If Hermione had to decide when it was that everything changed, she would have to say it was that rainy, cold Thursday morning in early October, when, at half-past six, there came a heavy pounding at her front door.
Startled, she stood up from the couch, just as Bertie, her cat, lifted his head and scowled. Her mouth was dry with fear, even as reason told her that none of her security charms had gone off, so whoever it was, they weren’t a threat. Before she could form words, however, there came a shout from the other side of the door.
“Bloody hell, Hermione, I’m dripping wet out here—!”
Fear morphed into confusion as she frowned and headed for the door, because she knew that voice. “Harry?” she said as she opened the locks. “What on earth—”
“Finally!” He pushed past her into the entryway, and he hadn’t been lying. The man was soaked from head to toe, clearly having been caught in the downpour outside. His glasses were askew, and his hair lay flat to his head, for once. “You took your time!”
“I— I—” Hermione stammered, her fingers fumbling as she locked the door. “What are you doing here? It’s six in the morning!”
“Half past,” Harry corrected her, pushing a hand through his hair. “And I know you’ve been up for ages.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed her arms against her chest. He was right, of course. “That’s beside the point. And what happened to you?” she added, gesturing to his sodden clothing.
“It wasn’t raining at Hogwarts,” he replied, then gave himself a shake, and a moment later, he was bone dry, hardly a hair out of place. He shot her a cheeky smirk and adjusted his glasses. “And I Apparated outside, didn’t I, just like I’m supposed to, since Honestly, Harry, the noise will frighten the neighbors—”
And this was what she got for living in Muggle London. Bad impressions of herself. “Why are you here?”
But he was already turning and heading for her dining room, which was less of a dining room and more of a library. “I need a book.”
Frowning, she followed him. “And what’s wrong with the Hogwarts library, may I ask?”
“Why would I go to the library when I can visit my dear friend Hermione, instead?”
The room was packed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that needed more than a little magic to keep standing, not that Hermione wanted to admit it. Harry spun on the spot, pointed to a shelf, then crouched and reached for a slim volume.
He remembered that I alphabetize, thought Hermione, then gave herself a shake. She recognized the book. It was a recent and well-written publication on vampires. “I’m surprised you don’t have a copy of that.” After all, he had mentioned it, what — two, three letters ago?
“Lost it,” he replied, with a sudden grin. “Couldn’t tell you where it got to.”
“Right,” said Hermione, because this was a bit much. She hadn’t seen him in months.
“Lesson-planning,” he said, like it explained everything. “Still a bit early for the fourth-years to be learning vampires, of course, but always worth getting ahead.” And with that, he wandered into her kitchen. “Cup of tea?”
Once again, Hermione followed him, more bemused than anything else.
Harry tapped the kettle with his wand, sending a spout of steam into the air, then went rummaging through her cupboards, pulling out a box of PG Tips and a half-eaten packet of Rich Tea biscuits. “Blimey,” he said, taking stock of her kitchen as the kettle began to whistle. “Bit bare, Hermione.”
“I’m not here all that much,” she replied, taking the milk out of the fridge. Bertie, who had come with them into the kitchen, hopped up onto the counter and watched with unblinking eyes.
Harry nodded, went about making two mugs of tea, splashing a bit of milk on the counter. “Right, right. How’s the job, anyway?”
“The same,” Hermione said. She’d actually been in the middle of some research when he’d arrived — the same project that had dominated the past few weeks of her life — on a particular labor law that allowed house elves to be inherited. An old law, but one in the process of being turned over, especially now that house elves had to be paid for their work.
“See much of Kingsley these days? He’s quite busy of late, so I hear.” He passed her a mug and took a slurp from his own. Outside, thunder rolled.
“We go to lunch every few weeks, and I see him in our weekly meetings, of course.” She sipped her tea. He’d brewed it perfectly. “How’s Hogwarts?”
Harry smiled then, a quick, bright thing, and bit a biscuit in half. “Fantastic. I’ve got a really good batch of third-years at the moment, and the O.W.L. students are keeping pace.”
“That’s great, Harry.”
Silence fell between them, and thunder rolled again. She noticed that Harry was watching her, and something in his eyes was bright, playful.
“What?” she said, immediately suspicious, because this was Harry, for crying out loud. For all she knew, he could have a flask of Polyjuice and a half-baked plan up his sleeve.
“Let’s get dinner,” he said, which, what.
“Dinner,” she repeated. “It’s a bit early for my taste.”
“Not now ,” he replied, polishing off the biscuit. “This weekend.”
“Saturday,” he said, all pleased. “It’s been a while, Hermione.”
Her stomach jumped. “A while,” she said, because that was all she could do right now, go on repeating whatever it was he said.
“Since we caught up. Properly.”
Hermione looked at him. His eyes were still bright, keen behind his glasses, and if she tried, she could almost spot the fading scar that lingered behind his fringe. This is Harry, she thought. “Yeah, sure.”
“Great.” He drained his tea, even though it must have been scalding, and put his mug in the sink. “Gotta run. McGonagall hexes me if I’m late to breakfast, and I’ve got to walk all the way back from Hogsmeade.” And with that, he went out of the kitchen and back to the front room.
Frowning again, Hermioned put down her mug and followed him, again. “Sorry, did you burst in on my morning just to invite me to dinner? They do have owls for that sort of thing, you know.”
He paused at the door, turned to give her a smile. “Don’t be ridiculous, Hermione, I needed the book.” And he waved it in front of her for full effect.
She sniffed, reaching to unlock the door. “My home is not a library, Harry.”
“Could have fooled me.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and opened the door. Then she turned, and realized that they were much closer than she’d thought. Harry was only a few inches from her — she could see his stubble, smell his rich, woody aftershave.
“Well, Harry,” she said, looking up at him. She’d always hated that he’d ended up quite a bit taller than her. “Don’t let me keep you from McGonagall’s hex.”
“Cheers, Hermione,” he said, then he ducked in and bumped her cheek with his in a goodbye kiss, his mouth hot and brief on her jaw.
Then he was gone, and she closed the door with a pounding heart and, if she was being completely honest, trembly knees. Pull yourself together, she thought, turning back to the couch, to the stacks of parchment and her abandoned notebook. Then, I wish he had stayed a bit longer.
“Right,” she said to Bertie. “Time to get ready for work.”
“I know,” Hermione murmured, reaching to pick him up. “I want to go back to bed, too.”
“Bloody hell. You look like you’ve had a morning.”
