I am finally back! I know I post sporadically but it is the best I can do during the semester. Hope you all enjoy this latest work: I don't make any money, etc. etc. you all know the drill by now...
Why Parents Know Everything…
Hermione threw her clothes haphazardly into her suitcase. She accioed her hairbrush, toothbrush, and the rest of her toiletries and they joined the mess of her belongings. Open on the floor with multiple shoeprints on it by now was the Photo section of the Daily Prophet.
The Prophet page showed a picture of an attractive dark-haired man with dark brown eyes and tan skin. He was joined by the lips to a petite blonde, whose eyes were closed. Their hands weren't visible, a fact for which Hermione was grateful. The guy in the picture was none other than Steven Wright, a successful Wizarding lawyer and Hermione's boyfriend. The girl was one of Steven's clients, Jenine Clair—a supposed Dark artist.
"Client my foot!" Hermione muttered darkly as she caught sight of the picture. She zipped her suitcases shut and then threw them into the hallway. She took one more glance at the now bare room, then levitated her bags downstairs.
Hermione had moved in with Steven some eight months earlier, when it appeared that Steven was going to pop the question any time. That still hadn't happened and now Hermione knew why. Her parents had warned against the move, reminding Hermione that anything could happen. Wincing, Hermione could already hear her mother's "I told you so!' Inside her head.
The door swung open and Steven entered. He smiled as he spotted Hermione and opened his arms, "Love, how was your day?"
Hermione shoved the paper in Steven's face. "Keep it. How do you think my day bloody was? We're over, Steven; I'm leaving."
Steven set the paper down and accioed himself a butterbeer. Taking a sip, he explained, "I don't see why you're so upset. I mean, I have Jenine, you have—"
"I didn't have anyone, Steven. Only you… Always only you!"
"Don't you 'Mione' me! You're not going to be able to talk yourself out of this one."
Steven still appeared non-plussed. "Relax. Here, do you want a sip?" He offered her his butterbeer. "I feel perfectly in the clear about my affair."
"You would. I mean, why should you care how violated I feel? You always had a backup plan."
"Given your ongoing relationship with Harry…"
"Harry and I are best friends. We've been through everything together. He was around long before you were. It's totally different."
"It's not different at all. But I'll tell you what, I'll let you choose: me or Harry?"
"Steven, we're through—as I said before. So there's no decision to make." Hermione picked up her bags again and disappeared with a pop.
Harry looked at the girl cuddling up to him and tried not to sigh. His occasional not-quite-girlfriend—Molly Flanagan—was over for her birthday, and what a birthday present he'd given her…
All evening, Harry had been spacing out. He'd seen the picture of Wright in the Prophet, and Harry was worried about how Hermione would take it.
Unfortunately, this meant that Harry had been paying less than no attention to Molly.
Molly looked up at Harry with a smile and Harry was swept over by a wave of… nothing. Which was odd, because looking at the petite, pale girl with long, brown hair and dark brown eyes should have caused Harry to feel light-headed. Molly nudged Harry gently. "You tired, 'cuz if you are we could always go up to bed.…"
Harry was completely unaffected. Ever since he'd saved the world from Voldemort, every date he'd ever been on ended with the same offer. So far he had yet to accept from anyone.
Harry unwound his arm from Molly's shoulder and stood. "I'm going to go get some popcorn. Do you want anything?"
Molly shook her head, and Harry rushed to the kitchen. He tossed a bag of popcorn into the microwave, then got himself glass of pumpkin juice. The popcorn began to pop.
Then, another pop sounded, and Harry whirled around. "Hermione?" Harry hissed, "What are you d—Are you crying?" He hugged his best friend tightly.
Hermione sniffled into Harry's shirt. "I'm sorry, I should go… I just didn't know who else to turn to… I'm not going back to my parents yet…"
"Ssshhh…" Harry rubbed Hermione's back. "Do you need a girl to talk to? Because Molly's in the other room and—"
Hermione's eyes went wide and she blushed. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry! I didn't know you had a date over. You should have told me! I didn't mean to bother you, so I'll just leave—"
Harry caught Hermione's hand. "No, don't. She'll be leaving soon, I hope, and then we can talk about—"
The kitchen lights flashed on as Molly entered the room. "Talk about what? Talk about when you were going to tell me that you two were carrying on? Because, ya know, it's no news to me. So I guess I'll just go…" She pulled on her coat and lifted her purse, waiting for Harry to stop her. "I'm really leaving!" She turned towards the door and placed a hand on the knob. "Fine!"
Harry chuckled. "Bye!" And watched another Harry Potter Fan Girl stomp out of his apartment because of Hermione.
"Wow, déjà vu," Hermione remarked, helping herself to a sip of Harry's pumpkin juice. "How many is that?"
"Five, not counting Cho and Ginny—although Ginny and I are, at least, friends still."
The microwave dinged and Harry poured the popcorn into a large bowl. Carrying it into the living room, he called over his shoulder, "If you want to talk about it, I have a bowl of popcorn and a half a gallon of pumpkin juice." He turned off the television.
Hermione sat close to Harry and let her head rest on his shoulder. "I broke up with Steven, of course. I'm sure you saw the picture, so you know why."
Harry nodded and then admitted, "I was a little worried about how you would react. I assume all your stuff is in the suitcases you brought."
Hermione nodded and cleared her throat softly. "I guess I'm going to have to go back with my parents for a while." She sighed, "My mother is never going to let me forget this…" She let out a disgruntled sniffle.
"Awww… It's going to work out fine…" Harry hugged Hermione quickly. "Do you want to stay here for a while until you find another place?"
Hermione shook her head sadly and helped herself to a handful of popcorn. "That would be really great, but I don't want to impose on you."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "It's not like you're a burden. You pay for food and I'll pay for the bills. There is no mortgage.… You can make dinner sometimes and breakfast on the weekends, and I'll take care of—"
Hermione laughed. "Okay, okay, we'll work something out. If you're sure it's not a problem, I would really, really appreciate it."
Harry stood. "I'll bring your bags up to the guest room you used before, and you can rinse out the dishes. Do you want to watch a movie or something?"
Hermione shrugged and stifled a yawn delicately. "No, thank you, I'd prefer to go right to bed." She stood and followed Harry, who was carrying her suitcases, upstairs. Just before she closed the door behind her, she turned to Harry brightly. "I'm going to decorate my room tomorrow. If you're going to be around, you could help."
Harry snorted. "Um… How about I don't and say I did. Not that I wouldn't love to help you—"
"Don't lie, it's okay, Harry."
"But I do have a case to file tomorrow morning and a meeting with Remus later in the day…" He fell silent for a moment before clapping his hands loudly.
"Weasley family dinner tomorrow!"
Hermione shook her head. "I wasn't invited."
Harry blinked and didn't say anything for a minute, then, "Why? Mrs. Weasley loves you and you're Ron's and Ginny's best friend."
"Because I'm the one who found the evidence that secured Fred's and George's misuse of magic violation. Now they're being fined quite heavily and I'm not exactly welcome at the Weasley's house."
Harry immediately volunteered to stay home with Hermione, but she refused. As Harry searched for anything else to say, Hermione excused herself, shut the door, and went to bed. Finally realizing how tired he was, Harry did the same.
When Hermione awoke the next day, there were freshly baked muffins, hot tea, and no Harry to be found. After breakfast, Hermione started unpacking and organizing her room. She didn't hear Harry come home that evening, and didn't see him until he was almost out the door on his way to the Weasley's house.
Hermione cleared her throat and propped her fists on pajama clad hips. "Were you going to leave without telling me?" She asked incredulously.
Harry's eyes darted around as he cleared his throat and answered, "N-No, of course not!... Well, I didn't know whether or not you were awake. I was going to leave a note!"
Hermione laughed. "Okay, whatever. Have fun with Ron and the family tonight. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," she teased.
Harry picked up the banter. "Then I might as well just stay home and wait to turn into a crazy cat lady."
