Chapter 14 : A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words
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Chapter 14- A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words
Harry was fuming.
He was angrier than he had been for quite some time. As he hastened down the hall towards the very large office at the end of it, he almost imagined the steam radiating out of his pores. Ignoring the secretary’s call of “Mr. Potter! Wait, he’s busy!” Harry threw open the door to Arthur Weasley’s office.
Arthur sat at the edge of his seat eagerly reading a paper that lay flat on his desk, but he looked up startled that someone had barged into his office at such an early hour.
“Harry! You gave me a fright! What are you doing here?”
Harry strode over and without a word threw the Daily Prophet down on the Minister’s desk. There really was no need as the paper that Arthur had been reading was in fact the same one. The older wizard sighed running a hand through his thinning red hair.
Arthur had been leaving the Burrow for work that morning when the owl came with the Prophet and instantly, he knew he’d be receiving a visit from the raven haired man before him that he had long considered a son.
“What am I doing here?! That’s what I’m doing here!” shouted Harry pointing at the paper in fury. Arthur looked down at the front page already knowing what he would find. There atop that first page was something so enchanting… and in more ways than just the movement of it.
It showed a couple in the middle of a street. The young woman gently tugging at the man’s jacket collar bringing him closer only to nudge his chin up so that he would look at her. Her hand softly reached up to caress his cheek while the young man leaned into the touch closing his eyes. Then, as if they’d been caught in the most shameful of acts, the two broke apart to stare right into the camera obviously having been surprised by the click.
Arthur knew that the ever inquisitive and sneaky cameras of the Daily Prophet had nabbed real gold when they snapped this particular photo of a couple in quite an honest and intimate moment. As the scene replayed all over again, Arthur took note of what pretty much every witch and wizard was going to think once they saw it or had already thought by seven o’clock that morning with the paper’s distribution, Hermione Granger had just been about to kiss Harry Potter. In the middle of Diagon Alley no less! What a picture!
“Well, Harry, what would you have me do?” asked Arthur bewildered.
Immediately Harry started pacing. “I thought you had convinced the papers to stop making up stories about my personal life!”
“That’s true… except this article is completely factual,” replied Arthur calmly. “Ms. Chang did a rather fine job with writing it actually,” added Arthur as a side note while once again leaning over to peak at the article. “She’s really quite clever… the only thing implying is the-”
Arthur stopped abruptly when he looked up and caught the death glare Harry was giving him.
It was true, though. Cho had detailed the recent developments in his life somehow without prying into it or tainting it in anyway. She’d offered a well written objectification of his job, of his recent break up- which now was common knowledge to everyone- and then had simply concluded the article by saying that he and Hermione had been ‘the closest of friends’.
Harry couldn’t help but hear the undertone of that word and he knew what Cho was really saying as did, he suspected, the entirety of the wizarding world! That word in combination with the picture was enough reasoning for everyone to believe that Harry was no longer a bachelor. It was like fourth and fifth year all over again!
“Oh stop looking at me like that, Harry! It’s true. Ms. Chang was probably scolded for not taking a more biting, more gossiping tone… Merlin knows what that awful Rita Skeeter woman would’ve written about you. You’re lucky it wasn’t her!”
“Well what about the Potter Privacy Act?! Doesn’t that apply here?!” cried Harry in a last ditch effort for Arthur to see his case.
“Harry, that act was created with Giants and Centaurs in mind-”
“So! It’s named after me!” He retorted rather childishly as he plopped down in one of the cushioned chairs across from Arthur.
“True, but the act only ensures the privacy of magical beings while in their own domains. You and Hermione were in a public street… outside of one of the most talked about pubs in the Alley, I might add. There’s simply nothing I can do about this Harry. It’s completely legal.”
Harry removed his glasses with one hand while the other came up to rub his eyes frustratingly.
“Harry, can I give you some advice?” Harry’s hand fell and he returned his glasses only to look at Arthur with a worn, awaiting expression. “Well for starters, I wouldn’t make too much of this. The more you react, the more people will talk. It’s best if you just act is if nothing’s really happening.”
“You want me to ignore it?”
“Yes. The more boring you are the less people will be interested. They’ll give up and move on to some other piece of news. Just don’t give them anything to gossip about,” finished Arthur, his eyes taking in the thought laden man in front of him.
Harry’s mind felt like it was on overdrive. Every time he looked at the picture, he found himself staring. Once he’d gotten the paper that morning he’d literally sat watching the scene repeat itself over and over again for a half hour. He hadn’t even bothered to actually read the article until he’d gotten to his desk and guiltily pulled it out to take another peak. He felt angry and confused all at once.
