A/N: I do not own Harry Potter, as usual
WRITTEN UPON THE STARS
The waters on the surface of the lake were as calm as the winds over it, yet, the seventeen year old man who sat by the edge of the lake with his eyes towards the clear blue waters that seemed to hold endless wonder was anything but.
Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived and recently, the boy-who-won, stared at the waters of the Black Lake calmly, masking the internal clash within him that even now was happening.
Behind him stood – with its great majesty – the parapets of Hogwarts castle, invincible in appearance, majestic in grandeur, beckoning to anyone who see it welcome and peace, and yet, Harry knew that it was but an optical illusion.
Around the castle stood the grounds of Hogwarts, and though not as majestic as the castle itself, it seemed to convey a sense of peace to anyone or anything who would see it today.
Indeed, as Harry looked towards the lake, even the lake itself appeared to convey a message of peace.
Harry knew better.
It was just last night when the peace of Hogwarts castle was anything but. It was a battlefield where people have lost their lives, people whom Harry knew, people whom Harry loved.
As he thought about them, he cannot help but look towards the castle, towards where he knew the bodies of those that had fallen during the battle – students, professors, friends among them – are lying in state, a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives so that others can live in a future free from fear.
Everyone who had fallen last night had held a place in Harry's heart, from a teenage boy who had a camera in his hand who, it seems, cannot get enough of him to a surrogate godfather who was more than what meets the eye. A business partner who is more than just that, and a sister whose kind heart is reflected upon her clumsiness, every single one of them held a place in the heart of the young boy upon the thresholds of adulthood that sat upon the edge of the Black Lake with a heavy heart.
Yet, as Harry sat upon a makeshift seat – a transfigured rock – it was not those who had lost their lives he was thinking about. He had made his peace with their deaths. He might not accept that they are gone for a long, long time, but at least, he had acknowledged their deaths and he had began the long and painful path to acceptance.
No, it was something else that Harry was thinking about, something closer to home, something that he knew he needed to answer as soon as possible.
As the Boy-who-Lived, Harry had numerous opportunities before, but now as the Boy-who-Won, Harry had even more opportunities in front of him that he should consider.
Headmistress McGonagall had already offered to take Harry and his friends back in school so that they may formally finish their education.
Newly proclaimed Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt had personally offered Harry the chance to enter the Auror Office without the usual requirements.
Numerous owls from magical libraries all around the world have already sent owls, bearing congratulations for his defeat of Voldemort and a job offer to translate the Parseltongue books left behind by the clan of Salazar Slytherin.
Puddlemore United had sent a representative this morning, offering him a starting slot with their starting team, and many more national quidditch teams are following behind them.
The muggle-born coalition had already sent a request that he become their spokesperson.
The list of the paths that was available to him is endless. It was something that he never truly considered having to do after the defeat of the Dark Lord. For an uncountable number of times since his life in the magical world began, he wished that he was not Harry Potter.
With a sigh, he realized that the offers that were showered upon him, all of them can wait until he figured out something that was closer to him. He knew that there is no way that he can make a decision alone, he needed someone to help him, and Harry Potter instinctively knew that whoever that someone is, she would be the one who would be with him for the rest of his life. He knew that the path that he would take for the future would be made clear the moment that he makes his life partner clear.
As he sat by the edge of the Black Lake, his legs crossed and his eyes focused on the deep waters, Harry wondered who his life partner would be. He had dated Ginny Weasley briefly during his sixth year, but they had to break up because of the danger associated with being Harry Potter's girlfriend, and because Harry cannot, in good conscience, involve her in the Horcrux Hunt. Now he thought about getting back with her.
As he mused about the prospect of having Ginny back, an unbidden smile came across his face. Ginny was fun, she was always full of energy, always ever ready to do what she feels she must do, an enthusiasm that Harry knew that he does not have.
Yet, as Harry sat upon his transfigured rock, he also realized something.
Harry Potter had always been a private person. Harry is a person who would much prefer to be left alone than to be dangled out in front of the press. Ginny, on the other hand, was anything but that. Harry had long ago realized that his vibrant ex-girlfriend relishes the attention. It was something that she and Harry do not have in common.
With a smile, Harry realized that Ginny would push Harry to take all of the offers for him save the offer of the new Headmistress and the offer to translate the books of Salazar Slytherin and his progeny. Aside from those two, every offer that was being presented to Harry was a surefire way of garnering attention, and Ginny would love nothing more but to be the center of attention.
The last trace of steam evaporated in the autumn air. The train rounded a corner. Harry's hand was still raised in farewell.
"He'll be alright", murmured Ginny.
As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead
"I know he will"
Ginny nodded once, to give a sign to her husband that now that his worries about his children are over and done with, they should turn and head home. Harry agreed with her, he has a lot of things to do at the office.
With a smile, he allowed Ginny to lead him away from the platform. He was thinking about the case files that were three books thick waiting for him at his desk – whoever said being Head Auror was fun, he thought – so he was not really paying attention to where his wife was leading him
If he was, Harry would have noticed that Lily, his daughter, was nowhere near them. He would not have to worry though, as he would have only needed to turn around once to find that his daughter was safe with her godmother, Hermione.
Unfortunately for Harry, since he was not paying attention to where Ginny was leading him, he had no indication of the trap until the moment that he registered the first tell-tale sign of a camera flashing.
