Liquid Courage

The floo in the Black House came alive with green flames and a vivacious ginger beauty stepped through. "Harry? Hermione?" she called out as she brushed the soot of her outfit.

With a 'pop', Kreacher appeared in the foyer. "Good evening madam," he greeted her with a bow. "The Master is not home and his pet Muggle is reading in the Library."

Ginny suppressed a giggle at the nick-name for Harry's best friend. Kreacher had definitely warmed up to Harry after the events of the War, but some prejudices ran deep and she doubted he'd ever be comfortable around the Muggleborn witch.

"Thank you, Kreacher," she said kindly. "I'll make my own way up there, you can go back to... whatever it is you're doing."

"As you wish, madam," the old House-Elf said, bowing once more. He made quite the impressive figure, Ginny thought, wearing a butler's waistcoat and the ever-present Slytherin locket around his neck. Smiling at the thought of teasing Hermione in a moment she ascended the stairs until she arrived at the Black Library.

Hermione was where she was often found, lounging on the comfortable chaise longue that she'd rescued from her childhood home following the débâcle of trying to get the adult Grangers to return home. 'At least they can talk over the fellytone now without screaming,' Ginny mused as she stepped inside.
"Hey Herms! Kreacher told me Harry had a new pet, have you seen it?"

"Wha?" replied Hermione, startled. "Oh! Ginny! What brings you here? Is Harry home yet? Don't call me Herms! Harry's pet? What pet? I haven't seen any pets?"

"In order: a social call; haven't seen him; got it, 'Mione; and Kreacher was talking about Harry's pet Muggle. Tell me, does he make you wear a collar... and nothing else?" Ginny's grin was wide enough to almost make her resemble a Cheshire cat, as she dropped down on one of the comfortable chairs in Hermione's reading corner.

Predictably, Hermione turned red. "It's... he's... we're not like that," she mumbled, looking away.

"Bet you'd love it if you were, right? Merlin, girl, Harry's Aitch Oh Tee hot! Why haven't you jumped his bones yet?" Ginny reached forward, taking Hermione's book away from her while the brunette was distracted.

"Hey! Give that back!" Hermione complained, but too late, the youngest Weasley had it firmly in her grasp.

"'Captain Morgan', 'Mione? Pirate porn again?" Ginny tittered.

"It's not... give that back!" Hermione reached over and grabbed her porn... err 'romantic novel' back. "Ginny, what is your reason for coming here, other than a chance to annoy me?" she asked, irritated.

"Does this answer your question?" Ginny raised her left hand, revealing a simple gold band on her ring finger.

"Oh Ginny, congrats! He finally proposed, then?" Hermione beamed at her friend, her frustration quickly dissipating.

"Yup, it only took a few months of hinting and one week of refusing to let him get into bed with me, but Dean finally got the hint," Ginny proudly proclaimed. "You're the third person to know, after his mum and my parents," she added.

"I knew you two were perfect for each other," Hermione beamed. "I just wish..." her voice trailed off.

"You just wish that Harry'd give you one?" Ginny finished the sentence.

"Don't... don't be silly. He doesn't like me like that," Hermione flushed again. "We're just best friends."

"Uh huh," Ginny gave her a wink. "You have it bad, girl. You always had... even when you were trying to date that lazy brother of mine."

"Ugh, don't remind me," Hermione grimaced. "I don't know what I was thinking... can you just imagine me and him staying together?"

"You'd nag him to death before the wedding night was over!" Ginny said with a laugh. "Nah, it's a good thing you broke up when you did. 'War Hero' Ron is happy with Lavender, he doesn't even mind that she's scarred."

"And Georgina is a beautiful little baby," Hermione agreed.

"But no changing the subject! Back to you and Harry."

"Gin-gin, there is no me and Harry," Hermione let out a sigh. "Stop trying to push us together."

"Sure there isn't. Say, 'Mione, can you get us a wine or something? I feel like celebrating."

"There's no getting rid of you easily today, is there?"

"Not on your life sister," Ginny stated. Sighing, Hermione got up and left the room.

'That was as easy as I thought it'd be,' Ginny thought. 'She'd never even think of calling for Kreacher, so that gives me enough time to prepare...'


"Hermione, I'm home," Harry's voice came from downstairs a while later. Not waiting for an answer he dropped his outer robes and attaché case on the floor, knowing Kreacher was waiting to put them away properly, and went upstairs.

"The Wizengamot session was boring as usual, they're still trying to get me to take the role of Chief Warlock and – oh. Hey, Gin," Harry trailed off as he entered the library and found the two women lounging back with a wine glass in hand, judging by half empty wine bottle on the table definitely not their first, and giggling.

"Hi-i-i-i Harry," they said in tandem, then descended into a giggling mess.

"Are we celebrating something, ladies?" Harry asked, plopping down into a vacant seat. Not giving it any thought he conjured a wine glass and poured himself a glass while waiting for the answer.

"Dean!" Ginny blurted out.

"Dean proposed to her, Harry," Hermione clarified, rolling her eyes. "Isn't her ring beautiful? I wish you'd buy me one like tha –" Her eyes growing wide with shock, she clamped her hands in front of her mouth.

"Sorry, what was that?" Harry looked up quizzically, momentarily having been distracted by Ginny raising her left hand so he could inspect the ring.

"No... nothing!" Hermione blurted out. "I was definitely not suggesting you should buy me one." She froze in shock, looking at the glass. "Did I just say that... oh Merlin, I didn't just say that, did I?"

"Well, time for me to leave," Ginny suddenly stated as she stood up. "It was lovely seeing you both and all, but I'm off to shag my fiancé."

"Way too much information Gin-gin. And congrats," Harry said, but he didn't look at her as Ginny left the room. Instead he was inspecting Hermione.
"'Mione? What did you say just now?"

"I... I... I didn't mean to! It must be Ginny, she spiked my drink!" Hermione complained.

"We can get to that later. Did you just say you... you wanted me to buy you a ring?" Harry's expression was unreadable as he leant forward, closer to her.

"Oh gods..." Hermione rested her head on her hands, conveniently hiding her flushed face from view. "Yes, Harry."

"Does... does that mean you... you like me? That way?" Harry prompted.

"Gryffindor courage, Granger," Hermione muttered to herself. Then she looked up at him. "Harry... I love you. I have loved you since our first year... I just never had the courage to tell you."

Harry was silent.

"Remember what I said back then, Harry? 'Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and...'"

Harry was silent still. Taking a deep breath, Hermione continued, "And love, Harry. I... I wasn't brave enough to tell you then. I... I only grew to love you more. In third year, you showed me you were a great wizard as well as a wonderful person... and how I wished the next year you would've asked me to the Ball! But... never mind. I... I was too afraid to ask you myself, so we're equally to blame."

"I... I see. But... what about fifth year then? And sixth? And Ron?" Harry asked, softly.

"Oh Harry! I was so... so afraid, of ruining what we had... that's why I went after Ron. Merlin knows that was a bad idea... but even after things were all over, I couldn't bear to tell you."

"You.. you really love me?"

Hermione took another deep breath to steel herself, then waited until she caught his eye. "Harry James Potter, I love you. I have loved you for years. And... if you'll have me... I always will."

In lieu of an answer, Harry leant forward and they kissed.

Months later Ginny Thomas's invitation to be Best Maid at the wedding of Hermione Granger and Harry Potter had 'thanks for the Veritaserum' scribbled under it in Harry's chicken-scrawl, much to Dean's amusement.

A/N: Written for the QLFC Round 3, but I ended up not using it and wrote 'Marriage Problems' instead. Still, I like this short fic.