They were just some stupid children's books she happened upon a Muggle Bookstore…yet she could never bring herself to throw them away.
"Harry, I've got to tell you something."
The day was bright and sunny when Ron had popped in Grimmauld Place. He was disheveled – more than he usually was – and seemed panicked when he walked in the kitchen, surprising one Harry Potter who was silently sipping his morning tea.
"Er, 'morning to you too, Ron." Harry managed, as Ron set himself across him. "I imagine you had a pretty good night's sleep."
Ron ignored his quip and continued on. "I've got to ask you something, mate. It's about Hermione."
Harry set his teacup down and waited for Ron to continue. He'd had this talk with Ron a million times now, or more, probably – times when his best friends were having their couple trouble and Hermione would stalk off, leaving Ron to figure things out for himself. And most of the time Ron couldn't figure it out by himself (or, to be more precise, wouldn't bother to), so he would have to help him in order to set things right again. This was somehow already a routine for all three of them, something Harry has learned to put up with after three-and-a-half years.
When Harry didn't say something and helped himself to a scone, Ron continued. "You see, we were packing up her stuff, right…packing up since she's moving to a flat nearer to me, see. We were sorting all the stuff when she said she had to go do an errand for her mum, so I was left to pack everything up, yeah?"
"So I was getting all of the remaining stuff. Hermione had already finished up, so I went to check around her room one more time to see if anything got left behind."
Harry paushed buttering his scone. "Hermione would kill you if you touched any of her stuff without permission. Did you? Is that why you're being ignored –"
Ron waved his hands. "No, no, hear me out first. So she was out, and I went into her room and saw that she had left some books by her bedside table. I found it odd, so I went over to check them out. They were these muggle children's books, I think – by some Riordan bloke – and I thought the cover illustration was pretty cool so I started to browse through it. I think the title's –
"Wait a minute," Harry said. "Now you're reading muggle children's books –
Ron glared at him. "Are you going to keep on interrupting me?"
Harry smirked and took another bite out of his scone.
"Anyway, the title's something about some Peter Johnson kid. It's pretty amazing, he's a son of some Sea God and well, yeah. When Hermione came back and saw me reading the thing, though, she went nuts."
Harry stared at him. "Went nuts. Hermione Granger went nuts when she saw you reading a book. I think that's rather understandable –
"No, I mean…she grabbed the book away from me." Ron knitted his eyebrows together in frustration, wringing his hands as well. "She told me it's not worth reading, that it's just some children's book and that it wouldn't do me any good reading it."
Silence fell on the pair as Ron finished telling his side of the story. Harry had a curious look on his face, as he held the cup in his hands. This was definitely strange. In normal circumstances Hermione probably would've jumped for joy if she ever found out her boyfriend read books for something else other than knowing how to pick up girls. One of her missions in life was to persuade Ron that reading could be good for him, a dream that she had abandoned long ago – normally, to see him pick up a book and read it on his own volition would've made Hermione throw a party.
"And it's not just any normal book-grabbing thing, no." Ron continued. "She looked at me as if I was holding something illegal, and she just snatched it away from me. Acting all indifferent when I knew it bothered her, that I was reading it."
Harry swallowed his scone. "It's not one of those cheesy romance things, is it? Those books with the men with half-opened shirts and hairy chests exposed…?" he asked tentatively. He had caught her reading something like that once. When she realized he saw her reading something called A Bite to Remember, she had smacked him across the hand with the book and hid it immediately from his sight.
'Try to tell Ron any of this, Harry, and I'll make sure you won't have the ability to have progeny!'
He had laughed at her hard that day, and always made sure to make a pass about that whenever she was around.
"No, Harry. I swear, it was just a children's book. It was colored green and it had a boy in front and it said Peter Johnson and the Lightning Thief. Or…Percy Jackson. Yeah, I think that's it." Ron nodded.
It was a Saturday.
Harry had come over to help her settle in her new flat.
Hermione paused for a moment.
No, make that Harry and Ron had come over to help her settle in her new flat. It was larger than the previous one she had been living in, with most of the space temporarily occupied by stacks and stacks of cardboard boxes in various states of undone.
