Author Notes: Hi everyone. This is my first attempt at fanfiction even though I have read a lot of them. Till now I have mostly written some opinion pieces and sports articles, so any help in this new endeavor (through reviews) will be highly appreciated. I will try to update this on a weekly basis. So enough of that; now do what you came here to do.
Disclaimer: No, I don't own Harry Potter and I certainly am not making any profits from this work.
"Hermione. Thank you."
"What for Harry?"
"For being there for me. For being my friend."
"I will always be there for you Harry, and I know that you will always be there for me too."
They were sitting in comfortable silence in an empty common room; both reflecting on their incredible adventure earlier in the day. How close they had been to death once again. It seemed they couldn't move on to the next year of their classes without facing a life threatening situation.
"But I haven't been there for you always Hermione. I haven't been half as good a friend to you as you have been to me. This whole year I basically abandoned you. All this time you were looking out for me, and I never saw beyond the petty things. I ditched you for a broomstick for Merlin's sake. What was I thinking? Why did I not see how cruel Ron and I were to you this whole time? And even after all this you stood by me."
To say that Hermione was a bit surprised by Harry's honest confession will be a huge understatement. She knew that he was being honest, but he was never very good at saying what he felt. She knew that the Dursleys were to blame for that, even if Harry had never complained about his life away from Hogwarts.
"It's alright Harry. We have all been a bit thick this year. But I am sure that we are better people, and even better friends because of it. I hope that we have learned from our mistakes."
Harry just sat there and looked at her. He had realized yesterday that he was very lucky to have a friend like her. And it pained him to see how awful he had been to her. He knew that he and Ron were her only friends, and without them she had been completely isolated in the school. He was even more appalled that he had made one of his best friend feel just as Dudley had made him feel like for most of his life. He couldn't believe that he was capable of doing something like that to a friend who had risked her life for him.
"You have my word on that Hermione. I promise you that I will be a better friend to you. I will never let you feel that you are friendless ever again. I realize I have let my friendship with Ron come between us, even though you have been a better friend. I know that I wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for you."
Before he could say anymore he was engulfed in a bone crushing hug by Hermione. Over the years he had gotten used to her hugs, but was always surprised by their intensity.
"Do you know that you were the first person to ever hug me?" He said releasing her after what seemed like too soon.
"Yes. I kind of guessed that I was." She said with a sad smile.
He never knew what love was, Dursleys had made sure of that. But as he looked at her he knew that he really cared about her, and if he had to choose one person to have by his side at the toughest of times; it would be her. She believed in him when even he didn't, and had proven time and time again that their friendship meant a lot to her.
"I know I have never said it out loud, but you know I love you right." He said while kissing her forehead.
Hermione just stayed in the light embrace of her best friend with silent tears adorning her face. She knew he had no idea how much that meant to her. She never had a friend before coming to Hogwarts and hearing that her friendship meant a lot to her friend was overwhelming. She had sometimes felt as if she was the third wheel of their friendship, and they didn't need or want her friendship as much as she did. So having the confirmation that she was wanted, needed, appreciated and most of all loved by her best friend was more than nice.
"Yes I do. And I love you more." And she did. He was her only best friend. Sure, Ron was her friend too, but she knew that he only tolerated her because of Harry.
"I know." And he did. Even after three years, Ron hadn't really accepted her. He knew that Ron wouldn't be her friend if it wasn't for him. And that was one of the reasons why he felt ashamed of his behavior towards her.
They stayed that way for quite some time, with her head on his shoulders, just lost in their thoughts. It was nice for them to feel at peace for once, after the year they had. Both of them were so tired that they felt asleep right there.
Harry was the first one to wake up from the soreness of his hands and shoulders. He smiled at the peaceful state of his friend and regretted the fact that he had to wake her up. Both of them needed a proper sleep if they wanted to rest their bodies properly. He planted a kiss on her forehead, taking in the wonderful scent of her hair and woke her up by patting her shoulders.
"Wake up Hermione. We need to go to our beds to rest properly."
"Harry! Let me sleep. I am having a nice dream." She mumbled in her sleep.
"I can't. You are too tired to spend your night on the couch."
