Chapter 29 : A Consensus
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EDIT: I am so terribly sorry this took so long, but literally every time I’d sit down to write I’d get pulled away. I’m not even joking. Plus I wanted this chapter to be perfect, and you’ll see why as you read.
Despite the fact she didn’t have any romantic feelings whatsoever for her best friend, the kiss they had shared created a shift within Hermione. All she wanted to do was be around him, touch him, talk to him. She couldn’t wait for the times when they would practice Occlumency and Legilimency together, alone for hours at a time. When they were apart for more than a few minutes Hermione would sometimes catch herself staring at the nearest clock or gripping her locket or looking around anxiously, a giant wave of relief washing over her when she’d spot Harry coming in her direction.
The death of her parents hadn’t altered that craving; rather, it had heightened it. However anytime he’d come around and try to talk to her she’d just shut down. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t want Harry to comfort her. But just like during their argument over the summer, there was something holding her back from accepting it. Only this time, she had a general idea as to why rather than the usual “I-don’t-know-I-just-do” response.
In all the years she and Harry had been friends it was usually Hermione who was the voice of reason and who did the comforting. It was true that Harry could offer a shoulder to lean on and a heartbeat to listen to, but that was for the most part the full extent of his relief efforts. Hermione never really gave Harry a reason to need to comfort her, so she couldn’t fault him, but that didn’t change the fact that she had no idea how to let him treat her that way. The wall she had put up had strengthened tenfold over the years and while she could easily have a heart-to-heart conversation with the boy, anything further than that did not compute.
The part of her that wanted nothing but Harry twenty-four-seven battled tooth and nail with the part that was still skeptical. Getting Harry meant getting the comfort which, if she was honest with herself, Hermione didn’t even know that he could give. And she remained secluded, folded into herself because she didn’t want to risk opening up only to be let down by someone who was potentially as emotionally void as she was. She simply could not handle anymore let downs and locking herself away inside her own head was the only way to ensure it didn’t happen.
For the first time, though, Hermione admitted to herself that she had serious issues. It seemed almost foolish that she would put her life in Harry’s hands without thinking about it but couldn’t properly shed a tear when he was in the same room. It didn’t make any sense at all, not even to herself anymore. She trusted Harry with everything but her heart and she didn’t know why.
But as Hermione lay on her best friend’s lap, curled up in a blanket and breath reeking of vomit, and stared up at the boy who slept slumped against the bathtub, glasses crooked, elbow on the edge and his cheek against his fist, she couldn’t help but sigh. He must think he was the one doing something wrong when he was really doing everything so incredibly right. Hermione was the one with the problem, not Harry. He needed to know that.
Hermione gingerly got up from his lap and unraveled herself from the blanket. She stretched as she made her way to the sink then turned the faucet on barely above a trickle. As quiet as she was, Harry’s eyes popped open. He wiped his eyes and straightened out his glasses. “Morning,” he said groggily.
“Morning. Did I wake you?”
“It’s fine. How’s your stomach?” asked Harry as he stood up and walked to her side.
“I haven’t vomited in a while so I’ll take that as a good sign.”
“Well that’s good. I can’t imagine sleeping on the floor did much for everything else, though.”
“Yeah, I’m really sore.” Hermione looked at the pair of them in the mirror. Both sets of eyes were bloodshot and tired, and their hair was more unruly than normal. “We look awful.”
Harry raised his eyebrows and reached for his toothbrush. “Speak for yourself.”
Hermione elbowed him. Harry just smiled and turned the faucet up. They brushed their teeth in silence and nearly knocked heads each time they went to spit. When they were done Hermione shut off the water. The wall clock above the toilet indicated that it was a few minutes past eight. Why she was wide awake was a mystery in itself but she assumed no one else would be up yet and she and Harry had a conversation to have.
They returned Hermione’s pillow and blanket to the room and she asked if it was okay if they had a little one-on-one; of course Harry said yes. Not wanting to be overheard by Cameron, Lucille, or Donovan, she led them stealthily to the back porch where there was a large C-shaped bench. Luckily it wasn’t too cold. Hermione sat across from Harry, to which he looked a tad surprised as he probably expected them to be sitting together, but this talk would require direct eye contact or she’d lose her nerve.
Hermione took a deep breath and brought her knees to her chest. “So you’re probably wondering what I want to talk to you about.”
“A little bit.”
“I... have no idea where to start. But I know I need to talk to you.” She sighed and ran her left hand through her hair. “This year hasn’t exactly been our best one in terms of communication and I feel like a good portion of that has been my fault.”
