Disclaimer: all characters and settings are the property of J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made from this work save the personal joy brought by writing characters I love doing things I find cute.

Looking back on it, Hermione fell in love with Percy as much for his books as she did for his personality. With anyone else that would probably be a bad sign, but he liked her back in part because her office was bigger and more secluded than his and she let him work in there when he needed a break from his subordinates, so she figured it all worked out. She never could pinpoint the exact moment she realized she loved him, though it was somewhere between when she woke up and knew there was no point trying yet again with Ron and when, after six months of working together on a particularly delicate task for the Minister, he blushingly asked her out to dinner for the first time.

That first date started off impossibly awkwardly, with both of them unsure what exactly they thought they were doing and what the other expected, but by the end of the evening conversation had shifted to the current idiocies of the Wizengamot and they'd gotten into a heated debate over the precise wording of the letter to the minister that really should be sent regarding the current shameful lack of attention paid to regulating parchment age and thickness and Hermione couldn't remember the last time she'd enjoyed herself so much. It reminded her both of the countless other nights the two of them had spent working together and of how she and Ron had never had this kind of intellectual understanding. When they finally paid their bill and left the restaurant she grinned at him, thanked him for a lovely evening, and promptly asked for a second date.

The second date was interrupted halfway through by an urgent owl from the head of the Department of Magical Law requesting Hermione's immediate presence at an emergency partial session of the Wizengamot to hear the case of a young man accused of passing out leaflets filled with anti-muggleborn hate speech. She passed the summons over to Percy, bracing herself for a storm of outrage or at least a pointed comment or two about separating personal and professional life. It never came. Instead he handed her her coat, wished her luck on the outcome of the trial, and promised to let her pay next time to make up for skipping out on this dinner early. Hermione was still grinning when she stepped into the courtroom.

They never actually made it out to dinner for their third date. They'd agreed to meet at Percy's flat for a drink beforehand and got completely sidetracked by an analysis of the Tales of Beedle the Bard Percy had left out on the coffee table. Hermione, glancing through it, commented that the reviewer completely failed to notice the blatant inequality inherent in the stories. Percy countered that the reviewer was taking historical context into account, she retorted that that was no excuse for side-stepping the issue, and by the time they looked at a clock again it was half past ten and far too late to go out. Hermione ended up stepping out and picking up take-out Chinese, which Percy had never had before. She taught him how to eat with chopsticks, or at least tried to. In the end he resorted to temporary sticking charms on both chopsticks and declared that eating shouldn't be an activity which required specialized skills. She accused him of being narrow minded and set in his ways, which prompted an argument about tradition versus innovation that lasted until three in the morning.

The fourth date was devoted to exposing Percy to as much of muggle culture as one could reasonably manage in the space of an afternoon, and the fifth was him getting his revenge by taking her on a tour of a tiny, obscure museum devoted entirely to the life of the Department of Magical Games and Sports' former Head, one Argus M. Kettlebum, best known for being too fat to ride a broomstick from age six. Hermione decided than she would hex anyone who said that Percy didn't have a sense of humor.

He canceled on her for the sixth date, giving her a harried look and pointing at the monstrous stack of parchment on his desk he still had to go through. She offered to help, was politely rebuffed, and ordered him a bottle of firewhiskey on her way back to her office. (Their make-up sixth date was spent in her office, drinking the firewhiskey and comparing workloads and useless coworkers. She went home that night around midnight to her empty flat, flopped almost bonelessly onto her couch, and decided that being in love at twenty-two was a lot more fun than it had been at fourteen.)

The seventh date came after she'd won her first major case in front of the Wizengamot, successfully convicting Daphne Greengrass of negligence in front of muggles for her part in a celebration a month previously that had required a mass obliviation. Greengrass got off with only a fine paid to the DMLE and a note on her permanent record but it was a start. Percy took her out to a ludicrously expensive dinner complete with champagne and snooty waiters. He ordered Sheppard's Pie, she ordered chicken, and both of them spent most of the evening enjoying the pained and disapproving looks sent their way by the staff, who clearly thought them not nearly posh enough for their restaurant. By the end of the evening both of them were more than a little drunk. Hermione had declared Percy the next coming of Igor the Unfailingly Pedantic, while Percy had retaliated by bestowing upon Hermione the title of Most Likely To Correct People At Her Funeral. When they finally left the restaurant he gave her a hesitant kiss goodnight. She rolled her eyes at his caution and demanded that he do it again, properly this time. He obliged.

