A/N: So I got a few answers on whose POV should I do next for the Passing By series. Hermione's won. I hope you guys enjoy.

*Also, this is a very different mood than Erik's POV because he and Hermione are obviously two very different people who interact with others differently. In my other parts, Erik is mostly alone and doesn't really dwell on anyone else aside from himself and Hermione because he's a lone-wolf type. He doesn't have parents and isn't the type to have BFFs. Hermione does. She's got a unit, and during this point of her life, Erik's more of mildly bothersome cockroach who gets shoveled into the same pile as other bothersome things that irk her throughout her day. Her life doesn't start when he arrives, nor does it end when he leaves.

*As always, please forgive the errors.

Please review. Tell me your thoughts. Are you guys liking the series? Is it worth continuing?


Passing By: I Love Harlem

"My kid has a lot of opinions for someone who rarely wears pants," -Anonymous Parent

April 2015

This is not how Hermione pictured her life. For starters, she thought she'd be in a different career field. Potions had been a hobby. Something she'd been good at, not how she'd earn an income. Equal rights for all walks of magical life was supposed to be her calling. She'd get a job at the ministry, segue into political science, and get elected Minister of Magic before colliding to the unfortunate age of forty.

Now, Hermione's can't even imagine campaigning or even taking care of England. Her own kid doesn't even listen to her. How the bloody hell is she going to get a country to?

"Worst mummy ever!" Jane dramatically melts to the floor and curls herself up into a ball. She doesn't cry or roll around and kick her feet up. Her face buries itself into the carpet, little naked bum poking up in the air.

"You can't go to nursery naked."

"I put them on right at class," she argues, wiggling her bum in Hermione's direction.

"Now."

"Hmph! In car!"

"Erika Jane."

In case you've missed something, Hermione's arguing with her naked toddler post-bath time. As Hermione drained the water, little Jane was supposed to go into her room and at least put on her frilly Disney princess panties but instead, went down the stairs, out the front door, and laid her tiny naked self on the driveway. Her argument? Half of it is tot-speak, but Hermione got the gist. Her daughter wanted to sunbathe.

Surrey's in the middle of an April cold spell. The sun hasn't bothered to shine on Surrey for a solid five minutes since mid-February. Her daughter's not going to catch an unneeded tan. What she will catch is her death.

"Mummy mummy!" Jane fires back, sticking up her head and glaring at the person responsible for her woes.

"All right, you." Hermione hunches over, hands on knees. "Mean Mummy or Nice Mummy? Choose carefully and remember how she can be when pushed to her limits."

Her bottom lip sticks out. "I mean, too!"

"I'm meaner. You know that Mercedes Grandpa got for you." For no bloody reason besides that her daughter is absolutely spoiled rotten, and it's all the grandparents' fault. It wasn't even Christmas or Jane's birthday. Hermione's dad came home late after work carrying a gigantic pink-wrapped box with an equally gigantic pink bow. After her daughter made quick work of the wrappings, low and behold, a £400 Disney Frozen Mercedes 12-Volt Ride-On.

Which blasts "Let it Go" from the toy radio once shifted into drive-mode.

Hermione stared upon her father's gleeful face and thought, Father. Why hast thou forsaken me?

Her dad had to have purchased the rather unnecessary item using money from his and mum's retirement fund. They do all right, but they can't be going about splurging £400 on a whim. They're building a house in Sydney for God's sake. And her mum didn't even look at all stricken about it. In fact, there was a treacherous gleam in her eye like it'd been her idea.

"No!" Jane yells. She's smart enough to know where this is going.

"There are lots of other kids who'd love that thing. I could give it to Leo." Hermione wonders if she's doing this parenting gig right. A lot of the other mums at the nursery look down at her. She hears their whispers behind her back. Some say she's too harsh. Others say if their kid ever acted in such a disrespectful manner, they'd have a blistered arse.

"Leo's a boy! It's a girl car! Girl car, girl car, girl car! I'm Elsa, and he's Sven."

Since Jane is learning words and working with how they go together—on top of having ever-growing opinions—Hermione has to be extra resilient in not laughing.

"That," Hermione clears her throat, "is not very nice. Leo is not a reindeer. He's a human."

Jane gets into a sitting position and gives her mother a bored look. "He's a reindeer because I say so. I'm queen."

