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’.
Hermione, fortunately, started giving him his much needed breathing space, much farther than before for his comfort but close enough to tell him that things between them were getting better. He was relieved that it seemed she was the one who anchored herself and that she was finally getting over Ron’s departure. If he had known they only needed a good argument for her to wake up, he would have done instigated an argument much earlier, Harry though with dry humor.
They were sitting outside their tent with their books out, enjoying the sunshine and general good weather, when Harry spotted a dandelion growing on the ground by his feet. For the first time since they embarked on their mission to destroy the Horcruxes, his thoughts went to Ginny. He wondered how she was doing and if she was still waiting for him, just as she promised on his birthday months ago.
‘Of course she is. You didn’t exactly tell her to forget about you the last time you were together.” He told himself.
His relationship with Ron’s younger sister was…for lack of a better word, complicated. She had liked him for years while he was simply not interested or better yet, Hermione-preoccupied, with the Cho business thrown into the mix. He had only started noticing her on the start of his sixth year in Hogwarts, after he realized she had grown into a rather pretty lady. He was, at the time, troubled and a bit of depressed because Hermione was obviously jealous of Ron and Lavender and he felt like he was caught in between them, like a tug of war. Ginny had provided him with, not a distraction—never that—but she had helped the hurt recede a little, made him forget for a little while—that he was Harry Potter, that his friends needed him to come in between them to prevent them from hurting each other more than they already had—and he had liked her genuinely because she wasn’t like any girl he had ever known—she loved Quidditch almost as he did, and she never complained when after practice, she sweated like a pig, she just took it in stride and said it was part of the sacrifice for playing Quidditch. She made him feel the need to protect her and take care of her, and he did, as much as he could. Right from the start, he had been honest with her, that he was in love with someone else and might stay that way for the next 50 years or so—she never asked who it was and for that he was thankful. He didn’t want to ruin her and Hermione’s friendship—and that he might die someday, courtesy of Voldemort, sooner rather than later, and she had told him that she would take what he could give her, that she didn’t expect more from him, and that she was happy that she could fulfill a childhood dream of hers, however short it was. He gave her what he could—affection, understanding, acceptance, happiness—and she had been fine with that.
He remembered with a fond smile how she would braid him crowns made up of dandelions and place it on his head, saying ‘My Prince’ every time, with a playful smile on her lips. He was thankful for having her and the time he had spent with her. One day, while they were lying on the grass near the lake, he had told her that if he ever recovered from his eventual heartbreak earlier than expected, he would immediately ask her to date him again, provided that she was not already taken at the time. She had laughed, easy and bright, and replied,
“I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my relationship status, then.”
With careful fingers, he plucked the lone dandelion from its stem and cradled it gently in his hand. Noticing Hermione’s inquisitive gaze, he turned to her and explained, his smile still in place,
“It reminded me of Ginny, that’s all.”
She stared at him for a few seconds, eyes unreadable, then at the flower in his hand. Then, said blankly,
She blinked and her gaze returned to him. There was a strange expression on her face that made Harry frown in confusion. After a beat of silence, she asked quietly, cautiously,
“Do you miss her?”
He nodded, twirling the dandelion between his fingers, his smile back in place as he watched it.
“Yeah, ‘course I do.”
He tilted his head back to watch the wispy clouds above the sky pass them by and let the sun’s rays wash over his face to warm him. A gentle breeze surrounded them and he brought the dandelion to his face, kissing it then blowing the thin white tendrils away to dance with the wind.
A wish—for peace, for rest, for everyone.
He could only hope that after everything, when—not if—he defeated Voldemort because there was no other option, it was either failing and letting everyone suffer for it or winning and removing Voldemort’s oppressing presence for good—he hoped that they could move on and start living again. That after the sadness, the sorrow, the pain, there was happiness, healing and peace waiting for all of them.
Sighing, he turned to look at Hermione, who was once again buried in her book, her auburn hair covering her face from him. His hands twitched, itching to brush it away so he could see her, but like always, he refrained. Standing up, he brushed the dirt from his trousers and stretched. Hermione lifted her head from her book to look at him curiously and he gave her an enigmatic smile, and stated,
“This is a good day.”
A moment passed before understanding lit up her face. With a happy smile, one of hope, of love, she nodded.
