Hermione Granger rolled over restlessly, trying her best to figure out how to catch a few more moments of sleep despite the rather loud and annoying noise of large amounts of water rushing through the plumbing of her small flat. It wasn't exactly the most soothing sound in the world, after all, nor was it the most pleasant way to be woken up after what had been a very deep and peaceful night of sleep. Yup, this one definitely scored low when it came to Harry's various ways of waking her up, ranking somewhere around his idea of blowing a Peeves-worthy raspberry in her ear.
Grumbling to herself about how she ought to tell him that he wasn't allowed to shower before six in the morning if he intended to spend the night at her place, Hermione sat up, rubbed her eyes with one hand and dragged herself away from the cozy, warm spot in her bed that she had been occupying for the past few hours. Extracting her housecoat from the closet and tying it around herself, she decided that, sometime in the near future, she should remind Harry of the simple incantation that would effectively silence at least some of the noisy pipes, allowing his very hospitable girlfriend to get her rest.
I'm not the one who's got to be at work at six-thirty in the morning, she thought grumpily as she shuffled into the kitchen on her usual morning autopilot and, with a lazy wave of her wand, set the coffee pot to preparing the blessed beverage that kept her from telling tiny Professor Flitwick (whose job she would be doing once she finished learning the ins and outs of teaching Charms) where to stick his wand and then climbing back into bed every morning. Plunking herself down in her usual chair at the table, Hermione settled her head on her folded arms and let herself doze off again (just for a minute, of course) as she waited for the coffee pot to finish its job. Predictably, 'dozing off' turned into a light sleep (it always did, no matter how many times she told herself that it was just for a minute), and she probably would have remained asleep on the table for a good few hours if she hadn't been awoken by somebody's warm hand on her shoulder.
"Good morning, sunshine," an amused sort of voice said from behind her, causing her to grumble something incomprehensible as she woke up for the second time that morning, leaving her heavy head on her arms.
"What time is it?" she asked, her voice muffled by the soft material of her housecoat.
"Six-twenty," the voice replied, still sounding rather amused for Hermione's liking.
"Quit laughing at me," she grumbled, still refusing to move her head from its comfy spot on her arms. "You're the one who woke me up."
"Sorry," the voice apologized as the hand on her shoulder gave said shoulder a gentle squeeze. "It's not my fault your plumbing sounds like Ron snoring," it added.
"You could stop showering at five-thirty in the morning," Hermione suggested grumpily, wishing she could be back in bed.
The voice chuckled softly. "I wish that were true, love, but you know when I have to be at work. The word 'Auror' is not synonymous with the word 'sleep'."
"For either of us," Hermione reminded him. "And in my case, it is synonymous 'huge hot water bill', Mr. My-Showers-are-Longer-than-my-Girlfriend's," she grumbled.
She could practically see Harry rolling his eyes behind her. "Honestly, 'Mione, how much hot water do you think I use during a single shower? What do you think I'm doing in there? Cooking lobsters?"
She shrugged, causing the hand on her shoulder to shift a little. "It would be more useful if you were making coffee," she said.
"I think you already took care of that," Harry reminded her, the amusement back in his voice.
Hermione shifted her head onto her right arm and held out her left hand, palm up. She'd caught the scent of the aforementioned coffee, which she was quite sure that Harry was now drinking. "Give it."
Harry chuckled again. "Just because you made it doesn't mean I have to give you any. Especially not my cup."
"Give it or you die, Potter," she growled, only half-jokingly, twitching her fingers expectantly. To her great satisfaction, the warm weight of a coffee cup was placed in her upturned palm a moment later, causing her to finally sit up properly. Drinking coffee while half-asleep on the kitchen table was not an easy thing to do. She'd tried.
Harry's recently emptied hand found its way onto her other shoulder as she sipped what had once been his coffee. "Better, Miss Grouchy?" he asked, with a light kiss on her cheek.
"Who's grouchy?" she asked innocently, subdued and almost completely returned to her normal self by her daily dose of caffeine. "I'm not grouchy, I'm just tired."
