Disclaimer: I own nothing!
A/N: This is it; I've enjoyed this one! I hope it's not too cheesy, but I feel this chapter is. Hermione is a tad OOC at the end, but she had to be for the scene, and I love her in it (she's my favorite). Anyway, enjoy! Review! Favorite! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year! Good night!
"So, oh daughter-of-mine…I take it you and Harry have worked out your issues?" Babs smiled at Hermione, and the younger Granger woman had no doubt that her mother knew exactly what had been going on when she had interrupted earlier.
Hermione, with a Gryffindor-inspired blush coloring her cheeks, simply filled the last of the coffee cups to take out to the guests before answering her mother. "Mum…must we?"
"We must. So…?"
"So…?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"Still think there are 'brotherly' feelings toward the boy?"
"Mum, I'm perfectly content being an only child for the rest of my life if I get to lose Harry Potter as a brother. I never want to think of him that way again. Not the way we just…well…nevermind. I'm going to take this to the dining room." Hermione rushed out the door with the tray of dessert while her mother filed out behind her with the coffee, laughing at her daughter's embarrassment.
Harry had never felt more uncomfortable in his life. Patrick Granger, although the perfect host, was staring down the boy he had thought of as a son for the last six years.
"Pat, when are ya gonna get a son-in-law, mate? Little 'ermione is a beaut, and I know there are many blokes around here who'd love to oblige 'er." This came from Randall Wheaton, or Randy, who, along with his wife Angelique, had been the first to welcome the Grangers to the neighborhood after they had relocated after Hermione had given their memories back. They had wanted to get away from the town that knew them as Wendell and Monica Wilkins, but they had fallen in love with Australia.
The other guests; Gregory and Lisa Turner, and Leroy and Diana Hallman; nodded their heads in agreement. Gregory was an optician in the same medical center as the Grangers while his wife taught at the local university. Leroy and Diana owned a bakery in town, and the Grangers had frequented the location from their first week as residents, quickly becoming friendly with the owners.
"I agree," stated Lisa matter-of-factly, but she had an ulterior motive. She had noticed the way Hermione's friend Harry had looked at the youngest Granger throughout dinner, and she wanted to get a rise out of the suddenly shy boy. Every other time they had visited, Harry and Hermione had resembled a brother and sister, joking and telling stories, keeping the older guests laughing for hours. No one could have guessed that one day, Harry would be looking at Hermione like he'd much rather be indulging in another type of sustenance. "Patrick, you and Babs need to talk Hermione into moving down here. I'm sure her job can transfer her without a problem, and as bright as she is, she'd be in charge in a minute."
Her husband Gregory, realizing what she was doing, joined in at once. "It'd be a change of scenery; she could be closer to you two, and think of the new batch of blokes who would have access to this stunning beauty!"
Harry had had enough, and he spoke up, "You're right, Mr. and Mrs. Turner, when you say that Hermione could thrive in Australia's economy. Also, it would be wonderful for her to be closer to her parents. However, she doesn't need a slew of blokes fighting for her like she's a piece of meat, as stunning as she truly is. Actually, unless I've misunderstood things, she doesn't need an Australian bloke at all."
Patrick, curiosity lighting his eyes, asked, "And why's that, Harry? I understood that she and Andrew broke things off before you two flew out here."
"Because, Dad, Harry and I finally got our heads out of our arses and realized that the whole 'brother/sister' relationship was just weird between us and that we much preferred a more hands-on approach that siblings should not partake in." Hermione was standing right behind her father with a tray of desserts in her hands, glaring at the table for discussing her in her absence.
Babs dropped the tray of coffee to the table and doubled over in laughter at the shocked look on her husband's face. "It's your own bloody fault Ricky. You just had to be the overprotective father, even though you've loved Harry like a son for years." Standing up straight, she came over to Harry and kissed him on top of his black shaggy head. "I love you, Harry; I know you'll take care of my Hermione." She turned to her daughter and grinned as the girl walked over wrapped her arms around Harry.
"You know I will Babs. And Patrick? I hope this doesn't change our relationship; I really do like discussing football with you."
Patrick leaned his head back and took a deep breath, thinking about his answer. When he faced Harry again, he was smiling. "Of course not, son. Can't lose my football buddy, now can I?
The rest of Harry and Hermione's vacation seemed to fly by. The new couple enjoyed their time together, spending the days just as they would have as friends (with a little more snogging sporadically); however, their nights were filled with passionate pleas, desperate moans, and even whispered giggles to Be quiet!, even though they remembered to cast a silencing charm each night.
On their last night in Australia, they lay in bed and discussed what would happen when their relationship was announced to their loved ones back home. No one but Ginny and Andrew even suspected, and Rita Skeeter, despite Hermione's threats to the woman, would be willing and waiting to get her hands on this story.
"How do you think Ron will react?" Harry pulled Hermione's hand up to his mouth and turned it over, kissing each fingertip before turning and laying his head on her bare chest, listening to her heart.
"Well, I don't see him really getting mad. Luna's calmed the boy down quite a bit over the last year. I'm trying to imagine those two in an argument."
