Morning, all. This is a little something that just popped into my head as I was drifting off to sleep one night. Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: How do I own thee? Let me count the ways. Hmm…nothing, nothing – and nothing. Looks like I don't. So apply to the incomparable JKR for the rights to these characters, because they're not mine. And what money I have comes from teaching music to long-suffering kids, not writing fanfiction.
On Her Bedside Table
One picture, neatly framed in her daughter's tidy fashion, stood on her bedside table, placed – by accident or by design – so that it was the first thing that the sleeper was likely to see upon waking.
Emma Granger flashed a guilty look over her shoulder, hardly registering that she was doing so. After all, Hermione was her daughter, and what was wrong with looking at a picture, anyway? Reassured by this conviction, she returned to her scrutiny of the photograph.
It was a wizard photo, so that the individuals pictured moved. It was sort of like a tiny film, but no new people entered, and the people within never strayed out. Emma gazed at it, entranced.
Hermione was in the photograph, her hair filled with flakes from the gently falling snow around her. Her cheeks were pink with the cold, her eyes bright with glee. One arm was slung carelessly around the shoulder of a tall, darkhaired boy who was half kneeling beside her in the snow, his own arm wrapped around her waist. A smile lit up both of their faces and they turned every now and then to grin at each other.
Harry Potter. Emma Granger lifted her hand to touch the face of the boy whose name, thanks to her daughter, she knew almost better than her own. She had never actually met her only child's best friend, apart from a bashful "Hello," at the conclusion of third year. As she gazed at the picture standing innocently on Hermione's bedside table, she felt she needed to.
Footsteps sounded behind her and Emma swung around hurriedly, feeling as guilty as if she were ten years old again and found with her hand in the cookie jar. Her daughter stood before, her eyebrows lifted in question.
"Hi, Mum," she said, leaning down to drop a kiss on her mother's cheek.
"Did you find any good books at the library, dear?" Emma asked, wishing desperately that the completely unnecessary blush would fade from her cheeks.
"A few," Hermione said, throwing a large bag that had been swung over her shoulder onto the bed. She looked quizzically at her mother. "What were you doing, anyway, Mum?"
Emma scrambled to her feet, regaining a fraction of composure. Really, this is ridiculous! I wasn't doing anything wrong! "Just…er…"
"You were looking at my picture?" Hermione asked, moving forward to pick of the photograph.
"Er…yes, I was. It's…nice."
A slight smile had appeared at the corners of her daughter's mouth as she looked fondly down at the picture she held. "It is, isn't it?" she said softly.
A still silence ensued.
"You should introduce your friends to me properly next time I see them," Emma said, breaking the quiet. "I barely know them."
Hermione nodded, replacing the photograph onto her bedside. Emma noticed that she placed it at precisely the same angle as before. "I'll do that. We're always in such a rush, that's all." She seemed to hesitate for a moment. "You'd…like to meet them?"
"I would love it," Emma said firmly. "I don't intend to never know your Hogwarts school friends, especially since I didn't really know any of your primary school friends."
"Mum, that's because I didn't have any primary school friends," Hermione said, smiling easily. Her gaze fell back to the photograph for an instant. "I'm glad I've got some now, though."
"Do you have a picture of your other friend?" Emma asked after another pause. "I've only ever seen him from a distance."
"Ron? Oh – yes, of course I do," Hermione said, scrambling up and rummaging through her cupboard. "I have a photo album here, actually. I always meant to show you the pictures, but I somehow never got around to actually doing it." She emerged from her wardrobe, an enormous green photo album in her hands. She returned to the bed and sat on it, patting the space beside her to indicate for Emma to take it.
Hermione opened the album at the front and began to leaf through it slowly. The pictures had been ordered in Hermione's neat fashion from year to year.
"You've had this album for five years?" marvelled Emma, her eyes drifting over the landscape photographs of the school.
"I only got the album last year," Hermione corrected. "The pictures had been sitting in a shoebox before that."
Emma nodded, still looking at the pictures. "It's a beautiful place," she said.
"It is," Hermione agreed. "Very beautiful. It's a pity we don't often have time to appreciate just how beautiful it really is." She turned the page and began to laugh. "You wanted to know what Ron looks like?" She pointed.
