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echo

They were at it again. The constant murmurs of sympathetic notes droned on and on, until it remained to be but an endless symphony. Though, perhaps this was better than hearing those previous altercations all of them had come to know. Arguments that would make her shed a few tears and cradle her head in her hands. As if her mind could no longer cope with this information. Given last summer, she would have prayed for this. Pleaded to have access to the information that she had grown too tired and too bitter with. She wished that she never heard the total number of casualties for the day. She wished she did not have to look at the members of the Order and see that look flicker across. The look that was starting to envelop her like a plague. That of utter hopelessness. Her hands clenched, like this action would cause something, something that would not make her feel so useless. A sudden noise then startled her. In response, she slouched her body against the floor. Her body curled up into a ball as she tried her best to camouflage against the dark setting. Meawhile she made sure to open an eyelid slightly in order to peek over at the intruder. The intruder she eyed, would shudder every once in a while. Hermione merely blinked in confusion as she watched the same person lean against the nearest wall. She held her breath and prayed that her heart was not pounding loudly enough so it would attract this new arrival to the corridor. A choked sob escaped this figure that was cloaked by the darkness. She willed that this same saintly darkness would shield her. Or to at least cover her up within its thin cocoon. She started to crawl her way to the nearest corridor desk. The seconds stretched and her heart beat loudly against her throat. Her hand cautiously stretched out and wrapped its way around the clawed wooden foot of it. Within a second, her body dashed under it. A few candles flickered about. The slow moving light made her only huddle more into a human ball. She gritted her teeth and continued to stare at the figure. She sucked in a quick breath when a faint patter of footsteps was heard in close proximity. Please let them not see her. “Tonks? Is that you?”’ Hermione strained her ears to catch the soft whisper. She saw that the figure she previously watched with rapt attention, nod her head to both questions. The man stepped closer to the young auror. “What happened?” She was wondering that herself. What happened now, what could have possibly happened to drive the once sprightly young woman to the point of tears? “The mission,” Tonks coughed a bit. Her sniffling clogged her throat as she tried to explain to the man what caused her despair. It did not go unnoticed to her that the man stiffened. The tension now filling the atmosphere was acute and distinctive. She could barely breathe the thick air in. “The mission over the mountains failed,” Tonks continued. The man did nothing more than stare at the space above woman’s head. The minutes dragged by ever so slowly. Hermione wished that she never huddled in this corner of Grimmauld Place she thought abandoned. Once again she was hearing things she really should not know. “Does Albus know?” The man’s voice was strained, as if he was trying his hardest to cover up whatever true feelings were flitting through his mind. Like it was necessary to hide behind some indifferent façade. “I’m not sure.” Tonks ran a trembling hand over the side of her face. “Though I don’t think we should worry about Albus’ reaction, but Harry’s.” The man then moved forward, his identity now revealed. One of the candle’s light danced around Remus’ features. His eyes hardened as he grasped Tonks by the shoulders. “I don’t think that it is our place to decide whether Harry should hear this or not... How did the plan fail?” Tonk’s shrugged out of Remus’ grasp. Her heart shaped face looked grim. She whipped her head around and pursed her lips. “Hagrid is dead, that is why the mission failed. Is that all you need to know? Because there is more, a lot more.” The young witch looked angrily at the wizard who did not seem to be responding. Hermione just gazed at the scene in shock. This revelation was not settling in. Denial was creeping up her spine. What? No, she must have misheard them. It was getting late and she was probably hallucinating this conversation. “Tonks, don’t do this. The rest of the Order is waiting for us downstairs. Let us go.” Remus’ hushed whisper was laced with anguish. His hand stretched to the woman, but she stepped away. Both gazed at the other in a sort of silent communication. The witch glared and muttered about telling Albus the new information. Tonks then stomped her way out and turned around a sharp corner. Remus followed in her wake. Only when both were gone, did she release her own trail of tears. ______________________________ He did not want to see or endure anymore of their glances. The ones that made their face etch with pity for him. He did not need that dreaded emotion coming from the people he cared for the most. Maybe this was a sign. At how dreadful things were going. Perhaps this was just some foreshadowing sign on how things were going to go. For the worst. The question was not about what was going to come. Somehow deep in his gut, he knew what the future entailed for him. Or at least he knew that his turning point was approaching at a fast velocity. The prophecy’s words made sure that he did not forget what kind of earth shattering events were coming his way. No, the question revolved around on whether he