It was a blur of white and grey. Harry’s eyelids slowly opened, his green eyes searching for the familiar. He couldn’t focus on anything, but he was sure there were people around him. Harry tried to raise his head, but found that it was unnaturally heavy. Must be a Full Body Bind, he thought blearily.
“He’s up again.” The words seemed to float into his head.
“He can’t be.” There was a pause and then, “Damn!”
Harry couldn’t make out what was said next and then he heard, “Do you think that wise?”
Madame Pomfrey…I’m in the hospital AGAIN! Harry wondered how seriously he was injured this time. He was vaguely aware of a rhythmic hissing and realized that it was him breathing or something breathing with him or for him. Hmmm…don’t ‘member this before…
The hissing was strangely comforting and Harry concentrated on the sound. He was just so tired and it seemed like his brain was working in slow motion; it required so much effort to think. He couldn’t remember what had happened or why he was there. Then it came to him, Hang on…Quidditch! I have to play…
Harry slipped back into unconsciousness as masked figures hovered over him and hands worked furiously on him.
Ron leaned his head against the rough wooden post that lined the paddock near the forest that surrounded the Burrow and glanced up at the half moon that bathed the field in liquid sliver. The cool grass tickled his ankles, which stuck out from under his too-short jeans. Ron shifted and stretched out his legs. I need new trousers again! Mum’s going to have an absolute fit.
He felt for his pocket telescope which he had stuffed in his trouser pocket just in case Ginny had followed him again. He was going to tell her that he was busy doing an astronomy essay for Professor Sinistra and to bugger off. She was getting suspicious and it was increasingly difficult finding excuses to sneak out alone at night to talk to Harry and Hermione.
Ron jangled his foot nervously and pulled out a handful of grass. After practically an entire summer of anxiously waiting, something had finally happened! He wasn’t sure exactly WHAT had happened, but it was big; he and Ginny both agreed on that.
His parents had Flooed home briefly for dinner and then had rushed back out. Mum had only just returned to check on Ginny and him. The way she kept hugging them and then pacing about the house straightening things unnerved Ron. Finally, she had fallen asleep on the couch, still in her day clothes, and Ron had covered her with a blanket before he crept out of the house and up the small hill to the grassy clearing.
Knowing that things were in motion, regardless of the consequences, was a relief. Ron felt slightly ashamed to think that he was almost happy that something had happened, especially with Harry being his best friend and all. But because of his family’s involvement, he practically lived and breathed the Order on a daily basis and Ron found the constant waiting and anticipation to be torture. Waiting for You-Know-Who to attack…waiting for the Death Eaters to escape…waiting for someone to try to kill his parents or Bill or Charlie…waiting…waiting…always waiting. Almost anything had to be better than just sitting around and talking at Order meetings! Ron slammed his fist into the soft earth and watch as the grass began to straighten slowly in the indent his hand had made.
Fred and George had been adamant that they were ready to join because they were now of age and officially out of school, but his parents held strong and refused. Ron secretly was relieved, although he never mentioned that to anyone – not even Harry or Hermione. Even through Fred and George could be royal pains in the arse, he thought that Diagon Alley was far safer than chasing after You-Know-Who and his rotten Death Eaters. Anyway, he figured that somebody needed to look after Ginny, just in case.
Ron pulled back his sleeve at look at his watch; it was one o’clock in the morning. He shoved his piece of putty into his ear, quickly uncorked the phial of light blue liquid, and downed it in one gulp. The buzzing began immediately and he shook his head. Ron closed his eyes and gripped the grass, anticipating the potion’s next affect…there it was…the world was spinning and spinning. Then it stopped abruptly. Ron opened his eyes slowly. Urgh. Hermione’s going to have to fix that!
“Harry?” Ron pressed his right hand to his ear, “Hermione? You there?”
“It’s Bilius Weasley here!” Ron snorted at how ridiculous his middle name sounded when uttered out loud.
Well, he remembered that Hermione was somewhere in Eastern Europe, probably on the annual Granger family summer adventure. Because none of them knew just how far away they could be for this to work, Ron supposed that she was probably sitting somewhere thousands of miles away doing exactly the same thing. He sniggered at the thought of Hermione sneaking away to talk to herself in the middle of the night. Her parents must think she’s absolutely nuts! he thought gleefully.
“Harry! Where are you?” Fine time to be late - the one time that I actually have something to tell you! Ron stood up and hastily wiped his hands on his jeans. Maybe it would help if I walked around or something.
After three times pacing agitatedly around the paddock, and uttering Harry’s name what seemed like a million times, Ron’s annoyance began to develop into concern. He’d never had a problem talking to Harry from the paddock before and it certainly wasn’t like Harry just not to show-up, especially when he was the one who had arranged the meeting time. Ron frowned. Maybe Harry was somewhere weird, or those horrible Muggles had him locked up again, or just maybe…
Ron’s eyes widened and he clutched his hand to his ear and yelled, “HERMIONE!!! HERMIONE! CAN YOU HEAR ME!?!?” Damn it! Where is Hermione when you need her? on turned and ran as fast as he could back to the Burrow, his heart pounding frantically in his chest.
Hermione sat alone in Viktor Krum’s garden and sighed as she pulled her Secretive Speaker from her ear as the stars twinkled quietly above her. I’m definitely going to have to work the on their range for the future, she thought as she smiled proudly to herself. She had never imagined that they would work as well as they did – they operated perfectly over a distance of a hundred miles back in England! It was unfortunate that she was now out of range. Well, every small victory counts, she reminded herself.
