Harry & Hermione
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MattD12027 - Harry Potter and the Eternal Right
Chapter 9 - Helen of Hogwarts, Part II
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: Well, here's Part II. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 9: Helen of Hogwarts, Part II
The time between sleep and wakefulness was a strange one. Harry knew that he was waking up, but he couldn't fathom who or where he was. He knew that he was a wizard, of course, but if someone had whispered 'Hogwarts' in his ear at that moment it wouldn't have meant anything. His brain struggled against the sleep pulling it back down for a moment, and finally won over the urge to just drop back into blissful unconsciousness. As the fog cleared, things fell into place and 'Harry Potter' clicked back into existence, rather than the sleep-infested being that had just been in his place. He slowly opened his eyes, seeing that there was a meek light filtering through the high window in the room. He could tell that it was still quite early, and he wondered what had woken him.
His eyes focused on the other form in the bed, and he smiled to himself when he realized who it was. He was surprised that a blush didn't warm his cheeks, but somehow staring at Ginny while she slept didn't embarrass him. She had moved a little toward her side during the night, and was sprawled out across her half of the monstrous bed. She was lying on her back, and her amazing hair was fanned out beneath her head. Her arms were outstretched in random positions, and Harry's smile grew as he watched the even breathing of the slender form.
There was a rustling noise, and Harry wrinkled his forehead. Something had woken him…could it have been whatever that was? There—he heard it again. He lifted his head from the pillow and started to search the room with his eyes, but stopped as his smile widened into a light grin when he saw what the noise was.
Helen was standing in the doorway of their bedroom—whoa, 'our' bedroom? Did I really just think that about Ginny and myself? That came out of nowhere—and she was clutching what he knew to be a Muggle teddy bear to her chest. She noticed that he was awake, and looked up sheepishly at him. When he cocked his head in a question at her, she took that as an invitation to move past the door. She crossed the small space between to the bed and gingerly climbed up onto the mattress, eyeing the still sleeping Ginny mindfully.
She was extra careful to avoid making any noise as she crawled up the bed and snuggled into the space between Harry and Ginny. She laid on her side and faced Harry.
"What's the matter?" Harry asked
"Nothing." It was a simple enough statement, but Harry raised an eyebrow anyways.
"You sure about that?" She just nodded. There was a silence for a moment, broken only by a barely audible sigh from Helen as she gripped her teddy bear tighter. She turned to her back and looked at the ceiling, the stuffed animal clutched above her chest.
"May I ask why you've crawled into my bed at this early hour?" Harry did his best to keep from laughing when Helen glanced at him and rolled her eyes. It was a cute look.
"I'm an early riser." Harry, being the exact opposite, was surprised when he wasn't the least bit annoyed. So she got up early in the mornings…oh well, he could deal with it. He was sure there would have to be some sacrifices with this whole thing, and this was the first one.
Ginny stirred sleepily then, and Harry and Helen watched her as she crawled out of the grip of sleep as Harry had done moments before. She turned two bleary eyes toward Harry and, noticing Helen, smiled while trying to stifle a yawn. Harry couldn't help it anymore, and the laugh escaped his lips in a quiet snigger.
"What's so funny?" came the sleepy voice of Ginny. Helen looked like she was dying to know the answer too.
"Well, what time is it?" Harry asked.
"Almost six." It came from Helen, who was still on her back, looking at the ceiling.
Ginny groaned dramatically. "Too early…" Helen giggled, which caused Ginny to roll over and face her, giving her the exact type of questioning look that Harry had.
"What are you laughing at?" Noticing Harry's smile, she added, "And you too, Potter…"
"You know…I really don't know," he said. He did know, but he wasn't about to say to the both of them that it was because he couldn't ask for a more wonderful way to wake up: Ginny and Helen lying by his side.
Harry rolled over and stood up, stretching to his full height of 5'10" as he did so. "Well, I'm certainly not going back to sleep. We did crash pretty early last night."
Helen crawled to the edge and poked Harry in the back, which caused him to jump when he felt the small finger against his flesh. "What are we doing today, Harry?" Harry turned around, pulling on a shirt as he did so.
"Well, I had a few things in mind. For one, I plan on taking you to Diagon Alley and getting some new stuff for you." At her look of confusion, he added, "Well, if I'm going to be taking care of you, it's only right that we get you some clothes, books, and other things like that…" He trailed off as Helen gave him an excited smile, which he returned.
"Mind if I come, Helen?" Ginny asked. Helen turned and nodded enthusiastically. "Good, because I think you could use some female influence on your shopping, too." She laughed at the cross look on Harry's face, and made one back at him.
"That's gonna be great! What else are we doing today?"
"Well, after breakfast I thought you might like a tour of the grounds. Hagrid would love to meet you," he added thoughtfully. "Oh! I'll introduce you to my Firebolt, too!"
"Firebolt? What's that?"
Ginny shook her head bemusedly at Harry. "I was wondering when that'd come up, Harry. You sure that's safe?"
"Oh relax, we won't do any real flying today."
"Flying? You can fly?" Helen's wide eyes were meeting Harry's amused ones.
"On my broom, yes. It's really fun—"
A squeal from Helen cut him off. "That sounds awesome! When can we try it?"
Harry laughed at the horrified look on Ginny's face, and replied, "Before lunch sometime. And actually," he continued, "why don't we have a picnic instead of eating in the Great Hall? You know, just the three of us."
Ginny smiled and nodded, watching the head of Helen bob up and down as she also agreed. "That sounds wonderful, Harry," she said.
"Alright then. How about…we leave in 30 minutes? We can get our shopping done before breakfast."
Ginny and Helen nodded in agreement again, and got up to get themselves ready. Harry wondered if Dumbledore would be awake at this hour of the morning (5:50 he noticed, glancing at a clock on the wall), but decided to floo him anyways. He took some powder and threw it into the fire, and stuck his head in. He was immediately greeted with a wavering image of the Headmaster's office, and sure enough, Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, looking over some papers. He wondered if the man ever slept.
Glancing at a clock and then back to Harry, Dumbledore said, "Awfully early for you, isn't it Harry?"
Harry grinned in response. "Well someone is an early riser, apparently."
Dumbledore smiled and inclined his head. "What can I do for you?"
Deciding to cut to the chase, Harry replied, "I was wondering if it would be alright for Ginny, Helen, and I to visit Diagon Alley this morning before breakfast? Helen needs some new things, and what better way to spend these ungodly hours than shopping?"
