Realizations—Those Damn Pink Elephants
Today, Harry decided, was an exceptionally good day. It had been unseasonably warm the entire week, which had lifted the spirits of everyone (even Professor Snape, as much as his spirits could be lifted), it was Friday afternoon after classes, and he, Ron and Hermione were outside by the lake, along with several other students, enjoying the warm sunshine. In fact, barring the whole intense-unrequited-love-for-Hermione situation, today was perfect.
Harry had gotten used to feeling that dull ache in his heart whenever he saw Hermione, but he had learned last year that he could at least still be friends with her. His relationship with Ron (and overall emotional well-being) had improved considerably over the summer. Harry remembered the day he had received the letter from Ron which had tersely explained that he and Hermione had broken up. Harry was sure that this had something to do with him (i.e. Hermione had found out, Ron couldn't take it anymore, etc.), and had morosely fed Pig and sent him on his way, morosely laid on his bed and thought morose thoughts about the breakup and his part in it, morosely went down to dinner and morosely passed the potatoes. In general, he was morose, which delighted the Dursley's to no end, as they hadn't even been particularly trying to make his life miserable.
The next day, Harry had received another letter from Ron via Pig. If you think, it began, that Hermione found out, or I snapped, or you had anything to do with this, you're stupider than you look. Not everything is about you, you great prat. Harry could practically see Ron rolling his eyes at Harry's state of mind and that picture along with the letter were so Ron that Harry couldn't help but be cheered. This, of course, had depressed the Dursley's. Then the twins and Ron had come to get him a few days later and it was a classic Weasley boy plan, because it had involved magic carpets, Aunt Petunia, canary creams, Dudley as a seahorse, hippogriffs, broomsticks and several revolting images of some veela and Uncle Vernon which Harry was sure he could never scour from his mind no matter how hard he tried.
His time at the Burrow was happy and relatively carefree. He and Ron had talked about the breakup the first night. Ron explained that he had been thinking about his relationship with Hermione a lot over the summer and had come to the conclusion that they just weren't compatible as anything more than friends. They were too different in such fundamental ways that it would never work out. Hermione had seemed surprised when he told her (probably over the fact that he had actually done some serious thinking, Ron dryly noted), but had agreed with his analysis. There were no hysterics, no crying declarations of love, which had just proved in Ron's mind that this was the right thing to do. The warmth of friendship spread between them once again. Hermione warned Ron that if he thought she would pity him because of the breakup and not encourage him to study for the N.E.W.T.s, he was crazier than Fred and George. Ron had informed her that only truly insane bookworms would consider studying for exams that were ten months away and before school even started. And they were off, arguing for the rest of the day.
Harry was happy because the breakup really hadn't been about him, Ron coming to a reasoned(!) decision on his own. Whatever lingering strain there had been between the two boys was cleared up that night. Their friendship was stronger than ever and they had spent the rest of their time there de-gnoming the garden, making trouble with Fred and George, avoiding Mrs. Weasley and even talking about Hermione and when they would see her and how fast she would say something about the N.E.W.T.s. Harry won with a daring "30 seconds after she sees us, after she says hello to both of us, but before she asks us how the rest of our summer was." Ron had scoffed that 30 seconds was too quick even for Hermione, but Harry was a few Honeyduke's sweets richer after seeing her.
Yes, everything was wonderful between Harry and Ron, a bloody fairytale, which only left this blasted problem with Hermione, who was sitting next to him, the sun, sitting low on the horizon, casting a golden glow over her features, making her even more—
"Beautiful," Harry whispered, staring at her.
Hermione cast a startled glance over in his direction. "What?"
Harry really needed to learn to control his mouth. Words kept popping out at the most inopportune moments around her. "I said you were beautiful." Like that.
Hermione gaped at him, doing a spectacular imitation of a fish. "But why…I mean, thank you, but why would…" She shook her head, and finally got the words out. "Why did you say that?"
That was an excellent question, Harry thought. It was true, of course, she was beautiful, but it didn't exactly fit in with his plan to avoid saying anything like that to Hermione and to keep their friendship just that—friendly. If he said anything suspicious, he knew, just knew, that she would either freak out and run away and he would lose the woman he loved and his best friend, or possibly even worse, she would look at him with a terrible pity in her eyes and explain, logically, point by point, why she could never love him. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, his arse. Nothing ventured, nothing lost.
