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The Meaning of Lonely by EpiskeyPM
Chapter 28: The Funeral
Hermione stirred a lot in her sleep. She would mumble incoherently and groan and twitch. She even raised her hand to point to something. For as long as Harry had been sleeping with her he’d never known her to be so restless. He acknowledged the fact that they would typically fall asleep and wake up about the same time so he couldn’t exactly say that she never did those things, but he attributed it to the stress of the time anyway.
Minutes before half past six she began to murmur. Harry had no idea what she was saying but it seemed important by the concentration on her face. Lucille peeked in the door and waved at Harry to get his attention. “Hi,” he whispered to her.
“Is she still sleeping?” she asked as she entered the room.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “Yeah, she’s been making noises this entire time. Does she usually do that?”
Lucille shook her head and frowned. “Not since she was little, no. She only ever acts out her dreams when she’s upset.”
She exhaled heavily. “But anyway, I came up here to say dinner’s ready if you would like to eat. I made spaghetti, about the only thing I can cook.”
“Do you want me to wake her up?”
“Heavens, no. She’ll get up when she’s ready. We’ll save her a plate.”
It was an awkward affair. Cameron kept eyeing him from the other side of the table and when their eyes would meet she’d just glare. The stares got worse when Lucille began thanking Harry for bringing their beloved Hermione home and for keeping her safe while she was away and for being the only one she’d talk to because she sure as hell wasn’t opening up to anyone else. Harry tried multiple times to sway the conversation away from him but Lucille was adamant on letting him know how much she appreciated him. He kept nodding and saying thank you but that’s as much contribution to the subject she was getting.
A few minutes after dinner ended Hermione woke up. Lucille tried to get her to eat but failed and instead settled on getting to do her hair. She set up shop in the living room, with Hermione sitting on the floor and Lucille cross-legged on the couch. Harry sat beside her and watched, genuinely interested in how she was going to do anything to Hermione’s hair. Cameron retreated to her bedroom.
The process took about an hour, give or take (but mostly give) fifteen minutes, but it ended up very nice. Lucille had managed to make Hermione’s hair completely straight before she plaited five French braids, all curving into one large French braid at the right side of her head. She said in the morning she’d take it out and fix it into a messy bun, but that leaving it in the braid for the night would make it have some sort of texture that she wanted.
Lucille called Cameron downstairs to comment on her work and also to let her know that Donovan would be taking the four of them to the funeral and spend some time at their house after. She then told them that it was lights out at ten as they would have to wake up at seven or eight, she hadn’t decided yet, and they’d leave at ten in the morning to be there at eleven.
“I know you’ve been asleep all day, Hermione; do you need something to help you tonight?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m still tired.”
“Okay. I’m going to shower and go straight to bed though, so I’ll see you lot in the morning.”
It was approximately nine o’clock in the morning when Harry and Hermione were shaken awake. Lucille was standing above them completely dressed, including her hair, jewelry, and make-up. Harry blinked a few times to focus his eyes before grabbing his glasses to glance at the clock. Hermione pulled the comforter over her head.
“Good morning sweethearts, good morning. I’m so sorry but I got a whole mess of last minute phone calls this morning so I’ll have to leave you alone.” She pulled the blanket off of Hermione. “Your hair still looks fine. How are you feeling?”
“Sore,” she moaned.
“Oh baby, I know, I’m so sorry. How about you, Harry?”
“I’m okay,” he replied.
“Excellent. Well Cameron’s left us, she realized she brought everything but what she was wearing today, stupid girl, so she’s back at her flat but she’ll be coming back if she has the time; if not we’ll just meet her there.
“Donovan and I’ll be back around ten-ish to pick you up, so please be ready. Oh,” she clapped, “Hermione, Cameron left your outfit on her bed so it’s there when you’re ready.”
“I feel so bad, but you should be fine, you’re not children. Please, both of you eat something before we leave. It’s going to be a long day, alright?”
“Yes,” they replied in unison.
She kissed Hermione on the cheek. “I love you.”
