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Who's that girl? by ravenclaw_princess

Format: Novella
Chapters: 17
Word Count: 35,341

Rating: 12+
Warnings: Scenes of a mild sexual nature

Genres: Romance, Angst
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione
Pairings: Harry/Hermione, Ron/Hermione, Ron/OC

First Published: 01/07/2009
Last Chapter: 01/20/2011
Last Updated: 01/20/2011


How do you go on when all the dreams you used to hold have been forever changed by a horrible war? Hermione must learn to give way to her past and embrace a new future. Her dreams, once so clear have now been shattered, and as she sees Ron in the arms of someone else, all she can think is who's that girl?


short sequel for Ginny called "Cycle of Flight" is now up.

Chapter 1: Before the war
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Disclaimer: All the character and places belong to the talented J.K Rowlings. Story based on the song 'Who's that girl?' by Hillary Duff.

Hermione clutched at her chest as her heart seemed to give out, tears sprang into her eyes and cascaded down her cheeks. She was immobilized by what she saw, she couldn't move, she could hardly breath. Slowly, the reality of what she was witnessing came crashing into her, her breath came back in short shallow gasps and she turned on her heels, running as fast as she could away form the great hall, away from the pain, away from the hurt, away from Ronald Weasley.


Hermione ran for what seemed like hours but in reality was only minutes. She had no conscious memory of those moments, she didn't know where she was going, but as far as she was concerned, nothing mattered anymore. As her body succumbed to a mixture of exhaustion and despair, Hermione sank to the ground against the nearest wall and cried like she never had before. All the emotion, all the pain that had built up in her since the end of the war came spilling out of her, cascading down her cheeks in a torrent of tears. She stayed like this for hours, the pain slowly ebbing away ever so slightly. Getting up, Hermione found that in her flight she had run to the top of the Astronomy Tower and she walked over to admire the grounds of Hogwarts, illuminated by the almost full moon.


Things had been rough since the end of the war. She had returned to Hogwarts with Harry and Ron to finish their seventh year, and how ever much she thought and had wanted things to be the same, far too much had happened. They had seen too much, seen far too much death, misery and needless pain. They had fought an adults battle and they had grown up far too fast, how could you go back to being a normal teenager, worrying about homework and who's going out with who after all they had been through. No, how ever much Hermione had wanted things to be unchanged, in reality there was no going back to how it used to be. Everyone had been affected in some way by the war and no one could remain unchanged by the unimaginable pain and suffering that the war thrust into everyone's hearts.


The soft sound of footsteps echoing up the staircase brought Hermione out of her reverie, and Ginny soon appeared with an anxious look on her face.


“Oh thank goodness” Ginny said, breathing heavily, “I've been looking all over for you. I saw you running away after you saw Ron and that girl and I started after you, but by the time I reached the doorway, you had gone.”


Hermione blinked back the tears which had started to form once again in her eyes at the mention of Ron's name, and she turned away from Ginny so she couldn't see them. The action was not missed by Ginny and she walked over to Hermione and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.


“I know my brother can be a really big git at times, I'm really sorry that after all these years he still can't behave like a proper human being” Hermione didn’t say anything and continued to stare out over the grounds. “Hermione” Ginny began timidly, “Please talk to me, you can’t bottle up your feelings”


Hermione turned to Ginny and sighed, “You're right, I want to talk, I just don't quite know yet how I feel or where to begin.”


“Just start where ever Hermione, and the rest will follow”


“Ron and I aren't together and we haven't been for a few weeks. He has every right to see other people and kiss other girls. I guess I just didn't expect him to find someone else so soon. I was quite happy really when he broke things off and I don't want him back, or at least I don't think I do. I think it's more that he has moved on with his life so quickly and all I want to do is go back to the good days where it was Harry, Ron and I, sitting around the common room fire late at night, with me checking over their homework. But I know it can't be that way anymore.”

“When I saw that girl with Ron, all I could think was who is she, I don't even know her name and there she was in the arms of one of my best friends. I wanted it to be a dream, I didn't want her to be the one Ron loved. It just wasn't right because I should be in Ron's arms. But I wasn't, she was instead. And as I looked on, it just felt that she had stolen what could have been my life if the war hadn't happened.”


“So you still want to be with Ron then. You want to be back together?” Ginny questioned as she looked at Hermione who quickly wiped a tear from her cheek.


“No,” Hermione answered, “I don't want to be with Ron. I just like the idea of being with Ron. The war changed both of us and it became apparent fairly quickly that we would be better off as friends than as a couple. It was a mutual decision in the end, and we have been much happier because of it. This is pretty silly I know, but before the war I always dreamed of marrying Ron, but now I realize that that future cannot become a reality. That girl with Ron is now living the life that I dreamed of before the war. My life follows a different path, I just can't decide which path to take.”


“Wow Hermione, you have thought this through a lot” Ginny said with awe. “I wish I was so clued up on my feeling. I may look strong on the outside but I am crying into my pillow every night, just trying to understand everything that has happened and where to go from here. Your path may not be obvious right now, but I know that in time it will show itself and when it does, you'll know in your heart that it's the right one to take.”


Hermione smiled and Ginny returned one of her own. “You always know how to cheer me up, even if its just a little,” Hermione said, reaching over to give Ginny a big hug.


“Hermione” Ginny giggled, “not so hard, your squashing my vital assets.” Both girls laughed as they walked down stairs to return to the dormitory. Ginny was right, Hermione knew exactly how she was feeling regarding Ron and she wasn't upset that he had moved on, it was more that Hermione was upset with herself that she couldn't move on. However much she wished for it, things would never go back to how they were, before the war.

AN: Thanks for reading. I hope that you have enjoyed this first chapter and continue on and read the rest of the story. Please leave a review.

I am currently going through and editing all the chapters to fix spelling/grammar etc and take on board advice from the reviews.

Chapter 2: Falling apart
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Two weeks had passed since Hermione had first found out about Ron's new relationship. Ron and Hermione continued to be good friends, although he wasn't around as often as he used to be, if at all. She tried to be happy that Ron had found someone else to bring him joy after all the pain of the previous year, but on the inside, Hermione was a mess of emotions which were tangled into a web so confusing that she had no idea how to unravel it. She tried her hardest not to let anything show, burying herself in a book whenever she felt tears welling behind her eyes. So far she had succeeded in fooling Ron, who was far too occupied in his own life to notice her, and she had also managed to convince Ginny that she was only stressed with her school work. Harry though was not so easily fooled.

As the class was dismissed from potions, Ron hurriedly shoved all his paraphernalia that was littering the desk into his bag and hurried off to his girlfriend. Harry and Hermione proceeded to put their belongings away in a much more orderly fashion. They left the classroom and proceeded to their dormitory.

“Umm, Hermione” Harry began timidly. Hermione looked at him, urging him to continue. “Are you alright? You just seem a little distracted lately.”


“Everything is fine Harry, really. I'm just a little stressed out with school work and all. It's N.E.W.T.S this year and I really want to do well.” Hermione gave him a reassuring smile and continued to walk a little more quickly to reduce the time for awkward questions. But Harry didn't buy a word she had said.


“Hermione, I have known you for seven years and you are not yourself. I saw your potion today. If you were as fine you say you are, your golden potion would not have had a tint of sunshine yellow in it”


That was it. The calm, cool exterior that Hermione had been holding up suddenly crumbled as she looked into Harry's brilliant green eyes. There was so much compassion in his eyes and so much truth in his words that she could not lie to him anymore. Hermione fell into Harry's arms, and a torrent of tears cascaded down her cheeks, unchecked and unrelenting. They stayed that way until Hermione's tears dried up and she could once again control her breathing.


“I'm sorry Harry, I didn't mean to fall apart like that”


“Hermione, It's why I'm here. Fall apart any time you need. We all have our moments when we need to get all of the emotions out. Come on, lets go down to the lake.”


Harry took a gentle hold of Hermione's arm and led her down to the lake where they sat down under a shady tree. A slight breeze could be seen playing with the water, making ripples dance along the lakes glistening surface. Hermione took a deep breath, bringing the brisk autumn air into her lungs. She turned to Harry and was met once again by those green eyes, full of so much care and worry.


“I'm just confused right now Harry, I don't know who I am anymore or where I'm going. I don't know how I feel about just about everything.”


“Does this have anything to do with Ron having a new girlfriend?”


“No...yes....maybe, I don't know” Hermione sighed. She was exhausted. For the last 2 weeks her thoughts had been swirling around in her mind. Now she knew, it was time to open up to someone.


“The war changed everything I knew. So many people I came to love are now gone and sometimes I just can't deal with the pain. All the dreams I had for the future now seem futile because everything involved all the people that I've lost, and it's not just those who died either. People have changed because of the war, their perspectives on life have all been altered by what we had to go through. We are kids Harry, we are just kids and we have been made to live an adults life, see things we should never ever had have to see. I want to be able to block out all the horrors I saw, but I can't. They are a part of me now, embedded in my very soul, and they will never leave me. So the only thing I can do is embrace these memories, and hope that they will in some strange and misguided way, help me to unlock my future and protect the next generation from the anguish that we have had to endure.”


Hermione took a deep breath. All of sudden the weight of the world seemed to have lifted. Instead of a thousand thoughts flying through her brain, she had concisely summed up all her feelings into one paragraph, albeit one long paragraph, but by just putting a voice to her emotions, the day seemed brighter.


Harry on the other hand was slightly stunned. “Wow Hermione, I cannot even comprehend the depth of your thinking right now. But, its seems to me that you have everything sorted, remember what has happened and use those memories to stop it happening again. Of course, you used a few larger words than I just did.”


Hermione laughed, and Harry smiled at her. “You know,” he said, “I believe that is the first time I have heard you laugh in quite a while.” Harry was right Hermione thought, I haven't laughed in a long time, but it felt good. She felt so much lighter than she had all term.


“So, er”, Harry began slightly nervously. “This doesn't have anything to do with Ron then?”


Hermione frowned and looked down at her hands which had began entwining themselves together at the sound of Ron's name. She thought for a moment, gathering all her thoughts as tears began to well behind her eyes. “Ron and I aren't meant to be together, we are better off as friends. While I still love Ron, I'm not in love with Ron any more, we are different now to how we were before. But what I do miss is being with Ron. I miss having that someone there to support me when I need some support, someone to listen to me when I needed to vent, someones shoulder to cry on when I needed to cry, and someone to hold me and make me feel secure.”


“Hermione, I'm here for you,” Harry said, wiping a new tear drop from her eye before it could further stain her already tear streaked face. “I've always been her for you. Whenever you need support, or whenever you need to talk you can always come to me. My shoulder will always be open for you and you can be held as often as you need. You can always come to me, I thought you knew that.”


“I did, I do, I just didn't want to appear weak in front of you when you seem to be so in control all the time.'


Harry scoffed, “Me, in control. Not a day goes by when I don't feel tears welling up inside me, when I don't see the faces of all of those who died for me. I am a complete mess at times, I just try my hardest to hide it and live each day as it comes.” Harry looked up at the light clouds, floating across the sky and thought back to those miserable days he had to endure straight after the defeat of Voldemort. All Harry had wanted to do was rest and to get away from all that had defined his life since the day he was marked with his lightening bolt scar. But he was unable to avoid the limelight, everyone wanted to know what happened, everyone wanted to see him and shake his hand. But he had friends to bury, and at the first opportunity he found, Harry escaped to the Burrow where he could grieve in peace.


For a time, the Burrow was comforting, but after a week, Harry realised that all he really wanted was to be alone, and away form the reminders of the war. He loved the Weasley's but they had their own grief; so Harry decided to leave. He didn't know where the Dursley's were, not that he wanted to see them anyway, but with Charlie staying with his parents Harry asked and was given permission to stay at Shell Cottage. Most of the time Harry simply watched the sea and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It was in those weeks he spent in solitude, watching the waves lap the shore, that he healed his wounded soul and began to pave his future. He would return to Hogwarts, he would tell the world his story, and he would most of all just be an ordinary teenager. And so with his thoughts in order, Harry returned to the Burrow to spend the rest of the holidays.


Harry returned his attention to Hermione, who was sitting watching him, her arms wrapped around her legs. “It hasn't been easy, but the time I spent by myself really helped me to put to rest a lot of the anger I felt and to start moving forward. The sadness and pain is still there, but the anger has dissipated. Things are still hard but I try to stay positive, this year can hardly be worse than last year, that has got to be a good thing. Come on Hermione, cheer up, there is plenty of life to live yet.”


“So what are you up for then, a game of tag, a trip to the library, or how about we go and see Hagrid” Hermione asked, slightly more cheerfully.


Harry smiled with a twinkle in his eye that signaled to Hermione that something mischievous was on his mind. “Follow me, I have the perfect way to get your mind off...well everything. Lets go.”


With some trepidation, Hermione followed Harry as he led her to some unknown place for an unknown adventure.

Chapter 3: Removing Fear
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“Oh yes you are” Harry said, the same mischievous look, still in his eye. “Just because you didn't immediately take to flying a broom, it doesn't mean you should give up altogether. You'll be safe with me.”


Hermione looked at the broom in Harry's hand. She did want to fly, she had always admired the skill and technique that Harry displayed, but she was slightly afraid. It was one of the only parts of magic that she wasn't immediately great at. Hermione moved her gaze to look into Harry's kind eyes and she knew that with him behind or in front of her...she would be ok.


Hermione began to nod slowly, thinking to herself....what have I gotten myself into now, but then Harry took her hand and all her fear melted away.


“Place you hands like this” Harry said, placing her hands around the broom handle. “Now you mount like this” and Hermione watched as Harry skillfully and gracefully mounted the broom. Hermione followed Harry's lead and swung her leg over the broomstick with a lot less grace, but she was on. Fear began to grip at Hermione as a thousand possible horrible endings flashed through her mind, but before it could completely take control, Harry reached around her and placed his hands on the broom, holding her tight between his arms.


“Hold on tight Hermione, I wont go too fast, not yet anyway.”


And with that, Harry kicked off and they were flying. Utter terror flowed through Hermione as they lifted off, her stomach still firmly on the ground...or so it felt. Her eyes were clenched shut as the cool afternoon air whipped past her, flicking her curls around her face. Hermione was fully aware of the warmth from Harry sitting behind her. His touch was gentle but yet so strong and slowly she opened her eyes to see her white knuckles tensed in front of her.


“Hermione, I wont let you go” Harry whispered in her ear, and so Hermione relaxed and looked down to see the pitch some 100 feet below. They were no longer rising, but were circling slowly around the pitch. She could see Hagrid's cabin from here and the lake, glistening in the sun.


“Thank you Harry” Hermione said, smiling. “This is amazing”.


“Do you want to steer for a while” Harry asked.


“No” Hermione replied quickly, “lets just take this one step at a time.”


They did just that, at least at first. As Hermione began to relax, Harry started to go faster, bank steeper and do sudden direction changes. Hermione screamed occasionally, but they were screams of pure adrenaline and excitement. Although Harry was sitting behind her, he knew that there was a huge smile on Hermione's face, and there was a huge smile on his as well. To be flying was one thing, but to be flying with Hermione was quite another. They had always been such good friends, but here with her so close, Harry couldn't help but begin to feel butterflies fluttering in his stomach. She had grown into a woman, and only now with the weight of the world off his shoulders, had he finally seen it. She had all the curves in all the right places, her hair was no longer bushy but fell in beautiful waves down her back and framed her gentle face. And her eyes, those deep brown eyes just sparkled like no one else's could. He didn't want to admit it but there was no other option available, Harry Potter had started to fall in love with Hermione Granger.


Hermione was having the time of her life. If you had asked her at breakfast if if she would go flying on a broom today, her answer would have been an emphatic no. But here she was flying in Harry's arms, and not just enjoying it, but loving it. All the trepidation she once had was gone. Here she felt safe, which considering she was tens of feet up in the air was slightly backwards to her minds rational thinking...But she was not thinking rationally, because she was with Harry, and with him holding her she knew no harm would come to pass. Harry was so much more carefree now, so much more relaxed and often dreamt about his future, due of course to the fact that Voldemort was no longer trying at every opportunity to destroy him. His arms were strong and his body well toned after years of quidditch, and his eyes shone with a new passion and love of life. She didn't want to admit it but there was no other option available, Hermione Granger had started to fall in love with Harry Potter.


Harry and Hermione spent the rest of the afternoon sun on the Quidditch pitch, enjoying each others company. The worries that Hermione had been carrying for the last few weeks dissipated as she laughed, tumbled and turned with Harry. 'I'm loving this' Hermione thought to herself smiling as she gazed out across the grounds, 'and I love who I'm spending it with'.


“Harry” Hermione said slowly, not quite sure that she really wanted to ask this question.


“Yes” Harry replied, urging her on.


“Could you maybe...teach me to fly” Hermione asked. Her initial fears gone, the feeling of flying was amazing, and Hermione couldn't resist the urge to learn how to fly, especially if Harry was the teacher.


“Sure” Harry excitedly replied, and gently and patiently, Harry began to teach Hermione all she needed to know about flying.


The day was wearing on and Harry's stomach started its nightly ritual of groaning for food. Harry took it as a sign that dinner was approaching and reluctantly he began the descent to the ground. He would have preferred to stay up there, holding Hermione all night, but his stomach grumbles would undoubtedly spoil any fantasies that Harry had been dreaming of.


Hermione felt the broom tilt down and knew that the time to go in for dinner had come. She sighed, she would have liked to stay here longer but dinner was calling her name. They landed softly and Harry sprung off and offered a hand to Hermione. She took it and blushed slightly, turning her face away in the hope that Harry didn't see it. She brought her leg over and tried to stand, but her legs immediately gave way. She closed her eyes and put her hands out waiting for the inevitable crash to the ground, but it never came. Instead, she felt Harry's arms grab her and pull her to her feet.


“Whoops. Steady on there Hermione” Harry said with a laugh.


Hermione couldn't hide her blushing this time. “My legs feel like jelly,” she replied, smiled shyly in complete embarrassment.


“Yeah, that can happen, especially after flying for a long time. We'll just have to get you up here more often, that's all,” Harry said, secretly hoping that Hermione would like to come out here again, but for completely different reasons than to remove her 'jelly' legs.


“I might just have to do that Mr. Potter, I just might. Come on, I'm starved.”


Harry ran to put his broom away and ran back to Hermione, then without missing a step, he grabbed Hermione's hand and together they sprinted to the Great Hall.

A/N Thanks for reading, I hope youe nejoyed this chapter.

Chapter 4: An Icy Dinner
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Ron was staring intently at the doors of the Great Hall waiting for Harry and Hermione to arrive. He finally spotted them and he watched as they made their way to the Gryffindor table but Ron never gave them a chance to sit down.


“Well you two are looking incredibly windswept” Ron remarked with a certain curiosity in his voice which immediately got Ginny's attention.


“You most definitely are”, Ginny piqued in. “If I didn't know better, I would say that you guys have been flying.”


“Rubbish” Ron remarked, “Hermione doesn't fly.” Ginny just gave Ron a look that said something along the lines of 'are you stupid', then glanced back at Harry and Hermione with a demand for answers in her eyes.


“It was a spontaneous thing. Hermione needed cheering up so I thought a flight would be nice”. Harry said, shrugging his shoulders like it was no big deal. Ginny though was not so easily swayed.


“No big deal! When, Harry James Potter, did you ever take me for a flight on your Firebolt...aye!” Ginny retorted, standing up and poking him in the ribs.


