Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come the fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires.
Harry Potter's engagement party wasn't the glamorous affair the papers had been predicting. Neither Harry nor Ginny had wanted a huge party, and so they chose instead to hold it in the garden at The Burrow; the trees hung through with golden lights and lanterns, a small jazz band filling the air with music, the champagne free-flowing.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Hermione murmured to Luna as they arrived (slightly late because Luna had forgotten her rather eccentric floral headband, made of night-blooming flowers) and had had to apparate home and fetch it.
"Oh yes, very beautiful. There's Ronald - shall we go and say hello?"
"You go, I'll get us a drink."
Luna gave her a wide-eyed and yet still knowing glance and floated off towards him.
Hermione wasn't exactly avoiding Ron, they were friends again, but he'd brought his intimidatingly pretty new girlfriend and while Hermione wished him every joy, she'd like at least one glass of champagne before she had to meet her.
As she made her way towards the little gazebo where the drinks were, Hermione greeted her friends, from school, from the Ministry, even Professor McGonagall who was surprisingly teary-eyed.
"Hermione you look so beautiful!" Harry appeared at her elbow.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, flinging her arms around her best friend. "This is just gorgeous."
"Thanks," he grinned. "Here, have a drink. Where's Luna?"
"She went to say hello to Ron and Cariad."
"I haven't seen her since she got back from Japan."
"Come on then," Hermione took a big gulp to fortify herself. "Let's go and say hello."
Cariad Jones was sweet-faced and dark eyed, a new recruit for the Hollyhead Harpies and Hermione was relieved, because actually, this girl with her bell-like laugh and her obvious adoration of Ron was nice.
"She's great," Hermione said honestly, when the other girl had gone to speak to her team-mates.
Ron sighed in relief, and slung an arm around her shoulder.
"She was pretty worried about meeting you," he told her. "Thanks for being – you know – gracious."
"Harry, I have a present for you," Luna said dreamily, pulling a small package from her enormous bag (made of woven unicorn tail hair and as hideous as it was unusual in Hermione's opinion).
"Oh, thanks Luna. I'll put it with the others."
"You should open it tonight," she said. "It won't work once Jupiter has passed the moon."
Hermione held in a sigh. She'd already been treated to an explanation of Luna's gift, a small, ancient Japanese hoju, that Luna had brought back from her last trip.
Harry accepted the parcel, wrapped in shimmering iridescent paper covered in sparkles. Hermione smiled fondly at Luna.
"Mine's on the table already, Harry," Hermione said, but before he could reply they were interrupted.
"Oh Harry, dear, there you are. Oh – this is so lovely. Congratulations," Mrs Figg said, tearfully.
"Thank you Arabella," he said awkwardly, still struggling with using her first name now he was an adult.
"And Ginny looks so wonderful. Your Father would have loved her!"
"Yeah, I wish he was here to see this," Harry said softly and Luna gasped.
"Oh Harry – " she said.
And then it all happened so quickly, Hermione wasn't sure exactly what was going on. Ron yelled ARRESTO MOMENTUM and something just slammed into her and everything went black.
. . .
When she came to, moments later, there was a heavy weight pressing her into the ground, so that she could hardly breathe and there were shocked voices and someone was screaming and then Harry said –
The weight on top of Hermione groaned, and then it was gone; she sat up and stared at the dark haired man, lying on the ground next to her.
"You're an awfully pretty cushion," he said. Hermione screamed.
(Ron would tease her about it later, endlessly, even though she'd snapped it was delayed shock and of course I did).
"Dad?" Harry said again and the man sat up.
"Harry," he greeted. "Well this is unexpected."
The paperwork was hideous, and so of course Hermione got lumped with it. First of all James Potter was taken to St Mungo's for evaluation, as was Hermione, whose arm was broken from the impact. Without Ron, they said, she'd have been a lot worse off.
After Mungo's the Department of Mysteries swooped in, and no one saw him for two days.
Harry spent most of those pacing Hermione's office, white faced. "My Dad," he said helplessly. "My Dad."
