and you fall for him; it just takes time

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speculation

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When Hermione Jane Granger started her career at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she was alone.

When you are alone, it is easy to watch. When no one looks your lonely way, you are free to observe and learn.

So Hermione watched her fellow students. She watched because she hoped that, maybe, if her large brain could figure a way, she could decipher the code needed to join the smiling masses.

Hermione Jane Granger had always been plain.

She knew this; she knew a lot, even when she was merely a girl of eleven.

She was dull – composed of wild curls and beaver teeth. Nothing about her was special enough to draw attention, nothing was vibrant enough to attract friends.

He fascinated her.

He, to her, was a scintillating example of eye-attracting uniqueness.

While her hair was a mouse brown, his was a striking, bold, red red. It reminded her of fire, especially in the sun. Her eleven year-old mind wondered if magic would make her hair that color.

And his eyes. She wanted eyes like that. They might not have been as striking as those of his friend, Harry Potter, but they were so beautiful. Like the color of an overcast sky after the sun had fallen but still gave light. Hermione was just glad those eyes never sought her out; never looked upon her plainness.

But she watched him, because she was curious. From behind large, leather-bound books she wondered about him.

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comradery

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Hermione was not a fighter. She never had been, she never would be.

But, sometimes, she forgot.

It started with a jab, usually from Malfoy. Ron would turn, ears alight, and face scowling. Hermione also saw the hurt.

Next, there would be the reaction. Ron's angry voice would split the air, Harry's eyes would narrow and his hand find his wand. Hermione would gasp and grab both boy's arms.

Finally, there was the climax. It would happen one of two ways.

Usually, Hermione would stop Ron and Harry. In hushed tones, she'd remind them he wasn't worth it. They'd strain and growl, but she'd keep firm, and soon they'd be slouching away with muttered curses and promises of next time.

But, sometimes, it went another path.

Sometimes, when Hermione pulled his arm, Ron would turn to look at her.

Blue eyes found her, and for some reason held her punnily spellbound. The emotions swirling would shock her. Then, when she saw the pain and anger, they'd infuriate her. Hermione was many things, temperamental included.

When this happened, funny, strange, embarrassing things did as well. Like slapping Draco Malfoy.

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invidiously

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It started with the Triwizard.

With the anger that she was a last resort; with the vile happiness she had felt when Fleur rejected him. With the agony of watching him sit with Padma.

Hermione had been beautiful that night. Even she would admit it. Hours and hours of primping had paid off and she stood by Victor's side and smiled, because she knew.

Of course, Ron ruined it. He always did. He glared the whole night, and yelled as the darkness became morning. She yelled right back, furious and enraged but mostly sad – This wasn't supposed to happen.

Two years later, it happened again.

That time, there was no ball. That time, Hermione's green eyes didn't flash at some important display of international relations. No, it happened after a loud, obnoxious, stupid game of Quidditch.

By then, she thought she knew. Years had turned over and Hermione thought she had begun to understand the way her mind and emotions worked.

But, she was wrong. She couldn't handle it. She ran, because the wild creature still hidden in her genes knew this was a time for flight – not fight.

When he came, the switch flicked.

Hermione couldn't run. Couldn't even yell – not with her there. So she pulled out her wand.

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acceptance

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Their friendship started with her almost dying.

It was rekindled by him doing the same thing.

Because as much as Hermione wanted to be mad at him, as much as she wanted her heart to just stop, she knew it was impossible when she saw him on that white, sterile bed in the Hospital Wing. She knew then that she loved him. In every way.

So she swallowed her non-existent pride and sat in that uncomfortable chair, side by side with Harry, for hours. In those seconds that turned to minutes that turned to hours, she thought long and hard. She watched Ron's sleeping face, squeezed Harry's hand, and began to see.

Friendship is a miracle. Just as strong and beautiful as the passion between lovers. And she had that, didn't she? She had Ron's friendship, she was sure.

When he woke up she smiled at him. With tears in her eyes, she hugged him so tight he groaned.

"Merlin, Hermione, don't kill me now."

Hermione laughed, because it was funny. With all the strength she had and more, she let him go. She let him go.

…But not really.

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reciprocate

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The battle was over. The war was over. They were done.

Hermione sat in the Gryffindor common room and watched the flames lick the inside of the fireplace. Her eyes glazed over, her breathing slowed – tears ran down her cheeks.

It was over. It was over. Done. Done.

It was strange, because she was so happy, really, but she felt so empty. Like there was nothing left to anything. Maybe this really was the end. Something, she was sure, wasn't right.

Over the year, she had dreamed about what this moment would be like. Between the nightmares full of darkness, hate, death, and her own screaming voice, she had allowed herself the reprieve of imagining the Happy Ending. This was, really, that ending. But it didn't feel like it.

It just felt like the end.

A noise interrupted her reverie, and she felt the spike of fear rip through her before her eyes found Ron. Cursing the adrenaline that flooded through her body, she tried to smile at him. He frowned back. Hermione knew it was because she was still crying.

Wiping her eyes furiously, she looked back at the fire.

"Hi Ron."

Ron walked over, silent, and sat beside her. She turned to look at him. Blue eyes dolefully met her own.

"Harry's asleep," he whispered.

"Good," Hermione whispered back, almost smiling for real. "He needs it."

"So do you."

"So do you."

He smiled for real that time and nodded his head. "Yeah. But I'd rather sit down here. With you."

Eventually, both clambered up the stairs to the warm and welcome softness of their beds. But not before both had cried their emptiness out onto the other's shoulder. Not until after the beginning.

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exultant

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Today there is sun. Today there is laughter. Today there is happiness.

All around her there is light, and Hermione can't help but throw her head back and laugh. She leans back, supported by her arms around his neck and his hands on her waist, and laughs.

When she is finally done tears forced by bliss fill the edges of her eyes, blurring the edges of her world in a soft and peaceful way. He smiles at her and she smiles back.

Ron is beautiful today. Well, Ron is handsome today. The radiant, gorgeous sun shines bright upon him and his hair lights up like fire. Mostly, though, Ron is beautiful because he is so happy.

Hermione is happy too. Hermione is beautiful too. Surrounded by yards and yards and rich, shimmering, white fabric, she floats across the grass and looks more like a Veela than she would care to know. But she is beautiful.

The day is beautiful.

This last step is beautiful.

So Hermione Jane Granger Weasley smiles.