Night had fallen over Hogwarts Castle like a thick velvet black veil. All the world appeared quiet and tame yet inside the stone walls things were quite opposite. Only hours before a great Quidditch match had been held at the school pitch and a victory had been won for Gryffindor. The parties in the common rooms of three houses were fantastic! No way would Slytherin come close to the cup this year…
Yet not every Gryffindor was ecstatic over the victory. Quite on the contrary…Hermione was very upset. This time in life is very confusing for any girl of 16. You wake up one morning and realize you are no longer the same identity that had fallen asleep the night before. A weight is constantly pressing against your heart. Hermione found herself constantly searching for some answers to questions she could not ask or could not even decipher. She didn’t understand why she felt so miserable when everyone else was smiling.
So as stars danced to the songs of celebrating students Hermione sat motionless on the common room sofa. Her hand gripped tightly at the butter beer she held as if letting go would produce reprehensible damage to the entire world. She had been ignored almost the entire evening. Ron had smiled at her a couple of times from across the room which was a good sign. Yet, several younger students of the female persuasion had flattered his ego and naturally he was too preoccupied at the moment. Harry was being repaired by Madame Pomfrey at the moment…His famous dive for the snitch had won the match very early on. Unfortunately it had left him with a broken nose and collar bone.
Hermione replayed the event over and over again in her mind. She was standing in between Susan Bones and Ginny Weasley when it had happened. She had been watching Katie Bell who currently possessed the quaffle when the crowd let out an electrifying moan. She knew that it had to be Harry to cause such a reaction and looked just in time to see his body collide with the ground below and he could not stop his firebolt in time after grasping the elusive golden snitch.
The feeling of cement had landed heavily inside her stomach. It was not new to her. This feeling always produced whenever she saw one of her friends in pain or danger which was more common than naught. Without even thinking she had run out onto the field but Harry had been taken away before she managed to arrive at the scene. It was not as serious as it could have been. Actually, Harry should be arriving from the hospital wing at any moment. Yet, for some reason this had scared Hermione unlike the times before.
It was the first real shock of the new school year.
As if her subconscious controlled her Hermione stood and left the common room. She did not meet the curious gaze that emitted from Ron’s eyes. She merely stalked out of the room as if she held no real purpose.
Yet Hermione knew what was troubling her. Suddenly it was all too real. The new information about the prophecy had been like poison to Hermoine’s ears when she had heard the words slide breathlessly from her best friend’s parched lips. Lips that she loved…and today when she saw those lips hit hard grass and mud something inside her mind began to generate an unquenchable fear.
Harry was always in danger…she had known it before. Yet with every passing day it became much more than just a fact she knew like something read out of a text. It was a disease that was draining her of enjoying what time she had with Harry and Ron. Time she needed with Harry…to know that he was still young and able to enjoy life…Harry….
Those feet that had trod many paths in such a short life span now headed towards the hospital wing. The halls were completely deserted and Hermoine realized it was almost ten in the evening. As a prefect she was already breaking the rules she had been instructed to uphold…sheesh, not the first time eh?
The doors of the infirmary loomed above her like menacing giants with great clubs and chains to massacre all the courage she might have felt before arriving. Yet, she had not been placed in the Gryffindor house for no reason and with a loud sigh she clasped the giant hand and pushed forward.
He was alone and apparently preparing to leave. He seemed to be buttoning up his shirt and folding up the sick robes he had discarded earlier. He looked up and Hermoine could see the surprise in his eyes. Yet, he smiled warmly at her as old friends do.
“Hermione, what are you doing here? I was just about to come down. Madame Pomfrey preformed her wonders once again, thankfully.” These worlds rolled off like common day items to be acknowledged and ignored all at the same time. Hermione only strolled over to meet him and sat down on the chair facing his slightly bemused grin.
“The party not interesting then?” he asked sitting on the bed rubbing his shoulder. Normal…that was what he sounded like to Hermione. He had just been injured and was acting like he had only woken from a nap. The scar that seared his flesh 15 years ago now glared menacingly down at Hermione and she could not peal her eyes away from it. No words formed…no real coherent thoughts formed….but Hermione could not stop the tears that began to form along the edges of her eyes lids.
Harry’s smile faded immediately and he knew something was not right with her. She looked very pale.
“Hermione, are you alright…come sit next to me.” He said motioning for her. Like a puppet she obeyed and crossed her arms stiffly across her chest and her eyes fixed on the tips of her shoes. Looking at him only made it worse.
“Did you come here to talk to me, Hermione?” Harry asked turning slightly to face her, propping his knee upon the bed. She nodded. Silence ….
“Hermione…” He put his had on her shoulder and shook her a bit. “Hermione say something or I will go mad.”
“I am so scared.” She whispered. This statement was the missile that sunk her heart completely and she began to sob. Harry was taken aback at first but also he knew deep down the reason for the outburst. He did not know what to say and at first all he could do was watch as Hermione flung her body onto the pillow at the head of the bed. She covered her face with her shaking arms and let out heart wrenching sobs.
