By: Chinese Fireball

Author's Note: The inspiration of this story comes from a poem by Li-Young Lee of the same title and the memory of my father braiding my baby sister's hair when she was younger. Please note that I'm no English Literature major, so my interpretation of the poem would be peripheral at best. This story is a comparative composition on Hermione's relationship with her father and Ron, it is also a pseudo-argument showing that Hermione could tell her parents the state of the Wizarding World without keeping her parents in the dark and still be able to go to Hogwarts. Finally, this story takes place in the spring of their sixth year, a couple of weeks after Ron's birthday, revised with the current information that Hermione is the eldest of the trio.

We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern, which was weaving when the sun went down, is waving when it comes up in the morning.
Henry Ward Beecher

The Present

On Saturday mornings, Hermione Granger loved to get up early to take an extremely long and hot shower while the rest of her friends and contemporaries would rather have a lie in. It has been a ritual of hers, an indulgence, since she was young and perhaps the only gratification that she still practised, a little secret that she didn't share with any of her friends and was hers alone.

She would scrub her skin clean, massaging and loosening her muscles from her week of lessons and hard play, but the majority of her time would be spent on her bushy brown hair. She would take time to massage her scalp, wash the dirt, oil and perspiration from her locks thoroughly and made sure that it was sufficiently clean. As a child, she loved the sensation of clean hair against the back of her neck and the sensation of having her father brushing and braiding her hair. Unfortunately, the second half of the ritual was no longer possible and hasn't been done for a long time and she finds herself missing it.

Her father had learned a long time ago that if he wanted a hot shower on Saturday mornings he would have to get up earlier than his daughter or be satisfied with a cold shower. Fortunately for Hermione, the pipes at Hogwarts were charmed so that there would always be hot water when needed or there would be a revolt of gargantuan proportions directed at her.

Turning off the water, she summoned a towel to dry herself and stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a white terrycloth bathrobe. She chuckled amusingly at her wrinkled fingertips and reached for her wand to charm her hair dry, which quadrupled in volume. With a deep sigh she completed her toilet by brushing and flossing her teeth before attempting to tame her mane. After a quarter of an hour, she finally gave up and decided that she needed more assistance to control her hair. Stepping into the adjoining dormitory, she looked for her dorm mates who were more qualified for this job and more than willing to help.

"Where are they?" She muttered giving the room a careful circumspection. An antique clock on the wall chimed half past ten. A slight gasp escaped her lips as she wondered where all the time went. This was the only drawback to her Saturday morning ritual that time always seemed to move faster than she expected. Taking another sigh she donned her favourite sleeping attire, a violently orange Chudley Cannons sweatshirt that she borrowed, but never returned from a certain redhead and her periwinkle blue pyjamas bottoms. Over her attire she draped her terrycloth bathrobe and put her wand, brush and a book that she magically shrank in her deep pockets and slipped on her fuzzy slippers.

Stepping into the corridor she looked around for any signs of life but found none. She took a flight of stairs down and headed towards the fifth year girls' dormitory and knocked. Waiting for a couple of heartbeats she knocked louder calling the youngest Weasley's name requesting her help desperately. Twirling her hair in nervous frustration she apprehensively opened the door only to find it empty, it was like the world disappeared.

Taking another exasperated sigh she walked down the five flights of stairs to the common room in hopes to find any of the three girls that could tame the disaster she called her hair. Taking a quick peek around she didn't find either of those girls she was looking for. The room was oddly uninhabited except for two third year students Dennis Creevey and Natalie McDonald playing Exploding Snap and a certain redheaded boy sitting by the hearth frantically scribbling away on a piece of parchment looking much too adorable for his own good.

Hermione gasped suddenly when she saw him, her heart started thumping faster than a fluttering Golden Snitch, which quickly flew straight into her throat. His flaming red hair blazed even more in the light of the morning sun and his fit body through Quidditch conditioning bulged from his tight shirt and jeans. Ron was so incredibly handsome that girls who once ignored him were paying attention to him and the younger girls giggled at the sight of the Quidditch Keeper, but the perplexing and enduring thing was he was oblivious to all it. Hermione has often wondered if Ron ever looked at himself in the mirror or if he even owned one, because he didn't seem to notice how handsome he was. She was, however glad that he was still oblivious to his appearance, because that one simple fact made him that much more adorable.

For years she had buried and pushed her growing feelings for him under things like homework, extra-credit assignments, Prefect duties and excuses she told herself on a daily basis to keep her feelings at bay. Excuses like he was her best mate and she didn't want to jeopardise such a precious relationship or that they needed to stay apart for Harry's sake. She kept telling herself those excuses that she began to believe them and built a wall around herself and locked those feelings within, never letting them out, but her feelings in tandem with her libido broke down all her defences and excuses into dust and came to the inevitable conclusion. She, Hermione Jane Granger was hopelessly in love with her best mate, Ronald Weasley.

Realisation dawned on her about her current state of dress or rather undress and the condition of her untamed hair and was thankful that her infatuation hasn't seen her yet, had he seen her she would have died of embarrassment. Thanking Merlin above for this glimmer of hope she made a hastily retreat, but unfortunately she gave her praises too soon.

"Hey Hermione," his cheerful voice reverberated within her. She mentally slapped herself for not making her retreat sooner and tried not to look at him, but it was impossible. Hermione saw his face brighten with a lopsided smile that revealed a pronounced dimple and his cobalt blue eyes shimmered at her. With just one look everything below her navel turned to jelly and she froze on the spot, that simple glance worked so much better than the Leg Lock Curse and a Jelly-Legs Jinx combined. Her heart fluttered again and a blush crept across her face. "Are you all right Hermione? You look flushed." His voice laced with concern.

"I'm fine." Hermione instantly cursed her voice for squeaking. "Have you seen your sister or any of my roommates?" She asked nervously.

"No," replied Ron with intrigue, it wasn't every day that his best mate would want to spend any time with her dorm mates and he was curious what she was up to. "I just woke up myself; I would assume that they left for Hogsmeade hours ago."

"Hogsmeade!" Hermione exclaimed, hitting herself on the head. "I totally forgot that there was a Hogsmeade excursion this weekend!" She exclaimed, rebuking herself for not thinking of it sooner. "Hey, wait a tick, why aren't you there? I would have half expected you to be squandering your money on sweets by now."

"Well, I would be, but I didn't get back from detention until four last this morning," explained Ron hesitantly.

"What did Professor Snape make you do?"

"Cleaning out the Owlery without magic," shuddered Ron at the memory.

"That shouldn't take you all night."

"I didn't think so either," replied Ron, suppressing a yawn, "but I forgot that owls are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they have their breakfast a few hours after sunset and lunch at midnight. Every time I was almost finished, half-eaten animals would fall down among with other bodily functions." He shuddered and Hermione couldn't help but shudder inwardly too.

"Well you deserved it for what you did in Potions."

"Please Hermione, it's Saturday no lectures please." He pleaded, looking at her beseechingly. "Promise me that you won't lecture me once today."

"All right, I promise." Hermione acquiesced. She hated that her convictions, when around him, could be thrown into a nonsensical mess. "So what are you still doing here? You could still make an afternoon of it," suggested Hermione.

"Yeah, but in a rare moment of leniency Professor McGonagall gave me an extension on the paper that was due yesterday and I have a boatload of homework to go through too." The redheaded boy pointed out. "You promised no lectures and please don't tell me that you told me so." He reminded when she was about to open her mouth.

Hermione hated that she was so transparent especially when she was around him. Suddenly a stray thought ran through her mind, which made a mischievous grin tugging at the corner of her mouth. "Am I hearing right? Is Ronald Weasley, Prince of Procrastination, would rather do his homework than go to Hogsmeade?" She asked teasingly.

"Shush...not so loud," said Ron frantically, while looking around for witnesses. "I don't want my reputation tarnished, but what about you? Why aren't you at Hogsmeade? Lost all track of time in the shower?" He asked with a knowing smile.

"How did you know that?" She was genuinely surprised that anyone outside of her family knew of her secret weekly indulgence.

"Hermione, hot water is a valuable commodity at my house and we tend to find out quickly who the culprit is especially on Saturday mornings." He pointed out with a knowing smile.

"I'm sorry." Hermione blushed. "I didn't mean to be an imposition."

"You weren't," reassured Ron with a slight chuckle. "To tell you the truth, I prefer a cold shower after a long run in the morning." During the summer, Ron and Harry had taken up running to get in shape for Qudditch during the off season. "So don't you dare fret about it, come and sit beside me with that book that I know you're dying to read." He said patting the spot on the chesterfield beside him.

"No," moaned Hermione weakly, it took all her inner reserve strength to decline his very kind invitation. She wanted so much to snuggle against him and read her book, but she couldn't, not in the condition she was in. "I just came down here to find someone to help me with the mess I call my hair and since your sister and my dorm mates aren't here I better go back upstairs," explained Hermione.

"Wait!" Hermione abruptly stopped and turned to see Ron biting his lower lip, he seemed to be contemplating something. "I could help you with that too," replied Ron reassuringly. He closed his Transfiguration textbook and crossed his legs while resting his back against an armrest. "Quickly, before I change my mind." Hermione watched him dubiously with an arched eyebrow. "Trust me Hermione, when Mum wasn't available Ginny would come to me to do her hair," said Ron reassuringly.

"All right," Hermione finally caved. Her libido and the nostalgic urge to have her hair brushed by someone overtook her common sense. She hated the fact that Ron could make her do almost anything, especially the unexpected and ridiculous with just one look or smile. "I can't believe I'm letting you do this," mumbled Hermione. She shook her head slightly and sat in front of Ron with her back facing him and crossed her legs. She then took her book out from her terrycloth bathrobe and made herself comfortable.

"Trust me," whispered Ron into her ear. His breath and voice sent shivers down her spin and made her centre turn to mush. Breathing harder she took several cleansing breaths to stop her blushing and to slow down her heartbeat. Feeling a slight tug on her locks by her best mate and infatuation sent memories from her past to her consciousness.

We two sit on our bed, you
between my legs, your back to me, your head
slightly bowed, that I may brush and braid
your hair. My father
did this for my mother,
just as I do for you. One hand
holds the hem of you hair, the other
works the brush. Both hands climb
as the strokes grow
longer, until I use not only my wrists,
but my arms, then my shoulders, my whole body
rocking in a rower's rhythm, a lover's
even time, as the tangles are undone,
and brush and bare hand run the thick,
fluent length of your hair, whose wintry scent
comes, a faint, human musk.

Summer Holidays '86...

Six-year-old Hermione Granger watched with ardent fascination as her father methodically and sensitively brushed her mother's long mahogany hair. Young Hermione loved her hair, it was just like her mother's, long, brown and full of curls. She watched her mother closed her eyes in contentment. Hermione has never seen her mother so at peace with herself or seeing her feel pure enjoyment of just having her hair being brushed.

A giggle absconded from her mother's mouth as her father spontaneously tickled her by kissing her on the hollow of her neck and then smelling her scent like mating animals. Her mother chuckled softly as her father whispered sweet nothings to her and then burst out in laughter as he told her a joke. It was an act of pure domestic romanticism; her parents at times would talk about their lives, their dreams and other deep intimate matters that they wouldn't normally talk about across the kitchen table.

Hermione watched them secretly wondering what sort of things they were talking about or the secrets they were sharing. It was so romantic to see her parents so much in love, that she longed for someone to brush her hair like that one day. A romantic sigh escaped from Hermione's mouth wondering when or if she would ever find love like her parents, if only the boys she knew weren't so stupid and mean to her.

"Hey Princess," greeted Mr Granger with a smile.

"Hi Daddy!" She greeted with youthful exuberance. "Could I be next?" She asked hopefully.

"Sure thing, Princess," said Mr Granger, which he was promptly rewarded with a brilliant smile from his daughter.

"So how's Daddy doing with my hair? Is he doing a good job?" Mrs Granger asked while her husband was starting to braid her hair.

"Daddy's doing a brilliant job." Hermione nodded animatedly.

Her mother returned to her blissful state and closed her eyes enjoying the treatment that her husband was giving to her hair. Young Hermione watched her father weave her mother's bushy brown hair into a series of complex braids. The six-year-old has never seen her mother so relaxed and centred and wondered if the simple act of brushing one's hair could bring such happiness. She would know very soon.

"All done!" Mr Granger exclaimed.

Mrs Granger slowly opened her eyes as if she was waking from a wonderful dream into a more wonderful reality. "So Hermione, how do I look?"

"You look brilliant." Hermione replied wide-eyed.

"Indeed you do." Mr Granger smiled, kissing his wife on the contour of her neck, which tickled her slightly. "I have to say that I'm a lucky bloke to be in the presence of two of the most beautiful women in all of England." He replied.

"Well in that case, the job of brushing and braiding my hair would be all yours, my dear husband."

"A job I'll gladly accept," replied Mr Granger flirtatiously, kissing his wife once more before she disappeared into the kitchen. "So, are you ready Princess?" He asked turning to his daughter, who was jumping with anticipation. Hermione rushed to the now vacant seat and sat perfectly still for her father. With the first stroke she felt the love, with the next joy, with the third serenity, the fourth security and very quickly she was wrapped in a paragon of virtues. "How am I doing? Not too hard?" Her father's voice reverberated within her.

"No, it's perfect," replied Hermione blissfully. "Where did you learn to do all this? You're rather good at it." She asked, always the inquisitive child.

"Why thank you darling." She imagined her father replying with a smile. "Your grandfather brushed your grandmother's hair like this and he taught me just like his father taught him and his father before him like I will teach my son one day." He explained.

"So it's like a family tradition."

"You can call it that." Her father chuckled. "Legend has it that your great grandfather convinced your great grandmother to marry him by brushing her hair." He pointed out.

"Really?" Hermione asked. "Is that why Mummy married you?"

