. . .
Hermione paused to turn the page in her book on advanced rune clusters, using the break to refill her glass of wine from the half empty bottle which sat on the floor next to her. The sweet red liquid went down smoothly when she took a sip. "That's the good stuff," she mused aloud to herself with an appreciative smile as she sat the glass down and turned back to her book. A quiet night at home tucked into a good book and a great bottle of wine. What could be better?
Try as she might though, the young witch couldn't seem to focus upon the words on the page, having already read them three times. A log in the fireplace gave a loud pop, drawing her eyes towards the flickering flames and capturing her attention. Outside the frigid January night continued as the snow blew and the wind howled in the midst of a storm. Inside there was only the light of the large fireplace and the few candles which she used to read by. She liked to think it made things cozier.
The past several years since the end of the war and her completion of her seventh year at Hogwarts had been good ones. Ron and she had finally stopped dancing around the subject and admitted that they had feelings for one another shortly after the final battle. The following years had seen their relation have their share of ups and downs. What relationship doesn't, she wondered to herself as she took another sip of wine. In truth things had changed very little between them as they still had argued excessively with each other over the smallest of things.
Ron had been very kind and considerate at the start, realizing that she would wish to complete her schooling before they could even talk about getting married. The young wizard had fully supported her wish to return to Hogwarts even as he himself joined the Auror's Corps, thanks to an offer by the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. Ron knew that Harry and him would be in training for some time and believed that Hermione would be happiest returning to complete her seventh year.
The problems began when she had been offered the position of Undersecretary to the Minister of Foreign Liaisons directly out of Hogwarts. Both flattered as well as surprised by the job offer she had taken it. Harry had been excited for her while Ron, though less thrilled, had none the less congratulated her on the position. Six months later when her boss, an elderly wizard well past one hundred and fifty years of age, had retired Shacklebolt had offered her the vacant position.
The promotion had placed her as a Department Head and hence made her higher up than Ron and Harry were. Harry took great pleasure in saluting her and calling her Madam Minister every chance he got, much to her chagrin and embarrassment. Ron didn't like the fact that his girlfriend was making a larger salary than he was and, if looked at correctly, was his boss as all Department Heads were considered to be just under the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's position.
Ron and Hermione's breakup had been one of epic proportions that had occurred during Harry's birthday party the previous year, a fact that she still felt bad about. I'm still not sure how we managed to last that long limping along as we were. Looking back, as she had done more than once, Hermione knew that it mostly had to do with Harry. Their mutual friend always seemed to be there to defuse a situation or to get one or the other to apologize when they had gotten into an argument.
The fact that Harry managed to do that without appearing to take sides was simply unbelievable. The additional fact that he managed it while he was going through his own messy breakup with Ginny, followed by a steady stream of one to two date relations made it nothing short of a miracle in her book. It wasn't till the Yule time last year that she had realized that as much as Harry had been there for her and Ron, neither of them had actually been there for Harry.
Hermione had taken the time to apologize to her best friend during the days between Christmas and the New Year's. Harry, as was his typical fashion, had brushed it off as not being a major deal but she had seen the surprise and gratitude in his eyes when she had talked to him. Since that time Hermione had made it a point to always be there for him when he needed her. Usually to give him a place to crash and a sympathetic ear to listen when his most recent relationship crashed and burned. An all too frequent occurrence since the breakup with Ginny Weasley.
Hermione went to take another sip of her wine only to realize that the glass had somehow managed to empty itself. Setting the book aside as a lost cause for the night, the young woman of twenty-four refilled her class and set the bottle back down just as there was a pounding on her door. "I wonder who that could be?" she asked as she glanced towards the grandfather clock near the fireplace and saw it was a little after midnight. Slipping her wand from her sleeve she stood and made her way toward the front door.
As Hermione neared the door there was another series of banging as well as a voice calling her name. The fact that the voice managed to slur her name a bit didn't surprise her when she recognized the voice. It had been over a week since Harry had been by to see her. "I guess he was due," she mumbled beneath her breath as she unlocked the door and opened it.
