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Hermione didn't know whether to happy or anxious. For the first time in years she was going to get the break she deserved: a nice, regular day at the beach. She would be surrounded by her friends and they would all be happy. They would be laughing and having a good time like they all deserved, but she just couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to happen. Yet, for the first time in her life, Hermione didn't want to know. Hermione knew she shouldn't just accept a feeling as is and going about her day, but she nothing if not pragmatic. After years of chasing adventure after adventure, Hermione wanted to be an observer; she didn't want to be a part of yet another horrible mystery and she wouldn't.
The moment she had woken up, Hermione had worked herself into a frenzy thanks to that lingering off feeling. She knew everything had been packed and planned for the day, but she couldn't help but fear that there was something she had missed. She dressed quickly, a modest red swimsuit under a plain yellow sundress, and brushed her teeth. Hermione took one look in the mirror and immediately decided that her hair would be tamed at a later time, if at all.
After going through her bag and rechecking her list again, Hermione blew out a loud breath of air. She grabbed her bag, thankfully for once normal and not charmed to hold an armory of supplies, and slipped on her sandals. As she passed by her dresser she plucked up a hairband and her sunglasses. Hermione quietly slipped down the stairs, months of hiding giving her steps a silence she didn't have before the war.
Hermione felt her whole body give a sudden lurch as she halted just above the stairs. Her parents stood at the end of the staircase, her mom shifting nervously while her dad had his arms crossed, his gaze intense. Their relationship had been more than rocky when she had returned their memories. At first they had been horrified at what she had done and then that horror had morphed into a deep-reaching anger that had honestly scared her. Hermione and her parents had suffered the consequences of her decision equally but Hermione had still held firm that her decision had been for the best. She had known it would take a long time for parents to understand her motives and why she had sent them off, but Hermione had never guessed that it would be filled with screaming matches and nights of endless crying. It had taken many late nights of talking just for her dad to even be able to stay in the room the entire time, but they had come to a stable conclusion after Hermione had been able to explain everything to them. Talking about the war had been just as painful as she imagined it would be, but it ultimately helped the three of them - and Hermione herself felt pounds lighter after she talked to someone.
Her parents had accepted her explanation, but they had never really trusted her again. She knew she did it to herself, so Hermione never complained.
Yet now, faced down with her parents yet again, Hermione swallowed convulsively. 'We've been doing better for months, they're not going to do anything,' Hermione told herself. 'I'm an adult, just like them. It's a nice day today, nothing is going to happen.'
Hermione straightened her shoulders and calmly walked down the stairs. Stopping just before them, still on the last step, Hermione asked, "Is there something you guys need?"
Her mom opened her mouth but quickly closed it. Her dad placed a hand on her back, his eyes softening, and turned to his daughter. "We just wanted to make sure you were going with the Weasleys."
Hermione huffed, her mouth curling into a half smile. "Yes, I'm still going with the Weasleys. And Harry, of course."
Her mother stepped up this time and wrapped Hermione up in a hug. "We just wanted to make sure nothing changed, sweetheart. Tell them I'm so glad that they're doing alright and make sure Harry knows he's always welcomed over!"
The three Grangers laughed—they all knew how sheepish Harry could get whenever he showed up. Hermione returned her mother's hug with enthusiasm and kissed her father on the cheek. Her parents flashed her identical loving grins and saw her on her way to the back door. Both made sure not to flinch as Hermione pulled out her wand. Knowing how far they've come, Hermione felt lighter than air as she readied herself to disapparate from the backyard, grateful with the knowledge that her parents still loved her unconditionally.
Wand held with a loose wrist (she could still hear Professor McGonagall's voice in her ears), Hermione twisted in a single fluid movement. With a muted crack, she arrived at the Burrow. The debilitated building filled her with an acute sense of nostalgia. Its towering floors and crooked structure had, at first, caused her much anxiety. Yet now, with the whole day ahead of her, Hermione looked upon the home with fondness.
