Chapter 1 : The Astronomy Tower
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It was just one of those nights. One of the nights that Harry hated the most, when he knew he should be sleeping, but with all that was burdening him, sleep was lost to his thoughts and worries. At this point, right before Christmas, which incidentally also means right before exams, the Common Room was packed with late-night crammers, so Harry chose to sneak up to the Astronomy towers. It really was beautiful, the Astronomy tower at late night. The large, circular room was painted eggplant, with about a thousand jewel-toned blankets and pillows spread out on the floor so students could lay down and observe the wondrous celestial beings above. This would be a really good excuse to study for his upcoming OWLs, , but he wasn’t. This way, when he was close to the stars, he…he felt close to Sirius. Just thinking about him still created an ache in his chest, an emptiness that could never be filled, but it was better when he could just come up here and let himself ache, rather than have to be cheery for his classmates and professors. Suddenly, he heard a faint noise, the padding of soft footsteps coming up the stairwell. Harry leaped to his feet and brushed himself off--he wasn’t in the mood to be given detention looking like he was lying on the floor of a tower by himself…which he was-- but let out the breath he didn’t’ know he was holding when he saw a familiar head of bushy brown curls.
“Hermione, my god, you scared me,” Harry said, returning to his pillow on the floor. Hermione occupied the pillow next to him, and pulled the nearest blanket over herself.
“Well if getting an owl at 2 o’clock in the morning from Ron saying you’re not in the dormitory or the Common Room and he has no idea where you are isn’t scary, I don’t know what is,” scoffed Hermione, giving Harry a momentary look before settling down beside him and staring up at the ink blue, just-shades-away-from-being-black-but-still-blue sky above.
The two were silent for a few minutes, lost in the stars, before Harry tilted his head and asked, “How did you find me anyways?” He sure hoped not everyone in Gryffindor knew he made secret (or not-so-secret) escapades up to the Astronomy Tower at all hours of the night.
“Really now Harry, what kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t know you came up here when you can’t sleep? I have eyes and ears, you know.” Hermione smiled at him and pulled the blanket closer to her, she was shivering a bit.
“You cold?” asked Harry, but didn’t wait for a response before scooching closer to his friend and throwing the remainder of his blanket over her petite form. She smiled again and let her gaze linger back on the stars.
Harry took a minute to consider what Hermione had just said. She really was a good friend, she always listened to him, even when he didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. But she was good when he did need to as well. Harry thought, there were a million and one reasons he was best friends with Ron, but there were a million and two reasons he couldn’t pour his heart out to him like he could to Hermione. Maybe it was just a girl thing. But she always understood exactly what he was going through, and even if she didn’t she always had good advice to follow.
“Hermione, I am incredibly lucky to have you as a friend, you know that?” Harry blurted without thinking. Hermione’s eyes widened and she turned towards Harry, but grinned and said, “Well, Harry, I’d have to return the favor. Even if you’ve made me break more school rules than Mum and Dad would care to know.”
Hermione lifted her gaze back up to the sky, but Harry’s rested on his companion for awhile longer. As he was tracing their friendship in his head, Harry realized how much Hermione had changed. She was so intent on following the rules and getting perfect marks when they’d first met…no wonder she said he and Ron were a bad influence on her. She had also changed in other ways…she wasn’t a little kid anymore, to say the least. At sixteen, even though she was still the brainy bookworm who hated to be in trouble, Harry felt the need to protect her. He had to restrain himself when the whole Viktor Krum fiasco came along, and he’d probably do the same if any other guy came along. No one else was good enough for Hermione, someone else would hurt her. As Harry was considering this, he also realized something else.
He needed Hermione. Just a few weeks ago, in the Department of Mysteries, Hermione could have been killed. Harry couldn’t even think to ponder this. Hermione could never be killed, she was Hermione, she had to be there. Not having Hermione by his side was like waking up on the wrong side of the bed.
While he was contemplating all of this, Hermione was still laying beside him, eyes now closed. Harry could tell she wasn’t asleep because her breathing wasn’t even, she was listening. If Harry closed his eyes he could hear too, the gentle neigh of a thestral, the whisper of wind brushing the leaves of the Whomping Willow, the ever-present crickets in the distance. When Harry opened his eyes, Hermione’s were still closed.
