Disclaimer: I own nothing!
A/N: Another one of my favorite pairings. While I have never cared for Ron/Hermione, I've never minded that she end up as a Weasley. Just don't expect Harry to be with Ginny…
"Harry, love, could you please turn that loud music down? It's a wonder our neighbors haven't beat down our door complaining about the noise!" Hermione Granger sighed as she heard her best friend and roommate's stereo's volume decrease slightly, but she decided not to push the issue. She knew music was the only way Harry could relax after working all day as an auror, and their neighbors had never complained before.
Hermione herself was already a successful healer, and she was attempting to pin down the catalyst by which a particular strain of Dragon Pox had entered the magical community. Most uninformed people would assume that dragons would be the only possible carriers of the virus, but Hermione and her colleagues had discovered that just about any warm body could act as an incubator for the dreaded disease.
"Any luck, Hermione? I don't like you working with such a contagious disease, especially with as much as you've been working lately. Your immune system is surely shot, and it's only a matter of time before you come down with Dragon Pox yourself." Harry walked over to his best friend and looked over her shoulder.
"Harry, I'm fine. I take certain potions every day to protect me…"
"And I've had enough training to know that those potions are useless unless you are eating and sleeping properly, neither of which you've been doing since getting this case. Come on; let's go grab a bite. There's a new Italian place I've wanted to try out since it opened." Harry fixed himself where he was looking directly in her eyes, his green orbs pleading helplessly for her to cave into his every whim.
"Granger." Harry raised an eyebrow.
"Fine, you win. Let me go change out of these robes. I don't think these will be appropriate in a muggle restaurant."
Harry and Hermione were currently sharing a flat in muggle London. Ron had currently moved in with his girlfriend Leslie, a Hufflepuff who had graduated a year after the trio had returned for their seventh year. The wizarding press had determined that the remaining two of the Golden Trio were in a secret relationship, and Harry and Hermione were currently content to let everyone believe that. Not that anything was going on; however, it was nice to not have to hunt down a date for a ball or other Ministry event, and it kept other wizards and witches off their backs for now. While they were becoming acclimated to their new jobs, the two friends felt like they didn't have time for relationships.
Changed into muggle clothing, Harry and Hermione walked out of their flat, locked their door, and made their way to Bianchi's, a small restaurant not far from their flat that had a patio out back to cater to the romantic nature every Italian has buried deep inside.
The "couple" was seated at a private table in the back of the restaurant. They kept up appearances in the muggle world knowing that muggleborn wizards and witches were just as curious about the lives of the great Harry Potter and his "love" Hermione Granger as any other magical being. After looking at the menu and ordering, Harry leaned close and looked into his companion's eyes.
The girl in question batted her eyelashes and blushed. "Yes, Harry?"
Harry smiled and reached across the table toward Hermione. He reached around her and said seriously, "Your tag is sticking out of your dress, love." Harry grinned as he fixed the offending tag.
Hermione propped her chin in the palm of her hand and sighed. "Oh, Harry, your way with words…I could just swoon!"
The two began laughing and discussing their day, Harry venting his frustrations with his new boss Brennan Gregor and Hermione telling Harry about setbacks with immunizations for Dragon Pox.
"I swear, Harry," Hermione exclaimed as their food was placed in front of them, "it's like we're missing one thing, just one ingredient, one sample that could help us break this case open!"
Harry placed his hands over hers. "If anyone can figure this out, you can Hermione. Now, I have news."
"Oh?" Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"I met someone."
Hermione smiled. "Oh! That type of news!"
Harry grinned. It had been a long time since she had seen her best friend this happy. "Yeah. She's great. Her name is Natalia, and she's a new recruit in our division. Gregor brought her in about a month ago, and we've been tiptoeing around each other since. I finally asked her to have dinner with me today, and she accepted."
"Does she know about…"
"Us? I don't think she's heard about us yet. I'm going to talk to her about it when we go out tomorrow night."
Hermione twirled her pasta as she thought. "Harry? You still want to keep this going even though you have a date?"
Harry, having just taken a large bite of his chicken, just nodded until he finished chewing. "I do. Do you want to stop?"
"What if this relationship with Natalia develops…?"
"Then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. How's it going with that Preston fellow at work?"
Hermione shot Harry an annoyed look. "That ignoramus? No thank you. Besides, he transferred to Paris about two weeks ago."
"No prospects then?"
"When I have the delectable Harry Potter to myself? Of course not!" Hermione didn't bother to tell Harry that their plan was working extremely well in the wizarding world. Every guy she had even a remote interest in had heard of her "relationship" with Harry and had ruled her as taken. She had hoped his finding a new girl might let him consider her plight, but no such luck yet. What she would do for her best friend!
