Romance Drama
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban
Published: 09/10/2001
Updated: 03/23/2003
Words: 119,065
Chapters: 13
Hits: 88,988

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 11

Chapter Summary:
Set 11 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.

LIAB 11 - Love is a Battlefield

You´re begging me to go
Then making me stay
Why do you hurt me so bad?
It would help me to know
Do I stand in your way?
Or am I the best thing you´ve had?
Believe me, believe me, I can´t tell you why
But I´m trapped by your love
And I´m chained to your side

"Love is a Battlefield", Pat Benatar

Dedicated to Plu Bear, the coolest Bear around, `cept maybe for Paddington.

Hermione stared at the parchment, her eyes waiting for the shape of the numbers to change, to form another vault number so it wouldn´t be Harry´s. Her mind was trying hard to process it all, but couldn´t. Tears welled up in her eyes as she finally tore her gaze away from the parchment and dropped it on the floor of Elias´ office like a hot potato. She sucked in a few deep, gasping breaths, feeling something akin to hysteria rising to the surface.

All the while, her mind kept saying the same word over and over. No. No no no no no no. There had to be a mistake; it couldn´t be Harry. It just couldn´t. Why would he have kept this a secret from her for ten long years? How could he have kept it a secret when they´d finally made the leap from friends to lovers? As the questions began to form in her mind, the shock began to set in and she turned and took a few steps towards the door. She had never, in her twenty-eight years of life, felt the way she did at this moment. It was a horrible, sinking feeling. Like her entire world, her entire life, had been a lie and the person who mattered most to her was the cause of those feelings. And she hated it.

As she walked out of Elias´ office, she switched to autopilot, unable to think clearly about anything. All she could think coherently about was finding a place where she could be truly alone. Try to reconcile it in her mind, make sense of it. And the sooner, the better, because her thoughts were a jumbled whirlwind. Part of her wanted to stay the hell away from Harry, but the other part of her desperately wanted answers; she wanted to know why. Why he´d kept this secret from her. Why he felt she couldn´t be trusted. Why he hadn´t told her himself. Part of her was also angry at herself for having been so close to Harry for so long and never picked up on it, never realised it was him all along.

So, without any warning or notification, she simply left the office and headed home, determined to remove herself from the world at large and... well, she didn´t know what.

When Elias entered his office, he knew instinctively that something was very, very wrong. There was nary a thing out of place, no indication that anything had happened in his absence, but he just knew. Scanning the room quickly, his gaze fell upon the parchment lying loosely curled up next to his desk. Before he could even pick it up, his heart sank. He had a very good idea what it was.

Slowly, he reached for the parchment and unrolled it, his suspicions confirmed. Only one person could have been in his office without his presence, and only one person would have dared to open the Gringotts delivery. Hermione. He looked over the parchment, knowing full well that Harry´s name was not on it, when his eyes settled on the vault number. He could be fairly confident that Hermione would be aware who vault 687 belonged to... which meant that she knew. And knowing Hermione the way he did, this meant all hell was about to break loose.

He quickly established with security that Hermione was not located anywhere in the building. With a long, troubled sigh, he scribbled out a note to his employer, owled it off, and prayed with all his heart that the man whom he´d grown rather fond of over the years and the woman he admired as proudly as a father would his daughter would be able to weather this particular storm - because it was going to be a hell of a big one.

Harry frowned as he watched the small brown owl swoop in through his office window. He recognised one of Elias´ owls; he really hoped that he wasn´t being summoned out to meet him, because now wasn´t a good time for him to be leaving the building - he was up to his neck in paperwork and planning.

After giving a soft pat to the messenger, he watched as the tiny creature swooped out the window again. Obviously, a response was not necessary, so maybe it wasn´t urgent. Still, he quickly unrolled the note. And as he read the succinct message, all the blood drained from his face.


Go home. She knows.


Harry wasn´t a big fan of swearing, but there was only one epithet that he could think of that seemed appropriate in this situation, and his mind repeated it over and over. How could she have found out? How was she taking the news? No doubt, she was very, very angry with him, and rightly so - he should have told her. He knew that. He´d known that ever since they´d gotten together, and even before then. It had slowly been eating away at him for all these years. But every time he tried to bring it up, he just couldn´t. Harry had been so afraid of losing her he hadn´t had the guts to mention it because he knew how she´d react.

Harry let out a breath he didn´t know he´d been holding, and a painful lump formed in his throat. The woman he loved more than life had finally found out the secret he´d been keeping from her for ten long years... one he should have told her from the start.

He´d been trying to find an opportunity to broach the subject, to tell her the truth, but there never seemed to be a right time.

And now, the matter had been taken out of his hands.

By the time he arrived home, a maelstrom of emotions whirled through Harry. Panic. Shock. Sadness. Worry. His heart thudded painfully against his chest as he dropped his cloak on the floor of the foyer of their house. He took in none of his surroundings; all he could think about was how he was going to explain everything. He thought about calling out to her, but decided against it. After quickly glancing around to ascertain she wasn´t on the bottom floor anywhere, he took the steps two at a time, his mind trying to form the magic words to avert the crisis he was about to face, to no avail.

As he reached the top of the staircase, he looked to his right and found the door to her bedroom was wide open. He could see her standing by the side of her bed, stuffing various articles of clothing into the large overnight bag that sat on the mattress.

She was packing. Was she leaving him? She was leaving him. She was going to walk away from him and not give him a chance to explain. Everything about her stance screamed anger. Harry couldn´t even begin to imagine what was going through Hermione´s mind at that moment, but he knew she was angry. Perhaps angrier than he´d ever seen in all the years he´d known her. He could tell from the way she roughly shoved garments into the bag; Hermione was normally one of the most methodical people he knew. She usually made sure everything was perfectly folded to avoid wrinkling, and packed in such a manner so as to fit the maximum amount in.

But Hermione wasn´t folding anything, nor did she appear to care where it was being placed. She was simply throwing things in haphazardly.

Oh God, the thought raced through his mind, over and over. She´s leaving me.

Harry reached her door unnoticed and stepped inside the room. With his heart in his throat, he took a few tentative steps towards her. When he opened his mouth to speak, it felt like he´d been chewing on cotton wool. He cleared his throat and tried to talk but nothing would come out. He could hear his accelerated heartbeat drumming in his ears, and he felt a wave of nausea wash over him. There were no words Harry could say that would make this situation better, and he knew it.

As it turned out, he didn´t need to say anything, because at that moment, as if sensing his presence, she turned and looked up at him. The look in her eyes felt a like a knife going straight through his heart.

"Get out," she snapped, her eyes welling up with tears.

"Hermione, please... "

"I said get out." Her voice wavered as if she was on the brink of emotional collapse, which Harry knew she probably was. He noticed a tear slide down her face, Hermione making no attempt to brush it away.

"Please let me explain," he implored.

Hermione returned to her folding. "There is nothing, nothing you could say, Harry Potter, that would make me want to speak to you. So I suggest you get the hell out of my room before I lose it completely, because I can assure you it would not be a pretty sight."

Harry tried to think of something, anything that would make her listen. His brain desperately raced to find the right words, but nothing sprang to mind. He knew better than to try and hold her - when Hermione was angry, it was best to leave her to cool down - but his inner child began to plead with him to not let her walk out that door, because he wasn´t sure she´d ever come back.

"Listen to me," he begged. He saw her stop what she was doing and just stand there, her gaze focused on the bag. "I know you´re angry, Hermione. And you have every right to be. I´m sure this is a hell of a shock for you, but please, please don´t walk out on me before we talk this through."

Hermione was motionless for a few long moments and a small patch of hope flared up inside Harry. That hope was dashed as she took a deep breath and calmly zipped the bag up.

"You had ten years to tell me, Harry. Ten years. Every day you looked me in the eye and said nothing. You´ve had more than enough time to talk. Now it´s too late - there is absolutely nothing to say." Before Harry could respond, Hermione slung the bag over her shoulder and Disapparated.

He stared at the empty space which she´d occupied just seconds previously, his heart thudding furiously and strong emotions coursing through his blood, and he wondered if he´d ever have the chance to make things right again. He took a shuddering breath and leaned against the nearest wall, his legs finally giving way. Sinking to the ground, Harry brought his legs up to his chest and placed his head in his hands, wishing he had Hermione´s time turner so he could go back a few hours and change what had just happened.

Hermione Apparated into the garage of the house and quickly slid into her car, throwing her bag into the back seat. She had the feeling she´d be in no shape to Apparate anywhere over the coming days, and she wanted the time to collect herself before she decided what to do next.

She reversed the car out of the garage slowly, her eyes still shimmering with tears. She was surprised that Harry had showed up - she´d really wanted to pack her bag and be gone before he got home. Obviously, Elias had gotten back to his office and found the parchment, so he must have owled Harry immediately. Her lips thinned at the thought of Elias. She´d trusted him like a father, and he´d been helping Harry all these years by perpetuating the lie. She would owl him later to tell him she was on indefinite leave from PGW - she couldn´t even think about walking into the building right now, and she certainly didn´t want to see him either.

Hermione drove for a few blocks, but was forced to pull over when she could no longer see the road through the tears swimming in her eyes. She felt utterly lost and betrayed and had no idea where she was going. Her parents lived close by, but she really didn´t want to go to her mother just yet and tell her what a complete fool she´d been for so long. She knew her mother would be angry and sympathetic on her behalf, but all Hermione wanted right now was to be alone.

She slumped over the steering wheel of the car and finally let it out. Her shoulders hunched, her breath hitched, and she began to sob her heart out.

"What´s a beautiful witch like you doing in a place like this?"

Ginny Malfoy placed a hand over her eyes to provide some shade and peered up at the wizard through her sunglasses. Ginny gave him the once over. He was of average height with light brown hair, not dashingly handsome, but not unattractive. No one she´d look twice at.

She smiled at him. "Honeymooning, actually."

