Stepping out of the floo in the lower kitchen of Grimmauld Place, Hermione brushed a bit of soot from her jumper as she nodded to Kreacher and Winky. “Hello all. Happy Christmas Eve to both of you.”
Looking up from the platter of biscuits she was arranging, Winky nodded her head happily. “Mistress Hermione is back. Winky is very happy that you’re finally going to take things in hand around here. Things have been very dodgy since Mistress left at times.” Nodding as she decorated the biscuits, Winky fairly beamed in satisfaction.
Smiling, Hermione nodded. “It’s good to be back Winky.” Turning to Kreacher, she smiled. “Everything satisfactory?”
Nodding gravely, Kreacher smiled a toothy smile. “The house is in order, Mistress. Master Harry is still asleep, and someone’s tried eleven times to come in by floo from the Burrow. I sent a throw pillow through the last time. The young Miss must be getting a bit sore from being bounced back so many times.”
Shaking her head, Hermione chuckled at the memory of Ginny looking a bit lost as she landed back in the Burrow’s sitting room. “She is persistent, I’ll grant her that.”
Looking around the kitchen, Hermione took in the scent of spices and fruit. “Fruitcake?” Seeing Kreacher’s nod, she smiled. “We won’t be here for dinner tonight, but we’ll be back tomorrow afternoon from my parents’ house so that might be nice to have with coffee when we come in.”
Nodding, Kreacher smiled. “It will be ready for the two of you when you return.”
Crossing the kitchen, Hermione paused at the door. “I’m going to go up and see about waking him. Would it be too much trouble for something light for a late lunch? I don’t want to eat too much, but we should catch a bit since we won’t be eating until after five in Oxford.” Seeing the enthusiastic nod from Winky, Hermione smiled. “I should be back down with Harry in about an hour or so.”
Sighing as Winky began bustling around the kitchen, Kreacher nodded. “Everything will be ready by two for you.”
Heading up the stairs to the main floor, Hermione chuckled at the noise she could hear from behind her. Without pausing, she traversed the hallway and continued up the stairs near the door to the floor where Harry lay sleeping.
Approaching her old bedroom, she paused with her hand on the doorknob before entering the room. The winter sunlight, filtered by the window hangings, gave the room a warm, inviting feel. From where she was standing, she could see Harry curled around the pillow she had fixed for him, fast asleep.
Watching him for several minutes from just inside the door, Hermione quietly reflected on her feelings for the raven-haired wizard. Reaching out with her senses, she could feel his presence in the room; his steady heartbeat and his slow measured breathing a rhythmic counterpoint to the emotions she could sense from both of them.
Shaking her head, she quietly walked over to the bed and toed off her shoes. Pulling the jumper over her head, she smiled at the look on his face. Lifting the edge of the covers, she slipped into her old bed, resting her head on the pillow as she carefully moved her body to where she was spooning with Harry.
Sliding her arm over him and cuddling him close to her, she felt him begin to stir a bit as he became aware of her actual presence. Inhaling, she breathed in the scent of him as he began to wake.
Moving so her face was close to his, she gently kissed his ear as his hand moved to cover hers where it lay resting on his chest. “Sleep well?”
Harry’s body suddenly stiffened as he realized that this wasn’t a continuation of the dream he had been having. Shaking her head, she hugged him gently. “Relax, I’m here and everything’s going to be fine.”
Harry lay perfectly still for several seconds before he exhaled and squeezed her hand. “’Mione? Do you know how many times I’ve dreamed that I was waking up with you?”
Chuckling Hermione hugged him again. “That must have been terribly awkward on those days when you woke up with someone else there.” Kissing his ear lightly, she sighed. “I’m not even going to suggest that you could have told me, we both know that neither one of us was ready to admit what we felt.”
Harry began to turn, and soon they were facing each other, their faces inches apart. Smiling at her, Harry watched her for a couple of minutes, his emerald eyes searching hers as if he was looking for something. Finally he gently moved a bit of hair from her face and smiled. “Since this isn’t King’s Cross, I’m going to assume that I didn’t slip away in my sleep and you’re really, actually here.”