Hermione tried to look stern, but ended up laughing with Harry as she pushed him out the door. Harry apparated away, and Hermione closed and locked the door. She had just reached the foot of the stairs when the doorbell rang again. She did an about face and answered the door.
There stood two figures dressed head to toe in black. One held a suitcase, the other pointed a wand at her. Both were facing away from her.
"What?" Hermione muttered, and one of the figures spun around. Hermione took a step back, "You?"
Fred grinned. "The one and only."
George turned around as well, as he added, "Only that there're two of us; which means we have to pay twice the fines."
Hermione winced. "I am sorry about that. Steven didn't tell me what the research I was doing was for. I didn't know the product I was analyzing was a Weasley Wizard Wheeze until the trial. I never would have—What are you two doing here, anyways?"
"Harry asked us to make a special gift for him."
Fred cut George off as he added, "And before you ask, we don't know who it's for—"
"And we were dropping if off before we headed to dinner… Why aren't you already there, anyway?"
"More importantly, why are you at Harry's house?"
"Turns out Mr. Wright was Mr. Wrong. He cheated on me, I broke up with him, and now I'm staying here until I can bear to face my parents."
Fred and George laughed. "Well, are you coming to dinner or not?"
Hermione bit her lip. "Um… I wasn't invited."
Fred and George shrugged. "So? C'mon, Herms."
"I'm not ready to go. I'm still in my pajamas. I absolutely can't go like this."
Fred rolled his eyes. "Fine, you have ten minutes to get ready. Now—"
"Go!" George shouted, pointing his fingers and pretending to fire a starter pistol.
Hermione ran up to her room and ripped off her pajamas then pulled on black skinny jeans and a white slim-fit tee. She pulled on a gray vest and knee high black boots, then tugged her hair up into a bun. Glancing in the mirror, she grabbed her wand and hurried back down to re-join the twins. "Ready!"
Fred wolf-whistled and offered Hermione his arm. "Apparating in three, two, one…" He apparated them to the Burrow, George at their heels.
As they entered the kitchen, Fred called out, "We're home!"
George dashed into the dining area, picking Ginny up and twirling her around. "Long time, no see, Gin! How's the Ferret treating you?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Draco is treating me very well." Then, she whispered in his ear for a few seconds.
George shook his head. "No, we do not need the Mal-Ferret to pay off our fines for us. We're having a sale and selling twice as much merchandise as this time last month."
Ginny shrugged. "He made me promise to pass along the message."
Harry cleared his throat. "C'mon, that's not fair. Just let it go. Hermione would never have knowingly set Fred and George up to get into trouble. Stupid Steven Wright misled her."
Hermione gave a small cough as she stepped into the room. "Thanks, Harry. Molly, I know you don't want me here, but you really must believe me—"
Molly waved her hand dismissively. "No matter, just take a seat and have dinner. If Fred and George forgive you, I suppose we can forget about it."
Hermione smiled gratefully. She sat down between Fred and Harry and served herself corned beef, scrambled eggs, and a thick slice of bread. She nudged Harry with her elbow. "What's the special gift Fred and George made for you?"
Harry blinked. "It's already done? Wow, I just ordered it this morning; they're good!"
Hermione chuckled. "Yes, they are. I think they left the bag on the kitchen counter."
Harry nodded and whispered, "You'll know it when you hear about it… And believe me, you will hear about it." Then, he laughed loudly at a joke Ron had made.
Mrs. Weasley regarded Harry with a smile then, "Hermione, I must admit that I'm terribly sorry for what Steven did to you. I don't see how it happened, because he seemed like such a sweetheart when you brought him for Christmas Eve dinner."
Harry deliberately knocked over his glass of pumpkin juice. "Oh, oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Weasley!" He let the pumpkin juice spread over the table a bit before
whipping out his wand and cleaning it swiftly.
Hermione patted Harry's knee under the table as a quick thanks. Then, she opened her mouth to speak.
She was cut off by Ron, who was then interrupted by Ginny, who was ignored as Fred and George added their two cents to the ensuing clamor.
Within seconds, everyone was speaking at once, and Mrs. Weasley excused herself to get dessert, a double chocolate fudge cake with peppermint frosting and brownie chunks.
Hermione polished off her dessert, then yawned and stood. "I'm sorry to eat and run, but I have a lot of work to do before bed and a court appearance tomorrow morning besides. I'll see you all soon, oh! Are we still meeting for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron tomorrow, Ginny?"
Ginny bit her lip. "Um… Yes, but Draco's tagging along. I'm sorry, Hermione; I just didn't have the heart to tell him no."
Hermione nodded, and Harry exclaimed, "I'll tag along, too, and make it a real party. What time are we meeting?"
Hermione blinked. "I:30." She waved again to the Weasley clan and apparated with a pop to Harry's house. She unlocked the door and poured herself a cup of coffee, then made her way to her bedroom.
She set her coffee on her bedside table, then unrolled some parchment and propped open several weighty law books. She made a few notations, then attempted to analyze the law she was supposed to be re-writing. However, the cell phone she used to keep in touch with her muggle relations and friends rang.
She flipped the phone open and pressed it to her ear as she reached for her coffee mug. "Hello?"
"Hermione, how are you, Dear?"
Hermione dropped her coffee mug in shock of the misfortune off it all. "Crap, scourgify. Hi, Mother, I'm doing well, I just got home from dinner with the Weasley's."
"That's nice, I do hope you aren't over exhausting yourself with work. I would hate for you to take ill just before our family reunion in a few weeks."
Hermione made an indiscriminate, affirmative noise as she dipped her quill into her ink pot.
"And will Steven be joining us at the family reunion? I'm sure everyone would love to meet him."
Hermione cleared her throat nervously. It was the moment of truth. "Um, Mother, I broke up with Steven yesterday."
"What? Oh, perfect—and brought shame to the family, I suppose. I told you not to move in before you got a wedding band. When are you going to learn that I know best?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Mother, he was cheating on me. And I have sense myself; I don't need your advice on every little thing."
"Well, there's always a bed at home for you. I don't suppose you have any place to go; you did put all your eggs in one basket. And now I'll never have grand-children!"
Hermione clutched her quill so hard it began to bend. "I am staying with Harry until I can find my own place."
"Oh, so you go from one man to another in a matter of hours?! It's such a shame, where did I go wrong? I tried my best to raise you right!"
"Mother, you are not going to change my mind. I'm not coming home until you straighten out your priorities. Good—Harry!"
Harry had just popped his head into her room to see who Hermione was talking to. "Hey, everything all right, 'Mione?"
Her mother demanded, "Did you say Harry? I need to speak to that boy! He… You… Me… Everything—"her voice was cut off as Hermione snapped the phone shut.
Harry entered the room fully. "Your mother?" Hermione nodded. "Angry?" Another nod. "Disgrace to the family? Doesn't want you to be staying with me?" He pulled her into a tight hug. "Tough luck for her, I'm not letting you go."
Hermione laughed and hugged Harry back. "She seems to think that I was sleeping with Steven and am now sleeping with you."
"Weren't you? I mean, I know not with me… With Wright?"
Hermione shook her head. "No. We argued about it a few times. He wanted to, but I refused at least until our engagement. I needed a promise that if I got pregnant my child would be taken care of."
Harry grinned. "Good to know that our 'Mione is still as clean and pure as the fresh driven snow."
Hermione laughed. "Unfortunately, my mother—"
Harry shushed her quickly. "No more talk about your mother. You are going to finish your work while I put in a load of laundry, then we are going to watch Battle of the Cannons: A Pessimist's Guide to Chudley Quidditch."
Hermione beamed and touched Harry's arm fondly. "I'll be there in about a half hour. I just want to scribble out a couple more drafts."
Three days later found Hermione hunched over her desk in the Ministry of Magic. She was working on the final draft of a letter to the goblins of Bolivian Gringotts. She sealed the letter, then sent it to the desk of Kingsley Shacklebolt—the new Minister of Magic.