"Yeah," she said. "It'll be fine Harry. It's just – well, you know, he's come back from the dead. It's supposed to be impossible."
"I know. I know. I still can't – it all happened to quickly. I hope - "
"He'll love you, Harry. Everything will be fine."
And it was fine. James Potter was duly released, the reasoning behind his return was very well hushed up by the Ministry (so naturally everyone immediately ordered the wish granting artifacts from Japan). Luna just smiled vaguely and shook her head.
"They won't work," she told Hermione, who was worried about an influx of strange events. "That wasa special one. Besides, they work with forces beyond most people's understanding - you have to time it perfectly. Almost to the hour. Even I didn't think it would be that powerful, however."
"It's supposed to be impossible," Hermione said staring at her untouched coffee.
"So are many things," Luna said cryptically and then, relenting for her more logical friend, she added, "Surviving the Killing Curse, for example."
"But there was a reason for that."
"No, there is a convincing hypothesis. You know that's not quite the same thing."
"I suppose I'd rather not know how to bring people back. That way lies trouble. I just – I'm worried. Mrs Potter didn't, um, come as well and… that might be difficult for Harry. Perhaps he'll feel guilty?"
"Things have a way of working out as they're meant to, Hermione. I think you should stop worrying about Harry and drink that coffee."
James kept turning up at her office at odd times over the next two months. It wasn't far from the Aurors' office. Harry had been ecstatic at the chance to work alongside his father. In fact Harry had spent two months dizzy with joy.
(It seemed to only be Hermione who found the idea of James Potter coming back from the dead - the same age as his son - disconcerting. Once the initial shock passed, the world had just accepted it, and she occasionally heard people muttering about having the luck of a Potter, as though a new expression had been born.)
"Lunch?" he asked, hazel eyes smiling wickedly.
"I'm working," she said, rather shortly.
"I'm glad you said that, actually, because I had a feeling you would... so, as the Muggles say, if the mountain won't come to Mahomet…"
He plonked a box on the table, and she watched, mouth slightly open, as he unpacked two plates, cutlery, a bottle of Frog Fizz, an enormous pie, a bowl of salad, and a box of strawberries.
"What…?" she said faintly.
"You've been avoiding me," he said. "So I thought I'd come and see you."
"I haven't been avoiding you," she protested. "Why would I?"
"Well, that's actually what I thought I'd find out. I mean I also thought I'd come and see if you were looking as beautiful as you did when you ran away from me in the lift the other day..."
He handed her a plate of food and she accepted it, resigned. She just didn't understand how to treat him. He was her age, more or less – but her best friend's father. There was no established etiquette for this sort of thing!
"How are you adapting?" she asked, manners overtaking her inexplicable discomfort.
He looked very serious, all of a sudden.
"It's been… strange. I don't remember where I was, but I'm aware of the events that took place. So it's really very disconcerting. I see people and I know them but I don't know why I know them. The only thing I remember is – "
He stopped and took a bite of his pie as though he'd suddenly rethought what he was saying.
She almost sighed. People always said he and Harry looked alike and they did, sort of, but – James was broader shouldered, more classically handsome. He had a strong face, with a straight nose and soft, full lips and he had thick hair that was half a shade lighter than Harry's and - and – she was staring. She blushed, and then wanted to kick herself for acting like a fourteen year old.
"You seem to have adjusted well."
"It's hard," he answered. "I just… I miss Sirius. I keep half turning to tell him something, or reaching for my mirror and he's not here." His voice sounded suspiciously choked and she politely looked down.
She wanted to ask – why not Lily, why isn't it your wife that you miss the most? But she didn't.
"Do you remember him being… there? At all?" she asked.
"No, although I know he was and he's – happy."
"Are you happy? To be back? Here, I mean… from what Harry said about the stone and stuff I just… it sounded like you were all together."
"What? Yes, of course I am. It's not – I had a choice. I chose this. I wanted to see my son. I remember that. I heard him call out and I just said goodbye and here I am."
