by Marine Galdeone

A sharp wit, cutting words, and a penetrating glare: be careful with him: touch him from the wrong side, and you might accidentally meet his pointed edges. They will slash, and your skin will bleed. He does not hesitate. He cannot.

You have known this for years. His face and his words are as piercing as his father's. He hates easily, but finds it hard to love. He is learned in many things, but he fears even what he knows. He does not show it, though; what he lets everyone see is jagged edges, tantalizing whoever dares to come closer, only to snap and maybe snip painfully at them. Some take it worse than others.

You are left alone with him one day in your fifth year: left by Filch to polish the articles in the trophy room. You are serving detention for teaching Neville in Potions, and he for colorful bickering with Pansy Parkinson. Bored out of your mind while trying to get one of the dusty cups to look silver, you ask him how he is. How he's doing in school, how everyone's been treating him. And everything happens so fast: his lips on yours, a hand bunching up your hair, another caressing your left breast. You suddenly stop thinking and go on, forward, far. He takes you greedily and, oddly enough, feels sorry afterward.

And so do you. Much more than he does, even, because you've only done this twice: once with Neville, who liked you very much, and who was one of your friends, at least; and once with Ron, who loves you more than anything, but is too afraid to say it. Or so, Seamus and Dean say. You were planning to save the third time for someone you were in love with, because, after all, you've always been taught that 'third time's the charm': the last chance you have to do something right, or else do it wrong forever. And you've always tried to stick to that, but now.

Now Draco? He is your close friend's rival, and he's egotistical and arrogant and annoying. And you don't feel anything toward him, other than the usual infatuation because of his good looks. You've never cared much for his several insults, and machinations to get you and your friends into trouble over the years. He has such a scathing personality -- you're afraid he would sear right through you any destroy everything you are and everything you've worked for.

Unexpected things have a way of just happening, however. He speaks to you again the next day, when you're on your way to the library and he to Quidditch practice. After dark, you sneak off and meet again, but this time you don't really do anything but talk. He tells you about his father, and how Lucius used to make him copy from a thick Dark Arts dictionary whenever he did a spell wrong. You laugh about it together. It's the most civilized conversation you've had with him, and it makes you happy, so you secretly meet him again the next night, and the next, and the next.

It goes on for a few months, crossing over to the next school year: long letters and late evening talks and picnics and never further again. Until one night, in the astronomy tower, in an empty room on the third floor, you stop speaking, suddenly, and look into his ravishing eyes of quicksilver. He gazes back in what must be a sickeningly sweet way. The rest is history.

When you reach your climax, you tell him you love him.

You realize three things.

First, that you're telling the truth: that you do. Because he is kind, after all, and has a good heart despite all the precautions he has taken to keep it from anyone but himself. He's wonderful to you. He knows when to speak and when to stay quiet and gives you what you want and what you need. And he respects you as who you are.

Second, that it's the first time you've loved someone this way.

Third, that you can never go on with him. Not even if he tries. Because you can sense his guilt, and see it in the curve of his eyebrows and the mercury in his eyes: the guilt of not loving you back the way he and you want to. But it doesn't change anything. He: his presence, and how he has led you this far: hurts you. You tried to hold on to his harmless side -- the side you've discovered -- but you end up slashed by his edges. His damned edges.

You cry. He doesn't know how to comfort you, but he tries. And it just hurts you more, like rubbing salt into a wound. That, you guess, is as far as it gets.


You tell your friends about him, and about what transpired between you, only after it's over. Which is the next day.

You send him an owl saying a simple I'm sorry. He seems to understand, because he replies by owl (Me too.) and looks at you from across the Great Hall with, not a scowl or a sneer, but a blank, regretful look on his face. He nods once; you do the same; that's the end of it.

Ron throws an apoplectic fit, yelling at you that he can't believe you were associating with the enemy, but more angrily than back in your fourth year. You let him yell, because he's probably right about it being a mistake, even though it no longer makes a difference. When he sits abjectly in a chair long enough for you to look away, you sneak a glance at Harry to see what his reaction is. He's been quiet the entire time.

