Harry didn’t really know when it began. Perhaps it was when he started seeing red hair and freckles in his dreams. Or when he started peeking at his best mate while he was supposed to be asleep. Maybe these sorts of things didn’t really have a beginning. Maybe they just were.
For a while, Harry had managed to ignore the unfortunate feelings he had for his friend. With the Half Blood Prince’s book and Malfoy sneaking around and getting up to no good, Harry had enough on his hands without dealing with the fact that he might be gay. And in love with Ron.
Even his numerous distractions couldn’t keep those thoughts away, however, when Slughorn’s Christmas Party rolled around.
“Anyone would be glad to go with you,” Hermione said when she saw Harry frowning at his Charms homework. They were working in the library and neither had spoken in the last twenty minutes.
Harry shook his head. “How do you do that?”
“Know exactly what I’m thinking all the time.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’ve known you for years, and you’re really not all that spontaneous.”
Harry sighed. If only she knew what was really bothering me...
“Anyways, like I said, you could ask just about anyone. With all this Chosen One nonsense flying around...”
Harry furrowed his brows mockingly. “Who says it’s nonsense?”
Hermione slapped him with a book. “My point is that you should stop sulking and ask someone already!”
Harry’s heart ached. “I can’t ask the person I want to. It would almost definitely cost me a friend.”
It was Hermione’s turn to furrow her brows. “Harry, who are you talking about?”
Just then, Ron rounded the corner. “Hey, guys.” He sat in the chair between the two of them, setting his books on the table with a thump. A few papers flew away, but he didn’t seem to notice. “How’s the homework coming?”
Hermione glared and she gathered the stray papers for him. “Better than yours, I presume. You really should be working with us.”
Ron’s eyes widened in surrender. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Hermione huffed but turned back to her work. Harry sent Ron a sympathetic look. As soon as Ron opened his textbook to start his assignment, Harry’s gaze shifted almost unconsciously, taking in those gratuitous freckles, that long nose, and his pink lips. Reluctantly, Harry dragged his eyes away from Ron and back to his Charms assignment. His scratchy handwriting was nowhere near as tempting to look at. He sighed.
Harry wanted nothing more than to ask his best friend to the Christmas Party, but there was truth in his words to Hermione. She just didn’t realize she was the friend he was worried he’d lose.
Hermione didn’t like girls. She was straight. And in love with Ron. The red hair she saw in her dreams was most certainly his and not Ginny’s. The sick feeling she got in her stomach when she saw Ginny and Dean together was just everyday concern for her friend’s happiness.
All of this would have been perfectly fine...
...if a single part of it was true. But it wasn’t. And Hermione couldn’t stand lying to herself the way she did everyone else. So she accepted it as best she could and tried to move on. She was doing a wonderful job of it too--that is, until the Christmas Party invites went out. Between inciting dangerous thoughts about her closest female friend and forcing her to spend time with McLaggen, Slughorn’s social events would be the death of her.
Now, Hermione couldn’t stop fantasizing about the soft curve of Ginny’s waist in her hands as they danced--the way those glossy lips would curve into a mischievous smile just before darting in for a kiss. These fantasies also wouldn’t be a big deal. Except that Ron had just won them the Quidditch match ( with the help of Harry’s Felix Felicis, Hermione thought irritably) and she couldn’t care less, which did nothing to keep her cover.
Ron was currently snogging Lavender, so Hermione went out in search of Harry, hoping he would be a bit more conversational. She spotted him just as he ducked out of the portrait, following without a second thought.
The corridor was chilly at night, but there was a faint buzz of sound resonating from the Gryffindor common room. A few portraits were complaining about the noise, and a handful were missing their contents entirely. Hermione wondered if there was a special frame to serve as a refuge for dislodged portrait characters. There was nothing about one in Hogwarts, A History , but she’d learned over the years that the book was more of an overview. It would take a few thousand more pages to cover all the castle’s secrets.
Hermione shadowed Harry’s footsteps, rounding the corner just as they stopped. The spectacled Gryffindor sat on the steps, glassy-eyed and staring daggers at the wall. Hermione wrapped an arm around his shoulders in a tight embrace when she joined him.
“Harry, what’s wrong?”
“The Christmas Party is stupid.”
“That’s all you’re upset about?” Hermione let out a sigh of relief. “Harry, we’ve already talked about this. If you’d just ask whoever it is to go with you, I’m sure they’d happily oblige.”