"Well, friends can compliment each other, right?" he asked. "That's what I did. Although," he said, injecting a light tone into his voice and grinning a bit, "I don't think I've heard you compliment me in return, Miss Granger." Watch it, Harry warned himself. That was dangerously close to flirting. At least, as flirting as Harry ever got.
Hermione stared at him, eyes wide and blushing. "Er, I think you're beautiful, I mean, handsome, as well," she managed. "Very handsome."
Harry looked at her in surprise. "You think I'm very handsome?"
She nodded, ducking her head a bit shyly.
Harry smiled, warmed by her words. "Thank you," he said, blushing himself. He did a little mental dance, feeling a bit like what he imagined a twelve year old girl must feel like. Hermione thinks I'm cute!
But all too quickly, the moment passed and Hermione picked up a book (Hogwarts, a History, which even Ron agreed qualified as light, pleasure reading for her by now) and quickly became engrossed in it. Harry felt oddly disappointed by this, which was just stupid because, looking back, that whole exchange had been flirtatious and he was right because now Hermione wasn't looking at him or speaking to him and he shouldn't have said anything and everything was ruined.
Harry wondered if he had become a twelve year old girl with all the melodramatic thoughts he had been having lately.
Harry sighed and looked at Hermione. She was biting her lip, frowning at something in the book. It was such a typical Hermione pose that Harry couldn't help but smile. Reading a book she must have gone over a million times before, and still finding new facts or new information to process. Harry thought of all the books, all the research Hermione must have done over her life and boggled at how unbelievably intelligent she must be. And she sorted it all out so that he and Ron could (mostly) understand. He was overcome by such a wave of affection and love for this girl that he could hardly stand it. Everything about her amazed him, from her astonishing brain to her incredible compassion. And, quite frankly, her legs weren't that bad either.
Then his brain short circuited once again.
"I love you," Harry said.
Oh, dammit. What was wrong with him? Hermione was looking at him as if he had grown a second head and she was doing her fish imitation again. Harry looked miserably at the lake, wondering if the squid would be kind enough to strangle him. Their friendship was over, she would walk away right now—
"I love you, too," Hermione said softly.
Harry blinked. "Oh," he said. "Well, alright then." Alright then? Alright then? He proclaims his love for her, she says she loves him and he says 'alright then'? What was wrong with him? This was incredible! Momentous! Al-damn-right then?
Hermione was looking at him strangely. "Harry, are you alright? You look…angry."
"I am angry!" he said loudly. "I said I love you! You love me! I shouldn't say alright then. It shouldn't just be this…this calm acceptance! There should be drama, histrionics, earthquakes, fire and brimstone! Something other than, 'Oh, of course she loves me!' I've loved you for over a year! You were with Ron! Unrequited love for my best friend and this is how it ends up? Alright then! No, no, no!"
Hermione looked concerned for his sanity. "You want drama and angst? And did you just say histrionics?"
Harry attempted to get his breathing under control. He turned to face her fully and grabbed one of her hands. "Hermione, I love, and have loved, you so much it scares me. I look at you and I can't see anyone else. I look at you and I think that I can defeat Voldemort, win every Quidditch game and raise three or four kids that have your remarkable intelligence and not blink." He ran a hand through his hair distractedly. "Hermione, I'm seventeen years old, and I'm thinking about kids and growing old with you. There is no one else on this planet like you. And you just said you loved me. And I just reacted like it was no big deal, like it didn't surprise me in the slightest!"
Hermione was smiling at him now. She reached over and put a hand on his face. Harry leaned into it, hungering for her touch. "Harry, it didn't surprise you because you know this is right. I knew I loved you last year when I was still going out with Ron. I expended so much worry and energy over that debacle that I think that I've used it all up. This is right. This is natural," she said, leaning to rest her forehead on his. "I love you so much I wonder that I can think about anything else at all. And when you said you loved me, it just all fit into place. We belong together, Harry."
Harry looked at her in amazement, wondering at her incredible ability to say the right thing to him, and then grinned. "So, no dramatic pronouncements, then? No 'I can never be with you, it would ruin our friendship'? No agonizing over this?"
Hermione grinned back. "Not today. I think I just feel relief that this has finally happened. We can do the theatrical bits tomorrow."
Harry nodded. "Tomorrow, then. Much hand-wringing and melodrama." He gazed into her eyes, humor lighting them, when he felt something break inside him. He had waited for this for so long, waited for her touch. And now she was here, right in front of him, and she said she loved him and he thought that if he didn't kiss her right now, he would die. Perhaps we can have some melodrama today then, a voice in the back of his head dryly stated. He leaned towards her, and saw her eyes flutter close before he shut his eyes and--
"Oi! What are you two doing?" Ron's voice boomed.