His face fell. "Damn. The good ones are always taken." Licking his lips, he slowly ran his eyes down the length of her body. Ginny felt slightly uncomfortable and wished she wasn´t wearing a bikini at that moment, or at the very least had a sarong she could cover herself up in. "So, where´s the husband? He´s game, leaving such a gorgeous new wife all alone like this."

"He´ll be back shortly." Ginny sent clear vibes to this guy, telling him to go away, but he obviously didn´t get it or didn´t care.

"I have a thing for redheads," he announced.

"How nice for you."

"Want to have dinner with me tonight?"

Ginny sat up and gaped at the stranger. But before she could think of a good retort, a cool voice cut in. "If you´ve quite finished bothering my wife, feel free to sod off." A clearly unimpressed Draco was standing behind the man, a cocktail in each hand.

The man put his hands up in surrender. "Hey, no problem." He leaned over towards Ginny out of Draco´s earshot. "If you change your mind, I´m in room 447." With that, he turned and wandered away.

Draco sat down on the chair opposite Ginny, placing the drinks on the side table. "What did he just say to you?"

"He gave me his room number in case I changed my mind."

Draco stared as his wife. "You´re joking, right?"

Ginny got up off her chair and plonked herself down in Draco´s lap, stroking his hair. "No."

"Why, that... " Draco didn´t get a chance to finish his sentence because Ginny´s lips were in the way. She kissed him lovingly and he relaxed.

"Don´t worry, baby," she murmured against his lips. "The only man whose room I want to be in is yours." She kissed him again, then pulled away and picked up her cocktail, one arm still around his neck.

"I should hex him to kingdom come," Draco grumbled.

Ginny laughed and kissed his forehead. "Down, boy. Have your drink, then we should head back and get changed for dinner."

"What´s on the menu?" Draco asked in a low tone.

"I don´t know, but I know what I want for dessert." She licked her lips suggestively and found herself being pulled into a long, drugging kiss. "The sooner we go, the sooner we can have dessert," she whispered.

Draco stood up and drained his cocktail in one go, then weaved his fingers through Ginny´s and led her back to their room.

They changed quickly, Ginny into a lemon halter neck sundress with strappy sandals, Draco into slacks and short sleeved shirt. The resort was very relaxed about dress codes, and the set of younger witches and wizards that were staying there wore Muggle clothing.

They made their way to a small Spanish restaurant they´d discovered on their first night on the island and had quickly fallen in love with. Asking for and receiving a corner table, they ordered tapas and paella and Sangria to drink. They enjoyed a romantic dinner, feeding each other and exchanging soft, frequent kisses.

After they finished their meal, Ginny persuaded Draco to dance with her, and they hit the dance floor, laughing and twirling the night away. Some of the other patrons of the restaurant paused to watch them, clapping them on and cheering. After a while, Draco pulled Ginny close and whispered in her ear, and with a grin, she kissed him and nodded.

They left enough money on the table to cover the bill and made their way back to their room, where Ginny changed into the surprise she´d hidden from Draco while packing. The way his eyes and hands roamed over her body told her it had definitely been worth keeping a secret. The strangled groan he let out as she crawled on top of him made Ginny smile, and the tenderness he showed her while they made love had Ginny wanting to grab hold of her husband and never let him go. She settled for spending the night curled up in his arms after they became too exhausted to move, the night sky beginning to lighten outside their window.

Hermione unpacked the few things she´d bought with her, her eyes now red but dry. She knew that Ginny and Draco would not mind that she was staying at their flat; they´d long ago given her the key and told her how to counter the protection charms put in place. Since they were away, this was the perfect place for her to stay - she had it all to herself.

Part of Hermione wished Ginny was there with her so she could just cry it out and have a sympathetic ear. But as she closed the last drawer, a horrible thought crossed her mind - did Ginny know too? Did they all know? Had they all been covering for Harry all these years? Hermione really wanted to believe that wasn´t the case, that one of them would have said something or persuaded Harry to do so had they known. No, she thought with a shake of her head. They would have told me.

Yes, but you thought Harry would have told you too, and *he* didn´t.

Fresh tears welled up and Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose to stop them falling, then with a determined sigh, she went into the kitchen to see what there was to drink. She didn´t feel she could eat anything without throwing up, but she desperately wanted a nice glass of wine and a long, hot bath. Fortunately, Ginny and Draco had left a few bottles of wine behind, so Hermione poured herself a glass then headed to the main bathroom. She turned a few of the taps on and watched as vanilla and honey poured from them to mix with the water. Ginny and Draco had installed a bathtub similar to the ones they´d had back in Hogwarts, and Hermione was grateful right now they´d done so. Once the bath was full, she took off her clothes, charmed her hair up to stay off her face and neck, grabbed her wine, and then slid into the water with a long sigh. She stretched out and let the water soothe her aching muscles as she sipped from the glass.

Try as she might, though, all too quickly her thoughts turned back to Harry, and instantly her vision became blurry. Hermione was mad at herself for once again becoming a sobbing mess, but she couldn´t help the fact that her heart was well and truly broken. She would never have believed in a million years that Harry could lie to her about something so important.

Questions began to flood her mind as she continued to drink. Why couldn´t he have just told her? Why was it so important to keep it a secret? Was she hired merely because she was his best friend? Hermione had believed it had been because of all her study and hard work and dedication that she´d gotten the job at PGW Industries. Now, she very much doubted that. She had been given the job because Harry had told Elias to hire her.

Anger began to build inside her again and in a fit of temper, she drained her wine then threw the glass against the wall, watching as it shattered into hundreds of small pieces. Tears streamed down her face as she got out of the bath and dried herself, then went into the bedroom and slipped on some pyjamas, pulling the covers back and crawling into bed. It wasn´t late in the evening, but Hermione was such an emotional wreck she didn´t care. She just wanted to sleep and wake up and hope this had all been a horrible dream. As she cried herself to sleep, only one thought played over and over in her head.


Harry didn´t even realise someone else was in the room with him until he heard a soft meow and his vision was blurred by orange. He lifted his head to find Crookshanks trying to sit in his lap. Stretching his legs out a bit to accommodate the cat, Harry watched Crookshanks curiously. He clawed at Harry´s chest as if trying to get comfortable, then sat himself down and stared at Harry.

Harry could almost hear what Crookshanks was thinking. You´re a real idiot, you know that? You´ve upset my mistress. What are you planning to do about it? Harry tentatively reached out a hand, and when Crookshanks gave no indication he planned to bite it off, he stroked his head softly and focused his gaze above the cat´s head.

"I don´t know, Crookshanks. She won´t talk to me. I can´t blame her, I know. She has every right to be angry. I guess I have to give her time to calm down and then try and talk with her." Harry glanced at Crookshanks, who looked none too impressed with this idea. Could cats even raise an eyebrow? "Well, have you got any better ideas?" Harry asked bitterly. Crookshanks merely gazed at him once more, then hopped off his lap and sauntered downstairs for a nap.

Harry knew he needed to talk to someone. He desperately needed some advice. And there was only one person he could talk to - the one person who had known all along. He would know what to do.

Picking himself up off the floor, Harry straightened his clothes and then headed down to the fireplace, throwing some floo powder in it. As much as he hated travelling by floo powder, this was the quickest way to get there.

Harry picked himself up and dusted himself off with a cough. Looking up, he saw the other man rise out of the chair, a surprised look on his face.

"Harry," he said. "What on earth are you doing here?"

Harry felt the lump settle back in his throat. "She knows, Sirius. She left me."

Sirius took a step back as if he´d been punched in the stomach by a Bludger. "Good God," he breathed. "How the hell did she find out, Harry? And what do you mean she left you?"

"I don´t know exactly how she found out. She was at work, she must have seen or heard something. I got an owl from Elias telling me to go home because she knew. I raced home to find her packing a bag." Harry´s eyes brimmed with tears and he swiped at them. "She wouldn´t even listen to me. She´s gone, Sirius. She´s gone." The last words were a mere whisper, and the next thing Harry felt was Sirius´ arms around him in a tight embrace.

Harry stood perfectly still for a moment, but it was as if the floodgates had been opened. He slumped against Sirius and allowed himself to cry for the first time in many years.

"Oh, Harry," he heard Sirius murmur. "I´m so sorry, son. This is all my fault. I should have let you tell her in the beginning, I know you wanted to."

Harry eventually managed to compose himself and moved back a little, pulling his glasses up to wipe his eyes properly. "It´s not your fault at all, Sirius. It´s mine. I should have told her, plain and simple. I can´t blame her, not one little bit."

"I´m sure Hermione just needs time to calm down and think about it rationally. In the meantime, why don´t you sit down while I make us a cup of tea and we can figure out what we´re going to do about it." Sirius released Harry and disappeared into the kitchen while Harry sat down on a nearby couch, his head in his hands. A terrible headache was threatening to appear, not unlike the ones he used to get when his scar ached. He rubbed his scar absently as a cup of tea appeared on the table before him.

"Now, why don´t you start from the beginning, tell me what you know, then we´ll take it from there," Sirius said encouragingly.

Harry slowly picked up his cup of tea with a slightly shaky hand and sipped the hot liquid, then put it down again and turned to his godfather with a sigh.

"I got an owl from Elias earlier this afternoon. All it said was `Go home, she knows.´ I went straight home and found her in her room, packing a bag. I tried to talk to her - I begged her not to walk out before we´d talked about it - but she refused. She told me there was nothing I could say that would make her want to speak to me and she Disapparated. I have no idea where she´s gone. End of story."

Sirius rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then took a sip from his cup. Rising, he began to pace the room, something Harry knew he did when he was deep in thought. "Okay, what we need to do, I think, is give Hermione a bit of space for now." Harry opened his mouth to interrupt but Sirius held up a hand. "I know you just want to talk to her and explain everything, but I think I know Hermione well enough to know if she´s angry, she won´t listen. She needs time to calm down, Harry. She´s probably shocked and feeling all sorts of things, and being rational is not likely to be high on her list." Sirius stopped pacing, and Harry looked at him. "Where do you think she might be? Could she have gone to her parents?"