"Hi Beautiful," Harry greeted her with as he leaned a bit unsteadily against the door frame and regarded her with a goofy grin that was only marred by his broken lip and rapidly blackening left eye. "Miss me?"
"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed in a worried tone,"What happened to you?" she asked as she pulled her sweater tightly about her as a cold wind blew in.
"You should see the other guy!" Harry smirked only to wince as it caused his lip to hurt worse.
"Hopefully you didn't kill him," Hermione replied as she stepped over so he could lean on her as she helped him into the house.
"Nah, he may be a slimy git but Ron can take it," Harry told Hermione as she kicked the door closed behind them, cutting off the cold wind that had been blowing in.
"Ron?" Hermione parroted back incredulously. "You and Ron were fighting?" The witch couldn't believe what she was hearing. From the looks of Harry it must have been one hell of a row, she thought.
"Tosser had it coming," Harry slurred as he staggered a bit before she deposited him on the end of the couch rather abruptly before he could fall down.
"Stay here, I'll be right back," Hermione told him a she went to get water, a cloth and some ice for his eye. Upon returning she found the inebriated wizard leaning all the way forward with his head between his knees and his arms down near the floor. It was hard to tell exactly what he was doing as his back was towards her and the couch was in the way. "Alright there, Harry?" she asked as she made to walk around the couch. Please don't let him be sick, she begged only to hear him giggling to himself.
"Can't get it off," Harry chuckled as he pulled at the front tip of his shoe in an effort to remove it from his foot. The other shoe, already liberated, rested a short distance away. "Ruddy shoe hates me," he mumbled rather drunkenly.
Hermione, in spite of herself, couldn't help but grin at the comical situation Harry was in. Kneeling upon the floor she set the items she had brought with her down before reaching out and helping Harry back to a sitting position once more. "Allow me my lord," she teased as she deftly eased the shoe from his foot and set it aside.
"Oh that's so much better," Harry exclaimed with a deep appreciative sigh as he wiggled his toes in enjoyment. "You're the best, Hermione!"
"Yeah, yeah. So you keep telling me," Hermione replied with a grin as she wet the washrag in the basin of water, wringing out the excess. "Let me see that hand," she instructed as she reached for the wizard's right hand and began cleaning the injury around Harry's knuckles."So, what was the fight about?"
"Nothing," Harry replied as he leaned his head back against the top of the couch and let her work on his busted up fist."Everything. Doesn't matter."
Hermione frowned as she cleaned away the blood, trying to make certain there was no dirt in the open wounds. "That's vague even for you, Harry," she told him only to receive a humorous snort in way of reply."I guess that means it was about me as you won't tell me."
"Bloody wanker! Doesn't know a good thing when he's got it," Harry answered with in a heated tone.
Hermione watched the hand she was working on curl into a fist, blood once more slowly seeping from the marred skin. The witch simply held onto Harry wrist and waited for it to pass. When it did she continued with her ministration. "I broke up with him Harry. I'd expect him to be none too happy with me," she told him, thinking logically.
"Doesn't give him no right to go bad mouthing you,'Mione," the drunk wizard growled menacingly.
Hermione smiled at his words. Harry was the only one she allowed to call her 'Mione. Even Ron had stopped doing it after she had given him a serious dressing down for doing so. Harry's protectiveness of her was sweet she thought, even if she was a grown woman and able to fend for herself. "It's alright, Harry," she tried to tell him calmly but he wasn't having any of it.
"No! It's not alright, 'Moine!" Harry declared suddenly sitting up. "It's his business if he wants to be tellin all the guys at work how his new girlfriend gave it up to him on their second date but that doesn't give him and right to be bad mouthing you!" Harry told her as he struggled to rise, set to go find the git and give him another thrashing."No need to be calling you frigid and a tease," he growled angrily.
Hermione struggled to keep him seated. Even drunk Harry was quick and agile, nearly making it to his feet. Hermione finally had to sit in his lap to keep him there on the couch. "You're not going anywhere!" she told Harry in no uncertain terms. Reaching down she grabbed the bag of ice and slapped it against his black eye. The mixture of pain and coldness seemed to snap Harry from his murderous intentions.