"Did you sleep all right?" Harry asked her, his hands moving from her shoulders to the slightly tight muscles of her neck, which hadn't really enjoyed the position in which she had been sleeping on the table, and rubbing them with the sort of light touch that made her wonder if he even realized that he was doing anything.
"I slept fine," she assured him, not wanting him to worry about her. Throughout the two years that she and Harry had been dating, she had learned to accept (and secretly like) the fact that if there was even a minute chance that anything was wrong with her, Harry would be worried. "Just not long enough for my liking," she explained.
Once again, she could practically see Harry rolling his eyes. "What happened to the Hermione I used to know, the one who had always finished eating breakfast before anybody even fathomed getting up?" he asked her, a good-natured smirk in his voice.
"She got old," was Hermione's simple reply.
"She did no such thing," Harry replied, his hands moving from their place on her neck and wrapping around her waist. "Hermione, you're twenty-one. You're not even close to being old," he assured her, lightly resting his chin on top of her head and flattening a small mass of tangles in the process. Hermione's hair was as unruly as ever, though much easier to handle now that she was allowed to use magic whenever she liked.
Hermione smiled. "That's good to know," she said. "Though it would be even better if you'd told me that while you were still rubbing my neck," she added. Nudge, nudge, she thought to herself.
Above her, Harry blinked in surprise, though he caught her drift and returned his hands to the taut muscles of her neck before resuming his earlier activity of working out the knots that had formed there while she slept on the table. "I don't remember doing this before," he said, the confusion obvious in his tone.
Hermione chuckled. "How lucky am I? Most women have to beg their boyfriends to rub their necks, and mine does it subconsciously!"
"Well, whether it's subconscious or not, I'm going to have to stop," Harry told her as he moved his hands off of her neck. "It's almost six-thirty," he explained when she pouted at him, not wanting her neck rub to end.
"Well, all right," she said resignedly. She obviously couldn't keep him from going to work, no matter how much she'd been enjoying the relief from her sore neck muscles. "Your place or mine tonight?" she asked. She and Harry always met up after work and sought refuge from the public at one of their homes, enjoying what they called dates, even though they weren't (by normal standards, anyway). They'd tried the conventional way of 'dating', but, as they had both expected, they had run into wave upon wave of paparazzi and the occasional group of jealous fan-girls, so they had decided to just settle themselves into the habit of spending their evenings with each other in a place far away from the public eye.
"Mine, I suppose," said Harry. "Or we could brave the scary realms of the outside world for the first time in a year and attempt to actually go somewhere," he added jokingly. He already knew that she was going to refuse.
"I'm thinking no," she replied, rolling her eyes. "I'd prefer to avoid getting my eyes scratched out by your fan-girls, thank you very much."
Harry chuckled and wrapped his arms around her waist again, giving her a backwards hug. "Well, don't worry, my adoring fan-girls probably won't be sticking around much longer," he assured her, causing her to become very confused. "Bye, 'Mione," he said, kissing her cheek and Disapparating before she could ask him what on Earth he was talking about.
Won't be sticking around much longer? she thought, bewildered. What's that supposed to mean? Harry's 'adoring fan-girls' haven't left us alone for two years! What's going to make them stop all of a sudden?
Hermione sighed, rubbing her temples. She was going to need a lot more coffee before she could start having a mini-aneurysm over silly little things. Getting up from the table in order to obtain said coffee (she'd learned to wait until she was completely awake before attempting any sort of magic involving anything that had even the slightest chance of staining something), she noticed a faint cloud of steam wafting from the bathroom and into the hall. She sighed again. She'd reminded Harry of what he jokingly called 'Hermione's Rules' countless times, and yet he still insisted on breaking this particular one (though she had to admit that he made an effort to follow the rest, which was saying something when you considered the number of Rules that she had). No matter how many times she had explained that steam and paint should not mix unless he was dying to repaint her bathroom for her, Harry always seemed to forget that hot shower = steam and steam + paint = bad. She wondered how well he had done in math class when he was younger.