Dumbledore was amused by his sarcasm, and said with a glint in his eye, "How is Ms. Weasley, by the way? I trust she slept well last night?"
Harry's face immediately looked sheepish and a nice ruby tinge rose to his cheeks. "Uh…yeah…I guess she did. But, we didn't do anything, Albus…" He stopped when the Headmaster raised a hand, cutting him off.
"Harry, I'm not worried about it. I'm sure you will both make the right decision." Harry's blush didn't lessen, but his face relaxed a little. "As for Diagon Alley…I don't see a problem with it. Just keep an eye out—you're still pretty recognizable even without the scar."
Harry nodded, glad that Dumbledore was allowing them to leave. "Thanks, Albus."
Dumbledore nodded at the gratitude and went back to the papers on his desk, dismissing Harry. He pulled back from the fireplace and looked around. Ginny and Helen were nowhere in sight, so he assumed that Ginny had gone to her dormitory and Helen was in her room. Quickly, he changed into some more appropriate clothes and found his wallet. He had always liked the Muggle method of carrying money better than dragging gold around, and was thrilled when Gringott's had announced a few months back that they were releasing the Wizarding version of debit cards. Harry had one and carried it with him all the time, partly because he never knew when he might need it and because it could be used in wizarding or Muggle society.
Harry sat down on a couch and waited. He could hear the water running, and guessed that Helen was in the shower. Thank god she can do that by herself…that would be awkward, he mused. She exited the bathroom a few minutes later. Her brown hair was glistening with moisture; she was wearing a faded pair of jeans and an old light blue blouse. She smiled brightly at Harry and threw her nightclothes into her room, and joined him on the couch. Just as she sat down, Ginny came through the portrait, also having just taken a shower. She was dressed in a pair of hip-hugging jeans—Harry eyed these appreciatively—and a blouse that was actually pretty similar to Helen's.
"You two ready?" he asked. When they nodded, he said, "Alright, we're going to use the floo from McGonagall's office." Harry picked up Helen, deciding that he wanted to carry her for a bit. She didn't mind at all, and settled into him. "Do you know how to floo?" he asked her.
"I read about it; it didn't seem hard."
Ginny laughed at that, causing both Harry and Helen to glance at her. Noticing this, she said, "Oh, it's nothing, just that Harry might disagree with you. He can't seem to land on his feet to save himself."
Harry growled in mock annoyance. "You better watch it Ms. Weasley. Did I mention that Dumbledore knew you were here last night?" He prayed that his face wouldn't turn red when he thought about it.
However, hers did, and he laughed at the startling shade of scarlet that rose into her cheeks. He shook his head at her horrified look, and said. "It's alright…he didn't care."
"What are you guys talking about?" It was Helen, and it caused Harry and Ginny to pass a significant glance to one another.
Ginny laughed a little nervously, still trying to fight the redness from her cheeks. "Nothing, Helen. Don't worry about it."
Helen rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, I get it. Grown-up things." She made a face at the both of them, causing Harry and Ginny to burst out laughing. Their mirth followed them all the way to the McGonagall's office.
The visit to Diagon Alley turned out to be very successful, and they returned to the school just as the hour struck nine. Ginny and Helen picked out an entirely new wardrobe for the six-year-old, after much assurance from Harry that price didn't matter, and they had then moved on to the bookstore. Helen seemed to know her way around well enough, and had soon picked out ten books that Harry wasn't sure if he'd even want to read. They were rather…informative.
They then went to the twins' joke shop, and said hello to Fred and George while Helen picked out some things she might like to play with. They were ecstatic about seeing their favorite—and only, as Harry reminded them—sister, and of course thanked Harry more times than was necessary for what he did. He waved it off, already getting slightly annoyed at the praise that would follow him for the rest of his life. They then stopped to get Helen some quills and parchment, in case she wanted or needed to write anything.
Finally, Harry directed them to Gringotts, and asked for Ginny to wait with Helen in the lobby while he took care of some business. He had the goblins set up a trust account with a quarter of what remained in his own trust account, which was surprisingly still several million galleons. He then got another debit card, which he gave to Ginny when he returned to them. She protested and tried to give it back, but Harry insisted, and she finally relented saying that she would only use it for emergencies.
After dropping their purchases in Harry and Helen's quarters—and receiving many strange looks from the Gryffindors in the common room as they passed through—the three of them made their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. Ron and Hermione were already there, and gave them questioning looks because they hadn't seen them that morning. Their quarters had been empty when they'd checked, and Ginny was nowhere to be found.
After finding out they'd been to Diagon Alley, breakfast was a quiet affair. Harry and Helen fielded more questions from students, and again the majority of them were about Helen rather than Harry's position as the DADA Professor for the following year. Ron and Hermione were unusually subdued, which Ginny noticed but Harry did not, and left the Great Hall much earlier than the other three did.
Sighing contentedly, Harry said, "Well that was certainly a good breakfast."
Helen, whose mouth was full of eggs at the moment, turned to him and merely nodded. A fleeting thought about how Ron wouldn't have had such manners passed through his mind, and he smiled at it.
Helen pushed her plate back and looked back and forth between Harry and Ginny, who were both done with their breakfasts. "Where does the food come from? Is that magic, too?"
"No, but I used to think the same thing. I used to think that Albus—that is, the Headmaster, who speaks before every meal—just created all the food from magic. But, there are tables below us, which the food is sent from when he gives the signal. Sorry, but no magic this time." Helen took it all in and slipped off the bench as Ginny and Harry stood up.
"How about a tour of the grounds?" Harry asked. Helen was immediately excited and raced in front of the two older people as they made their way from the Hall. Harry and Ginny shared knowing looks, and gave a brief smile to each other. They exited the doors into the bright sunshine, and Harry fleetingly thought that it was a spectacular day for the last one in April.
Apparently, Ginny was thinking along the same lines. "This is some weather we're having. Feels like July," she said as she turned her face toward the sun and closed her eyes, stopping briefly and stretching. Harry noticed as the sun illuminated her pale skin and made the freckles stand out even more than they usually did. She opened her eyes and noticed his stare, and he blushed a slight shade of pink. She shook herself slightly and turned to see where Helen was. She laughed openly when she saw the girl.
Helen had flopped down in the grass on her back, arms and legs outstretched in a kind of X-like shape. Her eyes were closed and her lips were stretched into a toothy grin, and her face was tilted in the direction of the mid-morning sun. With a shushing gesture at Ginny, Harry crept very quietly over to where Helen, being careful to avoid blocking the sunlight with his form.
