Chapter 3 : Farewell
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Harry woke up startled, he could feel sweat on his brow. It was only a nightmare, but the weight of it still pressed down hard upon him nonetheless. What did it mean? His thoughts however were interrupted by a sweet, though common scent. He knew this smell, it was the scent of...of...he looked down, Hermione.
Her head was tucked firmly between his shoulder and chest. Harry's left arm was wrapped tightly around her, holding her close to him. Her body was pressed up against his, her left leg pulled up, was draped across his mid section. Harry dared not move, he dared not wake her. He dared not ruin the moment.
There was something tremendously comforting about holding her. He felt alive, more alive than he had in months, years even. Her, this close to him, in his very arms, sent his spirits soaring. He was ever so grateful to be able to hold her this way. She was his best friend. He trusted Hermione, with his life...with far more than his life. He loved her.
'Though,' he thought to himself, 'how exactly did he love her?'
She was one of his best friends, part of the trio. He would gladly give his life for her, and he knew she would do the same for him. Harry thought back to his dream...he could never let anything happen to her.
'None of this would be worth anything without her,' Harry thought to himself while staring at the ceiling...while staring beyond the ceiling.
Following the war he felt alone, abandoned even. Misery crushed him with every breath. But here, holding Hermione close, now, he did not remember alone. He had a partner, a friend, a half to complete his whole. One he could rely on, one he had relied on countless times before. One he wanted to rely on.
But Ron...Ron was his other best friend, the third of the trio. He knew Ron liked Hermione, did Ron love her? Did Ron love her, need her, as Harry did? Could Ron ever understand? Could Harry ever do that to his friend...his best friend?
'Oh! What did it matter anyways? This was Hermione...she would never care for him as he did for her.'
Harry's breath stopped suddenly as Hermione stirred. He prayed for the moment not to end, but such was his fate. To Harry's surprise though, as she woke, she only hugged him tighter. That is before she realized where she was.
"Oh," Harry heard escape her lips.
'Damn!' Harry cursed his luck.
She had obviously just realized she was sleeping in his arms. He felt her body freeze as she slowly began to raise her face to look at him. Harry did not know why, but as she looked up he quickly closed his eyes, pretending to still be asleep. He could feel her gaze upon him...but remarkably, she did not move.
Instead, believing him to still be asleep, Hermione gently laid her head back down, carefuly, as if in an attempt not to wake him. She then hugged him tighter still, now with both her arms and legs. Harry responded by squeezing her back in return. Harry could have sworn he heard her inhale deeply, taking in his scent.
She then, ever so slowly, began to move off of Harry, as if to not let him catch her like this with him. But as she pulled away, Harry stirred as if he had just awoke and stretched with his right arm but pulled her back close with his left. He looked down as if surprised to find her there. Hermione looked up hesitantly at him, mortified.
"Morning gorgeous," Harry teased.
"Sorry," she said embarrassedly, "must've dozed off, I don't..."
They both then looked over at Ron as he snored loudly. Fortunately he was still asleep.
. . .
Breakfast was as good as ever and more than Harry had to eat in a long time. All were down stairs for breakfast, including Ginny, who seemed to be in a much better mood today. Harry figured she only needed to get it out of her system and hopefully was now back to her normal self.
Following the meal Harry volunteered to help with the dishes, which he had to insist on over Mrs. Weasley's protests. He even did the mundane task by hand, enjoying the old memories of it even though he was now of age. Ginny came over to help him, doing the dishes by hand as well. The conversation went well, though in the midst of it, in a random glance, Harry caught Hermione glaring at the two of them.
This startled Harry. 'What was going on? The dream? Waking up with Hermione held close in his arms? Their eyes continuously getting awkwardly locked in one anothers. The funny feeling he was now getting when around her?'
Harry looked back again, but she was now laughing with Ron about something.
"Huh...oh sorry, what's that Ginny?"
Ginny looked suspiciously at Harry, then glanced back to Hermione.
