Hermione cried quietly as she watched Harry. Watching him reminded her so much of the little boy she first fell in love with; never quite comfortable, looking so very alone when no one was paying him much mind. Of course Hermione always was, first to study the peculiar boy and eventually because she found comfort in him. He had always been her best friend, had always had her heart. It just wasn't until the later years when he seemed to realize that and then possibly fell for her too.
Or at least she thought he had. She really did think he loved her too, but then he left, shaking her conviction. He sent so few owls and whatever she sent went unacknowledged for weeks. She'd taken a day trip to Ireland and happened to slip into the auror's offices but Harry was away, they said, on the field. They looked at her with eyes that told her she shouldn't come back and so she didn't. She knew if she pushed harder, he would go further away – he needed to come back when he was ready, something Hermione struggled with after years of his running headlong into every possible problem only to avoid any sign of conflict following the war.
But here Harry was, finally, a tear streaming down his cheek.
After Draco told her about the last conversation the two of them had shared, the irrational fear that Harry didn't love her in return faded because a darker thought replaced it: Harry didn't leave because he didn't love them, but because he loved them so much it hurt, hurt too much to stay.
And so he ran and Hermione sort of understood why but it hurt so much when he wasn't there. When Ron had ran so many years ago it hurt but losing Harry was so different. She loved both men, but without the war to feed her fear of death, her mind instead focused on sadness, isolation, desperation, loneliness: all Harry's, and he wouldn't let her in to fix this.
She hadn't been able to dwell on that long though before because Draco would remind her that it was his fault, if for no other reason than because he figured Harry knew how much Draco needed space to worth through learning to love Hermione – while his heart was all for trying, there was a long history to work through together, but he wanted this so badly. Draco would whisper as much into Hermione's thigh, her stomach, her chest, the crook of her shoulder and neck, just how much he understood where Harry was coming from: he wouldn't be able to bare the pain of watching the two of them and feeling like there was no place for him in either of their hearts once he came to terms with how he felt.
But of course that wasn't the case, and the moment Hermione saw the mist build in those beautiful green eyes, all of those tearful nights and lonely mornings were forgotten. Months and moments, all disappeared: Hermione loved him all the same now as she had then, the hurt pushed away as she ran her eyes over him. All in one piece. And he cared, really did care. That was all that mattered.
Harry hid himself away in some muddy hole in Ireland with some poor Irish trainees to shield himself from the love he thought was barred to him but Hermione and Draco grew and feel deeply into a love that was built for three and would never be complete without Harry. If he left again, if he turned away from them after they'd had a chance to tell him how they felt, it would all fall apart. They both accepted that, and the very real possibility that could happen. They hoped their friendship could endure, but knew their romance couldn't otherwise.
But Hermione refused to let that happen. Hermione was absolutely certain of her love, both for Draco and for Harry, and when Draco would talk to her about his times with Harry, both before and after Azkaban, she could tell he was sincere too. Ever since she promised him that he could have her and Harry, if that was what he wanted, it became everything he wanted.
He hadn't dared hoped to find love again after the atrocities of the war, he had admitted, but he found it so natural and ready when he let his walls down and let Harry and Hermione in.
Luna had told Draco once that he only thought he loved Hermione and Harry. She told Hermione about this months into the dark period without Harry, admitting that she was just challenging Draco to verify for himself whether or not he did because he seemed to have come to her looking for her to decide for him, to assure him what he was feeling.
Hermione snorted at that and wiped her eyes dry carefully, agreeing, and thinking privately that he and Harry had that terrible character flaw of missing the obvious in common.
Early on when she had worried Harry had run away because of her, she figured it was out of fear of making whatever their bond was something real, all or nothing. Then, in private, she worried that perhaps loving Draco, a former Death Eater and his childhood nemesis was just too much, but always shut Draco down when echoed the sentiment. It seemed all three of them struggled with being precious to someone else, and Hermione was determined to fix that.
Draco stood on the elevated dais, serving at Theo's side opposite of Daphne Greengrass attending to Astoria. How many of these rituals had he watched growing up? It helped his body to run on something akin to muscle memory and let his mind drift.
Eventually his eyes did too, and he spotted Harry.
A triumphant smirk broke out on Draco's face when Harry caught his eye. He'd searched for him among the early guests but couldn't find that telltale mop of hair in the crowd. But there he was, three rows deep in one of the four quadrants of seats sitting next to Ron Weasley – those eyes made him unmistakable.