Angry because the bright flash of the camera and the noise of the picture being clicked into timelessness had interrupted something so personal, something so private. He and Hermione rarely showed their feelings for each other. Of course everyone knew that they deeply cared for one another, they knew that the pair were close in a way that no one could entirely understand- not even Ron or Ginny on occasion. But it was rare when Hermione expressed so to him, it was rare for them to be so tender especially in such a public place. Their greatest exchanges, the ones filled with their true intimacy for each other, had happened while alone. Times when they’d been alone on a walk by the lake or in the common room tucked in a corner. Or in the case of what would’ve been their seventh year as the war drew on, alone in a tent or standing before the graveyard of his parents. No one had ever been able to join them in those moments. No one.
Harry felt angry because for the most part he felt exposed. For the first time, he felt naked.
The camera had snapped a most deep and dear moment in his private life. And now it was open for the world to see. A concept he feared.
And even though there was that outrage of being stripped of one’s privacy, there was another cause for his harsh reaction. As he gazed upon the picture, he watched in complete fascination as the messy haired man that he would later come to realize was him closed his eyes and for just that millisecond he would watch as this lovely creature he’d found was actually Hermione leaned in closing just a small bit of distance. Staring at that captured millisecond as it replayed over and over, Harry discovered something that he had never fully admitted to himself before. He realized that in that moment, and even now staring at the photograph from the chair where he sat, he wanted Hermione to kiss him.
As the scene unfolded again and again, he found himself wishing again and again that this seemingly unknown witch- this witch that at first glance to the photograph took him a moment to recognize- would lean in ever more and seal her lips to his.
And it was this thought that confused him more than he had ever been in concern with his relationship with Hermione. It was this same thought that had angered him further at the rude interruption by the camera, another odd emotion sending him spiraling into confusion. She was so close to changing their friendship forever. He could literally see how close she was as he got to- now thanks to the Prophet- rewatch it over and over again. She was so close and they had interfered. They’d broken the moment. And so Harry was angry. Angry for the insight into his life, but most of all angry because the paper had prematurely ended something that he had now come to realize was something he had wanted to happen. A thought in itself that now that he was aware of it caused his brain to turn to jam.
He felt his mind turn with all the wonderings of his imagination.
What if they hadn’t been there? Would she have kissed him? Did he really want her to kiss him? Was it Hermione’s kiss or just any witch’s kiss that he desired? Was this feeling just a case of loneliness? Could this simply be reduced to him just missing Ginny? Had Hermione even wanted to or was it just an interpretation of a well timed photograph? Would he have kissed her back?
It was right here when his thoughts normally ceased. This was the thought he had gotten stuck on. He had already identified and established that he’d wanted her to kiss him- even though the reasoning was still up for debate- but now came the telling truth of whether or not he would’ve reciprocated. Would he have returned the kiss? It’s easy to want a kiss. It’s easy to be lonely and wish for another to rid that ever torturous feeling from your mind. But it’s harder to return the kiss. It’s harder taking that split second to suss out your feelings and then decide if you feel it too. So would he have returned the kiss?
There was a very deep part of him that knew the answer to that question. And that was the biggest thing he’d been wrestling with for the last hour, squelching down that answer. Because that answer alone would and could change everything. Because it wasn’t just any old witch leaning in, it wasn’t just some bimbo he’d met at the pub and gotten hammered with. It was Hermione.
Arthur’s knowing look turned to one of concern for Harry as he leaned forward to put his elbows on his desk. “It’s just a picture, Harry.”
Harry nodded, but still he felt an overwhelming dread at returning home that evening to the girl that now permanently inhabited his thoughts.
“Just talk to her, Harry. I’m sure she feels just as confused and manipulated as you do,” said Arthur wisely, seemingly reading the young man’s features.
The older wizard stood up and walked around his desk. As Arthur leaned up against the strong mahogany front of his work space, he bent down to whisper one thing. “And if that picture was implying something true… or maybe something that might be true in the future… then it is perfectly alright, Harry. By all means, it’s normal! You two have been dear friends for a very, very long time. You’ve been through things together that many have never dreamed of enduring together. And look at you. You’ve both come out the better having known the other… Plus she’s a wonderful girl that Hermione… It’s ok if there’s something more.”