Stay strong, Hermione. Don't laugh. Whatever you do. You'll only encourage her.

There are several mums around the neighborhood that have confronted Hermione about her daughter's apparently unnatural love for Frozen, but more specifically, Elsa.

"My Chloe and Maisie just loved Princess and the Frog. Why haven't you exposed her to that?"

Exposed her?

Hermione scans around her daughter's room because Disney, Disney, Disney. Of course her daughter has been exposed to Princess Tiana. But Princess Tiana is a princess and Elsa is a queen, and Jane may not know a whole lot yet at three-years-old, but she knows queens have more power than princesses, bless her ambitious heart.

Jane may very well change her mind as she gets older on which Disney monarch holds her interest, but for now, she's three, naked, calls herself Elsa sometimes, and demands Leo to be a reindeer under her regime. Hermione counts herself lucky she hasn't requested a baby sister named Anna.

"Get dressed."

Her daughter raises one leg only to bring it back down hard as she can, awkwardly stomping her foot but getting her point across, nonetheless. "I wear my dress."

Picking battles. That's what parenting is, Hermione has come to find. She lets out a breath because is it really going to matter in the long run Jane wearing a sparkly blue costume to nursery? In the fall, she'll have to wear a uniform, but right now she's there to have fun and keep Mummy from losing her ever-fluffing mind. Those five hours away from her daughter four days a week are sacred to Hermione. They keep her going. She can actually get some work done. Do yoga. Finish a meal.

"Fine."

Honestly, at least Jane isn't attached to Hermione's cellphone all the bloody time or throws a tantrum when she doesn't get to play with Grandpa's iPad.

Jane doesn't really throw tantrums in the general sense. She crumples to the ground sometimes and sulks. Glares and maybe shouts, but she's attempting sentences to get her displeasure across instead of pointing and blubbering. Jane hasn't shed a single tear since she was, like, twenty months, having brilliantly discovered that using her tongue and lips in such a way, she could make intelligent sounds. Loud and furious intelligent sounds, but intelligent sounds, nonetheless.

Jane allows herself to be dressed, but Hermione forces a jacket, tights, and Wellies on her to stave off the chill. Her daughter, of course, puts up a fuss because nothing matches, so Hermione lets her wear the plastic tiara that came with the dress which sort of alleviates her daughter's mood.

Nursery starts in ten minutes, so Hermione rushes her into the car and hits the road. Dropping her off is a quick and painless affair, thank goodness. There are a few parents who linger self-importantly, holding up the drop-off queue, but disperse after a minute. She stops at Tesco before getting back to the house and when turning into the driveway, she notices a man on the doorstep.

Hermione checks her watch, the date on her phone, and again concludes there's no pattern. No method to his madness. One thing, he always shows up during the day. Never early in the morning and never at night.

And, yet, he always asks if her parents are around which they never are during the day, and Hermione always is. Subconsciously, he knows her availability and perhaps doesn't really want to meet her parents despite his eager façade.

Hermione gets out of the car, slamming the door shut. "Erik Stevens, what a surprise."

Erik stares at her, rigid, mouth agape.

Why he always greets her this way, she hasn't a clue. It happened a lot when they were dating, too, and it's like he's so surprised to see her all the time. He knocks on her door and seems so shocked it's her that opens. He loiters on her welcome-mat and is absolutely astounded she shows up at her own home.

Four years since she left New York, and he must tell her off about her shortcomings as a girlfriend. This is his seventh round to do so, and he keeps crawling back for more, the poor sod. She almost feels bad for him but remembers what a rude, crazy-arse lunatic he still is, and Hermione can't have a bleeding heart for every rude, crazy lunatic that gets tangled up in her social circle, all right? She might do something absurd like try marrying one, again.

She's not so far gone in her petty wrath, though. Since his second visit, with every cup of tea she offered so is The Sandwich. Cinnamon swirl bread, Nutella, marshmallow fluff, strawberries, and as of the last few years, another special ingredient. Erik loved those sandwiches and claimed he could never make them quite like she could so never bothered trying to recreate them. Still, he'd take the tea and decline the sandwich.

One day, he could very well want a sandwich, but that day hasn't come yet. With each passing visit of his, she allows herself to be less and less prepared for that scenario.

