Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.
Chapter One: Appears
It wasn't a very impressive charm to look at in the least. In fact, it looked to be on the short side of dinghy. However, impressive looks didn't equal impressive effects and any witch worth her wand knew this. This charm, in particular, was very powerful indeed, if she made it correctly.
Hermione Granger was absolutely certain that she had made it correctly for she had spent years in perfecting it, though that was slightly overstating her case. She had learned about it first in her fifth year at Hogwarts and had made it soon afterwards. She checked and rechecked, over the next couple of years, that her calculations were right and that the charm should theoretically work. However, she did not test its effectiveness right away because she did not know how the transportation side of the charm would work on the anti-Apparition wards placed on the school – and she didn't want to be the first witch to find out. Testing it during the summer was, of course, out of the question, as underage witches were not allowed to use magic then on pain of being expelled. While Hermione was certainly curious as to whether or not she had made the charm correctly, she didn't feel it was worth the punishment.
There were a couple times when she had almost used it though – when Harry hadn't written to either her or Ron for weeks – but there was no guarantee it would take her to him. While he might have needed her during those times, he might not have been the person who needed her most and so always she decided not to use it. The charm would take her only to the person and place where she was most needed, and not necessarily to the particular person she wanted to help.
What Hermione really wanted was a charm that would take her to wherever she belonged. However no such charm existed and this charm was the best substitute that her research had found. She supposed it was just as well. A charm that would take her to where she belonged wouldn't take her to the person she thought she belonged with and that could be a disaster. No, it was much better to muddle around searching for her place than risk that. The problem was she had been searching ever since she had left Hogwarts and still she did not know what she wanted to do with her life. She had always focused before on studying for exams, trying to keep Harry alive, and trying to keep both Harry and Ron out of trouble, though not in that particular order. Now that they had all left Hogwarts, she felt rather at a loss and she didn't know what to do with herself. She had letters from both her best friends, talking about what they were doing and how they were making their way through the world and those letters always made her feel jealous. Jealous that they found their ways easier than she, despite the fact that she tried so hard to find hers. It was rather depressing how she seemed lost at sea and unable to decide what she wanted to do with herself. Hence, the reason for her finally testing the charm that she made so long ago. If she couldn't decide for herself what to do after Hogwarts, she would at least go to where she was most needed. At least, she would be useful in some manner then.
Hermione checked one last time to make she had everything she needed on her person. Her wand was where it belonged, holstered at her side. Her bag was full, with several changes of clothing and other personal items. On her bed was a letter to her parents, assuring them that she was all right and that she would write as soon as she found the time. There was nothing left for her to do except to take the charm and leave.
She let out a sigh as she picked up the charm. Holding it tightly in her hands, she closed her eyes and whispered, "Enchantus."
There was a momentary sensation of darkness, enclosing her from all around, and then just as suddenly, she found she was falling. She finally landed with a plop on something soft.
"Ouch!" she said, thankful that she had landed on a soft cushion but wishing it would stop moving. "That hurt."
"Hermione?" a voice called from beneath her that sounded amazingly like Harry. "Not to be rude, but would mind getting off?"
Hermione looked down to see the Boy Who Lived looking rather groggy and rubbing his head. "Harry!" she exclaimed. "Are you all right? Do you have a headache? I know just the charm that would help—"
"I'm fine, Hermione," he responded forcefully. "And I'd be even better if you could please get off me."
"Oh right." She quickly scrambled off him "Sorry about that, wasn't thinking clearly, you know, it being the middle of the night and all, and I really should be in bed and—" Hermione trailed off as Harry sat up, treating her to the sight of his bare chest. Lucky her. She got to see what Harry wore to bed, and the fact that he was evidently attired only in a pair of boxer shorts was making her blush a furious red. Perhaps later she would look back in appreciation of this moment but for right now, she was hoping against hope that he couldn't see her blush – or that he would chalk it up to the inherent awkwardness of the situation.
"So what brings you here?" Harry asked, diverting her train of thought. That was just was well, considering that train taken a naughty turn and run off the tracks.
"Oh, well, I just thought I would drop by to see you," she answered. Somehow, she didn't think it would be prudent to let him know that she had arrived here via the use of an experimental charm.
"You Apparated? I thought I had those wards set up correctly. And how did you manage that since you've never been here before?"
