Ministry of Magic so that they allowed him to stay at the Burrow. After all that had happened at the end of the last year in Hogwarts, the Ministry had told Harry it was safer for him to stay with his relatives in the Muggleworld.
But that had not been much of a concern to him. He had been so exited to be with the Weaslys that he did not think of much else.
Mr. Weasly and Percy, the third of the six Weasly sons, who both worked for the Ministry had not been home very often, the entire Wizarding World was very busy and occupied in these days.
So Harry had spent most of the time with his best friend Ron, Ron's two elder twin brothers Fred and George and the only Weasly daughter, Ginny, who was the youngest of the children.
Three days after Harry had arrived at the Burrow the second eldest brother Charlie had arrived surprisingly. He was working with dragons in Rumania, but had taken a little holiday at home, to heal his burnings as he said.
One day the entire family had travelled to Diagon Alley by floo powder to buy their equipment for the next year and, at least in the case of Fred and George, to look out for new ideas for their long planned joke shop.
When Harry stepped down into the kitchen, the entire family was already sitting on the breakfast table except for Percy and Mr. Weasly who had already left for work.
Harry was still tired and confused from the night before and therefore did not talk that much during breakfast. He also did not really listen to what was going on around him.
Mr. Weasly again was telling the twins off for doing some kind of joke, but they did so all the time and being told off was something they were used to very well.
When they all wanted to get up to pack the rest of their things together, Mrs. Weasly kept Harry and Ron in the kitchen.
"I was asking myself whether you two could do me a little favour. Tomorrow, all of you will be leaving and there won't be anybody here to do this, so could Harry and you please de-gnome the garden for me? Your father is so busy at the moment and I have so much work to do I cannot find the time. Only yesterday evening I have realized those gnomes are really taking over the garden right now."
De-gnoming the garden was a very strange aspect of keeping a wizard household, at least in Harry's mind. It meant that you took the gnomes, carefully so that they would not bite, and throw them away as far as possible. It always took them a couple of days to find their way back.
"Sure, I got nearly everything packed up, I can spare the time for it."
Ron agreed with him.
They were working silently, catching as many gnomes as possible and throwing them away. De-gnoming soon became a little dull if you didn't make it a competition, but after half an hour they were finished.
Ron turned to Harry.
"Fancy a little walk? I want to ask you something."
Harry felt a little odd about this, but Ron was obviously up to something and so they walked away from the house in silence.
After a couple of minutes, in which Ron seemed to be searching for the right way to put what was on his mind, he turned to Harry and asked:
"What is it that bothers you?"
"What do you mean?"
Harry tried to sound astonished, but he had expected something like this and did not feel very comfortable with the situation.
"You have been here for nearly two weeks right now. And you behave weird. You don't talk much; you always seem to be lost in thoughts. At night, you don't sleep but throw yourself around in bed. And if you fall asleep, you start mumbling weird things, then wake up and then it all starts again. It never was as bad as last night, but did you really think I would not notice that?"
"I really don't know what you are talking about. I have already told you that I had a nightmare last night, it is not as bad as you put it."
"So what did you dream about?"
Harry tried not to look at Ron while telling this lie.
"Shall I tell you what you have been dreaming about?"
Harry stopped walking and looked at Ron, this time his astonishment was real.
"What do you mean?"
"Last night you spoke quite clearly in your dreams. You dreamt of You-Know-Who and of Cedric, and you yelled for help and said that it was all your fault, and so I thought that you might want to talk about it."
"Firstly, I don't know whether it's not you who has been dreaming last night and secondly I have already told you about Voldemort, Cedric and what happened after we touched the cup."
Harry sounded angrier than he had intended to, but he felt really insecure and didn't know how to react to what Ron had said.
Ron looked at him and his face wore the same expression it had worn the night before in the bedroom.
"I wasn't asking you to tell me last year's events once again, all I want to know is how you feel and what is worrying you. I mean, I just thought… I want to understand, that's all,… maybe I can even help you."
All of a sudden, Harry got really furious with Ron.