Then, he pounced, tickling Helen's sides. Her eyes shot open and giggles were forced from mouth as she tried to curl away from him. Suddenly, Harry was bowled over and away from Helen, and before he could do anything, Ginny had straddled his stomach and was tickling him madly. He couldn't suppress the noisy laughter that escaped him, and couldn't do anything to defend himself. He was vaguely aware that Helen had joined Ginny as some point, smiling smugly as she got her revenge.
"Not so tough now, are you Harry?" Ginny mocked him. Growling through his laughter, Harry rolled Ginny off him and straddled her stomach. He raised an eyebrow at her, because she was clearly startled by his sudden agility. Suddenly, though he was pushed to the side and sprawled out across the ground. Her heard the telltale giggling of Helen, and looked up to her race away from them. Ginny followed her, throwing a smile back at Harry as they both sprinted away.
Harry jumped to his feet and followed them at a quick pace, catching up soon enough with his longer legs. Ginny might have been tall for her age—5'8"—but she couldn't run nearly as fast as Harry. Helen was also mighty quick for her size, but again, Harry could sprint fast when he needed or wanted to. He surpassed them and, putting on a higher burst of speed, made them follow him. He veered toward Hagrid's hut, and only stopped when he stood by the door. He was a little out of breath, but it was manageable, and smirked at the two girls when they stopped by him. They were panting and glaring at him. His smirk turned into an innocent smile.
"What?" he asked in a sweet voice.
"Ooooohhh…" Ginny said in a noise of frustration.
Harry laughed heartily as he turned and knocked on the door of Hagrid's hut. When he saw Helen's curious look, he explained. "This is the man that introduced me to the wizarding world. You couldn't meet a nicer guy. Don't be afraid of his size, ok?" She nodded and stared expectantly at the door. It was suddenly whipped open, and the huge frame of Hagrid was in standing there.
"'Arry! 'ow are ya?" he beamed. He grabbed Harry and gave him one of his signature bone-crushing hugs. It was then that he noticed the two girls that accompanied Harry.
"Ginny! And…Miss Davis!" Ginny smiled at Hagrid and let the big man give her a hug; while Helen's eyes widened that the huge man knew her name. Harry laughed and picked her up, partially to save her from one of Hagrid's embraces.
"Dumbledore told us about ya, m'lady," he said, and stepped back into the hut. The three followed him, but they didn't sit down.
"We can only stay for a minute, Hagrid," Harry explained, and Hagrid nodded at him. "Just wanted to say hello and see how you were doing," he finished.
Hagrid smiled at them, his gaze lingering on the girl in Harry's arms, before saying, "Wonderful, ya know? Now that the war is over, things seem ter be quietin' down a bit." Harry nodded and shifted Helen in his arms, who lightly laced her arms around Harry's neck and rested her cheek against his shoulder.
Hagrid sniffed suddenly, and wiped his eyes. Harry was startled by this, and could tell that Ginny was too. "Hagrid?" he asked.
Hagrid waved a hand and explained. "It's nothin'; don't be worryin' yourself about it." After a pause, he said, "James an' Lily would've been proud ter see their son turn out the way he did." He wiped more tears from eyes. It was almost an oxymoron to see a man who was so large cry.
Harry blushed and noticed the look of startled confusion that Helen was giving. The two of them had never really talked about his parents, and perhaps she was just realizing that.
Ginny was smiling at Hagrid when she said, "Yes, I'm sure they would have." She turned her smile on Harry, who blushed even redder.
"Alright, well thanks for letting us stop by. Have a good day, Hagrid," Harry said as he turned for the door.
"You too, 'Arry. See ya later," Hagrid said as the three young people left the cottage.
During the rest of the time before lunch, Harry and Ginny showed Helen around the rest of the land surrounding Hogwarts. They showed her the Forbidden Forest, and rather than being scared, she was fascinated. They showed her the Quidditch pitch, and explained the rules of the game as best as they could. She was impressed that Harry had been a seeker for so long and that Ginny was a chaser. She was excited to see a game, and couldn't wait for the final one that was in only a few weeks.
Harry and Ginny then took her down to the lake, passing by the Whomping Willow on the way and explaining what the tree was capable of. She laughed when Harry recalled his memory of landing in the tree with Ron during his Second Year. As they sat down on the shore of the lake—not far from where Harry had woken up with Ginny the other day—Helen noticed what a great view of the castle they had from there. She eyed it wonderingly for a little while. Harry and Ginny shared a look, and they were both thinking the same thing: this is wonderful.
Harry pulled his wand and something else out of his pocket, and muttered a charm on the second object. His Firebolt popped to its normal size, and Helen squealed in delight when she saw it. She bounced up and, upon his instruction, mounted the broom carefully. She made a quick study, and was soon guiding it slowly along the ground as Harry walked beside her. Ginny stayed by the lake, watching them both with a calm expression. She realized that Harry made an excellent teacher, and smiled smugly at the fact that Harry would be one of her Professors the following year.
After gliding around for a little while, Harry lifted Helen off the broom and told her they would practice again soon. He reshrunk the broom and they both returned to sit next to Ginny. Helen had a crazy smile on her face—she looked like Harry did after a Quidditch match.
"Dobby?" Harry suddenly asked. Helen looked at him like he was crazy, but her eyes widened at the small house elf that suddenly appeared near her. She yelped a bit and backed away.
"It's ok, Helen, he's here to help." Nodding, she didn't move any closer.
Dobby's ears drooped a little. "Dobby wouldn't hurt you, Miss Davis ma'am, and the friends the great Harry Potter sir has are the friends of Dobby!"
Harry placed a hand on Dobby's shoulder, to which Dobby looked up at him with wide eyes. "It's alright, Dobby. I was wondering if the three of us could have lunch out here today? I promised them a bit of a picnic." Dobby grinned and nodded at Harry, obviously glad to be of service of his favorite wizard in the world. With a soft crack, he disappeared to get their lunch.
"Was that a house-elf?" Helen asked, scooting back to her original position. Harry nodded. "I read about them once." Harry shook his head and grinned, and picked up a smooth stone and hurled it across the lake, watching as it skipped several times.
"He's a great friend to have," Harry said as he stared out across the water. Dobby popped back just then, earning a little squeak from Helen, but she didn't retreat from the house elf this time. He quickly set up the picnic and bowed to Harry.
"Thank you, Dobby. I appreciate it."
Dobby looked up with wide, wet eyes. "The great Harry Potter thanks Dobby! Harry Potter is a great wizard!" And with that, he vanished. Chuckling a bit at the usual flattery from the friendly house elf, Harry motioned to Ginny and Helen to settle in. After a few minutes of quietly eating and enjoying the serenity of the day, Harry suddenly looked at Helen.
