A Harry Potter fan fiction story
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to the brilliant J. K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.
The trunk of the old willow felt warm and rough as she leaned back against it, sitting on the grass under the dappled shade the tree offered. The sun shone fiery and brilliant, a multitude of narrow, wavering rays of light filtering through the canopy of branches that hung over her. She closed her eyes for a second, breathed in deeply, and then lowered her head.
An open book sat on her lap, and her knees were slightly bent so as to provide adequate support for it. It was not a normal book, though: an exquisite leather cover bore hundreds of pages, all of them yellowed by the years and the intensive use. Still discernible, beautiful gilding ran along their edges, and the title was stamped in golden, stylized characters. She even fancied she sensed the faint aroma of aged paper, confused among the scents of Spring that permeated the morning. No, it was not by any means an ordinary, run-of-the-mill book.
Plus, it talked about magic.
In a way, that is. Instead of unraveling the mysteries behind charms, potions, transfigurations, spells or other bewitchments, this particular book narrated the events that brought about the creation of one of the most illustrious schools of the magical arts in the world. Infamous among the students, "Hogwarts, a History" was in fact one of her favorite reads; the story behind the marvelous gothic castle she inhabited, with all the halls, staircases, towers and secret passages that had so bewildered her when she had first braved them, was rich and exciting. In her mind, she could at times envision those powerful, larger-than-life wizards dead for hundreds of years now, fighting battles that decided the future of her school, and sometimes the country, in a tale of epic proportions.
Hermione loved it.
Skimming over the pages, she idly re-read certain passages that caught her eye as a sudden breeze did its best to muss up her naturally unmanageable hair. Hermione had picked the book from the school's library in a hurry, after finding herself with a couple of free hours ahead. It hadn't taken her long to discover it amid thousands upon thousands of similar volumes; it was argued that she knew that room better than the librarian herself, what with all the hours she spent there. Many believed her a bookworm for this — and she could not in truth deny it — but at times the ritual behind reading a good book attracted her as much as the information held therein: holding it in her hands, relaxing, and letting her imagination run free as the words flew by.
She wondered how many of her classmates would gaze at her funny were she to say that aloud. Most of them, probably. Ever the oddball, eh, girl? Hermione sighed, but promptly shook off the fleeting streak of melancholy. It was too idyllic an afternoon for anything but enjoying herself. Just her, the sun, nature—
—and a bunch of Quidditch-obsessed, boisterous adolescents buzzing overhead, as they chased, hit, dodged, and generally did everything a wizard could do with a series of enchanted balls while riding bundles of straws affixed to long sticks.
Everything had started out conventionally enough for a Monday at Hogwarts: a Potions class shared by Gryffindors and Slytherins in those dank, depressing dungeons that let nary a hint of Spring in. The dark looks; the snide comments; the greasy hair and pale, sallow face of one Severus Snape looking down on them and taking points from their house with a vengeance… and Neville botching up his assignment. Yet, unlike on other similar occurrences, the consequences were dire indeed — after a fashion.
The entire class turned to Neville's cauldron the instant it started sizzling, big bubbles hectically coming to the surface of the boiling liquid and bursting with loud "pops". This wouldn't have been uncommon by itself, if not for the fact that the fire below the cauldron was out, as it had been during the entire class. Hermione remembered watching Neville edge away from it, worried eyes casting fearful glances at both the fruit of his efforts and the enraged visage of his incoming teacher.
"What have you done this time, Longbottom?!" Snape thundered, pushing a quivering Neville back with each word. "Can't you do anything right, you darned fool?!" He gingerly approached the concoction, which was at the moment doing a passable impression of an active volcano itching for release. However, after a few moments it became apparent that that was to be the full extent of the… chemical? magical?… reaction, and the lanky man visibly relaxed. "I swear it," he continued, "you are the most idiotic, usel—"
To her utter delight, the cauldron exploded.
Seamus Finnigan — still grinning from ear to ear — mentioned, only half joking, that if Neville weren't so hazardous to himself and those close to him, he could become a magnificent potion inventor. The ability to transform a relatively harmless philter into a highly explosive mix was nothing to sneeze at.
