Mishka does not own the original characters. But please enjoy her twisted AU version (yes it's becoming her habit to write in alternate universe, combined with the sideline Hermione she's become quite attached to—but you don't mind right?).
The table talk murmured around him, and Harry sighed as he pushed the mashed taters around his plate and scrunched up his nose in thought.
"Something wrong Harry?" Ginny inquired from across the table, ignoring her brothers' conversation about the latest Harpies game (her favourite team) to blink at him.
He shook his head and took a bite of his meal.
Fleur turned to him and tilted her head, a smile on her face as she patted her belly and quietly waited for the conversation to pan out. Harry had become something like a little brother to her, and Harry loved the attention as much as it embarrassed him; he didn't quite know how to take it.
"What's got you troubled mate?"
Harry grinned sheepishly at Ron as he realized he had a lot of attention. It was best to get it out now before he had the whole Weasley clan breathing down his neck with worry. "I'm just stuck on a canvas."
"Oooh, what's the inspiration this time?" Ginny cooed, leaning forward and smiling brightly.
Harry swallowed, a frown twisting his lips as he twirled his fork—"Surprisingly, I can't pin her down. That's the problem."
Ron snorted around his mouthful of corn.
Fleur arched a brow, a worried expression crossing her face.
Harry had taken to the arts to relieve the tension he'd built up from the war. He'd found paints and charcoal a very effective way to relax and let out all his emotions without feeling like a high-strung man on the run. Especially on days where the media were after him and everything turned into a relative gong show. Art was his retreat from the ministry and publicity he'd gained…
There were days when he was so focused on his hobby that he forgot to eat or leave the flat he'd bought downtown…
And when his inspiration wasn't quiet clear enough the tension built in his muscles and gave him headaches—he needed his release.
"This canvas generally okay though?" Fleur's broken English softly asked, her bright eyes hooded.
Harry released a breath and gave a large shrug: "I have everything; it's just the model. She's got this vague feel about her I can never quite get. I know generally what I want but…"
"Well maybe we can help." Ginny interrupted brightly.
Fleur brightened and Bill smiled at his wife, and Harry had to give in. Usually he had trouble telling his pseudo sister no, and now that she was pregnant and all glowy…He sighed and smiled. "I keep on seeing curls, and I don't know, a woman who isn't quite the traditional beauty, you know?"
Fluer blinked and Ginny's face twisted in confusion.
Fleur lit up and snapped her fingers, smiling at Harry as Ginny scowled and stiffened at her seat. The Frenchwoman leaned over her plate as Bill looked on in amusement and the family blinked and stilled to listen to whatever thing she had to say…
"You need beautiful woman no? She is unique and natural yes?"
Harry blinked and blushed, rubbing the back of his head. "Yeah I guess. I have this idea…and I can't find any inspiration at all."
Ginny tossed her hair. "I don't think you fit the bill Fleur."
The woman scoffed, "Of course no, I was simplee recalling my friend from school—odd beauty she iz."
Bill tilted his head and smiled at his wife. "Oh, which one? Or is it not one I've met?"
Fleur blinked and then pursed her lips in thought, her expression contemplative before she lit up. "Remember the partee? There was the quiet woman in the dark blue?"
Bill blinked. "The shy little mouse?" He abruptly coughed as Fleur's elbow jabbed his stomach and her pretty face scowled darkly. He grinned sheepishly, "Sorry honey, but you gotta admit she's very timid."
Fleur sniffed—"You frighten her."
Bill sobered quickly.
His wife softened, "Non, William. She had not good experiences with people, men especially. And you said 'ello and walked to talk to your friendz."
Bill looked at her for a minute, a light to his eyes and eloquence to his stare Harry had always admired about the couple. Someday he wanted to be in a relationship where they could talk without speaking like that.
The elder Weasley child finally nodded his head. "She does fit the bill."
Ron floundered. "If she's so shy how's Harry gonna get her to model for him."
