Title: All the Same
Summary: She laughed in a way that made him both want to smile and rip his heart out simultaneously. "If only it could be you. If I loved you, imagine how much easier my life would be."
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The song in all chapters is Never Leave by Seether.
Word count: 4470
You're the one who keeps me all excited
You keep me begging for more
Friday evening, while Harry was preparing dinner, Hermione returned home with three or four DVDs and a grin on her face. Apparently a few days prior, her mum had phoned and told Hermione quite a bit about a few new Muggle films, which had then prompted her visit a video store in Muggle London. It had been quite a few years since either of them had seen a Muggle film (the telly and the DVD player in their living room served as more of a decoration than an entertainment system) so she had thought it would be a good way for the two of them to spend that Friday.
Ever since that first Friday when Harry had taken her to his Starbucks, it had become some sort of tradition to spend every Friday evening together. It wasn't something either of them had actually said or really planned; it was almost instinctual. Some nights they would wander through Muggle London, some nights they would visit Diagon Alley, once they had gone out for dinner. But it didn't really matter what they did. Wednesday was their night with Ron, for the three of them. Saturdays had been the nights she would go out with Goldstein, but Fridays were just for the two of them. And, despite how foolish it was, it was what Harry looked forward to most in his week.
After dinner, Hermione settled into her usual spot on the sofa with Crookshanks curled up in her lap. She had already changed into her pyjamas and tied her ever-bushy hair into a tight plait. She held a teacup in between her palms, careful to not spill any of it on her pet. She grinned at him and Harry couldn't help but grin back. She had been upset, stressed the past week (whether because of her work or the break up, Harry wasn't completely sure) and he was glad to finally see her happy. He turned on their DVD player and started What Women Want before settling next to her.
Half way through their second movie, Crookshanks had wandered off, presumably to his bed, and Hermione had shifted her position to be more comfortable. She rested her head against his chest, her body stretched across the other two-thirds of the sofa.
"Hermione," Harry said after the second film finished. "Why don't you go to bed?"
"I'm awake." She mumbled. He playfully rolled his eyes, but said nothing else and, with a swish of his wand, changed the DVD.
Hermione was always the serious, mature one, so seeing her so childish was different. It almost amused him in some ways. Not that he could blame her. For the past few weeks, ever since the gala, she had thrown herself into her work. She worked late into the night and woke up far too early. She ate breakfast and dinner, but Harry would bet his wand that she worked through her lunch break. There was either something upsetting her or something she was trying to avoid. She hadn't told him anything, per say, and she did her best to act normal, but Harry could tell. He knew her well enough now.
So when she had come home earlier that evening, with that grin on her face, it felt as if his world had suddenly grown brighter. He had been worried about her, but didn't want to push her; he had been sure she would come to him when she was ready. But it looked as if the whole thing had blown away and she was back to herself. He couldn't remember ever being so relieved.
"You're in love with her, aren't you?"
At the time, Harry had been shocked that Ginny would suggest such a thing. He had heard it so many times, that he had learned to shut the thought away. It was an instinct to respond without giving the nature of their relationship a second thought. She had always been his best friend and only his best friend; why should now be any different? Only the more Harry thought about it, the more it made sense. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but something had changed and, no matter how much he tried to deny it, Hermione wasn't only his best friend anymore. There was something else there now, something more. It ran deeper than anything he had ever felt before.
"I love you." The words so felt right as they slipped out that he didn't give it a second thought.
"I love you too, Harry." She mumbled back.
His eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat. He hadn't realised she was still awake. "You do?"
"Of course." Her words slurred slightly; she was practically asleep. "You're my best friend."
A small smile tugged at his lips. "Right. Of course."
He should have known better; of course it wouldn't be that simple. He was disappointed, but he wasn't entirely surprised. It had taken him this long to admit it to himself and he hadn't just come off of two rather serious relationships. She would need time to realise what he had; he couldn't expect her to know already. It was finally their time and she would see it soon enough. But Harry could wait, because, in the end, it would be worth it.
A soft melody drifted from the telly and the final credits began to scroll across the screen. Hermione, however, had finally slipped to sleep and remained motionless. Harry's smile grew and, careful not to wake her, he stood and lifted her up. He cradled her in his arms and carried her to her room. She didn't stir as he put her down onto the bed and pulled the covers over her.
