Title: Between the Lines
Warnings: SPOILERS FOR DEATHLY HALLOWS CH. 15-20. LOTS OF THEM. Including direct quotations. Also, lots of angst.
Summary: What really happened between Harry and Hermione after Ron left... and how do they rectify the situation when he comes back?
A/N: This hit me as soon as I was reading these chapters of DH, and while it didn't turn out exactly like I thought it would, it's the longest one-shot I've ever written. I hope you enjoy it.
“I get it. You choose him.”
The words reverberated through her mind, echoing like her voice had through the trees when she’d tried to call after him.
Hermione sat in the chair, her knees pulled up to her chest. It had been weeks since Ron left them, but the venom of his words still hung in the air, his absence a constant reminder to both she and Harry of everything he’d said the night he left.
Things between she and Harry had been cordial, at best, since Ron’s departure. They still ate in near silence and spent the days wracking their brains for the possible locations of Horcruxes or Gryffindor’s sword. She still cried herself to sleep some nights, and she hoped Harry didn’t notice, although she was almost positive that he had.
When Harry suggested that they venture to Godric’s Hollow, Hermione jumped at the chance, not only because there was a good possibility that the sword could be hidden, if not with Bathilda Bagshot, then somewhere else in the tiny village, but also because it gave her mind something to do besides wander and think about…him.
The week they spent preparing had been absolute bliss – there’d been no time to think about anything but the task at hand – how they would handle their disguises, practicing Apparating and Disapparating with Harry under the Invisibility Cloak to make sure they could get it right without being splinched. The two of them worked together, feeding off of each other’s ideas, but still constantly aware that they weren’t whole, not without Ron there with them.
The morning of the day they’d decided they would finally put their plan into action, Harry told her to just relax for the afternoon – they’d planned everything they could, down to the last detail, and they should both be rested if things were to go off without a hitch.
Hermione didn’t want to rest, and she told him so – resting meant her mind was free to wander wherever it pleased, and she didn’t want to give her thoughts that kind of freedom. But the look on Harry’s face told her that he needed this time to himself, so she sighed and nodded. She saw him attempt to surreptitiously grab the photo album – his parents’ album – off of his bed without her noticing, and she understood why he wanted to be alone.
So, she sat in the chair in their little kitchen, and gave into her thoughts, not surprised when Ron’s parting words to her made their way to the foreground. Those words – you choose him – repeated themselves over and over again in her mind, until she was left dizzy with the effort to block them out. Instead of trying to stop the flow of words, she attempted to override them with logic.
Yes, she did choose Harry, but they had both promised to accompany him on this journey. They knew going in that it would be long and tedious, and Harry had warned them that he didn’t know the location of any of the other Horcruxes, or how to destroy them once they found them. If anything, it seemed like Dumbledore was purposely making things more complicated for them, to stop them from reaching their goal too fast or too soon. Harry was trying, and he was just as frustrated as they were. Why couldn’t Ron see that like she could?
“Hermione,” Harry’s voice pulled her from her thoughts, and not a moment too soon. She glanced up at him, and was shocked to see him standing directly over her, his hand on her shoulder. He must have tried to get her attention, but she had been distracted.
Harry didn’t say anything about the tears in her eyes, or the fact that she had been so lost in thought – and they both knew perfectly well who she had been thinking about – that she hadn’t heard him calling out to her. Harry made an effort not to mention Ron at all, at any time, for his sake as well as her own, and for that she was grateful.
She stared up at him, and saw the concern in his eyes. He stared back at her, and she was lost in his gaze for more than a few moments before she mentally shook herself, shocked by the effort it took to pry her eyes away.
Harry seemed just as surprised, but he averted his gaze and said, “I have the Polyjuice here, if you’re ready.”
Hermione nodded and stood up, pretending not to notice how slowly Harry pulled his hand away from her shoulder. He handed her a vial, and she immediately threw it down her throat, gasping as the potion started to take effect.
The discomfort of the transformation overrode every thought in her mind but one, and for the first time in weeks, it had nothing to do with Ron, and everything to do with Harry.
What was that all about?