She felt as though a load had slipped off her shoulders.
"I've been worried you'd resent Harry for tearing you out of heaven or wherever it is you've been," she explained. "I just don't see how you can come back and be so - so - fine. So yes, I'm wary. I'm waiting for your existential crisis, or something, something."
"Not at all. Is that why you're so uncomfortable around me? You don't trust me?"
She just shrugged. She hadn't chosen to examine why Harry's father threw her off balance so completely,
"I want to thank you, properly, not like this, for keeping my son safe. You've done more than anyone else. I've been talking to him and – I just know. You kept him alive."
"You don't need to thank me, Mr Potter. After all – I wasn't doing it for you."
"You can call me James, Hermione. I never got old enough to be Mr Potter, after all. And we are the same age."
"Mr Potter, you still don't need to thank me."
"What's your favourite book?" he asked, out of the left field.
"Your favourite book. What is it?"
"I understood the question, thank you, but – um, I don't know really. I don't think I have a favourite."
"That's good. People who have favourites are so limited don't you think?"
"Yes, actually. It's always annoyed me. I mean, favourite when, what genre, in what particularly mood?"
"However, I have twenty years of reading to catch up on, and you look like a bookworm, so the question still stands."
It almost sounded like a compliment, not the usual inflection.
"Alright, um, well there's so many – Muggle or Wizarding?"
"Both! I've been reading all the history books, so at least I know why I know things, and now I'm bored of those, so I've started on all the new magical theory books but I went to buy a novel and there are thousands and I've never even heard of half these writers. Remus always used to recommend the best books," he finished sadly.
"He did," she agreed. "Try The Secret History. I'll lend you my copy, if you like."
"I would. I like you, Hermione Granger. Do you want a strawberry?"
Her stomach swooped.
He passed her the bowl and she felt his gaze on her, those sharp green-brown eyes, and she just – she was so confused by him. Everything about him was unexpected and unprecedented and she – she wanted him. It was so embarrassing, not to mention wrong – he was her best friend's father and married, sort of, and he made her feel clumsy and awkward and he was beautiful and radiated energy and life and good humour, but then he had such a serious side as well. And she just wanted to lock herself in her flat and hide until the highly inappropriate attraction passed.
"Why are you staring at me?" she asked, wishing he'd stop watching her eat strawberries.
"Because you're beautiful, and I like looking at you."
She rolled her eyes. "Honestly, does anyone ever fall for that?"
Apparently they did, as became increasingly obvious in the following months. Wherever James Potter went he left a blushing witch – and sometimes wizard – in his wake. He never dated, though, or did anything other than charm really, but he was relentlessly flirtatious – as though it were a state of being. A sort of cheeky, mischievous flirtation with everyone –
Except her. He'd stopped.
Although for a while he'd turned up at her office unexpectedly, just to chat or go for lunch and once to the cinema to see Chicago (she still heard him singing in his surprisingly rich baritone in the corridors at the Ministry) and gradually she became used to him, he became James, and everything about him was unexpected; not least his voracious appetite for books, ripping through those she lent him in days. And he was fascinating, and funny, and arrogant and irrepressible, and he still – still – hadn't had the breakdown she was expecting.
She did her best to avoid thinking about him, avoid seeing him, because he was perfect and probably the most off-limits man she could imagine and -
I was dead, he said once, and now I'm alive and I plan to spend every second appreciating that.
And he did; he threw himself into the business of being alive with a vengeance. And somewhere along the way the lunches stopped and she saw him less and less and it was a relief, although she wondered sometimes why he was avoiding her just as much as she was him.
Because she wasn't stupid, not really, insecure sometimes but not stupid and she'd seen the way his eyes had warmed when they looked at her until they hadn't. Until he'd become shuttered and off-hand and terse and –
("I don't ever feel like he wants me to be Sirius," Harry said. "I was worried but… it's not – it's amazing." and "We've talked about Snape and... I was angry for so long but I understand now." and "Did you know I have another house? Dumbledore never told me, can you believe it, but my grandparents' house has been mine this whole time. Dad's living there now, anyway." and "Dad said this," and "Dad told me that," and "It was so funny, Dad was -")
("My son, yes the youngest Seeker in a century," she heard from around the corner, turning back the way she'd come. It was never "the saviour of the Wizarding world" or "defeated Lord Voldemort" but always Quidditch. Incomprehensible.)
