A Time to Choose
I get it. You choose him.
Those words went around and around Hermione's brain as she struggled to keep her emotions in check. She had been staring at the same spot on the page for the past twenty minutes, trying with all of her might not to be reduced to sobs in front of Harry. He had enough to worry about. His best friend had walked out and said all those nasty things….
But Harry told him to go.
Hermione had to admit there was a small part of her that resented Harry for telling Ron to go. Then again, she knew just how deeply wounded Harry was by what Ron had said. How true some of it was....that was academic. Ron knew full well how important this venture was. Ron being gone was hurting Harry and Hermione knew there was only one thing that could make this worse for Harry.
She could see it in the way he looked at her. The way he stared out of the corner of his eye every time she stood up or walked towards the tent flap.
The final straw would be for her to leave. To announce that Ron had been right and that this was a fool's venture and that she was going to leave him too. That would be the thing that would completely break Harry.
I get it. You choose him.
Why did he have to bring that into it? There they were on the run from the most dangerous and evil wizard of all time, attempting to hunt down objects tainted with Voldemort's very soul, and Ron went and made it about bloody relationships.
The truth was that his words hit much closer to home than she would have liked to admit. She was choosing Harry in a very real sense.
After all, she was still here and Ron wasn't.
But was this really about who her heart belonged to?
She was kidding herself to think otherwise. Ron was sensitive, but he was far from being stupid. If he made the accusation that she was choosing to stay with Harry because of some romantic relationship between the two of them, then he had good reason for doing so.
The truth, she hated to admit, was that he was right.
Before she had ever thought of Ron as more than her best friend, she had fallen in love with Harry. She had never been sure when it started. Maybe it had been at the tender age of eleven, when she had clutched him for dear life and told him there were more important things than books or cleverness.
Maybe it had been as she watched him drive off a horde of dementors to save her life and flew among the towers of Hogwarts on the back of Buckbeak. Maybe it had been during the Tri-Wizard tournament as she fretted day and night over keeping the green eyed boy alive. The only thing she knew for certain was that by the time she had followed Harry to the Department of Mysteries, she was deeply in love with him.
And that scared her.
She didn't think she could ever admit it to anyone, but the prospect of being in love with Harry was the most terrifying thing she had ever experienced. He was hunted by the foulest and most powerful evil wizard to have ever walked the earth. He was destined to face Voldemort and defeat him or die trying. He was the best friend she had ever had, she knew herself to be the best hope for keeping him alive, and the real crux of the matter was that he may not even feel the same way about her and may never love her as she loves him.
Every bit of it shook her to her core. Despite all of her Gryffindor courage, the thought of letting him know how she felt was just too daunting. She convinced herself that getting too close would cloud her judgement and that by staying as just friends she was helping herself keep him safe, but she knew deep down that the real reason why Harry could never know how she felt was that she would be too scared to face it.
So she turned to the only other boy with whom she could trust her heart.
She had long known that Ron fancied her. She knew probably before he himself even knew, and though their interactions usually involved fighting of some sort, she knew him to have qualities that she admired. He was brave and kind in his own way, as well as being a much more powerful wizard than he was ever given credit for.
Most importantly he was safe. Being with Ron did not come with the baggage or complications that Harry brought to his relationships.
And she had grown to love him too. Maybe that was the real problem. Not that she loved him, but that she had loved him and Harry. For even though she found she could give more and more of herself to Ron, it never measured up to what Harry seemed to already have.
There had been once, in a brief moment of clarity, when she had looked into her mirror and known right then that her divided heart did not bode well for the future. Yet she ignored it. She ignored it and while she did her best to prove to Ron that she loved him, she never could shake the devotion that she felt for Harry. In her naivety it had never crossed her mind that there would ever come a time when she would have to choose between the two.
But Ron had done it. Laid it all out in black and white. Either she went with him or stayed with Harry and her choice told Ron all he needed to know about where her heart truly resided.
I get it. You choose him.
Again and again she had cried out for him, begged him to come back. She had delayed departing from those woods in the crazy hope that he would come back. Every noise had drawn her gaze to the tent flap, hoping beyond hope that he would come walking through the door all apologies and regret. She had cried herself to sleep for the past week, broken hearted that the boy she had turned to had chosen to leave her.