Harry jumped back in alarm, shocked at Ginny's obvious displeasure at him flying with Hermione. “But you already know how to fly, and you have a broom. Hermione doesn't”, Harry replied, hoping to alleviate the baffling situation, however his words achieve the opposite effect.


“And why should that matter. Don't you think that sometime in the weeks that we were together the two of us could have gone for a flight together. But oh were too busy off with Hermione planning to save the world, and there I was, sitting alone, worried sick and forgotten again!” Ginny fumed, her face turning a shade to rival her hair.


“Ron was with us too” Harry added feebly, knowing that the chance of saying anything to reduce Ginny's random outburst was minimal.


“Boys” Ginny said in exasperation, before storming off out of the Great Hall.


“I have absolutely no idea what that was all about” Harry said utterly confused, but without further thought, he sat down and piled up his plate with a mountain of food before the house elves managed to whisk it all away.


Hermione was no longer quite so interesting in dinner. She had a fairly good idea what this was all about. Ginny still liked Harry and the thought of him spending time with any other girl was an upsetting event. 'Hopefully,' Hermione thought, 'she wont be too mad if that girl is me'. Getting on the bad side of Ginny was not the best place to be.



Ginny fled the Great Hall as fast as she possibly could without drawing the attention of the entire student body. She could feel the warm tears starting to pool behind her eyes and quickly wiped them away before anyone could notice. Once out of the Great Hall and into the deserted corridor beyond, Ginny broke into a run, trying to get away from Harry as fast as she could. With tired legs and laboured breathing, Ginny stopped running and found herself outside her charms classroom. She looked both ways, but no one was around, so she silently slipped inside and collapsed on the pile of pillows that created a huge mountain in the corner of the classroom.


Ginny sighed to herself and buried her head in her hands. She was sad, angry, happy, frustrated and confused. A cacophony of contrasting emotions were running wild through her head and all she wanted was for them to cease, to go away and never return. Every one of them stemmed from one person...Harry. The one person that could cause so much pain and so much happiness. Ginny had always thought that when the war was over, her and Harry would finally be together without a care in the world. But that was not how everything had turned out. Ginny did not fully understand Harry's choice but she accepted it and had moved on...mostly anyway.


It was surprising how the littlest things brought such a downhill spiral. She had never thought of going flying with Harry when they were together, but that wasn't what had caused the onset of her emotions. Ginny sighed and hung her head in her hands, feeling guilty about her thoughts, but how ever much she tried, she knew that it was the truth. She was jealous, jealous that he was spending time with another girl, even if it was Hermione. 'He should be with me', Ginny whispered to herself, once again feeling warm tears track themselves down her cheeks.


Ginny sobbed to herself for an unknown amount of time. She stayed in the charms classroom until all the emotions that had overwhelmed her were out of her system. With the circulation returning to her limbs, Ginny managed to emerge from the pile of pillows and started to walk slowly back to the dormitory, knowing with certainty that the moment she walked through the portrait hole, Hermione would immediately be dragging her to a quiet place to talk.


Hermione was sitting with Ron and Harry in the common room in their favourite seats by the fire. Ron and Harry were busy finishing their homework, but in usual form, Hermione had already completed hers and she instead had an old fat library book in her hands. However, today she was not interested at all in learning about the effects of temperature and acidity on flaxweed flowers . Any small movement would send her eyes darting to the portrait hole in the hope that she would glimpse the mien of red hair, and finally, Hermione was rewarded. Immediately the book was closed and Hermione rose to her feet and followed Ginny up the stairs to her dormitory.


Ginny was sitting cross legged on her bed, her head in her hands. Hermione crossed the threshold and went and sat by Ginny, putting a gentle arm around her shoulders.


“Want to talk about it?” Hermione asked.


“I knew you would follow me”, Ginny said, with the faint hint of a smile. “I'm sorry Hermione, I'm not mad at you, and I'm not jealous or anything, I just got a bit emotional. I still like Harry, and sometimes it hurts when he's off with other girls. I feel really stupid now too, you and Harry are best friends, I guess I just wish I was flying with him”.


“Does Harry know how you feel?” Hermione questioned, trying to hide the blush that was heating up her cheeks.


“I told him that I still liked him when we broke up, or more when he told me he didn't want to get back together. He said he was sorry that it had to be this way, and that he still cared for me deeply. He said that the Harry I dated belonged to the past, a past that he wanted to remember, but not relive. He needed to find himself and he needed to heal, because now, for the first time in his life, no one was trying to kill him.”


Ginny looked at Hermione and smiled sadly. “I kind of understand, but only kind of. Which is why sometimes I get a little teary. But with time, I will be okay. I have to heal as well, and maybe Harry's right. To heal we have to move on, not just jump back to how things were, because, they never will be that way again. It's hard at times but generally I'm doing okay. It's just that with everything else that happened during the war, having to mend a broken heart as well is a little much.”


“I know the last thing that he would want is to hurt you Ginny. He cares for you a lot.” Hermione said, trying to cheer Ginny up.


“I know he cares, but that is all...he only cares for me. It doesn't matter from which angle I analyse this situation, they all draw the same conclusion, Harry has moved on from the past that we shared together and I am doing the same. I just had a little set back today, but tomorrow, I will be right back on track.” Ginny looked down at her fingers surprised to find that they were playing with a loose thread on her duvet cover. 'Right' Ginny told herself sharply, 'enough moping, there is a life to live'.


The soft patter of rain drops sounded against the cool dormitory window, looking just like Ginny's tear stained face. But with a quick wipe of her hand, the tears were gone and Ginny went through a complete one eighty degree turn of emotions. She glared at Hermione suspiciously and coed “So what about you and Harry then? Do tell.”


Hermione was slightly taken about by the sudden direction this conversation had taken, and at first was lost for words, but quickly gained her composure and replied, “I was upset, he was trying to cheer me up”.


“And it seemed to have worked rather well” Ginny said with a twinkle in her eye. “I know you are not going to admit to me that you have feelings for Harry, but just so you know, that when you start dating, you have my blessing”. However, this was only half true. Ginny really wanted to be the only girl Harry ever dated, but if he didn't want her, Hermione was the next best thing.


“When I start dating Harry”, Hermione echoed with slight incredulity in her voice. “If I start dating Harry is more likely, and the possibility of that is minuscule”. Hermione held up two fingers, millimetres apart to add emphasis to her adamant refusal that she would ever date Harry. Ginny just laughed.


“Yeah, keep telling yourself that Hermione. Now I'm going to bed, Good night,” and with that Ginny wiggled herself under the covers of her bed and pushed Hermione towards the door, still laughing to herself.


Hermione, shocked with the abrupt end to the conversation, but also slightly relieved, walked into the corridor beyond and to her own bed, under absolutely no illusion that Ginny had believed a single word that she had said. The more important thing though, was what Ginny would do with the information.

A/N Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a review.

Chapter 5: Quest for Quills
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The days and weeks passed by and an icy chill from the north brought the first snow for the season, blanketing the grounds and castle in a thin layer of fluffy snow. Hermione and Harry were busy working on their homework in front of the fire in the common room. Ron, as usual was out with his girlfriend and Ginny was busy with her other friends. In fact, more often than not, it was now usually just Harry and Hermione


While Hermione still thought about the war, after her talk with Harry and the exhilarating broomstick ride, things had gotten easier. She hardly ever saw Ron anymore which definitely helped. He of all people reminded her of all that she had lost and all that had come to pass. In fact, Hermione was enjoying the time that she and Harry spent together, she was a lot less sad when she was around him and a smile or a laugh were never far from her lips.

“Finished” Harry exclaimed, closing his book and putting his quill down, “and it's only nine thirty. I'm getting good at this homework thing.”


Hermione smiled at that. It was quite true. Harry had taken a much more serious attitude to his studies this year, possibly due to the fact he could see himself becoming and auror, and he wasn't constantly worrying about being killed. “I'm done too”, Hermione said, putting down her quill and parchment, which was as usual about twenty inches longer than what was asked for. “So what do you want to do with the rest of the night?” Hermione asked.


“Actually, I'm quite happy just sitting here,” with you, he added under his breath. “What about you?”


“I'm happy just sitting here as well.”


“Are you going to Hogsmead tomorrow?” Harry asked, somewhat nervously. “I was thinking I might go down, if you are.” Going to Hogsmead now brought no where near the excitement that third year had brought, or the nervousness of that horrendous fifth year visit. But Harry wanted to go to Hogsmead tomorrow, and he wanted to go with Hermione, and only Hermione. Please say yes Harry thought, feeling his palms going slightly sweaty. He had wanted to ask Hermione for a few weeks now, but didn't know how to go about it without it sounding like a date, which was slightly ridiculous seeing as he had probably asked the same question to Hermione dozens of times. But with the trip the next day, he had no more time to procrastinate.


“Yeah, I am. I need to get some more quills. I'm glad you're going. I thought I was going to be going on my own” Hermione replied hiding the elation that was flowing through her. She had purposely not mentioned to Harry that she had wanted to go to Hogsmead. Deep down she wanted him to ask her to go, but as the trip became nearer she had given up hope. Typical Harry, she though, always leaving things to the day before the event.


“That's good” Harry said, “I don't really need anything, I just want to get out of the castle for a little bit.” Harry smiled at Hermione and she did the same. Harry loved it when Hermione smiled, her whole face lit up and her eyes sparkled with happiness. Then a puzzling thought occurred to Harry. “Didn't you bring about 10 quills this year?”


“Yeah, I did, but I've been writing a lot recently so I need some new ones,” Hermione replied somewhat sheepishly.


This further aroused Harry's curiosity. “Hermione, I know we have a little more homework this year, but unless you are writing your essays on sandpaper, you couldn't possibly go through 10 quills in the space of a couple of months. So what are you writing about?”


“Not much” Hermione said, which immediately sent Harry's eyebrows skyward in a look of incredulity, making Hermione chuckle. “Harry, I'm a girl. Its been a hard year with the war and Ron. I've been keeping a diary, and as with everything I do, I always write a lot more than is needed. Even if all I want to say is that there is nothing more to say, it ends up being about a foot long.”


“Oh” was all Harry could say. He was also relieved that he hadn't stumbled onto something that Hermione was trying to hide from him.


“Anyway, I'm off to bed.” Hermione stated as she gracefully rose from her couch, glided towards him and bent down to give him a hug. “I'll see you in the morning.”


“Night” Harry said as he watched her turn and head up to the dormitory. Get a grip, Harry told himself. But it was no use, his whole body was tingling from the warmth of Hermione's hug. Silently, and a lot less gracefully, Harry rose from his comfy chair by the fire and headed off to bed.

Slivers of sunlight touched Harry's silently sleeping frame, and slowly stirred him into life. Clumsily her reached for his glasses and after several failed attempts, he managed to find them and slide them onto his nose. He lay in a state of semi wakefulness for several moments and then with a start he sat bolt upright as he remembered that today was the day he would be going to Hogsmead with Hermione...alone.


It had taken Hermione ages to get to sleep and she had awoken at the first light of the sun. Excitement ran through her veins at the thought of spending a day out of school with Harry. She tried to sleep for a little longer but it was pointless. Hermione got out of bed, and began getting ready for her day out, taking a little more care today with her hair. She put on the outfit she had decided on last night while tossing sleeplessly in her bed, and glanced in the mirror. Happy with what she saw, Hermione went to the common room to wait for Harry.


Hermione's nerves raced as she saw Harry walk towards her, and she quickly took a deep breath to steady herself. 'So many girls are going to be envious of me today' Hermione thought as she admired Harry's gorgeous features. They went down to breakfast together and sat down beside Dean and Seamus. Ron was nowhere to be seen. In no time at all Hermione and Harry were walking through the brisk air down to Hogsmead, the thin layer of new snow crunching under their boots. The shops were crowded as usual but as they has been in them so many times already, the didn't feel the need to visit them again. The only shop they visited was the one for Hermione's quills.


Hermione found the quills she liked and counted herself out a bundle, feeling her face burn under the scrutiny of Harry who she knew was watching and counting the number of quills for himself.


“10 quills?” Harry asked in disbelief.


“Just to be safe” Hermione said blushing, as she went over to the counter to pay for her purchase.


With no other plans, Harry and Hermione wondered the streets of Hogsmead, both glad to be in each others company. A rumble from Harry's stomach reminded them of the hour.

“Would you like a butterbeer?” Harry asked Hermione who nodded in response. She could feel herself blush and it wasn't because of the cool air. 'Its just a butterbeer' she had to tell herself, 'stop being stupid!'


Harry opened the door of The Three Broomsticks and Hermione thanked him. She walked in a few steps and then stopped dead. Her eyes began to swim with tears, as in the corner of the room, holding hands and gazing sickeningly sweetly into each other eyes were Ron and that girl. In an instant all the pain come swirling back and Hermione fled the scene, just like she had done when she first saw Ron and that girl. The only difference this time, was that when she turned to flee, she bumped straight into Harry, who put a comforting arm around her and started leading her back to the castle.


Not a word was spoken, as they walked together through the snow, Harry's arm warm around Hermione's shoulder. 'Who's that girl?' Hermione thought to herself, 'who is she?'


Harry led Hermione to the the Room of Requirement which he transformed into a cozy room with a roaring fire surrounded by a couple of sofas. He called for Kreacher who immediately appeared. Harry told the house elf his request and he soon returned with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of chocolate covered biscuits. Just what every girl needs when she is upset, copious amounts of chocolate. Harry sat Hermione down, placing her quills on the table and took a seat on the opposite sofa. Not a word was said. She just sat there, still and silent, gazing into the flickering flames.


The walk from Hogsmead seemed like a dream. All Hermione could remember was thinking to herself, who's that girl? The warmth of the fire was bringing her back to reality and she looked around not knowing quite where she was. She looked at Harry questioningly and he immediately understood.


“The Room of Requirement, I thought you would need somewhere warm and quiet.” Harry said responding to her confused eyes.


“Thank you Harry, and,” she paused and looked down at her hands, entwined in her lap, “I'm sorry.”


“Don't be.” Harry said with a warm comforting smile


“Who is she?” Hermione asked. She didn't really want to know the answer but she knew that it didn't matter how many times she wished it, she would never disappear.


“I don't know a lot” Harry began, “Ron has never said anything about her and I have never asked. I assume that if he wants to tell me about her he will. I don't see him a lot now though, he usually comes in after I've gone to bed and he is never very coherent in the mornings. She's a Ravenclaw, and I think she is in sixth year. I've seen her around in previous years but I don't think our paths have ever crossed.”


“Oh” Hermione replied sadly. “I thought that I was passed this. I thought I was alright, but then I guess I haven't seen them together since. Seeing them again just brought back a flood of emotions, pain, loneliness, despair, loss. I just don't understand how he can move on so quickly like nothing has happened at all while I stand alone and barely holding on.”


Hermione burst into tears again and sobbed hysterically into her hands. She felt the weight of the chair shift as Harry sat down next to her, put a comforting arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his chest. “You are never alone” Harry whispered into Hermione's ear, as she sat there sobbing, her tears soaking into Harry's shirt.


Time passed rather quickly as they sat there, neither of them saying a word, the crackling fire the only sound. The tears had long died away but Hermione was comfortable, lying in Harry's arms. She felt safe and secure, like the rest of the world no longer existed, it was only them, and nothing would hurt them again. Feeling hungry, Hermione whipped out her wand and whispered a spell which warmed up their mugs of hot chocolate and grabbed a chocolate biscuit from the table. Harry did the same.


“Thanks Harry for being here for me. I know I can be a mess at times.”


“Anytime Hermione. My shoulder is always available to cry on” Harry replied, bringing a smile back to Hermione's face. “Now, lets see what I put into this place”. Harry got up off the sofa and started rummaging through the various cupboards that were around the room, finding a variety of different games and books, both wizarding and muggle. Harry selected a variety of games he liked and set them onto the table. For the next few hours Hermione and Harry laughed as they enjoyed playing exploding snap, go fish and twister, while munching on the plate of chocolate biscuits.


The rumbling of their stomachs reminded them both of the time and they made their way down to dinner. Hermione felt so much better as she left the Room of Requirement but as soon as she saw Ron, sitting and chatting so nonchalantly at dinner everything came flooding back. She managed to keep a carefree visage on the outside, but inside the world that had been so carefully reconstructed over the past weeks, thanks mostly to the presence of Harry, crumbled once again into a heap of painful memories and broken dreams.

Chapter 6: It's Time
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Snow continued to fall and Hogwarts looked increasingly like a winter paradise, but all the beauty was lost on Hermione who had once again fallen into a state of extreme despair. On the outside, she managed to keep a cool exterior that fooled almost everyone into thinking that life was continuing on as usual. But Hermione's mind was in constant motion, from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed at night. At no point could she let her mind have a moments rest because she would instantly remember Ron and instantly tears would spring to her eyes.


Ever since Hogsmead, Hermione seemed to be running into Ron and his girl at every possible moment. With every corner she turned, every passage way she walked and every dark winding staircase, there they were. Sometimes they were just walking by, other times they would be gazing into each other eyes, and then there were times when they were doing a little bit too much for a public place. Sometimes, Hermione would just walk on by, nodding her head in acknowledgment, and also hiding her leaking eyes, other times she would turn and walk away before they had time to notice her.


It was some extremely early hour of the morning and Hermione was in the common room buried under a pile of books. For hours, she had read and wrote furiously, keeping her mind busy, but eventually, tiredness took its toll. Her eyes drooped in surrender and she had fallen asleep, her head coming to rest on a heap of text books that were not related in the slightest to any homework or school assignment. Her homework had been completed hours ago. This was how Hermione spent all her nights, writing until she fell asleep. If she wasn't studying, she would be writing in her diary, her one outlet where all her emotions could be condemned to paper in one flood of misery, so that she could maintain her strong exterior.


Today had been an especially bad day. After returning some books to the library, Hermione decided to take a walk to one place she hadn't visited since she and Ron had broken up. It had been their special place, somewhere they had never told Harry about. They had found the spot one night, while evading Filch. It was a small room, tucked away on the sixth floor of Hogwarts, and it commanded a stunning view of the forbidden forest, which was often glistening with the light of the moon. They had frequented it quite often through the midnight hours in their sixth year, it was their place, a secret that nobody else could know. “Maybe, just maybe”, Hermione thought, “being back here will give me some closure.”


Hermione stood at the threshold, her hand poised on the circular door handle, willing herself to turn the knob. 'Will this make things better', she thought, 'of just infinitely worse'. Hermione released the breath that she had subconsciously been holding and turned the door handle, and she got her answer.


Silhouetted by the moonlight streaming through the window, were two very familiar shapes locked in a tight embrace. The tipping point had finally been reached and Hermione's fragile existence crumbled around her. Slowly she turned away from the sight, from the girl who had stolen her world and silently closed the door. Tears started to run relentlessly from her eyes, and Hermione had to wipe them away. 'How could he' Hermione thought to herself, her heart aching with betrayal. 'It was our place, it was part of our life, and now you are sharing it with her.' The tears continued on persistently and Hermione did nothing to control them as she returned to the common room and hid in the corner, immersing herself in her books. Knowledge she could control, it would never hurt her, it would never cause her pain, it could never betray her.


Over the past few weeks, Harry had observed Hermione's downward spiral, often finding her asleep in the common room on a pile of books. This was how Harry found Hermione on this particular morning, two quills, their nibs broken, lying beside her. 'Who is she trying to fool?' Harry thought to himself. He knew that Hermione had reached an all time low and he was trying so hard to always be there when she needed him, but she was being her stubborn self and trying to deal with everything alone. Seeing her there once again scared Harry and caused his heart to ache in worry.


