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Sixteen Hours by apAidan
Chapter 1 : Chapter One - Sunrise and New Beginnings
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 11


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Chapter One – Sunrise and New Beginnings

Note - The Royal Observatory in Greenwich notes that for a certain remote location in the Highlands of Scotland, on 2 May, 1998 the sun rose at 0408 and set at 2004. Why this location is annotated is not known, apparently there isn’t anything there but some moldering ruins, a nearby abandoned railway connection, and a lake.

According to The Times, The Scotsman, and The Herald, nothing major happened in the British Isles on that particular day. Both The Sun and The Daily Record reported strange atmospheric sightings, UFOs, widespread reports of shooting stars during the day, and unusual sightings of large birds, particularly owls, beginning shortly after sunrise and lasting until well after dark throughout the British Isles. The official explanation from 10 Downing Street involved delayed May Day celebrations.

Prologue

The Great Hall of Hogwarts was crowded with knots of people, watching and waiting as the two wizards in the center of the hall circled each other. Harry Potter and Tom Riddle watched each other as they tried to position themselves for the decisive blow. Outside the ancient castle, the sky began to lighten as the dawn approached. Mirrored by the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall, no one was watching the approaching dawn; they only had eyes for the circling pair. As the first rays of a glorious spring day streamed through the windows and illuminated the hall, two beams of magical light sprang forth, meeting in the center between the two. The Elder Wand flew through the air, a green light rebounded and Harry Potter caught the wand as the lifeless and soulless corpse of Tom Riddle collapsed to the floor.

Chaos erupted as the crowd surged forward. The surviving Death Eaters surrendered sullenly as the defenders all tried to reach the author of their freedom at once. Ron and Hermione hugged him, shielding him as family, friends and people who were simply there tried to become part of the moment by being there with Harry Potter. As the sun brightened the battered Great Hall, life returned to those present. Everyone was trying to reaffirm that friends and family had survived the long night. Grief was tempered by the realization that Voldemort’s reign of terror had finally ended, ended with one word from Harry.

Voldemort’s body was unceremoniously dragged from the Hall and dumped in a small broom closet, unlamented but not forgotten. Members of Dumbledore’s Army took turns watching the door to keep the corpse from being carried off by supporters of the Dark Lord, as they did the prisoners that had been captured when Voldemort fell. The irony of grown, hardened Death Eaters being guarded by teens, some of whom were not yet allowed to cast magic at home, was lost in the defeated look in the eyes of the wizards and witches who huddled, bound by magical ropes in one of the reception chambers on the first floor.

Throughout the Great Hall, people gathered in groups that formed, moved along and then broke apart as the survivors found others that they wanted to congratulate or console. The bodies of the fifty-five who had died that night in the battle to defeat the Dark Lord were arrayed along one wall, and small knots of friends and family gathered to mourn.

At the center of it all was Harry Potter. He spoke to the bereaved, congratulated the victorious and tried to comfort those that needed it. After working his way to the edge of the crowds, he was sitting next to one of his friends, and then he wasn’t. No one noticed, because Harry had been moving around the Hall all morning, so he must just be somewhere else. Just as no one noticed when his two best friends quietly left the Hall, not looking back.

Outside the Great Hall, the two became three as Harry emerged from his cloak. As they walked, he explained what had happened, telling them all he could of what had happened since the death of Severus Snape. As tired as he was, Harry knew where he was going, and he also could tell that not everything he said was a surprise to Hermione.

Nodding to her as they reached the stairs to the Headmaster’s Office, the three of them ascended the stairs and went inside. Minutes pass, and the quiet of this part of the castle is only broken by a raucous sound of applause from inside the office and the echoes of Peeves as he serenaded the castle, celebrating the defeat of Voldy. Finally the door opened, and Harry’s tired voice quietly filled the stairwell. “I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime.”