"OUCH! Hermione! That hurt!" Harry exclaimed, his hand flying to the ice against the left side of his face.
"Good!" she scolded him. "Maybe it will knock some sense into the Gryffindor head of yours!" Hermione spat out. "Hold that there," she instructed in a slightly more even tone as she took his hand and directed it to the bag of ice. Sliding from his lap now that she was certain he wasn't go to try and run off, she rinsed the washrag and wrung it out. "Give me your other hand," she instructed him, taking it gently in hers when he offered it to her.
Hermione regarded the hand which was in worse shape than the previous one. The gouges around the knuckles were deeper and the third finger in sat at an abnormal angle from the others. "I think this may be broken," she told him as she worked to wipe away the blood and dirt."I should have some Skele-Gro around here someplace," she added only to hear Harry groan in distaste. "Serves you right for fighting," she snickered.
"You're so mean to me, `Mione," Harry whined as only a drunk man could. The witch with him simply chuckled as she finished cleaning the hand before wrapping it in bandages. She had straightened the bent finger but Harry was too drunk to even notice it when she did. A few wipes at his busted lip and she was done.
"That ought to hold you for now," Hermione said to Harry. Retrieving the items off the floor she put everything away before returning with a class of water and a single dose of Skele-Gro for Harry to take. "Here you go, just what the doctor ordered," she said with a grin as she held them out to Harry.
"Got anything stronger?" Harry asked, eyeing the glass of water.
"Not for you," she replied. "I think you've had more than enough strong stuff for one night. Now down the hatch or I'll floo Madam Pomfrey to come over!" Hermione threatened.
Harry's head shot up and he stared at Hermione with the most ghastly look of fright on his face. "No! Anything but that!" Several years back Harry had been very ill and had been refusing to go have himself checked out. Hermione had flooed the Mediwitch who had made a house call for her favorite patient. The subsequent tongue lashing Harry had received had not been pretty to say the least. Harry hastily grabbed both items and drank them down before handing them back. "You know, you're really not a nice person," he told her in a pouting tone of voice.
Hermione just chuckled at his words, knowing he didn't mean them."I keep trying to tell you that," she replied as she set the empty classes on the end table before resuming her seat upon the floor where she had been before Harry's arrival. "You just don't want to seem to believe me," she added as she snagged her glass and took a sip of her wine while she turned her head and looked towards the man on her couch. Seeing the puppy-dog look Harry was giving her, Hermione patted the carpet beside her,"Come on," she told him.
Harry grinned like a loon for a moment and then slid off the couch and onto the floor where he promptly laid down and settled his head in Hermione's lap. Harry sighed contentedly as he closed his eyes and relaxed."There's no place like home," he said with a smile.
"This is my home," Hermione reminded him playfully as she refilled her glass with one hand while beginning to run the other one absently through Harry's dark locks.
"Alright, there's no place like Hermione's home," he corrected. "Or her lap for that matter," he added cheekily earning himself a playful swat on his shoulder.
Hermione grinned at his antics, happy that he was here and that they could still talk and spend time together like this. Loosing Ron as a friend was hard as they had known each other since she was eleven and been through numerous scrapes together. Hermione knew that although she had known Harry just as long as Ron, there was something special about the relationship she had with the bespectacled wizard. They had shared more than she ever thought she would with anyone else. Perhaps more importantly was the fact that they still continued to share themselves with each other to this day.
The bright witch wasn't certain how to explain it, truly. There wasn't anything she had that she could compare it to. While she had loved Ron, and still did in some ways, their relationship was nothing like what she had with Harry. She knew that Harry felt the same way for her because they had spoken about it, more than once actually. It was yet another thing that make their relationship unique, they could talk to each other about anything and anyone and know they wouldn't be judged for it.
They didn't feel the need to define themselves, conform to preconceive ideas or even quantify what they had. They knew that they were just Hermione and Harry, the best of friends. They simply were and it was…perfect. Perhaps that is why neither of them did anything to change the way things were. Neither felt that anything else was called for.
"So what happened to Melody?" Hermione asked after a few silent minutes where she continued to run her fingers through Harry's hair and he continued to enjoy it.