Closing in on Erik, she sees he's been growing out his hair and favoring protein. He's massive and if Hermione didn't know she could flatten him with a flick of her wand, she'd be intimidated.

But she can, and she isn't, so there.

Erik's always been in great, great shape. Hermione once considered herself a lucky girl to have caught such a fine specimen. Alas, it couldn't work out because, dear heavens, she thought she reeled in a delicious, hearty seabass but unfortunately got a piranha instead.

Now, some piranhas are edible, and Hermione tried. She really did, but it came to a point she had to return him to the sea.

Only for him to show up like nothing happened. And this was before she had to start spiking his tea regularly. His returning wasn't because of memory issues. He was haunting her welcome mat because of reasons he'd rip his tongue out before ever admitting to her or anyone else. It came to the point it was she who needed to swim away for dear life.

Her fling with him was short. She had potions brewing longer than their relationship. She was with him long enough for her ParaGard to fail and question whether she ever wanted a man in her life again.

She would.

Eventually.

But that's not here nor there.

"Your folks home?" asks Erik. "Think we all need to talk."

Hermione slides passed him, careful not to brush up against his muscular, attractive person. She one-handedly unlocks her door while her other arm holds the grocery bag. "No, we don't. Goodbye." She steps inside the house, slams the door, and sets her bag aside. Her wand slips out from her sleeve, and she gives it a wave, vanishing anything that would make Erik think a child lived in the house. Toys, children books, little sticky hand-prints. She casts a Muggle-Repelling Charm on any picture that has Jane in them.

So almost all of them.

Erik bangs on her door quite loud and rude. She stows away her wand, paints an overly delighted smile on her face, and opens the door.

"Erik Stevens, is that you? My, my, my. What brings you to Surrey? Because it couldn't possibly be me. I mean we were a thing forever ago, and I couldn't have made that much of an impact on your life for you to show up here, unannounced, with all intents and purposes to disgrace me in front of my parents." She laughs obnoxiously. "Because that would just be sad! Tea?"

Uh oh. She's upset him.

Tragic.

He's looming at the threshold now, towering over her, and they have themselves a good old-fashioned staring contest which is good. Hermione will win. Ron was an excellent teacher, and he taught her this very underappreciated skill back in the day.

A few moments passed, and he still hasn't relaxed, so she finally says it. "I dare you."

His eyes drop to her shoes and then slide upwards, and Hermione's too clever to think he's boldly checking her out. He's taking her in and trying to spot changes. His brow furrows, and he steps back as if realizing how unbelievably short and unthreatening she appears. To him, she's nothing more than a yippy chihuahua. All annoying bark and no bite. Not worth the trouble.

His head then jerks over his shoulder, and Hermione follows his line of sight. Peaking over the fence, opera binoculars snug against her ancient face, is Mrs. Crawley. That senile, nosy, judgmental betty, and Hermione is just tickled pink that she gets to live next to her.

Unabashed, Mrs. Crawley lowers her binoculars. "I'm not sure what to expect, love, but whatever happens, I'm sure it'll be good!"

"I know!" shouts Mr. Wimbledon. "Another gentleman caller, Margie!"

Hermione and Erik look at the other side of the property. Mr. Wimbledon is not holding binoculars but his tiny pug, so he can get a good view, too.

Eduardo pants happily.

Mrs. Crawley puts the binoculars back up to her eyes and lowers them, sniffing. "Gentleman? I think not, Elias."

Hermione grabs Erik by the shirt, ignoring how firm and muscular he is underneath the material. A little bumpy, also. She'll ignore that, too. She will throw him a bone, though, and admit to herself he's as handsome as ever. When it came to attraction, that had never been a problem for them. Or at least for her. She couldn't help but put herself out there all those years ago in New York. He was too bloody cute for his own good. His pretty eyes made her heart thump fast and then when she managed to make him crack a smile...

Hermione tugs quick before he gets any ideas about getting in Mrs. Crawley's face. "Come in, you. Those bored, old white codgers will die soon enough. They don't need your help."

Erik comes inside the house, and Hermione lets out a disgruntled sound. "What did you do to yourself now, Erik Stevens?"

He was fine the last time she saw him.

"What?"

She gestures at his legs. "You're limping."

He glares at her. "It's not a limp."

