Chapter 7 – Don't Stop Believin' . . . err, I mean . . . Do Start Believin'
Harry just stood there gaping like a trout on a hook.
"Honestly, Harry," she said with a definite 'harumph' in her voice, her eyes rolling as her fists went to her hips, "it's not like it took a genius to figure it out. Even if we hadn't spent nearly every waking moment together for the past 3 weeks, you've been my best friend for three years now. Well, three years for me; I'm not sure how long for you. Did you really think I wouldn't notice something was different about you? You came back sometime between going to bed on Halloween and me coming to get you in your room the day after."
"How . . . What . . . When . . . Where . . ." Harry stuttered.
"Well that covers most of the interrogatives," Hermione quipped, though the grammar humor was completely lost on Harry. "I'll admit, some of it only made sense when taken in the context of you having come back in time." Hermione walked toward the fireplace and started pacing while her hands came from her sides and she started counting on her fingers.
"Your comment when I first saw you of 'couldn't do one more . . . day,'" she started, not using the expletive Harry had.
"Your reactions to seeing Hedwig and Sirius. You've never been that emotive, Harry, except when you're angry. I'm assuming something terrible happened to both of them."
"Your seemingly instantaneous improvement both in study habits and spellcasting; I'll bet you didn't even notice that you've been casting a lot of spells nonverbally during our sparring."
"Your 'new' friendship with Luna, and how much she almost instantaneously meant to you, when you've never gone out of your way to even talk to other people, let alone befriend them in the matter of an afternoon. And that even applies to our own house; as a Ravenclaw a year below us I'd be hard-pressed to figure out how you would have even met her. Plus her comment about the . . . wrack . . . wrack-whatevers 'telling you about her'" she said in air quotes. "Somehow you already knew her, and while her explanation to herself about some imaginary creature revealing her life story to you might work for her, I don't buy it."
"Instead of yelling at or cursing Malfoy you tore him down verbally, which we both know is not your strong suit. Then you turned his prank with the badges back on him, which would have taken days of planning and research to do. How could you have possibly known what he was up to; I hadn't heard a peep, and we're together almost all the time?" Hermione put on a contemplative countenance. "In fact, pretty much everything to do with Draco is different than I would have expected of you."
"Speaking of Draco, just happening to know the spell to shrink teeth? It's almost like what happened to me had happened before, and just like with the prank you were prepared in advance."
"Let's not forget your complete lack of surprise regarding the dragons, and already having plans to deal with them the same day you 'found out,' and those plans having nothing to do with anything we practiced for the last 3 weeks."
"And just how did you know that Rita was an unregistered Animgaus? The others might have been too focused on revenge to notice that comment, but I didn't."
"Even your speech patterns have changed, with all the swearing, the monologuing to Draco and the House tables when you were angry, and the," she blushed, "the flirting."
She stopped pacing and turned toward him, and the look in her eyes melted his heart. "But more than anything else is your behavior toward me." She took a deep breath and mustered her Gryffindor courage as she continued. "Now that we're together I'll admit that I've had a crush on you for a while, probably since that first hug when we went after the Stone. I'd always hoped . . . maybe . . . one day . . . to be able to show you that I'm a girl." Harry's eyes got wide at that statement and Hermione snapped her fingers. "You know what I meant. Mind out of the gutter, Potter," she said commandingly. "As I was saying, I had hoped to tell you that I was interested in you as more than a best friend. But then, seemingly out of the blue, you asked me out. I know that how you were raised hasn't been the best, and that would likely delay when you would start looking at girls . . . that way. And I was content to wait and see."
"But you looked at me on the First and there was such a mixture of emotions in your eyes. Pain. Hope. Sorrow. Happiness." Hermione gulped and her face reddened further. "Maybe . . . maybe even . . ." She cleared her throat and then started up again. "But there were others, too; there was such a storm in your eyes, like seeing me was both a blessing and a curse."
"All of sudden you thought you have been a terrible friend. You said 'lead on, MacDuff,' and I know I've never said that to you before. It's too much of a coincidence that it's something my father always says. You wanted to know everything about me, my parents, and my childhood. Your reaction when Malfoy had me in that hallway. The way that, for you, that was so simple; he had hurt me, so you hurt him."