Harry knew that the time had come when he had to step in. He had lost so many friends in the past few years and Harry knew that if he allowed Hermione to continue as she was, then he might just lose her as well. The thought of a life without Hermione was too horrible to even contemplate. Harry knew he needed to tell Hermione his real fears, and hopefully that would be enough to see her through the darkness. Harry crept silently over to the sleeping figure and shock her slightly. He needed to take her away from the common room and her books, and away from all distractions.


Hermione felt a slight shake and slowly came to the realisation that she was in the common room on a pile of books. In a daze she sat up and rubbed her eyes, and found the gorgeous eyes of Harry Potter staring at her with concern etched right across his face. “Up you get, you're coming with me.”

Before Hermione had a chance to say anything, she was being half dragged across the common room and out of the portrait hole. Hermione followed Harry silently, not quite fully awake yet, as he led her to the top of the North Tower. He stopped and took both her hands in his, rubbing them gently. The fresh air had woken Hermione up and she began to wonder why Harry had brought her here and what he was going to say. The seconds ticked by and just as Hermione was about to break the silence, Harry spoke, not much above a whisper.


“You have to talk to Ron, because you're scaring me Hermione, I'm scared I'm going to lose you. Ron is the cause all of your misery of late. Please, please talk to him... for me.”


Hermione had not been prepared for what Harry had just asked her to do. She looked at his hands, holding hers, and she felt the fear trembling through them, a fear that he might lose her.


Harry continued, “I care for you so much and it breaks my heart to see you this way. I don't know if talking to Ron will solve everything, or anything, but I know that for you to heal your heart of your broken dreams, you need to know who she is, and you need to ask Ron why.”


Harry's hands moved up her arms and rested on her shoulders. Harry placed one finger under Hermione's chin and tilted her head so he could look directly into her eyes. Hermione's eyes were dry and in them Harry saw the realisation that it was time to face the one part of her life that she wasn't ready to part with yet.


Hermione met Harry's eyes and saw in them the depth of his concern. He was right, it was time for her to face the one thing that she had not wanted to part with. The world continued on as it always did and it appeared on the surface that nothing had changed, but Hermione had stood on the edge of the abyss and watched this world disintegrate to ruins, and she knew how much everything had changed. The dream she once had of being with Ron was gone forever, reality had laid down a different path for her and Ron, and now was the time for her to say goodbye to the old dreams and embrace a new beginning.


“Thank you Harry” Hermione whispered and embraced him. He smoothed her hair and held her securely, and she felt so safe and so loved. “I'll talk to him today.”

A/N I know that this is a bit of a short chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. As always, thanks for reading and please leave a review.

Chapter 7: Who's That Girl?
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At breakfast, Hermione slipped a note to Ron. It simply said 'Meet me in our room on the sixth floor at the end of classes. Please, I really need to talk to you'. The room was empty when Hermione arrived and she began to doubt her resolve to find the answers she so desperately craved. Looking over the grounds, Hermione remembered the heart felt words that Harry had said to her before breakfast, and those words, more than anything else, stopped her from fleeing. The view over the grounds was the same as it had always been, and as Hermione contemplated what exactly she wanted to say, Ron walked in.


“What's up?” he said happily.


“Who is she?” Hermione asked timidly, afraid to hear his response, but knowing that she needed to know the answer to allow her to let go of the past that would never return. She remained gazing over the grounds while she gathered her thoughts, then turned to face Ron and hear the answer to the one question she had needed to know since she first found out about his relationship.


Ron was slightly taken aback by the question, and he looked at Hermione quizzically for several moments before answering. “Her name is Sam, she's a Ravenclaw”


“How did you meet her?” Hermione asked.


“I met her at the beginning of the year, just after we broke up. I was practicing transfiguration and she came over and asked for some help. Things just developed from there. I wasn't expecting it and I wasn't looking for it. She simply became the person I needed as she wasn't involved in everything like we were. When I was with her, I could forget the past, she helped me to get through the grief that I felt and I began to see a bright future at the end.” Ron paused and looked at the girl who had been by his side since first year, the girl whos usually bright eyes were red and puffy from far too much crying. “What's troubling you Hermione, I know you haven't been yourself lately. I probably should have been there more, but it was just so painful.” Ron trailed off feebly, feeling guilty about his behaviour towards Hermione of late.


Hermione didn't quite know how to begin her tale. Telling Harry was one thing, but telling Ron about her broken dreams was another. He had already moved along his new path, and Hermione was about to take the first steps on hers. She took some deep breaths and ordered her thoughts. 'Why is this so hard' she thought to herself. 'Talk to him, find out why, let him go and move on. It is time.'


“This is going to sound really stupid” Hermione began. Ron just smiled. “I always thought that we would end up getting married and spending our lives together. Then the war came, and we saw so many horrible things, and lost so many friends. Everything changed and all the dreams I had were swept away. I was happy when we broke up because we obviously weren't getting along too well. Its funny, I would have thought the war would have brought us closer together, but really it just brought our different perspectives to the surface.” Hermione could feel fresh tears starting to form and she quickly blinked them away.


“Its alright, just get it all out.” Ron said to Hermione, noticing the tears starting to form. He hadn't had a real talk with Hermione for a long time but she was right, there were things that needed to be said, and he as usual had avoided talking to her as he saw her fall apart. He knew that a lot of her pain was because of him, but the coward within him had surfaced once more and he couldn't get up the courage to go and talk and comfort her.


Hermione continued on with her tale. “I was dealing with everything as best as I could, and I tried to get back to normal. Everyone was dealing with the loss and the grief. I was doing as well as could be expected, there were good days and bad days, but generally as the days turned into weeks and the vivid memories of the horrid battle began to fade, things became easier.” Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself and continued, trying to keep her voice steady. “But then I saw you and her...I mean, Sam, and I fell apart.”


“I had no idea who she was but there she was in your arms. It brought back all the terrible memories because there she was living my life, the life I could no longer have. It just made the losses of the war even more real. Harry helped me a lot, he was always there to talk to when I needed him and he took me flying to take my mind off things. It worked to, the following days definitely became easier. I guess it also helped that you were hardly around anymore. I didn't want to appear jealous or anything so I didn't say a word to you.” Hermione paused slightly as she recalled the moment in Hogsmead when her world once again disintegrated. “But then I saw you and her in Hogsmead and then everywhere else I turned, and it was too much.”


“I lost it, I know I did. I've always read books but never to the point of falling asleep because I didn't want to give my thoughts time to wander. I lost it because seeing you with Sam emphasised everything we had seen, all we had lost and how much everything has changed. But I also didn't understand you. You never seemed upset and you moved on so quickly with a new girl and from my perspective as someone who was holding onto normality with the thinnest stand of a unicorn hair, I couldn't understand.”


“The final part in my tale of self destruction was last night when I saw you and Sam here. This was our secret, the spot no one else knew about. I guess I felt a little betrayed that you would share it with her when you hadn't even told your best friends her name.”


Hermione stopped and breathed. Finally she had told her story to the one person she needed to tell it to. She turned to look over the grounds, the final rays of the sun casting a golden red glow on the western horizon, bringing an end to the day, just like Hermione was bringing an end to this chapter of her life.


“I'm sorry Hermione, I never thought. I just like this place, I've come here often this year, and I just wanted to share its beauty with her too. I should have thought about you” Ron said sadly.


“Ron, its okay. It was just the culmination of a thousand bad days that caused me to overreact. Though itis good I didn't put a hex or anything else on this room” Hermione said with a small smile.


“Where should I start?” Ron asked, uncertain about how to tackle all that Hermione had said.


Hermione turned to face Ron, and shrugged her shoulders. “Where ever you want.”


Ron took a breath and released it slowly. “It was hard” he began shyly. He had told all this to Sam, a girl he had only known for a few months, but for some reason it was hard to tell Hermione, one of his best friends and the first girl he had ever loved, and who he still loved. “The war has been so hard on my family, and it wasn't just last year either. My mother has been in a constant state of worry for several years now. She never knew if we would all be coming home, and I guess now she knows. We were all in so much danger, our family and our friends, and I guess it was inevitable that we wouldn't all see the end. Over the holidays, there was a lot of grieving with my family, so by the time I got back here, I was kind of okay. It was hard, but I had come to accept the losses and the sacrifices.”


“In a lot of ways actually, it was nice to be back at school and back to a somewhat more normal routine. Sam at first was a person I felt like I could talk with when I needed to. I didn't want to go to you or Harry because you carried the same burden as I, so Sam became my confident and psychologist, and then my girlfriend.”


Ron looked at Hermione, hoping that his story had brought her some peace. She seemed a little brighter now, like a huge weight had been lifted. Her cheeks were rosier and her brown eyes seemed to bubble with the anticipation of new tomorrow.


The answers that Ron had given her, brought peace back to Hermione's heart. For the first time she didn't see Sam as an enemy who was stealing her life, just simply a girl who had helped Ron to continue with his. All this time she was under the illusion that Ron was hiding away from his pain in the arms of a new girl but that was the complete opposite of the truth. He had found solace through her and she had helped him heal. However, Hermione had some unfinished business with Ron and with her eyes sparkling, she looked at Ron cheekily and said, “I have two more questions for you. Number one, are you going to spend more time with Harry and I now?”


Ron looked at Hermione guiltily, “Yeah, I have no reason not to now. At first I just needed time by myself, and then I wanted to spend time with Sam, and after you found out about her, I avoided you because I didn't know how you would react and I didn't want to have to answer questions. Your second question?”


“When are you going to introduce her to us?”


Ron smiled, it was probably about time he thought, “soon”.


Hermione and Ron left their not quite so secret spot on the sixth floor together, probably for the last time, and returned to the common room. Harry had been sitting there waiting for them and he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the smile on Hermione's face. They came over and sat down by Harry.


“Her name's Sam” was the first thing Hermione said when she sat down. “She is a Ravenclaw and Ron is so in love with her”. This caused Harry to bring his hand to his mouth to stifle the laughter that was about to escape him as Ron turned bright red in embarrassment.


“So, I take it that your quills are going to last a little longer now Hermione”, Harry asked remembering the two broken quills he had found on the table that very morning, evidence of Hermione's fast paced and hard pressing writing style of late.


“Most definitely” she replied.


For the first time in ages, Hermione, Harry and Ron sat down in the common room, smiling, laughing and teasing each other. Everything had changed, but one thing remained, they were friends, friends who had done everything together, homework, detention, rule breaking, and even saving the wizarding world.

(A/N...Thanks all for reading. Please leave a review, I love getting the feed back.)

Chapter 8: Holiday Plans
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The holidays were fast approaching and the list for who was staying at Hogwarts for the Christmas season had been posted on the notice board. Harry looked at it awkwardly like he did every year. 'What am I going to do this year?' he thought to himself miserably. He hated to always impose himself on the Weasley's, however much they called him family, but he didn't particularly want to stay at Hogwarts all alone either. His only other option was the Dursley's but he didn't even know where they were now, let alone care very much about them. So with all other options out of the question, Harry resigned himself to once again asking Ron if they could welcome him into their home once more. Normally, this thought would be greeted with excitement, but in the aftermath of the war, the Burrow just brought up too many terrible memories.


The work load had increased significantly in the last few weeks with every teacher piling on essays. Harry, Ron and Hermione were all busy in the common room trying to finish as much as they could so things wouldn't drag on into the holidays. None of them wanted to spend the break cooped up inside writing essays, even Hermione.


“What's everyone doing over Christmas this year?” Harry asked casually, trying not to sound too desperate.


Ron shifted his eyes nervously between Harry and his hands. “I'm going to go to Sam's the day after Christmas and I'm staying there until school goes back.,” he said sheepishly. He had known the day would come when he would have to tell Harry that he wouldn't be at home for most of the holidays, but it didn't make telling him easier. Trying to relieve Harry's disappointment Ron quickly added, “But I know mum will let you stay at our place if you want.”


Harry smiled weakly, feeling slightly crushed. He loved the Weasley's but he didn't want to stay there without Ron. Being around Mrs Weasley and Ginny would undoubtedly be too much for him to handle. His hopes dashed, Harry turned to Hermione to see what she was doing, praying that he wouldn't have to spend Christmas alone in the castle, where in the cold and silent corridors, nightmares and memories were bound to surface.


“I'm still a little undecided,” Hermione replied as she looked into Harry's pleading eyes. “I should spend time with my parents especially after all I did to them last year, although they do understand, but at the same time I'm not going to let you spend Christmas here alone Harry.”


Hermione's response made Harry both squirm inside with excitement but it also caused an unwanted dilemma. He didn't want to keep Hermione away from her parents after what she had had to do to ensure they were safe and then the effort associated with finding them again. But he also loved the thought of being able to spend Christmas with Hermione in the deserted castle. Knowing that he would feel guilty if he allowed Hermione to stay, Harry pushed his desires away.


“No, Hermione, don't stay here with me, spend Christmas with your family. I'll be okay.”


Hermione was slightly disappointed by Harry's response but it was what she expected him to say. She wanted to stay here with him though, especially as it would probably be only her and Harry, but she also wanted to be with her parents. Just as she thought that there were no other options, one last idea occurred to Hermione, one that had never crossed her mind before as she assumed that Harry would go to the Weasley's like usual.


“Would you maybe want to spend Christmas at my house?” Hermione asked Harry nervously, praying silently to herself that he would say yes.


Harry was slightly taken aback by the question. After all these years, he had never once even entertained the thought of spending Christmas with Hermione's family, but the idea solved all his problems, Hermione could spend time with her parents, and he could spend time with her.


“If its okay with your parents, then I would love to come” Harry replied.


Hermione beamed with joy, jumping out of her seat to give Harry a huge bear hug, not one of them noticing the huge grin that Ron quickly wiped off his face as he saw the two of them together.


“I'll ask them right away” Hermione said and quickly scribbled a note for her parents.


'Hi Mum and Dad. I'm doing well, school is busy as usual. Would it be okay if Harry came over for Christmas. Send your reply back with this owl. Love you lots, Hermione.'


“Can I borrow your invisibility coat Harry?” Hermione asked.


The invisibility cloak had been used many times for after hours sneaking around the castle, but never before had the purpose of the late night excursions been due to teenage love. Harry went and retrieved his cloak and presented it to Hermione, “Don't get caught” he said cheekily “I don't want McGonagall to see that letter.”


Hermione just grinned, wrapped the coat around her and flew out the portrait hole towards the owlery.



As the owls swooped in at breakfast the next morning, Harry and Hermione immediately looked up in unison for any owls heading in their direction. Both hung their head dejectedly as they realised that no response was coming their way. The next morning though, they were rewarded as Hermione spotted the same mauve barn owl that she had sent to her parents the other night. He landed haphazardly in front of Hermione and with as much haste as she could manage, untied the small note that was attached to the owls leg and opened it quickly.


Hermione scanned the note and was immediately relieved and overjoyed that her parents had said yes. A huge grin materialised upon her face and she read it aloud to Harry and Ron.


“We would be delighted for you to bring Harry here for Christmas. See you at Kings Cross Station. Take care now, Love Mum and Dad.”

Hermione beamed at Harry and he returned the smile. He was so glad that he would not be spending Christmas alone in the deserted castle where in the depths of loneliness the memories of the war would flood his mind.


Ginny had over heard the conversation and looked at Hermione, smiling cheekily. Hermione caught her eye and quickly turned away, a slight pink blush forming on her cheeks. It was so obvious to Ginny what was happening between Harry and Hermione, and while she was happy for her, she couldn't help but feel like Hermione was stealing her dreams. Secretly she had been hoping that Harry would still stay at the Burrow, even if Ron was not there, but it looked like that was not going to happen. Ginny gloomily turned back to her breakfast, took a deep breath and composed herself once again so no one would know how she was truly feeling. 'I guess the only thing left for me to do now' Ginny thought to herself, 'is to try and pry information out of them. If I can't have him, hopefully Hermione can.'


* * *

Hermione spent the rest of the day in a state of euphoria and nothing could keep the smile from her lips or remove the light from her eyes. 'Harry is going to spend Christmas at my place', she thought to herself happily, amazed at how much things had turned around in the last few weeks. After talking with Ron, her whole perspective on life changed. She was no longer afraid to move on and had said goodbye to the dreams she once had. Instead, Hermione embraced the emotions and the memories that scared her heart and used them to fuel the fire inside of her that enabled her to live each day with the ultimate goal of achieving something great. Somehow all the pain and all the heartache was worth it. The future was still a twisted maze but now Hermione had found the path she wanted to take, a vast improvement from the dark days of despair where a future seemed futile and worthless. It was amazing how things had changed.


She didn't know how it had started or when it began, but with every passing day, Hermione knew that she was falling even more deeply for Harry. So gradual was the culmination of feelings that to set a date of their onset was nigh on impossible. But now, years on, the feelings were undeniable, and the most powerful force in her world. It was her love of Harry, of all he had been through, of all he had achieved, and all he could do, that fueled her passion more than anything else. It came in the form of a simple smile, a passing glance, a friendly hug. It was because of Harry that she had a future, it was because of Harry, that she lived.


Harry was nervous. He was going to spend Christmas with Hermione, and just Hermione. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined this turn of events, but as nervous as he was, he was also trembling with anticipation at the thought of spending time alone with her and her family. It had been a crazy mix of emotions since Voldemort's demise. He had lost friends, but finally he had brought peace to his Mum and Dad and to Sirius. But most of all, for the first time since he had joined the wizarding world, he could finally relax and be a kid. It was comforting to think that all his rule breaking this year had nothing to do with trying to save the world.


Hermione had been by his side through the best of times and through the worst, and only now that it was all over could he look back and see how important she was to him. Without her, there was no way that he could possibly have achieved what he had, and he was under no illusion that if it wasn't for Hermione, he would be dead and the wizarding world in tatters. Hermione had been the one constant he could always rely on when everything else was in ruin. He didn't know when or how it had started, but he knew that his feelings for Hermione were not new, they had been slowly building for many years. Only now did he finally realise his true feelings and he wanted her to be apart of his life forever.

A/N Thanks you all once more for reading.


Chapter 9: Home at the Grangers
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The final days of school passed in a blur and the excitement of the holiday season was so great that the thought of school work was far from every bodies minds. Even the teachers didn't mind that learning was not happening and most classes were full of endless chatter and chaos. Flitwick's class descended into an all out war with cushions flying everywhere and the students barricading themselves behind desks. Potions was even enjoyable for once with Slughorn allowing them to make any concoction they liked, as usual with mixed and explosive results.


With classes over, Hermione was sitting in the common room reading when Ginny appeared beside her. The look in Ginny's eyes cast immediate suspicion in Hermione's mind that this was not just a social visit. With Harry upstairs packing, now was the perfect time for the grilling from Ginny that Hermione had been anticipating for the last few days.

“What are you and Harry going to get up to these holidays?” Ginny asked Hermione eagerly, cutting straight to the chase.


Her suspicions confirmed, Hermione smiled sweetly at Ginny. She was not going to play her games, preferring to keep how deep her feeling for Harry went to herself. “No idea” Hermione replied nonchalantly. “I've got a bit of homework to do, and then I'll just do the usual holiday thing of reading books, skating and generally doing not a lot. Anyway” Hermione continued “I'd love to stay and talk but I've got to pack.” With as much haste as she could muster, Hermione swept up her belongings and made her escape to her dormitory, hearing an exasperated sigh from Ginny as she left.


Up in his dormitory, Harry was also undergoing a similar but equally unfruitful grilling from Ron.