"Come with us, tonight," Harry said one day in late December. "Dad wants to go to this Muggle concert in Hyde Park. Some band he used to like or saw once with Sirius or something. Please come – I haven't seen you outside work for weeks."
She couldn't resist when Harry looked at her like that, so she reluctantly agreed.
They were going to see Blondie – a band even Harry had heard of, despite growing up in a house where music like that was considered dangerous, and apparently a band James and Sirius had snuck out of Hogwarts to go and see in 1978.
Hermione ransacked her Muggle wardrobe (for ease she had two, one with her robes and one with her Muggle clothes). She eventually settled on something her mother had persuaded her to buy, taking advantage of the favourable Galleon-to-Pound conversion rates. Channelling her most fuck it you're going to see Blondie mood, she picked a tiny black cowl-necked minidress, the price of which had seemed to increase the less there was covering her body. Smokey eyes and knee length boots with endless spikey heels and she felt chic and sexy and ready to face the man she definitely wasn't dressing for.
"Tempus," she commanded her wand. Shit. She was going to be late.
Hermione loved the Underground, loved the sprawling network underneath London, but the forty-minute journey to the London Arena felt like it lasted forever. She hated being late, and the Tube was busy for a Wednesday evening. She couldn't get a seat between Westminster and Canary Wharf and stood, holding the pole, wishing she'd worn tights; there were three separate men unashamedly staring at her legs.
Finally she was there, and she hurried up the stairs and out of the station, hailing a taxi to the bar she'd agreed to meet Harry at before the concert. Enough people left the train with her that she was fairly sure they must also be going to the concert, and in the mass exodus she was shoved and cursed herself for wearing such spindly heels, despite the cushioning charms.
The Isle of Dogs was probably her least favourite area of London, and she was tense and uncomfortable when she finally arrived.
She scanned the bar, and spotted the two tall men, messy black hair at the bar, Ginny nowhere in sight. As she walked over, James turned around and his eyes dragged up her body, past the black boots, lingering on her bare legs, and then sweeping slowly – agonisingly slowly – up her body. It was reassuring more than anything else, and so she could greet him easily.
"Sorry I'm late," she said. "Hi."
"H-hi," he stuttered, and she stared. "You, um, yeah. Hello?"
"Dad?" Harry said, turning in confusion. "Oh hello Hermione. Pushing a bit fine. Can I get you a drink?"
"White wine, please. Thanks," she said, kissing his cheek in greeting.
"D'you want to go and sit? We've still got about half an hour. I'll bring the drinks over, Dad."
"How have you been?" she asked James when they seated, amused now, because his eyes kept flicking down to her legs, stretched out away from the table, and he looked displaced and like a teenage boy and it was endearing and his inability to hide his masculine admiration of her was – well sweet. "I haven't see you in ages."
He dropped his eyes to the table and cleared his throat.
"Yeah, well thanks," he said awkwardly. "How about you?"
"Good, that's really good."
They eyed each other, the silence heavy and solid between them, thick with unasked questions.
"Here you are," Harry said, putting a tray down on the table. He loved coming to Muggle London, where he was treated with the same (complete lack of) deference as anyone else.
"How have you been, Hermione?" he asked. "I know I've seen you at work, but it's not the same. I've seen Luna more than I've seen you!"
Hermione bit back the urge to apologise; Harry had been caught up in getting to know his father, which was a large part of why they hadn't seen each other much.
"I'm well. I've got some news actually," she said, fiddling with her wine glass.
"Oh! Have you met someone?" Ginny said, from behind her.
"Sorry the queue to the loo was five miles long," the redhead continued, as she sat down. "Hermione you look ravishing."
