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Author's Note: Hello everybody! Sorry this one has taken a particularly long time to get posted. I hope you all enjoy this chap. Thanks for sticking with me!
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Chapter 13- Pressing Encounters

Harry sat in the middle of his empty apartment, in his empty living room, in the middle of his empty couch.

His posture was slumped and his hands lay resting on his knees as he gazed about the room before him. His eyes traveled along the shelves on the walls which were full due to Hermione’s books from her moving in. Every time she left for one of her business trips she always returned with a new one since with each destination she simply HAD to visit a bookstore. The bursting shelves were packed with books from just about every country in Europe along with a few from farther away countries… like Egypt and India. When did Hermione have the time to go to Egypt? Or India for that matter? Harry didn’t have a clue.

Some books were in the craziest languages, languages Harry could not even recognize. Some were the most interesting books he’d ever seen, the rest of course with it being Hermione were the most boring. And even though at first Harry considered them an eyesore and possibly a nuisance, he was beginning to find them comforting. They reminded him of her and occasionally, despite his drastic drop in personality, caused a ghost of a smirk to flicker at the corner of his mouth. Not even Harry putting in extra shelves could hold them all as her affinity was too great since she also had stacks that he knew to be in her room. She had of course only chosen her real treasures to be displayed in what was his- but was now their- living room.

Despite the many volumes on the wall saying otherwise, her travels as of late had been cut nearly in half which was why there were no new tomes to weigh down Harry’s shelves and mantel. She had decided to cool it on her work with I.F.E and instead had been catching up on old cases she’d left long forgotten on her desk at the Ministry.

Strictly speaking as an auror, Harry suspected that Hermione had lessened her travels because he knew she was aware of the dangers that now came with her voyages. She had taken heed to Antonia’s warning. She knew each place was a whole new set of risks, a whole new set of variables that she needed to be protected from. Hermione was a smart girl and as an auror, Harry knew that she was trying to limit herself. He also knew that her lack of traveling was the last thing the Department wanted. They wanted her to take risks, they wanted her exposed.

But as her friend, though, he felt relieved with her downsizing not only because he was glad she was safe, but also because he simply was less sad with her around. Even though she didn’t say it, he knew that another part of her cutting back was due to him. She had been worried about him ever since Ginny had left and part of her staying had been so that she could keep her ever watchful eye on him.

Harry didn’t mind though.

Hermione was about the only person he could really tolerate. He had been depressed and moody and quiet ever since Ginny had gone. But, he found, the one person that understood was Hermione. She knew him so well by now that he didn’t need to say what was going on in his head. She just got it. And more importantly, she accepted him for the somber and slightly dull wizard he had become ever since Ginny’s departure.

The apartment was quiet.

He liked sitting in the quiet. He liked sitting in the dark lately too. Alone here he could brood, he could mull over Ginny without reservation or looks of pity. It had been three weeks since their kiss in the wide open field and her taking a portkey to LA. She hadn’t written or flooed at all since.

Molly had let Harry read over one of her letters that she had received. It seemed like Ginny was doing well: moving into a new apartment with Susan Norcross, waking up early for training, meeting new people. She only wrote a few short paragraphs. Molly had explained that Ginny was always busy. The league kept them on pretty much an hour by hour schedule: practices, work shops, signings, promotions. It was all very hectic.

He tried to fake like he wasn’t disappointed that he hadn’t gotten a letter. He knew that she wanted space and that writing him would be too hard. There really wasn’t much left to say anyway.

Harry’s eyes continued to graze over his dimly lit apartment. He sighed.

It was what she needed to do, he knew that. And he had to let her go, he knew that too. But still, he couldn’t help the ache.

Just as he was about to succumb fully to his thoughts, he heard the door to the apartment open and then shut softly. Hermione was home.

He watched as she walked into the living room and spotted him. She didn’t even shed her coat like she normally did hanging it up in her usual routine in the hall closet, but instead moved over to him and plopped down next to him, lounging back into the cushions while he sat up and away from them.

“Staring at nothing again?”

