*author's note:

This is an alternate ending to 'a Disarranged Marriage', veering further from canon relationships. Many readers, in varying degrees of kindness, queried my decision to end 'a Disarranged Marriage' with Ron and Hermione reuniting. I hear you. I needed a hiatus in the story for my own brain issues, and forking it seemed the way to do it. So in one reality we have Hermione Weasley, mother of two, as per canon. And in this realty we have Hermione, recovering from war and the loss of her parents, who has yet to decide who she wants to be. *

Hermione's new flat in Oxford was spartan but it was close to her campus. Her landlord had been happy to allow her to repaint the '80s era pastels, and courtesy of some circumspect magic she had a crisp clean white space. Which today she was filling with second-hand furniture and books, the Muggle way.

"Turn it a little to your left. I think one of the feet is stuck." Hermione suggested, huffing a strand of hair out of her face as she tried to keep her grip on the sofa. Her pixie cut had turned fluffy over summer and now resisted all restraint, reminding her why she had grown her hair long in the first place.

The wizard helping her move obligingly rotated the sofa to his left and coaxed it through the door. He was strong enough to make it look easy, though he had questioned why she did not shrink all the furniture. Her explanation of neighbours remarking upon an instantly furnished flat had got a smirk. Flints did not have neighbours.

Crookshanks, who had been noticeably absent for the work, hopped up onto the sage suede and made himself comfortable in the middle of the cushions. His witch scolded him affectionately then left to bring in a box of kitchen things from the rental van. Marcus toted a coffee table ahead of her, not noticing the admiring look from the tenant in the ground floor front flat. Hermione smiled as she passed the stylish young man. He smiled back, introducing himself as Eliot.

"Hermione." The witch gave her name, expecting the usual polite amusement or quizzical reaction to the uncommon appellation.

"Shakespeare or Lully?" Eliot asked, his gaze following Marcus up the stairs. "Fit boyfriends are handy, aren't they?"

"Lully." Hermione smiled, pleased he had got the reference. "My parents were opera buffs." She noticed where Eliot was looking and tried not to chuckle. In an effort to blend in, Marcus was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, which complimented his Quidditch body well. "He's not my boyfriend, actually."

"Do you think he'd like to be mine?" The architect saw no harm in asking. If his new neighbour had problems with his life choices best to find that out quickly. He was reassured by the brunette's unaffected manner.

"He's my ex-husband, so perhaps I'm not the best person to ask." That seemed the most tactful way of answering, as Hermione was unsure how open-minded Marcus was and explaining the wizarding world's lack of social progression compared to the non-magical world would be impossible.

"What's wrong with him?" Eliot inquired frankly.

"He's a ratbag." Ron had caught the tail end of the conversation as he arrived and replied quickly, wanting to caution the Muggle to keep away from Flint. He ignored Hermione's frown instead holding out his hands to take the box from her. She handed it over with a quelling look he also ignored. The wizard headed upstairs to tell the Slytherin his assistance was no longer required.

"That would be the boyfriend, then." Sensing the atmosphere, Eliot made an educated guess.

"Ron and Marcus don't get along." Hermione explained though that much was obvious. "I'd better go referee them. Nice meeting you, Eliot." They shook hands in that middle class way of tacit approval before the witch hurried to her flat.

The wizards were glaring at each other, not quite circling and snarling like predators. When Ron had reluctantly rescinded his offer to help her move due to sudden work commitments, she had asked Marcus. Hermione had never intended them to cross paths. But at least neither of them had drawn a wand.

"Why don't I make some tea?" She suggested, trying to inject some compulsory civil conversation.

"No, thank you." Marcus gave her a nod, politely excusing himself to avoid another incident with the hot-tempered blood traitor. Hermione thanked him then waited until the front door had shut before taking the box, which contained her electric kettle, from Ron.

"Honestly." Hermione didn't expect the wizards to be friends but considering the effort she had made to keep Ron out of trouble, she would have liked a little more truce. "I appreciate you coming." She said, instead of starting a quarrel. Her friend was not going to tolerate their former school-mate so she might as well spare her breath. "Would you like some tea?"

"Yes, please. I had to use an old Floo connection no one's cleaned for years." Ron said, horribly conscious of soot in Hermione's bright white flat. She didn't scold him for seeing off the snake, which was good because he wasn't done. Once the witch was out of sight in the kitchen, he dashed out the door to catch that bastard before he slithered off and caught up to him on the stairs.

"Stay away from her." Ron snapped. "I want you out of her life."

"Hermione is a good woman and a good friend." Marcus spoke with restrained calm and an unrestrained sneer. And reasonable confidence that the Muggle neighbour could hear them through his door. "I do not want to see her crying again because of you, Weasley."

"We're getting back together, Flint. I'm going to make her happy. And you are going to make yourself scarce." The newly minted Auror crossed his arms so there could be no suggestion of him going for his wand. Ron was mindful of his supervisor's warning to keep his nose clean. "Don't make me tell you twice."

"Ron?" Hermione called from her flat. Ron, having said his piece, hastened upstairs. He was prepared to be told off for interfering. He was not prepared to let Flint think he was welcome at Hermione's new digs. Particularly as Ron intended to make good on the second go of their relationship.

Marcus showed himself out of the building at a leisurely pace, and hid his smirk when the Muggle neighbour came out to so-casually check his mailbox. The wizard aired a socially acceptable smile although it was not his habit even after getting his teeth fixed. Cultivating the other people in Hermione's building was a sensible tactic.

"Bit possessive is he?" Eliot ventured, not sure who was the bad guy in this scenario. He was all for a bit of drama but only on telly.

"The three of us went to school together. Weasley and I never got along." Marcus opted for honesty as he disliked having to remember his own lies. Besides, anyone who knew he had been in Slytherin House expected his tongue to be forked.

"You married a secondary school chum?" The architect reluctantly mentally revised his assessment of their ages, and their class from 'intelligentsia' to 'chav'.

"It was a matter of inheritance. I had to be married. Hermione obliged." He heard the judgement in the pretty boy's voice and looked down his nose at him. "She is twenty-one and we were married for only a few months."

"Oh, my apologies." Eliot was relieved. Having finally got rid of the harridan in the flat above, he'd been hoping for someone with a bit of culture. "It sounded like Hermione and the ginger had some history. Seems a bit incestuous, if you don't mind my saying so."

"That is the upper class for you." Marcus relaxed a little, reminding himself he wanted this Muggle onside. He offered a hand. "Marcus Flint."

"Eliot Harris." They shook hands and Eliot did some more social revision. "Private school, then?"

"Very." The wizard smirked.