Hermione stumbled out of the Floo of Grimmauld Place. She hurried through the hallway and down the steps to the kitchen, barely missing Kreacher as he walked past her to his cubby hole.
She braced herself against the kitchen table and met Harry’s confused expression. A large box of ham and pineapple pizza was set before him.
“I thought it was you,” he said. “What’s the hurry?”
She briefly looked over the shoulder. “Is Ron here?”
He shook his head. “I think he’s at a Cannons match with Seamus. Why?” He lifted his pizza and took a bite.
She sighed in relief, letting herself fall into the chair next to his. “You know how Ron’s team had a meeting with Ainsworth and Daphne? Something about animal trafficking.”
“Sure,” he mumbled over his pizza.
“Alright, so after the meeting he came to my office to chat for a little bit and he asked if had gone on any dates recently.”
Harry gasped, choking on the small piece of pizza still in his mouth. “No. You don’t think -”
“I hope not. I hope it’s not him asking because he’s interested again.” She laid her head on the table.
Harry scoffed. “You mean still interested? Come on, Hermione. You own a mirror. You’re, what was it you told me once ‘fanciable’?” He took a large bite from his pizza. “Want some?”
She sat up and picked up a slice, her face warm from his comment. “That was when we were teenagers.”
“It’s even more true now! We’ve matured, more experienced.” He dropped the crust on his plate and picked up another slice.
“Sure, but what do I do about Ron?” She bit into her pizza. “I don’t want to give him the wrong idea. And Arthur’s birthday party is this weekend. He’s either going to confront me about it before or at the party. I don’t think I can deal with that.”
“Just tell him you’re seeing someone already,” Harry said with a shrug.
“Do you think he’ll believe me?”
Harry grimaced slightly. “Maybe we should come up with some sort of plan.”
“A plan?” She swallowed a piece of pineapple. She was still rather surprised that Harry enjoyed this type of pizza.
“Yes. The one thing I know that will get you out of his mind is if you told him you’re dating someone,” he pointed at her with his pizza slice, “now we just gotta make it believable and maybe even bring them to the party.”
“Harry,” she whined, “I can barely get a real date and boyfriend right now. I’ve been so busy. Where am I going to find a fake one?”
“That, Miss Granger, is where our plan comes in.”
# # #
Hermione snapped the folder closed and set it down at the end of her desk. Harry was going to be there any minute to go over their plan for Operation Faux Beau. She took to pacing the length of her small office. Harry had told her to try and come up with some people she could ask to be her plus one to the birthday party.
Her first thought was her coworker Timothy Ainsworth, but no one would believe it. Not only was he gay, but he also tended to greet her (and everyone else in the office) with a glare or sneer because he was most definitely not a morning person.
Her next choice would have been the Assistant Director Sterling, but that would be too awkward. She wouldn’t be able to face him again and she was planning on working for this department for at least another few years.
A knock at the door made her spin on her heel. Ron stood in the doorway and she fought off a groan. “Hey, Ron.”
His brows furrowed slightly. “Hey. I was just dropping off some paperwork with Greengrass.” She noticed the tips of his ears reddened a little bit. That was interesting.
“ - was wondering -”
She blinked. “I’m sorry. What was that?”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Mum was wondering if you were going to -”
“Hey, Ron.” Harry burst into her office with two take-away boxes and two drinks. “What are you doing here?”
Ron briefly glanced between them. “Just dropping something off. Damn, is it lunch? I need to meet up with George.” He turned to Hermione and opened his mouth as if to say something, but he just shook his head. “Don’t forget, dad’s party starts at two and don’t even think about ditching. Everyone is expecting you.”
“We won’t,” Harry called after him. Once Ron was a good distance away, Harry secured the door behind him. He walked up set the drinks down on her desk and handed Hermione one of the boxes. “I got you the chicken wrap you like. Hope that’s okay.”
“Sounds perfect. Thank you.”
They settled around her desk, opening their take away. She smiled at the sight of her neatly wrapped chicken in the spinach tortilla that she liked. Harry must have gone to the Mexican restaurant they preferred in a hurry so he had plenty of time to get back and eat together.
Harry took a big bite of his carne asada burrito. “So,” he said once he swallowed, “have you thought of anybody?”
“No,” she admitted.
“I know, I know. I just can’t think of anyone.” She pointed to the drinks. “Which one is mine?”
“On your left,” he mumbled over his food.
She grabbed her drink and took a sip. “I thought about asking Ainsworth.”
“He’s gay,” he said.
“I know! So, he’s out. Or Mr. Sterling.”
Harry lowered his burrito. “Your boss?”
“Yes, but I don’t think -”
“You can’t ask your boss,” he blurted.
She sat back, slightly shocked. “Why not?”
“I, well,” he shifted in his seat, “because he’s your boss. What if he got the wrong idea?”