Her parents. Harry almost cringed at the thought of them knowing. Vincent and Judy Granger were good people who loved their only child very much, and they´d treated him like a son for many years, which made Harry feel worse, to know that their daughter was upset because of him. They probably weren´t too happy with him themselves. "It´s possible, I guess. Although if I know Hermione, she´s probably alone right now. I don´t think she would have gone to her mother."

"Nobody knows Hermione better than you, Harry." If Sirius thought these words would comfort Harry, he was mistaken. They only made Harry feel worse.

"I´m sure she didn´t go to Ron´s - he´s only next door, and Kellie hasn´t been well with the baby." All of a sudden, a horrible thought crossed Harry´s mind. "Maybe she thinks Ron knew, too, and that he was covering for me."

"Which is precisely why she wouldn´t have gone there," Sirius finished. "How about Ginny?"

"She and Draco are on holiday," Harry said absently. "Although... that´s it. Hermione has a key to their flat and she knows how to remove the charms to get in. She has to be there."

Sirius resumed his pacing. "Fine, now we think we know where she is. We just have to figure out how to convince her to see you." Harry´s face fell, and Sirius crossed the room to sit next to him. "Harry, I know things look bad at the moment, but you have to remember that Hermione loves you. You´ll get through this."

Sirius´ words were of cold comfort to Harry, though. After seeing Hermione´s anger earlier, he wasn´t sure that she would forgive him, even if she did still love him.

Hermione stirred and reached for Harry, but her hand grasped at air. She yawned and opened her eyes, wondering where he was, when the room came into focus and yesterday´s events came flooding back.

Harry wasn´t there.

Closing her eyes again, Hermione hugged the spare pillow to her as a lone tear drifted down her cheek. She lay still for a moment, then took a deep breath and got out of bed, determined to try and get through the day without falling apart.

But as she got to the bathroom and turned the shower on, her resolve quickly crumbled. She hadn´t showered alone in the morning for weeks, and it didn´t take long for her to miss Harry and wish he was there with her, to wash her like he always did. And miss him she did, very much, in spite of everything that had happened between them. What she wanted more than anything else was to be in his arms, holding him close.

Hermione let the tears intermingle with the water on her upturned face as she stood directly under the spray of the shower, hoping the water would wash her sadness away as well.

"Oooh, Draco, look at this!" Ginny let go of her husband´s hand and made her way through the crowd to a stall that held an impossible number of bags in every shape and size imaginable.

Draco followed her over. "Why are there so many bloody people here?" he asked irritably.

"Because it´s a wizarding marketplace, baby. This is where everyone can come to get what they need without having to Apparate into the city for stuff. Besides, everything here is so cheap!"

Ginny picked up the bag she´d spotted and placed it on her shoulder, examining herself in the mirror that the eager stallholder gestured towards excitedly. "It suits you, dear," the mirror said in a polished tone that indicated it had said the same thing to a great many people.

Ginny turned to Draco. "What do you think of this one, love?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "Beautiful, you must have ten thousand bags at home, half of which I´m sure you´ve never used. What´s one more? If you like it, buy it."

Ginny frowned. "I do not have ten thousand bags and I´ve used them all at least once."



"Do you like the bag?"

"Very much. I think it will go nicely with my new cream robes."

"Then we´ll take it," Draco said to the storeholder, reaching into his pocket for some galleons. He paid the merchant and grabbed Ginny´s hand, pulling her away before she spotted another one she had to have.

They walked leisurely up and down the aisles, stopping periodically when Ginny spotted something of interest. After awhile, though, Draco felt the heat getting to him. "How much longer before we can head to the pool?"

After a few seconds passed with no answer, Draco turned to his wife. "Gin?"

He saw her staring at a small tent tucked away from the mail aisles of the marketplace, and he followed her gaze to see what had her so interested. He raised an eyebrow when he saw what wares it appeared to be plying.

"Are you thinking what I think you´re thinking?"

Ginny grinned. "Are you game?"

"But where would I put it? And what would I get, exactly?" Draco´s tone was curious. He´d never really considered it before, but the idea had merit.

"Well, it would have to be somewhere that wouldn´t necessarily show up on a shoot. How about here?" She touched his shoulder blade. "It´s not like they couldn´t cast a charm to cover it anyway."

"Am I the only one doing this, or are you planning to join me?"

"I´m not letting you have all the fun. I´ll get one on my ankle." She stuck her right foot out. "I´m sure it won´t hurt a bit, they probably cast a spell beforehand so there´s no pain. What do you say?" He could see the twinkle in her eye.

"Sure, why not?"

They made their way over and emerged half an hour later. Ginny stopped to examine her right ankle once again. An elegant letter `D´ was tattooed into her skin, periodically changing colour. Draco had a `G´ in matching font on his upper left shoulder blade. Ginny had been right about the pain factor - the wizard doing the tattoos had cast a charm to block any pain.

"Well, that was fun," Ginny said with a grin. "Something for us to take home as a souvenir of our honeymoon."

"I was happy with this, actually," Draco responded, holding up his left hand and wiggling his wedding ring.

Ginny let out an "awww" before reaching up to kiss him. "Want to go swim in our pool?" she said in a suggestive tone, smiling against his lips. "I am rather hot."

Draco kissed her back. "Yes, you are," he said in a low voice, one that always sent a shiver of anticipation down Ginny´s spine. "Let´s walk quickly."

Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes, the sunlight streaming in through the window. He picked up his watch to check the time and wasn´t surprised to see it was almost lunch time. He´d slept poorly, tossing and turning for most of the night, unable to keep thoughts of Hermione out of his head. He´d missed sleeping next to her; he hadn´t realised how used he´d become to her presence, how soothing it was to him. Sometimes, when he´d had trouble sleeping, he was able to lie next to her and just the sound of her breathing would lull him to sleep.

Harry wondered how she´d slept. No better than him, he imagined. Placing his head down towards his chest, he rubbed his neck for a few moments, then slid his glasses onto his nose and made his way into the kitchen, where Sirius sat at the table, reading The Daily Prophet.

Harry watched as Sirius folded the paper and placed it back on the table. "Harry," he said in greeting. "How did you sleep? Are you hungry?" Sirius had suggested he stay the night after they´d finished talking about everything, claiming it was a bit late for Harry to head home. Even though he only had to floo back, Harry knew that Sirius had sensed he hadn´t really wanted to go back to the house because Hermione was not there. Harry appreciated the offer because he hadn´t wanted to go home. His not wanting to face the thought of the empty house outweighted his belief that she might come back during the night.

"I didn´t sleep much, tossed and turned. I am hungry though." Sirius rose out of his chair, but Harry held up a hand. "It´s okay, Sirius. You don´t have to get me anything, I can get it myself."

He made himself some toast and a cup of tea, then sat down next to Sirius. "Anything interesting?" he said, nodding his head towards the newspaper.

"Not really." Sirius eyed him over his tea cup. "Did you want to stay here for a few days, Harry? You know you´re more than welcome."

Harry sighed. "Thanks, Sirius, but I can´t. I can´t avoid going back there for good. Besides, if Hermione tries to ring... " Both of them knew that wasn´t likely, but Harry was clinging desperately even to the smallest hope. "The animals are there alone, I can´t leave them."

"You could owl Ron."

"Ron´s got enough on his mind with the baby. Kellie´s due in three days."

"Of course." Sirius sipped his tea, then cleared his throat. "Are you going to tell him?"

Harry hesitated. "I guess I´ll have to. He will find out and I´d rather he hear it from me."

Sirius nodded. "I´m sure he´ll understand."

Harry bit his lip. "I hope so. I couldn´t stand him being angry, too."

"Just talk to him."

Harry finished his breakfast in silence, then dressed and bid Sirius goodbye. Sirius embraced him again, holding him for a long moment, and Harry drew strength from him, glad at least one person still loved him.

Harry had just fed a scowling Crookshanks and put the kettle on to have another tea before heading to Ron´s when he heard a knock at the door.

"It´s open!" he called out. He heard the door open and close and the shuffle of footsteps across the foyer. A thatch of red hair came into view.

"Hey Harry," Ron said. "Kel sent me over to find out if Hermione´s free to come over tonight for dinner so they can talk girl things." He grinned widely, but the smile soon faded when he saw Harry´s expression. "What´s wrong?"

"She´s not here, Ron. I think she´s at Draco and Ginny´s flat."

Harry tried to read Ron´s face but his expression was indescribable. "What happened?"

"She... " Harry tried to clear the lump in his throat without success. "She left me." He didn´t mean for his voice to come out as a whisper, but he didn´t trust himself to talk for fear of breaking down completely.

Ron grabbed at the counter next to him for support, his face now one of complete shock. "What do you mean, she left you? She left you?" His tone indicated he couldn´t believe what he was hearing.

"She found out yesterday that I own PGW Industries. I came home to find her packing and she refused to listen to me. I haven´t seen or spoken to her since."

"Whoa, wait a minute, back up here. You own PGW Industries? You own the entire company where Hermione works? You mean you´re her boss?" Ron shook his head. "I can´t believe what I´m hearing, so you´d better start from the beginning."

Harry sighed and made them both a cup of tea, then sat down and started from the beginning, telling Ron everything. Ron was an attentive audience, mostly listening and only interrupting when he had a question.

Once Harry got him up to speed, he was silent for a few long moments. "Well, you´ve got yourself in a right mess, haven´t you, mate?"

Harry snorted. "Understatement of the century."

"You can´t blame Hermione for being angry, though."

"I don´t."

"I mean, this must be a hell of a shock, after all these years. Why didn´t you ever tell her, Harry? Tell us? What did you think we´d say?"