She had spent many a summer there, had spent nights filled with excitement of the next day, and had been able to create many warm memories with the people who lived there. Memories of the calmer summer days of younger years flashed through her mind. Hermione had never really had any friends before Hogwarts - she had always been too smart, too bossy, too overbearing. Had it not been for Harry and Ron, Hermione was sure she'd have no friends at all. Hermione knew she was one of the luckiest people in the world—she had managed to find kind friends who loved her despite all of her flaws and she had not lost anyone important to her during the fighting. She knew that the same could not be said for her friends, but Hermione would be there for them both and the Weasleys in general; after all, if Harry and Ron were to be believed, she was Hermione and she could do anything.
Hermione smiled, her brown eyes bright, and hefted her bag up higher on her shoulder. Before she could take one step though, she nearly tumbled to the ground. She jerked at the sudden person and squawked as she tried to regain her balance. A second later and her wand was out, the length of vine wood jabbed right between the new person's eyes. Eyes that seemed familiar.
Eyes that were wide and bright green.
Harry cracked a grin, his arms up in surrender, and said, "It's good to see you too, Hermione."
A small smirk tried to curl her lips but Hermione kept her wand steady. "Harry James Potter, what have I told you about apparition?!"
The man in question sighed though his smile stayed strong. "To make sure not to land on someone."
"And how do we accomplish this?"
"By allowing our magic to place us in empty space rather than filled space."
Hermione blinked. "You were listening!"
Harry made an exasperated noise in the back of his throat and finally put his hands down. He moved Hermione's wand down from his face with one finger, letting her take it back without comment. "I do pay attention to what you say, you know."
"Yes, well," Hermione replied, her cheeks light pink, "it's not a common occurrence."
"You'd think we're still twelve," Harry said. His voice was fond as he rolled his eyes. "Plus, you're the best at apparition! And you're Hermione. I think that counts as a good enough reason to listen to you."
The smirk from early transformed into a full smile, teeth and all. Hermione shook her head, curls flying everywhere, and wrapped Harry in a hug. Over the years Harry had managed to meet her height and grow above her and he regularly draped himself over her. He rested a cheek on the riot of hair Hermione had and gently squeezed her. Letting go, Harry stepped back and picked his bag up from where he had dropped it.
The two walked up to the front door of the Burrow. Hermione raised a hand to knock but Harry took her hand before she could. Harry wiggled his eyebrows at her stare and said, "'Mione, I'm pretty sure we don't need to knock at this point."
"It's the polite thing to do, Harry."
"Yeah, but we're family! So," he said, opening the door and walking right in.
As Harry had said, there was no one ready to berate them for just barging in. Instead, the two were greeted by the Weasley family. Everyone had already set up to take the portkey out to the beach - apparently Harry had rented out part of a public beach for their use.
Hermione had once asked him if that was what he really wanted to use his money for. Harry had only shrugged and told her that he had enough money to last him a lifetime—using it for his friends was something he had no problem with. Hermione had tried to put up a fight and get him to spend responsibly, but there had been no changing his mind. Honestly, some part of Hermione didn't want to do anything - Harry had changed and gone through so much already. Who was Hermione to try and change that?
The twins easily broke Hermione out of her thoughts, effectively bringing her back to the present. The two of them had had too many close calls to count and had stuck together after the war almost religiously. While, with George's missing ear that made it easy to tell them apart from one another, they still loved to try and mess with everyone whether it was with a charm to have George's ear come back or to get rid of Fred's. The twins, without their disguises, draped their arms across Hermione's shoulders. They had always been weirdly affectionate with each other and their family members, Harry included, but they had never been extremely close with Hermione.
She wasn't too sure what had changed nor if she wanted to think about what that change could have been, but she was glad nonetheless. The twins might have been their professors' biggest nightmare - and Hermione's by extension - but she never did forget what they had done for everyone 5th year. Even Hermione had to agree that Umbridge was, quite literally, the worst person she had ever met.
The twins crooned, "Well, looky here! The handsome Boy Who Lived - excuse us, Man Who Conquered, and the brightest witch of our age!"
Beside her, Harry groaned in agony. "Guys, come on! I already have to deal with the Daily Prophet and everyone else calling me that, not you too. I thought Boy Who Lived was horrible, but this one is way worse."
