Summary: So with my best, my very best…I set you free.
Spoilers: Up to Book 7; EWE
Disclaimer: Don’t own the books. Don’t own the characters. Heck, I don’t even own the song! So please…don’t sue.
A/N: The chapter I sweated bullets over. I didn’t think I would ever get this done because I kept rewriting and deleting and rewriting some more. Damned plot bunnies. Also the lone unbeta'd chapter, so all mistakes are my own. And yes, I know technically by Book 7, Hermione’s middle name had mysteriously changed from Jane to Jean but since she will always be Hermione Jane to me, I really can’t be bothered. So there ;) Anyway, I hope it doesn’t suck too much.
Chapter 1, Chapter 2
I wish you shelter from the storm
Hermione Granger looked out into the blank whiteness outside her window while she sipped her tea. The WWN had categorized it as a freak October snow storm caused by a Elemental Manipulation charm gone haywire. Despite the obvious wrongness of a snowstorm in October, she thought it rather apt. It’d mirrored the current state of her mind very well: a white flurry of thoughts swirling around her head, a maelstrom brought about by one very weird dream.
With a finger, she followed the path of a snowflake as it clung to the pane. The mug of tea she was holding gave off swirls of heat which fogged the glass a little. Like a child, she began tracing small symbols into the condensation. A letter H. A smiley face. A small heart. She laughed at her own actions and wondered briefly if maybe the fumes from her research at the lab had somehow managed to addle her brain.
That would do well to explain the events of the last few months. She checked a sigh as she recalled how she and Ron had broken it off a mere 7 months before. She could remember Mrs. Weasley’s barely-concealed disappointment and her stepmother’s halting words of comfort. Christine Granger would never know that the shaking of Hermione’s shoulders as she patted her back consolingly was actually from suppressed, hysterical laughter. Oh, she knew that it was over long before Ron had ever initiated the Talk. In retrospect, she realized that it was over before it had even begun.
How two relatively intelligent people could have started something so ill-conceived was beyond her. It was like they looked at each other, went “Hey, we’re friends and I think you’re kind of cute. It must be fate” and jumped in with eyes closed. By the time she had opened her eyes, it was too late.
Now, if she were honest with herself, she knew it wasn’t all bad. She loved Ron, cared for him very much and there were some good times when they were together. But the whole time they were together, she had felt…incomplete. Deficient. Lacking in some vital quality. For a long time afterwards, she had moments of doubt in herself and times when she felt like she carried her guilt around her like a handbag.
There were concerned owls from friends and shock from the Wizarding World when everyone found out, emotions most notably telegraphed in newspaper articles about their “tragic love story”. She snorted into her mug. Tragic, indeed. Only two persons in her life were not surprised with the events: her father and Harry. Rupert Granger had just scoffed, rustled the newspaper he was reading and, looking over his glasses, told her that he always knew Ron couldn’t make her happy. To her sarcastic reply that in his unbiased fatherly opinion, no man ever could, he merely smirked knowingly and left it at that.
As for Harry…her heart skipped a beat at the thought of him and she rubbed at her breastbone, wondering absently about the perils of arrhythmia. He had been there for the most of it and he was the only one who really understood what went on behind the scenes. He also understood what it was like to be in a relationship that felt more like pretend than real life. 4 months after the demise of her relationship with Ron, Harry had broken up with Ginny. That had prompted an even greater public outcry than she and Ron had ever warranted. He tried to keep it quiet but with the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing (or as she liked to call it – “the BWL phenomenon”), it was practically impossible.
So had the last few months passed by. To her immense delight, Ron was by all appearances very happy with Luna. Their friendship was good now, even better than before, and she was finally letting go of the blame she felt. Ginny had gone off to Charlie in
They seemed to be closer than ever but Hermione could feel a barrier between them. She, who used to be able to read his conversation in his eyes, suddenly found this to be near impossible. They were veiled now, his green orbs hiding something from her. Whenever she asked, he would stammer or change the subject. And whenever he looked at her, there was something in his expression that seemed to say “There’s something I’d like to tell you but I think I may have swallowed the words.” It was all so very weird.
Something about their relationship was evolving. The bubble of pleasure she felt in her chest whenever he was near, she understood. That hypoglycemic feeling when she heard his voice or even someone mentioning his name, it was very clear. The tingle, the electricity – she knew all about it. She was smart, she recognized the symptoms.