"Well, not exactly Apparated," she hedged, looking frantically around for something to change the subject to. "This place is a bit of a mess," she settled on. "Those horrid Dursleys! This room isn't—"
"This isn't the Dursleys, Hermione," Harry said flatly. "It's my own flat. Sorry for the mess but I didn't exactly expect anyone to drop by."
"But I'm your friend!" she protested. "Surely you were going to invite us over some time just to meet up and talk about old times." As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Hermione knew she had said the wrong thing. Old times to Harry weren't very pleasant. They all had unpleasant memories to deal with from Hogwarts, but Harry's were the worst given all the people he had seen die before his very eyes.
"Normally, I would expect you to wait for an invitation," Harry said. "Unless . . . is there anything wrong, Hermione? You've not been very talkative in your last few letters . . ."
"Wrong, no nothing is wrong." Aside from the fact that I have to keep reminding myself it wouldn't be polite to jump you, she thought to herself. "I . . . well, I didn't have anything better to do and I thought I would just—" A sudden rapping at Harry's front door interrupted her.
"Oh fuck," Harry cursed. "These walls are so damned thin. That would be Mrs. Stewart, the landlady. Where the hell are my trousers?" Harry groped around in the dark, in search of his clothing, but he didn't have much success. The rapping only increased in volume as Harry fumbled around.
Hermione would have liked to simply admire the view, but knew that he could hardly see a thing without his glasses. It was rather surprising that he had recognized her, though she supposed she was very close to him when he did. Silently, she dropped her bag off in the corner and padded over to the nightstand upon which Harry's glasses were placed. Picking them up, she went over to Harry and tapped his shoulder. "Here, this might help," she told him, handing his glasses out to him.
"Thanks." He quickly put them on. "And erm . . . would you mind – no, don't worry, here are my trousers and so if you just would excuse me for a bit." Harry dashed out of the room, still pulling his clothes on as he made his way to the door.
Hermione followed after him, curious to see what the rest of his place looked like. Harry's flat was rather sparsely furnished. In the dark, this wasn't a bad thing as having no sharp edges to bump into was the perfect way to prevent bumping into sharp edges during the night. However, it didn't seem like his flat was really lived in. The only furnishing in his living room was a sofa and Hermione thought it looked very lonely.
"And I told you, Mr Potter, Boy Who Lived or not, that there's no philandering allowed here! I know I heard a witch's voice, so don't you bother—" The short witch at the door then saw Hermione as she walked past the sofa. "Ah! I knew it! I knew you were carrying on some sort of affair, even though I told you that such behavior is strictly forbidden! This is a decent neighborhood, Mr Potter, and no one will appreciate you bringing home witches of ill repute to entertain, you can trust my word on that. I'll see that you're—"
"This isn't what it looks like." Harry finally managed to get a sentence in but to no avail.
"Oh, that's what they all say, but I wasn't born yesterday. First thing tomorrow—"
That was it. Hermione couldn't just stand there as Harry lost his flat because of her actions. She quickly stepped forward and said the first thing that came to her mind. "It's not what you're thinking. I'm his fiancée, Hermione Granger."
"Fiancée?" The witch had stopped her ranting. "But I see no ring . . ."
"It's a secret engagement, you see." Hermione did not dare to look at Harry's face as she glibly lied. This was not the best idea she had ever had and she cursed herself for having read one too many romance novels. "And I'm so sorry for disturbing you but I haven't seen him for weeks, not since we left Hogwarts, and I only wanted to see him again to make sure that he's all right."
"A secret engagement?" the witch repeated. "Why ever for?"
"Oh, it was his idea, about not exposing me too much to the media and all that. I told him that I didn't mind, that I want to be with him more than anything, but you know how wizards can be. I suppose I was so worried that I wasn't thinking straight and I had to see him right away . . ."
"Yes, yes, of course. Perfectly understandable that." The witch gave Harry a sharp glare. "Of course, allowances are made for your fiancée. She's perfectly welcome to stay with you. It's not like you're having an affair. Would you please remember to put the Silencing Charms up? And I would say that if she says that she's ready to announce your engagement that you do it. Secret engagements were never good for anyone." With that final piece of advice handed out, the witch left. Harry gladly closed the door behind her before turned turning to look at Hermione.
"Fiancée?" He raised one eyebrow at her. "Not that I'm not grateful for your intervention but couldn't you have thought of something else? Half the Wizarding World will know of our 'engagement' by morning."
