Lavender stared in shock as Henry finally moved across the room and gave his wife a hug. “It’s great to have you back.” He said, still in a bit of shock.
“I was lucky and was able to come back sooner than I thought.” Nicole smiled up at him. She turned to Lavender, who was still in the doorway. “Hi, I’m Nicole Bowers, you must be Lavender.” She came forward and shook her hand.
“Hi.” Lavender managed back.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for Lori, you’re all she would talk about.” Nicole said pleasantly.
“She’s an amazing child.” Lavender uttered. She sent Henry a pleading look, wanting him to do something, SAY something, anything. He only stared back at her, his eyes filled with sorrow.
“Lavender, we should probably be getting back to your aunt…” Susan said softly after a long moment. She had come up next to Lavender without her even knowing it. Ron stood in the doorway, holding their cloaks, looking at Lavender sympathetically.
She would later remember nothing of the ride home, nor how she got inside her house. In fact, she didn’t even realize she was trudging up the stairs until her cousin’s face appeared right in front of hers.
“I can’t believe you took my boots!” Hermione fumed. “I told you those weren’t supposed to get wet, and you wore them in the rain! And you used my brush while I was gone with Harry too!”
Lavender ignored Hermione, instead she brushed past her and into her room.
Hermione glowered at her as she slammed the door shut. “Lavender, are you alive?” she called sarcastically. She roughly pushed the door back open and was stunned to see her cousin sitting on the side of her bed, sobbing. Hermione was immediately ashamed of herself.
“Lavender what’s wrong?” she asked, her voice softer and sympathetic. Sitting down on the bed next to her, she brushed back Lavender’s wet hair in a comforting manner.
“She came back tonight…” Lavender said, turning her tearstained face towards her cousin. She didn’t care if she and Hermione had been fighting; she needed a supportive shoulder at the moment.
“Oh shit…” Hermione said, resting her hand on Lavender’s arm.
“He just stood there looking at me once we came in the door! He wouldn’t talk to me, he just stared at me!” she burst out, tears gushing once more. “I felt so stupid!”
Hermione made a small sound with her throat and hugged her cousin tightly. “You’ll be all right.” She said soothingly. “It’s going to be tough, but you’ll be all right.”
“Why does it hurt so much?” Lavender sobbed. “Why did he have to act like that?”
Hermione just held her and stroked her hair for a long while, until Lavender’s sobs began to cease. “I’ll go get you some tea, okay?”
“No…please…I don’t want to be left alone.” Lavender said. “But tea sounds good…” the two girls went downstairs. Hermione lit the kitchen up, and began hunting through the cabinets.
“I know Mum just bought some more…aha!” Hermione crowed triumphantly as she pulled a small box from the cupboard. She quickly heated water and sat two mugs before herself and Lavender.
“Thanks.” Lavender said. She was starting to feel tired, she’d been on an emotional roller coaster all day and her mind felt like it was in overload now.
Hermione looked at her cousin as she sipped her tea. “Lavender?” she asked, setting her mug down.
“Hmm?” she looked up from her own cup.
“I’m really sorry about earlier.” Hermione said. “I should have seen you were upset when you walked in, and instead I jumped all over you.”
“It’s okay, Hermione.” Lavender replied quietly.
“I know I get a little…. self absorbed…. a lot…” Hermione said. “And I’m sorry for the things I said that night at the pizza parlour.”
“I know.” Lavender looked up and gave a tiny smile. “And I’m sorry too, for what I said about you and Harry.”
Hermione came over and sat next to her. “Lav you’re too forgiving for your own good sometimes. Promise me if Henry tries to contact you, you won’t give in to him?”
Lavender’s smile slipped off her face. “Hermione…I don’t know what to think of him right now. I really fell in love with him.” A lone tear fell down her face.
“There’s a guy out there for you…you just have to find him. Henry wasn’t it.” Hermione said.
“I don’t want to be with a man ever again!” Lavender said vehemently as tears poured forth once again. Hermione knew it was useless to try and tell her otherwise, so she simply held her cousin while she cried. She’d be all right, but it would take time.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
“Harry are you sure this dress is all right?” Hermione asked as they walked up to the front porch of the Potter’s home.
