I'm back! Hi everyone. I apologize for the long wait - writer's block has been rearing its ugly head. I watched a good part of the Harry Potter marathon today, and once I got to what I lovingly call the "Harry/Hermione half hour" of Prisoner of Azkaban I felt inspired and spent the last twenty minutes or so writing as Harry and Hermione raced around the forest. So you can thank ABC for this update. I actually hadn't planned on Harry re-entering the story so soon, but I guess my muse wanted otherwise, because he's here. Not too much of Ginny, though. It seems I trade off Ginny and Harry. LOL. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this installment. I'm leaving town in a couple of weeks (for a place I'm pretty sure has no Internet), so I'll do my best to update by then. If not, I apologize sincerely.
Some of you might notice that the chapter title isn't a reason. This is because Ginny, as I already mentioned, isn't really featured all that much in this chapter, so there really isn't a reason and I didn't think it was appropriate to just make something up for the sake of going along with a pattern.
Hope all of you enjoy the Half-Blood Prince release! I'm going to the midnight release myself - I'm actually really excited! Hopefully my fellow H/Hr shippers will be able to enjoy the film (and, of course, all of my fellow HP fans out there).
Happy summer! (And winter for those of you on the other hemisphere)
Points to anyone who can guess what tv show/ship I reference in this chapter (it's not really all that out there, but any serious - or maybe obsessive - fan of this show/ship will probably get it).
Hermione arrived at her flat and expelled a sigh of relief. At least one item on her list of “To Do for the Wedding” plans was finished. Granted, she never thought that it would take much convincing to get Ginny on board as her Maid of Honour (that woman seemed to live and breathe control), but she had succeeded and that was what mattered (not to mention having a valid reason not to let her cousin fill the position).
Hermione looked around and couldn’t help but notice how empty the flat felt. She had been quite shocked to find Ginny at her own residence – she couldn’t remember the last time Ginny hadn’t taken over her brother or Hermione’s flats – but she had been too wrapped up in her request to really give it much notice until now. Truth be told, the flat was rather lonely without Ginny’s obtrusive presence.
Hermione’s eyes fell on her mobile, and she realized how easy it would be to call up Harry and ask if he wanted to grab an early dinner – he certainly wasn’t doing anything with Ron. But somehow the idea of talking to him made Hermione feel queasy. She knew that he had said that he was fine with the wedding and the move to America, but she couldn’t get that brief sullen expression that had graced his face out of her mind – she didn’t think she could stand an evening of searching his eyes for its return.
She reached over for her mobile and brought up her speed dial list. She stared at the names programmed under “one” and bit her lip. After a few moments she shook her head, pressed the down arrow, and then “call.”
The phone rang three times before a male voice answered. “Hello?”
“Hi, Andrew,” Hermione told the voice of her fiancé. “How are things in the States?” Andrew had left the other day to visit his parents for a bit.
“Everything’s good,” came Andrew’s crackly voice.
“How’d your parents take the news of our engagement?”
“I actually haven’t broken it to them yet,” Andrew admitted. “I haven’t had a chance. But they’re definitely excited about having me back in the country! Now, of course, but also the move, I mean.”
“That’s...that’s wonderful,” Hermione tried to enthuse, but even Andrew recognized that her excitement had fallen flat.
“Don’t worry, Hermione, I’ll tell them. I just want to do it properly. They only met you that one time, so I’m not sure how prepared they are for something like this.”
Hermione thought back to Christmas two years ago. Her parents had gone on a cruise at her mother’s insistence, so Hermione had joined Andrew for the holidays with his family. She had gotten on well enough with the Maddons, but somehow she always felt as if she just didn’t click, and Andrew’s parents had certainly never done anything to right this feeling. “Right, I understand,” Hermione assured him.
“Actually, I have to go. I’m about to meet them for brunch. I’ll probably tell them now. Talk to you later?”
“Of course. Have a nice time.”
“I will. Love you!”
“You, too,” Hermione replied, and then hung up. Well, if that was supposed to take her mind off Harry it had certainly failed. Sighing, Hermione decided that she’d call it an early night and curl up in her bedroom with a nice book and see if she could goad Crookshanks into joining her. She would see Harry at work tomorrow anyway. Hopefully she could handle it.
