For the first time
Summary: Harry has never belonged anywhere. He was a wizard and a muggle, a halfblood. He has always been unique and where everybody else says ‘special’, he replies, quietly in his own heart, ‘alone’.
Harry James Potter has always been special, for people who knew him as The Boy Who Lived, for his friends, for Albus Dumbledore and even for Lord Voldemort.
Thing is, while he has been ‘brave’, ‘brilliant’, the embodiment of a true Gryffindor for others, in his own eyes, in his heart, he has always been just ‘Harry’. Sure, he had his friends, both Hermione and Ron were unfailingly loyal and they loved him in their own way, he had the Weasleys, who had become his family, the Burrow was his second home next to Hogwarts, he had Dumbledore, who was his mentor and who had treated him like a son, he had the Wizarding World’s awe for being able to survive Voldemort’s killing curse and come out with only a scar as proof, he was their hope, a beacon of light while the Dark Lord continued to wreak havoc on humankind.
But the truth was, he could care less for the popularity he held among the Wizarding People. He would have been happy with having his parents, Sirius and Dumbledore alive and growing up in an ordinary, loving home. He would have traded this life for the ordinary one in a heartbeat.
However, he was Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, hero and hope of mankind, and no matter what, the life he was living now, it could never be changed; He could never change who he was now, he had responsibilities to his friends, everyone who depended on him to save them.
But one thing remained, he was only human; he had his own fears, his life, his humanity to worry about. He didn’t want to commit murder, didn’t want to shed blood with his hands, he was only a teenager, for God’s sake! How could he be expected to kill a powerful wizard at his age? He was supposed to be worrying about his future, his non-Voldemort threatened future, about going on dates and passing his classes, he wasn’t supposed to be wondering when and how he’d die in Voldemort’s hands, whether he’s succeed in a mission put on his shoulders by the Wizarding World, if he’d get to live tomorrow, if maybe in another dimension, another life, another Harry Potter was living a different life, much better than his own, surrounded by love and happiness.
Although, he never really did what he was supposed to do. He wasn’t even who he was supposed to be.
His destiny, his purpose had caused him his chance for genuine happiness, it had brought him feelings of loneliness, helplessness, estrangement from other people. His uniqueness put him in a high pedestal, where everyone treated him as though he was another being-special, as though he wasn’t even human. He was never to be touched, never to be tainted lest he lose his purity, the thing he had that been able to prevent Voldemort from killing him—it was my mother,she loved me enough to protect me while she was dying, he wanted to scream, it was her love that saved me. But he didn’t because they would never understand the depth what Lily Potter did for her son, what was sacrificed so he could live. No one was to touch Harry Potter. In turn, no one saw the awkward teenager struggling to find himself and grow up as normally as possible. No one ever saw the vulnerable person behind the façade of the Boy Who Lived, the guy who wanted to be himself and be accepted, who yearned to live, to love and be loved in return.
Harry has never belonged to anyone or anyplace. He was a wizard and a muggle, a halfblood. He has always been unique and where everybody else says ‘special’, he replies, quietly in his heart, ‘alone’.
These thoughts plagued Harry’s mind as he lay on his bunk listening to Hermione’s stifled sobs and cries over Ron’s departure with numbed grief. His male bestfriend’s departure, in the deepest recesses of his heart, buried and kept in lock & key along with his doubts and fears, was expected but it still caused his fears of abandonment to resurface, attacking him in his moments of weakness and pulling him down, drowning him in his grief and pain. What hurt more was Ron’s reason for leaving; he was jealous of Harry and Hermione’s non-existent romantic entanglement and he was afraid that they would leave him behind, that they would consider him as useless and a burden.
That the only reason they kept him with them was because they were afraid of breaking the ‘Golden Trio’.
Harry felt a bitter sense of irony.