Emma started to laugh herself as she saw the red-headed boy captured in a shot that was taken in the middle of an exceptionally wide yawn. The picture was frozen, more like normal – or Muggle, to use wizarding terms – photographs. She commented on this.
Hermione nodded, smiling. "I've frozen a few in this album so that the moment isn't 'lost', so to speak. And you'd have to admit that it's a lot funnier this way than if you'd seen him close his mouth." She turned the page again. "All right, that wasn't fair on Ron. Here's a better one."
Ron and Harry stood together, shoulder to shoulder as much as they could, although Ron was a good three inches taller than Harry was. They were both grinning widely at the camera, taking turns to shove at each other.
"Neither of them camera-shy?" Emma asked.
"Oh, Harry hates having his photo taken," Hermione said. "He's had so much publicity in his life, poor boy. But he's got a nice smile when he chooses to use it."
"Ron adores the attention," Hermione said, waving her hand. "Nothing shy about Ron."
Emma inclined her head, learning more about the two boys in five minutes with her daughter and a photo album than in five years in the medium of letters.
Hermione flipped through the next pages hurriedly, pictures of herself with who Emma guessed to be the professors. "Major ego trip for me in first year," she muttered, reddening slightly. "Wanted to have my picture taken with all my teachers."
"Who took them?" Emma asked, wanting to see the pictures, but knowing her daughter well enough not to press the matter.
"Harry obliged, even though he ruined several shots before he got them right," Hermione said, smiling faintly at the recollection. "He's much better now, of course."
"Mm hmm," Hermione said, turning the pages of the album again. "I showed him how. I couldn't have him go around being terrible at it, could I?"
I don't see why not, Emma Granger thought. "You showed Ron as well?"
"Ron knew how to use one already," Hermione said off-handedly. "He's from a wizarding family. But Harry barely knew how to use a Muggle camera, let alone a wizarding one."
"There's a nice one of the three of us," Hermione said, tipping the album so that her mother could see the photo. Emma agreed with her daughter's assessment – the photograph pictured a happy group moment for the trio, standing clustered together, grinning brightly. "It was the first we'd had taken of all of us," Hermione said. "At the end of first year. I really felt like we were all part of each other then – we were friends before, but after the end of first year, we were a team."
"The photo did all that?" Emma asked disbelievingly.
"Well…not quite," Hermione admitted. "There were some…uh…minor problems we fended off ourselves that drew us together quite a bit."
"What sort of minor problems?" Emma asked suspiciously. Her daughter had never and probably wouldn't ever be a good liar. Her cheeks invariably flushed pink whenever she told the whitest of lies – at least to her parents. And her cheeks were considerably brighter than just pink.
"Nothing much," Hermione said, tugging some of her hair down to hide her flaming face. "Just some trouble with a dog and an angry plant."
Emma nodded. Her daughter had a habit of getting worked up over the most trivial things.
"I didn't take many pictures either second or third year," Hermione continued, turning a couple of pages. "There, that's a picture of Ginny Weasley, Ron's little sister, in her first year. And these two are in my dorm," she added, pointing to a pair of giggling girls.
"Lavendar and Parvati?" Emma guessed.
"Right in one," Hermione grinned. She turned the pages again. "Hagrid, Quidditch matches, pumpkin patch…Ah, here are the fourth year photographs." She began turning the pages more slowly. "I lent my camera to Colin Creevey that year, a rather enthusiastic aspiring photographer in the year below mine. He took plenty of apparently random shots as you see," she said, indicating a series of photos taken of shadows and cobwebs. "I think they're supposed to be artistic, but not having an artistic bone in my body, I wouldn't know."
Emma smiled; her daughter was certainly more practically inclined.
"These are pictures of the First Task in the Triwizard competition," Hermione said, showing Emma. Emma drew in an involuntary gasp at the enormous dragons in the pictures whipping their tails about menacingly and looking exactly like the sort of material that nightmares are made out of. "Each competitor had to get that golden egg out of the nest," Hermione said, pointing to a tiny gold speck in each of the pictures, "but I think I told you about that in my letters about this that year, didn't I?"
"I'm sure you did," Emma said, still looking in awe at the dragons and at the tiny relative sizes of the teenagers facing them. "They're controlled, of course?"
"Well, they did have experts there to try and take care of it if it got out of hand," Hermione said, "but they couldn't guarantee success."