The worst part was there was now nowhere for her to hide from Harry.
Ron had dragged her out into the open and left her there, declaring in front of God and everyone that he thought she loved Harry more than him. All of her fear had come rushing back. All of the reasons why she told herself it could never happen.
Harry had barely spoken to her since Ron had left. Was he thinking about this too?
Was he wondering if that was why she had decided to stay?
Was he blaming himself in some way for making Ron believe what Harry thinks is a lie?
Did he believe Ron?
Movement out of the corner of her eyes pulled Hermione out of her own mind. Harry strode over to a radio that was sitting across from her. As she watched him over the edge of her book he turned the volume up so that the music could be clearly heard. He took three of his long strides over to her and held out his hand.
The fool wanted to dance. Dance! As if they were an old married couple having a night in instead of teenaged fugitives who just watched their best friend walk out on them.
Never the less, she reached out and took his hand, deciding that him wanting to engage in whatever foolish desire had come over him was better than sitting down trying not to break down in front of him. She took his hands in hers and entwined their fingers together and he spun her around in rhythm with the music. She felt again the familiar fear, that being this close would remove what resolve she had left to stay with the choices she had made.
She looked into his green eyes and saw a spark of happiness that she hadn't seen in months dancing behind those round glasses. It was all so silly and childish and yet everything that she needed. She couldn't help but to laugh and smile as her head went onto his shoulder and her resolve began to dissolve and disappear.
This was why she loved him. Because he knew what she needed without even asking. Because just by being there and being Harry he was fulfilling her deepest desires. Because her heart beat not only to see him alive but to see him happy.
The music came to a stop and they stopped spinning and what surely couldn't have been longer than a second seemed to stretch into a vast eternity. He looked at her and she looked at him and his piercing emerald gaze seemed to lay bare whatever she had left to hide from him.
"Is it true?" his voice was barely a whisper.
She didn't have to ask to know what he meant. She didn't have any strength to try and hide from him anymore. What Ron had brought into the open was all but given away by the truth she knew must be radiating from her face. She loved Harry and there was no keeping it locked away anymore.
She had no intention of elaborating and was robbed the chance anyways by his lips crashing into hers. His hands brought her firmly against his lean frame as he hungrily dove after her lips again and again. Whatever resistance she might have had simply melted away as her hands roamed into his wild hair, fulfilling one of her longest held fantasies. It was her tongue that pressed against his lips and was immediately met with his. She hungrily tasted his sweetness and knew that she was hopelessly addicted already.
She had lost all sense of time and place. It might have been five minutes and it might have been five years that they stood there devouring one another. No fantasy that she had ever had matched up to the wonderful reality that was happening. She almost couldn't believe that it was real.
When their lips finally parted they looked at one another again. She felt tears she hadn't known she'd shed drying against her cheek and he wiped them away with his thumb. She looked again into his eyes and saw a contentment and peace that she had rarely seen there before. Only quidditch had ever seemed to wipe the burdens off his face in the past.
She felt a warm glow in her chest that refused to be dampened by the winter cold. Quidditch wasn't the only thing that could take those burdens away. Not anymore.
He smiled and it was his lopsided grin that made her laugh. She put her face into his chest and shed more tears as she simply laughed at how absurd this was. He wrapped his arms around her and planted kisses into her hair and she could feel his unbroken grin as he laughed along with her. Her sides began to hurt because of how hard she was laughing.
It was ludicrous. It was absolutely absurd and flew in the face of everything that either of them had known up to that point, but Hermione could no longer bring herself to care. The back of her mind tried in vain to remind her of the awful truth of Harry's connection to Voldemort and the hopelessness of her cause to keep him alive. She laughed in the face of her own logic and no longer cared anymore that the man in her arms was destined to die at the hands of his enemy.
She laughed because she could feel in the gentle thump of his heartbeat and the firm grip of his hands the promise that he would always find a way back to her.
She took a deep breath and Harry's subtle smell filled her senses. As she stood there in his arms, he exuded a calming presence that worked its way from her head to her toes. She felt her doubts slide away and her heart fill with a new conviction: that she couldn't have made a better choice than to stay here with the love of her life.
"I love you Harry."