[Once again, the following author's note is from 2-3 years ago.]
I have to say...the reviews I got this past chapter made me weep far more than even writing the words did. A mere “thank-you” would be far too inadequate to describe the encouraging words I was given...especially considering the depth of friendship I have with many of you. I’ll just say that what you shared with me shall be treasured for a lifetime...the present one, and the next.
This chapter is not nearly so heavy...after churning out the last two (the updates were posted just 4 days apart if you noticed) I really needed a break from the intensity...takes a lot for me to write that way. :) And now we’ve just more storybuilding...a necessary evil, yet you have my word it’s quite entertaining nonetheless. I know if it’s boring to write, it’ll be boring to read...so rest assured knowing I can’t stand writing boring stuff. So...lucky you. XP
Even though he was up early before everyone else, Harry couldn’t recall having felt this serene...since...ever. He had awoken from his transcendent dream, awash in bright sunbeams streaming through the window. Grabbing quill, ink, and paper, he stole downstairs. Harry was determined to write down everything he could remember, and not just for Madam Adonna this time. It was for himself; he hoped by recording it that he may be able to bask in its serenity as long as he was able. This had been his first dream since the car crash that wasn’t a perpetual nightmare, pervaded with scenes of distress, agony, pain. Harry was sure that reading Lupin’s letter was what trigged it. Their elusive peace Remus spoke of in the end paragraph had indeed begun to happen...already.
In his haste to finish, Harry had acquired quite a collection of ink stains on his hands and was attempting to remove the worst of them over the bathroom sink. That was one of Aunt Petunia’s pet peeves–she usually shrieked when she found faded black in her precious basin. Thoughts of her and Uncle Vernon still unconscious and in the hospital were enough to bring Harry off his emotional high.
His enforced, lifelong series of stays at the Dursley residence had been anything but agreeable, as Harry’s relatives had only let him remain there under threat of repercussions from Dumbledore. They were maniacally in denial of magic. Harry had discovered that was due the ingrained fear that Harry’s not only being a wizard, but one ofthe premiere wizards of the magic world would somehow be responsible for bringing them in harm’s way someday. Unfortunately, that appeared to be precisely what had happened. Their maltreatment notwithstanding, it was getting harder for Harry to stave off the guilt which pricked at his heart the longer he stayed in his aunt and uncle’s home while they were absent and ill.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror for a bit, wondering if Madam Adonna was going to teach him anything about morphing techniques that day. The jagged new mark across Harry’s face was just starting to fade. He was glad of it; the last thing he wanted on his forehead was a new scar to match the old one. It was a painful reminder of the crash and the last imprint from his old pair of spectacles.
Harry was still getting used to the look of his new glasses. Mrs. Weasley said they gave him a mature appearance more like that of a college student. He didn’t really care what it was they did for his looks, he’d simply chosen this pair since Ginny had liked these on him the most. Harry dunked his comb under the faucet, running it pointlessly through his unruly hair. It didn’t matter how long he worked at it, the style was always going to look as if he’d just rolled out of bed. But if he tweaked it...just...right...ah, yes. He could get it to conceal most of his latest scar.
Having heard someone pass the door while he was in the bathroom, Harry went downstairs to see who else was awake. Hermione was standing over the stove, looking as if she were cooking something for breakfast. Harry considered her a moment, watching behind her back from the kitchen doorway. She hadn’t seen him yet.
Mrs. Weasley had understandably gotten tired of not making meals on-site, so Harry had given her brief instruction on how to use the various “eckeltricity-run” appliances. She’d picked up on everything fantastically fast, her least favourite task being that gravy was made by painstakingly stirring roux over the stove instead of being conjured from a wand tip. Universally, the Weasleys’ favourite kitchen feature was the ice and water dispenser in the freezer door. The reason being it was the thing that most resembled “real” magic.
Hermione had stayed pretty much clear of the kitchen, and Harry hadn’t even noticed it until now. That was most likely why seeing her cooking had caught his attention, seemed out of place to him.
“Morning,” said Harry, walking up behind her, “need any help?”
“N-NO!” Hermione practically shouted, nearly dropping her kitchen utensil. “Why? D-Does it look like I need helping?”
He didn’t know if the bushy-haired girl were simply startled from being so intent on her task, or if she was agitated that Harry was present to watch her cook in the first place.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Harry said reasonably, “I saw the eggs on the counter, and thought you might want help cooking breakfast.”
“No, erm, I-I’m just fine,” Hermione stuttered, “I just wanted to do something back for Mrs. Weasley, since she’s always cooking for us and everything. Sort of, sort of a thank-you type thing, you know. You can go, if you want. I’ll–I’ll come get you when it’s ready.”
“Okay then,” Harry replied carefully. “And I think that’s an ace idea, but I’ll go if you want. Cheers.” It was obvious Hermione was most keen on his removing himself from the kitchen.
