DISCLAIMER: She owns. Me not.
WORDCOUNT: 3017
SUMMARY: Future stuff. I don't know where all that angst came from. And I don't think the characters knew either. I mean, when you've gone through that kind of life, angst has to become a dear friend, right?

Written for gothicautumn03 at The Under 400 Word Drabblethon


COPPER DREAMS
by Leni


He dreams copper dreams. It flows in front of him, with those waves he always saw at school.

Something niggles him, and when he's awake he'll know that it's because Hermione cut her hair months ago. But in his dreams, he runs his fingers through the long tresses, as he always longed to do for years while she danced her first loves with strong, loyal boys that made her smile and kissed Ron at graduation. But in the dream he's the one holding her, one hand sure around her waist, the other learning the texture of her hair, treasuring the soft, pliant waves against his touch.

But when he reaches the ends of her hair, small drops will run down the strands. Blood drops. Copper drops painting his skin; turning it red, bright; turning it brown and dry. Copper dreams….

He always wakes up sweating, but he's glad that these nightmares aren't loud. He'd hate to wake her up.

---

Hermione doesn't know what's wrong with him tonight. His eyes are sunken, dark, rings making him look older than his twenty-seven years.

She purposely adds a third spoonful of sugar to his tea, aware that he hates too much sweet in everything other than chocolate. But this is the only thing that occurs to her to make him snap out of it. She tried talking, just a minute ago. And she told him: "Snap out of it, Harry!" but he only stared at her and she sighed and said that she'd prepare some tea.

Now she sits beside him, attempting again some small talk. She promises herself that she won't raise her voice this time. It'll be a normal conversation, she and her boyfriend. Not she and her stubborn best friend since forever who can't open up even if it's the best for him, and of course she always knows better! Hermione rolls her eyes a little to herself, now she's shouting to herself. Look at the things Harry makes her do.

He nods at something she says; but his gaze is still lost on a point beside her head.

She wants to scream. At him. Or maybe at herself, for sitting here when she could be out while he consumes himself in his thoughts. But she loves him, and she's hated seeing him like this ever since they were fifteen and his guilt looked taller than the three combined. She sighs, again. In moments like this she really misses Ron. But Ron isn't here. Ron is somewhere on the other side of the city, ignoring Harry's calls and listening to hers with only half an ear.

She wants to scream at Ron, too.

But first she has a moody boyfriend at hand. So she tries harder, reminding him of the standing invitation for Christmas to the Weasleys. Mrs. Weasley misses him, she tells him, and it's the truth.

Harry only shrugs, and now his eyes close, as if suddenly weary.

Hermione knows exactly what's crossing his mind. "Ron will be there, too. I think he also misses you." He glares, reproaching the lie, and she crosses her arms over her chest. "He does, Harry! I had to listen at least thrice to every major adventure we went through, and I lived through them all!" Okay, she may be exaggerating a bit. But Ron did ask about Harry in their last conversation. She's calling that progress and nobody can't deny that to her. So there.

Harry shakes his head, still disbelieving. But, "I do miss him," he confesses.

See? Progress!

Hermione smiles, thinking that this is good. She was lying, yes, but she will tell this to Ron and see if the big doof doesn't melt. Or, she could light a fire in his underpants and help the process. She's getting sick of her two favourite men not talking to each other.

They never told her what happened between them, and she asked! Nicely, too, when she wasn't screaming at one or the other. Hermione only knows that one day she arrived home after a long trip to her parents', kissed her boyfriend long and sweetly, and then noticed that Harry's additions to their shared apartment were gone. Ron had been elusive, shrugging a lot and not looking her in the eye for days. But he never said anything, and he's stayed quiet for the three years since.

Harry was even worse. She had helped him to find a new apartment, pick new furniture. (Apparently, he hadn't taken his stuff from their apartment; it had 'magically' disappeared. Which in the magic world meant 'combusted by wand fire'. Which meant that he and Ron had been actually fighting, and one day Hermione will know why. She hasn't pushed so far, yet. It'll be easier when she has the two of them in the same room. Merry Christmas, yourself, she keeps telling herself. She will ask, and she will know and then maybe she can get over the nagging feeling that the best friendship in the world was broken because of a woman – her.) She'd even taken the deepest breath and, thinking that Harry needed a bit of kindness to get used to living alone, she'd braced herself and tried to cook for him. It hadn't worked. But the sight of her in the kitchen, beaten by normal pots, sauces and the four spells she'd used to fend off her defeat had made Harry laugh out loud. That laugh is why Hermione thinks it was a good idea, humiliation and all. Not that she'd tried again. Besides, Harry had always been the best cook of them, while Ron wasn't half bad with anything sweet and cake-shaped. And Hermione? She made tea.