Nodding slowly, Hermione moved towards him until their faces were just inches apart, their bodies touching. “I’m here, and if you’re willing, I’m not going anywhere, ever again.” Reaching up, she cupped his face with her hand.
Kissing him gently on the lips, Hermione felt his arms tighten around her as she brushed his lips with hers. “This morning, I realized that I loved you, and that I’ve probably loved you for a very long time.”
Smiling, Harry pulled her to him and kissed her tenderly. “I think I’ve loved you for a long time, but I never dreamed that you would respond.” Laughing a bit, he smirked. “Well, I did dream about it, but you know what I mean.”
Rising up on one elbow, Hermione arched an eyebrow and gave him a very severe look. “Mr. Potter, am I to believe you have had inappropriate dreams about me? Your best mate? Your other best mate’s girlfriend?”
Looking a bit sheepish, he nodded. “They weren’t extremely inappropriate, just a bit inappropriate.”
Feigning outrage, she glared at him. “So I’m not pretty enough to have extremely inappropriate dreams about?”
Sighing, Harry kissed her on the tip of her nose before answering. “They were extremely inappropriate in the sense that daring to think you might actually fancy me was beyond the realm of credibility.”
Burrowing her face in the crook of his neck, Hermione pulled herself close to him, feeling his body against hers. Looking up she kissed him on the cheek. “Harry, I wish I would have had the courage to tell you how I felt years ago.” Pushing him on his back, she sat up and leaned over to kiss him.
Reaching up, Harry put his hands on her cheeks and held her face in front of his for several seconds. “Hermione, you don’t know how close I was to just chucking everything last night. All I could do was sit there and wonder why I didn’t deserve anything, why I could never manage to find someone who loved me the way I loved you. If you hadn’t come…”
Tears forming in her eyes, she nodded and turned her head a bit and placed a kiss in the palm of his hand. “Harry, I came as soon as I knew, and I was wrong for not being here when it happened. All I can do is promise you that you are loved and if it takes me the next hundred years or so to convince you of that, then I’ll be happy to do just that.” Leaning over, she kissed him on the lips as she slipped a hand behind his head.
Brushing her tongue across his lower lip, she slipped into his mouth and began moving her tongue with his as their bodies moved closer together. As the kiss became more impassioned, their hands began to roam over each other’s body. Just as Harry found a very sensitive spot that was threatening to turn her into a mindless, quivering, bundle of pleasure, Hermione broke the kiss and stared at Harry for several seconds, breathing heavily.
Looking concerned, Harry shook his head. “Too far?”
Laughing as she tried to catch her breath, Hermione shook hers in return. “Not nearly far enough. But I just remembered we’re having dinner with my parents and then spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with them.”
“And?” Sitting up, Harry wrapped his arms around her and held her as her heart began to slow.
“Oh, that feels sinfully good.” Smiling Hermione rested her head on Harry’s chest for a second before continuing. “We’re going to go meet my parents with relatively clear consciences today because my mother will try every trick in the book to get you to tell her exactly what we’ve been up to. If we haven’t done anything, then there’s nothing for you to confess.”
Laughing, Harry shook his head. “Hermione, your mother isn’t like that at all. Helen Granger is a very sweet person who loves you dearly.”
Sitting up, Hermione put on a very serious face and pointed her finger at Harry. “Harry James Potter, there are a couple of things you need to remember about my mother. The first is that she has you totally wrapped around her little finger.”
Blushing, Harry smiled. “Well, maybe a bit. But she’s a very sweet person. Rather like her daughter.”
Rolling her eyes, Hermione chuckled. “Merlin, you’re such a naïf. The second thing is that if you look up the word ‘manipulative’ in the Oxford, you’ll see a wee tiny illustration of Helen Granger right beside the definition.”
Shaking his head, Harry laughed. “I can’t believe you’re saying these things about your mother.”
