A/N: Hey everyone, finally got this idea into writing. Snowbear is coauthor on this story, please check out some of her other stories as well as ones I've coauthored with her that she posted. Also I promise that you will get some steamy Hermione/Ginny scenes by at least Chapter 6 (as long as you share this story with all your friends and make them read it too!) Ha ha jk, don't worry I'll try to post regularly regardless.
"Do you belive in love at first sight? That you could meet someone, or just, across a room, and with that one glance you could look into their eyes and see their soul? Do you believe that could happen?" -Rachel, Imagine Me and You
Ginny stood at the end of the aisle, a smile on her face as she gazed at the two people waiting at the other end. One was dark haired, a pair of glasses perched upon his nose. He was grinning nervously, and reached up one hand to flatten his hair down again. The red headed man standing beside him grabbed his arm and pulled it back down, muttering something out of the corner of his mouth that Ginny couldn't hear.
Harry and Ron. One groom, one best man, and both she loved. After everything that they had gone through, now they finally got to live happily ever after. It was four years since Harry's great defeat of Lord Voldemort, and it seemed at once very long ago, and also like it had just happened. It felt long ago because of how different she felt from her sixteen year old self. She was now twenty years old and Hogwarts was long past. She had spent a year traveling with Harry, and soon after returning to England had been hired by the Holyhead Harpies Quidditch team. In that time, she and Harry had grown so much closer, though she had and Ron had perhaps drifted apart a little. This was almost the only thing that shadowed this otherwise perfect day. That… and, Ginny glanced at her bridesmaids. Luna, looking dreamy as usual in yellow, Gwenog, Captain of Holyhead Harpies, looking odd in a dress, and Heather, another team member. The gaping absence of the only really important female friend of hers was the other shadow. But she refused to dwell on that, and so she turned to glanced at Arthur Weasley, standing beside her, puffing out his chest and positively strutting as they began to walk down the aisle. He was finally escorting his one daughter to the altar.
Ginny looked back down the aisle at Harry, now grinning foolishly at her. She couldn't help but grin back. Harry was her best friend and good for a shag as well. There didn't seem to be any reason to not get married and Ginny was happy that they would be spending the rest of their lives together. She and Harry were meant for eachother.
Then Ginny glanced to the left as her eye caught movement, and her step faltered and she had to stop herself from tripping. She met a pair of sharp brown eyes framed by bushy hair straining to be out of its hair tie. Hermione! Ginny's breath caught in her throat. She hadn't seen the woman in over a year, and seeing her now- it was like she'd forgotten what Hermione looked like. But then she was at the altar, and the priest was speaking, and there was Harry, and there was no time to wonder at the moment what Hermione was doing there.
Hermione sat at the bar, sipping some whiskey and soda and marveling at what it was like to be back in London. Water dripped from the fog that hovered in the outside night, so different from the dry African heat she had gotten used to. Seeing Ginny and Harry again was wonderful, though she seemed to have surprised Ginny walking down the aisle. Maybe she should have told them she was coming… but the idea of making Harry, Ron, and Ginny stress about the potential drama of throwing her and Ron together again after over a year had stopped her. Also, she wasn't sure she was going until the last minute, when she booked a port key from Johannesburg to London that very same morning of the wedding. And now here she was, after the wedding ceremony was over, alone in London, avoiding the celebrations because half the people there had red hair and would all be painfully aware of the fact that this could have been her wedding into their family.
She thought about how she'd met up with Harry and Ginny after the ceremony, both of them standing half entwined around each other, drunk on love and happiness and eager to be off on their honeymoon later that evening. Ginny managed to pull herself away from Harry to give Hermione a big hug, squeezing her hard.
"Are you back for good this time?" Ginny had asked her as she pulled away, looking radiantly happy and beautiful to Hermione.
"Yes," Hermione answered, then amended, "Well, for a while, anyway."
"I wasn't sure you were coming," Ginny said, "Did you just get to London today?"
"About an hour ago," Hermione had said with a laugh, picking at her travel-mussed hair.
After that they had talked about where Hermione was staying, how Africa had been, what she had been up to. Hermione gave them her wedding present, which was a journal that Hermione herself had the twin of. Anything written in one journal would immediately appear in the other, a simpler and less messy form of conversation than flooing or owling, and easier across international boundaries.
But then they were swept away in the tide of congratulations. Hermione hung around for a few hours, chatting with other old school friends like Neville and Luna. She tried to avoid the Weasleys, but ended up talking to George and Angelina for a bit without the topic of Ron coming up. There was no visible animosity, but she still caught a few awkward shifts in stance as she moved through the reception. In the end, avoiding him became too difficult, and she left quietly, apparating back to Diagon Alley to go back to her rooms in the Leaky Cauldron to unpack a bit, shower, and try to not think about Ron. Once the evening came around, she headed out into the mostly Muggle London, looking for a particular Wizard bar that she'd read about where she was almost positive she wouldn't see anyone she knew.
