The day Alicia Spinnet got married, she said she'd known it would happen — she'd known it for years.
Harry asked her how — she and Lee had spent seven years at Hogwarts, and had never been more than friends. There hadn't even been a hint of a romance. She smiled at Harry, her eyes sparkling as they traveled to her new husband then back to him and told him her most truthful answer: "Because we kissed on Halloween at midnight, back when we were 19," she said.
Now, three years later, they were married.
Harry furrowed his brow. "What's Halloween got to do with it?" he asked.
"Oh, Harry, don't you know?" Alicia asked, sipping her champagne. "It's an old wizarding wives' tale. When two friends kiss at midnight on Halloween, they're fated to fall in love."
Beside him, Hermione scoffed. "So a ridiculous superstition then?" she questioned. Hermione had never been one to believe in anything that couldn't be proven.
Alicia laughed. "Call it what you want, Hermione," she said, seemingly not offended by Hermione's bluntness — Alicia was too happy today for that. "But if you ever find yourself kissing a friend on Halloween, you'll understand."
She floated away, crossing the room toward Lee; he was as attuned to her as she was to him, immediately heading in her direction, as if there were a golden thread tethering them to each other.
"Nonsense," Hermione muttered, shaking her head in the direction of the bride.
"I don't know," Harry said, taking a sip of his firewhiskey. "We've seen stranger things happen when magic's involved."
Hermione eyed him incredulously. "Or maybe," she said, "when two people have a preexisting friendship, they know they're compatible — so of course, when attraction develops, it's lasting. It has nothing to do with Halloween or some sort of kissing delusion — it's got to do with compatibility."
Harry shrugged. "You and Ron had a preexisting friendship, and that didn't exactly last," he pointed out.
He wouldn't have said it if it were really a sore spot for Hermione — she and Ron had gone on one disastrous date after the Battle of Hogwarts before declaring "never again" — and it had been a source of amusement for their friend group ever since. Even Hermione often rated her dates on a scale of Ron to Colin Firth — though only ever to Harry. Ron recognized that they were a poor match, but neither Harry nor Hermione thought his pride could stretch so far as to be the "zero" on her dating scale.
"There's always an exception that proves the rule," Hermione said loftily.
Harry grinned. Hermione never could concede a point. He took a sip of his firewhiskey; he wasn't sure if what Alicia said was complete rubbish or not, but he was definitely grateful Ron and Hermione had never shared a Halloween kiss and he had to find out.
Harry was freezing. It was Halloween night and he was crossing an empty field, wet grass clawing at his ankles, seeping into his jeans. He didn't know what he was thinking, letting Hermione drag him to this.
Oh, he knew what he was thinking. They'd been friends for 15 years and he'd only recently realized what a colossal idiot he'd been as a kid. Every failed date he'd been on, every time a girl's smile dimmed as he told a story about his life that inevitably included his best friend, every time he'd held them up to some impossible standard and found them lacking — he'd only just realized why.
They weren't as smart as her. They weren't as compassionate as her or as loyal. They weren't as opinionated as her — none of them ever dared disagree with the famous Harry Potter. They didn't understand him, didn't know when they should push and when he just needed a moment to himself. None of them had a laugh that twinkled like bells, or skin that was luminous in the moonlight, or hair that was always tousled and rumpled and looked liked she'd been thoroughly kissed.
Even their faults were all wrong — they weren't blunt, they weren't stubborn, they didn't make the most awful roast Harry had ever tasted. (Hermione's cooking skills had much improved from the Horcrux Hunt — having a proper kitchen and ingredients would do that — but she still couldn't make a decent roast. But that was all right. Most of Harry's cooking was still rubbish, but he made an excellent roast.)
It had hit him one day, when they'd all been to dinner at her flat (she had most definitely not made a roast). The couch and chairs were crowded with guests, so she'd sat on the rug by the fire, her fingers twining up and down the stem of her wine glass. She laughed at something Luna said, curls cascading around her, and he suddenly felt a heat that had nothing to do with the fire crackling behind her.
