Fantastic Perfect Moments and Where to Find Them
Disclaimer: Sick of saying this. Harry Potter and related affiliates are not mine, nor is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' song, O Children.
Summary: A dinner out with Harry, his girlfriend, and his two best friends, soon turns into something none of them expected when a song from the past reminds Harry of just how much he hasn't moved on. H/Hr
I'm sure this has already been done plenty of times before, but, eh, it was stuck in my mind waiting to be written, and I figured, what the heck.
Thank you Dragonb8 for beta'ing this little piece (and taking out all my unnecessary 'even's), despite not being a fan of the pairing. I just know I'll always have a place in my heart for Harmony. So thanks for helping me with this.
Fantastic "Perfect" Moments and How to Find Them
"I swear, Harry, if you tug at that tie one more time," a familiar voice threatened to his right.
"We're out of there anyway, can't I take it off now?" he mumbled out of the side of his mouth to his girlfriend of six months, Natalie Rosenshire.
"No," was the immediate, sharp reply. "We are at a world-class restaurant, one that takes months to get a reservation in. You will look presentable."
Harry was well aware of how fancy this restaurant was and how difficult it was to get a reservation; he was the one who had gotten a table only a few hours ago by using his fame in desperation to appease both his girlfriend and get out of a less than desirable situation. He had completely forgotten about the Ministry party tonight and had had no desire to go whatsoever.
He wasn't a ministry employee, didn't own a mansion, and did not hold any of the prestigious positions that would normally get a bloke like him invited. Sure he gave his time and money to the right charities, but even if some of his donations were more than generous, it didn't mean he was at the same level as the Gamps or the Longbottoms or the Greengrasses. But unfortunately for him, having the name of Harry Potter was enough to get him an invite anywhere – except perhaps the meetings of ex-Death Eater's children that had fallen from fame, but who still got together to curse Harry to the deepest depths of hell.
So as it was, even six years after the end of the war Harry Potter could not turn down an invitation from the Minister of Magic himself, good friend or not. What he could do however, was show up, say hello to the faces that expected him to be there, and then bow out at the earliest hour possible with the excuse of a previously scheduled dinner date with his friends and girlfriend.
No such dinner date had previously existed until five minutes after Harry had remembered his ministerial obligations, but desperate times and all that.
Harry breathed out a long, controlled breath, and all but sat on his hands to keep them from tugging at the offending garment currently strangling his neck.
"Here," Hermione reached over from his other side and loosened the confounded piece of clothing enough for it to be somewhat comfortable without making him look too shabby in this five-star establishment. "Better?"
"Thanks," he sighed in relief. "What would I do without you?"
"Be completely lost," Hermione shook her head exasperatedly, "but I'll cut you some slack this time, I know Dark Beast Catchers aren't accustomed to dressing up so dapperly on a regular basis."
"No, they're not," Harry grumbled in agreement, silently cursing that this particular place had been chosen for his 'Get Out of the Ministry Function Early' card, as per negotiations with Natalie, who had been more than happy to rub shoulders with the Ministry higher ups for the night. He had tried suggesting the Three Broomsticks, going for a bit of Hogwarts nostalgia for their get together, wanting to relax tonight with his best friends and girlfriend. But that plan had been promptly rejected and thrown out, to be immediately replaced with Les Trois Cailles. And no, Harry's opinion was not needed for that final decision.
Still, despite their differences – Harry preferring to kick back with a butterbeer at the end of the day and Natalie with a glass of white wine, or Harry being most comfortable in denims and a Weasley jumper at all times and Natalie liking to dress up for these stupid starch-collar dinners – she was Harry's most serious girlfriend since he'd broken things off with Ginny at the end of sixth year and Harry would count himself content. He was happy enough most of the time, and enjoyed the secure feeling that came with having a steady girlfriend. He wouldn't necessarily cite this as his sole reason for having one, but with someone officially on his arm he was no longer the primary focus of gossip for both Witch Weekly and The Daily Prophet, which led to a lot fewer fan-owls than usual on his doorstep every morning.
So he was happy, he was fine, and he would put up with fancy French restaurants every once in awhile if it meant the Wizarding World backed off him a bit.
"Oh this place is amazing, Harry," Natalie cooed from his side as they were finally served their meal. Harry hadn't been able to pronounce anything on the menu so had relied on Hermione to order for him, and from what he saw being placed before him, he thought he'd actually be able to eat it, though he still didn't know what it was.
"Mm hmm," Harry agreed absently, looking over at Hermione's plate, or rather, bowl. She had some kind of shellfish stew, Harry thought, while Ron had a large hunk of meat on his plate, exactly what he asked for, but Harry had a feeling there was a reason Hermione hadn't specified what kind when she'd told him what to point to when the waiter took their orders. Not that Ron would notice, as he seemed to inhale his food more than actually chew and swallow.
