The End of the Beginning

By Andrew Crawford

Drama / Romance

Chapter 42

The next day went about as well as Hermione could have hoped.

While neither her or Harry were calling themselves a couple yet, word had spread through the house like wildfire about their encounter in the park. Ron had simply smiled and said "I told you so." Aubrey had given them both a wink when she had left that night. Neither George nor Percy had seemed to care, past George taking the mickey out of Harry for showing up freshly mauled. Ginny had been quiet, but had told Hermione at dinner that she was happy for them. Bill and Fleur had left the day after, but not before Fleur had the chance to tell everyone who would listen that she had known all along that Harry and Hermione were meant to be. Charlie had rumpled Harry's hair and said he had seen it coming ever since Hermione had nearly jumped him after the first task of the Tri-Wizard tournament.

Mr. Weasley had quietly assured them that he was happy for them, though he had kept his peace around Molly aside from chastising her to "Let it go, dear."

Mrs. Weasley hadn't stopped pestering them as to how long they had known and if this was the real reason they had broken up with Ginny and Ron. While Harry had been truthful and said that it had been a factor, even if he hadn't known it at the time, Hermione insisted that her and Ron had nothing to do with Harry.

Mrs. Weasley didn't seem to buy it and resorted to pouting and ignoring them whenever she wasn't pestering them. While it was frustrating, it was much better than how Hermione pictured it being.

Hermione was tucked away in her favorite reading spot in Ron's window when Harry found her after dinner.

"Hiding from Mrs. Weasley?" He smiled, taking a seat on the floor next to her.

"That and trying to get some fun reading in before schoolwork sets in again." She placed her bookmark and shut the book.

"What's that?"

"Bram Stoker's "Dracula", it's a muggle novel about a Transylvanian vampire." She faced the book cover towards Harry.

"Sounds interesting."

"Maybe I'll let you borrow it when I'm done." Hermione slid from the window sill to sit next to Harry. "You're not mad about me not wanting to be "together" just yet are you?"

Harry shook his head. "Of course not. You have a good reason."

"I just feel like I'm leaving you waiting."

"Hermione, you're fresh off of a relationship and so am I. Besides, I'm not going anywhere." He reached down and took her hand. Hermione couldn't help but smile.

"That's good to know." She leaned her head against his shoulder. She truly wasn't ready for the labels of a relationship, but leaning against him and knowing that it was really going to happen made her light headed.

"Can I ask you something Hermione?" Harry squeezed her hand.

"Of course Harry."

"Why did you try to hide the way you felt about me?"

Hermione frowned. "I already told you that I was scared. I was scared that loving you would get us both killed. I was scared that Ron wouldn't want to be our friend anymore. Most importantly Harry, I was scared that you would never feel the same way about me."

Harry's eyes were wide with curiosity. Hermione laughed, "I know, not very Gryffindor-like of me at all to be so afraid and to let that fear keep me from being with you."

"I don't think any lesser of you." Harry replied quietly. "To be honest I never thought you could feel that way about me. I always thought that you loved me more like a brother or something."

"I remember Ron telling me you said that." Hermione felt her face broaden into a grin, "But Harry, how could two only children know anything of what that's like?"

Harry chuckled, "I guess you have a point. Ron mentioned one time that you told him that you fancied me, back in fifth year?"

"I did, but I told him that I was over it."

"How did that even come up?" Harry raised an eyebrow.

"When we were trading stories later that summer about the Department of Mysteries, I guess there was something about the way I talked about you that gave it away to him. So he asked and I told him the truth." Harry nodded his head, Hermione felt her smile falter. "Harry, why couldn't I have just faced my fear? We could have had all this time."

Harry shook his head. "It's not that simple Hermione. I knew you were important to me, but remember I didn't think you would ever think of me as anything more than your best friend. I was convinced that you and Ron were going to be together and quite honestly I never thought…"

"You would survive the war." Hermione finished for him. Harry nodded. "But you didn't know about the horcrux inside of you until…"

"I was a teenager going against the most powerful dark wizard who ever lived. I knew I would face him and hopefully kill him, but I never really thought about life afterwards because I didn't think there would be one. That's why…"

"You broke it off with Ginny." She finished again. The two sat in silence for a moment, both of them looking at their feet. Harry broke the silence with a laugh. "What is so funny Harry?"

