AN: This story is form an idea that came to me one night. There are elements in here from other stories I have read. So don't anyone take offence. This is definitely AU. Post Deathly Hallows. It is a bit different from anything else I have written. For those of you who hate HP/HG pairings, all I can say is tough, that's what this ultimately is.
October 14, 2001, about 2 in the morning
It had been just over two years since they all graduated together from Hogwarts, three years since they defeated Tom Marvalo Riddle. Hermione was sitting alone in the kitchen of their flat. It was two in the morning; she couldn't sleep and had come out to make herself some tea.
She sat there in the stillness of the night, with only the slight glow of the lumos charm she had cast in the kitchen when she started to make herself the tea. Hermione Granger, part of the "Golden Trio" as some in the wizarding world referred to her and her friends, was just miserable. She kept wondering how she possibly could have found herself in this place. She thought back to when they had graduated, and the four of them, Hermione, Ron, Harry and Ginny had thought it would be great to get a flat together in London. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Ron and Harry were going to become Aurors, Ginny was going to start work at St. Mungo's Hospital as she was preparing to become a healer, and she, Hermione Granger, the "brightest witch of their age", was going to be working as a researcher for the Department of Magical Artifacts. Hermione sighed to herself as she remembered how happy they had all been back then.
Here it was, the middle of the night, and she was alone in their kitchen, drinking tea and trying not cry. She was hoping against hope to get a chance to talk to him. She knew she had to talk to him about how she felt. After all of these years, she couldn't keep it in any longer. She heard the sound of the door opening from the bedroom that the two young men shared. She heard footsteps coming towards her. Maybe she could get the courage up to say something to him. She watched the silhouette approach. She saw him reach his hands to his face and rub the sleep out of their eyes. As the shadowy figure became more clear in the faint light in the kitchen she realized it was Ron.
"Hey 'Mione," mumbled a half sleeping Ron Weasley, "You hungry too?" Without even making any pretense of waiting for an answer Ron walked up to the fridge, opened it up, moved some things around, found a piece of cold chicken and started to munch away. "That's just what I needed," said Ron in between bites as pieces of chicken sprayed from his mouth. He looked over at Hermione, offered her the chicken in his hand, "Do you want any?"
Hermione was completely mortified and looked at Ron in disgust. She tried to hide the disgust she had for the scene in front of her and simply answered, "No, I'm fine with just my tea."
"Great," said Ron with another mouthful. He looked at Hermione as he was leaving the kitchen as he added, "Hey, you know its late, you ought to get you some sleep."
Hermione sighed. She was relieved that Ron had gone back to his room without saying anything more. "Well Miss Granger," she said out loud to herself, "maybe tonight is just not your chance to finally talk with him." She wondered if Harry was even in the flat.
Several minutes later, she was nearly done sipping on her tea. She was startled with the sound of the pop-pop of two people apparating into the living room of the apartment. She nearly dropped her now empty mug as she turned to see Ginny falling forward into Harry's arms. Harry immediately caught the red headed witch and prevented her from falling.
"Thanks luv," slurred an obviously drunken Ginny.
"Hey don't mention it," sighed Harry. Harry turned and looked at Hermione, silently questioning her as to what she was doing up at this hour. Then he turned is attention to the young witch leaning on him for balance. "Let's get you into your bed," he calmly stated to the red head in his arms.
Ginny in turn just slurred her response, "Sure thing, hun." Harry then helped the drunken young witch get into her bedroom and then a moment later he was back in the living room. He looked over at Hermione and quietly called to her in the kitchen. "She should be alright now, I really need to get some sleep, see you in the morning."
Hermione sat there in shock. "What the hell was that?" she wondered. Her mind raced trying to figure out what that could have been. Those two had broken up three months ago, right at the time that she and Ron had broken off their relationship.
Hermione figured they must have gotten back together. Now things were really going to get awkward she thought. She began to cry in the dark, wondering just how more miserable her life could possibly get.
3 months earlier, July 14, 2001, Saturday morning
Hermione was sitting at the table in the apartment kitchen, having a cup of tea by herself. She was tired of pacing the floor and was now just steaming mad.
The sound of the front door to the flat opening caused her to jump from her seat and head to the entranceway.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley, just what do you think you're doing?" she yelled at him.