Her office door burst open and an enraged Steven Wright entered. "What the hell is this, Granger?"
Hermione blinked and looked up at her ex-boyfriend. He was covered in Gryffindor red powder, his hair was sticking straight out from his head, and his clothes were singed. It occurred to her that this was probably the "gift" Harry had ordered from Fred and George. "How in the world am I supposed to know, Wright?"
Steven slammed his fist onto Hermione's desk, toppling a jar of ink. "You know who did this. You know everything and there can absolutely be no doubt that it was done by someone close to you." He snapped his fingers and leaned down, spitting in her face as he spoke, "It was Potter, wasn't it? He decided to try and defend your poor reputation."
Hermione stood, brandishing her wand in Steven's direction. "I don't appreciate you speaking to me in this manner. Leave."
Steven grabbed the back of Hermione's neck and pulled her into a fierce, demanding, harsh kiss. He pulled away, turned around, and exited the room.
Hermione sat hard in her desk chair and rubbed her lips with the back of her hand. "That prat!" She left her office in a fury, muttering her co-workers as she passed, "I'm going to get some coffee."
In the hallway, she bumped into Ginny. "Whoa! You're early for lunch, aren't you, Gin?"
Ginny brushed a hand over her short black skirt and a Slytherin green polo. She spun around in her black, white, and silver plaid flats. "I'm bringing Draco his morning tea. We went to Broadway, New York last night and didn't get home until 4:00 this morning."
Hermione laughed. "Did you get that…. What was it?"
Ginny beamed. "Yes! The meeting went very well, thank you, and DragonDesigns—" Ginny named her clothing line, "has signed to design all dress robes for Narcissa's Book Club's Midsummer Night's Dream Ball."
Hermione nodded. "And what does Draco think about his girlfriend designing his mother's clothing?"
"Oh, he thinks it's great that his mother is getting a discount on all her new clothes. Did I tell you that she bought a full muggle wardrobe? They really are so much happier without Lucius." Ginny paused, then, "What are you doing? It's not like you to take an unnecessary break from work."
Hermione chuckled. "I am in search of coffee." She quickly hugged Ginny good-bye and made her way down to the Ministry cafeteria.
After lunch with Ginny, Draco, and Harry, Hermione made her way back up to her office, where Kingsley was perched on the edge of her desk. "Minister," Hermione nodded quickly as she sat down, "What can I do for you?"
Kingsley smiled warmly. "Hermione, I would like to offer you the position of my personal secretary. You will have much less to do when you leave the Ministry; basically you will be scribe for the Wizengamot and my meetings, and you will cover my correspondence and schedule. Occasionally, you may need to write me a speech. I know you want to be able to keep fighting for equal inter-species rights, and I won't stop you in any extracurricular assignments you want to take on. I offer this job to you because you are organized, intelligent, and dedicated."
Hermione clutched the edge of her desk. "I graciously accept your offer; when can I start?"
Kingsley chuckled. "Tomorrow you will report to my outer office to begin. You may take the rest of the day off to clean out this office. Thank you!" He left.
Hermione packed all of her belongings up, then miniaturized the box to put in her briefcase. She took a lift to the lobby, then used the telephone box to ride up to street level as she felt like walking back to Harry's modest town house. She passed a small café and stopped in to buy a Danish.
She fairly skipped home and bumped into Harry, who was on his way out. He raised an eyebrow at her, "What has you so happy and home early?"
Hermione laughed gently. "I got promoted to secretary for the Minister of Magic!"
Harry chuckled and hugged Hermione tightly, "Congratulations, I know how much this must mean to you."
"And where are you going?"
"I was going to the grocery store to get something to make for dinner; now though, I think we should go out for dinner. Why don't you get ready and I'll make us reservations."
Hermione nodded, went to her room, grabbed her robe, then padded into the bathroom. She showered quickly, then returned to her bedroom where she magically dried her hair, braided it, and pinned it into a twist atop her head. She pulled on a navy blue skirt that floated to her knees and a silver cap-sleeved blouse. She applied a little mascara, some blush, and some lipstick; then clasped a silver locket around her neck.
With a smile, Hermione fingered the locket. It hung on a fairly short chain and was a silver oval bearing a sapphire in the center. Inside, there was a picture of Harry, Ron, and herself on Harry's twentieth birthday.
Harry knocked on her door. "Hermione? Can you be ready to leave in forty minutes?"
Hermione smiled. "I'm already ready to leave, but I can hang around and wait for you if I have to…" She made a big show of sighing and sinking loudly onto her bed.
Harry laughed and Hermione heard his footsteps walk down the hall into the bathroom.
Thirty minutes later, Harry shut and locked the door. They stepped onto the street and watched as the house's disillusionment charm took hold. Harry offered Hermione his arm as they started walking down the street.
"So, Harry, where are we going to dinner?" Hermione asked eagerly, not able to keep the excitement out of her voice.
Harry smiled, "Le Petite Fleur."
Hermione gasped. "But reservations there are filled months in advance!"
A shrug, then, "I know people…" Taking note of Hermione's curious expression, he went on to explain, "The restaurant is actually owned and operated by Fleur Weasley's sister. I called Bill and he asked Fleur to call her sister and get us in."
Hermione smiled warmly. "Is this the same sister who 'nearly died' at the bottom of the lake during the Triwizard Tournament?" She asked.
Harry nodded. "The one and only… We've kept in a little bit of communication, so I have to admit that I've been looking for a reason to try out the restaurant for a while."
Hermione grinned and let Harry open the door for her as they entered the restaurant. Harry walked over to the desk and smiled as the woman standing behind it. "Bonjour, we have reservations under Potter."
The woman beamed. "Oui! I am… 'ow you say, ze muzzer of Fleur and Gabrielle. Eet ees nice to finally meet ze man I 'ave 'eard so much about."
Harry took Madame Delacour's hand and kissed it, grinning at Hermione as the older woman blushed and led them to their table. After they had been seated, Madame Delacour said, "I vill send ze menus viz Olivia—my youngest daughter—een just a moment." She smiled gently and left.
Hermione stifled a laugh, "Another woman has fallen for the Potter charm."
Harry laughed and then kissed Olivia's hand as she appeared at their table. From what Harry could see, Olivia was about fourteen, without the stunning good looks of her older sisters, but pretty nonetheless. "Olivia, could we have some wine? And for my dinner, I trust your judgment, bring me whatever you think is best."
Olivia blushed at the subtle praise and nodded eagerly. "And for you, Mademoiselle?"
Hermione smiled. "Just bring me whatever you bring Harry. How are your sisters?" There was, of course, no reason for Hermione to ask this as she had seen Fleur only Sunday, but she dismissed it in order to make Olivia feel important.
Olivia beamed. "Zey are very well, merci. Fleur is seex months into 'er pregnancy but 'er 'usband ees vonderful… Gabrielle ees very busy, but she 'as let me vork 'ere for ze summer. Do you know zem?"
Harry nodded. "We are very close to all the Weasley family, and I competed against Fleur in the Triwizard Tournament."
"You are ze Harry Potter, zen?" Olivia gushed. "Oh, eet ees such a pleasure to meet you!" She then bustled away.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Well aren't you just a busy boy?"
Harry blinked. "Um… Sure?"
"You just can't turn off the charm, can you?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess not. Why, are you jealous?" He stuck his tongue out at her playfully.
Hermione smiled as champagne appeared on their table. She accepted her glass from Harry and took a sip. "Of course I'm not jealous, but one woman is thirty years older than you and the other is 7 ½ years younger."
Harry shrugged. "It's not my fault if they fall for the ole Potter charm." He clinked his glass to Hermione's merrily. "To your promotion: An exciting albeit unsurprising change of events."
Hermione let out an un-Hermione like giggle and Harry shot her a stern glance. "And, what, pray tell, is so funny, Miss Granger?"
