A/N - Written for the HP Tarot Challenge over at Live Journal.
Prompt: Eight of Wands - This card will often represent the type of cathartic discussion which resolves misunderstanding and ends confusion. When passing through an event which is sign-posted by the 8 of Wands, there's often a feeling of quick-moving energy, and a sense that obstacles are being swept out of your path. It can also signify the quick beginning of a romance.
Four Times That Harry Should Have Gotten The Hint and The One Time He Did
The charm was supposedly an easy one yet Harry found it positively hard.
"You're not trying hard enough."
He felt his jaw twitch with annoyance. "I am trying, Hermione. It's just not that easy."
She looked at him pointedly. "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you trying to upset me or something?"
She simply grinned at him. "Is it working?"
Despite himself, Harry felt his lips twist in amusement. "This is not helping, you know."
"That's because you're not concentrating." She gestured out of the window they were currently standing next to. "The fallen branch is right there, under that tree. All you have to do is summon it. After that, summoning your broom will be a piece of cake."
"I told you," Harry said tiredly, "it's too far."
Hermione snorted. "It's not."
"You try it, then."
She shoved him closer to the window. "Well, I'm not one of the champions for the Triwizard Tournament, now am I? Go on, Harry. You can do it."
Narrowing his eyes at the one branch that Hermione had carefully placed close to the Forbidden Forest, Harry tried once again to summon it to him with the simple 'Accio' charm. There was a moment where the branch shook, rolled over, before Harry lifted the spell and stared at it pathetically. "It's no use. I'm done for."
But as usual, Hermione wasn't hearing any of it. "No you're not." Then the grip on his sleeve tightened. "Look."
Harry looked down at the place she was pointing at, noticing the three Slytherins he absolutely despised strutting around the grounds of Hogwarts Castle as they terrorized first and second years.
Without another word, Hermione aimed her wand at the three, and after a well-aimed incantation, the back of Crabbe and Goyle's robes rose up as if a huge gust of wind had taken them from behind, causing them to sprawl onto the floor clumsily. Harry and Hermione immediately burst out laughing, finding the image of Draco Malfoy kicking his minions while calling them 'clumsy oafs' highly entertaining.
"Now you try," she whispered, nudging his hand forward.
Harry shook his head. "I can't. They're too far."
Hermione looked at him squarely in the eye. "You can do it, Harry. I know you can. Go on."
Aiming his wand at Malfoy, and thinking about all the horrid things the ferret had ever said or done, Harry muttered the same incantation that Hermione had used. To his delight, the same thing happened to Malfoy, causing him to fall down on his face while Crabbe and Goyle laughed heartily. The moment the blond staggered back to his feet, he pulled out his wand and looked around, probably ready to hex the person who had the nads to hex him. Crabbe and Goyle stumbled when he snapped at them, before pulling out their own wands and circling Malfoy in a poorly executed, half-hearted threat.
Just before Malfoy's gaze moved up, Hermione pulled Harry's arm, the two of them falling down happily, breathless with laughter. Harry shook his head, his grin wide and sides splitting with pain. He never thought that he could ever do what he did. But as usual, his best friend pushed him far beyond what he thought was his limit. "You're brilliant, Hermione."
Hermione blushed, her eyes immediately dropping away from him.
Harry stared at her. It was the first time she had ever blushed at a compliment he had given her.
"C'mon," she said gesturing towards the window, "we still need to practice."
Harry stood up reluctantly with a half-hearted groan.
Hermione giggled. "I think they like each other."
Harry's stag Patronus stood stoically still while Hermione's otter floated in circles around the much larger silvery animal shape, only to make a mad dash away when the stag tried to nip at his heels playfully.
Harry watched her rather than the two Patronuses as they jumped, swung and circled around Hermione. It had been so long since he had heard her laugh.
"I'm sorry," he said suddenly.
Hermione looked up, startled. "For what?"
Harry sighed before he lifted the charm with a flick of his wand. "For getting you into this. If you hadn't met me…"
She lifted her own charm, letting the otter dissolve into transparent mist before she sat down next to him. "I blame you for a lot of things, Harry. But not this. Besides, what in the world would you have done without me?" She nudged her shoulder against his playfully. "And anyway, who could say 'no' to the person who saved their life?"
