Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Foreword: To be honest, I got a little bored of reading stories where Harry and Hermione get together in a dramatic fashion. I decided to try and make a story where they do things naturally and have it just happen. I mean, they're friends after all! Not just friends, best friends even! Before reading, I recommend watching times | harry & hermione by tennisgirlxoxo on Youtube; it is astonishingly well done. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story, I love it as much as I loved All is Well. I would really love to have some feedback on this since I'm really proud of this piece!
by Romantic Silence
"Are you alright Hermione?"
Harry's concerned voice passed through Hermione's open ear, entering her canal, then finally processed by her brain. She stirred from her thoughts, numbly turning to Harry with a lost expression. Her eyes rested on Harry briefly, before casting a glance to her right; Ron and Lavender were walking away, their hands fastened together as the two of them laughed over something the other said. Hermione's attention focused on them, their jovial mood contrasting with the melancholy that she felt. Her mouth quivered to a frown and looked away from the scene, turning to Harry, "Sorry. I'm fine. I just feel...stupid."
The messy haired wizard creased his brows in worry, his gaze unwavering by Hermione's sudden outburst. Her words was the perfect opportunity to make a witty remark, something that – potentially – make Hermione laugh. However, he did not such thing. Instead, he nodded his head in understanding and moved to deny her own self deprecation, "You shouldn't. You're the smartest person I know."
"Thanks for that Harry." Hermione expressed sincerely. The cloud of depression that surrounded her dispersed, revealing a kind, warm smile reserved that broke through the grayness of her emotions. Her face lit up by that simple action, allowing Harry to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous profile that was layered beneath Hermione's typical determined face and bushy hair; it was there that Hermione displayed her true beauty, something that always made Harry breathless whenever he saw it. She reached forward and grasped his hand, pulling him closer, "C'mon Harry, Hogsmeade is waiting."
Grinning, Harry followed after her, immensely glad that Hermione's dour mood had been lifted.
It was a winter morning in late January; the northern Scotland weather having finally let up from its yearly snowstorms to give the magical students of Hogwarts a short reprieve. While snow still continued to fall from the darkened skies above, the gentle nature of its descent was pleasing to the inhabitants of the aged castle. Students had taken the weekend to play in the outdoors, glad to escape their stone prison. Harry and Hermione were no different; the two of them had been entirely thankful to take a break from their studies to spend a single day relaxing; surprisingly, it was Hermione that instigated Harry to participate in her detachment from schoolwork.
Together, Harry and Hermione set out on the snow-trodden path that led into the tiny village. Unconsciously, they took the air close to one another, vying for each other's warmth in the chill. Hermione stopped at they reached a small hill that overlooked a portion of Hogsmeade. From atop of the hill, the two friends were able to catch a glimpse of the serenity that Hogsmeade provided during the winter season. The auspicious white snow that was plummeting into the weekend locale generated a scene of utter tranquility. But the alluring calm was nothing more than a guise. Underneath the exterior that Harry and Hermione saw was a sea of bountiful energy; the bustling students of their school weaving back and forth through one another as they headed towards their destination with utmost glee. On days like this, even with the mollifying elements, the sleepy town and its inhabitants came alive.
"Where should we go first?" Harry asked casually, turning his head towards Hermione as he patiently waited for a response, "I'm up for anything."
Hermione cupped her chin, eying the town in a speculative manner. She hummed silently as she thought over her decision. The bushy haired witch broke out into a sly smile as she turned her head languidly, meeting his inquisitive eyes. Her voice playful, Hermione asked, "I don't suppose you would mind if we make Tomes and Scrolls our first stop?"
"A book shop? Really?" Harry questioned rhetorically. He rolled his eyes slightly at Hermione's rather predictable first choice of destination. He narrowed a glare against Hermione, attempting to play off slight annoyance. However, Hermione simply stared at him with her big, brown orbs, the light reflecting golden specks from her iris; she was able to see through him and knew he was going to agree to it regardless of his protests. Sighing, Harry acquiesced, "Fine. But I decide the next place we go."
Hermione laughed, mentally congratulating herself for her – easy – victory over Harry. Speaking of the boy, he was already making his way down the slope and towards their predestined choice. The witch followed, increasing her pace to match her best friend's stride. Placing her hands into her pockets, Hermione purposely crossed Harry's path and lightly bumped him, "Oh don't be such a prat Harry. If it wasn't for my love of books, who would be failing their courses right now?"
Harry frowned as his neck craned to be on level with Hermione. At first, it appeared he was about to respond with a witty quip, but instead, he merely stuck his tongue and blew a raspberry quite close to her face. Hermione cringed in slight disgust as she felt some droplets of saliva made contact with her face. Her mouth agape, Hermione's ire swiftly rose to the brim of her emotions, "Harry James Potter! That is absolutely disgusting!"
