A.N.: Welcome to Chapter 1: This was originally a one-shot, but I've since turned it into more. Hope you enjoy my first published foray into the world of fan fiction!

Chapter 1: The Beginning

It had been two days since he left. Two excruciatingly long days. No matter how hard they tried to forget, they couldn't. The anger and the resentment was still palpable in the tent. Both occupants hated feeling this way. They had been through so much, and before this they had faced everything together, side-by-side. Now the third member of the illustrious trio had abandoned them in the middle of their most important mission.

Words never meant to be said were. Feelings and emotions that were never supposed to be let out exploded. The threesome was now a pair. Since the other left, no words had been spoken between the two that remained. It hurt too much they told themselves. Neither wanted to talk about it. That was what they assumed.

Harry was sitting at the front of the tent, staring lazily into the small fire that was burning in front of him. The warmth from it felt good on his face. It was nighttime, and the temperature was dropping steadily. It was his turn to keep guard while Hermione slept. At least she was trying. Harry thought she looked horrible since Ron left. It looked like she hadn't slept since. They both weren't eating well, and were deeply hurt that their best friend had given up on not only their mission, but also seemingly their friendship.

Harry pulled the Marauders Map out of his pocket, tapped it with his wand, and whispered, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." The ink on the old parchment spread out, laying out a map of Hogwarts. Little dots were milling about the school, but his eyes sought one in particular. He finally found it, and began watching Ginny's unmoving dot. 'She must be asleep,' he thought to himself.

The past year had been hard on Harry. Heck, his entire life had been hard. It seemed that he had finally found a girl that would truly make him happy in Ginny. Their relationship was but a dream to Harry, something that normal people had, not him. It was the most blissful month or so of his life. But after Dumbledore died, that dream was shattered into a million pieces. His life wasn't normal. His life wasn't blissful. His life was full of tragedy, of sorrow, and pain. Dumbledore's death was only the latest blow to his life.He cared deeply for Ginny, 'That's why I broke it off with her,' he kept telling himself. He wanted to keep her safe. He wished to have that feeling of a normal life back. But was it that he wished for, or was it Ginny? Was Ginny the reason for that feeling? He had nothing to compare the feeling too. Cho could hardly be considered a good comparison. Ginny kissed him passionately before he left the Burrow, which to him, meant that she wasn't ready to give up. That made Harry feel good, but it didn't answer any of his suspicions.

Harry was startled out of his thoughts by a sound coming from behind him. His heart sunk when he realized what it was. It was a sound he had heard a lot of in the past two days, yet he tried hard to ignore it. He didn't know why he did, because that would be what bad friends do. He hadn't tried to reach out. He didn't deal with situations like this very well, at least with Cho anyway.

It broke Harry's heart to hear Hermione crying again. He wanted to help, but didn't know how. Dealing with girls was bad enough, but crying girls? This was something that Harry dreaded. His first kiss had been a rather wet one with Cho crying. Their entire "relationship" was like that though. But an overriding thought permeated Harry's thoughts, 'Hermione's different, she's my best friend, I should do something,' he thought to himself over and over. That something however, he had no clue as to what. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder. His eyes found Hermione's bed. He saw the lump that was lying there, and watched as she was curled up, sobbing once more.

Harry continued to gaze upon her, and his thoughts continued to be of her. Hermione had always been there for him; this was just one more example on the long list. In a way, Ron was right. 'She did choose me over him.' She had stayed behind, to help him, Ron didn't. Hermione had always looked out for him, even when they disagreed. Those times brought them closer together, because it proved nothing could come between them. Harry thought back to all the disagreements he and Hermione had had over the course of their friendship.Their first true problem came from the Firebolt that had been sent to him in third year. She had persisted that the Firebolt could be cursed. She had argued that Sirius Black, who was apparently searching for Harry to kill him, could have sent it. It turned out she was both right and wrong. It was sent by Sirius, not to curse or kill him, but to make up for all the holidays he had missed by being imprisoned in Azkaban for all those years.

