Heels clicked across the aluminum flooring, the ugly beige pattern that was popular in the 70's, causing Hermione to scowl as she made her way back to her office. She could feel the pain start to radiate in her temples, the signs of a stress headache that needed to be quashed faster than the Motion she just filed with the Wizengamot. She had muggle ibuprofen waiting for her to swallow back in the top drawer of her desk. It was faster and more manageable to keep down than a headache potion.

"Rough day?"

After nearly 17 years of friendship, Harry's voice always somehow managed to brighten her day while irritating her at the same time.

"You have no idea," she sighed, flipping her mane of curls over her shoulder to narrow her eyes at him. He had that cocky look on his face, the same one he used to wear when he would sneak out of Gryffindor Tower under the invisibility cloak to wreak havoc on the rest of the school after curfew. Then again, one should expect no less from the godson of Sirius Black. The man taught him everything from how to break every rule at Hogwarts to wooing any witch (or wizard) he desired.

"What has you in such a good mood?" She held up the heavy files in her arms as best she could. "We lost, in case you need a reminder."

"Oh, I wouldn't necessarily call it a failure ." There was a teasing lilt to his tone, one that stirred the cauldron of her irritation already a milliliter away from boiling over. But then he smiled at her–that secret one he'd saved only for her. Hermione's heart ached when he did that, a brutal reminder that she would always be just his swotty best friend.

"The judge literally denied every item in our complaint," Hermione retorted, ignoring the weakness in her knees. Her voice was much more combative than she'd meant it to be. A brief surge of guilt spiked when she saw Harry's smile falter for only a second before returning as if nothing happened.

"Not every item. It's still going to get a hearing."

"The items that were important ." She simply couldn't do this right now–this back and forth between wanting to strangle him or kiss him. Since making partner six months prior at Castle & Beckett, Harry seemed to go out of his way to make her life just… extra complicated.

Harry and Hermione became best friends on the Hogwarts Express their first time heading to the magical school. Being muggleborn and having been dropped into a secret magical community was a life-altering experience, one that didn't get any easier after their sorting.

Hermione had been holed up in a compartment by herself, face buried in the slightly used copy of Hogwarts: A History her parents purchased for her in Diagon Alley. It wasn't part of her required texts, but she needed every resource she could devour if she were going to thrive in the Wizarding World.

That was when the door slid open, and two boys walked in, asking her if she had seen a toad.

Neville, the boy standing just outside, looked sheepishly at her, his bowl cut in disarray from having gripped the strands too tightly in frustration. Without a care in the world, Harry bent down and looked under the seats to see if Trevor, Neville's pet toad, had wandered inside. His hair was messy, his tie skewed, and his glasses slightly cracked for some reason or another.

"You know, I've been practicing a few simple spells myself and could fix that for you," she declared.

His head popped up like a weasel in a toy she used to own as a child. "Come again?"

She pointed to her own face. "Your glasses."

"Oh!" Harry gasped, nervously rubbing the back of his head. "Sure."

Her wand flew out of her new robe, tip pointed straight at the frame. "Oculus Reparo."

The magic circled the cracked glass, erasing the fissure like it never existed.

Harry gaped, pulling the frames off his nose as he examined them with an impressed expression. "Thanks," he breathed, putting them back on. "I definitely need to remember that one."

And the rest, as they say, was history.

After she fixed his glasses, the two were sorted into Gryffindor and became inseparable despite their vast differences in their personalities. Harry was easy and likable among his housemates, a charisma Hermione wished she could emulate. She, on the other hand, was studious and quiet, except when the professors asked the class to answer a question.

It quickly earned her a reputation for being a swot, leading to many bullies knocking down her textbooks, pushing her down the stairs, and generally shooting hexes in her direction. Harry was the one to defend her, always walking her to class or sitting with her in the library so she wasn't a target. In return, she often read in the stands while he practiced Quidditch, her presence providing moral support, and tutored him in front of the fireplace until he fell asleep on the deep red cushions of the common room couch.

It was nights like those when they were alone that he saved a special piece of his charm just for her. That silly nickname he kept for her would sleepily roll off his tongue like honey, and when his eyes closed, head falling to the side onto her shoulder, Hermione would wish he saw her as more than just a friend.

But alas, nothing ever came of it, and before she knew it, seven years had flown by in waves of confusing sexual tension and carefree banter.

Neither of them really knew what they wanted to do after graduating from Hogwarts. The world was at their disposal, grades top-notch, and incredibly desirable in both the government and private sector. Minister Fudge had dinner with Sirius and Harry several times that summer after leaving school to try and convince him to join the Auror program, a prospect Hermione remembered sounded very appealing to his eleven-year-old self.