Hermione’s voice came out of the blackness for the third time, sharp and clear from a few yards away.
“Harry, they’re here…right here.”
Hermione watched as Harry slowly approached the headstone, walking as if his feet were made of lead. Her heart ached at the stricken look in his eyes, at the grief etched in his features.
The entire time they’d been in Godric’s Hollow, Hermione had been watching Harry for some sort of sign of the sorrow she was sure would come when they reached this point. He had been stunned by the monument in the village square, saddened somehow by the carolers in the little church. Only now did the grief weigh in on him like a cloud.
She took a step back, giving him some room, allowing Harry to view the headstones for the first time alone but not alone. She watched his eyes move back and forth over the words. When she sensed his panic over the words etched into the bottom, she wanted nothing more than to put his mind at ease, and assured him that the words – The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, words she was sure she would never forget – were not a Death Eater idea, but one held by many. That life goes on, even after death.
She realized, as soon as the words died on her lips, that her words had been no comfort. His face crumbled, his tears falling fast, and her heart ached for him. She felt tears well up in her own eyes, and wished that she knew how to console him, how to make the pain go away. It wasn’t fair, she thought suddenly, that he should have to suffer through so much. It wasn’t fair that his parents were dead, it wasn’t fair that he never got to know them, it wasn’t fair that the weight of the entire wizarding world rested solely on his seventeen-year-old shoulders, and it wasn’t fair that this person she knew to be so loyal and loving and good had to go through so much in such a short amount of time.
Hermione stepped over to him and grasped his hand tightly in hers. She wanted him to know that she was there, that she would always be there, no matter what. She tried to give him strength through that one touch, and he tightened his grip in response. His breaths were sharp, each sob piercing her like a knife as he tried to gain control over his emotions.
As his breathing evened out, she noticed his eyes wandering around, searching almost desperately for something. She knew what he wanted the moment his eyes stopped on one of the bushes behind them.
Hermione pulled her wand out of her pocket, silently moving it in circles through the air, thinking hard about what she wanted to appear. She couldn’t remember the exact spell, and prayed, for Harry’s sake, that she had gotten the charm right.
When the wreath of Christmas roses appeared before them, she almost sobbed in relief. She stayed silent as Harry deftly caught the wreath before it fell to the ground, and watched as he reverently placed the flowers on his parent’s grave.
Harry stood up slowly, his eyes moving just as slowly as his body from his parents’ headstone to Hermione’s face. The grief began to wane, and she was startled to see the gratitude in his eyes. He didn’t have to thank her for anything that had happened here. She just knew what he needed.
She felt herself locked in his gaze again, unable to move or speak for the few moments it took Harry to step towards her and tear his gaze completely away from the names on the stone. He took one final glance behind him before he put his arm around Hermione’s shoulders, pulling her to him. She slung her arm around his waist, the gesture familiar and comfortable, like they’d walked like this a thousand times before.
Hermione wondered why, at a time like this, she found herself wondering if they’d ever have the chance to walk together, like this, again.
“We got away.”
“Yes,” said Hermione. “I had to use a Hover Charm to get you into your bunk, I couldn’t lift you. You’ve been…Well you haven’t been quite…”
There were purple shadows under her brown eyes and he noticed a small sponge in her hand: She had been wiping his face.
“You’ve been ill,” she finished. “Quite ill.”
Hermione took in Harry’s ashen face, quite sure hers looked no better. The entire time they’d been followed by Bathilda Bagshot, from the graveyard to his – Lily and James’ – house, and then to her own, she’d known something just didn’t feel right. She should have gone with her instincts, should have convinced Harry that they should just Disapparate and leave things well enough alone, should have –
So many what ifs. She knew Harry wouldn’t have listened, and they would have ended up following her anyway. Nothing would have changed.
Hermione could tell that Harry was lying when he said he was alright. He hadn’t just been screaming – he’d been cursing and moaning and writhing in his sleep, never once still, and if the words he’d screamed out had been any indication , she was almost one hundred percent sure that he’d seen his parents’ death from inside Voldemort’s head, experienced it from the point of view of the killer himself. Hermione shivered.
