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A/N: Here's the latest. I don't know about everyone else but I saw the movie twice already! It's sooo good. The dancing scene in the tent between the two was definitely my favorite of the entire movie. I hope you guys like this next chapter. Please remember to review once you've finished. It's really interesting what you guys think about the progression of the story.
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Chapter 17-Sickle For Your Thoughts?


Luna bustled about her kitchen fixing tea for the two of them.

After getting back from Paris, Hermione had practically made a bee line for Luna as she had desperately needed a friend to talk to. Things in Paris had been so perplexing for the witch currently sitting in one of the kitchen’s chairs.

“I thought you might come over. I have my herbal tea ready,” Luna had said when Hermione had appeared on her doorstep.

The blonde witch moved like a fairy floating from one end of the kitchen to the next. Summoning a few tea cups and levitating the sugar and cream Luna set the table and brought along the bird shaped tea kettle. She sat down as the bird kettle spurted steaming hot liquid from its mouth- accompanied with a hurling noise- into Luna’s two awaiting cups.

“What a nice display…” commented Hermione sarcastically as the bird continued to faux throw up the contents of its stomach into the cups.

“Harry got it for me last Christmas… I’ve always found it funny,” said Luna happily as she added a couple lumps of sugar into her cup. “So what happened in Paris then?”

Shaking her head, Hermione slid her cup closer. “I don’t even know… It was odd… I guess.” She exhaled deeply. “I spent the entire night of the banquet talking about Harry to everyone. I can’t even tell you how many people asked me how long we’d been dating. It got to the point where I just stopped trying to deny it and simply went with it… One rather forward witch told me in a very cheeky tone that she figured Harry and I must have a rampant sex life. She said that Harry looks like a man who can really tumble.”

Hermione looked down into her cup smiling at the memory of the madam in the red gown who had leaned over and whispered that to her.

“He probably can,” replied Luna in a thoughtful sort of tone.

“Luna!” The younger witch only chuckled as she watched Hermione’s eyes go wide with the implication.

“It’s not like you haven’t thought it you know… at least lately,” she added as an afterthought.

“I have not thought about it,” denied Hermione quickly. In a very uncharacteristic manner, Luna rolled her eyes, knowing full well that Hermione had lied. “I hear that if you roll your eyes enough they’ll get stuck that way and you’ll forever be left looking at your brain,” mocked Hermione in retaliation. Luna only smiled in return happy that Hermione was quoting her.

“Anyway,” ventured Hermione getting back to the subject, “we kept having all these… these moments, I guess is what I’d call them… He… He couldn’t fix his tie right so then I did it for him and I just… we were so close… and-”

“You wanted to kiss him.” It wasn’t even a question. Long ago, Hermione had found that Luna never really asked questions. Most of the time Luna- at least with people- already knew what was going on. She had this worldly and yet ethereal sense of just knowing. And so Luna made statements, but rarely ever asked. If anything, any inquiries from her were instead ways to get the person in question to realize an answer that Luna already knew of.

Hermione shrugged peering down into her cup before sighing. “Yeah I did… the entire weekend I wanted to. Luna, you should’ve seen him though. He was so…. the whole time, he was so cute.” Hermione shook her head. “He put gel in his hair to get ready. It didn’t help one bit… and I wanted to so badly… and the tie…” She closed her eyes remembering how adorable he had looked and how she had to force her arms away from him instead of keeping them wrapped around his neck as she had adjusted his collar. “Then when we were walking out the door, he told me I looked stunning and… and I-I… I had to fight to keep myself only kissing his cheek.”

Wiping a hand across her face, Hermione tried to clear her thoughts. Luna just sat patiently, taking in the confused form of what she considered to be one of her closest friends.

“Ever since that picture, that’s all I think about… whenever I’m around him, that’s all I want to do. And it’s like I do things that make it worse, but I don’t even know I’m doing them until they’ve happened! Or until I’m in the midst of them! I’ll kiss his cheek or… or run my hand through his hair... AND I catch myself looking at him all the time! I feel ridiculous, Luna. That paper put this thought in my brain and now I can’t get it out!!”

“So just do it,” Luna answered simply.

“Yeah I’ll just kiss Harry… that won’t complicate things at all,” muttered Hermione sarcastically.

“Maybe you need to give in once… Personally, I don’t really see the point in denying your impulses. It just makes the impulse worse. It’s like food… You crave something, but then deny it and deny it and deny it. Then suddenly you’ve eaten a whole tin of chocolate covered slugs!”