was capable of taking it all in. When would he reach that inevitable breaking point? He had come close to the abyss of despair. He had come close to reaching his own conclusion. After all, it was pretty easy to take the easy way out. The options of taking that route were endless and they provided some choices that kept flitting through his mind. He could end it all. Just now. He could carefully maneuver that jagged edge of the kitchen knife he stole from the kitchens. Its apex point was glimmering, almost silently communicating with him in some Morse code. Slice. Cut. Slice. He remembered how erotic it felt when he pressed it against the underside of his right arm. His hand started shaking as the sight of his own blood started to emigrate out. Out of the vein he precisely chose. The knife was covered with the same substance. His ears roared and the Morse code he was once following ceased. The next thing he knew, the knife was meters across from him. He could not bear to look at it. The knife, his blood, reminded him too much of what caused Voldemort’s return. Him. Unknowingly, the dark wizard now caused him to cease these kinds of suicidal actions. He should feel proud at how strong his influence was on him. Disgusted with his thoughts, on his humiliating memories, he cautiously continued his way downstairs. He made sure not to make any eye contact with the dead House elves that loomed over him. They had an odd characteristic at night. Somehow their features would mutate enough to make it seem as if they were sneering at him. Or to have their wide gapless eyes stare accusingly at him. Much like how the one he always encountered on the second-to-last step would gaze endlessly. Its drawn mouth would be churlish and the neck was butchered hastily. His gut would wrench as he remembered that House Elf. No one knew how Kreacher met his end. No one, except him. He was acting rash that night. Emotions overcame his common sense, he really had no control. At least that is what he told himself. The memories consumed him and all that he thought of the moment was how it was Kreacher’s fault. The last few weeks were bitter. All thought of his lapsed to that night. Each night he had a new accuser, someone to blame. At first it was Umbridge, then Snape, and even Dumbledore. He did not dare voice out loud who he thought was responsible for this. Him. No, he did not kill Sirius. He did not. He wouldn’t do that to his godfather. Yet, his traitorous mind would not rest. Always it would insert its snide comments. They were too overpowering that night. He had to vent out, so he somehow grasped that kitchen knife. He was too much of a coward to perform the same trick he did with it once. He was too scared about his own blood coming out and reminding him more of his enemy. But the knife did not relent from tantalizing him. The jagged knife was like a drug and he was getting addicted to holding it. Slashing around with it. He had to use it. Kreacher was just asking for it when he appeared right next to him. He would mutter under his breath about him and his hand twitched. It wasn’t until the ancient House Elf muttered about Sirius did the intoxicating smell of death captivate him. The knife jerked in his hand, like it was some animate object. Like it had a mind of its own. The blood in his veins boiled to an intense point. The roaring of the sinned souls, he did not know, echoed continuously. A shrieking joined the morbid melody. The screams were addicting and his mind blacked out. Next thing he knew was that Kreacher was on the floor and decapitated. The screaming turned out to be that last of what the House Elf would ever utter. The blood from Kreacher pooled over his bare feet. It bubbled around the dirty kitchen tiles and he could not move. The blood physically touching, he physically seeing it brought him to a prompt realization. However vile, or how much he maligned the now dead Kreacher, he murdered someone that was capable of seeing and knowing what was being done. He murdered someone. His breath came out in pants and all he recalled that night was washing the blood from his hands, from his body. He went upstairs and slept peacefully, even with the knowledge that he was a murderer. The next day he shrugged his shoulders and plastered on a confused expression when the whole household awoke to Mrs. Weasley’s screeching. His act worked on everyone and he was quite pleased at that. Yet, a sickening feeling prickled at him. He did not feel all that bad at murdering Kreacher, and that was why he began to worry. Once again he stooped in that dreaded stupor. He shook his head as if to release the lingering memories and focused on this night. This night that brought more atrocious news. Of course he sort of suspected this happening. He knew more deaths were to come... but this one was another one that hit too close to home. If Sirius’ death did not do any damage to his already frayed psyche, Hagrid’s would. The worst thing about the circumstance was that he was there. In one way or another, he was there. He was never a master at Occlumency, though he improved enough after Sirius’ death to know that his mind would not be penetrated into so easily. Perhaps he was careless that last night. He drank a bit too much of the stashed Fire Whiskey he found on the second day of his visit here. Whatever it was, he was vulnerable enough to be manipulated into another vision. He should have known that the dream was unusual the second a decaying stench hit his senses. Or when the blood splashed around his spiritual face. He continued to gaze at the