“There is a reason why the locket conjured up those specific visions and fears for me, you know.” Ron said bluntly after a moment. “And you can’t tell me that you haven’t thought about it, being with him instead.” There was no bitterness or recrimination in his voice, although Hermione glanced away guiltily.
“He’s my best friend, Ron.” She said softly.
“What am I then? Draco Malfoy?” the redhead teased, nudging her with his shoulder.
She shook her head, biting her lip as she considered her words. “You’re my friend too, but…I don’t depend on you like I do Harry. I want you in my life, but I need him there. We’re…kindred spirits.” She smiled sadly. “We balance each other out.”
Ron nodded affectionately. “Like earth and air, or a lioness and a hawk, coming together. Gryffindors. You keep him grounded, and he helps you to fly.”
“I…yes. I suppose so. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t see me as a sister.”
He snorted. “Harry has never had a sister, so he has no idea what that should feel like.” Ron said dryly. ” Plus, I saw his expression – and yours – when you came down the stairs at the Yule Ball back in fourth year. And when you hugged him, right before he went to confront Voldemort. Believe me, he does not consider you in any sort of platonic light. Not that he would ever mention it.”
He stood up, easily pulling her with him. “Come on. I think we’ve been in here long enough, and I’m hungry. I’ll meet you back in the Common Room, yeah?”
Hermione returned slowly to the Gryffindor Common room, where she found Harry conversing animatedly with Dean Thomas. Harry was on the squishy couch by the fireplace, with Dean across from him, sprawled sideways in one of the chairs. He broke off to greet her with a smile when she walked over to them.
“We need to talk.”
Dean winced. “When a witch says that in that tone, it usually means nothing good. I’ll leave you to it, then.”
“Traitor.” Harry mock scowled.
Dean smirked, winking at Hermione. “You faced down the Dark Lord how many times?”
“Only ‘cuz she was on my side.” Harry nodded up at Hermione, who rolled her eyes, fighting her blush.
“You’re doomed, mate. It was good knowing you. Can I have your Firebolt?”
“Go away, wanker.”
“Git.” Harry snorted as he stretched out, his eyes alight with humor. “Let me know about those football tickets this summer.”
Dean smirked and nodded, smiling at Hermione before wandering off.
“Blokes and their male bonding rituals.” She snorted, pleased to see her best friend so relaxed and happy. “Budge over a bit, would you?”
He obligingly lifted his head, just enough for her to slide under. She shook her head in mock exasperation, but settled on the couch next to him, his head resting on her thigh, and absently began playing with his hair, toying with the inky strands. The were alone in the room; everyone else had gone down to dinner, or other tasks. Hermione let herself relax, one muscle group at a time, soothed by the rhythmic movement of her hand.
“You know, I think were the first person to ever give me a hug.” Harry murmured, his eyes still closed. ” At the end of first year, I think, after we went after the Stone. And then every year after, every time I saw you, or I left.” A reminiscent smile touched his lips. “Not just hugs. Touches. Grabbing my arm, holding my had, leaning on my shoulder…” he snuggled farther down onto the couch, still using her thigh as a head rest. “Playing with my hair.”