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Author's Note: Things are starting to heat up. Enjoy the latest. Let me know what you guys think at the end!
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Chapter 16- Paris et L’amour


It was the end of the day and Hermione finally had emerged from her recent place of seclusion: her office. It was a little early- even for a normal working Ministry witch- to be leaving, but Hermione had a task in mind.

She and Jean had been flooing all week concerning the banquet this upcoming weekend. The International Confederation of Wizards was finally meeting next week, Paris being the centric place of choice. Hermione and Jean had worked long, hard hours and now was their time. Each country had an equal number of elected representatives from their own Wizengamots to speak for their country. With the legislation doing so well individually in each country’s own Wizengamot, it was safe to say that she and Jean could finally get the Potter Privacy Act and Dobby Act made into International Statutes especially with the current batch of Mugwumps leading the proceedings.

The banquet of course was set this weekend as only a celebration of the newly elected Mugwumps and the new Supreme Mugwump, but Hermione couldn’t help thinking ahead. She knew most of the wizards and witches that were selected as the judicial Warlocks for the ICW. Thus, she was hoping that she could appeal to them this coming weekend.

She was going to need all of her charm… and coincidentally a date.

Normally for these things she and Jean would simply go together… as friends of course. But ever since her break up with Ron, Hermione felt uncomfortable with the notion of going with a man that used to be interested in her. So she had lied and told Jean that she had already made arrangements. He, of course, smiled politely and said that he too had a date.

Hermione didn’t know if he was lying about having a date or not, but she couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he was trying to make her jealous. She dismissed it though. Jean’s crush on her had fizzled out quite some time ago. It was good of him to finally move on from his ideal picture perfect image of having Hermione and get a date for the banquet.

Either way, it still left Hermione dateless.

Hence, the locking of her office door so early and her current appearance on the lift as it traveled down to the Auror Department. Logically she would ask Harry. He was her best friend after all and she was in a time of need. Yes, it all made perfect sense. Logically speaking of course.

Except Hermione was nervous beyond all belief.

She couldn’t help but wring her hands together and fiddle with the loose string on her Ministry robes as she waited for the lift to open to his floor. She had been avoiding Harry… purposefully… for the last week. Ever since the Prophet came out with that article and ever since her talk with Luna and Neville, she just simply couldn’t help it. She had admitted something to herself that day that she had never even conceived possible. Sure, she had always found Harry handsome and cute in a friendly way and obviously she adored him or else they wouldn’t have been friends for so long, but it was an entirely different notion to find him attractive.

And it wasn’t just the whole realizing her attraction to Harry, but realizing more than anything that she couldn’t control herself.

Harry made her lose conscious thought. He made her do what her rational brain rarely ever did which was act on instinct. And what felt natural to her was to be closer to him. Her natural inclinations hypnotized her to take those delicate steps towards him, to raise her hand to his face, and to lean her head in. Being around him, she felt like a magnet. The closer she got the more she was drawn in, the stronger the pull, the harder it was to move away. So she had decided to stay away, to keep her distance in hopes that maybe her body would forget what it felt like to be a magnet and that maybe her mind would take back over again. Because everything in her brain screamed that no good could come from this.

The lift opened with a ding and Hermione stepped out.

She spotted Harry’s cubicle. Wiping her hands one last time against the sides of her robes, she made her way towards her messy haired friend. He seemed to be deep in thought about something as he was hunched over a few bits of parchment reviewing some notes. He didn’t even see her approach and only looked up after she had knocked softly against the side wall of his partition.

His head shot up. “Hermione… Hi!” His voice was a bit higher and happier than usual. Awkwardly he gathered up the scrolls of parchment on his desk in a hurry and then tossed them in a drawer. “What… er… what are you doing here?”

“I was… erm… Well you see I was hoping that you’d like to walk home with me today. We haven’t done so in a while and I’d like to have a chat with you if that’s alright,” she replied shakily.

“A chat?” Harry’s posture tensed with the word.