His feelings for Hermione—they were complicated; a mixture of longing, deep friendship, frustration, fear, and boundless amounts of love. He was in love with Hermione, hopelessly so, loved her enough to let her choose Ron and not burden her with the knowledge that he was in love with her, to keep their seven years of friendship alive by keeping his feelings to himself. He was also afraid of ruining something that was great in itself for feelings that might disappear if only he let her go. But he knew he wouldn’t be able to forget, to let his heart fall hard only to break, so that it could mend and start loving again. He knew that his feelings for his female bestfriend—almost like a sister, but not really—was true, real as the threat of Voldemort, that it was his first love, and maybe even the greatest, the feelings of unrequientment aside, he would ever have.
He didn’t even know when his platonic adoration for her—maybe it was never platonic in the first place?—had started growing into something he couldn’t control, a love surpassing any other he has ever known.
Hermione Jean Granger, with her auburn hair, kind, intelligent honey-brown eyes, sweet, perfect-toothed smile, a mind that craves, thirsts for knowledge and a heart capable of unflinching, unfailing trust, loyalty and love was his version of Aphrodite, his greatest weakness. She wasn’t perfect, but she was more than enough for him.
Clenching his hands in frustration, Harry turned his body sideways, towards the wall of their tent and buried his head in his pillows, wishing to comfort Hermione in her time of grief, but hesitating because he didn’t even know how to cope with his own.
Not for the first time since Ron left, Harry asked, ‘why?’
Why did you leave? Why did you choose to abandon us, abandon Hermione? Why can’t you see that she loves you, not me? Why isn’t our friendship enough to make you stay? Why can’t you trust us as we trust you?
Why did she have to love you?
Irony it was indeed, that Ron was jealous of him because he thought Hermione was in love was in love with Harry, when Harry was jealous, because at his departure, he broke Hermione’s heart, that Ron was the one who actually held her love.
Harry’s lips twisted into a bitter smile.
Hours passed as he listened to Hermione’s cries slowly subside and come to a stop as she fell asleep. With a relieved sigh, he too fell into a fitful sleep.
A week had passed, and Harry was once again listening to Hermione’s sobs, hands clenched under his pillow, when he decided enough was enough. He knew that the grief that surrounded them wasn’t just because of Ron. They hadn’t made progress in tracking the Horcruxes and it was affecting them badly. He could feel the hopelessness and depression enveloping them and he was afraid that if they didn’t do something about it fast, it would consume them.
He knew that the more they lingered on Ron, the more they would drown themselves in their shared misery. Already, he could feel himself being crippled by the intensity of it and he feared what would happen to them if it worsened.
But he won’t let it, because everyone needed them.
Sitting up in his bunk, he saw her sitting in the stairs, shoulders hunched and body shaking, the radio playing music beside her, filling the otherwise empty silence in their tent. Getting up, he slowly walked towards her, stopping in front of her, and held out a hand. She lifted her head to look at him rather miserably, an unspoken question in her eyes. He shrugged and after a few seconds of staring at each other, she finally took his hand in hers. Harry took a moment to feel the clammy yet soft quality of it before pulling her to her feet. Guiding one of her hands to his shoulders, he unlocked the locket she kept around her neck and pocketed it before putting a hand on her hips and the other holding hers. The music started—O’ Children, Harry realized with a start—and he gently swayed her to the music, ignoring the blush rising on his cheeks and the voice at the back of his mind that reminded him how terrible his dancing skills were.
He gave her an encouraging smile when she looked at him, her lips twitching up into a small smile, brows still furrowed slightly.
Hey little train! Wait for me!
He guided them to dance in a circle, holding both her hands in his tightly. He watched as the worry ebbed from her face slowly and increased his efforts to making it disappear completely. This was the least he could do, to make everything easier if only a fraction, to lighten the burden on both their shoulders a bit, so that the future wasn’t looking as bleak as before.
I was held in chains, but now I’m free
She twirled in a moment of childishness, the smile on her face growing and turning into a giggle, which caused the smile on his own face to turn genuine, and he thought—this is what we’re supposed to be, teenagers who don’t have the world on their shoulders, free to smile and laugh and not worry about saving anyone’s life—he ached for their lost childhood and how they were forced to grow up so suddenly, thrust into a world they weren’t ready for yet.
