Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc. This is just something to pass the time while waiting for the next book.
Part III : Always and Forever
Ron Weasley found himself placed in a very unusual situation—in the middle of his best friends who were having the fight of their lives. A fight between Harry and Hermione hadn't happened since their third year over that Firebolt and Ron had to admit that he had helped to fuel that one. Harry had been so eager to make up with Hermione once he got his broom back that it had been pathetic.
The major fights between them since then had generally been between Ron and either Harry or Hermione. It used to be that Harry always took his side—that was certainly true when Ron thought that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers. Yet whenever Ron and Harry fought, Hermione would take Harry's side in a heartbeat without even pausing to really listen to Ron's side of the story. Eventually that started to be reciprocated. Fortunately, major fights between the Trio were few and far between otherwise Ron would have begun to feel left out. They hadn't had a major argument for a year—until now.
Ron felt bad for both of his friends. He knew where Harry was coming from as he had been in that position before. Ron thought that it was worse for Harry as Harry felt more for Hermione than he ever did. It was obvious that he was slowly creeping towards the realization that he had fallen madly in love with his female best friend along the way. Just look at his odd obsession with dating Ravenclaws—people often said that Hermione should have been sorted into that House and Harry chose the Ravenclaws that were most like Hermione to date. If Hermione had waited just a little longer, Harry would have came to his senses about the whole thing. Certainly he had finally taken notice of her when she had made her grand entrance at the ball.
The only problem was Hermione was tired of waiting. Ron could understand that as well. She had been waiting years for Harry to notice her as something other than a friend. Ron suspected that Hermione first started to like Harry at the end of their fourth year when she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Girls like Hermione did not hand out kisses to everyone. He knew that they would go well together ever since he and Hermione broke up. Unlike him, Harry had enough common ground to make things work with Hermione. Harry already cared so much about what Hermione felt and thought that it was incredible. Certainly Ron had thought Hermione had lost it for crying after the first task yet Harry never did. Ron did feel protective towards Hermione, like an older brother, and he approved of matching Harry with her as his best friend would take such caution to avoid hurting Hermione in normal times.
Unfortunately, no matter how well a potential couple got along together, no one was willing to wait forever. Hermione must have decided that she had waited long enough after Harry had refused her invitation to the ball. To be fair, Harry couldn't have said yes when he already had another date but Ron couldn't blame her for that. She probably didn't know what else to do. She had set her heart on the line with that invitation and had come up empty. It must have been worse for her when Harry started blabbing about his stupid date. Harry might have been blind to Hermione's reaction but Ron could see her biting back tears. It made Ron want to grab Harry and shake him until he saw what was in front of him.
So it had taken a lot of restraint not to cheer Hermione on when she walked out on Harry like that. At least, it had taken a lot of restraint until Ron got a good look at Harry's face.
Harry had been completely devastated.
The situation did not improve as the week went along. Hermione refused to talk to Harry. He'd have to apologize first, she had told Ron when he had asked. Ron had been trying to get Hermione to feel sorry for Harry by telling her how crushed Harry was. He had fallen asleep in the library next to Ron the other day. Harry had kept tossing and turning as if having a nightmare, before saying, quite audibly, "No, Hermione! Please don't go!"
That had given Hermione pause but she didn't act more sympathetically. She had just tossed her hair and said that if Harry was feeling badly about his actions, then the only thing that would make him feel better was to say that he was sorry.
Ron had given up trying to get his friends back together at that. He had attempted before talking to Hermione to get Harry to take the first step. After all, the situation was more Harry's fault than hers. Harry had simply refused to even listen to a word he had said. He had acted like a complete prat. Hermione had the right not to want to be the one to apologize first. He had tried to convince her out of friendship for the poor, lovelorn fool but to no avail. There was nothing else that Ron could do for Harry.
Ron just hoped that something would change. As much as Harry deserved his treatment, he was completely miserable. Harry had put up with enough misery with his life and Ron couldn't help but wish that he could catch a lucky break just this once.
Considering everything that he had already been through, Harry deserved a little bit of happiness.
She missed him.
She hated to admit it but she missed that bastard and she missed him a lot. It was almost physically painful to stay away from the boy that she had loved for so long.
Hermione rolled around on her bed to stare up at the ceiling. She blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. She refused to give in, despite the pain. She hated being taken for granted. If she apologized, it would just happen all over again. It probably still would if Harry was the one to say sorry but at least she wouldn't have apologized for what she felt. She didn't think it was wrong for her to feel upset. She had done so much, had given up so much in order just to get him to look at her as more than a friend. He never did. It was never enough, no matter what she did. And then, when she finally decided to give up waiting for him to take notice, he goes and takes insult that she did something like that.
How dare Harry expect her to save a dance for him! Why should she when he didn't even bother to ask beforehand like Ron did? Why should she when he couldn't even be bothered to come up right away like every other boy did? Did he expect her to always wait for him?
