Coming to Realize
[AN]: Just a one shot. Could be a prelude to something. Everything following Ron coming back to the tent, I guess is considered A/U. Keep in mind that I glanced through DH. Harry and Hermione may be OOC (they probably are a little bit). Also, this is my first stab at Hermione admitting her love first. Purely experimental. I'm not sure if it's up to par, but what the hell :] You readers have been amazing thus far.
Hermione stormed through the surrounding woods, trying to get as far away from the tent, or most importantly the redheaded asshole inside the tent, as quickly as possible.
"The nerve of him! That prat!"
She pushed her way through the tree branches, not even caring that she didn't have the invisibility cloak or a disillusionment charm on. Let a death eater find her- at the moment she was angry enough to tear someone to shreds.
The crunching sound of footfalls were behind her. She knew that Ron wasn't stupid or mature enough to come after her, so she spun on her heel, expecting to see the face of the only other person who could understand where she was coming from. Finally, the person broke through the barrier of tree branches, and allowed the moonlight to illuminate him.
"Tell me he's going to leave," Hermione demanded, staring at Harry's calm face.
Harry shook his head as he came closer, "He's upset too-"
"Oh the poor baby! He must be terribly upset that he got to spend a few weeks in a warm bed, eating nice home-cooked food. I agree, Ron's really been suffering!"
Harry sighed and gave her a leveled gaze, "He saved my life today Hermione, and more importantly he destroyed a horcrux."
Hermione scoffed and folded her arms over her chest, "That isn't more important, Harry- and that's still no excuse! He can't just all the sudden show up again and expect for us to welcome him back with open arms!"
"I know, but now that he's back, maybe we should make the-"
Hermione didn't give him the chance to finish. Honestly, she didn't understand why he wasn't as angry as she was, "Harry, if he bailed on us once, he'll bail on us again! I know he hurt you when he left, and I don't want to see you get betrayed like that again."
A flash of pain came over Harry's face, and immediately Hermione regretted her harsh words. Her mission wasn't to make Harry feel worse. She just wanted to protect him, as he had been protecting her this whole time. Harry remained composed despite Hermione's lashings, "This is tough times for you guys. You're away from your family and stuff-"
"That's ridiculous, Harry! I would never dream, nor would I even want to leave you. It was too easy for Ron to just get fed up and leave. We don't have time for him to just practically interrupt us like this. I mean, you and I were doing fine alone. We don't need him, and we especially don't need him if he's going to act like a complete, and utter twat."
Harry's eyes had started to go wide as Hermione ranted on. When she finished, he couldn't help but let out a laugh at her exuberance. She had just called Ron a twat, a word he had never, ever heard her use before, "Hermione…"
"WHAT?!" Even though it was freezing cold out, Hermione's face was starting to go red. Harry couldn't let her continue on in this rage, so he did the only thing he knew would definitely comfort her.
"Come here," he muttered, taking a step forward and pulling her into him. Hermione went willingly into his arms and buried her head into his shoulder. Harry couldn't believe how outraged Hermione had been with Ron that night. Everything was neutral between the two when he first showed up and saved Harry from the pond. Hermione was thankful that they were both okay, but she did have an extra-cool attitude with Ron. That night after their 'dinner', Ron had tried to pull Hermione aside to talk. That was when Harry heard Hermione flip out on him. He literally had to grab her by the waist and pull her out of the tent to prevent Hermione from lunging on Ron.
Worse was the fact that Ron didn't seemed to grasp the severity of the situation. Harry had to agree, he was practically egging Hermione on. Ron didn't have to keep fueling her fire by shouting out his little pleas of how 'he didn't mean to leave them, he just needed to', and that 'at least he'd destroyed another horcrux'. That particular line was what really made Hermione fume. Harry and Hermione had both spent weeks trying to research any information or whereabouts on Voldemort's horcruxes or where they might possibly be. Then Ron suddenly shows back up again and boom- another horcrux down. Frustrated was putting it lightly.
