Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc. This is just something to pass the time while waiting for the next book.
The park was busy as parks usually are during summer and there were children running around, having fun all about. However, in one quiet corner of the park, there was a young boy who was quite unlike any of the other children. Unlike all of them, he was just sitting on a bench under a tree staring at the pavement instead of playing with others. But this boy was different from the other children by another reason not so easily seen.
For you see, Harry Potter was no ordinary boy. He was a wizard.
Although Harry could use magic as all witches and wizards can that did not make his holidays any more pleasant. For one, he was not allowed to use magic while out of school as that was forbidden to underage wizards. That would have been bad enough but his situation was made even worse by his having to live with the worst sort of Muggles, which is what Wizarding folk called ordinary people. His aunt, uncle and cousin, the Dursleys, absolutely despised Harry for being magic and had done their best to make Harry's younger years completely miserable. For ten long years, they had succeeded in doing just that.
Indeed, his relatives would still be treating Harry poorly if it weren't for the fact that they were afraid of Harry's godfather, Sirius Black. Sirius was a wanted murderer in both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds although in reality, he was completely innocent. What the Dursleys didn't know, however, certainly was a boon to Harry and he had capitalized on their ignorance before. Yet this summer was slightly different – for the Dursleys were now almost as afraid of Harry as they were of Sirius.
This was because Harry had been having the most awful nightmares as of late.
Harry had had a horrible last year at Hogwarts. There were some good parts to it but they had been overshadowed by the events that happened at then end of it. Harry frequently relived that awful moment in time when he watched Cedric Diggory die in his dreams. There were also times when he dreamt of watching the deaths of his closest friends before dying himself. Worst of all were the dreams of a blank, green nothingness, which he too often woke up from screaming.
His relatives had learned to leave him alone on those occasions. The first time they had been woken up by his nightmares, the Dursleys had hid under their sheets, fearful that something had come after Harry and would be all too willing to hurt them as well. As the nightmares continued, however, they had become accustomed to them and just ignored Harry's cries. The only acknowledgement his aunt and uncle would give of hearing him would be to look at him strangely in the mornings before looking at each other and nodding, as if agreeing that Harry would come to no good.
Considering their previous treatment of him, Harry welcomed being shunned by them. It was much better than being bullied by Dudley, his pig of a cousin, or ordered about by his Aunt Petunia. It was only today that his aunt had bothered with him at all. For some inexplicable reason, she had decided that his hair, which was messy as always, was a personal insult so she had prepared to chop most of it off.
Harry had lost his temper.
He had asked his aunt, after she had sat him down and had begun to rummage for her scissors, how would she like it if she had all of her hair cut off. When Aunt Petunia did not pay any attention to his complaints, he had exploded in anger and wished that her hair would fall out. And it did.
Harry had been quick enough to run away after that, while his aunt was still screaming in horror. He was not about to stick around to see if the Dursleys would do anything in retaliation even though they were afraid of Sirius. He knew that he was just delaying any punishment that he might receive but didn't want to deal with it just yet. Unfortunately, Harry had no time to take his wand or any of his school things so he couldn't just run all the way to Diagon Alley as he had in the past. He had only been able to run to the nearby park, where he now sat and contemplated what he should do.
He had been staring at the pavement for the better part of half an hour and had not come up with a single plan. The most appealing idea was for him to sneak back into the house on 4 Privet Drive in order to get his things. However, Harry had the feeling that even if he did manage to run away, he would only get sent back to the Dursleys once he was found again. Dumbledore had been very insistent that Harry remain with his relatives and Harry did not think that he would relent.
Sighing, Harry considered getting up and going back to the Dursleys. Most probably they would be upset with him for quite some time to come. His best hope would be to remind them that his godfather was very concerned with how he was being treated. He wasn't sure if that would work and he had other things to worry about as well. The Ministry of Magic was very strict about young wizards using magic during the holidays and he had received a warning before saying that he might be banned from going back to Hogwarts if he did it again. The thought of having to remain with the Dursleys year round was very bad indeed.
"Harry!" a voice rang out from the right of him just then and he turned around to face it. Before he could recognize who was calling his name, he was enveloped in a fierce hug, from a girl with bushy brown locks and coffee eyes.
"Her..Hermione!" he stuttered, surprised to see her. Hermione was one of his two best friends from school and he had not expected to see her during summer. She was the smartest witch currently studying at Hogwarts but he had thought that she would either be off on a trip with her parents or studiously working on her homework assignments inside some place.
"Oh Harry," she cried, holding on to him. "It's so good to see
you. Have you been getting enough sleep? Oh – you look like
you've lost weight! Don't tell me that they've put you on some ghastly
"I'm fine, Hermione," Harry said forcefully. "I really am. I'm sorry that I've not answered any owls, if you sent any, that is, as I didn't get any. I think the Ministry's really being strict on that this time around though. But honestly, Hermione, did you come all this way just to check up on me?"