"Heck, you actually planned a date in Hogsmeade, when you and I both know you've never planned a thing in your life."
"None of that is indicative of the scared, lost, and confused 14-year-old Harry Potter that I last saw walking into the antechamber with the other Champions on Halloween, and changes like that don't just occur overnight. Which leads to the conclusion that you're either someone pretending to be Harry Potter or you're a . . . different . . . Harry Potter."
She suddenly straightened. "I know you're you; your oath in the Great Hall would have killed you if you were an imposter." She walked back over to him and took his hands in her own. "More than that though, I know it's you because I can feel you." Her brow furrowed. "I've always been able to, but it was . . . cloudy . . . murky . . . for a long time. But I saw you in your bed that morning and something clicked inside of me, and all of a sudden it was clear and you were clear and . . . and you sang out to me. I don't know how else to explain it." She reached up and gently cupped his cheek as their eyes met. "The only reasonable explanation is that you are Harry Potter: my best friend, my new boyfriend, the boy I . . ." Hermione gulped. "That day you saved me from Malfoy you said I was the most important person in the world to you." She moved in even closer, her eyes never leaving his. "Did you mean that?"
Harry's brain was still somewhere between meltdown and reboot, so he still couldn't find the mental bandwidth to engage his vocal cords. All he could do was nod. "Something else 14-year-old you wouldn't have been able to figure out yet, and even if he had would never have admitted to." She leaned up and kissed him softly. "You're the most important person in the world to me, too."
Harry thought he had finally regained the power of speech when he felt her legs give out and she sagged in his arms. He instinctively tightened his grip on her as he brought her gently to the ground. Her eyes had become glassy. "Hermione?" He shook her. Nothing. "Hermione!"
Thandie crashed into the Tapestry Room, the just-recently-repaired doors banging against their respective walls much like they had a few weeks prior, though this time the force she exerted on them wasn't due to anger but to . . . well, alright, there was a bit of anger. There was also fear, along with surprise, urgency, and uncertainty. Hermione had figured out her Champion had traveled back in time. Not surprising, since she really was a very bright young woman. But being bright and being observant did not always coincide; they just happened to in Hermione Granger.
Her fear at the moment, though, wasn't the fact that Hermione knew but was fear for Hermione herself. The 'can't tell anyone ever' rule had been The Sisters' idea, not hers; as far as Thandie was concerned if Harry was comfortable enough to want to stick his Tab P into someone's Slot V or M or even A (Thandie of all people didn't discriminate; any of those slots were all good in her book) then Thandie felt that they deserved to have no secrets between them. Additionally, she felt that it was unfair of the Fates to saddle Harry with something that big that he'd have to carry alone forever.
If she knew Attie half as well as she thought she did, there might not be a whole lot of time to waste. Attie, as one of the oldest among them, was a huge stickler for The Rules; it was a wonder that she'd been convinced to go along with this plan at all. Even then it was probably only because the Horcruxes had fucked up the Tapestry, and for the first time in human history Attie couldn't snip a soul; it had nothing to do with setting the mortal world to rights and everything with giving her back her power. Otherwise, Attie had a rather simplistic outlook on the breaking of The Rules; that outlook was 'you break them and you will probably not live to regret it.' Hence the door slamming.
Thandie was just in time, too. As she sprinted into the room she saw the Fate that had been nicknamed 'The Inflexible One' with her shears in one hand, a bright orange thread in the other. "Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?" she screamed at the oldest of the Moirae.
"What needs to be done," Attie answered. "The girl knows. That is unacceptable."
"Why?" Thandie shot back angrily. "Why is that unacceptable?"
Attie opened her mouth to respond but immediately closed it again. I few more attempts met the same roadblock. ". . . cuz . . ." the Fate finally responded meekly, and she seemed suddenly unsure of herself. "That was the rule; no one can find out."
"You were also the one who said he could have a rewarding relationship with her. And now that they've started down that road you just want to snip her?"