It took a moment for the words to sink in, and when they did, Hermione looked up. Verity had evidently just arrived, coffee cup in one hand and her umbrella in the other. She was smirking.
“What?” said Hermione, perplexed. She did a quick mental scan of her body — no, she wasn’t naked, her shoes were on the right feet, and her hair was its usual unruly self, though pulled into something resembling a bun. “What do you—?”
“Shirt’s inside-out, love,” said Verity, stepping into Hermione’s office and shutting the door behind her.
“Shit .” She stood up as Verity went to the window and shut the blinds — enchanted or not, you never knew who could be watching. She tugged off her blazer, then her shirt. The cool air of her office made goosebumps rise along her arms and shoulders, and at least she’d remembered to wear a camisole. “Thanks for spotting that.”
“Does he have a name, or is he battery-powered?” said Verity, perching on the edge of Hermione’s desk.
Busy turning her shirt the right-way out, Hermione didn’t catch on. “There isn’t any him. I just had a weird morning.”
“Weird morning, right.” Verity took a sip of her coffee, coupled by another smirk. “What happened?”
“Nothing really.” She had her shirt back on now, and she reached for her blazer. “Harry stopped by.”
Verity’s eyebrows spoke volumes and third editions. “Harry? Why?”
Hermione scowled and sat back down, flicking her memo draft out of her line of sight. Bugger it. “He needed a book. How’s the day looking?”
“Nope, you’re not pivoting away from this.” Verity leaned forward, far too eager. “I need a lot more details.”
Hermione scowled at her properly now. “You’re being ridiculous—”
“I don’t think the woman who wore her shirt inside-out to work gets to decide that,” Verity said. “So what did he say? Were you dressed? Please tell me you weren’t dressed—”
“Merlin,” she muttered. Verity had been on about this for as long as she and Hermione had been friends — her conviction that Harry and Hermione needed to get their heads out of their asses, shag each other senseless, and declare their love in front of the entire fucking Wizengamot. Ridiculous, thought Hermione, though that word wasn’t strong enough. “All right. He shows up soaking wet on my doorstep, he barges in, grabs the book, makes himself a cup of tea, dazzles me with small talk, then invites me to dinner and buggers off. Basically a typical Thursday, as far as Harry is concerned.” She raised her eyebrows. “Satisfied?”
“Not in the least, babe.” Verity’s eyes were huge. “Dinner?”
“Yes, a friendly thing that two friends who have known each other for years do together, as friends.” Hermione waved her hand at her office door and it jumped open. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a memo to finish.”
“I’ll bet you do.” Verity smiled in an unwavering, cat-who’s-about-to-steal-the-cream kind of way. But she made to leave regardless. “See you at lunch.”
The door closed behind her, and she slumped back in her chair with a sigh. This was getting exhausting.
Because, the lame truth of it all was simple — Hermione had been in love with Harry for years now, and there was nothing she could do about it.
No one knew, either. She had built her walls carefully, with diligence and skill, a side-effect of the war and everything it had taken from her, from Harry, from Ron, from everyone they knew and loved. Even a decade and-then-some later, some things still felt fresh, alive, ready to crawl from the shadows and choke their lives apart.
Mungo’s had done good work on Hermione’s arm, and it was almost impossible to see Bellatrix’s handiwork now, but there was some part of it that wouldn’t fade. It’s because of the dark magic, the Head Healer had told her in a low murmur, his aged eyes kind and bright. Some things can’t go away. So when the light caught her arm in a certain way, or when her muscles flexed as she lifted weights at her crowded Muggle gym, she would see it. At first, it was too much, too strong of a reminder, and it would clog her throat, make her eyes itch. But now, with passing time and months after months of routine, some of its power had faded, and she would look at it and feel nothing.
The cynic in Hermione would say that realizing she was in love with Harry had almost been the same, just in reverse. Years of nothing, apart from friendship, close regard, and perpetual annoyance. Of thinking that the feelings stirring in her chest, her gut, were directed to Ron, even when it was just her and Harry in that goddamn tent, drowning in the sound of rain but both of them unable to sleep.
It’s like waking up, she thought once, when Harry was still at the Auror office. She had passed him in the Atrium, seen him frowning deeply at something ridiculous that the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation was spilling into his ear. He caught her looking, flashed her a smile that was so brief, warm, private. Something about that moment, that glimpse of a Harry that only she was allowed to see, hit so profoundly home that it was like being caught by a bullet. There, in the fucking Atrium, her ears ringing and her stomach at her feet, she had finally known — it was Harry. Always Harry.
It explained a lot. Why her relationship with Ron had fizzled, after too many months of silence, tiptoeing, makeup sex, and fights that never seemed to end. They’d parted ways not long before Hermione’s twentieth birthday, and even then, as she would sometimes remember after a glass of Firewhiskey, it had been Harry who had knocked on her door, bottle of wine in one hand and a packet of Jaffa Cakes in the other, who had sat through a Die Hard marathon with his hand on the knee of her balled-up leg, who had handed her tissues and pressed in close when she eventually realized that she felt lost.
At least they didn’t work together at the time of her astonishing realization.
They were both in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but the Aurors were in another wing entirely, and Hermione’s branch — the team of legislators working for the Wizengamot, in conjunction with several other Departments — was rather secluded. It was easy enough to avoid Harry during the day, even as a small part of her looked for excuses to run into him.
Harry, who had started as the youngest, brightest, best qualified Junior Auror in the history of the Ministry, had hit the ground running after their year of makeup NEWTs and barely looked back. Hermione wondered, sometimes, if maybe he should have done that — looked back a bit more. But no one complained when, fresh out of training, he took the entire Auror division under his wing, rebuilding the ranks that had been so devastated by the Death Eaters. More than a few of the old DA gang had joined up as well, and the first few years after the war had passed in a blur of delightful chaos and disarming peace.
The only real thing that gave any of Harry's friends pause was the fact that he and Ginny didn't get back together right away, or at all. Hermione, especially once she was deep in the well of her own unrequited mess, had tried to ask Harry a few times about what had happened, but each attempt was met with a brief non-answer and a twitch of Harry's shaggy head. So she had to leave it where she found it — at that.
