A.N: I don't own Harry Potter, or any of his friends or enemies. This is set after Ron returns and before Malfoy Manor. If you haven't read Deathly Hallows, well, traverse at your own risk.
"I was a prat."
His voice was soft, but strong, and it carried a tone of remorse.
"The world's biggest prat. I should have never walked out like that."
He thought he'd let silence sit after that, see if she paid him any mind.
"I'm sorry. You couldn't possibly know how sorry I am. I should have been here. I shouldn't have left."
Again, she said nothing. And he knew she wouldn't. But that didn't mean he was going to stop talking.
"I was so upset, so angry, and that stupid locket…it's not an excuse, but it did things to me. But, no matter what was going on, I shouldn't have left. Harry didn't deserve that. And you…God, I still can't work out how I could have possibly left you."
That, it seemed, at least got her attention. She looked up from her book, and he knew instantly that he'd hit the target. She couldn't understand how he could have left her, either.
"Can I sit down?"
Her face was somewhere between sadness, exhaustion, and resignation. She gave a brief nod of her head and looked back down at her book.
The sound of the chair's being pulled from under the table was unusually loud. He sat down in it, placing his hands on the table in front of him. He leaned in as close to her as he felt safe doing.
"I heard you calling for me. And I swear to you, I tried to get back. I instantly knew that I was wrong. I knew that I shouldn't have left. I knew that I'd made a huge mistake, and I wanted to come back, but then everything went to shit."
He didn't worry about her chastising him for his language; he had no recourse for his transgression other than complete honesty, and her language had become more colorful lately as well, much to his amusement.
"I heard you every night, every single one. I heard you crying and shouting my name out, like it was all I could hear, playing over and over again. And, God, I just wanted to die. I wanted to have anything horrible in the world happen to me than have to endure knowing I'd hurt you so entirely."
She still didn't look up at him, but he saw her bottom lip quiver.
"When I came back, Harry told me…he told me you cried for a week. Or maybe longer. I did, too. Every night, I cried my eyes out, bloody sobbed, because I knew you were somewhere, and you were hurting and I had done it."
For the first time, his voice wavered, broke a bit, and he felt a lump rise in his throat.
"I swore to myself, last year, after all of the ridiculous stuff we went through that I'd never make you cry again, and I hate myself, absolutely hate myself, for making you cry again. And I don't blame you for hating me, too."
He saw her eyes were filled with tears, and she was doing everything to hold them back. She finally looked at him.
"I don't hate you."
Her voice was barely audible, but her words were clear, and he heard them.
"Hermione," he said, lowering his voice. "When I was away, I decided something. And this may be the most rubbish time, and you might not want to hear any of it, but I'm tired of just acting like it's not there, or that it is there and we're just not saying anything. I…I want you to know what I've felt."
He saw confusion cross her face.
"I want to tell you how I've felt. But I've been terrified. And then everything was going so well, and there was the book and it explained a lot of things…but what I'm trying to say to you is, I've…I've felt this way for a long time, and it won't go away, but I don't want it to go away, and am I making any sense?"
She looked more confused than he'd ever seen her before.
He closed his eyes tightly, trying to understand how he could know something so solidly, yet not be able to say it or explain it or all.
"What I'm trying to say is what I hope you already know."
As soon as the words spilled from his mouth, he realized they were wrong, all wrong. He felt like he was speaking in riddles that he didn't understand, and the look on her face told him that she felt the same way.
There was really nothing else for it; he had to go full out, or not at all.
"Hermione, I'm in love with you."
The look on her face told him that she hadn't been expecting him to say that at all. She looked shocked…and maybe a little pleased? He dared to hope.
"I've been in love with you since you walked into our train compartment first year, asking about Trevor and telling us to put on our robes. I just didn't know that was what it was for the longest time. And lately, I think it's been clear that I knew I fancied you, but when I left, and I couldn't get back, I finally realized that fancying you was nothing to what I felt for you."
He saw her smile slightly, seeming to forget, at least momentarily, that she was supposed to be mad at him.
"I love you more than I thought I could love anything or anyone. When I couldn't get back to you, I just felt like I'd lost absolutely everything, and I couldn't believe how terrible it all was. I swore to myself that if I could ever find you again, I'd tell you how I felt. So, I'm telling you. I love you."
His face was open and honest; he did not smile and he did not frown. He looked like he'd stated any other fact in the world, like his loving her was as plain as the sky's being blue.
She stared at him, apparently struck dumb by the whole thing.
"Don't feel like you need to say anything, because you don't. I've thought for a long time that you probably would never feel the same way about me that I feel about you, that the whole thing was beyond impossible. But I had to tell you how I felt; I had to let you know, because you deserved to. If anyone loves a person half so much as I love you, I think that they should tell that person, just on the off chance that it might make them feel good."
He stood up to leave the table.
"You can go back to scowling at me and avoiding me now."
He pushed the chair back under the table, and this time, the sound didn't seem as loud.
His hands were still on the chair, and he looked down at her to see what she would say.
"I love you, too."