Chapter 13 : Return to Hogwarts
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Hermione stayed lying on her bed, staring giddily up at the ceiling for several minutes, thoughts cascading through her brain at rapid pace. 'he kissed me...what does that mean?..but it was only on the cheek...but he still kissed me, he's never done that before...so does he like me?...am I reading too much into this...what if he was just really thankful and wanted to show it...but then he would have just hugged me...and what about when we went skating, and just now when he said he saw a future with me.' Sighing, Hermione sat up and managed to get herself into bed, but sleep was not forthcoming.
Thoughts of Harry interweaved themselves together, forming a tapestry of memories and emotions. She knew that the love she felt for Harry ran deeper than friendship. Knowing that she was not going to fall asleep any time soon, Hermione got out of bed and silently opened her bedroom door. The house was still and quiet and Hermione padded softly down to the kitchen where she made herself a cup of hot chocolate and went to sit in the lounge in front of the Christmas tree, now devoid of all presents. Subconsciously, Hermione began to play with the phoenix around her neck, as once again her thoughts drifted to Harry.
There were so many memories from the past seven years, some good, and some too painful to recollect. Apart from her first two months at Hogwarts, Harry had been a constant in her life, through all the happy times and through the worst times. There were so many tears but there were also so many smiles and so much laughter. Hermione smiled to herself, as memories flooded her mind. Putting her empty cup on the coffee table, Hermione lay down on the sofa and stared up at the roof.
'It's funny' Hermione thought to herself, her eyelids starting to stay shut for longer than they were open, 'that all my happiest memories contain Harry'. Slowly, sleep overcame Hermione as she lay on the sofa in the lounge, Harry, the only person within her private dream world.
* * *
As soon as Harry closed his door, he smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. 'What were you thinking', he mentally cursed himself flinging himself face up onto the bed. 'But it felt so right' he thought to himself smiling...'but now what does she think...does she know I like her...what if I scared her off...I've never kissed her before...did she like it...maybe she hated it...will things be weird in the morning...aarrrggghhh.' Harry sighed to himself. 'The time will come' Harry told himself, trying to soothe his overactive mind 'when the moment is just right, and you can tell Hermione how you really feel...I just have to wait, when the moment comes, I will know.'
Thoughts of Hermione swirled through Harry's mind as he continued to stare at the ceiling. Deep down he was sure that Hermione mirrored the same feelings that he felt for her. They had spent a lot of time along together this year, and he could see the change in her, just as much as she could probably spot the changes in him. It was the simple things, like the small smiles that were just for him, the times when he caught her gazing his way, the hugs which seemed to linger for a little longer than they used to. And her gift, that wasn't just any gift, and Harry couldn't wait to get back to Hogwarts for quidditch practice and try them out. He knew that he would look absolutely majestic flying around with those robes billowing out behind him.
Harry awoke sometime in the night feeling a little chilly. He had fallen asleep on his bed and was still fully clothed. Getting up, and feeling a little thirsty, Harry went down to the kitchen to get a glass of water and went into the lounge to drink it. It was then that he spotted the sleeping form of Hermione lying peacefully on the sofa, her chest rising and falling rhythmically with her breathing. Harry placed his glass of water down on the coffee table and went to fetch a blanket out of the linen cupboard and carefully laid it over Hermione. He took a seat and watched her, enchanted by her beauty.
“I don't know what to do about you” Harry whispered to the sleeping Hermione “I have completely fallen for you but I don't know how to tell you. I think you feel the same about me, but what if I'm wrong. You have been the most important thing in my life this year and if it wasn't for you by my side, I'm not sure that I could not have coped. I'm so scared that if I say something and you don't feel the same, then things will just get too weird between us and I don't want to take that chance.” Harry sighed to himself, contemplating his options, but really there was only one option, someday soon he would have to tell Hermione how he really felt about her, and hope that she felt the same.
Harry finished off his glass of water , silently tiptoed over to Hermione's side, bent down and gently kissed her forehead. “Sweet dreams” he whispered in her ear and then retreated back to his room. Hermione never moved and remained completely unaware of the conversation Harry had just had with her.
* * *
The days slid steadily by uneventfully. The small pile of homework they both had soon disappeared and the rest of the daylight hours were spent having fun playing in the snow, skating or just mucking about. The nights however were a different story as both teenagers sat awake thinking about each other, and often fell asleep dreaming about how they wanted things to turn out.
Before they knew it, the day to return to Hogwarts arrived and they were dropped off at Kings Cross Station where Harry thanked the Grangers for their wonderful hospitality.
“It was nothing Harry, you can come around any time” Mrs Granger replied.
Harry and Hermione crossed through the barrier onto Platform 9¾ to see Ginny standing with her parents.
“Hi” Ginny said, as they approached.
“Hi” Harry and Hermione said in unison. “Have a nice Christmas?” Harry asked as Mrs Weasley pulled him into a motherly hug.
“It was okay” Ginny said with a slight shrug of her shoulders, “slightly different than usual”, Ginny added sadly.
The Weasley's attention was suddenly diverted to the gateway onto the platform and Harry and Hermione followed their gaze to see Ron and Sam walking towards them hand in hand. Instinctively, Harry turned to look at Hermione to make sure she was okay. She turned to meet his eyes, smiled and gave a small nod, to reassure Harry that all the pains of last term were now in the past. Besides, she thought to herself 'I want to be with you'.
The train ride back to Hogwarts was much the same as the train ride from Hogwarts, each telling stories about their holidays and playing card games. Hermione and Harry remained rather brief about their holiday and to Hermione's surprise, Ginny did not grill her on the spot. However, she knew the time would come, and it would probably be sometime before the end of the day.
