Disclaimer: I own nothing that has anything to do with Harry Potter. All that stuff belongs to JK Rowling. I just wanted to play in her world a bit to make mine seem more fun.

Chapter 10

"NO!"

All the heads of those in attendance turned toward the horrible sound, only to see Victoria standing there, clenching her fists. "You can't do that! Don't I have a say!?"

Lily narrowed her eyes at the sight of the young woman; the one whom she had expressly forbidden from entering her home. 'No more Ms. Nice Guy!' she thought to herself. Harry paled at the look on his mother's face as she spotted his girlfriend. He looked helplessly at Hermione, who urgently whispered to Lily and the two women quickly left the room.

Harry swiftly made his way to Victoria and escorted her outside before she started yelling. "What are you doing here?"

"It's your birthday, Harry," she purred. "And I'm your girlfriend. I deserve to be with you today.

"Now what's this nonsense about you quitting your job and moving back here?" she continued. "That's not what we agreed on."

Harry snorted. "We never even discussed it! You made decisions and never informed me of them."

"Well, I suppose I could live here," Victoria pushed on, ignoring Harry completely. "So where is your flat? Virginia Water? Kensington?" she asked, naming some of the most posh areas to live in London.

"No, I've gotten a place not too far from here," Harry corrected her.

"Aren't you going to tell me, so I can tell the movers where to take my things?" Victoria said coyly.

"Again, you're making assumptions and decisions without talking with me about them," Harry said, his voice oddly detached.

"I am your girlfriend and I demand to be told where I will be living!" Victoria stamped her foot.

"Still at your mum and dad's, I imagine," Harry said coldly.

"But Harry, how will I know where to come visit you?" Victoria pouted, trying a new tactic.

"You won't," was his simple reply.

"But I'm your girlfriend!" she reiterated.

"There you go again with the assumptions!" Harry replied, feeling bold. "I've had enough of it, Victoria. And I'm through. With all of it."

"But it's your birthday! You can't break up with me on your birthday!" Victoria stammered. "You're supposed to be nice to everyone today!"

"It's my birthday," Harry corrected. "You're supposed to be nice to me, not the other way around."

"Oh I can be nice," Victoria purred, trying to be sexy. "Remember how nice I can be?"

Harry forcibly removed her hand from his arm. "Good-bye, Victoria. Please don't try to contact me."

"Well, if that's how you're going to be, fine!" Victoria huffed. "But I'm breaking up with you!"

"Ok!" Harry readily agreed. "Whatever you want. Good-bye."

"But- but- but… that's not the way it was supposed to go!" Victoria wailed as she stormed from the house.

Harry sighed as he turned to go into the house. He wasn't surprised to see Lily waiting for him. "Hey, Mum. I'm really sorry," he began.

"I know you are," Lily interrupted him. "It was a chance we had to take. She knew where and when the party was."

"I was hoping she took to heart the note I sent earlier and stayed away," Harry replied.

"It's ok, Little One," Lily answered, ruffling his hair. "Although after tonight, I guess I can't really call you that any longer," she added wistfully.

Harry embraced his mother. "Mum, I will always be your Little One. Even when I have my own little ones."

Lily smiled at her only son. This was the first time he had ever mentioned having children. And she couldn't help but think that maybe the brunette witch he recently befriended was the reason why. Mother and son had just re-entered the house when saw Hermione waiting for them, just inside the back door.

"Hey," Hermione softly.

"Hi, Hermione," he replied, gesturing through the still-open door. "Shall we?"

Hermione giggled and went out the door Lily had just entered. They walked to the chairs someone had set up and took a seat, neither saying anything for a few minutes. Harry was gazing up at the full moon, wishing Remus could be there that night, when Hermione placed her hand on Harry's knee to get his attention.

"Are you ok?" she asked quietly. "It sucks breaking up with someone on your birthday."

He chuckled at her words; he should have known Hermione would have sussed out what had happened. Harry turned to her and smiled at her concern. He kissed her cheek. "I'm ok," he reassured her.

She searched his eyes to make sure he was telling the truth and he just looked back straight into her eyes. Hermione blushed at the intensity in his eyes and lowered her own eyes to avoid his gaze. Before he could stop himself, Harry reached out and placed two fingers under her chin to gently guide her to look up at him.

He kissed her very lightly and gently, barely missing her lips. "I promise. I really am ok with this," he added. "I actually feel relieved."

Harry smiled and Hermione returned it with a shy one of her own. "Come on, let's go back inside," she suggested. "I'm sure people are wondering if she killed you or vice versa."

