Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not and will not ever belong to me.
Story Rating: MA

Song Inspiration: Human by Christina Perri


I. Burial

Everyone came. Who wouldn't? Who wouldn't pay tribute to a famous war hero and Auror? Even after saving the magical community, Harry Potter still became an Auror much to Hermione's dismay. She had hoped that after all the hardships that Harry would find peace. She fully expected him to take back up with Ginny, settle down, get married, and make a big family. Although, they dated for a little bit, Harry had decided that the line of work he was heading into would be too dangerous to have a wife and family. Hermione witnessed the explosive fight between Harry and Ginny.

It had devastated the Weasleys, but they understood why Harry did what he did. Ginny fell apart, but she eventually started moving on slowly. For months, she watched Harry torture himself watching Ginny from afar move on with her life and date other wizards. She even encouraged Harry to break his own rules and find happiness with Ginny. Harry would always shake his head and drown himself in firewhiskey. She had always thought that watching Ron love someone else would crush her. It had certainly hurt, but it didn't compare to watching Harry pine after Ginny. She watched his internal struggle and she swore she felt his pain.

Developing a backbone, she finally confronted Harry about the reason why he couldn't be with Ginny. Hermione had realized that it was far worse to watch Harry slowly die watching the love of his life fall for someone else than herself watching the love of her life slowly dying while the love of his life fell for someone else.

"Harry, you can't keep doing this to yourself," she had told him, trying desperately to keep his questing hands from the glass of firewhiskey.

He shook his head, grumbling words. His hands tried to peel off her fingers.

"Harry, please, you need to stop this."

His emerald eyes looked to hers then.

"You need to tell her how you truly feel. This-This can't go on anymore like this."

He shook his head at his refusal. He finally obtained the glass from her grip and downed the rest of the contents in the glass. Hermione's heart clenched as she witnessed Harry once again block out his pain with alcohol.

"I can't see you like this, Harry," she gasped. "I-I can't watch you just wither away into nothingness."

"Then leave."

The words sliced into her. The shock of them took her breath away and she couldn't breathe. Tears filled her eyes. Quickly bowing her head and averting her eyes, she chewed her bottom lip, trying to figure out what to do now. She felt a hand upon hers and she finally looked into his.

"Hermione, you have an entire life to live," he whispered, giving her a half smile. "There's no reason for you to waste away here with me. You are the brightest witch of your age. You should recognize a lost cause."

A lost cause, she had thought to herself that night. Yes, she had her fair share of lost causes. Ron and her relationship had been a lost cause. Her unrequited love for Harry had definitely been a lost cause that Ron had exploited to his advantage. Everyone knew of her affections when it came to Harry bloody Potter. Merlin, she herself was a lost cause, wanting to rescue a wizard that she could never rescue, because it wasn't her that could save him.

It was Ginny Weasley.

And if it wasn't Ginny then it would be someone else.

She knew Harry was strong enough to eventually move on and find some semblance of a life. Even when he stared drunkenly into her eyes, luck and fate were always on the Chosen One's side. She was just the sidekick… his best friend. That's all she ever was. In fact, that's what she was to Ron when he realized that it was just a childhood fantasy to be involved with her. Ron had also told her that it would do her no good to pine after Harry… that he too would only see her as a childhood fantasy if he ever got involved with her. She believed him too, because he was evidence of that fact.

"If that's what you want…" she trailed off.

She had quickly attempted to gather her belongings.

"Hermione," Harry called out to her, catch her wrist as she attempted to leave. "Please, don't do that. I don't mean to hurt you. I'm-I'm trying to look out for you."

"You don't think I'm trying to do that for you?"

"That's different."

He looked down.

"How is that different?"

"Merlin, Hermione. I love her. I love her so much that it hurts to watch her move on, but it would hurt much more not to see her move on."

She tore herself away for him. "You don't know anything."

With that, she jumped off her stool, rushing away. She needed to leave before she made a bigger fool of herself. She knew she would regret telling him the truth if it escaped from the imprisonment of her heart. Tears were quick to fall as she made it outside. In the darkness of night, she had attempted to make way to the apparition point to head back to her flat. What she hadn't counted on that night was Harry following her and exposing her secrets to the surface.

He had just grabbed her and turned her around. The look in his eyes were stormy, ready to let it hail upon her. The words were caught in his throat as he stared into her eyes. Whatever he saw in them sobered him up quickly. He frowned, just gazing into her as if he was delving into the depths of her soul and heart. When she attempted to leave again, he only held on tighter as he pulled her close again.

"Hermione…" he whispered.

He just continued to look into her eyes. When his fingertips brushed against her skin to wipe away her tears, she sucked in a breath at his gentle touch.

"Hermione, why are you crying?"

