Warning; this is Fluff with a flimsy excuse of plot to get us to the situation I wanted to work with. That said I'm sorry if you expect some grand intrigue.
Now, onwards fluff!
Harry ran his hands through his hair and paced erratically, he couldn't help it even though he knew Hermione was getting irritated and her patented Granger Glare was being sent his way at shortening intervals.
Everything just felt so unreal at the moment; Ginny was avoiding him, as she had been the entire year they'd been making up their school work at Hogwarts. It was getting to him. He didn't know what to do…before the war everything had looked like it had its place—now everything was topsy-turvy and he and Ginny weren't destined to be and Ron and Hermione looked like friends and everything was just not real.
Finally, he threw his hands up in the air and spun to face her, going to his knees beside her spot on the couch to look into her incredulous face and plead as best he could.
She was his refuge. She would still be Hermione Granger with a penchant for helping her best friend Harry Potter no matter what was going on.
"Hermione, I can't do this- can you please talk to Ginny for me?" And as he looked up at her he watched her dark eyes soften and her body relax, her posture telling him she would because she cared for him and couldn't see him this distraught.
He had always been able to read her, and had often wondered why Ron had so much trouble with their friend. Hermione was always so ready to help them…they just had to ask.
He had always admired that about Hermione. She didn't have entirely selfish reasons or motivations for doing things- she cared for him and would therefore do things out of her way, things that might even make her uncomfortable; because she wanted to make sure he was happy.
He couldn't recall anyone else who did that. So Hermione Granger had a special place in his heart, a strange place he hadn't quite gotten used to having or understanding yet.
She sighed and gently marked her page with a book mark, her quill tapped to get rid of the excess ink before she tidied up the rest of her work and stood. She gave him one last exasperated fond look, and Harry stood and smiled shakily at her as she squared her shoulders and made her way to the girls' dorm.
Hermione would take care of it—she always did her best to make sure he was okay.
He experienced a moment of indecision, but then he cursed lightly (and Hermione wasn't around the scold him, though her voice in his head did a right fine job) as he bounded up the stairs to press his ear up against the door.
Harry was one of the fortunate boys who had figured out a way around the stairs default male trap, and he was loathe to share the fact that one only had to use the banister to inch up the incline rather than the stone steps- he didn't need any of the guys so close to Hermione and Ginny anyway.
He made sure his breathing was quiet as he pressed himself against the wooden door, glad that the rest of the school was at the feast and busy with social life while he was free to listen to the reason Ginny had been avoiding him.
He swallowed as their murmuring voices echoed along the wood, and he half-thanked his experience sneaking around the school for his ability at tuning his senses to focus on the select conversation he needed to hear.
Ginny's voice was bubbly with laughter as she and Hermione joked lightly, innocent comments being tossed about as he heard the shifting of cloth and the quiet murmuring of Hermione.
"Why do you bother? You're roommates will be up here in a few hours and mess up the whole place again."
"Hmm, Yes; they do have trouble recognizing my area of the room don't they?"
Ginny laughed. "Those twits can't recognize anything except male flesh. I'm surprised you have put up with them for so many years."
Hermione laughed as well, the sound ringing along the wood Harry had pressed his ear against and vibrating against his braced hands. "You would be surprised at how well I learned to block them out- even when they are being absolutely horrible."
There was a 'wumf' sound of someone falling onto bed sheets. "They're always like that, poor you."
Hermione made a soft sound in her throat, and Harry slid down the door to rest upon the floor and have better access to the sound coming from the crack under it. "You get used to it."
There was a silence, and Harry felt it oppressing him and shivering down his spine- he wished he could see their faces, see exactly what was meant behind that comment and the telling looks that would be exchanged.
"Ginny…" He heard Hermione start slowly.
"I was wondering…"
Ginny sighed. "Spit it out Granger, you're scaring me- no one is used to seeing you at a loss for words."
Hermione let out a breathy reluctant laugh. "Harry is hurt Ginny. And I don't like seeing him hurt."
Ginny let out a withering laugh. "No, you wouldn't."