The possibility of this profound change in herself, in her relationship with Harry, did not leave her head. No matter what she did or little mental tricks she tried, it stayed put. It liked being there. It was happily ensconced in her brain, a mental Godzilla dancing a little dance and causing a major earthquake in her tidy, compartmentalized mind. These…feelings, the little inappropriate leaps of emotion – this was a problem that needed to be identified and solved. With logic. Hermione was a big fan of logic.
Except for once, her brain refused to perform logically.
It wanted to wax poetic on his strong arms, his out of control hair, his laughing eyes. It wanted to curl up beside him on the couch and never leave. It wanted things that it had no business in wanting.
It was like her whole world had careened out of her control and she felt scared, cornered, helpless and out of depth. She groaned and rested her head against the cold glass. And for all the turmoil in her head, she couldn’t deny that the only person she wanted to talk to was the one person she couldn’t tell.
A cozy fire to keep you warm
She abandoned her post at the window and slumped unceremoniously on her couch, flicking her wand absently at the fire to stoke it. She tucked her feet under her and grabbed her book, Transubstantiation for the Uninitiated, from the coffee table. Breathing in the smell of parchment, she turned to the first page and began to read. But no matter how hard she concentrated, her thoughts drifted to that weird (and she couldn’t believe she had used the word again in the last 3 minutes) dream from the night before.
She is having tea at her parents’ house with Harry. It is all very normal except for the fact that her father is wearing purple Quidditch robes and her mother is pouring the tea. Her mother, Jane Granger, who died when she was 7 years old.
She never regretted her father marrying again. Christine was absolutely lovely and so far removed from being the fairytale evil stepmother her 9 year old self was afraid of. But once in a while, she missed her mother. And once in a while, she dreamt of her. They talked in her dreams, about magic and school, the war and her boys, cabbages and kings. Her mom was the first one she told about her brush with accidental magic at age 8 – being trapped and panicked in a small bathroom with no one around, she had exploded the door outward and started a veritable geyser from the sink and shower. She told her all about her early troubles in school and eventually, her fear of losing Harry and Ron. She told her about those first few awkward kisses with Ron and how relieved she was that someone found her pretty. Somehow, Jane always knew what was in her heart.
In all of her dreams, her mother is forever 34, her long hair dark and curly, her playful hazel eyes crinkling at the edges when she smiles. She wears the same blue dress that was her favorite, the same one Hermione has stashed in the back of her closet. At a familiar bark of laughter, she is momentarily distracted by the sound of Harry arguing with her father over Quidditch tactics. He sits at the table, wand in hand, drawing Quidditch figures in the air as he explains a complicated Wonky Faint-type thing. For a while, she watches him.
The benefit of Dream!Harry was that she could stare at him as long as she wanted without him being the wiser. He looks at her, grins and proceeds to explain to her father the intricacies of a hippogriff’s diet.
“You’re overthinking things again”
The voice startling her out of her reverie, she turns quickly to face her mother. Jane is looking at her knowingly before switching her gaze to look at the person she had been having the reverie on. Before she could say anything, her mother cuts in.
“You’re getting that little thinking wrinkle again. Right there—“, she states, pointing matter-of-factly to a spot between Hermione’s eyebrows.
Hermione reflexively touches the spot with her hand and Jane giggles.
“You remind me so much of myself…so pragmatic, so cautious. Self preservation is all very well and good, darling but don’t you think it’s time to follow your heart instead of your head?”
“Mother, you’re not going to give me the ‘grab the bull by the testes’ speech again, are you?”
Her mother lets out an unladylike snort of amusement. “No.”
A little bemused, Hermione turns back to the table only to find that the two other occupants gone.
“You love him.”
“Good investigating, Sherlock. Tell me something I don’t know”, she says. She figures she can get away with sassing her mother in her dreams.
Jane is nonplussed and looks at her with an amused twinkle in her eye. “Ah yes…but you’re also wondering if you’re in love with him.”
The question should startle her but it doesn’t. “I don’t know what I am, quite honestly”, she whispers, unknowingly paralleling a conversation she had with Harry not so long ago.
“You find him attractive.”
“Well, yes. He is quite…fit.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
She blushes (is it possible to blush in a dream?).
“You enjoy spending time with him.”
“He makes you happy.”
She nods again.
“Then what’s the problem?”
The problem is she knows that she cares for him in a whole different way than she ever had for Ron. She didn’t know when she had distinguished this between the two of them but that was just the way things were. Harry is just more. And that “more” scares the bejeezus out of her. If her heart had ached with Ron, she couldn’t imagine the way it could splinter with Harry. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men wouldn’t be enough. Risking everything on what could just be nothing…it couldn’t happen.
“It’s not that simple.”
