Title: Maybe It's Everything
Pairings: Neville/Hermione, Harry/Hermione, hints of Ron/Hermione
Disclaimer: Harry belongs to JKR—no matter how much I want to steal him and keep him all for myself.
He can still remember what Hermione wore to the Yule Ball. Sometimes he thinks he should tell her she looked beautiful, but he can't, not now, and, besides, that's not the kind of stuff he can say to her.
He feels stupid. What kind of bloke fancies his best friend, his sister almost and—no, he can't think about her as his sister.
He's never done anything about it. He's too frightened of what it might do to this trio they've built for themselves.
Maybe he's just a coward—what a funny thing to say about a Gryffindor. But perhaps that's what it boils down to. He can't look in her eyes and tell her how he really feels.
And he never expected Neville to have more courage than he does.
The three of them are studying by the fire when Neville interrupts them. Hermione's cheeks are flushed and there's a blot of ink on her chin. Her hair is frizzy from the heat, but she pays it no attention, pushing it behind her ear with the tip of her quill.
Neville changed over the summer. The fiasco in the Department of Mysteries benefited him. He's grown more confident in himself and his abilities—he's no longer the timid, round-faced boy he once was. He's gentle, quiet, unassuming, but he won't tolerate Malfoy's taunts, not anymore. Dropping Potions has done wonders for his other classes. He enjoys studying, he told them, making Hermione beam with pride.
They are not startled when Neville asks to speak with her. He and Hermione have been spending loads of time together in the library recently.
"He's getting really good, you know! It's a shame he dropped Potions, really. He might even be able to match you in Defense Against the Dark Arts on day, Harry," Hermione said proudly.
"Yeah, I wouldn't count on it," Ron said at the time, quick, as usual, to jump to Harry's defense.
When Hermione sits back down, she's blushing and her hands are shaking. They ignore her odd behaviour, but become concerned when they catch her staring off into space, idly turning pages in her textbook.
"What the bloody hell is up with you?" he finally asks, annoyed by the constant fluttering of pages.
Hermione fidgets and glances at Harry, who watches her with mild curiosity.
"Well, I… that is…" she smiles and folds her page back and forth in her fingers. "Neville's going to take me to the bookstore next Hogsmeade weekend."
He doesn't get it at first. It's Hermione. Hermione likes books—it would be something she'd find exciting.
"Yeah, alright," he says. "But we're not staying for too long. Harry and I want to go look at the new Firebolt."
Hermione frowns. "No, it's not like that. It's…" she trails off helplessly and shrugs. "We're going alone."
"Alone? But we always go to Hogsmeade together! What d'you mean, you and Neville are going alone? What, is it some kind of special 'bookworm only' trip?"
Hermione hesitates. "Ron..."
"Neville and I are going alone because—because…" her blush becomes more pronounced. "Because it's what people do when they're dating, that's why."
Neville and Hermione are—they are—he asked her to—Neville Longbottom!
"WHAT?" he hollers.
Hermione clenches her book in her hands. "Is there something wrong with that?"
Ron clamps his mouth shut. No need to make things worse.
They have trouble studying after that. He realizes his loud huffs aren't helping things any, but it's infuriating that Hermione is having trouble concentrating.
"I'm going to bed," Hermione finally declares. She closes her book—not that she'd been reading it anyway—and marches up to her dormitory.
He turns to Harry.
"What are going to do?"
"Do?" Harry repeats, a befuddled expression falling into his face. "What d'you mean?"
"It's not right, that's what I mean! She can't—he wouldn't—he should've told us first!"
Fuming, Ron glares around the common room, searching for Neville.
"Ask our permission you mean?"
"Yeah!" Ron says, springing up. "Where does he get off?"
"Er…" Harry says slowly. "I wasn't aware that… Neville… needed… permission."
"Well," Ron says, folding his arms over his chest. "It's simple courtesy."
Harry narrows his eyes. "What's your point?"
Suddenly feeling trapped, he closes his mouth, irritated that Harry appears unaffected by the whole thing.
The problem is, he really likes Neville. It would be impossible not to. The truly galling part of it all is that Neville found courage to do the thing he can't.
