1. Mr. Granger doesn’t want to kill me. In fact, he appears to like me.
2. Furthermore, Mr. Granger seems to have joined Mrs. Granger to form “Team Parent Granger”
3. I think I just spent over ten thousand pounds on books…
4. I told Hermione that I was going to spend the next few days working on homework…and she believed me.
5. After everything that has happened, the unbelievable has occurred. Ginny was right. And that alone is why the world is coming to an end.
“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
Lying. Is that what it had been? Harry continued to ponder this as he sat on the steps. He had never really experienced this type of lying before, which sounded ridiculous, of course, but it was true nonetheless. To Harry, lying only occurred when the time necessitated it, and he had never regretted his actions (at least not too much). Had this been one of the times? True, had he told Hermione that he himself was wondering whether or not Ginny had been right, their friendship would’ve been broken, possibly beyond repair. Still, Harry couldn’t help but feel rather queasy at the though of what he had just done.
At that moment, he remembered why he had been sitting on the step, as his mouth seemed to be growing dryer by the second. He made his way downstairs, only to be greeted by a, “Harry, dear! Do come sit with us.”
Harry turned to his right, only to find Mr. and Mrs. Granger sitting together in the dining room. Harry gulped. Just what he needed – for Mrs. Granger to make him wonder even more about his relationship with Hermione, and for Mr. Granger to strangle him for doing so.
As Harry joined Hermione’s parents, Mrs. Granger smiled at him and asked, “So, what brings you down here?”
“I was thirsty,” Harry said, chancing a nervous glance at Mr. Granger, “and I was going to get a glass of water.”
“Well, I was about to make some tea. Would you mind waiting? It would only take a few minutes.”
“I don’t want to trouble you,” Harry said quickly.
“Oh don’t worry about it. I always make tea before I go off to bed. It’s chamomile. It’ll put you right to sleep.”
“Er, great,” Harry said, struggling to smile as Mrs. Granger left him alone with her spouse.
“So,” Mr. Granger said, clearing his throat. Harry couldn’t help the shocked look that appeared on his face. This was the first time he had actually addressed Harry. “Are you having a nice holiday?”
“Y-yes,” Harry stuttered. “Thank you again for having me. It’s been…” Harry searched for the words to describe his Christmas vacation thus far. “It’s been interesting.”
“Interesting?” Mr. Granger raised an eyebrow, almost threateningly. Harry decided that it’d be best to clear the air now.
“Look, Mr. Granger, I just…the thing is…” Harry felt his palms growing sweaty under Mr. Granger’s stare, and he wished more than anything for that cup of water he had wanted. “Your daughter,” he began, but then realized that referring to Hermione in such a manner sounded as if he was asking for Mr. Granger’s permission to marry her. “Hermione…she’s…she’s the most – I mean one of the most important people in my life. She’s saved my ar—life more times than I can count, and I mean…just for that alone I would rather face Voldemort— ” Harry watched as Mr. Granger looked at Harry curiously. Clearly Hermione didn’t clue her parents into the dark side of being a witch. “—er, I mean, get run over by a car than hurt her. But besides the fact that I’d have died in my first year without her, she just…she means so much to me. Because she’s one of my best friends,” Harry added quickly at Mr. Granger’s accusatory look. “And I would never ever do anything to harm her in anyway…whatsoever. I just…I couldn’t. Not to Hermione.”
There was a pregnant pause, and then Mr. Granger’s lips twitched into a smile. “How long have you loved my daughter, Harry?” he asked finally.
Harry blinked. “How long have I…? Wait, what?” Not only was Mr. Granger following in his wife footsteps, but was he actually happy about it?
“How long have you loved my daughter?” Mr. Granger repeated.
“Mr. Granger, I think you’ve misunderstood. I…I’m not…I mean…” Harry trailed off. Was he in love with Hermione?
“All right then. It’s just from the way you speak about her one would assume that you fancied her, at the very least.”
“Mr. Granger, I— ”
Mr. Granger held up a hand. “It’s none of my business. I shouldn’t have intruded in the first place. But, if you do wish to date her at one point in the future, you have my permission.” Mr. Granger’s gaze was intent now. “Over these past few days I’ve been watching you intently, and I’ve realized that if my daughter had to end up with anyone, you’re the type of boy—man I want her with. I know I’ve come off as overbearing and threatening, not to mention an overprotective, possibly murderous father, but I suppose that’s what happens when you have only one daughter.”