Fleur flashed them a smile: "Why, his charm of course."
Mrs. Weasley smiled and tittered, joining in from the other end of the table. "Don't do that Harry. You must know that you're very easy to get along with, you just set people at ease."
Harry couldn't help but smile, because if Mrs. Weasley said it was so then it was truth. She had a knack for pinning down the character of people she was around, and for her to have such a good opinion of him made him feel all the more like part of the family.
Arthur chuckled and smiled, leaning on his elbows as he spoke up, "I would like to meet her, Fleur. If that can be arranged. She sounds very nice."
Fleur beamed. "She iz! She helped me with muggle studiez and doesn't mind me accent!"
Arthur lit up. "Muggle studies? She understands that well?"
"Oui, she's muggle born yes."
Harry smiled wider as Molly rolled her eyes fondly and looked to her husband.
"I think I have to meet her again, if my first impression was that bad." Bill said softly as he watched his wife.
Fleur beamed up at him, Harry grinned because it was hard to deny that Fleur did glow, and he liked seeing her that happy. "I'll need to meet her before I decide—call me crazy but my idea has a personality to match too."
Ron grinned and complied: "You're crazy."
Fleur clapped her hands. "Wonderful! I'll send her post today; she might be able to meet us before Wednesday if she'z at home."
Harry blinked and tilted his head.
"She works while she travels, but she lives in muggle London. I think she was saying something about doing her books."
Harry murmured his assent and quietly set about finishing his meal with the resumption of the Weasley dinnertime chatter around him.
Harry felt his eyebrows rise as he watched the physically plain woman curled over the tome she had clutched to her chest, her face tilted to the ground as she walked and carefully wove her way through the pedestrians of Diagon Alley. Her hair was a dark brown and curly, thick and impossibly long for all it's bushiness as she brushed it aside; he loved her hands.
He shook his head and turned around to head to Fortesque's, where he was supposed to meet Fleur and her friend.
He took in a deep breath as he entered the cool shop, nodding to the proprietor as he looked around for the French woman and hoped for that best.
In his pocket two of his fingers were crossed.
It had been a few more days with this artist's block, and his head was almost buzzing with the restrained ideas he couldn't quite reach.
He would go crazy soon.
Fleur's hair was unmistakable out on the patio, even if her table was surrounded by some large potted ferns. "Harree!" she exclaimed happily as she waved over to him, her other hand rubbing her belly as she absently rocked her torso.
The grin spread over his face as he swiftly made his way over to her and kissed her cheeks, quietly thanking her for choosing the more private table.
She beamed at him as he sat in the iron wrought chair, shifting on the uncomfortable mesh before giving up. "How are you doing?"
"Bien! Hermynee waz wundervul to speak with again."
"You're friend said she'd be here right?" His eyes darted about—he didn't want any press, and the longer they stayed the less likelihood of him getting this wish. He didn't think he could deal with it right now with how his nerves were shot. Even the feel of a charcoal stain under his fingertips wasn't helping him calm down.
Fleur beamed obliviously—"Oui, she alvays keeps word."
Harry sighed and gave in, settling further into his chair just as a familiar frazzled woman entered the shop and drew a bit of attention to the chiming door. She apologized for the intrusion to the old man behind the counter, blushing as he grinned before shooing her to take a seat.
She bit her lip as she looked about, the thick tome she was holding crushed to her chest. Harry swallowed the heavy lump in his throat as he watched her hair frizz about her head.
And then her face lit up and she made her way over to him…to them.
Shock made him blink his big green eyes as she practically glomped the French woman across from him—enthusiastically smacking her cheek with a kiss before patting her belly.
Fleur laughed and spoke something in French, causing the brunette to pull in on herself and blush while she bit her lip again.
Harry stood—it was only polite—and offered his hand to her. "You must be Hermione."
"I am," she said softly as she looked up at him, her small hand reaching out to his as her large brown eyes blinked up at him. "It's nice to meet you."
