A/N: I have often found fanfiction to be a great release for frustrations with how a certain storyline has transpired, no matter what particular fandom you might write in. As such, this is my attempt to right certain wrongs made by Miss Rowling. Not to say I don't enjoy her work, I wouldn't be here if I didn't, but allow me the attempt to presume just slightly as to how things should have gone.
The story picks up in the third year, when Harry and Hermione are waiting for their past selves to emerge from the Whomping Willow. The story will start with a conversation they have, and then things change from there (right off the bat I will tell you Sirius will not be free to take over for Harry's guardianship). Will eventually turn into a H/Hr story.
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Hermione Granger was in a bit of a quandary considering her current situation. If you had told her five years ago that she would currently be in her third year at a school for witchcraft and wizardry, have survived an attack from a mountain troll, helped stop a dark lord from attaining immortality, been turned into some kind of cat/human hybrid, been petrified, and have experience with traveling back and forth through time she would have likely called the men in white coats to take you away. The fact that, sitting here 5 years later, she found absolutely nothing out of the ordinary with any of these was a testament to how much one can change.
No, the problem she currently found herself facing was a problem that she had sworn would not become a problem. She had made a solemn vow with herself not to let these infatuations get out of hand. 5 years ago she never would have imagined such a problem. Two years ago such a problem was out of the question. Of course, fate had decided not to be cooperative in that regard.
The problem was Harry Potter.
The year had started off well enough. She was knee deep in her studies, so ignoring Harry and the new feelings he had begun to elicit deep within her gut was easy. But then those ruddy dementors had to go and cause Harry to fall off his broomstick. Never in her life had time seemed to creep to a standstill like at that moment as Harry slowly plummeted to what Hermione had thought was his doom. Her heart had wrenched solidly in her throat and she nearly refused to believe he was alright when Dumbledore had slowed him to the pitch.
Seeing him nearly die had reawoken the feelings that she had been quashing since the end of her second year. The feelings had actually begun much earlier than that, but in retrospect Hermione shrugged it off merely as simply being friendly. If it was anything more she might have best described it as sisterly affection.
Those feelings, or perhaps her perception of them, began to change shortly after she was petrified by the basilisk. She was consciously aware of almost everything going on around her, literally a prisoner within her own mind. She could also sense Harry's calming presence at nearly every waking hour in the hospital wing, occasionally hearing him talk about class or read homework to her, but mostly simply sitting there, watching over her. It awoke these dormant feelings again, or at least brought them directly to her attention.
And after entering the Great Hall and hugging him like two friends separated by long distance for long periods of time, she felt the overwhelming sensation of things simply being...right. Not that she could have put it into those kind of words at the time.
Time. That's really what all this had boiled down to slightly, she chuckled to herself, resituating herself on the cold hard ground. It had been some time away from Hogwarts, away from the world of magic, and most importantly away from Harry to make her realize that whatever she was feeling, it certainly was going in an entirely different direction from "sisterly affection." That realization had nearly brought Hermione's world to a screeching halt, and for nearly a week after that she mulled about in her head trying to suss out what her feelings meant. She could analyze anything from a book, analytically dictate to you every single step and its logical purpose in the grand scheme of the final design, but when it came to matters of the heart she was as lost as Ron was in Snape's class. Eventually she came to the conclusion that her feelings were a combination of friendship, gratitude and maybe a hint of infatuation. Once the idea of infatuation was introduced, Hermione immediately shut down her emotions as best she could. She had seen what a simple school girl crush could do to people, having seen it turn her friend Ginny into the equivalent of a blithering idiot whenever Harry came around. Calm, cool, collected Hermione Granger would not let herself be reduced to a blithering idiot...
...until she remembered seeing Harry's broken body on the Quidditch pitch.
