Chapter 1 : They Did It Better
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A/N: This story is before everything, after it all and yet in the middle and at the end of it.
THEY DID IT BETTER
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS PROMETHEUS@TDA
They grew up without noticing.
Growing up, she finds, breaks more pieces off her life than she could have ever imagined.
The war ends, like her breath that goes and it all settles in somewhat. Ginny meets Harry on the stairs leading away from Hogwarts; her eyes full of expectations. Life will go on now; Hermione knows this. She watches them as Ginny slips her hand inside his long ones, and notes the vague smile he throws at her. His eyes are forever unreadable.
“We can all be happy now.” Ron sighs, his hand stroking her arm softly. She smiles gently and nods, looking down and breathes deeply.
“Do you think the train will leave without me if I don’t catch it?” She asks him as she hears his steps come to an end behind her.
“Harry?” She turns around in surprise, and sure enough, Harry is standing in the shadow of the tree smiling slightly.
“Yeah, who did you expect?”
She realises then, that she has no idea who else it could have been; Ron is oblivious to all of her troubles and it is not like she has got a lot of friends. Ginny’s head is too full of Harry, Harry, and more Harry.
“I- - I don’t know.” She says finally, “Ron’s too oblivious to notice anything that doesn’t involve him – even if I am his girlfriend and I’m upset.” She turns around to face the lake again, not knowing how to handle this slip of the tongue. “Ooops.”
Harry sits down beside her, looks at her bare feet and asks with a smile, “You aren’t cold?”
“No,” she sighs. “The water’s warm.”
He pulls his shoes and socks off and dips them into the water; they are pale and long. “You’re right,” he smiles. “It is warm.”
She shrugs and lets the silence fall between them.
“It’s all changing now, isn’t it?” Harry finally breaks the silence and looks at her. She suddenly realises that his eyes have changed.
She cannot say what it is exactly, but there is something different there; something lost and something gained. She reaches out to him, allows herself to run a finger along his jaw before tilting his head up to get a better look. The eyes sparkle at her as they have always done, but the shine is different; clearer.
“What happened to your eyes?”
He furrows his brows, “Nothing. They’re the same as they’ve always been.” There is something hidden behind the dark lashes as he says this. She is certain that he is lying and she raises an eyebrow. “Harry...”
“What?” he says defensively. She just looks at him. Somehow that has always been enough with him.
He sighs deeply, “Okay... Life’s just different.”
“Different how?” she probes.
He looks at her, looks her straight in the eyes and suddenly it is crystal clear; he has grown up.
“Wow, Harry-” She gasps and Harry looks at her alarmed.
“Just-” She reaches out for him by instinct, pulls his face closer to hers and stares into his eyes. “Come here...” she breathes.
She searches his eyes over and over again, tries to find the spark that flashed through them a minute ago. And finally she finds it.
His head is inches from hers and she only seems to realise this now. His hand is clasped around her arm, running a finger up and down. Chills creep down her spine; his eyes are captivating.
“I...” She opens her mouth and her breath mingles with his as he moves closer. The gap between them is excruciatingly small.
“I...” She tries again.
“Yes...?” Harry whispers softly and pushes her hair out of her face, running his fingertips down the planes of her face, ending by tilting her chin up to pull her closer. Her heart is beating in her ears and it feels as if this is not real, not after all this time. His lips touch hers and something ignites inside of her. Ron’s kisses seem like nothing, Viktor’s were small pecks, but this, this is what she has been told about.
Slowly he kisses her, almost tentatively, as if he cannot believe that she is letting him. He pulls her closer, urges her on and presses his tongue against her closed lips. She opens them willingly and meets his tongue with hers. The chills never stop.
“Harry?” The angelic voice is what brings them back to reality. Harry jumps away from Hermione and she just closes her eyes, hiding the tears as she recognises the voice.
“There you are!” Ginny Weasley smiles, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”
“Here I am.” Harry smiles up at her, discretely wiping his mouth.
“I’ve – I’ve got to go.” She gets up and leaves, not looking at Harry again. She heads off to her room, ready for the tears that are already streaming down her face.
As if it was expected, Ginny and Harry move in together and Ron looks at her and smiles wryly. “Move in with me.”
And she nods, “Okay.”
Playing hard-to-get has never been her thing. At all.
They do not discuss what happened. They have both taken the next steps with their partners and that indicates that they are over this and it was just some sort of try-it-out-thing.
If only that were the case. The disappointment feels like a kick to her gut. She cannot, for the life of her, remember why it was she fell in love with Ron. She tries desperately to remember the reason why. His blue eyes have not changed; they are still as trusting as they have ever been. He still gets grumpy whenever he is hungry, and he still prefers his tea a bit stronger than anyone else’s. His mother still knits them sweaters, and Ron still refuses to wear them; Harry wears his proudly and it reminds her somewhat of old childhood memories. The sight of him in the green sweater can still make her warm and gooey inside, even if it burns in the pit of her stomach whenever she thinks of Ginny and Harry.
“You love your job, don’t you?”
Ron is lying down on their bed and she is brushing her hair. She stares into her reflection’s eyes, catching a glance to his face in the mirror. His eyes are closed.
