Lunch at Maxine's

A/N and Disclaimer – This is a work of fiction, specifically fanfiction. Any characters, locations, or concepts that you recognize from the Harry Potter universe are the property of JK Rowling and various corporate interests and no copyright infringement is intended. Original characters in this work are probably mine. One or two might have shown up on their own accord, and I'll take responsibility for them just to be polite. No servers were injured in the writing of this fanfiction, and all of the characters left an appropriate gratuity. Any holidays or celebrations mentioned in this work are fully in the public domain.

Maxine's is a wizarding restaurant that has no counterpart in the real world (as far as I know). It is in London near the old Roman Wall at the Bishop's Gate. It was built upon the ruins of the wizarding tavern The Old Dun Snorkack, which had been built by a pair of wizards prior to the construction of the wall in 190 AD. The Old Dun Snorkack was destroyed by Death Eaters in the summer of 1997. The staff and customers took refuge in the cellars while the Death Eaters burned the tavern down, an event that was memorialized in song.

Chapter One – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Sunday 12 May 2002 1205pm gmt Maxine's in London

"Exactly how long have you been in love with Harry?"

Smiling smugly, Helen Granger watched her daughter as she sat in her chair, wine glass halfway to her lips. Hermione's eyes had gone wide and she was doing a credible impersonation of an animal trapped in the headlights on the motorway.

Seeing that her daughter had started to answer before her conscious mind had realized exactly what it was her mother had asked her, Helen nodded encouragingly. The typical Sunday afternoon sounds of their favorite London wizarding restaurant swirled around them, while Hermione was atypically silent.

Shaking her head once, Hermione sat back in her seat and carefully returned the wine glass, untouched, to the table.

"Mother, don't be ridiculous. You of all people know that Harry and I are best mates, nothing more." Looking around to see if anyone was paying attention to the exchange, she glared at her mother.

Laughing, Helen took a sip of wine and then gestured at her daughter with the glass.

"Bollocks, young lady. This is Harry we're talking about. Not Ron or that young man who works with you at the Ministry who fancies you. Harry Potter, the wizard whom you're living with. Remember him?"

"For the thousandth time, Harry and I aren't 'living together'. We simply share a home. A very large home." Taking a rather large sip of her own glass, Hermione smiled.

"You've been to Grimmauld Place, you could hold your Dental Association's Spring Dinner there and have room left over."

"You share a home where the staff defers to you as if you were the Queen Mother. Doesn't Kreacher refer to you as 'Mistress of the Hall'?" Nodding agreeably, Helen smiled wickedly.

"Honestly Mother, Kreacher is pretty much the staff, and he's simply a traditionalist. To his mind, a proper wizarding household is configured a certain way. Harry is obviously the Master of the House to him since he's the Head of House for both the Potters and the Blacks. Since I'm living there also, by default I'm Mistress of the House. It really doesn't mean anything. Once he stopped pining away for Walburga, I was the next available witch, I suppose."

"So when Harry's former fiancé was living there with you two, she was Mistress Ginny, correct?" Smiling knowingly, Helen took a sip of her wine and watched as her daughter began to fidget in her seat.

"Erm, well no. To Kreacher, she was always 'Miss Ginny'. But Kreacher never really warmed to her, for some reason."

"Of course. A house elf, raised and living for decades in a very traditional environment of rabid pureblood supremacists takes a shine to a muggle-born witch who's merely the best friend of his Master over the pureblood fiancé. I imagine it happens every day."

"Where in the name of Magic is that waitress." Not seeing the offending server anywhere, Hermione turned back to her mother.

"Exactly what prompted you to ask that ridiculous question? Have you and Daddy been subscribing to The Daily Prophet behind my back?"

"You know we've subscribed to The Quibbler since we got back from Australia. I wouldn't take The Sunday Prophet just to have something to line Flaubert's countertop with, although Luna says she wouldn't mind." Smiling again, she sat back and took another sip.

"How are Luna and Ron doing? Has the poor boy figured out that he's actually quite taken with her yet?"

"Mother, it took him four years to figure out that I was a girl, he's only been spending time with her for a few months now." Chuckling, Hermione shook her head fondly.

"Personally, I think he's pretty much a goner as far as she's concerned, but he'll muddle through in his own time. Luna's content that he's the one for her, she says that he's simply building up his nargle tolerance slowly so that they'll eventually be at the same level and then he'll realize it."

"I suppose that's as good an explanation as any. You're all right with your ex-fiancé moving on so soon? The two of you were supposed to be getting married back in January, you know."

Hermione nodded absentmindedly as she looked down at the menu and tapped a couple of times upon the crystal vase in the center of the table as she noticed their server approaching the table. After the pair of them had ordered, and refilled their wine glasses, Hermione sat back and sighed.

"It's odd, but I'm really fine with those two. I think Ron subconsciously started that ridiculous row on Christmas Eve just to bring about the conversation that we really shouldn't get married."

