“Harry, hold still!”
“But Hermione! We’ve been doing this for hours!”
“And we’re almost done! And besides, you promised me,” Hermione gave him a sort of half-pout, half-glare. The end result was her looking like a grumpy mushroom with paint-streaked hair. He blinked. It wasn’t good to cross her in this state.
And besides, he did promise.
He relaxed and sat down again, straddling the front of the chair, his elbow on the chair back, leaning his forehead into his palm. His legs were stretched to their full length and were placed on either side of each chair leg. His face tilted to the side, with his green eyes focused right at her. His bangs fell into his eyes and he gave her the killer half-smile that he was so famous for. “This all right?”
Hermione smiled, her cheeks flushed slightly at his handsome pose. “Much. Thanks hon.” She turned back to her easel, but not before raising the air conditioning and shedding her oversized painter’s smock.
Harry’s own temperature rose, seeing her in a lavender tank top, showing off her tanned arms which she got from vacationing in Paris last summer. Now, normally, Hermione wouldn’t dare wear such a thing, but since Paris was the supposed fashion capital of the world, she just went along. “Besides,” she had said snippily, “It wouldn’t hurt to have a change of clothing, wouldn’t it?”
He and Ron had just agreed.
Paris was also where she had taken art classes, and she claimed to have fallen in love with it immediately. “Better painting than a man, eh Harry?” Ron had quipped one morning.
Harry had shot him a glare fit for Voldemort.
Ron shut up.
It was just like our old Hogwarts days, Harry mused. But instead of her trying to memorize herbs, potion ingredients or spells, she’s memorizing famous painters, painting supplies, color shades and gradients. ”Good lord knows what gradients are,” Ron had said. “I’d rather not ask, thank you.”
The three of them were living under one roof. They had rented out a flat in London, near The Leaky Cauldron coincidentally, and had been living in it ever since they left Hogwarts three years ago. Hermione was pursuing a Witch’s Degree in Magical Education as a scholar at the Lyceum, a prestigious Magical University, and hoped to start her own primary academy for pre-Hogwarts schooling. Ron had been taking Business classes at the local college and was soon going to be a partner of the now expansive Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
As for Harry, well, he hadn’t decided yet. He’d gotten many a job offer, mostly Quidditch-oriented, but he didn’t know if that would satisfy him. There was one offer, however, that stuck to him. Moody had asked him to be an Auror. The idea was very much appealing.
He’d always wanted to be an Auror, to fight against the Dark. Seemed like he was destined to do it anyway. But being an Auror meant leaving behind his family and friends.
Looking at Hermione, he didn’t know if he could leave her.
They had started dating a few months ago. A few special dinners, walks in the moonlight, movies… the usual. Nothing serious. Not yet. Sure, they’d kissed a few times and held hands romantically. But professions of undying love? Proposals of marriage? Promises of future brethren?
Not right now.
It was funny, Harry mused. But asking Hermione out to dinner after a decade of platonic feelings towards each other was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, and that included the Triwizard Tournament and defeating Voldemort. After all, this was Hermione Granger. His best friend. The third of their trio. Skilled Charms and Transfiguration pupil. Prefect in their fifth and sixth year, Head Girl of Hogwarts in their seventh. Recipient of the highest honors in the Graduating Batch of 1997. Promising Headmaster. Certified Mediwitch.
And one gorgeous hell of a woman.
Ever since they’d moved in together, with Ron, Harry had been getting these little twitches in his chest every time she’d walk into a room. Living under one roof, this was pretty often. He stared more often than not at her, without her knowledge. He frowned in jealousy whenever some hotshot wizard from her classes picked her up for some fancy date. He bought her several little things just to delight her, and they always did. He would wake up with the thought of “I wonder if Hermione’s up?” and go to sleep with the thought of “I hope Hermione doesn’t stay up too late.”
He had it bad and didn’t even know about it.
