Chapter 1: Things Would Have Been Too Intense



Ron raised his glass in the air and looked around, making sure all eyes were on him. "To my dear friend Harry, may you have a great life with your new bride. And may you enjoy lots and lots of sex."

Hermione nudged him in the ribs. "Ron, that's really inappropriate."

He looked down at her. "Fine, I wish lots and lots of sex upon myself."

They each brought their glass to their lips. Ron gulped his beer in a hurried fashion, making loud noises as he swallowed. Everyone watched as he tried to finish his drink in as few gulps as possible. He was soon drenched as some of the ale poured down the front of his shirt.

The men at the table began to clap as he finished the contents of the glass. Dean shook his head. "That doesn't count. You spilt most of it on your shirt. You still don't beat my record."

Ron eyed him from the other end of the table. "Oh, bullshit. I beat--" He paused. He slowly opened his mouth, letting out a loud belch.

Hermione narrowed her eyebrows as she glared at him. "That is nasty. You're a pig."

"Well, you're the one who wanted to join us tonight. Sorry if my manly behavior offends you."

Hermione sat back in her chair, rethinking why she agreed to join the gang on Harry's stag night. She looked around the table at the boys, watching as they participated in other 'manly' activities.

"Hey Neville, pull my finger," she heard Justin say. She scrunched her face at the sight of the two boys and turned away.

Out of the corner of her eye she could see him staring at her. She looked at him. Although the gathering was in his honor, he had remained quiet the whole evening. His hand clutched his drink, which was still filled to the brim. "Harry, this is a celebration. So why aren't you drinking?"

"Yeah Harry, you better drink it fast or I will," said Ron.

Harry pushed the glass away. "I have other plans tonight, so I really can't afford to be pissed."

Justin reached for the bowl of nuts in the middle of the table. In between bites, he asked, "Other plans? If you're going to The Witches' Brew, I would like to go with you."

Hermione glanced at him. "What's The Witches' Brew?"

"It's a strip club," said Ron.

She made a face. "Why did I even ask?"

Ron put his arm around her. "You are more that welcome to tag along. It's become very fashionable for women to go to these places. And who knows? After a few drinks, you might even want to dance a bit for us."

She brushed his arm off her shoulder. "Get away from me."

"Ron leave her alone," said Harry. "And no I'm not going to that...gentleman's club. I'm going somewhere else."

Ron's eyes opened wide as he began to stare at Harry. "I wouldn't pass up a great opportunity like this if I were you. This will be your last chance to go there. Because once you get married, Cho will never let you out of her sight."

He scooted his chair closer to Harry. "Don't you want to go and look at beautiful women?"

"You mean surgically enhanced women?" scoffed Hermione.

"Ignore her. Harry I know that Cho has a great body now, but once you pump her full of your kids-"

"That's disgusting," exclaimed Hermione.

"Once she's had a couple of your rug rats, she's not gonna be hot anymore. She's gonna blow up like a beached whale. So you might as well get an eyeful of beautiful women now."

Harry began to laugh as he put his hand on Ron's face and pushed him away. "You're too much, you know that?"

"Harry would love his wife regardless of what she looked like," stated Hermione. "He's a caring guy and is not superficial like you."

"What ever," said Ron. He looked around the table at the other men. "I say we all go tonight. If Harry won't join us, we'll get lap dances in his honor."

He watched as Justin, Dean and Seamus all nodded their heads in agreement. "Neville, what about you?"

"I don't know, I've never felt comfortable in those places."

Ron sighed loudly. "Oh come on."

As the other boys tried to convince Neville to join them, Harry and Hermione had their own conversation. "That was really nice what you said about me," he said.

"I was only telling the truth." She reached over and rested her fingers on his hand. He soon felt her fingernails gently tracing his skin.

Looking at her face, he saw a twinkle of an emotion hidden in her brown eyes, a look he had seen before. He quickly pulled his arm away. He grabbed his glass and brought it to his lips. He didn't take a drink; he just wanted something to divert his attention away from her eyes.

