Disclaimer: I totally don't own J.K. Rowling's characters. Never did, never will.
A/N: There. (sighs) .All done. Sorry to keep you guys waiting, writer's block hit home; then something came up. Anyway, thanks to all the reviewers, totally appreciate you guys taking time to review this story! Love you guys! … and so now, on with chapter 2!
"That's all of it, then", Harry said, looking around the room. He had started unpacking his things two days ago, and finished just this evening. The room looked comfortable and neat enough for him. He had hung up the poster of his favourite quidditch team on the walls, and apart from that, nothing else decorated the walls; save several pictures of him, Hermione and Ron during the Hogwarts days. There were three of these pictures in total, and the people inside them were waving merrily at him. Harry waved his wand and the stack of boxes piled up neatly against the walls. He'd carry that downstairs once he was done with the sweeping.
"Oh, you're done", said a voice. Harry turned, finding Hermione leaning against the doorframe, watching him. She was wearing a white blouse, and jeans to match. Her hair was tied up simple and she wasn't wearing any make-up. "Looks comfy", she remarked, looking around. She noticed the pictures and walked over to them; her lips curving into a smile at the sight of the picture Ron quarreling with her picture. "So do I pass?" Harry asked her. "Hmm, out of ten, maybe 7", Hermione said airily, then smiled again. "Well, not as bad as I thought", he said. Hermione laughed. It was a clear, silver laughter, and it was delightful to the ears.
"When you're done, come downstairs. I want you to meet someone", she said, pausing at the door. Harry turned around. He cocked an eyebrow at her for curiosity, then shrugged. "Sure", he said. Hermione descended the stairs, making for the living room.
After a few minutes, Harry found Hermione talking to a young woman with long auburn hair and grey eyes. He cleared his throat to catch their attention. "Oh, there you are. Kay, I want you to meet someone. This is Harry -Kay, Harry ; and Harry, Kay. She's one of my best friends", Hermione stood beside Harry, introducing them. Harry shook her hand, smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. "Her real name is Kate, really, but everyone's so used to calling her Kay", Hermione said, pouring some hot chocolate for Harry. "One or two?" she asked him, her hand pausing on the jar full of marshmallows. "Just one", he replied, rubbing his hands together to warm himself up. Hermione placed the cup in front of him. He sipped a little bit from the scalding drink.
"So, what do you do, Kay?" Harry asked her, genuinely interested. She gave a small smile. "I work for her", she answered, pointing at Hermione. Harry laughed. "How is it? Is she bossy?" continued Harry, looking with laughing eyes at Hermione. Hermione glared at him. "Oh, to death!" Kay replied, dramatically. Then both of them laughed at Hermione. 'Ha ha, ha. For your information, Harry, I'm the nicest boss there ever was, and if you don't stop, Kay, I swear I'm holding your pay", Hermione threatened. "Oh, lighten up, Herms. I was just kidding", Kay said, lifting her cup to her mouth. Harry smiled. He rose from his feet and walked to the fireplace to stroke the fire, placing a log here, adjusting a log there with a poker.
When he was doing so, he had his back turned to them. Making sure he couldn't look their way, Kay nudged Hermione. Hermione looked at her friend questioningly. "What?" she whispered. "Nice catch. Where'd you get him? You never told me!" Kay whispered back, raising an eyebrow slyly at Hermione. "What! Oh you think – you think he's my … boyfriend?" Hermione formed the word with disbelief. Kay nodded quickly. "Then what? Your shag partner last night? You're way too straight for that, honey. I know you. Of course your boyfriend!" Kay replied, looking over at Harry's outline against the fire. She nodded her head in approval, her eyes never leaving Harry. "He's not my boyfriend!" Hermione whispered back urgently. Kay looked at her in surprise. "So why are you with him? He's not sleeping with you, he's not your boyfriend … Oh wait … don't tell me … it's work?" Kay said sarcastically. "No-o-o, and if you gave me a chance to get a word in edgewise, you'd know that he's my new housemate. Come on, he's Harry Potter, for goodness sake; my best friend!" Hermione nearly raised her voice to convince Kay.