She pursed her lips as she swatted an errant strand of hair away from her eyes.
"What are these?"
She looked up from the large cardboard box she was rummaging through to see Harry standing over a bedside table. His glasses shone as he picked up one of her many books and turned it over, examining it.
"They're books, Harry," Hermione said nonchalantly, going back to the box. She pulled some picture frames out and set them by a nearby table. "What else could they be?"
"I know that," he said, tone curious. "They're strange, though, aren't they? Are they part of a series? They've all got the same look about them…Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief…"
Her hand froze as he read the title out loud. She looked back at him again and there he was, in all his twenty-three year old glory, holding up a tattered green book with golden font on it. There was an illustration as a cover, of a boy who looked like Harry wading through the ocean towards New York, a lightning bolt in his hand. When her eyes reached his face there was this strange glint about them, as if he'd discovered something peculiar.
"Oh. That thing." She said. She stopped momentarily, feeling her heart pounding against her chest as Harry started to browse through it, reading passages.
Why was it that she felt so tense that he was reading some muggle children's book? Was it a sign then, when she had thought of seriously throwing the books away before anyone else read them? She didn't even know why she felt so tense that someone else was reading them…they were just children's books.
"You…" Hermione found herself starting. She pursed her lips, took in a breath before continuing. "That's nothing. Just some silly fantasy story I chanced upon."
"Right." Harry said, indifferent. She looked over him again to find that he was busy reading. "Well, it looks easy enough for us normal beings to read. May I borrow them?"
Dread filled her when he asked. Shouldn't she be celebrating right now, that one of her best friends wanted to read a book by his own choice, and not due to her forcing it down their throats? Of course, if they borrowed Nietzsche or the unabridged version of Gamp's Laws, she would've keeled over in happiness, but she would normally have no problem with muggle children's books. She would've considered them as baby steps to the world of the literate.
Harry was looking at her expectantly, his thumb and little finger holding the book open, his glasses skidding down the bridge of his nose. He had his head tilted down at an angle that made his stubborn black hair frame his face perfectly. She exhaled – there was something up, she knew from the way he played out a look. He normally didn't look at people like that unless he wanted something done.
Damn Ginny for telling him he looked good doing that.
Hermione took a breath and prayed to the heavens that with his glasses askew, Harry wouldn't be able to see what expression her face had contorted to.
"Why not?" Harry straightened himself, glasses still askew. "Shouldn't you be happy? Us, reading books voluntarily?"
"Happy? Shouldn't I be suspicious?" Hermione said, voice cracking. She turned away from Harry and went to the boxes, biting her lip as she pretended to busy herself. "First Ron, and then you? I know I'm a bookworm but you don't have to make fun of it –
Harry frowned. "We've never really made that much fun of it, I mean, we've survived because of your reading – and –
"Just, no, okay?"
Hermione grabbed one box and went out of the room. Harry looked after her.
"Can I borrow Hogwarts, A History then?"
Harry watched Ron's jaw drop in amazement.
"Really?" he said, eyes wide. "She just let you get it, just like that?"
He had been holding a blue book this time, with same gold titling – Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse. Ron was right: it was interesting, and it was a plus that it was easy to read, and it didn't produce migraines the way Hogwarts: A History did when he had been reading it for too long. There were also rare times that he felt Percy's adventures mirrored his own, and Harry sometimes imagined what they would've done if they were in Percy's situation.
"I had to use a few skills I've learned from George," Harry said, tearing his eyes away from the page as he sipped from his tea. "You know, that angling thing? Works wonders."
"I thought you learned that from Ginny."
"No, it was your brother, and he even made me test it on your sister."
Apparently Ron wasn't even listening to him; his blue eyes were still glued on the book. "And you're on the third book, too. Unbelievable. Why wouldn't she lend it to me?"
There was a pregnant pause, and Harry found a corner of his mouth turning up. "She didn't exactly let me borrow it, I…sort of nicked it off her shelf."
Ron stared at him. "You nicked it? Off her shelf? Blimey Harry you are going to get it –
"Well she wouldn't even let me have it!"
"Then why'd you nick it?"