His eyes widening, Harry turned towards his wife only for him to see that she was playing up with the reporters that were gathered before them. Angrily, Harry realized that apparently, the press coverage of her games as the lead chaser of the Hollyhead Harpies was not enough and she had to drag him into a press conference.
Harry stared at the reporters in front of him and noted that most of them were looking towards the platform where the Hogwarts Express had just departed. With a sigh, Harry realized just what they, or rather, he, is about to go through. As if being stared at by parents and children before the train leaving was not enough.
"Okay, that's enough!" a voice from behind Harry said.
Both Harry and Ginny turned towards the source of the voice and found Hermione walking towards them. She was still holding onto Lily while dragging Ron at the same time.
A sideward glance towards Ginny confirmed that she was pouting, but Ginny knew better than to question Hermione. Specially since Hermione would not relinquish her stand and Harry would always, always stand with Hermione. It would not do well for anyone, certainly not Harry and Ginny, for the two of them to be seen arguing. It would be worse because Harry would be siding with Hermione.
Ginny smiled towards Hermione and then glanced towards the reporters, "You heard the lady," she said with a smile, "We can schedule another interview"
Harry sighed and fought the urge to dress down his wife in public. He knew that he needed to talk with Hermione because she is the only one who can calm him down, especially after one of Ginny's escapades.
Looking towards his wife, Harry shot her a smile. He might not like he attitude when it comes to patronizing reporters, but Harry loves her. He married her after all, and she gave him three wonderful children, one of whom, Harry took into his arms as he silently disapparatted.
Harry smiled as the vision ended. He had no doubt that Ginny and he would make a fabulous couple. Harry was sure that they would have some problems as their personalities are opposite one another, but Harry knew that in relationships, there are always clashes between the husband and the wife, they only have to learn how to get through that.
Ginny would make a fabulous mother, Harry knew. She has an excellent example in her mother and to Harry, which is an absolute plus. He wanted to be a father; he knew that from the moment that he can first think.
What surprised Harry was his almost unconscious need to be with Hermione. He was already married to Ginny, and yet, it was still Hermione whom he depends on. He knew from instinct that even should he marry Ginny, it would always be Hermione he would depend upon.
The soon-to-be eighteen year old young man upon the thresholds of adulthood had no problem imagining himself calling on Hermione when he requires assistance on how to change the diapers of his children; he had no problem imagining himself calling on Hermione when there is something that he cannot understand. He had depended on Hermione ever since that Halloween night that it was already a normal reaction.
As he thought about that, his mind wandered to how Ginny looked at Hermione when she told the reporters – using different words, of course – to scram. Ginny looked at Hermione with irritation that Harry knew came from the fact that even if they were to be married, Harry would always side with Hermione.
With a smile, Harry realized that agreeing with Hermione is also almost second-nature to him since she is usually right about things. Harry had already figured out that it is best to agree with Hermione.
Harry sighed as he shook his head to rid his mind of any traces of the vision that he had just seen. The Boy-who-Won was not sure if that is the future that he would wish for himself, yet, he knew that there are things about that future that he had envisioned that would always be true. Harry wanted to have children, he wanted to have a son whom he can teach how to fly the moment that his mother was not there to look, and a daughter who would have him so wrapped up around her little fingers that he would be jumping up and down if that is what would make her smile.
With another smile, Harry then realized that perhaps, being with Ginny is not the right thing for him. The fact that Ginny probably would not object to him teaching their son how to fly notwithstanding, Ginny had always shown a possessiveness that is dangerous.
Harry knew that it might not be Hermione whom he would end up with, but regardless of who the girl would be, Hermione would always be there with Harry. Ginny, Harry knew, would never accept that.
A light breeze tore Harry out from his reverie and he focused his attention back towards the Black Lake. Off into the distance, Harry smiled as he saw the tentacles of the giant squid as the creature of the deep basked upon the warm sun that heralded the coming summer.
As he sat watching the giant squid, Harry found himself wondering just how big the creature really was. No one among the Hogwarts staff can tell Harry anything about it, indeed, not even Hagrid, whom Harry knew is the one who is the most familiar – more familiar even than Professor Dumbledore – with the grounds and the creatures residing in and around the castle, can tell Harry a definite answer.
As he thought about that tiny tidbit fact, the former Tri-Wizard champion who once had to dive into the lake to rescue someone for the second task thought about why he never got the chance to see the creature up close and personal.
As he thought about the second task, he smiled as he remembered the hostages selected for them. It had galled Harry before and – as he thought about it, he realized – it galled him even now that his hostage was a boy. Even Fleur Delacour – who was the only female champion – had to rescue a girl.
As he thought about it, though, Harry realized that the real reason that he was galled was because the girl that he wanted to rescue was there in the lake that day, only, she was not his hostage. Harry realized that if he had asked her to be his date for the ball, then perhaps, she would have been his hostage, damn that….
"I thought that you would be here," a voice from behind Harry said.
Harry turned around and saw Hermione approaching him. She was wearing a triumphant smile upon her face, as if locating him was some sort of contest, though Harry would not put it pass the over-jubilant crowds that were still celebrating the end of the war.
"May I join you?" Hermione asked.
Harry smiled as he nodded. Waving his hand, Harry conjured another make-shift seat for her to use, impressing Hermione whose facial features – showing her shock and amazement – did not bother to hide what she is feeling.
"Wandless and non-verbal magic," Hermione said, her voice slow and low, full of reverence and amazement, she looked at Harry and smiled before she asked, "Can you teach me?"