And yet, she was shocked to see Harry decline the opportunity that was almost handed to him on a silver platter and instead plop a seat next to her on her first day of law school.

She remembered playfully shaking her head in exasperation, telling him she wasn't going to share her notes with him (which ended up being a lie after they formed a study group). Three years later, they studied to take the magical law bar and then filtered offer letters for various firms and possible government positions.

And yet, despite spending a decade together, they accepted positions at the same firm.

Castle & Beckett was one of the most prestigious private firms in Magical Britain. One with the type of attorneys that the wealthiest families employed because they were the best. Believe it or not, she'd earned her position because Draco Malfoy asked for her to represent him in his divorce from Astoria Greengrass.

Not only did Hermione catch the witch breaking their betrothal contract, but she managed to get him out of paying spousal support, a feat almost unheard of in the community.

Naturally, his parents were disappointed that he hadn't produced an heir, but it paved the way for Draco to come out as gay. Once his sexuality had been made known, Draco refused to hide anything else. He was proud to live his authentic truth with the love of his life, Neville Longbottom. After that, Draco became a friend and often had Harry and Hermione over for weekly dinners with his life partner.

Despite her successes, this recent divorce, which Harry was too optimistic about, was between a werewolf and witch, both fighting for custody of their three-year-old son, and proceedings getting incredibly messy, fast.

Hermione was dreading not only having to argue that her client could have rights to his child but also having to fight the bigotry that was still deeply rooted in wizarding society. For Merlin's sake , werewolves were still classified as half-breeds by the Department of Control of Magical Creatures!

No, not only was a lot riding on this case personally, but logistically, the precedent set could turn the tide for werewolf rights in general.

Which led to Harry entering stage right.

Because of his Uncle Remus, Harry felt personally connected to this case.

All his life, Remus was met with employment challenges, struggles to obtain wolfsbane and even pushback against marrying Sirius despite the fact that gay marriage was legal! Part of Harry's motivation for becoming a lawyer instead of an Auror was because he wanted to change the law, not enforce it, hence why he followed Hermione and miraculously passed the bar.

When assignments came out for the quarter by Mr. Castle, Hermione, naturally, was flattered that she was chosen to help Packleader Mr. Blackwood. She was trusted to achieve the best outcome for the client, a challenge she was confident she could win.

At least she had been, but after this morning's initial hearing…

"You're doing it again." Harry's voice cut through her mind sharper than the Sword of Gryffindor.

Hermione blinked, coming back to reality and truly taking in her surroundings. She hadn't realized she had put herself into autopilot, completely tuning out what Harry had been telling her these past five minutes.

"I'm sorry," Hermione sighed, gesturing for him to follow her into her office. "Come in and shut the door. I promise to pay attention this time."

He gave her an insufferable smirk, his emerald eyes trained on her as he softly clicked the door close. It made her knees start to buckle, and her hand involuntarily grasped the edge of her desk as she sunk into her chair.

"I know-" her voice scratched, throat clearing as she tried again- "I know Mr. Castle wants you to work second, but I am point on this case, and you will listen to me."

"Oh?"

Harry slunk off the door, lazily coming forward to the chairs in front of her desk.

"Yes." She tried to put more force behind her tone, to convey that she was serious and he couldn't play around. He should be quite familiar with that tone after she spent years trying to get him to read his textbooks, helping him keep his grades up enough to play Quidditch so he could earn his post as the Captain of the Gryffindor team.

But these weren't players on a school team. No, these were people with lives and real consequences that Harry couldn't manipulate in a game.

He leaned across the desk, his fingers gently brushing her cheek as he tucked a stray curl behind her ear. For a moment, she forgot how to breathe, and she was 16 years old again, watching as he turned that radiating charisma onto her. She tried to picture the menacing boy who used to throw dung bombs down the Slytherin dungeons or make the toilets explode to get out of exams, but it was difficult to substitute that version of Harry when she wanted to get lost in this mesmerizing Adonis before her.

He let out a soft chuckle, a low and musical sound that always made her heart patter while his fingers gently trailed across her cheek.

"So bossy today, Mi. I can't remember; have you always been this charming, or do you get off putting me in my place?"

Hermione silently gulped, closing her eyes to prevent being further hypnotized by the Potter Charm , a term Ginny Weasley coined during their time at school and a title Harry had earned, given that he was such a shameless flirt.

"It's against the employee handbook to-"

"-to what?" He interjected, coming around the desk and taking a seat on the edge of her desk. It gave him a significant height advantage, so Hermione had to crane her neck to see his face. "Because, technically, you aren't my boss."