“Alright, I’m gone. See you soon.” And she rushed out of the house, heels clacking and keys jangling.
Harry looked over at Hermione. Her breath hitched as she rolled from her back onto her side and swung her legs off the bed. She inhaled deeply as she slowly moved into an upright position.
“Are you okay?” asked Harry as he propped himself up on his elbows.
“Everything hurts. Literally.”
“Do you need help getting up?”
“No, I’m going to sit here for a minute. Why don’t you take the bathroom first?”
“Do you think you’ll be able to walk?”
“I’m not paralyzed Harry, I’ll be fine. Go ahead.”
He crawled out of bed and sifted through his bag for an undershirt, underwear, and his outfit for the funeral. He’d ended up packing a dark blue button down and black everything else: shoes, slacks, belt, socks, and tie. He took everything to the bathroom for a shower. Harry tried to be quick as he knew Hermione would need a much longer time.
After a five minute shower, he put on his underclothes, socks, and his pants, figuring he could just put everything else on later and therefore give Hermione all the time she’d need.
When he reentered their bedroom, Hermione was looking through the pictures in the locket he’d given her. Harry had forgotten about it to be honest, as she’d been putting it inside her shirts. He smiled, but felt a wave of sadness hit him, remembering he’d have to end their friendship.
“I’m done with the bathroom.” Her head snapped in his direction and she shut the locket.
“That was quick,” she commented.
He simply shrugged and made to sit down on his bed. She had retrieved her dress from Cameron’s room and it was hanging on the back of the closet. Harry recalled from Aunt Petunia that Hermione’s dress was called a sheath dress; the only reason he remembered this was because she’d spent weeks in department stores looking for that certain type of dress and complained loudly when she couldn’t find one.
Hermione’s was many times prettier than the one his aunt had ended up buying. It was short-sleeved rather than sleeveless, had black beading around the waist, and had a straight neckline rather than a curved one. The only thing Harry liked about Aunt Petunia’s dress more than Hermione’s was that it was orange instead of black, but given the situation that didn’t really count.
“Your dress is nice,” Harry said as he put on his belt.
“Thanks, I guess.” She slipped the locket off and set it on the nightstand. “I’m going to shower.”
She grabbed her bag and the dress from the closet and limped to the bathroom. Harry finished putting his clothes on and was about to relax when he realized he’d forgotten to brush his teeth. He thought he could just sneak in the bathroom and grab his toothbrush, and use Lucille’s bathroom.
He got up and knocked on the door. He could hear that Hermione was already in the shower so he knocked again, a little louder, and slightly opened the door. “Hey Hermione?” he called.
“Harry! What is it?”
“I just need to grab my toothbrush, is that alright?”
She was silent for a moment. “What are you going to do with your toothbrush?”
“Brush my teeth?”
“I mean without a sink or any toothpaste.”
“I was going to go downstairs and use Lucille’s.”
“...Because you’re taking a shower in this one?”
“You can’t even see through this curtain, I don’t care.”
Harry didn’t understand this new mood she was in, all talkative and willing to be around another person. But, he supposed it was better than how it was before, and he entered the bathroom and began to brush his teeth.
It was a little weird, knowing that his best-friend-slash-person-he-was-in-love-with wasn’t wearing any clothes just beyond that thin sheet of vinyl. Harry tried to push that out of his mind but it was a little bit impossible, and terribly distracting. He brushed his teeth as fast as he could and left.
“Harry!” he heard Hermione call from upstairs. He dropped his toast on the counter and ran upstairs, completely forgetting that that was the worst possible thing to do on them. He saw Hermione sitting on the bed in the fluffy purple robe with her outfit folded beside her. The lone French braid was now loose and curly and there was a thick plastic headband in her hair.
“What is it?” Harry cried breathlessly.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to- Nothing’s wrong, I just need some help.”
He sighed and leaned against the doorframe. “Oh. What do you need help with? Did you get your bandage wet?”
She began to blush. “No, it’s not that. I, um, I don’t... Look, I’m just going to come out and say it. I can’t get dressed.”