Harry blinked and swallowed. "Yeah." Then he retrieved his hand he rubbed the back of his neck. Looking around, watching Fleur look over the menu with a scrunched nose and a fretting waitress by her side. He cleared his throat. "Have you known Fleur long?"
She smiled and ducked her head slightly. "Ever since I started at Beauxbatons," she bit her lip "Fleur was nice enough to help me out my first year."
There came a haughty sniff and they turned to spot the Frenchwoman done with the waitress—"Nonzense, Hermynee. You did no' need any help; you just let mi think that."
Hermione ducked her head. "Not so Fleur," was her kindly rejoinder, a smile flirting across her lips. "You made me feel welcome."
"Pah," Fluer leaned back with a sour expression, flapping one of her hands in dismissal. "Zese shallow girlz 'ave no biziness with moi petite Hermynee—you deezerved to be zere." Her French accent became heavy with ire, her hand absently rubbing her belly in circles as she leaned back in her chair.
Hermione laughed. Harry felt a slow smile overtake him as the sound softly brushed against his skin, making him shiver as a burst of color hit him. How he wished he had his canvas. Her laughter was the perfect shade for the blush on his subject's cheeks, a light and airy flesh tone that he couldn't quite get right.
He swallowed and watched the pair with wide eyes, unable to curb his enthusiasm as he observed Hermione heavily.
Her hands, which he had been enthralled with since seeing them clutch her heavy book, were delicate in every movement—wrapping carefully around her tea as they waited for their cakes. Her nails were shaped and clean, short and unobtrusive unlike all the manicures the other girls he saw liked to sport; and her fingers were unadorned save for one ring on her right pinkie, a trio of bands entwined together made of different metals.
The simplicity of her hands…Harry wanted to paint them; he wanted to sketch her as she sipped her tea and gestured in conversation with Fleur.
He cleared his throat as the silence caught him, his eyes darting up from said appendages to spot Fleur's open amusement and Hermione's confusion
"Harree, you are no' lizening to uz."
Harry blushed. "Sorry."
Hermione blinked at him and then smiled. "It's alright. Happens all the time." Harry stiffened and made movements to make amends, but she continued. "I'm not sure many males are interested in the inanities of female conversation."
Harry froze and watched her—unable to say he really was because it made his fingers twitch for his brush and his mind whirl with colors and textures. Every revealing part of her conversation, hinting at the personality she had within her, was a need to know tidbit. He swallowed and shook his head to recover, "I'm interested, it's not every day a man gets to sit down with two beautiful women and find out what they really talk about."
Fleur smiled at his joke while Hermione flushed. His pseudo-sister's eyes canted to her friend sharply and her lips pursed. "Hermynee wuz telling me zat she might be staying in town for few dayz," Hermione blinked at the change in subject as Fluer turned to address her directly. "Harry iz stuck on painting, sayz he needed someone untradizionally beautiful."
Hermione's wide eyes drifted to him as her blush grew prominent.
Harry felt a smile twitch up one corner of his mouth. "I would love it if you could model for me, I can't believe it but you seem to be exactly what I need."
Hermione blushed darker.
Fleur laughed gently and nudged her, saying something in French that Harry couldn't even bother to decipher or repeat. Hermione laughed and turned to him—"I've been talked into it, a very worried sister wants you to survive the next fiasco with the media."
And Harry laughed in response—relief coursing through his veins like a heady alcohol.
He bustled about his studio flat, arranging his easel so he could easily talk to Hermione, who had seated herself on the window seat, and absently sketch whenever the urge hit him. He settled onto his stool with a large grin, looked at Hermione as she let her eyes slowly sweep over the apartment. The prim way she folded her legs caught his eye, and he watched intently as she toed off her shoes and neatly arranged one beside the other on the wood floor.
When she straightened and caught his eye she blushed and pushed her hair away from her face, eyes downcast as her body curled up to get comfortable.
His hands were absently sketching already, smooth strokes of soft coal, but his eyes were steady on the woman haloed by the noon sun.
