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Lunch at Maxine's by apAidan
Format: Short story
Chapter 2: Chapter 2 - When One's Reality Cheque Bounces
“I’m in love with Harry bloody Potter and I have been since I was eleven.” Totally gobsmacked, Hermione stared vacantly at the table while her mother laughed.
Laughing heartily, Helen Granger shook her head at her daughter. “Honestly Hermione, you look as if you just found out that life as you know it was coming to an end.”
Reaching over and grabbing her mother’s arm, she tried to shush her. “Mother,” she whispered, “this isn’t funny. For over a decade, I’ve being lying to the world and, apparently, myself about my relationship with my best mate. Everything in my life is predicated upon Harry being my best friend and it’s all ruined.”
Laughing harder, Helen patted Hermione’s hand and tried to gain control of herself. Taking a deep breath, she held if for about ten seconds and then released it slowly. Still chuckling, she shook her head. “Hermione, it’s not the end of the world. Your father is my best friend and I couldn’t love him any more if I tried.” Nodding to try to reassure her daughter, she took another deep breath. “All you have to do is pick up some of that Gryffindor courage you’re so proud of and tell the poor boy you love him.”
Shaking her head from side to side, Hermione looked on the edge of panic. “Mother, you don’t understand. If Harry felt the same way, don’t you think he would have said something over the past ten years? If I tell him this, it’s going to wreck our friendship, our relationship.” Tears forming in her eyes, she looked away. “I don’t think I could survive living without him, and I’m not about to risk that.”
Nodding seriously, Helen waited until her daughter was composed before she continued. “What makes you think Harry was any less in denial about this than you were until a couple of minutes ago?” Smiling at the shocked look on her face, she shrugged. “Face it, dear, he’s a man and they’re all relatively clueless when it comes to things like this.”
Looking a bit wary, Hermione bit her lower lip in thought. “Mother, I can’t risk losing him. I’m not certain how I’m supposed to act now that I know I’ve loved him all this time. It’s certainly going to make a couple of aspects of our relationship a bit more difficult.”
Seeing the blush on her daughter’s cheeks, Helen looked at her appraisingly. “Exactly what have the two of you been getting up to in that big house of yours for the past five months?”
Looking up in alarm, Hermione’s blush deepened. “It’s nothing like that, Mother.” Looking back down, she continued in a quiet voice. “I told you about the nightmares, both his and mine.” Pausing for a second, Helen could see that her daughter was carefully weighing every word before she spoke.
“Hermione, just tell it. I’m not going to judge you or react. My only concern is for both you and Harry and your happiness.” Smiling, she patted her daughter’s hand, trying to reassure her.
“We’d spend nights on the chesterfield, holding each other and keeping the dreams away. After Ron left, one night I was tired of that blasted divan in the library, so I told Harry that we were going to get a proper night’s sleep if it killed us.” Looking up at her mother, trying to gauge her reaction, she smiled. “I transfigured the sitting area in the nursery into a proper bed and we started sleeping in it.” Smiling at the knowing look in her mother’s eyes, she shook her head. “Just sleeping. We’d hold each other until we’d fall asleep, and then we’d wake in the morning together.”
Blushing, she smiled. “I don’t think I can give that up. Some mornings, I wake first and I just watch him and listen to his breathing, feel his heart beating. I think about all the things that have happened to him over the years, all the shite he had to put up with from that family of his and my heart breaks for him. All I want to do is hold him and keep him safe.”
Tears were rolling down her cheeks freely as she shook her head. “How could I have been so blind, Mother? As soon as I say something like that aloud, I realize that I’ve loved him so deeply for so long. No wonder everyone always thought…” Shaking her head, she took a deep breath. “What do I do?”
Smiling and nodding, her mother beamed. “Silly goose. Just tell him. The boy has stormed the gates of hell for you, come back from the dead for you, and been with you through thick and thin for over ten years.” Helen chuckled a bit as she winked. “He’s braved the wrath of Molly Weasley for you. I’m certain he’s just as scared as you are, even more so since everyone he’s ever loved has been taken away from him except for you.”
