A/N: I don't own either universe.
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Steve expected something more dramatic for the finale of Bucky's healing. Though the conclusion of Steve's healing had been equally quiet, Bucky had always been the focus of Hermione's healing attention and purpose. Despite the expectation of some grand climax, Steve found himself attending Bucky's last healing session and finding it entirely similar to any other previous session. In thirty minutes, Bucky was no longer Hermione's patient and neither Bucky nor Hermione made comment of the fact. If anything, the conclusion was awkward. The three of them stood awkwardly, dawdled awkwardly, and waited awkwardly to address the 'what comes next.' What happened instead was that Hermione tucked her hair behind her ear ineffectually and reminded the two that they were welcome to stay at her house as long as they pleased, then disappeared into her lab downstairs, expressing her pride in them for completing a rigorous healing schedule.
Steve was inclined to believe Hermione's sincerity if it wasn't for that fact that she had disappeared into the depth of her basement every day after. At the end of the week, Steve was genuinely considering asking Hermione what was wrong because even Bucky's mulish behavior was starting to grate. When Steve finally lightly inquired in bed one night-she was still sleeping wrapped up between the two military men every night-Hermione merely shrugged and said she was working on something big. Steve figured that she wouldn't still be sleeping with them if she didn't want to be—in fact, nobody had even broached the subject of why they kept sleeping together in fear that it would disrupt the dynamic. So Steve did not truly worry and instead attempted to reassure Bucky that Hermione was not on the outs with either of them and she was still happy to host them—even if he longed for the reassurance himself. Thankfully, it came exactly a week after Bucky was healed.
Steve and Bucky were eating dinner when Hermione emerged from the basement with tired eyes and pale skin. Steve glanced over her, fork still hovering in the air as he noticed her waxy complexion and limp hair. He stood angrily, blood rushing quickly through his veins, intent to reprimand her for her pushing her limits. Bucky looked thunderous beside Steve as they both approached her.
"You look awful!" Bucky scowled as he lifted her dry hair. Steve slapped Bucky's shoulder in reprimand despite his own wish to inquire further on her discarded appearance. Hermione merely snorted at the comment, waving away the comment.
"Thanks, Bucky." She muttered sarcastically, though the curve of her lip made it seem like she wasn't offended and her eyes seemed a light with mischief.
"What have you been doing? You've clearly been exhausting yourself." Steve added far more politely, though he could hear the bite in his tone. Surprisingly, she answered immediately, lifting something up that she had hidden behind her back.
"Baseball caps?" Bucky asked, sounding a combination of flabbergasted and frustrated.
"I know, I know—I've been working too hard. But it doesn't matter because I've finished and here they are!" Hermione blew off their concerns as she waved the hats around. Her smile was ecstatic enough that Steve took the proffered generic black hat; Bucky was less deterred and grumbled as he snatched his own hat.
"Thank you?" Steve offered in confusion. Hermione was still radiating excitement, however, and Steve was expecting her to literally begin bouncing on her feet.
"It's not just a hat; it is charmed! To hide and protect you! You needed a version that I didn't have to cast!" Hermione explained as she took Bucky's hat and arranged it on Bucky's head. She wiped out a camera and took a picture of him. When she turned it around Steve and Bucky both leaned over to view the blurred image. They both pulled back to regard her, impressed.
"You finished this in a week?" Bucky asked in awe. Hermione seemed to quiet dramatically in the comment.
"You've been stuck in here because you didn't have it—I hate that I hadn't even realized it was a problem." Hermione admitted, eyebrows upturning in concern. Steve watched Bucky swallow thickly, a mirroring of the sentiment that Steve felt from Hermione's sincerity. When Bucky pulled her surprised form into a hug, Steve threw his arms around them both, smiling.
"You're the best, Hermione." Steve articulated, feeling Bucky nod on the other side of Hermione. Hermione giggled happily.
"Now that you both have protection—go! Explore! Adventure is out there!" Hermione announced with contagious enthusiasm. When they pulled back from the hug Bucky gave Steve a crooked smile. Steve nodded and together they left through the rarely used front door. Hermione promising to adventure with them the next time.
Steve wouldn't outright say he regretted Bucky's forays into the outside world but as Steve inhaled the scent of pumpkin spice in the kitchen—again —he really considered voicing it aloud.
Their first trip had been a field trip exploring the neighborhoods and buildings of their past. Bucky's old home had become an apartment complex with shops and stores underneath. Bucky had ventured into the local Starbucks and had promptly ordered whatever they recommended—a pumpkin spice latte. Steve had taken a sip and found it too sweet for his taste and a little bizarre in general. Bucky, however, had latched onto the taste and Steve was afraid that a monster had been created.
"What's for dinner tonight?" Hermione said with a pleasant smile. She had begun working on more formative data about the non-magical magical resonance of their minds and the minds of others—many of the details going over Steve's head but seemed to keep Hermione decently occupied.
"Pumpkin mac and cheese with Gruyere cheese and sage." Bucky said with a smile. His hair was up in a bun that he favored for cooking while he donned a chef's white apron as well. Steve groaned.
"More pumpkin, Buck?" Steve complained. Hermione and Bucky were both looking at him in amusement. "There was the pumpkin alfredo, the pumpkin curry, the pumpkin hummus, and the pumpkin soup. Don't even get me started on the pumpkin flavored sweets!" Steve continued. Hermione and Bucky turned to each other, sharing an amused look before laughing at Steve's expense.
"You know, Steve. My school had pumpkin juice? I'm sure there will be some at the party this weekend." Hermione said with a warm laugh. Steve groaned again.
"Tell you what, Stevie, tonight we can carve the pumpkins so you can take care of your pumpkin rage." Bucky smirked. Steve felt the incredibly urge to stick his tongue out at Bucky but refrained in favor of flashing him a dark look.
"I'm beginning to miss the times when you were a terrible cook!" Steve complained.