“Yeah. It is.”
Harry was fiddling with the contents of his pouch when a hand suddenly appeared in front of him, narrowly missing his nose. Bewildered, he looked up and saw Hermione holding out a hand to him.
“Er, ‘Mione? What’re you—”
“My name’s Hermione Granger. And you are?”
She quirked an eyebrow at him when he continued to be speechless. Shrugging inwardly, he decided to play along for now. He took the hand she was offering and shook it.
“Harry Potter. Nice to meet you.”
She rewarded him with a delighted smile and sat down the floor beside him.
“So, tell me about yourself.”
He gave her an incredulous, increasingly confused look.
“Hermione, what are—”
She sighed a long suffering sigh and looked at him with the air of exasperated fondness, as if he was being particularly obtuse, like she used to do when Ron and him did something very stupid. He smiled at her with the air of an innocent.
“Our talk a few nights ago was very…enlightening. You said that the Harry you know is always alone, even when we were with you. That—I was really distressed when you said that. I don’t want you—I never wanted you to feel that way with us—with me. I’m your bestfriend! Nevertheless, you did and you possibly still do, nothing will change that. But, tonight, I want us to start fresh, a clean slate, as bestfriends.”
She watched his face for a reaction to her words while he processed them and what they meant.
No more secrets, no more hiding.
He decided that they could give it a shot and he was willing to open up a little more for her, to let her see inside his heart, but he would still be careful not to reveal too much, lest he accidentally slip up and his feelings for her be found out.
He nodded. “Okay, we can do that.”
“Good. Now, let’s start over. I’m Hermione Granger. You are?”
He took her offered hand in his, gripping it firmly, and they shook hands, childish smiles on their faces.
“Harry Potter. It’s nice to meet you.”
That night was spent talking, exchanging previous unknown things about themselves, the little inconsequential ones that were pretty much useless but when put together, told more of the person behind the masks.
The more they talked, the more Harry felt lighthearted, like an invisible weight on his shoulders was finally lifted. He felt freed.
“How come you never told me that you could sing?” Hermione blurted out, sounding a bit indignant and a lot petulant.
Harry, who was about to lie down his bed to take an afternoon nap, tilted his head at her where she sat on her own bed, The Tales of Beetle the Bard open and propped in her lap.
He frowned thoughtfully. Frankly, it never occurred to him to tell them that he could in fact sing, because for him it wasn’t important and was completely irrelevant to their usual discussions. And besides, it wasn’t like he had a great voice. He could carry a decent tune and be sure not to sing off key and that was what his singing skills consisted of. He shrugged, fluffing his pillow, and laid down. He closed his eyes and replied,
“Because you never asked.”
He heard an amused snort and opened one eye to look at his bestfriend. She was smiling and shaking her head, an expression of exasperated amusement on her face.
“I’ll start asking, then.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow at his outburst but Harry couldn’t find it in himself to feel embarrassed. He continued to stare at her where she was standing by the entrance of their tent, having stopped from stepping out to look at him. He stared at her shirt, which read ‘I AM A TREKKER—HEAR ME ROAR!” and a picture of a space ship behind it written on the back.
“You’re a fan of Star Trek?” he asked again.
Hermione, having finally realized the cause of his incredulity, blushed. Pink was kind of becoming on her, Harry thought fondly. She cleared her throat and struggled to maintain her composure. Her effort was admirable, but unsuccessful.
“Er, yes. I am.”
“Isn’t that the American show with those two blokes? The ones who travel through space and everything?”
“Yes, it is.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Huh. I didn’t think you’d be interested in that kind of show. I’ve watched a couple of episodes when the Dursleys went out and from what I’ve seen, it’s action and sci-fi…”
“Well, I like science! I’m not a blumbering, witless, teenaged girl who’s only interest are boys and fashion. I have many varied interests and—”
“If you say so, ‘Mione.” He cut off the inevitable righteous tirade sure to come if he didn’t stop it in time.
“Are you being patronizing?” she asked, eyes narrowing and hands on her hips. He was suddenly reminded of Mrs. Weasley whenever she lectured Ron and the twins.
“Of course not!”
He waved her off as she gave him a sour look. He sent her an amused smirk before she turned and exited their tent.