Chapter 6 : Endangered
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One was deep and full. The breath of one asleep. The other was quieter, shorter, and uneven. She was tired. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying. Her lids were heavy and swollen. Her entire body ached. But her eyes were always on his, watching, waiting for them to open.
Only seldom did they fall to his chest, rising and falling, evenly, peacefully. She watched his eyes search back and forth behind their lids. He was dreaming. He was safe now.
And then without any warning, his eyes opened...his familiar green eyes. Hermione was startled, she had been waiting so long to see them.
"Harry," Hermione called cautiously, unsure if she herself was dreaming. His eyes looked to hers. They looked deeply into one another's.
Harry seemed to still be in a bit of pain. Under great stress he was just barely able to whisper "'... 'Mione."
Hermione whimpered. It hurt her to see him like this.
"Oh, Harry," was yet again all she could utter, choking up every time she tried to say anything more. Harry smiled at this.
"You're ... okay?" he struggled to ask.
"Oh yes, Harry, yes, I'm perfect...all thanks to you!" she collapsed over to him from her seat. She grabbed hold his hand.
"I can hardly bear it, Harry, do you feel okay? - tell me where it hurts? - what on earth happened to you, where have you been?" she jumped frantically from one question to the next.
Harry began to chuckle but it pained his ribs. He still managed to smile all the while at her though.
"You're okay..." he whispered while still wearing the smile.
Hermione picked Harry's hand up and pressed his open palm to her cheek. She turned her lips and kissed it a few times unwittingly. Tears streamed down onto his hand.
"I had to come, Hermione, you have believe me..." Harry was still struggling to speak.
"Harry, please, you need to rest..."
"I c-could feel...I could sense.... you were in trouble. Hermione, I could never...not to you...not ever, I had to!" Harry rasped.
"I know, Harry...you saved us," another tear rolled down her cheek. She had missed him so much. So very much.
"Its been so long..."
"I know Harry, but you need your rest..."
"No...not that..." but Harry stopped as Hermione hugged his head to her chest. She did not want him to see her crying, she had to be strong. Hermione composed herself and was going to tell him he needed to rest again, but when she picked herself up to look at him, his eyes were already closed. His chest was once again slowly rising and falling in rhythm.
She dared to wake him, for she had only just gotten him back...but before she could do anything else, an unnatural wave of drowsiness swept over her...
. . . .
Hermione awoke with a jerk. She felt odd, as one might feel after falling asleep accidentally in the middle of the afternoon. She was confused, had it only minutes passed...could have been the following day for all she knew. She had no sense of time. But this would be the least of her worries.
As her senses came back to her, she realized that she was not tucked up in the chair, but laying comfortably in the bed. Harry's bed. Hermione snapped up, but only to find that she was alone in the room. She could not see, it was pitch black, but still she knew, Harry was gone. The candle had longed since burned out and now the only light offered was that which was able to sneak in about the edges of the thick curtains.
Hermione fell back onto her pillow. She was trying to think, 'what happened?'
...Harry had finally awoken. They had spoken to each other...but then sleep had hit her like a brick wall. She remembered her eyelids feeling as if weights hung from them. It had been a long time since she had last slept, but she had been so worried about Harry that she could not force herself to rest. Was it because she finally knew that Harry was okay that she could rest, or had Harry...
Hermione then realised she was dressed in a fine set of pajamas. Her wand was on the bedstand. She sat up and threw back the curtains with her wand. Daylight invaded the room as a dust cloud swirled in it's beams. The gothic room of Number 12 Grimmauld Place was just as Hermione remembered it.
Her robes were folded neatly in the chair she had sat in before. The room was still and silent. The door was closed.
"Harry?" she called loudly.
Hermione listened closer. There was not a sound in the house. She threw herself from the bed, tore open the door, and rushed down to the kitchen. No one.
"Harry!" she again yelled up at the ceiling and rest of the house. Nothing.
Harry was gone. The house was empty, all but for her. Hermione felt a sense of panic. This was not fair. She had lost him for nearly two years, unsure all the while if and when she would ever see him again. And when she had finally found him, he having come to her rescue, he disappeared once more before she had even been given the chance to give him a proper hello. How had she fallen asleep!
Hermione changed back to her robes with a flick of her wand and was quickly out the house. She apparated as soon as she was on the step of the entry, just as she had practiced so many times before. Destination: St. Mungo's.
She raced immediately to Ron's room. Hermione barged in onto a sea of red. Its waves rocked, startled as she flung open the door. Then entire room was ablaze with red. Arthur and Molly, Bill and Fleur, Charlie, Percy, George, Ginny; all were present. Ron had, after all, been put through a bit of a beating, and it wasn't so long ago that this family had lost a son and brother. It was a touching moment, such a large family, all there for each other.
Hermione, however, was searching eagerly from face to face for one she would not find.
