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Open Up So I Can See

“‘Mione, did you eat?”

She heard the question from far away as his hand stroked her hair, drawing her attention from the swinging swords and battle cries of the main character struggling against her fate. She had fallen hard and fast into the world of the Alduran, the kingdom of Morinor, and the main character who had come from nothing and nearly lost everything trying to save her little brother. She wanted to know if she would get her that regalia or be lost to the pits like every other knight of Morinor.

His brilliant green gaze in his handsome brown face met her gaze and held it hostage as she tried to puzzle out what he was talking about. His indigo hair was as unruly as always and slightly wet from a shower. He smelled warm, fresh, male, and distinctly Harry James Potter. 

“‘Mione, did you eat?”

Of course, she hadn’t eaten. She was reading. Who had time to eat when there were books to read? She’d given herself an hour to ease her stomach. It hadn’t been an hour yet, had it? She hadn’t made it that far into the book that an hour had passed, she was sure. There were whole worlds to escape to that were a great deal more forgiving, fairer, and more palatable than the one she lived in.

Surely, she had five more minutes? Had her alarm gone off?

“What?”

Harry stood up straight before confiscating her book and setting it aside with her bookmark tucked inside before taking her hand and pulling her downstairs to where the scent of curry was fading in the air. 

“Sit,” he said, pulling a chair out for her. She sat and watched him warm up food. 

“We talked about this,” Harry said, “When did you eat lunch?”

“I don’t remember,” she said, and he sighed. 

“Did you have a rough day?”

The words come out faster than she can swallow them, “Did you?”

Harry’s shoulders tensed before turning around, “What?”

She swore she wouldn’t push, but apparently, her still frazzled mind and turning stomach wasn’t listening. It was a distraction, like debating with Draco Malfoy back in school, a distraction from the fact she wasn’t eating or sleeping. She was intelligent and everyone had to know even if she was just an empty shell. It was all she had.

No one could suspect what was going on.

She remembered wondering what sort of emptiness Draco was distracting himself from. She found out after running into him in a coffee shop in Cardiff that his father had been an abusive sadistic waste of DNA. Until the day a few days before they had run into each other, when Lucius and his wife were sent to jail for life for charges Draco didn’t share, Draco had never known peace.

It’s over and all I can do is pick up the pieces…. What about you, Granger?

She remembered swapping contact information with him and the friendship they’d developed since even though he was that arsehole she punched in college, but she still couldn’t remember her reply on that day.

She probably didn’t have one.

“Did you have a rough day?” she asked, “I remember cooking, and you came home. You said hi and headed straight upstairs. I thought you were going to shower until the door closed.”

Harry’s jaw tensed, “It’s nothing.”

“You always say that, ” her intellect stepping forward and shoving her body’s feedback away, “Why… won’t you just let me in?”

Harry turned from her, “What do you mean, ‘Mione? You know me better than anyone.”

“Except what triggers you to go to your music room,” Hermione sat back, “And that seems to be more frequent than me not eating these days.”

Not that I can’t stand to skip a few meals.

“No, you can’t,” Harry said. 

She wasn’t sure if she’d actually said that out loud or if he just knew she was thinking it. That was the thing about their relationship, and she wanted to be that for him. She wanted to meet and befriend his demons so she could always tell him they were wrong.

“My point stands.”

Harry sighed, “It’s nothing.”

“How long were you up there?”

“An hour?”

She checked her watch and realized she’d more than just missed her alarm, “You get home closer to five than six. It’s almost midnight.”

He served them and came over to the table with a sigh to set the plates down before returning to get them both a glass of water.

Gods, Hermione, shut up. You said you wouldn’t do this!

When he finally settled, he stared at her with those frustrating eyes until she began to eat.

“Is it that hard to trust me?”

Harry looked up, “It has nothing to do with that. Can’t we drop it?”

Hermione set her fork down as the curry flavor turned to ash in her mouth, and she’d heard in his voice permission to not follow through with her promise.

Harry was annoyed with her, and in that annoyance, they couldn’t share a meal. He would forget that she had barely eaten a bite, and she’d be safe from eating for as long as he felt like they couldn’t talk.