Despite feeling like he very well might gag at the smell of pumpkins, Steve helped clear the dining room table so Hermione could set up a pumpkin carving station. When Steve cracked open the top of his pumpkin and peered in, he began to realize his choice of pumpkin came with the monumental task of gutting the massive pumpkin. Steve did not get sick easily thanks to the serum, but his mind still felt like he should be gagging at the scent of more pumpkin. Bucky must have caught his look because he began laughing outright.
"Should have gotten a smaller pumpkin, Steve." Bucky teased, his task of gutting the pumpkin significantly easier given the normal size of his pumpkin. Steve exhaled a sigh.
"Don't listen to him, Steve!" Hermione chastised merrily. "Your pumpkin is very festive and I'm sure all my friends will appreciate it. It's almost as big as Hagrid's—almost." Hermione conveyed. Feeling buoyed by Hermione's good mood, Steve took to the task, slopping the seeds onto the table and ignoring the squelching sound.
"So who is coming to your party? Your best friends?" Steve inquired softly, watching Bucky perk up subtly in interest. Hermione had only spoken briefly about the party she was hosting that weekend and a little reconnaissance would do put Steve and Bucky's mind at ease.
"Oh! Well, my close friends from Hogwarts and their significant others are invited. You've met Ginny and Harry and Ron, of course. You'll also see Neville and his wife Hannah, George and his wife Angelina, and Luna and Rolf. Bill and Fleur couldn't make it but Charlie will!" Hermione continued happily as she carved out shapes into the pumpkin.
"And Ron's wives?" Bucky asked with faux nonchalance. Despite the attempt appearance of disinterest, the comment drew Hermione's eyes, as well as Steve who eyed his friend in alarm. Bucky was faking intense focus on the carving of his pumpkin and kept his eyes affixed down. Even the quiet Crookshanks was regarding Bucky from his place on the table.
"Yes." Hermione answered slowly as if she was surprised by the question. Steve imagined she was. "Parvati and Lavender will also be coming." Hermione said, identifying the names of the spouses. Bucky nodded subtly. Sensing Bucky's curiosity and being curious himself, Steve bravely continued the line of questioning.
"Is it common to have multiple wives or multiple spouses?" Steve asked with another failed attempted at feigned nonchalance. Hermione set down her tool to exhale and lean back into the seat in contemplation.
"It's neither common nor uncommon. Ron and his wives are the only triad relationship in our friend group." Hermione clarified quietly. "It exists in the magical world and people don't really give it a second thought but it doesn't outnumber the monogamous relationships." Hermione looked skyward as if she was weighing her own words, the air heavy with undertones. "I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of relationships." Hermione reasoned. "What's the chance of falling in love with one person and having that person love you back? What's the change of it happening again at the same time? And what's the chance of the everyone being fine with it?" Hermione questioned softly into her pumpkin.
Steve paused to consider the magical world—so different from his own unique world and so different from even his expectations of what a magical world should be. Steve's mind flexed as he processed Hermione's answer. He thought of more questions but voiced none aloud and before he realized it, Hermione and Bucky had finished their carvings and Steve's pumpkin was turning out far worse than he expected.
"Steve…what…what is your pumpkin?" Hermione asked hesitantly. Steve felt his cheeks heat. He had been distracted and had carved the inside too thin, causing much of the detailed work he intended to be just be punctured holes. For as big as his canvas was, his attempt of a witch on a broom was certainly lacking.
"Nouveau-art, Steve?" Bucky teased as he peeked at Steve's pumpkin.
"Ability on paper is different than pumpkins!" Steve defended heatedly. "Besides, it's 'art nouveau'." Steve corrected. "What did you even make?" Steve questioned with playful bitterness. Hermione and Bucky both turned their pumpkins around so Steve could see. Hermione had made glasses and a lightning bolt and Bucky had made a cat—a very familiar and well carved cat.
"Wow, Bucky! That's a great Crookshanks!" Hermione gushed and even Steve had to admit it was made with a distinct likeness. Crookshanks, who had been sitting on the table, seemed to inspect the pumpkin and deem it acceptable with a soft meow. Hermione laughed at the feline, picking him up to cuddle the smushed-face animal to her breast.
"I may not be able to draw on paper, but I'm pretty good with a knife." Bucky bragged as he twirled said knife in his hand. Hermione walked over to Steve and patted him softly on the arm.
"Don't worry, Steve. Your pumpkin is still impressive by size alone!" Hermione reassured him. She whipped out her wand and disappeared the mess they had made in the kitchen before floating the pumpkins over to a place in the atrium. She had already begun to decorate the house in preparation for the party but had yet to finish. It felt festive and exciting compared to the low appreciation for the holiday the Avengers seemed to hold. "In any case, Steve, these pumpkins are really just for us—I can hardly get trick or treaters when no one can find the house!" Hermione said with a good-natured laugh that cause Steve's lips to twitch upward in humor. "Now let's talk about costumes." Hermione said with a sudden turn. She eyed Bucky and Steve where they stood, seemingly sizing them up for something. Her eyes were alarming in their alacrity. Steve turned to Bucky and met a mirrored look of faint alarm.
Steve watched as Hermione puttered around the room, checking the decorations in her home for the third time.
"Hermione, everything looks great; you really don't have to worry." Steve attempted to soothe the frazzled female; he was unused to seeing her so stressed.
"I know. I know. I just, well, I just want to make sure everything is perfect." Hermione admitted as she smoothed the fabric of her blue and white dress. She looked lovely, dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. "They've been asking to do Halloween here for years but I just always found myself busy." Hermione trailed off.
"Darling, you'll be fine." Bucky said the rare pet name easily enough, though from his body language Steve could tell his was nervous—as was Steve. It was both of their first time interacting with the majority of Hermione's friends, let alone more magical people. Bucky was especially a little jumpy—still convinced everyone would recognize him as a wanted criminal. Hermione had waved off his concern saying that all of her friends had been on the Ministry's wanted listed at one point or another so it hardly seemed important.
