RATING: PG-13 for this part… later it will be R
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Harry Potter although I believe that one day I will. As a result I am just borrowing the characters of Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, etc. Samantha, Sebastian, Simon and Melissa Weasley are my creations and can be used if you seek my written permission.
Looks like something's coming, --Tara MacLean
Looks like there's gonna be a storm.
Looks like everyone's running,
Looks like everyone's torn.
As Hermione Granger turned the page of "The Little Witch Who Could…" she paused and beamed down at little three year old Samantha Weasley. The child was snuggled in Hermione's lap, staring wide-eyed as she sucked on her thumb, thoroughly engrossed in the story. Sammy giggled and pointed down at the character in the picture, who was impatiently jumping up and down in an effort to continue the story.
Hermione quickly obliged. "'I think I can,' the little witch thought as she practiced waving her wand. 'I think I can,' she thought again as she stared hard at the feather." Immediately, the little witch slipped out of the picture, no doubt waiting for her to turn the page.
Five year old identical terrors Simon and Sebastian whispered conspiratorially to each other from their place on the floor at her feet, but halted as she raised an eyebrow knowingly. They might be able to dupe some less astute souls but she was an expert at the inner workings of the Weasley mind, as they were well aware.
As she resumed the intriguing saga to see if the young witch really would be able to levitate the feather, out of the corner of her eye she spied a lean frame casually resting against the doorjamb. Again, she paused, sparing a glance at her roommate. At the sight of a steaming mug in his hand, she grinned cheekily.
Harry always knew the way straight into her heart.
Eagerly, she reached out her hand. Nothing like a little caffeine to keep her on her toes, especially considering the kind of day she'd had that day.
Harry grinned boyishly and she was instantly taken back to the day, fifteen years before, when she had first met him on the Hogwarts express. He had been so innocent, so free of the worries that bound him now. She missed that about him. His light green eyes danced, reflecting an optimism that she hadn't seen in a long while. But then he ruined her reminiscing by refusing to hand the mug over.
He must've seen her glower because he chuckled softly. "Wait until Sammy is out of the danger zone. I've seen the way you attack this stuff."
God, he made her sound so pathetic. So she enjoyed a cup of coffee every once in a while, there was nothing wrong with that. Okay, admittedly Hermione would sometimes drink a bit more than that daily but she never went above three pots… unless it was a really bad day.
Yeah, she was addicted. She knew it, but she would never give Harry the satisfaction of hearing her say so.
Ultimately, she followed the twins' five year old tactics and decided to ignore him, only to find her audience had disappeared. Simon and 'Bastion, the dangerous duo, were occupied with some small action figures in the corner and little Sammy's eyes were beginning to droop. Even the witch in the book had given up on her ever finishing (Hermione leaving a book unfinished, as shocking as that was) and was dozing on the grass.
Before she had a chance to set the book down, Harry was in front of her, gently easing the sleepy child into his arms. As his head neared hers, he winked and brushed his lips across her temple.
"Put her on my bed," Hermione mouthed, knowing full well that Harry's room was officially considered a disaster area. At first, she had tried asking him nicely to clean up after himself. She even tried bribing him, saying that she would stop making fun of him for not having a job. It didn't work either. Then she resorted to black mail. Once, a few years before, Harry and Ginny had an intimate night together that he desperately tried to hide from Ron, but she didn't have the heart to tell Ron. Intimidation was next. When that failed to work (and it had nothing to do with her intimidation skills, she tested them on the kids across the street everyday) she had even posted sticky notes everywhere with messages like 'wash me' and 'pick me up' or definitions of words like 'closet' and 'bureau' but in the end, they just seemed to add to the clutter. Now, she simply gave up and cleaned up after him. But she put her foot down when it came to his room. Who knew what she would find growing under his bed. Just the thought of it made her shudder.
Sneakily, she took a couple of quick gulps from the abandoned and rapidly cooling mug and then followed Harry to the back of her—scratch that—their small house.
Her heart warmed as she watched him lay the child down on the bed, Sam's strawberry blond hair fanning on the pillow below. She really was a beautiful child. Ron was such a lucky dad. And after observing Harry's soft, if not on-key, hums to loll the child to sleep, she knew what an amazing dad he would make one day as well. That is, if he'd actually go on a date every once in a while.
But first things first, he needed to find a job. Just because he'd single-handedly destroyed Voldemort a year and a half before, it did not give him reason to be a bum.
With a hint of a smile, he crossed to her and gathered her into his arms. "You'll have your own little girl one day, Hermione."
