Hermione moved her head slightly against the warm grass. A daffodil tickled her cheek and she grinned, brushing it away with the back of her hand. Harry tilted his head to the left towards her, his eyebrows raised slightly, a small smile on his face.
"Almost feels like old times, doesn't it," Harry said softly and Hermione turned to face him, smiling.
"Yes," she said as a gentle breeze twisted through her hair, stray pieces swirling together above her head, a few hitting Harry across the face.
"Your hair sure has gotten long," Harry said lightly as he brushed the stray strands out of his eyes.
"I thought of cutting it but..." Hermione stopped short and turned to gaze back up at the lazily drifting white fluffy clouds in the pure blue sky above.
"But what?" Harry asked, studying her.
Hermione shrugged against the grass.
"I guess I don't mind how big it is at the moment..."
Harry chuckled as Hermione's cheeks flushed.
"I thought you hated it when it got too long and bushy." He smirked at her as she turned to narrow her eyes at him.
"I did," she stated simply.
"Wonder what changed your mind..."
"Harry Potter!" Hermione shouted. "What have you been..." but she stopped short again.
"I'm not snooping, but it's sort of obvious, isn't it," he said, his smirk still very firmly in place.
"What is?" Hermione demanded, turning fully onto her side now to face him.
"'I don't know why she hates her hair so much,'" Harry began, in a near perfect imitation of Ron. "'She's always going on about it, but... don't you think it's kind of cool when it gets long and huge like that?'"
Hermione scoffed at him disbelievingly.
"He didn't say that."
"How much would you like to wager, Ms. Granger?" Harry said as Hermione turned onto her back again to continue her cloud gazing.
Even from his limited view of Hermione's face, he could still see her rolling her eyes, her cheeks as pink as ever. Satisfied with the result, Harry returned to watching the clouds beside her, still grinning.
"Harry," Hermione began after a long sleepy pause.
"Why am I in love with Ron?"
Harry was so taken aback by Hermione's direct comment that all his motor functions froze, and he was unable to answer for nearly a full minute.
"What?" was all that he could muster even then.
Hermione sighed and closed her eyes, and Harry had the feeling that she would not continue the conversation unless he spoke again, so he gathered his thoughts and opened his mouth, unsure of what would come out.
"Are you really asking? I mean, do you want a real answer? Because I don't know if it works like that. You just... are. You always have been."
"Have I?" Hermione asked, turning to raise an eyebrow at Harry.
"Well, yeah," he said with a brief nod against the grass. "Sure have."
"I know," she said in a near whisper. "But it just doesn't make sense, does it."
"Of course it does. You just... work."
Hermione stared at Harry, confused.
"I don't know how to explain it," Harry continued, "but I feel like I've always known you'd end up together someday."
"You have?" Hermione asked, incredulously. "I only realized a few years back how... well, how strongly I felt."
"I guess it's easier to see when you aren't involved, when you're just watching from the outside, you know?"
Hermione nodded and bit her lip.
"But, logically..." Hermione said, turning back to the sky yet again, "he's a lot of things that I'm not."
"Like what, for example?" Harry asked sarcastically with another smirk.
Hermione grinned at him.
"Shut it, Harry," she said playfully. But after a short pause, she continued seriously... "There are probably too many things to list, but... well, he never cared about school..."
Harry chuckled again, watching Hermione think.
"...he's messy and says what's on his mind even when it's not appropriate," Hermione continued, looking a bit annoyed from just creating her list. "He swears all the time, seems to kind of like picking fights with me..." But then her eyes softened. "It's useless, though." She sighed again.
"What is?" Harry asked, amused.
"Trying to come up with reasons why it doesn't make sense for me to..."
"...lose all reason over him?" Harry finished for her, grinning wide as Hermione stared back at him.
"Exactly. It's completely illogical... but I just..." Hermione paused, biting her lip. She lowered her voice as if someone might overhear her admission, like she was about to reveal one of her dirtiest secrets to her best friend... "All those things I just listed, they're part of why I love him so much." She looked appalled at her own words, but Harry just laughed.
Hermione glared at him, a slight disbelieving raise of her eyebrows as he continued to laugh even harder.
"What?" he asked after a moment. "You thought I didn't know that?" Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I used to think that people chose who they spent the rest of their lives with, like picking the best student out of a class, or selecting attributes that you admire and putting them all together into a potion..."
"Sounds like you," Harry said with a half-smile.
"But it's not that way at all, is it..."
