Shaking her head, Hermione looked around the back yard of her parent’s home in Oxford. The apparition point that Harry had helped her create between the gazebo and the gardening shed was screened from the view of the neighbours by yews that Neville had charmed to keep the four flagstones hidden from the outside world.
The ‘conversation’ with the elder Weasleys had taken much longer than she had hoped, but not quite as long as she had feared. Molly’s insistence that Ginny and Harry could work out this ‘minor disagreement’ had persisted for almost two hours while Arthur and her had tried to explain to Molly that there really wasn’t anything to fix, and if Ginny hoped to salvage a friendship with Harry, she needed to seriously change. Once Molly realized that Ginny wasn’t going to be able to patch this up with Harry, the real treat began.
While Molly had often loudly criticized the Daily Prophet over the years for the scandalous way it had portrayed the relationship between Harry and Hermione, she certainly must have mentally filed all of those tidbits away because they all came out in the ensuing hour. Hermione’s assertions that nothing untoward had ever occurred between the two of them, and Arthur’s reminders that half of the ‘incidents’ that the Prophet had mentioned over the years the Weasley family had been present for fell on deaf ears as Molly was convinced that both her youngest children had been treated horribly wrong.
Finally, it was Ron’s entrance into the kitchen that swayed the issue. When he came storming in, red-faced and upset, Molly subsided, thinking he was going to take Hermione to task. The look of shock on her face when Ron began dismantling her accusations point by point was priceless, and in other circumstances Hermione would have laughed. His passionate defense of their honor, “Mum, honestly, both of them are pants at lying. They can barely keep Christmas gifts a secret much less carry on a ‘torrid affair’ for ten years,” was only surpassed by his startling admission that he’d known for the last year that things were over between the two of them, he had just been too stubborn to admit it until now as the body blows that felled Molly’s disbelief.
Apparently, Ginny was still in denial, but Ron had informed Hermione as he walked her out to the road that she was adopting a ‘wait until Hermione blows it’ attitude, feeling that it was only a matter of time before Harry saw through Hermione’s plotting and came back to her.
Looking up at her parent’s house, she could see her mother watching her from the kitchen window. Smiling, Hermione waved to her and started walking through the snow to the door. Climbing the steps, she smiled as the door popped open and her mother was standing there waiting for her.
“Happy Christmas Eve, Mum.” Reaching out, Hermione enfolded her mother in a hug.
Hugging her daughter for a second, Helen Granger held her at arm’s length and looked at her for several seconds. Smiling smugly, she nodded. “You finally did it.”
Narrowing her eyes, Hermione studied her mother. While not a tall woman, Helen Grange was still taller than her daughter by several inches. Her chestnut hair was full and wavy, and her hazel eyes gleamed merrily. Looking over her mother’s shoulder to the kitchen clock, Hermione shrugged. “Finally got to the house before noon on a holiday?”
Shaking her head, Helen drew her daughter into the kitchen and took her coat and scarf. “Well, there is that, but it seems to me that you’re indecently cheerful for this early on a day you needn’t be up and around at all.” Crossing the kitchen, Helen took two mugs from beside the sink. Looking over her shoulder at her daughter, she smiled. “Tea?”
As Hermione was about to respond, Helen interrupted, “That’s right, you and Harry are coffee drinkers these days. How is the dear boy?”
Shaking her head, Hermione smiled warmly at the mention of Harry. “He had a rough night, but I think he’ll be fine. And tea will be just fine, Mother. Harry and I drink coffee; we’re not wedded to it.”
Nodding knowingly, Helen poured tea into the mugs, and set them on the table. Gathering lemon, cream, and sugar, she was surprised to see her daughter sipping her tea when she returned to the table. “Given up on the lemon and sugar?”
Sighing, Hermione nodded slowly. “Sometimes. Right now this is just what the dentist ordered.” Smiling at her mother’s wince over that old joke, she nodded. “Are you and Daddy still going to go to Christmas Eve services?”
Smiling, Helen watched her daughter over her mug as she sipped her tea. “Of course we are. It’s your father’s yearly concession to me. And though he’ll grumble about having gone ‘high kirk’ for weeks, I do think he enjoys it as much as I do.” Placing her mug on the table, Helen smiled at her daughter. “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” Hermione began, suddenly nervous at the prospect of talking to her mother about the recent changes in her life, “I was thinking that if you didn’t want to have to worry about driving and parking that late at night, Harry and I could go attend with you and we could take you and Daddy there and back.”
Feigning innocence, Helen looked quizzically at her daughter. “Don’t you mean Ron? And why won’t you two be at the Burrow tonight, as you usually are?”