Harry and Hermione jerked back, flushing at the interruption. They turned to see Ron and Lavender walking up to them, Ron with a highly amused expression on his face, Lavender with a speculative one on hers.
Ron shook his head. "Harry, Harry, Harry. What are you thinking, trying to do something like that outside in front of everyone? What will the children think?"
Lavender nudged Ron. "I think you should be worrying about Head Girl Granger over here, losing her head like that. Doesn't bode well for the school rules if she can be so easily distracted," she tsked, shaking her head.
"Oh, come off it," Hermione grumbled, getting to her feet, pulling Harry up. He stood slightly behind her, a hand resting on her hip. "Nothing happened."
"Because we were here to stop you!" Ron said earnestly. "Honestly, you should thank us."
Harry just rolled his eyes.
Lavender was looking at them intently again. "So, you two are finally together, then?"
Ron's gaze snapped over to Lavender's in surprise. "What do you mean, finally together?"
Lavender shrugged. "Well, everyone thought that they would get together. They even have a betting pool going." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "I wonder who's going to win. Not me, that's for sure. I was sure it was going to be at graduation. I even did a tea leaf reading about it."
Hermione leaned back and muttered, "Do you think they realize we're standing right here?" Harry just shook his head, fascinated with the discussion unfolding before him.
Ron looked affronted. "I was going out with Hermione for a year and a half! People thought Harry and Hermione should date even then?"
Lavender looked at him pityingly. "Please. Everyone knew that wouldn't last. You two are way too different to carry on a proper relationship."
"A proper relationship?" Ron shouted. "We were fifteen! What's a proper relationship? Did you expect me to propose marriage?"
Harry leaned forward and whispered, "You are a Weasley, Ron. Everyone probably expected that you would start early."
Ron looked sourly at him. "You don't talk. You're trying to snog my best friend. I'll have to ask your intentions."
"Yes, your intentions. I have to see if you can carry on a 'proper relationship'. But stop distracting me. I want to know about this 'feeling' everyone had about you two and why no one had it about me and Hermione!"
Lavender sighed. "Ron, you and Hermione fought. It was cute and people thought it meant you liked each other, and apparently it did, but most people figured it wouldn't last. You two just don't understand each other enough. Totally different attitudes. And Harry was always there and he and Hermione do understand each other—don't shake your head, Ron, if I can see it, you can too—in a way I've never seen before, so it was just a matter of time before they realized it too." She shrugged. "Simple."
Ron was still shaking his head. "Simple.
Lavender sighed again and turned to Hermione, an excited look passing over her face. "Did you two just get together now? How did it happen? Are you really a couple? Are you going to tell anyone?" she asked in rapid succession.
Hermione looked a little scared at Lavender's enthusiasm, but bravely answered the questions. "Yes, we just told each other that we loved them, yes and somehow I doubt we'll need to say anything."
"Wait, you just told each other you loved them?" Lavender asked uncertainly. "Just like that? No misunderstandings, no 'we can never be together', no drama?"
"We're saving that for tomorrow," Harry informed her.
Lavender got a dreamy look in her eye. "How romantic."
Ron snorted. "Romantic? They're planning on when they're going to have problems. This has Hermione written all over it."
Hermione was indignant. "Just because I like to have a little structure in my life doesn't mean--"
"I meant how they said they loved each other and they both just accepted it," Lavender interrupted, looking at Ron. "They just knew it was right. No need to agonize. Romantic," she sighed.
"I think the word you're looking for," Ron said, "is boring."
"Shut up, Ron," Harry muttered as Hermione grew redder and redder. No one could wind her up like Ron and he was looking at a full scale meltdown if he didn't do something.
Lavender continued as if she hadn't heard anything. "Oh, and it happened by the lake and the wind was probably playing with your hair, Hermione, and the sun was just beginning to set so the light was all soft and Harry probably thought you were so beautiful…" she trailed off, sighing again.
"Lavender," Hermione said firmly, apparently deciding to ignore Ron for now, "stop. You're scaring me."
"Oh, no, no, no," Ron contradicted, trying to rile up Hermione. "Go on. In excruciating detail if you want. I want to hear this. What about the grass? Any woodland creatures about? What about the clouds? What were they like?"