“What?” he chortled.
“I use my right hand for everything for starters, and literally all of my muscles hurt so I can’t move very much.”
“So you want me to help you put on your dress?” He didn’t know what she was so embarrassed about. She had taken a nasty fall so he understood, and Harry was a gentleman; he wouldn’t look.
Still, she looked disgruntled. “Not just my dress.” Hermione reached behind herself and held up a solid black bra.
“Oh.” Harry felt himself begin to blush, probably twice as hard as Hermione. “Well, I guess- I mean- I’ll just... be quick...”
Hermione sighed exasperatedly. “If you don’t want to, I completely understand. I’ll just wait until Luie or Cameron comes back.”
“I’ll-I’ll do it. I won’t look I promise,” he blurted out. Hermione’s face turned an even deeper shade of red but she nodded.
“Turn around,” she mumbled.
“Right, of course!” He turned a full one-eighty and covered his eyes for good measure.
After a few hisses of pain from behind him Hermione told him to turn back around. He didn’t know what he was expecting to see, but a robe-less, partially clothed girl was not one of them. The robe was in a pile at Hermione’s feet and she was faced away from Harry, squeezing her arms to her side to hold her unclasped bra up. Harry’s heart hammered.
“Could you put it on the tightest one please?”
“Uh, yeah.” He took a few shaky steps forward and took the two ends of her bra in his trembling hands, trying so hard to keep steady. “Is that good?” he asked once he’d secured the hooks.
“Yes, thank you. Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Hermione handed him the dress.
Harry took it from her and unzipped the back. She turned around kept her eyes fixed anywhere but Harry, which he didn’t mind because he was trying to avoid letting his eyes drift below her neck, and used him to balance herself as she stepped into the dress. Harry helped shimmy it up her body and gently guided her arms into the sleeves. She turned back around and Harry zipped it up.
“There you go.” He noticed something black poking out from underneath the bundle of blankets at the foot of Hermione’s bed. “What’s that?”
She followed his gaze and pulled the black fabric out from the heap. “Oh, crap.”
“My stockings; I forgot about them.”
“I can do it if-”
Hermione vigorously shook her head. “No, absolutely not. I couldn’t ask you to.”
He rolled his eyes and snatched the garment from her hands, squatting at her feet. He bunched up one of the legs and slipped it on her foot, pulling it mid-calve. Harry repeated the process with the other foot, alternating between legs until he reached her knees (the left one severely bruised), where the hem of her dress was. He waited for Hermione to say something but she just watched him. And pretending to straighten out the stocking could only last for so long.
“Um, do you still need me to...?”
“What? Oh!” Her face became the reddest Harry had ever seen it. “Right, I’m sorry. I would’ve done it myself but I just can’t bend. It hurts my back, you know? Also my knee because I’d sort of have to squat because I’m not one on those people who can stay straight-legged and touch the floor. I’ve tried many times, though. And like I said, my right hand is useless-”
Harry had to force himself not to chuckle. She was so embarrassed it was almost cute. “It’s fine, Hermione.”
She pursed her lips, pulled the stockings the rest of the way, and sat down. “I’m just... I’m not used to... what I’m trying to say is thank you.”
“You’re not used to what?”
Harry shrugged. “Well, you’re welcome. You look pretty, by the way.”
“Thank you. You clean up nicely yourself.”
Harry just smiled.
“Could you hand me my locket please?”
He picked up the golden pendant and handed it to her; she slipped it over her head. “Lucille should be back soon. You should probably eat.”
“I’m not really hungry.”
“Doesn’t matter, you need to eat. Come on, I’ll make you some toast.”
“This isn’t up for debate.” He took her good hand and gently led her out the room, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. She sat at one of the barstools while Harry threw away his cold slice of toast and put two slices of bread in the toaster. “Butter or jam?”
“I don’t want- Fine, Harry, jam.”
He took the strawberry jam from the fridge and a butter knife from the drawer beside the sink. When the toaster popped up, he set them on the plate he was using earlier and began putting the spread on both of the slices.