scene in a mixture of undisguised confusion and awe, he remembered. After all, would his mind dare dream such repulsing things? It was only when he floated around a dying Hagrid did it hit him. The half-giant gasped for breath and glared at the cloaked Death Eater. His murderer merely grinned as he watched his victim cough out clots of blood. Harry watched as the lanky wizard enchanted a spell. Hagrid was in no position to receive it. A sudden vapor surrounded him. Hagrid’s eyes widened and that was all he did before swells of rough blisters framed his face. As if an animated movie was playing, the blisters soon clumped together and became raw jagged pieces of burning flesh. Harry did not dare to turn around as he heard Hagrid scream for salvation. His hand turned the metal knob of the entrance to Grimmauld Place. Out of instinct, his gaze focused on the dirty, dilapidated curtains that hid Mrs. Black. The knob turned and he hoped that the hinges was oiled enough not to creak. Slowly, his body made its way out the caged house. The old grandfather clock in the hallway bonged the tune to midnight. ____________________________________ She watched him from afar. Every once in a while he would stop and his eyes glazed over as he reverted back into that alternate world he built out of nowhere one day. Or perhaps that alternate world was already there. After all, she could just imagine his secluded childhood. The way the Dursley’s treated him might have brought on this drastic action of having to find an escape... inside his own mind. Though, she did not understand why he continued to retreat back to the corners of his subconscious. She knew that he felt a slight fear at not completely knowing himself. Or how exactly his mind worked. That was why he now tried his best to never return to that corner of his illusionary world. Somehow Voldemort caused this damage of making him not even trust himself. It was this reason that made her resent, no hate, the man. How dare he inflict this pain upon an innocent boy? How dare he do this to her Harry? She blinked from under the corridor desk she had yet to abandon. Swiftly she creviced her body around and started her way to him. Meanwhile holding her breath to not startle him or bring attention to her yet. She felt that if she announced her presence he would turn around and demand that she go back to the bedroom she shared with Ginny. Somehow her curiosity was piqued and she did not desire anyone’s company but Harry’s. His hand turned the knob of the grand door. She flattened her body against the wall. Mentally she cursed that she wore a white, sleeveless nightgown. He did not see her though. For that she was thankful. Just as he made his exit, she discreetly left her place and followed him. Her bare feet pattered almost soundlessly behind him. She watched as he walked with a straight back. A posture he developed, one that was supposed to intimidate people. She felt saddened that so much change arose over this. She almost missed the days when all the worry was centered on saving her from a Troll or getting a stone. At least those adventures had them believing that they were invincible. Nothing could get past them, nothing ever would. But as the years past, as the days grew longer, resentment bottled up within each. Death became a reality point for both. And never was she or he more aware that their days were shortened. And that she might not see the sunrise tomorrow. “If any of you fools dare come out and follow me like last time, you better show your face,” his hoarse voice suddenly bellowed. She gasped as he pivoted around. A stoic expression and the look of murder were visible to her as his eyes glinted. His hand held his wand out slightly. She only walked forward to him. His arm relaxed and dropped to his side. Both said nothing, but she did not miss the slack-jawed expression he wore for a second. Goose pimples flooded across her body. The nightgown swished at the end of her thighs. The flimsy material floated around as more harsh breezes swept by. The minutes dragged by as she continued to pursue the young wizard. It seemed he was not dressed for a night stroll either. He was adorned with a shoddy pair of green pajama bottoms and a simple white tee shirt. His hand reached over to hers. She grasped his bitterly cold arm with no hesitance. A thrill was sent down her spine as he pulled her to him. She was never more aware of how close they were to being practically skin against skin to each other. He jerked on her hand and led her to some deserted park. The weeds grew out ridiculously and stretched out to the canopy black sky. The stars twinkled upon them and the grass that was now colored a jay robin sort of hue. Her feet were now numb and covered with mud and sharp pebbles. Regardless, she did not care. Carefully she sat next to the adjacent swing that Harry sat in. “You heard, didn’t you? About Hagrid?” His eyes flickered over at her. She did not say anything to his question. She only swung on the creaking swing. Another bout of tension was filling the air, and she knew then that he was once again blaming himself. He was probably going through that little mantra of his, “it is my fault... if I was not born then so and so would not have happened.” Her numb hands shook with fury at this. “Shut up.” He looked startled and just blinked in confusion. He was no longer under a façade, and the old Harry was peeking through at her. The blame and guilt was apparent now. This only added more to her sudden anger. “What? I did not say anything.” He was still staring at her with great