Glaring at him, Hermione looked very severe. “And the final thing is this.” Pausing for effect, Hermione waited until Harry was looking at her before continuing. “Helen. Granger. Has. No. Shame. She will do anything to get you to tell her exactly what we’ve been up to. So, if we haven’t done anything, you can’t be tricked, cajoled, flattered, or manipulated into telling her anything.”
Thinking for several seconds, Harry looked puzzled. Shaking her head, Hermione sighed. “What part of what I just said is confusing you?”
Slowly shaking his head, Harry shrugged. “Exactly how long are we going to not do anything so we don’t have anything to tell your mother?”
Looking up at the ceiling for inspiration and guidance, Hermione slowly counted to twelve in Mermish. Looking back down, she shook her head and sighed. “Just through tonight and tomorrow morning. If I can get through Christmas morning without my mother embarrassing me to death about our relationship in front of my father, I’ll consider it a moral victory and we’ll happily spend the rest of our lives being teased unmercifully about our sex life.” Leaning over and kissing him tenderly, she smiled. “Can you do this for me? Please?”
Grinning, Harry’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “You do realize we could go the other way with this?”
Watching him warily, Hermione pulled the pillows up into a pile and leaned back against them. “I’m almost afraid to ask where you’re going with this.”
Nodding, Harry put his elbows on his knees and sat there watching her for several seconds. “There’s always the option that we confess to everything your Mum could have possibly imagined. We tell her we’ve shagged in every room of the house, broken the shower, collapsed the dining room table and turned the gazebo out back into our own private Love Shack, all in less than twelve hours.”
Blushing furiously, Hermione stared at him. “Harry, what on earth would you hope to accomplish by that? Do you realize? We haven’t even…” Dumbstruck, she shook her head. “I can’t fathom what my mother’s reaction to something like that would be.”
Smiling, Harry chuckled at the totally gobsmacked look on her face. “Face it, if we can shock her senseless, and then let them know we’re just giving them the mickey before your dad tears me limb from limb, she might just leave us alone on the subject for a while. From what I can gather, the only reason she’s going to do this is she knows she can twist you up about it and she wants to see exactly how flustered she can get you. If we go on the offense…” Letting his voice trail off, Harry grinned at the speculative gleam in Hermione’s eyes.
Nodding slowly, Hermione grinned in anticipation. “You do realize you’re suggesting we prank my Mum?” Seeing him nod his head in agreement, she launched herself across the space between them and tumbled the two of them off the bed and onto the floor.
Crashing to the floor, a tangle of limbs and bedclothes, Hermione began kissing Harry passionately from her position on top of him.
Returning the kisses, Harry slid his hands up beneath the top she was wearing, exploring her body while they kissed. Hermione broke the kiss, sat up and stared at him very intently.
“Harry, you’re brilliant, but I don’t think our first time should be on the floor, do you?”
Sighing, Harry shook his head. “As long as you remember that I’m not the one who knocked us out of a perfectly good bed.” Glancing towards the door, Harry got a sly look on his face. “If memory serves, there’s a perfectly wonderful bed just down the hall that we could explore.”
Shaking her head, Hermione stood up and reached down to help Harry to his feet. “Sorry to ruin your plans, but your bedroom is totally empty of furniture.”
Seeing the perplexed look on his face, Hermione reached out and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close to her. “Harry, I decided that everything in those two rooms was going to go. There was going to be nothing in there to remind you of her and how she hurt you.” Hugging him tight, she whispered in his ear. “I’m sorry if I went too far, but I didn’t think either of us needed those sorts of memories hanging around.”
Holding him for several seconds, she could feel him nod in agreement. “We’ll start fresh, all new things in there if you want, but I wanted it to be something for us.”
Kissing her tenderly on the cheek, Harry nodded again. “Hermione, I’m very lucky that you’re who you are, because I would have mucked this entire thing up. But I can tell you one thing, once you finish redecorating that room, you’re going to be the only witch who’s ever in that bed.”
