Chapter Five – Saving Harry
Hermione awoke the next morning to the sounds of Ginny getting dressed. She rose sleepily in her bed and noticed that her back was killing her (she had fallen asleep pouring over her notes and research after coming back from dinner). The lists were still on her bed, but her ink bottles and quill had been moved off to her nightstand. Ginny was smirking at her as Hermione rubbed her aching spine.
"It's no wonder you're back hurts," the younger girl remarked, slipping a pair of worn and baggy jeans on that Hermione was sure Ron had worn three years ago. They still had faded mud stains on them. "If I slept in my clothes, I'd be aching, too. It's a trick just to get me to wear a bra, but I could never sleep in mine."
Hermione now became aware of the places where the elastic from her bra was cutting into her skin. "Oh... Right." She reached back and through her shirt, unclasped the offending device, instantly relieving the pressure.
"'Course," Ginny continued, now brushing her long red hair out in front of a mirror, "if I had as much to support up top as you, I'd have no choice but to wear one." She frowned at herself in the mirror and then finished pulling her hair into a ponytail.
"They're a mixed blessing, I can tell you," Hermione replied, pushing her lists and notes together and began to search for her bag. "I'd rather be small and avoid the slack-jawed looks your brother gives me than to have them to use on a boy that I'm really interested in."
Ginny's eyebrows shot up as she turned around. "So you've given up on him, then?"
"Who?" Hermione asked. "Ron? Absolutely. Sometime in the distant past, he might have been an option, but I just can't see us going anywhere past snogging and groping."
Ginny snorted. "There's something to be said for snogging," she said flippantly and sat on the bed next to Hermione. "But you're probably right; he's too much of a git to deserve someone like you. He needs someone more... shallow – someone who'll be able to tolerate his immaturity."
Hermione nodded in agreement, more sure than ever that while Ron was a very good friend most of the time, and that she admitted noticing his attraction for her, it just wouldn't have worked. She needed someone more sensitive, more caring and understanding. Someone more like...
"I couldn't help but notice your lists," Ginny said, interrupting Hermione's internal musings.
Looking down in her hands, the words 'Why I am romantically in love with Harry Potter' leapt off the page and her face flamed scarlet. "Yeah," she said nervously. "Silly, aren't they?"
"No," Ginny answered firmly. "It's not silly at all to think about Harry that way. I can't think of a girl in our years that hasn't. Even Pansy Parkinson has had dreams about Harry without his clothes on."
Hermione gave Ginny a shrewd look. "You aren't still..."
Ginny shook her head. "Not any more. Like I told you last year, I've given up on him. You've got to have mutual attraction for it to work, and let's be honest... he's never given me the time of day."
Hermione looked at her list again and considered Ginny's words. Mutual love was extremely important; that was one of the points that kept cropping up over and over in her research. It just wouldn't work without it, and Hermione couldn't bear the pain of having a failed relationship with her best friend. It would tear her heart out.
"And," Ginny continued. "From what Dumbledore said in that doctored letter, it looks like you don't have anything to worry about."
Tossing the lists aside, Hermione flopped back onto her bed. "But what if Dumbledore's seeing things that aren't there? What if Harry was just latching onto me because he sees me as a replacement for his mother? What if..."
Ginny stood abruptly and with a sharpness that surprised her, said, "Hermione!" Hermione quickly propped herself on her elbows to look into Ginny's face. "Just stop it! Stop trying to overanalyze everything and just... take a chance for once in your life. You're not his surrogate mother, that's my mum's job! He fancies you, and you're just denying it."
The blazing look on Ginny's face forced all thoughts of protest out of her mind. "Okay," she said sheepishly. "What do I have to do?"
"Talk to him," Ginny said. "Do what I never did and tell him how you feel."
Hermione's insides lurched unpleasantly at this notion. "How I feel?"
"Yes," Ginny said firmly. "Tell him and if he feels the same way, then it will all work out fine. If he doesn't have feelings for you, then you've lost nothing."
While a small, dissenting doubt appeared in Hermione's mind, she did not voice it. She'd simply have to wait until next week, when it was her turn to see Harry at Privet Drive again before deciding if she was going to take Ginny's advice or not. In the meantime, Ginny's reminder of the modified letter gave Hermione something else to divert herself with. There was a werewolf who had some explaining to do.