Looking thoughtful, Helen smiled a bit coyly. “I’m willing to bet that the mornings you didn’t wake first, Harry did the same thing you did. He’s laid there, watching you sleep, marveling at how much of a part of his life you are.”
Smiling a bit, Hermione tilted her head to one side as she thought. “How should I tell him? This is very embarrassing that, for my part at least, we’ve been living a complete lie for years.” Color began to return to her cheeks. “Merlin, what would have happened if we’d actually both married?”
Nodding, Helen smiled. “Just figured that out, did you? I think both of your redheads sussed out the truth of the matter and retired from the field before it came to that. Ginny said that she wasn’t going to be forever second to the one who’s important to him. And Ron pointed out to you that if Harry was your first priority, then you should start acting like it. You might have missed that since the next thing he did was ask you if you wanted to call off the wedding.”
Slumping back in her seat, Hermione shook her head. “Is there anyone who wasn’t aware of how we felt about each other?”
Smiling, Helen shook her head. “Other than Molly? Apparently not. According to George, the betting pool on when the two of you actually figure out how you feel about each other is up to over twelve thousand galleons.” Smiling at the shocked look on Hermione’s face, she shrugged.
“I’m not certain which I want to know first. Why George is running a pool on the two of us or how you know about it.”
Sitting back in her seat, Helen chuckled at the look on her daughter’s face. “Apparently, they started the pool during your second year of school. Ron made the mistake of mentioning to Fred and George that Harry was sneaking down to the infirmary during the night while you were paralyzed to sit with you. It started with the Quidditch team, and then spread to the rest of your house. From what he tells me, half of the people you went to school with in all of the houses but Slytherin and almost all of Gryffindor have bet in the pool at least once. People keep picking new dates and rebetting when their bets finally expire.”
Nodding at the shocked look on her daughter’s face, Helen shrugged. “According to Angelina, some young woman named Romilda has the least flattering bet; she’s got a galleon on 1 September, 2017. I really don’t think she’s a big fan of yours if she thinks it would take you nineteen years to finally figure out how you feel about him.”
Shaking her head, Helen picked at her salad for a couple of seconds, allowing Hermione to process the information. “One of the goblins at Gringotts is managing the vault where the money is kept.” Smiling wickedly, she nodded at Hermione’s look of disbelief. “There are also some interesting side bets. The only Slytherin bet is that dreadful Parkinson girl’s. She’s got a standing bet that you’ll end up pregnant and try to trap Harry into marrying you that way. Apparently no one’s ever taken that bet with her.”
Shaking her head, Hermione scowled. “That bloody cow.” Looking up at her mother, she sighed. “That still doesn’t tell me how you know about all this.”
Laughing, Helen shrugged. “You’ll be surprised, I suppose, to know that George and Angelina stop by the house every other week or so for dinner.” Seeing the suspicious look on her daughter’s face, she nodded. “You father is quite fond of George and I think Angelina’s a dear. George usually brings over some ordinary gadget he wants to incorporate into either one of his pranks or one of his magical devices he sells and your father and he go out to the workbench and take it apart until George figures out how to duplicate it.”
“Daddy’s the ‘secret muggle consultant’ George has been talking about for the last year or so?”
Smiling, Helen nodded. “Actually, your father’s an employee. George has really been quite eager to get us more acquainted with your world, especially those aspects that prefects don’t usually mention to their parents.”
“Wonderful, George Weasley is corrupting my parents. Is nothing sacred?”
Smiling, Helen shook her head. “Apparently not. George and your father both think its great fun that they’ve kept this secret from the two of you. Although, your father really wasn’t too chuffed to hear George’s version of some of your adventures with Harry and Ron. It seems there’s a bit of difference between what you wrote in your letters home and what George remembers happening in a couple of instances.”
