Third Time's The Charm
Harry slammed the door of his room on their flat. He wanted to destroy any object to displace his anger but settled on banging his curled up fists into his closet. Heaving deep breaths, he closed his eyes for a minute, trying to calm himself down.
He abruptly opened his eyes when he heard Hermione's faint sobbing. From the looks of it, she was still at the stairs where he left her after their fight. Ron was still at the party, enjoying his time with their other friends. Guilt swiftly passed through him as he realized she wasn't able to when she followed him back here. Yet again.
Exiting his room, he climbed down the stairs as quietly as he could but the sound of his footsteps gave him away. When he turned at the corner, he stopped and just stared at her back, wishing it didn't stiffen like it did when she felt his presence.
Silence engulfed them for a couple of minutes until she whispered, voice breaking, "Why are you always mad at me after the Winter Ball, Harry?"
He moved down warily and decided to sit a few steps behind her.
"I'm not mad at you."
"But why," she swallowed tightly, "why do we always end up having an argument every time there's a ball at the Ministry?"
"It's not you, Hermione. It's…" he paused, not wanting to continue further.
Hermione sensed the hesitance in his voice and turned to look at him. "What?"
He avoided her eyes. "Look, I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"Somehow I doubt that. It's been happening for two consecutive years now, Harry. It has never happened before. Why? And I'm not even sure why we were arguing in the first place… You just storm away from me when I try to approach you and… Is there something you need to tell me?"
"Drop it, Hermione. You wouldn't understand."
"Then let me understand! Tell me what's bothering you!" she cried.
Harry suddenly faced her with fierceness in his eyes. "You want me to tell you? Fine, I'll tell you," he blurted out. "I hate it when there are men other than Ron and I surrounding you at every bloody Ministry Ball we have to go to and you don't mind them doing it. They're flirting with you if you didn't notice!"
"No," Hermione frowned, shaking her head. "I don't –"
"Yes, I know you don't notice it but I do and it freaks the hell out of me!" he shouted in agitation. "Like I want to hex each and every single one of them!"
Her mouth dropped open. "It – it freaks the hell out of you?"
This seemed to bring Harry back to reality. "Never mind, Hermione," he muttered and stood up. "We should head to bed. Ron'll be here any minute."
He retreated back to his room but as he came to the landing, he heard her say softly but determinedly, "You can't escape this forever, Harry. We'll sort this out one way or another."
Hermione couldn't sleep even if she forced herself to. She went back down to the 'scene of the incident' and sat on the stairs, contemplating on what happened earlier. Suddenly, Crookshanks appeared at her feet, purring softly. This made her smile; he must have sensed the sadness emanating from her. She lifted him up into her lap and cuddled the half-cat, half-kneazle.
She snapped her head towards the door when she heard it opening. Ron came staggering in, obviously tipsy.
"Hermione!" he called jovially, spotting her. "What are you doing there?"
She gave him a small smile and he immediately noticed that her smile didn't reach her eyes.
"Did you two fight again or –? Oh!" exclaimed Ron excitedly, causing Hermione to raise her eyebrows. "Did he finally confess to you and…" he frowned, not understanding why Hermione was alone when they should be out celebrating.
Hermione frowned, too. She stood up slowly, carrying Crookshanks with her. As she approached Ron, he saw that her eyes were swollen and sobered up in an instant. He glanced down at Crookshanks, becoming worried as comprehension dawned on him.
"I, er, said something I shouldn't have, didn't I?" he mumbled to himself.
"What exactly did you mean by 'did he finally confessed to me'?"
"What?" said Ron, laughing nervously. "I never said anything like that, Hermione…"
"You just said it!" accused Hermione.
"I – I," stuttered Ron, slapping himself mentally. "I'm exhausted, 'Mione. Good night!" he told her and immediately made a beeline for the stairs.
Hermione spun around. "Ron," she pleaded, "I need answers."
Ron swallowed nervously. After some time, he turned to her. "I can't give that to you."
"But you know something," she insisted.