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
He drew her to him in a hug, comforting her, thanking her for not leaving him—before and now, always there beside him, supporting him—apologizing for dragging her into his problems and for not always being there when she needed him, and reassuring her that whatever happens, he’d be with her always, that he won’t let her get hurt more than she already has. He poured all his feelings, everything that he felt, into their embrace, a moment of weakness they allowed the other to witness and finding strength in each other when they were losing their own.
In this process of elimination
Slowly, they separated, hands still clasped tightly. They looked at one another, and saw identical faces of misery, hope, determination, sorrow, understanding, acceptance and everything in between. Harry found that the smiles they had from earlier had turned sad. However, as the seconds ticked by, he saw the sad lines Hermione had been carrying had decreased and the slump of her shoulders was gone. As he gazed at her, he found the light in her warm brown eyes had returned, duller than normal but he knew that she was recovering, knew that her strong determination wasn’t going to let her be idle in her personal pain any longer.
He didn’t have to worry anymore.
Harry woke up with a jolt, his head spinning. He opened his eyes blearily and immediately saw Hermione at his side, tears sliding down her cheeks from his eyes and an expression of utter relief in her face when she saw him awake. She quickly enveloped him in a fierce hug.
“‘Mione?” He asked, confused and dizzy.
“Oh god! I thought—I—,” She sobbed in the crook of his neck, body trembling.
She explained everything to him, that she had to use a Hover Charm to get him to his bunk when she found him, that he’d been screaming and moaning in his sleep. He felt a tinge of apprehension when she told him how she couldn’t take the Horcrux off him, how it seemed to refuse to let go of him that she had to use a Severing Charm. When she asked him to clarify what had happened when he was with Bathilda Bagshot, or at least, Nagini inside Bathilda’s body. He told her everything he could remember; carefully not mentioning the sight of the snake coming out of Bathilda’s neck, knowing it would disgust her and he didn’t want to remember that particular event as well.
-If he had only managed to kill the snake, it would have been worth it, all of it—
Sick at heart, he sat up and threw back the covers. Hermione immediately stopped him.
“Harry, you ought to rest!”
He shook his head stubbornly.
“You’re the one who needs sleep. You look exhausted, Hermione. I’m fine, I’ll keep watch for a while. Where’s my wand?”
She refused to look at him, biting her lip.
“Where’s my wand, Hermione?”
Silently, a tear fell down her cheek. She reached down beside the bed and held it out to him.
“Harry, I’m sorry…”
The holly and phoenix wand was nearly severed in two. One fragile strand of phoenix feather kept both pieces hanging together. The wood had splintered apart completely. Harry took it into his hands as though it was a living thing that had suffered a terrible injury. He could not think properly; everything was a blur of panic and fear. Then he held out the want to Hermione.
“Mend it. Please.”
“Harry, I don’t think, when it’s broken like this -”
“Please, Hermione, try!”
The dangling half of the wand resealed itself. Harry held it up.
The wand sparked feebly, then went out. Harry pointed it at Hermione.
Hermione’s wand gave a little jerk, but did not leave her hand. The feeble attempt at magic was too much for Harry’s wand, which split into two again. He stared at it, aghast, unable to take in what he was seeing—the wand that had survived so much—it was broken and now he was defenceless. How was he supposed to defeat Voldemort if he didn’t have his wand? How was he supposed to protect everyone? Protect Hermione?
He clenched his hand into a fist and squeezed his eyes shut, preventing the hot tears from falling. Taking a deep, calming breath, he muttered,
“I’m going for a walk.”
The last thing he saw before he left was her gaze following him, fresh tears leaking from her eyes.
That night, as he shuffled back inside the tent, keeping his footsteps quiet, he found Hermione lying on his bunk. He gazed at her sleeping from, wanting to reach out and smooth back the stray hair from her face but refraining, and was about to turn to the unoccupied bed to sleep on it when he felt a hand attach itself to the ends of his shirt, tugging slightly. Slowly, he turned to find Hermione watching him silently, eyes red and puffy.