"You know, Helen, I never asked you when your birthday is."
She looked up at Harry. There was an odd expression on her face, but Harry new that it was not one he should be seeing on a six-year-old's face. It was…sorrow…but it went beyond that. Harry was an observant person, so he imagined that his own face looked like that at times. If this is how I affect people with just one look…He didn't finish that, though, because Helen finally answered.
"August first." Her voice was very quiet.
"What's the matter, Helen?" Ginny asked. She had obviously sensed the sudden change in the young girl's mood as well.
Her lip trembled inexplicably. She was trying very hard not to cry. "It's just…no one's ever asked me that b-before." When she said 'before', her breath hitched in a sob and the first tear tumbled down her cheeks. Ginny and Harry shared a breath look that said many things at the same time: She's never received presents…no one's ever cared about her birthday…they didn't ask at the Orphanage…Harry couldn't help but notice yet another similarity between Helen's and his own childhood.
Harry moved over to sit next to Ginny, and drew Helen close to him so she was sitting in both of their laps. They both just held her as her sobs slowly quieted down; Ginny was gently smoothing her brown locks against her head and Harry had one arm around her while the other was slowly rubbing her back.
"Shh…it's ok, Helen. I promise you right now that your birthday this year will something you'll remember for the rest of your life." Helen slowly turned her head to Harry, staring at him with wide, hopeful eyes. When she saw the sincerity there she leapt from their laps into a tight embrace with him. He was startled at the intensity of it, but returned it nonetheless. She disengaged herself from Harry and did the same thing to Ginny, almost bowling her over.
"And you know what? My birthday is on July thirty-first. We can celebrate them together!" She promptly let go of Ginny and launched herself at Harry, and this time he was bowled over. He heard a light laugh from Ginny, but was more focused on the brightly smiling girl above him. Then she leaned down and did something Harry never expected and would never forget: she kissed his cheek and then leaned her own against his.
He was so pleasantly shocked that he barely breathed for a few seconds, before pushing himself into a sitting position, with Helen's cheek still against his. He looked over her shoulder at Ginny, who looked like she would cry at any moment over the display of affection.
Collecting his scattered thoughts, he asked, "Are we done here?" He felt Helen nod and Ginny did as well. "Dobby?" The house elf appeared.
"Thank you so much Dobby. It was a wonderful meal."
Dobby bowed his head and muttered graciously, before snapping his fingers and disappearing with the picnic and himself. Harry stood up, conscious of the warm cheek that still rested against his.
"Think we should get some studying in between now and dinner, Gin?"
She sighed. "I suppose so…" She then glanced at Helen's back and raised an eyebrow. Her eyes were still a bit cloudy from what she'd just seen.
As if sensing the gaze on her back, Helen said, "I think I'll read a bit while you guys study." Her breath was warm on Harry's face, and he smiled a bit as he patted her back.
"That sounds wonderful. You'll be smarter than me soon." To Helen's quiet laugh, he added, "It's true!" Ginny smirked at him and they both turned and headed for the castle. Helen didn't move her head until they'd reached the quarters. Harry ignored the looks he new he was getting from everyone he passed, as did Ginny. I don't care what they think anymore. It's not important—not after that.
Harry finally set Helen down once inside the portrait, and she set off to her room in search of a book. Ginny came through the painting just then, and she was carrying a few of her books and some parchment. Harry summoned his materials from his room and they settled onto the couch next to each other. Helen came out from her room, carrying a rather thick book, and settled into the chair by the fireplace. Smiling briefly at Ginny and Harry, she opened it at once and began to read. The three of them settled in for a quiet afternoon.
"Harry, can I talk to you?" Harry paused at he stood up from the table, having just finished dinner in the Great Hall. Hermione had asked the question, and she was now staring at him intently. Ginny, Helen, and Ron were looking back and forth expectantly.
Harry motioned with his hand. "Sure."
"No—not here. I need to talk to you…alone." Something in her tone worried Harry, but he masked it with a confused look. Ron looked a bit confused too.
"Um…sure. For what?"
"Just follow me." She turned to Ron and said, "I'll meet up with you later, ok?" He nodded a little reluctantly, obviously wanting to know what was going on.
Harry glanced at Ginny and Helen, and then asked, "Could you watch Helen for a little while, Ginny?"
She nodded, and giving one last wary look to Harry, gathered up one of Helen's hands in her own and left the Great Hall. Ron followed a bit behind them, keenly glancing over his shoulder at the remaining pair as he left.
Hermione motioned for Harry to follow her, and they exited the Hall. They were both silent as she led him through the castle, eventually stopping outside an unused classroom. She opened the door and entered, and as Harry followed, set up silencing and privacy charms around the room. Harry raised an eyebrow at this, but didn't comment. Hermione sat down in a desk that was facing another, and Harry took that second seat.
Harry watched her for a moment, while she seemed to collect her thoughts. She looked as she usually did, but he couldn't help but notice a few faint lines by her eyes that hadn't been there before. There were the beginnings of shadows underneath them, as well, and her hair was pulled back in a careless ponytail. Something was obviously bothering her.
"Is something wrong, Hermione?" He had to break the silence that was settling on them, and that was the first thing that came to his mind.
Harry immediately wished he hadn't, though, because Hermione's suddenly stark gaze settled on his own. He couldn't remember seeing that gaze directed at him, but there was no mistaking that now. Her cool brown eyes radiated something that gave Harry a sinking feeling, but he wasn't sure why.
"How have you been, Harry?" she asked. He was surprised by the question, because it was so different from what he was expecting, and she must have noticed it, because she laughed. She wasn't laughing with humor or even with him; no, she was laughing from what sounded like spite and at him.
A little uneasily, Harry said, "Um…fine…you?" Her laughing cut off abruptly.
"So now you find the need to ask that question?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I think you know what I'm talking about, Harry."
"No, actually I don't. What question?"
"Hmm, let's see, how about… 'How have you been, Hermione?'" Harry went from being only a little bewildered to being completely so.
"What are you talking about?" he asked again, annoyance creeping into his voice.
"Think over the past week, Harry."
Harry was silent for a moment. Where the hell is this conversation going? "What am I supposed to be thinking about?"
"Is it really that unclear? Do you really not know what all this is about?" she asked, and for some reason he could sense hurt in her voice.
