Hermione stepped through the door on the seventh floor and stopped. She had never thought to transform the Room into the common room. She pouted slightly. It would have been the perfect way to get some peace and quiet reading time without fighting for her favorite seat in front of the fire.
She walked in and practically melted into the seat. Mmmm! Just as comfy.
She shrieks, nearly jumping out of her skin and actually jumping off of the couch as the soft whisper reaches her ears. She whirls to see a rippling distortion vanish into the pockets of…
“Harry James Potter!” Her grinning best friend.
As her heart starts to calm from the staccato rhythm, she takes him in and her pulse races again.
He isn’t dressed in Hogwarts robes. No, he was dressed in a navy-blue dress shirt with silvery tracings that are clearly magical and black dress pants. The shirt stretches across the muscles he’s built up in Quidditch in the most delicious way she’s ever seen and oh god…
She employs every ounce of will she has to keep from whimpering when she sees the inches of muscled pectorals visible behind the unfastened top two buttons; and then the lean, muscled forearms below the rolled sleeves…
‘Control yourself Granger. That’s your best mate you’re drooling over.’
She shakes her head slightly and looks at Harry again. She quickly flicks her eyes away from his because the Geneva Convention needs to outlaw those orbs as weapons of mass destruction.
“Did you have any reason for calling me here other than indulging in your Marauder side, Harry?”
She must bite her tongue when he grins at her.
Okay… that, combined with the eyes, was the WMD.
“Sorry, Mia. Couldn’t resist.”
She rolls her eyes. Ever since Sirius’ passing and after Tonks had locked Remus and Harry into the Burrow’s living room to ensure they talked, Harry had finally started acting a little more like the teenager he was. She had it on good authority that Snape’s face at the first mass school prank the week before Halloween was fueling a good chunk of the DA’s Patroni – even hers.
“Well?” she questions.
His grin dims to a smile, but his eyes become more intense.
The change somehow contrives to be even more dangerous for her heart rate and respiration.
“Well, Mia. I’ve been doing some thinking. No ‘dangerous’ comments please.”
He mockingly glares at her as she clicks her mouth shut and pouts at him a little.
“Its actually been hovering in the back of my head since the Ministry and after I talked to Remus, it started to… come forward I guess. Then, something Professor Dumbledore said in one of our sessions helped me… figure it out? Realise? Yeah, realise it.” Hermione frowned, as the levity left the room and only a slight… tension remained in the air.
“What is it, Harry? Did you figure something out about Voldemort?”
Her mind raced as she tried to figure out what it could have been. He smiled.
“I know that look. Mia, honey, I love your beautiful mind, but it does not have anything to do with Tommy-boy. Relax and come back before you get buried in your own thoughts.”
She starts as her train of thought falls of a cliff and into a crevice.
‘Did he just-? Honey? Beautiful-? He’s just exaggerating, Granger. Stop fantasizing and pay attention.’
She curses herself for stuttering. But those eyes and calling her ‘Honey’ has scrambled her for a bit.
“What is it then?”
“Technically, it does have a little to do with Tom. After the last session, I couldn’t help but point out that he and I lived eerily similar lives. Orphans with… a less than pleasant upbringing who viewed Hogwarts as their true home.”
Hermione’s jaw drops. Then her brain engages, and her mouth opens, preparing to knock some sense into her idiot best friend who had clearly been hit by too many bludgers in practice. She stopped when he held up a hand.
“Don’t bother. Dumbledore pretty much read me the riot act after I said that. But something he said during that is why we’re here today.”
Hermione frowned as she reluctantly subsided. If Dumbledore had talked to him, she didn’t have to beat him over the head about it, but she would have to keep a close eye on him for the next few weeks. That kind of thinking needed to be nipped in the bud and fast. She folded her arms and looked at him expectantly. Where was this going?
“Last year, after the Prophecy, Dumbledore told me that Tom couldn’t stand the feeling of love. The last session, he explained that since Tom was born under a love potion, it messed with his emotions – basically, left him a psychopath with no emotional ability. And whatever he did to make himself immortal probably didn’t help, now that I think about it.”