Ron Weasley was trying to quietly sneak into the flat he shared with his best mate, his sister and his girlfriend. "Er, trying not to wake you," he said meekly, more as a question and not a statement.
Ron's hair was disheveled, he reeked of alcohol and looked to be bruised up.
"It's nine in the morning," spat Hermione.
"Right," replied Ron. He looked at his wrist. "I don't have a watch. That explains why the sun is so bright now."
Hermione just glared at him.
"What?" he asked in frustration.
Hermione just continued to glare.
"The team won last night," he said.
"I know Ron," Hermione said bitterly. "I was there in the stands, with your family. I watched the whole match."
"It was the first time the Cannons beat Puddlemere United in decades," Ron tried to explain. "The team had a huge celebration afterwards. I had to be there. I'm the keeper. I was just named team captain last month."
"We waited for you after the game, Ron," added Hermione, her tone softer now.
"We?" he asked.
"Harry, Ginny, the whole gang of us from Hogwarts," she paused and searched his face for a response. "We were right outside the locker rooms like usual. We waited for nearly two hours."
Ron swallowed hard.
Hermione continued, "Harry eventually went in to look for you. You weren't there."
"Like I said," Ron answered as his face started to turn red, "the team was having a party."
Hermione looked at the lipstick stains on his shirt and his neck. "So I can see," she said now with no anger in her voice. She just looked at her feet and started to cry quietly.
Ron reached out to out his hand on Hermione's shoulder. She batted it away and looked back at him, tears still streaming down her face. "So, all your fan girls were more important than me, your girlfriend, or all of your mates from school?"
"No, it's not like that at all," Ron protested.
"Then what is it like Ronald?" demanded Hermione as she crossed her arms across her chest.
He was numb, he was hung over and he knew he was in the deepest pile of trouble ever.
"I just don't know what to say, 'Mione," he said simply.
"I do," said Hermione. "We're done, Ronald Weasley. I can't take any more of this crap, this mess. It's over between us. For real. " She started to cry more and turned to walk to the room she shared with Ginny.
Hermione nearly walked into Harry who had walked into their living room still in his pajamas. He had not been noticed by either of the two.
Hermione looked up through her tears at Harry's shocked face.
"How much of that did you hear?" she sobbed.
"Enough," he replied tenderly. He reached out to try and give his best friend a hug, but she shook him off and continued to her room.
His eyes followed her until she slammed the door to her room shut behind her. Then Harry turned to look at his mate. "You know Ron," he said calmly, "you may be my best mate, but you sure have been turning into a right foul git." With that he went back into the room he shared with Ron.
Ron stood alone in the middle of the flat. He then turned to walk to the kitchen and grabbed a dishcloth and rubbed his face with cold water. After shaking the water off of his face he let out a long sigh and then turned to head back to his bedroom., however Ginny was blocking the way.
"You know, if you weren't my brother," she spat at him, "I'd have already hexed you into next week. And I have half a mind I to just do that anyways."
Ron dropped himself into a chair at the kitchen table.
"Do you even love her anymore?" Ginny demanded, the harshness in her tone not missed at all. "Did you ever really love Hermione?"
Ron looked at the table in front of him for a minute, then he looked up at his sister. He shifted uneasily in his seat. Finally he spoke. "I think I was in love with the idea of being in love with her. We did everything together for seven years at Hogwarts."
"Eight years," corrected Ginny, "If you count the year you guys were running around England hunting Horcruxes."
"Yeah, whatever," answered Ron dully. "For the first 5 or 6 years it was always the three of us. The Golden Trio! The Boy Who Lived! The brightest witch of our age! And then there was me, the third wheel. The other guy."
Ginny stared at him silently. She didn't dare interrupt him as he usually never said anything her and Hermione had a row. She sensed Harry had come out of the room and was standing behind her. Ron continued to just stare in front of him, blankly looking at the wall.