They both had nursed their Weasley breakups, and not long after Harry’s twenty-first birthday, Molly's occasional invitations to Sunday dinners started cropping up among the morning owls once again. It took time, obviously, and more than a few awkward meals, but soon, things were back to normal, or as close as they could get. The new normal, Hermione would think with a grim smile, watching as Ron stuffed his face with mashed potatoes. Then Ron started dating Padma Patil, all awkwardness about the Yule Ball forgotten, and he was happy. It was infuriating.
Then, as he'd approached his twenty-fifth birthday, Harry had a bit of a crisis, which surprised everyone except Hermione, because hello, this was Harry Potter they were talking about. He needed a crisis every five years or so, just to keep things interesting.
He'd started to have serious doubts about being an Auror long-term, a revelation that had shocked Hermione when she first heard of it over coffee on that nondescript April morning. Out of everything she’d expected, she hadn’t expected that. But she told him the truth, that she supported him no matter what and that it was time they made a list of pros and cons, ideas and dreams. After that, months began to roll past, months full of countless drinks at hole-in-the-wall Muggle bars, piles of takeout on Hermione’s floor, marathon walks around the Tate, running with him in circles and circles and circles until finally, at four in the morning, the night infinite and velvet-black around them, Harry looked up at her and said, “I think I’d like to teach.”
It was different now, three years after Harry had left London for Hogwarts, three years after Hermione’s best friend had moved away and she had found herself weirdly, pressingly alone.
They still kept in touch, of course, but it wasn't the same, not when Fridays and weekends passed with no real punctuation, or when the office interns started joking that Hermione and the old sixteenth-century files were practically interchangeable because neither got taken out much. She almost hexed them based on poor humor alone, then thought it wasn’t worth the disciplinary paperwork.
At least Verity took pity on her. Hermione did love finally having a Muggle-born friend who knew what the BBC was and why David Tennant’s cheekbones needed to be discussed in depth at least twice a week over a latté. That she couldn’t do with Harry.
But of course, she still found herself preoccupied by the most useless of images — the corner of Harry’s mouth, and the way it would twitch when she made a joke; the tousle of his hair at 2 AM; his bare feet when he stumbled from her couch into her kitchen for some Hangover Relief potion. His cheeky grin, the twist of his hands when he was explaining a spell, the laugh that would ring out like a shot in the halls of the Ministry. The way a look from him would turn her stomach inside-out, make something inside her clench with possibility.
Hopeless, she thought now, looking out across the busy streets of London from her office window. Absolutely hopeless.
Because it was, wasn’t it? For as long as they had been friends, she had always been reminded, confronted, buffeted by reality — Harry loved her like a sister, didn’t he? It was certainly what everyone knew, what everyone said, what Harry himself had said once or twice, though she doubted he knew that she knew about it. Besides, she wasn’t sure if she could do that to Ron. Even after everything, the bitterness, the anger, the fights — could she date his best friend, the very same best friend who had dumped Ron’s own sister?
Apart from that, there was the whole friendship question to consider. Hermione would be the first to admit that Harry was her closest and dearest friend. Spending your formative years saving his arse and traipsing around England together to stop a murderous dark wizard would do that, Hermione supposed. But their friendship had never rested on a crux of obligation — made all the more clear by the long periods they would go without seeing each other. If Hermione ever dared to dream that things between them might be different, might be ready for a deep dive, it would be in those moments when she caught Harry’s eyes lingering on her mouth, her hands, her chest. Or when he hugged her just a little closer than usual, his fingers pressing into her shoulder blades. But those sparks would fade as she saw his attention shift elsewhere, as she allowed her own doubts to creep in. What if they dated briefly and things ended in catastrophe? Hermione would lose her best friend, and be even lonelier than she was now, because surely Harry would take Ron and the Weasleys in the hypothetical divorce. More to the point, she thought, with a brief flare of anger, would Harry tell someone he had feelings for about all the women he shags on the weekends?
That was Harry’s bit, at the moment. One-night stands, no commitment, and usually Muggle women who only knew him as another anonymous bloke. Harry traveled easily through the Muggle world, escaping Hogwarts when he needed a night off, staying at Grimmauld Place and occasionally meeting Hermione for a hot chocolate on the steps of the National Gallery. She would listen to him unspool the events of his night out, gaping and smirking when she was meant to, but always parting with a sense of relief.
So it was easier now, with Harry gone most of the time. The distance made the stupid heartache easier to bear. She didn’t have to sit through meal after movie after coffee-run, staring at his face and wanting to scream.
This whole “Let’s go to dinner!” thing certainly wasn’t helping, either. In fact, it was a real thorn in her side, a buzz of annoyance that was making it difficult for her to focus on her work. Hermione knew the danger of playing in what-if’s — but it was always so tempting to unravel into a pile of drool, to let herself imagine Harry reaching for her across a table, murmuring something far too endearing and leaning in to press his mouth to hers.
Hermione twitched, gave herself a shake. “Pull yourself together,” she mumbled, for probably the hundredth time that day. “It’s just dinner.”
And with that, she turned back to her desk, resolving to forget all about Harry for at least the next forty-eight hours.
She failed miserably, of course, but that was beside the point, especially once eight o’clock on Saturday night rolled around and her fireplace exploded.
Well, maybe not exploded. Although that was certainly how it sounded.
There was a flare of bright green light, a huge crash, a burst of sparks, a cloud of ash, and a bellow of, “Hermione!”
Hermione stared in horror, then whipped out her wand, calling out, “Sorry, sorry, sorry!”
Because she’d covered up the fireplace. With a massive oak bookcase.
With a wave of her wand, the bookcase shuddered, rose, hovered two feet to the left, and plopped back down. From the fireplace — or what used to be her fireplace — a huge black smudge with two eyes blinked her.
“Bloody hell, Hermione,” said Harry. His mouth was pink underneath the ash. “Anyone would think you didn’t want visitors.”
“Sorry,” she said again, and waved her wand once more. The ash and soot vanished, leaving behind a Harry wearing Muggle clothing and an unamused expression. Another wave, and her fireplace went about tidying itself; Harry stepped aside as a dustpan and brush went for the pile of ashes by his feet.
“I should’ve noticed that the other day.” Harry took off his glasses and polished them on his jumper, an old habit that he refused to shake. “Wasn’t blocked off before.”
Hermione felt a twinge of guilt. To be completely honest, it had been months since she’d gotten a visitor via the Floo, and she hadn’t thought twice about covering the fireplace. “Are you all right?” she asked him, to keep from apologizing again.
“Fine, apart from the concussion and bruised pride. But I must say, it’s a lucky thing I was out of Floo powder until today.” He replaced his glasses and shot her one of those damned cheeky smirks of his. “Ready?”