Hermione’s face scrunched in disgust at the idea of chocolate covered slugs. Shaking herself out of it, she continued, “But Luna, I feel like I’ve wanted to for so long… I fear I’ve been denying the impulse for far too long already.”

“Yes, yes. I’m worried about that too,” agreed Luna thinking. “Nine years is an awfully long time to deny something…”

“Nine years? Who said anything about nine years?” Hermione said puzzled. “It’s been maybe a month… I mean in Italy we had a moment then… but…” Her brain seemed to be at a loss. “Noooo. Never nine years… We… No… We would’ve been in third year. AND you didn’t even know us back then! How did you manage to come up with nine years?”

“Well there was enough tension between you two your fifth year to just assume that something had been happening for a couple of years. If not your third year then definitely in your fourth,” Luna replied with ease.

“I haven’t wanted to kiss Harry since fourth year,” stated Hermione sharply.

Luna sighed, “Hermione, we’ve already been over this. Neville explained it quite well, I thought… Just because you didn’t cognitively know that you wanted to, I’m fairly certain you still did. It just wasn’t in the forefront of your thoughts. The only difference is that now it is and now you can’t shove it back down.”

Giving up on trying to debate with Luna about that particular subject, Hermione instead took a sip of her still hot tea. The two witches were silent for only a second before Luna brought the conversation back around.

“So what else happened in Paris then?”

Hermione paused to set her tea cup back down on its saucer.

“I asked him to come to bed with me at the end of the night.”

Luna raised her eyebrows in surprise before a happy smirk came over her face.

“It was nothing like that… The suite only had one bed, so he was going to sleep on the sofa. And I asked him if he’d like to share the… Merlin, talking about it makes it sound like I really was asking him to-”

“I’m sure he didn’t think that,” reassured Luna already knowing where her thoughts were heading. “Harry’s too gentlemanly to think of you like that.”

“I don’t know about that,” whispered Hermione as her memory ran back to that night and Harry’s hands undoing the back of her dress. She had only expected him to get her zipper started and had barely been able to breathe when he had decided to undo the whole thing. She was sure other men had unzipped dresses on other women and in those moments it had probably seemed like such a simple task and like nothing at all, but Harry slowly lowering her zipper the way he did… it just felt… well even now it made her nerves fire and goose bumps appear on her arms. The way he stood there behind her his breathing shallow, she knew he wanted her too. She could almost feel his eyes rake across her back and down her body.

She had wanted to turn around, she had wanted to kiss him senselessly then, but she forced herself to face forward. Then, she had stepped away from him expecting him to leave quickly, but he had lingered for a second. It was only a second, but it was long enough to make her question her good judgment. And then he left… although, she never did hear the lock click.

Luna seemed to be waiting patiently, but Hermione never did elaborate… not that Luna really minded of course.

“I think that maybe this is just loneliness. I think I miss Ron… I know Harry misses Ginny. That’s why I don’t think I should… I don’t think I should act on any of this. We both are vulnerable right now and I think that maybe all this needs is some time.”

Luna nodded in understanding, yet she still seemed hesitant about something. Hermione finished her tea and then went to the sink to deposit her dishes.

“I should probably go, Luna.”

Luna rose and led Hermione to the door. As she opened it, her mind still seemed to be caught up on something, but this time Hermione took notice of her friend’s contemplating expression.

“Luna what is it?” She asked standing under the threshold.

For a second the younger witch seemed like she wasn’t going to tell her, but then apparently she decided against it. “Hermione when was the last time you thought about Ron?”

Hermione shrugged, “I don’t know…” Her brain worked to think back. “I guess… in Italy. So two months ago?... Yeah, it was in Italy. After that Ginny left and I just became so focused on-”

“Harry?” offered Luna with a sort of wise air about her.

Hermione nodded suddenly realizing what the clever Ravenclaw before her was trying to convey to her. Hermione had not thought about Ron, let alone thought about missing him, for nearly two months… not even one bit. Her mind had been elsewhere, her thoughts had been muddled with a fixation on someone else entirely. She didn’t miss Ron anymore. She no longer thought about him at all really as he had been gone for nearly two and half months. Their relationship had been officially dead for three months, but suddenly now as she thought about it she knew it had been dead long before that fateful meeting in that banquet hall. They had been fighting to stay together knowing an end was near like a fish out of water trying to catch its breath. The last few months of the relationship they had barely talked or seen each other. It took the night of the Orion to admit what they both already knew: they were over. For Hermione, it took the night that Ron left to realize that she couldn’t repair what she had broken this time.

