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Taking Off the Rose-Colored Glasses by cosmopiltan411

Format: Novella
Chapters: 25
Word Count: 27,661
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Hermione, Ron/Luna

First Published: 01/24/2008
Last Chapter: 07/23/2009
Last Updated: 07/23/2009

Summary:
all credit for this beautiful banner is due to horizonblvd of TDA







“No, what’s not fair is that it’s never mine. It’s always been Ron, and now—now Ginny. When are you finally going to trust me, choose me? I need you Harry,” she told him weakly, wiping away all the stray tears streaming down her face.

(rating for language)


Chapter 1: losing an illusion of happiness
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Disclaimer: Harry would have either died or married Hermione if I had written that book.

--

Taking Off the Rose-Colored Glasses

--

Summary: “Every man is afraid of something. That’s how you know he’s in love with you; when he is afraid of losing you.”

--

Chapter I: losing an illusion of happiness

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Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth.”- Ludwig Borne

--

“Don’t do this to me Harry… not now,” she desperately whispered, feeling herself wavering at his words as she the tears slowly wreaked through her body.

“Hermione,” he brought his hand to her arm, comfortingly rubbing it as he spoke, “I made a mistake and I’m sorry for that, but come on… it’s us-”

She wrenched her arm from him, shaking her head forcefully. “And that’s exactly the problem Harry, if you couldn’t—damn it, Harry, you screwed up, that’s it!” she cried desperately, hating herself more and more as each new tear streamed down her face—hating herself for being so weak, so petulant.

He flinched at her words, and she couldn’t help but feel guilty for being so cruel and spiteful, he didn’t deserve it, it wasn’t his fault that he did that—he really didn’t even realize it.

She let out a sigh, willing herself to calm down. “I love you Harry, and I’d do anything for you, but I can’t always just come in second like this—I just can’t. It’s not even that I deserve better or anything, I just—I just need more.”

“Come on Hermione, you’ve got to know that it’s always you, you’re never in second place with me, can’t you see that?”

She smiled at him, wiping away at the tears that were making their way down her face, much to her chagrin. “I wish that was true, everything would be so much easier if it was, but , Harry, just be honest with yourself. I mean, whose side is it that you always choose?”

“Oi, that’s not fair-”

No, what’s not fair is that it’s never mine. It’s always been Ron, and now—now Ginny. When are you finally going to trust me, choose me? I need you Harry,” she told him weakly, wiping away all the stray tears that were flowing down her face.

“Hermione, I do-”

She shook her head, stopping him before he could even finish his thought. “Don’t be a liar too, Harry. I can't go on like this; I can't always be in second place. I know it sounds pathetic and horribly unreasonable, but I can't help that, I can't change that. Every time that something tragic has happened in your life, every time that everyone else deserts you, I’m always by your side, always there to help you get by. I don’t regret a day of it, Harry, I really don’t, but I… I just can’t help but wish that you’d do the same for me, and I hate that feeling.”

“I—I-” he stumbled, desperately trying to find the words, but finding that none were coming to his aid. “I promise I’ll change!”

She smiled sadly at him, bringing her hand to his cheek and caressing it in that soothing manner that she knew he loved. “Never, never do that Harry, never force yourself to change, I’d only hate you for it anyway. It’s either there or it’s not, and I’ve come to terms with that, I really have. I just need some space so I can finally be my own person.”

He turned his head away from her hand with those last words, no longer able to look at her as she said good bye to him. “But what if I don’t want you to leave?”

She sighed. “I’m afraid you don’t have much of a choice in the matter anymore.”

“But it’s not fair,” he whined, and she couldn’t help but smile at how he sounded like petulant five year old.

“Either way one of us loses Harry, but this time—this time I just can’t let it be me again. I’ve done what other people expected of me for so long now that I honestly can’t even remember what it feels like to follow my own heart. I’ve done it long enough Harry, and while I wouldn’t trade a day of it for the world, I just can’t keep going on like this without totally losing myself to you. And, as my best mate, you shouldn’t be able to let me do that either,” she said, whispering the last part as she felt herself waver under his intense gaze.

He sighed, begrudgingly pulling her into his arms in a tight embrace, nonverbally letting her know that she had won.

“I love you too,” she whispered.

“Just don’t forget to write, all right?”

Never,” she promised.

Chapter 2: losing the security blanket
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Chapter II: losing the security blanket

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"You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing."

- Arthur Ashe

--

Bloody hell, Ron, why can’t you just get it through your thick skull already? I mean, you can’t possibly be that dense and obstinate?!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in aggravation.

Maybe you’re the one that’s wrong, have you ever thought about that? I mean it is possible for you to be wrong, I know what a shock that must be for a self-righteous hag like you!” he glared at her, storming out of the common room in a huff.

Bloody prick,” Hermione muttered as she let herself fall onto the couch, rubbing her temples in an attempt to sooth the oncoming migraine she always got from any form of communication with Ron.

Hermione… I mean—you can’t really blame him,” Harry stumbled, trying to save his mate from having to further face the wrath of Hermione’s temper.

She raised her head, coldly glaring at him. “Are you saying that he was right when he said that dragons are easy to slay?! For Christ’s sake, his brother works with them, the berk should know by now that there’s an ancient magic that imbues their thick hides!”

It started out as just a game, why did it have to blow up like this?”

Because he’s an idiot,” she dryly responded with a smirk.

He didn’t know that, so what? It doesn’t mean that you have to be so mean to him Hermione; we get it, you’re smarter, no need to throw it in our face now.”

--

“Hey mate, where were you off to?” Ron asked, clapping him on the back as he took a seat by him at the bar of the pub.

“Just thinking about something Hermione said to me before she left.”

“Well, at least she said something to you, all I got was an ‘I’m leaving to work for Healers without Borders and don’t you dare try to stop me.’ Love the bloody wench, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a stubborn annoying little thing at times,” Ron chuckled.

Harry smiled at the thought of her. “She’s a spitfire, it’s why she was the first girl we were ever really able to respect, you know that.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “You know, I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d miss her this much. I mean, I love the chit, always have, but I never figured I’d actually be longing to have someone tell me to take my feet off the table, use a coaster, or read a book for once in my life so I don’t become stupider than I already am.”

Harry let out a bark of laughter. “I loved it when she said that last one, you always gave her this dumbfounded look; no matter how many times she said it, it always surprised you to hear it.”

Ron smiled at the memory. “She really kept us in line, didn’t she?”

Harry nodded solemnly. “Yeah, we probably would have failed out of Hogwarts if it wasn’t for her.”

“I miss her mate… I really miss her.”

“Me too.”

“But we’ll see her again, it’s not like she dropped off the face of the earth,” Ron smiled, the fact that he was forcing himself to stay optimistic over the situation was plainly obvious, no matter how hard he tried to hide it.

“She’s in impoverished countries in Africa, I’d say that that’s pretty much the equivalent,” Harry dryly responded.

Ron’s shoulders sagged at the words. “It is, isn’t it?”

“Afraid so… wish it weren’t though.”

“Or that she at least went somewhere a bit more… first world.”

Harry smiled despite himself. “Or that.”

“She’s going to be okay though.”

He nodded. “I know, I just can’t help, but feel like I let her down.”

“Nonsense, you’re Harry Potter, in her eyes you can do no wrong.”

“I wish that was true,” he mumbled.

Ron eyed him quizzically at hearing those words. “What do you mean?”

He shook his head in a futile attempt to rid himself of the memory. “It’s nothing mate, just a conversation we had before she left, nothing important.”

“Sure sounds important to me, but if you don’t want to talk about it that’s okay, after twenty-one years I’ve finally learned to respect a person’s privacy.”

Harry snorted. “Glad to hear it, it’s about time.”

“Oi, now you sound like Hermione.”

Chapter 3: losing heart
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Chapter III: losing heart

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"The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart." –Robert Ingersoll

--

He walked into the room only to see her crying on his bed. “Not that I don’t love to see a pretty girl lying on my bed, but it’s kind of against the rules for a girl to be in the boys’ dormitory, care to explain Hermione?”

She sniffled, desperately trying to wipe away the tears that were streaming down her face. “I—I was waiting for you.”

He eyed her quizzically before slowly saying “I see…”

Ron and I—we—we got into a fight tonight, he accused me of cheating after I met with Viktor at the Three Broomsticks.”

He nodded. “I know.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “You—you know?”

Ginny told me so I went to find Ron and he explained what happened between you two,” he elaborated, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he awkwardly watched her sit in front of him, crying her eyes out. For a minute he thought he saw a look of hurt pass through her eyes, but, just as fast as it came, it left without a trace.

I didn’t cheat on him.”

I know you didn’t, you’d never do that, far too loyal of a person to,” he whispered as he slowly pulled her off the bed and into his arms in a tight embrace.

Then why doesn’t he see that? He’s my boyfriend for Christ’s sake!”

He’s just being stubborn Hermione, but he loves you, he really does.”

I want to hex him,” she sheepishly admitted.

He chucked, whispering, into her ear, “but you won’t.”

That doesn’t change the fact that I want to though.”

--

“So you broke up with Ginny?” a deep voice interrupted him from his reverie.

Harry turned to see Ron taking a seat next to him on his couch, a fire whiskey for both in hand. “Yeah.”

“Why?”

Harry shrugged noncommittally. “Just felt like the thing to do.”

“Don’t lie to me Harry; we’re best mates for a reason. There’s something else, something big.”

Harry tilted his fire whiskey, watching the drink swirl as he did it, thinking of how that had always been Hermione’s favorite thing about drinking it—how it looked, the color. He had always loved those quirks of hers.

Still staring at the drink, Harry distractedly told Ron “You know she accused Hermione of trying to steal me from her… even called her a jealous hag.”

Ron winced. “Is it sad that that actually sounds like something she’d say?”

Harry looked up at him with a pained expression. “You really think so?”

Ron couldn’t hide the surprised look in response to that question. “Don’t you? I mean you did break up with her.”

“I honestly don’t know anything anymore,” he admitted with a pathetic shrug.

Ron rolled his eyes, letting out a frustrated sigh. “I’ve ignored it long enough mate, but it’s been two months since she left, a month since you went all moody on me at that pub, Fred’s birthday party no less, and that something, whatever it is, is still bothering you, I can see it. Just tell me what it is that she said to you because it obviously had a pretty big impact on you.”

Harry just kept his gaze on the lit fireplace before him, taking a sip of his whiskey as he purposefully ignored Ron’s question.

“I swear to you mate, if you don’t tell me I’m leaving, I never liked people who moped in their self misery, it’s a waste of time.”

“This is coming from the bloke who gets angry at the drop of a hat.”

“Uh hello, that’s spiteful, not misery? Anger’s okay,” he reasoned in what Hermione would have called “perfectly er-Ron-eous1 manner,” bloody hell, she really had the worst sense of humor.

“Sounds like a double standard to me,” Harry muttered.

Ron groaned. “You know what Harry, forget it, I’m leaving.”

Harry let out an aggravated sigh, running a frustrated hand through his hair. “She told me that I don’t deserve her.”

Ron stopped in the middle of the room, tightly frozen in the spot from which he had just been about to apparate from. “What?”

“She said that I didn’t deserve her—didn't appreciate her.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Well that’s bull.”

“That’s what I thought,” Harry sheepishly admitted. “But—but the… the more I think about it, the more it seems as if I’m the one that had it wrong all along. She’s right; I was never as good of a mate to her as she was to me.”

“Well of course not, that’s impossible. Hermione’s the best person to have for a mate, ever! No one can compete with that, she is willing and ready to do anything for a friend, the only thing you can do is be the best mate you can be for her, she appreciates that much. I mean look at me, she stuck by me, regardless of what an arse I can be towards her some of the time.”

“You wouldn’t understand…”

Ron stepped back, clearly affronted by the statement. “Oh I get it, just because I’m Ron Weasley, the bloke that has the emotional range of a tea spoon, means that I’m not worthy of such information.”

“Don’t be a prick, it-”

“No, you listen here Harry; you’re pushing everyone in your life away. I’ve let you do it long enough, but I’m not going to lose another friend, you two mean too much to me for me to just let you go like this!”

Harry paused at his rant, his expression softening more and more with each word. He groaned as he threw his head into his hands. “I just miss her, mate, and—and I’m scared that when she comes back she’ll realize that she deserves better than me… that she doesn’t need me anymore…”

Ron growled, stomping his foot onto the floor petulantly. “Bloody hell, I mean you weren’t supposed to actually have a good excuse, you were supposed to let me be mad at you because you’re an arse! This really isn't fair you damn prat.”

“Sorry.”

A smile tugged at Ron’s lips as he retook his seat by Harry’s side. “Listen mate, she needs us just as much as we do her. I’m the one that keeps her grounded by getting her to let loose once in a while, even if it usually does lead to a lot of fights between us, and you—you’re the one that gives her hope. She believes in you and somehow—somehow that helped her be able to have more confidence in herself. She knows that, that was never the problem.”

“I know; it’s just that I just wish she didn’t feel like she couldn’t grow with us, it seems so unfair.”

“She’ll be back, though, and that’s what’s really important.”

“But what if she doesn’t come back?”

“I—I-” Ron stumbled. “I don’t know. Honestly, I’ve always tried to ignore that possibility.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah… maybe that’s best.”

--

author’s note:

1just in case you didn’t quite get the er-Ron-eous jab, it’s a reference to the word erroneous, sorry if that didn’t make much sense

p.s. feel free to R&R ;)

Chapter 4: losing hope
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Chapter IV: losing hope

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Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" –T.S. Elliot

--

Good morning,” an unusually cheerful Harry greeted Hermione as he took a seat by her at the dining hall.

Where’s Ron?”

Still sleeping, decided not to go to breakfast and just sleep in today.”

She merely nodded her head with a knowing smile, not at all surprised by the announcement.

So how are you this fine morning, love?”

She shrugged unenthusiastically. “I’m okay.”

Well I should hope so given that you and Ron finally got together last night. Anyway, I see Ginny over there so I’ll talk to you later okay?”

Sure,” she told him with a weak, but nevertheless, encouraging smile.

Looking back at the memory he knew that she hadn’t been okay that day, but what killed him was the idea that he would never learn what it was that brought on that short bout of depression. He should have been there for her.

--

one year later.

“Hey mate,” Ron somberly greeted him, clapping him on the back as he took a seat by him at the bar.

“Ready for the newly implemented annual ritual to begin?” Harry asked him with a pained smile.

Ron winced slightly. “Well I’m praying that it won’t actually become an annual ritual.”

“What’d you get her then?”

“A plane ticket to here,” he sheepishly admitted with a sheepish smile.

Harry let out a laugh. “Way to be inconspicuous.”

“I try, and, hey, at least I got her a muggle form of transportation, she’s got to appreciate that,” he reasoned with a grin, rather proud of himself for his feat. “So what’d you get her?”

“Well, apparently, great minds think alike because I got her a locket that acts as a portkey when you open it.”

“And where would it take her to?” Ron asked him with a knowing grin, quickly figuring out where it was all leading to.

“Our apartment.”

“Did you tell her that in the birthday card or did you leave her to her own defenses so she’d be forced to come her when she opened it?”

“I’m not an idiot, Ron, it wouldn’t be worth it if I didnt, she’d kill me, you know that temper of hers.”

Ron nodded, wincing at the various memories that came to mind when Harry made that comment. “Worse than the infamous red headed temper.”

“Too true,” Harry said, raising his glass in agreement.

“Hey, mate?” Ron said, with a tone that immediately changed the entire feel of the conversation. The air between them stilled as the solemn undertone in the conversation was rehashed with those two words.

“Yeah Ron?”

“Do you—do you think she’ll ever come back… to stay?”

Harry involuntarily flinched at the mention of that, ever since she had left the question of whether or not she would ever return had been a taboo topic of sorts, both deciding that it was better to avoid the pain of that prospect through avoidance.

“I hope so, but for now… she sounds happy, and I don’t want to be the selfish git that takes that away from her.” I’ve done enough as it is.

Ron nodded. “I just wish she’d come back… even just for a day. I never realized what an important role she played in my life; those weekly letters just aren’t enough.”

“They can’t ever compete with the real thing, can they?”

