“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.”
Hermione gasped in awe at the hall around her. The Ministry of Magic’s grand atrium was sparkling. Snow fell from a magical ceiling which opened up into the winter night. She could see the bright moon and the flickering stars dotting the dark sky. Large chandeliers floated in place and dripped with crystal icicles which illuminated the place in dazzling light. Tall fir trees lined the circumference of the hall with freshly fallen snow on their branches. Round tables covered in white cloth were arranged in a round leaving the middle empty for a dance floor. A large bouquet of white roses, amaryllis, and carnations sprouted from the centre of each table. The largest fir tree of all stood smack in the middle of the hall and was decorated with Christmas ornaments and silver and gold garlands. A shining golden star was at its pinnacle.
She felt as though as she had stepped into a winter wonderland. There was even snow underfoot though she felt no colder now than she did at home.
I love magic , Hermione thought, and her eyes scanned the crowd for one particular person. Most of the guests were already on the dance floor, the tables standing empty after being abandoned since the dinner service had ended. Hermione had missed the first half of the ball due to a Christmas Eve feast at her parents’, but she knew she would have still gone anyway even if she was only there for the last five minutes.
She couldn’t miss the ball for she couldn’t miss seeing him .
Her eyes scanned the crowd, passing over the colourful ensembles of the women and the stark dress robes of the men. People were swaying and dancing as a live band played entertained with the latest music. She stood by the entrance of the hall, her head sweeping from left to right and looking for any signs of the familiar black hair and those bright green eyes.
Harry had been away on a mission for the last month and his latest owl only said that he would see her at the ball. She missed her best friend dearly and was eager to see him. She surveyed the crowd again. There was Madam Bones talking to her boss, Head Unspeakable Gareth Greengrass. When they noticed her gaze, they gave a smile and a wave. Amongst the people dancing she spied Neville. He looked very handsome in his dress robes and in his arms was… Luna? Hermione smiled when she saw the pair. It seemed like Neville finally got the courage to ask the magizoologist out on a date. Her eyes continued searching until she was looking at the far end of the atrium. She spotted Ron with his bright red hair along with Lavender in a beautiful gown the colour of her namesake and…
She breathed. There he was, the person she was looking for. She immediately knew it was him and smiled when she saw the figure run a hand through his messy, black hair. She saw as his head tilted back in a laugh at something the couple said.
She felt the pull and the next second she was heading in their direction. The crystal heels her mum told her to wear carried her across the hall. She nimbly avoided the bodies around her, said hi to those who greeted her, and told the men who approached her that she would try and save them a dance later just to get them out of her way. Her eyes never wavered from his form.
She felt the tug and like a magnet drawn towards its opposite, she walked towards him.
He was listening to Ron and Lavender’s story about their latest holiday to Spain and barked out a laugh when Ron told him his mishap over some Spanish words. He ran a hand through his hair and grinned at the couple. Suddenly, as if a switch had been turned on, he became aware that someone was watching him and he looked at her direction.
He completely missed the next part of Ron’s story for he couldn’t take his eyes away from the vision in white. He watched Hermione as she walked towards them, towards him , in a stunning snow-white gown. It was a simple floor-length dress with a high slit up one thigh. The long sleeves hung low on her shoulders and Harry could see the necklace he had given her two years ago resting against her collar bones. He gulped when he saw the dangerously high crystal sandals on her feet. Her brown curls cascaded over one shoulder and a dazzling smile were on her lips.
He remembered murmuring something to Ron and Lavender before he was walking towards her. He gravitated to her like a moth to a flame. He felt the invisible pull of her presence draw him ever closer and he followed with no regret.
He murmured replies to the people who blocked his path, his eyes never once leaving hers from across the dance floor. He smiled respectfully but continued along when some of the higher-ranking members of the Auror Office congratulated him on the latest mission. He had somewhere to be, someone to see, and he couldn’t wait.
There was only a couple of feet between them now and he watched her smile drop from her face. With a gasp, Hermione rushed forward and suddenly she was in his arms with her hand tenderly caressing his cheek.
“Oh, Harry!” Hermione cried. “What happened to you?” She asked in distraught. She was finally able to see the bruise on his cheek and the cut on his jaw. The fact that he had gotten thinner since the last time she had seen him worried her as well. Her hand shakily touched his cheek and lightly traced the pattern of the bruise.
He took hold of her hand and kissed her fingers. Hermione breathed at the touch and sighed when he wrapped her arm around his waist and brought her close once again. Harry buried his face into her curls and felt himself ease.
His last assignment was, to put it simply, really fucking difficult. There were times when he felt that he wouldn't be able to return home to London and that thought frightened him. How could he be such a terrible godfather to Teddy? How could he miss Ron’s wedding where he was supposed to be the Best Man? How could he… how could he leave Hermione behind?