"Albeit, pray tell… What's gotten into you, Harry?" She placed a teasing hand on his forehead. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"
Harry scowled. "I am feeling perfectly fine." He took a nervous sip of champagne. Was Hermione flirting with him?
Olivia appeared again at their table, this time accompanied by Gabrielle, who swept off her chef's toque to embrace Harry. "'Arry! I vas so excited ven I 'eard zat you vere coming for dinner! And zese ees your friend 'Ermione, ees eet not?"
Hermione shook the slightly younger girl's hand. "Hermione Granger. We met briefly after the second task, but I don't think we were properly introduced."
Harry touched Gabrielle's arm. "Would you mind if I called you sometime? We could go out for drinks or something."
Gabrielle smiled and nodded. "Oui! I vould like that, 'Arry! 'Ow about Saturday?"
Harry grinned, took her hand, and kissed it. "I will call to firm our plans."
Gabrielle kissed Harry's cheek and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Hermione bit her lip. She didn't understand exactly why she felt hurt by Harry. Pulling a Charlotte O'Hara and pushing that into the back of her mind, she picked at her thumbnail and spread her napkin over her lap.
Harry smiled. "A successful evening all around," he joked. Then, noticing Hermione's quiet smile, he grabbed her hand across the table. "Whatsa matta'?"
Hermione laughed. "Sorry, Harry, I guess I just spaced out for a minute. Wow, the food smells good, doesn't it?"
Harry blinked. Hermione's reaction had been slightly guarded… He dismissed it as Hermione being tired and deep in thought, and they fell into silence until the food came.
By Saturday evening, everything was back to normal. Hermione had settled into her new job and was busy but content. Harry had arranged for Gabrielle to stop by his house after she finished at the restaurant.
Harry stepped out of the shower and applied glamour charms to his hair. He pulled on dark wash jeans and a black tee shirt, tied his black-and-white Converses and cleaned his glasses. The doorbell rang.
"Hermione, can you let her in and tell her I'll be right there, please?"
Hermione pouted. She was upset about Harry going out, but still refused to think about it. She padded out and opened the door, instantly feeling shabby.
Gabrielle blinked. "'Ermione?"
Hermione smiled. "Come on in, Harry will be right out. Make yourself at home." She shuffled around, wishing she had not changed out of her work clothes and into gray sweatpants and one of Ron's old Chudley Cannons tee shirts.
Gabrielle sat gently on a kitchen stool. She was dressed in a navy blue halter dress, silver high heels, and carried a bright red purse. Her bobbed blonde hair shone neatly and her clear blue eyes sparkled under silver eye shadow.
Harry entered the room and kissed Gabrielle's hand. "I was thinking we could go to Club Saint Marcus for drinks and dancing. Do you mind?"
Gabrielle stood and linked her arm through Harry's, "I theenk zat sounds magnifique! Let's go."
Harry nodded good-bye to Hermione and exited the house.
Hermione sank into the couch, curled up, and pulled a muggle sci-fi book towards her. However, she couldn't start reading because she was too deep in thought.
Why did Harry and Gabrielle's date bother her so much? Being Hermione, she absolutely needed to find an answer… She was upset because for one week—exactly one week—she had had Harry all to herself. He'd paid her endless attention and she didn't want to share Her Harry with anyone else. Wait… Her Harry? Where did that come from? Well, perhaps… She had run to him immediately after Steven… They could communicate with their eyes… They'd always had an especially deep friendship and in Hogwarts it had been generally accepted that Hermione was off limits… Finally, Hermione made the allowance that she felt great attraction towards Harry. He was attractive, funny, loyal, kind, caring, sympathetic, selfless, generous… And every girl in the wizarding world wanted him.
The fireplace flashed green and Draco Malfoy stepped out. "Granger, is Sca—Potter home?"
Hermione closed her book. "No, he's out on a date with Gabrielle Delacour."
Draco blinked. "I need your advice, but I should also tell you something… Listen," he sat down nervously, "I want to propose to Ginny. We've been dating for three years and I know that she's the one. I want a family, I want to know that I have her forever… How do I do that?"
Hermione smiled. "Although she'll never admit it, Ginny is a hopeless romantic. All you need to do is show up with roses, spend the evening with her, then sound sincere when you make a short and sweet speech. There's no way she'll say no."
Draco grinned and pulled a shocked Hermione into a brief hug. "I'm sorry for everything I did to you while we were at school…"
"You said there was something you wanted to tell me, Draco?"
Draco nodded. "Look, I know Gabrielle Delacour. She is in my mother's book club, so I end up hearing all the gossip, even when I don't want to. Gabrielle, she's a cutie and she's nice, but she's notorious for one night stands and going through men like normal people go through groceries."
Hermione nodded, then furrowed her brow. "And you're telling me this, why?"
Draco shrugged. "You seem to be looking out for Potter's best interests, and he listens to you, so I'm…"
"You're trying to protect him from getting hurt."
"No, I'm trying to protect you from having to see him get hurt, because you're one of Ginny's best friends."
Hermione smiled. "Well, that's very nice of you, Draco. Thank you very much for letting me know, I'll pass on that knowledge as gently and innocently as possible." She stood as Draco nodded and walked towards the fireplace. "Good luck with your proposal, Draco!"
When Harry arrived home some four and a half hours later, Hermione was asleep on the couch, sci-fi book in hand and a mug of cold tea on the table next to her. Harry shook Hermione's shoulder gently. "Wake up, 'Mione, I have so much wonderful news! Oh, I have to—Wakie, 'Mione!"
Hermione blinked, yawned, and stretched. "Hey, Harry! How was your evening?"
Harry summoned a butterbeer and sat down next to Hermione and squeezed her hand. "Gabrielle is so great! We went to the club and shared a few drinks, then we danced for an hour and a half and then we just wandered around talking and holding hands and when I walked her home—get this! We kissed several times, and she's coming over for breakfast tomorrow morning."
Hermione forced a smile. "Great. So are you making breakfast? Also, I've been invited out tomorrow, so you don't have to worry about me walking in on anything." She stood and hurried upstairs.
Harry sat for a few more minutes before he finally got up and made his way into the bathroom. He took a quick shower and then went to bed.
The next morning, Hermione woke up and showered, then dressed in tight, boot cut jeans, red Puma sneakers, and a black Weird Sisters tee shirt. She tugged her hair into a messy bun and applied only the minimum make-up.
She dashed downstairs, eager to leave the house before Gabrielle arrived. She poured herself a travel mug of coffee and spread cream cheese on a bagel. She was prepared to leave when Harry rushed downstairs.
Harry was clad only in black sweatpants, and—oblivious of the fact that Hermione couldn't tear her eyes away from Harry's chest—he greeted her warmly. "Hey!"
Hermione nodded quickly and swung open the door. "I'm going to Sunday breakfast with Ernie McMillan. I'll see you sometime later."
Harry nodded mutely. He was so confused… A few days ago, Hermione was bubbly, flirty, and coy; but now she was speaking only the bare minimum and—Was she really avoiding him? He grabbed Hermione's wrist. "Hermione, what's the matter?"
Hermione blinked and took a sip of her coffee. "Ernie and I bumped into each other a few days ago at the Ministry, and he invited me to come to breakfast with him and Neville. However, knowing Nev, I thought I'd better eat before I left," she cracked a small smile, which made Harry laugh.
"You can stay for breakfast with Gabby and I, if you want. After all, you know that I can cook."
Hermione bit her lip and turned back to Harry, closing the door. "Harry, Draco Malfoy stopped by last night and we were talking … Gabrielle isn't the innocent, little girl you knew in fourth year. Apparently, she is known for one night stands; short, transient relationships that leave the guys crushed yet her unharmed. I don't want you to get hurt, Harry."