“And what idea is that?” She leaned forward, resting her chin in her hand.
He shrugged. “I don’t know that maybe you’re interested in him.”
“But, I’m not. Hence, the reason I need to find a fake date,” she reasoned.
“Right, I know. Let’s not ask him. He might find it inappropriate.”
“Yeah.” She shot him a skeptical look. “I wasn’t going to ask him anyway.”
Harry took another large bite from his burrito, probably keeping himself from saying anything else.
“Why do you think Ron came by? I’m sure he was going to ask if I was bringing someone to the party.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “We definitely need to make it believable then.” He grabbed his drink, swishing it around. “I have an idea, not sure if you’re up to it though.”
“I’ll agree to anything at this point.”
He scooted forward. “What are you doing after work?”
She looked at him quizzically. “Well, I thought about shopping for a new outfit for the party. It’s been such a long week, I thought I’d treat myself.”
His expression softened. “You definitely deserve it.”
She smiled. “I just hope this idea of yours doesn’t backfire.”
“It’ll work. I’m sure of it.”
# # #
Hermione pulled her hair over her shoulder. “I wasn’t expecting you to join me on my shopping trip.”
Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders. The cool leather that brushed against her neck alleviated some of the heat she was suddenly feeling. “The party is tomorrow. We need to discuss our plan.”
“Right. What’s that brilliant plan of yours?”
“I figured we’d go the safe route. So, I’ll be your fake date,” he said carefully.
“You?” She squeaked.
He leaned back slightly, the expression on his face unreadable. “Do you not like the idea? Would you rather ask someone else?”
“No!” She rested a hand on his chest. “I appreciate you doing this. You don’t think it’ll go around and bite us in the arse, do you?”
He rubbed his thumb over the curve of her shoulder. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Besides, they might take it easy on us considering we’re best friends. They won’t be hounding either of us about our intentions and whatever ridiculous things they might come up with,” he reasoned.
“You have a point. Ginny and even George have asked the most ridiculous questions whenever I brought someone to the Burrow. I don’t really want to do that again.” She led him to a boutique she frequented. It sold everyday wear and even clothes she felt comfortable enough to wear to work.
Harry’s arm fell from her shoulders and he slowly followed her around the store while he went over their ‘fake’ relationship. “I asked you out a few weeks ago,” he told her. He stood on the other side of the clothing rack, swiping through the soft blouses that were on the hangers. “After that dinner with your parents.”
“Why then?” She lifted a blue blouse, holding it against her chest.
“Er,” he hesitated over his words, “it seems like a good time frame. Not necessarily a long time, but short enough that we didn’t want to let anyone know we were dating until we were sure about each other.”
She shrugged. “That makes sense.” She hung the blouse back up. “You’re still not thinking about what my mum said, are you?”
Harry’s cheeks began to flush.
“Oh, Harry. She didn’t mean anything by it. She was just stating her opinion.” She bit her lip, moving on to the next section of clothes.
“She said I was a good-looking bloke and wanted you to date someone like me,” he mumbled under his breath.
“I mean, she wasn’t wrong.” She kept her gaze on the clothes. “You are good-looking and you’re a good person.”
“Awe. Thanks, Hermione.” He grabbed a lilac sweater dress. It had long sleeves and would probably reach her mid-thigh. “This one and with those brown boots you have.”
“You think?” She held it up against her body.
“It suits you.”
“He’s right.” A sales clerk appeared beside them, a stack of folded jeans in their arms. “Especially that color. Is there anything I can help you two find?”
Harry gazed at Hermione, his attention unwavering. “No, we’re fine. Thank you though.”
The clerk nodded and walked away.
“Harry?” Hermione asked once they were alone.
He simply smiled, plucked her dress out of her hands, and walked away.
# # #
Hermione rubbed a little blush into her cheeks. Her nerves were getting the better of her. Harry just needed to get here already so they could head to the Burrow and get this over with.
She looked over herself one more time in the mirror, appreciating the way her new dress settled over her figure. She didn’t wear these knee-high boots all that often either, never finding the right outfit to wear these boots for.
She walked into her sitting room right as a knock sounded at the front door. She hurried over and pulled the door open without pause.
She gasped at the sight before her. Harry stood before her, holding up a bouquet of pink roses and lilies.
“You look great,” he breathed out. He cleared his throat. “This is for you.”
“Harry, they’re beautiful.” She took the offered flowers and immediately sniffed the flower buds. “You didn’t have to.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “How can I not get my date some flowers?”
“Thank you.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek and then moved aside. He stepped into the sitting room while she looked for a vase. “Are you ready for today?” She asked.
“Everything will be fine, Hermione. You’ll see. They might even be so surprised they won’t question us about it.”
Hermione practically sagged with relief. “You’re so right! I’m ready to go now.” She set her flowers on her kitchen table in a vase.
