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’.
It had been days since That Night and—
Hermione. Harry simply couldn’t stop smiling. He couldn’t believe this was really happening. This felt like…the universe had suddenly shifted somehow. The planets had realigned. Their orbits had tilted, altered course, had chosen a new path.
He was tempted to go straight to Voldemort himself to see if the Dark Lord had not suddenly decided that he loved Muggleborns and Muggles instead of loathing them with a fiery passion, opting to join Hermione’s club against the slavery of house elves and dethroning her from her position as its President.
His jaw already hurt from constantly grinning like an idiot all day, earning bewildered looks from his—his what exactly? His girlfriend? His best friend? The love of his friggin’ life?
But the point of his whole internal monologuing was, he really, really couldn’t believe it.
Hermione, his bestfriend for seven years—years which had Harry spent mooning over her—loved him. She was in love with him and they were together, really together, now.
And he still couldn’t stop smiling like a loon.
He felt like jumping up and down in childish glee, and screaming his utter joy to the world.
‘Merlin, I’m such a sap.’ He thought to himself, gazing at Hermione as she read her book while enfolded in his arms, completely smitten. He tightened his arms around her and pressed his nose to her soft hair, smelling happiness, hope, faith, loyalty and love.
He felt her put a hand on his head and stroke his hair gently, carding her fingers into his black locks and he couldn’t help but say, stuttering with the love that overwhelmed him at that moment, not quite daring to believe that this girl in front of him—gorgeous, intelligent, amazing Hermione was his. His to protect, his to cherish and love.
His breathe hitched and he suddenly felt a lump on his throat, stopping him from his admittance. He took another breath to try again, but was stopped when she shook her head. He felt rather than saw the smile that formed on her lips when she replied, fingers tightening slightly in his hair,
He really couldn’t stop smiling.
“What about Ginny?”
Harry whipped his head up from the book he had been reading to look at Hermione quizzically. She was sitting in their bed, hands folded primly in her lap and expression calm as she gazed at him.
“What about Ginny?” he repeated.
“Wasn’t—Isn’t—she your girlfriend?”
He blinked, suddenly comprehending the intent behind her question.
“She—Ginny is a good friend. She helped me when I didn’t have anyone—when I didn’t have you…because you were preoccupied with Ron.” He replied, joking lightly to ease the seriousness lining Hermione’s face.
His grin fell off his face when she gave him a disapproving frown.
“Be serious, Harry.”
He sighed, running his fingers through his hair thoughtfully. A moment later, he set aside the book he had been reading and stood up from where he had perched on the floor, climbing the bed to join her. He pulled her hand away from her lap and grasped it in his, gazing at her earnestly.
“I can’t classify or label my relationship with Ginny, ‘Mione. For me, she’s—Ginny.”
“I know…but, what will we do when—or if ever—this war is over? What will you tell her?”
He shrugged, shaking his head.
“I don’t know. But what I do know is, that it was never Ginny. It was always you.”
The corner of her lips twitched up and there was a bright twinkle in her eyes.
“So I’ve heard.” A smug, teasing smile tugged her lips.
Harry immediately attacked, tickling her sides relentlessly, laughing boisterously.
“Smug, are we?”
She shrieked with laughter, trying to get away, rolling and writhing in the bed. Harry was on top of her, trapping her under him while he tortured her with tickles.
“Harry! Hahaha—Stop it—Hahahaha—”
Harry doubled his efforts and her laughter intensified, mixing with his own,
“Hahahaha! I give, Harry! I GIVE-HAHAHAHA!”
She was still laughing when his hands and fingers stopped their ticklish assault on her sides. Harry gazed down at her with a soft, adoring look on his emerald eyes, a goofy smile on his lips. They looked at each other silently and he swore he could hear their hearts beating together, sweet and slow.
Hermione smiled at him softly, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down atop her until their lips touched and tingled, in a sweet and innocent kiss.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss.
“Does that answer your question?”
“Yeah, but sometimes, words are needed to properly express ones emotions.” She quipped.
He chuckled. Even though they both knew it, it was rather nice when their feelings were voiced out loud, it made them seem more real, truer.
“I do—Merlin knows, I do. Now…” he traced the outline of her eyes down to her cheeks, thumbing them gently. “…do you love me?”
“Yes.” She answered matter-of-factly, as if her love for him was a hard proven fact stated in the books she loved so much that lined the Hogwarts library, or if it wasn’t, it ought to have been. He felt something warm bloom in his stomach, spreading throughout his body to the tip of his ears and hair at the thought. “Always.”
