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Wherever You Go, That's Where I Am

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“Why don’t you look more excited? This is excellent news!” Ginny all but shouted down the phone to Hermione.

Hermione was grateful that she’d had the foresight of putting her headphones in, the wire swinging across her torso as she walked the last few streets towards her London apartment.

She looked at her phone screen as she walked, absentmindedly taking care to avoid the potholes in the all too familiar pavement. Ginny was currently running through Grimmauld place presumably in search of Harry to tell him the news too.

Hermione had been working at the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures since she had graduated from Hogwarts two years previously. It wasn’t necessarily her dream job, having started fairly low on the totem pole despite her Golden Trio status, but she was determined to instil change in the slightly more open minded wizarding world that had been growing with the demise of Voldemort. She’d eagerly accepted McGonagall’s offer of remotely finishing her schooling, which gave her the chance to intern at the Ministry for a year, mostly sitting in and taking notes for the department.

However, after having drafted a revision pertaining to the land rights of Centaurs and passing it onto some colleagues for feedback, her boss had got hold of the document and had been quietly impressed. Based on her revision alone, they had finally agreed to give Hermione a promotion to a more active role in the department, something she’d been vying for since her internship began.

Delighted with the news, her first instinct upon finishing for the day was to tell Harry and Ginny. Well, she’d actually called Harry first, but had been unsurprised when Ginny answered the phone. Whilst the two didn’t officially live together yet, Harry residing at Grimmauld Place with Ron whilst Ginny shared a place with some of her Quidditch teammates a few streets over, Ginny spent most of her evenings at her boyfriend’s house.

“Harry, Ron get out here! Hermione isn’t just the mail and coffee woman anymore!”

Hermione rolled her eyes, crossing the street to her apartment building before turning her attention back to the chaos on screen. She regretted ever introducing Ginny to Muggle technology, although at least Ginny knew how FaceTime worked; Ron still held the phone up to his ear like a middle aged man, or yelled into the screen with only his forehead visible.

As if on cue, Ron appeared on screen, his mop of red hair obscuring the camera.

“THAT’S GREAT NEWS HERMIONE!”

“I’ve told you Ron, you don’t have to shout you bloody idiot.”

Ginny reappeared, snatching the phone from Ron and holding it up so Hermione could clearly see them both, with Harry also coming into shot, blearily walking from his bedroom.

“Thanks guys, it’s been an upward struggle at times, I’m just glad that I might be able to start making some real changes now. The way “Creatures” are treated, classified and controlled is still beyond archaic.”

Hermione keyed in the access code to the apartment building, feeling the magical ward she’d placed on the building relinquish its hold to let her in.

Unconventionally, Hermione had opted to remain in a Muggle area of London when looking for a place of residence. She was a short tube ride away from Grimmauld place and she knew several excellent alleys in which she could apparate to and from her work, Diagon Alley and almost anywhere else she required.

Whilst she saw the benefit of living in a mostly witch and wizarding area, it was important to her to not distance herself from her Muggle upbringing. After all, if witches and wizards were to live in harmony and assimilate successfully into the Muggle world, why isolate oneself to wizarding only areas?

“Yeah yeah, we get it Hermione, you love shagging Gnomes.”

Harry snorted at Ron’s joke, whilst Ginny scowled at her brother and elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

“Ow! ‘Mione knows I’m joking, she’s more of a Hag kind of girl anyway.”

Seeing the lift was out of use, Hermione sighed and started towards the stairs, beginning the long climb to her top floor apartment, pointedly ignoring Ron’s comment, choosing to shoot him a dark look instead.

This reference to Hermione’s preference for the fairer sex was a common source of joking between the group. Hermione was shocked with how unbothered everyone – although mainly Ron – had been about her sexuality. After Ron and Hermione’s brief kiss in the Chamber of Secrets, Ron had half heartedly pursued Hermione until she told him of her sexuality. Whilst she’d always found boys inoffensive to look at, the thought of being intimate with one made her feel positively nauseous. Even dancing with Viktor Krum had been an uncomfortable ordeal at times, that was until she’d told him politely that she’d prefer it if they kept their relationship status firmly as a friendship.