“Have you and Hermione talked about your plans for the holidays?” Ron asked.


“No” Harry responded truthfully, neither of them had talked about it at all, except for the obvious need to know details.


Ron pressed on and cheekily asked “So what would you like to do?”


Harry had a fair idea what Ron was playing at, but he was not going to fall into the trap of telling him how he really felt about Hermione. “I just want to have a nice family Christmas, that is all. Actually it will be nice to have a muggle Christmas again, I can't say that mine were ever very good. Then I have heaps of homework to do. If I want to be an auror I will need to keep my grades up”


Ron scoffed in disbelief. “Homework, it's the holidays!”


“I'm sure McGonagall will tell you its not a holiday but a study break.” Ron looked like he wanted to vomit at the idea of his holidays turning into an extended homework session. Harry just laughed at the look of revulsion on his face and used the distraction to remove himself from further questioning. “I'm going to library, to get some books of to help me with my homework, want to come?” A look of utter terror crossed Ron's face and without waiting for a reply, Harry went on his way.


The morning of departure came and Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny, joined the mass of students walking to the carriages that would take them to the train station. Hermione and Harry were quite demure, neither knowing what to say or do, lost within their own thoughts about what would happen over the holidays and what they wanted to happen. Ron and Ginny kept whispering to themselves and giggling, sometimes casting an eye Harry and Hermione's way, but both were oblivious to their actions and were paying no heed to the childish games of the Weasley siblings.


The four of them boarded a carriage and were quickly joined by Sam who jumped in and gave Ron a quick peck on the cheek. Ron had introduced her to them the day after he had talked to Hermione. She was a lovely girl and Hermione had found herself becoming friends with her, the dark thoughts of the previous weeks far from her mind as she embraced the new girl in Ron's life.


The rest of the journey to Kings Cross was much the same. The five of them shared a compartment on the train and Ron and Harry played mindless games of exploding snap while the girls chatted and giggled. The train began to slow as the end of the journey approached and Hermione had to stifle the excitement that was building inside her. She glanced nervously at Harry who caught her eyes and held them for a few seconds before looking away.


The mass exodus began as soon as the train stopped with students grabbing their belongings as quick as they could, all eager to see their families. However their rush proved pointless as they waited in the aisles as everyone slowly disembarked.


“Man” Ron exclaimed as the aisles jammed up in record time. “Do you think that we could just push our way through, I mean we are seventh year and prefects”. The disapproving look of Hermione and Sam immediately sent him into silence. Harry and Ginny both had to stifle their giggles at the similarity of the look the two girls had given Ron.


Eventually the aisles cleared and the five of them disembarked and saw all of their parents standing together. Mrs Weasley immediately started towards them, and Ron quickly muttered his apologies to Sam before he was engulfed by his mother.


“Oh it's so good to see you again” Mrs Weasley sobbed. “Oh, I've missed you so much. And you too Harry.” Before Harry could do anything, Mrs Weasley had released Ron and taken him into her arms and Harry had to gasp for breath. He saw Hermione smile at him and then she set off towards her parents.


“Ahh, mum” Harry heard Ron say nervously. Mrs Weasley released Harry and turned her attention back to her son. “This is Sam.” Harry took this as his time to go and he walked over to Mr Weasley and the Grangers, leaving Ron to introduce his new girl to his mother.


The reunions complete, everyone said their goodbyes and left Kings Cross station. Hermione cast Harry a few worried looks to ensure that he was comfortable in the presence of her parents and he smiled back to reassure her. In fact, harry felt extremely relaxed and joined in with Hermione as they talked about all the happenings at Hogwarts. As the conversation moved away from Hogwarts and towards Hermione's friends and relatives, Harry slipped into silence and looked at the scenery as they made their way out of London.


Night had long fallen and Harry had started to nod off to sleep when they pulled into the driveway, the slowing of the car waking him up. Rubbing his eyes, Harry took in his surroundings. “Well here we are Harry.” Hermione said from the seat beside him. “Welcome to my home”.


The car had pulled into the driveway of a lovely two storey brick house, with beautifully tended gardens in the front yard. The house looked gigantic from the outside but also rather friendly and warm. A half foot layer of fresh snow blanketed the ground and Christmas decorations had been hung through the trees and around the windows. Harry opened the car door an exited into the brisk winter air. He gazed at the house of his best friend in awe, wondering why he had never thought of asking Hermione more about her family and her childhood. It seemed like when you got that letter from Hogwarts, nothing before Hogwarts really mattered anymore. There was a new school, new friends and a new life.


“It's beautiful” Harry remarked, staring at the house and its stunning surrounding, so vast in contrast to his own muggle house at Privet Drive.


“Thank you Harry” Mrs Granger said, “Lets go inside out of the cold and get you settled in with a nice steaming cup of hot chocolate.”


Mr Granger and Harry grabbed all the luggage and made their way into the house. The entrance way opened into a spacious living room with what looked like the most comfortable couches ever made. Mr Granger continued onto the staircase on the right of the living room and Harry followed.


“Your bedroom is the first door on the left” Mr Granger said. Harry opened the door to find a spacious room with a double bed covered in a sapphire blue duvet. A set of drawers and bedside table were in the room, and a door which Harry assumed contained a wardrobe. The walls were bare save for a large photo of the sun behind an island. A large window looked out onto the back lawn which looked as beautiful as the front of the house. Harry was gazing fixedly at the photograph when he saw a shadow cross the wall out of the corner of his eye. Turning he saw Hermione leaning in the doorway.


“All settled in?” Hermione asked. “Mum put towels and extra blankets and anything else you might need in your wardrobe, and if you need something just yell out.”


“Thanks, but I think everything is just about perfect ” Harry replied. “I was just admiring this photo, where was it taken?”


Hermione walked into the room and looked at the picture. “My dad took it, he's quite the amateur photographer. This was taken in New Zealand, its a volcano in the middle of the harbour. We went there on a holiday one year when I was eight. I remember wanting to go with dad as he snapped this sun rise, but I didn't realise we would be leaving at 5.30am. But I went, and this was the photo. It's one of dad's all time favourites. He put it in here so when ever our guests wake up they can see the sun rise.” Hermione smiled to herself, remembering the times before Hogwarts and before her life changed completely. Hermione turned to Harry who was still gazing at the photo “Are you ready for hot chocolate?”


Harry nodded and together they walked downstairs to the kitchen where piping hot drinks were being poured.


“What have you two got planned then for the holiday's” Mrs Granger asked as they all sat down around the dinning room table for hot chocolate and an array of home baking.


“Not a lot actually” Hermione replied while sipping the sweet chocolate liquid. “We have a little homework but we tried to get as much done as we could before the holidays, but then there is always study to start on.” Harry gave Hermione a look of disbelief. N.E.W.T.S were ages away, there was no way in the world she would get him studying for them over the Christmas holidays. Hermione chuckled at Harry's shock and continued. “We'll go skating and sledding I'm sure, and catch up on all the latest muggle movies. We'll just take it as it comes.”


“Well if you need a ride anywhere, just say” Mrs Granger offered.


“Mum, we're wizards remember, and of age, if we need to go anywhere, we'll just apparate” Hermione gently reminded her mum.


“Oh, yeah, silly me.” Mrs Granger said smiling.


The rest of the night was spent watching a movie, playing board games and enjoying all the muggle paraphernalia and technology that they hadn't used in ages. The night wore on and before they knew it they were both yawning.


“I need to go to bed” Hermione announced mid yawn, “or I'm going to fall asleep and wake up here tomorrow with an imprint of monopoly money on my forehead”.


Harry yawned in response and they both started packing up the game. Hermione went to collect the pile of cards in the centre of the board at the same time as Harry, and their hands met. Electric sparks shot through Hermione as she felt the light connection of their hands. Her cheeks immediately warmed and she hoped that her blush was not that obvious.

“Sorry” Harry muttered, moving his hand to take a pile of property cards instead, avoiding eye contact with Hermione as his heart skipped a beat.


The game packed away, they both made their way up to their bedrooms and to the sanctuary of their beds. There was an awkward pause as they both stood, hands poised on the door handle.


“Well, good night then Harry” Hermione said. “Sleep well.”


“Night Hermione” Harry replied and he opened his door and was lost to sight.


Hermione was just settling down between her covers and thinking of Harry, when her mother entered and took a seat on the side of her bed. She reached over and gave Hermione a big hug and a goodnight kiss then sat back to admire her daughter who had grown up so much .


“It's so good to have my girl home” Mrs Granger said sweetly.


“Its good to be home mum, I've missed you a lot.” Hermione replied.


“How's things been at school. It must have been hard, and how's Ron doing?” Mrs Granger asked.


Hermione choked slightly at the sound of Ron's name and took a breath to calm herself. While she had told her mother that they had broken up as they were going in their separate directions, she had not informed her mother on her near break down and tumultuous emotions of the last few months.


“Its been really hard mum,” Hermione began. “It was so difficult being back at the school which was left to ruin, but now stands once more basically the same as before in those happier time. Every corridor brought back a memory, either from the war itself or of someone who has gone. I couldn't eat my dinner on the first night in the Great Hall because that is where my friends were all laid to rest on that tragic night. But it got easier with time. And Ron, well that's a story. We basically just fell away from each other, but then he got a new girlfriend and I might have flipped out a little.”


“Boys have a habit of doing that to us” Mrs Granger replied, obviously drawing on years of experience.


“Yeah, it just brought back all the memories of times I had spent with Ron and all the dreams I once had that could no longer come to fruition. I talked to Harry and to Ginny but in the end my silent anguish was only healed by talking with Ron, and now everything is looking brighter.”


“You and Harry seem to get on well” Mrs Granger pointed out with an all knowing smile crossing her lips.


“Mum, he's my best friend” Hermione replied, shocked at her mothers candidness.


“Sure honey. Goodnight” Mrs Granger stood up and gave her daughter one last kiss on the forehead and left the room, with an I am your mother and I know everything look on her face.

A/N Thanks everyone for reading and a big thanks to everyone who has been reviewing.

Chapter 10: Gliding on Ice
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The first rays of sunlight filtered through Hermione's curtains, falling upon her face and waking her from her happy dreams. With much reluctance, Hermione rolled out of bed and somehow got herself into a standing position. After a nice warm shower, she felt much more alive and went back to her room and threw open the curtains to reveal a stunning blue sky with the sunlight dancing off the melting snow.


Hermione turned to the mirror and studied her appearance. Today she was going to take Harry skating and she wanted to look her best. Carefully, Hermione twisted her waves into a loose bun, leaving some curls to cascade down her back. She applied a little bit of mascara and some lip gloss and examined herself once more. She smiled at the result, subtle but effective, and nothing more than she would normally apply at school or when going out. 'If he likes me' she thought to herself, 'he likes me as I am, and no amount of makeup will change a thing.'


Hermione entered the kitchen to find her mum and dad eating toast and buried in the paper. Seeing that Harry was not yet up, she returned up the stairs to his bedroom door and knocked quietly. A faint mumble could be heard and Hermione took it as permission to enter.


Harry was still in bed and smiled when she entered, “Good morning, you're up early” Harry said.


“It's 9 o'clock Harry, the sun is up and its a beautiful day.” To emphasise her point, she throw back the curtains, to reveal the gorgeous day.

Harry covered his eyes as the bright light near blinded him. “Ok, point made, I'll be down shortly.”


* * *


The brisk cool air bit into their cheeks as Hermione and Harry left the warmth of the house in the mid afternoon, to walk the short distance to the skating rink.


“I can not think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve” Harry announced.


“Neither can I. I love skating, I took lessons when I was younger and skated in a few recitals. Have you ever skated before?” Hermione asked Harry. While she had always said they would go skating, not once had Harry mentioned if he had skated before or even if he wanted to.


“No,” Harry snickered. “The Dursley's wouldn't let me do anything fun unless there was a high chance of me dying. Skating would only cause injury which meant I couldn't cook and clean. Hence, I have never skated”.


“Oh” was all Hermione could say, hoping that she wasn't forcing Harry into something he didn't want to do.


Sensing her discomfort, Harry quickly put her mind to rest. “I want to learn though, and I'm sure you will be a great teacher. I would have told you if I didn't want to, but promise me you wont laugh when I fall on my butt a zillion times.”


“I'll try,” Hermione assured Harry, “but no promises.”


The skating rink was settled amongst some trees in the local park. The leaves were long gone and the empty branches were glistening from the snow and ice perched upon the narrow limbs. Many families were walking through wrapped in their coats, hats and scarves that protected them from the winter chill and Christmas carols were playing from the skating rink creating a festive atmosphere in the winter wonderland. Around two dozen people were on the ice, all of varying abilities. Harry and Hermione went and hired skates and laced them onto their feet, Harry's hands shaking as nerves started to overwhelm him.


“Ready to go?” Hermione asked Harry, offering him her hand to aid in balance.


“Now I know how you were feeling when I took you up flying for the first time,” Harry said nervously as he took Hermione's hand and came to a wobbly standing position.


“You'll be okay. Just remember to keep your knees soft and your weight forward.”


“Easy for some” Harry muttered as Hermione gracefully slid onto the ice, waving her hand for him to follow. 'This is not going to end well', Harry thought to himself, bravely putting his left foot and then his right onto the extremely slippery surface. 'Give me a broomstick any day'. Tentatively, Harry slid his left leg forward ever so slightly, trying to keep his knees soft and his weight forward as Hermione had said. But it was to no avail, and before he could do anything to avoid the inevitable, Harry's legs went from under him and he was sitting on his butt. Laughter reached his ears and he looked up to see Hermione effortlessly gliding towards him, a huge smile on her face.


“I'm sorry Harry, I will try and control my giggles.” Hermione offered him a hand and helped him to his feet.


“Thanks,” Harry muttered, utterly embarrassed by his complete lack of skill.


“Gently push forward and let the momentum carry you,” Hermione instructed. “Then bring your next foot up to your other foot, place it on the ice and push forward. Here, take my hand and I'll skate beside you.”


Harry gave Hermione a weak smile but gladly took a hold of her hand. The warmth of her touch spread up his arm and Harry was delighted for this innocent excuse to hold her hand in his. With Hermione aiding in his balance, Harry did as instructed and slowly but surely he got the hang of things with only a couple of tumbles, and never once letting go of Hermione


Harry was focused solely on skating, and Hermione took the chance to steal a glance his way, knowing that he wouldn't notice. He looked as elegant on the ice as he did on the quidditch pitch and Hermione couldn't help but feel proud to be seen with him. Much to her delight, Harry had not let go of her hand and it felt warm in hers. Secretly she was glad that Harry was completely useless at skating as it allowed her this opportunity.


“I'm getting the hang of this now” Harry said, taking his eyes off the ice to look at Hermione, feeling his breath leave him as he saw how beautiful she looked with the wind in her hair. With his attention diverted, Harry suddenly lost his balance and all control of his feet. Before Hermione could do anything to avert disaster, Harry had pulled her down with him, leaving her lying on his chest, her lips inches from his. Hermione gazed into the liquid interior of Harry's eyes, lost in a sea of emerald green. Her heart raced as she felt Harry's heart beating beneath her and his soft breath touch her lips, and Hermione had to remind herself to breath. Harry gazed straight back at Hermione, her chocolate brown eyes captivating him. He couldn't tear his eyes away and nor did he want to. Nothing else mattered but her and instinctively the gap between their lips narrowed.


Both Harry and Hermione were completely lost in the each others eyes, and the world around them was but a distant image. Lost in each other, they were only centimetres apart when they were immediately thrust back into the present as flecks of ice from passing skaters flicked into their faces. Remembering where they were, Hermione quickly got herself back to her feet and pulled Harry up, the moment all but lost.


“Come on Harry, back onto your feet,” Hermione said, trying to maintain her composure as her heart rate slowly returned to normal. 'What just happened,' Hermione thought as she helped Harry up. Her mind was swirling with confusion, 'he's my best friend, you were not just about to kiss him, you're just imagining things'. But it didn't matter how much Hermione tried to rationalise the moment she had just shared with Harry as her heart was telling a completely different story, one that made her tremble with delight.


“I'm sorry that I am so completely useless at this,” Harry apologized once he was back on his feet.


“You're doing great Harry,” Hermione reassured him. “You're getting heaps better”.


With Harry once more in a standing position, they returned to the flow of skaters moving around the rink. He had improved markedly from when he had first stepped out on the ice and could now skate without the aid of Hermione. But he didn't tell her that and he continued to hold her warm hand in his. As Harry's skating rhythm returned, his mind wandered back to the moment he and Hermione had shared just minutes before. He didn't know what had just passed between them, but it had sent his heart into overdrive and he knew more that ever that he had fallen for her.


They had been at the rink for near on an hour and a half and the muscles which Harry didn't know he had started to ache. With his new found control and ability, Harry glided over to the wall and Hermione followed with ease.


“I need a little rest, my ankles are getting sore, but you carry on. Show me what you can do when you don't have a dead weight to carry around.”


“You're not that bad Harry, you've really improved. Have a rest though and I'll show you what I can do, It's not anything fantastic mind you, it has been a while,” Hermione said as she pushed off from the wall, gracefully maneuvering herself back into the flow of skaters.

Harry watched as she skated backwards, twisted and turned and even chucked in a few spins, 'She is so beautiful' Harry thought to himself, completely mesmerized by Hermione's skating. Her brown locks were catching the breeze and flowing out behind her with the speed of her skating.


“Your girlfriend is a pretty good skater.”


Harry turned to see who had spoken and saw two guys about twenty years old standing beside him and staring out at Hermione


“Oh, she's not my girlfriend” Harry responded automatically.


“What!” the strangers friend exclaimed in disbelief, “Why not? She's so hot.”


“Yeah” Harry responded truthfully, “I know.”


“It's obvious to anyone watching that you really like her so let me give you some advice,” the stranger offered. “If you don't do something soon, someone else will, and if you don't want to lose her forever, you need to tell her how you feel or you will regret it for the rest of your life. Girls like that don't come around very often.”


“I know, I'm working on it.” Harry responded.


“I wish you all the best.” the stranger said, giving Harry an encouraging smile as he and his friend walked away.


Harry could have watched Hermione skate for hours, but he really enjoying skating and wanted to get back out there again. To Harry, skating felt a little like flying the way the air whipped past you, but it was on the ground, and the chance of falling, for Harry at least, was slightly higher. Her rejoined Hermione and together they skated around for a while longer. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and they both knew that is was time to head home.


“I hope you enjoyed it,” Hermione said to Harry as they left the skating rink for the short walk home.


“I loved it. Thanks for teaching me” Harry said, putting an arm around her shoulders and squeezing her slightly in thanks.


“Anytime,” Hermione responded, once again feeling the warm flames beneath Harry's touch.


The aroma of dinner filled the air as Hermione opened the front door and warmth surrounded them. Harry and Hermione took off the clothing that kept out the winter chill and proceeded to the kitchen where Mrs Granger was busy fixing everything for dinner.

“Hi Mum”, Hermione greeted her mother.


“Hi kids, did you have fun?” Mrs Granger asked. “You were gone a while.”


“Yeah, we did” Harry said. “I've never skated before but Hermione is a good teacher.”


“How many times did you fall over then?” Mrs Granger inquired as Harry blushed.


“A few” Harry replied, not wanting to quantify his embarrassing skating skills.


“Harry, we weren't bad at all,” Hermione piped in. “He fell over four times” she said to her mother and then turned to Harry, “but you got the hang of things really quickly, and you were pretty good by the time we left. I took my cousin skating once and he fell over ten times and he had skated before.”

