Letter to Nobody
Harry slid his arm through the second sleeve of his robes and pulled it tight against his body, straightened his crooked tie, and adjusted his glasses. As he made to place his wand at his side and depart for Hogsmeade, he remembered that he still had yet to put his shoes on.
He knelt down, scanning around the room for his shoes. He managed to locate the first; he had found it wedged between the wall and headboard. How it had got there, he really wasn't very sure, but he continued his search. He felt under his bed; it was something of a dark wasteland there. He'd found hangars and trousers and socks he never even knew he had. There was an old essay and what he assumed was once a half-eaten corned beef sandwich, as well as a small vial with only a few drops of liquid inside it.
He stared at the vial for a moment, examining it carefully. Its contents were like liquid gold and, though only a little remained, a droplet would bounce up now and again, then slide back down to the bottom. Harry smiled; he knew what this potion was. it was the very last of the Felix Felicis that he had won from Professor Slughorn a couple years before.
He pulled of the top and poured the liquid luck into his mouth. It wasn't much, he acknowledged, but it would be enough to aid him in his search for his missing shoe. As he took to his feet he saw, before he could even blink, his shoe's mate sitting atop his nightstand. He smiled widely, slipping the lost shoe on and Disapparating in a flash.
The familiar feeling of being forced through a tiny rubber tube met with the cool, crisp air of the new spring dusk. Harry sped through the Hogsmeade streets, kicking up a light dust into the air behind him as he headed toward Hogwarts. He'd been meaning to pay Hermione a visit for some time and tonight seemed perfect for the occasion.
It had been some time since Harry had been to Hogwarts. As he looked-up to the castle, he was reminded of the terrible battle that had taken place here, the castle in ruins and the Quidditch pitch in embers. Now there was a faint glow around the school, the magical energies of the freshly-renewed protections woven into the construction were fading very slowly.
The halls were surprisingly empty, Harry decided, as he made his trek up the stairs toward the Gryffindor common room. On his journey he was met by but one person, a newly-appointed Prefect, who simply froze in her place, slack-jawed as she saw the triumphant Chosen One walk through the corridors of her school.
As Harry stopped at the portrait of the Fat Lady, she squealed an ear-splittingly loud squeal and made as if to embrace him through her portrait. All the paintings beside her, though also excited about his return to the school, chastised her to be quiet, but she ignored them.
"Harry Potter," she gasped, straitening up her dress a little. She poured herself a drink from a large bottle of Burgundy, then raised the glass to her lips. "You've come back." She swirled her large goblet of wine a little, taking in its aromas; her pinkie pointed out toward the frame of her portrait.
"I have," he confirmed, nodding to the lady in the painting. "To see an old friend." She nodded a small nod, raise an eyebrow just a little and said the word everyone knew she must grow weary of saying.
"Password?" Harry was concerned about not knowing the password for only a small moment when two words entered his mind. At once he knew the words must be the password and they rolled off the tip of his tongue.
"Yes, that is your name."
"He's telling you the password," said Violet, stepping into the portrait to get a better, closer look at Harry. She took a goblet of her own and began to fill it to the brim.
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed the Fat Lady, slashing a bit of Burgundy on herself. "I'd almost forgotten." She chuckled for a moment, and the portrait moved to reveal the entrance to the new Gryffindor common room. "Now, don't keep her up too late," she added, muffled by the wall in front of her.
As he stepped through the porthole, he was, at once greeted by the sight of Hermione sitting on one of the new armchairs purchased for the school. Not unlike his days at Hogwarts, her hair was draped over the edges of a book that had to weigh at least half as much as she did.
There was a rather lengthy piece of parchment atop her book; she sat her quill down in front of her and was beginning to fold her writing in half when she looked-up to see Harry standing in front of her.
"That looks like quite the essay," Harry said, taking a seat in the chair beside his friend. He looked at her as she began to put-away her things.
"It's good to see you, Harry," Hermione began, "I can't believe I'm almost done here. It seems like just yesterday we arrived on those little boats on the lake." She turned to look at him one again, "Yet, at the same it feels like it's been ages."
If Harry were entirely honest with himself, he noticed that she looked rather thinner than he remembered, as though the war against the Dark Lord had taken more than just sleep and friends from her. Despite this, though, her gentle brown eyes still captivated him. She smiled, sliding in a little yarn into her book to mark her place as she closed its pages.
"How are things with Ron," Harry asked. It must have been a bit of a sore subject, because the happiness she wore on her face faded into a bothered frown. She rolled her eyes and let her head crash back into the cushions of her arm chair.
"I don't know what's going on anymore," Hermione said, folding her arms and unfolding them again. "One moment it's fine and perfect and the next," she hissed, "I just want to strangle him!" She paused for a moment before casting her eyes into his. "How are things with you and Ginny? She's not told me much of anything about you. Are you two together again?"
"Ginny says she wants more time," Harry said casually. He was less and less sure that he and Ginny would ever return to the relationship they had before her sixth year. While he lamented that fact, he was coming to grips with it. "Did she tell you she was trying out for the Holyhead Harpies today?"