"Because she wouldn't let us read it!"
"She's going to kill us, Harry, do you realize that –
"And why would I do that?"
The door to Grimmauld Place slammed shut along the hallway. The boys' eyes widened, and Harry panicked – he threw the book into the cupboard under the sink and shut it just as Ron settled himself on a chair and tried to look nonchalant. Hermione walked in, shrugged her coat off, and stared at them.
"Er, nothing." Ron said nervously. Harry took his cup of tea and took a sip. "Harry just said your haircut looks terrible."
Hermione's lips became a thin line, then waved a hand as if dismissing a thought. Harry found himself backing away to the counter, slowly, lips glued to the rim of his teacup. A small creak told him that he had pushed the cupboard closed.
"Well I can't really do anything else if Harry doesn't like my new haircut, now, can I?" she said offhandedly. She took a teacup from behind Harry and poured herself some tea, ignoring the weird expressions Ron's face was going through. Harry furrowed his eyebrows at Ron, looking at him with something that said 'while I may be a thief, you're a terrible liar, Weasley'.
"You certainly are pissed off today," Harry said. Behind Hermione, Ron made a face and almost threw his hands up in the air. "Er, did something happen?"
"My books have gone missing."
"Er, well, no kidding!" Ron said nervously. "Blimey, who would've thought to steal some books from Hermione Granger, eh? I – I wonder who –
She turned around to face Ron and sit opposite him on the breakfast table. She narrowed her eyes at him, and then looked over to Harry, who was still sipping tea.
"Y-yeah, Ron! I wonder who'd dare to nick books off you," Harry said.
"Considering that you two have been up to no good recently, I was thinking, one of you probably took it without my permission."
"No way, we wouldn't do that!"
Her eyes narrowed some more. "Really now."
"Yes, of course."
"Do you swear?"
She looked at the two of them expectantly. Ron put a hand on his chest and closed his eyes. "I swear."
"And you, Harry? On your marauder's honor?"
"Yes. I solemnly swear I am up to no good." One of Hermione's eyebrows went up. "Er, good, I meant. Good."
Ron snickered, and the rest of the night was passed peacefully. After a sumptuous dinner prepared by Kreacher, they headed out into the night, meeting up with the rest of their motley crew. Harry, however, had to endure the tortuous thought that hopefully his pipes weren't leaking, and that Kreacher wouldn't be attracted enough to the gold titling of the book to keep it for himself.
"If I were you, mate, I'd just not finish it and return them to where it came from."
Harry didn't even bother looking up from the book he was reading – this time with a black cover, topped with the words Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian. He had not been able to return the whole set without him wanting to finish it all – and the longer it took for Hermione to see her books again, the more agitated she got. A part of him was curious as to why she was so restless when it came to the books; as far as he read there was nothing illegal in it. There was no gratuitous sex, no gory counts of violence – no torrid details of affairs and betrayals and anything that was akin to her Bite to Remember series (he sneaked a read and Hermione immediately snatched the book away from him). It was just a muggle children's book, about three kids on a quest. A story about a magical camp and halfbloods of the godly kind – which actually made him think if they really existed. If he was a wizard, then these halfbloods had quite the chance to exist.
"Are you listening to me?"
"Just shut up for a moment, I'm in a good part – "
The corners of Ron's mouth were pulled down as he himself plopped down on a dusty couch. It was unsettling for him to be in Grimmauld's Place in silence, without his and Harry's voices resounding throughout the house. The creaks Kreacher produced as he went about didn't help him, either.
Or maybe what really was unsettling was the fact Harry would rather read a book than him – something he was all too used to when it came to Hermione.
"Unbelievable." Ron breathed out.
"Look," Harry said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, yet still not looking at Ron, "I'm just curious as to why Hermione wouldn't really let us read this. I mean, so far nothing's illegal in it, no severely sexual vampire out on the loose –
Ron gagged on his own saliva. "The bloody hell –
"And it's just about kids. You know Hermione wouldn't hide something from us unless it was completely necessary –
"When I asked if I could help you break that Hermione code, you said no," Ron complained. "Not only would she not let me read those damn books, even you won't let me read them! Is this some muggle thing I'm missing?"