He is slouched in a chair like Ron is. He's staring into space, at nothing, as if in deep thought -- or maybe, more appropriately, in deep emotion. There is something about the way his eyes are cast downward that you can't place your finger on. Something more than being hurt that he wasn't told any earlier.

"Harry, Ron," you say, your own voice feeling strange and foreign. "I'm sorry."

Ron still looks livid and murderous; but Harry nods. "It's all right, Hermione, we... well, it's not like we could have done anything." A small smile dances across his face, facile and fake and not like him at all. And then he walks off to his dorm.

You wonder what he meant by that.


But then, you reflect later on, he's always been like that: cryptic in his own way, bottling up what he thinks and what he feels, playing impervious, like a rock. He's been robbed of protection so early in his life, so he has made it for himself if only to avoid the pain he's been destined to suffer. And he takes care of himself by building walls around him that aren't very easy to get through. You know that's why he hasn't yet had a girlfriend lasting more than a month and has difficulty making friends with people he can't trust.

You've liked Harry longer than you can remember, but you're frightened even to try. He will decide any relationship that might emerge between you won't work; then he will shut you out, setting slabs of cold, hard stone between you and him, and nothing will ever be the same. Besides, you tell yourself, you're too much of a scarlet woman already. That's what Ron's mum calls them, anyway.

Five weeks later, the common room is empty on a Friday afternoon. He goes over to you to ask for help with his Charms homework. His glasses are slightly askew, and his green eyes are twinkling in gratitude. You forget about everything: his dead parents, his lightning-bolt scar, his intractable tendency to build walls of stone. You kiss him gently; then, he kisses back, using his tongue in feverish desperation, as if he's been yearning for this as much as you have.

When you pull away for air, he smiles at you, his cheeks tinged with color. "I've been wanting to do that for some time, Hermione," he says. And so you do it again.


Time spent with Harry quickly turns to heaven: he kisses as if he can do it for a living, and he knows where to touch you when you want to be touched, and he's more romantic than you'd expected, sneaking gropes here and there when no one seems to be looking, smiling at you like you're the most beautiful girl in the world. Whenever you're with him, your mother's cheesy romance novels seem to come to life. You've never shared such wonderful times with him before.

When you and Harry tell Ron you're dating two weeks later, Ron's lips curl into a frozen grin, as if he can't bring himself to believe it. He turns to you, then to Harry. "Really?"

"Yes," Harry replies, sending you an unreadable glance.

Ron nods. His fingers are entwined, and the knuckles are white against his skin. His grin is still there, but the corners of his lips are beginning to twitch. "That's great," he says. Before you can reply, he traipses off to his dorm, leaving you, Harry, and silence.

You and Harry forget about it the next day, remembering only that Ron told you it was great: and that's okay. It isn't as if Ron would have a reason to mind. You two are still his best friends, after all; only now, there are kisses and hugs and touches involved. Harry is still the same person you've always known him to be.

And the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months until, two weeks before the end of the final term, you sneak into the boys' dorms, knowing everyone but Harry is out enjoying the Saturday, and see him -- or, more appropriately, catch him -- killing a spider with his wand.

He is on his knees beside his bed. His brow is furrowed in concentration, his wand poised over the spider on his pillow in a menacing angle. "Avada Kedavra," he murmurs. A burst of garish green light. You gasp.

"Hermione, what are you--"

"That's an Unforgivable Curse! Harry, that's illegal, that's..."

And you can't continue, because he's been hiding this from you, and he's not supposed to be doing that, not when he's your bloody boyfriend and your best friend. The spider isn't dead, but it has flipped onto its back. It wriggles spasmodically, flailing its legs every which way. You know immediately that he's been practicing this for weeks or months: an ordinary student would only produce a flash of pale green light and nothing else. He's been working on it.

You should never have expected any better, because here it is: everything you know about him dissolves, and for a moment it feels like you don't know him at all, as everyone else who's only read about him or shaken his hand.

