We’re going to turn the clock back a little bit for this one. But that’s what a collection of outtakes is for, right? Right? I got to thinking, it seems as though I do a lot with Ron and Harry having friendship moments, where’s Hermione? It was time for an outtake. More to come for this story very shortly.
Anyway, thanks to Arnel for the beta-ing, and thanks to my other half for putting up with me!
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Hermione left Ron snoring in his bed, and crept down the stairs. She felt bad leaving him there, but she wasn’t the least bit tired, and she wanted a book. If she was quiet, she could get it and get back without waking anyone: Ron, Harry, or Ginny. Harry was supposedly asleep on the common room couch, and Hermione would not have been surprised to find Ginny curled up in a chair.
The fire was still crackling in the common room as she crept through. Everything appeared quiet.
“And where do you think you’re going, young lady?”
Hermione jumped as if kicked from behind and whirled, to see Harry, illuminated softly by the fire, sitting up in one of the chairs. He was smirking at her, but in the light, he looked much older than he was.
“God in Heaven, Harry, you nearly gave me a heart attack,” she scolded.
“Skulking around like that? You’re lucky it’s just me and not Filch.” He gestured for her to sit on the vacant couch.
“Where’s Ginny?” she asked, taking a seat.
“I packed her off to her bed. I nearly had to stun her to get her to go, but I told her I wanted to be alone for a while,” he said, leaning back into the arm chair.
“Well, if you want to be alone, I’ll go,” Hermione said.
“No, no,” Harry responded quickly. “I was hoping you might be down.”
“Yeah.” Harry started to fidget, drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair. “So…you and Ron, huh?”
Hermione nodded, not sure where he was going. She shifted uneasily in her seat.
“I’m happy for you,” Harry said finally. “I mean, I’m happy about all of it. I’m happy you’re getting married, I’m happy you’re together. I hope you’re always happy.” The firelight made his eyes seem especially bright.
“I’m sure we will be Harry.”
Harry’s eyes fell down to the floor, and he picked at one of the threads on the chair. “Hermione, I…I want you to know that…” He took a deep breath, and gripped the arms of the chair.
“Harry, what is it?” Hermione prompted gently.
“Hermione, if anything were to happen to Ron, because of me, I don’t know how I’d live with myself. We both know Ron. You know what he’s said. I’m trying to convince him that he shouldn’t do anything rash, but you know how stubborn he is. I just hope…I hope that you’ll be able to forgive me if something happens to Ron because of me.” Harry looked up, but couldn’t quite seem to meet Hermione’s eyes.
The fire crackled for a moment.
“Harry,” Hermione began, leaning forward to bore in on him. “I won’t ever hold you responsible for what Ron does. He’ll do what he thinks is best, and Harry, I will be proud of him. Even if…” Hermione took a deep breath to get past the catch in her throat. “Even if something happens to him, I’ll be proud of him and happy for the time we’ve had. You can’t make decisions for him. Ron is a brave man, and loyal, and Harry, we can’t change that. I don’t want to change that. It’s part of what I love about him. To take that away from him, it would kill part of his soul. He’s never had a lot of anything, except heart. And he gives and gives from it, because it’s all he has. Not letting him do that would kill him, Harry.”
Harry nodded silently.
“If he dies,” Hermione pushed on, “It will hurt, but I know he’ll die for a good cause. Harry, you can do something none of us can. If you die, we all loose. If Ron dies, or even if I die, yes, one of us will hurt, and so will you, but we can still win. Ron would never put his own needs and wants ahead of the greater good. It’s not in his nature. And it’s not in mine either. We have to win this war, Harry. And if winning requires us to sacrifice, then that’s what will be.”
Harry dropped his eyes back to the floor, and his shoulders sagged. “I know,” he whispered. “I figured you’d say something like that, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying, or feeling guilty.” He rested his elbows on his knees and put his face in his hands. “Some days, Hermione, I don’t know how I move on from day to day. No one knows what it’s like, to carry this around with me. I feel so…alone.”
“Harry, you’re not alone. You have all of us,” Hermione said, but even as she spoke, she realized how empty the assurance sounded.
“Do you know what it’s like waking up every morning and wondering if this is the day that he’ll come for me? Wondering how many good people, better people, will die, just so I can survive. Knowing that everyone I care about is in danger, knowing that the closer I get to someone, the further up the target list they move. That why I can’t…” Harry stopped abruptly. Hermione looked at him curiously, wondering if he would continue. He turned his head toward the fire. “I did something I shouldn’t have,” Harry finally said.