She had regained her resolve shortly after that, albeit only with distraction. She flung herself into her studies even moreso and took up Buckbeak's defense as an added distraction. It came to little surprise to her when she eventually suffered a near nervous breakdown with all the added stress. It didn't help matters that her innate feelings for Harry never were completely suppressed, and it was this reason, out of concern for Harry, that had led to the whole fiasco with the Firebolt.
The whole situation both relieved and tormented Hermione's mind. From her academic, analytical point of view she was nearly ecstatic. If Harry was ignoring her, then whatever infatuation she might have with him beyond a platonic one would quickly fade away. She could destroy these frivolous emotional outbursts, she had told herself, and move on with more worthwhile pursuits for someone of her intellect.
Her emotional conscience however, that annoying part of her logical mind that kept rearing its ugly head far more often than it had in the past, was quite literally beside itself. Even if she wanted nothing to do with Harry in terms of more illicit feelings, she'd still want him as a friend. Thankfully the whole incident had passed within a month or so and things had returned to a relative state of normality.
She was currently reliving this night for the second time. She and Harry had been tasked by Dumbledore, in his indirect manner of course, to save both Buckbeak and Harry's godfather. The first task they had already seen too. The second task was what she assumed Harry was trying to figure out while he waited.
"It's going to be great," Harry suddenly said from his position sitting next to a tree slightly in front of Hermione. She turned to look at the side of his face, perplexed by his comment.
"What will be," she finally asked in wonder.
"Living with Sirius," Harry responded without flinching. He kept a forward gaze, never once glancing towards Hermione, but she could tell he had a small smile on his face. He looked oddly relaxed and calm at the time, a combination that Hermione rarely saw in Harry. In spite of it all, he still held out hope of being able to rescue Sirius that night. Hermione listened as Harry continued on.
"I'll finally be at a place where I can live like a normal person, be a halfway normal teenager for once." He stopped and got a far away look in his eyes, the calm and serenity seeming to make him forget that anyone else was there. He seemingly rambled to himself, "No more Dursleys. No more beatings. No more being called a freak every other sentence. No more bloody cupboards..." he stopped as the realization of what he was doing hit him, ending the calm and serenity with which he spoke. Hermione watched with equal parts fascination and fear as Harry's slight smirk quickly faded away to a emotionless mask, borderline on a slight scowl.
Hesitantly, she leaned forward, still trying to digest some of what Harry had let slip. "Harry, what do you mean, no more beatings?" She could see him wince, he hadn't wanted to tell her. She knew that Harry didn't have a great homelife. She knew that his relatives weren't exactly the nicest people in the world, but she didn't truly have a good picture of what was going on.
"Nothing," Harry finally said, trying desperately to divert the questions, "It's nothing." Hermione however wouldn't let it drop. She scooted slightly closer to Harry and spoke softly.
"Harry, it's alright...you can talk about anything you want to with me." Suddenly many things about Harry Potter seemed to come into a clear light. He had always been emotionally aloof, although compared to Ron he was certainly not lacking in that department. He also aimed to please people, albeit with a certain rebellious streak that he must have inherited from his father. She watched as Harry sighed and shook his head, unwilling to discuss things at the moment. Hermione nodded, and placed a hand on his shoulder, sitting there in silence.
Though the issue didn't come up the rest of the night, a small seed was planted in the back of Hermione's head, and a nagging voice kept telling her to make things right.
/ - / - / - /
Sleep did not come for Hermione that night. She tossed and turned regularly as she tried to put Harry's slight confession out of her head. It was a futile effort however. She needed time alone to her thoughts, time alone to suss things out. Even though she could count herself as alone for the moment figuratively speaking, even in a room with two other sleeping girls she felt too crowded in her thoughts. Sighing she got out of bed and made her way downstairs to the common room.
To her surprise she found someone sitting on the couch below, staring into the fireplace. She cautiously found herself drawn to the lone figure, called by some unseen force. Her breath caught when she saw those windswept ebony locks that could only belong to one person. Green eyes turned to see who had joined him in his solitude, and a weak smile crossed Harry's face when he recognized Hermione. "Hi," he croaked, his voice wavering slightly. Hermione furrowed her brow in concern and made her way towards him, once again drawn by a nagging voice in her head. Harry was hurting about something, she deciphered, she needed to help him. All thoughts of spending time alone were immediately cast aside.
