After the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament, Harry wonders if Ron is truly the thing he'd miss most, and tries to sort out his feelings for a certain bushy-haired bookworm.
What He'll Sorely Miss?
Curfew was fast approaching, but the party was still raging in the Gryffindor Common room. Thanks to Fred and George Weasley, who had secured both food and beverage, just about every member of the House was having quite a wonderful night.
The only Gryffindor missing from the party was the very Gryffindor whose display of “moral fiber” was the reason the party was being thrown in the first place—Harry Potter.
Most would have expected Harry to be right down in the thick of things, laughing it up and having a grand time. Those who really knew him understood that Harry was not a fan of all the attention he received due to his celebrity status as the “Boy-Who-Lived”, but he had plenty of reason to party on this night. After all, not only had he made it out of the Second Task of the dangerous Triwizard Tournament unscathed, he actually received a score of 45, good for second place among the four competitors, behind only fellow Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory. Even better (from a male point of view, at least), the lovely part-Veela Fleur Delacour had been so relieved and so grateful to Harry for pulling her sister from the lake that she had kissed him on both cheeks—twice! Surely, Harry wouldn't mind being the centre of attention on this night.
But, to the surprise of just about everyone, Harry had begged off soon after the party began. He had claimed that he had a headache, and retired to his four-poster bed in the Fourth Year boy's dorms little more than an hour after the party began. His fellow Gryffindors were surprised that the man of the hour had pulled away from the party so quickly, but most of them didn't dwell on it too much. After all, it was perfectly logical that Harry would have a headache after the day he'd just been through. They all saw him rush down to the lake just as the task was set to begin, seemingly in a panic. And everyone had heard the explanation from the judges, that Harry had actually reached the hostages underneath the lake first, but refused to leave any of them behind. It had been an extremely eventful day for their Gryffindor Champion, and if he'd rather sleep than party, no one would begrudge him that. They'd just have to party even harder in his absence.
However, Harry was not actually sleeping, or even really attempting to. He was lying in his bed, that much was true. But his mind was far too busy for him to even think about sleeping.
He really did have a headache, but it wasn't for any of the reasons one might have expected. It wasn't because he'd come in second in the task, nor was it out of embarrassment, elation or anything else after being kissed by Fleur. His fitful night before the task, where he fell asleep in the library while desperately searching for something that would allow him to breathe underwater so he could complete the task, may have been at least partially responsible. But the primary reason for Harry's headache, as well as his decision to abruptly leave the party, was his ceaseless pondering over the question: what, or who, would he sorely miss?
When he'd first thought about that line after deciphering the clue from the egg, Harry assumed it would be either his Firebolt or his dad's Invisibility Cloak that he'd have to retrieve. The possibility that he would have to rescue a live hostage never even entered his mind.
Nevertheless, whomever was in charge of selecting the hostages for the Second Task had obviously determined that Ron Weasley was “what he'd sorely miss.” It was true, Ron was extremely important to him. He was his first real friend, after all, and had been his near-constant companion for his first 3 and ½ years at Hogwarts. The period in between Harry's name coming out of the Goblet of Fire and Harry dealing with the Hungarian Horntail in the First Task had given Harry a glimpse of his life without Ron, as Ron's jealousy and insecurity had created a rift between the two best mates. Throughout that estrangement, Harry had missed Ron's friendship terribly. He'd never felt so alone while at Hogwarts, and he had been so eager to be back on good terms with Ron that he'd hastily accepted the redheads' awkward apology following the First Task, in spite of the feelings of abandonment and betrayal that still remained. Now, things were pretty close to normal between the two friends once again. And even though Harry still felt a bit hurt that Ron initially refused to listen to him or believe him when he insisted that he had not put his name in the Goblet of Fire, he was thrilled to have his best mate back. There was no question that Harry would sorely miss Ron's friendship were it to be taken from him once again.
But would Ron's friendship be what he would miss most? That was the question at the forefront of Harry's mind.