It's not that you wanted him to change for you when you started your relationship; it's just that you've always wished to see him in a different light: to discover what he thinks and feels and is without having to work through his unbreakable shell. You always thought that since you were friends to begin with, you'd get to know everything about him inside out, but you were wrong.

You step back just as he stands, his wand and the spider forgotten. He walks toward you, but your legs refuse to back away, albeit you want more than anything to run. To escape all this: not knowing, not being told. You've always hated not knowing.

So you try to speak to yell to cry to shout and nothing. All you hear is your breath: in, out, in, out. Possibly, oxygen -- survival -- is all there is for anyone the moment he's discovered a terrifying secret about someone he loves.

He must have seen the question in your eyes -- why? your mind is screaming -- because he says resolutely, with an air of confidence betrayed only by the slight quiver of his voice: "He killed my parents, Hermione, and it's only right that I kill him back."



You stare at the top of his head. His hair is, as usual, dark and untidy, as if he's just gotten out of bed. His scar is visible on his forehead: obtrusive, you realize, after all these years of being used to it as a part of his face. A part of him. You wonder what would have happened if Voldemort had succeeded in his plans fifteen years ago. Would you be here now, alive? His scar disturbs you. It doesn't look real.

"You can't kill him, Harry, he..." He's too powerful? He'll have you dead in a nanosecond? He'll have Death Eaters throttle you before you can whip out your wand? There are so many reasons.

As if it's a hobby, or a preoccupation: "I'm killing him over the summer, Hermione."

"That's ridiculous!" you yell. "There's no way -- do you even know where he is? And how are you going to... oh, this is ridiculous, just ridiculous! You're going to die..."

"Yes, I know where he is," he replies, completely ignoring your last statement: the one that scares you the most. "He's been staying at the Malfoy Manor with Wormtail for quite some time now. It's his headquarters. The other Death Eaters come over and hold meetings every Monday, so I'm planning to go sometime else, when Lucius and the others aren't around. Voldemort rarely comes along on their raids, just sits and orders them around."

You are shocked -- overwhelmed -- by the extent of his knowledge. And he's been keeping this to himself all this time: telling you only when you fortuitously chance upon him trying the killing curse on a helpless spider.

"How did you know all this?"

"Draco -- Malfoy -- told me."

"Draco? Since when have you two been on speaking terms? I mean, not that I have a right to... but I never knew..."

"Yes, he and I have been talking." He gauges your reaction, then adds, "I trust him."

You sigh, more because of defeat than anything else. Questions form a maelstrom in your mind, but you ignore them: there is already too much to think about, and what you don't know is not as troubling and dangerous as what you do. "Me too," you say. It's the truth: you trust him, and even though you rarely speak with him anymore, you remember everything clearly. Like how you loved him.

"He said as long as I don't kill Lucius, it's all right. He's coming with me. Helping me. He wants his dad to see the error of his ways and give Voldemort up."

"Why don't you tell the Ministry, then? Harry, this is the most dangerous thing..."

"No, it's not. Draco wants Lucius to reform, not rot in Azkaban -- and he trusts me -- trusted me -- not to inform the Ministry or anyone else. I knew you'd worry, that's why I didn't want to tell you, even if he said it was okay." He looks away from you and out the window. The bright sun illuminates the world outside. The flowers are brilliant even from afar, and the lake is a mirage of serene warmth. Students are milling about, light in their eyes. He is saying goodbye to all this. Willingly. Anything could happen, and he's really just a child, like all of them, like Ron, like you. He has so much to live for. Well, you've always assumed, because you do. And he--

It occurs to you that you don't really know him at all.

"Don't," you say. "Don't do this to yourself. You're young, and..."

"It's Voldemort who's going to die. I don't want to, I'm not planning to. I've been marked for death since I was a baby, and I won't let him triumph. I won't."

"But you never know! I only want to protect you, I--"

"Well, don't! I never asked you to protect me, Hermione. I love you, I always have..."

"I love you too, Harry--"

"And that's enough. That's all I ever asked for. Stop trying to protect me. You can't. Just stay, okay? Stay on my side."

"I am."