But Hermione didn’t see Harry the following day. The moment she walked into her office Hermione was summoned to see the Head of the Department, Edward Walden. Wondering what he could possibly want, Hermione rushed across the hall, where she was met by the stern face of her employer.
“Mr Walden, sir?” Hermione inquired. Walden nodded behind her and Hermione took it as a hint to shut the door.
“Sit down, Granger,” Walden ordered.
Still confused, Hermione took a seat across from the glowering man. “I’m not sure what this is about,” Hermione began slowly, “but my report should be in by tomorrow. I know I’m usually a week ahead of schedule, but what with everything on my plate I thought you’d be fine with my turning it in on time instead.”
“This isn’t about your reports, Granger,” Walden growled. “It’s about this!” He picked up a letter, which Hermione recognized as one she had written.
“I’m not sure I understand, sir.”
“Mr. Walden,” Walden read, “As of May second I will be leaving the British Ministry and begin my duties as the Head of the American Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I would like to thank you and the apartment for all that you have done for me over the past few years, as well as all of the opportunities with which you have provided. I look forward to working with you in the future, as I have high hopes of the American and British Ministries working in tandem. I will be happy to help in the securing of my replacement. Sincerely, Hermione Granger.” Walden crumpled the note and demanded, “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Well, I-I believe I said it all in the letter, sir,” Hermione answered, her voice shaking ever so slightly. “I’m getting married, you see, and my fiancé is being transferred to the States, so I thought it would be easier if I took a job there.”
“And you didn’t have the nerve to tell me this in person?”
“Well, sir, the last time I talked to you about my job you told me that you didn’t have time for my nonsense and to write it all down so you wouldn’t have to ‘deal with my chatter.’”
“Are you mocking me, Granger?” Walden asked in a threatening town.
Hermione’s eyes widened. “What? No, of course not! I’m only repeating what you said.” Walden’s face turned red, and Hermione realized, rather late, that this was not the way to subdue her boss.
“I want you out of here by tomorrow, Granger. You can finish whatever the hell report was due today, and then I want your office cleared out by 5:00 tomorrow. We can handle your replacement,” Walden sneered.
Hermione’s jaw dropped. “Sir, you can’t be serious...”
“Out,” Walden said. Hermione pressed her lips together and controlled the urge to give her boss (or rather former boss) a piece of her mind. Scooting her chair back she got up, turned around, and then walked out of the room without another word.
Harry stared at the clock in his cubicle, waiting for the hands to land on 12:25. It was Tuesday, and like every other Tuesday Harry was eagerly awaiting lunch with his best friends. Several years ago, when all three were embarking on their careers – Hermione in the bureaucratic aspect of law enforcement, Ron in the joke shop, and Harry in Auror training – they had agreed that Tuesday was the worst of days (even Hermione had to admit that it was a rather dreadful ten hours of work). With this in mind they decided that every Tuesday, at exactly 12:30, they would meet up for an hour or so to break up the day and add some light to what Ron melodramatically called “the darkness.” As Harry and Hermione worked not only in the same building, but on the same floor (the Auror Office was part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement after all), Harry had picked up the habit of meeting up with Hermione and apparating with her to the Leaky Cauldron, where they would wait a few minutes for Ron’s arrival.
Harry grinned as 12:25 finally arrived. Closing the file of his latest case, Harry raced out of the Auror Office and made his way down the long corridor that led to the Head section of the Law Enforcement Department. Harry had to admit that he had missed this. Not to mention the fact that he hadn’t seen Hermione in over a week, and it was taking its toll. Last Tuesday Hermione had missed the weekly lunch to tour various churches with Andrew (she had tried to explain the importance of Tuesday to her fiancé, but Andrew apologized and explained that it was the only day he could manage before his trip). Truth be told, Harry had been a bit relieved. It had been only four days following the revelation that Hermione was not only getting married, but leaving England, and at the time Harry wasn’t sure if he could handle facing her. Instead he had wrapped himself up in his work. It was times like those that Harry wished for the earlier days of his career, when he was embroiled in his training and there were still Death Eaters running amuck. Now all of that was done with, and the majority of the time Harry found himself investigating or writing up cases rather than taking part in any sort of action. It was something to which he had eventually become accustomed, but discovering the need to dive into his work, he craved the field action that would have acted as an appropriate distraction.