bewilderment. She stepped in front of him and glared. “Exactly. You don’t say anything to me or anyone else anymore. Suddenly I feel like an inconvenience, a stranger in your eyes. Like I am some mere acquaintance!” He looked ready to argue with her, but she did not let him even get a word in. She had no idea where or how come these words were angrily rolling off her tongue. Maybe her hidden bottled feelings were now starting to show. “Do you know how much it hurts, Harry? To see you and me like this? To see this barrier or whatever it is separating us?” He then stood upright. His stomps toward her were loud and she could see his muscles showing through his arms as he clenched his fists. He was centimeters away from her, and she did not move a step backwards. “What do you want, Hermione? To understand why I am acting this way? Why we are suddenly different? Because I sure as hell would not want to know if I was in your shoes! In order to understand me, you have to endure all these twists my life keeps throwing at me!” She started to feel ashamed, though that did not stop her from letting out what she thought. “You huge prat! I have been there every single time with you. Sure I have not done this or that! But I always have to worry every damn year on whether you will live or not! I wish you could know how that feels like, so you won’t cast me off as not knowing what pain and resentment truly is. I know what it is Harry. Don’t you dare argue against that.” Her chest heaved in and out dramatically. The moonlight shone upon his face. He simply gazed at her in uncertainty, as if he had no idea what to do with her. He started to turn away, but her arm jutted out and halted him in his action. “Don’t you walk away from me, Harry.” He stood there and said nothing. His eyes closed and the breath he exhaled caused a puff of white vapor. “You have no idea, Hermione. Hagrid died. He just died in front of me and all I did was turn away. I could not bear to see him.” His proclamation sounded choked. Her anger evaporated as she stared at him. “You saw him?” She saw him grit his teeth. “If only I let the visions come through, then maybe I would have been able to prevent this.” “Harry, I thought we went over this.” He yanked her to him out of nowhere. Her wide eyes stared back at his jade pair. “If I have a slight advantage, why can I not use it?” Her breath mingled against his. She tried her hardest to stare right back in an unflinching manner. “Sometimes that advantage can be your weakness.” Her heart was pounding crazily. Her mind was not able to fully comprehend what was happening. “But it is so tempting to try. If the opportunity is standing right in front of you,” he responded vaguely. Somehow she knew he was no longer talking about Hagrid or Voldemort. Like he was lacing his words in some hidden message. Next thing she knew he grabbed her chin and she rose on her tip toes in response, almost as a reflex. His mouth descended on hers, and it was a sensation she never could describe. Sure, she dreamt of her first kiss. But this it was not how she imagined it to be. Her own experience did not entail those poetic words that some novels proclaimed, nor did it begin under some sunny day. Instead, he rasped out his wishes under a moonlit night. In a deep baritone that made her whimper. His words were muttered against her lips. He did not take her hand gently. Or lead her with a comforting smile. His hand burned against her waist. It bruised her taunting flesh. His arm wrapped tightly against her and pulled closer. She offered no hesitance. Her will power was diminished as she pulled back and caught his stare. Suddenly the breezes did not numb her. They stung against her now warm skin. She gazed at Harry as he did to her. It was at the moment that she knew she did not know Harry completely. New doors were now being unlocked, doors she thought were never there. Her head set itself downcast. She was unsure about what was to come. She was unsure about them or where their relationship now stood. Though oddly enough, she was not ashamed nor did she regret what just happened a few minutes ago. She rose once again and tried to taste his sweet lips. Only this time she knew more on what to do. A flurry of desire flooded her senses. Her teeth tugged against his bottom lip. He complied by opening his mouth and letting his tongue race against hers. His arm acting on some instinct, tugged her closer to his hardened body. It was a pleading, an act of assurance. Of what, she could not possibly imagine. Of her devotion to him? Of her confirmation that they were now something other than best friends? She did nothing than press more against him in response. It was not some explicit thing. It was nothing of that sort at all. Only an echo encompassed by the bitter silence. A/N: 1/20/04- I revised the fiction a bit, by adding some things and deleting others. I hope it came out alright and that I did not confuse you all that much. This is slightly darker than my other works. I do not know what overcame me, but I just needed to write their first kiss. This was suppose to be a response to the ‘Open Your Eyes’ challenge at Portkey. Although I don’t think this was what the challenge wanted. But oh well, I like it. Thanks to Teena and MD for using their beta powers on this. I hope you liked it. Personally it is better to read this at night and with some depressing music playing in the background. If you are looking for lighthearted fictions, I have some humorous ones in my file. Go and knock yourselves out.

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