Chapter 1 : Cinnamon Hearts
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Until That Day. That Day was his birthday, oddly enough. That Day was the day when his best friend of almost eight years at the time had confessed the true reason why their relationship with his other best friend was going down the drain, as the two of them stood (or perhaps hid) in the shade of one of the many Weasley apple trees. The reason, his friend had said, was him. Harry had been told this in a voice so close to a whisper that he had had to strain his ears to hear it. And then, without warning, Harry's best friend had given him such a kiss (full on the mouth!) that he had nearly toppled over.
Yup, Hermione Granger was one heck of a kisser.
That Day was one of the best days of Harry's life. That Day was the day that Harry had gotten the thing that he had been wanting for years: a kiss from Hermione. Harry had been wanting a real one, one on the lips, ever since the day at King's Cross when she had given him one on the cheek (although he hadn't realized this until years later). And once he had gotten it, he had learned that it was just as wonderful as he had envisioned (although he had no clue that he had been envisioning it at all until That Day).
Preparing for Valentine's Day dinner with Hermione (their little "tradition", if something they had only done once before could be called a tradition), Harry chuckled as he remembered the moments after Hermione's sudden gesture of affection.
Hermione took a step back, her eyes wide as saucers in shock.
"Oh… oh God, Harry, I'm sorry…" she stammered.
"Sorry?" he repeated, a small grin spreading across his face. "Why on Earth are you sorry?"
"I- I shouldn't have… Ron's going to… and Ginny will be… Oh my God…"
Harry chuckled. "Breathe in, breathe out, 'Mione. Try for a coherent sentence."
She obliged, taking a few deep breaths as she tried to compose herself, still looking shocked and frantic.
"I- I shouldn't have done that! Ron's going to be so angry, and Ginny… Ginny's going to kill me!"
Harry took a step forward, closing the distance she had created between them moments earlier. His face became serious as he took both of her hands in his.
"Hermione, nobody has to know."
Her eyes widened even more, which Harry wouldn't have thought possible.
"Harry, I'm not going to… you know… sneak around behind Ron's back! And you, you wouldn't treat Ginny like that!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Hermione! Do you honestly think I would suggest something like that? I meant that no one has to know if you don't want them to. I won't say a word." He pantomimed zipping his lips.
"Er…" There was something in Hermione's eyes as she spoke that made Harry continue.
"Unless, of course," he began, a little hesitantly, "you, er, want me to."
"Er…" she said again. "But… Harry, we can't, I mean, Ron and Ginny…"
"Ron and Ginny, Ron and Ginny," said Harry. "All you've talked about is how we can't do this to Ron and Ginny! What about you, Hermione? Do you want to do this to yourself? I don't know how you really feel about me, but I do know that you just spontaneously kissed me, and it was really good," he said with a grin. "So I'm guessing that there was something behind it."
She went a little pink. "There was," she said quietly.
"So, are you willing to give that up just to avoid hurting Ron?" he asked seriously.
She bit her lip, looking at the ground.
"Well, I don't know…"
"You do know, Hermione," Harry said, "you just don't want to say it out loud."
She looked up at him, still biting her lip. "Did you learn Legilimency or what?"
"No, I've just been your friend for nearly eight years. Now come on, Hermione, tell me what you want to do about this. Someone's going to miss us sooner or later," he warned her. She looked around nervously, as though expecting Ron or Ginny to jump out from behind something.
"Oh, Harry, I… I don't want to give this up, whatever it is, but… Well, the Weasleys are going to murder the both of us if we… you know… do anything about what just happened."
"Hermione," he said, "no one's murdering anyone. I'm not saying that the Weasleys are going to appreciate this, but if you want something between us, if you want a… you know… relationship, we can't just lead them to believe that things are the same as they've always been. It wouldn't be fair. You've got to choose: us or them?"
"Oh, why do I have to choose?" she asked. "What do you want, then?"
He shook his head. "No-no-no, none of that. You're going to choose before I say anything else. I know for a fact that whatever I said would have an effect on your decision, and it should be your choice and yours alone."
She bit her lip still harder, to the point where Harry started to wonder if she was going to bite right through it. She looked terribly nervous, as though wondering if what she said was going to instigate the end of the world. A few moments later, however, she seemed to finally make a decision and stopped nibbling her lip.
"Us," she said quietly.
"Mmm?" he asked, making her repeat it, his tone not betraying the fact that his heart had nearly leapt right out of his chest at her words.
"I want us, Harry, not them," she said, her voice stronger, more sure of herself.
He smiled widely. "Good, because I want us too."
Her eyes widened again, sparkling like he had never seen them sparkle before. "Really?"