He caught Ron's eye and they both grimaced for a moment before returning to their respective girlfriends who were currently engaged in conversation about this person or that dignitary they had seen at the Ministry event. Harry would probably never have known who to go pay his respects to if it hadn't been for Hermione's voice whispering in his ear and Natalie's hand silently pushing him from the small of his back, leading him around the room like a puppet.
It made him thoroughly exhausted by the end of the required two hours, but instead of winding down with a drink at the Three Broomsticks, or heck, even the Leaky Cauldron or some random Muggle bar, he was carted off to this posh place to please his girlfriend, and to some extent, Hermione as well. Although he also knew that Hermione would have been just as happy with something a little classier than a bar, but not as hoity-toity as this particular establishment.
He was currently phasing in and out of the conversation, adding an agreement here when called upon, or shaking his head there when either woman looked his way for support, when the music playing in the background suddenly caught his attention.
"...My dear, my darling one. The cleaners are coming one by one, and you don't even wanna let them start..."
Harry's head whipped around towards where the music was coming from. He knew that song. It evoked thoughts of cold, sleepless nights spent in a tent out in the wilderness, months of frustration and desperation, fighting the war against Voldemort with only the help of his two best friends. Only, this song reminded him of the time when he'd been down to one friend, and Hermione had just been coming to terms with her feelings for Ron.
Harry wouldn't admit what he was feeling for Hermione at the time, let alone years later when she and Ron were still happily together, as far as he knew. But the night that song had come on the WWN and Harry had acted in the moment to spin Hermione around the room with abandon, effectively taking her mind off Ron's betrayal, had been a turning point for Harry. It had been the moment his whole view of Hermione had changed.
It was as he twirled her in his arms that he finally noticed something that should have been clear to him since fourth year; Hermione was a girl, a woman now really, and a beautiful, desirable one at that. And she was also obviously pining over someone else, Harry's supposed best mate, as it was. So what else could he do but act like a complete fool, swaying her exaggeratingly from side to side, in an attempt to see her smile again?
Then of course, Ron had come back, eventually all had been well, and Harry had set his sights solely on ridding the world of Voldemort once and for all, not knowing if he would even survive the battle when it came. After that, he had done his best to just forget those thoughts of Hermione and move on. And he had. Of course he had. He had Natalie now, after all, and they had been together for six months already, that was half a year!
But for old time's sake, Harry thought as he pushed his chair back before his mind even realised what he was doing, one dance wouldn't hurt anything, would it?
"...They're mopping up the butcher's floor of your broken little heart...Children..."
"And then I—," Natalie's voice faltered as Harry stood up abruptly, "Harry, dear," Natalie leant in to lay a hand on his arm, "What's the matter? What are you doing?" But Harry's attention was already turned away, and his arm was already extending down towards Hermione in much the same fashion as he had done all those years ago when she'd been curled up into herself, staring despondently down at the radio with myopic concentration. And he stayed there, waiting for her to do as she had all those years ago and take his hand.
Hermione, for her part, seemed confused for a second as she stared up at Harry, bowed down in front of her in the pose of one asking for a dance, when her eyes suddenly lit with surprise and recognition. Her hand, that had come up to cover her open mouth, abruptly switched course and accepted Harry's.
The moment her hand was in his, Harry pulled his friend up from her seat and led her across the room to the back, where a small dance floor was occupied by one or two couples staring into each other's eyes. Once their feet touched the edge of the raised platform, Harry raised Hermione's arm up above their heads and twirled her into his arms. His dancing skills had thankfully improved since that first bit of tomfoolery meant purely to make Hermione laugh again. This time he did his very best to impress her, to be the perfect gentleman and dance partner.
"...Come on... come on... come on... come on..."
Hermione's arms tightened around his neck as his tightened around her waist, and Harry started swaying her from side to side. She didn't resist this time, the way she had all those years ago, and the smile came much easier to her face as well, but a guilty part of Harry wished she wasn't as happy and content with Ron right now, and that she still needed him to make her smile, just as she had then. He knew it was his own fault for waiting so long, for not doing anything when he'd had the chance, but his seventeen year old self had been much less adept with women back then, even one that had been his best friend for years.
And as he held her in his arms again, feeling just as helpless and confused as he had at seventeen, he wondered if all that much had changed, really.
"...and you are only just beginning...Children..."