Unable to convince Neville to accompany them, Ron stood up and began searching around the room. The restaurant was packed that Friday night as customers converged on every available table. "Where the hell is that beer wench?"

"The beer what?" asked Hermione.

"I'm sorry your highness. I mean beer person." He quickly turned around when he spotted his target. "Miss, we need a few more jugs of that delicious ale!"

The young blonde waitress walked up to him and smiled. "Would there be anything else you'd like, Mr. Weasley?"

"Yes...hey, you know who I am?"

"Of course. We were all reading about you joining the Cannons. And might I add that you're a terrific chaser. I watched you play at Hogwarts all the time."

"Can I have a lemonade?" asked Hermione.

Ron continued staring at the girl. "You attended Hogwarts?"

"Yeah. I was in Hufflepuff. I was a year ahead of you."

"Did I ever mention that I love Hufflepuff girls? They are the best sorts of women, so sweet, so easily influenced."

"Excuse me," said Hermione. "I would like..." She eyed Ron and the girl; they were obviously too enthralled in each other to notice her. She got up from her seat and walked to the bar, elbowing Ron in the process.

Ron glared at her as she walked by. "Now those Gryffindor girls, they are another story. They are so stubborn and opinionated, always in your face about something."

Harry chuckled to himself, thinking of how Hermione fit that characterization perfectly. He recalled how she tried to convince him that becoming seeker for the Cannons was the best career opportunity for him. She even went so far as to march into the boys' dorm to plead with him.

He smiled as he thought of how boxer clad Neville panicked when he saw her, placing a magazine over his groin to cover his modesty. However, the smile slowly faded when he recalled how upset Cho was to hear news (probably from Parvati, he thought) of Hermione sitting on his bed. He and Cho had a very heated conversation that weekend when they met up in Hogsmeade.

He watched as Hermione returned to the table, walking around the maze of tables and customers with such authority.

"Well, I have to get going," said the fair-haired waitress. "I've got a lot of customers. Is there anything else you'd like?"

Ron looked her up and down once more. "Maybe we can go out on a date."

"I can't believe this," said Hermione, setting her drink on the table. "We're here to celebrate Harry's happy day and you're hitting on women?"

Ron leaned close to her ear and whispered, "Shut up, I'm working here." He returned his attention to the blonde. "Okay darling, see you later." He winked at her and watched as she walked down the row of tables, her hips swiveling with every step.

"Did you see that?" he asked everyone once he was seated. "She knew who I was. And she didn't say anything about Harry." He stuck out his tongue at his friend.

He began to stoke his chin and the peach fuzz beard that was developing there. "Hufflepuff, huh? I wonder if I ever dated her? I specialized in Hufflepuffs you know."

"Whom didn't you specialize in?" asked Hermione.

"I'm talking here. I loved Hufflepuffs, but Harry preferred Ravenclaws. Or should I say one Ravenclaw in particular."

"I can't believe you're getting married," said Hermione. "You're way too young." The men at the table all stopped talking to one another and looked over at her. "What?"

Neville eyed her in disbelief. "I expected you to be the one cooing about the wedding."

"Why? Because I'm a girl?"

"Exactly," answered Ron. "They always love that stuff. Always saying how they can't wait to get married. I mean don't you want to make an honest man out of Krum?"

"My relationship with Krum is perfect the way it is." She gazed over at Harry. "I think that you're too young to get married. You haven't lived your life yet."

"I've lived plenty," Harry muttered. "What with all the people who've tried to kill me and all the monsters I've faced, I've lived enough to last two life times."

"But you need to travel, meet new people. How do you know Cho is your true love if you don't explore your options?" She and Harry exchanged a look. "This just seems a bit rushed if you ask me."

"But no one asked you," said Ron.

She flashed the red-headed boy an annoyed look. "Like I was saying, you should really explore your career as professional Quidditch player before you settle down. We just graduated a couple of months ago, for heaven's sake. Take me for example, I'm not going to settle down until I establish a teaching career."

