Hermione Granger stared dubiously out one of the many windows in the Great Hall. "I don't know," she said. "It looks pretty bad out there."

Ron snorted and jammed an entire slice of bacon in his mouth. "Course it's bad out. It's almost always bad out for our Slytherin match-ups," he said, bacon crumbs momentarily sticking to his lips and then landing on his Quidditch uniform. "A little rain never hurt anyone."

Her face the picture of adoration, Lavender Brown brushed the crumbs from Ron's uniform and patted his chest soothingly. "I just know you're going to win today!" she gushed. "See? It's right here in the tea leaves!"

Harry and Hermione exchanged amused looks as Lavender proceeded to show Ron the "evidence" of her prediction. Ron, flushed from the attention, merely bobbed his head at the appropriate intervals while Lavender babbled on.

A sudden crack of thunder interrupted her explanation, causing everyone to look up from their breakfasts and stare out the windows at the steadily darkening skies.

"See?" Hermione said. "I told you that—"

The second crack of thunder was not so much a rumble as a deep-seated vibration that shook the entire castle. Several first year students yelped in surprise, and Hermione found herself clenching her teeth and gripping the edge of the table. The odds of being struck by lightning were slim, she knew, and the castle really was probably one of the safest places she could be.

But that didn't stop the fear.

The memory of huddling under the covers in the god-awful tent while storms raged around them was still far too fresh, far too close to the surface.

She didn't even notice that she'd released the table to clutch Harry's hand; not until he squeezed back, edging closer until their shoulders touched.

The sky had darkened so much in the space of five minutes that this time they were able to see the flash of lightning bright enough to illuminate the Great Hall before the castle once again shuddered from the boom of thunder.

And now it was no longer just the first year students who were growing uncomfortable. The noise level in the Great Hall rose as students laughed nervously and pretended that they hadn't just been startled again. Lavender's dramatic cry of terror was enough for Hermione to resolve her own fears and sit up straight. As Head Girl it was up to her to set an example, after all.

"Attention, please!"

The nervous chatter died immediately as Headmistress McGonagall stood at her place at the High Table.

"I regret to inform you that today's Quidditch match has been postponed."

There was a moment of shocked silence before the students reacted.

"No! They can't cancel Quidditch!"

"It's just a little rain! We're in Scotland—since when does rain stop anything?"

"What does she think Impervious and Warming charms are for?!"

Headmistress McGonagall cleared her throat, and the Hall fell silent. "I will remind you that Quidditch is supposed to be a game and not a life or death situation. The game will be rescheduled for such a time that students will be able to see more than three inches in front of their noses and will not be in imminent danger of being struck by lightning or deafened by thunder. Is that clear?"

The grumbling died down to muted muttering, and Hermione heaved a sigh of relief. Thunderstorms were bad enough indoors; she was grateful that she'd been absolved of her obligation to sit in the stands to support her friends.

Not to mention the fact that she would have actually had to watch the match—there was no way that she would have risked taking along a book in this sort of weather!

No longer interested in food, she started to push away her half-finished bowl of oatmeal only to realize that she was still gripping Harry's hand. How embarrassing! Harry, however, merely gave her hand another squeeze before allowing her to pull away.

"I reckon we'll spend the day in the common room," he told her. "We might even do some revising if you join us," he cajoled.

Hermione bit her lip. As Head Girl, she had her own quarters, which had been a godsend as she worked to prepare for her N.E.W.T.s. The lack of noise and interruption was something she had dreamed about for the past seven years, and she still said a silent thanks to Headmistress McGonagall whenever she settled into her favourite chair by the fire and read in peace.

But it was rather lonely, a tiny voice reminded her.

She sternly reminded the voice that there was always plenty of time for socializing. After her work was done.

But Harry invited you, the not-so-tiny-anymore voice piped up.

She gave the voice a ruthless mental shove. All the more reason to spend the day in her own room, Hermione told herself. Because for some odd reason, she'd had trouble concentrating around Harry lately. And her stomach had felt… off. Butterfly-ish. Certainly that wasn't conducive to studying or helping Harry and Ron revise.

Coward, the voice whispered, but she had made up her mind.

"Maybe this afternoon," she said, giving Harry an artificially bright smile and pretending not to notice the flash of disappointment in his eyes.

"Maybe this afternoon what?" Ron asked, his words barely comprehensible as he popped an entire English muffin in his mouth.

"What?" Hermione asked, frowning as more crumbs spilled onto his Quidditch kit. When Lavender cooed and brushed the crumbs away, Hermione wasn't certain whether she was more nauseated by Ron's boorish manners or by Lavender's shameless flirting.

"I believe," a familiar voice drawled, "that the Weasel was expressing his relief that he wouldn't be subjecting himself to the humiliation of being laughed at by the entire student body today." Sneering, Draco Malfoy ran his eyes up and down Ron's frame as the red-head glared at him. "At least, not because of his subpar Quidditch skills," Draco said, eyes fixed on the unattractive stains on Ron's uniform.

"Oi!" Ron leapt to his feet, scrambling for his wand. In his haste, however, to grasp the wand he'd carelessly placed on the table, he instead snatched Hermione's half-finished bowl of oatmeal. His arm followed through with the gesture he'd planned for the wand and the bowl landed square in Draco's face.

"Ow!" Blood spurted from Draco's nose before he clutched it in both hands. Hermione's shocked glance took in the blobs of hot cereal splattered onto his face as the bowl crashed to the floor, bits of crockery flying while its mound of oatmeal oozed into a puddle as the Hall fell silent.

Even Ron was dumbstruck by the result of his action.

"You broke by dose!" Draco shouted, attempting to stem the flow of blood from his nose. "Again!" He glared at Hermione as best he could with his hands covering most of his face.