She nodded, holstering her wand. It was force of habit, bringing her wand everywhere with her, even into the Muggle world, and she often had to get creative with it.
Harry noticed and cocked his head to watch. “That’s a new one.”
“Works well,” she replied, tugging her pant leg back into place. She had a calf holster, lightweight, slim, and rendered unnoticeable by a clever couple of charms. “I like it better than the arm.”
Harry nodded, patted a spot on his hip, where he kept his own wand. The Golden Trio were many things, and paranoid was definitely one of them. To this day, none of them went out into the Muggle world unarmed. He looked at her, and there was something different in his gaze. “You’re wearing heels.”
She rolled her eyes, grabbing her bag from the side table and waving a hand at the lamp, throwing them into half-darkness. “Yes, Harry, sometimes I put in an effort.” Hermione pulled on her coat and opened the front door. “What do you want to get?”
“Indian or Thai?”
“Let’s do Indian.”
Once they were at the restaurant, a snug hole-in-the-wall about a mile from Hermione’s apartment, seated with wine poured and their usual order on its way, Hermione stopped looking at the people seated around them and let herself look at Harry.
His eyes were bright, as usual, and she knew that soon, the wine would spread a pleasant flush across his nose and cheeks. He was still devastatingly good-looking, in that old-fashioned and sporty way that was entirely unfair, even as she noticed the slight droop to his shoulders and the shadows under his eyes. He smiled at her scrutiny, and her heart skipped a beat.
“Don't try Legilimens on me, Granger.” He took a sip of wine, his fingers tapping the stem of the glass. “Go on, then. What is it?”
“Nothing.” She sat back and took a sip of her own wine. “You look tired.”
Harry nodded. “I was with Hagrid most of today. Did you know that there are some magic-resistant types of weeds? And those weeds just happen to love pumpkins?”
Hermione smiled at the image of Harry digging through Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, knee-deep in mud and swearing at the top of his lungs. “Grapshot’s just written a fascinating treatise on magical resistance among some strains of plant life. He argues that it’s an evolutionary by-product stretching back centuries, perhaps even longer.”
“Good for bloody Grapshot. I could give him some excellent field notes.”
“So Hagrid’s doing well?”
“Of course. Same as ever.” Hagrid wasn’t teaching anymore — something that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were privately very glad about — but he split the greenhouse responsibilities with Neville and the magical creature-tending with Tara, the new Care of Magical Creatures professor. “He told me to send his best. He misses you, you know.”
Hermione nodded, taking another sip of wine. “Send him my best in return. Come to think of it, I might owe him an owl.”
“Life is easier if you assume that you always owe someone an owl.” Harry tapped a slow rhythm on the tabletop. “Have you ever thought about visiting?”
Something inside Hermione came to a screeching halt, and she tried not to show it. Yes, a thousand times, she thought, the words battling at the back of her throat, but if I go, I might never leave. “No, not really.” This was something he’d brought up before, she recalled, though it had been a while. “Besides, you know how busy things are at the office.”
Harry gave a dismissive shake of his head. “Things will always be busy at your office. Busy and yet unbearably slow.” He downed half his glass of wine and shot her another glance. “You should think about it. People at Hogwarts miss you.”
Hermione barely contained a scoff. “People? What people?”
“People like me.”
Hermione’s heart leapt into her throat. She glanced up and saw him watching her, his eyes a murky green in the low light of the restaurant. Her first thought was that this was very unlike Harry — he could do banter, yes, but a statement that was emotional, even vulnerable? If she didn’t know any better, she’d think he’d been Polyjuiced. Her second thought was that she had a sinking suspicion he was using this dinner to corner her, and maybe not just about Hogwarts.
“Well,” she began, clearing her throat and suddenly wishing she’d worn a thinner sweater, because Merlin it was getting warm in here. “Well, I—”
Just then, the waiter appeared with their food, steaming hot plates of curry and rice and fresh naan. Once the food was on the table, Harry struck up a completely different conversation, peppering Hermione with questions about the Ministry. She found herself relaxing as they talked, trading gossip about their old classmates and high-ranking members of the Wizengamot.
This is nice, she thought after a while, between bites of aloo saag. They had always been able to do this, just jump back in, no matter how long it had been. A warm, contented feeling was curling its way through her stomach, a feeling she knew all too well and tended to distrust, because it guaranteed disappointment. But it was hard to ignore, especially when Harry flashed her a crooked smile as he eavesdropped on the couple sitting behind him, muttering a Muffliato so he could tell her about their weekend at a Furry convention in horrifying detail.
“Come on, then.” Harry drained the last of his wine and pulled out his wallet. “I want some ice cream.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but let him pay. It was his turn, after all. “In October?”
“Yeah, why not?” His expression was impish, teasing.
Hermione leaned back in her chair. She did love this, their easy camaraderie, the feeling that they were always in on the same joke. “All right, then. Where do you want to go?”
Before Harry could answer, a Muggle woman squeezed past their table on her way out. In the brief moment that Hermione saw her, she noted that the woman was quite gorgeous. But the woman wasn't looking at her — the woman was looking at Harry. And then, she smiled, and winked.
Harry blinked, and his ears went red.
Hermione swallowed a sudden lump in her throat. Pull yourself together.
“Uh,” was Harry's clever remark. The Muggle woman had continued to the exit, and he stared after her, looking as if he’d been hit over the head. He dropped a few bills on the table and stood up. “Ready?”
Hermione nodded, gathering her coat and following him to the dark, damp road.
The Muggle woman was lingering on the sidewalk with her mates, and she looked up as Harry and Hermione came out of the restaurant, shooting Harry another dazzling smile, evidently waiting for him to approach her. Hermione tried not to feel a stab of pride — or surprise — when Harry ignored this, offering Hermione his arm. She took it, and they turned and headed for the main road.
The walk to the ice cream shop wasn’t long, but there were a lot of people out. Harry stayed close to Hermione, and out of habit, she kept her hand in the crook of his elbow, relishing the heat of the contact, the light scent of his clothing. The noise of the road kept them from talking much, and once they had their ice creams, they perched by a tiny table to eat.
“How's Ron?” she said, for lack of anything better to say.
Harry nodded, deep into his Butterscotch Mocha Chip. “He's doing well. Since the season’s just getting started, he’s still got some spare time — I think he said he's working on the guest bath.”