Harry took Hermione’s hand in his and raised it to his lips. “You look gorgeous, love.” He said, kissing it.
Hermione smoothed her dress she wore under her cloak. When Harry had invited her again for dinner, he’d told her since his mother’s sister Petunia and her family were coming, it was to be a formal supper. She remembered her frustration that she’d had nothing to wear that was just right, until her mother had come in with a beautiful ivory sheath.
‘” It was mine, when I was your age.” Jane had explained, holding it out to her daughter. “I don’t know if you’ll think it’s modern enough but…”’ she’d been cut off as Hermione had come forward and hugged her tightly. Surprised but happy, she had squeezed her daughter tightly.
It was a perfect dress, Hermione reasoned, but she was still nervous that James and Lily Potter wouldn’t think she was good enough for their eldest son, and she was also terrified that his sister Alexa would act towards her after the whole Windrider fiasco.
“Wait one minute.” Harry was saying now, as they were about to go in the door.
“Why what’s wrong?” Hermione asked.
“Nothing.” Harry grinned as he looked down at her. “I just wanted you alone for a few moments before we go in there.”
“I see how it is.” Hermione said, her lips curving upwards. “But I tell you Potter, don’t you dare muss my hair.”
Harry laughed, and then bent his head down to kiss her softly for a few moments. “I don’t want to share you tonight…” he mumbled in her ear. “Let’s go somewhere else.”
“Harry!” Hermione pushed him away. “I already had to miss one dinner with your parents, I’m not doing that again!”
“Oh come on, please?” Harry tried his best to convince her, but she was firm in her decision. “Only you could convince me to stay here tonight…”
“Is your family really that bad?” Hermione asked, taking her index finger and running it along the lines of his face.
“You have no clue.” Harry smirked. “My aunt and uncle are terrified of anything magic, but they keep in touch with my mother because she and my father are so rich.” He rolled his eyes. “And Dudley…well you’ll see for yourself about him.”
He grabbed Hermione’s hand tightly in his and opened the door. Hermione smiled as she looked around, she had fond memories of that place, especially what had gone on upstairs. Harry hung their cloaks up in the foyer, and then led them into the dining room, where she got her first glimpse at his family.
James Potter was taller than she thought he would be, but she supposed that was where Harry got his looks. He had black hair, although his was not messy like Harry’s, and they both held themselves the same way. He was talking to who Hermione assumed was Harry’s Uncle Vernon Dursley. Vernon was as round as James was tall, with a thick moustache he kept touching as if to make sure it was still there.
Lily Potter was on the other side of the room talking to Alexa. She had red hair that was elaborately pulled up in a twist, and her slim figure was housed in an emerald green dress that matched her and Harry’s eyes. Hermione had seen pictures of her before in the Daily Prophet, but she was truly stunning in person.
And then in the middle of the room was a blonde woman with a long neck; talking to the fattest person Hermione had ever seen. He looked like a beached whale in a nice suit.
“That’s Dudley…” Harry whispered in her ear, squeezing her hand a little tighter. Before she got to respond, Lily had caught sight of them in the doorway.
“Harry, darling!” she smiled widely at the sight of her eldest son. She glided across the room, Alexa following behind her. He felt Hermione go stiff from nerves, and he gave her a reassuring smile. She relaxed as her eyes caught his.
Lily gave her son a hug, then turned to the girl standing next to him. “You must be Hermione.” She said, smiling warmly.
“Hello.” Hermione said, as Lily brushed her cheeks with an air kiss.
“We’ve heard nothing else but things about you since you and Harry started seeing each other.” Lily said, hooking her arm into Hermione’s. “Let me introduce you to my husband….” She pulled Hermione away from Harry.
“Looks like Mum’s taken to her already.” Alexa said, leaning up against her brother.
“That’s good.” Harry answered, his eyes following his girlfriend around the room. He noticed with disgust that Dudley was also eyeing her up.
“It’s about time he noticed something other than what’s on his dinner plate.” Alexa smirked, nodding in the Dursley’s direction.
Harry narrowed his eyes. “I just wish it wasn’t my girlfriend.”
“Afraid Dudley’s porky arse will woo her away?” Alexa teased. Harry turned and looked at her with an expression of horror on his face.