But that was all in the past. Granted, the past was less than a week ago, but it was still considered history. Now Harry could finally get his life back to normal, even if the normalcy would last less than two months.
Harry rounded the corner and immediately found himself in front of Hermione’s office. Out of common courtesy Harry knocked on her door before opening it and stepping in. As Harry’s eyes took in the state of the room he felt his stomach plummet. Half-filled boxes filled the space – in the corner he spied one filled with several pictures, including some of Hermione, Ron, and himself. It was when Harry realized that the bookshelves that lined Hermione’s walls were half empty that the truth hit him – Hermione had begun packing up her life.
Swallowing hard, Harry walked across the room and arrived at the carton of pictures. He gingerly removed the one from the top, and despite the sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach he couldn’t help but smile. The picture had been taken back at Hogwarts, sometime during sixth or seventh year. The three hadn’t been aware that Ginny was on a picture taking spree that day; otherwise they probably wouldn’t have appeared so comfortable. Hermione was leaning up against a tree and was busy scouring The Daily Prophet. Harry was on the other side, working on his latest potions essay (which Hermione had finished days earlier no doubt, present Harry mused) and twisting his body around every so often to confer with Hermione. Ron had settled on lying on the grass between them, simply soaking in the nice day and ignoring the mountain of homework waiting for him when the trio would return to the Gryffindor common room.
“What are you doing here?” an alarmed voice inquired, interrupting Harry’s bout of nostalgia. Harry jumped slightly and quickly put the picture back in its place. Turning around he came face to face with Ginny, who held a rather large, empty box in her arms.
“Ginny?” he asked, confused. “What are you— ”
“I just asked that,” Ginny cut in impatiently.
This clearly meant nothing to Ginny, at least if her blank expression was any indication. “And?”
“Tuesday, Gin. The day me, Hermione, and Ron get together so we don’t die of boredom?”
“I forgot about that,” Ginny replied with a shrug, and walked over to Hermione’s desk. Once her face was out of Harry’s view she grinned to herself – as if she could possibly have forgotten about the Tuesday lunches. Every Monday that’s all she ever heard out of her two friends and her brother. Shaking her head she began transferring papers from Hermione’s desk to the box she had been carrying.
Harry turned around and watched as Ginny cleaned out the office. “What’s going on?”
“Hermione didn’t tell you?” Ginny said, looking up in surprise – and for once her reaction was actually sincere.
“Didn’t tell you what?” Harry turned around again. There was Hermione, standing in the doorway and carrying several boxes, one stacked on top of the other so that only her bushy hair was visible. A face peered around the containers. “Harry?” Hermione dropped her boxes so as not to continue blocking her view. She thought that when she saw him again she would be rather nervous, but whether it was simply all of her years knowing him or the situation in which she was seeing him, the anxiety never took over. Her eyes did widen, however, as she realized why her best friend was here. “Oh, Merlin, it’s Tuesday isn’t it?” she asked, running over to him and looking terribly guilty.
Harry nodded slowly. It was rather unusual for Hermione to forget anything, let alone a weekly event, and the news disconcerted him. Was this what he had to look forward to in the future – Hermione too busy with her new life to remember him?
“Oh, Harry, it completely slipped my mind! I just found out that Walden isn’t exactly pleased with my transfer,” Hermione sighed, “so he basically told me to get the hell out and not to bother coming in for my remaining months here.”
“Walden did what?” Harry demanded, his face quickly turning the colour of Ginny’s hair.
“I know, he’s acting like a complete idiot, but you know how he is with that temper. I think he feels that I’m betraying the British Ministry or something else ridiculous.”
“Or maybe he’s threatened by the fact that you’ll soon be his equal rather than his inferior?” Ginny cut in, but she was, unsurprisingly, ignored by both Harry and Hermione.