"No, though I wanted to," Hermione stepped back as she replied. "But my parents and I were driving back home, when something happened to our car – I don't know what – and so they stopped to see if they could get it fixed since we don't know if it's dangerous. And I just decided to take a walk as I already read every one of the books I had brought with me . . . and I am very glad that I did. It's awfully good to see you again. I was so worried about you."
"You didn't have to. I'm perfectly fine, Hermione."
"But Harry," Hermione bit her lip. "I . . . I hate to say this but you look awful. Like you haven't slept. And like you haven't eaten all that well for some time."
While Harry didn't make it a habit to look at himself in mirrors, he was rather sure that what Hermione said was true. His constant nightmares had kept him from sleeping well and he had often not felt like eating, especially when confronted with some of the diets that Aunt Petunia had placed Dudley, and therefore everyone else, on. Harry didn't want to confess to Hermione that no, he hadn't been sleeping well or eating very much as that would only earn him a lecture. So he settled for repeating, "I'm fine. Honestly, I am."
Hermione looked as if she wanted to argue the point with him when suddenly she clapped her hands together. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "I almost forgot. My parents said that I should stop and get something to eat – as we might be stuck here a while – and since you're here, we can go eat together." Her eyes brightened at the thought.
Harry wasn't very hungry and he was just about to say so when he took a good look at Hermione. She was gazing expectantly at him and looked so excited to be with him. He could see her deflating if he told her no and he couldn't stand the thought of making her unhappy and making her worry even more. So Harry simply nodded, thinking that at least he would get to spend some time with someone he actually liked for a change.
At his nod, Hermione lunged forward and grabbed Harry's arm. "Let's go then," she said, threading her arm through his. "Do you know any place around here where we can eat? I've not been here before."
"Not really," Harry admitted with a slight flush. "I don't usually come here."
"Then we'll just have to look around and see what there is together. What luck that you decided to come here today!"
"Well, not exactly decided," Harry muttered under his breath. Hermione heard him anyway.
"What did you do now?" she frowned slightly at him.
"I sort of . . ." Harry took a deep breath before continuing. "I sort of made my aunt's hair fall off."
"Oh Harry! You shouldn't have done that. You could have got into such trouble," Hermione said.
"I know, I know," he said. "I didn't mean to do it and I know perfectly well that I could get in trouble. You should know that I don't like the Dursleys and wouldn't want to do anything to get expelled." Harry looked down at the ground. "And I'm terribly afraid that the Ministry will do something to me because of this."
"Didn't you hear?" Hermione asked. "The Ministry's been in such an uproar over the summer, what with . . . well with everything that's happened this year. But the why's not as important right now – just that they're busy and very disorganized right now, so lots of things have been slipping through the cracks. Ron said that the twins have been fooling around a lot, trying to create new things for their shop, and they haven't been caught once. So don't worry Harry, I'm sure you're safe."
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. "That is good to hear."
By then they had wandered out of the park and were now in an area with shops all around. There were a couple shops selling book and Hermione's eyes drifted over to them but she did not say anything about looking in them. After walking around for a while searching for a place to eat, they finally found a McDonald's. Hermione glared at it, as if personally affronted by its existence. She opened her mouth and Harry feared that she was going to insist that they look for another place to eat at. She turned to speak to him and just like that, Harry could see the wheels turning in her head as she changed her mind.
"I guess this place will have to do," she said.
"I don't mind if we look around a bit more," Harry replied.
"No, it's fine," Hermione insisted. "Since neither of us know the area well and you must be very hungry by now." With that, they entered the McDonald's together and made their way to the front. Hermione frowned at the menu for several minutes before deciding to order a salad while Harry decided to just order a hamburger and some fries. After waiting an inordinate amount of time for food that was purported to be fast, they got their order and made their way over to a table in the corner of the room.
Harry was hungrier than he thought and he soon wished that he had ordered something more. He glanced over at Hermione, who was picking at her salad. Privately, Harry thought that it looked sort of wilted. He wondered if Hermione was wishing that she had ordered something else when suddenly, she spoke up.
"Have you been able to get much homework done?" she asked.
"Some," he answered. "I'm sure you're finished with it all but I'm not as fast a worker as you are."
She blushed at his words. "I'm not done with all of it. There's a few things that I want to add to my History of Magic essay and there's a few more books I want to read before I go back. But yes, I've done most of it already."
"I'm not surprised to hear that." He smiled over at her and her blushed deepened. "How has your summer been so far?"