“It’s okay, Mr. Granger,” Harry said weakly, wondering how to address Mr. Granger’s approval for his “relationship” with Hermione. “I can understand…I think.”
“Either way, Harry, you’re not the only one to whom he’s done this,” came an amused voice. Mrs. Granger had returned with a tray, on which stood a pot of tea and three teacups.
“I-I’m not?” Harry asked uncertainly. He knew he shouldn’t continue, but he had to know. “You mean…Hermione’s brought other guys home before?” Harry waited with bated breath for the answer. He knew, somewhere deep inside, that if they said yes he was fairly certain he would die.
“Oh goodness no,” Mrs. Granger laughed, setting the tray onto the table. “You’re the first, and no surprise there.” Relieved by this news but still not sure how he felt about what Mrs. Granger was insinuating, Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “But when Hermione was dating that Viktor boy back in her fourth year, this father here was absolutely livid.” She placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “I remember how you raved every time we got a letter about him.”
“I had never met this boy and he was doing god knows what with my daughter,” Mr. Granger protested angrily.
“He wasn’t,” Harry said quickly. “Doing anything, I mean. Well, not really,” Harry added, remembering the fact that he had heard about Hermione’s snogging sessions from Ginny last year. (If they even were snogging sessions; Harry suspected that Ginny had exaggerated this fact to upset Ron. Somehow he couldn’t imagine Hermione snogging a man she had dated for only a few months, especially given the circumstances.) “He was a…er…a gentleman, from what I heard.”
“To be fair, it wasn’t until a few letters later that we realized her negative tone was due to an argument with Ron,” Mrs. Granger reasoned on her husband’s behalf. “We thought Viktor was somehow upsetting her.”
“Yeah, Ron was a bit…er…nuts at the time,” Harry confessed. “I think he fancied her, or at least thought he fancied her, and he didn’t take well to her going with Viktor. Or maybe he just didn’t take well to not even being able to get a date with a girl whom he thought was a guaranteed date.” Harry frowned. “I don’t know. Either way, he acted like a git and they had a few good arguments about her relationship with Kr-Viktor.”
“And what about you?” Mrs. Granger looked up at Harry from her tea. “I never heard any reports about you raving in Hermione’s letters. If anything, she wrote that you were supportive of it and vouched to Ron on her behalf. That you assured him Viktor didn’t have any ulterior motives.”
“Well he didn’t,” Harry shrugged. “And there really wasn’t any reason to be upset. Hermione was happy. Why shouldn’t I be? I guess,” Harry noted slowly, “I guess it didn’t really bother me because it never really was…it never was a big part of her life. I mean, from what I could tell. She didn’t talk about him, he wasn’t ever really around…he didn’t really exist, save for the ball. I think, not to sound pretentious, but I think she was more worried about, well, about me. Hermione was too busy helping me with the Triwizard Tournament to get too involved with him, I think. She, er, she told you about that, right? The Triwizard Tournament?” Harry asked, hoping he hadn’t revealed information that Hermione had kept hidden.
“Of course!” Mrs. Granger exclaimed. “We received letter after letter about how worried she was; about whether or not you’d make it out all right. How ever since your name had come out of that ‘blasted cup’ she hadn’t been sleeping well. Other than Viktor, you were the sole subject of her letters. Though, in all honesty, you were always the main topic of her letters, save for a few lines about her studies. You still are.”
“I…I am?” Harry asked, a feeling of astonishment overwhelming him.
“Oh Harry,” Mrs. Granger smiled pityingly at him. “After all these years and you still don’t get it? You’re her world.”
Harry felt as if the world was spinning around him. “I-I should be getting to bed,” he said in a rush.
“But I thought you were thirsty?” Mrs. Granger asked, pointing at the tea.
“I’ll grab a cup of water on my way up,” Harry said, and without another word, he ran back to his bedroom. He ignored his throats pleas for something with which to quench it as Mrs. Granger’s words running through his head. You’re her world. Harry swallowed as he felt his pulse race. You’re her world.