In their fifth year, Hermione constantly pushed Harry to practice his Occlumency. Had he listened to her, Harry thought that perhaps his godfather wouldn't have died that night. And just last year, they had bickered over the use the potions book that once belonged to the "Half-Blood Prince". But all their little spats always came down to one thing: Hermione cared for Harry's safety.

Harry couldn't help but think, 'What have I done for her? What have I done to deserve that kind of... affection from her?' He stopped to think about that word: affection. No one had ever showed him affection before her. No one had cared from him like that before her. Sure, Ron was his first friend, but it was Hermione that was always looking out for him. His well-being was always number one for her. 'How have I ever showed her that I cared for her?'

He focused once more on the trembling form on the small bed in the tent. And then it hit him like a bludger to the head. 'She needs me right now. I have to show her the same affection she's showed me over these years.' Harry put away his map, and got up from his sitting position. He quietly closed the front of the tent so that they could have privacy. He walked softly over to her bed, and a lump in his throat appeared when he saw her up close. She was curled up in a ball, facing away from the front of the tent, her arms wrapped around one of her pillows, squeezing it tightly against her chest. Streaks of dried tears from the past two days were on her cheek, her hair a mess of tangles, her eyes closed, pushing out more tears. He watched her body rise and fall as she inhaled and exhaled.

He saw a small patch of bed to sit on right behind her back. He moved over to her, putting a hand on her shoulder, and sat down uncomfortably on the edge of the bed. He felt her tense up when he touched her. She sniffled, and tried to compose herself now that he had sat next to her. His hip was pushing slightly against the small of her back, and he began to gently rub her shoulder, and slowly made its way down her left arm. Harry swallowed hard and forced himself to speak.

"Hermione, is there anything I can do for you?"

Several seconds passed. It seemed like she either didn't hear him, or was ignoring him, he couldn't tell which. He continued to rub her arm and her shoulder. After several more seconds of silence, he decided that maybe she didn't want to say anything. He turned himself so that both his hands could touch her. His left hand kept rubbing and massaging her arm and shoulder. He took his right hand and placed it on her back. His thumb began moving in a small circular motion, and he started to gently move it up and down her back. His left hand then moved up to her neck, and then began to massage the back of her neck and slowly moved up into her brown, bushy locks. He crept up further into her hair, moving his fingers slowly and kneading the back of her head.

Her hair felt soft as he ran his fingers through it. He smiled, pondering this new sensation. 'I could certainly get used to this,' he thought. He had never run his hands through a girl's hair before. Sure, he had touched Ginny's hair while kissing her, but he never had done this before. Running his hands through Hermione's hair felt wonderful, relaxing even.

He continued to give her the best massage he could, inexperienced as he was at it. Finally, after keeping this massage up for a while, he felt her relax. Feeling her relax caused him to smile again, hoping that his attempt at comforting her had helped. She pushed her head back into his hand, silently approving of his actions, even moving her head slightly to change the position of his hand on her scalp. Harry was more than happy to oblige, continuing to move his hand all over, scratching and kneading her scalp.He took his right hand off her back, intending to move up to join the other. As he did so however, she groaned, making it clear she was also enjoying that as well. He couldn't help but smile, and brought his hand down again to rub her back. 'It feels good to help out Hermione for once,' he thought to himself.

He continued for what seemed to be an eternity before his hands started to cramp on him. He tried pushing through the pain, and did so for a few minutes, but he needed to stop soon after. She sighed once more, sad to feel him stop, but Harry could tell that she felt better now than when he started.

In a barely audible whisper, Harry heard her say, "Mmmh, Harry... you stopped..." a small smile appearing on her face for the first time since Ron left.

He leaned over so his lips were near her ear. "Sorry, but my hands were cramping," he whispered back to her. She chuckled lightly as a small shiver ran down her back. She felt his warm breath on her neck as he whispered in her ear. "I don't know if you heard me before, but is there anything I can do for you?"

