Hermione was a hopeless romantic at heart, she honestly was. She tried her very best not to show it, hiding behind a wall of stern will, studiousness and books… but here and there were tiny cracks in the mortar, offering a glimpse into her hidden world of Jane Austen novels, muggle love songs and longing.
One such crack was the habit Hermione had of 'accidentally' getting caught in the rain. She always managed to forget her umbrella then lightly reprimand herself, smiling as the first few drops hit her nose. She loved the feel of them lightly caressing her skin, and wet torrential rain exhilarated her, prickling her skin and making her laugh. Rain somehow reminded her that schoolwork, books, exams… bullocks, even Voldemort: everything that she told herself was most important, really wasn't that substantial at all in the grand scheme of things.
Rain was beautiful and pure. Rain washed away the perfect looks and faces, the false pretenses that everyone hid behind. It made everything clear, even as it distorted what you could see with your eyes, and rain was exactly the same for everyone – be it muggle, wizard, house elf or witch.
But most of all, rain made Hermione think of love. She had developed this idiosyncrasy from an overdose of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Singin in the Rain, Four Weddings and a Funeral and goodness knew how many other romantic films and books – the ones she'd devoured from behind closed doors and windows when she'd been certain no one was looking. In Hermione's eyes, you could tell if a man loved you if he cared enough to follow you into the metaphorical rain: if he loved you enough to get wet, dirty and fight for you, and then let the showers reveal his true soul to you.
For the time being, though, she was content to find excuses to venture outdoors alone when dark clouds gathered, and enjoy the magic by herself.
Harry had been in his dorm, reminiscing about his earlier Hogwarts years, when his best friend burst into the room.
"Hey Harry, have you seen Hermione? I really need to talk to her."
Harry raised his eyebrows at his ginger haired friend's apparent distress, "About what?"
"That's just it: I don't know!" Ron exclaimed. "I mean, we were talking in the library, right, and then she started acting… odd. She just kept on getting more and more frustrated with me - for no bloody reason – and then she just got up, said something about being tired, and left!"
"Oh. Er, well… what exactly were you two talking about when she left?" Harry asked with uncertainty; His knowledge of girls and what made them angry barely surpassed Ron's.
"I dunno, something about how glad we were that they'd fixed Hogwarts up so fast, and how she couldn't wait for the summer so she could spend some time with her parents, and how she hadn't made any plans for after that… nothing important."
Starting to understand where Hermione was coming from, Harry said, "Ron… you don't think that when Hermione said she didn't have any plans for the summer, she was hinting towards wanting to make plans with you, do you?"
Ron shook his head decisively, "Nah, she would have just told me. I think…"
Harry wasn't convinced. "Speaking of you two, how is your, er… relationship going?" he pressed, "That could be a part of what's bothering her, right?"
"Relationship?" Ron shrugged, "S'going fine, I suppose. I mean, I haven't really had the chance to talk to her about it."
Harry's already large emerald eyes widened, "What?"
Looking rather taken aback, Ron's blue orbs widened too, "What d'you mean, 'what'? I figured that since she kissed me, our relationship was sort of established…"
"No, Ron, no!" Harry groaned: Ron was even more hopeless than he'd predicted, "Don't you remember what that book on charming witches said?"
"To be honest, I stopped reading that book after – "
"It said that girls like talking about their feelings: they start panicking if you don't!"
"Fine then, I'll go find her and talk about my bloody feelings. But where is she?"
"You know where she is."
"No, actually, I'm pretty sure I don't."
"Ron, it's raining."
Ron had known about Hermione's rain habit ever since the second week of their first year. He'd been running through a drizzle to meet Harry at Hagrid's when he'd passed Hermione walking by herself and without a coat or umbrella in sight.
Feeling the need to do something, Ron had approached her: "Er, Hermione? It's raining."
"Oh." Ron shrugged, "Just thought I'd better let you know. So… why aren't you inside? I mean, you wouldn't want people thinking you were mental or something, would you?"
"Actually I love the rain: it's magical."
"No it isn't. Spells are."
"You wouldn't understand."
"Right. Well, bye!"
And then he had left her to get soaked. But ever since then, Ron knew that Hermione had an inexplicable fetish for rain. This was why he wasn't at all surprised to see her walking through the grounds now.
As he walked towards her, he could see that she was wearing her normal rain expression: a secretive and wistful smile. She looked beautiful, with her unruly hair pulled into long waves by the weight of water, and a light in her beautiful brown eyes.
As soon as he was within hearing range, Ron called out to her,"Hey Hermione, you're all wet! Here, come under the umbrella with me: I'm starting to suspect that you don't own one."
Hermione's smile fell as she noticed him. "Oh, hi Ron. What do you want?" She conspicuously made no move to join him under the umbrella.
"I… ", Ron faltered. What exactly did he want again?
"I wanted to talk to you."
"I'm listening." Hermione spoke stiffly. She truly loved Ron with all of her heart, but somehow that just hadn't been good enough lately. He hadn't kissed her since the first time, or told her he loved her… and he definitely hadn't swept her off her feet as she'd imagined he would. He just didn't seem to feel as much for her as she did for him.
"Well I was just thinking that I should probably tell you about, you know, how I feel about you…"
Hermione brushed her damp hair out of her eyes and crossed her arms, "Were you really."
"Well, yeah! And I was also hoping you'd come to spend the holiday at the Burrow." Ron didn't look at her as he spoke, focusing all of his attention on tugging the umbrella down against the wind; he didn't want her to look into his eyes and see the uncertainty and turmoil he was trying to mask. After all, their barely established relationship was already on the rocks.