She started with what she thought would be the least devastating news first – that she’d had to use a Severing Charm to get the Horcrux away from his skin because it had been stuck to his chest, that the snake had bit him, but she’d cleaned the wound. She was almost glad when he simply apologized for taking them to Godric’s Hollow at all, although she wouldn’t let him apologize – she understood why he’d needed to go, understood that it had never really been about the sword at all.
When he told her about the snake, how Nagini hadn’t just been there waiting for them like she’d assumed, but had been inside Bathilda, she couldn’t stop her horrified shuddering. Harry noticed, and stood up. When she protested, he told her she needed to rest.
Then, he asked for his wand. Her heart stuttered against her chest. This was the question she had been dreading, praying he wouldn’t ask. But of course, he was a wizard – the first thing he would think about if he was about to take watch would be his wand. She tried valiantly to fight back the tears, but they formed in her eyes anyway.
When Harry demanded to know where his wand was, she showed it to him, severed in two. When he desperately begged her to attempt to mend it, she couldn’t refuse, even though she knew it wouldn’t work.
Each feeble attempt Harry made at magic made Hermione feel worse and worse. When his wand once again cracked in half, the tears finally made their way down her cheeks.
She could tell Harry wasn’t listening to her as she explained how her Blasting Curse must have broken the wand, she was in such a rush, it was all her fault, she was so sorry.
“It was an accident,” he responded, and his voice was so empty, so hollow, that all she wanted to do was run over to him, throw her arms around his shoulders, and beg for him to forgive her. “We’ll – we’ll find a way to repair it.”
Hermione didn’t want to remind him of what had happened with Ron’s broken wand, but she didn’t want him to have false hope either. When he asked for her wand, she relinquished it silently.
As he walked out of the room, she sat down next to his bed and buried her face in her hands, knowing that he wasn’t just walking away, but that he was walking away from her.
She couldn’t figure out why the thought that Harry was shutting her out hurt more than the thought of Ron leaving.
“You’re still angry with me, aren’t you?”said Hermione; he looked up to see fresh tears leaking out of her eyes and knew that his anger must have shown on his face.
“No,” he said quietly. “No, Hermione, I know it was an accident. You were trying to get us out of there alive, and you were incredible. I’d be dead if you hadn’t been there to help me.”
Hermione smiled at him warmly through her tears. All that morning, she’d thought about how to approach Harry without making it seem like she was being a nag, and she settled on bringing him tea to warm him – it was freezing, more so by the flap of the tent than farther inside of it.
The look on his face had still been so angry, so upset, that she had almost walked right back into the tent, but she swallowed her fear and handed him The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, telling him that the identity of the man in the picture was in its pages.
The look on his face was shocked, but the more she spoke, it changed to anger, and she’d been dreadfully frightened that he was still angry with her about his wand. She deserved it, she thought, the tears beginning to fall once again – really, how much had she cried in the past few weeks? Had she ever cried this much before? – but the last thing she wanted was for Harry, of all people, to be mad at her.
When he told her he thought it was an accident, she let out a breath of relief. When he said he thought she was incredible, she felt something in her stomach tense anxiously, and she smiled as best she could.
Harry opened the book to a page full of pictures, and she read the caption under the picture of the man he pointed to. Her eyes widened in shock, mirrored in Harry’s tone as he exclaimed, “Grindelwald?”
He flipped quickly through the pages – looking, she was sure, for a mention of the name again. When he found it, he began reading, and she read over his shoulder.
The farther into the chapter she read, the worse she knew Harry’s reaction would be. Of course, it was all rubbish – after all, Rita Skeeter had written the book; everything in it had to be lies.
But all lies had a basis in truth, and Hermione knew that there was more than a little bit of truth behind Skeeter’s words. Maybe Dumbledore wasn’t the man they thought he was. Maybe he wasn’t all good and righteous. Maybe he had a dark side.
Of course, she wouldn’t say this to Harry.
When Harry finally looked up from his reading, there was an expression akin to fury and alarm on his face, and she slowly pulled the book from his hands, pushing it to the side. She knew she shouldn’t bother arguing with him when he was in this type of mood, but she had to try.
