Disclaimer: Seriously now, no copyright infringement intended. I'd rather be George Bush than JK Rowling – and that's saying something – so I certainly wouldn't want to be credited with any of her work. I am merely borrowing it, and, in the process, improving it. Hmmph.
A/N: I started writing this ages ago, way before HBP came out, for the 15 minute ficlet community on livejournal, which gives a word prompt (in this case, the word was 'drenched') and then allows you fifteen minutes to write. I finished it up today on a whim. This is one of those scenes that shows how HBP should have gone, and most obviously, didn't.
When Harry came down from the boys' dormitory, he was completely drenched – fully clothed, thank goodness, but he'd clearly just taken a shower…fully clothed, and he hadn't bothered to dry off. Either that, or Peeves had dumped a bucket of water (or several buckets) over his head.
"Harry…what happened?" Hermione asked, tentatively.
"I took a shower," he said shortly. Clearly, he didn't want to give her any more information, but she wasn't giving up that easily.
"In your clothes?"
"And…you couldn't find any towels?"
Harry shrugged, dripping all over the rug in front of the fireplace. "I kind of felt like being soaking wet, that's all."
Hermione frowned. "Is something…bothering you?"
"I'm fine," Harry said, rather more insistently than was necessary.
Hermione nodded. "All right. You're fine. Except for the part where you're inexplicably taking showers in your clothes and coming downstairs to drip all over the carpet."
"It's none of your business, Hermione," he snapped. "Why can't you ever just let me be?"
Hermione tried to be angry with him, but mostly she felt injured. He'd never spoken to her that way before…not really. Things like that had been implied, but he'd never been so openly hostile toward her. That was something reserved for Ron.
"Why did you come down here, Harry, if you knew I'd just pester you?" Hermione said, doing her best to sound angry. "If I'm that much of a bother, why aren't you avoiding me like the plague?"
"Because…because I still want to be around you. It's…comforting."
"It is?" she said, the pain from his harshness softened considerably by his candidness.
"Yes. You're…well, you're the only thing I can really count on. You're the only one who's always been there for me…even when I didn't want you around. But it's not the same comfort anymore," Harry said sadly. "Because now every time I'm around you, I know there's a good chance I'm going to lose you – your friendship…soon…too soon."
Hermione gulped, forcing back tears. She didn't know what he was getting at, what the implications were, but she could see the pain in his form, the terrible desolation and despair. She wanted to make it go away.
"Harry, you'll never lose me. I promise. I'll never leave you."
He stared at her. "Never? There's nothing I could ever do that you wouldn't forgive? That wouldn't scare you away?"
"No, Harry," she said gently. "You could never do any of those things that I couldn't forgive. You're too good to do any of those things."
"And if I'm not? What if I end up becoming a murderer?"
"Harry, where is this coming from?"
Harry's shoulders sagged and a few droplets of water fell from his hair. "You know the prophecy? The one that got destroyed?"
How on earth could she forget? "Of course."
"Dumbledore knew what it said," Harry told her with the deadly seriousness of one about to announce a death sentence. "When we returned to Hogwarts after that night in the Department of Mysteries, he told me."
Hermione waited nervously as Harry turned away from her to face the fire. "It said I was the one with the power to defeat Voldemort. Hermione, it said I either have to kill him, or he'll kill me."
A puddle formed at Harry's feet as Hermione looked on, processing the information. Perhaps she should have been shocked, but this prophecy said nothing she didn't already know – Harry did have the power to defeat Voldemort, and it would come down to him in the end…but Hermione knew something the prophecy didn't.
Harry would win. If Hermione had any say in it, by Merlin, he would win.
"You're a silly git if you think that's going to do a thing to our friendship," Hermione said hoarsely, choked with emotion that she wouldn't let him see. She would be strong for him – rational, dependable, never faltering in the face of the obstacles ahead of them. That was what he needed from her.
Harry turned round with a surprised expression on his face, as if he'd actually expected her to say anything different. Hermione merely smiled and rolled her eyes at him. "Now go change into some dry clothes, for goodness' sake. You'll catch pneumonia walking around like that."
Harry smiled back and went squelching obediently up the stairs. When he was safely out of sight, Hermione let her smile fall.
Being brave for him certainly wasn't easy – loving him wasn't easy.
But someone had to do it, and she wouldn't have it be anyone but her.
A/N: Before you go off to review, no, I'm not continuing this particular story, and yes, I will be posting the final chapters of Kissing Lessons and Just Below the Nose soon. Have patience, my friends. I know it's been forever, but the way time is flying for me, it feels like it's only been a month.