Grumbling "Men!", Hermione set her coffee cup down on the counter, deciding that her second cup would have to wait, and walked the few steps to the bathroom, intending to switch on the exhaust fan and save the bathroom walls. However, when she got there, she let out another exasperated sigh as she noticed that although Harry had remembered to put the towel he had used into the laundry hamper and had hung a fresh, impeccably folded one on the towel rack in its place (following one of Hermione's less important Rules), he had committed the crime of letting his fingers come in contact with the steam on the mirror. How many times had she told him that if he was going to steam up the mirror, he could at least use a towel or something if he was going to wipe it off, instead of leaving a bunch of fingerprints on it?
Rolling her eyes at Harry's weirdness (he could remember to follow the Rules that she didn't really care about, but he forgot the ones that did irk her?), Hermione pulled the towel from the laundry hamper and made to wipe the steam away, but promptly dropped it in surprise when she glanced at the mirror. Slowly, she picked the towel up again and held it up in front of the mirror, helping her get a clearer view of what had just looked like smudges when she had looked in from the doorway a minute earlier. Her eyes widened. On the mirror, in Harry's neat, simple writing, were two words:
Underneath that was a large heart, in which Harry had written HP + HG, and a thick arrow that pointed down at the sink. Letting her gaze follow it, Hermione dropped the towel again when she discovered a small box, craftily hidden behind the faucet. With a slightly shaky hand, she picked it up and opened it, finding a simple yet elegant gold ring with a diamond in the middle – nothing extravagant, but not cheap-looking either. A perfect, simple thing that made Hermione go a little weak in the knees, causing her to sit on the edge of the tub in order to keep herself from falling over. With extreme care, she lifted the ring from the box and stared at it in disbelief.
Minutes passed as Hermione sat on the edge of the bathtub in shock. There was no way – no way this could be for real. Surely she would have caught on somehow, would have picked up some sort of hint during one of the countless evenings she and Harry had spent together? Surely she would have realized that he was planning something this big?
A smile spread across her face after a moment. No, she wouldn't have known. That was the point. Harry had dropped absolutely no hints, had probably been extremely careful not to, just to make sure that she would be completely and totally caught off-guard, making his… his proposal, she thought, her smile widening, a thousand times better.
Standing up slowly, still completely dazed, Hermione broke one of her own Rules and left the towel on the floor as she left the bathroom, neglecting to turn on the exhaust fan. Walking to her room, the ring still in her hand, she located a piece of parchment and a quill, as well as some ink, and returned to the kitchen table, her coffee cup quite forgotten on the counter. She set the ring down on the table and picked up her quill, dipped it into the ink and wrote a very short note. When she had finished, she brought herself back to Earth just long enough to conjure her Patronus and give it the note, before sending it off to Harry. Once it was gone, she returned to the dazed, blissful state that she had been in a moment earlier, happily slipping the ring onto her finger as she sat back in her chair, not feeling the desire to doze off in the least.
Harry had barely sat down at his desk at the Ministry when the familiar light of a Patronus suddenly appeared beside him, transforming into what he recognized as Hermione's doe a moment later. He grinned. He'd known that it wouldn't take her very long to notice that he had 'forgotten' about not letting the bathroom steam up. If she had been a little more awake, he thought, she probably would have realized that he had not only broken one of her Rules, but had completely obliterated it, casting a Heating Charm on the bathroom in order to keep it steamed up, just in case his girlfriend (who was definitely not a morning person) dozed off again and didn't notice his 'crime' until later.
He noticed that the bright, silvery animal, so similar to his own, had what looked like a note in its mouth, and he took it, wondering what it was. Unfolding it, his smile widened from a grin to a full-blown, ear-to-ear smile, then became a short laugh as he read the short but wonderful note that Hermione had written.
-The Future Mrs. HP
PS: Quit writing on my mirror unless you intend to ask me to marry you again. That is and will remain the only exception.
PPS: I love you (anyway).