The Boy Who Lived smirked roguishly, his perfectly aligned, white teeth glimmering in the low morning light. Before Hermione could even begin to take measures against him, Harry made a dead sprint to the book shop. Hermione growled in frustration as the target of her vexation was getting away from her. She went after him, her legs taking long, winded gaits to catch up to Harry's lithe body. Unfortunately, Hermione knew for a fact that she was not nearly as athletic as Harry was; that factor would play a crucial role in their little game of cat-and-mouse.
Their chase began, the two friends navigated their way through the streets, nimbly dodging the other pedestrians they came into their paths. More than once, a few people they knew called out to them for greetings, but they were often ignored as Harry and Hermione were too lost in their own world. In their minds, they didn't see the faceless people whom they were maneuvering around to avoid colliding, but blank spaces in a reality where only they existed. But the pursuit had to end some time, and it was there in front of Tomes and Scrolls that the pursuit ended with a not-even-tired Harry snickering at a panting Hermione.
Hermione was hunched over, her hands on her knees as she was panting heavily. Her chest rose and fell erratically as her body attempted to draw in much needed oxygen. A few beads of sweat ran down her pores as the strenuous activity overclocked her out-of-shape frame. When she looked up, Hermione saw Harry smiling rather smugly, not a trace of exhaustion present. The only evidence that he had ran was the little amount of perspiration that numbly glistened. Unamused by Harry's lackadaisical response to her struggle, Hermione slowly walked towards her best friend and drove her hard fist into his stomach.
Harry lurched forward, clutching the area where had been punched. He was wheezing, having his breath knocked right out of him. Even despite the small lapse of pain that overcame him, he still continued to laugh. Hermione continued eying him disapprovingly, clearly frustrated that her 'revenge' hadn't worked as intended. Giving up, Hermione crossed her arms and disparagingly commented, "You're a prat Harry."
By that point, Harry regained his composure. He straightened his stance and smiled at Hermione, taking note of the childish pout she now sported. Harry raised his left arm and wrapped it around Hermione's shoulders, embracing her in a one-arm hug. At least looking apologetic, he expressed his remorse for his juvenile conduct, "Sorry for that. Still want to hang out?"
Hermione turned contemplative, averting her gaze away from Harry as she weighed the pros and cons of leaving Harry in the cold. She didn't particularly liked being alone herself nor did she felt the particular need to socialize with the other students other than her close friends. Her decision was simple. She arced her waist to face Harry and returned his hug of apology. Putting on her best reprimanding voice, Hermione answered, "For making me run, you are obligated to buy at me one book out of reparations for the damages I sustained."
"Deal. I'm glad I'm forgiven." He agreed easily, not minding he had to buy Hermione something.
The two of them entered Tomes and Scrolls. Despite the shop having been around since 1768 – or so it claimed on the sign – both the exterior and interior of the specialist bookstore were entirely modern and was a far cry from a decrepit building one would expect an aged store to be. The inside was magically enlarged so that it could hold the copious amount of books that it had in stock within its walls. However, instead of books lining up in every nook and cranny of space or stacked all the way up to the ceiling, there was a system of order in which each book was placed in a section based on its subject matter. It was refreshingly different than Flourish and Blotts messy design.
It wasn't the first time Harry or Hermione had stepped foot into the bookstore. In fact, they had frequented it so much because of Hermione's love for books that they became acquainted with the owner of the establishment, a descendent of the original founder of Tomes and Scrolls. As soon as Hermione passed through the threshold of the shop, she was gone and already hurrying into the heavenly stockpile of books that awaited her. Harry stood alone in front of the clerk desk shaking his head at Hermione's abundant enthusiasm in regard to the written word.
A low chortle could be heard from Harry's right and he turned his head to find the current owner himself standing at the register donning an apron over his robes. He was six feet tall and had tall, lanky frame. The owner of Tomes and Scrolls had ragged, dark brown hair with a short, full beard which gave him an appearance of being unkempt. However, he had kind hazel eyes that made him look welcoming and approachable. Harry sent a fierce glare at him, remarking, "Don't say anything Lawrence."
The bookshop owner smiled kindly, "Pay me no mind. It always moves me when I see a fellow lover of these wondrous tomes show such remarkable energy."
Harry nodded, "You know Hermione."
"Not as well as you do Harry." Suddenly, Lawrence's eyes flashed suspiciously as he looked side to side around Harry's general direction, "Where's that red-haired friend of yours? Not nearby I hope?" He asked through gritted teeth.
