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Chapter 2 : Chapter 2 - Busted, all around
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“Hermione, it’s not quite as bad as it looks,” Ginny started. “I do love Harry, but sometime last year I realized that I’d accepted the fact that we broke up, and it was for the best.”
Taking a seat across the corridor from them, Hermione nodded. “I didn’t think anything bad at all. You two were broken up, and whether or not either of you held hopes things might change last summer, both of you lived entire lifetimes this last year.” Smiling wryly, Hermione inclined her head to the other couple. “I think people have realized that things might have changed between Harry and I, so there’s no harm done all around.”
Snorting, Seamus moved next to Gin and put his arm back around her. “Things haven’t changed, Hermione. You two just stopped resisting the inevitable.” Nodding towards the parchment in her hand, Seamus smiled. “Is that what I think it is?”
Looking a bit surprised, Hermione nodded. “If you’re thinking it’s the Marauder’s Map, then you’d be correct. Though I’d be curious as to how you knew of it. Harry was always very careful about using the map in front of anyone other than Ron and me.” Looking at Ginny, she raised an eyebrow as she watched the younger witch blush.
“I might have mentioned it to him one night when I was half asleep.” Seeing the look on Hermione’s face, she shrugged. “There was no harm, I trust Seamus and the map was off Merlin knows where with you and Harry so I couldn’t give away any of your precious secrets.”
Laughing, Seamus gently nudged her. “I think she’s giving you that look about the ‘half asleep’ part, not that you told me about the map.”
Ginny began to blush, and buried her face in Seamus’ shoulder. Looking a bit serious, Seamus nodded to Hermione. “Not that it’s exactly a secret, but we were hoping to wait for a better time to officially announce our relationship to her family. With Fred’s funeral and all...” Trailing off at the look on Hermione’s face, Seamus shrugged.
Shaking her head, Hermione smiled. “Do you really think that Fred would mind you two being together? I’m certain that the only thing that annoys him, other than being dead, is that he’s not here to give you two the mickey about it.” Nodding seriously, Hermione watched the two for a couple of seconds before continuing. “Fred would be the last person to tell you to wait. No one ever knows exactly how much time they have, and you should never put off being truly happy.”
Smiling sadly, Hermione seemed lost in thought for a second as she seemed to be listening to something only she could hear. Shaking her head, she sighed. “Time has a way of slipping away from you, and then you come face to face with losing the one you’ve loved.” A single tear rolled down her cheek as she looked from Ginny to Seamus. “I almost waited too long; don’t make the same mistakes I did.”
Nodding, Ginny glanced over at Seamus before she swallowed and spoke. “Hermione, do you think Harry will be hurt? I know you two seem to be getting things together now, but I don’t want him to think I don’t care about him, or I didn’t think about him.”
Seamus nodded. “She was driving herself mental, trying to be the symbol that everyone wanted to see, the girl that was bravely waiting for Harry to return, and then deal with how her feelings were changing. Neville knew the truth, but I think the rest focused on what they wanted to see.”
Shaking her head, Ginny looked very embarrassed. “I wish I could tell Harry that I sort of understand what he went through, all of those years. I was just as guilty as everyone else, heaping that ‘Boy Who Lived’ stuff on him at every turn. I can’t believe I could never see past all that mess to the real Harry.”
Nodding to Hermione, she smiled. “Thank you for being there for him, all these years. I really don’t think anyone else our age ever even tried to see the real Harry. I know Daddy does, sort of, and Sirius and Professor Lupin knew the real Harry, but the rest of us…” Breaking off, she put her head down on Seamus’ shoulder and cried.
