Throughout her education at Hogwarts, Hermione had few female friends. Of course there was Ginny, and she even grudgingly liked Luna. Other than that, she didn't tolerate female company because she esteemed other girls to be vapid and frivolous. That changed when she went abroad to Spain for her university education. There Hermione befriended Mary Frances, an Irish witch also studying at the Universidad Real de Magia in Madrid.
While Harry and Ron remained closest to her heart, Mary Frances quickly became Hermione's best and most treasured female friend. They had shared several holidays together over the time they had known each other, and they had decided to visit Italy, Greece and Egypt before going back to their studies for their third year.
"When we go to Cairo," Hermione said as they planned, "I have just the friend we can visit. I am sure he won't mind us staying at his flat for a few days."
"He?" Mary Frances asked with a crooked smile. "Is this another one of your Weasley friends?"
"Red hair, freckles and all," Hermione answered back with a fond smile.
"Sounds like my kind of man," her friend cooed.
"Any man that breathes is your kind of man," Hermione gently teased Mary Frances. While the Irish lass was a flirt, she never truly let it get out of hand.
After finalizing their travel plans, Hermione sent an owl to Bill to officially ask him if they could stay at his flat. Bill quickly replied in the affirmative but due to work-related obligations, he would not be able to be there himself when the girls were visiting. He cautioned her about safety in his neighborhood and gave her access to his locking spells so they could enter his flat when they arrived.
The tour of the Mediterranean had gone splendidly while in Italy and Greece, so when the girls made it to Cairo, both had high hopes of a good time there, too. They arrived on a Monday afternoon and used the excellent directions Bill had given Hermione to find his flat. They found it with little problems, and the somewhat seedy neighborhood hadn't even worried Hermione, who was worried about very little after having gone up against Voldemort with Ron and Harry several times.
Hermione followed all the charms Bill wrote in the letter, and the door opened for them without any problem. She let Mary Frances enter the flat first so that she could stay behind and redo the locking spells that she had undone. Almost immediately her friend screamed, and Hermione ran with wand drawn ready to protect her friend if she needed it.
When Hermione came into the main room where Mary Frances was frozen still, she found a very naked Bill Weasley standing in the middle of the room modestly trying to cover his genitalia with a towel. While she had stayed with the Weasleys many times, this was the first for Hermione to see Bill in such an awkward position, but she noticed right away that Bill looked really good.
He was naturally lean and had developed strong muscles in his work. With his long hair unbound and falling free around his face, Bill had the majesty of a sub-Saharan lion. That image was helped by his Roman nose and hazel eyes. He looked more than good; he was mouthwateringly attractive. It was no wonder Fleur had pursued him.
When she snapped back into reality, Hermione exclaimed, "Bill! You're here!"
"This is my flat," he stated as minimally as the towel that was protecting him.
"B.. but you said you were going to be gone this week!" She felt like her expression of surprise was going to freeze on her face.
"The plans changed," he responded.
"Are we still able to stay?" she asked him with trepidation.
"Yes, of course, but I would rather get dressed first." He looked down in emphasis at the small towel he was holding in front of himself.
"Oh, right!" She could have kicked herself then, but decided to make quick introductions. "Bill, Mary Frances O'Brien. Mary Frances, Bill Weasley. She's Irish," Hermione said as an aside.
"Black Irish" both Mary Frances and Bill said at the same time. She smiled at him and shook her head of black hair.
"Well, ladies, if you will excuse me..." Bill firmly clutched his towel and backed up slowly into his bedroom where he got dressed properly.
Mary Frances quickly turned to Hermione when he was busy dressing. "You never told me he was that good looking," she whispered quickly.
"I didn't think about it, and it wasn't important if he wasn't going to be here," Hermione quickly whispered back.
"Well, he's bloody gorgeous!" Mary Frances declared to Hermione who was in complete, though silent, agreement with her.
To keep herself busy, Hermione surveyed Bill's flat. It was a small one room studio with a bathroom and tiny kitchen.. He had put up a few tall screens in places as dividers to make it seem as if he had a separate bedroom, and bookshelves lined one wall completely. The flat was so well-organized that it gave the impression of a much larger living space.
When Bill came back into the room the atmosphere was much more relaxed. His feet were still bare and his hair was undone, but he was covered wrist to ankle in light-colored cotton trousers and a matching shirt. As Bill was talking to them, he tied back his hair and put on his shoes.
"We need to go to the market so I can buy some food. Are you ladies up to a bit of shopping?"
"Of course!" they both said with excitement at the prospect.
"I do have to write an owl before we go," he said as he leaned over his small kitchen table that doubled as his desk. When he was done, he said, "Let's go!"
Bill put his arms around the girls' shoulders and guided them out of the flat. "I'll be the luckiest man in all of Egypt with the two prettiest girls by my side."
As they were walking through the crowd, Bill did one innocent thing that greatly impressed Hermione. He spoke to the shop keepers in the local language.