Kay, meanwhile, was surprised at the mention of Harry's name. "The Harry Potter? Is here? Your best friend? Why didn't you tell me earlier? … I knew there was something familiar about his face. Just couldn't put it where… couldn't see his scar…" Kay said, mostly to herself. "It's there, Kay. I told you to get glasses", Hermione said, grinning at her friend. Kay narrowed her eyes at Hermione. "Hmphh!" was all she managed, when Harry got back.
"The fire is nice and roaring. Put in some new logs… What?" he asked them, noticing Hermione's triumphant face and Kay's sour one. "Did I miss something?" he continued, sitting down. "No… no", Hermione cut in when Kay started to explain. "Aiaiai…" Kay muttered, throwing up her hands. She looked at her watch. "Oh well, I have to go. Have to fetch my little sister from her piano class. Nice to meet you, Harry", she said, rising from her chair. Harry and Hermione stood with her. "Same here", Harry said, shaking her hand. "Bye, Herms. See you on Monday". She hugged Hermione goodbye before whispering so only she could hear it, " Tell me everything. Have fun". Hermione's eyes widened in shock as she realized Kay's words. Kay grinned at her, then smiled at Harry, before closing the door shut behind her.
Hermione only shook her head slightly as she cleared the coffee table. "I definitely missed something", Harry said, looking at her. "Come on, spit it out", he said, looking at her in the eye. Hermione breathed deeply. "Oh well, she assumed we were together. And she just found out you're Harry Potter". Harry laughed. "Oh, I thought I had something stuck in my teeth", he said. Hermione laughed. Harry helped her carry the cups and marshmallow jar. "So, what did you tell her then?" he asked curiously, setting the cups in the sink. "About what?" Hermione questioned as she arranged the spice jars on the counter. "Us", he replied simply. Hermione stopped what she was doing.
Somehow, the way he said it, indifferent as it sounded, stirred something in her. Hermione couldn't put her finger on it. She brushed the feeling away. "Umm, that we're best friends…", she replied. Harry grinned. "What did she say about that?" he asked, a chuckle in his voice. "Seemed to think it was impossible. Insisted that I was sleeping with you", she said, shaking her head. Harry laughed. Hermione joined in the joke. "Curious, isn't it? The way people seem to think that individuals of different sexes can't just be friends?" Harry said. He was now cleaning the cups. "Yeah, but to those who know us –you, Ron and me, I think they were forced to change their opinions", Hermione added, crossing her arms and leaning against the counter. Harry nodded.
Hermione waited for him to wipe his hands dry before saying anything. Once he was done, he turned around to face her. " I was wondering, Harry. Those 5 years abroad; met anyone yet?" Hermione asked him casually. Harry seemed surprised at her question. Nevertheless, he answered, " No. Not yet. Why?" Hermione responded with relief. "No, it's just… well, Ron's been nagging me to go out and meet people. At least I won't be the only one he's going to annoy'
'We'll suffer together", she replied cheerfully. Harry took her by the arm, leading her to the living room, laughing. They sat on the couch together, watching the fire crackle and hiss, the embers glowing red and brighter every minute until it seemed near impossible for it to be redder than it already is. The snow outside was still falling, never ceasing. Hermione snuggled closer to Harry to get warm. He stroked her hand with his thumb absent mindedly. Perhaps it was the comfortable feeling she had in her chest, perhaps it was because it was snowing outside, perhaps it was because he was close to her making her feel safe. Whatever the reason was, she did not pull herself away from him, and just relaxed herself in his arms. A couple of uneventful minutes passed, and still they remained the way they were.
Hermione yawned. "Can we just sleep here for tonight?" she asked Harry. "Sure", he replied. Minutes later, they were dozing in front of the fire comfortably.
"Hey, guys…got any breakfast?" Ron said apparating in the foyer. He looked around, the whole place was quiet. He expected Hermione at least, to be busy in the kitchen right now. He checked his watch. 10.30 am. He was assured of his usual late self. 'Must be out', he said to himself. The curtains were halfway drawn close, only a little of the light outside was creeping into the living room. Something was definitely wrong. Hermione prided herself on never having Ron find out when exactly she allows light inside during his stay here. Now this?