When the house elf Dobby told him that he needed to get down to the lake and save Ron, Harry had felt an extreme sense of panic. He, like the rest of the Triwizard Champions, believed that the hostages were in genuine need of rescuing, and the thought of failing to save Ron filled Harry with dread. That dreadful panic never let up until he and Ron (along with Fleur's sister, Gabrielle) resurfaced from the lake. But, as terrifying as the prospect of Ron in danger was to him, Harry experienced a feeling every bit as strong when he arrived at the merpeople village and saw Hermione tied up alongside him.
Upon seeing Hermione next to Ron, Harry assumed that he was supposed to rescue both of his friends. When he eventually sussed out that Hermione was Krum's hostage, Harry was in disbelief. Who in their right mind would even suggest that Hermione was more important to Viktor Krum than she was to Harry Potter? The Bulgarian had taken her to the Yule Ball, that much was true, but Harry had a very hard time believing that Krum would miss Hermione more than he would.
Ever since that Halloween night in First Year, when he and Ron had saved her from the troll, Hermione had been as devoted a friend as Harry could ask for. Just like Ron, she had been there to help him keep Voldemort from getting his hands on the Philosopher's Stone. She hadn't been there to accompany him to the Chamber of Secrets due to being petrified, but he and Ron would have never even been in a position to save Ginny if Hermione hadn't gotten them on the right track. He had been pretty peeved with her for awhile in Third Year, as he blamed her for his Firebolt being taken away—but looking back, he could see that she had only been trying to help him. She'd been right, too, as the broom had indeed been sent by Sirius Black. And, even though he and Ron had both been pretty cruel to her during that period, she was still right there beside him as they saved his innocent godfather from a fate worse than death.
This year, though, Hermione's friendship had been more important than in any previous year. When the rest of the castle refused to believe him about the Goblet, she had been steadfast in her support. When even Ron had turned his back on him, Hermione had still been right there beside him. Without Hermione, Harry didn't know how he would have coped while he and Ron weren't speaking. And, of course, her help in preparing for the tournament had been invaluable. She had worked tirelessly with him, helping him learn new spells that would help him come out on the other side in one piece. In particular, she helped him learn the Summoning Charm, without which he would have had no way to use his Firebolt to snatch the dragon egg and complete the First Task.
There was no question about it: Harry Potter needed Hermione Granger desperately. Not just for her help with the tournament, or on homework. More importantly, he needed her unwavering friendship. He needed her to remain by his side. Sod whomever believed that she was more important to Krum than she was to him, or even that Ron was more important than her! No one was more important to him than Hermione!
Harry had accepted that Hermione was every bit as important to him as Ron was, but he was still struggling to define exactly what she was to him. With Ron, it was easy: he was his best mate. Ron was like the brother Harry never got to have. It would stand to reason, then, that Hermione was like his sister. In fact, that is how he had always thought of her: as his sister, who sometimes nagged him and sometimes got on his nerves, but would always be there for him when he needed her.
All of that changed the night of the Yule Ball. On that night, all brotherly thoughts towards Hermione Granger were forever eradicated. She looked positively gorgeous in her periwinkle blue dress robes, and at first, Harry hadn't even recognized her. When he realised that Krum's lovely date was in fact his so-called “sister”, it was as if Harry was shocked into coherence. Ever since that night, Harry had been desperately trying to figure out what category Hermione belonged in now, since she definitely was not his “sister.”
Harry didn't think the word “fancy” accurately described his feelings for Hermione. He “fancied” Cho, and what he felt for her was entirely different than what he felt for Hermione. His attraction to Cho was based solely on two things: she was an attractive girl, and she played Quidditch. Beyond those two things, he knew next to nothing about her.
Hermione, on the other hand, he knew extremely well. He reckoned that he knew Hermione as well as he knew anyone, including Ron. Even though there were certain aspects of her personality that irked him at times (her bossy nature and her know-it-all tendencies, for example), he truly liked her, usually got along well with her and could carry on a conversation with her without making a complete fool of himself.
