Does It Feel?
by PK Fan
A/N: Yes, I'm finally writing again. Although my time is still not entirely conducive to regular writing, I did want to do something. I will work on my longer projects as time allows. Until then, enjoy.
As I look around the Gryffindor Common Room, signs of merriment in the making are all over the place. People are talking animatedly, hoisting their glasses skyward either in toast or in greeting. Broad smiles planted firmly on everyone's visages. Gryffindor had just won their first quidditch match of the year, you see. But in all the happiness and hoopla, something was missing… "Harry," I whispered to myself as soon as it had dawned on me. I could only lower my head and shake it. I walked toward the portrait hole in search of him although I had a pretty good idea where he was.
Harry had been doing more and more to isolate himself over the past year. Oh he was very subtle about it and claimed he wanted to study more. I had checked up on him several times, and he was indeed studying. He's thrown himself into his studies even more than I have; and that's saying something indeed. I recognized long ago that something else was driving him, but I decided to let things pass for the time being. If Harry needed time to sort things out, I was determined to give it to him. /snorts/ Yes I, Hermione Granger, have finally learned a bit of patience, at least where Harry's concerned. With him, he'll talk to me when he's ready.
Ron, on the other hand, never noticed it, but that's not much of a surprise this year. Since becoming involved with Lavender Brown, his mind has been lost amongst the clouds. Between being captain of the Quidditch Team, being a prefect, and having a pretty girl on his arm, he is living his dream. I think that's another reason why Harry has left him be for the most part. Harry would give his life for us—either of us, without a second thought. In a manner of speaking, I think that's exactly what Harry is doing. But instead of stepping in front of a spell, he's giving up a little more of it day by day. It's been heartbreaking to watch. I'll just keep reminding him that I'm here for him if he wants to talk. I just hope that he decides to open up soon. I don't know how much more of this I can take.
As I finally make my way toward the quidditch pitch, it baffles me as to why he tortures himself so. He and I attended the first quidditch match together as we cheered on our housemates—mainly Ron, of course. But I can see in his eyes how much it hurts. They may have lifted his quidditch ban, but he refuses to touch his broom. He keeps it in a custom made case in the bottom of his trunk so he doesn't have to look at it. The night that the case was delivered, I alone watched as he polished his cherished broom one last time before slowly placing it in the molded, felt-lined case, lowered the lid, and the closed the latches. The tears streamed down his cheeks, but he never really let himself openly cry. The only thing said after that was that he was tired and wanted to go to bed. I gave him a gentle hug and said goodnight. I don't think either one of us slept well. After seeing it all, I cried myself to sleep that night.
When I awoke the next morning, my eyes were swollen and puffy. I met the boys in the common room before we went to breakfast. Ron so brilliantly notified me that I looked a fright. I almost started our daily set of rows there in the common room until I look at Harry. He looked no worse than normal and carried a slight smile on his face, but his eyes were dull and grayed. The ugly retort that was on the tip of my tongue died there. I slowly pulled my jaw closed and walked silently toward the portrait hole. I know Ron said something after I turned around and the tone was none too kind. But I didn't really care, my mind was thinking of someone else. It was after that moment that I realized what Harry was trying to do.
As I climb the last few steps to the top box, the length of Harry's body comes into view. The entire seating area has been covered in a light dusting of white snow except for a small area around Harry. He's sitting sideways on one of the stretchers with both arms folded across his knees and his forehead resting on his arms. I walk to a nearby spot and throw my right leg over the stretcher to sit directly in front of him. Harry's head darts up as soon as he feels the lumber shift under my weight beneath him. He rests his chin on his crossed arms. His face becomes blank once again.
"Hermione? What are you doing here?" he asks tonelessly. "You should be up in the tower celebrating with everyone else."
"I could ask the same of you. I'm not up there because I was looking for you," I said—stating the obvious.
"I don't feel like celebrating. I have a lot of thinking to do. Things are going to be changing soon."
