Dispelling the Silence: a Harry Potter AU
Chapter 39: A New Day Rising
Leaning against the wall of Teddy's hospital room, Harry listened to the childish laughter and smiled. "Try the corn instead of the broccoli," Harry called out helpfully. "I don't think chickens like broccoli."
"But broccoli is delicious! Especially with butter on it," Teddy argued, still vainly trying to push his dripping broccoli into the struggling chicken's beak. "Maybe Victoire's just holding her too tightly."
"I am not! But fine, we'll do it your way," the little strawberry blond said with longsuffering, loosening her hold. "I'll try ordering her to eat it in her own language too. Cluck cheap CLUCK bawk bawk."
Ignoring her attempt to speak like a chicken, the bird shimmied backwards out of Victoire's arms, sacrificing a few rust-red feathers in the process.
Cackling to itself, it hopped up onto the frame at the bottom of the bed and fluffed its feathers. "My dragon!" shouted Dominique, flopping forward with chubby arms outstretched. The chicken easily dodged her hands and fluttered off the bed.
The girls leaped to follow, with Teddy cheering them on. It zoomed around the room with the Weasley girls hot on its tail. Everyone laughed at their antics.
But then the chicken spied the open door. Clucking in excitement, the chicken abruptly turned. "Look out!" Gabrielle laughed. The chicken put its head down and raced for the hallway beyond and freedom.
"Close the door!" cried Teddy.
"Catch it!" called Victoire.
"Not again," groaned Fleur.
Despite Harry's seeker reflexes, he was just too far away. He dived, but his grasping fingers caught nothing but a tail feather. The chicken raced through the doorway and disappeared down the hall.
"Oh no," Dominique cried with large tears dripping down her cheeks. "All gone," she sobbed pitifully.
Sighing, her mother picked her up and wiped her tears. "I'm sure she'll be back," Fleur said unenthusiastically. "She's just gone exploring for a minute."
Getting to his feet, Harry brushed dust from his knees. "I'll go and find her," Harry said. "My lucks been pretty good this week. After all, I hunt people down for a living. How hard can finding a chicken be?"
"But what if she hides with all the feather pillows? You won't see her then. That's called camouflage," Teddy explained earnestly.
"Someone might try to lay on top of her and scare her," worried Victoire.
"Hurry up, Harry, or she might escape you," Gabrielle teased with mock solemnity.
Pointing at her cheek, Harry began walking towards the door as he said, "I didn't see you being very helpful, Miss I'm-still-sitting-down-swinging-my-legs. Maybe you should go and fetch the chicken."
"I caught her last time. Besides, you're the lucky one this week, remember? I'm sure you'll do just fine. She won't get far through the hospital's wards. Probably." Gabrielle laughed at his pout.
"I want my dragon!" Dominique demanded.
Before Harry could do more than sigh and take two more steps towards the door, they heard the chicken cry, "Squawk! Bawk bawk bawk!" from down the hall, followed by feminine laughter.
A second later, Hermione appeared in the doorway with the chicken in her arms. "I apprehended this fugitive in the hallway. Does she belong to any of you or should I call the DMLE?"
"My Dragon!" shouted Dominique happily, dashing away her tears with a sniffle. Then she turned in her mother's arms and demanded, "Tissue!" Fleur obliged by handing her a tissue to wipe her wet little nose and chubby cheeks.
Victoire stepped forward and took the chicken. Harry closed the door, just in case. The little girl cuddled the completely disgruntled chicken to her face and beamed. "Thanks! She's ours, Cousin 'Mione. We call her dragon 'cause at first she looked like a dragon but then papa got mad and scared and Uncle Fred and Uncle George had to turn her back to a chicken to prove they didn't steal her from Uncle Charlie. We brought her to come and visit Teddy, but she doesn't like buttered broccoli and ran away."
"That's very unfortunate," Hermione said solemnly. "Eating broccoli shows good strength of character, I always say."
"She's an awfully nice chicken otherwise though," Teddy defended with a shrug. Then he turned, "Hey Uncle Harry, did you know that Miss Hermione is really good at finding things too?"
Harry smiled, looking fondly between his godson and Hermione. "I did know that, actually."