"And you'll both be fine as well." Hermione stated as she walked over to Bucky. She reached up to adjust his hat into something jauntier for his mad hatter costume. "At this point I suppose the one that is least nervous is Steve." Hermione commented ruefully. Steve bristled and frowned.
"Hey! I'm nervous, too; I've never met any other magicals—the other incidents notwithstanding." Steve commented seriously. Bucky and Hermione affixed him with a look. Hermione's look turned admiring, he thought with pleasure. She had chosen his snug outfit, suggesting a human torch costume—a character from a comic book he had once shown her with a tight fit suit. He had agreed to the costume when she convinced him they looked similar—though he would've agreed to any costume if it made her happy, he did not delude himself.
"Steve, you make friends with everyone; you'll be fine." Bucky said with a snort. Hermione patted Bucky's chest soothingly.
"My friends will love both of you! Just…keep in mind they are a bit strange." Hermione warned. "Magical people tend to be…eccentric." She clarified further. No one had brought up the fact that Bucky and Steve had already met Ron and Harry—and Ginny for that matter. The previous meeting was pointedly ignored in favor of pretending this party was the first time they would be introduced to her friends. The clock chimed loudly in the room, echoing about as Hermione awkwardly shuffled again, the time of her party officially beginning. She adjusted the glowing pumpkins on their stand before jumping when she heard a noise. Steve moved closer to Bucky on instinct, a move Bucky reciprocated as Hermione moved towards the fire place she had opened for the occasion. A plume of green fire and smoke gave way to a petite witch with platinum blonde hair and a dreamy expression.
"Luna!" Hermione called delightfully. She embraced the other witch soundly, pulling back but still keeping a grasp on her forearms. "Where's Rolf?" She enquired as she peered around the blonde as if she was hiding her partner.
"Oh, he's off with chasing a very important species! It's quite a surprise but you can read all about it in next month's Quibbler. Not to fret though, he sent Poppy in his place." Luna said, her voice as airy as her demeanor. In her arms appeared to be something that looked akin to a platypus. The creature looked around curiously, struggling to free itself from the deceptively tight grip Luna held it in. Whatever the creature was, it caused Hermione to pale—which instantly set Steve and Bucky into alert mode.
"Luna! You brought a niffler to the house!?" Hermione exclaimed as she pulled out her wand. "I need to set up wards!" Hermione cried as she turned around in a flutter of energy. She barely paused as she raced around the room casting spells. "Bucky, Steve, this is Luna and Poppy-apparently. Please don't let it out of your sight—it's a little thief!" Hermione called over her shoulder as she rushed off towards the bedrooms.
The silence in the room was stifling though the little blonde seemed impartial to the awkwardness. She peered up at them dazed as the held the struggling platypus. Her eyes widened briefly as if seeing them for the first time. "Oh hello!" She said softly, prompting Steve and Bucky to lean in to hear her. "Ron and Harry have said so much about you! They can't seem to agree I'm afraid, whether you two are secretly dating behind Hermione's back." The nonchalance of her statement had Steve and Bucky both surprised as they leaned back and began sputtering at the comment.
"Wha—what?! No!" Steve attempted to correct her but despite her softness her voice somehow seemed to pierce right through his words.
"It's alright if you do, though you should really include Hermione—it is her house after all." Luna said with a serene smile. Bucky blinking his eyes rapidly in shock beside Steve, equally in capable of wrapping his head around Hermione's friend.
"Listen—Luna, was it?—Steve and I—" Bucky, too, was cut off as the witch continued on.
"Hermione wasn't born into the magical world, you know, and she really struggled with many of the nuances and differences between her two homes. Just like you two, I imagine." Steve turned to share a look of surprise with Bucky. "But if even Hermione was capable of opening her mind than you two should be a piece of Windingers!" Steve raised his eyes at the unfamiliar expression but he was already unsettled from the feeling of having a conversation without actually having a conversation.
"I see." Steve commented, thought he wasn't sure he really did and felt entirely too much like Luna saw everything. Her beaming smile had him echoing it reluctantly though Bucky still seem uneasy at Steve's side.
"Yes, Hermione really had the hardest time as a muggleborn integrating into magic, though she has still kept her scientific mind. She didn't agree with me when we first met but she always did protect me." Bucky seemed irritated when Luna stopped, equally curious as to what that protection met. After a seemingly dramatic pause, Luna continued on as if she had never stopped speaking in the first place. "Some of the other students thought it would be fun to hide my shoes or books and clothing. Hermione found out about it and charmed my items to sting the hands of any one who tried to play that game." Luna stated. Steve, who had many unfortunate experiences with bullying in his youth, turned to Bucky to confirm his suspicions. At the grim look, Steve also felt his visage darken.
"We're they actually playing?" Steve attempted to ask gently. Luna stared at him blankly, lazy blinking eyes unaffected by the world surrounding her.
"I should hope so! It would be terribly rude to take things otherwise." Luna said with a peaceful look. Steve and Bucky shared a side eye glance to each other but chose not to comment. "Hermione's strong but she can't heal herself. No one else alive has the same style of ability, but she can't do it for herself. My great-aunt in law was her mentor and she was able to help Hermione filter the majority of the voices the entered her head…but she still faces all the problems herself. It seems terribly unfair that she should be able to heal everyone but no one can heal her." Luna's voice had taken on a sudden gravitas that seemed ill-matched with her expression.
"It does seem unfair." Bucky echoed from beside the two, a sturdy determination in his voice that resonated with Steve.
"There is always a solution, though." Luna said with a serene smile.
"Then why hasn't she done it?" Bucky groused in confusion. Luna's smile widened.
"You can't force love," Luna chastised, "you must allow it to grow, and take root." She proclaimed.
"Love?" Steve asked in surprised disbelief.
"Oh yes! Love is always the answer, especially with something as sentimental as magic. You see, those Disney movies aren't necessarily wrong." Luna continued, eying Steve and Bucky in a manner that seemed significant. "I think you two might be the ones she has been waiting for." Luna declared. Steve, not for the first time while talking with Luna, was sputtering again at her comment.