"I wanted to, Ron," Harry´s voice was weary. "I really did. But Sirius and I talked it through when we opened it and decided that it was best not to say anything. I´ve already explained why."

"I know. I can see it from your point of view, I really can. But then again, I don´t work there, so I can understand why Hermione reacted the way she did." He paused. "I wonder how she´s doing."

"I wish I knew," Harry said wistfully. "I tried to talk to her yesterday, but she didn´t want to listen."

"Do you want me to go and talk to her?"

Harry paused, then shook his head. "I don´t want to put you in the middle of this, Ron. You have enough to worry about with the baby. I´m sure Hermione will come round, she just needs time."

"I know she will. She loves you, Harry. I can see it every time she looks at you and hear it when she mentions your name. I know you´ll work this out." Ron stood. "I´m sorry to leave you, mate, but I need to get Kel to the doctor. We´re due for a check up in half an hour."

Harry stood up with him and walked him to the door. "Thanks, Ron," he said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"For what?"

"For being my friend." Harry´s sad green eyes met Ron´s sympathetic brown ones, and Ron stepped forward and embraced his best friend.

"Have dinner with us tonight."

"Ron, I don´t think... "

"Kel will want you there. You´re not going to deny a pregnant woman, are you?"

Harry managed a weak smile. "No, I guess not. I´ll be there."

Ron clapped his shoulder as he opened the door. "Great. See you around six, okay?"


Ron stepped out of the lift and knocked on the door to his sister´s flat. After Kellie´s appointment, which conformed everything was fine with the baby, he´d taken her home and left her getting last minute baby things organised while he went to check on Hermione. He also had a key to the flat and could have Apparated in if he wanted to, but thought he´d better knock first.

He waited a few moments, but there was no answer. Either she hadn´t heard him or she wasn´t planning to answer. Ron was willing to bet on the latter.

"Hermione, it´s me. I know you´re there, please open the door." He listened intently for noise and was rewarding by the shuffling of footsteps inside. The door finally opened to reveal Hermione.

Ron sucked in a sharp breath at Hermione´s appearance. She looked absolutely shattered. Her eyes had grey smudges under them that bordered on purple, and they were red rimmed as if she´d been crying for days. Her skin was pale and her face drawn, and her hair hung loosely, strands haphazardly framing her features.

"Hermione," he breathed softly.

Hermione held the door open for him to enter, then shut it behind him. "I should have known he´d send you here," she said bitterly. "Whatever it is, Ron, I don´t want to hear it."

"Harry doesn´t know I´m here, Hermione. He´s not even sure you´re here."

Hermione snorted. "Right. You expect me to believe that?"

Ron reached out a hand and placed it on her arm. "I´m only here to see you, Hermione. I´m not here to talk about Harry. That´s between you and him. I´m here because I´m concerned about you." He looked at her as her eyes slowly drifted up to meet his. "I´m worried about you, sweetie, and I wanted to see how you were."

Hermione looked into his eyes for a few moments, and her face began to crumple. "Oh Ron," she whispered. "How could he?"

Ron drew her into his arms and held her tightly as the sobs began to wrack her body. He let her cry, keeping her close and stroking her hair. He made shushing noises, murmuring that everything was going to be all right and praying silently that he was right.

Finally, she quieted, and her sobs dwindled down to sighs. Ron continued to hold her, wanting to give her the comfort she obviously needed. She lifted her head up, wiping the tears away. "I´m sorry," she whispered, trying to find her voice. "I... "

"Hey," Ron said. "Don´t you dare apologise. You have every right to be upset."

She stepped out of his embrace, but not before he had planted a kiss on her forehead. "You want tea?" she asked him.

"Got something stronger?" he countered with a smile. "It´s been a hell of a day."

In spite of everything, Hermione managed to smile back. "You´re telling me."

"Sit down, I´ll get it," Ron commanded softly. Hermione settled herself on the big, comfortable blue lounge in the living room while Ron went into the kitchen to grab himself a beer and her a wine. He was back momentarily, drinks in hand.

She sipped her wine and turned to face Ron. "So you didn´t know?" she asked, her voice quiet.

"No, I had no idea. I..." Ron ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up. "I can´t believe it. I mean, Harry owns the entire company?" He couldn´t keep the surprise out of his voice. "I can´t believe he never said anything after all these years. I do understand why he never told us in the beginning, but still."

This comment made Hermione pause. "What do you mean, you understand?" She couldn´t keep the frostiness out of her tone. "There´s nothing to understand, Ronald. He lied to us, pure and simple."

Ron gave a knowing sigh, as if he fully expected this. "Hermione, there´s a lot more to it than you know. Did you even give him the chance to explain any of it? Did you listen to him so he could tell you why he never told you?"

Hermione placed her glass down on the coffee table and wrapped her arms around herself for comfort. "There´s no excuse, Ron," she said evenly. "There´s nothing he could say that would justify his lies."

Ron ran a weary hand through his hair, making it stick up at peculiar angles. "Hermione, I know you´re angry. You have every right to be angry. Harry most definitely should have told you, especially when you guys... you know..."

"Had sex? When he told me he loved me? When he became my boyfriend?" She spat the last word out. "What a joke. Here I am, thinking that he really did love me and that what we had was so special, and it was all a lie. Everything." She could feel the sobs rising once again at the back of her throat.

"That is such bullshit, Hermione. Don´t sit there and tell me you believe that! Of course Harry loves you. He´s loved you for a very long time, and you´ve loved him for a very long time, only I don´t think either of you realised it." Ron stood up abruptly, putting down his beer. "I´m sorry. I know you´re upset, but if you truly think that Harry´s lied to you about how he feels about you, then you are wrong. Yes, he did the wrong thing about the company, but don´t let how you feel at the moment cloud your perception about everything. You know he loves you, Hermione. He´s never lied about that, ever." He softened his stance and sat back down next to her, taking her hand in his. "Just take the time to think it through, okay? You know he loves you. You know it."

Hermione´s eyes welled up with tears that didn´t take long to stream down her face. "I know," she whispered. "But I just can´t pretend like this never happened, Ron." Her voice was cracked, the naked emotion coming through.

Ron leaned over and placed his forehead against hers. "I know you can´t. I´m not asking you to. What I am asking you to do is just hear him out. Let him explain. Take a few days to think about everything if you need to, but don´t shut him out forever. I know you´re hurting, but he is too, Hermione." He wiped her tears away with his thumbs. "I don´t think I´ve ever seen him so devastated in my entire life. He thinks you´ve left him for good and it´s just breaking his heart." Hermione couldn´t stifle the sob that burst forward. Ron closed his eyes and pulled her close. "It will be okay, love. It will be okay."

Ron hoped with everything he had that he was right.

Ron waited until Harry was out of sight before closing the front door and moving back into the lounge room, where his wife sat stretched out on the lounge, her swollen ankles supported by pillows.

"He´s a mess," Kellie said softly as Ron lifted her legs up and sat on the lounge, letting her feet rest on his lap. "I don´t think I´ve ever seen him so upset, Ron. What can we do?"

"As much as I hate to say it, there is nothing we can do, Kel. This one they have to sort out for themselves." Ron let his head rest back on the lounge and closed his eyes. "Part of me just wants to punch him for being such a prat, and part of me wants to shake her for being so stubborn and not even talking to him about it."

Kellie managed a smile. "Well, you know what Hermione is like. She can be stubborn sometimes."

"So can he when he needs to be. I got the impression from dinner that he´s decided he´s leaving it up to her to make the first move now. And that´s the problem - both of them are the same like that. Neither of them will take that step... Hermione will think it´s up to Harry to come crawling back, and he will think it´s up to her to approach him about it. Meanwhile, they´ll stay separated, both of them entirely miserable without the other, and we all play piggy in the middle."

"Piggy in the middle? I didn´t think you played Muggle games as a child!"

Ron laughed. "We didn´t. Hermione told me about it once years ago."

Kellie smiled and reached out for her husband´s hand, and he took it, weaving his fingers through hers. "So what do we do, Ron? We have to do something." She rubbed her tummy with her spare hand. "I feel so useless. I can´t even drive over and see Hermione because I´m too big."

"She´s okay, love. Okay as she can be right now. But you´re right, we do need to do something." He looked at her and she caught the glint in his eye. "But we can´t do it alone. We need reinforcements."

Kellie caught on. "Ginny and Draco."

Ron sighed. "I hate to interrupt their holiday, but I´m sure Ginny would want to be back here. You know what she´s like, can´t stand to see anyone upset. Knowing her, she´ll come up with a plan to get them back together." He ran the back of his thumb over her hand. "Besides, I´m really not sure what more I can do."

"You going to owl her?"

Ron nodded and stood.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ginny was lying by the pool while Draco did laps. It was another sunny day, and she felt utterly relaxed. She wondered how Draco would feel about moving to the Caribbean permanently. She cast a quick charm to stop her getting sunburnt, and went to close her eyes to snooze when she saw something small and brown circling in the sky above her. She stared at it for a moment, then realised it was an owl. It soon swooped down and dropped a piece of parchment in her lap, then hooted and took off again, presumably in search of some water.

Picking the parchment up and dangling her feet in the water, she kicked a few times to get Draco´s attention, and he swam over to where she sat.

"What´s up, beautiful?"

"I don´t know, an owl just delivered this. You expecting anything?"

Draco shook his head and, puzzled, Ginny unravelled the parchment and read the missive. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, but not before the "Oh my God" slipped out.

"What´s wrong, Ginny?"

"Harry and Hermione have split up!"

Draco laughed. "Oh please. That´s gotta be some sort of joke. Who´s it from?"

"Ron." The serious look on her face told Draco she wasn´t kidding. "Here, listen." She read the contents of the owl out to him. "... I´m not altogether sure that you can do anything, Gin, and I hate to cut short your holiday, but Hermione could probably use some female company and I thought you´d want to know. See you when you get back, love Ron."

Draco wasn´t laughing anymore. "Shit. Potter is an idiot. He should have told her."

