Sometimes, when the Burrow got too loud, Hermione would flee to the kitchen. There might be one other person there grabbing a spot of food or a new bottle to replace something in the living room, but it was always several decibels quieter than the rest of the house.
Almost as soon as she'd stepped out of the Floo, Hermione had fled to the kitchen.
It was a raucous event - there were three celebrations in one, really. Mrs. Weasley had been planning an elaborate graduation party for Ginny since September, and then apparently Ron had let slip about Hermione's parents and things went a little wild. Mrs. Weasley hadn't said that the party was Hermione's, too, but she asked for her input a terrible lot for someone whose party it wasn't. It was kind of her to mother Hermione - and obviously Spencer, whom she'd taken a liking to - but it was bittersweet, and Hermione didn't really feel as celebratory as the party demanded.
Over the winter holiday, she had traveled to Australia alone to try to return her parents to their previous state. They were beyond the point of no return. They would never remember that they had a first daughter. Memory charms were a fickle thing, she had told herself bitterly over and over again. Most days, she focused on being grateful that she hadn't subjected Spencer to one. It helped, when she was hyperventilating alone in the bathroom at Hogwarts. He wasn't there to hold her hand, but she knew that he was safe and that his memories were complete.
He had finished his doctorate (interdisciplinary, studying chemistry and physics) in record time for the university, using the time in the fall when he wasn't taking classes to focus on his research. He was still based out of Hermione's flat in Northwood Hills, commuting for meetings and presentations when needed, occasionally giving lectures. Through the spring, he had spent almost every waking hour on campus, flying through coursework and more focused research. He really was the most intelligent person she'd ever met, and she had no doubt that if she had moved anything around in his beautiful brain, he wouldn't have been able to work at nearly the pace that he did.
While she had spent the winter holiday in Northwood Hills, save her disastrous trip to Melbourne, she had opted to remain at Hogwarts for the Easter holiday. She claimed to most of the Weasleys that she was working ahead towards an Arithmancy thesis that she was planning to do in a few years, but she admitted to Spencer in one of their many letters that she felt too fragile to celebrate a holiday properly without them. "I miss you," he'd admitted in a particularly long reply, "but I'm very glad you're doing what makes you feel best."
Initially, it was only he, Ron, and Harry who knew what had happened - then Ron had admitted the truth under interrogation from Mrs. Weasley about Hermione's Easter plans, and then everyone knew. She was thankful that everyone had managed to move past the pitying-looks stage and into joining her in pretending that nothing had changed. In stark contrast, nobody besides her knew why Spencer's parents weren't in the picture, and she was pleased that everyone had the good sense not to ask.
She poured a glass of champagne for herself, courtesy of the Delacours of course, by express owl service, and considered the way that Mrs. Weasley had taken Spencer under her wing and directly into the family. While Hermione hadn't seen him for six months, he had been harangued into going to a few Sunday dinners at the Burrow, resulting in a closer relationship between him and the elder Weasleys than she had expected at her return. Mr. Weasley apparently found chemistry fascinating, and Mrs. Weasley enjoyed the opportunity to fatten up yet another young person.
His relationship with Mr. Weasley - Arthur, Spencer called him - was absolutely mystifying to everyone besides them. When Spencer had asked her over lunch one day if she thought that Arthur could handle being in the Muggle world for his hooding ceremony, she'd practically choked on her curry.
"What?" she'd managed to splutter out. "Really?"
Spencer sat up straight, unabashed. "Yeah, I think he'd enjoy it."
She beamed, and something in Spencer relaxed. "I think he would, too."
And he did. He and Hermione were the only two to attend the ceremony, and if the people around them were confused how Mr. Weasley was related to either of them, it didn't matter. He'd whispered questions in Hermione's ear the whole ceremony up until Spencer's name was called (and more questions after). "Why does he have a mage staff?" had been a highlight for her.
He'd brought a magical camera and insisted on passing around photos as soon as they'd gotten back. Several adorned the walls of Reid and Hermione's flat (and it was truly their flat, at this point, not just hers), and one was placed gingerly on the mantle at the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley had fled to the kitchen, eyes suspiciously glimmering.
