Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. If I did we all know exactly what wouldn't have happened.
A/N: I'm working on my next chapter for Wide Open but I had this wasting away on my hard drive so I decided to post it in the mean time, in between time. It's not polished but it's H/H.
In July you kiss her. It's your birthday and late at night and everyone has gone home but her. You're at opposite ends of the kitchen table, both pleasantly tipsy but not drunk. A single light glows above your heads and gives the cluttered room an oddly misty glow. She says she's going to help you clean up, there are mountains of dishes, but Muggle wine and fifteen years of memories keep you at the table.
You talk about days past, reminisce about crushes and all the times you tried to get her killed and all the times she managed to save your skin. She throws her head back to laugh when you talk about Grawp and shudders when you bring up Umbridge. Voldemort's name never comes up and, even though it's just you and Hermione, you haven't had such a good time in years.
She gets up to leave when the first pinks and purples of dawn streak across the sky. You take her glass and set it next to the sink and walk her to the fireplace. Her arm slips through yours and her other hand flutters like a bird while she talks. You don't hear a word she says, all you notice is the way her hip brushes yours every other step.
When you reach the fireplace you ask if she'd rather stay and sleep, you have an extra bedroom and won't mind the company. But Hermione shakes her head and says she's got a busy day, even if it is a Sunday. Then she smiles and looks so fond you, and you feel so fond of her, that there is nothing to do but kiss her.
A single kiss in an empty, creaking house. That is how it starts. You brush your lips against hers but pull back almost before the kiss can begin, because you realize what you've done. In almost eighteen years of friendship you've never kissed Hermione on the mouth. Uncertain, you stare down at her. She hasn't moved and when your eyes meet hers you see a disturbing blankness, a swirling darkness that hides answers you may not wish to find. Seconds crawl by in silence and finally you give in and glance down at her mouth. She licks her lips and, even if she doesn't mean it, you're tipsy and that's all the invitation you need.
There are no thoughts then, only hands and lips, harsh breathing and rumpled hair. Nothing has ever been as exciting as the way she clutches the back of your neck. But it doesn't get far before Hermione reclaims her better judgment and pushes against your shoulders. Her chest rises and falls with each breath and you stare at each other and neither of you seems to know what to do.
You've never kissed her before, never thought of kissing her. But now that you have it's like a door has exploded off its hinges inside your brain, flooding your mind with thoughts and wants you suddenly can't deny. You tell yourself it's lust and it's only natural but not something you should go around indulging. Not with your best friend. So you laugh like someone's just told a vaguely amusing joke and tell her you're sorry and raging drunk, even though it's not true. She says it's alright but her voice is high and strained.
In August you barely speak to her but you don't want to think about the reasons why. You owl her once, just to see how she's doing and to let her know you're fine. It's a short letter, you wanted to write more but you didn't know what to say. Her reply comes two weeks later and when you see her neat scrawl your heart pounds. You laugh at yourself for being ridiculous, then mull over her stilted reply for days.
In September you buy her a birthday present and decide to deliver it yourself. You show up at her door with the package under your arm and ring her bell. When she opens the door you smile and your smile's so wide you can feel your face crack. But her smile's not as wide and the light that flared to life inside of you when you saw her face dims. Later you'll be embarrassed but you shove your present into her hands and mumble your birthday wishes. She invites you inside but you tell her you can't and you leave without waiting for her to open your gift. You go home that night and stare into the fire thinking of the evils of Muggle wine.
You don't see her at all in October. On the 31st you wake up and think of her and trolls and the first days of friendship. The whole day you ache and you've never felt quite like this so you write her a letter. It takes a long time because you're not sure what she wants to hear. You apologize for kissing her and tell her that you miss her. But you don't tell her how much you liked kissing her or how, even months later, you'd still very much like to do it again. And you don't mention what you've begun to suspect about yourself.
She replies to your letter in November and says that of course you're still friends and always will be. You read the letter once a day but never find the place where she says she misses you, too.