She told him that this was written by Rita Skeeter, that even if there was a letter written in Dumbledore’s own hand, he was young, they were both young (as young as they were, Hermione realized, which Harry blatantly pointed out, as if reading her thoughts.) He could have changed his ways as he got older, realized that he was wrong.
When she pointed out that the real reason behind Harry’s anger was that Dumbledore never told Harry anything about his life himself, Harry lashed out at her in response. He was right, of course – Dumbledore had asked him, asked them to risk their lives for a cause, and had never once volunteered any information about anything. He’d never explained, never offered the whole truth. It had always been half truths with Dumbledore.
“He loved you,” Hermione whispered brokenly, and she wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince, Harry or herself. “I know he loved you.”
Harry’s heartbroken response once again made her want to throw her arms around him. “I don’t know who he loved, Hermione, but it was never me.” She barely heard the rest of his words over the thudding of her own heart in her ears.
When he picked up her wand and sat back down, Hermione realized that Harry was shutting her out again, and it hurt just as much as before. But she wasn’t going to back down this time without a fight.
“Thanks for the tea. I’ll finish the watch. You get back in the warm.”
She hesitated, but recognized the dismissal. She picked up the book and then walked out of the tent, but as she did so, she brushed the top of his head lightly with her hand. He closed his eyes at her touch, and hated himself for wishing that what she said was true: that Dumbledore had really cared.
Harry peered at Hermione out of the corner of his eye, watching as she walked slowly back to the tent. He could tell that she was hurting and knowing that he was the cause of that hurt made his chest ache and his stomach clench.
Things between he and Hermione had changed slightly ever since Ron left. Something between them had shifted, and while Harry couldn’t put his finger on what exactly, he was sure that it was something important. He was constantly aware of her presence, constantly aware of every shift in her mood, every little change in her expression. He even knew the sound of her footsteps by heart.
Harry wondered what exactly this meant for them, and was still trying to sort out his feelings for his best friend when the object of his thoughts appeared from the tent to take over watch.
“Harry,” she said quietly, placing a hand on his arm. Her voice was muffled from sleep or from tears – he hoped it was from the former. “It’s after midnight. Let me take watch for a while. You need your rest.”
Harry stared at Hermione for a few brief moments. Her eyes were red – crying then, he thought with a pained sigh – and there was a frown on her face as she withstood his scrutiny. She squirmed under his gaze, but he noticed that she didn’t turn her eyes away from his own, didn’t pull her hand away from his arm.
Finally, after a few moments of tense silence, Hermione sighed. “Harry,” she said, running a hand through her hair, and he almost grinned at the frustrated tone in her voice, but the grin faded when he sensed the sadness in her tone and noticed the tears in her eyes. She really thought that he was angry with her for breaking his wand, for bringing him the book. Suddenly, he realized he wanted nothing more than to comfort her as she had comforted him so many times before.
“Harry,” she said his name again, this time a bit more desperately. “Why are you-“
And he kissed her. He didn’t know what compelled him to do it, wasn’t sure what exactly crossed his mind at that moment to make him think that kissing his best friend was a good idea. The kiss was short and chaste, and Harry saw that Hermione’s eyes were wide and shocked when he pulled away.
Harry tried to say something, anything to explain himself, but found that the explanation wouldn’t come. He settled on a simple, “Goodnight, Hermione,” before making his way into the tent. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her staring straight ahead, touching a hand to her lips.
Harry’s dreams that night were both confusing and disturbing. Nagini wove in and out of them, first through a gigantic, cracked ring, then through a wreath of Christmas roses.
Hermione was already awake when he got up the next morning, curled up in a chair at the flap of the tent reading A History of Magic. He wondered if her night had been any less confusing than his had been.
Hermione looked up when he walked over to join her, glanced into his face for a moment, then averted her gaze. Harry suggested that they move to another location, and she agreed, shivering. Harry hoped that she was shivering because she was cold.
They decided to Disapparate under the Invisibility Cloak, and as Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione’s waist, one hand on her arm, he felt a shiver run through him that was most definitely not a result of the chill in the air. It might have been his imagination, but Hermione may have leaned into him a little closer than usual, and was her pulse beating a bit faster at her wrist under his fingertips?
