Years From Now

Chapter 12

A/N: Merry Christmas to the readers who celebrate this day! I'm a few days late in posting this but I figure it can slide because it's longer than every other chapter thus far. It's my gift for the holidays to you!

Years From Now

Chapter 12

October 24, 2008

Hermione read over the information sheet that currently sat before her eyes, cataloging key points and comparing it to the sheet prior to this one. She glanced at the short list of witches and wizards that sat to her right and her gaze inadvertently landed on the third name of the list: the person she was currently reading about. She had one more sheet to read about the fourth and final person on the list and then she was going to take a lunch that should have happened 40 minutes ago.

One of the British delegates appointed to the International Confederation of Wizards was threatening to vacate his seat for some reason or another and had gone to the Minister to relay this. Consequently, Kingsley, far from swayed by the warning and seeing it more as a childish ultimatum, had warmly informed the wizard that stepping down was his choice to make, of course, and the difficult decision must have taken much forethought, but the work he had done on behalf of his country was valuable. Kingsley then informed the Wizengamot that it may likely have to approve the delegate's replacement in the near future, which meant a meeting for Hermione with him about worthy candidates. (He could very well select someone on his own without any assistance but he valued the Muggleborn's astute mind and ability to analyze).

The brief list along with a note from Kinglsey had been on her desk that morning when she arrived to work and she was nearly done reading the general information about the candidates. She wanted to talk to their supervisors to corroborate the letters of support attached to the thin files but that would probably not be today and most definitely not before she ate lunch. Lottie came into the office while Hermione was going over the sheet for the fourth candidate and already considering what she would eat in a few minutes' time.

"Post," she declared, setting the pile on Hermione's desk. The brunette looked up at her assistant.

"Aren't you past due for lunch?" Lottie questioned.

"Yes," Hermione stated, pulling the mail toward her, "I was about to go."

"Do you want me to fetch it for you?"

"No. Thanks, Lottie, but I need to get out for a bit. No lunch at my desk today."

"Good," the other woman smiled before leaving the room.

Hermione exhaled as she stood up and rummaged through the mail. It looked like the majority of it was from magical citizens regarding her engagement, and she knew there would be one or two negative messages amongst the positive, but there was also a letter from the Austrian Ministry and from MACUSA. When Hermione came across the last piece of mail, an immaculate envelope with no markings whatsoever, her heart immediately started pumping faster in her chest. The fourth blank message on perfect paper- this had to be from G.

Consequently, the Muggleborn noticed that this letter was in an envelope whereas the others had not been, and she would later tell herself that this difference should have been a detail she considered more closely. A moment or two after Hermione opened the envelope, she let out a short scream and instinctively dropped the message, staring in panic at the substance on her hands. There was no letter inside, however, and the envelope floated around her as a voice came pouring out of it. The witch started shaking. Her hands were burning.

"Madam Granger," the person commenced in a placid tone while Hermione shouted for her assistant, "It pains me that I have to take this drastic step with you in an attempt to receive a response. I want collaboration with you, not coercion or forced cooperation, but I also will not tolerate disregard or a sense of self importance. I will not tolerate it from anyone. You must understand that I am continuing the work for something great, Madam, and your participation will make a significant difference in how I go about reaching it. I prefer to achieve things peacefully but it is merely that: a preference. May my gesture today serve as a reminder of this, and may we be in touch again at your doing."

The voice speaking was clearly distorted and fluctuated between female and male. Despite the pain she was in and intense wave of emotion she felt, Hermione listened to what the person said while also trying to do damage control. Lottie came hurrying into the room toward the end of the message and saw the brunette holding her trembling hands as far away from her as possible, appearing distressed. They both jumped when the envelope burst into flames at the end of its speech.

"Herm- what-" Lottie started, wide eyed.

"Get Gawain! A-And Cassandra!" Hermione stated. Her eyes were watering and she noticed her hands were changing color.

"What's happened?" The other woman moved toward her but Hermione jerked away.