Harry felt slightly better on hearing this news, not to mention the compliments that Hermione had given him.


“Dinner is about half and hour away so there is plenty of time for you to clean yourselves up and set the table.” Mrs Granger said.


Hermione laughed at her mum's hinting and both she and Harry went upstairs to get ready for dinner.


The lights of the Christmas tree danced around the room playing off the tinsel that was strung around the walls, as the Granger's and Harry sat down for their Christmas Eve dinner. Not much was said as they ate, each enjoying the delicious meal that Mrs Granger had prepared. Once everyone was finished, Harry made himself useful and cleared the dishes away then sat back down at the table.


“Family conference time,” Mrs Granger announced. It's Christmas tomorrow and things need to be done. Hermione, I would like your help with making the desserts and making sure the house is spotless. Harry, you can set the table and help Hermione clean. And Honey, you will need to shovel any snow off the drive and road so everyone can park safely. Any questions?”


The three of them just stared back at Mrs Granger as their dreams of a quiet relaxing Christmas day went whistling past.


“What exactly is happening tomorrow?” Harry asked.


“What, Hermione didn't tell you, terrible” Mr Granger said, looking at his daughter. “The morning is for ourselves where we open all our presents for each other. Then about two o'clock all the relatives are coming around and we have an early dinner together around five thirty.”


Harry gulped slightly at the thought of meeting Hermione's entire family. “Sounds good,” he managed to say.


“My cousins are really cool” Hermione said, noticing Harry's nervousness, “they will keep you entertained for hours. But they don't know I'm a witch, they just think I go to some fancy boarding school up north.”


The remainder of the night was spent in front of the television watching a Christmas movie, and at its completion Hermione and Harry both rose to get ready for bed. Hermione had just laid her head on her pillow when there was a faint tapping on her door, thinking it was her mother she said come in, and was surprised and delighted to see Harry standing in her doorway.


“Harry” Hermione said surprised “Is everything okay?”


She was dressed in her pink PJ's, that were decorated with little dancing penguins and her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail.


“Yeah” Harry said, “I just wanted to say thank you for inviting me here for Christmas. It's quite nice to be back in the muggle world away from...well you know...everything.” Harry took a breath, steadying his heart rate as he said the final thing he wanted to say. “And I had a great time with you today. I'll see you in the morning.” Quietly he slipped back out through the door and pulled it shut soundlessly behind him.


Hermione looked at where Harry had stood but seconds before and whispered to the closed door, 'I had a great time today as well Harry'. Then she put her head back down on her pillow and closed her eyes, dreaming about how different things could have been if it wasn't for those ice flakes from passing skaters.

Chapter 11: As The Sun Rises
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Somewhere, deeply embedded within every child is that amazing ability to wake up early on Christmas morning. Hermione was no exception and at the crack of dawn, her eyes fluttered open. She threw off her duvet and jumped out of bed to find a stocking full of presents, just like there had always been, at the end of her bed. Leaving the stocking where it lay, Hermione went over to the window and opened her curtains to reveal falling snowflakes and a new layer of snow. As Hermione gazed out at the winterised garden she chewed her bottom lip nervously then turned and looked at her closed bedroom door. 'Should I?' She questioned herself. She knew she really wanted to and she also knew that she was never going to get back to sleep. 'And hey,' she rationalised 'it is Christmas.'


The internal debate settled, Hermione rushed out of her bedroom and straight into Harry's, throwing herself on his bed to lie right beside him.


“Merry Christmas Harry” She said, reaching over to give him a huge hug.


Harry had just awoken and was staring at the photograph of the sun rise when his first Christmas present of the day came bounding into his room and flung herself onto his bed. He tried his hardest but he couldn't suppress a smile that formed at the sight of Hermione.


“Merry Christmas to you too” Harry said, returning her hug. “What's the time?”


“Meh” Hermione replied, shrugging her shoulders. “It's Christmas, so early. There's a stocking overflowing with presents at the end of your bed,” Hermione pointed out to Harry, who looked at Hermione slightly shocked. He had never had a Christmas stocking before.


“Really” Harry inquired, sitting up and crawling to the end of the bed to take a look. Sure enough Hermione was telling the truth and a large red stocking with white trim, sat at the end of his bed, jam packed with presents. Unable to resist the urge, Harry reached over and grabbed his stocking, emptying its contents onto his bed. 'To Harry, From Santa', Harry read aloud, puzzled. Harry looked at Hermione who was grinning at his bewilderment. Jumping up, she dashed out the door and returned seconds later carrying her own laden stocking and promptly upended it, spilling presents in all directions. Hermione immediately picked one up and started feeling it.


“This is a toothbrush” Hermione proclaimed. Harry just looked at her in confusion. “Go on Harry, get opening.”


“But...” Harry stammered, “Who did this, is this your mum and dad?”


“No, of course not Harry, it's Santa” Hermione replied smiling sweetly at him. “Well, go on, its tradition in this house that you can open anything in your stocking as early as you want. But you always have to have a guess at what it is first.”


Harry needed no second bidding and for the next half hour or so Hermione and Harry, felt, guessed and opened a wide range of little nicknack's that 'Santa' had given them. Hermione had received an assortment of toiletries, hair accessories, pajama's, books and chocolate. Harry had a similar array of items including toothbrushes, puzzles, hair gel, socks, and sweets.


“Wow,” Harry said, looking at his pile in amazement, “remind me to thank Santa”.


Hermione smiled back at him. “I always like opening my stocking. My collection of toiletries get stocked up for another year, although 'Santa' doesn't quite know about the amazing products we have in the wizarding world. But then again, I do like the taste of minty gel toothpaste.”


Harry chuckled thinking about his own fondness for minty gel toothpaste and sat up and looked over the end of his bed. But much to his disappointment, there was nothing there from Ron, Ginny or Hagrid which was highly unusual. Sensing Harry's disappointment, Hermione quickly put his mind at ease.


“They'll be under the tree Harry, that's where they always are.”


“Well that makes sense,” Harry said, knowing that there was no possible way that his friends would have forgotten him. With the stockings empty, silence fell upon the room. Hermione began to clean up the wrapping paper that was strewn around the room and Harry helped. It felt so strange for him to be cleaning up wrapping paper from presents that had been for him. The Dursley's idea of a Christmas present was usually old socks, and they would most probably be wrapped in newspaper, but more than likely, they wouldn't be wrapped at all. And while Dudley would get to play with his new toys, Harry would be left to clean up the mess.


“Is everything all right Harry” Hermione asked, noticing his sad expression.


“Yeah” Harry replied smiling, “I was just thinking back to all the terrible Christmas's that I have had to endure with the Dursleys. I believe that I probably just opened more presents than the Dursley's have given me in a lifetime.”


“It must have been dreadful living there. I don't think I could ever really comprehend how they treated you.” Hermione said sympathetically.


“Considering the other things I've had to deal with, living with the Dursley's seems like paradise.” Harry replied dryly.


“Oh Harry,” Hermione said, feeling tears start to form as she saw the painfully memories behind Harry's eyes. She put the wrapping paper she was holding down and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. “We'll just have to make up for all those terrible Christmas's today and make this one the best ever.”


Harry looked into Hermione's sweet face then took her into his arms. “Thanks Hermione” Harry said, “but I think it already is.”


Harry released Hermione, much to her disappointment and they continued to clean up the paper. The house was still and quiet and behind the curtains, the world was still dark. Once everything was tidied away, Harry turned to Hermione and asked “So what do we do now? The sun isn't even up.”


“Take a look outside” Hermione instructed.


Harry stood and opened the curtains to find the snow glowing with the first touch of the sun that was starting to sneak up on the horizon. The clouds that had brought the new snow over night were drifting away but a few stray snowflakes fluttered down to the worlds icy blanket.


Harry couldn't suppress the happiness that filled him and he turned to Hermione “Lets go make an snowman” he said, his eyes alight with excitement. He had never had a white Christmas before and having his first one with Hermione was something special. Harry's enthusiasm was contagious and Hermione jumped off the bed saying “I'll just get into something warm” as she run into her room.


Once back in her room, Hermione took a minute to calm herself before pulling out her warm clothes. She couldn't believe how amazing the day was already, from the snow, to the presents, to the hugs she had receive from Harry, all before the sun had fully risen. She had never spent so much time with Harry, and with every moment, she learnt something more about him and realised how deep he was. Life had never been easy for Harry but he continued to smile. His strength was amazing and his love for life unquestionable, and one never grew too old to make a snow man on a Christmas morning.


A few minutes later, Harry and Hermione were in the snow, rugged up in their winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves. As the sun rose, the two teenagers rolled and piled up the snow to create a snow man as tall as they were. Carefully, they molded the snow into two large spheres that made up the body and head. Once the shape was perfected they collected sticks and stones from the garden and stuck them into their snow man to give him a face and some arms.


Hot from all the effort, Harry took off his scarf and hat and clothed the new watcher of the front yard. Beside him, Hermione started to laugh.


“What?” Harry asked, confused as to what was so funny.


“You should see your hair” Hermione managed to say between giggles, “Its a right shambles. It totally wins a gold medal for hat hair.”


Harry was not sure how to respond to this, so while Hermione stood and admired their masterpiece and added the finishing touches, Harry knelt down and scooped himself up a handful of snow and created a well compacted snowball.


Hermione carefully placed the last small stone onto the snowman to form the bottom button. She was so happy right now with the soft rays of the sun on her face and Harry beside her. Every time he smiled, every time he laughed, Hermione knew that her feelings for him had evolved to a point where there was no turning back. Suddenly a snow ball pelted into her shoulder, bringing Hermione quickly back to the present. Stunned, Hermione stared at Harry, her mouth open in shock at Harry's deliberate act of war. Quickly regaining her composure, Hermione bent down and formed her own snow ball.


“Two can play at that game Potter!” she cried, taking aim and sending her snow ball careening towards Harry, who skillfully dodged it. Unfortunately, in a snow ball war against the best seeker that Hogwarts had seen, it was unlikely that she would win.


“Better luck next time” Harry said, launching his next snow ball and then taking off for cover.


Hermione scooped up another handful of snow and took off after him. Laughter filled the air as Harry and Hermione engaged in a snow ball fight of epic proportions. The trees and fences of the Granger's garden proved useful barricades against the barrage of snowballs that were being thrown as the battle waged on unrelenting for tens of minutes. Eventually, tiredness took its toll, and breathing heavily, Hermione slumped down on to the snow behind the tree that she was using for protection.


“Truce” she yelled.


“Truce” Harry yelled back, tentatively steeping out from behind the garden shed and dropping his ammunition, hoping that Hermione wasn't about to make a final onslaught.


But true to her word, Hermione rolled out from behind the tree and got to her feet.


“I'm exhausted” she said, in between gasps. Needing to rest her tired limbs, Hermione sunk down to the ground and lay on her back, gazing up at the pale blue sky above, all clouds had dissipated and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. 'But then again' Hermione thought to herself 'even if it was a blizzard outside, with Harry here, it will always be a beautiful day'. Stretching out her arms and legs, Hermione began to make a snow angel and she was soon joined by Harry who lay down beside her.


Her angel completed, Hermione turned to look at Harry who smiled back at her.


“I have a feeling” she said, losing herself once again in his green eyes, “that this is going to be the best Christmas ever.”


“Yeah, I agree,” he said, looking at Hermione's sweet smile.


And there they lay, just gazing at each other as the day began, and children everywhere awoke to find their presents. But Harry and Hermione were oblivious to the world around them, both lost in each others eyes and in their own thoughts.


Unbeknown to both of them, from the bedroom window above Mr and Mrs Granger looked at the scene below them and smiled at each other. They had known, as parents always do, that their was more than friendship in the looks and the smiles that passed between their daughter and Harry. The only question that remained was when would Harry and Hermione realise what their parents had sensed all along.

Chapter 12: Christmas Emotions
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“Merry Christmas” Mrs Granger said to Harry and Hermione as they came inside, damp from lying in the snow. After removing their snow covered clothing, Hermione gave her parents a big hug and Harry went to look under the tree to find many more presents than the night before and sure enough, gifts from his friends were there as well.


That morning, Harry watched on in amazement at how the Grangers worked together. They all seemed to know exactly what to do when it came to preparing the Christmas meal. With the table set, the desserts made, the vegetables peeled and chopped, the turkey stuffed, the Grangers and Harry sat around the tree to open their presents.


Harry received a book about historical dark wizards and their downfall from Ginny, no doubt to help him for his auror training. From Ron, he received a pair of quidditch goggles. The note attached read 'Hi Harry, I hope you are having a great Christmas. This is the latest in quidditch goggles. They are anti fog, repel rain and they tint in the sun. They also have an inbuilt lamp and compass for long distance and night travel'. Mrs Weasley sent the usual woven jumper with the large letter H on the front and a selection of home made cookies. Hagrid had sent a variety of sweets, that thankfully Harry thought, were not homemade.


Much to his surprise, as well as the array of gifts upstairs, the Grangers had also bought him a set of potion bottles and cases for storing ingredients. Each container had an engraved label that changed automatically when a different ingredient was added.


“We talked to Hermione” Mrs Granger explained, “and she said you were becoming a bit of a whiz at potions.”


“Thank you”, Harry managed to say, slightly embarrassed at the generosity the Grangers displayed. It made him glad that he had bought them a gift yesterday on their way back from the skating rink. Hermione had suggested solar lights and a garden ornament and now, after seeing what the Grangers had bought him, it seemed woefully inadequate. The Grangers though had appeared to love them. But with his embarrassment also came elation at the compliment that Hermione had given him about his potion making skills. She was right though, his potion ability had skyrocketed now that Snape was not longer breathing down his neck, but also because Harry felt like he owed Snape something for protecting him for so long, even it it was just passing potions.


Hermione received clothes and money from her parents who told her to buy herself something nice in Diagon Alley. Ginny gave her a quill and ink set which seemed to contain every colour imaginable, and Ron, a book on the early history and ancient legends on the wizarding world. Wrapping paper was strewn across the floor and the mountain of presents under the tree was severely diminished. But both Harry and Hermione knew there was one present for each of them to give.


“Yours is upstairs, I'll just go get it” Hermione said standing up.


“Yeah, same here”, Harry said, following her.


“We'll just be in the kitchen doing the the silverware shinning” Mrs Granger stammered, practically pulling her husband out of his chair.


“Silverware shining” he said, incredulously, looking at the sparkling cutlery laid out on the table. “Is that the best you can come up with?”


Mrs Granger just shrugged her shoulders.


Upstairs, Hermione was sliding Harry's gift out from under her bed. She had thought long and hard about what to give him, her feelings for him meant that not just any gift would suffice and Hermione wanted it to be something personal, just for him. In all those horrible weeks, when Hermione's mind was trying to avoid thoughts of Ron, one of the things she thought about was what to get Harry for Christmas. Finally it had hit her and she had ordered the gift and sent it to her parents so as not to draw suspicion at school. Now, on the brink of giving it to Harry, butterflies flew rapidly around her stomach, 'Oh I hope he likes it' she though to herself walking to her bedroom door.


Harry went to his room and opened the top drawer, where underneath the few clothes that he had brought was a small wrapped present for Hermione It had taken him months of indecision before he finally decided on what to give her, the only one who had been by his side the entire time and who had captured his heart. This gift was more than just a present, it was a reflection on Harry's true feelings. Harry closed his drawer and walked out of his bedroom, meeting Hermione as she left hers.


“Um”, Harry stammered, looking down at the gift in his hands “this is for you”.


Hermione took the gift that Harry presented to her and likewise gave him his with a smile that warmed Harry's heart. The thought of her parents seeing her and Harry exchange gifts was not very appealing to Hermione, so she sat down in the hallway and Harry followed suit. Curled up against one wall, and Harry leaning against the other, Hermione carefully started to remove the tape holding the edges of the wrapping paper together.


Harry was a little more eager with his gift. It was a large, flat box and once the wrapping paper was off, it revealed no secrets. Hermione stopped unwrapping her gift and looked at Harry, her eyes urged him forward and Harry lifted the lid. Inside was a set of folded quidditch robes, but these were not just ordinary robes. They were black, with emerald green lining and trim around the edges. Harry pulled them out and held them up to the light, marveling at the light weight nature of the fabric. Harry was completely encapsulated by the robes and gazed at them speechless. He turned them around to look at the back and saw for the first time the touch that Hermione had added.


Emblazoned across the back was 'Harry Potter, Legend'. Harry turned the robes around and began to fold them up, running his hands over the fabric. The robes were stunning but more important that that, they had come from Hermione. Still in awe, Harry placed the robes back in the box and noticed a sparkle on the collar. Looking closer he noticed that written in tiny letters around the collar in silver thread was a message. Harry, you have taught me more about life than anybody else. For all you have done and for all you will do, you are my inspiration. Love Hermione


Harry looked up at Hermione who had paused mid present opening, an uncertain look in her eyes. Harry had not said a word and she was worried that he didn't like them.


“Thank you Hermione” Harry finally managed to say, his breath returning to him at last, “they are brilliant.” Hermione smiled, her heart soaring as she saw the happiness in Harry's eyes. “Do your really think I'm a legend?” He asked.


“Oh Harry, of course you are” Hermione replied smiling “people are going to be telling your story for centuries, it will be every child's favourite bedtime story, and I am so happy that I am apart of it. I really mean it Harry, you have taught me more about courage, anyone else and I will always be in your debt.”


“Thanks Hermione” Harry said shyly, “now go on, open yours.”


Hermione turned back to the small square present in her hands and removed the wrapping paper to reveal a crimson red box. Hermione took a small breath, knowing that Harry's eyes were firmly fixed on her, and took off the lid. Hermione gasp as she saw what was inside. Contained within the box was a silver pendant on a black cord. But it was what the pendant was that took Hermione's breath away. A phoenix with wings outstretched gazed up at her, a large red gem was positioned on its breast and seemed to be glowing slightly from within. The wings were framed with a sequence of smaller red gems and everything was set in sparkling silver. Carefully, Hermione removed the phoenix from its protective box and held it in the light, the crystals sending slivers of refracted light around the hallway. Turning it over she saw a message engraved across the wing span. HJG. You were always by my side, and I'll never forget. HJP.


Hermione was completely speechless and looked up into Harry's smiling face. All the questions she wanted to ask were clearly written in her eyes and Harry answered them all without Hermione needing to utter a word.


“I found the large gem in a rock one night when when we were in the forest, it was just lying on the ground near the campsite. I knew I wanted to give the gem to you so I went to a jeweler. At first I thought the rock just held the one large gem, but then when the jeweler opened the rock up, all the smaller gems were encased inside, so we used all of them and designed it for you. The phoenix has a sort of shield charm on it. It will help deflect any dark spells coming your way. So even if I'm not there with you, a part of me is.


Her questions, answered, Hermione tried to speak, but no words would come. Instead she threw herself at Harry and wrapped her arms around him. Tears sprang to her eyes and she did nothing to hold them back. The phoenix was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and it had been specially made for her. She knew she would treasure it forever, not just because of its beauty, but because it had come from Harry's heart.


Minutes passed with the two teenagers locked in their embrace. Mrs Granger had come up the stairs to see where they were and had seen them holding each other tightly. She smiled to herself and quietly left, neither Harry or Hermione sensing her presence. Eventually they parted and Hermione looked at Harry, tears staining her face. Harry looked back at her uncertainly when he realised she was crying.


Composing herself, Hermione managed to get out the words that she had been trying to say for the last five minutes.