"On a date. Don't worry, he won't be coming by." Harry immediately assured him.
Lawrence looked pleased, "Oh, is that so? That's wonderful."
The raven haired wizard walked off towards a random section of books. He recalled the time when Ron visited Tomes and Scrolls a few years back. He had been bored out of his wit and had decided to actually browse through books about quidditch strategies instead of complaining. Though innocent of a gesture it was, it had disastrous results. Ron being Ron, he had somehow managed to topple down ten different rows of bookcases all at once. Since then, Lawrence kept an eye out for his best mate whenever he entered his store. Harry couldn't blame him, books and Ron never mesh well together; it always led to something horrible.
It was only a few minutes later that Hermione returned with only a single book in hand. As she emerged from the rows upon rows of bookcases, she spotted her more physically-inclined friend leaning against the window sill of the store and staring forlornly into the view outside. He was frowning which teetered on the brink of turning into a scowl; Hermione wondered what caused the gentle smile to disappear underneath that horrid expression he was now sporting. When she approached him, concern marring her face,Hermione glimpsed what was outside and saw the familiar image of Ginny and Dean lightly kissing in front of a store. Her eyes deviated away from the private moment and focused on Harry whose body stiffened when the couple's lips met.
"Harry?" Hermione placed a placating hand atop his shoulder, "Are you alright?"
Broken from his reverie, Harry tore away from the window. His angered appearance was pacified as he found the solicitous brown orbs of his bookworm of a best friend boring into him. From the corner of his eye, he watched the couple leave the area. His attention now solely on Hermione, he opened his mouth to answer dishonestly but stopped when he discerned that whatever lie he was about to spew would be clearly exposed. Hermione knew him too well and was too brilliant to leave it well enough alone; it was the reason why he hid away these odd emotions he was currently feeling whenever he saw his best mate's sister lock mouths with another boy. He had been largely successful, but he had allowed Hermione to catch him off-guard.
"I'm not sure." Harry answered truthfully, "I feel like there's this vociferous monster in my chest whenever I see Ginny and Dean together. Whenever I see them hold hands or kiss or do anything together, I feel a little angry. No, that's not it. I don't know how I feel and that's the problem. You don't think I'm attracted to Ginny am I?"
Hermione was instantly taken aback. Her mind whirled with surprising ferocity as it picked apart every little word Harry had said. While it did not surprise her that Harry may have developed a crush or attraction – after all, he was a teenage boy – it was the target of his affections that left her dumbfounded. Though she bore no negative thoughts about the youngest of the Weasley brood save for her temper that was prolific amongst her family, Hermione simply could not see any aspect in regards to her that would make Harry the least bit infatuated with her. Controlling her bewilderment, she spoke in an insouciant manner, "Well, I'm not exactly sure myself. Why don't you tell me more about that 'monster'..." She held her two fingers and gestured them to indicate quotation marks, "...you're feeling."
"Are we really talking about this?"
"We are," Hermione shrugged, "We don't have to, but from the looks of it, it's been bothering you for awhile. When did it all begin really? I certainly never thought that you would start fancying Ginny."
Harry let loose an irritable sigh as he methodically ran his fingers through his hair, a sure sign that he was indeed aggravated with his emotions, "I'm not even sure if I do fancy Ginny or not. It's not like I have much experience with the opposite sex now do I?"
"No, you most certainly do not." Hermione quipped chuckling.
"Not helping." Harry sternly admonished, "Anyway. It's just that when I see her with a boy or simply just imagining it, I get this monster in my chest. I get angry or disheartened or something like that. Does it mean I'm jealous or attracted to her or what?"
"Well, I can definitely see why you're so confused. Let's say that you do fancy her, what is it about her that has you attracted?"
"It's..." He stopped. Nothing came into mind right away. Harry wagered that Ginny was a beautiful looking girl now, having grown up over the past two years, perhaps it was her looks? But then again, Harry also thought Hermione to be even more gorgeous, so perhaps it wasn't physical beauty that attracted him. However, inspecting his feelings now instead of suppressing or ignoring it, it dawned on Harry that he didn't know what made him feel oddly about the red haired girl, "...I don't know Hermione. I mean, she's pretty...I guess?"
Hermione nodded her head empathic, gently grasping the top of Harry's hand as she soothingly ran circles against it with her thumb, "Now the next step is simple. Close your eyes and imagine the future. Do you see her face when you wake up each morning? Is it her that you see helping you raise your children?"
