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Why Did You Stay Away?

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As Harry approached the graveyard of Godric’s Hollow, he thought about the only time that he had visited with someone else. While it had been in the middle of a dark time, being in the company of his best friend had given him some comfort. Now it had been four years since he’d seen her and he missed her.

After the war, Hermione made the decision to go to Australia and work with healers to reverse the memory charm she had placed on her parents. Of course, Harry had insisted that he go with her, but she was firm in stating that she needed to do this alone. She was certain that in the aftermath of the war, Harry needed to be present and help lead the Wizarding World forward.

In the beginning, Harry and Hermione had frequently kept in touch via owl and floo. She’d kept him up-to-date on the latest progress with her parents and he kept her in the know of how things were changing at home. He’d been hesitant to tell her how Ron had seemed to embrace the fame of being a hero and was enjoying the company of many grateful witches. But Hermione hadn’t been bothered by it, simply saying that it was about time they could enjoy life. Harry wasn’t sure what had happened between his friends during the battle, but it appeared they had both moved on.

As time passed, Hermione’s owls and floo calls became less and less. When they did communicate, she encouraged Harry to move forward after the war and find happiness. She often changed the topic from her parents to Ginny and how she was glad that Harry now got a chance to have the life he’d always wanted. 

When two weeks without communication from Hermione went by, he had packed his bags and taken an international portkey to Australia. Once he was there, he found that her life had been consumed with research much like their time at Hogwarts. He remembered the look of determination in her eyes when she told him that she would be staying in Australia. He also remembered the glimmer of something else when she said she felt it was better for him to go back to England and move on with his life. He had felt heartbroken, but followed her wishes.

Once he had returned home, he had continued to owl and floo Hermione, but got no response. He knew it was normal for her to become absorbed in a project. The fact that this was centered on her parents meant that this was of the highest importance to her. He decided to wait patiently for her to reach out to him when her time was less monopolized. But she never did.

Four years had passed since Harry had seen his best friend. Some days he beat himself up over the fact that he had let so much time go by. He longed to reach out and reconnect with Hermione, but for all he knew she had created an entire new life with her parents in Australia. For all he knew, she was married with children. It caused a sick feeling whenever he thought about how he didn’t know what was going on in his best friend’s life anymore.

Harry shook his head trying to refocus his thoughts as he entered the graveyard. Walking towards his parents’ graves, he stopped abruptly realizing that someone was already there. Every October 31st since the war, he would come to Godric’s Hollow to visit his parents and catch them up on his life. This was the first time that he had arrived to find someone else there. He watched as the figure wearing a dark hooded jacket knelt before the headstone and wiped what Harry assumed were tears from their eyes. He decided to hold back to give whoever it was privacy.

As he watched, he tried to wrack his brain about who would be there visiting his parents. The person stood up, wiped off their knees and turned to walk out of the cemetery heading in the opposite direction of Harry. As they walked away, the wind caught their hood and he caught sight of the brunette curls. They had been tamed over time, soft and shiny rather than frizzy, but he would recognize that hair anywhere.

He stood there stunned as he watched her walk away. Harry knew it couldn’t be her. He sat down in front of his parents with a huff and began to give them an update of how the last year had gone.

 

***

 

Harry arrived at The Burrow after visiting his parents to find his close friends already gathered in celebration of Hallowe’en. The first holiday after the war, they had all gone out to a pub in celebration, but had found it to be too crowded, too loud and too overwhelming. Since then they were happy to gather together in a more intimate setting and celebrate with those they truly cared about.

At each celebration the past four years, Harry would spend time thinking about Hermione and wondering how she was doing. This evening it was a little bit different. He found himself being angry with her in having distanced herself from him. He found himself angry that she would return home and not even try to contact him. Trying to push his emotions aside, Harry grabbed a drink and settled in for a conversation with Ron, Bill and George.

Harry was laughing at something that George had said when he overhead Mrs. Weasley answering the door. 