Ron and Padma had a lovely, large house in Bristol, not too far from Padma's parents. It absolutely did not make Hermione want to throw something. “Sounds like Ron.”
Ron had worked himself up to a position as an assistant coach for the Wimbourne Wasps, a career decision that surprised exactly no one. Through various whispers at the Ministry, Hermione knew that he was doing a very good job of it, though Ron, surprisingly, was far too modest to say anything like that himself. So much has changed since Hogwarts, thought Hermione, watching Harry watch the Muggles around them.
The ice cream shop was hot, cowded, and loud, so they ate quickly and left soon after that, walking the mile and a bit back to Hermione's flat. She briefly wondered, as a passing streetlight threw Harry's profile into focus, why he didn't suggest that they Apparate. She almost would have preferred it. Being this close to Harry, near enough to sense his warmth, to see the smudge of chocolate on his lower lip, was overwhelming, made it difficult for her to pay attention to what he was telling her about a stray Bowtruckle in Hagrid's pumpkin patch. It was all she could do to nod along, to ignore the bone-deep longing in her chest. When they finally made it up the three flights of stairs to her front door, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Harry followed her inside, shucking his coat, then tickling Bertie's chin. Hermione scowled at the cat as she hung up her coat, because honestly, traitor.
“I’ll get out of your hair in a minute, ’Mione,” said Harry, which was, okay, a little surprising. Usually, he would stay for a drink. “I know you’ve had a rough end of the week.”
Her newest bill, Section 4 of the new Rights and Authorities of Non-Human Magical Creatures Act, was still in contest when the Wizengamot closed court on Friday. The court’s winter recess — a two month-long break through November and December — was due to begin in a few weeks’ time, so the pressure was on for legislation to get locked in before the New Year. Hermione had been hoping for a one-day decision, as had her whole office, and it was discouraging, though not damning, to see it delayed as such. But Hermione had had bills shot down before, so this delay was nothing by comparison.
She and Harry hadn’t talked about it at all over dinner, and she realized he must’ve seen it in Friday’s Evening Prophet, which always reported the daily court record. “No, that’s all right. Another day, another delay. Nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Harry raised his eyebrows and sat down on the couch. “Want to talk about it?”
Emboldened by the alcohol, and maybe by a stroke of the old Granger gumption, Hermione smirked in reply and toed off her heels. “Allow me to answer that with a bottle of wine.”
They settled on the couch, each removing their holster as Hermione conjured a little blue fire in her now-exposed fireplace. Said bottle of wine quickly disappeared and soon, Hermione was giggling into the crook of her elbow while Harry did a near-perfect impression of Mulbanius Craw, one of the older Wizengamot members who was very ‘old-guard this’ and ‘needs must that.’
“What I simply cannot condone,” Harry was saying, in a perfect posh accent, his brow furrowed and his mouth in a scowl, “is this relentless condemnation of traditional Wizarding life—”
“Stop,” Hermione wheezed, weak with laughter, pushing a hand into his side. “Please.”
Harry acceded with a grin. “Cantankerous old geezer. Every time he speaks, I want to shove his head into a cauldron. He really seems to have it out for you, the bastard.”
“He owns house elves and he loves goblin gold,” said Hermione, with a wave of her hand. And Craw wasn’t the only person on the Wizengamot who did. “Of course I get under his skin.” She squinted at him. “Wait, how do you know that?” She didn’t usually get into the sticky details of the courtroom, partly because they weren’t supposed to while a bill was in adjudication.
Harry shrugged. “I listen to the Wizengamot broadcast, sometimes,” he said, his tone so matter-of-fact that it was like she had just asked him if the sky was blue.
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat, because that wasn’t just checking page three in the Prophet every once in a while, that was tuning in to the Ministry radio channel when he knew that she would be in court. It involved planning ahead, caring enough to remember the things she said when she ranted about work, keeping her voice in the background as he graded papers.
Holy shit, she thought, her mind going blank, because best friend or not, this was a lot more than she’d ever expected from Harry Potter.
He shifted forward then, closing the space between them, his body languid and loose with wine. “I don’t like the way he talks to you.”
“Really,” she said, her voice tiny, blood pounding in her veins. She felt a bit light-headed.
“I’m surprised you haven’t sent a small army of birds to his office.” Harry lifted a hand and reached forward, brushing an errant stand of hair off her cheek. His touch left a burning in its wake, and he cupped her head, the heel of his palm rough on the side of her jaw.
Oh my God, some back corner of Hermione’s brain screamed. What was happening?!
Harry was watching her, his gaze more keen, more alert than it should’ve been with all that wine, and for a moment, Hermione thought she was dreaming.
“Hermione?” he said, his voice low and full of something she couldn’t name.
She took a breath, or tried to, past the throbbing in her throat. Around them, the air crackled. “Yes?”
Harry kept looking at her, his fingers rough against her skin, and then he kissed her.
His mouth was warm, plush, damp with wine, and the earth fell from beneath Hermione’s feet. She pressed forward with embarrassing eagerness, barely restraining a moan as his mouth fell open under hers. His hands were everywhere, sliding up her sides and across her back, and she responded in kind, running her fingers through his hair, pulling him deeper into the kiss until he was practically on top of her.
His body was a line of tense, delicious heat, he tasted of Merlot, and his tongue was pressing against hers, sweeping through her mouth with an almost possessive ferocity. She kissed him and kissed him and kissed him, drunk on the way he flooded her senses, overwhelmed her body and her mind. When he pulled away to snag her bottom lip between his teeth, she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a gasp, and the sound seemed to jar him, snap him back to reality.
“Hermione?” Harry breathed. He really was on top of her now — at some point, they had shifted down the couch, and he was braced above her, their legs interlocked and his torso just inches from hers. He still had his glasses on, and a delightful flush was spreading across his cheeks.
Holy fuck, she thought, her heart pounding. You just snogged your best friend, whom you may or may not be in love with. You can't do this.
But you've already started it, a second voice piped up, sounding far too much like Verity. So why stop now?
Hermione slid his glasses off and dropped them somewhere on the floor before reaching for his belt. “Don’t let’s talk.”
Harry nodded, grabbed the hem of his jumper and pulled it off in one fluid motion. Hermione barely had time to appreciate the view before he reached forward, slid his arms under her body, and picked her up.
