Disclaimer – Not mine and sadly never will be.
Author's Note: Firstly massive big thanks to Lady Jane for betaing this. You're gorgeous. Janie did such an amazing job on this. I'll be forever grateful. I loved writing this and as clique as it sounds… I hope you enjoy reading it.
I hate him. No, wait, I despise him. He doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. Everyone loves him just because he's Harry.
I'm not going to kid myself.
I had always thought Hogwarts was going to be my one chance, my opportunity to step out from under my brothers' shadows. To prove myself. Stupid idea really when they had become such massive legends at the school. Still, ever since I was seven, I knew Hogwarts would be my one chance.
Just my luck my best friend would create a bigger shadow than all my brothers combined.
My friend and the abnormally famous Harry Potter.
No one can know how hard it's been living life as 'Harry Potter's best friend'. Not even Hermione. Everyone sees her for what she is.
He gets everything: attention, expensive racing brooms, fame, leniency from the professors, triwizard tournaments, girls fawning over him. Merlin, he even got the normal middle name. Now he was going to get the girl, too.
Not that they have ever admitted it.
It's the subtle things.
The way he can get her undivided attention away from her school work. The way he can stop short one of her lectures with a quick grin. The way he moves instinctively towards her whenever we are in any kind of danger.
The way she can stop his anger in its tracks with a few soothing words. The way she holds her breath whenever he is spiralling towards the ground after the Snitch. The way she can smile and everything is all right in his world.
At times it feels like they possess some freaky mind link.
I hate him for it.
They are completely unaware of it.
Seven years and neither has said a word about it.
I watch in silence, my stomach knotting unpleasantly as he reaches out a hand to smooth back one of her curls.
Twin badges on their collars reflect the light as they sit under the tree by the lake, text books abandoned at their feet.
His hands are back in his own lap as he plays idly with the bandage covering his left wrist - a left over from winning the Quidditch Cup.
Another reason I hate him.
I'd executed a complete shut out, but all everyone was doing was talking about him. Him and his spectacular catch which had ended with an equally spectacular roll off the broom. The Snitch had been too close to the ground for anything else. Most Seekers would have given it up for lost.
His desire not to let anyone down was too strong.
He has still let me down.
He has no idea he's stolen my every dream. He doesn't know what it's like to be the side-kick, to have everyone refer to you as 'that guy who hangs out with Harry Potter'.
I know he doesn't want the attention. In a cruel twist of fate, that was the reason he commanded it. His quiet, kind modesty drawing everyone in.
They didn't even know I was there, watching from a mere ten feet away, unable to intrude on their solidarity. They would welcome me, oblivious to the grating feeling that I had just interrupted something.
To them there was nothing to interrupt.
"How's your mum?" Harry asks suddenly.
I blink slightly. I had no idea her mum was sick.
Hermione smiles up at him. "She's fine. Going insane with boredom but there is not much a dentist can do with a broken finger."
Harry chuckled lightly and Hermione reaches across to still his hands. A boyish look of innocence crosses his features as he looks up at her.
"Fiddling with the bandage isn't going to change the fact that you broke your wrist," Hermione tells him lightly, unable to hide her disapproving tone.
"Sorry," Harry answers, leaving his bandage alone only to pick up his abandoned quill, twirling it between his fingers.
"Harry," Hermione starts sounding kind of exasperated. "Maybe we should get back to work."
I watch in fascination as he shakes his head, a smile slipping onto his features. "We've been studying all morning. My brain's basically functioning on 'fire bad, tree pretty' mode. If I continue it may get stuck that way."
My jaw drops in amazement as Hermione snaps the book in front of her closed.
"You're right. I think I've read this last paragraph ten times and I still have no idea what it says."
Harry grins, snapping his books closed before placing them off to the side.
"We graduate in six weeks," he states, his voice deceptively calm as he leans back. I notice his eyes carefully trained on Hermione, watching her intently. For a second she doesn't say anything, her lips tightening only slightly before her face begins to pale.
"I know," her voice a bare whisper.
"Have you thought about it yet?"
Confused, I watch Hermione as she prepares her answer, the underlying tension in Harry's voice making me certain that this had been a topic of conversation for them previously. Whatever 'this' was.
Harry shakes his head, his eyes still firmly trained on Hermione. "No, but you know why."
"What if I can't?" Hermione asks, desperately. She was close to tears. I had no idea how they could have been so relaxed and then two seconds later be at ten on the angst scale.
"You have to," Harry pauses for a second before running a hand through his hair. "I know you hate this just as much as I do, but you have to think about it. I need you to think about it, it's the only way…"
"What if you win, Harry? What are you going to do afterwards if you win?"
I suddenly find myself sitting, my legs unable to hold my weight as the realisation crushes me. Harry was trying to prepare her for his death. He was trying to make sure she would be okay without him. That she wouldn't be lost in the world beyond Hogwarts. So she wouldn't become lost in the Order. He needed to believe that she would be okay if anything happened to him.
Part of me screams, "what about me!" If Harry dies, I'm not sure how okay I would be.
"I'll figure something out," Harry answers quietly.
"Then why can't I? Why can't I just figure something out?"