"The Rules –"
"Oh, fuck The Rules!" Thandie said in exasperation. "There hasn't been a Champion on Earth in I don't know how long. You and your sisters have never had a Champion. We are playing this entire thing by ear." Thandie let out a long breath. "She's good for him. In fact, I'd go so far to say that she's a perfect match for him; their strands would certainly indicate that," Thandie offered, pointing at the thread still in Attie's grasp. "Plus, she has the potential to be just as powerful and influential. You can't just kill her." Not to mention the fact that if you do Harry will almost certainly find a way to come back here and give you the red-headed stepchild treatment, even if he has to pull a Heracles to do it Thandie thought to herself.
Attie considered Thandie's words for a long time before releasing Hermione's thread and putting her shears away. "Alright, we'll do this your way. For now." Thandie's smile only increased Attie's scowl. "But she needs to be educated. She needs to understand."
"I'll take care of that," Death replied, the wheels already turning as to how to facilitate that.
"Oh great," Attie sighed, able to keep neither the sarcasm nor the resignation out of her voice. "Why do I get the feeling that more rules are about to be broken?"
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Thandie winked as she spun on her heel and headed back out the door. As she departed she fired one last salvo. "Piece of advice though. Don't like it? Don't watch."
"Katie!" Thandie yelled into the cottage.
"Busy!" came a hoarse reply from the back of the building.
Knowing she was kind of on the clock, Thandie dispensed with decorum and followed the voice to its source. She burst into the bedroom, not at all caring that her friend was completely naked with another likewise naked person with their head between her thighs.
Nothing she hadn't seen before.
"Damnit Thandie I said I was busy!" Katie half-yelled, half moaned.
"Sorry." She really wasn't."But I need a favor."
"I'm pretty sure you're . . . merciful Chronos, right there . . . all out of favors," came the breathless response.
"Katie, this is life and death."
"Uuuggghhh. Fine," the woman responded, smacking her paramour on the back of the head to get him to stop what he was doing. She quickly got up and put on a robe before pointing at her lover. "You, stay right there." She pointed at Thandie. "You, living room."
The two of them made their way into the other room before Thandie explained her problem and what she needed. "That's kind of a tall order, Thandie," Katie said after a moment. "And you're going to need more than a bit of Tunie's mojo to make it work."
"Fine, fine," Thandie said in a rush. "How long will I have?"
"Well, even if Attie keeps her trap shut someone will notice eventually and blow their stack, and I'm sure as shit not taking the fall for you." Katie tapped her lips. "I can say I was distracted by . . . other things," she nodded toward the bedroom, "and wasn't paying attention. But that means I can only give you until I'm done with what I'm going to resume when I go back in the bedroom."
"Oh, good, so I should have plenty of time then." She knew that Glik really got into it.
Hermione's eyes cleared and she shook her head to try and get the cobwebs out. She realized she was on the floor cradled in Harry's arms, worried green eyes boring into hers. "I'm okay, I think. It was the weirdest sensation, like someone ran cold electricity up my spine. I was suddenly faint and my vision got really really fuzzy around the edges for a while there, too. And . . ."
"And I swear I saw . . ." Hermione paused, trying to wrap her head around what she'd seen. It had been so real.
"Hermione? What did you see?" Harry asked curiously.
She looked at Harry like she knew before she said anything that he wasn't going to believe her. "A . . . a woman with red hair. But not your mother," she finished quickly, seeing the look that came over Harry's face and thinking he was imagining Lily Potter telling her to turn away from the light.
Actually, his mother never entered his mind at the comment. "Tall? Red dress with a strap over one shoulder?"
"Yeah. And she was . . . wait. How could you possibly know that?"
Harry growled low in his throat, completely missing that he'd given something away. That miserable who . . . arpy. She was going to cut Hermione's thread! Harry seethed.
Hermione, for her part, had no idea what was going on but was going to get some answers even if it killed her (which she didn't even realize it already very nearly had). "Help me up, Harry," Hermione asked, and he was more than willing to assist her to her feet and then to one of the cozy armchairs the Room had provided. He took the other and tapped his foot nervously waiting on what would come next.
After a few moments to get her bearings back she re-introduced herself to the conversation. She decided to wait on answers to how Harry knew about the woman in red she'd seen until she got one for her original question. "So; how far?"
