Chapter 1 : Greed
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Summary: he was indestructible—or so at least he thought he was, all up until that one penultimate moment where she left.
Not always sure what things called sins may be,
I am sure of one sin I have done.
- Robert P. Tristram Coffin
People had always called me selfless—a hero, and in many ways I had been only too glad to fully embrace that role, taking it upon myself with as much fervor as I could. It was an easy one to take on, one that I wasn’t particularly proud of having so easily embraced, but I liked it—it was safe. For once, I felt assured that no matter what went wrong I had that safety net that I could always rely on.
I hadn’t always been like that; I had once been just a shy, humble, simple bloke. Back then I just wanted to do what I could to save those that had been kind enough to find a way to love me like no one ever had before. Sadly, however, I found that that charmingly modest guy seemingly disappeared after the war, even after that, though, people didn’t seem to notice.
I didn’t realize what was happening to me, who I was becoming, all I knew was that I was indestructible, and I liked it.
“Hey you, haven’t seen you in quite a while,” he greeted her with a grin as he took a seat by her at the table, joining her in watching the Ron and Luna make their way around the dance floor in their newlywed state of “eternal” bliss—the one that, Harry noted, miraculously left with the end of the honeymoon.
“Hi,” she monotonously said, never taking her eyes off the couple to even so much as look at him, something that bothered him more than he’d ever care to admit.
“They look happy.”
She sighed. “Please don’t say that joke about the honeymoon again, I’ve heard it way too many times, really, far too many people repeat that one,” she told him, rolling her eyes as she spoke.
Harry grinned. “People were repeating it?”
She finally turned to him with a tired look, one of so much aggravation and annoyance—one that he hadn’t ever seen on her face, even when she had to help a useless Ron and him with homework back in Hogwarts. It was shocking and rather disturbing, to say the least. “Yes, congratulations, Harry,” she sarcastically quipped before getting up off the chair and heading off towards the gardens, leaving a baffled Harry in her wake.
It started out that way, her slowly becoming more and more aggravated by me, fully dismissing me more often than not. It all left me utterly befuddled, where was the Hermione that I knew and loved—the one that would stand by my side regardless of whatever happened? Where had that loyalty gone?
“How long do you plan on just going on like this?” he yelled after her as he joined her in the garden where she was just blankly staring at the stars, totally ignoring the entire wedding party and the loud celebration going on behind her.
“And what am I doing that’s so horrible?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow at him, almost challenging him with that single, simple, action.
“Why can’t you just be happy for them? What’s the point in staring at them with that bloody, pathetic, forlorn look on your face?!”
Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she regarded him with a look of total, uncharacteristic, puzzlement. “Pardon me, but who the hell do you think you are to say that to me you bloody arse?!”
“Oh don’t act as if it’s not true Hermione, look at you, staring at them like that; you look like a spiteful hag that’s going to grow to be a forty year old virgin with only twenty cats to keep her company.”
She slapped him, an action that took them both by surprise—she was never a particularly violent person, ever, a fact that only amplified the fact that she had just hit him. “Where do you get off saying things like that to me, as if you know anything about me?” she spat at him angrily.
“I’m your best friend Hermione-”
At those words, however, she let out a loud scoff followed by a rather unladylike snort—one that she didn’t appear to be the slightest bit ashamed of in her spiteful state.
“What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?”
“We’re best friends?” she asked him with a look of total disbelief, her words dripping with doubt.
“Yes, we are; what do you mean with that comment, anyway?” he huffily asked her.
She shook her head slightly, chuckling to herself spitefully. “We are not friends; in fact, I would never allow myself to be mates with someone like you.”
“Really? So I take it that that selective memory of yours somehow made you forget the fact that we’ve been mates since we were eleven,” he sarcastically quipped, trying to ignore the growing stab of pain in his heart as the weight of her words hit him full force.
“No, no, I haven’t forgotten that, but I’m not about to delude myself into thinking that you and that boy who I would have done anything for are the same person—I won’t lie to myself like that, I’ll leave that one for everyone else,” she shrieked, before turning around and stalking further into the garden, anything to get away from him.
He ran after her, grabbing her arm to pull her back to him and force her to look at him, he’d be damned if he let her have the last word again. “What is that supposed to mean?” he growled.