He was still annoyed, though. That's what I've been trying to tell her… "Look, Hermione, I love you dearly, but could you please cut to the chase?"
She sighed, but it wasn't a sigh of contentment. No, this was a sigh of everything but that. It held frustration…regret…loss even. "When was the last time you, Ron, and I had a conversation with each other? More than just a few words?"
Harry felt like he'd been slapped. He could almost feel the sharp pain against his skin as if he actually had been. His brain sped over the past the week, trying to point out a time that they had. The harder he tried, though, the clearer the picture was—Ron and Hermione had been a very small part of his life in the past week.
"Um…" was all he could say in response.
Hermione's features suddenly flashed in anger, and he recoiled a bit. "What do you mean, 'um'? Is that all you can really say?"
"Hermione, calm down—"
"Calm down? Oh, I'm calm Harry; as a matter of fact, I've never been calmer. I've been trying to be rational about this for the past couple days, but its getting harder. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be calm."
"What are you trying to say here, Hermione? What is it that's really bothering you?"
She pounded the desk in frustration. "Jesus Harry, when the hell did you become so thick?" Harry was surprised by her cursing, but wisely didn't open his mouth. "Ever since that day when you got Voldemort, I can't help but remember the images that flashed through my mind when your…aura…or whatever…passed over me. They were comforting, but now I wonder what's changed?"
This was news to Harry. "Wait, what images?"
She gave him a funny look, as if she couldn't believe he didn't know, but continued. "Well…it was almost like looking at the future, at what we would be in, say, twenty years. Ron said he saw the same thing, only different of course."
Why does she always speak in riddles? "Look…I honestly don't really see what the point of what you're telling me is—"
"The point is, Harry," she cut him off coolly, "is that something changed. I no longer feel the comfort from those images."
"If you think something's changed between the three of us, then you have to be kidding me. We've been best friends—no, more than best friends—since we were eleven. I can't even believe you're insinuating this!" Harry felt his ire rise a little at what Hermione was implying. He didn't like being mad with her, but this was a shock to him.
"At this point, Harry, I really don't think I'm insinuating anything. How can you ignore it when it's staring you in the face?"
Harry knew he sounded petulant, but he had to ask. "And how does Ron feel about this?"
"The same was I do."
Harry closed his eyes briefly and thought, has the world gone mad? "Did you or Ron ever think to ask me about this the first time either of you felt slighted?"
"Oh please, Harry. We wouldn't have been able to distract you long enough to tell you about it."
Wait a minute. Is that what this is really about? Harry didn't like this at all, and especially coming from Hermione. She was always the most logical and forthright of the trio. Hermione's mind never ceased to amaze Harry, but right now her reasoning confused him. Surely she is smarter than this…
"Please don't tell me you're talking about Ginny…" He paused, adding suddenly: "Or Helen."
The look in her eyes, however, suggested otherwise. "I thought that friends were worth more to you Harry. No, you know what, I thought we were more than friends to you." He started to speak, but she cut him off. "You've always felt like the brother I never had, and I think our bond goes deeper than even that. I was an only child and I had very few friends growing up, and it wasn't really any different at Hogwarts, at first. That is, until two people saved me from a mountain troll." Her voice had slowly acquired a throaty tone, and Harry silently pleaded with her not to cry. He hated to see her cry.
"You and Ron were my first real friends, and to this day remain my only true friends. My 'know-it-all' personality tends to scare people away, and I can't keep friends for long. You and Ron were the exception though, and I've grown into the fact that I can depend on you both for anything. Recently—just this past week—it seemed like I something was different; something had changed."
Harry listened to her speech and felt a mixture of emotions wash over him. Guilt, compassion, worry…they all clouded together and confused his thinking. What she said next, though, caused a rage to overpower them all.
"Yesterday I saw what it was. I know what's changed…you don't need Ron or I anymore, however much we may need you. You have Ginny, and now you have Helen. Sometimes I wish that you'd never met either of them."
Harry's angry voice whipped her head up. "That's what this is about? You're jealous of the time I spend with the woman I love and the child I've grown to care for? Hermione, you of all people should know better than that! I didn't think you allowed yourself to wallow in petty thoughts like these." A full-blown tantrum simmered barely beneath the surface of Harry.
Hermione's temper flared as well. "Listen to yourself, Harry! You're seventeen! How can you even say 'the child I've grown to care for'? You're too young for that. Helen deserves a real home and real childhood. She deserves someone who can love her and focus on her needs—"
"Are you saying that I can't love?" Harry's voice was dangerously cold, and Hermione subdued a wince it caused.
"No, not exactly, Harry. But that is beside the point. Do you realize what you're getting yourself into?"
Hermione felt an odd pressure in the air around her, and noticed that the room began to shimmer. With widening eyes, she realized that Harry was barely controlling his magic. Her heart quickened in apprehension; she'd seen what he'd done to the Death Eaters with just a shout…
"You know, Hermione, for being such an insufferable know-it-all, I would have thought you could answer that question yourself." Harry's voice did nothing to alleviate her fears, as it was nothing more than a low growl now. "For supposedly being the smartest witch of our generation, you're being remarkably ignorant." Harry listened to his voice, almost in shock as he heard the words that he said. He couldn't deny the hurt that her words had caused, though, that he wasn't capable of taking care of Helen. He had a right to be angry.
And then Hermione slapped him. Hard. The sharp noise of flesh hitting flesh actually echoed through the vacant classroom. Hermione drew her hand back in alarm at what she'd done, unsure of where it had come from, and froze when she saw the look in Harry's emerald gaze. She'd seen that look a few times before, and it had never been directed to someone he didn't end up hurting. His hand raised absentmindedly to rub his cheek, the sharp pain of the slap still ringing in his ears and his flesh. And his soul.
He stood abruptly and turned to leave. He was halfway to the door when Hermione called out. "Wait, Harry."
He stopped and waited for her to continue, and turned slightly when she didn't. The red heat his gaze imparted on her was enough to make her wither. "You don't want to be around me right now, Hermione." His voice sounded oddly strained, as if he were trying very hard to control something, and he turned and left the room.
Hermione watched him go with wide eyes, realizing that he'd just saved her from physical harm—by his own hands. It's your fault, Granger, she thought bitterly to herself. Why did you slap him? You know how hard it is for him to trust and love. You just broke that tonight, you stupid girl, with your stupid mindless slap. HOW COULD YOU BE SO FUCKING STUPID? She was screaming to herself now. It didn't last long, though, as she broke down into silent sobs. She had realized something: It's changed. It's all changed. The three of us can never be the same.
