Disclaimer and Acknowledgements

The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment. I seriously doubt if this is the direction she will take the story in Book 7, but if she does, she's welcome to use this.

Thanks to Kinsfire for prereading this story and offering helpful suggestions.

Introduction

Most, if not all, post-Half Blood Prince stories include a Bill and Fleur wedding scene. In my story 'Soul Searching' there was a conversation between Hermione and Ginny after the wedding that was one of the key scenes of the story. This short story features a quite different conversation between Hermione and Ginny at the wedding, which turns out to be a major turning point in the entire Harry Potter saga.

Part 1

August 1, 1997

"You really love him, don't you."

Hermione Granger was doing what came naturally to her – thinking. She, Harry, and Ron had been pursuing their task of finding and destroying Voldemort's Horcruxes for more than a month but today they had taken the day off for that 'one last golden day of peace' as Harry had termed it. They were here at the Burrow to attend Bill and Fleur's wedding. Harry had just turned seventeen the day before, so from this point forward things would get more serious since he could now legally practice magic; up to now it had mostly been research.

The makeover that the Burrow had been given for the wedding was breathtaking. There were flowers absolutely everywhere. The lawn had been perfectly manicured and the yard was overflowing with tables and chairs, each decorated in color-coordinated coverings. Each table also included an ice sculpture that had been enchanted not to melt. Professor Flitwick had recreated the fairy lights that he used to decorate the Great Hall at Christmas time, and everything was sparkling with the tiny twinkling creatures.

What wasn't visible was also impressive. Bill and his fellow curse breakers at Gringotts had joined together to envelope the Burrow with wards and charms in order to make the wedding as safe as possible. By the time they were finished it was one of the best-protected structures in Britain. Probably only Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, and Gringotts itself were more secure.

One of the interesting side effects of weddings is that they tend to make one re-evaluate and reflect on one's own romantic relationships. And so here she was, sitting in a love seat (the irony was not lost on her) off on the outskirts of the celebration area, away from the commotion, by herself, doing just that. It was not a pleasant undertaking.

The tall redheaded subject of her musings was standing across the way, engaged in a lively conversation with Harry and two of his brothers, Fred and George. As he often did, Harry had looked up a while ago with concern on his face, his eyes searching the crowd until he spotted her sitting over here all alone. She had responded to the questioning look on his face with a forced smile and a wave to show that she was all right, and that he didn't need to break off his chat with his buddies to come over to her. He had hesitated, evidently not believing her, until she waved again, flipping her hand at him as if to shoo him back to his discussion, which was no doubt on one of two subjects, quidditch or girls. She noticed as she watched them that Harry was constantly scanning the area, alert for any possible threats, and he was undoubtedly aware of exactly how many Aurors were here and where they were. Probably any ministry officials and reporters as well, she thought to herself.

The question that had interrupted her introspection had come from the youngest member of the Weasley family, who had just joined her. Ginny was looking positively stunning this afternoon in her bridesmaid dress, a long flowing strapless gown with a tight fitting bodice that emphasized her slim figure, and nicely displayed the creamy white skin of her shoulders and upper torso. Quite a few of the younger unattached wizards had been casting appreciative looks at both her and Gabrielle, the other bridesmaid. Hermione looked up and acknowledged her presence and her question, then sat and pondered her answer as the petite redhead joined her on the love seat.

The painful truth was that this thing with Ron, whatever it was, was just not working out. Hermione hated to fail at anything, hated to admit that she might have made a mistake, but after nearly a year of pursuing Ron what exactly did she have to show for her efforts?

Sure, there were moments, when they were alone together, when he seemed to care for her, seemed almost to be attracted to her. They hadn't actually kissed yet, but there were some awkward hugs, some touching, occasionally he put his arm around her. She would have put it down to his shyness around girls and his inexperience, except that he didn't act that way around other girls. Just her. The fling with Lavender had proven that he had no problem making his feelings quite clear to a female interest when he wanted to.

By contrast, in public, especially when there were pretty girls around, he virtually ignored Hermione. From Fleur last summer and again this summer, to Lavender last school year, to Madame Rosmerta during their Hogsmeade visits, he was always falling all over himself to get their attention, or to try to impress them. Something he had rarely done for her. No, at times like that he forgot all about her and was only interested in them.

Like right now. Ever since the Delacours had arrived his eyes were practically bulging out of his head ogling them all. Especially Gabrielle. Honestly, the girl was only thirteen for heaven's sake. A very mature looking thirteen, but still …

And there was Ron, over with his brothers, eagerly discussing her assets and those of the other pretty girls at the wedding. Unlike Harry, he hadn't once looked up to see where Hermione was, what she was doing, whether she was all right.