There is a lull in the conversation, leaving you with your thoughts. You can't protect him. It's strange how it rings so true after all you've done to deny it. And you think you should be feeling better without great expectations to burden you, but you feel empty inside. Useless. You don't know what kind of a friend he needs you to be.

"I'm your... I've been for so long... I don't even know you..."

"Are we breaking up, then?" he asks, with no surprise or anger or hope in his expression. Indifference is all you can see, and it infuriates you that your relationship doesn't mean as much to him as it does to you.

"What did you expect." You want to cry, but your eyes won't shed tears. They're building up inside, damn it.

"I'm sorry, Hermione. For everything. But we'll still be friends, won't we?"

"Of course. Always."

A moment passes when you don't know what to do. You feel like going over to give him a hug, or talking him out of his plans, but it doesn't look like either would do anything. Finally, he glances at his watch and says that he has to meet Draco -- Malfoy -- and he settles on Draco -- in five minutes. They have to review things, practice hexes and curses just in case Death Eaters unexpectedly arrive. His Avada needs work. He takes his wand and shrugs on his cloak. "I guess I'll see you tomorrow." It looks like he has something to add, but he just bends down and kisses you on the cheek: a pleasantry with someone you will never truly know. And then he's gone.

You sit down on his bed, knowing you should go before someone comes in, but you don't have the energy to face anyone just now. What he said is fresh in your mind, jigsaw pieces coming together, forming a complete puzzle. He doesn't need you to protect him. You can't protect him. It hits you still, and the ache only gets stronger every moment.

His parents died when he was eighteen months old. His relatives took care of him since, but never gave him the love a child needed to grow. He didn't get to have friends until he was eleven, when he started going to Hogwarts and discovered he was considered a hero by the wizarding world.

His life sounds like a fairy tale: magical in a way that even wizards cannot muster. It would sound like it to readers of the Daily Prophet, or Bathilda Bagshot, or young wizards who've studied A History of Magic. But there's so much more to a person than his dead parents and his lightning-shaped scar. You wish you could be allowed to see what else is there: what he hides beneath his skin and bones and walls of stone. He doesn't need you to protect him. He is his own rock: he's always been.

Strike two, you tell yourself.

When you stand up to go, the spider on his pillow is motionless.


It's easy to forget heartbreak when there are things to keep you busy. And, with only twelve days of school left, the professors begin to execute the torturous end-of-year procedures. You, Ron, and Harry barely have time to talk, but you know Harry and Draco meet frequently, practicing. Arranging things. In the middle of studying for your Potions final, you feel a sudden urge to ask him if he's got the Killing Curse down pat. Or other questions, like how he plans to escape the Dursleys and get to the Malfoy Manor, or what he would do if the Curse doesn't work on Voldemort. His nose is buried in his book, and you don't have the heart to interrupt him. Besides, you tell yourself, it's not as if it would change anything. He's still going to risk his life to take someone else's. You don't think you have the privilege of trying to stop him any longer. So far, you don't know anyone who does.

The days pass before you like the scenery outside a fast bullet train. Soon -- too soon -- you find yourself in Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, bidding him and Ron goodbye.

Ron gives you a tight hug, longer than it probably should be, and you know he still feels bad about the breakup, even if he had nothing to do with it: nothing at all. He's just protective that way, like an older brother. And you don't mind it like Harry would, because Harry isn't used to it, and he certainly doesn't want it.

When Ron goes off with his family, you and Harry are left in the middle of the platform, amidst the hustle and bustle of students and their parents. Your mum and dad are waiting patiently for you by the parking lot, while Vernon Dursley has his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.

"Hermione, I know you're going to worry, but I can do it. I promise. I'll write right away, and you'll know, all right?"

"Are you sure you want to do it?"

You expect him to wave the question off, but he surprises you when he smiles. "Yes, I'm sure."

You don't know what there is to smile about, but you realize it's only for him to know. And you have to accept that: that some things, and some people, you can never fully understand.

You nod, taking a step backward, preparing to go. And to let him go.

"Just be careful, Harry."

"I will."