Remus was not there, however, as it was his day to visit Harry.
This did little to improve Hermione's already over-anxious disposition about Harry, who she was now working out mathematical probabilities about him being in love with her. Whenever Ginny would spot this behavior, or the far away look on her face, the younger girl would issue a loud bang from her wand and give Hermione a pointed look. This happened far more often that Hermione would have liked.
As the day wore on, Hermione found herself pacing in the library, having gone through every book on the subject of romance, and unable to work the motivation up to start reading about anything else, she could do nothing to distract her from her anxiety. The focus for her nervousness was now on how she was going to confront Remus about the letter and the fact that it wasn't getting any closer to the time when he should be returning from his visit.
She was dealt a further blow, when she consulted her calendar and discovered that her next visit with Harry was going to be on his birthday – the day he was supposed to leave Privet Drive and come to Grimmauld Place. Instead of being able to talk about things with him in a fairly neutral, if not ideal environment, she would next see him the day he returned to the one place that was sure to make his depression worse – the place once owned by his now-dead Godfather, Sirius Black.
By the time Remus had finally arrived, Hermione was close to a nervous breakdown. But when she rushed to this kitchen, where he had gone to fetch a cup of tea, she found him surrounded by Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Ron, and Tonks, all of whom were asking how his visit had been.
"Settle down," Remus said wearily. "Let me get a cup of tea and then we'll sit down and I'll tell you all about how Harry is doing."
Hermione wanted to scream at him for forging a letter from Dumbledore almost as much as she wanted to extract every ounce of information on how Harry was doing. So instead, she did neither and let him related his visit to Number Four.
"Harry is both better and worse," he said at last, as she cradled his mug with both hands. They had all surrounded him at the table where they sat. Hermione could feel the anticipation like a hot, wet blanket that threatened to suffocate them all. "We had several conversations throughout the day, and that was much improved over the last time we met. Most of the discussion was centred around magic, however. He seemed keen to know the mechanics of Apparating. After the fifth or sixth question, I knew what he was after and refused to talk about it any more. That's when things started to get ugly."
Ron looked confused, but Ginny seemed to have come to the same conclusion as Hermione, gave the older witch a small smirk and drank from her teacup. "Why would Harry want to know about Apparation?" asked Ron, knotting his brows together in thought.
"Because he wants to leave his aunt's house at all costs," Hermione answered. "He wants to be with us, here."
"Precisely," confirmed Remus.
"So why can't he?" Mrs. Weasley interjected. "Why can't he be with the people that love him?" Remus made to reply, but Mrs. Weasley had already stood and was walking toward the fireplace. "I'm going to have a word with Albus this instant." Before anyone could protest, however, she was gone in a swirl of green flames.
Remus just shook his head. "It's no good. I've already spoken with Dumbledore. There's nothing for it until his birthday." Then, slowly, calculatingly, he turned his eyes onto Hermione and said, "We'll just have to keep on with our visits."
Hermione flinched. "But... I'm not supposed to visit Harry until the day he's to come here," she explained.
The older wizard didn't bat an eye, however. "Then we might have to modify the schedule."
Hermione had been so taken back by the news that Harry was going to be forced to stay with the Dursleys until his birthday and even more unnerved by the strange, hopeful look in Remus's eye when he'd changed the schedule so that she would be visiting Harry the very next day, that she completely forgot to ask Remus about the letter. Mrs. Weasley had returned an hour after she left, sooty and defeated. Remus had been right; Dumbledore was not going to budge on the issue of Harry staying with his relatives.
So it was with a great deal of trepidation that Hermione ate her breakfast the following morning. It seemed to her that everyone was under the impression that she had some magical power to fix Harry's problem. While she had been the only one to get Harry to react positively to her in the last couple of weeks, it didn't seem very likely that even her visits would be able to reverse his anger and indignance at being forced to stay with the Dursleys.
It was while she was having these thoughts that a loud crack thundered through the walls of Number Twelve. At first, Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione all thought it had been a bolt of lightning striking one of the trees that lined the road on Grimmauld Place. Then, Hermione realized that there was no rain forecast for the day – she had checked the night before when she was planning her day with Harry.
"What do you reckon?" asked Ron, who had taken his eyes of a recently received letter from Lavender for the first time that morning.
"It almost sounded like..." Hermione began.
"Someone Apparating," Ginny finished.
