This fanfiction is based on a short, ten-minute play by Roger Cornish. I don't own any of it. Except for Jesse. He's mine.
"I still don't understand why you wanted to come here," Hermione said, glancing around at the small, cheerful looking café before them.
"I like it here," he replied simply; Hermione rolled her eyes. The tiny building lay in the heart of London, not far from the flat Ron, Harry, and Hermione shared. A squat, somewhat charming building, it appeared squished between a towering Muggle bank and an equally impressive law firm. The sun shone brilliantly around them, bouncing off the sidewalks, windows, and pairs of sunglasses. The sky was a perfect, crystal blue. Hermione asked for a table outdoors; Harry could not deny her.
Their tea was brought to them and Hermione examined the purple printed cups with interest. Harry gazed across the table at her. "Beautiful" failed to describe her – she'd piled her thick, wavy hair atop her head in a loose knot. A few wispy strands had escaped, brushing the gentle curves of her face. She wore a simple white sundress, contrasting her light, summer tan. She glanced up and her lively, cinnamon eyes captured Harry's own, a vivid bottle green.
"What?" she asked him, her slender brows drawing together lightly.
"Did you go out with Jesse again last night?" he demanded, before he knew he was going to.
Hermione blinked. Jesse was a friend of Harry's, older than Hermione by only a few years. He worked at the Ministry of Magic with Harry as an Auror and it was he who introduced Jesse to Hermione, something he now deeply regretted now.
"No," Hermione said, smiling, as Harry had never seen her smile before.
"Well," Hermione continued brightly, "with the mental reservation that we met at the restaurant and decided to have dinner together."
Harry's frown deepened.
"Mental reservation?" he asked. "What—''
Hermione laughed softly. The war was years past; wizards, witches, and Muggles alike slept easier at night. The prophecy had been fulfilled; Voldemort was dead; Harry's nightmares were little more than flashes from the past and grew fewer and fainter with every passing day. The sun shone as it never had before. And the Boy Who Lived was the reason for all of it.
"Mental reservation," Hermione began, "isn't lying. It's just … withholding certain information."
Harry stared at her. This didn't sound at all like his Hermione.
"It sounds like lying to me," he said, playing with a sugar packet. Hermione sighed, though she still smiled.
"Harry, what if you were a Healer and a patient asked you how well the basilisk venom was fading from his blood stream? You don't want to frighten him; in all likelihood he'll be dead in the morning. So you tell him it's fading fine, while in your mind you're thinking it's fine for someone who will be dead tomorrow." Hermione grinned at him, cinnamon eyes sparkling with pleasure. Harry's stomach gave an all-too-familiar jolt.
"Ron explained this to you, didn't he?" Harry asked, smirking a little. Hermione nodded.
"Ginny told Ron about it; she learned it from some man she dated back in school," she said.
"So you told me you met Jesse at the restaurant because you figured I'd be dead tomorrow?" Harry frowned. Hermione laughed, not seeing the way Harry's bottle green eyes flared with resentment.
"Yes, Harry." Hermione gave a dismissive wave of her hand. "You know, I bet we don't have to tell the truth ever again."
"Yeah," Harry said distractedly. "Yeah, I bet."
"What d'you want to bet?" Hermione leaned forward eagerly, cinnamon eyes dancing; glowing with a light Harry hated Jesse for sparking.
"I bet you my Quidditch team." Harry raised an eyebrow at her. Maybe this … mental reservation would allow him to express his feelings without her realizing it …
"You don't own a Quidditch team." Hermione titled her head to the side, gazing at him with glittering eyes.
"Mental reservation," Harry raised his cup to his lips, "Ugh. Cold. Er – oh, yeah. Mental reservation: in the event I quit being an Auror and buy my own Quidditch team."
"Oooh, very good!" Hermione beamed at him proudly. "I think he's got it."
What d'you bet?" Harry asked, Jesse completely wiped from his brain.
Hermione paused, her brow furrowed in thought.
"Oh!" she brightened and looked up at him again. "I bet you my first kiss."
Harry laughed despite himself.
"I know that's a lie. You're too pretty to have not kissed a guy by now," he pointed out; he was pleased to see her blush.
"M-Mental reservation." Her voice shook slightly. "If I could go back to fourth year and get it back from Victor Krum." She smiled. "Even if I wasn't betting, I'd still want it back."
Harry smiled weakly.
"Yeah. I think I could say the same for Cho."
A waitress, a round, pleasant faced woman, replaced Harry's cold tea with a new, steaming cup.
"D-Did Jesse come on to you last night?" Harry asked quickly, before he could stop himself.
"No," Hermione said shortly, sitting back in her chair.
"You're lying. I know Jesse Karstens," Harry retorted.
"Jesse 'came on' to me weeks ago. There was no 'coming on' left to do." Hermione sipped her tea; she noticed a few thin wisps of cloud had appeared in the once clear sky.
"Are you my best friend?" she asked thoughtfully, perhaps hoping to change the subject.
Harry shook his head, though he never felt less like teasing her in his life.
"Oh, Harry." Hermione's face fell and set down her cup dejectedly.
"A man's best friend can only be his dog, Hermione," replied Harry gently. Hermione rolled her eyes at him, but her dazzling smiled resurfaced again. Harry looked at her; his gaze locked with hers and for a moment, Harry forgot to breathe.
"Hermione." Harry sat up a little straighter, setting down his teacup determinedly. "Hermione did you sleep with Jesse last night?"
Hermione stared at him, uncomprehending, and then let out a flustered laugh.
"Well, of course," she answered, smiling expectantly.
"What?" Harry's mouth fell open and he gaped at her, suddenly feeling incredibly empty.
"N-no. Yes for no," Hermione stuttered, her smile fading. "If you count that when I went to bed, a lot of others, Jesse included, also went to bed. So, yes, I did sleep with Jesse … and all those other people."
"With the mental reservation that while those other people slept in their own beds, you slept with Jesse in his," Harry snapped harshly, envy and his temper getting the better of him. His eyes burned with accusatory fire.
"No!" Hermione began in protest.
"Or were you too busy having sex to sleep?" Harry broke in bitterly; jealousy washed over him; he wanted nothing more than to hex Jesse into a thousand pieces.
"No!" Hermione cried, her smile gone, her cinnamon eyes swimming in unshed tears. "No, plain no! I don't want to play this game anymore, all right?"
Clouds had overtaken the sun; the day had grown dark, gloomy and cold. Harry scowled, heartily wishing he'd kept his mouth shut about Jesse.
"Fine." He picked up his half full cup, refusing to glance at Hermione.
"Oh, Harry, what do you want me to say?" Hermione pleaded; it hurt him to hear her so close to tears. "That I love you?"
Harry shrugged, but he looked up briefly to meet her eyes.
"That I do?"
"Do you?" Harry finally raised his eyes, not daring to hope.
"Of course I do," Hermione looked at him affectionately. Harry's heart swelled until he thought it might burst. Hermione loved him ….
"Given," Hermione continued, "that love encases all feelings one should have for a friend."
Flames of jealousy, always by his side these days, licked at him; indignation and deep anguish seized him.
"Do you love me?" Her tone was gentle, surprisingly eager. She had no idea what hold she had on him.
"No." Quietly. Hermione smiled her puzzlement at his response.
"No … oh! Oh, that's a lie, right? No for yes?"
And Harry, consumed by the wild fire of misery burning within him, resenting everything about Hermione, down to her sky blue toenail polish, leaned toward her, close enough to kiss her. His voice was soft, trembling with the intensity of his antagonism.