"Oh, Harry!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and burying her head in his shoulder. He hugged her back, still smiling broadly, his heart practically dancing to a tune of "she said us, she said us, she said us". And he thought, secretly, that in that moment, with her in his arms and an entirely new future lying ahead of them, he had never been happier in his life.
That he been almost two years ago, Harry realized, as he gathered up his cloak and the roses he had bought. Almost two years since that kiss under the apple tree, two years since she had looked straight into his eyes and said "Us". Two years of happiness untainted by any sort of evil, except perhaps the Weasleys' reactions when Harry and Hermione had first announced the fact that they were a couple. Harry had to give the Weasleys some credit, everyone but Ginny had taken it quite well, perhaps becoming a little cool and distant for a while, but never openly showing that they disliked the fact that Harry and Hermione were together. Ginny was a different story, but she had managed to have only a minimal amount of fits and had only made a minimal amount of smart remarks about the new couple. She still tended to slip up once in a while, making a cold comment or two here and there, but she would catch herself and apologize, assuring them all that "old habits were just hard to break". Ron had been surprisingly accepting, even encouraging, telling them that he had secretly thought that they were going to end up together since their first years at Hogwarts. Harry could never tell whether or not this was true, but he had been thankful for his friend's acceptance all the same.
Pulling on his cloak, Harry was reminded of the contents of the breast pocket by a small bump against his chest.
Cinnamon hearts, he thought with a small smile. Hermione loved cinnamon hearts, enough to say that they were the best part of Valentine's Day (besides Harry, of course). The two had shared quite a large bowl of the small, red candies the previous Valentine's Day, resulting in many thoroughly enjoyable cinnamon-flavoured kisses. That evening now had a proud spot on Harry's list of Patronus-worthy memories. This year, he had bought her a small box of her favourite Valentine's Day treats, which he hoped she would open as soon as she could, resulting in more of those cinnamon kisses and, possibly, something even better.
Harry's happy thoughts had to be cut short as he realized that he was nearly late. Hermione had asked him to be at her flat for six and it was five fifty-eight. Now in a hurry, Harry turned on the spot and was pulled into the tight vacuum that was Apparation, not noticing the discomfort at all.
Harry arrived outside the door to Hermione's flat with a quiet pop. Checking the watch that he had received from the Weasleys for his seventeenth birthday, he saw that it was now five fifty-nine.
I love magic, he thought gratefully as he knocked on the door. He would have been late to a great many appointments, not to mention dates with his girlfriend, had it not been for Apparation.
Hermione pulled the door open moments after he had knocked, emitting an uncharacteristic but happy sort of squeal when she noticed the roses in Harry's arms. He smiled.
"Brought you something," he said, handing her the bouquet, which she cradled delicately in her arms as she gave him a kiss.
"They're gorgeous," she said happily.
"And the roses aren't too bad, either," he said, making a point of looking Hermione up and down. She had dressed up for the occasion, in that handy "little black dress" that all women seem to have. Harry thought it looked better than her dress robes at the Yule Ball, if that was possible.
She went a little pink, but looked pleased by his compliment. "Flatterer," she said, moving out of the doorway in order to let him in. He was stunned by what he saw inside. She had set the table beautifully, with candles, a fancy white tablecloth, the whole shebang, for their traditional dinner together.
"Wow," he said, as she took his cloak and hung it up for him. She smiled her thanks.
"You're just in time, too," she said. "Dinner's almost ready." Harry already knew, from the wonderful aroma wafting from the kitchen. It had taken a bit of practice, but Hermione had become quite a skilled cook once she had gotten a place of her own, preferring to avoid living off of macaroni and cheese.
"Here, sit," she said, pulling out a chair for him. He obliged, but eyed her over the top of his glasses.
"Isn't the guy supposed to do that?" he asked with a grin.
"Yes, but I figured it wouldn't kill either of us if I rearranged the order of things a little," she replied, grinning back at him. "Now, you stay here, and I'll get dinner."
She disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Harry alone. He took the time to disobey her orders for a moment and retrieved the small, heart-shaped box of candies from his cloak, slipping it into his pocket as he retook his seat at the table. He made it just in time, too, as Hermione returned from the kitchen only a second after he sat back down, carrying two plates of spaghetti and meatballs, her speciality. (Everyone often joked that it wasn't exactly hard to make the dish, but Harry appreciated it all the same, maintaining the opinion that Hermione's was the best he had ever eaten.) She set a plate in front of Harry and took her own seat opposite him. She then snapped her fingers as though she'd forgotten something, pointed her wand towards the kitchen, and caught a bottle of wine in her hands a moment later. She grinned.
