Warnings for: sex, mentions of sex, underage sex, manipulation and abuse, and definite swearing. If any of these things bother you, please turn back now.

*** Author's note at the bottom!

- September 21st, 1999 -

Harry sat beside Hermione at the edge of Black Lake. Their shoes were off and their socks tucked away inside them. Their bare feet pushed into the muddy floor at the shore of the lake. The cool water lapped at their warm skin. It was hot, despite the late season. So hot, in fact, that they'd shucked their school robes and were down to her school shirts, untucked from their bottoms. They leaned back and soaked up the last rays of warmth and sunshine before the cold autumn air finally set in.

It was their actual final year back at school. Despite Minister Kingsley's offer to let the trio into the auror ranks, Harry had opted to go back to school. Ron had been annoyed but agreed after his mother nagged him into it. Hermione had always intended to go back and was thrilled that both her best friend and her new boyfriend had decided to join her.

"How are the extra classes coming?" Hermione asked.

Harry looked over at her. The sun beat down on her tanned, freckled skin. Her long, dark curls hung heavily down her back. Her eyes were closed as she soaked up the sun. Her dark lashes cast shadows across her cheeks.

She was beautiful.

"They're good. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but the arithmancy stuff isn't far off from muggle maths and that was always easy for me."

She cracked an eye open and turned her head to shoot him a secretive smile. "It still baffles me that the Wizarding World doesn't think that maths are worth teaching."

"Or English."

"Or art! Or science."

Harry scoffed. "Please, Hermione. Science doesn't even exist to magicals."

She laughed and the sound of it filled Harry with warmth. She laid down on her back before twisting onto her side. She rested her chin in her hand as she looked up at him. Harry spotted the look on her face and knew she wanted to talk or gossip. He obligingly laid onto his back and turned his head in her direction.

"Ginny was asking about you yesterday," she started, completely unsubtle.

Harry looked away. He gazed up at the big, fluffy clouds that dotted the sky. He made a noncommittal sound, only acknowledging that he'd heard her. He really didn't want to talk about Ginny. Almost as much as he didn't want to talk about her and Ron.

It was no secret that she was dating him. It was no secret that they were happy. They held hands, made doe-eyes at each other, and despite the fact that Harry tried not to, he constantly saw them sneaking away on the Marauder's Map for secret liaisons. They fought and bickered still, but it was tempered in comparison to before.

He was happy for Ron. He was happy for Hermione.

He wondered how many times he'd have to tell himself that before it became true.

The fact of the matter was, Harry Potter was hopelessly in love with Hermione Granger. He had fallen for her as early as fifth year - possibly earlier. But he'd identified it in fifth year, at least. But by that point, Ron had made his affections for Hermione more than abundantly clear to Harry. Harry was a lot of things, but he wasn't the type of wizard to steal his best friend's crush.

If Hermione ever returned his affections - well, that'd be completely different. But he knew that Hermione didn't like him like that. She loved Ron. She was happy with him. He wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize her happiness. She'd done too much for him to do that to her.

He'd made his choice. He'd made the decision to not pursue his feelings for Hermione and he wasn't going to. Harry had decided.

It didn't mean he was happy about it.


He turned back to her. Her brows were raised in concern. Her lips pursed ever so slightly. "Hermione."

"I thought you wanted to be with Ginny?"

"I did." But that was a long time ago. He'd had genuine feelings for Ginny in their sixth year - though they hadn't held a candle to what he felt for Hermione. It had been nice to indulge in his little crush though. It'd been good to actually indulge in being a teenager for once. "I still do."

She released a breath of frustration. "Then why are you avoiding getting back together with her?"

He sighed. "I just need time."

Hermione inched closer. Her scent of tulips wafted over him and his eyes fell shut as he breathed her in. "You know," she whispered, "if you don't want to be with her anymore, you don't have to."

But it wasn't really that simple, was it? Harry and Ginny had made promises to one another before the start of the war. Harry didn't want to break those promises. It wasn't like he didn't love Ginny. He did.

He knew he did.

It was just that, when he closed his eyes, all he could picture was Hermione. His devotion to her overshadowed everything. But perhaps it was time to move past that. He'd held onto his crush for Hermione for so many years now. She was happy in her life and it was time for Harry to find his own happiness.

"It's not that," he finally said. He stared deeply into her brown eyes. He loved her eyes. "I just needed time to… come to terms with it all, I think. I had some decisions I had to make."

"And have you?"

He took a deep breath. It felt like a piece of his heart was breaking off, separating from his body and drifting across the small space to her. She'd always hold a piece of his heart, regardless of if she wanted it or not.

"Yeah," he whispered as he stared into her eyes, the scent of tulips surrounding him, "yeah, I have. I made my choice." He grinned at her and hoped she didn't see the sadness in it. "I've chosen to be happy, regardless of everything else."

A brilliant smile stretched across Hermione's face. "That's a perfect choice."

Not really an update. I decided to add this in and I'm not sure if any of you will like it, but I felt like it was necessary for some minor backstory into Harry's actions, decisions, and choices, in the later chapters. This was the history that was always there, but I ended up cutting out the chapters that would have involved the drama of eighth year bc I just really didn't want to write THAT much.

I'll also be going through this story over the next couple of weeks, editing it, updating it with dates at the top of each chapter, and even possibly cutting or changing scenes. Any chapters with significant changes will have notations at the bottom of it.

Because of the way FFN works, I have to take all the chapters down before I can post this. The old chapters will be put back up slowly over the next few weeks. HOWEVER, the whole story is still on Ao3 (bc that platform can actually allows me to add chapters in properly!), so you can still access the old story there and I will be updating it as well.

Thanks for reading! xx