"Are you suggesting…" Bucky began before pausing with blatant frustration. "She's not a princess in a tower and I have yet to see a Disney movie where the princess gets two princes." Bucky summed up his annoyance.
"Well, Disney was a muggle, he couldn't have gotten it all right." Luna declared as if it was perfectly normal for two men and a witch to get together—which for her, perhaps it was. Luna's smile broadened as the platypus finally escaped her arms disappearing quickly into Hermione's home just as Hermione emerged from the basement.
"Alright Luna, I've warded the place, so hopefully losses will be minimal." Hermione said with a tone that suggested she was used to—but not entirely appreciative—of all of Luna's antics. "Where did he go?" Hermione asked in alarm when she realized that the being had already disappeared.
"Ah!" Bucky exclaimed as he jumped backwards, the platypus latched onto his metal arm. Hermione smothered a laugh at the sight but Steve outright laughed.
"Don't worry, Bucky! He won't hurt you!" Hermione said, her face caught somewhere between amusement and sympathy. "I think Poppy's in love." Hermione said with a snicker to Luna.
"She's not the only one." Luna said softly as she sent a look to Bucky and Steve. Steve gave Luna a stern look back before glancing at Hermione to gauge her reaction.
"What?" Hermione questioned as she eyed the three of them in suspicion.
"So, do I just let this…thing…stay on my arm?" Bucky redirected the conversation.
"It's either that or he steals all the cutlery." Hermione said with barely contained mirth. Luna maintaining her dazed smile, took Hermione's arm and began to lead towards the kitchen.
"Hermione, I brought some radishes. We can set them up and bob for them." Luna offered graciously. Behind her, Steve and Bucky followed.
"You know it's usually apples?" Steve corrected softly in confusion. Hermione fixed him with a look of amused fondness.
"Shhh…radishes work just fine." Hermione whispered with a smile.
Luna had already bobbed for several radishes-Hermione, Steve, and Bucky gracefully declining-when the next guests popped out of Hermione's floo. One after the other, three people poured out in a flutter of ash. Steve, recognizing the red-haired man, immediately understood the two women beside him were his wives.
"Ron!" Hermione called, leaping at the man and enveloping him in a tight hug. She withdrew but leaned in close enough that Steve could barely hear her quiet warning. "Luna brought a niffler—mind your valuables." Ron's wives shared a look of exasperation before greeting Hermione.
"Hermione! We brought food!" The tan woman said, enlarging what appeared far too much food for the numbers Hermione had expected.
"Parvati! You've cooked so much!" Hermione chastised, though her voice was warm.
"She's not the only one, Hermione." The blonde woman said, revealing her hands to be filled with additional food items. "Molly even sent over some treacle tart."
"Well, no one can resist Molly." Hermione said with a knowing smile. "Here, let me help you put these on the kitchen table." Hermione offered, grabbing a dish out of each of the women's hands. "Ron, you remember Bucky and Steve?" Hermione said quickly over her shoulder before shuffling over towards her kitchen counter and leaving the three men by themselves. Ron was rigid from where he was standing, halfway into the room and halfway closer to the hearth. Bucky was equally ill-at-ease, standing in a deceptively calm way, though Steve could sense he was on guard. Steve, per usual, attempted to break the stand-off.
"Ron, good to see you again." Steve offered, outstretching his hand. He was relieved when Ron took it with a sharp shake. "You remember Bucky?" Steve prompted, not surprised when Bucky did not offer a hand and instead nodded a single greeting. Ron mimicked the motion back.
"Right, yeah—congrats on the healing; I've heard the treatment is finished." Ron replied easily enough, though his face was speculative. Steve could tell Bucky was angry that Ron knew some of their private details but Steve recognized Ron was important in Hermione's life and hoped it indicated Steve and Bucky's importance in Hermione's life.
In the background, Steve could here Luna greeting the girls, seemingly waylaying the girls from joining their conversation. A loud meow interrupted his observation and he looked down to see Crookshanks threading peacefully through Bucky's legs.
"He likes you?" Ron asked, looking impressed as he gestured to Crookshanks who sat before Bucky and began cleaning his paws. Bucky gave a terse nod. "Hm…bloody arsehole of a cat only likes Hermione." Ron identified. He turned to face Steve. "What about you, mate?" Steve blinked in surprise, the conversation becoming far more relaxed than he had initially expected from the redhead.
"Crookshanks seems…indifferent? Like most cats?" Steve answered, having never realized that Crookshanks obviously favored Hermione and Bucky but didn't seem to actively dislike Steve.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Believe it or not, that's a better than most. That cat still hisses at me." Ron complained petulantly. Crookshanks, seemingly understanding the conversation, stopped to glare at Ron before continuing to groom himself. Steve caught the grin on Bucky's face before he hid it.
"So you have two wives?" Bucky asked bluntly. Steve glanced at him in horror but Ron seemed to look besotted at the question.
"Yeah. Got really lucky with those two." He admitted with a soft smile. "Everything just worked out and I knew they were right for me."
"So you have twice the kids?" Bucky prompted. Ron's smile grew wider.
"Only three now—they're all at mum's for the evening but I'm hoping for more. Both Lav and Vati are willing. We all want a big family and mum o'course is right please about that." Ron was beaming at the idea, leaning in to whisper. "She's hoping for a Quidditch team."
"How many are on a Quidditch team?" Steve wondered, imagining a football team.
"Seven." Ron said quickly, causing Steve to exhale in imagine relief. His family had been unusually small for his time—for obvious reasons—but he still had balked at the families in the double digits. "Personally, I think we could manage one of your footie teams." Ron added, stroking the stubble on his chin in thought.
"Eleven?!" Steve gaped, causing Bucky to laugh at his reaction; even Ron seemed amused.