Hermione flipped onto her back again, her shoulder brushing against Harry's nose for a moment before he turned onto his own back again, angling his body slightly so their heads were together.
"It's just... knowing that I'd die without him, needing to know he's okay when we aren't together... those were the first ways I knew."
Harry silently waited for her to continue, thinking about what she had said.
"And sometimes I was even jealous of you, Harry," Hermione admitted after a pause.
"Me? Why?" Harry asked, furrowing his eyebrows at the sky above him.
"You and Ron hardly ever fought. And sometimes you'd hide things from me."
"When did we do that?" Harry asked, thinking hard.
"Just little things, boy things I guess."
"Boy things?" Harry repeated through a laugh.
"Come on, Harry, you know what I mean," Hermione said, shoving his arm.
"I guess I do," Harry said finally, still smiling. "You know," he added, "I saw things you didn't know I saw. At least I don't think you knew."
"What do you mean?"
"You'd scold Ron for something rude or a joke he'd make, but when his back was turned... I saw you."
"Saw me what?" Hermione demanded, lifting her head off the ground just enough to turn and stare down at Harry, their faces very close.
"Laughing. Trying to conceal it." Harry grinned.
"Oh, whatever," Hermione said with a huff as she lowered her head back to its former place in the grass. "So what?"
Harry paused for a long moment, but his grin slipped off his face to be replaced by nervous apprehension.
"Okay, Hermione, don't take this the wrong way..."
Hermione lifted her head off the grass yet again to stare down at Harry.
"Lovely way to start off a sentence," she said sarcastically, waiting impatiently for Harry to continue.
"Well, I don't think it would have taken Ron quite so long to..." Harry paused, searching for his next words... "to come around... you know, stop being so worried about you finding out that he fancied you... if maybe... you would have let him see you laughing every once in a while."
Hermione stared down at Harry, unsure of where to start...
"First of all," she began in a slightly reserved tone. "Do you really think Ron fancied me-"
Harry narrowed his eyes at Hermione warningly.
"Okay," she conceded, "knew that he fancied me..." Hermione's cheeks reddened and Harry's eyes softened as he nodded once, allowing Hermione's new wording, "that long ago? We're talking about over a year... no, more like two, but you can't honestly count sixth year either because of Lavender..." It was obvious that Hermione had to try very hard not to snarl as Lavender's name passed through her lips.
"Hermione, of course he fancied you back then," Harry said. "He just had no idea what to do about it."
"Harry," Hermione said skeptically.
"No, really. I know he did."
"How?" Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow at Harry. But she seemed to suddenly think of something and her eyes widened considerably. "Did he talk to you about it?!"
"No," Harry said quickly. "But I just knew."
Hermione's eyes returned to normal size.
"Like I said," Harry continued, "I've just always been able to see something between you. And Ron's my best mate. I know him better than I know anyone. The way he acted around you after you asked him to Slughorn's Christmas party..."
Hermione blushed again.
"You know I tried really hard not to hear that conversation, right?" Harry asked, grinning again. "I slammed things and knocked things around, trying to make enough noise to cover you two up."
"In the greenhouses?" Hermione asked, grinning now too.
"Why didn't he just go with me?" Hermione asked with a groan.
Harry looked guiltily over at Hermione as she flopped her head back onto the grass.
"Because... at least I'm pretty sure it's because... Hermione, don't be angry with Ginny, but-"
Hermione waved him off, her eyes focused on the sky above.
"Ginny already told me what happened. That doesn't make Ron less of an idiot. Viktor kissed me in fourth year!"
"Yeah, I know..." Harry said apologetically. "I think he was under the impression that he couldn't compare to Viktor and that if you'd already been with someone like that, you'd never want someone like him."
Harry laughed and soon Hermione had joined in. She smiled contently when their laughter died down, but after a moment, her expression became more serious, though Harry couldn't see it.
"Maybe you're right, Harry," Hermione concluded. "Maybe I shouldn't have been so hard on him. It got to be a bit of a habit, didn't it. That's just who I was."
"Who you are," Harry corrected, "and don't ever change." Harry nudged her playfully in the side. "Well, at least not much."
"Thanks, Harry," Hermione said sarcastically. "But really, I'm going to have a talk with him."
She felt Harry chuckle beside her.
"No, I really am!"
"I believe you," Harry said, turning to smile at her. Hermione turned to face Harry too.