And then somehow, somewhere along the way she had cried her last tears for her failed relationship with Ron. Somewhere along the way she had accepted it as her past. Somewhere along the way she had started to move on and somehow she had managed to let another person slip into her heart. And so, the only conclusion to be drawn was that Hermione wanted to kiss Harry, not for the sake of missing someone else or because she was feeling particularly lonely, but instead that she simply wanted to kiss Harry for Harry.


**********


New York City.

She literally had to keep repeating the phrase over and over again in her head. Big lights, skyscrapers, and the most interesting lot of muggles she had ever seen to date. Her father would have a field day if he were to visit this city.

Ginny’s team, the Razorbacks, had just finished with their first traveling match of the year. The team had planned to stay a few extra days in NYC to visit and sight-see. After all it was the largest wizarding population intertwined with a muggle population. Some of the wizarding world seemed to be right in front of the muggles here, but it just didn’t seem like they cared. It was like these New Yorkers had already seen enough crazy that one bloke dressed up in wizarding robes didn’t really shake up their day.

The team had just gotten done eating at the best wizarding restaurant in Manhattan and now they were heading to a recently opened club called The Curious Sphinx.

As they walked the streets, the group paired off into twos as they all strode along the sidewalk. Ginny lagged behind in the back and watched as her friends talked amicably and enthusiastically about the game and the city. They had won their first match, so the team was in high spirits.

“So how are you liking the city?” asked Todd lagging behind too.

“It’s amazing… the muggles here are weird,” joked Ginny.

“Yeah they’re a little desensitized... that’s New York for you though,” Todd shrugged. His gentle blue eyes traveled over Ginny’s face for a minute before asking, “So are you adjusting well with everything? I know in the beginning it was a little hard for you.”

“Yeah… I mean I miss my family sometimes. My dad would’ve absolutely loved to come here. He loves quirky muggles…” Ginny smiled thinking fondly of her father’s curious fascination. “But it’s good that I’m here… I’m glad I came.”

Todd understood and gave a slight nod as they continued down the street. Yellow taxi cabs zoomed by in a rush to get to their passengers’ destinations.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking… but whatever happened with you and Harry?” Ginny laughed for some reason at the question. It was the exact thing pretty much the entire wizarding world was wondering. But as she glanced over at Todd, she did not find a face marked with a prying need to know. Instead, she found there a veil of genuine concern for her.

She sighed, “Ah what the hell... well… I broke it off with him before we left.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know…”

This time Todd laughed. Ginny quirked an eyebrow and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “What?”

“Girls always know,” he stated in a teasing tone. Then his face went serious again. “So… why’d you break it off?”

“It just wouldn’t have worked,” Ginny shrugged sadly.

“Because of the whole long distance thing?”

“Well yeah that… and really it just wasn’t working,” she replied thinking back to the feelings that drove her to LA. “I mean it’s not like I didn’t love him… it’s not like he didn’t love me. It’s just… we just wanted different things,” she explained.

“Like what?”

Ginny looked up at the sky trying to find a way to sum up everything that she had been coping with in the last year regarding her and Harry. The list was still firm in her mind, but she highly doubted Todd had the time or really wanted to know all the details of her and Harry’s complicated relationship. Still he waited patiently and his face seemed honestly interested in hearing about her life so she did her best.

“He wanted to get married… He has pretty much since the day the war was over.”

“And you didn’t?”

“It’s not that I didn’t want to marry him… it’s just that I didn’t want to right then ya know? I’m only twenty-one for Merlin’s sake!” exclaimed Ginny. “And he just wanted to make a family as quickly as possible. I didn’t want that… maybe one day, but not right now. I just don’t see why there has to be such a rush.”

“So then you came here? To get away from him?” Todd was reading into her. Ginny couldn’t decide if that bothered her or not.

“Yeah I did,” she confirmed. “We just needed some time apart. I need to be out on my own for a bit… and hopefully by the time I get back we can maybe start working towards that next step.”

The two grew quiet as they strolled along. The members of the team in front of them were all giggling and laughing about something, but neither knew what. Ginny chanced a look at Todd and found his gaze was distant and far off. Feeling her watching him, he shook himself out of it and turned to her.

He smiled sadly. “I used to be engaged.”

Ginny was kind of taken aback by his announcement, but seeing his look she immediately sympathized for him. “What happened?”

“She broke it off… three months before the wedding.” Todd was silent for a few moments, lost in a time that was not the present. “I saw it coming… I think you can always see it coming. I just never thought… I don’t know… I just never thought I’d be one of those guys, one of those people that have their fiancé break it off. I always figured that when I was sure I’d asked the right girl and then it would work. Or that I could make it work… but you really can’t. She wanted what she wanted… it just wasn’t me.”