“Who ever thought that the stuck up girl that we initially despised would be the one that we were hopelessly pining for later in life?” Ron chuckled at the irony of the situation.

“She’s special like that.”

“Well then, here’s to her, hopefully she’s out there having a blast celebrating her twenty-third birthday.”

“Here’s to her,” Harry nodded, raising his glass to Ron’s.

Chapter 5: losing oneself in the memories
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Chapter V: losing oneself in the memories

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The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” –G.K. Chesterton

--

He looked at her only to be surprised by being met with the unusual sight of her staring off into space before nudging her slightly so to bring her back to reality. “Where were you off to just now?”

Nothing.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Sure doesn’t look like nothing; you’re not one to get lost in your thoughts unless it’s something of ‘utmost importance.’”

She giggled. “Are you mocking me?”

He at least had the decency to pretend to look affronted by the question. “Me? Never!—Seriously though, what’s going on with you, you’ve really been out of it lately?”

I have?”

I’ve only seen you read one book this week, so yeah, I’d say you’ve definitely been out of it,” he winked at her.

She blushed at the truth behind the statement; she couldn’t deny that one book compared to her usual minimum of three books per week was a rather obvious sign. “I’ve just been thinking about my parents.”

His joking demeanor immediately vanished as his body stiffened, leaving her with a somber and frowning Harry Potter. “I’m sorry that you have to-”

Shush you! Don’t you dare put the blame on yourself, I’m just a tad homesick, that’s all Harry, but don’t you ever—ever shift the blame onto yourself, I won’t let you do that. Sorry, but you just don’t deserve the credit for that one, I’d be on this side whether I knew you or not.”

He smiled slowly as his stance softened at her words. “Thanks Hermione, you always know just what to say, don’t you?”

It’s a gift… one that, sadly, you were never blessed with.”

--

one month later:

“She’s not just going to drop it, it’s been a year and she’s still pining after you,” Ron told him as he handed him a drink before taking a seat by him on the couch as they watched couples dance. He didn’t even have to say who “she” was; it was far too obvious to even bother with something as trivial as names anyway.

Harry grimaced. “You know, during the war she was a great distraction, this beautiful and fun girl that could take my mind off of all the troubles and the pain, but now-”

“You’ve realized that that’s about all that there is to her?”

Harry’s eyes widened at the statement, he was rendered totally speechless.

“Oh don’t give me that look, she may be my sister, but that doesn’t mean I’m about to turn a blind eye to the fact that she’s more so in love with the idea of you than the real you. Honestly, I’d be setting myself up for disaster if I did that.”

Harry smirked. “That sounds like an awfully Hermione thing to say right there.”

Ron blushed, his skin tone progressively matching his hair color. “She may have instilled that one with me while we were dating back in seventh year.”

He chortled at the admission. “Classic.”

“You should set her straight though.”

“I tried to, that’s what actually led to her grinding on Terry the Boot there to make me jealous.”

Ron patted him on the back sympathetically. “Well… she never was well known for her tact.”

“You’d think we’d be a match made in heaven then, wouldn’t you?”

Ron laughed. “True, you never were particularly talented in that department either, were you?”

“Afraid not, Hermione always loved to tease me about it too,” he sheepishly admitted with a grin as he quickly chugged what was left of his fire whiskey.

“She always comes up with the meanest comments, doesn’t she?”

Harry nodded vigorously. “And then she pulls that whole little doe-eyed nice act out of no where to get out of trouble.”

Ron grinned. “-And it always works, never once have we retaliated. Doesn’t really do much for the men’s movement that a woman beats us at the battle of the wits every time, does it?”

Harry cocked his head to the side slightly, eying Ron with a confused and amused look. “That’s probably why there was never a men’s movement mate.”

“Oh you know what I mean,” Ron waved him off noncommittally.

Chapter 6: losing a love
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Chapter VI: losing a love

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'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

--

He watched as Ron took her into his arms, pulling her further onto the dance floor. It was his eighteenth birthday party and he just sat in the corner watching his two best mates dancing and laughing, all the while wondering if he had something like that with Ginny… wishing that he’d one day find it.

As the song ended he made his way onto the floor, bypassing an obviously annoyed Ginny as he walked up to his two friends.

May I cut in?”

Ron turned to him with a wide grin plastered onto his face. “Well if it isn’t the’ boy who lived’-”

Ron,” Hermione groaned, slapping his arm lightly, as she was well aware of Harry’s aversion to that terribly unoriginal nick name.

Ron raised his hands. “Fine, fine—I concede, but just so you know, Potter, I’m watching you, those hands better not go anywhere too low.”

With a chuckle he promised them that he’d control himself.

So… what’s on your mind?” Hermione asked him as he, somewhat awkwardly, led her around the dance floor.

You two look happy.”

She smiled. “well I doubt he’s the love of my life, or that I’m his, but, yeah, I’m happy, he’s good to me—for me.”

Harry’s eyes widened in surprise. “Not the love of your life?”

She let out a small chuckle. “Come on Harry, I’m only eighteen! It’s an important step in my life, and I’m sure it’ll be a defining relationship… I mean he’s taught me so much about just letting go, if it weren’t for him I’d probably have had a nervous break down by now. However, I doubt that we’re meant for one another… we’re just… destined to be best mates, I suppose.”

I thought the point of dating was to find your soul mate.”

That’s for the girly girls out there.”

He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Really?”

She blushed, burying her head in his chest. “Okay, so maybe I think that it’s a relationship that prepares you for that final one… the true love. Like those are the necessary steps that you need to take to become that person that you need to be to be with your soul mate.”

That sounded awfully girly there Granger.”

Shut up Potter; don’t mock me and my only remaining romantic fantasy.”

I never mock Granger, merely comment. Plus, I love you too much to ridicule you.”

And then there’s the fact that I could out smart you any day…” she quipped lightly.

That too.”

--

one year later:

“It’s been far too long mate,” Neville greeted him with a hug once he reached their table in the Three Broomsticks. “God, I missed this place, so glad you picked it.”

Harry grinned. “Figured it’d be a great place to meet up, seeing as I haven’t seen you in a year, so worse comes to worse you and I can rehash in our old memories if we find that we have nothing to talk about.”

“There’s that positive Harry Potter that I know and love!” he laughed jovially at the statement.

“Well, if I’m anything it’s consistent.”

“So how are you, Harry? Last I saw, you were still moping over Hermione’s departure… and that was a year after she left.”

Harry shrugged. “I still miss her, can’t help it. I mean she doesn’t even have time to write more than once a week, albeit they are seven page letters, but still…”

“It’s the principle of the matter, right?” Neville asked with a knowing smile.

“See I love how after Hogwarts you suddenly became so all knowing, Nev, really makes it so much easier for me.”

“You’re welcome.” They sat in a comfortable silence, each focusing on reading the menu, until Neville finally interrupted it. “Are you really okay?”

Harry sighed. “I should have expected that one.” He put down the menu, raising a hand to rub his temples. “Honestly? I miss her… I can’t help but miss her.”

“It’s been two years Harry; I would have thought that you’d get used to it by now.”

“So would I, but it’s—it’s just like the more I don’t see her, the more haunted I am by my memories of her. I can’t stop thinking about her…”

“Here I thought that’d be a good thing, means you haven’t forgotten about her.”

“If I tell you something you have to promise not to tell anyone, Nev, anyone.”

Neville rolled his eyes slightly. “Come on, Harry, it’s me, you know I’m not like that.”

He paused for a second, leaning in nervously as he whispered “I think I’m falling in love with her.”

Neville gave him a perplexed look in response. “I thought you said you haven’t seen her since she left.”

Harry groaned. “I haven’t… it’s just… like when I’m left with these memories of her all I can do is analyze our past, every moment we’ve spent together. I mean, at first it was just my guilt over not having been a better mate to her, but then… I don’t know, it just sort of manifested into something more…”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

Harry shrugged, a pained frown marring his face. “Nothing I can do.”

Neville looked at him so pityingly that he almost regretted admitting it to him just then. “Harry, mate-”

No, she’s given up so much for me, I’m not about to take something else away from her now. I can’t do that to her again.”

“So what, you’re going to go and shag every girl in London until you find the love of you life?”

Harry gave him a pained smile. “Well I haven’t really worked out all of the details yet.”

Neville frowned. “But that’s pretty much the gist of it, isn’t it?”

“I just—I need to get my mind off of her,” Harry reasoned.

“Seems like a pretty stupid mondus operandi to me.”

He shrugged noncommittally. “Well I was never known for my tact anyway.”

“Too true.”

Chapter 7: losing rationale
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Chapter VII: losing rationale

--

"All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest."

-Arthur C. Clarke

--

What’s bothering you today?” he heard her annoyed voice ask him as she took a seat next to him on the window sill of the Gryffindor common room.

Do I sense a bit of aggravation in your tone?” he asked, amusedly cocking an eyebrow at her.

Naturally, Voldemort's dead and you still find cause to mope. You truly are one of a kind, Harry,” she commented with a slightly pained smile.

He let out a small chortle at hearing her sarcastic quip. “How do you always know just what to say to make me feel better?”

I’ve told you time and time again Potter; I’m just perfect like that. Now, come on, tell me what’s bothering you.”

He shrugged. “Nothing special.”

You know, Potter, it’s quite pathetic when the bookworm has to tell you to learn to seize the day. You’re always so broody, and, yes, many of the girls surely find it sexy, but I’m afraid your mates would beg to differ,” she told him with a wink. “Just let it go Harry, there’s no point in crying over spilt milk. You finally have the chance to really have a life, take advantage of that. Carpe diem, Harry, carpe diem,” she told him with a smile before getting up to leave.

--

“You know how we had that conversation a week ago?” Neville asked as he let himself into Harry’s office, taking the liberty of seating himself on the couch.

Harry’s eyebrow furrowed in confusion. “Not that I don’t love your company, mate, but what are you doing here?—I thought professors were supposed to be dedicated to their work.”

“No Herbology classes until one today so I thought I’d come and visit you, apparated from Hogsmeade,” he explained with a noncommittal wave. “Anyway, back onto more important matters, remember what we talked about then?”

“Well it’d be rather pathetic if I forgot given what my confession was,” Harry rolled his eyes as he returned his attention to the paperwork he had previously been working on.

“Eyes up then because I have an important question.”

“And I have important work to do so I’m afraid it’s not going to happen, deadline’s in two hours and I’ve only just started,” he distractedly told him as he rifled through some papers, eyebrows furrowed in deep concentration.

“Okay fine, reasonable enough. So here’s the thing, ever since you said what you did, I’ve been thinking-”

“Lo and behold, he can use his brain,” Harry teased him with a grin.

“Yes I can, and I must say I’m rather talented at it too. Now I shall astound you with my brilliance through one question.”

“And what’s that?” Harry asked him as he took out a quill and began writing a few notes on the work he’d been reading.

“Well… okay, so don’t be offended or anything by this question… I mean if you think about it, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask…” Neville stumbled, the old nervous teenage version of him slowly reappearing with each word.

“Nev, whatever it is, it’s fine, I trust you. Just say what you need to say.”

He did exactly that as he tactlessly spat out the words. “Are you sure you’re in love with her?”

Harry’s quill slipped as he heard the question and he lifted his head to look at Neville, who had moved from the couch and was currently pacing the room. “What do you mean?”

“Well it’s like this… I was thinking about everything that you said and your history with girls-”

Comprehension dawned upon him as the confused frown that was marring his face quickly disappeared. “In other words Ginny.”

“Yeah,” Neville sheepishly admitted.

Harry clenched his jaw as he forced himself to stay rational and not let his temper get the best of him, a great feat on his part. “So how’d that lead to this then?”

“Well what if you’re not in love with her, but the idea of her. I mean it’s easy to fall for her… she could easily be a savior of sorts… I just can’t help but wonder if it’s misplaced affection.”

“It’s not.”

“But how can you be so sure? I mean you haven’t seen her in two years now, she’s not the same person anymore; you know that as well as I do, whether you choose to admit it or not. Really, the entire point of leaving was so that she could change, to become someone else; so how can you be so sure that you’ll love this person as well?”

“I get letters from her-”

“But that’s it, your only form of communication, Harry.”

He let out a deep groan. “Have you ever felt like that missing piece… without it life felt worthless?”

“That could be for a friend too, Harry,” Neville reasoned.

Have you?” he gruffly repeated.

“No.”

“I’ve felt that way for two years now, I miss her and there’s nothing I can do about it. All I have now are these memories of her, ones that I’m replaying in my mind nonstop so I can at least have her by me in some form or another. I fell in love with her as I analyzed each moment, remembered her reaction to everything, how she supported me, teased me… how she was always there.”

“But Harry… what if it’s just some sort of misplaced affection?”

“It’s not!” he adamantly defended himself, almost petulantly so.

“Have you ever thought that maybe you told me because subconsciously or something you wanted me to tell you that it wasn’t true, because maybe you needed someone to tell you that it was all a farce?”

Harry shook his head. “That’s not it.”

“I can’t deny the fact that I think you could learn from Ron’s example—take a page from his book, so to speak. Don’t let that one event dictate the rest of your life like this. He’s moved on and so should you,” Neville let out a deep breath. “But, then again, I guess I also can’t change your mind, you have to be willing to do that on your own, on your own terms too. I can see that much at least… but be careful mate, when she comes back, whenever that may be, you may find that you’re severely disappointed if you realize that you were only in love with an idea this entire time. It’s a horrible fate, that’s a feeling I know, and I’m telling you now, it can break you,” he told him before exiting the office.

Chapter 8: losing yourself
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Chapter VIII: losing yourself

--

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” –Washington Irving

--

Are you happy Harry?” she asked him, looking up into his eyes as he held her in a tight embrace.

Of course I am, my best mate woke me up at three in the morning because of her inane fear of thunderstorm— never better,” he sarcastically muttered, rolling his eyes as he slightly pinched her waist.

I’m serious, Harry,” she said with a rather somber tone that, for some reason, disturbed him far more than that it probably should have.

Are you happy?” she repeated, her tone a tad bit more forceful the second time around.

He shrugged. “I’m getting there.”

She nodded solemnly, burying her head in his chest upon hearing the thunderstorm outside growing louder. “You should be happy though. I mean it’s been four years since you defeated him Harry… you should have moved on by now.”

Life’s not perfect, Hermione, you know that.”

No,” she sighed, “but it’s pretty damn good to us too. You’re twenty-one Harry, finished Auror training, getting some amazing cases… you should be happy.”

And I will be,” he promised her, albeit unsure of the truth to that statement even as he gave her the empty assurance. He didn’t consider it lying though, no, for her he’d try to get there… he just wasn’t quite sure of how successful he’d be at reaching that ever illusive goal.

When?”

Someday, but for now I have you and Ron… and Ginny.”

You won’t always be able to rely on us, Harry, one day you’re going to have to learn to support yourself— be happy on your own. You won’t ever be able to make another person happy until you can do that, you know.”

He arched an eyebrow at her. “Are you saying that I don’t make you happy?”

She giggled slightly. “Well I’ve learned to find the light in broody Harry by mocking him, but you might not be so lucky with someone else.”

Well, for now, I have you so all’s good with the world,” he told her with a charming smile.

It might not always be that way though,” she muttered into his chest.

The next day was the day that she told him she was leaving.

--

six months later.

“She’s a whore—a vapid slag, more exactly,” Ron bluntly admitted as he and Harry watched his latest girlfriend talk to a somewhat scared looking Luna.

Harry shrugged, not taking the least bit of offense to the comment. “Never said she wasn’t.”

“Then why are you with her—them?”

“Nothing better to do I guess… and it’s a good distraction—it’s fun, and that’s exactly what I need right now.”

“Bloody hell mate there are tons of better things to do. I mean I get that shagging all of the witches in England has got to be fun… but seriously, don’t you ever get bored of it? In the end it’s just another shag, but who’s there for you when you need company, not just a hand job?”

“I have you for that one,” he told him with a smirk.

“The fuck bunnies aren’t always going to be enough mate.”

Harry turned to him with an amused look. “Fuck bunnies?

“What? I don’t see anything wrong with it—loved the term when Hermione used it, and it was definitely worth a repeat.”

