DISCLAIMER: If you've read it before, it might not be mine. Main Characters and backstory belong to JKR. I write for my own amusement and hopefully yours and not for $$$.
A/N: First of my fics publihsed. Be nice. Rating is for occasional bad language. You want graphic sex or extreme bloodshed - yes I have stories with that but this is not one of them.
SATURDAY - JUNE 17, 2006 - NEW YORK CITY, N.Y.
She hated business trips really. She hated them because they took her away from her son and daughter. They were twins and only six years old. Fortunately, since her father died her mother and younger sister lived with her and watched over them when she was away. This trip was the worst in her opinion. It would be the longest time she spent away from her children since they were born. She had left home last night and would be here for a whole week. It was now Saturday morning and she was in the hotel lobby ordering her breakfast. The conference she was attending did not start until Monday, but her boss wanted her here early to make sure everything was in order. She checked last night when she checked in. Everything was in order and now she had nothing to do for the next two days.
Well, she thought, it's not like there's nothing to do. I am in New York City after all. Maybe I could do some shopping. She really had no idea what she would shop for. The business trips were the price she paid for her salary. She was now a Marketing Associate for Pak Riley Corporation, a major research and development firm in St. Louis. Her job was to sell their products and this conference could be a big deal maker for her company. It was both hers and their first major international exhibition and there would be potential buyers from all over the world - and most critically Europe. That was Monday. Today, she had nothing to do.
She had just ordered and was reading her complimentary paper waiting for her breakfast to arrive.
"May I join you?" A man's voice asked. "Every other table is full and I am famished."
She nodded but hoped he would not try and chat her up. She found that annoying in the extreme. "Thank you," he said. His voice was accented. He was not an American. Well, neither am I really, she thought. Unless she was mistaken, her new table companion was from Britain. So was she - once.
She listened to his accent as he ordered his breakfast and remembered a part of her thought of her life long ago. It seemed like that had not been her life at all.
"Bloody hate business trips," he said. "Annoying really." She nodded in agreement trying to read an article about some scandal or another. "Worse when I have to cross the pond," he continued. "Though it's easier flying west than it is flying east, don't you think?" She nodded absently.
"I guess it could be worse," he sighed.
She now wanted to tell him to be quiet. She wasn't in the mood for any conversation. She put down her paper and looked at the man at her table for the first time. She almost died of a heart attack she would later think when she saw who was seated at her table.
"Hermione Granger, I presume," he said. She knew him instantly. The raven hair and bright green eyes, she had known him years ago and this was the last place she thought she'd run into him. She could feel the blood drain from her face as her jaw dropped.
"Relax," he said. "This is just a coincidence. I'm here for some bloody conference regarding recent research and stuff. Bloody waste of time if you ask me. I'm a Field Agent, not a bloody R&D type. But I got tapped for this so there you go and here we are."
She wanted to leave, but now knew she could not. He was here for the same conference so this potentially awkward meeting was unavoidable - unless she wanted to lose her job. "Harry, I…" she started.
"I am pleased to see the rumors back home are unfounded," Harry said with a smile.
"Oh, there all kinds. The most common one is that you were killed and are moldering in some unmarked grave somewhere. Every few months since you left if there is a slow news day the Daily Prophet comes up with its new theory of what happened to Hermione Granger. My particular favorite is that you were really and alien and have returned to your home world." Harry chuckled. "It's really quite pathetic."
"I understand if you don't want to tell me where you've been these last seven years. But forgive me if I am curious."
"In case you're wondering, no I did not come looking for you after you disappeared. Wanted to. I really did. But things were so hectic I never found the time and when things calmed down I figured the trail had long since gone cold. No point then. It was obvious you were not coming back, so why look? So, what brings you to New York? I assume that's a safe question."
"Apparently the same thing that brought you here."
"Really? Buying or selling?"
"I'm a marketing agent for a company in St. Louis." And she explained to him what she did.
"You've been here a while, haven't you," Harry said when she finished.
"I only got in last night."
"No. I mean you've been living here in America for a while."
