When she marries Ron, she wears white because her mother asks her to. (She looks at herself in the mirror and grits her teeth. I’m not pure, she thinks but doesn’t say; she’d rather wear something darker. She’s not been pure since the war began.)
Ron looks at her like she’s beautiful and she has to swallow back a sob. This isn’t right comes up in her throat and she almost leaves the ceremony.
She doesn’t. She doesn’t leave because this is Ron and Hermione and that’s what it’s always been leading to, isn’t it? The two of them bound together, forever.
He slides the ring on her finger, smile wide, and her heart breaks.
It isn’t that she doesn’t respect him, as some might believe. She respects him and she loves him but she’s never – never been with anyone else, really, never explored anything else because she’s always been focused on him.
She wants to be twenty and young and have fun and she can’t, not if she’s married, not if Ron’s going to get jealous every time she makes a new friend.
She resigns herself, though, to a life of going out when Ron’s away on Auror meetings. No marriage is perfect, she reminds herself.
(It goes like this, for them.
They love each other as much as they hate each other; they push and pull and snarl but sometimes, things are okay, really.
Hermione has always, always loved him but she’s always, always been afraid of him, too. Not afraid in the traditional sense; he’d never hurt her. She knows that. She’s afraid of – of spending the rest of her life with him, never knowing what it is to be alone, be with herself.
Her hands shake when she thinks like that, though, so she tries not to, tells herself it’ll all be okay and you love him.
She does, she does.
If, when they’re together, she thinks of green eyes and dark hair – well. No marriage is perfect. It’s like a mantra.)
Harry comes over, some days. He’s an Auror and so is Ron, but they don’t work at the same times; Ron’s always trying to get this changed. (Hermione isn’t supposed to know, but it’s Harry that requests the different days. She pretends her heart doesn’t race when she thinks about it, and she’s lying every time.)
He comes over and Hermione makes them tea and they sit and talk. Once, Hermione reaches out and grabs Harry’s wrist, warm against her fingertips, and Harry looks at her and –
Well. She doesn’t do that anymore.
Hermione sips her tea and wishes, and wants, and almost says a thousand things, doesn’t say a word.
One day, Harry comes over and –
“I’m glad you married Ron,” he says, hair dripping. (It’s raining outside and he hasn’t cast any spells to dry off, avoid the rain. This feels significant, somehow.)
Hermione swallows, feeling her heart break, but keeps her head up. “Why?”
Harry opens his mouth and shuts it, considering. “Because you two – it’s always been you two, hasn’t it?”
Hermione shrugs, looking down. “Why would you say that?”
“Because it’s true.” He stands up, leaving his mug on the table. There’s tea pooled at the bottom of it and she stares, resolute. “Goodbye, Hermione.” It feels like an end.
There are two ways this can go – she can say goodbye or stay. Her mouth stays shut until Harry’s at the door.
“You don’t think it could ever have been us?” Her voice stutters on the last word.
Harry turns around, slow. “What?”
She doesn’t say anything, keeps her chin up.
“Hermione,” he whispers, “you can’t just –”
“Are you happy I married him?”
“I told you, I am.”
“Are you really?” She’s desperate for him to say something; no or even maybe, anything to give her a bit of hope.
His face closes down. “Yes,” and he leaves.
She closes her eyes.
(Ron figures out something’s wrong; he asks her and she says “I think we need to divorce,” slow.
He stares at her for a long, excruciating moment. She can’t meet his eyes, instead stares at his hairline. “I love you,” he whispers.
“And I love you, but I can’t –”
“Shh,” and it ends up him comforting her. The one time, Hermione thinks, and feels bad for thinking it.)
She moves out. She moves into a small flat on her own and gets a job at a bookshop, writing by night and working by day. She smiles more and lets her hair grow out, feeling calm, relaxed.
She thinks about Harry only a few times a week. Progress, she tells herself; it’s only because he’s on the cover of the Prophet all the time that he’s on her mind at all.
He comes in.
She only knows because the shop goes strangely quiet, and she turns around. Harry’s still somewhat of a celebrity; she and Ron have faded into relative obscurity but he’s the face of the war, of the winning team.
Her eyes widen and the book in her hand feels so heavy. He walks to her, and leans down to whisper into her ear – “Can we talk?”
She nods, and follows him outside, arms crossed.
She shakes her head. “What the fuck?”
“You haven’t spoken to me in months! Where have you been?” She punctuates this with a soft push at his shoulder, and crosses her arms again, pursing her lips.
Harry grins, cheeky. “You’re beautiful, you know that?”
She rolls her eyes, shaking her head. “You’re not getting out of this that easily. Why?”
“I needed to think.”
“Yes. I just – Hermione.”
She closes her eyes so she doesn’t say something stupid, something like I love you, you know or why didn’t you want me then?.
“Hermione,” he whispers, and she’s reminded of those days in the tent; when it was just them, the rain softly pattering around them, Harry’s face close, so close, to hers.
“Yeah?” and her eyes are on the building behind him because she can’t look at him, can’t see anything in his eyes without making a fool of herself again. She’s going to make him move first; it’s his turn.
(It was her, in the tent, she who went to him, dressed in an old shirt and boxer shorts bought when she was young. She’s always preferred comfort over style and she’d looked at him, eyes wide, and whispered “I want to –” but trailed off, biting her lip.
Harry had gotten it; he’d understood (not like Ron, she thinks with the barest trace of bitterness – even after she’d kissed him he’d not understood how she felt, never been able to read her like Harry -) and he’d reached out, grabbing her hand and kissing her knuckles.
They didn’t have sex. They’d gotten close and goodness knew Hermione wanted to but she couldn’t, not without knowing how Harry felt, for sure.)
Now, she stares at the building and her eyes well up and she tries to ignore it, push it down.
“I’m in love with you,” Harry whispers, a broken, choked-off sound, and she looks at him fast, so fast.
He’s falling apart, she can see that; his hands are shaking and his mouth is agape and his glasses are askew and she’s never wanted him more.
She takes onetwothree steps and kisses him, hard, hands wrapping around his waist.
He makes this pleased little noise into her mouth, and his hands rest against her wrists. It should be awkward, the two of them, but it isn’t. It’s just them, HarryandHermione, as it’s always been, as it always should be.
“I love you,” Harry whispers.
Hermione closes her eyes, smiling, wide. “I love you too,” and it comes out fast, the words rolling off of one another because she can’t keep them in.
It starts to rain, around them, and they look up in unison. Hermione starts to laugh, feeling the drops on her face, her hair, her hands (still touching Harry’s waist).
Harry laughs too, bright, and wraps her in his arms, kissing her forehead.