A/N: Standard disclaimers apply. I don't own any of this, although if JKR ever wants to sell, I'll be first in line. Just some more H/Hr fluff for your enjoyment, dedicated to all of us on board the Good Ship, the HMS Pumpkin Pie.
I always thought I had the answers. Or if I didn't have the answers, someone else did and that someone would very kindly have taken the trouble to write the answer down in a book. Hence, why my answer to just about everything was to go to the library.
I still think it's true that just about everything can be found in books. I wouldn't be me if I didn't think so. But I've learned some things in the past 7 years. Not everything can be learned from books.
Not that I agree with Trelawney. Not that I'm giving up on the library. No. It was just that now I'm beginning to see that books can't explain some things.
Books can't explain the feeling I get inside me when I see him, with his messy black hair and green eyes. Books can't explain what just happened. And books can't explain when this all happened either.
When did it happen?
I don't know. I guess it just did. I don't know when. I certainly don't know why. It just happened.
Was it when I first saw him? Seven years ago, when I first saw the Boy Who Lived, whose life I'd read so much about? Was it when I saw him and Ron come rushing into the bathroom to save me from that troll? Was it when he was about to go after Quirrell and I suddenly was so afraid for him that I just had to hug him as if hugging him would give him some more protection? I don't know. Maybe it was.
Maybe it was that next year, when Ron and I (and the school) found out that he was a Parselmouth. Maybe it was that moment, listening to him speak that strange language, looking somehow dangerous for all his being small, skinny and the same Harry. Maybe it was finding out that what I'd always somehow known, that Harry wasn't just a regular wizard. And not just because he was the Boy Who Lived. Maybe it was after that, when I ran into the Great Hall with just one thought, that he had solved the mystery of the basilisk, solved it and saved me.
Or our third year, when the Dementor first appeared on the Hogwarts Express and all I could feel was dread that something was going to happen to Harry. Then when Harry fainted and I didn't know what to do. Thank Merlin Professor Lupin was there then. I think I should have known watching the Quidditch match that year. In my dreams, I can still see Harry falling off his broom like that. I can still hear my screams and remember the way my heart seemed to stop completely for those few seconds until we found out that he was alive.
Was it during our fourth year? I remember Harry's face when Dumbledore said his name to be Hogwarts Champion. I remember holding my hands so hard they hurt for hours afterward watching Harry during the First Task. I remember feeling deflated when I realized that I wasn't what Harry would miss most but what Krum (Krum of all people!) would miss most. I remember feeling warm inside when I realized that Harry had still tried to save me too. He always was like that. Harry. My hero. And I remember how I felt after the Third Task, knowing Harry was gone somewhere, and then the bone-deep relief when he came back, only to feel horrified again at how pale he was, the pain in his green eyes that looked like he'd seen things too terrible that no 14-year-old boy should ever have to see.
Fifth year. I remember Harry trying to push me and Ron away. I remember getting into a huge fight with him, with him saying so many things I knew he didn't really mean, and finally Harry giving in, admitting he was afraid of us getting hurt because of him. Harry was always like that. Trying to take on the weight of the world.
Sixth year, I remember the look on his face when Sirius was cleared. I don't think I've ever seen him so happy and excited, not even when Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup. And I remember feeling happier and even more grateful just looking at him.
Maybe it was always there, and I just didn't know it.
I don't know when and I don't know how. I just know.
And that's where it gets ridiculous. Life-changing revelations shouldn't happen like this. Shouldn't happen on a normal day when neither of us is doing anything unusual.
But then life doesn't really happen the way we think. I know that.
And I also know that I'm never going to forget today, never going to forget that moment when I knew.
I was just watching him fly during Quidditch practice. I always did, although I don't think he ever knew that. But I was terrified that he'd hurt himself and so I watched. And today it was a surprisingly nice day outside so I had come outside and was watching from the stands.
He'd grinned and waved at me when he saw me. I just waved back and then I watched him.
He always looked so happy flying. As if flying and the air was his natural habitat, which I suppose it was in a way. I loved to see his hand, he had beautiful hands, I somehow found myself thinking, reach out to grab the Snitch. And then he caught it and looked at me again, as if to share his own excitement. And I knew.
I was in love with my best friend.
And now I wonder how I never figured it out before. He was always there, always my hero. He always understood. We disagreed, yes, but not like Ron and I fought. And I felt comfortable around him. I didn't have to pretend, didn't have to try to be the perfect student, could just be me, Hermione. I loved his messy black hair (I wanted to run my own hands through it and mess it up more). I loved his green eyes (I wanted to see them shining with love as they looked at me). I loved his hands (I wanted to feel them on me). (I blushed).
I loved him. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. Only he was never that to me. He was just Harry, my best friend. And I was in love with him.
How did I never figure this out until now? When did this happen, when did I fall in love with my best friend?
I turned at the sound of his voice calling my name. He was still in his practice robes and looked like he needed a shower. He still looked good enough to eat as far as I was concerned. I mentally groaned. I couldn't do this. I couldn't just be friends with him. Not now that I knew.
"Yes, Harry?" I asked, hearing the impatience in my voice but unable to do anything about it. I was impatient, impatient to get away from him before I either threw myself at him or started bawling because he didn't love me.
"Why'd you leave in such a hurry? Hermione? Why won't you look at me? Is something wrong?"
I couldn't bear the concern in his voice, the note of hurt as he asked why I wouldn't look at him.
I wondered what he would say if I told him I couldn't look at him because every time I did, it just made me want to jump him. I snorted mentally. Right, that would really go over well. He'd think I was mental.
"It's nothing. I, uh, just remembered an Arithmancy assignment I have to do!" I blurted out finally.
He just gave me a look. "Hermione, you're a terrible liar, you know that? What is it, what's wrong?"
Oh god, oh god, oh god. Why did he have to choose now to be so sweet and caring?
I couldn't face him and turned away.
"Hermione." He reached out and made me turn around to face him, putting a finger under my chin to make me look up to meet his eyes.
His beautiful green eyes. I thought I could just look into them forever.
He was looking at me, his finger still under my chin, when he stepped closer and before I knew what he was going to do, his lips were on mine.
And it was heaven.
His lips were soft, sweet. All the good things I'd ever tasted before, chocolate, strawberries, pumpkin pie, they were all nothing compared to the way Harry tasted. And he smelled of sweat, the fresh air, soap... He smelled like Harry.
I was melting, I was drowning, I was so happy I felt like I could fly even without a broom. I was home, I thought fuzzily, as he put his arms around me and I seemed to fit as if I had been made for him. Which of course I had been.
The kiss ended, a few minutes, hours, years?-- later and I opened my eyes. He was looking at me with a little surprise and, I caught my breath, a lot of happiness.
"I love you, Hermione," he said as if he couldn't quite believe it himself.
I smiled, even through the tears that I felt welling up in my eyes, and threw myself into his arms. "Oh Harry, I love you too!"
He kissed me again and that was when I knew that we'd be together forever.
No matter what happened, no matter what Voldemort did, we'd go through it together. Together, the way we were meant to be.