Staring at her mother for several seconds, Hermione sighed and closed her eyes. “Mother, you know very well that if I said Harry, I meant Harry. As in Harry and I. As in not Ron and I. And being at the Burrow tonight would be…awkward for a whole host of reasons.”
Nodding, Helen smiled as she picked up her mug. “Not the least of which would be ‘Harry and I’ instead of ‘Ron and I’. Correct?”
Sipping her tea, Helen Granger studied her daughter over the top of the mug. Watching Hermione worry the edge of the tablecloth, she smiled and set the mug gently on the table. “Do you want to talk?”
Looking up, Hermione studied her mother’s expression for a few seconds before noisily releasing the breath she had been holding. “I’m not certain where to start, Mother. Everything’s happened very quickly. If seems as if everything changed in the blink of an eye.”
Nodding, Helen smiled encouragingly at her daughter as she tried to repress a chuckle. “That’s what happens when you finally open your eyes, dear. The two of you have been moving towards this moment since you were eleven, and it’s very overdue.”
Shaking her head in exasperation, Hermione studied her mother for a bit. “How did you know? You knew before you opened the door.”
Nodding knowingly, Helen reached over and squeezed her daughter’s hand. “It’s simple, really. When you appeared in the back yard, you were genuinely happy. The last time I saw you that happy was in Canberra when you and Harry came to collect us.”
Shaking her head, Helen sighed. “The two of you were very happy together the two weeks we stayed in Australia settling our affairs there. You can imagine my disappointment when we returned to England and you took back up with Ronald.”
Shrugging, Hermione rolled her eyes. “I was an idiot, what can I say. I thought that Ron and I had something. I should have realized that his not coming with us to Australia to find you two spoke volumes about our lack of relationship, especially when there was never a question about Harry coming with me, even when Ginny threw a colossal tantrum.”
Nodding, Helen looked at Hermione carefully. “And how are the Weasleys taking the changes? I can’t imagine Ron is taking things very well.”
Smiling faintly, Hermione shook her head. “Actually, Ron is taking things surprisingly well. Apparently, I was more in denial about the state of things between us than he was. According to him, he’s been expecting something like this for almost a year now, especially as frequently as Harry and Ginny have been rowing of late.” Taking another long pull from her mug, Hermione shrugged. “Ginny, on the other hand…”
Shaking her head, Helen finished for her daughter. “Ginny is still living in her fairytale and expecting the handsome prince with green eyes to come back to her?”
Nodding, Hermione chuckled. “Something like that. Though for the life of me, I don’t know why. She all but admitted she’s always known how Harry and I felt about each other, down deep. Why she would hang on so desperately to something when she knew he didn’t love her the way she wanted to be loved is beyond me.”
“Hermione, just because you didn’t buy into the whole ‘Cinderella’ story when you were a little girl, doesn’t mean that other girls didn’t.” Shaking her head at the expression on her daughter’s face, Helen smiled. “From what Molly has said, Ginny’s been fixated on ‘The Boy Who Lived’ since she was six. Harry was a living, breathing fairy tale that walked into her life, the same day he walked into yours. You saw a scared little boy who desperately needed a friend and someone to care about him. She saw the wizard who defeated that Voldemort person while he was still in nappies. Why are you surprised that you’re the one he chose?”
“Who chose Hermione?” Both women looked up as Alex Granger entered the kitchen. “Happy Christmas Eve, Pumpkin.” Looking at his daughter curiously, he shook his head as he crossed to the kettle sitting on the stove and poured himself a cup.
“Harry did. He and Hermione finally figured things out.” Helen answered smugly, watching her daughter’s face go slightly red.
Nodding thoughtfully, Alex sat at the table with them. “About bloody time. Didn’t think you two kids were ever going to come to your senses.”
Helen’s “Language, Alex” and Hermione’s “Language, Daddy.” were delivered at exactly the same time with exactly the same tone, and both women started giggling at the look on his face.
Shaking his head at the two women in his life, Alexander Granger smiled. “Don’t get me wrong dear, but your mother and I were seriously considering talking to someone at that hospital of yours about having you two checked to see if someone had used some sort of spell or potion on the two of you.” Looking over at his wife, Alex nodded. “What was the name of that witch who married Harry’s cousin? The one who’s a doctor there? Patience?”
Shaking her head, Helen smiled at her husband. “Harry’s cousin is married to Chastity and she’s the Healer at St. Mungo’s. You’re thinking of Patience Greengrass, she’s the sister of Arianna the tooth healer, the ‘dentist with a wand’ as you put it back in November. Patience is also a healer, though she specializes in trauma more than Chastity does. Their little sister is dating that dreadful boy that went to school with the children.”
Shaking her head in disbelief, Hermione looked from her mother to her father in shock. “Do I want to know exactly how you two know all this?”