"It was the first thing I thought of," she huffed. "And it's not as if you were doing a particularly splendid job of telling her—"
"Just why my best friend decided to surprise me by visiting me in the middle of the night? You know, I think my problem might have been that I don't know why she took it up in her head to do that myself."
"You need me," she said simply, "and so here I'll stay."
"You are not staying here! For one, there's no place for you to sleep!"
"There's the sofa right over there—"
"That's as hard as a rock, you can't sleep there!"
"Are you suggesting I sleep with you?" After taking care of his landlady for him, Hermione felt on firmer ground – and more able to tease him.
"I never said that!" Harry blushed a deep red. "I simply said that—"
"You need me, Harry, more than anyone else in the world so this is where I'll stay," she said. "Until you don't need me any longer." She brushed a kiss against his cheek. "I promise. Now, if you don't mind, I'll go make us some tea to help us relax." Hermione walked off in the direction she thought the kitchen would be.
Harry trailed his hand against his cheek. His cheek was warm and moist from where her lips had kissed him. "Maybe I do need you," he said softly into the night. He smiled to himself. "But for now, I think you need me to show you that the way to the kitchen." Harry turned around and walked briskly, so he could get to Hermione before she wound up back in his room.
In the end, Hermione had been the one to win the Battle of the Sofa. Harry had insisted again and again that he would sleep there, while she took the bed. Ultimately, however, she had reasoned that the person who slept on the sofa would be the person who slept last as said person could give the bed to the other. From there, she argued that she was more likely to stay up later than Harry simply because of all of the late-night study sessions she went through while they were at Hogwarts. Therefore, if Harry felt any concern for her well-being, he would take her up on her offer to sleep on the sofa straight away rather by delaying her sleep further. In the face of such assured logic, Harry had no choice but to relent.
Yet Hermione did not have much time to rejoice in her victory. Harry had been wrong in his assessment that the sofa was as hard as a rock. It was harder than that. Much harder than that. Hermione spent most of the night, tossing and turning, trying desperately to find a comfortable position. She finally gave up just as the sun was rising, deciding that it was a hopeless case. She would try and fix it tomorrow, after consulting her books on what charms would be the best to use, but for now, she would just make breakfast. And coffee. Coffee was a splendid idea.
She carefully traced her way back to the kitchen, remembering how just a few short hours before she had got lost on her way there . . . and how Harry had came to show her the right way, with his arm around her waist, and how warm and soft and good that had felt.
Oh stop that, she told herself, How are you ever going to live with Harry if you're always blushing? He's not that slow and he's sure to cotton on sooner rather than later. And besides, I know you can do this. You did survive two years in close proximity with him while fancying him back at Hogwarts.
And she had. It had been hellish at times, thinking about him, worrying about him, and always wanting to be near him, while he did stare at prettier girls. Talk about a blow to one's self esteem.
Willing herself not to think about that anymore, Hermione started to make breakfast once she reached the kitchen. Unfortunately, Harry's selection of food was almost as minimalist as his furniture was for he only had a couple eggs, a few pieces of bread, and some milk – and instant coffee. Normally that fact alone would have sent Hermione off to the shop to get a few more things to eat along with a decent source of caffeine but this wasn't a normal situation. For one, she had no idea what sort of neighborhood her best friend lived in or where the nearest shop would be. More importantly, she had no key – and so she would either have to leave the door unlocked or hope that Harry would answer quickly when she came back. Neither of those two options was very appealing and Hermione decided just to make do with what food was available.
Of course, she was also able to decide that quickly because her cooking skills were limited. Hermione knew better than to try anything fancy if she wanted the kitchen to stay intact and she did. It wouldn't be the height of politeness if she burnt down Harry's kitchen before she had been there for a day.
About a half hour later, Hermione was nursing her second cup of instant coffee of the day. The eggs hadn't gone too badly and the toast was good, despite the fact that there was nothing to spread on top of it. The coffee was bad but that couldn't be helped and it didn't really matter. When she was this sleepy, any source of caffeine was divine.
"Breakfast smells good," Harry said from behind her. "I didn't know you could cook."
"Of course I can cook," Hermione replied. She didn't add that she could only cook the simplest of dishes. "Good morning Harry!" she said cheerfully and turned around to greet him.
Her jaw dropped.
There stood Harry Potter, her best friend and savior of the Wizarding World in nothing except for his boxers.
He looked like he was breakfast.