Harry smiled sadly as he looked down at her. So much time had passed, so much had happened, a war won, the three of them finally graduated Hogwarts and set off on their own paths. In an attempt to shy away from his fame and the demands of the Wizarding World, Harry had gotten a job as a Dark Beast Catcher, which mainly pertained to snakes and other reptiles, but occasionally he got a few cool, unique ones that were not, much to Hagrid's chagrin, simply misunderstood. Though Harry always tried to be as humane as possible.
Hermione meanwhile, took up as head researcher for a Curse Breaking team that went all around the world, continuing to put her book smarts and investigative skills to use. One would think that even with the way wizards were able to travel, it would put a strain on her relationship with Ron, but he seemed to take it well enough. His own choice profession as Keeper for the Chudley Cannons had him travelling frequently as well. Harry wouldn't say having Ron on the team boosted their chances much, but at least they were no longer dead last in the League.
"Do you know what this song is called?" Hermione asked suddenly, pulling him from his thoughts.
He shook his head. "This is the first I've heard it since that night in the tent." He shrugged. "I hope you don't mind I dragged you over here, I just heard it and thought of you."
"It's like our song, isn't it?" Hermione smiled, and Harry nodded, wondering how she'd known exactly what he'd been thinking. "It's called O Children, by the way. The name of the song," she specified. At Harry's questioning look she added, "I looked it up while I was in Australia trying to find my parents."
That was something she had insisted doing on her own, and Harry, against his better judgement and desire, had let her. But part of him was still shocked she even remembered the song, let alone had bothered to look it up.
"And the lyrics are fitting in a way, I suppose," she said, eyes closed in thought as she listened, and resting her head against Harry's shoulder comfortably, just like she'd used to do before... Harry didn't know when it had stopped, when she had stopped the easy, friendly touches and hugs. And he missed it.
"...Poor old Jim's white as a ghost, he's found the answer that we lost...we're all weeping now, weeping because, there ain't nothing we can do to protect you..."
He probably should stop thinking about it, though. It wasn't his place to want for more. He wasn't her boyfriend, after all. Speaking of which, before he got carried away he should ask about Ron.
"How's things with you and Ron?" Ron didn't talk much about it when they met up, and Harry rarely asked him, so it was an ordinary enough question.
Strangely though, Hermione jerked her head from Harry's shoulder and seemed to frown for a moment at a piece of Harry's robes. "Uh, fine. It's going fine. You know. Um, why do you ask?"
Harry shrugged. "No reason," he said quickly. "Just wanted to know how you were doing. Everything alright?"
"Of course," Hermione said with a bit of an odd trill in her voice. "Why wouldn't it be? Really Harry, you know us, all is fine. Really. What about you and Natalie? I mean, I know she's a lovely person, but how are you and she doing?"
Harry could recognise when she was babbling, which almost always meant she was nervous about something, but at the mention of Natalie, Harry completely forgot about figuring out what was wrong with Hermione and started doing some babbling of his own.
"Oh, fine. Yeah, fine. We're good. Good. She picked this restaurant out tonight. I mean, of course you know that, but, uh, how do you like it?" He tripped a bit in his step as he turned with her, but was able to quickly regain his balance and thankfully not take Hermione down with him.
"It's lovely, of course." Hermione smiled, though Harry thought it was a little thinner than her usual smiles. "I love French food. You know that."
Harry nodded. He did. It was one of the reasons he'd actually gone the extra step to use his name to get a reservation tonight, instead of calling it quits when they'd denied having a table and using that as his excuse to pick another place, one that he and Ron would enjoy more. He should probably worry that he had ultimately done this for Hermione, not Natalie, his girlfriend, but then he would have to admit to himself that a part of him had not actually buried those feelings, and Hermione was still very much in his daily thoughts. Much more than was considered acceptable for a best friend, even one who you'd faced down monsters with.
So no, he wouldn't go there.
They descended into a somewhat comfortable silence after that. Harry certainly not wanting to broach a subject that went anywhere near either of their love lives. So he just enjoyed holding her and did his best not to think, all the while hoping that the song would never end.
"...once was blind, but now I see. Have you left a seat for me, is that such a stretch of imagination?"
"Harry," Hermione whispered into his shoulder, where her hand was curled up close to his neck.
"Mm?" He hummed, hugging her closer to him, hoping she wasn't asking to go back already. He didn't want to let her go.
"That night, that night we danced." She paused and took a breath, pressing her lips into her fingers and his robes. "Why did you do it?"
He hadn't expected that. For one, it seemed rather obvious, and for another, he didn't want to let her know how much it had affected him, how much his opinion of her had changed, and how much he wished he could go back and alter what had happened. Like that fact that if she hadn't pulled away from him before the song had ended, he probably would have kissed her.
But instead, he offered what he thought to be the most obvious answer. "Because you were sad, Ron was being a git and didn't deserve you pining over him, and I just wanted to make you smile again."