"No!," she exclaimed, "This is… a-acid or poison! It's that G person! Send the chief and Cassandra to Healer Mercer's!"

"Yes, of course!" Lottie replied. She looked worried and followed when her boss ran out of the room, headed for the mediwizard she had just mentioned.

Joseph Mercer was one of two Healers stationed at the Ministry and he resided on level two (although he was used elsewhere when needed). Hermione was fortunate that Mercer was present when she reached his room and had an open door, as knocking was a feat she was not capable of at the moment.

"Healer Mercer! Please! My hands!" the witch half yelled, presenting them to his surprised gaze, "They feel like they're burning!"

The wizard had been caught off guard by Hermione's abrupt and frenzied entrance but he only took a moment or two to stay in this state before taking action. He noticed the substance on her shaking hands and immediately grabbed his dragonhide gloves, yanking them on as he nodded for her to sit.

"What happened, Madam?" wondered Mercer in the stern voice he used when working in urgent situations.

"I-I got a letter. There was a letter and when I opened it, this was what was inside!" Hermione reported. Her heart clenched when he removed her engagement ring and put it aside, and she stared at it while he handled her hands. Her ring! Would it be damaged in any way? She felt crestfallen and livid at the prospect, and vaguely registered that Mercer had taken some of the substance.

"How long has this been on your skin?"

"I'm… perhaps about three minutes?"

Mercer nodded and moved swiftly to the vast cabinet in the room, removing his gloves and pulling on another pair along the way. He grabbed two jars and unscrewed the cap off one while he walked back to the Muggleborn; he set the jars on a rollaway tray and scooped a hearty amount of cream with his left hand.

"The first may sting," the Healer stated. He put large dollops on both of her hands before rubbing the cream into her right hand. Hermione hissed and shrunk back a tad. He was right- it did sting, but it felt icy in comparison to the fire sensation of before.

Mercer moved to her left hand when all of the cream had been rubbed into her right and she sighed in relief. Whatever he had used removed all of the pain she felt.

"Thank you," she noted.

"I'm going to have whatever you were exposed to sent to the potioneers to determine what exactly it is. I did not recognize it by sight," the wizard relayed.

"Hermione," a new, male voice attested.

They looked to see Robards and Cassandra standing in the doorway and Hermione saw Lottie hovering behind them.

"Come in." Mercer directed, finishing with her left hand. They hurried inside and Hermione mouthed 'thank you' to Lottie with clear appreciation in her eyes. Her assistant nodded before closing the door and making her back to her station.

"What happened?" Robards inquired, appearing concerned.

"Madam Granger came into contact with some acidic substance," the Healer remarked. He was now putting the contents from the second jar on her hands but this one looked like a thinner ointment.

"Your assistant mentioned something about G?" Kaz said.

"Yes," Hermione nodded, "I received more correspondence from him or her. This one was unlike the others in that it was harmful and the message wasn't a letter."

"What was it?" Robards asked, furrowing his brow.

"The message came verbally from the envelope."

"Is the envelope still intact?"

"No. It caught fire after the voice finished speaking." Hermione revealed.

"Madam, do you mind if I get my second for this case before we continue talking?" Kaz questioned.

"Of course."

The senior Auror nodded once before quickly exiting the room.

"The Head of the DMLE has been attacked by an unknown terrorist," Robards groused, shaking his head. He turned to the other man, "Will she be okay, Joseph?"

"Yes. Not straight away, but yes. She got here quickly, which helped to prevent permanent damage," Mercer claimed, "How do your hands feel now?"

"I don't have any more pain." Hermione answered, flexing them yet noting they still looked fairly awful.

"Good. I'm going to wrap them and they will need to stay that way for an hour; this will help the remedies to seep in and restore their appearance. It would be much more helpful if I knew precisely what we were dealing with but this will do for now."