“Look at yourself Potter,” she spat at him, her tone almost acidic as she spoke.
He winced at that one word; the fact that she had actually called him by his surname scared him. She’d never believed in that sort of a thing—said it was far too cold to ever be deemed a dignified thing to refer to someone by unless they were a teacher, where she only did it because it was accepted, and that little “professor” before the name always helped ease her nerves about it. In fact, what scared him most was that dreadful knowledge that the only people she had ever referred to by their last names were Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle—and maybe a few other people that had referred to her as a mudblood over the years. The fact that he was now on the same level as them in her eyes terrified him more so than hecared to admit… to anyone, much less so himself.
That fact, however, didn’t translate so well in his response when he hostilely asked “what about me?”
“You’ve become nothing more than a narcissistic pillock who cares for nothing more than his pretty little face and name, and what it can get him next. You’ve become a greedy bastard who’ll never find anyone good enough, anyone that you’ll love enough to consider to be at the same level as the one that you hold yourself at!” she yelled at him, shocking him by how she could say that all in one breath without even breaking a sweat.
“That’s not fair,” he dangerously whispered as his grip on her arm tightened.
“No, it’s not fair that I have to watch someone that I once loved become this,” she sneered as she wrenched her arm away from his and disapparated.
It was just so easy to take on that title as the boy who had not only lived, but conquered.
It was so easy to become that image of who everyone thought he was—the hero.
After the war I had found myself lost, I didn’t know who I was, what I was, or where to go anymore—in so many ways that entire ordeal defined not only who I was, but where I was going. It gave me purpose; it was always that elusive goal that I was fighting for my entire life, but when it all ended I found that I didn’t know what came next, where to go.
It was just so much easier to be what they wanted, who they wanted—it gave me some direction in the abyss of copious daunting opportunities and choices that I had found myself accosted by. What I didn’t expect, however, was how much I’d enjoy it. Living it up, being a kid in an adult’s body—who also, admittedly, did some things that a kid should really just never do…
He didn’t talk to her for a month after wedding, having decided to let her cool down for two days or so after the argument. He had been shocked, however, to find what a grave mistake he had made by doing so when he learned that she had left for a business trip of some sorts to Chernobyl to open up a recently funded orphanage.
“Why are you here?” she tiredly asked him when she walked up to the door to her townhouse only to see him leaning against the door.
“I convinced your secretary to tell me when you’d be back,” he sheepishly admitted with a grin.
She rolled her eyes with a distinct look of disdain. “Figures, Harry Potter uses his name yet again to get what he wants—or, wait, was it your manly wiles this time?”
He held back whatever retort he may have had, knowing that he was no match for Hermione’s temper—his ego could admit that much at least, especially when acknowledging the fact that “little Harry” would undoubtedly be injured in any fight against her. She always was a spit fire.
“It was a mix of both,” he sheepishly admitted.
She didn’t say anything, merely bypassing him and unlocking the door, letting herself in as she left it open for him to follow—leaving it totally up to him. The fact that she didn’t even care to look back to see whether or not he had followed hurt him more than he could imagine.
She didn’t care whether he came or went, not anymore.
“What you said, at the wedding, what did you mean by that?” he asked her as he watched her ignore him while she unpacked her suitcase and placed her things in their respective places.
“I meant what I said,” she monotonously responded.
It was a short and cutting reply that didn’t do much to soothe his ego or growing aggravation over her accusation. “And what the hell is that Hermione? I mean who are you to judge me like that?” he asked her, the provocation in his tone betraying the whole ‘calm, collected, and reserved’ persona he’d been hoping to achieve.
“I’m the only person that has the guts to tell you—I’m the only person who sees who you’ve become,” she told him with a noticeable connotation of bitterness and grief.
He scoffed. “And what is it that I’ve become?”
She sighed as she stopped fiddling with her suitcase, instead opting to take a seat on her bed, cradling her head in her hands as she massaged her temples. “Why does it matter anymore?”
“You’re not a bloody bint or anything Hermione; you very well know why it matters.”
“No,” she admitted with a frown. “I don’t, not anymore.”
He paused, unsure as to what to say in response to such a defeated comment, something that he had never expected to hear from her. He took a seat on the bed next to her, both staring at the TV in front of them, looking at their reflection as they analyzed the other, neither wanting to look the other in the eye, yet neither could help but give into their curiosity in some form or another.
