Chapter 18 : Finding Your Centre
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Harry’s euphoric feeling lasted for at least two weeks, excluding the times when he was bent over books in the library or helping Hagrid tame his new Doxies to take the weeds out of his pumpkin patch (their efforts simply resulted in the ruination of a couple dozen pumpkins).
But whenever he entered the Gryffindor common room or sat down at their table in the Great Hall, the floaty, happy sensation returned to him. It was simply impossible not to smile when people clapped or cheered his name, and the feeling of having beat the Slytherins at the Cup of the second time was just too good to be true. Ron, far from showing any jealousy, seemed to have warmed up to him slowly and was beginning to acknowledge his existence again; that was at least something.
There was also the fact that no one had time to spare for petty arguments- the common room was quiet those days, other than occasional frustrated sighs or the slamming of books on Hermione’s part. She stated that she “had relaxed too much that year and was now paying the consequences”. Harry hadn’t exactly noticed her relaxing at any point, but he wasn’t about to argue since that could be met with a snappy response these days.
Twice a week the elderly professor Marchbanks added to their stress, when the sixth years grouped on the edge of Hogsmeade (Hermione still muttering the ingredients of a Youthening Potion under her breath) to practice Apparition. As it had been over a month since their first lesson, some people were making an improvement and Harry now understood more or less what was expected of him.
Hermione frustrated the others by disappearing into thin air every once and again, returning after a few minutes – still muttering things like “…add three ounces of powdered Frezelbush and stir clockwise…”
Harry was greatly annoyed at the fact that he was the only one, apart from Neville, who still hadn’t found his centre. This feeling increased when one afternoon Neville shocked everyone as his stomach started glowing a deep red colour. It was visible even through his robes, and the horrified look on Neville’s face showed that he didn’t know what was happening any more than they did.
“That’s fine, no need for the commotion,” Professor Marchbanks soothed, patting Neville on the shoulder. His glowing belly faded slowly.
“It’s happened before, in very rare cases, that the centre of a wizard shows itself if it feels there’s no possibility for it to be discovered otherwise…” She gave him a small smile. “Longbottom’s centre is clearly his stomach.”
Parvati Patil giggled.
“That leaves only you to find yours, Harry,” Ron pointed out, rubbing the end on his long nose.
Harry groaned miserably, watching the other students with their faces screwed up in concentration, occasionally cheering if they thought they had come close to Apparating. They probably wondered why on earth he, the one from the prophecy, was the only one that still hadn’t found his centre. Even the bulldozer from the Slytherin Quidditch team had found his!
A sharp pang in his scar made Harry tumble backwards and nearly fall onto the ground. Just what he needed; Voldemort feeling happy again. Who had he killed this time? But Harry realized that the pain didn’t carry any of his emotions; he didn’t seem to be feeling anything at the time. Except maybe… hope?
Harry shook the thoughts away, closing his eyes and concentrating on himself again. He had already tried every bodypart he owned from his toes up to his hair. It was useless…Maybe he was part- squib…
It was hard to focus when his scar was twinging so much. It felt like a dozen needles pricking him in the head, and Harry muttered irritably through gritted teeth: “Go away…”
Something seemed to shift inside him, as if his insides had been removed and he was feather-light. The pain in his scar stopped abruptly, but only for an instant. Then Harry opened his eyes, forgetting to breathe.
The warm summer air washed into his face, and he saw that the hill with the Shrieking Shack that had overshadowed him was gone. Hogsmeade was gone, and so were his classmates. Instead, he was faced with a single, derelict, house. It stood a long way from the pleasant village below, of which Harry could make out rooftops and the low rumble of a Muggle tractor. He was somewhere in the countryside.
The initial shock gone, Harry turned back to the house in front of him and pulled out his wand, feeling steadily more suspicious of the situation. It reminded him uncomfortably of the time he had been transported to a graveyard with Cedric, and returned with a corpse.
But this was different. Hermione had told him that the first time she’d Apparated she had also landed in the middle of nowhere, only to discover that it was beach where her family would go when she was little. Apparently your first trips were entirely at random or subconscious.
But how on earth was he supposed to get back? He had no idea how he had landed here in the first place, and even less how to return. It was an uneasy sensation; here he was, all alone in some remote Muggle village, and his scar was still twinging.
Suddenly the house caught his attention again. It had the looks of having been a fine place a long time ago; there were flowers in the overgrown yard and a colourful mailbox, with a sign that he couldn’t make out. But the house itself was in ruins.
A side of it looked as though blown to pieces, shattered glass and bricks littering the floor. The other side, however, looked oddly intact. There was still a front door and a single window beside it, unharmed in the rubble. A faint green glow emanated from it…
Harry squinted. The house was several feet away, and he couldn’t see clearly, but a moment back he’d thought he had seen someone moving behind that window…
A chill crept up Harry’s spine. He was away from the Dursleys, away from Hogwarts and Dumbledore. Completely vulnerable. The feeling of sharing his thoughts with Voldemort in some way that entire year came back to him more strongly than ever. What would happen to him if Voldemort caught wind of his presence in this isolated place?
