A/N: I've been sick for a week, can't concentrate hard enough on my longer stories to make sure the plot is picked up correctly, so I give you another one-shot.
AU. No Horcruxes.
All Your Fault
Harry Potter's heart shattered in his chest as he watched Hermione's face crumple into an expression of agony as she watched Ron and Lavender kiss.
He couldn't believe it; he thought that for some reason, mostly because of the looks and touches Hermione gave him, that she was in love with him, too.
Turns out Harry had gotten the short end of the stick…again.
He laughed quietly to himself-a short, slightly deranged laugh-as Hermione fled the common room.
Parents dead, Sirius dead, a maniacal Dark Lord forever after his life, and the woman he loved in love with another. Could his life get any worse? Couldn't he just die already and get it over with?
Harry's eyes widened at the thought.
Death. An escape.
But then he thought of Hermione, and how sad she would be despite the fact that she was in love with Ron. Because they were still best friends, of course.
He would have to take down Voldemort to make sure Hermione could lead the happiest life possible in his absence. She and Ron wouldn't have to worry about Voldemort and could raise their little batch of Weasleys in content, glad that their best friend had sacrificed himself to bring peace and harmony to the wizarding world.
Harry, grinning like a madman, ran upstairs and grabbed his cloak. He quickly ran through the castle and out onto the grounds until he was past the apparition wards before apparating straight to Voldemort's location, which happened to be Malfoy Manor (though Harry didn't know that).
He walked through the mansion feeling oddly calm until he came upon the Dark Lord, who was talking with a few of his most trusted Death Eaters. Harry whipped off his cloak, garnering gasps from the Death Eaters and a malicious grin from Voldemort. Harry could almost taste his sweet freedom from the burden of this world.
"Hello, Tom," he said. "How about we finish this once and for all?"
The first thing that registered in Harry's ears was sobbing. Heart-wrenching, stomach-churning sobs.
"He's all right, Hermione," said a slightly-annoyed voice. "Look at him, he's stirring! Lucky the bloody fool didn't get himself killed. Thought he was a goner for sure. Wonder why he didn't tell us he was going? I would've gone with him."
"You complete prat, Ronald Weasley!" Hermione shouted shrilly at him, squeezing Harry's hand as her voice rose.
"Calm down, Hermione," snapped Lavender. "My Won-Won just showed how incredibly brave he was and that's how you treat him? Hmph, we're leaving."
As Harry opened his eyes he caught sight of a head of red hair exiting what was undeniably the Hospital Wing along with a shorter head of brown.
"Harry," Hermione breathed as she gently set his glasses on his face.
She was the first thing he saw clearly. Her hair was crazy, her cheeks and eyes red, her face tear-streaked, and still she was the most beautiful woman Harry had ever laid eyes on. It made his own eyes burn with tears.
"Hermione," he croaked despite how much his brain was telling him to just ignore her.
The other people gathered around him began dispersing as they saw that he was alright, going back to their noisy celebrations.
"Wh-what happened?" Harry asked, his head throbbing.
"You idiot," she said lovingly before giving him one of her signature, bone-crushing hugs. "You went off and fought Voldemort all by yourself. The Order showed up and fought off the Death Eaters, and eventually you all won!"
"I'm still alive?" Harry mumbled sadly under his breath, looking down at his hands.
Hermione didn't catch it and said, "Finally, we'll be able to just have a normal year at school without the threat of Voldemort hanging over us!" Then she glared at him stubbornly and said, "Though I wish you had told me you were going. I-I would've gone with you," she said quietly, the softest tinge of pink gracing her cheeks.
Harry smiled sadly at his best friend and softly said, his heart rising to his throat with each whispered word, "Hermione, about the school thing. I…I think I'm done with the wizarding world."
"Wh-What?" Hermione gasped, her smile turning into a confused frown. "Why?"
Harry stood up and stretched his limbs, thankful that the headache seemed to have abated while he was talking with Hermione, who now had hot tears pooling in her beautiful brown eyes. "It's put me through enough heartbreak to last me ten lifetimes. I hope you and Ron can work things out and take advantage of the Voldemort-free world," he lied through his teeth.
"B-but…" Hermione stuttered as Harry exited the Hospital Wing, trying to keep the tears from escaping his eyes.
He practically ran up to Gryffindor Tower, eager to finally escape this pitiful excuse for a life as he took deep, shaky breaths. He threw his clothes and possessions haphazardly into his trunk as the tears finally escaped, dripping from his cheeks as he leaned over his bed.
Life was so unfair! A lifetime of trials and hardship, suffering and pain, and only the most miniscule, insignificant drop of happiness that was the time spent with Hermione and Ron. It looked like he was going to have to start over again, grab life by the horns, go out and seize his happiness no matter what it took.
Because he couldn't go on any longer with this dull ache in his chest, the constant feeling of agony as he pictured Hermione's beautiful face in his head. If only he had gotten the girl, if only it could be a happily-ever-after story like the ones from the unread books he used to steal from Dudley's trash can! If only she loved him!
He composed himself as best he could and staggered through the castle with his trunk behind him and his broom in hand, nearly tripping more than once over obstacles he couldn't see through the haze created by his pooling tears.