Emma squinted at one of the photographs, in which the largest dragon of the four pictured snarled out at her. The competitor standing on the ground several metres away looked remarkably familiar…
"Yes, that's Harry," Hermione said. She looked at Emma. "I know I told you he was competing that year."
"Yes, but I didn't…Hermione, this looks dangerous!"
"It was," Hermione agreed quietly. "I don't think I've been more frightened in my life." Emma shot a calculating look at her daughter. Hermione had a distant look on her face, staring unseeingly before her. "I helped him prepare for that task, you know," she said. "I stayed up all night teaching him how to do the Summoning spell so that he could get his broomstick and fly around the dragon. I knew he could do it, but I was terrified all the same. My face was covered with fingernail marks after that, I remember."
Emma placed a hand on her shoulder. "Let's look at the other photographs, shall we?"
Hermione blinked and nodded slowly. "Colin went wild for the Yule Ball," she said, speaking slowly at first and then gradually quickening up to her normal speed. "He took so many photographs that I thought we'd all be blind by the end of the evening." She turned to the appropriate pages. "I sent you the best ones of me."
"You looked beautiful, sweetheart," Emma assured her. "We were so proud that you were our daughter. Everyone who came to our house those holidays saw the pictures."
Hermione blushed slightly. "I was hardly anything compared to the other girls there," she said. "Parvati and Padma – Harry's and Ron's dates respectively – both looked very nice. Look…here are pictures of the four of them."
Although the Patil twins were very pretty in their pink and yellow costumes, Emma privately thought that her own daughter still looked prettiest. Her glance drifted to the male counterparts in the picture. Ron looked ridiculous, to be frank, in shabby old robes that were barely long enough to cover his bony ankles. Emma stifled a laugh. Harry, however, was looking quite handsome, or would have had it not been for the rather befuddled expression on his face. "I don't think you told me…how come you didn't go with either of them?" Emma asked, confident enough in her role as mother to ask the somewhat delicate question.
"Oh." Hermione's face closed up. "They didn't ask me. It took them both four years to realise that I'm a girl." She smiled, but it seemed a trifle forced. "Ron even had the nerve to have a go at me after that for going with 'the enemy'. Harry didn't say a thing, though," she added after a pause.
"He didn't mind?"
"Why should he?" Hermione asked, slightly too quickly.
Emma shrugged casually. "Oh, I don't know."
Hermione sent her a faintly wary glance and returned to the album. "The Second Task was underwater, so Colin didn't get any pictures of it. He just got a couple when we were coming out of the water."
"We? – Oh, yes, you had to be rescued."
"That's right," Hermione said, exhibiting the handful of photographs that demonstrated the dripping champions and their rescuees standing on the shore. Harry wasn't in any of first of them. "Harry was much later than everyone else," Hermione explained. "Fleur – the silver-haired girl – was unable to get to her little sister and Harry, instead of leaving her and just taking Ron like he should have, took the time to take her as well, thinking that Dumbledore would really let any of us drown." Her voice softened almost imperceptibly. "And he got there first and could have won several more points than he did."
"Quite the hero," Emma observed, watching her daughter.
"Quite," Hermione said softly. She shook her head. "As it turned out, of course, it was misplaced heroism, as he really didn't need to do that." She turned the page firmly. "All the pictures Colin could take of the Third Task were before and after. Before," she said, showing the four champions standing nervously in front of an enormous hedge. "And…after."
Emma drew in a sharp breath. Harry: bloody, dirty and torn, was staggering beneath the weight of a boy who Emma recognised from the other pictures as one of the champions. His body was limp and he looked…
"He was dead," Hermione said.
"Why…what happened?" Emma gasped
"People have died in Triwizard competitions before," Hermione said. "It was possible that this would happen. Only…"
"This one wasn't an accident."
Emma was too shocked to speak.
"You remember when I got all my books for Hogwarts the first time and read them all through?" Emma nodded. "I told you about Harry then, didn't I?"
Emma thought for a moment, casting her mind back six years. "He was nearly killed by somebody when he was a baby, is that what you said?"
"That's right," Hermione nodded. "His parents were murdered by an evil wizard, but for some reason he was unable to hurt Harry, except to give him that scar on his head. He's spent years plotting on how to return to power, and since Harry was the only thing that prevented him last time, he decided to try and kill him in the maze of the Third Task. Harry managed to fight his way out, but Cedric was with him and…wasn't able to."