"Because if I lose it means he's won. Figuring something out won't be that easy. I don't want the Order to become your entire life. You need to do something you enjoy."
I watch in silence as tears glisten in Hermione's eyes. Harry examines her almost coldly, no emotion registering on his face. He'd always been so carefully masked. I'd just never seen him quite so brutal when this had to have been killing him inside. It was killing me.
"What do you want me to say?" Hermione whispers quietly, her voice quivering.
Harry sighs slightly.
"I'm not that sure anymore."
"Then why? Why is this so important to you? You sit there and ask me to pretend my best friend is murdered – I think you know why I can't give you an answer. I just wanna know why its so important that you have one."
I don't think I've ever seen Harry so broken. I don't think I've ever seen Harry broken. He stares at Hermione, her words seemingly shattering him to the bone.
Hermione either doesn't notice or chooses not to.
"Have you asked Ron? Does Ron even know?" Harry shakes his head slightly, the broken expression still lining his features. "Then why? Just because Ron has family in the wizarding world doesn't automatically mean he is going to be okay if something happens. Why just me?"
I marvel at how correct Hermione is. How correct she always is. Aside from that I want an answer. Strangely, I already know it. He loves her, no use denying it. He loves her and he just wants to know that she will be okay.
Harry just continues to stare at her, no lie ready to grace his lips. It was then that I realised. Harry knew. I don't know why, but the thought was like a cold dagger through my heart. Harry knew. All this time I'd been concerned with how much of a dolt Harry was being, about how utterly mind-boggling it was that someone could be so out of touch with their own feelings when all this time he knew. Harry knew he was in love with Hermione.
"Can we just talk about something else?" he asks, the strain to keep his voice even evident.
Hermione shakes her head, a look I knew all too well crossing her features. She was not going to let it go until she had some kind of answer.
"You don't get to do that. You don't get to demand an answer then run away when the conversation takes a turn that you don't like."
The pain in Harry's expression is so raw. I knew then how much this had to be killing him. It was also at that moment I realised what a truly great person Harry was.
People go on about how many sacrifices Harry had made to keep the world and everyone in it safe. Compared to this, they were nothing. As far as sacrifices go, this was it. This was the one that made him the hero people loved to label him.
Here he was, sitting calmly as he threw away his best chance of happiness, choosing to lead an eternally miserable life.
He just couldn't do that to Hermione. Harry may be many things but when it all came down to it, he had no idea how things were going to turn out. He could win and everything would be right in the world. But there was a good chance that things could go horribly and nastily wrong for him, for Hermione and for the rest of the world.
It was because of that gaping chance that Harry couldn't do it. No matter what his feelings were, he couldn't let himself get any closer to Hermione. Wouldn't let himself get any closer. I don't even want to imagine what it would do to Hermione if Harry let her get that close and then it did go wrong. It was like gluing a Galleon to the floor. The promise of something so special, yet so impossible to get.
"I don't know what to say," Harry whispers, snapping me back to the present. "I don't know how to explain –"
"Well, neither do I," Hermione cuts in on him, her voice biting.
Tension mounts in the air as they both stare at each other unblinkingly. After what seems to be an age, Hermione sighs, running a hand through her bushy tangles.
"Maybe we should just study," she announces, a head reaching for her books. Harry stops her, his hand taking a seemingly painful grip on her wrist.
"Can you please just think about it?" He takes a breath preparing himself for his next words. "If I know you are going to be okay then maybe… maybe it won't be so bad."
Hermione stares at his hand, eyes glassy as she visibly swallows. "Won't be so…" her voice a mere breath. "How can you… won't be so bad… we're talking about your death!" Hermione's voice had risen dramatically and I could see she was fighting hysteria. "How can you say it won't be so bad when we are talking about your death? Do you have any idea how scared I am? I can't sleep. I can't sleep because every time I even try I have nightmares. Nightmares of Dumbledore coming to tell me. To tell me that Voldemort had done it. Voldemort had finally accomplished what he set out to do almost seventeen years ago. I know you are hurting Harry. I know what you've been through. I know its hurts you to breathe in ways I don't even want to imagine. I know that the smallest part of you doesn't give a fuck about the rest of the world if that just means it could all be over. But trust me Harry. Trust me – you dying, there's not a word in the English language to describe how bad that would be."
I stare at Hermione, stunned by her words, barely noticing the tears running down both her cheeks.
"That's all they care about, isn't it?" Harry asks bitterly. "Keep Harry alive so he can save the world from severe badness."
Hermione stares at Harry in shock.
"Who said I was talking about the world, Harry?" she whispers, as she starts to wipe the tears off her cheeks.
"Hermione, we-" Harry starts, his voice breaking.
Hermione stands as she cuts him off, holding a hand out as if it would protect her from his words. "I know, we can't. I don't know why, but we can't." She pauses taking a few steps back. "Just do me a favour. When I leave – don't follow. I can't have this conversation. I don't want this conversation."
Harry and I both stare after Hermione as she leaves her head down, hair falling across her face so no one could see her tears and try and to lure her into to talking about it.
It's then that my attention turns back to Harry as he stares out across Hogwarts' grounds, unmoving. I don't think I've ever seen anyone look so alone.