"Then what is it?" She knows what it is. Or what he's trying to do, anyway. He's trying to compensate for an injury. Not hiding it, just kind of…going with it in a more rhythmic, even aesthetically enticing manner.

He shrugs and attempts to look cool and disinterested. Considering he's standing in the exact same spot Jane vomited a couple of nights ago after an unauthorized Oreo-binge, it doesn't work.

"It's just the way I walk," he says.

"You're not still working on it, are you?"

Erik's back to looking angry, but she doesn't care. Her words may have not come out pleasant or thoughtful, and it's not like she knows exactly what he does, but she's certain it's dangerous, military fieldwork.

"None of your damned business."

She is about to crouch down. "Want me to take a look at it? I got some stuff that might help if you're feeling discomfort."

"No."

"Me on my knees and your pants down. It'd be like old times." Her chuckle is short-lived because her embarrassment catches up fast, and Erik's staring at her like she might as well have said motherfucker in church. It's still day outside, and she's sober. She's changed a lot since they've been together, but her mother's enforced etiquette for properness hasn't. There's a time and place for everything.

"Let's not go there." He shoves his hands into his pockets, gaze sliding around her house. She watches his eyes drift over all the ones of Jane like they're not even there. To him, her walls are unevenly decorated. Randomly placed pictures of her parents and her youth perched here and hung there. Gaps of ugly wallpaper or surface space in between.

"I just want to make sure you're all right." She wrings her fingers. "Well, I'm sure you didn't come all the way here to just stare at my mum's questionable taste in decorating."

"You've had a good life here." He wanders into the sitting room, checking out her visible family photos like it's the first time. There are two picture frames adjoined by a hinge. One of them is of Hermione as a newborn in her mother's arms at the hospital. The other is of a newborn Jane in Hermione's arms. Hermione wonders what's going through his head since he can't see the pattern, and that's the one he's fixated on this time.

He picks it up. "You got someone in your life now? Someone to put up with your shit, so this frame doesn't have to be empty?"

The question startles her. That's what he's thinking.

She folds her arms, rocking on the balls of her feet. "Found anyone to put up with your shit?"

He makes an amused sound. "I figured you'd be married by now with a couple of kids. Not living at your parents. Business must not be doing too good."

She smacks him with a death glare. "It's going to be like that, is it?"

When Hermione left New York, for all intents and purposes, she had no plans on moving back into her parents' house. Calling to tell them she got pregnant and was coming home; her dad enthusiastically misinterpreted.

"I'll take the protective sheets off everything in your room—"

"That's not what I meant—"

"—and we'll clear out your mother's crafts room for the nursery."

"Daddy, no—"

"And then onto scrubbing the basement, so you can keep working."

Her parents were at the airport when she landed at Heathrow. She hadn't told them to be there. In fact, she slowed and gave them a weird look because they had a sign with her name bedazzled on it. Like she'd been away for a long time when she'd actually just saw them at Christmas. It was February. Her father swept her up in a hug while her mum petted her head and asked how many times she threw up during the flight.

The decision was made for her. Hermione piled her luggage into her parents' Fiesta and moved. And, really, she tried not to get too settled, but hyperemesis gravidarum made her housebound and unable to do anything but set up camp by the toilet. Her situation became so unfortunate, she had to get her hands on an IV, so Molly and Blaise could take shifts ensuring she stayed hydrated while her parents were at work.

"I'm saying it must be nice having folks support you into your thirties," replies Erik.

"It's just nice to have parents." Her thoughts go to Harry and Teddy, and she's disgusted with herself for the jab. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. That was uncalled for. But you're wrong. I'm here because they want me here. Do you really think so little of me that I'd be leeching off them?"

"Dunno. Girls like you who can't get it together go home, don't they?"

"You still haven't changed. So angry at everyone for judging you and stereotyping you. You turn around and do the same to them and me. What have I done to deserve that? Name one thing I did so awful that I deserve the way you treat me."

"You were a bitch!"

"How?"

"Everything you did! You manipulated me! You know you did! That Facebook shit you pulled!"

Her eyes roll. Ah, yes. The Famous Updated Status by Erik Stevens that bothered no one more than Erik Stevens. "You're too clever to be manipulated. If you felt victimized because I refused to back down and that you had no choice but to roll over and show your belly, that is not my fault. You changed your status all by yourself."