"I said," she repeated herself, "do you want to play a little quidditch later?"
"Er, quidditch, sure...I mean, yeah, that sounds like fun."
"Great, we'll play Ron and Hermione, we'll crush them," she laughed, "and maybe we can get some of the others to play too!"
It quickly turned into a family event. Harry, Ginny, Charlie, and George took on Ron, Hermione, Bill, and Percy. Bill was decent, but Hermione and Percy weren't exactly the athletic type, and Ginny wasn't taking it easy on them either. Harry had to chastise her several times throughout the match for playing too rough. Mrs. Weasley even had to step in as a self declared referee. And granted Ron has had his good days as goalie, this day though certainly wasn't one of them. Harry and Ginny's team won handily.
Regardless, it was a lot of fun and a ton of laughs for all. As fun as it was, to Harry and for them all, it was still strange adjusting back into a normal life, picking back up the usual routine. The wounds were bored deep. There was an obvious hole present, one representing the absent Fred. All thought about him but none spoke of it.
They played through lunch, having Mrs. Weasley bring them out sandwiches and lemonade. They spent the afternoon outside as well, degnoming the garden for Mrs. Weasley, patrolling the grounds, experimenting with different spells, flying their brooms, all late, well into evening.
Harry loved most of all the feeling of being back on his broom. Following the match, he broke away from the rest and darted off across the country side. He first sped low to the ground, weaving back and forth between the trees before pulling up high into the air, just letting the wind blow fully in his face. Here he was free.
That night, following another amazing dinner, the four of them gathered in Ron's room, Ron and Hermione on Ron's bed, Harry and Ginny on Harry's. They sat around reminiscing, telling stories about the war, about the final battle. It was strange as Harry spoke the least. He sat silently, listening mostly to Ron and Ginny expound upon their own grand deeds. Harry's thoughts were elsewhere. Memories of the war reminded him only of the lost. Their was no glory in the war for Harry.
As the talk of battles continued, another battle erupted in Harry. He had just noticed that Ron and Hermione were holding hands. Harry panicked. He had to remind himself more than once that these two were his best friends.
Ginny reached over and took his hand. Harry looked down and stared at their interwoven fingers for the longest time before looking back up at her. He smiled at her.
. . . .
The days began slipping by. Ron and Hermione became close once again, as did Harry and Ginny. It was, however, wearing on Harry more and more. He cared a great deal for Ginny, she was a terrific friend and person, but Hermione...she was something much, much more.
'Something far greater than Ron deserved.'
Harry could not help himself. These ill thoughts came up like vomit. Harry hated himself for it, but at the same time, he just couldn't help it. It couldn't have been a worse situation. The one he loved with his best friend, he with his best friend's sister, and their family his adopted own.
But always and forever, still, there was Hermione. He had resolved that he would give up everything if it meant he could be with her. Try as he may though, it was another thing altogether to declare his fillings to her.
He would still catch her looking at him. They would catch each others eyes for just the briefest of moments, but at the same time they could still see so deep. Their moments seemed much more than some common glance to Harry, but what if he was wrong. How could he dare to find out more without risking so much.
'She was with his best mate for Merlin's sake, and he with Ron's sister,' he had to keep reminding himself, 'What damage would this cause?'
So Harry the soldier persevered through it and he accepted his fate for what it was. Ginny was a fine girl, an honest, good loving girl. He was lucky to have her.
. . . .
Old friends came to visit, Neville, Luna, Lee Jordan. They met others in Diagon Alley and elsewhere, Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas and their clique and other old members of the D.A.. Life began to settle down. There was no more fretting over Death Eaters, no more worrying over who you could trust. Their worries turned to girlfriends and boyfriends, dates and snogging. Life was becoming normal once more.
However, as was Harry's fate, just as things seemed to be going for the best, a wrench was thrown in to knock everything off. One morning just after breakfast, Hermione announced that it was time for her to return back home.