Ron sighed heavily. He certainly couldn't get out of this one. Why must he slip after all this time of being a sort-of ignorant?
"What do you want to know?" he asked, defeated.
Hermione took a deep breath. "Tonight," she explained, "Harry and I fought again. Do you know why?"
"What do you think?"
"Well, he told me that he didn't want any other guys surrounding me except you and him…"
Ron nodded a few times.
Hermione continued. "But… why?" She looked at her friend questioningly.
"Is that all he said?"
"No. He – he also told me that…" she trailed off.
"That?" Ron pressed.
"He also told me that whenever that happens, it freaks the hell out of him."
Ron nodded thoughtfully. "Did that surprise you?"
"Yes. No. A little bit… It's just that… He wasn't like that before."
Ron seemed to be amused. "Really?"
"Yes, it just started two years ago," said Hermione, remembering last year's awful fight vividly.
"So you noticed, too."
Hermione's forehead creased. "Well?"
"I told you to give me answers. Where are they?" she demanded.
"Hang on, you do know Harry has feelings for you, right?" asked Ron.
Shock registered on Hermione's face. "No… I don't."
"For someone who knows everything, you sure are daft," Ron commented.
"You're not helping."
"You are daft," he pointed out.
"Well then, how am I supposed to know if he never said a word about it!" groaned Hermione, bringing her hands to her face. In between their conversation, Crookshanks leapt out of Hermione's hold on him and ran upstairs.
Ron came closer to Hermione and placed a hand on her shoulder. "All I can tell you is that Harry started to have feelings for you three years ago. It was on that same annual Winter Ball that we went to today. Well, we believe he started to realize he has feelings for you that was buried deep within him on that particular ball but –"
"We?" Hermione interrupted once she caught what he was saying, bringing her hands down.
"Yes, we – Ginny, Luna, Neville, Dean, Seamus, Lavender, Parvati – even Malfoy knows it, too!"
"So you're telling me I'm the only one who didn't see all of this?" said Hermione, her hands going to her hips.
"Basically," shrugged Ron. "But you did notice Harry acting strange on last year's Winter Ball," he said, trying to console her. "Though to be honest, we thought you were going to see right through his act of normalcy after a week. But you didn't and – well, the rest is history."
Hermione felt like her head was about to explode. She couldn't grasp all of this information being given to her. Why does she have to learn everything this way? She wanted to collapse into anything; anything to support her. Ron, who was watching her carefully, took out his wand and conjured a stool. She smiled at him gratefully as she sat down on it.
"Why didn't he tell me?" she asked quietly, eyes downcast.
"Er, I think he was scared."
She looked up at him. "Why would he be scared?"
"Well, for one, will you reciprocate his feelings if he told you?" argued Ron.
Hermione opened her mouth to retort but closed them quickly. She needed to talk to Harry. Now.
She stood up and walked briskly towards the stairs, leaving Ron standing in the foyer.
"Oh, no, no, wait," said Ron, following her and grabbing her arm to stop her. "You can't do it tonight. From what you've told me, he practically bared his heart out to you. He needs to be alone, Hermione. Give it a few days."
She tried to jerk her arm out of his grasp. "Let go, Ron."
"Hermione," he said sternly. "If you go barging in his room right now, you'll just make the situation worse. Both of you need to settle your thoughts and emotions first."
She stopped struggling. "You're right," she sighed. "I'll just talk to him tomorrow."
Ron's eyes widened. "What? I –"
"You know, this is the first time you've given an advice to which I wholly agreed," she observed.
"Hey!" he mock-cried, making her laugh lightly as they climb up the stairs and into their respective bedrooms.
Hermione woke up with a start; she grabbed her watch from the bedside table and peeked from one eye. 8:30 am. Her eyes suddenly opened wide and she sat up straight, earning a slight dizziness and a blurry vision. She closed her eyes tight and reached out a hand to her forehead as she willed the dizziness to dissipate.
She looked at her watch again. 8:35 am. Oh, no. Oh, no. Harry's already gone to the Ministry. How will she be able to talk to him now?