"Then once you had me by the balls, you changed! Into someone I would've never even looked twice at!"

Now they were approaching familiar territory. Not the root of the problem, merely the thorny stem. She had changed, but good God, how was she supposed to know he'd lose his mind when she took up self-help books, yoga, and comfortable clothes? Then she got pregnant. Pumpkin spice lattes weren't even in season anymore when Jane popped up, but the unborn tyrant demanded it morning, noon, and night.

"I was trying to turn over a new leaf," she explains and not for the first time. She doesn't know why she bothers. Every time he comes, she erases his memory. Something always happens. Whether he starts remembering too much of their time together in New York due to reminiscing, or any number of people she knows decides it's a swell time to roll out of her fireplace.

"Your old leaf was cool with me," he says. "Sure, you had your quirks, but they were easy enough to look past."

Quirks. Right. "Are you hungry, Erik?" she tries. Might as well.

He pauses pensively before answering, "Nah, I'm good."

"Are you sure?"

"Said I'm good."

"Tea, then?"

"What kind?"

"Your favorite kind."

He nods. "Yeah, that's good."

He doesn't follow her to the kitchen right away. Rifling through her tea basket, she debates the concentrate and then decides it's for the best. Erik's never going to change. He'll just keep coming back and irritating the bloody hell out of her. It's time to set herself and him free.

Unfortunately, those packets are gone.

"Damn you, Harry," she hisses under her breath. He must've stolen them after she gave him a hard no. If there was ever an investigation that Harry used her products for his work, she could face an inquiry from the ministry and a hefty fine. Most memory potions aren't sanctioned under Magical Law, and hers is definitely not, given how it's never been tested in a controlled environment.

Imagining the hexes and curse words she'll fling at Harry the next time she sees him, she zones out and fiddles with her necklace. Erik shows up, sitting himself down at the counter on a stool.

"Says a lot when you don't wear it on your finger."

She snaps out of her stupor. "Hm?"

He points to her necklace which has her engagement ring on it.

"Oh, um…my work. I can't risk tarnishing or scratching."

"Who is he?"

"He?" She arches a brow and places an offended expression her face, clicking her tongue. "So narrow-minded."

He's not buying it.

She smirks anyway. "None of your business, is it?"

"Whatever. I don't care," he mutters, getting out his phone.

"Of course you don't."

"The tea ready yet. I got places to be if your folks are coming." Whatever Erik is doing on his phone, he's extra invested and clearly frustrated. "You still haven't gotten back on Facebook."

"No."

"And you don't have a Twitter account."

"Uh uh."

"No Instagram."

"Heavens, no."

"You got Pinterest."

"Lost three inches on paleo. You should follow my board."

"You don't have a wedding board. Don't all engaged, white chicks have those damned stupid things?"

She gets out her tea set from the cupboard, "I don't want a huge event. Regardless, what makes you think you're allowed to have this conversation with me? Erik, we're not friends. We were barely even boyfriend and girlfriend when it came down to it. You realize you being here isn't just inappropriate, it's weird. Why can't you let it go?"

His mouth opens, undoubtedly ready to call her some derogative title specified for her gender, when her phone goes off.

"Let it go! Let it go! Can't hold it back anymore!"

"Oh, hell no," says Erik, revolted. "Turn that shit off. Now."

She has never wanted to tell him more about Jane than she does right now. She wants to tell him that his daughter loves this song and knows all the words. She dances it to it. Stomps her tiny, perfect foot at the right time and turns around dramatically at the end.

Hermione doesn't answer the phone. Harry will leave a text, but it gets her thinking. If he's in cellphone-range, he's coming to see her. And if he's coming to see her...he won't be alone.

Without further ado, she gets rid of Erik. She summons an Uber through her app and all but shoves the tea down his throat before it gets there. After coaxing him into the backseat and sending him to London—her treat—she waves the vehicle off and returns to the house. This particular visit is rather anticlimactic in comparison to others, but there's little point in dwelling on it. He'll back again, she doesn't doubt it at all.

Harry and Dean show up via Floo, holding bags of her favorite Muggle takeout from London. "Got these just for you," says Harry.

"As a weak apology for stealing my tea, I presume." She grabs the bag from him and scoops out her gyro. Not paleo-friendly, but it's already been a hell of a day, so she's going to cheat.