Harry turned to leave but happened to see what was over the hotplate. There was a form for poached eggs in a shallow pan, yet something was distinctly wrong. All four eggs were still in their shells.
“Are you sure you don’t want any help?” Harry repeated. “It’s really no trouble. Er, if you’re trying to make poached eggs, that’s not how–“
”I know, I know!” said a very flustered Hermione, “I get so caught up in wanting to do everything just right, I forget stupid things! I never learnt how to cook when I was little, and since going to boarding school at Hogwarts, I’ve not had time then either...”
She continued on her explanatory rant of being an atrocious cook, that cooking was something she needed to know how to do before she graduated, how she had less than two years left...
Harry proceeded to calm Hermione by demonstrating for her how one should properly make poached eggs. He made two of them, so Hermione could do the next two.
“Wow. You’re really great at that,” she commented, upon his finishing.
Shrugging, Harry said, “It’s not that difficult. But I ought to be good at it. Aunt Petunia would send me to school without breakfast if I screwed it up. It’s a good incentive–you would’ve got good at it too.” Hermione chuckled and shook her head.
“Now it’s your turn,” Harry told her. “Give it a go.”
Once she was calmed down enough and discovered that Harry wasn’t going to openly mock her lack of home ability in the kitchen, she was fairly decent at the cooking thing.
However, Harry quickly decided for Hermione’s novice skill, they’d better try the waffle iron this time...he could just imagine the disaster of her trying to flip pancakes. He had never thought it a particularly useful thing that his Muggle aunt had made him cook for the family from such an early age, but after Hermione’s compliments and watching her struggle with it, Harry saw just how beneficial such know-how could be.
He also became supremely aware of the irony...it wasn’t often that Harry was able to best Hermione’s practical knowledge on anything, and usually it was over something the girl didn’t really care about in the first place–like Quidditch. His bushy-haired best friend was even less likely to acknowledge it when he did know more than her on something; Dark Arts Defence was the only subject he could think of off the top of his head.
“You know...” Harry began, the urge to tease Hermione getting the better of him, “you’d better not let the boys at school know you can’t cook, or they might forget dating you altogether. It was you who pointed out the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach...Crabbe and Goyle, second-year,” he reminded. “Potions you can do, but pancakes?” he goaded skeptically. Harry was, of course, hoping Hermione would cotton on that he was referring to a specific red-haired boy at school who also happened to be a friend of theirs...
“Which is why I’m so lucky to have you teach me, Little Mr. Homemaker,” Hermione shot back sarcastically. “So you can wipe that cheeky smirk off your face. If you say word one, I’m going straight to Ginny and say how you like her–“
“Whoa now,” protested Harry, “who says that I fancy Ginny? Isn’t she going out with Dean anyway?”
Sighing, Hermione mirrored his smirk, “Since when has a girl going out with somebody else ever stopped another bloke from fancying her?” she questioned pointedly. “It’s only obvious, you know, the way you’re always ogling her, as if Ginny were the most beautiful thing since Aphrodite...”
Hermione knew full well that Harry wouldn’t mention her fledgling cooking status to anyone, but even in jest he didn’t want Hermione to suggest he liked Ginny...not when Ginny could hear, especially. Harry couldn’t take the risk of it ruining his friendship with Ron.
“Fine, fine,” Harry held up his hands, still unable to keep from smiling. He couldn’t fault Hermione, it was he who started this round. “I promise your secret lack of domestic skill is safe with me.” Then he said, “But I do not ogle, thank you very much. I am a gentleman.” Harry folded his arms, imposing the most dignified-yet-affronted look he could manage.
Hermione eyed him a drawn-out moment, as if staring long enough might allow her to discern cracks in his facade. “No, you’re right,” she agreed finally. “You don’t ogle–that’s a Ron thing. You do however, stare pointedly for unusually excessive amounts of time, with your mouth agape so that one of these days I swear you’ll start attracting flies...”
With a spluttering of laughter, Harry conceded their conversational joust. “Okay! I yield! You win! Truce?” he held out his hand, which was spattered with waffle batter.
“Now who can refuse an offer like that?” said Hermione dubiously. But then she held out her hand to shake his and said, “Truce.”
“Hey good-lookin’. Whatcha got cookin’?” Ginny said from behind him, as she walked into the kitchen. Hearing her voice these days always made Harry’s stomach feel as if he’d swallowed a half dozen fluttering Snitches.
This time, the nature of Ginny’s quip not only caused Harry to halt what he was doing, but his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Scarcely daring to hope, he held his breath, turned around–
“Oh, just a little something for breakfast,” answered Hermione.
–only to realise, with more disappointment than he cared to admit, that it was Hermione whom Ginny had addressed, and not him. Quickly covering his letdown, he turned back to the stove to finish transferring sausage links from the pan to a serving plate.
“All made with Muggle thingy-ma-bobs, huh?” Ginny asked.
“It’s the only way I know how to cook,” answered Hermione, removing a waffle from the iron. Harry coughed politely.