Harry's brow creased in confusion. "Melody? She was several months ago," Harry reminded her. "No, the current ex-girlfriend of The-Boy-Who-Hates-His-Name is Melany."
"Right," Hermione drawled, as if there is a difference between Melody and Melany, she thought. "So what happened to Melany?"
Harry's expression turned thoughtful for a moment. "I think I left her at the bar," he finally admitted, wincing at the realization. Not one of his stellar moments he would have to admit. "Probably just as well," he mused aloud. "We were finished anyways."
"What was wrong about her?" Hermione asked, looking down at Harry's face where it rested in her lap. Ever since Harry's rather public breakup with Ginny the man had been unable to stay in a relationship for more than a week or so. Some had only lasted a day or two, yet there seemed to be no end to the line of women who were willing to date the famous wizard. There always seemed to be something wrong with each and every one of them that did.
"Her ears," Harry finally conceded after a silent pause while he considered her question.
"Her ears?" Hermione snorted in disbelief, the noise causing Harry to crack open an eye to look at her.
"Did you just snort?" Harry teased, a look of fabricated shock upon his face.
"I most certainly did not!" Hermione shot back with a mock glare.
"Could have sworn I heard a snort, Ms. Granger," Harry replied straight faced as he turned his head back and resituated it in her lap before closing his eyes once again. Hermione smothered a giggle and went back to playing with his hair. "Yes, her ears. One was higher than the other one," he continued with after a moment. "Made her look like her head was always tilted to one side a bit. I kept wanting to tilt my head to match. Very distracting when you're trying to carry on a conversation," Harry assured her.
"I can but imagine," she offered in mock seriousness, trying desperately not to laugh as Harry was being rather drunkenly sincere in his reasoning. "So lopsided ears," she clarified.
"Not cute at all, "Harry replied.
"Honestly Harry, no one's ears are cute!" Hermione told him with a laugh just before taking a sip of her drink and nearly choking when he replied.
"Yours are, `Mione," Harry told her in a tone that clearly stated he truly believed that.
Hermione's blush had nothing to do with the large gulp of wine or the second one that followed that one. The witch set the glass down and filled it, emptying the bottle in the process. "And the one before her? What was her name?" she finally managed to ask, hoping that her voice sounded casual.
"Abba," Harry chuckled as he supplied the model's stage name. "I don't know what I was thinking. I couldn't see myself with someone named after a band," Harry confessed humorously. "I kept expecting her to break out and start singing Dancing Queen or something!" he stated, starting Hermione giggling. "Merlin wouldn't that have been a sight! Throw in a dancing number and it would be quite the show!"
Hermione couldn't help but laugh, nearly doubling over in the process as the mental image appeared in her mind. "Stop, Harry, you're killing me here!" she exclaimed between bouts of giggles and laughter. A few minutes passed before they both got control of themselves once again."There's always something wrong with them," Hermione added after she started in on Harry hair once again. Running her fingers through his darkened strands was something she enjoyed nearly as much as he did.
"Seems so," Harry mumbled, the alcohol and that last burst of energy finally combining to make the wizard sleepy.
"Who would have thought we'd end up here," Hermione voiced as Harry rolled to his side and buried his face into her abdomen, nuzzling it several times till he was apparently comfortable with his position. Hermione smiled affectionately and waited for Harry to settle once again before she continued with her ministrations. "You the most famous wizard alive can't keep a girlfriend for more than two weeks and me the twenty-four year old virgin. Don't we make a pair," she asked mirthlessly.
"Is okay, `Mione, I'm a virgin too," Harry told her in a tired voice. "Nothing wrong with that."
"Really?" Hermione asked in disbelief only to see the wizard nod back and forth into her stomach. "But you've been with so many women?"
"Never with them long enough to get that far," Harry manage to say just before a huge yawn took his ability to speak away from him. "'Mione…. Worth waiting for," he mumbled, though she wasn't certain if he meant she was worth waiting for or that having sex was worth waiting to do with someone you loved rather than a one night stand.