Hermione rolled her eyes in amusement. "They're just giving you the respect you deserve, Harry. As for you two!" She turned to the twins, shrugged off their arms and put her hands on her hips. "Don't tease him. Out of everyone, I think Harry deserves a break."
The twins sobered up immediately and Hermione nearly slapped herself. While it was true, everyone was still so sensitive because of everything that had happened. Thankfully, Ron and Ginny came to her rescue.
"Yeah, Harry's even more famous now anyway! Like he has time for the two of you." Ginny grinned, her teeth like a shark's. Hermione had always considered the twins as menaces, but it was no secret that Ginny was the most vicious of the Weasley children.
George clasped a hand to his chest and staggered back. "Our own sister! Betraying us! Why, Fred, I don't believe I can go on!"
Fred nodded sagely, his arms wrapped around George has if holding him up. "Why, George, I do believe you are right! This is surely a travesty! The ultimate slight against kin!"
Ron snickered, his arm propped up on one of Harry's shoulders. The redhead said, "Thanks for being able to be here mate, I'm not sure if I could stand the twins by myself at this point."
It was then that Hermione saw past the youngest redheads. Bill, Charlie, and Percy were standing by the fireplace, their parents waiting on the couch among the giant pile of beach equipment. Hermione was surprised that Mrs. Weasley hadn't greeted them first, but it seemed that her husband had kept her down and out of the way of the hurricane that was the twins.
Hermione snorted at the twins' whines as she walked over to the older family members. She could feel a pair of eyes on her but Hermione refused to meet Ron's stare.
'You kiss a bloke once and suddenly it's like you belong to him or something! If Ronald tries anything, I swear I'll hex him.'
The witch glanced up at Percy as she walked. Out of everyone in the Weasley family, Percy was the closest she felt to. While Ron had been a longtime crush at school, he had broken her heart with Lavender. Hermione didn't think she could ever get over that enough to really accept Ron as a romantic partner—the war had just added another level of emotions that Hermione didn't ever want to think about again. She wanted someone normal, who could understand her as more than just a smart mind, and Percy had always been that for her. But, she knew, Percy probably saw her either as another younger sister or already taken. Hermione wasn't sure if she wanted to correct him. She sighed and threw the thoughts away for the time being.
The girl stopped by the matriarch of the family and leaned down to hug her. Mrs. Weasley hugged her back gratefully, her arms strong but gentle. Hermione stepped back and shifted her bag again.
"Hello, Mrs. Weasley, it's great to see you again."
"Oh, Hermione dear, you know you can call me mum if you want!" Mrs. Weasley's eyes shined as they darted over to Ron. "Hopefully that'll be a true statement here soon."
Hermione could feel her cheeks burn almost immediately. "Uh, well, I wouldn't know a thing about that."
Behind her Hermione heard the sound of a slap and a yelp. Turning, she saw Percy rubbing the back of his head as he glared at Ginny.
"What was that for?" Percy asked.
Ginny huffed and crossed her arms. Hermione stepped forward and turned her disappointed gaze on the other girl. "Ginny, that was inappropriate. You shouldn't hurt Percy like that!"
"You would have done the same if you heard what he said," Ginny grumbled.
"Yeah!" Ginny leaned in and hissed, "He said that there was no way Ron would ever be good enough for you."
Hermione frowned and sighed. "Ginny, I'm not dating Ron, please calm down." She raised an eyebrow and turned to Percy. "Are you okay, Percy? I know how hard Ginny can hit."
"It will take more than a little slap to hurt me, don't you worry Hermione," Percy said as he readjusted his glasses.
"Well that's good." Hermione smiled.
Before she could ask after his earlier comment, the Weasley patriarch stood and motioned for everyone to gather around. "Alright, I think that's enough chitchat! Harry was nice enough to help pay for this little vacation, so we best use the whole day to our advantage! Now gather around the portkey, we can't leave anyone behind."
Hermione, Ginny, and the girl's mother hunched down a bit to let the taller boys reach over them. Squished between Ginny's shoulder and Percy's hip, Hermione made to sure to keep a good grip on her bag as they got ready. Hermione leaned further into Percy, her body pressed against him up to his waist. The man cleared his throat and looked down. Hermione raised her eyebrows but before Percy could say a word the portkey was activated.