Arthur had never been one to judge. It was things like preplanned conclusions that caused the world to take a step back instead of a healthy step forward. So the ginger haired man had long ago refused to participate in such an ancient and outdated action. Yes, he refused to pass judgment… especially on those that he loved. And Harry had been classified under that category for a very long time.
Harry nodded trying to somehow find comfort in Arthur’s reassurances and understanding. Then, slowly he arose and made for the door.
“Oh and Harry,” called Arthur just as the boy had opened the door. “Take this… I’ve already got a copy.” With a flick of his wand, Arthur sent the second paper straight to Harry’s hand.
Harry only shook his head before walking out, still clutching the paper.
“So did you want to kiss him then?” asked Luna inquisitively, her calculating eyes focused on the girl across from her.
“No!.... I don’t know… maybe.” Hermione groaned in a confused, frustrated sort of way.
“Well… it sure looks like you did,” inserted Neville squishing into the seat next to Luna. He dished out the girls’ drinks. The three had met at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch and of course the topic had found its way to the Daily Prophet’s picture in the paper.
Hermione groaned once again and then lowered her head to the table hitting the top with a thunk. “Ow…” she murmured before going quiet.
“Oh Hermione it’s not as awful as you’re making it.” Luna took a sip of her bubbling and smoking drink, hers being the only one at the table that did so. “Things could be a lot worse.”
Hermione lifted her head to shoot Luna a befuddled expression. “Luna what could possibly be worse?”
“Well for starters… I think it’d be worse if Harry didn’t want to kiss you back.”
“What makes you think he wanted to kiss me back?”
“So you admit you wanted to kiss him then?” interjected Neville eagerly. Hermione glared at him.
“No! I am not admitting nor denying anything… I am merely following Luna’s train of thought.” Neville raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Oh whatever!” cried Hermione before turning back to Luna, “Luna what did you mean?”
“By what?” asked Luna without a clue as usual, suddenly having forgotten the conversation they were in the midst of.
Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“You know I hear that if you roll your eyes too many times they’ll get stuck in the back of your head… and you’ll forever be left looking at your brain,” commented Luna as a side note.
“LUNA… please! Back to the subject!”
“Oh right… well I’d think it’d be worse if he didn’t want to kiss you back.”
“And…” Hermione persuaded, trying to push Luna further so that she would share her logic.
“And well he does, so the situation is not all that horrible.”
“But how do you know he does?”
Luna simply looked upon Hermione with the utmost pity. “Hermione, a picture speaks a thousand words… it’s really quite obvious. He’s wanted to kiss you for a while, I reckon. Probably just didn’t know he wanted to until today.”
Neville nodded in agreement with Luna’s statement. Tom came around and took their orders before hastening off to fill them.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” shrugged Neville, successfully getting a rather peeved look from Hermione. “I mean… well… have you honestly never thought of kissing him before?”
Hermione stared down into her mug. “No… honestly, no I haven’t.”
“I don’t understand you two… You’re a pretty girl,” Hermione managed to squeeze in an “Awe, thanks Neville,” before he could continue, “and he’s a rather attractive bloke. I just don’t see how it could’ve never, not even once, crossed your mind,” muttered Neville in clear bewilderment.
“Well I guess… I guess we just never thought about it. Or well… I guess I never really thought about it- I can’t really speak for Harry… But it always seemed like we’d both made an agreement somewhere along the way to just not think about that sort of thing. I think I classified him as just a friend and then… well I guess it never changed,” finished Hermione breathily.
Tom returned with their meals and handed them out appropriately to the three. He muttered, “Enjoy,” before traipsing back behind the bar.
Neville returned to the topic at hand, “But that just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, you just can’t classify something that can’t be classified,” Neville exclaimed wisely.
“Now that sounds like nonsense to me,” Hermione retorted before taking a bite of her fish and chips.
“Oh no Hermione… It makes perfect sense,” interjected Luna with complete understanding. Despite her being called the ‘brightest witch of her age’, Hermione seemed at loss for the point her two friends were trying to put forth.
“Hermione,” began Neville leaning in didactically as if he were teaching a student a simple charm, “You can’t classify something like relationships because well relationships, you see… they change. They’re dynamic. Relationships evolve day by day, year by year. You’re classification of Harry as purely a friend WITHOUT any feelings of… of a sexual,” Neville turned a bit red with the word, “nature might’ve worked as a prepubescent twelve year old, but that all gets thrown out the window when you hit puberty! You’re a girl, he’s a boy… there’s hormones… and stuff.”
Hermione continued to appear confused as to what Neville was saying. With a patient ease, Neville sighed before trying again.