“Do you really think I’ve changed?” he asked her quietly.
“You mean apart from the fact that you act like a total tosser?”
A small smile tugged on his lips slightly as he heard that response, classicHermione. “Why don’t you consider us mates anymore?”
“I can’t be that for you anymore Harry; too much time has gone by, too much has changed.”
“So that’s it, you give up, just like that?”
“No, I let go. You should leave Harry.”
“Please, just go,” she told him, her eyes pleading, the one thing that he had always been his weak point. Those bloody eyes—Merlin, they were the most expressive curse he had ever come across.
“I never wanted to hurt you,” he told her, kissing her forehead before disapparating.
She stood stoically, rooted in her place, as she stared at the place where he had just been before letting out a chocked and tearful “I know.”
Admittedly Ginny had loved me for being “the boy who lived,” and she was the one that helped me embrace the lifestyle that came with that title, but, with time, I had found that it wasn’t too bad of a life to lead. It kept my mind off of what came next, work wise—life wise, and it was fun, I was finally enjoying life, living it to the fullest just as everyone had said I deserved to.
“Stop following me,” she sternly ordered him when he showed up at her office a week later.
“I thought that you of all people would respect my perseverance and tenacity Hermione,” he retorted with a distinct bite to his words.
“Not when it’s just because you’re a greedy bastard,” she bluntly told him.
His eyebrows shot up at the shock of hearing what she had so tactlessly admitted to him. “What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“It means exactly what I’ve been telling you for the past year Harry, what you’ve only started to pay an inkling of attention to a month ago.”
He let out a groan, it was always the same thing with her, she never let anything go. “Well, obviously, you haven’t made it clear enough for me to understand!”
“Or you’re just too thickheaded to try. I’m done Harry, I won’t be the one to explain it to you, far too much energy has been wasted on you—it’s a hopeless cause and I’ve come to terms with that, this is me letting go, allow me to do that much, at least.”
Next thing he knew she was slamming the door to her office in his face.
And she even managed to break his nose in the process—she always was a spitfire.
There was a time when my life was easy, when I had a plan. I had been so sure that after the war the world would be my playground—or whatever other cliché applied—but it wasn’t like that. Instead life went, death came, and depression soon followed.
After the war, it was all supposed to be better, but somehow, for me, everything was even more mucked up than ever before. Watching how many deaths had to be commemorated, how many people had lost a loved one—it all made him sick, it made me feel guilty, yet somehow, despite it all, I was still a hero.
And that persona… that one was a far simpler one to take on, it came with far less guilt attached to it, it was easier to live with on a daily basis… and I—I just wanted easy for once in my life.
I just never expected easy to be so damn destructive.
“You know what, I tried, I really tried to be the understanding comrade who listens to what you have to say because you’ve always been honest with me, but who the bloody hell are you to make heinous accusations like those?!” he asked with a glare as he approached her at her apartment the next morning, when he was sure her wards—both physical and mental—would be down.
“Who the hell have you become?” she retorted, challenging him as she stood her ground before him, staring him straight in the eyes. “The Harry I knew would never have been attracted to all this nonsense. In fact, the Harry I knew—the Harry that I loved—would have been disgusted by all of these ‘posh’ distractions-”
“I’d say that they’re a hell of a lot more than just distract-”
“No, no they’re not. You know there was a time when I would have said that you deserved it all, everything that the world had to offer, but if this is what you want—if this is who that turns you into, then you’re a far weaker man than I ever realized.”
“That’s not fair; you can’t just go around acting all holier than thou, not after everything I’ve gone through. I deserve some peace, some fun,” he defended.
“But when does it end Harry?” she asked him desperately. “All of it—the favors, the tickets to whatever game or show you want to see, all of it—is there a limit, a point, at which the self-serving prat in you is finally sated?”
It was at that moment that, for the first time, he realized what a sad thing it was to finally lose. He sighed dejectedly as he turned to walk down the steps. As he reached the last step, however, he turned to Hermione, who was staring at him in confusion—struck by the fact that he had given up so easily. “That’s all I’m trying to get—to feel. All I want is to be sated… to feel whole,” he told her before turning back to leave.