“If…no…shut up Lex.” Harry glared at her, and then playfully shoved her aside.
A servant came in with a large covered platter, and another followed behind with an enormous basket. They placed them on the table, and then moved back while everyone sat down.
Harry was hoping that Alexa would sit on the other side of Hermione, but somehow Dudley managed to dart in before she could. He heaved a sigh, then held her chair for her as she sat down.
“Thanks Harry.” She said quietly, smiling at him. He noticed that her nervousness seemed to have evaporated.
“Hi Hermione!” one of the maids leaned down and grinned at her.
“Parvati!” Hermione said in shock. Parvati Patil had been a classmate of hers back at Hogwarts. “How…how are you?” she asked politely.
“I’m great!” she exclaimed. Hermione looked up to see everyone else at the table watching the exchange between the two girls. “Are you still waitressing down at the pizza parlour?”
“Parvati.” James said, and she immediately ducked her head and went away from the table.
“Harry didn’t tell us you’re a waitress, Hermione.” James then said pleasantly. “Mrs. Potter and I consider ourselves pizza connoisseurs.”
There was a light chuckle from everyone at the table as Lily smiled at her husband.
“Remember when we spent that summer in Cape Cod?” Alexa said. “I worked in a pizza parlour there.” She looked down at Hermione, trying to make her feel more at ease. “Remember Mum?”
“Oh yes.” Lily said. “There’s certainly nothing wrong with waitressing.”
“It’s a noble profession.” Harry said, a bit sarcastically.
“It’s certainly a profession, at any rate.” James said crisply. Vernon nodded in agreement.
“As opposed to what I do?” Harry asked sharply.
“Just what is it that you do?” James asked, his tone low and dangerous.
“Come now, James, Harry…” Lily broke in, shooting both of them a warning glance. “Petunia, how are your escargot?”
“Wonderful.” Petunia said, her nose lifted slightly in the air.
The table was silent as everyone dug into their food; the only sounds were the clink of forks and knives against the plates. Harry reached for more sauce, when he noticed Dudley’s piggy eyes aimed directly at Hermione’s chest. He cleared his throat loudly, and Dudley looked up.
“Stop.” Harry mouthed angrily. Dudley’s eyes widened in fear, he was scared to death of his ‘magical’ cousin.
The dinner went on smoothly enough, although Harry was growing angrier each passing moment. Dudley was careful not to look at his cousin again, but he managed to brush his hand and foot against Hermione repeatedly. She was increasingly uncomfortable with this, but unwilling to cause a scene in front of Harry’s relatives.
Hermione was just taking a spoonful of a flambé that had just been served when she became aware of Dudley leaning closer. His breath reeked from the amount and combination of food he had consumed during the meal.
“You’re a very sexy woman, you know.” He whispered in her ear.
“Excuse me?” she asked quietly. A quick glance around the table told her that no one was paying any attention to them.
“Why are you with Harry, when you could be with me?” Dudley asked, audaciously snaking his hand up to place on her leg.
“What?” Hermione asked, shocked. He squeezed her leg gently. “Would you kindly remove your hands from me!” she hissed. She tried to pry his chubby hand off her thigh but he squeezed harder.
Harry seethed as he saw his cousin’s hand. Unable to control himself any longer, he reached around Hermione and slapped the back of Dudley’s head. His fat face went down into the sticky dessert, splattering it across the table.
“Harry!” James growled. Harry glared back while Alexa stifled a giggle and Hermione simply looked embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, but Dudley had his hands on my girlfriend.” Harry said calmly, while shooting daggers at his cousin. “I told him earlier to stop.”
Vernon grunted and Petunia simply looked over at Lily and resumed her conversation. Harry went red with fury, but Hermione placed a hand on his arm.
“It’s okay Harry.” She said quietly, looking up at him. He nodded slightly and she managed a small smile. Inside however, he was still extremely pissed.
“Would anyone like more caramel?” Lily asked, trying to recover the easy atmosphere from before.
“Oh I would.” Vernon said. Parvati came forward with a silver dish and began to spoon some onto his plate, but instead drizzled it all over his arm.
