A/N: This chapter is special because I've combined the Declining A Date Challenge and The Photograph Challenge – both of which can be found on the Harry Potter Fanfiction Challenges forum.
(15) I have to go to the post office to see if I'm still wanted.
Hermione awoke to the smell of waffles and berries, which made her smile even before she opened her eyes. Getting up and going about her morning routine, she was about to leave for her training when a note by the waffles she was eating caught her eye.
Hope you've gotten enough rest and will eat the breakfast I laid out for you.
The note was short and sweet. It was easy for Hermione to decipher who wrote it just by looking at the messy-but-better-than-Ron's-scrawl that could only belong to Harry James Potter. She smiled as she headed to the floo.
Arriving at Healer Jefferson's office five minutes before the required time, she was glad her days off did nothing to her punctuality. Looking around the office to see if much has been changed during her absence, she was surprised to see nothing at all has been touched, moved or removed. Curious, Hermione stepped out of the office and looked around. The wizarding equivalent of a nurse almost passed by her, but she was quick to move into action.
"Excuse me, miss, but where is Healer Jefferson?" Hermione asked anxiously – her trainer was never late. The nurse's cerulean blue eyes widened in recognition of one of the members of The Golden Trio before realizing Hermione's odd question.
"Were you not informed?" The nurse asked. "Healer Jefferson has been required to attend a hearing today – something about a wizard abusing one of her close comrades…"
At the word abuse, Hermione had quickly flooed to the ministry. Using a mere Point Me charm, she quickly found the room Healer Jefferson was in. Flashing her Auror badge – for she had only taken a year to master everything, whereas Ron and Harry still had to take everything at the same rate as everyone – she was quickly let in by the guard.
"I did nothing of the sort to anyone." A cold voice spoke calmly, sending shivers up Hermione's spine. Not realizing she had made a rather grand entrance, Hermione was surprised when all heads had turned to her.
"Miss Granger!" Healer Jefferson exclaimed, her cold grey eyes softening into one filled with worry. "What are you doing here?"
"You never told me you were going to press charges." Hermione said, her heart beating furiously against her chest.
"I had to." Her trainer said, moving to come closer. "He was destroying you. You fell for him and he exploited that. You were beaten half to death on many accounts because of his violent behaviors during his drunken stupors. And yet you did nothing to protect yourself – all because you loved him." Tears prickled Hermione's eyes, blurring her vision. "When he broke it off with you for some random slut, it broke you." She engulfed Hermione in a hug, which caused the floodgates to open. "It broke you so much that you've unconsciously built a wall around yourself. You decline dates because you're afraid of getting in too deep. You're afraid of falling in love once more – of trusting someone too much, only to be disappointed and hurt in the end."
Hermione freely sobbed into Jefferson's robes, and it took a lot for Minister Kingsley to interrupt and ask, "Is this true, Miss Granger?"
Hermione clutched her trainer tightly, swallowing the lump in her throat to look up at Kingsley. At her nod, The Wizangamot knew just what to do with the man before them.
"Mister Jason Carmichael, by unanimous decision, you are to be sent to Azkaban for seven years, and on the day of your release, you are to be stripped of your magic and forced to work for the goblins of Gringotts.
The following day, Hermione was just about to leave for training when the floo flashed a bright emerald green to reveal her best friends – one after the other.
"Is this true, Hermione?" Harry exclaimed, eyes filled with both worry and anger.
"Yeah, how come you didn't tell us?" Ron asked cracking his knuckles. "I swear, this bastard would've been long dead if you told us."
"While you're words are reassuring, please remember that killing is illegal, Ronald," remarked Luna. "Though we do feel awful for not having your trust, Hermione."
"What's going on?" Ginny murmured, having been shaken awake by such raw magic emanating from Harry.
"Hermione, here, didn't tell us she was being abused by Carmichael." Harry spat coldly, making Hermione flinch.
"I didn't want to alarm any of you!" Hermione exclaimed exasperatedly. "It was going on around the same time everyone was busy preparing for Ron and Luna's wedding – I didn't want to take away any of the attention just because of my petty problems."
"Petty?" Ron repeated. "This is not petty, Hermione." His wife nodded beside him.
"The only reason you don't have bruises or any other physical signs of abuse is because we have magic on our side. But you shouldn't have had to shoulder this burden alone, Hermione." Luna Weasley said, calmly placing a hand on Hermione's shoulder.
"Yeah, 'Mione…" said Ginny.
"That's what we're all here for." Harry said, pulling her in for a hug. He bent so that his lips were level with her ear. "That's what I'm here for." He whispered, so low that only she could hear.
They spent the day in the flat after receiving a note from Healer Jefferson to take the rest of the week off to recuperate. In that time, Hermione explained to them when and how the abuse started and how he had ended things with her to go off with a prostitute he met at a pub. She told them of how she devoted her time to Auror training – which was how she finished ahead of everyone else by four years – and how she had sought out the help of the best healer there was to train under which led her to meet Healer Jefferson, who happened to be the number one healer in all of Europe and who also happened to have a muggle degree in Psychology.
That night, at half past ten, everyone began to depart – Ron and Luna to their house, and Ginny to her room – leaving Harry and Hermione alone.
"I'm sorry for shouting earlier." Harry said sheepishly, causing Hermione to smile and kiss his cheek.
"You're forgiven." Hermione said softly. "Besides, I know you were only looking out for me." Harry smiled and took both of her hands in his.
"Hermione Granger, I just want you to know that I would never ever – in my entire life – raise a hand against you in any way, shape, or form." Harry said honestly, a blush covering his cheeks. Hermione, to touched to speak, could only nod in response. "So…" trailed off Harry with a wink. "Will you go out with me?"
Hermione stuck her tongue out at him and whispered, "I have to go to the post office to see if I'm still wanted."
"I don't think there's a sign in any post office that says, wanted: undeniably smart unbelievably beautiful and utterly special girl."
"Why do you have to be so corny?" She whispered with a chuckle, though her blush betrayed what she really thought of his words. He shrugged before apparating away.
She was just about to turn in for the night when she accidentally stepped on something. Looking down, she found it to be a muggle wallet. Opening it to determine its owner, she was surprised to find a picture of herself and Harry in the forefront of the wallet – where pictures were placed.
It was taken from their sixth year at Hogwarts – five years ago – taken by Collin Creevey at Ron's prompting.
In the picture, Harry had an arm around Hermione' waist as he whispered something in her ear which caused her to laugh. It was snowing that day, but Harry had forgotten his, so she opted to share hers with him. And they looked very cozy indeed.
Hermione closed her eyes and wondered whether or not Harry had already felt something for her then. Deciding to find out, she took out the picture and turned it on its back – since among their group of friends, Harry was known to write notes on the back of photographs to remember special things about them. She gasped at what she read.
I'm falling even more in love with you each day, HJG. When will you love me too?
Turning the photo over again, she grew thoughtful as she watched pure happiness in the photo-Hermione's eyes.
And then she knew. As she always did.
She would be safe. Her heart would be safe. So long as it's with Harry.
A/N: And that's it, The End. Sorry for it being lame like that. But the thing is, I've lost my inspiration for this story. With everything that's been going on, and all... Thanks for reading.