"I'm a pretty good cop, Hermione. Your accent. There's still a trace of home, but it's barely noticeable. You talk like an American - not that there's anything wrong with that."
"I should think not. Cop? I thought you were an Auror."
"There have been a lot of changes back home since you left Hermione. A lot of changes. Perhaps a proper introduction is in order? I am Chief Inspector Harry Potter, Deputy Director, Major Crimes and Special Operations Department, Royal National Magical Police."
"We deal with capital crimes in Britain: murder, rape, unforgivables and we conduct foreign operations against terrorists and the Voldemort remnants and wannabes. We reformed law enforcement soon after you left. Our police force is now modeled after the Magical Section of the American FBI. My Department deals with the worst of the mutts. Just closed a nasty serial killer case a few weeks ago. That was one sick puppy."
"Things have changed," Hermione observed.
"Whole government, in fact. The Ministry is now strictly the executive branch. Technically, we're part of the Ministry. In reality, the Minister's only control over us is through the budgeting process. The Wizengamot is gone. We now have an elected Parliament that passes laws and a separate court system to enforce them. You'd be pleased to learn that the House Elves have seats in the Legislature and their own bureau in the Ministry itself."
"Yep. You'd hardly recognize the place."
Hermione thought for a while. She had not seen Harry in almost seven years, not since the day he brought her to Heathrow. He seemed surprisingly cheerful. She wondered. She had left that day and never heard from him again, and yet he was acting as if nothing happened. She was sure he was upset with her disappearance. She would have been. She was. Had she been told she would run into him, she would have thought he'd be less of a stranger and more upset with her. Something was very different than she had expected.
"How's Ron," she finally asked?
"As I said," Harry replied, his mood suddenly sullen, "things have changed. I try not to think about him."
Harry sighed. "I haven't spoken to Ron in years, Hermione. Our friendship ended the day he broke your heart."
"I - I never wanted that."
"I know. But you were not the self centered idiot who crushed my other best friend's soul for his own personal pleasure."
SATURDAY - JUNE 26, 1999 - 12 GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON, U.K.
Harry was watching his new television. Ginny was at home with her parents and would not be coming over for a few days and Harry was relaxing after a hard week at work. He was startled by a pounding on his door. He grumbled as he was enjoying the movie on the telly and went to the door. He opened it and Hermione was standing there in tears. She seemed almost hysterical and certainly inconsolable. She pushed passed him and into his living room. She ignored everything for a while before she finally realized he was there.
"Hermione?" Harry asked.
"It's OVER," she bawled!
"What is? What's over?"
"Ron and me!"
"I'm sure it's not that bad, Hermione."
"ARE YOU? WERE YOU THERE JUST NOW? IS SHAGGING ANOTHER WOMAN OKAY?"
"What? What are you talking about?" Harry could smell that she had been drinking.
"I wanted to surprise him. Term ended yesterday and the train came today and I decided to skip it and apparate to his flat and surprise him hours before the train arrived in London.," she cried. "I have a key, you know."
"So I walk in and hear - and hear a woman moaning from the living room, Harry! Calling HIS name! It sounded like - sex! So I went in and there was Ron bare assed and going at it with LAVENDER BROWN!!"
There was nothing Harry could say in reply to his friend.
"They never noticed me, all wrapped up in each other as they were and I was too stunned to do anything. I slipped back into the hall, left Ron a note and my engagement ring. It's over!"
Harry nodded. He really did not know what else to do.
"Oooh, but he's sure to get the point! I caught him and he knows!"
"What do you mean, Hermione?"
"I didn't write the note on a piece of parchment! I used my wand and graffitied it on the walls of his fucking front hall. Made it indelible! No paint - other than black paint - will cover it up! He'll either have to paint his whole house black or replace the damn wall!" She seemed to shudder with a thrill for her ingenuity Harry noted. Harry also knew she was pissed: both angry and drunk. She never used such language before so far has he could remember.
"What time did you get to Ron's?" Harry asked.
"WHY THE HELL DO YOU CARE?"
"Because - well - you seem to have been drinking - a lot, Hermione."
"Why do you care?"