"So," she cleared her throat. "This is how you deal with everything?" She gestured absently, "I mean…you know."
Hermione nodded her head and let her gaze drift away. Harry glanced at his easel—the introspective figure softly gazing to one side was surrounded by gesture drawings of her facial expressions and hand movements.
Harry didn't understand how one person could make so many expressions with her whole body. And she was still so shy…her body remained still and compact even as she tried to ease the tensions with conversation.
He sighed and carefully smudged in some charcoal, starting a random conversation about French accents and Weasley interpretations—trying to get her to laugh.
It took a while, but he did it.
Hermione fidgeted and shifted, carefully eyeing him as she took a careful seat at the table, eyeing the books he had lain out. He watched one of her eyebrows raise with her curiosity, and then her expression blanked as she caught a certain title. The quick way her eyes flicked up to him was telling.
Harry hid his smile as he dug for some pressed pastels.
Her feet curled under her as she leaned against the arm of the couch, her gaze thoughtful as she fingered the design on one of his pillows (one he'd nicked from the common room at Hogwarts). Harry quickly scribbled a few lines to get her overall serpentine posture, the way her torso twisted to accommodate the firm cushioning of the couch while she relaxed.
"What made you start drawing?" she asked absently.
He blinked but supposed it wasn't that odd of a question. They'd talked about her love for books last time they'd had a session.
He sniffed and then itched at his nose. "My friend Dean was into it—he was a muggleborn and always brought in pencils at the beginning of the term. I kind of just fell into it when I was stressed and the guys were avoiding me."
Hermione quizzically tilted her head.
Grinning sheepishly he shrugged, "I had a right temper."
Her little snort was cute and he laughed. Biting her lip she blushed but didn't draw in on herself, instead she smiled and chuckled with him.
She cleared her throat as she watched him, bracing her torso with her hands as her legs stretched out along the floor. The soft fabric of her jeans was a sensory contrast to the dark hardwood of his floor. His tongue stuck out to one side as he detailed the wood grain, shadowed where it met the bend of her knees.
Hermione cleared her throat and blushed, looking away from where he'd spread out his materials on the floor beside her. Harry looked up to see her shy face turned away.
She blushed more heavily and tilted her head to look at him from under her lashes. "It's just weird to be drawn—looked at for so long."
Harry smiled crookedly. "I've drawn you before though," he pointed out, unsure as to why she would suddenly revert to such timid behaviour.
Hermione shrugged and paused before continuing: "It's different to actually see you draw it—I didn't really realize how much attention you paid to your…subject." To me. "It's just so…different."
Harry stopped his absent sketching as he looked directly into her eyes. He wondered how she could possibly avoid attention as much as she seemed to believe she did. But he simply smiled and held that thought in. "You're my inspiration—I have to get as much of you as I can before you leave. Besides," he stretched out his fingers for a second, giving them a break from their tight hold on his graphite, "an artist's reward is catching the true beauty of his subject."
Hermione blushed and looked away, clearing her throat as she changed the course of their conversation. "I've decided to stay until Fleur's pregnancy is over. I don't think I'd be able to pull away."
Harry grinned. "She's lovely isn't she?" Hermione smiled happily at him—not so shy now that the attention wasn't on her directly. "I still need you; you don't mind doing more sessions then?"
Hermione blushed as the conversation returned very close to its previous path, but she nodded her head in acquiescence anyway.
Hermione took in a deep breath as she removed her scarf, looking up at him with tired eyes as she moved over to an arm chair in a shadowed corner. Harry looked up from the coloured pencils he had been sharpening, smiling contently as she settled in and stretched her legs out over the arm of the chair. He tilted his head to examine the way the shadows and lights played upon her hair, bringing out colours he hadn't seen before. He was certain it had been brown, perhaps two toned…but never had he expected the red and almost-gold that the sun and shadow mixing brought out.
He stared for a moment before looking at his colours and trying to find that exact mix…
"Had a tough day?"