"Oh?" Hermione raised an eyebrow in irritation, but noticing the way his full lips twitched, she crossed her arms over her chest and did her best to make her gaze more severe. It didn't work. "Then what do you call this working relationship?" She mimicked the teasing tone he often used with her, trying to appear more confident than she felt. "Because section five, paragraph two explicitly states that there are to be no romantic relationships between a superior and their employee."

"Simple," he stated, bringing a finger to curl under her chin. "Two co-workers collaborating on a project to achieve the same goal."

"Except, I am the lead-"

"-which is why you should do a better job at listening to me, especially when I have such good ideas." All too soon, Harry released her and moved back toward the door. She felt a wave of fog clear from her mind as she slowly started to regain a sense of control.

Her head tilted up, eyes attentively watching as Harry opened the door. He looked over his shoulder and said, "Let me know when you're ready to talk shop. Oh, and I'll see you tonight at the Black Cat."

Hermione groaned, hands rubbing across her face as she cursed Harry's name. Going out to the magical speakeasy was the last thing she wanted to do after the stress of the day. No, she deserved to kick her heels off, curl into a hot bubble bath, and snuggle her new kitten before she drifted off.

But if she didn't go tonight, Harry would likely do something stupid, which usually resulted in her receiving a Patrouns around three in the morning. to come pick him up because he couldn't apparate and the bar was closed.

Plus, being known as the boy who defeated the darkest wizard of all time often meant fending off fanatics pawing all over just to get a piece of him. And Hermione couldn't have that. No, she needed to make sure that no one spiked his drink with love potions or that he didn't drunkenly dance with someone trying to take him home.

Sighing again, Hermione pulled out her files and set an alarm on her wand so she had enough time to go home and get ready for what was sure to be a longer night after an already long day.


"Password?"

"Invictus."

The bouncer didn't even bother to look at her as he waved his hand at the wall behind him, causing the bricks to magically move and create a doorway. It was similar to what she experienced going in and out of Diagon Alley from the muggle world but waiting inside was not a busy alleyway lined with shops full of magical items.

"Enjoy your evening," the man nodded, gesturing for Hermione to step over the threshold.

The sound of vivacious jazz music instantly assaulted her under the cover of indistinct conversations and the smell of alcohol as she pushed her way through the crowd of people dressed in period-accurate clothing. She felt like a sailor lost at sea, and the bar was the speck of land amidst the endless waters of people swaying to the jazzy rhythm.

As soon as she reached the edge of the counter, Hermione held up her hand, hoping to flag down one of the busy tenders to make her a Mary Pickford, when she felt someone place a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Miss Granger. Welcome back. Mr. Potter has already procured you a private table."

Hermione rolled her eyes, feeling the feather in her headband flap slightly from the movement. "Of course he has."

The man, Mr. Cavendish, owned the Black Cat and coordinated all his elite clientele to ensure they had the best experience when trying to let loose. Being the Boy Who Lived instantly earned Harry a spot at the top of the list to be catered to, which meant a private booth on the balcony overlooking the main club.

She linked her arm with Mr. Cavendish and allowed him to escort her up the stairs. She could feel the long pearl necklace sway back and forth across her sleeveless dress as they approached the booth where Harry was already waiting, a Gin Rickey in his hand with his free arm draped across the back of the seat.

He looked impeccable with his hair tidy and red suspenders on display over a fresh, crisp white collared shirt– a crime boss waiting for news from his latest hit order.

The mandatory, period-inspired dress code was one of the reasons why Harry loved coming to the Black Cat so much. That and the delicious cocktails. She only tolerated the scene because she loved to see that look of pure joy on his face as he lost himself in the character he invented.

"I'll ensure your drink is delivered to your table," Mr. Cavendish promised, depositing her with Harry and leaving with a short bow.

"I almost didn't think you would come," Harry said in lieu of greeting her. He knocked back the rest of his drink before setting the empty tumbler on the table.

"It would be rude to turn down an invitation," Hermione answered, sliding into the booth carefully so as not to rip any of the white tassels from her knee-length dress. "Even if it was from you."

She tried to relax in the soft velvet cushion of her seat as he laughed at her witty remark, but crossing her legs only reminded her of the fishnet stockings rubbing against her skin. Usually, she didn't put in so much effort to be on theme for the venue, but something had sparked inside her to try a little harder with her appearance tonight.

Not only was she wearing a more elegant dress, but she had thrown a bottle of sleekeazy into her hair and pinned her curls up so that it looked like a faux bob held by her headband.

It wasn't that she was trying to get Harry to notice her; no, that would be ridiculous. She was a witch who didn't need to be adored by a man to determine her self-worth. All her life, she had been complimented as the brightest witch of her age–a powerful and amazing woman, and someone like Harry Potter was not the person she needed complimenting her or noticing her. Again, her brain reminded her he was a colleague, an associate, her friend…. He could be nothing more.