Harry's foot was now a blur as he pondered his answer. The Moirae – more specifically Attie he thought angrily - had said that no one could know; he had taken that to mean that he couldn't tell anyone. But he wasn't telling her; she already knew. A subtle but important difference in his book. And besides, he A) had a certain flair for rule-breaking; and B) was looking to stick it to Attie for what she'd almost done to Hermione. Add in C) he hated lying to or keeping things from Hermione, and his decision was made. "I'm not sure of the date," he finally admitted, and he really wasn't. They hadn't even known it was Christmas the night they'd gone to Godric's Hollow. They'd been on the run for so long, and even when they were at Shell Cottage he hadn't bothered to look at a calendar.
I really wish I had someone to help me explain this he thought repeatedly as he tried to formulate his response, unknowingly providing the 'mojo' needed to initiate Thandie's plan.
The Room of Requirement is a wonderous construct. Crafted from magic by mortals but imbued with a limited sort of awareness by the being Thandie called Katie, the Room listens for the needs of those near to it and tries to fill those needs as best as it can.
And so the Room heard.
And so the Room answered.
Okay, so it wasn't the Room that answered; it is just a room, after all. But it was the Room, with a helpful boost from its patroness, that facilitated.
"It was the Second of May, 1998," came a voice from the opposite side of the chairs to the fireplace, and both teens jumped in their seats. Turning, they beheld a large free-standing mirror, gilded in gold and very familiar to Harry. But what was more mind-boggling to Harry than seeing the Mirror of Erised was seeing who was seated in a very comfortable looking chair within the mirror. A stunningly beautiful woman with big brown eyes and curly brunette tresses looked at him with a smile that would have been the envy of the Cheshire Cat. Her tight denim jeans and tighter t-shirt that this time boldly proclaimed 'If you're reading this you're staring at my tits. You're welcome,' lessened the impact her arrival might otherwise have engendered. "Hey there, Champ. Remind me to thank Tunie; that wording was just perfect. Made things so much easier."
"Thandie? How the he . . . ham sandwich are you here?"
Thandie chuckled. "Ham sandwich? That's adorable, Harry. You really have got it bad, don't you?"
Harry decided to ignore that comment in deference to answering the question of the woman he did indeed (but would never admit to anyone but the woman herself. Eventually) have it bad for. "Second of May, 1998," he parroted to Hermione.
Despite the shocks of the last few moments, Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Yes, Harry, I have ears," she said in an exasperated tone. "What in the world is going on? How did this mirror get here, and who is that?"
"Oh, right," Harry said as he ran a hand through his hair. "Uhh . . . Hermione, Thandie. Thandie, Hermione."
"Oh for the love of Pete," the teenaged witch huffed. "Harry, I heard you call her Thandie and she responded to you so obviously that's her name. But the name does not help one bit to properly answer the question," Hermione responded hotly while crossing her arms and giving him the Type 7 'you'd better do better than that' look. "Lest we neglect the fact that I saw her," Hermione pointed at Thandie, "arguing with the woman in red."
"Uhh . . ." Harry stuttered.
"You saw that?" Thandie asked, her eyes widening slightly. "Huh. Must have something to do with the artifacts and either emotional or physical proximity to Champ here."
"Artifacts? Champ?" Hermione fixed her focus on Harry and he instantly started to sweat.
"Uhh . . ."
"I'm waiting . . ."
"Uhh . . ."
"Let me help, dear," Thandie interjected finally, deciding that no matter how amusing it was to watch him squirm Harry's brain was about to leak out of his ears from all that was going on, and he did have a job to do. Thandie crossed her long legs and dangled a 4-inch heel off the toes of her left foot. "The device you see," she said, waving a hand Vanna White style toward the edges of the mirror, "is the Mirror of Erised, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. I'm sure Champ here has told you the story from when he was 11 about what it does; it shows us our deepest desires. In the case of Harry, here, that would appear to be me." Thandie licked her lips seductively and waggled her eyebrows at the boy, who tried very hard to sink into the cushions of the chair and disappear. "As for who I am, well, I'm the reason Champ here isn't in Elysium beating back nymphs with a stick." She made a cat claw motion and a 'mreow' sound that did nothing to help Harry's position or Hermione's growing ire.
"Thandie . . ." Harry growled, finally finding the power of speech again.
"Harry . . ." Hermione growled louder, once again yanking it from him.