It wasn’t until she’d kissed a girl on Ginny’s Quidditch team however at a very raucous house party, that the pieces had clicked into place and she realised she’d always harboured a preference for women. Retrospectively, Hermione and pretty much everyone else couldn’t believe they hadn’t realised sooner.

Ron had been hurt, but bounced back quickly, finding delight in dissecting every girl in their year to try and ascertain Hermione’s type. She’d lectured him on the pig-headedness of such a game, before admitting that Luna was the closest to her type whilst at Hogwarts. She’d always had a thing for blondes.

“Hags? Are you sure you’re not thinking of your dating history Ronald?”

This time is was Ron’s turn to look unimpressed, turning red to the tips of his ears.

“Hey, you’re technically a part of my dating history so I wouldn’t go there if I were you.”

“Ahh and is that why you’ve had little luck since? Where do you go when you’ve had the best?” Hermione replied, arching a playful eyebrow as Ron turned even redder, mumbling something about “bloody lesbians” before passing the phone back to Ginny.

Hermione finally rounded the last corner of the stairwell, facing the fire door that opened onto the corridor where her apartment was. She was slightly out of breath from her ascent and stopped in the corridor momentarily to catch her breath. As she panted, she noticed the flat two doors down from her had the door swung open, propped open by several large removal boxes.

“Right so when are we celebrating Hermione? Party at yours, mine or Grimmauld?”

Ginny had settled on Harry’s bed, with Harry tossing a Quaffle in the air behind her, catching it before returning it into the air. Hermione ignored the half scrawled upon papers that she spotted strewn across his bed. Whilst Harry was doing well in his Auror training, his drive to complete his homework was much the same as when they were at school, which is to say, very low.

“Did someone say party?”

Ron had returned, still with a pinkish tinge to his complexion.

Hermione approached her door, turning the key but not before glancing back at the boxes in the hallway. She could hear muted voices coming from inside the neighbouring apartment but couldn’t see anyone due to the angle of the half closed door.

“Looks like someone is moving into Mrs. Hague’s apartment,” she mused entering her own apartment, feeling the wards around her apartment envelope her as she closed the door behind her.

“Is she the old bat that smells like cats and gone off milk?”

“That’s the one, such a lovely woman. I’d heard she’d died but didn’t know when the funeral was. I did leave flowers by the door though. That’s a fast replacement, I wonder what the new neighbour will be like?”

Entering the flat, Hermione was greeted by a mewling Crookshanks who she stroked idly as she placed her blazer and work bag on the coat hooks next to the door and removed her boots.

“Let’s hope it’s a fit bird!” exclaimed Ron, roughly joining Ginny and Harry on Harry’s bed, causing the bed to bounce with his effort, much to Ginny’s annoyance.

Hermione rolled her eyes again. “Yes, because that’s the only redeeming quality I want in a neighbour; must be a fit woman.”

Although playing it nonchalant, Hermione had actually been surprisingly saddened when she’d heard of the old woman’s passing. When Hermione first moved in Mrs Hague was the first person to introduce herself, cooing over Crookshanks in the doorway. Upon finding out that Hermione was an avid reader, she often dropped books round that she thought Hermione might like and often marvelled over Hermione’s extensive collection of vinyl, many of which she had managed to retrieve from her parents house after the war.

This line of thought stung Hermione and she shook her head to try and ground herself, remembering the breathing technique that her therapist taught her to stave off intrusive thoughts and overwhelming flashbacks.

“’Mione? You still there?”

Ron had leaned forward, his forehead visible once more.

“Yes Ron. You know what, a party does sound good. Let’s keep it small though, we’ll have it here to prevent Ginny from inviting the whole of wizarding London like she did at the last one at Grimmauld.”

“Are you feeling alright? Hermione Granger agreeing to an impromptu party at her own apartment?”

“Don’t push it Ginny,” Hermione warned, glancing around her apartment to check the general cleanliness of the place. As always, it was neat, the only objects out of place being books littered around on counters and the coffee table, and a few records stacked next to the turntable.

“Fine, we’ll bring the booze and the guests, you provide the snacks? We’ll be over in say, an hour?”

Ginny glanced at Harry and Ron to gain their agreement, before the trio turned back to Hermione on the phone.

