Love is a Battlefield
- Story Summary:
- Set eleven years after they leave Hogwarts, Harry and Hermione find themselves in a situation they never anticipated - they've fallen in love. Add a nasty ex-girlfriend, Ron and his wife, Ginny and Draco and Hermione's mysterious boss to the mix and see whether they can make it work as lovers - or whether their secrets will tear them apart forever.
- Chapter Summary:
- Set 11 years after graduation from Hogwarts, the Dream Team are now adults. Catch up with Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco and all your favourites as they deal with life, love, work, marriage, divorce, babies and kidnapping. Harry/Hermione and Draco/Ginny romantic subplots.
- Author's Note:
- My eternal thanks go to
Suddenly the wheels are in motion
And I am ready to sail any ocean
Suddenly I don’t need the answers
Because I am ready to take all my chances with you
~ “Suddenly” The Xanadu Soundtrack
Thursday, October 30th, 2008.
As Harry sat in the large blue overstuffed chair in the lounge room punching the cushion that was on his lap, he cursed himself for the umpteenth time for his stupidity. Instead of listening to his heart and finding the courage to take a risk and make things work with Hermione, he’d listened to his head and pushed her away.
The last few weeks had been hell on earth. Harry had mistakenly believed that Hermione would just accept his decision and everything would go back to the way it was, but Hermione had proven him wrong. She’d seemingly accepted his decision all right, but things had definitely not gone back to the way they were before any feelings beyond friendship had finally surfaced and been acknowledged.
Hermione had become a stranger.
Besides the fact that he’d barely seen her over the last few weeks – she’d be gone when he got up and he’d be in bed by the time she got home – she’d treated him with the cordiality that she afforded someone she’d just met. She didn’t eat with him, she didn’t share her day with him. They didn’t talk about anything. Hermione had reduced them to the status of nothing more than two people who shared a house but had nothing in common and were not well acquainted, instead of two people who had been best friends for more than half their lives. Not only did he miss the woman he knew he was in love with, but he missed his best friend. That had been the hardest thing to cope with, and Harry knew it was his own damn fault.
Sirius had played his role of godfather and supporter well, trying to reassure Harry that he’d made the right choice and that, given time and space, Hermione would understand. But Harry knew Sirius better than that and he could see in his eyes that Sirius believed Harry had made the wrong decision. And now, as Hermione sat upstairs in her room preparing herself for her date, Harry was left to sit and brood. Her date. The word left a bad taste in Harry’s mouth. It wasn’t right.
But no matter how many times Harry had tried to reopen the subject of exploring a relationship between them, Hermione didn’t want to hear it. She held her hand up and changed the subject. If Harry tried to persist, she simply got up and walked out of the room. Harry had quickly gotten the hint and, considering the fact that she was rarely in the same room with him anymore, he’d given up mentioning it.
But he hadn’t given up on Hermione.
Hermione carefully applied her lipstick and examined her reflection in the mirror as she sat at her dressing table, trying to ignore the fact that her heart ached. Ached for the touch of a man who didn’t want her. Ached for the fact that she was betraying that man by going out with another. Ached because she could no longer keep up the pretence that she didn’t still love Harry desperately with all her heart. He’d tried to broach the subject a few times, but Hermione had ceased the conversation every time. She couldn’t bear to be subjected to him telling her over and over why it couldn’t work.
The date hadn’t been her idea. Tabitha had noticed that she seemed miserable and had quietly suggested that Hermione have dinner with her younger cousin, who was due to fly into London to visit with Tabitha for two weeks. Hermione had tried to decline politely, but Tabitha had firmly suggested that a night out might do her a world of good and eventually, Hermione had caved and agreed to have dinner with Nathan, who was a Muggle.
She’d had lunch with them a few days beforehand to meet him. At thirty year old, Nathan Attard, a tall man with light brown hair and hazel eyes, seemed nice enough, even though Hermione knew instantly he wasn’t her type. But she also knew that the only man who was her type was the one man she couldn’t have, so in the end Hermione agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to have dinner with Nathan and show him around Muggle London.
Hermione took a deep breath and sighed. The bags under her eyes couldn’t be hidden with any amount of make up, and she was beginning to believe that the shattered pieces of her heart would never be mended. She’d tried to be strong and accept Harry’s decision but his rejection of her had hurt her more deeply than she could ever possibly have imagined. It was painful just knowing that Harry was in the same house. She’d spent as little time as possible around him because it was the only way she could function. Even when he wasn’t around, his voice played over and over in her head, telling her that her love wasn’t enough, which dragged her back down into the pit of misery in which she wallowed even further.