"Well, you can start by teaching Krum how to speak English," blurted Ron. "Can't understand a damn thing he says."

"Shut up."

Harry reached across the table and grabbed Hermione's hand. "Defense Against the Dark Arts, huh?"

"Yes."

"I hope you'll do a lot better than the professors we had in the past," said Dean. "Remember the guy we had last year? Where the hell did they find him?"

"He was the worst," said Ron. "But my personal favorite was Fleur."

Hermione snorted loudly. "That's because you spent the whole class session flirting with her."

Ron leaned over to the other guys. "Did I mention that Gryffindor girls are mighty jealous?"

Harry shook his head. "How the two of you ever got together is beyond me. You guys did nothing but fight the whole time."

Ron looked over at Hermione. "I think we make better friends than anything else."

Hermione nodded in agreement. "Yes, and plus I'm really happy with Krum."

Ron began to snicker.

"Anyway, speaking of bad Defense teachers," began Harry, "Lockhart sent me and Cho a wedding gift and do you know what it was?"

"A big picture of himself," said Ron.

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Lucky guess."

Harry began to smile as he thought of the other gifts they received. "We got a nice present from Dumbledore."

"How is the old man?" asked Justin.

"He's fine. Says he can't wait to come to the wedding."

Justin put his elbows on the table and pouted. "Can't believe he resigned. No offense, Lupin is a great man, but he's no Dumbledore."

"Yeah," said Ron. "But I think he'll keep all the new students in line. If they misbehave, he could always threaten to eat them."

Hermione looked at him as he began to laugh. "That's not funny."

"Yes, it is."

Harry smiled as he watched his friends arguing, reminding him of all their years at Hogwarts. He leaned forward so that only they could hear what he was saying. "It's a bit refreshing to see you guys bickering. I'm gonna miss it. We won't have moments like these anymore."

A puzzled look spread on Hermione's face. "What are you talking about? You and Ron will see each other everyday when the Quidditch season starts."

"But the three of us won't be together like this. You'll be away teaching."

She looked down at her hands. "Perhaps us being apart is a good thing. I don't think Cho likes me."

"What? Of course she likes you."

"I don't know. I just get some pretty funny vibes from her sometimes. Like, she didn't even invite me to her wedding shower."

"That's because she barely knows you. You're more my friend than you are hers."

"I guess." Her eyes met Harry's gaze and then fluttered away. "Do you think it's a good idea what you're doing?"

"What?"

"Making me your best man. Or is it best woman?"

"You and Ron are my two best friends. Why wouldn't I choose the both of you to stand near me?"

"It just feels weird. People will start talking."

Dean loudly cleared his throat, reminding them that they were not alone at the table. "Hermione, people think it's sweet that you'll be by Harry's side. By the way Harry, that was a nice choice you made there with Cho. She's a really nice girl."

"'She's a really nice girl,'" said Ron in a mocking voice. "My, my Dean, you didn't look too pleased when you said that. I think you were even clenching your teeth."

"No I wasn't."

"Yes you were you little liar. You're still mad because Cho picked Harry over you."

Harry raised his eyebrows. "You liked Cho?"

Dean laughed nervously as six pairs of eyes began to stare at him. "Ron was just kidding. I think he's been chugging down too much of that ale."

"No, I haven't," said Ron. "I'm perfectly fine. Anyway, he told me how he still wasn't over her when you guys announced your engagement."

Harry continued to stare at Dean, who did his best to avoid his eyes.

Sensing that there was some tension between the group, Seamus said, "Let's get to the good stuff. Where are you guys going for your honeymoon?"

"Barbados," said Harry.

"How long will you two be away?"

"A few weeks."

"Make sure you bring lots of protection," chirped Ron.

"Ron!" shouted Hermione.

"What? I mean raincoats and such. I've heard Barbados can get quite rainy this time of year. Where's you mind Hermione?"

