Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to the great J.K. Rowling.
"Hermione! Hermione, where are you going?" his voice shouted after her.
Where was she going? She was supposed to be happy. This was a party, a celebration of the engagement between Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. Only, Hermione didn't realize that. She had no idea what this gathering of friends and family had been about, and after Harry made the announcement, at which Hermione's heart dropped into her gut, she promptly fled the Burrow.
How could he be getting married? The war had only just ended. They were only 20 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him. It was too early to be married, to start a family. Couldn't he see that?
His hand was on her shoulder now; he had caught up with her, even though she had such a big head start on getting away. He was always faster than she was.
"Don't," she said, pulling her shoulder out from underneath his hand.
"Don't…what?" he asked, confused. She had never had a problem with him placing a hand on her before.
"Please don't touch me," she whispered, turning away from him and walking again.
"Well, then will you just stop and talk to me? Why did you run off like that?" Harry demanded.
She could tell that he was hurt, his voice said it all. She knew everything about him; he was just so easy to read. She knew exactly what he was thinking just by hearing the different tones of his voice, or looking at the expression on his face or the way that he held his posture.
Slowly turning around, she answered with a, "I just… it's overwhelming, you know? We're not going to be the Golden Trio anymore."
She would try to turn all of this into a joke, but of course, Harry saw right through that.
"That's not it," he said with a shake of his head. Just like she knew him, he knew her. God, why did they have to be so close?
"And be honest," he added, when it looked to him like she was going to try and weasel her way out of this situation.
Hermione took a deep breath. Of course he would tell her that. Like she could ever lie to him anyway. She was always honest with him, because if she wasn't… then he would have no one. Everyone lied to him. Everyone had always lied to him. And she couldn't do that to him, no matter how badly she wanted to. And believe her, she wanted to. This truth was probably going to ruin everything.
"Alright. If you want me to be honest, then I will. Harry… don't you think… that you're a little too young to be married?"
There, she said it. That wasn't so hard right? That thought quickly left her mind as she saw Harry's eyes cloud over with anger.
"Wizards get married young, Hermione. It's not like the Muggle world." His voice sounded annoying.
"I know, but… but Harry, you're only just starting your life. There's so many things you could do. Why not just wait a few years, and if you still want to get married then by all means, get married. Just don't throw your life away now," she cried, and then covered her mouth as she realized what she had said. What was she doing?
"Throw my life away. You think I'm throwing my life away, Hermione?" he growled, his voice deep and low.
"No, of course not," she squeaked out, shaking her head.
"Oh stop. You and I both know that you don't say things that you don't mean. So, if you think I'm throwing my life away to marry Ginny, to be with the woman I love forever-"
"Do you love her?" she blurted out, interrupting him.
"Do you really love her, Harry?" Hermione questioned again. He just couldn't love her. There was no way that what was going on between Harry and Ginny was love. She knew their relationship better than anyone. Harry always came to her with his relationship problems. She knew exactly what was going on. And she also knew that there was no way that Harry could be in love with Ginny. They just… didn't go together.
"I've been with her since I was sixteen, Hermione," Harry sighed, sounding exasperated.
"Yes, but are you in love with her? Or are you in love with the idea of being married? I think it's the latter, Harry. You've wanted your entire life to have a family of your own, and to be with someone that you love wholeheartedly, and I think that's why you're jumping the gun to get married. And if so, then you're getting married for all the wrong reasons!"
"I don't understand who you think you are right now, Hermione, getting off telling me the way to live MY life. It's my life. If I want to get married, then I can get married!" he shouted at her.
"I know, Harry, and I'm not saying that you can't. I'm just… you asked me to be honest, so I'm being honest, and I'm telling you how I feel. I don't think you should be getting married. At least not yet," she told him.
"I'm just trying to look out for you, Harry," she said quietly, but even he could hear the faltering note in her words.
"Are you, Hermione? Are you really trying to look out for me? I feel like there's something more to it. I think you're being a little selfish," he said.
"How dare you? Me being selfish? What… How could you… I don't even…" her words just would not come out. She knew that Harry was right. Of course she was being selfish.
"Yes, you just don't want things to change. After I get married, and I will get married, Hermione, I won't have as much time for you. We won't be able to be together all the time. I won't be around as much. And that scares you. Believe me, Hermione, it scares me too. But we'll be okay, you'll see," he told her, thinking that he knew exactly what was going on in her mind. But he didn't know. How could he possibly know what she was feeling after hearing that announcement, after feeling like she was the only one who had no idea that this was going to happen, or how her heart seemed to break into a million pieces when she heard him say, "Ginny, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
"That's not it, Harry," she said quietly, shaking her head.
"Can't you just try and be happy for me?" he pleaded, and that woke Hermione up right away.
"You think I'm not happy for you?" she whispered. How could he think that? She was his best friend, of course she was going to try and be happy for him.
"I know you're not," he said matter-of-factly, which shocked Hermione into silence.
Who was this man standing in front of her? She hardly knew him anymore. The Harry that she knew would never assume she was feeling one way or another. The Harry she knew would never talk to her in such a way. He was beginning to sound like Ron.
"You don't know anything, Harry Potter," she said, her words dripping with anger, and she turned around again, keen on walking away once more.
"Stop it, Hermione. Don't walk away from me. What is with you tonight?" he practically yelled, sounding childish, and Hermione was starting to get angry now.
"What is with ME? What's with YOU? Who are you? I feel like you're someone completely different. My Harry would never jump into a marriage that he KNOWS he doesn't belong in. MY Harry would never talk to his best friend like this, like she's inferior and knows nothing. You're not the same Harry Potter tonight," she shouted, tears threatening to pour out of her eyes with every word.