When they reached their destination, Hermione not-so-casually pulled away from him and quickly began setting up their tent. When she told Harry their location and why she’d chosen it, he felt a pang of sympathy go out to his friend. His parents had been dead for almost his entire life, and while never knowing them was hard… knowing your parents were alive and well on the other side of the world, but had no idea who you were or even that they had a daughter at all had to hurt more than anything Harry could imagine.
Harry put a hand on Hermione’s shoulder, letting her know that he understood. She nodded slightly, waving her wand to finish getting the tent upright, pretending she didn’t notice the tears in her eyes.
They spent the remainder of the afternoon huddled inside around one of the little blue flames Hermione usually carried around in a jar on cold days at Hogwarts. Thinking of Hogwarts made Harry think of Ron, and that made him almost unbearably sad.
Hermione must have noticed the look on his face, because she leaned forward and placed one of her hands on top of his. She looked just as upset as he felt. “What’s wrong?”
Harry purposely tried not to look into her eyes as he answered. “Sitting around the flame in the jar made me think of Hogwarts.”
He didn’t have to say anymore for her to understand. She simply nodded and grabbed both of his hands in hers, squeezing them. “I miss it too.”
Harry stared down at their joined hands, afraid of what would happen when he looked up into Hermione’s face. His thoughts were jumbled. He knew what he wanted to do, could think of about a thousand reasons not to, but couldn’t quite find the reasoning to care.
“Harry,” Hermione whispered, and he could sense the hesitation in her voice. “About last night…” Her voice trailed off, as if she wasn’t sure what to say about his sudden change in his feelings for her.
Although, now that he thought about it, maybe it wasn’t that sudden. Looking back, they’d always been two halves of a whole, always able to know what the other needed without having to ask. He thought back on their conversation about Gryffindor’s sword, how they’d gone as far as to finish each other’s sentences without the slightest thought.
Still, Harry sighed, and mumbled, “I’m sorry,” even though he wasn’t.
He heard Hermione stand up, heard her footsteps come towards him, and was only a little surprised when she bent down so that her face was eye-level with his. There was no avoiding her gaze now.
“Don’t be,” she said, very simply, before leaning forward and pressing her lips to his.
This kiss was just as short as the first, and when Hermione pulled away, Harry couldn’t help but stare at her. There was something open and vulnerable about her expression, and that was when he realized that he wasn’t the only one who had been experiencing this confusing change of heart towards his best friend. She felt the same way.
Harry finally decided that he was going to stop thinking, and, damning the consequences, he wholeheartedly kissed Hermione.
Hermione gasped, throwing her arms around Harry’s shoulders, giving herself over to him, to this, whatever this was. Harry buried one of his hands in her hair, and wrapped the other around her waist to pull her closer. He trailed kisses down from her lips to her neck and she let out a very shaky breath. He kissed his way down her shoulder, running his fingers up and down her arms, and she trembled against him before grabbing his head and pulling his mouth back to hers.
Harry stood up, adjusting Hermione in his arms so that her legs were around his waist, his arms firmly supporting her under her thighs. He walked them over to the bed, his legs almost going out from under him when Hermione kissed a line down his jaw, running her hands down his chest. They fell into a heap on the bottom bunk, still kissing, Hermione’s hands tentatively slipping under his shirt, Harry’s hands boldly sliding across her thighs to cup her arse.
Things were moving too fast, and they both knew it, but neither one was sure that they wanted to stop.
The decision was made for Harry when he reached under Hermione’s shirt to unclasp her bra. She stiffened, just the slightest bit, in his arms, but that little bit was enough to tell him not to go any further, at least not yet.
Harry pulled away from Hermione with a deep breath. Keeping his forehead against hers, all he said was, “Okay.” He wanted to let her know that it was alright, that she wasn’t the only one who was unsure.
Hermione smiled against his lips, and Harry saw the gratitude in her eyes. He leaned forward to kiss her again before sitting up with her still half in his lap, his hands still on her waist. Hermione glanced towards the front of the tent, and Harry followed her gaze to see nothing but darkness. He hadn’t even realized that the sun had already set.