“I do.” She says slowly.
He smiles, eyes closed still. “I do too.”
She continues brushing the knots away. His arms are crossed across his chest in that familiar manner. She knows him well. She will cherish this.
Once upon a time she would feel Ron was her safety net. He was the support as they faced the world. It has always been them against the world. Harry, Ron and her. Two knights and a fair maiden, (though, she has never really been a fair maiden, now has she? More a knight than anything.) Ginny has always been the fair maiden though. And this is why Harry has found her, Hermione supposes; he needs a fair maiden to marry as a knight so they can have the fairytale with children and happy endings. She wants him to have this.
“Who else would I end up with?” She laughs hopelessly out at Lavender Brown at one of the annual dinner parties, with her grip tightening around the champagne glass.
And it is true: who else would she ever end up with? It has always been the two of them together: Ron and Hermione. She needn’t explain herself; she is doing things right. Ginny talks about weddings and babies and family, and all Hermione can think is: where did our youth go? It is too late to change this. It is too much history.
Love, Hermione finds, is not all she expected it to be.
Herm-own-ninny, teenage infatuations and gowns. Letters that soon ran out. You always lose that spark along the road. Some faster than others.
Ron with his red ears and clumsy hands, patience, Mione, patience. There are different kinds of love. This is one which slowly grows on you.
Crushed hearts and broken lies. Love is also hard and this stupid love, she discovers does not heal nearly as fast as others. A mother dies for her son and Hermione is eternally grateful. She saves the world with love and all Hermione’s love is focused into this saviour. Life will never be easy loving a hero.
Some of her loves are better than others, some she wishes desperately, would improve and some she just wants to forget.
“… he was such a gentleman, but not the all around gentleman, y’know?” Ginny giggles, her cheeks flushed and warm, rosy red lips. (Fuck you, fuck you. Hermione smiles.)
“And what about you?” Another giggle, curious eyes. She shrugs. “How?”
“How was Ron?” She is surprised Ginny has mastered to not shudder - she would have.
“Had sex, I mean.”
As a child she reads Alanna, the Lioness; she reads about her love life. She did always prefer Jonathan, the king over George, the thief. As she grows older she will remember small tidbits and it is funny how life reminds her more and more of fairytales than actual, real life, in a sense of death, good and bad, love and marriage. Her possibilities have become endless. In a world of magic, heroes, mermaids, centaurs, beauty, lies and secrets, what isn’t possible?
Sometimes everything, she finds.
Ginny and her drift apart, well, this is the word she uses formally, but in her mind it is another; they both decided that this was not going, this could not work out. Hermione does not love Ron like Ginny wants her to, hell, she does not even love Harry, of all people, Harry, like Ginny loves him. She still has not figured out which one is the best kind of love. Even now she thinks Ron’s love is far more bearable, far simpler. The only question is if it is the right kind of love.
Her love for Harry is the right kind, but also the torturous, painful, haunting love. It is the wrong love for so many reasons; some of them: Ginny, soon to be marriage, love, sex and Ron. She does not want to love Harry, but she does. And so does Ginny. And Harry loves Ginny. And Ron. (Oh, dear Ron…) She tries not to think of him too much.
“Who else would I end up with?” She asks at the mirror one of those endless nights, when the world seems awful big and she is just a plain young girl who has lost her way; she has lost her way. She needs to find her way back.
She searches through her own reflection’s brown eyes, tries to find some sort of sense to it all. She wants to find the answer. Softly, she touches the picture of Harry and her; Harry has his arms wrapped around her, and her wild hair blows around them. Their magical selves laugh repeatedly as the Hermione in the photograph reaches up with one hand to squeeze Harry’s hand. This movement is repeated every five seconds. Hermione stares at the photograph for hours.
“Sometimes I don’t get her, you know?”
“She just acts strange or says stuff like, ‘Why don’t you ever buy me flowers, Harry? All my friends’ boyfriends buy flowers’, and then when I buy flowers she just smiles and leaves them on the table and forgets to water them, and they die! I don’t get it.”
“I mean it’s not like the sex isn’t great and all, I mean, really great… and, all…”
“And my mother-in-law is perfect, I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.”
“She takes care of me, really, she does. I love her for it.”
“She’s good for me, Mione. Just very good for me.”
“Are you ever going to say anything?”
“Oh… Well. I don’t. I don’t know what to say, Harry.”
“What does it all mean?”
“I suppose she… I suppose she loves you.”
“Oh. Well, I suppose I’ve got to buy her a ring then, right?”
“I suppose I’ve got to buy her a ring?”
“Oh? Umm. Sure. If you want to.”
“You don’t think I should?”
“No! I mean, of course you should… Ask her to marry you… Of course.”
Fighting with love against the most evil man the world has ever seen has left a mark on Harry. And it seems, even to Hermione, impossible for him not to believe in love: being saved by it and all. So it does not really surprise her that his love for Ginny seems to last through everything. To Hermione, Ginny seems like the most childish little girl she has ever met. Their friendship she lets fall easily. It is too easy to hate her.
“Why did you do it?”
“Do you love him?”
“So no, then?”
