Ever watch an autumn leaf falling? How can such a fragile thing, one that shatters into a million fragments at the slightest touch, allow itself to be buffeted by the chill winds of approaching winter? Easily, it turns out. Once the breeze has convinced the leaf to leave the safety of its tree with its gentle caresses, the leaf succumbs gracefully, even happily, to the wind’s will, following its currents wherever they will take it.
That’s what falling in love is like – allowing your fragile heart to be given up completely to the torrents of emotion that threaten to drown it. How do I know? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You see, I’m in love with my best friend.
You might wonder why this is such a problem. And you would be absolutely correct in doing so if this were a normal situation. However, you don’t know my friend.
Actually, come to think of it, you probably do know him. Does the name Harry Potter ring a bell to you? I thought it would – he’s only the most famous wizard in the world. You know, that Harry Potter, the one who single-handedly vanquished You-Know-Who when he was only one year old, then turned around and dueled with him as a fourth-year (a fourth-year!) at Hogwarts to win the Tri-Wizard Tournament, then turned around again and finally defeated him for good at the end of his sixth year, just a few months ago. Oh, and did I forget to mention that he’s lined up to be the star Seeker for the English National Quidditch Team after graduation?
As much as you think you know Harry, though, you really don’t. Yes, he’s brave and selfless and kind, just like they say in the Daily Prophet, but that’s not even the start of it. I would have been surprised if, after having been locked in a cupboard for almost his entire childhood by those horrid Muggle Dursleys, he had turned out half as well as he did. And he would do anything, absolutely anything, to protect the friends who showed him that there really are people in the world who care.
His friends… Well, first, there’s Hagrid, the gentle half-giant who pulled him out of the hellhole that was Number 4 Privet Drive. Then Ron and the rest of the Weasleys, his surrogate family. And Dumbledore, a grandfatherly-figure to all of us. And Sirius and Remus, who keep his parents’ spirits alive.
And then there’s me, Hermione Granger, bookworm extraordinaire. You’re probably thinking, “How did she get on this list?” And honestly, I don’t really know myself. I guess it’s all Ron’s “fault,” actually. If he hadn’t insulted me way back in first year, and I hadn’t locked myself in the girls’ bathroom, and Harry (who was already friends with Ron at the time) hadn’t remembered where I was when Professor Quirrell let a troll loose in the school, then I would either be dead or sitting content inside a fortress of books right now, oblivious to the rest of the world and still wondering what the Sorting Hat was thinking when it put me in Gryffindor. That incident, though, cemented a friendship that has not just lasted, but grown stronger, through thick and thin.
If you consider Ron to be Harry’s brother, then I guess that makes me the sister he never had. I worry and fuss over him, doctor him up when he’s hurt, help him with his homework, and encourage him when he’s feeling blue. And he does the same for me – I would probably be holed up studying for the NEWTs right now if he hadn’t dragged me out here to get a breath of fresh air.
It’s that smile of his that finally got me to cave in this time. Whenever he’s happy, truly happy, which unfortunately doesn’t happen often enough, or even just plotting something, like pulling me away from my books, his face just lights up and his goofy grin spreads all the way from one ear to the other. I just can’t resist giving in to it, especially when his eyes are sparkling like emeralds at the same time. The effect is completely disarming.
Even without that smile, though, he’s a veritable girl magnet. Famous, rich, and dead sexy all rolled into one highly eligible package. Eligible? Yes, I daresay, and quite so. The girls fall all over him, and he’s been out on his fair share of Hogsmeade dates, but he’s confided to me that none of them have ever even tried to look past the “dashing hero” persona the world has created for him to see the real person behind it. And Ron, ever the ladies’ Weasley, is happy enough to get all of these Harry-rejects; in fact, he’s with one of them right now.
Whichever one of these girls Harry eventually falls for, though, certainly won’t be me. Like I said before, I’m Harry’s “sister,” and guys don’t fall in love with their sisters. So I’ll just have to be content with the beautiful friendship that we have now, the companionable silence of mutual understanding and caring that we enjoy as we sit next to, but not touching, each other at the edge of the lake and watch the last leaves of autumn fall.
