Disclaimer: I own none of the characters here. I just use them for my own enjoyment and wish fulfillment. Everything belongs to JK Rowling and company. No copyright infringement intended.

Summary: Set after Harry's 24th birthday party. He had an epiphany and realized he had feelings for someone he never thought he'd have feelings for. His best friend, Hermione. Will he be able to tell her? Will she want to know? Does she feel the same? Harry struggles with this as he tries to cope with his wayward feelings, while keeping their friendship alive. Harry/Hermione obviously

Author's note: I am rating this M to be safe, for language and eventual sexual situations.

Masquerading As Your Best Friend

We can stop at the coffee shop
And make fun of the cops in the parking lot
We can laugh as we both pretend
That we're not in love and that we're just good friends

Harry sat in the small coffee shop, just staring into his cup, too lost in his own thoughts to even take a sip. It had probably already gone cold, but he didn't care. He was already full of nervous energy and didn't really need the extra boost of caffeine anyway. He pushed the cup back and sat back in the booth and sighed. He had a very pressing problem on his mind, and he had no idea what to do about it. He'd just celebrated his twenty fourth birthday, and the party had gotten slightly out of hand and a little rowdy. But most of all, he had come to a realization that night, and it was consuming his every thought. He was in love with his best friend. There was just no getting around it. He realized that night, that he was in love with Hermione. Only she had no clue. And neither did anyone else. He'd dated Ginny for about a year, but it didn't work out because she was away at school most of that time, and he barely saw her. And when she finally came back, things just didn't seem to fit. They'd become two really different people, and it turned out that these new people weren't all that compatible. And then Ginny was offered a position to play professional Quidditch, which meant she'd be traveling for large parts of the year. Harry wanted to make it work, but it had been Ginny who put the nail in the coffin. She said she wanted to be young and free and needed to explore her options before she'd even consider settling down. It had been a blow at the time, but Harry had long since gotten over her. They were at a point now, where they could see each other on occasion and be friendly. But there was no rekindling of romance, as Ginny was involved with another man. A Quidditch star she'd met during her many travels.

Harry had dated other girls too, but he just couldn't find himself actually falling in love. He tried, but none of these other girls could hold his attention for very long. And it didn't help that he spent most of his free time with Hermione. She and Ron had been together for almost two years, before they called it quits. They realized they were simply not meant for each other, and were tired of fighting about every little thing. They had a passion, but it turned more to seething anger on many occasions, and they both mutually agreed that it was time to end it for both their sanity's sake. And since then, she and Harry hung out a lot. Almost exclusively. She did date, but not often. She always insisted she was too busy with work to bother with dating. But she always seemed to have time for Harry, and he always had time for her. To him, it had been a brilliant arrangement because they didn't feel lonely, despite the fact they were both incredibly alone. He wasn't even sure when it happened, or how it happened, but the night of his birthday, he had an epiphany which he was now warring with himself over. He had fallen in love with her. That was not supposed to happen. They'd been best friends since they were kids. That's all it ever was. And he couldn't even count the myriad of times they both had to explain to everyone around them, that they were like brother and sister. Only what Harry felt now, was definitely not brotherly in any shape or form.

The circumstances leading up to this epiphany were this. Everyone was at Harry's house, drinking and laughing and eating cake and being wild. There were friends from work, as well as old school friends like Neville and Luna and Dean. Ron was there with his new girlfriend, Charity. And George had come with Angelina and they'd brought all sorts of ridiculous joke items and fireworks and had nearly set the couch on fire at one point. And then people started dancing. Harry wasn't much of a dancer, so he'd quietly slipped out the back door with a beer in his hand and ran into Hermione who was sitting on the back steps nursing her own beer. She looked far off in thought, and Harry had noticed immediately how pretty she looked with the moonlight dancing around her. She turned her head when she heard the door open and she smiled at Harry. He smiled back and sat down next to her. And he asked her why she was sitting alone on the steps. She'd shrugged a little and said she was just thinking and wanted to get away from the crowd. So Harry offered to leave her alone and stood up to go, but she'd grabbed his hand and pulled him down next to her and nestled her head into his shoulder. And then she told him, "you're the only person I don't mind being with," and that's when it hit him like a ton of bricks. She hadn't declared her love, nor had she come on to him. They didn't grope or kiss or do anything foolish. She'd simply said a few words, while nestled into his ear, and he felt like he'd woken up from a coma. Because he realized that she was the only person he didn't mind being with too. All the time. Any time. Every day. Every moment of every day. She was the one he wanted to be with. And the reason why he hadn't fallen for any other girls, was because he was already in love with her. He just didn't realize it.