Harry snorted. "I highly doubt that Gabby is out to hurt me. She admitted last night that she really felt a connection between us; that she has thought a lot about me since Bill's and Fleur's wedding." He opened the fridge, removed eggs, milk, sliced ham, fruit, and butter, then continued, "Hermione, I appreciate that you're worried about me, but I can take care of myself. I don't think Gabby's going anywhere, and she will be here in a few minutes, so maybe you should leave now."
Hermione stared at Harry, mouth open, for a few seconds before leaving—making sure to slam the door after her. She wouldn't believe Harry would put a silly girl before nearly ten years of friendship.
As if determined to make her morning worse, her cell phone rang. Hermione rolled her eyes and flipped the phone open. "Yes?"
"Hermione, Dear, how are you?" Her mother's voice ran in her ear.
"I'm fine, Mother. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?" She felt her lips twist into a small smirk as she visualized her mother's disapproving frown.
"Don't get cheeky, Hermione Jane Granger. I was just calling to let you know that the family reunion is on Saturday. You are expected to be at our house no later than 8:00 so we can drive to the park. If you want, you may bring yourself a boyfriend."
Hermione pursed her lips. "Mother, I'm sorry, but I have to go, I have a breakfast engagement and then an argument I have to settle. Besides that, I have a letter to write for tomorrow, and the Minister's schedule for the week to arrange."
Mrs. Granger made no attempt to stifle her disapproving sniff. "Fine, turn into an old maid. How's Harry?"
"I really do have to go, Mother. Unlike you, I don't have time to worry about boyfriends and family reunions. I'll be at your house at 8:00 Saturday morning if I can get the day off from work." She snapped the phone shut and apparated to the flat Ernie and Neville shared.
The door opened before her and a disheveled looking Neville greeted her. "Hermione, it's great to see you! I'm sorry about Steven…"
Hermione shrugged. "Do you need any help making breakfast?"
Ernie swept her into a tight hug and kissed her cheek, "You look fabulous, darling."
Hermione laughed and blushed, then sat at the table. Neville walked into the kitchen, yelping when Ernie pinched his butt as he passed. Ernie sent Hermione a wink and growled deep in his throat.
Rolling her eyes at the couple, Hermione poured herself some tea. "You two still rolling around in the hay together then?" She teased Ernie.
Ernie nodded. "Although, of course, it may be psychologically beneficial to conform to social standards and abide in traditional relationships; Neville and I feel our arrangement is more fulfilling, entertaining, and—" he stopped as Neville entered the room carrying three plates of breakfast.
Neville sat down, smiling warmly at Hermione. "So I heard you're staying with Harry?"
"Yes, much to my mother's consternation."
"Can he cook?" Ernie asked. "I've always found that a guy's ability to cook is a huge turn on." He rubbed Neville's leg under the table.
Neville gulped. "On… err… the other… hand—Oh, Godric!"
Hermione blushed, stood, and headed to the door. "I'll leave you two alone then," she exited the apartment with a smirk.
After doing a little shopping, Hermione returned to the town house midafternoon—sure that Gabrielle would have left by now. She swung open the door.
"'Arry!" A throaty giggle floated to Hermione's ears from the living room… Okay, well, if they're in the living room and occupied… Hermione could probably sneak up the stairs and into her room.
Hermione dropped to her knees and literally crawled across the kitchen, through the doorway and into the left side of the living room. If she crawled behind the couch, she figured she could reach the stairs safely. As she did so, she tried not to imagine what Harry and Gabrielle were doing mere feet from her.
"Gabby, can I take you out to lunch on Tuesday or Wednesday?"
Gabrielle hummed for a second, before saying, "Oh, 'Arry, I am so sorry. Oui, I would love to be taken out for lunch but I am having meetings viz my food tasters for our new summer/autumn menu."
Hermione didn't need to see Harry to know that he was crushed by this news. Continuing to crawl, she reached the stairs, crept up them, and shut herself in her bedroom, unshed tears stung her eyes, and Hermione flirted with the possibility that her attraction to Harry was full-blown fancying.
A half hour later, she heard the door open and shut. Hermione rolled her eyes, dipped her quill in a pot of blue ink, and continued to map out the Minister's coming week.
Footsteps ascended the staircase and Harry walked past her room. Since he didn't know Hermione was home, it was quite a shock when he heard her call, "Have fun, Harry?"
Harry spun around. "Hermione! When did you get home?"
Hermione shrugged. "A while ago."
Harry noticed that Hermione was being sullen and seemed frustrated. "Hermione, I'm sorry about this morning, just, I feel as though I haven't had a real relationship in a long time and it's nice to go out with a girl and not have the evening end in an offer of sex." He sat down on Hermione's bed. "Maybe her relationships haven't always lasted a long time, but I'll deal with that when the time rolls around. Right now, I'm relishing having one person in my life who doesn't view me as a hero."
Hermione stood up, wand in hand. "What about the Weasleys? What about Luna, the Order, the D.A.?" She was screaming as tears started pouring down her cheeks. "Dear Lord, Harry, what about me? Do we mean nothing? Are we not part of your life anymore?" She stormed out of her room, conscious of Harry following her. "You've thrown away ten years of friends and family for one girl who you don't even know that well. I can't believe you!" With that, she kicked the door open and apparated away.
Draco and Ginny cuddled cozily in a leather chair in Ginny's living room. Lazily, Draco got down on one knee. "Gin-bug, I love you with all my heart and soul. I want to have a family with you and grow old with you. Ginny, will you marry me?"
Ginny launched herself into Draco's arms, screaming, "Yes!" with unmitigated enthusiasm. Her excitement turned to terror when a pop sounded as someone apparated directly into her apartment. Tentatively, Ginny called, "Who's there?"
"Gin," the voice responded with a sniffle, "it's me, Hermione." The owner of the voice entered the room.
Ginny looked apologetically at Draco as he slipped the engagement ring onto her left hand. "Hermione, what in the world is the matter?"
Hermione finally looked up and, through her tears, noticed Draco's presence. "Oh, Draco! I'm so sorry, did I interrupt…"
Draco shrugged. "She'd already said yes, so no problem, I suppose. You're obviously upset, so…" He wrapped one arm around her, and Ginny did the same from Hermione's other side.
Hermione wiped her tears, only to have a whole nother stream of them pour down. "Harry and I have just had the most horrible argument. He—he-he—" she buried her face in her hands and wept.
Ginny hugged Hermione tightly. "What did you two fight about, Hon?"
Hermione helped herself to a tissue, blew her nose, then whimpered, "I don't want Gabrielle to hurt him. We argued because he said she was the only one who didn't treat him like a hero. I asked what he meant… Do we really mean that little to him?"
Draco hugged Hermione tightly. "Shsh, he probably meant the first girlfriend not to treat him like a hero since he defeated Voldemort, which is true, I'm sure."
Then, deciding to take a gamble, he continued, "After all, he doesn't know you're in love with him."
Hermione looked up slowly. "Do you really think I'm in love with him?"
Ginny furrowed her brows, "Don't you?"
"Well, I mean, we do have this magnetic attraction, and I worry about him constantly and want what's best for him… No, we're best friends, that's why…"
Ginny spoke softly, "But you don't worry this much about Ron. You don't cry when you fight with him, do you? Ron's your best friend and you love him but you feel so much more for Harry."
Hermione bit her lip. "Yes, I s-suppose that's true. But up until a week ago, I thought I was in love with Steven."
Draco cleared his throat gently, "You don't always realize who you're truly in love with, Hermione. There was a while just after I started fancying Gin in sixth year when I still thought I was in love with Pansy."
Hermione nodded, and Ginny and Draco could tell that she was finally accepting the truth that everyone else had seen since their fifth year. "Y'know," Ginny whispered, "I think there was a reason you didn't sleep with Wright besides what you say about the risk of pregnancy… I think you didn't sleep with him because your subconscious was trying to wake you up to the fact that he wasn't the One."
Hermione wiped her eyes. "Fine, I think I'm in love with Harry. I—I think I realized it in fifth year, but buried it because at that point, I couldn't deal with it."