While the Weasleys had long since gotten used to the turbulence that came with portkeys, Harry and Hermione had yet to find themselves on their feet with their hearts not lodged in their throats. Ever since fourth year, Harry found all portkeys particularly suspicious, just as Hermione much preferred her perfected apparition.
The years had not been kind on them with either mode of transportation and this was no different. While the elder Weasleys calmly descended and the younger ones at least managed to get their feet under them, Harry and Hermione went tumbling down. Harry unceremoniously landed on Ron and the twins while Hermione crashed into Percy.
Harry's moans of pain, as well as Ron's strained complaints and the twins uproarious laughter, were drowned out by the droning in Hermione's ears. Her entire body ached where it landed on Percy's bony chest and her eyes swam as she tried to re-orientate herself.
Once she blinked the black dots from her eyes, Hermione raised herself up on her hands, her arms shaking with the effort. Finally resting her weight on her knees, Hermione prodded certain tender spots. When she had determined that there was no blood and Harry's grunts turned into shouts, she looked back down at Percy.
"I'm so sorry, Percy, I honestly hadn't meant to—"
Percy cut her off, his entire face nearly the same color as his hair. "It is quite alright, Hermione, however you must learn the proper way to travel by portkey! I-in the mean time, would you kindly get off me?"
Hermione's eyes widened and her cheeks darkened. "Oh, right! I'm really sorry about that! You're not hurt too badly, are you?" She jumped off of him and reached down, intending to help him back up. However, before he could move, Percy was scooped up by the twins and hauled off, their laughter following them as they teased their older brother.
The girl blinked and she raised an eyebrow, her hands on her hips. Hermione turned to Ginny, who was watching her siblings with a look of exasperated fondness. The ginger haired girl took one look at Hermione before she bursted out laughing. Throwing her hands in the air, Hermione turned to Ron and Harry, the former sporting a blush as bad as Percy's while the latter just grinned.
"Okay, what?" Hermione snapped.
"Oh, I don't know," Harry crooned, his voice far too amused for Hermione's comfort, "you just looked pretty friendly there."
Hermione's jaw dropped as Ron shoved Harry. "Come on, mate, don't say stuff like that about Percy!"
"Oh, come on!" Harry laughed. "It's not like 'Mione doesn't already have a giant cru—!"
Before Harry could finish, Hermione leaped on him. The two tumbled to the ground a second time, Harry's uncontrollable laughter the only thing drowning out Hermione's furious rant. Ginny, still giggling but able to stand up straight, walked over and easily manhandled Hermione off of the green eyed boy. Hermione huffed at the treatment and, with one final glare at Harry, she picked her bag up and strode over to where the others had already set up.
Hermione stopped right before the unfolding chairs had spread themselves out, umbrellas following them. The muggleborn witch blinked at the magic that went into just putting things up and sighed. While she loved the wizarding world dearly, there was just some aspects of it that she never fully understood and probably would never understand. Hermione turned as Ron and Ginny passed her to claim their own spots. Brown and green locked together in bemused confusion as Harry stepped up beside her. The two just spent a few seconds watching the pureblood family as they each settled in to their respective place.
"A bit weird, isn't it?" Harry asked. "I've never been to the beach before myself, but I never considered just using magic to get everything in place."
"Yes, I understand. My family had always made it an activity when we began to set things up. I think doing it by hand is a bit more fun."
Harry shrugged and said no more as he went to place his stuff next to Ron and the twins. Wanting to have a bit more quiet, Hermione walked slightly farther away from the main group; she had brought a book she had been waiting months to read and the Weasleys didn't exactly help with concentration. Hermione laid out her towel, a thick fleece that repelled water as well as sand and that was her only magical item for the day, and happily lounged across it.
Book in hand, Hermione took a second to watch the others before she lost herself in her novel. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had settled in further back into the shade, a wizarding wireless between them. From what Hermione could make out, it seemed to be crooning a Weird Sisters love song. Just next to the two adults were Bill and Charlie. Hermione thought Bill looked more downtrodden than his brother, but she chalked that up to Fleur visiting her family rather than being with her husband. Hermione didn't see a problem with it, but it seemed that Charlie was trying to cheer the oldest up.