Perfect.

Something like panic went through her, she didn’t like the inevitable end of that reasoning, but the brakes on her body and mind seemed broken.

Harry looked up at her, and finally, she pushed away from the table.

“I’m going for a walk.”

Oh, my God, help me!

His eyes widened, and he stood, it seemed, in slow motion while Hermione’s body was in hyperdrive.

“Hermione, wait.”

She couldn’t hear him, sliding into her tennis shoes and taking off down the street on the familiar path. 

The emptiness made her feel light and untouchable, the familiar high was coming faster than she could manage to fight for clarity.

The world passed by in a haze as her body ran and her mind screamed.

Go back, Hermione!

Don’t be stupid, Hermione!

Hermione, listen!

Hermione!

Harry was fit, so if he wanted, he could probably catch her, but maybe he wouldn’t.

Because you’re not good enough. You promised to be better. Can’t even trust you to eat, why would he trust you? Your mother was right; you’ll never keep anyone like this.

She ran faster, and as their neighborhood fell away to the park, her demon’s voice changed.

I told you to eat less.

Her mother’s voice was too loud, so she ran faster. Her feet hit the pavement so quickly it sounded like a heartbeat and drowned out everything at last.

When she grew too tired to go any further, she walked to the park beside the river and slumped onto a swing wiping her face and sucking in shaky breath after breath.

She was no good to anyone the way she was. She shouldn’t have dragged Harry into this. She was being unreasonable. She shouldn’t have asked.

She shouldn’t have run from the question, and she shouldn’t have gone against her word just to hide her struggle again.

She was…

She was overwhelmed and empty, sobbing at a park in the middle of the night like it was the safest thing in the world like an idiot because she didn’t have any control over herself.

She’d been working so hard, and it felt like it was for nothing.

I won’t eat again until we talk.

She pressed her hand to her ears and sobbed, “That’s stupid. He wouldn’t– he wouldn’t.”

He’ll talk to me if he cares.

“Don’t be irresponsible. This isn’t his problem. It’s yours.”

Keep running.

“I can’t.”

All the degrees in the world didn’t stop her from being this sort of irrational. She couldn’t do this. She had to keep going, but her legs wouldn’t listen. The pain and emptiness were settling in hard and familiar. It was almost a blissful feeling if it didn’t hurt so much.

Oh God, I’m going to throw up. Her face burned. Was it always like this?

What would her mother say about that? 

Probably that you couldn’t do it enough to get rid of your ass.

Hermione let out a pitiful sound that could have been a laugh. 

“And she’d be right,” Hermione breathed, trying to keep her stomach from cramping and throwing up whatever little she’d managed to eat and bile.

Nothing tasted good when it comes back up, she knew that from throwing up as a child, and she never wanted to throw up again if she could help it. It was such a waste. She could have just not eaten anything.

She should’ve just not–

When did she last–

I don’t know. I don’t know. Shut up! I don’t know!

“What’s the matter, love? Your boyfriend playing around on you?”

The question made her gasp and realize that while she was fighting her demons, men with potentially ill intentions had been approaching her. They, she knew, didn’t see what she saw in the mirror. They saw tight leggings over wide hips and strong thighs, a round ass that even when she was at her lightest hadn’t gone anywhere. They saw large breasts supported by a good bra. 

They saw a woman in the middle of the night maybe on the edge of sobbing and talking to herself.

They saw a victim.

“We could show you a good time.”

Slowly, she looked up wondering what she expected to happen after running out of the house without her phone in the middle of the night. It was almost like a scene out of a book except she wasn’t a character worth saving. She didn’t contribute anything to the plot.

She’d die, and somehow, she was secretly okay with that.

Stop it, Hermione, you promised.

Nothing to be done.

Nothing left to do.

You just screwed everything up like always.

“Harry,” she whispered a soft scared desperate sound that just made her cry more.

She’d run out on Harry. Run away because she was too much of a coward to talk to him. What right did she have to ask him about his secrets when she could barely drag her own along?

You fucking deserve it, you stupid slag.

