Magic Never Dies ~ Chapter Five
current location: Window, still
current mood: sleepy
current song: Amazing Life by Jem
Title: Magic Never Dies
Word Count: 3,916
Rating:R (future chapters)
Summary: This Fic won Portkeys' Felix Felicis Fiction Competition and garnered over 2,500 positive reviews. This is a completed alternative version of Book 7 for the Determinedly Delusional H/Hr shipper.
Action/Adventure/Romance/Humor - a bit of everything.
Official Fine Print: Nope. Not mine. Just the way I think it ought to be. And I don’t make any money from this, either.
Harry woke from a dead sleep to a blinding, paralyzing headache. His tongue felt fuzzy and thick, as if a small animal had died in his mouth. He shifted in bed, trying to turn his head away from the light streaming in his window and realized it wasn’t just his head that ached. The rest of him felt as if it had gone ten rounds with Hagrids’ little brother as well. He managed to turn to evade the light, blinked, and met Hermione’s wide brown eyes at close range. Really close range. Like, on the pillow next to him close.
“Before you panic,” she said. “It’s not what you think.”
Panic? Think? Both of those were functions well beyond his capabilities at this particular juncture.
“Crookshanks left a dead mouse in my mouth,” he whispered, deadly serious. It came out more like ‘Croosthak gef a deaf moose en my muff.’ And Hermione couldn’t have understood him at all, really, because she actually began to laugh. Hysterically. She wouldn’t make fun of him at a time like this, not his best friend ever. Would she?
Apparently she would.
“I expect it feels that way,” she said at last, wiping her eyes, and sat up. The bed rocked slightly, and Harry felt suddenly seasick. He heard the clink of a bottle against glass from the direction of the bedside table behind Hermione and she abruptly re-appeared, looming back into his field of vision alarmingly and extending a glass toward him.
“Lupin left you this. He said you’d need it in the morning.”
She tried to hand the glass to him, but quickly spotted the flaws inherent in that plan when his hand wavered right past and missed it altogether.
“Never mind. I’ll hold it. You just sit up a bit and…”
He tried to slide his elbow underneath him to raise himself up on the bed but gave up with a hiss as soon his bruised shoulder took his weight. Hermione sighed and slid one hand behind his neck, lifting his head. Surprisingly heavy for what came out of it sometimes…
“Drink.” she ordered, guiding the glass to his lips and keeping it there until it was emptied, despite his expression of evident distaste.
Whatever it was – Lupin hadn’t said it was a hangover portion, but Hermione had assumed as much from the way he’d made sure Harry was well and truly anaesthetized with firewhiskey before he and Tonks had left the night before – it worked quite remarkably quickly. His eyes began to focus and he remained free of that suspiciously green tinge when she leaned back to replace the glass on the bedside table.
“Better?” she asked.
He nodded tentatively.
“Good,” she said. “Let me know when you’re feeling quite yourself again then, so I can go ahead and throttle you.”
Harry’s eyes crossed and his head sunk further back into the pillow. “Hermione…”
“Yes, that’s it. Hermione Granger, remember me? And Ron? Weasley? Big tall guy with red hair, you can’t miss him. The friends you’re meant to be letting help you? The ones you just left behind, who had to wake up last night to find an Auror sneaking you home a bloody mess?”
She saw his eyes shifting round the room as if searching for Ron’s hiding place. “I don’t remember Ron, honestly. I mean, of course I remember Ron, just not last night. I remember Lupin… and you… and Tonks. Lupin kept giving me firewhiskey but you guys just had butterbeers. Tonks got kind of bubbly toward the end though, didn’t she? You both did. Wait a minute.” His eyes narrowed. “Tonks said something about my bum… and you agreed with her!”
“She said you had a good build for Quidditch and I concurred. Really, Harry, you’re blowing things entirely out of proportion considering…”
“Considering what? I don’t remember Lupin and I discussing either of your flying abilities.” Harry said resentfully.
“Considering you impulsively decided to try and see if I still had my tonsils in front of Tonks just before Lupin showed up. She’s rather attuned to stuff like that just at the moment. You might have thought.”
He looked puzzled for a moment and then grinned as the memory slowly returned.
“It seemed like such a good plan at the time. I was afraid I’d swallow it if I passed out. I do have to admit I’ve never been quite so grateful you weren’t Ron.”
“Harry, if you don’t want to find yourself slapped repeatedly for whatever remains of your natural life, do yourself the biggest favor ever by understanding that no girl ever wants to be compared to kissing Ron. Not by you, at any rate.”
She was being humorous, but Harry reckoned if even he could hear the edge in her voice, there was indeed an edge her voice to be heard. Once upon a time he might have quailed before that sound and run up to the boys dormitories with his tail between his legs to report to Ron. Somehow now he found it kind of… cute.