Harry finally flung himself onto his bed, his chest rising up and down with every breath he took. Was he really that important to her? Could it even be possible? This knowledge had somehow made Harry realize that there was no use avoiding it: at the very least he knew he fancied Hermione. Although Mrs. Granger’s words had invoked panic within him, they had also invoked hope – hope he knew wouldn’t have existed had she been another Ron. But the fact of the matter remained that Harry could just be important to her because he was her best friend. Yes, he was fully aware that Ron was best friends with her, too. But Harry knew that, somehow, he had always been her closer friend, even when Harry was still choosing Ron over Hermione. Most likely because Ron made it a habit to fight with Hermione, and Harry often times found himself in the middle, or, as it had happened in recent years, defending her.
And what was he to do with this realization? He couldn’t just go up to Hermione and say, “Hey, Merry Christmas! Oh, and by the way, I think I fancy you. So, what’d you get this year?” It didn’t work like that, especially when the girl to whom you were confessing was one of your best friends of nearly seven years.
“If I tell her, it could ruin everything,” Harry said to himself. And Harry knew, no matter how hard it would be watching Hermione date others, he would rather watch as she married countless other men than live without her because his confession had destroyed their friendship.
Christmas Day finally dawned, bright and early…very early. Harry had spent the last few days cooped up in his room, under the pretence of wanting to finish his winter homework. Hermione had blinked in surprise, and Harry was certain that she was going to call him out on this egregious lie, but she instead took the opportunity to finally finish her work, as well as start on the next term’s workload.
Unbeknownst to Harry, Hermione had let out a sigh of relief when she learned that Harry wished to take on a short life as a recluse. So relieved that she never realized that Harry would never do such a thing as actually complete his assignment in advance (or rather advance in the minds of Harry and Ron). All Hermione knew was that if she wanted any chance of convincing herself of the “act as if we’re in love but we’re not” statement, she needed to distance herself from Harry for a few days. Her room also underwent a small change, as she took down all photographs and turned down every picture frame. She didn’t need visual reminders of what could be if she weren’t so stubborn.
Harry spent the few days listing the pros and cons of admitting his feelings for Hermione, and every time the con side seemed to win (although this was most likely due to reasons such as, “Might upset Ron,” or, “Too early to date after breaking up with Ginny. She’ll probably get upset,” which were obviously not an issue). Hermione, on the other hand, actually completed her work, rather than create useless lists.
On the day before Christmas, however, the two had no choice but to spend some time together. As he was yet to buy anything for Hermione or her parents, Harry joined Hermione for Christmas shopping in central muggle London and Diagon Alley (where Harry exchanged his galleons for pounds). Getting gifts for Ron and Ginny had been easy. He bought Ron a book on the Cannons and Ginny a book on Quidditch in general. Hermione, on the other hand…what was there left to get? She already had all of the textbooks she could possibly need, and she wasn’t interest in Quidditch… He had considered buying her a book on the history of rights for magical creatures, but decided against it when he scanned the book and realized that, in most cases, the results were not very enthusing.
Harry found himself perusing a muggle bookshop. He had left Hermione in Diagon Alley after failing to find anything suitable. He had already bought a rather nice tie for Mr. Granger and a scarf for Mrs. Granger, and now he was hoping beyond hope that this bookshop would be the answer to his prayers.
It wasn’t until he had reached the back of the bookshop that he noticed a dusty collection of books. Curious, he dusted off the spines. He recognized the titles, as Hermione owned every single one of these novels. He had spied them on her bookshelf, tattered from being read many times over: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, All Quiet on the Western Front, Crime and Punishment, and Emma (which had been the most battered, its spine almost split in two).
The owner of the bookshop walked over to Harry and smiled at him. “You’re interested in the classics, are you?” she asked.
“No, well, my friend is,” Harry replied. “She adores them. At least I think she does…” The owner raised an eyebrow. “They look as if they’re falling apart. That means she likes them, doesn’t it?”
“Either that or she just doesn’t take care of her books,” the owner laughed.
“Hermione? Never,” Harry said, shaking his head.
“Well, these are original printings,” the owner told Harry, taking down Pride and Prejudice and opening it to reveal the copyright page. “See right here? Copyright date 1813, and not another after that. If your friend loves books as much as you say she does, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
“I’ll buy all five,” Harry said immediately. The owner’s eyes widened.
“This won’t come cheap,” she cautioned. “Original editions…they’re worth quite a fortune. It’s why we still have these around.”
“It’s fine,” Harry assured her. “Whatever the cost is, I’ll pay it.” And before he could think twice, he found himself remarking, “She’s worth it.”