Looking bewildered, Alex shrugged. “Hermione, we do have an owl, and some of your friends stop by the house from time to time. We always enjoy catching up with them. Audrey was here this morning, around nine, wasn’t it dear?”
Nodding, Helen smiled. “She’s such a dear. And since she’s so charmingly American, she feels compelled to chat about everything. That’s how I knew that everything had gone awry between Harry and Ginny.” Looking over at Alex who had an amused grin on his face, she nodded. “How did she put it?”
Chuckling, Alex looked thoughtful for a second or two. “I believe she said that it had gone ‘to Hell in a handbasket’, or something to that effect. Evokes quite a visual, don’t you think?”
Shaking her head, Hermione stared at her parents in disbelief. “You knew? At nine? I was still arguing with Molly at nine.”
Smiling at their flustered child, both Alex and Helen looked at each other and shook their heads. Alex turned back to her and held up his hand to try to calm her down. “I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but almost everyone’s known about you and Harry for years now. From what I understand, up until this morning, there were only five who hadn’t figured it out. The two of you have been quite the sticking point for your friends and family since the end of the war. Half of us were in the ‘they’ll never figure it out, let’s make them see reason faction’,” he said nodding towards his wife, “and the other half belonged to the ‘as long as they don’t schedule a wedding, we’ll let them figure it out for themselves’ group.” Nodding in satisfaction, Alex smiled as Helen was shaking her head in dismay.
Hermione closed her eyes and placed both of her hands flat on the table. Taking several deep, calming breaths, she tried to slow her racing thoughts into some semblance of coherent, rational thought. Finally, when she could trust herself to speak, she opened her eyes and stared at both her parents. “How much?”
Looking smug, her father smiled and winked. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Looking over at his wife, who was scowling slightly, he smiled. “Helen, do you have any clue as to what our daughter might be referring?”
Scowling slightly, Helen nodded to her husband before turning to her daughter. “Hermione, it’s simply a coincidence that your father will be choosing the next four,” she stopped as Alex cleared his throat and smiled at her. “I mean he’ll be choosing the location of our next five vacations. Coincidentally, of course.”
Glaring at her mother for a few seconds before she broke out in laughter, she shook her head. “You two have wagered over everything I can think of, since I’ve been old enough to pay attention to it. But I’m a bit shocked you’d go this far.”
Sighing, Helen smiled at their daughter. “Hermione, both your father and I are very competitive people, and given to having strong opinions on things. On those occasions that we disagree, we’ve found that it makes things a bit easier if we focus on the wager, rather than what we’re disagreeing on. We both only wanted for you to be happy, and we were both convinced that your Harry was the key to that. As to how the two of you would come to that conclusion…”
Shrugging eloquently, Helen Granger smiled at her daughter as her husband began chuckling at the look on their daughter’s face. “Pumpkin, you might want to consider something similar with Harry.” Smiling at the look on his daughter’s face, Alex continued. “You’re both very competitive, both strong-willed, both fairly used to being correct most of the time…”
Shaking her head, Hermione turned a delicate shade of pink. “Daddy, I think I’m getting the picture. We’ve never really rowed, at least not like Ron and I.”
Sipping her tea, Helen smiled. “Your sixth year? I seem to remember most of your letters home that year grousing about how much of a prat Harry was being with that ‘dreadful tome of dodgy shortcuts’ you were so opposed to.”
Blushing, Hermione closed her eyes. “I still feel bad about that. I was just annoyed that Harry was getting shortcuts from the margins of that textbook, along with some very suspect hexes and other ideas, and I treated him very shabbily. And I was totally wrong about ‘that dreadful boy’ as you so charmingly put it.”
Nodding, Helen continued. “Of course, there was your third year when you had the poor boy’s new broom confiscated because it could have been dangerous. That seemed to last a while.”
Looking indignant, Hermione glared at her parents. “Of course it could have been dangerous. A mysterious broom just appears when Harry needs one while everyone is worried that an escaped mass-murderer is out to get him. Any reasonable witch would see that it could be a problem.”
Nodding, Alex smiled. “An escaped mass-murderer who just happened to be his wrongly imprisoned godfather, correct?”
Sighing, Hermione nodded slowly. “Yes Daddy, we were both correct and both wrong. It was from Sirius Black and it was perfectly harmless. Harry’s forgiven me for that, and he’s apologized several times for losing his patience with me over that.” Shaking her head, she laughed. “We definitely need something now that we’re going to be consciously spending more time together.”
Shaking her head, Helen tried not to laugh at the distressed look on her daughter’s face. Deciding to change the subject, she gave her husband a look to let him know and asked. “About tonight, what did you and Harry have in mind?”
