Chapter Two – Shared Dreams, High Noon, and a Showdown at the ‘I’m Not So OK’ Corral
The halls of the Department of Mysteries were deserted as Hermione quietly walked them, searching for Harry. She kept returning to the central room, trying the doors one by one. Marking them one by one with a casual flick of her wand as they all proved fruitless to her quest, Hermione carefully searched the seemingly empty halls. No sign of Harry could be found in the room with the brains, the dusty hall where prophecies were kept, or any of the others she visited. Finally, only two choices were left, one where love resided and one where death awaited. Putting her hand on the surface of the next to the last door, she could feel the slightly cool feeling it had, and hear the faint whispering of indistinct voices as she opened the door.
The room appeared much as it had the last time she was there. This time, she could hear the voices that Harry had heard that day. Sitting with his elbows on his knees and his chin cupped in his hands, Harry was staring intently at the arch, which dominated the room, with the tattered Veil moving of its own accord. With his back to her, she could see that he was leaning towards the arch, with his head cocked to the side as if listening for something.
The whispering in her ears became louder as she approached Harry, as if there was something being said that was just beyond her understanding. Kneeling down behind him, she gently placed her hands on his shoulders, so as to not startle him. She felt him tense under her touch, but he didn’t pull away.
“You shouldn’t be here.” His voice sounded hollow, almost mechanical. Letting a bit more weight rest on him, she leaned forward until her face was beside his.
“Neither should you. Why don’t you come home with me?” Keeping her voice soft, she tried to sound reassuring and calm.
Snorting, he shook his head. “Home? Where’s that? Privet Drive? So I can become the ‘freak’ and a ‘waste’ until I turn eighteen and they turn me out into the streets? Hogwarts? Because of me half the school’s blown to bits and the Great Hall is filled with bodies. The Burrow? So I can remind them that I cost them their son and brother? Where’s home? I’ve seem to run myself out of anywhere I could have called home.”
Nodding towards the arch, he shrugged. “Home is on the other side of that arch, through that veil Hermione. I’ve sent enough people there, maybe it’s time I stop hurting people and just walk through and join my parents and the rest.”
Trying to keep the fear out of her voice, Hermione slid her arms around his shoulders. “Harry, come home with me. Wherever we are, that’s our home. If you don’t feel comfortable going back to school or the Burrow, we’ll go to my house until we leave to find my parents. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you’re with me, its home. We can even take the tent and just go. Just come home to me.”
“So I can wreck your life and Ron’s like I’ve wrecked everyone else’s? I cost Ron his brother and your parents are somewhere in Australia, not knowing they have a daughter that almost died because of me. I’m not going to hurt you anymore.” Harry leaned forward and tried to stand, while Hermione pulled back and held on.
“Harry, you promised me that we would always be there for each other. You’ve never hurt me, but you’re scaring me now.” Leaning back, she managed to pull him back so he was lying beside her on the floor. Throwing her leg over his, she tried to pin him to the floor. “The only way you’re going through that arch is if you drag me through with you, so you might as well talk to me about it before we go meet your parents.”
Looking at her with disbelief on his face, tears were spilling down his cheeks. “Can’t you see? If you stay around me, something really terrible will happen. You almost died; I can’t bear to think about what could happen to you next.” Reaching up, he cradled her face in his hands. “You and Ron are together, you’ve escaped the curse of knowing me. There’s nothing left for me to do, so I can finally find some peace.”
Letting some of the fear she was feeling leak into her voice, Hermione wrapped her arm around him. “Harry, you promised we’d be together, that we’d always be there for each other. I’m not ready to break my promise to you.”
Brushing his hair back out of his eyes, she smiled. “There’s plenty left for you to do. If you feel it’s your fault that my parents are in Australia, then you can’t go traipsing off until you help me find them.”
Nodding at him, she moved until her face was inches from his. “Ron and I came to an understanding, and we decided it wasn’t really fair for him and I to go on snogging each other senseless since we really didn’t mean it,” Smiling at the shocked expression on his face, she nodded. “We meant it last night, that was three years of wondering and flirting, but when we kissed today, we knew that it was goodbye, that we both needed to find the one that makes us happy.” Blushing, she caressed his cheek. “Well, Ron needs to find that someone, apparently I’ve found mine, I was just too thick to notice.”
