Chapter 1 : Tears and Fears
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It was late evening. Harry strolled through the gloomy corridors of Hogwarts School on his way back to the common room. Hermione would be well pleased with him. He had just completed three hours of hard graft in the library. He had finished his essay for Snape. She would be so pleased she might even promise him a ‘treat’. Three hours in the library should be worth a level three treat. Maybe even a four. There was no moon tonight, the sky was clear and through the large windows, the stars shone brightly. There were torches along the wall, but as it was so late, only one in four was lit.
Turning a corner, he saw a figure sitting on a stone bench about twenty feet away. He was a prefect, so it was alright for him to be out and about. He was about to administer a stern warning about being out so late, when he realised it was a girl and she was crying. He stopped in front of her. He said hello but there was no response. Crouching down in front of her, he touched her gently on the arm.
“Hello,” he said again, “what’s the matter, why are you upset?” she raised her face out of her hands,
“Upset…?” she stammered,
“Yes, that’s what we call it when this wet stuff comes out of your eyes.” She made a sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh,
“With wit like that you must be a Ravenclaw.” She dabbed her eyes with a hankie,
“No, I’m in Gryffindor. So what has upset you…? I’m sorry I don’t know your name.”
“Brenda, Brenda Willoughby. I’m in Hufflepuff. Fourth year.” He sat on the bench beside her.
“Let me guess, Brenda. What’s the most likely thing to upset a fifteen-year-old, fourth-year girl? It can only be a boy. Am I right?” She sighed, entwining her hankie in her fingers.
“Only partly, he was a pig. From Slytherin I think.”
“What did he do?” ‘Please let it be Malfoy, let it be something I can crucify him with.’ Harry thought, almost desperately. She said simply,
“He kissed me.” Harry was about to say ‘Is that all?’, but thankfully he stopped himself.
“I think there’s more to it than just a simple kiss, isn’t there? Do you know his name?”
“Gale, Grail, something like that, I think”
“Goyle,” said Harry, “it has to be that scumbag.”
“Yes well, he just came out of nowhere, grabbed hold of me and kissed me. I didn’t want to be kissed but he wouldn’t stop. His hands were every…, in the end I had to send him a strong message.”
“Yes. I put my knee in his…” Harry could not hide his astonishment.
“You kneed Goyle! In the…”
“Yes” His laughter echoed around the corridor, how he wished he had been there to see it.
“Well, that would certainly count as a strong message. He stopped I take it.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Harry chuckled, although just thinking about it was making him cringe.
“No doubt about it. Perhaps you should have been in Ravenclaw as well, that was funny. Anyway you said that was only part of the reason, what else was there?”
“I don’t want to keep you Harry. You are Harry Potter aren’t you?”
“Thanks very much for your concern, you’ve been very kind.”
“I’m a school prefect; I’m supposed to be concerned. So what is it? You might as well tell me, we’re not going anywhere until you do.” Tears welled in her eyes; Harry took her hankie, put a finger under her chin and gently turned her face toward him. He brushed away the marks of the old tears with the new. He spoke softly, “That’s enough of that Brenda. Just tell me, or I’ll take ten points from Hufflepuff.”
“You wouldn’t do that. Would you?” she sniffed.
“No, but at least you are talking again.” She took her hankie back and finished what he had started. She went silent for a few minutes and Harry could see she was thinking deeply. So deeply that he thought she had forgotten he was there.
“Why am I, Harry?”
“Why are you what?”
“No, not why am I this or that. Just, why am I?”
“I’m sorry Brenda, I don’t understand.” He really didn’t. He thought it was just about the strangest question he had ever heard.
"Why am I? What is my purpose? I’m not brilliant academically, but I’m not dumb either. I don’t particularly like sports. I can draw a little bit, but nothing special. Am I just supposed to leave school, get a job and a husband and become a baby machine? Am I destined to live and die and achieve nothing? Why am I here? If I was erased from existence, if I had never been, would the world be any different? What difference have I made? I could vanish from history this very minute and nothing would change. Who would know?” Harry would never be able to explain what he did and said next. He stood and looked down at her.
“Stand up Brenda.” She looked up at him, took his offered hand and he led her to one of the huge windows. He placed her in front of it and stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders. “Look out there and tell me what you see.” Silence again and then,
“It’s dark, but I can make out the forest, there’s a light in Hagrid’s…”
No, I mean look up. What do you see there?” ‘I’m starting to sound like Firenze.’ he thought.