Harry craned his neck from side to side while he stood at the podium, briefly closing his eyes as he heard the new Aurors leaving the instruction room. It had been his week to take charge of their training and today was the last day, something for which he was glad. He loved being the instructor when his rotation came but it made it harder to manage the typical duties that were expected of his position; it required juggling and sometimes longer hours to do both. For example, Tessa had assumed leadership over the Malfoy case for this week and reported her decisions and the outcomes to Harry. She and another Auror on the team interviewed Draco and his wife at their home two days ago, on Wednesday, and Harry had secretly been disappointed that he had been unable to be there. Accordingly, Tessa shared that Draco's wife had gone to Hogwarts and was a year younger than him; they had been married for almost two years and she worked in a wizarding village near their home. (The Aurors' next steps were to investigate all of the Malfoys' current contacts but Harry would be back in charge when that got underway, and he reasoned he would be able to see Draco's home and wife for himself then).

Harry noticed there were still three trainees in the room as he prepared to leave, intent on taking his lunch before he resumed his role as teacher. He smiled at them and made to leave but they started when they noticed his impending departure, power walking over to him.

"Er, Captain Potter!" a brown skinned wizard began.

"Yes?" he responded.

"We… we just wanted to say thank you!"

"Yes!" a blonde witch uttered, beaming.

"Oh! Er, for what?" Harry replied.

"For teaching us!" the third person supplied.

"You're a brilliant Auror, a-and instructor!" the first wizard attested.

"That is kind. Thank you," the senior Auror smiled, "I always enjoy working with you lot in the academy."

"And we definitely enjoy having youas an instructor! We look forward to your next rotation, sir," the blonde said. The trio were all smiles and excited nods before they waved and left the room, with Harry waiting a bit before he turned off the light and also left.

It seemed that every year he was thanked or fawned over by some of the entering Aurors, the young wizards awed by working this closely with Harry Potter. Most of them meant well and their wonder was typically innocuous, but every so often there would be Auror hopefuls who were there only for Harry Potter. Consequently, they were always weeded out and never lasted too long.

The dark haired wizard was nearing his office when he heard familiar, hushed voices close by. Harry turned and saw Kaz and Taylor Thorpe, the best member on Kaz's team, hurrying in his direction, the former speaking quickly and appearing serious. He watched them rush by, not bothering to interrupt as he recognized the look on Kaz's face as one that came from dire work matters, but he jolted when he heard something come out of the senior Auror's mouth.

"... Madam Granger was burned…"

He stared after the pair as his heart rate picked up. He knew he had not been meant to hear that but another part of his brain rapidly decided that fact did not matter. Hermione was hurt? Burned?! When? How! Harry's eyes widened as the thoughts began to whiz through his head and, all the while, he stared at Thorpe and Kaz as they moved farther and farther away. He only stayed stationary for another moment before dashing after them.

Hermione was hurt. He had to know what was going on! Why had no one contacted him? Not even Kaz, who had retrieved Thorpe but not him?! Was it because he had been teaching the trainees? Someone could have relieved him! Harry was breathing hard and thinking of what could have possibly happened as he trailed after the two other Aurors, and soon enough they stopped in front of a closed door. Healer Mercer's. Harry hung back, heart still pumping furiously, and watched Kaz knocked on the door. It was pulled open and she and Thorpe moved inside, closing it again behind them. Hermione was likely in there- had to be. Why else would they go see Mercer? Unless… unless it was so bad she was at St. Mungo's? This thought is what pushed Harry forward, all rationality disappearing.

Hermione had only welcomed Thorpe and Robards had revealed the brunette was going to share what she remembered of the message when the Healer's door was thrown inward. Five heads snapped to the entrance only to see Harry looking halfway frantic and peering around at them all. When his gaze landed on Hermione, it stayed there and assessed every bit of her body it could see before he walked forward.

"What happened?" he pondered, taking her wrapped hands in his.

"Harry!" Hermione said, sounding bewildered.

"Auror Potter!" Robards remarked, just as shocked as everyone in the room. He then looked at Kaz with a drawn, perturbed brow.

