It was about something stupid, like always. Cooking, specifically, or rather a lack thereof. Ron was gone all day at work as an Auror with the Ministry of Magic. Hermione had been offered a position with the Magical Law Enforcement section of the Ministry, but she insisted on going to university first. The Wizarding World had no further education past N.E.W.T.S, but Hermione wanted to learn more. She said that there were some gaps in her education that she wanted to fill, and with the knowledge she could learn at a Muggle university she could apply a new perspective to the inner workings of the Ministry. Though they had rented a small flat in London, Ron was gone at work all day and Hermione was in class, only returning home at dusk, at which point she had homework to complete.
“Just once, just once I’d like to eat something home cooked instead of heating up a frozen dinner!” Ron said. He was standing in the kitchen and holding a half empty glass of water. Hermione’s hair was frizzy from the drizzly rain outside, and her eyes were tired and weary.
“I’m sorry if I’m at school and don’t have time to cook for you, Ron! Maybe you should try learning how to make something for yourself for once!” Hermione yelled back, fed up and frustrated.
“I shouldn’t have to, you’re the girl!”
“Excuse me?” Hermione said. Ron was oblivious of the tone in her voice that indicated that this was verging into dangerous territory.
“My mum cooks for my dad every night, she makes things like – “
“I’m not your mother!” Hermione yelled. She was close to tears, angry tears that threatened to spill out from her eyes. She blinked furiously and turned away, grabbing her bag and heading out the door.
“Where are you going?” Ron yelled after her.
“Away from you!” Hermione screamed back, slamming the door behind her.
Hermione walked the streets of London, too angry to even see straight or pay attention to where she was going. She eventually calmed down and sat on a park bench, trying to collect her thoughts. She wasn’t going back to the flat. She couldn’t face Ron right now. This wasn’t the first fight they’d had, in the past year or so they’d been fighting over trivial things nearly every day and it had been getting worse and worse as time went on. Maybe they needed some time apart.
She thought first of going to her parents, but that wasn’t an option. She’d reversed the memory charm on them just after the war was over, but then she had to explain what exactly she’d done and why she’d done it. They hadn’t been too happy with her after that. Currently they weren’t on speaking terms. Ginny was her closest female friend, and she would probably let her stay with her even though Ron was her brother because Ginny admitted that Ron could be a right prat sometimes. But Ginny was off on a promotional tour with the Holyhead Harpies. That only left one person. Harry.
Harry lived in a small cottage just outside the Forest of Dean. He’d moved there soon after the war, saying that he wanted some peace and quiet to come home to. He did work as an Auror at the Ministry with Ron, but commuted all the way back home. Commuting was easy when you could Apparate. Hermione hadn’t really been to his house in a long time. They tended to meet up in London, all three of them. It was easier. Hermione hadn’t really been alone with Harry for more than five minutes since their seventh year when they were camping together. Even now she knew this wasn’t the best thing for her to do, it wasn’t going to make her relationship with Ron any better, but she needed Harry. She needed a friend who she could trust, someone who knew her because he had been through everything with her, side by side.
Hermione walked up to the small, wrought iron gate and pushed it open, heading into the garden. It wasn’t very well-tended, but wild and overgrown. Someone had been keeping it away from the main path but had done nothing else. Hermione thought she spotted a gnome’s face before he darted away with a muffled cackle.
“Are you here looking for Harry?” a soft, lilting voice called out. Hermione glanced in the direction it had come from and Luna’s wispy blonde hair popped out from behind a flowering bush. She was wearing light green overalls with a pink shirt beneath, a blue headband in her hair.
“Luna! What are you doing here?”
“Didn’t Harry tell you? I’m his roommate,” she replied. Hermione didn’t reply. She’d always felt a bit uncomfortable around Luna. They didn’t get along very well, because Luna’s belief in conspiracy theories and magical creatures did not exactly mesh well with Hermione’s standards of evidence and proof.
“Where is he?” she asked.
“Inside. Thinking. He does that a lot. He doesn’t want to be disturbed but I don’t think he’d mind if it was you doing the disturbing.”
Hermione nodded and gave Luna a polite smile, walking up the path and pushing open the wooden door, stepping into the front entryway. She glanced into the kitchen to her right. He wasn’t there. She found him in the living room, sitting on a loveseat in front of a big window. It let in light; the whole house was bright with sunshine.
