a/n: Story for Cuban Sombrero Gal's Five Things Challenge (there's a link on my profile if you'd like to give it a try ^-^) Takes place the year after DH when everyone goes back to Hogwarts to finish school (well, let's pretend that everyone goes back...) ANGST, SLASH, LEMON/LIME.
There are only five chapters to this story and updates will be every Saturday, unless I get a little review happy :P
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, sadly.
"Harry, I found that book you needed for-"
The heavy tome Hermione had been clutching to her breast fell to the floor with a thud and for once in her life, Hermione Granger had absolutely nothing to say. No snide or offhanded comments, no suggestions on how someone or something could improve, no words to describe the scene before her.
"Hermione!" Harry cried breathlessly, clutching his Gryffindor gold sheet to his heaving chest with both hands. "Don't you knock?"
It wasn't the fact that Harry was naked that kept her feet plastered to the carpet, no matter how much she wished to just turn her back and walk away. No, she'd accidentally walked in on him in the shower enough times at the Burrow and Harry had just shouted "Occupied!" at the top of his lungs until she had covered her eyes and backed slowly out of the bathroom.
"Filthy Mudbloods," Draco Malfoy muttered as he surfaced from beneath the covers near Harry's lower half, his pale hair disheveled. "Don't have any manners."
"Malfoy!" Harry said sternly, glaring at the other boy. Malfoy didn't seem abashed. He gave Harry a suggestive smirk and then turned his attention back to Hermione.
Malfoy... "Oh, god," This was perhaps the most uncomfortable, most awkward, most life-changing situation she had been a part of to date, and probably the last place she had ever meant to be. She shouldn't have been in the girl's bathroom when a troll was rampaging the school, she shouldn't have been sulking around the corridors while students were being petrified by a Basilisk left and right, she shouldn't have been in the hospital after drinking that botched polyjuice potion, she shouldn't have gone to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum when she really wanted to go with Ron, and she definitely shouldn't have been standing in Harry's doorway at that very moment.
"Well, don't just stand there. Either leave, or come join us," Malfoy spat. Harry groaned and put his head in his hands, his already flushed cheeks glowing brighter from embarrassment. He gave a low moan, which could have been Malfoy's name, but Hermione couldn't be sure.
"Erm..." Hermione stammered, unable to look away from Malfoy's flawless skin. She finally was able to come to her senses enough to cover her eyes with both hands, firmly shutting out the strange couple on the bed. "I think I'll leave... if you don't mind..."
"Please!" Harry said quietly. He sounded close to tears, and Hermione wanted to tell him that everything was okay and that she would still be his friend, no matter what his sexual preference may be, but her mouth wasn't working. So she backed out of the room quickly and slammed the door shut, kicking the book she had dropped to the side.
Once out in the hallway, Hermione sat down on the floor and removed her hands from her eyes, but kept them closed. The image of Malfoy and Harry burned in her eyelids. She rubbed at her eyes with the palms of her hands, but the pictures were still there.
How could she not have seen it before? It was unnatural that two people could hate each other so much. She should have seen through the facade. And the bruises on Harry's neck and arms. He'd said it was from Quidditch, an excuse Hermione had been ready to accept. But did she accept it because she truly was blind or because she chose not to see? And Harry's private room... Surely the only reason he had requested his own quarters was because he feared for everyone's safety, as his powers had grown almost beyond his control after defeating Voldemort.
She heard Harry's door open and a cool voice commanded, "Get in here." Hermione looked up to see Malfoy staring down at her, his arms folded. He had put on a pair of Harry's jeans (Hermione could tell they must be Harry's because they were a good three inches too short for Malfoy and he wouldn't be caught dead wearing something so worn-looking) and his uniform shirt, left unbuttoned.
Though she felt she was being treated like a disobedient dog, Hermione ignored her pride for the moment and scrambled to her feet, following Malfoy's order and entering Harry's room.
Harry still lay on the bed, much how she had left him, but it appeared as though he had gotten up, albeit momentarily, to put on a white t-shirt and a pair of plaid flannel pajama bottoms. He stared sullenly out his bedroom window overlooking the lake and surrounding forest.