"Shut up, Ron," Lavender said serenely. "I'm happy about this and I'm happy for my friends. But if you want to know about the clouds," she said, pausing to look up at the sky, "well, look, that one looks a bit like an elephant, doesn't it? And the sunset makes it look rather pink. A pink elephant was over Harry and Hermione!" she giggled.
Several things happened at once. Ron began choking. Hermione began snickering. Harry immediately took his hand off Hermione's hip and stuffed both hands into his trousers and blushed something fierce. Why did it have to come back to pink elephants?
Lavender was looking at them all in surprise. "What? What did I say? Ron, are you—goodness, you need to breathe! Hermione, why are you laughing like that? What's going on?" she asked in frustration.
"Pink elephants," Ron managed to gasp finally, "mean Harry's penis."
Lavender frowned. "Wait, wait, wait. You're telling me Harry has a name for his penis? You mean Harry has a penis?"
Silence immediately reigned. Harry thought everyone was in shock. Had Lavender just made a joke? About his penis?
"Seven years I waited to toss off a joke like that," Lavender muttered. "Seven years. And this is what I get. Silence. You know, you guys aren't doing much to bolster my self-confidence."
"It's a little hard to laugh when you're cracking jokes about my bits," Harry retorted.
Ron and Hermione started to snigger. "Actually, it's not," Ron said.
Harry slid his gaze over to Hermione. "Well?" he asked crossly.
Hermione just shrugged and attempted to hide her laugh behind her hand. "It was a little funny, Harry," she mumbled.
"Harry, there's nothing to be ashamed of," Lavender said gently. "I'm told most boys have names for their bits."
Harry was sure this was another dream, just like fifth year, because he could not believe that Lavender was consoling him about naming his genitalia. It was simply outside the realm of reality. And he didn't even have a name for it! And if he did, it certainly wouldn't be Pink Elephant. It sounded like some sort of girly drink.
"Harry Potter and the Pink Elephant!" Ron hooted. "Lavender, you're a genius!"
"Shut up, Ron!" Harry bellowed. "I suppose you have a name for yours? Let's hear it!"
"The Eighth Weasley," Lavender promptly replied. Ron looked at her in astonishment. Then Lavender pretended to screw up her face in confusion, and started to make counting motions with her fingers. "Or wait, would it be…uh, the Fifteenth Weasley? Or possibly the Sixteen or Seventeenth if you count Ginny and your mother first and then go back through the boys. But that wouldn't make much sense, now would it?" she asked innocently.
Harry watched as Ron gave Lavender a speculative glance, wondering if she had anything else hidden underneath besides a wicked sense of humor. Ron glanced back over at Harry and the two shared a purely male look. Harry raised his eyebrows. Ron grinned. He spun back to face Lavender.
"No one insults the Fifteenth Weasley!" Ron roared and lunged at Lavender. Lavender shrieked and bolted off, laughing in delight, Ron close on her heels.
Harry chuckled, seeing them run off and turned to Hermione. She was looking after them with an affectionate smile on her face. "Who knew?" she murmured. A smirk appeared on her face then and she glanced up at Harry. "A pink elephant, hmm?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "I can't seem to get away from them."
She smiled and gently brushed his hair from his forehead. "I don't think they're so bad."
A smirk twitched at the corner of Harry's mouth. "I didn't know you were that kind of girl, Hermione," he leered.
"Oh, honestly, Harry," she said, blushing a bit. "I didn't mean it like that." She paused and looked up coyly at him. "Well, maybe a bit."
Harry grinned and raised his hands to gently cup her face. His thumbs tenderly swept across her cheeks to her mouth. Her eyes fluttered closed. "I really, really want to kiss you," he whispered.
She opened her eyes. "You don't have to ask, you know."
His gaze flickered down to her mouth and he slowly lowered his head. His heart was pounding in nervousness and excitement. This was Hermione, he thought. His best friend, the girl he loved more than he thought possible. And he was going to kiss her. Just before their lips met, he stopped, wanting to memorize this moment. His eyes shot up to hers. He could feel her breath puff across his mouth.
"Potter, if you don't kiss me right now, I'll do something immensely nasty involving your pink elephant," she muttered.
"Temper, temper, Ms. Granger. Patience is a virtue," he replied softly. He leaned forward slightly and his lips finally met hers.
It was everything he could have hoped and nothing like he had dreamed. Her lips were soft, moving underneath his, urging him to continue. Her lips opened and suddenly the kiss deepened and Harry thought he was drowning in Hermione, which wasn't a bad way to die. Their minds, their hearts, their souls were intertwined and Harry couldn't imagine anything more freeing.
She was everything.