Herbology was cancelled as professor Sprout collected some special herbs Madam Pomfrey required to cure Snape's burn marks — and grow his hair back. Which in turn resulted, after many hurrahs, whoops and ten heartfelt seconds of silence spent wishing for Snape's speedy recovery (minus lots of crossed fingers and assorted snickers and snorts), in an impromptu Quidditch match between the teams of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor.
Unfortunately, the Quidditch pitch was already booked, and no amount of begging was able to soften Madam Hooch's heart. Yet the energetic students wouldn't let that deter them for their enjoyment, and thus brooms were produced, goals improvised in the land between the castle and the lake, and the Quidditch balls were let loose, all in the blink of an eye. Several teams were formed, and those who didn't want to or couldn't play simply sat besides the makeshift court, cheering for their friends. It was undoubtedly impressive how organized teenagers could become when their goal was having fun, Hermione told herself.
Too bad they were so vocal about it.
Boys will be boys, she was tempted to say, but unfortunately her fellow femmes comprised a high proportion of the blabbering enthusiasts, both airborne and earthbound. Perhaps she was weird, after all. Maybe she was supposed to be among them, engrossed in the game, instead of sitting by herself away from the main group, reading. In her heart of hearts, she had always desired to fit in, to be popular. And yet, she felt she would never be able to understand the reasons for their fascination with that silly sport. What was so great about risking your neck on a charmed cleaning implement that just happened to be everything that separated you from a possibly fatal fall?
Shaking her head as if to clear it, she mutely berated herself. Brooding again, girl? What's with you today? She gazed up at the current match, and had to admit after a few moments that it did possess a certain appeal: all those people flying about, soaring and banking through the blue air with an ease that belied the intricate nature of the bond between the wizard and the broom. Flying was as physically trying as it was an exercise of will; on the depth of the connection between the broom and its master depended its ability to perform those amazing and often dangerous moves.
One of the riders suddenly dived, like a hawk after its prey. His body was bent forward, head and legs glued to the broom as if trying to blend with it. Hermione would've recognized the young man anywhere: hero extraordinaire, the most famous student in all Hogwarts, the Boy Who Lived, the Gryffindor seeker, and one of her best friends. Harry Potter. That wild, unruly dark hair was unmistakably his — and if she strained her sight, she fancied she could guess the telltale lightning-shaped scar on his forehead and the clear green eyes beneath his round-rimmed glasses, currently glued to his target.
Harry pulled out at the last possible instant, whizzing over the exultant spectators at breakneck speed. She had seen him pull the same stunt on many occasions in the past, but every single time her heart missed a beat. In his right hand, held aloft, was a nut-sized golden ball with two furiously fluttering, delicate silver wings, one on each side. He had caught the Snitch, and that signaled the end of the match…
…And the beginning of a new one, Hermione noticed. There's no rest for the wicked, I guess.
She saw Harry softly land, hand in the Snitch to the girl playing referee, and then look around him as if searching for something. Her eyes met his at last — he smiled at her, waved, and then began to carefully pick his way through the sitting groups of students, broom in hand. A few moments later he reached the willow, flopping down besides her and unceremoniously casting his cherished Firebolt onto the ground at his feet.
"Oh boy, I'm exhausted," Harry complained, closing his eyes and vigorously rubbing his neck. After a while he stopped, either succeeding in getting rid of the kinks in his neck or giving up altogether, and simply rested his back against the trunk.
"Where's Ron?" Hermione suddenly asked, breaking the silence.
"Huh?" Caught off guard, it took him a minute to understand her question, process it, and come up with the answer. "Oh, he's playing."
"Ah." Silence set in again. It wasn't uncomfortable or awkward; they were used to each other's presence. However, Hermione preferred to talk that morning. "Hey, Harry?"
"Why do you like it so much?"
Harry opened one of his eyes, and looked at her without turning her head. "Why do I like what?"
"Why?" There was a hint of curiosity in his voice now.
"Yes, Harry," she drawled out, a tad exasperated, "that's what I asked."