For three years, she and the Weasleys have tried their best to bring the friends back together. She spent entire nights poking her boyfriend awake to ask why he wouldn't even visit Harry with her. Ron always mumbled to let him sleep and that was it. Meanwhile, in her visits to Harry, he wasn't any better. Even during the days she'd spent in his apartment a year later, after she and Ron split, Harry still wouldn't tell, and right then Hermione would have loved to have something else to blame on Ron. But no, Harry had to act the loyal friend and tell her to sleep because tomorrow it wouldn't hurt so much, and she loved Ron, remember? She'd go back and they'd make up and they'd laugh at their silly fight and be married the next fall, even if he wasn't the best man anymore.

But Hermione didn't go back. Or, she did, and ended up not talking to Ron for another three months, until Mrs. Weasley invited her personally to their Christmas reunion, and who could say no to that wide smile? (Harry, apparently. For the last three Christmas, Mrs. Weasley has come to the apartment to talk some motherly sense into him, and the three times she'd walked out with some spectacular gift he'd gotten for her but no agreement.) Eventually, she'd been the one needing help to choose a new apartment, and new furniture. And at the end of it, Harry had been her spatula-bearing knight and left a week's worth of frozen food in the fridge, along with a promise to come back in the weekend to refill the stock.

Now, almost two years after that awful fight – which had been really silly, but it'd escalated and, before she knew it, Ron was realizing that he loved her, but he didn't want to marry her and, no, it wasn't cold feet – Hermione and Ron are back to some sort of uneasy friendship, and why can't he and Harry do the same?

Instead of asking that question, though, Hermione leans against the couch's back and tells Harry the last news. Ginny has a new boyfriend, and Harry smiles when she says that Ginny looks really happy with Neville. An ex classmate with an ex girlfriend, he jokes. Hermione thinks that the joke is thin, but she smiles because Harry doesn't make many jokes now. He seems to pick on that thought, because his smile dims and she's back to zero.

Hermione watches as he brings his cup to his lips, silently, back to a lost, dark gaze. She thinks of the extra sugar, and waits. A second later, she wants to shake him when he grimaces at the taste but keeps silent. "Damn it, Harry," she mutters, only remembering at the last minute that screams won't faze him. But of course he hears her.

He sighs, and though he doesn't look at her in the eye, she sees his eyes running down her hair. At least he's focusing on her again, that's good. But after a long moment where his focus doesn't shift, she brushes her hair self-consciously. She tries a smile as she curls a strand around a finger. "I sort of miss my long hair," she says out of the blue, not sure why the words come to her even as she says them.

"Why did you cut it?"

She blinks. She didn't really expect him to respond to her comment. Harry isn't an inconsiderate boyfriend, but on nights like this he grows distant. She begins to shrug as an answer, but then she suddenly remembers leaving Ron's apartment – just Ron's now - the morning where it was definitely over, feeling changed, and unchanged at the same time, because, wasn't she the same woman she was the night before? She entered the hairdresser's at a whim, and told the kind woman attending her that there were tears because she'd never cut her hair. Two hours later Harry was gaping at her, and she was crying into his chest that Ron was an awful cad for mistaking love and friendship and sex and why did he kneel and ask me to marry him in front of his whole family if he didn't love me like that? Harry had brought her inside, and told her that Ron loved her more than he'd love any other woman, but that he was scared, and she'd shaken her head, and wasn't he supposed to be mad at Ron, too? Harry had shrugged. "Why did you cut it?" he'd asked, and she'd shrugged and mumbled an "I don't know." "You looked better with your long hair. Prettier." And she'd laughed, laughed until her sides hurt and decided in that moment that her cute little bob was perfect for her new life.

Now she stops the shrug before it reaches her shoulders. "Because I needed to change."

"You've always been the same to me," he tells her, and Hermione wonders again for how long did he love her before she noticed. And, again, the doubt comes to her. 'Was it because of me?' she wants to ask, but she doesn't, reminding herself that first she needs the two men in the same room before she can make the difficult questions.

"Well, then because my hair had too many memories." Like Ron playing with it absently, and too many times where she'd woken up to find her hair tangled between his fingers. "Why are you asking, anyway? I thought you liked my cut."

Harry chuckles, a little, brings his arm around her shoulders. "Far from me to say otherwise." He reaches to her crown, takes one short lock and begins playing with it. Absently. Hermione would like to shift uncomfortably, because there's one consequence to Ron and Harry having grown up together, and it's that they are too alike sometimes. Not that she'll ever tell them. Instead it's Harry who suddenly grown somber, again, and loosens her hair. "Sometimes changes are good," he agrees.