“Thank you Harry, it's beautiful.” Hermione said sincerely, the necklace still in her hands.


“You like it then?” Harry asked.


“Like it,” Hermione said smiling, slipping the necklace over her head, “Harry, I absolutely love it!”


The rest of the day passed by with laughter and lots of good food. The spread that Mrs Granger had put on was remarkable and put everything that the Dursley's did to shame. Hermione's relatives came around mid afternoon and another snow ball fight was held with Hermione's younger cousins. For Harry, this had been a magical Christmas and one he didn't think he would ever forget. He may have only been in the Granger's household for a few days, but it felt like home. The day turned into night and Hermione's relatives departed, and it wasn't long before Hermione and Harry headed up to their beds.


“Night mum, night dad” Hermione said mid yawn as she got up off the sofa and gave each of her parents a hug. “Thanks for the wonderful Christmas.”


“Yeah” Harry agreed, “It was amazing.”


“Night kids” Mr and Mrs Granger said in unison as Harry and Hermione departed the living room.


“Well, good night Harry” Hermione said nervously, standing out side of her bedroom door.


“Good night Hermione, sleep well.” Harry replied, taking Hermione up into a friendly hug.


Hermione relaxed into Harry's arms but all too soon, he was pulling away. With one last smile, Harry disappeared into his bedroom. Sighing to herself, Hermione opened her door.


Hermione was just about to get into bed when she spied the spine of her photo album sitting on her book shelf. Abandoning sleep, Hermione went over and picked it up and sat on the end of her bed, the album containing pictures of all her friends open on her lap. She didn't know why she suddenly had the desire to look through her photos, but now she wished she hadn't. On the front page was a picture of her Harry and Ron from first year and once again, tears sprang to her eyes. On ever subsequent page, smiling and waving images of Fred, George, Ginny, Tonks, Lupin and many others brought memories flooding back to surface, of all that had happened, and of all they had lost. Sobbing to herself softly, she turned the next page to see a picture of her and Ron together and a tear slid down her cheek and landed on the photo. Hermione was about to wipe it off when her attention was diverted by the opening door.


Harry entered her room and sat beside her on the bed, wrapping an arm around her. Hermione immediately sunk into his embrace and rested her head on his shoulder, the photo album still open to the photo of Ron and Hermione in happier times. Harry had been returning from the bathroom when he had heard sobbing emanating from Hermione's room. Worried, he had opened the door to see what was wrong.


“I'm sorry Harry. For some silly reason I decided to look at my photos and as soon as I did I started to cry as I once again remembered everyone we've lost and who can't celebrate Christmas with us. And then there's Ron who of course can't celebrate Christmas with us because he's off with that girl...I mean, Sam” Hermione said, correcting herself. “I'm ok, Harry, I just had a small relapse in emotions.”


“I understand, I've thought about them all as well today. It is Christmas, the time you are meant to be with family and friends, and being the first Christmas without some of them is hard.” Harry turned the page of Hermione's album to reveal a photo of Ginny and himself. A pang of sadness and even a little guilt passed through him as he saw the photo that had been taken of them in his 6th year, just after he and Ginny had gotten together.


Hermione noticed Harry's subtle change in demure and as he tried to turn the page, she put a hand on his to stop him. Hermione turned around to face Harry, his hand slipping off her shoulders.


“Are you and Ginny okay?” she asked. She had heard a little from Ginny about why they had broken up but all she had really gotten from Harry was that he didn't like her that way any more. Hermione knew there was way more to it, and just like she had needed to talk about Ron, Harry needed to talk about Ginny.


“We're okay” Harry assured Hermione, “It just seeing us together in happier times brings back painful memories.


“Why exactly did you break up with her?” Hermione asked.


“At first it was to keep her safe because I didn't want Voldemort to go after her to get to me. I had every intention of getting back together with her once Voldemort was dead, but when he was finally destroyed I couldn't bring myself to do it. So much had happened in one year, and after all the emotional turmoil, I needed some time for myself. Finally for the first time in my life I didn't have Voldemort trying to kill me and I could truly envisage a future for myself. And this will sound terrible, but when ever I thought of the future, I never saw Ginny with me, in fact,” Harry added, “I saw you.” Harry stopped himself and looked at Hermione who smiled back at him warmly, but remained silent. 'I cannot believe I just said that out loud' Harry thought, mentally kicking himself before continuing.


“I guess Ginny reminded me too much of a time I wanted to move on from. The Harry that she had loved was no longer there, and in many ways I felt guilty for dragging her and her family into the war. Times have changed and I've changed. I feel guilty for not getting back together with her, but If I did, it wouldn't be for the right reasons and it's not what I wanted. I had to follow my heart and while I love her and care for her, it's not in the way she deserves.”


Hermione watched as Harry continued to flick through the album while the happy faces of those that had died stared back at him. “I hate that these people died for me” Harry said sadly, his eyes brimming with tears.


Hermione put a comforting hand on his shoulder and Harry looked up at her. “There is nothing you could have said or done that would have changed their minds. They loved you Harry and they believed in the cause they were fighting for. They all wanted to fight to end the injustices that were plaguing our world, and they were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice it if meant insuring our freedom. You can not blame yourself for their deaths, and they would not want you to be sad. They would want you to embrace the future that was once so uncertain and make every day count.”


Harry could see the truth in every word that Hermione spoke. Harry may have been the reason that Voldemort had returned, but he was also the reason he had disappeared in the first place and ultimately the reason that he could finally be destroyed. The war against Voldemort had raged for years, and Harry was but the catalyst who brought about its final conclusion.


“You're right Hermione..they didn't die because of me, they died to regain our freedom from a loveless snake who was afraid of death.” Harry stated plainly, his sadness melting away as Hermione began to chuckle. “I haven't really talked about things too much” Harry continued seriously, “especially about Ginny. Thanks for being here for me.”


“Anytime, Harry, anytime” Hermione said.


“Well goodnight Hermione” Harry said sweetly, bending forward to kiss Hermione on the cheek. The warmth of his soft lips made Hermione feel weak and her heart started to beat at a rapid pace.


“Night” Hermione managed to whisper as Harry stood up and left. Once her bedroom door had closed behind him, Hermione fell back onto her bed, a stupid grin of pure joy written right over her face and the words 'I saw you', floating through her mind.

A/N   I hope you're enjoying where this story is going. Please let me know what you think. I love the feedback.


Chapter 13: Return to Hogwarts
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Hermione stayed lying on her bed, staring giddily up at the ceiling for several minutes, thoughts cascading through her brain at rapid pace. 'he kissed me...what does that mean?..but it was only on the cheek...but he still kissed me, he's never done that does he like me? I reading too much into this...what if he was just really thankful and wanted to show it...but then he would have just hugged me...and what about when we went skating, and just now when he said he saw a future with me.' Sighing, Hermione sat up and managed to get herself into bed, but sleep was not forthcoming.


Thoughts of Harry interweaved themselves together, forming a tapestry of memories and emotions. She knew that the love she felt for Harry ran deeper than friendship. Knowing that she was not going to fall asleep any time soon, Hermione got out of bed and silently opened her bedroom door. The house was still and quiet and Hermione padded softly down to the kitchen where she made herself a cup of hot chocolate and went to sit in the lounge in front of the Christmas tree, now devoid of all presents. Subconsciously, Hermione began to play with the phoenix around her neck, as once again her thoughts drifted to Harry.


There were so many memories from the past seven years, some good, and some too painful to recollect. Apart from her first two months at Hogwarts, Harry had been a constant in her life, through all the happy times and through the worst times. There were so many tears but there were also so many smiles and so much laughter. Hermione smiled to herself, as memories flooded her mind. Putting her empty cup on the coffee table, Hermione lay down on the sofa and stared up at the roof.


'It's funny' Hermione thought to herself, her eyelids starting to stay shut for longer than they were open, 'that all my happiest memories contain Harry'. Slowly, sleep overcame Hermione as she lay on the sofa in the lounge, Harry, the only person within her private dream world.


* * *

As soon as Harry closed his door, he smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. 'What were you thinking', he mentally cursed himself flinging himself face up onto the bed. 'But it felt so right' he thought to himself smiling...'but now what does she think...does she know I like her...what if I scared her off...I've never kissed her before...did she like it...maybe she hated it...will things be weird in the morning...aarrrggghhh.' Harry sighed to himself. 'The time will come' Harry told himself, trying to soothe his overactive mind 'when the moment is just right, and you can tell Hermione how you really feel...I just have to wait, when the moment comes, I will know.'


Thoughts of Hermione swirled through Harry's mind as he continued to stare at the ceiling. Deep down he was sure that Hermione mirrored the same feelings that he felt for her. They had spent a lot of time along together this year, and he could see the change in her, just as much as she could probably spot the changes in him. It was the simple things, like the small smiles that were just for him, the times when he caught her gazing his way, the hugs which seemed to linger for a little longer than they used to. And her gift, that wasn't just any gift, and Harry couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts for quidditch practice and try them out. He knew that he would look absolutely majestic flying around with those robes billowing out behind him.


Harry awoke sometime in the night feeling a little chilly. He had fallen asleep on his bed and was still fully clothed. Getting up, and feeling a little thirsty, Harry went down to the kitchen to get a glass of water and went into the lounge to drink it. It was then that he spotted the sleeping form of Hermione lying peacefully on the sofa, her chest rising and falling rhythmically with her breathing. Harry placed his glass of water down on the coffee table and went to fetch a blanket out of the linen cupboard and carefully laid it over Hermione. He took a seat and watched her, enchanted by her beauty.


“I don't know what to do about you” Harry whispered to the sleeping Hermione “I have completely fallen for you but I don't know how to tell you. I think you feel the same about me, but what if I'm wrong. You have been the most important thing in my life this year and if it wasn't for you by my side, I'm not sure that I could not have coped. I'm so scared that if I say something and you don't feel the same, then things will just get too weird between us and I don't want to take that chance.” Harry sighed to himself, contemplating his options, but really there was only one option, someday soon he would have to tell Hermione how he really felt about her, and hope that she felt the same.


Harry finished off his glass of water , silently tiptoed over to Hermione's side, bent down and gently kissed her forehead. “Sweet dreams” he whispered in her ear and then retreated back to his room. Hermione never moved and remained completely unaware of the conversation Harry had just had with her.


* * *


The days slid steadily by uneventfully. The small pile of homework they both had soon disappeared and the rest of the daylight hours were spent having fun playing in the snow, skating or just mucking about. The nights however were a different story as both teenagers sat awake thinking about each other, and often fell asleep dreaming about how they wanted things to turn out.


Before they knew it, the day to return to Hogwarts arrived and they were dropped off at Kings Cross Station where Harry thanked the Grangers for their wonderful hospitality.


“It was nothing Harry, you can come around any time” Mrs Granger replied.


Harry and Hermione crossed through the barrier onto Platform 9¾ to see Ginny standing with her parents.


“Hi” Ginny said, as they approached.


“Hi” Harry and Hermione said in unison. “Have a nice Christmas?” Harry asked as Mrs Weasley pulled him into a motherly hug.


“It was okay” Ginny said with a slight shrug of her shoulders, “slightly different than usual”, Ginny added sadly.


The Weasley's attention was suddenly diverted to the gateway onto the platform and Harry and Hermione followed their gaze to see Ron and Sam walking towards them hand in hand. Instinctively, Harry turned to look at Hermione to make sure she was okay. She turned to meet his eyes, smiled and gave a small nod, to reassure Harry that all the pains of last term were now in the past. Besides, she thought to herself 'I want to be with you'.


The train ride back to Hogwarts was much the same as the train ride from Hogwarts, each telling stories about their holidays and playing card games. Hermione and Harry remained rather brief about their holiday and to Hermione's surprise, Ginny did not grill her on the spot. However, she knew the time would come, and it would probably be sometime before the end of the day.


Once back at Hogwarts, they entered the Great Hall which was full of chatter. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny approached the Gryffindor table and sat down with their fellow house mates and exchanged stories of their holiday. With dinner over, the plates cleaned themselves and Harry saw the Head Mistress, rise and approach the dais.


“Welcome back everybody” Professor McGonagall addressed the school in her no nonsense voice, immediately bringing a hush across the Great Hall. “I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and are now ready to return to class. End of year exams will be here before you know it and I strongly encourage each and every one of you to start studying now.” The school gave out a collective groan, but Hermione was nodding in agreement, which gave cause for Harry to smile. Hermione had in fact begun her study during the holidays, and much to his surprise Harry had also found himself revising the work completed earlier in the year.


“But” Professor McGonagall continued, returning every bodies attention back to the front of the Great Hall, “the staff here at Hogwarts have decided that everyone needs a break and a night to let their hair down as some call it. So in three weeks time Hogwarts will be hosting a ball for all students.”


The news was greeted by a shrill from all the girls who started giggling and chatting wildly, causing the boys to block their ears to keep out the noise they were creating.


“Quiet” Professor McGonagall commanded, immediately restoring silence to the Great Hall. “Further information will be posted on the common room notice boards. That is all. Goodnight.”


As soon as they were dismissed, the sound of over excited girls crescendoed and Harry Hermione and Ron quickly departed.


“Why” Ron asked, rubbing his ears “do girls get so excited over a ball?”.


“Because Ronald” Hermione addressed him sharply, “at balls, men are supposed to act like gentlemen, and besides its a chance to get dressed up.” Hermione looked at Ron and smiled sweetly before adding, “at least this time you don't have to worry about finding a date”


Ron just grunted and mumbled “there's Sam, see you later” as he turned and left.


“Come with me” Harry said, taking Hermione's hand. Puzzled, but also overjoyed by his touch, Hermione followed without question.


From the moment that Professor McGonagall had mentioned the word ball, Harry knew exactly who he wanted to take and no one else would suffice. He knew he had to ask her tonight before he had too long to think about it, lose his nerve, or worse, before she was asked by somebody else. The words of the stranger at the ice skating rink were at the forefront of his mind 'If you don't do something soon, someone else will. If you don't want to lose her forever, you need to tell her how you feel of you will regret it for the rest of your life'


He was right, Harry mused to himself. Hermione was gorgeous and he wasn't the only person at Hogwarts who thought this. Girls often commented on how pretty Hermione was, and eyes always followed her as she walked by in the corridors. Harry had often overheard conversations where Hermione's name was brought up, always with the words hot and beautiful, and he knew that there was a large number of guys who would love to go to the ball with her.


The thought of Hermione going to the ball on the arm of another guy spurred Harry immediately into action and he led her away from the crowds on one of the longer routes back to the common room. Harry's mind had been in over drive deciding how best to ask her. He wanted in to be casual, but not too casual, so he decided he would just ask her when no one else was around sometime before they returned to the common room.


Harry took a breath and stopped, taking Hermione's other hand in his so they were facing each other.


“Hermione” Harry said quietly, nerves starting to overwhelm him. 'Just breathe' Harry thought to himself 'just breathe...and don't talk too fast'.


“Would you like to go to the ball with me?”


A smile immediately radiated from Hermione “Yes, Harry, I would love to” she replied taking Harry into a hug. Releasing him, Hermione looked into his eyes “You seem nervous” Hermione observed.


“No, not at all” Harry lied, as relief came over him, “I'm just really happy.”


Hermione's spirit was flying as she walked back to the common room with Harry. She knew from the moment Professor McGonagall had mentioned the ball that she wanted to go with Harry and no one else, but she never imagined that Harry would ask her so quickly. However an unwanted feeling of unease in the pit of Hermione's stomach started to creep to the surface and Hermione had to ask Harry a question, hoping that it wouldn't confirm her worst fears. She would hate to think that Harry had simply asked her because he didn't want to repeat the experiences of the Yule Ball, where he had left it to the last minute to ask someone and by then most girls were taken.


“Why do you want to go to the ball with me Harry?” Hermione asked.


Harry stopped stunned at the question and before his brain got into gear, he started to stammer “You're my best friend, I care for you more than anyone else and there is nobody I'd prefer to spend the beautiful evening with than you.”


Hermione smiled, relieved at this answer. She had been so worried that he was going to say something like, because its easier to ask you than some other girl, or that he didn't have anyone else to ask. But he didn't. Hermione was positively beaming on the inside 'I'm going to the ball with Harry' she thought happily to herself, 'I can't believe he asked me.'


Harry however was beating himself up. 'Why didn't you tell her? That was the perfect moment.' But obviously whatever he had said was what Hermione had wanted to hear as her face had lit up into one of her intoxicating smiles. 'There will be another opportunity' Harry encouraged himself 'just make sure you don't screw it up next time.'


The portrait hole in sight, Hermione suddenly stopped and turned to face him. “Is it okay” she asked, “if we keep this secret from Ron and Ginny and everyone else for that matter? You know what they are like.”


“Yeah, that's a good idea” Harry replied.


Together they entered the common room where the excitement for the coming ball was already at a fever pitch. Girls were looking through magazines for dresses and discussing their hair, while the boys were huddled in a corner nervously pondering how, and more terrifyingly, who, they were going to ask to the ball, not to mention how they were going to summon the courage to go through with it. Harry and Hermione just smiled at each other, none the least bit worried. Then out of nowhere a small hand clamped around Hermione's wrist and she was whisked away by none other than Ginny Weasley.

(A/N...thanks everyone for reading. Please leave a review, they always make my day)

Chapter 14: Interrogation
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Ginny pulled Hermione all the way to her dormitory, closed the door and then jumped on her bed.


“I want a day to day account of you holiday” Ginny demanded, a smile playing on her lips.


“Don't get too excited Ginny, not much happened.” Hermione said as she began the tale for Ginny. She knew that nothing other than a long monologue of her Christmas exploits would placate Ginny, however fictional it was. And so Hermione told Ginny about skating, about Christmas day and about all the snowball fights, movies and homework that Harry and herself had engaged in over the break. The story was truthful in its extent, but the finer details of the looks that Harry had given her, the countless hugs, and the lingering kiss were omitted from the rendition. Only one part was an outright lie and that was the gift that Harry had given her.


Hermione had worn the Phoenix for the rest of the holiday break, but on returning to Hogwarts, Hermione thought it best for the Phoenix to remain hidden from view to avoid any awkward questions. Instead, Hermione told Ginny that Harry had given her a set of books on defensive magic which she had bought herself with the Christmas money from her parents. Thankfully, Ginny did not spot the lie and seemed completely satisfied with Hermione's story.


“Sounds like you guys had a good time then,” Ginny said, smiling before adding cheekily “anything happen between you and Harry that you're not telling me about?”


Hermione grabbed a pillow and playfully threw it at Ginny. “Of course not,” Hermione assured Ginny, feeling slightly guilty about lying to her friend.


Ginny suddenly turned serious, taking Hermione off guard. “Christmas was really hard this year, the war changed so much” Ginny said sadly. “Even Harry not being there seemed odd. Then Ron left the next day and it really brought home how much everything has changed. Everything was just really sombre and as much as I wanted to and willed myself to, I just couldn't get into Christmas this year. I woke up, and the first thing I did was cry.”


“Oh Ginny” Hermione said comfortingly, “you're not the only one. Harry and I also spilt some tears on Christmas day and I'm sure many more people within Hogwarts did as well.”


“It's good to be back here though, even after everything that happened, its still a comforting and safe place to be” Ginny said, gazing around the dormitory. “So...who do you want to go to the ball with?” Ginny suddenly asked, once again surprising Hermione with how quickly Ginny's emotions could change and how rapidly she could redirect the conversation.

“I'm not sure” Hermione answered timidly, avoiding Ginny's eyes.


