Chapter 1 : Can't Forget The Things You Never Said
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CAN'T FORGET THE THINGS YOU NEVER SAID
(I could have loved you)
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS MORIARTY@TDA
May - June 1998
The end of the war signals the end of all she has ever known and all she has fought for the past seven years.
The end is also the end to the life she has been living her entire life - her entire wizarding life, that is. And that seems like the only life she wishes to remember.
She feels bare: stripped from her own identity; from everything she has ever believed in and acted upon. The aftermath is… emptiness and chaos all in one. They attend funeral after funeral and for the general population every day is a party. All she sees are full-grown men singing drunkenly on every street-corner, cloaks strewn carelessly on Muggle streets, fireworks going off everywhere and owls reported on the Evening News. There are moments of clarity in-between the triumphant cries when she processes the past year. She'll watch Creevey die thirteen times every night and leave her wand underneath her pillow-case. They all sleep with the light on.
People compare it to when Harry killed Him the first time but she has no recollection of this. It hadn't been her time, it wasn’t her era or moment to shine.
It is now, though.
They all live in some sort of euphoria, but at the same time it is as if a big space has been made and a huge load has been lifted off their shoulders. The fame that follows is some sort of bearable side effect to all of this happiness. People stop her on the street and begin hugging her. She hears about lives she has changed, lives she has improved.
She'll spot her kin from miles away. They are the flying high, sleepless walkers with the lights turned on. Each golden hue on a black street is like a sweet nudge at her. Hey there. We feel it, too.
They all deal differently. George marries Angelina, Ginny travels to the States, she dyes her hair blond, Ron asks her to marry him, and Harry buys a motorbike.
Hermione has tried too many times without luck to find a way to excuse her lack of emotions - and at times excess of emotions towards Ron.
The ring with the small diamond is beautiful and she cannot quite take her eyes off it as he holds it out towards her. It is goblin-made with small silver bands elegantly joined together in the middle as it morphs into the petals of a flower with a little white diamond in the center. Ron’s blue eyes look at her expectantly. She sighs as her posture decomposes and she reaches out for the box.
With a quick smack she closes the black velvet box, and smiles softly, almost apologetically.
His mother still serves her the smallest slice of pudding every year at Christmas.
August 18th 1998
When Harry buys the bike she thinks it is a phase more than anything.
“He’s just going through a rough spot at the moment,” she reasons as Arthur starts asking about the new habits. It is only when he buys the traveler’s seat that she begins to worry.
“You know, I can just find Sirius’s old motorbike if you want.” She leans against the door of the old shack, which is a wonder in itself seeing as it barely hangs on its hinges.
“That’s all right. I like putting things together -- Nice hair, by the way.” There's a spot of grime on his nose and she eyes him, bent over the yellow, half-collected bike. She threads a hand through her blond locks absentmindedly. He is wearing blue overalls and no shirt and has black soot smeared all over his clothes, shoulders, and face. She is standing all proper in a tight skirt her hair in a proper do-up She feels as if she is somehow playing for the gallery, playing dress-up as an adult.
“You know, I’m not going to leave you alone ever." She looks at him sternly. Madness is a sickness they both suffer from and she is not scared off easily. Besides, hiding out with Harry seems like a very immature decision. She pretends it is he who needs her help and that she has nothing to do with this.
“I know.” He looks up at her with some sort of unreadable expression.
“I’m sorry, you know,” he offers then, his fingers stilling momentarily on the yellow paint which has begun to peel off. “For being an arse.” He does this off-handed shrug as if to apologize for something that is hardly his fault.
She waves him off and winks at him. “You’re always an arse, Harry.”
He smiles at her and scratches his nose, smearing it further in black soot. There is something very young and innocent about him as he stands with a sledgehammer in his hand and soot everywhere. Truthfully, she is just happy that he is talking again. He has moved out to the far-off hut in the middle of the woods, saying that he needs some ‘time off’. She visits him regularly, watering his plants, doing his wash and refilling his stocks of leftovers to be reheated.
“Ginny sent a letter," she says, and notes how his back stiffens over the bike.
“Oh, really?” Harry’s voice is strained and forcibly calm. Hermione nods and picks up a rusty doorbell.
“Says hi. She’s doing quite well in California. Says something ‘bout a job at an office and some new lad.” The doorbell does not ring and the button is missing.
“She mentioned you.” She raises her voice slightly, and he turns around for the swiftest second.
“She misses you.”
Harry looks at her for a few seconds, his eyebrows furrowed. The doorbell in her hand suddenly starts beeping loudly, the sound ringing in her ears. Harry gets up and takes it from her, stopping the sound immediately with a flick of his wand. His hands are slender and there is something mesmerizing about his movement which she cannot place.
She cannot believe those are the hands that killed Lord Voldemort.
“I - I miss her too,” he says and puts the doorbell back into a drawer. He walks back to the bike and begins working. Hermione stares at his bare defined back before she sits down beside him on the bench. He stops working for a second, looks at her for a flash of a second, before handing her a red screwdriver. They continue working in silence.
Oil spills on Hermione’s new skirt.
