The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment. If she wants to borrow these ideas for Book 7, she's welcome to them.
This story begins less than half an hour after the final scene in Half Blood Prince, and will continue at least until the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. It is fully canon compatible. It will be told almost exclusively from Hermione's point of view, so it will be something of a change from JKR's books, which are told almost exclusively from Harry's point of view.
I have rated it T+ and hope to stay within that rating. There will be some scenes containing nonsexual nudity. There will also be some scenes suggesting minor sexual activity, and discussions of sexual relations, but most sexual activity and any actual lovemaking will take place 'off camera'.
This story, like my other stories, is more about relationships than anything else. There will be battles between the good guys and the bad guys, but they will be few and far between. Harry needs a lot of training before he's ready to take on Voldemort or even the experienced Death Eaters, as witnessed by his pathetic performance against Snape (and even Malfoy) in Half Blood Prince.
What battles there are will be bloody. People will die or be seriously injured, both good guys and bad guys. I apologize in advance if I kill one of your favorite characters. One of my very faithful readers pointed out that Neville gets killed and injured a lot in my stories. I promise not to kill Neville this time.
In 'Soul Searching/End Game' I elevated Viktor Krum into a starring role (and created a pairing with him not seen too often in fan fiction). In this story I have a different character or two in mind to raise from bit part to starring role. You'll have to wait and see who.
My good friend Old Crow suggested that I make the relationships very clear at the outset of this story. This story is about Harry and Hermione. They are not together at the beginning of the story because they were not together at the end of Half Blood Prince. It's not going to happen overnight either, but it will happen. Harry and Ginny broke up at the end of Half Blood Prince, and will not be getting back together in this story. As you would expect, Ginny will have some issues with how things turn out. Ron and Hermione were never together in Half Blood Prince (despite Hermione's efforts) and will not ever be together in this story either. Ron's reaction to that will be revealed fairly quickly.
Any post-HBP Harry/Hermione story must deal with the fact that Hermione spent all of year six pursuing Ron, or it's not being honest. A line such as "I know he's fancied me for a while, but I never felt that way about him" doesn't cut it. All four of my post-HBP stories started out acknowledging this and moved on from that point.
With respect to Ron: Any guy who is romantically interested in a girl, and who has her ask him out, then starts up a relationship with another girl in the most blatant way possible, by snogging her in full view in the common room, and then still doesn't get together with the first girl even after breaking up with the second girl, is either incredibly stupid or an incredible jerk. While I could make a case for Ron being either or both of the above, I choose not to. I prefer to consider a third possibility – that Ron just isn't romantically interested in Hermione. (Or if he once was, he isn't any more. Maybe he's realized that she just doesn't turn him on that way.)
That when he told Harry in HBP that he intended to go to the party with Hermione just as friends, he really meant it. That he spent most of the year in the awkward position of having to deal with his best female friend attempting to get together with him and trying to figure out how to make her realize, despite the fact that she's ignoring his anvil-sized hints, that he's just not interested!
So, if you are a die-hard RHr shipper, or can imagine no other outcome than HG, you should probably stop reading right here (if you haven't already). If your passion is HHr, or if you are the open-minded sort who just wants to read a good story, you're in luck. Sit back and enjoy.
Chapter 1, Inspiration
Sunday, June 15, 1997
"This has got to be the worst day of my entire life!"
Hermione Granger threw herself on her bed in despair, feeling both sorry for herself and disgusted with herself at the same time. She was alone in the sixth year girls' dorm. Parvati's parents had come to take her home right after Dumbledore was killed, and Lavender was off somewhere saying goodbye to her latest boyfriend. She was all packed and ready to go home; all that remained now was to wait for the thestral-drawn carriages to take them to Hogsmeade Station. Wait and wallow in her misery.
While she lay there on her bed she thought about her previous outburst. She had certainly had other bad days in her young life.
That day in first year with the troll had started out horribly, and she almost died, so that certainly ought to qualify as a 'bad day'. But it had definitely turned out well – that incident had resulted in her gaining the two closest friends she had ever had or probably ever would have. You could even make the case that it turned out to be one of the best days of her life.
Getting petrified by the basilisk during second year had surely been no picnic. But right before that encounter she had solved the mystery and with the information Harry had later found clutched in her hand he had gone down into the Chamber to rescue Ginny and defeat the Monster of Slytherin. So that day had eventually turned out pretty well, too.
