28, August 2000
Hermione silently opened the door and dropped the keys on the hall table. She'd been gone for much longer than she expected but she really needed to clear her head. She drove around with the windows down, letting the wind whip her hair over with no regard for her appearance. The drive and the fresh air always brought her back to herself even on her worst day.
But she knew she needed to come home. Harry had to be worried sick by now.
She followed the hall toward the kitchen, following her sense of smell. Harry was standing in front of the stove wearing the "Kiss the Cook" apron she'd bought him to avoid getting his auror robes dirty when he cooked in a hurry. He squinted in the dimming light at a page in his cookbook, while stirring a small, bubbling saucepan on the front burner.
Of course he was in the kitchen. Harry's cure for any ailment was food. Years of Molly Weasley cloying methods had finally rubbed off on him. He baked when he was happy, roasted when he was sad and slow cooked on days that required a homey touch.
She guessed today seemed to be a combination day as he reached into the oven and prodded a roasting piece of meat with vegetables. The kitchen smelled wonderful and reminded her of something her mum cooked when she was much younger. Not that she could remember exactly when or what. Hermione made a serious effort to block out anything that reminded her too much of her mother, anything that could draw her back to that deep seeded depression that seized hold of her in the months after her death.
Hermione stood in the doorway of the kitchen. Harry turned around immediately, almost as if he could sense her. She removed her jacket and shoes throwing them on the stool at the breakfast counter. As she tossed off a pump, she heard it as Harry released a deep puff of air.
Yes, he'd been worried.
She walked to him and bowed her head into his chest. She inhaled deeply, bathing in the surprisingly easy atmosphere of being home. He wrapped her in one arm as he continued to stir with the other.
"How'd it go?" He finally asked, hesitant to break the silence. She kept quiet thinking of a way to tell Harry.
"Good, good," she said with a false amount of enthusiasm. "Everything's mine as expected. Except…Do you know anyone who might want to have sex with me?"
Harry's eyebrows shot up at the odd turn in conversation. What did Hermione's sex life, or lack thereof, have to do with her inheritance?
She pulled away from Harry and walked into the common room. As Harry called after her.
"Wait, what? Come here, Hermione," he called before removing the saucepan from the hot burner and toweling off his hands. "What are you talking about?"
By the time he reached the common room, she was sitting on the end of the sofa, clicking through the channels on the telly to tune out his voice. He yanked the remote from her hands and turned off.
She continued to look at the screen as though it were still on. He squatted in front of her as she continued to ignore him. He held her chin and forced her eyes to focus on his.
"Look at me!" He snapped. She focused her eyes on him and tears immediately began boiling over her lower lashes. "What happened?" he said in a softer tone. Except for the hand on her chin, Harry avoided physical contact with Hermione. When she was upset, any kind of comfort would send her to pieces, and he really needed to get the story out of her.
She quickly explained what happened. Harry snorted and Hermione pushed his shoulder almost knocking him back.
"How is this funny to you?" Hermione knew for sure that out of anyone, Harry would be outraged for her.
"I mean, isn't it obvious? Your father's testing you."
"Well, of course, he's testing me. Hence the test," she said exasperated.
"No, no," Harry said waving his hands a bit to clarify. "I mean, he's testing what you would do in this kind of situation. If you don't do it, do you still get everything? Did he specify a 'Hermione didn't have sex' clause?"
"But what if it isn't a test of morals and I throw it all away?"
"Then you had better shag whatever comes by first." She gave Harry a look of utter disgust. "And if that doesn't work, I volunteer my penis for your services."
"Ew, Harry," she yelped, smacking him with the nearest pillow. He smiled as he finally got a laugh out of her. He was starting to worry. "I love you Harry but no. Not that way." She blushed violently.
"Honestly, Hermione. You're set. Most of your friends are male and you have plenty of time… Sort of," he quickly amended at seeing her face. "You have a little under a month. That's enough time."
"If I couldn't do it in twenty years, what makes you think a month is enough time?" she groaned and pulled up her knees so she could hide her face in them.
"If you can't get any of the guys you know to shag you in a month then you probably shouldn't be doing it."
"I don't think I'd like to do it with a friend, though," she said pitifully.
"What about an ex then? I'm sure Ron would volunteer."
"Ew, no", she said instantly, once more hiding her face in the nearest pillow. Harry rolled his eyes at her embarrassment and modesty.
"What about Justin then?" He said referring to Justin Finch Fletchey, who Hermione had dated for a few weeks after her break with Ron. She and Justin had been a thing until he wanted to go a bit further than Hermione did.
When she didn't immediately answer Harry with an exclamation of revulsion, he took that as a good sign. "Floo him. Now." He said pulling her from the sofa.
"But you said you were low on floo powder…"
"I'll get more. You're stalling. Now." She pried herself from his grip and begrudgingly went to the fireplace. After a brief conversation, Hermione returned to the sofa where Harry still sat.
"That settles it. Tomorrow evening we're going to that dance club, Toxic." She began biting her lip, the usual sign that she was fretting.
"Stop worrying. Let's go eat."
Hours after dinner, Hermione lay in bed, absorbing the overwhelming dark silence. Every question that she was able to put off with Harry as a distraction, came flooding back tenfold. Would it hurt? Would Justin be 'the one'? Did she even want to have sex with Justin? Should she have taken Harry up on his offer?
She groaned at that thought. The last thing she needed was to be thinking about sex with Harry. If she was honest with herself, his offer was not the first time, she'd considered having sex with the Man Who Lived. She'd found herself developing some strong non-platonic feelings for some time now, a prime reason to not sleep with him.
There was no way she was going to place herself in the vulnerable position of sleeping with Harry only to crave more. More that he wouldn't give her. Despite his steadfast nature in her life, Harry was not known for his longevity in a relationship.
She didn't know what to do and the only person she wanted to talk to was the only person she shouldn't be talking to. Hermione grunted in the dark, pulling her hair in frustration.
'Screw it,' she thought. She might hate herself in the morning but for right now, she needed the comfort. She pulled her discarded pajama shorts over her knickers, tugged down her camisole, and padded down the hall to Harry's room.
Hermione knocked lightly before pushing open the door and entering without waiting for a response. Harry lay awake with his head propped on his arm as he stared at the ceiling. He looked at her as she came in.
"Hey, I was waiting on you," he said with no preamble, pulling back the covers on the left side of the bed. Relieved that she didn't wake him, she climbed into the covers and pulled them up to her chin. She turned to face him and nuzzled further into the cool sheets.
"Harry, I'm worri-" she started.
"Shut up. Go to sleep." he said gently cutting her off. "If you wanted to worry, you would have done it in your own room." She found no flaw in his logic. She figured Harry was right and found herself drifting off into a surprisingly easy sleep.
A/N: Surprise an update so soon! I felt inspired today. A Big thank you for all of you who are follow/favoriting and a very special thank you to artlover8992, rpeh, goddess bubbles, beyondthesea16, and the-power-of-love who reviewed the last chapter.