They were sitting in the great hall, which was devoid of any Gryffindors except for them. Everyone else had gone upstairs to their common rooms to pass the time. Ron was fiddling over a piece of toast, his usually enormous appetite sated, and Hermione was staring at the day's Daily Prophet without seeming to see it at all.
Harry sat down and realised how hungry he was. Taking his invisible helmet off, he helped himself to a late breakfast. No one spoke, the silence communicating where words could not.
"Here." Hermione handed him the newspaper. "They seem to have found out about your new role."
"If you're not already a hero, you are now." Ron added.
Harry took the slightly damp newspaper from Hermione, unfolded it, and looked at the front page. There was a moving pencilled-in(no photographs, thankfully)picture of the artist's impression of him, now the Emerald Knight, in full armour and doing battle with seemingly an endless wave of dark creatures.
- THE EMERALD KNIGHT RETURNS -
The general magic community will be delighted to hear that they have a new champion to defend their cause.
The Emerald Knight, normally thought of as nothing but a legend(for details see page 8), has been confirmed by a member of the staff from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who refuses to have their name revealed. And who else could the Emerald Knight be but the famous Harry Potter?
"Mr. Potter now has the power to cleanse the magical world of Dark forces," the Hogwarts teacher said. "We may only hope that he will be able to uphold this enormous responsibility."
Whether Potter will be willing to take on the role as the wizarding champion remains to be seen, as the hero has not yet been available for questioning or interviews, or even a photograph.
(Continued on page 3)
Harry had read enough; he handed the newspaper back to Hermione, who was determinedly matching his gaze. Ron gazed at Harry with worry.
"It really is a big responsibility, mate. They didn't lie about that." he said tentatively.
Hermione said, "People are going to be looking on you as a symbol of hope, Harry. They're depending on you. I really don't want to have to remind you this, but -"
"I know." Harry said shortly, cutting both of them off with a wave of his hand. Without really thinking about it, he groped around for his helmet and replaced it on his shoulders. It clicked into place with a reassuring sound. "I've been under pressure before. And I know that this is going to be a turning point in the war. Maybe it's just really begun now, that attacks are going to be more frequent. But I know that I will do whatever I can so that no one else suffers."
He paused, thinking, and added: "Either emotionally or physically."
Harry knew that all of them were thinking of the families that were torn asunder because of the acts committed by Voldemort.
Including his own.
The rest of the term passed by in a haze of blazing sunlight. The examinations were cancelled. Normally, Harry and his friends would have been basking by the lake, laughing with other Gryffindors, playing a practise game of Quidditch. But recent occurences had changed all that.
Harry realised how much all three of them had matured over their sixth year. Gone were the mischievious smiles, the childish antics. Their time was spent walking and talking about bygone experiences. The time they went into the Forest for the first time. The basilisk. Sirius. The Triwizard Tournament. Dumbledore's Army.
He realised what all those experiences were for, their purpose. They were to shape him for his ultimate, and probably final, battle.
Harry's two best friends had changed so much in personality that he would have hardly recognized them from another year before. Ron was now more serious than Harry had ever remembered. Ron had a faint aura of instant calm around him. Gone was the happy-go-lucky jovial friend.
Hermione did not act like a girl anymore, but rather like a self-confident woman. It unsettled Harry sometimes, even chilled him, but she was maturing into adulthood. She had always been there for him.
Even with the support of his best friends, now matured, Harry still wondered if he had the power and the resolve to remain champion of the Wizarding Community. If he failed, people would pour scorn and shame onto the burden of his failure itself. If he succeeded, he would be revered as a hero, and never be thought of as a normal wizard again.
Neither possibility seemed too intriguing for him.
But then, he thought of and remembered every person he knew who had suffered from Voldemort's deeds. Luna and her parents. Sirius, the father and brother he never had. Neville and his parents. Bertha Jorkins. And with an uncomfortable clench in his gut, he remembered his own parents, both in Priori Incantatem and the Mirror of Erised.
And he knew without a doubt that he would never rest, never give up effort, until they were avenged and their spirits at peace. He shoved all his doubts about himself deep down inside himself, where they would never interfere with his feirce determination.
Looking back up, he smiled and savoured the moment, enjoying one last golden day of peace with Ron and Hermione.