Hermione thought it over for a moment before coming to a conclusion. "Well, since your hands need a rest," she began, a little smirk on her face. She shifted her body, her face returning to its same sad look from before Harry had starting massaging her. In a sorrowful, pleading voice, she continued, "Could you just hold me?"

Without another word, Harry moved to lie beside her. She scooted over on the small, twin bed, to allow him some room. He flung his legs onto the bed, and slid his right arm under her neck. She lifted her head to allow him to get as close as possible to her before laying back down. He put his left arm over her abdomen as she let go of her pillow so he could fully wrap his arms around her. After moving their bodies to meld together, he pulled her tightly against his body.

He felt her pushing against him, as if she were trying to become one with him. Her arms were around his, holding herself in his embrace. He could feel her pain; feel the weight on her shoulders. He couldn't help but think that it was his fault. If he had been more forward with Dumbledore, asking more questions, getting answers, then maybe Ron wouldn't have walked out on them. He had failed as their leader. He didn't plan well enough. If it weren't for Hermione, there would be no plan, no supplies, no nothing. In fact, if it weren't for her, he would be dead many times over. 'Have I ever even thanked her properly?' And a big idea came to Harry at that moment. No one ever seemed to say nice things to Hermione. She was constantly verbally abused by Malfoy, bickering with Ron, and helping Harry. Nothing was ever about Hermione. Harry decided, right here and now, to change that.

"Hermione?" he whispered, his lips less than an inch from her ear. She made a quiet "Mmm?" sound, imploring him to continue.

"I want you to know, I'm always here for you, no matter what. I don't want you to feel you have to hide anything from me, and I don't want to hide anything from you. You're my best friend; you've always been by my side. You've always looked out for me. Everything you've ever done was because you cared about me. And you've done it without asking for anything in return. So, I wanted to, from the bottom of my heart, say thank you, for everything." He squeezed her tightly, trying to physically convey what he had just said. She in turn pulled Harry's arms as hard as she could into herself. After a few tender moments, they let themselves relax.

"Oh Harry, that's sweet, but you didn't need to say anything," she replied, smiling, and trying to hold back the tears. But these tears weren't of sadness or loss, but of happiness and joy, not that the teenage wizard holding her knew the difference.

"No, I do need to say something. I hardly ever hear someone compliment you outside of calling you smart. You should know that you are fantastically brilliant and intelligent. But there are other things you should know. You're cute and beautiful, and yes, there's a difference. Cute, because there are so many little things you do, like biting your lower lip when you're nervous or deep in thought. Beautiful, because even when you're not trying, you are. And when you dress up, Merlin knows you look amazing. The Yule Ball? Wow. Just wow."

"Harry! Stop it, you're going to make me cry again."

All of a sudden, the color drained from Harry's face. This was the last thing he wanted to hear from Hermione. He wanted to bring her comfort and make her feel better. He didn't want to make her cry again. He didn't know what exactly he had said wrong, but it must have been something.

"I'm sorry Hermione, I didn't want to upset you. I'm sorry." He began to pull his arms away from her and roll off the bed, but he couldn't. She didn't let him. She clung to him with all her might. She wasn't about to let go of this man, not right now.

"No, don't go! And don't apologize!" she said with a suddenness and determination in her voice. She turned her head, which caused her body to lean even more into his, so that she could look him in the eye. "I'm sorry that I implied you were upsetting me. You weren't. You were just being... so sweet..." she said softly as her cheeks began to flush. "No one has ever said something like that to me. I'm afraid if you compliment me anymore the waterworks will start again," she chuckled as she kissed him on the cheek, and laid her head back on the pillow.

"But you should hear it. I've known you how many years and I haven't said anything?" Hermione chuckled again and shrugged her shoulders, snuggling closer to him. Harry pondered his next thought, debating whether it was really true. He compared Ginny to Hermione.