“Yeah… if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“No!” Harry replied quickly. “No, of course not…” Hermione seemed to stay there waiting for something, but it took a second for Harry to gather what it was. “Er… I suppose you wanna go now then?”

“Yeah… unless you’ve got something to finish up. I’m already set upstairs, so I’m off for the day.”

“Uhhh… ok, yeah. Let’s go then.” Harry stood up and grabbed his cloak off the back of his chair. As the pair left the Ministry, the entire place seemed to take note of their tension. Harry couldn’t help but catch the wandering eyes of so many curious witches and wizards as he and Hermione made their way out. Ever since the article, he often noticed those side glances whenever he and Hermione risked being seen anywhere in public together.

The crisp April air was breezy and cool as they entered the streets of London. The weather had warmed considerably since the first few times they had started walking home from the Ministry. Hermione remembered those days and how at ease the two were as they made their way back home to the flat. She envied those days… in terms of the walk at least.

Currently Harry kept a larger than necessary distance from her, giving her plenty of space which was something quite unusual for their walks home. She also took note of how he held his hands behind his back as they walked, almost like he was handcuffed. Harry Potter, prisoner to her conversation.

A beautiful day as it was it made no difference for neither noticed it as they were too preoccupied with the other’s presence and body language.

Harry cleared his throat. “So… er… what do you want to talk about?”

“Right. Well,” she began nervously, “I wanted to ask you something.” Turning her head, she studied Harry carefully as she spoke catching his nervous twitch with her words. She knew that he was praying to the Gods above that she not bring up the picture in the paper. She had no intention of doing so, but a part of her relished his worrisome expression. “I don’t know what you’re doing this weekend…”

Again Hermione watched him as he analyzed her words in his head. She knew he was sifting through her every word, twisting it around in his brain to see if it had any deeper meaning. What did he want them to mean? Well, she did not know, but she could not help eyeing him with an odd sort of satisfaction. He was thinking… about her. And hanging on every word she said.

“Well you see there’s this banquet this weekend in Paris… And I-I… well I need a date,” finished Hermione, again she felt her nerves burst into overdrive as Harry stayed silent. Then everything just started spilling from her mouth. “Jean already asked someone else and normally I would just go with him, but I can’t… obviously, since he has a date. So… yeah I need a date and I was hoping that you’d go with me… this weekend… to Paris… as my date.”

Hermione took a risk by glancing over at her friend. Her nerves flew away as his expression turned soft and he smiled boyishly.

“You’re asking me on a date then?” Hermione couldn’t help the pinkness in her cheeks with his interpretation.

“I’m asking you to be my date,” she corrected even though the blush never left her.

Harry nodded, but his smirk still stayed.

“So is that a yes then?” She pressed, her eyes still firmly locked on Harry’s face.

“That’s a yes,” confirmed Harry, nudging her playfully in the shoulder with his own. Hermione’s face broke into a smile to match his. “So when do we leave for Paris then?”

“The end of the week.”

“Annnndd where are we staying?”

“Jean’s booked us a hotel in the city. The banquet’s at the hotel, so it’s convenient,” she answered calmly.

The two walked along in silence for bit, taking notice of the same buildings that they had not seen for quite some time as they had neglected their leisurely stroll home for a week due to some foolish idea to avoid each other. Harry sighed happily. He was glad that they were speaking again, maybe things could move back to normal. He hated not being around Hermione, he hated feeling uncomfortable around her when he was. But now, they were walking like they used to and conversing like they used to. She was not avoiding him anymore. And soon they would be in Paris together attending a banquet.

Suddenly Harry’s features scrunched like a two year old who smells something funny as a particular thought seeped into his brain. Hermione caught his expression and quirked her usual eyebrow. Harry turned to her, “Do I have to wear dress robes?”

Hermione laughed heartily before linking her arm through his just like old times. “Yes, Harry. You’ll have to wear dress robes.”