Hermione woke up reluctantly and looked at her best friend who was smiling radiantly.
"What were you dreaming about?"
"Us. We were able to clear Sirius's name. You were able to spend the summer with Sirius and I had come to visit you." She smiled sadly at him.
Harry took her hand in his hands and kissed it.
"One day we will clear his name, Harry. I promise you."
"How long do you have to stay with the Dursleys this time?"
"No idea. As long as Dumbledore says I guess. I haven't been invited by the Weasleys yet, so maybe I will have to stay there till September."
"Oh no, you won't. You will come to my home this time. I can't believe that my best friend has never met my parents. Ron had you last time, so you are coming to me this year."
"I would love to Hermione, but shouldn't you ask your parents first? And aren't you going somewhere to spend your summer this year."
"No we don't have a plan to go anywhere this year. We may have to visit my grandparents in the beginning but that's all. And my mother has always wanted to meet you. After all, my letters always have a lot of references about you. I would have to ask obviously, but I doubt that they would say no."
"Alright. Alright. If your parents allow it, then I would love to spend the summer with you."
Hermione hugged him once again and kissed him on the cheeks.
"Oh Harry! Thank you. We will have a lot of fun, I promise you that. "
"No Hermione. Thank you." He said with a slight blush on his face. He had gotten used to Hermione's shows of affections over the years, but she still surprised him sometimes.
"Let's go to sleep now Hermione. We have to visit Ron in the morning, and get him back from the hospital wing. He wouldn't want to miss his breakfast."
"Yes. We wouldn't want that. Good night Harry."
"Good night Hermione."
Harry went to his bed but couldn't sleep immediately. He was glad that he had cleared the air with Hermione. Their friendship had become stronger today and he felt very happy about it. He knew that she loved him unconditionally and was perhaps the only one in the whole world who knew and cared for the real him. Ron was a great friend, but Harry knew that Ron was influenced by his celebrity. Hermione on the other hand hadn't grown up idolizing him. And any false notions that she might have had after reading about him were vanished as soon as she got to know him. She knew him so well that even he was surprised at times by it. He knew her well enough too; he knew that there was much more to Hermione Granger than books and cleverness. She had proven it many times. But there were still many things about his best friend that he didn't know, and he was looking forward to rectify that.
How many people in the world can say that they have escaped a certain death? Maybe quite a few lucky ones, and if you ask anyone of them whether it has changed their lives in any significant way, the answer would be an emphatic yes. They would tell you that sometimes it changes people in ways that they don't even resemble their previous selves. The change can either be positive or negative; it might awake the monster inside a gentle being or conquer the darkness of a sinner's heart.
But Sirius Black hadn't just escaped death. No, in fact just a year ago he would have welcomed death with his arms wide open. There were times during his stay in the hell named Azkaban when he gave suicide a serious thought to stop the endless suffering. But he wasn't brave enough to go through with it, or maybe he just wasn't a man to take the coward's way out. No, what he had escaped was much worse than most painful of deaths. He had escaped the Dementor's kiss.
No one really knew the mechanisms of a Dementor's kiss. The fate of the souls consumed by a Dementor was a mystery as old as the origins of the foul creature, which in itself was one of the many unanswered questions of the magical world. Some said it killed the immortal soul, while some believed it left the soul to rot for ages till death consumed the creature itself, and these were just two of the less horrible theories magical researchers liked to throw around.
Sirius recognized that after thirteen years of suffering, pain and loss; fate had finally shown some sort of compassion for him. He might not have been cleared of his false criminal charges, but he was not imprisoned anymore and had been saved from a fate every magical being dreaded more than death itself. He had felt his soul leaving his body and doubted the existence of a more frightening experience. His survival was only due to a miracle and the name of that miracle was Harry Potter.
During his years in the war, Sirius had seen some incredible feats of magic. That was inevitable, as he had fought many battles alongside people like Alastor Moody, Ignotus Potter, Xavier Longbottom and last but not the least, Albus Dumbledore. And if that was not enough to leave a young man in awe, he had seen that spawn of evil Dark Lord Voldemort in action. Even years in Azkaban hadn't erased his memory of the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort, which had taken place amid a battle between the order members and death-eaters. The duel was such a spectacle that the fighters of both side were forced to suspend their individual battles and just watch the two most powerful wizards of their times trying to out-maneuver each other.