Harry literally had to threaten Ron to keep him from following Hermione. He had enough insight on his friend's 'relationship' to know that Hermione wouldn't be too forgiving of him for a while now. Harry needed, and wanted, to be the one to calm her down and convince her to come back to the tent.
A few quiet moments passed where the two stood in their embrace, Harry rubbing Hermione's back soothingly. Finally, her soft voice broke the frozen night's silence.
"I'm way too protective of you, huh?" she asked, her voice muffled against his thick jacket. She sounded calm for the first time that evening.
Hermione could feel Harry grin since his cheek was laying on top of her head, "Yeah, but I don't mind. I kind of like it."
"You do?" she asked, looking up to him.
Harry nodded, "Yeah."
"Are you going to tease me about being the mother you never had?" Hermione asked jokingly with a raised eyebrow. It was always easy for her to relax and get back to her normal self when Harry was around, "Because if you are-"
Harry made a sour face, "No way. I definitely don't look at you like a mother…"
"Like a sister?" Hermione prodded.
Hermione gave him a wounded look, "Jeez, do I mean anything to you?"
"You mean the world to me. I just don't see you in that light." The way he said it made it seem like it was the most natural thing ever. Hermione didn't know if he meant to say it so sincerely or not, but she definitely didn't let it go.
She stood awkwardly in their embrace for quite a few moments, shifting back and forth, before she finally asked, "Well what light do you see me in?"
Harry shrugged, wishing he hadn't brought it up, "I don't know. It's just…" He was trying to think of some way to smooth over his slip, but with the look Hermione was giving him, he knew he wouldn't be able to. He sighed, "Well, you're really the only person I trust not to leave me. But not in the sense of how a mother leaves her son, or how a sister leaves her brother, you know? Honestly, I don't know what I would do without you."
Hermione's mouth slightly fell open at his revelation. Did he really rely on her like that? She had always hoped that she was as important to him as he was to her, but she never thought he'd actually admit it. With a somewhat desperate look, Hermione wrapped her arms tight around his waist, "Harry, I won't ever, ever leave you."
Harry nodded, not wanting her to worry, "I believe you. I just wish it wasn't true."
"What are on about?" Hermione asked with a frown.
Harry sighed, "Never mind. It's late, we should probably-"
"No, I want to know what you meant by that. Do you wish that I wouldn't have come with you or something?"
The hurt look on Hermione's face made Harry feel really uncomfortable. He had never wanted to make her feel unwanted or anything of that nature. But then again, he had been waiting to get this off his chest for a while now.
Hermione nodded, "Of course."
Harry took a deep breath and willed himself to stare only into Hermione's eyes, "I think you should have stayed behind." Hermione's mouth really did drop that time. Her arms fell from his waist as he continued, "Being here with me puts you in way too much danger. Literally we could die any day, and-"
"And I would willingly give my life to be here with you and help you defeat Voldemort," she reinforced instantly. How could he believe any different? Hadn't she proved her loyalty to him over the years? More than his other best friend, that was for sure.
Harry let out a deep breath. He didn't want to talk about the things that their conversation no doubt would lead to. He couldn't exactly explain himself to Hermione… there was just something about her that made him always so confused.
So instead, Harry decided to change the subject, "Where do you think you'd be right now, if you never came with me? Like, what would your ideal life be?"
"My ideal life always has and always will concern you," she answered obstinately.
Harry reached down and laced his fingers through hers. If she wasn't going to give up on her charade, then he'd have to find some other way to distract her, "I think you would've be Head Girl this year."
"Head Girl?" she repeated, a nostalgic look crossing her features.
Harry smiled down at her gently, "Something you've always wanted, right?"
Hermione shrugged, though a grin was spreading across her lips, "Yeah. But then I met you and Ron, and together you two started getting me into so much trouble."
Harry laughed, "You loved our adventures."
"Yeah," Hermione agreed. She couldn't deny that deep down, she did love her boys and all the time that they had spent together. She especially cherished the memories were Harry seemed so content and carefree. Now those were the days she wish she could return to. She's give anything to see that carefree smile back on Harry's face.
"Do you think you and Ron would be together?"