Hermione wondered if this is what it was like to be dying inside.
She shook her head and stood, forcing the tears she felt welling up to fade. Harry had made his decision. They would both have to learn to live with it.
She ran her comb through the curls she’d conjured her hair into one last time, then grabbed her handbag and coat and went downstairs to wait for Nathan.
Harry felt like he’d had the wind knocked out of him as he watched Hermione descend the stairs. She looked stunning. Wearing a red wrap around dress that was knee length, complimented by black shoes, bag and coat and a minimal amount of jewellery - Harry noted she wore her diamond necklace - she was a picture of elegance. Her hair was out and the curls cascaded down her back and around her face, framing it to make her appear softer. His eyes never left her, and his mouth appeared to have dried up so much that he couldn’t speak.
Hermione got to the bottom of the staircase and glanced at him. “You’re staring,” she pointed out.
Harry cleared his throat. “You’re beautiful,” he said softly.
Hermione’s face appeared to crumple fleetingly, only to be replaced with a frown. “Don’t say that.”
“Why not?” Harry asked, folding his arms.
“Because I don’t want you to, that’s why.” Hermione’s tone was frosty. “Besides, I really don’t care what you think.” Harry flinched, and Hermione immediately regretted what she said. “I’m sorry, that was unnecessary.” She paused.
“Yes, it was.” Harry’s tone now matched her previous one. “I don’t know why I even bother.”
He stared at her and his gaze made her more uncomfortable by the second. “I said I was sorry. What more do you want me to say?”
“Nothing, Hermione. There’s nothing you can say.” They stood facing each other, both wishing desperately that they could just say the magic words that would make everything okay between them again. However, they’d somehow spiralled into such a dark place that neither of them quite knew how to climb back out again and salvage their friendship.
“Harry, we can’t go on like this.”
Harry looked at her for a long moment, his lips drawn tightly together. He sighed deeply. “No, we can’t.”He took a step towards her. “We need to talk. I miss my best friend, Hermione. She barely speaks to me anymore and I never see her.”
Hermione opened her mouth to explain that she’d needed the long days at work to try and make progress with her research, but the words never came out because she knew it just sounded like an excuse … which it was. And what Harry said hit home, painfully. She missed her best friend too. It was torture living in the same house and not even acknowledging each other’s existence. It had to stop, because Hermione couldn’t cope with the tension anymore.
“Tonight when I get back, we’ll talk. We have to sort this out, one way or the other.” She let the words hang between them, offering Harry a small hope that maybe, just maybe, things could be worked out. She inched closer to him, so that she was standing right in front of him. “I’ve missed my best friend too,” she whispered. “More than he knows.” She slowly reached up and placed a shaky hand on his cheek then dropped it, startled, when the doorbell rang. Without saying another word, Hermione crossed the foyer and opened the door.
“Hi, Nathan.” She stepped aside to let him in and accepted a kiss on the cheek.
“Wow, Hermione, you look wonderful.” He smiled broadly, then looked at Harry. Stepping forward, he held out his hand. “You must be Harry.”
Harry paused for a moment, making Hermione catch her breath. He then crossed the foyer and took the other man’s hand, shaking it briefly. “Nice to meet you, Nathan.”
Hermione breathed out, glad that he hadn’t made a scene, although she did notice Harry furtively sizing Nathan up. Picking up her coat, she let Nathan help her put it on, then placed her handbag on her shoulder. “I’ll see you later, Harry.”
She smiled at him, but he didn’t smile back. “Enjoy your dinner.” He turned and went into the lounge room. Hermione watched his retreating figure, then followed Nathan out the door and shut it behind her.
It was a pleasant night so Hermione and Nathan decided to park a small distance away from the restaurant and walk the remainder of the way. It also allowed them a chance to talk, just the two of them. Nathan offered her his arm and Hermione slipped her hand through, bringing it to rest on his arm.
“Tab tells me you’re the smartest witch she knows,” Nathan offered as an opener.
Hermione smiled. “Tabitha would say that. She’s very sweet, but I’m sure that’s not true. I’d be lost without her.”
“Is it hard coming from a non-magical family, having lived as a … what do you call them again? Muddles?”
Hermione laughed. “Muggles. No, not really. I didn’t know I was a witch until I got the letter from Hogwarts. It was an interesting experience, finding out I was a witch and having to learn about a world I never knew existed previously, but I can honestly say I’m glad I wasn’t raised in a magical family. It’s so much harder for those raised in the wizarding world to understand how the Muggle world works.”
