“I have to sleep, Harry,” Ginny said, her eyes sparkling as she toyed with his hair. “I’d rather not, but I’m exhausted.”
Harry thought that he would not mind so much if she fell asleep next to him, but he pushed that thought away. “Yeah, of course.”
“You’ll still be here tomorrow, then?” She grinned at him in a way that was beautiful and full of Ginny. “You’re not going to vanish on me?”
“I’ll be here. Right on this sofa, if you like.”
She smiled and stroked his cheek with her thumb. “Anywhere in the room will do.”
Unable to prolong the day any more, he took her hand and followed her to the door to the girls’ dormitories. She turned back and looked up at him from only inches away. “Goodnight, Harry.”
Harry leaned down and kissed her. It felt a bit more familiar but no less incredible than it had that afternoon. He pulled away and watched, fascinated, as she licked her lips. “Goodnight, Ginny.”
With a final, blinding smile, she turned and slipped through the door.
Harry stood for a moment, unsure of what to do with himself. Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was well past midnight. She had been at his side constantly since early afternoon, and suddenly it felt strange for her to be anywhere else.
Finally, he turned around and surveyed the common room, blinking. Hermione sat alone at a table cluttered with parchment and books, but her attention was on him. When he caught her eye, she patted the chair on her left. Feeling slightly wooden, Harry walked over and sat down.
She studied him for a moment and then grinned slowly. “Hello, Harry.”
“Have a nice evening?”
He flushed and stared at the scarred wooden tabletop, but he found himself smiling. “Yeah, I did.”
Her head tilted in a way that meant I told you so. “Good.”
Hermione looked down at the essay in front of her, and Harry studied her for a moment. Her eyes scanned what she had written, but the corners of her lips repeatedly twitched upwards and downwards. Then she bit her lip and, Harry was sure, read the same paragraph of her composition for the fourth time.
“You knew, then?” he asked.
She straightened quickly, and Harry realised that she had been waiting desperately for him to give her an opening. “Of course I knew,” she said, beaming. “You’re not exactly subtle.”
He hunched his shoulders and looked away. “I thought I was.”
“Sorry, Harry, but you weren’t, and you never have been. I'll bet loads of people knew.”
“Loads?” he asked, swallowing.
“Probably. I think that even Ron suspected something.”
“What?” Harry asked, barely remembering to keep his voice down. “Ron knew?”
“I said that I think he suspected something, not that he knew,” she said briskly. “Honestly, Harry. It’s been really obvious ever since I told you she’d split up with Dean. And you were a bit too interested in her even before that.”
“Why didn’t he say anything, then?” Harry was shocked that Ron might have noticed and not even hinted at it.
“Were you going to say anything to him?”
Harry shrugged. “I thought about it. Didn’t want him to… you know… punch me or something.”
“He wouldn’t have punched you,” Hermione said, turning to face him directly. “I’m sure he simply didn’t know what to say about it any more than you did.”
Harry pondered that for a few moments. “I suppose I wasn’t bothered too much. Did it anyway, didn’t I?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, smirking. “In spectacular fashion.”
“Didn’t plan that,” he muttered, flushing again.
“Of course you didn’t. That’s what makes it so wonderful.”
He looked at her closely. “You don’t mind, then?”
“Mind?” she asked. “Why on earth would I mind? I think it’s brilliant.”
Harry blinked. He had secretly worried that she might resent the time he would spend with Ginny because it would mean time away from her and Ron. They had already lost so much time together from all of the turmoil amongst them that year. “You do?”
“Yes! Merlin, Harry… you’re happy. She’s happy. I’m happy for you because you’re happy.” Hermione reached out and squeezed his arm. “You don’t know how wonderful it is to see you smile like that, Harry. It’s been such a long time.”
He could not stand to look at her face for more than a moment, so he went back to studying the tabletop. “I’m sorry about… you know… the other day.”
“No you’re not,” she said in her usual, direct tones. “You meant everything you said, and you’d say it again. But I appreciate the thought.” He looked up, and she grinned wickedly. “I’m sure Ginny won’t mind discussing Malfoy with you.”
She shook her head. “Don’t. I don’t want to start up again. I’m just glad you finally worked it out with her.”
“She’s… she’s amazing, Hermione,” Harry said, his eyes unfocused. “I mean, just talking to her is… amazing.” He looked up and found Hermione smirking at him again. “She already knew, too, you know.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Of course she did.”
“What?” Harry was shocked by her casual dismissal of that news. “Did you tell her?” Ginny had not said anything about that.
“No!” Hermione said. “She knew because she’s not stupid, Harry. Perhaps you’d noticed that already. If I could see it, and Ron could guess, then it’s no surprise that she could work it out, too.”
“Oh. Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
Hermione was silent for almost a minute, and then she spoke in an excited rush. “You really like her a lot, then?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, feeling surprisingly bold. “I really do.”
His normally reserved friend let out a tiny squeal and leaned over to hug him. He patted her on the back until she pulled away and held him by both shoulders, grinning. “Better not let Ginny see that. She might hex me.”
“Oh, come on,” Harry said, gently batting her hands away. “Now you’re being stupid.”
“I’m just really thrilled for you, Harry. For both of you. I’ve thought for ages that… well, I just have a really good feeling about this.”
“I do, too,” he said, still awash in the wonder of the day. “She’s…”
“Amazing. Yes, you mentioned that.”
He thought about saying something reassuring about Ron, but he discarded the idea. She had never liked him mentioning it before. Instead, he whispered, “Thanks, Hermione.”
“What for?” she asked in a quiet, almost hesitant voice.
“Dunno. For everything, I suppose.”
She surged out of her seat and hugged him again, squeezing him tightly and treating him to a face-full of bushy brown hair. “You’re welcome,” she whispered. Then she sat back down, straightened her parchment, and smiled at him. “You’d best get to bed, Harry. You’re going to need your rest if you and Ginny plan to carry on tomorrow the way you did today.”
Harry flushed , and her smile widened. He shook his head wryly. “Goodnight, Hermione.”