Blushing, Hermione blinked back a couple of tears. “You do realize that once word gets out, you’ll have an entire cavalcade of witches waiting to audition for that spot? Padma’s already rejoicing that you’re in a ‘Ginny Free Zone’.” Shaking her head, she smiled bravely. “Don’t you think you should do a bit of shopping around before you make a decision like that?”
Smiling, Harry shook his head. “Hermione, I have a Firebolt here. Why would I want to go rooting around in a barrel of Shooting Stars when I know I’ve already got the best?” Shaking his head at the slightly puzzled expression on her face, he smiled. “You’re the only witch for me, that’s never going to change. At best, any other witch is going to be a bad knockoff, and I’m very partial to the original, thank you very much.”
Tears rolling down her cheeks, she pressed her face against his chest. “Harry, I’m not going to give you a roster of all my faults, you’ve witnessed them first hand over the years. Are you certain?”
Putting his hand underneath her chin, he gently lifted her face until he was staring into her eyes. Seeing the worry and love there, he gently kissed her on the lips before answering. “I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. Although, I should ask you the same thing. You can have a whole troop of wizards at your front door now that you’re not seeing Ron. Did you think of that?”
Smiling, Hermione winked at him. “Silly, my front door is 12 Grimmauld Place. There’s not a wizard on the planet that’s got enough brass to show up at your front door to pick me up if they actually had the stones to ask me out. You’re the ’Bloke Who Kicked Voldemort’s Bloody Arse ‘, remember?”
Shaking his head, Harry rolled his eyes. “I’m also a terrible influence on you, it would seem. Language, dear.”
Nodding towards the door to the bath, she smiled. “Hush, you. I’ve said worse, I just never did it around you until now. You start getting cleaned up; Kreacher laid out fresh towels and soap while you were sleeping. I’ll go down the hall and get something for you to wear to be introduced to my folks in tonight and we’ll go downstairs and see what Kreacher has prepared for a light lunch.”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled. “Hermione, I’m met your folks dozens of times.”
Stopping and staring at him in disbelief, Hermione shook her head slowly. “Harry, I’m only going to tell you this once. Up until this morning, you were Harry Potter, my best friend. Regardless of what we really felt for each other, that’s how they saw you, or at least they acted that way. This afternoon, my parents are going to officially meet Harry Potter, the man I love and the wizard I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.”
Pausing as she smiled at the blush that was creeping up his cheeks she nodded. “You have no earthly idea what you’re in for.”
Stepping out into the hallway, she looked over her shoulder and smiled wickedly. “Be afraid, be very afraid.”
Half an hour later, they were both seated in the lower kitchen. Smiling, Harry was shaking his head as he was sampling the plate in front of him. “Hermione, are you certain things are going to be so different when we get to Oxford in a few hours?”
Shaking her head, Hermione smiled wryly. “Of course not, Harry. I’m just twisting you up to see how nervous I can make you.” As he started to relax, she sighed. “Harry, that was sarcasm. Yes, it’s going to be different. Mum and Daddy never took Ron seriously because they knew he really wasn’t the one. You, on the other hand, are most certainly, without a doubt, ‘The One’.”
Blushing, Harry busied himself with his soup for a couple of minutes before looking up. “What happens if they don’t like me?”
Putting down her spoon, Hermione got up and wrapped her arms around him. “Harry, that’s not going to happen, they like you already; in fact I’d say my Mum loves you very much. It’s not you, it’s me.”
Shaking his head, Harry watched her for a couple of seconds. “All right, I’m officially lost.”
Sitting back, Hermione twisted on the bench until she was straddling the bench, facing Harry. “I’m afraid what this will do to us.” Seeing the look on his face, she smiled bravely. “Harry, I’ve told you about my childhood. My parents loved me very much, and they tried to show it, but because I was different, I basically retreated inside my head when the magic started manifesting, and they really didn’t know quite how to get me to come out. I didn’t have any friends at school; I was very wrapped up inside myself because I never knew when something strange was going to happen around me.” Becoming self-conscious, Hermione nodded as Harry reached over and grasped her hands with his.
