~A/N~ Consider this work a bonus story of sorts. A special, little thank you gift for everyone who showed so much love to Awakening. And an alternate ending to maybe give you all some closure.
Yule Ball Alternative Proposal:
Hermione Takes the Lead
Hermione was tired of waiting.
It had been a week since the Yule Ball had been announced and Harry had yet to say anything about asking her to the ball. Oh, she was well aware that he had more important things to worry about. After all, she was the one with him nearly every second of the day as they practiced and researched and did everything they could to prepare for the second task. She was ecstatic that Harry had become so focused and driven towards his goals this year, but for once in her life she wished he would think of something else.
He...he hadn't forgotten to ask her, had he? Hermione shut the book she had been reading and groaned so loudly Madam Pince looked her way with a stern glare.
Of course. Of course that was it. This was Harry. She remembered the way he had awkwardly stumbled into her arms when she had first taught him how to dance in the kitchens. The way he had blushed furiously when she had brought their faces closer together. He wasn't used to dealing with girls in that kind of setting.
As Hermione learned more and more about his upbringing, she was coming to realize that it had left him rather emotionally and socially stunted.
"Hermy-own." A voice interrupted her musings. It was Viktor Krum and to Hermione's surprise, he had come to ask her to the ball.
She gave him a small smile and turned him down as politely as she could, saying that she was waiting for someone else to ask her.
It was in the middle of that sentence that she froze. Waiting? Why on earth was she waiting? She was Hermione Jane Granger! Whatever she wanted, she would work her hardest to go after it... not sit around and mope.
She mumbled an apology to Krum and hastened out of the library only to see Harry exiting the Common Room once she arrived by the Fat Lady's portrait.
"Harry!" she seized his sleeve, panting.
"What's wrong?" Harry frowned. "Did you run all the way here? I was just about to go meet you at the library—"
Hermione sighed and said something she would otherwise have not said in a million years: "Never mind the library. I have something to ask you."
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, looking at him with determined eyes: "Harry James Potter, will you go to the ball with me?"
Harry looked flabbergasted. "W-what? Aren't we going together already?" He put a hand to his chest. "Bloody hell, you scared me for a second there. Using my full name and everything!"
Hermione closed her eyes. "You do know the boy is supposed to ask the girl, don't you, Harry?"
"I suppose," Harry looked a little chagrined but then smiled down at her. "But I have you, Hermione. I'm glad sometimes that you're the one to take charge."
"Well, someone around here has to!" Hermione huffed, but she was smiling too.
As they entered the Common Room while holding hands, Hermione could have sworn she heard the Fat Lady exclaim: "Finally!"
"Will you be all right, Sirius? Is the food from the kitchens enough to last more than a few days this time?" Harry's eyebrows furrowed in worry.
"The tent Dobby bought from Diagon Alley does look quite cozy, but it's getting so cold outside, maybe we should have chosen a more sturdy one." Hermione looked at the recently set up tent with a less than impressed stare, shaking her head in thought.
"You two have been nagging for half an hour now," Sirius rolled his eyes, wondering when they would stop. "I'm fine and I'll be fine even when you're gone. Harry, you've had poor Dobby fill the cave with what must be Hogwart's entire pantry! Hermione, you spent four hours going through magical catalogues—I highly doubt that there is a better tent in existence. I know you're worried about me living here, but it's only temporary and you've done your best to make this cave fit for a king. Repeat after me: you've done enough. "
The two teenagers stared at Sirius blankly.
"If only I could learn the Fidelius faster," Harry's shoulders slumped and his face was downcast.
"If only I could understand the parameters of the charm better. This book from the library is a great resource, but it's so limited in information..." Hermione grumbled and turned the pages of the charms book that she had smuggled off of school grounds.
"Stop!" Sirius yelled with a hint of panic in his voice, raising both of his hands as if he could ward off their words. "You're kids, you can't spend all your time worrying like this. When you're not stressing over the second task, you're here worrying over me. Take a breather, relax a little, have some fun, go on a date—"
"A... date?" Harry cocked his head sideways in confusion.
"A date?" Hermione raised her eyebrow doubtfully.