He brushed a stray piece of her hair out of her face. "I'm falling in love with you, 'Mione." He mumbled, brushing his lips against her forehead.
And when Harry left the room, he swore he saw her smile.
Ron stared at him as if Harry had just told him he was secretly a Death Eater. "Blimey, mate. Are you sure?"
Harry nodded slowly, careful not set his friend off on some sort of rampage. "Yeah, I am." He admitted.
"But all those years you said..."
"I know. I don't know what happened, but something did." Honestly, he wasn't sure if his feelings had changed or if he had finally come to terms with them; if it was him that had changed or if the time was finally just right. But he knew better than to tell Ron that. As it was, he was already afraid that his friend would bite his head off.
Ron shook his head. "Bloody hell, Harry."
Harry smiled apologetically. "I know."
Ron was silent for a moment. "Have you told her yet?"
"Not exactly." He didn't exactly count the other night. "I was going to wait awhile. It hasn't been that long since she broke up with Goldstein. I don't want to make her feel rushed. I want to give her some time. It's all a bit overwhelming, don't you think?"
"Just... be careful when you do. Hermione's, well, she's a complicated witch."
Harry frowned. He didn't think so. "What do you mean?" The question came out far more defensive than he had meant.
"Hermione and I are over, mate. I know that, don't worry. I'm not going to do something to mess your chance up. I've moved on." Ron promised. "But remember what I said about her and Goldstein? Hermione needs a challenge. She never goes for the easy stuff, even if it's good for her. She always has to go and surprise everyone with something overly complicated. And the two of you, well, you're not exactly the most unexpected thing."
"No," Harry shook his head. "I think this time she'll want something simple, something easy. You haven't seen how she is when she comes home lately. She looks for challenges, works so hard everywhere, that she needs something else when she comes home. She needs to be with someone that she can relax with, someone who can make things easy for her. You're wrong."
Ron fell silent again. Finally he sighed and shook his head. "Alright, mate. Whatever you say." He smiled, but it didn't completely reach his eyes. "But you have my blessings or whatever."
Harry believed him, really, he did. But when he left, he couldn't shake the horrible feeling off.
A week and a half later Harry received a notice to lead a group of Aurors on a mission. The Ministry had lead on a rogue Death Eater and it was exactly what Harry had been waiting for. Notices like these were the reason Harry had become an Auror in the first place. He hated the paperwork, the technical issues, that came with his job. But when he was on the field, when he was leading a mission, it was worth it.
But the only problem was Hermione.
It wasn't that she would try to stop him; it would be the quite the opposite, actually. She would be excited for him, want him to go, but he was still worried about her. Most days she was fine, cheerful as ever. Some days, however, something was off. She would still smile, still laugh, still act like her usual Hermione self. But, somehow, Harry could tell. They were the little signs – her eyes wouldn't light the same, her laughter would be a beat off, her head would tilt in the wrong direction – but he could always tell. And Merlin, did it have him worried.
"They've asked me to lead a mission. I leave in the morning." He told her over dinner that night.
"Harry, that's wonderful! It's been ages since they've called you on a mission. You must be thrilled." She grinned.
He studied her smile for the slightest of moments. It reached her eyes; she was telling the truth. He smiled back. "Yeah, I am." She had been normal for the past few days. But still, he had to make sure. "Hey, Hermione."
"Are you alright?" He asked. "I don't mean just right now. Like, all together."
She paused for a moment, a sad smile tugged at her lips. "Am I that obvious?"
"Not really." He admitted. "I suppose I know you too well by now."
"I...I've just had a lot on my mind." She explained. "I'm trying to sort out a few thoughts and it's been a bit more complicated than I had initially anticipated."
"Is there anything that I can do to help?" If she needed him...
"No." She tilted her head down so that he couldn't see her eyes. "I wish I could tell you about it, but I'm afraid it's something I need to figure out myself."
"But Harry," her hand covered his and she smiled at him in a way that made his heart tighten slightly. "I promise that I will tell you as soon as I can."
He smiled back. "Thank you."
The next morning, before Hermione woke, Harry left for his Auror mission.
The following week proved to be one of the longest in Harry's life. It was nearly eight days later by the time he was able to return home. He slipped back into the flat a few minutes before midnight, only to find Hermione wide awake and curled up on the sofa. Hogwarts: A History laid open on her lap and he could hear her soft sobs, even above the soft jazz melody. Harry instinctively dropped his bag and rushed to her side.