**********


The end of the week came faster than Harry figured it would. He had spent the week getting fitted with new dress robes, picking them up, packing, tying up some things with Ed. He had not a clue what to bring, but he hoped he covered at least the basics.

Just like before when they had gone to Cesare’s funeral, the two again took the train down to Paris. Hermione enjoyed the ride and Harry kept his lips sealed even though he would’ve much preferred to apparate.

They reached Paris by late afternoon on Friday.

As Hermione hailed a taxi and directed the cab driver through the city to the hotel, Harry couldn’t help but feel nervous. The banquet was tonight and by the sounds of it there were going to be a lot of big names there. People of importance from just about every country around the globe would be in attendance. And Harry wasn’t all that good with rich folk. He wasn’t all that good with public events either. But he had promised Hermione and so he was prepared to buck up and at least attempt to be the best date a witch could ask for.

The cab stopped outside of one of the shoddiest buildings Harry had ever seen. He couldn’t help but turn to Hermione and ask if this was really it. She only smiled and told him it was. Even the driver seemed hesitant to let them off at this stop saying that the street was known for its muggings and violence, but Hermione insisted and paid the bloke well. Harry exited the cab with a shrug. He stood on the street eyeing the run down and blackened buildings with distaste.

“Come on… I swear it’s much better inside,” said Hermione seeing his look. Then taking hold of his hand, she led him towards the door. Harry’s stomach fluttered with the touch of her hand as he followed her obediently through the doors.

Walking into the hotel was like having a veil lifted from his eyes. Harry’s jaw dropped once he saw the inside of the building. The floors were marble and shined with fresh polish. The fountain in the center of the open foyer had statues of mermen and mermaids with crystal clear water flowing from their spears and fingers. A great golden and many tiered chandelier hung gracefully from the ceiling. The place was absolutely brimming with wizards and witches of all sorts, dressed in the most stunning robes Harry had ever seen.

“Hermione I think I’m underdressed even for the lobby,” muttered Harry in awe.

Hermione only chuckled at Harry’s expression before leading him down the staircase and towards the reception desk. As Hermione checked the two in, Harry spun around to take the place in again. He felt like the eleven year old boy he had been after seeing Diagon Alley for the first time.

“Mademoiselle Granger and Monsieur Potter… yes we ‘ave you in de penthouze zweet. Top floor,” said the woman behind the counter as she handed Hermione the key.

Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand again and led him to the lifts. They took the six hundred and fifty seven floors up to their room. Hermione opened the double doors and immediately went to the bedroom where she unshrinked their luggage and then began unpacking while Harry set about exploring the whole place.

From the balcony he called back to Hermione, “Hermione! We can see the entire city from out here!!” He only stayed out on the balcony a moment breathing in the thick air of the city before running about the suite like a kid in a candy store, shouting something to Hermione from every corner of the suite whenever he discovered something new. “Hermione! The coffee pot talks! It talks, Hermione!!”

Hermione laughed quietly to herself as she continued to unpack. She could hear the thump thump of Harry’s feet as he sprinted from one end of the suite to the next.

Finally Harry appeared at the doorway to the bedroom with a puzzled expression. “That’s odd… there’s only one bedroom.”

Looking up from her suitcase, Hermione shook her head doubtfully. “Harry, it’s ‘de penthouze zweet’ remember? I’m sure there’s another bedroom. Why would Jean only book us into a room with only one bedroom?”

“Hermione, I’ve just explored this entire penthouze zweet and I am telling you this penthouze zweet only has one bedroom,” replied Harry.

Hermione sighed, “Ok fine, I believe you… Listen we can change rooms later. I have to start getting ready for the banquet and so do you.” As she finished that sentence she pulled out her soft lilac gown from the depths of her travel bag and then laid it on the bed. She had sprayed it with a magical no-wrinkle-fool-proof spray that she had gotten from Molly, so the gown stayed perfectly pressed even through her travels. Hermione had made sure to spray Harry’s dress robes too. “I’m off to take a shower.”