“He’s a prick if he thinks he isn’t going to regret not having you around for those final two months! It’s bad enough for them that you’re leaving altogether. Doesn’t he realize what he’s losing?” Harry cried, and from behind him Ginny smirked. Projecting, Harry? she couldn’t help but wonder.
“Harry, it’s all right, really,” Hermione reassured him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“No, it’s not, and I’m going to go tell that bumbling excuse for a wizard— ”
“Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, and she quickly blocked Harry’s way. “You will do no such thing! There’s no use in your getting in trouble over this and getting fired, too – you know Walden would love any excuse to get rid of you; he’s always complaining about how you steal the limelight.” Harry knew Hermione was right, but somehow he felt losing his job would be perfectly worth it if it meant tearing into Walden. “Anyway, it’s all for the better.”
“How is this all for the better?” Harry looked at her, not understanding how she could be so positive at a time like this.
“Well, now I have time to pack up my flat and plan the wedding – I won’t have to worry about when I’ll hear back from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to figure out the latest legislation.” Although Hermione appeared to be taking an optimistic outlook on the situation, Harry could tell from the way her eyes darkened ever so slightly that she was anything but happy. He could only imagine how bitter she truly felt about being fired only weeks before the newest magical creature rights bill came through. “Anyway, in my spare time I can concentrate on the American Ministry and what on earth I’ll do to get it running properly,” Hermione added as if this made up for everything.
“I still say you’re getting a raw deal,” Harry muttered. Hermione laughed and shrugged off his comment, but inside she was devastated. Never in a thousand years had Hermione thought that Walden would turn on her for having to transfer. Perhaps, she mused to herself, this really was for the better – the firing, the move, all of it. But one look at Harry’s face and she knew that simply was not true.
“So...are you ready then?” Harry asked, feeling rather awkward. “It’s already 12:35 and Ron will have our heads if we make him wait much longer to eat.”
“Oh, Harry, I’m so, so sorry,” Hermione said, biting her lip. “But there’s just too much to pack up.”
“Can’t you just use a packing spell or something?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “That’s what I said, but little miss obsessive over here is convinced that everything will get mixed up and she’ll never find anything again.”
“Seeing as domestic spells aren’t exactly my strong suit, despite my best attempts,” Hermione began, looking pained by this admission. Ginny laughed and Hermione glared at her. “It’s not as if you’re any better, Ginny,” she shot at her friend, which shut Ginny up rather quickly. “Anyway, like I was saying, since both of us are rather shoddy at domestic spellwork, I’d rather do it the muggle way.”
“I’ll do it,” Harry volunteered, brandishing her wand, and Ginny smothered another burst of laughter.
“You’re not exactly that talented with such spells yourself, Harry,” Hermione said, although this time her comment was said rather apologetically. “I’m afraid I’d rather stick with the safe route. Can I take a rain check on our lunch?”
“Aren’t you already taking two years worth of rain checks?” Harry immediately regretted his words after one glance at Hermione’s devastated face. “I’m sorry, Hermione, I didn’t mean to— ”
“It’s all right, Harry, don’t worry.” Hermione offered him a weak smile. “You go on without me before Ron goes ballistic. I’ll see you later this week, all right?”
Harry nodded slowly, wondering how she would accomplish such a feat when she was going to be up to her ears in packing and planning. He left her office without another word, convinced that he would end up saying something that made him look like an even bigger git. Once he was far enough away he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
So that’s it then, Harry thought bitterly to himself. No more walking down the hall and seeing Hermione every day. This is really happening.
Until now the notion of never seeing Hermione hadn’t really set in – it was just a future that Harry couldn’t imagine ever arriving. Now it felt like they were flinging themselves into the future full speed ahead, without a second thought as to the consequences. To label the situation “unsettling” would be quite an understatement. Harry took in a few deep breaths, trying to remind himself that this was far from the end of the world. Harry would know, after all, having prevented this occurrence over ten years ago. At this moment, however, Harry was quite certain that another round with Voldemort was preferable to this. At least back then he had Hermione by his side.
Wondering how on earth he would manage to eat when he felt so sick, Harry apparated to the Leaky Cauldron for the second of many Hermione-less Tuesday lunches.
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