Hi everyone. Here is the last chapter for this—I'm on a roll this weekend. Just something short and sweet. I had this awesome chapter in mind, but that was months ago and I can't remember anything about it, so I just came up with this real quick. Begin Again by Taylor Swift was my inspiration for this story, by the way.
CHAPTER TWO: Begin Again
I look different.
But I'm the same.
Or at least, I think I'm the same. I still love books. I still abide by the rules. I'm still eager to learn something new at every chance I get because I believe a key part of success is knowledge.
But as I stare at my reflection, I notice three Hermione's staring back at me—who I was, who I had been, and finally the result of the two clashing as who I used to be is taking over again.
I guess returning home will do that to you. Who I used to be is resurfacing, but only just.
In the past I had come home, but I always knew I had been visiting and would soon be going back home—not realizing I was already home.
When I came home, I had put on a brave front. My break-up with Viktor had been months ago, but I had so many projects going on in Bulgaria, I couldn't leave. I never told my parents about my break-up—it never seemed important enough.
So my news came as a shock, but a good shock to them I suppose. They wanted to go out tonight to celebrate my return.
But the old Hermione would not be ignored, as she wanted one very small thing of tonight. She wanted her best friend. When was the last time I had seen him, really seen him? Even during my visits, I didn't feel the old connection I used to have with him.
With a head clearer than it has ever been, I pause in the mirror and search my brain…where has the time gone? Suddenly, I'm upset and tears sting at the corners of my eyes. I have the impulsive urge to pick up my phone and cancel out of pure shame. How could I have let this happen?
Harry has always been so special to me. I've loved him for so long, it has just become a part of who I am. Viktor had been, no doubt, a mistake. Harry and I had had years to do something and…nothing ever happened. Maybe we were too scared to ruin our friendship. I don't know. The chemistry had always been there, I thought.
After the war, I had to get away for awhile. Viktor helped me get involved in fighting for equal rights for magical creatures. It was very busy, and I barely had time for him. Perhaps if I had made time, we wouldn't have sputtered out like we had, perhaps I would have been able to love him.
I doubt it, and the reason had been in another country, slowly cutting ties with me.
And I had allowed it.
But not tonight. No, tonight I would reconnect with the most important person in my life, and beg for forgiveness.
I arrive early. I need a few minutes to gather myself. I barely have time to take a quick sweep of the small coffee shop before I see him already there, waiting for me. My heart stops. He sees me, and a grin spreads across his features. I allow myself to really take in his appearance, something I had stopped myself from doing over the last few years. He had filled out, and filled out nicely. I watch him stand chivalrously, and I slowly make my way over to his table in the corner.
"Hermione." He breathes my name, his voice soft. He pulls me into a tight hug, but when he goes to pull away, I linger a few extra seconds.
"I've missed you." I whisper, looking up at his eyes.
He smiles. "Ditto." He gestures for me to sit before he reclaims his own seat.
For a few seconds, we're quiet. Then, without warning, he lets out a chuckle. "You're back."
"I'm home." I correct him, voice full of emotion. I suddenly feel fifteen again, awkward and fumbling with my feelings. I notice his eyes glance over at my hand and understand that he was perhaps searching for an engagement ring—something to explain why I'm suddenly back. "I've come back alone." I tell him, letting the implication hang in the space between us.
He nods in understanding. "Bulgaria not suit you?" He asks. He's prying, but only barely.
"Everything I want is here. I have no pull to Bulgaria. England is my home." I tell him softly, realizing I miss him so much more than I had thought. I feel the sudden urge to climb over the table and pull him back into my arms. Instead, I ask, "How are things with you?" I'm really asking if he is seeing anyone, because that would just be the cake and icing too of me returning home.
"Good. The grand life of a bachelor." He laughs.
"Bachelor, eh? Got the women lined up?" I ask, tilting my head to the side inquisitively.
Before he can answer, our waitress comes to the table with two hot cocoas and my favorite pastry for each of us. "I hope you don't mind, I took the liberty of ordering for us." He says sheepishly.
"Not at all. It's perfect. Merlin, I've missed you." I blurt out, unable to hold my confession inside. "I think I miss you right now, and you're right here in front of me."
I see his eyes flicker with emotion at my words before his expression turns into a smile. "Don't be so silly, Hermione. I'm right here—for as long as you need me."
"And if I never stop needing you?" I challenge.
His expression becomes unreadable. "Then I'll be here, but it seems like you've done well for yourself these last few years."