After a few painful seconds the walls of Harry’s own soul began to weaken as he finally began to see the strain the new information had developed inside his best friend’s mind. He knew, now, that he was not completely alone in carrying this weight of despair and fear. His arm closed around Hermione’s waist pulling her back up to face him and relocating the sobbing head upon his own tightened chest. The weight drove him down into the depths of his own pain. Pain that he had been trying to ignore, pain he thought he had conquered…
You can not conquer your fate…it can only conquer you.
“Hermione…” his voice was hoarse with suppressing his own sobs. “Hermione…I am sorry…I”
She finally looked up with a confused expression through all the tears that drenched her face. Suddenly realizing what had just happened and seeing that familiar gleam in Harry’s own eyes, embarrassment came over her like a tidal wave. She began to wipe the salty tears away and regain control of her shaking body.
“NO!” She said forcefully. “No, Harry. You can not be sorry…this is what is meant to be…You can’t….you can’t be sorry…Ron and I needed to know…I wanted to know…I know…” Hermione was at a loss of words because those green daggers staring into her were stabbing at her senses. They were filled with so much emotion that it nearly brought her to her knees. “Because…Harry….Now, I know how much it means…to have this time…to know you…to be near you…to love you.” And control again was given away to the winds of night and affection and Harry did not fight any reserve as he let his own tears fall. Hermione loved him…He was loved. The boy who lived was loved.
They cried together for a few more moments. Harry cried away the emotion of never knowing love until later in life, the feeling of despair that comes from solitude, the pain of knowing why your parents died, the surreal knowledge to know your destiny holds little hope, the pain of loosing your one link to your past, the anger…the doubt…the darkness…they fell from his eyes into Hermione’s bushy brown hair and were given up as if knowing he could not carry them alone anymore.
He pulled back to look and see what could be read from the brown eyes that he knew he loved. But he found that only darkness met him as his lids closed at the sensation of lips pressed against his own. Hermione was kissing him…kissing him hard. Her hands had clasped onto his cheeks tightly. Harry’s instinctively roamed to her neck. This…this was happiness. A surprise that could have melted his body into goo…
He kissed her back with as much fire as he could muster. Knowing what he was doing was something that would change this relationship forever. Yet, it was what he wanted…it was what he needed.
Finally the unfortunate requirement for air caused a break in the embrace. Hermione’s hands remained glued upon Harry’s cheeks as she seemed almost breathless with the sensation of kissing her best friend. Harry’s hands however could not stop stroking her neck and running his fingers through her hair. His eyes took in every inch of her as if seeing Hermione for the very first time. Seeing her as a woman.
“Hermione,” He began. “I don’t know what this future has in store for us. I don’t know…I am so angry…so tired…so …alone…sometimes with my thoughts and my nightmares that I…I don’t see you or Ron….I forget who is really there for me…I forget to love…The secret hate for Voldemort has taken so much out of me…But…the love is always there…and its you, and Ron, all the Weasley’s, Dumbledore, Lupin, Sirius, hey…even Buckbeak…its you that brings it back…that reminds me why I live…Your love.” Hermione began to cry again as these words were heard by her unbelieving ears. She had not come here to kiss Harry or to hear his heart poured out…but it was what had been meant to happen…these secrets where meant to be discovered.
Harry continued… “I am scared like you…I don’t want to be a murderer…I don’t want to be murdered. But as long…as long as you love me…and as long as love is stronger than this evil…this power will be strong enough for us to survive. Promise me…promise me that you wont ever loose faith Hermione…that you wont ever stop loving…” Hermione broke him off quickly before he could finished taking his hands in hers stroking them tenderly.
“I will never, ever! Stop loving you…I will die loving you…protecting you.”
The cement block that seemed to reside constantly in Hermione’s innards began to morph into a cold jelly and then evaporated into the kiss that consumed them once more. All the torturing questions were answered in that next moment when lip met lip and hand held hand.
The party continued for several hours until a very harassed McGonagall was forced to put a stop to the proceedings. As Ron began to climb the stairs to the boys dormitory he realized he had not seen Harry nor Hermione return from their mysterious destinations.
Grabbing Harry’s cloak from the wooden chest at the end of his bed Ron made his way to the hospital rather worried something had gone wrong with Harry. He quickly walked the same path Hermoine’s had taken not three hours earlier. Arriving finally he opened the door and nervously peeked into the dark room. He could hear the faint sounds of breathing for a bed close by. It took his eyes only a moment to adjust to the darkness and then he realized with a quick wave of surprise what he was beholding.
Hermione lay wrapped in the protective embrace of his best friend Harry in a deep slumber that left her face full of peace and tranquility. On his back Harry also lay sleeping finally free of nightmares that constantly plagued his troubled mind. Ron stood silent and just stared at this peculiar sight and finally realization donned on him what must have taken place…the secret was out and the two had finally confessed feelings only Ron and Ginny had discovered when the new year began.
Ron was not angered or sad by the fact that these feelings where not directed towards him. He felt quite warm inside and could not suppress the grin that began to form at the corner of his mouth. He loved those two people more than anything…he loved everything about them being together. He would face whatever came his way and knew that those two bodies would be standing right beside him when he did. Happiness was all he wished for those two sleeping comrades. Happiness in a time when joy is very difficult to obtain.
He turned to leave and closed the door softly behind him. Without looking back he began to stroll towards the Gryffindor common room, the smile still dancing across his face…
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