by Twinkledru J.

The younger children flocked to them in the common room when they started to join hands.

At first it was quick little brushes, fingers on palms. Other students would glance at them and suddenly look more hopeful, even when they'd pulled their hands apart and were looking around, certain that they'd done something wrong.

Late one night Ron and Harry were poring over a Divination assignment side-by-side, close enough that they could hear each others' breath. Harry reached out, the long sleeve of his robe concealing what he was doing, and took Ron's hand, and neither of them shied away this time. Hermione, herself engrossed in Arithmancy, nonetheless knew the second she looked up what had transpired, and merely smiled and went back to her own book. Gradually, the room seemed just a little lighter, and what few other students were still up studying had small smiles on their faces.

Hermione first noticed the phenomenon after a few more dramatic incidents, but she said nothing. A little research, and she had formulated a theory, which she quickly wrote down and then forgot about, because all she needed to know was that it helped everyone around them.

Things got darker and darker as the year went on, and more and more people died. By January the list of people who'd been attacked in the previous month was too long, and they'd started posting lists on the doors of the Great Hall every other week.

One night, Hermione came back home late, and her face was pale and stony, and curled into a fetal ball between Harry and Ron by the fire and cried. The closeness of the flames keeping her face hot and her back cold.

"My parents were attacked," she finally said. "They're at St. Mungo's, and they'll be all right. I got this via Owl Post this morning," she added, and shoved a bit of parchment at them. Harry glimpsed something threatening about Mudbloods and the Boy Who Lived, and nodded at Ron, who threw the note into the fire, and they both placed a hand on Hermione's back and leaned their heads on her shoulders.

"I feel better," she sniffed a few moments later, and suddenly the hushed mumbling of the Common Room became a more light whispering.

Hermione looked about, set her jaw, and grabbed Harry and Ron's hands in her own, and suddenly everyone in the room was smiling.


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