“You guys didn’t try after that? Even after she broke it off?” Ginny asked in what she hoped was a gentle tone.

“No… Even if she would have wanted to, I don’t know if I could have. It takes a man a lot bigger than me to get over something like that… She made a promise and she broke it. I just am not one of those people that gets past that… that gets over that,” finished Todd shaking his head.

Ginny nodded. She knew it must’ve been hard drawing up the courage to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you and she couldn’t imagine how cruel it would be to say yes and then to take it back. A part of her felt so badly for Todd. He was a good man and he didn’t deserve heart break.

But another part of her felt like she was that girl. She was the heart breaker and it was Harry’s heart she had ripped from his chest. She had been the one to say no when he asked her to move in twice. She had been the one to avoid the whole talk of marriage and kids. And she had been the one to break it off, to say goodbye because she needed to get away and because it was she who couldn’t handle things. Just like her first week in LA, Ginny felt guilt tear into her. What kind of person does that? What kind of person hurts someone they love for their own selfish reasons?

Before she had the chance to allow her guilt to gnaw anymore at her psyche, she felt a strong arm around her shoulders pulling her in.

“Ginny, you’re not that girl you know? You did the right thing. You’re figuring your shit out before you get engaged… I wish my fiancé had been more like you,” said Todd reassuringly giving her shoulders one last squeeze before dropping his arm. She looked up at him thankful for the gesture. He smiled in return.

And for the first time since her departure from England, Ginny felt ok with having gone.


**********


Harry tiptoed out of his room, shutting the door softly behind him. The apartment was pitch black except for the gentle light coming from the moon as its beams seeped through the kitchen window and the patio’s back door.

Tonight, like so many others, he planned on sleeping on the couch. There were just too many memories in his bed and he simply couldn’t stand it. So like a kid sneaking to the cookie jar, Harry snuck off to his sanctuary. Ever since Paris, Harry felt odd knowing that Hermione was aware of his ‘habit’ and for some reason he just didn’t want her to know that he would again be sleeping on the couch that night.

Quietly, he crept into the living room with his pillow and comforter. It wasn’t a particularly chilly night but still Harry wore his usual cotton pajama pants and a dark grey t-shirt. Lying down on the sofa, he took off his glasses and carefully reaching over the arm rest he placed them on the side table before finally settling in.

In the darkness, Harry lay flat on his back staring up at the ceiling.

As much as he wanted sleep, he knew his mind would wander as it always did whenever he lay for rest. A while ago he had stopped trying to fight it and now was under the impression that every night he would just have to accept that he was doomed with a brain that did not understand the point of circadian rhythms.

So he let his mind roam knowing where it would go.

Hermione…

He thought about her all the time now, no matter what time of day. It was all very confusing for him. As hard as he tried to figure out why, he could not pinpoint exactly the drive behind it. Was it a crush? Did he have feelings for her? Was this just because he was alone now? Was it because they lived together and all of sudden they were close again like they used to be? He didn’t really know why she was always there, invading his mind.

The one person he would normally talk to about these things was Hermione. And he couldn’t. That was one of the most frustrating things about the entire situation. He wanted to tell her how badly he wanted to hold her, how his body seemed to drift towards her whenever she was around, how he just couldn’t stop thinking about her. But he knew that saying those things would cross a boundary. And he didn’t know what that would mean if he did cross it.

So he kept quiet. He hadn’t told her what was spinning around in his head. He also had failed to mention what Jean had said yet. He often wondered what it would be like if he did.

“But… ah… that dream waz never to ‘appen. She waz far too in love with you.”

Would she deny it and brush it aside? Would she blush and say yes she was? Harry closed his eyes as he felt his heart swell with the hope for the latter. A part of him was pretty sure he wasn’t ready for this, but then another part of him ached like it never had before. Just yesterday he had caught himself again sneaking glances at the stowed away paper in his desk drawer. That picture. That pair that he vaguely recognized standing in the middle of Diagon Alley. He watched it all replay over and over again all with the same nervous anticipation as the two grew closer and closer. The woman in that picture looked at him with such adoration, such love. He wanted her to be in love with him. And he didn’t know why.

A door creaked open off in the distance and Harry’s eyes snapped open. He heard the soft thud of footsteps across the floor towards the kitchen. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her, the one who had bewitched his thoughts. In the dark, she navigated her way around the kitchen getting a glass and then filling it with water. She gulped down the glass, washed it out, and then set it to dry in the rack before turning around to go back to bed. Her foot falls began shortly thereafter only to halt. She had seen him.

Even through the darkness of the night, she could make out the familiar Harry shaped lump on the sofa.