"Yeah, it's true," Teddy continued, "she just found Dragon, and yesterday she visited and found my lost book under the bed, and then she found Victoire and Dominique last week! It said so in the newspaper. The bad lady who took me took them too. But she found them! And then she helped you to find me too where the bad lady hid me, didn't she Uncle Harry?"
Looking into her blushing face, Harry answered, "Yes, yes she did."
Wiggling down from her mother's arms, Dominique walked over and hugged Hermione's leg. "I love my cousin 'Mione," the little girl declared. "She's a hero!"
"A big hero," Harry confirmed.
Dashing away the wetness in her eyes, Hermione said, "Well what about Harry, Gabrielle, and Fleur? Someone made me sick with a bad spell and they helped fix me. They're heroes too."
"Yay mama!" shouted Dominique, releasing Hermione's leg to wave her hands in the air.
"Mama and Aunt Gabby are heroes!" shouted Victoire, not to be outdone by her sister. The chicken in her arms clucked loudly in agreement. Or in protest at the noise, it was hard to say.
"Uncle Harry is a huge hero too, the hugest there ever ever was!" Teddy declared with his arms spread wide in demonstration.
"Actually," Hermione said musingly, tapping her finger on her chin, "there are three more heroes in here we haven't mentioned yet."
"Who?" quizzed Teddy with a puzzled tilt of his head as he looked around the room.
"Why, you, Victoire, and Dominique, of course," explained Hermione with a big smile.
"Us?" exclaimed Victoire, almost letting her chicken escape from her arms again.
"Yes, you," Hermione confirmed with a firm nod. "You were very brave after getting taken by that bad lady. You didn't let her craziness make you feel bad about yourselves, you stayed strong so we could rescue you, and then you took your medicine to get better, even when it didn't taste good. That's the kind of thing a real hero does."
"Wow, Teddy, did you hear that? We're heroes too!" Victoire said excitedly. Teddy grinned back at her.
Suddenly someone knocked on the door. "Put the chicken back in her cage," Fleur insisted, "just in case." Heaving a big sigh, Victoire trudged over and forced the recalcitrant chicken back into her cage. Gabrielle got up and helped her latch the door securely.
Meanwhile, Hermione opened the door. Outside stood Teddy's guardian, Andromeda Tonks. "Grandma!" Teddy exclaimed, "I'm a hero. Did you know that?"
"I'm not surprised in the least, my dear," she said fondly as she came into the room. Then Teddy gave a big yawn. Reaching out, she began clearing his books and toys from the bed.
"I think it's time for your visitors to leave and for you to take a nice nap," Andromeda firmly suggested.
Teddy yawned again and knuckled his eyes. "Oh, all right. Thanks for coming everyone." Turning to the chicken in her cage, he said, "Cluck cluck, Dragon"
"Bye Teddy!" Victoire said, then she shook the cage. The chicken squawked loudly in protest. "Dragon says goodbye too," she translated.
"Bye bye," Dominique said, waving.
"Take care, Teddy, and remember what I said. If you ever want to talk about it with someone who can relate, you have my contact information," Gabrielle said, giving him a kiss on each cheek and a hug.
As soon as she stepped back, Fleur leaned over his bed and kissed him twice on each cheek. "Sweet dreams, little one." Then she stepped over and picked up Dominique. Victoire took her Aunt Gabrielle's hand and the four blonds, and one chicken, took their leave.
Coming over to the bed, Harry gave Teddy a big hug. He wouldn't be taking those for granted for a long time. "Love you, Teddy," Harry said against his hair, inexpressibly grateful that Teddy was recovering so quickly after his ordeal. "I'll come visit again soon."
"Love you too, Uncle Harry," Teddy said sleepily. The boy leaned back and gave Harry a sweet smile. "Candy next time?" he wheedled.
"Teddy," his grandmother scolded.
"We'll have to see," Harry said with a wink, really meaning yes. He planned on spoiling Teddy rotten for the foreseeable future.
Hermione stepped up and ruffled the boy's hair, "Take care, Teddy. When you're feeling better, we can go and explore that library you were talking about. I always need more library buddies on the weekends." She turned to Andromeda. "Just send me an owl when he feels up to it."