"Mmm, some idiot thought it would be funny to prank some muggle clubbers, I've been up all night."
Harry's eyes rounded in shock, before a snort escaped. Hermione glared at him with a huff as she curled into the chair. He grinned unrepentantly as he raised his hands in supplication—he rather liked the sleepy Hermione; it was a sign that she was comfortable enough around him to let her tiredness show, let her weakness out.
Harry knew all about feeling weak and out of control.
He quietly set about smoothing the gentle swell of her cheek onto the rice paper as her tired eyes blinked heavy lashes.
Harry watched her slowly uncurl from her position at the edge of the sofa, her legs stretching out across the dark blue fabric as she twisted to support her torso on her elbows. Her curious eyes regarded him, bright and large and perfectly offset by the blue upholstery—his fingers furiously played in the colours he had set out for this session, trying to find that perfect shade of brown that would help him with the major project.
"So you faced a werewolf and a 'grim' in your third…and the triwizard tournament in your fourth year. Was fifth year any better or were there more dangerous adventures?"
Harry chortled, "We got Dolores Umbridge taking over the school, and we started an illegal club to learn proper defence…and Sirius died."
Her eyes softened and he cursed as he realized he couldn't copy that particular shade. "Was that when you broke into the ministry?"
"Hmm." He mumbled around a paint brush, digging through his paints until he heard Hermione laugh. He looked up to spot her head thrown back, her eyes sparkling as she grinned at him with perfect white teeth and a flush on her cheeks.
He blushed and smiled, taking the paintbrush out of his mouth.
"So, Fleur said you weren't allowed to go the Triwizard tournament? I think you would've fought tooth and nail to be with her."
Hermione smiled lazily. "I didn't have my parents' permission to travel abroad, which is silly since they are always going places." She shrugged. "Fleur was okay though, and she wrote letters to me."
"Still, I think she would have enjoyed having you near. She likes to talk about you."
Hermione pinked in the cheeks. "Honestly, I missed her terribly. But I guess it was for the better, I didn't really fit the image of the school—and Maxime is one terribly concerned for public images."
Harry's eyes darkened as he watched her, but he said nothing: he found her beautiful, and she would have fit in wonderfully with the gorgeous Beauxbaton's girls that had visited.
"Is it always like this?" a wide eyed woman asked him. "I mean Fleur talked about it but I never expected that they'd be so…" she gestured futilely as she came to a loss for words.
Harry grinned, not sheepish nor reluctant but happy because it was so hard to catch Hermione off guard.
They'd run into some very enthusiastic well wishers in Diagon alley, where he'd met her so he could pick up some supplies. The subsequent apparition had been slapdash, and a much frazzled Hermione was in his foyer as a result. She blinked and clutched her head, dizzy.
"Goodness," she breathed out. "I think I would have gone crazy by now. And you don't want to see me like that. Fleur had enough trouble calming me down in school when some girls told her she was an abomination."
Harry spluttered and almost fell over. Fleur was so perfect…
"Oh don't be like that. It's natural for other women to react that way. She's bloody beautiful, and we are very catty when it comes down to it. I can't correctly remember just how many of the other girls tried to cut off her hair or curse her with some icky skin boils."
She snorted and tossed her head, a fiery light to her eyes as she crossed her arms.
Harry slowly recovered, a grin spreading over his face.
"Stay right there, like that."
She blinked but didn't move, used to his sudden demands when she did something that particularly inspired him.
With a quick dash he was gone and back again, his coloured chalks under his arm.
Standing there in the bootroom, with that same pose of regal defiance, her face had turned curious and her eyes had lost their wildness.
Harry scrunched up his nose and blew out a breath. "Was that the worst of it?" it was best to get their conversation back to where it was—he wanted to see that same light to her eyes as before, that exposure of her inner lioness.
Her eyes flashed—so close but not enough.