Harry stiffened at hearing Ron’s words. “Hermione? What does she have to do with this?”

“Oh you know, she asked me if you finally had a special lady in your life sicne she noticed you hadn’t mentioned many girls ever since you and Ginny broke up so I told her about some of your latest escapades. You know I had no idea how much she missed out on since she can’t get the Prophet there—that’s some good quality gossip that she was totally unaware of… Anyway, she now refers to your little friends as fuck bunnies.”

“You didn’t have to tell her that,” Harry told him through gritted teeth, his jaw clenched as he tried to control the sudden, but nonetheless potent, urge to strangle Ron.

“Why not? She thought it was funny anyway… well after she apparently got over the initial nausea of your man-whoreness,” he amended with a chuckle.

“Great,” he said with a miserable sigh as he threw his head into his hands, angrily pulling at his hair.

“Cheer up, mate, we’re supposed to be celebrating the fact that I proposed to the Missus last night, not moping.”

Harry rolled his eyes before turning to send Ron a chilling glare. “Well I would be if my best mate didn’t tell Hermione the last thing I ever wanted her to know.”

“Well then you should have been more vocal about that point,” Ron shrugged.

“Shut up.”

“Oh come on, we should be celebrating. After all, I’m an engaged man now, Luna’s officially stuck with me… plus, you know what else that means, don’t you?” Ron asked him with a conspiratory wink.

Harry eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “No, what?”

“Our dear old Hermione’s finally coming back after three years of being away,” he told him with a jovial grin.

Chapter 9: finding something old again
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Chapter IX: finding something old again

--

People find life to be entirely too time consuming” -Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

--

“Is that really my Hermione?” Ron exclaimed with a jovial grin as he rushed toward her and pulled her into a tight embrace, shamelessly lifting her off the floor and twirling her around, making a total fool of himself in the middle of the arrival gate at the airport.

She giggled as she held on for dear life until he finally put her down, before finally turning her attention to Harry once they separated she turned to look at Harry and, if possible, her grin grew wider at the sight of him. “Come on Harry, aren't you going to greet an old mate?”

He let out a laugh, shrugging as he said “I wasn't quite sure if I deemed you worthy of one of my world class hugs yet.”

She grimaced at hearing his comment, her nose scrunching up in distaste. “My God that ego of yours really is something, isn't it?”

“Well there's a lot to be vain about, don't you know,” he told her with a wink, even flexing an arm to further annoy her.

Despite herself a smile tugged at her lips as she watched her best mate make a fool of himself—she really did have a knack for surrounding herself with “brilliant” people. “Just hug me you bloody arse, I've missed it far too much to put up with all of these pretenses right now.”

He grinned at her as he pulled her into a tight embrace, whispering into her ear “anything for you Hermione, you know that; I never could say no to you, whether I liked it or not…”

He took a deep breath as he slowly took in the scent of her perfume while reveling in feel of the woman who he had been so sure was an apparition when he'd first seen her only minutes ago. “Bloody hell, I've missed you Hermione… it's been far too long.”

Ugh, God, it really has been,” she said, letting out a deep breath of relief, that she didn't even know she had been holding in, as she tightened her hold on him.

--

“Well Ron's officially way past the passed out phase—didn't even wake as I took off his clothes,” Hermione laughed as she took a seat on the chesterfield by Harry.

“Yeah, sorry about him, he wanted to stay up until late, he really did, but he's been doing a lot of extra work for the joke shop so he wouldn't get behind when he came back from the honeymoon,” Harry admitted as he threw an arm across the back of Hermione's seat, pulling her closer to him.

She immediately moved closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. “I've missed this—I mean, when you go on without this so long, as I did, you almost forget what it's like to be here, but then… then you come back and it just… you see everything that you've been missing out on this entire time, I suppose.”

“But you were happy there at least, weren't you?”

She smiled up at him. “Yeah, of course I was. I mean there isn't a more fulfilling profession for someone like me, but still… sometimes I just wonder if it was worth it—losing you two.”

Harry, despite himself, winced at her words. “Well, I wouldn't say that you lost us.”

“I didn't mean it like that—just in the physical sense. I mean even when we wrote letters to one another I just… I felt like I wasn't part of your lives anymore… as if I didn't matter.”

Harry rolled his eyes as he nudged her playfully. “We couldn't get rid of you if we wanted to, Hermione; you know that well enough that I shouldn’t even have to remind you of it.”

“You're an insensitive arse, you know that, Harry?” she pouted.

“Oh come on, Hermione, as if you could ever lose us, that's absolutely preposterous.”

“It's not that—I just felt as if I couldn't be a part of it anymore because I left… and I mean it is my fault-”

“Hey—hey—hey,” he said, untangling himself from her so he could look at her face to face. Placing a finger under her chin and lifting her head so that she was looking into his eyes, he was shocked by the sight of the tears forming in her eyes. “You did what you had to do and we all understood that,” he told her as he slowly wiped a tear away with his rough, calloused thumb.

“But was it worth it?—I mean look at everything that I’ve missed because I was gone,” she protested.

He smiled at her slowly. “How about this, you and I can go out tomorrow and I'll bore you with all of the details of my past three years without you.”

As she heard his suggestion the frown that had been marring her face quickly evaporated. “Everything?—Even the boring details that I've already read about in the letters?”

“In such excruciating detail that you'll be begging me to stop,” he winked at her as he pulled her into a tight embrace. “And, just so you know, I expect the same from you.”

“Deal,” she whispered as she gave him a peck on the cheek.

Chapter 10: finding the path
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Chapter X: finding the path

--

I know nothing about platonic love except that it is not to be found in the works of Plato”

-Anonymous

--

“Okay, tell me about the fuck bunnies,” she eagerly ordered as she sat across from him in the secluded corner at the Three Broomsticks, where they had agreed upon having their “tell all, hide nothing” sharing fest, as she’d so aptly named it.

Harry, who had been taking a sip form his fire whiskey at the moment, choked slightly at her words. “I didn’t know Hermione Granger even knew how to curse.”

“Well I had to pick up something after being mates with you and Ron, not to mention I dated him.”

“I’ll give you that much at least,” he nodded in understanding. “But, honestly, why do you call it that? It doesn’t seem very… you.”

She shifted uncomfortably at his words, the tone of the conversation quickly sobering. “Well what do you expect me to call them, Harry? I’m just trying to make light of a situation that I don’t approve of at all. I mean, seriously, what am I supposed to say to this? After all, you already know I disapprove of it whether I say anything or not—you know me, and that’s enough.”

Harry shrugged pathetically, merely muttering “you never made any comments about it.”

“Honestly? I wasn’t sure if it was my place anymore… I mean I did leave,” she admitted with a small, sheepish smile.

He chuckled lightly. “It’s always your place, whether I want to admit it or not, you always have the right to meddle in my life,” he assured her.

She grinned. “Thanks, Harry; that means a lot to hear. I guess… I mean there I was in Africa and you two were here and I just didn’t know where my place was in your lives—whether I even had one anymore… whether I really had the right to comment anymore, and I was scared to—I just didn’t want to ruin whatever we had left…”

They both sat in an awkward silence for a minute, each letting the words seep in, hitting them full force. He finally interrupted the hush, taking her by surprise, by letting out a deep sigh. “What is it?”

“Pardon?” she asked him innocently, slightly wide eyed by how intuitive he’d become.

“What is it that you want to ask me? I can tell that there’s something bothering you, I know you well enough that I can at least see that much.”

She smiled slightly at his words, biting her lip nervously as she got up the courage to ask the question that had been plaguing her mind for so long. “What happened to you?—I mean, you weren’t like this when I first left. There was Ginny, Alison, and Victoria-”

He snorted slightly, interrupting to correct her. “Try Alice and Vicky.”

“I thought those were nicknames or something,” she sheepishly admitted with a giggle, as she took a drink from her butter beer, primarily to hide her blush.

Harry nodded understandingly. “Yeah… well, they weren’t.”

Hermione glared at him slightly for pointing out the obvious. “Whatever, back onto a matter of importance… why do you do it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well come on Harry, you weren’t always this… well, randy!” she said, barely containing the blush that was slowly creeping up her neck. “There was a time when you were perfectly capable of controlling the little guy by actually committing yourself to a relationship—in fact, I remember that time well. So tell me, why’s that so impossible now?”

Harry merely shrugged, letting out a grunt as he mumbled “I don’t know.”

“Nice, Harry, really eloquent response you gave there,” she sarcastically quipped, rolling her eyes.

“I just—I don’t really want to talk about it.”

She flinched slightly at that admission, but, for once, she didn’t say anything, she merely tightly muttered “okay, fine, I understand… I’ll just let it go.”

“Hermione-”

“No,” she firmly stopped him. “I understand… I do.”

Despite the fact that he may have tried to broach the subject again, try to make up for being such an arse, she wouldn’t hear of it, never giving him the opportunity to actually try and explain himself. With a defeated sigh he finally let the subject be dropped. “So… tell me about Africa.”

A smile quickly took over her face as she began gushing over her experience in the country. “Oh God, it was amazing, Harry. I mean there wasn’t much time, or a place, for partying or anything, so my wardrobe now just consists of jeans and t-shirts… but aside from the fact that I really need to go shopping, it was fantastic!—Bloody hell, I’m rambling, aren’t I?”

He smiled at her, nodding. “You are, but you do it so well.”

She scoffed. “Sure I do, but, anyway, the point it is: Africa was amazing.”

“I was able to gather as much, but was there anything else? You can’t tell me it was classic Hermione, all work and no play.” His eyes suddenly widened, practically bugging out of his head as the daunting realization hit him. “Bloody hell, please tell me it wasn’t.”

“No, I have changed Harry!” she said, rolling her eyes at the cliché he used to describe her.

He eyed her silently after those words left her mouth, slowly nodding his head. “I know you have, I’ve noticed. It may not be in the big ways, but you look content… finally comfortable in your own skin, and it’s great to see.”

She bit her lip as she shyly smiled at him. “Thanks, it’s nice to hear that you think so.”

Immediately sensing the fatal danger of the situation, at least on his part, Harry cleared his throat. “So what did you do in your free time?”

“Well… there were these four guys,” she admitted a bit timidly, blushing as she made the admission.

“Doesn’t that saying usually go ‘well there was this one guy?’” he teased her with a raised eyebrow.

“Well yes, but it isn’t really true if I say it was one bloke, now is it?”

“True, true; you always could easily out smart me, there’s really no point in me bothering with ever doubting you.”

“Too true, and don’t you forget it,” she winked at him.

“So tell me about these blokes that actually managed to do the impossible and get your attention?”

She blushed. “I’m not a prude, Harry!”

“I know you’re not, love, don’t worry, but it’s still fun to tease you regardless,” he told her with a grin as he called for Rosmerta to refill they’re recently downed drinks. “So, I remember one was named Hugo, kind of drawing a blank with the rest.”

She let out a snort at his confession. “Figures.”

“Oh don’t be like that, you were with that bloke for a year and a half, the other three were just passing fancies.”

Actually, that’s not totally true, I did fancy myself in love with this one bloke, the Russian one, Marko, only realized after he had to go back that it wasn’t so much love as an insatiable lust,” she admitted with a sheepish smile, covering her face with her hands as she felt it getting redder by the second.

He let out a deep chortle. “Never knew you were that kind of a girl, Hermione.”

“Well things change, Harry; you know that as well as I do.”

He nodded slowly as he quietly agreed, playing with his glass of fire whiskey, watching the drink swirl in the cup with rapt attention.

“This feels weird, doesn’t it?”

Harry’s head quickly shot up at the words, eyebrows furrowing in puzzlement, forcing her to elaborate.

“Talking to you about this—I mean… we never really talked about my relationships before… well unless it was about Ron, and even that was sort of kept at a minimum, wasn’t it?”

“That’s the problem though, it was always about me, never about you; I just—I was hoping to change that, be a better mate to you… like—like you deserve,” he admitted slowly with a small, typical on his part, shrug.

She let out a sigh, rubbing her temples as his words hit her full force. “Harry, don’t ever think that again. What I said—what I said back then, before I left… I shouldn’t have, it was so wrong of me, not to mention horribly inconsiderate and bitchy-”

“No, don’t say that… I mean… it may not have been fun to hear, but you had a point, I can’t deny that-”

She smiled at him sweetly, raising a hand to his face as she rubbed his cheek lovingly. “You’re just too kind sometimes, far too forgiving. But you’re wrong…” she let out a deep breath, pausing as she grasped for the words that constantly seemed to evade her.

“When I was in Africa that was the one thing that almost ruined the experience, I was just… I felt so guilty over what I had said. It wasn’t true, I let my emotions get the best of me, but the fact is that a friendship isn’t about loving someone for the good, but the bad—loving them for their faults. I never did that before, not really… but I mean—I’m learning how to now. I didn’t deserve your forgiveness for that one, Harry; you just don't say things like that to friends—much less best friends. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for everything that I said… if anything it was my fault for never having confronted you, I shouldn’t have gone off as I did, it was terribly timed and horribly cruel.”

He sat there silently for a minute, unsure as to what to say in response to that, before he finally spoke. “I guess we both made our fair share of mistakes.”

She scoffed. “That’s an understatement.”

“But we’ll make it regardless, won’t we?”

She smiled at him, nodding slowly. “I think we’re already well on our way there.”

Chapter 11: finding trouble with karma
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Chapter XI: finding trouble with karma

--

We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are”

-Anonymous

--

Harry was a strong believer in karma; it had more than kept him going throughout the war—that reliance on the fact that good would prevail regardless of whatever happened, the universe just wouldn’t let something like that go, such an imbalance was unacceptable—and he was appalled to find that it was that exact theory that he had always relied so heavily upon that was currently screwing him over. As he moodily made his way towards the greenhouses at Hogwarts he contemplated every misdeed he’d ever done.

Sure, he’d been savior of the wizarding world, but that had already awarded him with an amazing job. No, this karma, this karma was far worse than anything that he had ever anticipated.

Karma of the heart—he was sure that that was what was cursing him, keeping Hermione from him. It was that same distraction that he had used to keep himself sane while she was gone that was keeping him from a permanent state of sanity that could only be achieved through her.

Karma was a bitch, one that, albeit—he grudgingly admitted—understandably, felt a need to punish him for screwing over so many woman in the past.

He grumbled angrily, muttering incoherent words as he stalked towards his destination, trying to think of anything that would keep those thoughts, that he dreaded so much, at bay—desperately hoping that there was some hope, because if what he thought to be true was… well then he really didn’t stand a chance in hell. After all, no one, no one, goes up against karma and comes up victorious, just look at old Voldy.

He shuddered at the reminder as he quietly opened the door to the Herbology class that was currently taking place.

“Oi!” he heard Neville exclaim. “Peters, I know that you blokes are just discovering girls and all, but you may want to consider the fact that you won’t be able to take much advantage of that if the Nepenthes kills you.”

At hearing those words of advice Harry couldn’t help but let out a deep chuckle, inadvertently gaining the unwanted attention of the majority of the class. Almost instantly the class erupted in an uncontrollable chatter as all of the students “inconspicuously” discussed the newest guest—each daring one another to go up and talk to the famous wizard that had just entered the room.

Neville let out an aggravated sigh as Harry just sent him a sheepish and apologetic smile. “Well obviously you won’t be getting anything done today and I can’t have you gossiping when there are carnivorous plants in front of you, so class dismissed,” he said, immediately admitting to the imminent defeat as he really didn’t care for wasting time uselessly trying to regain their intention when it was obviously an impossible feat anyway.

His announcement, however, was only met with blank stares.

“Out, now. Mr. Potter and I have something to discuss, and unless you want to help put away these plants I’d recommend that you go.”

The class immediately left the room upon that threat, the scarce few actually trying to get up the courage to talk to Harry before giving up and leaving under the scrutinizing glare of their professor.

“So I take it today wasn’t a particularly good day for me to come in then,” Harry noted as he took a seat across from Neville, who was currently cradling his head in hands as he sat at his desk.