Merlin, these kids were hopeless.
"Yes!" Sirius clapped his hands enthusiastically, latching on to the idea with fervor. "Isn't today one of your Hogsmeade weekend trips? You should be spending it having fun together."
"I have fun here with you," Harry said so sincerely that Sirius had to pause for a second to get his expression under control. As if his godson's simple, straightforward words hadn't just squeezed his heart painfully and yet also filled his chest with a warm happiness that he had seldom felt in the past twelve years.
"You don't know happy it makes me to hear that, Harry," he said softly. "But I want more for you than this. I wish you and Hermione could be carefree like other kids your age instead of being saddled with so many burdens. There's not much I can do to help you with the task, so let me have this at least. Let me see you two relax. When's the last time you took a break?"
Harry looked at the ground and was silent.
"You don't remember." Sirius said for him and then turned to the bushy haired girl who was biting her lip in thought. "Hermione?"
"There hasn't been any time to spare—"
"There's always time to spare," he said firmly. "Now I'm going to tell you what's going to happen next. You two are going to leave me behind to enjoy the luxury of this ridiculously expensive tent in peace and go down to Hogsmeade. You are going to forget about the Tournament, about the Fidelius, about everything. And just have fun."
"No buts." He fumbled around in the pockets of his newly bought coat and brought out a bag full of galleons and sickles. "My mission is for you to spend this entire bag within the afternoon."
When Harry hesitated to take it, he added: "Bring me back some souvenirs. It's been too long since I visited, I miss the sweets at Honeydukes..."
Harry took the bag. "Don't worry! We'll bring back loads of things for you. What else do you want?"
Sirius rattled off a list of trivial items, rummaging through the dusty corners of his school day memories to make the list as long as possible.
Harry nodded seriously as if he was trying to memorize everything, but Hermione just raised her eyebrow at him.
Damn. He thought. That girl really was too smart for her own good.
"Anyway," he coughed awkwardly and pushed both teenagers to the entrance of the cave. "Off you go."
"We'll visit again soon, Sirius!" said Harry.
"Very soon," said Hermione. "So take care of yourself."
"Yes, yes." Sirius waved and watched them go, a satisfied smile emerging on his face.
He watched them make their way down the mountain. Hermione smirked and said something that he couldn't quite make out, but it must have been witty because his godson laughed out loud and stared at the girl with undisguised mirth in his eyes. At one point, they paused on their path as Hermione carefully tightened Harry's wayward falling scarf around his neck. Once she let go, Sirius didn't miss how Harry reached out and laced his fingers with Hermione's, squeezing her hand tightly. Their unoccupied hands had on matching red gloves, but the hands involved in the hand holding were noticeably bare.
These kids... Sirius shook his head in amusement.
A cold gale of wind blew past him, reminding Sirius that he was still standing at the entrance of the cave and should probably be retreating to the warmth of the tent.
But he stayed where he was, unable to take his eyes off the figures of his godson and his best friend as they grew smaller and smaller with distance.
"Harry is a good boy," he said to the wind. "Loyal and brave like you, James. Kind and caring, but fiercely protective of those he loves like you, Lily. But funnily enough, he reminds me of myself the most: he's so eager for love. I wish I could have had a chance to see him grow up, wish I could do more to protect him, but I can barely even protect myself right now. Will you forgive me?"
The wind grew quiet, a soft whisper in his ears.
"My only consolation is that, at the very least, he hasn't been alone. At least he has her." Sirius thought of the girl who had turned back time with Harry to save him. "I think you would like her very much."
Alternate Ending to Fourth Year
"I'm not leaving you alone this summer, Harry." Her eyes blazed with determination. "No matter what."
Hermione's words kept repeating in Harry's mind throughout the rest of the train ride.
No matter what.