"Has he been here?" she asked earnestly.
"Who my dear?" Molly asked a bit bewildered. Everyone was looking questioningly amongst each other. None appeared to have any clue what she was talking about. Who?
Harry had not come here. Ron though, Ron knew who she was looking for. Hermione was unsure if the pain in his face was from his injuries, or from her.
"I am sorry, but I have to hurry..." Hermione turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. She heard several call out after her but she did not turn back, there was no time to waste.
Hermione finally slowed from her sprint in a long corridor. Her mind was distracted, pondering possiblities of where Harry would have gone. She was pacing quickly down the hallway, head down, when her thoughts were interupted by a familiar voice.
"Hermione! There you are!" Neville came hurriedly up, half walking, half running. He had apparently been running a ways to find her as he was heaving for breath.
"Whats going on, Neville?"
"I've been sent to fetch you...he's back!" Neville could hardly contain his excitement. He leaned in closer and whispered loudly, "...he's back, Harry's back!" Neville wore a broad smile across his face.
"Where is he?" Hermione demanded urgently.
"Hogwarts," Neville immediately surrendered.
First Hermione, then Neville apparated, returning before each other at the gates of Hogwarts. The grounds never seemed so large. Racing down the path, Hermione finally gave in and summoned a broom stick from some unknown place. Neville was either incapable, or not willing to call a broom. He followed, on foot.
She burst right through the main doors and continued racing on to McGonagall's office.
"Tabby!" she yelled the password as she hurried up the spiraling staircase. Her heart dropped though as she slung open the door. There was only one person in the Headmistress' office, and that was Professor McGonagall herself.
She stood solemnly, staring out the window. She did not bother to turn as Hermione entered.
"Professor?" Hermione finally broke the quiet.
"I am afraid you are too late, Ms. Granger," McGonagall informed her sadly.
"Late...for what?" Hermione played coy, not wanting to hear the truth she already knew.
"He's gone," McGonagall admitted gravely, as if anouncing something far worse...
"To where?" Hermione asked, but McGonagall did not answer, not at first. She took a deep breath.
"I am afraid things are far worse than I thought...or could have imagined. If all that Harry has told me is true..." she trailed off
",,,we fight and we fight...we sacrifice, we give all that we have, all that we are, our very lives, our sons and daughters...all in the effort of peace...but when have we known peace, true peace? We are but ponds in this cruel game."
"Professor? What did Harry say, is everything alright?"
"I'm afraid not, my dear," McGonagall turned back to frown at Hermione, looking at her for the first time. McGonagall made to turn back to the window, but was struck by Hermione's injured face.
"I am sorry, Hermione, you must forgive this old lady...at my age..." she tried to explain, "I know Harry is very dear to you, he was well."
McGonagall smiled at her, "he told me what happened, about you being kidnapped, and Ron, but that he was injured. You had saved him..."
"NO, he saved us."
"I only meant..."
"So you've seen him then, Harry?" Hermione cut to the chase.
"Well, I have to say, the boy has grown up a bit! Harry has lived through a great deal, I know that, but I admit I was more than surprised when I first saw him. hardly recognized him - you did a fine job on him, by the way. There was nothing left for Poppy to do - " McGonagall complemented her. " - Well, he does seem to think he has it all under control."
"What?" Hermione was confused.
"He had come to see him," McGonagall nodded towards the empty portrait of Dumbledores. "He was acting very strange at first...as if he had just woken from a long dream. Like he had been gone - and I don't just mean gone from Britain - gone for a long, long time. Seems to have learned a thing or two in his travels, including a good deal about Anatol Kaan..."
There was a space of quiet.
"Apparently Kaan is looking for Harry. Those wizards who attacked you were Kaan's men, they were looking for Harry. He said that he had "sensed" you, that he had been far away, but that it brought him back."
McGonagall turned back to the window, "Those wizards...a team had been sent to recover them, but there was no one there..."
"What! There were four, TWO DEAD!" Hermione needlessly defended herself.
"I believe you, please... someone must have moved them..." McGonagall's eyebrows narrowed, she went deep into thought before continuing, "...but Harry, he was only giving halve truths, I believe, and he was speaking to Dumbledore, questioning him...of course Dumbledore understood what he was talking about and I was left to piece it together. But when he spoke of them, it was as if he expected them to be gone. He said that he was going to have to act quickly or someone was going to turn up dead... Naturally I found this odd, had he not already, according to what you had told me? I asked him...but he would say nothing more."
He and Dumbledore had a rushed conversation...took my eyes off of him for only a second, then just like that he was gone. Poof! Vanished!"
"Why didn't you stop him!" Hermione asked aghast.
"Stop him!" McGonagall practically guffawed, "did you not just here what I said? How did he even manage to apparate, from right here, from this very office, in Horgwarts? How, I haven't a clue."