"I didn't tell him!" she insisted, putting her hands up.

"What happened?" repeated Harry, sounding on edge.

"Madam Granger's hands were exposed to some sort of acid. The last thing they need is any jostling so please release them, Auror Potter." Healer Mercer directed.

"What are you doing here?" Hermione near whispered staring into Harry's eyes as he complied with Mercer's words.

"I heard Cassandra tell Taylor you were hurt so I followed," he answered in a steely tone, "How did this happen?"

"That doesn't matter right now, Harry. You need to go." (She did whisper this so only he heard).

"Auror Potter, did I hear correctly when you said you followed Auror Clayton here?" questioned Robards.

"Yes, sir, you did." Harry remarked, turning toward him, face resolute.

"May I ask why you decided on this course of action?"

"Because I heard her say that Hermione was hurt. I want to know how this happened."

Both Robards' and Hermione's countenances changed to match Harry's, became stormier. He was crossing a line here and they knew they had to enforce boundaries as his superiors. Kaz gave him a pleading look as a warning but he did not pay her attention.

"It came from an envelope sent by Grindelwald's proclaimed grandchild, Auror Potter." Hermione reported in her professional voice. Harry's eyes flickered to her at the tone of her voice.

"Why wasn't I told she had been attacked?" Harry demanded from no one in particular.

"Because this case- the one involving this G terrorist- is being led by Captain Clayton, Potter. That's why you were not informed," Robards said, arms folded and tone firm, "The proper Auror was."

"But her fiance was not, was he?"

There was stark silence. Kaz and Thorpe peered at one another with shocked worry but could not meet anyone else's eye and Mercer looked awkward, clearing his throat and busying himself with salve Hermione would need for aftercare. Harry was trying his best to not appear angry but he was failing, yet he did not look away from the stony gaze of the Head Auror or his girlfriend.

"Potter, it's best that you leave. This is officially part of the investigation for the case and your presence is unwarranted." Robards asserted. The younger man clenched his jaw and swiveled to look at Hermione, not moving.

"I believe Chief Robards gave a directive, Captain," she added, peering at him stoically. There was another loaded instant of silence.

"Fine." Harry bit out. He stalked from the room and much of the tension that pervaded the air seemed to dissipate, while the brunette witch seemed to deflate.

"I apologize Auror Thorpe, Captain Clayton. Madam Granger," exhaled Robards, uncrossing his arms, "I will have a discussion with Captain Potter on Monday about his… hastiness." Hermione stared at the floor and nodded, missing the sympathetic look thrown her way by Kaz.

"You were going to tell us what the message said, Madam Granger?" Thorpe prompted.

"Yes. Yes I was," she confirmed, slipping back into her role as DMLE Head.

Robards had a few days until he would have to have a conversation with Harry about his actions whereas Hermione had to have one once the work day ended, and she could not say she was looking forward to it.

Hermione's shift ended an hour before Harry's that day and she was grateful for it. She used the time to herself to shower (wanting all residue of the horrific substance off her), eat, and meditate. She had been introduced to meditation by the Muggleborn mind Healer she had seen years ago, a coping technique that she had, initially, been skeptical of due to the premise of clearing her insanely busy mind. However, Hermione came to discover through much practice that she truly enjoyed meditation, and she would need to center herself for the talk she had to have with Harry.

She texted him when he had been home for an hour to see if she could come over. It took him almost 20 minutes to respond but he said she could, so Hermione Apparated to his apartment before she lost her nerve and put it off until tomorrow. She found Harry standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes by hand and she breathed out before she walked over to him.

"Just finish eating?" she questioned.

"Yeah," he said. He did not look at her but moved lower and turned his face in her direction when she pulled on his shoulder so she could kiss his cheek.

"What'd you have?"

"Spaghetti bolognese. Got the recipe from Patty."