Hermione didn’t scream, but it was a near thing. Breathless, she could only stare and cling on for dear life as he carried her, firm and steady, down the short hallway to her darkened bedroom. He placed her on the bed with surprising gentleness, then dove in for another kiss, his tongue sliding along the roof of her mouth, and Hermione was so turned on that she thought she might explode.
She shed her sweater and blouse with surprising speed, almost missing the moment when Harry undid his belt and unzipped his trousers. He stood up to shuck them, and her mouth went dry at the sight of his erection, pointed and straining at the front of his briefs. Hermione took a quick breath, then looked up to find Harry staring at her. Something in his gaze was sharp, fiery, and she felt a rush of heat sweep through her. She’d never thought he’d look at her like that.
Hermione quickly did away with her jeans, and the moment she was mostly naked, Harry climbed up her bed like a cat, caging her with his body and mouthing a line of searing kisses up her neck.
It was unbelievable, the feeling of his skin on hers, the heat and the rough and the dusting of hair on his arms, legs, chest. Hermione kissed him and kissed him, reeling from the pleasure spiraling down her spine, shooting sparks in her calves, her shoulders. She couldn’t keep herself from touching him, pressing against every inch of his body, pushing his briefs out of the way to wrap her hand around his cock and swallow his moan as she stroked him.
Why is this so easy? a part of her couldn’t help but think. It’s never this easy.
Things began to blur, the silent room flooding with the sounds of their breath and the wet slick of her hand, but Hermione came back to her senses when Harry sank his teeth into a particularly sensitive spot on her neck. She let out a groan as he sucked a mark into the skin, followed by another just a few inches away, and then another on her chest. She was useless, a writhing puddle of tension, as he mouthed at her ear and pressed his fingers to the clasp on her bra. A brief flash of heat, and it was unhooked, sliding down her arms. Harry tugged it out of the way and made equally quick work of her knickers, then he fastened his mouth to her nipple and Hermione forgot how to breathe.
It was almost like torture, the languid, unhurried way he slid his tongue over each of her breasts, teasing her nipples until they rose to peaks, then nipping and tugging at them as she writhed against him. He worked her over with a devotion that was dizzying, and just when she was starting to get a hold of herself, he pressed his thumb to her clit and slipped a finger inside her.
“Oh,” she breathed, pulling his mouth to hers. She ground against his hand and he made a pleased huff against her cheek.
Her body was like a live wire, charged and beating as Harry's fingers circled, pressed, as his mouth slid and murmured and licked. Even as her heart pounded, overwhelmed by the fact that this was Harry who was touching her, holding her, kissing her, she couldn't keep herself from shuddering with pleasure.
Harry mumbled something, then his mouth found the juncture between her neck and her chest, sucking yet another mark into her skin, and his voice was low in her ear, “Can I—?”
She was already reaching for his briefs, tugging them down his thighs. “God, yes, please—”
He muttered off the few requisite charms they needed, pressing a kiss to her inner thigh. When he slid into her, it was with slow, sure care, and she couldn't help but melt underneath him as he let out a groan.
Hermione ran her hands across Harry's back, clutching at his shoulders as he thrust into her, and she noticed that he was shaking, trembling as her body opened beneath him. A delightful tingling had swept through her, and once she regained enough control of her senses, she began to thrust up to meet him, grinding against his pelvis and shuddering as the friction sent pleasure spiraling down her thighs.
Harry’s breathing became more intense, a hot rush next to her ear as he picked up speed. She let out a gasp and responded in kind as he began to hit something profoundly deep inside her, clinging to his shoulders and mouthing at his collarbone, his chest, every bit of skin within her reach. Her heart was going a million miles a minute, thudding in her ears as spools of heat and light chased themselves around her body, as pleasure wound tight in her core and curled at the pit of her stomach.
She clenched around Harry, relishing the way it made him stutter and groan, “Hermione ,” deep and guttural into her ear. His eyes found hers in the dark, and his hands found their way around her torso, clinging to her as he bucked and groaned. Time began to pass in a gelatinous slip-and-slide, spooling out around them and marked only by the sounds of their weighty breathing and the damp slap of skin on skin.
Soon, she knew she was getting close, and as she began to unravel, Harry pressed his mouth to hers in a deep, sloppy kiss, his hips snapping forwards at a pace that was determined, almost primal.
It was too much. White-hot pleasure seared through her body, and all she could do was gasp, “Oh God, Harry, Harry—”
Hermione came with a stifled cry, her body shaking as she fell over the edge and into a deliciously dark abyss. Harry groaned above her, and it took only a handful of thrusts before he came as well, pressing his face into her neck as he shuddered and collapsed on top of her.
The quiet of the room seemed to close in on them, and Hermione allowed her hands to wander, tracing circles on Harry's back, threading her fingers through his hair, where sweat had beaded at the base of his neck.
Her body felt heavy, languorous with satisfaction, but electrified by the knowledge that nearly a decade of anticipation had finally been broken, shattered into the sheets between them. A sudden swell of emotion rose in her throat, and she thought, Merlin, I really don't want to talk about this. Because underneath the giddiness, and the delight, there was the bone-deep conviction that here she was, just another weekend shag.
Something tugged her out of her thoughts — Harry, pressing feather-light kisses to her cheeks, forehead, neck. In spite of herself, she smiled, thrilled by the tenderness of the moment. He slipped out of her, and tucked himself in beside her, his arm draped across her torso.
A pleasant sleepiness had already begun to overtake her, and she tried to ignore just how right it all felt, the way they slotted in next to each other with natural ease.
They had shared a bed before, when the nights in the tent had become unbearable, when the weight of their journey had become so oppressive that neither of them could sleep. It had started when Harry couldn’t bear her crying one night a few days after Ron had left, continued even after the incident at Godric’s Hollow, and they had never once spoken about it.
Having him in her bed again was like the continuation of a cycle that neither of them could control, an eventuality that was always bound to find them. Now, Hermione tried to commit to memory the way Harry had sounded when he came, the feeling of his hands on her body, the heat of his mouth on hers, because she knew that this would probably never happen again.
It was Harry who spoke first, his voice a low murmur in the darkness. “Is it all right if I stay?”
She turned, her hand on his arm, and pressed a kiss to his temple. “Of course.”
He huffed in response, brushing a kiss to her nose and pulling the duvet over both of them.
Not long after that, she fell asleep in his embrace, his breath light and warm on the back of her neck.
Hermione woke slowly, her body languid and snug beneath the duvet. She sighed into her pillow, and became conscious of the arm across her middle, the leg nestled between her own.