Harry smiled as he nodded. At the back of his mind, Harry told himself that this was typical of Hermione. Always curious, always wanting to learn.
Hermione sat at the make-shift chair that Harry had conjured for her, and then she turned her gaze towards the lake. She imagined that she was looking at the same thing that Harry was looking at. As she sat upon the make-shift seat, she cannot help but remember the time when she was in that lake.
She might not be a participant in the tournament, but she was an important part of it. Of course, it galled her that she was the hostage of the wrong person.
As she turned her head towards the direction of Harry, she heard herself ask, "What are you thinking about?"
Harry smiled, "I was thinking about the tournament, fourth year," he replied, he looked at Hermione and stared at her eyes – Merlin, how beautiful those eyes are – before he continued, "Specifically, the second task"
"Ah," Hermione replied, surprised that she was thinking about the exact same thing that she was thinking about. She paused for a few moments, wondering if she is in the correct position to ask the question that has been bugging her since Viktor Krum pulled her out of the lake three years ago. With a sigh, Hermione realized that even though she might not be in the perfect position to ask the question, the time would soon come when she would not be able to answer the question at all, so – being a Gryffindor, despite being told, numerous times, that she should have been in Ravenclaw – she gathered her courage – not exactly a little considering that she, unlike Ron, was with Harry during the final year of the war – and asked Harry, "Do you ever think that they picked the wrong hostage for you for the task?"
Harry blinked. For a brief few seconds, she wondered if Hermione, his best friend, had learned Legillimancy, for that was exactly what was on his mind, but then mentally shook his head to tell himself that perhaps, he was so open that Hermione can ready exactly what he was thinking.
After that brief few seconds, Harry nodded his head and replied with a smile, "Sometimes, yeah," he said, he began to silently chuckle as he added, "I mean, everyone else got to rescue a beautiful girl, I was left with Ron"
Hermione chuckle with Harry, but before she can say anything, Harry added, "How about you?"
Hermione blinked. She looked at Harry, her best friend, and then thought, Gryffindors charge ahead, before she nodded and replied in a clear voice, "I was disappointed"
"Disappointed?" Harry asked with a confused expression written upon his face, "Viktor rescued you"
"Not about that part," Hermione replied, she sighed as she added, "I was disappointed because I was rescued by the wrong person"
"But…" Harry began, ready to remind Hermione – whom he cannot believe forgot about it – that she is the hostage of Viktor Krum.
Hermione cut him off even before he can even say anything, "I know I was the hostage of Viktor," she replied, "but would you believe me when I tell you that I've always wished that Viktor was the one who got caught by the Gryndillows instead of Fleur?"
"But if he was caught, then…" Harry began, and then his eyes widened as he realized what Hermione was trying to say, he looked at her and asked, "You wanted me to rescue you?"
Hermione blushed a little as she nodded, "Would that be too much?" she asked with a smile, "I mean, you've already done it for me first year, I was hoping that you could do it again"
Harry smiled, Well, I suppose I can ask some merpeople to tie you up in that rock again so that I can rescue you probably this time," he said with a smile.
Hermione smiled back and within moments, the two of them were laughing. Their laughter however, while not force, also hid the fact that both of them were trying to hide something.
For Hermione, this was obvious, she was trying to hide the disappointment that she felt when Harry was not there to rescue her, while for Harry, it was the disappointment that they could never really have a repeat performance of the second task, much as he would have wanted it.
Hermione sighed; she looked at Harry with a neutral expression and held her gaze. Numerous things came into her mind as she held that gaze, she thought about all the adventures that she and the boy beside her have had in the seven years that they had known each other, and she thought about their other friend. She thought about the future, and she attempted to see where the road that she is on right now would take her. It was not an easy task.
Hermione sighed again and this time, Harry looked at her with an expression of inquiry written upon his face. Upon noticing the expression, Hermione smiled back at him and replied, "I imagine that that would generate an unusual amount of interest, more interest than the ones that, apparently, the whole wizarding press is again putting on you," she smiled as he added under her breath, "Chosen one"
Harry snorted in reply, "Bloody parasites," he said under his breath. Like the last words of Hermione – words that she did not expect Harry to hear – Harry was hoping that Hermione would not hear the last words that he had said. Unfortunately for him though, Hermione was the top student in their year, and one of the reasons that she held that crown was because she was a good listener.
Still, knowing how much the wizarding press had praised, degraded, praised, degraded before finally praising Harry again had always irritated her best friend, she chose not to comment on what Harry had just said. Instead, she decided to steer the topic of their conversation back to the real reason that she had sought him out in the first place.
"What are you thinking about?" Hermione asked. Seeing the shocked expression on the face of Harry, she let out a chuckle as she added, "I know you, Harry, and I know that this spot is your favorite thinking place," she looked at him seriously and asked her question again, though this time in a more polite manner, "May I know what you are thinking about?"
Harry sighed and looked at his best friend. With a smile toward her that she may or may have misunderstood, Harry realized that there is no way that she can really lie to her, "A lot of things," he admitted after a few moments.
After saying that, Harry paused and wondered if it would be proper for him to admit to Hermione that he was thinking about her. Somehow, Harry knew that Hermione would have already came to the conclusion that he was thinking about the roads that are being presented to him, and so, Harry was forced to wonder if it would be proper for him to inform her that he was actually considering her as his life partner.
Hermione nodded, though she too, had to pause to consider some things. As she was seated beside her best friend, Hermione was thinking about the exact same thing that her best friend was thinking about. 'Would it be possible for me and Harry to have a future together?' was the question that was running through her mind.
