He was the last person she would ever have expected to have feelings for. Best friend, check, buddy, check, resident hero, check, guy who offered shoulder to cry on when dumped, check, but no, not lover, boyfriend or crush. That mop of messy black hair had always seemed like her anchor in a storm when she managed to score less than full marks for a test, got dumped by a boyfriend, or went through something that was hard on herself. He was her rock, the one who kept her steady in the ocean full of rigorous, huge waves.
She had known her severe dependence on him long before she had realized her true feelings towards the person she would have always regarded as her soulmate. He was kind and gentle, understanding – the perfect friend and confidant. In fact, he would have made a great Agony Uncle. He had always been there to help, always been considerate and nice. He would wake her up from her foolish fantasies or persuade her not to focus too much on homework. In short, she needed him badly, worse than a drug addict needed heroin.
And then in that split second, she had known. He had been dancing with Cho Chang of Ravenclaw, his dream girl as he had told her, smiling dreamily at her. For some reason, Hermione felt an ache in her heart and a souring jealousy for the lovely Asian girl. Then he had looked over and smiled, the joy reaching his emerald eyes as they were fixated on her. She realized she loved him, more than anything; flaws and all.
Just as she was standing there dumbfounded with this new knowledge, he had gracefully let go of Cho’s hands and come to her, offering her his hand. A dance. She was never invited during balls, even though she always dressed up as best as she could. Perhaps she was not glamorous enough, or no one wanted to risk defying or offending the Head Girl who was famous for following rules to the letter.
“May I have this dance?” he said formally, a quiet expression on his face. Hermione realized that she knew each and every contour of the face she saw every day, the curves and the bit of a dimple that appeared when he grinned really widely, even the lightning-bolt scar he was so famous for. She realized that this particular expression contained a slight dash of fear. He was afraid she would reject him. Poor deluded fool. Did he think she loved Ron? Perhaps her behaviour had not been clear enough.
Over the years, she had become protective of the boy she called her best friend, defending him against countless attacks from her roommates during each year’s crisis. Today it was a celebration of everything and anything, for Voldemort had died; perished with Albus Dumbledore the previous day. They mourned but they rejoiced too. She laughed and cried with him; shared her deepest thoughts and sorrows with him, and cared deeply for him – so much so that she would revert to the old habit of digging her fingernails into her face. She was positive they would leave scars sooner or later. And she had never found a way to explain it. She had brushed it off cavalierly as strong friendship and loyalty.
But now she knew. She knew very well.
And she saw her feelings in those nervous green eyes, his tongue now licking his lips in an effort to wet them. She knew that very moment that he loved her too.
“Hermione?” his voice cut in, wavering slightly. It was comical, how the Boy Who Lived was afraid of asking a girl to dance. But Voldemort harmed his heart, and her rejection would break it. It was much more serious than anything else. She knew from those eyes that it meant the world to him. “Will you?” She smiled brilliantly, her eyes sparkling back at his in joy.
“Yes,” she whispered softly. “Of course I would.”