That question definitely caught her off guard. But it was something that Harry had quietly been pondering for the last few days. He'd be lying if he said he didn't want to know the details of his best friend's 'closeness'.
Hermione was quiet for a second, but eventually she responded. She wasn't too angry over the question, which Harry was thankful for.
"I think… I think we might've given our relationship a chance, but then realize that we're not right for each other."
Harry couldn't hide his shock, "Are you serious?"
Hermione nodded, "I've been thinking that for a while now, and when he left… it was like he betrayed both of us. I could never be with someone who could just walk out like that."
"But- but you were so jealous of Ron last year…" Harry objected, trying to pry for any more information without being weird about it.
Hermione rolled her eyes and quickly shook her head, "I was just pissed that he was flaunting his relationship with Lavender out for the world to see. I felt like he wanted to rub it in my face- that's why I was so mad."
Harry nodded to himself silently before drilling her again, "Is that why you went on a date with McLaggen?"
Hermione sighed in exasperation. He was sure she had gotten that question a lot, even though he had never personally asked it, "One, it wasn't really a date, and two, yes. It was only to piss Ron off."
"Well Ron wasn't the only one pissed off," Harry muttered. He only meant to say it under his breath, but Hermione was standing so close that she caught on to his words.
She gave him a quizzical look, forcing him to explain his reaction.
"All the sudden, the girl closest to you is dating some git that doesn't deserve her, and whom she's never even expressed feelings for… you'd be upset, too."
Even though Hermione looked dismayed, butterflies erupted in her stomach when Harry called her 'the girl closest to him'. The only thing she could think to do was apologize, "I'm sorry Harry, I-I didn't think you would care."
"Of course I would," Harry returned, with what he meant to be just a simple shrug.
To Hermione however, he seemed a little fractious. Unrightfully fractious. "Well I didn't realize I had to ask permission to go on dates," she shot back coolly.
"You don't, it's just…" Harry let out a breath, knowing that he had stuck his foot in his mouth. He wasn't trying to be disrespectful to her; just the opposite actually, "Look, not many blokes deserve to spend time with you. And you know, when stupid boys like McLaggen land a date with you, they think they're getting lucky…" Harry stopped stammering and scrubbed a hand over his face. He let out a frustrated sound before shaking his head, "Never mind. Forget I said anything."
Hermione wasn't ready to let it go though. What he had just said was probably the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her.
"How am I supposed to forget what you just said. Harry…" she trailed off, unsure of what to say. What he had just said was all very lovely, but it didn't really tell her anything.
Harry gave her a genuine look, "I do want you to be happy, I just want you to be with a bloke who I know will constantly make you happy. I can't trust any other guys to do that for me."
"Why do you want some other bloke to be the one to do it?" As soon as the words left her mouth, she knew it was a mistake. What the hell was she doing? Kidding herself into believing that Harry might have feelings for her? She scolded herself for reading too far into Harry's compliments. He belonged to another girl- one of her closest friends as a matter of fact! He couldn't feel anything of that sort for her. She was just Hermione after all…
Harry, however, wasn't as appalled as she thought he would be. He stared at her unblinkingly for a few seconds. Little did Hermione know that as he continued to stare silently at her, internally, he was asking himself the same question.
"Look Harry, you don't have to answer that. It just slipped-"
"Things like that don't just slip out for no reason, Hermione," Harry cut her off, not relinquishing his gaze on her.
Hermione sighed, "Okay they don't, but still, I don't expect-"
"Do you want to know the answer?" he suddenly asked.
Hermione stuttered nervously for a few seconds, "I-If you have one, then yes."
The words were easier to get out than Harry had imagined. He looked her straight in the eyes as he spoke, "You've always been special to me, Hermione. You know that. But last year… I don't know… I figured I kind of blew it."
Hermione frowned, "What do you mean?"
"I made you so angry- you even started to alienate yourself from us because of it… and for what? I made a huge mistake by not listening to you… by starting up with Ginny instead…" By now he was starting to ramble to himself. It was a familiar trait for Harry. This was always how he got when thinking about him and Hermione. Really thinking about her…
Hermione was confused, "Seriously Harry, what are you talking about?"
