Title: "Passing into the Present: Hermione's Birthday Surprise"
Rating: PG-13 for sexual innuendo and language
Warnings: Sorry, no smut!
Disclaimer: Even if you're not a H/Hr shipper, I think you might find this story palatable!
Summary: Sometimes the greatest gift is realizing what we want has been front of us all along...
Author's note: Thanks to my lovely beta wandrin_dreamer
Hermione glanced at her watch; four thirty-seven, she sighed. It was too early to expect Ron or Harry, she noted, raising her head from the file she had scrutinized for the fifth time. Despite all her efforts, she couldn’t seem to remember anything she had just read. With her elbows propped on her desk, Hermione rubbed her temples with the pads of her thumbs and kneaded her brow with her fingers. The pounding in her head, coupled with the sensation of her scalp being pulled to the back of her neck was beginning to make her nauseas.
Harry had invited her, along with Ron of course, for dinner that night at a new, upscale Muggle restaurant for her birthday. At first she had been rather surprised that Ron had agreed to go. During the last several months he’d become so peevish and irascible, he rarely wanted to do anything anymore. It seemed he’d lost interest in everything they used to enjoy doing. But Ron had also become insanely jealous of the time she spent with Harry. Hermione suspected Ron would have gladly dismissed her to go alone, if she were going with anyone else.
About a year ago, both she and Harry had found themselves spending a good deal of time alone. Ginny had broken up with Harry and left for
A soft knock echoed through her office, interrupting Hermione’s vain attempt at work. “Come in,” she said, half hoping to see Harry.
Looking up from her desk, Hermione smiled genuinely at Parvati Patil who stepped through the doorway. “Well, hello, Parvati,” she said, getting up from behind her desk and walking over to her old dorm-mate. “This is a pleasant surprise.”
“Hello, Hermione,” she answered with a relieved smile. “Sorry to bother. Just thought you might have a few minutes for a chat?”
“Of course,” Hermione answered. “Besides, you’ve saved me from the dreadful report I’ve been trying to read for the last thirty minutes.” Her head nodded toward her elegantly carved, Queen Anne desk, the top barely visible for the stacks of files setting upon it.
Unabashedly looking her up and down, Parvati raised her eyebrows in definite approval. “You’re looking especially lovely today. Don’t tell me that’s what you usually wear to the office?”
Hermione blushed, always uncomfortable with comments regarding her appearance. Moreover, as it came from such a celebrated beauty, Hermione ironically, felt even plainer for the compliment.
“Thanks,” she answered. “And no, a little black dress is not my usual office attire. I just changed a few minutes ago. I’m expecting Ron and Harry in about a half hour. We’re going out to dinner for my birthday, and we’re leaving straight from the Ministry.”
“Oh, I see,” Parvati answered nervously. “I didn’t realize today was your birthday.” Parvati’s eyes darted around the room, seeming to try to find anything to rest on other than Hermione’s own.
Hermione motioned toward one of the two petite, wing-backed leather chairs in front of her desk and turned toward the sideboard resting along the far wall. “Sit down, and I’ll get us both a cup of tea.”
“No thanks, Hermione,” Parvati said politely. “I’ve got to run here in a minute, but I just thought you needed to take a look at something.”
Hermione turned back to her friend and noticed the unmarked file folder Parvati held in her hand. Parvati cleared her throat. “Everything going OK with you and Ron then?” Hermione did not miss the new edge to her friend’s voice.
“Oh, you know Ron,” Hermione smiled weakly.
“I just wondered.” Parvati dropped her head, noticeably avoiding eye contact with Hermione. “I heard about his probation with the Cannons after the doping with Felix Felicis. I’m sure something like that has to make things...difficult.”
Once more, Hermione forced a tepid smile. “Well, you know,” she said, rubbing at the skin and cuticle of her thumb with her index finger nervously. “Ron’s always his own worst enemy.”
“Mmm,” Parvati nodded. “And so I suppose there’s no truth to the rumor that the reason Harry Potter is still the most eligible bachelor around is because he’s pining away after his best mate’s girlfriend?”
“Parvati!” Hermione reprimanded with a shocked laugh. “You don’t actually believe that do you? Harry and I are only, and ever have been, just friends! I mean, I know we spend a lot of time together, but we always have. You know better than to believe idle tongues of Witches who have too much time on their hands!”
“Well, I saw you at the gala for the new Hogsmeade Orphanage back in the spring. I don’t ever recall seeing you wear couture or glamour charms before. You were quite the bit of eye candy there on Harry’s Potter’s arm, and don’t think people didn’t notice the way he kept looking at you all night.”
“You’ve got to be joking me, right?” Hermione said, hoping she sounded insulted. Although they couldn’t possibly be true, Parvati’s words caused something to stir in Hermione’s chest. “Oh, come on. You know I’m just Harry’s backup when he can’t get a real date with someone else.”