"Yeah?" Ron blustered. "Well, you—you broke a dish!"

Harry, Hermione, and Draco stared at him, speechless.

"Well, he did," Ron said weakly, pointing to the shattered pieces of crockery on the floor.

"Honestly." With a flick of her wand, Hermione cleared the mess on the floor and then turned her wand on Draco. He took a rapid step backward, but before he could protest, his nose had slipped back into place.

"What did you go and do that for?" Ron huffed, but Hermione ignored him in favour of glancing out the window.

"The storm is getting worse," she said, gnawing at her bottom lip as she took in the black clouds. A strong gust of wind rattled the nearest window, and another roar of thunder caused her to flinch. "I'll see you later," she said, mostly to Harry as Ron was still enjoying Malfoy's grunts of pain. She passed Headmistress McGonagall (who had been remarkably slow to break up the altercation) striding towards her friends, but only nodded before hurrying through the doors and striding purposefully to her room.

A bit of peace and quiet was just what she needed, she decided. Another barrage of thunder shook the castle and she nearly dropped her books. Twenty minutes later she was comfortably ensconced in her overstuffed chair, a book in her lap and a roaring fire warming her against the damp chill of the day. Rain lashed the windows, driven by powerful gusts of wind, and lightning still streaked the sky, always followed by the deafening crash of thunder. Weren't severe storms supposed to be over quickly, she wondered. Whether true or not, the storm showed no signs of abating, and Hermione steeled herself for a day of tested nerves.

When a knock sounded on her door after a particularly brilliant flash of lightning, Hermione jumped to her feet, her heart racing. Flinging open the door just as the thunder cracked, she almost dragged Harry into the room, so grateful was she not to be alone.

You weren't alone in the Great Hall. It was the irritating voice she thought she'd silenced. Why is it that the presence of one person is better than a gathering of almost every person you know? Or is just this one particular person, and having all of his attention to yourself, that makes the difference?

Studiously ignoring the voice, Hermione pulled Harry further into her rooms and offered him a seat in front of the fire. "Are you here to revise?" she asked, looking for his books.

"Revise," Harry repeated, his face colouring. "Er. Right. Revise. Actually…"

"You're here to get away from Ron?" she guessed, grinning.

He blinked, and she realized that she'd guessed wrong again.

"No, I just thought—"

A boom of thunder interrupted him, and Hermione let out a tiny squeak as her window shook. Before she quite realized what was happening, Harry had grasped her hand and pulled her down to sit beside him on the couch.

The couch that she had never realized was really more of a loveseat than a couch.

A flash of lightning lit the room and Harry tucked his arm firmly around her. "Do you remember the storms when we were camping?" he asked, distracting her from questioning their seating arrangement.

She shuddered.

Harry's arm around her tightened.

"Yes," she whispered, once again remembering the long nights she'd lain awake, unable to sleep. There had been so many things to be scared of then. It wasn't reasonable that a simple thunderstorm, something not even specifically targeting her, had disturbed her peace of mind just as much as their other much more malicious threats.

But it had.

And still did.

"I knew you were awake," Harry continued. "And frightened."

Hermione felt the blood rush to her face and she struggled to put some distance between herself and Harry.

Instead, he tucked her more firmly into his arms, her cheek coming to rest on his chest.

"I waited for you to come to me," he whispered. "But you never did."

She'd wanted to. But Ron had been with them in the tent, and she knew that he wouldn't understand. He wouldn't have understood her needing comfort, or her seeking comfort with Harry. She'd considered going to Ron, but couldn't bring herself to do it. Not only because she knew he wouldn't have understood, but because she knew it wouldn't have made her feel better.

Because she'd known, even then, that it was Harry who made her feel safe.

She knew that she ought to say something, but before she could figure out what that might be, Harry continued.

"I made myself a promise," he said, the hand that had been grasping her upper arm loosening to track up and down, tracing invisible patterns on her arm. "I swore that I would never leave you alone again during a thunderstorm if I could help it."

She twisted so that she could see his face, and found no trace of the pity that she dreaded. Instead, she saw only tender concern. "Oh, Harry," she said, fighting the urge to wrap her arms around him and crush him to her in the strongest hug she could manage.

"You don't mind?" he asked hesitantly. "I mean, I know you don't need me, not really, but—"

"Shut up," she ordered, and smiled brilliantly.

Harry relaxed at once and they settled into a comfortable position, watching the flickering flames of the fire.

"You know," she said several minutes later and after a loud clap of thunder, "there is something more that you could be doing to help me."

"Oh?" Harry questioned, looking a little uncertain.

Suddenly feeling more sure of herself than she had in a long time, Hermione nodded decisively. "Yes. Yes, I think you should be distracting me." They both ignored the fact that she hadn't even winced from the last several cracks of thunder, and that her body had become completely relaxed as they lounged on the couch.

Harry raised an eyebrow even as a smile played about the corners of his mouth. "I see. And how do you suggest that I do that? I told you I didn't bring any books with me…"

"Prat," she whispered, just before she tugged his face down to hers and brushed her lips against him.

"Oh," Harry said, sounding a little breathless from the chaste kiss. "Yes. I think I could manage a little of that kind of distraction."

And as the thunder rolled in the distance he proceeded to distract her quite thoroughly.

back    next


Author’s Notes

Written for Week 1 of the 2013 Summer Challenge at The Maple Bookshelf: The War of the Words. Prompt: rain. Bonus Situation: a character breaks a dish of some kind. A huge thanks to my lovely editors who were incredibly fast and enormously helpful.

Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Books. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, 2013. Graphics copyright 2013 by Mary N. Header and footer images from Microsoft Clip Art; background from Absolute Background Textures Archive.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional