Authors Note: This story is a companion piece to "Forever". You do not need to read "Forever" to appreciate this story, in fact, this takes place before "Forever".
Summary: Lavender Brown had known Hermione Granger for seven years. They weren't best friends. She wasn't part of the infamous trio; there wasn't a trio anymore. Lavender could think of a hundred people that would be better at this than her, but at that moment, she was all Hermione had. Warning: Character Death, AU
By now everyone had heard the story. Even those people who weren't there at the Battle of Hogwarts were well informed about what went on during the final fight.
It had been four days since that afternoon on the grounds of Hogwarts. The sky had been black and the lake was uncharacteristically rough. Harsh winds had blown mist from the lake onto the fighting masses. The winds carried the screams and fed the chaos.
Even after four days Lavender Brown could remember everything. When she closed her eyes, when she dreamed at night, Lavender could see it all over again.
Before the actual fighting, Lavender could remember that everyone was strangely exhilarated. Finally, after months of living in submission and heeding Snape's every desire, the students could fight back. Although it was only a couple of days since, Lavender could hardly believe that she was ever so stupid to think that war was ever more than just destruction.
They had all been so eager to help; so eager to follow him. While Lavender had difficulty dealing with all that she had seen and done, she knew that it had to be done – for the greater good. No, Lavender didn't regret following Harry Potter, taking up his cause, fighting his fight with him.
In a way, she was proud of herself. She was part of history. Lavender could actually picture herself, many years from now, telling her grandchildren how she helped Harry Potter defeat Lord Voldemort.
Of course, Lavender didn't really have much to do with the actual demise of Voldemort, at most she could claim that she stunned a Death Eater, and managed to stay alive.
After Harry had spoken to them all at Hogwarts, Lavender had joined a makeshift group of fellow 7th years. Parvati Patil, her best friend, came along as well. Lavender knew that Parvati had the same fear coursing through her veins, though neither girl said anything about it. They were Gryffindors after all.
Lavender watched as her classmates fought against the Death Eaters, grown men who thought nothing of killing mere children. Fellow DA members rallied together, using the methods that Harry had taught them personally years prior.
Once she was actually in the midst of the battle Lavender grew afraid. She didn't know what to do. Never before had she been faced with such circumstances. The closest she ever got to a real attack was when Ron tried to kiss her the first time.
Despite her lack of previous experience, when Lavender saw a Death Eater lift his wand in her direction she acted on pure instinct and stunned him. At her side Parvati gave a triumphant yelp, but her cry was stifled to soon. When Lavender turned to see why her best friend had made such a noise she was greeted with only the glassy look of dead eyes.
No, Lavender had not known what war truly meant when she agreed to help. Even after all the stories she had heard from the first reign of Voldemort, she never thought she would actually see her friends die before her eyes.
Lavender was lucky to live through the battle. In fact, she hardly had any injuries, an even greater miracle. The problem with surviving, Lavender had learned, was dealing with the memories of those who didn't make it through. And there certainly were many of them.
The last funeral Lavender could remember going to was Professor Dumbledore's. While at the time she had thought that the Headmaster's funeral had been the most ornate she had ever been to, Lavender now knew that she had to take back her words.
Unlike Dumbledore's funeral, this funeral was held in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Of course, this wasn't actually a funeral at all. Well, it was, but it was referred to as a memorial. Everyone agreed that this sounded more respectful.
Despite the name, a well meaning euphemism, it was a funeral, so Lavender wore her most somber black robes and cut back on her usual makeup routine. Bright colors were hardly appropriate for such a sober event. She pulled her hair back in a neat plait and took the hot pink nail polish off of her fingernails.
The Great Hall was arranged quite differently than its usual appearance. Instead of the four long house tables, rows and rows of dark mahogany chairs were set up. The teachers table was also missing, although the Headmaster's podium still stood in its place. To the left of the podium lay the coffin. It was made of a dark wood that had been polished to a gleam.
Lavender could see that it was open; the lid was propped up showing the dark red satin of the underside.
She had always hated this part of funerals. The wake was often worse than the actual service. Lavender moved to the back of the line that had formed along the wall of the Great Hall.
Due to the fact that Lavender had arrived at the funeral rather late, most of the people had already been through the condolence line and were sitting down in the rows of seats. She had done this on purpose. She didn't want to deal with more of this than she had to.
The line moved rather quickly. With each step, the coffin came into sharper focus. The first person that Lavender met was Ginny Weasley.
Her normally flawless face was streaked with tears. "Oh, Lavender!" Ginny sobbed as she flung herself into Lavender's arms. "It's just so terrible. So terrible." Her words were jumbled by the frantic tears. "I never imagined – Thank you for coming. It would have meant so much to him!"
Lavender awkwardly patted Ginny on the back. She didn't know if Harry would really have actually cared if she attended this or not, but nevertheless she agreed with Ginny. "Of course I came. It was Harry."
Ginny nodded. "Harry" she managed to squeeze out before another sob escaped. Lavender pulled herself from Ginny's embrace and moved on down the line.
Mrs. Weasley was next and her face was just as wet as her daughter's. Also like her daughter, Mrs. Weasley immediately pulled Lavender into a tight hug. "It was so kind of you to come, dear. It's just so wonderful that all of you came out to honor him."
Lavender smiled slightly and lowered her eyes. She didn't really know how to respond.
"He did so much for us all. He was a hero. Harry would have been so happy to see you here."
Lavender was beginning to wonder if the Weasley's really knew much about Harry's life. She didn't really think that Harry had liked her that much when he was alive. Sure, they were classmates; they talked, but no one could say that they were friends.
Lavender gently untangled herself from Mrs. Weasley and moved on to the next person, Ron. Ever since their disastrous 'relationship' in their sixth year, Lavender felt a sort of unease around Ron. They were never anything special; she knew that he didn't really like her all that much. At most, their relationship was just a ploy of Ron's, but still she had felt for him.
Ron and Lavender stared at one another. Really, this was no time for her own problems. "I'm sorry, Ron" Lavender said.
Ron's face was the shade of red that he got when he was really embarrassed, or mad, or excited, but she knew that this was different. Instead of the clean blush of red that usually occupied his face, sporadic splotches covered him. His eyes were swollen. He wasn't crying now, but it was obvious that he had been. His gaze, which bore into her, no longer held the innocent humor that it always had. Instead it had been replaced by sadness, grief, and guilt.
"I'm sorry." Lavender repeated. Really, she knew that her words weren't all that original, but what else was she supposed to say?
He simply nodded. "Thank you." Ron's voice was wavering and choked. Before she could think of something else to say, Ron had turned his attention to the next person in line, accepting their sympathy with the same slumped shoulders and shaking hands.
Standing directly next to the coffin was Harry's last mourner. She had grown thin in the time that had elapsed since Lavender had last seen her, and this was saying a lot since only four days before she had been waif looking. She was wearing a simple black dress instead of robes. Her hair was down, bushier than Lavender had seen it in a long time. It was hiding most of her face, and Lavender surmised that this was exactly what she had wanted. A simple gold chain hung around her neck. It disappeared into the neckline of her dress, the dark material hiding the charm hanging at the end.
"Hermione," Lavender said cautiously. Unlike the Weasley's, Hermione did not look at her. In fact, her gaze never wavered from the coffin. Lavender tried again. "Hermione, I'm so sorry."
She didn't know what to do. Lavender stepped closer to her once-classmate. She wrapped her arms around her. "I'm so sorry." She said again.
Hermione didn't move. Lavender didn't know what she was expecting. Did she really think that a hug would cause a major breakthrough? Everyone knew that since Harry died Hermione hadn't spoken to anyone. She barely ate or slept and was hardly seen. A hug wouldn't make things better for her.
Still, Lavender clung tightly to Hermione. No arms wrapped up around her. No head was rested on her shoulder. She was silent, and the tears did not come.
When Lavender finally pulled herself away from Hermione she could see that her eyes were still fixed to the coffin. Lavender's own eyes followed.
Nothing prepares you for the way a dead person looks; a waxy imposter of someone you once loved. Lying in the ornate coffin was Harry Potter. He was dressed in all black. His hair was neatly combed, something it never was in real life, and parted at the side. His scar was in full view, sharper than she had ever seen it, and Lavender briefly wondered if someone had outlined it. It would make sense, she thought morbidly, to many people that's what he was.
His vibrant green eyes were shut, never to open again. His face held little expression. No worried glance that he so often had in Potions, no wide smile that graced his face during quidditch. His hands were laid on top of one another, and his wand lay in between.
He looked waxy, unreal. Even to Lavender, who hadn't known Harry that well, he didn't look at all like himself. His dignified hair and blank expression was not him. It hurt her to look at him this way. She couldn't imagine what it was like for the others.
Hermione was still staring at Harry. She hardly blinked. Lavender was about to say "I'm sorry" again, but thought better of it and made her way to an open seat.
She sat down next to Neville who looked as though he were about to cry. "Don't take it personally" he said shakily. Lavender furrowed her brow in confusion. "Hermione." He clarified. "She's been that way with everyone. Won't acknowledge them. Won't talk. She hasn't stopped looking at him, at Harry - "
His voice broke as tears began to pour down his face. "We tried so hard." He wiped at his eyes. "We won. But it was all because of him and now he's gone. It's not right." He shook his head, back and forth. "Its' not right."
Lavender pulled Neville close to her, her arms wrapping around him. "You know, Neville, I never told you this, but I think that you're one of the bravest people I know."
Neville lifted himself off from her shoulder. Genuine shock was in his eyes. Lavender couldn't blame him; it wasn't often that she dished out compliments. She was ashamed to say that in her early years at Hogwarts she was somewhat of a bitch.
"Really. You stood up to Snape all year, you kept hope alive. You were amazing in the fight. Harry trusted you." Neville began to shake his head again. "No, listen to me. He did. He really believed in you, and for good reasons. You're a true friend. A true Gryffindor."
Neville smiled weakly. "That's all I've ever wanted to be." Lavender hugged him again.
From her embrace with Neville, Lavender watched as the final mourners made their way to their seats. One by one each of the Weasleys passed Harry's coffin. Ginny stared down and started crying even more. Her mother pulled her close and together they shakily made their way to their seats. Ron reached out and put an arm around Hermione, trying to lead her to her seat. Hermione yanked away quickly. Ron shrunk back, away from her. He passed by Harry and joined his family.
Hermione was left standing alone next to Harry. For a moment Lavender wondered if she was going to stay up there throughout the service. But Hermione turned slowly and walked to the head of the coffin. She bent down, her face disappearing from view. Seconds later she righted herself and took a seat near the Weasleys in the front row but off to itself, not next to another soul.
Neville sat up straight in his chair and wove his fingers through Lavender's. He gave her hand a tight squeeze.
The entire hall grew silent. A man who Lavender did not recognize made his way up the aisle. He was official looking and sober. He spread a few pieces of parchment on the podium and began to speak in a deep monotone.
"Today we have come together to honor the life of Harry James Potter. He gave himself for the wellbeing of all the wizarding world." The man stopped, allowing this statement to sink in.
"Harry was kind boy. Smart, gifted, and brave. He always thought of others before himself. He wanted nothing more than for his world to be safe." The man continued on with all the wonderful qualities of Harry.
Looking around, Lavender saw that most of the room was crying. Great sobs rang out from the front row where the Weasleys were sitting. Handkerchiefs were passed around and noses sniffled.
While at one point Lavender had been a very emotional person, crying for days over a deceased pet, only silent tears graced her face now. The tears were not caused by the banal words of the eulogizer. He was articulate and practiced, each word ringing out loud and clear, but he didn't know Harry.
She cried not for the words describing Harry, but for Harry himself. She cried for Parvati, and Hannah, and Dean. She cried for Fred and Professor Lupin. She cried for those left behind. She cried for Neville and Ron. She cried for Hermione. She cried for herself.
The man continued on, relaying the story of Harry's life, or what he knew of it. He spoke of his bond with Dumbledore, another great soul that was lost in the war. He touched on his brief unpopularity and how Harry stuck through it all.
He concluded with his own thanks to Harry. "We are all in debt to Harry Potter. He saved us all."
The service was over. People began to shift in their seats, gathering their belongings and heading towards the exits. The eulogizer had commented that Harry's body was going to be laid to rest at Godric's Hollow with his parents later in the day, but for now the casket remained where it was.
People filed out the heavy double doors, eyes still streaming and holding on to one another. Beside her, Neville stood up. He offered Lavender his hand. She took it and pulled herself upright.
"I would like it if we could keep in touch." Neville said, his voice still thick with tears. He coughed and tried to adopt a more confident voice. "Maybe dinner sometime."
Lavender smiled. "I'd like that."
Neville grinned slightly, lightening his tear streaked face. "I'll owl you this week then." He hugged her and turned to leave.
The Great Hall was emptying quickly. Glancing around, Lavender could see Ron and Ginny still sitting together in the front row. His arm was around her shoulder. She looked down the row, expecting to see Hermione there. She wasn't.
She scanned the room. Hermione was no where to be seen. Seeing no reason to stay in the Hall any longer, especially with the body of one of her classmates only feet away, Lavender made her way out of the castle.
For some reason Lavender suddenly had a desire to walk down to the lake. She didn't know if it was the memories from the days before pulling her or what, but Lavender always trusted her instincts.
The grounds of Hogwarts that were blood stained only days before were now shimmering in the summer sun. The grass was green and lush, the sky was blue and there wasn't a cloud to be found.
She made her way towards the lake. She was nearly there when she noticed the figure of someone standing off to the side of the lake. Walking closer, Lavender could see that it was Hermione Granger.
She was standing still and straight. Her head was raised, her chin pointing upwards and her eyes were closed.
Lavender hesitated going any closer, but she knew that it was for this reason that she had felt compelled to come down to the lake. She approached Hermione carefully, not wanting to startle her.
"Hermione." Lavender tried to make her voice as soft and gentle as she could. Hermione turned towards her. Unlike all of the others who left Harry's memorial, Hermione's face was dry.
Lavender waited for Hermione to say something. Hermione turned back to face the lake, but Lavender did not leave. Lavender was a firm believer in signs and gut feelings. Her gut told her to stay with Hermione. Be there for here. Lavender didn't move. She stood slightly behind Hermione, staring out into the lake.
The water was smooth and placid. It was a deep blue color and soothed her. Lavender began to get lost in her own thoughts. The last time she was down here she had seen her best friend murdered.
She had fought for her own life. She had seen countless friends, classmates, teachers fight and fall. The surroundings may be different from that day, almost as peaceful now as that day had been chaotic, but this place still held the memories that Lavender did not wish to relive.
Lavender sat down but kept her gaze on the water. She wondered if it was symbolic that she couldn't tear her eyes from the water. She tried to remember what Professor Trelawney had said about water imagery. It worked both ways, she remembered that much. Destructive and nurturing.
Right now, Lavender couldn't decide if she wanted the water to swallow her up or not. At times, it already felt to her as if she were drowning. Every space filled with too much emotion to stand it. Other times, her future loomed ahead of her just like the lake. Big, vast, and seemingly empty.
She had always thought life would work out in the end. Lavender was never one to think that she wouldn't get everything she wanted, and deserved. Now, her life never seemed so uncertain.
Her thoughts were suddenly pulled back down to earth as she heard Hermione speak. "You know when you have a dream." She began. "If it's a good dream, or a bad dream it doesn't really matter."
Hermione's voice was hoarse from little use. "When you wake up, you remember it and it all seems so real. But after awhile it slips away from you. All you're left with is fragments, and that's only if you try hard enough to remember. You're left with so little."
Lavender didn't quite follow, but now that Hermione had finally begun to talk she wasn't going to interrupt her with questions.
"Sometimes I'm afraid that's what will happen to me." Hermione turned to face Lavender. "I'm afraid that I'll lose him." She bit her lip. "I've already lost him."
Lavender made a move to comfort Hermione but she backed up slightly. "I need his memory. I need to remember the times I had with him and not think that it wasn't real."
Hermione sat down next to Lavender. She slid to the ground ungracefully and teetered as she lowered herself. The thin chain that was ducked in her dress slipped out, displaying itself for her to see.
On the end of the gold chain was a ring. It was simple and elegant. It was an engagement ring. Lavender's heart ached. She had always suspected, so many of them had.
Even in the early years of Hogwarts everyone had said that Harry and Hermione were meant to be. 'It's all in their glances', people would say. 'She would do anything for him'. 'She's the only one he trusts completely.'
Lavender had witnessed countless examples that led people to say such things. Casual hugs or touches. Hushed and intimate conversations. Those looks. Never had Lavender ever seen two people who could communicate so much through just a simple glance.
During their brief relationship Ron often talked about Hermione. True, this was because he always had a little crush on her, something that bugged Lavender to no end, but most of the conversations about Hermione also included Harry. 'Sometimes I feel like I hold them back' Ron would confide in her. 'I think that there may be something going on between them' he would say, but then would quickly rebuke the thought.
And now it seemed that they were right all along. The ring sparkled in the sun, the ultimate proof.
There was no doubt in Lavender's mind that that ring was given to Hermione from Harry. They had been off alone together for countless months, they had always been close. Lavender had known that love was never far behind them.
Lavender stared at the ring, admiring its beauty. Hermione noticed Lavender's stare.
"We never told anyone." Her voice came out barely above a whisper. "We were planning to, after it was all over, but then he…" she trailed off, leaving the worst part unspoken. It had been said enough today.
Lavender raised her eyes to peer into Hermione's own cinnamon brown. "Tell me."
Hermione nodded. Lavender knew that it would be hard for Hermione, but she also knew that it was necessary. Hermione needed to get this off her chest. She needed to tell someone. She could only stay silent for so long.
Lavender Brown had known Hermione Granger for seven years. They weren't best friends. She wasn't part of the infamous trio; there wasn't a trio anymore. Lavender could think of a hundred people that would be better at this than her, but at that moment, she was all Hermione had. In fact, it would probably be easier for Hermione to tell someone who wasn't one of her good friends. In a way it seemed to make everything less personal.
After her initial beginnings, Hermione once again grew silent. Lavender tried to coax her along. "I lost my best friend, too."
She wasn't trying to make Hermione's loss to seem less, or switch the attention to herself as she so often did in the past. No, Lavender just wanted her to know that she could understand in some way.
"I'm sorry." Hermione said. Though Lavender had been saying the same words to so many all day, it was only when Hermione said it to her that it sounded sincere. "I didn't know. After Harry - "
Lavender cut in. "No, don't feel bad about it. I mean, Harry was - " Lavender tried to find a word to sum up all that he was. She could use any of the number of things that the eulogizer had thrown out, but somehow it all seemed lacking.
"Harry was so much more than my best friend. He was more than all of that. Harry was beyond it all." Hermione said.
Lavender was quiet, letting Hermione get it all out.
Hermione sighed, "When I first met Harry it was a disaster. It was on the train. I knew before I went in his compartment that he was in there, who he was. I wanted him to like me. I was bossy and I tried so hard to seem mature. He was just so lost looking. So innocent. It was amazing to me that someone so famous could be so untainted."
"I wasn't that popular in my old school, before Hogwarts" Hermione bit her lip, "I guess that's not that hard to imagine."
Lavender shook her head. "You've had better friends than most."
She nodded. "That's true. The whole turning point in my life was Halloween 1st year. That's when we became friends, Harry, Ron and I."
Hermione's eyes began to gaze past Lavender's, getting lost in her thoughts. "I suppose that I've always loved Harry in some way. Since the first day I felt for him, wanted to be there for him. Then I loved him like a friend. I supported them, I thought about him all the time. Before I knew it, I loved him. Really loved him."
"The end of 4th year. That's when I knew for sure." Her lips twitched into a small smile.
"Didn't you date Viktor Krum then?" Lavender asked. She clearly remembered her own astonishment of Hermione Granger landing a professional quidditch hunk. An older man at that.
Surprisingly, Hermione laughed. Lavender, who hadn't heard any kind of laughter in so long was slightly taken aback. "Viktor and I were never anything serious. We were hardly friends. Besides, he was always jealous of Harry. It was thanks to Viktor that I discovered my feelings. One day he sat me down and asked me point blank how long Harry and I had been secretly dating. I was so shocked by the question. I told him how ridiculous he sounded."
"But then he told me about how often I talked about Harry. How I would always find a way to touch him, to be close to him. How I thought of him before anyone else, even myself. It was then that I knew."
Something suddenly popped into Lavender's mind. An image of the train station at the end of 4th year. "I remember!" She exclaimed. "You kissed him then, at the end of 4th year!"
"On the cheek, that hardly counts. Though I was quite proud of myself."
"Parvati and I spent a good deal of time analyzing that just so you know." Lavender amusedly shook her head.
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Oh really, and what conclusion did you reach?"
"We couldn't have been more wrong. We decided that you gave Harry the kiss of death. Put him permanently in the friend zone." Lavender huffed. "Apparently not."
"I was trying to get out of the friend zone!" Hermione laughed. "And that little kiss just made my feelings stronger. It became harder and harder to hide them. I even tried to direct them elsewhere. I could never picture Harry loving me back, and I didn't want to ruin our friendship."
Lavender nodded. "Ron?" She asked, assuming that was where Hermione was going. "Was that what 6th year was all about? You trying to move on?"
"I'm genuinely sorry about that." Hermione said sincerely. "It was unfair to you; you actually had real feelings for him. I just wanted someone to help me get over Harry."
Lavender shook her head. "We wouldn't have lasted. Ron didn't really like me. He just wanted a girlfriend. I was convenient."
"Don't think so low of yourself, Lavender. You're a great person. Ron's just immature and selfish."
"Really, Hermione. Isn't that a little harsh?"
Hermione pressed her lips into a thin line, something that Lavender associated more with Professor McGonagall. "Maybe. I'm not too happy with Ron right now."
"Why? He's your best friend!"
She shook her head sadly. "I don't have any best friends anymore. Harry died and Ron left us when we needed him most." Hermione cleared her throat. "It doesn't matter now though. It's over."
"Things will get better." Lavender put her hand lightly on Hermione's shoulder. How things would get better she didn't know. They couldn't possibly get worse, the worst was over now. She didn't know what to say to Hermione to make everything bright and happy.
"Losing Harry was the hardest thing that ever happened to me." Lavender could now see that Hermione's eyes were misting, moisture building up and threatening to spill out. "He was everything to me."
"Oh, Hermione. I know it's hard, but there's so much you have left. You're Hermione Granger for Merlin's sake. Top of the class! Brightest witch of her age! You really don't know how often I envied your intelligence. I know that we weren't always friends, but I always respected you and looked up to you. You were so many things that I wasn't. You were always so loyal, so brave."
Hermione was silent, her tears flowing noiselessly. Lavender wondered if maybe she had taken a wrong approach. In her experience flattery was always the best solution. Everyone loved hearing good things about themselves.
Lavender was just pondering what she should do next when Hermione spoke once more. "When Ron left I thought it was a sign. I know, how ironic. Hermione Granger believing in signs." She pondered. "I think that you would know what I'm talking about though, the feeling that something happened for a reason."
Lavender nodded, pushing Hermione on. She knew that Ron had left Harry and Hermione with whatever they were doing. Lavender wasn't one to listen too hard to the details. She could recall Ron showing up at Hogwarts one day without them. He never gave anyone an explanation, but everyone knew that Harry and Hermione were still out there, working for a better future, fighting. When Ron came back he wasn't accepted with open arms or even with a handshake. Though he never said anything about why he left, they all knew that he did. He left his best friends behind. He left Harry Potter.
"Ron had always been a buffer. With him around it kept Harry and me in place. When he left he said that I was choosing Harry." She wryly smiled through her tears. "It wasn't that really, I just wasn't choosing him. I must admit that Harry was part of the reason I stayed. I would never leave him, no matter what."
"When Ron left the barriers were gone. I knew that our relationship couldn't continue to stay where it was. For years Harry and I were in the in-between zone. We were more than friends, but we weren't quite there yet. I didn't even know if he wanted to be."
"I know that those months would either make us or break us. Not apart of course, nothing could make me leave Harry. But I knew that it was a possibility that Harry and I would only be friends and nothing more forever. With Ron gone I was expecting this to happen, for it all to come out. I was scared. I didn't want to lose my best friend, or my secret hopes that he might one day be more."
Lavender was listening intently. Obviously she knew which way the story would go, but the emotion that Hermione's voice betrayed allowed Lavender to see how much Hermione had been through. Lavender didn't know if she could have been in Hermione's situation. Not including the actual months in a tent and fighting for your life which Lavender definitely knew she couldn't do. She was more of a hotel kind of girl. But to be with someone you loved so much for so long, to hope for the best but willing to settle for the worst; Lavender couldn't help but admire Hermione's strength.
"How did it happen?" Lavender asked. "How did you and Harry get together?" She knew it sounded lame; something often used in "Witch Weekly" interviews with famous couples, but Lavender never had a way with words like Hermione.
Hermione took in a deep breath and wiped the lingering tears from her face. "For awhile it was the same as before. A little tense, but mostly the same. I was upset at Ron for leaving, and Harry shut himself away. But we didn't have time to be selfish; we had to keep looking. It all changed after we visited Harry's parent's graves. I always knew that Harry relied on me for many things. Homework, class notes he missed, spells, but that day was the first time I could clearly see that he needed me. I didn't know if that was anything more than that, but it was enough. After that I told him."
"What did you say? What did he say?" Lavender interjected. It was almost as if nothing had changed, like she was back in her Hogwarts dorm once again gossiping about boys and relationships. True, she never did that with Hermione, but still, it was comforting in a strange way.
Hermione laughed. "I told him that I loved him, that I always loved him and no matter what happened I would continue to love him. I said that we've been friends for seven years and that despite all the bad things that happened, all the danger and hardships, they were the best years of my life because I was with him."
She paused. A long pause. Lavender cleared her throat expectantly. Hermione laughed. "Come on! Continue. What did he say back?"
"Nothing?" Lavender furrowed her brow. "He didn't say anything?"
"Not at first. Harry wasn't the world's most eloquent guy." She bit her lip, restraining further laughter. "He kind of stared at me for a while. At the time I was terrified, but looking back it's rather funny. His mouth was formed in a perfect 'O' and his eyes were wide as can be. Finally I couldn't stand the silence any longer so I got up and started to leave." Hermione smiled lightly to herself, her eyes softening with the memories. "That's when he moved. He darted in front of me. He's quite fast you know, quidditch and all that. He was all broken words and confused sentences. But I understood it all. I could always read him, even when he was bumbling like a fool. He told me that I was the most important person in his life. I was his rock, his reason to go on." Hermione broke off. "He told me he loved me too."
Lavender smiled. She could see how they were perfect for one another. The give and take. They were soul mates.
"We spent the rest of the night talking. I told him how I loved him for so long and how I tried to hide it. It seemed that we had more in common than even we thought. He said he did the same thing. We talked about Ron and how I could never make myself feel for him like I did for Harry. We talked about Ginny and his quest for normalcy."
"That night changed everything. It wasn't just the physical part of our relationship that changed." Hermione blushed at this. "It was everything. We were fully there for one another. We could talk about anything, share our secrets and voice our fears."
"I had always known Harry well, but now I knew him completely." Hermione's voice grew thick with emotion and once again her eyes started to cloud up with water. "He was truly the most amazing person. He was so brave. No one knows how scared he was. No one knows how many nights he would cling to me in his sleep, fighting off Voldemort. Even in his dreams he couldn't escape him."
"Today at the funeral, what the eulogizer said, he didn't even know. Of course he was right, Harry was kind and funny and brave and smart and all those other things he rattled off. But he was so much more. So much that no one else saw. He wasn't the perfect martyr that he's painted as now. He was irrational and jealous and rash, but it made him Harry. And Harry is who I loved. Who I will always love."
Lavender reached out and hugged Hermione. She stiffened, but eventually gave in, molding into Lavender, weeping on her shoulder. Lavender patted her back lightly. Hermione pulled back and the ring once again caught the sun's rays, slightly dazzling Lavender.
She pointed at the ring. "When?"
Hermione wiped her face, "Two weeks ago." She sniffled slightly. "We were so happy. We were scared and hungry and had so much ahead of us, but we were happy. We had each other and that was all that mattered."
She took the ring in her hand. "No one knows, of course. Except you now." She fiddled with it, making the light reflect off its edges. "I can't wear it on my finger, everyone would see." Hermione shook her head. "I don't want sympathy for that. My relationship with Harry is private. If things were different I would like nothing more than to tell everyone, but he's gone."
"Still, I can't not wear it. It means that it was all real, it reminds me that he did love me."
Lavender nodded. "I know he did."
Hermione raised her eyes to Lavender's and quirked her eyebrow questioningly.
"It was so obvious. You were made for each other."
Hermione tucked the ring back into her dress, close to her heart. "Yes, we were."
Lavender got up, brushing the grass off her robes. "I need to be getting on now. A couple of Hogwarts people are meeting up in Hogsmeade. Do you want to come?" She asked as she extended her hand out for Hermione.
Hermione lifted herself up with help of Lavender. She shook her head. "That's alright. I think I'm kind of done with all that."
"What do you mean? 'All that.'"
"Just the crowd. Hogsmeade. All of it, I guess." She sighed. "Anyways, I have to go to Australia to visit my parents. Though I appreciate it, Lavender. All of it."
Hermione smiled at Lavender. Lavender didn't think that she could recall a time that she and Hermione had such a long conversation, or one as meaningful. "Take care, Hermione." Lavender hugged her. "I'm always available if you want to talk. I think that Neville and I are going out to dinner next week, you could always come along."
"I don't think so, but thanks." Hermione turned and began to walk away, up the steep hill that led out of Hogwarts. "Tell Neville bye for me though. I didn't get to tell him myself. Tell him I'll try to keep in touch. With you too."
"Yeah, I'll see you around." Lavender said.
Hermione bit her lip and looked away. "Goodbye."
Lavender watched as Hermione's outline grew smaller and smaller until she couldn't see her anymore.
A couple months later Lavender received a letter from Hermione. It wasn't sent by owl, but instead was mailed. Thankfully Lavender had a normal mailing address. She liked to read muggle Cosmo. It was short and was the first bit of news that Lavender had heard about Hermione in months. No one had seen her since the memorial.
If you need to reach me use muggle post. Keep in touch. Please don't tell anyone you heard from me.
An address was included. An American address. Later, Lavender told Neville about it. Though Hermione told her not to, she was never really that good at keeping secrets. Telling only one person was really a giant leap forward.
"I got one too." He said. "She's really left." Lavender knew that he meant the wizarding world.
Neville shook his head sadly. "I don't think that she knows how to be in it without him."
"Maybe it's better this way. She can move on, get over him." Lavender said.