Chapter 2 : A Life Put in Retrospect
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“The Past - the dark unfathomed retrospect!
The teeming gulf -the sleepers and the shadows! The past!
The infinite greatness of the past!
For what is the present after all but a growth out of the past?”
Ron groaned at the sound of a fist pounding against his front door. Her groaned as he heaved his body off of the chesterfield that he was lying on while watching the telly box that his father had had installed in his flat as a housewarming gift.
“Damn fucker,” he muttered, cursing whoever stood on the opposite side of that door, interrupting a peaceful moment of bumming and helping himself to overwhelming heaps of fried chicken legs. It was simply the sort of religious moment that no one should impede.
“What?!” he snapped as he whipped the door open.
“Hey,” Harry murmured, sheepishly standing at the doorway with his hands stuffed into his pockets and back slouched.
Ron’s brow furrowed as he sent Harry a look of utter puzzlement. “What the hell are you doing here? This is my day off, come on,” he groaned, pouting a bit as he spoke.
Harry merely rolled his eyes in reply. “Don’t be an idiot. It’s important.”
“What is it?” Ron begrudgingly asked.
“Is Hermione here?”
Ron frowned, cocking his head to the side. “Why the hell would she be here? She lives with you, you dolt!” he pointed out, albeit unnecessarily.
If possible, Harry's shoulders drooped even lower his posture a mess that would give Molly a fit. “So she’s not here then?”
“No,” Ron shook his head. “What the hell is this about?”
Harry sighed, scratching his neck as he forced his body to straighten. “Hermione and I got into a fight… she walked out,” Harry admitted. “It was a big one so I thought I’d give her some space, but, Ron… now it’s been three days and no one knows where the hell she is.”
Ron’s eyes bulged and he immediately ushered Harry in, deciding that it might be necessary to forgo his ritual bum day. “So… what? She’s disappeared then?”
Harry looked at him, totally helplessly as he seated himself on the chesterfield. Ron, in contrast, paced before him and the telly.
“Fuck,” Ron whispered when Harry finally, reluctantly nodded.
“I know,” Harry admitted. “I… it was a huge fight,” Harry announced. “We both said some things that we probably shouldn’t have,” Harry explained as he ran a hand through his hair. “We broke up. She walked out, without anything, but her wallet. I’ve been everywhere, Ron, I don’t now where else to go.”
“But why am I the last one to find out about this?” Ron snapped at him.
“I figured she wouldn’t be here since it’s the most obvious place and easiest one for me to check,” Harry admitted. “What am I supposed to do, Ron?”
“Merlin, you’ve really gotten yourself into a right royal fuck of a mess, haven’t you?” he asked, rhetorically.
“Yeah,” Harry nodded. “I know I should trust her, Ron, but it’s not exactly as if I don’t have enemies out there. I’m a fucking auror and her boyfriend, she’s an easy target,” Harry noted, his hands flailing as he ranted. “I shouldn’t have let her go, I should have made sure that she had—
“Calm down,” Ron snapped. “Don’t make this about you right now,” he ordered.
“What are you talking about? I’m not—”
“Yes you are,” Ron halted him midsentence for the second time. “Hermione might be hurt and you’re talking about what you could have done to prevent it. You’re a fucking auror; you know that there isn’t time for that shite. Seriously, Harry, what are you gonna do now?”
“I’m going to call in a few interns, set them up on this job. Hopefully I can avoid having the head of the department find out since it’s the weekend,” Harry supplied. “I’m thinking I’ll run a credit check, have them run checks on a few more places I guess are possibilities.”
“Okay,” Ron nodded. “Let me just change and I’ll head out with you.”
“You don’t have—”
“She’s my best friend, Harry, so yes I do,” he cut in. “You make that call while I change and then we’ll head out.”