Patricia Dursley was Dudley's wife of three years, a very kind, patient woman who was usually by Dudley's side whenever Harry visited with his cousin, which happened to be a few times a year. She had given birth to their first child the previous year and Harry could expect a couple pictures of the growing boy each month, along with recipes on occasion.

Hermione nodded before she leaned back and watched him work. It was quiet between them until he was done cleaning and drying the dishes, and he used a small towel to wipe his hands while he stared at her with a surly expression. She opened her mouth to speak but Harry threw the towel on the counter and took her hands in his. He turned them over in his own, inspecting them closely. He observed they were red and the skin looked tender but he made no comment.

Hermione noticed Harry was being gentle with her although he appeared vexed. She gave him a brief synopsis of what had happened and the plan to respond to G: to release a short statement in the press introducing and denouncing this person all at once while Cassandra's team jumped head first into the case. Harry ran a thumb over her engagement ring while she spoke. He was satisfied to see the charms he had placed on the ring had protected it from the acid but the same could not be said for the woman's hands.

"When will you be fully healed?" he asked gruffly.

"In one week. I have to put salve on them once a day for the next seven days." Hermione explained. Harry made a noise resembling a grunt and then released her hands.

"Harry-" the witch tentatively began after a stint. He, however, moved past her and walked to the back of his apartment without another glance. Feeling a flare of anger, she followed him and they walked into his office; he did not stop or respond to a second call of his name.

"Harry, we need to talk about what happened." Hermione declared.

"Which is?" the Auror probed. His voice already sounded tight and he was standing behind the desk wearing a pinched expression.

"What you did today, when you walked into Healer Mercer's uninvited."

"What I did?," He sounded incredulous, "Uninvited?"

"Yes. Harry, not only did you insert yourself into something that wasnot your concern, you stayed when the message that you needed to leave was clear," she remarked.

"You being hurt is not my concern?"

"Not in that moment, no. Not when it was related to a case that-"

"Good to know, then! I can't worry about my fiance being harmed if it's for a case! Got it." Harry loudly interjected, throwing up his hands in mock relief.

"I didn't say that," Hermione insisted, "But there is a difference between worrying and being reactive and you tend to be reactive! You can't do that professionally, especially when it's not your case."

"You're focused on whose bloody case it is when you were burned? When the damage could have been much worse?!"

"I'm focused on the fact that you weren't listening, on top of the fact that you weren't supposed to be there! You were being obstinate. You didn't go until Gawain explicitly told you to, and you challenged him! Other superiors could have taken that as a form of insubordination. Your personal feelings completely chucked your professionalism out the window!"

He was staring at her with a, now, angry expression and took a second before replying.

"And?" the wizard growled.

"Are you serious? You can't do that!" Hermione stated, stomping her foot.

"Why? Because it embarrasses you, Hermione? You find my reactivity embarrassing?" Harry's voice sounded saccharine.

"Because it can be construed as deliberate interference with a case! If your relationship with me is going to cause you to ignore order and become involved in matters that do not pertain to you, that's a problem. And that's just it, Harry- our personal relationship cannot hinder our professional relationship with one another and you very well know that!"

The couple stared at each other for a long moment in horribly tense silence.

"Cassandra is the lead for this case. She will handle it," the witch commenced in a would be even tempered tone, "You can't be involved, Harry."

Her attempt at calm, however, was for naught.

"So the next time someone manages to hurt you, I'll sit by like a good little Auror and do nothing, is that it?," he demanded, glaring at her, "I'll just watch with a smile on my face and remember I can't be involved!"

"Why are you being like this?!" Hermione exclaimed. She balled her fists but uncurled them in the following moment, making a face due to their rawness.

"Because you want me to do nothing when you're in danger!"

"It's been one letter from someone who fancies themself a revolutionary!"

"And do you think this one letter will be the only time someone has it out for you? Has it been the only instance in your life up to this point? Fourth year and our year on the run and being engaged right now are all ringing a bell!," spat Harry, "You see the type of post you get from some of the nutters out there! Of course you're a target, Hermione, and you know why: because of me! What do you think it's going to be like when we're married? You're going to be even more of a mark because you're Harry Potter's wife!"