"When's he going to get his arse out of bed anyway?" Hermione asked, and Harry burst into another laughing fit. When their giggles subsided, they remained quiet for a while, lying together in the warm summer grass, their thoughts on their futures.
The grass crunched suddenly behind them, Hermione tilted her head all the way back to see who was coming. Her eyes fell on an upside down Ron. His hair glowed in the afternoon sunlight and Hermione smiled, then pushed herself up. Ron moved to her side and stared down at her and Harry, but before he could speak, Hermione jumped up, grabbing his hand to help herself to her feet...
"I love you, Ron. Did you know that?" Hermione said instantly.
He stammered incoherently for a moment, his eyes wide as he stared down at her.
Harry sat up behind them, shocked at Hermione's directness yet again, and watched them, curiously.
"No," Ron finally said in a very small voice, "I... reckon I didn't..."
"Well..." Hermione said, her eyes darting away from his for the first time since his arrival, "now you do."
Ron attempted to nod, but his head barely moved. Hermione's warm hand was still in his own.
"Hermione," Ron said hoarsely. "You know what you're saying, right?"
Her head snapped up again and she narrowed her eyes at him.
"Of course I do-"
"Because... well, I'm a prat. You know that, right?"
Harry laughed out loud and shook his head in amusement.
"I'm just totally wrong for you. I don't deserve you," Ron added.
"Stop it!" Hermione ordered, pulling her hand out of Ron's to put both hands on her hips. "Just say it back if you mean it or tell me you don't feel the same way and get it over with."
"But..." Ron started. He ran a hand through his hair nervously and chanced a glance back down at Hermione. "I just want to make sure you know... that you don't think I'm someone else..."
"Ron! I've known you for half of our lives! I like to think I know you better than almost anyone else. Don't try to tell me that I've got the wrong idea! I know exactly who you are and... and that's who I love. If you don't believe me, fine! We can just keep up this damn idiotic game we've been playing for the past several years-"
"Hermione!" Ron shouted suddenly, interrupting her. "Say it again."
"Say what again?" Hermione asked, derailed from her shouting and somewhat confused.
"You know," Ron said, his ears turning very red as his eyes darted to Harry where he was still watching them from the ground, then back to Hermione again. "The first thing you said when I came over here. Say it again."
"That I love you?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"Yeah, but say it like this... say that you do despite of the fact that I'm not smart or particularly brave or tactful or especially thoughtful or nice..."
But Hermione shook her head, staring incredulously up at Ron.
"I love you, Ron, because of all those things," Hermione said.
Ron gawked at her.
"You love the fact that I'm a git? That's bloody mental..."
"No, Ron!" Hermione laughed. "I love that you're scared of spiders and that you sometimes make inappropriate jokes and that you swear... a lot..."
Ron scratched the back of his neck, still looking awestruck.
"That's still bloody mental..." he said quietly, but his lips were curling up into a smile.
"Yeah, I know," Hermione admitted, looking sheepishly down at her feet again. Ron stared down at her, overwhelmed by everything she had said. After a few seconds, he opened his mouth...
"Okay," he said in a very small voice. "I guess that's good enough. I believe you."
Hermione nodded but didn't look back up at him.
"Oy!" Harry shouted, causing Ron to jump. "What are you still waiting for?"
Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry, confused. But it suddenly hit him and he looked back down at Hermione. He took a deep breath, preparing for what he had to say now... And when he finally opened his mouth...
"I fucking love you, Hermione."
"Ron!" Hermione shouted as her head whipped back up. She looked shocked by his choice of words, but unable to contain her happiness at hearing him say it back.
"You told me you love it when I swear too much," Ron said, shrugging.
Hermione and Harry both laughed out loud. Ron joined in too, looking a bit more hesitant than the other two. But as he watched Hermione laughing, he took a step closer, closer...
And before she had a chance to realize what was about to happen, he had lifted her off the ground and was kissing her.
"Warn me next time!" came Harry's disgusted yelp from the ground behind them, but neither one of them spared a thought for him as they nearly toppled to the grass.
When they finally separated, Ron set Hermione back on her own feet and looked sheepishly down at her. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair was a mess. She was breathing quickly through her swollen mouth and Ron found himself mesmerized by her soft, moist lips, the same lips he had just been kissing furiously.
"Waited a long time for that," Ron admitted in a scratchy voice.
"What are you on about?" Hermione asked, barely audibly. "Did yesterday not count?"
Ron smirked at her.
"Oh, it most certainly did," he said. "But what I've been waiting years for is to work up the courage to do it myself. And that just now happened, didn't it."