"Well, I'm sure that there were other reasons, but I think that it was a significant factor." Her father chuckled. "Like I'm sure that one day you'll marry a boy that will brush your hair like this and if he doesn't know how to, then I'll teach him."

"No way!" Hermione protested. "I'll never marry a boy! They're mean and disgusting!"

"Oh?" Her father raised his eyebrow. "How so?"

"Boys are rude, they have no acceptable conventional etiquette and their behavioural idiosyncrasies are horrendous! They tease me, pull my hair and they call me names like: Teacher's Pet and Know-it-All. Boys are just plain horrible!" Hermione exclaimed venomously.

"Well, some boys that age sometimes do that because they really fancy a girl and don't know how to express it," suggested Mr Granger, which stiffened his daughter's back instantaneously.

"Well, I hope that they like me less!" Hermione exclaimed. "No, I don't," she quickly changed her mind, "if that's how boys treat girls they like, I don't want to know how they treat girls they don't like," reasoned Hermione with her childlike logic. "Boys are just plain stupid!" She exclaimed as if that statement was fact.

"Well, Princess, I'm a boy," commented Mr Granger airily. "Am I stupid?"

"B-b-but that's different," stuttered Hermione. "You're my father."

"Well, I gather that's a good enough of a reason if any," chuckled Dr Granger. "Hermione, one day you'll change your mind about boys and when you do I'll probably won't sleep a wink, but mark my words, you will learn to fancy boys." Her father reassured.

"No! Never!" Hermione exclaimed adamantly, turning to face her father. "Daddy, you have to promise me that you'll always brush my hair like this." She added urgently.

"Always and forever as long as you want me to," promised Dr Granger.

"Good." Hermione smiled, hugging her father.

"Now Princess, would you like your hair styled, just like Mum's?" Her father asked.

"Yeah, just like Mum's." Hermione agreed. "Style it in braids."

The Present

"What was that? You want me to braid your hair?" Ron asked snapping Hermione out of her preoccupation with her past. His technique in brushing her hair mimicked her father's so well that she totally forgotten that her redheaded friend was doing the brushing.

"No, not if you don't want to." Hermione blushed, slightly embarrassed about her sudden outburst. Apparently, she had requested the hairstyle out loud when she was deep in her nostalgia without knowing it.

"No, I don't mind," reassured Ron. "I may be slightly rusty though, it's been awhile."

"I'm sure you'll do fine," said Hermione, closing her eyes. The feeling of bristles of the brush against her hair reminded her of the same feelings of protection and contentment that her father provided so many years ago, but was paradoxically coming from her best friend and secret infatuation. Hermione felt more relaxed than ever and she has never felt more comfortable or safe in her life than sitting before her best mate who was brushing her hair. "Ron? Why does Ginny go to you to brush her hair?" Hermione asked blissfully.

"I was her last resort," replied Ron jokingly.

"I doubt that." Hermione replied. "You're really good at it."

"Ah, you're just saying that, but it's true." Ron quickly dismissed the compliment. "With at least five children around the house and that's not including my father, Mum would hardly have time to brush Ginny's hair whenever she wanted to so she would often seek out her older brothers to do the deed." He explained. "Bill and Charlie were hardly around the house, Percy looked down on the act as frivolous and immature, so he refused to do it, Fred and George would end up braiding her hair into knots so Ginny would invariable come to me, often in tears, as a last resort. So you see Hermione I'm an expert with knotted hair like yours," said Ron teasingly.

"Watch it Weasley." Hermione quickly turned around threatening to hit him with her book.

"Hermione," said Ron with a knowing smirk. "I have no doubt that you want to hit me right now, but you love books too much to hit me with one. I think it goes against your moral or ethical code, like it's somehow wrong or something," smiled Ron knowingly.

"You're right." Hermione confessed, while secretly cursing him under her breath for knowing her so well. She placed the book on the chesterfield and made her hand into a fist and threatened to hit him with it. "Is this better?"

"Much," smiled Ron, raising his hand in mock surrender.

"Now what were you saying about my hair?" She asked threatening.

"T-t-that it's as beautiful as you are smart," answered Ron with a nervous stutter.


"And what?" Ron squeaked. "What else do you want me to say?"

"That you'll never, ever, make fun of my hair again, would you?" Hermione threatened further by pushing her fist closer to his longish nose.

"Wizard's word," promised Ron, while he swallowed hard and crossed his heart. "I, Ronald promise never to make fun of Hermione Jane Granger's hair ever again," he said raising his hand as swearing an oath, "and if I do I would be forever in your mercy."

"What was that?" Hermione's eyes bulged as if she had discovered a new fact from Hogwarts: A History, her favourite book. "I thought you told me that you didn't have a middle name!" She exclaimed.

"No, I never said that. What I said was: I would rather not have my middle name." Ron clarified.

"Is it that bad?" Hermione raised her eyebrow, smiling mischievously. Ron swallowed hard nodding. He knew that look; it was reminiscent of his identical twin brothers' smile just before something troublesome or mischievous happened. "Tell you what Ronald, you tell me your middle name and I won't tell your friends that you know how to braid hair."

"You wouldn't," gasped Ron with horror.

"Try me," smiled Hermione sinisterly, "I'm sure that Harry, Dean, Seamus, and even Neville would like to know that shibboleth of information," blackmailed Hermione. She watched Ron studying her for what seemed like an eternity. She wouldn't dare tell on him, but he didn't know that and hoped that he wouldn't call her bluff, which unfortunately he did.

"Fine, go ahead," replied Ron nonchalantly as he stood up. He threw the brush on the chesterfield and started walking away. "See if I'd brush your hair again."

"No," said Hermione, gasping with urgency. She had discovered a special part of Ron and enjoyed the feeling of having her hair brushed by him. It was something that she wasn't prepared to give up -- not just yet, not ever. She hastily grabbed his hand and pulled him down towards her.

Ron gasped unexpectedly as his hard, well-toned and muscled body flushed against hers with their lips less than a centimetre away. Their eyes locked and Hermione was instantly lost in his beautiful cobalt blue eyes shocked with surprise at first and then darken with wanton arousal. They were breathing rather hard and she could feel his heart beating quickly through his much too thin shirt that wrapped around his torso tightly. Licking her lips unconsciously, they closed their eyes and leaned forward towards the inevitable, her first grown up kiss. She felt him coming closer and barely felt his lips brush hers when...


Reality set in shattering their quixotic moment asunder. They quickly jumped apart rather guiltily at the firecracker like noise, her back against him refusing to look at him. Hermione was blushing with embarrassment and wondered how she would explain her actions without admitting that she was hopelessly in love with him. She pondered if Ron felt the same way or was it an isolated incident where libido overrode his sensibility, if he had any. Her heart sunk slightly at the thought of Ron not returning her feelings, she just hope when they talked about it, if they talked about, that he would break her heart gently.

"I won, Natalie!"

"You always win Dennis!" Natalie complained. "If I didn't know better, I think that you were stacking the deck." Hermione had forgotten that they weren't alone in the common room, that Dennis and Natalie were playing Exploding Snap sitting behind them.

"Don't be a sore loser Natalie." She heard Dennis replied. "Fancy another game? I promise to go easy on you." He said tauntingly.

"No, I don't think so." Natalie sighed. "How about we take a walk outside? It's such a nice day."

"Are you sure? You were feeling under the weather this morning."

"I think some fresh air will do me some good."

"All right, if you're sure." Dennis conceded.

Hermione heard wooden chairs scraping against the stone floor as the two third years got up and headed for the portal hole. In her peripheral vision, she saw their hands laced together, walking hand in hand towards the portrait hole and giving each other furtive looks. It seems that the latest gossip about those two were true that they were indeed seeing each other romantically. She let out her breath that she didn't know she was holding when the portal closed.

The silence in the room was unbearable to the point of suffocating. She could hardly breathe and hoped that Ron would either say something or leave. The building sexual tension made the room into an intolerable and stifling pressure cooker. Her nerves was so frayed that it sapped her strength to the point that she couldn't hold onto her book any longer. She didn't want to look at Ron, especially when the memory of the near kiss was still fresh in their minds. It was so quiet that she thought that Ron had already left the room, but she could still feel his presence in the room. Hermione was about to run away when she felt a tug on her hair.

She couldn't believe it! Ron was brushing her hair! She would have thought that he would sooner run away making a clumsy exit than to continue with what she considered an intimate act. The first brush was tentative, the second more confident, the third restorative and she was quickly returned to her blissful paradise, her sexual tension and worries quickly melted away.

Hermione felt so secure and comfortable in his capable hands that it seemed sensual, almost erotic. Gasping slightly at that thought, a wave of ecstasy followed the next stroke and with each successive stroke the libidinous feelings increased. She never felt this way when her father brushed her hair, it wasn't that it was uncomfortable, it was in fact welcoming and warm and she never wanted it to stop. Ron brushing her hair has now become sensual and with each successive stroke it became, sexual, lustful, erotic, arousal, and almost orgasmic.

She bit her lip to suppress a moan and gripped her book to keep the feeling in. Hermione wondered how Ron could make something as innocent as brushing one's hair so erotic and quickly dismissed that thought to enjoy the sensations that he was wreaking havoc on her body. She knew that if Ron didn't stop brushing her hair or distract her very soon she would jump on him and snog him senselessly and damned the consequences and repercussions.

"It's Bilius," whispered Ron, finally breaking the tension.

"What's Bilius?" Her voice croaked, thankful for the distraction.

"My middle name, I'm named after my father's favourite brother."

"Oh," replied Hermione, smiling inwardly. This moment reminded Hermione of what her parents did when her father was brushing her mother's hair. They shared secrets and told things to each other that they normally would never have shared outside this intimate act. "It's not so bad," replied Hermione, lying through her teeth.

"Liar, but it was nice of you to say so." Ron chuckled calling her bluff. "Just promise me not to use it when you feel the need to use my full name," pleaded Ron.

"I don't know it's rather tempting," teased Hermione in a singsong voice.

"Please Hermione, don't." He whispered pleadingly into her ear, his breath on her skin sent shivers through her body. "I'll be forever embarrassed if anyone else knew." He added in an extremely beseeching tone. He was too close to her personal space that she couldn't think properly, the only thing that was running through her mind was that he had to retreat to his own space before she do something that she'd regret in the morning.

"O-o-okay," Hermione agreed. "I promise." She would have promised him anything, to get him away from her personal space.

"Good," replied Ron, as he continued to brush her hair. Hermione could literally feel his relief and his smile forming behind her. Soon the brushing sensation brought back the tranquillity. "So you wanted your hair in braids?" He asked.

"Only if you can manage it," replied Hermione.

"I think so Hermione." Ron replied. "I think so."

Hermione smiled slightly at his willingness to spend some time with her. She closed her book knowing full well that she couldn't read while Ron was brushing her hair, so she gave up the attempt and surrendered herself to this precious moment. She allowed her mind to wonder aimlessly through her rather impeccable and near perfect eidetic memory.

Last night the room was so cold
I dreamed we were in Pittsburgh again, where winter
persisted and we fell asleep in the last seat
of the 71 Negley, dark mornings going to work.
How I wish we didn't hate those years
while we lived them.
Those were days of books,
days of silences stacked high
as the ceiling of that great, dim hall
where we studied. I remember
the thick, oak tabletops, how cool
they felt against my face
when I lay my head down and slept.

Late Spring '91...

Hermione Granger was four months shy of her twelfth birthday, but she wasn't your average eleven-year-old girl even before the knowledge of her innate and presently unknown magical destiny. She had an exceptional mind and had planned the next eleven years of her life, fifteen if she planned to get her masters and then her doctorate degrees and she wasn't ashamed to do everything and anything in her powers to achieve her goals.

She was so passionate and dedicated in achieving her objectives that she would often sacrifice many trivial matters that didn't pertain to her goals, like friendship and any personal life. Her entire life could be defined by doing her homework and spending time in the library to better her mind, which explained the reason that she was presently sleeping on her oak desk surrounded by a plethora of books. For the last ten days she has been doing late night revisions for her end of year tests, which were a month away and damned everything else.

"Hermione dear," a familiar gentle voice emanated from outside her subconscious. In her sleep she felt the desktop light turn off, heard a couple of her books close, felt someone brushing her long fringes around her ear, and placed a warming hand on her back. "It's time to go to bed." The voice whispered.

"Huh? Daddy?" Hermione asked sleepily through tiny cracks in her eyes. "What time is it?" She said sitting up stretching her weariness away.

"It's nearly midnight," answered Mr Granger, "it's time for bed."

"Daddy, just a couple more hours?" She asked pleadingly. "I need to revise for...who closed all my books?" Hermione asked looking at her neat pile of books on her desk.

"I did."

"Dad!" Hermione exclaimed. "It'll take at least a half an hour to find where I left off!" She exclaimed reaching for her books.

"No," replied Mr Granger, placing his hands on hers to stop her. "It's time for bed."

"I can't!" She exclaimed.

"Oh?" Hermione saw her father's auburn eyebrow raised. "Why not?"

"Isn't it obvious?" She asked, to only see her father's vapid expression. "If I don't revise enough I won't get good marks on my finals and if I don't do well on my finals I won't get a scholarship to Mum's ala mater, Roedean, which is the best parochial school for girls in England and if I don't get into Roedean I won't get into Cambridge and if I don't get into Cambridge, I won't get a good job and my life will be ruined!" She rushed through her explanation and life plan.

"Will that be so bad?" Her father said after a long pregnant silence. "Not doing well on your finals, not getting a scholarship to Roedean, not getting into Cambridge?" He asked playing the devil's advocate.

"Of course!" Hermione exclaimed. "It'll ruin my life if I don't!"

"It would hardly ruin your life," said Mr Granger with a slight chuckle. "There are women around the world that are very successful that didn't go to Roedean or Cambridge and their lives are certainly not ruined." He pointed out.

