Disclaimer: Nope, obviously not mine, they all belong to JK. (Harry and Hermione belong to each other though)
CHAPTER 1: Asking the Important Questions
At the far end of the Hogwarts Library, near the Restricted Section, Harry Potter sighed as his emerald green eyes took in the scenery behind the large window. His favourite season had finally come, Hogwarts was once again covered in white. The dark green of the Forbidden Forest was now speckled with snow white, glinting silver with the afternoon sunshine that did nothing to warm the ground. The lake was also sparkling with orange sun rays, the setting sun mirroring on its frozen surface, creating the illusion of a lake on fire. Harry's eyes moved to the big oak tree at the shore of the lake. Its bare branches were also covered in snow, its trunk was standing wide and tall with its brown glory, looking like it came out of a cotton field. For some reason it was her favourite place to sit outside.
The girl- No, the young woman who occupied his thoughts since Friday afternoon…
She was once again sitting there, under the big oak tree when he found her.
~ Flashback ~
Harry slowly trudged through the snow towards the young woman sitting beneath the big oak tree. She had her knees drawn up to her chest and as Harry got closer, he realised with great surprise that there was no book that was keeping her occupied. Only her thoughts and the blue flames she loved so much to create.
"You should teach me how to make those." She must have not seen him coming, for hearing his voice from so close startled her.
"Oh, Harry! I didn't see you coming."
"I noticed. You seemed pretty deep in your thoughts." Harry said, smiling slightly as he sat down beside her. "You should teach me how to do this, too." He added, patting the snow underneath him which was magically heated but somehow wasn't melting. Hermione laughed lightly at his indirect praise.
"I don't know, Harry. They're really advanced spells. Just because you defeated a dark lord doesn't mean you can do every spell you come across." she quipped. If it was someone else, they would think she was serious with her expressionless face and sober tone but Harry knew better. He knew her.
After they'd defeated Voldemort last summer for good, they took to making borderline offensive jokes about Voldemort and their victory. It was like their own little type of therapy. Making jokes had never been their job in the famous trio before then; Harry was the hero, Hermione was the brains and Ron was the comic relief. However, they found out shortly after they started with these kind of remarks that this kind of humour was not for Ron's taste. Maybe it was because of his upbringing or maybe because, for some reason, he was affected more than them, Ron still flinched whenever someone, for the most part Harry or Hermione, said Voldemort's name or made an offhand joke about what they'd gone through. So with time, their banter started to become some kind of an inside joke, drawing the two of them closer than they'd ever been. And considering their close friendship before, it was safe to say that they were as close as two people could be in a platonic friendship.
Harry bumped his shoulder against hers lightly. "When will you learn that there is more to me than an ordinary hero? I'm smart, talented and powerful. Oh, and I'm extremely handsome but that doesn't have anything to do with my spellwork."
"And humble. Don't forget that." Hermione added with a hint of a smile playing on her lips.
"Oh yeah! I'm the humblest- most humble?" Harry stumbled in his answer, finishing it almost like a question.
"The humblest." Hermione stage whispered, this time the smile was evident in her voice.
"Yep! I'm the humblest person you could ever meet." Harry boasted with fake arrogance. Then, upon hearing Hermione's familiar genuine laugh, smiled heartily. "Nice to see that I can still make you laugh, even when you're deep in your melancholic mood."
Hermione's laugh gave its place to a smile that still managed to make him feel warm inside. "That's what friends are for. To raise each other when they're down or, if they're too drained to stand up, to sit with them until they feel like they can get up and continue."
"So are we standing right now? Or are we sitting for a while?" Harry asked, using her metaphor to decipher her thoughts.
"I think I should sit just a few more minutes. But it's nice to have company." Hermione answered, resting her chin on her drawn up knees.
"Is it a silent kind of sitting or do you want to talk?" Harry asked this time. If this was before the war, he'd be freaking out right now, probably looking for a way out. But this was a common ritual for them now. Every once in a while, one of them would break down and the other would collect the pieces to mend. The result would be, more often than not, better than before. They believed, in time there would be no need for anymore mending. But to reach that period of their lives, they needed to talk every now and then.