“Sorry about that; been having some problems with Lavender recently so I’m on edge. Plus, there’s the added bonus that I had to deal with a class of randy prepubescent teenagers that weren’t paying any attention at all when working with carnivorous plants of all things!”

“Any chance you’re willing to give some advice to a randy twenty-four year old?” he asked him with a grin.

Neville let out a slightly choked laugh, sighing as he raised his head so he was looking at Harry in the eyes. “What’s the latest in the trials and tribulations of Harry Potter’s love life?”

“Well it’s not so much-”

Neville, however, interrupted him by raising a doubtful eyebrow.

Harry clenched his jaw. “Okay, so it kind of is. Now will you let me get on with the story?”

“Why don’t you ever bother Ron with this?”

Harry winced at the reminder of that particular memory. “Well to tell him would mean that I’d have to tell him what happened when she left and, honestly, I doubt he needs that guilt. Even if she didn’t mean it, there’s some truth to those words and Ron and Hermione both don’t need something like that always overshadowing their relationship.”

“Well then, I guess all I can say is ‘yay me’,” Neville grimly muttered.

“You’re awfully sarcastic with your biting words today, Nev, when was the last time you had a decent shag?” he asked him with a grin as Neville took out a bottle of fire whiskey from his desk, along with two glasses, and poured them each a drink.

“Two weeks,” Neville muttered, a blush quickly spreading on his face as he admitted to the fact.

Harry’s eyes widened. “Bloody hell mate!—You know you do have a girlfriend, one who lives with you no less, that should come with a guarantee!”

“Doesn’t exactly work that way, mate. I mean, I know it’s been a while since you’ve been in a serious committed relationship, but when they’re mad at you for working too much, you usually don’t get to reap in the benefits of having a live in girlfriend. Anyway, I’d really rather not talk about me as that’s rehashing a lot of memories that I’d rather not revisit; what’s going on with you?”

“Well, you see, I’m having a hard time deciding where I go from here,” he told him as he took a large gulp of his fire whiskey.

Neville gave him a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

“I guess I’d just hoped that when she came back everything would be back to how it was before, only this time she’d magically fall in love with me,” he stated simply, not even bothering to pretend to be abashed by the absurdity of the theory.

“I’ve got news for you mate: that kind of magic just doesn’t exist.”

“Yeah, slowly starting to realize that one as well,” he told him with a small smile.

“So then I guess it comes down to one question.”

“Yeah, and what’s that?” Harry asked curiously.

“Do you want to take the risk?”

He groaned; he really should have expected that one. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone, Nev.”

Neville let out a deep sigh, setting down him drink as he leaned foreword in his chair, scrutinizing Harry all the while. “I have my reservations about it-”

Harry nodded solemnly, looking down at his drink in an attempt to avoid watching Neville inspect him. “I know.”

“But you say you love her, and I want you both to be happy; so whatever you need, I’m here for you, mate.”

Harry smiled up at him. “What’s the next step then?”

“Wait, just get to know her again, you two are different people now, you know that as well as I do, Harry.”

“You know, you understand women far too well.”

Neville snorted. “Please, how else could I handle Lavender?”

Harry chuckled. “Come on; you and I have to go plan something bloody romantic that’ll get you back in her bed.”

“Oh thank God because I’m at a total loss here, feels like I’ve already done everything else all those other times she got mad at me…”

--

author’s note: not sure how well I pulled off this chap so I’m open to any comments lol.

Chapter 12: finding what was there all along
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Chapter XII: finding what was there all along

--

If people are truly, madly, deeply in love with each other, they will find a way.”

-Anonymous

--

“So, Hermione, I was hoping to ask you something,” Luna nervously approached her at the first of seven engagement parties that people had planned for her—needless to say, there was a lot of miscommunication between the various parties when they had learned of the upcoming nuptials.

“Sure, is anything wrong?” Hermione asked her with a concerned frown as Luna led her to a secluded corner of Grimmauld Place’s ballroom, where Harry was throwing the fest.

“I was—well, I was hoping you’d do me a favor…” she stumbled slightly, taking Hermione off guard as she had only ever been acquainted with the serene, amusing Luna who never had a care in the world.

“Whatever it is, Luna, I’m here for you, no matter what,” Hermione assured her, panicking slightly.

“I—I was hoping you’d be my maid of honor,” she meekly told her, biting her lip slightly as a faint blush traveled across her face.

Hermione’s jaw went slightly slack at the news; she stood there in a state of sheer, uncharacteristic, oblivion for what felt like hours before finally uttering the words that had been running through her mind repeatedly. “Why me?”

“Well—um, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t have all that many really close mates—but you… I don’t know, there’s something about you that I’ve always liked… respected. And you did, technically, get Ron and me together when you set us up on that blind date…”

Hermione smiled widely, before pulling the girl into a tight embrace. “I’d love to, Luna; I just don’t know why you’d ever want me of all people.”

“We may not have spent as much time together as I’d like, but I don’t know—I think there’s something… it’s as if the starwurst fairies are guiding us to one another, bringing us together as mates.”

“I—I have no idea what that is, but I have a feeling I’ll like learning about them,” Hermione told her with an amused smile.

--

“Wotcher Harry,” she surprised him by taking a seat by him on the couch. “You really never were one for parties, were you?”

“Well I like the talking to my mates part—just not all the other people who I don’t know, especially when they start talking to me out of nowhere,” he sheepishly admitted.

Nice, so guess what!” she told him, a gleeful smile overtaking her face.

“What?” he asked her with a grin.

“You’re looking at the new maid of honor!” she told him, hugging him in her state of excitement.

“Bloody hell!”

Hermione nodded elatedly. “Yeah, she asked me half an hour ago!”

“Well, you know what they say about the maid of honor and best man, don’t you?” he asked her, wagging his eyebrows for emphasis.

“Nice, Harry, very gentleman like of you,” she told him with a grin, ruffling his hair teasingly. “Now come on, let’s dance!”

“Hermione,” he whined petulantly, stiffly sitting on the couch as she tried to pull him off of it. “You know I hate dancing.”

“Come on Harry, how many times do you have a chance to dance with someone as brilliant as me?” she asked with a wink.

He rolled his eyes as he got up. “Lead the way then.”

“Told you she had him wrapped around her little finger,” Neville whispered to Luna as the two watched Hermione drag Harry onto the dance floor, teaching the poor bloke how to maintain some sort of a rhythm.

“I think it’s adorable,” Luna giggled.

Chapter 13: finding out
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Chapter XIII: finding out

--

If love is such a ‘pure’ thing, then why do we all have to go through hell to find it?”

-Anonymous

--

“Do you remember the last time we were here?” she asked him as they sat in the restaurant, each enjoying a plate of fish and chips.

“Yeah,” he told her with a smile. “You went on your little tirade about how fish and chips are the perfect, quintessential English dish—bloody hell you went on about that for twenty minutes, I must admit, though, it truly was most impressive.”

She let out a loud laugh. “Well it’s true, I firmly stand by that statement… you know, I totally forgot about that…”

“Then what were you referring to?” he asked her curiously, as he popped another chip into his mouth.

“That was the day you told me you were in love with Ginny… and could actually see yourself marrying her one day.”

He winced at the memory, letting out a pained groan as he dramatically threw his head into his hands. “Bloody hell, you remember that?”

“Of course I do, Harry, now I’d like to have that cleared up for me, please, because I don’t quite understand how you can go from that to breaking up with her a mere four months later…”

“What even brought this on?” he moaned.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, her eyebrows furrowing, and he could just imagine her trying to piece the puzzle together in her head. “I was passing by here a few days ago and suddenly I just remembered that conversation… then I thought about how you never really explained why you did it—so I just let it go since I figured it might be too soon to talk about it or something, but you just left it at that, never told me why you did it… and then, well here we are…” she told him as she toyed with her drink, twirling the straw in her soda.

Harry shrugged.

“Bloody hell, Harry, stop shrugging! I’m so tired of that reaction from you, it’s annoying when you evade questions like that!” she chastised him, resisting the urge to slap the bastard.

He smirked at her. “Some things really never change, you know that?”

She chuckled slightly as she bit her lip shyly. “Don’t avoid the question Harry, it’s time for a walk down memory lane—a long overdue one.”

He sighed in defeat, no use avoiding it any longer unless he wanted to have the bullocks hexed out of him. “I don’t know… it just didn’t feel right anymore.”

“Well that was definitely worth the three year wait, I mean, wow,” she sarcastically quipped, rolling her eyes at his response as she huffily crossed her arms over her chest.

“Calm down, Hermione, I’ll explain, I promise.”

She smiled slightly at the reassurance, her tense body quickly relaxing. “Well go on then, I’m waiting.”

“It just felt as if—when we were young she was perfect for me, she was everything that I could have ever hoped for in a girl, but the problem was—well, we grew up.”

“And? You two were like an institution.”

“So were you and Ron,” he retorted with a smirk.

“Oh please, people made us out to be some great love story—it was mainly a ton of arguments and some raunchy make ups here and there, that was pretty much the extent of it, a healthy sex life.”

Harry didn’t know what to say that, he wasn’t sure whether to feel pained at the mention of her ex—and, more importantly, their sex life—or amused at her rather simple depiction of her former relationship with their best friend.

“You and Ginny—well let’s put it this way, neither Ron or I ever expected to marry one another, it was just one of those necessary relationships that helped us grow as people, we knew that. You and Ginny, however, you two expected to be forever.”

He shrugged. “I changed, she didn’t. I was no longer the boy that just wanted a fun time and a distraction, and she—she was still the little girl that would always be partially in love with the idea of being with the savior of the wizarding world.”

She visibly winced at that last mention. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

He shrugged, again, only that time it didn’t bother her as much, much to her surprise, as well as his. “You have nothing to be sorry for; it was what it was—like you said, a nice learning experience.”

She let out a small snort. “Using my words against me then, huh Harry?”

“Well you are the brains in this little trio of ours, I figure if I borrow from you I may finally learn a thing or two,” he told her with a smirk.

“Good on you.”

--

“So can you believe it? I mean, our little Ronald is actually getting married,” she grinned as she playfully pinched Ron’s cheek, well aware of how much the action would annoy him.

“You’re bloody annoying, you know that, Hermione?”

She beamed up at him. “I’m just teasing you; this is a monumental occasion—who would have thought that you of all people would be the first one of us to get married.”

He stared at her dumbly for a second before cocking his head to side as he eyed her wearily. “I don’t know whether to feel offended or not…”

Harry grinned as he patted Ron on the back. “It’s part of her talent mate, twisting it so we don’t see the underlying innuendo behind her words.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ‘brilliant, but scary as hell.’”

“Oi!” Hermione complained, trying to hide the smile that was tugging on her lips.

“Do you deny it?” Harry asked her, cocking an eyebrow at her as the waiter set their drink in front of them.

“Well, you know-”

“Don’t even try, Hermione, you know it as well as we do. Anyway, it’s how you kept us in line all throughout Hogwarts,” Ron told her.

“Okay, so I may be a bit bossy at time.”

“Well at least she finally admitted to it, almost makes up for the hell she put us through all of those years,” Harry quipped.

Hermione gasped. “Oh shush you.”

“And now it’s back,” Harry noted with a teasing smile.

“So anyway, reason why I called for this little get together is I wanted to talk about the hen party-”

“Ron!”

He, however, totally disregarded the undeniable warning in her tone as she said his name. “I was hoping to go over the do's and don’ts for this whole affair.”

“Forget it, Ron, I’m planning it however I want to—I know Harry and there is no way my party can be any worse than his stag night.”

“Oi!”

She turned to him, smiling as she raised an eyebrow at him challengingly. “Do you deny it?”

Harry paused for a second, frowning as he grumbled “no.”

“So wait… does that mean I really have no say?” Ron asked with a disgruntled look.

“Listen, I’ll make sure nothing happens to her, Ron, but I’m not going to stop her from having fun, I intend on being the best maid of honor I can be, and that includes planning one stupendously amazing hen party.”

Ron frowned, visibly deflating upon that tirade. “There’s no changing your mind about this, is there?”

“Not a chance.”

Chapter 14: finding answers
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Chapter XIV: finding answers

--

You won't ever be happier until you find that special place where you belong…”

-Anonymous

--

“so I’m shocked to see that you’ve actually found a way to make some time for me, especially seeing as lately all of your attention has gone to a little know-it-all Gryffindor that we all love,” Neville teased him as the pair sat at the Three Broomsticks, enjoying drinks on a Hogsmeade weekend.

“Well there was also wedding stuff and work, give me some credit mate-”

“Okay, first of all, the wedding stuff is with Hermione. And, second of all, you asked for desk duty for this month since Hermione was back and you didn’t want to be dragged into a mission—I recall your exact words were ‘need to make sure all of my attention is on my best girl’—or, you know, something along those lines,” Neville commented with a smirk.

“Don’t get jealous just because she’s prettier than you, Nev, after all, green never was a good color on you.”

Neville shuddered slightly at the thought. “Bloody hell, imagine me in Slytherine during our time, Malfoy would have skinned me alive.”

Harry chuckled as he was unable to deny the truth behind that statement, particularly when an image of a younger Neville flashed through his mind.

“So how are things with Lav going?”

“Exceedingly well, she’s let me back into the bedroom so all is well with the world.”

“For now,” Harry quipped with a small snort.

“Sadly, I can’t deny that one,” Neville sheepishly admitted. “So, seriously, how are things fairing on the Hermione front?”

“It’s going well, we’re getting back to where we used to be and that’s really the most important thing for us now. We spent a lot of time apart, and I don’t know—I’m kind of enjoying reacquainting myself with her. She’s always been fun to be with.”

Neville nodded quietly in understanding. They sat in silence, each drinking their whiskeys as they watched the Hogwarts students pass through the establishment, breaking out into whispers whenever they noticed their professor’s company.

“Okay, so what is it that you’re dying to say?” Harry finally blurted out, effectively interrupting the silence. “There’s something that’s bothering you, so out with it mate.”

“Well—okay, when I say this you have to promise not to be offended… it was just something that I was thinking about a few nights back,” Neville rambled nervously.

“What is it, Nev?”

“Have you ever wondered what would have happened had Ron not been getting married?” Neville quickly asked before taking a large sip of his drink, primarily to avoid looking at Harry.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, utterly baffled by whatever he was insinuating.

Neville sighed, he had really hoped that he wouldn’t have to go into detail on that. “Okay… well what would have happened between you and Hermione had there not been a wedding? Where would she be right now?”

--

He knocked on the door to her hotel room only to be met with the sight of a Hermione dressed casually in a football jersey and shorts, tilting her head at him questioningly, silently asking him why the hell he was there.

“Can I ask you something?” he asked her as he nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“Sure, Harry,” she told him with a wide smile as she let him in—hoping that his nerves would calm after they spoke about whatever it was that was bothering him at the moment. “So what is it that you needed to talk about?” she asked him, taking a seat on the couch of the common room area as she watched him pace the room.

“You have to promise to be honest with me—regardless of whatever your answer may be… regardless of whether or not it’ll hurt my feelings.”

She nodded slowly, almost hesitantly, as she said “I’ve never lied to you before, don’t plan on starting now.”

He stopped for a moment, a small smile tugging on his lips as his expression considerably softened at hearing her reassuring words. He let out a deep breath as he walked over to her, kneeling in front of her so that he could look her straight in the eyes as he asked “had it not been for Ron’s wedding would you have come back?”

He noted how she stiffened slightly at the question, sucking in a deep breath of surprise at hearing his words. “I—I don’t know.”

His eyes darkened as he stiffly asked “you don’t know?”

She shook her head weakly as she gave her choked response. “I just don’t know…”

“So this, all of this—us, we’re not enough, are we?” he asked her coldly, revolted by the fact that seeing her flinch gave him some sort of a twisted sense of satisfaction because he was able to hurt her as she had him.

“No, Harry,” she exclaimed as she jumped out of her seat, running after him as he made his way towards the door. “Don’t walk away; just hear me out, will you? Please!”

He stiffly turned to her, jaw clenched as he held a death grip on the knob. “What is it that you need to say now?”

“It’s just—I’m a selfish bitch, Harry, one who’s only thought of herself for these past three years Harry. But I don’t—I don’t want to be that person anymore, I hate that girl.”