Hermione looked down at Harry. "How do you figure?"
"Luna's so out there, you know? She'd throw some argument at poor Ron, and by the time he'd have the chance to sit down and work it out, as crazy as he is about her, he'd have forgotten what they were even arguing about."
"True. I think that's why we didn't work out. We actually liked the arguments."
Harry nodded. "You two are going to kill each other one day. You're not going to even realize you've done it; Ron's going to say something stupid, you'll take offense, your wand'll come out, and POOF! No more Weasley. Either that, or you'll make sure he'll never have kids again. That's why I don't try to make you mad."
Hermione laughed. "Oh, you've pissed me off plenty of times."
"But not to the extent of our ginger best friend."
"You do have a point. And you have something else working in your favor."
Harry smirked. "What's that, love?"
"You're a great lay." And with that, she rolled over and straddled Harry.
He cocked an eyebrow. "Just a great lay?" he teased.
"Well, I kinda like you too." She leaned down to kiss him.
"Well," he started, imitating her, "I kinda love you." He reached up and completed the kiss, rolling her to where she was under him. When he pulled up, she looked into his emerald eyes, looking for any signs of teasing.
Harry nodded. "You don't think I could have really done all of this if I didn't love you, I mean, really, really love you, did you Hermione? I told you that first day that I had strong feelings for you, but know that I love you. You've always brought out the best in me, love, even before I was old enough to appreciate it. Friendship and bravery…remember that?"
Hermione wiped away a stray tear, her head moving up and down. "It…it's just that during the whole nine months Andrew and I dated, he never once told me he loved me, and I never had the desire to say it to him. I cared for him, and I told him so, but when he gave me the decision between him and you, I knew who I had to choose. I love you, Harry Potter, and I always have in some way, whether it be as a best friend, confidant, hero, leader, outlaw, or as the man I want to wake up next to for the rest of my life."
"Gods, Hermione." Harry's eyes darkened with desire, and the two finally fell asleep in each other's arms two hours before they had to catch their plane. They had time to have breakfast with Hermione's parents before leaving.
Babs looked over at her daughter, who, as Harry was talking to Patrick, had compiled a plate of Harry's favorites and had passed it to him before taking her coffee. She shook her head as she watched Hermione yawn.
"Not getting any sleep, love?" she whispered.
Hermione's head jerked toward her mother. "What makes you say that?"
"You look pretty tired, and you must think I'm crazier than your Auntie Daisy if you believe I think you and Harry have stayed in separate rooms these two weeks."
This time, instead of blushing, Hermione smiled. "He told me he loved me, Mum. Last night. You don't understand how big that is for Harry."
Babs hugged her daughter. "That's great, Hermione. How are the living arrangements going to work when you two get home? Are you both keeping your flats?"
Hermione actually blushed at this question. "I know it's sudden, but no. Since I teach and am at Hogwarts most of the year, I'm selling my flat and will live with Harry the rest of the year."
"McGonagall won't care that Harry's visiting you at school, will she?"
"Not at all. I haven't told Harry, but Draco Malfoy, who's teaching Defense, had been receiving visitors from a certain female Weasley before school released."
The four finally loaded up in the Grangers' car and drove to the airport. With hugs and promises to call and write, Harry and Hermione boarded the plane hand-in-hand.
Harry was quiet for a while, not saying a word until Hermione reached over and kissed him on the cheek. "What's wrong, love? Nervous about presenting ourselves to society?" she asked teasingly.
He shook his head and smiled. "I just realized something, that's all."
Her smile faltered. "What is it?"
"Don't look so worried, love. It's nothing bad; I promise! It's just that…" Harry seemed to be struggling with how to word his next sentence. "It's just that I realized that when I told you that I loved you last night…"
"Yes…" Hermione still looked worried.
Harry softly kissed her before whispering, "I just realized that I don't remember saying that to anyone before. I mean, I might have said it in jest, but never said it and meant it. Like you said with Andrew, Ginny and I, in the three years we dated or whatever we did, we never uttered those words to each other. I never even said them to my aunt and uncle, nor was the sentiment returned. If I did, it was when I was too young to realize what the hell was going on. You, Hermione Granger, are the first person that I have ever loved."
Hermione's eyes widened at that confession. She could see what he meant about never having told another significant other that she loved him, but never having even a family member tell him that he was loved…A low growl emitted from her throat.
"Hermione…love?" Harry looked worried.
"Those damn Dursleys! Every time I think about them…"
Harry grabbed Hermione's hand, effectively halting her tirade. "Hermione, calm down. Put them behind us; I left there seven years ago, and I don't plan on going back. Ever. When I left, my cousin told me that he didn't think that I was a 'waste of space.' That's enough air cleared for me. If they want me, Aunt Petunia knows how to reach me."
"Well, for what it's worth, Harry, I love you."
"I love you too, Hermione. Now, I'm tired. For some reason, I didn't get one ounce of sleep this holiday."