Ginny smiled, "Now that you realize it, go resolve your argument with Harry."
Hermione shook her head violently. "I can't face him tonight. He needs to cool off and I need to absorb all this information. Can I stay the night?"
Draco glanced at Ginny. "Feel free, I have to leave. I'll see you tomorrow, Ginny." He kissed her, hugged her, then hugged Hermione. He left.
Hermione looked up at her best friend shyly. "I'm sorry, Gin. I didn't mean to crash the proposal and I know you probably wanted Draco to stay overnight, bu—"
Ginny hugged Hermione tightly. "Oh, hush! It's no problem; you're hurting and Draco understands that. C'mon, let's find you some pajamas and get you settled." She led Hermione to the guest room and then found a giant tee shirt and some baggy drawstring shorts. "Good night, Hermione."
"Thanks, Ginny; you too."
Harry was pacing back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. It was 5:00 Monday morning, ten hours since Hermione had stormed out. Harry was panicking.
Not only was he mad at himself for saying the things he had and, consequently, upsetting Hermione; he was worried that something had happened to her.
After she'd left, Harry had realized how stupid he had been. All the girls he'd dated—all the good qualities that had attracted him: intelligent, beautiful, playful, caring… Even their appearances usually: brown hair, large eyes, petite… Everything that attracted him described Hermione.
She had stood by him through everything. Even when Ron had abandoned him, she had stayed on. Even when she disagreed with him, she supported him to do what he thought was right. They knew each other, loved each other, looked out for each other.
And how had he repayed her for ten years of love and support? By doubting her, and by telling her she meant nothing to him. When, now, Harry realized that
was the exact opposite. She was his everything.
Harry loved her.
Unfortunately, there was still the little issue of Gabrielle…
Hermione apparated into the town house about three feet in front of Harry. "Oh!" She cried, taking a shocked step back.
Harry grabbed Hermione and pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. He buried his nose in her hair and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Oh, Hermione!" He gasped. "I was so scared that something had happened to you. I'm so sorry about what I said, and I realize now that you were only trying to protect me from getting hurt."
Hermione had instantly wrapped her own arms around Harry's shoulders, and now she nestled her head into Harry's neck. "I'm sorry, too, I over-reacted. I should believe you when you say you trust Gabrielle not to hurt you."
"No, 'Mione, I should trust you when you try to warn me. You've always been there for me and I completely hung you out to dry." He kissed her forehead again. "Let me make it up to you."
Hermione tightened her arms slightly and made an affirmative hum into his neck.
"I'll bring you out to lunch today. Is it okay if I pick you up at the Ministry around noon?"
Hermione quickly pulled up the day's schedule in her mind. "Yes, but I have to be back at the Ministry by 1:30 to scribe for the Minister's press meeting."
Harry nodded and released Hermione gently. "We can go to the Leaky Cauldron, if you want."
Hermione nodded. "Yes, thank you. Now, I'm going to go shower and get ready for work. Could you make breakfast?"
Harry nodded and set to work. He made scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, fruit salad, and coffee; set the table; and then put The Daily Prophet on the table next to Hermione's place. When she entered the room, he was not disappointed.
Hermione's hair was twisted into a half-up-half-down hair style. Her eyes were lined lightly in gray with olive eye shadow and clear lip gloss adorned her soft, pink lips. She wore a charcoal gray cotton tee shirt with a knee length white pencil skirt and a rib length white short-sleeved jacket. Her feet were wrapped in white high-heeled shoes with three inch pine wood colored heels.
Hermione caught sight of breakfast and the newspaper and grinned. She sat down and began to eat. Glancing at Harry, she noted, "You look very nice what are you up to today?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Witch Weekly voted me Most Eligible Bachelor, and asked me to stop by so they can take pictures of me for the next issue of their magazine and—" he shuddered, "they want to interview me. Are you sure I look all right?" He looked down at his forest green shirt, black pants, and black-and-white Converses then back up at Hermione.
Hermione raised her eyebrows playfully. "It's Witch Weekly, I doubt they want you to keep your clothes on anyways." She stood, lifted her briefcase (which had color-changed itself black leather to match her outfit), and walked to the door. "Bye, Harry, see you around noon!"
She apparated to the Ministry, took a lift to the proper floor, then walked to her office. She sat down at her desk, then waved her wand. The coffee machine in the corner began percolating. "Good morning, Minister Kingsley!" She chirped.
Kingsley smiled and nodded. "Hermione, when you bring in my morning cup of coffee, could you bring me the newspaper, too? Also, Remus—errr… Auror Lupin—is stopping by to update me on the Lestranges' plead of insanity. When he gets here, send him right in." He entered his office and shut the door behind him.
Hermione poured coffee, a teaspoon of cream, and two lumps of sugar into a mug printed with: I've got the Veritiserum and I'm not afraid to use it. Then, she grabbed the paper from her desk and carried it and the coffee into Kingsley's office. "Today's press report will have reporters from the Prophet, the Quibbler, International Wizard, Witch IQ, and WWN."
"I'm making statements about Muggle relations, Giant stereotypes, and the burglary at Gringotts, correct?"
"Yes, Sir, but Witch IQ also wants you to summarize the Goblin Treaty."
"You're the one who wrote the Treaty that the Goblins finally agreed to, aren't you?"
"Can I introduce you and have you explain it, since you know more about it than I do?"
With a grin, Hermione answered in the affirmative. Then, she exited the office. An owl flew in, and Hermione quickly retrieved the note.
Hermione, the note read, Please inform the Minister that Witch Weekly will be attending the meeting to confirm his nuptuals to Ophelia Bagshot. Sincerely yours, Lavender Brown.
Hermione passed on this information with an amused smirk and Kingsley was every bit as confused as she was. "Does such a person exist?"
Hermione shrugged. "I'm not sure. I will research the name and write a statement for you in response." She sat back down at her desk as Remus entered.
"Hello, Hermione, you still staying with Harry?"
"Yup. You can go right in, the Minister's expecting you."
Remus nodded, smiled, and disappeared into Kingsley's office. He was still in there when Harry arrived to take Hermione to lunch.
Hermione knocked thrice on Kingsley's door. Sticking her head into the office, she spoke, "I'm going to lunch. I'll be back for the press conference at 1:45."
Then, she followed Harry back to the lobby and apparated to the Leaky Cauldron.
She and Harry sat at the bar, where—without even taking their orders—Tom served them their favorite sandwiches and pumpkin juice. "'Ow are you two? 'Aven't seen you 'ere in a while."
"I'm fine, thanks for asking. And yourself?" Hermione quickly prattled. Then, turning to Harry, "So how was Witch Weekly?"
Harry shrugged. "As bad as I thought it would be. I had to deal with Lavender and Parvati asking if we were dating yet, since we were living together; and if Gabrielle and I were still seeing each other. Aren't I allowed to keep my life private?"
"Of course not. It's the price you pay for fame and fortune." Hermione finished off her lunch. Then, glancing around, 'Hey, isn't that—? Oh my gosh!"
Harry spun around. There, sharing a soda with some complete stranger, was Gabrielle Delacour. Harry walked over to them. "Hey, Gabby! How are you, Hon?" He leaned down and kissed her cheek.
"Oh! 'Ello, 'Arry, zees ees my American orange supplier. 'E ees ere to 'elp me design my own orange angel cake. Does zat not sound delicious?" She beamed up at Harry and then stood. "'Arry, Don Lockwood. Donny, zees ees my boyfriend 'Arry Potter." She watched as Don and Harry shook hands.
Harry kissed her cheek again and then forced a smile. "Gab, I hate to leave; but I have to go." He walked out to door, glancing back to make sure Hermione was following him.
Faithful as ever, Hermione followed Harry outside. "Harry—"
"I can't believe I ever fell for her tricks. How many other guys does she have 'business meetings' with this week?" He ran a hand through his hair. "You were right, 'Mione."