Okay, stop with the bad thoughts. Must remember he's your best friend and you shouldn't drool over him like this. You are *not* checking into the Bad Place. Oh god! Why me? Hermione quickly turned back towards the table. "So want some eggs? Or toast?" she asked.
"Sounds lovely." Harry took the seat across from her and began shoveling food on to his plate.
Hermione swore at the sight and ducked her head down. She knew she'd only make a fool out of herself if she kept staring at him. The boy has no sense of self-preservation, she thought. Didn't he know that even I have my limits? And that the only reason why my hands weren't running up and down his chest was because I'm clenching them into fists? Does he want me to leap on him and insist on a snog or does he just like torturing me?
"Is something wrong Hermione?" The sound of his voice made her look up – and look down again just as quickly when confronted with how utterly adorable he looked with bed hair.
"Honestly, Hermione. Is there something on my face? Or why can't you . . ." Harry's voice trailed off as he realized his lack of attire. "Oh . . . I'm a bit underdressed . . . of course . . . wait one second, I'll be right back!" He ran out of the room furiously and Hermione was left alone to compose her thoughts.
Which of course were all about him.
And how she wished she could have tasted him. He had to taste better than the crappy instant coffee.
Which begged the question why was she continuing to drink it when she could have him.
Hermione wince and tried to think of something else, as her current train of thought would only lead to trouble. Didn't she say before that she could hide how attracted she was to him? Hadn't she done it before this? Why was it so hard for her to do the same today?
It has got to be the lack of clothing, she reasoned. You never got to see him before in only his—
Fortunately, that line of thought was cut off by Harry's arrival back at breakfast. "Sorry about that," he apologized. "I'm not used to company this early in the morning, is all. You should have said something, Hermione, rather than just let me make a bloody fool out of myself."
"Well, what was I supposed to say? Besides, I'm your friend, you prat. I've seen you make a fool out of yourself a dozen times before!" Hermione went back to nursing her cup of coffee, noting silently that Harry still looked too good for words. On the bright side of the whole matter, Harry was bound to have forgotten to ask just how she came to his flat last night.
"So," Harry started, "you never did get around to telling me how you found your way here. And I checked the anti-Apparition wards and they are functional."
Hermione winced. If fairy godmothers were real – and she had reason to believe that was the case – she had to have got the most inept one ever. It was probably best to go with telling the truth, for while he would never admit it, Hermione suspected that Harry had a way of knowing when he was being lied to.
"Would you believe that it was the unexpected side effect of a charm I was trying out?"
Harry looked at her in askance. "Unexpected side effect? I do find it hard to believe. You're one of the most intelligent witches ever. Didn't you—"
"Yes, yes, I did check and recheck everything, but I do promise that I didn't expect to wind up here. But I'm glad that I did." She smiled cautiously at him.
He smiled back. "I'm glad to see you here again too. Though I would have never expected it from you." He paused, as if he weren't certain on how to continue. "But is anything wrong Hermione? I mean, you're welcome to stay here as long as you need to but . . . is there some reason why you're not welcome at your parents' home? I thought that you'd be—"
"No, no, nothing's wrong. That's the truth and you know I would tell you if anything was, Harry. It's just that . . . well, I don't know how to explain it. But they don't really need me there, they're capable of taking care of themselves, but you . . . you need me."
"I . . . well, yes, I need you and your friendship but you don't have to—"
"Do you want me to leave?" Hermione looked up, her eyes wide with pain. "If I'm just a bother, if you don't want me here, of course I'll—"
"No, no, it's not like that at all. I just don't want you to feel that you're obliged to stay here. It's not like I'm lonely or anything like that." Even as he said those words, Hermione could sense that was a lie. Harry was lonely and in at least that sense, he felt more lost at sea than she did. However, she didn't have the heart to reveal his lie.
"Of course not," she found herself agreeing. "And I'm fine. I just need to fix that sofa before tonight."
"You didn't get a wink of sleep last night, did you?" he said accusingly. "I told you you wouldn't. You should have taken the bed."
"I wasn't about to turn you out of your own bed, Harry. Besides, I know I can fix it so it's more comfortable this evening."
"We'll talk about that later. For now, you can use mine to sleep in today."
"This is my second cup of coffee and I'm going back for my third as soon as I can muster the willpower to get up. I doubt I'll sleep any time soon. What I'd really like is your spare key."
"Spare key? What makes you think I have one?" Harry asked.
"If you don't, give me yours, and I'll make one today. Or do you not have anything to do? If so, we could spend the day together," Hermione offered.