“Sounds great, move quickly before I change my mind.”

Springing into action, the trio at Grimmauld began moving erratically.

“Okay! See you in an hour! Love you, congratulations again!”

“Go!” Hermione laughed, spotting Ron in a state of half undress just as the call disconnected.

Finally left alone with her own thoughts, Hermione continued scratching behind Crookshanks’s ears, listening to him purr contentedly at her ministrations.

Her apartment was by no means grand, but it was undoubtedly hers. The design was modern but littered with Victorian details. It had a mostly open plan layout, the hallway making way to a spacious living, kitchen and dining room, modestly furnished with a second hand walnut table and chairs taking up the majority of the dining room area. Despite being fair in size, the apartment had high ceilings and a vast bay window that Hermione had of course transformed into the perfect reading ledge, offering plenty of light and space.

However the star of her apartment had to be the grand oak bookcase, that magically expanded whenever Hermione required more space to place her books, which was frequently. She’d even managed to enchant the bookcase to order the books by subject and alphabetically by surname of the author within that subject.

The bookcase stood to one side of the entryway to Hermione’s room. The other side was flanked by Hermione’s ever growing vinyl collection, with her parents old turntable sat atop the 70’s unit. It was another muggle habit that she’d picked up following the war. Some of her fondest memories of her parents were evenings spent selecting a record to put on whilst they sat and read independently, scattered around the living room as a family. Sometimes they would dance; she remembers dancing on her parents feet when she must’ve been around four, her Mum holding one hand and her Dad the other, swaying her gently to Etta James or Billie Holiday. It didn’t matter what the music was, just that they enjoyed it together.

When she returned to her parents house after the war, she expected it to be ransacked by Death Eaters, her parents possessions destroyed. What she found however was far more eerie; it was exactly the same. Everything untouched, forgotten by her parents. Much like she was.

In a daze, she’d packed what she thought she wanted and sent it to Grimmauld place, where Harry had set a room aside for her as a temporary measure. She’d almost passed the record player by, until her eyes fell upon the record on the turntable. It was an old Billie Holiday, the needle crackling on the record, still spinning mutely. With an ache in her heart, she took them all.

Deciding to prepare a selection of pre-approved vinyl later, Hermione headed on through to the bedroom, picked up some discarded clothing and tossed it in the washing basket before stopping to check her reflection in the large wall mirror.

Although the war had been over for a good two years now, the after effects still lingered on her face. She never got used to her changed reflection. Her jawline and cheekbones were more pronounced with age and her time on the run, her softer edges had become harder, the dark rings under her eyes never fully left her; yet her warm, honey eyes still held a tenderness, something that she had refused to let the war take from her. She pondered her face with the wary gaze of a stranger, afraid of seeing that flat, hollow look that she sported in the year following the Battle for Hogwarts.

With a shaky intake of breath, Hermione allowed herself to slowly remove her t-shirt, peeling back the hem before yanking it over her head. Her torso bore the unmistakable signs of Bellatrix’s handiwork. It had taken her the better part of a year to be comfortable enough with herself to stand in front of a mirror without being repulsed, sickened by what she saw. Slowly, she traced the white, puckered scars that remained, building herself up to stare at that disgusting word that was still carved into her skin; the one that would never truly heal, would never let her forget.

She faltered, her hand ghosting over where the word lay. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, not today. She had days like this, days where it was simply too much, where it was such an impossibility, the weight of the word and what it represented too much to bear.

Sighing, Hermione moved her eyes back up to meet her own in the mirror. She saw her own fear, anger and agony reflected back. She steeled her gaze, watching the swirling honey of her eyes return as her fearful pupils retreated as she once again focussed on her breathing. Four in, hold for four, out for eight. She repeated one of her many calming mantras to herself, breathing “my scars do not show weakness, but strength” to herself over and over until the words lost meaning entirely.

Tilting her chin with resolve, she finally turned from the mirror, wrenching open her wardrobe to assess her clothing options. She was determined not to let the past catch up with her future tonight.

 

 

********

 

 

“Whose stupid idea was it to have a party anyway?” Hermione grumbled from behind a plastic cup, swirling with whatever concoction Ron had decided to make.