“It wasn’t supposed to turn out quite that way,” he said.
“It never is,” she told him.
“Was it really that distasteful?” he asked.
“What, having you maneuver a bit of Voldemort’s soul into my mouth? Not every girl’s dream kiss, no.”
He sighed. “It wasn’t a horcrux. It was just a silver cup with Sirius’ family crest on it.
I meant it, Hermione, I never thought I was going to find anything last night, I was just following Mundungus to see where he unloaded his stuff so that you and Ron and I could decide where to start looking. After we found the locket with Kreatcher’s little collection I remembered seeing Mundungus in Hogsmeade that weekend outside the Three Broomsticks with the cup in his suitcase full of stuff. He’d obviously nicked it during an Order meeting and was trying to sell it off. Well, whoever’d buy that more than likely comes across the sort of stuff we’re looking for. Maybe something of Gryffindor’s or Ravenclaw’s.”
That actually seemed frightening logical and practical… for Harry, anyway. And Mundungus Fletcher wasn’t typically what you’d call a threat. She felt her anger start to diffuse. “So what happened?”
“I don’t actually know. One minute I was just following him under the invisibility cloak and the next a couple of Death Eaters apparated right in front of us and yanked him into a side alley between two shops. It’s not like I’m fond of Dung or anything, I mean he was off dealing black market cauldrons while he was supposed to be watching me the summer Umbridge sent a couple of the only things that would ever kiss her after me and Dudley. But I couldn’t just let them get to him. I didn’t know that Dumbledore’d had time to follow up when he said he’d see to it that Dung stopped pinching Sirius’ stuff after I told him. It turns out Lupin and Kingsley were following him as well. I wouldn’t have jumped in if I’d thought anyone else would help him.”
Hermione’s eyes fixed on his. ‘Yes you would,’ they said. He found something suddenly fascinating about the pattern of cracks in the ceiling, avoiding her gaze. Look, that one looked just like a bunny!
“Was it really that bad?” he asked after a moment.
“What?” Hermione asked, trying to see what was so incredibly interesting up on the ceiling that he wouldn’t look at her. The peeling paint and cracks directly over the bed looked an awful lot like a Hungarian horntail about to pounce to her and she quickly dropped her eyes. Harry was watching her again too, with a look that seemed to contain a mixture of equal parts curiosity and trepidation.
“Me er, you know…giving you the cup.”
Hermione smiled. He seemed awfully interested in some kind of reaction to something he himself had tried to pass off as a practical solution to not choking. She wondered if he had any clue just how it had affected her. She’d definitely like to explore his capabilities in that magical skill more in depth.
“What the bloody hell happened to you, mate?” suddenly startled them both from the doorway. Ron stood propped in the door frame, hair in full revolt and eyes still heavy with sleep. Hermione forced herself to freeze; to move away now would surely seem guilty somehow. She had nothing to feel guilty about. She was just helping out her best friend. By sitting in his bed in her pajamas thinking about his technique while planning their next kiss...? Wasn’t that what best friends were for?
Damn. She was just as self-delusional as Harry, wasn’t she?
“You slept right through it,” she said brightly. “Tonks brought him home like that last night. Pretty, isn’t he?”
“Thanks for sharing, Harry,” he said, coming properly into the room and climbing onto the foot of the bed. “I thought we were in this together.”
“I was just telling Hermione that all I thought I was doing was following Mundungus to find out where he was fencing stuff so that we could go looking together. How was I supposed to know he was about to be jumped by Death Eaters?”
“Because you were there? Not such a hard call.” Ron supplied, but he grinned. “Tough luck. Hope they look half as bad as you do.”
“Worse, I think,” Harry told him with some satisfaction. “There’s some advantage to being fresh from Hogwarts. Those guys come right out with the big stuff and it’s all they expect in return. You can sneak in some of the old school standards without them being prepared at all. With any luck they’re still covered with oozing boils in St. Mungo’s.”
“Hardly fatal, those. You look as if you were on the wrong end of some seriously nasty stuff.”
“And they weren’t even trying to do me in. The joke is it seems like I’m safer than anyone ever thought. Remember how I told you Snape called off those Death Eaters at Hogwarts? Well it wasn’t just because he loves me after all. One of the two last night reminded the other one that they weren’t supposed to kill me, too. Voldemort apparently has to have me for himself. So stop worrying, both of you. Unless it’s old red eyes himself, just duck behind me.”
Hermione didn’t like the sound of that; there was a reckless edge to his words and she was pretty sure she knew what was prompting it.
“You think you’re one of them, don’t you. You think you’re a horcrux. And you think that’s why Voldemort won’t let anyone else kill you.”