He imagined them on the floor, their bodies entwined, his hand grazing over her soft cashmere jumper to the delicate hollow of her neck, his lips nipping hers, the needy whimper he was certain she'd make. He didn't know how he knew — but they knew each other better than anyone in the world, and somehow, he knew she'd be as vocal in that particular situation as she was in every other.
He hadn't known what to do. She was single, still, as was he. But she didn't seem interested in him at all — she chattered on to him about her dates, how Edward was a Ryan, and Brad was a Ron (of course a bloke named Brad was a Ron, Harry thought bitterly). She told him about her coworkers at the Phoenix Foundation — a nonprofit that was formed from the money and property seized from all the marked Death Eaters who had been sent to prison, which Hermione had been running for the past five years — and how Ella or Gemma might be perfect for him. Just the thought of going on a date with another woman made Harry's mouth taste like sawdust.
So, he'd kept to the status quo — for the most part anyway. His fingers lingered when they apparated together, he made sure to sit next to her at all of their pub nights, he reveled when one of her long eyelashes floated down onto her cheek, so he could pluck it, urging her to make a wish.
"I'm not superstitious, remember?" Hermione grinned, but she blew on the eyelash anyway, her breath sending tingles through Harry's fingers that shot straight through him.
Every touch was torture — was tantalizing, was perfect, was sublime, but ultimately, he was left cold when the brief moment passed. He watched her carefully — for a flare of awareness or desire in her eyes, for a hitch in her breath, for anything — but was merely met with the cheery smile of his best friend.
It wasn't enough. At her next dinner party, he found himself leafing through the books in her library, his fingers lovingly tracing the annotations she'd made in the margins. Her handwriting was neat and ordered, the curves of her lettering graceful and elegant.
It was then he realized he was mental. He was daydreaming about her letters now.
He tried staying away. He figured maybe after some time apart, the feelings would pass, like a head cold or a hangover… but while he could ignore Luna's calls, and George's, and even Ron's, he found himself tapping his wand to accept every time her face smiled up at him from his magic mirror.
He couldn't deny her. He couldn't say no.
Which is why he was shivering through a dark, wet field, trudging behind Hermione. She was striding purposefully ahead of him. He watched the way the moonlight glinted and shone across her hair, thinking perhaps this night had its merits, when suddenly, she disappeared.
He hurried to catch up, and when he crossed the invisible barrier, suddenly found himself in what felt like a completely different field. The grass at his feet was dry (and so were his jeans), fairies hovered five feet above them, providing light, and there was a bar, a dance floor, and a stage on which the Weird Sisters were playing.
Hermione grinned brilliantly at him. "Aren't you glad I dragged you out?" she asked, the fairies creating a glowing aura that glinted off her glossy hair.
"Yes, he agreed.
She grabbed his hand, confidently guiding him toward the dance floor. He still didn't particularly love dancing — he'd never gotten used to the idea that he was on display — but nothing in this world would make him pull away from her at this moment.
The song was fast — superb, Harry thought — and she was moving rhythmically against him, one hand curled around his neck, resting against the tips of his hair, her body shifting against his with every beat of the song. He stood, transfixed, watching her dance, the rapt enjoyment on her face.
"Relax, Harry," she laughed. "No one's watching us. They've all seen us dance before."
Harry tore his gaze away from her to look around, and sure enough, she was right — no one had even seemed to notice them at all. And, of course, she was right that they'd danced together plenty of times before. But this was their first dance since Harry realized what a useless sod he had been, and Merlin's pants, it felt different.
"Just have fun," Hermione whispered in his ear, part order and part plea.
Harry wasn't about to deny her. He lost himself in the music, in her, in the fairies twinkling above them, in the moonlight far above. And at ten minutes to midnight, he found he was very glad that she'd guided him to the dance floor before the bar — because neither of them had a drop of firewhiskey in them, both had their faculties in tact.