I’d like to say that it was just about wanting life to finally be easy—to finally be more, but, ultimately, it wasn’t like that.
In the beginning it had started off as just a search—a desperate, feeble attempt to find myself amidst all the chaos and loss that came with the end of the war. In the end, however, it was just fun, and it was easy—it was everything that I had ever hoped for.
What I didn’t expect, though, was the possibility that it might not be enough. That thought never actually crossed my mind until that moment.
When she walked into the Three Broomsticks and took his drink from him, chugging the entire glass of fire whiskey—much to his, understandable, astonishment, he realized that that was the first time in a year and a half that she had actually sought him out. When struck by the unsettling cognizance he couldn’t help but wonder how they’d gotten there. How had it come to the point that they only ever really spoke to one another when at the, albeit frequent, social gatherings put on by friends?
And, more importantly, how had he not realized it sooner?
They sat in an awkward silence until she finally broke it. “You want hear a funny story?” she asked.
He turned to her, finally looking at her—really looking at her. He noticed how her hands were trembling, how she was a biting on her lip nervously, how she held onto her glass with a vice grip that, honestly, frightened him.
She was scared.
He smiled at her warmly, hoping to ease her nerves a bit—it really didn’t help if the person with the power in the situation was anxious as well. “Sure, I’m always up for a good laugh.”
“I don’t know why I took your drink from you like that—I mean, usually, I have at least enough patience to wait for the bartender to make me a new one. But… with you— with you, I don’t know, I’m pretty sure with you it’s different because I have to have a drink in my hand… it probably has to do with the fact that alcohol tends to make me forget that you’re an arse… And that I was in love with you anyway.”
He chocked slightly—a rather pathetic phenomenon given that he wasn’t easting or drinking anything at the times. “Pardon?”
“I was in love with you,” she slowly repeated, desperately avoiding his eyes as she made the admission. “It was all rather pathetic actually, but I loved you nonetheless,” she admitted with a sad—forced—smile, all the while appearing as if she was going to burst out in tears in any moment. It was a picture that pulled on his heartstrings with vehemence.
She shook her head slightly. “Don’t—don’t look at me like that. I was okay with the fact that you didn’t hold me in the same regard; I’d really come to terms with that fact actually. But watching you become this—I just couldn’t stand for that, it was disgusting. For three years I watched that greed manifest and it killed me more with each day. You wanted it all and held absolutely no respect for any of it anymore.”
She let out a sigh, keeping her eyes trained on the bar as she fiddled with her glass anxiously. “I fell out of love with you two and a half years ago because of that, and then, one and a half years later, I couldn’t even bear to be around you anymore. So there, that’s why—that’s why I said what I said.”
“I’m sorry,” he told her, for lack of anything better to say to that profound admission.
“Is it… really?”
She let out a deep breath, pausing before shaking her head. “No, not really; I just really want it to be,” her voice broke slightly as she told him so, giving him a sad feeble smile as she spoke.
“It’s all just become so discombobulated, hasn’t it?”
She chuckled lightly at hearing the deep description Harry gave their relationship. “That about sums it up… Harry, this is going to have to be goodbye for me. I just… I want it—I need it to end on a good note for us, and given the way that everything’s been happening I think that this is the only way I can leave with memories of the good. Too many bad things have transpired between us for the past three years for us to just keep on going like this—I want this to be the out, the last memory, a good one to commemorate our friendship,” she told him clapping a dumbfounded Harry on the back as she left. And he—he was in too great of a state of shock to even have a chance to protest.
There was a time when she called me a narcissistic pillock just for the fun of it. It was a light teasing that I had always adored, but never actually acknowledged because, honestly, it takes all the fun of it when you admit to enjoying it. And so, I secretly relished those moments, taking a particular joy in the fact that she was comfortable enough around me to show that side of herself that so rarely ever came out. That ended, however, three years ago when Ginny told her that it was horribly rude and she didn’t know why she had let it go on for so long.
I didn’t argue.
I think that’s the exact moment where it all really started to go down hill. It’s always the little things, isn’t it?
“Harry, what are you doing here?” she tiredly asked him when she came home to find him pacing in front of the doorway of her townhouse.
“I didn’t want it all before,” he tactlessly blurted out.