"Your Harry? Did you just call me your Harry?" he asked, not sounding so frustrated anymore. No, now he was… thoughtful.
Hermione's eyes widened. "No. I didn't say that."
Why? Why did she say that? What was she doing? She was just so mad, the words just came out. But they were true. She always thought of him as "her" Harry. Not in a possessive way, like he was hers for the taking, but in a way that said that that was who he was to her, nothing more and nothing less.
"Why did you say that?" he questioned. He was curious, she could see the anger fading from his eyes.
"I don't know. I'm sorry," she whispered, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. How could she slip up with that way?
"Don't be. I just want to know why you said it. What's really going on with you? What's the real reason that you don't want me to marry Ginny?"
She looked away from him and said, "Please don't make me say it."
"Harry? Will you come back inside please? There's a party going on, and you're missing all of it!" came Ginny's voice, getting closer to them with each word.
Soon enough, she came into view and Harry said, "I'll be inside in a minute, Ginny."
"Harry, everyone's waiting. We're supposed to be celebrating-"
"Not now, Ginny. I'll be back in a bit. I just need to talk to Hermione," he said, putting his foot down, and Ginny's eyes narrowed in response.
"I'm your fiancée, Harry," she said, as if that cleared up the matter.
"Yes, you are. But Hermione comes first. She's always come first, and she always will. So please, just go back inside and continue with the party, and I'll be back when we're finished," he ordered, and Ginny had no choice but to listen.
Once he was positive that Ginny was back inside the house, Harry turned back to Hermione and said, "Tell me, Hermione. Tell me everything. What's going on?"
She couldn't help what was going to happen next. The words just started pouring out of her mouth like water rushing over a dam. She couldn't stop it, but she didn't want to. She needed to get all of this out.
"Harry, I can't believe you don't know. You have no idea how it feels to see you so happy, and to want nothing more than to be happy for you, but not being able to. You deserve nothing more than happiness, but I just don't want you to find happiness with her. Every time I see the two of you together, I die a little bit more inside. It's just so painful to watch you both being so happy, and so in love. I want that Harry. I want it so badly, but I don't just want it with anyone. I tried with Ron, but that just didn't work. We don't go together, me and Ron. Not like you and I do. It's been torture, first seeing you with Cho, and then Ginny. I always hoped that after you ended it with Cho, or after a fight with Ginny, that you would see me, and you would know that I'm exactly right for you, Harry, I match you perfectly. But I know that I'm just not good enough for you, I'm just not what you're looking for. And it kills me. You have no idea how badly it kills me. And I've tried so hard to put it all behind me, to lock these stupid feelings away. I pushed you towards Cho. I pushed Ginny towards you. I was always there to give you dating advice, hoping that by seeing you with other girls it would push me to forget about you. But instead of making it better, it made it so much worse.
"And I can't watch you be married now, Harry. I just can't do it. Watching you get married to someone who isn't me would just be the point that breaks me, and there will be no recovering from it. I've been scarred by you, Harry. I never wanted it to happen, but it did. So I guess you were right when you said I was being selfish. I am in a way. But I'm not just thinking about me. I'm still thinking about you too. I still don't think this is the right time. But I'm more thinking about me, and how when I hear you make your vows at the alter, it's going to kill me, it's going to crush me, and I'm not going to be able to bounce back from that.
"I'm sorry. I've tried so hard to keep it from being like this, but nothing I do could ever possibly stop this from happening."
She finished her speech with a deep breath, and wiped the tears away from her eyes. Getting all of these feelings out just felt so good. But then she saw the screwed up look on Harry's face, and she could practically see the wheels turning in his mind. He was battling something fierce right now.
"Harry…" she trailed off, not knowing if he wanted her to talk, or if he wanted her to walk away forever.
"Shhh, I'm just… just shh," he said softly.
His whole tone completely changed. He didn't sound angry anymore. He sounded… joyful? God, how she wanted nothing more than to know what was going on in his head right now.
"Harry, please tell me what you're thinking," she pleaded with him.
"So… what you're saying is, all these years that we've been friends… you've had a crush on me?" he asked her.
"I'd say it's a bit more than a crush…"
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I don't know. I didn't want to ruin our friendship. What we have is good, and I didn't want to risk losing that. I don't know what I'd do if I told you, and you walked away. I have to have you in my life, Harry."
Harry stepped forward and took both of her hands in his. He lowered his head until his eyes were level with hers and he said, "Hermione, I think it would have been worth the risk."
And with that he leaned down, and kissed her. It was quick, and soft, with barely any pressure on both of their lips, but it was enough to let her know exactly what was going on, and she almost fainted on the spot.
"Hermione, I'm sorry for not knowing. I should have known. I should have put two and two together, and maybe we could have done this sooner. I feel horrible for putting you through that. Merlin knows I've had my share of heartbreak, I know what it feels like, and I would never want anyone else to feel that way, especially not you.
"But, Hermione, I am so sorry," he told her.
She looked into his eyes and knew right away that he was telling the truth. There were a few tears there threatening to escape from behind his lashes, and she was sure they mirrored hers exactly.
Hermione had heard countless apologies in her twenty years of life. This one from Harry was probably one of the more simpler ones. Simple, yet true. And with that being said, this one had the most meaning behind it. His apology meant the most to her, because she knew that he really was sorry, that he really did feel what he was saying, and that he wasn't faking it, or trying to make her feel better.
His apology was real and true, and that made her feel better than she had all night.