Ushering Hermione into the house “Oh, Hermione! I’m so glad you made it. When Arthur told me he ran into you at the Ministry I was glad that he had invited you to come around. Come in, come in!” 

For a brief second, it was silent as all eyes were on her. Then suddenly she was embraced by an enthusiastic George. She was then passed from one Weasley to the next. Smiles and laughter filled the room as she was reacquainted with her friends. Harry stood back and watched quietly as he tried to understand his emotions.

Eventually everyone went back to chatting and snacking on the copious amounts of food Mrs. Weasley had prepared. Hermione was soon dragged off by Arthur who, Harry assumed, wanted to talk to her about the muggles in Australia.

It was well into the night when, glancing around, Harry realized that he’d lost sight of her. 

Ginny caught his eye and nodded towards the back window. He looked outside and saw that Hermione was sitting on the patio swing near the garden. He gave a small nod to Ginny and then headed outside.

Hermione heard his approach and slid over to make room for him on the swing. He sat down without saying a word and they both stared ahead in silence.

“Harry, I’m-”

“Why are you here?” Harry interrupted.

She peeked at him from the corner of her eye. “Arthur invited me.” 

Harry groaned, “You know that’s not what I meant. I saw you in Godric’s Hollow today.”

She turned to look at him. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

He shrugged, “At first I didn’t realize it was you. I figured if my best friend was back in the country, she’d let me know. Once I realized it was you, I figured if you wanted to talk to me you’d come find me yourself.”

Hermione sighed, “It’s not that I didn’t want to come find you, Harry. I was scared.” 

“How could you be scared of me? I’m your - I was your best friend.”

“You’re still my best friend, Harry. Being away from you has been the hardest thing.”

Harry snorted, “Then how can you say you’re scared of me, Hermione.”

“I wasn’t scared of you. I was scared of my feelings for you,” Hermione whispered.

Harry sat still staring straight ahead as he processed what she had said. After a few minutes he turned to look at her.

“What do you mean your feelings for me?”

Hermione took a deep breath, “Did you know that Ron and I kissed when we were down in the Chamber of Secrets?”

Harry shook his head. 

“Well, we did. Afterwards we agreed that it was awkward and too close to kissing a sibling. The thing,” she swallowed. “The thing is when we kissed I wished it was you that I was kissing.”

Hermione stood up and walked forward so that Harry was behind her. “When we were on the run, I started to have feelings for you. I tried to push them away, but after the battle it was just too much.”

Harry leaned forward placing his elbows on his knees. “If you had feelings for me then why did you leave? Why did you stop responding to my owls and floo calls? You pushed me away, Hermione.”

Hermione chuckled, “I did what I thought was best for both of us, Harry. You had finally finished fighting Voldemort and could move on with your life. You could get back together with Ginny and have the life you’d always wanted. I could move forward and reconnect with my parents. It was a bonus that I wouldn’t have to watch you two lovebirds.”

“Hermione, what happened with your parents?”

She let out a sob. “The memory charm was irreversible. The healers tried everything and I read every book I could get my hands on, but it was no use. We finally had to stop trying after two years for fear of causing more damage. My parents are still Monica and Wendell Wilkins living in Australia with no clue that I exist.”

“I’m so sorry you had to deal with that alone. I should have been there with you. If you quit trying two years ago, why didn’t you come home sooner?” 

Hermione turned around to look Harry in the eyes. “I told you I couldn’t watch you and Ginny together. It would have been too painful.”

“What made you come back now?”

“I missed my best friend. I figured out that not having you in my life was more painful than watching you with someone else.”

Harry stood up. “Ginny and I aren’t together. In fact, we haven’t been since we broke up in sixth year.”

“I know. Ginny told me earlier,” Hermione breathed.

Harry took a step towards Hermione. “Do you want to know why Ginny and I never got back together?”

“Why, Harry?”

“I told her that while we were on the run I had realized that I was in love with you.”

Hermione stood wide-eyed looking at the man she loved. “How do you feel about me now, Harry?”

He moved forward to close the distance between them. He cupped her cheek with his hand and leaned forward to press his lips against hers.