Harry looked at him pointedly. "Well, would you really want to read this? I know you'd rather play Quidditch or do extra assignments at the Auror Academy before you'd read this."
"And I know you'd rather do the same." Ron retorted. "And come on mate, please, just return it to her. I'm getting the brunt of it all – other than her being touchy and having a short fuse she blames me that the books are gone. She thinks I stole them and gave them away –
"But isn't that what she was going to do, anyway?"
"When I told her that she said, 'where did you get that idea?', and I got a lecture on 'just because books look tattered and old it doesn't mean they're useless and meaningless…' etcetera, etcetera." Ron groaned and settled back into the dusty couch.
"Please mate, just return them for me. Go buy a set of your own, you're loaded anyway."
Ron looked at Harry when he didn't get a response. He watched the boy-who-lived-and-lived-again's eyes travel from one direction to another, quickly taking in words as he flipped one page after the other. He was getting near the end – Ron noticed the remaining pages wouldn't even amount to three – and waited for him to finish. Maybe then he'd get a decent conversation and the agreement that Harry would return the books as soon as possible, with no mention of Ron being involved.
But when Harry had reached the end and Ron had watched his eyes reach all the way to the bottom of the page, he didn't stir. Instead, he looked like something strange was at the bottom, like the ending was unsatisfying and that he would have the urge to throw it out the window.
Ron's mouth again frowned. Alright, maybe he was exaggerating with the window, but Harry certainly looked unsatisfied with how it finished.
"Mate? Ending that bad?"
"No." Harry said. He looked up at him, eyes glazed over. "It's just…weird."
Then Harry went out of the room and said nothing else. Ron groaned, left Harry to his own devices, and with a loud crack, disapparated.
If he was going to ban books from the wizarding world, Ron thought, he was probably going to ban those Jackson ones first.
This could have been us.
Harry never knew that in his lifetime he'd encounter another set of five words that would make his stomach knot – a set different from 'I open at the close', or 'I must not tell lies'. As he read the line, however, scribbled in muggle pencil lead and light enough not to leave indentations on the paper, he felt that there were more to the words than it would normally lead on.
He kept the book open on the last page of prose and stared at the writing. He knew it all too well – evenly spaced, just like how penmanship from a writing guide would look like, complete with the loops and twirls he found tedious with cursive writing. The strokes were better made this time, compared to the first time he had read a margin note from her (which was a twelve-year-old's scrawl of 'pipes' on the edge of a restricted book's paragraph).
Was this what she wanted to hide all this time, from the two of them? That she had thought Percy, Annabeth and Grover mirrored their selves years ago when they were saving the world? Harry frowned, arm folded beneath his head as he stared at the decaying ceiling of Sirius's old bedroom. That couldn't have been it. If she had thought so she wouldn't have written it down – and even if she did, it wouldn't be on a particular page. There was always something behind whatever little thing Hermione did, he thought, and he wouldn't put down her writing on a book to a trivial reason.
He read the passage again. It was Percy and Annabeth talking to one another during their last day in camp – just like how he and Hermione had been standing by the steps to the Great Hall when the recovery efforts started. It had been one warm June afternoon, and he had been watching people repairing and rebuilding the remnants of Hogwarts.
Ron had bid the two of them a temporary goodbye as he went off to the lawn to help his family. His father, Charlie and Bill were levitating a large tree trunk out of the western wall, and Mr. Weasley had beckoned him to help. Harry had stepped forward to offer assistance, but Ron waved him off and went on his own.
He had been silent as he watched the family's men take out the tree like a knife from a stab wound, but Hermione's voice knocked him out of his thoughts.
'Do you think things will be easier this time around?' she asked suddenly. Harry turned to see that her eyes were latched on to faraway things – to the people rebuilding the castle, to those dealing with what's left – a lost look that he wasn't really used to seeing on her face. He had only seen that look on her face once, and that before he stepped up to her and asked her, in a middle of a war, for a dance.
'Don't look like that,' he found himself saying. 'Do you want to dance again to random music and have me make a fool out of myself?'