But that doesn't mean it wouldn't sound so good to hear the praise roll off Harry's tongue….

Hermione settled into the booth with Harry's arm draped casually around her. Everywhere she looked, people were caught up in the thrum of the bass intertwined with the melodies of the 20's.

The Stetson permeating off his neck was perfect–distracting as Hermione got lost in the Earthy notes. It made it hard to separate the way Harry was with her from the way she desired him to be. She dreamily fell into the comforting fantasies of her mind, playing around with moments of all those nights alone together in the common room

Instead of falling asleep, would he have stolen a kiss from her?

Would he have held her hand in the corridors, walking her to class?

Could they have been like those other couples she caught out late on Prefect rounds–sneaking off to hide in broom cupboards or in abandoned classrooms?

Despite the heat of the club, Hermione felt a chill run through her as the cold wave of reality crashed over her. These things she desired would never happen–could never happen, and she would have to settle for the crumbs he casually gave her, even if it broke her heart each time.

Regaining a sense of self-preservation, Hermione shifted in her seat, trying to put a bit of distance between their bodies. Harry's fingers remained firm on her shoulder, not allowing her to escape.

She heaved a heavy sigh, fortunately, drowned out by the loud band still playing a fast-paced number.

Harry looked down at her, and she swallowed the moisture filling her mouth. "What's on your mind, Mi?"

His question was so simple, his voice so calm.

If he only knew...

"One Mary Pickford." The waitress set the cocktail down, pulling Hermione from her inner tirade. It did not go unnoticed how the waitress completely disregarded Hermione's presence and instead salaciously eyed Harry. "And, can I get you anything else, Mr. Potter?"

Hermione couldn't hide the snort that left her mouth as she looked away from the desperate witch. Women, men, non-binary, it didn't matter. Wherever they went, Harry was like a magnet and always seemed to attract attention whether he wanted it or not.

Which was completely ridiculous. Sure, Harry had always been fit–objectively, that is. He wasn't overly muscular or freakishly tall, just the right height to hold a partner in your arms and look deeply into each other's eyes as you shared silent conversations.

She didn't notice all of this until after they had graduated from Hogwarts, and she witnessed that boyish charm, that insatiable mischief, turning into something much more compelling and destructive for herself. It was mouth-watering if she was being honest… Harry had matured better than a fine French wine.

Her pulse quickened.

"We're okay for now, thank you."

Clearly not pleased with the dismissal, the waitress's smile dropped, and she stalked off. After a few beats, Hermione angled her body toward Harry, her mouth almost falling open in shock as she found his emerald eyes staring directly at her.

"What? Do I have something on my face?"

She'd floo'd Angelina to help her with a bit more… dramatic look for the evening; maybe the coloring was off, or her lips were too red. She shouldn't have let Angelina talk her into doing that winged eyeliner….

"You look stunning," Harry eventually said, his voice so soft she almost missed the response.

" Oh ," Hermione quietly gasped, her mouth falling open before quickly closing it. She certainly hadn't expected that reaction, one that would inspire that small flutter in her stomach she fought so hard to suppress.

In true Hermione Granger fashion, she made a list in her second year of law school shortly after a party where Harry was so drunk he almost kissed her, detailing why a relationship with Harry, her best friend , was a bad idea.

Reason number one, he was her best friend. Changing the dynamic of their relationship would be irreparable, and if things went south, they could never go back to how they used to be.

Reason number two: they were co-workers. Hermione's mother always said never to date your colleagues, that it only leads to complications and messy HR drama. Besides, it was in the employee handbook that a boss couldn't date their employee. And her taking the lead on this new divorce made her Harry's boss– temporarily .

Reason number three, she simply couldn't be the type of woman Harry wanted.

As much control as Hermione exuberated in her professional life, she was searching for something a bit different within the privacy of her own home. When her heels came off, and her hair came out of that tight bun she liked to wear around the office; she wanted to shut her mind off and let her partner take the reins. But she never found someone she trusted to completely let go with, so she always felt unsatisfied and angry after each inevitable breakup.

And Harry would be there after each one with a bucket of ice cream and Ever After playing on the telly.

"It looks good, Mi. Like you're getting into the spirit of things. Which is great because you know this is my favorite place-" He nodded his head toward Mr. Cavendish- "Ah, thank you!"

"Of course, Mr. Potter," the club owner nodded and scampered away. Leaving them alone again as the beat changed to a slower, more romantic tune. A sultry Soprano started harmonizing into the microphone, her voice like a siren calling all the couples to the floor to hold their partner close and sway to the hypnotic lyrics.

Stars shining bright above you

Night breezes seem to whisper, "I love you"

"Oh! I love this song! We have to dance." Harry threw his glass back with a boyish smile as he slid out of the booth. Before Hermione could even protest, his hand was outstretched, waiting to help her up. "Please, Mi!"