Emma found her voice. "That's horrible." A thought flashed into her mind and she shot a narrow look at Hermione. "Are you in danger because you are his friend?"
Hermione looked fixedly down at a photograph of Harry, finally relieved of his burden, collapsing on the ground. "It's a risk I want to take, Mum."
Emma opened her mouth to protest, all of her protective mother instincts crying out to save her daughter from danger. Her gaze fell on Hermione's set face, and behind her, the photograph on her bedside table. She closed her mouth again.
Hermione had turned her head towards Emma, a wary and gauging look in her eyes. "I want to, Mum."
Emma hesitated for a moment longer, and then nodded her head, letting out a sigh. "It's your choice, Hermione. I can't make decisions for you any more," she added, realising with a shock that her daughter was a young woman.
The vaguely fearful look vanished from Hermione's eyes. "You understand."
Hermione smiled; the expression lighting up her face. Emma noticed with a pang how pretty she looked when she smiled – and how rarely it happened. She looked over at the picture behind Hermione again, at the boy who could bring that smile to her daughter's face. She patted the album with a hand. "Can I see the rest of the pictures?"
Hermione returned to showcasing the events of fifth year. "Even though I wouldn't have had time to even press a button on a camera because of OWLs that year, Colin wasn't as inhibited. Still, there aren't that many of us, as we were horribly busy." She flipped the pages, several of the photographs exhibiting Colin's artistic side once again. "Here are a couple of people," Hermione said, smiling. She turned the book towards Emma.
"You all look busy," Emma commented, looking at the rows upon rows of people standing in pairs, waving wands at each other. "It looks like a class of some sort."
"It was…sort of," Hermione said. "We had a pretty pathetic teacher for Defence Against the Dark Arts that year, so we took it upon ourselves to teach ourselves privately."
"You taught yourselves?"
"Well, Harry did. He's the best at DADA in the entire school," Hermione said proudly. "He was a fantastic teacher."
Emma nodded, letting a faint smile creep onto her face as Hermione allowed more of her affection for Harry slip out. What she still needed to discover was exactly how deep that affection ran, though. "So that picture on your bedside table was taken…when?"
"Last year – sixth year," Hermione said. "No hugely major exams, so we had time to chuck snowballs at each other during Christmas break and relax a little. They're mostly of us, because I finally got my camera back from Colin. This was taken at a spring weekend," she said, showing the second photo that had been taken of the three of them. Emma noticed that while in the first one they had been merely standing close together, in this later picture they linked and wrapped arms around each other familiarly. Hermione seemed to read her thoughts and said, "We were pretty inseparable that year, even though Ron finally got himself a girlfriend."
Emma raised her eyebrows. "Really? Who?"
"Luna Lovegood, a girl from Ravenclaw House in Ginny's year. I don't know if I've mentioned her…? A bit – odd – but a nice girl all the same."
"It must have been different with a fourth person there," Emma said.
Hermione frowned, appearing to consider. "I don't know…not really. Ginny often hung in, and Luna was there with us during some, er, tough times in fifth year. It's a bit different, I suppose, but not dramatically so – or in a bad way." She smiled. "I suppose the only thing that really changed were Hogsmeade weekends. We usually go as a group, but Ron and Luna disappear together until it's time to go back now." Hermione inclined her head towards her bedside table. "That picture you were looking at when I came in was taken on one of those weekends." She turned a page in the album. "In fact, a lot of these were taken on Hogsmeade weekends when Ron wasn't around."
Emma tugged the album towards her. The pictures all featured either Hermione or Harry, or both together. She chuckled at a particularly effective shot – another of the ones Hermione had frozen – that showcased Harry's expression at being caught in the eye with a slushball, or what could be seen of it through the white wetness.
Hermione looked at the picture Emma was examining and laughed as well. "I thought it was pretty good work on my part to throw that snowball at him and hit him and take the picture immediately after."
"Very," Emma smiled. "So…" she said as casually as she could. "When did people start thinking that you and Harry were an item?"
It was a moment before Hermione found her voice. "Mum! What made you think that?"