“Hermione,” Harry sighed, “I know you’re trying to help, and I’m grateful, really, but it’s not working. So if you could just leave me alone for a while, that’d be great.”
Hermione didn’t take the hint. She just leaned her head on his shoulder and revelled in the idyllic moment. Only a few cheers here and there could be heard from the party down the hall, and pale moonlight streamed through the gothic windows.
“Whoever it is must be really special,” she said finally. It had to be Ginny, but part of her couldn’t admit out loud that she was in love with her best friend’s crush.
Harry swallowed, collecting his words. “They are.”
Hermione studied the stones of the wall for a long time before speaking. “Since neither of us can go with the people we want to go with, what if we went together? As friends?”
Harry looked at her in surprise. “That’s a great idea, Hermione. But Ron would totally go with you if you asked.”
Hermione looked at the ground, the truth threatening to burst out of her. Instead, she said, “Sure he would. As soon as he’s done snogging Lavender, I’m certain he’ll come after me.” A snort escaped her. “Honestly, she’s ghastly.”
Harry’s jaw clenched. “Tell me about it.”
Hermione didn’t understand his reaction, but her own emotions drew her attention away from the puzzle. Her heart raced in her chest as she added, “Anyways, I don’t want to go with Ron.” If asked, she knew she’d share her secret now. Her walls had already been broken down. There was no hiding anymore.
Harry glanced up in confusion. “But fourth year at the Yule Ball--”
“Harry, that was ages ago,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “I was naive and hadn’t accepted myself yet. You were into Cho, so Ron was just the only boy who was accessible.”
Harry fidgeted with his wand. “I wasn’t into Cho. I think--I think it’s a lot like you with Ron.”
“You kissed her,” Hermione reminded him.
Harry grinned. “I didn’t come back with the most resounding commentary, did I?”
Hermione laughed. “No, I suppose not.” Then, gathering her courage, she asked, “Is it all girls then? Or just Cho you didn’t like?”
Harry seemed surprised at the question. He opened his mouth as if to answer, but his response was a new question instead. “Hermione, who is it you want to take to the Christmas Party?”
Bile rose in her throat. “You first,” she whispered.
Harry took her hand in his, squeezing it tightly. “Both of us. On three.”
Hermione nodded, and trepidation built in her stomach.
She wondered if it would kill her to say the name out loud.
It probably would. Maybe it would be better that way.
“Ginny,” Hermione whispered at the same time Harry said, “Ron.”
They stared at each other, wide-eyed. Even the airborne dust particles seemed suspended in that moonlight for a few breathless seconds. And then the two Gryffindors burst into laughter.
“Sorry I didn’t see it earlier,” Hermione said after a while.
Harry snorted. “Not like I predicted your response either. I’ve spent months feeling guilty for liking Ron when I thought you did too.”
“I’ve felt the same about liking Ginny. Are you going to ask him?”
Harry considered. “I--I think so. I was terrified of losing both of you before, but keeping my feelings to myself now is just cowardice.”
“I think I’ll tell Ginny how I feel. She’s going to the Christmas Party with Dean, but maybe after all this nonsense is over.”
Harry nodded. “If Ron kills me when I ask him, you’re in charge of my funeral.”
Hermione grinned. “We are gathered here today to commemorate Harry Potter, a terrible dresser with hair like a disgruntled hedgehog. He had many flaws, but his true downfall was falling in love with the wrong Weasley.”
Harry cracked a grin. “See, this is why I put you in charge. I don’t want any of that sentimental rubbish. Tell it like it is.” He paused. “Is my hair really that bad?”
“Worse,” she laughed, knocking him to the side.
He pushed her right back before placing his arm around her shoulder. “I’m glad we’re in love with the wrong Weasley together.”
Hermione smiled, resting her head on his shoulder again. “Me too.”
They stayed like that, arms wrapped around each other, until the sounds of the party died down.
“Hey, Ron,” Harry said, voice sounding surprisingly casual. “Where’ve you been?” It was Thursday night, and the Christmas Party was only a day away. If this went poorly, Harry had cut it too close to find another date, but it was the first time Harry could muster enough Gryffindor courage to ask.
Ron collapsed on his bed with a contented sigh. “With Lav. We were up in the Astronomy Tower.”
Harry cleaned his glasses--not because they were dirty, but because he needed something to do with his hands. “Again?” Harry asked. A hint of irritation slipped into his tone before he could stop it.