Ginny was pretty, and it seemed all the boys wanted to date her. She had chosen to date three guys, Michael Corner, Dean Thomas, and himself. Harry thought that he by far was the least good looking of the three, but the fact that he was 'Harry Potter' made up that difference to Ginny. Hermione though, was never complimented on her looks. She had looked stunning at the Yule Ball, and at Bill and Fleur's wedding. 'But she is good looking, Harry thought. 'It's more of a subtle beauty.' He remembered talking to her after his disastrous date with Cho, when he told her that he didn't think she was ugly. He now was regretting saying that, because he should have told her that she was good looking, not just "not ugly".

Hermione always wanted to make sure Harry was taken care of, no matter what. She was always there to lend a helping hand. What about Ginny? Sure, she tried occasionally, but it was always Hermione that was able to make him feel better.After a few moments, he thought nothing could be truer than what he was about to say. "You know, I wouldn't choose any other girl over you Hermione," he said matter-of-factually.

Hermione blushed fiercely and her ears went pink at Harry's comment. "What do you mean by that Harry?" she asked incredulously.

"I meant exactly what I said. There is no other girl that I would choose over you, no matter what. It's a big part of why Cho and I didn't work. She was jealous of how close we are. And there is no way I'm going to let some girl come between us. We've done and shared things that no one else could possibly understand. There's a special bond between us, and anyone that tries to break it is sorely mistaken. You're special to me Hermione, more so than anyone else in this world." Harry gave her a quick squeeze, reaffirming what he had just admitted to her. She sniffled, fighting back more tears, but smiling widely.

"And when did you become a mature, suave young man who tries to woo all the ladies?" she asked trying to keep a straight face while she teased him. "Where did the Harry I know go? The one that could barely talk to girls? The one who would rather face a Hungarian Horntail than ask a girl to the Yule Ball? Is this the new Harry, Ginny's Harry?" she finished while giving in to a small fit of laughter.

Harry felt a stinging in his heart, and shifted uncomfortably at the mention of the G-word, which would undoubtedly lead to the R-word. He sighed, knowing that the conversation would eventually lead to this. He tried keeping an even toned voice, not wanting to show too much emotion.

"No, same old Harry. Like I said, I don't want to hide anything from you," he said as he tried to ignore the fact that she had brought up his latest ex-girlfriend. Much to his dismay however, it seemed this was a topic she wanted to explore.

"How are things with you and Ginny? I know you two broke up, but it certainly seems like you still have feelings for each other judging by that kiss before the wedding," she said, trying to keep a neutral tone.

"Well, I don't know. I do care about her, a lot actually. She's of course very pretty, and an excellent kisser. But," Harry sighed, feeling a huge weight in his heart. He did have feelings for Ginny, but how deep did they really run? He continued, "I don't know. It just seems like the time I was with her was like out of someone else's life."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"See, that's the part I don't know about. I don't have anything to really compare it to. I certainly don't count Cho as a true experience. And whenever Ginny and I talk, it's always about her, or the great things I've done, or unimportant things. Plus there was what she said to me before that kiss. She acted like I was going out to try and date some random girl while I was doing this mission. The kiss was something to 'remember her' by, like she was trying to put a ring on my finger already."

Harry sighed again, and let the words hang there.The two laid in silence for the next few minutes. Harry didn't know where else to take the conversation, so he just let it drop. If Hermione wanted to know anything else, he guessed that she would ask. He thought about Ginny and his earlier comment about Cho being jealous of him and Hermione. Suddenly it seemed to dawn on him why Ginny acted like she did. 'She's jealous! Jealous of Hermione and me! That's got to be it! She knew that the three of us would be going alone, and she knows how close I am to Hermione. There's no other rational explanation.'

He decided to see if Hermione thought the same. "Do you think Ginny's jealous of us?"

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, I suppose she could be if what you say is true. I know she's at least a little jealous of me for being so close to you. Whether she's jealous of us?" She thought about it for a moment before continuing. "I guess so. If she's jealous of me, that means she's jealous of our, for lack of a better term, relationship. She wants what I have with you. Not that I blame her. I think a lot of girls at Hogwarts, and beyond for that matter, are jealous of me."