It’s Harry who finally breaks the silence.
“A Galleon for your thoughts, ‘Mione.”
I glare at him for a moment (can he read my mind?) before turning back to the lake. “They aren’t worth that much, Harry.”
I can feel his eyes scrutinize me. “They are to me. Besides, you’re changing the subject.”
“Oh, I was just thinking about the NEWTs again,” I lie quickly. “Nothing earth-shattering.”
“I would hope not. You want to know what I was thinking about?”
My interest piqued, I turn to look at him. “Not Quidditch again, I hope.”
He laughs. It’s so good to hear him laugh after all he’s been through. “Amazingly, no. Actually, I was thinking…well, I was wondering what it feels like to be in love.”
“It’s like one of those leaves.” I can’t stop myself from blurting it out; he’s looking at me quizzically now, as if I’ve gone nuts, which I probably have. I have no choice but to continue. “You have no control anymore, but you’re fine with it, even glad to give yourself up completely.”
He nods as he turns back to the lake. “Sounds like you have personal experience. Who’s the lucky guy?”
I can’t lie, not to Harry, but I don’t have to tell the complete truth, either. “He doesn’t know, but I don’t think he likes me back.”
“Oh.” Is that a hint of disappointment in his voice? No, I must be imagining things.
He’s turned to smile at me now, though. “Well, if he breaks your heart, then I promise he won’t know what hit him the next morning.” Yup, there’s a brother for you.
“Thanks, Harry, but you really don’t need to look out for me.”
“That’s what best friends are for.”
I gulp; it’s not like Harry to be sentimental. That’s usually my job. Besides… “I thought Ron was your best friend.”
He grins again; how can he think this is funny? “Can’t a guy have more than one best friend?”
Now I’m officially in shock. I’ll just have to do my best to hide it. Plus, I’m still curious. “Point taken. By the way, why were you thinking about love in the first place?”
“Well, I’ve been having these feelings about this one girl for some time now, and based on what you’ve told me, I think she really is ‘the one’ that everyone’s always looking for.”
Crack! There goes my heart. At least Harry has a chance at happiness, though. If anyone deserves it, it’s him.
“I just found out she had her heart set on someone else, though.”
Did I say I was in shock before? Well, sod that. Harry’s looking at me now with big puppy-dog eyes. He likes me. He thinks he’s in love with me. And I’ve led him to believe that his feelings would never be returned. I’ve hurt him. I feel like the worst person in the world right now.
I look at him again; his heart’s written all over his face, but his eyes won’t meet mine.
“Harry.” He turns away from me. Darn it, I have to fix this mess. “There’s something I didn’t mention before that I should have said.” He’s still not looking at me; I don’t know if he’s listening or not, but I’ve got to keep going. “You were asking me who the lucky guy was, and I didn’t really answer you. Because…well, it’s you.”
He finally looks at me again. Our eyes lock, my brown with his green; they’re practically shining with joy. A smile plays about his lips. “Really?”
He wants confirmation, and I don’t blame him. “Yeah. Really.”
His mouth breaks out into a full grin now. “Then I guess we’re not just best friends anymore.”
I can’t help but smile, too. “No, I guess not.”
His face has been inching closer to mine. I’ve been holding my breath; I breathe in now and catch a whiff of pine and mint – Harry’s scent. He’s going to kiss me; I close my eyes in anticipation…
…and our noses bump together.
I fall back, giggling. I can’t help it – so much for a perfect first kiss. The, suddenly, his lips are on mine. My whole body is on fire; I can’t get enough of his touch. My hands travel up to run through his hair, while his move to hold me gently at my waist. I could stay like this forever; it feels so right.
Finally, though, we have to break apart for air. I lean my head on his shoulder as he whispers in my ear.
“I love you, Hermione.”
“I love you, too, Harry,” I murmur as the last autumn leaves fall around us.