She glanced around the small bedroom, taking in the sight of her friends. They weren’t all
smiles instead they were all business, heads bent over books, quills to parchment.  

She sighed noting that this could be the last chance they would all have to be together, relatively
safe and mostly untainted by the horrors of war.  

They still had time now, however brief, and she was determined to remember it. To take it all in
and savor it, hold on to it for later, when things got to be too hard.

She scanned the room again with a small, content smile gracing her lips. Seeing one member of
the group was missing, she got up quietly and left the room unnoticed.

She made her way down the stairs to the kitchen. Looking out the rear door, she could see him
near the old shed in the yard.  

He was ambling away from the house with his head down, eyes vacantly watching the grass as
he walked.

Pushing the door open only enough to allow her to pass through to avoid the usual creak she
knew it made when opened wide, she closed the door silently and hurried after him.

When she caught up to him, he was just climbing over a fallen log near a small creek. She
stopped and watched him from behind a large willow.  

He sat down heavily, resting his elbows on his knees and gazed blankly into his reflection in the
babbling creek.  

“You know, no matter how hard you hug them, the trees will never hug you back.”

She started at the sound of his voice and looked away, blushing guiltily. Still leaving one arm
wrapped around the trunk, she stepped out from behind it.

“My grandfather died when I was very little. I sat in the yard all by myself, crying when my
father found me. He told me that the spirits of our loved ones get reincarnated as trees to stand
guard over the ones they left behind. He said that if you listen, you can hear them whispering to
you on the breeze and sometimes you can even dance with them in the wind.”

He turned to face her then; looked her directly in the eyes, astonished. He blinked and turned
his face up to the long branches of the willow. He closed his eyes.

She glanced up at the leaves as a breeze rustled through. When she brought her eyes back to
him, a small smile had crept onto his face. Such a rare occurrence now that she relished the sense
of victory knowing it as a result of what she had said.

“I just thought I should ask this willow if it would like to dance, “she continued seriously.

His eyes shot open as he spun to look at her again. His smile grew wide and open as he barked
out a laugh. She found herself laughing along with him.

“It feels good to laugh,” he admitted.

“You don’t do it nearly often enough.”

“It feels like a sin to laugh now,” he answered soberly. He turned around facing the creek again.

She came around the log and sat next to him.  She looked at their reflection and playfully
bumped his shoulder with hers.

“It won’t do to forget what we’re fighting for,” she smiled.

He nodded, but didn’t meet her eyes.  

Silence stretched between them, but didn’t grow awkward. And as a small fish broke the surface
of the water, she felt compelled to fill the air.

“What are you doing out here by yourself?”

“Sometimes I feel less alone when I’m by myself.”

“How can you feel alone? Everyone in that house is working together to help you. We’re all
trying—“

“That’s just it though. I’m the only one who’s got to fight him in the end. I’d rather not have you
all be at risk because of me.”

“Willy wallows all alone while Wally wheedles away his days with Wilma.”

“What?”

“It’s
our choice, Harry.  You’re not responsible for any of us.  We’re all capable of making our
own decisions.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Probably not.”

The simplicity of her answer stopped him. He looked at her. “You think I’m wallowing in self-
pity, but you have no idea what it’s like to watch people you love, the only family you’ve ever
known, die because of you.”  

He kicked violently at a rock and knocked into the water. Ripples washed away quickly by the
current.  

“You don’t know what it’s like to know you’re the cause of their deaths. That they’d still be alive
if not for you! And if you were only smarter or...or faster you could have stopped it.”

“Harry, I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through to get this far. But no one expects you to
shoulder the burden alone. We all want to help.”

“And the longer I stay here, the longer I’m around all of you, the more likely it is that an attack
will come
here. That you’ll be taken from me too.” He continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all.  

“I can’t bear that. I can’t stand here and let all of you die for me too!”

He swiped furiously at the tear that dared leak from his eye. He looked away from her, refusing
to meet her gaze.  

She reached out to him. He sat rigid in her embrace. He let her hold him, but he wouldn’t cry.
He refused to.

Humming softly, she whispered reassurances in his ear. He stared stalwartly ahead and ground
out the words, “I won’t let it.”

“Oh, Harry.”

“I won’t let him hurt anyone else. I won’t!”

“There’s nothing you can do that you aren’t already doing.”

“Then I’ll bring the fight to him.”

She let go and sat back from him. Tilting her head to meet his gaze, she couldn’t quite hide the
fear from her voice.

“What does that mean?”

“And I won’t let you talk me out of it.”  

She stared at him, confused and frightened. He growled and stood up.

“Come now, you’re smarter than that. You can figure it out.”

She stood, silently staring at him for a moment.  

“You can’t.” She floundered with her words. “Dumbledore...”

“Isn’t here anymore.”

“But Lupin won’t let you.”

“In case you missed it, I’m legally an adult. There’s nothing anyone can do to stop me.  And I
didn’t tell you so you would try. I don’t want to be stopped.”

“But what about everyone here who loves you? You’re just going to leave without saying a
word? Vanish one night while everyone’s asleep?”

He sagged a little under her reproachful gaze, but didn’t say anything.  

“That’s very cruel, Harry. We don’t deserve that. Not after everything we’ve done for you.”

“That’s exactly why I have to go! You’ve all already done so much for me. I can’t let you sacrifice
even more. I won’t allow it.”

“It’s not for you to allow!” The calm façade both had worked hard to maintain now evaporated.  

“It’s not something you can save us from! We do it because we love you! Everyone does...
so
much
. Why can’t you see that?”

“I do,” he sighed. “This is my way of loving you back. I’m loving you the only way I know
how!”

Their eyes locked, he could see his words truly affected her. “Fine. Then I’m coming too.”

“No!”  His voice took on a slight edge of panic. “No. You have to stay here. You need to take
care of everyone else, make sure
they’re okay for me. I have to know you’re safe...Please.”

“You’re leaving. And there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t stop you and I can’t go with you. Is
that right?”

“Yes.” He seemed relieved she wasn’t going to protest anymore.

“Then you’re at least telling Lupin. He’d want to know. It’s bad enough everyone else is going
to kill me. I’ll at least need some backup.”

He stared, wide-eyed, at her.

“You owe him that much, Harry.”

He moved to dip the tips of his sneakers in the water. “I’ll be there in a minute.” He noticed her
hesitance. “I’ll come back in, I swear. I just need a minute by myself.”

Nodding reluctantly, she started back to the house. Halfway across the yard, she turned back.

He was on his knees at the bank of the creek, staring up at the night sky. Following his eyes, she
found the Dog Star shining brightly back at them.  

She quietly slipped back into the house.  

Harry knelt in the mud letting the shallow water soak his jeans. He watched the Dog Star
twinkle merrily at him. A dark storm cloud pushed across the sky, hiding the stars from view
and blanketing him in darkness.
GDS 3
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