Well. Harry still thought he might be a bit mad, and spending the night touching her in almost the way he wanted to had driven him further over the edge, but at least he had come to this potentially stupid decision on his own and not because of the influence of any alcohol: He had to kiss her. At midnight.
"Fancy a walk?" he asked, whispering it into her ear over the chorus of the Weird Sisters'latest hit.
Hermione nodded, and he slipped his hand in hers, guiding her behind the stage. There was a walkway to another section of the outdoor party. This portion of the field was still heated with warming charms, the ground beneath them dry, but the fairies were gone, allowing the moonlight to shine, and the winding paths were lined with rose bushes taller than Harry.
They could steal hear the band, though the music sounded far off, as if they were listening through water. While Harry knew there were other couples exploring the gardens, he didn't hear — or see — anyone.
"It's lovely, isn't it?" Hermione asked.
"A perfect Halloween," Harry agreed. He'd never been bothered much by this holiday. He knew it was the day his parents died, the day he got his scar, but he hadn't known that for so long, and until the day he met his first dementor, it was mostly just a story other people told him. He'd always most closely associated Halloween as the day he became friends with Hermione — and so it had always been a happy day for him.
Fitting then, what he was about to do.
He stopped walking, his grip on her hand firm, and she stilled instantaneously, attuned to his every movement. She looked up at him expectantly — she wasn't sure what he was going to say, but she knew him well enough to recognize the look in his eyes, recognize he was about to say something important.
He shifted closer to her, glancing at his watch. 11:59.
"You're not superstitious, right?" he asked.
Hermione shot him a look that screamed, "You're being an idiot."
"You know I'm not," she said. "Why?"
He lifted his hand to her cheek, grazing the soft skin at her jawline, tipping her face up. His other hand never left hers.
"Because I am," he answered, his voice rough. And then he heard it — the hitch in her throat, the one he'd searched and longed for with every touch these past few months, the one that gave him hope that maybe he wasn't just Harry, her best friend.
He stepped closer. Her mask fell away, her pupils darkening as desire flared in her eyes. They fluttered closed at the same time his did. He felt their breaths mingling, her lips so close he was almost sure they were touching.
He wanted nothing more than to taste her, to explore the only parts of her he'd never gotten to explore before, but he held himself taut, refusing to allow himself to let go. It had to be her choice.
She'd heard what he said — this wasn't just a kiss for him. He didn't want to date her. He'd already dated her. All the reasons why you went to dinner and a movie, all of the getting-to-know-you stuff, they'd already done. He'd met her parents and they thought he was lovely. She regularly went on outings with him and Teddy, spent Christmas morning with them.
He wanted more. He wanted everything.
Did she want it to?
God, he hoped she did.
She claimed his lips with hers. Her hand was around his neck again, her other hand now urging him closer, and with that small, simple movement, she branded him as hers forever. Her touch was scorching, her taste sweet, and Harry felt a completeness he didn't know he'd been missing.
He nibbled her lip, and she opened to him willingly, his tongue tasting her in a way he'd dreamed about for months. It wasn't frenzied — now that they were here, finally here, and now that he knew she wanted him too, all of his anxiety fell away, leaving only a languorous exploration of each other. She whimpered at his touch — a thrill of victory shot through him that he'd been right about her — and Harry dedicated himself to eliciting more of those addictive sounds.
He didn't know how long they stood there, how long they kissed, but he'd never forget her words after.
"Harry," she breathed in his ear, her voice ragged, as she clung to him, as if determined to make sure this moment wouldn't suddenly disappear. He understood the feeling perfectly.
"Yeah?" Harry asked, burying himself in her curls.
"Maybe I'm a bit superstitious, too," she whispered.
Harry grinned, pulling her impossibly closer. He was never letting her go.