Her warning to keep the party “small” had been decidedly ignored by Ginny, Harry and Ron. Her apartment was currently swelling with the amount of people that milled around, a lot of whom she was sure she’d never seen before.

“Oh lighten up Hermione, I only invited half the Quidditch team for you, to you know, keep it quiet!”

Ginny at least had the good grace to blush when Hermione turned her death stare on her.

“Honestly Ginny I swear I just ran into Adrian Pucey, that’s how bizarre your guest list is.”

Ginny guffawed loudly, slapping Hermione on the back and sloshing her own drink slightly in the process.

“Don’t be so dramatic, you know loads of people here! Look, there’s Luna, your dream girl”

Turning as red as a Weasley, Hermione punched Ginny’s arm briskly.

“Are you ever going to let that one go? I say I prefer blondes and suddenly Luna is my soulmate.”

“That’s very flattering Hermione, but I’m not into girls. And I believe your soul is already spoken for.” Luna breezed as she walked into the kitchen, swatting the air around Hermione’s bushy brown hair.

Hermione groaned loudly, once again punching Ginny’s arm.

Luna replenished her own drink from the foaming keg of butterbeer, handing one to Hermione and Ginny in turn.

“So speaking of your love life Hermione…” Ginny started, leaning back against the kitchen counter with a suggestive wiggle of her eyebrows.

“Merlin not this again, I thought project ‘Get Hermione Laid’ had been abandoned after you tried to set me up with that woman that works behind the bar in The Three Dragons.”

Hermione scowled into her drink, recalling the failed date in which she had got rip roaringly drunk to try and counteract her nerves and subsequently ended up spewing on the floor of a very crowded wizarding bar. She’d ended up all over Witch Weekly courtesy of Rita Skeeter and her poisonous quill, which was more than enough of a reason to lay low on the dating scene for a while.

“C’mon, it’s not my fault that you’re hopeless with women, and at least you only got barred from the place for a month! That’s a win in my books.” Ginny started rifling round in Hermione’s cupboards, finding some half full bottles of Muggle alcohol, something Ginny had become quite partial to after trying absinthe for the first time.

“Plus, you can hardly let Ron loose on Tinder and think that we’d let you get away with becoming some sort of nun. Honestly, you’d think that he’d remember how to do a Silencing Charm when he brings them home, can you imagine the drama if me and Ginny forgot?” Harry joined the three women in the kitchen, his eyes looking slightly glazed and his shirt stained with drops of butterbeer.

Hermione chuckled to herself, remembering fondly her afternoon spent with Ron trying to introduce him to the Muggle dating app. Despite his tendency to speak before thinking and his stunted emotional range, Hermione couldn’t help but dote on him. It helped that she found his cluelessness and wonder when it came to Muggle technology endearing, watching his face light up as he swiped left and right (mostly right because it was Ron after all).

On a deeper level, she knew that Ron had grown tired of the sometimes small dating pool that was the London wizarding community. Anonymity was something that herself, Harry and Ron simply weren’t afforded anymore, and she knew herself how draining it could be to sit opposite someone who already knew so much about you, or thought they knew so much; to be forced to talk about truly traumatising and painful memories with someone who didn’t really want to know about you, but rather the you they read about in The Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly. At least with Muggles, you had the freedom of obscurity, they didn’t know you from the next person on Tinder.

She’d been on a few dates herself, both with Muggles and witches over the course of the past two years, but nothing ever seemed to come of them. She dated Ariana, the woman from Ginny’s Quidditch team for a month or two, before they parted ways, ending on friendly terms. They agreed that there was no real spark, despite having pleasant enough sex, Hermione was looking for something like she read in Muggle romance books; someone to truly set her soul alight.

Realising she hadn’t replied to Harry, having gotten lost in her thoughts, she spoke.

“I’m hardly a nun! It’s just difficult finding someone who either hasn’t read my entire life history in a book or conversely doesn’t know magic exists. Have you ever tried explaining to a Muggle that you’re hoping to kiss and potentially more, that you went to a mysterious boarding school in Scotland, know little in the way of the latest Muggle popular culture and can’t account for the emotional trauma of a war that in their eyes, never existed?”