A splash drew Hermione's attention away from the eldest Weasleys. Ron had already been thrown into the ocean by Fred and George and was trying to cough up the water he had accidentally inhaled on the way in. Hermione sighed and gave the twins a glare for good measure, silently telling them to stay away from her. All she got back was two devilish grins. In return Hermione took a quick moment to cast a light shield around her, making sure that the twins wouldn't be able to catch her unaware.
While the twins pouted at her actions, laughter had her turning her unimpressed stare on Ginny and Harry. The two were leaning against each other as they sat in the shallow part of the water.
Harry called out, "Don't swallow the whole ocean now, Ron!"
Ron gave him a two fingered salute in return, prompting Mrs. Weasley to bellow, "Ronald Bilius Weasley! You behave young man!"
Groaning, Ron fell back onto the surf amid the sounds of Harry's and Ginny's laughter. "Mum, we're all adults now, Harry can take it!"
"Oh, I don't know," Ginny said slyly, "Harry's very delicate, you see."
The twins took the opening with glee. "Oh yes!" Fred exclaimed. "Our darling Harry is far too fragile for such rough treatment!"
"Why he is quite nearly the baby of the family!" George continued with delight.
"Oi, I'm older than Ginny, you prats!"
"Yeah but we're all quite sure Ginny could whoop your arse real quick!" Charlie added, Bill snickering beside him.
"Oh Merlin," Hermione said to herself, "they're all children."
Suddenly a thin shadow sliced across her stomach. "It's comforting to know I'm not the only mature person here."
Stifling her yelp of surprise, Hermione twisted and looked up. Percy was standing a few feet from her, far enough for her shield to not pick up on his presence, his shirt held in one hand while the other was clutching a container of something unfamiliar to the witch. Hermione turned back to the others and nodded. "Sometimes they're not too bad, but it is a vacation. I can't fault them for wanting to be children for the day."
Hermione turned back to Percy, the redhead still standing above her awkwardly. "If you'd like, you could sit next to me. I was just about to read."
Percy shifted in the sand for a moment before he nodded sharply. He said, "Yes, I suppose that would be alright. You certainly are the best company among the people here."
Eyebrows raised, Hermione wasn't sure to be flattered at the compliment or offended for her friends. In the end, she chose neither and settled firmly on Percy simply being himself. While her emotions were going haywire, that didn't mean Percy felt anything in return. The wizard had taken no time to summon a towel over to him and laid down, his shirt on his lap as he unscrewed the lid to the container he had been carrying. Percy scooped out a thick white cream and began to rub it into his skin, effectively covering his freckles. Hermione guessed it was a type of sunscreen and straightened at the thought.
The witch reached over and rifled around in her bag. Finally finding her tube of sunscreen lotion, Hermione popped the tab open and began to apply it to her own arms. As she moved on to her legs, Hermione saw that Percy had grabbed hold of her lotion bottle and was looking at it strangely.
Huffing in amusement, Hermione held out a hand and asked, "Do you mind?"
Percy quickly looked up and handed it back. "What exactly is that?"
"My sunscreen lotion?"
"Yes. It said it has the same properties of my sun repellent cream but it's far too thin to work."
"You'd be surprised by what muggles can do."
Percy leaned forward. "So it actually repels the sun?"
"No, of course not," Hermione laughed. "There's certain chemicals - uh, ingredients that seep into your skin so the sun doesn't burn you."
"Merlin." Percy shook his head and pushed his glasses back up. "While I don't necessarily agree with my father on most things, muggles are quite something."
Hermione had nothing more to say so she merely nodded back. It was times like this that made her remember how out of touch wizards could be. She stripped her sundress off to apply her lotion to her thighs, collarbones, and neck as Percy continued using his own lotion. By the time Percy was done with nearly his entire body, Hermione had leaned back and had already started on her book. The sounds of the others in the water had her looking up often, but she turned down any invitation to join them. After the third time her friends had failed to beckon her over they knew that she wanted her peace and quiet.
