A/N Nope, not mine. All belong to JK Rowling. Only the pumpkin pie is mine.
Harry found himself at the Burrow before he really had time to think. His head was still swimming from his conversation with Hermione and he just needed to get away from her face. He wasn't sure why he had wanted to come here, except that this was the one place where he had always felt safe. Still, standing here at the top of the hill looking down on the house he felt foolish. What on earth would he say if he went in? He turned his back on the house and began wandering in the trees. He needed to clear his head and try to make sense of things.
Harry felt a pang of guilt when he thought of Hermione back at his apartment. He hadn’t said a word when he left, but he had to get out of there. He had felt like he couldn't breathe. Even now out in open air he couldn't get Hermione’s voice out of his mind. Images kept forcing their way into his mind, unbidden. The thought of Malfoy touching his Hermione like that... Harry shuddered involuntarily.
He wanted to kill Malfoy.
At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to find him and hex his stupid ferret face off, but he had no idea where to begin. Shortly after Voldemort’s defeat he had disappeared. As far as anyone in the order knew he had left the country. They had assumed at the time he had gone into hiding from the Death Eaters, all of whom now knew he had betrayed them in the final battle. Harry felt a fresh wave of guilt. He remembered how upset Hermione had been when Malfoy had left town . It had irritated him. He had been annoyed that she would be upset about the stupid ferret. How could he have been so stupid? So blind? Why hadn’t he asked her what was the matter?
Harry stopped short. He was so overwhelmed with anger he couldn’t even keep walking. He was trying to fight the images that forced their way into his mind but they played again and again. Harry did the only thing he could think of. He screamed at the top of his lungs, and began punching a nearby tree. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a sore throat and bleeding knuckles. He couldn’t help thinking about what Hermione had told him. How Malfoy had said he was doing this because of him. Somehow, yet again, someone he loved had been hurt because of him. Harry thought he would be sick, and he leaned against the tree trunk to steady himself.
“ I wonder how Potty will feel when he finds out I got here first.“ The words seemed to taunt him. He thought of sweet little Amelia, and wondered if he would ever look at her the same way again. Now that he knew she was a result of what Malfoy had done to Hermione, not his best friend’s little girl.
Harry gave himself a mental kick for allowing the thought into his mind.
“She is still my best friend’s little girl.” He said the phrase out loud, still hating himself for ever thinking anything else. Whatever had happened, he loved that little girl. She couldn’t be held to blame for what Malfoy had done. He wondered if it was hard for Hermione. If she ever looked at Amelia with her sleek blonde hair and saw Malfoy. He had the sudden urge to see Hermione, to ask her questions, but he was afraid.
“She must be angry at me for the way I left,” he thought to himself. He had apparated away without a word, but he had needed to get out of there. He couldn't even look at her in that moment, because he had no idea what to say. He found himself wondering how the day could have gone so horribly wrong. After last night, he felt like things were right for the first time in ages. No more pretending not to be jealous of Ron. No more wondering why it bothered him so much to think of him with Hermione in that way. After all these years, he had finally understood. Harry felt sick again. Why hadn’t he realized sooner? Now he had told her that he loved her, but instead of being happy he was wandering in the woods trying not to cry. He wondered where Hermione was.
“She probably got out of there as fast as she could,” he grouched at a nearby squirrel. “Can’t say I blame her. Why would she want to hang ‘round with an idiot like me?” The squirrel only shook its tail at him and squeaked in a rather condescending manner before climbing higher in the tree. “Great. Even the squirrels are judging me.” Harry sighed and sat down to think.
She had said that she loved him, too, but did she still? Or was that a distant memory now? Harry suddenly wanted to see her more than anything else in the world; To take her in his arms and promise her that nothing had changed. He wanted to tell her he had meant every word he said, and that nothing ever would change how he felt about her. Harry only hoped is wasn’t too late. He had been a fool for far too long. It was time to go home and face the music.
He took a deep breath, focused his mind and apparated home.
It took a few moments for Harry's eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness in his apartment, then he began searching for Hermione. For some reason he was almost afraid to call out her name, as though his voice would shatter the peace that seemed to have settled over the flat in his absence. For a few frantic minutes he thought she wasn’t there, but then his eyes found her.
She was in the kitchen where he had left her. She seemed to have sunk to the floor, where she remained slumped against the wall. If Harry had had to guess he would have said that she had cried herself to sleep. Her eyes were swollen horribly, and even in the dim light he could see the tear tracks on her face. His heart broke a bit just looking at her. He watched her for a minutes or two, just taking in how beautiful she was. He couldn’t believe it had taken him so long to piece it together. He felt like the world's biggest fool.
He had always thought Hermione was an attractive girl. “Well, at least since fourth year,” he admitted to himself grudgingly. But attractive was one thing and being attracted to her was another, and Harry had somehow convinced himself that he wasn’t attracted to Hermione in that way. He wondered yet again how he could have been so stupid. Partly, it had been Ron, and fear that he would hurt his friend by stealing his girl, but if he was honest with himself it had had more to do with fear. Fear that she wouldn’t return his feelings, and fear that Voldemort would somehow use them against him if they were ever known. He had held his own heart at bay in some misuided attempt to protect her, and the whole thing had blown up in his face anyway.
It was odd how time could make a fool of you and your good intentions.
As Harry was staring at her, Hermione’s eyes fluttered open. She looked confused for a moment and then her eyes seemed to swim with unshed tears. Harry felt like his heart would break as he gathered her into his arms. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck almost as thought she were afraid to let go. He lifted her gently and began to walk away from the kitchen.
“Where are we going?” she whispered softly. Harry was pained to hear the fear in her voice.
“It’s late,” he said by way of answer. He was afraid to say the wrong thing, so he felt it was best to keep his replies short for the time being.
“I know that,” she muttered back, with a touch of irritation. Harry sighed heavily and sat her down to look at her.
“I’m sorry, Hermione. I was just going to put you to bed. You seemed so tired,” he finished somewhat lamely. “I just though it would be---”
“Easier for you?” she queried, cutting him off. “Sorry, Harry, not this time. You left me here all day and you think you can wander back hours later and tuck me in like a good little girl without so much as a word? Not going to happen. You owe me more than that. You owe me an explanation, an apology, anything. Yell at me. Call me a whore!” She was becoming hysterical now. “I don’t care what you say, but you had damn well better say something.” She stopped her tirade when she saw the tears in Harry’s eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, his voice thick with unshed tears. “Hermione, I owe you a lot of things, and I intend to repay them all. Apologies, explanations, and reparations; will all be made, but let me start here.”