Draco reigned the smile in just as Theo noticed and gave him a subtle elbow to the ribs, the smile passing like wild fire from Draco's face to Theo's to Astoria's and then Daphne's. Everyone had seen how hurt and wounded Draco and Hermione were without Harry, despite navigating their new and tender and tentative love as well. Theo and Astoria had theories about what would happen when Harry returned.
None that Hermione would confirm with anything beyond a traitorous blush, and they knew better than to waste time asking Draco because he had no tells or giveaways, perfect Slytherin that he is.
Hermione saw the smile spread throughout the faces of her friends and buried her mortified face in her hands, not sure she could survive until the reception.
. . . . .
Draco hadn't gotten more than four feet out of the central circular ballroom before a set of old crones cornered him to inquire about his mother. He patiently fielded their questions, promised to pass on their regards, and forced his way through the thongs of party goers. Some were ambling towards the floos to leave but the majority were being led outside to the magically heated and unnaturally lush gardens for the reception.
With the accuracy of a talented Seeker, Draco spotted Hermione, herself trapped in the company of a half dozen or so colleagues from work. She looked to him, not with a plea for rescue, but with her trademark do it or else look. He nodded and bowed slightly, flashing a nervous smile before shifting his search for that mop of black hair, those green eyes and the stone grey three piece suit Hermione had gotten freshly pressed and laid out just in case.
Harry was alone, nursing a drink at the farthest end of the gardens where a small stream cut off the edge of the property. Determined, Draco cast a subtle notice-me-not on himself and pushed through the crowd, avoiding all wandering eyes and within a few agonizing moments came out of the crush to see Harry hadn't seen Draco coming until it was too late.
Draco closed the space between them until only a foot of space separated them, controlling himself. His eyes traced up and down Harry's form, confirming that every limb was accounted for, before nodding his head with a small smirk.
"You look almost as pale as me. Doesn't quite suit you as well."
Harry's mouth dropped slightly, unprepared for the comment, before a wobbly laugh burst out. His empty hand rubbed down his tired face and over his greatly reduced beard, nodding as he rubbed his jaw for comfort.
"I was underground a lot, both figuratively and literally. At least there won't be any tan lines if I give up on the beard," Harry mused, looking for a safe topic. They both shared a boyish smile at the conjured image but the silence soon settled between them.
"You didn't say goodbye," Draco said when the silence had made its point.
Harry began to fidget, uncomfortable with the hard gaze Draco had coupled with the soft tone of his voice, and nodded reluctantly.
"I know, and I'm sorry. The project had been something that was tossed around a lot last year but I pushed it to the back burner when we went about getting you settled in, and when they asked me to go out after Christmas, I figured I was overdue. It was nothing personal."
Draco snorted indelicately, crossing his arms and glowering at Harry. "I don't know how stupid you think either of us are but I would strongly recommend against trying that line on Hermione."
Harry flushed and looked at his shoes, growing increasingly uncomfortable and taking the longest sip from his beer possible. I knew I shouldn't have come. I knew Hermione would be on my case for bailing but she's gotten Draco trained to kill too. She must be even more annoyed than Ron said.
Draco's annoyance cracked with the sight of Harry drawing deeper into himself and he took a gamble by reaching out tentatively and taking Harry's empty hand. The anxious man looked up, the intimacy of it all setting his heart racing. "We kissed at Christmas and I thought it meant something. You left though without a word," Draco went on.
Harry squinted slightly, his head falling to a slight rightward tilt. He didn't let go though as their fingers gently laced.
"You're with Hermione now, so I don't see how that matters. Not that it didn't matter or anything! I'm sorry if my leaving made things.. I don't know, harder for you?" Harry stumbled, his eyes locking with Draco's for the first time. Really locking, too: Draco wouldn't even need to utter the words to delve into Harry's mind, his confusing and concern painted bluntly all over his expression.
"Hermione and I have been waiting for you to come home long enough. It's not been home without you, and.." but Draco couldn't find the words. Why couldn't he just have gotten Harry to come with him and Hermione that first night-
Oh, that's an option..
And Draco closed the foot of distance between himself and Harry and kissed him squarely. Where their first kiss had been sudden, explosive, and over all too soon, this time they both melted in and settled against each other, one hand entwined each, Harry's beer forgotten.
And thus we've venture into unwritten territory, off the charted path of the original plot and into whatever the hell comes next. I've changed my username if you hadn't noticed, and done up a new tumblr too: mescerises . tumblr . com