But even that incredible exhibition of magical prowess paled in comparison to what his Godson had just accomplished in order to save his life. He had watched at least a hundred dementors descend over him and he could not even imagine the kind of magical power required to produce a patronus powerful enough to repel that many dementors at once. If Sirius hadn't known that it had actually happened, he would have refused to believe that any wizard or witch was capable of achieving that feat. And to think that his thirteen year old godson had managed it just boggled his mind.
Sirius owed his life to Harry Potter and that fact pained him much more than even the escape of Peter Pettigrew. It wasn't supposed to be like that. Harry wasn't supposed to risk his life to save Sirius'. It was Sirius' job as his godfather to look out for Harry, not the other way around. He had failed Harry, he knew that. What person agrees to leave his home to live with a complete stranger? He was aware of Petunia's hatred for anything related to magic, and if his meetings with Harry were anything to go by, then that hatred had extended to her nephew too. Sirius' brother in all but blood had given the responsibility of his only child to him, and he had failed him.
Sirius forced himself out of his reverie. He knew that this was not the time for self pity, because he might have failed Harry till now, but there were dangers ahead in his godson's life and he couldn't afford to fail him again. He had shared the walls of his prison cell with his cousin Bellatrix Lestrange. And if her constant ravings were anything to go by, then the Dark Lord's followers believed that Lord Voldemort wasn't truly dead. She believed that Voldemort had taken steps to ensure his survival in case of any magical accidents. Some people might have dismissed these thoughts as delusions of a broken mind, but Sirius had grown up in a family which was darker than a moonless night; and was aware that such feats of magic weren't impossible.
It wasn't hard for Sirius to believe that Voldemort would have taken steps to ensure his survival in case of any threats to his existence. And if what his staunchest followers believed was true then Harry's life would be in grave danger after Voldemort's return. To even imagine that the Dark Lord wouldn't make the cause of his downfall's death a priority was stupid. Harry would need all the help in the world to survive. And Sirius would be damned if he failed Harry again; if he failed James again.
Sirius realized that for him to be of any help to his godson, he needed his freedom. As a fugitive he wouldn't be of any use to Harry and will only be an added liability. But proving his innocence was easier said than done. Apparently even the support of Harry and Dumbledore wasn't enough to get him a trial. Dumbledore had sent him a letter stating Minister of Magic's refusal to believe Harry and his friends about the survival of Peter, and that the best course of action for him was to flee the country and lie low. If the minister was so reluctant to even grant him a trial, then there was only one way to prove his innocence. He had to capture Peter Pettigrew alive, and this time, failure just wasn't an option. He was going to do everything and anything to make it happen this time. There will be no more mistakes, and no more rash decisions. He will have to be very careful; getting caught wasn't an option. It wasn't going to be easy by any means, but he won't fail Harry again.
Humiliation was a bitter potion to swallow. And for someone as proud as Draco Malfoy, it was downright painful. He was raised with the belief that he and his family were first among equals. He belonged to a family which had contributed greatly in the establishment of the British magical society, and thus he was told that they deserved to be treated as its royalty. His father was one of Minister of Magic's closest confidantes, and held a great sway over the minister's policies due to generous contributions to his election funds. He was the undisputed leader of the students of his year in the greatest house of Hogwarts, and even held a certain sway over the upper classmen of Slytherin due to his father's connections.
To imagine that a 'Mudblood' had the audacity to punch him was outrageous. And the fact that it was a mudblood 'Girl' who did it made the situation even worse. Draco had never felt such anger in his life. He thought It was bad enough that he had to suffer the indignity of being behind the mudblood in studies; his father constantly gave him a verbal thrashing for that each year; but to add injury quite literally to that insult was more than humiliating for Draco. If his father were to know about this incident; he would be ashamed of him. And Draco wasn't going to let that happen. He was going to make Hermione Granger pay for the humiliation she had caused him, and nothing was going to stop him from getting his revenge.Document created with wvWare/wvWare version 1.2.7