As she watched them, it was obvious that Harry wasn't really that interested in the discussion of the attributes of the various Delacours. Of course, Harry already had a pretty girlfriend. A girlfriend who had just sat down next to her and asked her a question. She noticed that he was also keeping his eye on Ginny as he scanned the crowd, just as much as he was herself, and was even now giving them a curious look as they sat here together. This time it was Ginny who smiled back and waved, letting him know they were fine by themselves.

Hermione turned her mind back to Ginny's question. The times when Ron paid her the most attention were when another guy showed any interest in her. Then the jealousy broke out big time. It would be almost comical, really, if it weren't so pathetic. Even with Harry. If she pointed out something nice about him, as when she had told him last year he was fanciable, or when he complimented her, like he did to Slughorn, Ron sulked and pouted. Whenever the two of them were involved in something together which excluded him, like the Slug Club, Ron grew sullen.

It had been that jealousy of other guys that had convinced Hermione that Ron had feelings for her. If only he would show them at other times. Oh, he was interested in her all right. Whenever he wanted something from her, or needed her help on homework; whenever she could do something for him he was happy to have her around. But she wanted more than that.

And really, if she were successful at winning him over, what would a relationship with him be like? They had almost nothing in common. Except Harry. When she was honest with herself Hermione had to admit that without Harry she and Ron wouldn't even be friends. He couldn't stand her when he first met her. There were times even now when he barely tolerated her. The things that were important to her like reading and studying, and house elf rights, he despised. And he wasn't shy about letting her know that, either. She also had to acknowledge that she wasn't all that fond of the things he enjoyed, like quidditch or chess. She never played chess with him, she thought guiltily. Sure she loyally went to all the Gryffindor quidditch games, but that was mostly to root for Harry, and later also for Ron when he made the team. She supposed that if they weren't playing she might have attended the games in a show of house unity, but she couldn't guarantee it.

So, when it came to their relationship, Ron was immature, jealous, inconsiderate, and unable to commit. What a wonderful combination in a boyfriend, she thought sarcastically. For a while after he had nearly died from Slughorn's poisoned mead, Hermione had thought the shock of it would mature him. That he would grow up and make more of an effort to get along with her, and stop drooling over every pretty girl that caught his eye, but it hadn't happened.

The worst part, of course, was their arguments. He would do or say something that annoyed her, and she would snap at him. Or she would do or say something that irritated him, and he would insult her. Then they would be off again. The only things that stopped them were the times when she wasn't speaking to him. Or if Harry stepped in. Hermione remembered with shame the time during fifth year when he had finally snapped and yelled at them to stop the bickering, that it was driving him crazy. From then on she had made an effort to keep it under control when they were around Harry, and she thought Ron had, too, at least a little, but when Harry wasn't around the gloves were off. And, she thought sadly, if you liked someone, let alone loved them, did you deliberately do things to try to hurt them, like both she and Ron had done to each other last year?

The real eye-opener had been her mother. Last month when she had been at home visiting for a few days she had tried to explain her relationship with Ron. Her mum's response had really caught Hermione by surprise. "Looks like you picked the wrong guy friend to fall for." Hermione had to admit that Harry would have made a much better boyfriend. Just look at how well he treated Ginny. Well, before he tried to push her away and break up with her at least.

But then, her mother had bought her a book on relationships and sent it to her last week. Specifically, it was a book on abusive relationships. Hermione refused to believe that Ron would ever physically abuse her but the book also went into detail on mental and emotional abuse. It talked about how abusive relationships started, and why and how girls got into them. Hermione was horrified as she recognized the symptoms and how well they described her and her situation. Girls who lacked self-confidence. Girls who had few close friends. Girls who were desperate for approval. It all came down to low self-esteem, both on the part of the girl and on the part of the guy. And, Hermione thought glumly, she and Ron both had self-esteem issues. To top it off, the descriptions of the early stages of mental and emotional abuse were uncomfortably close to the mark.

No, she finally had to acknowledge. A relationship with Ron, even if she would finally be able to force him into one, was probably not a good idea. She looked up at Ginny who was still waiting patiently for an answer.

"I thought I could, but it's just not working out," she admitted at last. We're just too different. He doesn't like the things I like and I don't particularly enjoy the things he likes. Not to mention his complete lack of understanding of all things muggle. Plus, I don't think he's really interested in me. If he were he wouldn't forget about me every time a pretty girl walked by." She sighed and her shoulders slumped as she stared down into her lap, where she was twisting her hands together. Even though she had already come to this conclusion, saying it out loud somehow made it more official.

"I wasn't talking about Ron."

Hermione's head snapped up and she stared at Ginny in surprise. Not Ron? Who then? Hermione's eyes followed Ginny's gaze back over towards the boys. Surely not Fred or George. Harry? She turned back to Ginny in shock and repeated his name to herself, mouthing it at the same time. Harry? Ginny nodded.