Their eighth date ended in a screaming row about goblins.

After two weeks of not speaking to each other they both sent ministry memos with apologies. The memos ran into each other along the way and arrived crumpled at their respective destinations. Percy's was written on the official letterhead parchment presented to members of the Minister's personal staff. Hermione's was carefully composed on a fresh sheet of parchment and written using a newly cut quill. Both contained invitations to lunch as part of the apology. The two of them ended up going Dutch for that date, spending longer than the allotted one hour lunch break at the pub around the corner and finally agreeing to disagree on the merits of wizarding fiction. They mutually agreed that they needed to do more research before tackling goblins again. When finally they parted to go back to work she kissed him first and the redness hadn't quite faded from his face by the time he made it back to his office.

For their tenth date he took her home to his family. Neither of them had bothered to officially announce their status as a couple, for all that it had been two and a half months by this point and rumors about them had been circulating the Ministry for the past eight weeks, so none of the Weasleys except possibly Arthur were expecting her as Percy's plus one to the bi-monthly family reunion dinner. They spent the evening sitting in a corner of the living room together, mostly talking with Bill about their respective jobs. Both men humored Hermione when she went off onto rants about the backwards nature of Ministry equality regulations, and in return she waited patiently whenever the two brothers started reminiscing about people she didn't know and places she'd never been. Hermione sat between Percy and Harry (there with Ginny, though whether or not they were actively together at the moment was somewhat unclear to everyone including the two of them) at dinner and endured Molly's sighed complaints about how her children never told her things anymore. The children in question mostly seemed to find these complaints as ludicrous as Hermione herself did, and any number of exasperated looks were exchanged between the younger members of the family as they silently debated which of them would tell their mother this time around that all of them, yes, even Ginny, were adults. George drew the short straw and interrupted his mother's litany of complaints with an observation that Hermione and Percy really should have just snogged each other thoroughly at the door to save everyone the trouble of having to make an announcement. Hermione gave Percy a speculative look, on eyebrow creeping up ever so slightly. He turned bright red and refused to look at her for the rest of the meal. George poured her drinks for the rest of the evening. (She did snog him thoroughly later on that night, though after they'd left his mother's house and retired to her flat for hard-earned drinks and blessed quiet. He never quite made it back to his own place and she ended up transfiguring some of her clothes to suit him when they went to work the next morning. They were returned a day later, untransfigured, washed, and pressed in what couldn't possibly have been a subtle comment about her lack of interest in ironing.)

The eleventh date didn't happen for another month or so. Hermione had a crucial deadline looming over her head and towards the end didn't even leave her office to sleep. Percy dropped by occasionally when she needed to let off steam, but he never stayed longer than ten minutes or so and by the time she finally witnessed the signing into law of the Werewolf Non-Discrimination Act of 2001 she hadn't seen him at all in nearly a week. (She didn't see him directly after the signing either. She went home to her quiet flat where no one wanted her to sign anything or give statements to the press or deflect completely unsubtle barbs about her age and parentage and promptly fell asleep for twelve hours.) When the date finally did happen she was mostly recovered from her exhaustion and ready to celebrate the achievement. He guessed, correctly, that celebration or not she had no interest in appearing in public and instead made dinner himself at his flat and compensated for his imperfect cooking with rather excellent wine. Next morning it was her turn to show up at work wearing transfigured clothes.

Their twelfth date was crashed by a drunk and despondent Harry Potter who had broken up with Ginny again, this time apparently for good. Hermione rolled her eyes at her friend's tendency towards melodrama, then made her apologies to Percy and apparated Harry home. There she stayed for the rest of the night, listening to him rant and periodically hitting him with sobering charms when he wasn't paying attention. By the time he'd both sobered up and could be trusted not to change that the second she left him alone, it was close to two in the morning. To his credit Harry apologized profusely for disrupting her evening and promised to make it up to her somehow. Hermione took pity on him and didn't ask just how he proposed to change the past; knowing Harry he'd make an attempt at doing precisely that and she'd have another crisis to sort out.