"Draco," Ginny said sternly. "It doesn´t matter whose fault it is. We should go home."

Draco kicked away from the wall, keeping his gaze on his wife. "And do what, exactly? Gin, they´re both adults. This is something they need to sort out for themselves. I don´t see that there´s much we´re going to be able to do, and I don´t think either of them would want us sticking our noses in."

Ginny scowled. "So that´s it? We just stay here and have a good time while our friends, friends who have stuck by us - and you, I might point out - for a very long time sit and suffer thousands of miles away?"

"Gin, stop being so dramatic. What´s heading home going to achieve?"

"Hermione is at our flat, alone and upset and in desperate need of a friend. So I´m going home to be there for her, Draco. If you want to remain here, be my guest." Tossing him one last glance, she got up and headed back to their room to pack.

Draco watched her go, then looked at the sky and cursed Harry. "You owe me one, you git," he said to no one in particular. He got out of the pool, gathered up their stuff, and followed his wife.

Hermione heard the sound of the key in the door and froze. It couldn´t be Ron, because he´d already been over earlier that night and had knocked. The only other person who had a key was Harry...

But it wasn´t Harry. Hermione didn´t think she´d ever been so relieved to see two people in her entire life.


Her redheaded friend raced over and almost bowled her over in a hug. "Hey, love," she said in greeting. "We thought you could use some friends right about now."

Hermione hugged Ginny back and opened her mouth to speak but instead burst into tears. "You didn´t need to come back for me," she sobbed gratefully, still pleased to see them anyway.

"Sure we did. Besides, I was getting bored with just Draco anyway."

That comment earned Ginny a smack on the behind as Draco came over to kiss Hermione´s temple as she stood wrapped in his wife´s embrace. "Women," he commented with an eye roll. "Anyway, we´re here, Granger. Be thankful."

"Listen to him," Ginny sighed. "Such arrogance."

"You love me."

"Only when you´re sleeping."

In spite of herself, Hermione couldn´t help but laugh at her friends. Their banter was constant but amusing, for they fooled no one that they were anything but deeply in love. At the same time, though, sadness flared up inside her as it reminded her of how much she would give to be standing in Harry´s arms right then.

Ginny squeezed her tightly one last time and let her go as Draco disappeared with their luggage. "Have you eaten anything today at all, love? You look horrible."

Hermione laughed and cried at the same time. "I feel worse than I look."

Ginny smiled sympathetically. "Well, how about we send Mr. Arrogance out for some Chinese while you and I catch up?"

Hermione´s stomach grumbled at the mention of food. "I am a bit hungry."

"Great. Chinese it is, then." Ginny turned to Draco, who had just reappeared, and gave him her most dazzling smile. "Would you go and get us some food please, baby?"

Draco blinked. "We just got home! Can´t we owl out?"

Ginny´s eyes widened and she nodded towards Hermione, trying to send him a message. "It would be easier if you went and got it."

"Easier for who, exactly?" Draco grumbled, checking his pockets for money. "Do you know what time it is?" He looked over at the clock on the mantlepiece. "It´s eleven at night!"

Ginny smiled sweetly at Hermione, then grabbed Draco´s arm and pulled him away out of earshot. She leaned up and whispered something in his ear, and Hermione watched as he raised an eyebrow, then turned and kissed her briefly but thoroughly. "I´ll be back," he said in a relenting tone. With that, he Disapparated.

"Do I want to know what you just said to him?"

Ginny grinned evilly. "I don´t think so! Now, enough about him. Let´s talk about you. I´m going to go get changed into my pyjamas then get us a drink so we can settle down for a long talk, okay?"

Hermione smiled gratefully once again. "Thanks, Gin."

Ginny hugged her briefly. "That´s what friends are for, love."

Ginny was back five minutes later, a bottle of wine and two glasses in hand, and Hermione filled her in on everything. Draco arrived back as Hermione got to the tail end of the story, and the three of them tucked into a late dinner. Hermione surprised herself with how much she ate.

"How many people are you eating for exactly, Granger? Something you´d like to tell us?"

"Draco!" Ginny hissed. "Shut up!"

Draco realised how insensitive his comment was, given the current situation. "Shit, I´m sorry, Hermione." He reached over and squeezed her hand. "I didn´t mean anything by it."

Hermione smiled stoically. "Nothing to apologise for, Draco. We can´t avoid the fact that Harry and I have split up." It was the first time she´d spoken his name out loud since it had all happened. "That would be all I need right now, to be pregnant to him." She felt the tears well up and bowed her head, pinching the bridge of her nose to stop the tears. She couldn´t keep breaking down like this. "Look, it´s late. You guys must be incredibly tired. I know I am. Why don´t we talk in the morning? I could really use some sleep."

Hermione stood up, and Ginny and Draco followed, rising to their feet. They exchanged a glance. "Are you sure, Hermione? I´m happy to stay up and talk if you want to."

Hermione shook her head and grasped Ginny´s hand. "No thanks, Gin. Really, we could all use some sleep by the look of us. We´ve got all day tomorrow to talk." She wrapped her arms around Ginny. "Thank you," she whispered. Pulling back, she kissed Draco and disappeared into the spare bedroom before either of them could say anything more.

Ginny and Draco stood silently for a few moments, then Draco took Ginny´s hand in his own and pulled her towards their bedroom. "She´s right, we do need sleep. I´ll take off tomorrow so you two can have some time to talk."

"Will you go and check on Harry?"

Draco kissed her hand. "If you want me to, beautiful."

She nodded as she closed their bedroom door behind her. "I´m worried about him, I´m sure he could use a friend."

Draco stiffened slightly. "He has your brother, Gin."

"But you´re still his friend too, Draco. I´m sure he could use an ear."

Draco sighed and changed into pyjama pants, then climbed onto the bed, lying in the middle. "I´ll go see him tomorrow. I´m too tired to think about anything else right now."

Ginny crawled onto the bed and straddled him, then leaned over, her long hair cascading like a waterfall around them. She kissed him softly. "I love you, even if you do say stupid things sometimes."

Draco grimaced. "Don´t remind me."

"That would be incredibly bad timing if she was pregnant," Ginny mused. She looked at Draco thoughtfully. "They´d have cute kids, you know."

Draco laughed. "I´m sure children are the last thing on their minds right now. How about we aim to get the parents back together before we worry about any potential Potterlets?"

Ginny squealed. "Potterlets? Oh, that´s so adorable!" Draco tickled her, and she squealed some more. He flipped her over, pinning her to the bed with his body, and soon her squeals turned into moans as he kissed her face, lips, and throat, one hand threading through her hair, holding her head so he could kiss her, the other wandering down her body.

Ginny opened her eyes and blinked rapidly, the sunlight causing her to cast a hand over her eyes. She reached blindly for Draco and soon found him sprawled next to her. She turned over and cuddled into him, and he brought an arm up and placed it over her protectively.

"Good morning," she murmured sleepily as his lips found hers. They kissed for a few moments, then Ginny pulled away and sat up. "Can you smell something?"

Draco propped himself up on one elbow and sniffed the air. "Food. Excellent, I´m starving."

"Hermione must be cooking," Ginny said. "I wonder how she slept."

"Let´s go find out." Stifling a yawn, he got out of bed and headed towards the door.

"Draco, your top."

He turned around. "What?"

Ginny climbed out of bed. "Aren´t you at least going to put your pyjama top on?"

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Why would I do that?"

"Because Hermione is here?"

"Gin," he said patiently. "Hermione has seen me in a lot less."

"That´s not the point, and that was a long time ago. She´s a guest and you´re half naked. So get dressed." She picked up his top and threw it at him.

"Women," Draco muttered under this breath before sliding the top on. He left the buttons undone, however, in a small show of defiance.

They wandered out into the kitchen to find Hermione fully dressed and humming over a hot stove, upon which bacon, eggs, hash browns and tomatoes sizzled in pans.

"Good morning," Ginny said.

"Hey, good morning!" Hermione said brightly. "I hope I didn´t wake you two."

Ginny eyed her surreptitiously. "Not at all. How did you sleep?"

The false smile Hermione had been so determined to plaster onto her face faded slowly. "Okay," she said quietly. All three occupants of the kitchen knew she was lying, but none of them said anything further. Instead, Hermione dished up the breakfast she´d cooked and they ate in companionable silence.

"Hey," Ginny said, munching on a slice of toast. "Why don´t we go into Muggle London today and do some shopping?" She ignored the face that Draco pulled at the mention of shopping and focused her gaze on Hermione.

"I really do appreciate what you´re doing for me, Gin, but if you don´t mind, I think I´d rather just stay here."

"Well, I do mind. You are not going to sit around here moping. A bit of retail therapy cures all ills." She gave Hermione a dazzling smile and finished off her toast. "Why don´t you hit the shower first and I´ll tidy up here, then we´ll go give the credit card a workout."

"I´m guessing `no´ is not an acceptable response to this proposal?" Hermione smiled wryly.

"That would be correct. Now scoot and get ready!" Ginny shooed Hermione away and then got out of her chair and came up behind Draco, bending over to slide her arms around his neck. "Will you go check on Harry and see how he´s doing?"

Draco sighed. "If you really think it will do any good."

"I´m sure he´ll be pleased to see you." She kissed his cheek. "I know I always am."

Draco pulled Ginny around and sat her in his lap, kissing her neck. "Not half as pleased as I am to see you, beautiful." He stopped what he was doing and looked up at her, their faces so close their noses were almost touching. "I love you so much," he whispered.

Ginny smiled. "I love you too, Draco." She closed the distance between them as his hand glided up her thigh. She stopped him from getting too far by placing her hand over his. "We can´t, not here," she murmured against his lips. "Think of Hermione, she´ll be out soon."

Draco sighed and gave her one last, lingering kiss and let her go. "You go do some major damage to our bank balance, and I´ll go see Harry."