Ron himself was happily in love, with a sweet girl he met at the college named Penny Garret. It was he who pushed and prodded him to realize his growing feelings for his best friend and to finally ask her out after two and a half years of living in closer proximity and ten years of friendship.
And there they were. Dating. In very deep like with one another. But in love? It was never brought up.
There were a lot of things he loved about her.
The fact that she looked disturbingly attractive in ratty nightclothes and mussed-up hair.
The way she always put her toothbrush in the exact same place, next to his, handle up, so she could pick it up easily the next time she used it.
The way she carried herself, with confidence shown in her stance and friendliness shown in her radiant, straight-toothed smile.
The fact that she knew exactly how he liked his steaks (medium rare), his salads (with Thousand Island Dressing and extra croutons) and his eggs (sunny side up).
The way she wrinkled her eyebrows whenever she was reading something deep and insightful.
The fact that she still kept a frayed version of Hogwarts, a History, beside her bedroom table for her nighttime reading, even though she had memorized the entire book by heart.
The way she bit her lip or chewed the inside of her cheek whenever she was nervous or worried, mostly about trivial matters like where she left her keys or if Ron had forgotten to pick up the laundry.
The fact that she never forgot to remind him about things, be it the bills, Hagrid’s birthday or when it was time to buy new shampoo.
They way she twirled her hair exactly sixteen times when she was bored, before either jumping up to grab a book or plopping down next to him for a chat.
The fact that she stood up for what she believed in. She refused to have a house-elf in their flat and insisted that they do all the housework themselves.
The way she massaged his shoulders at night, especially on nights he seemed extremely tense or stressed.
The fact that she protected animals, big or small, magical or not. The animal shelter down the block was her idea. Her eyes lit up happily whenever she talked of its progress and success so far.
The way she tied her hair into a messy bun when she was in a hurry or let down in curly waves over her shoulders when she wasn’t.
The fact that she knew exactly what he needed at certain times. A hug when he was sad, a retort to his jokes, a talk when he was bored, a duel when he was feeling restless… a kiss when he needed reassurance.
The way she took care of him whenever he felt under the weather. She’d order him to stay in bed and let her make them some herbal tea. That was their favorite drink, and they’d share it together all the time.
The fact that she integrated her love of children and knowledge into this school, which she had been dreaming of since they graduated.
The way she crept into his arms whenever she was sad and allowed him to just hold her until she fell asleep. And when she woke up, she greeted him with an “I-feel-much-better” smile which meant the world to him.
The fact that she was Hermione Granger, his best friend, the girl he and Ron rescued from the troll in the girl’s bathroom. The bossy, insufferable know-it-all. The loyal, caring, trustworthy friend. The brave, noble Gryffindor. The responsible, obsessive student. The beautiful, captivating woman.
Did he love her?
But when would he tell her?
Ron’s words suddenly came back to him.
“If you don’t do it soon Harry, a different prince’ll come to sweep her off her feet and away from you.”
All of a sudden, he jumped up.
“Harry…” she started, irritated.
He paid no heed. In three strides, he had enfolded her in his arms and pulled her against him. “Hermione,” he breathed, his face so close that her hair brushed against his cheek.
“Harry? What’s wrong?” The look on her face was a mixture of emotions. Annoyance, amusement and anticipation.
He threaded his fingers into her wavy brown hair and rubbed his thumb along her cheek. He noticed dimly that her hands were resting on his chest. Her brown eyes stared quizzically into his before realization dawned onto her. “I… I love you, Hermione Granger. So very much. I’m sorry I haven’t told you before, it’s just—”
“Shhh…” she whispered, shushing him effectively. Her hands slid around his neck and she smiled, blushing. “I love you too. And you don’t need to apologize. No words are needed to convey what you want to tell me.”
He nodded silently, before the tips of his lips quirked upward in a half-smile. “No words, eh?”
She raised her eyebrow. “I should hope not.” She tiptoed and, wrapping her arms around him tighter, kissed him deeply.
And Harry was very happy to return this kiss indeed.