"But don't you want me to do well or be proud of me?" She asked.

"Of course I want you to do well, but your mother and I would be proud of you even if you didn't get into Roedean," reassured Mr Granger. "We will be proud of you as long as you do your best at whatever makes you happy whether it's being Prime Minister of England or being a clown in a circus."

"So Mum wouldn't mind if I don't get into Roedean?"

"No of course not, though I think that your mum would feel honoured that you decided to follow in her footsteps, but she would be proud of you regardless where you go to school -- we both will," said Mr Granger, squeezing her hand reassuringly. "We have never pressured you into going to Roedean have we? If we have that wasn't our intentions." He added delicately.

"No, I just want to do my best," explained Hermione, looking at her books questionably.

"Princess, I know that this might be hard to believe at your age, but life is short and childhood is even shorter in this day and age, enjoy it while you can, you won't get another."

"But Daddy, going to Roedean and Cambridge is my dream."

"Hermione, I'm not saying to give up your dream," corrected Mr Granger reassuringly. "What I'm saying is that the journey is just as important, or even more so than the destination." Her father pointed out. "I have no doubt that you will fulfil your dreams whatever it is today or tomorrow, you're one bright and exceptional person, but I want you to have a happy journey while doing it. I don't want you to look back after achieving your goal and resent how you travelled it."

"So you just want me to be happy."

"That's all a parent ever wants for their children." Her father replied. "So tell me honestly, are you happy Hermoine?" He asked probing into his daughter earthy brown eyes.

"No," replied Hermione sadly.

"Then what would make you happy?"

"Brush my hair until I fall asleep."

"You needn't ask twice," smiled Mr Granger, while guiding his daughter to her bed. Hermione hopped on the bed acting younger than her actual age. Suppressing childlike giggles, she closed her eyes as she anticipated the first stroke and the next and the third until she fell asleep.

A Few Weeks Ago...

Seventeen-year-old Hermione Granger threw a book away in exasperation. She had been reading and rereading the same chapter in her Charms textbook for most of the evening trying to learn anything that she had forgotten. Surrounding her were supplemental texts on the subject trying to figure out where she went wrong, she couldn't find any. There has been at least a dozen books opened to some page or another, but nothing new was jumping up from them, even her near perfect eidetic memory and her impeccable notes failed her. She was frustrated and couldn't figure what the problem was and sobbing quietly in defeat. This was indeed the worse day in Hermione Granger's academic career.

"Burning the midnight oil?" A familiar voice emanated from behind her. Gasping she immediately dried her teary eyes before turning around.

"Ron what are you doing up at two in the morning?" She chastised.

"It's my birthday," shrugged Ron nonchalantly, ignoring the edge in her voice. "I'm trying to find out what Harry has planned for my seventeenth birthday before the surprise."

"Honestly Ron, it's supposed to be a surprise!" Hermione automatically went into a lecturing mode. "Harry has been working very hard planning something special for your birthday and all you want to do is ruin it." She chastised, her bad mood quickly forgotten.

"So you wouldn't know what he's planning, do you?"

"Not a chance Weasley." She smiled knowingly. "You won't get anything from me."

"Oh well, story of my life." Ron replied sadly. "Everybody I asked won't tell me a thing, Seamus and Dean who couldn't keep a secret if their lives depended on it didn't say a word, probably because more than their lives are depending on it and I reckon Harry's been threatening them." He stage whispered the last part to Hermione. "Now Neville, who I can constantly trust to break down under pressure kept quiet too, all he knew was that he was responsible for bringing the ice, so I know ice is involved. Apparently, Harry didn't tell him anything else, which reeks of a planned formed by one Hermione Jane Granger," concluded Ron dramatically, seeing Hermione smiling mischievously confirmed his suspicions. "Merlin, why have you forsaken me," replied Ron, shaking his fist and head at the ceiling in mock frustration.

"Oh, poor Ickle Ronniekins," replied Hermione in an infantile tone while ruffling his blazing red hair. "Nothing ever goes right for you, does it?" She added with a protruding lower lip.

"Cut it out!" He exclaimed, hitting her hand away from his hair and sat on the table terribly too close to her. Recently she had admitted to herself that she held more than a passing fancy towards her best mate and couldn't stand being near him without turning into a mass of emotional mess. "Can you believe it? I'm seventeen years old, an adult in the Wizarding World. I don't feel like a real adult or anything and honestly I don't know if I really want to be one," added Ron solemnly.

"Well, hate to break it to you, you're not." Hermione pointed out teasingly. "All men are just big boys at heart. Furthermore I'm glad that they are, I don't think that the Wizarding World is ready for an adult Ronald Weasley." Hermione teased.

"Too true," agreed Ron. He nodded his head, suppressing a smile. "Too true, the Wizarding World would be too jealous about my magical prowess." He added while Hermione rolled her eyes. Chuckling slightly he took a cleansing breath before looking at her seriously. She felt truly uncomfortable under his gaze and was literally wiggling in her seat. "So are you going to tell me why you were crying or do I have to coax it out of you?" He asked, brushing her curly brown locks around her ear.

"Crying? I wasn't crying?" She replied, avoiding his probing cobalt blue eyes and the tingling sensation that rippled through her body when he lightly touched her. "You must be imagining things," replied Hermione, shrugging the matter off.

"Am I imagining your bloodshot eyes, your stuffy nose and your tear stained cheeks?" He asked gently while lifting her chin delicately with his hand so their eyes locked. "What has brought you to tears in the dead of the night?" He asked, his voice dripping with concern. "Is it Malfoy?"

"No," said Hermione, shaking her head. "I can handle him."


"No, nothing out of the ordinary," replied Hermione with another shake of her head, "and Ron, its Professor Snape, he is our teacher and he deserves our respect despite how we feel about him."

"I know, I know," sighed Ron. "I'm a prefect and should set an example for the whole school." He replied rolling his eyes. "Well, if it's not Malfoy or Professor Snape what is it that has you crying alone at two in the morning?"

"I don't want to talk about it," replied Hermione defiantly, "besides, you wouldn't understand any ways." She added offhandedly.

"Is it about the Charms test we got back today?" Hermione gasped, she looked at him with surprise, he had guessed correctly, before she could ask, he explained himself. "I noticed that you weren't pleased with your mark even when you got 118 on your test. Plus I gather by the books you have out that you've probably spent most of the night figuring if you have forgotten anything." He said pointing to the books with his chin.

"Damn you Ronald Weasley for knowing me so well." Hermione replied with her eyes tearing up again. Ron was about to comment on Hermione swearing when she unexpectedly threw her arms around his neck and started sobbing on his chest.

Hermione noted that this embrace was very similar to the hug she gave him in her third year after their near fallen out, which they dubbed the Crookshanks-Scabbers incident. Ron was shocked, like three years ago about her impromptu display of affection when he tentative patted her head, unsure of himself. Unlike the embrace three years ago, Ron held her tenaciously and combed her hair with his fingers, whispering sweet assurances to her after the initial shock of her reflexive hug. She felt so comforted that she wanted to stay like this forever and she had a feeling that Ron wouldn't let go until she was ready to continue.

"Sorry," whispered Hermione, wiping her tears on his cobalt blue shirt that she bought him for Christmas a little over two months ago. "I didn't mean to cry on you like that," sniffed Hermione, while she returned to her chair.

"Listen," said Ron quietly, brushing her curly hair around her ear and then lifted her chin, ever so gently, so their eyes would lock. "As my best mate, you have the privilege to cry on my shoulder unapologetically, okay?" She saw sincerity in his cobalt blue eyes and nodded slightly. "So tell me, why has the Charm test got you this upset? If I recall, you got top marks in our class."

"I did, but I didn't get top marks in our year."

"What's the difference?"

"Just because I got the highest mark in our class, doesn't mean I got the highest mark in our year, Padma Patil of Ravenclaw got 120 on that test." Hermione pointed out.


"That affected our class standings."

"We have class standings?"

"Yes, it shows us our rankings in our year," explained Hermione, she was exasperated at his obtuseness. "Since our first year Padma and I have been battling for first place in our year. Until recently, I have been holding first place, but Padma has been slowly catching up, with her higher test score she has moved into first place by one mark making me second," explained Hermione, she looked at Ron's vapid gaze. "Don't you get it Ron? That makes her first, the smartest!" She exclaimed.

"So this is a problem because..."

"I won't be Head Girl if I ranked second and..." Hermione struggled to say the last part of her argument. "'s who I am." She finally answered.

"It's who you are?" Ron asked in bewilderment.

"Yes!" Hermione exclaimed, not understanding her friend's apathy. She stood up violently, knocking over the chair that she was sitting on and started to pace furiously. "It's who I am! How many different ways can I say it? So get it through your thick skull! I'm Hermione Jane Granger, the smartest and brightest witch at Hogwarts and now I'm not even that! I don't even know who I am anymore!" She exclaimed, her voice so loud that it could wake the dead.

"Bull shit!" Ron exclaimed, raising his voice for the first time in the conversation. Hermione was so shocked that he swore; it's not like she never heard Ron swear before, but it was the first time she heard this degree of profanity from him. She was about to reprimand him for swearing when he continued. "How many years have you told Harry and me that you were more than a brain, a walking library, or someone to copy homework from?" He exclaimed waiting for an answer.

"" Hermione was so shocked that she didn't know how to answer him. She opened her mouth like her pet goldfish when she was a child. It wasn't every day that Ron made her speechless and she was unfamiliar with the sensation. "Ron, don't swear," chastised Hermione. It was the only thing she could say, which Ron took a healthy chuckling to.

"Hermione, you are more than a brain and if I gave you the impression that you were than I apologise. As for everyone else they could go to Hell for not knowing you better," said Ron adamantly. Hermione inwardly gasped, for as long as she has known Ron, she has never heard a real apology from the man, but what he said next surprised her even further. "You are courageous, you've demonstrated that year after year; you're loyal, you have stuck by Harry and me through thick and thin; you're compassionate, there's no one that cares for the equality for house-elves more than you do; you're passionate and I lo..." He stopped shortly, blushing furiously. He cleared his throat, combed his red hair nervously with his fingers and avoided looking Hermione in the eye.

"What is it?" Hermione asked looking at him, knowing that there was something else that he wanted to say, but was too embarrassed to say it. She had hoped that it was a compliment or a line, a confession on how he felt towards her or how she hoped he felt for her.

"Nothing, I forgot," said Ron shaking his head and blushing further, who made it obvious to anyone that he was lying. "As for being Head Girl, take it from a family with two head students, four if you count my parents that good grades is not the only factor they consider." He pointed out. "Professor Dumbledore and the Head of Houses choose two people who have good grades, not the best, who loves the school and whom the students respect and look up to." He explained.

"And you think that's me?"

"Without a doubt," said Ron with conviction. "I know of no one who has read Hogwarts: A History from cover to cover on a near daily basis and could recite it verbatim in her sleep. As for respect I would choose you over Padma Patil every day of the week and twice on weekends, three times if I'm feeling particularly randy," teased Ron wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Chuckling to herself, she playfully hit Ron on his shoulder. "Leave it to you to bring such base humour in every serious conversation we have," said Hermione, smiling brilliantly.

"Well, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it." Ron smiled pretentiously.

Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head at his shenanigans. "So you don't care if I'm not top of the class?" She asked suddenly sombre.

"No, not to me," said Ron, smiling mischievously. "To me, you will always be the brightest witch I know, my little know-it-all, my little rulebook, and my favourite rowing partner." He teased affectionately.

"That's sweet Ron, but I still want to be the best," replied Hermione defiantly, she picked up the chair that she knocked down and sat on it, before asking. "Don't you want me to be the best?"

"Of course I do, but not if it means you crying over textbooks in the middle of the night like this, I'd rather you be happy than to ever go through this," said Ron affectionately, his remark, however fell on deaf ears, Hermione was indifference to his remark. "Hermione, as an adult, I feel obligated to share with you the wisdom of my years." He added boastfully.

"Ron, I'm six months older than you and you've only been an adult for a little over two hours," scoffed Hermione, rolling her eyes.

"Semantics and Hermione do respect your elders even if they're younger than you," shrugged Ron apathetically. "In all seriousness, it took me a little over sixteen and a half years to learn this lesson, so I know what I'm talking about." Hermione leaned in suddenly interested in this lesson of his. "Being the best and doing your best are two different things entirely," replied Ron sagaciously.

"What's the difference?" Ron smiled at the irony of the tables being turned. "What?"

"Nothing, inside joke," replied Ron, shaking his head with a smile. "Being the best is subjective, a lucky guess on a test, a teacher having a bad day when marking your paper, or countless of million other reasons why a mark is given or taken away. Take handing in a paper to Professor Snape as an example; you know very well that he's very heavy with the red ink on all the other houses except his own. Doing your best however will always make you shine and people would take notice, because you know that whatever the outcome, you gave it your all and it's infectious."

"I suppose," replied Hermione unconvincingly.

"Listen Hermione, I know what I'm talking about. All my life I've grown up in the shadows of my brothers and let me tell you having five successful and talented older brothers casts big and dark shadows. I always thought that I have to work that much harder to stand in the light and felt frustrated and worthless when I don't make it," replied Ron solemnly. "Then when I went off to Hogwarts I thought that it might be my time to shine, but my best mates were extremely exceptional, one a bright and talented witch and the other, the legendary Boy who Lived."

"Ron, you know Harry and I never thought of you..."

"I know, it's how I felt at the time and it still haunts me to this day," interrupted Ron, "but that's a story for another night. Last year when I joined the Quidditch team I thought playing the sport I love would put me in the light, but the shadows continued to haunt me there. My team mates thought that I would do as well my brothers, but that wasn't the worst shadow, I had to live up to the Oliver Wood the best Quidditch player since...well Charlie," shrugged Ron with a slight chuckle. "I thought I had to be the best, meet their expectation to the point where I hated playing."