“I’ll take first watch,” Hermione said, but she was stifling a yawn.
Harry fought back a smile. “I’ll take first watch. You get some sleep.” He kissed her on the forehead, gently shifting her to the side so that he could stand up. He grabbed her wand from where she’d left it on the table and an old cushion and made his way outside.
Sitting down, he couldn’t help but smile, although the smile faded at every slight sound in the darkness. Things were going well. He had no idea why he was so jumpy tonight.
“After you left,” he said in a low voice, grateful for the fact that Ron’s face was hidden, “she cried for a week. Probably longer, only she didn’t want me to see. There were loads of other nights when we never even spoke to each other. With you gone…”
He could not finish; it was only now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.
Of all the nights for the Silver Doe to come to him, a welcome miracle at any other time… of all the nights for Gryffindor’s sword to finally make its appearance.
Of all the nights for Ron to finally make his way back to them, it had to be this one, this night, when he and Hermione had finally begun to work things out between them.
Thinking of Hermione made Harry think of Ron’s fears as seen through the Horcrux, and he felt a sharp pang of guilt flash through him. Ron thought Hermione preferred Harry to him. Ron thought she loved Harry, and not him. Harry thought of Ron’s anguished face when the Riddle-Harry and Riddle-Hermione had kissed, locked in a tight embrace, and his heart sank like a stone into his stomach.
“She’s like my sister,” he went on, forcing the words out of his throat, knowing now that they were a lie. “I love her like a sister, and I reckon she feels the same way about me.” More lies, more deception. Hermione would be devastated if she ever found out. “It’s always been like that,” or at least I thought it was before you left. “I thought you knew.” I guess you knew better than we ever did.
Ron apologized for everything, and Harry reassured him that he made up for leaving, for everything he’d said by saving his life and destroying the Horcrux. When the two of them stepped forward and enveloped each other in a hug, Harry simultaneously felt both relief and a creeping dread – relief, because Ron was finally back with them, and dread… because Ron was finally back with them, and things had changed so drastically between he and Hermione, even though he just spent the past ten minutes convincing Ron otherwise.
When he and Ron stepped into the tent, Hermione was still curled up in the position he’d left her, and his heart ached to see it. The cheerfulness in his voice was slightly fake as he woke her up and pointed out the person standing behind him.
Hermione stood up, almost walking right into Ron. She stared between the two of them in shock, her face pale, the same twin looks of relief and dread passing through her eyes before she settled on another much stronger emotion – anger.
Hermione started punching Ron, enough that Harry had to cast a shield between them. The two of them started bickering, screaming at each other, Hermione taking out her frustration over him leaving and her confusion of the past day on Ron and his sudden return. Harry tried to keep the peace and allow Ron to explain himself, but Hermione was having none of it. He’d never heard her voice sound so bitingly sarcastic before.
When they described how they destroyed the locket, Harry could tell that Hermione knew they were leaving something out, but Harry refused to tell her the truth. She didn’t need to know what had happened out there, and he was sure that Ron didn’t want his insecurities out in the open like that, especially in front of Hermione.
When Harry thanked Ron for the spare wand, mentioning that his wand was broken, he couldn’t help but glance at Hermione, who chose to ignore both of them, but couldn’t wipe the despondent look off of her face even if she’d tried.
“Could’ve been worse. Remember those birds she set on me?”
“I still haven’t ruled it out,” came Hermione’s muffled voice from beneath her blankets, but Harry saw Ron smiling slightly as he pulled his maroon pajamas out of his rucksack.
Harry’s responding smile was just as slight as he pulled his jumper over his head. He whispered a quiet, “Goodnight,” before walking over to the flap of the tent – it was his turn to cover watch.
His thoughts were jumbled as he sat down just outside the tent. With Ron back with them… well, that changed everything. Hermione was supposed to be with Ron – he knew that. Ron was supposed to be with Hermione, and he was supposed to be with Ginny, and when had things gotten so damn complicated between them? Harry buried his face in his hands.