“You don’t love him.”
“No! I do! I really love him. A lot.”
“Okay. So when is the wedding?”
“Ummm… I wanted to wait a bit with all the big things… Yours is coming up also.”
“Yes, I know.”
“So. Ummm. Wedding date in some foreseeable future.”
“Wedding postponed, really.”
“Yes. Well. No. I just. I just need some time.”
“I just do.”
“But why did you say yes, then?”
“Well. He’s my best mate, Mione. Well. You. You. You are my best mate, really. But. You know. He worries. And all.”
“Hey, maybe we can do a joined wedding!”
“… just an idea.”
“Mmmm... A bad one.”
“Heh. Oh well.”
“You ready for the wedding?”
She won’t ever forget Harry’s face as she walks towards him. His face as he swears eternal faith to Ginny she would rather let fall behind her. Ron kisses her hand when she reaches him and steps aside for Ginny to take the place Harry has given her so willingly. She does not notice Ron’s affections; her eyes are glued to the almost newlyweds.
After the wedding that fills her with more sorrow than a funeral ever could, she and Ron return to their suit in the hotel they’ve rented for the couple. It kills her to know she is in the same building as them when they are making love. Ron kisses her bare shoulder as she closes their door,
“You’re beautiful.” He murmurs.
Hermione smiles shyly and glances up at him. Ignoring the wish of seeing those green eyes instead of his deep blue eyes like the sky, she kisses him back.
Ron’s kisses almost make her forget. Almost.
“Who else would I end up with?” She kisses Ron gently, as he asks if she is sure she wants this. His small smile is enough, she tells herself, and seeks his hand herself.
“So how is life as newlyweds?”
“What do you want me to say? That we shag like rabbits?”
“…that was unnecessary.”
Silence is more of a state of their relationship than anything. She has no idea how to break it and the same seems to go for Harry. She remembers how he always used to laugh with her and Ron. Now whenever he comes for dinner the conversation is funnily strained. Ron notices nothing as always; he keeps talking about old days and ‘Do You Remember’ and the War and the World. Hermione spends the time chopping her food into small pieces and reducing the bread to crumbs.
Once she sees him and Ginny in the streets, laughing. She does not say hello.
“What happened to us, Hermione?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know damn well what I mean.”
“You never used to curse.”
“You used to smile.”
“I do smile.”
“I did curse.”
Some conversations are harder than others. And talking about the past (and present) has never been easy. Harry likes serious when she is around. She knows he is not like this with Ginny. And he never used to be like this with her.
The future puts everything in perspective. They have grown up without noticing. Life is now no longer Hogwarts, boyfriends, snogging, ‘I Can’t Do It’, fun and doubts. Now it is sex, serious, marriage, kids, happiness, mortgages, taxes, work and ‘Doing What’s Right’. She cannot help but be scared.
“It’s a scary world out there.” Harry looks out the window and grips his own arm forcefully. Hermione looks at him, shakes her head,
“But, Harry, you saved the world from evil.”
Harry looks away from the window and meets her eyes, a small smile pulling at his thin lips, “That’s not what I meant, Hermione.”
The mere unfilled possibility of what could have been is what keeps her up at night. It would be lying to say she does not wish that just once, just once, he would look at her like he looks at his Ginny. The truth is that Ron, (oh, dear Ron…) will not ever fill the space of him. She will never look at him the way she looks at (her) Harry.
“I’m pregnant.” It is funny how small words formed into small sentences can shatter a whole world.
Ginny being pregnant is something she cannot really get her head around. As Ginny’s stomach grows, Hermione keeps looking at her, trying to see, trying to get her brain to realise that really, there is a baby inside of Ginny. A baby most likely with black hair. The months slip away too easily.
It seems silly to keep pushing.
Excuses run out and why not? It is not like Harry is waiting for her.
“Really?” Ron’s face is splitting into a grin and she nods, he laughs and lifts her up, swinging her around and kissing her. She cannot help but let his happiness fill her up as well.
“We’re getting married.” He laughs at her.
She smiles and nods, “That we are.”
They make love that night for the first time. Ron falls asleep straight after and Hermione? Hermione lies awake into the darkness of the night, her eiderdown pulled up underneath her ears and the chill creeping in on her. She rolls out of Ron’s arms at some point in the night after she is sure he is completely out, slips out the bed and sits in the window sill. Their flat is in the middle of London. She watches the city lights with the sheets pulled tightly around her naked body. She rests a flushed cheek against the cool surface, lets her breath fog up the window and just stares out.
“You never answered me, you know.”
“What happened to us.”
“What happened to us?”
“We grew up.”
She reminds her a bit too often that Harry is not really an option for anything. Ginny helps her find a wedding dress since she is Ron’s sister and basically her sister in law. Blackmail in form of her best friend and her own fiancé makes sure that she chooses Ginny as the Maid of Honour. (She finds the most horrid, orange dress for the bridesmaid. It is not like she has to care.) It is more than slightly satisfactoring to see how Ginny’s oh so perfect shape is gone after the birth of James. She had always wanted her son to be named that.
About Ron, she says:
“Who else would I end up with?”