“Harry,” Hermione said softly. He turned around and swung his legs over to hit the floor. His whole face brightened when he saw her, and then his forehead crinkled with worry.
“Hermione! Is everything okay? What are you doing here?” he asked, quickly getting to his feet and walking towards her. Hermione didn’t plan on what happened next, but she couldn’t control herself any longer. She ran into Harry’s arms and dissolved into tears. Taken aback, he hugged her back softly, rubbing her back and making comforting noises.
Hermione sat at the small wooden dining table, nervously picking at her cuticles. This felt wrong. She knew that if Ron found out that she was here, that she had come here – their relationship was already falling apart, and this might be a blow that it could not withstand. Harry walked over and put a cup of tea down in front of her, sitting across the table. He didn’t say anything, realizing that she would speak when she was ready.
“Maybe it was never meant to be. Maybe it was a mistake from the start,” she said. Harry didn’t reply, and there was a silence. Not the awkward kind, but one between two friends when both didn’t have to speak because so much was simply understood.
“I have an extra bedroom. You can stay as long as you like. It’s just Luna and me here.”
“When did she move in?” Hermione asked.
“About four months ago, after her father died. Their house was destroyed during the war, and she was sleeping at the Leaky Cauldron and staying with her father at St. Mungo’s during the day. I told her she could stay here until she figured out what to do next.” Harry explained. Hermione could hear her humming cheerily through the open window.
“You could go outside and help her. She’s looking for Nargles in the garden. No, I’m serious! Being around her somehow makes….it lightens your load, you know?” Harry said. Hermione looked at him knowingly, and Harry blushed.
“It’s not like that!” he protested. She smiled wordlessly and went outside.
As the day turned to night, Luna came inside and began to help Harry prepare dinner. The kitchen was small, barely big enough to fit three people comfortably, but Hermione walked in and offered to help.
“I learned a few spells from Mrs. Weasley if you want to chop the vegetables faster…” she offered to Luna, who was slicing carrots she’d picked fresh from the garden.
“Oh no, it’s quite alright.”
“She likes cooking by hand. Says it makes the food taste better.” Harry explained. Hermione nodded and backed out of the kitchen, feeling a little bit out of place. Luna seemed to sense this, and called out over her shoulder.
“If you’d like you could look over the books I brought back from my father’s library. I couldn’t save them all, but I brought some of them back. They’re quite old,” she said. Hermione wasn’t sure if Xenophilius’s taste in books would match her own, but she took Luna up on the offer and went into the sitting room, where a few stacks of old books were piled on the floor.
Hermione became so engrossed in the books that she didn’t hear anything at all. She loved to learn, and she loved to read of course, but she hadn’t taken the time to lose herself in a wizarding book since her fifth or sixth year at Hogwarts. It was strange, she’d lived through so much terror and chaos but she still felt nostalgic for her time at Hogwarts. It was the first place she’d ever had friends, people who liked to be around her and weren’t forced by their parents to be nice to the strange, bushy-haired girl.
She was jolted out of her concentration when someone knocked at the door, the metal knocker clanging against the heavy wood like a thunderclap. She saw Luna come out of the kitchen and rub her hands on her pants, followed by Harry, whose hair was sticking up every which-way. She remembered back in their third year when he’d tried to magic it flat. It didn’t work.
“Sam, it’s nice to see you.” Harry said, shaking the hand of the short golden-skinned man who walked in the door. Hermione had never seen him before, and his blue jeans were too tight to have any room for a wand in his pocket. A Muggle. This realization only confused her more.
“Harry, Luna! How have you been?” he replied cheerily, hanging his jacket in the front closet and then embracing Luna in a quick hug. His jet black hair made for a jarring contrast against Luna’s light blonde tresses.
“Who’s this, Harry?” Hermione asked, standing up and taking a few paces towards the three of them. Harry turned to Hermione as if he’d forgotten she was there.
“Oh! Right. Sam, this is Hermione Granger, a good friend of mine. Hermione, this is Sam Nantakarn, Cho Chang’s husband,” he explained, but this only left Hermione more confused than before.
“Come along and help me set the table,” Luna said, taking Sam’s arm and leading him into the kitchen, which opened up into the dining room beyond. Hermione gave Harry a look.