“Oh honestly!” Petunia cut in scornfully, casting a nasty look at Parvati. “Is she a local?” she asked Lily, who nodded.
“I’m very sorry sir, ma’am.” Parvati said respectfully and almost tearfully.
“Well, no wonder.” Petunia went on, ignoring Parvati’s apology. “I would never hire a local, they’re simply too pathetic…. wretched…sleazy…and poor…they’re all gold diggers who look for nothing but a thick wallet…” Petunia rattled on as she tried to clean her husband’s arm.
Hermione bowed her head, feeling the comments were aimed at her. She bit her lower lip, feeling rage building up in her at the obscene comments of this Muggle woman.
“Shut up, Petunia!” Harry finally roared. His aunt let her mouth hang limply open; everyone in the room stared at him.
“That’s ENOUGH Harry!” James said, dropping his fork down with a loud clang.
“What, I’m just supposed to be quiet and sit there and let her go on and on?” Harry asked, fully enraged.
“You will not be rude to our guests!” James said, his brown eyes going dark.
“And they can be rude to me?” Harry asked, clenching his hand in a fist.
“Harry.” Hermione said quietly.
“I’ll handle this, Hermione.” Harry said sharply. Hermione was taken aback; he’d never used that tone at her before. “Petunia, you can’t even get Vernon to stay at home anymore, he can hardly stand you can he?”
Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and wished for everything to end. Alexa stared at her brother, amazed at his audacity.
“And my father’s biggest frustration in life is that he can’t get me, he can’t get me to be exactly like him, he can’t get me to do what he wants.” Harry’s voice was loud and angry.
“You listen to me…” James began, his voice matching Harry’s exactly.
“If you can’t make a golden boy like me behave, how the hell is one of our trashy, sleazy, wretched, POOR town girls that aren’t good for anything but screwing supposed to know what to do!” Harry yelled, directing his words both at his father and aunt.
Hermione felt tears begin to build up behind her closed eyelids at Harry’s outburst. She had a sneaking horrible suspicion about what it would come to.
“I said that’s ENOUGH, Harry James Potter!” James snapped, his eyes blazing even more fire than before.
“Fine, you got the last word, right DAD?” Harry sneered. “I guess that means dinner is over!” with those last words, Harry pulled the tablecloth out, smashing the crystal goblets and tipping the candles over. Hermione screamed as red wine spilled onto her mother’s dress.
“Damn you Harry!” she yelled. Their eyes met for a split second and Harry was shocked to see hurt, dismay, and anger in hers. When he said nothing, she turned and ran from the room.
“Hermione!” he finally called out as he ran after her. She grabbed her cloak from the foyer and pulled the door open.
She heard Harry behind her but didn’t stop as she pulled the cloak over her stained dress and then whipped around to face him.
“Hermione, look, I’m sorry…” Harry said, coming up to her. “They deserved that! I couldn’t let them do that to you!”
Hermione let out a peal of dry laugher. “Me? You were thinking of me when you said all that?” she asked sarcastically.
“They were being assholes!” Harry cried.
“The only asshole at that table was YOU Harry!” Hermione wiped away a tear that began to fall down her cheek. “They were just being themselves! I could have handled all that if you had just kept quiet!”
“That’s not true.” Harry said.
“My ASS it’s not!” Hermione screamed. “You planned this, didn’t you! You wanted me to be there tonight, your poor, trashy girlfriend. You wanted to shake up your family a little!”
“No, Hermione, that’s not the reason I wanted you here.” Harry began but Hermione cut him off with a wave of her hand.
“Look, I know I’m poor, and I’ll admit I hate it.” She sniffed. “I even thought I was desperate sometimes, but not nearly as bad as you are. And how could you say that I’m only good for sleeping with?”
“Hermione, I wasn’t saying that about you I –“ Harry tried to talk but she interrupted him.
“I would NEVER, EVER use you to get at someone.” Hermione said, tears now flowing freely. She glanced over and saw Parvati clambering on a broom. “Hey Parvati? Will you give me a ride?” she called out.
“Sure.” Parvati said, making room for her on the stick.
Hermione looked at Harry one more time. “I just want to go home.” She said, turning away from him. Right now, it sounded like the best place on earth.