“Isn’t it? Or are you just making things complicated?”
“How do I know? After Ron…I just can’t—how do I know?”
“You just do.”
Her mother laughs. “Oh darling, you’ll just know. In fact, I think you already do and you’re just too scared to admit it to yourself.”
She stands from the table then, a table which is suddenly in the middle of a wheat field, and begins to walk away. She walks towards the sun, its rays highlighting the blond in her hair, then turns back. A breeze ruffles the hem of her dress and carries her last words back to Hermione.
“What are you waiting for, Hermione Jane?”
When she woke up, she remembered each and every detail. One thing she realized was that Dream!Jane Granger could be very annoying when she wanted to be. Not to mention she had somehow imbibed Dumbledore’s annoying trait of cryptic communication.
Who was it that said a dream is an answer to question we haven't yet learned how to ask?
She knew the question. In love. She could barely say the words out loud. Was this what it was? It was certainly a whole different Crup from the flat-out simple love she had always acknowledged to herself. Yes, she loved him, had loved him for years. Trusted him, needed him, counted on him. She knew him. She understood him – his fears, his dreams, his passions, his weaknesses.
But only now had she entertained the notion that she also wanted him, desired him. That every minute spent with him made her ridiculously happy. That she wanted to spend the rest of her life making him happy. That she wanted to be with him and nobody else. That he was so much a part of her that she would never be complete without him.
That’s when it clicked.
It wasn’t like a stroke of lightning. It wasn’t like a Bludger to the head. The roof certainly didn’t fall around her ears. She didn’t even drop her book. It was just there and real and very, very clear.
She was in love with him.
Hermione Granger loved Harry Potter.
And she suddenly couldn’t deny to herself how right it sounded.
A part of her brain, the part that lapsed into snarky territory once in a while, wanted to bury her head in her hands and groan at her stupidity. The rest of her just sat in utter disbelief. Story of her life. Figures she couldn’t just fall in love without having a deep philosophical argument with her subconscious over it. And she knew that somewhere, her mother was laughing her head off and saying, “I told you so.”
She wanted to tell him. Wanted to get up off the couch, wade through mounds of snow and go to him right now. Hang the consequences. For once in her life, she was feeling spontaneous and reckless. She was in love, what other argument for it was there?
In her mind’s eye, all she saw was Harry. Oddly enough, her mind pictured him kneeling in front of her, snapping his fingers in front of her face. She smiled at him when she realized that the words that his lips were shaping was her own name.
She could practically feel his eyes roaming over her face. Hermione drank her fill of a Harry at eye level, up close and personal. She had had reason to study his features before but never like this. It was a subtle shifting of her world – gazing at his nose, his chin, his eyelashes, that little shaded part under his jaw…
She snapped back to reality when her neurons registered that the warm feeling on her shoulder was actually the pressure of a hand. As if from a distance, the sound of her name being said aloud finally broke through.
“Hermione? Earth to Hermione, are you there?”
He was here. Harry was actually here. It wasn’t all in her head. And with that, all her previous resolve drained away and she was left staring at him paralyzed and embarrassed; cheeks pink, throat dry, heart wild.
But most of all
When snowflakes fall
Harry Potter apparated on Hermione’s doorstep with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. Okay, so maybe the song resembled a movie score with menacing undertones more than anything else but still…
He rolled his neck on his shoulders and stomped his feet lightly to shake off melting snow as he mentally prepared his game face. Another Friday spent with Hermione, another night of pretending he wasn’t rabidly in love with the woman. All in all, it certainly taxed his facial muscles and his mental well-being.
Every second with her was both a joy and torture. He found himself having to sit on his hands to keep from reaching for her and just kissing her. Yes, it was agony but you wouldn’t be able to pry him away with a crowbar and a Mountain Troll if you tried. How he had managed to survive without that for years had never entered into his consciousness. The time that came before her don't really register fully anymore. One of these days, if he wasn't careful, she was going to figure out that he was a complete sap sometimes. Okay, most of the time.
How many months had it been since he had known? And how many months since he had broken up with Ginny and she had practically pushed him to tell Hermione?
He sighed, frustrated. Telling her wasn’t all that simple. If he knew anything, he knew her. Laying his soul bare before she was ready would jeopardize one of the best things in his life. Hermione Granger needed to study it, dissect it, break it down and analyze the ever-loving life out of it before she would do anything about it. And she would undeniably be skittish after the disaster that was her relationship with Ron.