However, before Hermione could truly begin to enjoy her book, movement out of the corner of her eye had her putting her book down. While Hermione had no need to put lotion on her back, Percy was obviously struggling with it.
Eyebrows quirked in amusement, Hermione couldn't take Percy's struggling any longer. "Do you need help, Percy?"
The man jumped, as if he forgot she was still there. Redness crawled up his neck but Percy stoutly ignored it. He cleared his throat and said, "I'm quite alright, but thank you for your concern."
Hermione would have taken him at his word had he not gone right back to struggling with the lotion. She sighed, "Why don't you just conjure it on?"
Percy let his arms flop in front of him. "The first time - and last, mind you - I had done that, it had just gone everywhere in an uneven coating. Sadly, unless I have assistance, this is what I must do."
"If you needed help, Percy, all you had to do was say so. Now, do you want me to put your lotion on for you?" Hermione asked, her tone casual though her face was horribly flushed.
"Well, if you are sure of the matter—I mean to say that I would-I would not be opposed to such help or that it is unnecessary—but it surely is as well, you know! I do not particularly need any help, I am perfectly fine on my own and very well equipped to, uh, apply this myself - but since you've asked, I suppose it would be uncouth of me to deny you."
Laughter caught behind her teeth, Hermione mutely nodded. She took the bottle from Percy's hand, her giggles still bubbles in her throat, and leaned forward on her knees. Slowly, as to not make him even more nervous, she prodded him in the shoulder.
"Lay down, then!"
Percy spluttered a bit longer, but Hermione eventually got him to do as she said. When he was finally face down, his face buried in his arms, Hermione carefully straddled his hips, making sure to keep all her weight on her knees. Hermione scooped out some of the cream Percy had been using and coated her palms in it first before rubbing it into his skin.
While Hermione started to coat his back, she thought she could hear some muffled sounds. "Are you trying to say something?"
Percy raised his head and, without looking at her, said, "This is entirely undignified."
Hermione exhaled harshly in frustration. "Yes, well, we both have to live with it."
Without anything more to say, Percy dropped his head back on his arms. Hermione refused the urge to bash her own head in the sand and focused on the motions. However, it wasn't long before her attention was caught by the sporadic movements in her peripheral vision. Already cringing at what she knew she was about to find, Hermione looked over to her friends. Ginny was opening pointing and laughing while Harry looked torn between laughter and disbelief. Face burning even hotter, Hermione somehow managed to have direct eye contact with Ron. She knew the feeling of abject horror at looking the boy she kissed in the eye while she basically massaged his most hated older brother would never leave her.
Ripping her eyes away from Ron's gaping face, Hermione grimaced at the faces the twins were giving her. The both of them had their lips puckered obnoxiously, their arms wrapped around each other in a dramatic embrace. She must have made a noise because Percy tried to raise his head.
"Is something the matter, Hermi—?"
Quickly leaning forward, Hermione pushed his head back down. "Just - it's better if you don't look."
His quiet curse took her by surprise but she had to agree with him. Gathering her infamous Gryffindor courage, Hermione dared to look back up. Relief settled into her when Bill and Charlie just gave her a neutral thumbs ups. 'At least there are some people who can act like an adult about this.'
Taking a quick glance to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Hermione didn't know what exactly to make of their smirks. Filing away their expressions for later the witch turned back to Percy and refused to look up again.
Hermione wasn't too sure what she could possibly do at this point. She was the closest she had ever been to Percy and she didn't have a single thing to say. Hermione vividly remembered her old drafted letters - parchments filled with all the things she had wished she could have said to Percy during school and every year after. She had immediately taken to Percy as her House prefect and had always looked up to him afterwards. Yet, even as her silly crush had faded and then reemerged with an aggressive hunger, Hermione had never found the right amount of courage to tell him her feelings.
Even now she apparently couldn't get a word in edgewise because Percy beat her to it.
"Hermione, I want to tell you something."
Her mind finally back down to earth, Hermione blinked before she asked, "What is it?"
Percy's steadying deep breath had his rib cage expanding beneath her fingertips. "I have always found you extremely appealing. Not only have you been a smart witch, you've always been a clever one, too. While I had thought it was a great idea for Ron to befriend such a knowledgeable person, I hadn't factored in you growing up to be a stunning woman."