Ron ventured to the sofas. He heard the sound of regular breathing somewhere nearby; but where? Then he saw them. Harry and Hermione were sleeping on the couch comfortably. Harry had his arm around her waist protectively; his face in her hair. Hermione, Ron saw, had a smile playing on her lips –probably having a nice dream. Not hard to wonder why. He saw this coming. Still, he grinned silently. Well, he definitely will have his normal Sunday breakfast, whether his friends were still sleeping or not. Ron walked over to the windows, pulling the curtains open, allowing the sunlight into the room. "Good morning, everyone!" he then said, walking over to them. Hermione was the first one to wake up.
"Ron?" she said groggily, sitting up. "Yes…", he answered, looking at her; grinning. Hermione got off the couch, stretching. Harry stirred. " 'Mione?" Harry whispered, his hands searching for her. "No", Ron replied. Harry opened his eyes quickly. "Ron!" he exclaimed, sitting up quickly. "Glad you got that right, mate", he replied, shifting Harry's leg and sitting in place of it. Harry smiled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Hermione tied her hair and looked at the grandfather clock across the living room. "10.45? How come it didn't wake us up? Maybe it's broken…", she started, walking towards it. "Doubt it, Hermione. You've had too pleasant a dream last night", Ron said, controlling a laugh. Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "Perverted minds are disgusting", she said, climbing the stairs. Ron laughed. "She's the one with it. I didn't say a word about anything". Harry got off the couch, gave a yawn, laughed and stretched. "What did happen last night?" Ron asked Harry, a very disturbed and suspicious expression on his face. "Nothing. We just slept here. That's all", Harry replied, heading for the stairs.
"Yeah, and my name is Barney", Ron muttered under his breath. As much as he wanted the two of them to get together, the idea of them sleeping together as the first step was way too fast. Thank god he's around. Right.
Hermione tied her hair in a bun. She wrapped a shawl around her and grabbed her glasses on the bedside table. Normally she wouldn't need it, but around working around books; she had to. "Harry", she cried out as she descended the stairs. "Here", an answer came from the kitchen. "I'm going to the bookshop. See you later", she said, grabbing some floo powder. She heard quick footsteps coming. "But today's Saturday", Harry reasoned. "Yes, and the bookshop is open", Hermione said. Harry gave her a look that said 'So?'. Hermione rolled her eyes at him and smiled. "I need to go, Harry", she said, throwing the powder into the fireplace. The fire blazed up suddenly. "Oh, all right. See you later, then", Harry said, then stepped forward to give her peck on the cheek. Hermione gave him hug and stepped into the green flames.
"Ronald", Luna said, waving a hand before his face. "What?" he said, coming out of his reverie. "What are you thinking about?" she asked, lacing her fingers through his. "Harry and Hermione", was his reply. "You want to get them together but they're obvious to the fact that they like each other?" she said, in that weird sometimes creepy monotonous tone of hers. "Mmmhh", he said, kissing her head. "And people wonder why I love you so much". Then they left the conversation at that, occupied with other things on their mind.
"Oh, no… just put it over there with the others", directed Hermione, pointing to a stack of papers on her desk. She was talking to Calvin, her new assistant. He was a tall young man with short blonde hair and blue eyes. Total model looks. "Okay, so now what?" he asked. "Well, now, we rest", Hermione said, smiling. Calvin laughed. They sat down in companionable silence as Hermione conjured up some hot chocolate. Hermione sipped her drink slowly, once in a while blowing slowly to help cool it. Calvin looked over at the bookshop, taking the atmosphere of the place in. The place was nice and cosy -he was lucky he even got a job here. The former assistant was a sister-in-law and through her recommendation, he got the job. Calvin sipped his drink. His boss was nice too, that was certainly an assurance.
