So, I got back into fanfiction writing with Oh, to be young and to feel love's keen sting!. I'm hooked again. It's contagious! I just loved reading your comments so much, and as I have some time to spare, I couldn't help but to continue with a completely unrelated story. It popped into my head when I was doing the dishes. These things do happen, right?
English is still not my first language, so if you have any tips for me to improve on my writing style: please let me know! I read all of your reviews and I love seeing you give kudos and bookmarks to my story, so please do so! I will try to update this story regularly, but I have a very weird schedule atm due to the virus. Let me know if you want me to speed up or slow down with my updates :)
This story will be a bit more serious and a bit more explicit in terms of sexual behavior. I will add warnings when they are applicable.
Thank you for giving this story a chance! You are awesome.
Chapter 1: How Hermione had a dreadful day and how Harry tried to cheer her up
Harry wasn't used to this. And as Harry had moved on from the "you'll never know if you'll survive next week"-kind of lifestyle he had known as The Chosen One, he didn't like not being used to things. He needed clarity, structure, sanity. Especially when it concerned his friends. And it this case, it didn't just concern any friend.
Hermione had been moping. Moping, for crying out loud. Harry had never seen her mope before in his life - but here she was, during their lunch-break, picking aside her sushi like a twelve-year old. Harry frowned. When they had moved to London to both work in the Ministry (he then as an Auror-to-be, she as an intern at the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures) they had decided that they would spend two of the five lunches they had each week together, just for the sake of old times, and to not dissolve into their work too much. The first few lunches they had, had been accompanied by Ron, but that fell apart when Ron and Hermione broke off their relationship, just 9 months after the end of the war. Their kiss during The Battle of Hogwarts had been a fluke, they decided, fueled by feelings of hopelessness and adrenaline. When the dust of the Wizarding War settled, so did their feelings, and soon they began bickering like they had never stopped. So, for their own sanity, Hermione and Ron had ended it, and they parted on friendly terms. Ron was currently dating Nicky Littleton, a Hufflepuff three years younger than them, that he met during his business endeavors with George. She was witty, sweet and doting and most importantly: she worshiped Ron. Harry and Hermione had agreed that they were a perfect fit, but it had driven some kind of wedge in their Golden Trio. Ron was away for business a lot, and when he wasn't, he spent almost all of his time with Nicky. They couldn't blame him, though. He finally seemed happy not to be in someone's shadow for once, and Harry and Hermione both found this to be a very good thing for him. Ron deserved to shine and it made him a lot less toxic and a lot more comfortable in his own skin.
Back to lunch. Hermione was moping. Harry tried to distract her a number of times, with talk of Quidditch (that one didn't work, unsurprisingly), news about a raid in Malfoy Manor (it sparked a little interest, but didn't last for longer than a minute) and, as a last resort, even office gossip (his secretary had told him that Cormac McLaggen had been sighted flirting with a very pregnant and married Parvati Patil). All to little avail. Now it was Harry's time to mope. This was very unlike Hermione and even though he still wasn't comfortable with talking about feelings at 23 years of age, he felt like he needed to.
'Something's bothering you,' Harry said, already feeling like he was prying.
'Hmm?' Hermione said, a bit annoyed.
'You haven't finished your dragon roll,' Harry said. 'You have never not finished your dragon roll. We traveled all the way to Soho just for this particular dragon roll, Hermione. We're dining between muggles because you said you needed this dragon roll, less than an hour ago.'
'I'm just not hungry,' she said, waving her hand. 'I have been feeling a bit off today. It's nothing.'
'You're not sick. You behave differently when you're sick.'
'Yes,' Harry said. 'You are always honest to me. If you would have been sick, I would have seen it on your complexion. You always crinkle your eyebrows when you have a headache and if you were nauseous you wouldn't have pressed on going to this place. If it would have been something at work, you would have rattled on and on about it, because that's what you're used to. You don't make sense, Hermione. And I'm... well...'
'What?' Hermione asked.
'I am a bit worried, that's all.'
Hermione gave him a sarcastic look at first, but when her face turned caring when she understood he actually meant it.
'Harry, really, it's nothing-...'
'It's absolutely something,' he contradicted. 'Don't tell me it's nothing. I've never seen you like this. At least not since the war. What's the matter? Is it... Ron?'
'Merlin no, it's not Ron!' she almost shouted. 'You know I adore Nicky-...'
'Well, then it's something else. Talk about it.'
'It's... It's some stupid thing, it's really not worth mentioning-...'
She doesn't get it, Harry thought, irritated, so he put his hand on top of hers. This caught her attention.
'It is. Now, tell me.'
'I'm your best friend,' he reminded her. 'I don't want you to feel down. Your face looks like Dudley's back in the day when he didn't get one more present than the birthday before. Talk.'
She let out a soft smile and then sighed.
'Fine. It's gonna annoy you, because it's not me. None of this is me. I don't know what's gotten into me that I'm suddenly so irritated with all of this, but-...'
'No excuses,' Harry replied. 'Just say what's bothering you, or I'll finish that dragon roll.
'Never...' Hermione whispered jokingly, hunching over her plate with her body to protect her sushi, but then she sighed. 'Right, okay then. It's my family.'
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise. She never spoke like this about her family - the only thing he heard about her parents were loving, kind words, which were all very well deserved. When he and Ron went to Australia with Hermione to retrieve them, he had gotten to know them and they were still on friendly terms, though he didn't see them that often.
'What about them?' Harry asked, not to draw any conclusions just yet.
'It's... Ugh, okay. It's my grandmother.'
'I thought all your grandparents were dead?'