After a few more pleasantries, Hermione and Harry left the room, walking down the hall side-by-side. "How much longer do you have off of work?" Harry asked, trying to delicately ask about her recovery.
Tucking a curl threaded with both cinnamon and honey behind her ear, Hermione answered, "Well, a few more days at least. I'm feeling as well as can be expected, health wise. I have a series of potions to take for the next few weeks and my core isn't recovered, but that'll just take time. The mental stuff will take a long time too. A long time…." Sighing, she changed the subject.
"As for work, I finished all of my current projects, so there's nothing to wrap up. The article in the paper about me made my boss even more offensive, which I didn't realize was possible, so Luna convinced her boss to hire both Hoshimi and me over to the spell creation side of the department. We officially start next Monday, but part of me is too excited to wait the full week. I've always wanted to do spell creation. I was thinking of going in early on Wednesday."
"You still need to build up your magical reserves, though," Harry pointed out. "Stress will slow that down. Instead of rushing back to work, you should find a puddle of sunshine, kick your feet up on a comfy couch with a good book, and relax."
"I suppose that does sound nice," Hermione mused softly as they paused in front of the stairwell. Besides the two of them, the hallway was deserted and quiet. "Maybe I will wait until next Monday."
Harry suddenly felt like he was fifteen again. He cleared his throat nervously. "I have a few days off this week, too. You could spend some of that time relaxing with me."
Hermione sent him a complex, sideways smile with just a hint of dimple in her cheek. "Are you asking me out on a date, Harry?"
"Yes, but I want all of your dates," Harry blurted out.
Hermione face went blank for a moment and then she turned to look him square in the face. They were actually almost the same height, he noticed absently through his internal panic at her reaction. "That sounds rather serious, Harry, but I'm not sure you meant it that way. Seriously dating me would be difficult and complicated."
She laughed bitterly. "I'm not just magically drained; I might be emotionally damaged too. They don't know yet. I'm going to be seeing the healers for a long time to come. I wasn't exaggerating about the complications. For a girl who doesn't possess the Delacour family beauty, you might not want to commit yourself to that."
Shrugging with forced carelessness, Hermione looked away, adding, "You don't have to promise me anything, Harry. We could have fun just hanging out as friends."
"We could," Harry agreed. Hermione's shoulders slumped, though she tried to hide it. She gave him a close-lipped, friendly smile and took a subtle step back.
"We could and probably would have fun just hanging out," Harry repeated, "but I think we could have more than just fun. If you don't want more with me then that's one thing and I will respect that and enjoy our friendship. I'm sure we're going to have an amazing friendship."
"But if you think that you don't deserve more, or that I don't want more with you, well, you couldn't be more wrong." Reaching out, Harry threaded his fingers through hers. "I like you, Hermione. I really really like you. I can't stop thinking about you, in fact. The striking features of your face and that crazy curly hair of yours haunt my dreams. I pay attention to everything brown I see now because I haven't found a way to accurately describe your hair color yet. Just thinking about you makes me smile."
"I trust you, even when all the evidence tells me to doubt it. I want to freely tell you things I've always hated talking about with anyone else. For the first time, I've met a woman who doesn't fall short of my mother's legacy. I'm not afraid to think about having a family because I know you would give everything and anything to keep our family safe. I'm not afraid of my bad luck crushing you, because like a diamond, pressure just makes you stronger. I've never met a woman like you."
"Maybe it's crazy, but you make me like crazy. I want to kiss your lips and the freckled hollow above your clavicle. The curve of your lower back drives me insane. I want to hold you in my arms and spend hours just talking. I want to take you up on a fast broom and have you press close against my back in fright, but then relax your grip and stay there with me to enjoy the sky because you trust me to keep you safe and you like being that close to me too. I want us to go to Japan for our first anniversary and share strange drinks called things like Qoo in muggle subway stations and do whatever's seasonal there at that time of year and visit magical museums."
"I even had a daydream about building us a house. It would have a huge library wing full of reading alcoves and those ladders on wheels. You'd use them to get the high up books and I'd admire your figure while you climbed. Then I'd challenge you to a ladder race and we'd roll them along the bookshelves as fast as they'd go. Afterwards I'd take my scolding and leave you for a few hours to read in peace while I went and experimented in my fancy kitchen. Then I'd call you out for dinner and make you set the table because otherwise I'd probably have us eat standing up at the counter."