"You said yesterday you loved me from the start right?"

"Yes."

"I finally get what happened in the potion puzzle room in first year, remember? You gave me a hug and said there were more important things?" Harry grinned.

Hermione felt herself blush. "Yes and I purposely withheld a word if you remember."

"I do, you said "…friendship, bravery, and…" and you were going to say "love" weren't you?"

"I was, but I was scared. I was also eleven, so I wasn't even sure what that meant."

"Is that hindsight talking?"

"Maybe." Hermione shrugged. Harry was looking fondly at her. "What?"

"I'm just realizing how lucky I am. That's all."

"Oh stop." Hermione felt the heat rise in her cheeks again.

"Seriously." Harry cupped her chin and planted a gentle kiss on her lips. Hermione felt goosebumps climb up her neck and heat rising in an altogether different place.

"Harry, if we're going to do that more often then I'm going to have a hard time with this whole "not together" thing." Hermione said shakily as a brief wooziness came over her.

"That's the plan." And that stupid lopsided grin of his that she loved so much came bursting over his face. She couldn't help herself and leaned in to give him a kiss of her own. Her chest felt like it might explode from the joy she felt bubbling up inside of her. She had only just put her lips on his when her face burst into a grin against his chin and she couldn't suppress the laughter that came rolling over her. She could feel his face still stretched into a smile.

"What's gotten into you?" He asked through his own laughter.

She moved her face until their noses where touching and she was peering directly into his dilated eyes. "I'm just so ridiculously happy."

"I'm happy too."

"I know what we said, but how could we have possibly missed this all these years? I thought we were supposed to be brilliant?"

Harry laughed. "You were always the brilliant one, why don't you tell me?" Hermione closed her eyes and settled her head against his neck, breathing deeply his masculine scent.

"Well I suppose this is something I should get used to." A chuckling voice came from the doorway. Ron was leaned against the doorframe. "And to answer your question Hermione you were both thick as a troll to have not cottoned on sooner."

Hermione and Harry both untangled themselves and stood to their feet, Ron laughing again. "Just as long as you both have your clothes on anytime I run across you we'll be alright."

"Ron!" Hermione felt herself go scarlet.

"Relax, I'm joking." Ron settled himself onto his bed. "Though this is my room, so may I suggest some more private snogging spots?"

"Sorry mate." Harry mumbled.

"It's nothing. It really is about time you two got your heads out of your arse and got together."

"We're not really together." Harry cleared his throat.

"Well whatever it is you want to call it, it's about time." Ron waved his hand airily.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Harry asked worriedly.

"Of course mate. I've known for ages about Hermione and had my suspicions about you. We all got here and none of us are really worse for wear. I'll call that a win any day."

"What about Ginny?" Harry sounded unconvinced.

"She'll be okay. She's upset, naturally, but she's cottoning on like I once did."

"What do you mean by that?" Hermione interjected.

Ron smiled. "Oh come off it Hermione, we talked about this. I knew the instant you offered to follow him to your death that you loved Harry more than me. We may have been stubborn and thought we could make it work, but if you and I were both honest we knew all along that you and Harry was what was best for everyone. It finally sunk in for me somewhere between Australia and that night at the party."

Hermione felt prickling behind her eyes. "Oh, Ron…"

"I'm happy Hermione." Ron held up his hand. "I'm honestly happier than I've ever been. My two best friends are happy and I'm lucky enough to have the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world. No offense."

Hermione smiled. "None taken."

There was an awkward pause before Ron dramatically yawned. "Well kids I think it's time for me to call it a night so why don't you love birds go find a quiet broom closet?"

Harry took Hermione's hand and led her to the door, pausing briefly to turn back towards her. He gave her an exaggerated grin and a wink. "Maybe we'll do just that."

The door shut behind them to Ron faking gagging noises into his pillow.

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