"I didn't know that."

"No one did. I couldn't tell Harry he had enough problems of his own and I thought that you would probably sooner advised me to quit and I would rather avoid that row," replied Ron with a sad sighed. "It wasn't until the last match and after the first goal did I remembered the reason I loved the game and played with no great expectations on me. So consciously I decided to play my best and when I did I blocked every goal and shone. It wasn't until after the party that night did I realise that everyone that I always cared about had always saw me in the light." He pointed out. "Now Hermione, before I came down this morning were you shining? Did you forget the reason why you love to research? Are you happy?" He asked probing into her eyes.

"No," confessed Hermione. "I suppose I'm not."

"Then what would make you happy?"

"Finding the two points I missed on the test."

"Hermione," replied Ron disapprovingly.

"For the joy of learning, not because I want to be the best," answered Hermione quickly.

"Then there's an easier way to do that than looking at obscure antiquated books."


Ron moved in so close to Hermione that their noses almost touched, she was about to close her eyes and lean in for the kiss when he spoke. "Ask Padma." Hermione gasped in shock and for the second time that morning she was speechless. She wasn't sure if she was upset from not kissing Ron or the very idea to ask someone else. "Despite your nickname, you are not all-knowing and sometimes it's more courageous to ask for help." He pointed out.

"Fine," muttered Hermione darkly, crossing her arms. She hated when Ron made sense, especially when he was right. "I'll ask her later today."


"What's wrong with today?"

"Since my birthday falls on a Saturday, I thought that my birthday wish for this year is for you to relax for one whole day without reading or revising, without homework, without anything pertaining to school." He pointed out.

"But I have a paper on..."

"Please, for my birthday," implored Ron, with puppy dog eyes.

"All right, I ask her on Sunday."

"I knew you would agree," smiled Ron victoriously. "Now, why don't you go up to bed and get some rest while I clean this up for you?" He said picking up a book.

Hermione got up and walked a few paces towards the stairwell that led towards the girls' dormitory when she stopped. "Wait a tick, why aren't you going to bed?" She asked disapprovingly. "You're not perhaps trying to find out what Harry's planned for your birthday, are you?" She asked smiling knowingly.

"Drat, almost had you, didn't I?"

"You have to wake up earlier than two in the morning to fool me Ronald Weasley."

"Fine let's go to bed," replied Ron, he then realised the innuendo. "I mean not together...well we'll go together...but to separate beds in separated know what I mean, don't you?" He asked looking at his best mate. "Arugh, you think at seventeen I won't be tripping over my words," groaned Ron with disappointment.

"I think it's adorable," said Hermione, she then stood on her tiptoes and kissed Ron chastely on his cheek. "Happy Birthday Ron and thank you for helping me," replied Hermione sweetly, she watched Ron touched the spot on his check where she kissed him with a goofy grin. Hermione was elated to know that a simple kiss could invoke the same reaction as it did last year. Feeling much better, she skipped off feeling extremely giddy and quickly went to bed, after all, she has a weekly ritual to keep in the morning.

How long your hair has grown.

Gradually, December.

Winter Holidays '91...

Twelve-year-old Hermione Granger shrieked when the sudden spurts of cold water splashed on her skin. She had hardly been in the shower for more than half an hour before the water betrayed her. She was enjoying the massage of the hot water on her skin when suddenly ice cold water woke her up. Abruptly she turned off the water and headed towards the mirror on the medicine cabinet and wiped off the condensation on the mirror.

Instinctively, she reached for her wand to charm her hair dry when she remembered that magic is strictly forbidden outside of Hogwarts until she came of age. Chastising herself, she grabbed a fluffy towel and started drying her hair the mundane way and thought how quickly she adapted to using magic especially just after three months of being in their world -- her world.

"Hermione, are you all right? I heard you scream," replied Mr Granger, his concerned voice emanating from behind the bathroom door.

"I'm fine Daddy," yelled Hermione. "I totally forgot that we had a limited amount of hot water here at the lodge and I'm afraid I used it all."

"That's all right Princess." She heard her father chuckle. "Hurry up and get ready, it's a beautiful day and it snowed last night making it perfect weather for skiing."

"I'll be out in a minute," replied Hermione, hearing her father's retreating footfalls. "Blasted hair," muttered Hermione while trying to brush through her knotted hair. She couldn't believe that she had once liked her hair when she was younger.

Hermione considered herself very fortunate. Her family owned a large house in one of the wealthiest suburbs of London, a summerhouse in France where they summered, and a skiing cottage in Switzerland where they wintered. Yet with all the places she called home, her heart was somewhere in a magical castle somewhere in Scotland where her best mates where spending Christmas and she yearned to be with them. She had a feeling without her guidance they would invariably get into trouble.

Giving up on her hair, she deemed it as a hopeless cause and headed into her room to change. Even in her jumper and jeans she still felt cold and her teeth still chattered. Thinking that a cup of hot chocolate would warm her up she headed for the kitchen before heading to the hybrid library and study to continue her research.

"Hermione, why don't you come by the fire and sit with your father?" Her father asked interrupting her quest for hot chocolate.

"I love to Dad, but I have a tonne of research to get through."

"Hermione, I haven't seen you in three months," replied Mr Granger soothingly. "Why don't you sit next to me while I brush your hair so we can catch up?" Hermione looked into her father's eyes and then at the fire, which were both very inviting, not to mention the fact that someone brushing her hair was a gratification which she haven't indulge in for ages. With a slight smile she nodded and headed towards the hearth, her research could wait. "I missed you so much, you've must have grown an inch and your hair three inches," observed Mr Granger, while brushing his daughter's bushy and knotted hair.

"I missed you too Dad," replied Hermione.

"Really?" Her father's voice was laced with intrigue. "I wouldn't know by the lack of post we get. I mean it seems like after October you dropped off the face of the planet."

"I'm sorry," apologised Hermione wholeheartedly. "I meant to write, but I was busy with lessons and schoolwork that it slipped my mind," explained Hermione, which was partly true, but the real reason was her adventures with Harry and Ron took a significant amount of her time that she had sometimes forgotten to write. "I promise that I'll make more of an effort to write more often," promised Hermione, while she closed her eyes to enjoy the treatment that her father was giving her hair.

"See to it that you do. You know how much your mother worries about you."

"Really?" Hermione smiled. "Because just yesterday Mum told me that you would spend hours in my room everyday brooding about me being away at school," said Hermione teasingly.

"It wasn't hours. It was one hour, maybe two, four at the most," defended Mr Granger, while his daughter chuckled at his declaration. "You can't blame me in missing my only child, since you were born I haven't been away from you for more than a fortnight."

"Yes, I remember the summer camp incident." Hermione smiled. "Cried like a baby you did."

"Okay, let's not tease your old man."

"Why? It's so much fun."

"Droll. Very droll," replied Mr Granger in a deadpan voice. "Why don't you tell me everything about school, instead of teasing your father?" He asked, knowing his daughter's weakness for boasting about her academic pursuits.


"That's right," answered Mr Granger, "and don't leave anything out."

Despite her father's statement she left one thing out, somehow Hermione didn't think that telling her father that she was almost killed by a Troll would have a positive outcome. So she compensated by telling her father all about her lessons and professors in great detail. She then continued to tell him about the student life at Hogwarts and a little bit about Quidditch. Hermione spoke so enthusiastically and at great lengths that she thought she spoke for hours.

"Cor, it all sounds wonderful," replied Mr Granger in awe. "So tell me, which class has you locked away in my library researching on your holidays?"

"Oh, that's not for any class," answered Hermione casually. "Harry, Ron and I are researching on someone named Nicholas Flamel, but he must be the most obscure person that has ever lived, there is hardly anything written about him. Have you heard of him?" Hermione asked nonchalantly.

"No, but then again I don't have the sum of all human knowledge. Do you have any information, beside his name? Like when he was born, what he did for a living? Knowing that could ease your search for this mysterious man," suggested Mr Granger.

"No, all I know is just his name," replied Hermione sounded slightly defeated. "I wasn't kidding when I told you that he's really obscure. We don't even know if he was indeed a wizard. So I figured asking you wouldn't hurt."

"That's quite the mystery," replied Mr Granger, "but I hardly think that anyone from the non-magical world would know about this fellow considering he might be a wizard."

"Well that's not true father, there are cases where Muggles, that's what the Wizarding World calls non-magical people, have written history about wizards like Merlin, but in most cases we don't know that they are magical or dismissed them as legends," explained Hermione, "but you're probably right. It's probably a dead end. I just promised Harry and Ron that I would ask you, just in case."

"Harry and Ron?" Her father asked with concern. "Who are they?"

"They're my best mates," replied Hermione nonchalantly. "Haven't I mentioned them?"

"No, you haven't," answered Mr Granger. "Those names sound awfully male."

"That's because they are."

"Er...don't you have any best mates that are girls?" Her father asked tentatively.

"No, not really," said Hermione with a sigh. "The only girls my age are superficial, they cares more about their looks, fashion, cosmetic, and boys than what's really important like homework and revising." At that moment Hermione realised her father's concerns about having two boys as her best mates, she turned to her father and smiled mischievously. "Father, you're not worried about me being friends with two boys are you?"

"A little," confessed Mr Granger.

"Dad, you don't have anything to worry about them, they're my best mates."

"Okay, I trust you," smiled Mr Granger with relief. "You can't blame your father in being concerned; it's a bad habit that I'm not inclined to stop."

"All right Daddy," smiled Hermione as she turned her back to her father. "I don't think I can fault you for that, but I'm twelve! I'm much too young to have a boyfriend or even think about boys in that manner," added Hermione, hearing a sigh of relief emanating from her father.

"That's good to hear," replied Mr Granger sounding relived. "I just remember a time when you were younger when you hated boys with a passion, as I recall; you called them stupid, terrible and wanted nothing to do with them. Even when I told you that you would one day change your mind about boys, but you were still adamant that I would be the only boy in your life," said Mr Granger, reminiscing fondly.

"I remember," sighed Hermione nostalgically, "a girl can change her mind couldn't she?"

"Of course she could. It was just nice to know that I was your only boy in your life is all," said Mr Granger sadly. "Do you remember when you told me that I would be the only boy that would brush your hair?" Her father asked spontaneously.

"You still are," replied Hermione, holding her father's hand gently. "You needn't have to worry; I highly doubt that Harry and Ron are the hair brushing type. They're much too...male to do things like that; they would rather talk about sports than be interested in something they consider effeminate," reassured Hermione.

"Well I'm glad that I can have you for a little while longer." Her father replied.

"Me too," agreed Hermione. "I wouldn't have anyone else, but you to brush my hair."

"So tell me about your best mates."

"Well, Harry Potter was not what I expected, he being a famous wizard and all," began Hermione. "He's extremely quiet, humble, soft spoken, incredibly polite, and has this quiet strength and courage that is rather infectious. Ron Weasley on the other hand, is diametrically the opposite of Harry, he's loud, arrogant, rude, and finds enjoyment in teasing me."

"Maybe he's smitten with you," suggested Mr Granger.

"Bite your tongue!" Hermione snapped turning around.

"It was just an observation," replied Mr Granger placidly. "I didn't say that the feelings were mutual did I? They're not are they?" He asked, his face suddenly ashen with fright.

"Of course not!" Hermione exclaimed. "It'll be a cold day in Hell before Ron and I get together!"

"Then why are you friends with Ron?"

"It was a package deal. He came with Harry, being that they were best mates first," mumbled Hermione, while turning her back to her father again. "No, that's not true." She sighed, disappointed in herself for thinking of that in the first place. "He's brave when he has to be, his loyalty is above reproach, incredibly protective to those he considers family and friends, an ambassador and teacher from the Wizarding World, sarcastic, funny, passionate, wears his heart on his sleeve, and he could be thoughtful on rare occasions." She explained, entering a daze.

"Ah, so he's a diamond in the rough." Her father mused.

"Hardly a diamond, maybe a cubic zirconium if that," corrected Hermione. "He's stubborn, infuriating, thick-headed, a short fuse, disorderedly, a slob, a prat, his table manners are horrendous, his work ethic is terrible, he has the sensitivity of a half pence coin and as much sense too, plus he's a terrible influence on Harry," vented Hermione with frustration.

"Honey, don't worry, it sounds like the diamond needs a little polish," said Mrs Granger, interrupting the conversation. Hermione looked towards the door to see her bushy haired mother leaning against the doorframe with a nostalgic smile. "Sounds a lot like your father when I first met him and look how polished he is today thanks to my doing," teased Mrs Granger. Approaching her husband, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. "So when is it my turn?"

"I'm almost done here," said Mr Granger returning the kiss. "Why don't you take a seat and wait your turn?" He suggested.

"I think I will," said Mrs Granger, while she plopped on an armchair with a magazine. "So who is this diamond we're talking about?" She asked nonchalantly turning a page.

"A boy named Ron Weasley," answered Mr Granger.

"Oh, is he your boyfriend?"

"Certainly not!" Hermione exclaimed. "He's one of my best mates and only that! I would sooner burn all my books than be Ronald Weasley's girlfriend!" She yelled.

"Defensive isn't she?" Her mother replied, raising her eyebrow.

"Methinks, the lady doth protest too much," replied Mr Granger teasingly.

"Arugh!" Hermione screamed standing up. "For the last time Ron Weasley and I are just friends and nothing more and Father if you're going to quote Shakespeare do it correctly. It's 'the lady doth protest too much, methinks' Hamlet, act three, scene two. Go look it up!" She screamed at her parents.

"Honey, we were only teasing," replied Mrs Granger placidly.

"That's right, Princess," replied Mr Granger. "Please sit down and let me finish."