Hermione nodded, words failing her. And then Ron was pulling her down to the ground. They fell backwards, knocking into Harry. The three of them adjusted their bodies in the grass so Ron and Harry were sandwiching Hermione between them. She flipped onto her stomach and snuggled against Ron's side, her forehead resting in the crook of his neck. He squeezed her tightly with his arms, and when he felt her lips press against his skin just behind his ear, his eyes fluttered shut blissfully.
"All sorted out?" Harry inquired with a smirk in their direction which only Ron could see over the top of Hermione's head.
"I think that covers most of it, yeah," Ron replied through a grin. Harry nodded and scooted closer against Hermione, Ron's arm pressing against his side.
"Let's stay here till sunset," Harry suggested.
"Good call, mate," Ron said. "Was thinking the same thing."
"What happens tomorrow?" Hermione asked as she turned slightly away from Ron to look up at the sky with them.
"We get on with our lives," Ron said. Harry nodded. "We get a flat together. One room for me and you, one for Harry..."
Hermione blushed, but tossed a glare in Ron's direction anyway.
"What makes you think I'm going to share with you?"
Ron looked a bit embarrassed for a moment before Hermione continued...
"It would be cozy, that's true... until your socks completely covered the bedroom floor."
"I'll make a deal with you," Ron said, his playful tone back and most of the red slowly fading from his cheeks and ears. "I'll pick up my socks if you keep your bedroom book collection down to... well, let's be reasonable here... a hundred."
Harry widened his eyes at Ron.
"That many?" he asked.
"But Ron," Hermione moaned, staring innocently into his eyes. "I have at least three hundred that I just can't part with."
Harry and Ron grinned at each other.
"Library," they said together.
"Yep," Ron said, nodding. "A spare bedroom... for a library. Who knew someday I'd actually live in a place with its own library?!"
"Really?" Hermione asked, her expression a bit awestruck.
Harry and Ron both laughed again.
"Yeah, really," Harry said.
"I love you," said Hermione.
"You too," said Ron and Harry together.
"Hey!" Ron shouted, glaring at Harry. "You know she was saying it to me, right?"
"Nah, she was clearly saying it to me."
Ron punched Harry in the side.
"Calm down!" Hermione demanded through a giggle. "I was saying it to both of you."
They both stared at her.
"Harry," she said quickly, "I love you." She kissed him on the cheek and felt Ron's whole body tense up beside her.
But she immediately lifted her head off the grass and leaned over Ron, her face hovering mere inches from his.
"And Ron..." she said in a completely different, much lower voice. "I love you..." She lowered her parted lips to his and kissed him deeply, much to Harry's disgust.
"Yeah, guess it's time for me to get used to that..." he said, looking away from them as Hermione pressed her body into Ron's and his hand tangled in her hair.
When they finally parted, Harry chanced a glance back over at them.
"Ron," he said, slowly leaning over Hermione, trying to get a better lock on Ron's eyes. "I love you..." and he began to lean down. Ron laughed at first, but when Harry showed no signs of stopping, squeezing Hermione between his body and Ron's as he pressed even closer...
"Bloody hell!" Ron tried to wiggle out from under his two best friends to avoid Harry, but just before Harry reached Ron's face, Harry burst into laughter again, toppling completely on top of Ron and Hermione, creating a very lopsided pile of bodies.
"I was this close, mate," Harry admitted as he regained his composure.
"You twat, Harry!" Ron shouted, though he was laughing now too. "Just imagine if you'd done it!"
"That's what I did, I imagined it, which is why we're here now, without having experienced it."
Hermione giggled again and sighed contentedly.
"Hermione," Ron said, bringing a hand up to her cheek, "I think I need another kiss so I can try to forget about what just happened..."
Hermione smiled and Harry rolled his eyes.
"No problem," Hermione said softly, and she kissed Ron as deeply as before.
"When you're done," Harry interrupted with a grin after a moment, "you might want to look at the sky. It's turning pink."
Hermione and Ron separated and turned their heads to look up.
"Tomorrow," Ron said after a moment.
"Everything starts tomorrow," Hermione said.
"Promise we'll always be like this," Harry said. "Promise we'll always have this."
"Always," Hermione said, taking Harry's hand.
"Definitely," Ron added.
And none of them moved or spoke again until the sun had fallen below the horizon, stars slowly twinkling into view, all three of them feeling more content and careless than they had in years.