"You sure it's best to tell the Weasleys all at one time?" Hermione looked down at her clothes, making sure they were free of any invisible lint or dust particles that apparently only she could see. Harry reached under her chin and raised her eyes to meet his.
He stumbled a moment. Three weeks, and he still hadn't come to terms that he could touch this woman, his best friend, any way he wanted. He pecked her on the lips and smiled. "We'll get Ron off to the side and tell him first; then we'll just let the others figure it out for themselves, eh?"
Hermione grinned. "I think I'm rubbing off on you…"
"You can rub any…" but he was interrupted by the door opening.
Ginevra Weasley smirked as she opened the door. "Okay, you two. Stop flirting for a few minutes, or someone might think you actually like each other or something."
Harry looked at Hermione confusedly, but she just smiled and kissed his cheek. "Hey, Ginny," she greeted, hugging the girl before going in.
Ginny turned to look at her ex-boyfriend and opened her arms. "Come here, you big oaf." He laughed and hugged her.
"What's between you and Hermione?"
"Well, seems you had her quite confused over your holiday, and she called me asking for help."
Harry's eyes widened. "Hermione called you? About me? But Gin—"
"Harry, she's the smartest witch of the age for a reason. Who else could help her figure out your feelings when she herself couldn't see through her own?"
"Let me get this straight: you two, after thirteen bloody years, finally decided that you love each other? That you're not just friends?"
Looking at each other, they turned back to Ron and both said, "Yes."
"This possibly couldn't have been going on for a long time. I would have noticed something." Then a light bulb seemed to have clicked. "How long has this been going on? Did I miss something?"
Hermione stood up and hugged Ron. "No, Ronald, you didn't miss anything. Over our holiday in Australia, we figured that we just…I don't know…made sense, you know? Ginny and Andrew saw it, saw it enough to sit us down and tell us to make a decision. We simply chose each other without knowing."
Ron nodded and gave her a squeeze, then stopped. "Wait, Ginny knows?"
Harry laughed. "Well, someone had to point it out to us. We were pretty clueless."
Ron walked over to his other best friend, still holding hands with Hermione. "You two looked nervous when you asked me to talk. Did you think I'd be mad?"
"Well, we didn't exactly know. We thought it'd be strange, you know, your two best friends…" Harry left the sentence open. Ron didn't disappoint.
"Shagging each other?"
"Ron!" Hermione turned red.
"Well, you are, aren't you?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"Actually, Hermione's moving in with me. She's selling her flat since it's basically useless during the school year, and I don't plan on letting her stay there much anyway," Harry stated, standing up and putting an arm around his girlfriend.
Ron was baffled. "You two have this all figured out, don't you?"
"Well, it's us, Ron. When does Harry actually ever let me plan anything?" Hermione smiled up at Harry indulgently.
Their redheaded friend just laughed. "True. Well—" but right then they heard Molly calling for everyone to come eat, so the three friends made their way outside to where dinner had been set up.
Harry and Hermione held hands, not once hiding their affection for one another during dinner. They, of course, never used an outright snog to catch everyone's attention, but instead a simple peck on the lips as Hermione stepped inside to get something for Molly, a brush of a hand as Harry rested his arm around Hermione's shoulders, and the sudden fascination with a particular strand of Hermione's hair were the plan to let everyone see the pair's sudden affection for each other.
But even though everyone carried on a continuous conversation with both Harry and Hermione, no one noticed.
During dessert, Hermione pulled Ginny off to the side. "Ginny, why hasn't anyone said anything about me and Harry yet?"
"Have you told them?" asked Ginny confusedly.
"No, we decided to just throw little hints out, that maybe someone would catch on. You know how your mum is."
"But Hermione, Ron and I have both watched you two all evening. It looks like nothing's changed. Sure, the peck on the lips may be new, but friends do that. Honey, you and Harry were too affectionate before, even when he was dating me. No one's going to notice the little touches; those have always been there between you two. No, you're going to have to go big with this family. Remember, we're Ron's family. Think: how many times did you have to explain you two to Ron tonight actually using words, and there was no food in front of him to distract him! We Weasleys have one-track minds."
Hermione nodded her thanks and, making sure the entire Weasley family was in their seats, walked over resolutely to Harry. She bent down and whispered in his ear seductively, "I'm only going to the loo, but I'm giving this family a show they won't forget before I go." With that, she turned Harry's head and met him full-on, pulling a moan from the back of Harry's throat. She felt his tongue probe her lips, and she quickly let him in. Hearing a throat clear, she pulled back, cheeks flushed and lips swollen. She smiled at the family and then turned and went into the house, Harry watching every step.
Harry turned to see the entire Weasley clan gaping at him, with the exception of Ron and Ginny, who were grinning so widely he was worried their mouths may never look right again.
Molly recovered first and asked, "So, Harry, when were you two going to tell us about this?"
Ginny laughed. "Mum, I think they just did." She looked over to Harry and mouthed, That's my girl! Harry just smiled in return, anxious for dinner to be over where he and Hermione could return to their flat, and he could pay her back for that kiss.