They had sat out there together, quite cozy, with her snuggled into his shoulder and he had his arm around her. And they didn't speak for a long time, until she finally admitted to him that she was really drunk and had actually escaped out the back door to avoid a bloke named Terrence who they both worked with. She said he was flirting with her, and she was just drunk enough to make a mistake with him. So she ran and hid. And then she looked up at Harry and asked, "you'll keep me from making a foolish drunken mistake, won't you?" Harry nodded and said, "of course." Then she kissed him on the cheek and told him, "that's why I love you. You're such a good friend. You're the only person I trust in this crazy world." And he'd felt like an idiot, because he wasn't so sure he was a good friend or trustworthy in any way. Not with the idle thoughts he had going through his drunken mind. All he kept thinking was that he wanted to kiss her. But thank god he wasn't that out of his wits. He hadn't gone insane. At least not entirely. But on the inside, he was worried he might need a straight jacket just to keep himself in check around her. His wayward imaginings were beginning to take on a life of their own, and the only thing he could think to do was to hurriedly stand up and say he needed the loo and run away from her. And then he'd locked himself in the bathroom where he talked to himself in the mirror and convinced himself that he was simply drunk, lonely and a little bit horny. After all, he hadn't been with a girl in nine months. And that wasn't all that noteworthy to begin with. He stood there talking to himself until he felt like he'd gotten over it enough to rejoin the party. But when he saw her again, he found himself unable to even look at her anymore. But he did manage to distract Terrence for her long enough that she slipped out the door and disappeared as she mouthed the words, 'thank you' to Harry. No drunken, foolish mistakes were made by anyone that night. Well, at least not that Harry knew of anyway. But sadly when he woke up the next morning, the feelings he'd discovered the night before, were still there. He hadn't dreamt them. And they hadn't been simply a product of too much alcohol and loneliness. This was actually happening. And as he sat in the coffee shop, he wanted to drown himself in the cup of coffee, except his head was too big to fit inside the cup.

Just then, Ron came bursting in and plopped himself down in the booth across from Harry, which jostled him out of his thoughts of suicide by coffee cup.

"So, what's the big emergency? Why'd you get me out of bed so bloody early on a Saturday? You know it's my only day I get to sleep in. This better be good," Ron said as he reached for a menu and began perusing breakfast items to order.

"I never said it was an emergency. And it's nearly 10am. I didn't wake you up at the bloody crack of dawn. How late do you sleep?" Harry wondered.

"You told me your life might be over, so it sounded kind of dire. And for your information, just because I'm in bed, doesn't mean I'm sleeping," he smirked slightly.

"I don't want the details, thanks," Harry said making a face at him. "And yes, my life might be over. I was contemplating drowning myself in this cup of coffee before you got here."

"Well that would never work. You might get your nose in there, but I don't think you'd drown," Ron shrugged as he flagged over a waitress. She walked over to them. "So, I want the waffle deluxe breakfast with extra bacon. And scrambled eggs. And orange juice and a side of toast. Oh and some coffee."

She wrote down the order and walked off and Harry just looked at Ron. "I tell you I want to drown myself, and you just shrug it off and order the entire fucking menu for breakfast?" Harry asked with annoyance.

"What? I'm hungry. And I'm sorry, but saying you're going to drown in a cup of coffee isn't a real cry for help. Now if you said the coffee was poison and you were going to drink it, then I might be more worried," Ron explained.

"Alright, fine. So it's not a life or death situation. But I've still got a problem. A big one! And I don't even know if I should tell you," Harry admitted.

"You better tell me, or else I got out of bed for nothing. I still don't know why you didn't just tell me whatever it was over the phone."

"Because I hate talking on the phone to you. You still talk too loud like you did the first time you ever tried to use a phone. I don't know how many times I have to tell you that you don't need to shout. How hard is it to work a bloody phone?" Harry sighed.

"Well excuse me. I'm still not used to having one. You're the only one who ever actually calls. I only have it because you asked me to get one. I prefer owls. It's just better that way," Ron explained.

"Sometimes owls are too slow. But that doesn't matter. I asked you here because I need help. Like serious mental help. So pay attention and stop arranging the sugar packets into a pyramid!"

Ron stopped playing with the sugar, and put them back in the little holder. He looked at Harry. "Alright. I'm listening. What's going on? Why do you need mental help?"

"Because I'm having wrong thoughts about someone and I don't know what to do about it," Harry admitted with a sigh.

"Wrong thoughts? About who?"

"Just a girl."

"What sorts of wrong thoughts? Because honestly unless you're fantasizing about killing her, no thoughts are wrong. I mean, how long has it been since you've had a good shag, man? I'd be having wrong thoughts about everything with boobs at this point, if I were you," Ron told him with a small chuckle.

"You don't understand. I'm not supposed to be thinking those thoughts about this girl. It's wrong! It's very bizarre and wrong," Harry insisted.

"Who the hell is it? It's not my girlfriend is it? Because then yeah, I might help you drown yourself if you'd like," Ron said giving him a look.

"It's not Charity, you dolt. If it was, do you think you'd be the first person I'd run and tell? I'm mental, but not that mental. This is someone else. Someone off limits. Someone a few years ago, you would have drowned me for thinking of," Harry explained.

"Who are you talking about? I'm lost. A few years ago I would have drowned you?" Ron shook his head.

"Please don't make me actually spell it out. Use your brain. Who is off limits? And who were you with a few years ago?" Harry asked with exasperation.

Ron stared at him a moment then the light went on. He immediately started laughing and couldn't stop. "Oh god, it's not Hermione is it? Because if that's what you're getting at, you're in for a world of hurt, mate. Please tell me it's not her," Ron said between bursts of laughter.

"What the fuck is so bloody funny? This is real! It's not a joke," Harry said with irritation.

"So it is her? Are you fucking crazy? She's your best friend! Aside from me, of course. But still! You can be thinking about her that way. You said she was like your sister. You always told me that! What has gotten into you?" Ron asked.