They stared at each other, Harry tracing the lines of her face with his eyes, his heart aching in longing—touch her, love her—until Hermione sat up and held both her arms towards him and croaking out,
Hearing the plea in her voice, he quickly climbed on the bed and felt her arms, warm and soft, wound around him. She was shaking a bit, breath coming out in soft pants. He rubbed the small of her back gently, comforting her. She buried her face in his neck and started to talk in a low, hushed voice,
“Earlier…w-when you wouldn’t wake up—it…it frightened me—I,” she cut herself off, swallowing, before continuing, “I felt helpless—I panicked because for a minute, I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do—And I—I almost lost you!”
Suddenly, Hermione pushed him off, gripping his shoulders and looking at him dead him the eyes, brown eyes sharp and serious.
“I can’t lose you, Harry—”Harry felt a rush of elation and thoughts—sheneedsmeI’mimportanttoherIcan’tdieIcan’tleavehernow—rushed and mixed together in his head, a jumble of thoughts, and emotions. “—you’re all I have left now. Everyone—my parents, our friends, even—”She closed her eyes, her face a picture of pain and sorrow, as if saying the name caused her a kind of physical pain, and he knew who she was referring to, knew the name that would always be in her memory, the person always in her heart. Harry felt all his hope, all his emotions drain away and left in their wake a numbing emptiness. His jaw tightened as he fought to keep his expression carefully blank and attentive while Hermione continued on speaking, oblivious to the effect of her words on Harry. “—they’re all gone now. And maybe they won’t be coming back if He isn’t stopped. Harry,” she released his shoulders to gently cup his face “you’re our only hope. You must defeat him for everyone’s sake. I’ll help you, everyone will and you will win.”
He nodded. “I know.”
His tone seemed to have startled Hermione, and she peered at him, eyes searching his in concern. He forced himself to stare back at her.
“Are you okay, Harry?” she asked, brows furrowing.
“Yeah, I’m fine Hermione. Don’t worry.” He said, shrugging.
She continued to look at him for a moment longer before nodding. He sighed and was about to climb out of bed when Hermione caught his wrist in her hand, effectively stopping him. He turned back to her and studied her as she stared at the blanket bunched up in her lap. She lifted her head to look at him.
He opened his mouth to ask why when he felt her fingers tighten around his wrist. He was silent for a moment, torn between wanting to get away from her—her presence oppressing him, making him feel like he needed to run, run away as fast as possible, never looking back, and hiding until everything just—and yearning to comfort her, to reassure her, that everything was going to be alright, that everyone was going to be safe, because he was going to protect them but-
Everything wasn’t alright, everyone was dying and he wasn’t sure if his protection was even any use now that his wand was broken, that he was broken himself, lost in his own fears and doubts, hopeless and vulnerable, and never hoping for a way to get out, to be saved, before it was too late.
In the end, he decided to stay and try to console her in his own way, knowing that every time he did, he was falling and his heart was leading him to sure heartbreak. He climbed back and settling beside her, lying down and pulling the blankets up to his chin. Once he was settled, he felt Hermione’s arms wound around him once more, her head tucked under his chin.
“Good night, Harry.” She mumbled sleepily.
“G’night, ‘Mione.” He replied, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to catch some sleep, not with her so near, so warm, beside him, and yet so much farther from him than ever before.
He spent the whole night watching at her sleep, wanting to hold her to him as tight as possible—never letting go, keeping her forever bound to him—but resisting, needing to keep a piece of himself, something to be called his own while he was ready to give everything he had to her in a silver platter if she wished it, a piece that when the time came and she went back to Ron’s arms, he would be able to move on, and say he hadn’t lost everything he was to his first love, and maybe someday if the right person came along, he would be able to give the last, most precious piece of himself to them.
When the sun came up, he finally fell asleep, listening to Hermione’s heartbeat, remembering each pulse and locking it inside his heart along with many of his memories of her.