What Harry fails to say:
The night on her wedding she retires outside when no one is paying attention. Bare feet and a white dress, she slips out across the meadow and off to the small lake behind the Burrow. She sits down on the edge of the water where the moonlight spills down on her. Her feet touch the surface of the water and she watches the rings spread further and further away from her. Much like her actions she notes with a dry smile.
“It’s strange that you’re married now…”
She senses his presence even before he speaks and she knows it is dangerous waters she is stepping in. But right now, god-damnit, it is her wedding day and she cannot really think of anything and selfishness is not that far away. She can allow herself this little talk.
He sits down beside her in the grass, his tie loose and the top buttons undone, his hair all ruffled (as always) and his smell; the wind brings it to her and she breathes deeply.
“I used to smoke, you know.”
He looks at her, eyes widened. “You? Smoked?”
A crooked smile, “The summer before sixth. You know when everything was all so great and happy and we were getting ready for God knows what, the war was almost there and we were just. We were just scared shitless. So I bought a pack - turned out I liked it.”
“Haha.” He laughs, looks away from her, the moonlight reflects in his glasses and he laughs. She smiles and stares at him, eating it all up and after a while he stops laughing and looks back at her.
“I’ve missed this.”
“Missed what, Harry?” She laughs.
He gestures towards her and her heart flutters. “You. Laughing. Laughing with you.”
She sighs and nods, “It’s been a while.”
He nods silently. Their silence stretches but after a while he breaks it again.
“Did you know it would be like this?”
She looks back at him, he is staring out across the water. “What would be like this?”
His stare returns to her and she feels as if he is x-raying her; his stare goes through to her very bone. His mouth pulls into an almost bitter smile, “Us growing up.” He says, ”Did you expect it to be like this?”
“No.” She shakes her head, “But I guess it doesn’t really matter how we wanted it or expected it to be like. This is what we have.”
He nods silently, his gaze returning to the lake’s blank surface.
“Come on,” she looks up at him and takes his hand. “Let’s go swimming.”
“Swimming?” Harry looks incredulously at her, his hand is still clasped around hers though.
“Yes, swimming.” She grins at him, plopping down into the water. She turns around and reaches for his hand. With a small smile playing on her lips, she pulls at his hand.
She rolls her eyes at him, “Oh, don’t be a pussy, Potter!”
His eyes widen at the words and Hermione just smirks at him, pulling at him. “Come on, Harry! It’ll be fun! Just like old times when we used to swim with the Giant Squid in the Black Lake!”
He shakes his head and laughs, his laugh loud and sincere: it warms her up inside. “We never used to swim with the Giant Squid, Mione!”
A thrill runs through her body at the sound of her nickname coming from his lips, and she smirks. “It can just be our little secret.”
He laughs and surrenders, finally. “Wait, let me just get my shoes off.”
She lets go of his hand and steps further out into the freezing water, her oh so white, innocent dress getting soaked. The soft fabric floats around her thighs, becoming completely see-through. There is some great satisfaction in the fact that Harry gets to see her underwear on her wedding night before Ron has had the chance.
Harry flops into the water, and she looks back over her shoulder to make sure he follows, slowly gliding into deeper water. The water sloshes gently to the sides, the sounds soft in the nightair. When the water reaches her waist she stops to wait for him. The quiet sloshes as he nears her gives her shivers and goodbumps emerge all over her body, She keeps standing with her back turned to him, waiting for him to near her. His hand slips into hers and she looks up at him. He has taken his glasses off and she brushes a stray hair away from those eyes that hold everything.
“Come on.” She whispers and they move on, longer and deeper into the water, away from the house, the lights, the noises. Away from the world, Hermione thinks to herself. His hand does not leave hers, not once. When the water reaches her chin she stops and turns to him.
He is only covered until his shoulders, his black suit even blacker, soaked with water. She pushes his jacket off and it floats off into the water. The white shirt on him is plastered on and see-through. She also unbuttons this and gets it off him. He still has not stopped her.
Her breath catches as she takes in his chest. He keeps staring at her, his eyes so full of something she cannot place. She cannot breathe.
The moonlight taints his skin whiter than anything she has ever seen before and her cold hands have to, have to touch him. He shivers as she touches the planes of his stomach, her fingers skimming across, into the depths. A moan escapes as they travel up to his neck where she pulls his head down. She kisses him, tastes wine on his tongue, kisses him deeper, moaning, the feelings wild in her stomach. He pulls her closer and her nails dig into his skin, he groans. He pulls at her dress, pushes the straps down her shoulders, she slips her arms out of them and his hands are all across her chest, he unclasps her bra. The black piece floats away from themsilently.
The silence is intangible; the water sloshes against their bodies, sways their movements and surrounds them. His belt soon sinks to the bottom of the lake, his trousers floats away with the stream, her underwear soon joined by his, drift on as well. His breathing in her ears, his groans, her moans, his hands holding her, her legs wrapped around him. His warm kisses trailing down her neck. The silence. The end.
They collect their clothes with an easy summoning-spell and they get up to the small garden behind the house. She dries their clothes silently and fixes her hair. He has still not said anything.