He was lucky if he got two words out in Cho's presence without turning into a bumbling, stuttering idiot. Even if he got past that stage, and even if she weren't involved with Cedric, he had no clue how things would turn out. If she, somehow, agreed to go on a date with him, what would they talk about? Would they be able to laugh and joke, or have an actual conversation? Did they have anything in common, aside from Quidditch? Harry had no idea. He simply had no idea what Cho was like.
But he knew Hermione, he was comfortable around Hermione, and he liked Hermione. And, as he learned at the Yule Ball, she was pretty too—possibly even as pretty as Cho, as far as he was concerned. So what, exactly, did all of this mean?
His confusion regarding Hermione's place in his life was not helped by the fact that, the very same night he discovered this new side of Hermione, he also decided that Ron likely fancied her. At least, that was the only reasonable explanation he could come up with for Ron's beastly behaviour towards Hermione the night of the Yule Ball. He didn't for a second believe that Ron actually thought Hermione would give Krum “inside information” about him for use in the Triwizard Tournament. Ron being jealous of Krum because he fancied Hermione was the only thing that made sense to Harry. And given the problems he and Ron had already been through this year, he did not want to do anything that might potentially set his volatile best mate off. Telling him he thought he might, possibly, be attracted to Hermione as well certainly seemed like something that Ron wouldn't take too well.
Not to mention, what if Hermione viewed Harry as her best friend, and nothing more? Would she be disappointed, or even angry, with him if he decided that his feelings for her went beyond friendship? If Harry were to conclude, and subsequently announce, that he liked Hermione “that way”, it had the potential to cause irreparable damage to not just one, but both of the most important relationships in his life.
Harry sighed, slipped his glasses off of his face and onto the table by his bedside, and rubbed his hands over his eyes in dismay. He buried his head into his pillow in aggravation, as he continued to try and work through his uncomfortable and confusing dilemma.
I would definitely miss Hermione just as much as I'd miss Ron, if not more. Ron is my best mate, and like a brother to me. So, if Hermione is just as important, and I don't think of her as a sister any longer, and I don't fancy her like I fancy Cho—just how do I feel about her?
All around her, her fellow Gryffindors were having a great time, celebrating how well their house had been represented in the Second Task earlier in the day. But Hermione Granger did not have the heart to join in the festivities. She, as usual, was focused on Harry.
Hermione didn't doubt that Harry had a headache; she had been observing Harry for years, always concerned with his well-being, and she recognized his moods and could read his body language pretty well. She knew that he'd been through a rough few days, between scrambling for a solution to his underwater breathing dilemma, to his efforts in the Second Task just hours earlier. After she learned that Harry had taken the clue from the egg quite literally, and remained underwater to ensure that every hostage made it back to the surface, she just smiled to herself, amused but not surprised. That was just so—Harry. He was always helping others, even if he didn't know them all that well. He hadn't even met Gabrielle Delacour before today, and still he had risked his own health by defying the merpeople so he could “save” her. Perhaps he should have realised that Dumbledore would never have let the hostages come to harm, but she couldn't fault him for his nobility. It was so much a part of who he was. And she didn't ever want him to change.
Nevertheless, the Second Task had to have taken a lot out of her friend, and she knew he was telling the truth when he said he had a headache. But, as she watched him walk up the steps towards the boy's dorms, she got the feeling that Harry had something—else on his mind. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but her gut told her that something was eating at Harry.
Deciding that he might have said something to Ron, Hermione got up from her seat in front of the fire and made her way towards her red-headed friend. He was downing a butterbeer and attacking his plate of crisps with relish as he joked with Dean and Seamus, and could not hear her when she spoke his name aloud. Finally, she got his attention when she tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to face her.
“Ron, do you know if there's something that's bothering Harry?” she questioned.
After swallowing his mouthful of crisps, Ron responded. “What do you mean? Didn't you hear him say he had a headache and was going to go get some sleep?” he said, looking at her oddly.
Hermione shook her head impatiently. “Yes, of course I heard him, Ron. What I mean is, is there something else? It seemed to me that Harry had something on his mind, but I'm just not sure what it was. In fact, I've had that feeling about him quite a bit recently, but never as pronounced as today. I was wondering if he'd mentioned anything to you.”