“And I,” said Harry, ignoring Hermione’s sharpened glance.
He picked up the serving plate and walked toward the table. Ron, who was clad in slippers, pyjamas and dressing gown, sauntered sleepily over to a chair.
“Oooh!” Ron exclaimed through a poorly-covered yawn. “Poached eggs are my fave! Wonder what they taste like Muggle-made...”
Hermione set a plate in front of Ron. Harry noticed straight off everything on Ron’s plate was stuff that Harry had cooked. He also distinctly heard the bushy-haired girl mutter to herself, “yes, I know they’re your fave...” Perhaps Harry had nailed Hermione’s seemingly inexplicable need to learn how to cook without even meaning to...he wanted to flash her a knowing look, but she appeared to be purposefully ignoring him at present.
Harry was thus distracted while placing the sausage plate on the table. Before he could set it down, something suddenly snaked around Harry’s waist.
“Quality control!” Ginny blurted, nicking a sausage from the plate. Her arm and hand again brushed Harry’s ribcage as she slid away; every place Ginny had come in contact with became intensively electrified as Harry realised who had touched him. “And these are my fave,” she said, taking a bite of sausage, “mmm, delectable.” Harry seemed to have forgotten how to breathe.
“Smooth move, slick,” said Ron wryly.
Ron pointed toward Harry’s hand, and Harry looked down to see all the sausages had tumbled off the plate onto the table in a greasy heap.
“Well, that’s one unique way to use a serving platter,” said Hermione as she seated herself across from Ron, her voice rife with sarcasm. Ginny giggled and helped Harry scoop the links back onto the plate. He went and got a washrag to sop the grease off the table top.
“Marry me, Hermione.”
Ginny, Harry and Hermione all turned to gape at Ron in astonishment, but he was too busy tucking into his breakfast to notice.
“These are beyond compare,” he continued. “Not even Mum could make better poached eggs than these.”
“Thank you,” said Hermione hastily. But then she regained her mordacity while saying, “If the calibre of your morning meal is your sole requisite for proposing marriage, I can think of more important qualities you should look for in a spouse.”
“Eh, why don’t you just tell him ‘yes’ and get it over with? You’re doomed now,” Ginny said to Hermione, but her gaze was stuck squarely upon Harry.
Once more Harry’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, but this time it was because he could hardly contain the laughter building within him. How Ginny had guessed their charade was beyond him... Hermione’s humming the first few bars of “Here Comes the Bride” did wonders to sober Harry up, though...and thankfully the song’s significance was completely lost on Ginny. Harry amusingly considered the ensuing brevity of his and Hermione’s so-called “truce”.
Mrs. Weasley then walked back into the house from her early morning outing with her husband. She was surprised and delighted to find breakfast already planned for, and Ron continually raved how he was spoilt for Hermione’s “Muggle-made scrummies”.
In this fun, easy-going atmosphere, Harry couldn’t help but actualise that all it took to transform 4 Privet Drive from oppressive to enjoyable was his friends. The stereo was softly playing an acoustic song called “I Love” by Athlete in the background, and Harry found himself reflecting again...
Fire on the hill,
Fire in me still;
I feel out of my league.
But you turn around and say to me that,
“I love everybody here.”
And I agree–
I love everybody here.
After his dream last night, it was pointless for Harry not to contemplate the meaning of all his mates meant to him. Even after the horrid meeting with Dumbledore and Snape, he’d found it impossible to dwell on the negative due being constantly surrounded by his friends, near and far...and this song captured his current mood toward them perfectly.
Th’ sun has long gone out;
Sun comes up like it’s been about a year.
But I don’t mind if we
Drink again, my friend...
‘Cause there is so much left to say.
And there is so much left to...say,
There is so much left to say...
Ron had just told a particularly funny joke, but Harry was so swept up in the song now that he hadn’t caught a single word. Time stretched out, slow-motion like, and Harry smiled while watching everybody else laugh together.
People for miles, openin’ up;
People for miles, in focus and not.
We’d be okay if...
We had answers to questions
In rhymes and in reasons–
You’d leave it to me to be
All of four seasons...
And in that moment, it dawned on Harry what had affected him the most about last night’s dream. It wasn’t in his own imagination that his friends knew him well enough to directly tell Dumbledore what Harry might want in a memoriam. It was all real and true. And what was more, none of them yet knew of Harry’s destiny to destroy Lord Voldemort...they could discern his inner drive without even knowing the motivation behind it.
And you say, “I love everybody here.”
And I agree–I love everybody here.
I love everybody here.
Well, I love everybody here.
I love everybody here...
Well, life is beautiful, for sure
‘Cause I love everybody here.
Ginny turned to him, pointing Harry out to the others gathered round. She smiled and had everybody else raise his or her glass of orange juice, jokingly trying to bring him out of his reverie.
“To Harry!” she exclaimed.
“To Harry!” echoed Mrs. Weasley, Ron, and Hermione, each downing the remainder of their orange juice in one go.