Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.
Harry and Ron were both surprised one morning to see Hermione come down the stairs, with all her books and dressed as if she planned to go outside.
"Good morning, Hermione," Harry said. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Good morning, Harry, Ron," she replied. "And I thought I'd just go outside to study today."
"Have you lost your mind?" Ron waved an arm at the window. "It's been snowing for the last week. It's as cold as hell out there! And you're planning to go out to study?"
"Yes, Ron, I know all about the weather. I have eyes you know—"
"Could have fooled me," Ron mumbled.
"And in case you haven't noticed," Hermione said loudly over Ron's mutterings. "I am dressed for the weather. I've brought something that I can put one of my flames in, so I will be able to keep warm outside. Besides, the weather is lovely today, if you ignore the fact that it's cold."
"Kind of hard to ignore that when it's freezing," Ron snapped.
"It's sunny for once and sunlight's good for you if you want to stay healthy . . ."
"Will you still say that once you have a cold?"
Hermione glared at Ron. "In any case, I was going to ask if either of you would like to come, but I think it's clear—"
"I'll come," Harry spoke up quickly. "Just let me change into something warmer."
"Okay. I'll wait for you downstairs in the Great Hall so I can pick up something for us to eat." She walked out of the common room, leaving her best friends behind.
"You're barking mad, Harry. I mean, I know you fancy her but—"
"I do not fancy Hermione!"
"Yeah, saying it louder doesn't make it any more true. You ought just to tell her. She's the only one who doesn't know."
"She's the only one who isn't delusional, you mean."
"Harry, you're always talking about her. Hermione this and Hermione that. It's enough to—"
"She's my friend, what do you expect?"
"Fine then. You're always staring at her. You've bought her so many presents, almost every time we go to Hogsmeade."
"That's only because we're friends," Harry said.
"All right. Go on and lie to yourself. I can understand being scared to tell Hermione that you fancy her but you're in Gryffindor! You ought to be brave enough to admit it to yourself." Ron shook his head.
"Have any more advice for me? Or faults you want to criticize? Because if you don't mind, I don't want to keep Hermione waiting."
"Of course you don't. She might see Terry Boot or Justin Finch-Fletchley, and decide to go with them instead if you don't hurry."
Harry grimaced as he walked back into the boys' dormitory. That was a low thing for Ron to say. Hermione wouldn't do that. She wasn't like that. However, Harry didn't like to think about all the other wizards at the school that were so much better for her. That was what had been holding him back from telling her about his feelings these last few months. He knew, deep inside, that he didn't deserve Hermione and even if fate should smile on him for once, she would one day leave him behind for someone else. Telling Hermione wasn't worth the heartbreak that would certainly come. Of course, this meant that eventually she would chose one of those other wizards but until then he was going to bask in her vicinity as much as possible. He quickly switched into something warmer before running off to meet with Hermione, blatantly ignoring Ron's mocking comments in his direction as he passed through the common room.
Hermione was waiting for him, as promised, with a small basket at her side. "Harry!" she said as soon as she saw him. "I went down to the kitchens to pick something up and Dobby packed a feast."
"Errr . . . yes . . .that's good – in case we get hungry . . ." Harry didn't know what to say. Hermione had toned down over the time regarding S.P.E.W. but he didn't want to accidentally set her off. "Shall we go then? To get a good spot before they're all taken?"
Hermione laughed. "I doubt that's going to happen. Most wouldn't go out in the snow."
"Oh. That's right. Forgot about that," Harry replied bashfully. "Oh and thanks for inviting me to go with you."
"Thanks for coming. I thought I was going to be out there by myself."
"Don't mention it." Harry and Hermione started off towards the lake. The landscape was completely covered in new snow that was an absolute delight to touch. The weather was crisp and cold but as Hermione had said earlier, the sun was shining, though not enough to blind them. When they reached the lake, Hermione looked around for a spot to sit down.
"Where should we sit?" she asked.
"Errr . . . it's all the same, isn't it? As it'll be cold wherever we sit down."
She looked impatiently at him. "I brought a blanket so we wouldn't have to sit on top of the snow. How about over there, in between those two trees? The wind ought not to be as strong there."
"Looks good to me."
They walked over to the spot Hermione had selected. Working together, they spread out the blanket, using their books and the basket to hold the edges down. Hermione plopped down in the center of the blanket after selecting a book to read. She patted the area next to her.
"Come on, Harry, and take a seat," she said.
Harry sat down near the edge, away from her. That action only served to earn him a glare from Hermione.