And that was where she sat now. At Bees n' Bees. She sat a little timidly at the bar- stealing curious glances around. She hadn't been entirely sure what to expect- she'd never much been a part of this community and it was only now, in her loneliness, that she purposely sought out this place. She caught herself taking mental notes of the place, examining the slant of the roof and the style of the sign before she'd forced herself to step inside, chiding herself for automatically examining the literary value of the bar, but still unable to stop herself.
Always the academic, she told herself with a sigh in her mind and pushed through the door. It wasn't a 'gay bar' explicitly but it was as close to a hippie bar as one could get in the wizarding world and as such tended to attract that community.
She was thinking about going over and talking to an attractive woman sitting alone a few seats away, but she wasn't here to hook up with anyone, just to get away for a bit. Drink a bit. Be lonely. Hermione sighed, realizing she was moping. Just because she and Ron had broken up in a rather dramatic fashion shouldn't mean that she had to feel like an outsider at her two best friends' wedding! She drained the rest of her drink like a shot. Although, she conceded as she tried not to grimace at the sudden sear of alcohol down her throat, it was her choice to go off traveling alone for a year.
"Well well," a familiar voiced drawled, "Who do we have here? This can't be the same bushy-haired Granger I knew at Hogwarts?"
"Well, at least I'm not buck toothed anymore," Hermione turned around to snap, her slight tipiness allowing her to hide her surprise. Malfoy was the last person she wanted to see at the moment, and she certainly hadn't expected to find him here, not that it necessarily meant anything.
He raised his hands in defense and said, "Hey, sorry. I'm not trying to pick a fight. I'll just go pretend I never saw you here."
Hermione turned back in her seat and picked up her glass again, remembered it was empty, and then turned back to Malfoy. He was sauntering off, his slicked back blond hair glinting in the low lighting of the bar.
"Hey," she said, calling after him, "Malfoy."
He glanced back.
"Can I buy you a drink?" she asked.
Malfoy shrugged, turned around, and came to sit down next to her. He glanced her up and down, then turned in his seat to lean his elbows on the bar and said, "So is this why you left Weasley so dramatically?"
"Hmm," Hermione frowned, "That's not really your business. But just for the record, no."
"So, what have you been up to these last few years?" Malfoy inquired, ordering a drink from the bartender.
"Not jumping right into the Ministry like Harry and Ron," Hermione said sardonically, "I actually find having NEWT's on my resume useful. Though I suppose I haven't really been using them. I've actually been writing. How about you?"
"A Malfoy needs neither NEWT's nor Ministry," he said, sipping the drink the bartender slid over to him, "I've been keeping up the Malfoy estate, restoring our good name." He absentmindedly dropped his left arm into his lap, off the bar.
Hermione mused that had they met in any other bar, she wouldn't be talking to Malfoy like they had been friends at Hogwarts. In any other bar, they might have exchanged nods, but they wouldn't be sharing a drink together. Instead, here at this bar, they were drawn together by an unexpected commonality.
"I read your book," Malfoy interrupted her thoughts, "The one that takes place in Africa."
"Oh," Hermione mouthed the word, a wisp of air escaping her throat. That had been her most recent novel, it had only just been placed on bookshelves in Diagon Alley a month ago. Her first anthropological novel, second novel ever.
Hermione had started off her writing career as a journalist, just writing brief essays on current events for the Daily Prophet but had gradually started easing her way into other more widespread and international publications where she not only got to write news (something she actually found rather uninteresting) but also some of her own opinions. From opinions she'd moved to commenting on older works of writings (including little essays on the past seven years of Voldemort's resurrection and other odd bits of history) and had finally published an essay with a thesis all her own on House Elves. That had caught the eye of a publishing company in France and they'd granted her the money to write a book (a real book that might one day be in a library, a library, with her own name on it!) on intelligent magical creatures. It did notconclude that all house elves ought to be freed; after meeting more house elves than Dobby she had been forced to accept the reality that most did not want to be freed, but she did use the brave house elf as an example of the need for more interspecific communication.
Later, the grant offer for Hermione write an anthropological book about magical origins in Africa wasn't quite the kind of history she was interested in but it was a lifesaver for Hermione who had been looking into renting a dingy little apartment in Diagon Alley just to get out of her and Ron's cottage as quickly as possible. Her salary from the Daily Prophet for the 200 word current news block would barely cover it. She'd packed her bags in a day and let herself be whisked off by portkey to the magical community in Rustenburg, South Africa.