"I've got two wives and twice the enthusiasm. I think we'll manage, eh?" Ron waggled his eyebrows suggestively but Steve was still sputtering at the concept. "Well, lucky for you, Hermione doesn't want an army."
"Hermione doesn't want what?" Hermione asked as she returned with Ron's wives and Luna.
"Nothing!" Ron chimed, his wives wrapping themselves in his arms.
"What were you talking about?" The blonde asked, her voice simpering in a way that Ron seemed to like.
"Just my lovely ladies and how lucky I am to have you both." Ron answered suavely. The women cooed at their husband. "Lavendar, Parvati, this is Steve and Bucky." Ron introduced as he gestured to each person.
"Nice to meet you." Parvati said, shaking Steve's hand and nodding at Bucky who returned it.
"It's nice to finally meet you!" Lavender added, her eyes taking on a predatory glaze as she stared at them. "Hermione has just been so dreadful as she's hidden you both away." Beside Steve, Hermione was rolling her eyes.
"It was by our own preference, ma'am." Steve said politely but a bit protectively of Hermione. Lavender and Parvati turned to each other and giggled before the sound of the floo roared behind them. Steve watched as a familiar black-haired man stumbled out followed by his pregnant wife.
"Is that Harry just come through?" Ron said rhetorically. "I'll be right back." Ron told his wives before disappearing to greet his friend. Hermione smiled as she followed, the little blonde Luna trailing after.
"So you knew Hermione in school?" Bucky asked, apparently less threatened by Ron's welcoming, giggly wives.
"We roomed with her." Parvati answered. "Though she wasn't the most pleasant roommate—though I suppose neither were we." Parvati added with a self-deprecating frown. Beside her, Lavender looked unusually serious for what Steve had expected from the seemingly girlish and energetic female.
"Everyone here has been helped by Hermione, you know—that includes you two, as well. We all fought during the Hogwarts battle, but some were better fighters than others." Lavender looked down briefly and silently Parvati grasped her friend's hand. "Hermione blasted my attacker off me and quickly healed me as much as she could. She was so busy but she stopped for those critical minutes to stabilize me. Parvati found me after that and kept me alive until the end. The doctors told me that if Hermione or Parvati hadn't healed me…I'd have died." Steve watched as Parvati clenched her friend's hand and felt a rush of empathy. "Eventually Hermione also healed my mind. Honestly, I was rather horrid to her in school but she still healed me anyway. When she healed my mind, Ron—who had been her ex-boyfriend for hardly any time at all-started coming around with her. Hermione seemed to encourage our rekindling, saying love and friendship helps heal and all that. For the three of us, the least Hermione did for us was help us all get together."
"Even if we aren't close like her other friends, that will always mean something to us." Parvati added. Steve felt his eyebrows rise in surprise, not expecting such loyalty and passion. He respected the two a little more.
"So then how did two become three? Do you two—you know-also…with each other?" Bucky asked bluntly, his apparent curiosity getting the better of his manners.
"Bucky!" Steve reprimanded, backhanding Bucky shoulder with a disappointing stare. Even so, the two giggling girls earned his rapt attention.
"Oh no! We're just friends." Parvati revealed with a smile.
"The best of friends!" Lavender said with a mirroring expression. What followed was a seamless blend of rapid sentences that Steve felt he was watching verbal volleys being passed back and forth.
"So we have no problem sharing-"
"-Couldn't imagine it any other way-"
"-We're very happy-"
"-And so is our Ron-"
"-It's better this way-"
"-He definitely needs two people to look after him." They paused to glance fondly at their husband who was still greeting the Potters. As if sensing Steve unanswered questions, however, they continued on with their explanation.
"-Any group of three is considered a triad in the magical world-"
"-For classification purposes-"
"-True triads are more rare but not unheard of-"
"-But two people connected to one person—those triads are not uncommon.-"
"-They're more common with twins-"
"-Two halves of the same whole-"
"-But that didn't occur with my twin and I-"
"Could you imagine you and Padma?" Lavender interrupted with a side bar to Parvati.
"Merlin, no! She's been terrible at sharing since we were young!" Parvati said, laughing freely at the idea.
"Don't you get jealous?" Steve asked, the questions bursting from his lips despite his attempt to hide it behind propriety.
"Why would we get jealous?" Parvati asked, looking at Steve with a pitying type of amusement. Beside him, Steve could feel Bucky's own enthrallment.
"Ron needs us—both of us." Lavender added, her mien more patronizing. "When I dated him at Hogwarts, I was jealous with Ron's friendship with other girls but after Parvati and I both realized we liked Ron, we realized that it wouldn't be right to leave one another behind. The insecurity I felt when I thought I had to compete disappeared when I realized we could all be together; we could all be happy."
"Any relationship is difficult, but we all love each other—even if Lavender and I are platonic." Parvati smiled as the moved to stand with their arms locked in solidarity. Flabbergasted at such self-assured confidence, Steve failed to stop the words behind his teeth.
"What about…?" Steve trailed off, attempting to correct his abhorrent line of questioning.
"Sex?" Lavender asked before shrieking laughter with Parvati. "Oh sex is definitely better when shared." Steve sputtered as he felt himself blush, embarrassed that they misunderstood his line of questioning.
"I meant children!" Steve clarified in alarm.
"Children don't happen without sex, Steve—not even magically." Lavender continued, prompting Parvati to giggle more. Beside him, Steve could hear Bucky chuckling under his breath. Steve turned to glare at him sharply and watched as Bucky quickly hid his smirk under an apathetic face.
"We both took Ron's last name, so all our children will be Weasley. Some triads combine last names so all the children share. Lavender and I have already started our family, we have a boy and two girls and we're hoping to add more." Parvati answered, taking pity on Steve.
"So it just works?" Steve asked, attempting to wrap his head around such a foreign concept.
"As much as any other relationship. It's nice, having another; it means I always have twice the support." Lavender said with a shrug. "But Steve, I must wonder why the questions. Having considerations?" Lavender said, a shark-like grin affixing on her face to meet her suddenly impressively sharp eyes. Steve felt himself fluster, sweat pooling, as he attempted to thwart the rapid fairing of his brain cells as he considered Lavender's insinuation.