“He… he was my everything. It’s pathetic, I realize that now, but, nonetheless, that’s the truth,” she spoke. She wasn’t sure where the words were really coming from, but from the second she sat in the chair, downed that potion and allowed herself to be strapped down she found herself reiterating every memory, every feeling she had about Harry and all she could say was that it hurt like a bitch.
“From the second I saw him, I loved him, maybe not in the romantic sense, but surely in a platonic one. It’s odd, I know, but I could see a partner in him, solace… oasis. I looked at him and immediately just saw someone that I knew I would be able to connect with on a wholly different plane and it thrilled and scared me all at once. It was brilliant really, a once in a lifetime feeling to be sure.”
She sighed, pausing for a second before beginning again. “But he didn’t quite seem to reciprocate that little epiphany—he nor Ron, come to think of it. It actually took guilt and anger to get them to really notice me. It was Ron’s belated guilt over having made me cry, which inadvertently put me in danger, and Harry’s anger over Ron’s cruelty… and the repercussions of it that forced them to finally see me. After that they seemed to accept me… but, at times, I still can't help but wonder what would have happened had that giant never come… had—had they never seen what those taunts could do to a person…”
“You think they wouldn’t have been your friends were it not for that twist of fate?” she heard an anonymous voice ask her. She had no clue where it came from, but it just seemed to act as a cloud over the memories she was reliving in retrospect. It appeared to guide her from memory to memory.
“No…” she wanted to shake her head, tried to, but couldn’t. It was a shocking revelation, that loss of control over something so basic as her own body. That inaction seemed to cement the reality of the situation for her.
She forced herself to continue replying. “I think they would have gone on ignoring me save for when they needed help with homework, maybe…”
“Mhm,” the voice hummed.
She had never thought that a simple hum could hold such clout until that very moment.
“I was the bookworm of the lot and for some time I even honestly thought I was content with that title. I mean the fact that I was useful in that respect was undeniable; I’d been saving their hopeless arses from first year and on with the help of my books. Yet, in the end, it just wasn’t enough. Despite how hard I worked for my intellect I hated that that’s all I’d ever be recognized for. People noted Ron and Harry’s bravery, but never mine. It was as if I didn’t exist, and at that time I never expected Ron to come to my defense—I mean, he wasn’t exactly the most gentile of blokes back then nor a good mate of mine, really—but what killed me was that Harry never saw it either, not once.”
The voice hummed again before asking, “Did anyone ever notice you then?”
“Yes… Neville did. He… I don’t think anyone realized how close the two of us were, for a long time I considered him a far better friend than Ron or Harry. He came first for so long, but no one ever noticed that. They all only noticed Harry and Ron, and they only ever noticed me when I was with them, assuming they were my only mates then since they didn’t see me when with anyone else. But Neville… Neville always saw me, he was always interested in what I had to say, my thoughts, or worries. He cared.”
“Are you two still friends?”
“Best of… Ron and Harry only even noticed the extent of it about a month ago really.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” the voice halted her, stopping her from going off on a tangent.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
“Tell me about your friendship with Neville, what was his role, explicitly.”
“Like I said, he was the one that cared. Ron and Harry noticed me when they needed me—that not really ever changing until we finally reached seventh year… Neville was surprisingly intelligent, maybe clumsy and forgetful, but beneath the surface was one of the most profound individuals I’d ever met… and he really… he just cared,” she reiterated—not even sure why when such repetition was usually so unlike her, but all she knew was that she needed to… felt compelled to.
“Fuck I was really hoping she’d be there. She loves that damn pendulum thing,” Harry cursed.
“Do you think we should call Neville?” Ron offered as they exited the Harris Museum.
Harry sighed, tiredly rubbing his face. “I really don’t want to have to, he’ll have my head if he finds out.”
“But you have at least checked in to see if she was there, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry shrugged. “But I just told him we had a fight and I wanted to make sure she was safe. He didn’t think much of it since, you know, fights happen.”
“And you didn’t even bother telling him how serious the situation is?” Ron supplied, a tinge of disappointment marring his tone.