"Ah!" Hermione cried out, dropping her mug on the floor. She had burned her tongue and it caught her off guard, making her lose her grip on the mug. "Oh", Hermione said, slapping her hand on her forehead. "No matter", Calvin said, setting his mug on the counter. "It's all right", she said, quickly squatting down to pick up the mug. Calvin got down to help her. With a flick of his wand, the mess cleared up.
The doorbell rang. "Hermione, are you…" Harry started to say, then he stopped. He looked at both of them. They were standing close to each other, having gotten up together at the same time Harry entered. "Am I … interrupting something?" he asked, a suspicious look in his eyes. Hermione immediately distanced herself from Calvin. "No...Calvin was just helping me clear up the mess", she said, indicating the floor. "What mess?" Harry asked. "I spilt some hot chocolate on the floor accidentally and Calvin … he helped me clear it up", Hermione answered. Calvin stared between the two. The tension was making him tense. "Oh, you must be Hermione's boyfriend. I'm Calvin; her assistant here. Nice to meet you", he immediately said, offering his hand to Harry. Harry took and shook it firmly. "Harry. Nice to meet you too", he replied, giving him a smile.
Calvin looked at him for a while and said, " Harry Potter?"
Calvin gave him a big grin. "I've wanted to meet you for some time now. I've read all about you", he said, his grin widening. "That's the same thing Hermione said the first time I met her", Harry remarked. He looked over at her. Hermione was indifferent.
"Oh, and we're not in a relationship", he added. Calvin raised his eyebrows at that slightly, and nodded.
Harry turned to Hermione. Before he could say anything, Hermione said coldly, "Was there anything important you wanted to talk to me about, Harry?" Harry opened his mouth and closed it again. He tried again. "Ron invited us both for a dinner at his place. So I was wondering, whether you would want to go tonight", he replied lamely. Hermione heaved a long sigh. 'Why is Harry acting this way?
Well, whatever it is, I'm too tired to sort it out'. She turned around for Calvin to tell him something only to find him not there. 'Probably wanted to give us some time alone'
She turned to face Harry.
"Oh, I suppose we'll go. It wouldn't do to refuse an invitation from Mrs. Weasley. Besides, it's been longer than a fortnight since I've seen her…She'll definitely want to see you, Harry", Hermione added the last sentence as an afterthought. She sat at her table, reaching for her accounts book. "When is it?" she asked, jotting down today's date. "At six", Harry supplied the answer. The grandfather clock struck 5.00. Hermione glanced momentarily at it, then shut the book. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes with her fingers. Harry noticed that she looked tired. "You know, if you're tired we can just have a quiet dinner at home. I'm sure Mrs. Weasley wouldn't mind if we told her…" he said, laying a hand on her arm. Hermione shook her head. "No, I'm perfectly fine, Harry. Don't worry", she said, giving him a genuine but somewhat weak smile.
"I think it's best we get home. I need to get ready for the dinner", Hermione said, getting up from her armchair. She walked to the rows of bookshelves where Calvin was dusting a few books. Harry saw her say something to him and then both of them laughing together. He felt that sudden painful pang in his heart at that moment. He brushed it off without bothering to assess it. "I've told Calvin to manage the store while I'm gone. Let's go, Harry…" she said, and she gave her wand a flick to disapparate home.
Twenty minutes later, Hermione came down the stairs. "So… how do I look?"
Harry turned to find himself gaping at Hermione in awe. She was wearing a white sweater with black trousers. Clean, fresh, natural. The white brought out the shade of her hair just right. He had the sudden urge to run his hand through her hair. It looked so soft, smelled so fresh…
"Harry?" she asked him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You look absolutely beautiful", he said, catching himself in time. Hermione just laughed. "You're worse than Ron", she said, taking her coat off the hanger. "Is there anything you want?" she asked, as he helped her with her coat. "No", he said. Hermione just shook her head at him and rolled her eyes. "Then again… come to my room tonight, Ms. Granger?" he said cheekily, raising an eyebrow at her. "HARRY!" she said, astounded. "What?" he said, shrugging. "A man's got needs.." he continued, saying slowly. "HARRY!"
"Kidding, 'Mione", he said, assuring her. He noticed her laughing and astonishment did herself some good. She at least looks far from tired now.