Harry listened closely to Hermione's instructions and did as he was told. He began piecing what was to come in his mind, trying to come up with what his future house would be like. However, when he placed Ginny's face onto the body of his wife and mother of his children, it simply felt wrong. Then, subconsciously, her face would morph until it was someone completely different. The intense red hair of Ginny's was replaced with a cascade of long, wavy, brown hair. Her fiery dark brown eyes were exchanged for warm chocolate ones that sparkled gold in the light. It was this woman he could see hugging a child with a mop of messy, black hair as she lulled him to sleep with her loving voice.
"No. I can't see it." Harry confided quietly, a welcomed revelation dawning on him when he escaped the carefully constructed illusion of all his hopes and dreams for the future.
"See, easy right?" Hermione gingerly asserted, "Did that help?"
"Loads." Harry agreed releasing a breath that he didn't know he was holding, "But, that still doesn't explain why I feel this way. Any theories Hermione?"
Hermione knitted her brows together in a speculative manner as she began piecing together the string of information that she had on hand. She considered almost every single point ranging from Harry's nature and his future goals as well to other seemingly miscellaneous knowledge that she had observed in the past. Upon finishing, Hermione turned to Harry and wittingly made her hypothesis, "You and Ron always declared yourselves to be brothers in all but blood. Perhaps, subconsciously, you placed Ginny into a category as 'family' along with the rest of the Weasleys. Now, last year, you didn't care much for her dating Michael Corner, but all that changed when we fought together in the Ministry and later when you spent time building a relationship with her over the summer at the Burrow. Because of the juxtaposition with Ginny, you began to see her own person and not simply as 'Ron's little sister'.
"Based upon this supposition, what you're feeling is the development of those familial feelings you have for Ginny and aren't, in any way, romantic in nature. Even though you acknowledge her level of pulchritude, it was merely more of an observation of your part rather than actual sexual attraction between a man and a woman common at our age. Considering this, you are affixed to her amorous entanglements not out of jealousy but rather that of brotherly affection."
Harry remained still, a bit perplexed by some of Hermione's word usage as well as the quick way she went about it. While he understood a good portion of what Hermione had said, he couldn't wrap his head around some of the critical points in her hypothesis. Refraining from looking idiotic by just staring at her and derogatorily comment of her explanation, he took on a far better approach, "Brilliant as always Hermione, but perhaps you can put it in simpler words for me? I'm not exactly the exemplar of academic perfection after all."
Rolling her eyes and huffing exasperatedly, Hermione restated her opinion in layman's terms, "Basically Harry, you adopted the Weasleys as your pseudo-family. When you look at Ginny, you see a little sister. In fact, now that I think of it, she does look like someone that could have been your sister. A lot of people say that she looks like your mother and curiously enough, she has brown eyes like your father. Well, what I'm trying to say is that all those feelings you have whenever you see Ginny with Dean is probably nothing more than you wanting to protect Ginny from the lustful nature of teenage boys."
"So I'm not attracted to Ginny in a romantic sense?" Harry asked again carefully.
Hermione shook her head and smirked mischievously, "Not unless you fancy wanting to kiss someone that looks like your own mother."
A disgusted look settled on Harry as he realized the implications of that statement. However, he felt a burden lifting up from his shoulders as he came to an understanding of his own tumultuous emotions. Realizing that he saw Ginny as nothing more than a sister and that his feelings stemmed from instincts caused by brotherly love felt liberating. It was if he was no longer imprisoned by the shackles held by that monster inside him. Harry was given a reprieve and for that he was thankful. He should have talked to Hermione about the whole ordeal a lot sooner, it would have saved him a lot of sleepless nights spent on fruitless introspection.
"Thanks Hermione. I feel a lot better." Harry expressed his gratitude, smiling cheerfully at the brunette beside him. The young woman returned his smile and gave him a warm hug that lasted only for a moment. It was after they broke apart that he noticed the book that was held in her hand. Harry gazed down upon it but couldn't see the title on account of Hermione's wrist being in the way. Curious, he asked, "So what book did you get?"
Reminded of her acquisition, Hermione's eyes twinkled playfully as she raised the book to openly display the cover. On the front of the tome was a moving picture of a young wizard who looked larger than life battling some insidious looking man with a filthy goatee with a sword that was used as another form of magical conduit, replacing a typical wooden wand. However, what Harry immediately noticed was that the young wizard had the same lightning bolt scar on his forehead. His eyes then widened when he read the title at the top, "Harry Potter and the Deadly Willows?"
Hermione fell into a fit of giggles when she saw Harry's repulsed expression that flitted into view mere seconds after recognizing the title for what it was. Harry simply glared at her, his arms crossed as he waited for his best friend to regain her composure and explain to him how in the world there was a book about him. Hermione's whimsical actions soon ceased as she calmly reverted back to her regular demeanor albeit with an amused smile twitching at her lips, "A lot of authors wrote stories about you. Long before you were ever introduced to the wizarding world. This book I have here is the final installment of a seven book anthology."