Harry glances at the stairs leading up the girl's dormitory before going back to scribbling his essay. His voice is soft, startling Ron from his reverie.
"Neville's a nice enough bloke." Harry shrugs. "S'long as she's happy, I don't have a problem with it."
Hogsmeade is a subdued affair. The sun is blinding, heating the streets until they can feel the cobblestone burning through their trainers.
Harry and Ron don't talk much, giving occasional grunts as answers.
Harry is withdrawn, sullen. He's been like that most of the year, but it's more pronounced today. Ron ambles around the Quidditch store, trying not to dwell on the missing member of their trio. Funny that she's such a part of them, he thinks. Funny when she drives me round the bend most of the time.
It's too quiet without her.
He goes back to find Harry, wanting to go to the Three Broomsticks, the castle, anything at all to dispel the heavy silence hanging between them.
He finds Harry fiddling with a Snitch, turning it around and around in his hands and watching the light bounce off it. One look at him and Ron can tell he isn't watching it, not really. His mind is miles away, brooding over Sirius and You-Know-Who.
Ron swallows, a flare of unexpected anger coming to life within him. How could Hermione up and leave him? Ron never knows what to say when Harry withdraws. He wishes he has Hermione's businesslike tone, assuring Harry she doesn't pity him while making sure he knows she's still on his side.
"Hey mate," he says, clearing his throat. "Fancy a drink at the Three Broomsticks?"
Harry blinks, looking puzzled. Hurriedly, he places the Snitch back on the shelf.
"Ron, are you asking me out?"
He's smiling and Ron feels a flood of relief.
"Yeah, and so what if I am? Something wrong with that?"
"Dunno. Are you paying?"
Ron scoffs. "Don't push your luck. I've seen your bank account, you prat."
Harry grins and holds the door open for them. "So it's about the money, is it?"
"Yeah, well, I reckon there isn't a whole lot else to go on."
They pass the bookstore and silence falls on them. Ron resists the urge to go in and drag Hermione out. Back to them.
"I hope she's having a good time," Harry says quietly. "She should. I know that…"
Harry sighs and stares at the ground. "I'm sorry you got stuck with me. I know I'm not much fun to be around these days."
"Nah," Ron says, uncomfortable. "Don't be stupid."
"Yeah," Harry says bitterly, kicking at a stone. It bounces along the pavement. "I'm trying not to feel sorry for myself. Hermione reckons it isn't healthy."
"She's right, you know."
"And I don't," Harry says, kicking another pebble. "I just… well, if there was someone you wanted to be with—"
"Whoa, hang on," Ron says. "Who says there's someone? I don't—I mean—there's not—" Ron's throat closes up.
He thinks about Hermione going book shopping with Neville and wonders if he could ever have that much patience. He tries to imagine them going alone—without Harry—and he can't.
"I'd much rather be with you," Ron says instead. "Don't let it go to your head."
Harry raises his eyebrows. "Yeah. Alright."
The Three Broomsticks is packed with people—as usual. Ron elbows his way through the mingling crowds to get a table.
Harry's gone quiet again and Ron searches for something to say. His own thoughts begin to wander and he imagines what it would be like if Hermione was with them. She'd be talking, of course. It seems like Hermione is always talking. About homework and S.P.E.W. and spells and oftentimes he talks back—argues back. It's too quiet, just him and Harry.
Harry takes a swig of his Butterbeer and Ron wonders what happened between them. When did they start needing Hermione to break up the silence? He and Harry used to talk about anything and everything.
But Quidditch no longer seems to be good enough—not anymore.
"What do you think they're doing?" Harry asks.
Ron slopes Butterbeer on the table. "Who?"
"D'you think she's convinced him to help her out with S.P.E.W.?"
"I dunno, Harry."
He doesn't want to think about it.
"Neville's good for her," Harry says, playing with the Butterbeer bottle. "He… he appreciates her."
More than we do, Ron adds silently. They look at teach other and Ron wonders if Harry's thinking the same thing.
"D'you miss her?" Ron asks.
He wishes he knows why Harry's answer is so important to him.