"So that's why she wasn't in class today!" Hermione exclaimed. "How'd she do?"
"She made the team," he said simply. He was proud of Ginny, but, at the same time, couldn't help feeling that she was using everything in her power to avoid their relationship. "She starts this next season."
"That's great," she said enthusiastically. She was best friends with Ginny at school, both during the war and after. There was an awkward silence between them. Harry, anxious to enjoy his time with his best friend, tried a little small talk.
"So," he said, feigning interest in the paper she had placed beneath her book. "Which professor assigned that essay? Looks like a long one."
"Oh," Hermione responded stiffly. "It's a letter for a friend of mine." She quickly made to change the subject, and tucked the the letter inside a pocket on the inside of her robes. "Will you be coming the the graduation ceremony?"
"How could I miss it?" He said happily. He wouldn't miss her graduation if Lord Voldemort suddenly came back to life as a peace-loving cross-dresser in a bright yellow bikini. She was his best friend. She yawned and set her head back against her chair.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione yawned again and set down her quill. After a little stretching, she turned to him and sleepily added, "But I'm really sleepy. I think I'm going to go to bed now." Harry felt his heart sink within him, he'd hoped his time with her would have been a little better, that he'd have had a little more luck.
He stood as she did and wrapped her in a tight embrace, then kissed her on the cheek. He didn't want to let her go, but knew he must. He would have loved to help her carry her heavy book up to her room and wish her a better goodnight, but the enchanted staircase made that an impossibility.
As Hermione vanished from his sight, he could hear faintly the sound of her dormitory's door closing. He turned to leave, but was met by the sound of crunching parchment beneath his feet. He knelt down to rescue it from its accidental home on the floor. It was a little crumpled and had begun to unfold, exposing its first few lines of text. It was Hermione's handwriting, though a little shakier than her usual.
I don't know how to begin this letter and I suppose I really should just be telling you this in person, but every time I try, I just can't."
The letter was addressed to him. His interest piqued, he unfolded it further and read on.
"Something happened when Ron and I were in the Chamber of Secrets last year. Ron had told me about the Horcruxes. He mentioned how awful and terrifying they were and when I made to destroy the cup, I got my own taste of Riddle's medicine.
"He was awful, yet I can't help but feel if that he was acting as a mirror to feelings I didn't even realise I had. He taunted, teased, and ridiculed me: I was going to make the wrong choice. I would chose the wrong man I loved; I would ruin the relationship that mattered more to me without even knowing it. As you know, things with Ron haven't been the best of late - or ever, really. I don't know why I deluded myself into thinking I cared for him. I suppose, in some way, he was like a consolation prize. I couldn't have you, so why even try? I could settle for him, it was so obvious that he was interested in me.
"But that's just it: I didn't even try. Voldemort was a terrible wizard, vile, cruel and evil, but he, or part of him, I suppose, was right about one thing: I did make the wrong choice. I chose the wrong man to love. I just hope it's not too late to make the correct choice. Harry, I love you. I've tried to keep it a secret, but I just can't anymore. I really wish I had the guts to tell you all this in person but..."
The letter simply ended, left unfinished with a line of ink trailing down the rest of the page. Harry suspected the parchment he held in his hands was not the first draft of the letter, nor likely the second. He felt his emotions well within him, bubbling up to choke him a little. As he let his hand, letter in its grasp, fall to his side, it dawned on him. He, too, had made the wrong choice. He had chosen the wrong witch.
He was interrupted from his thoughts by Hermione, standing in her nightgown on the steps before him. She looked beautiful, her hair slightly mussed by the short time she had spent in bed.
"You dropped this," Harry said softly, doing a poor job of hiding that the letter had been opened. Hermione lowered her eyes; her cheeks when a vibrant crimson. Though he had a difficult time understanding women, he understood her perfectly for the first time he could remember; reading her like a well-translated book.
"You read," she stammered, her voice as shaky as her handwriting had been. He couldn't tell if she was annoyed or terrified that he had read the letter. "You read it?"
"Did you want to talk?"
Hermione cringed. He could almost see the thoughts spinning through her mind: she was bracing herself for a big, lengthy explanation as to why he could never love her, that he was like a sister to her, that he'd fallen in love with another. When the explanation didn't come, however, she relaxed just a little.
"What more is there to say?" Hermione asked, trying to dodge his question in the only way she knew how.
"I suppose you've said it all, haven't you?" Harry said softly, stepping up a little closer to her. "But that's all okay, because I haven't." She looked petrified, frozen in time as he brushed her hair from her face and held her cheek in the palm of his hand. He kissed her softly, tasting, for the first time, the lips of the witch he knew he would marry.
"I made the wrong choice, too," he said and kissed her again.
"Oh," she said breathlessly. "I see."
Author's Note: Please, if you've taken the time to read this little story, take the time to tell me what you think of it. Review!