Harry sighed and lowered his head and smacked it against the table. "I have no idea. But I can't stop thinking of her. Ever since my birthday. It was like I looked at her and suddenly I didn't see a sister anymore. I saw a woman. And we were on the back porch, and then everything just exploded in my head. And since then, I can't stop obsessing over what I should do."

"Wait, back up a little. What happened on the back porch? Did you kiss her? Did she kiss you? Oh god, did you feel her up? Wait, no, don't tell me. I don't want to know. Wait, yes, I do. What the hell happened on the porch?" Ron asked animatedly.

"Calm down. Nothing happened on the porch. She just smiled at me and then said I was the only person she wanted to be around. And then we sort of cuddled a bit. That's all. I didn't feel her up! And there was no kissing. Except she kissed me on the cheek. But that doesn't count."

"I don't get it. What was so special about that? Why are you suddenly all moony over her, just because you cuddled on a porch for a few minutes? I reckon it's not the first time you two have done that. I used to see you together all the time hugging and holding hands and shit. It used to drive me nuts, until I finally just got over it. But what changed?" Ron wondered curiously.

"I don't know what changed. But it did. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that this didn't just happen suddenly like being struck by lightning. It's been happening for years. I just didn't see it. But now that I know, I'm pretty sure I've felt like this for a very long time. But I have no idea what she feels at all. And I'm terrified to ask her," Harry admitted.

Just then, the waitress came and brought all of Ron's food out and offered to refill the coffees, before she departed. Ron didn't speak at first, and merely dug into his food. He picked up a piece of bacon and handed it to Harry. "Bacon?"

Harry shoved it away and gave Ron an incredulous look. "I pour my darkest secret out to you, and you're offering me bacon? That's your great words of advice? Eat some fucking bacon?"

Ron groaned. "God, stop freaking out. Bacon is not my solution to your problem. Truth is, I have no clue what to tell you. Other than, I think that this is a horrible mistake."

"Why? Why is it a mistake?"

"Because. You two are friends. Closer than most couples I know. But it's always been strictly platonic. I reckon she thinks of you like one of the girls, but with facial hair. You're so far in the friend zone, you fucking own property there and a nice little bungalow with a view of all the other blokes she'll date before she'd ever look at you that way. Just face it Harry, you don't have a shot. And if you tell her, it'll probably ruin everything. You can't win this," Ron explained as he gobbled up waffles and wiped syrup off his chin.

"But you were in the friend zone. You escaped. Why couldn't I?" Harry wondered curiously.

"No, I was never in the friend zone. Not really. We always sorta had a little crush thing going on. I was just too stupid to see it. But she informed me that she liked me for years and was just waiting for me to wake up and notice she had boobs and to also stop making out with other girls. That was my biggest mistake."

"Yeah, making out with other girls and failing to notice that Hermione had boobs, was a tragic error on your part. But I'm not doing either of those things. I'm not making out with anyone and I'm well aware of her boobs. Too aware, in fact."

"But see, she doesn't want you to notice that stuff! You're like her little safety zone. You're not even a real guy. You're just Harry to her. And if you try to change that, it's going to be a huge disaster."

"But what if it's not? What if she does want me to notice that stuff, but is just like me, and too terrified to say anything? What then?" Harry prodded.

"Has she ever given you any indication that she feels that way?" Ron asked.

"Not exactly. No."

"Then don't rock the boat. Or else you might find yourself knocked out of the boat entirely. It's not worth the risk."

"So what do I do? Just pretend I don't love her?" Harry asked dejectedly.

"Yes. You have to. It's the only way not to ruin the friendship," Ron informed him.

"Why would it have to ruin the friendship? You dated her and you broke up and you're still friends. Why would this automatically spell ruination and destruction?"

"It's different to be friends with an ex. That doesn't always happen either, but it's doable sometimes. But if you're friends with someone, and want more, and they don't want more, they'll feel really awkward around you. They won't want to touch you or get too close and they'll probably just drift away so they don't feel like they're rubbing it in your face that they don't want you. It's very tricky."

"How do you know any of this? This hasn't happened to you, so what do you really know?" Harry complained sadly.

"Hey, you asked my advice! And no, I've never been in this exact situation, but any ninny can tell you how it'll go. Think if it was her who wanted you, and you weren't interested? Wouldn't you feel weird?" Ron asked.

"Maybe a little. But I wouldn't stop being her friend! We've been through way too much for me to just ditch her because of some feelings she might have. We'd just work through it somehow. That's all."


"I don't know! But we would."

"Okay, so you want to tell her then?" Ron asked, taking a bite of his bacon.

"Maybe? I think maybe I should. Because there is a chance she might feel the same. And I won't know, if I never speak up," Harry explained.

"Alright, and what happens if she freaks out or laughs at you? Then what do you do?"

"I have no idea. Run away? Claim temporary insanity?" Harry offered with a sigh.

"She's too smart to believe the insanity defense. But running very far away could be an option. Or you could claim you had an evil twin you knew nothing about and it was really him who said that nonsense," Ron said thoughtfully.

"Yeah, she'll believe that one. That's not completely outlandish and ridiculous," Harry rolled his eyes.

"I'm just brainstorming here. Don't blame me if my ideas are stupid. I'm thinking fast."