“I can imagine.” He paused, and they walked on silently. “Does Harry come from a Muggle family?”
Hermione turned to look at Nathan, the mention of Harry making her feel strangely uncomfortable. He didn’t meet her gaze, instead choosing to focus straight ahead. She didn’t want to talk about Harry with him, and wondered why Nathan was asking about him. “Yes and no. His parents were both wizards, but his mother came from a Muggle family.”
“Were? They’re not wizards anymore?”
“They’re dead.” Hermione turned back to look ahead, her throat constricting like it did every time she thought of Harry’s parents and what they were missing, not being able to watch their son grow up into the wonderful man he was.
“I’m sorry,” Nathan replied. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s okay. They’ve been dead for a long time now.”
“I’m sure it’s no less painful for him.”
“I guess not.” The tone in Hermione’s voice clearly indicated that all talk of Harry was over, and Nathan was astute enough to pick up on the hint.
“So tell me more about you, Hermione. What made you decide to pick your line of work?”Hermione embraced the change of subject and began to talk animatedly about her work, a subject that she never tired of discussing. They quickly passed the time as they made their way to the restaurant.
Kellie sat in the chair quietly as Ginny finished preparing the dessert by waving her wand around a few times. She served up the butterscotch pudding into bowls and then turned back to her sister-in-law with a smile.
“All done,” she said triumphantly. “I told you it wouldn’t take long to do.”
“Yum,” Kellie began. “I love butterscotch pudding.”
Ginny smiled and carried a bowl across, handing it to Kellie. She then went back to grab her own and leaned against the counter, looking at Kellie thoughtfully as she began to eat. “Kel, have you noticed anything strange with Hermione lately?”
Kellie eyed Ginny hesitantly. “Strange? In what way?”
“I don’t know,” Ginny replied. “She seems rather … preoccupied lately. I’m just worried something’s wrong, that’s all.”
Kellie shuffled uncomfortably in her chair, debating whether she should tell Ginny what exactly was wrong with Hermione or not. She paused momentarily, then decided to speak up, because she was worried about Hermione as well.
Hermione had skipped their regular Wednesday night get together the previous week, claiming she had a migraine - which the girls did know she got occasionally – but she’d barely been in touch since, and both Kellie and Ginny knew it wasn’t like her to be so distant from her girlfriends.
“Something is wrong with Hermione, Ginny,” Kellie began quietly. “However, I’m really not sure it’s my place to say, so you didn’t hear it from me. The only reason I’m speaking up is because I’m worried about her too.”
The seriousness in Kellie’s tone didn’t go unnoticed by Ginny, who placed her bowl back on the counter and crossed the room, sitting down opposite her. “Why, what’s going on?”
“How much do you know about what’s going on with her and Harry?”
Ginny raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “How do you mean, ‘going on’? I think it’s plainly obvious they’ve got the hots for each other, although I didn’t know they’d done anything about it. When did this happen?”
“It hasn’t. They haven’t.” Kellie sighed. “Harry as much admitted that he’s in love with her a few weeks back, and I know she feels the same way about him. But the night he told us, he apparently went home and thought about it. Gave it too much thought, if you ask me, because Hermione said he told her that although he does love her, it’s not enough and he doesn’t want to chance a relationship with her in case it doesn’t work out and he loses her. And that was just the beginning.”
Ginny sat open mouthed in front of Kellie, her brain unable to process what she’d just heard. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
Kellie shook her head. “I wish I was. But this was straight from Hermione. That’s what she said. And now she’s out on this ridiculous date.” Kellie shook her head sadly. “I think they’re both mad. I don’t know why she’s out on a date when the man she’s in love with is sitting at home moping. But on the other hand, you can’t blame her. Harry practically told her that she wasn’t good enough.”
Kellie sighed deeply, unable to figure out what to do about the situation. She and Ron had mostly stayed out of it, believing it best for Harry and Hermione to work it out themselves, but it upset them both that Harry and Hermione were making themselves – and each other – so miserable. At first, Kellie had tried to persuade Ron to intervene because she could see how badly he felt for both of them, but he had explained that he didn’t want to be forced to take sides, and Ron believed Harry would eventually come to his senses.
She looked up at Ginny, who was gazing intently at her. “Gin?” Kellie asked, frowning. “Are you okay?”
Ginny shook her head and snapped out of her reverie. “Yeah, I’m fine. Listen, did you say Harry’s at home right now?’