“Are both of those mine?” Hermione asked cautiously.
“Yes. But I’ll help you eat one, if you want.” He set the plate between them and handed her a slice of toast. She just held it and looked at it. “Eat it.”
She sighed but took a small bite from the corner. Harry smiled triumphantly and gladly took his slice.
Soon all that was left of their toast were the crumbs on the plate. Hermione wiped the remains from her mouth and fingers with a napkin and Harry wiped the crumbs from the counter onto the plate and put it in the sink. He returned to Hermione’s side and she put her head on his shoulder.
“Are you okay?” he asked after a few minutes of comfortable silence.
“I guess. I don’t know how I’m going to walk in those shoes-”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Oh.” She sat up. “It’s just a funeral. Doesn’t make them any more or less dead.”
“You act as though you want me to be a sobbing mess.”
“It would be better than you bottling it up. I’m not stupid.”
“I’m not bottling anything up,” she defended.
“Yeah, and your mood swings lately have just been for no reason.”
She just glared at him.
“You seem to forget that I lost my parents, too. I don’t even remember them and it hurts. I can’t imagine what it must be like, spending seventeen years with them and then losing them. But I have lost more than enough people in my lifetime and it’s not something you just brush off. I nearly killed you because I tried to do that.
“I can’t say I know what you’re going through because I don’t, and I’m not going to pretend to, but... I know it’s not what you want to hear right now but you have to let yourself feel.”
She clenched her jaw and continued staring at Harry, her eyes filling and her breath quickening. Harry noticed her nose beginning to flare. Before he had time to notice that her hand had drawn back, he got a slap clean across the face. He held his cheek and furrowed his brows at her, but she pushed away from the bar and limped upstairs.
Harry didn’t even know how to take the hit. He didn’t feel upset or angry. Maybe sad? Disappointed? Sympathetic? It was unclear; he just knew he wasn’t mad at her.
Lucille came bounding in the door seconds later, clad in a large men’s suit jacket. “Harry, Hermione! Let’s go, Donovan’s waiting in the car!” She clicked into the kitchen and stopped short upon noticing Harry. “Oh, hello! Where’s Hermione? And what happened to your face?”
“She’s upstairs and she hit me. But I’m not mad,” he added for good measure.
“Hit you? What for?” She turned to the direction of the stairs. “Hermione Jean Granger! Downstairs!”
“I’m not mad though-”
“I don’t care; she had no right to hit you.”
Hermione hobbled into the entryway to the kitchen holding her black heels. Harry hadn’t seen them earlier but they were short, maybe two inches, and had a thin strap across the front. They would go nicely with the dress, if she were to put them on.
“What’s this about you hitting Harry?”
She just looked down. Harry felt like tattletale. He didn’t think Lucille would get upset if he wasn’t.
“Well?” This motherly Lucille was one Harry wasn’t used to. He didn’t like it.
“Can we just go please?” Her voice was barely a whisper.
Lucille huffed and said, “We’ll talk about this when we get back.”
“I’m not mad,” he tried again.
“Harry, go on upstairs and check to see if there’s anything you need. We’ll be in the car.”
“Okay.” He jogged up to the room, shoved his feet into his shoes, and grabbed his jacket. It didn’t necessarily go with his outfit but he didn’t get cold easily; he more so grabbed it for Hermione.
Harry slid into Donovan’s SUV and shook the man’s hand. He was a very friendly-looking man, with sand coloured hair and a little bit of stubble on his face. His eyes were an inviting, warm brown. Harry had only heard the man say ‘Hello” and he already liked him. But he wondered what he and Donovan had in common.
“Cameron’s just going to have to meet us. Does everyone have everything?” Lucille asked.
Harry said yes; Hermione nodded.
“Alright then, let’s go.”
For ten o’clock on a Saturday, there was a lot of traffic. The four of them seemed to hit every stoplight possible and always got stuck on the slow-moving side of the highway. Donovan tried to ask Hermione about school but if it wasn’t a yes or no question, she wasn’t answering. Lucille eventually switched on the radio in an effort to tell her boyfriend to shut it. The car remained quiet after that.