Birds singin' in the sycamore trees

Dream a little dream of me

Every nerve ending was screaming at her to stop, that what she was about to do was a bad idea, but as soon as she looked up into those pleading emerald eyes–she was completely hopeless.

"Oh, Alright. One dance."

Reluctantly, Hermione took his hand, allowing herself to be dragged to the private dance floor where the VIP guests gathered so they didn't have to join the fray below. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy dancing– more so that dancing with Harry conjured those pesky inappropriate thoughts best kept in the crevices of her mind, never for public consumption.

Say "Night-ie night" and kiss me

Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me

His arm wrapped protectively around her waist, pulling her so impossibly close that she had to rest her chin on one of his firm shoulders while her left hand planted stiffly on the other.

"Just relax, Mi. I won't let you go."

While I'm alone and blue as can be

Dream a little dream of me

It was entirely unfair how low the timber of his voice could get when it whispered in her ear like he was telling her a secret only she could know. He had to know what his voice did to her… how listening to him argue in the courtroom caused her stomach to do somersaults. Harry entwined her free hand, setting it on his chest directly over his pounding heart. It caused her breath to catch for a moment before she felt soothing circles tracing along her back from Harry's thumb.

For a while, they didn't say anything, both mesmerized by the quixotic lyrics.

Stars fading, but I linger on, dear

Still craving your kiss

I'm longing to linger 'til dawn, dear

Just saying this

"You're still really tense. Have I done something to make you uncomfortable?"

His question caught her off guard for a moment, the concern striking her faster than a flash of lightning. She couldn't very well tell him the truth, that she had been in love with him for Godric knows how long and that when he did things like this, it made her believe he loved her too– loved her as more than a friend.

Sweet dreams 'til sunbeams find you

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

"One would think you learned your lesson and would stop teasing me. You'll give a girl the wrong impression that her heart isn't as shriveled as an old maid or that her soul didn't become as dry as the pages of the books I so desperately cleave to."

It didn't surprise her that Harry chuckled at her somewhat dramatic rendition of their old Divination Professor. Though Hermione gave little to no stock in the magical artform, the words uttered to her by Professor Trelawney that day stuck with her more than she cared to admit, and sometimes, when she hit her lowest points, she couldn't help but wonder if the crazy old bat was right– that books and cleverness would all she would ever amount to.

But in your dreams, whatever they be

Dream a little dream of me

"Hermione. Look at me."

Slowly, her head came off his shoulder, her body pulling back enough so that she was looking into his serious emerald eyes. Gone was the teasing, playful look of the boy she had known for most of her life, and in its place was an earnest man who appeared on the brink of confession.

"I never told you, but I followed you shortly after you left the classroom that day."

Her eyes went wide, brows shooting high into her hairline.

"It was so long ago, but I knew what Trewlaney said to you was unnecessarily cruel. You fought so hard to keep the tears from spilling from your eyes as you marched out of that classroom, and when you were gone-" he growled- "She just looked around the room like what she said was totally normal!"

Stars fading, but I linger on, dear

Still craving your kiss

She opened her mouth to ask something, but he shook his head, indicating he wasn't done baring his soul to her.

"I don't exactly remember what I said to her, but I stood up from that wobbly stool and knocked that stupid crystal ball off the table. It hadn't even finished rolling across the floor to her feet after I grabbed my bag and stormed out of the room."

"You did?" Her voice sounded small and weak… she hated it and wanted to cover her face in his chest so Harry didn't see how embarrassed she felt.

"I looked everywhere for you, Mi. But… I couldn't find you. It wasn't until after dinner that I saw you in the common room, and you told me you talked to McGonagall, and everything was fine-" he cut himself off, anger dissipating to sadness as he looked at her with unshed tears- "You know those things she said about you weren't true right? You haven't been carrying that with you all this time?"

I'm longing to linger 'til dawn, dear

Just saying this

"Well, maybe Trewlaney got something right. Maybe that's why I can't seem to make a relationship work or…"

"Bullshit!"

Hermione jumped in his arms, startled by the fierceness of his tone. They were barely swaying at this point, the song coming to a close as the tension built like stone between them.

Sweet dreams 'til sunbeams find you

"The reason why all those other wankers didn't work is because they weren't the right person. They weren't worthy of the brilliant, beautiful, talented, and phenomenal witch that is you."

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you

She looked away, not able to face him, while her heart started racing faster than an Abraxas wing. "Why, Harry?"

She felt his body jerk as she leaned forward, closing that small gap she tried to put between them. "Why what?"

"Why did you follow me that day?"