"Because I care about you, Hermione. I - I…"
Harry nodded. "You know I always have."
'Sometimes you've got a f-funny way of showin' it."
Harry looked at her questioningly. When she was sober, all it took was a look to ask a question. She would know he wanted to know what she meant. He had looks for her, she had looks for him. Somehow, they could communicate without talking. Harry did not know if that silent communication worked when she was trashed.
"When Ron ran out on us during the War," she said. "Y-you ignored me."
"I did not," Harry protested!
"You let me bawl my eyes out! You didn't offer me a shoulder to cry on or anything!"
"I - I thought…"
"I thought you needed your space."
"Damn it Harry! I needed you to be my friend!"
"I thought I was being your friend."
"Well, you were wrong! I wanted you to hold me and make the pain go away."
Harry started to tear up. He thought she had appreciated him leaving her alone and not - not doing anything he thought might violate their trust. For the first time, he now knew she had needed him and he had failed her. The revelation was killing him inside.
"I would have if…" Harry could not finish the sentence.
"IF WHAT," Hermione yelled.
"If you had asked," Harry replied.
"WHY SHOULD I? I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND!"
"I am, Hermione. I always have been and always will be. But, I was a stupid, seventeen year old boy who knew next to nothing about girls."
"Now I'm a stupid eighteen year old boy who knows next to nothing about girls."
"And w-what about me?" she asked in a scared voice.
"I - I know you probably better than anyone," Harry said softly. "But I cannot read your mind. Like to, but that would be rude. While I'd like to think I'm pretty good at reading you…"
"You are," she said. She then laughed for some reason Harry could not fathom.
"I also know I'm not perfect. I'm sorry, Hermione. Sorry for not being there for you then. I'm here for you now, though."
She smiled at him for a moment, but then her face changed. Her mouth opened as if in pain. Her eyes crushed themselves shut and Harry could see tears falling and saw her shoulders heaving, even though she made no sound at all. Her hands were pulled up under her chin as she shook with silent tears.
I'm here for her now, Harry thought. He walked up to her and pulled her into a hug. Gently, he pulled her head to his chest and felt her shake and felt her tears. Finally, she began to cry vocally, and he pulled her as close as he could, rubbing her back and kissing her beautiful - if seemingly unmanageable brown, curly hair. He could not help but smell her and to his embarrassment was enraptured by the smell. He wanted her even closer, but prayed she kept her arms in front of her. His "involuntary" reaction to holding his friend and beautiful young woman - he thought - so close scared him and, should she realize it might scare her as well. He did not want that. All he wanted - all he had ever wanted for her - was for Hermione to be happy.
As she cried, he was lost in thought. Ron was his best mate, had been since he first met Ron almost eight years ago. Hermione, however, was his best friend - again practically since they first met almost eight years ago. He could tell her things he could never tell anyone else. Ron and he had had their fights over the years. Most arose because Ron had a massive inferiority complex, which Harry thought might explain what Hermione had walked in to find a few hours ago. Hermione and Harry had had their tiffs as well. But there was a difference. She never stopped caring for him and their spats were when she had done what she thought was best for him and he acted like an immature git as a result.
He had always feared this day. Ron and Hermione had begun dating officially about a year ago, just as the War ended. Deep down, there was a part of Harry that wanted her too, but she seemed to have a thing for Ron and Ron for her and he knew it. He feared what would happen if either he or Ron had started dating Hermione and then the relationship failed. He knew he would have to take a side - Ron or Hermione. He feared losing either or both of his best friends. Now, that day was here. To Harry's surprise, the choice was easy: Hermione!
"It's okay," Harry whispered.
"It's NOT okay," she cried back. "H-he b-broke m-my heart! I h-hate him!"
"I NEVER WANT TO SEE THAT BASTARD AGAIN!"
Part of Harry hoped that was not true. Another part knew she was serious and meant it. Hermione was not perfect - who was? But one thing this broken friend of his was not and would never be was a doormat. Lavender was. Maybe that was what Ron wanted in a girlfriend - someone he could treat like dirt and get away with it.
"Then don't," Harry said.