How could Ginny think she was in love with Harry? Of course she cared for him deeply. Her affection for him had begun in first year and grown quickly, then kept growing steadily over the years they had known each other. Of course she would do anything for him. It was unbelievable how many things she had done that she had never dreamed that she would be either willing or able to do, only because he needed her to do them. Of course she was never happier than when she was around him. He was her best friend after all. Well, she thought guiltily, Ron was her best friend too. But it was true that she was happier when Harry was with them than when he was not. And, she realized, she was also happier when it was just her and Harry together.

Of course, Harry was a nice guy. He was also considerate of her feelings. More so of her feelings than just about anyone else's, come to think of it. He looked out for her, always checked to see how she was doing. Like right now at this wedding, actually. Of course, Harry was 'fanciable'. Not just because of his fame either. He was certainly good looking, and his body had filled out nicely so that he was no longer the scrawny little boy she had first met. Lots of girls mooned over what a catch he would be.

Of course he was the most important person in her life right now. Of course she was willing to put aside the thing that had practically defined her existence for most of her life, her studies, in order to help him in his quest. She had to. It was a matter of life and death. Of course, it was a matter of life and death for everyone else in the wizarding world too, and except for Ron, no one else was this dedicated to him. Actually, not even Ron was as dedicated to him as she was.

Of course she loved him – as a friend, right? As a brother even. As someone who would always be there for her whenever she needed him. And for whom she would in turn be there whenever he needed her. As someone who she would trust with anything, including her life. Someone who was practically her entire reason for being.

Of course she … she wanted more than anything to spend the rest of her life with him. Hermione's eyes widened as this realization hit her like a bludger to the face.

But she couldn't be in love with Harry. He was in love with Ginny. And Ginny was in love with him. The same Ginny who was sitting next to her right now and had just asked her if she was in love with Harry. Hermione put her head in her hands and moaned. This couldn't be happening.

"You need what I have and I need what you have."

Hermione looked back up at Ginny, puzzled. Somewhere deep inside her brain she knew what Ginny meant, but she needed to hear her say it.

"We each have half a relationship with Harry. I have the physical part, but you have the emotional part. It may have looked like he and I made the perfect couple, and would fall in love and live happily ever after, but there's something very important missing from our relationship. We don't talk. Not about the things that are most important to him. He doesn't confide in me, doesn't share his concerns, his troubles, or his hopes and dreams. It's all shallow; he won't let me see the things that he hides deeper inside of him. He doesn't trust me." Ginny's eyes locked with Hermione's, and Hermione saw what was coming next.

"He does all of those things with you. It's always been you. You're the one he goes to with the important things; you're the one he turns to when he needs someone to help him sort things out. You're the one he looks up to, admires more than anyone he knows. You're the one he'll trust with anything. Except his heart. And the only reason you don't have that is that he didn't want to risk everything else he had with you if it didn't work out." Hermione opened her mouth to object that Harry had never thought about her that way, but Ginny held up her hand to silence her so that she could continue.

"I've been watching him, both of you really, for years. Studying you. I'm sure he didn't even realize he was doing it. He doesn't understand what love really is. How could he, with the way he was raised? He doesn't realize that the feelings he has for you are part of what real love is. But it's only a part. And what I have is only a part." Ginny looked back at Harry again, where he stood talking with Ron and Fred and George. Standing there, saying something occasionally, but not really part of the conversation, his mind filled with other concerns – large among them the two girls sitting over here on the loveseat discussing him. In a far off voice she continued.

"But now he wants to put that part on hold. Or maybe end it entirely. We never even talked about that. He's being noble of course. He's trying to keep me safe. But at what cost? Even if we do get back together after it's all over, I'm afraid it won't last. I'll have missed too big of a part of his life. He'll be closer to you than ever, having shared it all with you. And he'll be torn, even if he doesn't realize it. Because he doesn't understand all there is to love, not yet anyway. And by the time he does it may be too late for us." Ginny turned back to Hermione again.

"I don't want to take that chance. And I need to do something about it now." She took a deep breath. "I want the kind of relationship with him that you have. The question is, whether you want the kind of relationship with him that I have."

Hermione looked back at Harry once more, looking at him in a way that she had never permitted herself to look at him before. She imagined him looking into her eyes the way he looked into Ginny's. She imagined him drawing her into his arms, moving his head slowly down to hers as she tilted hers back and parted her lips, ready to receive him. She imagined weaving her fingers into his hair as she lost herself in him, her lips hungrily attacking his. She imagined her body molding itself into his as his hands caressed her back, pulling her ever closer.

"Yes," she whispered.