When Harry heard footsteps behind him, he didn’t turn around. He didn’t have to. He knew the sound of her footsteps just as well as he knew every inflection of her voice, the way her emotions played across her face. He wanted to turn to her, take her face between his hands, and kiss her.
He stayed exactly where he was sitting, not wanting to make things worse. Hermione sat down next to him, and he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She had her face turned towards the sky, and she looked just as lost as he felt.
“So…” she started, but her voice trailed off.
“So,” he responded, finally picking his head up and sitting back on his hands. He didn’t look at her, afraid that with even one look, he would lose his self control.
Hermione sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “What do we do Harry?” she whispered, and the sound of her voice was so desperate, so broken, that Harry wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms and never let her go.
He settled on putting his hand on her shoulder. She looked him straight in the eye. That one look pierced him straight to his soul. “We go back to the way things were.” His voice was surprisingly steady considering he’d had to strangle the words out of his throat.
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears as she stared at him, but she nodded. “Yes. I guess… it’s for the best.” She let her eyes wander to the ground before she shifted away from him. He tried not to let her see how much it pained him to be so close yet so far away from her, but he wasn’t sure he succeeded.
They sat there, not speaking, not moving, Harry trying to pay attention to his surroundings but constantly aware of Hermione sitting next to him, holding back tears. This was torture, knowing that he was the cause of her pain, and he wished that he could take everything back. A part of him wished they’d never started this… thing between them.
And then a part of him wished they didn’t have to stop.
Hermione stood up slowly, exhaustion evident in her every movement. She took one last glance at Harry before mumbling, “Goodnight,” and stepping back inside the tent.
It wasn’t even ten seconds later when he heard her quick footsteps again, and suddenly, she was there, leaning down in front of him, her lips pressed against his, her hands grasping at his hair, her arms going about his neck. Harry grabbed her about her waist, wondering what had happened to going back to the way things were. He groaned into her mouth, glad that they were wound so tightly together that the sound was muffled, lest Ron hear them.
Harry pulled away slowly, not untangling himself from her altogether, just enough to take a few deep breaths. He leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes still closed, and felt her hot breath against his face, her breaths coming as deeply as his.
“I’m sorry,” she was finally able to gasp out after a few moments. “I just had to…” Her voice trailed off, and he opened his eyes to see her staring at him. They looked at each other for a minute before Hermione broke the spell. Shaking her head, she took an unsteady breath.
“It’s okay,” Harry told her, his voice trembling slightly. “I understand.” And he did.
Hermione stood up and walked silently back towards the tent, her hand still clasped in Harry’s until he could no longer reach behind him. He continued to watch her as she walked away, a figure in the distance that he could no longer touch.
He had no problem staying awake for watch that night.
“You just need practice,” said Hermione, who had approached them noiselessly from behind and had stood watching anxiously as Harry tried to enlarge and reduce the spider. “It’s all a matter of confidence, Harry.”
Harry glanced from the spider to Hermione and back again. That morning had been like any other. Hermione had pointedly ignored Ron, and only spoken to Harry in frustrated tones and short sentences. If Ron noticed anything odd going on between them, Harry was sure he had assumed it had something to do with his sudden and unexpected reappearance.
He couldn’t be further from the truth. He would never know.
Harry was barely able to bite back the retort that came unbidden to his lips at Hermione’s words. He wanted to reassure her that he could use this new wand, that his old wand breaking wasn’t her fault. He wanted to wrap his arm around her shoulders, kiss her hair, then wave the blackthorn wand and show her what he could do.
But that would never happen, so he settled on agreeing with her instead. He gave her a nod, and said, “Yeah. You’re right. It’ll be fine.”
His words held a double meaning, and he could tell by the crestfallen look on her face that she had picked up on the thinly veiled hint behind his words.
When Ron gave Hermione a tentative smile, she stalked off and vanished behind her book once more.
Harry watched her from across the clearing, trying to pay attention to what Ron was prattling on about, but failing miserably. Out of the corner of his eye, he glanced at Hermione, who had chosen that moment to look up from her book at him. When their eyes met, they both turned away abruptly.
They both knew they would never speak of what had gone on between them again.