Sunday, November 23rd 2008, 10pm

The wind howled around Hermione as she stood on the balcony, gazing out over the view. She thought the city always looked better at night, the lights twinkling below her. It was freezing, but Hermione felt it matched her current state of mind, being numb. She had on a jumper that she´d thrown into her bag while packing, but it did little to appease the cold that seemed to embed itself into every pore.

She didn´t turn when the balcony door slid open or shut again. She didn´t even react when the coat was placed around your shoulders.

"You think freezing yourself to death is going to make you forget?"

Hermione turned her head to look at Draco. "It´s not that cold."

"Yes it is. I can see your breath, Hermione. Giving yourself the flu won´t make things any better."

Hermione tried to hide her irritation. "Did you just come out here to lecture me, or did you want something else?" Ginny was currently over seeing Harry, and it irked Hermione a little for reasons she couldn´t name. Of course she understood that Harry was just as much Ginny´s friend as she was hers. She knew she was being irrational, but at that moment, she didn´t care.

"Spare me the attitude, Hermione. You´re not going to push me away from you by getting shirty with me. It might work on Potter and Weasley, but it doesn´t work on me, so don´t waste your time trying."

Hermione´s only response was a small sob that she couldn´t stop rising from her chest, and she breathed in and out painfully, the tears fighting to roll down her cheeks. "I... " She tried to speak but no words came out. "I just... "

"I know."

Hermione turned towards him and met his eyes, eyes that told her he understood. He reached out a hand and placed it on her arm, giving her enough time to pull away. She didn´t. Draco then pulled her to him, embracing her tightly.

Hermione started to cry in his arms and Draco stroked her hair soothingly with his cold fingers. "Let it out," he said softly. "Just cry it out, love."

The tenderness in his voice reminded Hermione of a time long ago, a time when she first took note of the man he would become...

Eighteen year old Hermione Granger walked into the nightclub, looking around her disdainfully and wondering how her work friends had talked her into coming here. She would much rather have just gone home and curled up to watch a movie or read a book, but they wouldn´t hear of it and had insisted she accompany them for a drink or two.

It didn´t take long for her companions to be whisked onto the dance floor by wizards whom Hermione found sleazy, so she retreated to one of the smaller bars in the back corner of the room and ordered herself a wine.

"Granger?" Hermione froze at the sound of that voice, a voice she had not heard in over a year. A voice she used to wish she could have forgotten ever existed, but one she now found herself glad to be hearing, given the events of a year ago.

"Malfoy?" Hermione couldn´t keep the surprise out of her tone. She looked over to see Draco Malfoy sitting in the darkness, away from the glare of the lights and the throngs of people in the club. Of all the places she might have thought she´d run into Draco Malfoy again, this nightclub would have been pretty low on the list. In fact, *nobody* had seen hide nor hair of Draco Malfoy for just over a year now, ever since his parents had been murdered and he´d gone into hiding, scared for his life. "Malfoy, is that you?"

He ambled forward and perched himself on a stool closer to her. "The one and only." He picked up his glass which Hermione assumed to be vodka or gin and sipped it. "How the hell are you, Granger?"

"Do you care?" The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she felt instantly bad when she saw him flinch slightly. No matter how horrible he´d been to her and her friends in school, nobody had deserved to lose their parents the way he had and be forced into hiding, away from the entire world. "I´m sorry," she said. "Can we start over?"

Draco stared at her for such a long time that Hermione found herself squirming a little under his intense gaze. "How are you, Granger?" he eventually repeated in a soft tone.

"I´m fine, thank you. I must admit I´m surprised to find you here." She picked up her wine and sat a few stools to the right so she was nearer to him. Her boldness shocked her a little; two years ago, she´d have kept her distance. But her curiousity about Draco Malfoy outweighed any fear of him she had, and she wanted to know more.

When they began to talk, she found herself surreptitiously studying him, and was surprised to discover she found him quite attractive. He still looked the same as he had the last time she´d seen him, but he was older now, his jaw a little more square and his face a little rougher. His laughter was genuine and his eyes... they didn´t seem so cold when they looked at her.

Meanwhile, they talked about everything that had happened since they´d left school. Hermione didn´t ask about his parents and Draco didn´t offer. As she listened to him, Hermione couldn´t get over the change in the young man who sat next to her. Had she not known better, she´d have sworn that the Draco Malfoy who had made their lives difficult at school and the Draco Malfoy who sat before her now were two different people. He´d lost a lot of his edge; his manner and demeanour was, for lack of a better word, gentler. Hermione found herself intrigued.

She was so intrigued by him that she didn´t notice the time slip away from her, and it was close to midnight before she realised she´d been sitting there for hours talking to Draco. "I really need to go find my friends," she said, easing off the stool. "It´s been... really weird talking to you, Malfoy. I... "

"I know," Draco answered. "Likewise, Granger. But I´m afraid your friends left the club an hour ago."

"What?" Hermione´s jaw dropped and she spun around in her seat, her eyes searching frantically for them.

"I saw them leave with some blokes hanging off their arms. Nice friends you have, leaving you here all alone with the Big Bad Slytherin." There was a trace of bitterness in his voice and something else that Hermione couldn´t quite make out.

"Why didn´t you tell me they were going?" she said, hysteria rising slightly. She was now stuck in some stupid nightclub by herself with the man who had insulted her time and time again.

"Because I thought you would leave with them."

"Damn right I would have! What´s the matter with you, Malfoy?"

"I wanted you to stay and talk to me, Granger. I haven´t had much company in the past year and I was enjoying our discussion." He looked at her with cool eyes that gave nothing away.

Hermione was thrown for a loop, both with being dumped by her friends and Draco´s uncharacteristic candidness. "Well, I´m glad you were enjoying our little tete-a-tete so much, Malfoy, but I am now..."

Hermione didn´t get to finish her sentence because a pair of surprisingly warm lips were in her way, pressing against hers firmly. She never got a chance to react before Malfoy pulled away from her and sat back on his stool. "So there *is* a way to shut you up, then."

It was a few moments before Hermione was able to regain the power of speech. "What... what was that?" she spluttered.

"Last time I heard, it was called kissing," Draco said coolly. "What´s the matter, never been kissed before?"

Hermione bristled. "Of course I´ve been kissed before," she said sharply. "I just... well, you just shouldn´t have done that, Malfoy."

"Why not?" Draco challenged. "Didn´t you enjoy it?"

"It doesn´t matter," Hermione hissed. "I don´t like you."

If her words hurt him, Draco didn´t let it show. "I don´t like you much either, Granger. I see some things haven´t changed - you´re still as uptight as you always were."

Hermione felt a spark of anger flicker inside her. "Who the hell do you think you are, Malfoy? How dare you just sit there and tell me..." Once again, Hermione was unable to complete her sentence. It was as if Draco got off on making her angry then kissing her, the conflicting emotions turning him on.

As his smooth lips pressed almost insistently against hers, Hermione felt something else spark deep inside her, something no man had ever sparked before... desire. Her brain kept telling her this was Draco Malfoy, but her lips didn´t care. Draco Malfoy might be a lot of things, but a bad kisser was not one of them. So when he tentatively glided his tongue over her bottom lip, Hermione couldn´t help but allow him access, her mouth opening under his.

She wasn´t sure if it was the alcohol she´d consumed, the environment in which they were placed, or the fact that an attractive man was kissing her, but Hermione felt a warmth spread through her entire body, and she instinctively pulled Draco closer to maintain the contact. When he realised she wasn´t going to pull away, Draco deepened the kiss, not letting her go until neither one of them could breathe. Panting heavily, Draco leaned his forehead against Hermione´s as they stared at each other, both of them trying to work out exactly how they´d gone from talking to kissing.

"What are we doing?" Draco muttered, seemingly talking to himself but saying it loud enough for Hermione to hear.

"I don´t know," she answered, her breath coming out in short, sharp pants. "It´s so hot in here," she whispered, bringing a finger up to trace his jawline.

"Let´s go outside and get some air." His voice had become decidedly husky and Hermione didn´t protest when he grabbed her hand and led her out of the nightclub.

The cool night air hit them like a tonne of bricks, and they breathed in deeply, their eyes never leaving each other. Hermione felt her brain clear a little, although Draco´s close proximity to her still left her feeling a little light-headed.

"I guess I should go," she said almost wistfully, desire still coursing through her. What she *really* wanted was to kiss him some more, but now her head was a bit clearer, she realised that wasn´t the smartest move on the planet.

"If you want to," Draco agreed. "Or you can come with me to my place and have another drink and talk some more."

Hermione sucked in a breath as she took in his words. "You don´t really want to talk any more, do you?"

Draco stared at her without blinking, his face unreadable. His lips parted slightly and she wondered whether he was just gathering the courage to answer honestly or figure out in his own mind what the answer was.


Those two letters were all Hermione needed to hear. Throwing caution to the rather cold wind, she launched herself into his arms, her lips reattaching themselves to his. Draco brought his hands up to fist them through her hair, angling her head so he could kiss her deeper. Hermione no longer felt the cold; the now familiar warmth washed over her.

"Not here," Draco murmured against her lips. "Let´s get away from everyone."

They Apparated to his flat, which, had Hermione taken the time to look around, was a lot smaller than she would ever have pictured Malfoy would have lived in. But there was a lot she didn´t know about the Draco Malfoy she now stood kissing fiercely. At that moment, the only thing Hermione Granger was interested in was where Draco currently had his hands.

Before she was able to work out how exactly they had gotten there, they were in his bedroom, and as her head fell back to allow Draco access to her neck, she opened her eyes and looked at her surroundings, and a small part of her brain spoke up, reminding her that she was standing in Draco Malfoy´s room, about to indulge in a lot more than just kissing him. It was like a cold bucket of water had been thrown over her, and she pulled out of his reach.

"I´m not sure this is such a good idea," she breathed.