Harry wondered if Hermione thought he was mad at her, despite clearly stating that he wasn’t. He placed his hand on hers and squeezed lightly, not wanting to hurt the hand. She glanced at him briefly but laced her fingers with his and squeezed tight.
After a grueling forty-five minute ride, they finally pulled up to the church where the service would be held. The parking lot was already full but Donovan drove around and tried to find a spot. After a few minutes of unsuccessfulness, he decided to drop Lucille, Harry, and Hermione at the front and find a spot himself. Hermione put her shoes on and stumbled to the entrance of the church, using Lucille as a crutch.
“I can’t walk in these,” she whispered.
“As soon as we sit down you can take them off sweetie.”
Harry pulled open the double doors and was met with a blast of warm air. A shiver ran through his body and he moved aside to let the others through.
“Mum!” The three of them looked toward the other side of the lobby area and saw Cameron, clad in a white blouse and a high-waisted black shirt, coming toward them. “What took you so long, I’ve been here for a while!”
“I thought I told you to go back to the house if you had time?”
“Right, well, Sammie wanted me to drop her off here before Charlotte got fussy and I just stayed.” She turned to Hermione. “You look really nice.”
Cameron frowned. “Why wouldn’t she be? Where’s Donovan?”
Lucille pointed to the door. “He’s parking the car. Is Sammie sitting with us?”
“No, she thought it wouldn’t be best. But I actually have to man the camera so I won’t be sitting with you guys, either.”
“Fine, just find us when it’s finished. Come on, Hermione, let’s get you a chair.”
The first thing Harry noticed upon entering the service center was the display in the front. There were two caskets at bottom of the stairs of the stage, both made of dark wood and with large bouquets of white roses on the top. A poster-sized photograph of Hermione’s parents separated the two boxes. It was then that Harry actually learned their names: Emilyn and Jacob Granger. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Hermione stiffen.
The ends of the pews were also decorated with smaller bouquets of white roses. Harry couldn’t help but feel the eyes of all the family and friends as he followed Lucille through them.
“That’s her, the daughter...”
“Poor girl, I can only imagine what she’s going through...”
“Came all the way from a boarding school up in Scotland so I hear.”
“Why would they send their only daughter away?”
They walked until Lucille stopped at the third row from the front. “Tuck in here,” she said as she guided Harry in first, followed by Hermione with Lucille at the rear. “Scoot over a little more so Donovan can have some room, would you? There we go. Now,” she breathed as she stood back up and dropped her bag in her spot, “I’m going to wait in the lobby for him. Watch my purse.”
Rather than bending down, Hermione innovatively used her feet to take off her heels. An usher came by their row and handed Hermione a program. She politely said thank you but set it between herself and Harry as soon as she’d gone.
Hermione’s semi-liveliness had vanished. In the time it took to get in the car, get to the building, and find seats, her face had become pallid. And perhaps it was the draining lighting of the church, but she looked years older.
Harry folded his hands in his lap and crossed his ankles. It was going to be a long day.
The ceremony started out nice. Rather than beginning with a prayer or some other religious act, there was a line of people who cycled up to the microphone to tell a story or say what they’d miss the most. A few of them mentioned Hermione, to which she shrank into her seat. Harry noticed people turning around and looking at her, no doubt waiting for her to stand up and say her piece to the crowd. Lucille rubbed her hand in circles on her back.
With each person Hermione became more anxious. She started to fidget, examine her nails, shake her good leg. He could hear her inhale and exhale, almost like she was about to hyperventilate. If she was already acting like this twenty minutes in, Harry had no idea how she was going to make it through the rest of the service.
“I can’t do this,” he heard her whisper. An eerie silence hung over the guests as the daughter of the deceased stood up, side-stepped out of her row, and padded out of the room. Harry noticed she had left her shoes.