Neville's face became tense as he looked at Harry, a hint of fright looming in his expression. "Someone told me you invited Snape to the wedding. Please tell me that's a lie."

"I did invite him," Harry said slowly.

"Harry," Neville whimpered.

"I couldn't exclude him; he endangered his own life by helping me defeat Voldemort." He looked around at the other faces, which were clearly not impressed by Snape's act of bravery. "He probably won't even show up."

"Don't worry Neville." Ron hiccupped. "If he tries anything, I'll take care of him for you."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "What are you gonna do? Throw up on him?" She reached over and grabbed Harry's arm. "Everything will be fine. No one will cause any trouble."

As the night carried on, Justin and the other guys decided to play a game of pool, leaving Ron, Hermione and Harry alone at the table. Ron continued to amuse himself by drinking.

Hermione watched Harry as he played with the gold ring on his left hand, a bright smile on his face. She lowered her head and stared at the floor.

Harry looked up and regarded her. "Why are you looking sad?"

"It's nothing."

Ron put his hand over his mouth and began to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Harry asked.

"I can't say." He paused. "Okay, if you insist. Hermione has a bit of a crush on you."

Hermione jerked upright in her chair and glared at him.

"It's true." He moved away as Hermione swung her hand towards his head. "When we were dating, she would always say how she made the mistake of going out with the wrong friend."

Harry sat still and stared at both of them. His eyes roamed from Ron's laughing face to Hermione's crimson cheeks and back again. He looked away and then calmly got to his feet. "I have to go to the men's room."

"Ow, stop hitting me!" screamed Ron.

She brought her fist down on his shoulder once more. "Why did you have to say something like that? Do you know how embarrassing that was?"

"He doesn't believe me. I'm drunk remember."

She rested her elbows on the table and covered her face in her palms.

"Hey Ron! Come over here," shouted Justin. "I want you to be on my team because Neville sucks."

"No," said Dean. "Ron can't play. He'll probably pass out on the table."

Ron shakily got to his feet. "I am capable of beating all of you guys." He sauntered over to the boys, knocking into other patrons on the way over.

Harry returned to his seat. "Where'd Ron go?"

"Over there to cause trouble."

"He's a bit out of it tonight. I hope he'll be all right for tomorrow." He scratched his head and watched as Ron tried to climb on the pool table. "I hope I made the right decision in having him hold the rings. Cho will kill me if he loses them."

"Cho's ring is very beautiful. It's quite impressive. I bet it cost a fortune."

"I used the advance the Cannons gave me to buy it. But it sure did cost a lot. It's a good thing they're paying me a big salary because this wedding is costing me an arm and a leg." He shook his head. "Why she insisted on having nine bridesmaids is beyond me."

He looked over at the pool table once more. "What the hell is he doing now?" Ron was on top of the table doing a dance. "I hope he doesn't do that at the reception. Oh, that reminds me. The store dropped off your gown at my house. I don't know why. I told them to bring it to your place."

He started to laugh. "Cho was a little jealous when she saw how lovely it looked. She thought you would try to upstage her at her own wedding...what's wrong?"

When she remained quiet, he reached across the table and stroked her hand. "Come on Herm, what is it? You usually never go this long without stating your opinion on something."

"Do you love her?"

"Of course I do. That's why we're getting married. You're not going to go into your speech about me being too young. Yes, I know I'm only 18, but it feels so--"

"Do you ever think about us?"

"You and Ron? All the time. I love you guys."

"No. Me and you." She watched as the calm demeanor on his face slowly diminished. "I still remember that night in the astronomy tower."

"That was a long time ago, over two years."

"That's not such a long time. I remember it like it was yesterday." She put her finger on her temple. "Why did we even go in there in the first place?"

"Because it was too noisy in the common room." His tone of voice was bland.

"Oh yeah. Everyone was all excited because we won the Quidditch Cup. Ron was being obnoxious, trying to do back flips all over the place."