"What about the possibility of her actually returning my feelings? Why do you think that's so impossible?" Harry asked.

Ron thought on it for a moment then shrugged. "Well nothings impossible, I suppose. I guess I just never expected this. You both swore up and down that you had zero romantic interest in each other for years and years. I can understand lying about it before when you were both with other people, but you've both been single forever. If there was something there, wouldn't it have already happened?"

"Not necessarily. I mean, I didn't even realize until a few nights ago how I felt. Maybe she just hasn't realized it yet?"

"True. Or else, there's nothing to realize. Just keep that in mind. I don't want to see you make a total ass of yourself," Ron told him seriously.

"I know. I don't want to make an ass of myself either. But I just don't know if I can live with myself if I don't say something. What if we're supposed to be together and the only reason we're not is because we're both too chickenshit to say something? At least if I tell her and she doesn't feel it, I'll know. I will have at least tried. And if it ruins the friendship, then maybe we're not as good of friends as I think we are?" Harry reasoned.

"I see your point. But just feel her out first. Maybe hint around it. Don't just blurt it out. It might shock her into running off. Ease into it. You've got plenty of time," Ron assured him.

"Right. Plenty of time. We've only had years to wait, what's a little longer right? I don't have to rush over there right now or anything," Harry said with a nod.

"Exactly. Take your time. Casually ask if she's ever thought about you two together and if she laughs, then you can say you thought it was ridiculous too, but were simply curious, and she's none the wiser."

"Okay, good plan. I like that plan. It makes good sense," Harry agreed enthusiastically. Then he scrutinized Ron's face to try and discern how he really felt, but Ron just kept eating. "So, Ron, this isn't weird for you is it?"

"Weird for me? Why would it be weird for me?" Ron asked quizzically.

"Well because she was your girlfriend first. Doesn't this break some sort of guy code? Like you don't date your best friends sister or his ex-girlfriend or his mum? Of which, I'm realizing I already dated your sister. So big fail there. But is this a breaking point?" Harry rambled.

Ron laughed slightly. "No, the breaking point is if you start sidling up to my mum. Then I'll have to kill you and also wonder what the hell is wrong with you. And I don't think my dad would be too pleased either. But this? Hermione and I mutually agreed to end our relationship. Years ago. Now true, if you'd pounced on her a week after she moved out of our flat, I would have been a bit sore and probably punched you or hexed you. But we're talking about years, mate. I'm over her. I've had lots of other girls, and am presently quite happy with Charity. Hermione's all yours. If she'll have you, that is."

"Right. If she'll have me. But we're good? Because honestly if this goes wrong, I can't really afford to lose both my best friends," Harry admitted.

"You won't lose me. We're solid. So no worries, mate. I just don't want to see you get your heart broken again. I felt right awful when Ginny sent you packing, even though it wasn't my fault. But she's my crazy sister, so I still felt bad. I don't wanna have to feel bad again."

"You won't have to. Either way it turns out. This has nothing to do with you. And neither did Ginny leaving me. That was all on her. And let's face it, we just didn't work out. It wasn't meant to be. Our whole relationship was basically the two of us just sitting around waiting for the other person while they did other things. We had no real chance honestly."

"I suppose. I was right disappointed though. I wanted us to be real brothers," Ron admitted.

Harry smiled at him. "We are brothers. Just because it's not official doesn't mean it's not true. I definitely think of you like a brother."

Ron smiled back then he laughed slightly. "Yeah, I heard you telling Hermione about how she's your sister, and now look? So don't go getting any ideas about me. Your 'we're like family!' speech doesn't hold its weight anymore," he teased him.

"Oh shut up. The day I'm desperate enough to declare my love for you, is the day you really should lock me up in St. Mungo's because I've obviously lost it," Harry said as he shoved him across the table.

"Hey, I'm a great catch. Ask anyone," Ron scoffed with a smirk.

"Sure you are. But no thanks. I'm done with gingers," Harry laughed.

"Good because I don't fancy fending you off."

"Ugh, no worries. Listen, thanks for giving me your advice and letting me talk. I wasn't sure I should tell you. Or anyone, for that matter. But I was going out of my mind."

"Hey, no problem. It's what I'm here for. Oh, but you are paying for my breakfast right? I didn't bring any Muggle cash, and I did offer up my very valuable advice and sacrificed a lazy morning in bed with Charity to come here," Ron told him.

Harry sighed. "Fine, I'll pay for the meal. But next time don't order one of everything. God, how are you not fat? I've never seen someone eat as much as you and not gain an ounce."

Ron patted his full stomach. "Good metabolism. Of course, my mum tells me that once you're thirty you gotta watch it or you'll be a blimp. But I still have a few years before I'm gonna worry. Plus I asked Charity if she'd still love me if I was fat and she said yes. She's an amazing cook, that girl. Puts my mum to shame, almost. But don't let her know I said that. She'd smack me probably."

"I promise I won't tell your mum her cooking is being rivaled. If you promise not to breathe a word of any of this we talked about this morning, to anyone. And I mean anyone. That includes your precious Charity. She likes to gossip. And this cannot get out. Understand me?" Harry said seriously.

"Oh alright. But I don't keep secrets from Charity. We promised to always tell each other everything," Ron complained.