"So do you, as always."
"Is that mine, Harry? Thanks. Sorry Hermione, carry on. Your news?"
"I've been promoted," she said, and when she caught James's eye she wondered if she was really seeing relief, or if it was just wishful thinking.
Harry's father. Married. Well, technically widowed but… Off. Limits.
Finally it was time, and they walked to the arena, taking their (amazing) seats with the warm-up band playing and then there she was, Hermione's mum's favourite, Debbie Harry, and James was telling Harry he was named after her, and Harry was pretending to scowl but still just delighted to have his father there, and the pounding music filled the stadium, and it was hot and the lights were dazzling, and Hermione hadn't ever been to anything like it, (not really her thing, she'd thought, but oh boy was she wrong) and she screamed at the others This is amazing! and James's face was alight suddenly, nodding next to her, his side pressed against hers, so she could feel the hardness of his body, the heat of it, reassuring and there and, he shouted down She's only fifteen years older than me, and look at the difference and something about ageing well and they were on their feet and dancing and singing along I'm not the kind of girl who gives up just like that and their hips bumping together and arms in the way and it was mind-blowing, life changing, nothing nothing nothing like watching concerts on the TV or in a bar, the huge arena, thousands of people just screaming and it was James sharing a flask and it was gulping firewhiskey, which burned less than the music and –
– and Hermione could feel the angry, brittle beat thrumming in her blood, the lashing of the guitar and the raw voice started over the top I need city lights, defence and weaponry and Hermione just took Harry's hand, reaching across Ginny, and he clutched it back, and she fought the tears because I'm a war child, I'm a war child baby and it ached, and she'd forgotten and lit her alight, angry and desolate and defiant.
The adrenaline was still thrilling through her as they left, and so went Ginny said early morning practice, better go, and James said drink she agreed.
So, they sat, just the two of them, tucked away in a booth in a dark corner of a Muggle bar, tipsy and high with adrenaline.
"Last time I saw Blondie, you hadn't even been born. And now we're the same age! Being dead is just so good for the complexion, to be honest," he joked.
"That is strange. It was amazing, I'm glad I came."
"I am, too," he smiled, sliding an arm down the bench behind her, the red pleather bench catching the light in a way that turned it almost orange. It was hideous, she reflected, eyeing it to avoid reacting to the arm behind her neck and shoulders.
"Why did you start avoiding me?" she asked, eventually. "Did I do something to upset you?"
"What – no!" he floundered. "It's just... complicated, Hermione. But you didn't do anything."
She bit her lip, scratching at a bit of lose plastic covering on the edge of the table with her fingernail.
"What is this music?" he said, suddenly, staring aghast at a TV screen showing the music video. Hermione collapsed into giggles.
"Not an R&B fan, James?"
"A what? And how is this music acceptable in public? That's practically pornography."
"You're like so old, oh my god, this is, like, the thing," she mimicked.
"I am missing something, here."
"Muggle cultural references. This is Nelly."
He just shook his head, baffled.
"Anyway," she said, "you were telling me why you've been so standoffish for the last – oh I don't know – probably two months."
"You've been just as bad," he snapped.
"Because you're Harry's father. I don't know – I don't know how to be around you."
"I'm just James," he sad, leaning back.
"You're not 'just' anything," she muttered. She could feel the press of his body again, his thigh lying against her thigh, sitting far closer than they needed to be.
He shifted forward slightly, and then his mouth was against hers, demanding and hungry and spiked with firewhiskey and those soft, full lips where asking a question she could only reply with yes, yes, yes, yes.
But she wrenched away, from him, her hand instinctively coming up to touch her lips, and for a moment she just gazed at him.
"Shit," he gasped."Shit. That's why I've been avoiding you. You probably think I'm some old letch."
"No – I don't – I just – you're married, sort of, and Harry's father."
"I'm not married, Hermione." He scratched his head. "I don't really know how to explain this. I don't think… I don't think up there it works quite the same way. I love Lily, I love what we had together, and I see her every day in Harry and that's wonderful and I miss her sometimes, yes, but I don't – I can't explain it. It wasn't the same, there, I think."