'Oh what a joy that would be,' Hermione deadpanned. 'But no, she is very much alive. I thought she was dead for the biggest part of my life, though. Mom had cut all ties with her for ages - they fell out when she was... You know. Pregnant with me. Without being married to dad yet. Mom never mentioned her to me, so I always assumed she had died, but I found out a couple of years ago that she is actually still going strong. And when I say strong, I mean strong.'
'I know all about annoying relatives,' Harry said, trying to sound sympathetically. 'My aunt Marge was the devil's re-incarnate.'
'Yeah, well... My grandma does her best to live up to that too, let's keep it at that.'
Hermione sighed, took a gulp from her white wine and now she was the one who took Harry's hand in hers.
'Mom rekindled their relationship after returning from Australia. Ever since I've seen her, she's been... A hag. And I don't mean that she actually possesses magic, she is just a... a godawful...'
'A witch with a B,' Harry chimed in. Hermione snorted and for the first time that day, she looked a bit less stressed.
'You could say that, yeah. Or a swat with a T.'
'A door with a number of different letters, namely...'
'Yes, enough,' Hermione chuckled. 'But you get it. Well, I have been visiting her every few months now, and she has been annoying, but I can cope with it. But now she has this feast planned, and she has invited all of her side of the family. It's an annual thing, to celebrate her birthday. Last year I went and-... Ugh!'
'Please don't think I'm sensitive or something, but they are just so awful. Her sisters all have grandchildren my age, and they always come in couples, and they always... They're just awful to me, let's keep it at that.'
'What do they do?'
Hermione shrugged and played with her wineglass some more.
'I'm never able to tell what I do for a living, so they just... Take the piss out of me, I guess. And I don't have a boyfriend, that doesn't help either. Usually I'm kind of thick skinned, I know I am, but mom and dad always try to protect me when they go wild and then those idiots get at them, and that gets to me. So, I was thinking about not going this year. I made this whole elaborate plan about telling those fools that I had this big important work thing, and then I told mom and dad about my plans, and... Well...'
'They told you to come anyway?' Harry asked, with a frown.
'No,' Hermione said. 'Worse. They said that they completely understood and that I was in my full right as an adult to make my own decisions.'
Harry blinked with his eyes a few times.
'In what universe is that worse?'
'Still no big improvement on the tact, huh? That means they are going to go alone this year. And that was fine with me at first, but I went back to my apartment, and then I thought about what they would all say to mom and dad about me not being there, about making excuses... They already have such a hard time fitting in and... Aargh, I just feel awful! I've been feeling awful this entire day, okay? I know it's nothing, and it's silly, but-...'
'It's not silly,' Harry retorted. 'It's completely understandable. I would be mad too if I knew that-... Well, I don't exactly have parents, but I just want to say... I get it, is what I mean. Your parents are lovely people. They don't deserve to get dragged by those stupid, prejudiced morons.'
'Exactly!' Hermione agreed. 'They don't! So, take one wild guess who's going to swallow her pride and go to that damned birthday anyway, just so she can get insulted by some stupid, far relatives all night? Me!'
Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head.
'Oh c'mon, Hermione. You don't mean that.'
'What choice do I have? I have to torture myself for five hours this Saturday. I want to die. I would rather... I don't know, face Voldemort again. Or worse: I would rather get together with Ron again.'
'Noooo, please no,' Harry laughed. 'That was a disaster. It was like watching a train wreck. I'd rather face Voldemort again than have you two at my table, bickering about whatever you could think about.'
'Well, just to illustrate to you how god-awful I feel about this Saturday,' Hermione nodded. 'Now you feel my pain.'
She scowled, looked down at her dragon roll and sighed.
'No one has ever spoiled sushi for me. No one. They're criminal.'
Harry chuckled. He was glad she was getting her humor back, but he still hated to see her so distressed.
'Would it help if I'd tag along?' he suddenly asked, surprising himself in the process. 'I faced Voldemort and your tragic relationship with you. If you say this dinner party matches those, it would be very wrong of me not to stand by your side in this battle as well.'
'Don't be ridiculous. You really don't want to torture yourself that bad, Harry.'
'Why not? Maybe we can have some fun. You seem to have forgotten that I am actually very good at annoying muggles. I was practicing that before I could spell my own name, according to the Dursley's. They thought it came very naturally to me.'
'You... You're serious?' Hermione asked hesitantly. 'I mean... It would make it a lot more bearable for me, but... They can be brutal, you know. I'm not exaggerating.'
'I'm sure they're not as brutal as Rita Skeeter when she found out Ginny Weasley turned out to be a "raging lesbian",' Harry smiled, quoting her. 'Do you remember her article about The Holyhead Harpies sharing showers?'
They both shared some memories about Harry and Ginny's break-up, now nearly two years ago. Their romance had been long gone, but Harry and Ginny had kept the relationship afloat, because it just felt so safe and it stopped the rumor mill from going wild. That was until Ginny joined the first division of The Holyhead Harpies and met a very lovely Swedish Girl named Jaana. He and Ginny had departed on good terms though, and he tried to attend any match he could. He still loved watching her play.
'Right, all joking aside,' Hermione ended their banter. 'You mean it? You're actually serious about what you're saying?'
'As the plague,' Harry said, dramatically. 'I am willing to face the demons that dare to call themselves your family, Hermione-...'
'Stop,' she laughed.
'-even it's the last thing I'll ever do.'
'Gosh, so valiant,' Hermione teased. 'A true Gryffindor. That hat made a giant mistake by even considering Slytherin, you know.'
Harry smiled proudly.
'Okay, thank you so much. I will never be able to repay you, you know that. I'll call grandma tonight to tell her I'll bring a plus one. Be prepared for grilling though, you know that she won't understand me bringing a friend with me that is in no way romantically involved with me.'
Harry smiled contently, as he watched her clamp one part of the dragon roll between her chopsticks.