"W-what? B-b-but I love him!"
"And he obviously does not love you," Harry said.
"H-h-how can y-you s-say th-that? D-d-did h-he t-t-tell y-y-you?"
"No. But if he loved you - truly loved you - you would not be here now and he would not have been…"
"FUCK HIM," Hermione wailed!
"Don't like Lavender's sloppy seconds," Harry quipped.
Harry shrugged and tightened the hug.
"He broke my heart, Harry," she cried.
"I know," Harry said soothingly.
"HOW COULD I BE SO STUPID!!"
"Hush! You're not stupid, Hermione. You're the smartest, kindest and most special person I've ever known."
"And yet I couldn't see this!"
"That makes two of us, Hermione. Until just now, I had no reason to think that he was…"
"You were here - in London - with him all this year! I was stuck in school, Harry! What do you mean you did not know?"
"He got his own flat, you know."
"I know. I helped him pick it our. He didn't…"
"Didn't want to be beholding to me for a place to live. Goodness knows, Hermione, I offered him a room here. You know he flat out refused. Bugger hated feeling like he was second class or something. You remember, don't you?"
She chuckled reluctantly. Ron could be such an insecure git, she thought.
TUESDAY - JULY 14, 1998 - 12 GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON, U.K.
The "Golden Trio," Harry scoffed. Another one of the totally stupid names the press had forced upon him over his brief lifetime, Harry though, except now they dragged his two best friends into that cesspool with him. Bah! So what? So we beat - killed - the most dangerous Dark Wizard in memory? So what? I'm not even eighteen! You bastards want to lionize me and my friends? Wait until we have a lifetime of accomplishments, not a moment's fleeting glory in the sun at the dawn of our young lives! But the press has a bloody nutter of a mind of its own, Harry thought.
He and his two best friends stood at the door of the house he had inherited from his Godfather. Over the past couple of weeks Harry had the place completely renovated while he, Ron and Hermione lived at Ron's parent's place - the Burrow. Harry was now moving in at last. He had brought his friends here to make them an offer. They were all acting Auror's now, hunting down the remnants of Voldemort's followers. Hermione was only a temp as she intended to return for her final year of school. Harry and Ron (and Neville, for that matter) were now permanent additions to the elite Auror Corps, the youngest ever. Then again, as most of the Corps died in the war, their youth was not that unexpected given their wartime accomplishments.
Grimmauld Place had been an old, dark, horribly out of date Garden House near the Camden Towne section of London. It was large. Below the Ground Floor was a large basement which contained the Kitchen. It then had a Ground Floor, three upper floors and an attic. There had been a guest bedroom on the First Floor along with the Drawing Room. The Ground Floor had a Parlor and the Dinning Room. A Study / Library and another bedroom had occupied the Second Floor. The Master Suites were on the Third Floor, and two bedrooms were in the Attic. It had been practically gutted in the renovation. The Ground Floor and First Floor were mostly open spaces now. The Ground Floor was the "public room" for dinning and entertaining. The First Floor was now the main room for relaxation and less formal gatherings, although it also contained the guest bedroom as Harry thought of it. Harry's study / library and a bedroom occupied the second floor. The rest of the floor plans were virtually unchanged, but the rooms - except for the two attic rooms (for now) had been renovated.
Harry was having electricity, telephones, cable television and internet installed. Although Harry had a House Elf as a servant, he had installed modern "Muggle" (non-magical) appliances in the old kitchen. Harry had been forced to cook for his Aunt and Uncle as a boy. While he hated cooking for them he did enjoy cooking and was more than willing to expand his talents in that arena now that he had a place of his own. Maybe not every meal, but he did like to experiment with his cooking. Although he could use magic to cook, having been brought up in a non-magical house he preferred to "cook by hand" as Ron derisively called the method used by most of the world.
Out back of the house was a large but long neglected garden that was now his House Elf Kreature's main task in life. Behind the garden there was an old Carriage House he had renovated into a garage. The house had an upper floor that had been servant's quarters when the place was built in the 1850's. It had been filled with ages of junk. He had turned it into a recreation room. The ground level was now a four car garage. He was thinking about learning to drive and buying a car.
