It isn’t supposed to happen like this.
In all the lists she has made through the years, never once has Hermione written it in this way. After she’s established in a career, after she’s met certain goals, when she’s older and ready, when the timing is right, and a dozen other things that have to occur before it’s the right time. Now is not the right time nor does it fit with her plans.
It’s just dinner between friends. They do this at least once a week, sometimes twice. They’ve been friends for ages, after all, and they’ve become more close during the last few years. Neville is the first person who spoke to her after she boarded the train to Hogwarts fifteen years ago and he continues to be a solid friend, someone she can depend on and considers herself lucky to know.
When did the lines begin to blur? She doesn’t know and can’t believe it snuck up on her like this. She watches him cut tomatoes for the salad that he’s making and feels as if her entire world has turned itself upside down. The feelings aren’t sudden, in all honesty, but her acknowledgement of them is, which is what has her flailing and uncertain right now.
It’s Neville, one of her best friends. She should not be noticing the way his hair falls across his eyes and the way his bottom lip curves up slightly on the right. There is no excuse for her gaze lingering on his broad shoulders or noticing how his shirt fits snugly over the swell of belly.
“Are you okay?” he asks with concern as he stops cutting.
“Fine,” she stammers as she stands up and runs her hand through her hair. How did she let this happen? It’s not on her bloody life plan for another few years! “I think I should go. I don’t feel well. I’ll owl you tomorrow.”
Before he can say anything, she races out of his flat and hurries outside. It’s raining, which is probably symbolic in some emotionally aware way that she’s not yet mastered. Right now, though, it’s just cold and makes her realize she forgot her coat. She looks up at the sky and blinks as water drips into her eyes, not caring that she’s getting soaking wet. It seems rather unimportant compared to the realization that she may very well be in love with one of her best friends.
Love. God, the word alone terrifies her. It’s not something she’s felt since the months she spent with Ron, and that never felt like this. That was exciting and often synonymous with bickering and frantic snogging and often the danger of getting caught. It wasn’t enough for them, though, and only lasted until they realized that sex, no matter how good, only went so far.
Neville isn’t exciting or dangerous. He’s safe and warm and being with him makes her feel relaxed and happy. He makes her smile with stories of things he observes during his day and impresses her with his passion and knowledge of plants, a subject she‘s never been particularly good at. He also does the smallest things that make her feel as if he really knows her, whether it’s the fact that she likes honey with her tea or that she hates onions. She’s never realized just how well he does know her, better than Harry or Ron definitely. In a way, that makes him very dangerous.
She hears footsteps behind her, stepping into the puddles of rain and splashing as they walk towards her. She doesn’t have to look to know that it’s Neville, which is just something else that scares her and makes her desperately cling to plans and lists for some sort of control of her life. His hand is warm as it brushes against her neck when he moves her wet hair out of the way. She feels her coat around her shoulders and shudders, finally looking at him because she can’t fight it.
He looks confused and worried, possibly scared, and then he looks at her and his eyes widen slightly. “Oh,” he says softly as the rain pours down on them.
“I---” she struggles for the words that are eluding her right now. She’s normally so eloquent and matter-of-fact that she’s even more disconcerted at not knowing what to say or do. She looks at him and finally leans forward to brush a kiss against his lips before she pulls back quickly.
He stares at her before he smiles shyly. “Me too,” he says as he takes her hand and squeezes. “Let’s go inside, Hermione. We’ll talk over dinner.”
She entwines her fingers through his and looks at their joined hands, noticing how well they fit together despite their differences. She slowly smiles and looks up at him, feeling some of her fears diminish as she follows him in out of the rain.
For bryonyraven’s prompt: coming in from the rain. 100quills prompt: rain
Originally Posted: September 3, 2006
It isn’t supposed to happen like this.