“It certainly appears so,” the owner replied, as she took down the four other novels.
He had, of course, also spent his meals with her, but usually he remained quiet while the Grangers discussed among themselves, only providing a one-word answer when addressed by either Mr. or Mrs. Granger. Hermione seemed content with not interacting with Harry, and although Harry was a bit relieved by not having to make up more excuses, he couldn’t help but be bothered by this. Had he done something wrong?
Christmas Eve, Harry joined in with the Granger’s annual decorating of the tree, knowing to refuse their invitation would be incredibly rude after all they had done for him. His hand had brushed up against Hermione’s while hanging an ornament, and he had blushed and muttered an apology before rushing away to the other side. He hadn’t noticed Hermione’s face turning just as red as his. Hermione’s mother had, however, and she had smiled softly to herself.
And so Christmas day had finally arrived, and Harry was awoken by the sound of the doorbell ringing and Mrs. Granger’s voice, which somehow carried up to the third floor, exclaiming, “Why Anna! You weren’t supposed to be here for another two hours!”
“I know, I know,” came another woman’s voice, just as loud as Mrs. Granger’s. “But Andrew insisted on beating the traffic, so we left early. Of course the streets were empty. Come on girls; get inside before you catch cold. I hope we aren’t inconveniencing you, Lizzie. I’m just always up so early whenever I have guests, I figured you would be, too.” Anna laughed, and Harry knew this must be the Aunt Hermione had talked about only a few days earlier. Even from his room he could feel the tension between the two sisters.
“You know me, Anna,” replied Mrs. Granger, her voice slightly colder. “Hermione and Harry, her friend, aren’t up yet, however, seeing as it’s only seven and they’re teen-agers, but I’ll go get them now.” Harry heard the door closed and feet against the stairs. Once Mrs. Granger reached his floor, he jumped out of bed and stuck his head outside the door. “No need, Mrs. Granger,” he called to her. “I’m up. I’ll be down as soon as I’m dressed.”
“I’m up as well, mum,” Hermione said, walking out of her bedroom, clad in her pyjamas and robe. She stretched her arms above her head. “The doorbell was a lovely wake up call. Can you please tell Aunt Anna that as much as I love her and find the competition between the two of you eternally entertaining, this has simply gotten ridiculous? Last year was bad enough, what with bringing a separate car of food to show off her culinary skills, but getting Mona and Lia up at five in order to show you up is irrational and can’t be good for their sleeping patterns.”
“Hermione,” Mrs. Granger warned. “Don’t make a scene on Christmas.”
“I’m not making a scene,” Hermione insisted. “I’m serious. You two act as if you’re children and it’s very inconvenient for us actual children.”
Mrs. Granger scrunched up her nose. “If anyone acts like a child it’s Anna.” Hermione suppressed a snort. “Now get downstairs. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes, and the girls are dying to see you.”
“Just let me get this thing people tell me is hair under control,” Hermione muttered as her mother went back downstairs. Harry couldn’t help but laugh, and Hermione grinned in return. Harry felt better than he had in a few days, as did Hermione. Maybe they didn’t need to avoid one another in order to stop themselves from saying something stupid. Maybe, just maybe, they could continue being friends as they always did, without this “relationship” thing getting in the way.
“I’m just going to pull it up, actually,” Hermione said as she walked back into her room, signalling Harry to follow her. She didn’t like the idea of forcing him to wait outside or having him face her relatives on his own. “Brushing it is useless when it’s not wet. Just makes it bushy…well, more bushy.” She grabbed a brush and hair tie and somehow succeeded in pulling her hair into a messy ponytail. “Ah well,” she said, looking from the mirror to Harry. “Could be worse, I suppose.”
“I like it,” Harry offered, and Hermione thanked him, all the while thanking Merlin for not making her blush at such a frivolous comment.
“Let’s head down,” Hermione said quickly.
“But, my clothes…” Harry looked down at his own pyjamas.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hermione said with a wave of her hand. “It’s Christmas. I’m always in pyjamas. Even if everyone else isn’t, it doesn’t matter.”
“All right then,” Harry said, and he followed her downstairs, where a room full of people related to Mrs. Granger awaited. In other words, for someone such as Harry who wanted nothing more than to keep the topic off his relationship with Hermione, he was entering Hell.