This story was inspired by a sentence I read from Harry Potter Wikia. It's a quote from J. and goes like:
In "Harry, A History", Rowling told Melissa Anelli that Steve Kloves had suspected something might happen between Hermione and Harry while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: "He felt a certain pull between them at that point. And I think he's right. There are moments when [Harry and Hermione] touch, which are charged moments. One when she touches his hair as he sits on the hilltop reading about Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and [two] the moment when they walk out of the graveyard with their arms around each other. Now the fact is that Hermione shares moments with Harry that Ron will never be able to participate in. He walked out. She shared something very intense with Harry. So I think it could have gone that way."
I've always felt there should be more to Harry and Hermione's story, after all they went through together. I think their characters share so much in common: they both want to influence the world around them and do exceptional things. They both have high expections of themselves. What if, after the War, they couldn't just fall into the roles of spouses or parents, but instead lingered in their memories of travelling together?
Thus, this story was born. Enjoy and review, please!
Disclaimer: Everything related to Harry Potter belongs to J..
She was shivering underneath the big pashmina she had rolled around herself. It was rather chilly for August, and tonight especially was cold due to the humid mist hanging low on the streets of London. Harry put his arm around her and tried to warm her up by rubbing her arms. She smiled thankfully at him, although he doubted his attempts really did anything. Ron was running late, and they had no other option but to stand here on a small road next to Tottenham Court Road, waiting for him to arrive.
They had spent the afternoon on Diagon Alley shopping and had left Ron to have a pint at the Leaky Cauldron with Neville whom they had ran into, and had impulsively decided to take a stroll in the muggle world. It was rather nice, in a strange way. Hermione was the only person around Harry who understood his nostalgic attachment to the Muggle world, to the world of normalcy and foreseeability that they had both lived in for years. Tonight had been a rare opportunity for them to spend time together alone: after the War had ended they had both married and although they lived very close to each other and met frequently both at work and after, it was a rare treat for them to meet without the company of several people. Harry had often found himself missing both Ron and Hermione, missing their breakfasts and adventures together that he had for years taken for granted. In a way it also made him feel a bit left out to know that Hermione and Ron were sharing a home that he didn't belong to: living with Ginny was great but she had always been more of a lover than a friend to him. He missed his old friends.
While Harry was in his thoughts looking up and down the street to see if a familiar-looking car would appear from somewhere (from nowhere, most likely), Hermione was eyeing people who passed them without so much as a glance. They were both dressed up in quite a wizardly manner, but that was nothing new to the passers-by: this was London, after all. Hermione looked relatively normal but they had been a bit worried about Harry's cloak: in the darkness, however, it looked just like a normal black overcoat if you didn't look closely enough. Her gaze moved from the people to the surrounding buildings, and suddenly she gasped and grabbed Harry's arm.
"Harry! Do you recognise that coffee place?"she asked almost breathlessly and pointed across the road. He turned his head and looked towards the shabby coffee place she was pointing at. It didn't look familiar at all until he caught a sight in from the windows. Then it hit him: this was the coffee place they had went to to plan their next move after escaping Bill and Fleur's wedding. It still looked just as dingy and uninviting as it had the first time, but still he felt a strange chunk rise to his throat looking at it: that was where it had all started, the beginning of their long journey. Hermione was holding her breath next to him, marvelling at the sight and he knew she was thinking the same thing. She turned towards him.
"Let's go in. I want to see it..." she almost whispered the end of the sentence, not wanting to break the strangely moving moment. He nodded silently and they crossed the road together, still holding hands, two people who, to the outside eye, were an ordinary couple on their way to have a cup of coffee in a badly-chosen coffee shop.
The door wailed softly when Hermione pushed it open. A quiet atmosphere greeted them upon their entrance: there was only one other customer, an old man who was playing cards by himself at a table next to the counter. The waitress was, of course, different from the unfriendly girl that had worked there last time. Harry briefly wondered if she had retired from her job after the strange events that had taken place in there, or perhaps she had been fired after not being able to explain the destroyed property.