Then he continued, "Then Harry and I went to Auror training. Everyone saw how that turned out for me when I was kicked out of school in less than one month." He gave an uncomfortable laugh. "I was the joke. I heard what everyone was saying about me. Harry and Hermione carried me through school. I know that. I owe them both for all they did for me. But then I had to do something with my life. The only thing I really learned at Hogwarts was how to play Quidditch. So I did that. And you know what? I turned out to be pretty damned good. I joined the Cannons. I soon became the rookie of the year. The number one keeper. Me, Ron Weasley, someone other than Harry Freaking Potter's shadow. Someone other than the pathetic loser that Miss Hermione Granger lets hang around. I'm somebody, all on my own."
Harry walked into the kitchen and sat down across from his friend.
"Hey mate," he said quietly, putting his hand on Ron's arm. "We're all proud of you for all that you've done. So why have you been pushing us all away? Especially Hermione?"
Ron looked at Harry, his best mate since they were eleven and met on the train to Hogwarts. "Because my friend, as you said, I'm just a right foul git."
With that pronouncement, he stood up and walked to his bedroom. "I'm sorry guys, but I really need to crash." Quietly he closed the door behind him as he collapsed onto his bed.
Harry turned to look at Ginny. "Now what are we all going to do?"
Ginny briefly rubbed his shoulders, before turning away. As she walked back to her room, she said "I have no idea, he's your mate,. I'm just going to check on Hermione."
Later that afternoon.
Ginny and Hermione were sitting in the kitchen. Hermione's eyes had stopped tearing up. They were discussing the living arrangements with the four of them and how everything had changed since Ron arrived home that morning.
"I don't know," said Hermione. "I don't know where else I can go right now. I am not about to run home to my parents. With my work at the ministry its better for me to be here in London."
Ginny frowned at her friend. "Hey, you're the best roommate I've ever had, I really hate to lose you."
Hermione reached out and squeezed Ginny's hand. "Thanks, but I don't know how I'll be able to deal with him every day."
"I didn't think that was a problem for the past 9 years," interrupted Harry who had just walked in.
Hermione punched him in the arm.
"You know who I meant," she said, trying not to cry again.
Harry bent over and gave her a warm hug.
"So now what do we all do?" asked Harry as he swung his leg over the back of a chair to straddle it.
"We start getting on with our lives," answered Ginny.
Harry looked at her with a sideways glance. Something about her reply struck him as odd.
"I guess I'll start looking for a flat of my own," said Hermione. "I love you guys but I don't think I can be around him, around that 'right foul git' to use your phrase Harry."
Hermione looked at Harry with a twinkle in her eye. Harry wasn't sure where that twinkle came from and for some reason he hoped that Ginny hadn't seen it. He looked over at her and she was still concentrating on Hermione.
"You know, Hermione, you are always welcome to stay here as long as you need to," she said softly.
"And besides," added Harry, "the 'right foul git' is going o be traveling a lot over the next month for his Quidditch matches and he currently doesn't have much reason to come by here. I really don't think he's going to be around that much."
Ginny slapped his arm. "Way to go brilliant one, way to make her feel so much better after last night."
"What?" protested Harry. "I was just telling her like it is."
"Enough about me already," said Hermione. "Can't we just talk about something else?"
"Sure," said Ginny. "Like what are we going to do for Harry's 21st birthday in a couple of weeks?"
July 21, 2001
It was Saturday evening and the friends were gathered at the Lion's Paw Pub. Seamus and Dean had opened the pub just off of Diagon Alley shortly after they graduated. Many of their friends had no idea where they came up with the money to start their own business, but some of them had their suspicions.
Neville Longbottom was seated at a table with his friends Harry and Hermione. Seaamus and Dean were working behind the bar. Draco Malfoy who now worked with Harry as an Auror was standing at the bar waiting to get a drink. Daphne Greengrass was with him, which was not surprising to the group as she and Draco had an on again off again relationship. Luna Lovegood was walking in and looked around at the group. As she sat down at the table she asked, "Where's Ron? Shouldn't he be here by now?"
Harry closed his eyes in frustration as he saw Hermione shudder at the name of her ex-boyfriend. Neville tried to help the situation. "He and Hermione broke up last week."
"I know that silly," said Luna in her aloof manner. She looked at Hermione, "I didn't mean to upset you, but he is still our friend, isn't he?"
"He may be too famous to hang around with the likes of us," commented Hermione, the bitterness in her voice was not missed by anyone.
