Books and Wands
He had no idea why he was sitting here, staring at a dot on a map of a castle thousands of miles
away. That dot, after all, represented a girl whose life was so separate from his own it was
almost laughable, and besides, there was another girl.
Another girl only half a foot below him, curled into a miserable ball at the edge of lumpy and
worn mattress; a girl whose life was unfortunately and stubbornly twined with his own.
He trailed a finger across the mass of moving dots, following `Neville' down to the Potions
dungeon. Another finger followed `Ginny' up toward the Astronomy Tower, and his stomach
clenched painfully as he wondered, in an almost detached way, whether Ginny too wondered
what life would have been like if he had not left.
He gave up then, letting the map fall onto his rumpled sheets.
He couldn't just watch these dots, as if they could bring him back to what once was. They
wouldn't make this tent disappear, they wouldn't bring Ron back, and they most certainly
wouldn't comfort him any more than Hermione did.
But Hermione wasn't just a dot on a map; she was here, and she was real. And, by the stifled,
breathy sounds emitting from below him, she was crying.
He felt a rather selfish pang of-- not pleasure, really, more like relief. As long as those sounds
continued, he wasn't alone.
Not technically, anyway.
He knew he ought to go and comfort her. But something tight and sharp always jammed his
throat when he opened his mouth to speak, and his mind always flashed back to the last words
Ron had uttered before he had left them behind.
“I get it. You choose him.”
Harry had puzzled-- agonized over those six words, as if he could somehow call Ron back, laugh
it up, alleviate any fear Ron had of anything between he and Hermione.
Even if Harry could work out some sort of telephone, a connection or something, there was a
jarring problem with Harry's somewhat ludicrous plan.
Harry had, after all, never been a very good liar.
Because hard as he tried, he could not ignore that there had to be something in him, something in
Hermione-- something, perhaps, in between them, that had brought out that statement in-- in
everyone, really. In Rita Skeeter, Mrs. Weasley, Cho, even Viktor Krum.
Of course, looking at the circumstances, it might have been destroyed forever. Harry was, quite
He had never bothered to try to look at he and Hermione's friendship-- or relationship-- or
whatever it was that they had. It was simply there, no need to define it or put limits around it,
Now there had to be a pattern to it. There had to be one word that summed it up, something that
would assure everyone else that he and Hermione weren't like that.
He had always hated patterns. Cookie cutters... people who said “things have to be this way for
them to be a proper...”
The truth was, he couldn't exactly describe what he felt for Hermione. He supposed he could
say he cared about her like a sister... but he'd never had a sister, so how would he know? He
didn't act like Ron did with Ginny-- he suspected that if he did, he would have scars to prove it.
He lay back, staring blankly at the ceiling of the tent.
Why the heck did it matter?
Then the answer just sort of came to him, simply and easily.
Because Hermione mattered.
With that resolution, he shoved himself off the bunk, ignoring the pitiful little ladder to his left,
and landed on his feet in front of the lower bunk.
Hermione was sitting cross-legged on the bunk, though she wasn't quite looking at him
properly. He felt her gaze slowly move up to his face, and something in him quailed.
“Erm... bathroom.” he croaked, and left her still on the bunk, turning and flinging the door open,
just to slam it shut seconds later.
The tap sounded on the door. Her anxious voice was slightly muffled, but he could hear the
urgency in her voice. “Harry, are you all right?”
“M'fine.” he muttered, then realizing she was still pounding on the door, added in a louder
voice, “Just got-- one of those urges, you know...”
There was a silence, a silence in which Harry cursed his stupidity, and then she spoke again.
“Was it your scar?”
“Why does it have to be about You-Know-Who?” he said tensely. “I'm fine, Hermione.”
“Well, that's fantastic.” she said, sounding rather angry. “I'm glad you're fine enough to lie to
“I'm not lying to you!”
It was amazing, Harry thought, the courage one gets when you're talking to a plastic bathroom
door instead of a face.
“What was that, then?” she demanded, hitting the door again. “That wasn't normal-- or at least it
didn't used to be; I'm not sure what's normal and what's not anymore--”
His heart clenched again.
“Look, Hermione,” he said slowly, carefully. “I really-- would just rather be alone.”
There was a silence, before Harry realized the implications of his words, and then she spoke
again, a combination of resignation and anger.
“How much more alone can we get, Harry?”
He found himself slumping against the door as he clutched at the door handle for something
solid. His vision blurred as he rested his forehead against the cold plastic of the door. He could
hear her struggling for a steady breath on the other side.
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything.” he found himself babbling, and he felt tears of weeks--
months streaming down his face. “I've dragged you along, I don't know where I'm going, I've put
you in danger and--”
She was so silent Harry began to wonder, wildly, miserably, if his apologies were going
unheard except for himself.
Then she muttered something in a rather shaky tone, and he felt the door handle shift under his
hand, but before he could let go, the door swung open. As he keeled over, he felt a pair of arms
grip his waist, the first contact they had had in days, and his face was resting in her hair, hot
tears still skittering down his cheeks.
Somewhere amidst his incoherent stream of words, she had managed to get her hand under his
chin, and for the first time in a while, they made eye contact.
Her piercing gaze made Harry's knees tremble, and yet one arm was still gripping his waist, her
other hand cupping his cheek and brushing the tears away from his cheek.
“I can't promise you much, Harry.” she said quietly, “I can't promise you success. I can't
promise you-- Ron... will come back. But I can very firmly swear to you that... that you'll
always.... love is a powerful thing, Harry. You can always look to that.”
And she gently patted his arm.
But he continued to gaze at her, and his lips fumbled for words, but before he could think about
exactly what words he wanted, some other words had already slipped out.
“I can look to you, then.”
She took a step back, and her arms dropped limply to her sides. Harry felt a flush rise to his
cheeks, and he looked away.
Because something very strange had just happened.
He had put a definition to her. To himself.
Then her hand clasped his hand, and a quick squeeze, like the faint, familiar pulse of a
heartbeat, and three words broke through the silence.
“Yes. You can.”
But before she had pulled away, Harry tugged at her, and she was in his arms, her arms sliding
around his chest, and his arms were around his waist.
Almost uncontrollably, he leaned in so that his lips were bare millimeters away from her ear, a
few curls of her tangled hair tickling his skin.
As she whispered an automatic, “You're welcome”, he turned his mouth slightly, so it just
barely grazed the trembling skin of her jaw.
Then he let her go.
Her eyes were fixed on his, wide and puzzled, but he just barely offered her a smile before he
hoisted himself back up onto his bunk.
Tonight was the last night he would take out the map to stare at a dot.
|"Lightning Over New York City" photography by Christopher Imperato.
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