During third year she had almost been kissed by a dementor, but she, Harry, and Sirius had been saved by a patronus conjured by Harry after the two of them had gone back in time. That statement still gave her a headache every time she thought about it. That adventure ended with the scary ride on Buckbeak the hippogriff to rescue Sirius, so she had to admit that it had a happy ending also.
Fourth year. Hermione sighed. There had been several bad times there. Harry's name coming out of the Goblet of Fire. The screaming match with Ron the night of the Yule Ball was bad, but up until then that had been a great day. The worst had been the night of the third task. When Harry was taken away as he completed the task and had been forced to watch as Cedric was killed and Voldemort reborn, then barely survived a duel with the risen dark lord to escape back to Hogwarts. What a horrible experience. She knew it still gave him nightmares. Yes, those things had happened to Harry, not to her, so technically it wasn't her bad day. But she certainly anguished enough about him for it to count as an awful day for her, too. Definitely in the top three.
Fifth year she had almost been killed again, this time fighting Death Eaters with Harry at the Department of Mysteries. Up until today, she would have considered that one the worst. Definitely the worst for Harry. After her injury he had watched as his godfather was killed right in front of him. Then he had been possessed briefly by Voldemort. And then when he had been returned to Hogwarts, on top of everything else he had been informed of the prophecy that he would have to be the one to destroy the dark lord or die trying. Hermione didn't blame him one bit for trashing the Headmaster's office after being hit with all of that in succession.
It did not escape her notice that every one of these disastrous days had involved Harry Potter in one way or another. For five years, his fate and hers had been so closely intertwined that his misery was also her misery. And in a way, that was part of the problem now, too.
For today, she had been hit with two awful blows in rapid succession. First, they had buried Albus Dumbledore, the undeniable leader of the light side of the wizarding world, and the horror of what that meant was just starting to sink in. True, his death had been several days ago, but now the finality of it hit full force. And with it the sinking feeling that without him holding the forces of evil at bay they were doomed. Of course, it was worse for Harry than for anyone else, for he had the enormous burden of defeating Voldemort upon his shoulders, now with no Dumbledore to assist and to guide him. Dammit, it just wasn't fair!
The tears that she had been holding back let loose now, and she paused to wipe her face with her pillow. It had hurt so much to see the grim resignation in his eyes at the end of the funeral. That was what had pushed her over the edge then, too, and she had buried her face in Ron's robes, both for comfort and to keep Harry from seeing her break down. She had to be strong for him.
But that moment with Ron had later led to the final blow that made this day worse than all others. Losing Dumbledore in itself was enough to make this a very bad day. What pushed it to the top of the worst day list, for Hermione personally, was the event that had occurred just ten minutes ago.
Right after Harry had left them, out by the lake, she had received the dreaded 'I just want us to be friends' line from the boy she had been pursuing for a romantic relationship all year. One Ronald Weasley.
She groaned loudly as she recalled again the scene, which would be etched forever in her mind. Why? Why? Why? She managed to refrain from pounding her head against a wall, and instead collapsed onto her bed with her head in her hands. What had she been thinking? How could she have been so stupid?!!! Hermione Granger had made the biggest mistake of her entire life, had failed the most important test she had ever faced.
She had gone after the wrong guy.
She had panicked. All of her old insecurities about herself had swayed her from pursuing what she knew in her heart would really make her happy.
She knew which guy she wanted. She knew who she was closest to, who she had felt a connection with for years, whose safety, well-being, and yes, happiness had meant more to her than anyone else's. Even her own.
It was Harry. It had always been Harry.
What had happened? It had all made so much sense when she made the decision last summer. She had worked it out so logically. She had two male friends who had been her nearly constant companions for five years. It only made sense that she would end up with one of them, and Ron was the rational choice. Harry had never shown any romantic interest in her. He had spent the last year and a half mooning over Cho. Ron had seemed interested – at least he got all jealous and sulky whenever the topic of Viktor Krum came up. She liked him a lot. They argued a lot too, but if they became more closely involved they would start getting along better, right?
Never mind that she had much more in common with Harry. Never mind that she got along better with him, that he was more considerate with her than Ron was. Never mind that her thoughts were constantly on Harry when they were apart, not on Ron. Never mind the thrill that had shot through her when she had thought that Harry would be a prefect along with her, a thrill that she had not felt when she had found out that it was Ron who was the prefect, not Harry.