This path this conversation is taking is starting to scare me. "What do you mean, Harry? What's going to change?"
"I won't be here in the morning, Hermione."
I am well beyond scared now. I'm bloody terrified! "Y-you're not considering suicide, are you?"
"Suicide? Nah, I let that idea pass weeks ago."
'Weeks ago!' I scream to myself. I couldn't believe my ears as he said it all so nonchalantly. He gave a brushing away motion with his hands to complete his thoughts on the matter.
"Besides, it doesn't matter if I do it, or he does. I end up dead all the same."
It's now taking all my self-control to keep from grabbing his arms and giving him a thorough shaking. "By he, you mean Voldemort?" Harry only nodded in response. "I know that he's been after you, but why are you so certain that he is going to kill you?"
Harry finally looks up at me. His eyes have a look that I have never seen from him—hopelessness. "Yes Hermione, he will. Dumbledore already knows that he can't beat Tom, and the prophecy that we went after last year states that the final confrontation will come down to Voldemort and me. He has several decades of experience behind him, and he's getting more and more powerful every day. To say that I would be an underdog is the understatement of the millennium. I want to at least be able to say that I've had a chance to do some living while I was alive."
I was in a panic. My eyes were roving around the area while my mind was trying to find something positive to say. 'The sky, the stands, the pitch… the pitch was the maze in the tournament, which…had the cup, which… took him to Voldemort, where they dueled and Harry won!' I thought with a flourish. "B-but Harry, you've beaten him four times now! How can you be so sure that you're going to lose?"
"I've had either luck or help every time I've faced him. The prophecy says I have to do this alone, and luck runs out, Hermione. You take a guess as to where that leaves me."
"Doesn't the prophecy give you any clue at all on how to beat him?"
Harry gives a cruel chuckle at my words. "Yeah, it says I 'have a power the Dark Lord knows not.' Whatever that rot means."
My breath was coming in sharp gasps at this point. If I kept this up, I was going to start hyperventilating and pass out. "Have you asked Dumbledore, or…or…or one of the other teachers?" Harry only nods his head in confirmation. "And…?"
"Dumbledore thinks that this 'mysterious power' is love."
I finally allow myself to take a deep breath for the first time in a long time. If there's one thing that Harry can manage, it's love. We just need to figure out how to use it to our advantage.
"Why did you relax, Hermione?" he asks. He seems genuinely curious.
"Because Harry, if there's one thing you have in abundance, it's love." I knew when I said it that I was using my bossy-know-it-all tone with Harry, but surely he understands.
"No, I don't," he answers emotionlessly.
I run my hand gently across his forearm. "Of course you do, Harry. You have lots of people who care about you." His only reaction is a shiver.
"Think about what you're saying for moment, okay?" I watch as Harry points to his first finger on his left hand. "One. Ron. I like Ron a lot, but the way he acted like a jealous, angry git during fourth year, I doubt I'll ever be able to trust him entirely again. Two. Ginny. I know Ginny likes me, but I think she likes The-Boy-Who-Lived and not me. Three. Cho. She may have kissed me, but I think she saw me as Cedric in some way—or a connection to him at least. Either way, it definitely wasn't love. Four. Sirius. Yes, I know he cared about me, but I think it was more out of obligation to my parents than anything else. The fact that I look a lot like my dad only makes it worse. Five. Remus. I'm not entirely sure about him, but he's so standoff-ish. I think that looking like my dad makes him act that way. Six. Dumbledore. I'm not sure he ever liked me at all. I may listen to him because of his age and experience, but I will NEVER trust him entirely like I used to. He's withheld crucial information from me. Not only that, he directly violated the terms of my parents' will by placing me with the Dursleys. They said in explicit terms that I should NEVER be placed with the Dursleys under ANY circumstances. And last. The Dursleys themselves. To say they hate me is like saying it's sprinkling a bit while standing in a monsoon." Harry dropped his arms back across his knees before summarizing, "That has been my experience with love in a nutshell. I thank whatever greater power that is out there because you have been the only real constant in my life."