Ginny got up from the chair. “I’ll be back soon.” The glint in her eye sounded an alarm bell in Kellie’s head. She’d seen that look on Ginny’s face before, and it didn’t bode well. “Ginny, I don’t think….” Kellie trailed off, realising it was useless talking to thin air. She heard the front door slam, and let out a deep breath, glad she wasn’t Harry at this particular moment in time.
Harry looked up from his book when he heard the doorbell being given a vigorous workout. He looked at the antique grandfather clock that stood proudly against the wall and saw that it was 10pm … a little late for visitors. Sighing, he put down the book he’d been staring at for the last few hours and crossed into the foyer to open the door. What he didn’t expect to find standing behind it was an irate Ginny Weasley.
“Gin! What are you doing here?” Harry began, but Ginny pushed past him with a murderous look and stormed into the lounge room without a word. Harry stared after her, knowing he must be in big trouble to have incited such ire from hisredheaded friend. Following her into the lounge room, he watched as she placed her hands on her hips and fixed him with a steely gaze.
“Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” Harry asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Have you gone absolutely barking mad?” Ginny spat out in greeting. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
The anger in her voice made Harry’s head spin. “Ginny, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said in a cautious tone, although he had a very good idea.
Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. “You know exactly what I’m talking about, Harry Potter. Why are you being so stupid about you and Hermione? And what’s this rubbish about not loving her enough to take a chance?”
“Hang on a second,” he interrupted. “That’s not what I said.”
“Then what did you say?” She crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for his reply, even though Harry could tell that no matter what he said, it wouldn’t be good enough.
He paused and suddenly averted his gaze to the floor, Ginny’s piercing eyes making him extremely uncomfortable. “Okay, so maybe that is what I said, but I didn’t mean it the way you’re making it sound.”
“I see,” Ginny replied, doing a more than passable impression of Professor McGonagall. “And did you tell Hermione that? Did you make her understand that, for some strange reason, you said one thing but meant something completely different?”
“Ginny, I…it’s complicated.” He sighed and shuffled a bit. “Besides, it really is between me and Hermione.”
“Not when you make yourselves- and each other - miserable for no reason, it’s not.” Ginny dropped her arms and relaxed her stance, softening her tone. She could see the anguish written all over Harry’s face and realised he was having just as difficult a time as Hermione was.
She moved towards him and placed a hand on his arm. “Look, Harry, I know it’s none of my business. But it hurts me to see you both so upset. And don’t tell me you aren’t, because you are. Everybody’s noticed it.” Harry lifted his gaze up to meet Ginny’s. “Why do you think it’s not worth the risk, Harry? I know you love her. I know she loves you. Why can’t you just try and overcome whatever fears and doubts you have and try to make it work? Instead of pushing her away, you should be pulling her closer. There’s nothing you can’t work out if you’re together.” She smiled at him, and he couldn’t help but smile back. “And you’re just so bloody stupid if you throw it all away because you’re afraid. And to be afraid of Hermione of all people, after everything you’ve been through with Voldemort and Death Eaters…”
Ginny moved her hand down his arm and slipped it into his, squeezing his fingers gently. “Look at me and Draco,” she continued. “Look at everything we faced when we got together. You think I wasn’t scared of losing him? That he might decide one day that it wasn’t worth it and walk out on me?”
Harry looked at Ginny in surprise. “He’d never walk out on you, Ginny.”
“I know that now. But I didn’t know it then. We were young, and we had a lot more baggage than the average couple to deal with. But no matter what, we always vowed that we’d get through it together. No matter how bad things got, I always knew I’d be okay in the end because I had Draco right by my side, every step of the way. Which is exactly where Hermione will be for you if you just give her a chance. You both deserve a chance at happiness, Harry.”
She looked hopefully at him, wondering if anything she’d said was sinking in or whether Harry had been right and she’d gone too far.
“Ginny,” Harry finally began, squeezing her fingers back. “I know you’re only saying this because you care about me and Hermione, but you should know you haven’t said anything I don’t already know.” He released her hand and smiled at her. “Hermione and I talked a little before she went out tonight, and when she gets back, we’re sorting this whole mess out, once and for all.” He lowered his voice as Ginny looked at him hopefully. “I’m hoping to persuade her that I realise I’ve been the biggest prat in the world and really do want her to give me another chance.”
Ginny’s eyes widened and she let out a shriek of delight. “Harry! That’s so great! Oh my God!”