She grinned into his chest. "Funny, I was just thinking the same about you."
Quietly chuckling, Harry wrapped his arms tighter around her, pressing Hermione's ear to his chest. She stayed there a moment, listening to the muted timber of his laugh and enjoying the warmth and strength he gave her.
A year before, she would have quit her job (a huge sacrifice on Hermione's part) in order to have a baby but… things change. Right now, she would settle for a decent relationship. There had been a time, a brief idealistic phase when she was sixteen, when she had endlessly dreamed about finding true love. The kind of love that stole her breath away and made her dizzy with passion. But now that she was older, she realized that little girls' fantasies and real life didn't mix. When she was young she was taught that love was this conventional thing… that it was as simple as meeting someone and things happened instantly. But they never said that love could be a poison as well if you weren't careful. And she was tired of being poisoned… of being sick.
With a brief look of concern, Harry glanced down at her. "Now don't go kicking yourself again about giving that snarking bastard the boot. He deserved it."
That was true. Kevin had deserved coming home to find all of his belongings on the front lawn and Harry living in his place (she would forever be in Harry's debt for that one). But their relationship had been amazing. They had been like a well-oiled machine. Always working, never sputtering. He would start a sentence and she would finish it. They were a part of each other, the same way a wand is a part of a wizard until the spell is over. She and Kevin were a part of each other for a short time and then their magic was over… his magic had changed.
But she still missed the companionship that she had with Kevin. Sure, she and Harry were as close as friends could get but it wasn't the same. There was something missing.
Maybe she missed the snogging? Well, she was only human, after all.
A long time passed without anything being said and it was in those moments where they were the closest. They may not have communicated verbally, but she knew him well enough to know what he was thinking… how he ticked. If someone were to ask her to describe the best feeling in her life, it had to be any time that she was wrapped in Harry's arms. She felt safe there.
She could have stayed like that for a ridiculously long amount of time but reality eventually came floating back in the form of two mischievous giggles, which wafted in from the living room.
"Bugger, if they set fire to the carpet again, Harry—" But he was already gone as the sound of breaking glass followed.
So much for Sammy taking a nap.
"Where did you get these?" The tone of her best friend's voice startled her. It wasn't everyday that he got narky with a Weasley. Quickly, she hefted Sam into her arms, hoping the child's whimpers did not become anything more.
As an afterthought, she grabbed her wand (hidden out of harm's way from the twins—she'd learned that lesson the hard way) as well. Surprisingly, the room was not the utter chaos it usually was when the twins did something naughty. They stood backed into the corner, wide-eyed and abnormally silent, warily watching their uncle who hardly ever became agitated.
"Reparo," she muttered and the lamp to her left began piecing itself back together. But even that didn't get the duo's attention like it normally would. Having a muggle mother and, well, Ron as their father, they didn't really see a great deal of magic around their house, er, that is, magic performed properly.
"Now, now. No harm done, Uncle Harry." She really didn't know why he was getting so upset over that lamp. It wasn't like he liked it. In fact, he had broken it on 'accident' a few times himself. "Give them their toy back." She put her hand out and was surprised when he didn't give it up. "Come on now, Harry," she hissed. "Remember, we've been trying to teach them how to share. You're not helping."
"But it's me!"
Hermione rolled her eyes and looked heavenward as she sighed heavily. "Yes, but just because you have the-boy-who-lived-and-then-kicked-Voldemort's-arse status does not mean you can hoard all your nephews' toys. Now give it here."
"No, 'Mione. It's ME!" He held the little action figure up so she could see it.
"Well, I'll be soused," she whispered as the teeny-tiny Harry winked at her with a brilliant smile before hopping on his mini broom and zooming around her head. "Sebastian, where did you get this?" she asked, trying not to laugh at the horror on the real Harry's face.
'Bastian grinned a semi-toothless smile, which made it all the more difficult for her to keep a straight face. "Uncle George has 'em in his shop."
Harry now looked ill. "You mean he's selling these?"
The boy nodded and Hermione put her hand on Harry's arm, as if that would keep him from apparating instantly over to the shop and giving Fred and George a piece of his mind. Unfortunately, it did nothing to hinder Harry for a second later her hand was closed around air.
It was going to be a long night.
The fire popped and crackled as the logs settled, sending a shower of golden embers though the fireplace. Hermione looked over from her spot, curled up in Harry's big chair by the fire, to the kids who were engrossed in some cartoon on the telly. She didn't watch them for long because soon her attention was drawn back down to the research journal in her lap.