"I love magic."
Harry chuckled. "I said the same thing not five minutes ago," he said, as she poured a glass of wine for each of them. The two clinked glasses ("Cheers!") and started to eat, as Hermione told Harry about a particularly nasty case she was working on (having risen to the rank of Head of Magical Law Enforcement).
Harry didn't notice, but he must have stopped paying attention, for Hermione stopped talking a few minutes later and looked at him curiously.
"Are you all right, Harry? You look… nervous about something," she told him.
"Oh!" he said, surprised. "Don't worry, 'Mione, I'm fine. Sorry," he added, feeling guilty for tuning her out like that. She looked at him searchingly, but didn't seem to find anything wrong with him, and continued her story.
"Well, anyway, I told Pansy that I didn't care what Draco did, it didn't give her the right to fling him off of the roof, and she said…"
Harry paid attention for the rest of Hermione's story, and the two of them had cleaned their plates of all traces of spaghetti by the time she had finished, both of them having thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Hermione took their plates and glasses into the kitchen, and Harry took advantage of her absence once again to take a seat on the couch and pull the small box from his pocket. He prayed that the candies hadn't all melted together, seeing as that might put a bit of a hitch in his plans.
Hermione came back to find her boyfriend waiting for her on the couch, looking a little nervous again.
"You're sure you're all right?" she asked again, taking a seat beside him on the couch. "You look nervous again. Is something wrong?"
He shook his head, slipping an arm around her shoulders. "No, no, everything's fine," he assured her. He held up the little box. "Brought you something else," he said with a grin. He handed her the box and she grinned back.
"What is it?" she asked playfully.
"Well, I can't tell you, can I?" he asked. "It would ruin the fun."
"Come on, tell me," she insisted, moving closer to him on the couch and resting her head on his shoulder, looking curiously at the box in her hands.
"Open it," he urged.
"OK, if you're not going to tell me," she said, mock-resignedly. She carefully removed the ribbon holding the box together and lifted the lid. There was a millisecond's pause before she gasped, her left hand covering her mouth in shock while her right held the box. Harry smiled. His plan had worked perfectly so far. The small, red candies had not melted in the least, leaving the diamond ring that lay on them perfectly clean and as shiny as ever. It glinted in the candlelight from the table as Hermione picked it up with a shaking left hand, her right carefully moving the box to lie beside her on the couch. She turned to look at Harry with wide eyes, almost as wide as they had been after she kissed him under the apple tree. He smiled at her.
"Marry me, Hermione?" he asked quietly.
Those wide, brown eyes drifted from his face to the ring in her palm and back again, before her fingers suddenly wrapped around the glittering band and she threw her arms around him, sobbing those rare happy sobs.
"Yes!" she cried into his shoulder. "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
He gave her a tight squeeze before he let her go, gently removing the ring from her hand as he watched her eyes sparkle with happy tears, the best kind of tears. The diamond twinkled in the light again as he slipped the ring onto her finger, blinking away the tears gathering in his own eyes. They both sat in silence for a moment, both minds coming to terms with what had just taken place, before Harry jumped up from his seat with a great shout of laughter, seizing Hermione around the waist as he went and swinging her around as she laughed as well. Harry set her down again after a few turns, trying to avoid making her dizzy, and the two stood with their arms around each other, more of those happy tears falling from both sets of eyes as their laughter dwindled to soft chuckles.
An odd feeling, Harry thought, laughing and crying at the same time.
The two loosened their grips on each other and sat back down, both smiling broadly and wiping the tears from their cheeks.
"God, Harry…" Hermione breathed, looking at the ring on her finger. She chuckled softly again. "I guess this is what you were nervous about, huh?" she asked, picking up the little box again and holding a few candies out to Harry, who opened his palm for them.
"I might've been a little nervous, yeah," he admitted, popping some of the spicy sweets into his mouth.
"Did you think I was going to say no?" she asked curiously, crunching a few hearts between her teeth.
"No, but… Well, I guess it's customary to be nervous," he said, with a slightly goofy grin on his face. "I mean, I'm asking you to spend the rest of your life with me," he explained quietly, his expression becoming a more serious.
She smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder. "You silly man. You should know by now that there's no one else I'd rather spend it with."
He leaned towards her until their foreheads were nearly touching. "I love you, Hermione."
"I love you too, Harry."
Their lips met and Harry savoured the first of those annual flavoured kisses that he enjoyed so much.
Yup, he thought, mentally grinning, Hermione's been right all along. The best part of Valentine's Day is definitely the cinnamon hearts.