“Hey, we don’t-”
She shook her head, ignoring him. “I’m-I’m messed up, Harry. And I’m not blaming you because I did it to myself. I suppose we already had this conversation, and you basically told me to stop, but it’s a lot easier said than done.
“This is going to sound awful but for a long time I’ve had this notion that you were this fragile person who needed me to protect him from the outside world because no one else was going to. Obviously that’s not true, it never was, but now it’s just that I hate seeing you upset so much that I’m only happy when you’re happy. I’m aware that it’s not the best thing for me to be doing, but believe me if I could stop I would have done so a long time ago and- God, I always cry,” she added as she wiped her eyes.
“It’s okay,” Harry consoled, “I’m still listening.”
“Because of you and Ron I know it’s a problem. I get that, and I’m trying to change. And I want to apologize for putting you in the middle of it because I know it can’t be easy knowing that I’m doing this and that I’ve basically been lying to you this whole time.
“But the main reason I brought you out here was to apologize for all-”
“Hermione, honestly, anything you’ve said or done this week doesn’t even matter.”
“I’m apologizing for thinking you weren’t capable of taking care of me.”
Harry leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, resting his chin on his folded hands. Hermione wanted so badly to know what was going through his head but she had to keep talking or it was never going to be said.
“You’ve never really had to be there for me so I just... I thought you couldn't. I know that sounds crazy-”
“Yeah, it does,” he chided.
Her shoulders dropped. “You have to understand, Harry. What I do has ultimately led to me never giving you the chance to make me feel better. You have to admit, it’s mostly been me helping you and not much of the other way around. And please don’t take it the wrong way because it’s my problem, it’s my fault that I have this... this warped mindset, but I’ve just been taking care of you for so long that it never occurred to me that you could do it, too. So I didn’t know how to react when you did. Like this?” She raised her right palm. “You’ve never done anything like this for me before. And when you carried me and brought me more juice and helped me get dressed and forced me to eat and let me just hit you for absolutely no reason and then turned around and held my hand and-” she began to choke up “-and when you just stood there and let me yell at you and sat in the cold with me while I cried and then this morning you brought me out of a panic attack, a panic attack, and slept in the bathroom on the floor while you listened to and smelled me vomiting and I’m not used to that Harry. I’m used to having to find a way to comfort myself and comfort you but that doesn’t make any sense because it’s just not how things work. But I like it! I like it and you can do it and I’m sorry for thinking that you couldn’t.”
Hermione stopped before she began talking in that voice no one likes and can barely understand. She broke eye contact for the first time and stared into the backyard of the neighbour’s house, tears steadily cascading down her face. Harry remained still.
“I don’t want you to think you’re doing anything wrong because I’ve been acting unappreciative,” she continued. “You’re perfect; it’s just that I’m... not. But I want things to be different,” she decided. “I want there to be a clean slate because I-I love you so much and I sometimes worry that one day you’re going to get sick of me and that scares me the most and that’s why I was so upset when you said you didn’t want to talk to me because I thought I had finally driven you away.” A sob escaped her throat and she covered her mouth. “I can’t lose my parents and you too, it’s just not happening. You are the only person who’s never maliciously left me. Ron has, Cameron has, but not you. As much as I hate to admit it, I need you Harry. And I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’m just so sorry.”
Through her peripheral vision Hermione saw Harry staring at her. She wondered if he was upset with her, or perhaps disappointed. Maybe he felt insulted; Hermione didn’t know. But what she did know was that she hadn’t meant anything nasty by it. Hopefully he could see that.
Harry ran his hands down his face and sat up straight. He exhaled heavily. Hermione slowly focused back on him, her hand still over her mouth to control her sobs. His green eyes were piercing, boring straight through her. It sent a chill down her spine.
“I don’t want you to feel like you owe me something,” Harry began in a low voice. He looked down for a fraction of a second then returned his stare to the girl. “You are my best friend and I love you to death. I would do anything for you, you know that?”
“No, do you really know that? Because, Hermione, you are so important and you don’t realize it. You’re good for more than just being an accessory to other people’s lives, to my life.” He threw his arms out. “This is Hermione’s world and we’re just living in it!”
She tittered. Harry smiled but it soon vanished and his seriousness returned.
“I appreciate everything you told me, I truly do and I am so sorry you feel this way, but...” He sighed. “How do I say this? I didn’t need to know. I’ve never taken how you act as being unappreciative or spiteful. So if you really think that way, please get it out of your head right now.
“When I stopped talking to you, you know I didn’t do it because I was sick of you or because I hated you. I honestly thought it was the best thing for you because I was being a complete jerk for absolutely no reason, I still don’t know why, but I know now that I was wrong and again I am so incredibly sorry. I had no idea I meant so much to you-”
“Oh, seriously, Harry, you can’t be that thick,” Hermione commented as she wiped her nose.