She nodded as she slowly walked up the steps until she was standing in front of Harry. “I know.”
“I just wanted someone—to have someone love me, but then… I don’t know-”
“It’s easy to get sucked into that world,” she finished for him.
“But it’s not just that, is it? In the end none of it was even worth it. I was left with a girl who loved my name and what came with it more than me, and I lost the only person who cared enough about me to tell me what a narcissistic arse I was acting like.”
“I believe that my exact words were narcissistic pillock,” she corrected him with a small smile.
He chuckled. “Of course, how could I forget?”
They stood in a comfortable silence, each staring at—evaluating the other, both trying to figure out what was going through the other’s mind, until Hermione finally interrupted it. “Do you want to come in?”
“San we just stay out here for a while—this is the first time we’ve really talked in quite a while so I rather like this spot right now… Plus, that huge house of yours is overflowing with books so it’s a pretty dangerous place for me to be in… you know, given your violent nature and all,” he added with a small grin.
She smiled, nodding slowly. “Sure.”
They both seated themselves on opposite sides of the door, leaning on the wall as they watched the people walk by, each finding it easier to focus their attention on anything but the other.
“I was never in love with you… I mean, I did love you, but-”
“I know,” she said, effectively silencing him. “It’s sort of the curse of being the female best mate anyway. It’s okay… really,” she added under the pressure of his doubting look.
“After you said those things, three days ago, I couldn’t get them out of mind. The scene was just constantly replaying in my mind over and over again, it was as if it was somehow lodged in there and just wouldn’t let me be. But… I guess it helped me realize that I don’t want to be that bloke… I want to be someone that’s worthy of you.”
He let out a nervous breath as he ran a hand through his hairs in an attempt to soothe his nerves with some—any distraction. “You’re the only person I know that doesn’t see me as Harry Potter, you see me as the annoying wanker who can’t get his head out of his arse, and, as pathetic as it may be, I appreciate it. Even if I don’t like admitting to the fact that you may be right,” he admitted with a sheepish grin. “You’re outspoken and scary with that brilliance of yours—and don’t even get me started on how hot you look in your sexy little healer outfits.”
She sighed, rubbing her temples as she bit back a groan. “Harry, I stopped feeling that way for you long time ago, I’ve let go, I-”
“I know,” he roughly interrupted her. “But—I don’t know… I was hoping that maybe, for once, I could do something right with us—that maybe we could use that to our advantage. I wasn’t ready for you before, Hermione, I wasn’t a bloke that deserved you, I would have mucked it all up anyway. Maybe what we really needed was this, a clean slate through which we could get to know one another again.”
She nodded slowly. “Where did all of this come from?”
He smiled as he turned his head to her so he was finally looking at her. He placed a finger under her chin and turned her head so she was looking at him as well before scooting closer to her so the door was no longer acting as an invisible barrier between the two. “You’re a spitfire, Hermione, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted—needed.”
He leaned in hesitantly, but upon noticing that there was no sign of protest on her part he finally took the initiative and leaned down, capturing her lips with his own. She stiffened at first, obviously surprised by the action, even if he had—albeit silently—made his intentions very clear. Soon there after, though, she allowed herself to relax, responding to the kiss with an intense passion. When they finally pulled apart Hermione looked up at him with a quizzical look for a moment, rendered totally speechless.
Given that it was Hermione, however, that state of mind didn’t last very long. “You can’t have everything, Harry, not with me. I can’t be with a person like that. I mean, opposites attract, sure, but I’ve never gone for the self-serving prats of the world.”
He nodded with a small smile. “That’s okay; all I want is you anyway.”
“Good, and it better stay that way,” she told him, grabbing the lapels of his leather jacket to pull him towards her before crashing her lips upon his.
He pulled away with a smile, gently brushing his thumb against her cheek as he spoke. “For so long as you want it to love, that much I can promise you,” he told her before bringing her in for another kiss.
When they pulled apart for the second time he was wearing another one of those insufferable smirks, an expression that quickly caused her to groan.
He chuckled lightly, bringing a hand to her face as he caressed it lightly. “besides, you don’t have to worry, love, if I ever do act like a wanker you have full permission to hex me.”
She scoffed. “As if I ever needed your permission for that one.”