Title: Completing the Puzzle
Spoilers: 1-5. You know, the good ones.
Summary: Harry is bored, and Hermione doesn't know how to help him.
Disclaimer: Not mine. JK Rowling wouldn't think to write something this cute.
A/N: Filling in at fanfict00bs with a back-up fic, so for God's sake, do not ask why it isn't Kissing Lessons.
"God, I'm bored," Harry complained, practically falling into the chair next to Hermione's.
He'd been bored quite often lately, Hermione mused. When Ron had started spending all his time with Luna, he had taken all of the fun with him, evidently. The boredom had been at its peak over the winter holidays; after Hermione had prodded Harry into completing all of his assignments, he really was left with few options. With half the team gone, there were no Quidditch practices, and Harry was having a very hard time filling the days.
Sometimes, when he would mention his battle against boredom, or when he would wish aloud that Ron was around for a game of chess, or when he would say how he wished it wasn't so cold as he'd like to go for a fly, her heart would sink into her stomach like a lead weight. She felt on those occasions – as she had many times before – that perhaps Harry didn't really like her. Logically, she knew that he must care for her; they couldn't have possibly retained an amiable relationship for over six years if he was merely taking pity on her. But her nagging insecurities didn't listen to logic, and she often wondered if perhaps he was just making a show of being nice, or if he was just using her for the answers to homework assignments as so many had in her childhood…or if, more recently, he was just keeping her around for a girl's knowledge of the female brain.
And she hoped, more than anything else, that she wasn't just a walking textbook to him…because to her, he was so much more than a simple friend.
Through the years, Harry had become her mission in life. She would keep him alive, she would get him through school, and if she could, she would keep him happy. So far, she'd accomplished her foremost goals. She'd saved his life on several occasions and forced him to do his homework and study through unceasing nagging…and if he didn't like it, that was all right, because it was for his own good, and it worked. She feared, however, that her last endeavor was a complete and utter failure.
She'd tried…she'd encouraged him to play Quidditch even though it made it difficult for her to keep him alive, and she'd never protested when he favored playing games with Ron to saving the House-Elves. Now, however, it seemed as though she was more useless than she'd imagined…and she really hated failing.
"Why don't you read?" she suggested.
"I could play a game of chess with you."
"That's all right…you're knitting."
"I don't mind." He wouldn't understand, of course.
"What about the House-Elves?"
"This isn't for the House-Elves."
Harry looked a little too curious. "Who is it for, then?"
"Ron," she answered simply. "Christmas present."
"Oh," was his reply. "Well…I wouldn't want to keep you from that."
"I really don't mind, Harry."
"Well…it's just…it's not the same without Ron, you know?"
She couldn't remember ever playing chess with Harry. She should have offered years ago.
"I understand," she said quietly.
When he said nothing more, Hermione turned her attention back to her knitting, carefully sliding each stitch from one needle to the other as she made them. He would have to find his own fun.
"You're getting quite good at that," Harry remarked after several moments.
"Oh, this is just a scarf…it doesn't take much skill…" she said, staring resolutely at her needles.
"Is knitting difficult, then?"
"At first," she replied. "It's hard to get the hang of the needles. But it's not bad after some practice."
A log popped and hissed in the fire, and she heard Harry's chair creak.
"Think you could teach me?"
Hermione glanced over at him. He was twisted in his chair, leaning on the arm of it, his glasses slightly further down his nose than they should have been. Hermione raised an eyebrow. "You want to knit?"
Harry shrugged. "It's something to do, isn't it?"
Hermione smiled. Finally, there was something she could do. "Let me go dig out another set of needles."
As she headed up the stairs, she wondered where Harry's sudden interest in knitting had come from. She knew for sure that he hadn't taken a sudden interest in House-Elf enslavement. The realist in her knew that he was probably bored and nothing more, but something else in her wanted very much for him to want to spend time with her…and that frustrated her to no end because she wasn't exactly sure why she cared what made him happy as long as he was.
Because you're not that selfless, idiot girl, her brain seemed to shout as she reached her room. She ignored it and went to her trunk, digging out a larger pair of needles and leftover yarn.
When she returned to the common room, it was to find Harry with her knitting needles held in front of him, the scarf dangling from them and her ball of yarn on the floor (dangerously close to the fireplace). He was wearing a puzzled, skeptical frown that seemed to say, "How the hell am I supposed to do this?"
Hermione chuckled. "It's really not as complex as it looks."
"What's with all the loops?" he questioned.
She rescued her yarn from its place by the fire and seated herself next to him.
"First you have to cast-on…er, I'll just do that part for you; it's tricky –"
"I can do it!" Harry protested somewhat defensively. "Just show me how."
Some twenty minutes later, Harry had managed to cast a sufficient amount of stitches onto his needle, although he'd nearly strangled himself with the yarn in the process.
"I'm positively horrid at this, aren't I?" Harry asked, eyeing his work critically.
"Er…well, yes, at the moment," Hermione agreed. She quickly added in a consolatory tone, "But it's only your first row, Harry, don't worry."
Harry held the needle up awkwardly and away from him, as if it were an animal he was afraid would strike. Amused, Hermione moved it from his right hand to his left and handed him the second needle.