She smiled widely again. Harry chuckled at her observation and thought of the position they were currently in, which made him laugh out loud. "What are you laughing at Mr. Potter?"

"Think about it Ms. Granger. How many girls would give up magic all together to swap places with you right now? Cuddling with the Boy-Who-Lived?" After a slight pause, Hermione burst out laughing herself, and snuggled up against Harry.

They both had to wipe away the tears of laughter that were coming from their eyes. They continued to randomly chuckle for the next few minutes. Finally, Harry swallowed hard, and decided to broach the "Ron" topic, though he thought he should ease into it. "Well, we've talked about my love life, how about yours?"

Hermione sighed and closed her eyes, knowing what Harry was referring to. Her body slightly stiffened as she began, "If you mean Ron and I, there is no love life to speak of, not anymore." Harry knew she was very upset at Ron leaving, but decided to try and tease her about it. 'Perhaps I can get her to lighten up and relax if I tease her a little about it.'

"Oh, so she admits there was something then?" he said, trying to let her know he was only teasing her about it. She seemed to understand, and apparently decided to go along with it.

"Yes, there was something, but after what he did, definitely not anymore. We were never official or anything, just mutual attraction I suppose. It's like you said earlier, nothing can come between you and I, not even Ron I guess. I'd always catch him glaring at us when we talked alone. Plus what he started to say about you behind your back, I just couldn't understand it. It could have been the Horcrux talking, but he'd still say things when he didn't have it on."

She sighed, remembering some of the awful things Ron said about his best friend, deeply disappointed in how he had acted. Seconds passed before she spoke again.

"I guess Ron was right, I did choose you over him. There was no way I was going to leave you to do this on your own, wannabe boyfriend or not," she said with bitterness in her voice. Hermione was on the verge of crying once more, but with a gentle squeeze from Harry, the feeling subsided.

"I guess the youngest Weasley's aren't too happy with us at the moment are they?" Harry said, trying to lighten the mood once more.

"I suppose not," she responded flatly. After hearing the tone of her response, Harry knew not to push it any farther.The two of them laid in silence for a long while after the "Ron" subject. Harry felt good holding Hermione close to him. He let random thoughts rush through his brain. He tried desperately to not think about Ron, Ginny, or the hunt for Horcruxes. He just wanted to relish this moment with Hermione.

He was particularly enjoying the smell of her hair. The light vanilla scent seemed to fit her personality: not too strong or overpowering, but wonderful to those who notice its there. Just like Hermione. She believes herself to be ordinary and plain, vanilla as they say. But to those who aren't looking for the shiny, the over-the-top, or the extreme, vanilla is perfect.

Harry knew what he wanted out of life; he wanted to be normal, have a family, and live the quiet life. He didn't want the fame or the attention. He wanted his eventual wife to love Harry, not the Boy-Who-Lived. He would raise his children to be levelheaded, to not let his own fame clout their judgment, to keep them humble, and wanted his wife to feel the same way.

His thoughts wandered again to Hermione. She truly was the one girl he cared most about in the world. He stopped to ponder for a moment what dating her would be like. He never took the time to think about it before, mostly because of his infatuation with Cho and his brief relationship with Ginny. He let his mind wander, and it came around to an image of kissing her. To his great surprise, it didn't look weird or forced, which would have been his assumption, but instead was tender and loving. He never felt that way when he imagined kissing Ginny.

He then thought about a wedding, much like Bill and Fleur's, but instead it's of his and Hermione's. He could easily imagine her walking down the aisle towards him, wearing a white, long, flowing wedding dress with a near-transparent veil covering her lovely face. He thought of what potential children with her would look like. 'Would they have her brown hair or my black? Would it be bushy or all over the place? Brown or green eyes? Bookworm or a Quidditch player? Perhaps both?'

He couldn't help but smile at the image of a young boy, with brown hair sticking up all over the place, bright green eyes, running from the library down to the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. He had never had these types of thoughts before, but they brought a feeling of joy to him. He let the warmth of his thoughts linger as he lay beside Hermione.