Despite her harsh words, Hermione’s tone was light. This didn’t stop Harry from wincing slightly. Whilst Hermione was far more comfortable talking about their collective trauma due to her sessions with a wizarding therapist, Harry was still firmly of the belief that he had to unpack his grief alone. If it wasn’t spoken about, then he didn’t have to process all that was lost in the war. Old habits and that.

Ginny glanced sideways at Harry, reaching out a comforting hand tentatively to put on the back of his neck, brushing his damp hair softly.

“Well what happened with Ariana? She’s here you know, she was asking about you over by the levitating beer pong table.” Luna asked, motioning towards the dining room with her head.

Hermione’s eyes went wide. “She’s over by the what?!” she exclaimed

Marching briskly out of the kitchen, Hermione entered the throng of people crowded around her dining table. Well, what was her dining table.

The table currently housed plastic cups half full with some swirling glittery green liquid that bubbled and hissed as small ping pong balls were directed into them. It smelt sharply of apples and alcohol.

A hand reached out and grabbed Hermione’s arm gently, before she could open her mouth to scold the players, urging them to be more careful with her prized walnut table.

Her blazing honey eyes met Ron’s soft blue eyes, slightly drooping as he smiled lopsidedly at Hermione.

“S’alright ‘Mione, I’ve told them that if there’s even a splash mark on it that I’d hex them to next week.”

Her anger left her body in a huff, as Ron slung his arm affectionately around her shoulders.

“C’mon, let’s go and pick some music, whoever chose this has clearly never been to a party.”

Hermione allowed herself to be guided by Ron over to the turntable, where he crouched down and began scanning her albums with a familiarity that brought a smile to her lips.

When Ron had pulled out his choice - Green Day, one of the few Muggle bands he had warmed to – and under the watchful eye of Hermione had carefully dropped the needle as she’d shown him previously, Hermione allowed herself to be swept up into conversation with Dean Thomas and Seamus who were passionately discussing ways in which Muggle football could be improved with magic.

With a warm buzz beginning to hit her head as the alcohol seeped into her bloodstream, Hermione felt herself lean into the celebration. She’d finally been given a promotion that would allow her to effect real change in the wizarding world, she was surrounded by her friends – and acquaintances, after all, she genuinely had no idea who a lot of the people currently stood in her apartment were – and felt content seeing everyone she cared about in one room, laughing.

A time later, she was dancing with Harry, watching his arms flail around madly and trying to avoid his wayward feet as they stomped dangerously close to hers, when she heard an incessant rap at the door over the thrum of the music. This pounding was followed closely by a familiar warmth emanating from her wand, the warmth that came whenever someone she didn’t recognise was at the edge of her wards, warning her of a potential intruder.

“I’ll get it” she heard Ginny yell in a slur, watching as a streak of flaming red hair battled through the crowd to Hermione’s front door.

Hermione craned her head to try and spot the visitor, but couldn’t see much beyond Harry’s mop of jet black hair thrashing to and fro to the music.

“I’ll be back in a sec.” she yelled in Harry’s ear in order to be heard.

Pushing her way through the crowd painfully slowly, Hermione reached the hallway just as Ginny slammed the door, turning to face Hermione with a huff and a scowl on her face.

“Who was it?” Hermione questioned, being dragged by Ginny back down the hallway and into the kitchen.

“Honestly why are the French so rude? Is it a prerequisite or something? “Must be a snappy snob to acquire French residency”,” Ginny grabbed the absinthe from the counter and sloshed some into a shot glass for herself, before doing the same for Hermione.

“The French? What are you talking about Ginny, who was it?”

Ginny put the shot to her lips, bracing herself before sharply knocking the liquid back. “Looks like we know who your new neighbour is now; it’s bloody Phlegm!”

Hermione balked, her cheeks immediately becoming flushed.

“What?! As in Fleur Delacour?” she all but shrieked.

She hadn’t seen Fleur in… she couldn’t even think how long, not properly anyway. Not long after the war had ended, her and Bill had swiftly and quietly divorced. For a while, the reasons were kept fairly hush, with Molly and Arthur refusing to even mention Fleur’s name. From snippets of conversations that Hermione had had with Ginny and even the occasional chat with Bill when she visited The Burrow, Hermione had surmised that it was mutual, but still didn’t know the exact reasoning behind it.