"Wands out!" Mrs. Weasley said quickly, pointing hers from the dishes she had been washing to the doorway leading to the entrance hall.
They all did the same and followed her into the hall. There was no one there, and just when Hermione was about to breathe a sigh of relief (maybe it had been a backfiring lorry) someone turned the doorknob on the large front door.
"Stay back!" Mrs. Weasley said protectively, placing herself between them and the door. She jabbed her wand at the door and it squelched shut, just as the intruder was about to gain entry. "Ron, Floo Professor Dumbledore! Tell him we're under attack!"
Hermione stood next to Ginny as Ron ran back into the kitchen, her wand slipping slightly in her hand from sweat.
The door exploded inward, showering them all with splinters and Mrs. Weasley shouted a Stunning Spell into the smoke that occupied the doorway. The spell hit and they heard a dull thud as the attacker hit the floor. As the smoke cleared, Hermione trained her wand outside, just in case there were more of them, but there was no movement.
Mrs. Weasley let out a gasp of surprise and moved quickly to the person she had stunned. Hermione caught a glimpse of familiar dark hair and gasped as well. "Harry!" she yelled and abandoning all pretense, rushed to his other side, pointed her wand at him, and said, "Enervate!"
"Enervate!" she yelled again. The blue light hit Harry just as it had before, but he did not awaken.
There was a flurry of popping sounds outside and Hermione barely recognized Kingsley, Hestia Jones, and another Order member scanning the area with their drawn wands. Dumbledore appeared a second later, having apparently come in through the kitchen Floo and surveyed Harry over his half-moon spectacles.
"This explains the Apparation Alarm we received not fifteen seconds before Mr. Weasley's frantic Floo call," he said solemnly. "We will need to move him to a room. Molly? Please call Madame Pomfrey and have her bring a basic supply of energy restoring potions."
Mrs. Weasley nodded and hurried off to the kitchen. Professor Dumbledore conjured a stretcher and placed Harry on it.
"Professor?" Hermione asked frantically. "Why won't he wake up? He's only stunned isn't he?"
Dumbledore did not smile. "No, I believe he has used a dangerous amount of his magical power Apparating himself here, and will need some quick action to ensure he does not die from the effort."
Hermione stood, stunned and did not reply. Dumbledore moved Harry on his stretcher up the stairs and out of sight. It was some time before Hermione could force herself to move.
Ginny, Ron, and Hermione all sat on the floor outside Harry's makeshift infirmary room. Madame Pomfrey had come, examined him, administered her potions, and left without a word to anyone outside the room. Mrs. Weasley and Dumbledore remained inside.
After what seemed like hours, they left Harry's room. They immediately got to their feet and sent hopeful looks at the adults.
"Please keep me updated on his condition, Molly," Dumbledore said. "I'm already late for an appointment with Cornelius. I daresay he won't be too surprised at my tardiness, but I really should be going." Then with a slight wink in Hermione's direction, he swept down the stairs and presumably, back to Hogwarts.
"How is he?" Ginny asked first. "Will he be all right?"
To Hermione's surprise, Mrs. Weasley smiled. "I think so, Ginny. He's awake and after some decent rest, he'll likely make a full recovery." Then, as Dumbledore had done, she turned to look at Hermione with an odd smirk on her lips. "He keeps asking for you, Hermione. Best not keep him waiting."
Feeling as if she was in some kind of fog, Hermione tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and nodded. Ginny gave her a reassuring smile and Ron simply looked perplexed by it all.
Slowly, she pushed the door open and walked inside. Harry was there on the bed and she distractedly noticed that it was the only furniture in the room. "Hi," Hermione said timidly, straining to keep her hands still by clamping them together at her waist. The door shut behind her, seemingly of its own accord.
Harry simply looked at her, his eyes more alive than they'd been since she'd last seen them. She was frightened; being alone with him when he was angry was always intimidating, but she had determined that she would not shy away from him this time. "You want to sit?" he offered, patting the bed next to him.
Hermione couldn't help a flush of embarrassment at the memory of the last time they'd been sitting on a bed together. "Yes," she said, a little breathlessly and sat, unable to restrain herself from stealing glances at him as he stared unabashedly back at her.
"Thank you," he said after a moment of silence. "For visiting me this summer."
Trying to smile, Hermione ended up nodding instead, now staring fixedly at a small hole in the knee of her jeans. "Thanks for not being angry with me."