But in your dreams, whatever they be

His arm left her waist, index finger coming to curl under her chin so that she was tilting toward him.

"Because, Hermione Granger, I've been in love with you since the day you threw a book down at me and asked me if I knew how to read."

Before she could even process what he said, Harry's lips descended on her, the soft pillowy cushions she had envisioned for so long devouring her like she was his last meal on earth. All the oxygen dissipated from her lungs as her arms involuntarily wrapped around his shoulders. It was electric, magic in its purest form as his tongue ran along the seam, begging her entrance that she happily granted.

Dream a little dream of me

The world around her faded away as she became lost in his kiss, his touch, each motion enticing small gasps of delight to leave her mouth. The Doris Day impersonator became nothing but a memory when Harry's hand slid around her neck, fingers arching to gently scrape her scalp as they dug into her fixed curls.

Dream a little dream of me

All too soon, Harry broke the kiss, his forehead pressed to hers, leaving her panting and wanting more.

"You can't be serious," she argued, voice almost nonexistent as he continued to hold her.

"I've never been more serious in my life, Hermione." He looked down at her, the earnestness piercing through her like a blade. "Merlin, I can't believe I waited so long to tell you this, but just now I was completely honest and have absolutely no intention of letting you go home tonight so you can make another stupid list of why we can't be more than friends."

This time, she truly did gape like a fish out of water. "But- But-"

He cut her off with another soft kiss on her lips. "I know every argument that is swirling in your mind, but not tonight, Mi. Tonight, you're mine, and I intend to show you every single way I know how."

She was completely breathless, unable to form a verbal response. So, instead, she nodded her head ever so slightly.

Apparently, it was the right response because she felt Harry's lips curl into a wide grin. "That's my girl."

They continued to sway as the song faded out, her knees buckling and her heart ready to soar out of her chest at the promise that was waiting for her after this.

Dream a little dream of me


Hermione lost count of how many times she twirled the quill over in her hands, her eyes absentmindedly staring at the parchments spread around her desk. She had no idea why she was in the office so early in the morning other than the fact that she woke up in Harry's bed, naked .

Everything was warm and relaxed as she lay in the Egyptian Cotton sheets. Her mind, for once, quieted and at peace. Something like a soft breeze was tickling the side of her ear, and the most delicious Citrus Vetiver scent lingered around her, teasing her olfactory nerves. She had never felt such contentment in her life, never experienced the tension release from her muscles all at once and in such a marvelous-

"Shit."

Hermione bolted out of the bed, clutching the white sheet to cover herself as she became more alert to her surroundings. She most certainly wasn't in her own bedroom and wasn't alone, judging by the body that was fast asleep next to her panicked state.

"Shit. Shit Shit."

A tired groan escaped her mouth as Hermione scrubbed her hands across her face and recalled climbing over Harry to find her dress. She had been in such a hurry to leave that she didn't even bother putting her heels back on as she grabbed her wand and snuck out the front door. No note, body covered in bruises and love bites while she took the apparition of shame to her own flat.

Fraiser, her new kitten, yowled at her as she popped through her wards, stumbling on the rug in her living room. The little creature was mad at her for not coming home, his tiny little squeak of a meow demanding she feed him excessive treats now to make up for her absence.

Once her pet was taken care of, Hermione quickly showered and dressed for the day, not even caring it was only five in the morning. She gathered everything she needed for the office and went straight there, knowing she would have to wait an hour before the coffee shop next door opened for business.

Oh, she tried to focus on her work, write memos, and review relevant laws or decisions for her cases, but each time she sat down, her brain would return to Harry.

How his hands felt roaming her body.

How his mouth devoured her like she tasted better than Treacle Tart.

How he would moan and praise her for being such a good-

Stop!

Her hands found their way into her curls, gripping firmly as she begged herself to stop thinking about it… to stop reliving the most magical night of her life.

She forced herself to take a calming breath, to feel the wave of resolve run through her as she summoned what was left of her self-control.

Last night was a fluke– a moment of selfish indulgence born from the pure desire she had suppressed for so long. It could never happen again; simply would never, ever happen again. For the sake of their friendship, she needed to get over it and pretend like Harry didn't give her the best sex she had ever experienced.

Yes, she could do it.

Maybe, at first, it would be hard, but eventually, they would go back to the way things were before. Once they got past the initial awkwardness of the morning after, Harry would see things her way, and they would return to being friends. He will move on and then eventually find another girl worthy of his time. He'll start dating her and then one day propose…

"Hermione?"

She looked up from her desk, finding her boss in the doorway of her office.

"Oh, Kate," Hermione gasped, "I hadn't realized you would be here this morning."

"Why are you crying?" she asked.