"Janet! Dr. Scott!" Thandie yelled theatrically. Both teens turned back toward the mirror with confused looks, causing the goddess to sigh. "Seriously? Nothing? Oh well," she continued.
"Elysium?" Hermione asked, finally catching on to what Thandie had said. "So you're, what, an angel?"
Thandie couldn't help but laugh. "Other direction, sweetie," she replied.
Hermione looked over at Harry, the disbelief clearly evident in her eyes. Finally she sat back. "I must be hallucinating. I obviously passed out when whatever took my legs out from under me happened. This is just a phantasm created by my unconscious mind."
"So, just so I've got things straight, you're perfectly willing to believe that your new boyfriend has traveled back in time, but it's inconceivable that there may have been some unknown entity or power that sent him back?"
Hermione's scoffed. "I know that time travel is possible without any type of supernatural influence; I've experienced it firsthand. And while I believe in God I've never seen any evidence that He involves Himself in our everyday lives."
"Alright, then," Thandie said as she steepled her fingers in front of her. "We find ourselves at an impasse. Anything Champ or I say you're not going to believe because you think you're dreaming. So how do we get you to understand that we're telling you the truth?"
Hermione shrugged. "Pretty much anything you say, do, or show me I'm not going to believe, because my unconscious mind can create pretty much anything. I'm just going to have to wait for me to wake up and get the truth out of Harry."
Truth Harry thought to himself, and knew what needed to be done. He stood and drew his wand, knowing there was one thing she'd believe. As the women both looked at him he drew the stick of holly and phoenix feather across his palm. "Sanguis meus testis est," he incanted, looking straight at Hermione as he put his bloodied hand to his heart. His voice was soft as he stared into Hermione's eyes. "My name is Harry James Potter. I was born on the 31st of July, 1980." He gulped. "I was murdered by Tom Riddle, the man who calls himself Lord Voldemort, during a battle at Hogwarts Castle on the 2nd of May, 1998, when I learned that the only way he could be defeated was to let him kill me.
"Upon my death I met Death, the woman you see in the mirror. She provided me an opportunity to return in order to prevent the war that had led to the deaths of I'm not sure how many. Dobby. Hedwig. Cedric Diggory. Colin Creevey. Lavender Brown. Alastor Moody. Nymphadora Tonks. Severus Snape. Albus Dumbledore. Remus Lupin. Fred Weasley." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "Sirius Black. I came back to stop a war that we both fought in. One that almost got you killed during a battle at the Ministry. That did have you tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange in Malfoy Manor while the ferret and his family watched. That had you starving and cold and desperate while on the run with me. Had you . . ." his tears started, ". . . had you Obliviate your own parents and compel them to move to Australia so that they could not be used against you. You did and went through all of that because of me. For me."
Harry took a step closer to Hermione. "Well now it's my turn. I came back because of you, Hermione. For you. Because I couldn't allow all of the pain and sacrifice that you had suffered and gone through because of me to be for nothing. I'll carry the pain of that future every day for the rest of my existence, but if that means that you don't have to then I'll pay that price gladly. Magicae est judex meus," he finished with a whisper, and was about to pull his hand away to show her the cut had healed when she jumped up and put both of her hands on his. She brought his bloodied hand up to her lips and kissed the back of it before she spoke.
"You crazy, noble fool."
"Wait, so now you believe just like that?" Thandie said in disbelief.
Hermione nodded slightly, not taking her eyes away from Harry. "I said that my unconscious could create almost anything."
Harry finished for her. "But there is not a corner of her mind that could ever have me intentionally hurting myself, even to prove her wrong."
He really does know me better than anyone she thought. "I've seen you hurt too many times to ever wish to see it again." She smiled brightly. "So, May of 1998?" Harry nodded. "So you're really 17? At least, mentally?" Another nod. "Good," she murmured. "This would be awkward if you were like 35," she said before pulling him down and locking her lips to his.
After a few seconds he pulled away. "Wait, so what was it before when I might have been 35?"
"Naughty?" she asked innocently, and with both smiling they kissed again.
Thandie gave them a moment before clearing her throat. "Sorry kids, while that does look like fun I'm not exactly sure how much time I have, and I do have a few things that need saying."
Harry twirled toward his Benefactor. "Like explaining how that miserable shrew was going to cut Hermione's thread?" he asked angrily.
