Summary: Hermione and Harry have been best friends for as long as they could remember; they might as well be siblings. They've shared the same friends as well as the same enemies. But what happens when the person Hermione thought to be their mortal enemy becomes her best friend's new best friend?
Author's note: Alternate universe. Rating is subject to change. I gave Mr. and Mrs. Granger names.
It's Been a While: Chapter one
"Thank you for the amazing dinner, Mum and Dad. I really didn't deserve tickets to the ballet AND a fancy, expensive dinner."
My name is Hermione Jean Granger. I'm twenty-one (almost twenty-two) years old. And I am so happy to say that I have just graduated from college with a degree in business.
"Oh, Hermione, you deserve the absolute best," Mum waves her hand as though she is trying to shoo my preposterous idea away. "You've worked so hard. We are so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishments."
"Are you ready to finally go home? It's been a few years since you've seen everyone." Dad adds.
"Four years… I can't believe I haven't been home in four whole years. I wonder how different everyone is…" I'm a little nervous thinking about seeing everyone.
"They shouldn't be that different. Harry will always be your best friend. Lily and James haven't changed a bit since we were young, so I don't see how they could have changed much in four years." Dad attempts to soothe my anxiety.
"I don't know, Dad. I've been a horrible friend to Harry. I've barely kept in touch with him while I was here… It was just so hard with the time difference and all the school work and everything… I hope he doesn't hate me for ignoring him. Well, it wasn't like I was trying to ignore him. I just didn't have many chances to actually speak with him… We've exchanged emails around the holidays and birthdays, but that's about it. I don't even know if he's graduated yet!" I'm rambling.
"Sweetheart, calm down. Harry could never hate you. He probably feels just as horrible for not being able to stay in touch with you. He was probably swamped with school work just as much as you were." Mum squeezes my shoulder.
"I suppose you're right. Well, we won't know until we see them, I guess."
"That's very true. You really have nothing to worry about, though. We should get home and finish packing. We have a long trip tomorrow." Dad places a tip for our waiter on the table and we leave the restaurant. We get in the car and start to make our way home.
For the past four years, I have been living in New York City. Why have I been living here, you ask? Well, let me explain. I was born and raised in London, England. But during the fall of my senior year of high school, my parents had to move here because of their jobs (they're dentists). They didn't have the heart to make me leave London since I had just started my final year of high school. Obviously they couldn't leave a seventeen year old to live by herself, so they asked the Potters to take care of me and they were kind enough to allow me to live with them. The Potters are our oldest and dearest friends. mum and Dad grew up with Lily and James; their friendship has endured the years. Lily and James' son, Harry, is my best friend in the entire world. I love Harry as my own brother.
I was grateful that my parents were letting me finish my senior year, but I hated that I never got to see them. They visited during Christmastime and they made it to my graduation, but I couldn't handle the distance. Sure, I made it without them for almost a year, but they weren't sure how long they would be staying here… So I decided to attend college here so I could be with them. I loved living with the Potters, don't get me wrong, but I needed my mum and dad. Life wasn't the same without them. A week after my high school graduation, I left London with my parents. And so, I spent the summer before my first year at college in New York City. It was a difficult adjustment, but the city has grown on me. They don't call it "the greatest city in the world" for nothing.
We pull up in front of our building and get out of the car. My dad hands the keys to the valet then walks over to me and puts his arm around my shoulders. "I know you're worrying about Harry, so stop it. Nothing could ever change between you two, I know that for sure." He bends down to kiss the top of my head. We make our way through the doors and wait for the elevator. On the way up to the seventh floor, I try to convince myself that Dad is right and I have nothing worry about. But the elevator trip is not nearly long enough for me to do so. I mindlessly follow my parents to our apartment door and I sort of wander off to my bedroom in a trance. My mind is filled to the brim with anxiety and I'm not doing a very good job of calming myself down.
I try to focus on packing all my things to distract myself. And it works, for a little while. I'm putting my books and picture frames into a box when I come across the framed picture of Harry and me. It was taken at our high school graduation. Our arms are linked and we still have our cap and gowns on. His glasses sit crookedly on his face. I remember that I had to force him to take a decent picture with me. I'm pretty sure I grabbed his head at one point to make him face the camera. I stare at the picture for a long time. Does Harry still look like this? No, he couldn't. This was four years ago. He HAS to look somewhat different. If anything, he has to look older. What if he gained a lot of weight? Or what if he lost a lot of weight? What if he's not wearing those glasses anymore? What if he has contacts now? What if he does have contacts? Does that mean he's matured a lot? What if he is so much different from whom he used to be? Will he still be as kind as he once was? I hear that college can really change people… What if he's forgotten about me and that's why he hasn't made much effort to keep in touch. I hope I haven't changed that much. I know I look a little different… I look a little older, my hair isn't as curly, and my face has cleared up… I feel like I've matured, but I don't think I've changed drastically. Oh dear God, what if he does hate me? And if he does hate me, what if he won't forgive me? And if he won't forgive me, what will happen to our friendship?
