Disclaimer: Still not mine, alas.
Sorry about the almost year-long wait. No, really. Sorry. Without further ado, the conclusion to our tale. Which I apparently named wrong at God, how loser-ish am I? I don't know the name of my own stupid fanfiction. . .
For a birthday girl. . .
"when you work it out, I want it, too"
-coldplay, "god put a smile upon your face"
Hermione's eyes were suddenly sad. "I'm not sure it's that easy, Harry."
"Why not?" He said, the urgency returning to his voice. "You could even keep your job here. You could commute. You cover British music, right? Tell them you want to get closer to your subjects. Email it."
Hermione paused for a minute, thinking a few thoughts. He'd obviously known a little more about her than he'd let on, since she hadn't mentioned that she was a career writer and not freelancing. He'd bloody well been watching her, hadn't he? If he knew that the article on the wall wasn't a one-time thing, who knows what else he'd managed to discover. Not that there was much there, but the thought still galled her a bit. The second, distant question was how he knew about email. Time in the muggle world? New wizarding email?
"Harry. . ." Hermione sighed. "It'll be a madhouse if I come back. They'll be all over me."
"We can make an announcement and then hide you at Hogwarts. They won't be able to find you, but it won't be a shock when you do decide to come back. I know a bit about this and they'll lose interest eventually. Maybe they've already lost interest."
Hermione, who made a career of knowing when people were about to move on, rolled her eyes as Harry said that.
"You know, that might work. . .if I was willing to stay at Hogwarts for six months! Honestly, how would I get anything done? They'd expect my column, you know."
Harry looked at her for a minute and, in a sudden burst of perception, realized something. "They have no idea who you are at all, do they?"
"I told you," Hermione began, "I didn't trade in on any of that. I'm not going to namedrop my way anywhere. It wasn't important and I didn't tell anyone, not anyone at all."
"But what if it's just your name? Alison Gryffin doesn't exist. That isn't you at all."
"Harry. . ."
Silence reigned once more. Hermione looked out the window and Harry sighed.
"Hermione Granger is a human being, you know." Harry leaned forward, trying to get Hermione's attention. "She's smart and funny and loyal and always looking out for her friends. She's a great girl, Hermione, you're a great girl. That's who you are, you can't get away from it."
"But I have, you know. No one thinks I'm a superheroine here. I'm just a writer."
Harry looked at her appraisingly a minute before speaking. "I've read your work before I found out it was you and you couldn't be just anything if you tried. You're good at this, just like you've been good at anything you've ever wanted to do."
"See, that's not true. I wasn't good at being admired. I couldn't deal with the attention I was getting and I certainly couldn't deal with the amount of. . .admiration. . .you were getting."
"Hermione, I was unconscious and I had no idea about all those. . .girls," there was a pause while Harry made a face indicating that his word choice wasn't really what he wanted to say, "waiting outside my door. When I found out about them I wasn't happy, not even a little. Then I found out you'd left and I couldn't deal with that. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next. You had become sort of a base for me and without you, I felt lost."
"But you've done okay. You know what you need to do, you don't need me there for that."
"You're right. I don't need you there. I want you there." Harry sat back, almost challenging Hermione to respond to his statement.
"I'm sorry, Harry." Hermione was radiating both sincerity and determination. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be sorry, Hermione, come back. You can live with me. I live in a very secure area and I've already told you - I can keep you safe and away from the press."
"But this is my life." Hermione swept her arm around, indicating the open windows and cozy living room. "I can't just leave it now."
"You were able to just leave last time." Harry's hurt at being abandoned almost filled the room as he uttered that sentence.
"No, I had to. There's a difference. Harry, we keep talking in circles. I can't come back yet. I'm sorry."
With that, Hermione got up, swiftly wrapped her arms around Harry and retreated to the safety of her room. She was undressing, her thoughts swirling through her brain when she heard Harry on the other side of the door.