It took all of Harry's self-control and the entire trek back to his Gryffindor quarters to get his rage, shock, and uncertainty under control. As he did so, as he struggled against the powerful currents of magic that coursed through his body as a result of his emotions, his thoughts would not stop. How could she do that? She really is the smartest witch of our generation and she blithely turns her back on me like that. We've been so close for so long. Is this the price we have to pay for saving the wizarding world? Is this how it comes back to get us? We lose faith in each other and betray the trust we had so easily yet solidly built? Hermione is like a sister to me, yet she could insult Helen and me like that. I feel so…dirty.
And what's worse, Potter, a second more insipid voice started, is that you almost lost control. How close were you to letting the magic out? What would have happened if you did? How much damage and regret would there be?
No, the first voice responded, I can't think about that. It didn't happen and therefore there is no need to think about it. I got it under control. It is my responsibility to control this power I've been blessed (cursed, the second voice added) with, and I have.
The second voice didn't respond, and as he relaxed in the silence, he was already building mental walls around his shock and the betrayal he felt. He was already distancing himself from what happened; closing off his emotions and guarding them was an easy thing to do and it was almost effortless. The power of emotions that had almost made him lose control was filed away, and the only thing that remained was the bitter aftertaste of the betrayal. He pointedly ignored the quiet voice that told him when those barriers fell it would be hundreds of times worse than dealing with the feelings now.
Ginny could see that something was wrong when Harry returned, but the look he gave her clearly said that he didn't want to talk about it. Harry looked over at Helen, who had looked up when he walked in. She must have noticed something was bothering him too, because she had a pensive look on her face. It passed, though, and she smiled at him. Harry smiled in return, and sat down next to Ginny on the couch as Helen went back to her reading.
A little while later, Harry yawned, which was then almost comically mirrored by Helen and Ginny. He raised his eyebrow skeptically at them. "Eight-thirty and we're knackered?"
"You know, Harry, someone did wake us up at quarter to six," Ginny said with a bemused head movement in Helen's direction.
Harry yawned again and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh well. What do you say we all hit the sack?"
Ginny nodded and got up to get her stuff from her dormitory. She crossed the common room, while trying her best to ignore the curious looks a few Gryffindors sent her way. It was already common knowledge in the school that she had spent the night in Harry's suite, but she didn't care. When she was this happy, what did the opinions of others matter? She reached the stairs to her dormitory and started up. Just after she'd opened the door to her room, she gasped out loud.
Her hand clutched at her chest for a moment as her mind tried to contemplate the sudden pain that had struck there. It was sharp and focused, with the most piercing part of it coming with each frantic beat of her heart. After a moment it faded, leaving her with a racing pulse and a sweaty forehead. She stood still for a moment as her heart rate returned to normal, briefly wondering what had just happened. She passed it off as indigestion and went to get her nightclothes.
When she returned to the suite, Harry was just exiting Helen's room, clearly having tucked her in. He had a goofy smile plastered to his face.
"I'm gonna get a quick shower," he said. At Ginny's nod, he started toward the bathroom. She went into their room—our room? Did I really just…Merlin—and changed. Crawling into bed, she waited for Harry to join her. She was rewarded several minutes later when Harry came in wearing a towel. He glanced at the bed and must have thought she was sleeping, because what he did next made her blush to the roots of her hair.
He dropped his towel, under which he was wearing nothing of course, and pulled on a pear of boxers. She willed the warmth in her cheeks to go away as he approached the bed, and he apparently didn't notice as he slid in and slid over to her. She pretended to shift in her sleep, allowing him an easier way to get close to her. He settled her into his arms and they both drifted off to sleep, thinking how lucky they were.
The following day brought classes for both Harry and Ginny, so Harry decided that he would take Helen to class with him. She was ecstatic, of course, because she'd get the chance to learn more things about the magical world. The day passed fairly smoothly; the only exception being a single strange glance Hermione had given him and a rather dark one Ron sent his way. He chose to ignore them, though, because he knew that all three of them would come around eventually. He surmised the stress and shock of all they'd been through for the past year—seven years, even—was finally catching up to them and causing a temporary rift. He would give it some time to work itself out.
He was startled from his reverie by a laugh from most of the class he was sitting in, and evidently Professor Lupin had said something they'd found funny. For a seventh year DADA class, it was surprisingly full, which Harry suspected that his DA had something to do with. Helen was perched on the edge of a chair that was next to Harry's, listening attentively to whatever the Professor was saying. He smiled when he realized she'd be smarter than him by the time she was a double digit in age. He looked around again, and then focused on what Remus was saying.
"…going to be doing some practical learning today, which I'm sure you will all enjoy." Remus looked around, noticing the anticipation on the faces of the students present. His eyes swept over Harry and his newfound friend, Miss Davis, and he noticed with no small amount of glee that she was hanging on his words. It always did give him a kind of thrill when his words were appreciated.
"Alright, before we begin, who can tell me what a Dementor is?" Remus frowned when Hermione didn't raise her hand, because she seemed too preoccupied with her own thoughts. Oh well, she surely knows this anyway. After a moment, Neville raised his hand. He nodded.
"A Dementor is a dark magical creature. Um…little is known about where they came from or what they're made of."
"Very good," said Remus. "Now, can anyone tell me what it is that makes a Dementor so devastating?" Again, Hermione didn't raise her hand, so he instead called on Harry when he reluctantly did so.
"The Dementor feeds off of happy memories and feelings. They weed out all of the good moments in a person and leave nothing but bitterness and despair, with only nightmares and visions left." Remus felt hollow for a second at the vivid description, and had to remind himself that Harry had been through more in his seventeen years than Remus' entire life.
"Excellent, Harry. All right, who knows the incantation for the Patronus charm, which is the only known protection against them?" When Hermione still didn't raise her hand—Merlin, three questions in a row, Harry distractedly mused—he was about to raise his own hand, but was stopped by Helen leaning over to him.
She whispered, "Can I answer this one?" She was a little breathless.
"You know the answer?" Harry didn't try very hard to conceal his surprise, and she looked a little affronted.
"Of course, Harry!"
"Alright, go ahead."
Remus watched that little banter with a raised eyebrow, and was strangely unsurprised when the little girl raised her hand to answer. No one else had done so, which was strange because they should all know it from the Defense club Harry had put together in his fifth year. So, he called on her.
"Yes, Miss Davis?" Most of the heads in the class swiveled in her direction.
She fought with her shy tendencies for a moment; she was obviously uncomfortable with the stares she was receiving. However, she overcame it.