"That and a way to soften the blow," says Dean. He kisses her cheek. "You look beautiful, sweetheart."

"I'll be in the kitchen," says Harry, grabbing a bag from her and leaving.

Mouth full, she pauses mid-chew. "What's wrong?" she muffles at Dean.

"I got promoted."

Her eyes squint. "Uh huh."

"But it requires a transfer."

She swallows. "Where?"

"It's not right away." He grimaces. "Von Weber has put in his retirement date for next spring. He's been overseeing—"

"The Sub Saharan."

"—until their own head comes back from sabbatical in two years. I'd be stationed in Tanzania."

"And…what did you tell Kingsley?"

"Nothing yet." He massages his chin. He needs a shave. Maybe she'll do that for him before he goes back to work for the afternoon. "Thought I'd talk to you about it first."

"You put in the transfer request, didn't you?" she asks knowingly.

"I didn't think they'd be sending me to Africa." He shoves his hands into the pockets of his trousers. "We have over a year, Hermione. We got time to change our minds. I haven't forgotten you've got a business to run here, not to mention the kids..."

She nods. Her business wouldn't do well there. Potions are a dime a dozen in most Wizarding African communities. She could still work, but shipping from there to England would be burdensome. Blaise would disapprove.

"I'll need to talk to Blaise. Let him know things could be changing."

"We also need to talk about a date if this does happen. Reckon we should move it on up. Our parents aren't going to want that kind of destination wedding."

"I wish you would be more obliging on my eloping idea. We could apply for a marriage license, phone my mum's priest, you could escort me around that table over there, and viola. No fuss, no muss."

He laughs, eyeing her dad's hideous, faux Egyptian coffee table in amusement. "My mum would kill me, and you deserve a grand table. The best table. Made of the finest—"

"Ugh. You're being gross."

"I'm sure your parents wouldn't be too happy about it, either."

"Payback for Jane's spoiled rottenness."

"By the way, my mum's already got the fabric for her dress. The boys have been measured for their tuxes."

"I just…" Hermione stares up at him. "I trust you. I do. It's just…"

"I'm not going to leave you at the altar, Hermione."

She takes another hearty bite of her gyro, refusing to look Dean in the eye. As far as shit goes, being left at the altar was more traumatic than the two pitiful mugging-attempts she suffered whilst in New York.

"I'd never leave you ever because are you kidding me? Hermione Granger's going to be my wife."

"Eh. She's not that spectacular."

He tries again. "Best friend and confidant of The Chosen One and to the captain of the Chudley Cannons. Brightest witch of her age."

"Hm."

"Three-times winning Witch's Weekly Most Beautiful."

"Don't know why. A troll with bad hair, that one." She shoves the rest of her gyro into his mouth. "It's me who's lucky, okay?"

Dean is the second best thing that's happened to her, and cheesy as it sounds, it's like the universe laid out their pathways to collide at the perfect time. Former friendly acquaintances from Hogwarts to single parents wanting happiness and to better their family situation. And she knows Dean. He knows her. They've never been perfect strangers to each other or had a cliche meet-cute. They've known each other since they were eleven and grew up together. A lot has happened to them after they turned eighteen, but they had never become unfamiliar.

Dean Thomas. The incredibly loyal ally Harry so very much needed and likely had taken for granted during their teenage years. Hermione feels very honored this man wants to give her the same affection powerfully matured in matrimonial intimacy.


That evening, Hermione's in Diagon Alley at Madam Malkin's, miserably running apprehensive hands over white and cream lace, crinoline, silk, and tulle. Harry's there because Ginny, who cancelled at the last minute, can't because Leo caught spattergoit.

"At this rate, you'll be my maid of honor," jokes Hermione. "With Leo out on the mend for the next while and my cousin being ever-too important..."

"If that's the case," he wraps a lily-pad green sash around his neck, "I demand to wear this. It brings out my eyes."

"Sure thing."

Harry chuckles and puts the sash back. "You know, I saw you had your tea set out when we came over at lunch. He paid you a visit again."

"You're observant as ever."

"If you can't finish it, you've got to tell Dean."

She shoots her best friend a sharp look. "I would've, but my concentrate was gone. Fancy that."

Harry shrugs, unapologetic. "Dean's worried Jane's dad is going to come sniffing around eventually."