It had been a couple hours since he had come over and comforted her, yet the time passed by quickly. He was really enjoying this experience with her. He had never really cuddled with a girl before. Sure, he and Ginny had cuddled a couple times on the couch in the Gryffindor common room, but that always felt awkward. He never knew where to put his hands when they laid on the couch together. Here, with Hermione, none of that awkwardness came. He felt like it was completely natural to be holding her.

As the time passed by, Harry thought about how long it had been since he had actually sat and talked with Hermione. A question he had always wanted to ask her was now bugging him. She seemed to be the only person who he could ask, not just because of proximity, but how close their friendship was.

"Hermione, am I fancy-able? And I mean me, the moody, sulky, stubborn, insufferable git who puts off work until the last second and have you bail me out, me. Not the Quidditch Seeker, Boy-Who-Lived and young-man-everyone-loves guy who people think I am?"

Hermione seemed quite taken aback at Harry's question. She didn't think about it long, and was quick to answer him, "Of course Harry. Any girl who you choose to fancy should be happy you've chosen her," she said matter-of-factually. Harry's forwardness seemed to have rubbed off on her, and she decided to follow his lead. "What about me? Am I fancy-able?"

Harry seemed just as taken aback as Hermione was at the question. "Yes, you are. Any bloke you give five minutes of your time to should consider himself lucky." Harry chuckled, thinking how completely true his statement was, especially when it pertained to him. How lucky had he been to meet her, and that she was such a devoted friend. She had stood by his side more times than he could possible count. She had helped him with everything, from schoolwork to the Triwizard tournament to Cho.

He couldn't help but sigh a little, thinking of how wonderful a girl Hermione really was. Deciding to keep this little banter up, and just to see how she'd react, he prodded her some more. "So, do you fancy me Hermione?" he said with a smirk on his face.

Her jaw dropped slightly again at the forwardness of Harry's question. Her voice was caught in her throat, unsure of how to respond. Finally, she choked out, "What do you mean by 'fancy'?"

Harry tried to keep his laughter inside, and enjoyed her reaction to his question. "I mean, would you ever ask me to go with you to Hogsmeade?" Again, Hermione was stunned. After a few seconds though, she noticed the tinge in Harry's voice, and made the decision that the best defense was a good offense. She stiffened her resolve, deciding to enter this fray willingly, and started to tussle with him verbally.

"Well, Mr. Potter, I've asked you to go with me to Hogsmeade several times I do believe," she said rather smugly, thinking she had stung him just a little. Now, she was determined to go in for the kill. "But you're always dragging Ron along, so I think you're trying to avoid us going alone. I get the feeling you don't fancy me. So I've given up on you. You're just a hopeless case to me at this point." She smirked to herself, thinking that she had gotten the best of him. But, she was quite wrong. Harry smiled, thinking of the different reactions she could possibly have to his retort.

"So, what you're saying is, if I asked you, right now, to be my girlfriend, you'd say no? Am I understanding you correctly?" Harry wished he could see the look on her face. He imagined her looking like a fish out of water, gasping for breath, and he wasn't too far from the truth.

Hermione was sputtering, trying to form some sort of coherent thought. After a few seconds, she replied as confidently as her quivering voice could. "Sorry Harry, that ship has sailed," she said, shrugging her shoulders.

Harry, forgetting about their little game, had sadness in his eyes. He felt like he was kicked in the stomach. He was thankful she had her back to him so she didn't see it. "Oh," he said, pitifully and unable to hide the disappointment in his voice. He inwardly kicked himself for bringing this up. Somehow, his heart fluttered when he thought of Hermione saying 'yes' to his question. Her answer also had a duality to it he couldn't help but notice though. She was saying 'no' to him, but it seemed she was implying that at one time, she would have said 'yes', which only added to the disappointment. 'Oh my, she would have said yes to me? When? I can't believe it...'