Moving closer to his face Hermione paused just for a second as their lips brushed, and then a hand touched her shoulder….
“Miss Hermione?” Kreacher’s bullfrog voice pulled her from her dream as his hand jostled her shoulder.
Jerking awake, Hermione could see Harry’s sleeping face, inches from hers. “Merlin’s bloody socks, Kreacher. Thirty seconds would have been all I needed.” Looking over her shoulder she could see the very confused house elf looking at her. “Kreacher, thank you. I’m guessing its noon, on the dot?”
Nodding slowly, Kreacher smiled. “Miss Hermione asked to be wakened at noon, but next time I’ll remember she needs a minute more.”
Sliding carefully out of the embrace that she and Harry had ended up in, she tucked the blanket back around him. Looking at the smile on Harry’s face, she wondered if the dream they had shared went on after she woke. Leaning over, she whispered “Be safe, Harry. I’ll be back in a bit” before she kissed him on the cheek. Blinking in surprise at his muttered “Love you too, ‘Mione”, she shook her head
Looking back at Kreacher who was staring at her with a solemn expression on his face, she smiled. “Could you watch over him while I grab a shower?” Seeing Kreacher’s nod, she sighed. “Don’t let anyone wake him unless it’s a real emergency.” Walking over to Ron’s bed, she grabbed a set of clothes and started to head out.
Turning back, she opened Harry’s wardrobe and found an old quidditch jersey of his from third year and added that to the pile. Whistling a sappy muggle song she remembered her parents dancing to when she was young, she paused at the doorway and looked back. She whispered, “You might not be a knight in shining armour, but we certainly did get the castle part right.”
Half an hour later, feeling refreshed and dressed in clean clothes for the first time in days, Hermione thanked Kreacher as he brought her a tray with toast, porridge and tea on it. Taking them out to the stairwell, so as to not wake Harry, she sat quietly on the steps and began eating an impromptu brunch. Idly straightening up the common room with her wand, she smiled as she bent her head down and inhaled the scent coming from the jersey she was wearing.
Grinning, she picked up the cup of tea and sipped it as she watched the midday sun stream through the Common Room windows. Suddenly, a silver streak of light came through the portrait hole and became Ron’s overly animated patronus. Looking up the steps at her, he bounded up, licked her hand and wagged his tail. “Gin’s slipped away from the family; I think she’s heading for the Tower looking for Harry. You’ve got five minutes tops to get decent.” Chasing his tail for a second, the patronus then faded from view.
Shaking her head, she sighed. The last thing Harry needed was to be woken up by his ex. “Hopefully his ex.” Hermione muttered aloud as she thought for a second. Casting a quick muffliato behind her so that the door to the dorms was shielded, she finished her porridge just as she heard the portrait hole open. Dialing up a smile, Hermione watched as Ginny clambered out of the passage and looked up the stairs. Obviously surprised to see her sitting there, Ginny’s eyes narrowed when she noticed what Hermione was wearing.
“Hermione, I’m going up to see Harry.” Looking defiantly at the older witch, Ginny stopped at the foot of the steps.
Holding out her hand, Hermione shook her head, “Toast?”
Looking bewildered, Ginny’s eyes flashed for a second. “Toast? I don’t have time for toast; I’m going up to see Harry.”
Shaking her head and smiling sadly, Hermione conjured a teacup. “Might as well have some tea with the toast, Harry won’t be up for an hour or so.” Nodding towards one of the tables by the fireplace, she smiled. “If you want, I can ask Kreacher to bring something else up.”
Shaking her head in exasperation, Ginny glared. “I’m not interested in tea, toast or a bloody feast. I’m going up to see Harry. He needs to see me.”
Still smiling, Hermione sat the tray down beside her. “The only thing Harry needs, at the moment, is sleep, breakfast and a shower. Since he still smells a bit like lake water, I’m going to suggest he do the shower before he eats, but you know how boys are.” Shrugging in a ‘what can you do with them’ way, she nodded. “The offer of food’s still open since you’re not going to go wake him up.”
Eyes narrowing even further, Gin shook her head. “Hermione, Harry’s back and that means ‘we’re’ back. Honestly you should be down in the Great Hall minding your own boyfriend and let me take care of Harry. Ron’s chatting up Luna, even as we speak” Shaking her head, she smiled coldly at Hermione. “Can you imagine?”