Hermione nodded along. That tracked with the reading into love potions she did to refresh her knowledge after seeing Amortentia in the first Potions lesson of the year.
“Dumbledore says that the power the Prophecy refers to is love – specifically, the fact that love for my friends, the desire to protect them, is what allows me to beat Tom every time. My mom’s love is what’s protected me for so long, and last spring, my love and grief for Sirius threw him out of the possession. He can’t comprehend it, so he can’t see how it inspires us to fight harder.”
Hermione’s frown returned. That made sense, but it still felt too nebulous. Voldemort was nearly 70 years old. Harry needed more than just the literal power of love and friendship to fight him. This wasn’t a comic book, for Merlin’s sake.
“Anyway, that started me thinking. Prongs is fueled by my love for my parents, sure… but I never knew them. I only got to spend a few months with Sirius. Remus is more like a distant but fun uncle. And the Weasley’s… I love Molly and Arthur and the Twins and Ron and Ginny, but… I don’t think I’ll ever not feel like an intruder there.”
Hermione took a deep breath. He wasn’t stopping her this time.
“But then I remembered… there’s one person. One person who’s always stood at my side. One person who has never, ever given up on me. One person who’s been there with me every step of my story, who knows me so well, she can tell what I’m going to say before I say it.”
Hermione’s whole being goes still and her breath catches.
“There’s one person who I can’t stand to see hurt. One person I can’t see the rest of my life without. One person I’ll do anything to protect, for whom I’ll fight Voldemort for without hesitation.”
“Harry… what are you saying?” Hermione whispers out, her eyes bouncing around the Room transformed to look like the Gryffindor common room, incapable of meeting the eyes that threatened to consume her every thought if she locked gazes with him.
“What do I mean?”
She shivered as his voice dropped an octave.
“I mean that… every time you speak my name, its like Time holds it breath and the World stops just so that my soul can savour every syllable of my name falling from your lips.”
Some distant part of her mind not submerged under the fog as the rest of her was, noted the irony of feeling exactly like he was describing. Like her whole existence had just frozen. Then he moved, walking forward. She ducked her head, her arms tightening around her and trembling all over as he walked around the couch.
“Then I turn around and see you smiling, and my World spins out of control like a Portkey and the only thing that’s fixed, the only stable points are the stars that shine in your eyes.”
She chokes back a gasping sob as he stops in front of her.
‘It can’t be. It’s not possible. I’m just some loudmouthed, pushy, bossy Plain Jane. How can he-? Ov- Over Ginny and Cho and Parvati and Lavender…?’
“And when I come back to the Common Room to see you curled up on that couch with a book, lit by firelight and moonbeams, watch you mouth the words with that little frown between your eyebrows that utterly devastates my heart because it, impossibly, makes you look even more beautiful…
“For that moment… when I first see you after walking in, I feel peace. For the first time in forever, I feel like I’ve come home. Hogwarts isn’t my home, not even the magical world.”
Fingers, calloused from grasping a broom handle and wand for years, grasp her chin and raise her head.
Her eyes met orbs of emerald fire, glowing from within with so much emotion that she has to brace herself against him because her knees can no longer hold her up. Every thought in her mind flees. The doubts, born from every malicious comment from the girls of her neighbourhood and the witches of Hogwarts… they burn away before the love of Harry James Potter.
“You are the one who hugged me for the first time in my life. You are the one I hugged for the first time. You are the one who taught me what it meant to love someone when you never left my side. You are my home. You are The One.”
For a moment that stretched into infinity, her ears were filled with the near silent breaths that escaped them both; each flutter of Harry’s breath ghosting across her face sending shivers down her spine.
‘He loves me. He loves me? He loves me?’
“Yes.” He answers the question that fills her eyes, her very soul and it exalts at the answer.
“Hermione Granger… may I kiss you?”