She shook her head, refusing to speak aloud the words. Ron's warning echoed loudly in her mind. Harry was drunk and not of the right mind. If there was ever a time to tell Harry, this bloody wasn't the right time to do it. She continued her silence even when he begged her to open up to him. Her racing heartbeat was too loud in her mind and chest. Even when she tried to pull away, he refused and held tighter until she made the mistake of looking into his eyes again. That had always been her downfall, because she could drown within them forever.

"I know. I know how it feels, Harry," she rasped finally. "Because I do it every single day with you."

He swallowed heavily. His eyes continued to stare into hers, gutting her and exposing her every secret. Realization seemed to dawn upon him. She could see it clearly in his eyes as if he was suddenly seeing everything for the first time. She licked her lips nervously when his eyes darkened in determination. She was expecting him to laugh outright at her. She wanted him to so they could go back to being Harry and Hermione – the Harry and Hermione that everyone knew them as. He was just staring at her with this look in his eyes and she quite certain what to make of it.

She cleared her throat. "H-Harry-"

His name was then lost on her lips.

Silenced by an unexpected kiss, she froze, uncertain what to do. She shouldn't give into her selfish emotions. He was hurting… and bloody drunk. He wouldn't remember a bloody thing tomorrow. Before she could formulate a plan to thwart him, his kiss began to thaw her, melt her, and devour her. She was getting lost in the taste, feel, and intensity of the kiss. She was done for then. It had been so easy to fall in love with him and it was just as natural and easy to fall into bed with him. They had fumbled with taking each other's clothes off.

In her mind, she had known this was a onetime thing. She would follow Harry's request after this one selfish night. She would leave. Eventually Harry would find someone else, she had no doubt about that and he would decide the risk would be worth it. He had never truly told her about why he couldn't take the next step with Ginny. Then again, Harry had left Ginny once before for her safety in the beginning of the war. It really wasn't a surprise that he had decided this route now that he was Auror. She had decided if she only had one night that she would enjoy it. Contrary to belief, she never lost her virginity to Ron, but she had with Harry that night. For being as drunk as he was, he had been gentle and endearing, but she spurred him on. She would deal with the pain of it later, but her body could take it for now. She wanted to really know Harry.

At dawn, she had left. She knew nothing would become of it. She just wanted to be a little selfish. With the memories, she disappeared from England, leaving for some place where nobody would find her. She had heard through the grapevine that Harry was doing well and thriving. Reports were coming in about his success as an Auror. Apparently, he was dating again. At least that's what the newspaper was saying. She knew it would happen, but it still hurt. She would torture herself thinking about him going on dates and making love to them.

Nothing compared to the pain that shook her straight to the core. She remembered the exact moment that she read that Harry Potter was killed in action. It had been morning and she was sipping on her cup of tea. The moment her eyes read the headline that the cup slipped from her fingers. She barely heard it shatter as she crumbled into tears. When she was strong enough, she grabbed the newspaper and padded to her sofa. She had plopped down and forced herself to read the article. The article said they were holding a memorial burial in his honor open to the public.

For the first time in nearly a decade, she stepped on English soil to pay tribute to her deceased best friend – the love of her life. The memorial burial was beautiful. Ron stood up at the podium and spoke on Harry's life. She wanted nothing more than to comfort him as he barely made it through his speech. Her eyes traveled around familiar faces. She spotted Ginny being comforted by Molly and she knew that the redhead never truly moved on from Harry. She thought savagely that nobody ever moved on from Harry bloody Potter.

It was until everyone had left and Ron was just standing alone at Harry's grave that Hermione decided to make herself known. She slowly made her way to the grave of the wizard she loved so deeply it hurt. Silently, she stood next to Ron until he turned to her. She could feel his eyes upon her and she was almost fearful of Ron's reaction. When she finally looked at her best friend, Ron had a small smile on his face.

"He said you'd come," he said.

Hermione frowned at the strange response. "Wh-What?"

"We don't have much time. We need to move quickly."

"I don't understand."

"War is inevitable," he told her. "It'll break out. Harry predicts fairly soon."

Wide-eyed, she looked at Ron as if he had two heads. She opened her mouth to question him, but she didn't have time to voice her thoughts when Ron grabbed her hand. They were moving quickly through the graveyard, deeper into it until they reached the wall. She was about protest again, but Ron reached into the climbing thickness of vines and bushes. Startled, she watched the wall glow in the shape of a rectangle and Ron pushed, forcing the rock to swing open. She was surprised to see that it led to a secret courtyard.

"R-Ron?" she stammered. "Wh-What is the meaning of this?"

Ron quickly dragged her in the middle of the courtyard. "We needed to find a way to bring you home and make the other side think they have an advantage," he explained, looking around frantically. "Bloody hell, where is that wanker?"

"Ron, you're not making any-"

"Harry, you're bloody late!"