Laughing, Hermione nodded. “Of course I can, I suggested Ron talk to her. She’s had a small crush on your brother for a while now.” Smiling at the dumbstruck look on Ginny’s face, she shrugged. “He’s one of my best friends and so is she; I think they’ll be a cute couple.”
Stepping up on the stairs, Ginny glared at Hermione. “I’m not certain what you’re playing at, but I know that Harry wants me up there.”
“I’m not ‘playing’ at anything. I’m watching out for Harry, something I’ve done for the last seven years as he’s done for me. Nothing more, nothing less. You’re not going up until he wakes up so you might as well park yourself and we can talk.”
Smiling Hermione nodded towards the chairs down below. “We’ve been friends for a long time Gin, take a deep breath and think before you do anything silly.” Putting her cup down, Hermione rested her hand on the handle of her wand, which was sitting behind her on the stairs.
Turning bright pink, Ginny pulled her wand out. “Hermione, you don’t understand, once I talk to Harry, everything will be fine and you can go back to my brother or whatever you want to do. I love you like a sister, but I am going up there.” Flourishing her wand, a pale green light streaked towards Hermione, which collided harmlessly with a shield that appeared between the two witches.
“Not bad, Gin. Sibling rivalry is always tough, why don’t you think of me as the one who helped Harry found the DA, held him through his nightmares, and saved him from Nagini rather than the sister who used to let you have your way to keep the peace. It might be easier that way.”
Seeing Ginny take another step up, Hermione cast a silent ‘glisseo’ on the steps in front of her and smiled as Ginny slid back down and landed on her bum. Sighing, she shook her head. “Told you.”
Scrambling up, Ginny started wildly firing hexes at Hermione. Deflecting them easily, Hermione winced as some of the curses did damage as they bounded around the room. “Ginny, the Death Eaters didn’t manage to damage Gryffindor Tower, but you’re certainly making a mess of things.”
Tears were rolling down Ginny’s cheeks. “Hermione, why can’t you understand that this has to happen? I can fix things. I’ve waited for Harry since I was six. You know how I feel about him. It’s the same way you feel about Ron.”
Shaking her head sadly, Hermione sighed. “You’re absolutely correct, which is why Ron and I aren’t together. I love your brother for everything we’ve gone through together and because he’s an extraordinary man, but we both realized that we needed to move past school crushes and find happiness with people that really love us like we both deserve to be loved.” Nodding at the younger witch, she shrugged. “Something you might want to consider.”
Shaking in frustration, Ginny fired one more hex, which Hermione deflected with ease. Ricocheting off her shield, it struck the ancient bronze school crest, causing it to ring like a bell. Looking up, Hermione glanced over her shoulder at the door to the dorms and then flashed an annoyed look at Ginny. “Now you’ve done it.”
“Done what?” Ginny asked in a mocking tone. “Finally made you mad?”
Shaking her head, Hermione sighed. “No, you woke him up.” Looking back over her shoulder, she flashed a smile up the stairwell. “I tried to let you sleep.”
Stepping past Hermione, Harry yawned as he put on his glasses. Sitting down on the step beside her, he gave Hermione a smile. Holding her glance for several seconds, he nodded to her. “We’ll talk later. Hold these, please?” Handing Hermione a pair of wands, he smiled reassuringly at her. “She deserves this, a chance to let me know what she thinks and to hear what I think.” Seeing the look on Hermione’s face, he shrugged. “Don’t worry; she won’t do anything permanent to me.” Standing up, Harry rested his hand on her shoulder briefly as he stiffly descended the stairs to face Ginny.
Rushing over to him, she wrapped her arms around him, oblivious to the groan of pain that escaped from his lips. “Harry, I knew you wanted to see me, but she wouldn’t listen to reason. I didn’t mean anything, but we need to get things back on track.”
Stopping when she noticed that Harry wasn’t returning her hug, she looked up at him. “Harry, what’s wrong. You’ve come back to me and we can fix whatever’s wrong”
Gently extracting himself from her hug, Harry shook his head. “I’ve come back, Gin, but I don’t think there’s anything to fix any longer.” Looking her in the eye, he sighed. “Gin, we broke up because it was the best thing to do to protect you from Voldemort’s minions. In the last year, we’ve both changed. You’re not the same girl that I kissed here in the common room last year, and I’m not the same guy who broke your heart after Dumbledore’s funeral.”