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at her enthusiasm. He leaned over and kissed her cheek and she threw her arms around his neck, hugging him close. “Oh Harry,” she said softly in his ear. “I’m so happy for you.” He held her tightly for a long moment, then released her.
“Thank you, Gin. Thanks for everything.”
They smiled at each other for a moment, then Ginny made her way to the door. “Well, good luck with tonight then. Owl me in the morning and let me know how it went.” She opened the door, then glanced back over her shoulder. “I won’t expect the owl early, though.” She winked at him, then disappeared before Harry could respond.
Hermione enjoyed her dinner with Nathan a lot more than she’d expected she
would. He was charming company, and regaled her with tales of his life in Vancouver and his work as an architect. Hermione actually found him rather attractive and, had she not been hopelessly in love with Harry, might have been interested in seeing him again.
She allowed him to escort her to the front door, where he deposited her safely. Hermione smiled at him. “I had a wonderful time tonight, thank you.” She was careful to keep a discreet distance, a little anxious that he might try to kiss her goodnight.
“I’m glad to hear it. Thank you for being such a gracious date.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Would you be interested in another dinner before I go?”
Hermione instantly felt bad. Nathan was a nice bloke, and she owed him the truth. “Nathan, I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I …”
“You’re in love with Harry.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “How did … I …”
Nathan looked at her. “It’s not just you that hasn’t been entirely honest, Hermione. Tab told me about you two, and it was me who insisted that she press you about the date after we had lunch. She told me that nothing was going on between you and Harry, but I can see she was wrong.”
“Nothing is going on between us, Nathan. It’s … it’s complicated.” Hermione sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, I feel awful.”
“Don’t.” Nathan gave her a rueful smile. “It would never have worked between us anyway, with us living in different countries.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek softly. “However, I don’t regret tonight. You’re a wonderful woman, Hermione. I just hope Harry realises how lucky he is to have you.” He didn’t wait for a reply, turning and walking down the few steps in front of him. When he got to the bottom, he paused and turned back to her. “I hope you work things out with him. Good luck, Hermione.”
“Thank you.” Hermione gave him a genuine smile and waited until he got in the car and drove off before she opened the front door and went inside.
Harry was in the lounge room, sprawled on the couch with the book he’d read all of two pages of since Hermione’s departure. The minute he heard the front door open and shut again, he closed the book and threw it on the coffee table, then stood as he watched Hermione appear at the door way.
“Hi,” she said with a smile.
“Hey,” he replied. “How was your date?” He felt obliged to ask, even though it was the last thing he wanted to know about. A deep seated feeling of nervousness began to wash over him at the thought of her answer.
“It was nice. We had a good time.” These were not the words he wanted to hear, and he frowned, looking down at his feet. “In fact, he asked me to have dinner with him again.”
“Oh,” was all he could manage. He tried hard not to let his disappointment show. “Well, I’m glad you had a good time.”
“Liar.” He looked up at Hermione and her expression was unreadable, which made him feel uncertain about everything. “Let me go get changed, then we’ll talk.” Harry breathed deeply as she disappeared up the stairs without waiting for a response. All of a sudden, he was so impatient to clear the air that it took all he had not to follow her and demand that she talk to him that instant.
When she appeared ten minutes later, Harry sucked in a breath. She was stunning. Now dressed in jeans and a simple pink t-shirt in spite of the cold, she’d pinned her hair up off her face and removed her make up. There was something about the way she looked when she was just casually dressed that made his heart race. She didn’t need to make an effort to look beautiful for him; he already knew she was. He knew the real her, underneath the make up and nice clothes.
He watched as she came into the room and sat next to him, tucking a leg underneath her so she could face him. “So let’s talk,” she said.
Hermione watched Harry move to face her, and she felt the wall she’d carefully built around her heart simply melt as she gazed at him. She’d always thought Harry was attractive, but she looked at him through very different eyes now, drinking in everything about him – the deep bottle green of his eyes under long lashes that stared out at her, the unkempt hair looked as if he’d run his hand through it a thousand times since she left. He looked weary, but Hermione still thought he was the most handsome man she’d ever gazed upon, and her heart fluttered.
She also realised that she had been foolish to believe they could go on this way, that she could make herself believe that she could live in the same house with him and not want to touch him, to kiss him. She knew at that moment as he gathered up the courage to speak, that she couldn’t - she wouldn’t - live her life without this man in it.
