K+ - Romance, Humour – Harry/Hermione – Oneshot
Summary: A Transfiguration essay is a strange place for a revelation but then Harry's never been particularly normal.
Disclaimer: Isn't it obvious? Meum non est. All JKR's. I'm just having fun.
A/N: Not noticeably HBP or DH compliant. Upon reflection, probably set in an AU fifth or sixth year.
Harry, along with the rest of the class, stared at Professor McGonagall in disbelief. What kind of assignment was that? Had she made a mistake? But no, there it was, written out across the blackboard in her neat script: Write a two foot essay about a person who has inspired you. What did that have to do with Transfiguration?
Dean's incredulous complaints got a little too loud and the professor skewered him with a glare that made him shut his mouth with an audible click and scrunch down in his seat, trying to look inedible. No one else in the class dared to protest the assignment after that. Which meant that they were stuck with having to write the thing. Great.
Hermione was being strangely secretive about the whole thing and chose to sit alone at a corner table in the commonroom. Ron, after some groaning and complaining, happily went off to the dorm to read up on his favourite Chudley Cannons keeper. That left Harry sitting by himself at their usual table in the commonroom and staring hopelessly at a piece of blank parchment while the ink dried on his quill.
Someone who inspired him? Like, uh, Dumbledore? Did Dumbledore inspire him? It wasn't like he wanted to become the Headmaster or anything, which was how Ron was taking the topic. But he did feel awful when he disappointed the man. Was that what Professor McGonagall meant?
Who has inspired you. What did that mean exactly? Oliver had been pretty inspiring over Quidditch, he supposed, chewing absentmindedly on his quill. The Dursleys had only inspired an intense desire to escape, so Harry didn't figure that counted but it didn't tell him what did count. Merlin, right now he'd rather a fabulously tricky essay on human-inanimate transfigurations. At least then there'd be some book somewhere he could look at. How was he supposed to figure this one out? So he did a Hermione and went to the library.
Looking in a dictionary didn't help. It had definitions for 'inspire' all right, but they were all things like 'to breathe' or 'to instruct by divine influence'. That couldn't be what Professor McGonagall meant. A clue would have been nice, he thought, irritated, as he doodled on the corner of his parchment and glowered at the unhelpful dictionary.
He looked up as Neville and Dean came past. "Hi, guys. Oh, hey, have you done that essay yet?"
"Which one?" Dean asked. "Snape's one or—"
"No, for McGonagall."
"Nope, but I know who I'm going to write about."
"Who?" Neville asked, as curious as Harry.
"Who?" Neville repeated, now just looking perplexed.
"A Muggle rock star. He's awesome."
That sounded like a different version of Ron's Cannons keeper and Harry sighed. "What about you, Neville?"
Neville shrugged. "I thought maybe Merlin... or Augustus Jones."
"Who?" it was Dean's turn to ask.
"He was an auror who fought Grindelwald's forces. No one ever defeated him in combat and he's supposed to be the greatest fighter ever. Haven't you heard of him? There's comic books about him and everything."
"Comic books? About a real guy?" Dean and Harry exchanged glances. The magical world was still kinda weird.
"Sure. Who are you going to write about, Harry?"
"I have no idea," he admitted.
'What about Dumbledore?" Neville asked suddenly. "There's got to be heaps of stuff written about him. That would be easy."
"I thought about that, but no."
"I might do him then. You wouldn't mind?"
"Nah, go for it."
The pair wandered off and Harry sighed heavily, staring at the parchment again. It was mocking him, he was sure of it. He tried to tune it out and concentrate on the essay he was supposed to be writing. From the sounds of it everyone else was writing about famous people, so maybe he should just stop worrying about this and pick someone. Merlin might be interesting to write about...
Harry picked up his quill with determination then sighed and put it down again without inscribing a single letter. It wasn't that he couldn't write an essay like that, it was just that he didn't think it was what they were supposed to do. Someone who inspired him. Famous people didn't inspire him, they were just fun to talk about and pretend to be.