Harry and Hermione quickly finished their meals and walked around the block, enjoying the cool night air. Harry turned to his friend. "Did you get Molly's owl today?"
"Yeah. Dinner at the Burrow on Sunday. It's been a while since I've been to one of those."
"Same here. I think Molly's hoping that Ron will announce an engagement or something. I hate to tell her that he and Leslie are perfectly content the way they are."
Hermione thought for a moment. "You know, they have those dinners every week. I know we're always invited, but this is the first invite we've gotten in a long time. You don't think…"
Harry, as usual, seemed to read her mind and said, "That Molly's waiting for an announcement from us?" He stopped. "Very well could be. I mean, we haven't addressed the rumors for anyone, including the Weasleys, so Molly's probably hoping for a proposal soon."
"Too bad, eh?" Hermione smiled up at Harry.
"Yeah. As much as I love you, it'd take a special man to spend the rest of his life with that brain of yours." Harry tugged at Hermione's hair lightly.
"And it'd take a special girl to take that inflated ego any time. I think I've done well." Hermione replied cheekily.
Harry laughed and put his arm around his best friend. "Come on, love. Let's head home. We have work tomorrow, and you need your sleep."
Harry's date went well, and he returned with the news that Natalia had taken the news of Hermione's involvement in Harry's life very well. She hadn't insisted that the two "break up" immediately, knowing why the two were using the cover of rumors. She had asked to meet Hermione, and Harry promised to bring her over the next week on a night Hermione wasn't too busy.
Dinner at the Burrow was an event in itself. Harry and Hermione decided to arrive together, but they were caught in a strong wind just as they popped into the Burrow's front yard. The result was a very ruffled Harry and Hermione when the door opened; Molly Weasley grinned widely and ushered the two in, babbling that it had been entirely too long since they had visited and should make it a point to visit more often.
Harry went off to find Ron; Leslie had not come due to some work for her college classes, so Harry figured Ron could use the company. Hermione offered to help Molly, but she was brushed off and told to "find a seat in the living room. Surely one of my kids can entertain you while Harry's off with Ron!" Molly had grinned at her own humor here, and Hermione sighed and went to the living room.
Just as she entered, a tawny owl was flying out and away from the only occupant in the room: Charlie Weasley.
Charlie looked up just as Hermione walked in the room and smiled. "Hermione! How's life?' He moved over and patted the seat beside him.
She sat down and smiled. "It's great except for the recent cases of Dragon Pox we've begun to find around here. There's a new strain, and we haven't been able to develop an immunization yet."
"Do you know the origin?"
"Not really. We can't determine how it's being carried."
Charlie sat back and thought. Hermione took the opportunity to look over the dragon tamer and recall everything she knew about him. He was a good-looking man, as all the Weasley men were, but there was something different about Charlie. Burn marks marred his otherwise perfect muscled arms, and a tattoo of a dragon of unknown species peeked out from under one of his sleeves that had been rolled up.
Charlie's red hair, which bordered on strawberry blonde because of constant exposure to sunlight, was cropped closely to his head now, despite his natural affinity for wearing it long. She'd heard that his long hair had become a hazard on the job, so he had sacrificed his long locks in exchange for a few more years.
Hermione nodded. The thirty-year-old sitting in front of her was definitely not a bad-looking man. She wondered, not for the first time, why he was still single.
"Hermione?" Charlie was looking at her funny.
The twenty-three-year old jerked out of her observation. "Yeah?"
"I was just saying that I thought that maybe the disease was being transferred like that muggle disease malaria; you know, by mosquito or another kind of bug. Or even a watering hole could be contaminated, especially if it's coming from one reservation."
Hermione nodded. "I like the watering hole idea. That would also mean, though, that other animals can be carriers."
Charlie agreed. "That's why we need to send someone from the department there to go look, to take some samples."
The more the two talked, the more ideas rolled out. Finally, Hermione had a question: "Charlie, why haven't you married, or why don't we ever see a girl with you?"
The man shrugged. "Just haven't found the right witch, I guess." Turning towards Hermione, Charlie stopped, mesmerized by her chocolate brown eyes. He continued, "I…I uh, the one girl who I've been waiting on for too long doesn't know I even care, and I plan on leaving it that way." Charlie couldn't comprehend telling a girl seven years his junior that he had had feelings for her since her fourth or fifth year at Hogwarts. He straightened up. "So, how are you and Harry doing?"
Thinking about what Harry wanted, she smiled at Charlie. "We're good. No complaints here."
Grumbling a bit, Charlie nodded "Of course she's good. She's got bloody—Harry Potter with her.
Soon, Hermione and Harry left together, and two pairs of eyes followed the couple: Molly Weasley and the bright blue eyes of a certain Dragon tamer.