Ron looked up. “Harry, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Ron.” He couldn’t let his feelings mess with their friendship. That wouldn’t be fair to Ron. He wasn’t the one stupid enough to fall for his best mate. The mental chiding didn’t improve Harry’s mood.
“Did I do something wrong?” Ron’s voice was full of concern. “Is it Lav?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Ron.” Harry knew his anger was unfair, but he couldn’t help it. Just hearing that godawful nickname made him want to gouge someone’s eyes out.
Ron wasn’t having it, however. He crawled onto Harry’s bed and placed a hand on his best mate’s shoulder. “Harry, please tell me.”
The dark-haired Gryffindor tried to ignore the way his skin tingled under Ron’s touch. He sighed, putting his glasses back on at a snail’s pace. “You’re too good for her,” he said finally.
Ron snorted. “Well, sure. You think that. Just because every girl’s dying to go to the Christmas Party with you doesn’t mean the rest of us are so lucky. Some of us didn’t even get an invitation.”
Harry turned to Ron irritably. “Is that what this is about? You’re dating her to make yourself feel better about not getting invited to some stupid professor’s party?”
Ron stood up, flushed red with anger. “Well, some of us don’t have the luxury of having everyone praise us the minute we walk through the door. Maybe, for once, I’d like to have someone who cares for me, dotes on me, loves me even!”
“ I love you!” Harry yelled, standing up as well.
Ron stared for a minute before rolling his eyes, anger defusing somewhat. “You don’t count.”
Harry seethed. “I don’t count? What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Harry let loose a deranged laugh. “Apparently, the Golden Boy only gets to have emotions forced upon him. The girls all love Harry--why on earth can’t he pick one?” Ron stared at him, speechless. “Maybe,” Harry continued, “it’s because he doesn’t fucking like girls! Has anyone thought about that?”
Ron’s brows furrowed, and he licked his lips nervously. “Harry, what are you on about?”
“I’m gay, Ron.” At his friend’s blank expression, he waved his hands around, gesturing pointlessly at himself. “Queer. A homosexual. Attracted to men.”
Ron swallowed, looking at Harry as if through new eyes. “Harry, mate--”
“Whatever, Ron. Apparently my feelings don’t count, so why don’t you go talk to someone who matters. Lavender, for instance. I’m done with this.” Harry yanked his bed curtains shut around him and cast a locking charm. It was stupid to think he ever had a chance.
When Harry awoke, he noticed his glasses went bent from sleeping in them. Why hadn’t he taken them off..? Then he remembered. Fuck .
Part of him wanted to hide in his bed until the end of eternity. After a day or so they’d probably send a professor in to check on him, and missing class would hurt his marks, but it was worth it if he didn’t have to face Ron abandoning him quite so soon.
Just as he was considering feigning illness, someone cleared their throat from just outside his curtains. Maybe if he stayed still they’d go away. “Ahehem.” This time the throat clearing was louder and more pointed.
Harry sighed into his pillow. “Who’s there?”
“Er, it’s me, mate,” Ron answered.
“What do you want?” Harry buried his head under his covers. Maybe they’d protect him from his incoming shame.
“To talk. About last night? You didn’t really give me a chance to say anything.”
Harry tried to convince himself he didn’t care what Ron said. He failed. “Well, go on then.”
“Um, can you open the bed curtains?”
“You can say whatever it is you have to from out there,” Harry said stubbornly. Unlocking the curtains would mean removing his arms from his den of covers. It would be chilly. And then Ron would see his face when his last hopes were shattered. Of course, the former was the main reason. The latter was just a minor side factor.
“Okay, so what you said--” Ron started.
“Are Dean and Seamus there?”
“Uh, no. They’re at breakfast.”
“Good. I’m not ready to tell them that I’m, um...”
“Yeah, I figured.”
Ron cleared his throat again. “I just wanted to say that--fuck, this is awkward, mate. Can you just open the curtains?”
“Fine,” Harry grumbled, pulling his wand out from under his pillow. Here goes nothing . The curtains burst open to reveal Ron standing there in his pajama pants, scratching his head.
“That’s better, I think. So what I was trying to say is that I’m okay with you being...”
“Gay?” Harry offered.
Ron blushed. “Er, yeah, that too. I was going to say ‘in love with me’.”