Harry nodded gravely and then joined her by leaning back against the sofa.

Hermione watched him from the corner of her eye noting his gloominess. Everyday for the past three weeks, she would find him like this.

Brooding.

For the last three weeks, she would come home and search for unhappy Harry in some part of the apartment. Here on the couch, out on the patio, leaning against the kitchen sink, lying on his bed staring up at the ceiling at NOTHING. He’d been morose for so long. Hermione had yet to deduce the proper amount of time one was allowed to be such a lovesick gloomy fool. The whole situation had her slightly agitated with Ginny. Not of course for leaving, she by all means agreed with Gin needing to get away. Her reasoning was based solely off of a completely different problem.

The witch had broken Harry. Literally. The poor bloke could not even function. And… it was annoying.

Hermione found it all rather ironic to say the least. She’d come to Harry and moved in with him a sad weepy mess. He’d been beside himself with trying to get her out of it. And now… well… the roles were reversed. He was the sad- albeit not weepy- mess and she was the fumbling idiot trying to get him out of it.

She looked over at Harry again. He was just so cheerless. AND miserable. It was almost laughable.

And once that thought popped into her head, Hermione found herself smiling. Suddenly she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She chuckled softly cupping a hand over mouth in an attempt to stifle it. The effort did no good as it only made her burst out.

Harry was looking at her like she’d grown a second head. How could she laugh at a time like this?

“You alright?”

Hermione put a hand up and nodded. “I’m fine… fine.” She tried to pull herself together, she tried to get serious, but her cheeks could not keep her smile at bay. Finally she gave in and erupted into a fit. Harry’s peeved look only set her off more.

“Ok what? What is it?” Harry asked impatiently.

“It’s nothing…” she managed to get out in between fits. “It’s just…” Another hit of snickers came over her. “You really are pathetic.”

This time she laughed unabashedly at Harry despite his evil eye towards her.

“I can’t believe YOU of all people are saying that!” He cried incredulously. She only giggled harder. And before he knew what was happening, a small smile was forming on his mouth too. Harry fought against it. “You were just as pathetic two months ago,” he countered.

“I agree with you completely,” she smirked. Harry merely looked at her, forcing his cheeks not to tug at the edges of his mouth. He reminded himself how irked he was about her laughing.

“It’s not funny.”

“No, no of course it isn’t,” she said as her face pretended to go serious again even though there was an obvious glint in her eye. She didn’t last long though. She could not force her new found humor at the situation away and so she smiled once again.

“Oh shut it… it’s NOT funny.”

“No, no it’s really not… not one bit,” she faux agreed, again pretending to be in a sober mood.

“I don’t appreciate this… you’re supposed to be understanding,” he chastised. Hermione could tell that he was trying to not find the situation amusing. She could also tell that it wasn’t entirely working.

“Harry, love, you are sitting in the dark. Alone. Staring at nothing… whether you like to admit it or not you are pathetic.” She sat up and turned back around to look at him.

“Ahhh… I guess you’re right,” he conceded.

“I am… I always am.” She grabbed his hand. “Now it’s about time we get you out of this funk. Let’s go to the Hermit and get pissed. Neville and Luna are supposed to meet us there anyway.” She stood up pulling him with her.

It was about time for his mood to end. He’d been sitting in a stew of his own gloom for the last three weeks and Hermione had decided that it was now time for that gloom to be over. Neville and Luna had mentioned the pub earlier, but she had brushed it aside. After seeing Harry in the same state he’d been in everyday, she could no longer stand for it. The pub was beginning to sound like a fantastic idea. And so, she dragged him to his room, picked out a nice shirt, and shoved him towards the bathroom for a shower. He would have fun that’s for sure... even if she had to force him to have it!


**********


“Ginny! Ginny! Will you marry me??!!!”

“Come on, girl! Save this poor man’s heart by marryin him!”

Ginny pushed her way through the throngs of people to get out of the locker room. With the amount of press and publicity Todd was putting all the Razorback players through it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that there were that many people there. But Ginny was, nonetheless, surprised.