Harry was babbling. This was too much. He knew he was babbling, but he couldn't get his mouth to stop. He wanted her to like him as much as he liked her. Desperation had him throwing out everything he could think of in hope that something he said would change her mind. He should probably shut up, but somehow his brain to mouth filter had stopped working.
"I know I'm not perfect. I'm moody and stubborn and irritable when I don't eat or sleep enough. I treated you horribly when we first met because I was unfairly taking out my bad mood on others. Sometimes I'm paranoid. I struggle to trust people. I obsess about my cases and have a saving people complex. I also have on permanent retainer experts on countering potions, reversing charms and curses, a mind healer, and a team of physical healers. Every holiday they send me cards thanking me for the business."
Taking a breath, Harry admitted honestly, "Most of that probably won't change if we get closer either. I'm certainly not perfect." He swallowed hard and then promised softly, "But if you'd let yourself need me, I'd be yours."
Harry's heart galloped in his chest. Was that too much honesty? What if she ran away screaming now? At least she hadn't pulled away in disgust.
Tightening his fingers, he brought her hand up to press it against his chest. "Please Hermione, give me a chance to earn your trust and loyalty. I am utterly serious. I am as committed to creating a permanent 'us' as you'll allow me to be. I want us to fall in love and find forever together."
Barely breathing, Harry tried to smile through his panic. "So in an extremely long answer to your short question: yes. Yes I want us to date, exclusively, and in preparation for a more serious commitment. If you are willing and if I haven't just scared you off. I hope I haven't offended you. I'm sorry if I said too much. Yes."
Harry finally forced himself to stop. He needed to look at her face to see her reaction, but he couldn't find the courage just yet. He thought he might pass out. Give him a dark wizard to battle any day. Emotional discussions were hard. He stared at their clasped hands and waited.
"First things first, you need to actually breathe, Harry," Hermione said in a voice that wavered with emotion. "If I'm not allowed to pass out, then neither are you."
Harry hadn't realized he'd stopped breathing while waiting for her answer. Sucking in a deep breath, he blew it out and forced his lungs to function normally. The urge to pass out faded, though his stomach now churned and his cheeks burned with embarrassment.
Then Hermione reached out and placed her fingers beneath his chin, tipping his head up until he met her steady brown eyes. "Second, I'm the farthest thing from offended. You flatter me. I suspect that you might need to start wearing glasses again, but," she took a quick breath and admitted, "I really really like you too, Harry." He felt his icy panic melt away into sunny happiness beneath her affectionate gaze.
Smiling tenderly, she said, "I don't know what the future holds, but I would love to find forever together with you. Let's try." Leaning forward, Harry and Hermione shared a sweet kiss of joy, mouths caressing each other gentle and slow, silently making hopeful promises.
Then Hermione stepped back and slid her fingers free. "But for now," she said with a dimpled smile, "I'm going to follow Teddy's lead and go home to take a nap. I'm still exhausted and I have a feeling that dating you is going to be a noisy endeavor. I need to regain my energy. "
Feeling a strange tug at his neck, Harry looked down to see his green and blue striped tie snaking out from his collar. Hermione had one end in her hand as she took another step away, winding it teasingly around her fingers. "Now that we're officially courting, you're welcome to come over and cook me dinner tonight at six. I'll set the table and provide the drinks, strictly non-alcoholic of course," she sent him a teasing wink. "As for this striped necktie, I'll be holding it hostage in exchange for one enameled hair comb. Bring it to dinner if you ever want to see your tie again."
Harry threw back his head and laughed. "Why don't I trade you a handful of ties for a few more kisses instead?" he asked.
"It'll depend on how convincing you are," she grinned.
"I can be very convincing," Harry replied smartly, holding out his fingers and raising his brow. Giggling, Hermione tucked the tie into her pocket and took his fingers. Hand in hand, they entered the stairwell and ascended into their new life together.
AN: Thank you so much for reading and for your support! Your comments are fabulous! I really appreciate them.