"So…what's going on?"
"Hermione, I just don't know. I want to see where things with Harry would go; he's a right fanciable bloke."
Harry shifted at the term quite like one Hermione had used once before, and his brows furrowed at the confusion behind the redhead's voice. He stared at the wood grain he rested his ear against as he strained further to hear the shifting of the girls as they regarded each other and the stiff conversation that had started.
"Then what's holding you back? You keep on avoiding Harry and he doesn't understand."
Ginny sighed, he knew because Hermione had a different sigh and she never sounded like that. "Hermione, I know, okay? I'm confused myself."
"Ginny, you like him. And he likes you. I don't see why you're confused."
"Yeah but…don't you …love him?"
Harry blinked as the silence greeted him, not even bodies shifting or heavy breaths and sighs echoing out of the room.
"I want him to be happy; he wants to be happy with you."
"Hermione," Ginny's murmur was pathetic and contrite, and Harry tilted his head back as his head swam and his vision blurred behind narrowed eyes. "You love him."
"He…Ginny. He can't be that…he wouldn't want me. He doesn't want me, he thinks of me as a sister. He wants you, and I won't stand against him."
"But I see you…" Ginny's confused voice trailed off, and Harry's heart twisted painfully at the melancholy in her tone.
But then Hermione's shaky response came and he near doubled over with pain- "Gin." Merlin he never wanted to hear Hermione speak with that wounded voice again.
Harry pursed his lips to refrain from revealing his presence, and he listened as Ginny shifted in response to Hermione's warning painful note.
"You look at him and you just light up!" Ginny's soft voice held an edge of desperation, and Harry shook his head to shake away his confusion and listen—Hermione couldn't like him that way…she'd never...
"But he doesn't look at me that way Ginny, he looks at you. I don't want you to hold back on my account- especially when it's affecting Harry."
"Don't. Just sort things out with Harry okay?"
"I really don't want to hurt you."
"You'll make him happy, more than I ever could. That won't hurt me Ginny. Besides, I have nothing to lose but your friendship and Harry's happiness."
Harry heard Ginny sob and closed his eyes against the burning sensation. He swallowed as he opened them to gaze uncomprehendingly at his hands. Slowly lumbering to his feet, he quietly turned to shimmy down the banister and sit upon the couches in front of the common room fireplace.
The distant murmur of their feminine voices grew louder the closer they got, and Harry turned to watch them come down the stairs together- no evidence upon them of their previous strained conversation.
Hermione gave him a small proud smile and nodded her head, then proceeded to nudge Ginny and return to her work books. Harry watched her with a strange detachment, even that warm part of him that was usually happy to be around her subdued, and when Ginny approached him hesitantly he observed her and followed her when she gestured out the portrait hole.
He dazedly moved his feet through the halls, unable to care about the silence between Ginny and him- it had always been silence. He doesn't remember a time when Ginny and he had ever really talked, it was all about snogging and a few chaste gropes and hand holding and the casual conversations that seemed to hold no depth to really recall.
He swallowed as they came to a side room meant for the more messy lessons on transfiguration, and Harry sat on top a desk as Ginny leaned against one just opposite. She bit her bottom lip as she looked up at him through her lashes, and then she smiled in that absolutely Ginny way and he didn't react like he usually would—he didn't feel like stuttering or smiling or kissing her.
Ginny took a small step to him, straightening and pulling in a deep breath. "So…Harry." She pursed her lips and then giggled nervously.
Harry shook his head and then ran a hand through his hair, "Ginny…"
"Look Harry, I know I've been avoiding you…" she blushed sheepishly and smiled. Harry felt slightly sick as he watched her push aside the very serious conversation she'd had earlier- he felt like she was betraying Hermione. He felt like he was betraying Hermione. "But I really like you, I like how brave you are and how you always try to stick up for people."
Harry swallowed and watched her, his hands clutching the edge of the desk so hard that he felt his fingers grow cold.
Ginny laughed nervously. "Harry, I know I ignored you…but this is really too much. Say something."
