Just Being Neighborly- Chapter 1

AN- I don't have a firm idea of where this is going, so feel free to review with things you liked/ didn't like and any ideas you have. I'll take it all into consideration.

Chapter 1-Stretching the Wings

She set the last box down in the living room and sighed happily. Her own home, finally! Hermione Granger had been working, saving and investing in the eight years since her Hogwarts graduation. Now she had a great career, an impressive nest egg, her own home and a steady boyfriend. Speaking of whom, Ron was currently lounging on a stack of boxes in the corner, sipping water and trying to catch his breath. He wordlessly handed Hermione a full bottle of ice-cold water.

"Thanks." Hermione said, accepting the drink. She unscrewed the cap and took a big drink before wiping the sweat from her forehead. It wasn't even June yet, and the weather was already quite warm. August would probably be brutal.

The two spent the rest of the day unpacking Hermione's belongings into her new row house. In all honesty, she didn't have enough things to fill the four-bedroom house. She took the largest of the bedrooms for her own use. The second largest would be the guest room. The third bedroom she outfitted with bookshelves wall to wall and floor to ceiling. It would be her library and home office. It was really kind of a relief to have a separate space allotted for this. In her last few apartments, everything had been smashed together in the living room. It was a bit uncomfortable to have her refuge and clutter on display for any guest. The smallest bedroom she closed up; there wasn't any need for it at this point.

Ron left when all of the boxes were magically moved to their appropriate rooms. He couldn't help much with unpacking, and Molly was expecting him back at the Burrow. Ron was busy playing professional Quidditch for most of the year, traveling the world with his teammates. As a result, he didn't have a permanent home in England yet. When the team was on breaks, he would stay with his parents. His and Hermione's relationship wasn't to the point yet that either of them wanted to live together, so it just made things easier if he stayed at home. The down-side was that Molly had trouble remembering that her youngest son was twenty-five years old and didn't really need to be coddled. Rather than rock the boat and destroy his living arrangements, Ron just abided by her rules for the month or two that he was in England.

Hermione unpacked most of her bedroom first, before she walked to the local bakery to buy something for dinner. The shopkeeper was very friendly, so they ended up chatting for a few moments before Hermione left. Monty liked to know all the people in the neighborhood. He told Hermione that the neighborhood was a good one, but some of her neighbors were a little strange. When pressed, he wouldn't divulge any more information, saying she would have to figure that out for herself. Monty gave her a free loaf of bread as a 'Welcome to the neighborhood' gift. Hermione, in turn, assured him that she would be back in a day or two when she was ready to stock her kitchen.

The evening was beautiful, so Hermione decided to eat her dinner out on the front porch. She stopped inside briefly to put down her bread and get a glass of cool water and an apple. After dinner, Hermione unpacked items in the kitchen for an hour or so before it was time to get ready for bed.

She decided that a post-moving shower was one of the best in existence. She felt so refreshed. Hermione stopped off in the library to pick up a book from one of the boxes before she curled up in bed. The only downside, she reflected, was the quiet. The house to one side of hers appeared to be vacant though it was not for sale. On the other side, it looked as though chaos ruled, but the house was still very quiet.

The next morning, after a breakfast of tea and toast, Hermione tackled the living room. Without all of her books, it was mostly furniture and photos, so it didn't take very long. The hardest part was arranging the couch and chairs so that they best filled the room. The shelves she decorated with smaller pictures and a few knick-knacks she had picked up in her travels. Her favorite souvenir was too large to fit on a shelf, though. The ornate, hand-made Swiss cuckoo clock hung on the wall near the fireplace. She stayed in the room until the hour just to make sure that the clock was still calibrated correctly. Ron had mocked her mercilessly for the care that went into packing that beautiful clock, but she had to make absolutely sure that it was safe.

Ron thought it was strange that her most prized possession was that silly clock, while her most valuable possession was packed away in a box that went straight onto her closet shelf. Hermione didn't display her Order of Merlin. She recognized that it was meant to honor her for everything that she had done for the war effort, but it only served to remind her of those that had been lost and all the things that she wasn't able to do. As a result, it was packed away with the other war artifacts that she looked at one day a year.