The bartender clonked two mugs down in front of her and Malfoy and Hermione dug out a few sickles to pay for them.
"Cheers," Malfoy said picking up the mug. Her Origins book had branched rather unexpectedly (or perhaps not) into the realm of wizarding blood and in the end she'd ferociously debunked the idea of muggles 'muddying' the blood of wizards. That Malfoy had read it, and didn't seem like he was about to launch into a criticism of it surprised her.
She thought of when she had last seen all the Malfoy's together- after the Battle of Hogwarts, huddled together like everyone else, just glad to be alive.
Ginny had never thought of herself as particularly close to Hermione, Hermione had always been Harry and her older brother's friend first and foremost. Friends certainly, but Ginny knew that that the threesome of Harry, Ron, and Hermione did not quite include her.
Yet... when Hermione had disappeared, well maybe disappeared was too strong a word, as she'd told those close to her she was leaving a few days before her departure, and sent periodic postcards, but when Hermione had left, it surprised Ginny to realize how much she missed her. Indeed, in that manner, it was like a disappearance. All of a sudden, Hermione was gone from their lives, and there was a hole, particularly around Ron. The only idea of what she was up to were the few words jotted on postcards, such as "Enjoying Cape Town, Hippocampi very interesting and probably sentient."
And now, she was back. For who knew how short or how long a period of time. It unsettled Ginny, that Hermione could just appear and disappear randomly from her life, it unsettled her to have Hermione pop up all of a sudden when least expected. It really wasn't fair of her to just show up all radiant and traveled at her wedding, wasn't fair of her to throw Ginny off balance like that.
Ginny tossed her over-robes carelessly onto a chair as she shut the door to her and Harry's house behind her. Hopping on one foot she pulled off her Quidditch boots and kicked them into a corner.
"You're home late," she heard Harry comment lightly from the kitchen. He was pouring some butterbeer into two cups.
"Yes, and I'm absolutely exhausted," Ginny replied, leaning against the door frame to the kitchen, "I'm going to bed."
"No time even for a drink with your new husband?" Harry teased, stepping over to Ginny to reach one hand up towards her face.
"Sorry Harry," Ginny said, "I really just need to crash."
"You've been working too hard," Harry said, concern written over his face, "What's wrong?"
"Oh I don't know," Ginny sighed, "Maybe it's just Hermione being back, and Ron... and my whole family... Even after a year it's still so ridiculous... and crazy..."
"You're not still mad at her are you?" Harry said moving his hand down to take both of hers.
"No, of course not, I never really was..." Ginny trailed off, "Do you think Ron'll be okay?"
"I imagine so, but it's weird," Harry said, copying her sigh now, "For the first six years I knew them they struggled with liking each other and not being together, and when they finally did get together I thought it would be forever. Now they're apart, and it's like the three of us are... no longer the three of us."
"Well maybe now that she's back you can all make up," Ginny said, unable to keep the tension from her voice.
"You mean Ron and Hermione get back together?" Harry asked, mistaking the tension for stress about her brother.
"Well... that or at least you can all go back to being friends, just the three of you, like you were," Ginny suggested with a shrug, pulling her hands out of Harry's grasp and picking up the butterbeer he'd poured for her.
"Oh, it'll never be like that," Harry said with a tender smile, pulling Ginny close despite the butterbeer, "You're number one for me. If anything, it'll be the four of us. Is this what this is about?"
Ginny felt a flush of pleasure at those words along with a twinge of guilt. How childish of her, to start feeling jealous of her husband, her friend, and her brother's relationship and to need such reassurances of Harry's affection.
"Maybe.. I don't know," Ginny said, feeling better now as she sipped her butterbeer, turning around in Harry's arms so she could both snuggle with him and drink at the same time. She leaned her head back against his shoulder.
"For some reason Hermione just showing up like this- its really thrown me for a loop," Ginny admitted softly, "And I don't know why."
"Well, time will tell," Harry said, "We'll all have to get used to having her around again. If she stays. Please don't be upset."
"I'm not upset! Its just intense... all she's been through and now she's back here, and writing books," Ginny said unable to keep her voice from rising a little, "And we're married now... would Hermione and Ron be married if she... if that all hadn't happened?"
Harry frowned, then pulled her close again, a small smile replacing the frown, "I don't think that's important, and I don't think you need to worry about Ron. And I promise that her being back will not change a single thing between you and I or between any of us."
"All right then," Ginny said, still feeling unsettled but deciding to leave it at that, "But I am exhausted, so as soon as this butterbeer is down I'm going to bed."