The few times he had caught her looking at him, he saw something in those fine brown eyes. There was desire, attraction certainly, but not love. Not yet. To say she was wary was an understatement. She was guarded. The heart of this particular princess was defended by a dragon and a fortress and even if he wanted to vault over the walls, he had to wait for her to open the gates and let him in. There would be no pushing her until she could trust her heart enough to throw her hands up in the air and say “I love you. Here I am, this is all of me.” He was tired of half-arsed, half-hearted, half-meant.
She wasn’t ready. Until she was, he wouldn’t do anything.
Because he didn’t want Hermione Granger.
Not unless he had all of her.
If that meant never having her, so be it. He knew, even this early in the game, that she had ruined him for anyone else. So he backed away, did the Best Friend role like he was playing to a packed crowd and waited. He was never the most patient of men but right now he entertained the possibility that he had been stockpiling it all for this particular situation. For now, no matter how long it took, he would wait.
Realizing that he had now spent 5 minutes standing outside her apartment, staring blankly at her door, he shifted the 6-pack of Butterbeer to his other hand along with their food and knocked. He could have just apparated in but he knew that Hermione secretly loved the little Muggle trappings of having a peephole and a ring of keys so he indulged her.
No answer. He frowned in confusion and checked the date and time on his watch, certain that it was a Friday and they had a standing “non-date”. He knocked again, a little louder, and called out, “Hermione! Open up! I brought your favorite!”
Still nothing. Muffling an oath, he shifted the fragrant packages of Thai food again and reached for his keys. It became a complex juggling act/dance but he managed it, opening the door to a dark apartment. For a moment, he didn’t see anything besides the matched living room set. But when his eyes adjusted, he made out her form sitting on the couch, staring at the dying embers of the fire.
He chuffed a breath. Why hadn’t she opened the door for him? He was about to ask her that when he noticed her blank stare and her rigid posture. What the—?
Harry hurriedly dumped his things on a nearby surface and rushed to her. He sighed in relief when he found her breathing but panic began to set in when she gave no acknowledgement of his being there. She looked Stupefied but when he moved to kneel in front of her, her eyes shifted to look at him and her face softened into a smile. For a moment, he thought everything was fine but her eyes were fixed on his face and she was looking at him like she had never seen him before.
“Hermione?”, he whispered. Nothing.
“Hermione?”, he repeated a little louder. There was a curious light in her eyes and her fingers twitched like they were itching to do something. Feeling a little bold, he ghosted a hand across her cheek and continued calling her name.
Absolutely nothing. She was just sitting there staring at him. He began to snap his fingers in front of her face like he’d seen in one of those Muggle films. Hey, no harm in trying right? Still nothing. Tendrils of fear began to sneak into his consciousness. He tamped down the urge to shake her until she came to her senses and instead laid a hand gently on her shoulder.
“Hermione? Earth to Hermione, are you there?”
Suddenly, the spell was broken. She jerked once, as if waking up, looked at his hand like she hadn’t seen a hand before, then looked at him. Her eyes widened with realization and – was that fear? Frankly, he was too relieved to fully decipher her right now.
He huffed an exasperated breath. “Are you okay? What’s the matter with you? I come over like I always do and I find you doing your best impression of a statue.”
Hermione flushed pink and refused to meet his eyes. Worry seeped back and he could feel his forehead furrow. Something was wrong. She wouldn’t be acting like this unless something had happened. She chanced a peek at him before turning redder and dropping her eyes quickly. He could see the flickering of her eyelids as she searched the floor, her hands, for anything to focus on.
“I’m fine, Harry. Really, nothing’s wrong…”, she finally said haltingly.
Harry brought one hand to gently cup her cheek and was almost certain that she leaned into it. “Are you sure nothing’s wrong? It’s just me here.”
She made a strangled sound that was half sob, half laugh. Before he could say anything more, tears started to course down her cheeks. Immediately, big warning sirens blasted in his head.
“Hermione? Merlin, what’s wrong? Why don’t you tell me? Did something happen? Are your parents okay? Is it Ron? the Weasleys? Dammit, talk to me!”
If he was worried before, that was nothing compared to him in full-blown panic mode. He was straddling the line, being alternately comforting and demanding. At some point, he might in fact have started shaking her.
“Nothing’s wrong, Harry…it’s just you. I mean you weren’t here…then you’re here and it’s you and I should be glad but I think I’m still in shock and a little scared which is ridiculous because it’s you and—“, she babbled, her hands fluttering by her sides like mad birds. She looked at him in the middle of the sniffling, the pleading and the babbling and she must have seen something that amused her because suddenly she let out a giggle.