"I've gone to great measures in making sure he doesn't find out-"

"Hermione."

She snorts. "When Erik visits, it's because of a...psychological comfort. He's embarrassed he ever dated me and instead of forgetting we ever happened-"

"If only you'd give him that comfort-"

"You know what I mean," she says. "Normal people move on. He refuses because he wants our beginning, middle, and end to be my fault. We got together because of me. We argued because of me. We stayed together longer than necessary because of me. Everything's shit because of me. All me. It's all my fault, and I don't care enough because I wouldn't apologize for acting white or on behalf of dead people and their fucked legacy I'd like to think I'm not apart of. And you know what, Harry? Despite everything between Draco and I, I never tried to guilt him into thinking what his aunt did to me was anyone's fault but hers. He committed enough sins all on his own, thanks."

"I'm sure it doesn't comfort you, but I understand where he's coming from. Think of Dennis. He..." Harry rubs the back of his neck. "He snapped his wand not too long ago. He wants no part of anything anymore."

Hermione looks down at her hands. "I didn't know he left. The last I heard from him was when he sent me that colorful letter after The Daily Prophet announced my engagement to Draco."

"Speaking of, I'm just going to put it out there. Since Malfoy, you self-sabotage when you get happy. You," Harry pauses and makes a vague motion with his hand, "find what annoys your partner the most and become that. You tested Oliver and others like Erik and seem oh so surprised and hurt when they lose their shit. You haven't gone a full one-eighty with Dean yet, but I've seen you do and say things."

"That's just playfulness—"

"Jesus Christ."

"Okay, you're not…you're not wrong."

"Repeat after me. 'I will stop passive-aggressively antagonizing people I care about.'"

"Well, I can't do that." Hermione wrinkles her nose. "How will you know I love you? And Blaise and I don't know how to communicate any other way."

"I knew it." Harry sneers. "You're having an emotional affair with Zabini. You're cheating on me."

"Very emotional," says Hermione, deadpanned. "But not to worry. You're my best friend. Blaise is only a furrriend."

"Nothing you can do or say will make it better now."

"I don't know about that. How is Daphne, Harry?"

Harry's stiff, melodramatic façade melts away, and he laughs. He wraps an arm around her shoulder, his other hand considering the cream-hued satin. "You mean my furrriend?"


As usual, Hermione can't sleep. Around one in the morning, she goes to her closet and opens her Extension-Charmed trunk, staring at her humble collection of ex-boyfriend boxes. She really should find a cozy place for them in a rubbish bin. No use hanging on to them, especially now with a wedding coming up. She hasn't looked through any of them in a long time. Considering them now, all she feels is mild repulsion for keeping a collection of her failures.

Out of all the boxes, Erik's is the smallest. Their fling reduced to a shoebox. Not much in there except a few things. They didn't give each other much in the way of gifts. The most important thing he gave her can't fit in a box. Lifting the lid, she's reminded of what she did put in there. Simple items which are more like tourist souvenirs: an 'I Love Harlem' keychain, takeout menus, a Benoit Boxing pamphlet, and the cliché' mall-snog picture strip. Hermione vaguely remembers they'd gotten into an argument at Gateway Center because he kept whispering filth in her ear as she shopped for holiday gifts, and for God's sake, it was ten in the morning. Such an indecent time for dirty talk.

Studying the pictures, it appears she didn't win the argument.

Her bedroom door creaks open. "Mummy?"

Hermione hurriedly puts away the box and closes the trunk. "Why aren't you in bed?"

Her daughter's hair is all over the place, and her cupcake pajamas are rumpled. She's got one fist rubbing her eye, and her mouth's stretched in a yawn. "Bad dream."

Hermione picks Jane up, and they get in bed, snuggling under the covers all cozy-like. "What about?"

Jane's bottom lip protrudes. "Angry kitties fighting over a flower."

She tries not to smile. "That doesn't sound good at all."

Her daughter makes a sullen harrumph sound. "Do the magic, Mummy. Please."

Hermione picks up her wand from the bedside table and conjures her Patronus. The otter nestles up to Jane's opposite side, and her daughter pets it like it's corporeal. The light magic and being close to her mother lulls her into a deep, untroubled sleep.

Upon hearing her daughter's even breathing, Hermione frowns at the ceiling. "Angry kitties and a flower?"

The End