Draco reached out and lightly grasped her arms. "I won´t force you to do anything, Hermione. You´re entirely free to leave if you want to," Here, he hesitated. "The decision is yours."

As Hermione looked up into his eyes, she saw his decision had already been made. And she realised that she couldn´t leave now, because she wanted him as much as he wanted her. But there was something she needed to tell him. "Draco, you should know I´ve never... I mean I haven´t... " Here, she faltered, suddenly feeling a little embarrassed.

Thankfully, he understood what she was trying to say. "We´ll take it slow, then. I´ll be as gentle as I can."

In a previous time, the thought that Draco Malfoy could be gentle about anything would have made Hermione laugh, but as he pulled her to him and kissed her again, she knew he would keep his word...

And keep his word he had. He now exuded the same gentleness as he rocked her while she cried as he had all those years ago, when she´d lain underneath him in his bed while he took her virginity.

She allowed herself to be cradled in his arms until the tears stopped completely. He finally released her, and Hermione wiped the tears off her face, breathing out deeply. "I´m sorry," she said. "I know I pretty much ruined your holiday."

Draco paused before answering, and what he said next could not have shocked her more. "Honeymoon, actually. But it really is okay, Hermione - you´re our friend. You both are. There´s no way we wouldn´t have come back."

Hermione gasped. "Honeymoon? What do you mean, honeymoon?" She took hold of his left hand and stared in disbelief at the plain gold band that sat on his third finger. "You got married?"

Draco chuckled. "Don´t sound so surprised, Hermione. Did you think we´d just live in sin forever?"

"Well, no, but I... I´m just... wow. It´s just unexpected." She blinked. "Congratulations!"

Draco grinned and leaned forward to place a deliberate kiss on Hermione´s forehead. "Thank you. Now let´s get inside, it´s freezing out here."

Hermione didn´t argue, and Draco made them tea while they awaited Ginny´s return. As they sat on the lounge, he told her about the ceremony and their plans to renew their vows at the Burrow.

Hermione was just about to ask what Draco thought Molly´s reaction was going to be when Ginny arrived home, stepping out of the fireplace and dusting herself off. She put down the bag she carried.

"Oh Gin," Hermione said, biting her lip. "Why didn´t you tell me? You have no idea how bad I feel."

Ginny looked at her husband and raised a questioning eyebrow, and he lifted his hand to wiggle his wedding ring in response. "Oh, Draco told you!"

Hermione rushed forward to embrace her. "Yes, he did. And you should have! I can´t believe you came home for me," she said in a choked voice.

"It´s nothing you wouldn´t have done for me had the situation been reversed," Ginny explained, hugging her friend back. "I can remember quite a few times you gave up on sleep so I could cry on your shoulder about Draco being a prat, so don´t give it another thought. Like I said yesterday, I was getting bored with him anyway." She blew Draco a kiss over Hermione´s shoulder as she spoke.

She pulled back and indicated towards the bag. "I managed to get most of what you wanted." Ginny hesitated as Hermione bit her lip again. "He misses you, Hermione."

Hermione seemed to waver, and both Ginny and Draco knew she was torn between being upset at the news and not wanting to give a damn.

"Well, it´s his own fault. If he hadn´t lied to me for all these years, there would be no problem."

Ginny tried another tactic. "Do you think that perhaps tomorrow you might want to talk to him and give him a chance to explain?"

Hermione raised her chin and looked at Ginny almost defiantly. "No, I don´t think I do. Let him wait until I´m good and ready." She spoke with a nod, as if trying to convince herself of her own words. Ginny and Draco exchanged a glance as Hermione picked up the bag. "Thanks again for this, Gin. I think I might turn in for the night. See you in the morning." She kissed Ginny on the cheek, then repeated the action with Draco, murmuring a quiet thank you at him. He squeezed her hand and watched as she disappeared down the hallway.

Ginny let out a long sigh and went willingly into Draco´s open arms. "I wonder how long they´re going to keep this up," she groaned. "He´s as bad as her. Has decided she needs to give him some sort of indication she´s willing to listen before he´ll do anything about it. Which of course, she won´t."

Draco kissed the top of her head. "It will be interesting to see how next Sunday at your mother´s goes if they haven´t kissed and made up by then."

Ginny groaned again. "Oh, don´t remind me. Mum will already be upset enough about the wedding; that will be all she needs to set her off, that Harry and Hermione have split up."

"They´ll work it out, Gin, as soon as they can both see past their own stubborn pride and realise they´re still madly in love." He pulled back and grinned lasciviously at her. "Besides, the need to shag each other senseless will overwhelm them sooner or later. They can´t hold out forever."

Ginny tutted. "That´s all you think about, isn´t it? Shagging."

Draco just grinned and dragged her to bed.

Sunday, 30th November, 2008.

It was an exasperated Ginny Malfoy who led the way to the front door of the Burrow. Usually, the Weasley family get togethers were held on the third Sunday, but since Draco and Ginny had been away and Bill and Charlie had owled their apologies, Molly had decided to postpone it for a week. This time round everyone could make it, which pleased Ginny because it meant they could announce their marriage with her entire family present.

Hermione´s stubbornness about Harry had yet to be abated, and eight days had passed since their fight with nary a word exchanged between them. Hermione continued to sleep poorly, and had owled in to say she wouldn´t be at work, instead having Tabitha owl her at the flat, but despite how Ginny sensed Hermione desperately wanted everything to be right with Harry, she would not budge.

Harry, for his part, was not doing much better to make things right. Ron and Ginny had been speaking every night, having fallen into co-conspirator roles to enable a meeting, but they´d been thwarted at their every attempt to put Harry and Hermione in the same room. This would be the first time they´d have laid eyes on each other since Hermione walked out, and Ginny was nervous about whether there´d a scene.

What transpired was something Ginny never thought she´d live to see. Harry and Hermione simply acted like the other didn´t exist. They didn´t say a word, they didn´t look at each other. It was as if the other just wasn´t there. However, Ginny couldn´t help but notice that every now and then, one would glance at the other longingly when they thought nobody else was looking. It really broke Ginny´s heart to watch them, their pain and sadness at being separated plainly obvious for the world to see.

Molly and Arthur had been informed beforehand of what had happened, and Ginny was glad she´d told them ahead of time. Molly had taken great pains to ensure they were seated as far away from each other as possible, and they fended off all questions about their well-being by announcing brightly they were fine, when it was obvious to everyone, even Bill and Charlie who only saw them every month or so, that they were far from it.

Still, lunch was a fairly jovial affair, with each Weasley sharing his or her goings-on over the last month with those family members they hadn´t seen since the last lunch, and everyone making a pointed effort to include Harry and Hermione in the conversations.

As dessert was being served, Ginny and Draco got their opportunity to announce their news when Molly asked them to share what they did on their recent holiday.

"Actually, we did do a lot. Swimming, lying around, dancing..." Draco trailed off, allowing Ginny to pick up the slack.

"... Shopping, of course. Souvenir hunting. What else did we do, baby? Oh yeah. We went hiking, got married..." All of this was said in tone that might have been used to announce the weather.

"That´s good, dear," Arthur said, patting his daughter´s hand.

A few seconds later, the entire table fell silent.

"You did what?" Molly asked with a quivering voice.

Ginny turned to face her mother. "We got married, Mum. See?" They held up their left hands to show their rings, and Molly promptly burst into tears.

It took a few more seconds for the news to sink in, then the table exploded in a cacophony of cheers and whistles. All her brothers got up one by one to kiss their sister and shake Draco´s hand; and Fred and George threw out a comment about the fact they would now have to accept their baby sister was having sex with Malfoy, which earned them a sharp glare from their still teary mother.

Only one person held back, still shocked from the announcement. Harry waited until everyone had wandered off, either to sit down or grab some dessert, before he went up to his friends.

"Congratulations, you guys," he leaned over and kissed Ginny´s cheek. "I´m so happy for you."

Ginny threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you, Harry." She brought her lips close to his ear and whispered into it. "How are you doing?" This was the first chance she´d had to talk privately to him. Since they´d arrived with Hermione and Harry had come with Ron and Kellie, Ginny really hadn´t been given the opportunity to talk to him.

His arms tightened around her. "I miss her," he said softly.

"I know you do, love. I know." She wished she had some magic spell she could use to make everything okay again, but knew things would sort themselves out in their own time.

"How is she doing?"

"She´s miserable without you. She misses you so much but doesn´t know where to start." Ginny pulled back after spotting Hermione looking in her direction. "I´ll talk some sense into her, promise." She leaned up to kiss Harry´s cheek and wandered over to Molly to begin planning the party that Molly had instantly suggested. Draco and Ginny had said nothing about them having the same idea, wanting to appease Molly by allowing her to think they´d never thought of it and telling her it was a fabulous idea.

Ginny was extremely tired once she, Draco and Hermione arrived back at the flat, and she tried to ascertain what Hermione was feeling after seeing Harry for the first time since the split, but Hermione brushed off her concern. However, as she excused herself for bed, Hermione had looked briefly at Ginny, and Ginny was hard pressed to think of a time that she´d ever seen such sadness in anyone´s eyes.

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Draco paced the lounge room, throwing glances at his wife who was sprawled on their couch, calmly eating a punnet of strawberries.

"He´s going to kill you when he gets here, you know," he commented.

Ginny waved a hand airily. "I couldn´t care less, Draco. This situation has gone beyond ridiculous and I simply will not put up with the moping and pining anymore. It´s been twelve days since their fight and they haven´t spoken once. There´s not going to be a day thirteen." She glanced over at the clock. "Harry will be here soon, and it will all be over one way or the other."

As if on cue, the fireplace roared and Harry stepped out of it, picking himself up. "So what´s the big emergency, Gin? Are you okay?" He stopped and looked around, taking in the fact that Ginny was lying on the couch languidly. "What´s going on?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Yes, there´s a huge emergency, and she´s in the spare bedroom. So go talk to her."