It had taken many sessions of art modeling to pull her out of her shell. But even then she was rather reserved, prim and proper. Seeing inner ferocity like that in her made his hands itch to draw and his mind whir with ideas; that was the final piece that would let him finish his canvas.
"No, but most of the girls couldn't succeed. Madame Maxime dotes on her beautiful veelas after all." She flashed him a smile—and it was more like her baring her teeth in feral satisfaction.
He quietly waited for her to continue as he mixed some chalk on the edge of his palm—the colour wasn't quite right, it didn't quite match his memory of that flashing protectiveness.
"I suppose the worst that ever actually happened was the snakes in her bed, though it was one of the stupid ones who only found garden snakes." Hermione snorted and tilted her hip just so.
Harry had stilled except for the blinking of his green eyes, only recovering his mobility when Hermione raised a brow at him. He cleared his throat—"Not poisonous then. That was silly."
The heavy swallow hurt his throat—that someone had purposefully tried to harm his sister to that extent, for a reason so petty, made a very heavy lump form in his chest.
"Yes, it was." Her voice was dull and heavy, her eyes drifting off to one side.
There was a silence, Harry couldn't even begin to colour it because it was dark and blue and entirely not the flashing gold colour he was looking for.
"Had you ever…"he scratched his head, "done something like that to her?"
"No!" Hermione said shortly, her eyes blazing and staying that gold colour. Harry couldn't draw it; he was entranced by it and couldn't release himself from its thrall. "Fleur was the kindest woman there; she helped me out even though I was so English and just didn't fit in. And she was the best…" Hermione choked and her gold eyes watered, shiny and glowing. She sniffed loudly and stared straight at him, a furiously assertive expression on her face as his hands frantically, finally, reached into his chalk and could sketch out that colour. "She was the best friend I'd ever had." She snorted and then laughed wetly, "Actually she was my first friend. I'm kind of a loner, if you haven't noticed."
"No, I haven't noticed that." He looked up at her soberly, his fingers drawing away from the finished colour roughs. "I have noticed that you're shy, that you're scared to really open up to people."
Hermione swallowed visibly and looked away, down. Sucking on her bottom lip she thoughtfully nodded her head. "There is a difference, isn't there."
Harry nodded and they were in silent, companionable agreement.
Clearing his throat he helped her take off her coat, bringing her to the kitchen for some tea.
The papers and chalk were left sitting on his side table—brilliant flashing eyes floating on the smudged sheets.
Hermione laughed as she blew into his apartment, twirling around as she took off her scarf and looped it on his coat hook. "Harry!" she called to him with a brilliant smile. "Are you alive? You've been holed up for days! We're worried."
Harry, from where he was seated on a stool beside his easel, paints scattered around him as he worked in the sun from his picture window (the best lighting), stared at her with astonished eyes. He licked his lips as he glanced at his easel, a slow smile taking over his face before it was a grin and he laughed—getting up to go to her and smudging her with the paint that was still on his hands as he held her cheeks and kissed her forehead.
"I finished it!"
"What?" She questioned, confused and wide eyed. Her tawny eyes darted to the easel in the middle of the room (furniture pushed around to the edges so Harry could fully immerse himself in his art) before the dimmed with understanding. "Oh."
Harry saw no reason for her to be sad, and his enthusiasm couldn't be dimmed. Grabbing her hands he dragged her over to the canvas, letting her go to gesture with a flourish. "What do you think?"
His eagerness dimmed as he heard no response, turning slowly to find her wide eyes looking at his painting. Her mouth was parted slightly in shock, one hand stuck halfway in the air on its way to clutch her heart; her torso heaved in one hitched breath and then she turned shiny eyes up to him. "You painted that from your sketches of me?" she said rather breathlessly.
Harry softened and smiled gently. "Couldn't have painted it without you—essentially it was you. I just hadn't realized that yet."
She closed her mouth and swallowed as she turned her eyes back to his work.