“It’s kind of a long story, but basically I invited Cho over for dinner one night and she brought her husband, who’s a Muggle. He and Luna hit it off and he’s been coming over for dinner once or twice a week ever since. Cho usually doesn’t come with him.” Harry explained. Hermione knew that Cho had married a Muggle, the members of the DA still kept in touch and she saw most of them every year the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, but she hadn’t actually seen Cho for a long time. She’d apparently tried to divorce herself as completely as she could from the Wizarding world, and Hermione didn’t blame her, though she couldn’t say that she would do the same herself.
“Oh,” she replied, and Harry laughed, taking her arm.
“Come to dinner, we made tacos and salad,” he said. Hermione realized that she was actually quite hungry, and tacos sounded delicious.
“Yes, we call it Bigfoot. Some Muggles belief that it exists up near the Himalayas. It’s also known as the Yeti.” Sam said, taking a mouthful of salad up in a fork.
“It’s probably a confused Raygaum.” Luna said knowingly.
“What’s a Raygaum?”
“Oh, they’re shy creatures. They live in the mountains of Tibet, and their fur has healing properties.”
“I’ve never even heard of Raygaums before. They’re not in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Hermione muttered under her breath. Harry shrugged, choosing not to answer. They sat in silence for a few more moments, and then Hermione spoke again.
“I just feel like it was what we were supposed to do, you know?” she said. Harry looked at her, confused.
“Me and Ron!” she explained. Harry nodded.
“Of course! I knew that’s what you were talking about.”
“It’s starting to feel like an obligation. Like I’m just with him because it’s what was supposed to happen and I’m just going along with it even if my heart might not be completely in it,” she said.
“Hermione, you know that the three of us are tied together in a way that no one else can understand – not even the rest of the DA. But that doesn’t mean we have to marry our high school sweethearts. Most people don’t, you know. I mean, look what happened with me and Ginny.” Harry said with a small smile.
Another silent pause. It wasn’t the awkward kind, but the companionable kind that only two people who knew each other very well could share. Nothing needed to be said as they each mulled over their thoughts. Hermione watched Luna at the other end of the dining table, in animated conversation with Sam. The two of them seemed to have quite a lot in common, and she wondered if Cho minded their friendship.
“How’s Luna been handling things? I know she was very close to her father,” Hermione said, recalling Luna and Xenophilius dancing at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, what felt like eons ago. She envied the closeness that was apparent between the two of them. Hermione wasn’t currently in contact with her parents but even when she was small they didn’t really understand her. Being quite ordinary Muggle dentists, they didn’t know quite what to make of her stories of Potions classes and runaway trolls.
“She was. I think she’s doing alright. Luna’s got sunny optimism and an unshakable hope that remains bright no matter what seems to happen around her. I’m actually quite jealous of that, but I’m hoping it will rub off on me.” Harry said. Hermione saw the way he was looking at Luna and smiled to herself.
Two loud clangs came from the front door and Harry jumped out of his seat. He still had a soldier’s alert senses, left over from the days when all of their lives had been in constant danger. Hermione still had to tell herself sometimes to relax, calm down, take deep breaths. Harry and Hermione went to the door, Luna and Sam trailing after, Sam making noises about how he should leave, it was getting dark.
“Who is it?” Harry called, and Hermione couldn’t hear the muffled answer, but when he pulled the door open she saw Ron’s familiar face and her stomach churned with too many feelings for her to identify.
“Ron! It’s good to see you!” Harry said, clapping his friend on the back. Ron grinned back at him.
“Long time no see, mate,” he replied. When he stepped back, he looked around the room and saw Luna, who smiled at him.
“Oh, hi Luna,” he said.
“Hello Ron. This is my friend Sam. He was just leaving, I’ll walk you out,” she said in her airy voice. Sam smiled and thanked Harry for having him over, leaving the trio alone in the small cottage. Harry moved off to the side a little and Ron gave Hermione a pleading look that just about melted her heart.
“Hermione, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to lay all of the blame on you. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate with your classes, and I’ve got a lot going on at the Ministry, and I shouldn’t expect you to be like my mum. A few frozen dinners won’t kill me. Please come back?” he asked. Hermione felt her eyes welling up, despite her misgivings. It was so rare for Ron to apologize that she knew this had probably been hard for him. She nodded and gave him a small, forgiving smile. Ron grinned and enveloped her in a huge, warm embrace, planting a kiss on her lips and then hugging her harder. She rested her head on Ron’s shoulder, looking over to meet Harry’s eyes with the guilty certainty that sooner or later, she’d break her boyfriend’s heart.