“Oh come off it Hermione, I know you want to go with Harry.” Ginny replied with mild exasperation.


“I guess, he is my best friend after all, and I can't think of anyone else at the moment.” Hermione said, saying what Ginny wanted to hear, or at least a variation of it. “So what about you?”


“Well if you don't get a move on, I might ask Harry” Ginny joked, causing Hermione to smile. But it was only half true, Ginny wanted nothing more than to go to the ball with Harry, but she knew that he would never ask her, and even if she asked him, he would probably say no. “There's a guy in Ravenclaw who I kind of like,” Ginny added which made Hermione give her a 'tell me all' look. “He's really hot, and quite nice, so I guess if I can't have Harry, then he will have to do. So do you have a dress? I wish McGonagall could have given us some warning before Christmas, then I could have had some time to prepare.”


“I'm all sorted,” Hermione said, smiling to herself as she thought about the beautiful dress that was currently sitting in her room at home. “I have a gown at home, so I'll just send an owl to mum and get her to post it to me.”


“What's it look like?” Ginny cooed in delight.


“Not telling” Hermione teased, “you'll have to wait until ball night.”


“Then I wont tell you about my dress” Ginny retorted, the smile on her face giving away any hint of seriousness and very soon her conviction broke. “Actually, I need your help on this one. I don't have a dress yet and I'm going to need your help to choose.”


For the rest of the night, Hermione and Ginny pored over magazines full of ball dresses and hair styles trying to find something for Ginny, laughing and giggling, just like old times. There were mountains of dresses of varying styles and colours and Hermione was glad that she was already sorted in the dress department. She had gone shopping with her mother over the break and her mother had spied a beautiful gown and insisted that Hermione try it on. Hermione initially refused saying she had no need for a ball dress, but at her mother persistence she gave in and put it on. The dress fitted Hermione like it was made for her, and once she had seen it on, there was no way she could leave the shop without it. Now she was extremely glad that she had.


“What am I going to do?” Ginny groaned, “there are so many dresses, how can I possibly choose just one?”


Hermione smiled at the exhausted Ginny, as she threw down her third magazine. “There will only be one dress Ginny that is just right for you in every aspect, we just have to keep looking.”


So the two girls once again put there heads down, and flicked through the pages trying to find the one dress that would set her apart from everyone else.


* * *

Back in the boys' dormitory, Ron unceremoniously flopped down onto his bed.


“What's up?” Harry asked, surprised to see Ron back earlier than usual.


“I don't get girls” Ron replied sighing, “one minute everything is fine and then the next she's going off at me. I just don't get them.”


Harry looked at his friend, dejectedly staring at the ceiling and was about to ask what went wrong when Ron began to tell his tale.


“So after I left you guys I found Sam, obviously, and surprisingly she wasn't talking about the ball at all which was really good. I mean, fourth year was hard enough, why did McGonagall have to spring another ball on us, and in N.E.W.T year. I have way better things to be doing than worrying about asking a girl to the ball. But she kept looking at me strangely, like she wanted something and she wasn't the least bit interested in what I was telling her about our new quidditch training programme that you wanted to initiate this term. And then, get this Harry, she just stands up and grabs her books and says, “I don't get you Ronald Weasley, let me know when you learn to see what's right in front of you. And then she walks out. I'm so confused, what did she mean by that?”


Harry smiled to himself, remembering Hermione in sixth year and all her exasperation with Ron not seeing what was right in front of him. “Ron, did you ask her to the ball?” Harry asked, knowing exactly what his answer would be.


“No, she's my girlfriend, isn't it a given that I want to go with her.” Ron replied.


Harry thumped his forehead with his hand and looked at his friend, exasperated with how naive Ron was when it came to girls. Harry turned to Ron and looked him dead in the eyes, “Ron, it is time for your lesson on Girls 101. If you haven't already noticed, girls like balls, in fact they really like balls. It doesn't matter if she's your girlfriend or not, you still have to ask her. To girls, balls are magical and to be asked by their Prince Charming goes with the fantasy. She's really into you Ron, and when you didn't ask her to the ball straight away, she got a little upset and probably started to doubt your commitment to her. So tomorrow, I suggest you get her a big bunch of flowers, and go ask her to the ball so when you do, she thinks that you didn't do it yesterday because you needed time to plan a romantic way of asking her.”


Ron looked back at Harry stunned. “You have been spending too much time with Hermione” Ron stated. “That is the only explanation for how you can tell what girls are thinking.” Ron sighed, “But I think you're right, I'll ask her tomorrow.”


* * *


Hermione was surprised to see Ron sit beside her at breakfast the next morning and stealthily slip her a small rolled up piece of parchment. Carefully unrolling it to avoid drawing any attention from Harry, Hermione opened it to read the same words that she had written once before, 'Meet me in our room on the sixth floor at the end of classes. Please, I really need to talk to you'. . Silently she looked up and subtly nodded her consent to Ron, who gave a small nod in acknowledgment.


Curiosity gnawed at Hermione all day, and at the end of Arithmancy, she hurriedly picked up her things and went to the room on the sixth floor to meet Ron in what Hermione thought was a slightly amusing role reversal. Ron was already there when Hermione entered and he smiled when he saw her.


“Hi Hermione” Ron said.


“Hi Ron” Hermione replied, taking in Ron's downcast appearance.


“This is going to sound strange,” Ron began, making Hermione scoff slightly as she thought back to the last time she had stood in this room with Ron, “but I need your help. Sam got annoyed with me yesterday and Harry enlightened me that is was probably because I was blabbering about quidditch rather than asking her to the ball,”


“Yeah, that would do it,” Hermione said, chuckling to herself. “So what exactly can I do?”


“Well you dated me and we seemed to go alright and I was wondering if you could give me some insight about what went right, what went wrong and how I can make things better.” Ron trailed off, slightly embarrassed about asking for relationship help. But finally he had to admit to himself, that when it came to girls, he was completely clueless at times. His behaviour over the Yule Ball for example, was atrocious and he wanted those memories to stay in the vast chasms of his mind, forever covered in dust and cobwebs.


Hermione just looked at Ron for several moments, slightly taken back by his question. Here she was trying to move on with her future, while Ron wanted to take her back to the past to relive all the times when they were together, so he could get himself out of another mess that his nervousness around girls had created. Hermione didn't really want to be put in this situation, but the pleading look in Ron's eyes required an answer of some form. Hermione sighed.


“Yes Ron, we dated but at the end of the day, we weren't right for each other. We laughed, we cried and we were true to ourselves, but I'm not her Ron, I'm not Sam, she wants different things to me. She really cares for you, you can see it in her eyes and how she looks at you, and only you. You need to stop doubting yourself and get over your fear of rejection. It's what caused so many of our issues, like the Yule Ball, the Lavender thing and then when you left Harry and I in the forest.” Hermione had to pause briefly as those painful memories came back to the surface, the times when all she had wanted was Ron.


Taking a deep breath Hermione continued. “Don't beat yourself up Ron, you just let your nerves get the best of you at times. But she really likes you so just go and ask her to the ball and all will be forgiven.”


“And if it isn't?” Ron asked, doubting that the solution to his first minor fight with Sam could be solved so easily.


“Then she doesn't deserve you! Now go on” Hermione commanded, grabbing Ron's arm and basically pushing him out of the door. He stood in the threshold for several moments and looked back at Hermione who was smiling at him.


“Thanks Hermione,” he said softly as he left to find Sam, his self confidence restored. They may have broken up, but Hermione knew him better than anyone else and he was so glad that they were still friends.


Hermione walked over the window to look over the grounds, the sky starting to darken with the setting of the sun. She couldn't quite believe that she was once again in this room, and that she had just been coaching Ron about his new relationship, a relationship that she at first hadn't wanted to admit existed. But as she once again took in the sight of Hogwarts from the room that she and Ron once shared in secret, she couldn't help but smile. Several moments ago she was thrust back to the time when living happily ever after with Ron was all she had wanted, but she wasn't sad, not in the slightest. 'Finally' Hermione thought, 'I've put that dream to rest.”

(A/N  thanks everyone for reading and for all the reviews. There are still a few more chapters to go but as you can see it is building up to its conclusion. I love you all for reading)

Chapter 15: The count down begins
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As the days passed by, the frenzy throughout the school multiplied exponentially so it was impossible to walk anywhere without hearing the word 'ball' mentioned at least twice in every sentence. On most nights, the common room was full, not of students doing homework but of girls giggling and practicing hairstyles on each other. Classes were over and Hermione was not particularly in the mood to return to the common room, and with it being a Friday night, the chance of any homework at all being completed was about as likely as the earth ceasing to spin. But luckily at that moment, Harry came up with a solution.

“Do you want to come and watch our quidditch practice before dinner?” Harry asked, smiling sweetly and making Hermione's heart skip a beat.


“Sure, I'd love to,” Hermione replied “I'll just go get my coat, and I'll see you on the field.” Hermione watched as Harry walked away, taking in everything, from the way his robes swished around his ankles, to the messy hair that he could never tame. Hermione sighed and fell against the cool walls of the castle as Harry turned a corner and was lost from view. 'Ball night' Hermione whispered to the empty corridor, 'I will tell you on ball night how I truly feel.' Pushing herself up, Hermione hurried to the common room to get her coat.


Harry was conscious of the fact that Hermione was watching him as he retreated to the quidditch pitch. He wanted to turn around and run to her, sweep her off her feet and kiss her but nerves held him steady on his course. 'Ball night' he whispered to himself, 'I'll tell you on ball night.'


The brisk winter air bit into him as he walked out into the grounds, the sun shinning in a cloudless sky. This was their first quidditch practice since the holidays, the ball taking the thought of quidditch away from most of his team's minds. But their match with Slytherin was approaching, so Harry pulled rank and told his team that there was a practice. However, the real reason Harry wanted a practice was not to improve their skills in the hope that they could annihilate Slytherin, but to try out his new robes.


Harry was the first of the team to arrive, not that he was surprised, and he opened his locker to find the robes that he had brought down when he had came to try them out one night in secret. Hermione may not be much of a quidditch fan but she definitely got it right when it came to these robes. They were so light, but yet so warm in the winter air and the fabric was so flexible that he hardly noticed he was wearing them. But most of all he loved the special touches that Hermione had added.


The door of the locker room opened and Harry turned to see Ron enter, a huge grin on his face. “You seem happy,” Harry said.


“Things with Sam just keep getting better” Ron replied, “We both had last period free so we spent it together, just enjoying each others company. She really is amazing”


Ron drifted into silence, dreaming about Sam no doubt. After several days of misery where Harry tried to comfort Ron and offered his advice as much as he could, Ron finally got the confidence up to ask Sam to the ball. He followed Harry's advice and he didn't just ask her, instead he made it look like he had planned it all along. However, Sam succeeded exceptionally well at being elusive for several days and it took multiple attempts before she received the note from Ron. “Trust me mate,” Ron had advised in his days of despair, when he wondered whether Sam would ever talk to him again, “never upset a women.”


Harry smiled at Ron's piece of advice, but he was already well clued up about girls after all the time he had spent with Hermione and Ginny. Ron finally did talk to Sam though. The note he had sent Sam asked her to meet him at the top of the north tower during one lunch time. Ron had scattered rose petals on the stairs and waited at the top for her to arrive, holding a single red rose. When she came up the stairs he then asked her to the ball and she had immediately, according to Ron, thrown herself into his arms and said yes. Ron's self confidence had grown from that moment on, and it was evident to everyone that the love between Ron and Sam was blossoming.


Harry's thoughts drifted to Hermione, and he wondered how he would build up his confidence to tell her what his heart was telling him. But he knew he had no other choice, because without her, he was not complete. Once Harry had changed into his robes, he went and collected the quidditch balls from the storage cupboard. When he returned to the locker room, the rest of the team had arrived and they immediately marveled at his new robes, all chuckling but agreeing with the words that graced the back.


As the team finished getting ready for practice, Ron came over and whispered to Harry, “So where did you get the robes from? I know you are not that conceited to put 'legend' on the back.”


“Hermione gave them to me for Christmas,” Harry replied.


“Really?” Ron exclaimed, his eyebrows shooting to the ceiling. “She must really care about you to buy those.”


Harry remained silent, not wanting to betray his true feelings, and Ron didn't say any more. With everyone kitted out the team filed out onto the pitch for a fast paced and high energy practice. But before Harry took off, he looked into the stands and immediately saw Hermione, sitting there watching him, and even from across the pitch, he could tell that she had smiled when she saw him. Catching his heart as it leapt into his throat, Harry pushed off to start their practice.


* * *


The air was cool, but Hermione couldn't feel it as she watched Harry come out onto the field wearing the robes she had given him. But what warmed her up most of all was that Harry immediately started looking for her, and the smile that lit his face warmed her heart and her soul. 'So this is what love feels like' Hermione thought as warm tingles spread through her body.


Hermione had brought a book to read, like she did when ever she came to a quidditch practice, but unlike ever other time, the book still lay in her lap, unopened. Instead, Hermione's attention was firmly attached to Harry as he managed his teams practice as well as skillfully negotiating his way between players and bludgers to pull off stunning moves to catch the snitch. Each time, Hermione beamed with pride and had to catch her breath as Harry looked her way and gave her a dashing smile.


Hermione lost track of time, but with the fading light, the practice was called to an end, Harry sending her one last smile before disappearing into the teams locker room. Picking up her unopened book, Hermione left the stands to wait for Harry.


* * *


Harry locked the quidditch balls away and exited the locker room, the rest of his team were already running up to the warmth of the castle. Harry was in no rush, the practice had gone really well and he pulled off some amazing maneuvers to catch the snitch, and the whole time Hermione had been watching him. Harry was full of happiness as he began the walk back to the castle underneath the clear night sky, the cool air causing him to shiver slightly. The grounds were still and quiet, and Harry started, when out of the corner of his eye, he detected that he wasn't alone.


“You didn't think I would leave you to walk back to the castle on your own did you?” Hermione questioned Harry, as his face brightened at the sight of her.


“Thanks for waiting for me,” Harry replied, as he glimpsed the moonlit form of Hermione walking towards him, looking gorgeous like always. Once again, Harry began to feel his heart race and his cheeks flush. 'Thank goodness it's dark' he thought.


“My pleasure” Hermione said, flashing Harry a dashing smile, noticing that he was shivering slightly against the cold. “Would you like my coat?” she offered.


Harry looked at her, surprised at the offer. “No, Hermione, I'm ok, you'll freeze without it.”


“But you're already freezing, I'll be ok until we get to the castle.” Hermione replied, starting to unbutton her coat.


Harry put his hand on hers, sending sparks up Hermione's arm. “No, you keep it on” Harry said, rebuttoning her coat. “I'll use you for warmth instead.” Not quite sure what Harry meant, Hermione said nothing as Harry slid his arm around her waist. “See, you'll keep me warmer than any coat.”


Hermione smiled, and sunk herself into Harry's arm, wishing that the castle was just a little further away so her walk alone with Harry under the moonlit sky could last a tiny bit longer.



Back in the common room, a sudden shift in weight on the couch and an explosion of red hair announced the arrival of Ginny who had leapt onto the couch with the same level of excitement reserved for bears with a honey pot.


“Guess what?” Ginny asked, her eyes ablaze with happiness.


“What?” Hermione replied, closing her book, eager to know what had gotten Ginny so excited. On the opposite couch, Harry was equally as interested and was listening in on the two girls.


“He asked me, just now, after Quidditch, I can't believe it, I didn't think he would.” Ginny blabbered at supersonic pace.


“That's great Ginny, I'm so happy for you.” Hermione replied.

“May I ask who?” Harry piped up from the background, alerting Ginny to his presence.


“This guy in Ravenclaw, named Bradley, he's on the quidditch team and he's really super hot. But I was starting to lose hope and I was actually contemplating asking you Harry, but then I remembered that you aren't taking anyone because so many people have asked you and you can't decide. So I thought that I might do what Hermione is doing and not go with anyone and just hang with my mates without the whole boy pressure. But now I don't have to do either of those things because he asked me.”


Ginny paused to breathe, gazing wistfully at the ceiling. She was so ecstatic about having a date to the ball, but even so, she still had get to the bottom of Harry and Hermione's stories and had managed to drop a few well chosen words to check on their reactions. Yet neither of them flinched when she mentioned following their ball plans which meant one of two things, they either weren't going with anyone or they were both extremely good at covering things up. Which ever one it was, it was frustrating Ginny. But she would think about this tomorrow, tonight she would spend thinking about her ball date. Ginny snapped out of her reverie, “I've got to go try on my dress and make sure everything is ready. I'll see you later” and as quickly as she had arrived, Ginny had jumped off the couch and was dashing up the dormitory stairs.


“Do you think she suspects something?” Harry asked, referring to Ginny's comments about asking Harry or doing a Hermione


“Ginny is always naturally suspicious. I'm pretty sure she knows we are going together but she has no proof at present. Anyway, I think she has other things on her mind now.” Hermione replied, going back to her book.


Harry shrugged his shoulders in agreement and went back to his essay. After they decided to go to the ball together, Harry had received so many invites to the ball from various girls that he had run out of fingers and toes to count them all on. Harry of course said no to them all politely and after the fifth girl had asked him, he started to tell them all that he wasn't going with anyone specifically and just wanted to spend time with all his friends. This piece of news had spread through the school like wildfire but the offers still came in.


Hermione was surprised but delighted to find that she was also proving a popular choice for the ball. Many guys had asked her but she had replied to them all that she wasn't going with a date because she didn't want a repeat of her last ball experience, referring to the Yule Ball and Ron's obvious dislike of her choice of partner. Harry and Hermione had stuck to their stories and so far the entire school, including Ron was taken in. Ginny was a little harder to convince and had been trying to make her slip up since the ball was announced, but so far Ginny had not succeeded in anything other than increasing her own frustration.


“Besides,” Hermione said with a cheeky grin. “no one ever said that just because we aren't taking a partner, it means we have to go alone. If my rationalisation is correct, you are going to spend time with friends and I have decided I don't want a date, so why shouldn't the two of us, who have no dates enter the ball together?”


“I love how your mind works” Harry said in amazement. Only Hermione could come up with an argument that would mean they could go to the ball together, without actually going together. Hermione just smiled back at him, elated by the compliment.



The days passed and the hype grew and in no time at all, a week had rolled around and once again Harry and Hermione were sitting by the fire in the common room, finishing off their homework so they wouldn't have to worry about it on Sunday after the ball. Knowing that the common room was going to be a cacophony of noise, Harry and Hermione had retreated to the library, but when that was closed they had to return to the common room, which was surprisingly empty for a Friday night. Apparently, according to those who were still awake, many had gone to bed so they could get a good night's sleep.


Hermione closed her book, her essay completed. “So I'll meet you then on the middle platform of the stairs leading to the entrance of the Great Hall at seven fifty nine tomorrow night,” Hermione said, confirming the plan once more while they were alone.


Harry smiled, trying to picture the moment, but he knew that nothing he imagined would ever compare to the actual event. “Yeah, I can't wait. I'm so excited about tomorrow, and you know why?” Harry didn't wait for an answer. “Because I'm going with you.”


Hermione blushed and once again felt that warm feeling within her heart. “I'm really glad to be going with you Harry. I'll see you in the morning.” Hermione stood and walked over to Harry and bent down to give him a good night hug. 'Dare I?' she thought as she held Harry in the embrace, and deciding she had nothing to lose, Hermione gave Harry a light kiss on the cheek as she broke away from the hug. She flashed him a quick smile then turned away towards her dormitory.