Harry drops his eyes back down to the table. He shrugs, "She spends plenty of time with us, Ron."
That doesn't answer the question. But Ron doesn't press him.
When Hermione and Neville enter the Three Broomsticks, Ron is ready for a fight. A half hour of uncomfortable silence has passed between him and Harry. Harry has spent most of the time with a far-off look in his eyes, leaving Ron tongue-tied.
They come over to their table, each carrying a mug of Butterbeer. They're holding hands. They're smiling. The tips of their noses are pink.
Ron wants to vomit.
"Hey," Hermione says brightly.
They're still holding hands.
Ron and Harry both give a grunt of greeting.
"How are you?" she says, taking a seat next to Ron. "Oh, I've had a fantastic day, haven't we, Neville?"
Hermione beams at him. Neville shifts, hesitating as he stares at the table.
"Yeah," Neville says, swallowing. "Fun."
Dutifully, Harry slides over to make room for him. Neville sits down, but he looks pale. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"Course not!" Hermione says. "Harry and Ron are happy to have you, aren't you?"
Hermione narrows her eyes at each of them in turn.
"There's plenty of other tables," Ron mumbles as he takes a swig of Butterbeer.
"It's fine," Harry says, smiling. It's a lopsided smile, worn down by the same melancholy Harry's been fighting all day. "I'm glad you guys had a nice time."
"Thanks, Harry," Hermione says. "Yes—we went to the bookshop—my, we spent nearly two hours in there!" Hermione shifts some of her bags. "Neville bought me an updated Ministry Encyclopedia of Common Spells."
Ron snorts into his Butterbeer. "He bought you what?"
"Yeah—whatever," Ron says. "That's just smashing, Hermione."
He can see Hermione's nostrils flaring. "How about you two?" she asks, voice overly sweet. "Was Quidditch shopping a success?"
Harry pokes halfheartedly at his Butterbeer mug.
"Well, it was certainly not Thingie's Encyclopedia of Really Boring Spe—"
"Ministry Encyclopedia of Common Spells!"
"—But it went just brilliantly, didn't it, Harry?"
"What? Oh, yeah—"
"In fact," Ron says (he's practically shouting). "We never even noticed you were gone at all. Did we, Harry?"
"What? That's not…"
"Good!" Hermione says shrilly. "Because you never notice when I am there!"
"I might as well be empty air for half the time I spend around you two! At least Neville notices when I'm around."
Harry and Ron both whip around to stare accusingly at Neville, who shrinks down in his seat.
"Oh, come off it," Hermione snaps. "It's hardly Neville's fault!"
Ron jumps to his feet. "So it's about being noticed, is it?"
Hermione stands, breathing hard. Her hair angrily frames her face.
"Of course not! It's about being allowed to do something on my own for once!"
Ron snorts. "You do loads on your own!"
Neville chugs down half a pint of Butterbeer. "Ron, I'm really sorry… I'll leave if you—"
Hermione whirls on Neville. "Don't be silly, Neville. You're here to be with me."
Hermione gives Ron a look as if to say: see what you did?
Ron doesn't care if he hurt Neville's feelings. He's so angry that his ears are buzzing.
"What's this really about, Ron?" Hermione asks.
"It's about… it's about…" Ron glances around him. "It's about Harry!"
"Harry?" Hermione repeats.
"Me?" Harry says weakly.
"Yeah!" Ron says. "You know what he's going through—"
"Ron, I'm not—"
"He needs our support! And you're off buying encyclopedias with Neville!"
Hermione's voice is low. "I will always be here to help Harry."
"You have a funny way of showing it."
"It was only one date."
"ONE DATE TOO MANY! While you were off scampering about with Neville, Harry needed—"
"Oh, please! I can go on one date if I want! It's my own CHOICE!" Hermione pauses, her eyes growing brighter. "You know this isn't about Harry, not really, it's about—"
"YEAH? How would you know what it's about?"
"For goodness's sakes, Ron, don't play stupid with me—"
"You left Harry ALONE!" he hollers.
"MY LIFE DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND HARRY POTTER!"
The explosion of Hermione's words leaves a heavy silence in its wake. Ron slowly becomes aware that everyone in the Three Broomsticks is watching them. The skin on the back of his neck prickles.