Emma's smile broadened. "You don't deny it, then," she observed, taking a wicked enjoyment out of the flaming blush that decorated her daughter's cheeks. "As for what made me think it – darling, behaviour like that –" she indicated a picture of Harry and Hermione sitting rather closely on a bench, "and that –" a picture of Hermione holding Harry's hand as they walked through a snow-covered street, "and finally that –" waving towards the photograph that had begun it all, "isn't going to go unnoticed and unexamined by schoolmates. Or your mother, for that matter," she added, almost reflectively. She smiled again. "So how long did it take?"
An egg could easily have been fried on Hermione's face. "Beginning of second term," she mumbled. "But –" she rushed on, "people have always had silly ideas about Harry and I. Both Rita Skeeter (an absolutely horrible journalist) and Viktor had them in fourth year – we were fourteen! – and Cho Chang seemed to have the same in fifth year."
Hermione tilted her head slightly. "A girl Harry had a crush on for two years. In fifth year they were together briefly. Then there was a bit of trouble over Cho's friend, who told about our secret DADA meetings, and that was the end of that."
Emma couldn't resist. "Hermione, dear, you don't have to sound so pleased about it."
"I'm not!" Hermione said hotly.
"Calm down – it's all right," Emma said, enjoying this thoroughly, recalling her own embarrassed unease several years before when her mother had wormed the information from Emma about her first boyfriend. Her mother had seemed to have taken just as much irritating pleasure out of Emma's red face as Emma was taking from Hermione's. There were perks from being a mother. "Cho had the same ideas, did she?"
Hermione shrugged, looking thoroughly uncomfortable. "Harry said something to that effect one time."
"People don't usually have these ideas…er…without foundation," Emma suggested mischievously, wondering why on earth she had been feeling so guilty about looking at Hermione's picture before. The tables had been utterly turned.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. "If you're referring to the – uh – handholding and so forth, we only began that last year, and only because I forgot my gloves on a winter weekend once and my hands were cold." She shrugged self-consciously and rather shame-facedly. "We sort of got used to it after that."
Emma smiled knowingly. "I see. So you never touched or talked about Harry before that?"
"Of course I did!" Hermione said. "He's my friend…I do the same for Ron."
Emma smirked. "Really? I don't see you holding Ron's hand in any of these pictures."
"Ron's got a girlfriend," Hermione said. She stopped short, realising the implications of what she said. "That is…" she trailed off. "I dug myself into a hole there, didn't I?" she asked, an unwilling smile came to her face suddenly.
"I think you did," Emma agreed. "Do you want to try to climb back out?"
Hermione flashed Emma a measuring look and then heaved a sigh. "I don't think I can, can I?"
"Oh, I don't know," Emma said. "I always enjoy seeing my calm, cool and collected daughter become discomposed."
"You're an evil mother," Hermione said accusingly. "I never guessed it."
"I never pretended to be otherwise," Emma said, spreading her hands. She leaned forward, her teasing manner gone. "You really like him."
Hermione hesitated and nodded. "I don't think I could imagine a world without him now," she said tremulously. "The thought actually terrifies me."
Emma lifted a hand to stroke her daughter's hair. "Many girls feel like that."
Hermione managed a sardonic smile. "'Many girls'' boyfriends aren't people who have faced death more than once."
"It must be hard," Emma said, not bothering to follow up the word 'boyfriend' as she would have a few minutes before, sensing that her daughter wasn't in any sort of mood to appreciate it.
"It's worse," Hermione said. "Sometimes I can't think; I'm so worried. Sometimes I can't breathe; I'm so frightened." She gazed down at the smiling faces of herself and Harry grinning cheerfully from the pictures. "And it's not a nightmare that is going to end anytime soon."
"Do you have to think about it?"
"I can't help it! It's what any sane girl would do in my place!"
"Some people would say it's not a sane thing to fall in love with somebody like Harry Potter."
"We can't pick the people we – we fall in love with," Hermione said quietly. "I didn't ask for it."
They sat together in silence, Hermione lost in her own thoughts while Emma mused on how much she had learned in such a short half-hour. Her little girl was not so little anymore.
"No, I'm not," Hermione murmured.
Emma started, not realising that she had spoken aloud. "I know that now," she said, regaining composure. She smoothed the hair away from her daughter's forehead and kissed her there gently before getting up and moving to the door. "Well, I love you whether you're little or grown up."
Hermione smiled. "I'm just growing."
Emma returned her smile, swallowing a lump that had somehow made its way into her throat. "Fast."
She shut the door and went downstairs.
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