He followed Hermione to the same booth they had sat in last time, even choosing the same spots they had chosen last time; the only difference was that now there were two instead of three; and the new tables that had, no doubt, been bought to replace the old destroyed ones. The dark-haired young waitress came to their table and managed to smile at them, handing two worn out menus. They stayed clear of coffee, instead ordering black tea. Hermione took her scarf off and folded it neatly in her lap. Then she put her head between her hands and looked pensievely out of the window. Her skin was still tanned from the summer, and her cheeks were flushed from the walk. It was Harry who broke the silence.
"I can't believe it's only been five years. It feels like it was so long ago...so many things have changed. The War being over and everything."
Hermione turned her gaze back towards him and there was a strange look in her eyes. She looked tired and sad. Harry wondered if his own eyes mirrored those feelings. He certainly felt old and sort of...worn out. It hadn't been easy to adjust to a normal life after all the strange things that had happened during his school years. It had been hard to accept that the adventurous life he had been forced to live had at some point become a part of him, a part he now missed, being deprived of it. Hermione didn't comment, instead saying suddenly:
"I don't think Ron is coming, Harry. I think he misunderstood where or when he was supposed to pick us up or maybe he's too drunk to drive." Something about the way she said it suggested that it wouldn't be the first time, and Harry was oddly reminded that every family had their secrets, outside the knowledge of even the closest of friends. Hermione didn't continue on the subject, instead picking up the previous subject.
"It really has been a long time. I actually thought of this place a few weeks back. I was wondering if I would find it if I came back to look for it," she hesitated for a moment. "I never did, but I'm happy we came across this place now. God, we were such children the last time we..." she didn't finish her thought. Harry understood anyway. Her hand was across the table and Harry was just about to take it into his, when the waitress returned with the two cups of tea and placed them on the table.
"Excuse me, could we also get two cups of coffee, please?" Hermione asked her, and Harry stared at her in surprise. The coffee definetely hadn't been worth having even once. She shrugged her shoulders at him.
"For old times sake, you know."
The waitress was scribbling the order onto her note pad and almost looked surprised at the order. Probably coffee wasn't one of the things people usually ordered here. Then she left. The old man was still dealing cards to himself, not seeming to pay any attention to them. Hermione poured some milk into her tea and absent-mindedly stirred it around in the cup. Harry looked at her face and saw the same sad look in her eyes. He tried to imagine what she would look like to a stranger. Years spent with her made him a bit biased: she was Hermione, and that was all. To a stranger she would probably be an ordinary girl, a bit prettier than average, but just a bit. Not the type that would actually catch your eye on the street on an ordinary day. But Harry knew better. He could see goodness on her face, goodness that might've been invisible to others, but not to him. He cast his eyes to his own drink. He had really missed her.
As if she had heard his thoughts she suddenly smiled and said: "I've missed you, Harry. I miss being able to sit with you quietly, not constantly having to talk."
He looked back up. This time he did take her hand into his. He couldn't quite say the words to her, but he thought she understood his longing anyway. She smiled at him. The waitress returned with the coffee and they both grinned a bit mischeviously. The liquid looked more like an espresso than coffee and undoubtedly the taste would be rather similiar, too.
"What shall we toast to?" she asked him. He raised his drink and she mimicked him.
"To the old times!" he proclaimed. She repeated it after him and they toasted the big mugs together, smiling widely at the memory of the last time they had ordered coffee here. Then they took a sip, both making a face at the bitterness of it. It was nice, still, to share the experience.
Hermione looked at him a bit pensievely again, as if she was calculating something. Harry took a sip of his tea, waiting. Then she almost blurted out:
"I've been thinking of the time we were travelling together, Harry. All these years, and it just gets worse. I just..." she stuggled to find the words. "I just can't live like this. Concentrating on my work, no matter how important it is, day after day. To argue with Ron about who has to cook and what. To worry about what to do on weekends, to make life a bit more bearable...I miss it - us - so much. Even though it was hell when it happened, I miss the feeling I was actually doing something." she paused and bit her lip, a pained expression on her face, as if she was trying to force the words back down her throat. I understood her all too well: how often did I lie in bed in the mornings, feeling like I didn't really have a reason to get up and start another day of meaningless living. I was quite surprised to hear Hermione was feeling it too, though: she if anyone was a master of keeping herself under control, to work herself towards a bigger goal than the everyday struggle. But what if there's no bigger goal left...