Who was she trying to kid? What it boiled down to was that she had decided that Harry was unattainable, and Ron was available. So she had concluded that it was going to be Ron. And she had set out to make that happen. And at the same time, she admitted to herself now, she had begun to distance herself from Harry, perhaps to try to convince herself that they weren't really all that close. She began acting cool toward him when they were together, ending the hugs and other signs of affection that had become commonplace between them. She had seized on that damned Potions book as something to criticize him about constantly. She had even refused to seriously consider his suspicions about Snape and Malfoy, after five years of loyally supporting him in all of his endeavors. She had gone from being his most faithful and devoted friend to a being a nasty sarcastic bitch.
Hermione paused to wipe away a fresh round of tears as she mentally berated herself and swore that somehow she would find a way to make it up to him. And the worst part was, it hadn't even worked. She had just caught herself in time from revealing how she felt about him when she had told him how fanciable he was. And the time when he had shown that he still cared for her by coming after her in the deserted classroom after she had been humiliated at finding Ron snogging Lavender she had been barely able to refrain from throwing herself into his arms.
And what a fiasco that had turned out to be. Why did Lavender suddenly decide to show an interest in Ron at the same time that Hermione decided she wanted him? She had panicked when the beautiful blonde Gryffindor had shown up at the quidditch tryouts to cheer for Ron. How was she supposed to compete with that? As soon as Lavender had smiled at him, Ron had perked right up and forgotten that she was even there.
To her shame, she had made a spur of the moment decision to cast a Confundus hex on McClaggen, cheating to help Ron win the keeper's position. And how did that even help her with Ron? She would never be able to tell him that she had done it! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Then, to her horror, Harry had figured out what she had done. She had never been so ashamed of anything in her life.
For a while, unbelievably, it had seemed that she would win out over Lavender for Ron's affections. He had agreed to go to Slughorn's Christmas party with her. And then it all came crashing down with that horrifying scene at the party after the first quidditch victory. Lavender had won after all.
The next few months had been horrid. She had pushed one best friend away and now was refusing to speak to the other. But then Ron had tired of Lavender's clingyness and they had eventually broken up. He started being nice to her again. She was sure that this time …
But no. He had just told her that he wasn't interested in her that way. What?! Why not? She had managed to refrain from these and the other, more bitter response, 'Well, just what exactly did it mean then when you always acted so jealous of other guys?' She had managed to keep the encounter amiable. She needed to keep his friendship, at least.
And she needed to salvage and repair what remained of her friendship with Harry. She took a deep breath, both to try to calm down and to forestall a new round of tears. That much, at least, should be doable. Harry had never really given up on her. No matter how beastly she had behaved toward him, he had kept coming back to her, his eyes silently pleading for her to believe him, to help him, to join him in his struggle as she had done so faithfully for five years. But which she had stubbornly refused to do this year.
She lost the battle to hold back the tears and they began flowing again at the miserable thoughts of how much she had let him down. Hopefully, she and Ron had begun the process to set that to rights again when they had confronted him out by the lake a half-hour ago. She would be with him, by his side again. But that only brought back the problem she had tried to solve at the beginning of the year when she had given up on him.
Why? Why? Why? Why hadn't she listened to her heart instead of to her head? Why hadn't she told him how she was feeling, given him a chance to look at her the way she looked at him? Hermione rolled over and stared at the ceiling, but the ceiling held no answers.
How did Harry Potter come to have such a hold on her heart? What was it that had made him the most important person in her life for the past six years?
Hermione's mind had been occupied with thoughts of Harry Potter for almost as long as she'd known that she was a witch. She had been so excited when she read about the Boy Who Lived and determined from the dates in the book that he would be in her year at Hogwarts. She had been fascinated by his story and had looked forward to meeting him. Helping Neville look for his toad had been perfect cover for going from compartment to compartment on the Hogwarts Express trying to find him.
When she had finally burst into the compartment where he was sitting she had been shocked to discover that he was nothing like the image of him she had created in her mind. He was completely bewildered by everything, apparently even more unfamiliar with the magical world than she was. She had hoped to impress him with her knowledge of spells, but unfortunately had been overcome by nerves and begun babbling about anything that came into her head. From the reaction of the redheaded boy who had evidently befriended him it was obvious that she had blown it.