“I don’t think I was supposed to be,” he admitted. “but yeah. The more I’ve thought about it, the more sense it makes. I think he was going to use killing me to make one, sort of foil the prophecy and further his own immortality at the same time. Only he hadn’t counted on my Mum doing what she did. And you know what else? I wonder about her. Everyone always says she was so smart, and the way she said, ‘Not Harry,’ and ‘Take me,’ makes me wonder if she suspected something or even knew what he was up to. But whatever he was going to do went wrong because of the way she loved me and I became the horcrux instead of the object he’d intended. Or maybe the scar is a horcrux and it’s just attached to me. Either way, that’s why I speak parseltongue. That’s why we can enter each other’s minds. I don’t think I was the last one, though. I do think Nagini’s one, and I think he knew how to do it to her as another living being because he’d already done it to me. I think he made Nagini as a spare just so he can kill me and try and take a bit of his precious immortality back because it kills him that it’s walking around spouting parseltongue and sharing all his bloody dreams inside of a lousy half blood like me.”
Hermione and Ron were both silent, staring at him in horror.
“You don’t have to get all freaked out. If I haven’t turned into him in sixteen years it’s pretty unlikely it’ll happen while you’re watching,” he said, burying his sorrow and shame at their expressions in sarcasm.
“Does that mean…” Ron started. “Er, if you have to destroy all the other ones… what’s to stop… I mean…”
“Yeah, Ron. To totally finish him off, one of us is going to have to finish me, too.”
“You don’t know that,” Hermione said quite calmly, surprising herself. “There are more possibilities to that scenario then you’ve obviously considered. First, before you get all excited about offing yourself, we should find a way to prove that you are really are one. I’m guessing that’s why you want to go to your parent’s house, following Dumbledore’s footsteps back to the scenes of the crimes.”
Harry nodded. She always knew.
“Assume we find you are one. What’s to stop us from finding out how you make a horcrux and dividing Voldemort out of you into something else and then destroying it!” she pointed out.
“Er, the fact we’d have to kill someone to do it?” Harry pointed back.
“Er, what if the someone were Voldemort?” she volleyed. “I know you have your issues with having to be the one to kill him, but what if we managed to use his own dark magic to finish him off? Could you live happily ever after with that?”
There was the most complete silence that she had ever heard in that room. The heck with a pin dropping, the molecules of air colliding would have been thunderous had they been able to move.
“Bloody hell!,” said Ron, rather predictably, she thought.
“I love you, Hermione,” said Harry, in a voice that was shaky enough to convey the sincerity of every word.
And Hermione felt her heart start to beat again.
“Well, that’s it then. We’ll have to start working out the mechanics of it immediately. Ron, why don’t you come downstairs and help me make breakfast? What do you feel up for, Harry?” she asked briskly. She had a mission now, a direction, and life spread out in a safely ordered path before her. “Will egg and bacon sit all right?’
“I’ll come,” he said, attempting to sit up in the bed. It took him a couple of tries, but when he looked up at last, flushed with his success, he met his two best friends’ identical expressions once more.
“Don’t make me invite my mum over,” Ron told him.
Harry dropped back to the pillows with a sigh.
Ron was quiet while Hermione gathered things for breakfast, not even teasing her about doing it all the Muggle way.
“So how long have you known?” he asked her suddenly.
‘Known what?’ would be insulting and unfair after he’d been the one to take that first, most difficult step into the ether now between them.
“I’m not avoiding you by saying I don’t know. I’m really not sure. But I haven’t been able to ignore it for the last couple of weeks, I guess,” she said carefully. “I’m sorry I wasn’t ready to say anything before you… noticed.”
“I’m not stupid, Hermione. I mean, I was kind of surprised when it didn’t go that way from the very beginning.”
“I know you were. Or that you sort of felt that way, anyway. Like you didn’t really believe in you and me either.”
Ron sighed and sat down at the table. “You know, over the years I thought I’d got over being jealous of him for almost everything. Fourth year really brought it all to a head, when we had that falling out over the Tri Wizard and he almost ended up getting killed and Cedric did… I pretty well stopped wanting to be Harry at that point. The only thing he had left that I envied him was you.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, sinking down into the chair next to him, food forgotten.
“I thought you went from looking after him to really looking at him sometime around fourth year too,” he said. “But you also saw that the adventure bit was over and he really was more likely then the rest of us to… not make it. Doesn’t really take a prophecy when you’ve got a clue.
Until he does what he has to do, none of the rest of us will ever really know if he’s going to live or die, and even if he lets us help none of us will ever be the biggest thing in his life until it’s over. Ginny didn’t understand that and I know it sounds awful coming from her own brother, but I’m glad they broke it off. I always knew that you weren’t like other girls, Herms. I knew if you ever decided to act on the way you felt about him you were at least going in with your eyes wide open and you wouldn’t walk away from him no matter what. And in the end I guess I’m glad about that. I mean, I wish it was different for you and me, but this is okay. He sort of deserves you.”