The pair made their way back to the party. They stopped abruptly when they saw Sirius wearing his clown suit. "So that's what that get-up is for," Harry mumbled quietly, mostly to himself.

The entire party was watching as Sirius made balloon animals and did magic "tricks". And one of his tricks currently had James hanging upside down.

"Are those two ever going to grow up?" they heard Molly Weasley huff to Lily, obviously upset with the situation.

Lily smiled fondly. "Probably not."

James looked out at the people surrounding Sirius and himself, his view slightly distorted given his current positioning. This idea to get everyone to forget the confrontation and get back into the party mood worked perfectly. Despite the juvenility of it, this was definitely one of their better plans. He noticed his son and the brunette standing close by and winked at them.

The party continued smoothly, with no one asking Harry about what happened. Hermione expected it was because of something James and Sirius said. The men might act like giant kids, but they really cared about their family and would do anything to help…including acting like idiots.

Harry had fun with his mates from school and he was happy to see them getting on with his co-workers, well his ex-coworkers now. He swallowed his lager and smiled at a joke Seamus and Dean were telling. Everyone laughed at the punch-line and Harry was happy to see Hermione right there in the group. Not caring who saw, he moved directly behind Hermione and wrapped his arms around her stomach. She instinctively leaned against his chest as he rested his chin ion the top of her head.

Watching the couple flirt, once again, Ginny felt those familiar pangs of jealousy; despite what she'd told Harry and Hermione previously, she knew perfectly well that was jealous of their relationship. She was happy with Neville, really, but it was just seeing them like that – so at ease with each other; it was as if they'd known the other for years. She'd been the one to meet him first and go to school with Harry; she'd been the one to be with him first. But now it was her he obviously wanted to be with. And he'd only known her for 2 days! Ginny just didn't get it. She, herself, had chased Harry for years before pinning him down briefly. During that time, he hadn't done anything overtly to show he was taken. And once Victoria had gotten her claws into him, it had taken almost two full months before he'd shown any sort of affection for her in public.

'It's just not fair!' Ginny fumed to herself, as Harry whispered something to Hermione and she giggled. She watched them closely, noting Harry's reluctance to let go of Hermione, even for a moment; he always had contact with her in some way. She had to grudgingly concede he'd never looked as happy as he did at that moment with Hermione; she made his emerald eyes sparkle like precious jewels and a smile never left his face. There was no way she (or any other woman, for that matter!) could compete with that. Ginny concluded she would always be known as Ron's little sister, and would be nothing more, not even a friend, if she acted like a jealous bitch toward the woman Harry was falling in love with.

Harry was genuinely happy with Hermione and they weren't even dating. She could only imagine what he would be like when they did start. 'I've got to let this silly crush and jealousy go, once and for all,' she told herself firmly. She walked over to Neville and hugged and kissed him.

"What brought that on, Gin?" Neville asked, still holding his girlfriend close.

"I just wanted to," she answered shyly.

Neville smiled down at her softly and kissed her lips tenderly. That's when Ginerva Molly Weasley came to the realization that the way Harry looked at and acted toward Hermione, was the same way Neville looked at and acted toward her. She loved this man who held her tight. She kissed him again. "I'll be right back, Nev. I love you."

Ginny made her way to Hermione and tapped the girl on her shoulder. "Um, hey, Hermione. May I speak with you? It won't take but a moment," she hurriedly added. "Please?"

The last word softened Hermione. "Sure."

The two girls moved to a corner of the room that wasn't occupied. Hermione looked at the younger girl, waiting for her to start.

Ginny took a deep breath. "I owe you a huge apology," she began, softly. "I acted like a jealous twit yesterday, because that's what I was; very jealous of your relationship with Harry and how quickly it has progressed.

"Jealousy stirred in me; something that I hadn't felt in years," she continued. "But I know he and I will never be together, as certain as I am that you and he will be together," she said. "And I promise I won't be a jealous twit anymore towards you and Harry. He deserves to finally be happy and I know he will be with you," Ginny finished.

"Thank you, Ginny," Hermione said. "You have no idea what this means to me."

The two girls embraced briefly and Harry, who'd been watching them, blinked and smirked to himself. Both girls were smiling and no one had drawn their wand – two very good things.

"Come on, let's go back," Hermione suggested.

Ginny nodded her consent and the girls walked arm-in-arm back to the group. Though there were a few raised eyebrows from those who'd witnessed Ginny's temper tantrum last night, no one said anything about her sudden attitude adjustment.