In a moment of pure haste – or perhaps stupidity – Harry grabbed his jacket and followed Hermione’s lead. He didn’t know what he would find or what he intended to say to her, but the only thing that made sense at that point was being with her. Once in the lobby he heard a curse (the Muggle kind) come from outside and threw open the double doors.
Hermione was standing in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the building, her hands covering her face. It was freezing; his breath was clearly visible in the air and he knew Hermione must be cold. Harry wrung his jacket in his hands and softly spoke her name. She whipped around, eyes blazing, breathing hard.
“I told you I didn’t want to come. I told you, Harry. This whole... thing, this whole thing is a complete waste of time. Everyone sitting in there, crying and telling stories. They don’t even matter because they’re dead. They can’t hear us, they can’t see us, they probably don’t even know we’re having a funeral right now. They’re dead!” she screamed in the direction of the service. “I mean, am I the only sensible one here?” she laughed. “They’re DEAD, Harry. Gone.
“I’m not... I’m fine! Honestly, I’m fine! My parents are dead. They’re dead. I get that. I’m not going to cry over something that I can’t change.”
“No!” she cried, pointing her finger in his face. “No, don’t ‘Hermione’ me. You don’t get to make me feel guilty about this. I am allowed to feel how I want to feel!” She poked herself in her chest. “I think I’ve earned that right! I do nothing but worry about everyone else and empathize with everyone else and feel everyone else and my entire life is just about everyone else!”
Her eyes began to gloss over and she started to choke up.
“Just this one time I decide to deal with things the way I want to and everyone still wants me to be something else! Well I’m not having it! I am entitled to just this one time to feel however the hell I want to feel, Harry! I have earned that!
“Dammit,” she cried, “I am allowed to feel how I want to feel! I am allowed!”
Harry nodded. “You are allowed.”
“Just this once!”
“Just this once.”
“Those are my parents lying in those wooden boxes! Not yours, not Cameron’s, not anybody else’s! Mine!” she screamed again, as if speaking directly to the people in the church. “They’re my parents, my mum and my dad, dead.”
A few tears spilled over but she wiped them away hastily.
“I’m not sad. I’m not. Yeah my mum died thinking I hate her, but that happens all the time, right? People die all the time without saying everything they need to say. It happens. I mean, my parents won’t be around to see me graduate or get my first place or my first job or walk me down the aisle at my wedding or give me advice on how to raise my kids but you know what, Harry? It’s okay. It’s okay because I know I can do it all by myself. I know I can.”
Her face turned slightly purple as her lip began to tremble. She walked to the church’s brick wall and rested her forehead against it, slapping the rock with her open palms. The phrase “I am allowed” kept slipping through her lips.
Harry knew she wanted to break down, scream, cuss, cry until she had nothing left to give. The only thing holding her back was – if his assumption was correct – the fact that she still felt she couldn’t be open about her emotions. He didn’t want to be the thing holding her back and he sure as hell didn’t want to prove Cameron right. He dropped his jacket on the floor and came up behind her, simultaneously wrapping his arms around her and pulling her away from the wall.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered to her.
“Let me go!”
She continued to struggle. “Get off!”
“Shh,” he soothed. “I’m right here. I’ve got you.”
“Let me go, Harry,” she cried through clenched teeth, “Get off of me!”
Harry solidified his grip. “I’m not going anywhere. You don’t have to be strong anymore. I’ve got you. I’m right here. I’ll always be right behind you when you fall. Always.”
As if that last word was all she was waiting for, no sooner did he get out the second syllable did she finally sob. Harry could feel them shaking her body and shortening her breath. They were cries like nothing Harry had ever heard before, sounding as though they came from her very soul. He supposed Hermione was partially right in thinking he couldn’t handle seeing her cry; he hated everything about it.
Hermione dropped to her knees and took Harry with her. He sat on the pavement and opened his legs then pulled her back to him. She leaned back and sank into him.
“I c-can’t go,” she sucked in a breath, “go back in-in there.”
“You don’t have to. We can sit here as long as we want.”
“You don’t have to say anything, alright?”