Hermione's mind was whirring even faster than usual – a feat to be sure – as she processed what was being said. "The woman in red."
Harry turned back toward Hermione and nodded. "Atropos," he said simply.
"Or Attie, as she prefers," Thandie offered.
Hermione blinked rapidly at the woman in the mirror before turning to Harry. "Death not enough of a name drop for you, Harry? You had to include a Fate, too?" She shook her head. "What in the apparently-now-proven-to-exist multiverse did you get yourself into this time, Potter?"
"Oh, it gets way better," Thandie mused, and laughed at Harry's groan. "Take a seat and get comfortable, this could take a bit."
Hermione took the horror story of the future-that-was quite well in both Harry and Thandie's opinions. She'd only had to excuse herself to vomit three times; once when hearing about Harry's experience in the graveyard, once when hearing about her almost death at the Ministry, and once when Harry talked about walking out to the woods and taking one for the team from Riddle. Given everything else that had taken place that was a pretty good showing; Harry had lived it and still felt like throwing up a lot of the time when he thought about it too much.
Surprisingly (to her), Thandie got the tug that denoted her time was up after only a little over an hour. Just my luck that fork-tongued devil gets tired on the day I really need him she thought. Typical. "Alright, kids, that's my cue to exit stage left. I'm sure I'll be in the shit for this, so I doubt I'll be able to be much more help."
"You've already helped a lot, Thandie," Hermione said. "Thank you for explaining, and thank you for sending Harry back to me."
The deity smiled. "Nothing to thank me for dear." And indeed there wasn't as far as Thandie was concerned; she'd sent her Champion back to fix the world, that it benefited him and Hermione was just a fringe benefit.
The young witch looked at her boyfriend. "Agree to disagree."
Thandie smiled. "And now I'll leave you two to . . . talk," she said with a waggle of her eyebrows before woman and mirror faded out of existence.
Hermione took the opportunity of them being alone to plop herself down on Harry's lap. However, unlike Thandie's not-at-all veiled innuendo, she did indeed want to talk. "Okay, I have a few follow-up questions that weren't really pertinent to the story."
"Alright," Harry responded guardedly.
"In the future, were we . . . an item? Is that why you asked me out; because I'd already told you how I felt so you knew I wouldn't knock you back?" Harry's expression paled. "I'm not accusing, Harry, and I'm certainly not complaining." To accentuate her point, she brought him in for a soft kiss.
Once he'd settled again Harry shook his head. "I honestly had no idea how you felt about me when I asked you out. There's another long story about the Horcrux and complementary colors in the Tapestry of Fate, but we'll just leave it at 'no, we weren't together' for now. You actually developed kind of a thing for Ron." Well at least that's not happening again Harry thought. Watching his two best friends do their best impressions of starving Dementors in the middle of a battle was not a memory he looked on fondly anymore, especially now that he knew just how good of a kisser his girlfriend was.
Hermione just nodded. "I suppose if it wasn't you and me it would have been me and him. I'm guessing that since we didn't get together he didn't get all uppity like he did?"
Harry almost told her about Krum and the Yule Ball but decided that he really didn't want to bring up the man she had kinda-sorta dated in the future-that-was. She and Harry were together now, and Krum could go f. . . . ornicate himself. "Something like that. It's Ron, so . . . well, you know."
Hermione nodded and then averted her eyes as she asked her next question. "What about you? What lucky witch swept you off your feet?"
Harry groaned. "I'm not sure 'swept off my feet' is the right term. Unless we're talking about taking the legs out from under me like a karate master. Fair warning; you might have been amazed by my planning our date, but it's only because I'm utter rubbish at this whole boyfriend thing, and you're too special for me to muck it up."
Hermione smiled. "That's sweet, Harry. And for the record, I think you're doing just fine at 'this whole boyfriend thing.' But now you've got me even more curious. So . . . spill."
"I'm not sure it's right for me to talk about relationships that now will never be." If I don't want you thinking about Krum then I definitely don't want you comparing you or us to them.
"Why do you want to know so badly?" She raised an eyebrow. "Right, sorry. Forgot who I was talking to for a second." Harry sighed. "Fine. Fifth Year I was with Cho Chang for like 2 months. A few snogs, not a lot of conversation, or even time together really. We had one date, on Valentine's, and it was an utter disaster."