Then it hit her. Sunday. It's a Sunday. She groaned aloud. She panicked for nothing. On a positive side, she can confront him while Ron's still asleep. No one will hear or bother them. She just hope he isn't sleeping in late, too.
Hermione slid out of her bed and went to the bathroom to change clothes and brush her teeth. She was done within 5 minutes but twenty minutes later, she was still out in the hallway, changing her mind every few seconds on whether to knock on Harry's door or not.
Her conversation with Ron flooded her mind. Maybe he's right; maybe they do need a few days to clear their heads. She shook her head roughly. No, what kind of a Gryffindor is she if she can't even brave this? Besides, it's not as if it would end badly…
She straightened her clothes and took a deep breath. She held her hand up and knocked on the door. A full minute has passed and she's still standing outside with no Harry opening for her.
She frowned. He's not a heavy sleeper; he should have heard the knock. Something must have happened. In a rush, she raised her wand, ready to perform the unlocking spell, when she unconsciously turned the doorknob and realized that it wasn't locked.
Opening the door slightly, Hermione peered inside to check if he's still asleep. No body in sight. She opened the door wide and thought of checking his bathroom when she saw him: out in the balcony.
She crossed the room towards him silently and paused by the balcony's door, watching his back. He could fool anyone with his stance but not her. She knew he's troubled by the way his shoulders were slumped, by the way his head were bent lower than normal while still managing to look up at the morning sky, and by the faraway look in his eyes even if she can't see them. And she knew – she knew it was her fault.
Hermione couldn't take it anymore after he released a heavy and – she noted – a sad sigh.
"Did you sleep well?" she asked softly, stepping forward.
Harry's head turned so fast he was surprised it didn't come off of his body. He just stared at her until she got to his side and placed her arms over the railing, never looking at him. He returned his gaze on the sky. "I wasn't able to sleep, actually."
Hermione nodded but didn't say anything.
"You're up early for a Sunday," he observed.
"I thought it was a weekday."
"Ah," he chuckled. "I bet you panicked when you saw the time."
"Yeah," she smiled. "But for a different reason." She became serious, then. "Harry, we need to talk."
Harry groaned. "I know you said we're going to talk about it but I didn't know it's going to happen the next day."
"Not today, Hermione. Please. I just - not today. I can't go through this again."
She looked at him. "Stop being stubborn, Harry. Running away wouldn't solve it."
"And facing it would?" he snapped. "I'm sorry but no. We can talk about this another time," he said, turning away from her to return back to his room. He was almost at the door when he heard Hermione speak.
"You aren't walking away from me again," she said and flicked her wand at the door, shutting it close.
Harry jiggled the knob and tried opening it but it was locked tight. "Hermione!" he cried, frustrated.
Hermione tucked her wand back to her pocket. "Now, where were we?" she asked nonchalantly, turning to face outside again.
Harry grumbled incoherently and returned to her side.
"You're lucky I don't have my wand with me."
"An Auror? Without a wand by his side?" said Hermione, sounding scandalized. "What would Kingsley say?"
"Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't mind. I'm with you, anyway. The brightest witch of her age can protect me," he said lightly.
"Well, not exactly the brightest…" she mumbled.
Harry didn't comment on that last one. He was focused on staring into the vast skyline and maybe deciphering figures out of the clouds.
Hermione tried to start the impending conversation. "So, you told me you were freaked out when men are all over me." Silence. She tried again. "Ron and I had a talk last night." Still, silence answered her. She sighed. "He told me a few things about you…"
This elicited a response. He glanced sideways at her. "Ron… told you?" he said throatily. He looked down at the pavement below them. "I will kill Ron later," he muttered.
"Care to explain?"
"What did he tell you?"
"Just a few vague things… Why didn't you tell me?"
"I – what?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" she repeated, looking at him.
Harry gritted his teeth. "It's not meant for you to know them, Hermione. It's supposed to be a secret and I plan to keep it that way," he said. "Ron and his big mouth."
"You want to keep it from me? Until when? Forever?"
"Yes! Until it goes away. If that takes till forever, then forever it is."