It was always like that with her. If there was something she didn't know, something that she couldn't figure out, it became a sort of obsession with her. No matter what she was doing, it would always be in the back of her mind, haunting her… taunting her.
For the past month, she and her research team in the Charms Use and Regulation Department of the Ministry had been trying to create a charm that boosted an individual's energy (and this had nothing to do with her caffeine addiction, honestly) but they had yet to perfect it and it was driving her insane. They were coming close; she could feel it, yet she couldn't, for the life of her, figure out what was missing.
Earlier that day, she had experimented on Marcus Hess, affectionately dubbed 'the lab rat' due to his willingness to try anything and everything and at the time was certain that that would be the moment all their hard work paid off. She had watched intently as his eyes glazed over but just as suddenly they came into sharp focus and he looked around the room awed. Heart beating like crazy, she could hardly keep herself from jumping up and down but then, just as he turned to face her, the spasms hit.
For an agonizing thirty-seven minutes, she had held his head in her lap, desperately trying to brush away the tears and soothe the pain but by the end his moans had become screams and they were both soaked in tears and sweat. After seeing him safely to the infirmary, she had rushed to the bathroom just in time to see her breakfast come up. It made her physically ill knowing that she had done that to him, that she had been the cause of his pain. Needless to say, she'd come home early that day.
Hermione looked at the letter on her lap. She knew what it was, yet that nauseous feeling was back and she was afraid that if she read it, she would never be able to face him ever again. When the owl had arrived, she had been tempted to send it back, to pretend it never came but to do that would be like saying that what had happened that day didn't matter. That Marcus had gone through all that agony for nothing. So in the end, she carefully tore open the envelope and read Marcus' report of what had happened.
Twenty minutes passed in which Hermione was oblivious to everything but her thoughts. The more she read it, the more confused she became. Marcus had described a harsh and blinding light that seemed to burn and scorch him but that didn't make sense. She didn't know why it hadn't hit her before but she realized that this was not a potent charm. It shouldn't have created even a mild discomfiture much less a burning pain. What had she done wrong?
Rubbing the back of her neck, she pushed her hair behind her ear and bit her lower lip. She hated when she did that, but it had become habitual.
Just then, the front door slammed open and Ron's good-humored voice bellowed in. "I've got presents!"
Hermione was left alone in the living room within five seconds. She liked to think it had nothing to do with the gifts they were about to receive and everything to do with seeing their loving parents, but Hermione knew better. Kids never quite appreciated their parents until they moved out. She still missed hers terribly.
Even Harry, who had been making dinner in their cramped kitchen ever since he had gotten back from speaking with Fred and George (Hermione got the impression that it didn't go too well), sped through to greet his friend. Hermione slowly stood up, stretching out her aching back as she stuffed the journal and papers into her bag. Quietly, she stuck her head around the corner to the entryway. The last thing she wanted to do was interrupt the family reunion prematurely. Unlike some people, namely Harry, she wasn't a present hog.
Melissa spotted her immediately and slipped over with a shy smile. Although Hermione had known her for years (she used to live next door to her), she really didn't know much about her. Always quiet and introverted, she hadn't let anyone past her defenses, that is, until she met Ron. Hermione still didn't know exactly when it had happened but she was glad nonetheless.
"How were the kids?" she asked in her meek but gentle voice. "They didn't cause too much of a ruckus, did they?"
Hermione put her hand on Melissa's shoulder. "Nothing Harry and I couldn't handle. How was the romantic weekend away?"
A deep blush bloomed on Melissa's cheeks and she ducked her head. "Perfect. Ron really outdid himself this time."
Hermione smiled. Thank goodness Ron hadn't let it slip like he had a tendency to do. Sometimes Hermione felt that he had spent too much time with Hagrid. In fact, Hermione had orchestrated the whole excursion herself after seeing how ragged the young mother was getting. It was difficult watching twins in general, not to mention twins with magical propensities. She glanced over to her redheaded best friend. He winked secretively at her, a sparkle in his eyes. It definitely had been a good weekend, then.
Thirty minutes later, as Harry helped pack up the rest of the bags, they said their goodbyes and walked outside to Melissa's car. Early on in her relationship with Ron, she had insisted on using the car no matter how much easier flue powder was. Personally, Hermione thought she was smart.
As she was stepping off the porch, Ron's hand gently grasped her arm, halting her so that they stood alone together under the overhang.