Harry frowned, not at all liking that there were an entire series of books about him that he wasn't aware of. Considering that the 'Harry Potter' on the cover was blond with a clean cut hairstyle instead of his raven haired, messy mop, he was led to believe that not an ounce of truth was within any of those stories. Nevertheless, he wondered why Hermione, of all people, would want to get a book about that, "Okay, I understand that. But what I want to know is why you want to get a book about a fictional me."
"For fun silly." Hermione stated plainly, "Ginny introduced them to me recently. Mrs. Weasley used to read her these books to her before bed. I thought they were a riot so I began reading each story. You should have seen the last book, the sixth, Harry Potter and the Blue Blood King. You, or rather book 'Harry', somehow instantly fell in love with a character that was hardly developed and only briefly mentioned before."
"Wait, what?" Harry flatly asked, "That's..."
"Ridiculous?" Hermione finished for him, "Oh, I know. The author is a talented writer, but there a lot of things in here that I dislike. Regardless, I simply read it because it's hilarious in an ironic sort of way."
Harry shook his head; some people in the wizarding world were simply just too odd, "Well, if that's what you want. You want to go pay for it now?"
"Sure. As much as I would love to browse around, even I don't want to stay here all day. Especially if I'm with you."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"After an hour or so I would be subjugated to your whining. That isn't exactly what I call a fun time."
Harry snickered, knowing full well that he would have done exactly what Hermione had said. The two made their way to Lawrence so that Harry would pay for Hermione's book. Because of Lawrence's jovial mood that Ron was not with them, he extended a small discount on behalf of being such great customers. They could hardly refuse. When they left Tomes and Scrolls, Harry and Hermione noticed that the snow had stopped falling. However with the darkening clouds still high over head, there was going to be another wave soon.
"So where to next Hermione?" Harry asked as both of them took off on a random path. Several other students rushed by them, many of them were younger – Third Years or so – and were using their unlimited energy to experience almost every place of interest that was in Hogsmeade. Harry couldn't help but envy them, how he wished that he still had the same hyperactivity and innocence. But as always, fate would throw things at him that would ensure that he would never get what he wanted.
Hermione touched Harry's hand, awakening him from his self-inflicted gloom. He reacted as she had hoped and gave her a gentle smile to acknowledge that he was thankful. To Harry, Hermione was and would always be an irreplaceable part of him. She was the only one capable of pulling him out of his own morose thoughts; Hermione was the method to his madness. She simply kept him sane. The momentary grimness of his mood vanishing, Hermione answered his previous question, "I'm not the one that's deciding. We agreed that after T and S, you get to choose."
"Oh." It had slipped Harry's mind. He didn't feel any particular want or need to go anywhere. He simply enjoyed roaming the town with his best friend at his side. Suddenly, Harry felt a small rumbling from his stomach, making its displeasure known to him. He was hungry, "It's probably a little early, but do you want to have lunch at The Three Broomsticks? I'm a bit famished."
Hermione was a little peckish. The impromptu run due to Harry's rather childish conduct had made her body need nourishment. It had been quite a workout for her considering that she had sprinted at full speed for approximately three minutes straight. It was only natural that she would be hungry especially since they spent nearly an hour in Tomes and Scrolls. So, Hermione simply bowed her head in agreement, "Me too. I'll pay this time."
"Hermione, you don't have to." Harry protested.
But of course, Hermione being Hermione, she insisted, "You paid for my book. I'll treat you to lunch."
The matter was settled. Harry could only smile knowingly, his efforts were futile as always. Hermione merely grinned, another victory under her belt. It didn't take long to arrive at The Three Broomsticks. Fortunately, it wasn't packed to the brim with students as lunch hadn't arrived just yet. Only the older students were within the establishment, mostly drinking butterbeer as they solicited conversations with one another. Harry and Hermione took to an table by the window that was surprisingly empty being that it was usually the window seats that were the first to be taken.
As Hermione sat down, she gazed disapprovingly at a pair of older Gryffindor boys flirting with a Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. She scoffed at their ridiculous actions, finding the whole courting debacle to be nothing more than an idiotic ritual to embarrass oneself. In her heart, Hermione could still feel the stinging shame for having fallen to their level at the beginning of the year. Even after putting on an air of intelligence far below her original portrayal, Hermione had yet to catch an eye from the male population; not even Ron, who she had thought was a sure thing, was not attracted to her but had fallen for Lavender Brown instead.