“Stars. Look, there’s Orion and Cassiopeia and…”
“Don’t look at the individual stars or constellations, try and see the totality of it.” More silence, a lot longer this time. As she looked at the view, the stars were still. Frozen in place, immutable, unchanging. Yet she knew it wasn’t true.They were really moving at awesome velocities. She had seen pictures of galaxies and nebulae in incredible detail. But those pictures were an illusion. They didn’t show the universe as it is now. The light that had made the pictures was millions, if not billions, of years old. It seemed to her that her view changed. The castle and anything physical, no longer existed.
She, no… they, (she could still feel Harry’s hands on her shoulders), were looking at the view from outside the universe. Instinctively she knew that the light impinging on her eyes was not old. This was the universe as it is now, this minute. The enormity of it scared her.
A miniscule pinpoint of light flared and burned brighter than all the rest. She didn’t have to wonder what it was, she just knew. ‘That’s… me.’ There were no words to describe her feelings at that moment. She did the best she could.
“It’s…it’s awesome, Harry. It’s so beautiful.” she whispered.
“Yes it is. Very beautiful. And it would know, it would care. It would be different.”
“Pardon me, I don’t understand.”
“If you were to vanish from history, then Universe or the Cosmos or whatever name you want to use, it would know. It would care, it would be different.” Silence once more. He sensed more than saw her bring her hankie to her eyes again.
“That’s a wonderful thing to say. I just wish I understood it.” She giggled when Harry said,
“Me too. We touch each other every day, Brenda. We never notice it, but in some small way we influence everyone we interact with, and they interact with other people and through them we reach everybody else. Like ripples in a pond, and your ripples go right out to the farthest stars. ”
“So you’re saying that just by being, by existing, I’ve had an effect other people, and even on the Universe. Even if they or I didn’t realise it.”
“I think that’s exactly what I mean. Although I would say that Goyle probably noticed when you interacted with him. I’m glad you exist Brenda. If you didn’t it would mean that for the last twenty minutes I’ve been standing in this corridor talking to myself, and that would not be good, would it?” Brenda smiled.
“Thank you Harry. I can’t pretend I understand it, but suddenly, I don’t know why, I feel loads better.” turning to face him, she continued, “There is still one thing I’m sad about though. A girl’s first kiss is supposed to be memorable, I just want to forget mine.” Without thinking, almost instinctively, he whispered,
“Well forget it then.” he lifted her chin and looked into her eyes, “Remember the second one instead.” He lowered his lips gently to hers. Soft, tender, caring, for her the kiss lasted for hours. They did not hear the sound of approaching footsteps. The kiss was broken by Hermione, a long way away at the far end of the corridor, but coming ever closer.
“Excuse me, you two should be in your dorms by now, not out here snogging. Have you seen… Harry!! What the hell are you doing!?” She paused until her brain confirmed what her eyes were showing her. “You lousy bastard, how long has this been going on?”
“Don’t you ‘Hermione’ me, Potter. You… you…” Brenda moved in front of Hermione and said quietly but fiercely,
“Shut up! You stupid girl.” Hermione was stunned. Nobody, but nobody, had ever called her stupid or spoken to her like that, “Let him explain, or you’ll never know what’s been going on here. No! I’ve got a better idea. Harry leave us alone please, and I’ll explain.”
“Yes Potter, piss off, I don’t want to look at you right now.” Harry thought it was a good idea; he was on the verge of giving Hermione a piece of his mind. As he walked away Brenda said,
“Harry.” He turned, “Thank you. I’ll always remember what you just did for me. I appreciate it more than you can know.”
“You’re welcome Brenda, I’ll remember it too. See you around.” He made as if to speak to Hermione, but turned and walked away. He would save it for the common room.
He sat in an armchair in front of the remnants of the fire that had blazed earlier. ‘How dare she assume the worst,’ he thought, ‘she’s for it when she gets here.’
It was twenty minutes later when Hermione returned. Harry stood up as she approached him. Eyes flashing, he pointed a finger and said angrily “Don’t you ever…” Her arms were around his neck and she was kissing him. He embraced the moment, and Hermione. He pulled his head away and said “What…”
“Shut up, you prat, I’m busy.” Kissing again. Then she pulled away and sat with him on the sofa. “I’m sorry, Harry, I over-reacted. That was a beautiful thing you did. Brenda told me about Goyle. I was surprised when she told me what she did to him. I always thought he didn’t have anything there worth worrying about. I think you’ve earned a ‘treat’ this weekend.”
“Oh no baby, level four. At the very minimum a level four.” Her eyes sparkled as she spoke.
There were only five levels.