Harry looked down at his feet briefly, gathering his thoughts before he looked up at her from behind his thick lenses, and he…didn't know what to say. "I don't know what to say."
Ginny flushed horridly and looked away, her face confused and unsure and Harry felt the monster in his chest wither and give one last pathetic tug.
"Harry," her voice came out thick, "I'm confused- I thought you wanted to get back together."
"And I thought you were waiting." He spoke without thinking, flinching at how accusative he sounded. He looked up to see her stunned face before rushing to amend his words. "That's not to say this is revenge or anything Ginny! Really, I am confused."
She tilted her head and regarded him kindly, her eyes soft- Harry really regretted never truly understanding her; he didn't know what she was thinking. "Harry," she sighed and then smiled demurely. "I always thought I loved you because you were the hero, the one who would save us all and do all these awesome things. The war changed that…and I…realized that I didn't really know you." She snorted and then smiled at him; just like she used to do when they were only friends (he eased his tense arms because he had liked it when they were friends). She scrunched up her nose, like Hermione, "I even thought that you needed to fight You-Know-Who to be who you were, when really you needed to stick up for the better side, stand up to what's wrong- that's Harry. I think I saw too much of Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived."
Harry shrugged one shoulder noncommittally; looking away from her to let out a breath- it was strange to hear her perspective echoing his own previous ruminations.
"And it was so easy to think we loved each other- because you never knew that kind of love."
Harry's head snapped to hers, meeting her steady gaze as she slowly nodded her head and implored him to understand.
He floundered- "but that's how I won."
She smiled, "Yeah, but that kind of love, the love you used to defeat him- that wasn't romantic love love."
Harry felt a smile waver upon his lips at her juvenile phrasing- remembering days in primary school where like like was wonderful…
Ginny sighed and twisted her torso; thinking and scrunching up her face as she jostled one foot. "Okay, we don't mind seeing each other- kissing and all that." Harry let out a disbelieving laugh and blushed- she grinned unrepentant and continued. "But Harry, you don't know me, and really I was making you be someone you're not." Then she sighed and her entire demeanour softened. "And I saw someone in love- she's beautiful and perfect you know? She always knows what he's thinking, when he needs a friendly touch or a kind word." She smiled shyly up at him. "You know what I mean?"
"Yeah," he breathed out, "I do."
And he did.
She meant Hermione…
He swallowed and nodded at her, his heart suddenly heavy with thoughts of the other her- the one that was always there when he needed a friendly face and knew exactly what he was thinking. He smiled shyly up to Ginny. "So…friends?"
A strange little corner of his mind pondered over the fact that this was the most they had actually talked ever since they knew each other…
She grinned and nodded, hugging him – as they used to when they were friends, comfortable and easy with each other – his grin becoming stronger as he realized how wonderful this would be.
And Hermione's hugs explained it all. When she comforted him with physical contact she grounded him to reality while making him feel like he could do anything. He just had never understood.
It was when they had set out to return to the common room - all happy and giggles like it had been before it was all awkward and kisses – that they encountered a fuming and very serious Ronald Weasley.
"Harry." He said darkly.
Ginny and he blinked, taken aback and confused. Ginny cleared her throat and nodded to them both, firming her stance. She would be staying for this.
Ron rubbed under his nose with his finger, his eyes falling away to look at the stone masonry of the school walls. He sighed and straightened, as if preparing for a great serious conversation. "You have to stop this."
Ron sighed and ran a hand through his hair- a very Harry habit that almost made him smile that his friend had copied it. His brown eyes darted to his sister; she stiffened and crossed her arms with a huff. Ron blew out an exasperated breath before he glowered at the two of them. "Do you really have to rub it in her face?"
Both startled. "What?!"
Ron shuffled and his face dropped; his eyes sad as he looked at the both of them. "Come on, you guys can't be that dense. Even I notice."
Harry and Ginny looked at each other in confusion.
The tall redhead growled, "Hermione loves you Harry—and you and Ginny don't really care that you're always hurting her. It has to stop."
Ginny sputtered like a dying engine—"How dare…I never…she said…!"