The yellow shack becomes their sanctuary and meeting point. She teaches him how not to kill his fish and how to cook and wash his own clothes, and he teaches her how to collect a bike from scratch. Every night they share a bed. They lay together side by side on the small moldy bed placed in the center of one of the two rooms in the shack. He is always wearing his blue overalls and she is always wearing her navy blue skirt. She starts knitting as if this will save the world.
“Ron keeps asking me where I go all the time.”
The sun is slowly setting and the last rays of sunlight reach through the masses of trees and hit so low that they escape in through the blinds and hit her in the eyes. Harry snorts and glances at her briefly.
“Funny how he still feels that pull,” he murmurs.
“Will it ever go away?” Hermione asks tentatively, still blinded by the sunlight. She does not elaborate and Harry is silent for a moment. He turns his back on her, his voice muffled but the words still ring clear.
“I'm still waiting.”
October 7th, 1998
When the yellow motorbike is finished they do not know what to do with themselves. Hermione has discarded any pretense that she will ever return to Ron’s place. Harry seems restless once again and he begins riding the bike on longer and longer trips, going further and further away. One day he will surely stay away. Hermione feels without purpose. She is unable to stop this from occurring while at the same time she feels as if his actions form familiar patterns; patterns she knows by heart.
This will be the first sign.
October 20th, 1998
During the nights it all seems to expand.
Thoughts drift off and he seems all too often to remember a timid night in her sole company with the crackling of a radio and the feel of her chin perched on his shoulder, the warmth of her seeping onto his cold skin. He remembers her delicate hand linking their hands together. These late afternoons when she is sitting in the living room or by his side in one of his jumpers, the moonlight painted across her pale skin, he remembers those nights all too much. As if the pain of not having her isn't enough.
They sit in silence many times. He ponders asking about Ginny or Ron, but thinks better of it. The war is no longer an excuse, and strangely, it still keeps them together, and there are all these thoughts, moments, sentences and words that they no longer discuss. One night she sits in front of him for the longest time, her lips quivering. She touches her wrist for the briefest moment.
“I - I feel so old, Harry.”
She searches his eyes, her own brown ones so watery and human. Sometimes they remind him of Ginny, which makes it hard to look at her. He always forces himself to meet her eyes anyways.
His fingers ghost across her jaw.
“Let’s make a cup of tea.”
November 2nd, 1998
One of those nights lying on the bed with their clothes on, hands brushing against each other. She murmurs - and she sounds so earnest, maybe too earnest, like she used to be;
“I’m not the same, Harry.”
She turns to look at him, her eyes searching his face; maybe searching for understanding, maybe she looks for acknowledgement or just plain comfort. When he reaches over, his fingers ghosting across the contours of her face, she expects him to say that of course she is. But the silence settles. Harry’s fingers move across her mouth and her lips pucker and press against his skin. She watches him as he lets his fingers stay, her voice soft.
“No one’s the same.”
“We’re not supposed to be the same, Hermione.”
There is no shadow of a smile on his face, no gleaming eyes. He leans in and kisses her cheek, his grip curling around her wrist. Her eyes close and she makes a soft sound in the back of her throat.
December 15th, 1998
Ginny returns from California after a while.
She has a tan, and her hair has been cut into this neat little bob. They are all invited to the Weasleys’ house for dinner. She falls sick.
He bangs loudly on her small square door. Her apartment is not fancy. It is in the center of London, in the part where you do not want to live. But he is standing outside her door and she kind of has had this secret fantasy of him standing outside her door. But then again that was just dreaming and now he is actually standing, flesh and all, outside her door. He sounds quite exasperated.
“I’m sick,” she yells from under the covers on her red couch. She is reading a good book, and she does not have time for interruptions of the likes of Harry Potter.
“No, you’re not.”
She does not need this, she tells herself. One thing is running around in the woods playing husband and wife, another is attending Harry's engagement party.
She gets up and answers the door. He is leaning against the door frame still clad in his blue overalls. They stare at each other for a moment.
“You dyed your hair again,” he comments with a smile.
“Were you going to go like that?” She ignores him and he raises an eyebrow at her.
“Were you not going to come?” He challenges. She sighs and her hand slips.
“You are not supposed to be here.”
She hasn't turned her back on him or shut the door. She is all but staring at him, a small timid smile playing on her lips. He grins shyly, some sort of boyish trade that still makes her heart flutter. Ever since the Return of Ginny she has been staying at her own apartment and not at the shack. The sense of trespassing territory is foreboding as Ginny Weasley has never had any trouble marking her territory.
“Well, I really don’t care.”
Her grip on the door tightens slightly. “Ginny’s home.”
“I know.” His smirk hasn’t fallen off his face, and yet she kind of wishes it would.
“You know, it’s custom to invite your guests in,” he says, his grin widening. He has got his hands stuffed in the front pocket of his blue overalls and he still has a bit of soot on his arms. He isn’t wearing a shirt underneath the overalls and his black hair falls carelessly into his eyes, only partly covering the thin scar on his forehead. A strong urge to hug him overcomes her, but she raises an eyebrow at him instead.
“You’re not a guest.”
“Ouch, that one hurt.” He takes upon a look of mock sadness and she cannot help but smile.