Hermione chuckled. 'You weren't that much of a fool. Just a little.'
'A little.' Harry repeated, feeling the corners of his mouth curl upward. 'That makes me feel better.'
There was a pregnant pause between them as they stood on the castle steps. He noticed how drowned out everything was, how the sounds from the rebuilding came off as gurgled and muted, how his senses wouldn't really focus on just one thing. The only thing in his mind at that time was Hermione's words, asking if it would be easier –
'No,' he said softly, 'Things will never be easy, I suppose. But the fact that we'll live – live past everything we've seen…that's where the challenge lies, isn't it?'
He himself was surprised at his own words. When he looked sideways at her she looked surprised as well, the nice kind of surprise, which made her smile a small smile – a real one that reached her eyes.
'Spoken like a true Gryffindor,' she mused.
He chuckled, but was cut short when she took his hand and squeezed it. Her hand was a mixture of both hardness and softness – her palms were soft, but he could feel a few rough patches and callouses that arose from her writing and their adventures. He felt his stomach rise as if he had been riding an elevator that dropped too fast. When he looked up with a curious expression, she was looking out onto the grounds.
'Thank goodness,' she said, 'if you didn't come back alive, I really wouldn't know what to do.'
Harry stared at her, mouth slightly open. The feeling in his stomach was still there, and strengthened when Hermione tightened her hold on his hand.
'Don't you ever dare repeat that stunt again, Harry James Potter,' she said, and then he spotted it - a slight quiver in her voice. He tightened his grip on her hand in return, keeping his eyes on her. 'Or else I'll be the end of you.'
She blinked a couple of times, then her hand went up to her face as she wiped errant tears. He was at a loss for words as he watched her try to stop her crying; he made to hold her shoulder and make her face him, but she swatted his hand as she turned her head away to dry her eyes.
He smiled, touched at the thought of how she tried to mask her concern. 'You can't be the end of me, you weren't in the prophecy.' He said lightly. He pulled on her other hand to make her look at him, and a smile was on her lips as well.
A laugh broke through her cracking voice. 'Do you understand me, Harry?'
She then looked at him fully; brown eyes boring into his own, and he felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth.
'You're really not making this easy.'
'Well, Harry,' she said, letting go of his hand, eyes shining, 'I should remind you that you never made things easy.'
His eyes stared unblinkingly at the ceiling. He sat up, took The Last Olympian and flipped past a couple of pages, reading to himself the passages as the cogs in his brain started to turn.
I looked over and saw that she was trying hard not to smile.
"You're laughing at me," I complained.
"I am not!"
"You are so not making this easy."
Then she laughed for real, and she put her hands on my neck. "I am never, ever going to make things easy for you, Seaweed Brain. Get used to it."
Hermione fidgeted as she sat on her high-backed chair, staring opposite her wall of a bookshelf. She had just finished settling into her new apartment, and thought that feeling of fulfillment would be seeping in anytime soon. Her fingers laced into each other and she took a deep breath – there was no feeling of fulfillment yet.
She scanned the wall from top to bottom, restless, taking in half of her life's collection of books. It had always pleased her that her collection was a varied kind – there were hard, leather-bound ones of magic and wizardry, and the 'normal' novels and reference materials she acquired at her local bookstore. But among her shelves there was an empty space, and she knew that was where the problem lied. There would be no fulfillment until those five dratted books would be in her possession again – no clearance of mind and no peace until she found them.
She gave a loud sigh and placed her chin on a propped hand. It had been such an act of weakness, she thought, succumbing to the idea of writing what she had felt onto the book's last page. It had never been her practice to write on books' margins. It had always horrified her, the act of defacing a book, but she didn't really claim innocent of it – she had written on a page once, and even ripped the page off. Granted, it was for the salvation of Hogwarts, but it was a restricted book. She knew that a small part of her bibliophile self had died when she did so.
It had been such a temptation though, to write it on the paper. She knew that she had no one to tell her feelings to, and if she can write it on a book instead, why shouldn't she? A book wouldn't tell anyone else, especially if no one she knew would read it. They were muggle children's books – no one whom she was hiding her feelings from would really read them.