One corner of his mouth turned up. “We all have our issues.”
It seemed unlikely, though given the current circumstances she supposed anything was possible. “We could talk about it if you want,” she offered.
“I’m not as brave as you are. Not yet, anyway. But,” Harry shrugged, “I’ve always thought if something were to happen to me you’d be okay, you’d survive, but if it were the other way around I’d probably lose my mind. That’s also sort of why I thought you’d be alright when I stopped talking to you. I don’t know; I’ve always seen you as the stronger one, the more stable one.”
“The more heartless one. No, it’s okay,” she said as Harry fixed his lips in protest, “sometimes I thought it myself.”
“For the record I never thought you heartless.”
There was a comfortable pause in which Hermione raised her shoulders lightly.
“Thank you for your apology,” Harry spoke, “but I didn’t need it.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that I feel bad,” she muttered.
“I don’t go looking for a reward or anything you know,” he declared. Hermione dropped her eyes. “All the stuff you just said? I enjoyed doing it. Granted the circumstances weren’t all that great, but it made me feel good to get to do all of that for you. I didn’t care whether or not you said something. It’s going to take a while for you to get used to it or whatever, sort through whatever you need to sort through, so just take your time. I’ll be here.”
Hermione shook her head. “You are honestly too nice to me, you know that?”
“Well if you’re not going to be nice to you someone has to.”
The boy simply raised his eyebrows at her. Hermione couldn’t think of what she had done to deserve someone as loving and patient as Harry. She was there for him but that was it; surely it wasn’t deserving of the pedestal that he so frequently placed her atop. He had his faults and his bad days but they were miniscule in comparison to his heart.
“Is there anything else you wanted to say?” Harry asked.
“Um,” she sighed as she folded her arms against the cool breeze, “probably, I don’t know.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“No, go ahead.”
“What was the real reason you were upset with me at Ron’s house?”
Hermione was silent for a moment. She hadn’t really thought about it since they got to Hogwarts. “Well back then is a different story from now. Part of it was what I told you, the letters and that I felt like you didn’t care. I sort of felt like you had gotten sick of me which, as I said, was one of my biggest fears. I guess the other, bigger part was that I felt guilty for putting myself first instead of you. So instead of dealing with it I just ignored you, tried to make it like you were the bad guy.”
“I sort of was, you know.” He sat back. “What’s different now compared to back then?”
It was a topic she had planned to avoid until a later date, when she had more confidence, but Harry had already opened up the floodgate. Hermione just looked at him, eyebrows knitted in skepticism.
“We can’t avoid it forever,” said Harry dubiously, practically reading her thoughts.
She began softly. “You... terrified me. I had no idea what to do or how to help you and you were just-” She shook her head, tears stinging the backs of her eyes. “It wasn’t so much that I was afraid for myself, though you did frighten me, but I was scared for you. Not because of the thing I do, but because I didn’t know if I would wake up the next day and be able to tell you good morning.
“When I woke up in the Infirmary no one would tell me anything; I went practically the entire summer not knowing if you were... I only found out you had stayed with Dumbledore once you told me at Ron’s house-” Harry exhaled heavily and put his head in his hands “-so prior to that I-I only had the worst in mind. Ron did tell me you were with your aunt and uncle once I saw him but I still... I did think you were a bit unstable at that particular moment and when he told me you were at the Dursley’s I did not want you there because they leave you alone for hours at a time and God knows what could have happened.” She took a deep breath to calm herself but the tears began to roll yet again.
“You couldn’t do something like that, put me through that, and then smile in my face like nothing was wrong. To be honest the window was the farthest thing from my mind. Yes, I did blame you for it but I also forgave you a long time ago and it was the last thing I was concerned about. I missed you and I was worried sick, quite literally if you remember. Even when you got there and I could see that you were okay I would still wonder what I would find when I woke up or if you would be eating breakfast when I came downstairs.
“You said you thought I would be okay if something happened to you? Well, you were wrong. I wasn’t.”
Harry raised his head. His gaze was watery. “There aren’t enough ‘I’m sorry’s in the world,” he stated quietly.
“I don’t want you to feel bad; it was so long ago.”
“No, I do, because I had no idea you thought I was dead, Hermione... and you still sent letters?”
“If I stopped sending them it would have meant I was accepting the idea that you were gone and that was something I was not going to do.”
He eyed her for a moment, rose from his seat and closed the gap between them, then took her good hand and pulled her up and into him. Hermione crashed into Harry with great force and he engulfed her tightly in his arms; she returned the gesture around his neck.