"That's all right father, I really should be getting back to my research," replied Hermione, pulling her well-combed hair into a ponytail. "It's been nice taking this sentimental journey with you, sorry I lost my temper," apologised Hermione and kissed her father on the cheek.

"Don't work too hard," replied Mrs Granger, "it is your holidays."

"I won't," said Hermione, kissing her mother on the cheek. "Tell me when lunch is ready," said Hermione as she headed towards her father's study.

"Do you think this Ron Weasley and our baby girl would get together?" Hermione heard her mother's voice emanated from the common room. Hermione stopped in her tracks and stealthily returned to the common room and peeked over the doorframe. She saw her father was now brushing her mother's bushy brown hair.

"I don't know Jane, only time will tell," replied Mr Granger. "Though I doubt our daughter is ready for that sort of relationship."

"I'm sure that will keep you happy." She retorted sagely. "You get to keep your daughter for a little while longer."

"Well, that's just icing on the cake," replied Mr Granger with a smile. "Hermione did say that this Ron was rather mean to her, even though they seem alike in temperament." Her father chuckled.

"Just like we were when we first met so many years ago," said Mrs Granger as she reached behind her for her husband's head and led him towards her lips. "I fell in love with you in spite of it too," said Mrs Granger teasingly and kissed her husband on the lips.

Hermione watched her parents for a moment longer and allowed her parents' conversation sink in. She watched her father brushing her mother's hair and remembered a long time ago that she loved watching this intimate act when she was a small child wondering if she would ever find a person like that one day. Her thoughts moved to her parents' conversation and pictured an older Ron Weasley brushing her hair in front of the hearth. She smiled slightly at the thought and pondered it for a few heartbeats.

"What am I thinking?" She scoffed to herself shaking her head in the hopes to get that thought out of her bushy haired head. "Me and Ron Weasley? Never in a million years," chided Hermione rebuking herself. She wouldn't allow herself to dwell on that fantasy and pushed it aside and headed towards her father's study, hoping to bury that thought under her research. Unfortunately, that fantasy returned more often over the holidays than she would have liked.

The Present

"Hermione?" Ron asked, his voice bringing her out of her reverie. "Are you listening to me?"

"I'm sorry, Ron." Hermione replied quickly. "What were you saying?"

"I was commenting that your hair is deceptively longer than I thought." Ron reiterated while continuing to brush her hair. "That wasn't an insult on your hair, just an observation." He quickly added, remembering how hostile she was when it came to her hair.

"I know, it's the curls, it makes my hair looks shorter than it really is," explained Hermione with a slight smile on her face. "It's such a hassle to really get it clean," replied Hermione with exasperation. "Do you think I should cut it?" She asked, wondering what her secret infatuation preferred.

"Whatever makes you happy," replied Ron indifferently. "Just don't cut it too short. I'm used to you having long hair, but then again it really up to you." He added quickly.

"I think I will trim it a tad," replied Hermione. "It literally takes half a bottle of shampoo to get my hair thoroughly clean." She bantered hyperbolically.

"Well it smells good," replied Ron, before realising the innuendo connotation. "Er...what I mean is what shampoo do you use, it smells very familiar. It reminds me of Mum's garden in springtime, lavender, lilacs and forget-me-nots," explained Ron thoughtfully.

"Er...I rather not say," replied Hermione, feeling her face blushing. "You'll get angry."

"Why would I get angry with the shampoo you use?"

"Not the shampoo, but the face promoting the product." Hermione explained. "The face that tried to use a Memory Charm on you, but backfired," replied Hermione quickly and tentatively.

"Not Lockhart's Lavender and Lilac Scented Shampoo for Troubled and Frizzy Hair from his own line of hair-care products? My mum uses that junk too!" Ron exclaimed. "He's a total fraud!"

"I know!" Hermione exclaimed. "I just like the scent is all!"

Hermione smiled secretly to herself when she heard Ron mumbling words like 'Pretty Boy', 'Fraud' and 'Stupid Git' under his breath. She felt her womanly pride swell up every time Ron got jealous about any of her past association with the opposite sex. Hermione knew that it was wrong to toy with his emotions, but it was so easy. A letter from Viktor Krum or admitting she used shampoo promoted by Gilderoy Lockhart would make his jealousy rise, but it made her feel that perhaps he did reciprocate the same feelings she has for him. Hermione dwelled on that thought, the dream and the brushing sensation encouraged it.

"A Knut," replied Ron, bringing her out of her reverie.

"Pardon?" Hermione gasped, his voice jerking her away from her fantasy.

"For your thoughts, it's an old wizardry saying," explained Ron. "I just wanted to know what was on your mind. It seemed like you were a million miles away, before we started talking about stupid blond gits." He added, his voice filled with concern.

"More like years," mumbled Hermione, correcting him under her breath. She blushed slightly at the implications of that particular confession and wonder briefly if it was freezing in Hell. "I was thinking that I haven't been this relaxed since your birthday," replied Hermione out loud.

"Yeah, that day was brilliant wasn't it?" Ron replied nostalgically. "I must say that Harry knows how to throw a party and I must confess that I rather like being surprised," confessed Ron, "and don't you dare tell me that you told me so." Hermione quickly shut her mouth and blushed slightly because she was about to gloat. "I must confess that I have never been so drunk on life." He waxed sentimentally.

"You were drunk all right, but on Ogden's Old Firewhisky." Hermione snorted. "You were very lucky that I knew the Sobering Charm or all of you would be having hangovers for several days afterwards." She pointed out patronisingly.

"Oh Hermione, turning seventeen is an important milestone and you only turn seventeen once, might as well enjoy the day. Remember what you did when Harry and I threw a party for you on your seventeenth birthday?" Ron asked teasingly.

"You promise never to mention that night ever," said Hermione threateningly.

"I didn't mention anything," said Ron innocently. "Though you must admit, it was humorous seeing steam coming out of my ears," chuckled Ron, remembering his first reaction to Firewhiskey. Hermione hated to admit it, but it was indeed funny. "That reminds me, we have to plan something big for Harry's seventeenth birthday in July."

"I think we could come up with something special for Harry." Hermione replied.

"Let's hope so, my birthday would be hard to live down and Merlin knows that Harry deserves an awesome seventeenth birthday. Did I ever thank you for casting the Sobering Charm on us?" He suddenly remembered.

"Yes, several times the following day," replied Hermione smiling inwardly, "but using the Anti-Intoxication Charm would have been more effective. It's slightly different than the Sobering Charm where you're supposed to cast the charm beforehand so you won't get drunk." She explained.

"Then why didn't you cast the Anti-Intoxication Charm on us instead?"

"Well, because the Anti-Intoxication and Sobering Charms are N.E.W.T. level spells and I had to look it up," explained Hermione.

"So, why didn't you?"

"Well, if I recall correctly, someone's birthday wish for me was to relax and not think about anything pertaining to school and researching a N.E.W.T level spell pertains to school." She replied with a teasing smile on her face. "Plus it serves you right for getting drunk in the first place."

"Woman, of all the times you listen to me you chose then?" Ron sighed shaking his head. "By the way, that reminds me, congratulations on becoming top of our year again. I believe your last Potions test put you five marks ahead of Padma."

"Thanks, and its six marks, Professor Snape miscalculated," replied Hermione meekly. "Though it pained him to grant me that mark, so he zealously took five points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all," explained Hermione.

"What!" Ron thundered.

"Ron, forget about it." She replied soothingly. "It's done and over with."

"Well, okay." Ron grumbled under his breath. "Any ways, I don't think it really matters to him why he docks points, that greasy haired git would take points away just for looking at him the wrong way. So, don't feel bad for losing house points from him, you did earn and deserve that extra mark."

"Thanks Ron and its Professor Snape," corrected Hermione offhandedly.

"Whatever you say, your majesty," teased Ron.

"My father calls me that," replied Hermione quietly. "Princess, not your majesty," corrected Hermione. "You know Ron, my father use to brush my hair like this when I was younger. He still does, but not as often as he used to. When you brush my hair it reminds me of my father."

"You must miss him terribly," replied Ron. "You're mother too."

"I do," confessed Hermione sadly. "Especially, in moments like these that remind me of him." She replied trying to blink away her unshed tears. "Since the resurrection of Voldemort I have seen my parents for a total of eighteen days." She revealed the shibboleth of information. "Eighteen days in almost two years. I just miss them so much." Her voice started to crack. "I hate this bloody war." She said weeping into her hands ignoring the fact that she had just swore. Hermione felt Ron stopped brushing her hair in mid-stroke and felt him got off the chesterfield. "Ron, don't stop I like it when you brush my hair." She said frantically grabbing his hand, wanting to feel safe again, wanting him to comfort her, by continuing to brush her hair.

Ron squeezed her hand gently with reassurance. He walked around her taking a seat directly in front of her. Hermione looked at his cobalt blue eyes filled with concern. Affectionately, he cupped her check and dried her tears with his thumb. They looked into each other eyes, which seemed like an eternity. Her heart fluttered and her skin tingled at his touch, she wanted so much to kiss him right then and there.

"I know that I probably a poor substitution for your father," said Ron, so softly that she swore he didn't speak them, "but I'm willing to brush or braid your hair anytime you miss your parents." He said brushing her curly hair around her ear. Hermione's chocolate brown eyes dilated with surprise and her heart swelled up at his generous proposal. "Just promise me that this arrangement would stay between us. I don't think the lads would ever let it down if they found out." Ron added the addendum with his infamous lopsided smile.

"Thanks, I think I like that." Hermione smiled gratefully for the offer while thinking about his request. On the one hand, she would love to see him blushing with embarrassment, but on the other hand, she found it endearing that they would share something so intimate that only they would know about. "Ron, you don't have to worry about me tarnishing your reputation or your manhood," replied Hermione with a reassuring smile.

"No thanks necessary," smiled Ron, squeezing her thigh gently. "You're one of my best mates, I would do anything for you," replied Ron, as he got up and headed toward his previous position and continued to brush her hair.

Hermione wasn't sure what she felt, she was elated that Ron offered to do something so intimate with her anytime she wanted, but she felt hurt that it was part of his duty as her best mate and not something much more. With her hair being brushed again her thoughts slowly drifted from her current dilemma of her love life, or lack thereof, to her past, to the first time she was forced to leave her father because of the threat of war.

There will come a day
one of us will have to imagine this: you,
after your bath, crosslegged on the bed, sleepy, patient,
while I braid your hair.

Summer Holidays '95...

Hermione was three months shy of her sixteenth birthday, though she wasn't a normal fifteen-year-old. She was in fact a lot older than she acted, in fact, all her best mates were older than they seemed since the death of fellow student Cedric Diggory and the implications on how he died. War was imminent, she could taste and smell it in the air, even though she had never experience the anguish of war before, she had a feeling she would have plenty of experience before she graduated. Her life that she knew it was a fragile house of cards being held delicately by her thinning nerves.

Wrapping her terrycloth bathrobe tighter Hermione headed towards her room knowing it would be the last time until the following summer. Her semidried hair was starting to frizz up as she absentmindedly ran her hand through it; she had long given up taming her bushy mane. Walking towards her room she glimpsed her auburn haired father sentimentally looking around her room. Leaning against the doorframe she watched her father all ready in the process of missing her.

She watched as her father picked up a Spelling Bee trophy that she won when she was nine and polished it with a sentimental glint in his eyes. Her parents were so proud of her, especially her father, when she spelled the winning word without batting an eye. Hermione smiled inwardly when she remembered the word, it was one of the first words she learned how to read and spell: orthodontist. Her father slowly made her way through the knickknacks that she had collected and kept all her life. He stopped momentarily when he picked up a moving picture on her bedside table of her best mates and then the second one of her all fussed up at the Yule Ball with her date Viktor Krum.

"I hate it," said Mr Granger suddenly, as if he knew that he was being watched. "Every summer since you left for Hogwarts we gradually get to spend less time with you during your holidays." He said, while looking at his daughter with a sad glint in his eyes. "Now, you have to leave after a week at home," said Mr Granger sadly, putting the picture frame down. "I'm afraid that we're slowly losing you and rather soon you'll be on your own." He replied sitting on her bed and patted to a spot next to him.

Hermione knew how her father wanted to spend what little time they have left together and she wanted it too. It was a bittersweet moment, she wanted to spend time with her parents, but knowing that it was so short a time made it that more painful. She understood what her father wanted to do, to brush her hair, their only father-daughter ritual that they have kept since she was a small girl.

"Don't go cutting the apron strings just yet," replied Hermione, while she headed towards her bed. "I plan to stick around for a while longer." She smiled, handing her father her brush and sat with her back to him. "I hate it too, but it's for the best," whispered Hermione, while her father started brushing her hair.

"I know," whispered Mr Granger sadly. "It doesn't mean that I have to like it."

"It's for my own safety and for yours as well," replied Hermione emotionlessly. "Like it or not I'm safer at the Weasleys than I am here and the sooner I leave the better."

"I always thought it was my job to protect my family."

"It is and you've done a brilliant job!" Hermione exclaimed. "It's just that there are things you can't protect me from and a murderous Dark Wizard is one of them."

"I thought he was after your friend Harry."

"He is," confessed Hermione solemnly. "Ron and I are in danger by association. Professor Dumbledore believes since we are so close to Harry that this Dark Wizard might come after us in order to get to Harry and I'm inclined to believe him."

"You know this morning I called the Dean of Roedean to see if there was still a placement in the school for you," confessed Mr Granger.

"You're not thinking of taking me out of Hogwarts are you?" Hermione exclaimed in abject horror, she turned around to look at her father. "You can't!" She exclaimed, her eyes on the verge of tears.

"And why not? I am your father."

