Picture In My Pocket

...in which second chances are given.

"Bill, you're being stupid."

It irked him- his little sister, who used to look at him like he was Jesus Christ in the flesh- telling him that he was being stupid. For not-exactly-the-first-time-lately, he was struck by how much his life had changed. If only his hands would stop shaking, he might be able to think, to understand.

"You know, Ginny, I didn't ask for your opinion. Also, I don't know what you're talking about."

"Then you're even stupider than I thought," she said without missing a beat. He ground his teeth together, forcing himself to think back over all the good times he'd had with his sister so he wouldn't blow up at her.

"Then enlighten me, your royal painintheass majesty. Why is it that I'm so stupid?" he asked, his voice a disconcerting mix of honey and vinegar.

Ginny rolled her eyes, putting a hand on her hip in that way she did when she felt vastly superior to whoever she was speaking to. "She wants to talk to you, you ass. She's been trying to talk to you since you got back from the damn therapist, but you've been too busy sticking your head up your-"

"Okay!" Bill snapped, glaring at her. "Okay, okay, okay. Got it. Hermione is willing to talk to me, I've been an idiot, I should go talk to her. I've got it. Leave me alone now, would you?"

"I most certainly will not."

"Why's that?" Bill demanded, head pounding with frustration.

"Because you're stubborn and pigheaded just like me. You'll never give her- or yourself- another chance unless I make you. So…" Ginny shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, I'm making you."

It was Bill's turn to roll his eyes. "I may not have a wand at the present, but I think I can still leave a room if I want to."

Ginny made no move to stop him as he got up to head for the door. When the knob turned easily, he grinned despite himself. She really had gone soft, hadn't she? He nearly crowed in triumph as the door swung open easily, and then-

And then he groaned, realizing he'd been stupid for thinking Ginny wouldn't have made a plan for exactly this. She'd expected it, of course.

"Hello, Hermione," Ginny said cheerfully, grinning at the girl standing warily in the doorway.

Hermione was steadfastly avoiding Bill's face, choosing to lock her eyes on Ginny instead. "I waited like you told me." Her voice was high and shaky. She was scared. Bill's inner-monologue consisted solely of words that couldn't be said on public television.

"I see that," Ginny said before hopping up from the sofa and slipping past Bill and Hermione, out of the room. She nudged the brown haired girl farther inside, pulling the door shut behind her. Hermione and Bill were silent, listening to the unmistakable sound of the door being sealed shut with magic.

Hermione stood awkwardly by the door for another moment before moving around Bill to Ginny's vacated seat. She still wasn't looking at him, but he couldn't look at anything but her face. It had been ridiculous of him to expect her to look different. It had only been a few days…

Still, the relief that flooded through his body was like the flow of Novocain through the bloodstream. She was the same. Her face, her body, her eyes were just as they'd been before. He melted onto the armchair across from her, perched on the very edge of the seat, his whole body straining towards her. He had dreaded the reunion, but now that she was here, only a few feet away, he couldn't wait for her to speak. To forgive him.

All of the self-loathing and anxiety was quiet for now- numb. He could tell that it wasn't gone completely. He could feel it like the dead weight of a sleeping limb, but he didn't care. He'd deal with it later.

After an eternity, she spoke. He fought the urge to scream with relief. It probably wouldn't help matters.

"Hello, Bill."

Pushing down the unexplainable bubbling joy in his chest, he kept his voice even.

"Hullo, Hermione."

"How was-" Her voice choked off, and she stared at her lap for a minute before trying again. "How was the therapist?"

His jaw twitched, but he knew what he needed to say. Lying wasn't a huge price to pay if it would make her more at ease. "It was really, really good. He gave me a new potion for the-the problem. Said it will help with the… side effects I've been experiencing lately."

He was very glad he had lied. Her shoulders relaxed and her eyes lifted the tiniest bit. If he could only get her to look at his face, she would understand!

"That's really great, Bill. I'm happy for you."

Bill frowned. He didn't like that at all. That was the kind of thing you said to someone you didn't plan on talking to again. He panicked, scrabbling for anything to get her to stay

"I need your help!" he nearly yelled, and she froze, muscles tensed again. Her lips tighten and he can see the reserve in her eyes.

"With what?"

"With…with…" he casted around for anything. "With the potion! I can't brew it. I'm out of practice, and it's difficult. You're the only one I can think of who could ever- who I'd ever ask."

Finally, godyesfinally, she looked up into his eyes.

He nearly exploded with joy, every cell in his body absolutely singing. He'd known it all along- when she looked at him, really looked at him, she wouldn't stand a chance. He could see it in her eyes- some weakness for him. He didn't understand it, but he'd been counting on it.

"Will you help me?" he asks. He meant to beg, but there was a hint of victory in his voice that he knew she must be able to hear.

Thankfully, she didn't comment on it. Instead she held out her hand, and he stared at it, lost.

"The potion recipe?" she prompted after it was clear he had no idea what she was asking for.

Bill's face lit up, and he began frantically digging through his pockets, searching like a madman. "Here!" he cried, thrusting the mangled scrap of paper into her hand.

Hermione looked over the instructions, eyebrows drawn together. After five minutes, she stood to leave the room, and he rose automatically, taking a step after her.

"Where are you going?"

She pursed her lips as if it was a stupid question. "To make the potion, of course."

Bill grinned, and then she left the room. Now that she was gone, his head ached so bad that he wished it would just fall off, but even that wasn't enough to completely dampen his spirits.

He had a second chance.

A/N: There we go everyone. Went back and fixed the past/present tense problem as much as I was able. Hope we're all better now.