She nodded. Harry rested his chin on her shoulder and began to rock them back and forth. He wished he hadn’t dropped his jacket, as Hermione had started to tremble and pulled her knees in. Harry repositioned his arms so as to cover a larger portion of her body but he didn’t feel like he’d done much.
Shortly after Hermione collapsed, Cameron poke her head out from the double doors. She looked as though she wanted to intervene but Harry slightly shook his head and mouthed, “No.” Cameron bit her lip. She stared at the two of them for a good while before Harry eventually ignored her and put his chin back on Hermione’s shoulder. When he glanced back up a few minutes later she was gone.
Several more people came in and out of the building. Some of them pretended not to notice and some of them gave Harry sympathetic looks. He didn’t know which action he preferred.
Hermione had calmed down a great deal. Her breath would hitch every so often and she would frequently cough and sniffle, but she was no longer fully-blown sobbing. Harry continued to rock them back and forth. When she fell silent he stopped. They sat quietly, exchanging body heat. Harry decided he wasn’t going to say anything unless she spoke first.
He felt this was a major breakthrough. It was a bittersweet moment for Harry: for the first time Hermione had truly let her guard down with him, but of course she had had an emotional breakdown. He didn’t want the only times she opened up to him to be when it had gotten this bad. He hoped he had proven to her that he was capable of handling her emotions and in the future she wouldn’t think she had to bottle everything up.
But then, would there even be a future? What Cameron had said still rang true in the back of his mind. He had planned on breaking things off, but that was before he sat holding Hermione while she cried. Perhaps they could make it work. But, better safe than sorry. Who’s to say this was just a one-time occurrence?
“I want to go back inside.”
“We don’t have to,” he reminded.
“I know. I want to.”
“Okay.” Harry released the girl and stood up, then helped her up. Her eyes were extremely swollen and red, as was her nose. He walked to where he dropped his jacket and picked it up, shook it out, and guided Hermione’s arms into the sleeves. She mumbled a thank you and looped her arm around Harry’s, pressing herself as close to him as she could. They walked back into the service and ignored all the penetrating stares from all the people in their seats. Lucille and Donovan stood up to allow them entrance to the row. She kissed Hermione on the forehead and whispered something that made her smile.
Hermione remained latched to Harry the rest of the service. When it was over Lucille and Donovan left them to bring the car around. A few people came up and offered condolences. Harry was introduced to her grandmother, two cousins, and an aunt. They all seemed excited to meet him. He was tempted to ask if she talked about him a lot.
After a few minutes Hermione got restless and decided she just wanted to wait for them in the front. Harry offered to carry her shoes, and she let him, and she offered Harry back his jacket, and he declined. They put their arms around each other’s waists and slowly walked to the entrance of the building.
Cameron and who Harry assumed to be Sammie were chatting animatedly in the lobby. Sammie was bouncing her baby, Charlotte if he remembered correctly, on her hip. As they got closer Harry noticed they had the same curly brown hair and bright green eyes. He was a little bit jealous; he’d always been the only one with green eyes.
Harry and Sammie were introduced. Charlotte took Harry’s glasses and put them on her face lopsidedly, to which she fell into a toothy little giggle fit. Sammie gave Charlotte to Harry to hold while she readjusted her slacks. Hermione looked uncomfortable, probably assuming Harry didn’t know how to hold a baby, but he thought he did just fine.
Lucille and Donovan pulled up and Harry returned the baby to her mother, taking back his glasses in the process. Charlotte whined and made grabby hands at him, saying “No!” and “Back!” Sammie said if you just ignore her she’d stop.
Cameron said she’d come back to the house after she dropped Sammie and Charlotte back at the flat. Lucille agreed and Harry and Hermione climbed into the backseat.
Donovan had ended up spending the night. He hadn’t packed for it but according to Hermione Lucille had cleared some closet and drawer space for him a while back. When they got home they all changed into their pajamas, despite the fact it was only three in the afternoon.