Slowly, it seemed to dawn on Harry. He knew that no other girl could come close to being Hermione. No other girl could possibly understand him like her. He could never find another girl he would ever feel this way about. He wanted her to say 'yes' so badly right now. He wanted to drop this fa├žade, this game that they were playing. He couldn't believe that he had a chance with her, and because of his ignorance, had missed that opportunity.

Harry laid there for what seemed like an eternity. He didn't know how to bring it up. Every scenario played out horribly in his head. How does one ask out their best friend, especially when she just said no? Did she say 'no' in the context of the banter they were having? Was she trying to hide her feelings? Harry had never been able to read girls very well.'Perhaps,' he thought, 'now is the time for the direct approach again.' He nudged her lightly as it seemed she was dozing off. "Hermione?"

She replied with a sleepy, "Eh?" or at least that's what it sounded like.

He leaned over so that his mouth was right next to her ear, and whispered, "Will you be my girlfriend?"

It took several moments for the words to register in her brain. She shook her head in seeming disbelief, and asked, "What did you say?"

Harry breathed deeply this time, steadying his nerves. For some reason, the last time he said it he wasn't nervous. But now, having to say it again made him so and made it much more real. "I said... Will you be my girlfriend?"

The words seemed to echo throughout the tent, and rung loudly in Harry's ears. He gazed at her, trying to judge her reaction. She simply laid there, snuggled up to him once more, and in a calm, nonchalant voice said, "Oh Harry, I thought we were finished with that little game."

He looked at her, quite confused. Of all the reactions that he thought she would have, this reaction was not one of them. He wracked his brain for a reason why she was so composed about it. 'Well, this isn't what I expected,' he thought. He decided to make it completely obvious as to the meaning of his words.He scooted away from her a little bit, just enough so that when he pulled her towards him she was at an angle. She groaned at her source of warmth moving away from her, and turned to look at Harry. He took his left hand and gently cupped the right side of her face, making sure he could look directly into her eyes. With all his Gryffindor courage, he did it again.

"No Hermione, no games. I mean it. Would you be my girlfriend? You're everything a bloke could want, and you know me so well. I would be honored to be with you, to be your boyfriend," he said with a trembling voice. She blinked rapidly at him, her mind trying to process what he had said. Her jaw slacked, and her mouth fell slightly open. Her voice seemed to have disappeared. She was, at this moment, the very definition of the term shell-shocked.

Harry's heart started to race, afraid that he had crossed some line in their friendship. He could see something in her eyes though, what it was, he wasn't quite sure. It wasn't hate, or dislike, or annoyance. They started out looking wide in confusion, but then they focused, slowly turning into something else, something he had seen before. He had seen that look only once or twice before, and it was always for just a fleeting moment. He never saw it when she looked at Ron, only when she looked at him. It wasn't something he could put into words. Her eyes just seemed to sparkle, but this was the first time he had ever seen it up close. He felt like he could stare into them for all eternity. For some reason, this look in her eyes made him grin from ear to ear. The nervousness he felt washed away. She had yet to speak, but he felt completely at ease.

She turned her body over so that she could feel more comfortable looking at him. Her left arm was tucked underneath her, but her right hand came up to his face and caressed his cheek. She had a broad smile on her face, and she was glowing for the first time in ages. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She chuckled to herself, appearing to laugh at her own nervousness. She swallowed hard and steadied herself.

"Harry... are you serious?" His heart was beating quickly, and all he could do was nod feverishly. Her eyes began to fill with pure joy, and she responded, "Then yes, I'd love to be your girlfriend," smiling widely.

Harry couldn't help himself from nearly splitting his face into two parts with his smile. He leaned over her and brushed his lips lightly against hers, silently asking permission to kiss her. She chuckled, and leaned her head up so that her lips met his. It was a soft, tender, and loving kiss. It was everything that Harry thought a kiss should be. It wasn't hard and fast, nor wet and sloppy. This was all together a different feeling. This wasn't some dream or some altered state. This was bliss. This was ecstasy.

This was... Vanilla.