“Jokes aside, love. Can I, please, come in?” His eyes are deep and soft. She steps aside without thinking. He walks in with a small kiss on her cheek as he passes her. She sighs deeply and closes the door. She will regret this.
“Why didn’t you go?”
They are lying on the bed side by side with their clothes on as they have done so many nights before. The only difference is that they are now in her apartment and London is just not far enough from reality. The small traitorous question has slipped across her lips without her noticing. He should not have come.
“Didn’t feel like it,” Harry says, tasting each word before letting it go.
“What about you?”
She shrugs. “Didn’t feel like it either.”
A silence stretches between the two, the air heavy, until she finally opens her mouth.
“Is it bad of me to hate her?”
Harry raises his head, his green eyes locking on hers. He has got beautiful eyes, she thinks to herself, heart wrenching eyes.
“No,” he says slowly. “No it’s not.”
"Because I do. I hate her so much it eats me alive at times."
His gaze lingers on her and she is suddenly aware of how little space there is between them. It may be that he is looking at her, it may be his breath fanning across her face, or the fact that he is here and she never expected him to be the one who would come and talk to her but she gets this foolish idea that he may kiss her.
“Still.” Harry straightens up and she lets go of a breath she did not know she was holding. “Ginny’s home.” His hand grazes hers momentarily, a ghostly touch that she can barely place.
“She is.” Hermione counts the spider webs on the ceiling slowly.
They are silent for a while.
(“I could have loved you”)
January 10th, 1999
“So how was California?”
“Mindlessly numbing. How was Harry?”
“Oh stuff it, Hermione.”
A silence passes between them, then,
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Ginny.”
The redhead turns to look at her, her lips quivers into this bitter smile then she sighs deeply, her eyes shutting momentarily.
“You know, Hermione.” She shakes her head and laughs bitterly. “I don’t know either.”
Hermione eyes squeeze shut. Ginny laughs darkly. She forces herself to look at her, swallows.
“I don’t know what to say.”
January 15th, 1999
It is one of those late nights at the shack.
Probably one of the last ones if she is being honest, and she has felt like being honest for a while now. The crackling of the radio reminds her of another night like this, another one laced with desperation. There is a whisper of clothes as he sits beside her, his hand touches hers briefly. A familiar tune crackles on in the radio and it is as if they both hold their breaths, remembering a time not far from this in the dark woods, the cry of surrender.
His hand grabs hers and he pulls her up. A weak “Harry...” escapes, but she lets him pull her into him, her heart beating erratically. They swing softly to the music. She makes a soft sound, listening to it as it catches in her throat. His fingers curl more tightly around her hips at the sound and a single tear leaks from her eyes.
In a second, his fingers are drawing back through her hair and he presses his mouth against her forehead. Her eyes close on their own accord and the tears start streaming down in thick strides, the rumble of a sob in her chest. And he is talking again, murmuring nothings against her forehead. She cannot really hear him, and yet it does not matter because he is here and nobody else is. Despite all she expected, he is right in front of her, his lips bruising her skin.
“One last dance,” he offers and she nods, her breaths coming in short gasps. He touches his nose to the side of her head, breathing deeply and pulls her closer. She does not know when their roles changed, when she became the weak one and when he became the comforter. She does not understand anything anymore except for the fact that he is here.
“One last dance,” he murmurs against her neck, and for a second she forgets.
December 5th, 1997
The whisper of their lips moving against each other drowns out the patter of rain against the tent. His fingers dance about her, linger and taper over her hips. A moan escapes. He hums with joy and laughs, the sound filled with joy. She likes the sound. It is boyish, innocent and heartfelt. She kisses him with more urgency.
The small tent is cold and dry. Her breaths come out in small puffs of white, slowly rising upwards. He laughs deeply again, his chest rumbling underneath her. A smile slips across her face, his thumb brushes against her lips. Gently. She likes the change in atmosphere and she needs this, the sense of the apocalypse’s nearing is heart numbing.
She might lose him.
The palms of her hands travel up his chest, her fingertips dance around his neck. She presses her lips to his once more. There is nothing more to this, nothing more to find; everything is right here, underneath her hands, inside his chest - inside those eyes.
Their clothes are quickly discarded, her fingers pausing for only a second as her eyes meet his. His thumb shoots up and softly rubs her bottom lip.
“Hey…” His voice is a rough whisper as he brings her hand to his lips.
He kisses each fingertip tenderly, his hot breath trickling across her skin. Her stomach flutters with knots as she leans down to place a soft kiss on his lips. His sweet breath washes over her as his hands curl around her elbow. She opens her mouth and takes his lower lip between her teeth, pulling at it hungrily. He groans, the sound rippling up through his mouth into hers as she slips her tongue inside his mouth. One of his hands is cupping her face and the other is pulling her closer to him, tangled in her hair. Her teeth press down on his bottom lip and his free hand travels down to the back of her thigh as her eyes flutter shut and a moan escapes from the back of her throat.
It is some sort of culmination of desperation and passion. She cannot breathe properly, it seems, and he is all she sees. His face is so close to hers, his eyes are glimmering out at her, those beautiful merciless eyes that have taught her everything she thought she'd never need. A “Harry…” slips, the echo ghosting along her lips. She might lose him.
