Hey. Sorry that it took so long to get this chapter up, but I had an awful lot going on what with Bible School at my church and piano competitions and all sorts of other things that aren't in anyway relevant to anything! Right, so on to the story!
Grumbling, I stood up from my bed and walked past Ron to the door. Opening it, I started down the stairs. Halfway down, I looked back up at him and glared.
"This better end in something good, mate," I said. "Because if it doesn't, I'm going to hex you so hard, your body will be here and your head will be all the way in Egypt. Then you can have a taste of living by the Nile."
Well, that was dashingly clever of me, don't you suppose? 'Have a taste of living by the Nile,' HA! Fantastic closing line, don't you think? Couldn't have said it better if I'd wanted to.
Anyway, as I walked down the last few stairs, sniggering over my last comment (I can't get over how bloody brilliant that was!), I thought about what I was going to do. And it almost made me turn around and walk right back up those stairs. But, the thought of Ron's gloating face at the top kept me going until I reached the bottom, opened the door and stepped out into the Common Room.
Hermione was sitting by the fire in a large, squishy armchair. Her bushy hair was tied back in a thick ponytail at the nape of her neck. A few stray strands of hair framed her pretty face as she gazed into the fire.
Timidly I walked up to her, trying with all my heart not to run screaming out the door. "Hermione?" I said, coming to stand beside her, one hand on the arm of the chair.
She looked up and smiled. "Harry!" she said, beaming. "I wasn't sure if you'd come down or not, after what happened outside."
I grinned sheepishly. "Well, you can't really blame me can you? It was rather a hard thing to say, don't you think?"
"Yes, rather a hard thing to say," she said, looking down thoughtfully. After a moment, though she looked back up, cheerful again. "But listen, I really wanted to talk to you about it."
"Talk about what?" I asked, pulling another chair up in front of hers and settling myself down in it.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don't play dumb with me, Harry James Potter. I know that you know what I'm talking about. I need to talk to you about what you said."
"So, talk," Ooh, I'm so smooth sometimes. Sometimes.
Hermione looked slightly flustered. "What, you – you don't want to say anything?" she asked.
"What is there to say?" I said, smiling smugly. "I said everything that needed saying down there by the lake. I really do love you, Hermione," I reached up a suddenly trembling hand and tenderly tucked a strand of hair back behind her ear. She smiled sweetly and it warmed me to my toes to see that I could make her that happy.
"That's just the thing," she said, and there was a slight tremor in her voice. "I'm not sure that you really do love me, Harry."
"But – but why?" I asked incredulously. "What lead you to believe that?"
"Well," she said. She looked back into the fire. "It's just that you've never done anything at all to make me believe that you really do love me. And you said so yourself that it wasn't possible for you to like me. And – and, oh, Harry!" she cried, looking back up at me with eyes brimming with tears. "A man can't just suddenly realize that he's in love! It's something that has to be recognized eventually, over a long period of time. It has to be thought through carefully and analyzed and given time and –"
"Who says?" I interrupted. I caught her hands in mine and stared at her in earnest. "Who says that a man can't realize that he's in love? Why can't I suddenly understand what I've been feelings for years?"
"Because you just can't!" Hermione said, now sobbing uncontrollably. Several Gryffindors around us were now watching us curiously. "You can't suddenly decide that you have strong feelings for someone. I know, Harry, I know! Love has to be thought over!"
"No, it doesn't!" I cried loudly, laughing in spite of myself. "Love is an emotion. Emotions aren't analyzed and thought about, why don't you understand? Love is not a school assignment, Hermione, okay? It's a feeling. It can't be controlled."
"But even things that can't be controlled by others control themselves! Love develops slowly, Harry, it doesn't just all of a sudden happen." Hermione seemed almost desperate to make me understand this.
"But it didn't just all of a sudden happen, sweetheart," I said and she smiled through her tears at the name. "I've loved you for years, Hermione, haven't you realized that yet? I just didn't know it. I didn't know that the terror I felt every time you were in danger was because I couldn't bear to lose you. I didn't know that the reason it tore my heart to pieces when I thought you were dead was because I was in love. I thought it was just because you were my best friend! But, don't you see, Hermione, I love you."
"I know you do, Harry," she said quietly.
"Hermione, I promise I – what?" I stopped myself, mid-sentence. "What did you say?"
She smiled. "I said that I know you love me. I've always known."
I stared at her. "Then what was all this for?"
"I had to make sure that you knew it, too," she said, laughter in her pretty brown eyes. "I knew that if you had to explain what you felt than you would be sure if it. There would be no doubt in your mind that you loved me."
"But I still don't understand," I said, reaching a hand up to ruffle my hair. "Why is it so important to you that I know? Do you just want me to be more heartbroken, or something?"
"No, no, of course not!" she cried hastily. "I would never want you to be heartbroken, Harry."
"Then what's the point?" I asked. "If you don't want me to be heartbroken, than you wouldn't have made me sure that I was in love with you. You would have tried to make me get over you. Not unless you –" I stopped. "But you couldn't, not after all this time. You would've said something, wouldn't you?"
Hermione refused to look at me. She seemed determinedly fascinated with the fingers on her right hand. "Hermione?" I asked, sliding out of my chair to kneel before hers. "Is there something that you're not telling me?"
"I – I," she stuttered.
"You what?" I asked gently. Silence. Impatient, I reached my right hand up and put a finger to the side of her chin, pushing her face towards me. "You what?" I asked again, now with a slight force in my voice.
"I wanted to make sure that you were sure that you loved me because, because," she stopped and took a shuddering breath. "Because I l-love you. Please don't be mad!" she cried, burying her face again in her hands.
But I only laughed and jumped up. She stared at me as if I were insane. "You're not mad?" she asked.
"Mad?" I cried. "Why in the world would I be mad? You just told me that you love me!" Laughing again, I grabbed her by the hands, pulled her out of her chair and swung her around in the air. Grinning like an idiot, I set her down and pulled her close to me. Before she could say anything else, I captured her lips with mine.
"By Merlin, finally!" cried a voice from the bottom of the girls' staircase. Pulling away reluctantly from Hermione, I looked to see Ginny and Ron standing together, laughing their little red heads off.
The next ten minutes was spent under a myriad of claps on the back, congratulations, sly comments and not to mention at least forty people saying that it took us long enough. In the midst of it all, I held Hermione close to my side, knowing that I would never keep something from her again.
So, what did you think? I'm just glad I finally finished it. Please, please tell me what you think about this!