"I am, and will be, more than Harry Potter's wife," the witch hissed, eyes narrowed. He stumbled for a second before plowing forward.

"Yes! Muggleborn, DMLE Head, and part of the so called Golden Trio- more titles that only prove my point!"

"And what exactly is your point? Or are you just upset that there's been a line drawn that you need, for once!, to follow?"

Harry ran a hand down his face, gritting his teeth, and leaned forward on the desk by bracing himself with one hand. When he peered at her again, his expression was fierce.

"Take an Auror detail," he stated.

"What?" Hermione questioned.

"Take. An Auror. Detail."

"No! I don't need one!"

"The hell you don't! This would be standard for any other Ministry department head that had been threatened!" Harry declared, banging a fist on the hard surface. The three drawers of the desk flew open but neither seemed to notice the magical outburst.

"For the last time, you are not heading this case so you cannot give orders!" she asserted, snapping at the wizard. A few of the possessions in the office rattled in their spots.

"Fine. Then I'll tell Kaz to assign one to you."

He was standing straight again with crossed his arms but his entire body appeared taut while Hermione was gaping at him with a baffled expression. It was quiet and she had to shake her head to clear away the astonishment.

"Harry, you will stay out of this case. Do not interfere. That is a command as the head of your department," the woman claimed in a steady voice.

This, conversely, appeared to be the Auror's tipping point.

"The head of my department who apparently doesn't give two squirts of piss about her own ruddy safety!" Harry yelled, gesturing with his hand by slashing the air in front of him. Consequently, numerous items in the office were uprooted from their locations in a violent fashion and crashed to the floor in a wonderful cacophony of noise.

Hermione noticed this flood of emotionally charged magic. It startled her. She slowly peered around at the fallen objects, taking them in but also allowing herself an opportunity to wrangle in her own turbulent feelings. They were getting absolutely nowhere and continued conversation would only make things worse. The emotion was far too high.

"It's clear you're not in a space to talk about this right now," the brunette stated in a hard tone, gazing at him once more, "We'll table this for the night, shall we?"

The Muggleborn then disappeared in the following moment with a CRACK that was loud enough to make Harry rear back and wince.

Hermione thought one night was all they (Harry) would need to cool down and revisit the issue, so when Saturday night arrived and one full day had passed without hearing from him, she was rather surprised but not did not fret. When it was late Sunday afternoon and she still had not heard from Harry, she became concerned and upset, upset enough to find herself at Ron's house. (Nearly) Two days did not seem like much time to justify her feeling this way but that was the thing: two days was a long time for Harry to be bothered by a matter that Hermione believed was not terribly significant.

The witch assumed Harry had been especially frustrated about the entire ordeal, not sincerely angry, and that is what upset her. If he was this angry, then two days was plenty time to have enough control of his emotions to share the underlying feelings and thoughts causing his fury. But he had not contacted her- had not Apparated over, sent his Patronus, or used his cell phone- and this left Hermione to believe his high level of emotion had not decreased. There was a good chance she had underestimated his feelings but they could not talk about the situation further and work through it if Harry was going to sulk like a child and not communicate.

The situation also made Hermione question if problems like this would keep arising due to their positions within the department and relationship outside of it. She hated this notion as it had been a fear of hers since becoming Head, and while it was the first time it had cropped up, who was to say it would be the last? The brunette took this thought and many others with her when she popped up at Ron's in order to discuss their dark haired best friend and his irrationality.

Xeno Lovegood answered the door when Hermione called and she was partially surprised to see him. When he revealed he was visiting his grandchildren for the day the brunette started to say she was there for Ron but could come back another time so as to not intrude on family time, but the man would hear none of it and ushered her inside; he assured her she was not intruding and claimed his daughter saw her as family. Xeno led the brunette to the nursery where Luna and Ron were with their almost two month old twins. Luna handed Liam to her father before greeting the other witch with a hug and took Reagan from Ron so he could welcome Hermione as well.