Neville chuckled at that as he was about to take a sip from his beer. "More famous than the Boy Who Lived?"
"Where's Ginny?" asked Luna.
Harry looked over at the bar. "She's been talking to Dean most of the evening so far. Probably getting another beer."
Hermione noted that Harry was just drinking a soda water.
Harry then turned to Luna as he stood up, "Can I get you something?" he asked.
"I'll have whatever Neville's having," she said simply.
"Right, one butter beer coming up. Anything more for you Hermione?"
"Maybe I'll join you at the bar as I try to decide what to get," she answered. The two friends walked up to the bar. Harry was almost surprised to see Draco with Daphne.
"Hey there mate," said Harry.
"Hey yourself Potter," grinned Draco. Draco went to clink his beer bottle against Harry's but was surprised by the lack of sound as the glass bottle bounced off the plastic water bottle in Harry's hand. Glancing at the bottle in Harry's hand, Draco then spoke to Harry, "Hey there, lay off of that hard stuff will you pal?"
Harry laughed as he made his way past Draco to order the butter beer for Luna. When he got to the bar, he realized he was right next to Ginny, as she just put down a shot of fire whiskey. Hermione had watched this display and a thought came to her about Harry's choice of beverage for the evening.
"Getting stronger stuff now?" smirked Ginny.
"Just getting a drink for Luna," said Harry.
"Make that two," added Hermione who was right behind Harry.
Dean Thomas heard the order and turned to Harry, "Two butter beers coming right up for you Potter!"
Draco and Daphne were standing on the other side of Ginny who had turned around to talk with her friends. Harry was uneasy as it was clear to him that Ginny was already drunk. Most of their friends had just arrived. "This is going to be another long night," he thought to himself.
"So Draco," said Ginny as she leaned on to his shoulder, "you and Harry have any exciting cases recently?"
Draco was surprised to see Ginny this drunk, this early in the evening.
"Nothing special, Red," he replied as he gave a look to Harry that asked what was up with this.
Harry just shrugged in reply.
Ginny looked over Draco's shoulder at Daphne. "Oh, hi Daphne!" she said much too loud for how close she was to her. "So Draco likes you again?"
Daphne turned and walked away without a word. She managed to find a seat at the table with Luna and Neville.
"What's wrong with her?" Ginny slurred as she turned to look at Harry, still holding onto Draco's shoulder.
"I don't know, Gin, what's wrong with you?" he snapped back.
Hermione gently grabbed Harry's arm. "Don't Harry, don't do this," she pleaded quietly.
Ginny tried to straighten herself up. "Nothing's wrong with me! I'm with the Boy Who Lived. How can anything be wrong. Of that's right, he Lived! He doesn't live, he doesn't have any fun!"
"Calm down, Red," Draco said quietly.
"Oh, is the jumping ferret taking sides with his old friend, now?" she said pushing herself away from Draco. "Didn't you used to hate Harry?"
"Yeah right," said Draco with obvious irritation. "Then I saw the freakin' light by the time the Battle at Hogwarts came around and I jumped on his bandwagon. So when did you decide to jump off?" Draco looked back at Harry, "Sorry mate, but this is too much for me." He turned and walked away towards the table.
"He's still a prick," said Ginny.
Hermione looked at Harry with sadness. "Fine Ginny, let's just go home," said her best friend.
"Home? But the party's just getting started!" she exclaimed.
Seamus came out from behind the bar. "I think you're done for the night luv, just go home with Hermione."
Harry stepped forward to hold Ginny's arm. Hermione pushed him away gently. "I've got this Harry, let me do this." Hermione saw the pain in Harry's face over this whole mess.
Hermione turned back to Ginny as she said, "Hold on, here we go."
There was a pop as the two witches disappeared from the bar.
Harry brought the butter beer for Luna back to the table. He sat down with a thud in his chair, the frustration he was experiencing was obvious to everyone.
"What was that all about mate?" asked Draco, actually sounding truly concerned.
"I have absolutely no idea," he said. Harry then let out a big sigh as he got back up from his chair. "I think I need to be leaving too." He then stood up and walked out of the bar and down the street.
