Chapter 5 : Words Don't Come Easily
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Love is an act of endless forgiveness. - Peter Ustinov
It was only two weeks since she had failed. With her spell, she had saved his life, yet lost his friendship. In failing, Hermione Granger had killed her best friend's girlfriend. She was the smartest witch at Hogwarts, yet she had failed. After casting her intense charm, the Killing Curse had reflected off of Harry, and onto Cho, a girl who was only weeks away from leaving school.
It had been Ron who screamed at her. He'd since told her more than once how stupid she was to use the shield charm. She knew it already. The second the light escaped from her wand, she knew it was a mistake. She could have easily used Wingardium Leviosa, but the shield charm was the first thing that came to mind in her moment of panic.
Harry wasn't the same -- he was so distant. How hard had he fought? How long had he fought to break Cho out of her sadness? It didn't matter anymore; she was dead, killed by someone who he thought wasnít a part of his life anymore. It wasn't Harry who told Hermione that she was to blame; he didn't need to tell her.
After they returned to Hogwarts with Cho's body, the trio was split. Hermione stopped talk to Harry. She couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, and couldn't even study anymore. It was a miracle she even bothered to get out of bed in the morning. The times she did, it was unbearable sitting in the Great Hall; the students looked at her as though she was as bad as Lord Voldemort himself.
This wasn't the worst of it, though. It was not that which began to break her soul. It was Harry. Only he could make her feel like this, pulling her further into her own personal abyss. She could see it in his eyes. Whenever he chose to look at her, there was nothing but sadness in the green eyes that she loved so much. Pure sadness for what she had done, for her failure.
Week after week, she wished with all her heart that the Killing Curse had reflected at her instead. In her mind, though, she knew that she couldn't give up--not yet. Even if Harry hated her, she swore to herself that she would do all she could to save him, to keep him safe. Voldemort wasn't dead. He was alive and well and still wanted nothing more than to finish Harry off. But Hermione would be there, even as the wreck she'd become, even without a friend in the world. She would be there and she would give her life for his, so that he could live a real life after Voldemort's defeat. This gave her the strength to go on. Only a few more weeks until summer break, and only one more year she had to survive. She knew she could do it.
It was difficult to know that her former best friend spent every evening in the same room as her. Hermione always took care to avoid Harry, leaving the common room in the mornings early for breakfast, and staying in the library except for late at night, when she worked in her designated corner of the common room.
In classes, they didn't sit next to each other anymore. They didn't even look at each other. She decided to avoid most classes until the summer holidays. She couldn't sit there and listen to her teacher; listen to how they told her she wasn't top of the class anymore. She didn't care. She didn't need it anymore. Her own life had ended when Cho's did. Even so, Hermione knew she'd be Head Girl no matter what she did at that point.
It was one of her bad days. She couldn't bring herself to get up. She simply lay in bed and waited for the darn day to end. No tears were left, for she was empty. Her whole body began to show signs of decay. The heavy dark shadows underneath her eyes. She had lost weight, too, perhaps about ten pounds. Her clothes were beginning to get too big for her, hiding her too-thin frame. Her appearance was unhealthy, but not unhealthy enough for the casual observer to notice.
It was only two weeks after the day that she had failed Harry. She knew she had to change back. If she didn't, she wouldn't be strong enough for the next attack from Voldemort. She wouldn't fail the next time. But it was too difficult to go back to the way she used to be, it was too hard to eat even one bit because she knew that someone had died because of her. She didn't want to fight anymore. All that she wanted now was to close her eyes, and to never open them again.
The day simply went on, passing slowly by. It was late evening when the door opened. She didn't notice. Her eyes were shut, and she was still lost in her own personal hell in her mind. At first, she didnít hear anything, only the cold, dark shadow of someone caused her to open her eyes.
Harry stood before her. She blinked hard, not daring to say anything. The only thing she did was stand up. She was shaking hard from surprise, anticipation, and lack of food. Only a few steps to the door, and she would be out of his reach.
With all of her Gryffindor bravery, she turned around to face him. He stood only a few steps away. She could feel how he eyed her carefully.
"You look horrible," he said. "When was the last time you slept, or even ate something?" His voice was hurtful to her ears. Stung, she shut her eyes and wished for him to go away and leave her alone.
"It's not your problem," she said. Her voice was rough. It was the first time she'd spoken in a long time. Harry shook his head slowly. Until now, Hermione hadn't noticed that he wasn't wearing his glasses.
Slowly, he got closer to her. "I care about you. It should be my problem."
"Not anymore," she whispered. She could hear how her voice began to break.
"Don't you understand?" he whispered back. "I don't want to lose you, Hermione."
"No, you didn't lose me," said Hermione, still shaking. "You lost someone much more important to you than I could ever be." She couldn't look into his eyes anymore, and instead fixed her eyes to a point on the floor. "Please. Just leave me alone." She drew in a shaky breath. "Go... please." She tried to sound strong, but it only came out as a soft plea. There was no response from Harry. It was too quiet. It was only the sound of him breathing that told her he was still there.
"I didn't love her." She looked up and saw, to her surprise, that he stood directly in front of her. His eyes burned into hers, making tears well up in her eyes.
She tried to get away, but he grabbed her arm almost painfully. "You don't know what you're saying," she said, looking away.
"I thought I would, but I didn't," said Harry, his voice rough. It softened slightly as she flinched. "You know it's true, don't you?" His face was only inches away from hers now.
Hermione could feel his breath on her skin. She didn't dare move or speak. With his hand, he cupped her cheek, and leaned closer until his lips were near hers. She could feel how he touched her. How he wanted to kiss her. He touched her lips carefully, gently. It felt so right, but it had to be wrong. She tried to back away, but he didn't let her. He held her face close to his.
"Don't," whispered Hermione. It was all she could say. He cut her off with a gentle kiss of his lips. Hermione couldnít resist anymore, and parted her lips for him. It was as if the sky exploded. All the pain, all the weeks of loneliness, was forgotten. Harry pulled her closer to him, and wrapped one arm around her waist. With his other hand, he held her head closer to his. She'd never been this close to him before.
Hermione attempted to resist. She couldn't let her feelings take control. Her heart began to beat quickly. Her eyelids shut once more, as he deepened the kiss. She hadn't kissed him back until now--she couldn't. But she couldn't stop him, either. His hand, warm and gentle, ran over her back, stringing it slowly. She didn't know how long she could resist kissing him back.
She could feel her old feelings of want growing back inside of her. She had wanted this for so long, and now here he was, holding her close to him. But she couldn't do it. Not after what she'd done to him, after what she'd put him through. It was simply too much for her--she was his.
Hermione touched his face and brought him as close as possible, kissing him back uncertainly. It wasn't wrong anymore. She couldn't think of anything more right. He broke the kiss and brought his lips to her cheek lightly, before moving on to her neck.
As she felt his hands on her skin, she bit her lower lip.
"I need you," he whispered into her ear. Hermione turned her head to look at him, and stared into his darkened green eyes.
"I need you more," she replied. Her voice was low, and tears were shining in her eyes.
"Shh." He kissed her again and took her into his arms. He lifted her up and carried her to the bed.
His breathing was burningly fast as he laid his head on her shoulder. His arms were wrapped tightly around her, and hers around him. She ran her fingertips through his damp hair.
It was wonderful to lie there, and merely feel.
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