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Chapter 11 : Hurt
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Hermione sat alone on the cliff edge she and Harry had found their first day here. Even with Eden all around her, she could see nothing but his face, those green, emerald eyes, and it wrought her with despair. She felt sick.
She had locked this little black box up years ago and sealed it with the strongest of spells, but here, alone with him after so long, so much, it had finally broken free. She had done what she had promised herself she would never do.
She could not force herself to regret last night. It was too powerful, too magical to do that. She would steal these last few minutes here to remember and savor it, then she would add it to that little black box and seal it away once again – this time for good.
Harry was not hers. He was Ginny's. Ginny Weasley's. Ron was his best mate, and she and Ron... She could not face that right now. Everyone expected them to be together, Harry included, so that was... enough? The Weasleys, they were all Harry really had. She was his friend - his best friend, she knew that, but they were his family. Harry could never do that to them. She could never force Harry to do that to them.
Oh, she knew could pull a few strings. There was enough girl in her to know that. Harry was loyal and a bloody saint to a fault. She could weigh on that and his guilt, force him... but she never would. Harry was not hers. She had come to accept that, and she could not let herself forget it.
But she did not relish what she would have to do now. She could wait, enjoy these last couple of days with him, wait until they brought her parents back, but she knew that that would never work. It wouldn't be fair to Harry for starters, and she knew that she couldn't keep this charade up either. She'd fall and fall hard, making putting back the pieces of her heart only that much more difficult. It was better to deal with this now.
It was going to hurt. A lot. It was going to hurt her, and worst of all, Harry. But she knew she would have to. She knew Harry all to well. She knew he'd feel obligated to her after last night. She didn't want Harry, not like that. She would have to hurt him to set him free.
. . . .
Harry awoke to a warm, yet practically destroyed bed. The mattress was hanging halfway off its frame, now in the center of the room as opposed to up against the wall like it should be. Goose feathers and three shredded pillows were strewn across the room. He smirked to himself at the sight before glancing towards the clock. It was already in the afternoon!
Harry fell back onto his pillow as the glorious events of the previous night washed over him. It was no wonder he'd slept until now, they hadn't gotten much rest last night. He had no idea at what time exactly they drifted off, but he did remember seeing the rays of the rising sun before they passed out in one anothers arms. Together... Harry sat bolt upright. The bed was empty.
“Hermione?” he called aloud. Silence. As the beat of his heart spiked, Harry threw himself out of bed to check their small bungalow, but she was nowhere to be found.
He searched the main building, the pool, the beach, but relief did not come until he spotted her thin, now tanned legs hanging over the crest of a cliff on the out-crop of rock in the distance. Harry made the climb up.
"You gonna start making a habit of wandering off like this?" Harry said as he hopped across a narrow crevice that separated him from her. She had to force a smile and Harry did not miss that.
"Everything okay?" he turned more serious as he approached, now more cautiously. No doubt Hermione was thinking about her parents. They were supposed to tell them today, not to mention last night...
"No..." Hermione did not try to feign ignorance.
"Missed you this morning..." Harry placed a gentle kiss on her temple as he sat down beside her. Hermione practically startled at the mention of it and the touch of his lips, with a non-to-subtle blush creeping up her neck. "Don't worry, 'Mione. Everything is going to be fine. They'll listen to you, you'll see...” Harry tried soothing her, rather turning the attention back to her parents. There was just no telling what Hermione was feeling about their previous night together. Hermione sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder before she began.
"Last night..." she started, throwing Harry for a whirl, but she did not have the words to finish. Words could not capture it.
“Was amazing...” Harry finished for her, sneaking a glance from the corner of his eyes, but something in his gut told him the rub was to come.
"We - we c-can't do this, Harry... we have to stop..." the words came out llike lead in his heart. Harry's brow furrowed as Hermione fought to hold back the threatening tears.
Harry did not answer her right away, but enjoyed her proximity while it lasted. He had a sickening feeling deep in the pit of his stomach that this would be their last time together like this.
"I - I don't think I can... stop" Harry's words were heavy and reluctant as he whispered into the flowing breeze of the ocean. I tear peeled down Hermione's cheek.
"W-we can't..." Hermione could hardly force the words, only able to repeat herself.
"We can," Harry said simply, turning to offer her his trademark, crooked smile, before placing a kiss atop her head. “Always, we'll have each other.”
"Don't Harry, don't say that... don't!" Hermione suddenly jerked away from him, the tears now pouring out.
But Harry held his smile and used a thumb to brush away her tears. "I had a feeling this might happen..." there was a certain resignation in his words. "Last night, Hermione, this whole last week..." Harry gulped, seeing her furiously shaking her head at him, as if in denial to listen to him speak.
"Just... don't, Harry! Please,” she begged him. “W-we... we just got caught up in everything... I understand, Harry, honestly, I do. But you're with Ginny. You don't owe me anything..." she could not finish her sentence.
"That's just about the weakest excuse I've ever heard from you. That the best you can come up with?” Harry poked her. Hermione turned to him with pleading, confused eyes.
Harry took her by the chin and forced her to look him in the eyes. “It's you, Hermione. It's us. Last night was the most amazing in my life. This whole week... after everything, after all we've been through... I'm not giving this up," he said with determination.
"No!" The word came out much more forcefully than she had intended, and Harry flinched back a bit from her harshness. She was near outright balling though and had to pull her face from his grasp less she losed it all. She knew Harry too well. She had would have to do what she knew she couldn't.
"Why?" Harry felt himself deflate with her distance.
"Because!" Hermione groaned with guilt and impatience. "Because you're with Ginny and I... I-I'm with Ron. We weren't thinking last night!"
Her words struck at him like daggers. Ginny... he had not thought of Ginny since they left for the Dursleys. Harry felt the pang of guilt. And Ron... Ron his best mate. Hermione his girl. That guilt would only deepen.
Harry could only shake his head at this. "I don't... Ginny is a boyhood memory... a crush. Ron...” Harry's head fell back as he looked up to the sky. What about Ron, his best mate? Was this betrayal? “I just know that this, you and I... this is what's right. It's always been..." but he himself now found it difficult to speak.
"Don't Harry! Please, you know that-"
"I know what?!" Harry tried to pull her back to him but she resisted.
"I'm the one who had to listen to you go on about her all those months!” a swell of anger and jealousy showed itself. “And then Ron... the Weasley's... they're your family... we couldn't do that to them, Harry. I couldn't let you do that to yourself!" Hermione's chest was heaving with a rush of panic. It was hard.
"And I can't let you do this," Harry caught her by the chin and pulled her face back to his. “Whatever we have to face, Hermione, we have each other. We've always had each other, always only each other. Please...”
"Don't!" Hermione practically slapped his hand away, tears now running freely down her wet cheeks. "Just stop! Don't make this any harder than it already is!"
Harry could only shake his head. “Nothing can change that. I know you can see it - can feel it.”
Hermione stood up, turning her back to him. She was going to have to hurt him and she couldn't bear to face him when she did.
"I-I... I a-am in love with R-Ron..." anyone could have heard the falseness in her voice, but the words were so sharp that they cut Harry deep. “I am going back... to Ron.”
Doubting herself, her own heart breaking, Hermione turned around to find Harry standing with his back to her now, his hands stuck in his pockets as he looked out over the ocean.
“Yeah," it came out so pitiful, through a broken voice like she'd never heard in his worst of moments. "Then I am sorry...” was all Harry said, and with a slight pop, he was gone.
“Harry...” Hermione dropped to her knees, crying out her soul.
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