"It's been fine. We've decided not to go anywhere too far away for this summer. It's actually quite nice. It's more relaxing this way."
"That's good." Harry looked away from her. "My summer has been fine too," he said.
"Has it really?" Hermione put down her fork and gave up on her salad. "I'm sorry but honestly, Harry. You don't look well."
Harry didn't know how to respond to that. He took a large bite out of his hamburger to avoid responding to her, hoping that she would let the subject drop. She continued to stare at him, silently willing him to answer. He swallowed his bite and said, "I've had a couple nightmares."
Hermione's eyes widened and Harry thought he could see tears forming at the edges. He didn't want her to cry. "Don't worry, Hermione," he said hurriedly. "I'm sure it's nothing, that I'm being silly for losing sleep over it."
"I'm sure you're not, Harry. Has your scar been hurting you?"
Harry quickly brushed his fringe down to make sure it was covering his scar. "Can we not talk about that here?" he asked pointedly. "We don't exactly have a lot of privacy here."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said and she did look it. Harry decided that he might as well talk to her about it since Hermione would not drop the subject of her own will.
"Are you done?" he asked. "With your salad, I mean. I hate to say this but it doesn't—"
"Look all that appetizing and please don't apologize for saying so because I agree. And yes, I'm done. Why?"
"So we can go back to the park where we might find a place that has more privacy than here." She nodded in agreement and after clearing the table of their plates, they set off to walk back to the park. They were both strangely silent as they walked side by side. It wasn't a comfortable silence, as silences with Hermione usually were, for Harry was too busy trying to figure out what he would tell Hermione about his summer. Oddly enough, the bench that Harry had originally been sitting on and the area around it was deserted so they made their way over there. As one, they sat down without saying a word. Their mutual silence continued on for several minutes before Hermione broke it.
"So your scar has been hurting you, hasn't it?" Hermione questioned softly.
Harry sighed. He knew he wouldn't be able to fool Hermione on the subject as he had practically admitted it when he had asked that they not talk about it in public. "Yes at times," he said. "But it doesn't always hurt."
"Have you written to Dumbledore about it? Or told anyone else?"
"No, I haven't. What good would that do anyway?"
"Harry!" Hermione turned around to look at him. "How can you say something like that? Professor Dumbledore can't do anything about it unless he knows that your scar is hurting."
"I don't know if he can do anything anyway and besides, it's not his problem. It's mine. And I will take care of it some day."
Hermione seemed stricken by his words. She opened with mouth but no words came out. She closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath before attempting to speak again. "That's not true," she finally said.
"Yes, it is," Harry insisted. "We all know that Voldemort," Hermione winced as Harry said that name, "is after me and not anyone else. It's my problem, not yours."
"You're my friend, Harry. Don't you get it?" She took his hands in hers. "That means your problems are mine. And if You-Know-Who is after you, then that is without a doubt my problem because you mean so much to me. And don't interrupt me and say something that's very noble, very stupid and very Harry about me getting hurt by helping you. That doesn't matter. I wouldn't be much of a friend if I didn't care like that and I don't think I'd care very much for myself if I were like that."
"If you decided that it wasn't worth it, I wouldn't think any less of you, Hermione," Harry told her softly. "I think there would be a part of me that would be happy as you'd be safer that way."
"And wouldn't there be a part of you that would feel sort of sad and betrayed? I'm not going to do that, Harry. I'm not going to choose that path. You saved me first year from that troll and I'm afraid you're going to be stuck with me for some time to come."
"That doesn't sound all that bad," Harry said hoarsely. He wouldn't admit to it out loud but there was a part of him that was relieved he would not be abandoned by his friends. He could see the promise in her eyes that she would never leave him alone.
The two friends soon switched topics to lighter things and started to discuss what they would do in the coming year. Hermione confessed that she hoped to make prefect and Harry reassured her that it was virtually guaranteed that she would. She blushed from his praise and told him that she would like it if he were made prefect with her, but he told her that he didn't think he had a chance with all the trouble that he had been in throughout the years. They talked of trips to Hogsmeade and what they would buy, of how happy they would be to simply be back at Hogwarts again and of taking long walks around the lake once more.
Then Hermione glanced down at her watch. "Oh no," she cried. "I can't believe that I've lost track of the time."
"Do you have to go?" Harry asked.
"I'm afraid so," she said. "Please do try and take care of yourself. And if your scar keeps hurting you, please at least think of telling Dumbledore about it. And please—"
"I will," Harry promised. Hermione looked briefly at him before embracing him tightly once again. Harry placed his arms around her and hugged her back. He knew that she would have to leave all too soon and he would have to go back to face the Dursleys again. He knew that he probably wouldn't see her again until the very end of summer. Still he hugged her back and made the moment last forever.