The first rays of sunlight filtered through Hermione's curtains, falling upon her face and waking her from her happy dreams. With much reluctance, Hermione rolled out of bed and somehow got herself into a standing position. After a nice warm shower, she felt much more alive and went back to her room and threw open the curtains to reveal a stunning blue sky with the sunlight dancing off the melting snow.
Hermione turned to the mirror and studied her appearance. Today she was going to take Harry skating and she wanted to look her best. Carefully, Hermione twisted her waves into a loose bun, leaving some curls to cascade down her back. She applied a little bit of mascara and some lip gloss and examined herself once more. She smiled at the result, subtle but effective, and nothing more than she would normally apply at school or when going out. 'If he likes me' she thought to herself, 'he likes me as I am, and no amount of makeup will change a thing.'
Hermione entered the kitchen to find her mum and dad eating toast and buried in the paper. Seeing that Harry was not yet up, she returned up the stairs to his bedroom door and knocked quietly. A faint mumble could be heard and Hermione took it as permission to enter.
Harry was still in bed and smiled when she entered, “Good morning, you're up early” Harry said.
“It's 9 o'clock Harry, the sun is up and its a beautiful day.” To emphasise her point, she throw back the curtains, to reveal the gorgeous day.
Harry covered his eyes as the bright light near blinded him. “Ok, point made, I'll be down shortly.”
* * *
The brisk cool air bit into their cheeks as Hermione and Harry left the warmth of the house in the mid afternoon, to walk the short distance to the skating rink.
“I can not think of a better way to spend Christmas Eve” Harry announced.
“Neither can I. I love skating, I took lessons when I was younger and skated in a few recitals. Have you ever skated before?” Hermione asked Harry. While she had always said they would go skating, not once had Harry mentioned if he had skated before or even if he wanted to.
“No,” Harry snickered. “The Dursley's wouldn't let me do anything fun unless there was a high chance of me dying. Skating would only cause injury which meant I couldn't cook and clean. Hence, I have never skated”.
“Oh” was all Hermione could say, hoping that she wasn't forcing Harry into something he didn't want to do.
Sensing her discomfort, Harry quickly put her mind to rest. “I want to learn though, and I'm sure you will be a great teacher. I would have told you if I didn't want to, but promise me you wont laugh when I fall on my butt a zillion times.”
“I'll try,” Hermione assured Harry, “but no promises.”
The skating rink was settled amongst some trees in the local park. The leaves were long gone and the empty branches were glistening from the snow and ice perched upon the narrow limbs. Many families were walking through wrapped in their coats, hats and scarves that protected them from the winter chill and Christmas carols were playing from the skating rink creating a festive atmosphere in the winter wonderland. Around two dozen people were on the ice, all of varying abilities. Harry and Hermione went and hired skates and laced them onto their feet, Harry's hands shaking as nerves started to overwhelm him.
“Ready to go?” Hermione asked Harry, offering him her hand to aid in balance.
“Now I know how you were feeling when I took you up flying for the first time,” Harry said nervously as he took Hermione's hand and came to a wobbly standing position.
“You'll be okay. Just remember to keep your knees soft and your weight forward.”
“Easy for some” Harry muttered as Hermione gracefully slid onto the ice, waving her hand for him to follow. 'This is not going to end well', Harry thought to himself, bravely putting his left foot and then his right onto the extremely slippery surface. 'Give me a broomstick any day'. Tentatively, Harry slid his left leg forward ever so slightly, trying to keep his knees soft and his weight forward as Hermione had said. But it was to no avail, and before he could do anything to avoid the inevitable, Harry's legs went from under him and he was sitting on his butt. Laughter reached his ears and he looked up to see Hermione effortlessly gliding towards him, a huge smile on her face.
“I'm sorry Harry, I will try and control my giggles.” Hermione offered him a hand and helped him to his feet.
“Thanks,” Harry muttered, utterly embarrassed by his complete lack of skill.
“Gently push forward and let the momentum carry you,” Hermione instructed. “Then bring your next foot up to your other foot, place it on the ice and push forward. Here, take my hand and I'll skate beside you.”