"Do what you think is best father," replied Hermione in cold formality, her anger was quickly replaced with sadness while she turned her back on her father. "It doesn't matter anymore, the dye has been cast, there is no turning back, the enemy knows that I am one of Harry's best friends and I'm in danger regardless where I go to school." She replied sadly, as she felt the familiar tug of her brush against her hair. "If you think that I'm better protected at Roedean and staying at home defenceless without a wand than spending time at the Weasleys protected by a family of wizards and at Hogwarts, which Professor Dumbledore assured you is the safest place in the Wizarding World then I will follow your lead." She acquiesced obediently.

"Are you sure that Hogwarts is the safest place there is?"

"It's safe because of the magical wards protecting the castle," replied Hermione, who wanted so desperately to recite Hogwarts: A History verbatim but decided against it. "Professor Dumbledore is the main reason Hogwarts is safe, you see father the only person this Dark Wizard fears is the Headmaster and Harry of course," added Hermione offhandedly.

"I suppose it is fruitless to ask you to stay away from Harry."

"It is," replied Hermione above a whisper. "Even if I did stop being Harry's friend the danger still exists. Dad, you have to understand that all my life I've been searching for friends such as these, friends that looked beyond the visceral and see who I really am. They have literally risked their lives to save mine and I've done the same for them. Now that one of my friends is in mortal danger I would not stand idly by," replied Hermione with conviction.

"I just don't understand," replied Mr Granger, while brushing her hair. "I mean why would this Dark Wizard be after Harry?" He asked, waiting what seemed like an eternity for his daughter to answer, apparently it was a difficult question to answer. "Please explain everything to me and I may change my mind," replied Mr Granger, he needed to know and she couldn't fault him for that.

"Dad, remember three and a half years ago when you asked me about Harry?" She finally asked.

"I remember you saying that you were surprised by his humility despite his fame."

"Have you ever wondered why Harry's so famous?"

"I've been meaning to ask you," said Mr Granger, "but I just figure that it was private."

"Not private, but personal," corrected Hermione. "When Harry was fifteen months old, he successfully defeated this particular Dark Wizard by a very powerful spell that ricocheted off Harry. Most wizards thought that he was killed, but the learned had known for some time that only his body was destroyed leaving a shadow of himself behind. A few weeks ago, this Dark Wizard resurrected into a new body and is a threat once more," explained Hermione in the most basic terms possible.

"So he's out for revenge?"

"If only that was all," replied Hermione with a sigh. She decided to tell her father everything and damned the consequences, even if it means that she won't be returning to Hogwarts. "The Wizarding World sees the world in five general castes depending on how much magic is in their blood. Pureblood wizards have magic running through their veins for generations and are held in the highest regards in society, like Ron's family. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Muggles who have no magical ability whatsoever and are looked down as ignorant and barbaric," explained Hermione.

"Like your mother and me."

"Right, then there are Half-blood wizards who have one or more Muggles in their immediate ancestry, like Harry, then there are Muggle born wizards who has Muggle parents which is a step below Half-bloods," continued Hermione.

"Like you," said Mr Granger. "What's the last category? For the life of me, I think all the permutations have been rendered."

"That's not true, though I can't fault you for thinking it. I didn't think it was possible either, but the final class are Squibs," answered Hermione. "On very rare occasions a non-magical child could be born to a family with at least one magical parent. Squibs are considered slightly better than Muggles, because they, unlike most Muggles are not ignorant about the magical world around them," explained Hermione.

"Thanks for the brief sociology lesson, but what does this have to do with this Dark Wizard?"

"This Dark Wizard believes that only the Pure-blooded wizards are only worthy to learn magic and the world should be purge from the other four castes and he plans to cleanse the world personally, starting with England," explained Hermione. "The Muggle equivalent to this Dark Wizard would be Adolf Hitler, but this wizard is powerful enough to actually succeed," said Hermione darkly.

"So is that why you are safer at the Weasleys because they are Purebloods?"

"No," confessed Hermione, "not all Purebloods think that way, the Weasleys among other Pure-blooded families considers that magic is not discriminatory and whoever possesses magical ability, no matter of their ancestry is fit to learn and practise magic." She clarified. "This Dark Wizard considers the Weasleys and family like them Blood Traitors and deserves the fate of the rest of the world."

"Why doesn't that fact make me feel better?"

"Dad," replied Hermione reassuringly. She turned to face her father looking into his eyes. "Firstly, the Weasleys are the bravest wizards I have ever known and there are nine of them. Each willing to give up their life for anyone and at the head of the family are parents who guard their children like lions with their pride. Secondly, the Weasley home is protected with many wards, mind you not as much Hogwarts, but it's better than nothing. Finally, we won't be staying at the Weasleys for long, I am told at this very moment there is another site being prepared in secret just as safe as Hogwarts where we would be moving to when it's finished." She finished her well thought argument.

"There's just one more thing I don't understand," replied Mr Granger. "If this Dark Wizard is back why haven't there been any attacks. Surely even we, mere Muggles would have noticed mass killings."

"Thank or blame the Minister of Magic for that!" She exclaimed with exasperation. "I'm not sure which, my mind changes constantly with my moods." Hermione took a cleansing breath before continuing. "The Minister of Magic is the equivalent to our Prime Minister in the Wizarding World. Unfortunately, he doesn't believe that this Dark Wizard has returned from the dead, he would like the whole Wizarding World to believe that nothing happened and those who say differently are malcontents and glory mongers, which we're not," added Hermione emphatically.

"So since this Dark Wizard is considered dead by most of the populace and not recognised by the government, he is planning to stay in the shadows until he is ready to strike." Her father finished off his daughter's thought. "Meanwhile, your side are building your forces to counter-strike despite what the government tells the people."

"Right in one," complimented Hermione. "Dad, why is it that some people won't believe the truth, even if it's unpleasant? Shouldn't people believe what is right under their noses?"

"Princess, some times it is easier to believe a pleasant lie than facing the cold hard truth of reality. Some times people do what is easy and not what's right." Her father replied laboriously. "Some times the truth is too scary to face and not everyone is courageous enough to face it."

"Yeah, I suppose so." Hermione sighed looking into the either.

"I have just one more question before I decided whether you will be going back to Hogwarts this September." Her father said after a brief moment of silence. Hermione hung her head down looking at the intricate floral design of her comforter, getting ready for his decision. She wouldn't let her father see her cry if she had to go to Roedean in the autumn. "Do you think Ron's father would like the old black and white television in the garage that we don't use anymore?" Hermione gasped and looked her father in the eye with surprise. "Please give Arthur and Molly my gratitude for taking care of you and tell them that I expect my daughter back intact next summer, since I won't be home when they pick you up tomorrow."

"Really?" Hermione gleamed, while her father nodded in response. "Thank you Daddy!" She exclaimed throwing her arms around her father's neck and jumping up and down on her bed with her knees with excitement. Breaking the embrace slightly she looked her father right in the eye with a brilliant smile. "Not to kick a gift-horse in the mouth, but why are you letting me go back to Hogwarts?" She asked her arms still around her father's neck.

"When you were eleven years old you were so obsessed in getting a scholarship to Roedean that it almost drove you to tears." Her father finally replied after giving his answer some thought. "Do you remember what I told you that night?"

"You told me that you would be proud of me whatever I did so long as I am happy."

"That's right," replied Mr Granger. "Like it or not you're happier at Hogwarts with all your friends. I can't take you away from that." He replied with a forced smile. "While I hate to admit this, the Weasleys could protect you better than I can," Mr Granger replied sadly, "besides sending you to the Weasleys would be the lesser of two evils." He smiled cheekily.

"Dad!" Hermione exclaimed. "Staying at home with my parents isn't the greater evil."

"That isn't what I meant, though I'm glad to hear that." Her father smiled, feeling glad to hear that his adolescent daughter still wanted to spend time with him. "What I meant was sending you to the Weasleys would be a far better choice than sending you to Bulgaria to stay in a flat of a bloke three years your senior."

"Dad!" Hermione exclaimed, turning her back to her father again to hide the fact that her face was turning several shades of red. "Viktor Krum and I are just friends," protested Hermione, while trying unsuccessfully to keep her blush down.

"Does he know that? I suspect that he wanted more," replied Mr Granger, brushing her hair. Hermione couldn't believe that those words were coming out of her father's mouth. If she closed her eyes and listened carefully she could have sworn that she heard Ron's voice. "Am I right?"

"H-h-how did you know?" She stuttered above a whisper. It was the first time she admitted out loud that Viktor had other things on his mind than just friendship.

"It doesn't take a genius to see the signs," replied Mr Granger with a chuckle. "I'm not sure how the Wizarding World works, but in some cultures inviting a young girl to his flat in his country to meet his parents is a prelude or a step to a proposal, not to mention other unsavoury acts."

"Father you don't have to worry, I told Viktor that my feelings for him are strictly plutonic even if his feelings for me are not," reassured Hermoine. "I trust him and so should you."

"Are you kidding?" Her father exclaimed, shaking his head. "Viktor Krum is every father's worst nightmare, a famous, rich, comely, adolescent sports idol wanting to woo my only daughter? It's the most dangerous combination in a man possible. I rather a normal bloke fancying you instead, he wouldn't be much of a threat, plus he would have the greater chance of him fearing me," smirked Mr Granger.

"Father you're incorrigible," replied Hermione, rolling her eyes. "You sound just like Ron, before Viktor Krum showed an interest in me, he was one of Ron's favourite Quidditch player, but when he found out that he took an iota of interest in me he went all territorial," replied Hermione dramatically. "You sounded just like him, except without the language."

"Then Ron is a fine and wise lad." Hermione suppressed a chuckle in her throat. She didn't have the heart to tell her father that his statement was an oxymoron. "Speaking of boys, would Harry be there?" He asked tentatively.

"Perhaps later," answered Hermione. "According to Ron's parents, Professor Dumbledore says that he's safer with his relatives and when the secondary site is done he would be escorted there," explained Hermione. "Don't worry Dad, we'll all be safe, you don't have to worry."

"That's not I'm worried about," mumbled Mr Granger solemnly to himself. "Is there something you like to tell me about you and Harry?" He asked tentatively.

"No, not particularly," replied Hermione obliviously.

"I saw the kiss you gave to Harry before he left with his extended family at King's Cross Station last week," replied Mr Granger simply.

"Dad," began Hermione while she turned around with a mischievous grin. "Are you trying to ask me if Harry's my boyfriend?" She asked, unsuccessfully suppressing a smile.

"Yes, I suppose I am."

"Dad, you don't have to worry. Harry's not my boyfriend." Hermione replied in a matter-of-fact manner. "Harry and I are best mates and nothing more." Her father was about to object and open his mouth when she continued. "The reason I kissed Harry was for curative reasoning. Harry was feeling down because he witnessed the resurrection of the Dark Wizard that murdered his parents and is now after him, so I thought a kiss would make him feel better," explained Hermione.

"I see," replied Mr Granger, slightly unconvinced.

"It's just not fair," replied Hermione sighing sadly, turning her back to her father again. "Harry has seen so much tragedy in his life with his parents' death, uncaring guardians and now a murderous Dark Wizard is after him. He has suffered tragedy after tragedy and I just thought a simple kiss would make him feel better, to let him know that he's not alone, that Ron and I are there for him." She sighed sadly. "So you see Dad, it's not Harry you should be worried about."

"Oh, then who should I be worried about?"

"No one!" Hermione quickly exclaimed. "Who said there is anyone to worry about?" She added just as quickly with insincerity radiating from her now flushed face. Hermione couldn't believe that she could let something that she kept secret for so long out.

"You did," replied Mr Granger. "You alluded that I should worry about someone else besides Harry." He reiterated his daughter's previous statement. "Who is this boy?" Her father asked; his voice held an undercurrent of necessity.

"I don't want to say," whispered Hermione. "If I do, it'll be out in the ether and I could never take it back if he doesn't feel the same way. It's safer that I keep it quiet." Her crestfallen voice reverberated through the suddenly quiet bedroom.

"Hermione," began Mr Granger, his voice sounded comforting and fatherly, while he continued to brush her hair. "What you tell me in this room stays in this room. I won't tell anyone, even your mother if that's what you want," replied Mr Granger soothingly.

"It's Ron," replied Hermione, her voice scarcely above a whisper.

"Ron, as in Ron Weasley? The boy that you would be spending an entire summer with?" Her father asked, while she nodded silently. "Why is it that I'm suddenly having second thoughts in sending you to the Weasleys for the summer?" He asked with an undercurrent of concern.

"Dad, you don't have to worry." Hermione sighed sadly. "Ron is rather thick when it comes to these things. Actually, he's thick with everything, except when it comes to Quidditch, chess, sweets, or his stomach." Her voice cracked with sadness. "It wasn't until he was desperate for a date for the Yule Ball when he noticed that I was a girl and asked me as a last resort, besides I'm afraid that I'm not his type," whispered Hermione sadly.

"Oh, what is his type?"

"I don't know," replied Hermione with frustration. "Buxom, blond, blue eyed, porcelain skinned, beauties with personalities and depth as thin as paper and a body just as thin," described Hermione venomously.

"I wouldn't worry," chuckled Mr Granger. "Boys at Ron's age are driven mostly by hormones that are wrecking havoc through their bodies, most of the time it seems that their bodies take control more often than not," replied Mr Granger sympathetically. "I'm sure that he would grow out of it quickly and if he doesn't realise how special you are by then, than it's his loss." Her father replied reassuringly.

"It seems like a poor excuse, not guilty because of hormones," exasperated Hermione, rolling her eyes. "You don't see me drooling over a bloke because he's good looking." She added.

"Really?" Hermione could hear an undercurrent of laughter in her father's voice. "I remember your first letter in your second year. You spoke of a professor that was brilliant, with cascading flaxen hair, twinkling blue eyes, a brilliant smile, alabaster skin..."

"All right!" Hermione exclaimed. "I get the point, but I was twelve years old!"

"It's also a scientific fact that girls mature more quickly than boys," retorted Mr Granger. "Give Ron some time before crucifying him."