Harry raised his gaze to meet hers, confusion marring his features.
"First year. You came after me when the troll was loose because you were worried about me. Then you jumped on that creature without thought just to stop it from hurting me." She smiled at him affectionately. "No one had ever done that for me before." She raised gentle fingers to move a few dark strands that had fallen into his eyes, her lips twisting in amusement. "I have to admit that I might have gotten into way more trouble because I knew you…"
He met her expression with a smirk.
"But…" She shrugged. "I'm glad I did." Leaning forward, she placed a gentle kiss against his cheek; one that made him close his eyes as he felt his skin tingle. She moved back quickly. "It's my turn to take the first watch." Dusting her jeans, she stood up before she left him alone in the tent.
Harry reduced the light and moved to his own bunk bed. Just before his eyes closed in much needed sleep, he couldn't help but wonder where Ron was.
"You drugged me?" he asked incredulously.
Ginny shook her head, her eyes full of remorse. "I didn't mean to."
"Jesus," he found himself muttering as he pushed himself away from the table, hardly able to control the need to pace the length of the Weasley kitchen. Ginny watched him hopefully, her confusion as to the Muggle term he had used apparent.
"I never intended to serve you Veritaserum."
Harry glared at her, unable to hide the anger and worry he felt regarding the fact that for a few hours, he would have answered any question asked of him honestly and without thought. The worst part was the fact that he couldn't remember a bloody thing of it. "How could you mistake something like Veritaserum for pumpkin juice?"
"I don't know! All I know is that George has been experimenting with a mild truth telling serum and he was planning on using it on Percy as a laugh. I had no idea that what I gave you was meant for my brother. But the moment I realised what had happened, I led you upstairs and told everyone you were sick. No one spoke to you."
That news made him feel that much better. And although what she said made sense, it didn't make him feel any less agitated. He had to be sure. "No one asked me anything?"
"No," she said, shaking her head with a slight twitch. "No one."
He narrowed his eyes at her. After years of seeing Ginny, he could spot a lie a mile away. She always blinked a bit faster when she said something that wasn't entirely truthful. "Ginny…"
She looked away from him.
"Ginny," he said more forcefully, wondering what he had said. Did he insult her in any way? Did he say something unforgivable? Merlin, what if he had said something about her mother?
"I just…" She Shrugged. "Do you remember what day it was, that Saturday?"
Stiffly, Harry nodded. "It was Ron's birthday."
"Hermione had tickets for a Muggle sport that she was trying to interest Ron in. Naturally, Ron wasn't going to go. You said you'd go instead."
Harry stared at her, unable to understand exactly what she was getting at. "Hermione was never one who would go alone to watch a cricket match. She had good seats. I would be barmy to let her give them away."
Ginny looked at him, her lips parting in what he had come to know as annoyance. "It was for the next weekend, Harry. The weekend we had plans-"
"You mean lunch with your parents? We always have lunch with your parents on Saturday."
"Exactly! And you completely disregarded that. All Hermione has to ever do is ask you to go for something and you do. You might grumble about it, but you would do it anyway. And all because Hermione asked you to."
"Ginny," Harry began patiently. "She's my best friend. We have been through so much together-"
"Is that why you always choose her over me?"
Harry paused for a moment. "I don't."
"But that's the thing, isn't it? You always choose her and you don't even know it."
He shook his head, denying everything she was telling him. "You wouldn't be saying this if it were your brother."
"Of course not," she said tiredly. "But Ron doesn't take you away from me."
He looked at her incredulously. "Hermione doesn't do anything of the sort. I have free will. I can not go with her if I want to."
Ginny shook her head in disbelief, a determined glint in her eye. "Then promise me that you won't, that you will always choose me over Hermione."
Harry opened his mouth to reply 'yes' to her requests, but something stopped him. He was suddenly bombarded with memories of disagreements between his fiancé and best friend. He always stayed resolutely out of it even though there were times that he couldn't help but agree with Hermione based on his principle. His wife to be had a fiery personality that was never meant to be crossed while Hermione was coolheaded and logical in her arguments. Who in their right mind wouldn'tside with her?
Ginny stood up suddenly, finding his silence the answer that she had wanted. "Even when you were under Veritaserum, Harry. I couldn't help myself, I had to ask. When I asked you who you trusted more, me or Hermione, can you guess what you said?" Without another word, she turned on her heel and left, her red hair whipping behind her angrily, leaving Harry standing in the middle of the Weasley Kitchen utterly gobsmacked.