“Hermione, I made a mistake.” Harry breathed deeply and looked at her, his eyes begging for her to believe him. “I should never have said what I did. I didn’t mean to push you away, I’m just … frightened of losing you. And then I ended up losing you anyway.” His voice had steadily dropped to almost a whisper, and he reached over to take her hands in his. Harry was relieved when Hermione made no move to pull away. Instead, she squeezed them gently. “But I did mean it when I said I love you, Hermione. Because I do, with all my heart and soul. You have to know that.”
Hermione tilted her head slightly and stared at him so long that Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Finally, she pulled her hands away and got off the lounge. For a horrible moment, Harry thought she was going to walk away but she didn’t, instead getting down on her knees in front of him and sitting back. He bowed his head.
“You’re a stupid prat, you know that?” she finally said, her voice soft.
Harry couldn’t suppress a hollow laugh and he lifted his eyes up to meet hers. “I know. I should never have let my fear of losing you push you away, because I did lose you. And that hurts more than you could possibly know, Hermione. Living here with you but having you treat me like a stranger has been hell.”
“I … I just didn’t know how to cope, Harry,” Hermione began tentatively. “I couldn’t believe you wouldn’t even consider the possibility of us being … together.” She paused and breathed deeply. “But I do understand why.”
He reached out and ran his fingertips down her cheek gently. “You do?”
Hermione nodded. “Of course I do. You’ve already lost so much in your life. It must be hard for you to love anybody, but I want you to know you’d never lose me. I would never leave you because I simply love you too much.” Hermione was now speaking from the heart, and all the words she’d let build up inside her unspoken just tumbled out now the wall was gone. “I’m sorry about the last few weeks but I was hurt too, Harry. I’ve been a mess inside.” He bowed his head again. Hermione reached up and gently placed a finger under his chin, lifting his head up so they could look at each other. “Let’s start over and do this properly. Go out on dates. Take long walks together. Get to know each other again, slowly.” Her eyes shined brightly at him, and for the first time in weeks, they smiled at each other. “Okay?” she whispered.
Harry took her hands in his. “Okay.” He leaned over and brushed her lips gently. “Are you free tomorrow night?”
Hermione grinned cheekily. “I’ll have to check my busy calendar, but I’m sure I can squeeze you in.” But her grin soon faded as Harry placed soft kisses on her face. She pulled away from him far enough so she could remove his glasses and toss them onto the carpet, then pulled his face back to her, their lips meeting properly for the first time. Sliding her arms around his neck, Hermione gave in completely and got up on her knees so she was pressed against him. Harry’s arms immediately encircled her waist and he pulled her as close as he could. They kissed deeply for a long moment, both of them unwilling to let the other go.
Harry eventually pulled back slightly, sucking in shallow breaths. “I love you,” he breathed, punctuating it with another kiss.
Hermione smiled as she, too, tried to steady her breathing. “I love you too, Harry.”
Her smile turned into a full grin as his face lit up. “You do, really?” The little boy inside him that had been deprived of love still occasionally made an appearance, and Hermione’s heart constricted as she realised that it would take time for Harry to fully believe he was worthy of her love.
“Yes, I do. Really.” She kissed him firmly. “I love you. I’ll always love you, and I’ll say it as many times as you need to hear it for you to believe me, Harry.”
Harry blinked as he stroked her cheek gently. “I do believe you, Hermione.”
“Then I’m glad. Because it’s true.” She kissed him again, then got up off her knees and pushed him back, settling herself onto his lap. Hands roamed and souls bonded as they kissed, and before long, they had somehow rearranged themselves so that Hermione was lying on top of Harry, but neither of them complained.
Some time later, Hermione had shifted so she was now lying next to him on her side. One arm was thrown across his chest and he stroked her arm gently, occasionally placing a kiss on her forehead. They weren’t speaking, content just to enjoy the closeness, both of them unable to believe that after all this time, they were finally lying in each other’s arms. His other hand was on the small of her back, and her skin burned under his touch, even through the fabric of her t-shirt. Her leg was in between his and her body pressed as closely against his as she could manage.
“I think my lips are swollen,” Hermione offered eventually.
Harry burst out laughing. “Is that right, Dr. Granger?”
She raised her face up to him as proof. “See?”
Harry made a big show of examining her lips, his eyes twinkling. “Awww. Want me to kiss them better?”
Hermione grinned and nodded, and Harry complied. After a gentle kiss, he let his lips drift down to her neck. Her skin was so soft and sweet, he was content to lie there forever.
However, they were both rudely brought back to reality when the clock chimed midnight.
“We should go to bed,” Hermione said.