During his undercover stint as one of the highest-ranking members of a wizard smuggling ring, Harry found himself thinking a lot about the answers to those questions. At least his will had been signed, sealed, and delivered to his lawyer. There would be no question about the guardianship of Teddy and how his many assets would be divided. But the more he thought about it the more Harry realized he really didn't want to die. There were so many things he didn't get to do. There were so many things he had to live for.
And one such reason to live was to finally tell her how he truly felt.
That thought kept him up at night.
How could he die and not tell Hermione everything ?
How could he die and not tell her he loved her?
She would never know, and that idea terrified him more than her possible reaction to his confession.
The witch fussed over him and he smiled. She was agitated in his arms, remarking over and over again that she would do bodily harm to Kingsley Shacklebolt, Head Auror, for sending him somewhere dangerous. She cupped his cheek and looked up into his eyes.
“Are you okay?” She whispered, her eyes projecting worry and concern.
With the snow falling around them, Harry took hold of her hands and gave her a dazzling smile.
“I’m okay, Hermione,” he said softly. She breathed a sigh of relief and gave him a small smile in return. “But I need to tell you something.”
“What is it?” She asked and her brows furrowed in question.
The soft melody of an acoustic version of It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year started to play in the background. Harry drew her into his embrace and started to sway to the music. Hermione wordlessly wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest.
“I realized something when I was away on my mission,” Harry whispered into her ear. She nodded, prompting him to continue. “I really didn't like what I was doing. I don't like being in that dangerous position risking my life when… when I have so many people waiting at home for me,” he said. Hermione looked up at him with questioning eyes. “I told Shacklebolt I was quitting,” he remarked.
Hermione gasped and Harry barked out a small laugh. “Yeah, that was his reaction too. He begged me to stay and I said I would only do that if I don’t have to go on those assignments anymore. He agreed… and gave me a promotion.”
Her eyes widened and her mouth gaped. Harry found himself smiling at her reaction. She was always so invested in his stories - so invested in him - and he greatly appreciated that. “What does this mean, Harry?” She asked when she had processed what he said.
He winked at her playfully. “I guess it means I’ll be staying at the Ministry a little while longer. And I guess it means that I’ll be home a lot more too.”
Hermione grinned at him then, her eyes sparkling. “I know a little boy who will be very happy to hear that,” she remarked.
Harry pulled her closer and rested his cheek against her curls. “He’s one of the reasons, you know? I should be there for Teddy. I should be more present. I can’t… I can’t even imagine what he’d go through if one day... I don’t come home. I can’t do the dangerous assignments anymore. It’s unfair to him.”
She sighed and he felt her nod. “I know,” she said gently.
Harry closed his eyes briefly and his grip on her tightened. “He’s not the only one,” he whispered.
There was movement and suddenly he was looking at her brown eyes. They were laced with confusion as she looked towards him. The music in the background had changed but he couldn’t decipher what it was. He didn’t really care either as he carefully considered his next words.
“Being present for Teddy wasn’t my only reason,” he clarified. Their swaying stopped and they stood there in each other’s arms. “When I was away, I couldn’t… I couldn’t stop thinking about you .”
Hermione’s eyes widened at his words and Harry continued on. “There were times when I thought I was going to die and that really pissed me off since… I wouldn’t be able to tell you how I feel.”
She gasped and her grip around his waist tightened. “What are you saying, Harry?” She asked.
Harry closed his eyes and engulfed her in an embrace. He moulded his body against hers and relished in her warmth and in her softness. There, in her arms, was his home. He breathed and told her the words he had been holding on to for years.
“ I love you , Hermione,” he confessed. She completely stilled in his arms but Harry trudged on. “I’ve loved you for years . I’ve loved you since we were kids . You’re the reason I do so well at my job because you’re the reason I want to keep coming home. I just… I thought you should know.”
Harry closed his eyes and waited for her reply. It felt like he waited for an eternity until he felt her soft hands on his cheeks. He opened his eyes as she tilted his head downwards.
She was glowing. Her face was beaming with a bright smile and her eyes were sparkling with joy. He didn’t get another word in because at that moment she kissed him.
In the middle of the dance floor amidst everyone in the Ministry; as the clock chimed that it was midnight and Christmas Eve turned to Christmas Day; Hermione Granger kissed Harry Potter. Her arms snaked around his head and her hands tangled in his hair. His arms circled her waist and drew her even closer. Their eyes were closed that they didn’t see the stunned looks of everyone around them. They didn’t see Ron’s sly grin and Luna’s dreamy sigh. They most certainly didn’t see the flash of a camera as Rita Skeeter’s magical pen furiously scribbled on its notepad.
Nor did they care. Because at that moment, all that mattered was the new understanding between the two of them. All that mattered was this new promise which they have promptly sealed with a kiss.
When they broke apart, Harry laid his forehead against hers and nuzzled her nose with his. “So,” he whispered with upturned lips. “What do you have to say to what I’ve just confessed?”
As the magical snow fell around them, Hermione smiled and said the words he had longed to hear for so long.
“I love you too, Harry.”