“Yeah,” Ron said, shifting his feet. He sat on the bed. “I, um, well, I--”
“Ron, do you want to go to the Christmas Party with me?”
“What?” the redhead squeaked. He looked lost in whatever his previous train of thought had been.
“I know you’ve said it’s stupid, but I thought that might just be because you were mad you didn’t get invited, so now I’m inviting you, and maybe it won’t be as stupid if you’re there.” Harry realized he was rambling and shut his mouth.
Ron stared at him for a moment before nodding slowly. “Yeah. I’d, um--I’d like that.”
Harry broke out into a grin. “Really? That’s great. Brilliant, actually. I was worried you were going to tell me I was insane and that you’d never talk to me again--”
And then Ron kissed him. Harry died a little. Perhaps he’d have to ramble more often if that was Ron’s solution.
On the night of the Christmas Party, Hermione tagged along with Ron and Harry. They wore matching dress robes (Hermione had found a spell for duplication and then made some slight adjustments) and walked hand in hand. Hermione tried to just be happy for them, but she couldn’t contain her envy.
When they entered the main area, Harry and Ron released each other.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I thought you two decided you didn’t mind if anyone saw.”
Ron went pink at the ears. “Erm, we did. But now that we’re actually here...well, it’s a lot harder in person. There are professors here.” Harry nodded in vehement agreement.
Hermione shook her head amusedly. “You’re both insufferable. It’s a wonder I didn’t see the connection earlier.”
“Sod off, Hermione,” Ron said, but he couldn’t hide his smile.
“Do you wish you were here with Lavender?” she teased.
“Well...” Ron trailed off with a smirk.
“Hey!” Harry shoved him. The trio broke into laughter. A few passersby glanced over, probably wondering how anyone could be having that much fun at a Slug Club event.
Hermione tilted her head to the side. “What did you tell Lavender?”
“I told her that she’s great, really, but she’s not exactly my type.” Ron snickered, putting on a mockingly sympathetic expression.
Hermione smiled, but her attention was quickly drawn to a different Weasley. Ginny had just walked in ahead of Dean, anger simmering beneath her stunning features.
“You should go after her,” Harry said quietly as Ron grabbed drinks for the three of them.
Hermione shook her head. “It’s obvious she just had a fight with Dean. I don’t want to get involved.”
“That’s the perfect time to tell her how you feel. Even if she doesn’t like you that way, you’ll look great in comparison.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Thanks for the confidence booster. I’m overjoyed at the prospect of being marginally more appealing than the boyfriend she hates.”
“That’s not what I said,” Harry pointed out.
“It was close.”
He elbowed her good-naturedly. “Go for it, ‘Mione. You encouraged me to ask Ron, and it worked out for me.”
Hermione sighed. “But see, that’s the problem. Statistically, that makes it less likely it will work out for me.”
Harry raised his hands in the air. “I’m not going to argue statistics with you, but trust me, you’ll feel better if you get this off your chest.”
Hermione exhaled once before nodding. “I’ll do it.” She smiled a weak smile. “Thanks, Harry.”
Ron turned up then with the drinks. Hermione took two of the three despite his protests and muttered, “wish me luck”.
“Good luck!” Ron yelled after her. He turned to Harry. “What are we wishing her luck for?”
“Asking out her crush,” Harry replied vaguely.
“Oh, that’s cool.”
Harry had a feeling that if things worked out in Hermione’s favor, Ron would have a slightly different reaction. He grinned at the thought. This was going to be fun.
Hermione tried to take deep breaths as she made her way towards Ginny, who was talking to Slughorn with Dean standing dejectedly a few steps back. She watched as the redhead smiled too widely and excused herself from the conversation, transferring Slughorn’s suffocating attention to an unsuspecting Mr. Thomas.
Hermione knew this was her chance. She straightened her spine and walked in Ginny’s direction...
...and was promptly cut off by Cormac McLaggen.
“Granger, I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you,” he said with what looked like an attempt at a seductive smile.
Hermione groaned internally. “Not now, McLaggen. Sorry.” She tried to butt around him, but he easily stepped in front of her.
She rolled her eyes. “Sure, whatever.”
“It’s a date,” he called as she started to walk away.
Hermione whirled on him, nerves, annoyance, and disgust breaking her last thread of normalcy. “No, it’s not. You’re arrogant and irritating and you can’t take a hint. Honestly, you act as if you’re my only option. Let me tell you something: you’re not . I’m not desperate enough to take the first guy that shows an interest.” A laugh bubbled out of her. “Actually, I’m not desperate enough to take any guy. So back off, alright?”