As Seamus stroked her hair, Hermione could see and hear the sobs from the younger girl. “Ginny, if it’s any consolation, Harry treasures the time you two spent together last year. He calls it his ‘island of normal’ in his very unnormal life. He cares very much for you and doesn’t think badly about things, at all. He was just worried that you were still expecting him to come back and pick things up. With the funerals and all, he just hasn’t had the chance or the emotional energy to sit down and try to talk things out with you.” Shaking her head, she smiled wryly, “Truth be told, I’m to blame as much as him. I’ve been trying to shield him from as much as possible while we cope with the things at hand.”
Raising her head, Ginny tried to smile. “And I suppose he was a bit nervous that I was going to react badly and hex him, or something.”
Smiling, Hermione nodded. “There’s that. Your bats are famous, scary but famous.”
Laughing, Ginny took Seamus’ hand and stood. Wrapping her arm around his waist, she sighed. “Should I go look for Harry back in Gryffindor? We still need to talk about things.”
Looking down at the map, Hermione shook her head. “He’s not in the dorms; we’ve been staying at my parents’ house most nights, trying to straighten that up for when we bring them back. You two can talk tomorrow night, or in the morning before the funeral. I’ll make certain we’re there early so you two can have a couple of moments alone, if you’d like.”
Nodding, Ginny and Seamus started heading up the corridor. “That would be grand. Want to come with us back to Gryffindor?”
Shaking her head, Hermione looked up at the two as they stood waiting. “You two go on, I’ve got an errand to run down to the old Potions Lab, and then a few things to take care of before I head back to the house.”
Making a shooing motion, Hermione watched the two walk up the corridor and turn the corner. Glancing down at the map, she waited until their dots passed through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor Common Room, leaving just a pair of dots, side by side, in the corridor.
Leaning her head to the side, she smiled. “Well, that went better than you feared.”
The rustling of fabric preceded Harry’s head appearing out from under his cloak. “They seem happy together. I think he really loves her.”
Nodding, Hermione smiled and rested her head on Harry’s invisible shoulder. “Of course he loves her. He would have been gone in a second, the moment you came back if he didn’t. Are you finally ready to stop worrying about her?”
Nodding Harry stood and removed the cloak and tucked it away. “I just didn’t want to hurt her any more than I had already. And with Fred’s funeral…” Trailing off, Harry shook his head for a second, took a deep breath and continued. “With Fred’s funeral coming up, it will be hard enough on all of us.”
Standing Hermione wrapped her arms around him and gently kissed him on the cheek. “None of this is your doing. If anything, you cut down on the number of funerals by the way you did it.” Looking him in the eye, she nodded. “I had to suffer through you dying that night. I know most of them have bought that ‘you fooled Voldemort’ claptrap, but you and I both know the truth.” Hugging him fiercely, she buried her face into his shoulder.
Finally looking up, she smiled as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. Nodding she sighed. “And Fred would be the last one to want anyone crying and moping about because of him. He’d want something memorable with hippogriff rides for the kids and lots of fireworks. And maybe a prank or two on anyone who dared to cry.” Her eyes bright with tears, Hermione nodded fiercely
Smiling sadly, Harry nodded in agreement. “I can just see it; he’d have some sort of charm that turns anyone who cries bright orange or something. I think this wake idea of
Seamus’ is brilliant, maybe we’ll all be able to come to terms with everything that’s happened.”
Taking his face between her hands, Hermione slowly brought his face around to where he was looking at her. Pulling his head down, while she stretched up to meet him, she tenderly kissed him, as his arms wrapped around her. Breaking the kiss, she smiled. “Fred doesn’t begrudge us being happy either. Let’s head downstairs and then we’ll go back to the house.”
Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, they headed for the stairwell. “Why are we going down to the Potions Lab, anyway? I’m in the mood to just head back to your parents’ house and try to relax.”