Though Hermione wanted to ask that very question, at that same moment, her Gryffindor courage failed her and she decided instead to seek an answer to that question through a circular means.
Instead of asking that question directly, therefore, she posed a different question. Staring at Harry, Hermione then asked, "Are you and Ginny getting back together?"
Harry stared at her for a few moments, wondering what brought about that question that – for Harry – was so far away and unconnected with her last question. Harry, however, decided that now is not the best time to think about the genesis that brought about that question.
No doubt playing in the mind of the boy-who-lived was also the fact that he wanted to answer that question because he wanted to know what the answer of Hermione would be if he were to say yes or no.
Deciding that the honesty is always the best policy, Harry decided to give his best friend a candid answer and shook his head. As he was not looking at Hermione when he shook his head, he did not notice a faint smile appear on the lips of Hermione.
"I don't know," Harry admitted, though, and the moment that the last syllable of those three dreaded words had left his mouth, that same smile that had appeared on her face disappeared. By the time that Harry had turned his attention back to his best friend, she had already managed to muster her expression back to neutral.
"So you two aren't together right now?" Hermione blurted out the moment that Harry looked at her. She did not know where that came from, but she had already blurted out the words without even thinking, and she realized – quite belatedly – that she can never take those words back.
Harry subconsciously noted the glee in the voice of Hermione when she asked that question, but since he did not note it consciously, he really did not see the need to comment on it. Seeing the guilty look on the face of Hermione, though, Harry came to the conclusion that she had somehow made a mistake in asking that question, and he knew that he would have to assure her that the question was fine.
Strangely enough, Harry did not mind assuring Hermione, but at the same time, he noted – consciously this time – that he never really felt the exact same way for Ginny. When it comes to the youngest Weasley, Harry had to reassure her about a number of things and even then, Harry cannot be sure if Ginny is assured by his words. If Harry was honest with himself, it irritated him to no end.
"It's alright," Harry said as he pulled Hermione closer to him. Whether it was the effect of spending more than three months with only each other or something else, neither Harry nor Hermione can tell, but ever since the end of their quest to defeat Voldermort, Harry had found himself more comfortable initiating contact with Hermione.
Unsurprisingly, Hermione hugged him back, but at the same time that she did, she said, "I'm sorry, Harry, I should not have asked"
Harry smiled as he gently stroked the untamed bushy brown hair of Hermione, "It's alright," he reassured her, and then he gently pushed her away at arm's length and asked, "How about you and Ron? Are you getting together?"
Harry noted the hesitation in the part of his best friend, and it confused Harry. He had witnessed the kiss that the two had shared before the final battle the night before and he had thought that it was a done deal between the two of them.
Of course, now that he had nothing to distract him, Harry realized that he probably would have attacked Ron the moment that he kissed Hermione.
A sick, unfamiliar feeling that reminded Harry of the color green seem to rose from within him as he remembered that particular event from last night. He does not have a name for this feeling, but he knew that he had felt it before.
The almost eighteen year old remembered that this green and sick feeling had been his companion for most of his young life. When his cousin gets a new toy, when his cousin gets a kiss from his mother, when his cousin is treated like a kid by his parents, this same green feeling rose from within Harry.
Without even thinking about it, Harry tightened his grip upon Hermione. She noted it, but did not protest since it was not proving that much difficult for her. At the same time that she noted this, however, she also had to wonder what brought about such a reaction from her best friend.
Figuring that she would never know unless she asks him a direct question – and that was the last thing that Hermione wants to do right now – she decided to discard it and just answer the question that Harry had posed, "No, not yet," she replied, she looked straight at Harry as he stared back at her.
For a few moments, the two best friends actually were lost in each other's eyes. His embarrassment at being caught staring at Hermione catching up with him, Harry was the first one to break eye contact, but he did so just a fraction of a second before Hermione.
To cover for this – rather – faux-pas, Hermione continued what she was saying, "He asked me if I would be his girlfriend," she said, not noting the look on the face of the boy that she was speaking with as that green feeling once more rose within Harry, "I told him that I would have an answer for him soon"
"I see," Harry said as he subconsciously fought against himself to bring down that green feeling within him. He forced out a smile as he stared at his best friend, hoping that that smile would be construed by Hermione to mean that he is happy for her.
As he thought about it, however, Harry realized that he does not need to force himself to smile. He realized that he would be happy for Hermione as long as she is happy. If she is going to be happy with Ron, then Harry realized that he should be happy for her.
At the back portion of the mind of the boy-who-lived, however, was a group of brain cells that respectfully disagreed with what the majority of the brain cells – and the intrinsic selflessness of the boy-who-lived – and these cells were quite vocal with their objection.
'You've lost almost everyone that is dear to you, Harry', the voice at the back of his head whispered to him, 'Your parents, your godfather, almost every adult figure in your life, for once in your life, Potter, you need to be selfish, your selflessness would not do you any good'
Harry nodded. Hermione took that nod to mean nothing when in truth, Harry was nodding in response to the thoughts voiced out by the voice from the back of his head. It did not mean, however, that the boy-who-lived agreed with what the voice said.
Hermione, however, saved Harry from further arguing with himself when she opened her mouth hesitantly. Harry noted this and told himself to shut up so that he may properly listen.