He envelops you in another brotherly hug. And when he pulls away, his palm lingers on the inside of your arm. You yearn to hold his hand as you have before, twining his fingers in yours, the heel of his palm pressed to your wrist. But then, he pulls his hand back, and all you can feel is the warmth it leaves, slowly drifting from your skin.

You close your eyes for the briefest of moments, something you don't recognize making your heart pound; and when you open them again, he's no longer there.


He writes only once, a month into the summer vacation, but it's a longer letter than you expected, and all you need to know. First, you read an article from the Daily Prophet dated two days ago that he's enclosed: Dark Lord found dead, the headline says in black bold letters. Lord Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew found dead in Knockturn Alley. Unmarked, killed with Avada Kedavra. You skim the article: the Ministry is delighted, but they are working overtime to discover whom they owe this huge favor to... they will be given special awards... the story of Peter Pettigrew is being reviewed... they are conducting research on suspected Death Eaters. Harry is mentioned once, but only as the usual Boy Who Lived.

At the very bottom of the page, Harry has encircled a smaller head: Sirius Black acquitted. Ministry officials have confirmed that, with the discovery of Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, Azkaban escapee, did not commit the crime he was imprisoned for. Albus Dumbledore of the Order of Merlin, First Class, and current Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, assents that it was Peter Pettigrew who was responsible for the murder of several Muggles with a single spell...

You smile, not reading any further, already happy about the outcome of Harry's plans. This is what he's good at: saving the world without the bat of an eye. You take his letter and read:


Dear Hermione,

I did it! I told you I'd be all right. Draco and I came out without any additional scars. It was easier than expected, him dealing with Wormtail and me with Voldemort. Had the help of my Invisibility Cloak. Voldie didn't put any wards on his personal sitting room, since the Malfoy Manor is heavily protected by itself. Draco had this cool Portkey necklace -- you turn it left, right, over, under, right, and you get inside his room at the Manor instantly. Do that in his room and you go back exactly where you came from. He lent it to me for the mission (accomplished! I'm very happy) and decided to let me keep it. Told his dad (who was very upset about Voldie, by the way) he lost it and to get him another one. I've been visiting Draco a lot lately (turning up in his room is more like it), and he doesn't seem at all affected by Voldemort's death or us using Avada.. In fact, he's really fun to be with. He's not the jerk we used to know. Think he just acted like that because of his dad. He actually gives me sweets to bring home. You should try the blueberry cheesecakes someday -- they're the specialty of Fyodor, one of their house-elves, and they're really good. Anyway, it was Draco's idea to dump them in Knockturn, since that's where they best belong, next to Azkaban. I hope you don't think it was the wrong decision. We Flooed over, and happily, no one saw us. We were in the Cloak, but I think it would've seemed strange to see two corpses appear out of a public Floo fireplace.

Sirius has been writing to me too, and last I heard he was thinking about going to the Ministry for his official acquitting rites or something like that. But he's going to wait till the entire ministry believes the truth, just in case. I'm so happy for him. He's finally getting the real freedom he deserves, instead of always hiding. But of course, I'm not going to tell the Dursleys that. At least not until Sirius can take me in, when I'll be rid of them forever. Which is hopefully after next school year, and what do you know? I was thinking of applying to become an Auror. Still a lot of Death Eaters out there, not to mention dark wizards who don't necessarily work for Voldie. Draco told me he'd apply if I applied, though I think he's still afraid, deep down, of telling his dad. Lucius has always been a stubborn, self-centered brat, and I wish Draco didn't care about him so much.

That's about it. What are you up to? I'm sorry I took so long to do what I set out to do and write to you about it, but I guess we were just waiting for the right moment. You must've been worried sick. I'm sorry about that. But well, here I am, alive and well and happier than I remember ever being before. And I'm sorry it didn't work out between us, but I guess that just tells us we're so much better off as just friends. Think about it this way: now you can nag me about my homework without me having an excuse to distract you in the most amusing manner. Haha, that was a joke. Take care of yourself. I hope to hear from you soon.