In this moment, Hermione reminded herself, forcefully pulling herself out of her own thoughts, at this get-together, the mood was lighter. She could hear laughter echoing around the hall from the others and steeled herself to go out into the fray. She'd been her twenty minutes without seeing Spencer (she'd stuck around after graduation to thank some of her professors and had gotten to the Burrow after the party really started), but she was sure he had to be here somewhere. Glancing down at the ice bucket of champagne, she decided to pour a second glass. Hands full, she made her way out of the kitchen. As she made her way through the room, eyes flitting in search of a certain head of just-too-long hair, she tried not to make eye contact with too many people.
The night had been a flurry of comments rather than a string of conversations. Hermione felt like one of Spencer's particles, bouncing around and coming into the briefest contact with the others at the party.
"His ceremony was like something out of the Wizengamot!" Mr. Weasley was bragging to a captive audience about Spencer's hooding. "He thinks he might go into teaching!" It really was heartwarming how well they got on.
"Hermione," George called out from a plush armchair, "Harry here agrees you work too hard!" Not surprising. She smiled, but turned away from them. Where was he?
Suddenly someone was gripping her arm, and Hermione flinched. The champagne in her glasses came dangerously close to spilling over, but thankfully didn't. It was just Ginny. "One of those for your loverboy?" she asked teasingly.
Hermione gave a token laugh before gently jerking her arm out of Ginny's hand and wandering away. She didn't want to deal with the jokes her friends made. She understood where they were coming from, and they didn't normally bother her this much, but tonight, her first night back from Hogwarts, she didn't want to hear it. Practically as soon as she'd walked through the door, Ron had asked her if Spencer had "made any moves on" her (Hermione's answers: 'no'; 'really, no'; 'no, I'm not lying'; 'no, I don't know what you mean').
Bill Weasley caught her eye and motioned for her to come over. She did so, grudgingly.
"Who are you looking for?" he asked, glancing at the sweating glasses in her hands then back up to her.
She sagged in relief; he wasn't going to keep her captive. "Spencer! I haven't a clue where he is."
Bill laughed as if he'd read her mind and heard her thought of captivity - more probably, he could read her body language. "I've just left him in the back, we were talking about 'mythological creatures.' He has a lot of strong feelings about dragons," the man added, looking down his long nose at her. "He's lucky he's mostly right."
Hermione had her first genuine laugh of the evening. "He usually is. Thank you, Bill," she called over her shoulder, already moving quickly towards the back of the house.
She pushed the back door open with her hip and slipped out, catching it with her foot so that it closed quietly. Teetering for a moment on the decking on her single high-heeled shoe, she was worried that this would be the time the glasses spilled, but somehow the liquid stayed put. She finally decided that they were charmed to prevent spills, and felt silly for not thinking of it earlier.
With the door shut behind her, she let herself sigh heavily. Now she just had to find Spencer.
"Hermione?" called a familiar voice. She straightened. That was easy.
Still wobbling on the unsteady ground, she made her way around the corner of the house to where Spencer was leaning against the house alone in navy blue slacks and a white dress shirt. Hermione felt her lips creep into a small smile. Someone had put up hovering fairy lights - not with living fairies like at the Yule Ball, which Hermione had always found a little barbaric, just simple, sweet fairy lights. They cast Spencer in a soft, warm-toned light, contrasting against the cool blue of the night.
She held out the glass of champagne in her left hand, and he looked at it for a second longer than expected before taking it. She leaned against the house beside him, knowing it was going to get her dress dirty - the silky dress from the day they'd held hands - but unable to care.
"I've been looking all over for you! Did you miss me?" she asked, keeping her voice intentionally light.
"So much," he said gruffly. Their eyes met, and she could only hold contact for a second before she was forced by his intensity to look away. She moved closer to him, close enough that their arms were almost touching.
In the distance, Harry, Ron, and Charlie were flinging gnomes. They looked to have been in the bottles well before she'd arrived. Between that and the wind slowly picking up, their aim and distance were lacking.
"I missed you, too," she murmured. "I'm excited to have this summer with you." They had planned to take the summer to travel and relax as they saw fit, embracing what they both felt was their last chance at an extended break for the foreseeable future. She was hoping for South America, with the idea that they would go north for a while so that Spencer could visit his mother. It had been a long time since he'd seen her, and she knew that although they wrote almost every day, he missed her terribly.
He sipped his champagne, looking thoughtful - then all thoughts of his mother were put out of her mind as he slipped his right hand down into her left. Their fingers laced together, and it felt right. She sipped her champagne through a smile.