Harry heard the click of the lock to the shower room and then the stream of water as it turned on. With a sigh, he started unpacking his robes too.

An hour and a half later the two were bustling around the suite trying to put the finishing touches on themselves. As Hermione rummaged through her bag for her favorite pair of earrings, Harry tried to fix his tie.

At first he had tried tying it by hand, but then quickly found that it was far too lopsided to be acceptable. After failing three more times, he had gone to fetch his wand with an annoyed huff. But he soon found that doing it by spell made it look even worse. He had to tilt his head a considerable degree in the mirror in order for it to appear right… even the mirror told him it looked like crap. How could he make a tie appear worse by using magic? He hadn’t a clue.

Hermione emerged from the wash room again looking beautiful as ever with her make up finished. The dress she wore hugged her body in all the right places and left her toned shoulders bare for the world- and Harry- to see. She finished putting the back on her left earring before making her way over.

“Harry, do you mind zipping up the last bit?” Hermione turned around in front of him. She’d done up most of the dress. All that was left was the clasp at the top and a few centimeters of zipper space. Harry did so without hesitation and then went back to undoing his problematic tie.

Hermione turned and caught him messing with the tie again. “Here let me get that.”

Hermione drew in closer, while Harry’s hands dropped to his sides as Hermione brushed them away. Her normally fast acting fingers slowly undid his shabby work while Harry tucked his chin in to watch. “How did you even manage fourth year?” she asked with a smirk.

Harry looked up and caught her eyes, suddenly aware of how close they were. Determinedly, Hermione’s attention returned back to looping his tie as Harry stared fixedly at her, his mouth going dry. “Dean did all the ties,” he managed.

“Oh…” When she finished, she took a second to look it over before nodding to herself, satisfied with her work. Gently she reached around and folded his collar down around his neck. Harry’s breath caught with the familiar action as her hands wound around his neck and her face came up next to his. Though his feet were in France, his imagination had him placed right outside of the Hermit in Diagon Alley. Hermione didn’t appear to notice though as she pulled away without problem. Harry on the other hand felt like he’d just run a marathon with how fast his heart was pounding.

Looking up at him, her eyes gleamed as she caught sight of his hair. “Is that… gel in your hair?”

Harry tinged a bit. Did the witch really have to notice everything? “Well… erm… yeah. I wanted to look nice for your fancy gala and everything… It doesn’t seem to be working though. I can never get my hair right.”

Hermione smirked, “Join the club.” The corner of Harry’s mouth twitched into a small smile. She smoothed out the ends of his collar one more time before breaking away from him and moving over to the edge of the bed to grab her cloak. Shaking the fog from his head, Harry too retrieved his cloak and then met her at the double doors. She made to open the doors and exit the penthouse, but Harry stopped her before she could. Hermione turned back, confused.

“Before we go out there, I just want to say that you look absolutely stunning tonight- hair included- and I... erm… apologize for most likely being a very, very bad conversationist.”

Hermione’s eyes softened. Then she did something she hadn’t done in quite some time. Lifting herself up on her tip toes, she kissed his cheek. “You’ll be fine, Harry.”

And with that, they left for the banquet.


**********


Harry had been doing alright for the most part of the night. Victor Krum was there from Bulgaria and the two had swapped stories briefly. Hermione had been quite the entertainer as she jumped from table to table introducing Harry to various Warlocks and high end officials from different Ministries. He found Hermione was a natural at chatting people up. Harry did his best, but he kept forgetting people’s names. How Hermione managed to remember all the witches and wizards in that large hall Harry had no idea. Her brain had to be a card cataloger or something.

Somewhere along the way though he’d lost track of her and found that he was standing alone drinking his champagne by the bar. The first course had not been served yet as most of the crowd was still intermingling.

Then suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder.

Turning around, Harry caught the sight of the familiar sandy haired Frenchman that was his best friend’s closest associate. “Hello Jean.”