Harry arched an eyebrow. “I thought you said you wanted to take it slowly?”
Hermione sat up and smacked his arm gently. “I do, you prat. I meant we … you know what I meant. It’s late and we’ve both got work tomorrow.”
Harry also sat up and kissed her neck again. “We could call in sick.”
Hermione closed her eyes. She was tempted. “We could, but we’re not going to. We’re not rushing, remember?”
“Of course I remember. How could I forget?” He continued his assault on her neck and the longer he did it, the more it made Hermione want to forget her vow to go slowly.
“Harry, stop it.” She pushed him away gently and got off the lounge. Just then, a thought occurred to her and she had to ask. “It doesn’t bother you, does it?”
Harry shook his head. “Of course not. We’ll go as slowly as you need us to. I’m not going to rush you into anything now that I’ve finally got you.” He then proceeded to show her just how pleased he was that he’d finally gotten her and, an indeterminable time later, released her. “I think it will be kind of fun, actually. I get to court you properly.”
Hermione looked at him in amusement. “Court me?”
“Sure. Court you, woo you. Whatever you want to call it.” He studied her for a moment. “Seduce you?” he tried with a grin.
Hermione’s lips curled into a smile. “I like the sound of that.” She leaned in and kissed him hard, then stepped back and grabbed his hand. “Let’s get some sleep.” He didn’t protest as she led him upstairs and left him at his bedroom door with another deep kiss before disappearing through her own to get some much needed rest.
Harry looked at her door for a moment then turned in himself, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. It was the first good night’s sleep he’d had for ages.
Ginny tossed her bag onto the couch and headed for the bedroom where she found Draco stretched out on their bed, propped up with pillows, a notebook and pen in hand and concentration written all over his face.
He looked up as she entered and grinned. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t my beautiful fiancée, returning home from a hard night’s gossiping.” Ginny poked her tongue out and proceeded to change into a pyjama top. “How’s Kel?”
“She’s fine. I made her butterscotch pudding for dessert.” She buttoned up the top and flopped down onto the bed, leaning over to kiss him before settling herself so she was lying across it, her head resting on his bare chest. “Oh, before I forget, you owe me ten galleons.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “For what?”
Ginny smiled. “I won the bet.”
She watched as Draco blinked. “You did not.”
“I did indeed. I went over and saw Harry tonight, and he told me that as soon as Hermione was home from this stupid date she insisted on going on, he was going to beg her forgiveness and tell her he’s been a great git and that he loves her and they should just be together forever.”
“Damn,” Draco swore softly. “Well, it’s about time. They’ve had us walking on eggshells for weeks and I, for one, was getting bloody sick of it. I was seriously tempted to curse them into a room together and not let them out until Hermione was ready to give birth.”
“Draco!” Ginny swatted his arm. “They’re nowhere near talking about having children. Give them time to enjoy being together before you start dooming them to a life of constantly interrupted sleep.” She grabbed the notebook from his hand and raised her head to look at it. “So what’s the final tally?”
Draco sighed. “Four hundred and nineteen.”
“Four hundred and nineteen?” Ginny repeated. “Wow. That’s a whole lot of people.”
They both paused, Draco stroking Ginny’s hair softly as he set the notebook and pen aside.
“This is going to be a circus, you know.” Ginny said quietly. She clasped her hands together on his chest and turned her head, resting it on them so she could look at him. “And once Mum finds out, I’m sure there will be more distant relatives I’ve forgotten and must invite.” She sighed deeply and closed her eyes.
She and Draco had decided not to tell anyone about their engagement until they’d sorted out the wedding details because she knew what her family would be like. Not that she didn’t love them to pieces, but everyone would have their two knuts worth to contribute, and Ginny had seen family interference nearly break up more than one of her clients’ weddings, so she was well aware of how fine the line was trying to make everyone happy – including the bride and groom.
Draco continued to stroke her hair as he gazed at her thoughtfully. “We could always just keep it quiet, beautiful.”
Ginny raised her head and scooted up so that she lay next to him, her head on his pillow. “And how, exactly, would we do that?”
Draco shifted onto his side so that his face was inches from hers. “We could always elope.” He waited with baited breath for her reaction. Eloping was something Draco had considered a long time ago, but he’d always felt Ginny wanted to have a big wedding with lots of people, and he wanted her to have her dream wedding. But as they’d started to make plans, he realised that maybe she would go along with it – she was tearing her hair out just working out the guest list.
“Elope, huh?” Ginny said the word out loud, musing it over. She readily admitted it made sense. There would be no pressure from anyone. It would be just her and Draco making legal the commitment they’d made to each other a long time ago.