"Hermione, dear, are you alright?" My mum snaps me out of my thoughts. "You're still worrying about Harry, aren't you? Listen to me, dear. You are not a bad friend. And neither is Harry. You both care about each other very much. You've cared about each other for twenty-one years. All of that care could not just disappear in a matter of a few years away from each other. He will welcome you back into his life just as much as you will welcome him back into yours. I know four years seems like such a long time, and when you're young it really is. But trust me. And trust your father. Everything will be fine." I nod my head feebly. "Finish packing up and get to bed soon. We're waking up very early tomorrow." With that, she kisses my forehead and leaves my room.
I put the frame in the box and do as I'm told. I make short work of the rest of my packing. By the time I'm done, I'm exhausted. I take a shower, brush my teeth, and slip on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. I quickly brush and braid my hair then slip underneath the covers. I drift off into a dreamless sleep.
When I wake up, it's 4AM. I'm running a little late. We're supposed to leave for the airport at 4:30. It's a good thing I showered last night. I debate on the clothes I want to travel in, but quickly decide that I'll just keep the sweats I already have on. I put on a bra and a shirt that I deem more appropriate. I decide to wear my moccasins for the flight because, even though it's the middle of May, the plane will definitely be cold. I undo the braids in my hair and check myself in the mirror. Ugh, my hair looks like a wavy mess. I attempt to straighten out the waves a little by brushing them out. Even at twenty-one, my hair will never, ever cooperate with me. Exasperated, I opt for a messy bun. I throw a magazine, my iPod, my phone, and my tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice into my purse, I pick up my laptop, and hurry into the dining room. My parents are sitting at the table eating waffles and drinking coffee.
"Goodmorning," I greet them. "I guess I'm not late for breakfast."
"You can never be late for waffles." My dad smiles as I sit down next to him.
"Would you like coffee? Tea?" Mum asks me.
"I'll just have some of this orange juice. Thanks, Mum." We eat in silence, mostly. Dad makes some comments about what he's read in the newspaper this morning and mum checks things off her mental checklist out loud. After we've finished eating, we clear the table. As I wash the dishes, my dad phones the the front desk and requests for some bellboys to help carry my boxes to the moving van. I leave the kitchen to see if they need my help with anything and as I'm walking to my room, I bump into one of the bellboys, effectively causing him to drop the box he's carrying.
"Oh God, I am so sorry." I apologize. I reach down to pick up the box but he stops me.
"That's alright, miss. I'm sorry I didn't see you there." He says. I look up at him. He's young. Probably around my age. And he has the bluest eyes I have ever seen. The fact that I'm noticing his eyes unnerves me a bit. I never notice boys. It's not that I've never liked anyone. I liked Harry for a short while when we were young. And I dated Ron Weasley while I was in high school, which was weird because we had been friends for a while so a romantic relationship didn't suit us well. Throughout college, I went on a few dates, but my interest never lasted that long. I guess I was a bit cruel. But I was driven to reach the goals I had set for myself and I wasn't about to let a boy get in the way of that.
I realize that I've been staring at him for a millisecond longer than I should have been. "I've never seen you work here before." I say quickly.
"Just started working here after I graduated, miss. Need to make some money to help me on my way to my future." He grins.
"You don't have to call me 'miss.' Just call me Hermione." I smile. "You just graduated? So did I. Where did you attend college?"
"I went to Columbia. History major."
"Really? I went to Columbia too! Business."
"Crazy coincidence that we would run into each other the day after graduation." He laughs. "I'm Jacob, by the way."
"Pleasure to meet you." I say.
"I'm gonna take a wild guess. You're not from around here, are you?"
"How do you know that?" I asked him, a bit shocked.
"Your accent. You are definitely not from New York. England?" He tilts his head and his blonde hair falls into his eyes.
"Oh, right." I giggle. "Yes, I'm from London. My parents came to work here, so I decided to go to Columbia so that I could be with them."