Hermione's head lifted from his shoulder and she turned to look directly into his face. Smiling, a bit uncertainly, she asked, "Why didn't you tell me that?"
"What do you mean?"
"That night, or any other while we were out there alone, why didn't you tell me that?"
Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "I thought it was fairly obvious. Why else?"
Hermione opened her mouth as if to say something, but nothing came out for several seconds. Then finally, "Well, I suppose I... I wasn't in my right mind at the time." She cleared her throat and then buried her head back against his shoulder, pressing her temple into the side of his neck.
But Harry felt like more needed to be said, now that she'd asked. And from there the words sort of just tumbled out of his mouth with no filter. But he had her in his arms for the moment, and this time he wouldn't let her go too early.
"Why did you leave?"
"What?" Now it was Hermione's turn to look confused, though really, if Harry were honest with himself, he thought she looked more scared. "What do you mean?"
Yes scared, or definitely nervous at the very least.
"Why," he said slowly, "did you leave before the song was over? You looked at me, and then you walked away. Why did you leave?" He repeated.
Hermione's breath quickened and she started looking everywhere but at him. But she didn't leave his arms this time, and for that he was grateful. Still, he tightened his hold around her once more, just to be sure, and continued looking at her, even if she wouldn't meet his gaze. Now that they were talking about it, if she could have her questions answered, why couldn't he?
"Why?" Hermione finally said, looking at a point over his shoulder, and sounding just a bit breathless, Harry thought, though they were dancing slowly to the music. "What would you have done?"
And there it was. One of the things he didn't want her to know. So he shook his head, and said hurriedly, "Never mind. I guess it doesn't matter anymore. It was a long time ago."
He could tell the song was coming to an end, and he would have to let her go eventually. Might as well be now.
He finally loosened his hold on her and made to let go, when she tightened her grip on him and brought up a hand to turn his chin until he was staring directly at her.
"No. Don't leave like that. Tell me."
He could feel her breath on his cheek, on his chin, on his lips, and he wondered if she had even the slightest clue of what she was doing to him. She was his best friend, his family, one of the most important people in his life, and he didn't want that to change. Not really. And if he did what she was asking, someone was going to get hurt, most likely more than one person. And though he knew it was selfish of him to think, he didn't want it to be him.
"Tell me," she repeated, drawing in a deep breath and holding it in before releasing it slowly in a silent sigh. "Please."
He supposed it was the 'please' that did it, because he didn't want to admit to being weak, but then again, he also knew he could never deny her anything. And he so wanted to give her what she was asking for right now.
So before he could second-guess himself, Harry leant in, closing the remaining two inches between them, and kissed her. He brushed his lips gently against hers in a chaste kiss, lingering there, pressing against her and feeling how soft and warm she was, before finally letting up and pulling back.
"That," he added unnecessarily as the seconds of silence stretched on.
"Oh," Hermione's breath fanned over his mouth again. Despite their standstill, she hadn't moved away from him. Neither had she reacted. Her face was a blank picture of shock and surprise. "Oh," she repeated.
"...We're happy Ma, we're having fun. It's beyond my wildest expectations..."
The song was winding down, the couples that had been dancing with them on the platform were returning to their seats, but Harry and Hermione continued to stand there, not moving.
Finally, Harry turned his head to look back at their table and saw Natalie and Ron staring straight at them, and they didn't look happy.
He had been right, of course; everyone was going to get hurt here.
But then...why didn't he regret it?
He looked back over at Hermione, wondering if he should apologise or just...just...
Hermione looked back at their table too, and Harry could tell by her expression that she saw the same hurt already spreading amongst the four of them. But instead of pulling away and rushing back to try and defuse the situation, or leaving altogether to go home, or even slapping Harry in anger at his untoward actions, she smiled sadly at him instead and asked, "Why did you wait so long to do that?"
But before Harry had a chance to answer, she pulled away from his embrace, walked slowly back to the table to retrieve her purse, and then without even a backwards glance at any of them, she walked out of the restaurant and into the night.
Harry's arms felt decidedly empty and cold after she had left. And he wasn't entirely sure what to think, but planning that after getting punched by Ron, possibly slapped by Natalie, breaking up with his girlfriend of six months, as well as putting his friendship with Ron on dangerously thin ice, if not having destroyed it altogether already, he would be going over to Hermione's flat tonight. And there he could hopefully sort more than a few things out.
Because even as he continued to stand there, frozen as an ice statue, alone on the dance floor, he couldn't help but think that it had all been worth it. Given the chance to repeat the moment, he knew he still would have taken that chance and kissed her.
He just hoped she would eventually give him another chance - to do it again.