She thanked the Weasley's greatly for their hospitality, "but I had hardly enough time to catch up with my parents since they returned from Australia," Hermione explained. It was time for her to go home.
Harry's heart sank with her words. They all visited for the remainder of the morning, but following lunch Hermione excused herself upstairs to begin packing her things. Ginny left with her parents to Diagon Alley, and Ron succumbed to an afternoon nap. Harry was once again alone.
As Hermione was packing her things, the distressed Harry wandered off down to the small pond a little ways from the house. Harry loved to sit out here, it brought him peace, it was a place to clear his mind.
Harry sat in the shade with his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms hugged loosely about them. He stared off into a serene setting, but he saw none of it. His mind saw only Hermione. Seeing her with Ron, denying his own feelings for her, suppressing them day after day. It was taking its toll. Harry's gloom, that which he thought he had shaken, was slowly creeping back up on him.
He realized that before, when he had fallen to his lowest point locking himself away at the Leaky Cauldron, that it was when Hermione had gone to retrieve her parents. His rock, his foundation, had abandoned him. When she had returned, she had rescued him from his despair as simply as if it were just turning a switch. But now his foundation was crumbling beneath him once more, and this time he feared for good.
It seemed childish to him to feel this way, but he could see it from no other angle. They were done with school, done with the war. Yes he could see her at any time, but he could never again be with her. He would be subjugated to friendly visits, to dinners and outings. But Harry needed more from Hermione. He needed her with him, he wanted to share his life with her.
She had only mentioned leaving and even so, only back home to her parents, and already the dark well Harry had previously experienced reopened to swallow him. It was selfish of him, he knew that. She had been forced to exile her parents to Australia, forced to wipe their memories of her, and now that she finally had them back after all this time, instead of spending all her time with them, she had been gracious enough to come and rescue Harry, yet again. He still though could not prevent his mind from plotting ways in which he could keep her with him.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he did not even hear her approaching. He jumped as she placed a soft hand on his shoulder.
"Sorry," Hermione said innocently, seeing that she had startled him.
"No...I'm sorry, just didn't hear you coming."
"Please," Harry answered, quickly clearing away any debris beside him as a place for her to sit.
Hermione sat close to him and they caught each others eyes almost immediately, each holding the others gaze for the longest time...before they each abruptly looked away. Only silence was heard as each could be seen struggling for the right words to say.
"It's completely crazy, honestly," Hermione finally blurted, "...its like I miss the war."
Harry looked at her quizzically.
"No, that's not what I meant...its just that...you know, as hard as it was, the way seemed much more clear. We had a mission, a purpose...and we had each other," she added sheepishly while glancing up at Harry, attempting to judge his reaction, "...but now, everything just seems so confused, so hard...so unclear."
Hermione gave up. Harry could say nothing, a giant lump was stuck in his throat. Silence again ensued.
"Would you tell me, Harry...what's troubling you?" Hermione asked softly, almost whispering.
Harry tried. So hard did he try. There were a million things he wanted to say, but alas, his throat was choked. Fate would not let him speak. Harry could only shake his head.
"Please...Harry?" Hermione begged whilst twisting herself closer to him.
She hooked one arm under and back over his, locking them together while leaning against his side. She spoke again, ever so gently, right near his ear. Harry could feel her warm breath tease against his skin. Her voice was cracked, as if close to tears.
"I can't bear to see you this way, you have to talk to me, Harry...you owe me that."
Harry turned to look at her. Their faces were only an inch or so apart. Harry's sad eyes bore into hers. His mouth frowned at the corners, choking back the pain he felt roaring.
"I'm going to miss you, Hermione..." was all he could manage, though he never took his eyes from hers, nor did she take her's from his.
"You don't have to," she said so gently that it was nearly inaudible.
Harry's chest felt hollow. The thought of life without Hermione was crushing him. He wanted to ball up and cry, and jump up and rage all at the same time. But he held back his raging storm. He did not know what to do. He did not know what was happening...but as if some unknown force was guiding them, their foreheads came together, their eyes closed, and their lips moved dangerously closer and closer together.