She made her way around the sprawling common room and took a seat next to Harry, sitting as close as she could without it being too awkward. She closely examined his face, seeing that he had been crying about something. The tears were still fresh on his cheeks and his eyes were slightly puffy. "Harry what's wrong," she asked, tentatively placing a hand on his knee. Harry offered a soft smile and looked at her, seeming to try and judge her countenance. It was an odd look he gave him, and it was a bit uncomfortable to Hermione. She'd never been examined visually by anyone, at least not on an emotional level before. It was as if Harry was at war with himself to tell her...something. Perhaps exactly why he had been crying in the first place. He looked down at his shoes, contemplating his words, and nodded his head slightly to himself, before looking back towards the fire and then at Hermione.
"Hermione," he began, his voice cracking at the beginning. He cleared his throat and continued. "Hermione, I just want to thank you. I know I never show you the gratitude you deserve." Hermione's eyes went wide but Harry didn't notice, he just continued.
"You treat me better than any other person in this world ever has. Even Ron and his family, much as I...care for them, can be a bit...much. But you, you're different somehow. You're just...Hermione and...and I guess that's enough." He scratched the back of his head. "I'm probably sounding like a bumbling fool right now, aren't I?" Hermione shook her head, smiling.
"No Harry, that was just fine." She paused before adding, "And you don't have to thank me Harry. I appreciate the gesture, but I'll always be there for you, no matter if you thank me or not. But your welcome all the same." There were a few moments of palpable silence before Hermione shot in again. "So are you going to tell me what was wrong?" Harry dropped his head, before a slightly wry smile crossed his face, mixed with a show of sorrow.
"I guess it was too much to hope for that you wouldn't pry," he whispered under his breath. Hermione winced, but Harry immediately grasped her hand. "I'm sorry...it's just that..." he swallowed deeply, "I'm no good at this deep personal talking stuff. It's just one of those things I never did with the Dursleys because..." he stopped again, obviously afraid to continue. Hermione knew she was at a crossroads. Here Harry was as close as he had ever been to opening up, to probably anyone, and she didn't want to let this opportunity pass. Reaching forward again she took his hand in her own and squeezed it as a sign of support.
"I'm not going anywhere Harry," she firmly yet gently stated, and she pulled closer to him, draping her arm over his shoulders. He let out a shuddered breath at the contact, and closed his eyes, nodding his head again and biting his bottom lip...
...and everything started pouring out. He told the tales of how he was locked in the cupboard underneath the stairs for the first ten years of his life. Of how any sign of weakness was met with ridicule and humiliation. Of how any sign of his superiority to Dudley in any way, academically or otherwise, was met with a fierce punishment. He carefully spoke of being beaten on several occasions, whether it be as simple as a slap across the face or a broken arm or something as horrendous as having scalding hot water being thrown at your back for no better reason than you tried to get something to eat. With each new revelation, Hermione felt her heart twist and contort in painful reverberations. How could anyone be so callous, she asked herself. How could anyone be so cruel? She kept a firm watch on Harry as he continued to wind off story after story, the flood waters pouring out. About halfway through tears started coming down his face again, and he had to pause at times. It seemed like hours before he had finished, but it was actually closer to ten minutes before Harry finally stopped. He took several deep breaths, on the verge of total emotional collapse, before he continued.
