The holidays were fast approaching and the list for who was staying at Hogwarts for the Christmas season had been posted on the notice board. Harry looked at it awkwardly like he did every year. 'What am I going to do this year?' he thought to himself miserably. He hated to always impose himself on the Weasley's, however much they called him family, but he didn't particularly want to stay at Hogwarts all alone either. His only other option was the Dursley's but he didn't even know where they were now, let alone care very much about them. So with all other options out of the question, Harry resigned himself to once again asking Ron if they could welcome him into their home once more. Normally, this thought would be greeted with excitement, but in the aftermath of the war, the Burrow just brought up too many terrible memories.
The work load had increased significantly in the last few weeks with every teacher piling on essays. Harry, Ron and Hermione were all busy in the common room trying to finish as much as they could so things wouldn't drag on into the holidays. None of them wanted to spend the break cooped up inside writing essays, even Hermione.
“What's everyone doing over Christmas this year?” Harry asked casually, trying not to sound too desperate.
Ron shifted his eyes nervously between Harry and his hands. “I'm going to go to Sam's the day after Christmas and I'm staying there until school goes back.,” he said sheepishly. He had known the day would come when he would have to tell Harry that he wouldn't be at home for most of the holidays, but it didn't make telling him easier. Trying to relieve Harry's disappointment Ron quickly added, “But I know mum will let you stay at our place if you want.”
Harry smiled weakly, feeling slightly crushed. He loved the Weasley's but he didn't want to stay there without Ron. Being around Mrs Weasley and Ginny would undoubtedly be too much for him to handle. His hopes dashed, Harry turned to Hermione to see what she was doing, praying that he wouldn't have to spend Christmas alone in the castle, where in the cold and silent corridors, nightmares and memories were bound to surface.
“I'm still a little undecided,” Hermione replied as she looked into Harry's pleading eyes. “I should spend time with my parents especially after all I did to them last year, although they do understand, but at the same time I'm not going to let you spend Christmas here alone Harry.”
Hermione's response made Harry both squirm inside with excitement but it also caused an unwanted dilemma. He didn't want to keep Hermione away from her parents after what she had had to do to ensure they were safe and then the effort associated with finding them again. But he also loved the thought of being able to spend Christmas with Hermione in the deserted castle. Knowing that he would feel guilty if he allowed Hermione to stay, Harry pushed his desires away.
“No, Hermione, don't stay here with me, spend Christmas with your family. I'll be okay.”
Hermione was slightly disappointed by Harry's response but it was what she expected him to say. She wanted to stay here with him though, especially as it would probably be only her and Harry, but she also wanted to be with her parents. Just as she thought that there were no other options, one last idea occurred to Hermione, one that had never crossed her mind before as she assumed that Harry would go to the Weasley's like usual.
“Would you maybe want to spend Christmas at my house?” Hermione asked Harry nervously, praying silently to herself that he would say yes.
Harry was slightly taken aback by the question. After all these years, he had never once even entertained the thought of spending Christmas with Hermione's family, but the idea solved all his problems, Hermione could spend time with her parents, and he could spend time with her.
“If its okay with your parents, then I would love to come” Harry replied.
Hermione beamed with joy, jumping out of her seat to give Harry a huge bear hug, not one of them noticing the huge grin that Ron quickly wiped off his face as he saw the two of them together.
“I'll ask them right away” Hermione said and quickly scribbled a note for her parents.
'Hi Mum and Dad. I'm doing well, school is busy as usual. Would it be okay if Harry came over for Christmas. Send your reply back with this owl. Love you lots, Hermione.'
“Can I borrow your invisibility coat Harry?” Hermione asked.
The invisibility cloak had been used many times for after hours sneaking around the castle, but never before had the purpose of the late night excursions been due to teenage love. Harry went and retrieved his cloak and presented it to Hermione, “Don't get caught” he said cheekily “I don't want McGonagall to see that letter.”
Hermione just grinned, wrapped the coat around her and flew out the portrait hole towards the owlery.
As the owls swooped in at breakfast the next morning, Harry and Hermione immediately looked up in unison for any owls heading in their direction. Both hung their head dejectedly as they realised that no response was coming their way. The next morning though, they were rewarded as Hermione spotted the same mauve barn owl that she had sent to her parents the other night. He landed haphazardly in front of Hermione and with as much haste as she could manage, untied the small note that was attached to the owls leg and opened it quickly.
Hermione scanned the note and was immediately relieved and overjoyed that her parents had said yes. A huge grin materialised upon her face and she read it aloud to Harry and Ron.
“We would be delighted for you to bring Harry here for Christmas. See you at Kings Cross Station. Take care now, Love Mum and Dad.”
Hermione beamed at Harry and he returned the smile. He was so glad that he would not be spending Christmas alone in the deserted castle where in the depths of loneliness the memories of the war would flood his mind.
Ginny had over heard the conversation and looked at Hermione, smiling cheekily. Hermione caught her eye and quickly turned away, a slight pink blush forming on her cheeks. It was so obvious to Ginny what was happening between Harry and Hermione, and while she was happy for her, she couldn't help but feel like Hermione was stealing her dreams. Secretly she had been hoping that Harry would still stay at the Burrow, even if Ron was not there, but it looked like that was not going to happen. Ginny gloomily turned back to her breakfast, took a deep breath and composed herself once again so no one would know how she was truly feeling. 'I guess the only thing left for me to do now' Ginny thought to herself, 'is to try and pry information out of them. If I can't have him, hopefully Hermione can.'
* * *
Hermione spent the rest of the day in a state of euphoria and nothing could keep the smile from her lips or remove the light from her eyes. 'Harry is going to spend Christmas at my place', she thought to herself happily, amazed at how much things had turned around in the last few weeks. After talking with Ron, her whole perspective on life changed. She was no longer afraid to move on and had said goodbye to the dreams she once had. Instead, Hermione embraced the emotions and the memories that scared her heart and used them to fuel the fire inside of her that enabled her to live each day with the ultimate goal of achieving something great. Somehow all the pain and all the heartache was worth it. The future was still a twisted maze but now Hermione had found the path she wanted to take, a vast improvement from the dark days of despair where a future seemed futile and worthless. It was amazing how things had changed.
She didn't know how it had started or when it began, but with every passing day, Hermione knew that she was falling even more deeply for Harry. So gradual was the culmination of feelings that to set a date of their onset was nigh on impossible. But now, years on, the feelings were undeniable, and the most powerful force in her world. It was her love of Harry, of all he had been through, of all he had achieved, and all he could do, that fueled her passion more than anything else. It came in the form of a simple smile, a passing glance, a friendly hug. It was because of Harry that she had a future, it was because of Harry, that she lived.
Harry was nervous. He was going to spend Christmas with Hermione, and just Hermione. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined this turn of events, but as nervous as he was, he was also trembling with anticipation at the thought of spending time alone with her and her family. It had been a crazy mix of emotions since Voldemort's demise. He had lost friends, but finally he had brought peace to his Mum and Dad and to Sirius. But most of all, for the first time since he had joined the wizarding world, he could finally relax and be a kid. It was comforting to think that all his rule breaking this year had nothing to do with trying to save the world.
Hermione had been by his side through the best of times and through the worst, and only now that it was all over could he look back and see how important she was to him. Without her, there was no way that he could possibly have achieved what he had, and he was under no illusion that if it wasn't for Hermione, he would be dead and the wizarding world in tatters. Hermione had been the one constant he could always rely on when everything else was in ruin. He didn't know when or how it had started, but he knew that his feelings for Hermione were not new, they had been slowly building for many years. Only now did he finally realise his true feelings and he wanted her to be apart of his life forever.