Taking her hand he led her over to the sofa nearest the fireplace. Sitting her down, he sighed at the dumbstruck look on her face.
“Gin, you grew up this last year. You were splendid here at Hogwarts, trying to defy the Carrows and Snape and you can be justly proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
“Harry, no matter what’s wrong, we can fix it. We can start over, and we’ll get what we had back.” Taking Harry’s hand she looked pleadingly at him. “I’ve waited for you to come back to me for so long.”
Closing his eyes, Harry shook his head. “Gin, the guy you were waiting for died last night. I was really dead, and being dead gives you a different perspective on life. While I was away last year, I wondered about you, what you were doing, whether you were happy or sad. I finally realized that I was mostly concerned because our relationship put you in danger, and that I cared about you, but I wasn’t in love with you. I’ll always love you Gin, but not in the way you want.”
Crying, Ginny shook her head. “Harry, you’re just tired and at loose ends because everything’s changed with defeating Voldemort. Trust me, you’ll be back to your old self in a day or two and we’ll all be laughing about this.”
Putting his arm around her shoulder, Harry shook his head. “Gin, I’m so very sorry that I can’t be what you want me to be. I’ve changed and I’m not the guy you thought you loved last year. Everything has changed, and I can’t go back to being who I was.”
Putting his hand underneath her chin, he tilted her face up to meet his. “Remember when I said it felt like I was living someone else’s life?” Watching her nod, he continued. “I guess that was the clue. I knew that wasn’t where I should be. I need to find my own life to be happy.” Glancing over at Hermione he smiled. “I think I know where to find my life, but that’s not what you need to hear.”
Looking up at him, she pleaded, “Harry, I can’t lose you. I’ve known you just as long as she has.”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled sadly. “Gin, we met the same day I met Hermione, but she’s known me forever now. She knows things about me that I barely realize. She knows the good and the bad, and she’s still sitting over there. We’ve talked about almost everything.”
Nodding his head to Ginny, Harry gently wiped away a tear that was rolling down her cheek. “Face it; the two of us really didn’t talk that much. We spent time together, but we didn’t get to know each other. If we had, we would have realized that we weren’t right for each other; we simply wanted to be together. You’re a wonderful young woman and you deserve someone who truly wants to make you happy. Unfortunately, that’s not me. And for that, I’m very sorry.”
Kissing her gently on the forehead, Harry stood and drew her to her feet. Smiling at her he nodded towards the portrait hole. “Gin, I think someone’s waiting to see what you’re going to do. Why don’t you go out in the hall and tell Seamus what a lousy git I am while you two head back down to the Great Hall.”
Smiling sadly at the shocked look on her face, he nodded. “He’s worried enough about you to follow you up here and risk the wrath of Harry Potter; he must care about you very much. Think about that.” Nodding towards her he smiled. “I’ll always care, and I’ll always be there if you need anything, but if we don’t go our separate ways now, we’ll end up hating each other.”
Shaking her head, she glared at him for a second. “Damn it Harry, why do you have to be insufferably cute and always right?” Wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tight, she sighed. “You know I’m going to have to make catty remarks about Hermione and snipe at you for at least a couple of days?”
“Snipe at me for a week, Hermione had a rough night last night and she doesn’t need the grief.” Smiling at her, he brushed the tear rolling down her cheek away.
“You stupid git, you died last night. This means I have to let both of you off.” Lifting herself up on tiptoes, she kissed him on the cheek. “Mum’s going spare because no one’s seen you. All Ron will say is that you’re fine and sleeping.”
Shaking her head, she sighed. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but you two sort things out and I’ll tell Mum you’re fine. But both of you better show up down in the Great Hall by three or so or she’ll be organizing a search party.”
Nodding stiffly to Hermione, Ginny headed for the portrait hole. Stopping with her foot on the edge of the passage, she turned back to Harry with a questioning look on her face. “That bloody map?”
Nodding, Harry smiled sadly. “Make certain Poppy looks at him, he didn’t look too good last night in the Room of Requirement, but that might have been just because he was worried about me being back.”
Rolling her eyes, Ginny shook her head. Looking over at Hermione, she flashed an apologetic smile. “Hermione, be good to him. And see if you can get him to go a couple of days without getting himself into trouble. Merlin knows I never could.” Shaking her head, she was gone.