“Ms. Weasley! Sign my chest!”

She couldn’t help but laugh at the crazy request. Quickly she grabbed the flesh ink quill and scribbled her usual signature on the guy’s pectoral. She handed him back his quill and he blushed a deep red as she smiled. Ever since she had arrived the entire town had been buzzing. Already, LA’s very own Witch Weekly had featured her on their top twenty most beautiful Quidditch players edition- she was number six.

No sooner had the article been printed had young wizards from all over started gathering outside of the locker rooms each day after her training. It was that article that had really spiked the public’s interest especially with the inside scoop that she was now recently single. She’d been getting daily marriage requests since.

The irony in life never ceased to amaze her. Here she was in LA running away from a marriage proposal in England only to receive dozens of them a day.

Ginny continued through the crowd as she tried to get to the apparating station. The huge group seemed to follow her as she went snapping photographs, yelling questions, and overall trying to get her attention.

“Ginny, marry me!!!! I came all the way from Denver!”

“Ms. Weasley! Ms. Weasley! Sign my broom!!!”

Finally she made it to the cleared apparation zone and as fast as she could get out of there she did. With a pop, she landed outside of her apartment complex. Fortunately the screaming young men were not waiting here, but unfortunately, the press was. Ginny forced her way through, up to the door repeating, “No comment.” The phrase had pretty much become her mantra as of late. She shuffled past them and made it inside.

Oh the quiet of her complex.

Ginny shut the door behind her and leaned up against it with a loud sigh. She really did need to get a body guard of some sort. American fans and the press were way nosier than all the British fans she’d ever had combined. It was like all of the Rita Skeeters of the world had flocked to Los Angeles and decided to hound her.

“How’s Witch Weekly’s most eligible Bachelorette?”

Looking up, Ginny saw the familiar brown haired, lean bodied figure of her manager as he peaked from over his newspaper. He was sitting in one of the lobby chairs calm and relaxed, but then again Todd always seemed to have a certain tranquil aura about him.

“Exhausted,” she said emphasizing it by caving in her shoulders.

“Well… it’ll all pass soon. Americans have a short attention span. This week it’s you, next week it’s somebody else.”

Ginny nodded and then pushed off the door. “I sure hope so… there’s not much more I can take of this. I’m thinking I should get a body guard.”

Todd waved the comment aside. “That’s a waste. Just start using the back exit to the locker room.”

“There’s a back exit?”

“Yesss… How do you think I get back here so quickly?”

Ginny simply shrugged, “I didn’t know… I wish you would’ve thought to tell me this earlier.”

“I figured you liked all the attention. It’s not everyday you get to sign a guy’s chest,” teased Todd with a smile. Ginny rolled her eyes.

“They really are absolutely ridiculous… I’ve gotten four marriage proposals. And I’m not talking about the ones where they scream at me on my way home… Like real proposals. On a knee with a ring and everything. It’s absurd… Are you Americans really so full of yourselves?”

“It’s not that we’re full of ourselves. It’s just that any man would gladly make a fool of himself for a chance to be with a beautiful woman,” he replied sincerely. Ginny couldn’t help the blush that rose in her cheeks. After all Todd was a fairly good looking bloke. He had that tall, athletic build but also the personality to match it. He was confident at all the right times, but humble too. He was attractive in an honest sort of way. Granted he was a bit older than she was used to, but still his comment was flattering and worthy of a blush all the same.

“Thank you,” she said before making her way to the stairs. Todd smiled and then proceeded to read his paper. Ginny could not tell if he had said it out of politeness or if for some other reason. She highly doubted that he’d be the type to date one of his own players. It seemed too improper… Todd seemed to be a hard truths kind of bloke and it was unlikely that he’d jeopardize anything. So as she climbed the stairs to her apartment she decided to take the comment as a mere courtesy.

Still, he was cute though.


**********


The pub was practically crawling with people inside. The weekend was reason enough to celebrate for the loads of drunken and loud wizards and witches that packed inside of the Hermit. Seamus and Dean were both there, albeit not working. They’d taken the night off in order to engage in some long overdue mischief with their fellow ex-classmates. Neville was already snockered, but felt the need to order another round for the group as he was stumbling up to the bar.