"To tell you the truth, Harry, Ron was not at all pleased when I did not reply to him right away," Hermione said, she was too busy speaking that she failed to notice the look that came across the face of Harry. If she had, she would have probably feared for the safety of the youngest Weasley male. Not having noticed it, however, Hermione just continued with what she was saying, "Honestly, Harry," she said as she looked at him, "I am purposely holding back replying to his question"
Harry blinked, not having seen that coming. He looked at her just as she continued to stare back at him, and once more, they found themselves staring at each other's eyes and losing themselves there once more. Though they did break eye contact as before, this time, they stared at one another far longer than the last time.
"Why?" Harry asked before he can stop himself. Belatedly, he realized that the reason might be personal, and just because he is her best friend does not mean that she would be ready to give him an answer.
For her part, Hermione stared at Harry. She wondered if it would be proper for her to answer that question seeing that the reason that she was holding back had something to do with Harry.
A few moments later, however, she realized that if she does not voice it out loud, if she does not voice out loud what she was thinking then it is possible that the time would never come when she would be able to do so. Considering that this is the best time and place to tell Harry about it, she decided to tell Harry the reason.
At that critical juncture, however, she hesitated, and she found herself wondering if she can really do this, if she can really admit to Harry that the reason that she was purposely delaying answering Ron's proposal to her was because she was wondering if Harry would ever do the same.
Again, however, the back of her mind reminded her that this is the perfect place and time to admit her feelings for him, feeling that were there even before the first time that he had saved her seven years ago. Feelings that Hermione knew would shackle her to him even if she were to decide to be with Ron.
'It isn't fair,' Hermione told herself as she mentally shook her head, 'it wouldn't be fair, to myself, Harry or Ron if I do not bring this up'
Having decided to air her thoughts, Hermione visibly breathed in. It was not as if she was consolidating her strength for the coming admission because she is consolidating her strength for the coming admission, and at the same time that she was gathering that, she was chanting to herself, 'Gryffindors charge ahead'
Hermione sighed once more, "I am holding back because there is something that I want to know first before I can commit myself to a relationship with Ron," she said, she looked at Harry and said, "I am holding back from telling him that I would be his girlfriend because I want to know, Harry, if…," she paused and seemed to hesitate, but before Harry can say anything, she continued, "if you and I can have a…"
Harry continued to stare at her, however, and if he were to be asked at that moment what Hermione had just said, he would be able to honestly answer that he cannot remember anything.
As the man who had won the war against the Dark Lord stared at her best friend, e realized something that he should have realized even before they had left for their quest to rid their world of the stain of Lord Voldemort, and as he sat at his transfigured rock by the calm waters of the Black Lake, once more, his insides are anything but.
A wry smile formed in the face of Harry as he realized that he should have realized a long time ago that he only has one best friend, and that one person that he can truly consider to be his best friend – that one person who had always been there for him – was now seated beside him.
As he thought about it, he cannot help but think about the past seven years since he had first espied the majestic grandeur of Hogwarts Castle and made friends for the first time in his life.
While Harry would always consider Ron to be his first friend, he realized that, in the past seven years, the red-haired boy had never been his best friend, no, Harry realized, that term can only be applied in the strictest interpretation of those words to the girl that is now seated beside him.
Harry realized that he had had adventures that did not involve the presence of Ronald Weasley. While Harry was also forced to concede that there are adventures that he shared only with Ron without Hermione, the adventures that he had with Hermione, they were something else.
Was she not the one who had always believed in him even if the whole magical world had turned against him? During their second year, was she not one of the few who had stood by his side even as the rest of the school avoided him like a plaque? Was she not the one who not only believed him but also thought of a way to prove that he is not to be feared? What did Ron do while Hermione was trying to prove that Harry was not the Heir of Slytherin? Nothing.
Of course, Harry had to admit that there were times when she pissed him off, and unbidden, the events of their third year Christmas came to mind, but then as he thought about it, he realized that Hermione did what she did for him.
Worried about his personal safety specially after having been thrown off his broom once, Hermione had used her mind and came up with the – it turned out – true origin of the broom. Although it did not contain the curses that she had feared, she was still correct as to who sent the broom, and therefore, worthy of being excused.
As he thought about it, he realized that Hermione was actually willing to lose him as a friend – the first friend that she had made since birth aside from her parents – just so that he can be safe, and he cannot help but feel like an idiot whenever he remembers his reaction to what was essentially Hermione trying to protect him.
What did Ronald do? He wanted to ride the broom. When Hermione presented the logical reasoning as to why she did what she did, Ron would not believe her, and belittled her instead.
What about Ginny? Harry realized that the youngest Weasley child was not there during that confrontation, but then Harry realized that, in accordance with her personality, Ginny would have sided with her brother in the hopes that she too would have had a chance to ride the broom.
Hermione more than made up for it during their fourth year. Who was it that stood by his side even when the school turned out against him? Who was it that stood by his side when his so-called best friend turned against him? It had always been Hermione.
Even small inconsequential things that many take for granted had to be considered. Harry knew that Hermione hated quidditch, and yet, she was always there to watch the match. With a wry mental smile, Harry realized that he had never really been informed if watching the game is required, but realized that Hermione would probably not be watching the game if not for him.
A smile came across the face of Harry that went unnoticed by Hermione even as she continued to talk. Harry knew that there are a lot of instances that Hermione had helped him. Subconsciously, he wondered if the reason for his almost ingrained dependence on Hermione was a result of those, but then told himself that even if it is, there is nothing wrong with it.