"What do we do?" Hermione was frantic.
"Byron will need to be informed. There could be four lethal wizards roaming about England, waiting to strike again. You have come in face to face contact with them, we will need your help."
Hermione was left speechless.
"No, not now. Ron saw them, get him to help," and with that Hermione turned and left the office, hurrying back down the spiraling staircase and out the castle. McGonagall did not even try to stop her. All that mattered right now was finding Harry. She considered visiting Hagrid, maybe Harry had...no, Harry was not here, he was not at Hogwarts, this much she was sure. But then where?
Different places scrolled through her mind, but each was as unlikely as the next. She had not been able to decide on where to start by the time she exitted the gates. She paced outside them, deep in thought. She thought of Harry, picturing him in her mind. His disheveled hair, his green eyes, his innocent smile...Hermione was lost in a daze. She was enchanted, it became as if she could feel Harry, and before she knew it, she was apparating.
No telling how it happened, but it did. It had happened before, rather recently. Hermione stood looking up at the lonely, abandoned house at Number Four Privet Drive. No one had lived here for years, but the yard and landscape was maticoulously kept, the grass rather too green. The windows were clear but the shades drawn. Her shadow was cast out before her. Hermione looked back over her shoulder at the setting sun.
It was a warm orange. The horizon was painted in many magnificent colors. A cool breeze swept through, cooling the August heat. The sun was already moving behind the row of houses. Hermione turned back to the house.
"Only one way to find out," she said into the wind before stepping forward.
The door was locked but a simple spell remedied that. There was an odd feeling being in his house. All was silent. There was no rhyme or reason, no thought or plan, Hermione was led forward by some unknown force, her feet guiding the way. Straight to the staircase, up the stairs, down the hall, to Harry's bedroom door. She took a deep breath with her hand on the knob. It turned, the door opened, and standing near teh far wall of the room waiting for her - Harry.
"Oh Harry," she immediately gave in, running to him before her legs went weak. She slammed into his chest. She wrapped her arms around his back. She was crying again, sobbing. Harry wrapped his arms about her.
"I've missed you so much..." she admitted.
"Hermione..." Harry paused as he heard her crying.
Harry closed his eyes and pressed his lips to the top of her head.
"Harry, what are you doing here?" she asked, choking back her tears. It was a simple, honest question, but for some reason it stabbed at Harry like a dagger.
"Shouldn't I be here, this is my home?"
"Harry, that's not what I meant." Hermione eased her grip on Harry so as to be able to look up at him, "Where've you been?"
Harry only smiled at her.
"Harry?" she called softly to him.
"I am afraid thats a long story, and there is much to do."
"What are you doing?"
"Looking for the wizards that attacked you."
Hermione began shaking her head, "Harry, I saw you stun three of them, and then two...well, they kind of killed each other, didn't they?"
Harry laughed at this, "Not quite."
"But how...no, don't you go trying to change the subject, you just leave without a word, no goodbyes, no letters, and just show up nearly two years later...Harry," the tears began flowing again, "why did you leave...the way you left...?"
Harry turned his face from hers. The pain of the memory had scarred him deeply.
"Was it not obvious?"
"No!" she accused.
"And you," Harry countered, remembering it as if it were only yesterday, "you left me without a word, without letter. Only for Ron..." Harry said his name with a hint of malice.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, taken aback.
"Sorry, this is not how I wanted our reunion to be..."
"How is he, how is Ron?" Harry asked, "You've seen him."
"Ron?" Hermione asked, as if she were unsure who Ron was, "fine...his family, they're all with him."
"Shouldn't you be with him?"
"Harry? I haven't seen you...whats going on?"
"I only meant...I know that Ron was in pretty bad shape."
"And you, last I had seen you, you didn't look so hot yourself?"
"I had a wonderful healer looking after me."
Hermione managed a short laugh amid her tears.
"I missed you so much," Hermione admitted.
"I missed you too," Harry responded.
Hermione buried her face in Harry's chest and started crying once again. They stood their, holding each other for the longest time.
"Whats happening, Harry?" Hermione finally managed to choke back her tears and ask once more. Harry took a deep breath and gave his response a lot of thought.
"I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm like a lightening rod, trouble always seems to find me out. Those close to me will never be safe," Harry said with a sigh.
"And you, I am so sorry Hermione, but you are in more danger than any," Harry grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her back to look down at her.
"I could never live with myself if anything happened to you. I should have never left you, it is not safe. I am sorry, but you will have to stay somewhere safe, these wizards Hermione...I wish we had only Death Eaters to deal with." Hermione made to protest, but Harry stopped her, "and I am afraid that for now you will have to stay with me."
Hermione nodded and smiled widely at this but Harry's face was grim.
"They'll be looking for Ron but there are many with him. They wouldn't chance such a brazen attack. But they're also looking for the Dursley's. I've got to find them first."
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