Destiny was a funny thing, Hermione thought. The first time she had seen Ron Weasley, she'd felt something funny inside her and thought, in the way that girls do, that this was The One, the boy that she'd love forever. Then she met his brother, and she felt something inside of her that made her think, this boy is going to be my friend. She looked up to Percy; he was a prefect, and he understood the importance of marks and of books. When she'd first walked over to the Gryffindor table after her sorting, he'd asked her about herself and explained to her what the professors were like, answering endless questions.
In the miserable time when Hermione was trying to figure out why it was that Ron wouldn't speak to her except to be shirty and everyone seemed to think she was some sort of freak for actually liking books and classes, the only one who seemed to notice her was Percy. Hermione thought that she would always remember the time when she had been sobbing along with Moaning Myrtle and Percy had called out from the doorway to ask if she was all right. His ears had been terribly red, and he kept his eyes firmly averted as he tried to hold a conversation with her and somehow still avoid entering a girls' lavatory. It had made her laugh and he joked with her, gently, about taking points for making fun of a prefect.
That was what his family never understood, that he did have a sense of humor. Ginny knew a bit about it, and about Percy's caring side, but Ginny was much too energetic to enjoy spending quiet hours with her bookish brother as much as she enjoyed more active things. Hermione had made a couple of attempts to change Ron and Harry's minds about Percy, but they were too stubborn to see that maybe their impression was wrong. It frustrated Hermione, to think that The One would be so stupid as to not appreciate his best brother, but Percy had laughed, and told Hermione that she needn't get fierce on his account. "You look like one of Mum's chickens, puffing your chest out in a temper like that." He'd given her a sly look from over the frames of his glasses and said, "Yes, I can practically see your feathers ruffling." She'd rolled her eyes at him and then gone back to her book, leaving them to sit in a companionable silence on the warm summer afternoon.
Then her second year had started, and Percy was so very distant, and she was hurt that her friend should abandon her. She'd concentrated on Harry, who was also a good friend in a different way, and on Ron, who was still showing no signs whatsoever of having realized he was The One, or that she was destined for him.
It wasn't until she'd woken up from being petrified that she realized he had a girlfriend, as he was holding the hand of the prefect who had been petrified along with Hermione. Penelope had sat up, groggy, and Percy had smiled for the first time since the horror had started. Hermione's sheets rustled as she watched the other two kiss, her stomach feeling oddly sour for a reason she couldn't name, and Percy had broken the kiss off to tell his girlfriend, "This is my little hen, Hermione. Best brain in the world, and very good taste in books."
She hadn't seen much of him after that. Even when she was at the Burrow, he was so fixated on his work that there were few opportunities to talk to him and besides, what would she say? They no longer shared Hogwarts, he didn't have time for recreational reading, and she didn't think that she could possibly find cauldron bottoms interesting, no matter how much of his attention they took up. Instead she spent time with Ginny, and though their personalities didn't mesh as well, they still found plenty to talk about and giggle over.
It wasn't until later in fourth year, at the banquet for Harry's family, that she and Percy had a chance to sit down and have one of their discussions, almost like old times. She teased him lightly about living at home, and he teased her about being irresistible to Bulgarians, and they ate dinner in perfect charity with each other as Bill flirted with the Beauxbatons champion and Harry and the twins stuffed their mouths full of food and dodged censorious looks from Mrs. Weasley.
The next time they saw each other had been a horror. Hermione had barely been conscious when Viktor had dragged her out of the water, and she had screamed at the sight of a shark-man holding her hand. Percy had ushered her over to Madame Pomfrey, and they had waited anxiously for Harry and Ron to appear. Ron, of course, had been an absolute git to Percy, who had so far lost his composure as to hug his brother while standing in freezing water, in front of the entire world, and this had added to Hermione's determination to see if maybe, perhaps, she had been a bit too hasty in her decision as to the identity of The One. She'd allowed Viktor to monopolize her attention and even fuss with her hair, ignoring the odd looks Percy sent her.