Harry´s face slowly flushed with anger. "You brought me all the way over here, out of bed I´ll have you know, for this?"

Ginny got up off the couch and placed her hands on her hips. "This has just gone ruddy far enough, Harry Potter. This is past ridiculous now. You are not being fair to yourselves, and you are not being fair to any of us, putting us in the middle of it all." Harry opened his mouth to speak but Ginny held up her hand to stop him. "I really don´t care if you never speak to me again, but you are going to speak to her. It´s like this - you will go talk to her and you will either agree to separate for good or kiss and make up, and you will not come out of that room until you reach one of the two conclusions on offer."

Harry looked over at Draco, who held up his hands. "I had nothing to do with it. Blame her."

"Ginny," Harry said in a low tone. "I understand what you´re trying to do, but... "

"Wake up, Harry," Ginny said in an irritated tone. "She´s not going to come crawling to you, so you have to go crawling to her. I´m sick of the both of you right now, you´re just as stubborn as each other. Somebody needed to step in and do something about it, because it´s plainly obvious that the two of you are totally and utterly miserable without each other. So it stops, right here, right now. Shoo."

Harry once again opened his mouth to talk, but Draco jumped in. "Honestly, mate, don´t argue with her, or I´m going to have to listen to it all night. I just want to get a decent night´s sleep." He looked pointedly at Harry. "We all do."

Harry looked at his friends and realised they were right. It did have to end, one way or another. Without a word, he walked down the hallway and knocked on the door.

"Come in," he heard her voice through the door, and with a deep breath, he pushed it open.

"Hey, what´s..." Hermione´s smile faded as she turned around from the dressing table and found Harry standing there. He shut the door behind him and stared at her, wanting desperately to know what was going through her mind at this moment.

"What are you doing here?" she asked coldly.

"We need to talk."

"I have nothing to say."

"Then you can just sit there and listen." This came out a little harsher than Harry had intended, and he saw her flinch slightly as her jaw dropped. "We can´t go on like this, Hermione." He didn´t even attempt to keep the despair out of his voice.

He watched as Hermione stared at him as if seeing him - the real him - for the first time in a very long time. "Fine," she eventually said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Talk. Explain."

Harry made no attempt to get any closer. "That´s all I´ve wanted, Hermione. A chance to explain. And if you decide at the end that it´s all over, then I´ll... " Harry couldn´t finish the sentence; the possibility that she might choose that path was too horrible to contemplate. He knew as he looked at her, her eyes still smudged with dark circles, that if she told him it was over after all this, she would destroy him. And that scared him so much that he could barely open his mouth to talk.

"So here´s your chance. Your only chance. So make it good." Her voice sounded so cold and detached, it almost made Harry shiver.

He began to circle the room, unable to bear looking at her deciding their future. "I know that you´re angry about all of this, Hermione, and I don´t blame you, not one little bit. But you have to believe me that in the beginning, when Sirius and I first started the company... "

He stopped at Hermione´s gasp. "Sirius? Sirius is the one who knew all along?"

Harry glanced over at her. "Of course it was Sirius. Who else?"

Hermione faltered as the pieces began to click in to place. "Go on."

"In the beginning, when we started the company, it wasn´t really about you, Hermione. It was a much bigger picture. I did it to protect myself and give the company a chance to succeed as much as I did it to protect you and Ron. You see, Elias and Sirius have been friends for years, and when Sirius thought up the idea of the company, he sought Elias out. The three of us spent months going over the minutiae of creating the company, working out the financials, the structure, and so on."

"I just don´t understand, Harry," she interjected. "Why couldn´t you have included us on this? We would have been so thrilled for you, that you were doing something good for the wizarding world as a whole. What PGW does, finding cures and working on potions and spells to ease suffering... "

Harry held up a hand, urging her to let him continue. "I suggested we tell you and Ron, but Sirius didn´t think that was wise, given that Voldemort was still around back then. I was eighteen when we started it, and I was afraid that if Voldemort somehow knew the company belonged to me, he would do something to sabotage it. Or hurt you."

Here, Hermione interrupted again, her arms now by her sides. "You can´t use Voldemort as an excuse," she said with quiet conviction. "We all agreed when we left school that we would not stop living our lives because of him."

"Hermione, hindsight is 20/20. I know all these things now, but I was a lot younger then. I looked to Sirius and Elias for guidance. They also thought it wise to keep it out of the press. Sure, the company may have taken off a lot more quickly if everyone had known that Harry Potter owned it, but I wanted it to succeed on its own merits Hermione, not just because my name was attached to it. I wanted the best witches and wizards there. We worried that the press would give us unnecessary attention that might become negative over time, and I didn´t want my every move to be reported in the press. Had something gone wrong, they would have crucified me, and I couldn´t take that risk."

"But you didn´t trust us to keep that secret?"

Harry was starting to get annoyed, in spite of his best intentions to remain calm. "Hermione, this is not about you. It was never just about you. It´s not that I didn´t trust you - I was trying to protect you. Why can´t you understand that?"

Hermione turned in his direction and stared at him for a few long moments, tears welling up in her eyes. "It just hurts, Harry," she whispered. "For you to have kept such an important part of your life from me for so long, to have let me become your employee and not say a word... I would never have kept anything like this from you. You´re my best friend. No, you´re a whole lot more than that - you´re the most important person in my life. And to think you couldn´t have once in ten years just told me about it, well... it just hurts. I´m sorry, but it does." She didn´t bother to fight the tears any more, lifting a hand up to brush them away. "How could you sleep with me and not tell me?"

Harry tried hard to fight away tears of his own. "We thought you´d be safer. I wanted to let you and Ron in on the secret but Sirius talked me out of it, saying the less you knew, the better. If somehow Voldemort or the press did find out about it, you´d be safer not knowing anything." He paused for a long moment. "And Hermione," he said firmly. "I slept with you because I love you."

Hermione let out a sob, and it took everything he had not to go to her and hold her in his arms.

"I can´t say I´m sorry enough. I really am." He took a step closer to her, sorrow etched on his face. "I know you don´t have to forgive me, or even believe I´m telling you the truth now, but I am. I love you."

Hermione looked into his eyes and saw that he wasn´t lying. "Will you answer a question?"



Harry allowed himself a small smile. "It´s Cornish for James."

"And the PGW?"

"This, I´m surprised you never figured out - I thought it was so easy." He pointed to himself. "Potter." He pointed at her. "Granger."

Hermione caught on and spoke the last word with him. "Weasley." She sat down on the edge of the bed, her emotions running rampant. "Of course. How could I have been so stupid?"

Harry chuckled. "We don´t always see what´s right in front of us."

Somehow, Hermione knew he was talking about more than just the name of the company.

Harry crossed the room and closed the distance between them, getting down on his knees in front of Hermione and reaching out to take her hands in his. He let out a breath he didn´t know he was holding when she threaded her fingers through his.

"Are- " He stopped and cleared his throat. "Are we okay?" he asked tentatively.

Hermione released one of his hands and brought hers up to run her fingertips down his cheek. Tears were still shining in her eyes as she spoke. "We will be. We love each other too much not to be," she replied with a small nod. "I love you, Harry."

Harry closed his eyes for a second, the relief clearly painted across his face. He opened them again and blinked back the tears. "I love you too, Hermione. You have no idea how much."

Hermione let out a laugh. "I think I have a pretty good idea, actually, because if it´s half as much as I love you, it´s a whole lot."

They stared at each other for a few long moments, then Hermione slid her arms around Harry´s neck and pulled him close, and he sagged against her, his arms curling around her waist. They hugged for a few minutes, neither of them speaking, Hermione occasionally pulling back to kiss his temple.

Harry then pulled back so he could look at Hermione again, and all he saw in her eyes was love. Love for him, love that she felt for no other, and in that moment, everything was right again in his world. All he needed was the woman who sat in front of him. He felt like their love would be enough - that it would always be enough for them to deal with whatever life was going to throw them.

"Kiss me," Hermione commanded softly, her voice almost a whisper. Harry obeyed without hesitation, pressing his lips firmly against hers in a tender kiss. Oh, how they´d missed this, this way of expressing their feelings without words. It didn´t take long for them to want more, and their mouths opened simultaneously, their tongues meeting for the first time in what they both knew had been far too long.

The air around them became static, the kissing soon giving way to something deeper. Hermione brought her hands up to Harry´s shirt and began to undo the buttons as quickly as her trembling fingers would let her. Once she got the top three undone she slipped her hand in to caress the warm skin underneath, and she heard Harry moan against her lips.

"Harry! Hermione!" The bedroom door was flung open and a clearly excited Ginny crossed the threshold, her hair flying wildly around her. They both turned to look at her, their clothes in disarray and their lips slightly swollen. "Oh God, I´m so sorry. I know I have horrible timing..."

"What´s going on, Gin?" They heard Draco holler from down the hall.

Ginny poked her head back out the door and yelled out to her husband. "It´s okay! There was tongue!"

Harry chuckled and Hermione felt herself go very red. "Gin?"

Ginny glanced back at them. "Oh yeah, sorry. We have to go, Ron´s just owled. Kellie´s in labour!" With that, she promptly turned on her heel and hurried back out of the room.

Harry and Hermione looked back at each other, Hermione letting out a small sigh of regret. "It looks like our reunion will have to wait until later," she said wistfully. "We should go to the hospital."

Harry nodded and stood, holding out his hand to help Hermione up and rebuttoning his shirt. "At least we have something to look forward to when we get home."

Hermione´s eyes twinkled as she took Harry´s hand, her fingers firmly entwined through his as they made their way out to the living room to leave with Draco and Ginny to meet the newest Weasley.

Author Notes:

Well, here it is, finally. Hope it was worth the wait!

My undying thanks go to Lia, Libbie, Melissa and Renee for their comments and beta, and also to Daniel for looking it over.

If you wish to be able to read new chapters before they are posted here, and also get future ficlets and deleted scenes, then please join PGW Industries.