"You don't look so good… a little green around the gills, if you ask me—you're not preggers, are you?"
Blunt to a fault, that was her Ron. "No, I'm not pregnant and I'm fine." She tried giving him her deadliest glare. He simply laughed and pulled her into an embrace.
"All things not well in Lollipop Land? Are things suddenly altering from the happy Disney script?" he teased. She pushed him away.
"Despite what you may think, my life is not all sweet and innocent as you would choose to believe." Then, as an afterthought, she added, "And you've been watching too much TV with your kids."
Bypassing her second comment, Ron bent close to her ear. "Oh, yeah? When was the last time you boffed?"
Flustered, Hermione swatted at him. "Low blow, Mr. I'm-married-and-can-get-it-all-the-time."
One of the twins yelped and Ron looked across the yard worriedly. "Now I know how my parents felt," he mumbled more to himself than to Hermione. "Anyway, I wanted to give you something." He dug in his pocket and pulled out a small box.
"You already gave me a present," she said, confused, and held up the book detailing the history of the island that he and Melissa had visited.
He waved it away. "Yeah, but this is a thank you. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have met Melissa, gotten married—"
"Okay, okay," she cut him off knowing that he would go on forever. Gingerly, she lifted the lid and gasped as she saw the delicate, gold necklace. Slipping it into her fingers, she noticed that it had two small stars from which dangled a crescent moon. "Ron! This is too much! Too expensive! I can't."
He slowly closed her outstretched hand back around the necklace. "It's from Harry as well. Just think of it as an early Christmas present." Once he saw that she wasn't going to fight the gift anymore, he leaned down and pointed to a hidden clasp on the side of the small moon. "Open it."
As she did, they heard the sound of a young girl giggling. With a jolt, she realized it was herself. Then Ron's high laugh joined hers as well as the sounds of a struggle. Harry's voice added to the scene as he said, "Give it back, Hermione!" He sounded as though he were trying to keep a straight face.
"I just can't believe you got a love letter!" she screeched from the locket. Soon she and Ron were chanting over and over again "You got a love letter, you got a love letter," over Harry's groans. The laughter began to fade.
Hermione cocked her head to the side curiously, a small smile creeping onto her face. "I remember that! Harry received that really gushy Valentine and was so embarrassed by it." Ron chuckled with her. "He tried hiding it from us," she added quietly, remembering the innocent fun they had at sixteen.
"That one was one of mine. You see, Harry and I put memories of some of the best times we'd ever had in here. Every time you open it, a new one should play." She found it funny that one of Ron's favorite memories dealt with torturing Harry. She wondered if they were all like that.
He helped her put it on and she fingered it. "It's beautiful, Ron. Thank you. I love you both."
He chuckled as she clung to him. "I should give you a present everyday. Maybe you wouldn't be so mean."
"I'm not mean!"
There was a pause as he examined her. "You know I love you too." He looked down at her in concern and played with a strand of her long hair. Unwillingly, she was taken back to that dreary March day in their seventh year at Hogwarts, lying in a puddle of her own blood, staring up into the same concerned and terrified eyes, gasping for breath—
She forcibly shook her head to clear the vision, dismayed to find her hands shaking.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, just a long day." He looked doubtful and she knew that he was on the verge of calling Harry over and once Harry became worried about her, she wouldn't have a quiet moment to herself for a week. They were too overprotective of her.
"Really, I'm fine. I just had an awful day at work and coming home to your kids didn't help." As predicted, the subject change quite neatly distracted him.
"Hey, you were the one who insisted on taking them in. I wanted to leave them out in the wilderness somewhere."
"Yes, yes. You were right. Next time we can do that. Now, stop dawdling and get your arse down to your family." She playfully smacked him on the arse, ushering him off the porch.
"Love you, hun. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Can we get lunch?" Ron had taken over his dad's old position in the Ministry the year before. Since they only worked a few floors from each other, they tried to have lunch together a few times a week.
She waved as they drove away, wary about going to sleep. She still sometimes woke from nightmares that were so real she would often times be screaming and sweating so profusely that it was impossible to go back to sleep. Her nightmares were always the same. She shivered as the image flashed in her mind again. It had been at least a week since she'd dreamt about that night but she figured that, after the traumatic day she'd had, she wouldn't be having a very restful night.
"You planning on standing out here all night?" Harry asked from the doorway. With one last deep breath of the cold night air, she followed him into the house.
Author Note: I know what you're thinking. "Where's Draco?" I promise, he'll be in the next part. I pinky swear.