There is no time.
January 26th, 1999
It is easy falling back into tradition even after all this time.
The Ministry offers her a job the moment she sets her foot inside the building. Getting back together with Ron is like putting on an old pair of jeans. Her fingers linger momentarily on her wrist, her hand curling and uncurling, before she reaches for his hand.
April 20th, 2000
It bangs on her door and this time there is no wishful thinking that it could be him - this time there is no doubt that lingers as to who is knocking on her door. His green eyes are staring straight at her as she peeks behind the door. She falters,
He walks past her into the room without a word.
He is still wearing his blue overalls - she has missed these, bad conscience or not. She cannot help but let a small smile taint her lips; he looks the same and there is some sort of comfort in the fact. He will be okay.
When he finally turns he has a peculiar look on his face, Hermione wonders whether he is going to yell at her. She would deserve that.
“Could’ve at least told me.”
His voice is trembling lightly at the edges, he stares at her with this tough look on his face, his jaw squared. He sounds young, younger even.
“I didn’t know what to say.”
“You could have said anything, just -“ His voice cracks, “just not nothing.”
Her eyes burn and she swallows, “You’re invited, you know.”
She forces herself to meet his gaze, he holds it mercilessly.
“Invited?” He spits harshly, “Please, Hermione.”
“Ron- we - I-I,“ She clears her throat, and says then, her eyes steady, “I want you to come.”
Harry rubs his eyes, sighs, “Hermione.”
“I just -“ She takes a tentative step closer. “I need you there, Harry.”
His hair is longer and he has dark circles underneath his eyes and the shadow of a beard is spreading across that angled jaw. She lets go of an uneven breath.
“Need me?” He shakes his head with a nod to the small ring on her finger, “I believe you are doing fine on your own, Hermione.”
She looks down, curling and uncurling her hands. A finger ghosts along her wrist.
“Harry - I -“ She begins but he adds then, in a deadly jealous whisper; the only honest whisper there is to man:
“If you need help, you can always ask Ron.”
Her lips quiver and she blinks furiously.
“Dammit, Harry, dammit.”
December 15th, 1997
“Let’s stay here and grow old together.”
His arms are around her waist, drawing her in close as she rests her head against his bare chest. She sighs happily as she continues to draw circles on his shoulder. A deep laugh rumbles in his chest, he strokes her tumbled hair softly.
“That would be nice,” he murmurs.
“It would, wouldn’t it?” She smiles happily as she reaches up to kiss him once on his lips. A low moan catches at the back of his throat and he pulls her closer.
“Let’s just find something bigger than this old tattered tent,” his lips ghost against hers as he speaks with closed eyes. She gasps and pulls abruptly away. Harry opens his eyes, confused.
“No hate on the tent, I made this from scratch,” she sniffs and his face breaks into a huge grin.
“It still stinks,” he sniggers against her lips. She shakes her head at him in mock annoyance.
“This tent is keeping us warm and -“
“Warm? I’m bloody freezing,” Harry laughs and nuzzles his face into the crook of her neck, pressing his body even closer to hers. Her arguments quickly die away, replaced by a breathless moan.
“That’s nice,” she says breathlessly as Harry rolls her over, his grinning face inches away from hers. She fingers the small tuff of black hair at the back of his neck, marveling at this creature above her, never quite believing her luck. He pulls her face closer, his lips embracing hers breathlessly.
April 20th, 2000
He reaches for her and leans into her, his hips pressing into her side. She tries to look at him but it is like looking at the sun, all blinding. She swallows as his thumb brushes against her lips. She does not say anything and he lets his hand drop dully down by his side.
She stares at his overalls. The brown splotch of oil, the one that would never come off when she tried washing them, is saying hello. It is like an old friend, she notes. ‘Hi there, haven’t seen you for a while.’ She whispers a quiet hello back at it. She goes back in her head, remembering cold nights in the tent with snow and Harry’s arms around her, his breathy kisses and soft moans.
When she looks up at him there is wetness in her eyes. He touches her wrist gently and her body shudders involuntarily.
He looks up at her, his hand still holding her wrist, his green eyes looking somewhat expecting. She shakes her head and he lets her hand fall roughly.
His voice is tired and slightly blaming. She looks up at him, her fingers flickering behind her back where she has hid them.
“Are you angry?” she asks, as if it were the most basic question. He rubs his head and turns away.
“That’s not really the bleeding point, Hermione.”
She shakes her head and laughs bitterly.
“It sure as hell is.”
She almost sounds like her old self, reprimanding like old times; ‘Leviooosa’ and everything, the words catch at the edges;
“You cannot just go and be mad every time I don’t do as you please.”
And for a second she is back in First Year again, dealing with three headed dogs and young boys. Their eyes meet and her finger brushes against her wrist. A remembrance, a hinted reference to a time of lawlessness, fear and a heartfelt love that never really seemed to last enough time for her to know it properly. She returns her gaze to him, mutters, her heart giving a little as she admits the fact;
“You left me first, remember.”
He is in front of her in two strides, his face inches from her, eyes lightning with rage.