Fate had its way, however, and now the books were gone.
"Merlin," she found herself hissing in frustration and nervousness. What if someone read the books and knew her and realized what exactly she was talking about? There would be hell to pay, for sure. The reason why she resorted to the book was exactly that, anyway – if she ever dared to tell anyone, the problems it will cause would be more than what she would be willing to handle. She knew more than enough people who would be staring incredulously at her once she told them, saying 'You, in love with Harry?' Then the Weasley family would either label her as a traitor and cast her out of the wizarding world – either that, or Mrs. Weasley would be breathing down on her neck and telling her repeatedly, as if doing a brainwash, 'no, you love my son, Ron, darling…my son Ron…'
Hermione shuddered at the thought. She hated herself for it, not knowing what she wanted or even what she felt, once the war was over. Up until the war she was sure she loved Ron. The symptoms were there, and she knew that whenever she suffered the symptoms she liked whoever triggered them. Ron had been the trigger for a couple of years or so, especially when he had finally realized she was a girl and made her cry during their fourth year.
But she wavered, and when she had started to waver, she didn't even know. Did it all start when they were left alone together? When Ron had walked away from the two of them? Or did it start way back when she was just a little girl cowering in a bathroom stall, when they had burst in to save her from a troll?
She could remember one day during their unwanted trip all over Britain. She was on guard that day, with The Life and Lies on her lap and a mug of tea beside her. Harry was sleeping inside the tent, and she had taken a peek, and strangely enough her heartbeat quickened.
Odd, she had thought, and went back to stare at the snowcapped trees. Never did her heartbeat quicken again, until that night when she had tuned to a muggle station for a change, and a slow, old song had come into play.
He had stood there, before her, hand outstretched. She had stared at him for a moment, asking silently what he was planning, but he disregarded her look and kept his hand there until she accepted it. And for once after the start of their perilous journey, she felt the heaviness of the war being ebbed away, with every awkward step he took, with every smile shared between them. As he twirled her around though, she closed her eyes, and the thought hit her – if she had gone with him to the Yule Ball, would it have been like this?
Her smile slowly disappeared as thoughts and what-ifs flooded her mind. They had slowed down, and he was resting his head on her shoulder, the same way she settled herself against him. Uncertainty filled her as the thoughts came in surges, her heartbeat going a mile a minute – remembering the way her hands shook when she held him as they rode across the sky on a hippogriff (she knew it was not just the height), the way she felt a blush when he followed her with his eyes when she went down the staircase in that periwinkle dress…that odd feeling that was there whenever someone asked her if she really did date Harry. Thoughts of what would've happened if he took her to Hogwarts one weekend off school, if she said no to Krum and agreed to go with him, and everything else they could've done if they were given the chance.
Her eyebrows furrowed as guilt started to blossom in her chest, replacing the quickened heartbeat with a heavy feeling.
What concerned her was how, suddenly, she had wanted everything she had thought of to come true.
She became painfully aware of everything after that; aware of how she had settled so comfortably against him, how he could easily make her smile, how she could never leave him even if he'd rather side with Ron. She became aware of how easy it came to her to help him, how she'd try to be angry with him but would never be able to hold it long enough, and how it pleased her whenever he called her brilliant.
Ron's face came to mind, and her guilt overpowered her. She stopped their slow swaying, letting back the murmurs of the forest into her ears. They were in a war, and they were major players. Harry was either going to murder or be murdered. She was in love with Ron – that was what the symptoms told her – and she had neither the time nor the pleasure to dance idly, thinking if she really did love him, or if she loved someone else. They had a war to get back to, a friend to find, people to protect, expectations to meet; no time to wish for her and Harry to dance forever.
She drew away, and she looked into his eyes – the want rose within her throat, but she swallowed it down. He looked at her with such earnest eyes. Her stomach had clenched and she pulled away, ignoring the plea that came from both his face and her heart to just stay.
A loud exhale filled the air and she threw her head back to stare at her apartment's ceiling. She had lost herself in a lot of books after the war had finished, wanting an escape. The war had left her torn and tired. Soon after, she had found the Jackson books and grew engrossed; rather making her forget the war, though, it made her remember how she had wanted all those thoughts to come true.