"We're not done talking, you know." Harry stood there, his hand against the wood of Hermione's bedroom door.
Hermione walked over to the piece of wood between them, leaning her tired head against it. "I need some sleep and so do you. I. . .it's been too much. I just can't fight you."
"Harry. . . I can't fight you, but that doesn't mean you win."
"We'll see, Hermione, we'll see." Harry brushed his hand against the wood almost in a caress before walking away to his makeshift bed. He had given her this round, but the seeds of an idea were forming in his head. . .
The next day dawned clear and bright. Having finished her current article, Hermione was free to work from home for a few days, researching the subject of her next piece. She hadn't set an alarm, expecting her normal habit of rising early to wake her. Turning to said alarm clock, she was amazed to discover it was ten thirty. She hadn't slept that long in months. Not that it had done her any good, she hadn't fallen asleep right away, but had stared into the dark, internally debating going back to England with Harry.
But, she reasoned with herself, she had done a lot for Harry. And now she had responsibilities here. She couldn't just leave this place because Harry swooped back into her life. Yes, she decided, she was going to tell him that. And not leave any room for discussion.
Squaring her shoulders, she left her bedroom stopping when she noticed the stillness in her apartment. It was normal, of course, for it to be this quiet with just her in it. Just as she opened her mouth to call out for the boys, she noticed an envelope sitting on the dining room table. Her name, written across it in Harry's spiky boy-script, seemed almost accusing. Guilt suddenly coursed through her veins. Perhaps she should've listened to Harry last night. Perhaps she should've written more. Perhaps she should. . .perhaps she shouldn't have left in the first place.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts of second guessing, she walked over and opened the envelope.
I understand, in part, that you just can't leave what you're doing. It's part of who you are. I love you for it.
We love you for it, Hermione. Even if it does make you daft sometimes. RW
Anyway, Hermione, you're not daft. You're dedicated and I, having gained so much from that dedication, can hardly fault you for it. You've done so much for me.
And me! Couldn't have made it through McGonagall's class without you! RW
Well, that's not quite what I'm talking about. I hope I can make it clearer soon.
I love you.
P.S. I love you, too. Even if you are daft. RW
The sign-off wasn't terribly unusual, except it would've been "we love you" in most cases. The three of them had been telling each other that for a long time. They did love each other. How could they not? But something told Hermione that perhaps Harry meant it differently.
Settling back onto her couch with a great whoosh, she idly petted Crookshanks who was sitting beside her.
"Well, Crooks, what do I do now?" The cat blinked at her, almost as if encouraging her to go on. "I love Harry. That's part of the reason I left. He seems to have gotten the idea and that letter seemed to. . .I had a feeling he wasn't just speaking for the two of them. Usually it would've been teasing, like Ron's."
The orange cat, used to hearing his mistress think out loud, simply rolled over, giving her access to his stomach.
"I wonder what he meant by 'I hope I can make it clearer soon?'" And, having uttered that final sentence, Hermione accioed her laptop, settling in to do some research. She always had found comfort in academia. This was just a different sort.
And so Hermione's life settled firmly back into place. Her day-to-day life wasn't different, but it was almost as if someone had flipped a switch, changing her settings from color to black and white. She almost resented the intrusion. She had been doing fine here. It was her adopted home, it was her life. She'd go back to England eventually. She wasn't sure Harry would be there, waiting for her, but that was a risk she had to take. But his presence seemed to haunt her, she felt him through her apartment, almost as if he had lived there instead of only spending a night. She started thinking of Chicago less of home and started dreaming about people who spoke like her. And take-away curries. She had to admit she missed those.
She was finding herself less inclined to go out for after-work drinks, though. Men who normally would've at least piqued her interest in a brief fashion didn't even get a second glance, barely a first one. She knew she had it bad. But her professional pride wouldn't let her do anything about it. Even her boss had noticed, stopping in and asking if Hermione wouldn't want a holiday to go home.