All the way until the house turned in for bed, Cameron kept trying to pull Hermione away from Harry. Needless to say it didn’t work and only made her more clingy. Harry thought Cameron would be apt to leave him alone after what she saw during the funeral, but he kept in mind that being the “older sister” she was going to be a tad territorial. He tried to not let it get to him, especially now that he had blatantly proved her wrong. Yes, he was going to break things off with Hermione, but it was now on his own terms and not hers.
It was about eleven when everyone decided to go to bed. Harry had taken one final trip to the bathroom before retreating to the bedroom. When he walked in the door, his roll-out mattress was gone and there were two sets of pillows on Hermione’s. Harry raised his eyebrows at the scene and she simply said, “Please?”
Who was he to object?
He was woken up by a violent tremor of the bed. The mix of the darkness and his lack of correctional lenses made it nearly impossible to see anything. Harry would’ve mistaken the shadow he saw run out of the room as a trick if he hadn’t felt Hermione get off the bed and heard the bathroom door slam.
Once his glasses were on he could make out the time on the digital clock; it was about four-thirty. He rolled off the bed and tiptoed through the darkness, using the light coming from underneath the bathroom door as a guide. Harry knocked lightly on the door. “Hermione?”
Her response was a long, guttural wretch. Shaking his head, because surely she wasn’t throwing up, he opened the door. But there she was, sitting on the cool tile with her head in the toilet. Harry shut the door behind him and knelt next to her. He gathered her now loose hair in his hands. After a few seconds the throwing up turned to coughing and Hermione sat up, chest heaving. She clutched at the fabric of her shirt and took choppy little breaths, wild fear present in her eyes. She was trembling and already noticably sweaty.
"I can't - breathe."
Harry took her head in both of his hands. "Look at me."
"Harry, I can't-"
"I know you can't, look at me anyway."
Her eyes snapped up and locked onto his.
"Alright, what colour are my eyes?"
"What?" she shrieked.
"Just trust me. Don't you trust me? What colour are my eyes?"
"They're, uh - green."
"My hair, what colour is my hair?"
"Black, it's black."
He pointed to his chest. "What's this thing I'm wearing?"
"A white shirt."
"What are these things on my face?"
"How old am I?"
"Where did we first meet?"
"On the train, the Hogwarts Express."
"Tell me about the time Snape gave us detention last year. Hey - look at me."
"Um, I stayed after Transfiguration to talk to McGonagall and you waited for me and it was pouring rain and we were going to be late for Potions if we didn't cut across all the courtyards and we got to class about three seconds before the bell and we were soaking wet and we got detention for tracking water into his classroom."
"Now take a deep breath." She obeyed. "Better?"
Hermione nodded. "But how-?"
'You were having a panic attack. I used to get them all the time last year. I figured out that if you find one person and focus on everything you know about them, it helps take you out of your own head."
Hermione looked as though she was about to cry, but instead threw herself onto the toilet for round two. Harry grabbed her hair again and waited patiently for her to be finished.
“Thanks,” she grunted as she leaned against the tub.
“What’s going on?”
“I’m just thinking too much.”
“Is this the first time?” he questioned.
Harry sighed. Hermione’s face dropped and she returned to the bowl. As Harry took her hair in his hands, he wondered what she was puking up. She hadn’t eaten anything but a slice of toast for breakfast and she stayed in her room during lunch and dinner.
When round three was finished, Hermione stayed draped over the toilet.
“Is it done?” Harry asked cautiously.
“I don’t know, doesn’t feel like it. You don’t have to sit here with me, Harry,” she said, her voice magnified by the basin.
“You know saying those things only makes me want to stay more.”
Harry sprinted back to the room and grabbed her pillow and a fleece throw blanket from the closet. He situated himself against the cabinet under the sink and laid her pillow on his lap. Harry patted the pillow and told her to lie down. She obeyed and plopped down, bundling herself up in the blanket.
He rubbed her back and asked her if she was okay. And for the first time, she said no.
I feel like this chapter was sort of all over the place (and I have some oddly-place horizontal lines? I don’t know), but I hope you enjoy it anyway! I spent days on this, writing and deleting and rewriting, just for you guys <3