Harry was too shy, too bashful to do it on his own. But the connection between them, the gravity pulling them together, it could not be overcome. Their lips brushed ever so slightly against each others. It was like electricity. Something bolted through him, sending his spirits soaring. Hermione whimpered.
Harry took another breath, then pressed his lips forward once more. Ever so softly he pressed his lips to Hermione's, brushing them gently across hers. Again he felt his spirits soar. Again he pressed his lips against hers and this time he held them there, savoring the moment. She pressed hers back up against his. Days could have passed.
Finally, Harry managed to pull his lips from hers. He kept his forehead pressed against hers, though, just breathing, just loving the moment.
Harry lifted one hand and with the back of his fingers he brushed them softly up across her left cheek. With his fingertips he caught a lock of her loose hair and pushed it back behind her ear. Grasping her face within his open palm he pulled her to him and they kissed hard for the first time. Harry smashed his lips against hers.
In the heat of the kiss their lips parted and his tongue traced her lips. Hermione mimicked him. The passion was intense and overbearing. Both were left heaving, massaging and groping each others bodies.
They fell over backward into the grass, but still their lips dared not part. Overcome with emotion, Harry pushed himself ontop of her, forcing her over onto her back. He grabbed her by either wrist and pinned them down above her head.
He finally tore himself from her lips but only to kiss down over her chin, back across her jaw line to her ear. He gently nibbled her lobe between his lips. He trailed his lips ever so softly up the edge of her ear before he involuntarily broke and admitted to her, "I love you."
Sirens immediately protested in his head. What had he just done? It was too late, what was done was done, he would have to face the consequences. Harry hesitated a moment as he cursed himself for this slip.
Harry picked himself up off her to look her fully in the eyes. He searched back and forth between them, as if waiting for her to show some hint of what she was feeling. Hermione's eyes were beginning to tear, what did that mean? He still could not believe he had admitted that to her, this could ruin everything. Harry Potter loved Hermione Granger.
The worst happened, Hermione said nothing. Harry's heart sank into his stomach.
'How could he have been so stupid? This was going to ruin everything!'
"I love you..." Hermione whispered softly, interrupting Harry's scolding of himself. He had been raging so loudly within his own head that he was unsure if he had heard her correctly.
'Could she possibly love him too?'
The look in her eyes, he could see it, he could feel it. Gravity began pulling him back towards her. He lowered his lips to hers. They kissed each other fully, fiercely, passionately. Hermione writhed beneath him. She gathered her strength and pushed Harry over, rolling herself on top of him. With her legs locked about his waist, Hermione kissed Harry as if she had been waiting to for years.
"HARRY POTTER!" an enraged voice shrieked.
Their kiss was immediately broken as each looked up.
Ginny was standing there with her arms crossed, outrage chiseled across her face. One foot was impatiently tapping in the grass.
"Ginny?" Harry asked idiotically.
Ginny was fuming, glaring at the two as if to burn them with her gaze. Harry and Hermione scrambled apart from each other and stood up.
"What exactly do you think you're doing!" Ginny screeched at him.
Harry winced at her harsh tone.
Hermione got to her feet, "er, maybe I should give you two some time alone."
Hermione began to mumble some apology to Ginny but then decided that perhaps this wasn't the best time. She then hurried past her back towards house. Ginny never took her insane gaze from Harry, he was trapped...she was holding him from Hermione.
Harry was speechless.
"Well don't just stand there, SAY SOMETHING!"
Harry looked at Ginny warily, as if he were looking at someone he did not know.
"HARRY!" she again screeched.
"Ginny, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean..."
"YOU DIDN'T MEAN WHAT!?!"
"It's just that...I'm so sorry...I would never intentionally hurt-"
"SHUT UP!" Ginny cut him off.