"I think I know what you mean," he said slowly. "Ginny says it's a God complex, that I
just need to feel like I'm a part of something bigger-than-life. But... it doesn't make it any easier to know why I feel the way I do. I just wish I could get excited about moving in to a bigger apartment, or about starting a family, but I can't. I've tried to, to please her, but I'm just not sure if I can, ever..." There was no need for further explanations; Hermione already knew Ginny wanted them to start having children and that he wanted to wait for a while longer. He didn't even know what he waited for: all in all, this would be the perfect moment to start a family. Deep down he had to admit he was scared of becoming a father. Out of all the things he knew he could do well, being a father hardly was one of them.
Hermione pushed hair out of her eyes and grabbed his hand again, with an understanding look on her face.
"I know what you're thinking of, Harry. I think you would make a wonderful father someday. Not having had a father doesn't mean you couldn't become a good one. Maybe this just isn't the right time for you. Not yet."
Her words made him feel a bit better, but also upset him slightly: was he this easy to read? He stole a glance at her face. He couldn't read her at all as easily. Even now when he was looking at her in the eyes, he could hardly penetrate the walls she had lately put around herself; he indeed didn't know what she was thinking.
"I never thanked you for not leaving with Ron. You know, in the woods. Thank you. That meant more to me than I can tell you," he confessed. She nodded at him, smiling.
"You know I would do it again, anytime you want me to," she said softly. Her eyes looked at him and again, there was the sad look in them. He liked her words: it was almost like there was a hidden message behind them. For a split second he imagined what it would be like to still be with her in the woods, eternally searching for the Horcruxes, until they got lost in the woods for good. It was a strangely pleasant thought, to escape with her into the dark inviting forest, never to return. But then, the accusing face of Ginny surfaced before him, and he shrugged his thoughts off his mind. They were wrong: it had always been Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny. Why would he want to abandon her? Surely Hermione hadn't meant what he thought she had.
And still... at the back of his mind, the thought buried itself deep. The green leaves of the woods, calling for them... the gush of wind caressing the leaves...the open fire that kept them warm. Hermione's deep brown eyes looked at him solemnly but she didn't say anything anymore, but instead took a sip of her already cold tea. Her skin looked soft even in the harsh light of the electric lamps.
"How are you and Ron?" Harry heard himself say. He regretted the question immediately, but it was too late. Hermione didn't even flinch. She slowly lowered the tea mug back on to the table and wiped imaginary dust off of her scarf still in her lap. She took a napkin out of her pocket and wiped the table free of crumbs. Then she crumpled it up and put it into the blue ashtray in the middle of the table. She looked uncomfortable. Just as Harry thought she wasn't even going to answer, she spoke.
"I think he's coping with the situation in the best way he can. It's hard on him, to see me unhappy for reasons he can't do anything about. He used to try... he arranged stuff, like hiking. That sort of stuff. But it's not really him. I know him pretty well, Harry. He just wants a comfortable life. A steady paycheck, a couple of get-togethers a week with friends, good food, good drinks. It's things like this we fought for, is what he says to me. And he's right. But I want more. I want to dream, and to do big things. Am I selfish? Maybe." The last words she spit out of her mouth almost bitterly, not meeting his gaze.
Harry didn't know what to say. He knew Ron too - it was exactly as Hermione had said. He just wanted everyone to get along and enjoy their lives, because that's what he thought people should naturally do after a big war. And that's exactly why Harry had fought the war: to be able to live and love. But there had been consecuences, too: lives lost, permanent lines that had appeared around people's mouths, and the guilt of the survived ones. Deep down he felt he would've preferred dying to being forced into this strange role of a happy family man. Was that how she was feeling, too?
Hermione was stirring her tea around again. Harry didn't really know why he did it, but he stood up, and walked around the table to sit next to her. Then he pulled her into his arms, and held her. Hermione was surprised but seemed pleased. She wrapped her right arm around his back and rested her head against his shoulder. On that moment he felt a strong sense of affection towards her. Good old Hermione, always there for him: now was his turn to be there for her. She felt warm against him, and he was slightly surprised to realise this was actually the first time in years he had held anyone apart from Ginny this close. Getting married had changed things somehow: things previously normal had become forbidden. But there was a small seed of rebellion still inside him. Tonight belonged to Hermione and him. At least until they returned home, that is. It would only take a moment to slip back into their old roles, closing the door behind them.