While Hermione was lost in thought, Harry took the opportunity of ordering their meal and drinks when Madam Rosmerta stopped by. He definitely noticed the critical stare on the group near them and her inattentiveness to her surroundings. Wanting to be of some help to Hermione's plight, Harry reached across the table and tapped her on the arm. Hermione reacted as he had predicted. She looked up from her reverie to stare at Harry who was grinning rather amusingly at her actions. He asked, "Galleon for your thoughts?"
"Oh Harry, you would have been twice as rich as you are now if that was ever the case." Hermione joked. Her blithesome mask then broke as she then scowled, "I just hate these ridiculous expectations people are age have for themselves. Look at them." She pointed to the coquetting mixture of Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws, "They're behaving rather against their usual self in favor of being embarrassingly idiotic in order to appeal to the other sex."
Harry moved to reply, but unfortunately, Hermione wasn't exactly through with her rant just yet, "Why do we have act upon our basic urges by going after an individual that only arouses you sexually? In fact, why does one have to 'date' someone they hardly know in the first place? Can't they at least be friends first in order to see if their personality is at least compatible with their preferable partner and then, if it's good, simply progress to the next level via natural progression of their relationship?
"And for that matter, why must we dumb down ourselves in order to be more attractive? Why can't we just find someone that is their equal in their intellectual maturity instead of braving a facade of incompetence? What is so intimidating about a young woman who is not afraid to freely express herself and state her opinion? She isn't less of a woman, she's just strong, brilliant, and loyal!"
When Hermione finished, she had picked up the mug of butterbeer that Madam Rosmerta had brought while she was still speaking and began gulping it down. To Harry's amazement, she had managed to drink the entire container in under less than fifteen seconds. Not even the ardent of competitive drinkers within the Gryffindor male dorm could have managed such a feat. But listening to Hermione, something clicked in his mind; he now what she meant when she belittled herself earlier at the start of their morning. Tentatively, because he did not want to risk to dishearten Hermione any further, he asked, "Is this about Ron being with Lavender?"
Hermione's eyes met with Harry, she was shrouded in a melancholic mist. She bobbed her head and sighed wistfully, "Yeah. On top of that, I wasn't exactly being the most supportive friend to you. I was also ignoring you during the whole fiasco." Hermione picked at the plate of food in front of her, "I just wanted to be a normal girl for once. I wanted to have a boyfriend who would genuinely like me. We would kiss and support each other. It may not last and I was prepared for that, but at least it would have been good while we had it."
"I can understand." Harry said empathetically, "What I would give to be just Harry instead of Harry Potter y'know? But, Hermione, forgive me for asking, why Ron though?"
"Because he was my friend." Hermione easily said, "It's not like we we're very close unlike you and I Harry, but we were best friends all the same. Ginny said he liked me and so I thought, 'Why not?'. He was funny, nice enough, and thought that maybe we could stop arguing if we just dated. But..."
"He went for Lavender instead."
"To be honest, I never thought you and Ron would have me a great pair to begin with."
Hermione shot up alarmed, "What? Why didn't you tell me to begin with? I thought you supported the whole idea, that's why I thought it was a good plan!"
"I didn't think that!" Harry retorted confused, "Besides, I didn't say anything because I thought that if you were happy with Ron! If you were happy, then I would be happy! Simple as that! You're my best friend after all."
The supposedly Brightest Witch of the Age crumpled back down to her seat, her arms crossed, "Now I feel even more foolish. If you had thought it was a bad idea, I would have abandoned the whole notion at the get-go." She shook her head disappointment on her features, "Regardless, other than Ron, there was no one else I would want to pursue. I'm not exactly the prettiest witch in Hogwarts. Not to mention that the most of the male population in the castle is rather intimidated by my intelligence. And let's not even get into Slytherin..."
"Well, for what it's worth. I think you're the most beautiful girl in Hogwarts, and I'm not at all afraid of your brains. Ron once described you as 'brilliant, but scary', but I always thought of you more 'brilliant and gorgeous'." Harry sincerely admitted, breaking out into a smile as he observed Hermione's darkened face beginning to glow once again as a timid smile formed at her lips. His tactic of complimenting her was working, but then again, he really did have those thoughts.
"When were you able to speak with such finesse Harry sappy as those words may be?"
"I just have..." Harry flashed a rather boyish grin in what he thought was alluring, "...a way with women."
They resumed their early lunch in good spirits. For Hermione, she no longer felt the crippling blow to her self-esteem when her thoughts strayed to Ron and his rejection. Talking to Harry made her realize that she had someone that knew her well and respected her despite their differences; he was her best friend and she was his. She didn't need to have a boyfriend so long as she had Harry. In fact, thinking about how she felt when she left Harry alone during her time spent chasing after Ron, it was easily one of the loneliest time of her life. If having a boyfriend meant not being able to have time to be with Harry, then it wasn't worth it. Not at all.