Harry felt his breath pause as she did. He wondered if he should feign sleep or if he should say something to announce that he was indeed up and awake just as she was. But Harry did not need to do either. With a puff of exhaled air and a shake of the head Hermione made her way over to the sofa. Harry wondered what she was planning on doing as she stood next to the couch towering over him. Then suddenly she lifted up the covers and shoved him a bit. “Scoot over.”

Without question, Harry turned to his side and scooted until his back was firmly imprinted into the cushions. Hermione laid down on her side facing him before pulling the covers back over them both.

He felt incredibly nervous with her so close to him. His entire nervous system fired rapidly as her feet brushed against his. And he had absolutely no idea where to put his outside arm so it was awkwardly resting on his side while his other one was tucked underneath the pillow that they now were both sharing.

“Hermione… what are you doing?” asked Harry in a whisper. He hadn’t the slightest clue why he felt he had to whisper, but he did. Maybe it was because of the night, maybe it was because they were so close to each other.

“Sleeping,” she whispered back, her eyes closed.

“Yes but why here?”

“I don’t like it that you sleep out here alone, Harry.” Her hand reached up and gently began stroking his hair, running her fingers through it. He was about to comment when softly she spoke, “Ssshhh… just go to sleep Harry.”

There should’ve been a moment where she dropped her hand, but it never came. Instead, her hand stayed and continued to soothingly roam in and out of his raven locks. Harry closed his eyes getting lost in her relaxing touch. Ever so slowly, he let his head dip down until his forehead was lightly pressed against hers. The gesture didn’t seem to bother her though. She didn’t move away. She only continued her ministrations.

Soon, his breathing matched hers.

He could feel his heartbeat slow and yet his mind was still racing, his neurons still hyper aware of her touch, his skin still dancing with her contact.

She seemed to sense he was still awake. Her whisper crept into the night’s stillness, “You really do have the most unruly hair.”

Harry opened his eyes. It took a moment to adjust to the lack of light, but he eventually was able to make out her face. He found her staring fixedly at her rogue hand as it sifted through the sides of his hair. “It adds to my boyish good looks, I hear.”

She scoffed at his comment mockingly, but a smirk was soon to follow. All the while she fingered his hair absent mindedly. “Ever considered chopping it?”

Harry chuckled quietly. “My Aunt Petunia has tried many times… it never works. It just grows back the way it was before. She used to chop it so short that I was very nearly bald, but then the next day it’d be back to normal… used to drive her mental.”

Hermione smiled at the thought. Her hand continued to rake tenderly through the hair that not even his Aunt Petunia could tame.

Her gaze left her hand and in her shyness moved to his face to see if her touching him was truly ok. But when her eyes met his she found him watching her with an intensity that she had never seen before. The moment their eyes locked her hand stopped. Time seemed to stop altogether.

Harry felt his fist clench in his nervousness, but his eyes never left hers. Not for one second. Not for one moment.

They were so close. And time ceased to exist. Everything ceased to exist. There was only him. There was only her and her hand now halted in his hair. Harry felt his mouth dry as he looked at her. He wanted to move closer. Something in him was telling him to inch closer to her. Something within him was saying that right now they just weren’t close enough. A part of him begged for his muscles to jumpstart into action. And yet another part of him screamed for his body to stay still lest he break the moment and ruin everything.

Hermione’s eyes flickered down to his lips. There it was again, that painful urge to lean just a little bit further in. She wanted to so badly. But she knew he wasn’t ready yet, she knew that it would only be her taking advantage of the situation and of him. So with all of her will power she closed her eyes, her only solution to stop looking into Harry’s. And she slowly let her hand fall from his face.

The moment her eyes shut, Harry knew he had lost her. But as her hand pulled away from him, his body reacted. His body chose for him. It was instinct or a gut reaction of some sort. In the milliseconds it took for Hermione’s hand to pull away from him, Harry instantly discovered how much he yearned for her touch and coincidentally how much he missed it. And in those milliseconds, the thought of her hand not touching him seemed far too terrible than anything else. So without thinking, without regard to past circumstances or future consequences, Harry reached up and grabbed her hand in his stopping her retreat. And as gently as she had ever done, Harry placed her palm on the side of his cheek back where it belonged.

Her eyes reopened to look at him with a furrowed brow and the most complex of gazes. Then just as she had done that night outside of the Hermit her thumb gently caressed his stubbly cheek in the tenderest of ways.

“Hermione…” He breathed her name.

That was all it took for her. Her name rolling off his tongue with longing and intensity. She couldn’t handle it. She finally broke.

She kissed him.

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