Standing there, looking at his friends with a bittersweet smile, Harry nodded towards Ron and Hermione. Seeing the question in Hermione’s eyes, he shrugged. “I’ll be fine; I’m going to the Tower to get some sleep.” Looking down at his watch, he marveled that it was only 7:08. “If you two aren’t occupied, could someone come up to the Tower and get me after two?” Seeing their nods and mutual blushes, he smiled. “I’ll probably need to sleep later than that, but there will be things to do.” Stepping forward, he shocked them both by first hugging Ron and then Hermione. Harry blushed as she kissed his cheek. Looking apologetically at Ron, he shrugged and looked away.

“When you two eventually get down to the Great Hall, let the family know I’m ok, but don’t let anyone know where I am. I just want to sleep for a week.” Turning away from them, he started down the steps.

“Harry, should you go there alone?” Hermione asked as he made his way down the steps. “We can come with.”

Stopping and turning, he smiled sadly at them. “You two have shepherded me across Britain for nine months, you deserve time for yourselves. Besides,” drawing himself up as he flourished his wand in a ridiculously grandiose manner and shot a stream of water at a cobweb that caught his eye, “who’s going to mess with Harry Potter today? Tomorrow I’ll be fair game, but today everyone’s going to remember what happened to Tom Riddle and give me plenty of room.” Laughing at himself, he turned and started heading up the hall, whistling ‘God Bless Ye Merry Hippogriffs’.

Looking at Hermione, Ron whistled softly. “Is he going to be all right by himself?”

Shaking her head, Hermione looked worried. “Honestly, I don’t know. He looks a bit lost and I think he’s too tired to think clearly.” Turning to Ron and taking his hand in hers, she smiled. “Should we follow him?”

Looking at Hermione with a curious expression on his face, Ron looked down at their joined hands and then back at her. “In a tic.” Stepping close to her, he put his free hand around her waist and leaned towards her. Brushing his lips against hers, he felt her wrap her arm around him as they began to kiss for the second time. Last night’s kiss had contained three years of suppressed passion and longing, along with the uncertainties of the upcoming battle and their lives. Today’s kiss celebrated their lives, and the future, but it was also an acknowledgement of something they both knew. As they broke the kiss, they looked into each other’s eyes.

“You’ll always be special to me,” Hermione whispered as she laid her head on Ron’s shoulder and held him close. “I’ll always be there for you, you know that.”

Holding her tight, he inhaled the fragrance that she had worn for so long. “Hermione, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, you made me grow up.” Smiling as she looked up at him, he nodded. “Which is why we’re both saying everything but what we both know. It’s not going to work because we’re who we are with each other.” Seeing a tear rolling down her cheek, he wiped it away with his thumb. “We could give this a go, and end up making each other very miserable while we tried to make each other extremely happy, but we both know that this is where it should end.”

“We could try. I know that we’ve both danced around this for years, but we could try to make this work.” Smiling bravely at him, she nodded. “You’re right, of course. But I meant it when I said I’ll always be there for you.”

Laughing, Ron wrapped his arm around her shoulders and started down the steps with her. “And I’ll be there for you. I’ve loved you for a long time, and I’ll probably not stop anytime soon. Last night, I guess I grew up enough to realize that I don’t love you like you deserve to be loved. We would be all right together, but you’re such a special person, you deserve someone who loves you so much that he can’t breathe if you’re not there, that will make you feel as special as you really are just by looking at you.” Smiling wryly, he stopped when they got to the bottom of the stairs and turned to face her, really looking at her for the first time in years.

Shaking her head and blushing, she smiled at him. “When did you become the romantic? And where am I supposed to find this paragon of romance you just described?”

Nodding towards the hallway, he rolled his eyes. “Always the tone of surprise, Hermione. Your ‘paragon of romance’ is heading for a four-poster bed in Gryffindor Tower, thankful that his two best mates are together and desperately trying to ignore the fact that it’s eating him alive.” Smiling at the shocked look on her face, he placed a finger on her lips to quiet her protests.