"Tell her your secrets, by all means, but not mine! Got it?"

"Got it. My lips are sealed," Ron promised.


"So what's the plan then? You gonna go see Hermione or just be cool and wait it out a little?"

"I really don't know. I'll figure it out as I go along."

"Well good luck. You might need it."

"Yeah, I wouldn't say no to a vial of Felix Felicias right about now," Harry sighed.

"It'll be fine. I'm rooting for you."


Harry just sat back and tried to think of a plan. But he was still insanely nervous and talking to Ron hadn't fixed that. It only made him more nervous, honestly, because Ron thought it was a doomed idea from the start. But Ron didn't know everything. And this was something he'd just have to figure out for himself.

Harry sat at the bar in a tiny little pub he frequented on occasion with friends. But he never really went there alone. He wasn't much of a solitary drinker on a normal occasion. But tonight, after talking to Ron that morning, it seemed like a good plan. He thought maybe if he drank enough, he'd just forget all about his feelings for Hermione. And maybe he'd even meet a new girl? Get his mind back on track. He was going to try at least. After his fourth glass of whiskey, he was starting to feel no pain and also gaining some courage. He'd always been pretty much hopeless when it came to women, but he kept eyeing this one girl who was standing at the bar all by herself. She'd occasionally glance his way and smile, so he felt pretty good about approaching her. So he stood up, almost fell over, righted himself, then marched over as casually as he could manage. He stood next to her and grinned.

"Hello," he told her pleasantly.

"Hello," she smiled back.

"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked curiously.

"Sure, that would be really sweet," she cooed back happily.

He signaled the bartender and ordered her what she wanted. She took the glass and before Harry could say anything else, she patted him on the head. "Thanks for the drink." And then she simply walked away.

"You're welcome," he sighed unhappily as he watched her disappear.

"That was really pathetic, mate," the bartender chuckled to him.

"Yeah, thanks. I got that message. Doesn't she realize who I am?" Harry slurred to the bartender. "I'm Harry Potter!"

"Harry Potter? You famous or something? I've never heard of you before," the bartender shrugged.

"No, I'm no one. Forget it. Damn Muggles," Harry muttered as he walked away and sat back down on his barstool in defeat.

He ordered up another whiskey and then another. Then he realized when he stood to head to the loo that he could barely walk. And he also realized that aside from the two minutes he spent buying a random girl a drink and getting shot down, he hadn't stopped thinking of Hermione at all. She was still there, stuck in his brain. And sometimes she was naked. Which he realized was a very, very bad thing to think. But he stumbled into the bathroom and tried to ignore the other man at the urinal. But he was having problems getting his zipper down and it showed. The man glanced over and chuckled slightly.

"You need help with that?" he asked Harry curiously.

Harry stared at him a moment. "Huh?"

"Your zipper. You can't seem to work it. Need help?"

"Uh, no. Thanks. I'll manage," Harry said giving him an awkward look. He finally got the zipper down and began doing his business as he just closed his eyes and prayed he'd pass out soon. But when he was done and he opened his eyes, the man was still standing there. Just leaning on the wall next to him and watching. Harry zipped up quickly and went to the sinks.

"You know, you're kind of cute," the man told him with a smile. "I like the glasses. It's sort of nerd chic. And that weird scar is absolutely perfect. Did you get that done on purpose? It's flashy. A lightning bolt. It really makes a statement."

"What?" Harry asked with extreme confusion.

"I like the lightning bolt. It's sexy," the man told him as he moved over closer.

Harry stepped back and put up his hands. "Whoa, stay over there. I don't know what you want, but I'm not interested. And the scar is not a fucking fashion statement. Are you mental?"

"My mistake. I've seen all sorts of interesting body modifications. However did you get that if not on purpose?" the man wondered.

"It's a very long story that I'm not telling you. But thanks for saying I'm cute. At least someone thinks so," Harry sighed as he tossed the paper towels in the bin and walked out of the bathroom.

Was this his life? He hit on a pretty girl and got shot down, and then a man came on to him in the loo. This night was not giving him any confidence or enough distraction. It was clear if he wanted to go home with someone and forget Hermione, he'd have to switch teams and go with Mr. Bathroom Groupie. And he was not that desperate to forget her. In fact, he was thinking it might be a good time to just go see her. Lay it all out on the table. And just dare her to react. Why not? It couldn't be any worse than everything else that happened tonight. So he marched himself out of the bar and found a secluded place to apparate to Hermione's flat. He appeared in front of her building and looked around to make sure no one saw him, but the coast was clear. It was really late and she might already be asleep. But he took a deep breath and marched up the steps to her building and tried not to fall over as he did so. But it was difficult, so he sort of crawled up the steps slowly and ended up ripping a hole in the knee of his pants when it got caught on a ragged brick. But he crawled onward until he made it to the top. Then he stood and flung open the doors and got into the lift. He arrived at her floor and stumbled his way down the hall until he reached her door. He knocked and waited for a response as he leaned his head against the door. After a moment, the door opened and he literally fell inside because he'd been leaning so hard on the door, and he crashed into Hermione and they landed in a heap on her floor.

"Harry? What the hell are you doing? And what is wrong with you?" she asked, pushing him off her and trying to help him to his feet.

"I came to see you. But I'm a little bit drunk," he admitted.