Her eyes flew open, and the reality of the previous night hit her like a bomb.
The arm, with its light dusting of dark hair, belonged to Harry. The leg belonged to Harry.
Oh my God, she screamed internally, praying that he wouldn’t notice as she tensed, a thousand different scenarios blazing through her mind. Would they pretend that nothing had happened? Would he blush with embarrassment, unable to look at her in the light of day? Would he tell her that it didn’t mean anything, that it was a mistake, and they would part ways, embarrassment fading into a silence that would last for weeks, maybe months?
“’Mione,” came his sleepy rumble, followed by his mouth pressing to the back of her neck. “I can hear you thinking.”
She almost laughed. “Morning,” she said, breathlessly.
Harry did laugh then, a chuckle into her hair. “Morning.” He began to trace the line of her neck and her shoulder with his mouth, kisses that slowly melted her tension and sent tendrils of pure content down her spine. “How did you sleep?”
“Very well,” she said, trying to get a handle on everything. This was not what she had expected — she was still surprised that he had stayed. “What about you?”
“Very well,” he parroted back at her, then continued peppering her back with kisses, his mouth sliding open and damp against the skin. Hermione tried very hard to remember how to breathe. Past the headache from the wine, and the waning shock of sleeping with her best friend , delight was settling over her like a blanket.
Then, Harry curled in closer, latching onto her neck and sucking in earnest, his mouth plush and hot, his chest pressing against her, his arm curling tight around her. A hand slid up to cup her breast and slip a thumb across her nipple, and Hermione couldn’t hold back a gasp.
“Mmm,” Harry rumbled, sounding far too pleased with himself. Then, he slid his other arm underneath her, and in one fluid motion, rolled her over and towards him.
Hermione gasped again, her heart thudding. The Harry in front of her, holding her, was devastating. His hair was everywhere, a pillow crease was fading on his cheek, and his eyes were sleepy and soft, even as they darkened under her gaze.
She could see, now, the scars that hadn’t been visible the night before. There weren’t many, just a few scattered across his chest, one on his shoulder, another on his hip. Jagged lines from dark curses, a ragged chunk from a poisoned dagger. She knew the stories, had helped him sneak out of Mungo’s on one memorable occasion, but had never seen them up close. They made him who he was, and now? Hermione felt her stomach tremble at the sight, because Merlin. How could she not love him like this?
Harry reached up and cupped her jaw, a gesture that she was beginning to recognize as one of his favorites. When he kissed her, it was without hurry, his tongue soft and teasing against her own, and Hermione couldn’t stop herself from kissing back, morning breath and all. It was nice, even for a while, to pretend that this was real, that she could have Harry all to herself.
She pushed forward, deepening the kiss, and Harry hummed in pleasure. His erection pressed up against her thigh, hot and heavy, and something inside her trembled at the reality of it all, at the knowledge that she was the source of his desire. It wasn’t just the wine, or the opportunity. He could’ve left before she woke up, and he hadn’t. Maybe that meant something.
Hermione pulled away for a moment, taking in the way Harry’s mouth tried to chase hers, the way his hands squeezed her hips, her bum, like he was waiting for her to disappear. She mouthed a line of kisses down his jaw, reaching around to squeeze his ass in return, and made a decision.
“Hermione?” he breathed as she slid down his body, pulling the duvet away. “What—?”
She took his cock into her mouth, and the rest of his words dissolved into a moan. Hermione prided herself on this particular skill of hers, and she relished the way Harry shuddered as she swirled her tongue, coating him with saliva. She bobbed her head, sucking and licking her way up and down his length, using her hand to squeeze what she couldn’t fit into her mouth.
“Merlin—” he groaned, tangling a hand in her hair. Hermione hummed in reply and sped up, pressing the tip of her tongue to the vein on the underside of his erection as her hand twisted up and down the shaft.
Minutes passed as she worshipped his cock, snaking her other hand up to graze across his nipple and squeeze at his chest, trying to drink in as much of his body as she could. Her mouth had become loose, sloppy, and Harry’s hips twitched a little as he tested her limits, a ghost of his actions from the night before. Hermione welcomed it, keeping her tongue flat and her mouth relaxed, squeezing his hips to discourage him from thrusting too hard. He took what she gave, moaning as he pushed ever deeper into her mouth.
“Oh, Hermione,” he mumbled, and she squeezed him in reply, loving the way he pulsed between her lips. Harry gave a full-body twitch, gasping, “I’m going to—”
She swallowed him whole, continuing to stroke him through it. When he finally relaxed, his body going slack beneath her, she wiped her mouth on the sheet and crawled back up, kissing his stomach, his torso, as she went. Hermione remembered the way Harry had pinned her down the night before, and she busied herself leaving two, three lovebites across his chest, followed by one on his neck. His skin was smooth and just a little bit salty, firm beneath her mouth, and she relished the way her marks bloomed reddish-purple beneath the surface.
This at last seemed to bring him back to his senses. Harry curled one hand in her hair, the other at the small of her back, a chuckle deep in his throat. “Petulance,” he mumbled, and before Hermione knew what was happening, he rolled them both over, flattening her to the mattress and kissing her deeply, his tongue sweeping through her mouth with determination.
It was all she could do to keep up, her hands skating up his back and into his hair. When he pulled away, she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a mumble of disappointment, and she blushed at the way Harry smirked at her.
“Don’t worry,” he said, pressing kisses to her stomach as he slid down her body. “I’m not going far.”
Then he parted her thighs, braced himself between them, and slid a hand up to her breast. He gave her a squeeze, and then licked a stripe right up the center of her cunt.
Breathe, Hermione told herself, as her body twitched. For God’s sake, breathe.
Harry was just as merciless as he’d been the night before, his tongue lapping and circling with keen precision as his fingers worked at her nipple, pinching it while his tongue flicked at her clit. He was maddeningly slow about it all, content to tease and pull her apart until she was a moaning, stammering mess, her body throbbing and sparking. Tingling waves of heat were overtaking her, pulling her up and down, tugging her closer to the edge before letting her fall away. She kept a hand in his hair, stroking it and pulling it in equal measure, wanting to sob at the way that he felt, at the devotion that was leaking out of her body.
Finally, he seemed to give up on being patient. Harry hitched her closer and pressed the tip of his tongue straight onto her clit, and Hermione’s stomach trembled in time with each flick, each swirl. It felt as though he were plucking a cord that ran through her whole body, and she couldn’t fight the heat, the light, the intensity that built inside her. Then he fastened his lips to her clit and sucked, and that was it for Hermione.