“Well ‘arry! I tink ya’ve done it! Da pub’s a hit!!!” cried Seamus over the crowd.

“This place would’ve been hit regardless of whether or not I was a regular,” said Harry with a shrug. Harry’s humble opinion made no matter as Seamus and Dean both clapped Harry on the back in a brotherly sort of way. Neville returned with the next round.

“Oi! Perfect timin’ Neville! We’re in need of a toast!” Seamus raised his glass while the rest of the table followed suit. “To ma and Dean’s successful pub!!”

“To the pub!! Cheers!”

They all clinked their glasses spilling foaming brew over the sides and then took huge long gulps.

“I suspect the pub would do well anyway. There’s nargles in alcohol, I hear. They make you blissful, but also can cloud your judgment. If you drink too much they fill up your head and it gets too stuffy. Too many ingested nargles can give quite a nasty headache,” explained Luna airily.

“There’s also alcohol in alcohol, I hear,” replied Hermione with a quirked eyebrow.

“Oh… what does that do?”

“Pretty much the same thing… You still think it’s the nargles don’t you?”

“Let’s just agree to disagree, eh?” Hermione shrugged, but soon her face broke into a smile. Luna laughed good-naturedly and clinked her glass to Hermione’s. The platinum blonde had long been accustomed to Hermione’s reasonable way of thinking and thus her comments on Luna’s seemingly farfetched delusions. But what would years ago have been a rude judgment on Luna’s wacky preposterous ideas had softened and turned into banter, into affectionate teasing. Moreover, Hermione had come to think of Luna as a great friend. Where as Luna forced Hermione to let go of trained, book read concepts Hermione had brought Luna closer to a more logical side of things. Ultimately the friendship was beneficial for them both in an odd mutualistic sort of way.

As the conversation turned to other things, Hermione’s eyes looked across the booth to once again find Harry gazing down into his cup, a frown marking his features. She sighed. She had brought him out in hopes that being around people would get his mind of off things, but every now and again when she looked over she’d discover him staring off at something. Sure, he’d been congenial when addressed, but once the conversation drifted off as it did at that very moment… well, that’s when she’d catch the sad Harry seeping back up to the surface again.

Glancing down at her watch she caught the time. It was already getting quite late and it didn’t look like being out anymore was helping Harry get any better. With a long drag she finished off the last of her mug before setting it back on the table with a clang.

“Oi! Yoooooou gettin’ da next round, Misss Granger?” asked Neville cheerily from the stool he was perched upon. He seemed to be swaying as he spoke.

“No, I’m afraid not. I should be getting back. It’s late.” Hermione stood and shuffled out of the booth.

“Oh no! Ya can’t leave! Not at a time like this!” shouted Seamus in outrage. “Da party’s just startin’!!!”

“I’m sure it is! But I have to be up early,” replied Hermione as she leaned across to kiss Seamus’ cheek. She did the same for Neville and Dean and then gave a small wave to Luna who was too far nestled in the corner of the booth for her to reach. “Harry, you ready?”

Harry nodded finishing off the last of his drink before standing up. He bid his mates goodbye and then followed Hermione through the thick of people to get to the exit.

“Ahhh… it’s such a good night,” breathed Hermione as they entered the street. The spring had finally arrived and even though normally the night time was still a tad chilly, this night wasn’t. The air was pleasant and the light jacket she wore was enough to keep her content. She turned back to Harry as he hung back stuffing his hands deep into his typical black coat.

“Yeah it is, I guess.”

She stood in the street looking him up and down. “When did you get to be so dreary?” She inched a little bit forward. “Tonight is wonderful! And all you have to say is ‘Yeah I guess’,” she teased as she did her best to mock his unenthusiastic tone.

Harry merely shrugged in his usual way, his jacket ends lifting as he raised his hands that were still anchored in his coat.

