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The Meaning of Lonely by EpiskeyPM
Chapter 27 : The Rise and Fall
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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Harry.

Hermione, Cameron and Harry were sitting in the living room. Cameron was sprawled on the loveseat, her arm out as she flipped through channels on the television. Harry and Hermione were sitting on the couch; to Harry’s misfortune, on opposite ends. When he would steal glances as Cameron yawned, Hermione was usually staring off into the windows rather than paying attention to the TV.

He had no idea what had happened to her from the time they went to sleep to the time they woke up, but any sort of progress he had made in terms of getting her to talk and smile vanished. When Harry woke up that morning she was lying on the farthest end of her bed, curled into a ball. He said good morning, she just nodded; he asked if she wanted to use the bathroom first, she just shrugged. The lifeless look was back in her eyes and the slightly slumped walk she’d been doing had returned. The closest thing he got to a reaction was when he tripped down the steps; she raised her eyebrows at him.

Lucille had already left with Donovan so Cameron made the three of them breakfast which consisted of the typical eggs, sausage, toast and jam, and orange juice. Cameron tried to engage them, but obviously more so Hermione, in conversation by talking about all the things that had transpired since she left for Ron’s house. Harry tuned in and out as he didn’t know who or what she was on about. The main thing he got from the conversation was that Cameron had a flatmate named Sammie who had a fifteen-month-old daughter, Charlotte Jamie; that was the only thing Hermione seemed remotely interested in.

They had migrated to the living room shortly after and had been watching television for a few hours.

“I’m off to the bathroom,” Cameron said. “Here’s the remote, find something good.” She tossed it to Hermione, who barely caught it, and disappeared into the archway.

Hermione set the remote down next to her and continued to stare out the window. Harry frowned. He thought he had been doing so well. The time wasn’t going to be all smiles and laughter, he knew that, but Harry didn’t want her to be so stoic. He wanted her to be able to talk to him, to be able to crack a smile every once in a while. Most of all, Harry wanted to be the one to put it there, but he couldn’t if she wouldn’t let him be near.

“How’re you holding up?” asked Harry cautiously. If he hadn’t been watching her so intensely he would’ve missed the tiny shrug she gave. “Do you want me to get you something? Some juice or water, maybe?”

She shook her head.

“Do you want me to leave you alone?”

Hermione nodded and shrank against the armrest of the couch. Harry pursed his lips and remained silent.

“Oh my gosh, Hermione!” Cameron cried as she ran back into the living room. Hermione slowly moved her gaze to her Godsister. “Do you remember when we were little and we would make facial masks out of random things in the kitchen?”

She nodded.

“When I was cooking, I noticed that we actually have things that could, you know, benefit your face. We could have a little spa day! Harry could even join in, if he wants,” she smiled.

Hermione just blinked and looked back to the windows. Cameron sighed. “It would be fun,” she continued, “just like old times, yeah? And we could do our eyebrows, and nails, and-”

“I don’t want to.”

“Oh, come on, you used to love it! I still have the pictures to prove-”

“I don’t want to.”

For the first time since he got there, Harry saw Cameron’s face drop. She no longer looked like the upbeat, quirkily annoying older sister she had tried to portray since she showed up; she looked like someone who had just lost their family, someone who was trying relentlessly to cheer up their little sister. Harry’s respect for her grew tremendously: she was just trying to do the same thing he was.

“Maybe it’ll be fun,” Harry said. Hermione just looked at him.

“Yeah, and you’ll help, right?” Cameron asked.

“Sure!”

“See, even Harry’s in on it.”

Hermione huffed and pushed herself off the couch. She knocked into Cameron as she padded to the stairs. Harry heard a thud as she slipped and he made to go to her but Cameron took his shoulder and shook her head. The door slammed shortly after.

Cameron ran her hands through her hair and leaned against the back of the couch. “You’d think that we’d be able to do something.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re the two people closest to her, obviously. If we can’t do anything who can?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen her like this. Maybe she just needs some time alone,” he finished, remembering that Hermione had nodded when he asked if she wanted him to.

Cameron shook her head. “No way, I know Hermione. When she’s upset she wants to be comforted despite any front she puts on.”

“Well, I mean, everyone wants to be alone sometimes.”

“I know Hermione,” she reiterated.

“So do I,” he said defensively.

Cameron rolled her eyes. “Let’s cut the power struggle, alright? We both know Hermione differently. You know her magic stuff, but I know her as a Muggle, or whatever you call us. This,” she motioned upstairs, “is my specialty.”

“I know her ‘magic stuff’? I’m not friends with her wand, I’m friends with her.”