“It would be quite romantic, wouldn’t it?” She began softly. “Just you and me, on a beach at sunset…” She smiled at him. “Let’s do it.”
Draco raised his eyebrows, astonished at how readily Ginny had agreed. “Really? You’re happy to do that?”
Ginny propped herself up on one elbow as Draco rolled onto his back, and she looked down into the warm slate eyes that always made her melt. “Of course I’m happy to do that, Draco. I don’t care about the where or when or how we get married, I just want to be your wife. And at the end of the day, it’s the same result, whether we have a huge wedding with a million people or a simple ceremony with just the two of us.” She smiled broadly as he reached up and placed his hand on the back of her neck, pulling her close and kissing her passionately. Ginny gasped and swung her leg over him as he released her so that she was straddling him. He sat up with her in his lap and wrapped his arms around her waist tightly.
“Ginny?” he whispered softly.
“You already are my wife.”
Ginny gazed into Draco’s eyes and wondered how she had ever gotten so lucky to have this man in her life. “I know, baby. We’re just making it legal so our kids won’t wonder why we have different last names.” She pressed her lips firmly against his, playing gently with the hair on the back of his neck. “It makes it much easier if we’re all Weasleys.”
Draco pulled back, the look on his face enough to send Ginny into a fit of giggles. “What do you mean, all Weasleys?”
Ginny grinned and kiss him just below the ear. “I was teasing,” she whispered. “There’s nothing I want more than to be Mrs. Malfoy.”
Draco stared at her for a moment, then smiled. “I can just imagine Ron’s reaction if I was to change my name to Weasley.” They looked at each other, and the thought of Ron going off his trolley was enough to make them both dissolve into laughter.
“Our kids, huh?” he murmured as he resumed lavishing kisses on her, drifting down to her neck. “How many are we having?”
Ginny moaned as he kissed at a sensitive spot. “How many do you want?” she gasped.
Draco smiled slyly, knowing that when he kissed her there, she agreed to anything. “Hmm, how about ten?”
“Sure,” Ginny said breathily. “As long as you agree to carry and give birth to them.”
Draco burst out laughing. “Pass, thanks.” He pulled away from her neck and settled back on her lips. “I’ll be happy with how ever many we’re blessed with,” he whispered.
“Me too,” Ginny whispered back. “Hey, just had a wicked thought … want to get in some practice for making babies?”
Draco grinned against her mouth and pulled her back onto the bed with him. “I like the way you think.”
Friday, October 31st, 2008.
Hermione was humming happily as she put the morning dishes away. She’d had the best night’s sleep she’d had in a long time, and tomorrow was Saturday, which meant she had two whole days to spend with Harry. Alone. Not to mention their date that night, which left Hermione tingling all over in anticipation. A romantic Harry was a side she’d rarely seen, even with his previous girlfriends, and certainly one she’d never experienced. She smiled to herself as she admitted she looked forward to getting to know this side of Harry very much.
“Good morning, honey,” a voice said behind her. She whirled around to see the object of her affection standing in the archway, a grin on his face. Dressed in black pants and a dark green shirt that she’d bought him the previous Christmas, his hair still slightly damp, Hermione saw his wide smile and his eyes twinkling at her, and her heart slammed against her ribs like a jackhammer. The very sight of him took her breath away.
“Good morning,” she beamed, crossing the room as quickly as possible and throwing herself into his open arms. She held him tight, the feel of his arms around her instantly making her feel safe. That was how she always felt in Harry’s arms, safe. Her lips sought his out quickly and they were soon communicating on a much more intimate level than before how pleased they were to see each other.
All too soon, Hermione had to pull away, knowing that if she didn’t get a move on, she’d be late for work. She tore her lips away from his and breathed deeply, willing her heart to slow down. “I have to go,” she breathed as his lips travelled down her neck, placing soft feathery kisses and making her sigh gently. “Harry,” she whispered. “I really have to go.” She pulled his head up and gave him one last slow, deep kiss before pulling away reluctantly. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said, moving into the foyer and grabbing her robes and briefcase. She slid the robes on and turned around to smile at him before she left.
“Have a good day, sweetheart. I love you,” Harry said with a small wave.
“I love you too.” She blew him a kiss and Disapparated. Harry stared at the spot where Hermione had stood just seconds previously, then headed back upstairs to his study to grab the few files he needed for work. As he busied himself, he realised with a smile that he and Hermione would make it.