By the time they left The Three Broomsticks, it was already nearing the lunch rush. Harry and Hermione struggled to get through the crowd that was entering into the inn and pub, pushing back waves upon waves of casually-clad teenage boys and girls as they attempted to satiate their bottomless hunger. Fortunately, they managed to escape without much injury, only the small agony of a few stepped toes was the result of their reckless endeavors. When they were outside, they noticed that several of the couples were already making their way to Madam Puddifoot's. This sparked the memory of Harry's first and only date with Cho Chang which led him to grimace.
"I will never understand the appeal of Madam Puddifoot's." Hermione voiced as she stood next to him, "Granted, I understand it's a hotspot for a date, but most of what's inside is rather ostentatious."
"Don't remind me. I regretted going there as the location of my date with Cho." Harry agreed, "Never again."
Hermione was reminded of Harry's rather unfortunate attempt of dating the Ravenclaw seeker. She never really liked how the girl had used Harry as a replacement of Cedric, manipulating his feelings for her in an attempt to further her own happiness. Fortunately, Harry had managed to cut the already terrible date short by ditching Cho to meet with her. That was deeply gratifying but she would never admit that out loud.
Nothing was said further about Cho. Neither of them had any shops in mind to visit so they decided to take a stroll down the streets, letting the wind guide them. The already grey overcast darkened considerably, readying to burst its stockpile that had been slowly building up. Few students took the road now, and Hermione estimated that they had taken shelter in the abundant shops in the town. No longer was Hogsmeade riddled with the robust cries of adolescents at the height of activity; instead, it became one of its most common forms: a tranquil village.
"You're not wearing any gloves Harry."
Harry looked down at his hands. Sure enough, he wasn't. "I must have forgotten. It's no problem Hermione."
"But your hands are shivering." Harry frowned, "Don't give me that Harry. Here, take this."
Hermione took Harry's left hand and placed it in front of her. She proceeded to remove the oversized gloves on her left and fastened it securely onto Harry. However, Harry was unsatisfied, now leaving Hermione be exposed to the cold, "But now your hand is going to be frozen."
"Nope." Hermione grabbed Harry's right hand and interlocked her fingers around his, "Better?"
"Warm." Harry observed when he felt Hermione's soft skin around his own. He felt the heat being transferred onto his own leaving Harry wondering how exactly Hermione was able to produce such thermal energy. However, he stopped his thoughts when he brought up what he knew about Hermione. She was an extremely passionate and driven young woman that reminded him of a raging fire whenever she was in a thoughtful state. However, she can also be incredibly warm and kind, helping those that need it without ever expecting any reward but their thanks. Harry found it appropriate that her body correlated with her nature.
"Harry, I'm curious." Hermione asked as they continued their stroll, "What is your idea of a perfect date? I know that you only went by suggestions when it came to Cho."
Harry considered her question and surprisingly, he already knew what it was. He turned to Hermione, a demure grin expressed, "It's not really difficult to imagine. Why don't you take a guess?"
"Considering you, will it be going to a quidditch match?" Hermione sarcastically asked.
"I'm not Ron Hermione."
"Then is it flying together with you?" Hermione concluded, more serious in her conjecture, "You do love to fly."
Hermione regarded Harry bemused, "You're not joking?"
"Nope," Harry chuckled, "Try again."
Silence reigned over them as Hermione was given time to make another attempt. She increased her efforts to reason a correct conclusion. However, the more she thought, the greater the distance between her and the answer. It wasn't until the metaphorical gap had become an black chasm of unknown depth that was long as the Atlantic ocean did she give up. Defeated, Hermione pouted up at Harry, "I give up."
"Hmm." Harry hummed in satisfaction. He mused whether or not he should extend Hermione's torture of being without information but decided that it wasn't worth the mild disruption of the comfortable ambiance. Harry looked down at their interwoven digits, marveling at the warmth and comfort it brought to him. He recalled all the times when Hermione would take his hand to calm him and how each occurrence it worked significantly. He ceased his steps, inducing Hermione to do the same. Then, he quietly announced, "A walk with someone whom I can talk to and be comfortable with; someone I love and would always care for. That is my perfect date."
"Oh." Hermione whispered, her voice was small and wistful, "So we're like that?"
"Is that alright?"
Hermione and Harry stared at one another, the two of them trying to come up with a reason that could detract the sudden development. But try as they might, they could not find any reason not to other than their own fears. In their eyes, they saw the love and care the two of them had for one another; how could they deny this? There was an unfathomable beauty in simplicity.