Only a few moments later Ron Weasley walked in all beaming with smiles. He saw his friends sitting around the table and he walked up to them, sat himself down in the seat that had just been vacated by Harry. "How's everyone tonight?" he asked in an overly excited way. No one answered as they were all in shock by Harry's abrupt departure and Ginny's drunken display of rudeness. "Did I miss something?" Ron asked to the group.
October 14, 2001, mid afternoon.
Harry walked out of his room and found Hermione asleep on the couch. He paused and just stared at her. He thought how peaceful she looked. The more he thought about it, Harry realized he hadn't seen Hermione that peaceful since before July. He paused as he walked into the room and decided to just pull up a seat and watch her as she slept. After a few minutes he started to feel guilty, like he was spying on her, so he went and grabbed the Daily Prophet and started to read the newspaper. Harry found himself looking over the paper and still staring at Hermione. Feeling ashamed he said aloud to himself, "You're just being a foolish git."
Hermione opened her eyes slightly, and with a yawn she turned to Harry, "Who's being a foolish git?"
Harry was startled to hear her speak, he dropped the paper as he stuttered an answer, "Oh, just me I guess."
Hermione looked at him surprised to see him sitting there.
"So, where's the girlfriend?" she asked rather coldly.
Harry blinked at that question. "What girlfriend? You know I haven't been dating anyone since Ginny and I had that row before my birthday."
Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry. "Then what was all that holding each other tight, calling each other 'hun' and carrying Ginny off to the bedroom when you guys got home?"
"What is this about?" Harry was shocked by Hermione's questions and her assumptions.
"How can you go back to being with her after the way she treated you? After the way she humiliated you?" Hermione cried as she looked at her best friend. "Do you not have any self respect?"
Harry just stared at Hermione in silence. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
Harry was starting to get furious with the assumptions that his friend was making.
"I don't do I?" snapped Hermione. "Then why don't you tell me what you were up to? She showed up to your Ministry of Magic party you went to last night, didn't she? She sweet talked you into taking care of her all over again. You two got drunk and you brought her back here. Am I on track so far?"
"You were right about meeting her at the party," said Harry with a look of shock on his face. Harry could not understand what had gotten Hermione in such a state.
"And then what?" asked Hermione.
"Yes, she got drunk. She was hanging over Draco and really being a pain in the arse."
"Sounds about par for the course for her lately," sneered Hermione.
"Draco told her to bugger off," said Harry the exasperation he was having with this conversation starting to show through. "Ginny decided to leave at that time, it was about midnight, and as she started to storm out of the party I asked her where she was going to go. She muttered something about going home to the Burrow. As she apparated out of the party I got a really bad feeling about things. So I decided to go to the Burrow to check on her. When I got there, she was lying on the ground in pain. She splinched herself. No one was awake, no one knew she was there."
Hermione interrupted him, "Ginny never splinches, she's too good at apparating."
"She was really tanked. I picked her up and brought her to St. Mungo's. They were able to heal her injuries. She was still drunk when they were done. I brought her back here to the apartment to put her in bed."
Hermione just gazed at Harry. She could see tears welling up in his eyes. "I had no idea," gasped Hermione. She could tell by the emotion in Harry's voice that he was telling the truth.
"I don't think I can go on living here anymore," Harry said flatly. "I just can't."
"Don't worry about it hero," said Ginny from behind. "I am moving out. I'll head back to the Burrow. Mum's been worried about me anyways and last night proved she has reason to worry. So, I'll get on out of here and stop messing up your perfect little life Mr. Potter."
She spun on her heals and went back into her room and slammed the door.
"How long was she out here listening to this?" asked Harry with obvious shock.
"I have no idea," replied Hermione in equal shock.
They sat in stunned silence for a few minutes. Finally Hermione spoke up.
"You can't leave Harry, not yet anyways," she said quietly.
"And why is that?" he asked, trying to take the edge off of his voice. He knew he had no reason to be upset with Hermione.
"Ginny's moving out, that leaves just three of us to pay the rent. If you move out then I'm stuck with Ron, whenever he's around, and I couldn't handle that. Can you stay until I can find another place? Or at least until we can get out of the lease on this place?"
Harry looked at Hermione feeling even more guilty. "Ron's not even here half the time, 'Mione. I've covered his rent for 2 of the last 3 months."