"That's a big sacrifice. Leaving everything you know and love to come to this crazy city. London is a beautiful place. Much more beautiful than here."
"London is beautiful. And I miss it dearly. But New York is a wonder. I don't regret coming to live and study here."
"I guess you're right. It just gets kind of boring, considering I've lived here all my life. I've only been to London once, with my mother. I was still little so I don't remember much. I'd love to go back…" He says thoughtfully.
"I know what you mean." I look down at the floor. "Living in the same place forever makes it difficult to appreciate it. It wasn't until yesterday that I finally realized how much I wanted to go back home." I say quietly. I sigh and look back up at him.
"Well it's a good thing you're going home today, then!" He says excitedly. He's smiling at me, but his smile doesn't touch his eyes. I wonder why. "Well, this is the last of your stuff. I should probably bring this downstairs so you and your parents can get going."
"Oh. Okay. Thank you so much for moving all my things." I don't know why, but I feel a little disappointed that he's leaving. If anything, I should feel guilty for keeping him from doing his job.
"Just doing my job, Hermione." My heart flutters a bit at the sound of him calling me by my first name. He smiles this big goofy smile. I can't help but smile back. "It was really nice meeting you." He starts to walk away. Suddenly, he turns around and says, "Forgive me if I'm being forward, but… Could I get your email address…?" He says warily. Needless to say, I'm a bit shocked because he is being a bit forward. We've only just met. But I'm even more shocked that I actually want to give him my email address.
"Oh." I laugh nervously. "Of course. Give me one moment." I head to my dad's study to grab a post-it note and a pen. I write down my name and my email address then walk back into the hallway. "Here you go." I hand the post-it to him. "I have a Facebook account, too. I rarely use it, though. My best friend refuses to make an account so I haven't had much use for it." I laugh, thinking about the argument I had with Harry about Facebook.
"Thanks." He beams. "Maybe I'll run into you again in the future. Maybe I'll even travel to London this summer! It's not likely, but I can dream, can't I?" He laughs. "Have a safe trip. I wish you well." He shifts the box he's been holding into his left arm so that he can shake my hand.
"I wish you well, Jacob. Good luck in all your future endeavors. If you do happen to be in London, contact me." I take his hand in mine and we shake. "Thank you again for moving all my things."
"Goodbye, Hermione." He says as he walks toward the front door. He called me by my first name again.
"Bye, Jacob." I call after him. I smile stupidly to myself.
"He's very polite." Mum says suddenly, scaring me out of my wits. I whip my head toward her bedroom door.
"Mum!" I exclaim, my eyes wide.
"He's handsome, too."
"How long have you been standing there?"
"Not too long. Just long enough to witness him wishing you well." She smiles. "I think he likes you, dear." I blush.
"Mum, we've only just met. Don't be ridiculous."
"You're blushing!" She snickers. "I bet he'll contact you within the next week."
"Mooooooooooooooommmm, stop!" I cover my face my hands. "Boys don't like me! Just Ronald Weasley."
"Now who's the one being ridiculous? Sweetheart, boys like you. How could they not? You're a beautiful, kind, smart, confident young woman. It's you who does not like boys! You're always too caught up in your work to pay attention to anything else." She teases. I stick my tongue out at her and laugh.
"Is everyone ready to go? We're running late, it's already past 4:30." Dad says as he walks through the front door.
"Ready." My mum and I say simultaneous. My dad smiles.
"Well, then let's go!" He says. I grab my purse and laptop from the living room. My mum walks out of their room with her purse and my dad retrieves his messenger bag from his study. We walk out of the room and before my dad closes and locks the door, I take one more glance at the place I have called home for the past four years.
We take the elevator down to the ground floor, then hurry out the doors. I say goodbye to out doorman, Stanley, as we wait for a cab. He was always very kind to me.
"Safe trip, Miss Granger. Come visit us soon." The corners of his eyes crinkle as he smiles.
"Thank you for everything, Stanley. I should be back around Christmastime." I smile widely at him and wave as a cab pulls up in front of the building.
My dad looks to see if the moving van is ready to go then he tells the driver that we can go. I watch the building become smaller and smaller as we drive further away. I turn to face the front and I put my headphones in my ears.
By the time we reach JFK Airport, it's almost 5:30. One thing I won't miss about the city? The ridiculous amount of traffic. Our flight is at 7:30. Hopefully we'll have enough time to check in our luggage and my boxes. Thank goodness I don't have too many boxes. We finally finish everything that needs to be done and we're in the waiting area by 6:55. Pretty good timing, because people have already started boarding the plane.