They stood like this for some time, holding hands, sipping expensive drink from cheap glasses, and watching the rise and fall of distant garden gnomes.
Eventually, the boys tumbled past them into the house. Harry slowed down to spare her a meaningful look - as meaningful as a smile and a suggestive waggle of the brows could be, at least.
With them gone, she finally felt able to break the silence with real conversation.
"It's strange," she murmured. Spencer made a soft hmm? "It's June, but there's no… battle. The last four Junes of my life have been…" She let herself trail off, knowing that he would understand even if she couldn't find the right word.
"It sounds like the Junes before that were hardly typical either."
"You're right." She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back. Goosebumps prickled on her arm; the wind was picking up.
He took a final sip, draining his glass, still looking straight ahead into the darkness. "How do you feel?"
She looked at him sharply, eyes wide. "Wonderful." He finally turned to face her directly and half-snorted. "No, really. I think I'm finally able to feel something properly again," she said, almost stumbling over the words with how quickly she was trying to get them out, "even if I think I should be uncomfortable with it, even though I didn't think I could even hope for it - I feel good when I'm around you, Spencer." The words were tumbling out of her mouth and she couldn't stop them. "I feel utter bliss with you."
She could no longer read the look in his eyes, and she felt her heart drop, worried that she'd said something wrong or too much. They stayed like that for a moment, her eyes wide and afraid and his shining with an intense unknown while she searched for any clue in his face as to what he was feeling. Then, he tugged her hand to spin her to face him chest to chest, inadvertently striking his hip with her hand. Suddenly, she could read his expression: desire, mixed with nervousness.
The silence hung between them, each too anxious to make the first move. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance, the sound sort of reminding Hermione that she could speak.
"Hello," Hermione said, her eyes flicking down to his lips and back up to his. His gaze was intense, never leaving her eyes. A beat of silence. "I'm not very good at this."
"Never?" She swore internally, hoping that he hadn't taken her curiosity as judgment.
"It's never come up," said Spencer nervously.
You can do this, Hermione told herself. Just lean forward -
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked, looking down to the ground. She was taking too long, he thought she didn't want to, she wanted to more than anything. Just -
She brought a hand to his chin and lifted it so that he was looking at her. She meant to lean forward and up and meet his lips, but instead she found herself saying, "I love you," and even though she hadn't meant for the first time she said it to be out back of the Burrow at a shared graduation party, she did mean the words.
"I love you, too," Spencer said, thank Merlin, and then he brought his head down to hers and their lips touched for the first time.
Their first kiss was chaste, and his lips were chapped, but it was perfect. It was like a promise, like she could taste the next sixty years of her life, all shared with him.
Their second kiss was less chaste, and she found he tasted like champagne. She was sure she must, too. She let the hand she had on his chin drift behind his ear, and he almost growled, pulling her closer until she was pressed against him, him pressed against the house. Her dress felt so very thin in the wind, and she shivered. Spencer's stance shifted, and one of his legs somehow found its way between hers. She arched towards him, so close to making the most incredible contact, and -
Ahem, someone coughed from the corner of the house. Hermione let out a small shriek and jumped away from Spencer. It was Harry, and he was horrible the way he was smirking. Her face was instantly hot with embarrassment, and a glance at Spencer showed her he'd gone a deep crimson as well.
"Mrs. Weasley says it's almost time for cake," Harry said lightly. With that, he rounded the corner, leaving the two to their own devices.
Hermione didn't speak until she heard the door close behind Harry. "Well, that was…"
"Mortifying," Spencer finished. He had his hands in his pockets and was avoiding looking at her altogether.
She stepped close to him again. He still wasn't looking at her. "Yes. But I'm glad we, well… I'm glad you kissed me."
Finally, he looked at her, and the silly grin on his face made her heart skip a beat. "Me, too."
She'd be lying if she said she wasn't yearning for another kiss, but if they didn't get inside soon then the chances only grew that Harry had told someone what he'd seen. (Mrs. Weasley would likely send a search party, besides.)
"I heard there's cake," she said, offering a hand. "We should celebrate."
He took it, and she marveled at how he could be so warm in such awful wind. "Which thing are we celebrating? There are so many choices." She marveled again at how lucky she was, to have such an incredible friend to have fallen in love with and for him to fall in love with her.
There really were, weren't there? "Everything," she decided, and he beamed. She dragged him around the corner, the fairy lights flickering softly behind them.