That thought made Hermione see red. How dare he think that! It was like he was stringing her along, the way he spent time with her just to make sure that if he needed someone at the last minute, she would be there. She wasn't going to do that anymore. She had enough of playing love's fool.
Hermione vowed that she would never be a fool for Harry again.
He missed her.
He missed her so much that he cried when he was alone in his room at night. He had never felt so alone, not even during those years when he was locked up in the cupboard at the Dursleys. He hadn't known it was possible to feel this lonely—certainly not when there were other people around. But when she wasn't there, it didn't matter how many people were with him. He was alone. He didn't have her.
Harry regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth. He knew they were going to drive her away from him.
And they did. Harry could not forget the look of cold disdain she tossed at him before leaving. It made him want to shrink from shame and disappear.
When he thought about it now, it made him want to beg for forgiveness for saying such things. She was right—he was the only jealous one in the room. Because although he had not admitted it to himself at the time, he had been jealous at the ball. He was jealous of every single boy who got to spend time in her company, who got to hold her close during a dance and who got to enjoy the brilliance of her smiles. It made him green with envy to think that she would give those smiles to others but not save any for him.
It wasn't a pleasant thought. Harry wasn't proud about feeling that way. It made him seem positively ugly to have such envious thoughts but he couldn't help himself. He wanted to be with her. He wanted her always at his side, where she belonged.
Except in the end, only Hermione could choose where she belonged. Harry thought she should be at his side but she didn't share the same sentiment. She had moved on. He cursed himself for not acting quicker, for not realizing how much she meant to him before she decided that he was no longer worth the effort. Surely he had some chance with her back when she had invited him to the dance. Harry wondered how it could have gone differently if he hadn't been foolish enough to think that he was in love with someone else.
He didn't figure that out until he had lost her. Harry harbored no illusions. He had gone too far. Ron had tried to convince him otherwise but he knew the truth. He feared that while Hermione might forgive him, she would not be with him.
Despite that he might never have her as more than a friend, Harry knew that it was better to be friends with her instead of staying in the cold acquaintance they shared now. So when he saw her entering the Common Room, he just had to speak with her.
"Hermione, could I speak with you for a moment?"
She turned in his direction and he almost died. He was so used to seeing those lightning quick thoughts of hers flicker across her eyes, but she had shut him out. He didn't have a clue about what she was thinking or what she might do.
However, she just sighed and walked over to him. "What is it, Harry?" she asked quietly.
It was so much easier to think about apologizing rather than to actually do it. In his mind, Harry had seen himself coming up with such a heart-felt apology, that she accepted it and gave him another chance. Now that he was face to face with Hermione, however, he couldn't remember a single thing he had said in those visions.
So he decided to keep it simple. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was wrong. I never should have said those awful words and I never should have gotten upset about the whole thing. It's your life and I shouldn't try to run it."
Hermione closed her eyes after Harry's words. He meant them. He was sorry. He did want her forgiveness and her friendship. With her eyes closed, it was so easy to believe that he also wanted something more but that would never be. If there was anything her years spent yearning after Harry had taught her, it was that he didn't want her. He had some portrait in his mind of what his perfect woman was and he was constantly looking for her amongst the girls at school. But whoever that woman was, Hermione wasn't close enough to warrant a second look.
It would be so much easier for her life if she said no. She would miss him but eventually that would fade away. He would become a bittersweet memory instead of being a thorn of longing that was always at her side. If she said yes, Hermione didn't know how she would ever get over him. She would have to see him at holidays with his wife at his side. She would have to smile at that lucky lady and pretend she didn't care that Harry didn't look at her with love like he did for his wife. She would have to watch Harry raise children with someone else. All this she would have in front of her while she would attempt to find another man to fill the void in her heart.
That sounded impossible to do. It was a herculean task.
The alternative would be to say no. She would end their friendship then and there, ignoring all that they had been through for the last seven years.
So it wasn't an alternative after all. Hermione wasn't the type of girl to give up that sort of friendship. He had saved her life so many times, starting in their first year when he and Ron had saved her. The two boys had no reason to go back for her—they most definitely did not like her back then—but they still had. If not for them, she wouldn't be standing, listening to Harry's apology.
Her decision wasn't really a decision in the end. Her fate as one of Harry's best friends, nothing more, had been set for her long ago. She would do her best not to play the fool for him again but she would have to do so while still being his friend.
Hermione opened her eyes to look directly at Harry as she gave her answer. "It's all right. We both said things that were best left unsaid. Let's be friends again."
And that was that.
It wasn't simple anymore, just being with Hermione. Before her friendship had been enough to sustain him. He didn't actively think about wanting anything more. But ever since his eyes had been opened for him, all Harry could think about was how good it felt to be around her, like she completed him in ways he had never imagined.