The door shut quietly and Hermione turned to ask Malfoy for a bit of privacy, only to find that he had already left, taking the rest of his clothes with him. She marveled at his thoughtfulness as she turned her attention back to Harry. He was looking at her now.
"Do you hate me?" he asked, his voice was steady despite whatever tears he may have shed before she entered the room. "I'd hate me."
Hermione shook her head and went to sit next to Harry on the bed, a small voice in the back of her head reminded her what kind of things went on in that bed, but she pushed the voice away. "I don't hate you," she assured him. "And you shouldn't hate yourself."
Harry sighed. "I don't believe you. The look on your face when you walked in while we were..." he paused and seemed to redirect his thoughts. "The look on your face. You were disgusted."
She tried remembering what expression she had made, but hadn't really been thinking about herself at the time, so had nothing to remember. She couldn't even remember the title of the book she had been so eager to show Harry, but was now lying forgotten in the hall. "I was surprised," she said to Harry. "I had absolutely no idea that you two were..." she trailed off. That they were what? Friends, dating, lovers, all of the above?
"No one knows... Well, I should say, now one knew..." Harry said miserably, looking down at his hands curled around the golden sheets.
Hermione started. "What makes you think I'm going to tell anyone? Despite what you may think, Harry, I'm still your friend, and I would never betray your confidence."
"Don't be stupid!" he spat, sounding very much like Malfoy in his anger. "I know you tell Ron everything. And I also know that you'd pick your relationship with him over our friendship any day." Hermione stared at him, her brow furrowing in worry. "I also know that this is too big a secret to keep," Harry continued. "Imagine having to keep it for three years! Do you know how many times I came so close to telling you? But I just couldn't."
"Why?" Hermione choked.
"Because. You dealt with enough of my problems and this seemed minor in comparison. But now I have nothing else to do but be alone and think about everything that's happened. I get so caught up in the past that I can't see the present, and I doubt there's a future." He shook his head before continuing. "You've moved on, but I can't. You and Ron are together now and you're so happy. I wonder what's died inside me that I can't be that happy with someone...
Malfoy keeps me sane, if only for a few hours."
Hermione's heart ached for her friend. If only she had known how much she had hurt him, still hurt him... But she couldn't sacrifice her own happiness for his, however much he needed it. And she had thought he was happy. True, there were times when she was afraid his troubled life would get the best of him, but he always pulled through, and with a smile on his face. But the smile was just a smile, not real happiness.
Her regret and her apologies hardly seemed worth anything now, so she didn't offer them. "Does he love you?" she asked instead, genuinely curious.
Harry shrugged. "I don't really know, to be honest. I don't think so. At least, he's never mentioned love. I'm not even sure Malfoy has the capacity to love someone that's not himself."
"Do you love him?" Hermione asked, a small part of her hoping that his answer was no, if only to spare him from some torment if Malfoy really didn't return the feeling.
To Hermione's relief, Harry shook his head. "No, but then again, I've never known what love is."
"I love you. Ron loves you. I know for a fact Mrs. Weasley wishes desperately that you were one of her own. Ginny still loves you, even after all she went through to get your attention. Well, at least I know now why you turned her down. I had thought you were saving her from harm, but it turns out you were saving yourself a bit too, weren't you."
Harry ignored Hermione's conjectures about why he had rejected Ginny. "The way you love me is different from the way you love Ron. He could kill you and you'd still love him, even with your dying breath. It's unconditional."
"Not true, Harry, not true," Hermione said, shaking her head. "My love for you is unconditional too. You're like a brother to me. Nothing you could ever say or do will make me love you less. In fact, it might just make me love you more for trusting me enough."
He laughed a little under his breath, obviously not convinced that what she was telling him was the truth. Hermione huffed impatiently. She always did have to spell things out for him to see it, but she would let the topic slide for now, as she had no way of proving her love beyond what she had just told him.
"What do you want me to say, Harry?" she asked him, at a loss. "I don't know what you want."
Harry laughed again, louder. "This is a first. Hermione Granger doesn't know everything. She's human after all." His tone was sarcastic, but Hermione could see through the bitterness and mustered up a laugh in response.
"You're human too, Harry," she reminded him playfully.
He stopped laughing abruptly, his expression grave. "I know that. Do you know that?"