She desperately wishes he would. He could tell her it is okay, that they are meant to do this, that they can just forget everything that has happened the past years, and be together. He could tell her how she is beautiful, and that this sinking and burning feeling in the pit of her stomach will go away, and that Ron will understand. She wants him to tell her, that they will run away together, and that they can be happy. She wants to sink to the bottom of the lake with him, and live there with him for the rest of her life. She wants nothing but him.
The laughter and clinks of glasses fill their silence as they walk up the lawn. Small garden-gnomes are staring at them as if they are the only entertainment on a Friday night for them. It reminds her of young times at the Burrow, degnoming gardens and running around in the sun. She wants to run around in the sun with Harry again. She turns to him as the light from the house illuminates their faces.
“I’m sorry.” Harry says. She looks at him, looks at him. He is biting his lips, his eyes unreadable again.
“You never knew what to say did you, Potter?” She sneers, her heart giving a little. He does not say anything. She does not try to explain.
She is the first to leave the garden and join the party again with a smile plastered on her face. He does not show up before another half an hour later. At that point she has already had her dance with everyone and she is in the arms of her new husband. When she sees him his arms are around his own wife. His green eyes are staring at her, their eyes lock. She stares back, unable to decipher the emotions in his eyes.
He kisses her on the cheek when he and Ginny leave and he hugs Ron, whispering something too low for her to hear in his ear. Ron nods and Harry smiles, his eyes finding hers again. When he reaches her, his hand curls around her wrist and he leans in. “Goodbye.” He whispers against her neck and she nods silently, her stomach doing summersaults.
She will not ever tell him what that night meant.
She finds crying is a lot easier than she ever thought it to be. Nearly every morning is spent like this. It has got to bring consequences, obviously.
“Ron thinks you’re pregnant, is there any reason for that?” In his eyes there is another question. It has been three months since the last time they have seen each other, which was at the wedding. He has excused every visit, and Hermione knows it still pains him - hell, it still pains her too; Ron is her husband, she wants to - she is supposed to be happy. And Harry does nothing but ruin it all with his deep green eyes and that small apologetic smile of his.
“Ron’s just being paranoid.” He raises his eyebrows at her; she raises them back. He laughs. She smiles. That night still haunts her, she remembers all the touches. She glances at his mouth and shivers. He is too much for her, she tells herself forcefully.
“Okay.” He smiles. This is the first real conversation they have had since the wedding.
Ron takes the news better than anything she could ever have hoped for. (Is it bad of her to have hoped he would have left her?) They have been married for five months.
“Wow.” Harry is there. She is there. Nobody else is. This seems to be all that matters. He has not changed, but she is a lot fatter. She feels like a whale.
“A baby. Wow. That’s really…wow.”
Her hand clutches her protruding stomach, “I know.”
Green eyes look at her, “How… How far along are you?”
“Three months.” Is it bad of her to lie? Harry’s face of relief assures her that it is for the best.
“Thanks.” She answers, avoiding his eyes.
“I’m in deep shit, Ginny.” Of all people, she is talking to Ginny.
“Hermione what did you do?” This was a bad idea. She needs new friends.
Her own flower is born in May. She does not name her Lily like she wishes to; the five months along Ginny has made it clear to her that this name belongs to her.
Ron is with her throughout the whole process, pregnancy and birth. She is finally starting to appreciate him and maybe, just maybe, he will even be able to help her get over Harry.
Rose has green eyes and her hair. She lies and tells Ron that her mother had the exact same colour.
Lying is getting easier.
Rose grows up with her own brother Albus. (Only Hermione knows.)
Hermione takes up smoking again. (Ron keeps telling her it is bad for her health, but what isn’t nowadays.) Harry looks like a dad, Ginny like her mum, Ron like her high school sweetheart and Hermione? Like a broken record.
She does not like getting older. It never suits her well.
On Rose’s first birthday, Harry kisses her behind the Burrow. She kisses him back. It is like a hunger that cannot be sated. She wanted her own fairytale, but instead it seems like she is getting her very own nightmare.
On Albus’ first birthday they make love up against the shack in the back garden. Her hands will not stop shaking.
Guilt, Hermione figures, is forever going to be a part of her life. She avoids Ginny as much as she possibly can, which is impossible. She avoids Harry as well, which is also infeasible. She hates seeing his (their) children, hates how their black hair shine in the sun, how Albus’s green eyes match Rose’s. Hates how James’s face is the exact replica of the image of Harry at that age she has in her mind. To see them as a family kills her more than anything.
Sometimes she just hugs little Rose tight at night and lulls her to sleep with her old lullaby. She likes to watch her sleep, she thinks about all the hopes and dreams she must have. She always manages to marvel at how innocent she still is, even though nothing about this life is innocent.
“You act strange sometimes.”
“I’m older, Harry.”
“Well, so am I and you don’t see me walking around all bitchy.”
“No! Of course not. Just. You… You’re different, Hermione.”
“Ginny’s been rubbing off on you too much.”
“This isn’t Ginny, it’s me; your best friend, Harry. Or if I can even call you that anymore.”
“Of course you can, Harry. Fuck. Of course you can.”