Yet how could he ask her to be something more? That would sound completely unfeeling and selfish. How would he ask her? He couldn't just say, "Hermione, I'm sorry for not noticing just how wonderful you are before, not even though I've had you under my nose for the last seven years, and it took me losing you to finally figure it out, but could you put everything behind you and go out with me?" Actually, Harry could say something like that but it wouldn't do any good. What reason would she have for saying yes? Any feelings that she might have had—if that kiss fourth year and her invitation to the dance this year meant anything that is—had likely turned to dust when he had jumped down her throat like that.
It was a lovely dream though. To think that he could somehow win her affections. To think that he could somehow convince her that he was worth the effort. To think that he could show her how much he cared for her and that he would never let her down.
It was indeed a beautiful dream. Dreams never became reality if you did not act on your emotions. Harry had spent some time considering whether he wanted to risk her friendship to gain her love. He had soon put that argument aside. He was wasting his time going back and forth on that issue.
He needed her friendship. Having her around was more important that the air he breathed. That was a simple fact. He didn't feel lonely when she was around. Her friendship was the nourishment he needed in the life he had lived for so long without any tender feelings. He could count on her to believe him and cheer him on. During that awful fight, he knew that she would still believe in him in the most important things—she might have been mad at him but she wouldn't believe him capable of actually being dark and evil. If he had really needed her, if somehow Voldemort had risen from the dead, she would be by his side before he even asked. Her friendship was an incredible thing.
When it came down to it though, her friendship paled in comparison to what her love must be. That was a truth he had taken a long time seeing. And if her friendship could help him to live, her love would help him to soar. It was worth risking it all.
The only thing that was not so obvious was how to ask her. Harry was willing to risk her friendship to ask her but that didn't mean he would do so recklessly. If he failed, he still wanted to have that much to sustain him.
So it was, he was sitting in the Common Room again watching Hermione as time flew by. He could sense it passing along with his chances for her. Harry knew exactly what he wanted to say. He just did not know how to start.
Then, like a gift of love to light his way, someone opened a small box and an old song started to play.
"Would you like to dance?" he asked, holding out his hand to her.
His question gave Hermione pause. Would she like to dance? Of course but there was a little voice that was telling her no. If she was honest with herself, she had to confess that it had felt good to tell Harry no at the ball. If he was going to refuse her, the least she could do was return the favor. It was somehow satisfying to have seen the light in his eyes dim at her refusal as if she was causing him the same pain that he had inflicted upon her for the longest time.
Such thoughts were not worthy of true consideration, she reflected as she silently nodded her head and took his hand.
At first, they were content to sway together to the music. No words were spoken and no one led. They simply moved together to the tune of the song without thinking. As time passed, they got closer. He pulled her against him and she laid her head against his shoulder. Neither wanted the moment to end.
Being with her gave Harry the strength to say it. "I love you."
Hermione blinked, not believing what she had heard. Then the analytical part of her mind kicked in and she sighed. He had said it. But he hadn't meant it in the way that she had always dreamed he would mean it.
"No, you don't. That's not true."
"It is," he insisted. "And I'll say it however many times it takes for you to believe it. I love you."
She sighed again, wishing he would drop the subject. "It's not me that you love but rather that perfect woman in your dreams. That ideal person that you want to spend every single day of your life with. I'm not her, Harry and I never will be. I'm not going to lie to you by saying I am and I'm not going to lie to myself by trying to be her."
"I don't want perfect—I want you. I think perfection would get boring and be annoying to have to live with. I want the girl I know and love so well who has somehow become the charming woman I now hold in my arms. I've loved you without knowing for some time. I have taken you for granted and it took losing your friendship to open my eyes." Harry's mouth dried up as he held back tears. "I wish that never happened. I wish I had been smart enough to figure it out all before. I don't like admitting that I was so blind and I failed you like that. But I'm not perfect either. We're best when we're together, Hermione, really together, without any anger or fear in our hearts. We balance each other, we fit like hand in glove. So if you'd give me just one more chance, if you think that we're perfect when we're close like this, I'd like to stay together with you."
There was only one answer to that.
No one ever wants to be taken for granted. If you love someone, you need to know the one you love does love you back. Sometimes, it's not enough to always be with someone in order for them to know everything that you feel. There are times you have to light up your beloved's life with three little words.
Those three words were spoken with the reverence they deserved on a daily basis between Harry and Hermione. After coming so close to losing the other, neither ever took the other for granted. They loved and expressed that love in every way they could imagine.
And Harry never expected Hermione to save any dances for him. He always took the time to ask for all of them, except for one.
She always saved the last dance for him anyway.
Author's note—That's the end, although I might later revise it. Am still not happy with it even though it took a long time to write this last part. In case anyone is wondering, this chapter is named after the song H/Hr were dancing to in the end. In any case, I would love to hear what you thought about this fic. Please leave a review. Thanks!
Also, thanks so much to Nappa, Heaven, Egon-Starcollector,
The Great Kelly The Great, Sucker For
V Lynne, Wraith,
for their reviews. I really enjoyed reading what everyone wrote—and
I'm glad I'm not the only girl who thought that Hermione was in the right.
Thanks so much for leaving the reviews!