She had been envious of how Percy and Annabeth had come together. She did not want to admit it, but certain parallels to their lives were unavoidable. Harry had been somehow her Percy. And if the world would have let them, she could have been his Annabeth.
The world disagreed, though. Once the war was over and she wasn't even sure on her own footing, she was pushed forward to a future with Ron Weasley; Harry had been thrown into the limelight once again, and people had been commenting nonstop on how Harry and Ginny were perfect for each other. Hermione felt she was ushered into roles and places she never had a say in, and never given the chance to give a rebuttal and stand on her own ground. Disappointment in herself – that she can't fight what the others say – made her withdraw even more into the books, and start to wish desperately for the books to become her reality.
'This could have been us', she remembers writing gingerly on the newsprint, barely leaving indentation. It was a frivolous wish she had kept to herself, a wish she didn't plan on letting anyone else hear.
Ron leaned on the doorway. He had been waiting for her to get out of her chair so that they could go to Hogsmeade together – it was that day of the month where they had their habitual Saturday evenings at the Three Broomsticks – but Hermione had been staring at her bookshelves for the good part of the past five minutes, still and unmoving.
"We should get going," Ron said, louder than normal. "Before Luna goes off about the moon and starts dancing to it naked, outside in the cold."
That seemed to have snapped Hermione out of her reverie. "You're right," she said, finally standing and going to Ron. "But it's just strange, though. They were gone, and I just go out to get Crookshanks some milk and they're back."
"Maybe you just misplaced those books," Ron said. His hand shuddered slightly as he kept the door open for a few seconds well after Hermione stepped out. He felt the rustle of velvety Invisibility Cloak, and closed the door. "You know the wizarding world. Lots of Mysteries you don't want to poke your nose into."
"We've poked into enough mysteries for a lifetime." Hermione said lightly, a relieved smile on her face. The books were with her now, which was what mattered – she didn't want to go into details and fuss over who might've seen her secret wish at the end. Her plan to just donate them and dispose of them will definitely push through.
As Hermione made to take out her wand, Ron looked behind him and nodded at the wall. He then offered his arm out to Hermione for them to Apparate together. With a loud crack! they swirled out of Hermione's apartment hall, materializing seconds after into the snowy main road of Hogsmeade. A few feet away from them Ron saw Harry's shaggy head appear from thin air, and he exhaled loudly.
"Come on Hermione, we've got to get to the warm," he said immediately, placing his hand on her back. She refused though, and motioned for him to go ahead.
"I think I dropped something while Apparating, I'll just go check." She said. Ron gave her a glance, and after hearing Neville's calls from inside the bar, went ahead and left her outside.
Hermione looked up to see Harry brushing off accumulated snow from his shoulders.
"I think. I may have dropped my wand." She said. Harry looked at her for a moment, before fishing out his own and summoning it with a flick. "Thanks."
"No problem, Annabeth."
She was stuck there, rooted to the cobblestones as she tried to process what he had said. Did he just call her –
Calls from the bar interrupted her.
"Come in here, will you? Where's Hermione?"
"Is she still mad for the books she's missing?"
"I can give her another series to read, my father's branching out from tabloids to novels –"
She could feel her cheeks getting warmer by the second as her stomach clenched and rose.
"For the record though." Harry started, his features edged with the yellowish light from the bar, "I don't think we could have been them," he said lightly. He offered his hand to her, and refused to move it until she took it.
Hermione was still frozen on the spot. He grinned at her with a lopsided smile and pulled her inside.
"We would've been better."
AN: Publishing stuff after years of non-activity haha. This is probably the longest oneshot I have ever written. : ) I don't know if I've improved or became a little rusty, so sorry for the weirdness (if there is). And I'm sorry of it comes out of left field, the fic had been in my plot bunny list ever since I finished the Olympians Series, which was a little less than a year ago.
Hopefully you've enjoyed it. It sat in my folder untouched for a long time and I only managed to finish it recently - I feared that if I didn't, it would take up too much of my time and make me not finish my school-related projects. : )
Comments and critique are very much appreciated. : )