“Hallo ‘arry. ‘ow are you?” asked Jean in his usual polite manner. The timid wizard was dressed in the finest dress robes Paris had to offer, but of course he would never boast about that. Jean had a certain level of propriety and humbleness about him. Harry could easily see why the bloke before him was attracted to Hermione. They both had that uncommon, yet intelligent belief in accepting anyone and everyone. “I zee Hermione ‘az left you to buzz about. She iz vairry lively, no?”

Harry nodded as Jean smiled in return. “Yeah… especially in these situations. She’s in her element.”

This time it was Jean’s turn to nod. Then, with an amused puff of air he motioned off a few tables down where Hermione was conversing enthusiastically with a very extravagantly dressed French witch in a red gown. Harry laughed at the sight.

“She iz wondairrful, no?” Jean smiled as it was obvious that Harry agreed. “And she looks beautiful tonight. She ‘az a fine tazste. Tres elegante.” Jean went silent as the two men watched Hermione from afar as she laughed at whatever the dame in the crimson dress was saying. “I used to ‘ave a dream of Hermione and I. But… ahh… that dream waz never to ‘appen. She waz far too in love with you.”

Harry nearly spat out his drink when he registered what Jean had said. His eyes left Hermione’s form and shot to Jean. “Excuse me?” he managed to choke out.

“Ah oui, je sais. It’z ok ‘arry. I know. I ‘ave known for a long while.” Jean took a sip of his champagne before turning to the dumbfounded Harry once again. “I knew back on our first trip. She spent the entire night talking about you. I knew she waz yours… But still, she kept coming back and traveling. And you did not attend de benefits, no? So I thought that ma’be I cood win her over. I waz ‘opeful.”

Jean let out a great sigh before continuing, “But de night of de Orion… I realized I never cood. No matter ‘ow long she waz gone or ‘ow far she traveled or ‘ow much time she spent with me, she wood never search for me through a crowd and then run into my arms de way she did with you that night.”

Again Jean smiled, but this time it was a truly happy one. “And now, you are here today before me, you are here with her.” Jean smacked Harry’s arm playfully even though Harry still seemed to be in a daze. “You are coming to these things and after de picture in de Prophet… Well, I am a Frenchman and I know love. AND I ‘ave never zeen a couple so in love az the couple in that picture from de paper…”

Hermione seemed to somehow sense that she was being watched and looked up from her tête-à-tête with the older French woman. She found the two looking her way. Jean with a pleased smile lifted his glass of champagne to her. She did the same to him and from afar, the two toasted each other. Her eyes darted to Harry’s and she winked at him before happily returning back to her conversation.

“Ahh zee the way she looks at you… ‘arry that iz love if I ever saw it.”

For reasons not entirely clear to him, Harry felt his pulse quicken at the thought. He knew his cheeks must’ve turned a bit pink as Jean chuckled softly next to him.

“You act az if you did not know. It iz obvious… And I am vairry ‘appy for you and Hermione,” said Jean before offering Harry his hand which he took shaking it. Then, as if their exchange never happened he went off to introduce himself to a group of Germans leaving Harry with his thoughts.


**********


As the night had finally wound down, Harry trudged his way out of the elevator with a damn near sleeping Hermione wrapped around his arm. Shuffling up to the door and searching through her clutch, Hermione located the key to the room and unlocked the door. Both of them were spent for the night.

Harry walked in and suddenly stopped. He had forgotten about Jean’s little twist for their rooming arrangements, but now after having spoken with him that particular twist made a lot of sense.

“Hermione we forgot to change rooms… there’s only one bed,” muttered Harry as he rubbed at his tired eyes. Hermione groaned at the reminder.

“Harry it’s two am. There’s no way we’re going to get another room.”