Harry stared blankly at her once more. He could have sworn he saw actual fumes coming from her. This was awful. This was exactly what Harry had feared.
"What do you want me to say then?" he asked softly
"I'm sorry Ginny, I understand this isn't easy...I care a great deal about you..."
"You have to believe me, I would never intentionally hurt you..."
"THEN WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?"
"I don't know how else to say it," Harry gave up, "I...I love with Hermione, Ginny...I am in love with her."
"I KNEW IT! And after I had waited for you, after all that time...how could you! How could you do this to me...Hermione, that tramp!" Ginny turned and started back to the house.
"I am sorry, Ginny, this is all my fault, MINE. There's no need to bring Hermione into this," Harry pleaded as he chased hurriedly after her.
"Hahh!" she squealed, "you're going to take up for her, are you? NO! You can't do this, I won't let you!" Ginny stopped and turned on Harry once more.
"Its not so easy Ginny, you have to believe me...you, your family, Ron, you are all so important to me...if there was any other way..."
"And Ron!" she gasped, "SHE IS SUCH A WHORE!"
Ginny took off towards the house again at quick pace.
"Ginny, please, there is no need..."
"Shut up, you!"
"What do you want me to say?"
"Don't see her anymore!" Ginny rounded on Harry at the base of the steps to the Burrow.
Harry noticed she had her wand in hand.
"FINE," anger and frustration boiled up in Harry, "ITS YOU I LOVE, GINNY, ITS ALWAYS BEEN YOU. YOU. YOU'RE EVERYTHING TO ME. HERMIONE...NOTHING!"
Harry was surprised to find himself choking back a tear. He could not believe he had done this, he loved the Weasleys so much...just what had he done.
"Would you rather me just feed you lies, live a charade? There is nothing I can do to fix this Ginny. I can't live a lie anymore. I do love you Ginny, you are family to me, but I am in love with Hermione. I am so sorry, I never meant to hurt you, anybody..."
Ginny was now in tears. Harry went to her.
"Don't you touch me!" she threatened.
"Ginny, I'm sorry..." but she turned and rushed into the house.
Harry walked up the steps ominously, as if marching to his own funeral. Ron...what would Ron do? He thought about going inside but was afraid of what was waiting there for him. Instead, he turned and collapsed down onto the wooden steps, thinking hard on how he could make this right.
'What a crazy day!' he thought to himself.
Harry gave it a moment, allowing the events of the last couple hours to sink it.
'What would happen now?'
Hermione. She loved him, that was all that truly mattered. But Ginny, Ron, what would happen with them, his Weasley family?
Harry picked himself up and went inside. Ron was there in the kitchen, fuming.
"What did you do to her?" Ron threatened.
Harry was taken aback, he did not know what to say. Ron moved forward, thrusting his shoulder in to Harry's, knocking him back a step as he passed. Ron then disappeared outside.
Harry would have to deal with Ron later. Harry ran up the stairs checking first in Ron's room. It was empty. He then ran to Ginny's. Again it was empty. Not a single thing of Hermione's was left to offer any proof that she was still here. As Harry left her room, Ginny stood waiting in the hallway.
"She's gone," Ginny said smartly.
Harry did not understand. He did not understand why Hermione would have left without a goodbye, without speaking to him. He hated Ginny for this, he wanted to call her a liar...but at the same time, he could feel it, he could feel that she was gone. Harry's soul sank with the news.
. . . .
It turned out that Hermione had immediately gathered her things and snuck out the back to apparate to her parents. Supposedly she was crying hysterically, but would not tell Ron what had happened. Just as Hermione left, Ginny came storming in, crying as well. It didn't look good for Harry when he came trailing in.
Harry did not think that Ron knew what had happened exactly, but the animosity between the two was high nonetheless. Harry was unsure of what, if anything, Ginny had told him.
Ginny, surprisingly enough, was acting like nothing had happened at all. She was as nice and as flirtatious with Harry as ever. Harry even had to remind her on several occasions that he just didn't feel that way about her anymore. Ginny would simply smile at this and go on acting as if she hadn't heard him.