“Then don’t be her,” he muttered gruffly.

“And I won’t,” she let out a sigh as she nervously toyed with the hem of her shirt. “I put in for a transfer today—that’s why I couldn’t have lunch with you and Neville. A while back I started organizing this separate branch for healers without borders where we’d have the patients transported to institutions where healers could do pro bono work since they’re not affiliated with us, we were hoping it’s help us branch out and be able to help more people. I… today I decided to take the position heading it here, in England,” she rambled on nervously.

His face showed absolutely no reaction to her confession as he continued to tensely stare at her, but she noticed how his vice grip on the door knob loosened. Smiling at the small, but significant change she said “I left once, but I can’t do it again. You and Ron… and Luna, you’re all a part of me. I didn’t see it before, but life without you three, it’s just not worth all that much. I was a blind and selfish idiot before, it was one thing to leave, but going away for three years without coming back, it’s just wrong. Is there any way you’ll forgive me—really forgive me?”

He smiled slightly, despite himself, as he let go of the knob, shocking her by suddenly pulling her into a tight embrace, whispering into her hair “who can forgive you if those that love you most can’t, right?”

She beamed up at him as tears streamed down her face. “Thank you.”

Chapter 15: finding more
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Chapter XV: finding more

--

You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not find out who you are, seek to determine who you want to be.”

-Anonymous

--

“So you’re staying?” Ron incredulously asked her for the fifth time since she had “officially” announced it to him, Luna, and Harry at the three broomsticks, where they had met up for an impromptu lunch that was called to order by Hermione.

“Yeah,” Hermione told him with a shy smile as she nervously bit her lip.

“Oh I just knew that something like this would happen, the starwurst fairies always play with fate like this!” Luna happily exclaimed as she pulled Hermione, who was sitting to her left, into a one crushing embrace.

“I think you may have really been onto something with that one,” Hermione told her with a laugh.

“Starwurst fairies?” Harry asked with a quizzical look.

“Protectors of all platonic bonds,” Hermione told him with an amused smile.

“You remembered,” Luna commented with a surprised beam.

“Naturally—after all, the bride’s always right,” Hermione told her with a teasing wink.

“But bloody hell, Hermione,” Ron exclaimed, still in a state of shock. “You’re back—you’re really back then?”

“I do believe that that’s what I just said,” she teased him.

“This is great Hermione, really… I—we’ve missed you.”

“Ron, you look like you’re about to cry with how you’re going on like that, please, don’t pull a Hagrid on me!”

He grinned at her. “You’re mean, you know that, right?”

“But you love me for it anyway.”

He laughed, rolling his eyes as she batted her eyelashes obnoxiously at him. “Well I’d love to hear you go on about how amazing you are, but I’m afraid that Luna and I have a cake tasting session to attend to—one that I’d really prefer not to miss.”

“It’s one of the few things that he actually enjoys doing for our wedding,” Luna told them as the couple got up and Ron helped her into her coat.

“Well what else is there to enjoy?” he muttered moodily as he thought back on all the hellish tasks he’d been coerced into doing for the damn affair.

“Too true mate, too true,” Harry sympathetically nodded in agreement.

Hermione let out a deep sigh after Ron and Luna had left. “And then there were two.”

“Yeah, seems to be like that a lot recently, doesn’t it?”

“Eh, I guess we can’t really blame them, I mean they’re trying to plan a wedding with over a hundred guests in just two months, but still-”

“You miss having an entire afternoon with them?” Harry asked her with a knowing smile as he relaxed his arm on the back of her chair.

“Exactly, that makes me sound so selfish, doesn’t it?”

Harry shrugged. “We all have our faults.”

“But I was going for perfection Harry!” she told him with an exasperated sigh. “God, I thought you knew me better than that, even Malfoy knows that fact!”

Harry chuckled at her outburst. “You know what I just realized?”

“What?” Hermione asked as she settled into his chest.

“We never really celebrated the fact that you’re moving back here. Last night when you told me—we never really got the chance to revel in it…”

“And?”

“And lets do it tonight; I want to make up for it.”

She chuckled softly. “There’s nothing to make up for, Harry.”

“Woman, just let me do this, will you?”

Hermione gasped as she gave him a scandalized look. “You did not just call me woman!”

He grinned. “'Fraid so love.”

“Well I never!-”

“So I’ll pick you up at eight then.”

She sighed, “Fine.”

--

“Please don’t tell me that this is where you take all of your dates?” she begged with a distinct undertone of distaste when the maitre d’ of the muggle establishment immediately recognized Harry upon their entrance before leading them to Harry’s table.

Harry chuckled, placing her hand on the small of her back as the two followed the maitre d’. “I highly doubt that a place that’s famous for it’s ice cream, that’s also the size of your head, is the type of restaurant that my dates would ever be particularly interested in going to,” he assured her as he pulled out her chair for her when they arrived at their place in a secluded corner of the restaurant.

Hermione visibly brightened at the mention of ice cream, gleefully asking him “ice cream?!”

“I thought you’d enjoy it,” he told her with a shrug.

“You know me far too well, Harry.”

He grinned as he handed her one of the menus on the table. “Very glad to hear it, now pick what real food you want to eat first seeing as I can’t have you spoiling your appetite.”

“Was that supposed to be an imitation of me?” she suspiciously asked him, cocking an eyebrow at him.

“Admit it Hermione, you were a bit of a mother hen when we were younger.”

She grimaced slightly before letting out a small laugh. “Those were the days.”

“Now here we are old and all we have left is the memories, and soon even those will be gone.”

She giggled. “What can you do anyway?”

--

“So I had a lot of fun tonight—surprisingly enough,” she told him as he walked her to the door of her hotel room.

“Why don’t you move in with me?” he suddenly asked her as they stood in front of the door.

She looked at him, sending him a quizzical look. “Pardon me?”

He sighed; he had really hoped to be a bit more suave when he finally made the offer that had been on the tip of his tongue for so long. “Move in with me, I live in Grimmauld Place and that manor is far too large for just me—you and I both know that, you mock me for it constantly, so help me rectify that little dilemma.”

“Harry-”

“Just… think about it Hermione, I doubt we’d have any problems, and it’s better than you staying at a hotel until you can find a place.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

“Great, night Granger,” he told her as he kissed her forehead before leaving her standing at the door—frozen, speechless.

Chapter 16: finding home
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Chapter XVI: finding home

--

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw

--

“So… I was thinking,” he suddenly heard a voice announce; drawing his attention from the research he had been so focused on.

“Hermione, what are you doing here?”

“Am I not welcome?” she asked, raising an accusing eyebrow.

“No, it’s not that, but—well, what are you doing here?”

“Didn’t I just tell you ‘I was thinking?’ honestly, Harry, you’re an Auror now, you have to learn to pay more attention to the little things—details,” she rolled her eyes as she took a seat across from him.

He smirked slightly. “So what were you thinking about?”

“I don’t want to impose,” she blurted out seriously, leaving behind her teasing tone that their conversation had just had as she confessed.

“What are you—oh, bloody hell, Hermione! Why are you so stubborn? It’s Grimmauld Place for Christ’s sake, the manor’s far too large for just me; I told you I could use the company anyway.”

“But-”

“You shouldn’t be in a hotel, Hermione, I get that you needed to stay there before because you didn’t want to get settled and get too attached so I let it go, but-”

Hermione stiffened, interrupting him to ask “how’d you know that?”

A smile tugged on his lips slightly. “We’re best mates for a reason, and that’s also why you’re staying with me, whether you like it or not.”

“Fine, but only until I find my own place.”

“Okay,” he nodded, “I’ll settle for that.”

“Good,” she nodded, “because that’s my final offer.”

“it’s over, Granger, I won, don’t try to make it seem as if you’re in control—let me at least revel in one of the few moments in which I beat you.”

Hermione scoffed as she got up from the chair. “One thing that you’re going to have to learn about me, Harry, is that I’m always right,” she told him with a wink. “I’ll leave you to your work, I have some of my own to take care of anyway—oh, and nice office you have here…”

--

“I can’t believe that this is all you have,” Harry exclaimed as the he helped Hermione settle into one of the rooms at Grimmauld Place that evening.

“Well what more was I supposed to have, I didn’t exactly go partying every night. My basic attire for work everyday consisted of just some jeans and a t-shirt, I told you I have to go shopping.”

“Just don’t expect me to help you with that,” he told her with a grin as he took a seat on the bed, watching her place all of her clothes into the drawers.

“Well I am going to need someone to carry the bags,” she tactfully told him, back strategically turned to him as she spoke so that he wouldn’t see her grin.

“Not happening.”

“You know, it’s nice how naïve you can be sometimes, Harry,” she told him with a smile as she turned around to face him.

“And why do you say that?” he suspiciously asked her.

“Because, let’s be serious, you and Ron are far too scared of me to ever deny me anything.”

“Well—okay, I’ll admit that I am a bit terrified of you at times, especially given all of those times you’ve hexed us-”

“Oi, you deserved it!”

“Never denied it, love,” he told her with a charming smile. “But it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve always been a bit violent.”

“So then how about you protect yourself by going shopping with me?”

He let out a frustrated sigh as he ran a hand through his hair. “It’s just clothes, right?”

“Well…”

“Hermione!”

“So I may want to pick up a few books,” she sheepishly admitted.

“The Ron definition of a few or a library full version of ‘a few’?”

She merely smiled at him. “I think we should leave tomorrow at about ten so we can get that all done and then work on Ron and Luna’s parties,” she told him before leaving the room.

“Hermione, you didn’t answer my question!” he, pointlessly and rather desperately, called after her.

Chapter 17: finding that some things never change
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Chapter XVII: finding that some things never change

--

Sometimes I find it’s easy to be myself, sometimes I find it’s better to be someone else.”

-Anonymous

--

“Hum,” she smiled as she looked at one of the books she was putting away on the newly purchased, huge, bookcase she had bought for her room at Grimmauld Place. “Hey, Harry?”

“Yeah?” he asked distractedly as he tried arranging the books alphabetically on the floor so Hermione could put them away—all the while trying to dispel the annoying voice in his head that was constantly repeating the distinct sound of a whip crackling, constantly mocking him, much to his distaste.

“Did you buy this?” she asked him, pulling out a copy of Being Nice for Dummies.

He smirked as he got up and took the book from her, leafing through its pages as he spoke. “Well I thought you could do with a lesson in it given that you dragged me through five different book stores and had me carrying all of them-”

“Oh don’t be such a baby, it wasn’t that much!”

“I had to come back to drop the books off after each visit, have you any idea how annoying that was?”

She rolled her eyes, playfully nudging him. “It’s all part of being nice, Harry!”

He chuckled. “Using my words against me now are we, Granger?”

“It’s all part of my charm, how I can twist things against you.”

“You call it charm; others call it evil genius behind the pretty veneer.”

“Aw, you think I’m pretty,” she grinned.

“You are pretty irresistible Granger,” he told her with a flirtatious wink before picking a book off of the floor and telling her “you may want to give this one a look through as well, by the way.”

She let out an amused scoff upon reading the title, The Beauty of Keeping Your Mouth Shut, just as she was about to retort she raised her head to see that Harry had already left the room—surely protecting himself from any serious bodily harm.

--

“So how’d the meeting with Franklin go?” Ron asked Hermione, arm slung around her shoulders as they walked slightly ahead of Luna and Harry, as he led her towards the church that he and Luna were considering holding the wedding at.

“He’s a prick,” Hermione muttered, scrunching her face in distinct distaste.

Ron grinned. “He asked you out, didn’t he?”

Her eyes widened in surprise as she pouted slightly as she asked “how’d you know?”

“Well Franklin has quite the reputation, and you’ve been looking rather attractive as of late… you know, not to say that you weren’t before, the humanitarian look just does you well, is all,” he told her with a suggestive, over-exaggerated wink, as he was desperate for some salvation after surely digging himself into a hole with that tirade.

“Oi, what are you two talking about?” Harry asked as he and Luna caught up to the pair.

“Yeah, we feel rather left out, you two acting all secretive like that about something can’t be good for us,” Luna grinned.

“Hermione here was just telling me about how Franklin—you know Jake, that healer that transferred to St. Mungo's from Switzerland—well he asked her out,” Ron announced with a jovial grin, totally oblivious as to what a grave error he had just made.

Harry’s smile faltered for a second, but Hermione, who had her head timidly buried in Ron’s neck because of all the attention that was on her, failed to see it.

“So what did you say?” Luna asked curiously.

“Well no, of course. I mean the man is a bloody man whore, shags every girl in sight. How the hell am I expected to date that? uUnlike some, I have a very rational fear of STI's!” she exclaimed, totally oblivious to how, while she was ranting, Harry had stopped dead in his tracks, Luna had placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, or the silent—pleading—looks Ron was giving her to just shut up already. “Honestly, he’s the scum of the earth!”

Ron nudged her, mumbling the words “verbal diarrhea” in her ear, praying that she would finally get the message through her thick head.

Hermione stopped in shock, eyes widening as she realized just what she had said. She turned around immediately, looking at Harry with worried eyes as she desperately, pleadingly said “oh my God, Harry, I’m so sorry! That did not come off as I had intended it to!”

He eyed her warily, his eyes betraying him, however, as they softened at her words. “You sure about that?”

“I don’t think that you’re the scum of the earth, at least,” she admitted with a shy smile as she bit her lip nervously.

He rolled his eyes slightly. “You’re far too charming for your own good, Granger, you know that?”

She smiled brightly at him before pulling him into a tight embrace. “Thank you!”

“Bloody hell this argument was no where near amusing enough to watch to justify the fact that we’re late for the meeting with the priest!” Ron exclaimed, grabbing Hermione’s arm, tearing her from Harry, as he hurriedly walked towards the church that was two blocks away. All the while he was muttering, in vexation, “You take Harry, love, seems like I can only trust you!”

Harry chuckled slightly as he watched Ron practically run towards their destination. “And he claims not to be that into the wedding preparations.”

Luna smiled as she took Harry’s extended arm and followed the pair. “Is it really as okay as you said it was?”

“It hurts… but you have to respect the fact that she’s honest, right?”

She smiled at him knowingly. “You sure that’s it?”

“Yeah,” he said, eyeing her curiously all the while. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I know how much it can hurt when something like that comes from someone that you’re in love with,” she told him with a meaningful look before tearing her arm from his and speeding after Ron who was opening the door to the church.

Harry, however, was left rooted in his place, in shock, for the second time that day.

Chapter 18: finding solace
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Chapter XVIII: finding solace

--

Love is like energy. It can never be created nor destroyed...it is just always there. You just have to realize that fact and you have to learn that as soon as you stopped loving him in the way you did that love left to somewhere else. Now all you have to do is find out where that love went. That love went to whoever the next person in your life will be. That next person could be one of your friends or someone you might dislike; you just have to find that out.” Ian Philpot
--

“Harry?” he heard a quiet, almost timid, voice call out to him.

“Hermione? What are you doing in here?” he asked, sitting up in his bed in alarm.

“Can I stay with you tonight? Thunderstorms aren’t really my forte,” she informed him as she stood awkwardly before the bed, nervously shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

He nodded his head, regardless of the fact that she couldn’t really see much more than the general outline of his body in the dark of the room. “Come on in, love.”

“Thank you,” she cheerfully chirped as she hoped into his bad, quickly getting under the covers and hugging him.

He cocked an eyebrow. “Are you sure there’s no ulterior motive here?”

She laughed lightly. “When I was traveling around Africa from clinic to clinic there was one thing that never changed, the thunderstorms,” she quietly admitted. “They weren’t that often, but when they came… it was horrible. The kids were already so sick—most already in a state of hysteria, paranoia, and deliria… When it rained like this they were so scared, so afraid of what it could be and the symptoms of their illnesses didn’t help ease their minds much. It was terrible to watch, Harry, broke my heart, especially when I realized that there was nothing I could do about it…” her voice died out as she brought herself closer to him, tightening her hold on him.

They laid in silence, Harry soothingly rubbing circles in her arm in hopes of calming her nerves, and Hermione staring out the large window in his bedroom, watching the sky crackle with exceptional fervor.

“I’m proud of you, you know that, right?”