Her voice becoming serious, Helen leaned towards her daughter and whispered. “And if we’d have had any suspicions about what Harry’s home life was like, we’d have had him pulled out of there very quickly. George says that you didn’t know anything until after the fact, and I gave him a long piece of my mind about not reporting those locks and bars to someone.” Shaking her head, Helen growled in frustration. “If you don’t do something about that monster of an uncle of his, Hermione Jean, I’ll be very disappointed in you.”
Nodding grimly, Hermione smiled to reassure her mother. Casting a glance at the busboy who was clearing the next table, she lowered her voice a bit. “Trust me, mother, that man will get his. I’ve been researching some very dodgy business dealings that Vernon Dursley has apparently been involved with over the years. Just as soon as his wife finishes divorcing him and enough time has passed so she can’t be attached, I’m going to start doing something about it.”
Looking puzzled, Helen asked a question with her eyes. Hermione shrugged and answered. “Harry’s forgiven his aunt and his cousin. They came around during that year they were in hiding and they’ve started trying to make amends with him. His uncle has washed his hands of the entire lot, especially since Dudley’s dating a witch, and since Harry has forgiven them, I’ve forgiven them also.”
Shaking her head, Helen smiled. “Hermione that, in and of itself, should have tipped you off on how you really feel about him. When you start forgiving people like that simply because the man in your life has forgiven them, you’re so in love that you might as well accept the fact.”
Sighing, Hermione sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. “Mother, I still don’t have a clue as to how I’m going to tell Harry I love him.
Picking up her wine glass, Helen watched her daughter as she took a sip. “Just like that, should suffice. I can’t see him not understanding if you just come out and say it.”
Scowling, Hermione filled her glass and chuckled. “This will be bloody marvelous. I can just see it now. This afternoon, I’ll get home and he’ll ask me, ‘How was your day with Helen?’ I’ll smile, kick off these dreadful heels, sit on the couch and as he’s massaging my feet, I’ll say, ‘Just fine. I picked up that box from your vault at Gringotts that you wanted and then I met my mum for lunch at Maxine’s. We talked, I found out that George has been keeping a betting pool on us since our second year, and oh by the way I realized I’ve been over the moon in love with you since I was eleven while we were waiting on the dessert cart. How was your afternoon?’ Just brilliant.”
Smiling, Helen shrugged. “I’ll give it points for originality. The foot massage is a nice touch. I’d thought him more of the running you a hot bath type.”
Looking shocked, Hermione stared at her mother for a couple of seconds. “Actually, he does that at least once a week when I’m working late.” Biting her lower lip, Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she observed her mother. “Just a bit ago, you said something about how Harry ‘was’ in denial.” Subtly emphasizing ‘was’, Hermione arched an eyebrow as she awaited her mother’s response.
Smiling mysteriously, Helen gazed back at her daughter with an innocent look on her face. “Did I? Are you certain?”
Nodding slowly, Hermione scowled. “Mother, that bit of the conversation was less than half an hour ago, of course I’m certain.” Seeing her mother was about to respond, she held up her hand to forestall the excuse. “And don’t give me you were just being careless, who do you think I got my tendency to say precisely what she means from?”
Chuckling, Helen nodded graciously to her. “I wasn’t going to excuse anything. I was simply going to suggest that some morning, when you’re both awake there in bed, that you turn around and take the wizard by the wand and tell him.”
Looking shocked, Hermione turned Weasley red and sputtered for a few seconds. “Mother, I can’t believe you just said that. And the phrase is ‘take the bull by the horns’.” Shaking her head, she smiled. “And you’re not going to shock me into changing the subject. If Harry’s no longer in denial, exactly where is he?”
Smiling smugly, Helen tilted her head to the left a bit and laughed. “Well, if you must know, he’s in the manager’s office, waiting to see how this little bit of drama turns out.” Giggling like a schoolgirl at the shocked look on Hermione’s face, she nodded towards the crystal vase in the center of the table. “You might as well come out and join us. I think the phrase I’m looking for is, ‘We’re busted’.”