"Why are you sitting all the over there? Do you have something against sitting next to me?"
"No," he replied. He moved over to her side, trying not to blush but knowing it was a lost cause. He hoped that she would think that it was the weather turning his cheeks red and not her proximity. "Better?" he asked.
"Much." She leaned her head against her shoulder as she opened her book. "That's why I wanted someone else to come. It's warmer if you have someone else." Realizing that her words could be taken a different way, she blushed a deep red.
Somehow, her embarrassment helped him to relax. He snaked a hand over her waist to pull her closer before she could think of moving away. "Yes it is," he agreed. "Nothing wrong in sharing warmth like this."
"No, there's not." She idly turned a few pages of her book, not bothering to move away from him. Having her so close was very comforting. He inhaled deeply to take in the scent of her hair and closed his eyes. He definitely was glad that he had agreed to go outside.
"I like shining, white snow," she said all of a sudden.
"I said I like shining, white snow. New snow, like this. I don't know why but I've liked it ever since I was a girl. I've always hated how snow in the streets would get all grimy and dirty. But I love pure, white snow, that's soft enough to play with."
"Are you suggesting we build a snowman? Or do you want to throw snowballs?" he inquired.
"Oh definitely not! I know better than to get into a snowball fight with you."
"You were able to hold your own last time."
"Only until you enchanted your snowballs to go down my shirt!" She shivered, her hands coming up to cover her chest as she remembered how freezing that was. "That was unfair." She turned to look at him.
"Was it?" he asked. There was something about the weather, something about the snow, that was making it hard for him to think straight. He remembered that incident she was talking about – and remembered how lovely she had looked, with her cheeks aflame and what his reaction had been to seeing how the tips of her breasts had hardened against the cold. Knowing for certain might be better than always wondering if he could have had her. He bent down to softly kiss her. She sighed against his lips and closed her eyes. He felt as if he had been set free by her kiss. He felt no fear of any repercussions as he pulled away from her.
"Harry? What was that?"
"That was a kiss, Hermione. Not something covered by Hogwarts: A History?" he gently teased her.
"I know that . . . but why did you . . ."
"I . . . well, I . . . love you . . . that's why."
"You love me?" she questioned.
"Yes." It was easier to admit it once the words had been said. "I love you, Hermione."
"But why? Why me?"
"Because you're Hermione and I love Hermione." He cupped her face with his hand and gently stroked her cheek with his thumb. "I can't tell you when or how I fell in love because I was in the middle of falling before I knew. And I can't tell you why I love you – all I know is that I love you and I don't need a reason. I don't think love needs a reason. It is its own reason."
"That makes sense," she whispered. "I . . . I feel as if I should tell you that I love you too but . . ."
"If you don't know, that's fine. But if you'd give me a chance . . ."
"I might," she said suddenly. "I might love you. There's no one I'd rather be with."
"That's a start."
"Yes it is." She shyly smiled at him. "And I liked kissing you. I really did. It made me feel all warm and tingling inside, not like any other boy I kissed."
That wasn't quite what Harry wanted to hear right then, that she had kissed other boys. He knew that somewhere in the back of his mind but he would have preferred if she hadn't said that. She realized her mistake by the expression on his face.
"You didn't want to hear that, did you?" She leant forward until their heads were touching. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's fine . . . I just . . . "
"Would you like to kiss me again?"
She laughed at his befuddlement. "It's getting cold so it's the perfect excuse for us to snuggle close and snog. That's if you want to . . ."
"Of course I want to! Well, I mean . . . I don't want you to think it's just . . . but I really do love you and your bushy hair and your bookworm habits and your . . ."
"I get the point," she said, laughing. "You're adorable when you ramble, did you know that?"
"Yes, absolutely." She nodded her head to emphasize her point.
"I'll take adorable. I'd prefer some other words but that will do for now." He grinned at her. She blushed a bit and then much to his surprise ducked her head, to kiss his dimples. "Hermione?" he stuttered.
"I love your grin. I don't know why but . . . when you smile at me like that, I want to kiss you. I want to hug you for as long as you'll let me . . . I never want to be away from you."
He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her into his lap. "That sounds serious."
"I . . ."
"You don't have to say it if you don't know it yet. Just staying with me is more than enough."
"But it might be . . ."
"I hope so. But for now, how about that snog?" Harry grinned again and
she couldn't resist him. The young couple spent the rest of the afternoon
happily ensconced in their winter wonderland, reveling in the joy of finally
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