"So," he said after he gave his friends the grand tour, "what do you
"I hardly recognize the place, Harry," Hermione said. "It's lovely!"
"It'll do I suppose," Ron moped. Ron had issues with money. More annoyingly Ron had issues with the fact that Harry had lots of it inherited from his family and his Godfather.
"You two are more than welcome to live here," he said.
"That would be wonderful," Hermione said, looking at her boyfriend
"I don't know," Ron said. "I mean, I guess for a bit. But I'm dating Hermione now and your dating my sister and unless I am seriously mistaken, both are pretty serious. I really don't want to know what you and my baby sister are up to, if you know what I mean. I'm sure you don't want to know what Hermione and I are…"
"RON," Hermione shot back!
"Dear? I mean - well…"
"It's a big house, Ron," Harry said. "Much too big for one person. It's not like Gin and I are going to be married anytime soon. She still has another year of school and…"
"And I already told you, Ronald," Hermione said crossly, "I am going back to take my final year."
"You know you don't have to," Ron complained.
"I WANT TO! You know I want to take my exams!"
"But 'Mione, you don't need to! You can be an Auror…"
"Maybe I don't want to be one Ronald. Did you ever think of that? Did you? Maybe I want to do something different."
"I DON'T KNOW! Look, Ronald. Maybe you think chasing around after Dark Wizards is loads of fun, but I don't! The only reason I have done that and am doing it is because of you two. But I know I don't want to do that for the rest of my life. I want to keep my options open!"
"I'm just saying…"
"DON'T! DON'T SAY ANYTHING! Damn it Ronald, I want to do something else. I just don't know what yet, okay?"
"I - I guess."
"And I think living here - at least at first is brilliant!"
"Damn it I don't!"
"Why not?" Harry and Hermione asked.
"I told you! I don't want to know what Ginny and Harry are up to, okay?"
"Is that it, Ronald?" Hermione asked.
"Yes - well - no! I can afford a flat now. I want a place of my own - of our own, 'Mione."
"Oh," she said. "I guess…"
"Thank you," Ron replied! "Look. We can stay here until you go back to school or so. But by then I want our own flat, okay?"
"Sounds great," Hermione said. Harry was not convinced she was sincere.
"Besides, I don't want - well - I hate playing poor! I won't live off of charity - even Harry's."
"He did not make the offer out of charity. He did it as a friend!"
"Yeah? Well maybe he did…"
"I did," Harry added.
"But the rest of the blighters will think I live here 'cause I can't afford a decent place of my own. I am sick of that, okay?"
The other two knew Ron well enough to know this was not worth the effort of arguing over. He had real issues with looking poor. Always had.
SATURDAY - JUNE 26, 1999 - 12 GRIMMAULD PLACE, LONDON, U.K.
"Git probably got the place for his shagging pleasure," Hermione wailed. "Damn it Harry! This place is huge! Privacy would not have been an issue. I tried to tell him but he refused to listen. Son of a bitch wanted his bachelor pad so he could shag tarts while I was off at school. Did it matter we were engaged? Apparently not. BASTARD!'
"Damn it, Harry! You're supposed to be my best friend! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"Tell me Ron was fucking around on me!"
"I - I didn't know." Harry was shocked at her language. Then again, she smelled like she'd been drinking all day.
She looked at him in disbelief.
"Honestly, Hermione. I did not! I never popped by there unannounced. That's just rude. It fucking began bothering me when he would do the same. Git made a point of it during the Hols if he even thought there was a remote chance Gin was here. I like my privacy, okay? I don't invite tarts here for a cheap shag, but I like being left alone for a time. I do my socializing away from here. I assumed he would be the same way. I had no idea he was screwing around. I swear!"
She looked at Harry intently. She knew, even in her inebriated state, she knew he was telling her the truth. "When did the git learn to lie?" She asked rhetorically.
"Come on, Harry! Ron could not lie to save his life. Not really."
"He did during the war."
"So he claims. Okay fine! He could not lie to us to save his life."
Harry nodded for it had been true.