"Shh..." He mumbled, sitting beside her.
"Goodness, Harry!" She jumped slightly. "When did you get back?" She wiped her cheeks. "You must be starving. I can make you something." She attempted to stand.
"I'm fine," he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her in place. "What happened?" He searched his mind for a possible problem when she remained silent. "Wait, is this related to those thoughts you were trying to sort out?" She didn't respond. "Hermione..." She nodded slowly. "Maybe I can help." He offered.
She was silent for a moment and just when he thought she wouldn't answer him, she took a deep breath. "What...what would you do, Harry, if you've built a relationship that you are comfortable with, but it has the... potential to move further? To move to something more. But you know that if you pursue it, it will change everything; it can ruin the entire nature your relationship, destroy everything. But if you don't do anything, you'll lose it. What would you do?"
"Are you happy?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you happy with the original relationship? You said you were comfortable, but are you happy with it? Just sitting there and not watching it go forward for the rest of your time. Will that keep you happy?"
A sad smile tugged at her lips. "No, I suppose not."
Harry took a deep breath and tried to settle his raging heart. It was finally time. "Hermione, I..."
"Draco told me that he wants to be with me."
Wait, what? His eyes widened. "Draco? Dra – Malfoy?" He stared at her, while his brain tried to catch up with what she was telling him. "You were talking about Malfoy?" She couldn't be serious. That made absolutely no sense. Where had that even come from?
She gave him a gentle smile, as if suddenly she were the one attempting to comfort him. "The Malfoys have been working a lot more with the Ministry lately, so we kept bumping into one another. But I swear, Harry, that one night Ron came barging in, upset about the article in the paper, I didn't lie to you. Nothing had happened at the time. I didn't feel anything then. It took quite some time after that first meeting. Occasionally we would have a lunch or dinner meeting and slowly, but surely, we began to talk. Really talk, you know. He's actually quite brilliant, more so than we ever gave him credit for. We've had lunch on our own a few times since then as well. Though always as friends." She explained. "I didn't tell you anything, because, for the longest time, I wasn't sure if it was anything. I didn't want to make a big fuss over nothing." She added.
There were a million thoughts running through Harry's head at once. He still had so many more questions to ask; there were so many things that did not make sense. He still did not understand why Malfoy of all people. Why him? What could possibly be so special about Malfoy of all people? What made him so different from Harry? But only one thought reached his lips, a question he wasn't sure he truly wanted the answer for, but so desperately needed to know. "Do you love him?"
"I... I think so."
When she spoke, however, her eyes softened and a small smile tugged at her lips. He heard the slight hitch in her breath and Harry was willing to bet anything that her heart was pounding. Even though she wouldn't admit it to him, he could tell. There was no doubt in his mind: Hermione was in love with Malfoy.
He felt as if he would be sick.
The Gryffindor in him, however, wouldn't allow him to show it. He had to support his friend, had to be there for her the best he could. He had to tell her what she needed to hear, what she deserved to hear, no matter how much it would kill him.
"Then I don't see what the problem is." He said before he had the chance to change his mind. Before she could realize exactly how much it was killing him to say it.
"His parents wouldn't approve." Her voice held a sudden sharpness to it. But whether her anger was directed at his parents or herself, Harry couldn't tell. "I'm not exactly the Pureblood they dreamt for their only son."
"But the war..."
"I know. They aren't Death Eaters, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still Pureblood elitist, Harry. It's miracle enough that Draco's changed. Merlin only knows what it would take for his parents to change as well." She shook her head, as if she were trying to banish the thought from her head.
"Hermione, I'm trying to understand, but..."
"You don't completely follow." He nodded. There was too much happening and he was sure he wasn't hearing the full story.
"What you said at the coffee shop about being with a person and then falling in love with someone else. It made me think that I'm not being fair to Anthony."
"You broke up with Goldstein for Malfoy?" The question slipped out of his mouth before he could stop to think about it.
Hermione flinched slightly. "Yes and no." She admitted. "What I told you was the truth: I didn't love Anthony. Something honestly was missing and that was what mattered. But yes, I was beginning to fall for Draco at the time. It wasn't until shortly before the gala that I knew it was the same for him."