“Harry Potter not able to get a date?” Parvati harrumphed. ”Every single witch, and most of the married ones I know, would give their last galleon to go out with him.”
Hermione shook her head at Parvati's comment. “Come on, you know Harry! He still can’t ask a girl out without spilling pumpkin juice all over himself or some such nonsense. And as I seem to recall, you are a victim of one of his rather pathetic attempts.” Hermione raised an eyebrow to emphasize her jest.
“Well, I suppose you’re right, “Parvati conceded. “But popular opinion does seem to believe that the real reason Ginny Weasley dumped Harry was because she realized he was actually in love with you.”
Hermione rolled her eyes at the comment. Since fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry’s love life was the most discussed topic of witches over the age of six and under the age of sixty-five. Having lived through Rita Skeeter and many others like her, Hermione had learned to insulate herself from such inane speculation. “Now didn’t you say you had something you wanted me to look at?” Hermione asked, trying to redirect the conversation.
Parvati sighed uncomfortably. “These are some photos that came across my desk today and well… I thought you needed to see them before anyone else did.”
Hermione creased her brows together as she looked at Parvati quizzically. Parvati worked with Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, and Hermione couldn’t imagine what she might need to look at, as her own post was in the Department of Mysteries.
“Hermione,” Parvati said in almost a whisper. “The photos are of Ron. Two of my investigators found a parked Mini Cooper we have suspected for a while to have been magically augmented. We’re pretty sure it belongs to Ron.”
“Yes,” Hermione admitted the discomfort evident in her voice. “Ron has been messing around with that Muggle car he insisted on buying right after he joined the Cannons. But Parvati…why is this something you’re bringing to me?”
Parvati sighed again and shrugged her shoulders as if to pluck up some courage. “It’s not the messing around with the car I thought you needed to know about.” Parvati paused as Hermione looked determinedly into her eyes. “Lavender’s back in town.”
With a quick jerk, Hermione seized the folder from Parvati. Opening it with shaking hands, Hermione closed her eyes and tried to steady her breathing.
When she looked down to see the file’s contents, it was if a tangle of Devil’s Snare constricted around her heart. A heavy pressure crushed in her chest, and she found it very difficult to breathe. Picture after picture revealed a shirtless Ron and a similarly, scantily clad Lavender Brown in the backseat of his tampered Mini. The photos were not particularly graphic, but it didn’t take a great leap of imagination to understand the scene implicitly.
“Hermione…I’m really sorry,” Parvati began. “We’re the only ones who know about these pictures, and I thought you’d like to keep it that way.”
Hermione looked up, her eyes full of angry tears. “How’s that, Parvati?” Her voice was shaking and full of ire. “Your two investigators obviously know.”
“No they don’t,” she answered with a command of authority. “After they gave me the report and handed me the film, I obliviated their memories of the incident.”
Hermione shoulders sank, acknowledging the breach of protocol her friend made to keep her secret. “But Parvati…” Hermione’s voice faltered as she tried to keep from crying. “I don’t understand? I mean, why would you do this for me?”
Parvati offered a knowing smile, and reached out to embrace Hermione in a sisterly hug. After a few seconds, she pulled back and said, “Well, let’s just say someone did the same for me, and I just wanted to help another Gryffindor Girl out, OK?”
Hermione sniffed, as she raised an eyebrow. After the kindness Parvati had just shown her, she was not about to pry.
“Oh, I don’t think it’s a secret, really,” Parvati continued without further inducement. “In spite of everything, I’m still engaged to Seamus, you know. I know he’s a womanizing, silver-tongued, Irish man whore, who can’t keep his wand in his pocket, but I love him, Hermione. And let’s just say it’s really hard to keep pretending you don’t know what’s going on, when your wizard’s affairs are plastered all over the Daily Prophet.”
Without thinking, Hermione folded her arms around Parvati in a tight embrace. Parvati forced a tense giggle as she pulled away, and squeezed Hermione’s hand. “You’ll get used to it,” she said bravely. “Trust me on this one.” She paused a moment before she continued. “I am sorry for asking you about Harry. I suppose I just thought that if you did have feelings for someone else…”
Hermione gave her best attempt at a smile as the empty heaviness of Ron’s infidelity crushed down upon her. “Well, I suppose I should pull myself together before Ron arrives.”
“Sure, Hermione,” Parvati replied. “Just let me know how you’re doing OK? Owl me next week and we’ll do lunch. Promise?”
“Promise,” Hermione nodded in agreement, knowing it would be quite awhile before she could face her friend again.
At that moment, the door to the office swung open and both witches turned and saw the unannounced, tall, ginger-haired wizard entering the room.