Hermione hugged him. "I wish I wasn't, Harry. I'm sorry."
Harry checked his watch. "If we leave now to go back to the Ministry, we can stop in and say hello to Draco. He never does any real work…"
"What are you talking about?" Hermione laughed, "He's a wizarding attorney, one of Britain's finest."
Harry grinned. "Did you hear that he proposed to Ginny?"
"I was there when she accepted." Hermione looped her arm through Harry's. "Do you mind if we dash into Scrivenshaft's for a new quill?" She looked up at him with big, innocent eyes.
Harry looked at her, mind screaming no; heart screaming yes. "We both know that if we go now, it'll take hours and you'll be late back to work. How about I drop you back at the Ministry, then return, get you a quill, and it'll be waiting at home when you get back from work?"
Hermione grinned. "Oh, thank you, Harry! What would I do without you?" She let him side-along apparate her to the Ministry of Magic. When he'd accompanied her back to her office, she gave him a tight hug. "I'll see you at home, Mr. Most Eligible Bachelor."
Harry opened the door to leave just as Remus immerged from Kingsley's office. "Harry!"
Harry spun. "Remus! How's Tonks? Teddy? You should come over for dinner with 'Mione and I sometime. Are you free Saturday?"
"Oh!" Hermione cut if quickly, looking up from where she was scribbling a note card for Kingsley to use. "I'm not going to be home Saturday."
Harry nodded, turned back to Remus, and said, "Maybe… Well, when you've decided when you're free just drop us an owl and we'll see what we can do, eh? Can I treat you to a speedy cup of coffee before you return to your office?" He let Remus exit before him. "Bye, 'Mione."
Hermione waved before glancing at her clock. She handed the card to Kingsley; picked up a fresh scroll of parchment, a quill, and ink; then followed the Minister into the room where the press conference was being held. She took her seat to Kingsley's right, then prepared to take her position as scribe.
To the six reporters sitting in a row across from Kingsley's desk, he nodded. "Mr. Thomas, Miss Lovegood, Monsieur Mayor, Miss Chang, Mr. Jordan, Miss Brown; welcome. Today I have been asked to address several issues, among these Muggle relations, Giant stereotypes, and the Gringotts burglaries…" He continued in form, making eye contact and speaking clearly.
Hermione copied down the meeting word for word, thanks to her Quick Quotes Quill ("No Bullshit, Just Transcription.") but did not absorb anything that was being said until Kingsley called on her for a statement on the Goblin Treaty. She smiled at her former schoolmates, "Hello, I'm Hermione Granger, Minister Shacklebolt's assistant, and I wrote the Treaty that the Goblins have agreed to. This Treaty states—in a nutshell—that Goblin-wrought artifacts cast within the last 5 hundred years will return to Goblins when the current owners die. Artifacts older than 501 years old belong permanently to the human families. Any Goblin-wrought items made after June 21, that's this Saturday, belong to the human families for 6 hundred years, then return as property to the Goblins unless the item is cutlery, tea service, or table settings including candlesticks. These items permanently belong to the humans." She smiled and looked deferring back to the Minister.
Kingsley nodded his approval, then turned back to the press. "Any additional questions?"
Lavender's hand shot into the air. "Minister, is it true that you are getting married to Ophelia Bagshot?"
Kingsley cleared his throat. "Ophelia Bagshot is Bathilda's youngest daughter. She is in her last year at Beauxbatons. I have never met her, will probably never meet her, and by no means plan to marry her." He looked down at the group again, saw no more questions, and added, "This meeting is over, thank you all for attending."
He stood and filed over the door, followed by Hermione clutching her scroll, ink, and pen. Just before she closed the door, she turned and waved good-bye gaily to Luna. Returning to her office, she filed the scroll into her specialized file drawer, cleared off her desk, and lifted two books and her briefcase. She bid Kingsley good day, then returned the books to the Ministry library. With a smile, she apparated home.
There, she found Harry perched on the couch, newspaper opened to the Sports Section. Glancing up as he turned the page, he grinned. "Quills are on your desk. How'd the meeting go?"
"Grand. Dean, Luna, Cho, Lee, and Lav were all there. Of course, I didn't get to speak with them, but…" She shrugged, then ran up to her room. There, on her desk, were two eagle feather quills with eight karat gold nibs.
Hermione kicked off her shoes and pulled on gray socks. Then she shed her skirt to pull on tight gray jeans. Leaving her gray shirt and white jacket, she dashed downstairs. "Harry, those quills are beautiful, thank you so much!" She threw her arms around Harry's neck.
Harry's hands flew to grip her hips. He leaned into her slightly, then rested his chin on the top of her head. "It's the least I could do, 'Mione." He released her slightly and looked down at her. "How come you can't do dinner on Saturday?"
Hermione bit her lip. "My mother is making me attend the Granger family reunion. These events always last for the entire day."
Harry nodded and fell silent for a few minutes before asking, "Do you mind if I go with you? The Dursleys never took me to one, and I've always been curious. Plus, I have the feeling your mother wants to meet me," he teased.
Hermione looked stunned for a moment before grinning. "Of course you can come! It will be so nice to have someone there who I actually like." She summoned a cup of tea from the kitchen and took a sip of the warm, soothing liquid.
Harry flipped the television on to a program on the history of the Wizengamot. He absolutely had no interest in it, but he knew Hermione wanted to see it, so he'd recorded it. He wrapped one arm bravely around Hermione's shoulder and when she didn't shy away, he took the mug from Hermione's hand. He helped himself to a long sip, then set the mug on the table next to him.
Hermione let herself nuzzle her cheek into Harry's shoulder as she curled her feet underneath her to watch the program. His arm around her shoulders, him voluntarily sitting through a program he'd rather not watch, the lovely quills, the long hugs… Recently, Harry had been acting quite like he saw her as more than a friend…
Harry tuned out the program, remotely fast-forwarding through the commercials. He watched Hermione from the corner of his eye. His 'Mione with her beautiful hair; gorgeous, large eyes; her petite, hourglass figure; her amazing fashion sense; her personality; her intelligence. He loved her so much.
Hermione glanced over at Harry. As she saw him watching her, she raised her eyebrows, "What?"
Harry blinked and leaned down to speak directly into her ear. "You're beautiful, you know that, right?"
Hermione turned absolutely crimson. "Um… Sure, Harry. So what are we—errr…" She fell silent as the program began again.
For the next hour, Hermione was absolutely absorbed in the television; Harry was equally fascinated with his love for the young woman next to him. When the program was done, Harry stood. "Would you like to come shopping with me to get food for dinner?"
Hermione nodded, took Harry's proffered hand, and grabbed the grocery list from the kitchen counter. "Muggle corner store?"
Harry nodded, keeping hold of Hermione's hand as they walked down the front steps and joined the hustling foot traffic. He led her down the road to a small mom-and-pop corner store. As they entered, he waved at the young man behind the cast register.
Hermione and Harry selected eggs, milk, bread, fruit, vegetables, and a fresh cherry pie. Then, as they paid for the groceries, the young man, whose name—according to his nametag—was Scott, asked, "So, Harry, is this your Hermione?"
Harry raised his eyebrows. "She isn't my Hermione, and we're only friends." He sent Hermione a sympathetic look.
Hermione shrugged as she handed over money for the groceries. She took the grocery sacks, then sent Scott a nod and a smile and started over to the door.
Harry rushed to beat Hermione to the door, swung it open, and held the door for Hermione. "Do you want me to take those?" He asked, not because he thought she was weak but because he was trying to be a gentleman.
Hermione laughed gently and passed one bag to Harry. He almost dropped the bag as Hermione's chest pressed against his arm and tingles erupted. They reached the house, unlocked the porch door, then entered the main building.
They set the bags on the counter, then put away the groceries. Crossing into the living room, Hermione flipped on the radio to listen to the news while she and Harry fixed dinner. With a jolt, she realized they were replaying her portion of the afternoon's press conference.