"Oh, Harry." I know it sounds silly, but it was the only I could say. I feel so badly for him. I can feel the tears welling behind my eyes. On impulse, I lunge at him and wrap my arms about his neck and hold him tightly to me. He somehow manages to drop his legs enough to catch me. After a few moments his arms wrap slowly, tentatively around my back. I turn my head to whisper in his ear, "It's okay, Harry. Just remember that I love you, and I always will."
With a strength that I didn't know he possessed, Harry's arms draw me in until there is no space between us. I end of up straddling his lap, but I ignore any thought of awkwardness or impropriety. He needs me, and that's more important.
He pulls me in tighter still as I have to put conscious effort into breathing. I consider pushing away until I feel dampness on my shoulder and his body starts shaking and convulsing under the weight of his cries. My thoughts are all over the place as a realization washes over me. This is the first time that I have ever heard of him crying. Any restraint I may have had on my emotions disappears completely, and I do the only thing I can. I hold him as tightly as I can, and my once misty eyes are completely overcome. I run one of my hands through his hair and whisper to him some more in an attempt to comfort and calm him.
He eventually manages to settle himself down, and pushes me off his lap. His eyes close and his head droops. "Did I say something wrong?" I ask him.
He shakes head. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have cried on you like that." He takes a slow, rattling breath. Barely audible, he says, "It's just that no one's ever told me that before."
I'm not sure how to handle that one. "You mean when I said that I'll always be there for you?"
He shakes his head again in the negative. "No, I meant that no one's ever told me that they love me."
I am now officially shocked speechless, and my jaw is agape in evidence of it. 'That can't be right,' I think to myself as my mind is trying to recall every single interaction I've ever had with him. 'He's right. We've shared a few hugs and a kiss or two on the cheek, but I've never told him.' My mind comes back to the here and now, only to find that Harry is looking at me nervously.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I was thinking, did you ask me something?"
The tension in Harry's body eased as he took a deep breath and asked again. "I asked about love, Hermione. How does it feel? I mean, how do you know what it is exactly?"
"It… You see… Um, I guess I can't explain it very well actually." That question is a lot more difficult to answer than I thought it would be. I'm glad Ron's not here at the moment. He would be merciless in taking the mickey out of me for not knowing the answer to a question. Besides, the situation is much too serious for that. "It's just something I've always known, I guess. Why do you want to know, Harry?"
Harry looks over the pitch into the night sky. He takes and releases a deep breath. "That's one of the questions I'm trying to get answers to by leaving."
'LEAVING? Oh dear Merlin, I forgot about the reason for this whole line of questioning!' I jump to my feet so quickly that I feel myself starting to get light-headed. I stop until I can right myself. 'Okay, okay. Deep breaths, Hermione… Settle down, girl.'
"Hermione? What's wrong?"
Once the feeling starts to fade, I immediate start to pace. 'I can't let him leave—not now. Now that I know why he's never shown any interest in me. Ugh! Damn those Dursleys!' I hear my teeth grinding between clenched jaws. My parents would probably ground me for a week if they heard it.
After several minutes of pacing and internal warfare, I finally reach an accord with myself. 'I do everything I can to prevent Harry from leaving. If that doesn't work, then I go with him. No matter what happens, I stay with him. Only tell him everything if all else fails.'
I spin around to face him and he jumps in surprise. "You're not leaving! I won't let you!"
Harry just rolls his eyes, "Hermione, we've been through this already. I have things that I need to do. Besides, you and the entire school will be safer here with me gone."
"I don't care, you great, sodding prat! You're not going!" My eyes start filling up again and my vision starts to blur a bit.
Harry's look turns cold, and my legs start to quake because of it as a wave of dread and anxiety pulse through me. "I can… and I will," he says with deliberate annunciation as he pushes himself to stand and walks toward the stairs behind me.
"Fine, then I go with you," I tell him and block his path.