I'm not sure if his jab is innocent or meant to make me feel guilty. I take it in stride either way. "You distanced yourself from me." I whisper accusingly.
He shrugs. "I don't know what you're talking about." He looks down at his flakey pastry, and takes a bite.
"But I don't blame you. I blame myself. I…I let you." I admit, hugging myself as if to keep the shame inside. "And I'm sorry for that."
Changing the subject, he lets out a small laugh. "It's funny that you called. I was just thinking about you."
I can't tell if he accepts my apology for not, but I smile at his words. "Good things, I hope?"
He gives me a wistful smile. "Good things. Always good things." He replies softly.
My heart skips a beat at his words. Whatever is going in between us—that chemistry that has always been there—gives me hope. I tentatively reach a hand out across the table to grasp his. He doesn't pull away, and I find comfort in this small gesture.
"Does everyone know you're back?" He asks, not releasing my hand.
I shake my head. "Only my parents. They wanted to go out to dinner tonight to celebrate but…but I knew I wouldn't feel truly home without seeing my best friend."
We sit in silence for a few minutes as we finish our cocoa and food. Harry pulls a note from his pocket and tosses it down on the table. "Let's go for a walk" He says, helping me from my seat and entwining his fingers with mine.
Outside in the cool air, we walk along the sidewalk in a comfortable silence.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asks, looking forward.
I almost bring up the whole story with the man I've wasted my time with, but I realize I don't want to talk about him. He isn't worth it, so I give him the short version. "He told me he loved me. Said he had his future planned, and I was in it…he asked…he asked if I could see myself in it too, or if I loved him."
"And?" Harry prods gently.
I let out a sigh. "And I told him no. No, I don't love him and no, I can't see myself with him. Then it was over. That was eight months ago. I finished the projects I'd been working on, then returned home where I belong."
"I'm glad you're back. And I'm sorry things didn't work out the way you wanted them to." He says, not really sounding very sorry at all.
I laugh. "Who says things haven't worked out the way I wanted them to? So far…my only regret is leaving, but really, I mean, I did a lot of good over there so can that really be a regret?"
"Ah, yes. How well did you do on the equal rights front? Are house-elves calling you their liberator yet?" He teases harmlessly.
I give him a slight push, breaking the contact of our hands. "So funny, Potter. I'm helping, and that's what matters."
"You've always been a wonderful helper." He says with a roll of his eyes in my trademark fashion.
"Hey, I saved your arse a few times, if I recall correctly!" I argue, pushing him again, this time into a wall.
He throws his head back and laughs at my feeble attempts to harm him. Seeing him so carefree, I find myself suddenly rooted in the spot at the beautiful scene before me. Wrapped in his black coat with his matching hair sticking up in all directions, contrasting with his pale skin. Green eyes behind round glasses. He truly was lovely.
His back still up against the wall, he pulls flush up against him. I shiver, and he quickly unbuttons his coat and pulls me inside with him. I'm assaulted by his smell and I wrap my arms around his middle in his coat, embracing him freely and without asking if I could hold him as long as I want. He arms encircle me and hug me back just as tightly. For the first time, I truly feel home. I feel the old me winning the battle inside almost effortlessly now.
"So you never told me why you didn't love him. Was it his surly attitude? His duck feet? The annoying slouch? All the money and fame?" He taunts me, but I can tell he really wants to know the answer.
I only hug him tighter, my ear against his chest and say loud enough for him to hear, "I could never give him my heart—or anyone for that matter. It doesn't belong to me anymore. It hasn't for a long time."
I look up and see confusion in his eyes. "And why is that?" He whispers hoarsely, and it's so cold that I can see his breath.
I notice snow suddenly starts to fall, big, fluffy flakes of white. I absentmindedly brush them from his hair, and my hand rests against his cheek. "I gave it away when I was eleven to a boy with broken glasses, and he never gave it back to me." I say simply, boldly.
Harry laughs again and he looks like a little kid. Suddenly I'm lifted from my feet and we're whirling around on the sidewalk in a dizzying circle, uncaring of passersby rushing past. I laugh out loud and find that it's a beautiful sound—I haven't laughed like this in years. Before I know it, I'm somehow on his back with my arms encircled around his neck and my legs wrapped around his waist, secured by his strong hold.
"Just so you know, he doesn't plan to!" He calls back to me as we walk down the street, snow still falling.
Hope you liked it! I know it's short and not much detail, but that was the intent. Thanks for reading, and please review!