The tensions between Harry and Ron however grew ever more intense, especially after the first letter arrived. It had been several days without word from Hermione, and her first letter was addressed to none other than, RON!
In fact, the letter, short and to the point, mentioned nothing at all to or of Harry. The letter let Ron know that she was doing well, that it was nice to be back with her parents, and she thanked him for his letter. 'His Letter!'
'Ron was writing to Hermione!'
Harry could not help but feel that Ron had only shared the letter with him to gloat. Harry immediately stormed out of the house, grabbing a piece of paper and quil as he went. Sat beneath the shade of a nearby tree, Harry furiously began crafting his own letter before crumpling it up and throwing it away. Hermione was the one who had left without a goodbye. She had left without a word, nothing, after she had just told him that she loved him. Then, not a single letter for him, but for Ron! His pride would not let him write to her.
The days wore on awkwardly. Harry felt more and more unwelcome in the Weasley's household. He and Ron were seemingly competing for Hermione's love. Harry began making plans to move out. Grimmauld Place seemed obvious, but held too many memories. He considered buying a place in Godrics Hollow, or London even. Anything to get away from Ron and his letters.
The second came only a couple days later. Again it was addressed only to Ron. Again it mentioned nothing at all of Harry, but it did reference another letter from Ron. The jealousy Harry felt was maddening.
Harry became desparate. As the days wore on and letter after letter arrived for Ron and none for himself, Harry's resolve broke. He crafted a long and well thought out letter. He declared his love for her once more and begged to see her again. His heart ached while writing the letter.
'Why hadn't she written him, why had she left without a goodbye? Why was she writing only to Ron? Had she changed her mind...or did she just love Ron too...more?' The bitter pang of jealousy stabbed Harry like a dagger. It was even worse when he realised he had no owl to send his letter and though he hated to do it, he had no other choice but to ask Ron to send it with Pig. Ron begrudgingly complied.
Hermione's absence was affecting Harry greatly, just as it had before. The gloom of the world was slipping up over him once more. He needed her, he needed word from her badly. To make matters worse, Ron disappeared with his letter. Harry feared that Ron had read it, but surely Ron wouldn't have stooped that low.
Mrs. Weasley awkwardly reported that Ron was staying with his brother George in London, as if she herself was unsure of Ron's strange disappearance. It was particularly awkward in that now it left only he and Ginny, as well as Molly and Arthur at the Burrow. None quite understood why Harry wouldn't have gone with Ron, except for the fact that perhaps the Weasley's assumed he and Ginny were still together and Harry was staying with her. Now more than ever Harry considered leaving. What was holding him here? He needed to know what Ron was up to.
It was several days before Ron returned home. It was late in the evening and Harry was laying up in Ron's room, thinking. He heard the mumbled greetings. He heard Ginny rush down the hallway and stairs.
The voices suddenly turned overly excited.
"WHAT?" Harry heard Ginny ask unbelievedly.
Harry got up to hear what was going on. He made his way down the hallway to the stairs.
"...yep, just asked her, wanted to let you all know...we're getting married!"
All the others gasped with delight, everyone except for Harry. For him, the entire world had just collapsed on him. He was sure of it now more than ever. Ron had read his letter. He had then run to Hermione and either by some use of trickery or magic, he had fooled her into agreeing to marry him.
Hate boiled up in Harry. He could have fought Ron there and now. He pitied Ron as he slowly, quietly stalked down the stairs. He pitied Ron for what he was about to do to him. But Harry looked around at all of Ron's joyous family, a family he loved, and he began to realize what the jealous envy within him had begun to do. Harry was prepared to kill Ron. His best friend.
Harry looked down at his hand, he had unconsciously drawn his wand. As Ron's family surrounded him with hugs and kisses, Harry calmly turned and walked unnoticed from the house, his wand in hand.
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