title: i'm not a hero
pairing: harry potter/hermione granger
rating/warnings: r, maybe? warning for discussion of war and some angst.
length: ~1500 words.
summary: for this prompt at the war stories ficathon: they keep calling us heroes, i don't see anything heroic here at all. or, the story of harry and hermione in ten parts.
disclaimer: i don't own this!
notes: uh. another harry/hermione fic that came out of nowhere. i swear, i thought this was like a hundred words and am as baffled as you probably aren't by this point.
also, for your eyes, you should probably view this in light format! :)
She takes up knitting again.
Harry knows it without her saying, because she has on a pair of rainbow socks that are just a shade too big for her. They're garish and bright and he knows without her saying a word that the knitting is the only reason she can sleep. (For him, it's reading his first-year textbooks. He has Hogwarts, A History nearly memorized. He can hear first-year Hermione's congratulations as he falls asleep between one word and the next.)
Cup of tea in her hand, she reaches for him. Her fingers cup his wrist and he's sure she can feel his pulse, beating just this side of too fast. She swallows, thick, and takes a sip of tea without moving her fingers.
"How do we move past this?" she asks, too soft. (Everything is too much.)
He shrugs. "I don't know."
Her eyes shine bright (much too bright, he thinks) and she sucks in a harsh breath through her teeth, setting her mug down. She lets go of his wrist, standing. In her socks she looks small and sad, shoulders slumping. "I thought you had the answers. Chosen One and all that."
He just looks at her; she knows what he's thinking.
She closes her eyes and a tear slips down her cheek. She rubs it away, quick as anything, and looks at him, hands shaking slightly. "The Prophet called you a hero today," she says.
His mouth twists. He doesn't read the papers anymore, anything but the Quibbler. "I don't care," he says.
She smiles at him. It's been ages since he's seen her smile, he recognizes almost idly. "They're calling all of us heroes and the war a tragedy. A terrible tragedy," she quotes without any inflection.
He looks at her and he doesn't say anything, because he can see her thoughts (anything but heroic, I am) reflected in her eyes.
He stands up and wraps his arms around her, and holds her tight. He can feel her heartbeat thudding through his ears. As he stays, she calms down, until it's a soft and steady beat, beat, beat.
"It's okay," he murmurs. (It's not, but he'll say anything to make her happy.)
It breaks the moment, the spell they've put themselves under. She pulls away, shaking her head.
He and Ginny end without much fanfare.
He's been expecting it for a while, her to leave him. He doesn't blame her for it at all.
Tears slip down her cheeks and he feels love and regret course through him, but they're past emotions; he feels because he remembers what it was like, not because he loves her still.
"I'm sorry," he tells her, and means it.
She leaves, and then there is nothing but the slight scent of jasmine to remember her by.
He sits, and wonders when it was that he became so numb.
Hermione calls him.
He has a phone because he's always had one; it makes him feel better even though he has no ties to the Muggle world anymore, even though hardly anyone uses it.
Her voice is light and tinny, and sort of breathless. "Hi, Harry."
He frowns and leans against his counter (stained with coffee and covered in crumbs; he should really clean but can't bring himself to even cast a spell). "'lo, Hermione."
She's silent for a long moment. "Are you all right?" she asks, then.
He looks around the kitchen, eyes taking in the sights--the dirty laundry everywhere, the stains, the dishes he hasn't done. Of course I am, he thinks. He's never been able to lie to her, though, and so "No, I don't think so," he says.
"I'm coming over," she tells him. He wants to protest, but then she's hung up. He runs a hand through his hair.
It's started raining by the time she gets to his flat. Her hair is plastered to her forehead, her clothes soaked through.
He frowns. "Why didn't you Apparate?" he asks as he lets her inside.
She shrugs off her coat and sets it on the chair. "I don't know," she says in a far-away voice.
Harry understands. It's the same reason he hasn't used magic since.
She pulls him into a hug then. His shirt gets wet but he doesn't care, pressing his face into the top of her head. She smells like rain and clean, like Hermione, and he loves her so much his heart feels full.
"I'm sorry," she whispers against his chest. He doesn't understand, and then he does.
His arms tighten around her. They sway together, holding one another up.
She falls asleep on his couch. She's wrapped in a blanket he bought only recently, one that held no significance before now.
Her breaths come out slow and even. Her face is relaxed.
He doesn't stare at her for long; not without her permission.
He makes himself some tea and thinks, and he wants to ask what happened to you and Ron and won't he mind you're here and wants to say I love you but he doesn't know if it's true.
(He's a killer. He's seen death, stared it in the face. He's come back from the dead, from Hell. Can he love, after that?)
She leaves early in the morning and writes him a note in her small, neat writing.
Thank you is all it says.
He puts it in his wallet, for no reason other than that he wants to.
Ron comes to him the day after Hermione leaves.
He twists his fingers together. His hair seems duller, even. Harry notices without wanting to comment. There was a time he would have done anything for Ron--and now, now he doesn't know how to talk to him.
"It's like, I can't sleep because I see it when I do," Ron's saying, "and everyone told me I did such a great thing but did I? Because all I can remember are the bad things. I'm not a hero," he whispers.
Harry closes his eyes and shakes his head. Ron understands, he thinks with more relief than he's ever felt before. "I don't know," he says. It doesn't make sense as an answer but Ron nods, leaning his head in his hands.
"And Hermione," he whispers.
Harry looks at him, heart beating that bit faster. "What about her?"
"We shouldn't be together," Ron says, and "but I can't hurt her, can I?"
Harry breathes, slow and steady. "I think..." he says, measuring his words carefully, "that you should put your happiness first because--maybe it's not just you?"
Ron nods, slow, and stands up. "I--thank you," he says.
Everything is off and wrong now, between all three of them. Harry hates it, twists his mouth to the side and tries to keep inexplicable tears in.
Hermione calls him again, a week later.
"Ron's gone," she says, flat. "He says you talked to him?"
Harry frowns. "It wasn't my idea, if that's what you're asking."
She breathes out, soft. He can almost see her, eyes staring at the ceiling, arms crossed over her chest. She places the phone between her ear and her shoulder, he's sure of it. "I wasn't," she says. "I--why did you tell him to?"
"I didn't want him to stay to spare your feelings," Harry says. "I'm sorry."
She hangs up on him.
It takes some more time, time that Harry doesn't measure. She shows up at his door though, and this time the sun is shining. (Rare for England, Harry thinks nonsensically.)
"Can I come in?" she asks.
As though he would deny her anything. He nods, opening the door wider and gesturing.
She picks at her cuticles, pacing back and forth in Harry's small kitchen. "I need to know why," she says.
Harry frowns. "Why what?"
"Why you would tell him to leave me," Hermione says and then spits out--"Is it because you think I'm broken? Too bad for him? Because if so--"
Harry shakes his head, cuts her off with his arms around her. "No," he whispers.
He doesn't say anything else, but Hermione pulls away the barest inch and her eyes are wide and her mouth parts, slightly. "Oh," she whispers back at him and kisses him, just like that.
"I love you," Harry says while Hermione knits.
She looks at him and her face is pink. She nods. "I love you, too," she tells him as though it's the most natural thing in the world.
That out of the way, Harry nods and goes back to The Standard Book of Spells.
It takes time, but Harry wakes up one morning and Hermione's knitting and her hands don't shake, and in the kitchen the dishes are washing themselves.
Hermione smiles at him, face bright and open, and she says "Good morning," as though nothing has changed.
Harry drops a kiss onto the top of her head and lets the beauty of the day (good morning indeed) fall over him.