“That -“ He closes his eyes for a second and breathes unevenly. “That is bullshit and you know it.”
She shakes her head furiously and opens her mouth to argue but he beats her at it.
There is something in his voice that silences her. She sinks various times but remains quiet.
“You- I -“ He rubs his eyes. “You’re not here.”
Hermione furrows her brows at him.
“I’m right here, Harry,” she tells him, but he shakes his head.
“No, you’re not. You’re not here, Hermione, not really.”
He breathes heavily and she feels her fingers flickering again. She takes a hold of her hand as if to calm it.
“And I’m livid, Hermione.” Harry runs a hand through his hair, agitated, “I’m so bleeding furious that you’re not here, you can’t help me with all of this mess.” He looks at her, his eye twitching.
“You’re not in love with him, you can’t be. I - we - we’re supposed to end up together.”
He looks calmer as he breathes out for a second, and says then, in a hollow voice that nearly breaks her heart all over again,
“I don’t know how to talk to you.”
He fists his hands and she puts her small one on top of his, as if to calm him. He shakes his head and adds with a dark laugh, “I don’t know how not to talk to you either.”
He pulls his hands away from her and runs yet another hand through his hair. “That - you - I’m just so angry.”
She steps forth once again and grabs his hand linking them together.
“I just - I-I don’t know,” Harry murmurs and she has to close her eyes.
“I don’t know.” He repeats.
December 23rd, 1997
“You can’t die,” Hermione states plainly, as if it were a choice of his.
There is a silence, then,
She turns in his arms to look at him.
“I’m serious,” she says, no sense of humor to her voice. It is two days before Christmas and she does not need this, not now -- not ever. “You’re not dying. Ever.”
He laughs then.
The laughter rumbling in his chest and her head bobs up and down as he laughs on, until finally she is laughing with him against his chest, sensing the absurdity of the situation.
Her mouth and jaw is sore, her fingers press into her skin and she gasps for air, until finally she is sobbing against his neck, deep breathless sobs gurgling up through her throat. He kisses the side of her head and murmurs into her hair as his fingers caress her back. She gasps for air in their small bed inside this lonely tent. The snow falls gently outside, peaceful.
“You’ll be fine,” he murmurs against her forehead.
His fingers curl around her hand as she looks up at him from his chest. “You will. Ron'll be there.”
She looks away. “It’s not the same.”
“I know,” he murmurs and pulls her closer, his nose skimming across her jaw, “I know.”
April 20th, 2000
She jumps when he grabs her wrist.
It is not a tight grip and she could easily pull away as he slowly turns her hand. But she lets him. Stares silently as he slowly pushes her sleeve up.
The sleeve pushes back softly. He rubs his finger carefully across each letter as she stares blankly at the word edged into her skin, trying desperately to look away.
The d is slightly crooked and leans into the b, she notes as her fingers twitch again. Her skin is pink and raw still, slightly rough around the edges and she can still feel each jagged cut in her skin. She sees his lips form the words silently and she flinches, almost by habit.
“I- I thought - she was only torturing you, not -“ He glances at her wrist again.
“I just heard you scream,” He says finally.
She settles for staring past him, her hand twitching still. His hand is drawing mind-numbing circles on her wrist and it irks her. She does not pull her hand away and yet her eyes have started to burn.
“There wasn’t really a time to -” She tries to be nonchalant as she pulls her hand back.
They stand for a while there, staring at each other.
“People have been far more hurt than this.”
“But having Mudbl-“ Harry grabs her arm, his touch burning against her wrist, she looks up at him, her eyes swimming.
“Don’t -” She clamps a hand across his mouth. She removes it slowly before stepping away from him. She straightens her dress, shakes her head twice, her fingers twitching still, and adds in a clearer tone, stern and proper,
“It's time for you to leave, Harry.”
July 15th, 1998
“Dammit!” He yells, tearing at his hair.
She stands in his doorway, her black Doctor Martins barely across the doorstep. She really does look bleeding terrific.
“What’s wrong, Harry?” She asks, her short blonde bob hiding half her face and yet he catches the shadow of a smile.
He walks up to her in two strides and then stops dead in front of her, his face inches apart from hers. It has been mere months since the Final Battle and he is selling this place; he is selling the apartment and he will go live in the woods. He will build a motorbike from scratch and not think a single thought of Hermione Granger and the ring Ronald Weasley has hidden in the top-drawer of their bedroom-closet.
His breath trickles across her face and she looks at him, her eyes large and wide. His eyes scrutinize hers for what seems like forever before he closes his eyes and his head drops against her shoulder. His nose tickles the base of her neck and his breathing deepens, sending a wave of heat across her exposed neck. She shudders involuntarily, barely daring to breathe. His fingers graze her waist momentarily.
“You're another loose end.” His voice is low.
Harry does not look at her.
“You should go, Hermione.”
June 10th, 2000
“I need him.” She says it as if this alone explains it all.
“You have never needed anyone in your life, Hermione.”
“I need you to understand,” she whispers and walks up to him, her eyes begging.
It is summer and she is wearing a bright red dress, sunglasses in her hair. The contour of her engagement ring is sensed through her white glove. He runs a single finger across the contours of her face before letting his hand fall dully by his side. Her gloved hand catches his.