Ron just eyed them like a puppy they'd kicked, his anger silent and deadly. Like he was opposite you on the chess board and just waiting for you to make your move so he could massacre you.
Harry swallowed painfully. "Ron, we just ended things…whatever they were."
Ginny breathed in slowly. "We realized we should stop pretending…the war didn't really interrupt things. It just made us see them clearly."
Ron leaned back on his heels and regarded them. "True?"
Harry sighed and ran his hand through his hair while ducking his head. "Ron, it's true. We're both okay with being friends." His green eyes lifted up to Ron, questioning. "Does she really…"
Ron sighed, "We're really good friends. When I finally called her on it—I can't believe she was helping you two by the way, makes me feel like a berk—she took the time to explain that she knew you didn't want her." Ron swallowed and his eyes went glassy. "Harry, I know I'm your mate—but if you hurt her anymore I'll have to hurt you."
Ginny sniffled; "She was always telling me that we should get back together. I just thought it was one of those strong Hermione things, you know?"
Harry growled, frustrated and angry at himself while also being oddly hurt. "Are you sure she loves me? It seems like she keeps pushing me away."
Ron took a step forward and smacked him, hard. The lanky redhead growled and tensed. "You great prat." He whispered furiously, "Don't take it out on her. She thought you'd never want her, always going after the Ginny type. And you did nothing to stop her from thinking it."
"Weren't you in love with her?" Ginny questioned softly, wanting to turn their attention away from where the topic might get going.
Ron blushed and shuffled—"I thought so. But she explained some things to me…" He smiled lopsidedly while trying to glare, "It took a while but she got through. We've been settled for a long time, even before coming back to school."
Harry swallowed and looked down the hall. After the war, what would have been their seventh year, there was a call to go back to school and get their NEWTS. Everyone had realized they didn't truly get the education they needed to build the world up again. Their skills as fighters wouldn't be needed unless they were going into combatant areas of the ministry.
If Ron and Hermione had been settled even in the chaos of everyone going everywhere…she had been watching Ginny and Harry play confused and hurt lovers for too long.
He straightened and carefully pushed his glasses up his nose. "Well then, we can't possibly hurt her anymore."
"Yes, it's over." Ginny said softly. Then she smiled nostalgically. "I feel a little bit unreal."
Harry chuckled but couldn't outright laugh; there was something in him that was tugging from a sane corner of his mind. As if this had all been and unreality he had just woken up from. He scrunched up his nose at the thought.
Ron laughed throatily.
The trio set off back to the common room, smiles on their faces and a light weight off their shoulders.
Everything was falling into place—Harry thought his life might be easy for once.
He was wrong.
Hermione wasn't in the common room when they got back, and Ginny said she wasn't in the dormitories.
It wasn't that she avoided them per say, but that she was so busy and painfully Hermione, all the while not giving him a chance to talk to her, that he had to wonder how long she had been doing this. How long had Hermione been hiding behind her bossy voice and books?
How long had she been in love with him? And how long had he made her watch as he stumbled through what he thought was love, how long had she wanted to help him if only to make him have it—even without her?
The little game of not-quite-avoiding went on for a week and a half.
Ron kept on giving him furious looks, twitching his head to Hermione when she wasn't looking. Harry could only reply by widening his eyes and shrugging. He didn't know what to do.
And usually, when that happened, he'd go to Hermione for help.
Harry blinked, a stunned look overtaking his face before he smiled mischievously.
Ron watched him carefully, his face clearing before he smiled in response.
It was time to corner Hermione, the best way he knew how.
And she said he had a Saving-People-thing.
He caught her after class, carefully watching her settle into the armchair to the right of the fireplace. Crookshanks murred and wove himself around her feet. When she had gotten sufficiently relaxed he took in a deep breath and flopped across from her. Making a show out of avoiding her eyes—he really didn't know what he'd see there anyway.
Harry was honest enough with himself to know that he was scared this would all fall apart.
But the days spent realizing Hermione had avoided him hurt.
And now he knew why.
She was his reality—his love. And he hadn't been able to see it because he'd been all caught up in a fantasy Wizarding world where the hero had to get the princess and fight the good fight.