"I—it's very different than what I've known, I was just curious, but ah… I'm going to go that way and do that thing so thank you for answering my questions and uh…" Steve trailed off, wincing when the girls giggled again. They shared a knowing look before Parvati turned back around and eyed both Steve and Bucky.
"For your information, Steve, Bucky, we think Hermione needs two boys to keep in line." Parvati offered sincerely. Steve felt himself heat up again and turned to glance at Bucky who looked similarly taken aback.
"Ah. Yes. Thanks. For that?" Steve returned awkwardly. Ron's wives snickered in response.
"Alright Harpies! Let the men go free." A voice called. Steve turned to see Harry's wife—Ginny—returning with Luna in tow.
"The only harpy here is you". Lavender returned with a saccharine smile.
"Ex-harpy, actually". Ginny returned with a roll of her eyes. "Go on now—shoo." Ginny said, motioning with her hands. Lavender gave her an exasperated look before taking off with Parvati to find their husband.
"Poppy! Rolf and I will be most disappointed if you steal someone's arm; it's considered the height of all rudeness." Luna chastised in her soft wispy tone. She finally relieved Bucky of his undesired hitchhiker, the platypus-like thing going back into the witch's arms without much fuss beyond lusty eyes still enamored with Bucky's arm.
"Alright you." Ginny began, her voice authoritative that Steve unconsciously straightened up. Ginny was eying Bucky up and down. "I've been told you can dance, but have you learned all the modern ones?!" Before Bucky could respond, Ginny and Luna had taken a strong grasp of Bucky's arms and began to lead him to the dance floor. Bucky tossed a pleading face back at Steve, but Steve was still angry that Bucky had laughed at him. Instead of helping Bucky, Steve gave him his most amused look. Bucky's face hardened and promised retribution.
Steve had to admit that Hermione's friends were extremely welcoming. They all greeted Steve and Bucky before launching into how Hermione had helped them in their own way. Harry had even been far more cordial to Steve and Bucky declaring that since they were no longer patients, they encouraged to chase after Hermione. He then introduced him to a man in sensible sweater named Neville.
"It's nice to see Hermione making new friends." Neville commented as they watched Hermione filter around the room and various conversations. She had been periodically checking up on Steve and Bucky but they were both doing surprisingly well in the environment. "I'm sure everyone's mentioned how they personally were healed by Hermione. For me, Hermione gave me back my family in addition to fixing my own mind. She saved my parents before her own at the cost of her own mental health." Neville revealed.
"That's just like her character." Steve replied fondly. Neville shot him an amused half-smile.
"Despite the fact that no one had been capable of healing them for 22 years, she came in and just…" Neville trailed off, shaking his head. "She'll always be special to us, even before she healed us. She saw me before I was a war hero or even competent. We all owe her like that in one way or another." Neville placed a hand on Steve's shoulder, his countenance somehow transforming from boyish and shy to a man that had fought in a terrible conflict. "I heard about your story, mate—went through quite the change. Me too, or so I'm told. Truth is, I was a bit of a bumbling fool—that's what my gran always said—but then I grew up and Hannah says I'm quite fit now, says the group calls it 'Longbottomed' when you go through a change. It's mighty flattering, really." Neville mentioned as he returned his shy self before coughing and focusing. "But anyway, the point is that you won't have to worry about anything like that with Hermione though because she sees people as they are." Neville declared.
"I get that, I really do." Steve said with a fond smile.
"Yeah, I suppose you do." Neville said with an assessing nod of his head. "You're an old soul just like all of us—just like Hermione. We all wear the scars of war." Neville said seriously. A moment later he was smiling brightly, seriousness cast aside. "My wife Hannah'll be coming on a little longer—I'll introduce you when I get a chance." Neville offered. Steve nodded in agreement.
Their conversation was interrupted when another redhead appeared followed by another redhead and another dark-haired woman. Hermione flew to the floo to greet them. Steve watched as Hermione squealed when one man hugged her so tightly she was lifted into the air before she was passed to the other man in similar greeting. When she was settled on the ground she was dragging the group over to introduce them.
"Steve, Bucky." Steve turned to his side where Bucky was apparently free of his redheaded dance partner. "This is Charlie Weasley. This is George Weasley and his wife Angelina." Hermione said as she gestured to the respective people. George Weasley strode forward before bowing exaggeratedly.
"Hello, hello. You look like two fine chaps who enjoy a bit of good fun." George said with a smile that seemed downright dangerous. Hermione was rolling his eyes beside him.
"George Fabian Weasley! So help me if you use any tricks without permission!" Hermione chastised shrilly. "Do not take anything from him!" Hermione advised with narrowed eyes. Steve shared a look with Bucky before nodding. Again, however, Hermione quickly departed them to check on Poppy, who seemed to have snuck away from Luna's watch.
"She's right scary, that one." George admitted with a wink before heading off to greet his younger brother, his wife in tow."
"I'm Charlie." The oldest redhead introduced himself again. He shook both Steve and Bucky's hand with a firm grip. "I'm the one who works with dragons."
"Really, fire-breathing dragons?" Bucky asked with raised eyebrows. Charlie flashed him a grin.
"Sometimes less fire and more acid, but generally yes, fire." Charlie responded, earning Steve and Bucky's admiration. "Actually, our sanctuary for dragons is in Romania…actually the place you raided with the Avengers was right next to the reserve." Charlie revealed. "So it's an honor to meet you."
"We were close to dragons and we didn't even notice?" Steve asked in surprise. Charlie chuckled.
"Dragons are heavily warded in so you can't detect them and they don't escape. But we heard about your exploits the next day in town. Shame I missed the excitement." Charlie said with a frown. Bucky snorted beside him.
"Man spends all day with dragons but things people are the excitement?" Bucky asked sarcastically. Charlie laughed aloud.