“You know I’m about tired of people saying that I take the mickey out of every situation because if they would’ve seen,” Hermione raised a pointing finger to him, “Mr. Harry Potter in that pub then surely they would reconsider! I’ve never been so bored in my life! And half of it’s been spent in a library with dusty old books… and right now they have more personality than you!”

Hermione’s teasing didn’t seem to do any good. Harry was motionless only ducking his head down in quiet thought after a moment.

“Well…” she sighed. “This night is beautiful… Too bad it’s such a waste.” Hermione then did something she rarely ever did as she had previously found it too girly for someone of her intelligence to willingly partake in. She twirled. Right there in the street. It was a gorgeous night. The air was ripe with a new spring and more than anything she felt happy and was feeling carefree, so she did it. She twirled in the street as if her life was a shabby musical.

She stopped when she spotted something she hadn’t seen in a long, long while. Three weeks to be exact. It had been something she had missed dearly, something she’d been trying to coax out of hiding.

The fleeting, yet ever present boyish smirk of Harry Potter.

“Harry… what is that I see?” Hermione returned his as she stepped closer to him. “Is that a smile, I see?”

Harry looked down at his feet, slightly bashful now that he’d been caught. “Can’t help it… You’re twirling in the street like an idiot,” he muttered.

“You know I’ve had to room with this depressing tosspot these last few weeks. Needless to say, it’s been dreadful! I’ve been bored to tears!” She grabbed his lapels of his jacket straightening them and pulling him closer. “It’s about time you came back.”

Hermione tilted her head trying to catch his eyes, but he averted them keeping them trained on his shoes. Finally, her hand reached up to his face and with a single curved finger she gently lifted his chin till her eyes could meet his. “Harry… I’ve missed you.”

Her voice was so sincere and her eyes glinted with something that Harry had never seen before, something he couldn’t quite place was nestled within her depths. He felt himself getting lost in them like he had all those days ago on the streets walking to that little Italian library to meet Aldo for the first time.

She seemed hesitant to do something but then as she swallowed a decided gulp, her hand moved to the side of his face. She watched in fascination as it caressed his cheek ever so softly. Harry on the other hand kept his eyes locked on her. As her hand lay against the side of his face stroking it tenderly with the pad of her thumb, he couldn’t help himself as he leaned into her open palm.

Her eyes darted back to his. And once again, they were stuck. Locked in something that they had never been locked in before. There had been moments before, intense and powerful, but they’d always broken them, they’d always drawn away before more could come. This was different. He couldn’t move away not even if he wanted to. And neither could she.

He had longed for touch, longed for soft caresses in the night. It was the main reason why he had been sleeping on the couch. Lately, his bed had seemed far too big to be shared alone. Sleeping alone with no one next to him pressed up against his chest after having someone continually there doing so for the last four years… well, it was unbearable. So he had resorted to the couch where there was no space, where if he didn’t think about it he could convince himself that the backing of it was the warm bodied girl he wished to be next to.

And Hermione had left him be for the most part, letting him deal in solitary as he had done with her all those months ago after her break up with Ron. Sure, she had comforted him and talked him through some rough patches over the last three weeks. He’d yelled and screamed and cursed at her in ways that he had been unable to do with Ginny. But for the majority of the time, she’d let him cope on his own only going near him when the situation and his emotions deemed it necessary, comforting him only when he’d on the rare occasion let his tide pool of feelings flood him.

Yet, here she was. Her hand pressed against his cheek affectionately as if she’d slipped just this once, as if she’d given into some urge she had wanted to give into but had been suppressing. In truth, she had been waiting for a long time for the real Harry to resurface and with his long absent smile and the look in his eyes as she raised his chin she found herself unable to hold back. She wasn’t lying when she’d said she missed him.

Hermione’s thumb continued to graze his stubbly skin as Harry exhaled a long, deep breath closing his eyes as he did so releasing a tension he’d been holding within him for three weeks, a tension only Hermione could undo.

There they were, on the street in the middle of Diagon Alley having one of the most intimate moments they’d ever had.

Suddenly a flash clicked.

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