Hermione stormed off without waiting for a response. His gobsmacked expression was enough. A thrill ran through her. That was...exhilarating. No pretending. Just her honest opinion. And in a casual sort of way, she’d come out to someone. As she located Ginny and made her way over, she could feel her confidence doubling. She could do this.
Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the striking emerald dress Ginny wore. It was cinched at the waist, highlighting her Quidditch-toned figure. Oh, how Hermione wanted to feel the curve of those hips...Ginny turned, smiling when she spotted Hermione.
“Drink?” the older girl offered, holding out one of the two she’d grabbed.
“Thanks.” Ginny downed the glass in one gulp. “How are you liking the party?”
“It’s alright. I figured I’d leave Harry and Ron alone for a while.”
Ginny’s brows rose. “Not as into my brother as you thought?”
Hermione stared in confusion. Then she cracked up. “I didn’t invite Ron. Harry did.”
A slow grin stretched across Ginny’s features. “Way to go, Ron. I didn’t know he swung that way.”
Hermione smiled. Ginny wasn’t opposed to homosexuality, which was a good sign. Even if she didn’t return Hermione’s feelings, at least she likely wouldn’t push her away. “So how are you enjoying the party? I see you’re not with Dean.”
Ginny groaned. “He’s driving me batty. So batty, in fact, that I might have a go at perfecting my Bat-Bogey Hex.”
“It seems like you two fight all the time, but you’re still together,” Hermione observed. “Why do you put up with it?”
Ginny shrugged. “He’s an alright guy, and he’s there. It was easier to go with him than get up the courage to ask the person I really wanted to.”
Hermione took a sip of her drink. It was difficult to swallow. “I’m sure she would have said yes.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes at Hermione, a mischievous smile playing at her lips. “I never said it was a girl. How’d you guess?”
“Well, you used the gender-neutral ‘person’ instead of ‘guy’, which hints that it’s a girl you fancy.” Hermione took another sip of her drink. Here goes nothing . “And I guess it was partially wishful thinking.”
Ginny’s eyes lit in--hopefully happy--surprise. “Is that why you’re alone tonight? Wishful thinking?”
Hermione smiled, nerves melting out of her. “Yes, I suppose that’s why.”
Ginny stepped closer, taking Hermione’s drink and setting it on a traveling house-elf’s tray. She leaned in until her lips barely brushed Hermione’s ear. “If you close your eyes,” she whispered, “your wish might come true.”
Hermione closed them. And Merlin, did her wish come true.
Ginny’s lips weren’t glossy like she had imagined, but the soft, chapped pressure against her own was even better than her fantasies. Hermione realized everyone could see the two of them, but she found she didn’t care. Another thrill went through her, just as it had when she told off Cormac. The excitement and satisfaction of being truly and entirely honest. With herself. With her friends. With the world.
Accompanying that openness was an enraged outburst of, “HER CRUSH IS MY SISTER?!?” from Ron. Harry quickly took care of that, however, with a technique quite similar to Ginny’s. A few gasps and whispers broke out, moreso than when Hermione and Ginny kissed since Ron’s outburst had drawn everyone’s eyes to the scene. Slughorn’s expression of bewilderment was priceless.
Hermione turned back to Ginny with a smile. “He took that better than expected.”
Ginny nodded excessively in agreement. “Oh, yes. Not a single hex thrown.”
“He wouldn’t hex me. He likes me too much.”
Ginny smirked. “Not as much as he likes Harry.”
Hermione pulled Ginny to her by the waist, revelling in the curves she’d only dreamed about from afar. “Well, that’s why I have you, now isn’t it?”
“Mmm...I get it,” Ginny murmured, moving teasingly close to Hermione’s lips. “You keep me around as a substitute for my brother’s affection.”
“Exactly. Don’t expect me to develop any emotional attachment to you. Love is for the weak.”
Ginny laughed. “As long as I still get to do this,” she whispered, kissing Hermione on the lips.
“Oh, that’s an intrinsic part of this arrangement,” Hermione said with a grin.
The Christmas Party couldn’t have gone better, and Hermione wondered how a situation that had begun with two people falling for the wrong Weasley could end so right. Wishful thinking, she supposed.