"So you approve of Ron Weasley as my intended?"

"To tell you the truth, I don't think that I would approve of anyone." Her father sighed. "No matter how old you are, you will always be my baby girl and giving you away will be the hardest thing that I would ever do. The bloke would have to be one exceptional person for me to give you away freely without incident," confessed Mr Granger. "Plus the fact that Ronald Weasley has finally realised that you are a girl would constantly keep me awake at nights." He sighed dramatically. "Do you think Ron knows how to brush your hair like this?" He asked offhandedly.

"Ron?" Hermione laughed. "He has the sensitivity that could fill half a thimble. I don't think that he has the capability or patience to do it."

"I wouldn't be too confident if I were you."

"Trust me father, you don't have to worry about it. It'll take more than a summer for Ron to realise anything." Hermione sighed with frustration. "Of all the boys in the world, I have to fall for someone that's thick-headed, stubborn, mulish, infuriating, aggravating, and have the capacity to bring out both the best and worse of me." She sighed flopping on her bed. "I mean on paper Harry and I are more compatible, we get along, we hardly argue and he doesn't push my buttons like Ron does, so why doesn't my heart beat the same for him as it does for Ron?" She asked, closing her eyes with frustration.

"No one really knows why the heart chooses the way it does and you should know by now that all theories look good on paper, but extremely difficult in application and sometimes they just don't work," replied Mr Granger. "Moreover, I think you and Ron have more in common than you think, than you would like to admit," smiled Mr Granger, parting her bushy brown hair from her face. "There must be some reason you're attracted to Ron."

"I don't know," replied Hermione with frustration. "He's courageous, loyal to his friends, protective, sometimes overly so, and incredibly funny. There's this indescribable and inexplicable attraction I have for him like a moth to a flame, he could be so charming and devilishly suave when he wants to be." Hermione answered with a complacent smile growing on her face. "In rare moments, I think he has a limitless supply of compassion and understanding for people he cares about, and he has this boyish innocence in his blue eyes, not to mention the fact that he's one of the best looking boys in my year." With a cleansing breath she opened her eyes to look at her father's eyes that she had inherited and blushed slightly at her confession. "Dad, do you really think that Ron and I would have a chance together?" She asked hopefully.

"I don't know," replied Mr Granger. "No one could tell the future. I hope so."

"Thanks Daddy," said Hermione through a yawn.

"Why don't you go to bed?" Her father smiled. "The Weasleys are picking you up early tomorrow morning." He said patting her leg gently and then tucking her in. "Sweet dreams Princess. I'll see you next summer." He said kissing her forehead. "Promise me you won't grow up too much," whispered Mr Granger, while heading towards the light switch by the doorframe.

"Good night Daddy," mumbled Hermione sleepily. "Thanks for all the help."

"No problem Princess," whispered Mr Granger, turning off the lights and closing the door.

Turning slightly Hermione took a picture of Ron and her from under her pillow that she hid from her parents. It was a picture of them on their first excursion to Hogsmeade, their first date as she secretly like to call it. Ron had his arm around her shoulders while they were waving at their corporeal counterpart with his infamous lopsided smile.

"Good night Ron," whispered Hermione to the picture. "I'll see you soon. I hope you smarten up soon too," replied Hermione as she traced his face with her finger. With a small smile she embraced the picture on her heart and fell asleep dreaming about the redheaded boy and about tomorrows.

The Present

"Ron?" Hermione asked suddenly. "Do you ever think of the future?"

"Sure I do. All the time," replied Ron nonchalantly, too much for her liking. "Like what we're having for dinner tonight." He added in an unperturbed manner.

"What difference does it makes?" Hermione asked teasingly. "You'll eat anything put in front of you and in copious amounts," replied Hermione, smiling.

"Hey! I'm a growing boy!" Ron protested.

"I know. I was just pulling your leg, hollow that it may be," replied Hermione teasingly, "besides that's not what I meant. I mean do you think about the future, like what you would be doing after Hogwarts." She reiterated her question.

"Oh that." She noticed that his voice was weighed down with sadness. "No, I don't think too much about that," confessed Ron.

"Why not?"

"It's scary," replied Ron, after an eternity of silence. "To tell you the truth, I don't know what I want to do after graduation and that scares me more than spiders."

"Ron, you still have a lot of time left to think about that."

"I know, but time is quickly running out and Mum is nagging me about it constantly," replied Ron. "I heard that some Muggles our age take a year off before starting higher education. I think I'll do that, if the war is over that is," added Ron morosely.

"Yeah, they call it a gap year," replied Hermione. "Some students do extracurricular work, or charity work in a different country and some even travel to find themselves before they begin university," explained Hermione.

"Maybe I do that," replied Ron hopefully, brushing her hair. "I always wanted to see the Continent, perhaps I'll pack my rucksack and go on the land for a year and think things through," said Ron thoughtfully.

"I always thought you wanted to play professional Quidditch or go to the Auror Academy?"

"Childish dreams," muttered Ron so quietly that Hermione thought she didn't hear it. "I'm not half as good with the broom as Charlie, Oliver Wood, or even Harry for that matter. As for the Academy I'm afraid that my grades are not good enough to get in." Hermione was about to interject to tell him otherwise, but the subject was quickly redirected. "What about you? What does Hermione Jane Granger, witch extraordinaire, wants to do with her life, follow her parents' steps and become the first dentist in the Wizarding World?" He asked teasingly.

"Honestly Ron, don't be daft," chastised Hermione, hitting him playfully. "Who in the Wizarding World would want to go to a dentist when a couple of simple oral hygiene charms could eliminate all need of a dentist?"

"I don't know, but I have a feeling that my father would be top on the list."

"I'm sure he would," said Hermione with a wry smile. She could vividly imagine an overexcited Mr Weasley waiting first in line, perhaps the only person in line, to have his teeth cleaned the Muggle way. "Unfortunately, one client does not a practice make."

"True," acquiesced Ron, "so what do you want to do with your life? Do you want to be Headmistress of Hogwarts or maybe Minister of Magic perhaps Chief Sorceress of the Wizengamot or better yet Queen of the World?" He asked teasingly.

"Ron, don't be silly," replied Hermione through a giggle. "To tell you the truth, I don't know what I want to do," said Hermione with a sad sigh.

"Why not?" Ron sounded flabbergasted. "I would have thought that you of all people would know what you wanted to do. I wouldn't worry, I bet that you'll get a million offers after you graduate from Hogwarts with high honours," said Ron confidently.

"That's exactly the problem!" Hermione exclaimed. "There are so many possibilities that I'm not sure what I want to do. I want to do something that I love and worthwhile, but I don't know what that is. My greatest fear is ending up in a profession that I would loathe," explained Hermione laboriously. "Perhaps, I need some time to find myself too. Would you mind it so terribly, if I joined you gallivanting around the Continent?" She asked hopefully.

"Of course I wouldn't mind. I'll love it if you'd joined me."

Hermione couldn't stop grinning like the Cheshire cat. The thought of them exploring Europe together, alone for a year was something she could quickly cotton onto. During the day, she imagined them walking with their hands laced together skipping through the European countryside discovering wonders together. At night, they would sleep in youth hostels in the same room, perhaps the same bed, if lodgings were lacking and would imagine Ron braiding her hair while she sleeps.

Here, what's made, these braids, unmakes
itself in time, and must be made
again, within and against
time. So I braid
your hair each day.
My fingers gather, measure hair,
hook, pull and twist hair and hair.
Deft, quick, they plait,
weave, articulate lock and lock, to make
and make these braids, which point
the direction of my going, of all our continuous going.
And though what's made does not abide,
my making is steadfast, and, besides, there is a making
of which this making-in-time is just a part,
a making which abides
beyond the hands which rise in the combing,
the hands which fall in the braiding,
trailing hair in each stage of its unbraiding.

The Present

With a placate smile, Hermione contemplated what marvels they would see together on their voyage of self-discovery. She would definitely show him the sights of France and Switzerland, since she frequented those countries many times, and together they would discover the rest of the Continent. While Ron would probably humour her by visiting the various art galleries, museums and learning all things Muggle, she would placate him by going to a Quidditch match or pursue trivial pursuits once in a while. Together, they would find themselves and perhaps find themselves in each other.

Her blissful mood suddenly darken when she realised that Ron's road of self-discovery was not out of the many possibilities that life has to offer, like hers, but of dreams shattered. He wanted to find himself because he didn't think he was good enough to make it on a professional Quidditch team or have the grades to enter the Auror Academy. She hated it when he put himself down, hated it when he doubted himself and she especially hated the look in eyes when he does. She has to do something to bring back that shine in his eyes when he's happy, even though it may ruin or cancel their hypothetical trip to rucksack through the European Continent.

"You know Ron, there's still some time to improve your flying skills for the Quidditch scouts next year. I'm sure Harry would be happy to help you with your flying," said Hermione, breaking the extremely comfortable silence.

"Thanks for volunteering Harry's services, but really it isn't necessary." Ron chuckled to himself. "Charlie, Harry and Oliver are a different breed of Quidditch players than I am. They were born to fly, it comes so naturally to them, they could go for weeks without practising and still fly like the time off didn't affect them. That's what Quidditch scouts are looking for and I'm okay with that really. I just like to fly whether it's on an amateur team or in the backyard at The Burrow," explained Ron.

"Well, what about the Auror Academy? There's still some time to improve your grades, it's not too late. I'm sure with a lot of hard work and with my help you can get in."

"Thanks for the generous offer, but I highly doubt that even with your help my grades would be good enough to get me into the Academy and even if they were, I'm not sure that I want to become an Auror. Although, I still wouldn't mind your generous offer to help me with my schoolwork," whispered Ron into her ear, which sent chills down her spine.

"Ron," chastised Hermione, playfully hitting him on the arm. "You're incorrigible."

"That's why you love me so much, isn't it?" He teased.

Hermione swore that her heart was replaced with a Golden Snitch, because her heart was beating just as quickly and fluttering all over the place. It was true, Ron's incorrigibility is one of the many endearing traits that made her love him, which both exasperate and elated her. She forced her heart to slow, using the slow rhythmic, familiar tug of the brush against hair as her guide.

"He doesn't know," muttered Hermione, reminding herself that he doesn't know -- that he's too dense to know. It was a lucky guess, an offhanded statement; it was nothing more than a fluke. He doesn't know about the furtive glances across a crowded room or his invasion into her dreams both day and night or that he's constantly written about in her journal or all those accidental brushes of hands while walking in the corridors that were not entirely accidental or the fact that he's all she sees when he enters a room or that she was secretly in love with him.

"What was that?" Ron asked.

"Nothing!" Hermione answered quickly, her heart returning to a Snitch-like state. "I was just don't you want to be an Auror anymore?" She quickly recovered. "You and Harry have been dreaming about it since fourth year."

"That's what it was, a nice dream," replied Ron, shaking his head. "Harry and I used to fantasise about going to the Academy together and bringing dark wizards to justice as partners. It seemed like the perfect life and we romanticised it."

"What happened?"

"The Department of Mystery happened," answered Ron cryptically. "After that battle I realised that war was anything but romantic. People get hurt, maimed, scarred, and some even die, I'm not sure if I would like to spend my life in constant danger and I don't want my family or anyone in my life to worry about me like that, it's not fair to them."

"My word! That's the most sagacious, considerate and thoughtful thing I've ever heard you say!" Hermione exclaimed, turning around with glistening eyes and a brilliant smile on her surprised face. "If I wasn't here to witness this moment I wouldn't have believed it," exclaimed Hermione, smiling mischievously.


Looking deeply in his eyes she responded. "Ronald Weasley, I do believe that you're growing up," accused Hermione with a dazzling smile.

"Take that back!" Ron yelled with mortification, his face priceless as if it was the most outrageous thing he has ever heard. "This is one of the many reasons why I don't like thinking about the future!" He bellowed.

"Relax Ron," smiled Hermione, turning her back to him. "Your secret is safe with me and even if I told anyone they wouldn't believe me any ways." She said reassuringly.

"That's true," replied Ron not feeling a modicum of offence and continued brushing her hair, "besides, either of those occupations is not really that great in raising a family." Ron added offhandedly. "I'll be on the road all the time and constantly in danger with either profession."

"You want a family?"

"Sure I do," answered Ron, "I even want children."

"Oh, how many?"

"I don't know," shrugged Ron, "more than one less than seven."

"I never knew that."

"Well it's not like I talk about it everyday," replied Ron with a shrug. "What about you? Any plans for a family?"

"Nothing concrete," answered Hermione. "I haven't really thought about it, but I do eventually want children, definitely more than one and less than seven," smiled Hermione, echoing Ron.

"Well, I wouldn't worry Hermione," replied Ron, chuckling softly. "That's still a long way off. I mean I don't even have a girlfriend yet, in fact, my last date was Christmas two years ago and it wasn't much of a date to begin with," replied Ron, shaking his head dramatically. "It's rather pathetic isn't it?"

"A little, but I don't think that you're pathetic," replied Hermione. "I mean half the girls at Hogwarts would give their right arm to go out with you and the other half would give the other arm as well," replied Hermoine.

"Thanks for saying that, but it's my personal belief that the Weasley charm to woo women, decided to overlook me when I was born. It'll explain why I'm so unlucky when it comes to women," replied Ron, not believing a word that his best mate had told him.

"That's not true!" Hermione protested.

"Even if it isn't true, it wouldn't matter," replied Ron sadly. "I'm afraid that my heart belongs to someone else, someone unattainable I'm afraid." His crestfallen voice emanated, breaking her heart. "What about you, are there any boys" Ron asked tentatively.

"Yes, there is someone," answered Hermione tentatively, fearful of Ron's reaction, "but he fancies someone else." Her voice suddenly became crestfallen.

"What? Who is this bloke? Is he deaf, blind and dumb? Do you want me to knock some sense into him?" He exclaimed demandingly.