The next few days flew by with Harry and Hermione getting bolder and bolder physically. While they had never thought twice about grabbing the other's hand, the hands were now being held. Hugs were tighter and longer, kisses on the cheek were more frequent, and all banter adopted a flirty tone.
Saturday morning, Harry awoke early. He showered, then ran his hands through his messy hair. He brushed his teeth, cleaned his glasses, then pulled on blue jeans, a black shirt with a gold lion splashed across the front, and red Converse high tops.
He entered the kitchen to make breakfast while Hermione got ready…
Hermione got up, brushed her teeth, showered, then set a spell on her hair that turned the frizz to perfect curls. She tucked her hair behind a black headband then applied make-up. She pulled on tight-fitted, low-rise flare blue jeans and a bright blue empire waist shirt, then slipped her feet into black, navy, and sky blue plaid flats.
Walking into the kitchen, Hermione greeted Harry with a tight hug. "You ready to meet the Grangers?"
Harry laughed, pulled out Hermione's chair, and served them breakfast. After they'd eaten, Harry scourgified the dishes then offered Hermione his arm. "Care to side-along apparate me to your parent's house?"
Hermione giggled and did so, landing them in the Granger's fenced in back yard. She took Harry's hand and led him up to the back door. She knocked, then pushed the door open. "Mother, Daddy, I'm here."
Mr. Granger walked in, hugged his daughter, then shook Harry's hand. "You're Harry, right?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, Sir. Hermione was kind enough to let me come along, I hope you don't mind."
Mr. Granger laughed. "Not at all, m'boy. You're always welcome and I dare say 'Mione will appreciate the company."
Mrs. Granger entered the room then. "Hermione, I'm glad you could tear yourself from your busy schedule to spend one measly day with your family." She rolled her eyes coldly, then noticed Harry. "What a nice surprise, have you been taking good care of my daughter?"
Harry scratched the back of his neck. "'Mione's her own person. She doesn't need anyone to take care of her; but if she ever does, I'm right here for her."
Mr. Granger smiled and Mrs. Granger made an appreciative hum. Then, Hermione glanced at her watch and said, "Goodness, it's 8:03! We really should be hitting the road, shouldn't we?"
Mr. Granger, Mrs. Granger, Hermione, and Harry all climbed into the Granger's luxury car. "The family reunion is about an hour's drive away, so we should be there pretty close to on time."
The ride was tense and quiet. Hermione and her mother were still clearly at odds, so while Mr. Granger and Harry tried to keep conversation going by Harry trying to explain Quidditch, nothing could dispel the quiet terseness in the air. Finally, conversation fizzled out and the second half of the ride took place in silence.
When they arrived at the small cottage, Hermione escaped the car immediately. Harry followed as she ran into the house. She embraced a willowy blonde, saying, "Auntie Jasmine! Thank you so much for having me and my family." She touched Harry gently on the arm. "This is Harry."
Jasmine beamed up at him. "Hello, Harry! It's very nice to meet you. You must be very close to Hermione for her to have brought you."
Hermione blushed violently. "We've been best friends for nearly eleven years. He is the number one most important person in my life and I—" she fell silent.
Then, linking her hand with Harry's she muttered, 'I'm going to go introduce him around."
Her aunt smiled as they walked off. "Now there are two people who were meant to be together." Then she smiled again as she turned and walked towards the Granger parents.
Over the next several hours, Harry was introduced to countless aunts, uncles, cousins, and family pets. He found that he was having quite a lot of fun and even getting sucked into family politics. As they stood in line for lunch, Harry grabbed Hermione's hand for what seemed like the hundredth time that day. She turned to him, eyebrows raised.
"Thanks for letting me come, 'Mione, I'm having a blast." He lifted a plate and followed the brunette through the buffet style lunch. Once they'd gotten their food, they perched themselves on the porch rail.
They ate quickly, then Hermione curled her arm around Harry's. "C'mon, I want to show you where I used to go whenever we were here when I was little."
Harry followed her obediently down into the little wood, across a stream, and into a clearing. When Hermione stopped, he glanced around.
Hanging between two trees was a huge tree house. It spread around, amidst the leaves and birds' nests.
Hermione grinned as she grabbed the rung of the ladder nailed to the tree. Glancing back down at Harry, she asked, "Are you coming up with me or not?"
Harry chuckled and followed as she scrambled up the ladder. He pulled himself into the tree house and looked around: Two bookshelves slumped against the tree trunk, covered in dust, dirt, and dead leaves. Several rickety-looking chairs stood around a child sized table; and the roof had a large hole in it, through which a branch jutted.
Hermione sighed. "It must have fallen into disuse. It's such a shame," she peered through a window, partially covered in dirty, broken glass. Then, she sat down with her legs hanging through the doorway.
Harry sat next to her. "Come now, Hermione, this place isn't lost forever. All it needs is a little work."
Hermione laughed harshly and turned to Harry, who was startled to find tears glistening in her eyes. "Harry, you don't understand. I was the only one who knew about this place and my cousins always used to make fun of me. Whenever I got really upset, I ran here and hid until it was time to go home. This place offered me solace and comfort. It was like a fortress and I never imagined that it would fall apart like this." She wiped her eyes with the back of her wrist.
Harry hugged Hermione, kissed her forehead, let her cry; then, when she had quieted, he whispered, "How did it used to look?"
And as Hermione told him, Harry took out his wand and started to change the tree house back to how it used to look. When she was done, Harry kissed her cheek and whispered, "Open your eyes."
Hermione did so to see the tree house just as she remembered it. The ceiling was made of smooth, long logs which were whitewashed. The walls were clean beige. A small table and four chairs shone brightly as sunlight streamed in the clean, glass-paned windows. Two pine bookshelves stood by the wall, full of magazines and children's books.
Hermione threw her arms around Harry, knocking him back onto the floor. "It's perfect, Harry! You're perfect! Thank you so much!"
Harry pulled Hermione into his lap. "Anything for you, Hermione." He whispered huskily. Then, lifting her chin, he brushed his lips against hers.
Hermione linked her hands behind Harry's neck and pulled him back for another soft, quick kiss. Then, she whispered, "We need to talk about this as soon as we get home."
"Why wait? 'Mione, I love you. So much. I am deeply in love with you. Be mine?"
"Yes! Oh, Harry, I love you, too! I have for so long!" And she pulled him down into a more passionate kiss. Her hands burrowed into Harry's hair and her lips parted in invitation.
Harry's hands cupped Hermione's hips and pulled her closer—even to straddle his hips. His tongue dashed out to taste her, then he pulled away. "I love you so much!"
THREE YEARS LATER:
"Where are we going, Harry?" Hermione asked her boyfriend of three years.
Harry smiled and slapped her hand away playfully when she reached up to remove her blindfold. "You know how we've been looking for a house away from the city? Well, I found one and I bought it."
"You bought a house without consulting me first, Harry? Why would you do that?" She accused of him.
Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione's waist. "Hush, Love, just look and you'll understand why I left my girlfriend and roommate out of the decision." He removed her blindfold.
Hermione gaped. Before her was her Aunt Jasmine's cottage. "How did you?"
"You said once that you loved the house and the land; your aunt was looking to sell the place. I bought it and bribed the next door neighbor to sell me some land as well. Now the house, the land, and the woods out to behind the tree house belong to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Potter." He smirked. "That's you, by the way, as long as you accept this ring." He pulled an engagement ring out of his pocket.
Hermione beamed and threw her arms around Harry's neck. "Oh, I love you so much. Of course I will marry you!" She kissed him. "And you went through all the trouble of buying the tree house!"
Harry grinned. "So I'm thinking of painting the house beige with emerald green trim. I think that will work very well when we have family portraits done, because whether our children have your eyes or mine, they will compliment the trim." He raised an eyebrow. "Or the other way around." He kissed her cheek.
Hermione giggled and led Harry up to the door. "C'mon, let's go look around our house!"