He could feel the smile on her face as she rested her head on his chest, merely saying a thank you in response, but her body considerably relaxed at hearing that confession.

--

“So how long have you had a thing for Hermione?” Ron asked as the two sat in the green leprechaun, each cradling a butterbeer float—an invention courtesy of Hermione, one that, albeit rather disgusting, had ice cream in it and had become a quick favorite among the trio.

Harry’s head, which had been resting on the table after a particularly strenuous day at work, shot up in surprise. “How’d you find out?”

“Come on mate, it’s pretty obvious.”

Harry raised a questioning eyebrow at him.

“Okay so it was obvious after Luna pointed it out to me,” Ron snappishly admitted, rather insulted by the fact that it was apparently so obvious. He rolled his eyes as he muttered something under his breath, but given his foul mood to have been found out Harry highly doubted that he really wanted to know what it was that Ron had to say given the red head’s infamous potty mouth.

Harry chuckled. “When did she tell you anyway?”

“A week ago, so that leaves a question that begs to be answered: how long have you felt that way about her and why the bloody hell didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“I take it we’re going for the blunt approach this evening then,” Harry dryly commented.

“Well it seems to be what’s lacking in our friendship as of late,” Ron quipped.

“Two years and counting—that’s how long I’ve been in love with her.”

Ron’s eyes widened at the admission. “Bloody hell.”

Harry nodded solemnly. “Yep.”

“So, just to clear things up, why haven’t you told the person that’s ‘supposedly’ your best mate?”

Harry shrugged. “It was weird, I mean with you… you’ve dated her. I wasn’t sure if I could take having to get advice on her from an ex of hers… that’s just too weird, I’ve already dated your sister… don’t want things to become even more incestuous than they already appear to be.”

Ron cracked a smile despite himself at hearing that rather unorthodox explanation. “Okay, I’ll give you that one given that I can tend to be a bit importunate when I choose to say certain things. But, seriously, from now on talk to me—I’ll even promise not to make any comments on Hermione and my experience dating her, yeah?”

“Get me another one of these and you’re on,” Harry told him with a grin.

“Oi, there you are, we’ve been looking everywhere for you two,” Fred exclaimed as he walked into the pub with George, Luna, and Hermione—all of whom had been working on helping Luna find the perfect wedding gift for Ron, a fact that she had found herself unable to hide from him.

“We’ve only gone to two pubs in search of them,” Hermione laughed, defending her best mates as she seated herself by Harry. “Hello Ron,” she greeted him as he returned with a drink for Harry and himself.

“Hello loves,” he smiled at the pair, ignoring his brothers, as he kissed Luna and pecked Hermione on the cheek before pulling his fiancée onto his lap.

“Bloody hell, what are we, invisible?” Fred asked George.

“I think so, it seems that the women have struck again and stolen our mate from us,” George responded with a sympathetic nod.

“I’m your mate?” Ron asked excitedly.

“We were referring to Harry,” Fred told him in a deadpanned voice.

Hermione, who had just stolen Harry’s drink and was sipping it, choked on the drink as she laughed.

“Hey, when did you find time to steal my drink in the short time that Ron returned with it?” Harry asked, making a move to retrieve his drink only to have his attempt thwarted by Hermione, who pulled it back immediately.

“You were going to offer it to me anyway,” she informed him with a smile.

“Since when?”

“Since I pray you have some sense of chivalry,” she teased him.

Harry, however, didn’t say anything in response, merely pushed the forgotten drink towards her.

Fred groaned. “Now that’s pathetic.”

George nodded in agreement. “He’s whipped.”

“Well who wouldn’t be scared of Hermione?” Ron interrupted, sending a conspicuous wink towards Harry after asking his brothers.

Hermione, by some divine miracle that was totally beyond him, failed to notice what was going on as she and Luna were entranced by the dresses in the latest bridal magazine Luna had purchased.

At seeing who Harry’s frightened eyes were trained on Hermione, Fred turned to Ron. “Seriously, little brother, you may want to consider trying to be a bit more inconspicuous as you truly suck at this.”

--

Chapter 19: finding the infamous Gryffindor courage
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Chapter IXX: finding the infamous Gryffindor courage

--

You won't ever be happier...until you find that special place where you belong...”
-Anonymous

--

“I like this,” Hermione shyly admitted as they sat on the balcony connected to the library, slowly drinking their coffees and eating their breakfasts.

Harry nodded mutely, staring out onto the garden behind the manor.

“What’s with you, you’re never this quiet… well, okay, that’s not true, but you’re still not one for meditation in the morning, not when you’re fully awake and gearing up to start a new day,” Hermione rambled on as she tore off a piece of her croissant and smeared Nutella on it before popping the piece into her mouth.

He let out a small, breathy laugh. “Just thinking.”

“About the meaning of life?” she teased him with a grin.

He nodded. “Something along those lines.”

“Any answers on that front?”

He shook his head, sadly. “None as of yet, I’m afraid.”

Ah,” she said.

“Yeah…” he sighed.

They sat in silence for a while, each left to their own thoughts—or forced to since they had nothing better to do, as was Hermione’s case—and enjoying the novelty behind the unusually perfect weather that day.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” she asked, effectively ending the interlude.

He shrugged, much to her annoyance. “Nothing.”

She cocked her head to the side, her eyebrows furrowing as she sent him a perplexed look. He could almost see the wheels in her head turning as she desperately tried to analyze him—rationalize his actions and unusual behavior. “What is it Harry?… come on, please, talk to me.”

He turned to look at her. “Nine months ago today I made a promise to myself… I told myself I’d have her.”

He could see she wanted to say something, but she wouldn’t—she respected him enough to let him do it at his own pace.

“I’m not getting anywhere in that respect, to tell you the truth,” he told her before turning his face from her, breaking away from her.

“Who is she, Harry?”

He let out a deep sigh. “You have Nutella on the corner of your lip,” he told her in a strained voice that she was totally oblivious to as she quickly wiped off the chocolate from her face before licking it off her finger. And as he got up, leaving her alone on the balcony, he realized that—for the life of him—he couldn’t deicide whether it was a blessing or a curse that she was so ignorant to her effect on him.

--

“I’m sorry about this morning,” Harry announced as he took a seat by Hermione on the couch where she was getting her daily fix of celebrity news—a dirty little secret love affair of hers that he’d only recently discovered.

She smiled as she turned the TV on mute. “It’s okay, I understand, I really do.”

“I was hoping I could make it up to you-”

“Oh, Harry, you don’t need to. Really, you don’t,” she told him earnestly as she squeezed his arm lightly to assure him of the fact.

He grinned. “That doesn’t matter; all that does is that I want to.”

“So when will this illicit little date of ours be taking place then?”

“Illicit?”

“Well honestly, Harry, don’t you think at all? If we’re leaving Ron out of it I doubt we should tell him, you know how jealous he gets,” she told him with a teasing tone as she sent him a conspiratorial wink.

He chuckled. “Of course, how could I be so blind?—so I think I’ll pick you up at your bedroom door tomorrow at eight.”

“Well then see you in front of my door then, but right now, let’s learn about Patrick Swayze and that cancer of his,” she told him with a smile as she turned the TV’s volume up as she snuggled into Harry’s chest, resting her head in the crook of his neck as she watched the program.

Chapter 20: finding God
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Chapter XX: finding God

--

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Pedro Arrupe

--

“I just can’t believe that the wedding is a mere week away, it makes it all the more real!” Hermione gleefully told him as the two sat, eating their dinner, in the traditional Greek restaurant Harry had chosen for their “date”.

“Yeah,” he said with a nervous laugh, his hands shaking slightly as he kept them under the table as he impatiently waited for the food so he could focus his attention on anything other than her.

“Harry, are you okay?” she asked him worriedly as she watched him take a large gulp of his fire whiskey, his third completed drink in the past half hour—a fact that she found extremely unsettling. “You’ve been drinking like a fish and you seriously look like you’re about to drop that glass or something—what’s wrong with you? Why are you so on edge this evening?”

Harry silently cursed his abnormal lack of charisma and allure that evening. It was supposed to be the night, his night, but he seemed to be acting like some blubbering fool who had no sense of charm or any appeal whatsoever—bloody hell, he felt like that scrawny little twerp who had made his first kiss cry.

Fuck.

The worst part, however, was that it wasn’t just any girl. He actually did care—which, ironically enough, was also why he seemingly lacked any sense of coordination or that “je ne sais quoi,” and all that other shit that the birds seemed to go crazy for.

He wanted her—he needed her, and, most importantly of all, if he screwed it up that evening he’d officially be out of chances. She’d find a real knight in shining armor and finally realize that he was just a poser who only ever achieved as much as he had because of her.

He just couldn’t—wouldn’t imagine life without that annoying huffy voice that constantly reprimanded him, supported him, gave him hope. He had to be the one to have it—that studious girl that he was sure had a wild streak behind the good girl image. The loyal, the smarmy, the sometimes bitchy girl—he just had to have her.

The only question was how the bloody hell he’d go about actually achieving that illusive goal of his.

“I think you and I should shag!” he exclaimed suddenly, causing Hermione to choke on her drink slightly—and he silently thanked God that he hadn’t done the inevitable, by blurting out his feelings, while she was eating because than he’d be stuck with the added dilemma of having to do the Heimlich maneuver.

She gaped at him, as she did that weird squinty thing with her eyes that she did whenever she was particularly confused. “Pardon?”

“I—well… I mean… I don’t just want to shag you. I’d like there to be the whole deep and emotionally involved relationship aspect… the shagging is just a very nice added bonus-” he rambled on nervously, silently cursing the fact that God seemed to hate him or something if he was so intent on ruining everything for Harry. Couldn’t he for once just be a nice and understanding bloke and give him a little leeway when confronting the girl he loved?

“Um, where did this suddenly come from, anyway?”

“Well… it came about nine months ago really. Nine months and one day to be exact,” he told her with a decisive nod.

Comprehension dawned upon her as her eyes widened in shock. “I—I’m that girl?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.”

“No, I mean wow.”

He chuckled lightly. “Seems as if I’m not the only one that seems to be having trouble finding the right words tonight.”

“You know, Harry, I mean—I never really considered that…”

“Oh?” he asked as he slowly started to grip onto the table leg, anything to take his growing frustration out on.

“No… I mean… well I don’t really know what I mean, to tell you the truth. But—well it’s like this, when we were younger I did have a bit of a crush on you, nothing big just one of those girly fantasies about the sexy bloke behind that whole Boy-Who-Lived veneer-”

He laughed.

“Oi, don’t mock, I’m being very serious right now. Anyway, I just—after that, I realized just how much your friendship meant to me. I… I don’t know what I feel for you Harry, I can’t because I never allowed myself to see you in any sense than a platonic one,” she sheepishly admitted.

His face was soon marred by a dejected look of hopelessness. “Oh.”

“Harry… this is all—well it’s just so unexpected, I mean—you and me… well I never thought that such a thing could exist.”

“I got the point the first time you said it Hermione,” he told her through gritted teeth. It wasn’t even that he was angry at her, but more so at himself. Despite all of the talk and everything about how he was worried about what her reaction to his admission would be, he’d never really considered that she might say no. after all, no girl before her had.

But, then again, that was also where his fatal error lay. She wasn’t like those girls, she was so much more—that was, after all, what attracted him to her—he just never thought that that fact might screw him over in the long run.

“No, let me finish, please.”

He winced slightly at hearing that word, he never could say no to her. Damn.

“I’m not that girl—I’m no Ginny, instead I’m a bookworm who loves to spend her evening watching a good movie rather than going out and partying, I really only ever want to go to a good party once a week, anymore than that is just a waste of time for me. I’m not like those other girls you dated either—I actually do have a fear of STI’s, no matter how inane of a fear it may be-”

“I was tested,” he meekly admitted with a sheepish grin, anything to divert attention from his confession.

“Pardon?” she asked, genuinely surprised by the announcement.

“After that whole healer man-whore ordeal I realized you may have had a point on that count and got tested. Hate to admit it, but it kind of shocked me when they told me I hadn’t contracted anything…”

“Oh.”

He nodded mutely.

“But—well that doesn’t change anything Harry, it can't. I mean look at the girls you date-”

“And look at how that ended,” he interjected. “Listen, Hermione, I’ve made my mistakes, I realize that, but don’t doubt my feelings like this. Stop trying to reason it all, make it sound as if it’s impossible because I promise you that they’re anything but fake. I’ve loved you for so long now, I wanted you—needed you, but I let you go because I knew you deserved better. But, Hermione, I was always a selfish prat and I just—I needed to at least try or I’d never forgive myself. I couldn’t just let you slip through my fingers again,” he earnestly told her.

“You were right when you said you’re not them—in fact, you’re so much more… it’s like what you said about Ron being a step, well they were mine. Admittedly, not steps to be particularly proud of,” he sheepishly admitted. “But necessary nonetheless. It all made me appreciate you more, realize how empty and worthless it all was without you by my side.”

When he finished his tirade he let it be, he didn’t look at her but focused his attention on the waiters that were running through the restaurant, listening to the strong accents of the warm Greek family that ran the small, home-style restaurant. He let her have her space because he knew her. He knew how she needed to analyze thing because of her need to feel safe, a deep rooted one from her awkward entrance into the wizarding world—a realm she knew nothing about. It was a habit that lasted and prevailed throughout the years, and if it had yet to let her down he was all for giving her the luxury of that much needed time for reflection.

“I honestly don’t know if it’s a good idea,” she finally admitted in a weak voice.

He nodded, not so much because he understood—no, he was too stubborn for that—but more so because he didn’t trust himself to speak, he didn’t want to further embarrass himself by his voice cracking or something under the pressure of it all. He was too proud to let that happen to him as well.

“But…well, I think maybe I’d like to give it a try regardless,” she admitted, biting on her lip nervously as she made the admission.

“Really?” he squeaked slightly—officially deciding that God was drunk that day if he was finally helping him out for once.

She shyly nodded as a blush spread throughout her face. “Yeah… I think—I mean, I don’t know what’ll happen, or if we’ll even work, but I can see it—I can see it being something good. You and I, we always clicked…”

“You’re sure?” he asked her suspiciously, slowly loosening his grip on the table leg to place it atop of hers that was resting in the middle of the table.

She smiled. “Yeah… I think that, for once, you may have realized something good before me—long before I ever came to the realization.”

Chapter 21: finding apprehension
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Chapter XXI: finding apprehension

--

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be.”

Anna Louise Strong

--

“So Lavender thought she was pregnant again, and I have to tell you, regardless of how many times I’ve done it, waiting those two minutes for the pregnancy test results are the worst thing ever,” Neville announced as he, Ron, and Harry sat at the three broomsticks, enjoying a drink between Neville’s classes.

“How does that always happen to you two? It feels like every other week you repeat the same story, and the sad part is it’s a different instance that you’re referring to every time,” Ron asked incredulously.

“We’re in a rush and forget to take certain precautions,” Neville responded with a shrug.

Harry snorted. “You make it sound like you’re fixing a carburetor or something.”

Ron chuckled, choking slightly on the drink that he had, inopportunely, taken a sip from as Harry made his comment.

“You don’t even know what a bloody car is, much less a carburetor,” Neville said.

“Doesn’t mean I didn’t understand the gist of the joke—and how the hell do you know what it is?” Ron defended.

“I used to date the muggle studies professor a while back and, for some reason that’s totally beyond me, her idea of pillow talk was lecturing me—I learned far more about muggles than should ever be allowed in the whole post-sex euphoria,” he admitted with a grimace.

Harry winced. “Bloody hell, that’s worse than that time I dated the chit that liked to coo and talk to me as if I were an infant or something every time we shagged.”

Ron laughed. “Sorry mates, but I don’t have any bad sex stories.”

“No, you just leave the girls with bad memories,” Neville teased him with a grin.

“Oi, I doubt that Luna or Hermione or-”

“Please don’t remind me of that,” Harry interrupted him as his face was quickly marred by a wince at the thought of Ron and Hermione… shagging.

“It’s pathetic really; it took me ages to get her to go out with me when we gave it a go back at Hogwarts. And the bloody chit finally learns to relax some and let those inhibitions of hers down when you get her. I was the one stuck with her when she was an annoying cow! How’s that for poetic irony?” Ron whined.