Harry managed a smile. "He kept knocking into people, kicked Dean right in the eye."

"I can still remember us lying side by side and staring up at the stars. And then..." She trailed off.

She glanced over at him. He look at her for a moment and then directed his gaze elsewhere, anywhere but her face. "That's when you said you had feelings for me," she began. "And we...made love."

Harry's heartbeat quickened as he continued to avoid her eyes. His stare wandered to the other boys; their pool game was starting to look appealing. "We were drunk that night. We had about 12 butterbeers."

"Butterbeers only affect house-elves."

"We also had some Ogden's Old Firewhisky."

"About half a cup each. If we were drunk, how come we can recall every detail? " She turned around and pointed at Ron. "He's drunk. When he wakes up in the morning, he won't remember a thing. We were sober."

He crossed his arms tightly against his chest. "I thought we decided not to discuss what happened that night?"

"We never discussed anything. We both just pretended it never happened."

"Then why are you bringing it up now?"

"I just want to know if you meant what you said to me that night."

"I don't know."

"Of course you know."

"Don't read too much into what happened that night. There was just so much running through my head at the time. I was excited about beating Slytherin, it was a beautiful night out and plus I had a lot to drink. I just lost myself for a minute."

"Don't you dare say that Harry James Potter. You were not out of it that night. You were very much present with me; I felt it when you began to make love to me. Your caresses were not those of an intoxicated man. You even said you love me when you..finished."

Harry rubbed his neck and moved around in his chair. The way Hermione stared at him gave him the indication that she expected an answer from him. "Yes, I meant every word of it."

"Then why didn't you ever pursue those feelings after that night?"

"I don't know."

"I'm getting a little sick of your three word answers."

He took a deep breath. "I was a bit scared."

"Scared of what?"

"My feelings for you, everything. The whole situation was awkward and I didn't quite know how to react around you." He leaned forward on his elbows and lowered his voice into a whisper. "That was um...my first time."

He slumped down in his chair and dared to look into her searching eyes. "I wanted to pursue something more with you and I meant to do it too, but things never happened the way I planned them. That summer, I wanted to talk to you about it at the Burrow, but it seems like we were never alone. And when the school year started, Cho asked me out."

"But why didn't you tell her you were interested in someone else?"

"I don't..I have no idea. I guess I wanted something to distract me from thinking about you."

"You just went out with her to forget about me?"

"At first. But then I fell for her. When I think about it, it's a good thing that Cho asked me out when she did because a relationship between you and me wouldn't have worked."

"Yes it would. You and I are best friends, we've experienced a lot together. We lost our virginity to one another."

"But we'd end up getting in arguments all the time. Things between us would be too intense."

"But wouldn't that be a good thing? Not the arguing, the intensity. Aren't you supposed to have intense feelings about the one you love?" Her eyes roamed his face in a hard stare. "So, you'd rather have a sedate relationship with Cho, than an intense one with me?"

"Don't say that. Cho and I have a wonderful relationship."

"But don't you feel like we missed out on a great opportunity?"

"Herm, I don't want to go there anymore. I'm getting married tomorrow. This is the wrong time to be having this conversation."

"Do you want to end up like Dean, always thinking about what could have been?"

"But I'm not pining over anyone."

"Harry, I'm not blind. I see the passion in your eyes when we're together. I think Cho senses it too, that's why she doesn't like us hanging out together."

Harry laughed nervously. "Think about it. If Krum had a female friend he was really close to, wouldn't you get jealous too?"

He got up and took the seat next to her. His arm came to rest on her shoulder and pulled her close. "I'm glad we never dated. If we broke up, we would never want to be around each other."

"Ron and I are still friends."

"No offense, but I wouldn't call your three week fling with Ron a relationship." The hand on her shoulder slid up to her head and his fingers playfully wrapped around her thick strands of hair. "I'm not going to lie and say I've never thought about us. I used to lie in my bed and imagine what it would be like if we were to get married."