Not that she had thought of asking particularly. Her and Fleur had never been close, only crossing paths a handful of times during the Triwizard Tournament in her fourth year. She hadn’t warmed to the girl in the slightest; she was constantly complaining about the cold, the food, the grounds, basically anything that could be complained about was. The thrall that surrounded the woman also irked her to no end. She abhorred the way it turned the male population into drooling idiots.

It didn’t help that Fleur could often be found in Hermione’s sanctuary, the Hogwarts library. She used to sit a few tables down from Hermione, surrounded by a group of bumbling, stuttering boys boasting about their fictional achievements. It made it nearly impossible to concentrate on her homework, for which she had always blamed Fleur. Their eyes would meet occasionally and Hermione always became curiously warm when she found Fleur’s magnetic eyes appraising her. Retrospectively, Hermione had attributed much of her dislike of Fleur to her own attraction to the girl. Her confusion around her sexuality had manifested into a kind of disdain towards Fleur, for which Hermione presently felt ashamed and regretful for.

With Fleur returning to Beauxbatons at the end of the year, Hermione could return to her studies and attempt to cram her burgeoning feelings for women firmly into a 'Do Not Open' box in her brain.

Their next encounter had been at Fleur and Bill’s wedding, which of course ended catastrophically, with The Burrow being torched to the ground and herself, Harry and Ron having to flee as the Death Eaters arrived. Herself and Fleur had been amicable, chatting idly about books they’d both read recently. Fleur was a marvellous conversationalist, the woman could be accused of many character flaws, but her intelligence was not one of these.

Hermione had at one point taken pity on the woman, who often stood to the side at her own wedding, wandering alone on the fringes of Bill’s friends and family. It must’ve been hard, not having any of her own family there for the celebrations. Visa’s were hard to come by at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a war, so Hermione in a fit of uncharacteristic spontaneity had asked Fleur to dance.

Whilst she had always made her dislike of Fleur evident as a fifteen year old, confused and repressed lesbian, she was never blind; Fleur was and always had been, nothing short of stunning. Thinking back, Hermione was surprised at how easily she could recall the softness of Fleur’s hand as it held hers as they danced, the other clasped firmly on her shoulder, squeezing tightly as Hermione twirled her around the dance floor. Her hair was almost silver, and glowed with magic under the festoon lights and of course her captivatingly clear, ice blue eyes were enthralling. Hermione remembered being unable to break eye contact with the woman for the entirety of the dance, allowing herself to be pulled into those depths, desperately seeking something, but what she didn’t know.

She could feel the warmth radiating off of Fleur’s supple yet lithe frame that moved almost instinctively, with a grace that seemed innate to the woman. As the gentle scent of honeysuckle and something distinctly Fleur had breezed into Hermione’s nostrils, she had felt her eyes threaten to flutter shut and she’d had to stop herself from bringing the woman closer into her to inhale more deeply. Hermione had found herself clutching the other woman’s hip unconsciously, allowing her thumb to ripple over the silk of Fleurs dress. Fleurs wedding dress, she’d reminded herself. Her wedding dress that she wore on her wedding day as she’d married her good friend Bill.

After their dance had ended Hermione recalled feeling oddly drawn to the woman, finding her gaze often returning to hers across the crowded marquee, only to find Fleur already looking at her inquisitively, with an odd challenge twinkling in her eyes, much like they had three years prior in the Hogwarts library. She’d felt a warm blush rise on her face, snapping her gaze to her champagne flute, forcing herself not to glance back over at the woman and finding this task quite challenging.

Shell Cottage had been the next time Hermione had met Fleur again, much of which Hermione had forgotten. Some purposefully, much of it involuntarily. Her memory of being on the beach was hazy to say the least. She remembers the gentle but persistent whoosing of the waves crashing on the shore and the smell of salt in the air before that same honeysuckle scent had hit her and she’d been aware of strong but careful arms lifting her.