Hermione's eyes widen slightly and she and Ron stare at each other, their breathing ragged. At the same time, they whip around, just in time to see the door of the Three Broomsticks open and close. As one, they look at the place next to Neville—now empty.
Hermione's knees seem to buckle and she slides back down to the bench, pressing a shaking hand to her eyes.
A sick feeling gathering in his stomach, Ron falls back into place next to her.
Ron and Hermione walk back to Hogwarts together. Neville excused himself, telling them point blank they needed time alone to "sort out their issues."
Ron's earlier anger has left him drained. Worry about Harry weighs on his conscience, and a glance at Hermione tells him she's just as concerned.
It's the first time she's spoken and he stiffens, unwilling to get into another row. "Yeah?"
"Why shouldn't…" she sighs, and tries again, her voice gentle. "Why shouldn't I be allowed to date? It's what normal girls do. It doesn't mean I want to spend the rest of my life with him."
"It's just…" Ron sighs. "It's just… I don't like thinking that there are more important people in your life."
Hermione stops, her eyes narrow. "And just what do you mean by that?"
"Than me and Harry," he says hastily. He shrugs his shoulders. "I dunno why I feel like that."
Hermione's expression is thoughtful and she continues on. "Don't be silly, Ron. No one could ever replace you."
Ron tries to smile. "Yeah?"
"Of course not!"
Together, they walk on to the castle.
Harry's the only one in the common room when they clamber in through the portrait hole. His attention is focused on a piece of parchment spread out on his lap. Ron and Hermione don't say anything as they take a seat on either side of him.
"Harry?" Ron asks. "You okay?"
"Ron and I have made up," Hermione says tentatively.
Hermione sighs and gestures to Ron over Harry's head. Ron gets the hint.
"Yeah… I've gotta… you know, big essay for Snape and all…"
Ron slumps off towards the boy's dormitory, but can't resist his impulse to stop and sit on the bottom step.
Hermione watches Harry chug away at his essay for another moment, her forehead screwed up in a concentrated expression.
"Are you terribly angry with me?"
Harry keeps writing and doesn't look up.
"I didn't mean what I said, Harry, honest. I was angry with Ron—not you."
Harry folds up his parchment, his movements slow and plodding. "I know."
Hermione leans forward. "I'm really sorry."
"Hermione, it's…" Harry releases a breath and his eyes flicker shut. "It's true. What you said. Your life… it's… it's your own. And I'm glad you went out with Neville."
"Really?" Hermione says. "You're not just saying that?"
Harry nods and subtly shifts away from her. Ron watches Hermione's face change and he knows she's aware of Harry's attempts to pull away.
"Harry… you do come first, you know."
Harry fiddles with his quill and doesn't say anything. He still hasn't looked at her.
"I'm not certain I'm worth that—"
"Of course you are," Hermione whispers.
Harry flushes and fidgets some more. Hermione smiles at him.
"Some part of me felt guilty taking off on you today," she says. She reaches out to touch him, jerking back at the last moment as she seems to consider her actions.
Harry's head snaps around. "Why?"
"Because it's you."
"You feel sorry for me."
"No! Harry, it's…" she clenches her hands together. "Why must you always make things so difficult?"
Ron sucks in a breath. Careful, Hermione… careful…
Hurt flashes in Harry's eyes and he picks up his abandoned parchment.
"Oh, no," Hermione moans. "I didn't, I—" She jumps up. "Harry, look at me."
Startled by her tone, Harry glances up. Without giving him time to speak, she leans down to give him a quick kiss. She pulls away, holds Harry's surprised gaze, and dashes up to the girl's dormitories.
Harry's quill and parchment slide unnoticed to the floor. He stares after Hermione with a dumbfound expression on his face.
Ron stands up, a numb feeling settling in his stomach. He wishes he is surprised, but he finds he isn't.
He brushes dust off his pants. Harry has not moved.
Ron wonders what this kiss means for them.
Slowly he climbs the stairs, heading to the boy's dormitories. He won't tell them what he saw.
And they'll all pretend things are back to normal in the morning.