Friends with Benefits

Disclaimer: Harry Potter = J.K. Rowling

Hermione had just stepped out of the fireplace in a blaze of green flames when she was enveloped in a very enthusiastic bear hug and twirled around.

"Harry… need to breathe," she gasped out once she realized who the pair of strong arms she was currently being squeezed in belonged to.

She heard him chuckle softly and felt him squeeze her one more time for good measure before he let go of her.

Harry's brilliant emerald eyes were all lit up as he said, "Merlin, I've missed you!"

Hermione laughed as she unbuttoned her coat, "I thought you said you felt relieved to take a break from my nagging."

Harry pinched her nose, "I was joking. Also, you said you'd only be gone for a couple of months, but it's been two years!"

Hermione shrugged, "Well, I missed my parents. Also, it was hard to leave them right away when I'd just found them again."

Harry smiled softly at her giving her another hug, sensing the sudden somberness in her voice. "It's good to have you back, Hermione."

Hermione was looking at the view outside the sitting room window when Harry's voice shattered through her musings.

"I'm sorry, Harry. What were you saying?"

Harry looked at her, an amused smile on his face, "I've been asking you the same thing three times now. Are you alright?"

"Yes. Yes, of course. Sorry, I suppose I'm just a little tired. It's been a long trip, you know."

Harry nodded in understanding. "So how was Australia?"

"It was good. Mum and Dad are in a really nice neighborhood. Plus, I saw a research institute there that I managed to intern in. It was fascinating," Hermione replied. She had gone to Australia to look for her parents. She still felt guilty about leaving them again, but she knew that this was where she belonged. "But it's good to be home."

They were silent as they drank their tea. Hermione looked around the room. The whole of interior of Grimmauld Place was different now. It was like a layer of dirt was stripped away and now everything was brighter. It helped that all the old house fixtures were gone, and for some reason, Harry had painted all the walls white.

"Everything looks so different," she mumbled.

"Did you say something?" Harry asked her, putting down his cup on the coffee table.

"The whole house looks different now."

Harry shrugged, "The house was so gloomy with the dark wood and the old furniture."

Hermione nodded in agreement, "But why paint the walls white?"

"Oh that," Harry laughed. "I stripped everything down and planned on painting the walls but then never got around to doing it. Mrs. Weasley wanted to help me with it, but between the books just full of color swatches and the ridiculous names of paint colors – well, can you really blame me for losing patience with it all and just painted everything white?"

Hermione laughed, familiar with the Weasley monarch. She always had the best intentions but her… enthusiasm tended to overwhelm others.

She and Harry talked for a half hour more before her travel-weary body betrayed her and she wasn't able to stifle a yawn from escaping.

"Come on," Harry said as he stood up from the couch. "Let's get you settled in properly. We can talk more later."

He bent down to pick up her luggage and he led the way to the staircase.

Harry paused at the bottom of the staircase when he sensed Hermione stop and watched as she looked over the pictures on the table in the hallway. Hermione looked over at him, and Harry noticed that she was holding up a small picture of Harry and Ginny from two years ago.

"I didn't know I still had that," Harry replied, walking over to her and taking the picture frame. He glanced once at it and opened the table's drawer and threw the picture inside.

"Harry –"

Harry held up a hand to interrupt her, "I don't want to talk about it, Hermione. That's ancient history."

Hermione didn't really think that two years could be considered as ancient history, but she chose not to let the words run away from her. So instead, she followed him as he led her to the second floor bedroom she had stayed in before.

After telling her to get some rest and promising to wake her up in time for dinner, Harry made his way back then went back to the drawer and pulled out the picture of himself and Ginny. He walked towards the kitchen and threw the picture, along with its frame face-down in the trash compactor.

He heaved a sigh and ran his hands across his face before opening the refrigerator and grabbing a bottle of water. Ron had wondered more than once at Harry's insistence of having Muggle electronics around his house, but it was part of who he was. He was half-Muggle. Plus, he liked watching television and his drinks ice-cold.

He glanced at the clock on the wall and seeing that he still had a few hours to kill, decided to make some progress on the reports he brought home from home.

A/N: Please read and review!