“Do you even know what poetic irony is?” Neville asked him.

“No, not really—never got it, must be a muggle thing. But Hermione always uses it in things like this so I figured why not give it a go.”

“Well her taste in men has obviously improved, at least that much can be said for her,” Neville nodded, grinning as he watched Ron turn an ungodly shade of red.

“Oi!”

“Well there must be a reason why she wasn’t so quick to say yes to you!”

“Well it could just mean she respects my friendship more,” Ron haughtily proposed.

Harry stiffened.

Neville’s eyes widened after hearing Ron’s unsurprisingly tactless retort. “Or it could just mean that she was trying to avoid being with you,” he muttered.

He turned to Harry, noting how regardless of the forced smile that may have been on his face his grip on his glass betrayed whatever cool persona he was trying to pull off—the white knuckles showing just how tense he really was. “I swear to God, if you believe what that prat just said then you’re an even bigger idiot than him—and, trust me, it’s pretty hard to surpass that level of idiocy considering that he seems to have his foot permanently implanted in that monstrous mouth of his.”

“OI!”

Harry couldn’t help but a crack a genuine smile at that comment, but while his grip on the drink did loosen, his back remained stiff as the comment replayed in his mind. Trepidation remaining in the recesses of his mind even though he tried to laugh it off, put it off as just another one of Ron’s thoughtless comments—which, in reality, he knew it was. But the question—well it was a tempting one nevertheless.

And given God’s apparent hatred for him, it was very possible this was his way of making up for having been drunk enough to grant him Hermione the night before…

--

“You and I need to talk,” he announced as he entered the library where he knew she would be reading another Christopher Buckley novel—a new guilty pleasure of hers that she had decided to indulge in since she had nothing to do for the wedding that day. Harry, personally, was just relieved that it wasn’t some romance novel that he’d then be forced to listen to a recount of.

“Well hello to you too,” she sarcastically quipped as she moved her legs off of the couch, silently inviting him to join her on it.

He nervously ran a hand through his hair as he took a seat. Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves her set his gaze ahead of him, watching the balcony instead of her in a desperate attempt to holds onto whatever little resolve he had. “I need you to know that this—what we talked about last night, you and me, I’m serious about that, it’s not some sort of a joke for me.”

She nodded slowly, unsure as to what to say—feeling particularly unhinged at seeing how adamant he was about not facing her.

“This isn’t just another fling for me Hermione, this is real. I want to work for this, I want to have to put up with all of your annoying shite and nagging, I want you to see me as more than just your best mate and love me for that—in that way,” he told her as he turned to face her, but found that she too was staring out the window.

Neither knew what to say after that, or even if they really should. It was awkward, uncomfortable, and everything that they had every hoped to avoid when together—everything that they had worked toward conquering since she had returned.

Finally she interrupted the silence by a long overdue sigh. “I—it’s hard you know… figuring out if I love you or am in love with you—it’s a difficult thing to differentiate. And, honestly, I don’t know whether it will work out or not between us,” she admitted slowly, keeping her eyes trained on the book as she fiddled with the cover nervously.

Finally she looked up at him. “But I do know that no matter what happens our friendship is strong enough to persevere—withstand anything that might come its way. And… well I don’t know… I just—all I know is that, you and I, we’ve always had something special, something amazing, something worth exploring. I guess you don’t choose who you want to be with… it just happens-”

He snorted, muttering “can’t deny that one.”

She smiled, taking, what Harry assumed to be, at least, uncharacteristic initiative by crawling across the couch so that she was sitting right before him rather than on the opposite side of the couch. “I do think, however, that this has been a long time coming.”

He grinned as he pulled her onto his lap. “How much time did you spend analyzing it all to come to that conclusion?”

“Don’t over analyze things so much, just live in the moment—don’t question it all,” she told him with a saucy wink as she leaned down and did something that he never thought he’d have the opportunity to do—much less have her initiate it.

She kissed him—well, more like snogged, and he couldn’t deny that he thoroughly enjoyed it.

Chapter 22: finding the inner stag
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Chapter XXII: finding the inner stag

--

Why is it, when your looking for that someone, you find no one, but, once you find it, a lot more choices start showing up? But, if you leave that first love, then, they all start drifting away? Is that love's way of testing your true feelings or to” -Anonymous
--

“So tonight’s the big night—stag and hen party, the single event that will make all the work we’ve had to put into this wedding worth it,” Hermione commented as she and Harry sat at the kitchen table eating their breakfasts, each reading their sections of the prophet.

Harry grinned as he raised his eyes from the paper that he had been so focused on and rested them on her. “Any chance you’ll finally tell me where the hell you’re holding that saucy little fest of yours that Luna turns bright red at whenever mentioned?”

She smiled widely as she motioned for him to lean in closer. When he complied, however, she merely whispered “not a chance” in his ear.

She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before getting up and letting out a laugh that continued as she left the kitchen and climbed up the stairs to her room to change for work.

--

“Wait, there aren’t any strippers here,” pouted a more than slightly disappointed Ron as the group walked into the hotel lobby where the stag party was being held.

Harry winced, he had honestly been hoping that Ron wouldn’t notice—sadly, however, it seemed as if he wasn’t as oblivious in regards to all things women, as Harry had prayed. Figures that that’d be the one time that the quality that his best mate was known for would somehow miraculously fail him.

Well…”

“Bloody hell mate!” Dean groaned when he noticed the guilty look on Harry’s face.

“Oi, I couldn’t help it, Hermione made me promise that if we didn’t have any female strippers here than they wouldn’t have any male ones. I was trying to help you out mate. Do you really want some bloke in a thong shaking his arse in your fiancée’s face?”

“What are we doing?” Ron grumbled, slightly put out. But it was the lack of further whining that told Harry that Ron did, in all actuality, prefer losing the slags and making sure that the missus didn’t come in contact with any over having a classic stag party.

“Well I rented out an entire section of the high rollers casino.”

“Booze and betting, I do believe that those are two of my favorite things,” Seamus grinned, throwing an arm around Harry’s shoulder as Harry led them to the area where the stag party was.

“You’ll be learning a very important lesson tonight mate,” Fred told him.

“And what’s that?” Harry asked him with a quizzical look.

“Why to never bring an Irishman to an open bar, of course,” George told him, rolling his eyes at Harry’s stupidity as he threw an arm around him, letting Harry lead him to the tables.

--

“So how did Neville, Seamus, Dean, and Fred manage to pass out in the salon?” Hermione asked with a yawn as she walked into the kitchen only be met with the sight of Ron, who laying on the kitchen’s island, Fred, who was well on his way to falling asleep at the table, and Harry, who was prepping some breakfast for himself.

“Kind of a late morning for you, love, isn’t it?” Harry asked her with a grin as he moved to embrace her.

Hermione, however, thwarted whatever pathetic attempts on his part by pushing past him to get to the coffee machine. As she prepared herself a cup she turned to face Harry, cocking an eyebrow at him. “Why are they out there?—And, more importantly, why is Seamus almost naked except for that little birthday cone covering the ‘little leprechaun’?”

Ron snorted. “Little leprechaun, that’s funny. Have to give you points on originality there, Hermione.”

“Thanks, now one of you better answer the bloody question.”

“There was an open bar,” Harry told her with a shrug.

“That’s it, nothing more exciting?” she asked in surprise as she grabbed a croissant off of Harry’s plate.

“Oi, I’d just finished toasting that and putting the nutella on it—have some respect woman! And, wait, what’s wrong with my party?”

“Well it doesn’t seem terribly original is all.”

“Oh, and you could do much better after banning the use of strippers?” he haughtily asked her.

“One word: transvestites,” Hermione admitted with a blush, nervously biting her lip, as he stared at her in disbelief.

“Pardon? I don’t think I quite heard you correctly.”

“What?!” Ron asked, suddenly sitting up in a rare state of shock that could only ever bring Ron out of one of his self-induced comas.

“A mate of mine took me to this club a while ago and the transvestites were more like entertainers—it’s actually pretty cool. Very fun to be with, very colorful people—do have problems with some of their choices in shoes though… I mean I know that the entire idea of it all is to be as extravagant as you can be, but, really, one of them are going to break their neck in those sooner or later… or maybe they already have,” Hermione rambled.

“I thought you promised Harry that there’d be no strippers. Don’t you dare tell me you used those womanly wiles of yours to con him—you know how weak he is with you!” Ron exclaimed.

“Oi!” Harry complained. “I’m right here you know.”

“Did you not hear a word I said, Ronald? They’re entertainers, not strippers. Besides, it’s not as if they’re interested in us or anything. We don’t really have all the necessary equipment to sate them, and, honestly, since when are you such a prude?”

“Since when aren’t you?” he retorted.

She shrugged. “It may not exactly by my sort of a thing, but Luna deserves a fun and out there hen party. I’d like to think that I, at least, achieved that much.”

“There’s fun and then there’s too much fun,” Ron grumbled.

“There’s also bloody genius,” Harry grinned, still chuckling at the memory of Hermione’s extremely periodic and concise analysis of the party she threw.

She grinned as she turned to him. “Glad you think so, so I’d say that this means I won the bet then…”

“Seems so-”

“Wait, you had a bet going over who would throw the better party?” Ron interrupted in disbelief.

“Well, if it helps, it was to solve a very important issue,” Harry assured him sympathetically as he sent a Hermione’s way.

“Like what?” he asked with a snort.

“Who gets to decide where we go to dinner for our first date,” Hermione grinned, a slight tint slowly showing on her face as she made the admission.

Ron opened his mouth to respond, but no sound was emitted when he did. He just stood there, a finger raised as he prepared himself to make a very important note, but he couldn’t find the words. Finally, he let out a sigh of defeat. “So where will it be then?”

“I’m thinking Greek, I have a craving for some musaka,” she admitted with a grin.

“I know some good places for Greek food,” Ron told her with a grin.

Chapter 23: finding a cure for screwiness
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Chapter XXIII: finding a cure for screwiness

--

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advise, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” Henri Nouwen
--

“Do you think that there actually is an Uncle George?” Hermione asked.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Well this place is called Uncle George’s, but wouldn’t it be hilariously ironic if this Uncle George doesn’t actually exist?”

He snorted slightly. “Only you Hermione, only you.”

“Harry James Potter, are you insinuating that there’s something wrong with my logic?” she asked in a shocked tone as she pouted slightly in a desperate attempt to hide the smile that was tugging at her lips.

“Hey, you’re far more logical than Ron and I combined, there’s no question of that. It’s merely a matter of where said logic takes you at times…” he told her with a sheepish grin.

“So I’m inquisitive, what’s wrong with that?”

“Well you were called the brightest witch of our age for a reason.”

“Exactly,” she agreed as she took a sip from her wine, all the while smiling as she looked at him.

“We’re being honest, right?”

“I’d like to believe that we always have been.”

“So I can ask you anything I want then?”

“That would depend on what it is and just how revealing it is,” she responded, suspiciously eyeing him as he nervously run a hand through his hair.

“Do you remember when you were dating Ron?” he asked her.

“Well I was kind of there—you know, actually participating in the relationship, so I should hope so,” she teased him.

He chuckled softly. “Did you really never think that it could be more than what it was? I mean, wasn’t there ever even a time when you thought it could grow to be something more than just one of those relationships that you had to experience?” he asked her, his nerves getting the better of him more and more as he continued with the question, forcing him to avert his gaze from her and onto the appetizers that were sitting in front of them.

She sighed slightly, but that one small action was enough to assure him of the fact that she had been expecting that question to come up at one point or another. “I kind of hoped that it would be—I mean it would have make life a lot easier given that I wouldn’t have to ever explain this innate bond that I’ve always had with you two given that he was a part of it,” she admitted with a nervous laugh. “But as much as I would have liked to delude myself about it… I knew; it just didn’t feel right, really. It didn’t feel like it ever could be more, but I did love the time that we had… even if it was a bit turbulent.”

He raised his head, looking up at her with almost pleading eyes as he asked “do you think it’s the same for us?”

The surprise on her face was obvious, she had never been very good at hiding things—it was part of what he adored about her, he could always count on her honesty, her ability to call him an arse and a narcissistic pillock whenever everyone else was too scared to. She wasn’t fooled by the visage, veneer of the “boy who lived” persona. She saw him—warts, boils, and all, and yet she still stood by him.

“I… well I don’t really know to tell you the truth. I just—all I know is that it’s different than with Ron, it doesn’t feel totally hopeless, temporary, and I like that,” she admitted with a slight blush.

“I’m in it, Hermione, totally in it—for the long haul and all that other cliché shite.”

She laughed. “How I do adore your ability to be utterly romantic while cursing.”

“Well you always were a bit screwy,” he teased her with a wink as he placed his hand on top of hers, which was resting on the table.

She turned her hand under his so that she could intertwine her fingers with his. “It comes from spending so much time in the library all those years. Any chance you’d like to be the one to cure me of this bout of screwiness?” she asked him with a flirtatious grin.

--

“Wow,” he said.

She nodded slightly, a confused look on her face as she stared up at the ceiling. “Yeah.”

“Well…”

“Yes, ‘well’.”

“That was… unexpected?”

She nodded, again. “My sentiments exactly.”

“You know… when I said I wanted to shag you I didn’t necessarily mean on the first official date, right?”

“So you didn’t want to shag me?” she asked him, turning on her side so she was facing him as she raised an interrogative eyebrow at him.

“No, trust me; I have no qualms about that. Just saying that you’re different from the rest, I didn’t expect this or plan on it—I was perfectly content waiting however long you’d have like.”

“Well then I guess you got lucky,” she told him with a wink.

He chuckled. “You did take note of the double entendre there, right?”

She grinned. “Why do you think I said it? You know, I have to ask, was this your way of getting rid of my screwiness?”

He let out a deep laugh. “No, I gave up on that cause long ago, finally realized that it was hopeless somewhere around fifth year.”

She swatted his arm. “You’re such an arse sometimes. Now go get that baklava and musaka that I never got to start at the restaurant. I suddenly find myself famished.”

“Well with someone as good as I am it’s hard not to be exerted from such activities,” he told her, wiggling his eyebrows playfully.

She laughed. “Go get me my food and then I’ll decide whether my hunger is because of you or the fact that I haven’t eaten since eight, when we left that restaurant after our appetizers, and it’s midnight now.”

“As you wish,” he told her before getting out of the bed and going for the food, totally starkers and very proud of the fact.

“And stop quoting ‘The Princess Bride’, you’re no Westley, he was far sexier if that ugly naked arse of yours is anything to go by!” she yelled after him, smiling brightly as she heard a loud groan come form the other room.

“Don’t worry love, I’ll soon prove you other wise—just you wait!”

Chapter 24: finding annoying habits
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Chapter XXIV: finding annoying habits

--

I find that as I grow older that I love most those whom I loved first.”

Thomas Jefferson

--

“I think that we need rules,” she announced as the two sat in a bistro the following morning, eating a quick brunch before they had to meet up with Luna and Ron at the church for the wedding rehearsal.

He groaned. “Why?”

“Because I’m not the sort of slag to get into the sack with a bloke before getting to the actual eating portion of the date…”

“Well I’d say we rather enjoyed our take on the ‘eating’ portion of the date,” he told her as he waggled his eyebrows at the innuendo.

She, however, didn’t appear particularly amused by the comment. “Come on Harry… I just—I want this to be real, you know? I’m not one to just jump into bed with a bloke like that. I like to think things out—rationalize them, scrutinize every little detail as I create a pro and con list in my head. Last night, I didn’t do that, I let my emotions get the best of me. I just really need this Harry, please…”

He let out a sigh as he put down his mug of coffee, focusing solely on her. “Okay then, what does this whole ‘relationship rules’ thing entail?”

She shrugged. “Well I don’t really know… I’ve never done it before. I guess we could just say some things that we thing we need to do to make this work.”

“How about routine shags to keep the spirit alive and all that?” he asked her with a wink, his eyes dancing with mirth as he grinned at her.

“Harry now’s really not the time to act like some randy, prepubescent teen.”