"Didn't plan?" The look Harry gave her made her laugh. "Right, sorry. Forgot who I was talking to for a second."
"Cheeky witch," he responded at having his own words thrown back at him.
"Hush, you." Harry just smiled. "So by qualifying it as 'an utter disaster' I'm guessing it didn't go well?"
"Well, considering she left me at Madam Puddifoot's after I said I had to meet you and Luna, I'll say that's a big yes."
"You left a date with your girlfriend on Valentine's Day to find me and Luna?" He nodded. "Wow, okay, maybe you are rubbish at this."
"Were! Were! Sorry."
"It was your fault anyway. You had me doing an interview with Skeeter about what happened in the graveyard. You were pretty adamant, actually."
"Oh," was Hermione's only response, other than to blush.
Harry narrowed his eyes. "What?"
The side of her lips ticked up like she was holding in a wince. "Did I . . . did I know you were on a date with Cho?"
"Hermione, it was Valentine's Day. Of course you knew. You said 'Well, bring her along if you must.'"
"Oh," she said again.
Harry contemplated her behavior for a moment before his eyes suddenly went wide. "You set me up!" he exclaimed with a laugh.
"No! No, I'd never do that Harry. Well, not consciously. Probably." She bit her lip.
"My little homewrecker," he same amusedly as he pulled her into a hug.
"Oh stop," she said as she buried her bright red face in his chest. After a bit she sat back up. "So that's it? Just Cho?"
"Ginny and I got together for about a month and a half at the end of Sixth Year."
Hermione chuckled. "So she finally worked up the nerve, huh?"
"Jumped on me and kissed me after they won the Quidditch Cup."
"Well, don't go expecting that to happen again, mister."
"You mean you won't jump on me and kiss me if I win the Quidditch Cup?"
Hermione sighed. "I walked right into that one, didn't I?" Harry just smiled and nodded. "So how did you screw that one up?"
"Hey!" he squawked. He knew she was trying to be playful, but the memory sobered Harry. "I broke up with her at Dumbledore's funeral."
"You're saying that a lot."
"Well, what do you expect me to say?" she said in a huff. "You've thrown a lot at me today, Harry, and that was after I had to watch you walk into a dragon pen."
"I didn't get within 20 meters of it!" he responded indignantly.
"Well how close does the person you love have to get to a dragon before you're supposed to worry?!" she retorted, and Harry's eyes went wide as her hands covered her mouth.
Before Hermione could jump off his lap and away he grabbed her tightly and held her close to him, really unsure of how else to respond to what Hermione had said. "That was . . . unexpected," he said finally.
"I shouldn't have said that."
"Did you not mean it?"
"Of course I . . . ugh . . . walked right into that one, too, didn't I?" she responded, her face the brightest red he'd ever seen it.
"You're really off your game today Granger," Harry said, trying to defuse the tension that had suddenly built between them. He lifted her face up so that they were looking at each other. "Why shouldn't you have said it, though?"
"Harry, we've only been dating for 3 days. That's way too soon to use . . . the 'L' word."
"You feel how you feel, there's nothing for it. But we can table the 'L' word discussion for now if you'd prefer." Her rapid nodding made him smile. "As to only dating for 3 days, I like to look at it as we've been playing cat and mouse all these years, and I've finally got you by the tail."
Hermione's eyebrows went up and a mischievous grin crossed her features. "So if you've got me by the tail, does that mean you're kissing my bum?"
"Only if you ask nicely, Mistress," he said, and the two of them discovered that kissing while laughing was not as easy as one would think. It didn't stop them from trying, though.
A/N: The 'pull a Heracles' is merely a reference to the 12 Labors from the standpoint of level of effort. I know that the story of the 12 Labors has nothing to do with ascending to god status so that you can bitch slap Fate for killing your girlfriend.
'Tunie' = 'Fortuna' = 'Tyche'
I've never seen a t-shirt like Thandie's, but I kind of want to open an Etsy shop now.
"Janet! Dr. Scott!" is a reference to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. See if you can find the scene on YouTube.
As always, thank you for your follows, favorites, views, and reviews.