4

Silence fell between the four of them as they looked up at the sky. There was no sign of movement; the stars stared back, unblinking, indifferent, unobscured by flying friends. Where was Ron? Where were Fred and Mr Weasley? Where were Bill, Fleur, Tonks, Mad-Eye and Mundungus?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'm not sure how to understand "unobscured by flying friends" in this context. I don't really see anyone flying here. I'm kind of confused.

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    You don't see anyone flying, because there isn't anyone flying. That's the whole point. The stars are unobscured (not obscured, not hidden) by flying people. of course, they are also unobscured by clouds, planes, birds, whatever. – Michael Harvey Sep 8 '19 at 8:25
17

The passage is saying there was nothing in the sky blocking the view of the stars.

In the real world, flying friends could be taken figuratively to describe airplanes in the sky with people (friends) on board—airplanes travelling between an observer on the ground and the stars in the sky, blocking the stars from sight.

However, since this is a fantasy book, flying friends very likely refers to individuals on broomsticks.

I don't know the specific context of the passage, but I suspect "the four of them" (whoever they are) are expecting to see the people named (their friends) in the sky instead of just the stars.

The sky is free of anything (such as flying friends) that would obscure the sight of the stars. For whatever reason, nobody else is there. So, the four people are concerned and asking where their friends are.

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    Flying friends could also refer to insects, bats, birds and the like. It's quite common to hear other animals described as "adjective friends", E.g. fury friends, feathered friends etc – Bee Sep 9 '19 at 12:37
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    The "flying friends" who are missing are enumerated in the rest of the paragraph. – GalacticCowboy Sep 9 '19 at 13:23
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    This was right after the Battle of Seven Potters, in which the plan was to confuse the Death Eaters by having six people disguise themselves as Harry Potter (making seven total including the real Harry), each fly off on broomsticks in different directions, and then meet up later. The first four people to arrive at the rendezvous point then spent some time wondering whether the other people had made it. – Acccumulation Sep 9 '19 at 16:32
14

I don't know Harry Potter, really, but if they were waiting for Ron, Fred, etc., and if those friends would have arrived by flying, this is a poetic way of the narrator saying they're not there.

The four of them were expecting or hoping to see their friends flying in the sky, but all they see are the stars. The stars aren't hidden by flying friends. The sky is empty. The friends are absent.

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