Harry gave Hermione a weak smile but gladly took a hold of her hand. The warmth of her touch spread up his arm and Harry was delighted for this innocent excuse to hold her hand in his. With Hermione aiding in his balance, Harry did as instructed and slowly but surely he got the hang of things with only a couple of tumbles, and never once letting go of Hermione
Harry was focused solely on skating, and Hermione took the chance to steal a glance his way, knowing that he wouldn't notice. He looked as elegant on the ice as he did on the quidditch pitch and Hermione couldn't help but feel proud to be seen with him. Much to her delight, Harry had not let go of her hand and it felt warm in hers. Secretly she was glad that Harry was completely useless at skating as it allowed her this opportunity.
“I'm getting the hang of this now” Harry said, taking his eyes off the ice to look at Hermione, feeling his breath leave him as he saw how beautiful she looked with the wind in her hair. With his attention diverted, Harry suddenly lost his balance and all control of his feet. Before Hermione could do anything to avert disaster, Harry had pulled her down with him, leaving her lying on his chest, her lips inches from his. Hermione gazed into the liquid interior of Harry's eyes, lost in a sea of emerald green. Her heart raced as she felt Harry's heart beating beneath her and his soft breath touch her lips, and Hermione had to remind herself to breath. Harry gazed straight back at Hermione, her chocolate brown eyes captivating him. He couldn't tear his eyes away and nor did he want to. Nothing else mattered but her and instinctively the gap between their lips narrowed.
Both Harry and Hermione were completely lost in the each others eyes, and the world around them was but a distant image. Lost in each other, they were only centimetres apart when they were immediately thrust back into the present as flecks of ice from passing skaters flicked into their faces. Remembering where they were, Hermione quickly got herself back to her feet and pulled Harry up, the moment all but lost.
“Come on Harry, back onto your feet,” Hermione said, trying to maintain her composure as her heart rate slowly returned to normal. 'What just happened,' Hermione thought as she helped Harry up. Her mind was swirling with confusion, 'he's my best friend, you were not just about to kiss him, you're just imagining things'. But it didn't matter how much Hermione tried to rationalise the moment she had just shared with Harry as her heart was telling a completely different story, one that made her tremble with delight.
“I'm sorry that I am so completely useless at this,” Harry apologized once he was back on his feet.
With Harry once more in a standing position, they returned to the flow of skaters moving around the rink. He had improved markedly from when he had first stepped out on the ice and could now skate without the aid of Hermione. But he didn't tell her that and he continued to hold her warm hand in his. As Harry's skating rhythm returned, his mind wandered back to the moment he and Hermione had shared just minutes before. He didn't know what had just passed between them, but it had sent his heart into overdrive and he knew more that ever that he had fallen for her.
They had been at the rink for near on an hour and a half and the muscles which Harry didn't know he had started to ache. With his new found control and ability, Harry glided over to the wall and Hermione followed with ease.
“I need a little rest, my ankles are getting sore, but you carry on. Show me what you can do when you don't have a dead weight to carry around.”
“You're not that bad Harry, you've really improved. Have a rest though and I'll show you what I can do, It's not anything fantastic mind you, it has been a while,” Hermione said as she pushed off from the wall, gracefully maneuvering herself back into the flow of skaters.
Harry watched as she skated backwards, twisted and turned and even chucked in a few spins, 'She is so beautiful' Harry thought to himself, completely mesmerized by Hermione's skating. Her brown locks were catching the breeze and flowing out behind her with the speed of her skating.
“Your girlfriend is a pretty good skater.”
Harry turned to see who had spoken and saw two guys about twenty years old standing beside him and staring out at Hermione
“Oh, she's not my girlfriend” Harry responded automatically.
“What!” the strangers friend exclaimed in disbelief, “Why not? She's so hot.”
“Yeah” Harry responded truthfully, “I know.”
“It's obvious to anyone watching that you really like her so let me give you some advice,” the stranger offered. “If you don't do something soon, someone else will, and if you don't want to lose her forever, you need to tell her how you feel or you will regret it for the rest of your life. Girls like that don't come around very often.”
“I know, I'm working on it.” Harry responded.
“I wish you all the best.” the stranger said, giving Harry an encouraging smile as he and his friend walked away.