"Why?" she asked him, hurt and confused. "Why would you want it to go away?"
"Because – because I know you can never see me in that light. I don't want you to feel pressured that you need to return my feelings just because I'm your best friend."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "You jumped to that conclusion without trying to know my feelings?"
"Okay," Harry huffed, looking back at her. "So, tell me, what are your feelings right now for me?" he challenged.
"I know how I feel. I want to know yours first," she replied briskly.
"You already know that, Hermione."
"No. Actually, I don't. You keep on dodging it by explaining little details surrounding how you're really feeling about me."
He raised his eyebrows. "Ron didn't tell you anything about it? Seriously?"
"Well, he did." She looked up at the sky again. "He told me you like me."
"Oh, well… He's wrong."
Hermione was taken aback. "He is?" She stared at him with wide eyes.
"Yes. I don't like you."
She was gripping the railing tightly. Her heart constricted painfully and she wanted to disappear from his sight. They've got it all wrong; Ron misunderstood everything.
Harry turned sideways to face her. "I don't like you," he paused, "I think I'm in love with you. No," he shook his head. "I'm sure I'm in love with you."
Hermione bit her lip. She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. It's a bit cheesy but romantic in his own little way.
"So? What now? If you're going to reject me, make it fast 'cause I really don't want to prolong the agony any further and maybe we can just forget all about this 'cause I don't want our 7 years of friendship to go to waste and I'm sure –"
He's rambling. Hermione knew she needed to stop it. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. That'll do the trick.
Harry's eyes were wide as plates when he felt Hermione's soft lips on his. He hasn't completely absorbed what was happening when she pulled back. He blinked several times. "Did you just –?"
"Yeah," she answered quickly, blushing.
She cut him off. "I told you I know how I feel. I just wanted to make sure what you're feeling is real and not just a figment of Ron's imagination.
"I think I've known my feelings for you for a long time. I was just blind not to see it as quickly as you had. Maybe, I was also scared to admit that there might be something more between us. Afraid that it'll ruin our friendship when we cross that line."
Harry suppressed a grin. "So what are you trying to say?"
Hermione lifted her head and met his eyes. "What I'm trying to say is…" She took a deep breath and smiled. "I love you, Harry Potter. Always have, always will."
He pouted. "I know you love me. You love Ron, too."
"No!" gasped Hermione. "Not like that! I don't… just love you. I'm in love with you, too. I'm – Harry!" she scolded, noticing the glint in his eyes.
Harry was grinning like a mad man. "I was just kidding. I know what you meant," he said teasingly. "Er, can we continue the short kiss you started a while ago?"
Hermione laughed lightly. "I guess we can."
Harry moved forward and closed the gap between them. His heart was beating fast, excited to have their first – or second – kiss officially as a couple. He was mere millimeters apart from Hermione's face when someone came into the room.
"Finally!" shouted Ron, causing Harry and Hermione to jump at his voice. "It's time you came to your senses. Both of you."
"You really have great timing, mate," said Harry sarcastically. Hermione laughed, shaking her head and wrapping her arms around his waist while he placed his around her shoulders.
"Oh, come on," Ron called, ushering them out. "Let's go out and celebrate! We need to call Ginny and the others."
Once they were in the hallway with Ron leading the way, Hermione turned to Harry and whispered, "You're not going to kill him now, are you?"
"Of course, I'm still going to," he whispered back. When she raised her eyebrows at him, he added, "Because of the interruption he made."
Hermione smiled mischievously and nodded, looking back at their friend. "I certainly agree."
It's a success! Finally, they're together! Those sleepless nights paid off. We're going out to celebrate their newfound relationship. Of course, you're included. I'm owling the others, too. Meet us at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. It could continue until night time. Or not. Our couple might need some time alone.
PS. I interrupted them, you know. They thought I didn't know what was happening between them when I barged in into Harry's room but I planned it on purpose! I just played innocently. You know what to do later.
A/N:There. I'm not really sure about the confrontation scene, though. And how Ron entered the picture… lol. Send me reviews? xoxo