A/N: Well, it's been a few years. The Harry Potter bug has bitten me once again. Last time we saw Harry and Hermione, he had just kissed her in a little coffee shop in Godric's Hollow.
"Hey," Hermione said, and tugged on his sleeve, making him look down at her. She looked up at him. Said again, more quietly, "What are you doing?"
Harry rubbed his face with one hand. It was then that she noticed the bags under his eyes. "Hermione, I'm sorry. I'm way over the line here. I'm just...so upset with Ginny these days, and you've always been...damn it, you've always been there for me in a way that, literally, no one else has. I...I don't know what to say." He closed his eyes and breathed heavily. "I'm just...confused, right now."
She laid a hand on his arm and watched him with worried eyes. She wanted so badly to touch his cheek, gently guide his gaze to hers, tell him with her smile that everything would be alright - like he'd done so many times. Her heart ached. He just kissed me.
"Harry," she said.
There was a momentary pause.
Harry turned to her, opened his mouth, closed it again, and looked away. He covered his face with one hand. Hermione caved - she gathered him to her and hugged him, and he rested his cheek on her hair. She breathed him in. He smelled of coffee and wood smoke. She loved him. Always had. When she thought about the night before her wedding, the day of Rosie's birth, times when he had been the only one she wanted to see - sometimes it was a different kind of love than that which she should have had for her brother-in-law, or even for her best friend. Even for the person she'd known longer than anyone else in her life. Sometimes it was more. She had tried, several times, to let it go. She'd locked those feelings away and thrown away the key, years ago - but they hadn't gone away, had they?
He just kissed me.
She murmured into his chest, "It's okay. You must be hurting, so much. It's hard when you're fighting with...with someone you care about."
"We fight all the time," Harry said.
"I'm so sorry."
"I'm sorry. I crossed a line. I don't know where it came from."
Heart in her throat, barely able to swallow around the lump there, Hermione pulled back and looked up at him. "It wasn't...something I'd never thought about."
Harry's eyes were unreadable. He looked away, over top of her. "Don't say that. Please."
Hermione ducked her head, cheeks heating up furiously. "Sorry." She hated herself for a moment. Why did she open her mouth? It was his own fault anyway. She'd thought it was appropriate, considering...considering. He'd said it first - he'd done it first. How was that fair?
He. Just. Kissed. Me.
Hermione looked up.
Before she could say anything, Harry spoke.
"I've been fighting with her for ages. I did this all wrong. I just wanted to talk today. I don't know why I - what do you mean, you've thought about it?" He pulled away at last, so that they stood apart on the sidewalk. "Are you and Ron okay?"
"We're fine," she sighed. "I just - he's not the person I talk to about problems, you know? He hates that. Sometimes..." She sighed again, and started walking slowly as Harry fell into step beside her, his hands in his pockets. They both shrugged their shoulders up against the cool September breeze. "Sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing, getting married so early."
She paused. He didn't interrupt, and she was grateful for his silence, taking a deep breath and letting it out. "I know it seemed so natural because we'd all known each other for so long - but it was fast, for me at least. I never expected to get married until I was thirty or so. Or maybe my late twenties. That's when my parents got married. Ron and I were twenty-one when he proposed. I don't know if that seemed crazy to you too, I think maybe it's a wizard thing, but it was crazy to me. And..." she trailed off, staring blankly ahead. The lump in her throat swelled up. She fought back embarrassed tears as her eyes burned, and she lowered her voice to barely above a whisper. "I - I was sort of cornered when he asked me. Everyone was there. What could I say? In front of everyone? I wanted to talk, but I just had to...what could I say?"
They walked, slowly and in silence, for a few long minutes that seemed to stretch for hours. Every second dragged behind her, carrying the weight of what she had just admitted. Her eyes blurred with tears that she wouldn't let fall. The sky was so, so blue.
Somehow, they made their way to a little church with a trellised gate, achingly familiar. Hermione turned her steps towards it, and Harry opened the gate for her. They walked through the low grass around the side of the church, lovingly manicured along the well-trod path, through the rows of stones until they came to a white marble tombstone with two engraved names, and they stopped. The crisp sunshine seemed at odds with the memory of the first time they went there, during a soft snowfall on Christmas Eve nineteen years ago.