Really, Harry thought as he shoved the unhelpful dictionary back in the shelf, the person who inspired him, the person who drove him forwards, was... Hermione.
Which sounded stupid. She was his friend, she wasn't some Quidditch player or a big famous hero. She was just Hermione. Not that Hermione was ever 'just' anything, of course, but she wasn't—She wasn't—She was Hermione.
And, try as he might, Harry couldn't shake the idea that she was exactly what Professor McGonagall meant.
So he sat down and started to write.
It sounds stupid, he began honestly, but the person who has inspired me the most is Hermione Granger. I guess most boys wouldn't admit that, she's just a girl, just my friend. But she's always stood by me and she always thinks I can do things even when I'm sure I can't. She always helps me even if she's really busy and she puts up with my bad moods and she tells me the truth even when I don't want to know it. She believes in me, even when almost no one else does.
The words were pouring out of him now, as if he'd opened a floodgate.
Even in first year she thought I could do great things when I was just a stupid kid who would say mean things as often as not. And because she believes in me she gives me the courage to believe in myself, to think that maybe I'm not just the freak in the cupboard. Because if someone like Hermione, who is the best, bravest, cleverest person I ever met, thinks that I'm worth something then I really must be worth something. I have to be.
And because she believes it then I want to be. I want to be what she thinks I am so I work harder than I would by myself, I try harder than I would just for me. For Hermione I want to be everything she believes I am. Because I can't disappoint her. I'd rather face Voldemort without my wand than disappoint Hermione. So she inspires me to become the best person I can be, which is weird but true. Without Hermione I wouldn't be anything.
She doesn't believe that. Which is stupid. That's the only time she's stupid, is when she's thinking about herself. She doesn't think she's worth much but she's the best person in the whole world and one day I'm going to convince her. She thinks I don't really need her, that I just put up with her. She doesn't think I know, but I'm not completely thick and I can see it only I don't know how to convince her. Without Hermione I'm just some stupid kid with a madman after me. With Hermione I have a chance.
She thinks she's just useful as a dictionary on legs, she doesn't even think she's pretty. But she is. She's got a smile that makes me smile just looking at it because it's so real and genuine and she only smiles when she means it. And she never wears makeup so I know that I'm really looking at Hermione and not some paint, which I like. I like seeing the real her. She thinks her hair is awful but I like the way it tangles and it's not as bad as mine so I don't know what she's complaining about really. And when she's thinking real hard she bites her lip and it's just so Hermione I have to smile and—
Harry stared at his parchment, his lips moving silently.
Oh hell, he wrote in bewilderment. I'm in love with Hermione.
He stared at his essay in stupefaction. It wasn't possible. Was it? He couldn't be...
No way. She was – she was Hermione.
Harry had no idea how long he sat there in a befuddled daze, the words blurring in front of his eyes but their meaning crystal clear.
"Harry!" Ron came sweeping up excitedly, barely keeping his voice down to an acceptable library level. Harry hastily let his parchment roll up so Ron couldn't see what he'd written. "Harry, come on, Dean and Seamus are starting a game of Quidditch. You've gotta be my seeker!"
Relieved at the thought of a distraction, Harry hastily shoved his things away in his bag and followed Ron. In the subsequent game of Quidditch he managed to bury his unexpected revelation so far down in his mind that he forgot about it. And the assignment.
It wasn't until Professor McGonagall was going around the class collecting the essays that he remembered he was supposed to write one himself.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione whispered. "You didn't forget?"
And of course he instantly wanted to say no because he knew Hermione wouldn't hate him for it but she'd be disappointed in him and he didn't want her to be disappointed in him. So it was with great relief that he remembered the parchment he'd shoved into his bag several days back and he fished it out, straightened it hastily, and put it proudly on his desk. Hermione smiled at him and he grinned back.
After all, he'd managed to forget, with great effort, just what it was he'd written on that parchment.