Hermione spent the next hour in the nursery gushing over the twins while she conversed happily with the other three adults. It was nice, but when the sun set the mood changed and the small party dispersed. The twins had fallen asleep so Luna and her father were going to the kitchen to begin supper while Ron, after trading a quick kiss with his wife, guided his best friend to his home's modest sitting room. The red head stated Hermione had looked troubled when she arrived to the house alone so he instructed her to start talking, which she did without delay. She shared what happened at the Ministry and her fight with Harry, and Ron admitted that he had spoken to Harry as well since the dark haired wizard had asked him to come to Grimmauld the previous evening.

The brunette pursed her lips and made a flippant comment about him hiding away in Grimmauld instead of talking to her and this avalanched into a zealous discussion about her thoughts and feelings regarding this entire incident with Harry, with her asserting that he was overreacting and citing the lack of contact as proof.

"Maybe," shrugged Ron.

"Maybe?" Hermione uttered, looking at him in disbelief.

"He definitely acted a right fool with you and Robards, which he recognizes. But, yes- maybe he's overreacting to the situation and maybe you're underreacting."

"Underreacting?!"

"Hermione, did you consider why Harry reacted so strongly? The real cause behind all of it? Looking past the anger," he prompted.

"Well, my safety, I suppose, but-" she noted.

"Yes, your safety. Has he ever been calm when it's come to someone threatening you? I'm not saying it's reason for him to act any way he wants, but has he ever taken it lightly?"

"No…"

"No. Because he loves you like no one else and he's scared of the thought or reality of you being hurt because what if that means he loses you?"

It was quiet for a stint of time while she mulled over his words, feeling muted surprise.

"Did he tell you that?" Hermione quietly wondered.

"He told me many things, just like you have. But these are things you two need to tell each other." Ron attested. There was another moment of silence although it was much quicker.

"I shouldn't have to go to him first."

"I didn't say you did. With the tantrums he throws sometimes, Harry probably should be the one to come to you," the pureblood smiled, "I just wanted you to stop and think, really think, on why he would react the way he did. As often and as much as you do think, Herms, you're prone to overlook things on occasion."

The brunette leaned back in her seat and frowned a tad, uncurling the leg on which she had been sitting. The next time she moved, it was to take Ron's hand in hers and squeeze it gently in gratitude.

Harry did not reach out to Hermione when she returned home Sunday night so she went the whole weekend without hearing from him. She was disappointed but went into the Ministry on Monday ever the professional, the very first task on her to do list being composing the response to G that would be published. Lottie's voice floated through her office three hours after the brunette had been at work (and after having met with the Head of the Improper Use of Magic division) to announce that one Auror Potter was requesting a sudden audience, if Madam Granger could make time for him.

Hermione was momentarily shocked but promptly told Lottie that she would grant the captain's entreaty, and she hurriedly righted any disturbances in her robes and ran a hand over her hair before Harry entered her office. When he did step inside, they stared at one another for a period without saying anything. The Muggleborn felt both woeful and irritated, and she gestured for her fiance to take a seat while inclining her head at him in acknowledgment. Harry obediently sat as he thanked her for her time, and before either person knew it he was pouring forth apologies and explanations for his behavior on Friday.

At some point the wizard leaned forward toward her earnestly, relaying a message that mirrored Ron's (that he dreaded something irreversibly bad might happen to Hermione and that terrified him) while his eyes showcased the regret he felt. Reassured by the sincerity of Harry's words, Hermione caved rather easily; she affirmed that she forgave him and offered her own small apology for making him think she was being indifferent about her own safety. Harry revealed he was meant to speak with Robards in another 30 minutes time about his actions on Friday and he promised he would stay removed from the case, and attempt to never let his objectivity slip to that degree again. In turn, Hermione promised she would tell him what she could about the case when new developments came.