Harry Potter blinked rapidly at the sudden brightness that burned right through his eyelids. He didn't have to open his eyes and focus to know who it was that had the brilliant idea of pulling away the curtains suddenly to make him leave his bed.
"Blimey, Hermione," he mumbled as he blindly grabbed the pillow from under his head and proceeded to bury his head underneath it.
Even through the goose down, he heard her huff. "Honestly, Harry, you can't keep living like this."
She tugged on his pillow which only made him grip it harder.
"Harry." She pulled at it again causing his fingers to clench tight and hold on to it for a dear life.
The mattress dipped when she sat down beside him and Let out a tired sigh. "How long are you going to stay here? It's nearly noon."
At his silence, she shook his exposed shoulder. "Harry." She shook him again, and again, until she decided that she really did need to use force and pulled at the pillow with all her might, successfully releasing it from his grasp.
Harry groaned as he screwed his eyes shut and curled up in a ball. He didn't care that she had obviously taken time off work to get him to leave his bed, and he didn't care that he could smell something delicious coming from the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. The past few weeks had been horrible and all he wanted to do was wallow in self-pity.
He heard a let out a small sigh. "I didn't want to do this." There was the familiar sound of crinkling and rustling of paper, before Hermione stated reading primly, "It was a night to remember when the 'Boy Wonder', also known as the 'Boy Who Lived' and 'Saviour of the Wizarding World' was surprisingly left at the altar. 'No one would have thought it possible' said Danielle Foray, an invited guest who attended the planned prestigious event while on the arm of Mica Strums, the newly appointed Head of the Department of Magical Creatures as well as a long standing friend of Arthur Weasley, the father of the runaway bride. 'It was most exciting. Although my cousin did say that it could happen. I told him that his ears were filled with Pygmy Puffs. Who in their right mind would not want to marry Harry Potter?'"
Harry chose that moment to sit up, grab the Daily Prophet from his best friend's grasp, bundle it angrily into a paper ball and toss it with all his might across his bedroom. He then reached for his wand that was lying on his bedside table and lit the newsprint with a silent incantation, watching it burn brightly for a moment before he snuffed it out. He felt infinitely better when he saw Rita Skeeter's face go up in flames.
Hermione, on the other hand, stayed silent before she faced him with an easy smile. "Oh good. You're up."
He glared at her.
"Harry, you can't keep treating yourself like this."
She rolled her eyes. "And I can't keep looking after you when you're in this state. For instance..." She hesitated.
His eyes met hers curiously, wondering why a sudden blush coloured her features. "For instance?"
The blush deepened while she found a loose thread on his bedding highly interesting. "I won't be able to visit you this weekend. Or see to it that you wake up at a decent hour or even eat right."
It felt like his chest had caved in. "Oh. Are you going somewhere?"
"Um…Dean asked me to visit his parents." She looked up at him. "It's not a big deal. I'm just going for the weekend."
He watched her as she shifted nervously, the way she kept her eyes away from him spoke in a way that worried him. "It sounds like a big deal."
She shook her head. "It really isn't." Almost as if a sudden thought struck her, she stood up. "But that's not the reason why I'm here."
"It isn't?" he asked, confused.
"I have a present for you," she said brightly as she opened her bag and pulled out another rolled up Daily Prophet.
Harry groaned. "I don't know how that is going to put me in a good mood."
"Patience," she chastised, unrolling the paper before handing it to him.
Harry picked up his glasses, and put it on before blinking down at the article. "She retracted it?"
"Every word," Hermione said smugly as she sat back down. "Naturally, I had to have a discussion with her first. A heart to heart that proved to be fruitful. To us, anyway."
Harry looked up at her. "I don't know what I would do without you."
Hermione shrugged, her eyes dropping the way it usually did whenever he gave her a compliment. "It's the least I could do. They really needed to leave you alone."
Harry felt as if a lump had gotten caught in his throat. "Thank you, Hermione. You're like a blessing in disguise."
"I'm not always this useful, Harry," she said with a small smile. "But I'll take it."