Harry could have watched Hermione skate for hours, but he really enjoying skating and wanted to get back out there again. To Harry, skating felt a little like flying the way the air whipped past you, but it was on the ground, and the chance of falling, for Harry at least, was slightly higher. Her rejoined Hermione and together they skated around for a while longer. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and they both knew that is was time to head home.
“I hope you enjoyed it,” Hermione said to Harry as they left the skating rink for the short walk home.
“I loved it. Thanks for teaching me” Harry said, putting an arm around her shoulders and squeezing her slightly in thanks.
“Anytime,” Hermione responded, once again feeling the warm flames beneath Harry's touch.
The aroma of dinner filled the air as Hermione opened the front door and warmth surrounded them. Harry and Hermione took off the clothing that kept out the winter chill and proceeded to the kitchen where Mrs Granger was busy fixing everything for dinner.
“Hi Mum”, Hermione greeted her mother.
“Hi kids, did you have fun?” Mrs Granger asked. “You were gone a while.”
“Yeah, we did” Harry said. “I've never skated before but Hermione is a good teacher.”
“How many times did you fall over then?” Mrs Granger inquired as Harry blushed.
“A few” Harry replied, not wanting to quantify his embarrassing skating skills.
“Harry, we weren't bad at all,” Hermione piped in. “He fell over four times” she said to her mother and then turned to Harry, “but you got the hang of things really quickly, and you were pretty good by the time we left. I took my cousin skating once and he fell over ten times and he had skated before.”
Harry felt slightly better on hearing this news, not to mention the compliments that Hermione had given him.
“Dinner is about half and hour away so there is plenty of time for you to clean yourselves up and set the table.” Mrs Granger said.
Hermione laughed at her mum's hinting and both she and Harry went upstairs to get ready for dinner.
The lights of the Christmas tree danced around the room playing off the tinsel that was strung around the walls, as the Granger's and Harry sat down for their Christmas Eve dinner. Not much was said as they ate, each enjoying the delicious meal that Mrs Granger had prepared. Once everyone was finished, Harry made himself useful and cleared the dishes away then sat back down at the table.
“Family conference time,” Mrs Granger announced. It's Christmas tomorrow and things need to be done. Hermione, I would like your help with making the desserts and making sure the house is spotless. Harry, you can set the table and help Hermione clean. And Honey, you will need to shovel any snow off the drive and road so everyone can park safely. Any questions?”
The three of them just stared back at Mrs Granger as their dreams of a quiet relaxing Christmas day went whistling past.
“What exactly is happening tomorrow?” Harry asked.
“What, Hermione didn't tell you, terrible” Mr Granger said, looking at his daughter. “The morning is for ourselves where we open all our presents for each other. Then about two o'clock all the relatives are coming around and we have an early dinner together around five thirty.”
Harry gulped slightly at the thought of meeting Hermione's entire family. “Sounds good,” he managed to say.
“My cousins are really cool” Hermione said, noticing Harry's nervousness, “they will keep you entertained for hours. But they don't know I'm a witch, they just think I go to some fancy boarding school up north.”
The remainder of the night was spent in front of the television watching a Christmas movie, and at its completion Hermione and Harry both rose to get ready for bed. Hermione had just laid her head on her pillow when there was a faint tapping on her door, thinking it was her mother she said come in, and was surprised and delighted to see Harry standing in her doorway.
“Harry” Hermione said surprised “Is everything okay?”
She was dressed in her pink PJ's, that were decorated with little dancing penguins and her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail.
“Yeah” Harry said, “I just wanted to say thank you for inviting me here for Christmas. It's quite nice to be back in the muggle world away from...well you know...everything.” Harry took a breath, steadying his heart rate as he said the final thing he wanted to say. “And I had a great time with you today. I'll see you in the morning.” Quietly he slipped back out through the door and pulled it shut soundlessly behind him.
Hermione looked at where Harry had stood but seconds before and whispered to the closed door, 'I had a great time today as well Harry'. Then she put her head back down on her pillow and closed her eyes, dreaming about how different things could have been if it wasn't for those ice flakes from passing skaters.