She was giggling? His eyebrow climbed to stratospheric heights in mimicry of her own tic. Now his worry shifted from whether someone had died to whether someone had slipped her a mickey.
He abruptly stopped going through the different emergency scenarios and tried to stay calm. Calm – he could do that. His voice was a soft, insistent whisper as he pleaded, “Hermione, you’re starting to scare me. Could you please look at me and tell me what’s wrong? You haven’t looked me in the eye since I got here.”
Finally, Hermione took a deep, shaky breath and wiped her hand across her eyes. Millimeter by agonizing millimeter, she brought her eyes up to his. She looked like she was struggling with something or grasping for words. He gulped and tried to focus on what she was going to say, tried not to pay attention to the blush now dipping below her neckline. When she finally met his gaze, he was struck by the way her eyes glistened in their pool of tears and by her unexpected smile. Like the sun rising on a winter’s day, she was smiling at him – beatifically, serenely.
I wish you love
“Harry, I-“, she began slowly. She paused, licking her lips, and he almost died. She huffed a sigh before looking straight at him, almost pinning him with her gaze.
That’s when he saw it.
In her eyes.
The guards were gone. Every protective barrier that she’d ever placed around her heart had finally come crashing down. Let the trumpets ring, the walls of
“Finally”, he whispered reverently, and with a speed he didn’t know he possessed, he pulled her to him and captured her lips in a kiss.
He didn’t think. He just kissed her.
He was kissing her.
He was kissing her.
His lips moved over hers slowly, imprinting both a promise and a claim. Her mouth was firm against his, new and wonderful yet somehow familiar; like they’ve never been there before but it’s where they always belonged. No matter how many hours he had fantasized about this very moment, nothing could ever have prepared him for the reality of her lips on his, those arms around his neck. Somehow, he had always known that kissing her would be amazing. He just never thought it would feel so much like he was finally finding his place in the universe.
When he broke away, it was with a sigh. He moved to lean his forehead against hers and at close range, her face slightly blurred, he could see her looking at him with wonder, amusement and – yes, finally – with love.
His lips felt too different to be used to form words. “I was afraid you’d never get here.”
Her smile was solemn as she brushed the hair off his forehead. “I’m sorry”, she managed and he knew she meant it.
He laughed lightly and kissed her again. Oh, he would never get tired of this. “Don’t be”, he replied when they came up for air. “I would have waited forever.”
Harry felt her fingers stroking his hair and lightly scratching his scalp. A cramp was developing in his leg from kneeling too long and the room was on its way to arctic temperatures with the fire finally dead. No, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.
For a while, they stayed like that, foreheads touching, perfectly still and breathing in tandem. As near as he was in her field of vision, she must have still had enough distance to see his eyes searching hers.
“Hermione? You do, don’t you?”, he heard himself say. Did she understand?Did she know what he was asking? He hated to kill the moment but they hadn’t said the words, not really, and his old friend Insecurity reared its ugly head. Did she? Or did he just see what he wanted to see?
He felt her answer before she said anything. Her warm breath puffed against his ear as she moved in to plant a series of kisses on his jaw then another mind-blowing kiss and a grin against his mouth.
“I do. I do so much”, she finally said, her low voice smoothing over the wrinkles in his heart. “And I would gladly spend the rest of our lives proving it to you.”
Harry barely made out what she said because his heart's drumbeating almost drowned her out but he heard enough. The expanding of his heart taxed the limits of his ribcage and he was sure he would be the first case of having an organ exploding with happiness.
He grinned in the twilight. “The rest of our lives…I like the sound of that.”
I wish you love
They spent the rest of the night on the couch, talking, kissing, holding each other and generally being such saps that each was privately glad that no one else was there to witness it. Once in a while, they would pick at the food Harry brought or drink a little Butterbeer.
At one point, they were silent, lost in their own thoughts, as they sat together on that couch – her legs thrown over his lap, her head nestled on his shoulder; his arm over her shoulders, his feet on the coffee table. He was musing on the possibility of erecting a monument to the couch while she was mulling over something that had been bothering her the whole night. Finally she decided to ask the question.
“Why’d you come over tonight?”
He frowned imperceptibly at the question. “We were going to have dinner and a movie, remember? Our Friday night thing?”
Again silence reigned except for the rustle of fabric as she stroked his chest, before –
“Yes, love?” Oh, how long he had waited to say that and actually mean it.
“It’s a Thursday.”
A pause then a long-suffering sigh. “Damned watch.”
She giggled for the second time that night and kissed him before whispering, “I love your watch.”
“You know what? I love your couch.”
“I love you.”
“Took you long enough.”