"Now, there are two stitches…"
After at least ten demonstrations, Harry began working on his own. Hermione took up her own project once more, trying not to laugh as Harry struggled with the needles, a look of intense concentration upon his face.
"You don't have to keep going just for me," Hermione remarked eventually. "If you're not enjoying yourself –"
"I won't lie and say this is going to be my favorite activity in the world, but I wanted to do something with you, and I am…so I am enjoying myself."
Hermione blushed and smiled uncharacteristically bashfully. "Really?"
Harry shrugged. "Of course. You're my best friend. Just, er, do me a favor and don't tell any of the blokes in the house that you've taught me to knit – I'd never hear the end of it."
Hermione laughed, a feeling of happiness and security that she hadn't known in a long time bubbling up in her chest. "Don't worry. I'll take it to the grave."
Harry's expression turned immediately downcast, and Hermione winced at her insensitivity. "Harry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to remind you –"
"No, no, don't worry, Hermione, I'm fine. Really."
"But I can tell you're upset, Harry…"
Harry shook his head. "Not about that. It's just…the thought of you taking something to the grave…of you going into a grave at all…well, obviously, it's not something I enjoy thinking about."
"Well…I'm glad to hear it."
Harry smiled weakly and turned back to knitting, clearly ready to drop the subject. Hermione didn't challenge that, not knowing what to say to him about it anyway. She was having too much difficulty sorting out her own emotions at the moment; trying to talk about his…well. That was perhaps best put aside for awhile.
Several moments later Harry gave a loud yawn. He grinned sheepishly when she looked over to him. "It's making me a bit sleepy," he confessed.
Hermione sighed, realizing that despite his claim of enjoying himself, she had once again failed to entertain him.
"Harry, you really don't have to humor my knitting. It's all right." She focused her eyes on her work. "I know I'm not as fun to be around as Ron. Really – it's all right."
"…What are you on about?"
"Harry…you've been bored out of your mind since Ron left. I've been trying to help with that, but it's obvious I'm doing a terrible job."
"Hermione…it's not your fault if I'm bored," Harry said with no small amount of puzzlement.
"But if you're bored around me, it means I'm not any fun," she replied, throwing down her knitting. "And if I'm not any fun, what good am I to you?"
"What good are you? Hermione, you've saved my life countless times –"
"With my brains, I know. And I've helped you with your schoolwork and your girl troubles. But someday, you'll be done fighting Voldemort and done with school and you'll finally understand girls well enough not to need help, and then where does that leave us? What more do I have to offer?"
"Wh – Hermione, you're mental. We're not friends because of what you can do for me…I mean, if that's what it's all about, why on earth have you put up with me for so long? There's more to it than that."
Hermione turned in her chair to get a more direct look at him. "But would you really want to spend time with me if you didn't need my help?"
Shaking his head, he came to sit on the arm of her chair. "Believe it or not, I like spending time with you. I like talking to you, and I like watching you knit, and I even like listening to you babble hysterically like you were about to do just a minute ago. I like you just the way you are, Hermione, and I always will."
She was quiet for a moment as his words sunk in and her heart went fluttering about in her chest. Then the battle in her mind came to a rest, a smile spread across her face, and she responded in the way which she was naturally inclined to do. She hugged him, hard.
Harry struggled to stay balanced on the chair as he hugged her back, laughing slightly. "I even like it when you do that, for some odd reason."
Hermione grinned up at him. "I always thought it made you a bit uncomfortable."
"Oh, and you did it anyway? Why, thanks. And it did make me uncomfortable at first…I mean, you were the first person I could remember ever hugging me. Took some getting used to."
Hermione squeezed him harder and pressed her face into his neck. "Remind me to hug you more often."
"I'll be sure to," Harry said, and he did something he'd never done before. He kissed her on the forehead.
"You know, it's a pity you can't talk to girls like you did to me tonight."
"But…you are a girl," Harry said with what she suspected was feigned bemusement.
"Well, I'm glad to know you've exceeded Ron's level of perception," Hermione said with a smirk, "But you know what I mean. The sort of girls you fancy."
"What makes you think you're not the sort of girl I fancy?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Because we're friends, of course."
"Yeah, like friendship's ever stopped anyone before…Ron comes to mind."
Hermione pulled away from him slightly. "Just what are you implying, eh?"
Harry shrugged, a slight blush on his cheeks and his eyes averted. "Nothing. Just that friendship doesn't necessarily keep a bloke from fancying a pretty girl…"
Hermione eyed him carefully, heart pounding. A possibility that she'd never considered before had made its way into her mind, and the more she thought about it, the more it made sense…and the more she liked the idea. "Harry…are you trying to say that you fancy me?"
Harry looked hesitantly at her out the corner of his eye. "That depends."
"On what?" she asked curiously.
"On whether or not you'll still speak to me if I do."
Harry, the bravest boy she'd ever known, looked so adorably nervous in that moment that she couldn't help falling for him a bit more – and fallen she had, as she'd realized in those few seconds since she'd learned what that look in his eye meant, and that it was the thing that she'd been close to grasping for years. It was a part of her feelings for Harry that she'd always felt was missing somewhere, a part of her she'd failed to acknowledge until then…and it completed the puzzle.
And then she did something she'd never done before. She kissed him, on the mouth.
He seemed to like it when she did that, too.