"But he can now," Hermione continued. "What changed?"
"Lying bastard," she said. "All this year he wrote me. He wrote and told me how much he loved me and missed me. His letters were sweet, but seemed canned somehow."
"Canned?" Harry asked.
"Like someone else wrote them. Bit too smooth for Ron, I should have seen it. Still. Damn it! I was in love with the bastard. Still…
"I invited him to come up for each Hogsmeade Weekend. He always had an excuse and never came."
"He," Harry began. "Damn it all! I'm so sorry, Hermione."
"I made every Weekend except one to visit Gin," Harry said. "One! As hectic as things are at the office, I could still find a few weekends to take off. I made it to all of her matches. All of them! And I've been on loads foreign and undercover assignments! Ron's not trusted with those. He has an aversion to all things Muggle, he does. He only did four in the last year and they were all during the week. He's damn good at take downs - fights - but useless at the more cloak and dagger sort of missions. Take downs are few and far between. Takes months to run a perp to the ground. The other assignments are frequent. In a way, you were lucky today. Odds are, I would not be here. Damn!"
"R-Ron said he w-was so busy," Hermione whimpered.
"He wasn't that busy. Damn it! The bastard!"
"Wh-what are you saying?"
"I don't know! Sorry, Hermione, I don't. But damn it! The git was not that busy. He could have easily spared a little time for you. Damn it! Why didn't I see it?"
"H-how c-could you know?"
"I was there! I never saw you or Ron or…Damn it all!"
'G-Ginny never told you?"
"She never did."
"I - I asked her to. I asked her to find out what Ron was up to. I asked her to tell me why he could not see me. I asked her to ask you. She never did?"
Harry shook his head.
"Hey," Harry protested!
"Sorry Harry. Maybe she forgot. It's been a bad day."
"Please don't take it out on her."
"She's supposed to be my friend!"
"She's also miffed at you."
"Because she says I am closer to you than to her and…"
"Harry, we've been best friends forever. She's…"
"I know. Still, it pisses her off that you and I are so close. She knows there's nothing going on, still…"
"Yeah. Throw in the fact that you were Head Girl. Her Mum was - well - she told her that how could Gin expect that honor? You were a far better student and… Still, Molly would have preferred…"
"Damn it all," Hermione exclaimed. "Fucking Weasleys! I did not covet that position!"
"I earned it!"
"I know, Hermione."
"I need a drink!"
"I need a bloody belt! Got any booze in this palace?"
"You're not my Daddy! I'm of age! I can have a bloody belt if I want one! If you have one! Otherwise, it's back to the Pub."
"Spent a few hours there before coming over. Or hadn't you noticed?"
"I - erm."
"Well? You going to offer me a drink or what?"
"I really don't think you should…"
"I told you! You're not my goddamned Daddy! This day sucks! My life sucks! I want a drink!"
"It doesn't help, believe me."
"I DON'T CARE!"
Harry resigned. He pointed her to his bar. Better here, he thought, than in some Pub. Goodness knows what might happen to her there.
Harry watched as Hermione walked over to his bar and poured her self a disturbingly large glass of scotch.
"Hermione, are you sure you should…"
"After this afternoon, FUCK IT! I GETTING PISSED!"
"Don't Harry! Don't," she said in a near rage as she drained the glass and nearly coughed herself into oblivion. "Never had that before," she said when she regained a bit of control. She refilled her glass a couple of times, but she faded fast and was soon lying on Harry's couch drunk. Harry had never seen Hermione like this and it scared him. It scared him even more that he had no idea what to do. She was fading fast and her eyes were closing. "I love you, Harry," she slurred.
She was drunk, Harry thought - really drunk.
"Love you too," he said. He found a blanket Mrs. Weasley had knitted for him and placed it over her as she passed out. He kissed her forehead and hear an unintelligible mumble in reply. He then went upstairs to bed.
SATURDAY - JUNE 17, 2006 - NEW YORK CITY, N.Y.
Harry always wondered if she remembered what she said just before she fell asleep that night or what he said to her. He always wondered if she meant it and if so how she meant it.