What was he up to?
Did he want to hear that Harry could not forget that he caused Cedric's death? That he blamed himself for it?
Did he want to hear Harry tell how he relived that night again and again, lying sleepless in his bedroom in the Dursleys' house, always thinking 'What could I have done to save him'?
And what would Ron want to do after he told him, say something like 'Yes, I understand the guilt you feel, how can I help you?'
It all broke out of him and he started yelling at Ron.
"Who do you think you are? You could never understand what's going on with me; you have never been through something like this.
From the very first moment that I discovered I was a wizard, everyone told me that I was special and hardly anybody treated me normal. I had to bother with people like Malfoy and Snape who only hate me because of who I am. Worse than that I got involved into Voldemort's rise to powers again, I enabled him to do so.
And I told Cedric to touch the cup with me together, it is my fault that he's dead right now, and all of this I had to face alone, I never had anyone to talk to at home.
So you want to understand how I feel? I tell you what, you could never understand it. You don't know what it feels like not to have parents or a family that loves you. You don't know what it feels like to have a godfather who is miles and miles away and cannot be with you because he is an escaped criminal who cannot prove he's innocent.
And you don't know what it feels like to be guilty of someone's death. And you want to understand, you even want to help me? Who do you think you are?"
"I always thought I was your friend."
Rod said this, because at that moment it was all he could think of.
"I thought I was your friend."
Harry looked at Ron silently. Then he spoke.
"If you really were my friend, then you'd just leave me and stop bothering me. My life is miserable enough at the moment, I don't need you and your mother make arrangements to get me into talking about it. What is on my mind stays there until I decide to tell people, all right? So why don't we just go back to your house and finish packing our bags?"
With this, Harry turned around and walked back towards the Burrow. Ron, puzzled for a moment, went after Harry but made no efforts to catch up with him.
The rest of the day passed
without anything else happening. Harry saw Ron and Mrs. Weasly exchange looks,
as if Ron tried to tell her that talking to Harry had been no good idea.
Harry kept silent for the rest of the day and went to bed quite soon.
When all bags were finally packed up, Fred's and George's most obvious hiding places for jokes were searched, Mr. Weasly had Ministry Cars bringing them to King's Cross Station the next day.
They set their bags on trolleys and passed the barrier to Platform Nine and three Quarters trying not to fetch the attention of Muggle passengers.
On the platform, Harry said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Weasly, thanking them for hosting his holidays.
"That's perfectly okay, my dear, you are welcome in our house at any time. And if there's anything you need, just tell Ron or send an owl. Have a lovely term and try to keep yourself out of mortal danger this time."
Mrs. Weasly kissed him on his cheek and then Harry climbed into the train, searching for an empty compartment.
Harry heard Hermione's voice coming out of a compartment and opened the door. She sat there with Neville Longbottom, another Gryffindor fifth year who was often treated harshly by Professor Snape.
Harry lifted up his trunk into the luggage storage and seated himself next to Neville.
"Hi you two. How are you? Hermione, how was your holiday with Victor Krum? You didn't even send one owl!"
"I'm so sorry Harry, but I did not find the time. Bulgaria is quite a fascinating country concerning famous sights, especially the magic ones. I was really busy. Although I think, Victor wanted to get busy in another way. But, we cleared that issue, and in the end we spent a lovely holiday. How about yours?"
Harry laughed dryly.
"Another happy summer holiday at the Dursley's, including a forgotten birthday and of course, a lot of fun and play with Dudley. I spent my last two weeks with Ron, so it got better."
"Oh, Harry your birthday. I did not send you an owl because I didn't know whether it would stand flying the distance carrying your present, but I brought it with me. It's down in my trunk, I will give it to you when we arrive, okay?"
"Yeah, thanks." A birthday card or something else to show that Hermione had not completely forgotten his birthday would have been fine though, he thought.
At that moment, the compartment door slid open once more and Ron came in. He heaved his trunk onto the storage and then waved his parents goodbye out of the window.