Love, Harry


Hm, you think. Love.

Emotions race through you, so many of them, so fast that you can't know for certain what they all are. You take out one of the Muggle pens you use at home, your mind searching for words and your heart in a reverie of its own. And you sit, silent, for a quarter of an hour, not knowing whether to reply to his apology, or to ask about Draco, or to insult Lucius Malfoy, or to tell him about the road trip you had with your parents two weeks ago, the details of which you've long forgotten. Or to tell him that you didn't mind him distracting you when you nagged him about his homework. No, you didn't mind at all.

In the end, you write all you can about being happy for him and happy about Voldemort and happy that Sirius is free. You don't mention that you still yearn for him, and dream about him sometimes, and think about his skin and lips and eyes and how good you felt when you were with him -- how truly happy, even though you know you were only grappling with his barrier of concrete rock.

You're only paper, and he's abraded you.

It's a selfish thought, mostly: you can't deny that it's your fault too. You were the one who kissed him first, right? You throw around the memories in your head, trying to remember: was it you? Or was it him? You think it was probably you, but the memories are like dreams. You grab for them, but they keep skittering away.

But you do recall that you were the one who broke it up. And even though you feel you shouldn't have, and even though you want to go back to that night and tell him it's all right, everyone can keep secrets, I don't mind, you know it would have just taken more from you than you could give, and sooner or later, everything would still have to end.

You hope, as you tie your reply to Hedwig's leg, that there's still some of you left.


You are indifferent at first, because it's not as if you're surprised. You remember, however vaguely, expecting it from the moment you read Harry's letter. Your first thought: oh. Your second: of course.

Draco doesn't make hand gestures when he speaks. They stay wherever they are, depending on the position. Standing in front of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, his left is holding a cone of mint-chocolate, and his right is at his side. But Harry is with him: Harry, who is listening to him talk, with Ron and Ginny listening along. Harry's left hand brushes against Draco's by the knuckles, casual and comfortable and something one would barely notice, if one didn't already have guesses. But you did, and the answer is flagrant before your eyes.

You walk over to them, clutching your brand new work robes to your chest. Harry lifts his right hand in a wave and leaves the other at its place. At its proper place.

Ron, Ginny, and Harry greet you with warm hugs, the latter whispering an "I missed you" into your ear as he does. Draco smiles: awkward, but sincere, and you remember the good old times that slowly destroyed you like scrumptious sweets rotting your teeth. You don't know whether to miss them or regret them, and so you just smile back.

"Ice cream in the morning," you say, tsk-tsking at all four of them. Harry offers to buy you one, and you consider it for a moment; but you end up saying no thanks. They laugh at you, and you laugh with them. After talking a bit, you discover for the first time that Ron and Ginny have been told everything about the murder of Voldemort -- and that's why they're acting so warm towards Draco, where under normal circumstances, Ron would be flaring as red as his hair.

Of course, you think again. Harry's alive, so there's no reason to tell his friends what he has to tell, right?


After finishing their ice creams, Ron and Ginny go off to Flourish and Blotts. Harry and Draco invite you to come with them to the Magical Menagerie to get Draco a new owl. You want to spend time with them, but you understand that both of them alone with you would do more harm than good. You say, then, that you're going to search for a bit of extra reading material. Harry rolls his eyes at Draco and offers you a good-natured grin. You go off to follow Ron and Ginny.

After walking a few steps, you glance over your shoulder and see them walking with their backs to you, Harry's arm looped around Draco's like the father of a bride. Both of them must be pulling, because they are stumbling like drunken friends on the street. They are shaking with laughter, but they don't untwine their arms.

Of course.

When you continue on your way, you feel strangely out of breath.


Harry loves him.

You discover this five months later, on a cold evening in late January. Ron, in a jesting mood, asks him on his way out the portrait hole if he's off to shag Draco again. And he slowly turns around, replying with perfect aplomb, "No, it's his turn."