She snorted. A creative insult but inaccurate, she should have considered it a victory of her therapy that she could at least focus enough to know that. How long had it been since she would have just let it stand and rattle around in her breaking and splintering her inner supports until she crumbled?

I’m not a slag.

They advanced on her, chuckling and talking between themselves she could only think she deserved it and Harry wasn’t coming.

And I’m not stupid.

What could he do against several dangerous men who were probably seasoned members of the underground? Whatever was to come for being unreasonable, for being stupid, for not being good enough, she would just have to accept it or figure a way out.

I’m not weak.

“I’m flattered,” she said standing, “But I just came out for a bit of a run. I–“

One of them cut her off with a sleazy grin, “Come now, love, you don’t want to have a good time with us?”

“How very rude after coming on to our turf at this time of night.”

“Be honest. You were hoping for it.”

One of them grabbed her arm and pulled her up against him before she could react. 

“Don’t–”

The sound was deafening reverberating through the air and making her wince in recognition. She’d caused that sound once before: the crack of someone’s jaw being broken. Hermione turned and saw the unmistakable figure of Harry Potter panting, his eyes practically glowing in street lamp light across the way, and the other man sprawled across the ground bleeding from his nose and a bruise blossoming on his face. She swore she saw bloody teeth not too far away from where he’d landed near the low stone wall that fenced in the playground.

“Who the fuck–“

Faster than she’d ever seen him move, Harry appeared just in front of the man behind her and swung. He narrowly dodged as another man appeared at the entrance to the playground. Hermione tore away from her initial assailant and rushed forward to thwart him, but Harry swung his body around and uppercut the third man in his gut. The man’s eyes bulged as he threw up whatever was in his soul and crumpled to the ground as Harry turned and caught the man that had grabbed her in the face with his knee.

“What’s going on over there?” Someone asked from what felt like too far away to matter.

Another man leaped out of the darkness and tackled Harry to the ground. They rolled as a flashlight beamed into the playground from behind them and up the hill. She turned around and yelled up to the two officers.

“Officers,–“

Harry pinned another man she hadn’t seen as the one he’d been tumbling with lay sprawled on the ground groaning with a bloodied face. Harry punched him with a viciousness that rang through the air and made Hermione’s stomach churn. His eyes seemed possessed as he punched the man’s face in. Another small group of men appeared running towards them from a little way down the street, hopping over the low stone wall. She heard the officer running back to his squad car to call for backup.

Before the new group of men reached Harry, he was on his feet and charging at them landing blows with frightening accuracy and viciousness. All she heard was the snap of bones and the cries of pain in the night air beyond her heart thudding in her ears as she watched. Her mind was silent, unable to keep up with the change in events. 

Her Harry Potter didn’t fight. The Harry she knew had hands too gentle from pediatric care to fight. 

So who was the man tearing through this group of men as if he’d fought all his life?

Eventually, officers scrambled down to the scene, but it was too late to stop the fight. Harry let the last man fall back from a vicious elbow to the face and stood still panting and scanning the area for any new threats. One of them must have had a knife because there was a bloody cut in Harry’s shirt that now stuck to his skin with blood and sweat.

“Put your hands up now!”

“Bloody hell,” one of them cursed as Harry got on his knees and complied, placing his hands behind his head as Hermione lifted her hands. 

“Are you alright, ma’am?”

“Y-Yes… I’m fine. My boyfriend–”

“Get up,” another officer said, lifting Harry in handcuffs to his feet.

“Wait–”

“Don’t worry, ma’am you’re safe now–”

“But–”

“Officer Tanning, could you get this young woman’s statement and take her home?”

“Wait–”

“Come on, love–”

“Listen to me!” She yelled, eyes bulging and glaring hard lines as Harry was stuffed into a police car and carted away. “My boyfriend is the one you just put in a car and took. These men on the ground attacked me! He was just defending me.”

They blinked, looked at one another, and grimaced, “Your boyfriend?”

“Yes,” she hissed.

“Against… eleven men?”

Had there been eleven?

“Yes.”

“Office Tanning, if you could bring her along with us to the police station. This is going to be a long night.”

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