"You two seem alright. Here, let me introduce you to some harder stuff than the butterbeer and pumpkin juice." Charlie offered as he led them to an isolated table. He pulled out a tumbler of something on the table. "Let me introduce you to a real magical drink—firewhiskey." Charlie said as he poured the amber liquid. Steve lifted the drink so he could look at the reflection of light through it.
"This isn't a trick is it?" Steve asked, watching as Bucky mimicked the inspection.
"No, no, that would be George's profession—literally; he's a novelty joke inventor and store owner. That aside, we have a saying "Never tickle a sleeping dragon." Charlie began, "If you think Hermione is scared now, you should see her when she's right braised off." Charlie said with a visible shudder. Steve glanced at Bucky who shrugged his shoulders at Steve. With determination, Steve slung the drink back, marveling as the fiery liquid trailed down his throat, numbing him in some ways but making him feel courageous in others; it felt like nothing Steve had ever consumed before.
"Can I ask you a question?" Steve asked suddenly, perking the attention of Bucky and Charlie at his side. "What's the deal with her past patient?" Bucky looked surprised that Steve had dared ask the question that had been lingering on both of their minds.
"Ah Malfoy…" Charlie murmured, holding his glass in one hand and scratch his neck with the other.
"Wait-the death eater who's house she was tortured at?" Bucky asked with narrowed eyes. Charlie laughed at the question.
"Yeah, actually." Charlie answered amused, causing Steve and Bucky's ire to grow. Charlie, however, disregarded their discontent as he looked up into space in recollection. "They were enemies when they were younger—the opposite in nearly everything. He was one of the most damaged after the war because old Voldemort was staying in his house. Underaged Malfoy was forced to take the mark and do some fairly rotten things. Hermione healed him after the war, removed the mark mentally and healed all the damage. She says it takes less time healing magicals—magic craves magic to a degree. Yet where she only needed a few months with any of us, she needed longer with Malfoy." Charlie regaled. "Of course, then we found out that it was less that we were so much easier to heal and more that she was taking on too much at a time. Having relationships with people does help the healing and Hermione latched on to him because Malfoy was helping her heal as well. A year after they started their sessions, he was finally healed. Hermione still hadn't been out much publically—magically people are still louder than muggles in her mind—so none of us really understood she was with him. By the time we all realized, he had broken up with her and she was worse than before she started. She closed herself off—made herself mad from lack of sleep. Dreamless sleep—the potion—she took too much, grew accustomed to it, built up a tolerance and got addicted. She was pretty much in a walking coma before Crookshanks floo'd to Harry's—still can't figure out how, but that damn cat is mad clever. In any case, Harry's the one who found her so of course he took it the hardest; that's why he's so protective." Charlie finished with a serious mien.
"Should you be telling me all this?" Steve asked feeling uncomfortably guilty for asking and not expecting such a through answer. Bucky was shifting slightly beside him, the only indicator he was taken aback by Hermione's history.
"Ah. I'm basically her older brother—oversharing for the benefit of my little sister is kind of my job." Charlie said with a good-natured smirk. "Little sisters are far scarier than dragons, I do have to admit." Charlie said with a wink. Charlie finished the rest of his firewhiskey. "Just some context into everyone's actions." Charlie added before spotting the girl in question. "Hermione!" Charlie shouted. "I demand a dance! Two—Bill demanded I have one in his stead." Charlie said as he left the two soldiers towards where the informal dance floor had been created.
"Charlie, I swear if you prance like a hippogriff, I will douse you in pumpkin juice." Hermione threatened loudly, though she looked delighted as Charlie approached.
"I made a new one, it's called the manticore!" Charlie said mischievously, sweeping Hermione onto the dance floor with a delighted scream. George and his wife Angelina all began to pounce around in a way that made Steve's moves look professional. Luna, lacking a partner, strolled up to Bucky and dragged him to the dance floor before Steve had even a chance to protest. Steve sighed and poured himself another firewhiskey.
Later into the night, when people had all been greeted, when large groups of conversations had formed and deformed, when the firewhiskey had been broken into and everyone had eaten too much food—and too any pumpkin desserts—Steve found himself alone on the side of the room. Ginny, Steve remembered her name, approached calmly enough in the corner of his eye but Steve still remembered her threat from when she had brought home drunk Hermione; he still remembered easy-going redheaded woman were dangerous and Charlie's caution about younger sister. Steve still had on eye watching Hermione dance far more easily with Bucky than the previous turns she had wrangled out of Steve. Bucky was smiling as he passed Hermione to Luna who seemed to dance more like a marionette than an actual person. Ginny stopped beside him, regarding the dancing group as she sipped on sparkling pumpkin juice and rested a hand on her bump.
"Hermione's happy." Ginny commented and Steve watched as Bucky lifted Hermione gracefully in the air as she laughed. Luna seemed to still be a mess of disconnected limbs moving completely off beat to the music; even Steve could dance better. Ginny eyed Steve from the side of her eye and Steve returned the glance. "I suppose we have you two to thank." Steve nodded in appreciation.
"I'm glad that Hermione is doing well." Steve ventured awkwardly. Ginny turned to face him fully, her emotions guarded, arms crossed in a way that she could dangle her cup before her elegantly.
"I know that Hermione has told you about the war, but I can tell she's still be holding out." Ginny said softly. Steve felt a chill go down his spine and forced himself to turn slowly to face Ginny directly. He licked his lip when they felt dry and wondered if he could procure more of their magical drink.
"How do you mean?" Steve said with casualness that he knew she saw through. Ginny merely raised an eye as she peered at him from above the lid of her cup. She took a sip.
"I like you two—you and Bucky." Ginny began. "You might not be magical but you certainly are extraordinary—but more than that you're compassionate fighters. I see Bucky and I think that he's the sort who would do anything for the people he cares about, even if it meant hurting them or hurting himself. But you?" Ginny took the time to gesture at his chest with her cup. "I think you'd force everything to be as it should—you have that kind of steely determination and grit to stand by what you think is right."