“We don’t know anything yet.”
Ron shook his head. “You’re just scared of Neville is all, but he deserves to know,” he argued.
“Fine,” Harry groaned. “If we don’t find anything by the end of the day I’ll call him and he can help us,” he offered.
“Good. Now, where next?”
“I haven’t received any calls from the office, but we can drop in and see what progress the ones in training have made.”
“Fine,” Ron nodded. “Lead the way.”
“Girls never really liked me,” Hermione admitted with a frown. “I think that with my insecurities I always came across as extremely stuck up or cold. It’s odd because it’d always seem as if I was the one who didn’t find them worthy off my attention when really it was the other way around. I didn’t think they’d be interested in me... I thought that they’d find me dull.”
“I loved the boys, they just accepted me as one of their own. A lot of people say that it’s a curse to be one of the boys, so to speak, but I relished that sense of acceptance. It was what I had always wanted. I just wanted to be needed and wanted. I needed to feel as if I had a place.”
“We had a rocky start, one that I think will always be marred by my own insecurities. In the end though, they were always there when I needed them. The relationship was about as reciprocal as our personalities would allow it to be. I mean, boys will be boys, so Harry was always a tad closer to Ron. And Ron, well he has that whole cliché redhead temper that sometimes got in the way of our friendship. Still, they were the best friends that they could be, I’ll admit that.”
“…It’s odd to simultaneously resent and love a person … but, nevertheless, it’s still very possible, isn’t it?” the voice probed.
“Yeah,” she admitted, her voice catching as she spoke. “But, with time, I still managed to fall for him.”
“Harry,” she breathed out his name, almost longingly. “It hit me totally off guard. One second he was just the attractive best friend, and then… all of a sudden, out of nowhere really, I was falling. I was falling harder than I knew I was capable of.”
“Just like that?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “He made me feel safe and dangerous all at once, it was amazing. With him, I could take risks that I would never even normally consider, but still feel as if I was doing the most natural thing in the world. It felt as if there wasn’t any risk to what I was doing. It was… I don’t know… just somehow innate. I didn’t always have to follow the rules. I could break out of my shell and be that person that I wanted to be, but was afraid of at times… I felt like I could be me, the me I’d always wanted to be,” she breathed out wistfully.
“Take me back,” the disconnected, distorted voice suddenly ordered her.
The order took her so off guard that she paused for a minute before finally asking, “To what?”
“When you first realized you were in love with this Harry.”
She felt as if a large lump in her throat, she was incapacitated. She wanted to avoid telling him, she didn’t want to revisit those memories. She hated those moments… the thought of that ignorant, idiotic happiness.
“You have to,” the voice informed her, as if reading her thoughts; which, she admitted to herself, it probably was.
She let out a long, heaving breath. “Okay… well, it was sixth year and Harry decided that I had gone on avoiding brooms for far too long.”
“Harry, no,” I screeched, my voice reaching such high octaves that it managed to pierce my ears, too. “Don’t, please!” I begged, somehow smiling despite my fear.
“I don’t know if I can do that, Hermione…” Harry replied with a stupid smirk that I desperately wished I could just wipe off of his face. “It’s just not right, is all. I mean not knowing how to fly is just wrong, love!”
“Oh come on, please!” I cried as he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder, making his way over to the quidditch pitch with a broom in his other hand.
“Please!” I begged again, but the request came upon deaf ears as he just merrily continued upon his way, a wide grin spread across his face, too.
He finally set me down when in the middle of the pitch, grabbing his broom and forcing me to seat myself on it before moving onto the space right behind me.
“I’m scared, Harry,” I timidly admitted, wincing at the way my voice broke as I made the admission.
I could feel his smile growing against my throat before he moved to kiss my cheek before whispering in my ear, “I’ll be right here the entire time. No need to fret, I’d never let anything happen to you.”
“Okay,” I nodded with a blush as he kicked off the ground and slowly headed upwards.