They swayed slightly on the spot. Harry’s sudden warmth forced goose bumps up all over her body. She buried her face in his shoulder and tightened her arms. Harry’s arms lifted from her back every few seconds; Hermione suspected he was wiping his face. The thought of him crying made her cry even more.
She was crying a lot. She didn’t like it. Hopefully after this conversation she would stop crying so much.
“I know nothing I say is going to make any of this okay,” Harry said, his voice nasally, “but for everything I’ve done, I apologize.”
He released her and gazed longingly into her brown eyes.
“What happened in that room... I am not proud of it and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move past it, but let me just... I thought about it a lot and sometimes I really saw it as an option-”
“Harry,” Hermione choked out.
“No, just hold on. I started feeling that way after Ron was kidnapped but it never got bad until Sirius died. And when I say it got bad, it got really, really bad. What you saw that day was what was going on in my head all the time.”
Hermione couldn’t do anything but listen. He had probably never talked to anyone about it before; perhaps this was as big of a step for him as it was for her. She crossed her arms and tried to calm her trembling lip in an effort to be supportive.
“I tried to figure everything out once I got back to Privet Drive but it was hard. Some days I was alright but most days I wouldn’t even move. I got tired of fighting with myself.
“But it was everyone’s letters that helped me through it because I had something to look forward to. And eventually I dealt with it and I got better. By the time you saw me at Ron’s house I was okay, Hermione, I promise I was. Even a little before that. I’m so sorry for scaring you, any of you, because it was the last thing I wanted. But you’ve got to believe me when I say you did not want a letter from me back then,” he finished desperately.
“I understand that, Harry, I get it. But for over a month I thought you were dead!” Her voice cracked.
“I know, and this really helps everything make so much more sense. But I hope you can forgive me because I’m still here. I’m still here and I’m fine and I’m willing to tough it out!” Harry grinned. Hermione felt herself begin to smile as well but quickly tried to stop it. Harry noticed anyway. “Come on, smile for me.”
Defiantly, Hermione bit the inside of her cheek and looked away.
“Don’t try to deny me a smile. I see it. It’s right there. Waiting.” He wiggled his finger in her face and she felt the corners of her lips turn up. Hermione rolled her eyes at her inability to frown and shook her head. “There she is,” Harry whispered.
“I really dislike you.”
“Oh yeah?” he mocked.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Well I guess I’ll just take my locket ba-”
“No!” Hermione cried, grasping the heart firmly.
“I thought you didn’t like me.”
“Not that much.”
“Seriously though, I really am sorry.”
“Look, can we maybe forget everything that happened before and just fresh?”
Harry nodded. “If that’s what you want.”
“Good. I’m tired of crying,” she chuckled as she wiped her face.
“Hey,” he said suddenly, “it’s been a while since I changed your bandage. Do you mind if I do that?”
Hermione pursed her lips as she looked down at her right hand. They were starting over; she had to be okay with these types of things. “No, not at all.”
“Yeah, you would say yes, Miss I-Like-It-When-Harry-Takes-Care-Of-Me,” he teased as they walked back into the house.
“Shut up, Harry.” She pushed him with her good hand. Harry just grinned. He opened the door for her and she stepped over the threshold. The warm air disoriented her for a moment. Harry was right behind her and closed the door.
Cameron came out of Lucille’s room holding Hermione’s wand. “Oh good, you’re up. You left this in Mum’s bathroom. You know Donovan’s here, smarty, you need to be more careful.” She shoved it into Hermione’s hands. “Good morning, by the way. Morning, Harry,” she added as an afterthought.
“Morning,” they replied in unison. Cameron rolled her eyes.
“How are you feeling? Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m a lot better now, thanks.”
She frowned. “Were you outside?”
“We had to talk,” Hermione replied hastily, “but we were actually on our way to clean my hand so...”
“Right, okay. I’ll start breakfast then.”
Hermione bustled away, leaving Harry in her wake. Jogging up the steps, carefully this time, she hoped he wouldn’t bring up the fact that she had her wand and didn’t fix her own hand. Hermione stuffed the shaft of Vine in her bag quickly and nearly slammed into Harry as she turned around and made for the bathroom.
“You had your wand this entire time?” Harry asked.
Hermione simply blushed in response.
“You’re pathetic, you know that?”
“Just fix my hand.”
I was told by a friend that even though Harry and Hermione aren’t together, their arguments and conversations are that of a couple. And, well, isn’t that sort of the point? Not just in this story but in the actual books themselves *coughOOTPcough* their relationship is much, much deeper than simple friendship. I’ve simply accentuated it.
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