Hermione got the idea from Fred and George’s Extendable Ears, which she had seen the previous summer. She had been researching and working on them all last year so she and Ron could freely communicate with Harry while he was at the Dursleys without the fear of accidentally leaking sensitive Order information to the wrong wizards.
She had transfigured three Muggle walkie-talkies into small malleable lumps of flesh-colored putty and then used modified Binding and Activation Charms to connect them to a powerful Redoubling Potion which allows humans to enhance their natural abilities using parts of the appropriate animal with the desired qualities. She had used bat ears.
The potion was marginally legal, at least according to ‘Learning to Brew Legally: An Exhaustive Guide to Obscure Potions’. Apparently, there had been a problem in the 1920’s with wizards using the potion to enhance certain amorous abilities, which lead to a very unfortunate episode with some wild boars. Then there had been an embarrassing incident here in England involving goats. But even so, the Ministry had not outright banned it – yet.
Hermione felt a small prickle of guilt at taking such liberties with her pass to the restricted section of the library but quickly dismissed it. Even Professor McGonagall would approve even though she’d never say so, she reasoned.
She hadn’t actually been too sure that they would be able to use them undetected by the Ministry, but anything that would keep Harry from doing something rash was worth the risk. She knew that he was terribly upset about Sirius’s death and that he blamed himself even though he refused to talk about it. In fact, he had repeatedly danced around anything that had to do with the Department of Mysteries all summer. But she guessed that talking to her and Ron, even if it was about nothing, was better than being completely isolated for two long months.
A cool breeze brushed against her cheek and she shivered as she looked up at the glowing moon. It was quite lovely in Bulgaria and she had enjoyed herself immensely even though she had just arrived that morning. Viktor seemed eager to show her the mansion he had provided for his parents and his younger brother as well as the almost life-size pictures of the Durmstrang library that she suspected he had conjured for her (who keeps pictures of a library at home?); he claimed that it was larger than the library at Hogwarts.
Hermione glanced at her reflection in the small fountain that stretched in front of her and then down at her hands resting in her lap and sighed. She quite like the challenge of learning complicated spells and reciting esoteric facts. She prided herself on being two steps ahead of most other students at Hogwarts, but somehow coming all of way to Bulgaria to talk about the Durmstrang library seemed a bit…sad really. She knew that Viktor was just trying to show her things he thought she would enjoy, but did people get the impression that all that she was interested in was books?
I have other interests! She thought hotly, Sure, there’s S.P.E.W. – a very worthy cause! There’s the DA with Harry. There’s Ron and Harry and…and… Hermione struggled …and…being a prefect. She sat up and squared her shoulders. There certainly was no shame in her life; she had everything she needed – two best friends, school, magic, her parents, and…her Muggle life. Her face fell. Who am I kidding?
Her Muggle life was, well, a Muggle life – absolutely non-magical and uneventful and downright dull. Although she loved her parents, who she thought worked a little too much, she much preferred life as a witch. In fact, it was getting more difficult to reconcile her life as a witch with her Muggle life. Sometimes she tried to imagine what it would have been like if she had come from a wizarding family like Ron. She’d have access to everyday magic at home, she’d have wizarding traditions that he took for granted, and most of all she’d have a family who understood what it was like to grow up in the wizarding world and go to Hogwarts.
However, she reasoned, it might be a good thing that her parents were blissfully unaware of exactly how tense things had gotten in the past year. They did suspect that something was amiss, however, but she had neglected to tell them just how potentially dangerous the situation actually was. It’s just better that they don’t know, for now, she repeated to herself again.
Hermione placed her Secretive Speaker back into her ear one last time, “Harry? Ron? It’s me, Hermione.”
She pulled the small piece of putty slowly from her ear and placed it and the now empty glass phial back into her pocket before standing up and walking back to Viktor’s guest house.
There were voices.
“Truly amazing he survived, really.”
“Yes, unfortunate through we have no records or medical history considering –”
“– considering the circumstances.”
“Hmm, yes, it’s very peculiar; never seen anything quite like it. We’ll have to keep a close eye on him –unpredictable, this one…”
Harry opened his eyes. Blurry shapes wavered before him; it was as if he were seeing everything through a thick heat haze. His entire body felt very heavy and his head felt like it was filled with cotton; it was difficult to think clearly.
“Hello, dear.” A blurry face came into view. “Can you tell me your name?”
Madame Pomfrey? Harry opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
“Do you know where you are?” The voice asked, something cool pressed against his forehead.
Harry tried to speak again. “Water,” he gasped weakly.
“Oh, yes!” The woman’s face disappeared.
Harry felt a damp cloth being pressed against his mouth and drops of water fell onto his tongue. He swallowed and closed his eyes, completely spent. Definitely not Madame Pomfrey, definitely not Hogwarts, definitely feel completely horrible…
“Dear, what’s your name?” The woman’s voice was back.
Harry focused all his energy on fighting back the darkness that was pushing against his eyes. “Harry…Potter,” was all he managed before he felt himself slipping away.
A/N: “Another one bites the dust!” Thanks to Dianne who has acted as a pre-beta for this story in its former life on a previous site, and Allie, my PS beta, who is full of interesting factoids. Apparently, beavers aren’t indigenous to the UK (although there were once European beavers), but wild boars are. *grins* It seems that I’m always learning something new here. Who would’ve ever thought HP would be a venue for educating oneself about UK wildlife? I’m sure that JKR will now sleep soundly.