Closing his eyes again, Harry concentrated with all his might on getting back. Back to Hogsmeade… But how? He didn’t know his centre. The only thing he had been doing at the time he Apparated was cursing his stupid scar- did that mean his scar was his centre?
In frustration Harry kicked the pile of pebbles infront of him. His foot was left suspended in the air, the sensation of emptiness sweeping over him again. He was going back…
Professor Marchbanks, rather than having been pleased at his progress, was furious.
“You know that you had to inform me as soon as you found your centre, Potter! You needed to be tagged, and monitored, on your first Apparition! Could have been splinched… If the Ministry hears of this…”
Harry had kept a deaf ear and nodded mutely while the witch’s ranting washed over him. He was too pleased with himself to care much for what she had to say. Not only was he no longer the class idiot, but now he had the reassurance of popping out of the Dursleys house whenever he wanted, regardless of what Dumbledore had to say about it. That feeling was almost better than winning the Quidditch cup.
Hermione disapproved of his Apparition exploit as well, of course. But he hadn’t received a speech from her, as he would have expected. She was sinking deeper into her books day after day, and seemed to be avoiding Ron and Harry. She’d answer in monosyllables when spoken to, and could be heard saying things like “…three bonus points for the side effects of Shrinking Powder…Three…” It gave her a slightly mad look, a little bit like Sirius when he had left Azkaban.
Ron would watch her from afar with raised eyebrows, shake his head, and tell Harry about the Chuddley Cannon’s position in the league. They were careful never to mention Hermione, or Harry’s punch, in eachother’s vicinity. Things still didn’t feel the same.
One unbearably warm night Harry woke up in cold sweat, and lifted himself up from his fourposter, deciding have one last look into his books. The final exams started the next day, and he still wasn’t entirely comfortable with his knowledge on Transfiguration. The human-animal spells they’d been performing were extremely difficult and Harry thought that it wouldn’t hurt to go over them again.
Not wanting to wake anyone up, he grabbed his books and descended to the common room.
A tangled bushy head raised itself up from a table. Harry carefully removed the piece of parchment that was still stuck to Hermione’s face.
“You really should get some sleep,” he said uncertainly.
She shook her head in a daze, slumping onto the couch.
“I can sleep all summer if I want to. At moment I really should…” Whatever she had to do was interrupted by a long yawn. “Perhaps you’re right…”
Harry grinned, sitting down next to Hermione. He pulled the books out from her hands and pushed her back gently.
“You probably won’t make it up the stairs. Just sleep, I’ll put a Silencing charm on myself while I study if that’ll help you.”
Hermione leaned back into the cushions uncertainly. She glanced at him with an expression of fear and unease on her face. Was she afraid to be alone with him? She probably knew he fancied her. Of course she did, it was obvious.
“It’s actually rather late, I think I’ll manage with these Homorphus Spells without studying any more…”
Harry lifted himself up from his seat, but felt Hermione tugging at the back of his robes.
“Wait… Didn’t you tell me you were having problems turning your hand into a spider?”
The only reason he had problems with that particular spell was because Ron’s whimpering and shivering at the sight of the spider was far too distracting to get anything done.
“I’ll help you, then.”
Harry sat back down and they went through a series of wand-waving excercises and Incantations, until Harry got it right.
“Thanks a lot, Hermione,” Harry said, “Now go to sleep.”
Hermione stared down at the floor, a frown on her face. She was being very strange; opening her mouth and then closing it again.
“Er… Do you want to tell me something?”
Hermione blinked. She shook her head, and then nodded. Harry’s eyebrows went further up into his forehead.
“Alright then… But promise you won’t laugh at me…” She hesitated. “I think- I know it’s very selfish of me, but I think I was almost happy when you hit Ron that day… I really hate myself for it, but I was just so glad that you liked me… I had no idea.”
Harry turned crimson. He thought he could actually hear his own heart pounding in his ears.
“You were… glad?”
Hermione was rather red herself.
“This should never have happened… We were fine, last year. I should have just…Even Viktor would have been better than all this…”
What was she going on about?
“I don’t know what I want, Harry. That Rita Skeeter woman was right, I really do play with your affections, don’t I?” A tear rolled down her cheek and Harry felt miserable. “I don’t want to tell Ron that I don’t like him anymore… Because that wouldn’t be true. But at the same time you… Why do you have to be so brave and heroic all the time? That makes it impossible for me to-” Hermione shook her head abruptly, slamming a book open in front of her.
“Enough of this, I’ve got to study.” Even she could tell that her voice lacked conviction.
A/N: Leave a Review, please! And make nasty comments such as 'this sucks' or 'I've had better' if you can- thanks!
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