"We can talk." Hermione said, "I was just thinking how we've missed out on being a student at Hogwarts." She was gazing up at the aforementioned school with a wistful expression.
"I don't think I understand." Harry knitted his eyebrows in confusion. "We are students. We even came back for an eighth year. Well, it's technically our seventh year but you know Voldemort and his lack of respect for our education." His last remark made Hermione snort which in turn made him grin with pride.
"Yes, exactly. I know that he waited every year for the school year to end to execute his sinister plans but still we've missed out on so much because of him. Just think."
"Hmm…" Harry made a thinking sound to humour Hermione. "Like all the cancelled exams?"
"Oh yeah! I haven't even thought about them but that was disappointing as hell too, come to think of it." Hermione retorted to Harry's teasing question. "And all the things we could learn at DADA classes with a proper teacher."
"I missed out on my whole fourth year, trying to stay alive."
"We, Harry. You weren't alone. I don't think I slept that year." Then she snorted with frustration. "As if I've slept any other year. All my teenage years went by being worried for you."
"Sorry." This time it wasn't a joke and Hermione knew it. Her head snapped towards him.
"Don't you dare to be sorry about something like this. You and I both know whose fault all these are. And I'm not complaining about worrying for you. I still worry for you because you're my friend and I love you." Harry was glad that she had turned her stare up to the blue flames and couldn't see the blush adorning his cheeks. It still amazed him how easy the words came to her when she was talking about her affection for him. "It was just so tiring to wonder if it was the last time I saw you every time you had to confront him. I know you think about it too, about how different your life would be if Voldemort didn't exist."
"I used to think about that more. You know… My parents, having a family, maybe having a sibling... But I guess at the end I came to accept my life as it is. I know you might not believe me but my life could be worse." Harry laughed at Hermione's disbelieving eyes. "Yeah yeah, I know what you're thinking but I'd like to think I've coped well with all the disadvantages Voldemort threw my way. He took my family but I managed to find myself a new one."
Hermione smiled warmly at his words, her hand finding his and caressing it lightly. "Yeah, you did."
"He tried to kill me for how many times now? I've lost count. But it was me who killed him at the end."
"Yes, you did that too." She whispered proudly.
"And considering that I grew up in a cupboard with the most loving relatives ever, I think I've turned out to be a pretty decent guy."
"Nah, I wouldn't go that far." Upon seeing the mock hurt look on Harry's face Hermione laughed. "Okay, okay! Honestly, you're the most decent guy I've ever known and I think you've set the bar quite high. You'll make a woman very happy one day." This time there was no escape from her eyes as he turned as red as Ron's hair. "And there goes one more thing we were deprived of!" Hermione exclaimed without commenting on his blushing face. Maybe interpreting it as a result of the cold air.
"What?" Harry asked, in a way relieved for the distraction.
Harry gulped. "Dating?"
"Yes, dating. We couldn't do that properly either."
Harry gulped again. "We? Dating?"
"I know you dated Cho and had a little incident with Ginny but they were all under Voldemort's shadow. And I didn't do even that." Hermione continued without hearing his panicked half-questions. "And don't say Krum. All we did was sit at the library and study."
"You'd said he watched you study."
"That doesn't make the situation any dating-like, Harry." Hermione commented. "If we had a normal school life, just imagine all the things you could do with the girl you fancy. The Hogsmeade trips, moonlit walks around the lake-"
"Occasional visits to the Astronomy Tower." Harry cut in with a saucy wink.
"Studying together for the exams." Hermione continued with a dreamy look.
"I thought you said that doesn't count as a dating activity."
"Depends on who you're doing it with." This time it was Hermione who winked cheekily.
Harry cleared his throat. "Flying." He offered quickly to change the subject.
"Flying?" Hermione visibly shivered and Harry knew it had nothing to do with the cold winter air.