"Then let's do it. The only other question is if we'll both be able to marry him or if one of us will have to settle for concubine status." Hermione stared at Ginny as her jaw dropped. "But I'm sure you'll be able to figure that out," Ginny concluded with a smirk. She so enjoyed startling Hermione with something the studious witch didn't know about. But she suspected that reading about wizarding marriage laws had never been high on Hermione's to-do list. She was willing to wager that it would be now.

"What …? How …?" Hermione's mouth opened and closed several times as her mind processed this paradigm shift. Apparently this was one more aspect of wizarding society that she wasn't aware of yet. She realized what was behind Ginny's smirk, and she knew exactly what the redhead was thinking. And furthermore, Ginny was absolutely right about the new item on her research agenda. Finally she gave the younger witch a mock glare and punched her playfully in the arm, then gathered herself for a more coherent question.

"How are we going to make this work?" she asked in a low voice. She was gradually starting to convince herself that this could actually be for real – that the possibility that Ginny was suggesting might even be attainable.

"Well, I see two major obstacles, and they're both standing right over there. One of them is even now wondering what we're plotting over here and the other is totally oblivious." Hermione raised her hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. The quick-witted Ginny had been spot on with her description of the two boys. "Ron will be easier, although he'll make the most noise," Ginny continued. "But between the two of us we can handle him. You back me up when he goes off on me about not being old enough or mature enough to join you guys, and I back you up when he goes into a jealous rant about you and Harry."

Hermione nodded and looked around furtively, feeling like two conspirators hiding their scheming. Ginny had evidently been thinking about this for a while, and leaned forward to resume outlining her plan. "Harry will be trickier. We'll both be fighting against his noble instincts. You'll have to help me convince Harry that he needs me like he needs you and I'll help you make him realize that he wants you like he wants me."

Hermione had been keeping an eye on Harry the whole time. His curiosity now finally got the better of him and he broke away from Ron and the twins and headed their way. She gave Ginny's arm a squeeze to alert her and the redhead sat up straight and gave her a wink.

"Deal?"

Hermione swallowed hard, then nodded. "Deal."

"So, what are you two so busily plotting over here by yourselves?" Harry asked as he approached them.

"Oh, just trying to come up with something that can help you get what you want," Ginny responded quickly. A slight frown creased Harry's face as he considered that statement, then he turned to Hermione with a question in his eyes. Surely she hadn't been telling Ginny about their mission?

"Happiness, Harry," Hermione added as her mind raced to come up with an appropriate explanation. "We think you deserve to be happy and are talking about ways to accomplish that." Harry looked back and forth between the two of them, trying to work out exactly what that would entail.

"You can start out by dancing with the two of us this afternoon," Ginny announced, as she and Hermione rose to their feet. Harry couldn't help glancing over at Ron, his thoughts obvious to the two girls. Before Hermione could say anything Ginny spoke up again. "Ron looks like he's otherwise occupied. You know very well who's been on his mind all day." She shot a glare over at her brother before turning back and cocking her head at Harry with a grin and a challenge. "So it seems to me that it's up to you to entertain your other best friend. You owe it to her to make sure she has a good time, don't you think?"

Harry looked back at Hermione who was smiling at him shyly. Before he had a chance to think about it any more she declared, "You have two girls on your hands today and you're just going to have to deal with it."

Harry's eyes darted back and forth between the two of them as he took in a pair of brightly smiling faces, then widened his field of vision to take in the rest of them. Ginny was a vision with her bright red hair flowing across her shoulders and down her back, framing all that bare skin that ended where the strapless gown teased him with just the slightest glimpse of her small breasts, and then hugged her slender curves down to her hips. Hermione had used the Sleakeasy potion on her hair to make it fall in soft waves to her bare shoulders. She was wearing a halter style gown that drew attention to her nicely tanned back and arms as well as to some attractive cleavage. Harry was startled to realize that Hermione had a very nice figure. How is it that I never noticed how sexy she looks before? he wondered to himself. And is she flirting with me? Well, as long as Ginny didn't seem to mind, he could play that game too.

"Hmm, I think I can manage to deal with the task of spending the day in the company of the two most beautiful ladies present," he grinned. Hermione and Ginny shared a grin of their own, then surprised him yet again by coming up to him and giving him a pair of kisses, one on each cheek. As he fought to control the astonished expression on his face they smoothly moved to either side of him, pressing up against him and each putting an arm around his back, prompting him to put his own arm around each of their backs. Finally he gave each of them that lopsided smile that made their stomachs flutter and proclaimed,

"OK, let's do it."

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A/N So, this is my attempt at a Book 6 compatible 'Hermione and Ginny get together and agree to share Harry' fanfic. One fanfic of this type that I've read and enjoyed is 'The Morning After' by Crys. I've included two lines from that story in this one, one in each chapter. I've always wondered how something like that might work out, so I'll take a shot at it in the next chapter. Stay tuned.