"Okay," she said, frowning thoughtfully, but he wasn't done.
"I know. But, look, I don't… fuck. I was so young when I fell for Lily and she was the only girl I'd ever really looked at, but it was easy to chase her and keep chasing her because by the time I knew I really meant it, it was just accepted as normal that I liked her. But you? How does it work now? How do you do this as an adult? Teach me, Hermione, because I'm fucking terrified of you, of how you make me feel, of what I want to do to you. I'm sorry I've been distant… I just.. I was scared."
"You're still Harry's dad." She said, but her whole body felt the impact of his words, her stomach churning, her breath shorter, something aching in her chest as he exposed himself.
"I think he'll get used to it," James said, and took her hand, looking at her through his thick eyelashes, eyes dark with want, and he was cocksure again, the moment of vulnerability gone, and he pulled her to him and then she was lost in him, and she'd never, never been kissed like this, never had this lurching dizzying explosive reaction They kissed, and kissed, hard and gentle, desperate and tender.
"I need to get home," she said at last, resting her forehead against his. "Work is in about seven hours."
"Can I come?" he asked cheekily, threading his fingers through hers.
"Not tonight," she said. "I really need to be on form tomorrow, first day in my new role – thankfully I've got some hangover potion somewhere… Right, no, I've got to get back. I'm going to apparate home from round the corner."
"I'll walk you. This music is heinous, by the way." he asked, as they left the bar, the strains of The Calling following them out of the bar.
"Mmm, it's not quite All that Jazz is it?"
He squeezed her hand and grinned down at her, the lopsided, easy smile melting her.
"You've heard that, have you? What can I say, I like musicals."
"Mmm, I noticed. If you'd like, I'll take you to a live one in Muggle London sometime," she said, a little tentatively.
"I would love that, Hermione Granger. This looks like a good spot. Look - do you want me to talk to Harry?"
They'd ducked into a dark, deserted lot at the back of the bar, spaces for two cars and some bins the only signs it was ever used.
"Not yet - I'm not ready for that yet."
"Just so you know... I'm all in. I'm not – I'm not fucking around. You're it, I think."
"How can you possibly know that?"
He smiled, and brushed her hair behind her ear, and his lips hovered over hers, teasing and gently and prolonging it until she could hardly breathe and then they were against hers again, tender and sweet and then he drew back.
"Don't you? Good night, Hermione Granger. I'll see you tomorrow for lunch. Half past one."
A Saturday in mid-January, 2003
"Learning to love differently is hard," he whispered, "love with the hands wide open, love with the doors banding on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms… lot of lines I can't remember, and then something about a cave - or a candle maybe… You float and sail, a helium balloon right bachelor's button blue – what is a bachelor's button? Sounds bizzare – and bobbing on the cold and hot winds of our breath, as we make and unmake in passionate diastole and systole, I don't know what those words are actually, the rhythm of our unbound bonding… I think that means they were fucking outside of marriage..."
"James," she muttered blearily, interrupting his ridiculous display, "please stop waking me up with fucking poetry. I hate poetry. I hate your commentary on poetry. I hate poetry in the mornings."
"I know," he said, shaking with laughter and kissing her shoulder, "but you're just so sexy when you're tetchy and you've got sleep round your eyes and your hair's a mess and you haven't had coffee yet, so I just can't help it."
"Coffee," she agreed into the pillow. "Please?"
"I will fetch you coffee, beautiful witch of mine. Can I also tempt you with some kind of baked product? I'm sure I saw croissants floating around last night."
"Have you been rifling through my drawers?"
"Why yes, I have – didn't you notice? I am mortally wounded by your indifference and the implied slight to my skills."
He kissed his was down her back, and then murmured, "How about a repeat performance?"
"Mmm, yes but after coffee," she muttered, but she rolled over anyway.
"You little minx, I'll give you coffee."