Not that Hermione noticed his struggle. She was staring off into the dark clouds, trying to hold her emotions in. "Oh. I see. Well if that's all, Ron, you'd better go back inside."
"Me? You're the one without an umbrella. Besides, I… wasn't finished."
Hermione turned to face him hopefully, "You weren't?"
"No." Ron took a deep breath, "I wanted to make sure that everything was alright between us. So, er, is it?"
Hermione opened her mouth to answer, and then, without warning, she burst into tears. Why couldn't she just accept that Ron wasn't the romantic type? That if she'd never had the guts to kiss him, he wouldn't have minded and just found someone else?
As for Ron, her tears were the final straw. Why the bloody hell did girls have to be so confusing anyway? More frustrated and angry than sympathetic, he scowled as the storm's first flash of lighting lit the sky, and the rain started flooding down in sheets.
"What's wrong now, Hermione?" he groaned.
She didn't answer, turning away. By now she was soaked to the bone, looking more like a cold, miserable drowned rat than a heroine in an old film.
"I said, what's wrong."
"Just go away, Ron." Hermione sniffled.
"Hermione, I don't understand why you're so upset. Just tell me, and – "
"Leave me alone, Ron…"
Finally blowing up, Ron shouted at her, "Damn it Hermione, just come inside already! Stop being such a bloody drama queen."
Hermione whirled on him, "You want to know what's wrong, Ronald? Fine. I'll tell you. I'm upset because you obviously don't care about me the way I do for you, but you aren't brave enough to admit it."
Ron, who had still been struggling with his umbrella, abruptly let it go, allowing the powerful updraft to send it shooting off towards the Whomping Willow. Barely noticing as the rain attacked him from all directions, he looked as though he'd been slapped.
He opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione beat him to it, "Don't you try to defend yourself, Ron, because I'll know you're lying. Why else would you avoid spending time alone with me? And why else would you never kiss me, or tell me you love me, or even acknowledge that first kiss? But you know what, Ron? It's fine. Just tell me that you want to stay friends, because I can take it. I –"
But Hermione was cut off by a deafening clap of thunder, so loud that both teens couldn't help flinching at the sound. Hermione looked up at Ron again, waiting for him to speak… but he remained silent, staring at her as the rain plastered his hair to his skull and his white uniform shirt to his skin.
"Say something, Ron. Say something!"
He didn't move.
"Ron, please… just end this damnit!"
Finally he spoke, never taking his eyes off hers. "What the bloody hell, Hermione." His voice was so low she could barely hear it under the sound of crashing rain. "What the bloody hell."
Hermione involuntarily stepped back: Ron looked livid.
"Hermione, don't you ever suggest that I don't care for you again. Ever. Because I swear, I may actually hurt you if you do."
Hermione's jaw fell, "What?"
"Did it ever occur to you, Miss Smartest-witch-of-our-year, that I was giving you space because I thought you wanted it? You were always so damn bookish, and so disgusted by me and Lavender that I thought you preferred it that way. Did you actually think that I didn't want to hold you close and tell you about all the times I'd dreamt of you? To have my way with you in a broom cupboard? To snog you so hard that you couldn't remember your own name?"
"But Ron, you never – "
"Besides, you didn't ever seem to want me that way. And why would you? Hermione, you're brilliant, funny and brave. Gorgeous too, though you can't seem to see that. I figured that there was no way in hell that you'd really want to get together with me, so I backed off and took it slowly."
"But that's not what I wanted!"
"Pardon my language, Hermione, but no shit."
And then without waiting for her reply, Ron snaked his arms around her waist and captured her mouth with his. Hermione, though taken aback by the sudden warmth of his arms on her soaked body, responded instantly. Her lips melded to his, moving with passion and wanting to taste all of him at once. She sucked on his lower lip biting slightly to make him moan, opening his mouth to hers, then fought his tongue with hers, and thoroughly lost herself in the sensations. Water poured down all around them, as if it was trying to dissolve them into one being, and they held each other so hard that they felt they might explode.
Neither of them had ever felt such raw passion for the other: anger, desire, love and desperation fuelled their embraces, and every time their mouths came apart and fell back together again the emotions were renewed and blended together in a dizzying swirl of perfection.
When they finally forced themselves to stop, coming apart and panting for air, Hermione found that she honestly couldn't think straight: she was too disoriented. She couldn't for the life of her remember how she'd managed to unbutton Ron's sopping shirt, or when her knees had given out forcing him to press her up against a tree. She started laughing: it had felt even more magical than she'd ever imagined it could be.
"What're you laughing about?" Ron asked with a slightly lost, hung-over look on his face. He'd never thought that a simple snog fest could feel, well, like that. It'd never been that mind blowing with Lavender, no matter how hard they went at it.
To explain, Hermione grinned, "You were right, Ron. For a moment there I actually forgot my own name …"
Ron rolled his eyes, then grinned back, "I'll bet you remembered our NEWT exam material, though."
"I'm in love with you, Ron."
There was a second of stunned silence, then Ron leaned down to softly kiss Hermione again, murmuring, "I love you, too, Hermione. Always have, always will."
In her wildest dreams Hermione had never imagined a moment so utterly wonderful. She buried her fingers in Ron's soaked ginger hair and pulled him closer. Then they untangled their wet limbs and Hermione allowed Ron to lead her back to the castle, too happy to remember what their fight had been about, recall why she'd been out in the rain, or notice that the storm had finally stopped.