The days had passed by in blurs, her mind slipping in and out of consciousness. She remembered in sensations, recalling the smell of honeysuckle always in the air, clinging to the sheets of the bed in which she lay bleeding after Bellatrix’s work. Fleur’s nimble hands brushed over her arms, her torso, applying cooling salves, her body tingling with Veela magic. She heard Fleur speaking softly, sometimes in French, sometimes in English and often in a language Hermione didn’t recognise; presumably in Veela. When she managed to open her heavy eyelids, she’d often see Fleur hunched over a cauldron, deftly dropping ingredients in with a determined look on her face, her brow furrowed in concentration. Sometimes, when Hermione would wake shaking from the after effects of the Cruciatus Curse combined with extremely vivid night terrors of Bellatrix standing over her maniacally wielding that cursed knife, she’d be met with the sight of Fleur’s impossibly blue eyes, filled with concern.

She’d let herself be held by Fleur, too overtaken by panic to fight or question the comfort she felt when Fleur would hold her body tightly, stroking her bushy hair and speaking in hushed tones, repeating “It’s just a nightmare ma belle, just a nightmare, you are safe, I have you.”

Once her health was restored to the best of Fleurs abilities again, her, Harry and Ron had left in a hurry, spurred on by the need to find the Horcrux stored in Bellatrix’s vault. She hadn’t had a chance to give Fleur her thanks, or to try and convey or put into words the immense gratitude she felt for the woman. Fleur had saved her life, and for that, she would be eternally indebted to her.

Following this, she’d only ever crossed paths with the woman when she made her infrequent trips to Gringotts, where Fleur still worked as a curse breaker. Hermione found a strange kinship with Bill following the war. They weren’t exactly best friends, but when Hermione began to research how to restore her parents memories - an ongoing task – Bill offered his unrequited support, imparting any and all knowledge he had, even asking around and putting Hermione in contact with anyone he thought may be of help to her.

But she hadn’t ever found the right time, or the right words to say to the French witch. What do you say to someone to whom you owe your life? Hermione was determined on keeping their interactions to quick hello’s or passing nods whenever she saw her, before effectively fleeing the bank. Most importantly, she never allowed her eyes to linger, permitting herself to quick glances to avoid her honey eyes giving away her conflicted emotions.

And now apparently Fleur lived all of two doors down. And had knocked on her door.

“What did she want?!” Hermione exclaimed, snapped back to the present day by Ginny placing another shot in front of her.

Ginny gestured for Hermione to drink, which she did dutifully.

“The stuck up cow wanted us to turn the music down! Said she “couldn’t ‘ear herzelf zink” over the music, what a self-righteous piece of work!” Ginny mimicked a French accent badly, pulling a snooty face in an attempt to impersonate Fleur. Ginny had not warmed to Fleur with time like Hermione had.

“Well what did you say? Did you invite her in? Is she here?” Hermione began to panic, suddenly expecting the blonde to appear through the throng of drunk witches and wizards.

“Oh yeah, because of course the best thing to do when someone is complaining about the noise is to ask them to come in, sounds like a right laugh! That wouldn’t kill the fun at all.” Ginny snarked, earning a glare from Hermione.

“I told her to do one and that we were celebrating your promotion.”

“Ginny! You can’t say that to her, she’s my neighbour! I have to live with the consequences of pissing her off, not you!”

“It’s Phlegm, she’s always pissed off from what I hear.”

Hermione tried to picture Fleur at her door, tried to conjure to mind her blue eyes ablaze with anger. She flushed furiously at the strangely appealing image she’d fabricated.

“I’m going to apologise.” Hermione replied, draining the remains of the latest drink Ginny had poured her.

She made it two steps before stumbling slightly, swaying into the kitchen counter.

“Tomorrow. I’m going to apologise tomorrow” she finished, hearing a steady slur to her words as she spoke.

Ginny laughed at Hermione’s drunken display and laced her arm together with Hermione’s.

“Sounds like a plan my friend, but for tonight, we drink!” Ginny yelled, throwing her arms into the air, earning a resounding cheer from the crowd.

“And hey, at least you got your wish, Mrs Hague is out and a fit woman is in. You do like blondes, don’t you?” Ginny whispered into Hermione’s ear, earning herself a sharp jab in the ribs.

“Shut up, lets play levitating beer pong.” And with that the pair approached Harry, Ron and Luna at the oak dining table.