Title: When She Realizes

Author: Goldy

Disclaimer: Characters are all owned by the great and illustrious JKR.

Summary: Hermione realizes her feelings.

Spoilers: For all five books, especially OoTP

A/N: This fic was partly inspired by my own personal belief and a rather large H/Hr shipper belief that, when Harry realizes how he feels about Hermione, it will be something akin to being hit over the head with a baseball bat. Naturally, in light of that view, I decided to do a fic that portrayed the exact opposite.

A/N 2: For anyone that's wondering, hopefully there will be a new chapter of Lines Crossed very soon. I've sent it off to my beta and am now just waiting to hear back from her.

Nothing in their lives is simple. That much she has learned, time and time again. What she is, her very core, isn't simple. She's a Muggle-born witch, top of her class, and in the middle of fighting a war against the darkest wizard the world has ever seen. Things in Hermione Granger's life aren't simple. A fact which she has always known and a fact that has never bothered her. Simple is boring.

But falling in love with him is the simplest thing she's ever done.

She doesn't know how long she's loved Harry James Potter. She'd like to say that she's loved him from the very first moment she saw him—though she's much too grounded to believe that. She'd like to say that she's always known. She'd like to say that he's always had her heart. The fact is, she does love him, she's loved him for a very long time. Too long to know exactly how long. She can't recall the day when she fell in love with him, she can't pinpoint the moment that gave him her heart, and she certainly can't remember any gesture or word that made her fall.

What she does remember, and this is with perfect quality, is the day she realizes she loves him.

They're walking back to the Common Room after a D.A. meeting. She's close enough to him that his hand brushes hers every once in a while, but far enough away that they don't bump into each other. They're smiling, laughing, completely comfortable in each other's company. She sees the look of pride on his face and it fills her. It fills her with pride for him, for them, for all those that he's prepared for the final battle. They both know it's coming and it's coming soon.

"They're all saying it now," he says.

"I know."

"Voldemort. Even Neville."

"Even Ron."

"Even… even Lavender Brown."

They smile at each other, their mingled pride spilling out of both of them when something in his eyes changes.

"Do you think I'm ready?" he asks abruptly.

She stares at him for a moment, completely taken off guard by the question. Harry is a guarded person by nature, keeping most things bottled up until he explodes. They've talked about it before, of course. The prophecy, his destiny… they've talked about it with the vague detached tone of two people wishing desperately that it would go away. They've talked about it in terms of something that would eventually need to be dealt with in the future. They've talked about it in terms of planning and D.A. meetings.

This is different. He's looking at her, eyes pleading and seeking an answer and suddenly, without warning, her heart plummets. She feels it drop, right through her, and a hand is at her throat and her eyes are full of tears because she suddenly can't bear it, can't bear it all.

She can't think about it. She can't think about him going off to face Voldemort. She can't think about the possibility of him not living. A world without Harry Potter in it… well, it's inconceivable… it's a world without part of herself… it's a world without…

When she realizes it's like being hit with a bludger. She's literally winded. She can't see straight. She can't think straight. She can't walk. She can't run. She feels dizzy and like she might faint.

She loves him. She's so bloody in love with him.

She's so surprised by her realization that she goes crashing into a door. A. Door. Books go flying, she shrieks and she falls, landing ungracefully on her bottom. She sucks in a breath, dazed and trying to let it all sink in. Books, quills, ink, and parchment litter the floor beside her.

She's crying and she feels pathetic, lying there and crying. She should be hugging him or declaring something, but all she can do is sit in the mess of her books and cry. Her heart thumps in her chest and she knows it's all sinking in. That the reason she never thought seriously of the prophecy was so she wouldn't do precisely this. Losing him is impossible.

She looks up, still crying and wishing that she isn't because it will only make him feel bad and he needs reassurance but she can't seem to make herself stop crying. She meets his eyes, surprised by what she finds there.

He knows.

He knows. He knows that she knows. He knows that she knows that he knows. They stare at each other for a long time, not needing words. She's so relieved that she and Harry have always been able to communicate without words. She isn't sure that she's even capable of talk.

He finally crouches down in front of her. His hand is shaking when he cups her cheek. "You know," he whispers, still staring into her eyes.

She nods, still too shocked too say anything.

He smiles fondly at her, wiping away one of her tears with his thumb. "You, Hermione Granger, are painfully, horribly, slow."

She sniffles and grasps his hand. "How long have you known?" she rasps out.

"Oh?" he says nonchalantly, still staring at her. "Me? Well… years, actually."

"Years?" she gasps.