She scoffed. “Friends with her, right.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You make her miserable, and I don’t mean all the crap that’s been going on recently. From the day she got to that school she’s been sending me letters about you. And by miserable, I don’t necessarily mean depressed, though you have caused your fair share of tears; she spends ninety-nine percent of her time and energy trying to figure you out and help you and that drives her crazy. That’s what I mean by miserable. And I’ll bet you anything that even though her parents just died she’s still thinking about you. I don’t know what voodoo you did all those years ago but it’s literally unexplainable, the effect you have on her. It’s not healthy.

“I’m going to be honest, Harry. All of that crap yesterday was just me trying to get her to smile. I don’t like you, I don’t think you’re the best thing for her right now, and I’m actually really upset you’re here. Like I said earlier, I know Hermione. I grew up with her, I helped change her diapers, I defended her against all the bullies. I’m her sister, blood or not. The best thing you could do for her right now is just stay out of her way until you’re back in your little magical bubble, away from the real world.

“I’ll pretend around Hermione because she cares about you and it’ll make things easier but that’s as far as it’s going. If I hurt your feelings or something, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to sit here and let you think things are all hunky-dory when they aren’t. You’re her friend, and you’re a guest at my home, so I’ll respect you but anything beyond that?” She shook her head. “You can forget it.”

Cameron was only further confirming what he already knew: he made Hermione miserable. Granted, she had offered him a different perspective as to why but the end result was still the same. Between Harry’s ridiculous co-dependency and Hermione’s obsessive need to put Harry first it was a wonder that they were still functional.

It didn’t feel like there was anything wrong until Ron brought it to his attention all those weeks ago. Now Cameron was repeating the conversation, albeit one that was rather one-sided, and making Harry question everything all over again. Maybe they did actually have an unhealthy relationship. Maybe Harry’s feelings for Hermione were out of place. If she was so miserable, maybe they had no business even being friends. Maybe he was right in choosing not to talk to her after all.

Harry kept his eyes fixed on the ground. However annoying she was, the girl was right. He was the wrong thing for Hermione. He should have put up a fight, tried to prove Cameron wrong. But the only thing he was concerned with at that moment was making sure Hermione was taken care of and he was not the one who could provide that. “You should go check on her,” he managed to get out.

Cameron patted him on the back. “Glad you understand.” She practically pranced up to Hermione’s room and shut the door behind her.

Harry sat back down on the couch and tried to distract himself with the awful reality show that was on. Moments later Cameron came bounding back downstairs, a deterred expression playing at her features. She made for the freezer and pulled out an ice pack. Upon noticing Harry’s concerned stare, she told him Hermione had hurt her knee when she fell on the stairs and that it was nothing to worry about.

When she came back down for the final time, she was completely dressed. “My mate Sammie called and she’s having some trouble with Charlotte so I’m going over for a little while. Hermione has my number if you need me, but I doubt you will. I’ll be back.”

And just like that she was gone. Harry contemplated going upstairs but he figured whether he was good for her or not, Hermione still wouldn’t want to be bothered. He surfed through the channels three times before finally stopping on some documentary about sharks. His attempts at focusing on the program were feeble in comparison to everything that was buzzing around in his head. He would have to break things off with Hermione – again.

The boy closed his eyes and put his head back. He just couldn’t catch a break.

The program was describing the mating habits of some shark he forgot the name of when he heard the fridge open behind him. Harry jumped violently and spun around in his seat. Hermione was now wearing a fluffy purple robe. She poured some pomegranate juice into a large drinking glass and began shuffling back to her room.

“How’s your knee?” he called nervously. The miniscule movement of the robe indicated a shrug. Harry exhaled heavily.

It was when she had reached approximately the halfway point of the staircase when he heard the thud and the smashing of glass. Harry whipped around toward the death trap and saw Hermione tumbling down it. She crashed into the wall with a loud, hair-raising thud. Harry bolted up and ran to her. She was lying on her side, softly moaning. Hermione’s right hand was completely red and the colour was travelling down her arm. He thought it was just the pomegranate juice until he saw the small shards of glass protruding from her hand. She was taking short, shallow breaths; Harry suspected the fall had knocked the wind out of her.

Because he took Lucille’s advice and freely perused the cabinets and drawers and opened doors, at least in the bathroom, he knew there was a first-aid kit located in the closet in front of the sink, along with a folding chair. He hadn’t asked why it was in there but it would be ideal for her to sit on while he fixed her hand. The stairs were covered with juice and broken glass, but Harry knew a few cuts on his feet were nothing compared to what Hermione was probably going through.

“I’m going to pick you up, okay?”

“No,” she choked out.

“I have to, I’m so sorry. I need you to focus on breathing.” He slid one arm under the crooks of her knees and the other in the small of her back. She yelped as her sore body pressed into Harry’s forearms. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated.