Then came fifth year, and Percy's break with his family. She'd sent him several letters, but he never replied, at least not until the one letter she'd sent in response to his letter to Ron.
I know that you're scolding me because you believe what you're saying is right. I have to make my own path, though, and I don't share your unquestioning faith in Dumbledore and Harry. From what I've seen of Harry, he does not seem like he puts a lot of thought into his actions, and he is either unaware or uncaring of the danger he places you and Ron into. Dumbledore, while a great man, has not shown the duly elected government of the wizarding world any actual proof of You-Know-Who's return, and I hesitate very much to follow his lead with no logical reason, just his word.
As for my father... He chose to insult me and to denigrate all the career goals that I've worked for, and when I responded, he implied that I wasn't sufficiently a Weasley, that I wasn't the son he'd raised. I may have spoken in anger, but I did not say anything to him that was not true, and I refuse to apologize.
I hope that this does not mean I must forgo your friendship, which I have treasured, but not even for you will I compromise my beliefs.
She'd taken to her bed and cried then, not coming up for air until the boys sent Ginny in to fetch her the next morning. Ginny had looked at Hermione's face, then snatched the crumpled parchment from her hand and read it, her lips tightening. Finally, the younger girl said, "He's a bit nicer to you than he was to me. Mine had an element of 'sod off' to it."
"Why doesn't he see sense?" Hermione had cried, and Ginny had looked at her assessingly.
With studied casualness, Ginny said, "Why does it matter to you? One less brother-in-law when you finally marry Ron won't make a difference, will it?"
"I'm not going to marry Ron," Hermione said, and then blinked from the shock of it. She'd spent the past five years burning parchments that said 'Mrs. Ron Weasley' and 'Hermione Granger-Weasley', planning how she would tell her grandchildren about how their granddad had dirt on his nose the first time she'd seen him, and now she said she wasn't going to marry him?
Ginny had blown air out of her nose in a cross between a snort and a sigh, and said, "I'm not in love with Harry anymore, either. We must be fickle tarts, indeed."
Hermione laughed, as Ginny had intended, and pushed off the covers. "All right, so we're silly bints. At least our infatuations last longer than Parvati's."
"Mayflies last longer than Parvati's infatuations," Ginny said with considerable scorn.
There had been some awkwardness during the course of the year, as it seemed that, just as Hermione's feelings for Ron were dwindling, his feelings for her were increasing. She and Ginny grew even closer, though, even collaborating on a Howler to send to Percy after he returned his Weasley jumper. The letter he'd sent back had made Hermione blush a bit as Ginny gave her some odd looks.
My dearest girls:
I pity your future children, especially if they ever get in trouble over the same incident. Do you realize that I live in a flat? The only reason I wasn't evicted immediately was because the entire building was arguing over whether to crucify, hang, or disembowel me, both for being woken up early on Boxing Day and for breaking my poor mother's heart. If the landlord didn't hate his own mother, I'd be out on the streets. As it is, each and every one of my neighbors either glares or sniffs disdainfully at me every time they see me.
Ginny, I've enclosed a letter for Mum. See that she gets it when Dad's not around, will you? And Little Hen, was that remark about taking my jumper for yourself supposed to be a threat? I can think of no way that it would look more beautiful.
That Hermione had kept the letter was of no significance whatsoever, or at least that's what she told herself whenever her traitorous thoughts went in that direction. Fifth year had ended with the awfulness at the Department of Mysteries, and she had woken up to see a strange man hovering over her bed in the infirmary. Before she could scream, he'd said, "Quiet, Little Hen," and she'd swallowed her cry in shock.
"I needed to see that you and Ron and Ginny were all right," Percy said, from a stranger's lips and in a stranger's voice. "I bought some polyjuice and nicked some hair from a bloke at work."
"Seems like he'd miss it," she said drily, looking at his shining bald head, with only a few wisps remaining in a fringe around the back and sides.