Harry turned his gaze toward Hermione even as she started to stare at him. No doubt she wanted to know an answer to the question that she had posed to Harry, but having retreated into his own mind even before she can finish her question, Harry had no idea what was it that she had asked.
Hermione wondered what he was thinking, and she had to admit that she was afraid. For a few seconds, she wondered if she had overstepped her bounds and her cynical side was ready to pounce, yelling as it did so, 'Harry is with Ginny'
Yet, the optimistic side of Hermione was ready for the onslaught, 'Harry is not yet with Ginny,' the optimistic side yelled back, 'he is still trying to decide if he should get back together with her'
'Why would Harry not get back with Ginny?' her cynical side retorted, 'She looks a lot like his mother and boys tend to look at their mothers as an example when looking for their future wives'
'Harry did not grow up with his mother,' the optimistic side retorted, 'He cannot, therefore know what his mother was like and therefore cannot use her as a reference when he is looking for his wife'
'Everyone says that Harry and Ginny should end up together,' that cynical side retorted, 'just as everyone is saying that you and Ron should end up together'
'Just because they are saying that it does not mean that we should bow and do what they want us to do,' this time, it was Hermione who answered her own cynical side, 'I love Harry, have loved him for a long time, I chose to stand away when he wanted to be with Ginny, but I think that I deserve to be selfish even for just a few moments.'
Her cynical and optimistic sides both paused as she finished telling herself that, but Hermione was not yet finished and instead continued her mental rant, 'I'm sick and tired of always being the sidekick, I am sick and tired of always being just the friend, I want to be more than that, but because he seemed happy with Ginny, I chose to stand away, even if I had knows even before then that it would be a mistake to do so, I do not want that anymore, I want to be selfish'
For his part, Harry continued to stare at Hermione. A smile formed in his face, but Hermione, bust arguing with herself, did not see that smile forming. It was probably for the best since, given the circumstances, Hermione might have misinterpreted that smile.
The thoughts of Harry returned to the roads that are now opened in front of him. The offers offered to him about what he should do next, and as he sat by the rock that he had transfigured, suddenly, the calmness of the surface of the lake in front of him was reflected inside of him.
The boy-who-lived realized that no matter which offer he would chose from those multitudes that are being offered to him, Hermione would be there to support him. He thought back to the vision that he had of him and Ginny being married and sending their kids off to Hogwarts, and Harry realized that even marrying Ginny is something that Hermione would support.
He turned his gaze toward his best friend, intent on saying something, and, a small part of him, intending to lose himself in her almond brown eyes that – even if it was the wrong color – reminded Harry of the calmness of the ocean on a windless day, but as he turned to look at her, he found that he was no longer by the lake on the grounds of Hogwarts.
Harry wiped the non-existent dirt off his shoulder before he turned his gaze back to the gathering in front of him and smiled.
The Great Hall of Hogwarts had been decorated only once before like this in the lifetime of the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor of Hogwarts, and it was during his fourth year when they had a Yule Ball.
The smile on the face of Harry broadened as he realized that perhaps one of the reasons that the Transfiguration Mistress of Hogwarts had suggested that they hold a ball was so that she can get back at him for his remarks that she cannot dance.
Whatever the reason would be, however, Harry cannot deny that he is actually excited about this. It was so much unlike the first Yule Ball in Hogwarts that he had to attend, back then, it was compulsory for him since he was the Champion, but today…today is just different.
Belatedly, he wondered if the reason for the difference of his attitude with this ball and that is because of his partner.
Harry smiled as he shook his head, riding himself of the images from a Yule celebration that seemed to be a lifetime ago. Instead, he made his way to the entrance to the Great Hall, mingling with students who were here early with their partners and who looked resplendent in their dress robes.
The door to the Great Hall opened before Harry can reach the majestic doors, however, and everyone paused. Harry turned his attention on the person who had entered the hall and the smile on his face became warmer.
Everyone else was staring at the person who entered in dress robes that made the resplendent dress robes of her students seemed pedestrian, but Harry Potter was not aware of that because his full attention was on the woman who had entered, the woman who had always held his heart, and who had so graciously made him the happiest man on the planet by becoming his wife. Mistress of Transfiguration, Hermione Potter.
Hermione stepped forward, and normal service was resumed, or at least, normal service was resumed for most of the hall. Harry, unfortunately, or fortunately depending on the point of view of the one watching him, still stood transfixed on his wife even as she gracefully made her way to him.
"Breath," Hermione whispered to her husband as soon as she was within earshot. It had the desired effect and Harry almost jumped when he realized that his wife was already by his side. Laughing at the antics of her husband, she took his hand, but allowed him to lead her to their table at the far end of the Hall.
Unknown to both Harry and Hermione, their actions are being observed by an older generation who had once been their professors back when the two well-liked professors in Hogwarts had been nothing more but the same as those students who now admire them.
It was probably for the best that the couple did not notice this since they would have became self-conscious. It was also probably for the best that the Harry-Hermione dating pool had been won by the Headmistress and that her winnings had been given to her even before Harry and Hermione had applied for teaching positions in Hogwarts.
Sufficiently coached by the father of his bride – even though they had been married for five years now – Harry helped Hermione to her seat before he took his. His action was met by stares of awe from the ladies and a corresponding uncomfortable shift from the partners of said ladies who had forgotten that basic courtesy.
Laughter, fake scowls, and looks of awe and wonderment filled the evening as the Yule Ball celebration got underway.