“Don’t squeeze those eyes shut, Hermione, you’re ruining the entire point of all this.”
I sighed, silently cursing him for forcing me to do this. Finally, though, I slightly opened my left eye, grimacing as I noted how high up we were. I squeaked in fear when I fully opened both. “Oh my God!” I gasped.
Though the bastard only laughed, lightly squeezing my waist. “It’s okay, I’m here.”
I smiled despite the fact that I knew I should berate him for being so cocky about his effect on me. Instead, I leaned back into his chest, letting myself trust him and forget my fears. He made me feel so… illogically safe, even in the worst of cases.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he whispered into my ear as we hovered above the school.
“Yeah,” I breathed in agreement, surprising myself with how I wasn’t scared, regardless of the fact that we’d achieved such unnatural heights.
He grinned, moving my face to look at his. “I promised I wouldn’t let you fall and I kept my word, didn’t I?”
And at that moment I realized: no, he hadn’t. The only dilemma was that it just wasn’t the literal sort of falling that was the problem at that point, which really only made it all the trickier.
But, in response, I only whispered a weak “yeah”, moving my eyes from him to the sight before us, trying to ignore the rather daunting epiphany that had hit me.
It was official, I was screwed.
It was a slow process from there on out, and a really awkward one, too,” she admitted. “Falling in love with him was such a drastic turn. The epiphany… it shocked me to the core, honestly. It scared me, the realization that I really didn’t have any control, that I couldn’t do anything. I’ve always been a rather pedantic individual so it… it was disconcerting. I didn’t have that control anymore, I was at a total disadvantage.”
She couldn’t help the shiver that ran down her spine. No matter how long this ongoing conversation with that disembodied voice lasted, it never failed to creep her out. There was something so ominous about it, so finite.
She sighed, trying to compose herself. She wanted to sigh, lick her lips, gulp that terrible lump in her throat that constantly made her feel as if she was handicapped. She wanted to do something.
“Don’t fight it, just say it. You need to,” the voice commanded.
She tried to nod, even though she knew she couldn’t. “I’m Hermione Granger, the plain bookworm… ‘one of the guys,’ that’s hardly Harry-Potter-girlfriend material. There were girls out there like Ginny and veelas like Gabrielle who were all vying for his attentions. How could I possibly compete with something like that?”
“Well apparently you could,” the voice noted.
If she could, she would blush at that reminder. “Yeah. In all honesty, how still baffles me. I mean I’ve always been very secure in myself, but in terms of the physical aspects… well I could never bring myself to drudge up any confidence there. Plus, it didn’t really help that, because I was Harry’s best mate, spiteful girls were always more than willing to point out all of my fallacies. Actually, they really seemed to enjoy that,” she bitterly confided.
“And you believed them?”
“How could I not? They were so beautiful, and I was just the plain girl with the books, hardly anything to write home about… so to speak,” she quickly amended.
“Plain, really?” the voice asked, sounding genuinely intrigued and surprised.
“Compared to them, most are…”
“Avery,” Harry snapped at the passing Auror in training as he and Ron entered the office.
The nineteen year old stopped dead in his tracks upon hearing his name called with such sharpness. His back was stiff as he slowly turned to face Harry, meekly asking, “yes?”
“Have there been any updates on the job I sent you on?”
“Um… well…” he stammered, shifting his weight from one foot to the next. “I haven’t had any, but you should also ask the others… maybe they did.”
Harry glowered. “So you haven’t been keeping in contact over status with your team?” he asked, raising a threatening brow.
“No,” his eyes widened as he enthusiastically shook his head, trembling under Harry's piercing glare. “It’s just that the last time I had a chance to speak to them was about half an hour ago and… I mean, you never know… something could have come up since then,” he explained.
Harry let out a low growl under his breath before ordering the Auror to go get an update from his team and then meet him in his office with an update and all of the details. The nineteen year old scurried away so fast that Ron couldn’t help, but chuckle.