Harry watched her—he didn't need to look at the canvas to know what she was seeing. He'd painted it; he knew every stroke and colour. Her gold feral eyes stared intently at them, peering out from underneath wild curls highlighted in copper and reds by the sunset reaching through the silhouetted trees behind her. The curve of her smile was half knowing and welcoming, combined with that shy tilt of her head she did when she was curious and yet cautious. One of her graceful hands almost reached out to the viewer, practically welcoming touch; the other gracefully resting against her thigh.
She was gorgeous in that painting, every little hidden nuance of her searing soul revealed.
"Thank you," she whispered reverently, reaching out to touch but not completing the motion.
Harry's breath caught at the strangely mirrored position, his eyes seeing all of her as she'd been in his sessions and all of her that could be revealed. "No," he said thickly with a smile, "thank you."
Hermione ducked her head to hide her answering smile.
They stayed that way, reverent, for a few more minutes. Then Hermione broke the peace with a regretful sigh. She offered him a contrite smile—"I guess this is it then?"
Harry's brow furrowed and then he shook his head. "What?"
She cleared her throat and looked away from him and the canvas. "I mean you don't need me to get over your artist's block anymore. That we don't need to meet up now." She gestured rather helplessly in the direction of his painting—"You've finished with her…ummm me."
Harry snorted and took a step to her, grabbing her chin gently and turning her face to him. "You're my friend Hermione. I won't let you hide away so easily now." She grinned bashfully. He drew in a breath, "And," he swallowed, "And if I had it my way I'd never be finished with you."
Her mouth dropped and her head tilted to look up at him, her breath hitching in her chest in that delightful way that told him she was pleasantly caught of guard, like when she'd found his worn copy of 'The Remains of the Day'.
"Harry," she breathed out questioningly.
He smiled sheepishly and shuffled on his heels. "That is to say Hermione, would you mind, ah, going to…going with." He huffed out a breath as her eyebrows rose slowly and a smile spread over her lips. He finally chuckled. "Will you go to dinner with me? As a date?"
Hermione bit her lip and did that small little shoulder shrug that told him she wanted to laugh, but didn't want to offend him. (As if he could be offended, that little twitch was for when she was so darn happy she had trouble keeping it in!) "I will."
Harry grinned, "Excellent."
When she blushed and looked away, her eyes only falling on the canvas to make her blush more, he grinned wider and kissed her hands; holding them to his mouth until she turned back to him and he could see just how happy he had made her.
Perfect—he liked the colour of her eyes when they sparkled like that.
It was the Weasley dinner that Hermione had finally been able to attend—she'd finished all her work and filed for vacation time. Just in case Fleur needed her.
Harry had been pleasantly surprised to find she was a writer—a few of her essays in popular theory magazines and some instructional books with her name proudly embossed on the cover (though she'd confessed to a secret passion for writing romance novels). She'd had to finish off an essay before she could freely take time off, and Harry hadn't seen her as she'd been busy the past week.
And now he watched with wide eyes as Hermione drew in on herself and tossed her head back with a prim look. He had gotten so used to the open and fun woman that had emerged during their studio sessions that he forgot how timid and closed off she was around larger crowds.
Fred and George grinned at her in greeting, only receiving a prim 'how do you do' as Harry watched her try not to cross her arms and hunch over under the pressure of so many eyes on her.
Harry swallowed and briefly closed his eyes. It was almost painful to see her like this when he knew just how wonderful she was.
Ron tilted his head and wore his best bamboozled expression—"That the bird you're using for the painting?"
Harry sighed and couldn't resist the smile—he just knew Hermione would scoff at being called a bird. "That's Hermione; and yes, she's been helping me with my work."
Ron twitched his nose to one side, keeping his twisted expression as he righted himself and straightened.
Harry looked away to watch Hermione smoothly weave around the conversations and people that had settled down from her arrival, her neck craning to see over the crowd. She was much too short to see over the regular Weasley clan gathered. Harry smiled fondly.
"Er, she's a bit…plain." Ron offered.