And yet she had found that she was unable to get him out of her mind. Despite Harry and Ron making it very clear that they wanted nothing to do with her, she couldn't leave them alone. She hung around them, being quite annoying she had to admit, trying to figure out the enigma that was Harry Potter. But even if Harry might have shown some interest in her, in getting to know her or at least listening to what she had to say, Ron wanted nothing to do with her and always managed to keep her at arms length from them. And then it happened. She had finally given up, fleeing in tears to a deserted girls' rest room, sure that her new life as a witch was ruined and that she would never ever have any friends. Only to look up and realize that there were much worse things in the world than eleven-year-old boys who insulted you. Gigantic trolls who wanted to kill you, for example.
Then he had appeared. Out of nowhere came Harry Potter to rescue her. Harry Potter, the hero of the wizarding world, but more importantly just Harry, a boy who had taken the time to find out if she was all right. It was her first ever encounter with what she would later term his 'saving people thing'. And her life had been interwoven with his ever since. After that incident she had ended up coming to know the real Harry Potter and she was proud that he considered her to be one of his most trusted friends.
By the end of her third year her feelings had started to change. She was fourteen years old now, and her hormones had kicked in, causing her to start seeing her best friend in a different way. The realization hit full force when they rode Buckbeak to rescue Sirius. The tingling sensation that shot through her body as she budged up behind him and put her arms around him quickly overcame the fear of flying that had been her initial reaction. From then on she knew.
When the Hogwarts letters prior to fourth year had mentioned dress robes, she had immediately deduced that there was some sort of formal dance or dinner in the offing. She had carefully selected her robes at Madame Malkins and was very happy with how nice they looked on her. This would be her chance to show him that she was a girl, and make him realize that she could be more than a 'best buddy'.
The Daily Prophet story on the Tri Wizard Tournament by that disgusting Rita Skeeter linking Harry and her romantically, despite being a complete fabrication, had been a potential breakthrough. She had taken the high road, not responding to the comments of her fellow students, good or bad, and carefully not denying it either, hoping that it might get his mind thinking in the right direction. Parvati and Lavender had gone crazy grilling her about it, trying to find out what the real story was. But even though she was spending so much time with him, even staying up until 2:00 AM helping him learn the summoning charm, the idea seemed never to have crossed his mind.
When the Yule Ball had finally been announced, she had immediately begun trying to figure out how to get him to ask her. But her clever plan to casually suggest that he could take a friend as his date was derailed by Ron's stupid declaration about not ending up with a pair of trolls. From then on it was all about getting the best-looking girl they could find. Which, of course, excluded her from consideration.
Not that it mattered anyway, she eventually determined. Harry had been smitten by Cho Chang, and had his mind set on asking her, if he could only get up his nerve. She was disappointed that he would fall for nothing more than a pretty face, but she shouldn't have been too surprised – he was only fourteen after all, and emotionally stunted from living with the Dursleys. And so Hermione had said yes when Viktor Krum had surprised her by asking her to be his partner for the ball – just as friends, he had assured her. Besides, going with Viktor would help her get revenge on Ron for his troll comment. She was certain that he wouldn't be able to get a date and would end up asking her, and then she could haughtily decline. She even taunted him a little about Eloise Midgen starting to look better.
The revenge had quickly turned sour, however. First, it turned out that Cho had turned Harry down, and Hermione might have been able to go with him after all! Then, Ron had asked her in the most insulting manner possible. She had angrily turned him down and stomped off to her room. Her misery was complete a few minutes later when Parvati came up into the dorm, gloating that she was going to the ball with Harry Potter! How was that fair? Parvati got to go to the ball with her Harry!
Despite all of that, there had been some good parts to the Yule Ball. The look on Harry's face when he first saw her in her dress robes was priceless. And since the two of them were both at the Head Table, and she managed so that she was sitting right across from him, they spent a pleasant meal together. She had been quite enjoying herself – until Ron made a mess of everything with his jealousy and accusations. The night had come to a nasty end with the screaming match in the Gryffindor common room.
They had eventually recovered from that scene, and she and Harry had grown closer than ever by the end of the year. She had gathered up her courage and actually kissed him goodbye (on the cheek, but still …) at the train station just as he was leaving with his horrible relatives. And she had greeted him a month later with a crushing hug. But he still hadn't gotten a clue as to her feelings, or given any indication that he returned them. Instead, she had to watch his relationship with Cho Chang develop until they were officially going together. Even though they had broken up by the end of the year, she began to despair that he would never return her feelings. And so she had given up and made the decision to turn her attention to Ron, supposedly her safe, fallback alternative.