Ron shrugged and shook his head. “No, he hasn't said anything. But I guess it does make sense, now that you mention it. I mean, you saw what happened after the task! Fleur was all over him! He's probably trying to figure out what that was all about. Or maybe he's disappointed that Cho was the thing that Cedric would miss most—you know he's got that crush on her. He probably didn't think they were that close! But I guess it doesn't really matter, since Fleur will probably be after him now. Lucky git!”
Dean and Seamus were quick to agree with Ron's envious reaction to the thought of Fleur being “after” Harry, and Hermione huffed and marched back to her chair in irritation.
Does every boy at this school have to moon over that haughty blonde?
Still, much as Hermione hated to admit it, Ron might have been on to something. It was no secret that Harry had fancied Cho for quite some time now, and seeing the pretty Chinese Ravenclaw at the bottom of the lake as the thing Cedric would miss most could have very well been the cause of Harry's mood. She'd watched him closely at the Yule Ball; she'd seen the jealousy on his face as he watched Cho and Cedric dance and have a wonderful time together. It was a very realistic possibility that coming face-to-face with this clear statement about just how serious their relationship was would be quite upsetting to her friend.
And of course she, like everyone else, had seen Fleur's enthusiastic gratitude towards Harry after he rescued her sister from the merpeople. She had scowled involuntarily as the part-Veela kissed Harry's cheeks, though she was pretty sure she had been able to regain control and adopt a neutral expression before Harry noticed. She had soon brushed it off as simple gratitude and relief that her sister was safe, but Ron's comment renewed her initial uncertainty.
It was bad enough watching Harry moon over Cho. At least she hadn't needed to worry about anything developing there, since she had seen that Cho and Cedric were growing closer long before Harry had picked up on it. But Fleur wasn't attached to anyone. And, objectively, Hermione had to admit that she was the most beautiful girl in the castle, if not the most beautiful girl she had ever seen. If Fleur truly were interested in Harry now, he would probably jump at the opportunity. The very thought made Hermione's stomach clench.
Hermione had always been drawn to Harry, even before they'd become friends. As the years passed, though, what had initially been feelings of strong friendship had evolved into something more. She wasn't sure precisely when it started, but she knew when she'd first noticed her changing feelings towards her raven-haired friend. It was their third year, when they rode Buckbeak in order to save Sirius. She was deathly afraid of flying, and had immediately clutched onto Harry like a lifeline. But her fear soon died down, and was replaced by emotions she'd never felt before. As she continued to hold Harry tightly, a wave of contentment washed over her. It just felt...right. She felt like she was, finally, where she belonged. And as much as she tried to fight it, as much as she tried to talk herself out of it and as much as she tried to convince herself that it was a silly, fleeting schoolgirl crush that would soon fade, she knew the truth deep down.
She was in love with her best friend. She was in love with Harry Potter.
This made Harry's obvious infatuation with Cho all the harder to deal with. But she'd managed to control her emotions, and had remained by Harry's side. She had continued to support him all year, even when no one else did. She had helped him get through the first two tasks of the tournament, just as she would help him get through the third and final task when the time came.
But first, she had to figure out what was bothering Harry, and help him sort through it. If it were depression over Cho's relationship with Cedric, she'd console him, and assure him he'd find the right girl for him soon enough (perhaps she could even get him to notice that she was a girl.) If it were nervousness about a potential relationship with Fleur, she would grit her teeth, smile, and talk him through it. It would hurt her to do so, but if that's what he needed, she would do it for him. Whatever it took, she would get to the bottom of what was troubling Harry, and do whatever she could to help. Because she loved him. She loved Harry Potter.
A/N: If this idea has been done before, I apologize. I don't remember any story focusing on this particular path, though certain aspects and ideas were inspired by other fics I've read.
This isn't going to be a long fic; I'm thinking 2 chapters. Certainly no more than 3. I welcome any and all reviews, whether you simply want to say you enjoyed the story, or you want to offer advice, suggestions for future stories, whatever. Criticism is welcome, so long as it is constructive.