“You’re an arse, you know that?” Ron asked, clapping Harry on the back as they made their way to his office.
Harry shrugged. “They’re grunts, it’s what they’re here to do.”
“Doesn’t excuse what you just did to him,” Ron replied, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he had an accident after that…”
“They’ll learn… I did,” Harry noted as he opened the door to his office, letting Ron in first.
“Yeah,” Ron nodded, immediately letting himself fall into the chesterfield. “But they also didn’t have the savior of the wizarding world to contend with…”
Harry merely retorted with an acerbic look Ron’s way as he took a seat on his desk across from Ron.
“Don’t give me that look,” Ron ordered. “You’re a prat at work, it’s a wonder Hermione doesn’t berate you about it on a daily basis.”
Harry grinned. “She’s never seen that side. I’m the picture of propriety around her when she visits.”
“Of course, why aren’t—”
“Sir?” a voice was suddenly heard from outside the door, quickly followed by a knock on the door.
“Yeah?” Harry grunted.
“Can I come in?”
Harry rolled his eyes and Ron had to choke a laugh. “Get in here, Avery. Just get in here,” he ordered through gritted teeth, his jaw clenching as he spoke.
“Hi,” Avery greeted them as he came in, a shy smile gracing his face.
“This is pivotal recon, Avery,” Harry cut in, his tone curt. “Just get on with it.”
“Right,” he agreed with an enthusiastic nod. “We did a credit check, but nothing came up. Then, Altman did a search on her name to see if it came up on any databases, and she did!”
Harry paused, waiting for Avery to continue, but nothing came. The auror in training simply stood there with a gleaming smile, clearly proud of himself and his team.
“And?” Harry goaded, his tone terser from the aggravation of having to deal with boys who he deemed wholly incompetent. He truly loathed aurors in training.
“Well apparently she did a rush order at Ikea this morning. She came in, bought her items, and paid for it to be shipped to a place in Notting Hill. She paid cash according to the records,” Avery informed him, offering him a copy of the receipt.
“And the address?” Harry asked.
Avery’s eyes widened. “Pardon?” he asked.
“The address, the one that everything was sent to… what is it?” Harry asked, glaring.
“I’ll be right back,” Avery hastily promised, quickly rushing out the door.
“Idiots,” Harry muttered, turning to Ron and rolling his eyes. “This is ridiculous.”
“Yeah,” Ron nodded with a wide yawn. “They kind of really are imbeciles.”
Harry shook his head, staring out the door as he promised, “I swear, I was never that idiotic.”
“Or so you think,” Ron chuckled. “Plus, we had Hermione there to save us… cover for us.”
“Yeah,” Harry sighed, a small smile tugging at his lips. “Ron, what if we don’t find her?”
Ron’s brows met as he stared at Harry with a befuddled look. “Of course we will,” he scoffed. “Didn’t you hear the kid? We’ve got a bloody address! We’ll just go there, talk to her, and… and I don’t know, but it’ll be better. It will,” he said, punctuating his assurances with a confident nod.
“Ron, the fight… it—”
A cough abruptly interrupted him and Harry turned to face the doorway, where the sound had come from. He didn’t bother with any niceties, but simply extended his hand and waited for Avery to drop a piece of parchment with the address into his hand.
“Thanks,” Harry gruffly offered. “Now go.”
The auror, flummoxed, simply nodded enthusiastically and quickly made his way out of the office, intent upon bothering his agitated superior as little as possible.
“I stand by my statement, you’re an arse,” Ron repeated.
“I said thank you, that should be enough, now get up,” he ordered as he moved off of his desk. “We have to get to Notting Hill as soon as possible.”
Author’s Note: I suppose you could say that the story is still in the preliminary phases, everything is being set up at this point, but I hope you enjoyed it. Please review!
As usual, many thanks are sent to the most wonderful beta a girl could ever hope for, Searcy!
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