"I can, and I will," I intone with a smirk; turning his own words against him. My flicker of a smile fades quickly as he starts to brush past me.
"Harry, stop! Please stop!" I call out to him. "Just…just give me some time, Harry! I can help explain to you what love is! I- I can show you!" I summon the last of my courage and decide to lay it all on the line. "Damn it, Harry! I Love You!"
"Yes, I know! You already told me that!" he returns sharply.
"Not that way you idiot! Don't you get it, Harry! I-LOVE-YOU!"
"You already said that. Besides, that's not the only reason I'm leav—"
"Oh for the love of Merlin's great, hairy, bloody bullocks!" I scream out in frustration to no one in particular. I close the distance between us with four quick steps and pull the sod's face down by the scruff on the back of his neck and kiss him—hard!
Harry is still frozen in place, but I don't care. I am getting my kiss, and he is going to get the idea I'm trying to convey one way or the other. I force my tongue between his lips and begin to taste all that I have waited for the past five years to get.
I finally get the response I was looking for as Harry nearly crushes my ribs with one of his arms and then grabs a great lock of my hair with the other and responds just as fiercely; not that I object.
For the next ten minutes or so, I was a participant in the steamiest, most desperate snog session that I have ever seen—including those seen on the stage, screen, telly, or in real life. My body was filled a humming sensation that I have never known as Harry's hands roamed over me. At the same time, my skin felt like it was on fire and something within me felt as if it were a raging inferno about ready to break containment. I forced myself to break away only when I started to feel light-headed again. I couldn't tell if lack of oxygen, my rapidly beating heart, or the feeling of all my internal organs turning into mush was the culprit, but in all honesty, I don't much care. I try to read his blank facial expression briefly before his emerald eyes begin twinkling and a dopey smile adorns his mouth.
"I love you, Harry," I tell him.
He nods. "I understand. I think I love you, too," he replies softly. His expression turns serious again after a few seconds. "We still need to talk—now, even more so than before."
Harry looks all around and then casts a privacy bubble around us.
Under the safety of that privacy bubble, Harry revealed everything to me: the contents of the prophecy, the horcruxes, and the history of Tom Riddle. Harry and I both left the castle that night.
Once I knew the whole story, I knew I had made the right decision in coming with Harry. He needed me as much as I needed him as we left on our quest. Those were some of the darkest days of my life but some of the best as well.
We had heard from several sources later that Ron had been a tyrant for the remainder of his school days. He wasn't so much upset over Harry leaving. It was moreover that Harry took his Hermione with him. Even though he was appointed Head Boy the next school year, he will probably be remembered as one of the most hated Head Boys in the history of the school. Gryffindor may have won the house cup that year, but only because Ron matched Professor Snape nearly point-for-point in deductions to rival houses. The only one person higher on his vendetta list higher than the Slytherins was a poor second year Hufflepuff names Jerry Porter.
Ron later joined the aurors when they lowered some of their academic requirements to increase their ranks. After less than six month on the job, he died on a mission that Minister of Magic had said would "turn the tide of the war if it succeeded." The Minister had offered the mission to him as a member of the fabled Golden Trio to show his public that the Ministry of Magic was actively doing something against You-Know-Who. In the scope of things, it wouldn't have made a difference and was basically a suicide mission. He became The-Martyr-That-Never-Was, and the Minister was killed the night after they published his speech and showed a picture of the auror team in the Daily Prophet.
As for Harry and I, we became closer over the passing months. During a brief break we took around Christmas time during what would've been our seventh year, Harry asked my parents to go on holiday with us to the States. My parents seemed unusually alert on Christmas morning as we opened presents. Once all the presents were opened and cleared away, Harry gave me a small box and knelt down on one knee while I was distracted in opening the gift. Inside was a simple white gold band, which bore a 1-1/2 carat diamond flanked by two smaller diamonds. When he spoke, he was incredibly nervous but managed to tell that the three stones represented that I was his life, his love, and his everything and then asked the question. I accepted, of course. I found out later that Harry was even more nervous when he had asked for my parents' blessing just three days prior. We were then married in a mass ceremony just under a week later on New Year's Eve in New York City's Times Square before counting down the arrival of the new year.