"No!" Hermione turned around, fury in her eyes. "Ron, I can handle him myself! I don't need a protector or a knight!" She spewed furiously, then she saw the disappointment in his eyes and realised that he did wanted to be her knight, her protector and if she was honest with herself, she did too. "I'm sorry Ron, it's just that he doesn't know my feelings and I want to keep it that way," replied Hermione reassuringly, turning her back to him again, Ron continued to brush her hair.

"Well, it's his loss," replied Ron sombrely. "If he doesn't know how amazing, talented and incredible you are than he doesn't deserves you."

"Thanks Ron," whispered Hermione, blushed slightly. She wanted to take that compliment from her infatuation and not from her best friend, but her rational side reminded her that he fancies someone else, someone that's not her. Gathering her courage she asked the question that she feared the answer to. "Ron, who is it that you fancy? Maybe I could help, talk to her and help you out. I mean I've helped Harry with, that's a bad example, but I really could help you," replied Hermione, hoping that the eagerness in her voice didn't give her ulterior motive away.

"Thanks Hermione, but its better this way. She's just out of my league and I wouldn't stand a chance with her. Anyway, like your mysterious man, she doesn't know I feel this way and I prefer to keep it that way," replied Ron brokenheartedly and crestfallenly, "besides, I fancy her with both her arms, thank you very much." Ron whispered cheekily into her ear, which sent shivers down her spine.

"W-w-why would I do that?" Hermione stuttered, obviously lying, while Ron scoffed unbelievingly. She hated that Ron could read her so well, but still couldn't see that she loved him, it was all very exasperating. "Well, she deserves to get her arms hacked off with an Amputating Hex if she couldn't see how wonderful, warm, loyal, funny, and amazing you are," said Hermione, stopping suddenly. She could have continued forever, but stopped to ensure she didn't give her secret infatuation away.

"Thanks Hermione, but tell me something, does these compliments give you any comfort not coming from our infatuations?" He chuckled dryly.

"No, not really," muttered Hermione, she hated to admit it, but Ron was right. Those compliments would have meant more had it been genuine and not to restore a broken heart.

"We're both pathetic tossers aren't we?" Ron asked rhetorically. "We're unable to tell our infatuations how we truly feel," replied Ron, sounding defeated.

"That's one way to put it, albeit crude," muttered Hermione dryly, she didn't have it in her heart to comment on his profanity. "Though, by not saying anything, perhaps we're preserving something worth saving." She countered with the truth. The last thing she wanted to risk on an uncertainty was her friendship with Ron.

"Perhaps," replied Ron pensively. "Well, whatever our futures hold, whoever we end up with, I would still be willing to braid your hair."

"Really? I would love that," replied Hermione, astonished by his offer.

"Always and forever as long as you want me to," replied Ron solemnly. Hermione gasped suddenly. She was surprised to hear her father's words, his promise, coming from Ron's mouth. "Did I say something wrong?" He asked tentatively.

"No, quite the contrary, it's perfect," replied Hermione with a brilliant and hopeful smile, because it was perfect, it was the most perfect thing to say at the perfect moment. That simple statement gave her hope beyond measure, that one day this clueless redhead wouldn't be so clueless anymore.

The brushing sensation in her hair suddenly stopped, Hermione was about to protest telling Ron not to stop, when she felt a different brushing sensation in her hair. She felt long fingers partitioning her hair, which sent a new wave of euphoria through her body. Hermione then realised that Ron was beginning to braid her hair and she didn't want him to ever stop. Ron's fingers running through her hair felt...right.

The familiar tugging sensation brought back memories of her father braiding her hair by the hearth. Hermione would beg her father to braid her hair so she could go out and play, only to have them unravel when she did and consequentially returned to her father so he could braid her hair again. She wondered how many times her father braided her hair over the years, which led her to wonder how many times Ron would braid her hair in the years to come. She knew that the sheer number would overshadow her father's handiwork, though disconcerting in thought, it felt right nevertheless and she can't help, but to ponder the possibilities.

Love, how the hours accumulate. Uncountable.
The trees grow tall, some people walk away
and diminish forever.
The damp pewter days slip around without warning
and we cross over one year and one year.

The Near Possible Future...

Hermione always loved her Saturday morning showers; she had all her life and she suspect she would for the rest of her life. Turning off the hot water she summoned a towel to dry herself and stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a terrycloth bathrobe. Amusingly she chuckled at her wrinkled fingertips, which she still found whimsical after all these years and charmed her hair dry, which quadrupled in volume. There were other more effective hair drying charms, but she liked this one for her own personal reasons. With a light chuckle she completed her toilet by brushing and flossing her teeth and headed downstairs to find a certain someone to tame her hair.

Taking a blissful sigh she walked into the adjacent bedroom to don a violently Chudley Cannons sweatshirt and headed down the stairs to the living room and found the person she was looking for instantly. His flaming red hair still blazed brilliantly in the light of the morning sun, his body still fit from constant conditioning from work and if possible even more handsome through the passage of time. Her heart still flutter like a Golden Snitch at the sight of him and she suspect that it would always be so, but she didn't care, just as long as he was the one to catch it.

"Good Morning Love." He greeted with his infamous lopsided smile that revealed the same boyish pronounced dimple and cobalt blue eyes that seems to shimmer whenever he looked at her. She couldn't believe that with that one simple look could still make everything below her navel turn to mush. Putting down the Saturday Prophet he looked at his wristwatch and smiled. "Out before ten, that's an unusual quick shower." He replied teasingly.

"Quiet you or I won't let you brush my hair." She muttered playfully.

"Love, you know that's an empty threat." He bantered back.

"I hate it when you know me too well."

"You wouldn't have it any other way." He replied flirtatiously. "Now Love, please sit by the fire while I brush your hair." He patted a spot in front of him.

"How can I refuse such a generous offer like that?" She asked rhetorically, taking a seat by the roaring blue flame fire with a gleeful smile awaiting the inevitable.

Hermione closed her eyes with contentment, serenity and pure joy as she felt the familiar tug of brush against hair. With a peaceful sigh, she snuggled closer to him, making herself more comfortable to the euphoria to come. She felt her hair parted to the left and smiled knowingly. A giggle absconded when a familiar mouth kissed her neck, tickling her in the process; he continued upward and began to nuzzle her ear, which she gave an almost inaudible moan.

"Love, you are by far more beautiful and sexy than when I first brushed your hair." Ron whispered hoarsely as he continued to nuzzle on her ear.

"Liar," giggled Hermione, while playfully hitting him. "My body is nowhere what is used to be after having your children."

"No, it's better. I've always find pregnant women to be the sexiest creatures on the planet." Ron said as he relinquished her ear and wandered back to her neck.

"Oh, is that why we have so many children?"

"I never heard you complaining when we conceived them, unless you consider this complaining." Ron smiled, whispering something lewd into her ear.

"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed with laughter. "Leave it to you to be so boorish at a time like this."

"I aim to please." He chuckled, while he continued to kiss her neck and smelled her scent like a mating animal. "I see that you're still using that fraud's shampoo." He growled while nibbling her earlobe.

"I like the smell," smiled Hermione mischievously. "Jealous?"

"Every time you wash your hair," replied Ron matter-of-factly. "I hate the fact that Lockhart's rubbish is in your hair daily, it's like he has his fingers in your hair and only I'm allowed to touch your hair," growled Ron possessively.

"It's good that I could still make you feel that way," replied Hermione playfully.

"I see, you do it on purpose now don't you? Well, then I think you should be punished for it." Ron replied impishly.

"Punished?" Before she could inquire further, she felt his fingers by her sides tickling her. Hermione laughed profusely as she tried to wiggle her way out of his grasp. She felt like an adolescent again, as if time reversed and Ron was courting her again. A romantic sigh escaped from an unknown third occupant in the room. Hermione opened her eyes to see a six year old girl with bushy red hair, cobalt blue eyes, protruding front teeth and freckles over her milky white skin watching ecstatically.

"Hey Jellybean!"

"Hi Daddy!"

"Good Afternoon Sweetheart, what are you doing inside? It's a beautiful summer's day; wouldn't you want to be outside playing with your brothers?" Hermione asked.

"They wanted to play Quidditch and told me that I was too little to play."

"Well you tell your brothers that I told them to let you play or I will take their brooms away for a week," replied Hermione authoritatively.

"Couldn't I stay here? I like watching Daddy brush your hair."

Hermione smiled at her daughter's beseeching cobalt blue eyes, which mimicked her father's when he asked for her help for homework, all those years ago. She couldn't refuse her daughter, especially when as a child she liked to watch her father brushing her mother's hair too. "Of course darling," smiled Hermione affectionately. "So how's Daddy doing with my hair? Is he doing a good job?" Hermione asked, while she felt her hair being parted.

"Daddy's doing a brilliant job." Their daughter nodded animatedly. "Could I be next?" She asked hopefully, wanting her father to brush her hair so desperately.

"Sure thing, Jellybean," replied Ron enthusiastically. Hermione smiled at her daughter's eagerness and returned to her blissful state, closing her eyes to enjoy the treatment that Ron was giving to her hair. She felt the familiar pulls and tugs of her hair forming into a series of complex braids. "All done!" Ron exclaimed, while securing the complex plait with an elastic band.

Hermione slowly opened her eyes as if she was waking from a wonderful dream into a more wonderful reality. "So Sweetheart, how do I look?"

"You look brilliant."

"Indeed you do," smiled Ron kissing his wife on the contour of her neck, which tickled her slightly. "So are you ready Jellybean?" Their daughter jumped with anticipation and rushed to Hermione's vacated spot. Hermione leaned against the doorway, watching her daughter through nostalgic eyes. "So how do you want your hair?"

"Braids, just like Mum's!"

"I reckon I could do that," said Ron, brushing her hair. "How am I doing? Not too hard?"

"No, it's perfect." Their daughter replied blissfully. "Dad, where did you learn to do all this? You're rather good at it." Hermione reckoned that their daughter inherited her inquisitiveness from her.

"Why thank you Jellybean. I used to brush your Aunt Ginny's hair when she was your age." Hermione saw a nostalgic smile spread across his face. "I'm really glad that your Aunt Ginny insisted that I brushed her hair, because that's how your mother and I got together," explained Ron.

"Really? Can I hear the story?"

Hermione watched as Ron delved into the story on how they got together with a reflective smile, told in Ron's grandiose, exaggerated manner, filled with gusto. Shaking her head slightly, she made a mental note to retell the actual story on how they really got together later on.

The Present

"All done!" Ron announced, breaking her reverie.

"Already? That was quick," commented Hermione, feeling the tight, clean and complex braids that Ron had intertwined. "You do excellent work." She complimented, turning around she saw Ron with bright red ears and was absently picking on a loose thread on his jeans.

"Er...thanks, it was nothing," mumbled Ron, nervously running his fingers through his hair, which made his hair that much more misshapen and that much more adorable. Hermione chuckled slightly at the sight, Ron never knew how to take a compliment properly, he would usually blushed furiously and avoid eye contact with the person, like he was doing now. "W-w-what so funny?" He asked looking up.

"It's your hair," answered Hermione between giggles. "It looks like Harry's." Her laughter became more evident at Ron's futile attempt to tame his hair. "Here, let me help." She offered, gently running her fingers through his surprising soft hair. Their eyes suddenly locked at her touch and the world around them disappeared. Hermione has never seen such intensity in Ron's eyes before and felt herself drawn to him. "All done," whispered Hermione in a transcendent mode, her fingers still entangled in his blazing red hair.

"Not quite," whispered Ron, his lips leaning towards hers.

The kiss was soft and gentle, sweet and tender, the perfect attributes of what a first kiss should be. However, it didn't stay that way, passion slowly deepened as Hermione kissed back. She found herself pushing gently against his chest, forcing Ron to recline on his back and her hands slowly found themselves entwined in his hair again. She felt his hands running down her neatly done plaits and suddenly loosening them. He untangled her braids and combed his fingers through her clean and unravelled hair. Kissing Ron was by far better than anything Hermione has ever experienced, she found herself wanting to kiss him for all eternity.

"That was..."

"...Bloody Brilliant," smiled Ron sheepishly, he looked up at her and brushed her hair around her ear tenderly. "I reckon we finally figured out who we both fancy."

"I reckon so," agreed Hermione, returning his sheepish smile. Hermione looked down at him tenderly, seeing the love in his eyes and wondered how she hasn't seen it before. She chuckled inwardly; realising that she was the girl that she was so jealous of, the girl she was ready to amputate because Ron had the audacity to fancy her instead of...well her. She looked down on his cobalt blue eyes again and saw mirth in them. "What is it, Ron?"

"I just realised that I just un-braided your hair," said Ron, combing his fingers through her locks.

"Well, I have a feeling that you'll have plenty of opportunities to braid them again." Hermione chuckled angelically. "Later, right now we have more important matters to deal with," smiled Hermione, as she lowered herself on him.

"I look forward to it then," smiled Ron against her lips.

Their second kiss was just as tender as their first and just as sweet. Hermione felt time standing still, rewinding and fast-forwarding simultaneously. She felt the present, saw the past and foreseen the future and they all have one common denominator, Ronald Weasley. Hermione saw their future being woven together like braids in her hair and it was beautiful and idyllic with many kisses and hair braiding sessions and for the first time she believed that her possible near future was indeed very conceivable.


(1) Harry Potter, characters, names, and all related indicia are not my invention, but trademarks of J.K. Rowling, various publishers including, but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers -- no profit is gained from the writing of this story. (2) The poem "Braiding" is written by Li-Young Lee and could be found in his anthology entitled Rose, published in 1986. (3) The quote: "the lady doth protest too much, methinks," is from Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii). (4) This is a fan fiction and as such names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination that is, those not mentioned in the previous clauses and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.