“I think I fell for someone.”
Hermione raised her eyebrows around her hairline. “You mean, like, fell in love with someone.”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. You see, the moment I even said something, or did something, people would know, and then Voldemort would know. And because I care for this person, I don’t want them to be in any more danger than they already are.”
“Who is it?”
Harry turned to her abruptly. “No. I won’t even say it. I can’t acknowledge it, Hermione. Believe me, if I thought I could, I’d tell you. I want to. But I can’t.”
“Harry, you can’t stop feeling,” Hermione said, warming up to a lecture, “That’s like letting…”
“…Voldemort win, yes, I know. But this isn’t that. I haven’t stopped feeling. It’s because I feel, I can’t let myself acknowledge it. I couldn’t bring myself to put her in that kind of danger. Because I care.”
Hermione nodded. It all made a tortured kind of sense that she couldn’t seem to figure out how to argue with. She supposed it was because she was tired.
Harry continued. “Remus gave me a Muggle book to read last summer, called Catch-22. It’s a saying they use to describe a situation with no exit. If you’re smart enough to know you’re crazy, you’re not really crazy, but if you’re crazy you think you’re sane. This is the same kind of thing,” Harry continued. “I care for this person deeply, but because I care, I can’t tell this person.”
“I’m sorry, Harry.” It seemed like the only thing to say.
Harry gave her one of his famous half smiles. “It’s all right, sis,” he shook his head, “just my lot in life, I suppose.”
“You’ll beat him someday, Harry. And then you can tell her. And Ron and I will be fine. Everything’s going to work out.”
“If you really believe that, you’ve been drinking some of Seamus’s firewhiskey. Did Ron break it out?”
“Harry, we can be optimistic.”
“I suppose.” He paused. “You really believe it?” he sounded like he wanted to believe her.
“Yes, Harry, I do,” she said, putting as much conviction as she could into her statement.
“After everything that’s happened?”
Harry shook his head, and turned toward the fire again. “I hope you’re right,” he told her. And then he turned back. “And I do want lots of nieces and nephews to spoil rotten with my massive, useless fortune.”
Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes. Well, at least he’s not depressed anymore. “Someday, Harry. Someday.”
“Well,” Harry yawned. “You go get whatever it is you were getting, and get back on upstairs, before Ron thinks you’ve run away on him.”
“Harry, everything is going to be okay. I’m never going to hold you responsible for what happens to Ron. He, and I, can make our own decisions. It won’t be your fault. You’re our friend, and we’ll do what we need to do. We love you, Harry.”
Harry blinked hard, and then a half smile crept across his face. “You know, there aren’t many people who have ever said that to me.”
Hermione’s heart felt like it would shatter. All those years at the Dursleys, with no one telling him they cared. How did he manage? How is it possible that he turned out so well, in spite of everything? “Well, we do.”
“I love you guys, too,” he admitted, turning back to the fire, and heaving a deep breath.
“I know.” And then she went out on a limb. “And Harry? She probably knows it too.”
Harry’s head whipped around, and his green eyes bored in on her. She held his eyes for a moment, and Harry turned away. “Thanks.”
“Good night, Harry.” Hermione said, deciding to head back up to bed, rather than go get her book.
“Good night, Hermione.” Harry’s voice was a faint echo from the depths of the armchair. He’d sunk back into the shadows of the fire, watching the flames dance and crackle. Hermione felt as if she’d seen this before, and realized he reminded her of the pose of the actor in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries her father had enjoyed. She watched him for a long moment, the moving shadows giving him the aged looked she’d first noticed when he startled her. Shaking her head sadly, she went back upstairs to Ron.
“Mmmph?” Ron mumbled when she climbed back in bed with him.
“Hold me, Ron.” Hermione said, feeling cold. Poor Harry. Ron obligingly wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her in tight.
“Emthng k?” Ron managed.
“Yeah, just had to use the loo.”
Hermione held on to Ron, trying to dispel the sudden chill that had settled into her bones. It was all so unfair, it really was. But there was nothing they could do. All they could do was live the best they could. Except for poor Harry, who feels trapped. Maybe when all this was over, when the war was over, Harry would feel like he could be normal.
For now, she and Ron had each other, and they could take care of Harry until he decided to let someone else in. Someday, maybe.
Her chill faded, the warmth of the bed overcame her troubled thoughts, and Hermione finally drifted off to sleep.