"Yes, I could tell you that it's been a rather difficult and painful time in my life, having unrequited feelings for you. Only—"

"They weren't unrequited," she sighs, still staring into his eyes.

"Hmm," he says. "No, they weren't. You are hopelessly in love with me."

She blushes, his words zinging around in her brain. "Awfully sure of ourselves, aren't we?"

"Well, you know…" he says quietly, leaning forward until their foreheads brush. "I'm quite the commodity. Boy Who Lived and all that."

"True…" she sighs out, his nearness sending shivers down her spine. "Besides, you're also hopelessly in love with me."

"Also true."

"Harry…" she whispers, feeling a wave of emotion so powerful that she leans against him. "I've always been… I just… I never realized…"

He gathers her up and they're hugging each other. They're holding on, they're reassuring themselves. And she very nearly starts crying again because it's so simple. So very simple.

"Actually, I was beginning to worry for a while there," he says, holding her close. "I was beginning to think I'd have to tell you right before dashing off into battle. It was going to be very melodramatic. As it is, it took you bloody well long enough."

She's crying again because he said the word "battle" and it conjures up horrible images in her head. "You might be ready," she says in answer to his earlier question. "But I'm never going to be."

He kisses her and she eagerly leans into him. The kiss is demanding, desperate and passionate. It retains a gentle vigor to it, a sweetness that speaks of their shared connection, of the depth of their feeling. She feels something inside her fill, a hole she hadn't even realized was there. They kiss and nothing else matters. It's just them, just them.

When they pull away, she silently berates herself. How could it have taken her so long? How could she have been so blind?

"How could I have been so stupid?" she asks softly, closing her eyes. "I've wasted so much time…"

She feels him, his lips pressing gentle kisses to her face, his hands gently brushing her sides, her back. She knows he's reassuring himself. He can't really believe it.

"Hermione…" her name slides off his lips over and over again. "Hermione…"

She fists her hands in his hair, feeling combined misery and combined happiness well up inside her. "I'm so sorry…"

He pulls away and his eyes burn into hers. "Say it," he demands abruptly. "I need to hear it."

She doesn't hesitate. "I love you."

He kisses her again, more forceful this time. She finds herself on her back, his full weight on top of her, his lips meeting hers over and over again.

Nothing has ever been simpler.

Only… nothing else is simple. She feels fear, fear so great because she has fallen and she can't stop herself and he might die and she doesn't think she can stand it.

"Harry," she whimpers, pulling away from their kiss because she's started to cry again. "I can't lose you. I can't… I…"

"Shh," he says softly. "It's okay."

It's not okay. They both know it. But she loves him for saying so. In unspoken agreement they pick themselves up from their compromising position on the floor and settle back against the hall's wall. Their fingers entwine and stay locked together. As far as she's concerned, she's not letting him go until she must.

He smiles a little, amusement creeping into his eyes. "I have quite the track record, don't I?"

She swallows with difficulty, feeling baffled. "Whatever do you mean?"

"Well… it's just that… I appear to be two for two in making women cry after I kiss them."

She feels a powerful wave of emotion again. Getting herself under control, she leans her head on his shoulder and smiles. "It's because we're so overcome. It's tears of joy, really."

"Okay. My ego's feeling pretty good right about now."

She sighs. "Harry… what if…"

"Don't," he says sharply. "Don't finish that. I'm going to win. I won't… I won't let you go."

"I'm glad that… I'm glad that you know how I feel. Before you have to go."

"Oh, I told you," he says lightly. "I already knew. It was you that didn't, remember?"

"I'm so stupid."

"No, you're not. A little slow, maybe, but I'd hardly say you were stupid."

She chuckles a little. "You still haven't said it."

"I know," he says darkly. "And I'm not going to. Not until… not until I win."

She nods in understanding, realizing that he's doing it for her benefit. He's telling her the only way he knows how that Voldemort won't win. He has too many important things to do to let him win.

She squeezes his hand. "Then I'll tell you again. I love you. I always have."

His eyes shine. "Hermione, I'm really very glad that you realized that. Will you say it again?"

She grins. "I love you."

"Okay, now we're just getting sappy."

She lets out a bark of laughter. "Honestly," she says, with a shake of her head. "You were the one who started us off on this in the beginning."

"I believe it was you, actually, who went crashing to the floor in tears. I never thought the sight of a crying, hysterical woman could make me so happy."

"Haha," she mutters. "Harry…" she says slowly. "Do you promise that you'll tell me?"

He's quiet for a long moment before looking into her eyes. "Yes," he whispers. "I promise."

"Good. Because… what we feel… it's simple. The rest of it isn't. But… this… it's…"

"Simple."