“What I’m trying to say is that yes you did classify him as a friend back when you were twelve, but whether you realized it or not you’re classification of him changed as you grew older. You may think that you think… or well I guess… you may think that you thought he was just simply your friend and that you had no romantic feelings towards him at all, but well you didn’t… Clearly! I mean you have a picture on the front page of the Prophet to prove it!” cried Neville with visible enthusiasm.
“Good job, Neville,” congratulated Luna with a smile as she patted Neville’s hand. The two sat there quite content with Neville’s explanation.
Hermione’s hazelnut eyes only seemed to be more confused and flustered by Neville’s words. “So you’re saying that for the last several years of my life I have clung to an outdated classification and that I have swept my feelings for Harry under the rug!” She exclaimed looking pointedly at her two friends sitting across from her.
“It’s not like you clung to it knowingly…”
“What Neville means is that you stuck with it because it was the only thing you knew. It was comfortable… Also Ginny and Ron helped to reinforce it, I would say,” supposed Luna with a finger against her chin thoughtfully.
Hermione shook her head lost in all the questions, thanks to Neville and Luna, now running circles in her brain.
“I mean… Hermione… why do you think all of Hogwarts thought you two were together for all those years?” inquired Neville his soft eyes trying to read Hermione’s expression.
The only thing Hermione could do was shrug. She’d never asked herself to look into it more. At the time there were always so many other things to worry about… Like making sure Harry didn’t die for goodness sake! But the harder she thought, the more she recalled instances where she felt… well, she didn’t know what she felt. But still, she recalled those times alone with him where the world seemed to only consist of just him and her and now as she looked back, she saw things differently. His smile meant something else. Her body language meant something else.
She remembered catching his eye when Victor mispronounced her name and grinning back at him while at the Yule ball. She remembered glancing over at him that entire night. An act that could have been innocent, but now as she remembered how often she had done so it did not seem to be based on anything that could even remotely be considered friendly. She remembered how they fought fifth year over him blindly running off to save Sirius because she just couldn’t bare the thought of him getting hurt. She’d much prefer him angry with her for telling him the truth, for facing him head on than have him hurt… or worse, dead. The thought alone, still, tore at her heart.
Constantly over the years, she had defended him because she knew… she just knew. By fourth year she could read his mind like a book, cover to cover. There was no way he put his name into that goblet because if he had she would’ve seen it in his eyes. And as the years went on her almost uncanny knowledge of what he was thinking only intensified to the point where if he even thought about lying he couldn’t look her straight in the face for fear that she’d catch on. She ended up figuring it out then by his avoidance.
As she sat there in the Leaky Cauldron pushing her fish and chips around, she couldn’t help but wonder… Do friends really pay that close attention to each other?
But most of all her mind swirled with the memories of what would have been their seventh year. Her gut twisted, even now, with worry over his safety. She’d lost sleep countless times simply trying to invent back up plans for the back up plan just so that she could protect him, so that she could keep him alive. She closed her eyes and then suddenly she was back in the tent with him alone. It felt riddled with tension, a tension so thick it made her throat constrict. It was like something wasn’t being said, something was hidden beneath the surface and she couldn’t quite place her finger on it. Was it just loneliness? Were they both just wanton for their absent crushes? Or was there something more between them?
Her mind pushed forward to that night when they’d read of Dumbledore’s secret life. How hurt she had been having known that it was her that had broken his wand, how they argued over their late Headmaster’s true character. But most of all she remembered the need to touch him, to reach out in some form and reassure him. So she had. She had stroked his hair softly before reentering the tent and leaving him alone with his thoughts. She had slipped that night… just like she had done last night outside of the Hermit. Her need to be near him, to soothe him had somehow taken over her own body and she had no more been in control of her wayward limbs as Lupin had been of his werewolf self.
And so she was left with last night. Where on that street… after weeks of Harry being a shell, her seeing his smile for the first time and knowing she’d been the one to draw it out from hiding, watching as he returned back to her, and finding that she could not help but draw him close and savor his renewed presence. Had she really wanted to kiss him right then? Was it really some subconscious need that was moving her closer to him of its own accord? Or had she known what she was doing? Had she somehow registered in the back of her mind her need to kiss him and change their friendship to something more? Did she really want him in that way?
She reopened her eyes and swallowed, preparing herself for the answer she already knew, an answer both Neville and Luna had agreed was one that she had been overlooking for quite some time. She exhaled deeply before saying what she knew was true.
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