“I miss you.”
“You’re asking me why I miss you, Harry? Stop being a jerk.”
“Then why don’t you ever spend time with me?”
“… I… I don’t think Ginny would like that.”
“What? Don’t be silly, of course she wouldn’t mind it.”
“Then why does she never leave your side when I’m over?”
“Why won’t you say anything, Harry?”
“Ginny wants to try for a new baby.”
“And you, Harry? You want to try for a new baby as well?”
“Maybe. Shit, I don’t know. Maybe.”
“And you and Ron? Don’t you want a little brother or sister to beautiful Rose?”
“I’ve got to go.”
Every dinner party becomes torture. She will keep warm because of his hot stare that roams her body every second. She is surprised no one’s noticed; she feels as if it is the most obvious thing in the world.
The sultry gaze is unbearable and often she finds herself excusing her from the table to run upstairs to the small loo in the corner with the spiders, the one that no-one uses. She leans over the sink and breathes deeply, her hysterical breathing loud in her ears. ‘It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real…’ she chants desperately to herself. She lets the cold water run and splashes the icing liquid into her face. Her eyes meet her reflection’s in the mirror and she says firmly; “He is married. To your sister in law.”
He waits for her outside the toilet, leaning against the doorway. He smirks as green his eyes catch hers. She gasps, “Harry…?”
He is by her side in a second, his face inches away from hers and his hands around her waist. His fingers curl and she trips closer into his arms. He kisses her roughly, her breath catches, his legs part hers and he steps even closer, he pushes her up against the door, his tongue exploring her mouth. A moan catches at the back of her throat.
It is rough. His tongue slips in and out of her mouth and a moan escapes. He groans into her mouth as his hands find the hem of her skirt, they slip under it and push it up to her waist. Her hands tangle themselves in his hair, she pulls him closer, his grip on her waist tightens. Euphoria.
A hand works its way down to her panties, pushes them down her legs and he unbuttons his trousers. In a second he is breathing even deeper, the kisses get more desperate, she sighs, he moans. They groan. His mouth slips down her throat, assaults her neck merciless and she sighs, sighs.
He kisses her parted lips once after, her flushed cheeks burn and red lips tremble. He walks down five minutes later. She goes back into the bathroom. They deal with the guilt differently. She stares at the mirror and studies her reflection, what is beauty and what is not. A tear slips; it rolls fast down her cheek, another one, followed by yet another until they rush down in a deep flow.
A deep sob gurgles up through her throat and she looks at her eyes, sees the tears well up, spill over, over and over again. This becomes tradition.
The truth is that she can hardly stand the thought of Ron kissing along her shoulder blades, down to her hips, trailing the same lines and curves as Harry does. Harry’s hands leave their mark on her body. She cannot believe those are the hands that killed Voldemort.
Hermione sits all too often in her room, cold and alone, her arms wrapped around her body. Trying desperately, just desperately, to forget touches, kisses, words.
Rose looks at her with that marveling, admiring shine in her eyes. Hermione loves her to death. She is amazed that she can love this greatly. She decides that Rose is the love of her life. Her daughter is more perfect than anything. She likes to lie on Ron’s and her bed with Rose resting on her stomach. She plaits Rose’s hair nearly every day. Her hair is smoother than hers.
Harry seems to shine more and more. It gets harder to look at him. When they are alone he lifts her chin all too often and makes her meet his eyes.
He smiles, “Am I really that ugly?”
And all she can do is shake her head and try, just try and look into his eyes even though every time she does, it breaks her heart a little more. He has always been easy to read and his eyes hold the past. She sees his sons reflected in them and it is almost unbearable. Rose isn't in there.
Her dreams are shattered whenever she looks in there, because Harry needs his family. He loves them more than anything, which she can understand: Rose is her everything. She wonders if he can see Rose in her eyes. Rose along with Ron. (Oh, Ron….) She prays desperately that this isn’t the case.
Sometimes he stares, though.
“The coffee’s bland.”
Sometimes she has to count to ten very slowly in order to not explode. Ron’s lazy grunts provoke her to no end.
“Why don’t you make it yourself if you hate it so much?” She asks stiffly.
Ron looks up at her with furrowed brows, “I want you to make it.”
She counts to ten backwards this time, her nostrils flaring violently. Ron continues chewing on his toast while reading the newspaper. Rose looks up at her from her cereal, “Mommy what’s wonk?” she asks in a small voice, mispronouncing wrong. Hermione smiles and kisses the top of her curly head.
“Why do you keep pretending, Harry? I mean, I’m not even trying to pretend anymore!”
“That you care for me! I don’t know! That you love Ginny, because you wouldn’t be fucking me if that was the case! What are you playing at? Sex? Is that all that matters to you? Are you unable to think with anything other than what is down south?”
“Don’t you dare be angry, Potter. I’m the only one who is allowed to be pissed off. I wasn’t fucking around when I kissed you. You were.”
“DON’T ‘Hermione’ me! I know that’s what works with Ginny. Just a few sweet words and puppy-eyes and she is all yours. But guess what: I’M NOT GINNY!”
“THEN WHY DO YOU PRETEND LIKE I AM?!”