"Harry, why?" asked Hermione. "You know he can afford to pay, he's quite well off from his playing Quidditch."
"I know, I know," said Harry. "It's not like I'm hard up for money. I've got more galleons than I know what to do with even if I never get paid again in my life."
Hermione looked at her friend. "Harry?" she pleaded holding back her own tears. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, 'Mione, anything," he said.
"You are such a good friend, even when your friends continue to dump on you, how do you do it? Why do you do it?" Hermione could not hold back her tears.
Harry looked away from her, he gazed out the window and then down at his feet. He said nothing.
"Oh my God, Harry, I am so sorry!" she exclaimed. "How could I even ask you that question? I know your friends mean everything to you." Hermione could see the hurt in his eyes. She thought back to when she first woke up, before she started to lay into Harry about Ginny and the night before.
"Harry, can I ask you something else, on a different subject?" she pleaded, hoping he would not shut her out after her rudeness to him this afternoon.
"Go right ahead," he said softly. He wiped his eyes with the cuff of his shirt.
"What were you doing in here when I woke up?" she asked softly. "And don't tell me you were reading that old issue of the Daily Prophet."
Harry turned and walked into the kitchen. He was silent as he opened the fridge and looked around for something. He fished a water bottle out of the back and opened it up and took a sip.
Hermione was in shock. She felt like screaming at Harry for ignoring her and walking off like that. She stared at his back, her mouth open.
Harry spoke without turning to face her.
"I came out and saw you sleeping on the sofa," he said with a strained voice. He paused and then he said, "I just couldn't' take my eyes off of you, you looked so…" He paused again, even longer this time. "You looked so beautiful sleeping there. It reminded me of when we were first years and I met you on the train. You and Ron were my first friends, ever. Ron is my mate, we're drifting apart but we're good. We're OK. We understand each other. But now I'm losing you. I'm losing my best friend."
Hermione walked up to him from behind.
"Harry James Potter!" she exclaimed.
He turned and was startled that she was right behind him. He had never heard her come into the kitchen.
"And just why do you think you're losing me?" she questioned.
He looked in her in the eyes, trying to discern what was going on in her mind. He could never read her thoughts. "What was all of this inquisition you just put me through?" he asked. "You get all up one side of me and down the other because I help out the woman I used to be in love with when she gets herself hurt. You made it clear that you were disgusted at the thought that I might actually be falling for her again, or that I'm rekindling the relationship with her again. What was that all about Hermione?"
Hermione took a step back as she heard Harry's frustration. Her mind was racing like never before. She could not believe she had gotten herself into such a conversation with Harry. He was staring straight into her eyes, looking for an answer.
She thought her response was about as lame as she could have come up with when she said, "Because I thought I was losing you."
Her words were soft and quiet.
"But you will never lose me," he said softly back to her. He gently reached out and placed his hands on either side of her shoulders. "I am always here for you as your friend."
She looked away. "That wasn't what I was worried about losing," she said as she tried to spin out of his grip.
Harry tried to hold onto her shoulders but she slipped away.
He stood there in silence as he stared at her backside. His mind was trying to make sense of what they had just said. Hermione's eyes were shut tight, trying to hold back tears, feeling empty after bearing her soul to him.
"Ahem", came a small voice at the edge of the kitchen.
Hermione and Harry both looked up and saw Ginny standing there with a bag over her shoulder looking as though she was about to leave on a trip.
"Now that you two have both had the chance to spill your guts, do me and yourselves a big favor please," implored Gunny.
The utter calmness in her tone caught both Harry and Hermione off guard.
"What?" they asked in unison.
"Are you really thicker than my brother Ron, Harry?" she laughed. "And you Hermione, are you not the 'brightest witch of our age'? How can you two be so blind?" Ginny waited for a response and got none.
"Look, I said I am leaving, and I meant it. I'm off to the Burrow. Now. So, like when I turn and leave and floo out of here, just kiss each other and get it over with. And before I do go," she added with a smile. "Thanks Harry, for last night, for everything. I never did deserve you and your kindness. And Hermione, I love you my friend. And I love my brother, but you are SO much better off without him."
Before either one of them could say anything, Ginny turned and walked to the fireplace, tossed some floo powder in and then disappeared.