The train slowly moved out of the station, and they all sat down again when they had lost sight of the platform.
Ron started talking to Hermione about her holiday and to Neville about his summer at his grandmother's house. Harry pulled out a book and started reading.
"What is it?"
"Even though I am happy that at least one of my friends has decided to read 'Hogwarts, A History' in the end, you do not seriously mean to read for the entire journey?"
"I did not have much sleep during the last couple of nights and I'm really not in a talkative mood right now. Sorry."
With this, he looked back into his book again.
Nearly two hours passed and nothing happened. Harry read his book, or at least pretended to be reading, his thoughts slipped off from time to time, and the others talked about the last months in which they had not seen each other.
Harry closed his book and stood up.
"I'm going to walk around a little, need some movement." And he left.
Hermione looked over to Ron. "Please tell me what all this means."
Ron lifted his shoulders in a gesture to show his ignorance.
"I really don't know."
"But you should, I mean you spent the last two weeks together, and he obviously doesn't talk to you, so what's happened?"
"Well, he has been kind of different than the Harry I know. Always lost in thoughts, you always had to tell him everything twice because each time he was somewhere else in his thoughts. Walked around like a loony.
Worst of all were the nights.
He thought I would not notice, but he found it hard to fall asleep. Threw himself around in his bed for hours, that's what he did. And when he finally dreamt, he always had nightmares. Each and every night he mumbled something and then woke up breathing hard not knowing where he was. That's what I suppose because he often woke me up with this.
One night was worst of all. He spoke of what happened at the Tournament, of You-Know-Who and of Cedric. Said that it was all his fault that Cedric was dead and You-Know-Who had risen again. He screamed for help and I could not wake him up. It was really scary.
But Harry pretended that it was just a meaningless nightmare and that I was making things up. I wanted to talk to him the next day, but he told me off. Got really angry and shouted at me.
He said that I could never understand him, the way he grew up without parents, the way he was treated as something special since he arrived at Hogwarts and that I could never understand what it feels like to have caused someone's death.
He told me that if I was his friend I would leave him alone and that's exactly what I do now. Besides, he doesn't talk to me anymore since that."
Hermione and Neville stared at Ron in disbelief. "Doesn't sound very much like Harry," Neville said.
"Yeah, I know that, but he's been through a lot during the last year. I think he can't get along with it as well as he pretends, but I won't try to talk to him again, at least not in the next couple of days. Maybe he calms down when he's only back at Hogwarts."
Hermione, who had said nothing for a long time, looked at Ron. "But we can't just leave him like that for the rest of the term. Maybe I could talk to him…"
"Good idea, Hermione. He would only ask you where from you know about it, and it would all fall back to me. Give him a couple of days, maybe he will become normal again. And if not, you can say that you realized he behaved differently. Leave it on that."
"Okay, you might be right about this."
Harry meanwhile walked through the train, searching for a quiet place to think about what he felt. It turned out to be a difficult mission in a train full of students who were all exited about getting back to school.
Here and there Harry met faces he knew, other Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. He talked to a couple of them, but always left soon with an excuse.
He decided to look out for Cho, a now sixth year Ravenclaw whom he felt quite attracted to. She had been a close friend of Cedric, maybe even his girlfriend, Harry did not now that exactly.
But he couldn't find her anywhere on the train. 'Strange', he thought 'how will she be coming to school then?' He asked a couple of other Ravenclaw girls, but they didn't know about her whereabouts either.
Finally, Harry went back into his compartment, took out 'Hogwarts, A History' again and started reading. He should have known the book by heart right now, because Hermione quoted it all the time. But he needed something to keep the others from talking to him.
The rest of the journey passed without anything happening.
Malfoy shortly showed up at the compartment door, as usual accompanied by Crabbe and Goyle, but he only made some rude comments on Hermione and Ron and then left.
Strange but true he didn't even seem to notice Harry.
It had grown dark outside and the four friends had already changed into their school robes. The train drove more slowly right now and they would be soon arriving at Hogsmeade station.