"The incantation is the Latin phrase Expecto Patronum, which means to expel the protection of a saint from your soul." She recited the knowledge effortlessly, and Remus was aware that a few of the stares had become irritated when they'd realized a six-year-old clearly knew more than them. There is more to this whole situation than I thought…
"I'm impressed, Miss Davis. I wish more of my students had the same desire for knowledge that you clearly have." She beamed and blushed at the same time at the compliment, and looked quite pleased with herself. Harry was smiling proudly at her, and Remus nearly choked when he recognized that look: That's the look a father gives his daughter. Helen looked up at Harry in admiration.
Shaking off his thoughts, Remus continued. "Alright, today we will be practicing the charm and attempting to produce a Patronus. This is very advanced magic, so do not be discouraged if you cannot do it yet." He paused, sweeping his eyes around the room for effect, before continuing. "The key to producing the Patronus is coupling the incantation with the happiest thought and feeling you can summon. The Patronus is one of the purest forms of magic there is, which is why even a Dementor will retreat from it."
One by one, he called the students to the front of the room to practice the charm in front of the class. And one by one, they were all disappointed as the most that happened was a faint silver mist that crawled from the tips of their wands. Remus didn't fail to notice the rapt attention with which Helen was watching all of it, and the rather bored looking expression on Harry's face. Of course he'd be bored. He's been able to produce a corporeal Patronus for four years now. I think I'll save him for last.
Neville approached the front and said the incantation. A bright light white shown from the end of the wand, and Remus was happy for him. While it might not have been a corporeal or even very powerful Patronus, he was much further ahead then the rest of the class. Neville was the type of person for which a little confidence could go a long way. He praised him a bit and sent him back to his seat. Ron was next—Remus noticed he looked abnormally subdued—and he succeeded in casting a very weak corporeal Patronus. It looked to be a small dog of some sort; possibly a Jack Russell terrier.
Remus wasn't surprised at all because he had been instrumental in the destruction of Voldemort, and nodded appreciatively. He called Hermione next, and she exuded a practiced ease as she cast the charm. A weak—but stronger than Ron's—corporeal Patronus showed up, and the image caused Remus to smile. It was of an otter, and it flapped once before fading. Turning the smile on her, he nodded and she returned to her desk.
"All right, how about you, Harry?" Harry got up and ignored the expectant stares as best he could, but he could feel they were all waiting for him to do it, and they had been for a while. He was a little surprised at that because they had seen it two years earlier, but he supposed they wondered how much it had changed. Harry reached the front of the class and finally met some of their eyes. He thought he saw eager anticipation in a few of them. Odd…he thought.
He raised his wand and bellowed, "Expecto Patronum!" There was a startlingly brilliant flash of silvery-white light, and the air in the room actually rippled as Harry focused his magic on the task at hand. Once the light had dimmed a little, shocked gasps filled the room, including Harry and Remus's.
Whereas Prongs had been a powerful corporeal Patronus before, shimmering softly in any light, he was now shining with an intense halo of silver-white brightness. The radiance was simply to astounding to view, and Prongs seemed to notice it as he pawed the floor with a hoof and shook his head from side to side. Seeing that there was no real reason for him to be there, the Patronus faded slowly, leaving the dazzled eyes of the class in his wake.
"That is impressive, Harry," Remus said, quietly. Smiling lightly, Harry nodded at him. As he was returning to his seat, with the impressed stares of most of his classmates at his back, Remus said, "I think that is enough for today. For next class, I want you to read pages 300-315 on the theory of the Patronus charm. We will practice this some more the next time we meet."
Murmurs broke out as the class started to file out of the room. "Harry," Remus called. He stopped and looked back at the Professor, who was clearly waiting for the rest of the students to leave. Remus was surprised, however, when Ron and Hermione left without asking what was going on. Helen was looking up at Harry questioningly, still having a hard time hiding her admiration at his Patronus.
"Could I have a word with you?" He glanced at Helen, and Harry understood what the meant.
"Helen, do you think you could wait for me for a few minutes back here while I talk to Professor Lupin?"
She nodded and immediately went to the bookshelf in the back of the room. Harry turned and started toward the front of the classroom, but stopped when he heard, "Harry?" It was Helen, and he turned toward her. She had a sheepish look on her face.
"Do you think I could try that charm?" Her voice was quiet, but both Harry and Remus heard. Harry turned to Remus as if asking permission, and he merely shrugged. He actually wanted to see this, so he wasn't going to stop it.
Harry gave Helen his wand and stepped back. She inspected the instrument closely for a moment, before holding it out before her.
"Expecto Patronum!" she yelled. Remus and Harry weren't expecting anything, so they both nearly had heart attacks when a large silvery-white object flew from the end of the wand. It was brighter than Hermione's had been.
But what is it…Remus thought, annoyed that he couldn't tell. It was flying around the room at an alarming rate. When it slowed, his eyes widened. Merlin, it's a phoenix! A six-year-old with a corporeal Phoenix Patronus…my word…how many more surprises are Harry and Helen going to have for us all?
After the Phoenix faded, Harry turned to Helen with a look of shock on his face. She misinterpreted it though, and thought that she had done something wrong. Her face fell, and quicker than Remus could see, Harry had her in his arms.
"Are you mad at me, Harry?" she asked fearfully.
Harry vehemently shook his head. "Of course not! How could I be mad at you? That was amazing!"
Her face brightened immediately. "Really? Ooo, thanks Harry!" She embraced Harry tightly, resting her cheek against his. He turned and walked to the front of the room, evidently forgetting about Remus' wish for privacy. Oh well. What I have to say isn't all that important and can wait.
"What was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Harry asked as he gently shifted Helen in his arms a bit. She was still resting her cheek against his, and they both seemed oddly comforted by it. It was in that moment, while watching Harry carry the small girl, that Remus realized just how good Helen Davis was for Harry Potter. There were no expectations between the two of them. They could be themselves and thrive off the company of each other, and apparently a much deeper bond had formed than most realized.
With a wave of his hand, Remus said, "You know what? I don't remember now. Leave it to a Phoenix to make you forget what you were going to say." Harry chuckled at this, and he could feel Helen's smile against the side of his face.
"That was…something else," Harry said. It was Remus' turn to chuckle and as he did he dismissed Harry. Harry left the room, but on the way Remus thought he saw an appreciative glance from the six-year-old over Harry's shoulder.