Harry noticed Hermione had freckles.
Harry noticed Hermione was beautiful.
Now that made him scoot away a few inches. He just thought of Hermione as beautiful. He supposed Hermione had always been beautiful on the inside, but now he was seeing her soft, curly hair and smooth, slightly freckled skin and small, pouted pink lips sort of in the same way as he had seen Cho last year, as very pretty.
But let’s be honest here, Harry thought, comparing Hermione to Cho was like comparing a Nimbus 2000 to a Firebolt. The Nimbus was pretty to look at but the Firebolt was the total package. It was nice looking and a smooth ride and handled like dream and was just generally more trustworthy than the sometimes temperamental Nimbus.
Did this mean Harry fancied Hermione like he fancied Cho?
He fancied Cho.
He loved Hermione.
He scooted back closer to her. She was now staring back up at the stars, moonlight illuminating her chocolate eyes.
“Hermione?” Harry asked. He had to tell her. He knew (well, didn’t know, but he guessed he’d find out soon enough) if he didn’t, it would just be another burden on his shoulders, and lead to more trips like this, most likely that would NOT involve the company of Hermione.
“Mmhmm?” Hermione mumbled sleepily, letting out a little yawn. No, she could not fall asleep before Harry made a fool of himself.
“Ah, er, well I’ve been doing some thinking…” he stumbled. Damn, the words just wouldn’t come. He had never been good with girls, look how the Cho relationship worked out.
“Yes, this is a nice place to just sit and let your thoughts run free, isn’t it?” she said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.
“HermioneIloveyou,” Harry blurted so fast he could barely tell what he said. Hermione gave him a bewildered look.
“Erm, Harry, you’re going to have to slow down a bit. I couldn’t hear you.”
Right. Well. Harry would just have to do this the old fashioned way then. He had no idea if this was right…technique or anything, he hadn’t exactly been in love with a girl before. But if he wasn’t in love with Hermione…he didn’t think he’d ever be in love with anyone else, ever.
“Hermione, I’ve been thinking. About…you,” Harry said slowly, so she could catch it. And to make sure he didn’t say something stupid. She furrowed her brow.
Harry smiled. “Hermione…you’re…amazing. You’re always there, I don’t even have to say anything and you’re there supporting me, even when you know I’m wrong. You’re smart, the brightest witch I know, and…well, beautiful…”
Hermione had a look of pain shock on her face, which didn’t help Harry’s case. His stomach did a little jump when he looked into her confused eyes, and he hoped he was making the right decision.
“So yeah, you’re all of these amazing things and I was thinking about you and all that you are to me and I kind of realized that I think I love you.”
Hermione stared at the ground for a moment before capturing his gaze once more and breathing, “Harry…I…” she seemed to be at a loss for words. Great, Harry thought, now I’ve ruined a whole friendship.
Apparently Hermione had another idea.
She swallowed and looked up nervously into Harry’s eyes, twirling a bit of blanket in her fingers before reaching up, cupping Harry’s cheek, and bringing his lips to meet hers. Harry was stunned, but was surprised at how warm and soft her lips were. And not wet at all, like Cho’s were. He felt this strange tingle deep in his stomach, and had the urge to pull Hermione as close to him as humanly possible. But before he did, she pulled away slightly. His eyes were still closed but he could feel her warm breath on his cheek. Her eyes fluttered open, her cheeks turning a deeper shade of red by the moment.
“I guess I thought I could show you better than I could tell you,” admitted Hermione, tucking a stray curl behind her ear nervously and pulling the blanket up around here. Harry was at an utter loss of words at the amount of emotion he had felt in that one little kiss. When he kissed Cho, he was wondering about whether or not her lips were supposed to be wet. When Hermione kissed Harry, his brain shorted out. There were no thoughts. His heart took over.
“I love you too,” Hermione whispered, her head resting on a pillow now. Harry grinned as wide as he possibly could and let his heart beat fast and enjoyed the rush of emotion that flooded him when he heard her say that. It was so much better than the dull ache he felt just hours ago.
So with that, he took Hermione’s hand, lay his head down on his pillow, and drifted off to sleep.
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