Harry put a hand to his check in the spot where Hermione had just kissed him, following her with his eyes as she departed to her room. “Tomorrow night” he whispered to himself. “I'll tell her tomorrow night.”


A/N I hope you enjoyed this chapter. There are only two more chapters left so the conclusion is fast approching. Thanks to everyone who has been leaving reviews, they have really helped me develop this story further.

Chapter 16: Preparing for an Answer
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Slender rays of sunlight, pierced through the dormitory windows, bringing the girls and boys of Hogwarts out of their dreams about the ball, and into the real thing. Hermione lay looking at the ceiling for a while, enjoying the peace that she knew would be broken rather quickly as the castle awoke, and she tried desperately to unwind the feelings coursing through her body. Was it nervousness or excitement, hesitation or certainty, anguish or hope? In fact it was all of them. She was like everyone else in the school, excited about the ball. But she was also nervous about going with Harry, hesitant about revealing her true feelings, and anguished that his response may not be to her liking. But she was also certain that tonight she would tell Harry how she felt and she hoped more than anything else that he would feel the same.

Up in the boys' dormitory, Harry was also staring at the ceiling feeling amazingly calm. The resolution to tell Hermione how he felt had been made, and now the only decision left was how he would do it. Reflecting over the last few months, everything with Hermione had occurred so naturally and Harry couldn't help but believe that all the stars would collide tonight presenting the opportune moment for him to share his true feelings. All he had to do was spot it.


The Great Hall was abuzz with chatter as Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny made their way to their table for breakfast. Ginny was bursting with excitement, running over all the details with Hermione for the umpteenth time to ensure that she hadn't forgotten anything. Ron was completely unperturbed by the whole situation, a total contrast from the Yule Ball. He had patched things up with Sam, and now that he had proper dress robes, he had nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, Harry and Hermione stole secret glances at each other, both containing their excitement as much as they could.


An eruption of red and blue sparks from the teachers table brought immediate silence to the Great Hall and all eyes turned to see Professor McGonagall standing on the podium, her lips as stern as usual, but her eyes giving away the enjoyment she was feeling about the upcoming ball.


“As you all know, judging by the amount of chatter occurring around the tables this morning, tonight is the night of the ball. As I'm sure you are well aware, but I will repeat for the sakes of those who like to flaunt the rules, all students, third year and below will be requested to be back in your dormitories by ten thirty...and I assure you, we will know if you are not. Older students, the ball will finish at midnight and then you must promptly head to your beds. The doors will open at eight sharp. The formalities aside, I hope you all have a lovely time at the dance. Now dig in.”


As soon as Professor McGonagall had finished, the plates and bowls that lined the tables filled with breakfast items and once again the Great Hall was abuzz with the sound of conversations.

The passage of time slowed to an unbelievable pace and no amount of watching the clock could make the minutes pass any quicker. With all the ball preparations completed, the atmosphere in the common room was remarkably low key as everyone tried to occupy their minds with something other than the ball, in a hope that it would come sooner. Hermione was lying on her favourite sofa in the Common Room, her book open in front of her, but her eyes were staring blankly at the page in front. Occasionally she would turn a page to give the appearance that she was reading, but her mind was completely occupied on the ball and on Harry.


“Mind if I share your seat?” Harry asked, looking at Hermione who had her legs across the entire sofa. The other sofa was taken up by Ron who was lying on his back looking absently up at the ceiling.


“Not a problem” Hermione replied, raising her legs to allow Harry to sit and then placing them in his lap. He didn't seem to mind and instead sent her a sweet smile.


“I thought you would be with Sam” Harry said to Ron, who turned, surprised to see Harry sitting there.


“Oh, hi Harry, yeah, I wish I was with Sam but she said she has to go get ready. Why she needs a whole day to get ready is a mystery to here I am waiting for the ball like everyone else in the school.” Ron replied returning his attention the ceiling.


“Talking about getting ready, I think it's about time I make a start” Hermione said, taking her feet out of Harry's lap.


Ron sat up suddenly and looked at Hermione “Who are you going with?” he asked curiously. “I've been so preoccupied that I haven't thought to ask you.”


'It's not the first time either,' Hermione thought to herself. “I'm just going to hang out with my friends.” Hermione said somewhat truthfully.

“Oh” Ron said simply, far too engrossed in his own world to comprehend exactly what Hermione had just said. Hermione didn't give him a chance to digest her words or ask any more questions before walking away towards the portrait hole, flashing Harry one last smile before she went.


“And what about you mate?” Ron asked Harry, who was still watching Hermione


He took a moment to register the question as he was busy wondering what Hermione would look like when she returned. Beautiful, immediately sprung to mind. “I'm just going to hang out with my best friends” Harry responded truthfully. “Heaps of girls asked me, but I wasn't really interested.”


“Fair enough.” Ron said, lying back down to once again stare at the ceiling. When he said no more, Harry returned to the quiet dormitory and lay down at his bed, wishing that the next few hours could pass just a little quicker.


* * *

Hermione left the common room and walked the quiet corridors to the Room of Requirement where she had stored her dress and everything else she would need the night before. Hermione didn't want any disruptions when she was getting ready, least of all from Ginny who would undoubtedly be trying to get to the bottom of her apparent dateless status until the moment the ball started. But most of all, she didn't want anyone to see her until she was completely ready.


Hermione walked three times past the place in the wall of the seventh floor that would lead to the Room of Requirement thinking to herself three times 'I need a room with everything I need to get ready for the most important ball of my life'. A door materialized and swung open to reveal a large room, with a sofa and coffee table, some tables and a lot of mirrors. A second smaller door led to a bathroom with a luxurious shower. On one side of the room, a make-up table was situated. It had a large mirror, surrounded by bright lights, and all her make-up was neatly arranged. On the other side of the room was a table with all her hair accessories and products with two mirrors that she could move around to allow her to see all sides of her hair. At the rear of the room, a giant full sized mirror adorned the back wall so she could see herself from head to toe. In the corner of the back wall, her dress was hanging freely, her shoes placed underneath.


Hermione first took a shower and then started with her hair. It was so much easier to work with now than it had been for the Yule Ball. She applied some smoothing serum and any frizziness was removed, leaving only sleek, rippling waves. The hairstyle she had decided upon was a little complicated to do, but it would look amazing. Hermione carefully pulled back small sections of her hair and tied them into individual ponytails. Once all her hair was collected, she took a small section at a time and pinned her locks into place. The final result saw her hair piled into a series of carefully positioned curls with the ends allowed to cascade downwards slightly. Hermione was incredibly patient while fixing her hair in place. She had allowed plenty of time to get ready and she wanted to enjoy this as much as possible and not have the stress associated with rushing.


Hermione's arms felt fatigued from holding them up for so long and she was grateful as she slid the last pin in place. Moving her head from side to side, Hermione looked at her hair from every angle in the mirror behind her. 'Stunning' she thought to herself. Checking the time, she noticed it had taken just over an hour to do her hair. Hermione crossed the room, stretching out her aching limbs and sat down at the make-up table. First, Hermione applied a little foundation to even out her skin tone. She had never been a huge fan of make-up and as usual, Hermione kept things simple, preferring to enhance her features rather than caking her face in gunk. Next she applied a little eyeliner and mascara and a smidgen of a neutral toned eye shadow around her eyes. To her lips, she brushed on a thin layer of a pale reddish brown lipstick, and placed a layer of clear lip gloss over top to make her lips shine. Looking in the mirror she smiled at herself, pleased with how she looked.


Looking at the time, Hermione noted that she had half an hour left until she needed to get into her dress and do the final retouches, so she went to sit on the sofa and opened one of the magazines on the table, closing it a second later. For once in her life, she didn't feel like reading. The nerves were starting to build and she could feel the familiar feeling of butterflies fluttering in her stomach. 'Today's the day' Hermione thought to herself, 'when I will put my heart out into the open and pray that it doesn't break.'

The year had been tumultuous to say the least. The heartache of seeing her dreams with Ron disappear had not been easy, and even now, she still had those days when grief would grip her and return her to a time she would rather not remember. Now she was once again standing on the precipice that would either make or break her dream. Last time she had been thrust into a war against one of the most evil wizards of all time, a war that had shattered her dreams and altered the direction she thought her life would take. Now she was going to tell her best friend she loved him, and the outcome would be just as dramatic by either making her dreams come true, or crushing her heart. But it was a precipice she had to jump over, and she would do it tonight.


* * *


With an hour left before the ball, Harry rolled off his bed where had been staring at the ceiling for an unknown amount of time. One thought had been going through his mind and that was Hermione, as he remembered all the times they had shared together over the past seven years. He knew he would be devastated if she didn't feel the same way that he felt about her, but he knew the time had come when he had to tell her what was really in his heart, for whatever the outcome would be, she had to know.


Harry grabbed a towel and headed off to the bathroom to have a shower. He came back feeling extremely clean and smelling like the vanilla body wash that Mrs Granger had given him for Christmas. Harry met Ron in the dormitory who was adjusting his robes.


“Do I look all right?” Ron asked Harry as he entered.


Ron turned around and Harry smiled. “You look a lot better than last time” he said. Ron was not impressed with being reminded of his horrible dress robes from the Yule Ball. “But seriously Ron, you look really good. I'm sure Sam will be impressed.”


“Thanks mate.” Ron smoothed the front of his robes one last time. “I'll see you at the ball then, I'm going to meet Sam,” and Ron left.


Harry turned his attention back to getting ready, he would hate to be late. He had outgrown his last set of dress robes and this was the first time his new ones would be on display. Madame Malkin had loved measuring him up and had made many suggestions about fit. Harry had just nodded and smiled and most things, assured that she knew what she was doing, but there was one aspect that Harry did not like. Madam Malkin, like had wanted to line his robes with emerald green to match his eyes. For once Harry wanted something different and had instead gone for black robes with a royal blue lining. In the end, the robs were stunning and fitted him perfectly. Harry gave his hair a quick brush and rubbed some gel through to hold it in place. He tied his shoes and studied his appearance in the dormitory mirror, much like Ron had been doing minutes earlier. The next time he looked in this mirror, he would either have the love of the girl of his dreams, or be heartbroken. The time had come to find out the answer.


* * *


Hermione slipped into her dress and buckled up the straps on her black shoes. Hermione bent down and pulled a small box from her jacket pocket and walked towards the mirror, glad that she had been sensible in her footwear selection. She had chosen a wide and low, half inch heel to ensure she was able to walk. Hermione looked at herself and gasped, she had forgotten how gorgeous her dress looked on her, and with the hair and the make-up, even she was surprised at how beautiful she could be.


There was only one thing left to do and Hermione opened the box which contained the Phoenix from Harry. Tonight, she was going to show it to the world. She slipped the necklace over her head, careful not to mess up her hair and tightened the cord so the phoenix sat between her collarbone. Hermione took one last look in the mirror and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. It was time.

A/N This was the penultimate chapter...only one to go. I will get it up as fast as I can...although I know that once the whole story is up, I will be left with a gaping hole that I will have to fill by working on another story. Thanks for reading...please review.

Chapter 17: Full Circle
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Hermione didn't meet a soul as she walked from the Room of Requirement to the Great Hall. As she neared the stairs where she would meet Harry, the babble of excitement from the students congregated in front of the doors to the Great Hall reached her ears. Hermione arrived at the top of the stairs and looked down to see Harry with his back to her. He looked as amazing as always and Hermione paused to gather her nerves.


Harry was surprising well composed as he waited for Hermione. He was lost in his own thoughts, running through all the possible outcomes that could occur that night. Harry's mind was brought back to the present as the chatter in the corridor started to die down. Looking up, he noticed everyone looking in his direction. Following their eyes, he turned and looked behind him and his jaw dropped.


There at the top of the stairs, one hand on the banister and one at her side was Hermione. She was quite possibly the most beautiful girl Harry had ever seen. She wore a full length black dress that was pulled in at the waist to reveal her curvy frame. The neckline ran across her chest and small straps looped over her shoulders. Along the neck line was hot pink detailing that swirled and sparkled down at him. The detailing continued down to the floor, slightly left of centre, and ran both sides of a slit that started at the top of her leg and opened up to reveal a pink panel, matching the detailing in colour. Realising that his mouth was still slightly agape, Harry flashed Hermione a smile, noticing for the first time the sparkle that emanated from the phoenix around her neck. Her face lit up as she returned his smile and started her decent.



'Just breathe' Hermione thought to herself as she began to carefully maneuver herself down the stairs, holding her skirt up slightly so she wouldn't trip. The entire school had gone quiet and watched as Hermione glided down the stairs to meet her man. Harry watched her all the way, never losing eye contact with her as she stepped onto the middle platform of the stairs.


“You look amazing” he said to her quietly.


“As do you,” Hermione replied. Harry put out his arm and she lightly placed her hand on it. Together they continued down the stairs, the crowd parting as they reached the bottom and they walked towards the doors to the Great Hall. Just as they arrived they swung open, and Harry led Hermione straight onto the dance floor for the first waltz.


Harry took Hermione into the dancing hold and held her securely within his arms where she fitted perfectly. As the music began, Harry led her around the floor effortlessly and even though they had never danced together before, every step and every move flowed with ease. While the floor was open to everyone, no one else was dancing, their eyes instead riveted on the couple, sweeping around the dance floor in complete unison.


Hermione was completely lost in the moment and at that point in time she was oblivious to everything but Harry and the music. She had no idea where he had learnt to dance, but she didn't care. One hand was placed on her back and the other hand held her own. As light as a feather, her left arm rested on his and she melted into his firm and solid hold. He was an amazing dancer and she felt like she was floating as he led her into twirls and pivots around the dance floor, her dress swirling around her legs. Not once did she stumble or trip as they moved together as one in perfect harmony.

The music came to an end and Harry spun Hermione out and away from him. He bowed as she curtsied and the whole school broke into applause. Hermione and Harry broke eye contact for the first time since the dance had begun as they became aware that the whole school had been watching them. Neither of them were the least bit embarrassed by their very public dance and instead were filled with happiness. Harry put his arm out and Hermione took it, and together they walked to a table where their friends were sitting for dinner.


Professor McGonagall took to the floor and all eyes were refocused on the Head Mistress. “Welcome everybody to the school ball. I trust that you will all have a wonderful evening, you all deserve a night of dancing, music and fun. Dinner will be served momentarily and then the dance floor will be open to everyone. So once again, enjoy your night.” Professor McGonagall turned and exited the floor as the plates filled with a magnificent banquet.


The air was light and full of laughter over dinner, the war and all the grief thrust to the far corners of everybody's minds as they reminisced over happier times. Many people complimented Hermione on how beautiful she looked and even Ron seemed to look at her in awe. The only person who didn't seem entirely happy was Ginny who Hermione had just seen out of the corner of her eye shooting her an icy stare.

“So Harry” Ron asked, “where did you learn to dance like that?” Hermione, having heard the question immediately tuned in, curious about the answer. Harry had been useless at the Yule ball and surely taking dance lessons had not been high on his agenda when he was trying to defeat Voldemort.


“Oh that” Harry blushed slightly, but noticing that only Ron, Hermione and Sam were paying any attention, he carried on. “When McGonagall mentioned the ball, I asked if she could teach me and she agreed.” Having relayed the secret of his sudden ability to dance, Harry returned his attention to the table where dessert had just appeared. On hearing this, Hermione could barely contain her joy from bursting out of her. She was pretty sure that Harry had learnt to dance for her and she had to admit, he was really good.


The music started again and the dance floor became full of people. While Harry and Hermione didn't dance together directly, their eyes were always finding each other as they danced and grooved with all their friends who had lived and experienced all that Hogwarts had thrown at them over the past seven years.


Time passed quickly and soon ten thirty rolled around and the younger students departed. The atmosphere changed from one of a party to more of a formal dance as the older students continued with the evening. Couples took to the floor and Harry and Hermione once again stole the show. It didn't matter what music was played, Harry knew just what steps to do and Hermione followed his lead with complete trust.


The night was wearing on and Harry's composure was starting to fail him. He knew he had to say something to Hermione but he didn't know how. He was tearing himself up inside as he watched her, wondering how to tell his best friend that he loved her. He wanted her to know so much but for some reason he just couldn't quite let go of the words and leave himself wide open with his future in her hands. Through everything that he had been through, why was telling Hermione he loved her the hardest thing that he had ever been confronted with? He looked at the clock. It was nearly midnight and his time was running out.


If Hermione hadn't been certain before, now she was. She was completely and utterly in love with Harry. The evening had been completely magical and she could never have imagined anything as wonderful as tonight. She wanted to tell him so much how she really felt, to tell him that she loved him, that she wanted her future to be with him. But something was holding her back. All her dreams had been reformed over recent months and they all included Harry. She didn't know if she could go on without him. He had been her rock, her support as her life crumbled around her. Without him, she would be shattered to the point where putting the pieces back together would be a mission that would take all eternity. But through all her fears, he had to know, she had to tell him.


The music slowed to a rhythmic rhumba and Harry adapted to lead Hermione into what is commonly called the dance of love. Their eyes were locked the whole time, their minds in a frenzy as they raced though a million different scenarios and outcomes to the same dilemma they unknowingly shared. And unbeknown to both of them, they both came to the same conclusion, now was the time, the music was right, the location was right, the feeling was right. The love they felt for each other had never been greater than it was at that moment.


The music was reaching its crescendo, the time had come, there could be no more delay, no more thought, it was now or never. Harry lead Hermione into a low dip and slowly brought her back up so their faces were inches apart.


“Harry” Hermione whispered quietly, her voice trembling slightly with nerves.


Harry put a finger on her lips to silence her. No words needed to be said. Harry had been right all along. The powers that be were watching over him and the moment had come. Harry lent towards Hermione, his heart stopping in his chest as he finally let his hearts true desire known to the one person who needed to know. Hermione mirrored Harry and brought her lips to meet his. Her heart leapt as they connected and all her fears melted away as Harry held her tightly, kissing her gently. He was warm and soft, and the feeling was so right. Any fear immediately dissipated as she held Harry, kissing him back gently and confirming that she felt the same way as him. Finally, through all the trials and trepidation, through war an peace, love and heartache, the world had come full circle. Fate had a strange way of working. It had a taken a war and near death for her dreams to come true, but in the middle of the dance floor, Hermione stood at the forefront of her new dreams in the arms of Harry Potter.


At the edge of the dance floor, Ginny's heart stopped in her chest. Warm tears began to well behind her eyes as she saw Hermione and Harry finally declare their love for each other. She had known all year that this was the only conclusion but it still was not easy for her to see and she couldn't help but feel that Hermione had stolen her life. For seven years, Hermione had shown no interest in Harry other than friendship, but the war had changed her, just like everyone else and in some ways, she didn't recognise her any more, she didn't want to know her. As Ginny continued to watch, the tears spilled down her face unchecked. All the dreams she had once had came crashing down around her and the life she had always imagined was completely extinguished, stolen from her by some other girl. Ginny couldn't watch Harry and his new girl any more. She turned and fled the room running away from all the pain and heartache, one thought racing through her mind...who's that my life?

A/N Thank you all so much for reading and emersing yourself into the story that I have had so much fun writing. I feel a little sad now that it is all over, like I have just let go of a part of me. When I started this story, I had the first chapter and the last paragraph but I didn't know what was going to happen in between, but somehow the story almost wrote itself.

I felt a little sad for Ginny at the end of this story though so I have written a short fluffy one shot for her . It is called "Cycle of Flight".

Please please please leave a review to let me know what you thought. And once again thanks for reading, I love you all.