"Honestly, men", she said. Harry chuckled. "Well, come on", he said. Hermione held onto his hand. In the blink of an eye, they were gone.
"No, no…I'll handle the chicken, you get the door, Ginny", Mrs. Weasley said, her hand on the oven handle. Ginny quickly ran to get the door. She opened it and upon seeing who it was, emitted an excited squeak before hugging Harry tightly. Harry, to say the least, seemed surprised at her reaction, but hugged her back all the same. Hermione felt an uneasy feeling well inside her, looking at them. After what seemed like a long time to Hermione, Ginny let go of Harry and greeted Hermione. They hugged and Ginny took her coat. She led both of them to the living room, where the rest of the family were waiting.
Once they entered, the Weasleys stood up to greet them. "Nice to see you, Harry", said Mr. Weasley warmly, shaking his hand. "Hermione…" he said, hugging her lightly. He looked a little older now; compared to when Harry last saw him. Ron stepped forward to shake his hand and hug him lightly. "Mate", he said, then greeted Hermione before hugging her. Then next was Fred and George, each finishing the other's sentence off. "Hello, there Harry", said George.
"…and Hermione. We never thought' continued Fred.
–'we'd see you again, mate'
"But now that we have'
–'we'd like you to meet our wives'
"Angelina', said Fred.
"…and Katie", supplied George.
Harry was genuinely surprised to see them. By them, he meant Angelina and Katie. Both were healthily pregnant. The two women hugged him and gave him a friendly peck on the cheek. "Now, now. Let's not get carried away", Fred joked, lacing his fingers with Angelina's. She just rolled her eyes at him. "I swear, I liked it better before we were married…Nice to see you again, Harry", she said, beaming. Harry chuckled and nodded in reply. Hermione just shook her head lightly and laughed. Katie meanwhile, was already walking towards a chair, huffing; her arm on George who was helping her. Well, things have changed a lot.
"Harry, dear. How are you?" a voice said behind him. Harry turned to find himself facing Mrs. Weasley. "Fine, Mrs. Weasley", he said. She hugged him and smoothed the wrinkles in his shirt. "And how are you, Hermione?" Mrs. Weasley said, before hugging her and placing a kiss on her cheek. "I'm fine, Mrs. Weasley", she replied, smiling at the motherly figure who was now turning to fuss over Harry. "Are you sure you're all right dear? You do seem healthier but you're still not…" and so on.
Five minutes later, Ginny came out of the kitchen and announced that dinner was ready. They all dined outside, with the sky as the ceiling. Dinner was delicious, with comfort food like chocolate pudding and crème brulee for desert. During dessert, Harry sat next to Hermione, and was talking to her. Ron who was sitting across the table with Luna next to him, eyed them with a curious eye and nudged Ginny with his elbow. "Ron! What is it?" Ginny said, annoyed. She was drinking some wine and he made her spill half of it down her dress. She took out her wand and aimed it at her dress, muttered a spell for drying, and pocketed her wand once she was done. "What was it then, Ron?"
He whistled and inclined his head slightly towards Harry and Hermione's direction.
Ginny's eyes rounded. "Oh…" she said, as her lips curved into a smile. Luna, interested, looked at Harry and Hermione briefly, then leaned in and said, "We've been thinking, Ginny…"
"Goodbye, and thank you so much again, Mrs. Weasley", Hermione said as Harry helped her with her coat. "You're welcome, dear. If you both ever need anything, you know where to find us", Mrs. Weasley said. Harry and Hermione just smiled and nodded. A minute later, they apparated home.
Hermione yawned and stretched herself luxuriantly. "I'm so sleepy", she said, her hand on the handrail. "Goodnight, Harry". Hermione walked over to Harry and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Goodnight 'Mione", he said, pulling her body close for a light hug. "Sleep tight", he muttered under his breath as he heard the bedroom door close. He touched the spot on his cheek where she kissed him lightly, smiled, and sighed as he trudged himself upstairs to his bedroom.
A/N: Now…..review! (much love goes to you guys who do! )