A/N: My first (posted) HP story, hooray! This was written as a response to the Prompt of the Day magic on the Hogwarts Online forum.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no money from this story.
There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved ~ Charles Morgan
She doesn't know what magic is, not really.
Yes, she's a witch, but that doesn't mean that she automatically understands what magic is – no matter what the common assumption may be. And Hermione would never tell anyone, not even Harry, and especially not Ron, that she doesn't know what makes something truly magical.
She grew up as a Muggle, and so naturally when she got her Hogwarts letter she was thrilled beyond belief, even though it was a surprise and a little disgruntling that she would have to change her entire plan for the future.. Because Hermione is a learner – always has been, always will be – and this is another opportunity, albeit an unexpected one, to learn about the world. And she hoped, in some hidden part of her heart, that she would finally figure things out.
So she goes to Hogwarts, brimming with expectations, and makes a feather fly through the air, and becomes known as the brightest girl in her year, and still, still she doesn't feel like she's put her finger on just what magic is.
Hogwarts seemed magical at first, but then it faded into part of her normal life, and the magic she'd thought she found went with it. And Hermione would never tell anyone, but she's terrified the same thing will happen with everything in her life that she ever thought could or would or should be magic. That she'll believe in it and trust it, right up until whatever's supposed to be magical happens, and then… the magic she thought she had finally found will be gone.
All her life, even after going to Hogwarts, she's stuck to her childhood belief that magic was something intangible you felt, not something you did – and even though she knows that when she casts a spell and changes the world around her in a way that definitely isn't normal, she just can't accept that it's really magic, at least not the kind of magic she's been looking for all along.
Because her favorite books when she was little – not that she would ever admit it – were the ones about dragons and castles and daring knights and princesses who were swept off their feet and fell in love. And that kind of magic, the magic of love, seems to be beyond her reach somehow, just out of sight, like the answer to a question she should know but doesn't. It's infuriating.
And even though she's down-to-earth, smart, logical, all those characteristics that she can't seem to break free of, no matter how much she might secretly want to – somewhere, some part of her always believed that there was more to the world than this, more than just going through the motions, because that's what it feels like she's been doing. Even thought she knows, intellectually, that it's not true – she's best friends with Harry Potter, she fought in the battle at the Ministry, she has stellar grades – that's what it feels like, because there's no magic.
Another thing Hermione would never tell anyone is that she hates surprises. Everything has to be planned out, thought through – she's just that kind of person – and she doesn't do well with things coming up suddenly, out of the blue, with no warning. There's a reason she starts studying for exams months in advance. And it's hard not to be angry at Dumbledore during the Horcrux hunt in what was supposed to be their seventh year of school, because she feels like she's flying blind in the dark with nothing but a book of children's stories to guide her, and she hates that feeling.
But more than that, she hates Ron for just up and leaving them, all alone in that tent, because even though she knew he wasn't happy she didn't think he would actually leave them. And even though it shouldn't, it feels deeper than that, like it's a betrayal of her, personally. Because even though she never actually told him so, because she's afraid to speak the words aloud and lose the last thing that might be magical, he's far more than a friend to her.
Of everything that's ever happened to her, she thinks that his leaving was the worst surprise of her whole life.
But then he came back and expected her to run into his arms, and she's spitting mad but at the same time wants to laugh at the irony, because she's giving him a surprise this time around by not doing what he expected, and screaming at someone for the first time in her life, someone she loves, no less, because she doesn't know what to do with the emotions that are overwhelming her. But at the same time, she wants to cry, because she wants him to see that she doesn't want to be predictable – just for once she wants him to lose his confidence and wait for her to say something instead of just assuming she would accept him like she always has. And she thought he would be the one to finally bring magic to her life, and she's ready to give up hope.
But as the days pass, she realizes that he is different, and he's grown up, somehow, and she feels her heart start to soften, little by little. And the flutter of hope that had almost died comes back, because no one has ever made her feel this way before – she's never lost something she thought might be magical and then found it again. But she's still unsure and cautious enough so that she doesn't dare do anything more than smile at him.
Hermione was still feeling numb over the fact that Death Eaters were attacking the castle – Hogwarts, the school that was supposed to be indestructible, the safest place in all of Wizarding Britain. But it was under attack now, and they were evacuating students left and right, while she and Harry and Ron were running around aimlessly, without a plan – again - trying to find the Horcrux, wherever it might be in this gigantic castle with its hidden rooms and vanishing stairs and who knows what else – but not magic. After being away for almost a year, she knows that for certain now.
So when Ron asks about the house elves, she can't help but snap back – she's more than a little stressed, and she's not in the mood for jokes.
But he's serious – he is seriously worried about house elves – and the shock of realizing that this is the first time he's ever taken something like this seriously, on top of everything else they had been through, is just too much. So she loses control, kissing him for all they're worth, even though she honestly doesn't think she'll get anything in return, because it's now or never and she knows she loves him more in this moment than she ever has before.
But then he kisses her back, and she realizes, like a bolt of lightning, and she can't help the smile that spreads across her face even while she's kissing the daylights out of him – because he's kissing her back, and even though she's probably imagining it, something has changed between them, and it feels almost like tingling is spreading all through her body. And this kiss was a surprise, her first good surprise, and he doesn't move away – he pulls her closer instead – and Hermione finally finds it, what she's been looking for her whole life… the magic of being loved.
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