"Yeah, it could be pretty romantic… With the right person…" Harry said with a low voice, almost a whisper.
"If you say so." Hermione turned her gaze back towards the blue flames still flickering above them, careless of the slight wind blowing through them. "Too bad I've missed all these chances."
If they weren't sitting shoulder to shoulder and Harry wasn't listening her every word, he would have missed the last part. "Why do you say that? We still have a whole semester. Plus two weeks before the winter break. Maybe you'll find someone."
Hermione exhaled through her nose, making the sound come out as an incredulous laugh. "Who, Harry? I know every guy around me, and they know me. There isn't anyone like that. And most of them are intimidated by me. And you and Ron. You know, by the things we've accomplished, like fighting dark lords and killing a basilisk etc."
"Yeah, that's a problem for me too. I can't seem to find a girl who sees the decent guy behind this great hero. They always fall for the Chosen One." This time it was Harry who couldn't keep up with the game and gave into his laughter. "I'm sorry. It's just really uncomfortable knowing that people really think those things."
"I know, Harry. They really think we are some sort of heroes. We just did what we have to do to survive. I can't even imagine what would happen if we failed." She trembled with fright. "And that's why I don't think I can find a man that can understand me and what we've been through. Every wizard knows me as Hermione Granger, the brainy best friend of the Great Harry Potter, The Chosen One, The Boy Who Lived, The Man Who Conquered. And if I find a muggle then I'll have to explain everything to him at the end. I don't think he'll understand the life we had, no matter how much I tell him. I can't seem to win in any way."
Harry studied Hermione's profile without responding to her comments about her love life (or lack thereof). The wind had started to pick up, blowing through Hermione's chestnut curls, making them fall on her face. Harry drew the cold wind in his lungs, with it Hermione's familiar floral scent captured his senses, making him dizzy. His eyes followed the features he knew so well. Or he thought he knew them because now, looking at her- no, seeing her, really seeing her, with the wind in her hair, her cheeks flushed with cold, her chocolate brown eyes a little disappointed but nevertheless content with what she got…
She was beautiful…
The most beautiful woman he had ever seen and most probably would ever see. Because her beauty was both inside and outside. She was good hearted, loyal, intelligent, smart, funny, and she understood him…
She was everything…
Just as Harry opened his mouth to say something, anything, about his revelation, Hermione stood up.
"Let's go, Harry. It's getting really cold and dark since the sun has set."
And Harry just went along, dumbfounded by the thoughts still circling in his head.
~ End of Flashback ~
That was three days ago. It was now Monday evening and this conversation had been all he had thought about these last three days.
He thought about how she thought she would be alone forever.
He thought about how impossible that was. Any guy would be lucky to have a woman like Hermione in his life.
And then he thought about how he didn't want 'any guy' in Hermione's life. He simply couldn't stand the idea of it.
And this eventually led to the "what if…" kind of thoughts…
What if Harry asked Hermione out?
What if she said "No"?
What if she said "Yes"?
What if she said "Yes" and they became a couple and it didn't work out?
What if he lost her forever because of this?
What if he didn't say anything at all and Hermione found someone else and started dating him? Or worse married him?
What if she said "Yes" and they became a couple and they succeeded?
"Harry?" Harry's head snapped towards the source of the voice which was also the source of his endless thoughts.
There she was sitting across from him, studying from a dozen of books all heavier than her, looking all pretty and cute with her messy bun fastened with her wand, her sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and dried ink splotches on her hands and chin.
"Are you OK?" Her soft tone and concerned eyes made him spill what was already at the tip of his tongue for the last three days.
"Why aren't we together?"
A/N: Hi! Just writing to say that this is my first long story with a plot in a long time and I don't think I'm really good at stories with plot. So, as you can guess, every review helps, whether it's about my style or just giving ideas (I love new ideas!) or just the occasional encouragement for me to stop procrastinating and write.
Thanks for reading and reviewing (please) and hopefully we'll meet again in the next chapter! -xo