"Why did Dad buy us first class tickets? They're so expensive. The trip isn't even that long." I whisper to my mum.
"Another graduation present for you, dear. You really have no idea how proud your father is of you." She reaches for my hand. My dad hands one of the attendants our tickets and she ushers us through the bridge an into the first class cabin.
"Here are your seats, Mr. and Mrs. Granger." She shows them to their seats. "Miss Granger, your seat is right here." She directs me to a seat adjacent to my parents, which happens to be next to a window. I sit down and smile at my dad.
"I knew you'd enjoy a window seat." He explains.
"Thanks, Dad." I beam at him. I sit staring out the window for a while. I check my watch, it's 7:15. I look up to see the sign directing us to put on our seatbelts on flashing. The captain's voice comes through the PA system as he introduces himself and the flight attendants begin to explain emergency procedures. I listen attentively even though I've heard this spiel before. You can never be too safe. I start to feel the plane cruising down the runway.
"Are you ready to go home?" My mum asks me.
"I'm ready." I look at her and smile. Once again, I stare out the window and watch as the plane ascends into the sky. I feel my ears pop and I think about seeing everyone for the first time in four years. Ron, Ginny, all the Weasleys… Lily. James. Harry. My anxiety starts to come back. I mentally chide myself. I need to stop worrying. Harry and I will always be best friends.
It's already 7:30PM when we land in London. Goodness, I forgot about the time difference. It's early afternoon in New York. It takes us almost an hour to get off the plane and find our luggage and my boxes. We have a couple of workers helping us bring our things outside. As soon as I get outside, I see James Potter waiting for us.
"James!" I exclaim. I run into his open arms.
"Hello, 'Mione. We've missed you." He embraces me then holds me at arm's length. "You've come to look even more like your mother." He looks up at my parents.
"James, good to see you again." I move out of the way to let Mum greet him. She kisses him on the cheek.
"You look well, Mary."
"My dear friend." Dad approaches him.
"I hope you haven't worked yourself to the bone, David." He chuckles. They shake hands. "Lily has dinner waiting for you at the house. Are you ready to go? We can put the luggage in my car. The van will take Hermione's boxes." He points to a moving van parked behind his car. With all the workers that helped us take the luggage and boxes outside, it doesn't take long to load the car and the van. It's a little past nine o'clock by the time we pull up to the Potter's house. Lily's car is in the driveway and so is Harry's. But there's a car I've never seen before parked right in front of the house. A nice car too. I wonder vaguely if someone else is inside, but I don't get the chance to ask because James is already getting out of the car.
"Let's just go inside to greet them. And we can get some help unloading everything." James walks to the front door. Before he can even pull his keys out of his pocket, Lily is opening the door and pulling my mum in a tight embrace.
"Oh how we've missed you." Lily gushes. She lets go of my mum and kisses Dad on the cheek.
"We've missed you too, Lily." My dad smiles.
"Oh, 'Mione. You look so grown up!" Lily exclaims and hugs me.
"Hi Lily." I hug her back.
"Come in, come in. I bet you're all famished. Shall we eat now?" She steps out of the way to let us into the hallway.
"We'll eat just as soon as we unload the car and the van. Where's Harry?" James asks.
"In the living room." Lily calls over her shoulder as she makes her way down the hallway to the kitchen. Oh God, Harry. My anxiety comes crashing down on me, tenfold. James, Mum, and Dad walk toward the living room. I'm still standing by the front door when I hear Mum and Dad greet him.
"Harry, you look so much like your father. So grown up!" My mum says as I finally start walking to join them.
I'm standing outside the living room. I look at the floor, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. Keeping my head down, I turn into the living room just as Harry says, "David, Mary. This is Draco Malfoy." Wait what? Did I really just hear that name? My head shoots up and my eyes lock with the eyes of Draco Malfoy.
"'Mione!" I hear Harry exclaim happily. My eyes widen and I turn my head toward the sound of Harry's voice.
"Hi," is all I can manage to say. My eyes, still wide with shock, shift to Malfoy and back to Harry. Harry looks at Malfoy and back at me and I see his face fall. I see Malfoy smirk. Once again, my gaze shifts back to Malfoy.
"It's been a while, Granger." He says cooly.
AN: Already started working on the second chapter. Let me know what you think.