Blushing a bit, Hermione worried her lower lip as she tried to look confident. “Well, all I mentioned to Harry was that I had everything under control for this evening, so I was thinking that we could come here for dinner around five or so.”
Smiling, Helen nodded. “Dinner around five, that’s doable. We don’t usually leave for the Christmas Eve service until nine or so, and since we’re not driving, we can delay that quite a bit.”
Nodding Hermione smiled at her mother. “After dinner, and before the service, I think Harry and I will pop up to Godric’s Hollow where his parents are. I told you about that first Christmas Eve when we visited his parent’s graves?” Seeing her parents nod their heads, she continued. “We’ve done that most years since the war ended, without the running for our lives part, of course.”
Smiling at the wary looks on her parents’ faces, she nodded encouragingly. “It always seemed a quiet interlude of sanity before we plunged into the chaos that’s Christmas at the Burrow.” Blushing a bit, she shrugged. “And now I can see that it was something that was just for the two of us to share. Ginny couldn’t really ever connect to that part of Harry’s life and Ron was very uncomfortable the one year he went with us. We wouldn’t make a big deal of it, and we’d usually try to time it so that we were there during the service they held in that little kirk next to the cemetery.”
Tears shimmering in her eyes, Hermione came around the table and hugged her father. “Daddy, I’m scared that I’m going to mess this up. Harry’s so very important to me; I don’t want to lose him just when I found out what he really means to me.”
Holding his daughter close, Alex let her cry against his shoulder for a few seconds before answering. “When you went to the house this morning, did you leave him any doubt that you were coming back home for good?”
Looking up, Hermione shook her head. “I just rushed in like I usually do, and tried to get him talking to me and not focusing on what she did. By the time I got him to eat and ready to sleep, I had told him I was moving back and the only thing he was worried about was whether or not I realized what I was doing, getting my self into.”
Smiling at her daughter, Helen shook her head. “Hermione, you’ll be fine with this, your instincts are usually very good when it comes to Harry. Your only flaw is that you tend to be overprotective of him, but right now, he needs a bit of protecting, but I think the two of you will straighten things out soon enough.”
Looking thoughtful, Helen smiled. “If anything, ask Kreacher. I don’t know much about elves, but from what I’ve seen of him, Kreacher knows everything that goes on in that house and if he’s on your side, then you’re pretty much set.”
Shaking her head, Hermione blushed. “Kreacher said that I had been the Mistress of the House since Harry inherited it. How could we have both been so blind to miss what we meant to each other?”
Nodding thoughtfully, Alex smiled sadly. “From what you’ve told us, that was a very stressful time for both of you. I think you can both be excused for not seeing exactly how you felt about each other considering everything else that was going on at the time.”
Looking over at the clock, Alex smiled. “Speaking of time, what time are you and your young man coming to the house tonight?”
Smiling, Hermione bit her lip for a second before answering. “I know, if we’re going to be back here at five, I need to go so you two can get everything ready for tonight.”
Nodding, Helen smiled, “I think that will work nicely, dear.”
Hugging her father one last time, Hermione whispered something in his ear before letting go. “I’ll be back with Harry a bit before five, is there anything you want us to bring for the dinner?”
Laughing, Helen shook her head as she handed Hermione her coat and scarf. “Not a thing. When Audrey told us this morning what had happened last night, I had a feeling that we might have company tonight, so I had your father run to market before they closed at noon. Dinner will be no problem; I’m even ready with treacle tart for dessert.”
Rolling her eyes, Hermione chuckled as she stepped through the door to the back steps. “Mother, have you no shame? The poor boy already thinks you’re perfect, you don’t have to try so hard with him.”
Hugging her daughter, Helen laughed. “Hermione, your young man is very easy to love and I would be inclined to spoil him whether or not you were serious about him. Don’t worry about me, just keep you mind on being there for him, and leave dinner to me.”
As they watched their daughter trudge through the snow towards their gazebo, Alex and Helen looked at each other and smiled. Watching for the telltale puff of snow displaced by her apparition, they closed the door and looked at each other for a few seconds.
Smiling, Alex nodded. “Double or nothing, a June wedding?”
Laughing, Helen shook his hand. “Done. A year from January, she’s always wanted a winter wedding. Any family vacations before then by mutual consent?”
Laughing, Alex nodded. “She might want a winter wedding, but I don’t think either of them will be in the mood to wait, once they discover exactly what they’ve been missing for the past six years.”
Feigning shock, Helen smiled. “Alex, that’s your daughter you’re talking about there.”
Smiling wickedly, he shook his head. “It’s your daughter I’m talking about. Maybe I should opt for an early spring elopement instead.”
Shaking her head, Helen arched her eyebrow. “Your wager is for June next. Care to wager on when our first grandchild will make an appearance?”
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