‘There are only two people who haven’t figured out that you two belong together and you always have.” Shaking his head, Ron smiled at the defiant look on Hermione’s face. “Well, four if you count my Mum and Ginny. Do you want to go back up the steps and ask Dumbledore?”

Pulling her back into a hug, he held her for a couple of very long moments. “I knew you two belonged together, but when nothing happened, I decided that maybe if I loved you enough, you’d love me back. You did, and that’s when I realized that I couldn’t rob the two of you of this chance.”

Pulling back from him, she shook her head. “Harry and I, that’s ridiculous. He wouldn’t.”

Shaking his head, he looked her dead in the eyes. “I saw what happened in the Great Hall last night. You knew Harry was dead before Voldemort told us. You weren’t just grieving you were way past that. If it hadn’t been for Neville, I don’t think you would have made it. And you knew that he was alive before we went outside. I heard you talking to Ginny and Professor McGonagall. You weren’t reassuring them; you knew that Harry was alive.” Shaking his head he smiled at her.

“But Harry’s never said anything to me,” Hermione stammered.

“Because he’s ‘certain’ that you would never fancy him. Just think about it for a moment. Hermione, who knows more about Harry than you? He’s talked to you about almost everything for seven years. I’d be willing to bet that you knew parts of what he told us on the way here, and you know some of what he didn’t say.”

Turning her around, he gently pushed her down the hall. “Go to him. Be there when he wakes up. The first house elf I see I’ll ask them if they’d do Harry and you a favor and bring some food up to our old dorm and I’ll keep the rest of our year out of the tower.”

Seeing the shocked look on her face, he laughed. “I didn’t mean you should take advantage of him, but I can imagine that a bit of peace and quiet wouldn’t do either of you any harm. I’m going down to be with the family, you two come down and join us after you’ve slept and eaten something and gotten things worked out between you.”

Tears were forming in her eyes as she smiled. “Do you really think? Are you certain?”

Grinning, he nodded. “If the guy with the emotional range of a teaspoon has noticed, then there’s something to notice. I’ll be downstairs with the rest of the family. Your family and Harry’s.” Nodding at her, he smiled. “You go to him; you both need to be happy.”

“What about you? What’s going to make you happy?” Looking at him she smiled.

“I’m certain that I’ll find the right witch. I’ve probably already met her so I just need to start being the kind of person she can love, and she’ll let me know. Who knows, she’s probably just waiting for me to stop mooning over you.” Surprised as Hermione turned, ran back to him and hugged him fiercely, he patted her on her back, speechless.

“Ronald, you’re the best friend, and I’m certain that you’ll find who you’re looking for.” Looking at him with an appraising eye, she smiled. “Go down and keep Luna company, I think you’ll be surprised.”

Laughing at the look on his face, she kissed him on the cheek and turned to leave. Grinning as she heard him muttering “Luna?” she broke into a run and headed for Gryffindor Tower



Arriving at the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, Hermione finally skidded to a stop. Panting slightly, she looked up at the Fat Lady, the guardian of Gryffindor. Smiling, she took a deep breath. “Hello Viola.”

Smiling broadly, the fat lady nudged her friend who was sharing a cask of the monk’s brandy with her. “See Violet, I told you the two of us were close.” Smiling a bit tipsily, she nodded. “Go right in Hermione, there’s a password, but you certainly won’t need it.”

As the portrait began to swing open, Hermione grinned. “Is he inside?”

Looking coyly at her, Viola batted her eyes. “Why whoever could you mean?”

Shaking her head, Hermione looked at Violet. “Is he?”

“Harry Potter?” Nodding, Violet ignored the exasperated look her friend gave her. “But the poor dear was so tired; I doubt he made it up to the dorms.” Disappearing for a second, she came back cackling. “He’s out like a torch on the steps.” Shaking her head, she smiled. “Better take him upstairs and tuck him in before some other witch comes along and does it for you.”

Both of the slightly potted ladies laughed at the look on Hermione’s face as she clambered through the entrance. Stopping as she entered the Common Room, she looked around. Undamaged, the room was still a wreck as books and belongings were scattered everywhere at the hurried exodus of the students the night before.