"I wish we were back in the woods..." Hermione murmured against his shoulder. He stiffened slightly, scared of the precise echo of his own thoughts heard from her lips. He could feel the temptation waking up in his heart. Hadn't he been happier in the woods with her, even with the burden of the Horcrux wrapped around his neck, than he was here, in his comfy little life with his young pretty wife?
Suddenly he was shaken back to reality from his thoughts when Hermione pulled herself away from him, sitting straight up and speaking with a very business-like voice.
Well, maybe we should go. We could take a taxi back to The Leaky Cauldron, see if Ron is there and if not, just apparate back home."
She took out her purse and left a bill on the table, paying for both his and her drinks. Then she wrapped the dark brown scarf back around herself and stood up. He was sad to leave. It had been an oddly touching night, he felt like a thousand memories had begun to unleash themselves inside him. Him and Hermione walking away from the graveyard with their hands around each other. Her muffled tears in the night when she cried because Ron had left her, his strange helplessness next to her pain. The search for edible mushrooms and berries, and her horrible cookery. Her hand in his when they slept. The loneliness contrasted by the strong feeling of togetherness: two lost children in the big dark world.
The waitress came to collect their money and they left. At the door he threw one last glance at the coffee place and the booth they had just abandoned: the four mugs on the table and a crumbled piece of tissue in the ash tray. The booth where everything had begun, so long ago. He wondered if he would ever come back there.
He turned his head towards her, seeing her waiting for him outside. He offered his arm to her and she slipped her own arm around it. Together they walked back to Tottenham Court Road, towards the traffic. The street was emptier: the shops had already closed. She hailed a taxi and they slipped inside. They were quiet throughout the ride, and he remembered what she had said earlier: I miss being able to sit with you quietly, not constantly having to talk. Yeah, that was the good thing about Hermione: they could be completely at ease with each other without the need to talk. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye: she looked like she was a million miles away, even though her warm hand was still in his. He hoped they would meet like this again, but at the same time felt worried about it. The relationship between them was no longer as uncomplicated as it had been at school. Something had changed, perhaps a long time ago. Tonight he finally understood the change and what it meant. There had been moments... he had just been too blind to see what the moments had meant, both to him and to her, before now.
The taxi came to a stop. He paid the driver and they got out, seeing the facade of The Leaky Cauldron in front of them. She was about to go indoors, but he held her hand into his, stopping her.
"Hermione, don't go yet."
She turned and looked at him in the eyes, so very close to him now. The soft brown of her scarf made her eyes look black; like deep tunnels he wanted to jump into, if only he had the courage. Her hair looked a bit messy, falling from the bun she had tied it up to. Again, he thought what they would look like if some stranger saw them standing there on the street, hand in hand, gazing each other in the eyes. They would look just like any normal couple. The thought pleased him: the role he knew others would see him in made him reckless. And brave.
So he pulled her softly even closer to him. There was a moment of doubt: what if he had misunderstood, been blinded by his imagination? But then it was too late to think - she pressed her lips against his, very softly, as if it didn't count as a kiss if they only barely touched each other. Her lips were cool against his, and her fresh flowery smell encircled him. Their hands were still joined but other than that, they didn't touch each other. It was a kiss of friendship, a kiss of a past wasted; a kiss of deep understanding, reassurance and trust. A kiss of longing.
Then she moved back, her lips still lingering near his for a split second and then they were gone. She turned and opened the door for him. When he passed by he felt her touch his hair very gently. Their eyes met. He hesitated for a moment.
He briefly thought about all the real couples, sharing intimate moments, hidden in the darkness. Couples who shared kisses with other meanings. Kisses of love, of promise, of happiness. He thought of her lips on his, the memory of it making his lips burn. Maybe someday...he didn't quite dare finish his thought.
Then they stepped into the warm pub together, closing the door softly behind themselves. It didn't make a sound.
Originally this was intended to be a one-shot, but I have enough inspiration to possibly continue, if people want me to.