Harry's friends had loads of stories about him growing up, getting into trouble at almost every turn; but mostly they told stories about Harry discovering the opposite sex. Hermione laughed at Harry's exploits, while Harry took it all in stride, burying his head in Hermione's neck, laughing all the while.

It was while watching Harry with his friends, that James got a bright idea. "Attenion!" James called out.

Lily looked up from her conversation with Arthur Weasley, a feeling of dread coming over her. She excused herself and quickly made her way to her husband. James then told her what he wanted to do, and she felt her body relax.

When most people continued chatting, James cast the sonorous charm on this throat. "Can you hear me now?"

"Yes!" everyone screamed, holding their ears.

"Excellent!" he exclaimed. "I want to propose a toast. 24 years ago, the most wonderful thing in the world happened to me."

"You got Lily drunk and she finally agreed to date you!?" Sirius yelled, causing chuckles in the room.

"No!" James shot back. "That was how I got her to marry me though," he added grinning mischievously.

"Anyway," he continued, after dodging Lily's swat. "24 years ago, I got to meet the cutest little baby in the world; he looked exactly like me," he joked.

This time Lily was able to land a hit. "He was so sweet and I fell in love with him at first sight," Lily took over. "Even if he did look like James," she added impishly.

James laughingly pulled his wife to him and kissed her soundly. "He may look like me, but he has your beautiful eyes."

"Flatterer," Lily replied, kissing him back.

"I try," James mumbled against her lips. He deepened their already passionate kiss, either forgetting or simply disregarding the assembled audience.

"So what I think Mr. & Mrs. Potter were saying," Sirius chimed in. "Before they started trying to give Harry a baby brother or sister, IN FRONT OF HIM, is that they are proud of you and the man you have become and they love you," he finished. "Now, I suggest more drinks, quickly, to forget…that," he added, pointing at Lily and James' embrace. "To Harry!"

"To Harry!" the party echoed.

"And to memory charms!" someone added. The ensuing uproarious laughter was enough to bring James and Lily out of their public spectacle. The each smiled sheepishly and quickly exited the main room.

After that public display, one by one and couple by couple, people started to leave, wishing Harry one last happy birthday before Apparating home or even onto another location to continue partying.

It was well after midnight when Ron and Luna, the last two stragglers, Apparated home – or rather Luna side-Apparated Ron home, as he was too drunk to do it properly.

Hermione and Lily were walking around, half-heartedly picking up some of the garbage. As they passed the couches, Harry and James reached out pulled the girls' arms. Lily landed next to James on the couch, while Hermione landed on Harry's lap in an overstuffed chair.

James pulled Lily until she was practically on top of him. "Just leave it for tomorrow," he mumbled into her ear. "Plus, I want to finish what we started earlier."

Lily snuggled into her husband's embrace. "Ok," she quickly agreed. "Especially on that second suggestion."

Sirius plopped onto the couch next to his cuddling best friends. He smiled at his godson and the girl sitting in his lap. He noticed Hermione's head on Harry's shoulder, her eyes shining brightly; he saw Harry's arms wrapped around Hermione, holding her close to his body. She giggled when he poked her side.

The small group made idle chit chat for a few minutes before Sirius had had enough. "So are you planning on telling us where your new flat is?" he blurted out.

Harry smirked in response. "I'll take you there when it's ready."

James and Sirius pouted and Harry chuckled. "I'll give you a hint," he added. Immediately the men perked up. "It's within walking distance of here."

James groaned and Sirius smacked his head in frustration. The Potters lived in a fairly populated area; there were numerous homes and apartment complexes within "walking distance". Hermione and Lily giggled at their severely exaggerated reactions to this news.

Hermione's giggles were broken up by a yawn. She glanced at her watch and saw it had gone past 1 AM. "I should get back," she said reluctantly.

"You can stay here," James offered. "You know you're always welcomed."

"I know," Hermione answered, standing up. "And I appreciate it. But I'm going to go home tonight."

"I'll make sure she gets home safely," Harry added.

Hermione smiled shyly and nodded. She said her farewells to the small family. She and Harry made their way to the foyer to Disapparate.

"I'll guide us to my flat. I want to get a few things before tomorrow, if you don't mind," Harry whispered into Hermione's ear.

She nodded again as Harry discreetly grabbed her hand. "Good night!" she called out to Lily, James and Sirius. The next second she was standing in Harry's new flat.

Hermione waited patiently while Harry bustled around, grabbing the things he needed for tomorrow, including the Quidditch tickets. "Don't want to let these out of my sight," he remarked.