"I have tryouts today. For the Puddlemere United reserve team as they're looking for a reserve Seeker. Oliver Wood said that he'd put in a good word for me." He speared a piece of toast with his fork. "What about you? Have you found a job yet?"
"No, not yet." She glanced down at her hands, ashamed to admit that she hadn't found a job despite the fact that she had more N.E.W.T.s than anyone else. "I'm not quite sure what to do with myself . . . though don't worry, I'm sure to find one sooner rather than later and I'll help out with the expenses and—"
"You don't have to," Harry replied. "Though don't bother replying as I know that you're going to say that you don't want to be a burden and all. Besides, you'd get bored staying here all day so it's fine. I won't say no to any money you contribute to help out . . . I just want you to know that you don't have to."
"You're a great friend and I do hope you know that. Shame on me if you don't." Hermione got up from her seat and went over to the counter where the coffee pot was. She poured another cup, stirring in a bit of sugar and milk to improve the taste, before returning to her seat. "And I'll go out later to buy some food and other things. Really Harry! If you're going to try out for Quidditch, I would think that you'd have more stuff around here to eat. You know—"
"—I need to keep up my strength and all that, but I really hate shopping around here. Everyone stares." Harry put down his fork and frowned. "I wish that wouldn't happen."
"I know, I know." Hermione reached out a hand across the small table to rest on top of his. "But you can't change that and you'll just have to get used to living with it . . . though you don't have to like it."
"Yeah, I know. Just as well I suppose that I don't grow a huge ego or anything like that. Not that Ron wouldn't hex me to bring me back to my senses if I did."
"And I'd be cheering him on," Hermione added.
"Which reminds me . . . what will we tell him?"
"About us living together? The truth of course, and it's not as if I would want to live at the Burrow together."
"I meant about us being 'engaged.'" Harry smiled wryly at her. "Or did you forget already that little white lie you told Mrs Stewart last night?"
"Oh. That." She had forgot about it, probably around the time when she was reminding herself that she could look but not touch. She sat back in her chair, trying to think of what could be done about the situation. "Well, we only told her that—"
"We? I seem to remember you telling her that. And like I said, telling her is more efficient than an official announcement. I'm positive she told someone else."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at that statement. "You're positive that she told someone else? What, did you hear this conversation or are you just assuming that she did?"
"Speaking from personal experience here. If she hasn't told now, it's only because it's too early in the morning to gossip, that's all."
"Never too early for that, love," she responded absently. She bit her lip, trying on how to handle this situation. Damn her for not being able to think more clearly last night before getting them into trouble like this.
"Um . . . love?" Harry's mouth was wide open, and he looked absolutely shocked. "Hermione . . . you . . . me . . . um . . ." he jabbered witlessly.
"Huh?" She blinked, wondering at his confusion. Then she realized what she had just said before. "Oh! No! Not like that, just like friends, you know. It's just a term of endearment, not meant as anything really!"
"Of course. Silly of me not to realize that." He scratched the back of his head. "I knew that, really, just the brain's not connected to the mouth, it being too early and all."
"Early?" Hermione looked at the clock. "Is it really? What time do you need to be at the Quidditch pitch for those tryouts?"
"Eight sharp," Harry responded. "Why? What time is it now?"
"A little past seven."
"Damn. I really need to get going then."
"Yes, you do. But you need to give me your keys first."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Will do. First though, I need to get changed." The next fifteen minutes were the most hectic Hermione had lived through ever since leaving Hogwarts. Harry had been a typical wizard and not had got everything ready the night before, meaning that she was drafted into helping him locate his Quidditch gear. After spending far too much time looking for it all the Muggle way, she finally regained her senses and used Summoning Charms to locate everything, though that had the end effect of making Harry's flat a complete mess. At long last, he was ready to leave with his Firebolt in his hand and his keys in hers.
"Good luck, Harry," she said and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "For luck," she explained.
"Thanks. I'll see you later." And with those words, he was out the door. Hermione was left to her own devices once again.
Slowly, cautiously, she twirled around to take a long look at the flat.
"I think," she announced to the empty room, "that I'll have plenty of things
to keep me busy today."
A/N: The idea of a charm that will take you to the place where you're most needed comes from the Xanth series, by Piers Anthony. It's been awhile since I've last read any of those books, so I'm afraid I can't pinpoint the volume. As always, I would love to hear what you think of this fic, so please review.