Once back at Hogwarts, they entered the Great Hall which was full of chatter. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny approached the Gryffindor table and sat down with their fellow house mates and exchanged stories of their holiday. With dinner over, the plates cleaned themselves and Harry saw the Head Mistress, rise and approach the dais.
“Welcome back everybody” Professor McGonagall addressed the school in her no nonsense voice, immediately bringing a hush across the Great Hall. “I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and are now ready to return to class. End of year exams will be here before you know it and I strongly encourage each and every one of you to start studying now.” The school gave out a collective groan, but Hermione was nodding in agreement, which gave cause for Harry to smile. Hermione had in fact begun her study during the holidays, and much to his surprise Harry had also found himself revising the work completed earlier in the year.
“But” Professor McGonagall continued, returning every bodies attention back to the front of the Great Hall, “the staff here at Hogwarts have decided that everyone needs a break and a night to let their hair down as some call it. So in three weeks time Hogwarts will be hosting a ball for all students.”
The news was greeted by a shrill from all the girls who started giggling and chatting wildly, causing the boys to block their ears to keep out the noise they were creating.
“Quiet” Professor McGonagall commanded, immediately restoring silence to the Great Hall. “Further information will be posted on the common room notice boards. That is all. Goodnight.”
As soon as they were dismissed, the sound of over excited girls crescendoed and Harry Hermione and Ron quickly departed.
“Why” Ron asked, rubbing his ears “do girls get so excited over a ball?”.
“Because Ronald” Hermione addressed him sharply, “at balls, men are supposed to act like gentlemen, and besides its a chance to get dressed up.” Hermione looked at Ron and smiled sweetly before adding, “at least this time you don't have to worry about finding a date”
Ron just grunted and mumbled “there's Sam, see you later” as he turned and left.
“Come with me” Harry said, taking Hermione's hand. Puzzled, but also overjoyed by his touch, Hermione followed without question.
From the moment that Professor McGonagall had mentioned the word ball, Harry knew exactly who he wanted to take and no one else would suffice. He knew he had to ask her tonight before he had too long to think about it, lose his nerve, or worse, before she was asked by somebody else. The words of the stranger at the ice skating rink were at the forefront of his mind 'If you don't do something soon, someone else will. If you don't want to lose her forever, you need to tell her how you feel of you will regret it for the rest of your life'
He was right, Harry mused to himself. Hermione was gorgeous and he wasn't the only person at Hogwarts who thought this. Girls often commented on how pretty Hermione was, and eyes always followed her as she walked by in the corridors. Harry had often overheard conversations where Hermione's name was brought up, always with the words hot and beautiful, and he knew that there was a large number of guys who would love to go to the ball with her.
The thought of Hermione going to the ball on the arm of another guy spurred Harry immediately into action and he led her away from the crowds on one of the longer routes back to the common room. Harry's mind had been in over drive deciding how best to ask her. He wanted in to be casual, but not too casual, so he decided he would just ask her when no one else was around sometime before they returned to the common room.
Harry took a breath and stopped, taking Hermione's other hand in his so they were facing each other.
“Hermione” Harry said quietly, nerves starting to overwhelm him. 'Just breathe' Harry thought to himself 'just breathe...and don't talk too fast'.
“Would you like to go to the ball with me?”
A smile immediately radiated from Hermione “Yes, Harry, I would love to” she replied taking Harry into a hug. Releasing him, Hermione looked into his eyes “You seem nervous” Hermione observed.
“No, not at all” Harry lied, as relief came over him, “I'm just really happy.”
Hermione's spirit was flying as she walked back to the common room with Harry. She knew from the moment Professor McGonagall had mentioned the ball that she wanted to go with Harry and no one else, but she never imagined that Harry would ask her so quickly. However an unwanted feeling of unease in the pit of Hermione's stomach started to creep to the surface and Hermione had to ask Harry a question, hoping that it wouldn't confirm her worst fears. She would hate to think that Harry had simply asked her because he didn't want to repeat the experiences of the Yule Ball, where he had left it to the last minute to ask someone and by then most girls were taken.
“Why do you want to go to the ball with me Harry?” Hermione asked.
Harry stopped stunned at the question and before his brain got into gear, he started to stammer “You're my best friend, I care for you more than anyone else and there is nobody I'd prefer to spend the beautiful evening with than you.”
Hermione smiled, relieved at this answer. She had been so worried that he was going to say something like, because its easier to ask you than some other girl, or that he didn't have anyone else to ask. But he didn't. Hermione was positively beaming on the inside 'I'm going to the ball with Harry' she thought happily to herself, 'I can't believe he asked me.'
Harry however was beating himself up. 'Why didn't you tell her? That was the perfect moment.' But obviously whatever he had said was what Hermione had wanted to hear as her face had lit up into one of her intoxicating smiles. 'There will be another opportunity' Harry encouraged himself 'just make sure you don't screw it up next time.'
The portrait hole in sight, Hermione suddenly stopped and turned to face him. “Is it okay” she asked, “if we keep this secret from Ron and Ginny and everyone else for that matter? You know what they are like.”
“Yeah, that's a good idea” Harry replied.
Together they entered the common room where the excitement for the coming ball was already at a fever pitch. Girls were looking through magazines for dresses and discussing their hair, while the boys were huddled in a corner nervously pondering how, and more terrifyingly, who, they were going to ask to the ball, not to mention how they were going to summon the courage to go through with it. Harry and Hermione just smiled at each other, none the least bit worried. Then out of nowhere a small hand clamped around Hermione's wrist and she was whisked away by none other than Ginny Weasley.
(A/N...thanks everyone for reading. Please leave a review, they always make my day)
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