“What can I do if that’s the effect you have on me, love?”

She guffawed at that response as she took out a piece of parchment and a pen from her bag.

“Bloody hell, you were planning this all along?”

“Actually no, I just always keep them on me in case I need to jot something down,” she admitted with a slight blush. “Seems to have come in handy here though.”

He nodded suspiciously. “I’m sure that’s just it.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine, if you’re going to act like a petulant five year old I’ll be the first to go, you can’t put me on a pedestal.”

His eyes furrowed in confusion as he gave her a quizzical look. “What are you talking about?”

“If you want this—us to work then I need you to be able to tell me when I’m being an annoying cow or if I’m wrong. I need you to be willing to tell me I’m a bitch because I definitely won’t be holding myself back Harry, and we don’t stand a chance if it’s one sided-”

“Hermione Granger?” a deep voice suddenly interrupted her tirade.

Hermione quickly turned around to the source of the interruption, only to almost fall back in the shock of the sight before her. “Bloody hell, Marko, Is that really you?”

“It’s good to see you Hermione, how are you?” he asked her as he pulled her out of her seat and into a tight embrace.

“I’m good, but what are you doing here? I heard you went to Chernobyl after you finished up everything back in Russia.”

Harry interrupted the pair with a loud cough, a desperate attempt to regain the attention that he had, selfishly enough, been reveling in.

“Oh how could I forget, I feel like such an idiot,” she exclaimed, as a slight blush took over her face. “Harry this is Marko, we worked together in Africa for a while. And Marko, this is Harry, my… my boyfriend,” she said the last part so quietly, so shyly that he almost had to strain himself to hear her, but he did nonetheless.

The man beamed at him, an act that Harry despised him for, it’d have been so much easier to hate him had he not done that. “You’re one lucky man then, Harry, Hermione is definitely one of a kind, take care of her, will you?”

“Um… yeah, of course,” he stumbled slightly, still a bit caught off guard by the odd situation.

“Listen, I actually should go since I’m late for a meeting with some officials from the Russian and English embassy over getting some governmental aid for this project of mine, but I’ll look you up since you promised me a fun dinner date whenever I’m in town,” he told her with a wink before pecking her on the cheek and leaving the pair with a quick wave before rushing out of the bistro.

“So that poofter’s actually your ex?” Harry asked as he took a sip of his, now cold, coffee.

Hermione’s eyes widened, her mouth forming a perfect “o” as she stared at him in shock. “Harry James Potter, how can you go around making heinous accusations like that?! He’s not a bloody poofter, you arse, I should know.”

“Bloody hell, Hermione, just trust me on this one, you’d really rather have me refer to him as one,” came his exasperated response as he rolled her eyes. Sometimes the girl was just too emotional.

“And why is that?” she sputtered in disbelief.

“Oh come on, how else am I supposed to let you talk to other blokes without thinking about the fact that they’re staring down your shirt when you wear those sexy little v-neck tops of yours.—Oi, seriously, don't laugh at me, they really do look far too good on that sexy humanitarian body of yours, you bloody minx,” he rambled.

“You’re an idiot.”

“It’s called a defense mechanism love.”

“You’re an idiot,” she repeated, giggling slightly, despite herself.

“And yet you love me for it.”

“Please, don’t remind me of that fact right now; I’m trying to forget it for the sake of whatever little sanity I have left.”

--

“Why does she have to be here?” Hermione groaned as she paused at the entrance of the church where the rehearsal was taking place.

Harry grinned. “Are you by any chance jealous?”

“God no, it’s more along the lines of the fact that she called me a slag and I tend to be a bit spiteful towards anyone who makes any derogatory towards me. Ugh, I just want to hex her!”

“Given that she’s Ron’s sister I really wouldn’t advise you to do that,” he told her, lightly squeezing the petite hand that was in his. “Besides, you already won without doing her any bodily harm.”

“Oh, really, and how’d I manage that victory?” she asked him doubtfully.

“Why you have me, of course,” he winked at her.

She rolled her eyes. “Please, your ego’s large enough as it is from everyone worshipping you for being the bloody Boy-Who-Lived, I’m not about to coddle you any more by saying you’re a prize.”

He just chuckled in response before tugging at her hand and pulling her further into the church.

“Oh Harry, I’m so glad to see that you were able to come!” a voice suddenly exclaimed in an unnaturally squeaky and pathetic show of excitement at his arrival—or at least that’s how Hermione later described it to him as.

“Hey Ginny, how are you?” he asked her with a forced smile as he tried to hold back a grimace from the pain he felt when Hermione dragged her nails into his hand, apparently using it as her personal stress relief toy. He was quickly beginning to find just how preposterous the whole “you make sacrifices for those you love” philosophy actually was.

“Hello Ginny,” Hermione’s voice interrupted with a distinct undertone of distaste to it.

“Oh… Hermione, I’m surprised to see you here.”

“I’m in the wedding,” came Hermione’s deadpanned reply.

“Oh, right, of course. You know, that was just so kind of Luna to try to make you a member of the wedding party so you’d feel more comfortable after being away for so long, without any communication no less.”

“Which is why she made me the bloody maid of honor and not just a bride’s maid,” he heard Hermione mutter, barely suppressing an almost guttural growl as she glared at the redhead.

Ginny, however, continued to rattle on despite Hermione’s obvious annoyance. “And then there’s Harry who was sweet enough to help you come here when you forgot how to get around England after all this time. You really are just too kind love,” she squealed as she seductively ran a hand down his arm.

At that point Harry could have sworn he was bleeding from how deeply Hermione was digging her nails into his hand, he was just thankful that she hadn’t throttled Ginny yet, last thing Ron and Luna needed was a cat fight.

“Actually, Hermione here was the one that showed me the way—seems as if I’ve taken one too many blows to the head and had far too many concussions to even remember something so simple as the address of a bloody church,” came his smooth response as he prayed that it’d at least somewhat sate Hermione’s temper as he really didn’t want to have to visit her at Azkaban after she murdered the girl.

“Oh, well-”

He interrupted her. “Listen Ginny, we should really get going as your brother and that lovely fiancée of his are waiting for us so we can start the rehearsal. In fact, aren’t you supposed to be with them as well?”

“Well, actually, I was put in charge of the book the guests have to sign.”

At that response Harry heard Hermione snort lightly in an incredibly unfeminine and slightly degrading manner. He could practically see the small victory party going on in her head as she internally mocked Ginny with various and, surely, large and sophisticated words that few could ever comprehend when combined in the manner she could.

She was surely a crazy and spiteful bitch—some things just never changed. That temper of hers was still as violent as it was the day he had first met her.

“Right, well we’ll just get going then,” he said as he pulled Hermione towards the stairs that led to the bride’s quarters. As soon as they climbed the stairs he immediately pulled her into a small alcove, ignoring all the confused protests on her part.

“Do me a favor, and just try to get though this, play nice. Hell, if you can do that much I’ll even read Hogwarts: a History,” he begged her.

Her eyes widened in a delighted surprise. “Really?”

He sighed. “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it. But seriously, Hermione, you shouldn’t waste your energy on her, she’s really not worth it.”

Hermione stared up at him in a state of utter bafflement. “How can you just say that when you were with her for so long?”

“Because—because she was the girl that I needed back then, that escape from all the shit that was going on around us, but that’s all she ever was. That’s really that there is to her, a bubbly girl without much below the surface. She’s sweet at times, she really can be, but you—you’re so much more than her,” he told her with a small, pained, smile as he lightly touched a hand to her cheek.

“Worst you’ll ever get from her are a few petty and rather unimaginative insults—well actually it’ll probably be far more than a few when she finally learns about us, but that’s really besides the point. Plus, it’s kind of better for me if it didn’t bother you as much as my hand kind of likes getting circulation to it when you’re not holding it in that bloody vice grip,” he teased her with a playful wink.

She laughed. “And here I thought you liked holding hands with me and doing all those cliché couple-y things.”

“Why do you think I let you do it despite the pain?” he retorted before giving her a chaste kiss and pulling her towards the bride’s room.

“Oh my, Harry, I just realized… I’ve cursed dozens of times—we’re in a church! I’m going to go to hell!” she suddenly moaned as he led her to the room.

The only response she ever received form Harry on that note was a loud chuckle.

--

Protect whatever manhood you have left by calling Hermione on her shit (Hermione, I even put it in laymen’s terms for you Harry!)

Don’t question Harry’s manhood (Harry)

Don’t ridicule Harry (Harry, you broke this rule with that first comment of yours by the way)

Daily shags—preferably more than once a day (Harry)

Always greet one another with a nice “welcoming snog” (Harry)

Don’t make a mockery of Hermione’s ideas (Hermione)

Don’t look for an apartment—stay with Harry (Harry)

Harry then has to promise to treat Hermione to one of his amazing dinners once a week (Hermione)

Hermione must then promise to a nice little “thank you” after wards (Harry)

Deal (Hermione)

No more talking to ex’s (Harry)

No more stupid requests (Hermione, you’ve reached your quota for them love.)

Hermione has to be less controlling with these bloody lists of hers (Harry)

Harry has to learn the difference between what is and what is not possible (Hermione)

No mocking of the pro and con lists (Hermione, I kind of intend on using them a lot so you better get used to them unless you want to spend the night in the guest room love.)

He never would have dreamed of mocking it (Harry)

No sucking up (Hermione)

Hermione has to stop being so bitchy (Harry)

She turned to him, eyes wide as a small smile tugged at her lips. “You—you’re actually listening to what I said?”

Harry shrugged. “Figure this list must mean a lot to you, even if I do plan on mocking it profusely,” he admitted with a sheepish grin. “Besides, it’s not exactly the hardest rule to follow.”

“Thank you.”

“Like I said, love, there’s really nothing to be thankful for, otherwise I would have called upon that favor you owe me in my own way.”

She let out a laugh as she playfully slapped his arm. “Still, it means a lot to me.”

“Well then go on, be as over emotional as you’d like. I’ll just be at the pub, girls on the verge of tears, happy or not, have always slightly scared me.”

She chuckled, latching on to his arm as he teased her by pretending to leave the library. She turned him to face her and pulled him towards her, quickly bringing his face to hers-

“Wait.”

“What?” she asked, giving him a quizzical look as she tried to comprehend why the hell a randy twenty something year old would turn down a chance for a snog session—and, admittedly, possibly more.

“There’s just one thing that I have to do,” he told her as he grabbed the list off of the table and quickly scrawled something onto it.

She laughed as she read his chicken scratch over the shoulder, watching as he crossed out the entire list before simply writing “no list” just below it.

He turned to face her again, smiling at her a bit guiltily. “We don’t really need it. Just take a chance with me, let it go, and just stop over analyzing it all. I promise that I’ll do whatever I can do to make it worth it.”

She stood there staring at him with an expression that he couldn’t quite place, and the fact that he wasn’t capable of doing that much while he was an Auror deeply unsettled him. “Hermione?”

“I think you just did.”

“I just did what?”

“Made it worth it,” she admitted with a nervous smile.

Chapter 25: finding the meaning
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Chapter XXV: finding the meaning

--
"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love." –Henry Drummond

--

You snooze, you lose
Well I have snost and lost
I’m pushing through
I’ll disregard the cost
I hear the bells
So fascinating and
I’ll slug it out
I’m sick of waiting


Mike Doughty, “I Hear the Bells”

--

I love this song,” she said, smiling softly as she closed her eyes, focusing solely on Mike Doughty softly singing “I Hear the Bells” in the background of the pub.

Harry chuckled as he watched the recent Hogwarts graduate act like a simple, normal teenager—it was then that he realized just how much he had missed seeing her like that. “It’s okay.”

She shook her head slowly. “No—no, it’s not just ‘okay’. It’s so much more than that Harry.”

It’s about some bloody bells that, apparently, are ringing,” he said in disbelief, chuckling slightly at the absurdity of it all.

She let out a small breath of a laugh as she slowly opened her eyes. “It’s so much more than that Harry.”

He slightly cocked his head to the side as his expression quickly changed from one of amusement to one of bafflement. “I don’t see it,” he admitted.

She smiled at him sympathetically. “You will—one day you’ll get it. One day you’ll think about this conversation, this song, and you’ll understand what I mean… you’ll finally know why I adore it so much,” she promised him.

And what do I do until then?” he asked her, a bit bothered by the fact that she wasn’t going to explain why the bloody song meant so much to her.

Until then it’ll just be a few words about some bells to you, and I’ll be a total mystery,” she told him, nudging his shoulder with her own playfully before closing her eyes once again to immerse herself in the sweet lyrics.

He just stared at her in disbelief, letting her have her moment of silence to enjoy the song as he tried to comprehend what that underlying connotation in it was. He wanted to know what was so special about the song that it made her look so—so free.

--

He watched he as the priest spoke, instructing Ron and Luna in their vows. It all just seemed so surreal, so bloody out of nowhere. He had wondered for so long if it would ever be possible, and then if she was even real. But there she was, in all her glory, flesh and blood, and he couldn’t help but be utterly enamored by the image. He could tell that she felt his gaze on her when she turned to look at him, sending him that small crooked smile that he had come to adore for its simplicity.

While he couldn’t name the exact shade of blue that her dress was, or the cut, or even her hair style—he honestly didn’t care. He knew that later in life all that he’d remember, all that would matter to him, was the fact that that stunning, slightly insecure, crazy woman was his.

He had wanted her for so long, screwed up so many times, dealt with the pain of her leaving as she did, for the great length of time that she did, but it was finally over. The pain was done with and all that was left was a mended man who had become an extremely sentimental and sappy bloke—a very unmanly trait that he would certainly never attest to out loud.

In reality though, nothing else mattered now that he had her.

--

He was wrong, some things did still matter.

“Chin up,” he heard a light and playful voice order him as she took a seat by his side.

He raised his chin.

“Funny,” she commented with a genuine laugh. “But honestly Harry, you can’t be so sensitive, it’s really not that big of a deal.”

“I’m not bloody sensitive,” came his grumbled response, accompanied by a low growl. “Sensitive is unmanly as and the bloody ‘boy-who-triumphed’ I’m the epitome of manliness.”

“Sure you are love,” she assured him, patting him atop his head in a highly condescending manner. Damn chit.

He glared at her.

“Oh come on Harry, so you didn’t catch the garter after I got the bouquet, as if that’s really that big of a deal.”

“He got to put his hand up your dress,” he muttered as he chugged what was left of his fire whiskey.

“Well if it’s any consolation you’re the only man whose hands I want up it.”

He didn’t respond; he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing that she had sort of sated him with that last remark. He was brooding and was dead set on getting the due respect for that.

“Seriously Harry, if you think about it, in the whole cosmic balance sense of things the fact that you’re the best man to my maid of honor offsets that other superstition,” she reasoned.

He didn’t say anything, as immature as it may have been he liked where she was taking the whole thing and was hoping to be further reassured of the fact.

But, then again, if that superstition is actually stronger than the whole maid of honor-best man, true love thing, it could also mean that Jason and I will end up getting eloped or something,” he could practically hear the smirk on her voice as she made that comment.

That was the point at which he decided to screw the whole silence thing—she was just far too talented at goading him. “Shut up.”

She chuckled. “You know, you’re kind of sexy when you’re all demanding and controlling like that.”

He grunted.

“Oh, so we’re back to that again? Well then how about, now that the wedding’s over, we go back to our place and I can show you just how much I’d prefer your hands on me?” she asked him in a low, seductive tone that quickly worked wonders on him.

His eyes widened as he turned to her with a small, suggestive leer. “Really?”

“Why don’t you find out yourself because, personally, I think tat words are mush too overrated,” she told him as she playfully wiggled her eyebrows, effectively breaking whatever barriers he had built against her manipulation.

He groaned. “Hermione, you can play me far too well, you know that?”

“Well I should hope so, I’d hate to see that you’re the only one with that power in this relationship, it wouldn’t be very fair.”

“Really?” he asked her in surprise.

She just smiled at him as she touched a hand to his cheek in a soft caress, nodding slowly before surprising him by suddenly disapparating.

“Bloody hell,” he laughed before quickly following her lead.

Fin.

--

author’s note: and I’m afraid that that’s all she wrote lol.

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