Once he had everything squared away, he opened the door for Hermione and locked it behind him.

"So, um, did you want to come in for a second?" Hermione asked as they walked to her door.

"I'd better not," Harry answered, his voice unsteady.

The walk upstairs was quiet until they reached Hermione's door, awkwardness setting in for the very first time since they'd been thrust together. It seemed as though neither wanted the night to end, but each was unsure how to continue the evening.

"Thank you for today," Harry said, breaking the silence. "For the tickets, for helping me find a flat…just, for everything."

"You're welcome, Harry," Hermione answered shyly. "Happy birthday."

She leaned up and kissed his cheek softly. "Are you sure you don't want to come in for a little while?" she asked, secretly hoping he would agree.

"No," Harry replied, his voice unsteady. "And that's exactly why I'm not coming in."

"Oh, ok," Hermione answered, trying to hide her disappointment. "Well then, good night, Harry Potter. And happy birthday, again."

Harry grinned at the brunette girl in front of him. He knew she was conflicted about her feelings, because he was as well. He wrapped his arms around her in reassurance that he wasn't rejecting her in the slightest bit. "Good night, Hermione. Sleep well and sweet dreams." He kissed her cheek and smirked at her slight blush. "I will see you tomorrow."

"Ok," Hermione agreed, happily. She kissed his cheek again, lingering just a little bit. "Pleasant dreams, Harry."

Harry smirked and waited until the door closed behind her, before heading up to his new flat to Apparate home.

The first thing Hermione noticed when she entered her flat, was that Desse was nowhere to be found; it was a little odd, since usually the Crup was there to greet her, happy to finally have company. A noise, sounding faintly like a whimper, came from her hall closet. She drew her wand and slowly made her way toward the sound, wishing Harry wasn't so noble and was with her right now.

"Put that thing away before you hurt someone."

The voice startled Hermione and she jumped. There, sitting on the couch she'd just passed, was Josh. "What are you doing here, Josh?" she asked impatiently.

"Aw, I thought you'd be happy to see me, Hermy!" he slurred. "Is the party for your new little boyfriend over already?"

"He's not my boyfriend," Hermione stated firmly. "And right now you really need to leave. You're drunk and I don't want you here. Go home."

"No," he said strongly, standing up. "Not until I get what I deserve for putting up with you." He took a few menacing steps toward Hermione.

Without a second thought, Hermione spun on the spot and Apparated to Harry's bedroom. She didn't hear Josh curse and hurl the object closest to him at the place she'd just vacated. He briefly contemplated where she would go before narrowing his eyes angrily and Apparating.

He was shocked when, instead of landing at his intended destination, he felt as though he'd hit a brick wall and was bounced back. When he opened his eyes, he realized he was outside Hermione's flat. He tried to Apparate back into Hermione's home, but kept hitting that proverbial wall. He punched Hermione's door heatedly before he Apparated back to his home.

Hermione's knees buckled and gave out when she landed in Harry's old room; at that moment she was so grateful he had accidentally Apparated her there the previous day, so she had the right destination.

"Hello?" Harry called out from the adjoining bathroom, after hearing the telltale pop of Apparation, followed by the bell chime to signify who had entered the home.

"Harry?" Hermione answered weakly.

"Miss me already?" he joked, entering his room, rubbing a towel through his wet hair. He stopped abruptly when he saw the state she was currently in.

He rushed right over and gathered her body to his. She wound her arms around his neck and clung to him as what had almost happened caught up with her. "Shh, it's ok," Harry said soothingly. He rubbed her back, waiting for her to calm down. "What happened?"

Hermione swallowed. "Josh. He was waiting for me in my flat," she said. "I think he used the Floo."

Harry made a mental note to restrict her Floo access first thing in the morning. "I should have gone in there with you," Harry began. He stopped when Hermione touched his cheek.

"He was drunk," she continued softly. "He said some things and I said a few things back to him. When I said I wanted him to leave, he tried to grab me."

Harry stiffened at this revelation. "Did he..?" He couldn't even finish that sentence.

Hermione shook her head. "No. As soon as he made a move, I came here."

Harry hugged her tight. "I'm so glad you did."

Hermione gratefully returned his hug. "Me too."

A/N:: oh ye of little faith…! An update WAY quicker than what I'm sure most were expecting. But here's a little secret… these last two chapters were actually one SUPER long one. And since this half needed a little extra boost, I just split them up. A lot of you 'guessed' it was Victoria… well, I'll just say I'm definitely not writing a mystery! =] thank you to ALL of you who reviewed and to those who read as well.