She cleared her throat and leaned over. Harry blinked as he caught the way her hair fell forward and covered her cheeks; she took a time to push it out of her face in irritation before looking straight at him.
Harry blushed and looked down at the coffee table, examining her perfectly straight papers and her quills and inks all set out neatly.
"Are you okay Harry? Is everything alright with Ginny?" She asked concerned.
Harry sat up straight in realization and then hit himself on the head. She didn't know.
"Harry!" She shrilled, "What on earth are you doing?" Her cool hands held his palm away from his forehead and Harry looked at her with wide eyes. He swallowed.
"Ginny and I ended things a while ago."
She blinked, and then her face cleared. Harry watched the epiphany overcome her features before she gathered her self and rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Oh Honestly, you two were tiptoeing around each other forever."
Harry grinned crookedly and chuckled. "Yeah, but that's the thing; we were so uncomfortable with each other."
Hermione huffed out a sigh and leaned back into the cushions. Then she smiled and shook her head in exasperation. "As long as you're happy."
Harry closed his mouth.
Her brown eyes looked up to him worriedly—"So what was all that earlier about then?"
Harry cleared his throat and smiled. "I realized that I needed something to be happy."
Hermione's very earnest expression made him blush.
If he'd realized she was the one to always try to help him, to go along with his plans even though she had to make the preparations and take care of them…
He would have done…he should have done this sooner.
"Harry, I'll do anything to make you happy."
"Okay, then will you go out with me?"
"Harry, surely you can't think that…it isn't…you were…" Harry leaned forward and covered her mouth with his hand.
"Hermione, I'm not uncomfortable when I'm around you. We actually talk…you seem to know exactly what I'm thinking." He smiled impishly as her big doe eyes blinked at him from over his hand, "Well, most of the time."
He could feel her lips pulling in a smile against his palm; he smiled wider and slowly backed away.
She sniffed primly before lifting an eyebrow at him. "Harry James Potter"—then her lips twitched and she was smiling and biting her lips.
"Hermione Jean Granger?" he volleyed. Lifting his eyebrows as a perfectly impish grin took over his lips.
Hermione softened and eyed him, looking at him as if trying to decide what exactly was going on.
He cleared his throat and leaned forward, trying to communicate how serious he was about this. "I want to go out with you—it would make me the happiest man in the world."
Hermione flushed prettily. Her eyes sparkled as a slow smile worked over her lips…she blinked as she searched his face. And then she let out a breath and looked down at her books.
When she looked back up at him she straightened. "Well, I can't have you unhappy now can I?"
Harry smiled, "No, I make a prat of myself when I brood."
Harry moved to sit beside her, touching her as much as he could as he settled to watch her do her work. They settled into each other without much fanfare, and Harry was amazed to realize Hermione was just as comfortable with him as he was with her.
They were each other's reality. Awe lit his features as his eyes sparkled…
"Hermione," he said softly. She looked up at him with the tip of her quill in her mouth. He smiled; "I want to make you happy too."
Her lips parted in surprise as her eyes went dewy. He watched her swallow and smile—"Well that's perfect then." She replied, "We can make each other happy."
Her eyes flickered to one side with a blush, and Harry grinned before leaning down to whisper in a mockingly secretive voice, "Want to know something else?"
Hermione laughed breathily and turned back to him—"Now what?"
Harry grinned goofily. "I think we were made to make each other happy."
Her lips parted as she drew in a sharp breath, and the smile she turned up at him was positively amazing to look at. Then she kissed his cheek softly, whispering against his heated skin. "Maybe we were."
Then she snuggled deeper under his arm and contently finished reading her book.
Harry grinned sloppily the entire time—comfortable and absolutely certain it would always be that way. Because she was his reality.
And he loved her.
I fixed it generally, so now it has a more concrete end. And to all of you who don't see the younger Weasleys acting like this I'm sorry (truthfully I don't see them as nice as this at all, but I had to defy my own preconceptions and write this).
So I hope more people like it now! Lol.