"Drunk? I can see that. Do you realize it's one in the morning? And what happened to your pants?" she asked, noticing the rip.

"Oh, it's nothing. Just a little wear and tear. Did you know crawling up your steps is a bit dangerous? There are some ragged bricks. Should inform the landlord of the hazard," he slurred to her.

"You crawled up the steps? Somehow I don't think the landlord expects people do that. Have you gone mental, Harry?" she asked, helping him to the couch.

"Yes, I have indeed gone mental," he admitted as he sat back onto the couch. He noticed a laptop computer sitting on the table and a bottle of wine with a half empty glass. And also a package of processed cheese slices. "Were you drinking too?"

"For your information, yes. A little. Okay, a lot. But at least I can walk," she told him giving a disapproving glance.

"What's with this cheese package?" he wondered as he picked it up and examined it.

"Everyone knows you have wine and cheese together. It's classy. Not in any way lonely spinster who has no life except her cat," she sighed as she plopped down on the couch next to him.

"But it's processed cheese product. Does that even count as cheese? This is made of wax or plastic or something," he said with a chuckle.

She grabbed the cheese and threw it back down on the table. "It's all I had. I suppose if it were brie it'd be better, but when you're drunk enough, processed cheese product tastes very good," she insisted.

"I'll take your word for it," he smiled. Then he picked up the laptop, to which she rushed to grab it out of his hands. "What're you doing on this thing?" he wondered.

"Nothing. It's private," she insisted as she closed the lid and shoved it under the coffee table.

"Private? What were you doing? Looking at internet porn?" he laughed.

She shoved him. "You're gross! It wasn't anything like that. I was talking to someone. Not that it's your business," she scoffed.

"Talking to someone? Who? A person on the internet?"


"A guy?"

"Yes. Is that so terrible?" she asked as she folded her arms across her chest.

"No, it's fine I guess. But he could be an axe murderer. You don't even know him. Who is he?" Harry asked, feeling more jealousy than he wished he felt.

"Oh Harry, it's not like that. I'm not dating him. If you must know, he asked me how to make a love potion. So I told him," she sighed.

"A love potion? You're telling people magic shit on the internet? Are you crazy? You aren't supposed to talk about that, you realize," he scolded her.

"Oh come on. Like you've never once told a Muggle something secret."

"No, I haven't. I don't chat up strangers online. That's weird."

"No it's not. Everyone does it. And for your information, this guy thinks I'm rather loony. He said he was in love with a girl who didn't love him, so I simply said I knew a potion for that. And then I told him. But honestly, he's asking me where to buy these ingredients and all I can do is laugh. He's never going to get them. I'm simply messing around. It's a thing I do when I'm lonely. So stop judging me. You know you get a kick out of it when stuffy old Hermione breaks some rules," she teased him playfully.

He gave her a hard look, but then he couldn't help but laugh. "You're right, I do like that. It's funny. But you're messing with this poor bloke. You're kind of evil," he informed her.

"Evil? I am not! I'm not seducing him. He was immune to my charms anyway as he's in love with Amanda. Whoever that bint is. All I did was give him some hope and send him on a wild goose chase. He's asking where to buy a cauldron and hemlock. I couldn't help but burst into giggles. But then again, I did drink almost two bottles of wine," she admitted.

"Two bottles? You mean this is the second one?" he asked holding up the nearly empty bottle.

"Yes. God, I know, drinking alone is pathetic. But you did it too obviously! I should have just invited you over straight off and we could have gotten hammered together," she lamented as she put her feet in his lap and got comfortable.

"You should have. I wish you would have. My night was worse than meeting someone online and telling them how to make a love potion. I got turned down by a beautiful woman who only wanted a free drink, and then some bloke tried to come on to me in the loo. He thought my scar was a fashion statement and said I was cute," Harry told her unhappily.

"Oh that's priceless! A fashion statement? And he thought you were cute?" she laughed heartily.

"Yes, he said I was cute. Is that so difficult to believe? Of course he said my glasses were nerdy or something, but he still liked them," Harry pointed out.

"Well you are cute, but I wouldn't call you nerdy. I'm nerdy. I just don't have glasses to proclaim it."

"You think I'm cute?" he asked hopefully.

"Of course! Do you think I'm nerdy?" she asked curiously.

"Well sort of. But that's part of your charm! I mean, without you, I probably never would have passed school at all," he told her.

"Yeah, well you still dropped out. Loser," she teased him.

"Shut up! Was there really a point in me finishing? I think I learned enough on my own, thank you very much. I think ridding the world of a Dark Lord afforded me an honorary magical degree," he informed her haughtily.

"I know, I know. I don't need to hear about your greatness anymore. I bow to you, the Chosen One," she giggled playfully.

"You're so mean to me. I don't know why I put up with you," he teased back.

"Because you love me," she smiled and stuck her tongue out at him.

He just stared at her and realized this was a perfect opening to tell her he did love her. A lot. And not in the way she imagined. But he chickened out. He picked up the package of cheese again and looked at it. "Can I have one of these? I didn't eat all day."

"You didn't? Why not? Oh, let me cook something for us!" she said excitedly.

"Cook something? It's after one in the morning. And you don't really cook all that well, Hermione," he told her trying not to laugh.