Her boss had been surprised at the barely concealed horror Hermione had expressed at the thought and had slipped away, wondering what that was all about. Hermione, on the other hand, knew exactly what it was about. If she went home, she'd never leave. She'd move into Harry's very secure flat until she found her own (or, if she was being particularly honest, she would just move into Harry's flat, period) and get a job or tele-commute to this one from there. . .
It was after Hermione had spent a very happy ten minutes imagining moving to England that she decided she was going to look into it. She'd go home, make a plan and come in tomorrow and present to her boss. She'd still be fulfilling her obligations to work and she'd get to go back to England. Her self-imposed exile was starting to pale in comparison to the people, the places, she had back home and, just as firmly as she decided she had to come, she decided that maybe she should look into going.
She almost tripped in her hurry to get out the door.
Smiling wanly at Alex as he pulled the door open, Hermione strode across the lobby and stepped into the elevators. She focused on her article. She thought about her parents. She, determinedly, did not think about emerald green eyes under messy black hair. She was going home because she needed to, not just because Harry had asked. Though Hermione was honest with herself, Harry had definitely started this in motion. And she might not be going home at all. She was just looking into it. Nothing was certain.
Stepping out of the elevator, she noticed that there was something different. The small table outside of the door beside hers had a newspaper on it, indicating someone had moved in. She would've normally stepped over and introduced herself, but there was simply no time. Fumbling around in her bag for her keys, she heard the door in question open. Debating stopping and saying something, politeness won out and she withdrew her hand from her purse and prepared to extend it to her new neighbor.
She stopped short when she saw whom it was standing there. Vivid green eyes met shocked cinnamon ones in an amused glance. Messy black hair stood out in stark relief to his lightly tanned face. Must be the Quidditch, she thought.
And then she thought no more, flinging herself into his opened arms. She was horrified to find herself sobbing into his shoulder for the second time that month.
"Hey, hey, Hermione, now, what's all this? Shh, shhh, love. . ." Harry looked down at the quivering girl in his arms, shocked at the strength of her reaction. And he hadn't even told her all of it, all she had done was see him come out of the door beside hers.
"Harry! I'm just. . .I was about to. . .Harry, what are you doing here?" Hermione was mumbling into his shoulder, not willing to relinquish the contact she had desperately thrown herself into.
"Why don't we go inside, love, and I'll tell you all about it." Harry gently guided her not through her own door, but through the one he had just come from.
"But, Harry, this is someone else's. . ." Hermione started, trailing off as she noticed the Quidditch memorabilia and Gryffindor class photo sitting on the mantle. "Harry," she started, wonderingly this time, "what have you done?"
"It's, umm, it's just for the weekends. We're about to go into the off-season, and Ron thought it would be good for me to have some place to go when I want to get away from things. Honestly, I think I'll be spending a lot more time here." Harry said the last part shyly, before adding, "I've got a portkey to take me back and forth so I don't get too tired. I hope you're not upset."
"Harry, you idiot, you great idiot, how could I be upset?" Hermione stared at him, shocked. "I was just coming home to look into moving back to England."
It was Harry's turn to be surprised. "You were going to do that? For me?"
"Well, yes. In part because of you. Not completely, you see, but you were, you are, a large part of things. I hope that you'll continue to be a large part of things." Hermione had said the last part very softly, almost to herself.
"Did you ever ward your apartment, Hermione?" Harry was looking at her very intently.
"Why?" Hermione started to ask questions, but seeing the look in Harry's eyes, she simply shook her head.
And she smiled as Harry waved his wand, creating a doorway that led from her living room to his.
Having finished his work, he placed his wand on the table, simply stating, "I hope to be a very large part of things, too."
And after saying that, Harry Potter took Hermione Granger's face in his hands and kissed her soundly, clearing all doubt from her mind as to how large a part he was looking for.
Hermione, for the record, was very pleased with this development. Not only was she ending up with the love of her life, but she was sure he had a Wizarding Wireless with him.
Thanks for reading.