Harry and Voldemort crossed wands a few times during our travels, but the last conflict took place on July 30th, 1998. The battle lasted until the early morning hours as Order members and Death Eaters fought to the death. Among the most notable, Albus Dumbledore took out seven Death Eaters with a single spell before being left drained and defenseless. Voldemort hit him in the back with an AK.
On Victory Over Voldemort Day, or V-2 for short, the battle eventually wound down, and Voldemort knew he was beaten. He changed tactics and cast several killing curses at me. I had successfully evaded all but the last one. My last maneuver left me in a vulnerable position. Harry yelled out to me and then apparated in front of me and took the killing curse for the second time in his life. The curse once again rebound on its caster, killing Voldemort's body. I cast a patronus charm through the misty spirit that rose from his dead corpse. The mist dissolved and Voldemort was finally history.
Once gone, I immediately examined Harry. He was clinically dead. I did the only thing I could think of, I started casting the patronus charm into his chest from close range. Something amazing happened on my third casting. Two other forms: a hippogriff and a griffin, both joined my otter in erupting from the end of my vinewood wand. Harry took a deep gasping breath when the trio of patroni slammed into him. It took him several months to recover fully, but he eventually did. He was back in top form five months later when our twin sons, Phineas Ignatius and Phillip Orion, were born. They were the first of our seven children. Through their early years, we called them 'Pip' and 'Pop' for short, but their first year schoolmates decided that Iggy and Ory were better suited to them after a few spent two days in the Hospital Wing to reverse some skillfully applied transfigurations.
Harry and I bought the land around the Shrieking Shack and razed the house. Upon its foundation, we built a large five-bedroom home, and Harry accepted the Defense Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts the next July. He served as Assistant Headmaster for several years before Minerva McGonagall retired at the age of one hundred. She would've stayed on longer had it not been for the series of stunners that she had to recover from after our fifth year.
At age 39, Harry became Hogwarts' youngest Headmaster to date. After interviewing several candidates, he offered me the Defense position, and I accepted. Over the next 150 years, the wizarding world remained at peace. The lone upstart dark lord to assert himself was Lord Malnoir, which turned out to be Draco Malfoy. His Lordship was dethroned after a short encounter.
Harry and I remained vivacious and able up until and around his 213th birthday. (I mean honestly, the man's hair remained naturally black up until his 195th birthday.) His inordinately long life could be traced back to absorbing the magical energy of two killing curses. This vitality was shared with me through our closeness with each other and our 'intimate relations.' Harry and I both groomed our chosen successors at Hogwarts and retired from service to the school three years later.
Since then, we have been traveling as much as our fading health will allow and to spread our message that peace and freedom are not free and the sacrifices that we and everyone else made to secure our freedoms. We unfortunately had to cancel our remaining travel plans as our health was finally slowing us down. But that didn't stop him from continuing his work. He dictated his own autobiography with the assistance of Ben Trecklar, a well-respected muggleborn author. Harry's book is about to go to the publishers, but it's a shame that he won't get to see people enjoy the fruits of his last labor. Our healer and other specialists have said that we'll both slowly fade away and likely be incoherent in less than a year and then both die when our magic finally runs out. We both decided to choose to end things on our terms.
After commissioning a few paintings, revising our wills, and saying our final goodbyes to our grandchildren (all one hundred and twenty-six of them,) Hogwarts Headmaster Copernicus Silverbard escorted us to a hidden ritual chamber that Harry had discovered deep within the castle some years ago. It is here that Harry and I will make peace with our maker and transfer our remaining living magic to the castle that has been our only real home, and allow us to move to our next great adventure together.
-- End of Hogwarts, A History – Revision 09212199