“Then why do you keep on kissing me?”
“I love you.”
“I hate you.”
“Don’t… Don’t walk away, Hermione…”
“I’ll do what I bloody want, Potter!”
Hermione remembers her own mother’s calmness which seemed to ooze from her. Her mother knits and bakes. Hermione does neither of these things. She feels as if she is broken pieces held together by glue: Harry’s supposed-love, Ron’s confirmed love and Rose’s daughter-love. She is standing too often on the edge of everything. She knows what it is she needs; Ginny has never looked happier.
Another phase of ‘It’s better this way’ makes its appearance. They do not talk for months and time gets lost. Rose begins in kindergarten; Hermione lets it fill up her time so that she does not have to notice the absence of him in her life.
She makes it a habit visiting her own mum with Rose. Jean seems to see right through her own daughter and she is the first one Hermione tells the truth to. She loves Rose persisting it all, and she does not despise Hermione for sleeping with a married man and cheating on her own husband and friend.
Jean makes hot chocolate with marshmallows and bakes cakes every day. Rose gets milk-moustaches and the days do not get any more perfect than this. Her mother teaches her how to knit, gives her recipes. The memory of Harry becomes more blurry, but so does Ron’s.
“Who else would I end up with?” She looks up at her mother, her hands busy braiding Rose’s hair. Somehow she wants a real answer for once in her life, and on the other hand she is deeply afraid to hear it. Her mother looks at her, before returning to her knitting. She does not answer Hermione’s question. Admittedly, Hermione still wishes that Jean would have said Harry.
“So how are you?”
He has insisted on keeping the friendships even though they only see each other twice a year. The half-pretence of caring and the occasional Christmas-card is what their friendship has come to.
Shitty. “Great.” She smiles, their hands brush and she contracts hers immediately. She won't meet his eyes. Surrender is not far away.
“You and Ron?”
We’re sleeping in each our end of the bed. “Spiffing.”
“Good.” He smiles warmly, taking a sip of his coffee. Her eyes are glued to his hands, wishing they would touch hers.
“And you and Ginny?”
“Fantastic.” He smiles. She looks away.
“Then why are you here?”
“Huh?” He looks up at her and she meets his eyes.
“She’s not what?”
She takes a deep breath, gulps down her coffee and nods, her hand finding his. “Okay.”
“Tell me” – gasp – “Tell me why you aren’t with her?” Moan.
“You. You.” He groans against her neck, leaves hot kisses on her skin. “I need you.”
She brings his face up to hers and kisses him deeply, her head spinning wildly. She gasps for air.
Sometimes the truth is on the tip of her tongue, one look from his eyes and her will is out hanging on a thin wire. She knows her own priorities, but she has no idea what his are. Most of all she is afraid to ask, afraid to find that the answer (this she has a sneaky suspicion about) is that she will never replace his wife nor his kids, his family.
She is his desire, libido, she is the unfulfilled possible future, that he never got to have. She is a thing that needs ticking off; she is his past and present, but she is not his future. Ginny is his future; all bright and shining, with eggs the sunny side up, and chocolate milkshakes. She wishes (more than once a day) that she would just be able to fill that place Ginny has in his heart. She is just a broken records that needs fixing, but not from Harry. Ron is standing ready with the glue on the sideline, waiting for her to come back to him. She is coming home soon.
His eyes get darker at times when he lies with her, his arms wrapped around her body. She always sighs deeply and nuzzles her head into the crook of his neck. She whispers ‘Harry…’ and leaves small fluttering kisses at the base of his neck, on his chest and the corner of his unmoving mouth. He never answers her when he is like that. She fears all too often that he hates her in those small moments. She would understand.
“Do you hate me?”
“What? Hermione! Of course not!”
“Really? Because I swear Harry, sometimes you look at me like I’m the very dirt underneath your feet.”
“I am, though.”
“What?! No! Why do you say things like that?”
“I’m cheating on Ron, Harry. With you. I’m a monster.”
“You’re not a monster.”
“What else would you call what I’m doing? Actions form who we are, Harry.”
“Then I’m one too…”
“Harry, you could never be a monster.”
“Sometimes I wish we could go back in time, turn back and erase the past seven years. Start over. Together.”
“Turning back time wouldn’t necessarily mean we would end up together, Harry.”
“We would find a way.”
“You sound so sure?”
“Of course. We were meant for each other in this life but something went wrong, if we gave fate another chance… It would have to work.”
“Maybe we were never meant to be together?”
“I love you.”
“I want to go blind so I don’t have to see you two together. Is that bad?” Her eyes brim over with tears and he is by her side in two seconds. His arms surround her and he presses her close to his body as if to try and join them together. He kisses the top of her head, his face buried in her mass of hair.
“I adore you; you keep amazing me all the time.”
Hermione bites her lip, her face hidden in his chest, and then she breaks. A strangled sob escapes her, he clutches her closer and closer and the tears leak and the sobs bubble up and escape. She shakes against his body, her little form easily lost in his arms. She feels all weak and unable and so wasted.
“I’m sorry.” He whispers against her, his hands stroke her back, her head and presses her into him. She shakes her head and looks up at him. Smiles.