She held her right arm vertically as Harry bounded up to the bathroom. He pushed the door open and closed it behind him with his hip, then carefully turned the knob to the closet and removed the folding chair. Using his knee, he pulled the seat down and set the chair in front of the sink. Harry set Hermione down on the plastic chair and grabbed the first aid kit and a clean washcloth. Tears were streaming steadily down her face.

“Can you breathe?”

“Y-yes.”

The knobs of the faucet were turned until the water was lukewarm. Harry took her hand and made to position it under the running water but she flinched as soon as he touched her wrist.

“That hurts?” She nodded. “Can you bend it?”

She had barely tried before she flinched again.

It wasn’t swollen. He suspected it just hurt very badly. “Okay, we’ll just have to be really careful then.”

Hermione was still reluctant to give Harry her hand.

“You’re just going to have to trust me.” He used his fingertips to guide her hand into the sink. She eyed him, lip trembling, but let him have her hand. While the blood was slowly washing off her palm, Harry soaked the washcloth and wiped the blood off her forearm.

With a clear view of the wounds, it wasn’t as bad as it had seemed. There was a particularly nasty piece of glass stuck in the meat of her thumb and an equally mean-looking one below her ring finger, but all of the other shards looked easy enough to remove. He fished in the kit for some tweezers and pulled Hermione’s hand from the water. She immediately buried her face in his stomach. Harry took a deep breath to calm his hormones before he went to work.

Her cries may have been muffled by his shirt, but Harry could still feel them and felt like he was torturing her. With every pull and tug he felt worse and worse. But, it needed to be done. After a few minutes of a game of tug-of-war between the glass and the tweezers, the tweezers won and there was a small pile of glass in the trash. Hermione, however, kept her face glued to Harry’s lower torso.

“You can look, I’m done.”

She gave a tiny shake of the head.

“Hermione-”

Another shake.

“Okay, fine. I need to put your hand back in the water, though.”

She allowed him to guide her hand back under the stream. He ripped open one of the small packets of antibacterial soap and rubbed it over her cuts. Hermione’s head popped up and she hissed at the sting. Harry apologized and rinsed it off. He then grabbed a towel from the closet and patted her entire arm dry.

“What else hurts?” he asked as he dabbed antibacterial cream onto her cuts.

“I don’t have any glass anywhere else,” she replied quietly.

“That’s not what I asked.” He looked at her. “What else hurts?”

“Um...” She sniffed. “My knee, I hit it again. My neck sort of hurts. I still can’t really move my wrist. My back is really, really painful.”

Harry nodded and went back to her hand. “How’s your head?”

“My head’s fine.”

“Can you try moving your fingers for me?”

“It pulls at the cuts when I do.”

Harry frowned.

“I can move them, though.”

He peeled open a package of gauze squares and placed them all over her palm. Then he wrapped a bandage around her hand and wrist, hoping it would keep the gauze in place as well as provide some support for the joint. As he turned off the faucet, he said, “All done.”

Hermione stared at the bandage encasing her right hand. She very slightly wiggled her fingers.

“Is it too tight? I can loosen it if-”

“I should clean up the stairs,” Hermione stated as she wiped her nose.

Harry shook his head. “No, I’ve got it. You go lie down.”

“I’m the one that dropped it, I should-”

“You didn’t drop it, you slipped.”

“Still-”

“Hermione, stop. You just fell down half a flight of stairs. Go lie down.”

She looked back at her hand, then up at Harry. “Thank you.”

Harry took her good hand to help her up. She winced, but from the back pain for the knee pain Harry didn’t know. “Can you even walk?” he asked once she was upright.

Hermione attempted walking to the other side of the bathroom, but her awful limp didn’t let her get far. Harry put the first aid kit and the folding chair back in the closet before walking over to Hermione and holding his arms out. He opened and closed his palms as if to say, come on.

“Harry, no.”

“I can carry you, it’s fine.”

Hermione opened and closed her mouth, having some sort of internal debate, before she finally sighed and agreed. She put her right arm around his neck and grabbed her elbow with her left hand to hold herself up. Harry scooped her up and despite how gentle he was being she still squealed. He walked as slowly as he could, partly because he didn’t want to hurt her and partly because when would he get to hold her like this again?

He set her down on the edge of the bed and she slowly leaned back, swinging her legs onto the mattress. She groaned as she rolled onto her stomach.

“Do you need anything?”

“I’m okay.”

“Okay. I’ll be back.”

He had the urge to kiss her forehead but ignored it and pushed himself back to the bathroom. He grabbed the towel he used to dry her arm and dried up the pomegranate juice and brushed the glass down with each step he took. He made a pile at the foot of the stairs and went to the kitchen to get a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and a broom. Harry first swept up all the remnants of the glass and threw them away; he then used the all-purpose cleaner to make the steps un-sticky.