In December you go to the bookstore and buy a copy of Hogwarts: A History because you miss her so much. You know you're pathetic but as you read through the pages you hear her voice and you think that if she could see you she might be proud. A notebook sits by the book and you write down questions or anything you think is interesting, so you'll have something to talk about the next time you see her. At night you stare up at the ceiling and console yourself with the knowledge you've hit rock bottom and things can only look up.
In January you go out to eat with her and Ron. There are twisting fingers and silent looks that last too long but few words. You tell a joke just to see her laugh but it's not that funny and even Ron only smiles. But she's there and you're there and it's enough to lift your spirits. Sometime after your second drink but before the fifth she mentions she's met a bloke. You ask where and she tells you the library of all places. Somewhere behind you a glass explodes and you all turn to look.
Ron gets engaged to Luna in February and everyone's ecstatic. At the party Hermione cries and you all hug. It feels wonderful to hold Hermione in your arms even if it's only for a second. And it comes as a shock to realize how much you've missed the way she used to touch your arm, how she'd throw her arms around you without a second thought. You spend the rest of the day thinking up ways to touch her, even if it's only to brush her hand.
In March you go in with Hermione to buy Ron tickets to an entire season of Chudley Cannon games. She calls you on the phone because even though you're a witch and a wizard you still like some Muggle ways best. You're surprised to hear her voice and even more surprised when she keeps you on the phone for a while talking about her day. Her boyfriend's name never comes up and you decide that's just fine by you.
With April comes warmer weather and you take advantage of Hermione's good-will and call her and write her more often. You only see her once but the awkwardness is almost gone and you think that if it can just go back to the way it used to be you'd be happy. But you've begun to stop lying to yourself and you know that's not entirely true.
In May Hermione stops seeing her friend from the library and you couldn't be more pleased. You find out from Ron and you write a letter because you know it's the right thing to do and you hope your insincerity doesn't drip from the page. Perhaps you're rushing it but you offer to take her out for lunch to cheer her up, you don't think she'll accept anyway. It's the surprise of your life when she agrees and you take her to a Muggle cafe down her street. You sit and talk about nothing in particular and you're just so happy to be with her, alone with her like you used to be. In keeping with the Muggle-like afternoon you walk back to her flat and when she says goodbye she gives you a grateful hug. You smile all the way home.
In June Ron decides he wants a bachelor party even though his wedding isn't until December. In the end it's decided that this is a pre-bachelor party so you go with Ron and his brothers and Neville and Seamus for a night out. None of you drink as much as you used to so it doesn't take long for the situation to deteriorate. Ron's passed out in his bed before midnight and you're walking the streets by yourself too drunk to apparate and without floo powder. You decide to ask Hermione if you can stay the night at her place instead of calling a cab. And if your motives aren't entirely pure they're not entirely deceitful either. She looks sleepy and rumpled when she opens the door and even though she chides you for drinking too much she doesn't make you floo home. You throw yourself across her couch and make sure to tell her she's the most wonderful person in the world before you close your eyes.
In July you kiss her. She's sitting on your porch swing, her shoes off, rocking back and forth. The sun is setting and the day's fading glow makes everything look softer. She glances up from her book and asks you what you want for your birthday. Instead of answering you kiss her. Just like the first time it's chaste and light, a mere grazing of lips.
You pull back and her eyes are on yours but instead of being unreadable you see wariness and uncertainty. But she doesn't yell or storm off so you lean forward to kiss her again. Her head pulls back, just an inch, and she stops you with her fingers pressed lightly against your lips. She searches your face and though neither of you speaks you tell her with your eyes what you want to say with every part of you. When she drops her hand this time she kisses you. You angle your head and feel her fingers along the lines of your jaw.
By the time dawn skims across the sky you're inside on your couch, a blanket thrown over you, her back pressed against your chest. You haven't been awake the whole time but you've managed to spend most of the night talking, your arm wrapped around her waist. She's laughed and you've never felt so happy, so light. Around midnight you told her about Hogwarts: A History and she spent most of the next hour quizzing you on what you learned.
The sun is all the way up and you're both yawning uncontrollably. She rolls over in your arms and says she really needs to get some sleep because she has a busy day tomorrow. Then she closes her eyes and burrows closer to you until her nose is pressed against your chest. You smile, press a kiss to her forehead, then follow her into sleep.