“I need this,” she says. Her thumb finds the back of his hand and a shot of warmth echoes through him. He closes his eyes.
“I need this ending,” she continues.
He nods, perhaps more to himself than to her as his hand falls limply out of hers.
She sighs, “Harry.”
December 19th, 2000
“Ron says you’re seeing Ginny again.”
“Love," Harry looks at her through his glass of whisky, "Ron is full of bullshit.”
“I’m glad you’re seeing her.” She says and reaches for his glass of whisky in a feeble attempt at mommying again.
He catches her hand midways, studies the small engagement ring on her finger before unbuttoning her cuff. It pulls away with a small snap. His fingers are stroking her wrist a second later. She shudders.
“I figured as much,” Harry drawls, his finger caressing each letter slowly.
March 27th, 2001
They are at the wedding.
She is wearing white and has her hair combed back for what seems like the second time in her life. He is standing by the table with the booze, his tie miserably tied as always.
He kisses her cheek as she steps forward and her eyes close automatically. It is his hello and she has nothing to give in return. She opens her eyes. He raises his glass at her, already half empty.
“You look beautiful.”
She looks down at her feet, she is wearing high heels and her feet look funnily grown up, not like her own feet at all. She looks up at Harry and notices the one wrinkle across his forehead. She reaches up and straightens it with two gloved fingers.
“You’ll get worry lines.”
He reaches out for her, his hand curling around her wrist, bringing it down from his forehead. He strokes her wrist through the glove one, two times and she glances at him warily. He has this bad habit of seeing straight through her reprimands, making her feel a lot more stupid than him. She does not need this.
“Your parents?” He asks, his fingers still tapping against her wrist. Her fingers twitch.
“On your wedding day?” Harry tuts, his fingers drawing lazy circles on her prickling skin. A sly smile is playing on his lips and she feels like hitting him. Hard.
“They are safe.” She pulls her hand away from his burning touch and stares up at him defiantly. He touches her cheek briefly, the reminder of a time before this.
“You should have brought them here, to this day.”
She looks away. “I-they-“
“Wendell and Monica Wilkins, such wonderful names…”
“Stop -“ she squeezes her eyes tightly shut. “Stop toying with me.”
Harry leans closer. His breath fans across her face and her eyes shut. He rests his chin against hers, the alabaster complexions stand out against each other and she involuntarily makes a soft sound that catches at the back of her throat.
“I’m not toying with you, love,” he whispers quietly, his lips brushing against her cheek. She shivers as a gush of heat spreads underneath her skin.
“You were the one playing with me, remember?”
She breaks away abruptly.
He laughs softly. “Only joking, love, no need to get your knickers in a twist.”
She makes to walk away but he grabs her arm in a sudden movement and in a flick of a wand they are tumbling through space.
It is like being sucked through an airless tunnel and she cannot breathe. And all she can feel is his warm touch, his fingers clasped tightly around her burning wrist.
December 12th, 1997
They have spent various days in the bed.
It is a combination of the inability to do anything and the utter helplessness that has caused them to stay inside for a week. They do not discuss the occurrences and Harry has no wish to start the Talk.
Hermione kisses him and he thinks he sees a flicker of sorrow, the smallest one, as her lips brush against his. She is his beginning and end, all in one. He sighs deeply against her lips.
“Will you still want me when I’m grey and wrinkly?” She asks against his mouth. He nods confirmative, his hands drawing lazy circles on her back.
There is a moment of silence.
“And if I end up like Bill or go cuckoo?”
A chill runs through his body, he stares at her, sinks. It seems she has given this a lot of thought. He hopes to God that this will never happen to anyone. He kisses her gently.
March 27th, 2001
“What are you doing?” she hisses furiously at him.
They are standing in the woods. Her white heels have sunken completely into the mud on the forest ground. Annoyed, she steps out of the shoes and walks bare feet up to him. He ignores her.
“Do you know where we are?”
Hermione sighs, “I don’t care where we are, Harry.”
“Look.” Harry points at an opening between the trees. There are flowers growing on the ground and a small ray of sunlight reaches through the treetops and lights up a green spot on the ground. You can still see the small dents in the ground where she had dug the holes.
And suddenly, he does not need to say anything at all.
She swallows. “Please, Harry -“
“Do you remember what you told me here?” He asks and she has to look away. There is something in his voice that had been there that day too. She wants to run away and never look back.
“It’s my wedding day, you bastard.” Her eyes close as the tears start running down her face.
“I know.” His voice is soft as he nears her. She tries to move away, but her dress has soaked up all the mud and it is too heavy.
“Here.” She reaches up and pulls her gloves off slowly, they slide off easily.
“Happy now?” She asks, throwing the white gloves on the ground. They soak up the mud and turn brown instantly.
Hermione stares up into his face to find that he is not laughing anymore. She lifts her arm up to his face; the letters stand out in the sunlight, white against her skin. Mudblood. He does not say anything and she continues, her voice hysterical now.
“Do I need to show you more? Because God knows, Harry, God knows you have seen everything.” She grabs her wand and with a quick flick, her dress comes undone. It pools around her feet.