Two days later, Hermione was completely unpacked. She invited Ginny Potter, née Weasley, to be her first real visitor. Harry was conducting some Auror training courses in the Australian Outback, so Ginny had volunteered to watch Hermione's cat, Holmes, while she got settled in. Now that the unpacking was finished, it was time for Holmes to come home. Hermione had missed her feline companion during all the hours she had been alone in the house. Holmes found her about six months after Crookshanks had passed away. Hermione had just started to think about looking for a new familiar. She had been on a business trip to Dublin when the cat started following her. After having been followed by the same tabby cat all day, Hermione recognized him as her new familiar and took him home with her that evening. She names the cat Holmes because he had a knack with snooping and weaseling his way into things. Turned out, he was almost as good a judge of character as Crooks was, and he wasn't even part Kneazle! Holmes seemed to love Ginny almost as much as he loved Hermione, which was part of why she was the favorite cat-sitter. He tolerated Harry. They were almost friends after the last time Hermione had needed to leave him at the Potters, but, try as she might, Hermione could not get Holmes to form any kind of bond with Ron. When George Weasley was around, Holmes would always hide. The cat also was not too fond of children, though he had good reason for that one. Hermione would not have blamed him at all if Holmes had scratched young Persephone Weasley, Percy's eldest daughter, after she spent the day terrorizing him and pulling his tail. Holmes was nonviolent though; he just tried to make himself scarce when children were around.

At one o'clock on the dot, the bell at Hermione's house sounded. It was Ginny with Holmes. Hermione rushed to the door to let them in. She scratched Holmes under his chin before setting him down on the floor. Ginny was bad about holding and carrying animals too much. It was entirely possible that Holmes hadn't been on his feet in the last few days. Sure enough the cat stretched, wound around her legs a few times, and walked off into the house. Hermione hugged Ginny and took her on a guided tour of the house.

Ginny was particularly fond of the dining room. It was a long, dark green room that Hermione had outfitted with a sizeable mahogany table. It reminded her a little of Order meetings in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place, but her dining room was just different enough. Ginny loved the shine on the new table and the sheer masculinity and power about the room. Hermione's house was not full of dainty furniture or flower-print. It was just so soothing still. Hermione thought the dining room felt a little like a cave, but it was a good cave. Hermione and Ginny ended up lounging in the living room while Holmes fell asleep on the windowsill in the library.

"Hermione, I just can't get over how beautiful your house is!" Ginny gushed.

"I just can't believe I bought a house. It's such a big step." she replied.

"Well, we're getting older now, so it's time to start taking big steps. Mum keeps asking me if I'm pregnant. Harry and I have been married for five years now, and she says it's well past time for me to be pregnant." Ginny said nervously.

"Ginny that's such a big step. Are you two ready to start a family?" Hermione asked.

"I don't think we're ready yet. I mean, Harry travels a lot for work, and I just don't know if I want to have that responsibility right now. Is that just horrible?"

"No, that's not horrible at all. You're only twenty-four, and Harry's only twenty-five. You've got a solid decade of childbearing years in front of you before it even begins to become dangerous. Women are waiting longer and longer these days to start their families, and you've got plenty of time. Plus, a baby is a big responsibility to take on if you aren't positive that you're ready." Hermione replied.

"How will I know when I'm ready though? I thought babies were the kind of thing that you could never really be ready for?" Ginny asked. She was so glad to be able to talk to her best friend about this.

"To be honest, I don't know. I'm not ready. But this isn't something that you can do by yourself. Harry has to be ready too. And I know for a fact that Harry will want to be very involved in the lives of his children. He can't do that now when his main responsibility is the training of new Auror candidates. In a few years he should be able to get something closer to home. I think it's a good thing that you guys aren't having children right now."

"I'm so glad you're here to help me with these things. I'll have to talk to Harry about this. Maybe he can help me come up with a way to get Mum off my back." Ginny smiled. Hermione laughed.

"I can understand that. Ron said she's been bugging him about when we're going to get married. She even got an engagement ring catalog to hide in his suitcase last time he left." Hermione said.

"How are things with you and Ron?" Ginny asked.

"Good. I don't see him much with their training sessions and games. We see each other as much as we can though. He helped me move in, and he's come over once since then just to visit. He said he'd come by tomorrow before his workout. It's just hard with his work schedule. Course I can't exactly say that mine is less grueling. I took off a whole week to make this move, and I really dread seeing the pile that awaits my return.

"Do you ever find it difficult not being able to talk about work?" Ginny asked.

"Not really," Hermione said after a moment of thought. "I've found that people don't really want to hear about each other's work days. I can talk about some basic things, just no specifics about whom I work with or what I'm doing. I just make sure that I read the Prophet every day and stay up on other topics so I don't have to small talk about work."

Just then the cuckoo clock struck four.

"Ginny, would you like to stay for dinner tonight?" she asked.

"Only if you'll let me cook. No offense, but you know you don't cook very well." Ginny said, laughing.

"I know, but I manage to keep myself alive." Hermione joked back following Ginny to the kitchen. As the youngest of seven and the only girl, Ginny had a knack for creating a delicious meal out of things that were just lying around.

An hour later, the two were having the inaugural meal at the dining room table.