It was more than a week later when Hermione wrote Marcus. She had an excuse to talk to him, which even Ron had to concede was necessary; their divorce. The Ministry owl had dropped off the heavy scroll with an aggrieved hoot. In the magical world, it was far easier to tie the knot than untie it. The ream of paperwork had taken her several days to read though, in between signing leases on her parents' houses in Kent and in Western Australia. The witch was feeling rather swamped by forms and dashed off a brief note to her very-nearly-former spouse.
Marcus came by the flat with a bottle of champagne that evening. He had added a leather jacket to the jeans and t-shirt, looking like the sort of man her mother would definitely have warned her against. Hermione let him in and put the bubbly in the fridge.
"If you still feel like celebrating after you've read through that verbiage, I've found the glasses. I'm not convinced magically packing everything was more efficient. I keep finding things in the oddest places." She wondered if she was babbling, decided she was and stopped talking. For some reason, she was on edge and not understanding why made it worse.
"If you have read all that dross, I will spare myself the ordeal." Marcus glared at the parchment. "I thought it would be simpler. The Ministry insisted on the marriage. Surely they can undo it with as high a hand." He did not want his union with Hermione to end but it was not strategic at the moment to argue with her.
"Don't get me started." Hermione put the kettle on then rooted around the cupboards to find something to offer her guest. She hadn't been grocery shopping yet. Living off frozen leftovers did not make for great catering. "I talked with Theo and Leota about it. They're neck deep in the aftermath of the Marriage Law. Everyone who was strong-armed into marrying wants an annulment. The Ministry has stated it won't grant any quickie divorces."
"Are you considering another legal campaign?" Marcus sat down on the sofa and Crookshanks hopped onto his lap with deliberately pointy feet. "Don't blame me for your witch moving out of my great-uncle's place." He told the familiar companionably. "I said she could stay."
"That wouldn't have been a good idea. Ron's still cross you helped me move and Harry asking, tactfully for him, how the divorce is going." Hermione gave up fussing around the kitchen, joining Marcus on the sofa so it didn't look like she was keeping her distance. "You didn't say anything to Ron that day, did you?"
"We spoke." The wizard confirmed. "I was polite. I have been warned to keep out of trouble. The entire Magpies management, from McLeod to the waterboy, has been cautioning me to behave." Marcus scratched Crookshanks behind the ears. "Weasley told me to bugger off."
"I guessed something of the sort." Hermione leaned back into the thick cushions. Ron had been out of sorts that afternoon and hadn't stayed long. His decline of an invitation to dinner had been awkward. She rather suspected his mother knew where he would be and had insisted on a family meal. Molly Weasley did not forgive easily. "I'm sorry."
"No need to apologise. I understand you want him. That will mean dancing to his tune until he trusts you again." No amount of good intentions could keep him from sneering at that but he did manage not to swear.
"Yeah." She got up quickly when she heard the kettle boil. "I know he's trying to forgive me. I do want try again. Term starts in a week. We'd planned to meet for coffee like students." Hermione set two bone china teacups on the counter. She hadn't found the ordinary mugs yet. "I'm worrying I've set us up for the same old problems. He and I are great as friends. Maybe we should stay that way."
"You have to try." Marcus craned his neck over the back of the sofa to look at her. "You know that."
"I know that." Hermione agreed. "It's performance anxiety, I suppose. Making it up with Ron will be nothing to getting his family back onside. I had to sneak around to see Harry on his birthday. He had to pretend he was going out for more beer." Ginny was holding a grudge like a Greek goddess. "The divorce will help."
"As milady commands." He chuckled, sketching a bow.
"Please don't." She made a face at him. "Madam Shafiq sent me an owl yesterday. You know her. Sacred Twenty-Eight, completely disinterested in the future political ambitions she would like me to have." Hermione grumbled. "I told her ages ago we were ending our marriage, and she still keeps inviting me to things."
"Do you go?" Whenever he received invitations to dire pure-blood events, he always pleaded Quidditch practice.
"Most of the time. They're usually to gallery openings and museum events. We went on a private tour of the V&A. It was amazing." Hermione put teabags in her grandmother's china and felt she was letting the side down. "I don't want to start ignoring everyone I met when we were appealing the nuptial clause. I went boating with Justin. His father is an old Etonian."
"Is that the sort of private school that would impress Eliot?" Marcus asked and got a laugh from the tense witch.
"I expect so." Her downstairs neighbour was a nice guy but a bit of a snob. "I told him we all went to a terribly Calvinist boarding school in the highlands. He probably thinks its Fettes College. That's the Eton of the North. My parents wanted to send me there."
"Were they disappointed with Hogwarts?" They had not spoken much about her late parents. Marcus had been there at the end and did not feel the need to remind her of her loss. But she had brought them up so perhaps she wanted to talk about them.
"Not exactly. They were chuffed about the magic part. And relieved they weren't seeing things." Hermione brought the tea to the coffee table. "But they wanted me to get a good education. Hogwarts was hardly GCSE compliant."
"Is it always acronyms with Muggles?" Whenever he ventured into realms of the wandless, they spoke in initials. When in Melbourne, he had been asked by a perfectly sane appearing man how to get to the AFL reserve at the MCG. When he had confessed ignorance, he had been accused of being a French apple.
"Naturally he has his G." She remarked with a private grin. "You get your G after your K." Hermione added when Marcus looked at her as though she was under a Babbling curse. "It's a quote from a TV, sorry, television show I watched as a child. And yes, Muggles do use acronyms often. It's because we're always in a rush to be seen to be doing something."
"So what is the GSCE?" Marcus asked, wanting to know for the future nebulous plans he had regarding Hermione and school-aged children.
"The General Certificate of Secondary Education is the English standard qualification. Scotland uses a different one, most of the time. There's also an International Baccalaureate. The Americans use a different system too." Hermione sipped her tea. The bags were stale, there was almost no bergamot in her Earl Grey. She really did need to do some shopping.
"You completed one of those as well as NEWTs?" Any vague assumption Muggle-borns had an easier life free of the social obligations of their pure-blood peers disappeared. Marcus would have transfigured himself into a broomstick rather than try to spell 'baka-lorry-ate' far less sit one.
"Technically, no. The Ministry's fiction of Muggle-borns being home educated covers most problems but you still need A Levels, which are getting increasingly difficult to fake. I had to sit a special examination before applying for any university places." Her summer had been spent pouring over science textbooks and trying to select subjects she could plausibly pass.
"Have I mentioned how much I like clever women?" Marcus grinned at her scholarly enthusiasm. He got a tart look in return.
"I believe you once said you liked women with tits." Hermione had not forgotten that comment but it felt good to banter. Marcus was restful company.
"Brains and tits." He let his gaze travel from her face to her chest then back to her face. "Feeling better?"
"A bit. I'm wound up about a lot of things. Ron, Probate, Uni. Ron." Hermione had another mouthful of tea then gave up. "It's rice crackers for dinner unless we get take-away. Assuming you're staying to work through the divorce scroll."
"I walked past an Italian restaurant that smelled delicious. I also have a solicitor." Marcus shot a contemptuous look at the sheaf of parchment. "Owl him the damn scroll and come to dinner with me." He saw her cavil and added a touch of cunning. "As friends, which I hope we remain after you go back to Weasley."
Reassured his intentions were honourable, Hermione agreed then ducked off to her bedroom to change into something clean. She did not see Marcus smirk at Crookshanks, who purred contentedly. This wizard had never called him a pig with hair.