When she came back to herself, Harry was kissing and caressing her thighs, his mouth hot and wet on her skin. He glanced up at her, his eyes bright in the early morning sun, and Hermione felt another spasm wrack her core. What I would give, she thought, almost rueful save for the boneless pleasure and exhaustion that weighed her body down. A night and a morning of the best sex she’d ever had — and soon enough, she was sure, she’d never get to have it again.
Hermione reached for him, trying to make this last as long as possible, and he obeyed, crawling back up her body to meet her in a sloppy, formless kiss. She could taste herself on his mouth, just a hint of salt and bitterness, and she groaned, bringing him in close and shivering at the feeling of his skin on hers.
“Good morning,” he mumbled into her neck, before leaving a series of kisses there. He pulled away slightly, and once again, she found herself surprised by the keen, open affection in his gaze. She kept waiting for the ball to drop, for his face to shut down and close itself off, but it kept not happening.
“Good morning,” she mumbled back, her hand resting on his shoulder.
“Tea, I think?” said Harry, smiling now.
Hermione nodded, and he ducked in for another kiss before sliding off the bed and padding into the kitchen, giving her quite the view on his way out.
Once alone, Hermione’s thoughts began to unspool, and she sank into a brief reverie, entranced by the sight of her crumpled bedding, Harry’s briefs on the floor, his trousers by the armchair. It was similar to many a morning-after that she’d had before, but it wasn’t at the same time. This was Harry , she kept saying to herself, somehow unable to forget it or equate it with the man in her kitchen. “Impossible,” she whispered, twirling a bit of hair between her fingers.
When Harry came back from the kitchen, a tray full of tea and toast hovering in front of him, he walked in on her, now wearing pajamas, mid-snuggle with Bertie. “Prophet arrived,” he said, waving it as proof, and she realized he’d found his glasses. God, did he look incredible naked. “And who said you were allowed to put clothes on?”
Hermione swallowed a bark of laughter, because honestly. “Me, because I was cold. Cheers,” she added, taking the mug that floated to her across the bed. The tea was hot and, of course, perfect.
Harry, busy making himself comfortable on what was clearly becoming his side of the bed, snorted. “Brightest witch of her age and she still gets cold.” He handed her the paper. “You’ll like the Sunday feature.”
“Oh?” Hermione glanced at the front page, and he was right. An extra-long story of the best wizarding gardens across the United Kingdom, complete with color pictures. She settled in amongst the pillows, Bertie curling up next to her, and pulled out the Sports section. “Here.”
“Cheers,” he said, brushing a kiss to her hand before taking it and snapping it open, instantly absorbed in a story about the Chudley Cannons.
She stared at him for a moment, trying to ignore the butterflies that had fluttered in her stomach. Had he really just—? In broad daylight?
He just shagged you in broad daylight, too, my dear, came that snide little voice again. Now’s not the time to get persnickety.
Was he always like this? Hermione couldn’t help but wonder, her gaze skating over the loose spill of Harry’s limbs under the duvet, the points of his profile above the newspaper, the way he slurped his tea and gave Bertie an occasional pat. They’d split the paper more times than she could begin to count, but had Harry always had this side? This boneless physical affection that seemed to pour out of him, glimmering like glass in the sunlight? A week ago, she wouldn’t have thought it possible, but maybe, she had just never noticed it, and now that the proverbial dam had been broken, the rest of it had just eased to the surface.
A week ago, she thought grimly, turning back to the wizarding gardens, taking a bite of toast.
As they read, ate, and drank their tea, Harry kept one hand on her knee, and although everything about this was weird, it was also incredibly not weird. Hermione tried to ignore that it felt natural having Harry in her bed, bringing her breakfast, his warm, naked body just inches from her own. Don’t get attached, she told herself.
Then, suddenly, a Patronus came zipping in through her bedroom window. They both stared in surprise, realizing it was Neville’s Patronus, an English sheepdog. It came to a halt at the foot of the bed and spoke, its voice carrying Neville’s characteristic worry:
“Harry, I’ve just found Teddy trying to sneak into the kitchens. I think you’d better get here before McGonagall gets ahold of him.”
With that, the Patronus faded, and Harry groaned.
“Little bugger. He’s been at Hogwarts a grand total of less than two months and is already gunning for Fred and George’s title.” He stood up with a sigh, grabbing his briefs and pulling them on. Hermione refused to feel disappointed.
“What do you expect?” she said, setting the paper aside. “He takes after his mother. And his godfather,” she added.
Harry rolled his eyes, busy putting on his trousers, and grinned. “Cheers, Hermione. Can always count on your support. Shit,” he said, tapping his bare chest, forcing her attention to the marks she had left across it. “Jumper?”
Hermione didn’t blush. She didn’t. “Sitting room.”
Harry nodded and left the room. Hermione dropped her head into her hands, rubbing her eyes, because honestly. She knew this was going to end at some point. Why not now?
“So,” said Harry, already back, wand in one hand and his coat in the other. “I’ve got half-term coming up at the end of this week.”
It took Hermione a moment to follow, the gears grinding in her brain. Hogwarts had added half-term breaks about five years earlier, in response to the increased number of Muggle families who preferred a schedule closer to that of the other Muggle schools. Hermione had actually been a member of the advocacy committee, but it still took a moment to remember the change. “Right,” she said, a little confused. “And?”
“And it would be nice, you know.” Harry looked at her, waiting for her to catch on. When she didn’t, he added, “To see you.”
“Oh!” A blush flooded Hermione’s neck. “Yes, sure.”
Harry smiled, his face bright and pleased. “Good.” He came around to her side of the bed, all tousled and devastating in the morning light, and her stomach gave a swoop. “Sorry to run off like this,” he said.
“It’s f—” she started to say, but then he was kissing her, gentle and brief.
Harry pulled away, and something about his expression was different, but before she could say anything, he said, “All right if I use your Floo?”
“Yes,” she said, breathless. He shot her one last smile before leaving the bedroom, and a moment later, she heard the characteristic roar of the Floo, followed by the recognizable, padded silence of her empty apartment.
Hermione fell back into her pillows, her head buzzing. Because instinct told her that this was going to happen again. Because whatever this morning had been, it certainly wasn’t an ending.
“Bloody hell,” she said aloud, and Bertie meowed at her in reply.