Anthony Goldstein stood chatting with Draco Malfoy. But what caught Harry's attention was the pretty raven-haired witch on Goldstein's arm who was mimicking her date and talking with Malfoy's date.
"He's trying to make me jealous."
It hadn't been the raven-haired witch Hermione had been jealous of. Although Harry hadn't given it a thought before, Malfoy's date had been awfully pretty. The pair of them had been beside Goldstein and his witch when Harry had caught her staring. There was no possible way he could have noticed at the time, but it made perfect sense now: she had been jealous of Malfoy's date, not Goldstein's.
"Draco's parents arranged his betrothal two weeks ago. He's going to marry Astoria Greengrass next Spring. They will announce it tomorrow morning. I have been trying to avoid him by focusing on my work. If I was busy, I couldn't spare time to think about him, so I most certainly couldn't see him." An annoyed smile, much like the ones she used to give Ron when he did something foolish, tugged at her lips. "But he's a rather stubborn prat and I couldn't always do it. I tried to ignore it, but he would sneak in somehow."
Some days, however, something was off. She would still smile, still laugh, still act like her usual Hermione self. But, somehow, Harry could tell. They were the little signs – her eyes wouldn't light the same, her laughter would be a beat off, her head would tilt in the wrong direction – but he could always tell.
"I'm trying to sort out a few thoughts and it's been a bit more complicated than I had initially anticipated."
"His future relies on this marriage. The Malfoys are counting on this marriage to not only continue their line, but also to clear their name. If he does anything to jeopardize it, his parents will disinherit him." Hermione took a deep breath, but didn't meet his eyes. "Two nights ago, he told me he would break the engagement. For me." The tears slid down her cheeks and patted down the cover of her book. "He would lose everything. I couldn't do that to him. I told him that I didn't want to be with him. I... I lied to him."
Her head fell onto his shoulder. Part of Harry wanted to push her away, to yell at her and call her mad. He wanted to scream, cry, even hex something into oblivion. She was crying to him about how she couldn't do that to Malfoy, but here she was breaking his heart. He wanted to hate her. But he couldn't. Perhaps it was because he was too shocked, too overwhelmed, too numb; perhaps it was because she was his best friend, because she couldn't possibly know what she was doing to him, or because he loved her too much. Regardless, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her closer, and tried his best to settle her down.
"It was only a matter of time, really, and now it's just the two of you. You're finally in a situation where you can realise that. You can finally let her in."
Harry had been friends with Hermione for years and people had asked him about their relationship ever since the start. But they had never been ready for it. It had taken years and years of waiting for his feelings to develop and for him to realise it. Merlin, it had been over ten years since he first saw her on the train, but nothing had ever happened because the time had never been right. But now it finally was right, he finally knew and they could have oh-so-easily been together.
It wasn't the right time for Malfoy, not even close. His entire world, everything he had been raised to expect, was on the line. There would be nothing easy for them. Merlin, Harry wasn't even sure how long they would last – changed or not, she was still Hermione and he was still Malfoy – but that wasn't stopping him. He didn't seem to care what was at stake or whether the timing was right; he wanted to be with her.
"I wish it was you."
Hermione pulled back and wiped her eyes. Fresh ones quickly replaced them, but she either didn't notice or didn't care. An almost bitter smile tugged at her lips. "I wish I could have fallen in love with you, Harry." She laughed in a way that made him both want to smile and rip his heart out simultaneously. "If only it could be you. If I loved you, imagine how much easier my life would be."
Her voice was so wishful that Harry wanted nothing more than to grab her and kiss her. He wanted to tell her that it could be him. Her life really could be that simple, that easy, if she would only open her eyes and realise it. But he knew she couldn't force her feelings and it wasn't quite so easy. No matter how much they both wished it was.
"Hermione needs a challenge. She never goes for the easy stuff, even if it's good for her. She always has to go and surprise everyone with something overly complicated. And the two of you, well, you're not exactly the most unexpected thing."
On paper, they were perfect for one another. It had taken him years to see it, but Harry knew it was true. They were compatible: they wanted the similar things, saw eye-to-eye, and they didn't have to work to understand each other. It would make sense for Harry and Hermione to eventually end up together. But Hermione wanted a challenge. Harry had always known that Hermione wasn't one to take the easy way, but he hadn't realised how right Ron had been. She needed someone who would keep her on her toes, someone who would challenge her in every way possible. She needed someone she could argue with, someone who wasn't a thing like her.