Harry startled and looked at his friend. He blinked heavily and tried to reconcile his Hermione with the one presented at the Weasley supper here. His brows furrowed and his lips pursed. He had seen Hermione differently, and it was so hard for him to look back and see her as anything else.
He knew that under her light blouse she had a fine collarbone he itched to draw, a delicate little freckle just left of her bellybutton accented by a scar from the war, a curve to her breasts otherwise hidden by the drape of the soft fabrics she was prone to wearing. He shook his head—"She's gorgeous; it just takes a while for people to see it."
Ron blinked at him and gave him an expression of indulgent disbelief. "If you say so Harry."
Harry bristled. "I do."
A shiver raced up his spine at the finality in those two words, a tingling in his skull. He blinked and turned when Ron loudly greeted Charlie, inquiring about a hot bird on the reserve. Harry didn't know whether to take that as a hint about Hermione or as Ron's oblivious attempt to change the topic.
So he settled; Ron didn't think about what he said most of the time, despite his talent for strategy. His green eyes wandered to where Hermione had settled with a Butter beer in her small hands as she smiled and watched everyone go about interacting. Because that was what Hermione liked to do—she liked to watch other people enjoying themselves.
The artist in Harry rather liked it.
There were times when he found himself observing; delighting in the way light caught in someone's hair or the way their hands gestured so eloquently. If people wouldn't think it strange he half thought he'd carry around his sketch book.
He supposed he'd have to settle for pensieve memories, though he found they took a little bit of the vitality out of the movement, the moment.
Charlie inquired about his canvas and he absently said that is was finally finished but refused to comment further when they questioned him. His Muse, as he'd taken to calling the portrait, was somehow private—an intimate look at the woman he'd grown to love while he sketched her moods and watched her reveal her true personality.
Bill came to them briefly, exchanging his hellos before he nodded to Harry and then his gaze was caught on Hermione. His shoulders braced with a steeling breath before he smiled tightly and went to greet her. Harry watched her as she regarded him solemnly, quiet and unassuming as she accepted what looked like an apology.
If Bill was here that meant his pseudo-sister had arrived.
His head turned as Fleur loudly greeted Hermione; her French accent strong as she smiled and glowed like no other woman could. And Hermione, she flushed pleasantly and stood abruptly, rushing to give the pregnant woman a hug and lead her to a chair. She mothered the expectant mother and lit up like she hadn't in the crowd of redheads. Her smile curved her cheeks adorably and her eyes sparkled with a gold light in their dark brown depths; her hair seemed to gain life and vigour, bouncing around her head in springy curls that couldn't decide where to settle; and Hermione's hands were their expressive selves as she opened to Fleur and told small little anecdotes to make sure the woman laughed.
That was the beauty of Hermione—she was her best when she was making sure someone else was being cared for. That was when she forgot that people could be looking at her, examining for faults and mistakes. Then she became Hermione Jean Granger. And she was beautiful.
Harry smiled as Ron choked on his drink.
And then, once you'd seen it, it was hard to forget and overlook her again. Little hints of her personality seemed to be personified in her very being. A giant puzzle of physical traits meshing with personality quirks—Harry had made a game of guessing what little part of her would be represented where.
He rather thought her wild hair represented her untameable spirit, and her large eyes were an outlet for her never-ending curiosity. Maybe her delicate hands showed how careful she was with those around her, providing comfort and that special touch that always seemed to calm her friends down. Maybe her scars were evidence of how hard she fought for what she believed in—proof that she wasn't so shy as to ignore what should be done.
Putting down his drink he walked up to her, hugging her from the side as he kissed her cheek. Hermione startled and blushed before smiling shyly up at him, still unused to his affectionate touch—but he was working on that.
She was his muse—and he was never letting her go.
Especially now that the others were just starting to see how beautiful she was.
I like art. And I like Hermione. The only thing is I realized that this could have been a Dean+Hermione fic and worked out so differently...scratches head.
I hope you enjoyed this one shot; I certainly enjoyed writing it!