Even though all of the older Gryffindors remained behind in the Great Hall to fight, they had all left the Tower in such a hurry that it would be days before everything was sorted out. As she looked around, she smiled as she spotted Harry.

Sitting on the steps, he had fallen asleep when he had sat down to tie up one of his trainers. Blinking back tears, she shook her head and walked quietly over to him so as to not wake him. Bending over, she placed a kiss on the top of his head, then reached down and picked up his wand and carefully stowed it in her pocket. Seeing the Elder Wand protruding from his back pocket, she carefully extracted it from his pocket and put it away, also.

Looking around, she stepped back a couple of steps, took out her wand and made an intricate pass, finally pointing it at Harry. Although still slouched over where he fell asleep, he silently rose an inch from the stair he was sitting on. Smiling, she raised her wand and watched Harry float in midair, still sleeping. Walking slowly, so as to keep her hand steady, Hermione walked the floating Harry up the stairs to his old dorm.

Entering his old dorm, she almost dropped him at the sight that greeted her. The walls were covered with graffiti, most of it lauding on Dumbledore’s Army and the Golden Trio. Blushing, she walked slowly towards Harry’s old bed. Both his and Ron’s had signs on the closed curtains that simply stated ‘Reserved – occupants will be back later’ in Neville’s careful script.

Looking around the room, she raised an eyebrow at a Holyhead Harpies jersey that looked suspiciously like one she had gotten Ginny for her birthday a couple of years ago that was carelessly strewn in a pile of clothes beside one of the other beds. Shaking her head, she continued on towards Harry’s bed. Pulling back the curtains with her free hand, she gently lowered him onto the neatly made bed.

Watching him sit there, sleeping peacefully, she smiled and gently laid him back on the bed. Taking his glasses, she put them on the bedside table where he normally kept them so he wouldn’t have to search for them when he awoke. Putting his legs up on the bed, she began untying the other trainer and slipped them off, putting them neatly under the edge of his bed.

Walking over to Ron’s bed, she reached through the curtains and retrieved a pillow and a ghastly orange Chudley Cannons blanket before returning to Harry. Pulling his pillow out from under his covers, he gently placed it under his head and spread the blanket over his legs and feet. Stepping away from the bed, she cast a muffliato to shield him from noise and called out, “Kreacher?”

The house elf appeared with a ‘pop’. A neat bandage graced his head, his right arm in a sling, Kreacher bowed low to her. “Miss Hermione has need of my services?”

Shaking her head, she smiled. “Kreacher, you’re hurt. Why don’t you take some time and I’ll just run down to the kitchen myself later on.”

Grimacing, he looked at the sling and slipped his arm out of it, flexing it carefully. “Kreacher is humoring the human healer downstairs by wearing these bandages. What does Miss Hermione need for Master Harry?”

Looking at him carefully, she asked, “Are you certain you’re alright?” Seeing him nod, she sighed. “I know that people have been in Grimmauld Place, but do the three of us have any clothes left there that are fit to wear?” Seeing him nod, she grinned. “Would you please bring back clothes for the three of us and put them on Ron’s bed.” Nodding to the appropriate bed, she smiled at him. “And could you come back at noon and wake me? I’ll be here with Harry and I want to be up before he needs to wake.”

“Miss Hermione, everything will be as you ask. Watch over Master Harry, and I’ll see you when the sun is at noon.” Bowing, Kreacher disappeared with a faint ‘pop’. Smiling, Hermione removed her shoes, placed them beside Harry’s and climbed up on the bed with him.

Slipping under the blanket, she moved the other pillow so she could be comfortable. Casting a silent spell to make the bed appear empty, she wrapped her arm around Harry’s waist as she relaxed in preparation for sleep. She felt Harry relax in return and snuggle into her as she smiled. Listening to the regular sound of his breathing, she slowly drifted off, smiling.


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