A decision that she now regretted more than any other.
But it was too late now. Now she wouldn't have either one of them. Ron had turned her down and Harry was taken. She had been delighted when Harry fell for Ginny. It had seemed like the best possible outcome at the time – if she ended up with Ron and Harry ended up with Ginny they would always be a close part of each others' lives. One Big Happy Weasley Family. But now Ron was out of the picture. And Ginny wasn't about to let go of Harry now that she'd finally caught him. No, there would be no romantic relationship for Hermione, not with anyone else either, at least not any time in the foreseeable future, since she would be spending all her time with Harry and Ron until Voldemort was defeated. She fell back on her bed and sighed, tears totally spent now, and stared up at the ceiling once more, trying to find the strength to go back out there and act like the past year had not happened, that the trio was together again and ready to charge off on another quest.
From the next room over, a door slammed, then bounced open again as an angry fifth year witch stormed in, followed by two of her roommates.
"Break up with me will he?" shouted a voice that Hermione instantly recognized. "He thinks he can break up with me?" Another voice added in surprise," He broke up with you? No one does that! You've always been the one who decided it was over." The original voice replied, slightly calmer, "Oh, it's not over. He'll come back. He'll come crawling back when he sees what he's missing. I'll see to that."
Hermione rolled over and sat up quickly, her heartbeat quickening and her mind racing. OK. Maybe this day isn't so completely horrible after all.
She sat there listening intently for a while, waiting to see if she could hear anything about what Ginny's plan for getting Harry to come crawling back to her might be. There was no further conversation on that subject from the next room, however, as the occupants busied themselves with last minute packing. No matter. She was pretty sure she knew what Ginny had in mind. She was also pretty sure, since she knew Harry a lot better than Ginny did, that it wouldn't work the way the younger witch wanted it to.
Hermione, of course, had finished her packing even before the funeral, so she got up and began pacing back and forth, thinking about what to do with this new information. She needed a plan. She needed to make herself indispensable to Harry. She needed to show him the he could rely on her for anything. And besides regaining his trust, which was after all still the most important thing, she also needed to regain their closeness. Their easy familiarity where taking hold of his hand or casually hugging him was perfectly normal behavior between the two of them. Then, and only then, could she hope that it might grow into something more. And to reach that point, she somehow had to make him see that his trusted companion was also an attractive woman. That would be the difficult part.
Hermione stopped her pacing and sat down at her desk, snatching up a quill and some parchment from her bag and began to plan what needed to be done.
Find and destroy the Horcruxes
Go through any materials Dumbledore may have left behind.
Research Horcrux creation and possible destruction using resources we haven't tried yet.
- Restricted section of Hogwart's library?
- Headmaster's/Professors' private collections?
- Grimmauld Place library?
- Ministry? Unspeakables in Dept of Mysteries?
- Knockturn Alley?
Train with Harry to learn more, and more powerful, spells
Look into ways of boosting magical power
Consult with Aurors re battle tactics. Moody?
Figure out what the 'power he knows not' is
Find a place to live and train after we leave Privet Drive
Harry focused and on track, but don't let him get discouraged
Work out a schedule that works for all of us
Encourage, but don't nag
Focus on the progress we're making, not on how far we have to go
Make sure Harry takes some time to have fun and enjoy himself once in a while
After some deliberation Hermione added one more item.
Help Harry get over Ginny and fall in love with me
Hermione charmed the last item on her list so that only she could see it. She then sat back and regarded what she had written. There was so much to do. How could they ever accomplish that in a summer, or even in a summer and the next school year? And Harry would be anxious to get it done as quickly as possible, before any one else was hurt. She knew very well that he would take every death personally, blaming himself for not putting an end to it quickly enough. There had to be something …
"What we need," she said slowly as the solution dawned on her, "is more time."
A/N The groundwork is now set for where this story is going. The character of Hermione will be stretched somewhat, and she will act in ways we haven't seen before. Remember, all's fair in love and war, and her goal is to 'steal' Harry away from Ginny. I hope you will enjoy seeing how she accomplishes this, as well as the larger tasks confronting the trio. Ron is not going to be left out, but this story will be primarily about Harry and Hermione.