Harry pressed his lips gently on her forehead, lingering for a moment to memorise the softness of her skin, the heat of her body, the warmth of her breath as it brushed against his collarbone, the way her arms tightened around his neck.
And he prayed, wishing with all that he was, that this—this happiness would last.
The sword flashed, plunged: Harry threw himself out of the way, there as a clang of metal and a long, drawn-out scream. Harry whirled around, slipping in the snow, wand held ready to defend himself, but there was nothing to fight. The monstrous versions of himself and Hermione were gone: There was only Ron, standing there with the sword held slackly in his hand, looking down at the shattered remains of the locket on the flat rock.
Harry felt his body shaking, and he knew that his and Hermione’s suspicions were confirmed; that one of Ron’s reasons for leaving was because he thought they were in love with each other, and he was right, Harry couldn’t even fathom a world where Hermione wasn’t with him. However, thinking it was different from seeing it. Even though he knew that, he and Hermione were together—it was different from the way Ron saw it, from the way the Horcrux made it seem to be. The Riddle versions of themselves— they were cruel in the way they treated Ron, they had tainted what he, and Hermione really had, making it dirty and just — just wrong.
He didn’t like the fact that the Horcrux used them to goad Ron into almost killing him. He detested the way that it made his Hermione look cheap—that it made their feeling for each other look cheap.
With a calming sigh, Harry slowly walked back to him, hardly knowing what to say or do. Ron was breathing heavily: His eyes were no longer red at all, but their normal blue: they were also wet. Harry stooped, pretending he had not seen, and picked up the broken Horcrux. Ron had pierced the glass in both windows: Riddle’s eyes were gone, and the stained silk lining of the locket was smoking slightly. The thing that had lived in the Horcrux had vanished; torturing Ron had been its final act. The sword clanged as Ron dropped it. He had sunk to his knees, his head in his arms. He was shaking, but not, Harry realized, from cold. Harry crammed the broken locket into his pocket, knelt down beside Ron, and placed a hand cautiously on his shoulder. He took it as a good sign that Ron did not throw it off.
“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 nights when we never even spoke to each other. With you gone…”
He could not finish; it was now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.
“She—” Harry cut himself off, wanting to say, She was like my sister and it’s always been like that, but he knew that was a lie—and lying to Ron, hiding what Hermione was to him, it was not right. It would hurt not only the two closest people to him, but also Harry himself. He never wanted to hide the fact that Hermione was his—his everything—and he refused to, even if it hurt Ron. He wanted to be selfish, if only about Hermione, and he knew that if Ron really had loved Hermione as much as he seemed to, he would not have left, even if he had been struggling with his fears and insecurities, it wasn’t an excuse to leave the people he cared about.
Harry had never thought he would see Hermione as angry as she was when Ron appeared back in their tent with him. She had been furious, so bitter, that she had refused to even listen to Harry when he told her how Ron had saved his life, thinking it would lessen the blow of Ron’s return after he left them months ago. The tent had been silent since her explosion, broken occasionally by his and Ron’s murmured conversations while Hermione brooded in their bed.
He had opted to sleep on Hermione’s bed again, in order to be discreet about his relationship with her now that Ron was back—he wanted to tell his male bestfriend about them soon. Nevertheless, he also didn’t want to overwhelm him so much after so many things that had recently occurred in such a short time that he would leave again.
He was awakened by a realization that a warm body slept next to his, with familiar arms that held on to the front of his shirt and an even more familiar head tucked under his chin. He opened his eyes and blinked blearily, knowing that it could only be Hermione. With a fond, sleepy smile, he kissed the top of her head and wound his arms around her, snuggling his nose on her hair and breathing her in. A few seconds later, he fell asleep.
The next few days were full of dirty looks and pointed silences, mainly done by Hermione to make Ron feel as unwelcomed as possible. Harry, frankly, was getting tired of it, but he knew he could not do anything about it while his female bestfriend was still so angry. He decided to let her blow off her steam before talking to her about Ron.
He was careful to wake up a lot earlier than his two bestfriends, so that Ron would not notice that he and Hermione had been sleeping in the same bed. He also tended to stay close with Ron, which caused his Hermione to send him confused frowns and hurt looks. He didn’t mean to neglect her, he just wanted to assure Ron that he was still welcome to stay with them. Besides, he was still waiting for the right time to tell Ron about him and Hermione.