She looks up at him.
He is only staring at her and it may be because of the deep sadness seeping out from inside her bones, or it may be because she has never felt more unlike herself than now, but she wants to kiss him.
She steps out of the dress and walks towards him. He is standing still as a rock, his tie still hanging all crooked from his neck. Perhaps this was not part of the plan. An image of him at fourteen with his glasses askew and the same tie flashes through her mind and she is missing him - them - herself. She has lost herself.
It is slightly chilly in her small white satin dress as she stands with inches separating their faces.
She expects him to walk away as always; to abandon her here in the woods. But he is stepping forward, pulling her head towards his. Her eyes close and a broken sob catches at her throat as she waits for the boy she never had.
The kiss never comes.
Instead, his lips gently touch her forehead, lips slightly parted but otherwise motionless. His hands are holding her head still, hands against her cheeks. She reaches up and rests her own upon his. She lets go of a hollow breath.
"Hermione." He says in a soft voice and a sob escapes her lips a second later, the sound echoes in the silent woods. His lips pucker momentarily against her skin and she presses her feet into the ground, wondering when these feelings will stop.
“I don’t know how to start over,” she whispers.
He pulls back to look at her, his hands still resting against her cheeks. There is this sense to the atmosphere as if she means this in a very different sense too, and Harry feels it. He looks at her for a second longer, lips parted as if to say something. But a second later, he thinks better of it and closes his mouth.
Her breath juts out, uneven. “They have forgotten me.”
“Then make them remember.” He lets his hands fall from her face. "I lost mine, don't make yourself lose yours. Whatever the punishment, this is not it."
He reaches down and she feels his lips brush against the lettering. She gasps and her eyes close, the question slips;
“Did you really believe we would come back as the same people?”
He pulls away and stares at her for a long time.
He eventually lets go of her hand. It falls down to her side numbly, her skin still tingling.
“I didn’t think I would come back.” Harry finally says.
It is only then she realizes that she has lost her veil.
August 8th, 2001
“You asked Ginny to marry you.”
Her hazel eyes are searching his, for what, he does not know. Harry has not seen her since the wedding in March and he does not know whether they will ever be able to become what they used to be. Friends. A Golden Trio.
“Seemed like the right thing to do.”
“Good,” Hermione says in that proper voice as if it is a deal they have made. She is wearing high heels now, it seems to be the only thing he sees her in these days. She walks up to him and straightens his tie. He looks down at her fondly.
“You never could tie a tie in your life,” she murmurs.
“Good thing I had you to tie my ties, wasn’t it?” he murmurs back at her. Her gloved hand falters at the tie. She steps back and looks at him. She bites her lip.
“Ginny’s good at tying ties.”
“I know.” He says gently.
October 15th, 2001
Months have passed since the wedding and their too close to something conversation. She meets him, her chestnut hair in a ponytail. She is wearing jeans and has a long sleeved pullover on, looking every bit as innocent as the first day he met her. He remembers a cold night when she had her hair up in a ponytail, too, dancing like he wasn’t even watching.
He leans over and kisses her cheek as it seems to be their tradition now. Her eyes flutter shut and he stares at her pretty face as she closes them. His hands squeeze her waist momentarily, lingering a second too long. He touches his nose to the side of her head, brushing against her hair, and breathes her scent in deeply as his eyes close. He’ll love you better.
“Harry.” She smiles that familiar smile. His hand reaches up to brush against her jaw. She leans into his touch and looks down at her feet.
“You’re leaving.” Hermione states in a funny voice. Harry removes his hands around her waist and she looks up.
“Yes,” he answers and her plumb lips separate into an ‘o’.
“You can’t leave,”
“I have to, darling.” He smiles and touches her cheek briefly.
“If this is about Ron,” she begins, “I’m sure the two of you will fi-“
“It’s not about Ron, Hermione.”
She looks at him for the longest time.
“We all believed we knew better, Harry,”
She pulls him closer, he can feel her chest pressing against his and his arms fall limply down his sides.
“We all believed we could change the world.” Her voice is thick.
He nods and her arms drop but she does not step back. Her face is inches apart from his. Her gaze searches his face hungrily.
“I need you here.” A single tear runs down her cheek and he catches it with a single finger.
“You have Ron,” he offers and she squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her head.
“Not the same.” Her lips quiver and he caresses the contours of her face, painfully reminded of this conversation years ago.
“You’ll be fine,” he manages and she hugs him close.
“You’ll be fine,” he whispers into her hair. She pulls back and he presses his mouth against her forehead.
“We were always more friends than lovers, weren’t we?” Hermione half-murmurs, half-laughs with her eyes closed. Harry looks at her for a moment, his mind spinning.
“Yeah,” he finally murmurs, “okay.”
Hermione looks somewhat peaceful with this; she reaches up one last time and kisses his cheek, her fingers curling around his shoulder momentarily. She is too much memory. Too many hopes that have been shattered, too much pain.
As he leaves, his fingers caress her covered wrist one last time. It is not that he wants to remind her that she is flawed, but that he wishes to remind her that she is loved for her flaws. Finally, he walks out the door, murmuring softly to himself,
His steps echo into the darkness of the night. The scent in the air reminds him of another time with dancing and love confessions in a cold tent, he sighs,
December 30th, 1997
“No, no, I get it. He’s back.”
