Chapter One – Summertime Dilemmas
The sun set on an affluent London estate, as a seventeen-year-old girl looked on. The girl wasn't normal, however, as she had two very close, but platonic male friends, she tended to read more than sleep, and she was a witch. Everyone Hermione Granger knew in both the magical and Muggle worlds were dating someone – everyone but her two platonic male friends. They had the ability to pretend that their lives were normal, because they weren't the target of a megalomaniac who was bent on killing them – she wasn't like them. As the best friend of the focus of a decades-old power struggle, Hermione knew she could never casually date anyone, least of all one of the friends she'd seen war and fought to the death with.
Hermione Granger stared mopingly out the window at her neighbour, Polly Pratchett, as she kissed the lips off her boyfriend on her front porch, completely unaware of the war raging around them. Hermione would have been in Polly's year at finishing school, had she not attended Hogwarts. She wondered how different her life would have been if her parents had not let her go to the all-Wizarding school, or if she'd let her parents convince her to quit the Wizarding world after her brush with death in second year.
With a wry laugh, Hermione flopped back onto her bed and let her hair fly loosely across the duvet. Who was she kidding? As inquisitive and thirsty for knowledge as she was, a pack of Mountain Trolls couldn't have kept Hermione from going to Hogwarts and learning everything there was to know about magic. Even her parent's renewed threats to take her out of school following last year's nearly fatal run-in with Voldemort's Death Eaters hadn't kept her away.
"I'm of age in the magical world," she had explained. "I can leave you and go anyway."
In truth, Hermione hadn't wanted to leave her parents and would have been hard pressed, indeed, to do so. Her perseverance had won out in the end, however, and it hadn't been necessary. Which brought her back to her current problem; she didn't have a boyfriend.
Not that she had wanted one...at first, anyway. Her mother had confronted her about her dating status soon after their near separation last summer holidays.
"If you had someone to be close with; someone who you could confide in and share your life with..."
"No, mother," Hermione said adamantly. "I've got two friends that are boys. We share just about everything together as it is. Why should I have to get a boyfriend?"
Her mother hadn't been able to provide an answer, but the nagging hadn't stopped. The seed was planted in her mind, however, and Hermione had spent the next year at school looking at her friends, Ron and Harry, in a slightly analytical way. Her scientific, unendingly curious mind couldn't help but discern all the possible scenarios if she were to become romantically involved with one or the other. When she stepped off the Hogwarts Express this year, she was no closer to taking the next critical step, and her mother seemed to know it. She waited only until they were in the car before harping on the subject once more.
"Have you given any thought to pairing off with a boy?" she queried.
Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Yes, Mum, but I'm not going to just jump into some wizard's arms and snog him senseless, now am I?"
"Yes, well..." her mother replied, "about that." She gave her father a surreptitious glance and continued, "There's a nice boy around the block that's talked about you before. The Miller's boy, you know?"
Ryan Miller was as snooty as his parents, and only tolerable for short intervals. "Yes, Mum. I know him, but what's that got to do with me getting a boyfriend?"
There was another awkward pause and her mother's hands began to wring themselves together. Hermione groaned, guessing what she was about to say. "Well...we just thought it'd be nice for you to have a date with him."
"Mother," Hermione said, pinching her nose in frustration. "Please don't tell me you've set me up with Ryan Miller." She'd rather date Malfoy...well, almost.
The date had been an unqualified disaster. The meal itself was fine, but the idiot had the gall to order her food for her, refused to listen to anything she had to say, and when the night was over, tried to kiss her! She was not amused and told her mother as much.
"Mother, don't ever interfere in my love life again. I'm not a child, and I know what I want in a man – Ryan Miller is not it!"
So, her mother, becoming much more like the cagey, intelligent dentist that she was, and not like the obsessed mother that she had been acting like, issued Hermione a challenge.
"All right, Hermione, let's compromise. If you know what you want, then find a suitable partner at your school, and we'll stay out of it. Otherwise, we'll have a full card of suitors for you when you return next year."
After that, Hermione stewed in her room for an entire hour before something hit her. She couldn't pretend to have a relationship, it just wasn't her style...and the two dunderheads she had the fortune of being close with couldn't date their way out of a wet paper bag... Still, Hermione had been forced to consider her friends differently than she had done since she was fourteen. From her observations over the previous ten months, it had become clear that she could be with one of them, but it had to be handled gently.
The idea was intriguing, and as she dwelled on it more and more, a plan formulated in her mind; one that brought back long-repressed feelings, and caused her to realise that it was only a matter of time before she would have to choose between them anyway. They were too close for one of them not to date her in the end. The only question was, how would the other one react to her choice?
It wasn't so much that Hermione wanted a good snogging partner, as much as it was that she knew neither of her best friends were going to make the decision for her. Admittedly, the snogging part probably wouldn't be too hard to adjust to. Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were anything but decisive when it came to girls, but thinking about kissing one in particular made her even more determined. But was he interested in being with her? Almost instantly another question appeared in her mind: what to do about the other one, who would be at least a little bit hurt if they did pair off?
Hermione slid off her bed and walked over to her desk. There, among the various, neatly-stacked books, homework, research pads, and notes, were two identical boxes. Each wooden box had a hinged lid with a lock and a single, engraved letter. She opened the one with the 'H' etched on the top and began to read the last letter she had received from him.
Yes, I finished the essay for Snape. He's a git for having us do such a large, involved assignment over our last Summer holiday, especially because I can't exactly find ground scarab beetle, or sliced arvango root, can I? And before you go off on me, yes...I know it's N.E.W.T. year, and that it'll help us be better prepared. But honestly, who cares about hair restoration potions, anyway?
Blimey. I sounded like Ron, just then, didn't I?
Well, Aunt Petunia is yelling at me to finish weeding the garden. Something about her Azaleas being choked to death. Talk to you later.
She replaced the letter in the box and closed the lid. The other box was opened, the one with the 'R' on it's top, and she took the top letter on the smaller stack inside.
Pig's being a bloody pain, so I'll have to make this short.
Dad's let me work with the twins in Diagon Alley. Work's good, the pay is all right, but the working environment is dodgy. I've got to test new product for four hours and run the till the rest of the time. Fred and George are being weird, too; always slipping off somewhere and whispering so I don't hear them when they get back.
Susan Bones is working in the Alley now. Her aunt (not the Minister) got her a job working at Flourish and Blott's as a stocker. I'm sure you'd like that, eh? Working with books all day sounds like your kind of thing, not hers.
Well, Pig's about to go spare, so I better send him off to you.
The two letters had come within days of each other, and to Hermione, demonstrated where she stood with both boys. Her plan started to evolve, and as she considered both Harry and Ron, she knew that her quest to turn one of them into her boyfriend was much more important than to satisfy her mother's demands; she was ready to move on, and it was time for her to choose.