“It’s okay.” She smiles at him, and he steps closer, knowing that there is no choice between being with her or being anywhere else. She looks up at the sky and sighs. “It never gets any easier, does it?”
“The celebration?” At her nod, he grimaces. “No, it doesn’t. I only come because my gran insists.”
“I come because it’s expected,” she admits with a wry smile. “The first year, I didn’t even consider that I could refuse. Now, well, it’s hard to break the habit after five years.”
He stands beside her and sneaks glances at her. He wants to offer his support for what he figures is really making her hide on a dark balcony, but he doesn’t really want to bring it up. He starts to speak but closes his mouth. Reminding her that the man she was supposed to be marrying isn’t worth her anyway probably isn’t the best idea.
“It’s alright, Neville.” She gives him a knowing look before she looks back at the sky. “It was amicable. I think Ron and I both realized it wasn’t right for us. I just didn’t expect--well, he seems happy.”
“It’s not easy to remain friends,” he confides quietly. “When Hannah and I broke up, I thought we’d still be able to continue our friendship, just differently. It didn’t work out that way, though.”
“I’ll refrain from mentioning my opinion about Hannah, though I have to say that you’re a better man than many if you still wanted to be friends after everything she did.” She reaches out to touch his shoulder, and he feels the familiar butterflies that always seem present whenever she’s around. She stares at him, moving her fingers against his neck lightly.
He coughs and looks down at the stone floor, feeling as awkward as he did in fourth year when he asked her to the ball. He’s not that boy anymore, and she’s not that girl, either. She’s a woman now: a beautiful, clever, ambitious woman. She’s going places, might even end up Minister of Magic one day, and he’s back at Hogwarts, about to start his second year teaching.
When he feels her fingers move into his hair, he looks up quickly and nearly stumbles backwards. She’s still staring at him, studying him in a way that he recognizes from watching her throughout the years. She’s trying to figure out something--to figure out him. He clears his throat, and she drops her hand, looking flustered as she glances away. “Confetti.”
“What?” There are times when she starts talking about something, and all he can do is nod and listen because he doesn’t really understand, but, this time, he’s completely confused.
She looks at him and smiles sheepishly. “You had confetti, in your hair.” She frowns and shakes her head. “No, that’s not right. I mean, you did, but that’s not why I touched you.”
“Why did you?” he asks quietly before he can stop himself.
“Because I wanted to,” she whispers as she studies his face again. He doesn’t know what she’s looking for or why she’s staring, but he doesn’t really mind her looking. After all, he looks at her a lot.
“That’s a good reason,” he tells her, still speaking quietly. When she raises her hand and touches his cheek, he bites his lip. Her fingers are warm and soft as they hesitantly caress his face. He leans into her touch and wets his dry lips as he watches her.
“You didn’t shave before the ball,” she murmurs, stroking his jaw with her thumb. He hears music playing and wonders if he’s imagining it before he remembers where they are. It’s a relief that he’s not going crazy and hearing violins whenever she touches him, but it’s also a reminder of Ron, of broken engagements and new girlfriends and hurt that forced her to hide outside in the first place.
“Didn’t think about it.” He also didn’t expect for anyone to be touching him, but he doesn’t say that aloud. She’s standing even closer, and he’s finding it difficult to think about the reasons why this isn’t smart. When she licks her lips and sways closer, he stops thinking at all.
Kissing Hermione is unlike anything he expects. It’s fierce and urgent and bloody brilliant. She pulls on his hair as she deepens the kiss, and he reaches down to grip her hips when he feels her hand on his bum. By the time he pulls away and sucks in several deep breaths, he feels like his skin is on fire, and parts of him are starting to stir that just shouldn’t be at a crowded ball.
“Why did you?” she asks, smiling slightly as she tilts her head back and looks at him.
He blinks and slowly smiles. This isn't about Ron's new girlfriend or her hurting or him fulfilling some teenage fantasy. Well, it might be partially the latter, but that's not all it is. “Because I wanted to.”
She traces his lips with her thumb. “That’s a good reason.” She leans up and kisses him again, which doesn’t help stop the stirring in his shorts. If anything, it makes it worse. When he feels her pinch his bum as he deepens the kiss, he can’t find it in himself to care.