For once, Hermione didn't have a defense ready. Her hand slowly rose to pat her bare cheek, finding a dampness from said drops she hadn't realized were falling from her eyes.

"Oh, I… don't know…"

The lie tasted like ash in her mouth, but what was she to do? Admit to her boss that she slept with her oldest friend, her best friend, who just so happened to be her second on this high-profile divorce?

Yeah, she'd wait for the Veritaserum; thank you very much.

Instead of prying, Kate gave her a solemn look and moved to take a seat in front of Hermione. Without prompting, Kate placed Hermione's hand in hers and patted it a few times. "It's okay. We've all been there."

Hermione snorted. "I doubt it."

Kate flashed her an amused look before pulling her hand away. She leaned back into her seat, hand resting under her chin. "Did I ever tell you the story of how Castle and I got together?"

"No…" Hermione trailed off, her brain struggling to comprehend how her bosses were… together ? "But… you-"

"-We obtained our law licenses before we were married, and it was way more money to change my name. So we just decided to keep our names separate." She waved a hand dismissively. "But that's not the point. When Castle and I met, he was a defense advocate, and I worked for the attorney general. We were at each other's throats all the time, whether it was in court or out of court.

"But one day, I was hit with a curse that the healers at St. Mungo's almost couldn't heal. And when I woke up, the first person I wanted to talk to was him because I realized something while I was unconscious."

"And I take it you are going to tell me it's something like you couldn't live without him," Hermione raised an eyebrow at Kate, patiently waiting to prove the woman right.

"You're partially right. The line between love and hate is fine, but that wasn't the realization I had." Kate took a deep breath, steadying herself. "When I was trapped inside my own mind, all I could think about was all the things I hadn't done, all the regret that weighed on me like someone placed a stone on my chest and pushed. And all I kept telling myself was when I woke up, I was going to live every day, never feeling that regret again."

Kate rapped her knuckles on Hermione's desk, rising from her seat and leaving Hermione speechless.

"Think about it, and Hermione… something that feels so right is not something to regret."

Hermione didn't breathe normally until Kate shut the door, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

Kate's tale was a sad one, a story that certainly made Hermione pause and ponder for a moment how different her own life would have been if she had never met Kate in her last year of law school or if the woman had never taken a chance on her and offered her a place at the firm. She probably would be working as a clerk for the Wizengomont, the mundane work slowly eating away at her soul as she spent more time doing things she wasn't passionate about. It probably would have been enough to break her, to make her quit law and do something hippy like open up an organic potion's shop.

The thought alone was enough to make her shudder.

And it wasn't that Hermione regretted her night with Harry; more so, she was regretting the consequences that were to come because of it.

Looking at her clock, she saw the time was 6:30 a.m., meaning Harry would likely be waking up and finding himself alone. She couldn't help but picture the look of disappointment on his face, maybe even followed by a flash of anger or a brief flicker of hurt.

Shaking her head, she brushed the image away and grabbed her purse. If she was going to survive what was to come, then she was going to need all the caffeine courage today if she was going to make it through.


Hermione was halfway through her rebuttal brief when she heard the knock on her office door.

"Come in!" She called out, not looking up from the parchment. She realized her mistake too late when the subtle notes of citrus and amber hit her nose. The quill in her hand stopped moving, time pausing around her as Harry softly closed the door. For the longest time, no one said anything. The only thing registering was the roaring of blood in her ears from the three large iced coffees she downed earlier this morning.

"You left." His voice was soft, hurt, and made her heart shatter into a million pieces.

"Harry…"

"No."

The sudden change to anger in his tone caused her to drop the quill, her hand shaky as she slowly met his face. She expected it to be splotchy with tears, maybe even red with humiliation at having been used and then discarded, but it was neither. Instead, he had the look of pure determination, one that was fierce as the mascot for their Hogwarts house.

"I thought after last night we had a mutual understanding, Mi, so tell me why you ran away?"

Hermione felt the words die in her throat as he walked closer, his steps heavier than normal as he slid around the desk to face her.

"Why didn't you stay?"

Because this isn't how it's supposed to be.

Because our friendship means more to me than this desire that will surely die one day.

Because I want to mean as much to you as you mean to me.

She hadn't realized how close Harry was until he stood right before her. His hand rose, index finger and thumb gripping her chin so that she couldn't look away.

"I was going to make you breakfast this morning. Did you know that?"

His tone was softer, more gentle than the angry lion she had initially brought out in him. She should say something, but her tongue refused to form her usual witty retorts. Instead, she felt the tears start to pool in her eyes, shame blooming crimson across her cheeks as she tried to look away from the pain she had caused.

"Shh, Mi. It's going to be alright."

Harry pulled her into a tight embrace, his hands running up and down her spine in reassuring motions.