Blushing a bit, Hermione smiled. “I talked to Professor Slughorn a while ago, and he agreed to brew a special potion for us.” Seeing the look on Harry’s face, Hermione rolled her eyes. “Stop that, you git. Neither of us need help getting lucky, any more. There’s a variant on the standard contraception potion. It’s tailored to two specific people and it will last for eighteen months as opposed to the standard twelve hour variant that works for just anyone. Since I wasn’t planning on having a parade of wizards in and out of my bedroom, and I was hoping you were feeling the same way, I thought this would be a solution for us.” Looking at Harry with a curious glint in her eye, Hermione bit her lower lip as she waited for him to say something.
Nodding thoughtfully, Harry smiled. “Well, I hadn’t planned on having a parade of wizards in and out of my bedroom either.”
Blushing, she nudged him with her hip. “You know what I meant. Honestly, you’re impossible at times.”
Smiling, Harry hugged her to him. “I’m not impossible, just highly unlikely. Exactly how many wizards are in this parade you were envisioning?”
Stopping dead on the landing, Hermione glared at him. “Harry James Potter, I’m trying to be serious here. I know you’ve been propositioned by two dozen witches, at least, since that night. And those are just the ones brazen enough to do it in front of me. I realize I have no right to expect…” Hermione’s rant was cut off by Harry pulling her to him and kissing her passionately.
Several minutes passed before they broke free, and both of them were breathing heavily. Harry took a deep breath and smiled. “You have every right to expect nothing less than everything from me. As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t any other witches, there’s only you.”
Seeing the look in her eyes, he nodded. “I think we were mistaken not directly telling people we were together, once we found out Ron was all right with it. Our friends know about us and they all seem happy and willing to keep it quiet until we go public. I think Lavender was only teasing yesterday and I’m certain that the Patil twins were joking, but I’ve never been more serious about anything. Rita Skeeter was dead wrong about you needing to use a love potion on me; I’ve been under your spell for seven years now.”
Smiling sadly, Hermione looked down for a second. “Harry, I just don’t want you to regret choosing to be with me. You’re free to live your life now, and choose anyone you want. There isn’t a witch between fifteen and one hundred and fifteen that you couldn’t charm the robes off of right now. There’s no reason for you to settle for me.”
Kneeling, Harry took her hand between both of his and kissed it tenderly. Looking up into her dark brown eyes, he smiled. “Your only problem is that you don’t realize exactly how special and magnificent you are. For almost seven years now, I’ve been amazed that you’ve been my friend, my closest confidant, my best mate. You’ve been there, even when I was trying to push everyone away, and you’ve loved me even though I’m probably the biggest prat in this corner of the world. The thought of losing you terrifies me more than the thought of facing Tom Riddle, my problem is that the way I grew up, I’m not very good at expressing how I feel, or even facing my feelings. You’ve helped me through that, and it’s only fair that you should be the person who shares that with me for the rest of eternity. If anything, you’re the one who’s settling here. I’m the luckiest wizard who was ever born.”
Looking a bit stunned, Hermione gazed down at him and placed her free hand on his. “Harry did you just ask me what I think you asked me?”
Sadly shaking his head, Harry smiled. “Hermione, I stated my intent to spend the rest of my life with you. As much as I’d like to, I think any questions I desperately want to ask you need to wait until we find your parents and bring them home. If nothing else, I should be reintroduced to your folks before I ask you dad’s permission to marry you.”
Shaking her head and smiling, she quipped, “And if he says no?”
Raising an eyebrow, Harry seemed to think for a moment. “Well, considering what I know of Granger women, I’d simply have you talk to your mum. Once she finished explaining to him what he really thought, I’d ask again.” Seeing the look on her face, he smirked. “If you think it’s that big a risk, I’ll let you talk to your mum first and she can prep him before I ask.”
Pulling him to his feet, she kissed him again, very passionately. When they broke again, she leaned her forehead against his and stared into his emerald eyes. “And for the record, the answer is ‘yes’. I’ll marry you Harry. Anywhere, any time. In a kirk, or by oath under the stars. My life, my soul, my magic is yours and yours alone.” Kissing him gently, she nodded. “Let’s get that potion and go home. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.”
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