Harry gave the password to the Gargoyle and led Helen up the revolving stairs. Ginny had stayed in the suite because Dumbledore asked for the two of them to come alone. Helen wanted to walk instead of taking the floo, so Harry and her had traversed the halls to the Headmaster's office. Harry knocked and entered upon the word from Dumbledore. Helen was walking by his side with her hand in his.
Dumbledore smiled warmly in greeting. The twinkle seemed to be on overdrive. "Hello, Harry; Miss Davis." Harry nodded at him and Helen smiled, aware that this was the man who got her to Hogwarts in the first place.
"Care for a lemon drop?" he asked. Harry smiled ruefully and shook his head, but Helen accepted one.
"So what's this about, Albus?"
"Not one for pleasantries, are you Harry?" Harry shrugged and grinned at the old man.
"Have I ever been?"
"You have a point." Dumbledore nodded. "Anyways, I have some news for the both of you."
Harry perked up instantly. "Oh?" Helen was still enjoying her candy.
"Yes. About that…matter we talked about the other day." He picked up some papers and held them in his. "It seems as if the Ministry has found no reason to argue."
Harry's mind was racing. The Ministry had already agreed to let the adoption go through? For a bureaucracy as deeply as entrenched as Britain's Ministry of Magic, that was very surprising. How would Helen react, though? She had said she wanted to do it, but it was awfully fast. Harry was getting very nervous for some reason.
Harry turned to her. "Helen, do you know what we're talking about?"
She thought about it for a moment and shook her head.
"Well…do you remember what we talked about on Saturday? You know…before we went to lunch?"
She had a vacant look for a moment, but then her eyes widened considerably. She acquired a hopeful look, but it was tempered by sadness. She obviously wasn't expecting much. Harry looked at Albus, willing him to continue.
"The papers I'm holding in my hand have the power to let Harry adopt you, Miss Davis," he explained simply. She nodded, acknowledging that she understood. Her wide eyes settled on the papers.
"Now, I have to ask this. You're sure you want to do this?" She nodded. "You both are?" he asked, with a pointed look at Harry. Helen shifted her gaze to Harry, and he could only smile and nod as her deep brown pools drew him in.
"Alright, well I'd just like to remind you of the discussion we had, Harry," Dumbledore said, his tone a little sharper than usual. Harry met his eyes with a resolute gaze, and nodded almost imperceptibly. He knew what the consequences could be if he lost control of his power, as he had almost done the day before, and fully intended on never doing so. He would keep them in check until the training.
Dumbledore smiled in approval. "Then the only thing that needs to done is for you to sign here, Harry," he motioned with his hand. Harry took a quill and signed the line, adding his own graceful manuscript to the tiny legal print on the page.
"And Miss Davis," he added, motioning to another spot. She looked at Harry tentatively for a moment, unwilling to believe what was happening, and he smiled gently at her. She took the quill and added her own print to another line. Dumbledore then added his signature to the witness line and stamped the small box at the bottom with the Hogwarts seal.
"Well Harry…Miss Potter. I believe everything is in order." As if the full weight of it hit Helen upon hearing 'Miss Potter', she burst into tears that could only be described as ecstatic. She was smiling, laughing, and crying at the same time, and threw herself at Harry. She launched into his arms and smothered him in a powerful hug. Harry had to blink back his own tears at the display of emotion, and returned the embrace. Dumbledore was grinning at him, and discretely wiped his eye. With a motion of his hand, he shooed them from his office playfully.
Harry exited and was halfway back to his suite when Helen finally calmed down enough to lean back and look at Harry in the face. Her cheeks were shining with moisture but she was grinning uncontrollably.
Harry raised an eyebrow at her in question. "Yes, Miss Potter?"
If it were even possible, the grin widened even more. "I'm just…so happy!" she fairly squealed.
Harry laughed and grinned back at her. "So am I, Helen. So am I."
She gave a sigh on contentment and leaned forward once again, resting her cheek against Harry's in what was quickly becoming her favorite position. Harry rubbed her back gently as he continued walking, and marveled at the peace he was feeling within himself. Something about carrying her like this put him completely at ease, and he knew he would grow to love the feeling even more than he already did.
Helen's hot breath against his ear startled him. "I love you, Daddy," she whispered.
Inevitably, the relentless and unwavering flow of time continued on. The war and Voldemort was fading from everyone's daily thoughts, and as each day passed, the distance between the memory and the feelings increased. The seventh years were frantically studying for their NEWTS while the rest of the students—except the fifth years, of course—were gearing up for their normal final exams. Harry spent most of his time while not in class studying in his suite, with Helen reading in the chair by the fireplace and Ginny occasionally doing her own work.
Harry studied with Ron and Hermione quite a bit, but there was a strained quality to any meeting the three of them had now. It was in the air; it was tangible to the point that Ginny brought it up one night toward the end of May, but Harry simply shrugged it off saying he didn't know what she was talking about. That same night, Ginny had another chest pain as she crawled into bed with Harry, but her sharp intake of breath went unnoticed by Harry, who was already asleep.
Harry and Ginny still hadn't made use of their accommodations, but they were both comfortable in waiting. They slowly became more used to the idea of sleeping together, and whatever shyness may have greeted them at first, faded as the warm month of June began to pass. Ginny and Helen deepened and strengthened their relationship, and Harry was struck by the duality that he saw. In some ways their relationship was like a big-sister/litter-sister one, but in others ways it was a mother/daughter one. Harry didn't know what to make of it, but it warmed his heart nonetheless.
The week of NEWTS passed quickly, and Harry was pleasantly surprised that he had very little trouble with any of his exams. He wasn't exactly a studious person, but he always considered himself to be intelligent, and it felt good to know he did well. Hermione, of course, fretted over her grades, but she undoubtedly got Outstanding on them all. Ron, on the other hand, looked more stricken after each exam he took, but Harry was used to his self-doubt.
After the NEWTS, though, there was no studying to be had, so the strain in the Trio grew. They rarely did anything with just the three of them anymore, but Harry supposed that it might just be them growing up. He ignored the feeling that something was missing when he hadn't been with them for a few days, and instead focused on the strengthening relationship between himself, Ginny, and Helen. The three became almost inseparable, and Helen quickly won the hearts of many at Hogwarts with her sweet precociousness and honest innocence.
Finally, though, the day that Harry knew was coming for seven years had arrived. The final Friday morning in June brought his graduation from the place he had called home for more than a third of his life, and it was strangely bittersweet. He would be teaching there the next year, but to him it seemed like something was going to be irrevocably altered. With a small sigh, he swung himself out of bed to get ready for the day ahead and the trials and tribulations it would surely bring.