You put down your Herbology book, suddenly uninterested in the importance of poisonous orchids, without knowing why. You never engage in such conversations -- you believe that romantic encounters are best left by themselves -- yet this moment is calling to you in a siren's song of curiosity and, maybe, a bit of envy. You know you shouldn't be envious, because everyone you know has grown to be happy for Harry and Draco, and so should you. But you can't help it.

Ron is looking at Harry with wide eyes, having been fed more information than he hoped for. Then Ron looks toward you, and Harry does the same, and after an uncomfortable half-minute, you know you're going to have the talk: the one you've been dreading.

Harry puts down his winter cloak, staring at you uncertainly: as if he's afraid you'll break or tear. You want to tell him -- to scream at him -- that you're not a child, that you can take care of yourself, that you won't crack under pressure or even pain. You want to tell him that you've accepted their relationship, just like most of the people who know, that you don't want to ruin it just because you exist. But you say nothing: they're all only lies.

Five months. Did you last that long with Draco? With Harry? You try to remember, but as Harry sits down on the chair in front of you, you finally understand that it doesn't matter. It's just time, and time is such a spoiled little brat. Seconds and minutes and hours demand and take and never give back. No, time doesn't matter. You don't know -- and you don't care -- how long it takes before Harry says, in a strained tone that makes you feel as if you've tired him, or that it's the last thing he wants to tell you: "I love him."

Did it come out of nowhere? you ask yourself. Or were you expecting it? Were you waiting for it, even? Knowing it would come?

Yes. Yes. Yes, and yes.

"I know," you say, and so the pain comes.

You love them both, so damn much, and it hurts.

Colin and Dennis Creevey, the only other ones in the room, gather their books and go up to the boys' dorms. They know.

God. Everyone knows.

And so do you, no matter how much you've tried to relegate everything that's happened since your fifth year. To put the past behind, and all that, without facing it. You've always been too afraid.

It hurts.

"I'm sorry," Harry says.

You learn, now, that good intentions are so often superimposed by fate, and that your best -- or anyone's, for that matter -- means nothing. Because everything ends a certain way: we can't always get what we want, and we can't always give what we want to. Even all we've wished and worked so hard for. Harry never meant to hurt you. And neither did Draco. Things happened in the way they do, and you were the victim.

You sigh, your breath quivering.

You think you should cry and get it all out, but tears refuse to come forth.

Shouldn't you be happy that the two people you found love in have found love in each other? It sounds like a soap opera, the way it is in your mind. Impossible: the most bizarre love triangle you've ever encountered. But it's here, in your life. Right before you all this time.

"Are you all right?" Harry asks, while Ron looks awkwardly on. And you think this would be so much easier to handle if he were a selfish, uncaring jerk. And if Draco were as cruel as he used to be, with nothing to spare but disparaging remarks and his usual sneer. But they're not. And it only hurts because they're them. The way they are.

Blade and stone. And you're only paper.

You understand, now, what Harry meant when you told him about you and Draco. He couldn't have done anything; and now, neither can you.


"Go," you say abruptly, causing him to narrow his eyes in worry. "Draco... Draco's waiting for you."

"I don't really -- I can--"

"It's all right," you tell him. "I'm..."

You look into his eyes, and you imagine you see that he loves you.

"I'll be all right," you say. It sounds like a promise, and maybe it is.

A long moment passes, and he replies, with the slightest trace of hesitance, "Okay."

He turns back around and goes on his way.

The tears come then, unbidden; but you welcome them as you welcomed Harry and Draco, and what love has taught, and what you have just now learned. You put your head in your hands, your body wracking with sobs. When you least expect it, you feel someone's arms wrap around you.

Ron. You'd almost forgotten.

He asks no questions. Perhaps he doesn't need to. He holds you tightly, close to him. Your tears stain his shoulder, and you cry until they soak through to the skin. And then you press your brow to it, knowing that the hurt is dissipating with the tears. You would be all right, someday. It was a promise, and you would keep it. You would be all right.

You raise your head, wiping the wetness -- the hurt -- from your eyes. The closed portrait hole is the first thing you see: it is out of place amidst scarlet walls and their golden trimmings. With one last sob, you recognize that it's finally time to let go.


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