It was a dark night in Godric's Hollow. The rain beat mercilessly down onto the pavement, forming puddles and bouncing back upwards to wet Hermione's feet as she opened the kissing gate to the small church graveyard.
She had had to come back like this, where she could be alone. Where the only other person who could hear her was the person she was here to see.
There were many other places that were considered. After all, he was the most famous wizard in the world. There had been many voices all clamoring to be the site that would surely become a major pilgrimage spot for years to come as people came to pay their respects. Ultimately, it had been her voice that made the others see that there was only one place he would have ever wanted to be.
Here was where it had all started. Forty years ago, a young boy was found in the home of his murdered parents and a saga for the ages had begun. They had been telling his story for his entire life and they were going to tell it for many more years now that he was gone.
But he had never, ever been any of that to her. To her, he had always been a quiet boy who needed a friend. A boy who's unbelievable bravery had saved her life countless times and who's undying friendship she treasured above all others.
To her, he had always been just Harry.
She was soaked to the bone as she made her way slowly between headstones, heading for one that stood out amongst the many well-worn markers because of how new it was.
She could already feel it building, her dread mixing in with an unquenchable sorrow that threatened to swallow her whole. Tears were already falling and mixing in with the rain on her face. A low rumbling of thunder rolled over the sleeping village.
She goes to her knees as she reaches her destination, reaching out her hand to touch the smooth stone.
Harry James Potter
Husband, Father, Friend
So many had pushed for something more "heroic", but she hadn't allowed it. He would have never wanted it.
She remembers where she was when Kingsley's patronus had found her. It was a Sunday, she had been in her study reading a book during one of her rare quiet moments when the deep, slow voice had told her that there had been a mishap in the Auror office; that three Aurors who thought they were busting a small-time smuggling ring had walked into an ambush set by former Death Eaters, that they had all been killed. That one of the Aurors had been the Head of the Office…..
She hadn't been able to believe it at first. Surely there had been a mistake. There had been so many times before and he had always….
But no. This time it had been real. All too real.
Ginny had been devastated. Ron hadn't spoken for a week. The kids had all come home from Hogwarts for an entire week leading up to the funeral and Hermione….she hadn't spoken either. Not just because her greatest and closest friend was gone, but because he took with him a secret that only she knew.
No marriage was perfect. It took hard work and dedication to make anything between two imperfect people work. Harry and Hermione had always had an agreement: whenever things got tough, they could always go to each other for advice or just to vent. They had spent years talking about Ron's insensitivity and Ginny's control issues. They talked about how nice it would be if they could talk with their spouse like they could talk to each other, that they would understand them like they understood each other….
In the end, they had always parted with the knowledge that they loved their spouses and their children and that no matter what it was worth fighting for. A tight hug, a kiss on the cheek and they were back to the lives they had chosen for themselves.
That is, until a month ago. Harry had called Hermione and asked to see her for one of their "marital sessions" as they called them. She had agreed, as there were things she had wanted to talk about too….only….
They hadn't done much talking at all. She had opened the door and kissed him on the cheek like she always did….always had done for almost thirty years…..but something had been drastically different.
He had looked at her and she had looked at him and suddenly they were seventeen again: dancing to a song on the radio and the whole world was crashing around their ears and none of it mattered because right now it was just him and her.
Like a movie that had been put on pause, they were suddenly back in that moment when the music stopped and he was looking into her eyes….eyes full of affection and gratitude and fear….fear that if they took the chance that was sitting in front of them that there would be no going back.
He had walked away then, but now…..he leaned in and she put her hands on his chest and before either of them knew what had happened they were on her couch and her hands were in his hair and her legs were wrapped around his waist and she was lost….so lost in his sweet kisses that she didn't even come up for air.
"Oh God….finally." had been the only words they shared as they shed their clothes and threw caution to the wind, finally giving in to what had always lurked beneath the surface of their friendship since that moment so long ago when Hermione had wrapped him tight and told him that there were more important things in life than books or cleverness.
By the time that they came to their senses, it was time to go. Ron would be home soon and Ginny had already sent her patronus once. He gave her one last desperate kiss and they promised that they would meet again….sometime very soon….and talk about it. Talk about everything that this meant and everything that they hadn't ever had the courage to say before.
Only, that day was today and there would only be one side to the conversation this time.
Hermione could feel her hot tears mixing with the cold rain on her cheeks, the conflict in temperature a fitting symbol of the conflict in her heart.
Sorrow for her lost friend and lover. Shame that she had failed at the biggest decision she had made in life all those years ago. Fear at what being here meant….
Fear at what it would be like to do it alone….
"I was scared Harry." She talks out loud, not sure if she's crazy or completely sane for getting this mountain off her chest. "I was so scared back then that I would lose you, that you could never feel that way about me. I was terrified that if we were together then I wouldn't be able to think objectively enough to keep you alive….."
She takes a deep breath before the plunge, "It was always you Harry. You were always the first in my heart."
As she feels the pressure slide off her chest she can no longer hold back the sobs that rack her body, shaking her with a violence only matched by the tearing of the screams in her throat. Her soul shattering grief is only drowned out by the driving rain on the sodden earth. Like the heavens themselves are pouring out the vials of her sorrow.
For the first time in her life, Hermione Granger is without Harry Potter.
An incompleteness settled over her as the last of her sobs dies in her throat. The feeling of not being whole….of being only half of what she was before.
She had decided, before, that she wasn't going to live her life in a lie anymore. She wasn't going to pretend that what happened with Harry wasn't real. There were divorce papers sitting in her desk drawer at home…..
She had found Harry's in a box labeled only by her name.
That whatever they could have had was out of her grasp now left her with no answers. For once in her life, Hermione just didn't know.
Was it fair to anyone to reveal the truth now? Ron, Ginny, Molly, the kids…..most of them were barely coping now…..if they knew the truth…..
But the truth hadn't really died with Harry. She still loved him more than life itself, whether he was alive or not. She couldn't bear to make it worse for anyone now, but there would be a time when the grief wasn't so suffocating and then…..she could do what she knew in her heart she had to do.
Until then, there were things she couldn't leave unsaid.
She pulls out a fat envelope, an impervious charm on it to keep it from getting wet. A fresh tear escapes as she remembers why she learned the spell in the first place.
"It's all here Harry, everything. Everything that I never had the courage to say and everything that I kept locked away for all these years."
She places the envelope on the ground behind the pile of roses that she herself left here just that morning.
"I just thought you should know." She touches his name one more time. Closing her eyes and imagining that she's tucking a stand of hair behind his ear. She bends down and places a kiss on the stone and just before pulling away she whispers
"There are more important things…friendship, bravery, and love. I love you Harry."
She lets it sink in, drinks in the sound of rain sliding off the roof of the church and the smell of roses and wet grass…..
She finally finds her way to her feet, marveling that she has the strength to place her feet underneath her. She feels lighter, like a massive weight has been taken off of her shoulders.
She puts one foot in front of the other. The light splashing of her shoes barely audible in the cacophony of raindrops. It's an accurate metaphor, she thinks, for what her life is now. Putting one foot in front of the other, just a step at a time, wondering at each step what it would be like if he were there beside her.
If she closed her eyes and thought hard enough, she could almost swear that he was.