Harry shifted in the bed, sitting up more fully and Hermione instantly pushed him back down, catching his eye again. "Mrs. Weasley says you need to rest." All protest vanished from his face as she let her hands linger on his shoulders. "You need to regain your strength," she finished quietly and finally managed to pull her hands away.
A thick silence shrouded them once more and Hermione's fidgeting increased. "Why would I be angry with you?" he asked at length.
She did not answer at once, but chewed on her lip as she considered her answer. "I don't know. You've been so angry lately that I guessed you'd be angry with me for trying to visit you. Or that you'd be upset that I was being bossy and forceful with you when you didn't want me to be." She blushed. "Like when I took off my top."
She thought about all the times during the past couple of weeks that she'd felt bold for asking him to do things he clearly didn't want to do, and wondered why he hadn't blown up yet.
"I didn't mind that so much," he replied and she was surprised to see a self-satisfied grin on his face. It changed her disposition almost immediately.
"You would," she huffed. "Bet you hoped I'd drop my trousers as well, didn't you."
This seemed to disarm him, as his smile faltered. "Well... yeah," he said, his grin returning with full force. "Now that you mention it."
She smacked his shoulder and he winced. "You!"
"Me," he retorted snarkily. "Your Harry."
And for the second time in as many minutes, the mood shifted dramatically. She cleared her throat. "Why did you Apparate here, Harry?" she asked, her honest curiosity mingled with a desire to deflect the inevitable conversation a little longer. "It seems like you really wanted to be here? Was it just that you wanted to leave your aunt's?"
Harry shrugged. "That's one reason," he admitted. "But it wasn't the only one." Their eyes met. "I mostly just wanted to see you again."
Her eyes fell once more. There seemed to be a nervous edge to his voice that hadn't been there when she first entered the room.
"Why did you... erm, leave? The last time you were at Number Four?" he asked, a definite hint of uncertainty shrouding the question.
Hermione gave a nervous giggle. "That's the thing," she said, straightening her back and folding her hands in her lap. "I think I may have... well, something happened with you that day and I... had to think about it a little. That's all." If Harry sounded nervous, it was nothing to how she felt inside. The normally easy way in which she normally formulated her thoughts seemed to have escaped her, and she was left with a jumble of feelings instead.
"Hm," was Harry's only response, until he sat up again.
She tried to push him back down, but he shook his head. "No, Hermione. I need to be sitting up for this," he explained and she stopped trying to force him back down.
The effort to sit clearly took its toll on him and he had to rest his head against the wall before he opened his eyes again. "Something did change that day you came to visit me. Hell, things have been changing for me for a long time and it took me until now to realize what it all meant."
He had her complete attention, save for the piece of hair that always stuck up from the back of his head; the one that made her hand itch with wanting to smooth it down. "What changed?" she asked, pulling her eyes back to his face.
"No I didn't," she replied, confused.
Harry grinned. "Well, not you precisely, but maybe how you treated me. How I saw you, and how... I don't know... how we feel about each other changed." When Hermione's confused expression didn't go away, he screwed his eyes up and muttered under his breath. "Merlin I'm horrible at this."
"No," Hermione protested. "Keep going, you're doing much better than me."
He sighed and nodded his head, seeming to steel his resolve. "The thing is..." He hesitated and placed a shaky hand on hers in her lap. "The thing is," he said more softly, "I think I like you a lot more than I did before... I mean, you're more important to me than you used to be. Something's changed and it's... better."
In a moment of restored clarity, Hermione suddenly knew exactly what she needed to do. They locked eyes again and she felt, rather than saw the things he wanted to say reflecting in them. Her stomach unclenched, her mind cleared of all the uncertainty and doubt and she leaned toward him. She took his hand in one of hers and placed her other one on his shoulder. He tilted his head ever so slightly and she closed the distance.
Nothing could have prepared Hermione for what happened next. It was as if all the things she'd read in all the books on romance and relationships had suddenly caught fire in a maelstrom of emotion. She let the last of her defenses fall away and fell into their kiss.
When they finally broke apart, both surprised and more than a little pleased, Hermione giggled. "I like you too, Harry," she said.
He grinned and moved his head towards her ear and with a delightful tickling sensation, whispered, "Thanks for saving me, Hermione Granger."