A couple of days later Professor McGonagall handed back the essays with a few words of encouragement or criticism. When she stopped at Harry he had the disconcerting feeling that she was trying very hard not to smile. Or possibly laugh.
"Well done, Mr Potter," she said. "You were one of only two people in the entire year to work out precisely what it was I was asking for. Although I have to admit, yours was the most... original essay I have ever had to privilege to read."
Uneasily sure he was being laughed at, even if he didn't know why, Harry mumbled something in acknowledgement and accepted back the roll of parchment.
"What did you write about?" Ron demanded when the professor had moved on.
"I wrote... I wrote about Hermione," he admitted in a whisper.
"Hermione?" Ron repeated in disbelief.
"But why would you—" Caught beneath both Harry and Hermione's glares, he shut up.
"You really wrote about me?" Hermione asked in a shocked undertone.
"Why wouldn't I?" he said defensively. He had the feeling that if they hadn't been in class she would have hugged him. He rather wished they weren't in class.
Which was about the point he remembered exactly what he'd written in his essay. He said a word that drew a shocked "Harry!" from Hermione.
He hadn't. Please, he hadn't.
He unrolled the scroll cautiously, trying not to let either Ron or Hermione see what was written there.
Oh hell, I'm in love with Hermione.
No wonder Professor McGonagall had been laughing at him.
The professor came back to them, giving Ron's essay to him with a "Good effort, Mr Weasley" and searching through her new pile of scrolls for Hermione's. "Well done, Miss Granger. You and Mr Potter here were the two who gave me what I asked for."
"Who'd you write about?" Ron demanded as Professor McGonagall walked away.
Hermione blushed vividly. "It doesn't matter."
"Well, how'd you guys figure out what to write? And why didn't you tell me!"
"I didn't know it was what she wanted," Harry protested. "And you'd've thought I was being stupid anyway."
"Can I read it, then?"
His voice came out in a panicked shout that made Professor McGonagall turn around. "Is there a problem, Mr Potter?"
"No," he squeaked, going red in the face as the class stared at him. Merlin, why couldn't he have written about someone safe, like Dumbledore? Or forgotten to hand in the essay? He'd much rather get a fail for the assignment than have to deal with this!
Ron gave him a funny look. Hermione patted his arm sympathetically, which just made his face burn brighter. Couldn't class just finish already so that he could go down to the lake and drown himself?
Somehow he got through the lesson without expiring, though the heat on his face never entirely went away. Every time he was starting to calm down Hermione would accidentally bump him or lean close to ask him a question, and then he'd feel like there was a neon sign flashing above his head with his essay on it for the whole class to read. And when Hermione wasn't bothering him by just existing, it was Professor McGonagall glancing over at him with a twinkle far too reminiscent of Dumbledore's in her eyes, making him remember that not only had he written the essay, he'd given it to her to read.
If he transfigured himself into a crumple-horned snorkack, would Luna let him live in the bottom of her garden?
Even the end of class didn't bring him any relief because Professor McGonagall called over the noise of hastily packing students, "Mr Potter, a word please."
"We'll meet you in Charms," Hermione said and he nodded glumly.
Dragging his feet, Harry made his way up to the front of the classroom. "Yes, Professor?"
"I don't usually choose to interfere in these matters, Mr Potter, but you should allow Miss Granger to read your essay."
He couldn't bring himself to say "Are you mad?" to Professor McGonagall, but his face said it anyway.
Unexpectedly, she smiled. "I'll tell you a secret, Harry."
"Her essay was about you."
He stared at her blankly. "You don't mean...?"
She patted him on the shoulder. "Just let her read your essay, Harry. I promise you she'll like it."
If a thousand dementors had appeared in the room at that instant Harry could have produced a patronus capable of getting rid of every single one of them. He grinned happily. "Thanks, Professor!"
Snatching up his bag, Harry headed for Charms at a speed perilously close to a run.