"I know this is hard for you to believe, but I want you ."

She shook her head. "No, you don't. You'd regret it."

She felt his chest move with a soft chuckle. "And what makes you believe that I would?"

"Because I'm hopeless. Because all my relationships fail. All you have to do is look at my history, Harry and I don't… I don't want you to be another failure."

The brutal honesty of her words was enough to make his hands pause for a moment before continuing. He contemplated what to say next, using the stillness of the moment to try and calm her down while he prepared his argument.

"Item number one said that I'm your best friend."

She pulled back, giving him a confused expression. "What are you talking about?"

"Your list of reasons why you won't date me," his voice was cavalier.

"Harry Potter! Where did you-"

"Calm down, witch. It's not my fault you scribble nonsense in the margin of almost every ledger and briefing. Can I be held responsible for your manic yet adorable habits to work through your inner turmoil?"

Hermione stared at him, mouth agape in shock at how easily he skirted over the fact he'd known her real feelings for him and had still pursued her anyway.

"Now, back to my case." He smirked, confidently continuing like the interruption hadn't occurred. "You argue that changing our dynamic would make our relationship irreparable, but I refute your argument by presenting my evidence. Exhibit A: the foundation of a long and lasting relationship is friendship."

It was endearing but a hopeless case he was presenting. "Harry…"

"Ah, ah, counselor. I am not finished. It's bad form to object when you have no grounds."

She smirked, accepting the tissue he seemed to produce out of nowhere. "By all means, do continue."

"Thank you. Reason number two, you state that co-workers cannot date, but I would like to introduce to you Exhibit B."

With a flourish of his hand, he produced the employee handbook for Castle & Becket, a book no larger than maybe 50 pages. He tossed the paper back onto her desk, the cover resounding with a dull thud in the room. "There is no evidence in there that states employees can not date each other."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry, I've read the handbook from cover to cover. It explicitly says on page 13-"

"-which edition? Because that is the most updated version as of this morning."

"What?!" Hermione grabbed the book, aggressively flipping through the pages, looking for the statement that had haunted her ever since their orientation at the firm.

They were nowhere to be found. Instead, in its place was a revised sentence that stated inter-office relationships must be disclosed to the head of the firm in a timely manner and that the firm observed a very strict non-retaliation policy.

"I believe that makes your second point moot, counselor," he smirked.

"When… when did you do this?"

The cockiness melted for a moment as Harry held her gaze. "I met with Mr. Castle and Ms. Beckett this morning. Would you believe me if I told you they already had a draft and were ready to publish this before I even told them about us?"

"I- I have no words for that," she eventually settled on, tossing the handbook back on her desk. She turned back to Harry, finding him completely in her bubble, and wrapping his arms around her. She had no choice but to accept his embrace, caught in his magnetic hold as his emerald green eyes gazed down at her through his round-wired rims.

"Reason number three: you say that you aren't the type of woman for me, but Mi… you are the only witch I have ever loved. You're brilliant and kind, and I don't care what some crackpot Divination teacher told you when you were 13; you aren't bad at relationships! You are the most selfless, caring, and generous person I know…and if you give me the chance, I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side, making you the happiest woman ever to live."

The tears returned with a vengeance as Hermione stared at Harry, her best friend. The declaration was almost too good to be true, yet here she was, crying in the middle of her office while Harry held her and professed his undying love. For so long, she convinced herself that Harry would never see her as more than a friend, but this entire time, she was wrong.

She had never been glad to be wrong a day in her life until today.

"You- you make a convincing argument, counselor."

His hand cupped her cheek, thumb swiping away the tears coating her skin.

"I- I guess there really is no other choice who the clear winner is in this case. And you did say it's not in the employee handbook-"

Words would have to wait as Harry swooped down and claimed her lips. Her entire body ignited with an indescribable force, one that made her soul carefree and her heart lift with non-existent wings as she wrapped her arms around Harry's neck. In that moment, nothing else mattered; only the wizard she dared to dream could be hers.

For as long as Hermione could remember, she made lists for everything in her life.

Reason number one why she wanted to be with Harry Potter: he was her best friend. Since their first year at Hogwarts, he had been with her through thick and thin and now wanted to continue to be with her through the rest of their lives, even when he was a cocky little shit and irritated her to no end.

Reason number two: he was a good and kind man, an exceptional lawyer, and looked damn good in a suit when he was arguing for the underprivileged in front of the Wizengamot.

Reason number three: she loved him with every fiber of her being.


Author's Note: Happy Birthday to my beautiful and wonderful sister- Venus4279. Thank you for everything and I hope this story was everything you wanted it to be!

Shout out to the Beta's that made this possible: SheekMartin, Gina, and Tesla Ember! Thank you ladies for all the support!