Headmistress McGonagall, observing her two newest professors, had to smile whenever she would catch them caressing each other's hand as they ate and conversed with their former professors, while the other professors can only register their astonishment – mentally, of course – that Harry and Hermione had taken too long to realize that they were made for each other.
By the end of dinner, Headmistress McGonagall stood and called for the attention of everyone. After saying a few remarks that are – in one way or another – related to the Yule Celebration, she opened the dance floor.
The Headmistress, however, wanted someone from the professors to open the dance and since the only other remaining male professor in Hogwarts if Professor Flitwick – who cannot dance with any of the female professors by account of his stature – Harry had to do it, and since he is married, he had to drag Hermione with him.
The Golden Couple of Hogwarts – strangely, it is now used in reference to two professors instead of two students – opened the dance. As if they were but one entity in two bodies, Harry and Hermione twirled, dipped and spun in perfect synchronization. Even when other couples finally made their way to the dance floor five minutes after Harry and Hermione started, the two were still at it, and the magical spotlight was focused on them.
In fact, they were the attention-grabbers in the room that all other couples had to content themselves – for the time being – at dancing along the edge of the dance floor since Harry and Hermione had pretty much claimed the entire dance floor for themselves as they continued to dance.
Recovering Hermione after sending her spinning away from him for what might have been the third or fourth time, Harry leaned closer to his wife and whispered to her ear, "I take it back, you can dance"
Hermione merely smiled at her husband in return for his admission, but did not say anything. The music had to come to an end, however, and it did a few moments later. Harry led Hermione off the dance floor and in the direction back to their table even as the other couples remained on the dance floor awaiting the opening tunes of the next song.
"Harry, love," Hermione said, lightly touching the arm of her husband with her free hand. Harry turned toward her with a questioning look and Hermione continued, "Why don't you go ahead, I seem to have a need to go to the comfort room," she said with a smile. Seeing the worried expression on the face of her husband, she continued, "Nothing serious, my love"
Harry nodded. For a few moments, he debated with himself whether or not to insist on coming with her, but he remembered the last time that he had tried to 'treat me like a porcelain figurine that needs to be looked after every five seconds,' as Hermione had put it, and quickly decided against going with her.
Hermione smiled toward her husband and then left for the direction of the nearest comfort room. Harry sat at their seat while the Headmistress – she claims that she is too old to dance – leaned closer to her former student and asked, "Hermione?"
Harry smiled, "She's on the comfort room," he replied, and seeing the raised eyebrows of the woman who had once held the position that his wife was now holding, he continued, "She does not like it when I treat her like a 'porcelain vase that needs to be looked after every five seconds', her words"
"Ah," McGonagall said with a nod. She looked toward the direction of the comfort room, probably trying to ascertain if Hermione is already returning, before she turned her gaze back toward Harry and asked, "How is she?"
Harry smiled and he seemed to have jumped out of his chair with the enthusiasm that he displayed as he replied to the question of the Headmistress, "You might not have noticed it, but she is getting bigger," he replied, the smile seemed to broaden, if that was possible, as Harry added, "the healers say that she and the baby would be fine, and much as I want to worry about her and the child, I find that I cannot"
Headmistress McGonagall nodded, "I wish you happiness with the birth of your first child, Harry," she said, but then she turned serious and asked, "Do you know that everyone who knew your father and mother had often remarked that you and Mrs. Potter would end up together?"
Harry looked toward the Headmistress and shook his head. With confusion in his face, he said, "No, I did not," before he asked, "I thought everyone was saying that me and Ginny should have ended up together since I look a lot like my father and she looks a lot like my mother?"
Headmistress McGonagall actually laughed, but her laughter reflected her age and it was not as boisterous as Harry would have expected. Still, it got a message across, and the message that Harry got was that whoever thought about it like that was not thinking properly.
"Yes," McGonagall began, "the former Ms. Weasley and your mother are physically alike, and yes, you and your father are physically alike, but it is not just about the physical aspect of a person that drives them together"
"Those who thought that you should have ended up with the former Ms. Weasley sees the return of your parents, they thought that you should have been with her because she looks like your mother, but in truth, young Harry," Headmistress McGonagall continued, "Your wife has more in common with your mother than did Ms. Weasley," she smiled and added, "In fact, the former Ms. Weasley and your mother have more things different than they had in common"
Harry nodded, instantly seeing those things that the Headmistress was referring to. Having gone through this before, Harry can identify those things that Ginny and his mother have in common as well as those things that Hermione and his mother have in common. Harry can also identify the things that his mother and Ginny do not have in common and the Headmistress was right, there are far more things that Lily Potter and the former Ginevra Weasley do not have in common that they do have in common.
Things that, Harry had noted a long time ago, his mother had in common with Hermione.
"Quiddich," Harry said.
Headmistress McGonagall laughed, "Among other things," she admitted, "Your wife and your mother hates the sport, yet, they watch it because the boy that they love is playing," she smiled fondly as she continued, "their backgrounds – both of them having non-magical parents – notwithstanding, your wife and your mother are both hard workers, excelling in anything that they wished to do, both were perfect for the Head Girl position, and your mother was Head Girl, and the only reason that your wife was not one was because she did not finish her formal education"
"And many other things, Headmistress," Harry said, taking over from the Headmistress, "Things that Ginny and my mother do not share"
Headmistress McGonagall nodded, "That is why I find it funny whenever Molly would scream that her daughter is the perfect wife for you, Harry," she replied, she smiled as she added, "In any case, I do not think that the things that your wife and your mother have in common had pushed you two together, I mean, that is not the reason that you married Hermione," she snorted and said, "By that logic, all husbands had married wives that are like their mother, but I know that that is not the case"
Harry nodded, but before he can say anything in response to what the Headmistress had said, he caught sight of Hermione making her way toward them. Mouthing an excuse to the Headmistress, he stood and made his way to his wife who, predictably, resented the fact that he was making a fuss about her just because she was pregnant with their first born.
