Warning (highlight to view): For implied character death.
Word Count: 1282
Summary: At the start of their seventh year, Harry shows Hermione Hedwig's new friend, and they discuss another one as they find their way to each other supposedly clear.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
"You mean she—he—it just showed up?" Hermione asked Harry, her brows raised in appreciation for the large white owl's beauty as it flew in lazy circles above them with Hedwig and also her surprise that her friend should have been allowed to bring two familiars to Hogwarts.
"Yeah, the night after I got home."
"So, your . . . family didn't mind having him?" Hermione said, deciding that the larger owl must be a male bird.
"They never seemed to notice, and anyway, I couldn't get rid of him. I wrote to Professor Dumbledore about it, and he said to bring him."
"Hmm," the girl responded, smoothing her palms down over her skirt.
Harry looked at his friend, who had developed into something glorious over the summer before their seventh year. She intimidated him a bit, looking so smooth and polished and bright. He struggled for something intelligent to say, settling on the less than impressive, "I get to keep him, you know."
Hermione smiled. "I doubt Hedwig will mind that, Harry."
They looked at the owls, who had landed on a high branch above them and were grooming each other. After awhile, Hermione asked, "Do you think they'll nest?"
Harry blushed because his friend's question echoed something of his own thoughts, though not ones about the owls. "Um, maybe—if she wants to, I suppose."
The witch took one of Harry's hands in one of hers and leaned into his shoulder, turning her head to whisper in his ear, "I think maybe she does."
The boy leapt in place, but didn't drop Hermione's hand.
"In fact, I think she might like it very much," Hermione continued, nipping at his ear in much the same way as the magnificent, large male owl was grooming Hedwig.
"Oh, 'Mione," Harry murmured, turning to face Hermione and finding his lips almost touching hers. "Do you really—"
Whatever he had intended to say was swallowed by Hermione's mouth closing over his own. They stood by the lake and one tall tree completely absorbed in the movement of their lips and tongues for some time before realizing that Hedwig and her paramour were watching them more like hawks than owls.
"It seems like they approve," Hermione said, smiling into Harry's mouth.
"This doesn't feel wrong to you?"
He pressed himself against her. "Does it to you?"
"Oh, oh, no, I suppose not."
"But," she said again, pulling away a bit, "Ron—"
"—gave me his blessing last year on the train after the leaving feast. I'm just a bit slow," he replied softly, brushing back a tendril of hair from Hermione's face.
"He did? After his proposal . . . ."
"He realized that you weren't in love with him."
"When I said no."
"When you said no."
"And he's not mad?"
Harry laughed. "Merlin, 'mad' doesn't begin to describe it, 'Mione—but," he said, holding her still as she made to pull away, "he'd already figured it out before he asked you, you know. We talked about it after the thing with Lucius Malfoy. Ron knew . . . he knew that I was in love with you, but he had to try."
"Oh—wait—you're in—you love me?"
"For a smart girl," the Boy Who Lived said, smirking a bit, "you certainly tend to miss the obvious."
Hermione blushed as she felt the indication of Harry's regard graze her thigh. "But, well, I thought you were just . . . being nice to me."
Harry ducked in to nibble lightly up Hermione's neck to her left earlobe. "I'd like to be a lot nicer."
"Oh, I want that, too, Harry, but . . . ."
The young man sighed and pulled Hermione gently down to the grass next to him. "What's the matter? You're not still in love with Ron, are you?"
"No! Of course, not! It's just that he hasn't answered any of my owls. I can't stand the thought of doing anything to lose Ron's friendship."
"When Malfoy's father escaped Azkaban and captured you and Ron as bait to trap me, do you know what Ron thought?"
"He thought that he had to protect you or I'd kill him. That's what he told me when Shacklebolt and Tonks brought you back to the school last year."
"Yeah, 'Mione, he did. And that night, Ron told me that he still loved you, that he was going to ask you, but that he didn't think you'd say yes."
"He still loves you, Hermione, but—"
"He loves us both more than that. He only wants you to be happy. Does that sound like a person who doesn't want to be your friend?"
"I didn't think he knew that spell."
"What?" Harry asked, looking puzzled.
Hermione looked at her hands, which she'd curled in her lap. "The one that transformed Malfoy, the one that made it possible to . . . kill him. You should have seen him, Harry. He was so angry."
"Yeah, well, so would I have been, if I'd been there. If Snape hadn't've kept me locked up in the Potions classroom, you know that—"
"—I know," Hermione said quickly, taking Harry's hands in hers. "I know that you would have killed for me—for us—but Ron didn't want that. He knows how much you hate killing."
Harry's face darkened. He didn't like killing, and he'd done a great deal of it in the last year.
"Killing Bellatrix Lestrange—it didn't feel the way you thought it would, did it?"
"No. No, revenge isn't worth the guilt. Sirius wouldn't have wanted that for me, but . . . ."
"You never talk about it, or about killing . . . Voldemort."
Harry shuddered. This was not how he'd imagined their conversation to go when he'd invited Hermione out to the lake to show her his new owl. "I can't, 'Mione."
"It's all right, Harry. You don't have to."
Above them, the owls began to make chirruping noises, and the large male owl swooped out of the tree to skim the reeds at the edge of the water. When he emerged from the vegetation, he held a screeching mouse in his claws. He flew back to Hedwig and presented it to her.
"How romantic," Hermione opined, wrinkling her nose.
"So, I suppose there's only one thing left to do."
"What's that, then?"
Ronald Weasley watched his "friends" fall into each other's greedy arms from a safe distance away, and then turned his gaze on the owls. The male bird had astonishingly clear blue-gray eyes, which carried a ferocious intelligence in them. As if it could sense itself being watched, the bird turned an assessing gaze on the young man hidden behind the large tree.
I know, I know—be patient, Ron thought, as if he could understand the owl. "Let them be happy, and then . . . ," Lucius Malfoy had told him not too long ago in a dank, dark room. "Let them settle into the peace, and then you'll have your revenge—just as I'll have mine."
Ron had tried to forgive Harry for always being the hero, always being first, always being loved best, but he couldn't forgive his best friend for stealing his girl, just as the elder Malfoy could not forgive Potter for stealing the life of his only son.
After the Death Eaters had killed his family with Percy's help, Hermione had been all that was left to him, and Lucius Malfoy, a man with whom he'd never thought to find himself with anything in common, had it the same: Narcissa and Draco were dead, killed in the war, a war that was not yet over.
No, it's not over, Harry, Ron thought, breaking his gaze at the large white male owl who his friend hadn't even bothered to name. You be happy.
"I'll be patient."