But Hermione doesn't like this conformity. She can hear the grief in his voice. It happens, and again she misses Ron so much. She is only half as effective to bring Harry out of these moods. She takes her boyfriend's hand, thinking that hers and Ron's problems always look so little compared to his. She used to hate him a little for it, now the knowledge only hurts. Change, indeed. Going from the Chosen One to another man in the crowd, losing almost everything dear to him in the process. He'd say that he hadn't minded that, claimed that he only wanted to forget. Like fools, she and Ron had believed him. Maybe because they only wanted to forget, too? But they never forgot, and Harry with his guilt complex…. Even if Lupin comes to visit sometimes, Hermione wonders if she's Harry's only real connection to the world. At least she never makes him feel at fault, not even with the slightest gesture, but that isn't enough, is it? Harry can't lie to her. Of course she knows about the nightmares. She has known about them ever since they were fifteen-year-olds playing at heroes, and she knows now, when he wakes her up.

Nightmares. That's it. Last night he tossed around so much. Hermione almost squeezes his hand, doesn't let go when he tugs it away. She thinks helplessly that sometimes it's easier to handle it as his girlfriend, sometimes it's so much harder because girlfriends are supposed to understand their boyfriends and she can't make ups or downs out of this mood. He looks so old, so unloved, so forgotten….

"You're pitying me."

She startles. "No!" She shakes her head, clenches her free hand. "I love you, Harry. Love doesn't include pity." He smiles a little in response and Hermione breathes in relief. This relationship is so new, barely a few weeks old and Hermione isn't sure if she chose right. Maybe he still needs a friend more than a girlfriend.

"You should go," he says suddenly. "I know you want to."

No, he isn't throwing her out. It's their ten year reunion at Hogwarts. All survivors from their year will be there, and she's been rambling about it for months, way before she and Harry decided to become a couple. Hermione has been louder about it ever since she woke up cuddle up to Harry on this very couch and suddenly decided that she didn't want to move. Ever. "I'm not staying out of codependency," she states. He looks at her, surprised at the mere notion; but Hermione knows that'll be the main rumour tonight. "I'm staying because tonight is our second anniversary." Because she doesn't want his nightmares to eat at him while she's gone; but she doesn't tell him that.

He chuckles and for a moment he looks like the eleven-year-old who convinced her to go against the rules. With a sudden move, he brings her towards him, his lips still drawn in a smile. "It's not two months together until tomorrow, Hermione."

She rolls her eyes, elbows him softly. "You aren't supposed to know the exact date," she pouts. He laughs and she shakes her head at him even as she burrows deeper against him, settling more comfortably against his chest than against the couch. "Come with me," she tries again after his laughter dies, even knowing that he'll refuse.

He does.

But he's still smiling, surely thinking of how to celebrate the next day. His smile, something she rarely got in all her years as his friend only. That smile is her guarantee that she chose right.

---

Hermione grins and then puts her brush on the bedside table.

Her mirror image winks at her, shakes her head to make her hair fly around her. Real Hermione laughs a little as she does the same. It feels good. Freer somehow, maybe clichés are right and long hair really makes one feel better.

It's been a while, a long while, since she stopped keeping it short, and now her brown hair reaches down her shoulders. Today she woke up feeling happier, for some reason she couldn't define. Colder, too; but that sensation was easier to trace. "It's still snowing outside," she tells Harry when she feels him begin to stir beside her.

He opens his eyes fully and, indeed, the snow is falling softly against the bedroom window, just as when they went to sleep last night. Then he turns to watch Hermione, reaches out to run his fingers through her hair, as high as he can reach from his position. It's better when he's awake, he thinks, and then he remembers that he hasn't had that dream for months. "Let's go somewhere quiet," he proposes suddenly. He has a new dream, and today is perfect to make it true.

She frowns a little. "In this weather? I don't think any bus line will be available, Harry."

He grins at her. Just as well. He doesn't want to take her anywhere within the city anyway. "I still know how to ride a broom," he tells her, making to sound hurt at her forgetfulness.

She only smiles. "I'll need a helmet," she jokes.

"No." He shakes his head resolutely. He wants to picture her at his back, hair flying free behind her. He wants to take her to a clearing in some forest, somewhere where the snow is a white blanket and where her hair will shine copper and dark gold against it. Copper dreams…. New and improved copper dreams. He likes these best. "Come with me," he offers.

She murmurs that he's crazy, and that he'll owe her forever for this whim. He doesn't tell her that he's owed her forever since that morning he woke up, fuzzy because her lips were against his and she was laughing at what a blind woman she was. "I think I love you," she'd said that morning, and she'd hit him when he'd called her silly, I've loved you forever. Then she'd kissed him again.

This morning she's smiling just as brightly. "Come with me," he repeats, still touching that beautiful hair.

She looks at him for a long moment, at the snow that'll fall over them on this trip to wherever Harry wants. She looks as his fingers thread through and around her hair, and she suddenly remembers that it's been months since she's compared his hands to Ron's hands. "Okay."


The End
26/04/06


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