"Hermione, it wasn't really that ridiculous. He was very annoyed that his bride-to-be was reluctant to be at his family's home on Christmas Eve. Regardless of the provocation."

"Mother, Molly was sitting there being very snarky to Harry for well over an hour. It wasn't until Ginny showed up an hour late, slightly pissed, on the arm of Dennis Creevey for Merlin's sake, that she finally stopped. The woman really needs to see a good therapist when it comes to some of the issues she has.

"I don't think it was out of line for me to tell her that if she was that uncomfortable with having Harry at the Burrow, we could move the entire affair to Grimmauld Place and everything would be fine." Taking another sip of her wine, she closed her eyes.

"Except for us, they're the only real family Harry has."

"Harry's always welcome in our home dear, you know that. Molly was just a bit unhappy about Harry and Ginny ending their engagement last summer." Opening her eyes, Hermione glared at her mother.

"Harry didn't end the engagement. Ginny called the whole thing off at her birthday party. I still can't believe he let her get away with that drabble. 'I'm not going to spend the next hundred years as some sort of runner up behind what's really important to you'." Shaking her head, she sighed.

"She knew he was an auror when he proposed. I love the girl dearly, but Harry really should have said something more after they came out of her room."

"He's never spoken of it, even to you?" Looking curious, Helen smiled.

Shaking her head, Hermione waited until their server placed the bread on the table and retreated.

"All he would say was that there were some things that needed to remain between the two of them for a while. He's promised me that he'd tell me the entire thing, someday."

"That certainly was some display." Smiling smugly, Helen took another sip.

"The first thing anyone knew something was wrong was when the window exploded out of her room and Ginny was screaming like a fish-wife 'I'm not going to spend the next hundred years as some sort of runner up behind who's really important to you!'" Putting a subtle emphasis on 'who's' Helen waited for her daughter's reaction.

Staring at her mother, Hermione seemed poised to say something, but visibly decided not to. Smiling, Helen took another sip of her wine and continued.

"Of course, they were ever so civilized when they came out. Laughing and smiling. It was a nice touch for Ginny to ask you to look after Harry after she announced that she was calling off the engagement and the wedding."

Throwing up her hands in exasperation, Hermione stared at her mother in disbelief.

"Honestly Mother, it was the least she could do. She'd just devastated the poor boy, cavalierly announcing less than three weeks before their wedding that she'd decided that this wasn't where the two of them needed to be. Someone had to look after him after a blow like that."

"Harry didn't look devastated. I was there and he looked more relieved than anything else. I imagine that was a very tense forty-five minutes while the two of them were locked in her old bedroom, but once they came out, Harry seemed very content with what was going on.

"You were the one who was going mental during the entire thing. I honestly thought you were going to blast that door down, trying to get in there to protect him."

Shrugging, Hermione absentmindedly tapped on the crystal vase with her fork for several seconds, listening to the chiming sound it made.

"It was very unnerving, once all the noise stopped. They can both be very high strung once they get going. She never did have a good handle on how to deal with him. I never could understand how she could have known him as long as she did and not known how to deal with Harry."

Smiling to herself, Hermione nodded.

"Goodness knows he's complicated, but it's not as if he's a total cipher."

"That's not really being fair to Ginny, you realize. Just because the two of you have spent the last decade in each other's hip pocket, doesn't mean that she wouldn't have eventually gotten a handle on his quirks and moods."

Rolling her eyes, Hermione abruptly struck the vase once more before answering.

"Honestly, I still wonder exactly what he thought he was doing when he proposed to her. The first time they were together, it was snog, snog, snog, all day long. After the war, she practically stalked the poor boy the three weeks we were back until we left to come find you and Daddy." Taking a deep breath, Hermione blew it out slowly before continuing.

"She was barely civil when we got back. You remember what happened at Heathrow when the five of us arrived at the terminal."

"Between Ron being so excitable during the flight from Sydney that I thought the flight attendant was going to sedate him near the end and Ginny throwing a fit because you'd had Kreacher move Harry and you to Grimmauld Place while you were gone collecting us, it was quite the scene." Helen tried to repress a chuckle at the memory.

Oblivious to the knowing smile on her mother's face, Hermione buttered a scone and placed it on her plate.

"Exactly. Harry and I talked about moving to London after we got back so that it would be easier on the Weasley's, and allow us to keep tabs on you and Daddy after you got back. Give us room to start raising Teddy together, and she acted as if I'd kidnapped the boy and took him at wand point to Gretna Green or Las Vegas."

"It did look a bit suspicious from her vantage point, you have to admit."

"I can't believe you're defending that scene she caused at the terminal." Staring at her mother in disbelief, Hermione smiled thinly as their server arrived with their plates. Shuddering slightly at her mother's selection, Hermione delicately started on her own meal.