The couple's meeting ended with a few enthusiastic kisses and an invitation for Hermione to come to Grimmauld that night so Harry could cook her a charming meal. The witch agreed, unsurprisingly, and 8PM found them sitting on the floor in one of the smaller drawing rooms, eating the tasty food he had created while the walls were illuminated by cozy candlelight. They basked in the presence of each other and their dinner ran late so they chose to spend the night, retiring to the master bedroom past 11PM after bidding Kreacher goodnight.

When Hermione awoke the next morning she felt content, satisfied, pleased- every synonym she could think of as she, tucked comfortably in the bed, watched a shirtless Harry mosey about the room. His Snitch tattoo roamed his upper body in a happy manner as he dug through the bureau for a folded, pressed white shirt necessary for his Auror uniform. He had to go into work a bit earlier this morning than he usually did since he was getting off early in order to go to a Quidditch match later with Ron and Ginny's boyfriend, Wyatt.

When Harry turned back to face the bed, he saw Hermione staring at him with a slight smile on her face.

"Are you ogling me, Ms. Granger?" he asked, grinning as he walked back over. Her smile widened.

"So what if I am?," she responded, "Just appreciating what's mine." The witch sat up, her smile on the brink of transforming into a smirk.

"Yours, huh?"

"Yes. Mine."

"Mmm," Harry uttered, coming to one of the bed's edges, "Maybe I should return the favor, then."

He threw his shirt off to the side and grabbed the duvet, ripping it away from her body so that she was exposed in her long sleeping gown. The wizard then gripped the bottom of Hermione's legs and pulled her right to the edge where he stood, earning a yelp out of her.

"What's yours, what's mine…," Harry stated as he began to leisurely caress her legs with his hands, "I have favorite parts of what's mine, though."

"As do I," she countered, licking her bottom lip, "Your back. Your chest." She ran a hand down his torso and the Snitch zoomed out of the way, intent on not being caught. He watched her face intently.

"Your chest is a favorite of mine as well," he said, voice lowering a bit. His right hand went up to cup her corresponding breast and he squeezed before kneading it. Hermione's breath stuttered and the wizard pictured her topless, nipples hardened.

"As are your lips..." Harry continued. His left hand abandoned her leg for her mouth and his thumb traced it as he thought about how he loved the feel of her lips against his own, against his neck and stomach, against his shaft.

"Your arse…" he noted. His right hand kept fondling her breast but his left moved from her face to her rear, where he rubbed it lovingly before slapping it. That combined with the ministrations on her chest caused Hermione to whimper, which caused Harry to recall the perfect view of her ass when he took her from behind.

The Auror licked his lips. Last night had been full of make up sex- copious amounts of make up sex. And the images rushed back to his mind as his hands ran over the feminine body parts he had explored only so long ago.

"Your thighs." Harry mentioned, sounding a bit hoarse now. His right hand left her chest at last to massage the top of her thighs before it slipped under her gown to stroke the inside of her thighs. His hand grazed the very outside of her lower lips and Hermione released a minor moan. He imagined being in between those thighs and moving inside her with ardor, hearing a similar yet louder moan.

"And your hips, of course. Your lovely hips," the wizard stated. He used both hands to grip them and bring them flush against his own as he leaned forward, thrusting against her in a swift motion. The brunette cried out.

"Your hips, which are going to bare my children. Our children." Harry remarked, breathing harder and gazing into her eyes with conviction. Hermione peered back, chest rising and falling. She had felt her temperature rise with every word he uttered.

His hand then splayed across her entire abdomen and he asserted in a gravelly voice:

"I am going to put a baby in you the second you stop taking your potion!"

Hermione gasped in her throat before reaching for Harry and pulling him down on top of her, smashing their lips together as her legs locked around his waist.

Oh yes, this man was hers.

A/N: I thought I was going to cover Halloween in this chapter but the length ran away from me.