It had become a ritual for the two of them. Every year on Christmas Eve, after they put their children to bed, Harry and Hermione left their homes and went to the Godric's Hollow cemetery together. Ron and Ginny were never invited, though both of them had asked to be many times. It was a private thing, something indescribably intimate, between Harry and Hermione. A time, once a year, for remembering, for reflecting, for grieving. Hermione fiercely protected the sanctity of that time, their time, and never spoke about it to Ron, or anyone.
"I never knew you were having doubts."
Harry spoke without looking at her, still gazing down at the grave. "You never told me you hadn't wanted to marry Ron."
"It wasn't that I didn't want to marry him," she said, "it was that I didn't want to get married. To anyone. I just thought we were too young. I was too young. Harry, we fought all the time. That's not healthy; that's not right. How could we know whether we'd ever be able to communicate well? We weren't even finished growing, for goodness's sake! I mean, we've managed, of course, but...look at us." She closed her eyes. "Look at us, Harry."
She felt him move beside her. Harry turned to her, his green eyes still so dark, so unreadable. Hermione glanced down at the tombstone again. She hated feeling like this. "I never thought I'd have so many regrets."
He kicked lightly at something in the grass. "You don't regret Rosie, or Hugo."
"No," she said with a heavy sigh, stretching her back and her neck from side to side. "I certainly don't." A smile ghosted across her face. "Thank you."
Some few minutes went by without either of them speaking; the brisk air snapped around them and swayed the branches of the trees lining the cemetery, whose leaves were just starting to turn to gold. The rustling of the wind was all they heard for a while.
When Harry spoke, he spoke softly. "You know, I never told anyone, but I almost..." He let out a sudden wry chuckle, and shook his head. "I almost did something very stupid the night before our wedding. You remember, at the bed and breakfast?"
"Belle's," Hermione said.
"Yeah." Harry shuffled his feet and glanced up at the clear sky, then back down to the grass. "I had a - I guess a cold feet moment. I couldn't sleep - didn't get to sleep for hours that night - and at one point I got up to go to the bathroom, and I ended up going down to the second floor, and I almost...I almost knocked on your door."
Hermione's heart crashed against her ribs.
"Just to talk, you know, just...I wanted to talk to you."
Thud. Thud. Thud.
"I figured if there was anyone who could calm me down, it was you."
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I just-"
Hermione reached up, took his face in her hands, and kissed him. For a moment he almost reeled back, startled, but then his hands were in her hair and he was kissing her right back, and nothing had ever felt so good, so right, like such a perfect fit. Thoughts ran fleetingly through her mind - this is wrong - what are you doing - but they disappeared in a dizzying rush of sensation that spread through her body from her head to her toes. Nothing - nothing - had ever felt so right.
When they had to breathe, they pulled away, slowly. Her lips felt swollen, her cheeks hot. He pressed his forehead to hers, keeping her close; he still held her in his hands, kept running his fingers through her hair, sending shivers down her spine. Her heart had never felt so full.
"I love you."
He kissed her again, slowly, and she wound her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. She pressed her cheek against his and closed her eyes, knowing they would overflow with tears if she didn't. This man. This man was who she should have married.
They stood there in each other's arms for a very long time, alone in the cemetery, too overcome to speak. The sun inched down across the sky, eventually disappearing behind grey clouds, leaving the day overcast again. The chill in the air sharpened, the wind picked up. Neither of them wanted to move; to leave the cemetery would shatter this feeling, bring back the reality of their situations, and everything would change. As long as they stayed still, stayed here, nothing would ever have to. As long as they held each other, they could stay blissfully, silently still, and time would move on without them.
Perhaps, one day, there would come a time when they would be able to be together. All things are possible. The weight of family might crush this fledgling thing, this fragile feeling, this...slow beginning of a dance. Or perhaps it was the ending of a dance that had been happening for years, and was just now coming to a close. No one standing in that cemetery could say what the future might hold.
But Hermione had three words to hold in her heart, that warmed her even in the cold, September air.