"I think you should go for it, 'Mione."
Her eyes widened. "What?"
He took a deep breath. "Malfoy. You... you should be with him."
She shook her head. "I can't. He will lose everything, Harry."
"He knows what the stakes are. This is Malfoy we're talking about; he's a spoiled prat. He loves his life of luxury."
"Which is why I can't do it. I can't let him lose all of that."
"No, that is exactly why you should do it. Hermione, if he is willing to give up all of it, he obviously means it. He wants you more than any of that." He closed his eyes and prayed that she wouldn't notice how tight his fists were clenched. "You should be with Malfoy."
She stared at him for a moment. "Do you really mean that?"
It took all of his Auror training not to flinch. No! He wanted to cry out. You should be with me! Why can't you see that? I'm in love with you, 'Mione. But he did his best to ignore it. He forced a small smile. "Yes." He nodded. "Besides, you were never one for doing things the easy way and Merlin only knows how complicated he must be." A small giggle escaped her lips and, instinctively, a smile tugged at his. It was hard for him to be completely miserable when she was happy. " Now go."
He stood up. "You said that they were announcing the engagement in the morning. You need to tell him the truth. You haven't much time left."
She laughed softly. "I can't go like this. I'm an absolute mess, Harry."
He shook his head. "You look beautiful." It wasn't a lie. Although her hair was even more of a mess than normal, her face was stained with tears, and she was in her Muggle pyjamas, she was smiling in a way that made nothing else mattered. "And if he sees you tonight and all he cares about is how you look then he's absolutely not worth it." But that wouldn't be the case. Malfoy would be thrilled to see her. He knew because, for the first time in his life, Harry wished he was him. "Go."
If possible, her grin grew and she nodded. "Alright." She stood, wrapped her hair into a messy bun, and wiped the tears from her eyes. And just when Harry thought she would apparate away, she stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you, Harry. For everything – letting me stay here, helping me through the break-up, supporting me with Anthony, this entire mess. I don't know what I would have done without you." She kissed his cheek. "Thank you."
Harry wrapped his arms around her waist and held her close. He rested his face against her head and breathed her in. And, before he could stop it, he felt a tear or two slide down his face and onto her head. He wiped the trail away quickly and let her go. "That's what friends are for, Hermione."
She let go of him and stepped back. She gave him one last loving smile before she nodded and apparated away. And Harry could only watch as Hermione left him for someone else. Because he was, as he always had been, her best friend and that was all he would ever be.
And, in the end, it was all the same.
Never tease me and don't leave me here
It's all the same in the end
Never Leave by Seether
Note: Before you get mad/upset/want to flame me, keep the summary in mind. I made it clear from the start that this fic would not have a happy ending. The Draco Malfoy thing was not some spur of the moment, random decision; it was my plan from the very start. I wrote this fic because I was like "how have I not written a Harry/Hermione/Draco yet?" The HHr in this fic just kept growing and growing, but it was never my intention for you to really notice who she was in love with, because, well, sometimes people really don't see it coming. There were so many times that I did consider changing that aspect of the story, but that would defeat half of the point. Hermione needed a challenge and the character that fit that the most was Draco. I know I could have gone back to Ron, but I felt as if that would have been counter productive, because Harry helps her to move on from Ron. There was no other character that I could think of that was an accepted fanon pairing and wouldn't be even more extreme. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but it is my fanfiction and this was the story I had intended to write. This is definitely the end. But you are more than welcome to leave any questions or confusion you might have in a review and I will respond back.
I have another triangle fic that I'll post in a few days that may help to explain my reasoning for her picking Draco. It's done, but I need to edit/tweek it.
Sorry for the late posting. My laptop screen came off the hinge a day or two after I posted the second chapter. Luckily, I have an AMAZING friend who offered to let me use her spare laptop until I can get one in the summer. I was able to transfer everything, but it just took sometime. Plus, I had to move back to campus and all.
And on a slightly unrelated note: at the end of the month, I will be changing my pen name from Inu Star Angel to MuslimBarbie. Details will be posted on my profile page.
This fic is dedicated to fadsforwhatever, a fellow fandom girl who I found out lives only two floor below me.