She is standing by the tent, wand in her hand and is wearing a look somewhere between pity and sorrow. He looks away.
“I mean how could I ever compete?” he digs his nails into the tree his hand is resting on. “He had the light from your voice inside his heart -- it showed him the way.”
“What?” he looks up at her demandingly. She flinches and looks away. There is some sort of morbid fulfillment in this. All his fears were right: he wasn’t enough.
“You know,” he laughs bitterly, “Back when Ron was trying to destroy the Horcrux an image of the two of us kissing appeared.”
She looks up at him surprised, her bottom lip trembling ever so lightly.
“Funny that,” Harry says, “The thing he fears the most is true.”
He feels sick to his stomach and she looks pale and fragile. And while he wants her to hear this, there is this great big urgency to hold her forever and never let go.
“I-he-“ Hermione says in a small voice.
He looks at her, trying to stop this moment, to erase everything that comes beyond this point. It is as if he is standing on the edge of the cliff, that one moment before falling over the edge, pausing as he waits for the end.
“Ginny loves you.” Hermione offers.
Harry looks at her,
“And you don’t?”
She looks away.
“That doesn’t really matter.”
In two strides he is by her side. He reaches out for her, his hand lifting her chin slowly,
“And why may that not matter?” he asks her gently. She squeezes her eyes shut.
“Because,” she says, tears starting to run down her pink cheeks, “we’re not meant to be together. Ron - I - I love him too much - he will - he will lose everything. I - we can't do that to him. I won't do that to him.”
Harry removes his hand instantly.
He pauses, halfway away from her and turns around. She is standing behind him still, her eyes large and wide. In time this is the image that will haunt his dreams.
“It didn’t do us justice,” he smiles bitterly, “The Horcrux, it didn’t do us justice.” He turns back around and continues up the hill.
No call is heard behind him.
December 5th, 1997
He had been able to hear her sobs through the curtain that she had closed around the bed as if to shield herself.
Every shuttering breath had been like a stab to his gut. He had been unable to do anything. The shame that had filled him at the time, making him unable to do anything for her, has now evaporated from his body.
He sits in the chair across the room from her, trying to focus on the stolen newspaper in his hands. She is curled up in a chair, staring into thin air, her eyes red rimmed and her skin splotched with red. She sniffs loudly from time to time, her hand moving only to wipe her nose. A tear will roll down her pale cheek occasionally as she closes her eyes for the briefest moment.
The radio is on.
The newsreader is naming missing persons, crackling on and on, Harry wants to turn it off, to erase the remains of Ron. He does not know what to say; he feels as if it is his fault more than anything and yet Hermione is still here. He does not know if it is out of loyalty to him or due to her own stubbornness.
He looks up and opens his mouth to say something; what he does not know. Hey Hermione, Ron’s an arse; he’ll be back… He shakes his head. He isn’t even sure Ron will come back - maybe he has been taken by the Death Eaters. The thought makes the small hairs on the back of his neck stand up and he shudders, pushing the images away.
The radio crackles on and the soft sounds of a male voice drifts on, filling the cold room with gentle music. It is as if everything gains a softer glow, even Hermione’s cheek redden slightly. In a second Harry is on his feet, not knowing what exactly he is expecting. He extends a sweaty hand to Hermione. She breaks out of her trance to stare at his hand for a moment before looking up at him. Her lips quiver as she eyes him tearfully. He smiles and, as if by habit, she returns it, the smile spreading across her face uncertainly.
He pulls her onto the floor, his hand slipping around her tender waist and he pulls her closer. She sighs and rests her head against his chest.
They twirl on the spot, slowly turning to the music. His fingers draw lazy circles on the small of her back as he breathes in her sweet aroma.
The radio crackles on in the background and he hums softly into her neck, his lips ghosting across her warm skin as his lips form the words. Slowly she pulls away, her eyes teary, leaving only a small gap of air between the two. He holds his breath as her brown eyes search his. A small tear is stuck to her eyelashes and she sniffs again. She is quite beautiful as she shudders, her eyes shutting close for a moment.
“Don’t-“ she closes her eyes again and a tear leaks. It rolls down her cheek in a fast stride. “Don’t hurt me, Harry.”
“I won’t.” His throat is dry as he looks at her tearstained face, so desperately afraid, but at the same time so inexplicably ready.
She cocks her head to one side and her eyes flutter shut as his lips slowly descend on hers. He pauses for the slightest moment before brushing his lips against hers, looking at her beautiful face.
Her lips are slightly parted and she has a faint blush tainting her cheeks, she looks very young and vulnerable and his heart contracts in this funny way, making it hard to breathe. When his lips touch hers, Hermione sighs, as if surrendering, and takes hold of his hair, pulling his face closer to hers and she presses her lips fully against his.
A soft “Harry” escapes and a moan catches at the back of his throat. His heart is pummeling to the beat of the crackling radio.
“Will you still want me when I’m grey and wrinkly?” She giggles against his mouth.
“Always,” he whispers.