Somehow he wasn't surprised when he saw Hermione waiting for him in the entrance hall.
He intended to walk right past her, not look at her, but she stood up and said, "Harry."
"Don't, Hermione," said Harry thickly, opening his eyes a little wider to stop the tears from leaking out. "Don't make this any harder than it already is."
But Hermione ran up to him and hugged him hard, softly crying in his ear. She shakily said, "I'll go with you," through her sobs, making Harry's chest and throat burn at both the irony and sadness.
"No," he said forcefully and a tad harshly, making Hermione stiffen up just a little bit. Harry swallowed, cleared his throat, and tried again. "I mean, 'no'. This is something I have to do alone, Hermione. I'm trying to escape everything magical. Everything, even…even…" for some reason, Harry couldn't seem to get the single syllable past the extraordinarily large and painful lump in his throat.
"Me?" Hermione breathed, a couple tears dropping on Harry's lower neck as she said it.
"I-I'm sorry, Hermione," said Harry softly.
"It's okay," she whispered back. "I…I understand."
She pulled back from him and looked him in the eyes, her own filled to the brim with tears, somehow adding on to their radiance. And somehow making his throat constrict even more. She took in a deep, shaky breath and opened her mouth as if she was going to speak, then shook her head and closed her eyes, forcing two twin tears to carve tracks down her cheeks.
She softly grabbed Harry's hand in a gentle handshake before looking into his eyes one more time. She turned away from him, shoulders hunched in defeat, and didn't look back even once as she slowly walked out of the entrance hall and out of sight…out of Harry's life.
Harry sighed and looked in his hand, where a folded up piece of parchment was sitting, placed there by Hermione, begging to be read. He was debating whether he should read it or just throw it away, allow himself to be tempted into staying one more time or finally just putting it all behind him. He started moving the parchment toward his pocket, intending to burn it once he was at his final destination (wherever that was), but he somehow ended up unfolding it and raising it up so he could read it.
Hermione's handwriting was almost immaculate…almost being the key word. It wasn't quite her best and there were a few wet spots on the parchment, and Harry knew she had been crying when she had written it.
When I heard you had left to fight Voldemort, I was scared out of my mind. I asked Ron to come with me to help you, and all he did was call me crazy and laugh at the notion. And I realized. Ron was a passing fancy, a silly school-girl crush. He has good looks and he's funny, but he's a complete pig. You might not be perfect, might not have perfectly defined abs, might not have perfectly styled hair, but it's what's on the inside that counts (not that I'm saying I'm not physically attracted to you, of course…or that Ron has any of these attributes. Trust me; you're much more handsome than he is…much more handsome than any other man I know, actually!).
Harry couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle mixed with a sob as he read her side-note, imagining her trying to explain herself.
I am completely and utterly in love with you, Harry James Potter. So you better come back, preferably sooner rather than later. Because I don't know how long I can go on without you in my life, no matter if you don't return my feelings and you're just here as my friend.
Hoping to see you again soon and with lots of love,
Harry's jaw dropped and his body went limp as he read the last few lines of her letter, happiness surging through him. He flat-out ran all the way up to Gryffindor Tower, unable to believe this change in events. She loved him! She loved him! Nothing else mattered in the world, muggle or magical!
He gave the password to the Fat Lady, who gave him an oddly maternal smile as she let him in. The Gryffindors let out a loud cheer and swamped him, all of them giving him hugs or high-fives or patting him on the back. He pushed them all off, angrily telling them to leave him alone as he sought out the love of his life.
His heart skipped a beat as his eyes fell on her downcast head, the smile on his face growing despite her shaking shoulders-she hadn't noticed that he was there yet. As Harry sat down next to her he noticed that the page she was open to in her copy of Hogwarts, A History was stained with her tears.
Harry brought an arm around her shoulders as he softly asked, "The Hermione Granger, capable of damaging her favorite book?"
She slowly looked up at him and as her wide, brown, tear-filled eyes met his in awe a breathtaking smile fell upon her face, making her look absolutely radiant. She asked, "Harry, what are you-"
Harry huffed in an impression of her, cutting her off, then cracked a grin as he brought his hands up to cup her face. He gently wiped the tears marring her otherwise flawless face off of her cheeks and whispered, "It was all your fault, Hermione. It was your fault I left to kill Voldemort, it was your fault I was going to leave the wizarding world. It was your fault I fell in love with you, and it's your fault my heart is pounding so hard in my chest right now. It's your fault my brain is screaming at me to shut up and just kiss you already."
Hermione said nothing; just bit her lip as she glanced at his. She shyly met his gaze as her face turned a lovely shade of pink, and he gave her a lazy, content smile before softly touching his lips to hers, conveying all of his feelings for her with his lips and receiving the same in return. They both smiled into the kiss and wrapped their arms around each other as it grew deeper, their need for each other too much to stop now.
Or ever, for that matter.
A/N: Well, hope you liked it! It only took me an hour and 20 minutes to write, which is pretty awesome considering I feel like crap right now! (Don't know whether to be happy or miserable…ugh)
Please be awesome and leave me a review!