Author E-mail: AmethystJackson at hotmail dot com
Spoilers: For the entire series in general
Summary: Confronted with Hermione's tear-streaked face, he was willing to do anything to make her feel better, to force her to understand that she was beautiful and amazing, even if it meant laying his heart on the line.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended, blah blah blah NOT MINE, so go away.
Author's Note: This story is cheesy, cheesy fluff, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you know you don't like cheesy, cheesy fluff, then you'd better stop here.
Harry, sitting at a table at Hogwarts' newest tradition, the Spring Ball, frowned. "Have you seen Hermione lately?" he asked his tablemates, Ron and Neville.
"No," Ron replied from behind a bottle of butterbeer. "But I haven't exactly been watching for her."
Harry rolled his eyes. "If you want to dance with Luna, just ask her, will you?" he said. "I'm going to go look for Hermione."
"You do that, mate," Ron replied. "Give her a kiss for us." Neville snickered at that.
Harry didn't feel like denying anything at the moment, and he ignored them. It was true, he would have liked very much to kiss Hermione, but he wasn't prepared to do any unwanted crossing of boundaries. Hermione could break his heart in ways he didn't even want to imagine, and losing her would be like losing a part of himself. He couldn't risk that, not yet. He was prepared, however, to ask Hermione for a dance. A dance was simple enough; it was platonic.
He surveyed the Great Hall for some sign of Hermione. Ginny and Luna stood across the room with an assortment of sixth years. If anybody might have an idea of where Hermione was, they would.
He tapped Ginny on the shoulder as some of the sixth years' eyes widened at his presence. He fought the urge to roll his eyes again.
"Ginny, have you seen Hermione?"
She frowned, "She left ten minutes ago…I thought she'd gone to join you and Ron."
"All right. Thanks, Ginny."
He pondered the situation as he headed for the doors to the Great Hall. If Hermione wasn't with them or with Ginny, she probably wasn't at the Ball at all, which meant that something – or someone – had to have upset her enough to make her leave. Otherwise, she would have stayed very late; Hermione loved dancing.
Harry headed off to Hermione's chambers - the Head Girl's chambers, to be exact. Luckily, as Head Boy, he had access to those and didn't have to struggle up a very slippery flight of stairs if he needed to get to her for any reason.
He rapped on the door of her study. When she didn't come to the door or respond at all, he gave the password and went in. Her study was dark and empty. He headed for the two doors across the room – one, currently open, led to her private bathroom; the other, firmly shut, led to her bedroom.
Just as he lifted his hand to knock on her bedroom door, he heard a sniffle. He felt a strange tightness settle into his chest at the sound. Sniffling was never a good sign. He knocked quietly. "Hermione? Can I come in?"
She didn't respond. He hoped he hadn't done something to upset her. Rapping softly again, he opened the door slightly. Her room was completely dark, but he could distinguish her form on her bed, still in her dress robes.
"Hermione? Why aren't you at the ball?" he asked, tentatively sitting on her bed. "I didn't even have the chance to dance with you."
Again, she wouldn't respond. Her lack of reaction was very much starting to worry him. Sighing inwardly, he pushed off his shoes and lay beside her, resting a hand on her arm. "Hermione? What's the matter? Did someone do something to upset you?"
"No," she murmured. She turned to face him. "No one did anything at all, as usual. Nobody even glanced my way."
"No one asked you to dance?" Harry asked, somewhat surprised. He'd known for a fact that Terry Boot had been eyeing her earlier in the evening, and it had taken a good deal of control to keep him from pummeling the Ravenclaw. How could it be that no one had approached her? As much as he was relieved to learn that his competition wasn't very competitive, he couldn't help being a little offended on her behalf. Hermione was gorgeous! Why hadn't someone danced with her?
"No." A sniffle. "Of course not. And why would they? I'm just ugly, boring Hermione with her books and her stupid badge..."
"You're not ugly, or boring," Harry said firmly, mimicking her typical no-nonsense tone, "And perhaps nobody asked you because you were gone before they had the chance..."
Hermione frowned at him, unswayed. "It doesn't take an hour to ask a girl to dance."
Harry smiled slightly. "It does if she's a pretty girl. All men are cowards when it comes to women, you know - especially the smart, beautiful ones that could break our hearts."
Hermione shook her head, a teardrop falling from the tip of her nose as she did so. "Don't lie to me, Harry."
"I'm not!" he said indignantly, wrapping an arm around her to keep her from scooting away as she was currently trying to do. How was he supposed to make her feel better without telling her things she wasn't supposed to know, without crossing the boundaries between friendship and something more?
Bugger boundaries, Harry thought, pulling her closer. Confronted with Hermione's tear-streaked face, he was willing to do anything to make her feel better, to force her to understand that she was beautiful and amazing, even if it meant laying his heart on the line.
"You were the only girl I wanted to dance with tonight," he confessed, rubbing her back in in a way that he hoped felt soothing rather than invasive of her personal space. Holding his breath, he waited for her response.
"Did you…you didn't leave the ball just to find me, did you?" she asked tentatively, looking intently at the top button of his robes. He smiled.
"Yes, I did."
Hermione's lips turned upward as if she was very pleased with this and trying not to show it. His body warmed pleasantly at the sight. "Why didn't you look for me sooner?" she asked.
"Because I'm a coward," he said. His heart pounded wildly as one of Hermione's arms snaked around him, her hand coming to rest on his back.
"Mmm. But you're the brave Harry Potter," she said, snuggling closer to him in a way that made her seem small and fragile. He wanted to protect her from the entire world. "Surely you can't be afraid of little me."
"The rejection would be brutal," he said, his heart swelling painfully at the feel of her in his arms. Holding her made him feel strong, somehow – worthy – yet absolutely terrified that she would pull away. One little move, a few little words could crush him. Maybe he felt strong, but in truth, she had complete power over him. His comforting her like this was almost farcical; he was the weak one in this scenario, by far.
Hermione did pull away, but only enough to look up at him with a smile. "What makes you think I would reject you?"
Harry shrugged a little, suddenly embarrassed and bashful. "You could have someone smarter, more handsome…less likely to get you killed."
Hermione sat up to look at him fully, and he was forced to let go of her, but she reached down to stroke his cheek in a gesture of reassurance. "Harry, it doesn't matter what I could have. You are handsome and smart, and you're brave and loyal and caring – you're everything I want."
"R-really?" His heart stilled.
"Yes," she breathed, returning to lie beside him. She offered him a shy smile. "You were the only boy I wanted to dance with tonight, you know."
Harry grinned, marveling briefly at their mutual obliviousness, as his heart burst with a sort of happiness he hadn't known existed until then. Hermione pressed into him, her head nestled in the crook of his neck. Her soft breath playing against his skin sent shivers down his spine.
"Do you still want to dance?"
"Mmm, maybe some other time," she murmured somewhat sleepily. "This is better than dancing."
Harry kissed her forehead as she fell asleep, and his heart flipped in a way that made him admit what he'd been reluctant to acknowledge for a very long time. He was completely in love with Hermione, and it was okay. It was okay that this sleeping girl, so seemingly gentle, could break him beyond repair – because she would give him the same power every time she cried on his shoulder.
Harry smiled as he drifted off to sleep as well. This was okay, because he could show her she was beautiful, and she could teach him not to fear this.
It was more than okay.
It was perfect.