His lips had quirked in a way that was distinctly Percy, even on this strange face. "Not after he'd spent some time with the bottle he thinks I don't know is in his bottom left-hand drawer."
She giggled. "I'm glad to see you. If you weren't so ugly, I'd kiss you."
"Damn, I knew I should've stolen hair from the fellow all the girls swoon over," Percy said before leaning down to kiss her cheek. "Lucky you're always beautiful, so I'm under no such restrictions."
Hermione had blushed and then someone had entered to take some sort of measurement, so he had straightened and winked at her before leaving. She laid back and sighed, pressing her hand to her cheek, then scolded herself fiercely for being so girlish. She was just another little sister to him, so there was absolutely no point in developing an idiotic crush on Percy Weasley.
For years, she firmly believed her conviction that she had successfully diverted herself from developing those sorts of feelings for her dear friend. She dated, although nowhere near as much as Ginny did. Ron and Harry had decided to be overbearing and overprotective brothers to both of the girls, after a few bouts under mistletoe had proved a distinct ickiness for any romantic interaction between any of the four. It was only after Hermione dated Blaise Zabini that a bilious looking Harry and an apoplectic Ron had given them "permission" to date any Gryffindor, most Hufflepuffs, some Ravenclaws, and absolutely no Slytherins.
That they had the time and mental energy for this amidst the gathering crisis with the Dark Lord was something Hermione reminded herself to be grateful for, frequently. Letters from Percy became even more sparse than they had been, and then at one point stopped entirely, and the only way she knew how he was was because Ginny would ask Tonks or Kingsley for news of him. Hermione knew that she was supposed to want him to take action in properly grand style as befitted a Weasley and a Gryffindor, but she was glad that he, at least, wouldn't be in the thick of it and making her worry.
Which was why she almost had a heart attack when she heard the Ministry was being swarmed by Death Eaters, the day after they had arrived at the Burrow after her last day at Hogwarts. Harry had disapparated at once upon hearing about it, and the rest of them had popped after him to try to make sure he lived through the experience. They hadn't made it past the main apparition chamber before Voldemort had sprung his trap, and it seemed primarily the grace of God that Harry emerged triumphant.
Once again in the care of medi-witches, Hermione had asked about the Ministry employees, and was told the majority were safe. Then she'd asked about Percy specifically and the nurse that was attempting to take Hermione's vitals had looked grim and tried to leave the room without answering.
Hermione Granger had not been through a long and bloody battle, not to mention seven years of Weasleys, without gaining a certain amount of steely determination, however. In short order, the nurse was hopping to the spell-reversal wing and Hermione had clear directions to where Percy could be found. She'd stormed into his room, screaming, "Percy Weasley, you incredible git! How DARE you choose the worst possible moment to be a hero? If you don't recover from the coma they said you're in Iright now/I, I'll make sure you have cause to regret it, if I have to practice necromancy in order to make you suffer!"
When she finally paused for breath, she noticed two very important things. One was that Percy, while looking very weak, was propped up on pillows and awake. The other was that Mr. Weasley was also in the room, and looking at her with considerable amusement. Her face went beet red as she squeaked, "Never mind," and attempted to scurry from the room.
"Little Hen, if you make me chase you, you may need that necromancy after all," Percy had said, his words punctuated with a slight wheeze.
Hermione stopped, but busied herself studying his chart. "This says you need to hold still until the puncture in your right lung heals, so don't even think about getting up."
Arthur had looked between the two of them and smiled, a bit secretively, before saying, "I should go check on Molly. Be sure you come back to the Burrow after you're released, Percy. You, too, Hermione."
She had nodded and mumbled something, and Percy had smiled at his father and said he'd be there, and then they were alone, and he said, "So, I hear you've left Hogwarts. What's a promising young witch like you going to blaze a career in?"
"I'm still considering offers," she muttered, strangely shy about the way he was looking at her. She darted a look at him, then bowed her head over his chart once more. "I should go check on Ron."
"Yes, of course," Percy said weakly. "I'll see you both at the Burrow."