The illusion was a simple one and he had basked in its reality for nearly a decade. He had two best friends; one a foul mouthed red head who could make him laugh easily and always seemed to say the one thing Harry would be thinking but not have the courage to spit out, the other, the best girl friend he could have ever asked for. She fussed over him like a mother hen, she would chastise him for following Ron and taking the lazy or the easy way out, she would dissect every single confusing action that those of the fairer sex deemed acceptable to use in order to confuse the male gender, ensuring that he could passably speak 'woman', and she was there for him, no matter what, believed him no matter what anyone else had to say, and defended him with all of her ability. She was his best friend. Why had he never considered that she could be so much more?
Harry watched her as she laughed, completely ignorant as to his thoughts and feelings. It had felt like a lightning bolt. His stomach had dropped, his chest had tightened, while his head swam in circles and he felt out of breath. And all because Dean Thomas told him amongst all his other friends from Hogwarts that he was intending to ask Hermione to marry him. Harry felt sick to his stomach. Still, he nodded along with the rest of them and offered his congratulations, his eyes rising time and again to watch her as she spoke to the girls that surrounded her at the casual Hogwarts reunion she had implemented.
He couldn't help but keep his eyes on her for the rest of the night, his thoughts studying nearly every moment he had ever been alone with her as he wondered… Why hadn't he ever noticed?
"Dean's going to ask you to marry him." Harry winced. He had intended it to come out casually, but he sounded more worried than what he intended to show her.
"That's a bit sudden. " Hermione frowned thoughtfully, her fingers moving fast as she started clearing the clutter on the table. "Are you sure?"
Harry started helping her by piling up the dishes. "Positive." He looked at her, her behaviour confusing him. "You're not upset."
"Why should I be upset?" she asked casually, while she continued to clean up as a good hostess is expected to do.
He stared at her, speechless. "Because… you don't want to marry him. Do you?" he asked as an afterthought.
Her only response was to shrug, which only served to annoy him.
"You're going to say 'yes'?" he asked incredulously.
She hesitated. "I don't know what I'll say. He hasn't asked me yet."
"But he is going to ask you," he said forcefully, following her to the kitchen while laden with a few dishes on each arm.
"Okay, then. He's going to ask me."
Harry followed her lead and left everything near the sink. "Why aren't you more upset about this?"
She turned around quickly to face him. "Why are youso upset about this?"
She crossed her arms and eyed him pointedly. "Yes, you are. I thought you liked Dean."
"I do. It's just…" He hesitated. "Don't you think this is a bit sudden? You haven't been seeing each other for that long."
She rolled her eyes. "We've known each other for ten years."
"Well, yeah." He shifted from one foot to the other before gesturing between them. "We've known each other for ten years. Am I supposed to propose to you too?"
Hermione stared at him. "But we're friends, aren't we?" she asked softly. "And friends don't date."
Harry felt an uncomfortable lump in his throat. "They do," he said nervously. "If they're both open to it."
Hermione's eyes widened slightly. "But, only if they're both single."
They simply stared at each other. Harry had never felt so nervous or so excited. It was that drive, that exhilarating feeling that made him cross the room, grab the back of her neck and kiss her. Hermione immediately arched towards him, her lips responding against his own and making him tighten his grip on her. But just as soon as the kiss began, it ended. "Dean," she breathed out, her breath warm on his neck. "I can't forget about Dean."
"No," Harry agreed, the guilt churning in his stomach. But then his gaze rose to meet hers and everything else flew out of his mind. All he wanted to do was kiss her; and he did, slowly, purposefully.
Hermione pulled back, her eyes meeting his sadly. "Did you really have to wait for so long?"
Harry looked back, unable to answer her. "Apparently, I did."
Shaking her head, Hermione untangled his arms from around her and stepped back. "I should go see Dean."
Harry felt his chest tighten. "Why?"
"Well…I can't…I can't do anything with you while I'm with him, now can I?" She looked around, grabbing her purse from the kitchen counter before she looked up at him. "Wait for me?"
"Of course." He nodded.
Hermione smiled, distracted as she left the kitchen, before long the familiar sound of the roaring flames of the fireplace breaking the silence.
Suddenly tired, Harry collapsed onto the nearest chair. Blimey, that was fast. Not that he was complaining. If anything, he hardly noticed that he was grinning widely like an eleven year old who had just been told that he could do magic.