“When Minerva showed up at the house and explained what was happening, I focused on the magic, and the distance between my parents and me didn’t go away. I was determined to understand everything about this new world I was in, and it was something that they couldn’t participate in very well. And apparently once I went to school, I became overly involved in the affairs on one Harry James Potter and I drifted a bit further away from them each year. They loved me, and I loved them, but we couldn’t connect.”
Shaking his head, Harry frowned. “Did I cause you grief dear?”
Shaking her head, Hermione leaned over and kissed Harry lightly on the lips. “Never, but I was so drawn to you, that I focused everything I could on helping you and it left less time for them. They tried to understand, and they could tell from my letters home that you were special and what we were doing was important.”
Taking a deep breath, she smiled bravely. “And then came the summer after our sixth year. Dumbledore was dead, and I knew that it was finally happening, everything you and I had feared and never talked about directly. I was scared because I couldn’t protect them. I ‘liberated’ a couple of books from the restricted section and I came home to talk, to really talk to them for the first time in years.” Tears glistening in her eyes, she looked down at their hands.
“I convinced them what was going to happen, how three seventeen year old students were going to try to save the world. I promised them that if they would let me protect them the only way I could, when you were successful, then I would come back for them and we’d spend the rest of our lives trying to regain what we lost over the years. I would bring them into my world and share everything with them from that day forward.”
Shaking her head, she looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “Harry, I’ve gone and committed myself to something, committed us to something without thinking how you’d feel about it. My Mum and Dad can be a bit much, they love very completely and have a very strange sense of boundaries when it comes to the people they love.” Looking back down at their hands, she sighed. “I understand if you’re not comfortable with that and want to rethink this whole ‘us’ concept.”
Taking his hand and placing it under her chin, Harry raised her face until he was staring into her eyes, which were swimming with tears. “Darling, I’ve felt comfortable with your folks since we found them in Canberra. I love your mum, and I really like your dad. He’s a bit scary at times, but I do like him. They will be as much a part of our lives as you want them to be, I don’t have a problem with that at all.” Smiling at her, he nodded. “I’ll go to the house and revel in everything, because it means two things. I’m part of a family, and I’m there with you. We’re jumping into the deep end of this, and I suspect we’re going to make a fair number of mistakes along the way.”
Seeing that she was about to say something, Harry placed a finger on her lips to quiet her. “Nothing can return the time that I didn’t get to spend with my Mum and Dad. Except for that one brief moment in the Forbidden Forest, my time with my parents ended the night Tom Riddle crashed through the wards at their cottage in Godric’s Hollow. Nothing can replace the time you and your parents lost, but we can spend the rest of our lives with them ensuring that they’re as much a part of your life, of our lives, as we can.”
Scooting closer to her, he swung his leg over the bend and wrapped his hands around her waist. “The one thing I can assure you is that I’m never going to regret a moment of this. Today we’re going to go and meet your folks, have dinner and be a family. Then we’re going to go visit my folks and show my Mum and Dad that we’re a family. And then, for the first time in my life that I can remember, I’m going to spend Christmas Eve with my family doing something that actually pertains to Christmas.” Kissing her on her forehead, he rested his head against hers and sighed. “And it’s going to be wonderful, even if we completely embarrass ourselves in the process.”
Placing her arms around his neck, Hermione stared at him for a couple of seconds. “Harry, I know I’m mental. Can you put up with me long enough to get through tonight?”
Smiling, Harry shook his head. “Hermione, you put up with me being a moody temperamental git who had a homicidal manic chasing him for seven years. I think I can deal with twenty-four hours of being on my best behavior while spending Christmas with your parents.”
Shaking her head, Hermione smiled sadly. “Tomorrow evening, after everything’s over and done with, we’ll come back here and it will finally just be us. I promise.”
Laughing, Harry smiled. “Hermione, it’ll be fine. Your parents love you, apparently they like me. I love you, you love me. What could possibly go wrong?”
Snorting, she shook her head and sighed. “You have no idea.”
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