After a few weeks of carefully evaluating all of the available options, including detailing all of the pros and cons of each on a color coded chart, she had finally taken a post in the Ministry, in the department of Muggle-Wizard relations. By the second week, she felt like she had been asked on dates by three-quarters of the wizards at the Ministry, and a surprising number of witches.
"Why don't they understand that I need to focus on my work?" Hermione had moaned to Percy over takeout shishkabobs that he had brought to her at her desk when she showed no signs of leaving the office for dinner, or even sleep. "Hammering out the details of this environmental treaty is important, much more so than," here her voice had dropped to a sneer worthy of a Malfoy, "Catching a show."
"Of course," Percy said, a small smile on his lips. "It's vital to the nation that the exact number of pixies in the wild be known, and broken down by species, before any more muggle construction occurs."
She threw her empty stick at him and ordered him to shove off, but from then on Wednesday nights were for them to eat dinner together, whether at the office, a restaurant, or one of their flats. Hermione, much to her own disgust, seemed to be able to set fire to her kitchen while attempting to boil an egg, but not actually produce any edible food. Percy, on the other hand, could take three days' worth of leftover takeout food and produce a feast. When she'd complained, he laughed and accused her of clinging to outmoded gender roles, leaving her open-mouthed with shock at the un-wizard-like statement until he confessed to pilfering some books from her library the last time he was at her flat.
It was ten years after she had first met Percy Weasley that Destiny decided to prove its own oddness. Ron had announced his engagement on a Wednesday, to Eloise Midgen of all people, and Hermione had been exchanging airplanes with Ron and Harry all day, trying to work out whether or not Ron should elope, and whether he was allowed to have two best men, one of which was not male. Percy had intercepted one by dint of it getting caught in his hair, and read with amusement Hermione's theory as to why Ron should marry the girl before she could discover that he squeezed the toothpaste from the middle and never, ever remembered to leave the seat down.
"So you want to marry Ron off, do you?" he'd asked as soon as they'd sat down and ordered garlic breadsticks to share before the main course.
"Oh, God, yes," she'd sighed heavily. "Maybe if he's off somewhere breeding small redheaded children, he'll stop trying to set me up on blind dates. And poor Ginny might finally be able to tell him she's engaged."
"He's tried to set you up on blind dates? Where was I during this?" Percy asked while pouring some chianti for both of them.
Hermione smirked. "Hiding, the way you always do when Ron's around."
The conversation had turned general as their food arrived, and then they took in a performance of Don Giovanni and some more quite excellent wine. Afterwards, they went for cheesecake and coffee until the pouring rain that had started while they were in the theater died down, finally making their way back to her flat sometime after two in the morning.
On the front doorstep of her building, on a Wednesday like countless others before, Percy Weasley leaned forward and placed his lips over those of Hermione Granger, kissing her gently and then with increasing fervor, before finally he broke away and took a step back. "Think about it, Little Hen," he said before turning away.
He hadn't gone three steps before he found himself stretched out on the damp sidewalk, being straddled by a witch with moisture gleaming on her bushy hair as she leaned down to kiss him without seeming to have any intention of stopping. She'd torn his shirt open and undone the fastenings of his trousers when a rustling noise in the nearby alley had made her look around and notice her surroundings. Blushing, she tried to get up, only to find her wrist gripped tightly. "Not so fast," he said, and disapparated the pair of them.
He misjudged the landing, and they appeared a few inches above her bed. She giggled as the air whooshed out of his lungs, and then made it up to him by kissing with slow deliberation. "You know, the first time I met you, I thought for sure that you were destined to be my friend forever."
"I will be," he said as he fumbled for the zipper running down her back. "Can I help it if I'm also madly in love with you?"
"If you can," she said breathlessly, "Don't."
Author's Note: This is a departure for me, a gift for my beloved Thalia Kendall. The line about "If you weren't so ugly" was on the X Files once, but it was too fitting not to swipe. I hope you all enjoyed the fic, despite my not being more practiced at Nerdslut Romance. :)