“No. You. You make it all worth it. You give my life meaning.”
She smiles up at him, her eyes holding more. He kisses her and drowns the sobs.
Water blue eyes stare expectantly up at her and her lips quiver. She smiles. Sighs.
And then it ends.
“Don’t. Don’t try and make it all better, Harry. You can’t.”
“I want to help-“
“It’s not possible. Ron is… Ron… Oh Ron…”
“I hate this.”
“That makes two of us.”
They will always be caught in the middle. Hermione will never ever ask Harry to divorce his wife. She is not even sure she wants to divorce Ron. Sometimes she hates him with a fire so deep, just like she hates Ginny, but not as much as she hates herself for never telling Harry the truth before it was too late. Whereas Harry is a wild terrible love, Ron is the trusting arms and unconditional love, which holds her together. She realises that he is the glue that holds her together.
They grow old. Hermione starts knitting (finally) and Ron becomes more and more like his father. It becomes easier to love him.
“I know you’ll understand. I mean. We have a family. You have Ron and I have Ginny. We have to think about them.”
“I knew you would.”
“But Harry? Don’t you… Don’t you think that sometimes… Just sometimes, we deserve to be selfish?”
“Not about this, Mione. Just not about this.”
“Albus. James. I can’t… I can’t do this to them. I grew up without a family; I won’t ruin this for them. I want… I want them to be happy, Hermione. Even if it might not exactly be what I wanted it to be like.”
“How did this happen?”
“We got old. We’re both married, we have kids. It had to happen like this.”
“No. Why didn’t we end up together? Why… How did Ron and Ginny ever get into the picture? Why… Why couldn’t we just have found each other…?”
“You’re asking me this? I’ve loved you since second year.”
“I love you, you know that, right?`”
Rose gets bigger and bigger; she is scrawny just as her father, tall would be to exaggerate. Her face is slim like his and it becomes clear she needs glasses early on. She has beautiful eyes. Hermione loves to stare into them in the small pink mirror in Rose’s room every night when she brushes her hair. She is her own little talisman.
One day she will tell her the truth. One day even to Harry. She knows he will never forgive her. She is looking forward to the day. She wants to name Rose with the surname of Potter. She wants to make this small little claim.
The sky is milky-white, and as if she has always needed this slight push, she will smile and hide and be a kid again. She runs in the sun and imagines living at the bottom of the lake. Ron does not understand. Harry would have.
She never says this.
Seeing him is not easy. Hugging him and leaving lingering kisses on his cheek is the only way she can hope to ease the pain. She never meets his eyes. He does not ever try and make her. They have lost it all.
She looks up at him, her eyes brim with tears. She smiles and his mouth contracts funnily as if there was something he wanted to say.
She croaks, “I’m so happy for you.”
He pulls her into his arms, crushes her to his body and kisses the top of her head. Her body shakes in gasping sobs in his arms and she whispers, “I’m really happy for you…”
“I love you.” is his only answer.
They never kiss and he leaves a while after. It is for the better.
Her love for him is grand and all consuming. But she needs it to not consume her as it has done before. They got carried away and they were wrong. Now that they are older and wiser she knows that what they have been doing is wrong. Harry can barely look at her for the shame, and her stomach is in knots. Her parents were better people, they did all of this better. Lily and James were better, they did it better too. But now she must do it better, she must do the last bit of growing up and take responsibility. They were wrong, but now they can make it right. She needs to make this right for Ron; she needs to make an effort and give him happiness.
She will manage this.
Being misunderstood does not hurt as much as she thought it did. Her skin gets tough and her love falls easier. She has wrinkles and Ron’s hair is starting to gray. They are only in their thirties.
She reads about him in the occasional newspaper, his smile has not changed, though his eyes have. Ginny is a sun beside him, but the hardest part, Hermione finds, is to look at his youngest son as he stands right there beside him, Harry’s hand on his shoulder. The same green eyes of someone she sees every day. She recognises similar movements among all of them, notices how they will all avoid the camera from time to time. The picture is full of details, hidden information she might miss if she forgets to look closer. She can even make out the wedding band on his finger. His hand is forever intertwined with Ginny’s.
It will be a lie to say she is not captivated. She closes the paper soon after.
She falls pregnant, happiness is not that close to her anymore as it was when he was a constant factor of her life, but she figures that Ron’s love, boring and dull as it may be, is just another form of love: life can be happy even if it is mediocre. She has not slept with Harry in six months. Ron deserves this.
“Who else would I end up with?” she asks Ron and he smiles at her and kisses her deeply. She squeezes his slightly wrinkly hand gently and smiles into his blue eyes. His hand finds hers by itself this time. They are learning.
‘You know, I used to know him.’ She tells her little Rose, the green eyes look up at her, round and surprised; in awe. “I used to know the boy who lived.” The hero of your dreams. Your father. This, she fails to mention.
“He was quite the thing, you know.” And the world keeps spinning. Alanna finds her own prince and Jonathan marries.
Hermione has her doubts. Harry has none.
A/N: A thank you goes out to the lovely curiosity is not a sin, who did an amazing job at betaing this story.