"No, I bought a cookbook! I'm learning," she said as she grabbed him off the couch and dragged him to her kitchen. She pulled a book off a shelf and opened it up. Then she pointed to a recipe. "This! Let's make this!"

He examined the recipe and gave her an interesting look. "An eggplant kugel? What in the fuck is that?"

"I have no idea. But I wanna make it! Let's make it, okay?" she said rummaging through her cupboards.

"Do you even have an eggplant? Why would you have that? Who eats that?" Harry wondered.

"I bought one in order to make this. But I sort of forgot about it. Do you think it's still good?" she asked as she opened her refrigerator and pulled out a shriveled looking purple thing.

"Um, I think it's gone off. It looks like a wrinkled up old purple dinosaur dick," Harry informed her with a chuckle.

"What? A dinosaur dick? And just how many of those have you seen? God, you're horrible, Harry!" she said as she smacked him over the head with the offending food item.

"Ouch! Jesus, you're gonna kill me with that! And for your information I've never seen a dinosaur dick, but I can imagine."

"It really concerns me that you've imagined that, Harry. I fear for your sanity," she laughed at him.

He wrestled the shriveled eggplant from her grasp and threatened to hit her with it, but he knew he never would. He just liked watching her laugh. It was like oxygen for him to see her being so silly. It made him pine for her even more than he already was. Finally he stopped chasing her with it and chucked it in the bin.

"So, cooking is out. Do you have any other food besides fake cheese slices?" he asked curiously.

"Um, I have bread and butter and cereal and some crackers. I haven't been shopping lately," she admitted.

"Cereal is good. Do you have milk?"

"Um, no. I have nondairy creamer?" she offered.

"Yuck, no thanks. Crackers then?" he told her.

She went to the cupboard and pulled down the box of crackers and they went back to the couch and sat down with the box between them.

"So Harry, why on earth did you come to my flat at this hour, completely loaded?" she asked curiously as she munched on a cracker.

He wasn't sure what to say exactly, as he'd completely lost his nerve. "Um, I don't know. I just felt like seeing you. I didn't even know how late it was. I just didn't wanna be alone, I guess," he admitted.

She leaned over and snuggled down under his arm. "I'm actually rather pleased you showed up. I was lonely too. Hence me talking to random Muggles on the internet," she sighed.

He put his arm around her and tried to keep his wits and he prayed she didn't look at his lap because his excitement at their closeness was painfully obvious. He quickly grabbed a pillow and put it on his lap, trying to be nonchalant about it.

"I don't really think it's wise to chat up strange men online. Even if you're just messing around. Why would you do that?" he asked curiously.

"Sometimes I just want to talk to someone. I don't know. It's silly, I guess. But I also write a blog. It's quite fun," she admitted.

"A blog? What is that?"

"Oh, it's like an online journal of your thoughts. Mine is private. I don't let anyone read it. But I admit I do enjoy writing it."

"Can I see it?" he asked hopefully, wondering what on earth she'd write about.

"Oh no! Never! No one sees it. It's like a diary. You wouldn't let someone read that, would you?" she asked looking up at him.

"No, I guess not. But why not write a paper diary?"

"The blog is more fun. I can post funny pictures with it. I realize it's all very Muggle of me, but so what? I have the computer so I can email my parents. It's so much nicer than actual post mail, and sometimes I write better than I talk. It's easier to express myself. Do you think I'm weird?" she wondered idly.

"Yes, but only in the best possible way," he admitted with a smile as he kissed the top of her head.

"Do you think it's pathetic I'm lonely enough to talk to strangers online?"

"No, I think it's human. No one wants to be alone all the time. But you know, I'm in the same boat. You always have me. And any time you want company, just tell me, and I'll be here," he told her sincerely.

She looked up at him and smiled. "I know. I realized I could have called you tonight, but sometimes I worry I'm cramping your style. How will you ever meet a girl if I'm always stuck to your side?"

Another perfect opening to tell her his feelings, but he let it go. "Eh, don't worry about that. If you need me, I'm here. That's how it goes, remember? We're always there for each other."

"Yes, we are. I'm very lucky to have a best friend like you. You're amazing, Harry."

"Yeah, amazing. The best friend ever," he muttered sadly.

"What?" she asked, not hearing him entirely.

"Nothing. I was just saying you were amazing too," he back pedaled.

"You know, I'm really wiped out. It's very late and I'm seriously drunk still. I need to go to bed," she informed him, as she tried to sit up straight and untangle herself from his arm.

"Right, yeah. I'll go. You need to sleep," he told her with some disappointment.

"No, don't go. You can stay. I can't have you crawling down the fucking steps or you might kill yourself. Just sleep here," she urged him.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. It's not like we've never slept over at each other's flat's. Plus, we took the mother of all camping trips together. I think I can handle you spending the night," she informed him with a smile.

"Alright then. Just get me a blanket and a pillow and I'll crash on the couch," he told her.

"Don't be silly. My couch is terrible. It's lumpy and small and you'll never sleep. Just come to bed with me," she said pulling him up off the couch.

He just stared at her and didn't know what to say. She'd never invited him to share her bed. Was this a signal? Was this actually happening or did he pass out and dream this?

"Come to bed with you? As in, sleep in your bed with you in it?" he asked with confusion.

