Although Hermione missed the snow covered hills and dancing Christmas baubles of the Burrow, she was enjoying the time away from everything, and it was time well spent with her parents. Christmas came and went in the sweltering heat of the Australian summer. Many owls delivered presents to the Granger household, including a never-dull quill and refilling ink set from Alexa and a book on the history of injustice among magical creatures from Ginny. Both gifts were practical and very fitting for Hermione's taste. Hermione could not even remember what she had sent off to either girl. She just remembered trying to keep the gifts as generic as possible. Instead of taking time to sort out how she was feeling, Hermione was doing her best to ignore her feelings all together. However, the holidays were nearly over, and she would be coming face-to-face with Ginny and Alexa soon enough, and they would be expecting some sort of answer from her.
Two days before Hermione was slated to return to Hogwarts, a large salt and pepper owl that Hermione recognized as Gregoire, the owl that had delivered Harry's Christmas gift, was perched on the window sill above Hermione's bedroom desk. He was hooting for Hermione's attention and when she walked over to him, he held out his leg for her to take the letter tied there. He gently nuzzled her arm with his head before taking off into the clear blue sky. Clearly, Harry was not expecting a speedy reply. Hermione turned over the letter and ripped open the seal.
I hope all is well and that you had a beautifully warm Christmas with your parents. I'm all settled down here in Sirius' old house with a now only slightly grumpy Kreature. I'll have you know that I offered to free him, but you'd think I'd have asked him if I could chop off his hands the way he wailed like a banshee for 3 hours. To compromise, I've moved him to better living quarters upstairs and told him he's welcome to take a day off to do as he pleases whenever he would like. He has yet to take me up on that offer. Anyway, I'm writing to invite you over for a visit. It's been a long time since you and I have spent any time together. It might be nice to do some catching up. No need to write back. Just pop over when you get this letter, if you have the time. Knowing you as well as I do, I am going to go ahead and wager that all your holiday assignments were done within the first week and you have plenty of time.
See you soon!
Hermione smiled to herself as she closed the letter. Harry was right. She had finished all of her homework within the first three days of the holiday, and she was already packed for her return trip. So without another thought, she disapparated from her parents home and found herself staring at the door to number 12 Grimauld Place. The sight made her stomach do a flip. The last time she had appeared on this doorstep, a Death Eater was gripping a hold of her, and Ron had been splinched when they tried to escape. Hermione shook the thought from her head. The war was over. Grimauld Place was safe now. She stepped up to the door and knocked. The door opened into an empty hallway. At least, Hermione thought it was empty until a low growling voice told her to enter.
"Master Harry is expecting you. He's waiting in the den," Kreature drolled. Hermione looked down to see him sidling away toward the kitchen area.
"Harry?" Hermione called out into the house as she stepped over the threshold. She moved toward the den where Kreature said he would be and found him setting out a pewter kettle, steaming with a fresh pot of tea.
"Hermione, I'm so happy you've made it," he beamed at her as he finished pouring tea into two cups and setting them out on the coffee table. He then moved to hug her, an embrace she was more than happy to return.
Hermione sat down on one end of the couch and Harry moved to occupy the other end. They sat in silence for a full thirty seconds just smiling at each other without a word.
Harry was the first to speak. "Look, Hermione, I know things have been rather weird for us over the past few months. It's not every day you find out your best friend is gay and that she's in love with your girlfriend. It's even less often that you find out your girlfriend loves her back."
Hermione felt like the warmth was draining from her body and quickly gulped down her tea to try to restore it. She knew this conversation would have to happen eventually, but she had hoped the time for it would be in the distant future. She took a deep breath. "I know, Harry. I can't imagine how much all of this must've hurt you, but I can assure you, I never meant for any of it to happen. I didn't choose to fall in love with Ginny, and I never could've dreamed she'd feel the same."
"I know," Harry replied, staring down into his own tea cup. "When the war ended, all I could think about was starting my life fresh. I could finally be with Ginny with no threat looming over my head that might put her in danger." He sighed deeply, "That was naive. It was right in front of me the whole time. As hard as it was for me to realize, Ginny and I were never meant to be together."
"I'm sorry, Harry."
He met her eyes. There was pain there, but it was not the pain of a friend who felt betrayed. "Have you spoken to her since you left the Burrow?" He asked.
Hermione blew out a long gust of air, "No, I haven't, her nor Alexa." She threw herself back against the couch cushions. "I've just been avoiding the feelings all together if I'm being quite honest. Every time I try to think about it, it gets more and more tangled, and I get more and more confused. I don't know what I'm going to do."
Harry let out a small laugh, "Well the fact that you're having so much trouble deciding means you've already chosen Ginny."
"What?" Hermione's eyebrows knitted together and she stared confusingly at her best friend.
Harry shifted on the couch so that his knee was laying on the cushion next to her. "I mean really, Hermione. Alexa's the easy choice, yeah? If she was the one you wanted to be with, then you wouldn't be conflicted. You'd just be with her."
He was right. Hermione knew that. She could come up with as many excuses as possible as to why she was not confronting her feelings, and she could go back and forth on the merits of each girl. In the end though, it would always end up being Ginny, and that was scary. Ginny had power over Hermione. She had the power to raise her to knew heights just to bring her crashing back down again. Hermione did not know if she was ready to hand that power back.
"Don't use me as an excuse, though, Hermione. I'm not going to stand in the way anymore. I've accepted it, and I'm ready to move on. You'll have to come up with another reason if you really don't think Ginny is the one." With that, Harry stood up and grabbed the now empty tea pot and cups and headed off toward the kitchen. He was met in the archway by Kreature where they began arguing over who would clean it up. Hermione watched as Kreature merely shuffled behind Harry insisting that it was his job, and Harry should return to his company.
Hermione now had Harry's blessing to be with Ginny. At least, that is how he made it seem during the conversation. It was one less thing Hermione had to worry about as an obstacle toward being with Ginny, but there were still so many in the way. There was all the pain that they had already caused each other, Alexa, and oddly enough, even Ron was a factor. Hermione could only imagine how he would react when he found out. That is to say, if Hermione and Ginny ever did make it work. One thing was for sure, Hermione had a lot of thinking to do before she boarded that train in two days.