Meanwhile, Ron told him stories and experiences during his time away from them and the most notable was the fact that Voldemort used his own name as a kind of tracking device—whenever people spoke his name ‘Voldemort’, they would immediately be tracked and captured. He was relieved to hear that Kingsley had managed to escape and was in hiding. They both discussed who the caster of the doe Patronus was and there was a brief moment when they hoped it was Dumbledore. But Harry, no matter how much it comforted him to hope for Dumbledore’s protection, shot the idea down, firmly telling Ron that the deceased headmaster was dead, that he had seen him die with his own two eyes. Ron immediately acquiesced to his point but Harry could see the doubt in his eyes.
Harry was also trying to get used to his new wand, stolen by Ron from one of his captors during his time being captured by hunters, and finding his old phoenix wand preferable and easier to use. Not to mention, more powerful than the blackthorn wand could ever hope to be.
Ron, Harry pondered, was trying to get back in Hermione’s good graces with all the information he provided them and Harry was thankful that at least one of them was putting out an effort. He wanted them all to get along, just like before, only a little bit different. Before, they had been Harry, Ron and Hermione, the Golden Trio but now, they were Harry and Hermione, and Ron. It was going to take some time to get used to, but definitely worth the effort.
He straightened up from where he had been taking watch in front of their tent and yawned, rubbing his eyes drowsily. The entrance of the tent opened and Ron stepped outside, grinning at him.
“My turn, mate.”
He nodded and stood up, handing the blanket he’d been using to keep warm to Ron and entered their temporary home, immediately seeing Hermione curled up with her usual book on their bed. She looked up and upon seeing it was him, gave him a breathtaking smile that had Harry stopping and calming his suddenly rapidly beating heart. She patted the space next to her in invitation and he immediately accepted, throwing a cautious glance at the entrance, when he was seated next to her. He hesitated for a split second, paranoid that Ron would suddenly come inside and see them, before gathering her in his arms and kissing the top of her head. She reciprocated by twisting around and planting a kiss on his cheek.
They sat there in silence for a few minutes, just listening to their calm, steady breathing and the occasional sound of Ron shifting outside.
Harry’s mind whirred, thinking of ways to open the discussion about Ron and after a few moments of coming up of absolutely nothing, he internally shrugged and went ahead.
“‘Mione, why are you so angry with Ron?” he asked, tightening his hold around her when she looked about to retort indignantly. “Aside from the obvious reason, of course.”
She frowned, expression souring slightly at his chosen topic.
“You know how I feel about his leaving us, Harry.”
“I do.” He confirmed.
“Then, why ask?”
“Because, he might have abandoned us, but I think he more than made up for it when he destroyed that Horcrux and saved my life. He’s been giving us a lot of information on what’s happening outside this little tent of ours and they’re all pretty useful—”
“How can you be sure he won’t leave us again? That he won’t back out like a dog with its tail between its legs?” She snapped at him sharply.
He was startled by her outburst and chose not to reply for a long moment, thinking carefully for the right words before he responded, lest his reply made her mood worsen.
“Because no matter what he may have done to us, he’s still our bestfriend, Hermione. He may have left us but—he came back in the end, didn’t he? He came back to help us.” He said confidently, because Ron might have many faults but he was loyal to Harry. He had never failed to help Harry when he needed him before and Harry doubted it would change now.
She was silent, appearing to be pondering his words. He gently tilted her chin up and their gazes locked together.
“I’m not asking you to forgive him right now, or maybe not even this week, the next month, the next year. I just want you to think about it, alright?”
She nodded thoughtfully.
That was all he could ask of her, really. He couldn’t force her to forgive Ron and he didn’t want to, either. He’d always found that forgiveness that came with no grudges left behind, to be uplifting. He didn’t want either of his bestfriend to regret not being reconciled if ever they—
He stopped himself from continuing his line of thought. It was too painful to even think about.
Harry awoke with a jolt, like the speedy Knight Bus abruptly stopping, its contents dangerously swaying left and right. He snapped his eyes open and saw clear blue eyes staring at him a few feet away. He blinked and the eyes were gone to be replaced by the back of Ron’s head, where he was sleeping sideways, face away from them and snoring loudly.
Thinking he was seeing things, he looked down at Hermione’s still sleeping face and smiled. He shifted for a bit before resettling once again to sleep.
He was out like a light moments later.
Ron was telling him about a semi-nightly program on the radio when Hermione suddenly approached them.
“We need to talk.” She said, tone firm.
“I want to go and see Xenophilius Lovegood.”
Harry stared at her.