"Er… I don't know. I just like it."
"Just like that? There's no special reason? Something?"
His eye closed once more, and he responded noncommittally, "No, not really."
"Oh," Hermione muttered, disappointed. "Okay then, I guess."
Well, that was productive, wasn't it? Hermione thought, downcast. That was just the thing with Harry: He was a good friend, reliable and good-natured — and yet sometimes she felt a wall existed between them. Harry was always willing to lend her his ear when she needed to talk about her problems, always ready to give her a piece of advice, kind words… But he hardly ever voiced his own troubles, his thoughts — unless, of course, they were related to the ever-present threat of Voldemort, or to whatever adventure the trio was embarked in at the moment. And she so wanted to listen to him…
However, she couldn't fault him, not even now, amidst her frustration. Harry didn't play by everyone else's rules: the world happened to Harry Potter, not otherwise. Being designated from his very infancy as the reservoir of the Magical World's collective hope was a terrible burden for any person. To make an unenviable situation worse, everything and everybody appeared to constantly conspire to put him in the spotlight — for better or for worse — as if a hidden hand were pulling the strings on their backs, bent on having fun at Harry's expense. It was more than enough to drive someone crazy, but somehow he took it all in stride, and managed to choose the right path at almost every turn. She admired that in him.
If only he were able to… open up.
"It's just that… I love flying."
She had been so wrapped in her own thoughts that Harry's comment didn't register at first. "Huh?"
"It used to be my dream, you know?" His eyes were wide open now, lost in the sky above. "When I was a child, it'd be all I thought about during the night, when the house was quiet and the Dursleys were asleep. I'd smash open that bloody cupboard door, punch Dudley in his big, bloated face like he had mine so many times, give Uncle Vernon a piece of my mind, and then simply take off like a superhero." He smiled sadly at this, and Hermione's heart went out to him. "At least Hagrid gave Dudley that tail, so I can't complain, can I?"
"Harry, I—" she started, but Harry resumed talking, cutting her off.
"My world used to be so small, Herm, so small. It was just the Dursleys' home, school, and the road that connected both. Mrs. Figg's house, too, I guess, but I hardly ever went there. And I hated school, and I despised the Dursleys, and I… strongly disliked Mrs. Figg and her cats… but it was all I knew, so… I never imagined a place like Hogwarts existed.
"And then Hagrid came, and I met Ron — and you. And I'm so happy for that. You are my world now." Maybe he himself hadn't quite noticed what he was saying, because he suddenly turned and stared at her oddly, as if surprised of the fact she was actually there, listening. He hastily looked away, but not before Hermione could see a rosy hue spring up in his cheeks…
"It would've been easier to answer that I was in for the fame, wouldn't it?" he cracked weakly, still refusing to make eye contact.
Hermione grabbed his head with both hands and forced him to turn back to her. Then she kissed him.
It wasn't a long kiss, but it lasted long enough for Harry's eyes to fly open, frantic, and then close again as he began to enjoy the feeling. But then it finished, and he remained frozen in the spot well after Hermione had leaned back, giving him some space. All of a sudden he was moving again, scrambling up to his feet and blushing for all he was worth.
"I-I… I sh-should go back t-to the game, I think," he stuttered, stumbling upon his words as he backpedaled towards the improvised court. Almost as an afterthought, he picked his broom, smiled at her from her kneeling position, and then restarted his retreat. "Yeah, I'm going to do just that, should be my turn soon. Yeah. Er… See you!" Whirling around, he practically jogged away. His left hand was holding his Firebolt, but Hermione saw his right hand move to his mouth and lightly touch his lips.
She watched him go, finally allowing herself to blush too. When did you become so impulsive, girl? And wipe that grin off your face! But her mouth seemed to have a mind of its own, and continued smiling despite her best efforts to regain her composure. At long last she relaxed, grabbed her abandoned volume from the ground — where it had fallen somewhere through their talk — and opened it to the page she had been reading.
Yet, for some reason, she found it incredibly difficult to focus on the book for the rest of the day.
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