Harry nodded in agreement and with a great yawn made his way over to the sofa. He threw his cloak on a nearby chair before sitting down on the sofa and untying his black dress shoes. He slipped his shoes off and then started working the tie and buttons undone on his white collared shirt. In a sleepy daze, he threw the tie on the ground and pulled off his shirt. The item too landed somewhere on the ground. He was about to reach for his belt on his trousers when he noticed that Hermione still stood in the foyer watching him as he undressed to just his white undershirt and almost nearly to his boxers.

Suddenly bashful for having stayed, Hermione averted her eyes and looked down at her feet. “Harry, you don’t have to sleep on the sofa. We could,” she gulped, “erm… share the bed.”

“It’s ok, Hermione. I really don’t mind. I actually like the sofa,” replied Harry.

Hermione looked up at him knowingly, reading him. He found it odd that he had supposed that she would never have noticed him taking to sleeping on the sofa in their flat back in London instead of in his lonely bed. Harry felt foolish suddenly for thinking that she wouldn’t be able to read into his emotions. She knew him far too well and she knew why he liked the sofa so much especially as of late.

But she decided to leave it alone and with a shrug, she whispered a soft goodnight to him before making her way to the bedroom and leaving him to the sofa.

After she had retreated behind the double doors to the suite’s bedroom, Harry slipped his trousers off leaving him in just his t-shirt and boxers. He sat down on the cushions. Just as he was about to reach for his glasses to put them on the coffee table, he heard her call him from within the bedroom.

Unsure of what state he was going to find her in, Harry opened one of the doors and peeked in. She stood by the bed with her hair down from its earlier sleek up do and her gown still on.

“Harry can you get the zipper again?” She asked before striding towards him and spinning around.

“Yeah sure.”

Harry for some reason felt nervous as he undid the catch at the top of the dress while Hermione held up her hair revealing the muscles behind her shoulder blades and her long feminine neck. He hadn’t even started unzipping and already Harry was having trouble. His palms were sweating profusely as his eyes darted between the dress, her neck, and her back.

Wasn’t there some sort of spell for zippers?

Getting a secure grip with his left hand, slowly Harry began to lower the zipper revealing more of Hermione’s back. At the beginning of the night, Hermione had done most of the work by zipping up most of her dress and only needing Harry to do up the last bit. But now, Harry found a daring that he never thought he had and ever so carefully he guided the zipper further down past the point where she needed him to till finally a lacy bra, lilac just like her dress, was peeking out from the parted backing. Driven by some unknown curiosity, Harry kept the zipper going down further exposing the clasp of the bra and the lower half of Hermione’s sculpted body. Finally the zipper snagged as its enticing trail ended right above the top of her bum.

Harry swallowed the saliva in his mouth with a gulp.

They both stood there for a second neither really knowing what to do, neither really knowing what they were doing. Finally Hermione whispered thickly, “Thanks,” before walking back over to the bed. Harry glanced one last time to her before making his way through the doors. As he turned to shut them, his eyes caught sight of Hermione’s hooked thumbs in between the fabric of the dress and her newly exposed hips. She had let the front of her gown drop. With a shaky hand he began closing the door not wanting to interrupt her privacy, but just before the lock clicked his hand paused and instead kept it open by just a sliver. He wanted to shut his eyes, but he couldn’t. And so they traveled over the new flesh that she had offered unknowingly to him.

He only had one question, one haunting question, that needed answering or else he’d never be able to sleep that night. His eyes stared anxiously at Hermione’s hooked thumbs in anticipation. She seemed to be waiting for something. Harry held his breath waiting too. Then finally her thumbs scooted her dress downward as her hips wriggled out of it. The dress was a heap on the floor and Hermione was standing alone by the large four poster bed in nothing but her lacy matching bra and knickers. Harry turned away his question having been answered…

Harry’s eyes shut momentarily as he burned the image into his mind.

Then quietly he made his way back to the sofa, his place of resting for the evening. He had been so tired a few moments ago, but now his mind was awake as a whole different kind of loneliness set upon him for the first time. As he lay down sinking deep into the sides of the couch, he found himself not lonely for the red headed girl of his past, but for the brown curly haired witch in the next room

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