The young wizard simply shrugged, "You deserve someone better than me. Someone who you can have a future with, you know?"
Hermione scowled and shook her head, "No. I don't know. You're not making any sense. Don't I deserve a say in who I get to be with?"
Harry snorted to himself, "Yeah, I guess you do."
"You guess? Harry…" Again, Hermione was at a lost for words. She didn't want to read too far into what Harry was saying, but it was hard not to. She felt like he was spilling her heart to her. And even though that greatly satisfied her, to know that he regarded her so highly, she still wasn't satiated. There was something he was keeping from her, and she could tell.
"Harry how come you didn't try and get me to stay too? I mean you broke up with Ginny and everything so that she wouldn't be dragged into this. If you think being here with you is negating me a future, then why would you let me come?"
Harry grinned and gave her a cheeky look, "Well you wouldn't ever listen to that, would you? You'd follow me to the end of the earth- you've said so on countless occasions. And plus, no matter how much I didn't want to put you in danger- I felt like you'd be safest where I could see you everyday. I wanted you to be with me, you know?"
No, Hermione didn't know, and she felt like he was doing a rotten job of explaining, "Why don't you feel that same way with Ginny?"
"I don't know," Harry shrugged, "I just don't. Plus she's the Weasley's only daughter. They'd hate me if anything happened to her."
Hermione didn't like to make assumptions, especially when the topic was centered around boys. But the things Harry was saying… it was all hitting too close to home. Suddenly, an idea hit her, and she gave Harry and earnest look, "Harry?"
"If you had to pick a guy for me, who would it be?"
Harry narrowed his eyes at first, and was quiet. A few moments later he shook his head, "I don't know."
"I don't want to play this game, Hermione," he said, turning away from her.
"Because it's stupid-"
Hermione reached out for him and pulled him back, "But I don't think it is. I want you to choose. You're opinion matters the most to me."
Harry sighed, before glancing back at her with a wary expression. "Honestly, I don't know Hermione. Whoever you find that you're happiest with, I guess."
Hermione bit her lip, "But what if I'm happiest with you?"
Harry didn't frown or laugh or scowl, or give her any sign that would warrant a rejection in her book. He only sighed, and shook his head lightly, "Then… then we both have problems."
"The feeling you have to keep me close and protect me- is that purely platonic?"
"I want it to be, but I'm not so sure anymore," Harry admitted after a few seconds. He'd been able to lie about it to himself, but for some reason when Hermione asked him directly, he couldn't avoid the truth.
Hermione was now fidgeting with her hands. She gave him a shy look, "Technically, you and Ginny aren't together anymore, right?"
He nodded instantly, "Right."
"Have you thought of her?"
This time he shook his head, "Not really."
"Do you still have feelings for her?"
"I want to try something…"
Harry was going to ask what that might be, but he stopped short once he saw the look in Hermione's eyes. It was a look that he had never seen before. It was a look that made his heart lurch up into his throat, and his blood rush south.
He didn't say anything as she leaned in, afraid that he might distract her long enough for her to change her mind. Instead, his eyes flittered close, and he too started inching forward.
When their lips met, it was like fireworks exploding inside Harry and Hermione's stomachs. It felt… well, right. Their kiss was simple, sweet, and shy. Yet, to both of them, it was so overwhelming that it was almost too much to handle. For Harry, it didn't feel just like an old snog with Ginny. It was so much more meaningful. It was exotic. Why hadn't he done this before with Hermione?
Hermione's feelings were on a whole other level entirely. It was her first kiss. And it was with Harry. How many nights had she spent dreaming about this when she was younger, and before she got mixed up in the eccentricity concerning Ron? Merlin, it was everything she had ever thought that a first kiss would be. And the thing that made her the happiest, was the fact that Harry wasn't pushing her away and calling her ridiculous- he was kissing her back.
A few minutes seemed like hours to them, and before long they were both pulling apart for air.
"Wow," Hermione breathed, her breath making a foggy streak in the cold night air.