Hermione couldn't hardly hear herself breath and she wasn't even sure if she was even moving.
"I - uh, I know that you and Ron had grown extremely close over the course of your school years together, but I am positive that I am the better person for you!" Percy propped himself up on his elbows and Hermione leaned back, just in case he tried to get up. "While Ron does, admittedly, have good qualities, there are many objective reasons as to why my romantic interest would benefit the both of us more!"
As Percy went on, detailing how they would more easily balance one another out, Hermione could only sit back and listen. She had always thought she would end up with one of the Weasleys - she and Harry had many discussions over the years and they had both agreed that their tastes ran tall and red haired - but Hermione had never considered getting the one she had wanted from the beginning.
The man beneath her kept going on, his ears nearly matching his hair, and Hermione wondered why she was always inclined toward idiotic men who always either did too little or far too much.
Still, as Percy rambled on, Hermione couldn't help but crack a smile. She had sometimes wondered what it would have been like if Percy liked her back, but even she could never had guessed he would make a list in order to convince her of his qualities. To anyone else it might have been weird, but Hermione could only find his dedication incredibly endearing.
"And, while I may certainly not understand you or know you as well as Ron does, that is not to say I am not capable or ready to do so! If it would help I could fetch the list for you to look over if you would prefer? I am not too sure of your habits to make a logical conclusion to your preferred method. I-I mean, that is, if you are open to my offer, of course."
Hermione bit her lip, her grin threatening to overcome her face. There was something just so stupidly charming about Percy making a list for her that Hermione just couldn't help but smile.
It took a few more seconds before Percy finally slowed down, his words coming out more as stutters than actual words. Hermione knew he must have felt nervous in her silence, but she couldn't find the correct words to say. The Weasley seemed to take it as a bad thing and decidedly backtracked.
"Well, um, anyway! Even if you—you don't pick me," Percy's voice was unsteady and muffled, his face nearly becoming one with the sand, "then it'll be a lose for you! I'm obviously the most qualified to be in a ro-romantic relationship with such a smart witch like you. I highly doubt that there would be anyone else capable of your affections as me."
Hermione, her cheeks bright and filled with heat, covered her face with her hands. Not caring if the scream got into her hair, Hermione hunched over, hoping to hide her grin from the others.
Percy shifted beneath her, his voice coming out concerned and a little strained. "Hermione? Is that a yes or a no?"
Hermione took a deep breath and put her hands back on his back, pressing them into his skin with a gentle pressure. Percy laid back down and tried not to shiver as Hermione ran her hands up and down his spine. "Hermione?"
Said witch cleared her throat and said, "So let me get this straight. You believe you would be better suited as romantic partner for me based on a few main points."
She paused and glanced back up at the rest of the Weasleys, all of them waiting with what seemed like contained excitement. Harry flashed her two thumbs ups and a grin. Hermione swallowed and continued, "First off, you are very confident in that you are the only one who will be able to stimulate me intellectually. Secondly, you are already able to provide for me and will allow me to enter any career choice that I deem fit, even if I end up in a position you may find unsavory or on a side that you don't particularly care for, which is more than what other men can say. Lastly, from what I understood, you are objectively positive that, out of any potential suitor I may have, we would find more common interests and will thus not bore or tire one another out. Is that about right?"
Percy shifted nervously and tried to twist to look at her. Hermione kept her hands flat on his back, unrelenting and not allowing him to move over. "Well," Percy began, his voice thick, "those would be my most prominent points to the validity of any union between us, yes."
"Hmm," Hermione hummed, her voice soft and nonchalant. "You do make some strong points, I must admit. However, I do also find it a little arrogant to consider yourself in such a high regard as the best opportunity I would have for a husband. What if I liked feeling unchallenged as the more clever or the wittiest? What if I wanted to oppose your word in every way that I could? You have indeed stated that you would aim to understand me more than Ron currently does, but I wonder if you can make such a big decision without knowing me in that regard already."
Percy seemed to be holding his breath, dejection already settling onto his shoulders. However, Hermione wasn't yet done.