"But you keep going back," Hermione stated, thinking of her own situation. After Ron she hadn't even tried to find someone else. In fact she had pretty much avoided any situation that would have allowed her to meet someone else and build a relationship. Instead she had focus on her career and thought herself happy. A fact she was no longer sure about. "Why do you keep trying, Harry?"
"Waiting for someone," Harry mumbled after such a long pause that Hermione had thought that he had finally fallen asleep.
"Waiting for someone?" the witch parroted back at the wizard in her lap as she leaned down to catch his words.
Harry gave a small nod. "Waiting for someone as good as you,'Mione," he mumbled. "Think I'm gonna sleep now," he added just before his breathing evened out and he fell fast asleep.
Hermione sat for some time lost in thought over Harry's last words, how his life had been as well as how hers was and where it was going. The last of the wine was long since gone and her hand had stilled, tangled among the blackened strands of Harry's hair. She stared down at the peaceful face asleep in her lap, knowing it was seldom that Harry knew such peace and comfort. The brilliant witch came to a startling discovery as she sat there, she had been waiting as well.
In first year she had waited for him to save her from the troll. Second year she had waited for him to beat the basilisk and free her from petrification. Third year she had waited for Harry to see her as a girl and ask her to Hogsmeade as something other than a friend. Forth year she had waited for him to ask her to the Yule Ball. Fifth year she waited for him to ask for help with what he was dealing with due to Umbridge. Sixth year she had waited for their friendship to end as it had truly looked like it would. She had been so mixed up and confused that year and treated Harry horribly.
Then came the horcrux hunt, the war and everything else. When Ron had left them in the tent she had waited for Harry to come comfort her and tell her it would be alright. She realized now that had been a bit foolish in that Harry was a boy and rather clueless to such things. Given Harry's upbringing it wasn't hard to see where he might not have a clue as to what love was or even know how to recognize it when he felt it.
Seeing Harry with Ginny had confused her though and led her to believe that perhaps he did in fact know what love was. When the two of them had broken it off, she had asked Harry what he had loved about Ginny. The wizard had given a small shrug and said, "I don't know. It was nice being normal for a change." Perhaps that should have been a clue that the boy's image of love was fraudulent or skewered. At the very least it indicated that it wasn't perfect.
Her relationship with Ron was anything but perfect yet Harry was always there for her, always had time for her. He listened to what she had to say and cared about her. In retrospect she saw now that just like first year she was once again waiting for Harry…waiting for him to save her from herself this time. To save her from making a mistake and marrying Ron.
In the end he had, by doing the one thing Harry had always done, be there for her. It was his presence that had allowed her to end things with Ronald. Just as it was Harry's presence that had seen her through the rough times that had followed. Harry, for as long as she had known him had always been there, just waiting on her. Waiting for when she needed him. She realized that for a boy who knew nothing of love, what it felt like or how to show it, that might be all he could do. Harry had been there when she needed him because that was how he showed his love.
"We're a couple of nutters," Hermione mused in a soft whisper, the corners of her mouth turning up in a grin as she regarded the sleeping wizard affectionately. "Both of us waiting on the other." The soft swelling of warmth in her chest was most certainly love she knew that she held for Harry. It was warm and comforting like his embrace and a bit scary at the same time as it meant a definite change to their relationship.
The young woman pulled forth her wand and levitated Harry from her lap. A quick flick of the 10 ¾ inch piece of vine wood and the couch folded out into a bed with the covers pulled down. Another flick and several pillows flew from the hall cupboard to land on the bed. A third flick and the wizard was arrayed in nothing but his boxers before being gently lowered to the waiting bed. The removed clothes folded themselves before falling into a neat stack on the nearby chair.
Hermione stripped down to just her nickers before pulling Harry's undershirt from the pile of his clothes and slipping it on. With a slight blush the witch slipped into the other side of the bed and wormed her way over till she was snuggled into the wizard's side. Harry's arm snaked out and around her, pulling her in tightly in his sleep as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Hermione stretched up and softly kissed him on the cheek, wondering what his reaction would be in the morning. Snuggling in she slowly drifted off, just before sleep claimed her she mumbled, "No more waiting for either of us."
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