Smiling at her daughter's reaction to her salmon with stuffed Portobello mushrooms, she shrugged.

"I can empathize with the young woman. Harry breaks up with her at your Headmaster's funeral, departs during the middle of what you've described as a chaotic moment when those thugs crashed the wedding reception with you and Ron, is gone for nine months without a word with his two best mates, shows up just in time to die and then defeat that monster Tom Riddle," Pausing to collect herself, the tears in her eyes matched those in her daughter's as they thought about that night.

"Then he spends three weeks without saying much of anything to her, goes off again suddenly with the same two best friends, and his and his female friend's things are moved suddenly to a house in London where they're going to be raising a child together. Not both best friends, just the female one. If I were in her shoes, I'd think it was all a bit dodgy."

"It's not as if we were on holiday, the first time. Harry and I barely got away with our lives. We almost were captured that night; we both almost died more times than I care to remember. We spent months on the run, living in a tent with little or nothing to eat."

Shaking visibly, she put the knife down and folded her hands in front of her.

"Afterwards, we went to sixty two funerals and memorials in those three weeks. Harry was spent, it almost killed him. He blamed himself for every death, every house destroyed, and every child who was still missing." Closing her eyes, she blinked back tears.

"Merlin's beard, the nightmares kept him from getting more than an hour of sleep at a stretch. I had to drug the boy to get him to sleep that much." Opening her eyes, tears were rolling down her cheeks.

"It was killing him, the guilt and the fear, and all she could do was whinge and bitch because Harry wasn't spending enough time with her. Since Ron was going to stay at the Burrow to be closer to his family for the rest of the summer, Harry and I both decided that if we moved to London after we were back, it would give both of us the quiet to start getting our lives back in order and the privacy to start rebuilding our relationships with Ron and Ginny."

Reaching across the table, Helen placed her hand on top of her daughter's. "I know all that. Harry looked like a shell when you three found us and restored our memories. I couldn't believe it when you told me you'd made him sleep for two days once you got to Sydney.

"I'm glad your father was able to talk to him, relate to him from his experiences in the service. Your father's time with the Commando gave him some perspective on the things Harry and you saw." Seeing the appreciative look in her daughter's eyes, Helen smiled grimly.

"You father will deny it, but when he heard what you two had gone through, that former Royal Marine had nightmares for two nights at the thought of what you two accomplished, and he was in Cyprus and Indonesia."

"Daddy never talked much about his time in the service, and now I know why." Shaking her head, she smiled back, "So you know how rocky Harry was when we got back off the plane. She shouldn't have rounded on us the moment we cleared customs."

"She didn't round on 'us' she rounded on you. The worst of it was Harry taking your arm and disappearing into thin air while she was still ranting without saying a word to her. If you hadn't sent Ron that message on those coins, the whole thing would have been a complete dog's breakfast."

"I never asked, but did Ron actually read the message I sent or did he just let everyone know we were at Grimmauld Place?" Looking a bit embarrassed, Hermione lowered her eyes.

"All he told his sister was that the two of you were at Grimmauld Place and if she wanted to discuss things, she should come to the house. Though I think Ginny was a bit suspicious, she mercifully let it go. I think she was so shocked that Harry just took you out of there that she decided she might have pushed him a bit too far."

"When we got home, all Harry would say was that no one was allowed to talk to me that way. He went upstairs and had Kreacher freshen up Ginny's room so it would be ready by the time she got there. I was still angry enough that I sent Ron a very shirty message for his sister." Hermione blushed, remembering how incensed Harry had been when they'd disappeared from the airport.

"Ron covered for you just fine." Sipping her wine, Helen sat back and looked thoughtful for a second.

"What's your first clear memory of Harry?"

Gratefully accepting her mother's slight change in topic, Hermione sat back and smiled.

"The day we met. We were on the train and I was prattling on about things, you know how I got when I was nervous. We were talking about spells and magic and such. I noticed that his glasses were broken, those wretched relatives of his had forced him to put them back together with sellotape."

Smiling at the memory, she closed her eyes and began to relax.

"I just took them up without thinking or asking and fixed them for him. Honestly, the look on his face was something that touched me and I'll never forget. He looked as if he'd never seen anyone do anything for him and he couldn't believe it. Our eyes met, and for just those few seconds, it was as if I knew him, the real Harry and he knew me.

"Not 'The Boy Who Lived' and certainly not the bossy bookworm, but the two of us were real people to each other. I got lost in those eyes of his, and I could see how desperately he needed someone. It was as if we both took the other to heart and…."

Hermione fell silent and her eyes flew open, suddenly panic stricken. Sitting bolt upright in her seat, she grabbed her wine glass and drained it with one pull. Picking up the bottle from the table, she refilled her glass, picked it up and drained it again. Sitting back in her chair, she stared at her mother in horror.

"I'm in love with Harry bloody Potter and I have been since I was eleven."