"But, when you put it like that, I still believe that it would be quite stupid of me to not at least give you a chance."
Percy's entire body stiffened in shock and Hermione could see the moment her words fully hit him. She was so focused on him, in fact, that she did not feel the light tingle of magic that danced across her skin, warning her that her shield had been breached. In the matter of a few seconds, Hermione had gone from hovering over Percy to completely weightless to doused in water. Percy, who had immediately shot up the moment Hermione had left his back, had watched as George threw her in the ocean only to get the same treatment from Fred.
The two, more than just a little disorientated, swam until they reached a high enough area to stand. As they made it to the edge of the water, they heard Bill shout, "Sorry you two, but you were taking far too long!"
Hermione spluttered as she tried to move her hair from in front of her eyes. "Excuse me?!"
The twins, who had been snickering by themselves for the last few minutes, yelled, "So?! Did Percy get a yes or what?!"
It was Percy's turn to splutter, his face splotched in anger. "What we talk about is absolutely none of your business, you cretins!"
George pouted. "Aw, so it was a no, then?"
Percy growled but Hermione managed to stop him before he tried to throttle his younger brothers. "Stop baiting him, you two! You all know very well that I said yes!"
With a whoop and a cheer, the twins rushed forward and jumped into the water. Together they called out, "Happy days, oh, what happy days! Percy will finally stop being a prat!"
Together they stood gobsmacked as everyone else rushed toward them, jumping into the water. Hermione turned to Percy, who had bared his teeth in a snarl, and lightly hit him in the chest with the back of her hand. Percy turned to her, his face dropping as he looked at her, and Hermione said, "I did say yes, you know, there's no need for that."
Percy rubbed the back of his head, his glasses no where to be seen, and muttered, "It was still entirely unnecessary of them."
Hermione smiled and sighed. "Well, it is Fred and George, so I'm not too sure what could be called unnecessary anymore. Accio Percy's glasses."
The ocean spit the frames at her and, with a quick wave of her hand, they were back to normal with not a single wet spot. Hermione reached over and placed them back on Percy, her head turned to watch Harry and the others splash about. "Come on, you two! There's a reason you're here, so enjoy the water!"
Before Percy could say anything in response, Hermione took his hand and dragged him with her as she walked toward the others. Harry caught her first and wrapped her in a hug before spinning around. Her hair had somehow become even bigger with the water and he jokingly placed a smacking kiss on the top. Laughing, Hermione took Percy as she dived headfirst in the twins splashing contest. Bill and Charlie had joined and before long it was more of a contest to see who could get the others the wettest. But, with Hermione there to include him the whole way, Percy never once felt excluded or too annoyed to enjoy himself. Everyone's happy mood kept steady as the sun fell farther and farther into the horizon.
It took the group a few hours to realize that the water had grown cold and that more than just a few were exhausted. Mr. Weasley had taken it upon himself to create a roaring fire while Mrs. Weasley spelled each of her children dry, no matter how each person complained that they could have easily done it themselves.
By the time everyone had gathered around the fire, everyone was tired and content. Harry and Ginny had leaned against each other, Harry's arm wrapped loosely around Ginny's waist. Hermione eyed her friends and then Percy, who had kept to himself instead of doing the same. Huffing, Hermione leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. Percy blinked, surprised, but easily went with the motion and leaned back into her. Hermione smiled and managed to catch Harry's eye. Her friend grinned and winked before dropping a kiss on top of Ginny's head.
The easy affection between the two of them surprised no one. Ginny had loved Harry since she had first knew him and even before then as well - Hermione was positive that she had never stopped, either. Any boy other than Harry had been a passing fancy and Hermione was hopeful that Percy could one day look at her like they did, like how Mr. and Mrs. Weasley did. While there was a long way for them to go, Hermione knew they at least complemented one another and she would be content with that in the beginning. After all, with everything warm and steady and calm for what felt like the first time in forever, Hermione knew the future would only be good for them.
So, when Harry continued to grin at her, Hermione just grinned back and closed her eyes. She'd give Percy the chance he had been wanting and that chance was good enough for her, too.