"Harry, you know I love you." She told him, her words flowing out naturally as if nothing changed, "You're my best friend."
Harry knew that the love Hermione spoke of him was not meant in the strict definition of romantic. He could acknowledge that, and while others would see this as a sign of rejection, that was not the case for him. However, while her love was something that could not be strictly defined. It was not solely romantic nor was it solely familial. No, it was none of those things. It was a love that Hermione had for Harry. "I love you too Hermione. Without a doubt." He replied back to her, smiling warmly as ever.
"I guess this is just the natural way of things isn't it?"
"You said it yourself didn't you? Earlier, at The Three Broomsticks."
"When did you realize about this?"
"At the bookshop while I was imagining who I could see in my future."
"So shall we give this a try then?"
"I know I want to. But what about you?"
"More than anything, but I'm afraid..."
"Can we be take it one step at a time?"
"Sure, we can keep things simple."
"You're brilliant Harry."
"Funny, that's usually my line."
Hermione reached up and softly took off Harry's round glasses. His vivid, emerald orbs could be seen clearly without the glare of his spectacles getting in the way. She could see her reflection in them, noticing the large smile that decorated her profile. To Harry, everything was a blur now except for the single person in front of him. The world was a jumble of colors and shapes blended together into more confusing shades. Only Hermione, who stood close to him, was clear. Hermione leaned forward, pressing her soft lips against Harry. Harry felt her tantalizing, warm kiss and returned it, wrapping one arm around her waist.
Overhead, snow descended from the celestial sphere. The pure color of the flakes covered the landscape around them, sparking a freezing chill to sharply arise. The world was blanketed by the clear ice crystals all around the two friends' environment, creating a backdrop of almost total white. But to Harry and Hermione, things were still the same. They parted after what seemed like hours, the two of them smiling broadly at the marvelous senses that washed over them. Reality sunk in when they heard the screams of elation of students exiting from buildings. Harry and Hermione looked around to find that more and more of their classmates walked out into the snow to enjoy Jack Frost's gift.
Harry shivered, noticing how cold it suddenly became, "Brr, it's freezing. Hermione, fancy checking the sports store to warm up?"
Hermione mulled over her choices of staying in the cold or entering a nice, warm building. Her mind was instantly made up, "I would like that. Besides, I'm curious about their selection of casual brooms."
"It's actually better here than in Diagon Alley." Harry supplied, "In Diagon Alley, they cater more to the quidditch players."
Hermione grimaced, "Ugh, don't remind me. As much as I enjoy a nice fly now and then, I don't really like the intensity of that sport. Far too dangerous for my taste."
"I remember how much you hated flying in general in First Year. Something about you not being good at it, therefore you hate it."
"I'm not eleven anymore Harry. I think I'm rather much more grown-up now don't you think?"
"True." Harry easily concorded but was now sporting a rather large, pixie-like grin that could easily rival Peeves, "Off I go then." With that, Harry took off at a brisk pace, his long legs – thought not as long as Ron's or any Weasley male for that matter – taking in great strides towards his shop of choice. Already he was making great progress, creating a sizable distance between he and his bushy haired compatriot.
Hermione froze in motion as she watched Harry trot off. It took her mind a few moments to comprehend the situation at hand. She came to the conclusion that Harry was being rather infantile again. Hermione frowned in disapproval at the speed in which Harry was escaping from but nevertheless went after him at her own fast pace, "Honestly Harry! You are not doing this to me again twice."
In the back of Harry's and Hermione's mind, they knew everything has changed. But, despite it so, they also were aware that nothing has changed as well. They were still Harry and Hermione, best friends until the end of time. They would still be playful with each other and remain intimately close. And now, they were also something more, something that would be wrought with both fortune and misfortune. But they also knew that they still had each other, a special someone that would always be there through thick and thin.
All it took was a simple step forward together.
It was simplicity at its finest.
Afterword: Originally, in the Three Broomsticks scene, I was going to have Harry and Hermione come across Seamus who was lamenting over his loneliness. Although I was able to catch his character just right, I didn't like the direction where the story was going. Poor Seamus. He lost his best friend (Dean) and the love of his life (Lavender) to the Weasleys.
At the Three Broomsticks
Seamus: WHY DEAN! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME!
Neville: Erm - uh - what about Lavender?
Seamus: Forget that romance with her! Dean and I are heterosexual life partners! Bromancing for life! Bros before hoes!
...Yeah. I didn't want to get into that. Anyway, I hoped you enjoyed this story! I'll be off writing my work-in-progress now. Grumble grumble.