Quite a long time afterwards, when she lay, overwhelmed, in his arms, she reflected over the dizzy, happy, no - ecstatic month they'd spend together, spending almost every evening, and then night, together; stolen kisses on New Years' Eve at The Burrow, and Christmas at Grimmauld Place. She'd never believed it was possible to fall so hard and so fast but – he was bold and brilliant and dazzling, and funny and arrogant and sweet and surprisingly sentimental, and loyal, endlessly endlessly loyal and she trusted him, completely, already.
And yes, sometimes there was a forlorn look in his eyes when he looked at the night-sky that told her Sirius and Remus, and sometimes it was there when he looked at Harry, and that was for the years he'd missed, she knew.
He'd told her once, voice choked, how much he hated knowing what Harry had suffered, how helpless he felt thinking about it. and then there was his laugh, rich and too-loud, that raced up her skin, and the glint in his eyes when he was teasing, and the way they darkened when he was about to kiss her.
And he made her laugh. He swapped her carefully categorised books around. He hid things – sometimes sweet, like flowers, and sometimes embarrassing, usually from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – around her flat for her to find. He deliberately brought the wrong coffee to her office, and told her being adventurous was good, or asked what did she mean she hadn't asked for three different syrups, he was absolutely certain she had.
He cooked, amazingly, surprisingly well – or so she'd thought until he'd run out of the five things he knew how to make. He read, all the time. He was lazy, able to sleep till long past noon on the weekends, and still somehow restless and vibrant.
"I'm scared about today," she admitted, snuggling further into his arms. "He's going to be so angry, although it will be such a relief I suppose."
"He won't be, not for long. Aren't we're the two people in the world he's most likely to forgive anything to?"
"James Potter that's so manipulative," she protested, out of habit, although actually it was exactly what she'd been thinking.
She'd already made a deal with Rita Skeeter that if every mention of it was kept out of the papers, Hermione would give her break the news, and give an interview with exactly three questions about James (to be chosen from a list of questions, yes, but Rita knew when she had a good thing).
He snorted. "That wide-eyed innocent act doesn't work on me, little Miss Devious."
"Damn. I thought I had you fooled. James, did you… mention… coffee? And croissants?"
She peeked up through her lashes, fingers idly stroking the soft, dark curls on his broad chest.
"I've already had breakfast," he said, straight faced.
She collapsed into embarrassed laughter.
"Alright, you win. I'll go. Don't move."
Two hours later, she was pulling on a demure grey jumper dress, when she felt his hands tracing the arc of her waist, gently running down the outside of her hips.
"We don't have time," she murmured. "And – also – you are actually insatiable. I'm not the most experienced girl in the world, so I have to ask is this normal?"
"No. No definitely not. That's why you should never even look at another man. I've ruined you, to be honest so you're stuck with me."
"I'm not looking," she said, pulling the dress down and turning around. "You know that – what you said that first night. I'm all in, too, James Potter."
"I know, you sweet, silly little witch. Who would possibly attract a second look after you've had the most handsome man in the world anyway?"
"Oh, I must have forgotten having -" she stopped. She'd been about to say Sirius to tease him, realising almost too late how unfunny it would be, so instead she leant up and kissed him.
"We are late,"she said. "No time for banter. Have you seen my boots?"
"Hermione you have five different pairs of boots. I don't know what the difference between them is, but I've seen them all lined up in what I can only assume is some sort of strictly regulated categorisation system."
"The ones second to the left," she corrected.
"You're adorable," he muttered, and then, "Why don't you just summon them?" as he handed them to her.
"Because I'm doing my hair. I want to look nice."
"Hermione, I'm fairly sure Harry and Ginny know what you look like."
James had told Harry he was bringing the woman he'd been seeing to lunch, and to make sure no one else was around (except Ginny, if Harry wanted her there, which of course he did).
