"Talk"

And you did. Well, no, you didn't. Not at the beginning. I know I was being direct, but my head would not stop to let my heart tell you that I loved you more than anything you could ever imagine. I prompted you, dreading what you were going to say.

"Start at the beginning, Harry. I want to know what happened after I left. I know, on that night, the night of the celebration, I..er..I saw you kissing Ginny. What happened between the two of you?"

It wasn't that I really wanted to know. I just wanted to know why. You told me about Ron and Luna, and how you tried to find me afterwards and I couldn't look into your eyes because it was really all my fault. I couldn't express to you how much I wanted to answer your letters, how much I waited for them, but I had to stop myself because I couldn't see you again without...

"...A while after that, Ginny and I ..err...well, you see that is...we...ugh...realized our differences and...err...broke up."

You began to stammer and I looked up, but you looked away. A tear made it's way down your cheek. My heart fell. You still loved Ginny. Even though you kissed me, even though you told me you loved me, you weren't in love with me. You were in love with her. It was a good thing I had a level head, but even my head knew that the only way I could be happy is if you weren't sad.

"I'm sorry, Harry. I know how you must miss Ginny. And I wasn't there for you. I feel absolutely horrible. I mean, it must have been horrible for you, being with her for so long. I can certainly understand your longing for her still. She's a beautiful, free-spirited woman. And now, with a husband, and how many children? It must have taken a lot for you to go with her to the Ministry party..."

Why couldn't I stop talking? I didn't want you to be even more in love with her, even more sad. You were looking at me with an expression that said I was totally wrong, but I couldn't accept that. I knew that I was right. All the signs were there.

"Hermione. Stop. I don't think you understand. The differences that we realized, you see. She realized that she loved Malfoy, ahhh no. Draco. She realized that she loved Draco. And I...well...I realized that I didn't love her."

"But Harry...wait...did you say Malfoy?"

Malfoy? What? WHAT? She left him for MALFOY? That ferret? He just as well as killed Dumbledore. He's a bad peson! How...what...why...that's lunacy! (No offense to Luna, of course.) She couldn't...I wouldn't accept it.

"How could she trust Malfoy, much lest love him? What about her family? This is worse than you getting her pregnant! He is on the dark side. He was charged to kill Dumbledore!"

I listened to your explanation, and I kept shaking my head. So what if he saved your life? He could still be pretending. He could be hurting Ginny as we speak! He could be abusing their babies! I mean, Snape was pretending. Wormtail was pretending. Malfoy's a hell of a lot worse than them.

"...He's saved my life countless numbers of times, Hermione. He's saved the Weasleys a bunch. And even though you don't know it, he's...err...saved you-"

"He WHAT?"

No! That can't be. I've never been in danger! I've made sure of that! I've never walked in dark alleys at night. I've warded my flat against everyone. I've kept away from virtually everyone. I haven't even seen Malfoy since Hogwarts. No one wants to kill me anymore since they know my proximity to you has gone way way down. I AM NOT A TARGET! Why would you tell me this? Why are you trying to make me trust Malfoy? Are you really even Harry? I edged away from you as I listened to your story. Then I saw the tears running down your cheeks, bright in the moonlit night. When you got to: "You love her, don't you?" I began to cry, because you were so Harry, and so forgiving, even though you hated the bastard to bits. You listened to him for me. Even if you didn't love me like you love her, it was enough that you did that for me.

You came towards me and brushed my tears away. Your breath on my wet face made me shiver a little, because you were so close. I reached up and wiped the tears from your face as well. You seemed surprised that my fingers were wet.

"I'm sorry. It must have been hard for you to let her go."

You smiled. It was amusement, not bitterness. It confused me. You were in love with her. How could you smile at a time like this?

"No. Not her. I didn't have a hard time letting go of her. It was rather, my best friend, who I had just realized I had been in love with for...forever, that I couldn't come in contact with, that I had a hard time letting go of. And ugh...no, I'm not talking about Ron."

I...you...me...really? I can't believe I didn't realize it. I had been wrong. You weren't in love with Ginny after all. I...launched myself into your arms.

"Oh, Harry!"

I was an idiot. I was a stupid idiot. I held on for dear life wondering how it was that I could be so stupid. You stroked my hair and let me cry. How was it that I could get someone as good as you, someone as wonderfully understanding? But I knew in the back of my mind that you were confused, that you didn't understand, because if you had, we would be on our way to planning a wedding right now.

"Hermione. Mione?"

The touch of your fingers, the slightest brush was enough to send euphoria through me, especially because I knew you loved me now. You looked beautiful just then. Now, I understand that it's not a particularly manly thing to be called, but to me, you were beautiful because you were so caring. Your eyes told me that you wanted to make everything better, but you couldn't without knowing the truth, I suppose.

"Mione? I just want to know why you left. That's all. I...missed you, you know. I missed you more than you can ever imagine. Seven years, and then...nothing. Did I do something wrong? I know you broke up with Ron, but I never really found out why. You were so happy together. Our friendship was supposed to last through him, anyhow. We've been through so much, you know, I just thought-"

"Harry, you daft git."

You were cute confused. My head was finished. My heart took over. It was a beautiful thing when my heart finally took over because I was able to say what I had wanted to for so long, for longer than three years.

"Harry, before I tell you everything, you must know why. I left because...I love you."

You looked shocked. Were you supposed to? I'm not entirely sure, but I know that you didn't expect that. How to explain this?