"I don't know why I'm telling you all of this," he said, trying to wipe his eyes and put on his usual brave face, "I guess with Sirius and being so close to getting away from them I just...I just couldn't hold it in anymore." Hermione could tell he was trying desperately to simply just be weeping softly and not to complete explode in a show of emotion. All of the pent up anger, frustration and self-loathing that had been building behind a wall of steel had finally been released in a short timespan, and Hermione did the only thing she could to help him weather the storm. She stood up and moved closer to him, pulling him over and letting him cry into her shoulder, hugging him fiercely all the while. Quickly Harry let loose with his emotions, and openly cried for several minutes. Hermione sat silent, her only sounds that of reassuring whispers of comfort. Eventually Harry's tears became less frequent, and his sobs reduced to whimpers. Hermione took the time to break the hug and looked at him with genuine friendship radiating out of every fiber of her being.
"Thank you for trusting me with these things Harry," she said, obviously showing gratitude. "I want you to know that if you ever need a shoulder to cry on again, I'm right here."
"Thank you Hermione," he brokenly said, sniffing away a few last muffled sobs. "I'm sorry for ruining your shirt like that."
"Oh it's nothing a little drying charm can't fix," she said with a smile. Her smile faded however as she looked at Harry with worried eyes. "Harry, we can fix this. We can make it so that those horrible people can't to these things to you anymore." Harry shook his head but Hermione stopped him. "I'll be here to help, just like I always am," she reassured him. Harry smiled again and tried to look enthused, though she could tell he was very reticent. "Does anyone else know about this?" she asked in an academic fashion.
"Fred and George suspect something," he finally said after several seconds of thought. "They've seen...seen the bruises in the Quidditch locker room. But they've never said anything to me about it. I think Ron might know too, at least part of it. But no one else knows the whole truth." He looked a bit hesitant, "If you weren't my best friend in the world I probably wouldn't have told you...or told anyone. When I was in second grade I tried to tell a teacher but she didn't believe me. Uncle Vernon found out and slapped me something awful. He broke my arm actually that time. Locked me in the cupboard for a week with nothing to eat or drink." He quickly paused as the tears threatened to return, but he maintained his composure.
"They are horrible monsters Harry," Hermione said with great resolve in her voice. "Nothing gives anyone the right to treat another human being like that." She paused, biting her lower lip as she prepared for her next question, "Have you ever told Professor Dumbledore? Or Professor McGonagall? Have you told any professor any of this?" Harry shook his head.
"I was afraid they wouldn't believe me," he sheepishly replied, "I still don't know if they would."
"Dumbledore would," Hermione said after a few moments thought. "He'd have to." She grasped Harry's hand and turned his gaze to meet hers. "Harry, if I go with you, would you tell Dumbledore what you've told me?" Harry looked down, his eyes wide. "If you did," Hermione continued, "We might be able to get you away from those awful people once and for all."
Harry thought about it for several moments while Hermione held her breath. If she was going to be able to help Harry further, she thought, she had to be able to bring all of this to Dumbledore's attention. Surely once he had an idea of Harry's homelife, he wouldn't think of sending him back there.
"You'd go with me," Harry repeated, seemingly only for his own peace of mind. Hermione nodded her head in affirmation. After a few more minutes he nodded. "All right, I guess we can give it a try." Hermione smiled and gave Harry a hug.
"Thank you for letting me help you," she said as Harry hesitantly returned the close embrace. He held on for a bit longer, seeming to cling to her a bit, before they each let go. Harry tried to stifle a bit of a yawn and Hermione smirked. "You should probably get to bed, we have a big day tomorrow."
"You're right," he said, standing up to which she followed suit. "Thank you for being my best friend Hermione. Merlin knows I don't deserve someone as kind and gentle as you." Hermione offered a bit of a frown mixed with a smile.
"Harry, never think yourself unworthy of anyone's friendship and..." she stopped, she almost let slip the L-word. She quickly caught herself, "caring," she finished. If Harry noticed the misstep, he wasn't letting on, which caused Hermione to breath an internal sigh of relief. Much as he seemed to trust her, Hermione was still certain that he didn't care for her...that way. Each of them lingered in the other's presence for a moment longer, before walking towards the stairs. They parted at the break to the dorm's, and headed for their respective beds. Sleep was once again found by both of them that night.