"Thank you." Steve said taken aback by her assessment. She waved him off with a hand.
"It's not about you or Bucky, Steve." Ginny said dismissively. "I'm doing this for Hermione's benefit which just so happens to coincide with yours."
"What do you mean?" Steve asked with narrowed eyes. Ginny met his with a piercing look.
"Hermione is like you and Bucky combined—willing to change systematic oppression even if it costs her a leg or her family to do it—even if she breaks a few rules along the way. If she finds a just cause—she's going to go for it. You and Bucky? I think combined you might actually match her." Ginny clarified. Steve waited for Ginny to elaborate, still not quite grasping what she was saying. She sighed. "You want Bucky, Hermione, and you to all be happy—don't you?" She asked.
"I do." Steve agreed easily.
"So just be happy—all of you." She recommended gesturing with her cup in a wide-sweeping arc. Steve stared at her blankly.
"What do you mean?" Steve questioned.
"It won't be easy," Ginny continued disregarding his confusion. "You still have to break down Hermione's walls and Bucky looks like he's skittish enough to bolt if he thinks it's best for everyone but if you determine it to be so, I think they'd all fall in line." She was staring at him meaningfully but Steve could only gape.
"So just…be happy?" He repeated disbelieving.
"Yup." Ginny agreed.
"All of us?" Steve clarified.
"Correct." Ginny seemed so straightforward, so matter of fact that Steve was flabbergasted. "All of you—together." Ginny reiterated nodding to where her brother Ron and his wives were standing. "Worked for my brother and he has the emotional range of a dead lizard. I think the three of you can manage it just fine." Ginny lifted both brows expectantly as she took a sip and walked away, leaving Steve still standing in shock and consideration.
The night did not end until the early morning when a loud boom had echoed the house.
"George!" Hermione screamed as the collective party moved to the roof. Above them large fire works exploded and formed shapes of dragons in the sky. They fizzled out when they struck an invisible dome over the roof.
"Your wards are amazing!" George declared, shooting another firework into the sky that looked like a lightening bolt and glasses. Hermione rolled her eyes, allowing the impromptu display only because it seemed to stay within her contained area. Couples around them conjured blankets on the roof, leaning back to eye the splendor above them in the middle of New York City. Following their example, Hermione conjured a blanket and pulled Bucky and Steve to the floor, lying backwards to gaze upwards. Steve wrapped himself around Hermione to protect her from the cool October air as Bucky did the same on her opposite side. From his position, Steve eyed Ron and his wives, lovingly cuddling as they were illuminated by the flashing fireworks. The sight felt like mental photographs were being taken in his mind.
After the fireworks, the party disappeared into the floo. A sleepy Hermione stood flanked by Steve and Bucky as she said her goodbyes. Steve accepted hand shakes and a hug from Luna as people departed. Ginny looked smug as she caught Steve's eye before flashing them towards Hermione pointedly. When all the guests dispersed, Hermione returned the furniture as it had been rearranged and disappeared the debris that had been left over. With a swish of her wand, her house was back in pre-festivity order. Sleepily, Hermione collapsed onto the couch, wrapped in the blanket she had conjured and asleep before Bucky or Steve could persuade her to return to her room. Bucky snorted softly before hefting Hermione's dead weight into his arms. Steve watched as his best friend looked down at her, besotted.
"Let's go to bed, Stevie." Bucky said softly, turning to walk back to her room slowly and steadily as not to disturb her.
"Pretty interesting friends she has." Steve commented offhand. Bucky nodded.
"Seem like good people." Bucky added. "Despite some of their quirky ways." Bucky added with an upturned twist of his lips.
"Interesting things they said…about her history." Steve continued, watching as Bucky's face seemed to silently snarl. Hermione made a soft noise and Bucky relaxed instantly. Steve sighed, coming to a stop that Bucky echoed. Steve ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"Bucky, I love Hermione." Steve declared, placing a hand on Bucky's shoulder and eying his friend for a reaction. Bucky swallowed quickly before his face turned blank.
"I know. Of course you do. Here, you can carry her." Bucky offered neutrally. Steve pulled his hand off his shoulder to pace quietly.
"I know you love her too." Steve ventured. Steve turned to gauge his friend again but Bucky's poker face was a hell of a lot better than Steve's. "We could—I think—" Steve sighed as he tried to correct his phrasing. "I think all three of us could be happy."
"I think the two of you could be happy." Bucky determined, his face still composed and netural.
"I don't think Hermione would be happy and I know that I wouldn't be happy, knowing where you belonged-with her, with us." Bucky favored him with a long evaluating stare.
"What makes you think she even wants us." Bucky questioned, eyes alighting with hesitation and fear.
"What makes you think she doesn't?" Steve returned quickly. Bucky turned to look down at Hermione's sleeping mine.
"She seems to have been brushing off our affections." Bucky pointed out. Steve exhaled.
"We just need to show her we're serious—now that we aren't her patients" Steve continued.
"How do you propose that?" Bucky asked, seemingly warming up to the idea.
"Two-front warfare." Steve suggested, feeling confident and awakened in a way he had not been before. Bucky gave him a measuring look, his eyes guarded in the way that they had been since his freeze. Steve felt himself relax when Bucky's eyes seemed to brighten, his confidence seeming to echo Steve's.
"Aye, aye, Captain." Bucky said with a smirk, something significant passing between them despite the sarcasm. They laid in bed that night with a certain sort of transcendence echoing within them, a feeling of righteousness and correctness. If they slept holding Hermione just a little tighter, just a little more reverently and contentedly, well—who was Steve to judge?
A/N: Jiminy Cricket! Sorry for the long wait! I've had the meat of this chapter written for soooooo long but needed to refine the character interactions. Then I was avoiding anything Marvel related because Infinity Wars came out and we all know how that went! In any case, thank you for all the follows and reviews! You're all wonderful! We've made it this far, now it's time to have fun!