"It started before we had finished finding the Horcruxes. We were growing closer, all of us, and I realized that I loved Ron. Oh, not like that, Harry. I loved him as a brother. I was going to pull away because every time we kissed, I felt just a bit repulsed. But I couldn't do that to you. If Ron and I broke up, there would be tension, and that would affect you more than ever. We might have failed. Voldermort might have won. You...you might have died. And besides, Ron and I didn't have much time to kiss anyways. We agreed that it would be all about you, at least until the war ended. Well, it did. And you were victorious. It was a wonderful day, even though you had fainted from blood loss, Ron's shoulder had nearly been sliced off, and a couple of my bones were broken. That's not all that was broken, however. That night, the night of the party, Ron and I broke. He proposed to me, said this way, we could have a fresh start, that we were meant to be together. No matter how I wanted to say yes, I found I couldn't because my mind, no my heart, wouldn't allow me to. You wouldn't allow me to. He was in a right state, storming off. I went looking for you. I saw Ginny kiss you. I saw you kiss her back. My heart broke. You see, Harry, those days, searching for Horcruxes, I found that not only had I fallen out of love with Ron, I had fallen in love with you. And now, you didn't need me anymore. I vowed that night to fall out of love with you. I couldn't if I kept seeing you, so I retired from the wizarding world. I got a flat cheap, in a Muggle neighborhood and warded it against everyone. I didn't allow myself to become too close with anyone, but soon my savings began to run out. Because I had no formal Muggle schooling, getting a job that I could possibly like was almost impossible. No question, I tried, but the most I could do was make ends meet. I was unhappy because in shutting you out, I had shut magic out as well, and it was such a big part of my life, Harry! It was who I was. I went to the Ministry, looking for a low-profile job that I could do. Instead, I found Mr. Weasley, Minister of Magic. He disapproved of my actions greatly, but was thrilled that I had come back. He promised to keep me out of sight, and I could do what I had always wanted: research. The knowledge that I accumulated in this time was staggering. I developed new cures, new theories, new charms. It was the most wonderful job I could ever have. I was even almost forgetting about you."

"Why hadn't I heard about these new developments, then? You could have written to me! I know you don't have an owl, but my letters, Hermione? Didn't you get my letters? I wanted to see you! I -"

"I won't lie. I did get your letters. You seemed happy. Your job seemed dangerous, but you've gotten out of dangerous situations before. You seemed like you had finally gotten what you deserved with Ginny. So, because you were happy, I was content. Any more contact than that and I would have been flung into an abyss so deep that I would have never been able to get out of it."

"Why? Is seeing me that horrible to you? Is writing to me?"

"No, no. You see, every time I saw you, I would have remembered that I loved you. And you didn't love me. I was a coward, you see, because I was scared that I would do something to compromise our friendship and your relationship with Ginny. If I lost your friendship, I would die. So I decided that I would preserve your friendship in memory. This way, it would always be to me, perfect. You see, I was always, always yours. And I couldn't take it that you were never mine."

Tears, so many tears. I was drowning, but your lips pulled me back. Your passion swirled through me. It was all I needed. Our tongues tangled with increasing heat. Your hands, everywhere. Your essence, everywhere. Your love, everywhere. You burned everything you touched. Your fire gave me what I needed to breathe. If I died right now, I would have only regretted the years we spent apart.

"I love you."

Your voice, rich with...something. Your eyes, the brightest, deepest green I've ever seen them. Your tongue, doing something delightful on the side of my neck.

"Harry." I was panting. "Tell me this isn't a dream."

"Hermione." You smiled against my skin. "Tell me. Does this feel like a dream?"

Well, none of my dreams involved this many tears. And fire. And gongs. Gongs? The church bells rang, bringing us both back to reality, delightfully disheveled. Bong Bong Bong Bong Bong Bong Bong Bong Bong. Nine times. Nine hours. Nine healers.

"Harry! We have to get back to the party. The healers! Oh...I knew this wasn't a good idea. I mean, you were almost drunk out of your mind. Oh! And James! We just...I just..."

I was expecting you to get angry, but you just smiled. Well, grinned actually.

"Harry?"

"Oh, nothing. I just can't wait to see the look on that prat's face when I come walking in with his date hours after I waltzed her away."

"Harry..."

"I'm kidding! I'm kidding! Well...not completely..."

"Harry!"

"All right, all right. Let's go. Charm yourself and let's go."

You grinned again. I could watch you smile for all eternity.

"Wait. Harry, what does this mean for us? I mean.." I cleared my throat and proceeded with my best imitation of my father. "What are you intentions towards me, Mr. Potter?"

"Well, Miss Granger, I intend that someday, you forgo your maiden name and...err...perhaps...take mine?"

"Really?"

"Yeah..well...something you didn't know...when you said I was never yours? You were wrong. I was always yours, throughout all that stuff in school and afterwards and everything. And...well...I'm starting to get red, so we'd better go. I'd love to finally be able to show you off."

I rolled my eyes at your "macho" display, and smiled.

"Well then, let's get going. I have to break it to a poor boy that I belong to the savior of the wizarding world."

"Forget 'savior of the wizarding world'. Call me Harry. And tell him not to call me Mr. Potter again. It makes me sound old."

You puffed out your chest and I laughed. I haven't done that in a long time.

"Let's go, Harry."

I was set to go when you pulled me back.

"In all seriousness, Hermione, I love you. Always."

"I love you too, Harry. Forever."

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