The next day she learned that Percy had done essentially the same thing with Ginny, and between them they pieced together a reasonably accurate summation of the latest fight between the Boy-Who-Lived and the Defender of Hogwarts (a title Ginny shared with Neville and one they both detested). Hermione offered ten galleons that they'd be back together by Christmas. Percy took the bet and recorded it meticulously on a piece of parchment, which he filed away in one of his many impeccably organized drawers. (When Christmas finally came Harry and Ginny had gotten back together and broken it off again twice and were currently making what they both swore was their final go at it. Hermione and Percy agreed that she'd technically won, but she handed him half her winnings for the crime of having assumed it would be anywhere close to that simple.)

By the fifteenth date they both had spare clothes and toothbrushes at the other's flat.

Hermione didn't believe in forever. She'd fought in a war when she was eighteen years old and spent the six years before that fearing for her life and that of her best friends on a regular basis. She'd seen her first dead body at fourteen, witnessed her first death a year later, killed for the first time two years after that. After the war she'd devoted her life to overturning the laws and customs that were supposedly put in place 'forever.' Forever belonged to fairy tales and children's stories and people like Albus Dumbledore. Hermione had no use for it. Percy, she found out during their eighteenth date, didn't either. Only ghosts have any business talking about eternity, he informed her. And I'm not about to become one of those, not even for you. She grinned at that and their earlier conversation didn't resume for quite a while.

After six months and twenty eight dates Percy moved in with her. They'd discussed it previously, especially as it became rarer and rarer for a night out to end with each going back to their own flat, and the excuse to do it came when his heat broke for the fourth time that winter and he got fed up with the incompetence of his building manager. Hermione came over to help him pack, something which took far longer than it should have because they made the mistake of starting with the books. Eventually, after the third two-hour long digression, they agreed to take a break and call Ginny over to keep them from getting sidetracked. Ginny found the whole situation endlessly amusing and conjured a leather riding crop to further her role as supervisor. Hermione pointed out that that could be construed as being insensitive, Ginny countered that she was playing the role of a dominatrix not an abusive House Elf owner, and Percy ended up being the one to remind them both to get back to work. When they finally got everything packed and shrunk and organized to Percy's and Hermione's joint satisfactions, the three of them said one final goodbye to the sterile flat and apparated away. Ginny invited herself to dinner as payment for services rendered (a turn of phrase which made Percy start spluttering and Hermione threaten between helpless giggles to tell Molly). None of them felt like cooking, so Hermione called for pizza and insisted that Percy eat it properly instead of trying to cut it into bite-sized pieces. He pouted like a small child every time his hands got greasy and Ginny stayed far later than planned since embarrassing her big brother by telling his girlfriend stories about him as a child was much more fun than going back to her mother's house.

They officially announced that they were a couple at the Ministry New Year's party. It wasn't supposed to be an official announcement, but Ministry parties were goldmines for gossip reporters and Hermione's confirmation of the relationship to Lisa Turpin made the headlines of the Daily Prophet the next day. The front page blared RISING REFORMER WORKS WAY THROUGH WEASLEYS, and the accompanying picture had clearly been taken without either of their knowledge because her hair was a mess and his robes were crooked and both were smiling. Hermione took one look at the headline, snorted, and shut down Harry's snickering with a pointed, at least mine doesn't include hyphens. Molly insisted on throwing a party, which Hermione rather dryly referred to as their coming out party. Only Ginny understood the reference, and the rest of her family plus Harry all looked at her strangely as she broke down giggling and offered to provide the rainbow sprinkles. Only a disinclination to actually explain the joke kept Hermione from taking her up on it.

Molly started dropping hints about a wedding after they'd been living together for three months. Hermione and Percy politely ignored her as long as they could, then told her point blank that they weren't interested in taking that step at that point in the relationship. Molly reminded Hermione, in what she probably thought was a tactful manner, that she wasn't getting any younger and raising children gets harder with age. Hermione only shrugged and said that children also weren't currently on her mind and that both she and Percy had agreed when they started seeing each other that their jobs came first. At that point Molly started spluttering somewhat incoherently in a combination of shock and disbelief and Hermione gave Percy a pointed look telling him to get his mother out of her house this instant. Percy took Molly home, handed her over to her long-suffering husband, and apparated back to the flat where he locked the door and sat down wearily on the couch. Hermione silently passed him a bottle of muggle cider and sat beside him. For several minutes they drank in silence. Then she turned towards him, set her drink down, and announced, The more she goes on about that the less inclined I am to ever propose.

He shrugged. Fine by me. The Prophet's going to have a field day.

Her answering smile was almost predatory. Good.