Harry looked just as astonished, "Yeah."
They stared at each other for a few seconds before Hermione whispered, "This changes everything…"
Hermione frowned, "Why?"
"Well, I mean, I… I don't know… You- I mean… were you just getting that out of your system?" Harry asked, almost afraid of her answer. Their kiss had been the single most amazing experience of his life, and he'd hate for it to turn out to be a sham. Alas, he had to accept that it probably was nothing.
"No," Hermione abruptly denied, "I was seeing if it felt right."
Harry gave her an intense look, "That didn't feel like a best friend kiss to me."
"That's because it wasn't."
Harry couldn't resist his grin, "So what does this mean? For us?"
"Harry, you say that no other guy deserves to be with me. But do I deserve to be with you?"
"The question is if I deserve you. Hermione, I don't even know if I'll be alive in a week's time. You understand that, right now, I can't promise you anything. I don't want to wind up disappointing you," he finished, giving her hand a timid squeeze.
Hermione took a deep breath and gave him the most passionate, heartfelt look she could muster, "I believe in you. I'd be happiest with you. I've never felt more assured in my life that this is where I belong. With you."
Harry kept quiet, her hand still gripped in his.
Hermione's nerves increased tenfold when he didn't respond, "D-Do you see yourself ever being with me? Like-"
"That's all I dream about," Harry finally said in a whisper, "For so long, it's just seemed like a fantasy…"
Hermione brightened, "It doesn't have to be though. Every day, I see you less and less like the boy who's just my best friend. I want more."
A somber look came across Harry's face, "What if it doesn't work out?"
Hermione let out a ragged breath, "Well then…"
"I'm not talking about the relationship. We both know we'd last together." Hermione had to stop for a second, and repeat his last sentence in her head. Honestly, she didn't know that, but the fact that he was positive of it sent shivers up her spine.
"I'm talking about me. What if I-"
"Would that even be a possibility if you knew you had me to come back to?" Hermione questioned him.
Harry stared at her, "It's a very realistic possibility."
"Harry, I'm going to help you in every way I can. We're in this together, no matter how much you want to keep denying it. Please don't give up on yourself…" Hermione finished desperately. To be quite honest, she didn't know what else to say to him. Ultimately, it was up to him to fight for his future. She could only do so much…
"Would you really want to be with me?" Harry asked quietly.
"Harry, I can't be with anyone but you. You said so yourself."
Harry grinned despite himself, "No one could understand your weird quirks like I do."
Hermione gave him a completely serious look, "I don't have any weird quirks."
Harry smiled at her and before he could recognize his movements, he was leaning forward. For the second time that night, their lips met in a sweet kiss. It was so intense to kiss her so gently, but he immediately wanted more. That type of temptation had never struck Harry so suddenly before, so he knew it was special. Even though he wanted to deepen the kiss, he also wanted to be a gentleman to Hermione.
Slowly, he pulled away from the sensuous kiss, but remained close enough so that their noses were still grazing. The last thing Hermione wanted to do was leave, but she could sense what Harry was about to say.
"We should probably start heading back…"
Hermione nodded, but that didn't stop her from planting a few more kisses on his eager lips. Kissing Harry, her best friend, was something so strange yet welcoming to her, that it was nearly driving her crazy. The only difference was that, for once, she didn't mind the insomnia. Being in Harry's arms was all she could really focus on.
Harry suddenly realized something as the two started heading out of the clearing and back in the direction of their tent, hand in hand. His realization was enough for him to get a dazed look on his face and give Hermione one of his infamous lopsided grins.
Looking deep into her chocolate eyes was only further reassurance. She was it for him. He would defeat Voldemort and give her the happiness they both deserved. He would marry her and vow to share a life with her. He was going to have kids with her, and together they would watch them grow. He loved her. Harry Potter was in love with Hermione Granger.
He wasn't going to let anyone deprive him of her any longer.
I feel like it's not my best work, but I'd love to hear your take. It kind of confused me on the second read through- but then again I've been sleeping for only 4 hours a night these past few weeks hahaha!
Please REVIEW everyone!