Harry took her hand in his and smiled.
# # #
Hermione couldn’t decide whether or not it was a good or bad idea for her and Harry to enter the Burrow hand in hand. The first one to spot them was Mrs. Weasley, who, after directing them where to leave their gift for her husband, hugged them both briefly and said, “I knew it would happen sooner rather than later.”
She gave Harry a firm pat on his cheek and then urged them to get some food.
Hermione set Arthur’s gift on the table near the front door. “Maybe we shouldn’t be so -”
Ginny suddenly appeared before them, squealing under her breath. “Mum just told me. Merlin, you have no idea how happy I am that you’re both done dragging your feet. I told Ron he didn’t have to do anything,” she said with an eye-roll.
Harry suddenly tightened his hold on Hermione’s hand. “What are you talking about, Ginny?”
“Ron wanted to -”
At that moment, Ron walked into the room, his gaze immediately fell to Hermione and Harry’s hands. “Are you two together?”
“I – well,” Hermione stumbled over her words.
“Yes,” Harry stated firmly.
Ron sighed, a slow smile came to his face. “Good thing I didn’t set Hermione up with Cooper.”
“You were going to set her up with Cooper?” Harry stepped forward.
Ron shrugged. “He’s a good bloke.” He turned to Hermione. “I was trying to figure out if you were seeing someone or were even interested in dating before I introduced you to him, but it looks like I didn’t have to do anything.” He gripped Harry’s shoulder. “And Ginny’s right. It’s good to see you both finally coming to your senses.”
Hermione was taken aback. She stayed near Harry and throughout the evening various members of the Weasley family, from George to Bill and even Fleur, had said how happy they were to see them together.
The food was delicious, as was expected. Arthur appreciated the music player Hermione gifted him. But however she tried to distract herself, she couldn’t help thinking over what Ron and the others had said.
Entering a committed relationship seemed inevitable for her and Harry. She did find Harry handsome. He was kind and he made her laugh. He had the ability to comfort her and knowing when to listen and when to provide advice. She reasoned it was because they’d known each other for so long. They could make this real if they really wanted to, couldn’t they?
# # #
After the party, they returned to her flat. She poured them both a glass of wine and they settled on the sofa. “Should we talk about it?”
He swallowed a gulp of wine. “About what? How all our friends believe we’d be dating eventually.”
She tapped her finger against the side of her glass. “Does it bother you?”
“That they think we’re good together?” Harry set his glass on the coffee table. He turned so that his knee bumped into her. “Don’t know why, but I think it’s reassuring.”
Harry nodded, moving a little closer. “They see us having a future – together. Your parents said as much when we had dinner with them.”
She squeaked. “What? When did they say that?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, your dad asked if you and I had made a pact that if we weren’t dating or married to someone by the time we were thirty, we would marry each other.”
Hermione grimaced, covering her face with both hands. “I can’t believe him.”
“Your dad is funny, Hermione. It didn’t make me comfortable.”
“Thank goodness for that,” she said into her hands.
“If anything, it just got me thinking.”
She dropped her hands to her lap, surprised to see him even closer. “About what?”
“About us. About what could be,” he said softly. “Do you want to do something completely mental?”
She moved her gaze to his mouth unconsciously. “Yes.”
Harry set his hand against her neck. His thumb traced the line of her jaw. “Tell me to stop if you want to stop.”
“Okay,” she breathed out, before capturing his lips with her own. She desperately hoped she didn’t read this situation wrong.
She hoped she was right because at that moment she was losing any semblance of control. She was kissing her best friend and it felt so right!
She braced her hands against his chest, clutching his dress shirt tightly. His hand dropped down and found the part of skin on her leg that wasn’t covered by her long boots or dress.
His hands left her warm and restless. She moved her hands to his shoulders and fluidly moved onto his lap, one leg on either side of him. He deepened the kiss and it seemed like he couldn’t make up his mind on where to put his hands, on her thighs or on her lower back.
She leaned back, attempting to regain her breath. “Sweet Merlin.”
“I have a confession.” Harry’s voice was low. “It wasn’t only what your dad said that day.” His hands returned to her thighs, his fingers playing with the hem of her dress. “You were wearing these boots and the way they made your legs look hasn’t left my mind.”
“I’ve always thought you were pretty,” he continued, “but that day I wanted your legs wrapped around me and I’ve been trying to ignore all these thoughts. I didn’t want to put you in that box, especially if you didn’t feel the same.”
She reached out and caressed his cheek. “Do you want to make this real?”
“Merlin, yes.” He kissed her hard.
She couldn’t help smiling against his lips. “But, boots, Harry? Really?”
“That and the fact that you’re able to put up with my shite even after all this time.”
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, tucking her face into his neck. “Damn right, I do.”