He looked down at her and saw a smile creek onto her face. "Yes, our relationship would have been passionate and great, but that's in the past. My present and future is with Cho."

There was a moment of silence between them, before Harry asked, "Wouldn't Krum be hurt to learn about you talking about the past? Aren't you madly in love with him?"

"My relationship with Krum deteriorated months ago. We're simply friends now."

"What happened?"

"We both couldn't live a lie anymore. I think he realized that my heart really wasn't with him. And he just got sick of being the consolation prize."

She looked up at him, catching his gaze. "Remember last weekend at your house? I felt something between us when you brushed up against me."

"The house was crowded. There were a lot of people there. Who knew Cho had so many friends."

"I know what I felt that night. There was more to it."

He reached over and took her hand in his, giving her fingers a light squeeze. "You know I love you. But that love is strictly--"

"Harry! We need your help," shouted Dean. "Ron passed out on the pool table and we can't lift his heavy bum."

"I'll be right back," he said to Hermione.

She turned and watched as he walked over to the other boys, whom were all tugging at Ron's limbs, trying to pull him to his feet.

She began to eye him up and down. A smile spread on her face as she imagined how he looked when they first started school. He had grown so much taller over the years, even rivaling Ron in height. Although he was still thin, his six-foot frame was lean and muscular. Examining him so closely made her skin tingle.

She got a glimpse of his eyes as he turned her way to look at Neville. Even at a distance those green eyes shined bright like emeralds. They were easier to see since he'd gotten rid of his glasses; probably Cho's idea, she thought.

"He's not being true to himself," she said to herself.

She remembered the times she had seen that look in his eyes, seen the way he observed her walking back from the bar. She took out a pen and piece of paper from her purse and scribbled: "If you ever want to explore what could have happened between us, you know where to find me."

She stood up and placed the note in his coat pocket. She looked back at the boys.

Ron was now on his feet, wobbling uncontrollably. Harry placed both arms around him, preventing him from falling over. "You better not vomit on me or I'll kill you. I know Cho won't come near me tonight if I smell like puke."

"I thought the bride and groom weren't supposed to see each other the night before the wedding," said Neville.

Harry smiled. "She's been staying at her parents' for the past couple of days and I miss her. So I'm gonna sneak over later tonight."

Seamus nudged him. "You guys are gonna practice for your honeymoon?"

"No. We'll probably just have a cuddle." He swatted his hand at the other boy, who began winking at him.

Hermione observed him from the table. His hand was placed over his mouth, concealing his laughter as Seamus whispered into his ear. He looked over at her and waved. She held his gaze for a moment, exchanging a smile with him.

He looks so happy, she thought. She looked down at her hands, the pen was still clutched between her fingers. She searched her purse for another piece of paper.

Harry was positioning Ron on a nearby sofa, when she walked up to him. "I have to get going," she said. "It's getting late. Thanks for inviting me."

She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a hug. As they embraced, Harry whispered, "Is everything cool between us?" He could feel her nodding her head against his shoulder. When they pulled apart, she headed for the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" he shouted.

"Sure." She walked out the door.

Justin walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "You ready to leave? You have to get up early and prepare for you big day."

Seamus walked by them. "Big day? I think he's too busy thinking about what's going to happen between him and Cho tonight."

"We're not going to even do anything," pleaded Harry. "We just want to see each other before the mayhem of the wedding begins."

"Sure," the other boys said in unison.

Harry walked over to the table. As he grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair, a note fell out of one of its pockets.

He unfolded the paper and read: "Harry, I have decided not to attend your wedding. I hope you understand that it will be too hard for me to watch. I also wanted to let you know that I love you. I wish you and Cho much happiness in the future. And if your children ever attend Hogwarts, I promise not to be too hard on them. All my love, Herm."

"Oh, Hermione." He looked down at the note once more, letting his finger run across each word.

"Harry, you coming?" asked Justin.

"Yeah." He folded the letter and put it back in his pocket.