Hermione’s trip down the stairs made him forget about what Cameron had told him; now that he was alone again, it was the only thing on his mind. He and Hermione had an unhealthy relationship. It was not doing anyone any favours. If Harry wanted to help Hermione he had to leave her alone. He kept replaying these facts over and over in his head until he felt they were engraved into his brain.

Harry thought they were finally at a good place. It would be foolish of him to say they were perfect, but an unhealthy relationship? It didn’t make sense. The way they were worked for them. Maybe it didn’t look like it to outsiders, but no one understood Hermione like he did and no one understood Harry like she did. Co-dependency and obsession are bad traits to possess, yes, but it worked for them.

But when he really sat down and thought about it, he realized he was wrong. It didn’t work for them. It may have seemed like it worked, but what had their system truly gotten them? Hermione constantly crying her eyes out because of Harry? Harry not being able to function without Hermione? Those weren’t burdens you put on your friends, and surely not someone you were in love with.

But they couldn’t stay away. There was a reason their various attempts had failed miserably. Hermione cared too much and Harry needed her. That’s why it’s inevitable, Harry thought. It’s literally a never-ending cycle.

Well, he had to stop it.

The front door opening snapped Harry back into reality. Lucille waved at someone outside, no doubt Donovan, and smiled at Harry. “Hello there! How are you doing, Harry?”

She was always so bubbly. Her best friends had just died and she was smiling. Harry envied her. “I’m well, thank you. How are you?”

“Ah, same old same, you know how that goes, eh? Any particular reason why you’re sitting on the steps with a towel?”

“Oh, right. Hermione fell down and broke the glass of juice she had.”

She now had the typical concerned-mother face on. “Is she alright? How far did she fall this time?”

“Halfway up she slipped.”

“Halfway?” she said incredulously.

“Er, yeah, she hurt her knee and her back and got some glass in her hand but I-”

Lucille was already up the stairs. Harry went to the kitchen to get Hermione some more juice; just because they weren’t good for each other didn’t mean he couldn’t be nice. He grabbed a sparkly golden cup that read “NEW YEAR 1989” and filled it with pomegranate juice. On his way back to Hermione he dropped the towel in the bathroom hamper and waited outside the door for Lucille to finish mothering Hermione. She nearly bumped into Harry on her way out. She was holding the melted ice pack Cameron had gotten for Hermione. “Oh, excuse me!”

“It’s alright!”

She smiled at him and went downstairs. Harry entered the bedroom; Hermione was in the same position as when he left except her eyes were closed. “Hey, I got you some juice, since that’s kind of what you fell for. Plastic cup this time.” He set it on the nightstand.

Harry stood by the bed, not sure of what to do or say. He didn’t know if Hermione still wasn’t feeling up to talking. To be honest, he didn’t want to talk to her much either. Now fully aware of what they were doing to each other, he wanted to stay away as much as possible.

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you sit with me?”

He stiffened. “Sit with you?”

“I thought you would follow me this morning and you didn’t.”

“I thought you wanted to be alone.”

“Can you just sit please?”

“Right, sure.” He circled to the other side of the bed and lowered himself onto it, situating right next to Hermione. She painfully rolled onto her left side, put her pillow in his lap, and rested her head on him. Hermione draped her injured hand across his legs. Harry felt so bad for her; he could only imagine the things running through her head. What if her lying on his lap was her feeble attempt at making him feel better, as she was in too much pain to make it to his chest? Why would she even want to make him feel better? It was her parents who had died: she was allowed to be upset. She was always allowed to be upset.

Harry wondered if simply being in the room made things bad for her. But, if he were to leave, she’d worry about why he had left in the first place. She’d worry regardless of what he did. Erasing him from her memory would be the only reasonable solution but that would mean erasing everything from the past six years. There was no way to get around it or find loopholes; he was always there, wherever she was. Erasing Harry would mean erasing a huge chunk of her life.

It was going to be hard to do, not only for Hermione but for Harry as well, but they needed to learn how to be separate people. They survived before they became friends and they would survive well after.

He decided to let this weekend pass, as it was a difficult enough time, but he had to make a clean break when they got back to Hogwarts. Clean breaks heal faster than jagged ones.

Harry absentmindedly stroked her hair for a couple of hours. It wasn’t until Cameron came into the room, carrying two cups of tea, that he realized he’d lulled Hermione to sleep. She rolled her eyes and shook her head at him and left the room.





Once again I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and/or review. You guys are my drive! <3 I know it’s sort of slow-going but thanks for staying with me.


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