He knocked on the door, singing a show tune under his breath, and she was irritated at his very convincing air of being completely relaxed in contrast to the flock of birds that had nested in her stomach. She knew he wasn't as calm as he seemed though; knew already to read that very slight tension in his shoulders, knew that the humming was a sure sign of nerves (when he wasn't nervous it would probably just be singing; life with James mean a lot of singing, loud and unembarrassed. Singing in the shower, singing on the street, and once, memorably, singing on the London Underground).
"Dad!" Harry said, opening the door eagerly, and then his eyes took her in.
"Hermione, I didn't know you were coming over today."
(His polite tone wouldn't have fooled a toad - he wasn't pleased to see her, and was panicking thinking he'd accidentally asked her on this supposedly special day.)
"I invited her," James said, without missing a beat. "Can we come in?"
Harry was looking between the two of them curiously, but stood aside to let them in without saying anything.
Ginny just smirked when she saw Hermione, and handed her a very large glass of wine.
"Can I help with anything?" Hermione offered.
"Yes please," Ginny said.
When they were in the kitchen, out of earshot, the redhead turned around.
"I knew it. At Christmas you both kept vanishing, and New Years' wasn't even subtle! Did this start at the concert?"
"Nothing gets past you. Does Harry know?"
"I dropped a few hints, but no, I don't think so. You know what he's like, so oblivious sometimes," she said fondly. "Come on, here, take this through. I can't wait to see this. You might end up as my mother in law, Hermione. This is fantastic."
"So Harry," James said, a little nervously. "You've probably worked this out, but Hermione is the woman I've been seeing."
Hermione winced: that hadn't been the most tactful way to drop it into the conversation.
"WHAT?" Harry yelled, somehow managing to choke on his drink at the same time.
"Yes, we've been seeing each other for a couple of weeks, and it's serious enough that we wanted to tell you," Hermione said, taking over.
"Serious? Dad? Is this a joke – or? You're twenty years older than her!" Harry stared between them, green eyes blazing.
"Harry I know he's your father, but… to me, he's my age."
"I hadn't thought about that," Harry admitted, and Hermione wondered again at how Harry could be amazingly intuitive and curious about some things and then others just passed him by, completely unnoticed.
"Thanks a lot," James said. "Who did you think I was bringing? One of Molly's friends?"
"Well… I suppose…"
James rolled his eyes, and took her hand.
"I know it's a bit of a shock, but this is real, Harry."
"Let's have some lunch, shall we?" Ginny suggested. "And you can tell us all about how you got together.
It wasn't until much later, when she'd been gossiping with Ginny in the kitchen, leaving Harry and James to talk, that she overheard them. She'd just been to the loo when Harry's serious-sounding voice drifted under the sitting room door.
"But… what about Mum? I mean, no offence, but you can't deny the similarities. Are you sure you're not trying to replace her?"
It was a sentiment Hermione wished she could be cross with Harry for even asking, but she'd asked the same question to herself before.
"They're not that similar, not really. Hermione's very unlike Lily actually – Lily was warier, she thought different but I don't really compare them. They would get on tremendously well though and I know Lily's up there, approving. And Harry – I loved your mother, but death… I don't remember exactly, but it's not like loving someone here."
"It's just weird," Harry muttered. "She's like my sister, and you're my Dad. I feel like I ought to be making sure your intentions are correct."
"You don't need to protect her from me - or anyone else to be honest, she's the most ruthlessly capable witch I've ever met. You know, actually, I'm the one in need of protection."
"Just... I'm not calling her Mum if you marry her."
"I think she'd hex your balls off if you did," James said, laughing, and after a moment Harry joined in, and Hermione tiptoed back to the kitchen.
"It's going to be perfect," she told Ginny. "All of it."
The prompt was James/Hermione, with her falling out of the sky, but I can't write Lily out bc then ? no Harry? so I reduxed it.
THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A DRABBLE BUT I GOT A BIT CARRIED AWAY? Dissertation what dissertation?!
Anyway Happy Tumblrversary to me, and kisses and love to marsalamazing, precious sweet cinnamon roll that I adore. I hope you liked it.
Come and find me on Tumblr: cocoartistwrites.
Everyone please review so I don't have an emotional breakdown.