"What? Do you think I have cooties? We slept together in that awful tent more than once. Besides, you're you. You're my friend. It's perfectly fine," she insisted.

"Right, your friend. That's exactly what I am. Your very platonic and innocent friend," Harry said with a slight sigh.

"Come on silly. You're totally drunk. Can you even walk to the bedroom?" she laughed, dragging him along with her.

The truth was, he could walk. It was starting to wear off a bit. But his feet still would barely move because he felt like this was a horrendous mistake. Why would she let him sleep in her bed? Had she gone mad? Did she not realize he was still a man and that she was incredibly beautiful? Or was he so sexless to her that she didn't even consider such a thing? He was thinking it was the latter. He followed her wordlessly and didn't protest, even though a part of him wanted to. They got to her room and she turned on the bedside lamp and proceeded to take off her pajama pants. Harry's eyes got wide and he looked away.

"Uh, what are you doing?" he asked with confusion.

"I'm getting ready for bed. My pants bunch up. I always take them off, especially in summer because I get hot," she told him as she pulled back the covers and climbed in.

He looked over at her and then he just stood there, unsure what the hell to do. So he took off his shoes and socks and pulled back the covers to get in. But she stopped him.

"Wait, are you sleeping in jeans? That can't be comfortable," she told him with a frown.

"You want me to take them off? You want me to take my clothes off? Am I hearing you correctly?" he asked shaking his head, as he still tried to figure out if he was dreaming this.

"What are you suddenly shy? I've seen you in your underwear before. In fact, I've actually been you if you recall. Polyjuice potion? I kinda already know all your secrets," she giggled drunkenly.

"Oh my god. Polyjuice potion. Are you saying you snuck a peek at me?" he asked with horrification.

She couldn't control her laughter. "I'm joking! I didn't look, I swear! But to see your face? It's priceless."

He shook his head and had to admit she got him good. "Fine, fine. Play games with me. If you want my fucking clothes off, I'll take them off. I don't care," he informed her as he undid his jeans and ripped them off and threw them away. Then he ripped off his shirt and tossed that aside too. Then he just stood there in his boxer shorts and dared her to do something. Anything. But all she did was giggle and turn off the light.

"Just get in bed. And don't hog the covers," she said simply as she rolled over and completely ignored his presence.

Feeling slightly defeated that the sight of him in his underwear had zero effect on her, he just crawled into the bed and lay there on his back staring at the ceiling. It was obvious now this wasn't a dream. Or if it was, it was a nightmare. She was acting like he was nothing to her except what he'd always proclaimed to be. And that was, like a brother. What the hell was he thinking coming up with that nonsense? Except he really believed it before. For a very long time. But now he was cursing himself because she was totally unaffected by him being half naked in her bed.

"Are you asleep yet?" she asked softly.

"Uh, no. I've only just laid down," he told her.

"Do you think that I'll die an old maid?" she wondered aloud.

"What? Are you insane? You're only twenty four. And all you have to do is throw a rock out the window and hit a random bloke, and he'd probably marry you. Stop being silly, " he told her.

"You're the one who's silly. Throw a rock out the window? I doubt it. Men find me intimidating or annoying. Sure I'm fun for a night or two, but that's it. Which is why I don't date much. Why bother?" she lamented sadly.

"Oh stop. Lots of men find you very interesting. And maybe they are a bit intimidated at first, but if they just get to know you, there's nothing intimidating there. You're brilliant. I've told you that a million times," he reassured her.

"I know. You have. I don't know why I'm being stupid tonight. I guess I just feel like life didn't quite work out like I planned. I wasn't supposed to be almost twenty five and single with a cat and processed cheese and too much wine, chatting up internet weirdos. What happened to me?"

He rolled over and faced her. "Hermione, your life is just fine. And you won't be an old maid. I promise you that. I thought you didn't care about dating anyway?"

"I lied. God, can't you tell when I'm lying?" she asked with slight annoyance.

"I didn't realize you lied about that. I thought you were happy."

"Does a happy girl drink two bottles of wine alone and chat up strangers while eating fake cheese?"

He reached over and smoothed her hair down away from her face. "Don't be unhappy. You're not the only sad sack around these parts. Trust me. But it'll get better. I promise," he whispered to her.

"You do?" she asked softly.

"I do. And if you're still single at thirty, you can marry me," he joked, but was actually quite serious. And he wished they wouldn't have to wait that long.

"You're awfully sweet, Harry. But you're a catch. All the women at work want you. Don't you realize? Open your eyes. I don't understand why you don't go out more often. You totally could," she informed him.

"Maybe I don't want them? Maybe I want someone else?" he said bravely, trying to work up his courage again.

"Who do you want?" she wondered.

"Someone I can probably never have," he admitted quietly.

"Oh, I don't think there's anyone you can't have," she told him.

"I'm not so sure," he whispered back.

He awaited her response, but she was silent for a long time. He wondered if she was figuring out who he meant. But then he realized, she'd simply fallen asleep. Passed out cold. And she might not even remember any of this the next day. After all, she drank two bottles of wine. But he felt suddenly sober and worried she'd panic waking up in bed with him. He thought about just leaving. It might be better. But despite his thoughts, sleep overtook him too and he drifted off into a dream world.

To be continued! Please leave feedback. It's much appreciated!