Ron took a huge breath. That had been an unusually long and deeply thought out speech for him… Then he realized that the end might not have sounded quite right. “In the best possible way, of course. Because you’re, erm, really something else, Hermione.”
“Excellent save, Weasley. Unnecessary, but inspired. And Ron, I really do love you. You’re the best friend anyone could ever hope to have. Honestly.”
Hermione threw her arms around him and found herself elated to discover that she was filled with a genuine fondness entirely uncolored by regret as she hugged him.
Until she met Tonk’s rather surprised face in the fire over his shoulder.
“Wotcher, Hermione. Still can’t make up your mind, then?”
Harry was fast asleep when she brought up his breakfast, and remained so during the time it for Hermione to shower and don clean clothes. She piled up several of the more promising books she’d uncovered on her last poke through the Black family library and added parchment and quill to the pile then followed Crookshanks across the hall to his room. There was a fairly comfortable old wingchair against one wall; she dragged it over to the bed and dropped into it with the first book on her lap. Crookshanks hopped up on the bed, circled several times and flopped down near Harry’s knees, purring contentedly. Ron stopped in on his way out to the twins shop, but Harry didn’t stir again until almost noon. Hermione marked her place and closed her book to find green eyes watching her from the bed.
“You never answered my question,” he said softly. “Was it really that bad?”
There were two ways she could play this. She could be logical, rational Hermione and explain that no, it had been very nice actually, so nice that she had had a talk with Ron which ended up with them agreeing that things between them weren’t working out the way they’d hoped, and maybe she and Harry should think about trying it again under less trying conditions. And without the Black family heirloom.
Or she could answer the call of her heart, which had started beating in a most erratic and demanding manner as soon as it realized there was even the slightest chance that for the first time in seventeen years it might get to GO FIRST!
I win! cried her heart. Wait! screamed her brain. Shut up! said her lips.
“I didn’t say…” Harry started, but happily enough he never got to finish that thought.
Hermione pounced. She climbed on the bed. She straddled those lovely narrow hips of his, leaned down until her hair fell forward and obscured the rest of the world and kissed Harry Potter. And when Harry kissed her back every single bit of her, mind, body and soul, cried Yes!
In the end, she got to exercise (or was it exorcise? They’d certainly haunted her…) most of the multiple Harry fantasies she’d had over the last week or two. If Hermione had a type he was clearly it, the multi-hued bruising of his shoulder and still healing lacerations that covered him did nothing to mar her desire for him, and his appreciation of her became obvious to her quite quickly by the time she’d got him down to nothing but a pair of rather nice worn plaid flannel boxers.. His now evident enjoyment of her boosted her self confidence exponentially. Watching him carefully unbutton her shirt like he was unwrapping the best birthday present ever made her eyes prickle with unshed tears. His touch progressed from tentative to assured as they explored each other and she could sense him learning her carefully, as if she were… what? Where had she seen that rapt expression before?
‘The Firebolt,’ her brain supplied helpfully.
‘A broom?’ questioned her heart.
‘He loves that broom.’ her brain admonished. ‘Think what it means to him. Think Quidditch, think flying, think soaring away over Hogwarts…’
‘I’m afraid of heights,’ said her heart.
‘No you’re not. That’s me. Just shut up and enjoy him or that’s the last time I let you make the decisions!’
He was being extremely cooperative but she couldn’t help but notice him wincing after a certain point and realized that they would both enjoy the proceedings considerably more if Harry were back to reasonably full health before they went… ahead. His argument that there were plenty of almost equally satisfying activities they could pursue until then tempted but did not deter her; she’d waited this long, a couple more days wouldn’t hurt them.
“Want to bet?” Harry asked, grinning.
“I can put the time to good use researching the reverse horcrux issue,” she told him.
“Well, if you put it that way,” he agreed, curling around her as she sat up on the bed and pulled another book from the stack she’d brought. She watched his head settle near her hip and the dark lashes sweep down to obscure his eyes.
She perused the table of contents, looking for the most likely chapter to start with. Crookshanks jumped cautiously back on to the bed now that the rolling around seemed to have ceased and chose Harry as the more stationary of the two to base his operations. She watched in some amusement as Harry responded to the prodding of a cold wet nose in his neck by reaching out blindly and beginning to stroke the cat. It was several minutes later when Hermione realized a few very important things.
She hadn’t read a single word of her book.
Harry was a very good petter. She’d read somewhere that animal lovers were better at the human variety as well, more attuned to nuances of touch.
Crookshanks was way happier than she was and it just wasn’t fair.
“Harry?” she asked.
“Hmm?” he responded, half asleep.
“Are you better yet?”