"You speak Arabic!" Hermione gasped in surprise.
"Of course, I do," Bill answered as if it were perfectly natural for him to do so. "Don't you speak Spanish?"
"¡Sí, como no!" she answered quickly. "It's just that most wizards don't learn other languages. They use translation charms instead."
"Oh, they're good," he assessed the charms, "but not perfect. Sometimes magic can't replace the simple joy of doing something yourself, you know?"
Hermione smiled as her respect for Bill was growing, and she thought that this was definitely going to be a great holiday.
When they reached the market, Bill used the public owl post to send the letter he had hastily written in his flat. Then they continued to walk through the streets as Bill bought fruit, bread and cheese for their evening meal. He conveniently shrunk it with a charm so that it would fit compactly and lightly into his satchel.
Both Hermione and Mary Frances were interested in other forms of shopping besides food. When they had seen enough to build up an appetite, they suggested stopping to try the baklava and coffee at one of the sidewalk cafes. Bill sat with them only drinking black coffee.
"Aren't you going to have any, Bill?" Hermione asked.
"No thank you. I know it's good here, but I've had better." He drank more of his coffee instead and contentedly watched the people around him.
Mary Frances mumbled something vaguely sounding of, "If you say so," but as she was mumbling, Bill was not completely sure.
After their brief trip to the market, the trio returned to Bill's flat where he took out the food items and began to prepare a proper meal for his guests.
Mary Frances was staring at him in appreciation. "A man that is completely comfortable in the kitchen! I think Hermione and I found the eighth wonder."
Bill laughed and confidently said, "I'm a wizard in the kitchen."
"You are a wizard!" Mary Frances joked back.
"Exactly," he winked.
"Are you a wizard in the bedroom, too?" she flirted at Bill, making Hermione blush in the listening.
"Oh course! You shouldn't really need to ask." He smiled his disarming grin at her, the same one that usually won him the attention of any female in the immediate area.
Hermione found her voice and commented, "Bill's been dating this French veela."
"Oh! So he's got valuable experience." She smiled widely as her blue eyes twinkled.
"I had plenty of experience before I ever met Fleur, not that I'm the type of man to kiss and tell."
"I guess that means there was kissing involved," Hermione whispered wryly.
"French kissing!" Mary Frances squealed with laughter.
Bill snapped both girls with the dishtowel and went back to his cooking.
True to his word, Bill was a wizard in the kitchen both literally and figuratively. The meal he cooked was excellent, and infinitely better than the so-called cooking that the rest of Hermione's male friends and acquaintances could do. They finished their food with a glass of wine and pleasant conversation.
As they were chatting away, Bill received an owl in answer to the one he had sent earlier at the market.
"Unfortunately, I have to work tomorrow," he explained, "so I cannot escort you properly myself. Instead I have asked my friend Ali-Reza to take you. He's accepted."
"I was really hoping you could take us, Bill," Hermione said with disappointment in her voice.
"You will like Ali-Reza, and he'll be a good tour guide. Plus, if I finish all my work tomorrow, I will be able to spend Wednesday with you."
"Oh, that sounds simply lovely to me!" Mary Frances said while leaning over to smile at Bill.
True to his gentlemanly self, Bill showed the girls to the bathroom to where they could freshen after their day of travel. As they were doing that, Bill put out a blanket for himself on his sofa so his guests could use his room. He left them to their privacy and read a book while they tried to relax.
Hermione went into Bill's room and was distractedly trying to comb her tangled mess of hair. Whenever Mary Frances spoke to her or asked her questions, it was completely obvious that Hermione's mind was not there, but it was more likely to be concentrated on the person reading on the sofa. She gave up trying to groom herself and flopped down on the bed, crossing her arms across her chest and her legs at the ankles.
Mary Frances climbed into the bed and pelted Hermione with a pillow. "You're acting like you've never seen him before!"
Hermione was surprised to admit, "I don't think I have! All this time he was just Ron's older brother. I never paid any attention him otherwise, but you sure have. You've been flirting with him all night!"
"And so would you be, too, if you had any sense. It's all harmless fun, so don't worry."
At first Hermione didn't comment but remained still and stared blankly forward. She then said, "So you don't like him?"
"Of course I like him. He seems like a great guy, but you knew him first. Okay, you knew his brother first. Same thing."
Hermione stifled a laugh.
"This is serious stuff, Hermione. I haven't seen you really take notice of any other guy before because most of the time they don't meet your standards. No one can possibly measure up to what you want because you always compare them to either Ron or Harry."
"I don't do that!" Hermione denied, but Mary Frances knew better.
"Yes, you do, even if you don't realize it. That Bill, though-he's a looker, and he's even a curse breaker. He just might break through those defenses of yours, Hermione." Her friend waggled her finger in front of Hermione's face for emphasis.
Hermione told Mary Frances to stuff it as she turn off the light in the room.
"¡Sí, como no!" = "Yes, of course!"