Neither noticed the smile on the face of their Headmistress who was staring at them with a reminiscing look on her eyes. The Headmistress was not really looking at Harry and Hermione as Harry made a fuss over his pregnant wife, instead, the Headmistress was remembering the time back when she was just the Deputy Headmistress and was watching James Potter make a fuss over a pregnant Lily Potter. That smile on the face of the Headmistress was there because she remembered that the reaction of James was the exact same reaction of Harry while the reaction of Lily was the exact same reaction of Hermione.
"…Harry?" Hermione tentatively asked, afraid that she might have overstepped her bounds when she admitted to her best friend that the reason that she was delaying answering Ron's proposal was because she wanted to be sure that she cannot have a future with Harry.
Harry shook his head in response to the tentative question of Hermione. It was to rid himself of the images that had just passed through his mind, much as he realized how difficult it was to rid himself of those images.
It was not because the images were stuck in his mind, no, it was because he wanted the images to be stuck in his mind.
Hermione, however, misinterpreted the shaking of the head, and she bowed her head in order to hide the tears that were a tell tale sign that she had lost her battle against her tear ducts. She stood and was about to apologize to Harry for putting this on his shoulders, but before she can do so, she found the strong grip of Harry and her arm and inviting her to sit.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry said. Hermione was again about to misinterpret his words, but before she can do so, Harry continued, "I was not really listening, things going through in my mind"
"I…," Hermione began, unsure of whether the fact that he was not listening to her should be considered a good or a bad thing for her, "I see," she continued.
Harry smiled shyly at her as even as the images of her in her resplendent dress occupied his mind, "I have a favor to ask Hermione," he said.
"Anything," Hermione replied, although she wished that he would not ask her to live a happy life without him because Hermione was not sure if that was at all possible.
Fortunately, Hermione was saved from that when Harry opened his mouth to inform her of his wish, "May I dance with you?" he asked, "just once, just one dance, much like how you danced with Victor during the Yule Ball"
"Oh," a surprised Hermione said, "Well, I guess that you could," she replied, even as she tried to interpret the meaning behind his request.
Harry stood and held Hermione in his arms. Absently, he noted that she was warm, absently as well, he noted the blush on her face, but he did not notice that he was also blushing and that he was also warm.
The two swayed in response to an imaginary music. It was not a fast dance, but they still moved in synchronization. Neither of them saw Fawkes – missing since the death of Dumbledore – land on a branch near the two of them and sing a song about friendship, bravery, and the most important thing of all, love.
In perfect synchronization to the tune being sang by the phoenix, Harry and Hermione twirled, spun and dipped as one. Neither of them paying attention to anything surrounding them but the other and they both realized that the expression that the world can end but as long as you are in the arms of the one you love, you would not have noticed.
It was at that moment that Harry Potter finally found the courage to admit the one thing that he realized he cannot admit to himself before. He might have the courage to face ancient creatures that are longer than two London double-decker busses, a hundred cloaked creatures that have the power to render you soulless with one kiss, a real fire breathing dragon, and dark lords that had killed thousands, but he never had the courage to admit to himself that he was in love with the girl that is now on his hands.
He wondered when he first started to fall in love with Hermione, but then he realized that it would not have mattered when he first did so, all that matters now, is that he is in love with her.
The music stopped and the couple paused. Realizing what they were doing but moments before, Hermione started to push herself away from Harry, but he would not have any of it and instead continued to hold her tightly toward him.
"Harry," Hermione said, slightly embarrassed, but at the same time unable to deny that this is her greatest wish coming true, "I owe Ron an answer, and I want to know if we can have a future together, please, tell me that we can have a future together, that we do have a future together"
Harry can tell that she was desperate, but Harry was not sure what his answer to that question would be. He would not tell Hermione, but he too wanted to know if they could have that future together, and he started to rack his mind, but as he was doing so, he realized that it was not a question that can be answered after just a few minutes of thinking. It was a question that can only be answered after years of searching.
Without a single word, Harry leaned his head toward Hermione, his lips aiming for hers. He gave her enough time to move her lips away just in case she did not want the kiss, but instead of moving her head away, Hermione moved her head forward when she realized what he was about to do.
There were no earth-shattering explosions, no earthquakes, no applause that would reach the high heavens, and certainly no 'this is the person that I am supposed to be with' when their lips found each other. There was nothing, nothing but the sheer unexplainable warmth that both Harry and Hermione were feeling within them.
The couple broke their kiss as their need for oxygen manifested itself. Slowly, hesitantly, they stepped away from the other, but then Harry gripped the right hand of Hermione and said in a voice that was filled with love, "I do not know if we have a future together Hermione," he said, and then he smiled, causing her to smile back at him, even as he offered her his other hand, "but," he said, continuing from where he had last left off, "would you like to find the answer to that question with me?"
With a smile, Hermione enthusiastically nodded and accepted the hand that Harry offered.
'We can never be sure about what our future holds, we can only make sure that our future contains what we want it to hold.'