When was the last time someone had made a declaration like that about him? He couldn't remember... when it came to his life, it was always filled with empty platitudes or worse—indifference. Which adult at Hogwarts didn't know that Harry Potter was a skinny, malnourished little boy when he had first come to to the school? Surely, someone had to have taken note that he always filled out during the school year and yet came back from each summer looking as impoverished as ever. During second year, the twins had told their parents of the bars on his window, but nothing had been done about it. During third year, no one had asked what on earth had prompted a thirteen year old boy to blow up his aunt and run away from home...Fudge had gone as far as to dismiss it as youthful joke. During the summer of fourth year, he had been on the brink of starvation and relied on the birthday cakes from Ron and Hermione to satisfy his hunger.
At this point, Harry had accepted that he would return to his childhood prison every summer and no one would ever say anything about it. For those months, being completely separated from the magical world was a foregone conclusion and the loneliness that plagued him was inevitable. It wasn't a big deal. He could always endure—he was good at doing that.
But here was Hermione now, telling him that he didn't have to.
She wasn't going to leave him alone.
Why am I so surprised? He asked himself suddenly, looking at the bushy haired girl who sat in front of him. She never has.
Not after his name came out of the goblet of fire, not even when he was writhing in pain on the graveyard floor. Somehow, she always found her way to his side.
No matter what.
Harry covered his face briefly, trying to control his facial expressions and hoped that Hermione didn't notice the strange shift in his mood.
No matter what.
But try as he might to calm down, the turbulent waves in his chest refused to settle down, and his heart raced for reasons he couldn't understand—was too afraid to understand.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
No matter what. No matter what. No matter what.
Harry was both relieved and distressed when the train finally reached the station. As soon as he got on to the platform and spotted the Dursleys, the distress won out and he felt his heart grow heavy.
"I guess that's it then," he said, attempting to smile but not quite succeeding. "Goodbye."
"Bye, Harry!" said Hermione, and she did something she had never done before, and kissed him on the cheek.
Harry froze for a second, unable to process the feel of her soft lips against his cheek and her scent surrounding him. Hermione was always a very physical person around him and he was no stranger to her tight hugs, but there was something different this time. Something sweet and tender about the way she had tiptoed slightly and held down his shoulder before leaning up to give him a small kiss on the cheek. Something that made his heart pound and an unstoppable blush sweep across his face.
The station was suddenly too hot, and time couldn't stand still long enough for Harry's mind to unfreeze and process what had just happened. What should he say? Should he kiss her cheek back? Should he tell her—
But in the time he took to make up his mind, Hermione had already stepped back and turned away to go.
And before he knew it, he was pulling her back and cradling her face with his hands.
He kissed her.
It was clumsy and slightly awkward at first. Harry had never kissed anyone before and knew little about how it was supposed to go. His eyes fluttered to a close and he focused on the sensation of his lips lightly moving over hers. All he knew was that her lips were soft and warm. All he knew was the steady beating of his heart, echoing in his ears. All he knew was Hermione's hands suddenly winding around his neck and bringing his body flush against hers and—his hands shook before they wrapped around her back just as firmly—she was kissing him back.
"What on earth is that boy doing?" A high pitched voice rang out and Harry was faintly reminded that they were still on the platform and he had no idea how long he had been standing there with Hermione in his arms. He couldn't really bring himself to care.
Unfortunately, the voice seemed to have brought Hermione back to her senses for she was the first to break the kiss.
"Harry?" she asked again, but this time there was a breathless quality to her voice and her cheeks were tinged with pink.
"I—I—" Harry stuttered. What was he supposed to say? How could he translate all of the emotions inside of him at that moment into actual words?
"I'll miss you," was what he ended up whispering.
"Oh, is that all?" Hermione grinned at him, her eyes shining.
"And..." Harry touched his lips a little sheepishly. "I really should have done that a long time ago."
She laughed loudly and reached up to kiss him again. Only this time, not even the repeated shrieks of Petunia Dursley ("In public, Vernon! No common decency whatsoever—well, I never!") could get her to let him go.
~A/N~ You can find the art by arishatistic for the kiss scene on instagram and tumblr (links on profile). There's also a ton of extra, progress art that I included in the AO3 extra chapter if you want to check that out.
Hope you guys liked these extras and the artwork. (The Sirius scene and its art is my personal fave lol)
Which ending do you prefer and why?
I still stand by the original ending, but maybe this alternate version can give people who wanted it to end differently a little more closure.